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

The Why’s and How’s of Foot-washing

John 13:1-5, 12-17
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
1When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

In Jesus’ time, it was customary for people to have their feet washed by servants of the house when they eat together. They wore sandals and their feet get dusty walking from place to place. It was a hospitable gesture for the host to prepare that his guests would have clean feet before dining.

When Jesus had the last supper with his disciples before going to the the cross, they had no servant to wash their feet. So Jesus took off his outer garment, put on a towel around his waist to wash and dry his disciples’ feet – 24 of them. He was their Master. They called him Teacher. Yet, the teacher washed the students’ feet.

Jesus knows who he is. He is the Son of God sent to earth with a mission. He is secure in his identity, his power and purpose (vv. 1, 3). A person of esteemed status who knows his worth does not mind doing the job of the lowly. The Master became the servant because He loved his disciples. He wanted to teach them to love one another. Humility and servitude are essentials to authentic love.

It’s been more than a year that we are without a maid at home. Hubby, our kids and I share house chores. We serve one another in love – taking out the trash, washing dishes, cleaning the toilet, doing laundry. There is one job I do not relish – disposing of dead cockroaches or lizards. 😃 But I love my family. I realized, practice makes perfect. The more I love, the more I get better at serving my family.

In the pandemic, we (our neighbors) decided to take turns giving food to our guards to keep them safe from Covid. And so this gives us (my children and I) opportunities to serve our security guards by preparing and bringing them food.

Today, I might be a mom, an elder sister, an employer or someone in higher authority and status than others. I can imitate Jesus – serve others in love. Feet-washing is humbling. What lowly acts of love do I offer to people around me? How can I brighten a face with a smile and lighten a load from the heart of someone who needs love?

Feet-washing is more than a physical act of service. It comes from a heart of love – love of the Father and love for others. May the love of God and man compel me to serve in humility. I pray the same for you, my friend. Let Jesus inspire you to wash the feet of another today.

The If’s and When’s of Life

The If’s and when’s of life…

What if I get sick… what if I fail the exam… what if I don’t get the job… what to do when there’s not enough money to pay bills… where to turn when relationships break down… how to cope when death knocks at the door?

The Bible does not have a clear-cut answer for each ‘if’ and ‘when’ of life. One thing it tells us – Do not worry about all these things. (See Matthew 6). Instead pray. Oh, but many of us pray. When? When life is hard and problems come, we get on our knees, we ask for prayers.

King Solomon said a prayer for all the ‘ifs’ and ‘whens’ he could ever imagine in his time. Read 1 Kings 8 and see how he prayed for the ‘If’ and ‘When’: all the ‘bad and sad’ harsh realities in life: sin (v.31,46), wars, conflicts (v.33), natural calamities (v.35), sickness (v.37) etc. Was he not the richest, wisest, most glorious king in the history of Israel? The Bible says there was peace and great prosperity during his reign. (1 King 4, 5:4) Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple he built for God. His prayer was not the typical ‘celebrative’ prayer.

Why ‘if’ and when ‘when’? ‘If’ means something ‘might’ or ‘might not’ happen. When is a matter of time – ‘when’ things happen. Regardless, Solomon prayed because he wanted God to be ‘present’ in his temple. He acknowledged that God is awesome, loving and kind; too big to be in the house he built (v.23,28). Solomon knew the realities of life and living life… of man’s sinful nature. He understood how nature works: drought, famine, sickness are part of life. Solomon realized man can only live and overcome these challenges by the hand of God. He grasped the importance of having God ‘hear from heaven‘ (vv.30,32,34,36,39,43,45), ‘forgive‘ (vv.30,34,36,39,50) and ‘maintain the cause‘ (v.45,49) of the ‘pray-er’.

Today, we can pray like Solomon. We pray for the ‘ifs’ and ‘whens’ – for the not so good even in the midst of prosperity and blessings. It is not being pessimistic or fatalistic. We pray because we want God to be with us whatever we’re going thru. We pray because we need his forgiveness if and when we sin, when we make him sad, when we offend our neighbors. We pray because God alone can maintain our cause. He alone makes the impossible, possible.

We pray each of us knowing the affliction (sin) of our hearts:
God, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all our ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men, that we may fear You all the days of our life. (vv.39-40)

Lord, hear in heaven, make me Your dwelling place in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name. (v.43)

A Lighthouse in the Storm

When in the storm, when shipwrecked, when hungry, when in danger, what would you do? What did Paul do? He encouraged other people.

