Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Wrestling With God

I only encountered the term “wrestling with God” late last year, from a sister whose love for the Lord amazes me to this day, Shane Male. When she used this term to describe the state of her spiritual life, I thought that the term was unique to her. In no time I discovered that a lot of brothers and sisters used that term freely and I wondered, with my re-renewed (you’re not seeing double, I created that word just now) fire for God at that time, why anyone would wrestle with God. With such love and power and splendor emanating from Him, it would be folly to resist, question, and even disobey Him, I thought.

Last year was, obviously, my honeymoon period with the Lord. I soared high on eagle’s wings.

But in fire gold is tested. With all the uncertainties of life bogging me down, I visited my spiritual directress a couple of weeks ago and tried to relate the events that led me knocking at her door, with studied nonchalance and a touch of indifference, even. I resolved not to break down and cry just because things were not turning out the way I thought they should. My faith was bigger than the challenges before me. I convinced myself that I had masked my emotions from her excellently.

After I finished my little speech, she showed me how skilled and gifted she was, and how wise God is, by commenting that she saw the play of emotions in my eyes, and concluding that, “Ella, you seem to be wrestling with God.” We didn’t have time but I was prepared to argue that I was doing all right, thank you very much, and that all should be well in God’s time. I was not able to say much after that as she took out her Bible and gave out her prescription for my ailment: Genesis 32:23-33, where Jacob wrestles with God. She said that if indeed I realize that I am wrestling with God, we would take it from there.

My limited understanding failed to take in why on earth God would wrestle with a man, His creation, a mere mortal. Night after night I labored over the passage but failed to grasp what God was telling me. It did not in the least bit make sense!

23In the course of that night, however, Jacob arose, took his two wives, with the two maidservants and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 24 After he had taken them across the stream and had brought over all his possessions, 25 Jacob was left there alone. Then some man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. 26 When the man saw that he could not prevail over him, he struck Jacob's hip at its socket, so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled. 27 The man then said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go until you bless me." 28 "What is your name?" the man asked. He answered, "Jacob." 29 Then the man said, "You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed." 30 Jacob then asked him, "Do tell me your name, please." He answered, "Why should you want to know my name?" With that, he bade him farewell. 31 Jacob named the place Peniel, "Because I have seen God face to face," he said, "yet my life has been spared." 32 At sunrise, as he left Penuel, Jacob limped along because of his hip. 33 That is why, to this day, the Israelites do not eat the sciatic muscle that is on the hip socket, inasmuch as Jacob's hip socket was struck at the sciatic muscle.

I prayed for guidance and wisdom and understanding. I was bracing myself to return empty-handed to my spiritual directress when I realized I could improve on my limitations by using Bible study tools. I studied what it was that Jacob was preparing for before he met the Man who wrestled with him, and what happened after he limped away his victory. Suffice to say that Jacob was preparing for something big that night, and he was alone, presumably, he prayed and meditated. It was not just a physical wrestling match, but a spiritual battle as well. And God was pleased that Jacob’s faith was not shaken even with the concrete challenge before him. He struck Jacob’s hip just as He gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him grounded, lest his victory make him forget all about humility. Jacob was also persistent, he didn’t want to put the struggle to waste, and he insisted on getting a blessing from his opponent. That was when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. God didn’t want Jacob to be concerned about His name, however. He wanted Jacob to focus on the blessing that He gave him, which was enough. Jacob wrestled with God, won, and gained a divine blessing in the end, limp included.

This was a very strange encounter between man and God, with Jacob not entirely a saintly character winning in the end. Yet, peeling it for its deeper meanings, a lot of my personal struggles with the Lord right now are answered. I am no saint, but with His Spirit, and in Christ who strengthens me, I could be who He wants me to be.

Rather than sulk, pout, or worse, shop, I should be rejoicing that I am in this wrestling match. I see how God is preparing me for the next wave of assignments He will give me by matching wills and strengths with me now. Where is my faith in the God of all Heaven and Earth now that the road before me is full of bumps and bends? Why can’t I believe in His promise just because the world tells me to see otherwise? I have a thing or two to take to heart from Jacob’s lesson. Perseverance, humility, and faith, faith beyond understanding --> these are the things that won for Jacob his victory. It wasn’t Jacob’s strength or his mind that won the match for him. God honored his values and paved the way for a richer life for him.

