Reading the Bible in One Year

It was only in 2006 when I had my own copy of the Bible and it was only in 2015 when I got to read it from cover to cover. To be honest, there are many portions of the Scripture that are difficult to understand, much more difficult to endure reading until the end. Take for instance the many genealogies or the several enumeration of laws in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy and the Book of Ezekiel were the particular books that I found hard to finish and digest. But I guess just like our journey here on earth, we cannot read and understand the Scripture alone, we need the help of God.

In my journey in reading the entire Scripture, I was able to see new perspectives in some stories that I keep on hearing since high school. An example is the story of Jesus walking on the water. My reflection to this story has always been about Peter and I having small faith and having doubts. But as I read and reread the story, I realized that Peter has in fact a strong faith. Why? Because among the apostles/disciples on the boat, he was the only one bold enough to say to Jesus, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ Who else was bold enough to say that? None. Maybe because all the others were either afraid or not yet believing.

 

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My 2016 in less than 500 words

2016 is finally signing off in a few hours. It is during this time when most of us look back on everything that happened including lessons learned and look forward to more goals to fulfill (hopefully). For me this means looking back at my journals slash photo album where I keep my daily musings and photos of some events or memorable situations I was in. 😊

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In the past, I would usually cry during this time of the year. Probably because I hate goodbyes and feel daunted of new beginnings.  But not anymore. Today, I am glad that 2016 is coming to a close.

This year has brought mourning in our family as we lost two dear people – an aunt and our grandfather. They passed away barely a month apart, leaving behind great memories and irreplaceable places in our hearts.

2016 has also made me watch people in my life leave, both for petty reasons and for having frenzied priorities, which I respect and accept.  We can’t have everything, can we?

This year has also brought me into a chaos of anxiety. Questions like ‘Will I have to find another job?’ ‘What will happen to us?’ ‘What are my options’ ‘Why has anyone among the companies I applied for called me back?’ have bugged me and robbed me of peace and good appetite for quite a long time.

2016 likewise forced me to witness and deal with an ‘injustice’ right under my nose, at the expense of my back. It put my character into the fire a lot of times. And I will be honest, I failed many times.

My 2016 may seem pretty ugly (haha) but it actually taught me pretty amazing things.  My loved ones’ death reminded me to make wise use of my time and to treat everyone I meet with respect & grace. I was taught to give my full trust and surrender to the Lord in times of uncertainty. Those questions I allowed to bug me for a long time? Those questions don’t matter anymore today, because my confidence now resides in the Lord. I know He will catch me whatever happens.

I also realized that an earthly ‘injustice’ does not automatically mean heavenly injustice. Meaning, I should never be bounded by the world’s definition of things. This realization also made me see the grace of this ‘injustice,’ that is to mold my character, purify my love and strengthen my endurance.

“Consider yourselves fortunate when you meet with every kind of trial, for you know that the testing of your faith makes you steadfast.”  James 1: 2-3

On top of these precious lessons that 2016 taught me, I welcomed new things in my life as well. I was blessed with new friends, new places and new adventures.

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On my birthday this year, I just chose to be with the Lord in a retreat and He gifted me with these wonderful ladies. Just WOW.
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I got to join a Bible Study/class too and met more wonderful ladies there!

This may not be the best year in review but I hope this makes you also look back with gratefulness and look forward to greater adventures ahead. 😉

Adios, 2016!

 

P.S : Feel free to share your 2016  or blog link in the comments below! I want to read them!

 

 

The Best Position of Prayer

In celebration of the Holy Mass, people get often confused lately on whether to stand or kneel during the Eucharistic prayer, particularly after the consecration during Sanctus (Holy holy holy, Lord God of hosts…) until the Great Amen (Through Him, with Him and in Him, in unity with the Holy Spirit…). I for one am a bit perplexed on which one to follow. You see, Eucharistic celebrations in our office compound practice kneeling until the Great Amen while in the parishes in the province (where I attend mass), people stand after the consecration.

