DOWNPOUR

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Yesterday when the rains poured hard again, and at noontime today as the downpour seemed unstoppable, I couldn’t help but think about last week, at the Manila International Book Fair. In the wake of two impending typhoons throughout the week,  I anxiously prayed for good weather.  On the first two days of the fair we had moderate rain showers from 3pm onwards. But, by the grace of the One whose Voice all of creation heed, the typhoons changed their course, and the sun was up, and we saw no downpour on the next three days. Instead, we experienced a downpour of visitors –old friends (fellow “people of the Book”); new acquaintances, and curious strangers came to  our booth at Aisle I to “READiscover” with us the “Life-Changing Word; World-Changing Truth” we share through the books we publish and distribute. Also, we received a downpour of thanks and encouraging words for how we “inspire people through the printed word” (as a book fair guest posted on his Facebook timeline).

2(Photo by Jon De Vera)

 

  (Photos by Nixon Na)

 

This morning, at our midweek staff devotions at OMF Lit, we gathered to celebrate a record-breaking success at last week’s event.  Realizing what we had accomplished in just five days, I felt a sense of wonder and gratitude for the daily grace poured down on us at the book fair.

At lunchbreak, as I sat alone in my room and watched the pouring rain, I listened to my soul as it whispered, “Thank you, Abba, for granting a simple request from your child of feeble faith. And thank you for Your overwhelming downpour of grace.”

yna-with-seed-kids(Photo by Trixie de la Pena)

Magic of a children’s book

I thought this day for me would end with a persisting headache, stiff shoulders, dry tired eyes, and a low spirit. But a quick visit to the office pantry before going home changed the mood of my day. Thanks to Leonie, our cashier at the Finance and Accounting  department. She greeted me shyly and said she had been meaning to tell me something but either kept forgetting or felt awkward to start a conversation.

In a soft voice, she said she realized only recently that I am the author of Ang Bagong Kaibigan ni Bing Butiki. All her four grown-up children loved the book, she said. When they were kids (and Leonie wasn’t with OMF Lit yet), they would keep asking her to read the book to them at bedtime. And being the loving mom, she would always oblige. So, my humble story of a house lizard jumping off the ceiling to make friends with a cute, little girl became  the favorite bedtime story of Leony’s four children.

I asked Leony how old are her children now. She said her eldest is 22 and her youngest 15! Wow!

All the physical pain I bore the whole day (and the few days before) miraculously vanished after that chat with Leony in the pantry. I was reminded once again that each children’s book —big or small, bestseller or not; award-winning or not—will reach the kids it’s meant to reach and touch their hearts in a magical, delightful, wonderful way! Especially when it’s written from that place in the writer’s heart that keeps dreaming and hoping.

 

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Brunch with Joshua

 

I had a memorable brunch this morning, not just because of the steamed rice with fried tulingan and fried egg, but mostly because I had a warm spontaneous conversation with my nephew-and-housemate Joshua who’s turning 21 on the 26th. He did most of the talking while I cherished the pleasure of just listening and occasionally asking questions.

He started talking about his concern for his BBC (best-buddy-and-cousin) Jireh who’s now confined in hospital because of a second-degree burn from a freak accident last night. We were both feeling sorry for Jireh and imagining the pain he’s going through. He remembers that Jireh loves tulingan and that Lola Paz would usually fry tulingan for Jireh and him when he spent summer vacations at Lola’s house in Lipa.

Joshua then told stories of his own share of childhood mishaps. He remembered when he was 7 or 8, he ran fast to his mom who was holding a cup of hot water, and the water spilled on his chest, and how it was so painful he cried. But, thankfully it was not that bad so they didn’t need to go to a hospital. I reminded him of the time I had to rush him to hospital because a playmate sprayed chemical on his eyes, they turned red and swollen. Two bottles of a certain solution (was that saline?) had to be continuously watered on his eyes to drain the chemical causing the irritation. And how, at another time, I had to rush him to the hospital again because he broke his temple when he hit his head hard on the faucet while taking a bath. Then, the classic childhood moment of imaginative super-heroism when he flew from the top step of our stairs and landed on the floor with a crash, but with no bruises or fractures, miraculously. His Tito Marvin who was a medical intern at that time saw it all and was stunned, he could still remember it vividly to this day.

Then we remembered Jireh’s super-hero moment when he was also 7 or 8. He imagined Lola Paz’s wooden rocking chair to be his horse, and he kept rocking and rocking it till it reached the edge of the top stairs and slid down, down, down by 8 steps or more till it stopped on the wooden floor, broken into pieces! As for the little boy, he was lost in his imaginary world, laughing unstoppably, with no clue about the accident that just happened. Miraculously, he had no bruise nor fracture. But his older sister, Janina, who saw it all, and his mom who rushed to the scene after hearing the crash, both panicked and couldn’t believe Jireh was not hurt a bit.

Joshua and I couldn’t help laughing remembering all these. I said to him I believe that angels assigned to playful boys like him and Jireh had to work double time, and always on alert mode.

