Danny’s Flashlight

Light of the world, a lamp in the dark, a city set on a hill.. These words remind me of my friend, Danny. When? When he was fighting and dying of cancer… How? Let me share an excerpt of the eulogy I wrote for him some 10 months ago.

On 4/9, Danny said: I’m stable but in pain. feels like a dog w/ sharp teeth biting my right chest n wont let go. I’m surviving thru much prayers esp at night I cant lie down. God is good. He makes me sleep when I’m exhausted. I’m truly thankful for that.

From 5/25-27: Scan results out, no good. He said: God knows what’s next. Don’t worry. I’m totally at peace. Pray for less pain. I don’t want my family to be affected when I whine or cry in pain. Thanks. I cannot explain the peace that I feel now.
“it’s not as bad as it sounds. God is good no matter how this progresses. I’m totally at peace. No worries. Thank you for prayers.”
“Let’s hope the med works. God is good. I’m not a bit worried.”

8/25, “I’m not afraid to go. I just ask God for another chance to share w others how good He’s been to me.”

Danny’s words testified that in all things (good n bad) God is good. He loved God and was devoted to Him amidst hardship. He loved people. He was dying and still thinking of God and neighbor. He wanted to donate whatever useful organs he’s got left. He asked for more time even in great pain to tell his stories.

Danny taught me lessons on dying bravely and living brightly even in the deep dark pit of pain. God enabled him to be a light shining in the valley of the shadow of death.

God took him first even though he was the youngest in our barkada. He was strongest when he was weakest because God’s grace was sufficient. Danny shone brightest when it was darkest because God was his light. Today, his voice resonates loudly because God’s Word was the only voice he heard and held on to. His life mirrored his Savior and Lord Jesus.

Today, Danny still speaks to me. Yesterday, his wife told me Danny gave me permission to share his stories whenever possible so people will know his God of grace. I miss Danny often especially when I have questions about the Bible, about things to write, ideas to share. He was a deep thinker, great teacher and fine writer. He’s witty, funny, silly, naughty and many more. Most of all, he’s my friend who loved me and whom I loved dearly. Tears falling as I write these words.

Around 1am today, I woke and could not get back to sleep. I watched some video clips on FB and chanced upon the Red Table Talk of Jada Pinkett Smith with the parents of Ms. USA who committed suicide earlier this year. Near the end of the talk, Jada shared her grief story about losing a dear friend. My takeaway from her lesson: Memories of our loved ones who passed on may fade. One sure thing remains: love.

How true the words from the Bible:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

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.

Seize the Day

“Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn’t wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.” ~ Garcia Marquez

May 29 was the last Sunday of May in 2016. It was also the last time I talked and prayed with my mother. 🙁 That morning, I went to visit her before going to church. She was lying in bed and very sick. She was weak and could not talk much. My heart was heavy and sad as I knelt by her bed to pray with her.

The next day I flew out of town as Andrew’s aunt and cousin from China were visiting. May 30 was also my last night at Boracay – have not been back, don’t know if I ever would again.

Past midnight, in the wee hours of May 31, when my phone rang, I knew the time had come when I heard my sister’s voice on the phone. That day I flew back to Manila alone. That plane ride seemed to be a long lonely sad one. Did I cry, maybe yes, maybe not? I felt numb and sad at the same time.

Remembering that day is hard for me even now. I miss my mom. How I wish ma and pa were present to celebrate Hannah’s ‘on-hold’ wedding (supposedly 5/24/20 but did not happen).

I was supposedly to be the mother of the bride. It was supposed to be a lifetime celebration – an important milestone in the life of our family. I have hold off writing or pondering on how I felt or thought since our family accepted the fact that the wedding was not going to happen that day.

Few days before that, I wrote about being resilient and gritty in a crisis. I guess that is what our family is doing together – being resilient (being pliable in the Master Potter’s hand) and gritty (holding tight and not giving up).

You are the Potter, we are the clay. Isaiah 64:8

To be resilient is to spring back to form after a hard knockdown. To get up and move forward. To be gritty is to move forward steadily bravely into the unknown future.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone. But today is the present – the gift that the Giver of life extends to each of us – to you and to me.

I don’t know about tomorrow. Today, I can only live life the best I can by the grace and mercy of my God. I don’t know about tomorrow but I know who holds my hand.

I pray that you do too, my friend. Know the God who holds tomorrow. Trust the Potter who created you in His image.

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..

The Path of Patience

Do you know Moses disobeyed God when they were about to enter the Promised Land already? God said to speak to the rock to draw water. Moses struck the rock instead. Water still came out. But his disobedience cost him entry into the land of milk & honey. (Numbers 20:7-12)

So close yet so far! Moses obeyed God all through the last 40 years of his life starting with the call from the burning bush to go back to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of slavery. Just one more step of obedience..

