Monthly Archives: December 2010

Billie

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. Luke 1:48

She was a topnotch educator. She taught high school girls and she took them as they are yet brought them to their full potentials. Her approach to spending time with her students outside the four corners of the classroom seems to have bear fruits during those times. In verity, most of her high school students became her friends. She also handled values education for college students. Her students came to clinch the fact they are loved by God whatever they have done or whoever they are or wherever they came from.

She developed a scholarship program at one university which has benefited numerous current professionals inside and outside the Philippines. More than giving them academics, she formulated a skills education program or tutorial sessions, mostly things they would not learn in engineering, accountancy or computer science classes, for the scholars to work on every time they had vacation. She pushed for the scholars to give back to the school by assigning them to assist during enrollments and to the community by providing hours for social work. Benefactors living in the province or outside the country have maintained friendships with her even after she was transferred to another position.

She coordinated a national inter-university catholic movement for college students in Pampanga. The movement started in the university where she worked; however, it flourished to having branches in all four major college institutions in the province under her watch. She helped train young people to reach young people. She served with no reservations. With no compensation for this volunteer work, she even brings out of her own pocket to fund the activities. Out this movement, at least in Pampanga, born were two priests, and a herd of men and women, who have embraced life in Christ for their whole lives as long as they live.

She has a heart for her land. When Fr. Ed Panlilio declared his candidacy in 2007, she quickly offered what she can do for the campaign. She co-hosted the grand Miting de Avance in May of 2007. She was glued at the counting of the ballots in one turning moments of the elections. I saw her heart being poured in what she believed is right for the province.

When we moved abroad, she had to be a full-time wife and mother. I am on an employment-based visa thus she cannot work legally. Besides, having two small daughters required her to be a stay at home mom. She had only minor experience in household chores since we had her late mother plus a kind helper living with us when we were in the Philippines. I know this was not her usual territory. Cooking was an issue. House cleaning is a major concern. Preparing the girls for school is another. Doing the laundry and ironing clothes were part of the job description. Being the one who will sleep last at night and first to stand up in the morning was a struggle. She is on-call for our daughters’ school activities and other events.

After three years, she has defied the odds of being at home. Nowadays, her Bulalo is most wanted when there is a Filipino gathering. Her Tinola is my favorite. Her Filipino spaghetti is her daughters’ request. Her Maja Blanca and Ube porridge are the best. She learned how to prepare Bibingka and Leche flan as coached by her friends. She maintains our home in a more recognizable way. A beloved mother, our daughters have known her personally and closely more than when we were in the Philippines. She has also trained our daughters to help out in doing work at the kitchen or at the laundry room. Most of all, she continues to inculcate values to our daughters the way she have done before to other young people.

When things go out of the way we imagined, she clings to the anchor of faith to hold on to me. She keeps on reminding me on what God has done and what God is doing. She points not to herself but to the One who is able.

Her role might have been reduced in a sense yet she knew her part can’t be compensated for being a full-time wife and mom. She did not allow her self-esteem to roll into the ground. She did not see her value diminished. She did not rate her worth as naught. She does these things out of love for us not because she loves doing the household tasks. More than doing things with her hands, she does things from her heart.

In her lowliness, God has looked upon his handmaid and she is blessed. And we are all blessed.

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God’s Rambo

For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. Luke 2:11

He comes to fight. He comes to rescue. He comes to save men and women. You need someone to go to war with you, he steps forward. No hesitations. No thinking twice. He puts his band on his head. He’s loaded for the battle. With his eyes ready to rumble, he seems like saying,”I’m coming to get you.”

He is not Sylvester Stallone, he is Jesus Christ.

Christmas day is God’s declaration of war. War against sin and death. He sends his Son, Messiah and Lord. May not be his last stand but this is his best stand. He is saying, “The buck stops here.” No more slavery but freedom. No more bondage but grace. Jesus will lead us towards the doors of our Alcatraz.  He will not remain in his Pentagon directing our actions, he is with us in our daily and life conflicts. We are armed with his love, his presence and his faithfulness to hustle the bustle, to fight the good fight. Side by side, shoulder to shoulder he is with us.

We are victorious for he is. At the end, even at the start, we know we will. For he fights for us, he fights with us.

