1/21/2018

Love of Land


My parents' farms in our home province never grew on me. Not even with the happy memories of my growing up years with four siblings: we would watch crops being harvested, roll on haystacks or run around fields, and feast on newly roasted corn.

After my parents passed on and I had a family of my own, I washed my hands off those lands even if the onus fell on me, being the eldest. For one, I can’t grow anything, not even weeds I plant on purpose.

I abdicated and told my younger sister (who has gone back to live in our old home), I would go along with whatever she decides. But now, she is getting on in age, too, and is busy with church pursuits.

Thankfully, our youngest brother, Dave, has taken up the cudgels and recently supervised with his wife the planting of corn in one parcel and rice in another. He documented for us the corn growth process through photos and e-messages that my mind punctuated with exclamation points.

And now comes grace galore. It is harvest time!     

And I suddenly miss roasting and eating newly harvested corn (but not the land).

Only someone like Dave who treasures the great outdoors can watch any crop grow from sowing to reaping.

He would have done our parents proud.

As he awaits his rice harvest, I wrote Dave that whatever share I have from the produce (two other siblings echoed my sentiments) would go to the local church fund (Project Nehemiah it is called) so the parsonage could be built on another land that my grandparents bequeathed for the sole purpose of serving the Lord, Who in fact and in truth, owns every land anybody will ever till or “own.”

“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land . . . where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing . . .” Deuteronomy 8: 7-9 (NIV)       


1/17/2018

No Kyok


Ever heard of the word kyok before? Most likely not. It is archaic and not found in any dictionary. Yet members of our clan say it all the time, even if we don’t know exactly how it’s spelled.  
Kyok is a word that defined the attitude of six generations of us (huge now at over 400 members scattered all over the world), and shaped the way we perform today.

It was our grandfather's (lolo) command word during our family reunions, where the highlight was a talent show or program of sorts. He and our grandmother would place before the stage a batia (another archaic word that means, huge metal basin made from an old drum or large tin can, used for washing clothes).

Then they would sit in the front row with a bagful of coins.

As their children and grandchildren performed (dance, song, declamation, whatever), they would throw into the batia coins that clinked and clanged, encouraging the performers to do their best. 

Nobody was spared from performing. Lolo, with his autocratic Hispanic posture, would declare in Ilocano, "Awan ti kyok!" (Rough translation, “No kyok!”) Kyok means, cowardice to perform.  "No kyok” therefore translated to, “Perform or else!'  It didn't matter if your performance was not the best; what mattered was, you did your best, if only because you did it.

This led me to believe that business' just-do-it principle was inspired by my grandfather's "No kyok!”

The just-do-it corporate attitude, as defined in management books, means, "Start your work immediately, and get things done. Do not waste time doing unnecessary research or learning unnecessary skills. Do not squander time being shy and lazy, or indulging in wishful thinking."

Taking this further, "If you want to succeed in life, you have to work hard and create things using your talent. If you kyok, and do not take action when you should, you'll never succeed—your batia will be empty.” 

My grandparents being Christians lived this value from Philippians 4:13 (NLT), "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."

Such was the mindset of all the 206 reunionites (or clanistas) of all ages who attended our end-year-beginning-year 73rd reunion—not only on talent night, but also in all activities.

Chaired by a sub-clan whose members mostly live abroad, the reunion’s battle cry was still "No kyok!" And the batia (a modern version, since the old form has become extinct) clinked and clanged even more outrageously.   

It's amazing how this attitude, including the batia, lives on in us to this day. These photos show it all:

What grace is mine that I belong to this no-kyok clan! 

Group photo by nephew Egay
All others (collage) by nephew Pastor Jeff

1/13/2018

Getting to Know You


All the exhilarating essentials that make our clan look forward to our annual reunion was in place, except for one additional bonanza. Our 73rd reunion was hosted by the sub-clan whose over 30 members live in the US. And majority of them flew in to attend it!

This three-day-two-night event was planned entirely abroad. Except for some assistance from a local executive committee, everything—from the theme, logo, advertising, activities to communications—originated from across the miles. Social media made it all possible; it bridged all gaps.

It was Broadway time.

