Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Thanksgiving Dinner for Mom

Tonight's dinner to celebrate my Mom finishing 6 cycles of chemotherapy was intimately gathered by close friends.  I still do not know what to feel about the past 6 months as it has been a mix of events that were challenging and painful.  But I briefly wrote a thanksgiving prayer that we prayed before meals and sang a worship song to lift up our gratitude.  I suppose for whatever it's worth, at the end of it all, God prevails.

gratitude for family, health, love and friends.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Lord God, what is gratefulness but the realization that we are where we are supposed to be at this moment. We thank you Lord that for the past 6 months of our lives, you have ensured us that we will never forget your faithfulness. You are a God who is always true to His word and indeed you have blessed us with the grace of bearing a cross that allowed us to share in your suffering but also share in your resurrection.
We thank you for my Mom’s health and for all the love that you have showered our family with during this time that our faith in you has been tested. We thank you that in the midst of her pain you have been the balm that eases all her ache. We thank you that your gentleness surrounds her waking moments so that everytime she flinches and walks on rocky ground, you are there to steady her path.
We thank you for my Dad’s patience and strength. For all throughout the uncertain moments that clouded us during this time, you have given him the certainty that can only be found by one who has completely trusted in fulfillment of your word. We thank you that you have blessed him with big heart that has been able to embrace all the challenges in our lives to keep our family together.
We thank you for giving me and my sister the time and the openness to experience this journey in complete surrender. We thank you that you have drawn us closer to your heart as we hid under the shadow of your wings.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you have blessed us with a gathering of relatives and friends whose love has given us a glimpse of heaven. In their company and fellowship we have found great solace and comfort beyond all measure. By their steadfastness we have learned to keep trusting that all things work together for our own good. In their embrace we have been able to know the divine stillness that is present when you want to make yourself known.
We thank you Lord that you have given us this chance to experience life to its fullest and the chance to realize that your healing grace does not only touch our bodies but our souls. We thank you for this journey that you have called each one of us here to draw closer to the truth about who You are. For it is in you that we have come to know how perfect love casts out all fear and that Your love never fails.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Readership, Relationships and Educational Paradigm shifts

wrapping words and finding phrases
somewhere inside my room

I never thought I'd reach the 1,001 reader mark in just about 3 months.  I was telling myself that I should not even look at this counter because it is not a measure of progress but of course, I can't help it.  Anything that measure any kind of progress should be affirming right?  

I'm not sure about those who flip through my pages but I hope those who drop by here find a little bit of breathing space in one way or another.  

So thank you dear readers, for visiting me and making this journey worthwhile.  I find it encouraging that anybody out there would even want to read these words.  It tells me that all is not lost.  That there is a purpose.  That life moves on.  That heaven watches and grace is enough.

I'm sitting at my desk and just finished a report for a 3 hour meeting tomorrow.  I want to be able to write about some of my discoveries at work as of late.  Perhaps, I'll run by them a little bit right now.  I like repeating these moments to myself because it makes me grasp them completely and in the end be thankful.

celebrating work and relationships
team dinner christmas 2010

Relationships, human emotions and heart-felt tears
This week I was caught up in a series of relationship issues at work.  I found myself wearing my counselor's hat because apparently there were a lot of people in my team who felt a little bit vulnerable in this area of their life.  Recovering from heartache.  Struggling with a new love.  Wanting to end a relationship.  Wanting to start a new one.  This world of relationships weave around that daily activity we call workload and it can affect our feelings about our own productivity.  

This is the human side of work that seldom gets attended to because of all the rush and hurried deliverables.  I have made countless efforts in trying to communicate the importance of these sensitive interactions and how the organization needs to be more attentive to the concerns of people.  But it will currently fall into those topics of tension that will only be discussed when all "operational concerns" have been attended to.

