The Disappearance of Boopy

Hi I’m Boop-boop! I can’t wait to be part of your family, said the caption of the photo I sent to my husband’s email.  The photo was that of a scruffy and a very black puppy, barely 2 months old. Barely a year ago, Dondi had very clearly said after we had adopted Roxy, a spotted female aspin, and after she had succeeded in destroying ALL of our slippers, that we were not to get another dog again. Of course, that was all in vain. A mere month after I sent him Boop-Boop’s picture, we scooped him up from our parents’ house and welcomed him into our own.

I don’t know what it is exactly about Boopy that captures Dondi and I’s hearts so much. At such a young age, he had already so much peculiar (and thus endearing) qualities. The way he growled like a big dog whenever anyone attempted to pick him up or cuddle him, the crazy way his hair grew that prompted us to call him “Einstein” for a time, the way he so determinedly learned to climb the stairs with his pudgy little legs, a skill that Roxy only learned when she was a good five months already. The raspy way he barked or the tiny bird-like sound that came out of him every time he yawned. Perhaps it was because he was simply so cute, a little furball of black and the way he blended into our own black floors.

Here is Boopy with one of his mates, Poquito.

Here is Boopy with one of his mates, Poquito.

Because I was about 3 months pregnant when we got him, my overactive hormones naturally magnified Boopy’s every cute trait. Pretty soon, he was sleeping by Dondi and I’s feet in our room and after a few weeks more, advanced to his very own spot on our bed. He has also developed this habit of waking me up by touching his cold nose to my nose repeatedly until my eyes fluttered open.  And then I’d find him staring at me with those cute brown puppy eyes which always made me laugh.

He was my husband’s snooze button when he slept too late, jumping on him and licking his ears until he finally gave in to the furry and ticklish assault. But Boopy shone the most during our nightly walks around the village. Because he was a rather friendly dog and took to strangers kindly, we would let him run free while we kept Roxy, the more nervous of them two on her leash. My husband called him “TV Dog” because whenever we called him, no matter how far he had roamed away, he would start tearing towards us, his huge ears flapping, his pink tongue hanging from the side of his mouth, always looking like the happiest dog in the world. We loved the way he ran (no flew and bounced) towards us like that, like a dog you only saw on television.

In the mere 6 months that we have known Boopy, he had already succeeded in making me cry three times. The first instance was when we haven’t even brought him  home yet, only a few days after I had convinced (bribed?) Dondi to bring him home with a picture. My twin, Karla reported to me sadly that he had disappeared that morning. Just like that. Gone without a trace. I was devastated and Dondi had to hug me tight to quiet my crying, which first came out in tiny sniffles and then soon escalated into large bawls and gasps. They found him in a neighbor’s house the day after, the puppy was assumed to be looking for food and was probably lured in by some smells the neighbor’s house. Scared of the prospect of losing Boopy again, we picked him up that following weekend.

The newly rescued Boopy, back from his adventure from the neighbor's house.

The newly rescued Boopy, back from his adventure from the neighbor’s house.

The second time was one night when we noticed that Boopy wasn’t sleeping right. He was whimpering and yelping in pain. Every time we tried to touch him, he would hobble away, crying some more.  Because it was so late at night and the only vet that was open was so pricey that we couldn’t afford it even if we tried, we had no choice but to pray for the little dog and try to keep him warm. I blinked back my tears and tried to be brave and waited until the sun finally came up and our regular vet’s office finally opened. It turned out to be an indigestion problem. A quick poke at his butt and some medicine soon solved the problem. My tears quickly dissolved into relieved laughter and I brought him home once more, happy that he was okay.

The third time Boopy made me cry was last night.

It was a wonderful evening. Our friend, Kate had come over with about five different and delicious dishes. We were catching up, laughing and having a good time sampling all the wonderful food. Around 9pm was the dogs’ regular walking time so we asked Kate if she wanted to join us. She said yes and soon, we were continuing our conversation up on the winding streets of our village, Dondi holding on to Roxy and Boopy running the streets free, at our heels and sometimes before us, like always.

We only take one route, as a sort of tradition and also because of my steadily growing belly. At one point of the walk, we would take a right at a very narrow street, sort of like an alleyway, which served as a shortcut back to our own street. We knew Boopy would always miss that turn, because it was so sharp and unlit and because he still wanted to explore the house on the right, which always had a collection of things to sniff at, and cats to chase. I let Dondi and Kate walk ahead the narrow street while I walked forward and called out Boopy’s name. After a few minutes or so of silence, I began to grew anxious. Especially when I saw a cat that he usually chased, licking its paws languidly by the house.

Those eyes!

Those eyes!

Dondi and Kate soon joined me, asking what was wrong. I said I couldn’t find Boopy. Dondi lurched into action right away, taking the other street that faced the narrow one, perhaps he had chased another cat and was just waiting for us at the other end. Kate and I retraced our steps, asking each other when was the last time we saw him. I realized that I was so used to having him follow us that I wasn’t really sure if I was really seeing him or just imagining him walking in front of us.

Kate kept the conversation light as perhaps she sensed that I was beginning to worry. I remember her telling me about how sometimes it felt that whenever things were going so well, you couldn’t help but feel that something bad was going to happen, something around the corner that was ready to pounce on you and steal your joy. I remember telling her that having faith in Jesus doesn’t guarantee a storm-free life. There will be trouble and challenges, inevitably and yes, they are always waiting at every corner, wanting to steal your joy. The difference in knowing and trusting God is now, you allow these challenges to happen because you know that in them, somehow, lies a lesson, something that can mold your character or stretch your faith even further.

It was funny that while I was saying this, I was also beginning to grow more and more nervous about our missing Boopy. Kate offered to take me home to rest while she talked to the guard about what happened. I tried to look casual and relaxed but my mind and heart were racing. Where could he be? Of all the months that we have been walking with him, this is the first time that he disappeared, without a trace and without a clue.

I walked into our house and the dam burst. I saw a piece of tissue that he had been chewing on only fifteen minutes earlier. The tears came, hard and fast but just as quickly, I calmed myself down. It wasn’t time to cry. It was time to look for him.

