Waiting in the Shadows

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When Mama passed away, I wrote in her eulogy: There is “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die. . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 4). We comfort those who are mourning, and we rejoice with those who are rejoicing. We laugh and weep together because there is a time for everything, and everything in its time.

God has made everything beautiful in its time—the time to do whatever needs to be done, whatever is fitting.

But God has also set eternity in our hearts—a sense of timelessness. We can never understand what God has done since the beginning of time, nor will we ever imagine what God will do till the end of time. And so even as we live in time, we wait with hope for the end of time. Yet waiting for the fulfillment of this promise is difficult, especially if we do not know how long we have to wait.

Paul encouraged the Romans to be joyful, patient, and faithful. Joy and affliction are paradoxical realities. It is not easy to be joyful in affliction. But when there is hope, joy is possible. Hopeful joy helps me to be patient in suffering. I wait in joyful expectancy that the suffering will end. Days will be better.

This joyful hope sustains my prayer just as much as hopeful joy keeps me praying. When I expect God to do good things for me, I wait patiently with joy, even amidst sufferings. This is not possible by my own strength, but only by persistently keeping in touch with the One who is faithful, who is my source of joy and hope.

I thank God for the lessons I learned through my parents’ sufferings, in sickness, and in death. In the days and weeks that followed my mom’s passing, I kept visiting my father, who was so frail, weak, sad, and sick. Many times I prayed, “Lord, have mercy, take Papa quickly so he will not suffer so much.” But God’s ways are not our ways, and over time, I began to pray, “Lord, have mercy, Thy will be done.”

During Papa’s sickness, my sister and I learned how to help one another, forgive one another, pray more and depend on God more. We each discovered new meanings in Jesus’ prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I learned that the greater the pain, the more I would learn about humility, patience, courage, trust and dependence on God. I practiced how to be strong, one step at a time, moment by moment, day by day as I sought to depend on God’s grace and call on his mercy.

One day, my sister called me and said: Papa is so different today. How?

“He ate ice cream, asked for water, asked to go to the toilet because he didn’t want to pee in the diaper, and he also asked for bread,” she told me. “He also asked,  How old is your elder sister?, and I said, ‘She is 54 years old.’ And he smiled.”

“He’s asked me that before,” I told her. “Biya, How old are you?

During these times, my sister and I were ‘mababaw ang kaligayahan’ (shallow happiness), because we were easily pleased by the simple pleasures in life.

Because he could not see, each time I visited him, I would say, Pa, I’m Biya.” Happily, he replied:You, Biya?”

We learned to find joy in each one of papa’s talkative or alert moments, to delight in his memories, to record the words he spoke, or, later, the way he opened his mouth to utter words his voice could not sound. We learned to be grateful for his good appetite (for ice cream, soup, and siopao (pork buns) —which we did not give him because we worried he might choke). We learned not to take for granted his toothless smile in unexpected moments, his nod or his furrowed eyebrow to acknowledge our presence when he could not speak. We learned to praise God for sunshine on dialysis days, for kind nurses or hospital staff, for light traffic along the way, for arriving safely at his destination. We even praised God for solid poops.

I paid attention to the way God faithfully provided such good caregivers for my father. I remember with gratitude when a friend who visited me during my sickness ministered to my father when he was in need of a catheter not available in the hospital he’s staying. She helped us source the catheter.

The fire of our father’s suffering—his peg installation, pneumonia, sepsis, bed sores, colon obstruction, stent insertion, and on-going dialysis—enabled our family to experience greater heights of joy together. After watching him endure excruciating pain, we rejoiced when he received relief. Because of our journey through the long dark tunnel of sickness and death, we began to watch hopefully for each momentary glimmer of light. These flashes of light and hope gave us courage to face the road still ahead of us.

In the last few months of Papa’s sickness, whenever Marian and I asked if he was in pain, he always answered in the negative. Only once did he admit to his caregiver that he was in pain. Even so, we always knew it was painful for him – from his facial expressions: when he winced, jerked his arm or hand, or covered where it hurt. His courage and endurance of pain encourage us to be brave.

With the psalmist, we began to delight ourselves in the Lord, trusting him to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). For the God of yesterday’s pain is with us today and forever, and His grace and mercy will lead us through each step of our journey.

