Friday, December 27, 2013

Before the Year is Over (and the New Year Begins)

Five days before the end of 2013, I opened my diary and turned each leaf, scanning the monthly planner for significant events. I was grateful and glad as I noted accomplishments, opportunities and milestones not only for me but also for my family. Two books were published this year. A major translation project was started during the second half of the year.  There were learning opportunities right in the comfort of my home through online courses, as well as through a seminar overseas. Plus treats to a few trips here and abroad. 

Then there’s the usual routine done on specific days or weeks of the month—paying bills, filing reports, making deposits. Even those were noted on my planner. There were also plans and projects that didn’t materialize. Maybe they were not meant to be or maybe they will be fulfilled this coming new year. I’m thankful for whatever good thing God has allowed to happen and for whatever worthy work He has enabled me to do. Though this year brought fears and doubts, lonely moments and discouragements too, God’s grace comforted me. I couldn’t imagine living the 365 days of 2013 without Him.

I already bought a planner for 2014. How about you? Before the new year arrives, you might want to recall also and thank God for the blessings, opportunities, milestones, as well as the lessons learned in 2013. Hopefully, it will give you courage and confidence to face 2014. 

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Tacloban

I cried this morning as I saw on television images of the ravaged city of  Tacloban. It was no longer the same city we went to first on November 4 and then on November 6 when we returned from Biliran Island for a family vacation. On November 4, from Manila, we flew and landed at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban, Leyte and then traveled by land for more than two hours to get to the island of Biliran. Because of the coming typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), we decided to return to Tacloban City a day earlier. It was almost evening when we returned to Tacloban City but after finding an accommodation, we had time for dinner and coffee at downtown and a walk to the pier near the public market to have a taste of their barbecue. The following day, November 7, it was already raining so we decided to buy umbrellas and some pasalubong (local delicacies and souvenirs) for family and friends. 

Now as I hear news of death and saw collapsed buildings and survivors lining up for relief goods, I remember the locals I met in Tacloban. The tricycle and jeepney drivers who brought us to our destination within the city. The crew of Kitchenitos who served our dinner. The people at Jose Karlo's who prepared our delicious, hot coffee. The street vendor of  sweet binagol and moron.  The hawker who sold us three umbrellas. The woman fanning the flames on her barbecue stand. The hotel staff. The sales clerk at the souvenir shop in the airport, and the many other nameless people we met on the streets. How I pray that they too, have survived the destruction of super typhoon Yolanda.

The thought of losing loved ones in a disaster like this is heartbreaking. But slowly, I hear reports of friends who have finally received text messages from their relatives in Tacloban that they are safe, though without water and food supplies. This brings much relief to our hearts and I pray that many more have survived. A lot more needs to be done to help these people who are in distress. This is also a reminder for us to turn to the Lord who alone can really save us from all forms of destruction. Let us surrender our lives to Him before it's too late. 

Turn to the Lord and pray to Him,
    now that He is near.
 Let the wicked leave their way of life
    and change their way of thinking.
Let them turn to the Lord, our God;
    He is merciful and quick to forgive.
Isaiah 55:6-7

Friday, November 8, 2013

An Opportune Time to Trust God

Our family trip to Biliran Island, which is across the province of Leyte in Eastern Visayas, was planned seven months ago after seeing a travel show featuring Biliran. The island province was described as an unspoiled paradise with waterfalls, white sand beaches, hot springs, and mountains. Coincidentally, there was a Cebu Pacific promo fare at that time so we booked a flight in November. 

But our excitement over our vacation was challenged by a series of unexpected events. A day before the trip, my husband had a slight fever. But after praying for healing and taking medicines, he was up and about. My daughter had motion sickness on the plane and had to endure another two-hour dizzying ride aboard a van to get to Naval, Biliran. But our biggest challenge came in the form of a super typhoon that was approaching the Philippines, and reported to be going towards the direction of the Visayas region, right where we were. This would have dampened our spirits had we not heard the message of 2 Thessalonians 3:3 last Sunday in church. Our pastor preached on 2 Thessalonians 3:3 which reminds us, "But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one."

