sunday

Woke up today without the rude interruption of the alarm. Instead of snoozing two more hours, I decided to get up right away – it’s such a beautiful day to be lethargic from oversleeping. The only two things marring the “perfection” of this Sunday morning are my arthritic limbs (they’ve started to notice the cooler weather) and the full-volume 90s music of one of the neighbors (please choose another decade, any decade!).

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activities at work. I had to do 6 sessions of product presentation over three days, help stage a pastors’ event, juggle coordination of creative and marketing projects, and remind myself to breathe every now and then. There are two booklaunches and a bookfair waiting in the next few weeks. Whew. One thing that keeps my head above water in all this is the prospect of spending two weeks with family in Davao for Christmas. Now if only I could somehow manage to survive until that joy-to-the-world vacation. Hehe. Meantime, I am exceedingly thankful for this long weekend.

There are a few things that have been soaking in my mind and heart these days. Bits and pieces that, I believe, can be shuffled to a form that makes more sense, if only I could learn – and learn quick – to wisely piece them together in my mind and heart. Some are almost ripe for transcription onto paper or screen. Until then, let me just mull over them, pray about them, listen and learn from other people, and trust the patient and tireless Teacher to instruct and guide.

_______
Current reads: Blink by Ted Dekker, Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey, and The Godward Life by John Piper

Advertisements

gasp!

Horrors! I just found out that my site design – this design – doesn’t display very well with Internet Explorer. The fonts are all mixed up! I’m sure most of you who frequent this site and who are IE users are like, “What’s new, I’ve been bearing with your erratic fonts for so long now I’ve started to think it’s deliberate!”

Gasp! Believe you me, i am little obsessive-compulsive when it comes to layout and design (occupational hazard, i guess).

Last year, upset with IE’s browsing woes (spell ‘slow’ and ‘malware’), i decided to try out Mozilla Firefox. In no time, i fell in love with Firefox, and there was just no turning back. I use Firefox in both my home and office computers now. My favorite feature is the tab feature that lets me open multiple pages (neatly tabbed right below the address field) on the same window – perfect for browsing related topics.

Repairing my template or using a new one that looks right on IE is definitely on my to-do list, but it keeps getting bumped because of other pressing tasks. Meantime, may I suggest you try out Firefox (if you haven’t yet). There’s no telling, you just might fall in love with this browser. Don’t worry, it’s freeware.

agape

“[Agape is] a profound concern for another
without any desire to control that other,
to be thanked by that other,
or to enjoy the process.”
– Edward Nason West

I was revisiting the dusty journal of several years past when I came across the above quote that I had neatly scribbled on the ruled journal page. If I’m not mistaken, Elisabeth Elliot quoted that in her book The Mark of a Man, my reading at the time of the journal entry.

Go ahead, read the quote again. I know I did – again and again. And each time, I sighed. Such a tall order. When I run a quick check of my motives for “loving”, I cringe at the realization that most of them are colored by selfish agenda, albeit covert. It saddens and frustrates me that my kind of “love” is a farcry from that heavenly ideal. Many times I have groped inwardly for resources to simulate agape, but I find nothing that comes close to its lofty purity. But my frequent inability to display agape love doesn’t change the standard: God, who is Agape personified, calls me to love as He does: sans “the desire to control… to be thanked… or to enjoy the process.”

Pondering those words and reflecting on my obvious incapacity to faithfully show agape, I just couldn’t shake off this thought: Maybe the first step to genuinely dispensing agape love is to first soak in it. To keep on receiving it from the Ultimate Source, and, dare I say, be hopelessly addicted to it. Until it consumes you and you can’t hold it back from spilling over from yourself to those around you. After all, what cup has ever prevented water from overflowing from its brim after it has been filled beyond its capacity?

“We love because He first loved us.”

cold feet (part 2)

(Note: Part 1 reposted)

He has always hated getting his feet soaked in the rain. The feel of cold water seeping through his sneakers, socks, and then trickling in between his toes is one of his major peeves.

But tonight Dante doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he doesn’t seem to even notice that his white sneakers and socks have now completely surrendered to the intrusion of dirty rain water. That, for almost fifteen minutes, his feet have been cold and soaking wet.