From the topic of accidents, Joshua then talked about books, mostly about C.S. Lewis’s, maybe because he found just yesterday my long-lost C.S. Lewis collection hidden away in an old cabinet in our garage. I was surprised to know that I have both an old and new edition of Mere Christianity and Screwtape Letters. Joshua said he finds the new edition of Mere Christianity an easier read than the old edition maybe because it has bigger letters. He also said he’s glad he was forced to read all the books of Narnia in his high school English literature class and that he started enjoying reading these classics as a result. He said he plans to read them again soon. I told him a have a new set of Narnia  in the office and that I’ll take them home next week for him to read.

 

Then, Joshua talked a bit about first aid and how it should be taught to all adults so we know what to do in cases of emergency. He’s been volunteering with the Red Cross since a few months ago and is learning a lot from the experience and enjoying it much. I think he’s blest with the gift of helps.

He also said he thinks he’s an ambivert, but he prefers mingling in a small group than partying with a crowd. He said he tends to be selective of people he engages in conversation. I told him I’m an introvert forced to do extrovert activities at work, or in social functions. But that I have managed well and made friends in the process.

Somewhere in the middle of our happy conversation, Joshua mentioned that he has noticed how his female elders at home (that’s his mom and me!) have been having mood swings lately. But, he understands it could be because of stress at work, or menopause! No blaming, no complaining, just letting us go through the hormonal changes of getting older

The boy I used to read stories to has his own personal stories to tell. And he’ll have more as he enriches his life meeting more people, gaining more experience. I’m just glad that he’s still home with his mom and me, and that we still have conversations like this over Saturday brunch or Sunday lunches.

Some things just can’t be rushed

Did I really have to get sick for a few days to get back to personal writing? 

Staying in bed for the past three days made me realize that there are just some things in life that can’t be rushed. And, if we are to be honest, many of these are the things that really matter. Like . . .

  • healing — of sickness or heartache
  • resting — in bed . . . on a promise . . . in a good God
  • watching the sunset, or flowers in bloom, or dancing fountains, or frolicking children (or any object of beauty)
  • sleeping a good 8 hours or more . . .
  • sipping a bowl of hearty hot soup, or a cup of hot choco or coffee
  • digesting the food we eat
  • spending quality time with a loved one
  • engaging in thoughtful conversation
  • nurturing a relationship

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  • taking a walk
  • thinking, meditating, making an important decision
  • reading good literature or a moving personal testimony
  • writing . . . rewriting . . . editing one’s work
  • publishing a book
  • planting a tree and watching it grow
  • reaping a harvest
  • the passing of seasons
  • praying and listening to God
  • listening —  to people, to ourselves, to nature, to our favorite music
  • spiritual growth and transformation
  • creating a work of art
  • roasting “lechon” (roast suckling pig) to perfection🙂
  • baking chocolate cake
  • mastering a skill
  • implementing change . . . making a difference
  • composing a song, a poem, or a love letter
  • making love with the love of your life
  • or, perhaps just giving unexpected love a chance . . .

True. Some things just can’t be rushed. Especially the things that truly matter. Those good and beautiful things that make waiting so much worthwhile.

Why I Welcome 2013 with Hope –3 Reasons Gleaned from Psalm 65 (Part 3 of 3)

WHO GOD IS assures me of a new year that will demonstrate His goodness, power, and love.

WHAT GOD HAS DONE reminds me that nothing is impossible for those who trust and obey Him.

I WELCOME 2013 not only with hope, but also with happiness . . .

BECAUSE OF WHO I AM IN GOD’S EYES

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 In Psalm 65 verse 4, David declares to the people of Israel this wonderful blessing:

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house . . . ” (New International Version).

“Blessed are the chosen, blessed the guest at home in your place. We expect our fill of good things in your house, your heavenly manse . . . “(The Message).

“What joy for those you choose to bring near . . . What festivities await us . . .” (New Living Translation).

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You choose and cause to come near, that he may dwell in Your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house . . . “ (Amplified Bible).

With quiet confidence, I claim the same promise of blessing in Psalm 65:4  because God’s own Son, Jesus, counted me among His chosen.  Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (from The Gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 16).

Because I believe in Jesus and received Him to be my Saviour, I’ve been given the right to become a child of God. Wow, I am a child of God! It might sound audacious, but that’s what is written in His Word (see John 1:12).  And I’m sure God loves me because Jesus said,  “… the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16, verse 27).

Like David and the people of Israel, I do expect my fill of good things under the care of my heavenly Father.  Those “good things” may not always be material blessings, but I know they will all be for my good.  I will delight in the nearness of God; I will rest in His presence. I will be satisfied in His loving kindness. And so, I welcome the new year  with hope and look forward to 365 days of God’s goodness and grace.

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100: 5).

Why I Welcome 2013 with Hope –3 Reasons Gleaned from Psalm 65 (Part 2 of 3)

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WHO GOD IS gives me more than enough reason to be hopeful this new year. But as I reflected on Psalm 65 this first week of 2013, David’s beautiful song led me to two more reasons for my personal assurance. Thus, I welcome 2013 with hope . . .

