Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We Are Simply Passersby

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his very soul?"  -- Mark 8:36

There were two sisters named Magi, the eldest, and Myra. They both lived in the outskirt of the town. One day they received a telegram – “Me visit tom” – from a famous friend from a far way town; their friend was famous for her beautiful, angelic voice. The thought of seeing their friend in their doorsteps got them on their feet.

Almost immediately, Magi went straight to the kitchen to check on their fridge. After letting out an “F” word, she hurried to the market to buy some supplies. She was panicky.

Myra, on the other hand, paused to think and then decided to clean the house and prepare the room for their guest. She then settled on that task the whole afternoon until it was done.

Then the big day came. There was a knock on their door. When Myra opened it, there was Jessica, their famous friend with her ever-present assistants. After some warm greetings, Myra let their guest into the living room and announced her arrival. Magi rushed out of the kitchen, and profusely greeted Jess. Then she quickly disappeared to the kitchen door to continue with her cooking.

After settling down, and feeling comfortable in her friends’ home, Jess started singing a cappella. Her sweet, melodious voice bounced on the four corners of her host’s home, giving shivers and chills to the lucky recipient; in this case, it was Myra who sat on her feet. Her voice was truly angelic, and soothing. Meanwhile in the kitchen, Magi could hardly hear clearly Jess’ song; her mind was on her task.

When Jessica sang the final note, Magi shot out of the kitchen smiling appreciatively, and clapping her hand, as if she heard the entire live performance. Then she quickly turned to Myra’s direction, her face suddenly transformed from pleasant to angry, to deliver loudly her unspoken message.

Are you busy rushing around or do you stop to appreciate life? Are you the proverbial ever-busy type of guy or the man who calmly settles down?

Our world today is driving us nuts. The number of tasks that requires our attention can be so overwhelming that sometimes we can’t make up our mind. Not only that, it’s also difficult to concentrate for a long time due to the many distractions surrounding us. It’s like a yoke of busyness and interference is put upon us. (I wonder who...)

Here’s one undeniable fact. We can do almost anything, but we can’t do everything. We only have 24 hours a day. No more, no less. So what can we do? Follow Myra. She planned, prioritized and settled down.

Before you rush to your next task, stop and ask yourself – “Will this matter?”

What matters? To me, it’s my spirit and my health, and of those whom I care about; my relationships, and my legacy. We can’t rush around telling ourselves a lie – there’s always tomorrow. There is no guarantee of a tomorrow! Today is all we've got, and it's by God's grace. Magi missed out the special gift of their guest; you don't want to missed out God's gift, don't you? Live His gift by spending this on what matters in the end. Remember, we are all just passersby…

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why Me, Lord? Why Me? Why Bad Things Happen to Me?

 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  -- Romans 8:28

My mother is a very good problem solver. She is also a very strong woman, both physically and emotionally. And her devotion to God is a giant.

As a young kid, I couldn’t count the times I saw her contemplating on a difficult problem; her face frowning. She would struggle for hours and even days, probably having sleepless nights, but in the end she would have a working solution. Unfortunately for me, what stuck more to my brain was the picture of the pain and anguish painted across her. It didn’t help that there were times I saw my parents arguing over a problem. So what stuck with me over the years was, “A problem is difficult; it’s painful; and it must be avoided at all cost.

I’ve been avoiding problems for the longest time. And I just realized this not so long ago.

Why God allow difficult problems and bad things to fall upon good peopleHiHi? If this happens to ‘bad’ people, then that’s OK. They deserve it, anyway. But good people? Don’t ‘we’ deserve a special consideration? So why?

Because God loves man both the good or the bad.

Bo Sanchez is the head of the Kerygmafamily. Anyone who knew him knows that he is a man of God. Yet, he and his wife, Marowe, were not spared from the sorrow of losing not just one but two children from two separate miscarriage incidents. If you were Bo you will probably raise your fist to God and shout, “Why me Lord? Didn’t I serve you well enough? Did I not bring souls back to your fold? How could you do this to me?”

But God really loves Bo and wants to bless his ministry. But for Bo to do great things for God, he has to have a great spirit. God gives him the opportunity to grow in spirit by subjecting him to tests of faith. It is by undergoing a very difficult problems or situations that man's spirit 'can' grow. No other way. Our Creator knows that as our faith in Him grows, so does our spirit. And Bo has been passing faith tests with flying colors all his life. Look at how blessed is his life and ministry now.

When Jesus was crucified in Calvary there were two outlaws who were crucified along with Him. Like Jesus, they were in great difficulty and pain. But they deserve it, right? Does God love these two worms? Surprisingly, the answer is a big yes!

Because God loves man, He gives him every opportunity to change. He even gives him a wake up call by allowing him to experience the full consequence of his wrong decisions. He allows man the ‘small’ pain now to save him from the ‘big’ pains later. In Calvary, one outlaw woke up and learned his lesson. As a result, he was promised eternal salvation by no less than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Which outlaw are you?

When a difficult problem or circumstances fall upon you, don’t ask, “Why me, Lord?” Instead thank God for giving you the chance to avoid a bigger problem and pains later. Thank Him for giving you the opportunity to grow in spirit and reap more blessings. After all, we are not crucified alone, His son is crucified with us and for us. So why complain?   

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How to Heal Our Brokenness?

“This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.”  - Ecclesiastes 7:29

Danilo (not his real name) was a devotee to Mary, the mother of Jesus. As a kid, he and his older brother actively joined each night the barangay, a community rosary prayer. When he was in first year high school, he joined the Blue (Marian) Army. His mother adored him because he was such a good child – pious, obedient, honest and studious. He was the white sheep of the family.

Yet deep inside Danilo’s heart, something was rotting. In the privacy of his room, he voraciously devoured x-rated magazines and comics, and intensely watched pornographic movies. He justified his sin when his conscience confronted him by rationalizing that, “Every man does it, I am half a man if I don’t”; “Doctor(?) said that it’s good to release some of my extra juices”; “I am just exercising my instrument in case I will have a chance encounter with a girl, can’t afford to be embarrassed”; “I’m just educating myself, I want my future wife to be fully satisfied”; “This is normal as breathing”; and other nonsense. 

But soon Danilo changed. He learnt to lie. He began to curse. He gravitated towards people who talked about sex like it’s the only interesting topic in the world. He also felt shame. Deep inside Danilo knew that something wasn't right, but he no longer had the will to stop his free fall…Finally, he closed his eyes and embraced the fall.

The Bible says that God created man upright. According to an online dictionary, upright means honest, honorable and just. But where is honesty in government corruption? Where is honor in adultery? Where is fairness in taking advantage the poor and uneducated? What happened to the innately good man?

In the province of Surigao where my mother was born, the barangay road was sandwiched by rice fields. By April, both sides of the road turned golden yellow. I bet the color would be different had it not been for the hardworking farmers that took care of the crops.

In the same way, the innate goodness in man needs to be taken cared of by a great farmer – our Creator – so that it wouldn't change color from white to black. The health of the innate goodness of man is as fragile as a rice stalk, so it needs God's loving care, and healing due to the damages brought about by the daily test of life. But what if man refused the loving touch of His Creator? What if he runs away from Him?

In the absence of God, evil will flourish; the innate goodness in man’s heart will wither. If left untreated over time, his goodness could die, and from its remains would rise full-blown evil.

