The White Flag

“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,”  Colossians 1:9

We recently moved to a new flat near the office.  The vicinity where it is located is dotted with embassies, and as such, there are military personnel posted in each.  Police cars patrol the area on a regular basis.  These brings about a sense of security and unity with the nations, whose flags we see everyday on our way to work.

I recently went on a trip to Dubai and Sharjah for meetings. It was a nervous flight because there was an indication beforehand that said meetings could be unpleasant.

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As the plane from Bahrain began to taxi, I noticed the two vacant seats beside me.  When I began to pray for a safe flight, I imagined Jesus and Mama Mary seated there beside me.  From then on, there was this calm that assured me everything would be alright.  And so it came to pass.  The ugly things that I had expected never happened.

I still get anxious and scared, yet God’s promise is a promise.  I may not see how, but all I have to do is trust.

So my friend, when it seems that you are at war with the world, or even with yourself, don’t be ashamed nor be proud to wave that little, white flag of yours.  It is not only a manifestation of humility.  It is an act of faith in God.

when the time is now

“Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

we’re now ten days into 2011, and i still don’t have a list of new year’s resolutions.  not that i even plan on having one, but it has been tradition that before the old year ends, the list should have been done and must be followed from Day 1 onwards.  but since it’s a bit late already, maybe my new year’s resolution is to not have any new year’s resolution at all.

before Christmas, Megan was giving slight hints here and there about what gift she really wanted-a canon 550d camera.  since it is quite expensive and we don’t have the money to buy one just yet, i told her that patience is a virtue. wittingly she responded that time is goldhaha!  that camera might as well be gold!

aah youth! –  carefree, always in a hurry as if there’s no tomorrow.  but only with age will they realize that time is just a passing fancy.  and i sure finally did. in fact, as i grow older, i perceive time as a curse.  especially when life is defined by the years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds, nanoseconds… 

when i was younger, i used to believe that time is really gold because our culture dictates our life in terms of the years that we live.  like when at 12, one has to finish grade school.  one can vote or date at age 18.  by 20, one has to finish college.  by 30, one has to have established a career already, earned his 1st million and settled down.  between 30 to 40, one should already have a family, built a house for them, sent kids to school…

between 40 to 50, one would be preoccupied with advancing with that career, take care of seeping health issues and playing on retirement plans.  at age 60 onwards, one should then enjoy the fruits of retirement, then eventually die of natural causes or old age.

imagine the frustration when one doesn’t catch up with the hands of time.  i won’t be surprised if that expensive rolex, that cheap wall clock or that annoying alarm clock can be as deadly as a butcher’s knife.  these timepieces may actually be the number one cause of stress.  and stress as we all know is the number one cause of any illness, or the reason some diseases get even worse  for that matter.

 it’s been two months since my surgery, and i’m still stuck here in my room. since i felt stronger, i think that i should be elsewhere doing something else, which “culture” expects of me.  but God put me exactly at this spot at this very moment. just as He planned.  building up my patience, strengthening my faith and bolstering my confidence in what He has in store for me.

we should be defined by the moments we live. not the hours we spend catching up with the future.  not the minutes fighting off the ghosts of the past.  we are in the here and now. and whatever we think or do now, will shape up our tomorrow .  or change how we look at our yesterday.

if you want a taste of hell, go ahead.  stare at that clock as it excruciatingly tick-tocks your life away.  waiting for that something that may just happen only after a century, or worse, may not happen at all.  do whatever you can wherever you are-NOW.

remember that in heaven, there are no clocks.  no calendars.  no new year’s resolutions. only moments of everlasting joy and infinite bliss with our Lord.  so savor each moment like you’re already in heaven.

the tale of two friends

And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? – – `My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him.  For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.’

