THE ESSENTIALS

We cannot have everything in life. But rejoice when you have the essentials.

Being right with God.
Being at peace with others.
Food on your table and roof above your head.
Friendships.
Family.
Life.

Yes, strive to be excellent in all things. But remember this: when you have the essentials of life, you already have what you need to be truly happy.

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FATHERHOOD

While helplessly trying to steady my 2 year old Marco who was clumsily climbing on my lap as I was about to drive my car, I heard my 8 year old Mara curiously asked, “Papang, is it difficult being a father?”I looked at her and smiled, “Yes, it is, Mara. But I love it just the same.”

Fatherhood. It’s not easy. It’s not a breeze. It’s not a walk in the park.

But if you truly appreciate this wonderful privilege that God has given you, you wouldn’t mind the difficulty. You will simply smile and love it just the same.

TURNING DISTRACTIONS INTO WEAPONS OF GRACE

I tried to have my morning prayers early today.“Tried” is the operational word.

You see, it’s quite difficult to pray when you hear “Rock Baby Rock” blaring from your neighbor’s loud speakers. Good thing I learned early on in my walk with God to use every distraction in life as a weapon of grace. So while the song “Rock Baby Rock” was booming in the background, I just kept repeating these words in my prayer:

“Lord, you rock. You rock, Lord. You rocked my life more than 25 years ago. You still rock my life today. For blessing me with a beautiful wife, you rock, Lord. For the wonderful children that I have, you rock, Lord. For a very loving family, you rock, Lord. For loyal friends, your rock, Lord. For a very supportive community, you rock, Lord. For a fulfilling ministry, you rock, Lord….”

And the list of thanksgiving went on. Before I knew it, I was focused again on God. I used the very distraction and turned it into a weapon of grace.

How about you dear friend? Are you going through some distractions, small or big, in your life right now which prevent you from focusing on God?

A stressful work life?
A busy domestic life?
A relationship difficulty?
A nagging illness?
A debilitating fear?
An overwhelming grief?

Why don’t you try what I just did? Use the distraction to push you closer to God. Turn around the enemy’s weapon and use it against him.

God’s grace is sufficient.

No wonder I ended my prayer time humming “Rock Baby Rock” with arms raised in worshipful prayer.

The enemy never wins.

NO MATTER WHAT

Every negative that happens in your life becomes a positive if you hold on to God no matter what.

Every setback, God turns into a set-up to bless you even more.
Every breakdown, God turns into a breakthrough.
Every “letting down”, God turns into a “lifting up” for you.

So hold on today, my friend…no matter what.

LETTING GO

This is the fourth time in 12 years that I am doing this but the first time for every kid still is difficult.You see, he is my youngest. And unless God has other thoughts, it would be the last time that I am sending off someone to school for the first time as a parent.

Marco trooped to his first day in formal schooling today and the sting is a bit more painful.

This somehow begins a new chapter in our life as parents. In a sense, it is a different kind of “letting go”.

The “letting go” is just made easier because of the following thoughts:

1. I am letting go for their own good.
2. I am letting go so they can grow.
3. I am letting go so that they can experience making and failing on their own.
4. I am letting go to teach them what life is all about.
5. I am letting go because I love them.

In a similar way, God chooses to let us go; for us to try things out; to make things right; to do things wrong; to get hurt; to recover; to learn; to fail; to win; to trip, to get up; to hit a deadend; to make a breakthrough; on our own.

All because of love.

*———————————————-*

As I peeped from outside his classroom door at the COJ Catholic Progressive School, I saw Marco make friends.

Wow, it’s really the first day of the rest of his life.

And perhaps the first day of mine, as well.

LETTER FROM A MISSIONARY DAD

Dear Franco,

On this your 6th year, I want you to know once more that I love you very much. In fact, I love you so much that I want you to understand the life that I have chosen if only to make you appreciate what I hope to achieve for you. I know that you are still too young to understand what I write here, but someday, you will remove this from some stuffy old drawer, and read. Really read. And then I hope that on that day, you will look back with greater appreciation for this God who called me to this ministry.

Because of the life I’ve chosen,

I may not be able to leave you a hefty inheritance but I hope to leave you an enormous legacy.

I may not be able to leave you an earthly mansion but I am working to give you an eternal one.

I may not be an excellent teacher when it comes to saving money but I can sure teach you how to save souls.

I know I am not your typical dad who does the fixing in the house (Your mother does that!) but I can coach you on how to help others fix their lives.

I know I travel a lot to save souls but please know that I will cross oceans in a second just to save you.

I may not get to buy all the toys you want to play with but know that I want you to remember me as the “toy” who loves to play with you.

I can actually earn a lot and spend a lot of money on you if I want to but I choose to earn your love instead by spending my time with you.

I may not be able to introduce you to the big shots of this world, but I hope that as you grow up, I get to introduce you slowly but surely to the “biggest shot” of the Universe because He alone matters.

I say this not to justify my choices nor do I say that my choice is better than the choices of other Dads. We all make choices based on what we believe is right. I say this so you know that everything I do, no matter how crazy they may seem at times, I always do for you.

I love you, Buddy. Happy Birthday!

Papang

PINCH IN THE HEART

When our son Franco received his gifts for Christmas the other night, he couldn’t stopped thanking us. While his endless “thank yous” did not add value to his gratitude, it added inexplicable warmth in our hearts. The voluntary and almost instinctive “Thank you, Papang and Mama” which echoed from his lips throughout the night as he played with his toys evoked unmatched joy within us — a delightful pinch in the heart, you might say. “So this is how it feels for someone to really, really thank you”, I said to myself. And then it dawned on me. Have I ever really, really thanked God enough?

For exchanging his throne for a manger…
His scepter for a cross…
His palace for a stable…
His glory for indignity…
His honor for shame…all for my sake?

I don’t think so.

How often do I undermine his sacrifice with the way I live my life?
For uttering careless words that tear down instead of build up?
Or thinking unholy thoughts?
Or turning away when I should have helped?
Or walking away rather than indulge?

On this Christmas season, I wish I can be like Franco — really grateful to my Father. For loving me. For blessing me. For saving me.

And may my life reflect that gratitude. Let every time that I say no to temptation or sacrifice for the good of another be my expression of thanks for what God has done for me on that first Christmas day. May my endless “thank yous” to my heavenly Father be what Franco’s endless “thank yous” to me were — an inexplicable yet delightful pinch in the heart.

I pray the same for you.

Have a blessed Christmas, my friend!