The Reader

Once I was in Sri Lanka. It was there where I saw hundreds of elephants going down to the river to bathe. What a marvelous sight that was for me. I was there not as a tourist, though, being one was a privilege, too. I was there to attend a Southeast Asian symposium on productivity. I was privileged to be chosen to represent our country. That was quite a gift for me.

So back there in Sri Lanka, the country delegates were housed in one of Sri Lanka’s finest hotels in the City of Kandy. Food was excellent. Ambience was elegantly rustic. The Staff and the Guests were all very hospitable and amiable. The rooms, the lobbies, and the gardens were very clean. And yes, there was one majestic corner in the lobby where an old man in very exquisitely woven white clothes was sitting. We were told that he was one of the famous palm readers in Sri Lanka at that time. They said that his readings were mostly true. Very interesting!

Our interest led the group of delegates to the queue for palm reading. While the others were in that special corner and the queue, some of us were seated at the restaurant to enjoy more of the food. One by one our friends started coming back from their palm-reading session. There were mixed reactions. Some said it was just okay. Some said he was just guessing. Some said he was just stating the general facts. Some just shrugged their shoulders.

I was not interested to go to the queue. I do not believe in palm reading although my father, when he was still alive, would accommodate requests from friends to read their palms. I never got one of those palm readings, though.

But then the group insisted that I should go, too. So as not to be branded as a “kill-joy” as we normally call one in our country, I went. There were no more people waiting in a line. I must be the last person to see the palm reader. So he looked at me and smiled. “Do you want to come for palm reading, too?” He was very kind and very full of warmth. Without hesitation I said, “yes.” I slowly went forward to sit down on the lonely chair fronting him and I silently prayed while approaching him. I prayed to God to make this man his instrument so that I will hear God’s words through this man.

Then the palm reader took my left hand and looked at the lines on it. He reached out for my right hand and again took careful notice of all the lines and the bumps on it. He gently caressed my left and right hands and he looked at me straight in the eye. He said, “My dear child, you must have been through a lot. I see the lines on your palms and they tell me of how much difficulties in life you have faced.” I was so amazed how he could have said those words because they were true. “Can you really see those in my palms?” I was trying to see if he was being honest when he spoke those words.

Then the palm reader continued saying, “Are you brave enough to hear the truth?” Oh that hit me. Was I brave enough then? What truth would he tell me that I need to know? But softly I said, “Yes, please tell me the truth.” Then the palm reader told me about my life story, who I was, my family, my children, what I was good at, what I was dreaming for, and what was soon to happen. Happiness and sadness mixed gently in my heart. I was happy to hear my life story but I was sad to hear that something was bound to happen in my life.

“Are you afraid?” The palm reader, the old and very kind gentleman that he was, was worried. His eyes were speaking of sadness. Then I got out from the trance that I was in. I told him, “You saw the lines and you told me my story. The story and the facts are real. The next part, while it may be a sad part, is also something that would bring me back to who I am. You see, you are only an instrument of my God. He wants me to know that He heard my prayers. I can bounce back and become me.”

The palm reader was happy to hear from my assuring words but he was also somehow confused. I left him at that ecstasy.

So when I went back to the restaurant where the group was waiting, they were very interested to hear my reactions to the palm reading session. “Oh, tell us, was he good? Did he tell you anything that is true?” They were surprised to hear me saying, “Yes, all that he said was true.” The group could not believe me and still insisted that I must just be being polite to the palm reader. I told them, “Perhaps the difference lies in my intention? I prayed before I went to palm reading. I prayed to God to use the palm reader as an instrument so that the words that I hear from him would be coming from God.”

We read everyday. Humans as we are, we often or always react to what we read. I am guilty of that, too. But perhaps if we read from a different mindset, one that would bring out the truth of what we read, then our understanding of what we are reading may be different. The saying says, “And the truth shall set you free.” But there is a condition for that to happen, we must first believe in the Word and the Word shall bring about the truth and the truth shall set us free. (John 8:31-32).