There he stands, right across the barangay hall, at the street corner where the pot-bellied MMDA officer takes his post every night. Apart from the steady heaving of his chest, Dante is motionless. And drenched—with no umbrella or jacket to fight off the heavy downpour.

’Toy, baka sipunin ka n’yan,” the pot-bellied traffic enforcer shouts out, taking two steps to the side of the unprotected figure in the rain. “Tingnan mo ako may kapote. Solb na. Yun nga lang, di ako maka-yosi…”

The officer pauses, awaiting a response. He doesn’t get any. On a different night, Dante would have engaged the officer in small talk, perhaps even good-naturedly joke about his pot belly. But then again, on a different night, Dante wouldn’t have been there in the pouring rain. Neither would he have endured even for a minute the uncomfortable feeling of cold feet.

Realizing that his conversation opener has been ignored, the officer retraces his two steps away from the figure in the rain, and then buttons down his rain coat—because his protruding belly has started to get damp and because he instinctively needs to get busy doing something to conceal his embarrassment at the rejection.

But Dante has, in fact, taken notice of the officer—his blue rain coat, in particular.

Around three years ago, also on a night visited by heavy downpour, Tarra wore a rain coat with almost the same shade of blue as that of the traffic officer’s. It was the first thing Dante noticed about her. She had no umbrella, just a transparent, bluish rain coat that reached right above her ankles. The way Tarra wore her rain coat and the warm smile that peeked through the hood made Dante think of a bright and clear-skied day. Not a shade of cloudiness in those eyes. At that moment, Dante believed that if Tarra were to simply unveil her hood, the rain would instantaneously cease its pounding and sunrise would be prematurely summoned. That face, that smile—they were nothing less than sunshine.

Dante, however, did not get empirical proof for his weather-altering theory concerning the girl in the blue rain coat. For Tarra’s beautiful face had remained shrouded in the plastic hood, as the rain persisted in its pouring. Could it be that she is unaware of her affecting radiance? The more Dante thought about it, the more he liked the idea of her ignorance of her own luminous charms. Somehow, that made her doubly beautiful.

While his gaze was stubbornly fixed on the radiant beauty in the blue rain coat, Dante must have convinced himself that it wasn’t really raining cats and dogs around him. His senses, captivated by the beautifully radiant stimulus before them, simply shut off the rain. Because, as if in a trance, Dante took three tentative steps towards Tarra, and in so doing, accidentally stepped into a puddle of ankle-deep rain water.

Now he had a problem. Cold feet.

*To be continued*

what ‘s it about?

It’s a relaxed Sunday afternoon and I’m having coffee with Max Lucado in my favorite coffee shop. Widely considered as America’s favorite Christian author, Max Lucado has me in rapt attention in no time. My eyebrows are intently furrowed as he shares to me his thoughts. When he makes a point that I can relate to, I pause and contemplate, slowly nodding or touching my chin in reflection. I like that he seasons his stories with light-hearted humor that elicits more-than-polite smiles—yes, even chuckles—from me. I sip my blended mocha in between our interactions.

It is true—reading Max Lucado is very much like engaging a dear friend in intimate, animated, and honest conversation. His prose is known for being conversational, warm, and resonant, as it teems with profound spiritual insights. And it’s that same accessible style that makes the message of his latest book, It’s Not About Me (OMF Lit/Integrity), seem like a close friend’s sensible advice intimated over coffee. I’m glad I decided to head out to the coffee shop to pore over It’s Not About Me. No place would have been more conducive for this “conversation” with Max Lucado.

It’s Not About Me. If the title seems familiar, it’s because it bears a striking similarity to the very first sentence in Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life (OMF Lit/Zondervan). You will recall that Warren begins his phenomenal worldwide bestseller with the words, “It’s not about you.” Max candidly addresses this similarity in an interview published online (www.beliefnet.com): “Rick’s a pastor as well, and I think the books are complementary. I actually presented this material out at Saddleback before Rick’s book came out—he was on a writing sabbatical, finishing The Purpose Driven Life. And when we were out there, he commented to me, ‘You know, the first sentence of my new book is, ‘It’s not about you.’ Rick’s book is a tremendous practical tool…. Mine is more, I think, a devotional book, more a theological book.”

