Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Little Boy on the Street

For the genuine Christian, the major motivating factor for all of life is the desire to please God, not man. The key to pleasing God is faith.
-- Hebrews 11:8

As the red light flashed not far ahead, I released the accelerator of my car and slowly pressed down on the brake until my car stopped. It was still early night so there was a long line of cars and jeeps whose drivers were eager to get out of the city traffic soon. Then I saw a familiar sight.

Out in the dimly lighted part of the street came children of varying ages – around 6-year old to 12-year old. They began knocking on the window of the cars and asked for food or money. Some even rode on the jeepney, and sang songs to the tired commuters hoping to receive money or something to eat.

Then a shabbily dressed little boy shyly approached my car and knocked at my window. The dirt and oil in his knuckles left its imprint on the clean tempered glass. “Sir, money please.” Deep inside I was hoping that the green light would flash soon because I felt an uneasiness in my heart. I knew that I was not suppose to give money to this child for so many man-made reasons: it’s against the city ordinance, it will encourage more beggars into the street, it will endanger the life of these children due to car accident, this children will only use the money to gamble or buy drugs, etc. However, I always felt that something was amiss every time I ignored a beggar on the street. That night was no exception.

Since the green light won’t lit soon, I decided to study the face of the little boy to look for reason not to give in – sign of drug addiction, arrogance, hatred, deception, etc. But what I saw were imploring eyes of a shy child. One who might not yet eaten his supper, if he got one already. Then I realized, yes he was dirty but he was also a person; he was a beggar but was also a soul. And God love all souls that He willing died for it.

As I rolled down the window and hand over a big coin, I smiled at the little boy. At first he was reluctant to smile back, probably thinking that I was handing over a bait or something. Finally, he reached out, got the money, smiled back, said “Thank you”, and moved on. From my side mirror, I saw that the little boy was looking at my car as I speed away. As the music played in the stereo, I felt that my uneasiness melted into happiness, and I knew that I did something right.

Money can buy food to relieve hunger but it is the genuine smile across your face or the gentle words of encouragement even from a stranger that helped relieve the hunger of the soul. When Jesus said, “love other people as much as yourself,” he doesn’t mean that you care only for your family and friends, he also referred to those less fortunate. If you are a genuine Christian then you should do what you need to do no matter how small it is, even if the laws of man say otherwise for your faith is meant to please God, not man.

PS: As Christian, we are called to believe in the Holy Trinity, and to please the Triune God. The Holy Bible says that to please God, we have to have faith in Him. How? By believing that He exists and by following His words. Belief won’t hold true without obedience, and obedience won’t make sense without belief.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Night My Car Broke Down

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.
-- 1 John 5:14, 15

It was around 7PM of April 5, 2010. I was about to leave the office to pick up my wife in Mandaue City Hall; we had an appointment with a family friend by 7:30PM. When I got to Lexmark's parking area, my car, Herbie, stood silently like a faithful dog waiting for its master to arrive. Everything looked fine so I went through the usual motion of checking in my bag and book, opening the baggage compartment for security checking, and settling myself on the driver’s seat. Then I started the engine – Tick! I tried again – Tick! I tried over and over again, but I got the same result; the car won’t start.

I am an engineer by profession so I knew, supposedly, a lot of technical stuffs including how a car works. Wrong! I am the type of driver who likes to drive my car but seldom bother to open the hood. But that night, I had to make an exception, so I opened it and look for obvious signs of problem – wires OK, battery cables and cable connections OK, coolant OK, break fluid OK, etc. It was like trying to find a needle in the middle of a haystack with my eyes closed. Since I didn’t have an inkling of what the problem was, and how to find it, I pulled down the hood, went back inside my car, and with a tinge of desperation, started the engine again – Tick! Tick! Tick! Tick!

On the verge of calling off our appointment, I pulled out my cellphone and started keying in a text message to my wife when God spoke to my heart: “Pray.” With the cellphone still in my hand, I closed my eyes, bowed my head and prayed to God: “Lord, You are almighty; nothing is impossible with You. Please start my car so that we can push through with our important appointment.” Then I started the car – ta-ta-ta-tat-tat-tat-broommm! Herbie came roaring back to life! “Praise God,” I shouted in delight.

