Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Christ is All

My prayer today. It reminds me a lot about the song "Give Me Jesus" by Fernando Ortega (1999). And don't you love the Puritans?

O Lover to the uttermost,
May I read the meltings of Thy heart to me
in the manger of Thy birth,
in the garden of Thy agony,
in the cross of Thy suffering,
in the tomb of Thy resurrection,
in the heaven of Thy intercession.

Bold in this thought I defy my adversary,
tread down his temptations,
resist his schemings,
renounce the world,
am valiant for truth.

Deepen in me a sense of my holy relationship to Thee,
as spiritual bridegroom,
as Jehovah's fellow,
as sinners' friend.

I think of Thy glory and my vileness,
Thy majesty and my meanness,
Thy beauty and my deformity,
Thy purity and my filth,
Thy righteouness and my iniquity.

Thou has loved me everlastingly, unchangeably,
may I love Thee as I am loved;
Thou hast given Thyself for me,
may I give myself to Thee.
Thou hast died for me,
may I live to Thee
in every moment of time,
in every movement of my mind,
in every pulse of my heart.

May I never dally with the world and its allurements,
but walk by Thy side,
listen to Thy voice,
be clothed with Thy grace,
and adorned with Thy righteousness.
Taken from the collection of Puritan prayers by Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 18.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A complicated past: Walter White in Albuquerque

I miss Breaking Bad. Stephen Wood's essay, Tearing down this statue of Walter White would erase an important piece of Albuquerque's unique heritage, just perked me up.
I’ll be the first to admit this town has a complicated past. But that’s just the point — it’s our past. And I’m sorry, but I’m not going to let the Political Correctness Enforcement Agency just swoop in and erase it. For all his flaws, Walter “Heisenberg” White was an important figure in this community. Tearing down our beloved statue of him would be an attack on Albuquerque’s unique heritage.


Theology of the home

John Tweedale starts his essay:
Whether you are a child learning to read, a freshman in a dormitory, newlyweds settling into a first apartment, an upstart launching a career, a family with a quiver full of children, or a widow navigating life without a spouse, the comfort of home is a stabilizing reality of life.
He writes about the theology of home—a beautiful essay. Praise God for Christian homes!

The home is not a neutral zone for acting upon baseless desires, nor is it simply a bastion for maintaining traditional values. One of the primary purposes of the home is to cultivate Christlike virtues that animate who we are in private and facilitate what we do in public. When the Apostle Paul addressed the households in the church of Colossae, he instructed wives, husbands, children, masters, and servants alike to put to death the exploits of the flesh, put on the qualities of Christ, and do everything in word and deed for the glory of God (Col. 3:1–4:1). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul sandwiches his instructions to households between teaching on devotion and worship (Eph. 5:1–21) and spiritual warfare (6:1–20). And the Apostle Peter prefaces his comments to families with an extended discussion on the church (1 Peter 2:1–11; 2:12–3:8), an important reminder that home life can never be isolated from church life. 
This side of heaven, home should be a place where faith, hope, and love flourish. Faith in the sure work of Christ crucified and resurrected. Hope in the power of the gospel to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. And love for a triune God whose glory and beauty knows no end. The Christian home in a fallen world is a place of rooted optimism. Rooted in the place where God has called us and optimistic about a far greater place He is preparing for us. The home front is the forlorn battlefield of the cultural wars. In our strivings to defend the gospel against doctrinal decline in the church and increasing secularism in the culture, we must not forget the importance of cultivating virtue in the home. For the church to remain a city on the hill, the light of the gospel must shine brightly in the home.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Where's the moon?

1. PAG–ASA PAGASA hasn’t declared that it’s the rainy season yet, but the afternoon downpours we’ve had for the past days have been welcome treats from the summer heat. But “summer” is a Western construct and should technically not apply to us, a country with only two seasons: tag-ulan (rainy) and tag-init (sunny). Nevertheless we’ve called our month-long breaks from school “summer breaks.” TV commercials have done the same.

[Before the rainy season is officially declared, there should be at least 25 millimeters of accumulated rain in three consecutive days, and there should be at least one millimeter of rain in a day.  (Dr. Jun Galang of PAG–ASA  PAGASA).]

2. I’ve spent much time taking naps. It’s almost surreal—napping in the afternoon, while it’s raining. I find that most pleasurable. I’ve been dreaming but couldn’t remember what I’ve been dreaming about, except that it had felt like being chased and stressed. I dream of so many things, but I end up forgetting about them. Sleep experts say that’s natural.

3. I decided to spend the rest of the day at home and catch up on reading. I’m on the second chapter of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, which I took up because Bill Gates and President Obama recommended it, and Jason Kottke highly recommended it, too. It starts with the moon disappearing, with everyone wondering why that happened, even the astronomers on board the International Space Station fondly called “Izzy.” (My friends Wegs Pedroso and Dianne Deauna called me just that in college, while we were making sure our PCRs were going well.)

