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

To Work or To Pray

Question, have you ever felt too busy to pray? too tired or sleepy? too noisy or distracted? worried or perhaps too self-sufficient to pray? Me too.. all of the above!

In Mark 1:35-39, we read why, how, when and where Jesus prayed.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Mark started the gospel with Jesus’ baptism and temptation, then his teachings in the temple, and his calling of Simon and Andrew. He cast out demons, healed the sick including Simon’s mother-in-law. From morning till night (v. 32), Jesus did a lot of work. He’s tired and went to bed. Then ‘very early in the morning, while still dark‘ Jesus got up and went to a solitary place: somewhere quiet to pray. He left the house, and everyone to be alone with God. He did not want any distraction. Simon and company went looking for Jesus. Why? Because everybody was looking for Him! They wanted more miracles – more work for Jesus.

What did Jesus say to that? “Let us go somewhere else.” Why not stay in the place where you’re popular? Why leave? SO I can preach there ALSO. That is WHY I COME.

Jesus prayed to sustain His work. He knew His mission: why He came to this world. He did not stay in one place to enjoy the ‘fans.’ Jesus moved on.

The more successful the ministries, the more fruitful the work for God, the more there is the need to pray. Prayer is talking to God one on one – in the place of solitude and priority. Do I go from place to place, from task to task, from one person to another, that I miss lingering in the presence of God? The crowd, the likes, the worries, the issues and challenges of life keep me from praying. People’s praises, my busy-ness and self-sufficiency distract me from experiencing God in prayer.

Be like Jesus, seek God even as the people seek after you. Work then pray. Pray then work.

Remembering Moments of Grace; Thankful to the God of Grace

A journal of thanksgiving for moments of grace written the day after I was discharged from the hospital for my ankle surgery.

About 8 weeks prior to this day, my mom had just passed away. My dad was grieving and deteriorating quickly – unable to eat properly. I broke my ankle because I was groggy from taking sleep aids for my sleep problem. I was often anxious, sad and grieving.. 3-in-1 the combi state of of mind for a mental/emotional breakdown.. Amidst these scenarios, here’s what I wrote:

You’re in heaven still praying for me. Please help me to be brave and learn the lessons the Lord wants me to learn.

July 22, 2016
I used to take for granted the freedom to go to the toilet and pee anytime I need to. I could go to poop whether little urge or not.. no harm to try. Now it’s so much effort – I need to learn patience to wait and wait and wait so as not to waste the effort – the exertion of moving from bed to wheelchair, from wheelchair to the toilet seat; not to waste waking/interrupting the sleep of Abi, not to put her effort of helping me transfer from seat to seat, to push me to the toilet, to hold my leg up, to prop it on the stool..
I thank you Lord for my family. Andrew keeps telling me how much he loves me, holding my hair, kissing me on the forehead, holding my hand, hugging me.

Thank you for Han who helps me take my bath, prepares my clothes, my toiletries, help bring me to the chair in the shower, put on the plastic bag to cover my leg – carefully taping the masking tape to seal the hole, getting behind me to get the water in the right temperature, the right volume so as not to splash all over the floor outside the shower cubicle, for washing my hair, rinsing it, soaping my back, rinsing it, for helping me stand and wiping my behind, for helping me put on my underwear, my clothes, for getting herself wet and help me finish my bath before taking her own. Even Abigail did the same – and they don’t mind that they get wet again even after they had already taken their bath.

Thankful that Han and Abs wake so quick at the slightest call. Thank you Lord that you gave Han the strength to go to work when needed, and to take leave just to help take care of me during the 3 days stay at the hospital. Thankful for Abs’ care during the night – to get up to help me get on the commode, to throw the urine in the toilet and clean it herself even though she could let the nurses or nursing aide do it. Thank u Lord that she can get right back to sleep after all that’s needed to help me. (Abi just started her 3rd year at med school. She and Han took turns caring for me at night. God’s timing is perfect.)

I’m so touched, on her own initiative she brought the Eskinol for me to wipe my face during the stay in the hospital knowing that it’s my nightly routine.

I wanted to make things simple – didn’t want to be too burdensome. But when nurses outside don’t respond after pressing and pressing the button, even 30 minutes after replying that he’s coming but did not, what else to do but to wake your own sleepy child to help you. It’s alright. She gladly does it – even beyond what I asked her to. She loves me. It’s ok – I’m her mom – I took care of her when she was young – when she didn’t even know how to ask for my help.

It’s alright to ask help and receive love from my child. Even though I thought that me at 54 and they about or less than half my age, it’s too early for them to be taking care of me. Shouldn’t it be more in the distant future?

Re-reading this story reminds me God is gracious. In whatever circumstance, I need to be thankful and mindful of small moments of big grace… big things come in small packages if only we’re attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit to teach us godly contentment and gratitude to the God of grace.