I love to read. Unlike before that I would criticize the stand of the writer, this time, I read with a different mindset. I appreciate the writer who takes all of his time to write to make sure that I have something to read. I am now a grateful reader just like my special Reader who always smiles to what he reads from what I write.

The Writer

I was onced asked, “Are you a writer?” I immediately responded, “No!” “But you write,” she continued. I said, “Yes, I do!” She was a little surprised and wondering she said, “Then how do you write?”

How do I write? Honestly, I do not have any training to write. I do not have any educational qualification to write. I have never been in a literary guild or training. I am not well read I believe. I am not qualified to write.

“I just love to write.” That was my answer to my lady-friend. Someone tells me to write. It is a voice in my heart that tells me to write. Then some miracle happens when a whisper from wisdom creates the enthusiasm for me to write.

“Then what is your passion in writing? What do you want to write?” The lady-friend kept on wondering. I said, “Actually, I don’t know. It is like something just pops out from my mind and it tells me to write about this thing for someone.” I could not tell her for whom I am writing. She may not believe me. I do not have to convince her in her disbelief.

“So how do you know that people like the things you write? Do you share what you write? Do you have a following?” The lady-friend kept on asking perhaps to bring about some confidence in her that what I write is read; otherwise I may just be wasting my time.

I softly said, “I do not know if people are reading what I write. I do not also know if they like what I write. Perhaps, to many of them it is like a waste of their time to read. I really don’t know.”

The lady-friend continued, “Knowing that you are not sure that what you write is read or liked by people, do you still have the motivation to write?”

I responded without any reservation, “Yes, definitely! I will keep on writing.” Then this time I have to tell her some truth. “Actually, I am writing for someone; for a price.”

My response created interest from the lady-friend. “Oh, I see. Someone is paying you to write. How much do you get paid?” I smiled and I held my two hands together in prayer saying, “Actually, he has already paid the price for me to write for the rest of my life for as long as I remain in this world.”

“What?” the lady-friend exclaimed! “He has given you the advance payment already? Wow, you must have hit big time.” I mused and I smiled and said, “I am quite blessed to be given this work to write for my special someone and for him alone. He loves to see what I write and that’s it for me.”

My lady-friend was in disbelief. Perhaps she was thinking that I got material wealth for what I do; writing when I have the sense within me to write. But it is not material blessing that I am referring to. I write praying that someone somewhere somehow may be blessed to read what I write about the most ordinary things in an ordinary life of an ordinary person. One who writes without the skills of writing. One who just writes for someone special. Perhaps some others who are also as ordinary as me would feel blessed with the ordinary things that I share. That is all sufficient for me. That is enough to keep me motivated. That is enough to delight my special someone for whom I am writing. This is the least that I could do for the price he has paid for me; lifting himself up on a T-pole with sweat and blood and tears.

The Rock

Someone said, “Oh, you have been to The Rock!” (Alcatraz Prison at Alcatraz Island). He said it in a mocking tone. It was a pretty loaded statement. It was just like saying, “Oh come on, you have not been to nicer places. You only went to The Rock.” Instead of getting irritated, I replied, “Yes, I have been there twice. I like it there.” He smirked.

Some people went to Jesus and they were holding rocks as they were ready to throw those rocks to the sinful woman. They alleged that they “caught her in the act of adultery.” But the obvious question would be, “So where is the man?” Oh well, perhaps they only wanted to castigate the woman and perhaps they let the man go free.

But when they went to Jesus their scheming intention was not to get his affirmation or approval to stone the woman. Rather, it was to trap Jesus into committing what otherwise they would consider as wrongful according to the law of Moses or wrongful according to Roman laws. It was wrong to commit adultery so in the law of Moses, that woman should be stoned to death. It was wrong under the Roman Laws for the Israelites to impose punishment so Jesus would be on the wrong.

All eyes were on the woman. All rocks and stones were ready to be hurled. If that was a scene in an actual film shot, the next words that we could have heard was, “Lights, Camera, Action!”

