red jokes

In a few days we’ll tear off the first page of the calendar and bid January adieu. There will be little time to think about New Year’s resolutions—whether or not we’ve stuck by them, whether or not it’s still cute to start drafting them one month into the year… Oh no—sadly, New Year’s resolutions will have become obsolete with January’s closing.

Because here comes February, all set to sweep us off our feet and take our breath away. Hello Valentine’s! Before we realize it, Cupid (ably assisted by his entourage of creative marketers and their myriad products) will have wielded his magic, and we all wake up to a town decked in red.

Red roses
(watch the prices shoot up!)
Red heart cutouts (please, please no crease in the middle!)
Red shirts (Happy Birthday to you, too!)
Red infantile archerskissing (PG-rated, if you ask me)
Red ribbons (yes, both the actual ones and the cake)
Red faces (mostly belonging to dateless singles bombarded with lovelife questions beyond the usual two-per-day quota. Touché!)

So before the town gets painted red in time for V-Day, here’s something to make y’all turn red—with laughter, that is. An officemate swung by my corner last Friday while I was writing copy for—what else—a Valentine’s campaign. “Take a break,” he admonished, handing me a printout of these hilarious pick-up lines. It’s just too funny to not share. (Apologies to readers who don’t understand Filipino. Trust me when I say the humor gets lost in translation.)

Continue reading →

saturday affair

On Saturday I enter the lions’ den.

At least that’s how I felt when our CEO came to me yesterday wearing that grin of his. He asked me to attend the breakfast meeting with our company’s Board. And it’s not just so I could score a free breakfast. He will be presenting the half-fiscal-year report, and since the Marketing Director, my boss, is out of town, I will have to be the one to discuss our department’s newly-crafted marketing strategy. Gulp. I, me, moi, must convince the Board to buy into the plan, one that’s incomplete, still rough at the edges, infested with loopholes and … okay, I’m just panicky and paranoid. Really, the plan does seem like a good, well, plan.

Deep breathing…

You see, our Board members are not the type who materialize but once a year, doze off in meetings, or congregate to just chat and eat. No, siree! They’re a a dynamic lot of accomplished business and ministry people with a big heart for Christian literature. And they love to get their hands dirty – pro bono at that!

From what I’ve heard, at least three of them have had illustrious careers in marketing — one was marketer for a soda brand (not that one, the other one!) before becoming marketing professor in a well-respected business school; one is recently retired from being President (!) in a multinational company; and one was VP in an ad agency.

So there. You understand my dilemma?

I’m sure it’s divine conspiracy that for several nights I have been reading from Exodus (Nah, not Daniel as you might have predicted from the intro). I remember rolling my eyes in exasperation when Moses, feeling inadequate at the huge mission before him, paraded before the Almighty his string of excuses.

C’mon, mannn, it’s no use arguing with the Big Guy. Just go ahead and do it. Take that shape-shifting staff and lead your people out of slavery into the land flowing with milk and honey. Oh. Ye. Of. Little. Faith.

Now look who’s talking.

Seriously, I do feel inadequate and anxious. And to think that my dreaded task is nowhere as grand and difficult as leading a revolution against a tyrant. But knowing how Moses’ story ended helps me take heart and look at this, my little challenge come Saturday morning, as an opportunity, not only career-wise, but more importantly, faith-wise. Feeling helpless drives us to run to the Helper.

Trusting in the faithful One behind the burning bush who had once assured a stuttering fellow, “I will be with you; you only need to be still,” I know I’ll be fine tomorrow.

Now if only I had a stick that transmogrifies into a snake…

psalm and song of the moment

Give [me] gladness again in proportion to [my] former misery!
Replace the evil years with good.
Psalm 90.15 (New Living Translation)

Cut through these chains that tie me down
To so many lesser things;
Let all my dreams fall to the ground
Until this one remains:
Lord, I want it all to be for you, Jesus,
Be my magnificent obsession.
“Magnificent Obsession” (Steven Curtis Chapman)

How about you, what’s singing and ringing in your heart and mind these days?

hope for the cynic

I met the New Year with the raised eyebrow of a cynic. As midnight approached, the cacophony of clanging pots, shrill party horns, and top-of-the-lungs screaming—no firecrackers in Davao City—did little to excite me. What’s the big deal, I told myself, it’s just the calendar that’s changing.

It’s the same thing year after year: People get reflective, retiring to a corner with pen and paper to enumerate what will invariably become a set of broken promises after a few months. It’s as if they sense a magic in the cold air potent enough to transform couch potatoes to exercise buffs; tame the tongues of gossipers; bestow restraint to the reckless; convert the corrupt and dishonest; and yes, even bring about world peace. Eyes twinkle with optimism, albeit temporarily.

Not me. This time around I decided New Year’s Eve will just be another midnight. There won’t be any contemplation about the bygone year. I ate the cholesterol-rich food on the table. I joined my family in a prayer of thanksgiving, greeted and kissed them Happy New Year. And then off to bed I went, as in any other night.

That was two New Years ago. I dug up the above from journal files in my computer. Interestingly, I do not feel the same way this time around. This year, it was still a silent-night New Year’s Eve in Davao (but, alas, we did hear a lone firecracker “boom” around midnight courtesy of a stubborn reveler nearby). Half-an-hour past midnight, after the rest of the family had gone to bed and the neighbors had grown tired of manufacturing noise from cans, pots, and horns, I sat by the dim light in the living room. There, to pray–sometimes whispering the words, most of the time tapping away on my computer. Sentiments were cluttered, emotions hard to sort, and memories hazy. But, like an unpleasant chore that couldn’t be put off any longer, the yearend reflection just had to be done. For my heart’s sake…

* * *

Earlier in the evening, I went to church with my mother. My brother preached from David’s psalm: “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71, New Living Translation). This, coming from the king who’s made unspeakable mistakes in his life (including adultery and murder!) and who has had to reap painful consequences from them. Perhaps it’s psalms like this that show why, despite his monumental wrongs, David was given the distinction, “the man after God’s own heart.” From the pain of discipline and seasons of affliction, King David learned to cherish the beauty of God’s precepts.

Give thanks about my pain? Sure, why not. No, no, not the shoulder-shrugging, almost-sarcastic “Gee, God, thanks for the suffering” kind of response; but the kind that cries out: “Oh, Lord, if not for your grace-ordained affliction, I wouldn’t have survived and grown wiser.”

There is a far greater tragedy than tragedy itself: the pride that keeps us from being broken and running to God for wholeness.

* * *

Before the service started, I was looking at the program and saw the songs we would be singing. A hymn came to mind that I wished we would sing, but it wasn’t there on the program. As the service wound down, the overhead projector flashed familiar words, the pianist played an unmistakable melody, and, to my pleasant surprise, the song leader led us in singing the hymn I had hoped we’d sing! Here are that hymn’s words, from memory:

I don’t know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray
I don’t worry o’er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I’ll walk beside him
For he knows what is ahead

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand

That is my earnest declaration of faith as 2007 begins. There is hope, after all, even for once-upon-a-time New Year cynics.

* * *

Happy New Year!
And may you choose to anchor your hopes in the One who holds your tomorrows and holds your hand.