I read of stories like this in the Kerygma, but I never thought that God would let me experience it in my own life. But before you will petition the Pope to beatify me, please hear me. I am not a holy man; I sinned yesterday and I will most likely sin tomorrow. But despite my sinfulness, my Father in Heaven answered my prayer. And He will answer your prayers too. The key is to pray the right way. How?

Pray with an expectant heart. When I prayed for my car, in my heart I believe that God will grant my request; much like when I was asking a bread from my Tatay Tonio.

Use the power of your words. Every word that I prayed that night, I made sure that I hear it, and then affirm it in my heart to be true. I have no power to boss God around, but with my words I can tap to the vast reservoir of God’s love and blessing. If you pray without hearing your prayers, like your mind is somewhere else, then your prayer losts its power.

Your prayer should be in accordance to God’s will. This is the reason why some prayers are not granted or why God delayed answering prayers. Even if you pray for something good like prosperity, God may still not answer your prayer if you are still not ready for it – you’re heart is still greedy and you’re financially illiterate – because it will only drive you farther away from Him or make you more miserable; ask those who win the lotto and lost all their money within a few years to understand this point.

Finally, pray in Jesus name for He is the only way to the Father.

God adored us His children even if we sin from time to time. He will easily forgive and forget our mischief if we apologize sincerely, because that’s what every loving parent do. And He gives us a cellphone to send text messages to Him – our prayer – because He cares about our every need. Whether God will answer or not answer your prayer rest assured that the root of it all is LOVE.

PS: The battery of my car was defective; no high current was observed by the Suzuki technicians. And the not-so-popular battery was replaced with Motolite for free. God is great!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Day I Sang Out of Tune

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

One day in my speech class in college, our teacher told us that our oral activity was to sing a song in front of the whole class, and that it was to be graded. I had mixed feelings; I knew that I was no Ariel Rivera, not even a Yoyoy Villame, but I needed that grade to keep afloat my academic ambition. It didn’t help that most of my classmates were lovely ladies, and I was apprehensive that I would bark and meow in front of them – that should be the end of my romantic ambitions. So with determination not to shame my manhood, I practiced like a concert artist with my buddy Armand. I didn’t just try to imitate Barry Manilow, I even imagined the faces of my classmates smiling sweetly at me as I captivated their heart with my melody.

The big day came. I submitted my cued tape to my teacher, sat down, and began chanting this mantra in my head: “Bell ring please, bell ….” Eight fifteen…eight thirty…eight forty-five…eight fifty-five…I was getting closer to the friendly line unscathed since our class was good only for one hour when…. “Raoul Derit!” the voice of my polished teacher boomed like thunder in my ear and sent lightning bolts to my body, smashing my hope into pieces. As I reeled myself to take the microphone, all eyes were glued at me high with expectation. By this time, the students for the next session had already arrived, so instead of singing supposedly to only about twenty students, I had to give a live performance to a room overflowing with beauties. I felt like I was surrounded by lovely angels while being pushed towards a burning furnace!

I began to sing the first lines of the song, “As Sure as I’m Standing Here.” My voice floated like a butterfly into the air, and felt like cold ice on a hot summer day. I knew because the smiles got wider, and it felt like heaven. Then the musical hill got steeper and higher. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my head from my past, “You’re not a good singer! You’re out of tune!” Soon I began to loss my grip on my confidence; quickly the butterfly turned into a moth, the cold ice transformed into hot rocks, and I was pulled down back to earth. I knew because the smiles turned to frowns, and those who looked at me approvingly a while ago, looked somewhere else. The voice was right.

Believe it or not, God gives us a real power. Many people just don’t realize this or are only vaguely aware of its existence. What is this power?

Observe a child. Does he usually get what he wants? Praise a person sincerely. Did you make his day? Now belittle and curse that same person. Did you make him happy? Now imagine that you are joining a competition like basketball tournament, and tell yourself that you are too short, too slow, and too clumsy. Do you think you can perform to the best of your abilities?

Your power comes from your spoken words. And before you say – “Ay, that’s it?” – hang on their just a little bit and grasp this. Your words are so powerful it can destroy a person like a sword or it can bless a person like honey; it can bless your life or destroy your life, as well. How?

For the words to have power in you and to others, it must meet two requirements: First, it has to be heard, and second, it has to be believed on. When these two requirements are met, then the full power of the words, good or bad, will manifest in the form obedience or a positive response. When I lost the tune that day in my college speech class, it was not because I was really a bad singer, but because I sabotaged my own performance by acting out what the voice told me. I still believed it even when it was spoken to me long time ago.