Read Acts 27. Paul was on a boat going to Rome – to be handed over to Caesar – to be tried as a prisoner. They had been sailing for quite sometime already. Then the weather turned bad. Paul warned them that “our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion – the one in charge of Paul and fellow prisoners would not listen and followed the words of the captain and owner of the ship instead.

So they were shipwrecked. All the people in the boat were getting hopeless and hungry. What did Paul do? He encouraged them:

22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

What an encouragement! To encourage others when – even when he needed encouragement himself. Paul could encourage others because he was encouraged by God. His close relationship with God and his firm sense of calling and deep commitment to the gospel compel him to not give up – to embolden others – even as he was strengthened by the God who called him.

When life is not easy, we too can be like Paul. We too have God who calls to us – Do not be afraid. We can emulate Paul and personalise his story into our own situation:

Do not be afraid, Marlene. You must (fill in the blanks with the things that discourage me, things that i must do for which I need courage, trials I must face for which only God’s grace can see me through). Think about what God has graciously done for me in the past.

And think how I am going to encourage others with the encouragement that I get from the Lord. And ponder upon how I am going to comfort others with the comfort that I receive from the Lord.

This my friend is the way of a follower of Jesus – to be an encourager in the storms of life.

God is Present: Hope in Such a time as this

This morning, I woke with a sense of sadness and helplessness.
sad for suffering & grieving friends.. sadder still that there seems to be nothing I can do to lessen the suffering or the grief..

In the past 2 days, bad news abound one after the other. A friend lost both parents within 5 days. My ninong lost his nephew. More friends and their families are testing positive, in isolation, in quarantine, in hospitals, in pain, in fear, in anxiety, in grief.

A friend/colleague of my Abi is re-admitted, hospitalised again. This compassionate doctor returned to work even when she was not completely well because her colleagues are overworked and the hospital understaffed.

Amidst the sadness, I find hope in the stories I read from the Bible this morning. The stories of Joseph, of David and Goliath are very familiar ones. Yet these words stood out for me today:
“The Lord was with Joseph.” (Gen. 39:2,3,5,21,23)
“The Lord was with David.” (1 Sam. 18:12, 14, 28)

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. Alone in a strange land, from a favored son, he became a slave. From being a trusted servant, he became a prisoner for a crime he did not commit.

David just killed Goliath. He was Saul’s servant and musician. Saul got jealous of David coz people praised David for killing more than Saul did. He sought to kill David. Saul became more afraid of David because he knew God was with David. (1 Sam. 18:12, 28, 29)

God’s presence: this is my hope. Emmanuel, God with us. This Christmas name holds true today and always. God is present in such a time as this. How do I know? I know because I see God in these suffering souls. These friends and families who are in pain and in grief, they pray on, they fight on, they stand firm, they stand tall because they believe God is with them in their sufferings.

How do I know? I asked. How are you these days?

Here is the answer:

I’m stable but in pain. It feels like a dog with sharp teeth is biting …. n won’t let go. I’m surviving thru much prayers, esp at night when I can’t lie down. God is good. He makes me sleep when I’m exhausted. I’m truly thankful for that.

God is good. He is with my friend. That is my hope in such a time as this.

Longing for Heaven

I used to long for Jesus to come sooner… why? So I would not need to face the sad, depressing, frustrating, disappointing, upsetting stuffs in my life! Not a very positive longing… just a cowardly escaping…

I also heard so many pleas or prayers of elderly people for God to take them – ‘quickly please, Lord’.
It is rare or even never to hear of such prayer from people who are enjoying the good life on earth, is it not?

How different should a Christian’s perspective about this longing for heaven be?

Paul’s answer: 2 Corinthians 5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Perspective: The Temporal vs The Eternal

5 For we know that if the earthly tent (our earthly physical body) which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Paraphrase: While on earth, we are to be always of good courage, walking by faith, not by sight, of good cheer even (even though longing to be with the Lord), to have as our ambition – whether here or there, to be pleasing to God. Why? Because we must all appear before God one day for His verdict – whether what we do here on earth – good or bad, we will be ‘recompensed’ (compensated, repaid, rewarded) accordingly. Recompense means compensation or reward given for loss or harm suffered or effort made.

Application: When life is tough, be brave. Look forward with hope to heaven… that someday all these sufferings will be gone. This hope spurs us on to face the challenges with courage and joy to overcome, not with cowardice, fear and anxiety to run away!

I wrote the above piece 2 years ago today… before Covid happened! Today, it is a timely reminder for me… a hopeful assurance that one day, when Jesus returns, all the sufferings of this world will end. This hope enables me to live each day, step by step, moment by moment with good courage.. walking by faith, not by sight.. that amidst the trying times, God has given us the Spirit as pledge to overcome the world and all its challenges!