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed.”  Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13

i remember this story about two very close friends.  in fact, they were too close that they already treated each other as family.  one day, the other friend left and worked away from the other.  before he left, he asked his friend to take care of his mother while he was away.  he also entrusted his business and savings to him not wanting to bother his mother with finances.  on top of that, he also sent part of his earnings monthly.  his main concern was for his mother to be well taken care of.

two years after, the friend who went away came back.  only to find out that the friend he left behind betrayed his trust;  his money gone, the business went bankrupt and his mother neglected.  when he confronted his friend, this friend who betrayed him simply said he needed the money, but never asked for forgiveness nor did he show any remorse nor shame for what he had done.  he was even proud to say that he can pay him back anytime.  that was the last time they saw each other.

after some time, the friend had to leave his mother again.  but this time he made sure that he trusted the right people to care for her.  not long after, the friend who betrayed him was caught stealing from his place of work.  he was forced to resign without any benefits from his thirty years of service, or else the company would file charges against him.  he left the company empty-handed.  because of his lavish lifestyle which his salary alone could not sustain, he was also neck deep in debt with personal loans from other people which he could no longer pay.  his childred stopped going to school.  his house foreclosed by the bank.  and because he was already getting older, he started to get sick. 

it was time for vacation again for his friend.  during one of his routine visits to his doctor, he saw the friend who betrayed him in the hospital corridor, seeking treatment for his heart ailment in the charity section; pale, thin and weak.  but this then sickly friend was still hardened with pride.  he said he was supposed to pay back what he owed, but he got sick.  and yet, not a single sorry was uttered.  his friend who had long forgotten what he had done, simply said, “you know, my friend,  all our sins each have their own punishments.  maybe this is yours.”  and the friend who betrayed him, still proud and enrelenting answered back “you know what you said really hurts me.”  and the friend who betrayed him walked away, never looked back, not realizing the hurt he had caused the other.  now this friend who betrayed the other, has nothing.  no money, no family, no friend. 

when bad things happen to us, we associate it to God’s punishment for our past wrongdoings.  because i see God as a loving and gentle God, i refused to see him in this perspective especially when i was younger.  but when i grew older, i believe i also grew a bit wiser.

because by now, i know that everytime i sin, God calls my attention because he loves me and he wants me to change.   in subtle ways first.  but when i don’t listen, he jolts me.  like lightning in the middle of summer, i would be caught by surprise.  then, he gets my attention.  and i learn my lesson.  the hard way.

that does not mean that God is not a loving and gentle God.  He is.  it’s just that, i’m a stubborn sinner who needed something more than a push to make me understand. 

we can be the friend who trusts or the friend who betrays.  in which case, we can be forgiving like the other.  or really, really mean and proud, like the one who betrays him. 

the point is, when God does punishes us, let not foolish pride get in the way.  acknowledge that we had done something wrong.  ask for forgiveness.  resolve not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  or else, we would end up with nothing.  no love.  no friend.  no family.  no home.  and sadly, no soul.

things are not always what they seem

“When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat.  They were frightened but he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’

Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.”  John 6:19-21

things are not always what they seem. 

when a husband prefers fishing on weekends, he hates to be with his family.  truth is, he just needs quiet time and a stress-reducing activity after a week of rush assignments and impossible deadlines.

when the house is in turmoil, used dishes are in the sink and the baskets are overflowing with laundry, the wife is just plain lazy.   truth is, she is too ill to get out of bed.

when a daughter forgets to text or call back, she doesn’t love her dad and mom anymore.  truth is, she is practically in a rush to get the subjects she needs to enrol for summer classes.

when a son spends more time with the computer than with people, he is anti-social.  truth is, he is just plain bored or just wanted to reach out to family and friends and stay in touch.

when we get old, it is the end.  truth is, it is the time when wisdom comes of age and the fullness of life blossoms.

when your dream house is almost within your reach and still lose it, you are such a LOSER.  truth is, you don’t really need it.

when there’s no cash in the bank, then all else is lost.  truth is, God provides us with what we need. 

when all plans don’t push through, you’re such a failure.  truth is, God has better ideas.

when you are all alone, no one really cares. truth is, God is always with us.

truth is, things are not always what they seem.

i don’t know if it was a serious case of pre-menopausal syndrome, but i’d been through a hell of a week.  i thought this, i thought that.  i feared this, i feared that. i worried about this, i worried about that.  what a waste of precious time!