Saul waited 7 days for Samuel to come. When Samuel did not arrive and the men began to scatter, Saul offered the sacrifices himself. Samuel arrived just as Saul finished the offering. His disobedience cost him his kingship. (1 Samuel 13:7-14) Perhaps, just a few minutes more! Saul started good. Samuel told him to wait 7 days to be instructed what to do. (1 Samuel 10:8) Saul did not even tell his uncle that he was anointed king. He was silent when some people looked down on him being chosen as king. (1 Sam. 10:27)

At times, to obey is to be still.. waiting some more… being patient a little more…

Noah waited long to get out of the ark. It took him more than a year staying inside a boat full of animals to feed. Paul was on house arrest for two years. Joseph went through a tough time from the pit thru slavery into a prison before entering the palace… from favoured son to servant to prisoner before becoming a prince second only to Pharaoh.. a total of 13 years!

Patience, perseverance, prayer… these are essentials for tough times. When trials come, they are tests for God’s children on obedience and trust… trust and obey for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus.. but to trust and obey.

Whenever waiting is not easy, this is an extended opportunity for us to learn patience, perseverance and prayers.. continuing lessons to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in everything… Level up practice to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.

The Cheerful Giver

What is the rule for giving to the Lord? What does God say about giving to Him? 10% of our earnings? Cash or in kind? The more the better?

In Moses’ days when the Lord asked them to build a tabernacle, here’s what he said:

Exodus 35:4-9
Moses said to the whole Israelite community, “This is what the Lord has commanded: From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems…

What a list! Beyond all these things, there are just two simple rules:

1) From what you have. It makes sense because one cannot give what he does not have.
2) Everyone who is willing. God is a liberal God. He only wants us to love Him. When we love, we give.

God calls us to give what we have willingly. In those days, they were called freewill offerings.

What do I have? As I think about this, there is one more question. Where do all that I have come from? Who gave them to me? How did I have them? I believe all that I have come from God. God gives to me by His grace and mercy. His grace allows me to receive what I do not deserve. His mercy allows me to be exempted from what I deserve.

Another question…Am I willing? if the graciously merciful God gives me what I did not ask, do not know how to ask, do not deserve to ask, who am i that I am not willing? What kind of person would I be if I were not willing?

The Chinese proverb: 饮水思願 literally means drink water think source. In Pilipino, there’s ‘utang na loob’ (an indebted heart). The Chinese proverb addresses what we have. The Filipino one answers our willingness.

What do I have? Am I willing?

God’s Face: Seeing and Being

There once were two friends travelling in a desert. They got into an argument. In the heat of the moment, one slapped the other. The one who was slapped, wrote on the sand: Today, my best friend slapped me.

When they came to an oasis, they decided to take a bath. The one who was slapped, slipped and fell in the mire, started to drown. Her friend pulled her out and saved her life. The one who nearly drowned wrote on the stone: Today my friend saved my life.

When someone hurt you, write it on the sand where the wind will blow it away. When someone helped you, engrave it on the stone where nothing will erase it.

“For to see your face is like seeing the face of God!” Who said this? To who? how? where? when? WHY?
Who: Jacob
To who: Esau (Jacob’s twin who wanted to kill him.)
Where/When: On the way home to return to his father Isaac; after running away/hiding from Esau.
WHY? Esau wanted to kill Jacob after he stole Esau’s birthright (Gen. 27-28). After so many years of hiding, God told him to go back home (Gen. 31:3).
Jacob feared that Esau might still be mad at him and ready to kill him:
1) He prayed to God about his fear (32:9-12).
2) He planned and strategised what he’s going to do to meet Esau (32:13-21).
3) He changed his plan again when he saw Esau (33:1-3).
Then what? I could imagine how pleasantly shocked Jacob was as I read v. 4

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.
The brother-turned-enemy became his brother again. Jacob exclaimed: Seeing you is like seeing the face of God! Why? Because now you have received me favourably.

Lessons to learn:
Favour – an attitude of approval or liking; an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.
Indeed, what a joy it is to have favour with God and man – that is how Jesus was described when he was growing as a boy. The same was described of Samuel: that he grew in favour with God and man.

Am I not happy when people affirm me? Do I not find satisfaction in gaining the approval of friends and family? How comforting is it to receive a kind word, warm hug and a firm pat on the shoulder when I’m feeling down! Whatever blessing I have, is it not a favour – an act of kindness from God beyond what is due me?

How many of my friends and family members or even strangers do i see as like seeing the face of God? Perhaps, many are, in different ways at different times, sometimes taken for granted?

When people see me, will they say that seeing me is like seeing the face of God? Do I extend the same favour that God gives me to others who need it? Do I forgive as God forgives? Am I kind as He is kind? How do I treat those who have wronged me? What is my attitude when I am the one who has done wrong? How do I extend mercy? How do I receive grace?

Choosing Joy

At the height of his suffering in the pit of his pain, Job’s comfort and joy is the words of the Holy One. It is not being a masochist to be celebrating pain. Only the strength from the knowledge of the Holy One enables Job to find consolation and joy in the midst of pain.

Scholarly studies have been done that connect spirituality with pain management. Not only physical pain but emotional and mental as well. Here’s a link to one on spirituality and pain medicine.

