I have a pet name: Boxer. Not because I punch the lights out of people, but because I am tight-fisted. Kuripot. A miser. A Scrooge. A Chinese Ilocano Jew (with apologies to these ethnic groups).
One time, my wife Lucy and I had excess cash. She suggested we give it as a love gift to a pastor. I balked, "What for? We may need it one day."
I was not at peace for the rest of that day. Then I remembered how Abraham was blessed. Abraham waited 25 years for his son Isaac to be born. Then God told Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:2).
I don’t know about you, but I would shoot back, “Are you kidding, Lord?” The same "what for?" tone I gave Lucy.
Incredibly, early the next morning, Abraham set out with Isaac towards Moriah. No excuses. No delays. The journey took three days, plenty of time for Abraham to change his mind. But his obedience was unwavering and absolute. Upon arriving at the site, Abraham built a wooden altar, laid Isaac on it, and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Make no mistake, he was going to do it! Not, “Well, Lord, ummm… here I am, about to slit Isaac’s throat … If You really don’t want me to do it, now’s the time to say so… You really don’t want this, huh, Lord? … I’m still waiting, Lord….”
At the precise moment when Abraham was about to kill Isaac, an angel of God stopped him. The angel said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17).
Do you see how we can be blessed? It starts with obeying God’s call to surrender all that takes first place before Him, i.e. our Isaacs. Then God will not only bless us, He will use us to bless the people around us.
Isaac symbolizes whatever is most near and dear to our hearts. Perhaps Abraham had grown fonder of Isaac than of God. For me, my Isaac was a comfortable life. That means money.
God wants me to be free from the love of money and be content with what I have. Thus, oftentimes God corrects me by giving me opportunities to give, to offer, to sacrifice. He is training me to rest my security on Him, not on a fat bank account.
Later, Lucy brought up the issue again. This time, I said, "Yes. Give." Thus, we gave that love gift to that pastor.
When we release our Isaacs, God releases blessing.
Photo credit: David Brooke Martin, Unsplash
My darling wife Lucy and I are hardly super-spiritual people. We still have our share of spats. Yet if I am asked for the secret of our marriage (18 years this coming April!), I would say “megadoses of grace.”
Why do many relationships break down? One major reason is unresolved hurts. The husband utters a cutting remark to the wife. The wife shoots a barbed comment at the husband. The result is internal friction that wears down the relationship. Left unaddressed, the hurt festers and poisons the relationship. In worst cases, the relationship disintegrates into a mess of bitterness and loathing.
A relationship is like a car engine. It needs lubrication. I had a friend who used to be a prosperous businessman. His car was a fancy Volvo. Then he fell into hard times. He still drove the Volvo to get around, but, being financially tight, he skimped on the oil changes. The time came that the engine oil got so dirty that it damaged the pistons. His car, now useless, sits rusting in his garage.
Grace is the lubricant of relationships. Great grace makes for great relationships. It works like this: "You hurt me, but I choose not to hurt you back. Rather, I choose to give you a blessing you do not deserve." This doesn’t mean that we condone the wrong or evade the issue. It doesn’t excuse domestic violence. But one can still exercise grace which seeks the redemption of the offender.
Yet the chronic dilemma persists. “How can I ever forgive her? What she did was so hurtful!” Where is the justice, you may ask? Well, it's all taken cared of at the Cross. Jesus paid for that sin, that hurt. And yes, He paid for our sins, too, which would have cast us into a wretched eternity.
As we realize the enormous grace which God has shown us, we find it easier to extend grace to the wrongdoer. Yes, especially in marriage. The popular song “love will keep us together” needs some tweaking. The better adage would be “Grace will keep us together.” Megadoses of it!
Does your relationship need an oil change? You will know it when you feel something grinding between the two of you. By all means, talk it over. But weld the power of grace.
Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash
People commend me for being so productive in my writing, speaking, and social media, even while running two factories. I could mumble something like vision or time management.
But the answer is simple: I’m old and dying.
Don't worry. I don't mean wrinkly, wizened old. And not wasting-away, wheelchair-bound dying. I mean: I am not getting any younger. In due time, I will kick the bucket, buy the farm, push up daisies, join the choir invisible, pop one's clogs, ride the pale horse, take a dirt nap, enter into Glory. You get the idea.
Statistically, the average Filipino male has 67 years to live. For the average Filipino female, it’s 75 years. Go figure. This means that, in theory, I have nine more years before I am “no more". That's not even a decade!
There are two extreme reactions to impending mortality.
The first is cynicism. George Bernard Shaw once quipped that youth is wasted on the young.
But I adhere to the Christian paradigm. Tim Keller once said something like this: Heaven is a place where you can do all the good things you want to do on earth, but can’t.
Think about it. In our respective rooms at the Father’s mansion, the musician will still be composing arias, the artist will still be chiseling marble, the author will still be welding the pen.
But there will no longer be griping about lack of time. In fact, will time still exist in eternity?
The words “potential” and “struggling” will be banished from our vocabulary; our skills and talents will find their fullest expression. Each output will be more splendid than the last.
Each masterpiece will attest to God’s unbridled radiance.
But meantime, I am here.
There’s a lot to wisdom to imbibe and to impart. Lots of experiences to pursue and to process, both real and virtual, the peaks as well as the valleys, the heartwarming and the heartbreaking.
Lots of old friends to greet, lots of new friends to meet.
I guess I am striving to make my deathbed as regret-free as possible. Blame it on Steven Covey’s funeral exercise, Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, or Nelson Dy’s Final Interview.
Thus, I live, love, laugh, maybe lament a bit. I scribble, speak, share.
So heck, yah. I will call this post: Gratitude journal: Life
Sometimes I wonder why do people greet each other “Happy New Year”? Was the old year anything but happy?
I have observed that we think of New Year’s Day as the perfect date to “reboot” ourselves. We promise – this time, this year – to lose weight, to spend more time with family, to learn a new skill, and so on.
Then as we pack up the holiday décor and dive back to the daily grind, our resolutions on January 1 devolve into best intentions by January 15. We lose heart and wait for the next New Year’s Day to make those same resolutions!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You may have heard of the quote “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Well, this means every day is New Year’s Day! It kicks off the next 365 days of your earthly existence. Really.
That means we can wake up each morning with the same giddiness and optimism as if it were New Year’s Day. Here’s how.
1. Don’t have a resolution. Have a goal with numbers and timetables.
2. Now break down that goal into specific action items that will eventually fulfill that goal.
3. Plug those action items into your calendar where you can regularly see them.
4. Prioritize those action items in your daily to-do list. That's your New Year's Day - everyday!
5. Keep doing it 365 times and your new year will be definitely better than the last one.
And remember: “Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never end. They are new every morning, great is [His] faithfulness” (Lamentations 2:22-23).
Blessed New Year, everyone!
Photo by Daniella Maccines, Unsplash
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