I can only pray that when the day breaks, I would still be standing up, for me to be able to see the face of God, and to receive His blessing.

Thursday, October 31, 2002


Running in Luneta, Several Pounds Ago Posted by Hello

At the Manila Zoo

Tito Ric With a Friend Posted by Hello

Papa in Manila Zoo

After His Bypass Operation Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Superwoman Goes to the Supermarket

Women and shoes. Women and chocolates. Women and shopping.

It doesn’t take a marketing genius to know that whenever hormones and/or emotions cloud a woman’s judgment, she usually goes out in search of a way to part with her cash or to swipe that plastic.

Most women are also prone to making drastic hairstyle decisions during these dangerous moments. Take for example the poor hair strands of Kris Aquino. I pity them, what with all those chemicals they have to contend with regularly. No wonder they’re sticking out in all directions these days.

Uh-oh. Ella left her halo somewhere.

There are, definitely, deeper and latent reasons for my behavior, but I can only share the immediate triggers to this hormone explosion. One culprit is the fact that I face Goliaths inside my head and in our office. Hitting at them with my paltry tirador has not been working so far. I went home earlier than planned today, as exhaustion got the better of me.

The little orange glow in the shape of a gasoline tank reminded me that I needed to stop at the nearest Shell station. Then my cellphone rang. It was a friend from law school, calling to ask me to be one of the two emcees at his wedding this January. Most likely this caused the greatest mood swing in the history of (wo)man. I agreed to be my friend’s Wedding Emcee, while a list of To-Do’s ran through my head. Have to meet with bride and groom to know the program. Have to prepare script with my co-emcee, whom I have never met as he’d be coming from the Bride’s Side, of course. Have to find an affordable couturier to make me a winning dress. Or should I wear a gown? Come to think of it, I’m emcee-ing another wedding this December and I don’t have anything to wear yet! This led me to the clincher: All my friends are getting married! And to the inevitable conclusion: I’ll be the last single woman of my age. Ever.

Yes, sisters, it’s that time of the month. And of the year. And of the decade.

This ushered in an avalanche of memories, most recent of which happened at our office. There are five divisions in Sandiganbayan, and each division is administratively headed by a Clerk of Court, who is always a lawyer. The colorful cast of my sitcomic life discussed yesterday how one Clerk of Court was so lucky to be able to spend one month vacationing abroad to visit her sister and nephews. She was a single lawyer and she could afford to go on that trip. I tried to stay out of the conversation and concentrated on my work in my cubicle. I couldn’t help overhearing how they proceeded to discuss that ALL the clerks of court were single women! Being the only single woman in our chamber, the conversation naturally landed on me, whom they knew was within hearing range. They said, “Si Attorney Ella kaya, someday, lalakad din mag-isa para dalawin ang mga pamangkin niya sa Sydney?” Then laughter. They were condemning me into a life of lonely singlehood. With money to spend for month-long trips abroad, to visit my siblings’ families. It could be a blissful life, but when I heard it, it sounded like a curse. I joined the laughter but stepped out of my cubicle to give everyone my scariest dagger look. It didn’t work. They all concluded, “Attorney, lumabas ka naman diyan sa cubicle mo paminsan-minsan, para makapag-asawa ka naman!” I’m soo glad I made their day!

I returned to the voluminous records on my desk and resumed trying to make heads or tails out of the arguments of the huge law firms which represented the parties in one of the cases I was reviewing. There must be more to life, I sighed.

Over at the Shell station, with the sudden urge to take control of my life overpowering me, I asked for the fullest tank of gasoline money could buy. When that didn’t satisfy me, I went to the service station and asked the mechanics to repair everything in the car that needed repairing. I scheduled Rand (the car’s name) for auto-detailing and asked the Shell-Meguiar’s team to remove all the bumps and scratches they could find. I asked for protection against rust. I also arranged for a beauty makeover for the window, the wiper, and the trunk. I made a checklist and felt empowered with what I did. I am a single woman and I won’t let it be said that I don’t know how to take care of my car. (At least while I’m the one driving my father’s car.)

