Burning with passion

O, God you have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare your wondrous works—Psalm 71:17

How long has it been since we were young, when our hearts were burning with warring passions, when we felt we could do anything? For some of us, it has been light years ago; for others, just years; and, as we survey the congregation today, we find that many—myself included—are still in that tumultuous, volatile, and exciting phase of life.

If there is one thing the youth can teach us, it is this: to live passionately. But misdirected passion is just as difficult—perhaps even harder—to correct than a lack of it. All of us, regardless of our age group, may be guilty of one or the other: a passion geared to the fulfillment of worldly desires or an indifference to the advancement of the glory of Jesus Christ.

It must then refresh us to read an old saint, which many scholars think is David, write in Psalm 71:17, “O God, you have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare your wondrous works.” Psalm 71 may be regarded, according to Spurgeon, as “an utterance of struggling, but unstaggering, faith.”

From the passage we note two things: first, that the saint was a believer since the days of his youth; and second, that he was a believer still, even in his old age. The imagery is inspiring: an old man, probably arthritic and osteoporotic, but still harboring such a passion for his God that led him to say in verse 18: “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” The Lord clearly has preserved him, allowing him to declare the praises of the Lord all his life.

While the picture is heartwarming, it is also rebuking. How many of us have become less passionate about God than when we had first known him, blaming all too often our increased workload or exams? How many of us have grown tired of serving in church because we've invested our passions for the pursuit of other, less important things? How many of us have, after all these years of coming to church, treated Sunday worship or cell times or the youth fellowship as routine tasks? And still how many of us sometimes find ourselves looking back and wondering, “Where has my zeal for the Lord gone? What has happened to me?”

Whether we are 15 or 50, the Bible calls us to live our lives for Him because our God deserves our all. The Psalmist in Psalm 71 reminds us that, by careful study and diligent application of God's word, it is possible to do so.

. . .

This is the transcript of my exhortation during Youth Sunday. We in the Torchbearers Youth Fellowship had a wonderful, blessed time ministering in church. All glory be to God.

Xiphos is a great Bible tool for Linux users

I downloaded Xiphos, an open source Bible platform for Linux. It works like E-sword, which I highly recommend if you're using Windows. Different Biblical translations, commentaries, and other Biblical references from various languages all over the world are available.  I downloaded the English and Tagalog translations. They don't have the New King James Version (NKJV) and New International Version (NIV) translations, but at least they have English Standard Version (ESV) and King James.

I like the simplicity of the design. The search tool also works efficiently. If you install a dictionary (I installed Strong's Hebrew and Greek), a dialog box immediately appears at the lower right corner. Click on the word, and the corresponding Greek or Hebrew word is shown there.
 


What struck me most as I was installing this (which works well if you use the Ubuntu Software Center (just key in "xiphos" in the search box) was this dialog box:


How easily I forget that while I enjoy the Bible in all forms, electronic or analog, many Christians in certain parts of the world do not have this privilege. They are instead sneaking in their Bibles for fear of being arrested. They are, in Paul's words, "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus" (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

While the Philippines remains a free nation, let us,  as the old Sunday school song goes, "read (our) Bible and pray every day . . . "

Asperger's, it's not a veggie

Adam (2009) is a movie about a man struggling with Asperger's syndrome, a disease a lot like autism, characterized by an inability to interact with other people. It's sad, living like that alone, in a big house, eating macaroni and cheese day after day. Adam (Hugh Dancy) is a genius, has excellent memory, and is fond of astronomy. You know, the science geek.

Suddenly a woman arrives and settles in the same building. Beth (Rose Byrne), a children's book writer and a preschool teacher, meets Adam while she does her laundry. She eventually becomes friends with him. At this point the viewer gets excited how the relationship develops. A touching scene is when Beth invites Adam for a housewarming party of sorts; Beth knocks on her door, while Adam stands shivering on the other side, making sure Beth doesn't hear him. He's afraid of people because he has no idea how to tell what they're saying, apart from what they're saying verbally. If, for instance, Adam were in an English class and the lesson was on idiomatic expressions, he'd definitely fail. He wouldn't know you want to be kissed until you tell him.