Dondi had already hopped on his bike and was carrying with him a flashlight. I remained on foot and took to calling out his name, waiting for him to jump out of the bushes and come a-running like he usually does. Kate and I called a cab so that she could be on her way home (it was getting late) and Boopy still hadn’t turned up. With my 9 month belly, I continued to walk, continued to call out Boopy’s name. My husband and I intersected at one point and we decided to search for him together.

Roxy and Boopy.

Roxy and Boopy.

For most part we were quiet, only shouting out Boopy’s name and straining to hear a response. We checked out all the possible routes he could have taken and shone the flashlight at every bush, under every car and inside every gutter. We hardly talked as we were hoping to hear his bird-like cry or his trademark raspy barking. Every time we called out his name, we half expected to see him bounding up to us, his ears flapping, his tongue hanging out, the happiest dog in the world. But he never did.

After about an hour, he asked me in a quiet voice, “Are you ready?” I said, “I don’t know.” Inside, my heart was breaking but I took a deep breath and continued. “We gave him the best care we could. We were never bad parents. This is not up to us.” We held hands prayed out loud.

“Father, we lift up our dog Boopy to you. Wherever he may be right now, please protect him and keep him safe. We put our trust in you and in your plans, Lord. We may not understand right now but we are in faith that this situation can only draw us closer to you. Teach us to trust you more, Father and bring  us peace. For we know that You are in control, and your plans are good, pleasing and perfect. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.”

Our prayer surprised me. We did not ask that Boopy be returned to us at once. We did not beg nor bribe nor blame God. Though it hurt, we lifted up the situation to God and declared our trust and faith in Him. We knew that this was beyond us. Also, we didn’t blame each other or ourselves.  I was amazed at God’s grace working in us that night.

With Dondi still holding my hand, I quietly told him that it was time to go home and rest. As we turned into our street, I let Dondi go ahead and watched as Roxy greeted him. There was a pang of sadness as I knew I was going to have to get used to seeing Roxy alone, without her best friend. I knew I was going to have to deal with the emptiness of his space in our bed, of not having his cold nose touch mine in the morning, of never again hearing his bark and his cry, of seeing his wild and untamed hair and his gigantic brown paws only in memory and in pictures.

As all of these were going through my mind, I heard him scream a scream of joy—–a sound that I had never heard in my life but filled my heart with unspeakable hope and happiness. “He’s here, hunny! He’s here!” I hurried in the gate and there was Boopy wagging his tail tremendously, his whole butt swaying from side to side, looking at us happily and excitedly as if to say, “What took you so long?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was really him. He was back and he was home.

A sketch loosely based on Boopy.

A sketch loosely based on Boopy.

We had searched for Boopy for an hour and a half. At one point in our search, he must have gone home on his own. But how did he open the gate?  We raised the possibility of someone bringing him home for us, but who? Also, at what point did he disappear from our walk and why wasn’t he responding to our calls? It was as if he was swallowed up whole by the earth for one hour and thirty minutes and then promptly gargled out again. We had so much questions but of course, neither Roxy nor Boopy could answer any of them. We went to bed tired but happy.

It was certainly an adventure and yet, Dondi and I knew that this is only the beginning. When our baby comes out, we know that there will be even more ( and a different level of) worrying and wondering and sleepless nights. But if there is one precious lesson that last night had taught me, it is to learn to trust and to let go. To trust in our all-knowing, all-loving God the Father. That come what may, He’s got our backs and He’s got it all planned out, in the best possible way. The hardest part is surrendering to His will that we may not understand….but we learn how to let go everyday.

“Oh, the depths of the riches of your wisdom and knowledge, O God.  How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out.  Who has known the mind of the Lord  Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God so that God should repay him? For from Him, through Him and to Him are ALL things. To Him be the glory forever, Amen!” Romans 11:33-36

Boopy' today.

Boopy’ today.

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Happy Father’s Day, Papa Billy

The moment I graduated from college, I took my new found wings seriously. I ‘flew the coop’ so to speak. Only going home when it was convenient, I hardly spent time with the folks. In my head, my life had taken an exciting, independent turn. I made my own money, chose my own friends and decided where I wanted to be. Home and my corny, old-fashioned parents were the last things on my mind.

While mama and her ultra-developed radar always made sure I called home regularly, papa was more quiet about the situation. He and I grew further and further apart until I could no longer find things to say to him or even look him straight in the eye. In the deepest recesses of my mind, I could still make out hazy memories of papa taking us out to the movies or to see that Christmas show in Cubao. Always simple things like that. He was never a big spender.

Papa loved to get watermelons for the family.

Papa loved to get watermelons for the family.

But I could no longer reconcile that man with the man I saw less and less of. I was too different, too old now and the best I could do was an awkward kiss and the occasional text on his birthday and special occasions. I told myself that it was simply best this way. To try and restore the old bond between father and daughter was just too tiring, too emotional.

Best to leave things the way they were.

Or so I thought.

I started getting to know Jesus Christ around January of 2011. By March, I had accepted Him fully as my Savior. Around June, I learned that Papa had a stroke. I visited him in the hospital and was glad to see him sitting up, strong and cracking jokes. He was released right away and I went back to living with my aunt in our ancestral home. In July of that year, a fire razed down the neighborhood of where I was living at the time. As a result, our water and electricity got cut temporarily. With no other choice, I went home to the parents  for the first time in almost a decade.

With God’s gentle leading, I began to try and find ways to connect to papa again. It had been years since we last talked. I sent him some notes sometimes with Bible verses in them, with a Hershey’s bar attached to them, with my cute niece delivering them to his room. I began accompanying him to his business trips, learning more about the work that he did, getting to know how he is outside the house. Pretty soon, the folks and I were taking regular trips to the cinema, where senior citizens got in for free on Fridays. We ate in the food court and they talked and I listened, a lifetime’s worth of stories I never got to hear.

Papa, after his first stroke, still strong and youthful. With the family after Mama's 70th birthday.

Papa, after his first stroke, still strong and youthful. With the family after Mama’s 70th birthday.