Danilo’s healing culminated on one Dec. night when God whispered to his heart, “You’re fighting alone”. He realized that he needed God’s mercy and love; his will power alone wasn’t enough. From there, he dumped his pride and sprinted back to God. Long before that night, Danilo made a 'weak' decision to return to God. But for God, it was enough.

Healing starts when we decide to take the first step back to God. His presence in our heart alone is all it takes to begin the healing of our brokenness. His presence alone can revive the dying goodness in our heart. It's not us, it's Him. And as seasons pass by, if we remain steadfast in Him our wounds will one day become no more. And we become truly good once new born babies.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pacquiao Vs. Margarito: The Lessons from the No.1 Pound-for-Pound in Boxing

“Take each of these ancestors of ours as an example, and you will realize that no one who puts his trust in the Lord will ever lack strength.” 1 Maccabees 2:61

Last Sunday, Nov. 14 (Phil. time), Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao gave every Filipino in all corners of the world a reason to smile. In Jerry Jones Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the smaller Manny Pacquiao humbled the bigger and taller Antonio “El Tornado de Tijuana” Margarito to win the WBC Junior Middleweight Championship of the world.

To the average Filipino like me, the event was very sweet because it did not only added a feather to Pacquiao’s (and to every Filipino’s) cap in the world’s stage, but it was also inspiring because of the big physical difference between the fighters. Pacquiao came into the ring 17 lbs lighter, 4 inches shorter in height, and 6 inches shorter in reach. Therefore, in all physical aspects of the game of boxing, Pacquiao was at the disadvantage. From this statistics alone, an outsider of boxing wouldn’t bet his house on Manny Pacquiao.

But in the eyes of every adoring fan, Manny Pacquiao is not just statistics. Like David, God gifted Manny with a sling – the ability to move quickly, and punch hard. With these two attributes alone, if you look at the rear view mirror of Manny’s boxing career, it is littered with the bloodied heads of his fallen foes rolling on both sides of the road! However, other boxers can do this, too, yet they are not as great. So what makes Manny Pacquiao very special?

Get your pen and write this on your wall: (1) Humility (2) The desire to make his fans happy (3) World-class dedication to his craft (4) Courage rooted on his deep faith in God. We might be unable to emulate Manny’s punch and agility, but surely we can apply his other four attributes to improve our own life.

All of us are gifted by God. But our gift is like a car with an empty tank if we will not use this to give value to others as well as to ourselves. Manny gives value to boxing fans by perfecting his craft, and by painting an electrifyingly exciting art on the canvass of the ring that will remain etched in the memory of the viewers long after the gate was closed or the TV was turned off.

As a young boy, Manny peddled cigarettes in the street, and had to stop his studies because of poverty. Now, he is a multi-millionaire, and probably, the most popular Filipino all over the world. How does Manny keep himself from self-destructing like most celebrities do after receiving a great amount fame and fortune? By planting his feet firmly on the ground. And how he did that? Manny knows that all his blessings come from God, not from himself, so he has no reason to boast.

Finally, I’ve never seen a boxer kneel down on the ring to pray before every fight. Manny does this solemnly even when the whole world is watching him. He is not ashame of his faith and this god. And rarely do I see a fighter that doesn’t bad-mouth his opponent; instead, he shows them respect. It is now common knowledge to boxing fans that he does his talking inside the ring…with his fists…to the tune of a thousand and more punches. Ouch!!!

Manny is not a saint, though; he is not perfect, like all of us. But he reminded us that despite our failings, adversities and chaos in life, we can remain beautiful human beings – talented, courageous, honorable, compassionate, achieving, and above all, God-fearing. After all, we are all fighting our own battles in the ring called life against invisible and powerful enemies. But as Manny showed us, it doesn’t matter as long as we have a big God on our side.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who is the Better...Charice Pempengco or Mariah Carey?

"Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied."  Matthew 15:36~37

One afternoon, after lunch, while sprawled across our abaca-made mat, my ears picked up the slow humming of Barbara Streisand's voice over our battery-operated AM radio as she began to sing, “The Way We Were”. Then my heart began to skip a beat as the aftertaste of her music gave me a strange feeling. It’s hard to put it in one word. Longing. Nostalgia. Sadness. (But in a nice way.) The funny thing was, I hadn’t lost a love one.

Music is undeniably one of the most wonderful gifts God has given to man, for it does not only delight the ears, it also touches and moves the heart. It adds color to our life; it draws out deep buried feelings to old memories. It can keep us awake.

Fast forward many years later. It was 2AM. I sat in front of my PC at home admiring Charice’s (Pempengco) awesome cover of the song, Listen, by Beyonce, during the Oscar party held in the Kodak Theater, for the nth time. Yes, I was glued to YouTube for more than 3 hours just going over the performances of Charice. It was amazing!

Then I clicked a video clip showing Charice singing a medley of the timeless songs of the late Michael Jackson like Got to be There, Ben, One Day in Your Life, I’ll be There. (All of these are my favorites.) This was her tribute to the King of Pop Music who just died. Once again, she was down right amazing. She showcased both the incredible breadth and depth of her vocal powers which gave me a new level of appreciation to the music of Michael Jackson.

But then, somewhere in the middle of the video clip, Mariah Carey was shown singing, I’ll be There, which was the last song that Charice sang, in front of the coffin of the Pop King. As expected, she was very affected and emotional; her voice almost broke off at the start, and she had difficulty forcing it out.

Then somebody pop the question, “Who’s better?” What followed was a long thread of opinions willingly expressed by both fans and detractors of both artists.

This was what I had in mind: “Why compare?” Can’t we just enjoy the music of both Charice and Mariah Carey. Why do we have to put down the other? Can’t we put them together side by side?

When Jesus fed the 4000 in the wilderness, 2000 years ago, He did it with only 7 loaves of bread, and a few small fish. Was there a miracle? I believe there was. But the central message of that great miracle is not the impossible-made-possible, but the value of sharing, even with what little we have. Sharing is a godly way, and God’s way creates miracles. I believe this is what Jesus wanted to show us.

Music is a gift from God; it is suppose to soothe the soul. The men, and women who were gifted with the 'song', and the pipe to deliver it, were chosen by God. Is it right to fit them against each other? No! Leave them alone and let them do their job. What we should do is to sit down, enjoy their music, and share their message to the world. After all, what our world badly needs is not another conflict, but another dose of soul-soothing music. And Charice, Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand and others can do that. They are God's gifts to us.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Locked Secret Room Inside our Head (4)

When a thought comes to our conscious mind, we have to ask ourselves, “Is this good, neutral or evil?” If it’s evil then dismiss it right away! When a lustful thought, for example, comes to us, we don’t entertain it even for a second.

When a feeling surfaces, we have to ask ourselves, “Is this good, neutral or evil?” If it’s evil, we have to fight it and ask God to heal us. When you feel envy, prejudice or hatred towards someone, acknowledge that that feeling exist and that it’s not right. But more importantly, offer it to God and ask Him to heal you.

A change in us doesn’t normally happen overnight, but over time. It’s called erosion. The enemy is cunning enough to know that erosion is very subtle and difficult to detect; therefore, his victim won’t defend himself or herself until it’s too late. This is why the Bible calls us to guard our heart with diligence. The guarding of our heart and mind is an every second, every hour, everyday activity for us followers of Christ. That’s an awful lot of work. Who can do that? Not many I guess, if there is anyone at all. That’s why we need Christ in our life to protect us, to guide us, to cleanse us, and to renew us. Spiritual renewal should be done everyday in the same way that the cells in our body are replaced everyday.