So the unruly crowd pressed on Jesus for his answer. But Jesus looked away from the woman and the crowd. Jesus chose to bend to the ground and started writing on the dirt with his fingers. What could he have written? No one bothered to read. They were not there to listen or to learn from Jesus. They were there to trap Jesus. Perhaps if they were really there for the right reasons, they could have read what Jesus wrote. Perhaps Jesus wrote a golden treasure about justice and mercy. But no! They had no time for Jesus’ teachings or writings or actions. They were there to condemn Jesus by putting him to the test and setting this trap.

Poor them! They really did not know how Jesus responds. Jesus stood up and said, “The one without sin should cast the first stone.” What judgment to hear from someone who has the authority to forgive sins. And Jesus went back to his writing on the ground. Again I wonder what could he have written. I am more interested on what Jesus wrote.

One by one they left until only the woman remained. Jesus looked up and this time Jesus was talking to the woman. “No one has condemned you, nor do I!” Such a powerful statement from the ultimate judge of all. Jesus took away the condemnation and further said, “…and sin no more!” The woman was not condemned. She was told to repent and reform. Jesus’s ways are not our ways. He freely and lovingly gives mercy and love. That is Jesus’ Divine justice.

The rocks freely fell from their hands. They were shameful perhaps. They felt their own guilt. They were humiliated by their own actions. They realized that the rocks that they were holding were created by God not to oppress people, not to harm people, not to put people to death. The rocks created by God are meant to edify, to strengthen, to build, to fortify, to be the foundation.

I come from an island that is full of volcanic rocks. These rocks have been hurled from the eruptions of the volcanoes in the island. These rocks came from the core of the earth for a purpose, for a reason. God meant them to strengthen the island so that the sands on the shores and the soil on the ground do not get washed away by the waters. Thus, the island is fortified by these rocks.

Everything is meant to be and everything has a reason to be. May I be like a rock that can serve its purpose intentionally and willingly.

And yes, if I have another chance, I will still visit “The Rock (Alcatraz Island)” It is something worth more than just its aesthetic value. It speaks of people who were judged and condemned. Repentance and reformation must have been abundant there. Jesus could have visited that place more than once, more than twice, or Jesus must have been there all the time, too.

Recreated and Transformed

I was looking at the birds, small and big ones, while I was having my coffee in the backyard one chilly morning. It brought me back to a particular workshop that I facilitated. I asked the participants, “If you are given a chance to be reborn, what would you like to be?”

There were varied answers which were backed-up with valid reasons for the choices they made.

  • One said, “I would like to be reborn as a lion, a leader of the pack. Lions are fierce when they roam around and they always command authority. They are very well respected.”
  • Another said, “I would like to be a monkey; free, carefree, and spontaneous. I would like to just have fun and view the world from the top.”
  • Another said, “I would like to be a horse. I would gladly bring people to their destinations with care.”
  • Another said, “I would like to be as free as a bird and go places.”
  • Still another said, “I would still want to be myself. I am happy with who I am today.”
  • Still another said, “I would like to be the better version of me.”

All their reponses are candid, frank, and truthful statements that would send us into deeper thoughts. We want to be free as the birds, freely moving around as leaders like the lion, having fun like the monkey, caring for the needs of others like the horse, becoming who we are. We would want to be the better version of who we are.

Unlike the animals, perhaps, man is in a better position. I don’t know if animals like the lions and the birds and the monkeys, the horses, and others have a chance to be reborn. But man definitely has this chance, privilege, obligation, commitment.

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3). And we believe in Jesus and the truth of what He has said. In that context, we must be born again.

I pray that, one day soon, when God recreates me in His image and likeness, I would be the better version of me; one who seeks not my will but God’s will. I pray that I will be transformed just like the Transformers – Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee – into someone who is equipped with the right tools to trust and obey God as I continue to roam and wander like the lion, as I continue to hang on to trees like the monkey, as I continue to care for others like the horse, as I continue to soar high like the bird. I pray that when God recreates me, I would radiate His love and mercy. I pray that when God recreates me I would be one who can safely say, “Here I am Lord; use me for your greater glory.”