It was too early to go home and sulk. I walked to the nearby mall, bomb threats notwithstanding, and began my search for a David’s Salon, determined to have a considerable length of hair chopped off. Or maybe allow myself to be convinced into coloring my hair purple. Before I could find the salon, I stumbled into something better! You see, more than Watson’s Personal Store and Ace Hardware, the one part of the mall I could spend considerable time and money on is the Supermarket. I was a woman with a mission and I trudged on into war, armed with my Visa and my Mastercard.

At first I thought only of buying personal items for my own use at home and in the office. But when I saw the aisles of merchandise calling out to me, I let loose. No one was there to stop me from buying three different kinds of shampoos! I had the freedom to buy every cookie and candy my nephews could recite from memory. As was my custom, I went through every aisle and compared prices as if my life depended on it. I bought something for everybody. I was the Consumer Queen. Packaging and promotions worked on me. I was a little hungry, a major no-no if you’re grocery-ing while dieting, so my little pushcart got heavier at every turn. I had an answer to every need – from plaque remover to fabric softener. Grocery-shopping has always been a stress-reducing experience for me. There have been many movies wherein the heroine would suddenly bump into a single, interesting male in the grocery. They would look at how similar their grocery items are, look at each other’s eyes, and have dinner afterwards. No such luck for me, who was proudly waving her single-hood at the Ever Commonwealth Supermarket. The last time I checked, hunks were not in the habit of shopping there. Of course with my mood, I wasn’t looking for a polite gentleman who would carry the grocery bags for me. I was partly looking for a hunk that had the same fascination for Nestle yogurt as I did.

When the load became too heavy for me, I stopped shopping for my lifetime supply of toiletries and paid for everything with a single swipe of a card and a signature. I knew my family and officemates would be so delighted to see what I bought for all of them! There was even a bonus for this single shopper! Ever Commonwealth Supermarket was raffling off two (2!) Toyota Corolla Altis units and I earned several raffle tickets. Back when I was a little girl, I won P200 in a raffle sponsored by Carnation Milk. My family stuck to the notion that I was lucky in raffles and I’ve signed hundreds of raffle stubs these past two decades. But I’ve never won a single peso since then. Who knows? I could be driving a brand new Altis, minus the Brad Pitt-hunk of a driver, next year. The future is so uncertain, it might as well bring in blessings such as that, my racing mind thought.

I went home proud of my purchases, yet still unsatisfied. There were some things Visa couldn’t buy. Not even Mastercard!

I probably should have been shopping for Wisdom, Perseverance, Knowledge, Endurance and Patience, but since these things were not available at that precise moment that I went on a shopping spree, I filled my shopping cart with all the earthly things I could get my hands on.

Tomorrow I shall be driving a cleaner, shinier car, thanks to Shell Service Station. I shall open a relatively-stocked cupboard and refrigerator. I shall have liquid soap and bar soap to use when I take my shower. But I guess Goliath couldn’t care less if I used Donita Rose’s shampoo and conditioner.

I just consumed a bar of chocolate that I had been craving for for a long time now. Of course I’m still tired and I still feel empty, uncertain, and even hopeless. Mastercard wasn’t lying when it advertised that it couldn’t buy priceless things, like an unwavering faith in the God who watches over me every step of the way.

Ok, I give up. Time to pray for purity of heart and mind, again, and again, and again. Lord, I don’t deserve that halo yet. Please reserve that for me until we see each other face to face.

I’ll pick up my paltry tirador and kill these Goliaths with their own swords. Doesn’t sound like a happy proposition for me.

I think what I really want is for the real David to come and kill all these Goliaths for me. My name isn’t David.

It’s Ella.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Born On The Month Of July (When It Rains, It Really Pours)

One of my favorite movies is “You’ve Got Mail”. It’s one movie I don’t mind watching every time I catch it on HBO, especially the first AND last ten minutes. (The Cranberries’ “Dreams” sequence – Tom and Meg starting their day not knowing how many times they had bumped into each other yet thinking of each other’s emails; as well as the happy ending – “I wanted it to be you.” So Hollywood, yet so effective for me!) It is relatively well-written for a romantic comedy and the movie soundtrack has a lot of feel-good songs. Okay, I know what you’re thinking – that I am partial to it because the protagonists communicated through e-mail. :-) Guilty! I like it infinitely better than “Sleepless in Seattle”. This message is not about why I prefer the former to the latter, though.

