A Dose of Laughter

Once upon a time, months before Covid happened, I watched Leap Year. I laughed and laughed. My youngest turned her head and said: Is it that funny? 🤔

I continued laughing. 🤪 It felt good to laugh. I cannot remember when was the last movie that I had such a hearty laugh. 😃 Rom-com is good for my soul – not horror. I do not get high from being horrified. 😱

In line with my interest to write about depression, I googled and found a medical research on ‘Laughter and Depression… (blah blah blah..) 🤣 Blah blah blah is because it sounds scientific and technical to my amateur ears.. “…Hypothesis of pathogenic and therapeutic correlation!” In my own two-cents worth of laymen’s terms: “Can laughter help improve depression?” or “Are laughter and depression related to each other medically?”

So what’s the verdict? Here’s an excerpt from the abstract of the study: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20380236)
it has been demonstrated that laughter is able to improve mood directly and to moderate negative consequences of stressful events on psychological well-being; in addition, it is possible that the stimulation of particular cerebral regions, involved in depression pathogenesis, and the normalisation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical system dysfunctions, both mediated by laughter, can Counteract Efficiently depressive symptoms;
finally, the favourable effects of laughter on social relationships and physical health may have a role in Influencing the Ability of depressed patients to Face the disease.

But this is on the physiological side – the mind and the body. Laughter is just one means to improve depression. What about the soul? Beyond the mental and physical state of feeling good and happy, how does one maintain his ‘spiritual’ health?

The Proverbs teach: A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. (17:22) The heart mentioned here is more than just the physical organ pumping blood around the body. The heart is the whole being of man – it is “the ruling centre of the whole person, the spring of all desires.” (web.mst.edu~rossh/bible_resources/bible_-_HEART-study.doc)

Paul taught the Philippians to rejoice always. But joy is not just a switch that we turn on and off easily. We need to rejoice In the Lord.

I pray that as a follower of Jesus, a child of the heavenly Father who loves me, I will learn to find joy in each circumstance that comes my way everyday.. and always and only in the Lord… by His grace and mercy alone.

Choosing Joy

“Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings. It’s something we make inside ourselves.” -Corrie ten Boom

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” 
-Proverbs 4:23

· So true… A thankful heart makes a happy heart. Today I am thankful for my oncologists. I am happy that EVEN THOUGH I have to take cancer maintenance med, I had a kind oncologist who looked after me for the past 5 years. I am sad that she’s not in the best of health. It is not by chance that God provided me a new oncologist who was referred by our doctor friend. To have a caring doctor (we’re ‘hiyang’ to each other) is a blessing. I learned so many things from my oncologist this morning. I am grateful that EVEN THOUGH my meds have side effects, there are remedies to make up for them. I am glad that EVEN THOUGH I have osteopenia, it is not that serious. It encourages me that doing weight exercises help to strengthen my bones. It’s inspiring to know that “people who do regularly exercises age slower.” After the visit, I feel happy. Thank you Lord EVEN THOUGH our bodies are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

~from my joy journal written 12/5/2014… It’s been 7.5 years.. same principle applies then, now and always..

Dancing Lessons in the Pandemic

I wrote this piece 8 years ago today. But its lessons apply today more than ever – even we can no longer dance together physically because of Covid. I learn anew what it means to dance with God in the pandemic.

This morning as I was dancing, many thoughts came to mind about living life and dancing:

1. As i kept my eyes on our instructor, I was able to follow each of his move and step no matter how fast or how new the move was…. same in life, as I keep my eyes on my instructor in life, I am able to follow and be attuned to his move and be in step with Him.

2. This familiarity is not built on a day of dancing nor even a few sessions each week; I started out as a newbie – learning the style and music the instructor gave us – which i have been joining for years now.. It also needs consistent and persistent regular practice dancing with him.. same with our Lord – to know Him – i need to be in constant communication with Him – reading His word and listening to Him in prayer and telling him all my cares and concerns..

3. And just when i think that I have enough sweating and panting, jumping and twisting, i realised that the instructor is just warming up – he is leading us into the climax of our dance sessions – the steps get more challenging – i feel like panting and out of breath.. but I had to keep on to go to the next level.. Same with God, just when i think i have hurdled a difficult lesson, he gives me more challenging ones to learn.. He is just warming up and I sometimes feel like i’m so out of breath.. but i need to keep on..

