“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” -Martin Luther (first of 95 theses)

To true followers of Christ, repentance must be a constant, daily thing; an activity of life as natural and necessary as breathing.

It ought not to be a cumbersome and occasional aside that we engage in when we realize, perhaps after hearing a powerful sermon or reading a good book, that we’ve slipped from “acceptable Christian lifestyle”. Repentance is not a tedious and ceremonial proof-reading and light editing of an otherwise perfect text.

Martin Luther’s recorded last words before his death were: “We are beggars! This is true.” A life of repentance makes of us beggars — who, by the miracle of Christ’s sacrifice and victory, are recipients of immeasurable mercy.

Repentance is a life-giving privilege bought by the cross and the empty tomb. It is the open, needy hands of a beggar before a compassionate and rich King who gives, gives, and gives.


So this is how it feels.

I thought to myself while I looked up at my brother as he spoke into the microphone. He held his open Bible in one hand, a handkerchief close by in case tears came. In that moment, Kuya Arnel wasn’t the sibling who teased me by making slurping sounds with his hot drink because he knows it irritates me inexplicably. No—that June afternoon by the lake, he was Rev. Arnel C. Tan, a Minister of the Gospel in the middle of performing holy matrimonial rites.

And I was the groom.

Beside me, mesmerizingly radiant and basking in sunset hues, was my bride, Daphne. We held hands underneath her veil, our backs to a small gathering of dear friends and family. Unless they laughed at my brother’s jokes, sighed audibly at something touching, or howled like sports fans, I would not think there were people behind us. It felt like we were alone, just the three of us—myself, my bride, and my minister-brother—in the presence of the Divine. For months, we planned this event, ticking off item after item from a long list. But in truth all we did was create space for something sacred to happen. All that our many hours of work achieved was to prepare the physical vessel to contain something spiritual.

That day, “in the presence of God and witnesses,” Daphne and I stood face to face to declare our vows of love and faithfulness to each other. The wind carried our worded promises, spoken with voices overcome by deep emotion, to the ears and heart of the Heavenly Father. He took two very different hearts and bound them into one heart with Agape’s cord, one twined by His very hands and which only death could sever. Daphne and I prayed, laughed, and cried. So did many of our guests.

Joy had come to us that day without needing an invitation.

I have been graced by moments of deep joy in my life. But the joy of my wedding day—ten months ago to this day—holds a special place in my heart. Joy showed up, beautifully dressed in the smiles of our dear guests. She embraced us with every word of blessing spoken to us. Joy served us through the hands and feet of friends and family who came together to manage the countless details of a wedding.

I was humbled and honored that such gifts would be lavished on us that Sunday afternoon. As waves of joy came upon us, I remember feeling the urge to do something, anything. Freeze the moments, bottle the tears, turn the laughters into song, make coats out of the warm hugs—I’m not sure what exactly, but surely I must not just stand there and take it all in, right?

But, why shouldn’t I just take it all in?

Joy is grace. Ergo, it does not demand; it gives. We desire and pursue it and yet when we finally hold it in our hands, we realize we do not know what to do with it. Instinctively, we want to make it last forever, manage it, and even manufacture it. Joy resists these maneuvers because it is meant to be received as a gift from a loving Father. Oftentimes, like the morning dew after the sun has risen high enough, joy is soon gone.

This need not be a sad thing. Joy’s fleeting visitations in this life ought to remind us to look forward to another life, another wedding day, where Christ is the bridegroom and we, along with Christ’s redeemed, are His bride. That day, joy will not be a mere guest; she will live with us for eternity.

Oh to know how that feels.

Photo by Sheila Catilo

Photo by Sheila Catilo


I am feeling under the weather and, per wife’s orders, being quarantined today. To pass time and take my mind away from a wonky body, I revisited past journal entries. Found this list of 7 things I learned from emceeing a national conference of a government agency a few years ago. I had to chuckle as I recalled that fun experience.

  1. Study your spiels and practice saying potentially problematic words backstage. Otherwise, you’ll end up saying “thinthesith” when you ought to say “synthesis”.
  2. Remember that large-venue events now oftentimes employ video walls. That means your face is magnified a thousandfold on a video screen behind you. And when you make a face after mispronouncing (see No. 1), it becomes an even bigger blooper. (Also, you must convince yourself that the audience won’t really mind that zit on your face because they’ll think it’s a dead pixel on the video wall. Just don’t move your head too much.)
  3. Bring your own tumbler for coffee, one that can be sealed tight. Because you want the caffeine, but you don’t want to be spilling coffee on your shirt and/or pants.
  4. Make friends with your stage manager because he or she has the power to make your life a breeze or a tropical depression. Also, excessive ad-libbing makes your production crew sweat.
  5. Whether you like it or not, you should refer to government officials as “Honorable” when you call them to the podium to deliver monotonous speeches.
  6. Speaking of monotonous speeches, consider it your duty as master of ceremony to redeem your audience from these tragedies. You must use your time backstage to plot the rescue of your audience from the clutches of boredom after they had survived these lullabies disguised as speeches.
  7. When your director/producer/stage manager tells you to do a voice-over with more energy, you have to do it even if you fear sounding like a campy variety show host.

I miss emceeing. In another life, I make a living doing stand-up comedy, hosting a game show, or touring with a circus. I almost included “being a preacher” in that list, but remembered what a seasoned pastor friend told me after hearing my emceeing jokes at a ministers’ event: “Oh, Aleks, you’re too funny to be a pastor!”

Amen. I guess.