Lord, help me to delight in you. Shape my desires to your desires so that I can receive whatever you give with gratitude, trusting in your love and goodness. Enable me to be joyful, hopeful and faithful even as I wait in the shadows. Amen.

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Traveling light

Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to, do you know?
Do you get what you’re hoping for?
When you look behind you there’s no open door.
What are you hoping for, do you know?

People rushing in all directions.. in suits, in jeans, with suitcases, with child, deep in thought, talking on the phone…

This is the scene at train stations, in airport terminals, bus terminals, shipping ports n docks.

Where are the people going? What are they thinking? Who are they meeting? How are they feeling? When will they arrive? Why there n not here? Why today n not tomorrow?
Heavy luggage or light? Big bag or small? What’s in the bag? Why bring them? Are they bringing it back or giving it away?

Travel light.. in life or on vacation, it is wise to travel light. Why?

The journey is faster if the burden is lighter. It is easier to go up or down the stairs when your luggage is smaller. Luggage with wheels better in plain smooth path than rough uneven roads.
In life, travel light. Bring the essentials only. I discover that sometimes many things I brought along are excess baggage. I discover that they take up space for what I need more or they just plainly add weight to what I carry.

Leave your cares behind, regrets, anger, bitterness, disappointments, frustration.. they are excess baggage that you have to pay heavily in your travel .. the more kilos, the more fees. People with heavy baggage are weighed down by the past. They missed the present n worry about the future.

Today is another new day. What heavy load am I dragging with me? Time to leave them behind. What is preventing me from travelling light? Bitterness? Unforgiving spirit? Regrets? Are these essentials for going forward? What good is it to bring along the what-could-have-beens or the if-onlys? Can this turn back the clock and make things better?

What to do instead? Unload… discard the non-essentials… throw away the negatives… pack only the essentials. Move forward in faith, hope and love. Only these 3 last. And the greatest of these is love.

Love covers a multitude of wrongs. Love bears all things. Love is patient n kind. Today let me bring along love in my journey… Love God n love my neighbour.IMG-b80366e3b33977c91b52a0cb71f20658-V.jpg

Desolation and Consolation

Desolation is the state of complete emptiness or destruction; of anguished misery and loneliness. Consolation is comfort received after desolation. Desolation and consolation… life is full of them.

I have experienced in one moment the stress of listening to gripes of bitterness and anger… I became the object of wrath or subject of critical judgment. Then in another unexpected moment, there’s consolation in having a positive response to an intentional act of kindness – no matter how seemingly hopeless or useless this act might be. Consolation comes in the form of timely unexpected call of a friend; prayers for grace of angels God sent to me.

How to traverse between desolation and consolation?

Letting go of the desolation – put it behind me… not to repeat and rehearse the cursing I heard. Not to dwell on the hateful words or hold on to the moments of grief or anger. This is not easy. I want to defend myself – how I was wronged; how I was wrongly accused or judged. I need to make the other person see and hear how hurt I am. The people we love often have the power to hurt us the most.

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Looking towards consolation is putting one foot in front of the other – to step out in hope and faith that things will get better – to offer kindness even if I do not feel like it; even if I might be rejected; no matter how short or fleeting the consolation. To forgive again and again – to give water or food to the one that hurt me… this forgiveness that is more than just plain passive letting go. Jesus calls me to love – to actively do something in spite of the desolation. In doing so, I follow Jesus to the path of consolation – to the place of peace.

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Holding on to consolation moments – depositing them in the power bank from which to withdraw my strength – for me to use as an ammunition till the next desolation comes.

Lord, heal me in my desolation and let your healing presence be my consolation.

Making peace – Love and Respect

When you quarrel with your spouse, how long does it last? How does it end? Door slamming… or tears falling? Or just plain silence… as in cold war? How long does it last? Who makes peace first? How? What does the peacemaker do? How does the other person respond?

Let me illustrate with an example. This afternoon, hubby and I had a heated argument. It ended with him slamming the door on me and me going downstairs to cool down. I thought he’s going to lock me out of our bedroom. But he did not. So we both slept off the afternoon playing cold war.  I often feel like extending the cold war for as long as possible. I realised that I do not stand to gain from such a mindset. Somewhere along the way, life is easier when I make peace. So after our nap, he asked our daughter a question. I answered it even though he was not asking me because our daughter did not know the answer and I did.  So that was my first step to making peace.