The point of the movie is to show whether Adam, a man pyschologically incapacitated, could live a normal life with Beth. The movie is typical but, thankfully, it isn't corny.

There were funny parts, too. Beth comes in to apologize and brings a box of chocolates after a misunderstanding. Adam responds, "I'm not Forest Gump, you know?" I love that line.

And this one, spoken by his old friend, was a standout, too: "Liars is (sic) all you're gonna come across in this world. A man has got to learn the difference just plain liars and liars worth loving."

The soundtrack is wonderful; I particularly loved the Joshua Radin song, Someone Else's Life.

The movie shows a different facet to the human existence; some people just can't get along with others. The ending is a bit rushed, and I could've wished it had continued longer.

Youth Sunday

I haven't mentioned this lately, but we've been rather busy preparing for the Youth Sunday. We haven't done that in a long time; I was still in high school when the last of its kind was held.

In a nutshell, it's an entire Sunday service where members of the Youth ministry will do practically everything: the ushering, worship leading, and leading the prayer time. Kuya Lito, our youth pastor, is preaching instead of Pastor Bob.

It's amazing how the preparations for this event have made me realize the commitment of people in church who make our Sunday gatherings look breezy. Although there are occasional glitches, like an unresponsive projector, everything seems to go on smoothly. The reason, I now realize, is these people's hardwork, a result of their passion for God's glory.

The hardest jobs are those done in the background. And when they're done excellently, they speak well of the people who've labored for the task. So thank you.

I'm leading the prayer time this Sunday. For the past few days, I've ruminated on possible outlines for my 15-minute talk. I'm writing them down now, so I'd like to covet your prayers. May Jesus Christ alone be exalted, may He hide me behind His cross, and may I be of service to the Lord as I step on that stage: I, a wretched sinner.

Newness

The wisdom in buying a cheap phone that works is that when it gets lost (which happened to me) or gets stolen (which happened to me, too), you won't suffer as much depression, cry as many buckets of tears, and distrust the entire human race. Sadly, though, that also means you can't take vain pictures of yourself. But console yourself with the fact that your cheap phone also doubles as an alarm clock. Other than call or text, the only other important function of a mobile phone is to wake you up in the morning. And, yes, help you divide 9967.45 by 7.4.

Because division with all those decimal places is, like, hard.

List of UP College of Medicine Class 2015 applicants for interview

Go here for the list.

Anyway, it was around this time last year when I read my name on a similar list.  I remember that, at that point, I wasn't completely sold on taking up medicine. A part of me still wanted a PhD in neuroscience or something. But time flies really fast. Look at me now. The end of first year med proper is nearing, and I'm not regretting any of it. So far.

Let's pray for the applicants as they prepare for the interview. May they be truly passionate in choosing this kind of life.

UPDATE March 12, 2010: Results for the interview have been released. Here's the final list of qualifiers.

Definitely, Maybe

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While my roommate is reading in advance for the upcoming exam this Thursday—and mind you, the lectures on the topic haven't even begun—I've been watching a movie. You'll laugh at this, but the film is a love story called Definitely, Maybe. It was shown in 2008. I had no idea it existed until now.

There's nothing spectacular, except that I enjoyed listening to the little girl (Abigail Breslin) egging her father (Ryan Reynolds) to talk about his love escapades—think How I Met Your Mother, but with less hilarity.

The most important message of the story: write meaningful messages in a book you're about to give. Especially if it's Jane Eyre. It gives the book a deeper, more personal meaning—that it actually came from someone. And might I add: read the book first before handing it. Unlike t-shirts, the value of a book doesn't decrease if it has been first used by the giver. Just don't crumple the pages.

And what do I think about the movie in general? If you've seen one love story, you've probably seen them all. This one's not an exception to that rule.

Down to the letter

Today marks the last Sunday of our pulpit series on the Ten Commandments.

Obeying all ten commandments is not the way to salvation. If it were, then nobody could be saved. No man has obeyed all ten to the letter because God looks at the heart more than the external actions.

Consider the following: A person may not have murdered anyone, but if a person breeds anger in his heart toward another, then he is guilty. A person may not have committed adultery, but when he has lusted after pornography, he has already violated the commandment. A person may not be outwardly praying to idols, but when he enthrones in his life any other entity in the place of God, then he is guilty of having other gods but the Lord.