We shopped in Ukay -ukay where he insisted on paying for everything, the first time in years he had bought anything for me. We went to the market and he showed me where you can buy fruits at the fraction of the cost they sell them inside the village. We took walks so that he can exercise but only until the corner grocery store where we can have his favorite goto. He took great pride in his senior’s citizen discount, which always brought down the price of our meals to almost nothing.

He taught me how to drive. I remember one afternoon that he took me to a particularly busy section of the village when all of a sudden he said, “Drive very carefully. Don’t make any wrong moves.” I checked the rearview mirror and saw a patrol car following us. “I don’t have a license and neither do you. We can get arrested for this.” He whispered. I drove home covered in sweat and my knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel.

For my birthday, he treated me out for lunch at KFC. He had so much stories and I listened quietly. Took it all in. As I sat there eating my chicken wrap, I silently thanked God for restoring our relationship. We were father and daughter again, no longer strangers. Neither of us said it, it wasn’t needed….we were making up for lost time and it was wonderful.

In March 2012, a little less than a year after I had moved back home I met the man I was going to marry. This was also the time that I noticed papa acting more and more strangely. He started leaving things in the car, forgetting what he was going to say or what he was going to do. A month after, he went down with another stroke. And this time, it wasn’t as kind. The stroke left papa with his left side paralyzed. It also impaired his speech.

One morning in the hospital, after I fetched him his newspaper and coffee, I saw him quietly shed a tear. In broken sentences he started talking about one last job he had wanted to finish so badly but now couldn’t. He had been so excited about it too, talking about it nonstop even to Dondi on the night he sought for my hand in marriage. I sat beside him took his frail and limp hand and for the first time in my life prayed for him out loud. He declared Amen and fell asleep.

I got married in August 2012. I had to struggle to keep my tears from flowing as papa “walked” me down the aisle (he was in a wheelchair) to my waiting husband. He had given me his blessings for the marriage and had even given me a generous amount to help with the expenses—-something that took me by complete surprise knowing how little he usually spends.

Since his stroke, papa has been able to regain movement in his left leg. His left arm is taking more time. When the family gets together, we pray for his arm and my husband says he feels a twitch in the muscles. We remain hopeful and  faithful. God’s plans are inscrutable but they are also perfect. For now, I am just truly thankful and amazed to see him praying alongside my sisters, my mom and I, something I’ve never seen ever since I was a little kid. God’s grace is overwhelming.

I just got off the phone with him to greet him a Happy Father’s Day. He kept exclaiming that he is so excited to see my baby. He sounded good as he now usually does, in light spirits and in peace. He joked that he was waiting to give birth too. I couldn’t help but tear up as I told him I loved him over the phone.

I also couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t gone home after the fire? What if I had just let things be, had allowed myself to grow more and more distant from him? What if I had slowly cut ties with him as the years wore on? Would he  have walked me down the aisle? Would he even see my baby? Would I be able to tell him “I love you” and mean it?

Papa is 75 years old now. He can no longer dye his hair so the whites have begun to show. He has lost some weight and spends most of his time on his wheelchair, his left arm slung in a scarf. But I will always remember him for that one year when he was strong, happy and laughing. When he took me out for watermelon and as we escaped from the police, him laughing and me almost hyperventilating, when he proudly paid for my meals with his senior citizen’s ID and took me out shopping for discount clothes and shoes. I will always remember him as he burst forth with corny jokes and stories of his youth and his crazy escapades… as fathers are wont to do.

I will always be thankful for that one year when God brought me back to him.

Happy Father’s Day, Papa. I love you.

Papa sandwiched between me and mama, walking down the aisle on my wedding day.

Papa sandwiched between me and mama, walking down the aisle on my wedding day.


On buttered toast and other things

Butter on toast is really good. More than the greasy fried breakfast food we like to pile our plates on high with sometimes, there is something so….simple and real about butter on toast. Of course I am talking about 100% butter here. None of that long-lost distance cousin of it called margarine please. Butter, real butter, is worth the extra splurge.

Some of you are probably asking why such a mundane thought merits a blog entry. If you would be so kind to scroll left, right or up on this website, you will probably notice that I have a taste for drama. For long-winded entries filled to the brim with vivid imagery or at least declarations that are read best while pounding on one’s chest with eyes rolled heavenwards and filled with crystal tears. I’d always let a few good weeks pass before I sat down to compose a blog entry. In my head, each one had to be stuffed with epiphanies and personal revelations or else it was no good.

It hit me. My blog entries were the equivalent of a big, fried, greasy breakfast. Rich and robust, perhaps, but hard to digest.

So this morning, whilst I crunched on the clean and uncomplicated goodness of my breakfast, I made a decision. It occurred to me that my blog entries need not to be sprawling servings of fried meat, garlic rice, cheese omelette and hot chocolate all the time. It takes too much time to prepare and frankly, it is also recipe for indigestion. Plus, as this morning’s breakfast has so graciously revealed to me, plain butter on toast can just be as satisfying.

Thus, I welcome you to the quiet unveiling of my new blog. There won’t always be powerful declarations nor moving testimonies (although these will most definitely pop up from time to time). For most part, it will just be about a 30-something woman and her life as a “newly married” / “struggling artist” (I’ve always wanted to use that) with a baby well on its way (anytime now!!!).

The entries that will follow may be simpler and a lot plainer but I guarantee you, they will be 100% butter. (And a lot easier to digest!)

Enjoy!

p.s. And since this is blog space and I can do whatever I want with it, I’m also going to be posting some of my artwork here too.

p.p.s. As always, you are welcome to comment, encourage and yes, throw violent reactions at me.

A doodle of Amy Winehouse after her death in 2011.

A doodle of Amy Winehouse after I learned of her death in 2011.


Why growing up can be dangerous

Being a kid. Wow, now that’s something you can look back on and grow misty-eyed over. All those magical moments where plain old mud turned into pies, dull garden hoses transformed into jungle anacondas and boring old staircases morphed into death-defying roller coasters. From the moment our eyes struggled open in  till the time we tucked ourselves in at night, our minds chugged out an endless, ceaseless ocean of…well, whatever it is we wanted to be in wherever place we wanted to be in.