4. When it comes to my dance class, my classmates are as important as my instructor. Their enthusiasm inspire me. Those who dance better than I do – are my guide when the instructor takes his break or stops even for a moment. I look to them if i cant remember the next step.. I also try to emulate their movements, their energy level, their high spirit, even their sexy moves…They inspire me to give my best and my all. Same in my Christian journey, i look to my spiritual mentors and leaders – those who model the true Christian spirit of joy, peace, love, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control. No Christian can survive life’s challenges alone. A piece of coal gets cold all by itself – it can only burn and produce heat when it is put in a heap of coal.

5. Classmates who are not as gifted in dancing, also have their lessons for me to learn.. I have a classmate who should be graded no. 1 for her good attitude and effort she puts into each session. What she lacks in coordination and kinesthetics intelligence, she more than makes up with her zeal and enthusiasm. This morning, she was going in the opposite direction as the rest of us. She even has the ability to laugh at herself. And all of us were just enjoying her moves in spite of it all. in a similar way, in the Christian faith, we have different level of maturity in the school of faith, but we all have something to learn from one another. It’s not about who was Christian the longest. It’s not about who knew more of theological stuff or about who serve and do more ministries than others. It’s about how we love God and live out our faith in the minute trivial routines of everyday living.

Braving Depression

Many things in life take practice. Courage needs practice too. Practice makes perfect.

I gave my book to our Cape Town tour guide. Two weeks after we returned home, she emailed me that she finished my book. Here’s an excerpt of her feedback:

“Another commonality: we both have battled depression. It sounds like you still do. I can’t really say I do any more but have lived with it for 10 years now. I took myself off medication because it left me in dream land and not facing real life. For me, it was one of the best things I did… I now have coping mechanisms. I can recognise when I am “heading downwards” and have various things like walking my dog in the mountains to pull me out or going to do service unto others.

Your book will always live on my shelf and I am sure that I will read it many times. You are a brave woman writing a book like this. Hold your head up high and be proud.”

I have had many responses from my readers. Some said they cried. Others said it’s an easy read – light and short. I can’t remember any other reader telling me that I am “brave to write a book like this.” But I do know what she means.

A professor at the seminary once told my classmates in class: “If you read sister Marlene’s book, you will know her.” My thoughts and feelings were in conflict at that instance. I know and appreciate that she was being supportive of my writing. Yet I also felt a little embarrassed and afraid – a mini-panic perhaps? In that instance, in a crowd of strangers, it felt like I was being bared to my soul.

In life, it is not easy to remain joyful all the time. Obeying the biblical principle to rejoice always is a challenge. I struggle between doing it on my own and sharing my challenge. I tried excusing my ‘sadness’ and charging it to physiological causes. I hovered between being brave and being ‘weak’ – crying in front of my children or close friends.

Where is the line between courage and fear? Where is the boundary between discretion and candor? How can I share my story without hurting those who are part of my story? When do I stay ‘weak’ and ‘brave’ dependent on God and when do I need to be ‘strong’ and ‘brave’ in front of people?

I have learned and am still learning that everyday I need God’s wisdom to choose wisely to live joyfully. Am I being brave or weak to admit that I am depressed? It makes me feel vulnerable. It is like undressing in public. I am embarrassed. I feel guilty. Am I not a Christian? Am I not so blessed with the good life? Why am I depressed? How can I not be glad? Why do I often forget to give thanks in everything? Why am I depressingly whiny?

So what do I do? Do I brave it alone? Do I unburden to God? to friends or family? I realised it’s all of the above. Life is a maze that I need to journey with my a-maze-ing God. He alone gives me wisdom enabling me to choose rightly – to be ‘brave’ and ‘meek’ at the same time… to be strong and weak alike… a paradox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

Courage is not being unafraid. Courage is not the absence of fear but conquest of fear because of the presence of God. That is the paradox of living life bravely and fearfully. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. To live wisely is to fear the Lord and live victoriously brave!

Help me Lord to be brave and meek. Because you are with me, when I am weak then I am strong. Amen.

饮水思源: Remember and Be thankful.

饮水思源 is a Chinese proverb, its literal meaning: drink (饮) water (水) think (思) source (源).