"Getting to Know You" from The King and I musicale served as a most fitting theme since many of the reunionites (or clanistas as we call ourselves) have not met the hosts for years, or at all.

Broadway it was, too, because one of our nieces is a Broadway star, who has played many major roles in different musicales over the years. Ali Ewoldt currently plays Christine Daae—the first Asian-American to be cast thus—in the long-running Phantom of the Opera

(Photo from Rodney Ingram's website)
We have a newsletter, edited by son #1, which details all activities, but because it has limited pages, it could not document all the untold grace through kin who came from all parts of the world.  Each one, therefore has his own heart newsletter, and this one’s mine.

The riot began at registration (total 206, an unprecedented number) when cousins, nieces, nephews, grannies, aunts and uncles—ages one year to 89—saw each other again. I, for one, could not believe that the cousins of my childhood were just a hug away, and my soul clock yo-yoed between the happy past and the happier present.

Ours is a competitive, no-kyok (this word deserves a separate post; for now, I’ll simply define kyok as, “Perform or else!”) clan and so everyone gave his all in the games, sports, talent night, videoke, etc. 

(The yellow team, to which I didn't belong, was the over-all champion in all events.)
(Top photo: Ali Ewoldt performing with her sub-clan.)
A solemn memorial/thanksgiving service officially opened the reunion, after which every good and noisy thing erupted. Divided into teams, our version of the Olympics began.

We have grown too big to fit our traditional love-circle into any hall. So we made do with a squiggly shape to re-enact for the 73rd time the “The Tie That Binds” (our hymnal battle cry) to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018.

Holding on together, we sang old favorites and after a thanksgiving prayer by our resident pastor, our oldest clanista started the electric handshake and then, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

And I sang . . .

Suddenly I 'm bright and breezy,
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I'm learning about you (all 200 plus of you!)
Day by day.   

Photos by nephews Egay and Noel

1/09/2018

555,555


I’ve waited for this number for some time. If only I could catch it, I wished, I’d take a screen shot. Why ever not? It comes only once in a blog moon.

I am referring to my blog hits. When I reached the half a million mark early this year, I had this hopeful thought to reach this six-digit number five.

Then on Christmas eve, while waiting for the clock to strike 12, I visited Leaves of Grace, and was surprised to see my blog hits almost reaching 555,555. I kept returning to the page on my computer screen—between gift unwrapping and reading my new Bible devotional on Grace, a Christmas present from son #1.

And there! My 555,555 suddenly came. Click, click, click—before it could change.
A mundane thought: The next time I’d have uniform numbers would be more than a hundred thousand hits from now. Wouldn’t it be great if I took a screenshot of 666,666? 

Nah, those numbers have too pregnant a meaning.

While reading Dr. Roger Barrier’s (author and retired pastor) explanation of what the book of Revelation says about the number 666, I have second thoughts about celebrating it. If you’ve been reading about the last days, we are told about an Antichrist which is closely associated with the number.

Of course, our limited knowledge cannot fathom what that number really means. The Bible is, after all, both historical and prophetic. So since we are now living in dangerous, chilling times, I’d rather not celebrate it.

In fact, numbers shouldn’t a blogsite make. These e-leaves will continue to write about grace till it reaches its ultimate number on planet Earth.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

1/05/2018

Resibo


Fake news abound today. What’s worse in our country is that the most notorious fake-news peddlers are columnists who occupy high positions in government.

Amidst this scenario of falsehood, fabrication, and filth, a brave purveyor of truth shines  through: PAB.

She dares condemn the lies of the powerful and mighty in her Pinoy Ako Blog (PAB). With every controversial issue she writes about, PAB presents proof (equivalent to in-text citations in academe or supporting documents in court) to underpin her statements and calls it resibo (official receipt).

Thanks to PAB, I now have the exact word to prove that the news below isn’t fake.

I keep bragging to friends that one of my nieces is a Broadway star, the current Christine Baae in Phantom of the Opera, no less. But nobody takes me seriously. They think it’s a joke. 

Well, Ali Ewoldt recently came to the Philippines to attend our three-day clan reunion, where she awed us with choice songs from her various Broadway roles. With mouths agape, and jaws locked in mid-air, we watched and listened. Tear-drenched eyes with matching goosebumps filled the hall. Such soulful, soaring soprano voice!