It was an opportune time for us to trust God's faithfulness to provide, strengthen, and protect us in our situation and truly, we saw His favor. My husband and daughter regained their strength enough to climb mountains and frolic in the waters. Although our schedule for chasing waterfalls and island hopping had to be adjusted because of the weather, we were happy that the sun shone. It enabled us to make the short boat trip to a small, beautiful island in the province. Moreover, God prompted us to leave Biliran a day earlier so as not to be caught by storm Yolanda (international name Haiyan). And even when all the rooms in the hotels, pension inns, and lodges in Tacloban (the capital of Leyte) were full the day we arrived there (a group with many delegates was meeting in the city), a kind lodge staff called a tricycle for us and instructed the driver to bring us to a nearby hotel where we were accommodated. At the airport, we, the passengers en route to Manila sighed in relief and a few clapped their hands when our plane finally arrived. 

As I write this, we are now home, safe and thankful for God's protection. But we pray earnestly for those who were terribly hit by the storm and wish that the government's target of zero casualty is reached. We entreat God to help the victims to recover. God is merciful to all who call upon Him. 

"He made the storm still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and He brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love..." Psalm 107:29-30

Downtown Tacloban on November 6, two days before typhoon Yolanda hit the city

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Preparing for That Day

I went to the wake of an aunt yesterday. Her daughter narrated how unprepared she was for her death although she was well aware of the life-threatening sickness of her mother. Choosing the appropriate burial clothes for her became a confusing task. She also had to frantically search for her mom's memorial plan because they never discussed where the document is kept. It's a common scenario as many of us find it difficult to prepare for the eventual death of a loved one. 

The thought of losing someone we love brings pain and fear that's why we brush it aside. Aware of this, the Lord Jesus Christ tried to comfort the grieving sisters Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus with these words: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"*

Jesus died on the cross to pay for the penalty of our sins but He rose from the dead and is now alive forevermore. Any person who believes in Him will eventually die, but will be given a new life together with Him where He is. In Christ, we have hope of being reunited with our dear departed who also trusted in Him. As we gain more confidence in this promise of the Lord Jesus Christ, our pain fades away and we gain courage to face the issue of death. Death then loses its sting. 

The book Life in the Middle shares practical tips on preparing for that eventual day. The chapter "Better Ready than Never" discusses things like filing important documents, creating pleasant memories for your loved ones, leaving a legacy and many others. Life in the Middle is available at CSM Book Store, National Book Store and other book shops. For overseas orders, you may email 

*John 11:25-26

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to Feel Happier and Younger

For the second time, I had my body scanned to determine my body fat and body age. My first scan a few months ago indicated that I have the body of a forty-six year old, almost two years younger than my chronological age. This time around, I was pleasantly surprised when the scan calculated my body age to be forty-three years! I am not 100% sure about the accuracy of this body scan but a verse I read this morning gave me a spiritual perspective. Psalm 103:1-5 says:

Praise the Lord my soul!
All my being, praise His holy name!
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and do not forget how kind He is. 
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He keeps me from the grave
and blesses me with love and mercy. 
He fills my life with good things,
so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.*

I feel younger because many good things have happened to me recently. Four weeks earlier, my newest book, Life in the Middle, was launched at the Manila International Book Fair. Two weeks ago, I visited Singapore for the first time mainly to attend a training seminar. I met my Asian colleagues and gained insights about my learning style and how I can improve and utilize it to mentor others. While I was away from home, I also received the wonderful news that my daughter was accepted to her first job and that my son's musical band won in a contest. And this week, I acquired my first smartphone. 

I thank God for these "good things" and many more. More than a good experience and a good material blessing, these things are a testimony of God's gracious and powerful work in my life, answers to prayers, and opportunities to be in awe as I discover new things. It's not just the achievements and material blessings themselves that make a person feel happier and younger but it's the joyful, grateful recognition that all these good things come from God. Do you want to feel happier and younger? Begin now to count your blessings and feel happier and younger. 

*Good News Translation

Friday, September 6, 2013

Is Your Life on Hold?

Do you think you're missing something?
Do you feel like your life has been put on hold?
Do you desperately want to make things happen but things are not progressing?