Then I followed it up by texting him questions I need him to answer. After dinner, I asked: “Do you want longan or pomelo?” He said later as he just ate some chocolates and had coffee. Finally, I said: Do you want to go out and take a stroll? And so I think that’s the end of our cold war – as long as our afternoon nap.

Many years ago, hubby and I went on a motorbike ride in the woods.. somewhere in the west coast of U.S. It was our first and last time. I remember we went with his friend who was our tour guide on that trip. I knew hubby had never been on a bike before. The trail in the woods was rough and uneven. I confess that I wanted to ride with his friend instead. But no, I was stuck with him.  Seriously, I rode with him because I know as a wife, I have to.. through thick and thin, even when we might fall. I have to trust him to manage so we both stay on the bike. Yes, we did. Even though we stalled and there was a short stop, we didn’t fall off the bike or land on our butt.

My point is as a wife, I need to follow my husband’s lead. Even though many times, I do not agree with him, God is teaching me lessons of love and respect, submission and humility. Through 30 years of this marital journey, we are learning how to love and respect each other.

Oftentimes, pride is my downfall. If only, I shut up or bite my tongue. If I did not indulge in the momentary pleasure of giving him a piece of my mind. He used to say that I provoked him. But why was he so easily provoked? I learned that nothing upset him more than questioning his authority. And so God is teaching me until today, what it means to submit. Submission is not subversion nor is it about suppression. It is not enslaving myself to oppressive authority. Submission is giving deference to his authority as head of the family. He is the leader in our home. He needs me to give him respect. When I do not agree with him, I need to tame my tongue and learn the art of respectful conversation. It is not easy. I often failed. In the heat of the argument, the tone and the words came out unpleasant and often resulted in cold war… and only after the battle of who’s got the last say! It might be him but with me boiling/steaming angry inside. 😦
And so I am still a work-in-progress. God gives me opportunities to practice. Practice makes perfect. By the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, children of God are called to sanctification – a process of being more and more like Jesus. It does not end until our last breath on earth. It is not a smooth road of pure success and no struggle. It is not by might nor by power but only by My Spirit, says the Lord.

And so dear fellow travellers on this similar journey, let us draw encouragement to obey God in making our marriage a God-honoring offering: Eph. 5:22-24

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To forgive and forget… mission impossible?

Forgive and forget?

Which is more difficult to forgive or to forget? How about doing something good for the one who offended you even when you really do not feel like forgiving? Which comes first forgiveness or act of kindness? Or is it about forgetting? I forget, then I forgive then I show kindness? Simple… or is it?

In the Bible, Joseph exemplified how it is to forgive and not forget.  Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery, even though he suffered greatly in exile far away from family. (Genesis 45)

Genesis 50

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!”

After their father, Jacob died, the brothers were worried that Joseph would take revenge and harm them. Implication: the extent of guilt these brothers had for what they did to Joseph – they could not get over it even almost 4 decades after their act of betrayal. They sold Joseph into slavery when he was 17 years old. Joseph became powerful at 30. The famine in the land started 7 years after Pharaoh promoted Joseph to a position of power. The family of Joseph moved to Egypt in the 2nd year of the famine when it was severe in the land. Jacob, (Joseph was probably 39.) Joseph’s father lived 17 years more after he moved to Egypt. From the time Joseph was sold into slavery until his father died was probably a span of 40 years.  Joseph forgave his brothers and provided for them all through the time since they moved to Egypt.  Yet when their father died, the brothers worried that Joseph would take revenge on them.

16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”

Hiding behind their father… these brothers thought that Joseph forgave them on account of their father – because Joseph didn’t want to cause his father any more grief. The brothers could not believe Joseph’s forgiveness – they thought Joseph would surely avenge the sufferings they caused him. But how did Joseph respond?

17b And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph’s responses:

He cried. He seemed to be constantly crying every time he’s confronted with his brothers’ fear of his possible retaliation. v. 17b

He comforted them. v. 21 How? Do not be afraid… don’t worry, I will not harm you. I will even provide for you and even for your children and grandchildren.

He was really kind – in word and in deed. It is really a level up in the lesson on forgiveness – not passive but active forgiveness.

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Bottom line: How did he do that? How could he be so kind to the people who caused him so much suffering and pain?

Again the Godly perspectives…

Am I in God’s place? v. 19 Joseph knew his place. He is not God. It is not up to him to punish the wrong.