In one of his messages, Tom Hanks’ character wrote to Meg Ryan’s character that he loved the smell of spring because it reminded him of his schooldays. He said that if he knew where she lived, he would send her a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils. Meg Ryan walked to her little bookstore on the corner carrying a bouquet of flowers she bought and her Tall Decaf Cappuccino from Starbucks, all the while mumbling to herself about spring and pencils. She then proceeded to happily sniff at a roll of Scotch tape, apparently to remind herself of her own happy memories about school opening.

I have fantastic memories about the first few days of school, especially during my grade school days. I hated summer vacations because we were made to stay home and read classic books and play classical pieces on the piano. I didn’t have a province I enjoyed going home to. I didn’t have an annual summer childhood sweetheart to spend the long days of April and May with. Whenever I compared notes with my classmates come school opening, I always felt like I was missing out on a lot of things because of my upbringing. Believe it or not, instead of learning how to ride a bike, I was enrolled in PROSEC for two consecutive years – Professional Skills Enrichment Center. For two summers, I went to school to take speed-reading, effective writing, and enhanced vocabulary lessons. I could hear my batch mates playing soccer and volleyball outside our summer classroom. I could not join them for I was busy learning how to become a writer. I topped my summer class for both years with exemplary marks. The following year, I even joined a summer journalism class in Ateneo and became Editor-in-Chief of my batch. But to this day, I can neither play ball nor ride a bike. Life’s full of tough choices, ain’t it?

Imagine my excitement then whenever my Mama bought my books for school, for it signaled the end of boredom. I always devoured my books so that whenever school opening came, I had already read them all at least once. (I sense that the words “Deprived Childhood” and “Nerd! Nerd!” have entered yourconsciousness. I don’t blame you, but please defer judgment until JudgmentDay. :-)) I was the most excited girl to go back to school. I wanted everything to be new from head to toe. If not new, at least they had to be sparklingly clean. I used to scrub my umbrella, sharpen my pencils, and mend my uniforms so that I could walk inside my grade school classroom looking my best. I believed in the power of first impression with myteachers. My tricks always worked with them.

June was a time for me to buy new shoes, too. Come July, however, the new shoes always had to be put aside because the rains might ruin them, only to be re-used after the storms of July. Being born on this rainy month, I wasa beneficiary of the ningas cogon mentality. During the early part of thes chool year, students always want (I suppose they still do) to decorate their classrooms with bulletin boards announcing birthdays. My birthdays were thus always a blast because students were still in the mood to celebrate, not being too busy with schoolwork. In my family, the six other members were born between the months of November to February. I was the only one born during the third quarter of the year. I thus had a birthday party every year, and people had the budget to buy me gifts.

School opening and the rainy season always signaled a time of blessings for me, then.

In high school, I lived a normal life and blended perfectly with my batchmates. I stopped aiming to achieve academically, after my catastrophic grade school days, so I gained a campus girl reputation in high school and pleased my friends more than my teachers. I was no longer deprived; neither was I considered a nerd.

Up until college, I only bought shoes annually, if at all, and that was in June. Almost always, heavy rains and instant floods baptized my new shoes, especially during those days when I had to commute everyday from UP to our house in Sta. Mesa. Yet, there was no other time to buy those shoes; it had become a personal tradition to get them only during school opening. It even became a joke among my best friends whenever I arrived wearing new shoes that a storm would be coming soon to wash the newness out of my shoes again. It never occurred to me to change my shopping habits, however. My love for school supplies escalated when I entered law school. I became obsessed with tape flags, highlighters, and almost all 3M products, which I do sniff occasionally up to now. (Confessions of a 3m addict would be a good second sub-title to this!) Needless to say, this time of the year has always been special for me. No matter how tragic the rest of the year becomes, I know in my heart that come June and July, sometimes even up to September, things would fall into place and I would be happy again.