At some point in our lives, we ask these questions, whether you are a new graduate seeking a first job, a mother who gave up a thriving career to be a full-time homemaker, a midlifer or a senior citizen wondering and worrying about the direction of your life. Some may even be tempted to ask: Has God forgotten me?

I'll let Psalm 138:8 answer that last question. The verse, written by King David many years ago says, "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me..." God is concerned about our welfare so He has good plans for us. And because He is wise and unlimited in power, He is able to carry out those good plans for us as we submit and work together with Him. When we seek God's good plans for us and work towards that, we will have a satisfying and  significant life.

Waiting and working are necessary. Do all what you know you can and stop doing what you should not be doing. Be productive while you're waiting but pause also to savor the moment. Trust God. Your next big thing could be just around the corner. 

Are you in midlife? You can have a satisfying and significant midlife. This is the message of my upcoming book Life in the Middle published by Church Strengthening Ministry (CSM). Like the Facebook page of Life in the Middle to know more about the book. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Term of Endearment

My sister has three daughters whose ages are two years apart from each other. When they were younger, my sister was fond of calling each one of her girls as "anak". "Anak" is a Filipino term of endearment that means "child". Any Filipino mother naturally calls her child with that term of endearment. One of my sister's daughters noticed her habit and was quite confused. So one day she asked, "Mama, why do you keep on calling us "anak" when we have our own names?"

At that time, my niece could still not understand the connotation of the term "anak". The term suggests affection and intimacy, a close relationship enjoyed with no other. As a mother myself, I understand why my sister called her daughters "anak". But I also understand my niece's juvenile point of view. She knows that she is called by her name in the same way her sisters also have their own names.

God calls "child" anyone who accepts His Son Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. John 1:12 says, "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." And even if there are billions of people in the world, God knows the name of each one of us. What a blessing to realize that God calls me dearly as His child and will never forget my name or yours.

Photo courtesy of Jesus Our Abundant Life Church

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Better Recognition

The following incident happened when I was new with freelance writing. I remember excitedly browsing through the new magazine of which I was a regular contributor. I was writing a variety column and science feature articles so I was puzzled when I didn't see my name in the editorial box of that magazine's particular issue. But I noticed the name of a new writer listed along with the other contributors. How could they forget my name? I was hurt, disappointed, and angry.

It took a while for my anger to simmer down later that day. Something I read calmed me down. "Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you" (Romans 12:3). 

I wanted my name to appear in the list of contributors because I wanted recognition for what I had written. It was right for me to expect it since I was part of the writer's pool. But I was taught through this incident to give more attention on improving my writing. So I took the challenge and worked hard on improving my writing craft. Later on, the editor of the same magazine told me that an article I wrote helped her gain perspective on how to cope with a crisis in the office. I felt it was a recognition better than seeing my name on print and I experienced a greater pleasure knowing how a piece I wrote helped someone. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

You Have a Loving Dad

This week, the world anticipated with excitement the birth of the royal baby, the child of Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. People from around the world waited from the time the Duchess was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital to the time she emerged from it with the Prince beside her and their royal baby cradled in her arms. Well-wishers rejoiced at the sight of the little baby, the third in line to the British throne. 

A month ago, another baby was born, though not from a royal line, but her birth was a cause for much celebration for the baby's parents, especially her dad who is my friend. Even before his little baby was born, my friend has already internalized his new role as a father. While their baby was still in his wife’s womb, he was already talking to their baby and making plans for the baby. When his baby was finally born, he posted the pictures of the baby on Facebook for all to see. Obviously, he’s one excited, loving dad.

Photo credit  ©Micha Fleuren/Dreamstime Stock Photos

We have a Dad, a Heavenly Father, the King of kings who loves us so much and who is so excited about us. 1 John 3:1 reveals, “See how much the Father has loved us! His love is so great that we are called God's children—and so, in fact, we are. This is why the world does not know us: it has not known God.” 

