Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas - of small things and Jesus

I could not have asked for better gifts this Christmas. God has given me all that I needed. 

But Christmas is not about gifts, at least material ones. It's about giving love. Yes, it may sound like a cliché but it is really about giving love. 

This Christmas, I could not give material things to the people I love. So, I gave them my time and energy - because that was what I had. The same with my family. 

My mother came to visit me and she didn't give any other material gift. Her presence was 100 times better than any gift she could have given me. 

Tomorrow, my other late Christmas gift from God is the presence of my elder brother and his family. My gift would be the time I spend with them, especially with my little cutie nephew. 

I received one of the best gifts from Mken. She made a comic strip of why I should be named Time's Person of the Year. It was funny and witty and most of all heartwarming. Years past she would give me a gadget, an expensive one, but this gift made my heart melt. It's not every day that someone chooses you to be Person of the Year. 

My other gifts include, as I mentioned earlier a car. It has come in so useful. Yes, I drove off with the gas nozzle the other day. But the gift there was that the gasoline station owner said that it was okay and I didn't have to pay for anything. Phew! I instantly looked up articles on how much a gas nozzle would cost. FYI, it can cost a few dollars to thousands depending on the damage. To top that off, I think God is really spoiling me. There was a policeman when I drove off with the nozzle. He was off duty and he took my details and even called the firemen to check up the area as my gas was natural gas. He had called the day after to ask whether I had called the station. After further inquiry, he bid us Merry Christmas and that everything was okay. Had he not been there, I would be a wanted lady right now. 

How do all of these tie up together? Well, it's about the small things. Like baby Jesus. He came into the world. Innocent, born in a stable and rested in a manger. How humble a beginning can you have? He shows us that it's not about your stature or your heritage. It is about your heart and the love that you give to others. He dined with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors - people whom society deemed not fit for social consumption. He gave them His time, His presence, His love and forgiveness. For some people, these are small things. But these are the small things that people appreciate - time and energy and presence and sometimes forgiveness. 

It is the small things that prevent you from making big mistakes like making sure that the gas nozzle had been removed before driving off. Or paying the car insurance as soon as you get the bill, should anything happen. That was the lesson I learned when I accidentally ripped off the gas pump. 

I could write about the many gifts God had given me even before Christmas came. I am especially thankful that Mken got her papers. The feeling of insecurity of living in a country not your own is unnerving yet it teaches us patience and strength. It teaches us how to hope and to surrender all to God. A piece of paper may be a small thing but behind that paper was prayers. Our family and friends prayed for us, for our interview at the immigration office. We asked our angels - both living and in heaven - to say a prayer for us. The experience of having people pray for you is a humbling and wonderful. It may seem small for others to say a little prayer but it has its weight in gold! Prayer goes a long way. 

And I have to say that God has gifted me with good friends and people that surround me. I am awed. They are generous. They ask for nothing in return. They give love to all they meet. They show their kindness and generosity in such subtle ways. Thank you Lord for these people in my life. Their presence is a present in my life. I learn daily to give of your love because of them. 

This Christmas, God has taught me that it's the small things that we neglect that are so important. As Christmas closes to an end, may you and your family be blessed. May you cherish each other's company, even if you may be materially lacking. Nothing can replace your family. It is priceless. 

May we give of love every day, in small ways, because it is these small things that matter. 


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Tuesdays with God

About two years ago, I started a date time with God and called it "Tuesdays with P.A." in imitation of Tuesdays with Morrie. It was a weekly ritual of writing down God's message to me for the week. It was a consecrated time when I would sit down and write and share with other people, through my writing, my pondering about God.

I had neglected that ritual for some time now.

But I wanted to share what has happened to me recently.

It was on a Tuesday that God gave me a car in a lottery at the office. I had never won anything so big in my entire life. I was so surprised that I was shaking for a few hours and I went to mass to give thanks to God that day. I couldn't stop crying. Good thing the mass was a remembrance mass for the dearly departed. My tears of joy was masked as tears of sorrow and remembrance. That was 19 November.

Winning the car was a funny story. The lady that called me to say I had won it was a classmate in French class. I thought she was calling to ask about our homework that day because she had been busy organizing and participating in our office's bazaar. This was the conversation:

A: Hello, this is A, may I please speak with Ms. E.
Me: Hi A, this is P, your classmate in French.
A: Who am I speaking to?
Me: A, it's me, P, the Philippine, your classmate in French.
A: The little Philippine in class?
Me: Yes, that one.
A: Oh my God, P, you won the car!
Me: What? Oh my God! Oh my God!
A: (Talking ... but I couldn't concentrate on what she was saying)
Me: Oh my God ... (walking out of my office and going to my friend's office saying: I won the car. Smiling and shaking)

It was also funny that at the closing of the bazaar, I took a picture of the whiteboard with all the winning numbers. I thought I would check the numbers when I go home. Little did I know that I would win the grand prize.