TV and movies are a few of Satan’s favorite weapons of eroding our values and morals in life. True, not all TV shows and movies are bad. But the sad truth is that most of these, albeit unintentionally, deliver the wrong message to its viewers.

When I was in college, I watched the movie, “Ang Anak ni Baby Ama”, starring Robin Padilla, and Amy Perez. As a teenager, the scene that struck me the most was the rape of Honey, the girlfriend of Angel, the main protagonist. It struck me because I was depressed since I sympathized with the protagonist, Angel, and also I was boiling with lust. I watched that movie around 1990, but until now I can still see the obscene images clearly, should I choose to – but I know better. That is how powerful TV and movies are in shaping our thoughts and feelings. Their effect can be long lasting.

Does this mean that we should not watch movies, TV series and programs anymore? Not entirely. I think the message is clearly stated in Proverbs 4: 23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This means that we have to be very choosy in what we will watch and what we will allow our children to watch. In my case, since July, 2004, I have no TV at home. I used my computer for the entire family to watch chosen movies. This way I have a measure of control on what unspoken messages are delivered to my family. As much as possible, I don’t allow my children to browse the internet alone while their values and judgment are not yet strong.

The passage also means that we have to filter our thoughts and feelings, and that we teach our children to do the same. As the saying goes, “We cannot prevent the birds from flying over our head, but we can prevent it from building a nest on it.”

And finally, we have to rely on God for guidance by reading our Bible everyday, and talking to Him as often as we can; we must feed our mind and heart with good and godly ideas everyday. We cannot prevent Satan from dumping garbage into our unconsciousness, in the same way that he cannot also prevent us from seeking God’s help to clean his garbage. After all, we can only do so much. But our Creator can do a lot!

The Locked Secret Room Inside our Head (3)

For example, if you feel strongly (positive or negative) towards a person and you can’t figure out why, it’s because your senses pick up his or her non-verbal messages and sent it straight to the unconscious department of your brain which triggers that feeling.

If you are a pornography addict, like I was, when you are awaken in the middle of the night with a very strong urge to relieve yourself, it’s because the tons of pornographic ideas and images stored in your unconsciousness trigger that irresistible lust.

We can control our conscious, but not our unconscious department. This is the reason why will power alone cannot make us good because we mostly act or say based on our feeling, not our thought. Somehow, during the course of our day, we have to let our unconscious department take the driver sea; we act in autopilot. This is the reason why for years I fought my addiction without consistent success. Only when I came to the realization that I can’t do it alone did my real healing began. We need the grace of God to uproot the evil stored in our unconscious department.

What does it mean to be a follower of Christ in the brain level?

To become followers of Christ, we need to put in place strong filters in our thought process.

This takes some work, and this is part of the cross that we Christians have to carry everyday. What are these filters?

The Locked Secret Room Inside our Head (2)

As a teenager, I was already very fascinated with how man thinks and arrives at a decision. For example, why sometimes I do something that I know is not the best course of action or it is downright wrong?  More importantly, I was also very interested to know how to become a better person. Finally, after reading the books like the Bible, Malcolm Gladwell's, Blink, and others, a theory or a model of how an idea (unpacked message) produces action finally bubbled up to my conscious mind. I am not sure though if this model was already shown before by another author. Anyway, here it is.

Our brain is like a pacman; it gobbles “everything”. What we see, hear, feel, taste and smell is stored into our brain system. These go straight to the unconsciousness department, but those we focused upon go to the consciousness department. In the unconscious department nobody knows what is going on in there; it’s a room full of secrets and psychologists have no success unlocking it so far. The heart doesn’t necessarily refer to the fist-sized organ that pumps blood throughout our body, but to the system in your body that generates feelings and emotions.

Now, you can see why it’s dangerous to watch bad TV programs, movies and shows? The unspoken messages go straight to your unconsciousness and generate feelings. And do you know that you act most of the time based on your feelings than your thoughts? We are supposedly rational being, but most of our actions are not the product of our thinking; more often than not, these are the product of our feelings, and emotions.

This model looks simple, but very helpful in explaining our behavior, and in finding ways to improve it. In short, it helps me answer the questions that long fascinated me.

The Locked Secret Room Inside our Head (1)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

San Carlos was the most famous university in Cebu when I graduated from high school. So in the summer of 1991, I went there to enroll in the engineering department. The problem was, I did not know it then that there were two campuses – the Main, and the Talamban (engineering) campus — so I ended up going to the wrong campus, the Main.

Way back then, the Main Campus students already had this refutation of being well-off, and sophisticated. In short, it was a scary place for people like me. Much more that I went in wearing a plain white t-shirt with “Lucy Marketing” printed in front, a faded “Used” jeans that was already too small for me since I outgrown it, a weather-beaten rubber shoes, and a pair of black-rimmed glasses, like that of Superman’s. I felt like a local street dog entering a cage full of Poodles, Chihuahuas, Huskies, Mastiffs, etc

Since it was my first time in the campus, I went around looking for someone to ask for direction. That was when I spotted three lovely ladies sitting on a concrete chair under a large old tree. They were reading books though I could sense that they spotted me approaching. (Romance time) “Excuse me, may I know where is the guidance counselor’s office?” No reply. One girl just stared at me. I repeated my question twice as politely as I could, but still got the same response. Each time I ask the same question, the volume of my voice got lower and lower as my fragile self-esteem got smaller and smaller. Finally, I left, hurting. The unspoken message was loud and clear, “We don’t like you!”

Watching television shows, and movies that depict violence, drugs/alcohol abuse, sex, greed, bad politics, bad weather, bad news, etc. is like facing those three lovely ladies. You watch to be entertained or informed, but you leave with some unspoken messages tattooed to your brain, messages that could hurt you spiritually. Some are so subtle you can’t even put your finger on it, though you can feel its ill effect in your thoughts and behavior.

For example, when you “often” see in your favorite noontime show lovely and curvy ladies dancing or gyrating like there’s no tomorrow, wearing skimpy attire or showing more flesh than required, then you receive “unspoken” messages like it’s OK to dress like that, it makes you look lovely and sexy dressing like that, girls nowadays like being sexy, etc.

Another example is when you “often” see teenagers in your favorite TV series engaging in pre-marital sex and swapping partners every other episode, you receive an unspoken message that pre-marital sex is normal (and if you don’t go along with it, you are too old fashion), sex and love are the same (most definitely not), etc.

Take note that I highlighted the word “often” because the more often we see something, the more it will look normal to us. This is where the danger lies.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Lesson from Mario Sepulveda, Chile Mining Rockfall Incident Survivor

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Timothy 1:7

About three weeks ago, an incredible rescue operation took place in a cooper and gold mine somewhere in the Atacama desert in Chile to save the lives of 33 miners who were trapped 2060 feet below the earth. It was such a happy-ending story since all the trapped miners were rescued.

But for 17 days after they were trapped and before their existence was confirmed by rescuers, the miners had the horrifying realization that they could all die painfully from starvation, from disease, from suffocation, or worst, from each other. These were the days that each of them had to face their worst fears.

