Thursday, December 18, 2008

The View from Heaven

When I bought my ticket, I reserved a window seat so I could enjoy the view down below while I travel on air. For someone used to living down on earth, seeing things from heaven does look amazing and provides a different perspective.

Looking out of the window of the airplane that was traveling on an altitude as high as 38,000 feet, I saw vast land forms—green fields, cities dotted with minute roofs, mountainous regions (some even snow-capped,) miles of white deserts, plateau, and a wide array of fluffy clouds as well as thin drifting ones. The setting sun on the west painted layers of glowing red, orange, and bright yellow on the blue horizon. At night time, man-made communities and cities made their existence known through steady as well as moving lights.

I gasped in awe as I saw God’s wonderful creation. This wonderful display of colors and forms of nature is for me, God’s way ay revealing His creativity, grandeur, authority over nature, and love for mankind. To miss the view does not only mean denying yourself the pleasure of enjoying God’s creation and the gentle shower of God’s love (for who would not feel loved by such a feast of beauty and a flood of peace brought about by seeing God’s creation?) Missing this wonderful view is also missing a great opportunity to praise God.

From above, looking down at the cities below with roofs that appear like minute squares made me ask, Who could be down there? Who could be reading a book, taking a nap, doing household chores, or working in a factory? Is there anyone down there calling on God to help him get through the day, or pleading to know Him more?

Then I remembered the verse that says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…” (2 Chronicles 16:9). From heaven, God sees us all and searches for anyone calling out to Him. The Bible says He is alert to the cries of His people and He is ready to answer and rescue them out of their troubles.

Meantime, back to earth, the pace and view is different. When my plane from Manila landed at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, I rushed to my boarding gate as soon as I passed by passport control so as not to miss my connecting flight to Frankfurt. I walked for about 10-12 minutes from the F9 gate where we landed to gate B22 (with stop-overs at security check-in and immigration) where a bus awaits passengers like me to ferry us to a Fokker plane going to Frankfurt, Germany. It was easy to spot someone who knows how to give directions in English. Also, I wasn’t surprised at all that there were Filipinos lining up before and behind me towards immigration. I quickly asked in Tagalog if I was in the right lane and got a nod and a friendly smile.

But since I was in a hurry, I didn’t have time to linger at the shops (although I wouldn’t buy anything, I’d probably just look around), sip gourmet coffee, or visit the museum inside the airport featuring works of Rembrandt. I could only glance at some of the men and women in suits with hand luggage in tow, and the backpackers in slippers or rubber shoes. I was in the midst of men and women from different nations in transit to other destinations. I uttered a short prayer for their salvation and eternal destination.

The view from the sky was awesome, inspiring worship; leisurely, inviting rest. The situation at the airport was dazzling because of the well-lit and brightly decorated shops everywhere. The ambience was cosmopolitan and international.

Isn’t life on earth like that? We hurry through one appointment after another, meeting people, making deals, accomplishing tasks. We do so at the risk of missing some quiet and quality time with God, spending leisurely hours with the people we love, enjoying the fruits of our labor, and just doing nothing—resting from all our works as the Lord commanded.

I pray that God will also bless you one day with a trip of a life time like He did to me. But you don’t have to wait for that trip to be able to enjoy the abundant life Jesus gave to us. You can do it now. Tomorrow, you can take time to view the glowing sunrise. Tonight, gaze at the millions of glittering stars. Or give yourself a day off this weekend. Go to the parlor for an overdue haircut or treat yourself to a spa. Call or email your friends. Perhaps, you can plan a romantic dinner at home with your spouse, or rent a DVD and watch the latest animated movie with your kids. On top of it all, don’t forget to say a prayer of thanks to your Creator for all the beautiful things He has done around you and in your life. He deserves your praise.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Confirmed!

I got a message from another travel agency referred to by a friend informing me that they were able to get a confirmed booking for me via KLM!

Until the last hour, I was still waitlisted in Lufthansa's flight. I was also booked with KLM through another agency but until Thursday, the Nov. 10-11 flights to Sao Paulo were still fully booked. But by Friday afternoon, the managing director of the agency told me that someone from KLM gave her a tip on how she could get me booked. God works in wonderful ways!

Compared to the booking I had with Lufthansa (which by now had been auto-cancelled by the airlines because I was waitlisted until the option to purchase the ticket was given), this route will be longer. I remembered Exodus 13:17-18. God didn't lead the Israelites to the shorter route to the Promised Land. Even though my route would be longer, I welcome it as a wonderful surprise. First, I know God has a purpose for it. Secondly, I will be having two stop-overs in 2 European cities--Amsterdam and Paris!

By the way, just to show again how God works perfectly on time, I got the confirmation on Friday, and it was also on that day that the amount to be raised for the ticket has been completed. It is best to wait upon God!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Art of Waiting

Exactly two years ago, in November 2006, I embarked on my first overseas trip. I was blessed to have toured Germany for a week, visited Strasbourg, France, and attended a six-day international publishing conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I called it my journey of faith because I went through situations that seemed impossible had it not been for divine intervention. Many times, my faith in God was tested, and in those times my weaknesses and limitations were magnified, but the power and limitlessness of God was all the more manifested. I kept a journal as I embarked on that trip and starting today, I would like to share with you the memories and lessons I learned along the way, hoping that one day, you too, will respond to the call of a journey of faith. (If this is your first visit to this blog, you might want to start reading the entries starting November to follow this story.)
Howard Whitman said, “The art of waiting is not learned at once.” I usually think of myself as a patient person. But these past weeks, I realized I have not yet perfected the art of waiting. I am being taught though by, who else, but the most patient Person--God the Father Himself.