 

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Presence is the Present

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23

I was putting her to sleep when Bless asked, “What gift did you receive from your parents when you were a small boy during Christmas?” “Wala.” I answered. When I was sure she was asleep, I reflected on that answer. I thought I gave a quick short reply for her to go to sleep. As I was watching my Christmas childhood in my mind, it turned out my answer was right.

Our father would knock on our doors for the whole family to get together at the Christmas eve dinner table. Not much of a feast but it was a feast of everybody’s presence. No one will continue to sleep, everybody will stand up and eat. After that we will go to church and at the morning, the kids will roam around to greet and pay respect to relatives who will in turn give us gifts, cash or in kind. I don’t remember our Tatang and our Ima giving us gifts.

What I significantly remember is this, our parents were always there for us. They were always present for us. There was no night my father spent somewhere else but at home. He did not work late, he has his own business. His routine was always work-home-work-home. He was always there. Our mother was always at home or at school for her kids. We go to school and go back home with her at home. She was always available for us. No gift was needed to be given, their presence is their present.

Max Lucado tweeted, “God is with us” is present tense. God is always present so don’t be tense.

This is God’s greatest gift to us. Being with us. He is with us now. Not only yesterday. Not only for tomorrow. Not only with your pastor. Not only with your leader. Not only with the priests or with the nuns. Not only with the missionaries. Not only with the famous author or preacher. He is with us. Us is spelled you and I.

He gives his presence the same he gave it to Moses at the burning bush. He walks with us the way he walk on the water with Peter. He shows himself to us like he showed himself to Paul along the way to Damascus. Sitting with us like he sat with the adulterous Samaritan woman at the water well. Standing with us like he stood and prayed for the food to be multiplied. Touching us in the way he reached out for the lame and the sick.Talking to us like he was talking at the temple when he was a little boy.

God is with us. Emmanuel. Always with us. His presence is the present.

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Honoring Jesus

…and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

It’s a way of life in the charismatic community I belong to honor someone who’s celebrating his or her birthday.  So, today, it is only appropriate to enumerate some things, there are countless matters, to which I want to honor and thank the Lord Jesus Christ. So here it goes…

  • I honor you for your presence. Everyday I pray that you may  be with us, to our family. I know, it won’t be easy being with us. We are stubborn and we succumb to wrongdoings. Yet, I always felt your presence kept us together with you and together with one another. Truly “God is with us”.
  • I thank you for sustaining us for the past three years we have been living in the United States. Talking about being in the right place in the wrong time. Recession hits the US, recession hits us. By your providence and the grace to believe in your promises, we are doing well. Our family have been tight knit. We do things together. We go to the same places together. We are always together. Being here gave us further the meaning of being a family.
  • I honor you for keeping us in good health. My daughters have had some body issues but all were quickly passing. My wife still battles her back and bone problems but everything is manageable. And me? The doctor said I am in perfect shape.
  • I thank you for sustaining our hearts and passion to serve you. Thank you for bringing to us brothers and sisters to whom we receive and give love and support. Our group is not perfect and we are still growing, which is great, for these are definitions of a community. I thank you for giving our daughters the desire to serve you as altar servers. I thank you for the service my wife is rendering to us and other people. I thank you for opening doors for me to help out in the inner city missions in our county.
  • I honor you for providing for the company I work for. We broke even this year, in the middle of a challenging economy, as reported by our managers. This is good news. It means we can look forward to the new year with stability for my family.
  • I praise you for keeping my family back home and my brother in UK and my sister in Singapore safe and sound. I honor you for the distance we have with one another gave us the closeness we never had when we were accessible to one another. Hello Skype and Facebook! Thank you Jesus!
  • You have given me this writing ministry. I honor you for waking up the writer in me. I knew I had it when  I was in high school and college, yet you work in wondrous ways, after all the years the gift you gave is still lethal and effective. It does not age, for you do not. It does not change, for you do not. With this gift, you and I can reach the world in places I will never be for your glory. I honor you!
  • The past year was not without challenges and difficulties. The death of my mother in law, the renewal of my working visa, the audit of my labor certification, the decision to stick with our brothers and sisters in community traveling a total of six hours to be with them are just some. When these issues stole our focus you were quick to bring us back. When the waves are too strong for us, you calmed us more than you calmed the waves. Thank you for your ever available strength in times of distress.
  • Thank you for friends. Physical or virtual friends you have given us are precious. We find other angles with them. We find other views from them. You know whom to give us and you know whom to be with us. Thanks Jesus!
  • And lastly, Lord Jesus, I honor and thank you for bearing with me. For being patient with me. Your love I don’t deserve yet you give it unconditionally.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! (Romans 11:33). Thank you for kicking in the inspiration in me. I thought you would run out but not. Daily I sought you and daily you find me. Daily I reflected in your words, daily you reveal yourself. Daily I prayed and daily you answered.