As kids, we not only had pretty active imaginations but also the gift to look at the world with beautiful hope, marvelous wonder and radiant awe. We looked up to our parents in joyful expectation that they would come home bearing small gifts and even if they didn’t, that they would open their arms wide and we could run up to them for loving hugs and a comforting kiss. We threw ourselves out of bed in sheer excitement to greet the morning sun and the endless possibilities it held heavy in its hands.

We spent the day lost with our crayons and our collections, knee-deep in make-believe and swimming in a world where we knew little more than sailing paper boats down lazy streams, jumping into puddles and climbing up trees.

Being kids meant that we never had to worry because we had parents who looked after us, in every possible way. And though they made us do things that we would rather not do (like brush our teeth or take a bath or go to bed way too early), and we struggled and fought back the best we could, in the end, we gave in because in the back of our heads we knew that they knew better than us and that someday, we would even thank them for it.

It’s no surprise then that when adulthood started to creep up on us, first through tiny little cracks then in heavier torrents—-thicker books to read, tougher teachers to please, more rules to follow—-that our little “Kids Only” clubhouse made up of comics and candy began to crumble. A few more years into adulthood and we are exposed to late night news, smelly night pubs and blood on the streets. “Welcome to the real world”, a popular slogan was stamped firmly into our heads, making clear the delineation between childhood and adulthood.

No time for wonder and make-believe here, the man with the menacing grin cackles. It’s either you hustle or you’re out. And you can’t run to your mama or papa, either. You are an adult now.

Many of us try to resist the system. We don’t want to be incorporated into the massive, droning machinery of dull and soulless capitalism so we tried to break away, find our own paths and rebel. Sooner or later though, we find out that the system catches up with you. With bills to pay and mouths to feed, no one can run for too far or for too long.

Faced with the sad, appalling reality of “growing up”, we turn to escapism. It comes in different forms. For some people, it is music. For some it is TV. For some, it is alcohol. For some, it is art. For others, it is the Internet.  For some yet, it is sports. For others yet, it is drugs.

It’s different for everyone and some are obviously better than the others but the reason for getting into these “hobbies” is one and the same—-we all want (or need) that one thing that can help us feel like a child again.

It is these activities that allow us to get lost in our own worlds without being bothered by deadlines, bills and serious adults with serious agendas. These things become our playtime. And here is where the truth is unveiled: that are all, and always will be, kids at heart. We may not be aware of it but every tiny part of us is aching to be that worry-free child that digs holes, chases puppies and builds tree houses once again.

All of us, every single one of us, long to have someone take care of us while we play to our hearts’ content. Even in our adult lives, we want someone to wake us up for a nice breakfast and tuck us in at night when it is especially dark and we are feeling unsure of ourselves.

Though we are all grown-up and wear heels and suits and travel business class to far-off countries alone, we still seek the smell of a home-cooked meal and the warmth of a loving embrace. We long for the touch of someone brushing our hair and whispering in our ears that “It will be all alright.”

Though we tell ourselves that we are living in the “real world” now, there is still a part of us that is a child longing to play all day in the mud with parents to clean up after our wounds and make the pain go away with an embrace.

We may tell ourselves that we are adults now with important things to do like meeting goals, acquiring property and hitting targets but why is it that deep down in the heart of your hearts, you know that something is missing? That even with all the trophies and merits and promotions that you amass, there is something not quite right?

Do you know that even when you put on your serious “adult” shoes and talk about your sensible “adult” plans, every time you sit down to watch your favorite show or create art or write poems or listen to music or play your favorite game, or talk to your most cherished of friends, your eyes give you away?

You start shouting like a child, moving like a child and suddenly you have no care in the world because for that one moment, you have become a child again.

And there is nothing you want to do more than prolong that moment, don’t you? If you could just play one more note, stay out for one more minute, read one more chapter or draw one more detail….but you can’t. “Real life” calls out to you every time.

Do you know that it breaks God’s heart to see you face life with a heavy heart, going through the motions just to get the day through, collect your paycheck and go home?

What if He meant life to be more than just sitting in a cubicle, feeling trapped and uninspired, and counting down the hours till you can get home and see your friends or lie down in bed and dream of the things you dream of doing so that you can feel like a child again?

What if “real life” and “adulthood” were lies and that we were meant to live a life full of wonder, joy and enchantment, doing the things we truly love doing, with someone taking care of all our needs, at all times, so that we did not need to worry—–just like a child?

Well, guess what?

That is the life God intends for you.

He is your Father and you are His child.

You inherited wonderful gifts and talents from Him and He wants you to use them.

He wants you to enjoy each and every day of your life.

He created this beautiful world where you can play in, learn in, create in, imagine stuff in, go on adventures in, discover great things in, and be who we truly are in.

He intends for us to live a life doing what we love to do so that we no longer need to “escape” in order to feel joy.

That is the joy and the privilege of being of God’s sons and daughters.

God never meant for us to lose the gifts of beautiful hope, marvelous wonder and radiant awe in our lives. He never turned His back on us as a Father. He wants nothing more than to give us gifts and surprises to make us smile. He never stopped offering us His open arms every time we need comfort from the pain and love to get us through the day. He still creates days that hold an abundance of endless possibilities.

He wants us to continue playing to our heart’s content while He takes care of our every need. In fact, nothing would please Him more than to see His children full of wondrous joy in the planet He created for us.

Nothing has changed, except us.

Sometime, somewhere along the way, we stopped losing our sense of wonder, we forgot how it was to imagine, we turned our backs on our natural talents and gifts, and we stopped talking to our Father.

We began to “grow up”.

And for what?

A high-paying job that stresses you out.

Expensive education for your kids that you hardly see.

Acceptance from society, the very same people that you don’t actually like.

An expensive car, a beautiful home, the latest gadgets, and every other material thing that you know won’t make you happy.

It is not too late for you to live the life God intends for you to have. It is not too late to become His beloved child again.

He is just waiting to hear from you. He longs to talk to you. Like all parents, our Father can’t wait to throw His arms around you and take care of you.

Don’t you think it’s time you came home?


Is God still relevant in a world that increasingly embraces science and human achievements?