Imagine that you were with these miners buried under the earth. Smell the damp and sickening odor of the soil all around you, hear the drop of water that fall to a puddle of mud nearby, feel the uncomfortable heat rising from the surface of the earth, look at the rock-sealed exit, and observe the distressed faces of your companions. How would you feel when it dawn on you that there’s no way out, and that the situation is now out of your control? Will you freak out? Will you accept your fate peacefully? Will you switch to survival-of-the-fittest mode? Or will you remain hopeful?

I believe the honest answer is, “I don’t know.” Our worst fears can make us do things that can even shock us. Think of the evil things that men are capable of during war time. Does the holocaust ring bell?

We don’t know (yet) the drama that surrounded the trapped miners during these harrowing 17 days. But the comment from one of the rescued miners, Mario Sepulveda, was quite revealing. He said, “I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won.” He then added, “I grabbed God’s hand and never doubted that I will be rescued.”

Wow! Sepulveda may not be speaking from the physical perspective, meaning he didn’t actually see God and the devil, but from a spiritual perspective; he felt God’s presence, as well as, the presence of the enemy in his heart. Both made their pitch, he listened, switched sides from time to time, and finally, chose. All while buried under the earth.

When we are at our lowest, when reality contradicts our deep hopes and beliefs, that is when our faith is put to a hard testing. Yes, it was a test, a knee-shaking, hope-stealing test, indeed. And Sepulveda, and the rest of the miners showed the world how to pass the test.

When we are at our deepest trouble, when problems and life’s difficulties push us deeper than before, and when it seems that there is no way out, remember the miners. The successful rescue operation in Chile was not just a triumph of engineering, planning, and operation. But more importantly, it was the triumph of the collective human spirit over the gates of hell.

In the valley of death, fear will knock on our door. Not once or twice, but more often. And he won’t go away…unless…we allow our faith in God seal the door of our heart. Mario Sepulveda did it, and so can you and me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"You're Out of Tune!"

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:12~13

There was once a young boy who loved music. He hummed, whistled and belted out with joy every time he heard his favorites songs in the radio. His repertoire included the songs of Max Surban, Yoyoy Villame, Barbara Streisand, the Beatles, and others.

One day, while serenading his pet cat and dog, a bully sneaked in from behind. As the little boy hit crescendo, the bully began to laugh as if he heard the funniest joke in town. He gasped and pointed his finger to the young performer. “You’re out of tune!”

The young boy’s ego was murdered. From that day on, he was never the same. He still loved music, but deep inside he believed that he was never good enough.

A few years later, he was invited by his music teacher to join the school choir, but he never did. In high school, he longed to be in the choir, yet he never auditioned. He believed he was not worthy. The bully left a bitter taste in his love for music that just won’t go away.

Friends, maybe somewhere in your past or even today, you are like this young boy. You don’t want to get into close relationship with God not really because you don’t want to, but maybe because you don’t feel worthy. Sin bullied you, like the rest of us, into believing that you are dirty and don’t deserve to be loved by our God. Don’t make the same mistake that I made as a young boy; don’t believe your bully.

Jesus came not for the perfect, but for sinners like you and me. Come and join in His supper and partake in His saving words. You’ll never be the same again.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

ABC of Decision Making -- The Simpliest Way to Make a Decision

1 To man belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.
2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.
3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.
                                               Proverbs 1:1~3

When I was a junior student, everyday I felt panic building inside of me. I was about to graduate from high school, but I still couldn’t decide what course to pursue in college. It was like being pushed to the plank, the sharp sword pointing at my back and the dark wide ocean before me, when I couldn’t decide yet what to do once I'm in the water. A long time ago, I decided not to bother dreaming about college because I believed that my parents couldn’t afford it.

Fortunately, God sent me a beautiful angel. I was already enrolled in a three-year course in a local technical school when my English teacher, Maam Erna, came to our house to help me get a government scholarship. Months later, I received a letter from PESFA that stated that I was chosen as one of their scholars. The surprising part was that I can only avail of the scholarship if I took up a Bachelor of Science (BS) course. What a blessing!

I was both happy and perplexed though. What course should I take? I mulled over this question when my eyes caught sight of my brother’s book, Grob’s Basic Electronics. That’s it! I decided to take up Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communications Engineering, not particularly because I like electronics or communications, but because I thought that my parents can save money from buying books since my brother already had books in electronics.

Did I make the right decision?

Not long ago, I started teaching my eldest daughter how to make decision. Since she is still very young (8-year old), I tried to make it as simple as possible. I call this the ABC of making decision.

A – Acknowledge your options
B – Balance each option
C – Choose the empowering option

To acknowledge is to realize that we have options. Each time we face a situation, and event or a problem, a crossroad is laid before us. Before we jump in or say mini-mini-mo, it helps to clear our mind by asking…

What are my options here?
Who can help me figure out what are my others options? Who is the right person(s) to approach?

To balance is to compare our options to a yardstick, a guideline or a standard. This is done by asking the following questions:

Which option is right based on my faith,values and principles in life? Which option aligns with God’s will? (For moral questions)
Which option is close to my heart based on my dreams in life? (For everyday questions)
Which option is correct based on my knowledge and experience? (For technical questions)
Who can help me understand the merit and demerit if each option? Who is the right person(s) to approach?

Finally, we choose. However, after acknowledging our options, and balancing it against our faith, values, belief, dreams, knowledge and experience, this time we have to do alone. This is a personal thing. To arrive at a quality decision, we have to…

Choose the option that aligns with your faith, your values and principles in life.
Choose the option that aligns with your dreams in life.
Choose the option that aligns with what you think is correct based on your knowledge gained though education, and experience.


In every decision we make, there is always a motive – the reason why we do things or say things. So before we choose, let’s try to examine our motive and see if it aligns with what we hold is true. We may fool the people around us, but God can see through us.

We can make all sorts of plans and decisions, but it is up to God to bless this or not. We can plant  the seed, but it is up to God to make it grow. A car accident, a terminal illness, an earthquake, a fire, a drought, a typhoon, a recession, etc. can simply throw a monkey wrench to all our plans in a blink. God always has the last say.

Years later, I am now here where I am today after I took that path based on that one book. Did I regret that decision? No! It was not that best way to choose a career though. I am happy because along the way I found the right way -- Jesus. I am truly amazed when I finally realized that God's way is the best way "all the time". (Before, I thought that God's way is for losers and non-achievers only. I was so wrong.) And I am very excited that I found my own means of serving and pleasing Him now.

Imagine. You are in your deathbed and an angel approaches you. Then he asks you, “Who do you want to please first: God, yourself or others.”

What would you say? Would you wait for the time that you are in your deathbed to make the best decision in life? Before you jump to you next to-do work, mull over this very important question and decide for yourself. Your eternity depended on it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So You Want to Know the Road to Your Success

“Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.”   Proverbs 4:25~27

Last Friday, I filed a leave from work for a day to support my children during their school’s foundation day celebration. It was tough decision because the deadlines of my work deliverables were closing down on me like burning arrows falling from the sky.  

Everyday we arrive at a crossroad and we have to decide which way to go. At work, I usually run into crossroads like should I attend this meeting or do something else, should I work on the contract manufacturer’s concern first or do design stuffs instead, and on and on. At home, I run into crossroads like these: should I take my wife to a date or should we just stay at home to save money, should I assist my children with their school work or do my personal stuffs instead, and the list goes on.