As I was hearing mass the other day in a chapel within a mall, I also notice both of these practices among the faithful.  This made me remember a particular story I read about the best position of prayer. Allow me to lift the story from the book and share them with you here:

A story was told of three pastors arguing about the best posture of praying. One said, “The best posture of praying is standing and lifting up our hands to God in prayer.”

The other said, “No, the best posture for praying is kneeling before God in prayer.”

And the third pastor said, “I’m sorry, but you guys have got it all wrong. The best posture of praying is prostrating yourself on the floor in humble contriteness.”

Just then, the telephone repairman who was listening to all these arguments spoke up. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing your discussion. I don’t know much about prayer,” he said, “but I think that the best posture of prayer is hanging upside down.”

“Hanging upside down?!” the pastors asked incredulously. “What kind of prayer posture is that?”

“Well,” said the telephone man, “once I was repairing the phone lines up a telephone pole. I slipped and I was hanging upside down. Knowing I might fall any moment, I prayed, ‘Lord, save me!’ and he did. That’s the best prayer posture of all.

We may laugh but we get the point. The best posture of prayer is the posture of the heart.

The story was on point. No matter how we are positioned or where we are, the best position when praying is the position of our hearts. We may say too many words or no words at all, we may stare or sob or cry before God in prayer, it is our hearts that HE will look into. It is our hearts that bring us to God’s presence and embrace.

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How is your heart?

As we begin our novena masses for Christ’s birth, I think it is apt to examine our hearts to fully receive the graces that this season brings. Let us let go of anger, resentments or fears and allow God’s joy, love and hope remain.

And this examination of hearts also falls into the most opportune time – the closing of another year. We might as well ponder on how our hearts was changed by this wonderful year, how the trials and joys of 2016 made our hearts ache and leap.

As we join thousands of faithful in waking up before dawn to join Simbang Gabi, may our hearts be pure and joyful in celebrating the birth of our Savior and be full of anticipation of the best that is yet to come.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

P.S. Kneeling or standing? What’s the real score? You can read Bishop Soc’s account here. 😉

Does God play favorites?

Isama mo ako sa prayers mo, malakas ka sa taas e.’ (Include me in your prayers, you have strong connections UP THERE.)

I would often get this remark from friends or schoolmates at the height of my service in our parish when I was in high school and college. And though I made an effort to include these people in my prayers, I did not believe them that I have stronger connections in heaven.

If I was God’s favorite, I would have gotten the very single wish I made which was a complete Harry Potter book set then. If I was God’s favorite, then I should be going around here on earth unscathed which is never the case because I have already been bruised, wounded and hurt. I may never have broken a bone yet, but I have broken my own heart.

Saying and believing that God plays favorites is like expecting Him to bless us when we perform good deeds and punish us when we do bad things. It paints a picture of a God who records wrong, counts noble acts, and blesses us according to what we are able to give. If God operates on that premise, life would seem like a computer game where we need to collect as many coins to level up or buy a new weapon or candy or whatever.

But life is more than collecting coins to level up, much more, God’s love is more than a list if there was ever such.

God’s Love

When I was younger, I was always hitched at the back of my father’s motorcycle while he drives. One evening as we were going somewhere, I was fondly looking up at the sky and noticed the bright moon and a huge halo around it. I asked my father, ‘Is that how big the earth is?’ He said, ‘No! The earth is much way bigger than that.’ I asked again, ‘how big can the earth be?’ And he only said, ‘malaking malaki’ (enormous/ gigantic)

Just as my father had a hard time explaining how big the earth to a seven year old me, I am also lost for words in explaining how huge the love of God can be. The love of God is incomparable. We can never say that it’s as huge as the stars or the sun, nor as vast as the universe. God’s love is more than those! As the song says, ‘WE CAN’T CONTAIN IT.’

And though we can never measure the size of God’s love, the Scripture gives us a lot of passages that say how God’s love works.