God created us so He is the Father of all creation. But we may not fully experience an intimate relationship with God as our Father if we do not acknowledge and submit to Him. God made it possible for us to be called and accepted as His children by coming to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Come to your Heavenly Dad and experience His rich love. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Agony and Reward of Waiting

I have been in agony these past months waiting for things to happen and things to come. Waiting for the election results would add to the affliction had I not read this verse: "I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His Word do I hope" (Psalm 130:5). 

Waiting is often an unpleasant experience, whether it's waiting to possess that dream house, purchasing a promo fare for an overseas trip, reading the editor's feedback, or receiving a royalty check. In the past, I've been tempted to fret, doubt God, and throw the towel. But God pursues me continually and encourages me not to give up. He also teaches me how to wait.

This verse gives a hint. While waiting, wait expectantly for the best. Wait eagerly. It helps not to dwell on the negative but to think of the positive side. "Expectant" is also a word we use to refer to someone who is "pregnant". Pregnancy normally lasts for nine months. It can't be rushed because the baby in the womb has to go through normal stages of development. That takes time. 

So I accept that there is a necessary waiting period that will eventually lead to the desired results. As I wait, I put my hope in God's Word because God's Word represents His promise which He will fulfill. God will not lie or give false hopes. And God knows how to compensate us for the times we have waited expectantly and relied on Him completely. 

"O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is mercy and loving-kindness, and with Him is plenteous redemption" (Psalm 130:7). 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How Does Your Future Look Like?

My husband turned a year older yesterday. Before his special day was over, he blurted out what seemed to be a profound realization, "In a few years, I will be a senior citizen!" I didn't react as dramatically because I already realized that fact even before he did, or at least before he made his thoughts public. I, too, have been  doing the countdown and I think many of my friends are doing the same. Sometimes, the thought of turning older dampens our spirit. Turning older suggests weaker knees and more wrinkles and white hair. Being a senior citizen could also mean losing our capacity and chance to earn bigger. Right?

Could be, but turning older does not necessarily mean we won't have a good future anymore. It doesn't mean that God hasn't planned for our future or that He would have no more good stuff for us by that time. God has good plans for us in every stage of our lives, whether we are four, fourteen, forty, or even eighty. The Psalmist wrote, "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonderful works which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; no one can compare with You! If I should declare and speak of them, they are too many to be numbered" (Psalm 40:5). A loving Heavenly Father will never run out of surprises for His children. If we are willing to believe in His loving kindness, we will see the wonderful things He has in store for us in the future. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Freed from Punishment

Each day, I realize my frailty. One time, I felt uncomfortable after an incident made me realize that I don't know everything. Of course, I don't. No one does. That's something every human being knows, but it's not everyday that you get hit by this truth. I had to admit that although I know some things, there are areas where I needed help. So I asked for help and had someone teach me what to do. 

Yesterday, I discovered a mistake which I made last year. The error was made a long time ago but it affects my current state. I'm not sure if I will still be penalized for that error but this made me think of the many mistakes I've made, the errors I've committed, and my many offenses against God. What if I am punished for all those wrongdoings? If I am not dead yet, maybe I would not even have the heart to go on with life because I'd be stripped of dignity, hope, and strength. 

And indeed, for our many sins, or offenses, against God, we deserve to be punished. Everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence*. Sin pays off with death--a spiritual death that means eternal separation from God. And when we are separated from God we are separated forever from His loving kindness and the joy and peace that can only come from Him. 

But the good news is that God reached out to us to forgive all our sins against Him and put us in a right relationship with Him. But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with Him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. God offered Him, so that by His blood He should become the means by which people's sins are forgiven through their faith in Him. God did this in order to demonstrate that He is righteous. In the past He was patient and overlooked people's sins; but in the present time He deals with their sins, in order to demonstrate His righteousness. In this way God shows that He himself is righteous and that He puts right everyone who believes in Jesus**.

God is ready to forgive our sins against Him and is willing to help us correct the mistakes we've committed. At times, if He decides, He will even override our errors. Most of all, God, through His Son Jesus Christ, can give us a new slate, a new beginning. His Son Jesus Christ has been offered already as punishment for our sins and He is waiting for us to ask forgiveness and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. 

