Where We Look

Suppose you are lost in a crowd, are you more likely to ask for directions from one who looks confused or composed? Some things don’t change. Looks matter. Appearance communicates so why not make the most of it? Hollywood stars know that and they use it to get rich. We rely on what we observe to assess and decide just like movie goers, scientists, doctors, cook, executives, children and adults do.

Granted that we are not to “judge a book by its cover,” but neither would ignoring appearance ensure that we make good judgement. It is actually against nature. We are given eyes to see. Fishermen look at the clouds and the color of the sky before heading out to the water. Jewelers look beyond the surface to see if a gem is genuine. Looks tell a lot, not just your age or form, but your preference, lifestyle, emotional state, personality, even your past, health, religion, and capability. So instead of discounting what we see, be better at it. Humans are definitely more complicated than clouds and gems. That thought should make us less gullible and more cautious of what we think we see and what people say about us. One needs knowledge of both the outer and inner person in order to make good assessment of anybody. How are we doing?

God has a purpose beyond what we can see. “Go to the ant, observe her ways and be wise.” Proverbs 6:6 They “are creatures with little strength, but they prepare their food in the summer.” Shrewd ants are in charge of their lives though they contend with creatures zillion times bigger. There’s 20 quadrillion of them of earth! How did that happen?

Probably the greatest problem lies with us, not others. We are still prone to misjudge ourselves and believe our harshest critics. The boom of surgical beauty, sex reassignment clinics, rapid fashion trend cycles all point to our discomfort with ourselves and dependence on how people perceive us. As a result, some would resort to suicide due to the pressure it brings.

If i need to imitate another’s look, sex, skill, lifestyle, to feel validated and fulfilled, then I have become someone’s slave in some ways. Not a good trade off and certainly not truthful. We tend to emphasize the parts we want people to notice, or thought they would. We alter the parts we do not like, hiding our insecurity. Always, God emphasizes the heart more than the appearance, character than charm, wisdom than riches, ability than recognition. The irony is that a beautiful heart is eventually reflected in the appearance anyway. And for a bonus, rest assure God sees the heart, the real us,

There are societies and people who need new pairs of glasses. Others just need more time to mature in discerning. We can educate them where to look as we educate ourselves where to look, what to emphasize, for one’s real worth and power. What’s unseen is often more crucial and long lastiing. Furthermore, at times the difference between junk and treasure is time. So, give it time and careful nurturing to every part of your body, Soon, inner qualities get discovered, understood, and expressed. Bottom line, no one is created by mistake. God creates no ambiguity or junky, insects included. Instead, like the ants, we have qualities surpassing common expectations. Knowing this, you may now stop living in “what ifs”, or in things that would soon be past and debunked. Emphasize what is eternal to be someone that fascinates the longer people get to know you.

Quick check: Is there an inner quality you have that needs emphasis today?

Fr. Goodbye to See you later!

What to think of death? Medically, death is the termination of all functions of life up to the cellular level. However, its salient impact and relevance would be the cultural ones. “Death” is found in all languages. In particular is “Wang” which means death in Chinese. It connotes destruction, departure or elimination. Surely, this cut throat designation conveys a gut wrenching event. “Extinction” best capture its finality and horror as archeologists refer to the dinosaurs’ demise. Maybe that is why death is often used as a weapon against one’s enemy, or as a way to deal with emptiness, to self-punish for guilt or a dare to pain in defiance thru suicide.

How have we so misunderstood and misused death. We use it to solve our problems, when it is the problem we need to solve. Many have tried. There’s the quest for a fountain of youth, others try philosophy. It is explained as a release from this evil world achieved thru endless cycles. But this is like going under the knife multiple times till one pays it all and gets it right. Isn’t that endless pain, not endless life?

Some soften it by regarding it as “passing from this world.” But if it is mere passing, do we reappear somewhere? If it is cessation of cellular functions, I better eat healthy. If it is extinction, I’ll worry less about doing the right thing and just enjoy myself. If in death there is no longer any consciousness, then I’ll use it to end my troubles. But if there is a continuation, then where is it and how much time do I have to prepare? “Becoming one of the stars” lifts the heart in bereavement. Holding someone’s memory forever in one’s heart warms the cold reality. But what kind of existence is that? These euphemisms attempts to make sense of life, to help us overcome the pain. These do not assuredly tell us what lies ahead, but somehow they provide a relief from the grief of losing a loved one, and the agony of the unknown, of not seeing them again.