the past week really started great.  we were able to watch the Divine Mercy Sunday celebration live on tv.  the message was TRUST and PEACE. and bhoy and i felt so blessed to be able to take part in spirit with this special mass commemorating the golden jubilee of the National Shrine for the Divine Mercy* and the life of  St. Maria Faustina of Kowalska. 

but as the week progressed, and the real world sucked me right back in,  i ran round and round again to look  for my happy old self from other people, places and things.  i looked for me in me.  but neither did i find me there.  i kept telling bhoy that i feel sad, and i didn’t even know why or where it all came from.  by midweek, i gave up and just let everything be. 

there was one constant though, that i failed to see because i was extremely obsessed with my self-inflicted ordeal.  and that constant is GOD.  and i failed to absorb the message of the Divine Mercy.  TO TRUST IN JESUS, THE KING OF MERCY.

like the apostles, i was frightened too.  but when i see Jesus and let him into my boat, i am sure i will find what i was looking for.  and realize that what i was looking for was always there afterall. 

to borrow the words of St. Teresa of Avila “Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God, wants for nothing. God alone is enough.”

as another week begins, my simple life goes on as it did before.  there’s really nothing to look for afterall.  everything that i need, God provides.  people to love, things to do and blessings to share.  even trials to make me strong.  what more can i ask for?   GOD ALONE IS ENOUGH.

* for more details about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, please go to http://thedivinemercy.org

an answered prayer

“And He took them up in His arms, put His hand upon them and blessed them.” Mark 10:16

yesterday, my son’s geometry teacher called me on my mobile and asked me to take a cab to school and take him to the hospital.  i tried my best to calm down, as i thought about how to possibly heed the call.  bhoy was still miles away from a meeting in jubail, and there was nobody in our office to drive me to the school.

even if there was, a woman is forbidden here to ride in a car with a man other than her husband.  and to take a cab is very risky and equally dangerous, and would probably create more trouble.  so i really had no option but to wait anxiously for bhoy to finally get hold of miguel, and do whatever was necessary.  it was hard enough to learn that my son was in an emergency situation.  but it was harder to be just pinned down on my seat and not be able to do anything for him.

as i waited in agony, i opened the page on which i saved the prayer card of St. Josemaria Escriva (thanks zita!) and just prayed for his intercession.  i remembered that when situations get out of hand, i just let go and let God.  yes i got really worried as i heard the concerned voice of my son’s teacher, but as i began to pray, a deep sense of calm took over.  then i knew that miguel was going to be alright.  less than an hour later, bhoy called and said they were already in the parking lot waiting for me.  not to go the hospital, but home.  miguel was already well and good.

they say God never says “no” to our prayers.  He just responds in varying, but always positive ways.  i believe so too.  He either answers  “YES” right away, or sometimes He will say “MAYBE SOME OTHER TIME“.  on other circumstances, He will tell us “I HAVE A BETTER IDEA”.

when daddy was recently diagnosed with the big PC, we began to pray so hard for him.  even begged God to make him well again.  although we know that a miracle would be necessary, we still continue to pray.  and it is amazing how, when we pray deeply enough, we lose ourselves to the divine presence of the Lord.  so powerful yet so tender that nothing else would ever come close to us.  only His loving assurance that everything will be taken care of.  and that everything will be alright.

it is also noteworthy how “unanswered prayer” and “an answered prayer” sound almost exactly the same. the difference lies on the strength of our faith in the absolute and divine power of God, and our constant communion with Him in every aspect of our daily lives.

we usually pray in the morning as we start our day.  before and after meals.  at night, before we go to sleep.  during sunday mass or novena days.  but to be in prayer doesn’t really need a schedule.  nor does it require an appointment with God.  anytime is prayer time. if we only learn to place our lives in God’s ever holy presence, then there’s always time and space for prayer. 

our prayers for daddy will go on.  and on. and on. no matter what. for we know deep in our hearts, the Lord already gave His answer… long before we even prayed for it.