It was so much easier when we were younger, wasn’t it? Adults talked, we listened. Our questions were met with a “Well, that’s just the way it is, honey”. If we got too insistent with our questions, the adults would grow stern and tell you to “go play outside.” It’s understandable, I guess, knowing that they didn’t have the luxury of the Internet then. Perhaps the truly supportive ones would take their kids out to the library and introduce them to the wonderful world of the Dewey Decimal System (HA!) while they were at it. But results could be limited depending on how far and how well-stocked a library was. Sometimes, it was just easier to accept what the adults had to say and to go outside and play.

Logic vs. belief

But no one stays young forever. We grew and developed our minds to think for ourselves and to question what was in front of us. Abstract reasoning, critical thinking, fact-finding and opinion-forming exercises were pounded into our heads as we stepped into high school and sauntered on to college. Philosophy subjects opened up a Pandora’s box of old new school of thoughts and assertions from men and women who spent their lives thinking and refused to believe the status quo. It was all very exciting, wasn’t it? Suddenly, our worlds opened up to a thousand possibilities and looking up the stars at night was no longer the simple, passive activity that it was when we were five.

The world opens up

Then the Internet age came and then BAM! we were connected to the whole wide world, separated only by URLs and faulty Internet connections. No longer were we confined to our own nooks and our little libraries. We had access to journals, blogs, studies and every single thing that another person was thinking all the way out in Africa (and anywhere else on the map, for that matter). Now, simply accepting things because an adult said so and then going out to play no longer seemed right. In fact, it didn’t even seem possible.

We have been taught to question, to use the scientific method and logic to form our own opinions. The practice of taking things as they were is now considered old-fashioned, passe’ and downright lazy.

An old-fashioned God?

So when people say that believing in God is exactly the summation of those three things, I can’t blame them. Where does the idea of God stand in a fast-moving world with new inventions cropping up every day, anyway? Where invisible cloaks are being developed, robots are starting to become more and more like humans and regular people are being shot to and from space? Has God really become passé in the light of all the triumphs of the human brain?

I mean, think about it. You work hard enough at something, you are bound to get somewhere, right? For example, a college kid spends every night locked up in his room working on his Spanish . Give it a year or two, and he’s bound to have learned the language, maybe even have mastered it. He would go on and land the job of his dreams that requires the language and get paid nicely for this language skill. Maybe even get assigned to Spain, a place he dearly loves.

My efforts not His

So, way to go, kid! You did it. YOU. By your own efforts and by your own hard work, no one else. If you were to congratulate him and all he said in return was, “All glory goes to God, not me.” You’d probably scratch your head and say, “Huh? What did He have to do with that?”

Like I said, I can’t blame you. It really is kind of hard to believe in a supernatural force that spends His time floating through the clouds, looking down at his people approvingly or disapprovingly. That is why we’re going to have to let go of that age-old (and baseless concept, anyways) of an old man in white with a long flowing beard ready to haul judgment as we attempt to locate God in the fast-paced world of 21st century people.

The divine breath of inspiration

Let’s start with that kid studying Spanish. He may be the one doing the physical work but guess who breathed the inspiration for him to flip open that book in the first place? Who provided him the strength to conjugate those verbs all night and still be able to face the next day with a smile?  And who gave him the desire in his heart to get a good job and end up living in Spain?

But he’s a fictitious character! You might say. True, but there are thousands of people like that kid. The ones who seem to be able to do it all and yet still be able to keep on giving and giving. I can think of so many right now, in just my own family and circle of friends. Who do you think gives them the grace to keep smiling and to keep helping other people out, usually without getting anything in return? You’re bound to know even one or two in your Facebook feed. Where do they get that endless supply of love?

The driving force

Let’s use myself as an example. I decided more than 3 weeks ago that I would go back to drawing. So everyday, I would whip out my sketch pad and pen and start sketching. My effort, my business, my hard work. All me, right? But seriously, if there was no joy that came with that activity, I would have stopped on my third day or fourth day, at the most. Because it would feel too much like work and that I was trying too hard to prove something to myself or to the world. Now that can be really tiring. But I’m on day 40 today and I only grow more excited.  Who could have given me that joy?

Let’s use another example. Someone famous this time, like Gary V., Mr. Pure Energy, the Ultimate Performer, the stuff of living legends. I use him here because I got the chance to watch him in concert, live, for the first time last year. This man’s whole being radiated with a light that it almost hurt to look at him. This was his 29th anniversary concert, at 49 years old, by the way, and yet he moved and spun around like a 20 year old at the peak of his career. What’s going on? He is a type 2 diabetic and yet, he is undoubtedly at the top of his game.

Also, why does he keep performing? Why doesn’t he retire and enjoy the fruits of his hard work?  He’s got nothing left to prove to anybody. He’s got a great wife, talented kids and a stellar career. Yet, he’s there, performing with the best of them, his heart and soul bursting with praise and thanks. As of last month, he just embarked on a European tour. Who do you think keeps him so joyful and youthful on stage?

The atheists, the agnostics, the universalists

Now you might say, well that’s just great. Do you mean to say that God only works for the believers? What about the rest of us who don’t believe, who aren’t sure, who just aren’t ready to attribute everything to a bearded, judgmental being (wait, I thought we let go of that image already?) Does that mean they don’t get anything good at all? Are we doomed?  That sounds a little biased, doesn’t it?

You’re right, it isn’t fair at all. The good news is that God doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t matter if you acknowledge Him or not. It doesn’t matter if you love Him or not, He still fills your days and your lives with blessings and good things every single day on earth. Even men who have denounced God still experience love, don’t they? They experience joy and hope and inspiration. Even women who have devoted their lives to believing only in the universe and science still receive roses from their husbands or hugs from their kids, don’t they?

No discrimination

Even the atheists who participate in debates against God have friends and laughter and talents and passions and dreams, right? They have mothers who love them and good food to eat at least once a day. Authors who write books that debunk God still make millions out of these very same stories, don’t they?

The Bible says, “Every good and perfect thing comes from the Lord.” He does not discriminate. My husband put it nicely, “God’s love for his people is unfair.” None of us deserve it, yet we all still partake of it.

Our lives are showered with blessings every single day, every single one of us, whether you believe in God or not. It is not the “universe conspiring” to make things work out for you. It is the work of God who created the universe for you.