The end is the end. What more is there to talk about? Right? But I beg to differ. Death is part of one’s life, though it comes at the end. Not giving it importance is like watching a movie that is suddenly cut, it’s meaningless. The fact is though the future is unknown, death is not. A good ending comes from knowing it’s coming and developing it. Write it into your life, but how?

O death, where is thy sting. Death is the last enemy. By His stripes we are healed.

Jesus actually predicted, planned, preached and prepared for His own death and resurrection. He changed everything about death and how we too can prepare to enter the land of the living, not the dead.

Instead of theorizing or romanticizing death, be down to earth, grounded in evidence. This is where the Easter story is pivotal to our understanding of death. To date, the resurrection of Christ is one of the best attested historical event by scholars, both Christian and non-Christian. What awaits after death is no longer a mystery, but a tangible hope echoed in “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies.” Thus, the resurrection has changed billions of lives from one of despair to hope, from meaningless to purposeful, from goodbye to see you later. Easter is where death becomes a continuation of our existence, not the end. Like a door one enters into another room. the story does not end with death. Jesus uniquely used the metaphor of sleep. Lazarus was dead for four days, but Jesus said He would wake him up from sleep. Lazarus came back to life. Finality becomes temporary. Death becomes temporary to all who believe.

In an age where certainty is frowned upon, absolute truth is replaced by relativity, and faith is regarded as unscientific, there is still no answer, and therefore no end to pain. Death is a fact, it hurts, it disrupts, and facts do not care about feelings, status, gender or age. But then there’s the fact of the resurrection. Then what?

Quick check:  November 2, 2023 is All Souls' Day. What are your thoughts after reading this? How does your idea of death 
hold up? What makes you certain of it?  

Small step: Rest in peace" is comforting only if you 
have found peace already.
Have you made the peace?

* Reference: Gary Habermas, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?; Anthony Flew, “There is A God”; and https://www.bethinking.org/jesus/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-Christian Sources.

MOM is WOW, ……. but

. . . today, the image on the left may invite more raised brows than wows. Not saying that’s a concern for mothers to worry about, for why let others rather than your own needs determine your task? In reality, the needs of her children, marriage and family stare her in the eyes daily. Unless these things change, mothering is not going to be much different than the all around caring it has been. Start with the basic needs, have they changed?

It’s like the difference between garment factories and dressmaking. The former employees handle specific tasks in the multi-step process so most workers never get to put a whole garment together. There once was a factory worker who went to Europe and saw a doll on sale. She then realized all the strings she used to neatly pack was part of an electric doll sold in that boutique. Can you imagine her how she felt?

What we have done to mothering, parceling the tasks, as if that is the way to free mothers from mundane tasks in order to be fulfilled in life, is a sad attempt at improving something without thinking of its nature and consequences, thus emptying it of its true meaning and role. Is playing sports bad because you have to sweat? Mothering sure needs good helping hands. But are we making a doll or growing a child? Whereas the family was once at the center of society, which elevated the importance of parenting and home making, where once we held sacred the sacrifices of parents, and sang their praises, we now have a society that sees babies, children, husband, marriage and mothering as selfishness, backward, an injustice towards women, a hindrance to happiness, even a source of environmental crisis. Bashing motherhood serves no good purpose but to please the prejudiced, the ignorant, ignoble and ingrate. There are studies about styles of parenting on ways to avoid mistakes done in the past. It’s a better use of our time to be properly informed, support our mothers and enhance parenting for the next generation.

Making it bearable

Quick check: Have you met anyone who think negatively of motherhood? How can you help it?

The Christmas before New Year

It’s Christmas once again. “Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear,” John Lenon wrote. Is Christmas disappointing to you? To me, it is more like an anomaly, a burst of sunshine in a bleak horizon, a sound of hope, sweet and almost divine in a world moaning and groaning.