The point is: nobody can obey the Law perfectly. And it's meant to be that way. The Ten Commandments exposes our incapacity to save ourselves; on the other hand, it points us to the Person who can: Jesus Christ.

The point of the Ten Commandments is to lead us to Christ. Only Jesus saves. We're saved not on our own merit—definitely, not—for if the Ten Commandments were an exam, we totally failed it. Not even on a little of our "good" works plus the grace of God. Salvation is solely and exclusively by the grace of God through faith in Him.

The Ten Commandments is a cry to call on God for salvation. When we read it, may our hearts cry out, "Lord, I am too sinful to obey all these commandments perfectly, so help me see my helplessness. Let me not look to my capacity to do good to buy that ticket to heaven. But let me come to You, my hope and my salvation."

Yaman din lamang

"At yaman din lamang" is a Filipino expression which closely resembles the meaning of "And now that we're in the subject of" or "Given the fact that."

Usage:

At yaman din lamang na andito na tayo sa lab, tapusin na natin ang eksperiment.

At yaman din lamang na ginamit mo na ang straw ko, ubusin mo na lang 'yang Coke ko.
And here's a funny one:
At yaman din lamang [na] pinagkakaabalahan natin si Claudine (oh yes, Kloo-din! Abet, read! Kloo-din!), at mukha namang close kayo dahil nagkaka-chikahan kayo tungkol sa mga gremlins, pakitanong na rin sa kanya kung ang mga UNDIN ay in any way connected sa mga GREMLINS? (Thanks, Peyups).
 Yaman din lamang is a long phrase, so why not just say Y.D.L., as in:
Y.D.L. na nag-aral ka na, tulungan mo naman ako kasi di ko nage-gets 'tong lecture.
That phrase so reminds me of my classmate Glaiza De Guzman who blurts it out once in a while. Expressions like these are infectious. Not everyone gets it the first time, though—like Lennie Chua who, when she got a group text from me (which was appended by Glaiza herself), mistook YDL for "Your Devoted Leader."

Wedding song

I'm enjoying MacCarthy Trench's Wedding Song. I'm a huge fan of country music because the songs narrate stories in a distinct kind of way: the Southern accent, the careful strumming of the guitar . . . This song has those elements. And the story—that of a young man who didn't pursue his first love and who now regrets his lack of courage—is bittersweet.

I believe she was my one chance to marry young
To have some dark-haired daughters and some guitar-pickin' sons
And try and realize my plan to raise a real fine bluegrass band
The ending feels a lot like John McLauglin's Indiana. Sad songs make my ears happy.

Grand

In medical school, own calendar isn't concerned with the revolution of the earth around the sun and our seasons have nothing to do with the frequency of rain.

For two or three weeks, we're studying the nervous system and how it functions. It's the brain season, obviously. In many lectures, I'd find myself lost in the complicated maze that is the brain. The processes are intricate; the details are overwhelming. When that happens—that instant when I suddenly lose track and words lose their meaning—I always have two choices: frustration or praise.

It is, as the Lord has impressed upon me, always better to end with praise. David wrote in Psalm 8:1,

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
David was obviously stargazing. But just as the skies are glorious, so are our brains. The sheer complexity, the grand design, and the meaningful purpose of our brains reflect the wondrous glory of God. During those times when I don't get anything anymore, I'm thankful to the Lord for reminding me just how small I am (Psalm 8:4), and how great He truly is.

The detective

The book
I first read Sherlock Holmes in 2004. My dormmate, Amian Tauli, kindly lent me his copy, a thick compilation of the most popular works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I hadn't finished reading all the stories, but Sir Doyle's works were, to sum it all up, an easy read—a lot like Agatha Christie's, actually—which almost always prompted me to name the antagonist and prematurely solve the puzzle even before I had read half of the story. But, sadly, I never did get to solve anything.