Who needs God?

Yes, it may be us humans who do the actual, physical work and because of that, it is easier to give the glory and all the praises to ourselves when achievements are won, when discoveries are made and when new things are invented.  Who needs God when humans do all the work?

I’ll answer that with more questions.

Who puts the desire in our hearts to do these great things?

Who whispers encouragement during times that we are about to give up?

Who provides the hope when things look bleak?

Who gives the gifts of laughter and joy and love and peace?

Who is the author of every good and perfect thing?

No Purpose, No Point

If the atheists are correct in saying that we are just dancing molecules in the dark and everything that happens is by chance, then these beautiful things would not exist. We would simply be evolved animals without a purpose, with a slightly higher intelligence than apes, put in a world where we are made to toil every single day of our lives, for no other reason than having nothing else better to do.

But that is not the case, thank goodness.

Love, peace, joy, hope, inspiration and beauty exists and we see these things every single day. Someone must have put them there, right? They couldn’t have just accidentally spun out of from the frenzy of our dancing molecules, could they? No. These things are from the Source, the Author of every good and perfect thing.

Behind every great thing 

And that is why God continues to exist in a world that appears to be able to do more and more without Him. And more importantly, that is why all the glory and praise belongs to Him. Because He is responsible for the laughter, the joy, the beauty and all the other “wonderful” in our lives. He is what makes scientists tick, He is what inspires every great author to write, He is behind every musical note before it can even be struck on a guitar. He is the reason we dance, we play, we create and we love.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross for us 2,000 years ago, He enabled the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, so that He may continue to live in us and be in everything that we do. As a result, not only does God exist but He is in the center of our lives as well as in every single great thing that human beings have ever achieved (and will ever achieve).

And that includes mankind’s leap from the Dewey Decimal System to the World Wide Web.

 


Five things my tattoos can teach my kid

One of my pet peeves used to be was whenever someone asked me what my tattoos mean. To be honest, I just like how they look on my skin. I guess the fact that I couldn’t wax philosophical about their deeper significance was what irritated me most. But people are people and people will always ask so I just learned to shrug and play along and manage to give convincing answers. For awhile, I was fine—-until the day I learned I was pregnant.

Suddenly, I began to imagine the day my kid would look at my tattoos and then at me with wide-eyed wonder. “What do they mean, mama?” the little one would ask and suddenly, laughing the question off or cracking some feeble joke no longer seemed like a viable option.

Tattoos can simply be decorative, alright but they can also tell stories. And if they can serve a better purpose, like teaching my kid a thing or two about life, then I’m not about to let that chance to slip past me.

So, kid, here you are, things that my tattoos can teach you.

1) Red Flower (on my ring finger)

You have someone very special waiting for you.

There will be tears and there will be broken hearts, of course, but every failed relationship is God’s way of saying, “Nope, it’s not her. I’ve got someone better for you.”

I also learned a great tip from our pastor on how you can help make the process easier (I’m sorry this sounds so scientific). Write down your non-negotiables! What are the traits and values you envision your future wife/ husband to have? List them down. Otherwise, how will you know when “the one” is standing in front of you if you yourself don’t know what you want?

So don’t get antsy and don’t lose heart. If you haven’t met “the one” yet, you will.

2) Greek inscription translating to “True to His Own Spirit”

Find the one thing that makes your ears tingle, your cheeks grow hot and your heart beat twice as fast then pursue that with all of your heart, all of your mind and all of your soul. Be it writing, music, art, medicine, science, business, food, sports or haberdashery. Whatever it is, that’s what you are meant to be doing here on earth.  For God put that desire in your heart and gifted you with the accompanying skills and talents to make it possible.

So don’t be swayed by things like money, prestige or fame. These things have a way of muddling up God’s plan for you. If you get confused, pray. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.

3) Buddha

You will come across many different belief systems, religions and schools of thought as you grow older. You may even try subscribing to some of them as I have. Somewhere along the way, you may also be told that “all roads lead to the same path”. It sounds right, just about, but that doesn’t make it true.

Jesus Christ is the only way, the truth and the life.

Your father and I will be here to guide you but we can never make that decision for you. It is something that you may have to discover for yourself. And when you do, I promise you, baby. It will be fantastic.

4) Weed Bear

Somewhere down the road, you will also discover alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and everything else that goes with it. I am hoping that you won’t have to because I can already tell you one thing. That nothing, absolutely nothing, beats a natural high. The things that you will laugh manically about when stoned are zilch compared to the pure joy and child-like laughter that you get surrounded by your real friends. The alcohol-induced parties you will attend will be nothing compared to being fully immersed in the moment, with all your senses working properly, sober and thinking clearly.

And if you think music will sound better on alcohol, well, that’s just an urban legend alcohol companies spread around. Besides, the straight-edge kids are always the coolest. Ask anybody.

5)  Kid and Dog

Never lose your sense of wonder.  Hang on to the child in you , my love. For as you grow older, the world will try to pile on worries and fears and other frustrations on you, but these are just lies and illusions and traps. Don’t fall for them. Instead, take heart. For you have a wonderful and loving Father in heaven who’s always got your back and who’s got a beautiful plan for you. Just hold on to Him, and everything’s going to be fine.

Well, that’s it. All the wisdom my tattoos can offer.  I’ve got more than five, I know, but to tell you the truth, I just really like how the rest of them look on my skin. Besides for now, I’m just thrilled that if anyone ever comes up to me to ask, “What is the meaning of your tattoos?”, I can now give him a huge smile and say, “They’re life lessons for my kid.”  😉


Is Everyone’s Favorite Atheist Really a Christian in Disguise?

Could Holden Caulfield really be a Christian?

Yup, Holden Caulfield.

Rhum-swigging, cigarette-smoking, potty-mouthed, hooker-calling Holden Caulfield.  Everyone’s favorite protagonist from the 1950’s cult classic “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Yes, he is “some kind of an atheist”, too, in case you didn’t know. So why on earth would I think that he is a Christian (more than he lets on), and that he might even understand it better than most of us do?

Plenty of reasons, in fact. Here are three of them:

1) He understands the central role of Jesus in the Bible. In his own words:

I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down.