I am pretty sure that you have your long list too.

The thing is, oftentimes we are so used to our everyday crossroads that we tend to become complacent and act in autopilot – we think less and react more. This is usually when mistakes and errors of judgment are made. The good news is, every time we make a wrong turn, God provides us with a small path back to our main path, though we still have to face the consequences of our misjudgment. But if again we choose the wrong path then we get farther and farther away, and the road back to our main path gets narrower and narrower.  

So where’s your main path?

The main path is where your dreams lie. It is who you want to become, and where you want to be down the road.

I believe the reason why many people are not getting anywhere in relation to their dream is because everyday they make small choices away from their main path. Still others don’t get anywhere because they have no dreams at all. They have nowhere to go.

Let’s take the case of Christopher Gardner. He and his son were abandoned by his wife. Not only that, he was broke. Since he couldn’t pay the rent, he got evicted. So he and his son slept in a public toilet and in the streets most of the time. However, he had a dream; a ticket out of their misery – he wanted to become a stockbroker. One day, he was offered an internship at Dean Witter for six months, but without pay and without assurance of getting hired. At that particular moment, Mr. Gardner was on a crossroad. He could accept the offer or go somewhere else. Why wait for six months when you have a toddler to take care of? But Mr. Gardner thought that his dream was worth it, so accepted the offer and worked his heart out. Had he not, he would have taken a detour. Now He is a CEO of his own stockbrokerage, Garner Rich and Co. And his life was portrayed in the movie, In Pursuit of Happyness.

Let’s examine the case of Carlito (not his real name). Carlito finished computer science. Immediately after graduation, a company offered him a job as a bill collector. Carlito was on a crossroad. Should he accept the offer which means instant job or should he patiently seek a career in software programming. At that time, he wasn’t really sure what he wanted in life, and he was more concerned with the unemployment statistic, so he accepted the job offer. Years later, when a career in software programming became a lucrative career, Carlito wished he chose the other path. Now he is trying to find a way back to where he wants to be. My belief is, if he can emulate the examples of Christopher Gardner, he should. Mr. Gardner showed us that if you really and badly want something on a consistent basis and go for it with your guts out then you shall have it. It won’t be easy though.

So how to stay on your main path?

To get to where you want to be, you have to make small ‘right’ choices every moment. You have to choose the right path no matter how narrow or small it is every waking second.

According to Tony Robbins, we make three basic decisions every moment of our life that shapes our destiny: (1) What do you gonna focus on? (2) As you are focusing on, what does it mean? (3) What am I gonna do?

In practical application, it means that before you choose your path, pause. Focus on who you want to become or where you want to be down the road before you decide to do something or say something. Ask yourself, “If I do this, will it take me down to where I want to be?” Then choose to interpret the events as they unfold in your life in a way that will help you grow in strength and confidence, not put you down. And finally, act. Move towards your goal, not away from it. Don’t allow difficulties and fears to paralyze you. Do this religiously and you’re on your way.

However, there are deeper questions that need to be answered by each of us: “Is my main path the right path? Is my dream the right dream? Am I pursuing my dream the right way?”

God gives us free will, the freedom to choose our destiny – a wonderful privilege yet dangerous when misuse. So in life you have basically two main paths before you – God’s way, and the other way. A blessed life happens when your way aligns with God’s way. Otherwise, you may have abundance and pleasure, yet your life is empty. You find no satisfying meaning or purpose at all.

So now we get to the main crossroad in the road of life. Should we follow God’s way or should be go the other way?

In the other way, being strong and courageous is enough to get anywhere. But in God’s way, it’s not. You need to be righteous as well, knowing what is right before the eyes of God and doing it. In short, you have to have faith in God and in His goodness.

Now it’s time to choose. But before you do, pause for a moment. See the crossroad before you – God's way, and the other way. Feel the wind that blows against your face. Then ask yourself, “Is my ultimate goal the life now or the life after? Am I to live for my body alone or for my soul as well? Do I want to spend eternity with my Creator or with the enemy?” Now put your palm above your eyes and look far, far ahead down each road. I tell you, each way will lead you to two distinctly opposite places and makes you into two distinctly opposite being. Now close your eyes and listen to that faint voice inside your heart. What does it say? 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Your Powers to Success

“Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Genesis 1:26

I was a loser!

As a young child growing up in Mabolo, I can still remember vividly the day I attempted to climb the stairs of the two-storey poultry farm of our rich neighbor. (We were squatters in a vacant lot close to it.) I waited until nobody was watching, and then I slowly crawled my way going to the second floor. Two or three treads away from the top, I chickened out and reluctantly went down back to where I started. I was afraid of height.

Losing is not when you are stuck against a wall and can’t seem to find a way around it. It’s when you retreat back to your shell, and quit. I had my share of failures. More than I want.

Why we fail? Aren’t we created in God’s image and likeness? God is definitely not a loser, right? So why?

Sin has everything to do with it. When Adam and Eve were created, they were like pure, sparkling water put inside a crystal clear glass; they were perfect. They were created to rule all over earth. Yet, they both erred in one of their gifts or powers – their will. When they disobeyed God, it was like oil was poured into that glass. Purity gone, power diminished. In effect, they surrendered their inherited kingdom, this world, to Satan. (Not to scare those who do not realize it yet, but Satan rules this world ever since the fall. But God promised that it will end…)

Yet everything is not lost. Man may not be the ruler of the world anymore, but God still created us to become winners in our own right by giving us innate powers or gifts. And one of the reasons that we lose in life is because we either ignore our gifts or don’t use them properly.

What are these gifts from God that can help us succeed?

You have the power to choose. You can choose to succeed or to fail, you can choose life over death. It’s your choice. The gates of hell can’t force you to do anything if you choose not to. Even God listens and respects your choice. You are not really exercising your power if you allow others to choose for you or if you allow your circumstances to force you to choose the wrong choices. Choose what you know if right before the eyes of God, and you can’t go wrong.

Your brain can do a lot of wonderful stuffs for you such as creating ideas, learning new things, solving problems, and weighing your options. If you want to succeed in all areas of your life you 'must' use your brain, and avail of all its incredible functions. Don’t allow other people to think for you; do you own thinking. You can access the knowledge of others, but it is your duty to yourself to filter the information that you received – store what is right and useful, throw away the garbage. In the end you are responsible for your own actions no matter what are your excuses.

I am not necessarily referring to the fist-size organ in your chest, but your ability to feel emotions, and understand the emotion of others. With this power you can relate to others in a deeper level. You are not using this power if you ignore your own feelings and that of others.

We use our words to communicate with each other. But there's more to it. God created the world with His words. Since you are created in the likeness of God your words are powerful too. It’s like a stone thrown into still waters; it creates ripples of blessings or curses. The only thing is that most of us do not see its impact into our life or the life of others specially our love ones. We see it everyday so we take it for granted. Here’s a very obvious example. Express your appreciation sincerely to someone you know. Or curse and berate someone close to you for a mistake he or she did. What do you think will happen? I can tell you with certainty that this person will ‘do’ something in response to the words you released even long after you have forgotten it. And the effects could even last for years.

The power of the words is that it begets result, sooner or later. So choose your words wisely.

I am not necessarily referring only to your two hands, but to your overall ability to transform ideas into tangible things; your ability to create something meaningful and useful from thoughts. You are not using this power if you procrastinate or if you are being lazy.