Compared to other seasonal celebrations, it is still what brings the most revenues for most businesses to cover for their losses in the low seasons. So far, it is the only time when soldiers in the field had willingly stopped the shelling and killing, even for just a day. It’s the time where more people smile in the street. Could it be the infectious joy of the carolers, the inspirng story of the manger, or the cheerful decorations? People give more generously too. Perhaps Christmas is a good reminder of giving love, more than the seeking love? This graciousness extends to forgiveness of those who hurt us, because it is the time when giving is the rule and not the exception, the expectation not suspicion, so that even the ones who feel loneliest at this time of the year would accept than reject kindness. Trust is on all time high. It is a time when anticipations for what’s wrapped under the trees reflect more innocence and trust than greed. And if the gift does not quite deliver, there is always a church somewhere where you can get a warm greeting.

More importantly, it is the Baby Gift that keeps on giving. If you had the chance to travel abroad at Christmastime, you would have noticed that Christmas has been transformed into a unique universal experience and language carried over oceans and mountains thru its enduring tradition made up of the gospel, storytelling, food, art, gifts, games, reunions, sights and sounds. Thus, at least, once a year, the world expresses her hope of a true and better future. That is the Christmas spirit in a nutshell. It aptly prepares the heart with spiritual gifts of faith, love and hope to enter the New Year. And that’s what I wish for every reader of this blog. Merry Christmas everyone.

Soul Rest

A gentle reminder: we do not carry the world on our shoulder

Restlessness leads to unrest.

Anger, anxiety, antipathy, avarice, acrimony, aggression, arrogance and antagonism could be flooding our society now. Do you know someone like that, or have you become an A-lister– someone so passionate about change, of changing others or the world, but then lost perspective, principle and personality? Some could be so afflicted that they become alarmist, antisocial agitators who cannot adjust? To think, most would agree that to live for a cause is good, caring is better. But when caring takes an ugly turn, then we may explode or implode.

There is a difference. Striving is part of healthy living, but not stressing or distressing. Even good people can still drown in compassionate care. No amount of coffee can lift a wilted, tired human spirit. Stress is now considered the cause of majority of our illnesses and social ills. Yet we are still more mindful of how we work, not how we rest, We make sure our work is well done, which is impossible when we are tattered and warped. We tend to jam more work into our free time, including our rest time. We are missing by a long shot, for our hurried rest has not even reached the inner soul.

Most people don’t realize, God is serious about rest. He is no taskmaster. Slavery is created by humans. It’s possible you are already enslaving yourself. In fact, the first decree God ever instituted was to maintain the health of the world by declaring the seventh day a day of rest. This rest is not just for man, but for their land, servants and animals too. Can you imagine the impact of this to human well being and our ecosystem if followed through?The Hebrew word for rest is Shabath, which means to stop working, with the goal of getting refreshed, like a battery getting recharged.

One who has accepted Jesus has ceased to labor to be accepted by the world.

One crucial factor affecting our rest is our spiritual condition. Interestingly, survey shows that compared to those who skipped, people who regularly worship on Sundays to fill their soul with Him during the pandemic scored higher in happiness and are more mentally fit.

“Come unto me all who are weary and burdened, and you will find rest for you soul, … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” You will notice that it does not mean emptying your mind, chanting, or just sleeping away. Essential rest is about timely nurturing the soul. It is a spiritual experience. His presence and His Word does that. Unique and doable,

“For everything there is an appointed time, and an appointed time for everything on earth.” Ecc 3:1

When the sun seems to stop smiling at us, we know we are spent.

At times we find it difficult to rest even if we want to. But note that to rest is a command, implying we will be enabled to do it if we choose it and do it His way. Life can be unpredictable, unfair, unforgiving. But it will just get worse if we know not how to rest. It actually happened a long ago when Noah invited the people to enter the ark. No matter how bad it looks, it is not yet the end of the world because His invitation to enter His rest still remains.

Short meditation for spiritual rest, choose from: Psalm 16, Jeremiah 29:11-13, I John 5:11, John 13:15; 6:47, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Mathew 6:19-34.

Let’s Be Happy 3

What’s a happiness spoiler for you? I’d like to invite you to delve deeper into the topic of happiness with the story below.

HAPPY FOURTH

An exchange student who fought to keep his country from turning into a communist regime asked a professor, “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?” Then he explained:

You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side.The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. Then you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but to no avail. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity. The young man told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America.