I didn't tell anybody else that I had won the car that night until I found the ticket. I told my family though and I said I had to check where my ticket was. They asked if it was a hoax. When I found it at home and went to mass that Tuesday, news had already travelled and everybody greeted me with a congratulations as I entered church. The lady that sold me the winning ticket had already told everybody. When she sold me the ticket she had expressly said, "Take this ... this is my favourite number". I bought it and that was the winning ticket.

Two weeks later, on a Tuesday, 3 December, I finally received the car. The German ambassador, whose Mission had donated the car, had come to the VW garage for a photo op. The car - a VW eco up! - was unveiled and Voidieu (short for Voiture de Dieu - in English - Car of God) was given to me. We call her V for short, thanks to a friend's prodding.

So, it was on a Tuesday that I dedicated myself to God and on the same day, God gave me a wonderful gift.

I had planned to write this on a Tuesday but I had been busy so time permitting, I wrote it on the Sabbath which is also a day dedicated to God.

It's not to say that God is not present any other day but I just feel even more special that God on our date day gave me such a wonderful gift.

Thank you Lord for the gifts you shower me with everyday of my life. I am not worthy yet your love abounds for me.

I love you too.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

It's my Christ year! 3Ds

That's what I've learned to call my 33rd birthday whom a dear friend told me.

On the eve of my Christ year, I ponder many things. Firstly, the homily this evening. Father Bob said he cringes when the Gospel or the Word says you must hate your family and friends. But in deeper detail, he says that the translation actually means to be detached. He said that was understandable.

I'm not a very addictive person but I may get too attached to some things. It can be people, or things or habits or whatevers.

This year before my Christ year, I have gone through a sort of detachment. I have been able to lessen my involvement in certain activities which allows me more time to be with God. I have also avoided people whose negativities bring me down. But I have quickly replaced it with other things like my revitalized passion for fishing.

A few days ago, I broke my ribs. It's a long story which I will not recount. The message is that I should not devote all my time to only fishing. I have to make time for God.

Church activities, though meaningful, do not necessarily equate time with God. I often think about the Gospel in Matthew when God teaches us how to pray - in seclusion, just with the Creator and no rambling because He already knows. It's a two-way dialogue that requires listening as well as speaking. But we most often do the latter that listening is put out of the picture.

So, this Christ year, I hope that I will be closer to God. With my recovery, God's presence and teachings are ever so evident. One is God's love and the need to love Him, and the other the love we have for our neighbour. God is so loving that whatever we do, He is there.

Last week, after breaking my ribs, though not knowing it yet, before mass, we thought we would miss the bus. To walk would be quick if I didn't have an injury but God knew my pain and somehow, the bus which should have left, stayed a bit which allowed us to ride. We then had to walk, a chore for me because my leg was still painful. After mass, we got on the bus to go somewhere to eat. A few friends saw me and said for me to sit, I said it was painful. They must have seen the pain on my face and said, don't eat yet, just go straight to the clinic.

This guiding presence of God through other people are so touching, I almost cried. Not from pain but knowing that God was there.

A similar thing happened when I was on holiday this summer. I went to a church, as a stranger, and I was asked by the church volunteer to offer up the gifts. Who was I - some stranger to that church - to offer up gifts? I felt God valuing my presence. I cried during communion and went home with a smile on my face.

The second lesson is love for others. I have had opportunities to be on the giving side but at this moment in time, I have been on the receiving. I am so thankful to a loved one who has been helping me recover and who is always there to help me in times of need. God has given me a true gift. I could not ask for anything more on my birthday - to be loved by Him and to be loved by others.

That's why it's sometimes hard to be detached because God has given us so many blessings and we can't help but dote on these blessings. But He asks us to dote on the Giver and not to lose sight of that.

So, this Christ year, I hope I can find a balance between detachment, doting and devotion.

Lord, thank you for another year of blessing of life. I cherish every second of it. I'm sorry for all my shortcomings and I pray for good health. Thank you for all the lovely people around me and for all those who have challenged me to be closer to You. I pray for forgiveness.

All this Lord, I cherish and pray, in your name. Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Madali ka ma-disappoint (You're easily disappointed)

That's what my friend told me today when I was venting about how another friend's prospective job might not pull through. I took offence for a while, kept to myself, pondered about what she said. I felt a bit slighted but my friend and I have been through a lot so I chose to act “normal”. This is what Bo Sanchez recommended when there has been a misunderstanding and you just want things to be as normal as possible. Act normal and feel later and sooner or later your feelings will follow your actions.

