The “R” Word

August 11, 2022


No, it’s not resignation. It’s not retrenchment, either.

It’s retirement.

I never thought I would see the day. Just four hours ago, an HR officer discussed the “R” word with me. This coming September, I will be entering ehem a new phase of my life. Hello, 20% discounts and special lanes!

Yet, had you known me five years earlier, I was riddled with anxiety.

Where will I go? What will I be doing?

Will my retirement funds sustain my wife and me?

Or will we have to subsist on rainwater and moldy bread?

Today I am filled with peace and gratitude.

I am in relatively good health. I’m not battling prostate cancer or runaway diabetes or something.

I have a wife who supports me. “Honey, as long as we are in the center of God’s will, that’s good enough for me.”

I am thankful to my employer who is extending my stay as a consultant, subject to yearly reviews of the contract.

I am taking a certification course that should lead to alternative income as I ehem mosey towards the sunset.

Lessons:

1. Don’t dig a well before you get thirsty. Dig SEVERAL wells. You will never know which one will run dry.

2. Have an abundance rather than a scarcity mentality. I used to worry, “What if I were to go on my own business and I don’t have clients?” A life coach (sort of) rebuked me, “Clients are everywhere.”

At first, I was “yeah right” but now as I go around talking to and observing people, he’s right. It’s the invisible hand of God feeding His children.

3. Tap into what gives you flow, that indescribable joy of doing what you love doing such that you lose track of time.

4. While you are still earning from your day job, invest in yourself so you will have finely honed skills and be marketable when you leave that day job. In other words, your employer is paying your tuition.

5. Above all, trust God. Faith is that sneaking suspicion that just when your resources have run dry, God is opening up a new provision for you.

How do you feel about the “R” word? It will come anyway!

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Have you noticed that sometimes an oppressive regime is overthrown by a popular revolt, only to be replaced by an even more brutal government?

Someone astutely remarked that we can be fighting the evil outside us but there is a darker evil within us. Then, when we defeat that external evil, we unleash the evil that was lurking inside us all along.

Let us fight the evil whenever we can. But let us also cultivate goodness lest the evil consumes us. Too many tormented people stoop to the level of their tormentors. Someone hits them, they hit back. They scheme how to exact revenge or fantasize about the just deserts of their foes. Still others give in to the pressure and compromise their values.

When treated unfairly at work, the best response is to keep doing an excellent job. Sometimes that is all the defense we will ever need or what will prove our detractors wrong.

I used to have a terrible boss in that he always scolded me for whatever I did wrong but never mentored me to do what is correct. There was even a time when I gave him a printed report and he threw it to the floor.

Did I give him a piece of my mind? Did I go passive-aggressive in retaliation? Did I puncture the tires of his car?

No. To be honest, I wanted to resign but I needed that job. So I sucked it up and continued to do my job as best as I can. I was trusting God to vindicate me one day.

Then, before I knew it, my boss was made to retire. And I got an even better boss! That changing of the guards was instrumental in bringing me to where I am now: handling two factories for a well-known beverage conglomerate.

If we are convinced that God will someday vindicate us, this frees us from the need to retaliate. So resist the temptation to lash back or lose heart. Repay evil with good. Extend grace. Do kindness to your opponents. As another saying goes, “the best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.”

When we take the high road — and then some — we will no longer be part of the problem. We will not even be part of the solution. We ARE the solution.

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Full Circle

July 8, 2022


People have been asking me things like: How do I find the right career? Can I map out the next five, ten, twenty years of my career? What if my career won’t go as I thought it should?

While I’m all for career planning, the case can also be made that sometimes your career evolves on its own. Call it fate, destiny, serendipity, God’s guidance, and so on, but the reality is that we are not in total control of our lives. Pandemic, anyone?

For me, I am particularly grateful that my career has brought me full circle. I graduated with a degree in chemical engineering and my first job was at a factory in Pasig (it’s still there).

But I got bored with plant work and became enamored with marketing, so I took a detour through MBA school and made a career shift to industrial sales and marketing. This was a sweet deal because I got to use both my technical and business training.

Fast forward about thirty years. In my current employer, my boss took me out of a sales job and offered me a factory to run. At first, I was hesitant, but after much consideration (and my boss was very persuasive!), I accepted the challenge.

I never had so much fun in my 30 years of corporate work. Two years later, I was given a second plant to run.