Last year, my birthday month was the happiest time of my life. A dream came true. I finally became a lawyer, free to practice my profession any way I wanted to. I also had two surprise parties, and 98 other dreams that came true.

Perhaps it’s a reward for my expectant faith or just a seasonal blessing,but my time of favor seems to have come again this year! I started June with a new job at the Sandiganbayan. Out came my school supplies again as I had to re-learn some laws that I last read while still in law school, this being a major shift in my career. I have rediscovered my love for the law and am having the time of my life at work, despite all the quirks that go with working for the government WITH government employees. :-)

Expecting to receive my salary after several months of drought, I indulged myself with a new pair of shoes last weekend, which I eagerly wore today. Guess what happened? The fattest drops of rain ever to have formed this year fell on my part of Quezon City. As I walked through several puddles of water and attempted to salvage my new shoes this afternoon, I couldn’t help but smile at my God. It was His not-so-gentle reminder of His faithfulness to me. He spoke through the downpour, telling me that this was how much He knows and loves me, that the things that made me smile for decades (ouch!) are here again, despite the heart-wrenching pain I had gone through for the first half of the year 2002.

I am not saying I have lived a privileged life. Far from it! Failure has been my middle name, along with Anxiety, Depression, Heartache and Disappointment. But God is true to His word – He sends the summer to send light to some people’s lives while He sends the rains to shower me with His abundant blessings. I, Ella, have been fearfully and wonderfully made, as the Psalm goes! I have reason to celebrate and to personally thank God, for I am richly blessed!

I was able to sing like I’ve never sung before (thanks to my generous brother/partner Sunday!) last Saturday in front of my fans (entire family plus high school best friends plus Lingkod!).

I was able to dance, twice!, and release all my happy energies in celebration of two wonderful years with God’s community. (It’s ok that I’m not into sports, then, I happily tell myself now, for God made up for it in other ways!)

My father got well after a quadruple bypass operation and valve repair! My family is at our happiest best. :-)

I was able to find a job in no time after I resigned from my previous job with no inkling as to what I wanted to do. The story of this new job, well, I already told you about.

I have been invited to write for my favorite Catholic magazines! Three summers of writing have finally paid off.

I was able to teach a choir again, the Lingkod Chorale, after a decade! A whole lifetime of playing the piano has finally found its outlet, the MusicMinistry of LingkodQC. I have come to appreciate all the things my parents taught me because they make me happy up to now!

I have more friends, brothers and sisters than my heart could carry.

I see love everyday and everywhere. :-)

During the early part of the year, I was a mess and people didn’t know what to do with me. I had little or no hope for my future in all aspects of my life. Look how quickly the time of the Lord’s favor has come, just by the change of season! Yesterday, I received a package from my Ate--> her advanced birthday gifts. She sent me an adorable lavender teddy bear and a 1,000-piece puzzle of the “Lord of the Rings”! LOTR, as most of you know, is one of my favorite trilogies in the universe. I spent a few minutes tonight forming the part where it read, “One ring to rule them all, etc.etc.” After I frame this puzzle, Frodo and I can stare at each other in my room until Book Two’s movie is released. ;)

I wrote this because I figured, since I usually bore you with my angst, I want to bore you with my joy and perhaps infect you with it! :-) Today I laughed so hard my insides ached after a scene straight out of “Friends”with Jeni, Sunday, my father’s car, and a big police dog. It was a therapeutic laugh we shared. A while ago, I finished eating a surprise gift from a dear friend – a delightful mini-cake that came in a pink and lavender box, my feel-good colors. The occasion? Nothing, I just deserved it, allegedly. Is God showing off or what?

“Amen, Amen, my heart cries. His word is True! All that the Lord has said,I will do.”

Some of you may be experiencing storms too strong to withstand and are carrying burdens too heavy to hide. I tell you, YOUR TIME WILL COME. It’s a certainty. God knows you and loves you as much as He does me! He will not deny you anything as long as you allow Him to work in your life. Let go and let Him be the God of your life. Ask for anything in the name of ourLord, anything that is within God’s will shall be given unto you. ;-)

I am happy, at peace, and contented right now, not because I am rich, married or famous, but because I have, and I share, God’s love in my heart.There are some stories that don’t have an ending in my life yet. I have lifted them up to God and prayed for them fervently. In one scene I imagine myself a la Meg Ryan, saying to my Tom Hanks and floating with happiness, “I wanted it to be you.”

