Luther walks the line

Posted: April 10, 2020 in Uncategorized

The Wanderer

I know the world and his wife have already shared this, but I so appreciate the calm confidence of Luther here, as—amidst the bubonic plague—he walks the happy path of faith, far from either folly or fear:

I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as…

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Hapi
.
“Wala akong magawa.
Habang kailangan kong kumayod para makakain,”
sambit ng pagal na manggagawa,
“sinabihan akong sa tahanan manatili.”
.
Habang kailangan kong kumayod para makakain
Marami namang sarili lang ang nasa isipan.
Sinabihan akong sa tahanan manatili
Ngunit kung ‘di ako, sino’ng lalaban?
.
Marami namang sarili lang ang nasa isipan
Maraming manlalamang, magsisinungaling.
Ngunit kung ‘di ako, sino’ng lalaban?
Bawal ang pagal, dapat laging magaling.
.
“Maraming manlalamang, magsisinungaling,”
sambit ng pagal na manggagawa.
Bawal ang pagal, dapat laging magaling.
Wala akong magawa.

The Wind brushed
through in a hurry along the
dark gray pavements—
across the skyscrapers he
blew and flew by,
spreading an invisible carpet
between all the yellow lines.
.
He looked at the road
with sheer satisfaction.
.
It has been swept clean
free from stray leaves, from
unwanted, lost objects
ready for the thousands of footsteps
and the nonstop
humming of engines and machines—
.
only
the streets were empty.
.
(Photo by: When In Makati)

Pandemic

Posted: March 12, 2020 in Journals
Tags: , , , , , ,

[March 12, 2020]

I wonder what people of previous decades—centuries—felt at the beginning of a war. I wonder if they felt that it would have been a fleeting concern too.

I wonder if people took lightly Bubonic plague. Did they realize it would have turned the world upside down?

And I wonder how previous civilizations faced crises. I wonder if they thought of the very incidents that snuffed them out of existence to be nothing but brief storms to be endured.

I wonder how many people realized at first glance that the World Wars would not just be a few months long. Or that the Bubonic plague is not just a fever that would circulate around a local community for a few weeks, perhaps a month, or a little more.

Were the students excited at the thought of no school too, thinking it would only be for a couple of weeks? I wonder if anyone of them perceived that it isn’t just a break from their “boring” routine, but an indefinite time stretch of an altered life.

I wonder if they, too, had felt the same looming feeling.

IMG_0904.jpg

Pililia Wind Farm, 2019

 

I don’t mind close-ups, I like them, but they’re kind of forceful – you see a lot, you get a lot of information in a close-up. There’s less mystery. —David Duchovny

When I saw this quote online, it got me thinking. Do we really lose the “mystery-ness” of things when we get more information about them? The sense of awe and wonder—do they fade as you see the things you admire at a closer perspective? Surely, with the imperfect and the flawed, the trend of feeling lesser awe as one sees more is set. Not necessarily because of the mere fact that you’ve seen more of it—but because, being imperfect, when we see more of something, we inevitably see more of its flaws. More depths to the beauty we have initially perceived, yes, sometimes. But the flaws, scars, dents, and imperfections that were so carefully hidden before are also now brought to light. In a different light, this fallen world, and everything in it, becomes less appealing.

Not so with God. The God, who is the source of all that’s good. This God, whose way is perfect. This God, who is awesome from His sanctuary. As the old hymn goes, “I am finding out the greatness of [His] loving heart.” And the more God reveals to me the depths of His character, the more awestruck I become; the more I find myself to be inarticulate; unable to express how great and wonderful He is. And 2019, for me, is a year of being drawn nearer—closer!—to the throne of grace where all fullness dwells.

My Life in Pixels

It was this year that I started working in my third (hopefully last before I get to have my own homeschooling institution!) school, MGC New Life Christian Academy. The previous school year was tough, not just because of work, but also because of personal and family trials. At the first half of 2019, I was ready to accept that I wasn’t really cut out for teaching; that I got it wrong, all these years, and that I wasn’t meant to be a teacher—if it would always take a huge toll on my physical, emotional, and mental health.

But God was pleased to let me rediscover the joys I had at first, and He rekindled the love I had for this job. He proved to me that, yes, I will never be strong enough for such a tough, devoted, self-sacrificing, give-your-all kind of calling such as molding kids and influencing eternal beings, but He is. His grace is sufficient, His right hand is always more than enough to straighten and uphold. For this truth, I would forever be grateful. 