What’s wrong with eating your food? But what a way to live when we develop unhealthy dependency. To satisfy our needs, do we need to peddle our freedom and dignity, or let others abuse our safety and trust? Is there no other way?

Unfortunately, it is when we are down and out that we may fall for the easier way out. It gets worse when it is a national crisis like an epidemic, war, or a recession. It might be a timely reminder to say that Hitler used inflation as the single issue to buy the sympathy of people. Now, with the rise of inflation almost everywhere in the world, shouldn’t we be more careful how we navigate thru trying times? Do we just follow the crowd? Do we just go for the free stuff? Do we just believe promises? There are “nice” people who take advantage of others in dire times, especially those who use good intention to justify draconian means. In the end, good intention is just a mask. Happiness is spoiled.

May we not become a society addicted to flowery promises and unbelievable freebees. These stop when the flowery givers run out of other people’s money. The thing is both are addictive. “The instant gratification from dopamine it produces is a rewarding feeling like that produced by drugs. But dopamine also prevent us from learning that the reward is fleeting. It creates a learning resistance at the primal level of the brain as happens in gambling or social media by interfering with reward prediction. It overrides our self-awareness or reflection that a thing is damaging, deceptive or degrading, with an illusion that the reward is ever new and worth pursuing.

To remember Freedom day, what is one value worth remembering and guarding for you?

Indeed, nothing is free including life, liberty and happiness. There is an “economic” side for happiness. But the price of true happiness is beyond material and temporal. Jesus succinctly asked, what wold you give in exchange for your soul?

As mentioned at the beginning, I am inviting you to delve deeper. Is this too convicting? Or, have you made an awful exchange already somewhere, somehow? Don’t panic. You are not alone. The Bible told the story of Esau who, famished from hunting, sold his birthright to younger brother cook Jacob, in exchange for a bowl of his porridge. What an exchange and loss. Did he think of himself a beast? Unfortunately, many are going to make choices out of fear, ignorance, or for instant gratification, due to haste, a dopamine rush, a mistaken feeling, a wrong belief, pride, misplaced trust, naive expectation, compromised social values, which plunge them into greater losses, moral failures, and spoiled, lifetime of unhappiness. Whether you are the instigator or the receiver, it does not have to end in tragedy.

Einstein once said, “Genius is 1% talent, and 99% hard work.”

By now, you would have realized the transactional nature of happiness, and learn to choose the good ones, for transactions are not created equal. Ignoring this warning is how some get tricked into being nice and trusting but end up very sorry. That is why we are given freedom of thought so we can discern to choose to keep it or toss it, use it or lose it, buy it or test it, wait for it or work for it. I am not saying if you do good you would only be rewarded good. For even good people suffer. Rather, we eventually reap what we sow. Losing some sleep to finish a project, giving up sweets for health, forgiving to heal, or painstakingly pray for a wayward child. The examples are endless. Based on Matthew 6:33, the solution may not be as hard or too late as it seems. It says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Then all these things shall be added unto you.” If we stop for a moment and analyze this basic exchange, we would notice a different exchange that promotes happiness.

Small Step: So when the world is unkind and spinning out of control, do I turn into swine or a saint, a person made in God’s image? How would my response show it?

What About My Truth?

If I can be someone just by claiming it, why settle for less than God? Now-a-days, truth has a new rival. It’s called “my truth.” Is that a problem? Well, what we once refer to as my point of view, my experience, my story or my take is now hollowed, elevated from the subjective to almost the absolute, from the personal to a subtle sacredness, such that mere countering “my truth” becomes a serious personal affront. It is bolted by another destructive myth called entitlement. It means rights without responsibility. Granted, one’s needs and perceived unjust treatments should be heard, but can one justly demand it be accepted at face value? Since when is one’s claim a proof in itself, and since when is any truth protected from scrutiny? In all honesty, are you comfortable with believing something you are not allowed to cross-examine?

Am I the only one bothered by this? Don’t we know from experience that we are all susceptible to biases? You might have heard of confirmation bias, self-serving bias, culture bias or in-grown bias, to name a few. Can a 21st century person end up biased? Sure he can.