I know, though, that Jesus has plans far greater than my wild imagination. I can’t wait for the rest of this month to unfold!

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Chicken or Hotdog

One time during our usual Sunday family lunch, I witnessed one sceneinvolving my brother and his first-born, four-year old son named Luigi. Myadorable nephew is in that stage of refusing to eat unless he's absolutelyfamished, as he wants to spend every millisecond of the day playing,drawing, and generally just doing everything that a little boy takes delightin. It is thus common occurrence to see him ignore his father's voicetelling him that it's time to eat and for him to further furrow his brows inconcentration as he erects buildings from his toys and draws cars on everysheet of paper he can get his hands on. During this particular meal, mybrother succeeded in planting Luigi firmly on his throw-pillow-cushionedseat at the dining table. Doting grandma prepared fried chicken and hotdogto encourage him to eat. Luigi had been on a mainly-hotdog diet for overtwo years now, and if he could get away with it, he probably would eathotdog twice a day for the rest of his childhood. Concerned that his sonwould grow up on preservatives and not on nutrients, my Kuya told Luigi thathe could not eat hotdog unless he finished the chicken leg that was on hisplate.

This triggered an argument that I could not bear to watch. The childrefused to open his mouth to welcome the nutritious fowl being offered tohim. He insisted on having that attractive, red, tender and juicy hotdog.The father was firm in his decision and did not budge amidst the tantrumevidently brewing within the son. I wanted to do something to break thetension but I knew that my kuya was right and despite my love for Luigi, Ihad to watch him suffer so he would learn his lesson. I concentrated on mydelicious fried chicken instead. Naturally, Luigi started to cry for hecould not imagine why he was being deprived of his favorite food in theworld by his Dad. The cries grew louder but my Kuya did not give in. Myheart went out to poor Luigi and I wanted to give him his TJ so badly. Irealized then that if I, a mere Tita, could love Luigi so much and want onlythe best for him even if it was beyond his understanding, what more mybrother who would not hesitate to give Luigi the world if it meant abrighter future for his son.

It probably pains my Heavenly Father to watch me wallow in misery,depression and self-pity everytime things don't turn out the way I imaginethey should. He reminded me through brothers and sisters this morning thatHe wants me to be happy, that He is a loving God, and that He does notdelight in giving me sorrow. So this sorrow that I have been imprisoned infor the longest time is most likely brought about by my inability tocomprehend the chemical and biological differences between a chicken and ahotdog. My depression is probably the result of my vision that is limitedto black and white, as compared to the prism of colors that my Father canactually send me by piercing clouds of doubt after a heavy rainfall. I havebeen in this dilemma about work for far too long and yet all I have beendoing is to swing back and forth like an imprisoned pendulum.

I lack hope, faith, understanding, wisdom and strength. I am a pilgrimwithout a theme. A skeptic that cannot see anything more beyond what eyescan see. A warrior that wins battles for others but loses out on her ownstruggles. A dancer that drags the shackles on her feet. A spirit thatwants to run free around her corner of the sky. In all respects, a childwho does not know what's best for her.

I don't know where to go, what to do, and when to decide.

Saturday, February 02, 2002

Understanding Christian Leaders

"For men who are mighty and tall,
they falter and tremble
We shall possess the LAND
For Strong and Faithful is our GOD
For strong and faithful is our God."

The two books of Samuel from which most of the First Readings of the pastmonth were taken contains such a dramatic human interest story. It beginswith the story of two wives (married to one man as this was allowed in theOld Testament times); and tells how jealous one was of the other because theformer was barren; how that woman who finally conceived offered her son toGod in return; how that son, Samuel, was called clearly and repeatedly byGod; how Samuel met Saul, God's anointed but reluctant king; how Saul lostGod's anointing as he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed God; howDavid triumphantly slew Goliath; how Jonathan bargained with his father Saulfor David's life; how God anointed David as king of Israel; and how Davidbecame such a great and passionate king.