The movie
Interestingly, I didn't even have to wrestle with my previous mental imagery of Sherlock Holmes (who looked a lot like Pierce Brosnan) with the movie character played by Robert Downey Jr. Downey was a natural. I liked it when he summarized, in slow motion, the maneuvers he did prior to actually doing them. Jude Law as Dr. John Watson was great, too; he sounded smart, but in an academic sort of way. I have to agree with my brother that the Holmes-Watson tandem was reminiscent of Dr. Gregory House and Dr. James Wilson of the popular TV series House MD.

Unlike other detective stories, this one seemed logical. In the end, the facts fell into place without a lot of hocus-pocus. I just wished I had studied more of my chemistry to know if the chemical reactions Sherlock was talking about truly had sense.

I loved the cinematography: the colors were bleak, in a Sweeney Todd-ish kind of way. I also loved the music by Hans Zimmer—that man never disappoints. The conversations were smart, but a lot of it I didn't get: when Englishmen speak English very fast, the sound like they're speaking German.

And, this might sound trivial to many, but what made me love the movie more was the typography. The headline font in the newspaper was perfect, so was the font for the closing credits. These things do matter.

The movie is a must-watch for those who've read Sherlock Holmes and for those who haven't. It gives you a different perspective, a different facet, to this classic detective character, and it inspires you to get to know him more.

Lunching with MBB friends

These pictures were taken in 2006 in our MBB 110 (Molecular Microbiology) class. I'm meeting my blockmates today for lunch. I hope, when we see each other, we'll see more maturity and wisdom. Can't wait.

Jean, Checa, Cheese. "Laguna girls ROCK!"


Juanchi, Dianne, Titus, Ate JC (from a batch higher than us)


Wegs, Myself, Hazel, Pisay. My 110 groupmates.
The Group Three

Jana, CS (from a higher batch), Arielle, Aldrin (who eventually left us for Chem)


. . .

UPDATE 01/10/10. Lunch at Kamirori, then games at Friispirit (Rockband, Dragonball, and Cranium), all in Katipunan.




(Photo: Kino)

The things you hear in a taxi

My friend, R, recalls her memorable December cab ride when she accidentally heard a true story of telenovelaic proportions:

We got caught in a horrible traffic jam. I was sort of surprised when the driver started talking to someone on his phone.

He told the person on the other end of the line that he loved this girl but that he was willing to let her go so that she could be with her husband. He apparently told the husband to change, so that she would become happy. But the girl left her husband again because he didn't change.

True pleasure is found in God alone

Augustine's Confessions is a book that should be read slowly. I'm now in Book 2: Augustine's Sixteenth Year. During this time, he confesses to having lusted after women, committed fornication, and stolen a pear with evil friends. He calls his youth the time when he "burned to get (his) fill of hellish things."

He writes:

But I, poor wretch, foamed over: I followed after the sweeping tide of passions and I departed from you. I broke all your laws, but I did not escape your scourges. For what mortal man can do that? You were always present to aid me, merciful in anger, and charging with the greatest bitterness and disgust at all my unlawful pleasures, so that I might seek after pleasure that was free from disgust, to the end that when I could find it, it would be in none but you, Lord, in none but you.

Give me back my children!

Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love was just as I had expected.

It's a story of an "unlucky" Filipino-Chinese woman (Sharon Cuneta) who gets married to a man of pure Chinese descent. The man, of course, is rich. His family disapproves of the woman. They elope, have five kids, and become poor. The man dies.

The family, especially the evil aunt (Zsa Zsa Padilla) who plays mahjong all the time, takes the kids away from the mother, and the mother tries to steal them back—to no avail. Sharon looks helpless now, and the audience bursts in tears.

The mother becomes rich and vows to get her kids back. But the evil aunt has poisoned the kids' minds, so they think their mother doesn't love them at all. Sharon struggles with this—and you can predict the rest of the story. She is able to take her kids back and regain their love.

My favorite scene is the sampalan between Sharon and Zsa Zsa. You've probably seen the trailer. Here the audience cheers for Sharon. Everyone hates Zsa Zsa. 

Sharon Cuneta's acting was great. Zsa Zsa Padilla was funny—in a good way. Kris Aquino looked too shy. Heart Evangelista didn't do badly either. But it was just as typical as any Mano Po movie could get. There was no element of novelty, and the Chinese still sounded fake.