To be like a Child

King David does not strike me as a proud man. So I was intrigued when he said: My heart is not proud, Lord. My eyes are not haughty. (Psalm 131:1a). It does not seem like a humble man to say of himself as being not proud, is it? I used to believe that humility is something one loses when he thinks he has it.

But wait, he said something else after this first statement that helps to explain the context – where he’s coming from when he said he’s not proud. He said: I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. (131:1b)

In v. 1, David prayed: Lord. That he addressed God as Lord, showed his submission before a greater person. David was not ‘ambitious.’ In simple terms, he did not strive to understand great matters – things that are beyond his understanding… things too wonderful for him to comprehend.
v. 2 gives us further context – that of contentment. Contentment of a weaned child. What does that mean? What is a weaned child? Why did David use that metaphor?

What is the significance of weaning a child in the Bible? Gen. 21:8

Answer: According to Jewish custom, the time when a child is weaned is cause for celebration. A weaned child has survived the fragile stage of infancy and can now eat solid food rather than breastfeed from his or her mother. (https://www.gotquestions.org/weaning-child-bible.html)

To be weaned like a child is to be off the needs of this world. To be off the need for significance, for affirmation, for self-righteousness and self-reliance. A weaned child is content in his mother’s arms. He knows he will be given solid food instead of his usual milk.

There are four significant themes in the 3 short verses. First is that of pride. David confidently prayed that he is not proud – not in his heart nor in his eyes. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Matt. 12:34b) When I read haughty eyes, what comes to mind is looking down on others. Haughty eyes imply that I am better than you are. David was neither proud nor haughty. He was the humble shepherd boy who fought Goliath in the name of his God who helped him fight the lions to protect his sheep. He was the humble servant and musician of King Saul. He spared Saul’s life time and time again even when Saul tried to kill him.. even when he was already anointed by Samuel to be king to replace Saul.

Second word is ambition. David does not think important to know all there is to know, to understand things that are beyond him. He neither had ambition to fight a giant nor to become a king. Why?

Contentment: Because he is content like a weaned child. Godliness with contentment is great gain. When has a weaned child ever sought to be wise, all-knowing, powerful and influential? There is calmness and quiet in the soul when there is contentment… no striving, no struggling, no contentious spirit.

Pride is at the heart of man. We are all proud by nature. Even in our good works and ministry in the name of God, even as we know the value of God’s approval, perhaps we seek more the approval of men. We might even think more of ourselves than what God thinks of us. Adam was lured into wanting to be like God. Pride and ambition often get us into a state of dissatisfaction, of anxious striving and chasing after the wind.

Contentment is being at peace like a weaned child – getting satisfaction and peace from knowing that his needs are taken care of. As God’s children, we are called to dependence on God for all our needs and wants. We trust and we rest.

Finally, we declare our hope. We know it is possible to attain such state of complete peace. We call on others to go on the road with us in hope… hope in the Lord who provides us with everything that we need and call us to be everything that we hope to be.

Psalm 131
A song of ascents. Of David.

1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

A House for the Lord; A Heart for God

King David loved God. He wanted to build a house for the Lord – a temple where the ark of the Lord could stay. The ark of covenant represented God’s presence. During the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the promise land, the ark was in the tent of tabernacle; constantly being moved from place to place.

But God told David that he was not the one to build Him a house. Instead, God promised David that his son would be the one to build as He will establish his throne forever. (1 Chron. 17:4, 12)

Even as he would not build God’s house, David prepared for it. How?
1 Chronicles 22
vv. 2-4: David prepared builders and building materials from the iron for the nails, more bronze than could be weighed to more cedar logs that could be counted.

v. 5 David reasoned that his son, Solomon was young and inexperienced for the task as “the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations.”

vv. 6-14 David prepared and called Solomon for the task.
1) God’s promise: David shared God’s desire to his son. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ (vv. 9-10)

2) David’s Prayer: David prayed for his son to claim God’s promise to grant him success for the task. He prayed for the Lord to give Solomon wisdom so he may keep the law of the Lord. David assured his son that he would have success if he is careful to obey God. He encouraged Solomon to be strong and not be afraid. (vv. 11-13)

3) David’s charge to the people: David called upon the leaders of Israel to support and help Solomon in the task of building the temple. Is not the Lord your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has given the inhabitants of the land into my hands, and the land is subject to the Lord and to his people. Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.” (vv.18-19)

From beginning to end, it’s all about the Lord, his God: The Lord’s presence (v.18), the Lord’s promise (v.9-10), the Lord’s provision of land and rest (v.9,18). At the heart of all of David’s preparations is his “heart and soul devoted to seek the Lord”…. “for the Name of the Lord.” (v.19)

How is my heart? What motivates me in the things that I do? For whom am I doing all that I do each day? Why am I doing what I do? Where do I draw strength to keep doing? Is the Lord, my God in all of them?

Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me to seek and love you fully for your glory. Amen.

Burnout But Not Out

Burnt-out, stressed out, depressed, suppressed – hoping to die….

Even the great prophet, Elijah experienced burnt-out and wished to die! Read 1 Kings 19:4. He said “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

Why? What happened? Let’s go back in time.

v. 3 He was afraid and ran for his life. Why?
v. 1-2 Queen Jezebel just assured him that she will kill him like he killed all the prophets. What prophets?

Elijah vs 450 prophets of Baal… Elijah killed all of them. Read all about the dramatic battle: God vs Baal on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. Elijah even outran Ahab in his chariot to Jezreel after this great victory.

What great strength and power! What happened before that? 1 Kings 17 recorded that there was a great drought/famine when Elijah first appeared. So how did God provide for Elijah? Elijah was fed by ravens. Imagine having your meals of bread and meat delivered by ravens! Elijah drank from the brook till it dried up. What next?!

God sent him to a poor widow in Zarepath. So after having fed by ravens, he was fed by a poor widow getting ready to have her last meal with her son and preparing to die! God really works in mysterious ways.

Some thoughts to ponder:
1) Elijah’s story started with famine/drought. Before that, 1 Kings 16 recorded evil kings one after the other until King Ahab – not better but even worse – (1+1) with a bad queen. When times are bad, God provides.

2) Elijah experienced God’s provisions – one day at a time, first by ravens, then by a poor widow. God provides in most unlikely places through most extraordinary means. Not by man’s standard of stability and security.

3) Experiences of God’s provisions/faithfulness help us to be equipped for greater task ahead. Elijah won a great victory against a big crowd of enemies: false prophets with a bad king and an evil queen.

4) Sometimes, it’s when you think you’re at the peak, there’s nowhere to go but down. Elijah – the brave warrior ran for his life at the word of a woman. He had enough – he was beat! He asked God to take his life! 1 Kings 19:1-4

5) What now? Sleep and food. Elijah fell asleep. Then an angel brought him food (2 times). on the strength of the food, Elijah traveled 40 days and 40 nights into the mountain of God. 1 Kings 19:5-8

6) After physical input, comes the spiritual replenishment. God spoke to Elijah on Mt. Horeb. God asked him ‘What are you doing here?’ Elijah enumerated his accomplishments. (1 Kings 19:10)

There was a great wind, a great earthquake and a fire. But God was not in all three. God came in a gentle whisper. In the gentle whisper, God asked again ‘What are you doing here?’ Again Elijah gave the same answer. v. 14.

God then gave him instructions what to do. He also corrected Elijah that he was not the only prophet left on God’s side. There were 7000 others loyal to God.

Spiritual nourishment comes in the form of subtle, soft whispers of God asking – what are you doing here?

What am I doing? Perhaps I feel burnt-out because I think I am all alone doing the job. Do I hear what God is telling me? What am I listening to? Where do I look for input when I’m out of output? Great wind? Great earthquake? Great fire? Perhaps I should look again or rather listen better!

Peace in the Pit and Prison of Life

From the pit to the prison to the palace… that about summed up the life of Joseph! Is that it? Nope… not quite…

He was 17 tending his father’s flock and sent to look on his brothers when he was thrown in the pit then sold to be a slave. He was sent to prison because he was falsely accused for sexual harrassment.

He regained his freedom at the age of 30 to be the 2nd in command of all of Egypt in the palace of Pharaoh. There was none like him – he had position and power, wisdom and wealth, fame and family.

At that point in time, we see how he felt when he named his sons: Gen 41:51-52 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said,

“It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

He saw God whether he was glad or sad; in both suffering and blessings.
It was said that life begins at 40! Joseph at 39, finally found peace and reconciliation with his brothers. He wept so loud everyone outside the palace heard him. It was such an emotional reunion. How did he feel to finally see the people his own blood, the very ones who sold him into slavery? How could he still hug and kiss them? How could he forgave them for all they’ve done? Because at the end of it all, Joseph sees God’s hand in everything. Joseph said to his brothers:

Genesis 45
And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

An abundant life does not consist of roses without thorns, smooth highways without valleys. Even a thorny life is beautiful and deep valleys are not total darkness when see behind the lens of a loving God.

Joseph at 40 saw and lived life as more than just places of pit, prison and palace. He lived his life in the presence of a loving God. He saw God’s hand moving and guiding. He witnessed God’s presence and share this presence with the people around him. He acknowledged God both in the good and the bad.