Today, however, we read about David's fall. Today he became more MAN thanking. 2 Samuel 11 tells of David having relations with beautiful Bathshebawho happened to be married to Uriah the Hittite; and how David eventuallycaused the death of Uriah. Such sin, arrogance, weakness and selfishnessfrom the mighty King David!

Every time we sing the song Strong and Faithful (by Bo Sanchez), I think of David as one ofthe "men who are mighty and strong" but who faltered and trembled. I havebeen reflecting on this for some time now and I've realized that none of ushuman beings are spared from temptation. Therefore, we should not expectanyone, not even a great king, to be that strong. We should not expectanyone to be perfect - especially in the areas of resisting temptation andsin.

In the Church and even in community, we have leaders to whom we look up to.Because of the way our leaders speak about God and live their lives in sucha holy manner, we sometimes tend to expect them to be perfect. We expectthat they should not commit mistakes, disappoint us, or sin against God.And so when we see our leaders "falter and tremble", sometimes we lose faithin the Church and/or in the community. We give up because of ourdisappointment.

The problem is, we should not have expected our leaders to be perfectly holyand blameless -- in this world -- in the first place. Just because oneperson has a particular weakness does not render void all his good works andall his selfless service, right? I hear many Catholics refusing to"practice their faith" because they are disappointed in the Church. Theytend to forget that it is a Church of God run by men. Men who have inherentweaknesses, who have the capacity to give in to things "of the flesh", asSt. Paul himself put it. I have seen brothers and sisters who disappearfrom community because somebody has let them down.

I just pray for some understanding for leaders everywhere. It is not easyfor them to be living in an aquarium. Although they often succeed in beinggood witnesses, they are as likely as we are to commit sin. Let us not betoo hard on anyone just because he is Christian leader. A Christian walkingthis earth is not yet a saint and not yet made perfect, as this can only beachieved after his/her reunion with Christ. Let us love our leaders -everything about them. Let us forgive our leaders if they have hurt ordisappointed us in any way. But our leaders are NOT the Church. Our humanleaders are not community.

There is Someone strong and faithful who is Shepherding us all. One trueKing. The One we should look up to and emulate. Our leaders, like us, aretrying their best to follow Jesus, too. Let us increase our capacity tounderstand the seeming failures of our leaders. Let us forgive them, let uslove them. If only Love were the rule rather than the exception, what abeautiful world this would be!

Wednesday, January 30, 2002


I want to part the clouds so I can see
Why GOD is doing this to me;
He gives a glimpse of the Promised Land,
But the road looks so crooked from where I stand!

I heard You, LORD, you told me to walk;
Yet at every turn there's a stumbling block.
I look at the sky where my steps are plotted;
And wonder why down here looks so wretched.

With hands upraised, I surrender to You;
I want to obey what You told me to do.
I close my eyes and plod among thorns,
While fiery coals sear through flesh to my bones.

I kneel down, so weak and beaten;
I turn to GOD and the words that are written:
"The LORD will make good His purpose for me."
Does that mean all this pain is necessary?

I want to turn back to my old routine;
To give up on this whole pain-obedience thing.
So JESUS again spoke into my heart,
"Just a little more patience and My promises will start."

His voice so loving and eyes penetrating,
I show Him where my wounds are bleeding.
One gentle touch and I am slowly healed,
Though still unsure what all these will yield.

Then I hear a melody, faint but clear;
The music comes from my falling tears!
This is pure joy that is taking place,
For I am in the middle of JESUS' embrace.

No longer alone, helpless and afraid,
He reminds me that my sins have been paid.
Surely Someone who knows and loves me this much,
Shall not withhold what I sincerely ask.

Aware of His presence, assured of His promise,
I begin to trust in His powerful message.
I allow myself a small hopeful smile,
And count on things I haven't imagined in a while.

My faith walk is not the least bit easy,
But I sense that it was made especially to suit me.
So I do not question and doubt GOD's promise anymore,
And I shall prepare my heart for whatever He has in store.