Two things struck me about this paragraph. One, that Holden respected Jesus enough to refer to Him as “Him” (H capitalized) and not simply “him” or “that guy” and two, that Holden understood that apart from Jesus, nothing else matters in the Bible. You can hem and haw and mull and dissect your way through the Bible all you want but what it comes down to, really, is who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross.

Again, you can be an expert in the Bible and know all these names and dates and situations but without a real grasp of who Jesus is, then it’s pointless.

As Israel Houghton so succinctly put in song:  Jesus at the center of it all.

2) He understands the nature of Jesus. Holden Caulfield knows about grace. Take this passage, for instance:

I remember I asked old Childs (Old Childs was a schoolmate of Holden who read the Bible all the time) if he thought Judas, the one that betrayed Jesus and all, went to Hell after he committed suicide. Childs said certainly. That’s exactly where I disagreed with him.

I said I’d bet a thousand bucks that Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell. I still would, too, if I had a thousand bucks. I think any one of the Disciples would’ve sent him to Hell and all—and fast, too—but I’ll bet anything Jesus didn’t do it.

Now, that’s a pretty strong understanding of the loving nature and grace of Jesus Christ, something that law-driven religious folk tend to forget sometimes.

3) He hates hypocrisy. It’s no secret that Holden is allergic to anything phony but take a look at this excerpt where he expresses a particular dislike for religious hypocrisy:

(While watching a Christmas show in Radio City):

All these angels start coming out of the boxes and everywhere, guys carrying crucifixes and stuff all over the place, and the whole bunch of them—thousands of them—singing “Come All Ye Faithful” like mad.

It’s supposed to be religious as hell, I know, and very pretty ad all, but I can’t see anything religious or pretty, for God’s sake, about a bunch of actors carrying crucifixes all over the stage. When they were all finished and started going out the boxes again, you could tell they could hardly wait to get a cigarette or something.

I said old Jesus probably would’ve puked if He could see it—all those fancy costumes and all.

Ok, I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t have puked or anything but the idea is glaringly clear—-when Jesus came down on earth and died for us, He also freed us from all religious traditions, idols and laws. He left us with one greatest commandment —- “to love”. Anything apart from that is pointless, extraneous and comes dangerously close to being a—-show.

Now there are tons of other things that imply Holden’s authentic understanding of Christianity than he lets on such as his immense love for children, his soft spot for the underdogs and his distaste for anything worldly but I believe that the three we have listed are the most telling for now.

You might say, but what about all his other characteristics that you mentioned earlier? Like his love for alcohol, the swearing, the hooker, the cigarette-smoking and him ending up in a mental hospital? What about all that?  Well, I tell you this: That’s exactly the point.

Holden Caulfield is probably the unlikeliest character in the world to teach us about Jesus Christ. But because of these imperfections, he did.

Because you see, the one realization that resonated with me strongly as I closed the book in my hands is this:

That you can learn more about Jesus Christ from an alcohol-drinking, cigarette-smoking, by-the-minute-swearing guy who is sincere about loving Him than from a clean-living, Bible-quoting,  church-going guy who only pretends to know Him.

Jesus doesn’t care about outward appearances. He doesn’t care how many novenas you pray or how perfect your church attendance is or how much money you donate to charity and all those other things we can sometimes get too caught up in.

It is what’s in your heart that He’s interested in.

That’s the heart of what it means to be a Christian. 

Please, let us never forget that.

(And….Just in case you haven’t read the book, Holden Caulfield doesn’t get it on with the prostitute. He just wanted to talk to her. Holden kills me. He really does.)


How To Be Good

I recently read “How To Be Good” by Nick Hornby. I’ve only read two other of his books to know that he is a master at creating characters, so fully and intricately, that they jump out at you from the pages of your book.

“How To Be Good” is no different. He tells of the story of a married couple who finds themselves on the brink of a divorce, Katie and David. They trod along, clumsy and unsure, until David undergoes a sudden and drastic spiritual conversion of sorts. He is then convinced, thanks to his spiritual healer, that he must take extreme and audacious measures to change the world.

Katie is then left bewildered at his husband’s radical transformation and is forced to examine her own moral compass and what it really takes to get into heaven someday.

The story ends rather open-ended-ly. Katie decides to stick it out with her marriage, although the author hints at a certain bleakness at this decision. On the other hand, David’s transformation does not last long. He is soon confronted by old demons, and then slowly realizes the futility of trying to do good in this world. As Katie remarks somewhere down the line, “You’re still human. You’ve just forgotten it.”

There is a clear truth to this book, my dear friends. We can do all the good we can in this world, but there will always be a point when our strengths will fail us and we will tire out and look around helplessly. Because we are only human and we slip, we fall and we fail. That is our nature.

And that is why though I love Nick Hornby and his amazing capacity to hit the nail right on the head (while being witty, funny and remarkably clever all at the same time), I do wish that he would someday write a Part 2. And that this sequel would not end on such a dismal note but rather introduce an idea that would instead bring hope to his readers.

You see, we are never meant to “try and do good” in the hopes of making our way to heaven. It’s never been about how many homeless kids we give spare change to or how many old clothes we donate to charity. It’s not even about how perfect our attendance is in church or how well we know the Bible.

When Jesus Christ came down on earth to die on the cross for us, He has already done everything there is to do.  By His blood, we have been saved and through the cross, He has paid for our salvation. There is nothing else we can do to add to this.  It has already been done.

“Doing good” is also not a means or a way for us to go to heaven. That is why we must be wary of religions or belief systems that heap all these instructions on you: “Do this, do that, be good, be that so you that you can reach nirvana or so that you will go to heaven or so that God will be pleased with you.”

That is not how it works. “Doing good” will not save you.

Only Christ can.

As a famous line from a poet goes, “Religion says do. Christianity says done.”

The authentic Christian does good as an effect of the marvelous, marvelous thing that Christ has done on the cross for him. The good acts that come out of him are the fruits of having been saved, and of having a real relationship with God.

So, I imagine Part 2 of “How To Be Good” to be the answer of the question of “How To Be Good”.