I remember hubby used to tell me while driving by a certain highway, that he used to commute many rides to visit his client along that road. If he should find it necessary to commute again, he would be just as grateful to do so as he did before.

Today, even as I live in a comfortable house, I want to remember with fondness the small apartment my family lived in when I was in high school. There was just one small bedroom to fit one bed for my parents. Marian and I slept in our foldable beds in the kitchen/dining area. Even so, we were a happy blessed family – we had a school and a church – just a few minutes walk away. We had more than one place to call home.

In the OT, God again and again, reminded that the Israelites were once slaves and foreigners in the land of Egypt. They were redeemed and called to the promise land by the love of God – who chose them as His own people. As such, they were called to remember to treat the needy/poor/marginalized people – orphans/widows/foreigners as God treated them.

The Christian is called to a life of remembering the grace of God. He is to remember His Creator – the source from whom all blessings flow. The journey is not always smooth but there is always assurance that God sees him through.

All my life is about God’s grace from the first day I was born, God saved me from being an orphan when He saved my mom from bleeding to death when she gave birth to me. When i lost my first baby – a boy, it was a painful event for me. God gave me 3 daughters instead.

When I got the big C, I experienced God’s presence more than any moment in my life – his warm embrace got me through all the treatment until today. When I went through the dark night of the soul – in my depression, God walked me through.

The journey is not yet over – each day is a challenge to stay joyful in spite of many unhappy things that the reality of life brings. How do I cope with these challenges? I remember.. I recall… I recount God’s blessings to me in the past.. how He healed me, how He forgave me.. how He saw me through, how He held my hand… how He embraced me and comforted me.. how He disciplined me.

From past to present, in the days to come, let me not forget – God is good and he will see me through.

Be Sad and Glad

No man is an island. Not even a hermit. God created man to have a relationship with him. God said it is not good for man to be alone. He created a helper for him.
In life’s journey, I am glad I am not alone. I have companions along the way – whether good or bad, sad or glad.

In good times, be thankful. In bad times, be sad but choose to be thankful…Thankful for the good times and thankful for moments of grace – grace to stand firm and grace to overcome. It is not denying the sadness. It is embracing sadness with peace. It is not about ignoring the pain. It is holding the pain and placing it in the hand of Jesus – the nail-pierced hands who embraced the cross for me.

Here are Bonnhoeffer’s thoughts on Blessed are those who mourn:
Those who mourn are those who are prepared to renounce and live without everything the world calls happiness and peace. They are those who cannot be brought into accord with the world, who cannot conform to the world. They mourn over the world, its guilt, its fate, and its happiness…. No one loves people more than Jesus’ disciples․ That is why they stand apart, why they mourn; it is meaningful and lovely that Luther translates the Greek word for what is blessed with “to bear suffering.” The important part is the bearing. The community of disciples does not shake off suffering, as if they had nothing to do with it. Instead they bear it. Jesus said: In the world, you have troubles. But in me, you will have peace because I have overcome the world. Each time I feel down and out, these words of Jesus comfort me. I can bear suffering. I can mourn because Jesus said: “Blessed are those who mourn.”

I need to learn higher level of mourning: to bear the suffering of the world with those who are suffering… Bearing the suffering of the world is to give up everything the world calls happiness. Mourning and bearing the suffering is to be sad about the world’s condition of guilt, injustice, transient happiness and temporal pleasures, fame of momentary measures.

When I am sad, I need to reach out to the sad. Then I realise sadness is relative. Each day I have to a choice to rejoice even in the midst of sadness. Lord, help me to discern and how to be both sad and glad.

Don’t Worry. Be Happy

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

There is a story of an old giant fallen tree in the forest of the Colorado slopes. Experts say this tree is about 400 years old. In its lifetime, with its thick foliage, standing tall and immovable, this tree survived numerous lightnings, countless avalanches, so many storms. In the end, the tree was eaten by a tiny beetle.

Swarms of beetles nibble on the bark eating its way through the centre of the tree. And so a big gigantic tree surviving 400 years against the forces of nature could not stand against a small beetle. How big is the beetle? It can be pinched into powder with a gentle squeeze between your thumb and forefinger.

Man in anxious weary struggle and toil is like the giant tree eaten and put down by a small beetle. Once the beetle get into the inner being, destruction begins no matter how tall and strong the tree might be.