It is sad and I am almost feeling a little bit helpless here but I find myself always inspired when I see people who keep trying to stand up even in the midst of their difficulties.  So I applaud the people in my team who I know are carrying burdens well beyond their own weight.  I walk with them and hopefully together, we will find breakthroughs in the journey.

one of the breakthroughs of human thought by a creativity advocate
i got this for christmas from a kindred spirit

On changing educational paradigms and paying attention to how people learn
One of the things that I felt really good about yesterday was having a talk with the President on how I wanted to challenge the current way we are implementing training programs.  It needs to be done, I stressed.  When you have a majority of a human capital profile that have not achieved completion of academic education and yet they served you with utmost loyalty for the entire length of their tenure, there's got to be some wealth in their experience.  

Being the youngest senior executive in the company puts a challenge on my idealogies.  I commonly face criticisms pointing out people who have not finished academic schooling.  Hearing those out has sort of given me some creative push to show them that even without academic schooling, human nature when guided properly, will find a way to overcome.  Ken Robinson's book talks about it in great length and that's why I love it because it does not confine intelligence only to academic achievement.  This is one great big opportunity that I am looking forward to discovering.  

This means a lot more research.  This means a lot more discussions and dialogues with people who are gifted but are not inclined to learn through formal means.  This means patiently drafting plans that will work given our current situations.  This means reading a lot faster so that available resources can be maximized.

I find it exciting and scary at the same time and in the middle of it all I gaze up at the sky and look to the heaven's where wisdom for these kinds of things can be found.  God knows, I can't do this alone.  

St. Angela Merici, pray for us
saint for the day, i should get to know them a bit more

Makoto Fujimura and Graceful Realizations

Thinking about visio divina and how weak I am with contemplation these days.  I stumble upon this great read from Image Journal's link in their Facebook Page.  It's an essay by Makoto Fujimura entitled Letter to Young Artists.  Akin to Rilke's Letter to Young Poets, Fujimura drives home the point.  

Have you ever felt awkward, and felt the “lumps”? If you are an artist, perhaps you began your journey realizing that you are different from others. We have gotten used to having these “lumps” and accepted the fact that to the world the “lumps” looks strange and unnatural. Your teachers and your friends may not fully understand your intuition to try to fly with your winged “lumps.” What started out, at first, as trying to be yourself, may have become an effort to shield and protect your true identity from the world. Perhaps rebellion became the only path you could journey on. Your “lumps” became a defense mechanism, or even a weapon.
What if Lewis is right, and you are destined to “fly”? What if our awkwardness, and our uniqueness points to the potential of the person we are meant to become? In order to learn to fly, you need to be patient, and ready to experience many failures; we need an environment where we can fail often, but you also need opportunities to peer into the wonders and mysteries of the vista of the world to come. Since many, including those in the institutions of the schools or churches, will not understand, you may have to create “fellowship” yourself. Do not be surprised by their rejections.

This opens up my mind to the possibility of finding more moments for solitude.  Sure, I am greatly bothered by a lot of external circumstances these days.  Even to the point of doubting myself again and this path I am walking.  But it is affirming that those who walked this path experienced the same thing and their own liberation came after much perseverance.

Those who want to flourish in their craft of whatever artistic medium, will have to go through some sort of earthly struggle before all the potential can be unleashed.  A birthing.  A purification.  Isn't that what life is all about?  

Still my penchant for faith and art continues and I enjoy his gallery of paintings especially his series on Grace where he says,

Images of Grace began in 1996, leading to the second solo exhibit at Dillon Gallery (then in SoHo on West Broadway) in 1997.  "Grace" (Greek word "Charis") is a word has been a catalyst for many of Fujimura's paintings.  Fujimura stated at an artist talk lecture at Dillon Gallery, "Art mirrors this struggle and captures the process of letting go. Every stroke pushes the painting to sacrifice itself: every creative act destroys something previously built. Imagination reveals not new vistas but revelations of reality behind reality. All art points to a transaction between reality of the seen and reality of the unseen."  Grace is the thread that connects the reality of the seen and the unseen.

I'd like to be that integrated.  In my faith life.  My work.  My art.  Everything.