It was also through MGCNL that I got to work with several of my churchmates (we’re seven from SGC working in that school!). I got to be closer with them, and truly it’s a blessing to have more encounter with the brethren during the long stretches of weeks and days. The MGCNL work environment, as a whole, is also a fresh air of encouragement. I would always remember my first job with great fondness for the home it gave me, but MGCNL—middle school, primary school, and all the people I get  to encounter in that school—is not just a home. It has become a hospital of sorts, a recovery ward. For that, I would forever be grateful.

It was also this year that I got to see up-close the church, the lives of the people in the church, and the work of God in the church. Like what I said in the year-end thanksgiving, it’s an overwhelming blessing to see up-close the things that the loving Hand of God does in, among, and through His people. This year, I got more involved, not only in the ministries of SGC, but also in hearing out the stories of the sinners-turned-saints. And, truly, what a marvelous God we have, who saves us to the uttermost, and who faithfully completes in us the work that He has begun.

There are countless stories to tell, but perhaps each tale would need to be told by the one who lived it himself. But every story tells of God’s sovereign rule, of His loving hand that would guide, give, comfort, and correct—all according to the need of one’s soul towards Christlikeness. To see all these things at a far more closer, nearer, perspective is a blessing. For this wondrous God, and for these excellent saints, I would forever be grateful.

My Lessons in Pixels

Seeing God and the people of God with bigger lens revealed to me a lot of lessons. Things about God that I have known only in the head, and not in my heart; things about Him that I’ve only read about in books, or heard from the seasoned saints. Things that, now that I understand, I would hold so, so dearly in my heart.

One of the things I’ve learned is that God is a Master who demands complete obedience, from one’s thoughts to action. He requires your all. Wasn’t it said that you are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind”? It was this year that I get to really learn that He is a God who demands that we “store up His word in our heart, that [we] might not sin against Him.” (Ps. 119:11) He is the God who, from the deepest corners of your heart to your grandest outward gestures, demands that He be the King and sole Ruler. He is the God who would exact from you, His child, the obedience that He deserves—complete, whole, immediate, and devoted.

And He doesn’t demand from you a life of committed obedience because He wants you to be miserable. He exhorts and commands His creation to yield to Him and obey Him, because He knows that such disposition is the only one that would satisfy us. He knows that, as His children, it is only when we are in His presence and when we are doing His will that we will find fullness of joy. (Ps. 16)

I also learned this year—with head and heart—that God is the lone source of every enabling gift and grace. He is the God who will teach you that you cannot rely on your own strength, own efforts, to obey Him. But that you need Him every waking (and sleeping) moment for you to do be pleasing to Him. Along with the task He has set, He will also provide the means for you to obey. 

The tasks at hand are difficult and, humanly speaking, may even be next to impossible. But with Him all things are possible. With Him, the tasks can be accomplished. As a line goes from one of my favorite books, Valley of Vision,

If I venture forth alone I stumble and fall, 
but on the Beloved’s arms I am firm as the eternal hills; 
if left to the treachery of my heart I shall shame thy Name, 
but if enlightened, guided, upheld by the Spirit, 
I shall bring thee glory. (VOV, p. 155)

 

Another character of God that I have experientially discovered is that He is a loving Father who meets you on your way to duty. Again, the tasks He lays before you are difficult and, if you rely on yourself, are impossible. But He gives more grace. (Ja. 4:6) He upholds His people with His right hand, (Isa. 41:10), and He is able to make all grace abound in us. He is like an earthly Father who, having a little child who wishes to heed the command to come to Him, would then guide the child by the hand as he tries to walk. Our steps my falter, we may grow weary, but for our every step of obedience, our Heavenly Father comes upholding and sustaining us—all for His glory, and for our growth.

And the more we step towards Him, the more difficult the walk becomes. The closer we get to Celestial City, the more fiery the enemy’s darts will be; the more cunning and deceitful the devil will be; the more enticing the world will try to sound. But the more that grace, too, will abound; the stronger, too, will our faith be, not because of our own merits, but because He who called us is faithful, and He will surely sanctify us completely. (1 Thes. 5:23-24) Again, quoting from Valley of Vision, 

Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess, 
but not more than is found in thee, the divine Treasury 
in whom all fullness dwells. (VOV, p. 116)

 

My Lisped Prayers in Pixels

As the dawn of yet another year fills the horizon, one cannot help but wonder what it may bring. We are all short-sighted, control-freaks, and distrusting on the unknown. But it is never our duty to know something not yet revealed to us. Our calling is to simply obey, simply trust. The children’s hymn “Trust and Obey” speaks volumes of truth more than what one may have originally thought. And truly, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus—in our Savior, Lord, Prophet, Priest, and King—but to trust and obey Him!