Resibo. 
 
That's Ali and I. If you think that’s not moi . . . 

Resibo.


(From left) son #1, son #3, moi, and Tony, all made-up for our family presentation.

Resibo. 


Ali’s signature and my name. Only family calls me Grace May.

I first met Ali when she was just toddler, in one of my rare trips to New York. At that early age, she already showed promise in music and acting. Years later, I read about her in the news. And then I get to see her again in person—not as a toddler but as an unassuming celebrity.
    
Resibo.

Resibo.

Resibo.

Bravo, Ali! Keep using the grace of singing that brings joy to music lovers in various parts of the world.

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well . . .” Romans 12:6



1/01/2018

Mateo Wins Big


In the context of the New Year, I am writing about Christmas.

Every December, the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman erupts with lights, colors, and fireworks at what people have known as the annual Lantern Parade, a tradition which began in 1922.

Then it was a simple homage to an old Christmas tradition at the UP Manila campus, but has evolved into a spectacular event with remarkable creations (lanterns, floats, music and costumes) that are mostly commentaries of the social and political landscape of the country.

Once when I was still a student, I was honored to be chosen as its emcee. That’s why the UP Lantern Parade brings warm memories.

But the festive event suddenly became even more meaningful for me this year because of Mateo.

“Mateo?! Mateo of the ‘Oh, Mateo!’ series?!”
“Yes, that Mateo."


At this point, I will let AT and GMA News tell the story:

“At the tail end of the 2017 Lantern Parade were the works of the students from the College of Fine Arts, who compete in their own category. Their creations were a celebration of human rights, especially rights that every child enjoys at birth.

“The students visualized a child's right to life, right to be safe from harm, right to education, and right to information among other things.

“Second year students who presented right to self-expression won first place!" (Exclamation point mine)

Mateo was the students’ top-of-mind choice to: “Speak Right, Speak Love.”

I could only guess why. These students (aged 16 and 17 today) must have been reading the “Oh, Mateo!” series while learning to read and growing up.

Mateo is an eight-year-old, adventurous Christian boy whose mother died when he was a baby. His father, a hardworking farmer in a small town, is bringing him up single-handedly.   

Together with OMF, my publisher, I envisioned Mateo to symbolize children reared on good values such as RESPECT (for elders, peers, nature, rights of others), HARD-WORK (in school, at home, in the neighborhood), and HONESTY (with money, possessions, words, feelings). Award-winning art director, Beth Parrocha-Doctolero, gave Mateo a unique, lovable image, and she went on to illustrate all 15 books of the series. 

This winning float therefore affirms Mateo, what he stands for. He won not only in the competition, but won big in the heart of children.  

Every new year, as kids grow up and outgrow the “Oh, Mateo!” series, I pray that they will never outgrow the Christian values they learned through him. And that new, younger readers will find a friend in Mateo.

Happy New Year!


12/30/2017

Gift Exchange


Why do people give gifts on Christmas?

Many speculate that the three wise men who traveled hundreds of miles to pay Jesus homage with gifts started it all.  When they finally “saw the child and his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 (NLT.)

I personally believe we give gifts on Christmas because Jesus gave Himself as a Gift to all. In our own little ways, we want to emulate that unparalleled gift-giving.

Unfortunately, gift exchange today has become so commercialized, even taxing. Yet give gifts we “must” and spend weeks shopping, wrapping, and tagging.

We simplified all that at our OMF Lit’s Christian Writers’ Fellowship (CWF) Christmas party:  “Bring a book you love to be exchanged with someone’s.”
Days before the party, I kept changing my mind about which book to give away. If you love books as the CWF members do, you know that one of the most difficult things to do is to part with a book you love.

Sure enough, the words spoken at the party were about (each had to explain the book he was sending off), with apologies to Shakespeare, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

“I bought many copies of this book because I wanted family and friends to read it. And now this is my last copy and . . .”

“This book was such a blessing to me. I’d love to keep it forever but . . .”

“I love this book so much, it makes me cry even if I read and re-read it. But it’s about time someone else is given the chance to cry . . .”

“This is my favorite book, but I discovered there are still copies at a book store so I am giving it away.”

