Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Celebrating the 500th year of the Reformation

Five hundred years ago, on October 31, 1517, it's said that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in protest against the doctrines and practices of the ruling Roman Catholic Church. This ushered the momentous event in world history known as the Protestant Reformation, a movement that led Christendom back to its roots, to the purest form of God's message of salvation: grace alone through faith alone. This movement changed the world. Along the way, it introduced intellectual and spiritual giants—Martin Luther and John Calvin, among them, who were persecuted for standing up to Rome. The printing press was born as an inevitability and necessity. The renewed understanding of God's sovereign and unmerited grace was due, in part, to the distribution of Bible translations in the people's lingua franca. For the first time ordinary folk, who likely did not understand Latin, could read and understand God's Word for themselves. With their eyes opened, the Gospel freed them from the paralyzing fear and uncertainty of their eternal destinations. By the grace of God, they understood that they need not work for their salvation—it was, and still is, freely offered once they repent of their sins and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God would breathe new life into their souls, so they could do good works as a consequence, and never as a prerequisite.

The Reformation's battle cry was a return to the purity God's Word, that Scripture alone should be the basis of faith and doctrine was, and that Scripture must interpret itself. Only Christ can save people from their sins, and never themselves. What joy! What freedom!

Why the Reformation Should Make Your More Catholic by Fred Sanders
The Aesthetic Beauty of the Gospel by Mark Mattes
Here We Stand
Portrait of Calvin by THL Parker (free download)
Here We Stand by Dr. Albert Mohler — a really good essay!


Monday, October 30, 2017


Cloudy day
Paris, France (April 2017)

I woke up to cloudy, after-rain weather, a welcome treat for someone like me who doesn't like the sun a lot. I've lived in the tropics all my life; moments like these break the monotony of humidity and warmth. In order to complete the picture-perfect moment, I should've had a warm cup of freshly brewed tea, a good book, windows open to let the fresh breeze in, and the joyful kind of solitude; but the truth is that I dozed off after a day at work without an after-thought, my nap dreamless, only to be awakened by the sound of my brother's utensils as he made dinner--a healthy broth of fish and vegetables.

There's a tinge of selfishness in my indifference, sometimes indignation, at knowing about the minutiae of people's lives--the strongest argument supporting my avoidance of Facebook--but here I am, writing about mine.

Read, listened to, and watched

Inspired by Jason Kottke, here's a quick review of the things I've read, listened to, or watched for the past few weeks.

Good Witch. A small-town drama where love and truth always triumph and people are nice to each other. It's also perpetually cold. Best feel-good series I've watched in years. (A)

Doctor Who, Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2. Hilarious. Scenes of the English countryside fascinate me all the time. (B+)

Madam Secretary Seasons 2 and 3. My dose of some White House action. (A)

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Tom Brooks. Ambitious, but the tone was inconsistently off. (B-)

The War Against Pope Francis. So many controversies in the Catholic Church. (B+)

The Foreigner. I'm a Jackie Chan fan, though nothing much happens here. Pierce Brosnan with the Irish accent was a surprise. (B)

Fargo, Season 2. The Kansas City Mob! Clever, ambitious. The series made me crave for coffee. I recommended this to my roommate Tom who was then studying for his exams. He watched the first season and passed. (A+)

What's Inside: Songs from the Waitress. My soundtrack for the month. Favorites include Opening Up, What's Inside, I Didn't Plan It, and You Matter To Me. (A)

American Vandal. Cars were spray-painted with phalluses, and the search for the culprit was on. Refreshing satire on crime investigations. Had a lot of good laughs. Warning: coarse language. (A)

Don't take the scores seriously. 


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Popular Bookstore

New haunt: Popular Bookstore along Tomas Morato.

Popular Bookstore

Too bad it closes at 6 PM. Great book selection, featuring Filipino publications. Got myself a copy of Jose Garcia Villa's short story collection (Ateneo de Manila University Press).