Grace - Charis
by Makoto Fujimura

Grace Psalm

Grace Foretold

Grace Hour

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

St. Paul's Conversion

I got an email today reminding me that it's the feast of St. Paul's conversion.  So I looked it up and found this on Wikipedia.  This piece is by Caravaggio.  I don't really know much about him but I liked what his biographer said about what he had painted.
Caravaggio biographer Helen Langdon describes style of Conversion as "an odd blend of Raphael and clumsy rustic realism," but notes how the composition, with its jagged shapes and irrational light which licks out details for their dramatic impact, creates "a sense of crisis and dislocation [in which] Christ disrupts the mundane world."
Her observations about this painting hits a chord.  When talking about Christ, there always seems to be that painful sting that one experiences before that "overflow of love" can be comprehended.  Paradox. Irony.  Living in the crux and tension of everyday life while trying to behold the unseen and the sacred. I ponder a lot about these things but do not really get my mind wrapped around it.  I hope one day, I will. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Visio Divina: The Transfiguration by Theophanes

It's something new I discovered today.  This meditative practice called vision divina taken from ancient spiritual reading practice called lectio divina.  Visio divina happens to be the same form of meditation except you meditate on images instead of text.  I'm reading Henri Nouwen tonight and I found it interesting that one of his spiritual exercise tell me
Through the gate of the visible we behold the mystery of the invisible.  Prayerful gazing at the image offers us a chance to "see" more clearly into the true nature of things.  As you contemplate the image, try to see its luminous splendor, feel its majesty, enjoy its texture of colors, study its forms and symmetry, ponder the communion of Jesus, Moses and Elijah, and try to empathize with the reactions of the 3 disciples.  Then enter into the mystery of the transformation that takes place in the presence of JEsus on the mountain of prayer.  There, high on the mountain, the familiar face of our teacher is revealed in new light.  For those who gaze on the beauty of the Lord, what is opaque becomes transparent; nature, time, and people are transformed; and we ourselves are transfigured.
Today didn't quite flow as I wanted it to go.  Early this morning I was confronted by an employee complaint, unfinished reports, non-responsive interactions.  The residue of all these circumstances are just filled with negativity.  I wanted to disappear.  But I stayed on and tried to resolve some of them.

Tonight I transfix my gaze upon the transfigured Christ and meditate on the kind of wonder the disciples must have felt to have witnessed this at their midst.

Transfiguration by Theophanes

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Merciful Gaze

This was what I was gazing at while I was at mass tonight.  The compassionate eyes.  The faint smile.  They felt real tonight.

I felt comforted as I pondered on the words below the painting saying, Jesus I Trust in You.  

Mom came home by lunch time today.  Her 6th and final chemotherapy session was over.  I wanted to exclaim a resounding "Yes!" but it seemed to me that she was somber and reflective about everything.  Almost wary that this last cycle was the actual end.  Almost resigned to the probability of not being healed.  I wonder what makes it difficult for some people to cling on to hope?  

Tonight, I trust in Him who knows the depth and breadth of every moment in my life.
You should not worry too much about adversities. The world is not as powerful as it seems to be; its strength is strictly limited. Know, My daughter, that if your soul is filled with the fire of My pure love, then all difficulties dissipate like fog before the sun's rays and dare not touch the soul. All adversaries are afraid to start a quarrel with such a soul, because they sense that it is stronger than the whole world. (Sister Faustina's Diary, Notebook 6, 1643)

What I want to really say is that...

Morning conversations with Adi about yesterday's Intercessory gathering allows me to breathe and affirm the spiritual movements happening in my life as of late.  

I'm telling myself to succumb to this.  I have long resisted going in depth into writing about my spiritual experiences because it feels like it does not "cater" to a majority.  I didn't want my writing to just be perceived as a religious effort at conversion.  No.  This is not what it is about.   It is about walking a path that I have stumbled upon in the middle of life's complexities and how this path, the path of faith and the writing craft (art) has been helping me come to terms with everyday challenges and difficulties.  And so I continue and discover that as I capture the words the emerge inside my mind, I am actually unraveling a mystery.