I was simply venting and I just wanted to be heard. I didn't really expect a chastisement or scolding as such. But she did have a point. After she said that line, she added: Trust in God and you will not be disappointed. Know that He has better plans.

Yes, I know that in my head and in my heart. It was just in that moment in time, I doubted. I doubted like Peter. I doubted like Thomas. When has God ever let me or my loved ones down? I don't recall any real let-down. The answer has always been clear: Yes, No, Not now. Sometimes, I choose to see between the lines. Well, so much for looking between the lines. What is in between is the fact that God is so good, He or She (International Women's Day is soon here :)), knows what we already need before opening our mouths and He or She will give it if it is what is best for us. Nothing less and sometimes surprisingly more.

As I reflected today with the help of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) and the concentration to work like my life depended on it got me smiling. I became very happy and my feelings of hurt turned into love. Love for my friend whom I know said that because she wanted me to be appeased that God will never let me down. Love for the people that dare to show love. Love for the people that appreciate the little things I do. Love, love, love. The love of God that is all around to feel and to share.

So, my not so disappointed self started smiling – at everything. I might have looked a bit crazy to some people. But I appreciated as I always do the little things – a smile, a plant, two friends talking, people helping and showing random acts of kindness. I smiled at the collection of photos of the people at work in our organization. I smiled as I walked home. I smiled at the air that was going through my body.

Thank you Lord for giving me my friend who reminded me that I should never be disappointed with you or what life has laid down before me. You have better plans – plans for a future full of hope. The verse of Jeremiah 29:11 is forever etched into my heart.

I leave it at the foot of the Cross. We will soon be welcoming you into Jerusalem with palms only to crucify you a few days later.

Look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church – that's what we say at Sunday mass. Yes, Lord, look not at our inability to fathom your plans and the errors we make. Look at our faithfulness and the hope that we put in You because only You know the plans for our lives.

This Lent, may we never be disappointed by the experiences and challenges that come our way. May we welcome them as a sign of your unfailing love and your trust in us.

Jesus I trust in You.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who am I? (Qui suis-je?)

That was a question that Jean Valjean asked himself when he faced the dilemma of becoming a criminal yet again or living out the life that he was destined to have. It was the question that Javert asked himself before throwing himself in the river Seine.

It is the question we ask ourselves everyday if we do not yet know what life holds for us.

These past weeks a recurrent theme in my life is the question: Who am I? From French class who asked to recount my heritage, my grandparents, my family and my village to the recent showing of Les Miserables here in Geneva.

In Les Mis, Fantine sings in “I dream a dream” that she imagined her life to be different and not exactly where she was at that time in the margins selling herself so that she may buy the life of her daughter Cosette. How many times have we found ourselves in the margin, thinking is this the life I was meant to lead? Or is there a greater sacrifice?

It is also reminiscent of the message of Christ. Lent started just a few days ago with Ash Wednesday and the ashes being crossed on each of the faithful's forehead. “Who do the people say I am?” Jesus asked. It didn't matter what the people said because He knew who He was and no one could change that. And Peter's “You're the Messiah” was evidence that he chose to see with his heart and not with the eyes of his human form.

As Father Richard said in his sermon, Lent is not about giving up things but becoming the person that God wanted us to be. God did not want sacrifices or holocaust, he wanted us, the us that He created.

But who am I? That is the question in some our minds. I often ask myself that. Who am I really? My mom calls me by many names in the hopes that I will become one of those things: writer, professor, horticulturist, entrepreneur, etc. And yet, I am not really any of those things.

Is it in my head that I dream that I would like to be a published writer some day? Is it a dream that I would like to tend to an organic farm some day? Is it far from reality that I could be a businesswomen who can support herself? And the list goes on.

The question remains, who am I? Am I really those things? Or is the calling from God more basic? Fantine sings: To love another person is to see the face of God ... Yes, the challenge is there in defining who I am and who you are. In the times that God challenged us, did we show love? Did we show compassion? Did we see His face in others? Did we see His love for us? Do we know that we are His creation and therefore also Love.

Who am I? I am yours, the song goes:

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours

And so the answer is: Not because of who I am But because of what You've done. I am Yours.

I am Yours. That's who I am.

Jean Valjean, Javert, you, me, we are His and He has redeemed us. And no matter who we think we are, we will always be the love He has put in this world to be a light to others just as He was. We may be imperfect, we may be broken but He has claimed our soul and called us brother and sister. For him, we are a beautiful soul.