(you may get the prayer card of  St. Josemaria Escriva at www.opusdei.org)

CORAZON AQUINO and the yellow ribbons

“The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory.”  Psalms 64:10

tita cory President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino passed away this morning after her hard-fought battle with colon cancer.  much have already been said about her.  being the icon of  Philippine democracy  & People Power, as Ninoy’s wife, as Kris’ mom.  i could go on forever. 

the nation mourns not only the loss of an ex-president; but also its mother.

Tita Cory left a lasting legacy in Philippine history.  from  my perspective though, i see her as Ninoy’s strength and her Corychildren’s light during their darkest hours.   and when called for, she went beyond the needs of her family to fulfill a duty to a whole nation which, since then have become part of her extended family.  and up to her last breath, her faith in God was so strong that it radiated to the entire nation, regardless of political affiliation or religion.

thus was Tita Cory’s legacy in me.  she taught by her example that nothing is unbearable when we carry it with the cross of Christ in heart and mind.  although she was born rich and priveleged, she suffered more than her fair share.  but she accepted her fate with grace.  she embraced God’s will with loving trust.  she endured her sufferings with silence. 

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her faith in God lives on, long after she has gone.  it’s the one great lesson for each of us, that in whatever state we are, happy or sad, healthy or sick, persecuted or praised, rich or poor;  WE MUST PRAY WITHOUT CEASING.  for wherever our destiny takes us, only one thing is certain; the Lord is with us during the entire journey.  the same way He is now with Tita Cory on her way home… 

where angels welcome her with yellow ribbons praising her for a job well done and a life well-lived.

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the rope

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet  have believed. ”  John 20:29

there was one story that was emailed to me and had really struck me head on.  it was about a man who tried to climb aman-in-fog mountain all alone.  it was getting late when he got lost along his way.  since a storm was coming, there was darkness all around him.  no stars and no moonlight to guide him.  still he pressed on until he fell into the rocky side of the mountain.  he was entangled with the rope that he brought along, that was tied to his waist.  and he hanged there for dear life.  he was terrified with no help in sight.  and so, he remembered to pray hard enough that God answered him right away.  He told the man that if he wanted to be saved, he must cut the rope.  But the man did not follow God’s instruction.  The next day, he was found by rescuers frozen to death by the icy cold night.  He was only a few feet away from the ground and could have walked to the nearest shelter just a near distance from where he was found dead… if only he had just cut his rope.

the story led me to ask myself, if  i were this man, would i follow what God had told me to do? or would i be as afraid to let go? 

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for me, the want to climb a mountain on my own, represents pride.  the storm stands for the trials and difficulties  in my life.  the darkness represents  hopelessness.  getting lost is living without the Word of God in our life.  the rope is the attachment that keeps me from totally trusting in the Lord;  the rope that i keep on holding on to, with the belief  that it is the only way.  and it is not.  JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY.

the true test of our faith is when that Someone whom we trust to save us, does so  in a manner that is contrary to our expectations.  the Lord answers all our prayers for help.  sometimes He does so with urgency.  but sometimes He waits for the right moment.  and there are times that His answer is NO,  because these are the times when what we pray for would bring us only more harm than good.  so when He does not give in to what we pray for, we have to be thankful that He didn’t.  because it is always a blessing in disguise.

96ecbf43bc925864Jesus gave us an excellent example of what true and genuine trust is, when He died on the Cross.  He is God.  Jesus can save Himself, but He did not.  He followed the will of the Father because He trusted in His grand plan.  And that was to save mankind…to save us… to save YOU…  and ME!  and all because of His great love for us.

So the next time we are in a life or death situation; or when we are  in trouble and don’t know what to do gods-handnext;  when we are asked to cut our ropes again, let us always remember that Jesus died for us on that Cross.  Must not the Father who sacrificed His Son for us, be more than willing to just simply catch us when fall?

The distance of us hanging on to dear life to the safer ground below, depends on our faith to JUST LET IT GO…

and LET GOD.