We were late for the gathering but it seemed as if we arrived on time for the actual intercession and prayer. They asked me if I can play some songs while we were at it and so I did.  We prayed for the rebuilding of the apostolate upon firm foundations.  We prayed for restoration of bonds within ministry life.  We prayed for getting to know one another again as family.  As community.  

These prayers are not new to anybody who is in a charismatic movement.  This probably happens all the time.  For me, I've seen this happen twice in my lifetime and it still moves me as if it were my first.  

The life of a spiritual community is a magnified experience of family life.  Where family is the core, the community is an extension of that core which becomes part of society.  Like school.  Like work.  Like culture.  A family experiences relationship issues, heart issues, trust issues, despair issues, communication issues.  So does a community.  So does an organization.  So does a country.  

Yet in community life, especially one that is built on the Catholic faith, there is a distinct character on how the journey unfolds from the pattern of dying to rising of new life.  Yes, it can be a metaphor.  It can probably be an ideology.  

But for me, when they say it's the movement of the Spirit, I understand what they mean.  My closed eyes didn't keep the tears from escaping.  That yearning and longing and hoping ache that forces a sob out of your chest and a gush of tears to flow down to your cheeks is something more than just a psychological theory.  It seems to be transformative.  It's greater than what man can actually grasp in a raw experience like that when young hearts abandon themselves to an Unseen God and find liberation in the simple act of prayer is something that my human mind cannot completely explain.  

Perhaps scholars and mystics have experienced it and have understood the workings of this kind of circumstance when 2 or 3 are gathered in God's name and allow themselves to be consumed by His reality.  

I have not completely understood it but I have always found it inspiring and captivating to write about such mystical occurrences that I am fortunate enough to witness.  It is like being able to photograph the view from Mt. Everest's summit after enduring such a long and arduous climb.  Of course there are other similar experiences of that nature, but I suppose for me, I am quite moved by the spiritual workings of the God who created this life I'm living in.

So for that, I continue my attempt at writing and believing until I find my way to every milestone of this journey in faith and art.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On The Tensions of the Sacred and Secular

I stumbled upon Heather King's blog late last year.  I'm halfway through her 2nd memoir REDEEMED.  I was so happy to have found her presence online because I hungered for words that were incarnations of thoughts traveling the lines between the secular and the sacred.  This has always been a real struggle for me.  I never really quite know the right calibration.  I end up quite a mess when I'm swamped with work.  I also end up so lonely when I'm not doing anything.  

Heather King writes about her journey towards authentic faith with so much realism and mysticism at the same time.  I think she's found the right balance and the right approach to the Catholic faith journey.  I hope I can be like her someday.

This is a quote from her latest post.  It's an excerpt from an interview she had with a Christian magazine.  I like this quote because it expresses so much of what we go through.  

I’m still struggling myself, for one thing, and always will be. And I can’t imagine any group of people who could bring me closer to Christ, reveal Christ, than my fellow alcoholics and addicts.They suffer, they’re very aware of their brokenness, defects, and limitations, they live by a kind of constant examination of conscience (though they probably wouldn’t use that phrase), and they continually astonish and humble me with their humor, their plain-spoken common sense, and their deep and authentic spirituality.
There’s never a sense of: “Ha ha ha, I have conquered alcoholism!” There’s a sense of: “I’ll be darned, I can’t believe the likes of me is no longer drinking 24/7, or pawning the baby’s baptismal ring, or ripping off my sick mother’s meds.” They have a sense of wearing the world like a loose garment, and also of the freedom to make discoveries about themselves and the world and to figure out what they love. They are
doing the hardest work there is: holding the tension between the way the world really is and the way we wish it were. They show me the Resurrection, in other words, in constant action…

This is in a way the real authentic faith journey we aspire to have.  Not dismissing  the clutter, but embracing it with the heart of Christ and find that in all of the mess, there is a beauty that rises from the ashes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Words From A Hymn that Whispered

I found myself getting struck by these words this morning.