4. My daily Bible reading (thanks to the ESV Read the Bible in a Year plan) takes me today to Psalm 94.

“If the Lord had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.”—Psalm 94: 17–19 

A conviction

Photo credit: Kate Piccio, via Facebook

Answered prayer: a conviction. Read the full story here. This is amusing because my brother doesn't relish the experience of getting interviewed by the media—his introversion, which he needs to get hold of. This will figure prominently in my father's collection of clippings.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Psalm 92


We sing a song patterned after Psalm 92 in church. With the flute, keyboard, and the excellent singing of our church’s worship team; I can’t help but be overwhelmed. It is a beautiful song. It is a beautiful psalm, full of gratefulness and joy.

The Psalmist exclaims, “How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!” (Psalm 92:5). It comforts the Psalmist that although he doesn’t understand everything that’s going on, he knows that the God he worships does great work and is great! He is so full of awe that he wants to “declare [God’s]steadfast love in the morning and [His]steadfast love by night” (verse 2).

That the righteous are rewarded by the Lord in the end also brings comfort to the Psalmist. The righteous “flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (verse 12). “They still bear fruit in old age; they are every full of sap and green” (verse 14).

I often wonder what will become of me when I grow old, if the Lord allows it. But I surely hope I’ll become fruitful, my lips forever praising my God, my heart bursting with thanksgiving and joy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Getting old by the day

MY FATHER complained he wasn't feeling too well. Days ago, he let himself be dragged by my two other brothers to a bowling match. Of course I didn't care to join; I was sleepy, having just left the hospital after a 24-hour shift. My brothers thought I just didn't want to end up the lowest pointer. They were all insistent that I join. My father even volunteered to be on the same team with me. Tatay's first shot was a strike. When we got home, he complained of back pains.

"Your Tatay is getting old," confessed my mother. "I shouldn't overwork him."

"Yes, Nay. You make all sorts of demands," we said.

My mother smiled.

The fact is that my parents now carry their senior citizen card, a badge of distinction for them, an excuse to buy that extra dessert or watch that new movie. They're getting older by the day.

How do I encourage them, as well as the rest of the old people I work with?

R. Paul Stevens writes:
Aging people experience progressive losses: parents, friends, colleagues, career, driver’s license, and perfect health. Then life-threatening health challenges are encountered, usually heart disease or cancer. And finally, there is the certainty of death.

In these realities, though, there are implicit spiritual incentives to grow. Here are three ways to encourage and exhort the aging.
It's summarized in three points:
Experience intensification
Embrace simplification
Cultivate (practical) heavenly-mindedness
Read the rest of the article here.


Ash turned to diamond

The quiet was disturbed by the sound of chisels striking stone. The gravediggers removed a metal plaque, then a cement wall, and, finally, a brick façade. More than an hour later, they hit what they were looking for: an oxidized copper urn, filled with the ashes of Luis Barragán, one of Mexico’s greatest architects, who died in 1988. They removed the urn from the cavity, brushing off dust and ants. Then they opened the vessel and presented it to Magid, who scooped out half a kilo of what looked like dirt and transferred it to a plastic bag, which she then put into a box. The next day, with the box in her carry-on, she flew home to New York.
The famous architect, Luis Barragán, was turned into a diamond. This created a lot of talk regarding morality, ethics, and such. The plan was to exchange the diamond for the precious archives of the architect's work, now heavily guarded by a private entity based in Switzerland. This is an excellent piece by Alice Gregory in The New Yorker.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Social media fast, and you miss nothing much

One of my web heroes, Jason Kottke, writes about his social media fast.
"Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week. I logged out of all the sites and deleted the apps from my phone. I didn’t so much as peek at Instagram, which is, with Twitter and old-school Flickr, probably my favorite online service of all time. I used Twitter as minimally as I could, for work only. I didn’t check in anywhere on Swarm. No Facebook. As much as I could, I didn’t use my phone. I left it at home when I went to the grocery store. I didn’t play any games on it. I left it across the room when I went to bed and when I worked."
He continues, as a footnote:
"Still one of my favorite tweets is from Scott Simpson: “My new standard of cool: when I’m hanging out with you, I never see your phone ever ever ever.”"
He concludes:
"After the week was up, I greedily checked in on Instagram and Facebook to see what I had missed. Nothing much, of course. Since then, I’ve been checking them a bit less. When I am on, I’ve been faving and commenting more in an attempt to be a little more active in connecting."

On memory

Memory is a mutable element, fickle in its suggestibility. It can be tricked to expand far beyond its true bounds, and yet, if overburdened, is liable to shut down altogether.—Alexandra Schwartz, "The Unforgotten: Patrick Modiano's Mysteries"

I'm reading Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano. I'm almost halfway through the book. The sentences are clear; it's quite an easy read. Jean B. tricks his wife and colleagues into thinking he's going to Brazil; but he stays put and hides in Paris, planning to uncover the mysteries of a woman named Ingrid, who, years before, had committed suicide in a hotel in Milan.