Your sense of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing give colors to your world. In effect, you can create colorful and wonderful ideas which when work upon by your hand will produce something beneficial and useful to you and to others. You are misusing this gift if you numb yourself by alcoholism, by substance abuse, and by other excesses that distort your senses. God wants you to create beautiful things, so take good care of your senses.

This is your innate ability to do a particular activity easily. Most often than not, you do it instinctively or you just feel your way easily. If you are good in singing then sing, if you are good in teaching then teach, and so on and so forth. Spend your time and energy developing your skills. Don’t be stubborn and try to be someone God did not cut you out to be. Know your talents and flow into that direction. Most important of all, use your talents to express your love to God, to yourself and to others. Not just yourself because that would be a misuse of your talent. It could be as bad or even worse than ignoring your talents altogether.

God wants us to succeed not just in the physical aspect which sad to say it what most of us only see, but most importantly, in our spiritual life. I am sure because I am a father myself, and I can say without blinking that I only want what’s best for my children. I want them to be successful when they grow up. How much more is our Father in heaven who is all good and holy?

Friends, when we are three treads away from our success and a defiant wall stood in front of us. Don’t quit. Your Father in heaven is there in your side, encouraging and cheering you up. He is also urging you to use your innate powers that He has bestowed upon you since birth. Please be a good child and obey…you don't have to be a loser. You can be a winner!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Your Ultimate Guide to Success

There are so many words spoken about success by experts. So many books have been written about it. These books sold along with the audio tapes and CD’s because until now man is still searching for the Holy Grail of success.

The truth is that the Holy Grail of success is right under your roof, in a shelf covered with dust. That’s right. The Holy Bible is the Ultimate Guide to success. He who thinks that the bible is only about spirituality will be in for a surprise. Allow me to highlight a few passages to make my point.

Success in Marriage
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:21~33

“When you see a good-looking woman, look the other way; don’t let your mind dwell on the beauty of any woman who is not your wife. Many men have been led astray by a woman’s beauty.” Sirach 9:8

Success in Parenting
“Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction.” Ephesians 6:4

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. Proverbs 13:24

Success in Relationship
“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

“A gentle answer quiets anger, but harsh one stirs it up.” Proverbs15:1

“Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. Human anger does not achieve God’s righteous purpose.” James 1:19~20

Success in Health

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:25-27

 Success in Business and Wealth
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty." Malachi 3:8~11

“…judging even godless people fairly, sharing expenses with your business partner or a traveling companion, sharing an inheritance, using accurate weights and measures, making profit, whether great or small, bargaining with a merchant… …” Sirach 42: 2~5

There is nothing wrong with being rich if you haven’t sinned to get that way. Sirach 13:24

And many more.

Surprised? I was, too, when I started really reading the Bible. You see this incredible book doesn't just address the needs of our spirit, but unknown to many, it also addresses that of our body. This is like the A-Z book of success. This is 'the' complete user manual our Creator handed to us so that we will know how to live our life well and be successful now, and the life after.

If you are looking for a life-changing book then look no further. The Holy Bible has changed lives for the better before, and is still changing lives today. It can change your life too. If you are tired of your old ways and you want a breath of life God promised to us, then spend time with God's Words as written in the Holy Bible; our ultimate guide to complete success. Then be amazed...

PS: I recommend that before you read your bible say a short prayer and ask God to bless you with wisdom and understanding. Not everyone who reads the bible can quickly grasp the message, but keep at it with faith in your heart. It is written, "Ask and you shall receive..." Sooner or later you will feel that a passage in the Bible talks to your heart specially when you are in the dark and trying days of your life. Isn't that great?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reaching Out For Success Successfuly (Part 2)

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:7~8


What does it take to become successful? Money? Connections? Looks? Talents? Education? Smart? Guts? Attitude?

All of the above might help, but it won’t necessarily guarantee your success. So what does it really take to become successful?

Your ability to succeed is like the Earth; it has layers. The crust consists of your learned skills, acquired knowledge and external plus factors. The mantle is your habit, your instinct and your talent. The core represents the choices that you make that put you closer to your goal. This is the most important aspect of your success. Even if you have the external factors and talents, but if your decisions sabotage your chances of success, and blow every opportunity that comes your way, then it’s safe to say that you won’t get so far.

Numerous books have been written about various skills, body of knowledge, habits and talents, so I won’t go there. Instead I will settle on the core of success – the decisions you make.

According to our Master Craftsman as written in Book of Joshua 1:7~8, there are three important decisions that you and I have to make in order to become successful – to choose to be strong, to be courageous and to be righteous. That's right, these are choices not attributes.

Be Strong
On your way towards your goals and dreams in life, problems will surely come. Not only that, to permanently solve most of your problems, you need to make changes in your life, in yourself. For example, if you are buried in debt, in order to pay off your debt you have to find extra income, and become more disciplined with your spending. Both would require changes in your life.

Problems by itself can cause emotional, psychological and physical stress, discomfort, and pain. So does change. This is one reason why it is not easy to succeed.

How many times did you try to do something new; something that you think will be good for you? Maybe you started to jog, attempted to quit smoking and boozing, tried to stop doping, etc. but could not sustain it because the discomfort and pain of deprivation was just too much to bear.

God says that to be successful you must patiently bear the discomfort along the way. In short, you have to be strong even when you feel like quitting.

Here’s the good news. God did not leave us on our own. He said, “Come to me those who are weary and I will give you rest.” When you’re tired and weary in your toil, you can rest in Jesus and surely ease will descend upon you. I know because I've tried it.

Be Very Courageous
On your way towards your goals and dreams in life, doubts and fears will surely creep into your heart and mind. People may say discouraging things to you, discouraging thoughts may shroud your mind, and things may not turn out as you expected.

Yet doubt and fear come to all of us from time to time, but we don’t have to drink its paralyzing poison. There is a better choice – choose to be courageous.

Courage doesn’t mean absence of fear; it means presence of trust. To be courageous is to trust. To whom should we trust?

If your trust is anchored on yourself alone then your anchor is settled on very unstable ground. A single blow to your ego could end your quest. If your trust is anchored on other people alone then be prepared for disappointment because like you they are not perfect. The good news is that there is a better choice – put your trust in the Almighty God for He is perfect and stable. He is faithful, just and holy.

God said that to become successful you have to choose to move forward even if others are in doubt because in your heart you believe that whatever adversities that lies ahead God is with you to walk you through it.

Be Righteous
This is where a lot of people go astray. Many believe that to thrive and succeed in this world you have play by its rules even if it's against our Creator's rules. And should you play by God’s rules, you have to be selective; choose only what is convenient, and self-serving.

God says, “Love me with all your heart and mind,” but man says, “I love myself above all else.” God says, “Keep holy the Sabbath,” man says, “I will open my business even on Sundays because I don’t want to lose money.” God says, “Do not lie,” man says, “I’m in business and marketing.” God says, “Though shall not commit adultery,” man says, “Are you kidding me?” God says, “Forgive,” man says, “After my anger is quenched.” God says, “Love the poor and the helpless,” man says, “Yuck! They’re dirty and disgusting.” And so on.

I know for a fact that there are those who instinctively believe that if they play by God’s rule they will lose. (I was one.) But God promised that if you do what is right in His eyes (not based on the standard of the world) then you will become successful and prosperous. Now whom will you believe?