“Before I became a Christian, I read lots of apologetics. Now I know the truth so I am giving one away.”

There are many more quotable quotes but I got so excited when I received my book, I missed taking down more notes.     

Good-bye . . . (left) and Hello! (right)

What a meaningful Christmas gift (I mean, book) exchange! 

12/27/2017

Red Leaves


Over coffee, between the Sunday worship and Sunday school, our two pastors and I had some kind of a speculative discourse (some people call it idle talk).

“Do you think we would all look the same in our glorified bodies in heaven?” I asked.

“Definitely not,” they stressed.

“Just look at how diverse creation is,” one explained

“Yeah, not even identical twins look exactly alike,” the other added.

I brooded over those thoughts as I changed my header for this blogsite. When I think leaves, I think only green (in different hues and shades)—even if I had gazed at and oohed over many autumn leaves.

Of course leaves come in different colors! We studied in grade school the three pigments that color leaves: chlorophyll (green) carotenoid (yellow, orange, and brown) anthocyanin (red).

And because it is Christmas, we see poinsettias—red leaves—adorning shops, homes, and other public places.

The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), which is indigenous to Mexico, derived its name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who later brought the plant to the US in 1825.

The plant’s leaves are actually all green initially. But because it is so sun sensitive, it cannot produce chlorophyll when it is deprived of enough light.  In a state of darkness, the only color that it can produce is red.

If you have a Poinsettia plant, bring it to a dark place. Soon it will oblige you and, through a process called photoperiodism, it will give you nothing but red leaves.

There are many other plants with red leaves such as those in my collage.

Our Creator’s creativity is boundless. Just look at all the unlimited shapes, sizes, and colors of anything visible or even under a microscope.

If even leaves aren’t colored the same, then glorified bodies will be more varied than we could ever imagine.

“O LORD, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts.” Psalm 92:5 (NLT)

Merry Christmas!

12/25/2017

Cold Turkey


This idiom means, “Stop doing or using something abruptly and completely.”

It held true for my family on Christmas eve, last night. We stopped our traditional roast-turkey dinner at home, cold turkey.

I remember each annual roast turkey prepared by Tony in the old days (when my three boys were still growing up). Then Manang Vi, our long-time househelp, and son #3 in the years that followed (when son #2 had started his own family abroad) took over—up until last year when we opted for a ready-made bird ordered online. It was because Manang Vi had retired and son #3 was helpless without her.

The prospect of another pre-ordered turkey this year was unappealing. So we agreed to dine on some chef’s turkey in a nearby hotel.     

(Upper left and right) The boys give the bird a once-over. 
Gift unwrapping (left); a tree I didn't have to trim this year.
It wasn’t nearly as good as our home-cooked turkey year after year. Not because of its taste (it was tender and yummy), but because it didn’t create for us memories—recorded on countless photos—of planning, of shopping, and of anticipating how it would finally turn out.    
 
I feel wistful, as I guess people often do when the many Christmases they have celebrated with family wax and wane with the tides of time.

But I also feel joyful, as I reflect on that first Christmas when Christ was born to save those who believe.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God . . .” Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)


12/22/2017

CHRISTMAS: The soil of humility


(I was tasked to be the devotional speaker at our OMF Christian Writers' Fellowship [CWF] Christmas party last week. Some of those who failed to attend have requested that I post my reflections. Sharing with you the abridged version.)        



When I reached the age of reason, the first thing that would come to my mind on and about Christmas was: HUMILITY. I’d imagine the circumstances of Jesus’ birth—no room in the inn, manger, shepherds, etc. 

Why would the Greatest of all, the Owner of all, the Wisest of all, and the One who needs nothing else would come to an earth filled with evil men and be birthed as One of them?

Incredible. But such is humility—inconceivable, mind-blowing, and hardly achievable by mortals with a sinful heart. Tim Keller wrote in Christianity Today, “Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves.”

And here I am talking about it tonight. It’s almost Christmas after all, and if we can put a date on when humility was birthed or came into our consciousness, it was on Christmas.

The word humility is from the Latin word humilis, meaning “low, lowly.”  It literally means “on the ground,” from humus (earth). As humans, we are “lowly creatures of earth.”