“For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16

We all know this passage too well, but let me paint a picture of this through a book I read when I was in high school. The book said that God sending His only Son on earth is like a human person being asked to become a worm. Can you imagine yourself transforming into a worm just to save the ‘sangkabulatihan?’ That’s how Jesus loves us, He was God and everything is at His dispense but He chose to be a man to save us and lavish us with love.

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“As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.”  Matthew 7: 11

My earthly father is not perfect but he does his best. He was the one who brought a pizza to our class in grade 2 when we were learning fractions. He was the one who stayed up all night to make me the best pompoms during grade 5 cheering squad competitions (while my classmates had improvised pompoms out of crepe paper or that shiny foil, I had the REAL one made of straw!). He was the one who made me a crown made of real flowers in first year high school when I joined a dance interpretation competition (while my classmate who played the Virgin Mary had fake flowers).

Can you also look back to that one special thing that your parents or a loved one did to you, or sacrificed for you? If our earthly father or mother or a person in our life loves us so much that they’d do everything, how much more our Heavenly Father loves us!

 

“God is patient and kind. God overcomes anger and forgets offenses. God does not take delight in wrong but rejoices in truth. God excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. God will never end.”  1 Corinthians 13

God is love and love is God. Every time I seem to forget this truth, I always go back to that famous portion of Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth. I hope you can also find comfort in these words.

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So, does God play favorites? I don’t think He does. He has overflowing love for each one of us. That love that hand-knitted us into our mother’s womb, that love that gave us distinct features among all creation, that love that blesses us with different circumstances every day which shapes us into better versions of ourselves.

The next time you think that God plays favorites, think again. Maybe what you need is not another blessing, but the eyes to see how He has been good, gracious and generous to you. 😉

Let’s count our blessings? 😊

 

 

(I will really count my blessings for the year and put them in another blog. While I work on that, why don’t you share your blessings in the comments below! 😊 )

What is Death?

Death has visited our family once again. And so here I am today, grasping for words to make sense of this grief. After I wrote Memento Mori and Love, Life in tribute for my departed, good looking cousins, I never thought I would write about this subject again. But that’s exactly what death is, unexpected like a thief in the night.

I remember when I delivered my speech Memento Mori in front of an evaluator in a club I was used to be a member of. She said that my subject (death) is kind of inappropriate since I was not an expert on the subject. I was dumbfounded! Who can ever claim that he or she is an expert in death? Who can ever say that death doesn’t hurt him or her anymore? I was still grieving at that time and I really wanted to be mad at her. But I chose to be the bigger person and let it go instead. *sigh

Going back, will you allow me to pay tribute to my Tita?

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The Best Cook Ever

My Tita Vicky, wife of my mother’s brother, is the best cook of our extended family. Her family lives in San Ildefonso which is an hour or more drive from where we live, but she travels to our home on special occasions to cook food. Every mother in our family consults her for cooking tips and recipe.

Her cooking is always as good as and maybe even better than your caterer. Some of my most favorites among her dishes are pork humba, relyeno, pininyahang manok and her most recent innovation, halaya with less sugar but as yummy as Good Shepherd’s. (Ooooh, tears started falling in this part. I remember the time when she gave me an extra lanera of halaya while everyone only gets one. I think she gave it to me while saying ‘don’t tell anyone.’)

She was the one who cooked dishes on my 18 th birthday which all my guests adored. She made sure that my handa was not the typical menudo or kaldereta. Tita Vicky made an effort to prepare me more elaborate recipes.

 

The Best Teamwork

I am hurting because of her passing and I am hurting even more because of the pain that her family goes through at this moment, especially for my Tito. My Tita Vicky and Tito Roland have the best teamwork I have ever seen. They didn’t need to tell the other what to do; they just do things for each other. My Tito does the laundry while Tita cooks. My Tito cleans the porch on early mornings while Tita fixes the home. The two of them were always present in our extended family’s difficult moments. Like when a cousin was fighting for his dear life in the ICU in 2013, Tita Vicky and Tito Roland was there first to give solace and financial assistance.