HYMN from Office of Readings

Lord Jesus Christ, be present now,
And let your Holy Spirit bow
All hearts in love and truth today
To hear your word and keep your way.

Give us the grace to grasp your word,
That we may do what we have heard.
Instruct us through the Scriptures, Lord,
As we draw near, O God adored.

May your glad tidings always bring
Good news to men that they may sing
Of how you came to save all men.
Instruct us till you come again.

To God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, three in one;
To you, O blessed Trinity
Be praise throughout eternity.

These were from today's Office of Readings and it has held out throughout the entire day. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Clipped from the Commonplace Book: Church and Mystery

Reading Mystery and Manners this morning led me to Fr. Stephen's Blog.  I do not know much about orthodoxy but for most of the blogs I have read by orthodox Catholics, I have sensed a calm rhythm in their thoughts.   I feel a little bit envious for people who can sustain a calm disposition all throughout the day.  I don't think I can do that.  But I am learning to accept my frailties in that department and just focus on the things I know I can do.  Anyway, I've picked some good stuff on Fr. Stephen's blog which are all mostly related to ministry work.  I find them very insightful as I was engaged in a lot of discussions on youth ministry this past week.  I am not sure how to introduce these kinds of insights to young people.  But I pray they find them so they can walk further in the miracles of this faith life we believe in.

Screenshots from my online commonplace book (I just want to admire my new theme.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Daily Habits Formed

I'm looking through some old mail and find this one.  It's been a favorite of mine and even tried to apply it in my daily life.  I think that I should try to keep up with the practice of trying to apply this every day.

The Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII

  • Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
  • Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
  • Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
  • Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
  • Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
  • Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
  • Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
  • Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
  • Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
  • Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

Facebook Messages and The Road Back to Youth Ministry

I know it's quite lame but I started deciding to come out of hiding and get back into kingdom building because of a Facebook post from the Message from God app.  On my late grandfather's birthday I found this one on my wall.

It's true.  I have been hiding for quite some time.  Pained by conflicts in ministry life, I did not expect that serving God would entail a lot of confusion, frustration, loneliness, condemnation.  I was disillusioned by the joy that is experienced in a worship gathering and the struggle that is experienced behind the scenes.  I keep saying this because I don't think I've said it enough, "Ministering is easier said than done. Whoever claims to have gotten it figured out is missing the point."  

So for the past 3 years, I quit something that I really loved doing.  Being a Youth Minister gave me so much meaning and purpose.  It showed me creative paths I never thought I could walk on.  It opened up for me a world that helped me believe in the unseen even more.  But I quit because I could not handle the conflicts.  This shows how weak my faith has been and how little of that faith truly relied on God.

But something has been stirring up in me during the last few months of 2010 when I started to visit community gatherings again.  

Yesterday, I played for the praise ministry again.  The first time in 3 years.  I walked through the same old routine of calling people so I could pick them up and head to church to set up band equipments.  Make a quick run for lunch and engage in more talk about preparations and song sequences.  Waiting for time to pass until the tech team finishes hooking up all the wires and testing the sounds before a band run through can commence.  Being ready for any diversions that can take place in the song as the Spirit led. 

I have learned how to be receptive to the promptings of a prayer leader in the prayer hall dimly lit for solemnity with nothing but the glow of candles flickering by the altar.  The quiet glances and head-nods. The meek hand gestures directing the songs to unleash the utterance of praise.  Prayer becomes the conductor of this orchestra designed to worship a God who is unfathomable and yet slowly unveils Himself in a very human way through the emotions that stir up the heart to lay open for anything that wants to move in resonance with the divine.

It becomes a very mystical experience.  The technicalities of a "musical production" tempered to give room for something more than musicians can comprehend.  My fingers often wait for the music to move instead of the other way around.  And I find myself at the foot of the leader's prayer instead of my own skill pressing the keys to render its sound.

Yesterday was one of those days I rekindled this experience once again and I've forgotten how much I missed it.  My most recent memories of serving for a worship gathering have been tainted with bitterness and alienation.  But yesterday was different and primarily because of an uncanny Facebook message that changed my mind about my perspective in choosing to reconnect to my God the best way I know how.