To Dream

“To dream the impossible dream; To fight the unbeatable foe; To bear with unbearable sorrow; To run where the brave dare not go…” The Impossible Dream is a very popular song that is sang by anyone and by the more popular singers of our time. Yet, only few may know the one who composed the song and the one who wrote the song. This very popular song was written by Lyricist Joe Darion and composed by Mitch Leigh. It is the most popular song from the Broadway, “Man of La Mancha.” Remember Don Quixote and Sancho? That would be another story.

I used to dream in my younger days. But lately, though, I slept all through the night sans any dream. Medically, perhaps, it means that I have a good night sleep and that is good for my health. But I love to dream in my sleep.

So one day, I prayed to God that I may have dreams in my sleep. Indeed, the Lord of blessings granted me with several nights with dreams. However, I got so worried. The dreams that I dreamt were scary ones. I dreamt of my loved ones, relatives, and friends who are already dead. In my dreams, they seemed so real. Once, I dreamt of calling someone who could not be reached. I dialed and dialed but I was just prompted with the familiar response, “The number you have dialed cannot be reached.” Surely she cannot be reached with my Tmobile number because she is already dead. I got scarier with my dream.

I remember someone telling me back then, “When you dream of those who are already dead, it only means one thing: You are soon to die, too. They are coming back for you.” I got scared with my dreams then. Not that I am afraid to die because that is the end that we are looking at with certainty but I am really afraid of ghosts. I told myself, “I may have prayed for the wrong purpose.”

So I made my prayer more specific. I prayed to God that in my dream I would hear him in clarity and know my purpose of being. I prayed that may my dream be like one of those dreams of Joseph the Dreamer. I prayed that may my dream be something that would inspire me in my journey through life.

Then I dreamt. God answers prayers. God hears those who are crushed in spirit. God must have heard my prayers, too. And so I dreamt of a wonderful purpose; a purpose that I am striving to realize for the reason that He has given. I don’t have to take pride of my dream as it may sound very simple to some and to many. But I am happy that I have dreamt and my prayer was answered.

So I pray that I will continue to dream the dream that I want to dream. May my dreams come true. And may I continue to sing this beautiful song, “And the world will be better for this; That one man, scorned and covered with scars; Still strove with his last ounce of courage; To reach the unreachable star.”

To Forget

There are always two sides to a story just like two sides of a coin. Both have their own strengths and both have their own beauties to cherish.

Forgetting may not be altogether a weakness. It could be a gift. When we forget some parts of our lives that may have caused us pain, then the fact that we do not remember the details anymore would be a gift. Because we forget, then we do not have to be haunted by the many things that caused buckets of tears. Because we forget, we can no longer feel the pain that we may have felt then.

We are so blessed to be created with a memory that recalls only those that made us whole, those that brought out the best in us, those that nurtured joy from the heart. What a blessing from our Creator who also forgets the mistakes we had made in the past. We are indeed created in His image and likeness. He teaches us and wills for us to forget our past and move ahead to a brighter tomorrow which includes today.

I read this somewhere that to keep on remembering the pain and the mistakes in the past is the work of evil. It makes us feel down. It makes us desperate. It makes us lonely. It makes us incapable of holding on to hope.

Forgetting then and to purposely forget are blessed tools to become grateful for what we have right now and what we could aspire for in the years ahead.

Life is not a bed of roses, as the song goes. Life is a journey along rugged roads that would lead us to the pavement that we call heaven. Along the way we will always encounter obstacles, difficulties, hardship, problems, and trials. But we know that all these must pass so that we can appreciate more the blessings that come pouring in as we follow the narrow path to joy. Then we can forget the hurts and the pains as we shower in the rain with laughter, smiles, songs, and dance. Let it rain! Let the sun shine! There is always a tomorrow after today. Yesterday is gone and that was it for yesterday. Today is great and tomorrow would be greater.

There is only one thing that we should never forget. We are made for a purpose and we are here for a reason.