One of my first prayers for this new year is yet again best articulated by someone who lived centuries before I did:

Teach me to be resigned to thy will, 
to delight in thy law,
to have no will but thine, 
to believe that everything thou doest
is for my good. (VOV, p. 130)

 

Seeing God and God’s people up close made me realize in a deeper sense the blessing of salvation, and the gift of being part of His church. Seeing God closer made me realize that the gap is still vast, and such it will remain to be until I cross that River that would ultimately, finally, take me to Celestial City where I may at last gaze at Him fully. But it also made me all the more desire to faithfully draw nearer to Him, by His enabling grace.

And while the whole world grovels for earthly security, for personal successes, for individual goals to be met, and for bucket lists to be crossed out, may every true believer’s eye balls be stamped with eternity. May our heart stay true to its rightful owner—the kingdom’s King, the Bride’s Bridegroom, the servant’s Master, the child’s Father. May we ever truly hold things of this world with a loose grip, to hold our palms upward, not in a give-me-more disposition, but in an I-leave-everything-to-Your-control attitude to our gracious King.

This coming year, may we all seek to do His will. May we all love His commandments, His word, His precepts. May we all understand with our head and heart that it is only when we are living a life most pleasing to God that we will find fullness of joy. And may we all the more be able to say amen to the psalmist when he said:

The Lord is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!
(Ps. 119: 57-64)
.
May this year, more than being happy, be a year of more intense gaze upon eternity, and on the God who inhabits it.

A Prayer in Solitude

Posted: January 2, 2020 in Poems
Tags: , , , , ,
Father, thank you for this time of silence
so I can listen more carefully and keenly at your Word.
 
Thank you for this rare opportunity for solitude,
away from trivial concerns and earthly cares,
that I may have the precious moments to attune my heart back to You.
 
You have proven Yourself faithful, and because of this, though imperfectly,
I have made it my aim to devote my life
to Thy service.
 
But my heart is wicked, and my flesh weak, my will flickering,
That at times the very act of my worship for You
are the ones that split my devotion to You.
 
Father, forgive. I acknowledge in humble contrition
that my love for you is weak
that my effort to draw near to you is fleeting,
that my warmest thoughts for You are cold
that my will to serve and to obey is as
fickle and faltering as the waves that recedes every time.
 
I confess that my love for You is not as warm and aflame as it ought–
even after knowing who You are and what You’ve done,
still my heart fails.
Father, forgive.
 
Forgive
this heart that is divided by conflicting desires,
this spirit that easily tires of the tasks set before me,
this worship that pales in comparison with who You are,
this devotion that grows cold at the slightest discouragement.
 
Forgive me, Father,
for the eyes that are not fixed solely on You
for the mind that does not solely dwell on thoughts of You
for the heart that wanders away from its heav’nly portion
for the spirit that strays after earthly desires that will not eternally last.
 
Grant me the grace, Lord,
to hear You clearer in this time of silence.
Grant that Your voice, through Thy Word, be louder and more distinct
than all my concerns and cares,
than all my hopes deferred,
than all my anxieties and fears,
than all my heart’s desires.
 
May Your word ring the clearest,
Your will be my only motivation and interest,
Your glory my utmost desire.

This is a picture I did not take
one uneventful afternoon
when all the self-confessed heroes of today
have finished fighting in their own four-walled battlegrounds
with the white, shiny boards as their flags
that they were all too willing to raise in surrender
an afternoon when I myself,
out of breath and full of sweat—38 degrees—
have put down
all my weapons and wits for the day—
just there, on the platform for my ride,
unguarded, without walls, without shields,
and in that instance, I heard a thud—
steps—and footsteps drawing nearer,
bringing to my peripheral
a stranger’s face that was all too familiar,
all too disorienting,
all too heart-arresting,
giving me enough breath just so I could gasp
a little louder than necessary,
and like overflowing water from an unsealed pitcher
make every memory with the stranger resurface—
walks in the park, our rides home,
popcorns and Marvel movies,
sneaky holding hands under the pool,
every caress, every inside joke,
every message cherished and regretted—
it’s a vivid picture I didn’t need to take;
It—he—has always been there.

 

Writing prompt (credits to Mr. Martin Villanueva, ACELT Workshop):

  1. Finish the sentence “This is a picture I did not take.”
  2. The sentence has to be one page long.
  3. The sentence must respect grammatical conventions.