Monday, January 07, 2002

Believe (The Lord of the Rings Movie Review)

Do you feel like a king who refuses to take his throne because of fear of the evil and weakness that he suspects run in his blood?

Do you feel like a hobbit, small and unknown, on whom a great task is assigned and who wishes his prayers for adventures away from his happy hometown were never answered?

Do you feel like a wizard, old and wise, who feels alone, burdened and betrayed, yet who has to fulfill his part in protecting the races from the evil that threatens to destroy the world?

Have you ever doubted if you were any match for the challenges set before you, unsure whether you have it in you to conquer boldly your enemies who are closing in on you?

If there ever was a movie to rebuild your self-confidence, if there ever was a movie to make you believe in your own potential for greatness, that movie has got to be "The Fellowship of the Ring". It is sure to stir the adventurer in you: the fighter, the winner, the dreamer and the believer. As JRR Tolkien's characters come to life in this movie, you cannot help but be swept away by the bravery and loyalty they displayed amidst the darkness and chaos surrounding them. You cannot help but imagine yourself as part of that exclusive fellowship, proud to represent your race and to fight side by side with the anointed heroes of all the other races that inhabit Middle Earth.

Sometimes in life our fears overwhelm as and hinder us from taking any further steps. We resist greatness because we are afraid of failure and of its corollary pain. We deny our destiny, as determined by the blood that runs through our veins, because of fear. We refuse to accept what is offered to us and even go to the extent of wishing we have never come across them because of the responsibilities attached. Thus, we miss out on life. We forego our dreams. We live in mediocrity. We lead a comfortable life, probably, but one that is bereft of the glory that could have been ours had we been more willing to play our roles with passion. This was where I was
coming from when I saw the movie last weekend.

The wizard Gandalf, left with no choice, entrusted into Frodo Baggin's safekeeping the one ring that could destroy mankind. Frodo trusted Gandalf and met the challenge head on, pushing his fears aside, fighting the tempting offers that the ring whispers everyday. But Gandalf did not leave Frodo alone. In fact, he took a mean wizard-level beating because he stood up against evil to protect what is good. As if being hurled against mighty bolted doors was not enough, Gandalf had to die in the hands of an ancient enemy, to protect Frodo and the rest of the fellowship of the ring. Gandalf asked Frodo to follow him, yet he watched Frodo's back, and yes, died for
him. Now this story seems to be very familiar, especially to us Christians. Mr. Gandalf does not seem to have made original decisions then, because one Man already asked us to follow Him, to be different, and to stand up for righteousness. This Man did not leave us alone in our quest, either. He even went before us, faced the dangers for us, took the beatings for us, and died to save us all.

With Gandalf gone, Frodo feels alone but continues to pursue the mission that Gandalf asked him to do. Now I will let you in on a common secret, and that is, that Gandalf has not really left Frodo entirely. He may be physically absent, but he will be with Frodo as he fulfills his mission,
every step of the way. Because he will finish what he has begun in the little unsuspecting hobbit's life.

I entered the moviehouse last Sunday struggling with some life-direction decisions. I knew God was inviting me to give more and to leave my comfort zone for him but I had grown accustomed to my little world that any thought of pain, failure and suffering led me to shut out God's voice. Our relentless God spoke to me through the movie, then, and showed me what I refused to see. That He wouldn't ask me to do something that I could not do, despite my size, limitations and weaknesses. That He would never leave me alone. That He has set me apart for a specific plan He has in mind. And that there is glory in boldly pursuing His will in my life, beyond what my
eyes can see, beyond my imagination.

When I was a teenage reader of the Tolkien trilogy, the books mainly made me imagine how Legolas and Aragorn looked like, but did not really have a spiritual dimension for me. Today, I did gawk at swift-footed, sharp-shooting Legolas. I did swoon over brave and noble Aragorn. More importantly, however, I started to listen to God's call for warriors to fight the good fight of faith again. I began to believe again in God's love, in God's promise. I began to believe I could do more through my mission again. I left the moviehouse feeling like I could do anything, by God's grace. And that's a feeling I would recommend for all of you, brothers and sisters. Go ahead and watch that movie. I might even go with you to watch it again, for another dose of magical inspiration.