This morning I find another one that's pretty affirming.  It says.

I think I've denied myself of the desire to pursue something I really love doing for the longest time.  It's one of those very human emotions where you "deny yourself" because you feel that others will judge you for wanting something like that or would stereotype you for not being able to control your passions and say you're undisciplined or immature or misguided.

I've battled with those silent condemnations for years and I think I have reached a point when I do not have an excuse not to even try wanting what I want anymore.  I want to make music.  I want to share music.  Simple as that.

Yet in this world of beautiful paradoxes, simplicity and complexity have the same face but wear different clothes.  And I know that desiring to make music has many other things related to it.  But here I am transparently opening my heart to my Creator saying, "I want to make music."  And He said yes, okay.  Go and make music.  

So I did.  And yesterday was beautiful.  And I was happy in the dark.  And I wept sweet tears because I missed it so much.  And I hope that this will never be taken away from me again.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Getting Back into Kingdom Building

Life stories have been coming very slow as of late.  This week was filled with many unexpected things.  It all started when I said yes to playing as a keyboardist for our church's Youth Ministry again.  The rhythm started to change I was flooded with work as well as church work.  This is a very significant thing in my life as I continue to strike balance between the secular and the sacred.  I realized that being absent from kingdom work has imbalanced me greatly but at the same time has been mortification for the self-focused motivations of a weak youth minister such as myself.  

Saying yes to that prodding this year has probably been the most terrifying things I've ever done but at the same time it has been one of the liberating ones.  It's renewed my definition of who I really am which I am slowly and painfully accepting.  But as I cut away the excess fat of my personality I am beginning to seek a clearer understanding of who I am in God's life.

I'm not coherent right now and though the desire to write is still very much present, the time for it is very absent.  I am still learning to calibrate everything into a more comfortable flowing rhythm that will help me get a little bit more integrated.  It's a frustrating journey.  And it frustrates a lot of people around me.  But this is a journey I have accepted and I want to keep accepting if I have to keep moving forward.

So moving forward I must.  I need to do some errands outside the office today and then head off to church for more kingdom building.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Random Thought Captures

Oh I would say I had a pretty good start to the New Year.  Yes, I think I did.  And there was only one thing that I kept repeating to myself inside my head, my heart and my prayers.  

Slow down.

I'd wake up before the sun rises and the first thought that straddles inside my mind before consciousness fully hits me.  Slow down.  

It was a fervent prayer said in the middle of musings at midnight.  It was a painful longing whispered amidst the sweeping circumstances that cluttered my time.  I asked God to help me slow down.  And I think He is.  I think He is.  

Email inboxes have been cleaned and categorized.  A renewed focus at work.  Perhaps even a heightened sense of patience for the imperfections.  It is still an ever continuing struggle.  But that phrase, "slow down" keeps reverberating relentlessly.  

I barely had time to do "my thing" this week.  And I let myself just be swept away with work because it is quite an ordeal to always resist it.  Found myself a rhythm and a new appreciation for numbers.  

It's funny, this grace.  And the distilled calm resting quietly tonight.  I am not fazed at the absence of coherent thought.  Satisfied with simply sharing images I treasure of memories lingering in my mind.

Memorable moments from Christmas Season

my favorite picture of mom and dad taken in Taal Vista

after a series of shots that my sister had requested, i finally found one i'm happy with

i found my nephew hiding out this spot because he said nobody wanted to play with him, poor boy :(

quiet spaces in my grandmother's house, her absence is much felt a bitter sweet melancholy

my dear niece maia shows her inclinations for the camera

aaron benedict's smile is a winner

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bethlehem's Star

May I grow to be more aware of the truth that is in my midst.  Even in the clutter that surrounds my life.  Like the three Kings and the simplicity of the shepherds who found themselves at awe with the birth of Christ.  An epiphany that the source of hope, love, peace and joy is right there in their midst.