Actually, I am not in the best position to give testimony on how their marriage was a success, only their kids can do that. But I want to remember Tita Vicky not only as one of the kind-hearted persons I know, but also the best wife and mother.

 

The Last Memory

I regret that I wasn’t able to be with Tita Vicky even in one of her dialysis session. But I never regret to play the ‘madre’ of the family again on our last meeting. You see, I am called ‘sister’ (madre/nun) at times by my extended family ever since high school because of my active participation in church organization/activities. It’s not that I don’t like being called as such, but I would prefer if I wasn’t called sister because I don’t think I am called for that vocation. Haha!

In May of this year, Miguel, my inaanak (godson) and Tita Vicky’s apo (grandson) celebrated his birthday. Instead of bringing a gift for the kid, I brought with me a prayer pamphlet of Saint Padre Pio and holy oil for Tita Vicky. I handed it to her before leaving the party and told her that Saint Padre Pio is a miracle and healing worker. She smiled and said, ‘yung madre talaga namin o.’

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All smiles for Miguel’s birthday. My tita is in white, seated at the center. 

What is death?

My tita’s passing made me ponder on what death really is. We know that death separates us from our bodies and our loved ones. But what is it really? I searched for answers in the Scriptures and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) for my own peace of mind. Here’s what I found.

Death is a consequence of sin (CCC 1008). God designed man to be with Him in paradise forever and death was never in His grand plans. But when sin entered the world, when the serpent sowed doubt in Eve’s heart, death became the consequence of sin.

St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians also called death as an enemy, the last enemy to be conquered by God (1 Corinthians 15:26). But he also mentioned in his second letter that death is not our normal state, for we shall soon reunited with God in a heavenly dwelling not built by human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1).

“My desire is to depart and be with Christ.” – St. Paul

While it is true that death can be ugly and heartbreaking and sorrowful, its meaning has been transformed by Jesus Christ when He became man. CCC mentions that with Christ’s obedience to embrace death to give humankind salvation, the curse of death has been transformed into a blessing. To have now a Christian death is to die with Christ and live with Him in paradise.

Remember the last time you stood up in church with your newest inaanak? The priest mentioned that through baptism, we have already died with Christ. I think this means that by embracing our faith, we have already chosen to take part in Christ’s suffering and death. And our physical death just completes this ‘dying with Christ’ and also completes our fellowship with Him. (gosh ang lalim ata)

The other night while I was seated in front of my tita’s coffin, I was looking around the house while saying ‘this home will never be the same again.’ I guess death is like that, inflicting permanent wounds and damages, leaving holes in our hearts. But when we look on what death really is as mentioned above, we realize that death is not the end, death is entering life.

 

Dear Fear

It’s been two weeks now since I wrote my well-received blog, Brave Goals. How did I know that it was well-received and read? Well, aside from the number of visits in my blog site, I also received a lot of remarks that went like, ‘Uy, yung number four!’ hahaha! Apparently, I wasn’t the only one waiting for that to happen, there’s multitude of them. There are also friends who shared with me their own brave goals and their sharing brought me inspiration again.

The truth is, the list of my brave goals was just at the back of my mind. I only put them into writing when I started the blog and it’s actually not limited to four. Other goals include conquering my fear of the waters, speaking before a big crowd, finishing my own book and a lot more. But before I could make a sequel to my brave goals, something familiar started to creep inside me – fear.overcoming-fear

What have you done?! Fear asked while I stare on my published Brave Goals. It was mean that it made me want to take down the blog and take my promises back. Are you serious?! Travel alone? Oh My! I almost gave in to Fear’s demands but I’m glad I didn’t. Though it has always kept me feeling safe in my comfort zone, I know it has also prevented me from becoming who I want to be.

My writing for instance, has been hampered by fear for the longest time. While growing up, fear made me think that I was not a good writer enough, that I will never be like those people I look up to in our school paper, that what I am going to say through my pen has already been said, that I will not be taken seriously, that there will be no one to read me. I could actually make a litany of all the other things that fear taught me.