The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so – Mark Twain

And the more we try to find fulfillment and answer, the more we are tempted to changing reality to favor us, instead of confronting our problems and inadequacies with long rigorous research and sound reasoning. Instead of due process, we use undue speed. I am amazed at how even highly educated people put comfort before conscience, degree before dignity, progress before principle, empathy before evidence, profit before people, votes before victims, compliance before science. In so doing, we end up confusing my truth with the truth, prevention with purging, fact with feeling, compassion with compromise, authenticity with mere sincerity, examination with experimentation, reality with ideology.

A society that denies objective truth finds itself standing on shifting ground. Often, the children suffer the most.

Truth takes time. Early in life I tried to find the truth of the matter since I didn’t like being fooled. Children often ask why. Turns out that is a skill that safeguards what matters. Children get rules, then they ask why. Meaning what you say is another demand they have. Later on, I learned that clarity, objectivity, rationality, consistency, and certainty are also characteristics of truth. These are essential to shaping one’s mind, and consequently, one’s life. But there’s more.

Personal “truth” is not the truth. The latter does not change with time, person or place. You know why? Because it is based on basic human nature and need. And these do not change. For this, truth is comprehensive. It has the full in view, weeding out partiality and omission. That means you get the head and tail, not just bits and pieces when you form your judgment. It is the only way to weed out biases, like the picture of the cub below. That is why truth does not avoid cross examination, and it stands the test of time.

One such test is the reality check. If our ideas do not match with reality, isn’t that a definition of insanity? Indeed, some have become insane from being “over-educated” believing that re-framing changes reality for everybody. Take the example of a rose. May I call it red? A rose will still be a rose by any other name, because a rose is not a social nor personal construct, but a real object. One grave result of fudging with reality is we end up losing ourselves. Sad to say, mental illness is on the rise especially among the youth.

Truth does not change.

We were not here before we were born. We won’t be here after we die. So how can we be the source of truth? Truth is not inborn, fortunately, we can know the truth. And to be on truth’s side, you must be wiling to hate lying to others and to yourself.

He was crucified when He spoke the truth. Living out the truth is not for the fainthearted.
Don’t Give up...because Truth wins eventually

Quick Check: Am I aware of my own biases? Since truth is not of human nature, how open am i to challenging “my truth” ? Am I afraid to ask, to be challenged, to debate, and to change when proven wrong?

New Year, what’s new?

Good day and welcome to Flight 2022. We are prepared to take off into the New Year. Please make sure your Positive Attitude and Gratitude are secured and locked in the upright position. All self-destruct devices; pity, anger, selfishness and resentment should be turned off at this time. All negativity, hurt and discouragement should be put away. Should you lose you positive Attitude under pressure during this flight, reach up and pull down a prayer. Prayers will automatically be activated by Faith. Once your Faith is activated, you can assist other passengers who are of little faith. There will BE NO BAGGAGE allowed on this flight. God, our Captain has cleared us for take-off. Destination – GREATNESS! Wishing you a New Year filled with new HOPE, new JOY and new BEGINNINGS! Stay Blessed and welcome in 2022. Hope you had a nice Christmas. Ist day of January. Very sunny in SD. (author anonymous)

Maybe you are done with new year’s resolution. And please, not another new variant of the virus.

I know. How’s about this, just a refreshing  take off?

One new attitude puts you in the new year. 

“Not that i have attained it, but one thing I do: forgetting things behind and reaching out for what’s ahead for me in Christ Jesus.” St. Paul

Happy Holiday? Hmm…

I like to call it by its proper name, Christmas. Proper name shows respect and recognition. It’s Independence Day, not just holiday. Or Mary, not just woman. It is heartwarming to receive a Christmas wish the way it has inspired countless musicians to write soul rousing songs. “O Holy Night” “Mary Did You Know” “Joy to the World” are so so good. That does not happen with “Holiday” no matter how many “Happy” we put in front of it.

This Christmas, I decorated before Thanksgiving, to have more time to enjoy its message. I guess this is the real reason why. Christmas is huge so that a day or a week to enjoy and talk about it is not enough. Whereas we so much need to be lifted up in spirit. Have you heard of the little known story of the Magi which says they did not see the baby Jesus until January 6? I’d say why not prolong the celebration of hope till then? Surely a pandemic year would not reject the idea of spreading more hope and good cheer. Shall we then say it like it is?

Be filled with the joy and peace of Christmas throughout the year.