I am also grateful that I have found the company where I can retire from. For Gen Y and Gen Z, this may sound too far off, but it’s true. Find an employer you really love and work hard for. By definition, you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else and stick it out with them through the tough times.

I will be reaching retirement age in a few months and I am already laying out my strategies (more of that in future posts). But for now, I am filled with gratitude.

Lessons:

1. By all means, plan your career. But be flexible. You’ll never know a Bigger Better Deal will come your way.

2. Don’t think “I won’t be going back to…” You may wind up coming full circle as I did, but the last will be sweeter than the first.

3. When career opportunities come, think how you can flourish in it, not how things can go wrong.

4. Above all, be grateful. Your workload will feel lighter, you will be a pleasure to work with, and you will have a lot less stress.

Full circle.

#careeradvice #careercoach #jobsatisfaction

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I can’t think of a more painful statement from a father than what Johnny Cash got from his dad.

It went like this. While growing up, Johnny had an older brother named Jack. Jack was so religious and interested in the Bible that, understandably, the father favored Jack. He thought he would be proud to have a preacher in the family.

Jack took a job that involved cutting wood to augment the family income. In a gruesome accident, an unguarded electric saw cut through his stomach and all the way to his groin. He died one week later.

Devastated, the father told Johnny, “I wish it were you instead of Jack.”

I don’t know about you, but I would rather be sliced in half by that electric saw.  Johnny Cash was haunted by those words ever since.

Many people suffer from stingy dads: stingy with his presence, his love, his affirmation.  And it hurts. It really hurts.

So what can I offer? It is to view God as a generous Father.

Unfortunately, people with stingy dads tend to project this stinginess to God Himself. They think God is either stingy in mercy (just one teeny weeny infraction will land you in hellfire and brimstone) or in blessings (Why am I not rich? Why did this other guy get the promotion and not me? Why aren’t my prayers answered?).

This is the false narrative which we have to call out and replace with the Biblical narrative:  God is generous beyond imagination.  Jesus painted such a generous God in the well-known parable of the prodigal son.

Consider:

The younger son demanded from his father his due inheritance. In effect, it was a colossal insult meaning “Dad, I wish you were dead.” The dad could have cursed or banished the son but amazingly, he divided his estate between this son and the elder brother, and gave the son what he wanted.

As we know, the son went off to a faraway country and squandered his inheritance. Then when his money ran out and a famine fell on the land, he got a job in a pigsty (he’s Jewish, in case you missed it). The swine were eating better than he, so he came to his senses and headed back home.

Along the way, he had planned to tell his dad, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.” Theologian Kenneth Bailey said there is the subtext of “and I will pay you back what I have squandered.”

While the son was a long way off, the father saw the son, ran to him, embraced him (pigsty perfume and all), and showered him with kisses. The son started his spiel, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son…”

Some Biblical texts paint the father as cutting his son off in mid-sentence. If the son were to ask to be demoted as a houseboy, the father would have none of it.

Now get this: the father could have exacted justice and “what is fair.” He could have demanded the son to somehow return the squandered family fortune. But instead, the father told his servants to put a robe, a ring, and sandals on the son. Then he ordered the fatted calf to be butchered and they had a party!

Where was the elder son? Outside, sulking!  When the father went out of his way and pleaded with him to join the celebration, the elder son spat, “Look! All these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. But you never gave me even a little goat so I could celebrate with my friends.”

Do you see that? The elder son thought he had a stingy dad! And that made him a bitter, miserable, resentful fellow.

The parable ended with another clue how generous the dad was. He told the elder son, “You are always with me and everything I have is yours.” The elder son harbored a grudge against his dad for holding out on him, yet it seemed that’s because he never even asked his dad for that goat!

Are you still hurting from something your dad did or didn’t do to you? Was it something your dad had said that, metaphorically like that electric saw, cut you to the bone? Perhaps it happened ages ago, but it still hurts as if it happened only yesterday.

The salve for the broken heart is to reflect on God’s goodness. That despite what you think or what you see, He really is loving, kind, and generous. The Apostle John gushed, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

But there is a condition. We are children of God only by faith in Jesus, the One who gave this parable. Even this is Exhibit A of God’s generosity. We didn’t deserve to be His children, but He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. Being God’s beloved is not some position we have to earn, but an identity received by faith (John 1:12).