But the movie had sense. A mother will do anything for her children. It was moving. I won't forget the woman beside me whose tears fell like Ondoy.

A security guard gave me advice on how to study well

While waiting for the water delivery boy outside my apartment, I was reading my notes, hoping to cram as many information as I could. After five minutes, the security guard greeted me, went up to me, and asked, "You have an exam tomorrow?"

I sighed. "Yes. A hard one."

"Know what? It's better to study in early in the morning—around 4 am—when your mind's still fresh," he said. "You see, I used to do that, and it worked for me."

I thanked him. I went back to my room, amused. The advice was a good one.

The end of my childhood, the advent of my manhood

"Does it hurt?" a 22-year-old boy asked his father.

"No," the old man said.

"Does it really hurt?" He asked his brother this time.

"No."

That was all he needed to hear. That is doesn't hurt. That it isn't bloody. That, unlike that scene in Pan's Labyrinth where the General was depicted as applying what looked like a Nestle cream to his face and sharpening his blade by rubbing it in a leathery material before using it on his own skin, shaving one's facial hair isn't as scary as it looks.

The second day of January marked a milestone. His official entry to manhood (his father said the same thing for circumcision, but shaving one's hair is more dramatic, albeit less painful). The end of his childhood. The time when he had to say goodbye to the thin, sparse hair outgrowth between his nose and upper lip, a region which, from hereon, would be gradually replaced by thicker, sturdier hair.

The 22-year old was now a man. The world had to know. And so did his mother. After the shaving session, he approached her, a woman absorbed watching the TV in the bedroom. He said, "Something's different with me. Look closer."

"Uhm, but I don't notice anything," the mother answered.

While he mourned for mother's lack of observational skills, he went back to his room and looked at his before-and-after photos. He realized, in complete and utter disappointment, that the change wasn't as life-changing. That there wasn't that much hair to begin with.



You see, I write this because I am that man. And when I walk right up to you anytime today, don't forget to say "That's a neat shave!" even if you don't see anything different. What are friends for, right?

Fresh from the airport

GardenAt the airport this morning, I saw many familiar faces, mostly schoolmates from high school I haven't seen in a while. Although the pre-departure area was jampacked, the trip back to Manila wasn't as stressful as I imagined it would be.

It's back to the real world for me—and for all of us, students, who've deluded ourselves into thinking we could be in vacation mode for as long as we want. It hurts, doesn't it? But we have to move on with our lives. If everyday were a vacation, then life would probably get boring.

Thank You, Lord, for the wonderful time I've spent with my family, and thank You for the amazing chance to unwind.

Books in the flea market

There weren't any decent bookstores in Koronadal when I was in high school, only stores that supplied school merchandise. This saddened me somehow. Whenever I'd leave for the big cities, the sight of National Bookstore and Powerbooks made my heart pound, so much so that I would leave my friends and go my own way, spending the limited time I had looking at books, many of which I could hardly afford.

My early collection of books was partly borne out of donations. My mother's friends who had a vast collection of paperbacks but whose children were not interested in reading gave them to me. I had fond memories of reading Sidney Sheldon and Robert Ludlum, my favorites back in sixth grade. Mine were dog-eared copies, but I didn't really mind. Like wisdom, the worth of a book grows with age. Besides, the older the book, the more fragrant it becomes.

When I visited KCC, our charming little local mall here, I saw a Booksale store. There I found many good titles. I found My Antonia by Willa Cather which I bought for Php 75. When I visited Robinsons Place in GenSan, National Bookstore there had a grand sale. I bought The Gathering by Anne Enright (Php 75), The Food of the Gods by H.G. Wells (Php 45), and a hardbound copy of Captain Alatriste by Arturo Perez-Reverte (Php 45).

I think I know why some people just can't get enough of the flea market. Finding a hardbound John Steinbeck stuff is a lot like stumbling upon a brand new-looking Levi's. I guess it's the element of surprise—and just plain old economics.

. . .

And here's my Christmas reading list:

Christmas reading list

I can't imagine how all these—plus the other books I've bought—will fit in my backpack when I come back to Manila. I guess paper bags will do the trick.