Monday, February 18, 2019

The purity of God's Word and its impact on my life

I had the privilege of sharing a short testimony during the church's anniversary. I'm sharing it here.

There is so much suffering in this fallen world. Just this week, I met a 19-year old girl with salivary gland cancer, a 30-year old man with an advanced facial tumor, a 50-year old single mother with stage IV breast cancer, a 60-year old farmer with prostate cancer who could no longer afford his medications. These, and many more.

It is exhausting.

By four o’clock in the afternoon, my mouth is dry, my throat is painful, my hands are numb, and my heart is tired. There have been times when I would rather have just walked out and gone home to sleep it all off. But it is during these moments of exhaustion when the neediest patients arrive, and the urge to become distant and mechanical is the strongest. It is, after all, easier to think of them as pieces of DNA that have undergone mutations or as human bodies whose cells have become dysfunctional, instead of as human beings who have souls.

I need to turn back to God’s Word—and this I need to do daily. Jesus, in His earthly ministry, must have been exhausted. Matthew wrote that “they brought [Jesus] all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and He healed them” (Matthew 4:24). Jesus was an internist, a neurologist, a rehabilitation specialist, a dermatologist (He treated leprosy)—the best physician that this world has seen. It makes sense, therefore, to turn to this Great Physician’s Words: He knows all things, controls all the cells of the body, and knows exactly what I need.

How has the purity of God’s Word impacted my life?

God’s Word reveals what is lacking in me. I realize that I lack compassion and love for others. The Bible presents the loftiest example of love: that of Jesus Christ, who died for a sinner like me. The Bible is a clear lens through which my otherwise selfish eyes see my sins. It allows me to see God’s highest standard of holiness, which I could never achieve apart from His grace.

God’s Word fills me with compassion and joy. What I lack, God graciously fills up. He is the wellspring of life, the infinite source of compassion and love. I am refreshed and renewed when I behold Him. His words are a balm to my soul. His promises give me hope. When my mind and heart and saturated with His word, they overflow in my dealings with my patients, my family, and my friends. I love how John Piper described love—“the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.”

God’s Word transforms me daily. God sanctifies me to become more Christ-like. It is often a painful process. Understanding this truth makes me realize that no patient interaction is accidental. Will He give me an opportunity to exercise sacrificial love and selfless compassion to this patient who is about to die? How may I glorify Him the most? As a result, I am drawn to share the gospel by way of gospel tracts or short conversations during multiple consults, to pray at bedside, and to emphasize the reality of eternity, to my patients and their families. The Christian hope, after all, is unlike any other. In this aspect, I am a work in progress.

In what seems like a never-ending battle against pain and suffering, God’s Word settles my heart. In Him alone I find rest.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The hassles and joys of printed books

Last Saturday I came across the Powerbooks book sale at the Upper Ground Floor of SM Megamall. I got three hardbounds for less than Php 1500! The acquisition of too many books (the Japanese have a word for it: tsundoku) poses a subject of conflict between Manong and me--probinsiyanos who live in a small rented space in Metro Manila. Before going home I could almost hear my brother ask me in a serious tone, "Where will you store those?" He wasn't too pleased when, a few days ago, I brought home five volumes of De Vita's Oncology textbook, 11th edition, and stacked them on the dining table. The lack of space is the main reason why I've mostly turned to Kindle for my leisure readings and my iPad for my academic readings (journals, textbooks, and so on). Most of the books I've accumulated since 2004 have been shipped back to Koronadal, where my mother had an entire cabinet installed to house them. (My late father carefully packed them in neat boxes, some of which still exist, bearing his neat and careful handwriting.)

Thus far, the transition to digital has been seamless. I've discovered that I read more slowly with printed books; I'd much rather use my iPad to read DeVita, for instance. It uses the same amount of concentration but less muscular ability: plus, I can read in the dark, which is really how I study. A pillow propped behind my head, my body in a supine position, with comfortable pajamas. Some would call it "getting ready to sleep." The physicality of the reading process is more pronounced when I leaf through actual pages, being able to smell them, crumple them, and write little notes on the margins. Other than that, I haven't had many issues. The blogger Tim Challies said he endeavored to transition to ebooks completely. Just don't remind me of Michael Dirda's Browsings, that beautiful account of a biobliophile whose main hobby is collecting first edition prints of books. After reading Mr. Dirda's essays (in my Kindle, ironically), I had a shopping spree with my fellowship allowance money, where I bought all copies of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and some more. They're in one corner of the dining table.

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I'm reading David Lebovitz's l'appart, his account of buying a space in the 11th arrondissement of Paris and renovating it. I've enjoyed my time in Paris in 2017 and look forward to going back.

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I got Bulfinch's Mythology for my brother. This pacified him and even excited the English major in him.

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The page edges are in gold. I hope that I can spend entire days with these stories.

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Viet Thanh Nguyen, who wrote the masterful novel, The Sympathizer, edited an essay collection. The pieces are written by refugee writers. What does it mean to be taken away from one's home to live in a foreign land, with a different culture and value system? I always think of Christianity as a life of refugees in a land both foreign and familiar: in the world but not of it. Our home is in heaven, which we will see someday. I'm not sure if the book resonates themes of longing and homesickness (it can be, I expect, extremely political), but I hope it does.

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If you have time, visit SM Megamall. I saw unopened comic books, children's books, and even Stormy Daniel's account of President Trump on sale. No Christian or theological books, unfortunately, but there are many places for those.
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Over-sharing

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I met my friend Paul, now a citizen of New Zealand, over lunch yesterday. The subject of my blog popped up, Paul having seen me in 2004 start mini-website at an internet cafe near the UP Shopping Center. (There wasn't internet connection in Kalayaan Dorm yet, and this was the time when only Paul Balite and Luther Caranguian had laptops, which made them extra-cool.) "I'm sorry I sometimes forget to check it," he said, issuing what I still feel is an unwarranted, misplaced apology. Some friends think I oblige them, wherever they may be in the world, to read this little space of the web.

I told him I'm glad my phase of over-sharing--which included taking photos of all the food I've eaten, writing about how I felt about this or that film or movie--is of the past. I was, in a sense, social media savvy even before social media gained traction in Filipino culture. The closest thing to a social media in 2004 was blogging, now considered dead by some, but something that I continue to enjoy working on.

I'll meet him, Lord-willing, in Australia by the end of the year. He promised to drive me around. Paul, if you're reading this, I'll hold you accountable!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Multiple corrections

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This was the menu of Mr. Poon Restaurant in Ermita, Manila. To conserve paper and avoid plastic lamination, the managers decided (I think) to use white correction tape.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

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Fishing

Along a beach in Hong Kong (2016), where Minori N. showed my brother and me around.
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At the male restroom at Café Breton, Tomas Morato, Quezon City. Too bad the branch at Robinson's Place Manila is now closed. It used to be the place where I did some leisurely reading, where I picked up a French novel whose author I now forget, and where I almost always ordered the mushroom burger (perhaps the best in town, second to Trisha's beside SMRAA in Koronadal), and cafe americano plus sugar and butter with lemon crepe for dessert.
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