If you choose to believe in God as I do, then I have good news for you. God did not leave us in the dark to feel our way. He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, not only to save us but also to teach us His ways, and His as recorded in the the book called the Holy Bible. For us to succeed we need to study this Holy Book everyday, and follow its instructions all the time even if the world will be against us.

You know what? After you read this message choices will be put before you -- to act on this or to ignore this. Eventually, you will make a decision consciously or subconsciously. I pray that you make the right one because your success, and the future of those who depended on you may be defined in this single moment.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reaching Out for Success Successfully (Part 1)

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

The other week I visited one of my favorite places, National Bookstore. As I sauntered around I couldn’t help but noticed the many books about success packaged attractively. It got me thinking: “How to really attain success? What does it really take to become successful?” With so many books about success packed shoulder to shoulder in those shelves it was confusing which one to read first. So instead I searched for answers in my most favorite book, The Holy Bible.


Let’s start with the question, “How to attain success?”

A big tree doesn’t just grow up to become what it is today. It starts with a tiny little seed. A beautiful butterfly isn’t born that way; it starts with a slow fat caterpillar. Nature dictates that for something to become SOMETHING, it should undergo a process.

The same is true with success. To become successful you need to follow a process.

FIRST: Set Your Goal, Establish Your Finish Line, Know Your Dream
To know whether you are successful you need to know what success looks like to you. The best yardstick for your success is your own dreams and your goals in life. The most common mistake people make is to align their goals with the goals and expectations of other people. Don’t do that. Follow your own heart.

I believe there are four basic dreams in life: to receive something that you do not have now, to do something that you haven’t done before, to go somewhere where you haven’t been, and to become someone you are not now. So the important question to ask in this stage is, “What do I really want?”

Of the four basic dreams, I believe that the most important is to dream to become someone better than who you are right now because the other three normally follow. In your quest to become SOMEONE, tie your dream around your talents and innate skills. The common mistake people make is to try to become someone God doesn’t intend them to be; someone that doesn’t align with their natural talents or innate skills. So they ended up unhappy and average at best.

Finally, when you dream might as well dream BIG. It’s not a BIG dream if you can reach it easily now. Also, at this stage you don’t need to know how to get there; you only need to know how badly you really want to attain your goal and dream. The more intense is your desire the better is your chance of reaching goals and dreams.

SECOND: Determine the Steps towards Your Goal
How to become a successful businessman? How to become a successful professional in your field? How to become a happily married couple? How to become a wonderful parent? How to become an outstanding student?

Don’t ask me. I don’t know all the answers. (Grinning)

There is a famous saying that goes like this, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The journey to success requires a few or more steps, and to attain it you need to know the right steps. To get to where you want to go you need to know the right path. So in this stage of the success process the right question to ask is, “What are the right steps towards my success?”

If by now you realize already that you do not have all the right answers then you are on the right track. The common mistake people make is to assume that they already know everything they ought to know. The other common mistake is to think that to be successful you need to know everything. Nobody knows everything except God. And you don’t have to know everything to become successful.

We need the help of our fellow men and women. To aim for success as a Lone Ranger is the long way to success. The fastlane is to help others and let others help you. In short you need to build bridges towards other people. To know the steps towards your success you got to connect to the people who have done it already successfully. Read their story, ask them if you can, and pay if you must. Look at it this way, if you are stranded in the desert without water wouldn’t you pay anything to someone who can show you the way to the nearest oasis. If your goal and dream is very close to your heart then it is like water in the oasis.

THIRD: Work your Way One Step at a Time
You already know what you want, and you already know the steps how to get it. The final step in the success process is to roll up your sleeves and work your way to success one step at a time. This is the stage where those who are interested and those who are committed to their goal and dream will be separated. Knowledge is useless if you won’t apply it. You can read all the books about success and interview all the successful people, but won't find any change in your life if you won’t apply the knowledge and wisdom they shared.

In this stage you need to ask – “How to do this step?” – and do it. Adjust if you must, but do not quit.

More often than not, each step of the success process may require new sets of skills or new knowledge; something that you do not have now. So in this stage of the success process you should be prepared to learn and to do. Of course, you can ask other people to do it for you or even hire professionals. Whatever way you choose doesn’t matter much. What matter is that you are willing to do what it takes to succeed.

In summary, God wants us to become prosperous and successful. To become successful you and I need understand the process, follow the process and work the process that leads to our success.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Find Your Talent, Develop It, and Use It?

Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” Matthew 25:28~30

Do you know what your talents are?

All of us have at least one talent. Some people are good in sports while there are some who are good in singing or dancing, just to name a few.

On my part, let just say that I can write. I am not like Roald Dahl, Stephen King, Dan Brown, Bo Sanchez or something like that. However, I won’t say either that I don’t dream about it.

How will you know your talents?

You showed flashes of your talent as a young kid.
As a young boy I was so frustrated with myself. I was not strong and athletic like my big brother, Dhadz. I was not a good storyteller like my cousin Florenillo. In arts, I was just a little above average. I can’t sing or dance like my brother (again…I am now fuming with envy). I was only average in school during my elementary years. And I was painfully shy, and terribly lacking of self-confidence.

It seemed that nothing was going my way as a young boy. However, I just realized now the two manifestations of my talent as a kid. First, I could sit for down literally for hours just staring at our wall. My mother called me lazy and wasteful. What really happened was that my mind was busy churning out stories upon stories where I am the main protagonist. And I really enjoyed doing this.

Another sign was the fact that I felt nostalgic or I felt like crying every time I hear certain songs or music. I don't know why, but I could be emotional at times.

You are good at it and people admire you for your works.
I didn’t know how to write…until I was infatuated with a sophisticatedly beautiful girl in high school. From there, my world brightened with colors. Analogies and metaphors came out my mind like water from a spring. However, when she refused my heart I thought it withered and died. Instead, my heart burnt with deep emotion I didn’t know before. Though it was suffering (at least temporarily), but that experience pushed my writing to a higher level that people like my english teacher, Ms. Erna Yuson, began to notice.

You feel deep satisfaction in your work.
Some of you might be wondering when will this blog ends? A month for now? In two months time? In three? Honestly, I can’t tell you. However, this I can tell you – I enjoy writing the Daily Snacks for the Soul. I feel deep satisfaction just writing it. Where people see labor, I feel joy.

You feel a unique connection to your work
I am tempted to say that if your talented in something you will find it ‘always’ easy to do. In my case it’s not like that. There were many times when I experienced writer’s block. However, this again I can tell you – when I write I don’t rely much on my thinking ability; I rely more on my feeling or instinct. I only use my head to deal with technicalities in writing. I used my feeling to write the story.

In summary, God gifted us with at least one obivous talent, and normally we show flashes of this as a young kid. People admire the product of your talent, and you feel deep joy and satisfaction using your talent. Finally, since your talent in innate you don't think a lot when doing it, instead you rely more on your feeling and instinct.

How to develop your talent?

Once you find your sling (the word Bo Sanchez coined for talent), you must develop it. It’s a sin not to. Now here are my suggestions, which worked for me, how to develop your talent.

Read books about your talent
We may have the natural raw material to sing, dance, cook, talk, etc. but if you don’t study to improve your talent, your development will be slow. In my home library I have 4 books about writing.