As for you, you meant evil against me, BUT GOD meant it for good… v. 20

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Joseph looked backward then forward. He acknowledged that his brothers meant to harm him because of envy. Yet he saw how God worked to bring salvation for his family – how God helped him in the journey to save many lives during the famine.

To forgive and not forget but to show kindness even… this is the ultimate Godly perspective. Mission possible? Yes, and only through the lens of Godly perspective.

Am I in God’s place? God meant it for good.  So each time when I find it hard to forgive, let me ponder: Am I in God’s place? Do I take revenge to avenge the grievances done to me? What good can I draw from the not so good situation? God meant it for good – for me to learn something in the experience. Let me forgive and not forget.

 

Love and Respect: Key ingredients in marriage

Many years ago, hubby and I went on motorbike ride in the woods.. somewhere in the west coast of U.S. It was our first and last time. I remember we went with his friend who was our tour guide on that trip. I knew hubby had never been on a bike before. The trail in the woods was rough and uneven. I confess that I wanted to ride with his friend instead. But no, I was stuck with him. Seriously, I rode with him because I know as a wife, I have to.. through thick and thin, even when we might fall. I have to trust him to manage so we both stay on the bike. Yes, we did. Even though we stalled and there was a short stop, we didn’t fall off the bike or land on our butt.

My point is as a wife, I need to follow my husband’s lead. Even though many times, I do not agree with him, God is teaching me lessons of love and respect, submission and humility. Through 30 years of this marital journey, we are learning how to love and respect each other.

Oftentimes, pride is my downfall. If only, I shut up or bite my tongue. If I did not indulge in the momentary pleasure of giving him a piece of my mind. He used to say that I provoked him. But why was he so easily provoked? I learned that nothing upset him more than questioning his authority. And so God is teaching me until today, what it means to submit. Submission is not subversion nor is it about suppression. It is not enslaving myself to oppressive authority. Submission is giving deference to his authority as head of the family. He is the leader in our home. He needs me to give him respect. When I do not agree with him, I need to tame my tongue and learn the art of respectful conversation. It is not easy. I often failed. In the heat of the argument, the tone and the words came out unpleasant and often resulted in cold war… and only after the battle of who’s got the last say! It might be him but with me boiling/steaming angry inside.

And so I am still a work-in-progress. God gives me opportunities to practice. Practice makes perfect. By the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, children of God are called to sanctification – a process of being more and more like Jesus. It does not end until our last breath on earth. It is not a smooth road of pure success and no struggle. It is not by might nor by power, but only by My Spirit, says the Lord.

And so dear fellow travellers on this similar journey, let us draw encouragement to obey God in making our marriage a God-honoring offering:
Husbands, love your wife. Wives, respect your husband.

Goodbye 2017. Hello 2018.

 

People rushing in all directions.. in suits, in jeans, with suitcases, with child, deep in thought, talking on the phone…

This is the scene at the train station.

Where are they going? What are they thinking? Who are they meeting? How are they feeling? When will they arrive? Why there n not here? Why today n not tomorrow?
Heavy luggage or light? Big bag or small? What’s in the bag? Why bring them? Are they bringing it back or giving it away?

Travel light.. in life or on vacation, it is wise to travel light. Why?
The journey is faster if the burden is lighter. It is easier to go up or down the stairs when your luggage is smaller. Luggage with wheels better in plain smooth path than rough uneven roads.

In life, travel light. Leave your cares behind, regrets, anger, bitterness, disappointments, frustration.. they are excess baggage that you have to pay heavily in your travel .. the more kilos, the more fees. People with heavy baggage are weighed down by the past. They missed the present n worry about the future.

Today is the last day of 2017. What heavy load am I dragging with me? Time to leave them behind. What is preventing me from travelling light? Bitterness? Unforgiving spirit? Regrets? Are these essentials for going forward? What good is it to bring along the what-could-have-beens or the if-onlys? Can this turn back the clock and make things better?

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What to do instead? Unload… discard the non-essentials… throw away the negatives… pack only the essentials.

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Move forward in faith, hope and love. Only these 3 last. And the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

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Goodbye 2017. Hello 2018. Let me go forward in faith, hope and love.

As you enter the unknown future, you may need faith to meet its challenges

Let me love God with all my heart, mind and soul. Let me love my neighbour as myself. So help me, God.