“…. spirituality can be broadly defined as an experience that incorporates a relationship with the transcendent or sacred that provides a strong sense of identity or direction that not only has a strong influence on a person’s beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and behavior but is integral to a sense of meaning and purpose in life. From this framework arises the concept of spiritual well-being. In this state, a person has a sense of peace, comfort, and strength that arises from a sense of meaning and purpose that is often linked to a connection to the transcendent but also arises from these other activities and relationships. Therefore, in the sense that we all have relationships and activities that provide us with varying levels of a sense of meaning and purpose in life, a level of spiritual well-being is common to all.”

Job’s relationship with God provides a strong sense of his being – naked I came from the womb and naked I shall return. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Job’s main purpose in life is to worship God… even in the ashes! Job credits all that he is, all that he has – the good and the bad come from God. His life events are not random. He believes ‘nothing comes from nothing.’ Everything is from God – even unsparing pain!

Are you suffering, my friend? Is life full of challenges? too much to bear? Take it to the Lord in prayer. Cast your cares on Jesus because He cares for you. Job did it. You can do it too!

The Way of Hope

In an episode from the TV series Amsterdam, there was a story of the depressed American Chinese youth, Amy who stepped off the subway platform onto an oncoming train. It tells us that depression is a silent killer. A pastor once preached that it is the 2nd most deadly disease – next to cancer.

A friend once asked if I have ever thought to take my own life. Honestly, I have never considered suicide as an option to escape from depression, or to stop the pain, grief or sadness. I have thought about disappearing though. What if I don’t come home.. what if I suddenly died – hit by a truck, or killed by someone, or struck by a serious deadly disease? But most of all, I have asked and longed for Jesus to return soon. Not a very noble longing… but hopeful longing so the suffering will end…

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NASB

This is the Bible verse for today. This is often my means of not ‘escaping’ depression but my way of ‘facing’ depression. In a word, it’s called Hope. That is also the word that Dr. Goodman (from the TV series Amsterdam) replied his colleague-oncologist regarding sickness.

Hope is a big word – not as emphasised as love or faith. But it is one of the three that remains. (1 Cor. 13:13) Hope is the sandwich filling… faith, hope and love.

My faith in the Word of God gives me hope and enables me to love. My hope that suffering will end soon allows me to continue and persevere in my suffering. My hope that one day, Jesus will return and I will be caught up in the clouds to meet Him in the air, this hope sustains me to persist in choosing joy.

Faith and hope seem synonymous. Faith supports hope as hope is the evidence of faith. Because I believe, I have hope. Because I trust God’s promises are true, I rejoice in hope to doing better today, to becoming a better person tomorrow.

Because I believe that hubby loves me, I have hope that he is striving to be a better husband and father. This hope enables me to persist in love.

When our high school batch, Builders ’79 from Hope Christian High School celebrated our 40th anniversary, a classmate proposed that we use faith, hope and love in our theme. So we agreed on: Giving hope by faith in love… We decided that we would raise money to help people with educational and health care needs. We would give hope because we believe that God has been good to us. We want to pay it forward. We trust that God will enable us to reach our goal. We pray that as we hope and trust, we are covered in love – God’s love, our love for God and for our neighbours. Love motivates us to give hope. Faith enables us to give hope. Hope is a good thing.

Now faith is the assurance of things HOPED for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

How are you, my friend? Are you living hopefully? What are you hoping for? There is a Filipino saying: Habang may buhay, may pag-asa. As long as there is life, there is hope.

Where is your hope? On what do you place your hope? On people? On circumstances? On your own capabilities? All these things do not last. Only God’s Word is eternal. His promises are true and trustworthy. Read the Bible and know God – He alone is the source of faith, hope and love. These three remain.

Hope is the means to face depression. Hope in God. God is the sure source of our hope. He is faithful to His Word. His promises never fail. His purpose will never be thwarted.

Isaiah 55

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Celebrating Milestones

There is a Chinese saying: 饮水思源。The literal translation is: 饮(drink)水(water)思(think)源 (source), or Drink water and think of its source. This means that we need to look back to where we came from in each stage of our life. It is reminder for us not to forget our past and be grateful for what we have and have become. This Chinese mantra is about indebtedness. It is about remembering.

In Deuteronomy 16, God instructs the Israelites to observe festive celebrations “. . . so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt…” (3, 12). God wants his people to remember all their lives throughout the generations that special day of liberation so that they will not forget their Redeemer God, who freed them from the bondage of slavery and brought them to the Promise Land.

My first milestone was established on the day I was born, when my mother nearly died of hemorrhage during childbirth. All my life, I will never forget God’s grace and mercy to me—a helpless baby. How different my life would have been without a mother to take care of me! How precious God’s gift to me—a mother whose faith in God brought me to the knowledge and salvation of Jesus Christ! I will remember all the days of my life that the day I came into this world, God saved my mother and saved me from being an orphan.

In our lives, we need to celebrate our standing stones—the twists and turns of significant events that happen along our journeys. Each time we remember these milestones, we are encouraged that God is sovereign and faithful as he accompanies us and sees us through all seasons, good or bad. Each standing stone teaches us a lesson in joy, thankfulness, courage, resilience, patience, faith, and perseverance.

Thank you, heavenly Father for giving me a mother to train me in the way that I should live my life. Let me always remember to stay on the right path even when I am old, I shall not depart from your Word. Amen.