Footprints

I was reading this book on purpose. It rationalizes why we need to search for our purpose of being. It outlines several steps on how we can aspire to find that purpose. The last step, which according to the author is actually the most essential one, was knowing God’s purpose.

This brings me back to one day in my previous work when the engineers could not fix the equipment which was very essential for production. So I was bothered because I thought they could handle all repairs since they were engineers – well trained, knowledgeable, and experiencd. But they unanimously said that they can try but they would need the equipment’s manual for that matter.

It struck me on a personal level. If that machine needed the inventor’s manual then I may also need to find my Creator’s manual since I am created for a purpose. Where to find one?

I am reminded of the book I read which tells of a car owner who had a hard-starting car problem that bothered him so much. He was a good mechanic so he could not understand why the car would not start. Then an old man in a limousine passed by. The old man stopped and checked on what the car owner was doing by the roadside. Then the old man remarked, “Try to adjust this part.” The car owner was dumbfounded. How could this old man be better than him? But just to please the good-intentioned old man, the car owner tried to touch that part which was pointed out by the old man. Then the car owner started the car. Boom! The car was back to life. So the car owner was surprised. He asked the old man, how come you knew this thing? The old man simply said, “My name is Henry Ford and I invented this car.” (Excerpts taken from The Audacity of Purpose by Bishop Blessing Samuel. 2020).

How would I feel when one of these days someone who looks ordinary would pass me by, stops, looks me over and says, “Try to adjust the way you focus your eyes. Trim down your weight. Tilt your head up high this way. Open your ears and look at the sun with grateful eyes. Look around and feel the wind touching your face. Look beyond and see the clouds as they form the sign that you are looking for.” Then surely, I may say, “Who are you?” Then the ordinary-looking man would say, “I AM WHO AM and I made you.”

I am created with a design. I have wires inside my body. I am wired. I have chips in my brain; chips that are synchonized with my Creator. I have a heart that beats as one with the One who created me. I have a a soul that would live forever with the One who purposely put me where I am. So what is my problem? What makes it difficult for me to be re-wired and attuned to Him?

The problem is the problem. It is difficult to understand the problem because it means living in simplicity; something that I may not be ready for. But if life is to have meaning then I must. I should. I would.

I can not do this on my own. I have to ask my Creator for the Creator’s Manual so that I can fix myself. I have to go back to Him and seek for His purpose. I have to hear His voice telling me, “Fix yourself. Give me your sins. Transform. Be a new creation. Listen to what I have to say. Follow my footsteps.”

May I be worthy to leave a footprint before I leave this world; one that glorifies God, one that makes others believe in God, one that honors His Name, one that pleases Him.

Lost and Found

Once there was a boy who was fond of going along with the adults in the family. He was living with his grandparents and he was everyone’s delight. He would go to the same movie at least three times a week with the different adult members of the family. He would go to malls and came home with a toy to be added to his favorite collection of small cars – the treasure chest of matchbox cars.

One day, Menandro (not his real name) went with his father to the big store. He was just tagging along because at three he was not consulted on what he would like to do and what he would want to buy. When Menandro’s father was done with his store visit, he looked around and realized that he lost Menandro. He went looking around for Menandro and asked the security guards and salesclerks if they saw Menandro. No one saw the boy. Menandro’s father gave up his search. Perhaps he was thinking that Menandro may have been kidnapped or something. How could he had easily given up? I also wonder.

Menandro’s father went home to tell the rest of the family that he lost Menandro in this big store. Everyone panicked particularly the mother of Menandro. Poor mother, how could she have felt losing her favorite son!

Menandro’s mother prayed fervently and she believed in her heart that Menandro was just there. So off she hurriedly went. The mother’s instinct brought her to the second floor of the store. And her prayer was answered, Menandro came out from his hiding place, a refrigerator which was for sale and obviously was empty. He saw his mother and gave her his warm big smile. Menandro’s mother just cried and embraced Menandro. In her heart she prayed to God for this gift.