Any small beetle gnawing at your heart? Any worry taking away your joy? Any fear dominating your thoughts?
Make a choice to rejoice. How?

Worry about nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, tell God your requests. And the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding will be in your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. Finally, friends, whatever true, whatever honest, whatever just, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever excellent; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Philippians 4:6‭-‬8

Happiness is a habit, cultivate it. Cultivate the habit to think happy thoughts, by not worrying. Instead pray and tell God about it.

Be Happy Not in Misery

Question: How to be happy… ‘not’ in misery…
Answer: Do not be a miser.

Miser is just one letter short of misery. A miser is a person who hoards wealth and spends as little money as possible. Misery is great mental or emotional distress; extreme unhappiness; a cause or source of distress. A classic example of the miser is Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is Charles Dicken’s main character in his well-known novel – A Christmas Carol. There are more than 20 actors who played Scrooge in movies and TV shows the most recent being Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol.

Scrooge is a miserly stingy unhappy old man who dislikes Christmas precisely because he loves money and dislikes people. “His last name has come into the English language as a byword for miserliness and misanthropy.” (Wikipedia) Misanthropy is dislike for humankind.

How fitting that Dickens created Scrooge in the context of Christmas. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to be generous: galante in Tagalog, khong khai in Hokkien; opposite of being miserly or stingy -colloquially: kuripot in tagalog, kiam-siap in Hokkien. Kiam is salty and siap is rusty with much friction. Being stingy is like being salty and rusty.

2 Corinthians 8
1 We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

Paul told the rich Corinthians to follow the example of the Macedonian churches – who gave generously even though they were poor. Jesus praised the poor widow who gave all she had to live on. It is ironic how it is easier for the poor to be generous than the rich.

7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us—see that you excel in this gracious work also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul taught that giving generously is a ‘gracious work’ that we should learn to excel in. The Corinthians were to prove that they truly love by generously giving. Indeed one can give without loving but one cannot love without giving.

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Our ultimate example of giving is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Christmas is ‘the’ story on ultimate sacrificial giving. The Son of God; Prince of heaven; Creator and owner of all universe came down from His heavenly dwelling to be a helpless baby born in a manger, the son of a poor carpenter.

Lessons in giving…
Giving is a gift – by the grace of God (v.1). The grace of God enabled the poor Macedonians to give in spite of their difficulties, to be generous even though they were poor (v.2). The grace of God made it possible for them to give within and even beyond their means (v.3).

This thought of giving as a gift is shown in The grace of our Lord Jesus. Grace is a gift given to those who do not deserve it. Grace of Jesus is given to a sinner like me – that Jesus became poor so that I might become rich… rich not in material things but rich in generosity, in abundance, in a life worthy of His grace – to share with the people around me.

The grace of God motivated them: ‘begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints’ (v.4)

This phrase implies that…
Giving is a privilege – it is an honour that we should sincerely desire – even ‘beg’ for. Whatever wealth or material blessings that the Lord gives me, it is given in stewardship. It is a privilege to be given this trust – to manage His resources and share them to His children.

What a way to be happy – out of misery into generosity!

How I Laughed when I wanna cry…

“Humor is a distraction.” says a friend. I agree. Why? Coz when I was upset, trying to stay away from further arguments with hubby, I’d watch rom-com. It’s cathartic to cry and/or laugh: to de-stress and let myself be distracted from the sad things in life.

Last week, hubby and I went on an afternoon ride (pasyal sa Luneta-along-Manila-Bay) to see the sunset. It’s our new normal Sundates: driving around the city to see the sites where we used to date as bf/gf, where we liked to go pre-COVID days. It’s time/cost efficient: no traffic, no shopping, no resto eating, just jollibee drive-thru (yumburger meal) for me. And so I took a piece of fries to put in my mouth.. 😂 right into my mask. 😆😆😆 It felt really good- to laugh at myself!

One time, I went to buy coffee capsules for hubby. I took out my PWD (person with disability) ID, the cashier asked: Mam, may authorization letter? (Do you have an authorization letter?)
Huh? Ako nga yan eh! (That’s me!)
Ah, d kasi mag-kamukha. (You look different from the pic.)
Pano mo alam, naka-mask nga ako? (How did you know with my mask on?)
Perhaps my brows looked different? Oh right, I realize now I did not wear glasses on my ID. 🤪 And so we all had a good laugh – me, the cashier and the sales assistant. We could not see each other’s smiles but we certainly heard our laughters.