Happy Birthday Jesus! Honor and thanks to you alone!

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Not Just Another Ordinary Night

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. Luke 2:20

In this receding economy, it was just another ordinary night.

The office party dinner table has a lot of spaces to fill.  The gifts given were limited. No raffle prizes drawn, not as usual. The smiles were timid. The greetings were not so warmth. The executive manager’s announcement at the start of the party unveiled the theme, “Welcome to the austerity Christmas party.”

Later that night, my wife and I spoke about our financial standing. We will go through this but not with our belts tightened. My wife practically counts her steps as she goes for Christmas shopping. She searches the best available coupon there is. She spends time more than my office hours digging into the best bargain in town.

We were about to say our “Good nights.” when my phone catches a message which reads a dear brother in Christ will soon be jobless. He has a family to feed, bills to pay and a community to serve.

The shepherds in the fields are having their just another ordinary night. Performing their job; counting the sheep, feeding their flock, protect them from attackers, trying to beat sleepiness. Until the angel showed up and asked them to show up at the manger. They left the ordinary to meet the extra-ordinary. They only knew about the ordinary when they went, they rejoiced in the extra-ordinary when they returned. They returned to the same flock with different hearts. They came back to the same fields as different shepherds. Because an extra-ordinary God came as an ordinary baby. Because an extra-ordinary Shepherd invited ordinary shepherds to his birthday.

Thus I came to the Christ who comes. I left the fields of worries. I came to the Manager of the manger. The fields I left will be the same fields when I return. Yet, I am a different shepherd since I have been in his presence of the Shepherd. Since I have been with the Living Hope, I returned with hope for the living. Since I have been with the Promise Keeper, I returned holding on to his words.

I rejoiced! Having an extra-ordinary God in a not just another ordinary night.

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Mary Did You Ask?

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7b

Did you ask, “Is this God’s Son or just my son?”

An angel told you the fruit inside your womb is of the Most High. He will take on the throne of David. He will rule and his kingdom will never end. Yet, here you are giving birth in a manger. No clean room or house is available, God allowed you to labor in a dark and cold stable. The Son of the Most High in a lowly place. The King in a servant’s abode. His never ending kingdom starts in a place where no princes have reside.

Did you ask, “Is this God’s plan or just another event bound happen?”

You heard from the angel you are favored. No accommodation was given to you when Joseph knocked on doors. No approbation as you traveled from one town to another. The only compliment you got is from four legged creatures. You took their place in that stable. No room at the inn. Labor in a manger. Favored?

No verse indicates you questioned God’s plan. No tradition telling us you pouted about what happened. You believed. You held God’s promise. You were undivided. You had one heart for God and his plan.

May we be like you. Undivided in faith. One heart for God. No questions asked.

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Great Fear to Great Joy

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. Luke 2:9, 20

They were with great fear. Not just an ordinary fear. Not some normal fear. Not a fear you usually have daily. It was a feeling of great fear.

Eleven verses after, the great fear turns into a great joy. You have to have great joy when you glorify and praise God after what you’ve been told is all true!

What happened in the middle of verses 9 and 20? The shepherds met their Shepherd. They met their Savior and Lord. They may have had great fear for they thought they will die in facing God’s angels, but meeting the Messiah gave them life. From having great fear to having great joy.

For us who have been living in fear before we have crossed paths with our Lord and Savior. For us who have woke up each morning and retired each night with inner gladness since meeting the Messiah in one way or another.

Scan into your fears. Carefully run into your worries. Afraid of your hunting past? Panic about the present? Frightened of the future? Run to Bethlehem. Return to that manger. Meet the Messiah. Again.

You can go back to your field a changed person knowing you have a Messiah who does not change. A King Shepherd who allowed himself to be born in a stable for you to know everything you’ve been told about him is true. It still rings true today. His presence, love and promises are real as what you have been told.

Who alone can turn great fear to great joy? Jesus. No one else.

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