For the past weeks, I have been revising a Values Instruction module on the topic of “patience”. The definition and practice of patience has been all over the modules I’ve written and rewritten. Patience is calmly bearing troubles, hurts, and challenges; it is waiting without complaining. In the midst of writing this instructional material for public school students, I guess God found a perfect opportunity to test me and see which area of patience I would need further coaching.

You might have guessed already the area of my testing—my trip to Germany and Brazil. Earlier, I was ready to pay for my ticket when I learned that the rate has increased tremendously. At that time, I didn’t have enough to pay the new rate so I decided to book with other agencies offering a cheaper airfare. I did this without canceling my first booking. Little did I know that I was committing a big mistake. I later learned that Lufthansa cancelled my first booking (with all flights already confirmed) because of double booking. Now I have to settle with the agency offering the cheapest so far, but I am waitlisted.

All this time, I have been busy scouting for travel agencies, making calls, asking people to pray for the confirmation of my flights, updating my bank accounts hoping for a new deposit, meeting donors, rushing the Values Instruction modules, leading Bible studies and cell groups, studying Revelations for Adult Sunday School, doing household chores, watching our children’s inter-school competitions for several days, and recently, attending a book launching and sitting as panelist for a discussion on women’s worth. My body was tired, my mind was occupied, and my heart was failing. Every morning, I was crying before God and on top of my prayer list is the confirmation of my flights. My booking is for a Nov. 2 departure from Manila for Frankfurt, Germany and after about a week, I should be flying to Sao Paulo, Brazil either Nov. 10, 11 or 12 to be on time for the conference from Nov. 12-17, then back to Manila on 19. Some of the leg of my trip is confirmed already except for the Frankfurt and Sao Paulo leg.

I agonized over the thought that I might have made the wrong decision of switching to another travel agency. It seems now it would have been better if I just waited for the rest of the money and paid the first agency and presto!—I could have easily gotten the ticket, unlike now when I am under the pressure of waiting. On the other hand, I have always been asking God for guidance. I believe He didn’t let me out of His sight one second. God wouldn’t turn back on His promise to guide me. Or did I miss His instruction?

After being done with the Values Instruction module, I spent the whole day yesterday with God at home. I immersed myself in reading the exodus of the Israelites, especially the part where it says that instead of guiding the Israelites along the direct route from Egypt to the Promised Land, He took them by a longer route to avoid fighting with the Philistines (Exodus 13:17-18). Lesson 1: If God does not lead you along the shortest path to your goal, don’t complain or resist. Then the Israelites panicked because they were trapped between the raging Egyptian army and the vast turbulent sea. We know now that God parted the sea and made a dry highway for His favorite people. Lesson 2: Just when we thought we’re already at the edge and trapped, don’t panic but watch out because God is coming to the rescue to show His glory.

Determined to keep this recovered peace, I pursued God this morning and focused on His character and promises. I’ve already gone this far in the journey; surely He has a plan how I would get there in Germany and Sao Paulo according to His time. This morning, I pulled from the shelf a book someone is borrowing from me. Then I noticed from among the standing books one that is titled PSALMS NOW. I pulled the book and discovered it was a paraphrase of the book of Psalms by Leslie Brandt. I haven’t noticed the book before so I decided I would use that in my devotion. God led me to Psalm 139, to a line that says, “I could fly to the other side of the world and find You there to lead the way.” I immediately checked six other translations including the King James Version, and the Tagalog Popular Version which I am writing here in full: “Kung ako ay makalipad, umiwas na pasilangan, o kaya ang tirahan ko’y ang duluhan ng kanluran, tiyak Ikaw ay naroon, upang ako’y pangunahan, matatagpo kita roon upang ako ay tulungan” (Awit 139:9-10). Following the cross reference on the margin of the Bible, I found Psalm 40, a psalm of David that talks about waiting on God. There I received Lesson 3: Because God has gone ahead of me and promised to guide me in my trip, I should wait patiently. In fact, I should be happy because in this time of waiting, I am right in the center of God’s will.
Are you waiting for something or for someone? God is teaching me to wait patiently, calmly, joyfully, confidently. Maybe it’s about time you enroll too in His school and learn the lessons of the art of waiting.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Wonderful Surprise

A wonderful surprise has come up on this journey. I wasn't only going to Brazil, I was also going to Germany. Bear with me as I tell you the story.

I learned from a church mate that her brother went to Brazil March of that year 2006. On the way to Brazil, he and his companions had a 15-hour stop over at Frankfurt airport in Germany. My aunt and her German husband live a few minutes away from Frankfurt. Out of my ignorance of airport protocols (you see, I have never been out of the country), I thought, maybe if I could get a flight to Brazil that stops over at Germany, my aunt could see me at the airport, take me to a restaurant or give me a quick tour of the vicinity. That would be a treat before going to Brazil.

Then last July 2006, out of the blue, my aunt called long distance to see how we’re doing. I told her about my plan to go to Brazil to attend a Christian publishing conference and about the possibility of a stop over at Frankfurt airport. Through the course of our conversation, I found out that I will not be allowed to go out of Frankfurt Airport if the plane I’m in is just in transit on the way to my next destination. But, she said she could invite me to stay with them a week before I proceed to Brazil, if I could confirm the flight. Even if she and my uncle were due to fly in the Philippines for a vacation in October, they were willing to adjust their schedule to accommodate me.

I couldn’t dismiss these circumstances as mere coincidences. The casual mention of a stop over at Frankfurt, the phone call last July, the willingness to adjust a vacation in the Philippines to welcome me in Germany…there seems to be more than just coincidences to all these so I asked God if it’s part of His plan for me to go to Germany also.

Personally, I welcome this opportunity to see a historical and beautiful place like Germany. Many people dream of traveling to Europe and now that I’m given the chance, I wouldn’t want to miss it. Let's see where this journey would lead.