But do we see ourselves that way? The way we really are? Meaning, are we humble? Are you? Am I?

Our pastor said in one of his sermons, “If you say—or even just think that you are humble—you are not.”

And yet, humility is crucial for you and me as Christian writers.  Because we can only receive Christ through meekness and humility, upon which we hinge all our writings. Matthew 5:3 says, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him.” In verse 5, “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.”     
 
Now knowing how BIG God is in relation to our humanity, how can we not feel small?

Philippians 2:6-8 spells it out for us: “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

Can we even come close to such humility?

Jesus’ humility was a planned, conscious act.

Let me digress a bit and mention a planned, conscious act as an illustration that is closest to my circle. I personally think that some of the humblest human beings on earth—and that is not just to make them feel good—are the book editors.

12/18/2017

Invisible People


In making our Christmas gift list, many of us suddenly remember all the people we ignored (those whose eyes we never met; whose voices we never heard; and whose names we didn’t bother to ask) all through the year. Swiftly, we (I am actually talking to myself here) add them to our list. 

This list—perhaps due to guilt or an itch to give because it’s the season of giving—includes the invisible people around the neighborhood and in the places we go to or pass through regularly.

On Christmas, we acknowledge their existence and at last, they become visible.  

And who are they? Those who make our lives better all year through: the street cleaners, the garbage men, the traffic policemen, the janitors in our offices, the messengers, and security guards, to name a few. Listing them is like atoning a one-year-old sin of omission.

I read somewhere about a homeless guy who really thought he was invisible. He roamed the streets night and day. But nobody, not one, ever glanced his way or exchanged a word with him. One day, however, a little boy gave him a Christian pamphlet.

Stunned, the man asked, “This kid can see me?! How is that possible? I am invisible!”

This may not be a true story, but it illustrates how unnoticed people feel about themselves.

Sometime ago, as I was labelling my Christmas gifts for the invisible people who figured in my places of work, I couldn’t write one name. Not only did I feel mortified, I felt like I dishonored them. After I had researched and finally written down all their names, I personally handed each one my gift, calling him/her by name for the first time.

“Merry Christmas, Burnok/Mayet/Erning, etc.” The smiles they gave me in return was priceless grace, reducing the price tag of the gifts I had wrapped for them to negative zero. 

A bit late for me to learn a lesson, but since then I have tried to know better the people I deal with regularly by first, knowing their names, and second, making a connection. A simple “Hi, Maria!" or, “How are you doing, Mario?” can lift her/his spirits.

Such is one of the countless life lessons I have learned from Christmas to Christmas.  

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)

Photo credit

12/14/2017

A Tradition Ends


Our family tradition of putting up a tree every Christmas has come to an end.

It was a tradition I began when I Tony and I had our son #1 in the 70s.  It seemed like the right thing to do, a creative expression of sorts. Year after year, I would have a different motif which took me the whole year to dream up and the whole day to put up.

I know all about its pagan origins and why it is not necessary to celebrate the birth of our Messiah, but I enjoyed the activity.   Perhaps because my long-time househelp, Manang Vi, would nag me about our yearly and all-day ritual.

This year, however, there is no Manang Vi. She passed on last month, and it feels like we have lost not only a tree enthusiast but a family member who shared our traditions. 

“I don’t think I will put up a tree this Christmas,” I thought aloud.

“Good idea,” Tony immediately replied, solving my indecision.

I skipped telling son #1 and son #3, because from my observation over the years (since they reached the age of enlightenment), they are no longer Christmas tree fans.

Another good idea was the announcement by our church’s youth pastor: “We are raising funds for the December Youth Camp out of town. If you want to get rid of your junks, we’d be glad to pick them up.”

It was an ideal time to visit our storeroom, which had been under the exclusive jurisdiction of Manang Vi.

Aaargh.

I needed a face mask to protect me from years of dust covering old suitcases, golf clubs, bowling balls, paintings, baskets, knick-knacks, plaques, equipment, trophies, plus all other unrecognizable doodads—and my Christmas tree and heaps of Christmas decors!