If like me before, you are still bound by the power of bad words spoken against you in the past, there is a way out – believe that what you heard is not the final story. But this is easier said than done most especially if those words come from the people you truly care about. But I have good news for you. Our love ones may fail us at times but God will never do. He has all the right words for us to bless us. In my case, God spoke these words to my heart – “I love you, I adore you, and I already bless you with gifts that will make you soar like a beautiful butterfly.” I believed Him. And the day I did, my life was never the same again…and it still keeps getting better everyday.

PS: You are not a failure; you are created to be a winner, you just need to find your God-given talent and swim with it. You are not ugly; you are created in God’s image and likeness, you just need to see deeper into the flesh and straight into your heart because that is what your Father in Heaven is looking at. You are not useless; you are created for a specific reason, you just need to spend more time with your God to find your divine purpose, and once you do, make it your passion in life. You are not to wallow in suffering and poverty; the plan of your Father in Heaven is to prosper you, all you need to do is to be faithful and obedient to Him. You are not hated; the world may hate you but your Father in Heaven adores you, invite Him into your life so that you can truly see and feel His love.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I was Just an Average Student

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you as well.
-- Matthew 6:33

Let me tell you the story of my academic journey from a struggling student up to becoming a full pledge licensed engineer.

When I was a primary student of Mabolo Elementary School, I was a struggling student, happy to get by with just 80% average. When my math teacher in grade 4, would start calling students to answer a multiplication problem, I would hide under the desk; I was afraid because "multiply" and I didn’t see eye to eye. I hated multiplication and anything that crawls in the branches of mathematics.

Grade 5 was only slightly different on two counts: first, my multiplication improved to 4 x any number, and second, my math teacher was a torturer – she was an old chubby lady who found pleasure in putting her students who could not answer the board work or seat work into the dark dungeon or more accurately, under her long green skirt. I couldn’t bear the thought of being marooned in the dungeon, so during quizzes I used all ten fingers, shaking nervously, to count – fortunately for me we were allowed to wear slippers so I could see my toes.

The turning point came when I was in first year high school. I had a classmate whose name was Mary Jane; she was not only beautiful and articulate, she was also very smart. One day our teacher asked a question to the class of which I could no longer recall, but until now I have never forgotten the scene inside our classroom during that very moment: everybody was quiet until Mary Jane raised her hand. “Correct!” our teacher announced proudly after Mary Jane gave her answer, and all of us were awed at her brilliance. Then an idea hit me from out of nowhere -- “I want to be like that.” With that new goal in mind, I threw myself into my studies like never before. From there I never looked back, and the rest was history. I graduated Valedictorian from Mandaue City Comprehensive National High School (MCCNHS); I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of San Jose Recoletos (USJR) where I took up BSECE; and I passed the ECE Licensure Examination that same year.

With all honesty, I was just an average student in spite of all the academic accolades I garnered along the way. However, I did have four aces up in my sleeves: I had a goal, I studied really, really hard to reach my goal, I had a very supportive family, and I had an equally supportive God. Of all of these, I believe that God's support was the most crucial because the moment I let up with my prayers, my grades curved downward. A good friend of mine named Alvin, a fellow honor student who is now in the UK, once asked me what was my secret; this was after I got an average of 1.0 or close to that in one semester, and became the top Dean's Lister of the Engineering Department. I told him, “…I prayed.”

That was years ago. Now, if someone will ask me the same question, I can give a better answer, "I have a personal relationship with God." And just like during my schools days, the more intimate I am with Him the more blessings I receive. As a personal testimony to inspire you that God really rewards those who seek Him first, when I started serving Him openly last year, He blessed me with a modest brand new car, and I did not really expected it. Since last year, I have been praying for a promotion, and just recently, despite of the fact that my employeer,Lexmark, is very, very picky in promoting people because of the financial crises, I got promoted! With God on our side, nothing is impossible.

God can do great things in your life, and you do not have to be perfect to receive His blessings. All you need to do is to seek Him first before anything else. Reflecting on my younger days, and my adult life right now, I can say that God has been very good to me not because I was or I am holy, but because in my brokenness, His love for me shines through. So will His love for you!

PS: Seek God first, and rest assured that He will not only provide for your daily needs, but He will also prosper you, so that you can become a blessing to others.