God brought to life together with Christ, having freely forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note (bond) with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us (hostile to us). This [note with its regulations, decrees, and demands] He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to [His] cross.***

*Romans 3:23  Good News Translation (GNT)
**Romans 6:24-26  GNT
***Colossians 2:13-14   Amplified Bible

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Life of Learning

This day, March 20, is a memorable day. A few days ago, a high school classmate unearthed our graduation programme and quickly reminded our Facebook group that on this day, 30 years ago, we graduated from high school. By coincidence, on this day also, I spoke at a Moving Up and Recognition Ceremony for kindergarten students. 

Many of us seems elated and at the same time, nostalgic at the thought that it's been 30 years since we received our high school diploma. Back then, I never thought that 30 years later I would be standing on  a stage, not to receive a diploma but to deliver a message to the students being promoted and their  parents. 

After high school graduation, I went to college and received a bachelor's degree. Between then and now, I took a diploma course in pastoral ministry, a certificate in teaching language, attended seminars, workshops, and conferences here and abroad. I became involved in church ministry, got married, raised a family, and built a freelance career. 

Along the way I recalled some things which I learned from high school. But there were also other things I learned not from high school but from everyday life. I learned from my mistakes and from unlikely people. I came to know God by reading the Bible and became wiser doing what I discovered from the Book. Even up to now, I'm still learning. In fact, just recently, I started taking up online courses. 

The day is about to end. The reminiscing will probably continue until tomorrow or the day after. In this season of graduation, I realized that we may stop going to school, but we never stop learning. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Blessings of the Weekend

It's weekend again. As I sip my morning coffee, I think of the things I can look forward to this day and tomorrow. It looks like today is going to be a fun day with the family. This afternoon my husband and I will drive to the next town to attend a birthday party, not of our adult peer, but of a seven-year-old kid. I'm not sure if we'll also wear party hats or get our share of loot bags, but that would be an amusing occasion if we could. 

This weekend, I also get to see my daughter again who only comes home on weekends. She studies in another part of the country and our weekday communication is limited to calls and texts (thanks to my unlimited subscription to a cellular network). I hope we could share stories face-to-face again. 

This day also, I finally inquired from an ebook distribution company about the possibility of self-publishing an ebook. I have ideas dancing around my head and I'm taking steps to find out how I can venture into digital publishing. Exciting!

As for tomorrow, I expect it to be a time of intimacy--spiritual intimacy. I heard my pastor is going to share a message on "Loving God from A-Z". I was afraid he might go through the entire alphabet but no, the preview  said he'll talk about what it means to love God with all your mind. I'm not sure if and how much I love God with all my mind, so I'm getting ready to listen.

Weekend, as the name suggests, is the end of the week. It may be a time to complete an unfinished business or it could be a much-needed break from working, but it is also a time of great expectations--a time of looking forward to blissful blessings. What are your weekend blessings?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cleaning Your Heart

Yesterday, after several days, I finally cleaned our bathroom. It was a gruesome sight. Dirt has filled the spaces between the floor tiles. Grime from dried soap suds and dead skin cells has covered the surface of the wall tiles. And the stinking smell is unbearable. As I scrubbed the nasty crud, I reprimanded myself. I should have cleaned the bathroom every day; in fact, soon after I take a bath each day.

As I was contemplating the tedious task of removing the dirt that has accumulated in this most neglected part of our house, God must have decided this is a good time to remind me of another dirt that could dangerously foul the chamber of my heart. That stubborn dirt works the same way with sin. If you do not confess your sin right away, and let days pass before you confess your wrong doing, you'll have a hard time coping with your guilt. But if you confess your sins to Me, I will keep My promise and do what is right: I will forgive you your sins and purify you from all your wrongdoing.*

The Life Application Study Bible explains, "God has forgiven our sins because of Christ's death...In admitting our sins and receiving Christ's cleansing, we are: 1) agreeing with God that our sin truly is sin and that we are willing to turn from it, 2) ensuring that we don't conceal our sins from Him and consequently from ourselves, and 3) recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on His power to overcome it. 

Starting the new year with a clean slate begins with confessing our sins to God and accepting His forgiveness through Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sin. Don't wait another day. God is waiting to clean your heart. 

*Based on 1 John 1:9, Good News Bible