I was reading about Patrick Modiano and found the quote about how memory is mutable and trick-able. Who was it who said that pen and paper is better than sharpest memory? That's the reason why I blog and write on journals, too. The same reason that God ordered the Israelites to make memorial stones, lest His people forget Him.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why so many blogs are awful

I've been blogging since 2004, and Tim Challies' article, "Nobody Respects A Blogger," is a beautiful reminder of why I do the things I do.

So why do people blog? In many cases, it’s to build a platform, to gather a following that can then earn the right to graduate to one of the more honorable media. Many people consider blogging a means to an end, not a worthwhile end in itself. Blogging is a kind of minor leagues, a proving ground, and those who prove themselves as bloggers may then advance to the big leagues—book deals, plumb conference spots, columns in magazines. The blog is the necessary evil, the rising platform that eventually elevates them from obscurity to respectability. 

And this is exactly why so many blogs are so awful.
Read more here.


To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.—1 Corinthians 4:11–13

Who was this man Paul—perhaps one of the smartest, wisest men who ever walked the earth—and why did he write these things? Whenever I read his letters, I wonder how he must have been like in real life. I imagine Paul to be very intellectual and academic, perhaps a bit intimidating, a no-nonsense man who was well-connected and famous in the most elite of circles. He was, at one point, feared because he led the prosecution of the early Christians; so I imagine Paul as a very serious man, who got quite scary when he was proving a point.

He had everything the world could offer, and he threw these all away, when the Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself to him. He would leave everything behind to follow, live for, and even die for Jesus; and his epistles would form much of the New Testament, and offer direction and guidance to the establishment of the church.

Despite his accomplishments in the faith, Paul knew that the world would think him foolish. He didn’t mind being called a fool. The present reality is similar in that Christianity—biblical, orthodox Christianity—is folly to the world, standing in opposition to the current tides of thinking and way of life.
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Smart kid

If, theoretically, you had a gifted child—someone who could solve problems mentally, without pen and paper; who already knew calculus before her classmates could even read or write—would you hide her under the radar or let the entire world know about her? Would you send her to a normal school or enroll her to prestigious institutions, where she can be mentored by the world’s best?

I’m asking these questions because I had just watched Gifted. Nothing is spectacular about it, story-wise—it was as predictable as Maalala Mo Kaya episodes in ABS–CBN—except that I really, thoroughly enjoyed it.

To see a kid get bored by one-plus-one drills in class; standing up for a bullied classmate by smashing the nose of the bully; keeping quiet in moments when her intellect is called for, just because her uncle had advised her to keep her mouth shut lest she look like a smartass—that was fun. She is an adult trapped in a kid's body, but a kid, nevertheless. Who is this toothless kid? I love her. (I searched: her name is McKenna Grace).
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Sunday, May 14, 2017

On call


THE NIGHT before her flight, Nanay tells me she has low back pain.

“Is it just my posture?” she asks at 11 PM. “It aches when I sleep with my back flat.”

I tell her I’ll have a look. “That’s nothing,” I say. I see a faint redness near her lower spine that’s painful when pressed for a long time. The lesion can be musculoskeletal, or probably a consequence of her prolonged steroid use, which is notorious for making her bones weak. She’s been taking dexamethasone for months now.

But Nanay has a healthy doubt for all the things I tell her, always interpreting everything I say with a grain of salt. This, after med school and residency training. The thought comforts me, like the fact that she still revises everything—speeches, notes, letters—she makes me write for her.

She and Tatay land safely in General Santos. Sean, my younger brother, meets them at the airport and drives them back to Marbel. While at the ICU, I hear my phone vibrate—my mother, calling in the afternoon, a highly unusual occurrence, because she knows I’m busy.

“It looks like shingles,” Nanay says. “It’s painful.”
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Friday, May 12, 2017

Sweltering heat

THE website was down for a few days. My domain host failed to receive any notices from me that my renewal fee had been paid a day before deadline. But now it’s up and running, and my blog is 13 years old, give or take two months. Thanks for being here. It still amazes me to know that this space here is older than many kids I see in church. They were still being contemplated, while I was already posting selfies, and “selfie” wasn’t a thing yet.

My traffic has markedly gone down after I’ve decided to quit posting links from Facebook, a platform that I’ve long felt to be antithetical to my dreams of living a quiet and peaceful life, what with the many, many things being posted there—namely, people eating in restaurants, political view points I can only disagree with, and a few useful ones, which are the exception rather than the rule. I’ve logged on occasionally to communicate with old friends or to honor my mother’s wishes of checking out the latest about her batch mates from high school.

It is so hot in Manila that I need to hydrate myself once in a while. It’s a good thing I’m at the ICU now, where temperatures are friendlier, and the air-conditioning hasn’t bogged down—not yet. Please, not ever; not in this heat.

Still, we have plenty of reasons to be joyful, like this fun-looking, friendly man I saw inside a café's bathroom.

Such a fun-looking man. Anyone knows who he is?