With the help of Bonna, Manang Vi’s former adjutant, and who is now trying super hard to fill in Super V’s shoes; and Sammy, driver of son #3, I packed 75% of the storeroom’s denizens for our church's youth fund drive. After thorough cleaning, the once jam-packed room might have said, “What a relief!”

What to do with the Christmas tree and old decors? Plenty. Just twist, cut, shred, combine, separate, and mutilate—with no theme in mind.

 
Expenses for the decor: zippo.

Fund for the youth: almost there.

Grace for the home: much more than we deserve.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)



12/10/2017

Young Writers Radiate (Day 2)


Day 2 of “Radiate: Young Writers’ Workshop” was held exactly a week after the first.

By this time, the 22 participants had already written their second essay, which—after some tweaking or editing—would be included in the book project we were preparing for.

We (CSM editorial team and I) spent a large part of the day on feed-backing: evaluating and discussing their second work, while referring to the basic writing principals we learned on day 1.

Some of the essays made me tear up, some made me laugh. The harvest was plentiful.

We agreed on the importance of journaling, every day. Writing for the Lord is not a sporadic when-I-have-time activity. It takes more than a laptop, or pen and paper, or a special time reserved just for writing—it takes all of oneself.
 
We analyzed why a writer needs to re-write and re-write after his/her first draft.

We assessed our general writing output: why good enough is not nearly good enough.

As we bade good-bye—to meet again at the book launching, for sure—we promised ourselves to continue honing the gift of writing entrusted to all 22 + 1 (me) during the two-day CSM workshop. And that we should always reflect the radiance of God’s marvelous grace in every word we write.  

"Writing should be for God's glory alone."
"Your words should help heal and inspire others."
"Make the reader see and feel exactly what you mean."
"From today, start writing your own story of grace."  
"This is the beginning of an amazing journey."


12/06/2017

Young Writers Radiate (Day 1)


As far back as February this year, this training/workshop—held recently, nine months later—was  already announced by Church Strengthening Ministry (CSM) Publishing:

“Offering millennials an opportunity to speak to their generation, Radiate is a writing workshop created intentionally for young writers in English who are interested in being trained to write for publishing and are passionate about the ministry of the written word.

“Radiate aims to reflect God’s glory through the prism of life experiences of this younger generation. It aims to hone the potential of aspiring writers and to encourage them to boldly tell their stories of faith to inspire others and draw them closer to God.”

The early announcement was necessary because the workshop required a screening. Would-be participants had to write a 500-word essay on why they want to write.

Twenty two were chosen to attend the training held on two successive Saturdays.

Some of them had already written for their school paper, but majority still had to write their first published work.

Before I clicked on my first slide, it was apparent that everyone was on the same wavelength. The enthusiasm was so palpable, I knew I was among kindred souls who were likewise birthed with the passion for writing. It was a moment of grace; I couldn’t wish for a more radiant group.

The day (9 to 4 PM) went by quickly, too quickly.

Millennials, according to research, could not listen, concentrate and do exercises on a topic for hours, but this group of 22 proved this empirical datum wrong. The photo collages below try to tell the story of that adrenaline-charged Saturday, but fail. No camera could capture the outward radiance that springs from intense feelings deep within.  
     
"Let's engage our readers with stories."
"Content, content, content. Fancy turn of phrases come later."
"What do we want readers to think after reading our piece?"
"We are not preachers. We are writers baring our soul."

12/02/2017

Nine Days in November


Everything unusual and unexpected seemed to happen in those nine days last month, November 2017.
 
Earlier, classes were suspended almost every week due to typhoons. Then classes were suspended again for three days because of All Saint’s Day. Then classes were suspended again because of the ASEAN summit.

Some things had to give.

Since very few working days were left in the month, every one of my activities were crammed in those nine days: make-up classes, a series of seminars (scheduled since March), on top of regular classes and activities. All these needed slides, readings, presence, participation, and various preparations. I had to turn down an opportunity to have a book talk in the Middle East because there was just too much on my plate.

“Lord, please help me get through these nine days,” I begged daily for mighty grace.

The nine days didn’t go like a breeze (I spent more time worrying and painting scenarios of dismal consequences rather than concentrating on my activities), but—to borrow an old idiom—I was none the worse for wear.