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Soul comforts

I CAN'T overestimate the encouragement I've derived from listening to good music. Nothing quite comforts the soul than song. This one is Compassion Hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty, among my favorite Christian songwriters. Through this I'm reminded to "show to the world [God's] compassion," especially as a physician—this, even during hard times.

There is an everlasting kindness
You lavished on us
When the Radiance of heaven Came to rescue the lost;
You called the sheep without a shepherd
To leave their distress
For your streams of forgiveness
And the shade of Your rest.

And with compassion for the hurting,
You reached out Your hand
As the lame ran to meet You
And the dead breathed again;
You saw behind the eyes of sorrow
And shared in our tears,
Heard the sigh of the weary,
Let the children draw near.

What boundless love,
What fathomless grace
You have shown us, O God of compassion!
Each day we live
An offering of praise
As we show to the world Your compassion.

We stood beneath the cross of Calvary
And gazed on Your face
At the thorns of oppression
And the wounds of disgrace,
For surely You have borne our suffering
And carried our grief
As You pardoned the scoffer
And showed grace to the thief.

How beautiful the feet that carry
This gospel of peace
To the fields of injustice
And the valleys of need—
To be a voice of hope and healing,
To answer the cries
Of the hungry and helpless
With the mercy of Christ.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mistrust without a cause


Expounding on 1 Samuel 27:1 [1], CH Spurgeon wrote:
He [David] should have argued from what God had done for him, that God would be his defender still. But is it not the same way that we doubt God’s help? Is it not mistrust without a cause? Have we ever had the shadow of a reason to doubt our Father’s goodness? Have not his lovingkindnesses been marvelous? Has he once failed to justify our trust? Ah, no! Our God has not left us at any time. We have had dark nights, but the star of love has shown forth amid the blackness; we have been in stern conflicts, but over our head he has held aloft the shield of our defence.
While my coffee was brewing this morning I took on the mindset of a skeptic and squeezed my memory for episodes of God's failing me, as Spurgeon so challenged. I did my best. Was there, in fact, any instance, when God had left me on my own, when He had left me fend for myself, when He failed to be my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, just as He had promised? The answer is a resounding no. Never. Not once has He left me. Not one promise of His has failed to come to pass.

I read this passage together with the account in Matthew 4:35-ff, where Jesus calmed the storm.
And they [disciples] woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he woke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
In the thick of things I lose my vision and ask the same faithless questions. "Do you not care...?" But the witness of Scriptures, the narratives of my friends and family, even of people I don't personally know—and even my own—only reflect His love and care, all of it undeserved, all of it by the unmerited favor He has granted to sinners like myself.

[1]“And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.”


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Quiet and windless

I spent my weekend in Cabangan, Zambales with my IM family. After a brief medical mission at San Ildefonso, Bulacan; we took a five-hour drive to Zambales, a place we picked because we had wanted a taste of the beach. In our van were the Mondragons: Sir Alric and Karen and their daughter Monay (Alessandra to most, but she'll always be Monay to her Uncle Lance) were seated in the middle row. The little lady hardly cried during the trip. Her default reaction was a smile. She didn't mind being tossed around, carried by her childless titos and titas, all of them entertained by her calm, quiet composure.

Night lights

We arrived in Cabangan at dinner time. Everything was pitch dark. Bea asked where the beach was. "There," someone must've mentioned to her, pointing to the wide expanse of emptiness. Then we could  hear it—the steady hush of the waves. It was a quiet, windless evening away from the metro. Psalm 8:4 came to mind, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" I was overwhelmed by the Lord's providence.


After dinner we stayed by the beach. The beach caretakers prepared a bonfire for us—too intense for smores, but the fire kept everyone excited. I retired early for bed. I know Roger, Jerry, and Grace went swimming that night, but I had a good sleep after having gone on 24-duty at the ICU the day before. I couldn't even remember what I had dreamed about.