Where are you now in life? In a deep dark pit? Lonely, afraid, worried? Or perhaps in prison? Enslaved by pursuits of things that bring temporal satisfaction? Or maybe in a palace of the good life? In spite and despite every circumstance or whatever you are going through right now? Are you at peace? Shalom – the ultimate word for well-being.

Shalom is more than just simple peace; it is a complete peace. It is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony.

According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means health, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full. In modern Hebrew the obviously related word Shelem means to pay for, and Shulam means to be fully paid.

Jesus fully paid the price for peace – peace with God and peace with man. As Joseph lived a life of peace, let us live shalom because Emmanuel, God is with us… even in such a time as this.

Peace be with you, my friend.

Sabbath Rest

We live in a hectic world – our lives filled with schedules, appointments, things to do, bucket list, checklist, lists unending… Are we ever at rest – whether body, mind or soul?

Today, in the pandemic world, many are forced to rest. Many are out of job, parties and social gatherings are discouraged, lockdowns and quarantines, travel restrictions… all these made people slow down and rest. Yet are we really resting? Physically, maybe but not mentally, emotionally because many are anxious and thinking how to survive Covid.

Deut 5:12-15
‘Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.

Work is good and so is rest. God commanded His children to observe the sabbath. It is more than just one day of the week or not doing any work on this day. It is about setting aside a holy time to remember the Lord – the Lord who has done great things for us, the Lord leading us through life.

It is good to rest in the Lord, to take time to reflect and think of God’s goodness and faithfulness, to thank Him for His wonderful acts of grace and mercy in the daily details of our lives – things great or small. We need to rest our mind as much as we rest our body. To be still and know that He is God.

A restful and peaceful holy Sabbath to all!

Choices and Gifts

Everyday, we make choices… what to wear, what to eat, how to respond, what to say, what not to say. Unknowingly or knowingly, we make a choice which has its good or bad consequences. Actions or words from choices we make often stem from attitudes of the heart.

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Christians are to live and bear the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit calls us to love, to rejoice, to make peace, to be patient, to be kind, to be good, to be faithful, to be gentle and to self-control.

Choice of love or hate
We love actively: love our enemies by doing something good for them. Or do we love passively only when someone asks for our help

Choice of joy in gratitude or greed and ingratitude
We rejoice for the things we have. We seek out all the moments of grace- God’s grace with gratitude and find contentment. Or we can complain about the things we do not have. We can see the good out of the bad – what lessons we learn from mistakes; how we can grow strong and mature in faith in the challenges of life or we can wallow in self-pity and complain about the hardships.

Choice of peace or strife
We make peace and renounce violence and strife. Bonhoeffer said: “Jesus’ disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice.” We choose to be peacemakers instead of troublemakers.

Choice of Patience or anger; forgiveness or vengeance
We are patient when we are wronged. We respond in forgiveness rather than anger. We turn the other cheek instead of hitting back.

Choice of kindness or meanness; sympathy or apathy
We are kind to the needy and the poor. We give encouragement to the downhearted. We choose sympathy instead of apathy. We give with an open hand instead of being tightfisted.

Choice of goodness or giving in to our sinful nature
We choose to do good instead of giving in to our fleshly desires. We overcome evil with good.

Choice of faithfulness or giving up
We persevere in the handwork. We endure hardships – we do not give up our calling to be light and salt of the world.

Choice of gentleness or pride
We are meek – we follow Jesus who gave up the throne of heaven to become man like us. We overcome pride with gentleness.

Choice of self-control or addiction
We have self-control. We control our tongue. We guard against addictions of the world.

Practical gifts to share when we bear the fruit of the Spirit. These gifts do not cost a cent but they are products of the fruit-bearing process of the Spirit.

.. listen with understanding and not judging.

Be generous with appropriate hugs,
kisses, pats on the back, and handholds.
 Let these small actions demonstrate the 
love you have.

THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER… Share funny pictures, heartwarming stories, funny stories – even your own. 
Your gift will say “Come and laugh with me.”

It can be a simple
 “Thanks for the help” note or a love letter to your spouse, a prayer of blessing..
 A brief, handwritten note may be remembered
 for a lifetime, and may even change a life.

A simple and sincere: “You look great in red”; “You did a good job.”, “Thank you for a wonderful meal.”
 All these can make someone’s day.

Every day, go out of your way 
to do something kind. Be generous with your resources, time and effort – not just money.

There are times when we want nothing better
 than to be left alone.
Be sensitive to those times and give
 the gift of solitude to others.

THE GIFT OF PRESENCE… Just as people need time of solitude or being alone, they need companionship as well. Let them know that you are available to help or just be present to accompany you along the way in any challenge.

The easiest way to feel good is
 to extend a kind word to someone. 
Really, it’s not that hard to say,
Hello or Thank You. Or to encourage with a positive word and a simple smile.