I do pray that the person reading this blog will find solace in this good and beautiful God. I do not deny the heartache, I am not telling you to “move on”. But I do want to share the Good News that the Father you desperately long for exists. Even if you are still a long way off, just head towards Him, and He will cover the rest of the distance.

Yes, He’s that generous!

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Principle 5. Use the body as Jesus did

The best model for using the body for spiritual discipline is the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, another concept for soul training is to live as Jesus lived. Thus, we do not pray for the sake of prayer. Rather, we pray because Jesus prayed. It is not enough to know the right doctrines or do the right routines. We must order our lives as Jesus did, in unbroken communion with the Father and in selfless ministry to others.

This leads to startling implications. For example, I am not saying we wear sashes, tunics and sandals as Jesus did. But after we are baptized as adults, do we go fasting in the wilderness for 40 days? I do not have the answer. But there is an issue here, somewhere.

Principle 6. Therefore, keep your body in tiptop condition.

If our body is God’s gift to bring us closer to Him, then it follows we must take good care of that gift. Time and again, I quip, “Can you imagine Jesus being overweight, ailing with hypertension and diabetes?” Of course not. To be fair, people in His day weren’t as sedentary as we are today. They didn’t have processed food. They didn’t have Grab or Uber.  And of course they didn’t have Netflix.

Intimacy with God is therefore the best reason why we keep our bodies in excellent health. In so doing, we keep our minds sharp, our spirits up, and our emotions even. In practical terms, this means getting enough sleep, watching what you eat, and keep on moving. If the Christian is likened to a soldier or athlete, you can expect either one to be constantly alert and healthy. The soldier, so he can win the battle. The athlete, so he can get the gold medal.

Therefore, be sanctified to the Lord, in body as well as in spirit.

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If you are unhappy with the world you’re in or even with yourself, read on.

Today’s Sunday message carried a revolutionary take on the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus famously began the eight opening statements with “Blessed are…”

According to Pastor Chad, 90% of the commentaries interpret the Beatitudes like this: “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ That means we have to beat ourselves up, feel terrible about ourselves, then God will give us the kingdom of heaven.”

Now, the revolutionary take goes like this: “If you ARE poor in spirit, God invites you to join the kingdom of heaven.”

The same goes to the other Beatitudes. People would think that they have to go around with a sad face (mourning), lament what a rotten person they are (hungry and thirsty for righteousness), do their best not to sin (pure in heart), and so on. The Kingdom of God becomes something that is earned or deserved.

But what Jesus was actually teaching was this: the kingdom of this world has no place for those who are poor in spirit, mourning, pure in heart, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, working for peace, persecuted and reviled. That kingdom values wealth, power, pleasure, even corruption and violence.

He reveals another Kingdom, the Kingdom of a good and beautiful God. He, in effect, says, “If you ARE poor in spirit, if you ARE mourning, if you ARE hungry and thirsty for righteousness, then come. I have a spot for you.”

Do you see the distinction? It is “be” versus “are”. The Beatitudes are taken as “Be Attitudes”: you have to BE a certain kind of person and you have EARNED your way into God’s kingdom.

But the radical, counterintuitive view is “Blessed ARE”. If you ARE a certain kind of person, you are INVITED to God’s kingdom. One is by effort, the other by grace.

The way to be truly blessed, then, is to realize that there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more (or less, for that matter) and thus obligate Him to bless us.

God has already proven His great love at the Cross. Our full blessings are through the One Who died there. Thus, we lay ourselves to His grace, accept His invitation to enter the Kingdom, and live by faith. We do good not as a grudging duty, but a glad response.

I have two other takes to Pastor Chad’s sermon, which I consider to be his best so far during his tenure at the Union Church of Manila.

First, an alternative view of the fourth Beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”.

I paraphrase Pastor Chad thusly: “If you long to live a righteous life but keep falling into temptation… if you want to be more virtuous or be free from addictions, but can’t… if you are so miserable and disappointed with yourself that, like Peter, you tell Jesus “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man”… then come into the Kingdom, and you will find satisfaction there.”

I have a different view. “If you are dismayed by all the corruption and cruelty you see in this world… if you long to see rivers of righteousness… if you yourself have suffered what is unjust and unfair… then come into the Kingdom, and you will find satisfaction there.”

My second take? Come into the Kingdom, and you will find wholeness there.

Soli Deo Gloria!