In the acknowledgment page, Max shares that the idea for his book was born out of a rather casual meeting with a friend whom he asked, “What has God been teaching you this year?” The friend answered, “God has been teaching me that: It’s not about me.” That last line stuck with Max and it eventually gave rise to reflections that first became a series of messages which he preached at his church in San Antonio, Texas. Later, the messages evolved into a book. In fact, Max admits that all his books come out of sermons. I suppose that’s part of the “secret” of his conversational and vivid writing.

Now a New York Times bestseller and 2005 Gold Medallion Book Award winner, It’s Not About Me challenges readers to make the shift of a lifetime: from a me-centered existence to the God-centered life. In chapter one, Max aptly introduces the idea of this radical re-centering by drawing upon a historical event, when Copernicus, in the 16th century, challenged the accepted (and celebrated) belief then that the Earth is the center of the universe and that the Sun and planets revolve around her and her residents. Clearly ahead of his time, Copernicus declared that the Sun, not the Earth is, in fact, the center of the solar system. Of course, centuries later we now know he was right—the Earth is not the center of the universe—and we realize how absurd it is to think otherwise. And then comes Max’s proposition: Could a Copernican shift be needed in the way we view God and ourselves? He writes, “Perhaps our place is not at the center of the universe. God does not exist to make a big deal out of us. We exist to make a big deal out of him. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about him.” And just as in the time of Copernicus, this radical re-centering and re-ordering is not likely to be met with openness in a society highly advanced in its obsession and preoccupation with self.

With such chapter titles as “Divine Self-Promotion” and “My Struggles are About Him”, It’s Not About Me calls for a more biblical understanding and application of our rightful place in the cosmos, even as the redeemed children of God. As Christians today, yes, we declare that God is central and takes highest priority, and that we are subject to Him. But are we living according to our “demoted” status? Just listen to some of the “praise and worship” songs being sung in our churches today. The focus is subtly deflected from God—His holiness, beauty, and might—and neatly placed on our feelings, struggles, and thoughts about faith as we know it. Take note of our prayers; they aren’t very much different from the self-absorbed enumeration of young children writing to Santa Claus. When others scrutinize our individual and collective lives as believers, who will they find at the center?

Max Lucado makes a compelling case in his book for the preeminence of God’s glory. In an interview, Max asserts, “God’s glory is the big news of the Bible, and yet my [selfish] desire is that it would be all about me, but really it’s all about God’s glory.” The instructive stories that he tells of Moses and other personalities—biblical and otherwise—help crystallize the message: God rightfully asserts and deserves His place at the center. Our needs, feelings, pleasures, struggles will have to find their places in the periphery. And the beauty of it all is that God’s self-promotion, as Max calls it, results in our own good! Being off-center frees us from a complicated and dysfunctional existence and allows us to enjoy and participate in the proclamation of God’s glory. In Max’s words, “God loves us too much to make it all about us.”

Personally, reading It’s Not About Me was like being handed a measuring tape. Here is God: unimaginably powerful, eternally timeless, all-wise, and holy. Then there’s me: arthritic and occasionally asthmatic, very unlikely to reach 98 years, hardly well-read (much less wise), and sinful. But before I could actually uncoil the measuring tape and take note of the dimensional differences, Max makes sure that I realize and internalize the infinitely wide disparity, so that comparison is immediately rendered pointless, ridiculous even. And then it becomes much easier to see the wisdom in making it all about God and not about me. He is the glorious One. My job is to reflect His glory.

I work in Christian publishing. Being surrounded by books on a daily basis, it is not unusual that when I see a book, I automatically think of work. But when we decided to locally publish this particular book and after reading an excerpt, I remember making a mental note to squeeze it in my must-read list. I’m glad I got around to actually doing it. The one-and-a-half hours with Max Lucado’s It’s Not About Me was time well spent. Maybe you should try it. Go ahead, take an afternoon off from your busy schedule. Retreat to a quiet coffee shop corner and let God—not Max Lucado—speak to you. After all, it’s not about Max or his book. It’s all about God.

____________________________

Written for the Book Encounter feature of Evangelicals Today (October issue).