Be yourself
I like Bo Sanchez’s writings because they are easy to read, and it's packed with simple wisdoms. In fact, I have several of his books autographed by the man himself. But I don’t attempt to write like Bo, not that I don’t like his style. Each and every one of us is unique, and it is this uniqueness that makes us valuable. Instead of trying to be like someone you are not, celebrate your uniqueness instead.

Believe that you can contribute
You may not believe in yourself, but at least believe that you can help others. And what better way you can help others than using your talent to contribute. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be outstanding to start making a contribution. There will always be people who are higher or lesser than you in terms of talent, but that is not the point. The point is God give you a measure of talent, so use it.

Apply your talent in real situation
At first practice with people whom you know can possibly give you helpful feedback. However, sooner or later you will have to face the real world. Don’t wait for 30 years before you will come out of your shell.

In summary, once you find your talent develop it by applying it. Start with people whom you know can encourage and help you. Read literatures and asked the right people to help you improve your talent faster. When you doubt yourself, remember that there will always people out there that will need your talent no matter how insignificant you think your gift is, and you do not have to wait to perfect your talent before you start using it to help others; learn as you go. Finally, be yourself.

How to use your talent?

Use your talent to help others, not just yourself
Use your talent to give value, and to give joy to other people. A well develop talent can really help improve the lives of other people, a well develop talent can really captivate the hearts of any one.

If you use your talent with the emphasizes on what's in it for you, then your effort will be short-lived. Your legacy will be tainted. Of course, it is OK to profit from your talent, but in the context of giving value and joy to others. It's a win-win situation.

What's in it for me in writing this blog? The joy of knowing that God use me to touch the lives of other people. The satisfaction of knowing that I use God's gift, no matter how little it is, to live out my purpose in life.

Use your talent to give glory to God, not yourself
You are not the source of your talent. I am not the source of my talent. Stamp this in your head and you will never get lost amidst the praise and admiration this world will bestow upon you. God is the only source of our talent.

January of last year I asked myself how I can contribute to God’s work. The only thing I felt natural at is writing, so I decided to write about God’s words. At first I was afraid because I will have to expose myself to other people. What made me do it anyway is this very simple yet powerful belief, “I am not doing this for myself, I am doing this for God.” At first I sent e-mails to my friends and officemates, and this year it evolved into a blog. And that was how the Daily Snacks for the Soul got started.

I don’t look at myself as the source of the wisdoms, and knowledge that I sprinkled here and there over my articles. I am not kidding. Instead, I look at myself as a delivery boy. Before writing I pray to God for wisdom and understanding, and then I read the Bible. From there I begin writing my thoughts and reflections. (I do read articles from other writers, and listen to preachings in between.) So when somebody tells me – “Your article is good! I like it!” - I can honestly say, “Thanks! But thank God more for He is the source of the message.”

In summary, use your talent to serve your purpose in life: (1) To love God above all things (2) To love others as much as yourself. Enjoy your talent, but don't fool yourself into thinking that you are the source of your talent. Praises are good when taken with the right frame of mind -- keeping in mind that the glory belongs to the Creator.

PS: Honestly, I still feel happy when somebody finds my article helpful, and I feel inspired to continue my chosen task everytime I see the people who followed the Daily Snacks for the Soul. Many thanks to all of you for your support!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why on Earth God Created Us?

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37~40

When I was a teenager I wrestled with the question: “Why I am here? What is my purpose in life?”

 I’m sure many of you did too at one point or another in your life. Now here is Jesus’ answer to this question in a nutshell.

(1) To love God above all things
(2) To love others as much as yourself

As simple as it seems but these are the purpose of our existence in order of importance.

What does this mean in practical day to day living? (Below are a few questions to guide you.)

To Love God
When you wake up in the morning, do you thank God or do go with the motion like switching on the TV to watch the morning news? Do you find pleasure in spending time with God?

When you are browsing in the internet alone and in the privacy of your room, do you intentionally visit adult sites or do you fight off the temptation knowing that you're making God happy and proud of you?

Do you contribute your resources to advance God’s kingdom? Do you find pleasure in giving God a treat?

Do you work to impress your boss or do you work to please God?

To Love Yourself
Do you smoke for pleasure or do choose not to because you care about your health?

Do you eat unhealthy foods or do you limit yourself to healthy diet knowing that there are foods that can poison your body?

Do you indulge in premarital sex for pleasure or do you refrain because you don’t want your body to catch STD or AIDS?

Do you read and try to learn something new or do you just let your brain wither and get wasted?

To Love Others
Would you look into the eyes of a dirty and shabbily-dressed child whom you meet in the street or would you look at the other way? Would you give because you care?

Would you help a distressed mother who needs money because her child is very sick even if you do not know her? (However, she showed you a doctor’s prescription.)

Would you initiate communication with your wife after an ugly argument knowing that she’s hurting too as much as you do?

Do you lie to promote your own interest at the expense of others?

How do we pursue our purpose in life?

God calls us to do our best and to excel in fulfilling our purpose in life. The only way for you and me to do this is to operate within the vicinity of our talents, and innate skills. Otherwise, you and I won’t shine our shiniest. We will only be average.

Before we were born, God had embedded into the fiber of our being our talents and innate skills; and each and every one of us differs in the kind, and in the amount of talents. For example, some are good in singing, dancing, acting, speaking, writing, cooking, designing, building, teaching, leading, etc., while some are more talented than others. Why God made us different?

We all have the same purpose in life, but we have different ways of serving these; we have different divine responsibilities. God choose our talents because He has specific ‘ways’ in mind how each and every one of us can fulfill our purpose in life. Therefore, to have a clearer idea ‘how’ we should pursue our purpose in life, we should discover what are our talents and innate skills. And then use these to show our love for God, and our love for others as much are ourselves.

Why on earth God created us this way?

We are not an accident or a coincidence. We are intentionally crafted and created by God to be part of a BIG picture, a picture bigger than any of us.

We are all part of one body with Christ as the head. There is an invisible thread that interconnects all of us. This means that if one part is hurt, the rest will suffer in one way or another. If one part becomes sick or cancerous, the rest of the body will suffer sooner or later. Think about it for a minute, and ask this question: “What will happen to our team if one member is sick, miserable or sinful?” Start with your family, then your neighborhood, then your workplace, then your city, then your country, and then finally the world. Think hard. It’s not really that difficult to see, isn’t it?

You see, we are all created to love God, and to care for one another. And our Master Craftsman placed a mechanism inside each and every one of us that will send waves of peace, satisfaction, and ecstasy if we aligned ourselves to our real purpose in life. This is the reason why it feels really good, and right to be close with our God. This is also the reason why you won’t feel peace and real happiness when you allow yourself to become selfish, indifferent and aloof. It’s like cutting off the oxygen to your spirit.

Now here’s the brighter part. If you don’t like the direction of your life now, and you feel as if you are chasing something that you can’t find or that your life doesn’t count much then maybe, just maybe your life is not aligned to your real purpose in life. It’s time to go back to your oasis, and live the life God calls you to be. Follow your purpose in life. Use your talents to serve God’s purpose for you.

PS: Now you understand the deep reasons behind God’s 5th commandment: “Thou shall not kill.” When God tell us to do something, He is not just bossing us around, He has deep reasons. And it is to our best interest to listen and follow. Amen?