Thank God my curiosity on what lies out there set me free from my fear. I started writing more often, friends started reading. And though I have to convince myself every single day that writing is my gift, I walked past fear on this area of my life.

But here it goes again!

 

Fear is Normal

Fear is good.

Yes, I said that, you may now pick up your jaw from the floor.

Fear keeps us alive. It is the one who prevents us from jumping off the rooftop of a high rise building or from swimming through the big waves of the ocean. Fear is the one who whispers in our ears things like, ‘it’s dangerous out there’, ‘don’t go beyond this point,’ or ‘you can get killed when you do that.’

Fear is good and so I will never advice for anyone to try to be fearless. My favorite writer and brave soul, Elizabeth Gilbert said that the only fearless people on earth are toddlers and psychopaths and those aren’t good models for anyone.  Imagine living your life patterned to a three year old, you’ll just cry when you don’t get what you want.

 

The Fear that You Don’t Need

Although fear is good and normal, we all know that we don’t need it in pursuit of our passion or purpose or creativity.

So here’s what I’m going to do to the fear that confronts me now after my brave goals, I will tell fear these things:

            Dear Fear,

My reference to you as ‘dear’ is only because of our long-time relationship which unfortunately prevented me on becoming who I am supposed to be. Never assume or think that you are a dear in my life. You have actually tried to ruin it along with my dreams. Good thing, the universe is full of chances.

Thank you for keeping me alive. I want you to know that I acknowledge your presence in my life. From now on, that’s just about it, I will acknowledge your presence but I will never give in to your demands. You can talk but I will not heed your advice. You can come with me but you cannot stop me. You can try, but know that I will always defy. *wink

Neri

 

Don’t Listen to Fear, Listen to the Word

I am currently enrolled in The Feast Bay Area’s Bible Study just so I can learn how to pray a prevailing prayer through knowing God more. But it’s only just the third session last Sunday and I think I am getting more than my reason for enrolling.

Last Sunday, we talked about Abraham’s story. As you may know, God called Abraham out of Ur to save the His people (Going out of Comfort Zone #1). When Abraham came to the land that God showed him, there was famine (Going out of Comfort Zone #2). To be able to eat and stay alive, he and Sarah had to stay first in Egypt. But Abraham thought, what if the Egyptians find Sarah beautiful and kill him (Going out of Comfort Zone #3). After the famine, they went to Bethel where an argument arises among the herdsmen of Lot and Abraham (Going out of Comfort Zone #4). Abraham was generous enough to offer Lot the choice of the best land. But that is not the end!

After a while, a four-king coalition conquered Sodom and took Lot as captive (Going out of Comfort Zone #5). In the end, God prevailed and helped Abraham win the battle with 318 men. (Beat that! Oh, I think someone else in the Bible went in a battle with 300 men  versus 300,000 enemies. Who was that again?)

Did you think that Abraham’s testing of faith ends there? There’s more! Please realize that ten years have already passed since God first called him and promised him that he will be blessed and be the father of the earth. After 10 years, he remains childless. (Going out of Comfort Zone #6)  And so here comes Sarah with her servant, Hagar to bear them a child.

God spoke again, ‘I wfaith-versus-fear2ill give you a child through Sarah.’ Abraham laughed. Sarah is barren and we are too old, how can we still have a son, Abraham thought. BUT – yeah, you know the story – after a year, Isaac was born.

WE all know what happens next, God asked Abraham to offer Isaac to Him. (Going out of Comfort Zone #7) When Abraham was about to thrust the knife unto his own son, God intervened.

What am I really trying to say here? What I would like to emphasize are 1.) We can all draw inspiration and faith from the Scripture and 2.) Armored with FAITH, Abraham surpassed every trial and testing he faced.

All we need is faith in God that He will be with us along the way. And faith in ourselves that we can succeed in the things we dream of.

Let’s not feed our fear, but fortify our faith!