Because I know that a lot of us really, really want to know the answer to this one. I mean, it can get confusing, can’t it?

Or maybe you don’t really want to be good but you just want a changed life, somehow. Perhaps you long to stop smoking or to stop doing drugs. Maybe you are exhausted from getting into all these wrong relationships or tired from  just striving, striving, striving at work.

Maybe you are beginning to feel empty and starting to wonder if there really is any meaning to any of what you are doing. Maybe you have lost touch with your family and just want to talk to your dad or your mom or your sister again.

Maybe you are searching for something real this time.

My dear friends, there is only one answer, and it is easier than you may think.

It does not consist of praying a numbered set of prayers at a given time, reciting the novena, kneel-walking your way down an altar, wearing a certain length of skirt or any of those things that require, require, require. Or ask you to do, do, do.

Because doing good and doing it on your own is not only difficult, it is also pointless.

For goodness can only come from the one and true Author of everything that is good, perfect and pleasing. The Maker of the universe and the author of our lives, God our Father.

And the only way to Him is through His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. 🙂

Perhaps you already know Him already and perhaps you have been thinking about it for some time but are just afraid that it will be too hard and you might be required to follow too many rules and that you will have to do this and do that and that it’s too much to even think about right now…

But I assure you that it is not like that at all. So I encourage you to invite Jesus in your heart today and you will discover as you get to know Him more and more that being good is not about doing good so that God will be pleased with you.

Rather it is having Jesus in your heart and letting His goodness change you because God is already pleased with you and there is nothing else you can do that can ever change that.

Be blessed today. 🙂


Embrace your Crazy

I’ve been called crazy a lot of times.

By my friends…by my own well-meaning relatives…and I’m sure by a lot  of other people who have seen me on TV. (In a bygone era, I was the host of a TV show called Peep Show on a cable channel called Jack TV).

Well, I can’t deny it.

I sure do look the part.

At last count, my tattoos have reached a total of  twelve. These tattoos include (in no particular order), an evil care bear, a half dinosaur-half monster thing with it’s tail cut off, and a girl playing with a dog (which I tattooed on myself).

Crazy, right?

I’ve also done some pretty crazy things in my life.

No need to elaborate here, but if you ever need evidence of my hardcore partying days, you only need to ask…I may still have some photos. (Kidding.)

Yep, my old life was pretty “out there”, alright.

If you ask me though, that life pales in comparison to what I have become now, since having met and accepted Jesus Christ in 2011.

Now, when you see me or read this blog, you may probably think, “Well, she’s gone off the deep end.”

But, hold on.

I don’t think crazy is all that bad.

Actually, I think crazy is an interesting thing to be. It denotes a certain restlessness or even rebelliousness with the status quo.

It means refusing to be tied down to what everyone else says and thinks. It yearns to see what is beyond the obvious. It takes amazing faith to be crazy.

Yeah, I don’t think crazy is so horrible.

In fact, now is probably a good time to point out that some the greatest men in the Bible were thought of to be somewhat of loony bins themselves.

Abraham was shaken heads at (by his own family) when he told them that God had promised him that he would be blessed with “descendants as numerous as the stars.”

Moses looked ready to be shipped to a mental institute when he proclaimed that he would free the Israelites from the Pharaoh’s iron-cast rule.

I’m sure Noah had more than his fair share of eye-rolling and behind-the-back-whispering when he began building that massive ark.

And David, the little shepherd boy, was laughed at when he stepped in front of the giant Goliath with his paltry weapon of choice.

All these guys went against the grain. They hurtled against the voices of the majority. They risked their reputations and even their own lives.

And for what?

To follow a Voice that no one else heard.

To trust in a God that no one else saw.

To stand by a Faith that on one else understood.

For everyone else, they were crazy.

But not everyone knows that crazy also means being courageous and standing up for what you believe in, in spite of the odds.

Because of these men’s “crazy”, God used them mightily and greatly, so that His amazing plan for us may unfold.

And if we’re going to talk about crazy, how about the greatest example the world has ever known?

2,000 years ago, a hippie in sandals walked around Galilee, spoke in parables, performed miracles and preached messages of love, grace and forgiveness. Half of  the time His own brothers thought He was out of His mind. His disciples couldn’t help but scratch their heads and shrug their shoulders at times.

You see, He didn’t care about being popular, He only cared about speaking the truth.

And for this, He was crucified and put to death.

He did this so that our sins may be forgiven and so that WE MAY LIVE.

I don’t think there is anything crazier than what Jesus Christ did for us. But because He defeated the grave and rose again,  here we are, washed clean, alive and truly free.

That’s what standing up for the Truth can do.

So the next time someone says that you’re crazy for believing in Jesus Christ and what He did at the cross, and for not being afraid to let people know… then God Bless You.

Because He is doing a great work in you, so that many may live.


This is For Him

HIM

Him, who gets up to get me a glass of water, in the middle of the night, with all the lights turned off.

Him, who stocks up the ref with all of my favorite food, before I even ask.

Him, who asks what I want for dinner, then learns how to cook it.

Him, who takes care of our dogs so well, because he knows that I love them so.

Him, who is precise with the measurements of my Milo, so that it tastes just right.

Him, who runs off in the middle the night, just to get me medicine for my stuffy nose.

Him, who attempts to make conversation with me until I fall asleep, even while he is so sleepy himself, he no longer makes sense.

Him, who so willingly goes with me on my endlessly long walks, even if he had a tiring day.

Him, who never fails to be cheerful and grateful, despite the disappointments and hurts.

Him, who tries to make me laugh, and to make me smile, that I just have to laugh and smile because he tries so hard.

Him, who always reminds me that I am beautiful, inside and out.

Him, whose eyes twinkle whenever he talks about God.

This is for him,

the man whom I love.

The one whom I married.

The man whom I live with.

And the one I will grow old with….

It took me a while but this is so worth it.

Women, may we never settle for less

Than being treated like a princess.

May you all be blessed by a man

who will love you first before he loves himself.

May you never, ever be in a hurry

to settle for less than God’s gift…

The one that  He made for you,

Especially for you.

Only for you.

Just you wait.

He will come, and when he does…

It will be incredible.


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