Because of What God Does for His People

God hears their prayers (verse 2). David wrote out of his personal knowledge and experience of the God of Israel. He knew how God answered the prayers of his forefathers – for protection from their enemies, for provision for their needs, for direction in their long journey to the land that Yahweh promised them. In his own life, David saw how God answered his cries for help, especially when he was pursued by his enemies.

God grants forgiveness to those who ask for it (verse 3). David experienced this truth for himself. He failed many times, big time! He described his situation as “overwhelmed by sins.” He committed adultery with Bathsheba who was married to one of his soldiers.  Not only that, he used his power as king to have Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle. David wrote many psalms (e.g. Psalm 40) that expressed his deep sorrow for his sins and his personal experience of Yahweh’s mercy and forgiveness.

Thousands of years after David, God sent his own Son, Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world. Those who encountered Jesus and believed in His message of forgiveness from sin and promise of eternal salvation became his bold followers. They proclaimed the good news to others, and those who believed them spread the Word . . . which, by God’s wonderful grace, reached me generations and generations after them. To this day, God offers His free gift of forgiveness to anyone who comes to him in humility and helplessness.

God does awesome deeds and wonders (verses 5-8). The history of Israel was rich with Yahweh’s wonders and miracles. David’s forefathers, led by Moses, journeyed in the presence of God from the moment they stepped out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 4:33-34).  Yahweh parted the Red Sea for them to escape the Egyptian soldiers.  Throughout their Exodus, He led them in the form of a cloud or fire. He  showered them from the heavens with food in the midst of the desert.

When Jesus came to Israel, he demonstrated the power of God his Father. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead to life, fed 5000 people from five small barley loaves and two small fish. He turned around the lives of tax collectors, prostitutes, demon-possessed men, thieves, and murderers. Finally, He died on the cross for mankind’s sin and rose again on the third day, sealing the promise of resurrection for those who made him their Savior. I can’t think of any other miracle greater than this!

To this day, God has worked wonders in the lives of the faithful.  Healing from sickness, healing of relationships, protection from evil, financial provision, freedom from addiction, changed lives! This 2013,  I look forward to witnessing the Lord’s awesome deeds in my life and the lives of my family and loved ones; in my local church, in my community, in my country; in this world He created for His glory!

God blesses and provides abundantly (verses 9-13).  David believed that the abundant harvest he and the people of Israel enjoyed was God’s plan in the first place. “You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance (verse11).  Yahweh cared for their land, their streams and their rivers, and sent the rains to ensure that His people would have their grain. Imagine “meadows covered with flocks” and valleys “mantled with grain” (verse 13)! David’s rich metaphors describe the riches God bestowed on His beloved.

Despite global warming and the worldwide recession (which are humankind’s own making), despite famines and poverty in many parts of the world, I still believe that God continues to care for His Creation and to provide for His people, abundantly if He so desires. He gives according to His bounty (which is boundless); He gives with liberality.

The psalmist and king, David had proven the God of Israel and wrote beautiful songs in praise of Him.  The Son of God Himself, Jesus lived among the people of Israel and showed them the face of his Father.  People of faith through the ages had testified to the unfailing love and goodness of the one true God they worship.

As for me, this same God has remained constant and faithful. He answers my prayers. He assures me of His forgiveness whenever I fail. He works wonders in my life in many ways I’m not even aware of. He provides for my daily needs and gives much more than I expect. He delights and surprises! He protects and strengthens.  He loves unconditionally. He has done all these for me because He loves me. I believe He will do so again this year and next year and all throughout my lifetime.

Why am I hopeful this 2013? For my hope is real because it rests on nothing less than God’s wonderful  love, goodness, and grace.

“Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf” (Psalm 66:5).

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5).

Why I Welcome 2013 with Hope — Three Reasons Gleaned from Psalm 65 (Part 1 of 3)

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Psalm 65 came to me on Sunday, December 30, 2012 — two days before New Year, and I’ve been ruminating on its personal assurance to me as I begin 2013.

A psalm of David, it is bursting with hope and confidence for the future. I can see 3 reasons why:

 First Reason:  Because of Who God Is

Consider the God of Israel whom David praises in his poetry:

He is a listening God who hears the prayers of his people (verse 2).

He is a forgiving God (verse 3).

He is a giving God (verses 4 and 9).

He is a saving God – “O God our Saviour” (verse 5).

He is the Hope of the earth (verse 5).

He is powerful and strong (verse 6).

He is Creator of the world (verses 6 and 7).

He is Ruler of all nature and Ruler of all nations (verse 7).

He is a caring God (verse 9).

He is God of abundance and overflow (verses 11-13).

He is God of joy and gladness (verses 12 and 13).

Psalm 65 speaks to me of a good and beautiful God. How wonderful it is that this God who had made himself known to David thousands and thousands of years ago is the same God I trust and worship today! He is the God of History – unchanging and unfailing; all-true and all-loving.

My hope for 2013 rests not on a stable government nor a robust economy; not on material wealth nor prospects of prosperity; not on powerful leaders nor benevolent do-gooders. My hope rests in God alone because truly he is “God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas” (verse 5).  This is why I look forward to this new year with quiet hope and great expectation.