Years ago, a day before I was due for surgery from my broken ankle, a friend sent me a video of the barkada (our high school gang) laughing so hard after a ride in the amusement park. Imagine middle-aged men having fun from a joyride! I asked him why they’re laughing – secret daw! 🙄😏 He’s the friend who said humor is a distraction.

A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22). Humor is indeed a distraction. It diverts our attention from the pain that we’re feeling.

And so let me share with you – one of my secrets: how I coped with depression in the pandemic: I had bonding with my friends (in groups or 1-on-1). We talked. We laughed and cried together. Confession: It’s me who cried. It felt so good to be able to cry in front of them, even more so 1-on-1 as I bared my soul to them.

Are you sad, my friend? Call a friend. Share the burden… share the sadness. God said: It’s not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). This is not just about marriage. This is true for all mankind. It is not OK to be not OK alone!

Here are related posts from my blog.. click and read my stories:


Life is Beautiful

How are you today? That’s the usual greeting I get when I go into shops here down under. It’s a good public relations strategy to greet customers this way. It shows that you notice their presence. Tourism is built on the principle of presence and value of presence.

One morning when I was in El Nido, Palawan, a couple from South Africa said: The Philippines is the best place in all of the vacations we had. How and why? Because of the hospitality of the Filipino people. The Filipinos are the most valuable asset of the country! Nowhere else in the world can u find a more hospitable people giving the kind of service that they give. Wow! What a compliment! Mabuhay ang Filipino!

I had the same thought. These good-natured people with their warm smile and ready hands are God’s gift to the Philippines. We often complain of graft and corruption – what a hopeless situation we have in the government.

I wonder could it be that the nearer man is to nature and works of God, the better he behaves? They are happier with their simple lifestyle – riding on their bangkas, cruising around the seas, swimming with the fishes, with the sun shining on them and the wind blowing in their faces – how rich they are in God’s wondrous creations! Does it matter that their clothing’s are not the latest fashion or branded? A rubber slipper is just as comfortable. To be together with their families and friends from their barangays – to roam in the midst of nature – between mountains, riding on the waves, feeling the breezy sprays of the seawater on their faces, feasting on the green forests atop mountains and soft/cottony clouds amidst the blue skies… how much does it cost them? a few hours ride and few hundred pesos of the bangka rental to b shared by so many people or maybe even the bangka is free – they need to put gas in them.

When I was in Myanmar, I noticed that the Burmese people are courteous. They are sincere and warm in their effort to help the tourists. Their simple lifestyle of working with their hands is enough to live on. Their doors are without locks. When they go on vacation to other places, they leave their homes in the care of their neighbours. They do not need to lock up. The guides told us that it is quite safe to be a tourist in their country. A friend asked about their prisons. The guide said their prisons are for political prisoners. 😥

Back to the Filipinos… Each time I go to the provinces for vacation, it warms my heart to experience the Filipino hospitality. They smile their greeting. They are happy when you thank them or compliment their food. They even reply with thank you to your thank you. They offer ways and means to make your stay comfortable – even before you ask for them.

Whereas the American culture emphasises tipping and gratuity, the Filipino culture encourages the bayanihan spirit even in tipping. They suggest that all tokens of appreciation be given to a common fund to be shared by all.

Now why do I feel proud to be Filipino among these people? Why do I feel frustration and hopelessness with those in high places of power and wealth? And I am reminded of the Biblical wisdom that the love of money is the root of all evils. Godliness with contentment is great gain for we take nothing into the world and we take nothing when we leave this world.

Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poor in spirit means lowly and humble in heart – depending on the God of abundance to supply all their needs.

Poor in spirit is about contentment and gratitude for what is given and what one has. It is free from ambitious striving and greed – for position or power or achievements.

Happiness is to be close to nature and to be embraced by the God of nature – to rejoice in service of others… to enjoy the handiworks of God.. to smile in deep gratitude for the breath of life… Today let me remember to live truly and simply in peaceful contentment with a thankful heart for what God gives to me.

Manila Bay Sunset