May the Star of Bethlehem shine constantly inside my heart and illuminate the profound truth that Jesus, Emmanuel is God truly with us.

I am pleasantly visited by a rush of inspiration this morning as the rain quietly poured over the steeple of Pink Sisters Church.

He came to make himself known to the Gentiles.

I wonder what it must have been like to realize that the Redeemer of the world was right infront of you as a beautiful baby.  How did the flock that gathered around the ordinary and hidden stable in Bethlehem open their hearts to the truth of Jesus?  What kind of overflowing of heart did they experience?  What kind of warmth permeated their entirety?  I can only guess.  But I suppose if I continue to ponder about this story, I'll get enthralled by its mystery and exclaim, "Only God can author such a moment cozily tucking in the truth of His divinity inside the simplicity of rustic human life."

It would take a person to be focused enough to not miss it.   What with all the busy errands and the numerous and urgent concerns that cloud the intellect and rob it of possible revelations.

I have been such a person.  Robbed of the enchanting joys that glaze the faithfully steadfast.  Here I am reminded of why the star had to shine so bright in that midnight sky.  But 2,000 years ago we did not have a lot of things that took our attention by storm.  No internet.  No parties.  No mobile communication technology.  It seems that in our advancement we become more ignorant and numb to the promptings of the beautiful unseen life that makes up our faith.

They are watching.  They are present.  The heavens are always looking.

I'd like to be surprised.  I'd like to feel that wonderful warm permeate inside my chest after the unveiling of an unexpected epiphany.  Like that of Bethlehem's star.

The New Year

I am not so sure about what to say at the start of the New Year.  All I know is that I find myself ever so carefully treading into this new day.  Not so hyped up about all the greetings and cheer.  Not so dazzled by the fireworks and the thrill  of frenzied laughter.   Perhaps I can say that I'm going into this year quite reflectively.  Not rushing into anything.  Not hurrying into anything.  Primarily because I'd like to begin it again by acknowledging that there is this so-called thing as unforced rhythms of grace.  Something I have started to live by the start of 2010 but somehow found it buried under a heap of busy obligations and unforseen circumstances.

I spent today by going to 7am mass with my family.  We went to St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish like we always do for the past 33 years of my life.  We never miss 7am mass despite the late New Year's Eve family gathering.  I wasn't quite awake yet when we sat on the pews but I was awake enough to notice that our beloved family parish has renovated itself and is now appointed a shrine by the Archbishop of Cebu.  I don't know how that process goes but I suppose it's a special one.  

I love the stained glass windows against the morning light.  The priest stood on the steps for his homily just the way I like it and spoke in straight Cebuano all throughout.  The dialect has always made me feel up beat and it subtly jolted me into awareness that I am before the divine in this wonderful morning of January 1, 2011.   The cares of 2010 find themselves still lingering in my thoughts.  They do not move away from the clasp of memory.  They just linger there as much as I want to let them all go and receive the new beginnings awaiting me.  I let them linger.  I'd rather not resist and fight the strain.  I'd like to learn how to deal with situations a little bit more smoothly and gracefully.  

We had breakfast in Starbucks and I envied my parents for ordering a ham and 3 cheese sandwich.  I asked for a 1/4 slice and gave my Dad the last of my chicken pan de sal.  I couldn't enjoy my Toffee Nut Latte as I usually would've enjoyed it.  My throat was aching perhaps from the draft of midnight air.  My nose was runny and I could barely breath.  But I enjoyed reading some back issues of Contemporary Art Philippines which I totally forgot has been in circulation for about a year or so now.  I made a mental note to buy me the most recent copy in Fullybooked.

Craving for baby back ribs for lunch we ate at this place called Casa Verde.  My cousin Inee took me there early in the week and I loved their huge slab of baby back ribs at a very cheap price.  We had a good meal and quite a lot of laughs.  Laughing was a treat in my family.  We do not do it often but when we do, we laugh quite a lot.

Somehow, it's been quite a good start with silence, food and a sprinkle of good cheer.  More to look forward to during New Year's Dinner with the clan.