After the ninth day, I soaked in the bath and treated myself to a nine-hour sleep. But not before I rebuked myself and asked forgiveness for forgetting about this verse:  

11/28/2017

Jedidiah


In Hebrew, Jedidiah means beloved of the Lord.

It was the name given by God to baby Solomon. “She [Bathsheba] gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.” 2 Samuel 12:24-25 (NIV)

I had never met in my life anyone named Jedidiah—till last Sunday, in a church where I was invited to speak to: first, the children’s Sunday school (ages 6-10); and second, the kiddie choir (same age group).

One of the teachers introduced him to me and he shook my hand like an adult would—with a firm grip. He also looked me straight in the eye, “Hello!”

I couldn’t pronounce his name properly, because Jedidiah was far removed from my vocabulary.  So I uttered a quick, “Do you like to read?” 

“Yes,” he said, “a lot.”
 
While I was speaking before the Sunday school class, Jedidiah listened to my every word and finished my sentences. Each time I asked a sporadic question, his hand was the first to come up.   

A book signing time ended our session. When he had his book (Twin Blessings) signed, the spelling of Jedidiah stumped me. Patiently, he spelled it for me and said, “The last two syllables are pronounced like Obadiah.”

“Oh,” I said, properly mentored. “I promise you, once you start reading this book, you can’t stop.”

“That’s what every book does,” he replied.

“Oh, but this one’s different. It is a devotional, so you should read only one each day and think it through. But because the story is continuing, you might be tempted to keep reading.”

His toothy grin turned his eyes into slits.  

On my way to the choir room for my next speaking session, I saw Jedidah in the lobby. He was reading his book, oblivious to the crowd.     

And guess what? When the choir started rehearsing, Jedidiah rushed in with his book. He was a member of the choir, too! Between songs, he would go back to his book and continue reading.
His face lit up when the choir conductress gave each one a copy of “Quiet Time with Mateo” after the short practice of Christmas songs.

A reader after my own heart, I mused.

The conductress then introduced me, “Ms. Grace, the author of that book, will now lead us in a group quiet time.”

I turned to a page of “Quiet Time with Mateo” and read with them a story and a Bible verse, after which we all bowed our heads in prayer.    

They each had me sign their books. This time I didn’t ask how to spell Jedidiah. 

On my drive home, I rolled the name Jedidiah in my tongue. Reflecting on it, I thought that those two groups of children, plus all the little ones in the world, are actually all Jedidiahs—God’s beloved.

I wished they would all grow up to read books that honor Him.

11/24/2017

Eleven Wonder Years


Wonder is one of those versatile English words that can be used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective.

As I celebrate the 11th anniversary of Leaves of Grace, I use wonder in the context of all three.  

It’s been a wonder how I could have lasted this long. Every blog is a wonder—I do what I like most doing: writing. At no point in time did I wonder about the point of blogging. Therefore, the most apt adjective to describe my 11 years is wonder.

“You have hundreds of thousands of hits,” said Tony. “How many do you think really read your blogs?”

I have asked that question in my mind a few times, but I always come up with the same answer. “It doesn’t really matter. At least I know of one who reads them. Me.” After all, the etymology of blogging is journaling online. Journals are essentially done by the journaler for the journaler.

One other question friends keep asking is, "How much do you earn from your blogsite?"

"Zero money; googol of joy." 

Nonetheless, it gives me a sense of wonder to look at numbers. I have uploaded 100 more posts from the 10-year total of 1,044 recorded last year. In 11 years, I have had 56 change of headers (and no change of format), and now I have hits from all countries in the world. My page-view counter tells me . . . never mind, maybe Tony is right, most of those are accidental or random hits. I will view those numbers simply as feel-good images.

“There is always something about His grace to write about,” I wrote this time last year. That belief will stay with me till the day I leave for my Eternal Home. 

Coincidentally, November is thanksgiving month in many western Christian churches (and today happens to be Thanksgiving Day in the US). It is a time of hopeful waiting for the coming of Jesus (celebrated on Christmas). The Latin word thanksgivingus means "coming" as translated from the Greek word parousia, often referred to as the second coming of Christ.

I am singing the refrain of this old thanksgiving hymn by Seth and Bessie Sykes (1940), as I wrap up my 11th year:

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free