Beach front


I woke up as usual: 5 AM. After my morning devotions I hit the beach. The sun had barely risen, the water still warm for some reason. Good thing I brought my goggles with me: a pair of Speedo frames  that match my myopia, the same pair I'd been using for my laps in Manila. Then Rich and Roland approached me in the cottage. "Ikaw pala 'yun," they said. They were wondering who would swim this early.


Breakfast was coffee and tocino. I hit the beach again. Rac, Grace, and I left the crowd near the shore and swam for the deeper areas where we kicked  to keep afloat. "I've missed this," Rac said. I swam myself to exhaustion. A good kind of stress. Along the shore were Michelle and David and their son Mohan who's been going to school already. Since I'd met him three years go, Mohan has learned to love the beach. He used to go hysterical when even his feet were soaked in the water.

Coffee cups

By the beach we talked of politics, fake news, impeachment, and so on. It felt energizing to talk about ideas instead of people, for a change—and it encouraged me, in this time of cynicism, to hear my friends speak of the country's future with idealism and hope.

Cabangan, Zambales

Most of my friends went home by 2 PM, but Merv, Rac, Jerry, Grace, Doc Abby, Jay, Roland, and I stayed behind, a bit sentimental about residency ending in a few weeks. The sunset was just as it should be: gradual, without fanfare, and it had ended before anybody even noticed. The drive to Manila was smooth. The eat-all-you-can buffet in San Fernando was worth it.

Blue skies

At 10 PM we were back to regular programming.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Cabangan, Zambales


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Productivity, Statistics and Lit, Essays

At any given time I read three or four books at a time. I get bored quite easily. Maybe that's just me. I say "bored" here not as a negative connotation but as way to express that some works need some to be read for prolonged periods, with intermittent moments of rest in the interim. To help me get past lengthy, revered works of fiction, I read collection of short stories, non-fiction, or short contemporary novels. Too much Cormac McCarthy makes me suicidal and despairing; too much Mindy Kaling turns me light-headed. A change of view increases my appreciation for each book I read. Multiplicity does not diminish the delight.

Last week I finished three books, all read in my Kindle (which I've named John Ames, because the device, in fact, asks the owner to give it a name). I enjoyed the books thoroughly. I recommend them to you, if you have time to spare. (You have time to spare. What's your excuse? Teddy Roosevelt finished Anna Karenina while chasing thieves in the Dakota Territory).

Do More Better

Tim Challies, 2015, Cruciform Press

Challies is one of my favorite Christian bloggers. I turn to him for advice on how to make my life more productive. He defines productivity as:
effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and for the glory of God. 
He runs us through the apps and software he uses. He gives us tips on how to deal with email. He likes Evernote, which I've been a a fan of, too. His perspective is centered on Scripture, beginning with the fact that we must be faithful stewards of time, that we must lean on God's sovereignty despite seeing our plans disrupted. 

Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing

Add caption

Ben Blatt, 2015, Simon & Schuster

Using statistics to analyze literature, Ben Blatt's book is a joy to read. He answers, among other questions: Does the use of adverbs signal poor writing? Can someone tell an author's sex just by analyzing the text? Does the size of an author's name on the cover correlate well with his/her popularity? How do popular authors begin and end their stories? Which novelists are fond of describing the weather?

It's a lot like reading a scientific journal but more fun. Bar graphs and pie charts appear a lot in this work, but don't be intimidated. 

I find this interesting because I'm part of an on-going study that makes use of the methodology Blatt applies here.

When I Was A Child I Read Books

Marilynne Robinson, 2013, Picador

These essays are gems. Robinson argues against scientific reductionism as a way to describe the human condition, defends Calvinism from its detractors, and argues that religion should have its proper place in society. In Freedom of Thought, she writes:
The notion that religion is intrinsically a crude explanatory strategy that should be dispelled and supplanted by science is based on a highly selective or tendentious reading of the literatures of religion. In some cases it is certainly fair to conclude that it is based on no reading of them at all.