#SermonOnTheMount #blessed #blessings #beatitude

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Principle 3. Use the body as a tool to get closer to God.

Spiritual discipline, then, is leveraging the body to know, love, trust, and serve God more. Obviously, we bring our bodies with us wherever we go, whether it is the prayer room, the church sanctuary, or the Bible study group. But more subtly, how we use our bodies can enrich such activities.

Here’s a simple exercise: the next time you pray, kneel and bow deeply down with your face on the floor. Feelings of submission, humility, surrender, awe, or brokenness will flood the heart which you don’t usually experience had you just pray while sitting on a chair.

Some disciplines can also be a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality. Fasting, for example, declares “Lord, I want you so much better than food.” Thus, we use our lunch hours not wolfing down the greasy stuff at the cafeteria, but in our private nooks feasting on the presence of God.

Principle 4.  Be utterly ruthless with emotions.

To involve the body puts us toe-to-toe against the curse of our moods. If many would be honest, they would rather not be praying, reading their Bibles, or fasting. Interestingly, this also happens in the physical realm: many would rather not be mindful of what they eat or spend time at the gym.

I am guilty of them all. What looks more attractive is what’s on Netflix or what’s inside the fridge. It’s the path of least resistance. It’s the dopamine kick. It’s my innate laziness.

But if we want to draw closer to God and be the person He wants us to be, we embark on this central vision no matter what we feel. Consider Paul’s mindset of beating his body and make it his slave, so that he may not be disqualified in his service unto God (1 Corinthians 9:27).  Or appealing to his protégé to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). As we use our bodies to pursue this good and beautiful God –  despite our unruly appetites – we will grow stronger and shine brighter.

But the spiritual disciplines are not mere asceticism, i.e. the more severe you are upon yourself, the holier you must be. Neither are they a Mister Spock stoicism where you switch off your emotions and “just do it.” Rather, what Smith calls soul training is to set aside the baser pleasures in favor of those that are only found in His right hand forevermore (Psalm 16:11).  Therein lies the balance and the true payoff.

To be concluded.

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Dallas Willard wrote in his book The Spirit of Disciplines, “Nothing is more apparent today than our inability to live as we know we should… But this is the age for spiritual heroes… A baseball player who expects to excel in the game without adequate exercise of his body is no more ridiculous than the Christian who hopes to be able to act in the manner of Christ when put to the test without the appropriate exercise in godly things.”

The traditional view is that the body (“flesh”) opposes the spirit. But it is the undisciplined body that does so. This leads to the familiar battle that is essentially negative and reactive: forcing the body not to sin. But since it is hard to not do what you want to do, it is not surprising that relying on sheer will power leads to a high defeat rate.

So what do we do while we are in sin-flawed earth? The real view is that the body should support the spirit. This leads to the lifestyle of spiritual disciplines, which James Bryan Smith has re-branded as soul training. The battle now becomes positive and proactive. Simply put, we do things not to earn brownie points and get blessings from God. If you are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, you are already blessed.  Spiritual disciplines put you in the pathway of that blessing.

But behind it is a balanced theology of the body. Let me offer six basic principles.

Principle 1. A person is both body and soul.

I do not merely have a body; I am a body. Also, I do not have a soul; I am a soul. So what kind of a person is Nelson Dy? Observe how he treats his body and you’ll know. To view spiritual disciplines as benefitting only the soul while neglecting the body is an artificial dichotomy. In this paradigm, spiritual disciplines will not work; at least, not in the long run. Thus, a person may pray, go to church, and read his Bible all he wants. But if he doesn’t control his appetites (food, sex, wealth, power, and so on), he will still fail to be the person God wants him to be.

Principle 2.  The body affects the soul.

Bodily ailments affect spiritual appetites.  My spiritual mentor once said, “When I have a terrible cold, evangelism goes out the window.” It is also well-known that when we are fatigued or depressed, we are most prone to falling into temptation, whether it is physical (gorging on junk food), emotional (snapping at people), or spiritual (skipping our quiet time).

A more specific example is gluttony: we pay for our over-indulgence with food with weakened self-control and less sensitivity to God. This helps explain the usefulness of fasting. We need to move to the other end of the spectrum by doing the right things with our bodies. The reward is watching our soul flourish like a well-tended garden.

To be continued.

Photo credit:  https://joelkime.com/2017/03/22/do-you-need-a-spiritual-hiit-trainer/

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