It is not rare that children get lost in stores, in parks, in the streets, or elsewhere. When they are found, the parental instinct of gratefulness for having the child back outweighs the family rule of giving sanctions or time-outs or long sermons for the trouble caused to the family. Love is just in the air and it is always stronger and bigger than the problem that anyone in the family faces.

This is much like the story in the Bible about the Prodigal Son. In that story, the father gave a celebration for the return of his son. This son squandered his inheritance and he was living a life unfit to be called as good. He was indeed the prodigal son. The older son, though, felt differently. He had been living a life worthy of the father’s name and the family’s dignity. He was the good son. Yet, he was never given a chance to celebrate, not even with his friends. This made the good son very angry. In the end, the father explained to the good son why he caused the warm welcome and celebration. The father said that “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32).

Life is a journey. Many times along the way we get lost and we may continue to get lost. But we have this assurance that there is always a way to be found. May there be a celebration in heaven and in the family when we are found and when we finally respond to the call.

In Context and Meaning

Context is defined as the circumstances that bring about the statement or idea. It is very important to know the context so that we understand the essence of the word that was spoken.

I have always been attached to this verse in the Bible, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37). Setting my prayers on this premise, I have led myself to believe that whatever good plans and good intentions I may have, for as long as I offer this to God in prayer, He will answer. I was wrong; totally wrong. I have perceived of the popular verse as though it is a given formula for achieving plans and prayer requests. What a wrong assumption that I had. I pray that God forgive me for imposing myself unto Him.

I come across the same Bible verse in a different edition which says: “For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:37). This one is different from the first. The importance is on the word of God and His word will not fail. So it is not what I pray for that God would answer. It is what God wants to do in my life that will not fail. It becomes a totally different approach, a different paradigm.

Digging into the same popular verse, I looked into the context of the statement. It was spoken by the Angel when he announced the conception of the Son of God in the womb of a Virgin. Mary, the Virgin, was doubting on the word of the Angel because she did not have any relations with any man. But the Angel rebutted by telling her that even her cousin, Elizabeth, who was called barren was on her 6th month of pregnancy. Then the Angel uttered this amazing assurance to Mary by saying, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

In context, the Angel was saying that whatever God plans He will make it happen and there is nothing that He will not do to complete His plan. Nothing is impossible with God. Surely, His Divine Plan will happen no matter the cost, no matter the hurdles, no matter the circumstance, no matter the complexity. He is a God who is perfect in His ways and He can do miracles.

Understanding now the context of the verse when it was said at that time by the Angel who announced the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, I realize that –

  1. The condition for that verse to work in my life is to be attuned to God. God first.
  2. It is not what I want but what God wills for me in my life that will make that verse operational in me.
  3. I have to humble myself in obedience to God and His Will so that the Word of God, particularly Luke 1:37 is not wasted in my lifetime.

God is a merciful and loving God. He will forgive me for my ignorance and simple thoughts. May the light of faith guide me through as I go to God begging for His Will in my life.

Finding life’s meaning is an end of a new beginning.

The Sign

We want to see signs. They make us comfortable. They are not only guides. They assure us that there is civilization somewhere however distant it may be. Road signs, traffic signs, weather signs, friendship signs, family signs, personal signs, and whatever signs we imbed in our memories are simply remembered as signs. They have personal attachments to us. They remind us of who we are and how we should live in such order.

This lenten season we are reminded of a sign that has become a universal reminder. Through time and throughout all history, the Cross is remembered not only by those who believe in the One who was crucified but also by those who are still willing to listen and somehow believe.

The signs of the times. As Jesus has said in Matthew 16:1-3, “When evening comes, you say, ‘it will be fair weather, for the sky is red’. And in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

We want to understand these signs. The only way is to read the Book of the Author of the signs of times and seek to understand His Word through His own guidance.

Today we are praying for peace. May the sign of peace pervade our hearts and souls. Peace starts from within. So may the Author of Peace, God Himself, guide us through the experience of gaining His kind of peace that will exude the light of faith in each soul; the sign that we are searching for through life.