Friday, April 29, 2011

A Bowl of Wisdom: As a Doggy-Sitter

I can still feel his nails on my arms, his husky hair on my cheek and his soft warm skin resting like a pillow on my lap. It had been a long yet interesting day of baby, I mean, doggie-sitting. For those who’ve dogs at home, this may not be something new to you. Perhaps, you’ll just be reading how one sees a dog through the eyes of a na├»ve girl.

The first time I laid my eyes on Shiloh was nine days ago. He was so small, so fragile. He was carried like a little stuffed teddy bear by Ona, my auntie’s kasambahay, to our house. At first I thought Shiloh was part of his (pertaining to Ona) clothing; Shiloh was very little, about six inches, and he was covered with a checkered cloth t-shirt that hung loosely on him. When I said hi to Ona, it took me around ten seconds to realize that there was another living thing on his body. It was a delightful surprise! I can’t express in words how cute he is. May the picture below speak a thousand words of cuteness.

So today I became a dog-sitter (not used to typing this new coined word. I had to delete ‘baby’ before I typed the word ‘dog’). My first hesitation of taking care of a dog was that he might pee on me. Soon I learned that like humans, dogs cry before they feel like excreting waste. Shiloh cried for so long. It was only when I placed him on the floor that I knew why. Praise God! That solved my hesitation number 1. My hesitation number two was that he might excrete waste on his bed, which is a little taxing to wash and dry and all. I just discovered awhile ago that similar to humans, little dogs like Shiloh do not want to place their waste just about any where.

I placed Shiloh in his made-up bed. The borders of this bed were a little bit high so it was difficult for a baby boy like him to jump out. I left him sleeping there while I was having lunch. I asked our kasambahay to check how he was doing. She told me that he pooped. Oh my, not in the bed! I thought. Our maid reassured me that he did it on the floor. I went to him and saw him sleeping in the bed. Then I asked, “Fay, did you place Shiloh in the bed again?” She said, “No.” He went out of bed to poop and back to bed to sleep all on his own.. at the age of 1 month and 10 days. Hesitation number 2 solved!

As a doggy-sitter, I had to carry him when he cried, place him under the electric fan when he cried, dance him around when he cried, let him walk when he cried, put him to bed when he cried, let him discharge waste when he cried. I realized he was such high maintenance dog! Believe it or not, I had to wrestle with him just so he could drink 14 teaspoons of milk per meal. Moreover, this must be done either in an airconditioned room or with an electric fan focused on him. Gee!

I also got a taste of being a new mom. Moms carry their baby around while they do ordinary work, right? Ergo, the baby carrier. In my case, I had to carry Shiloh and make him sleep while writing on this laptop, after which I left him on the table in front of me and othertimes in the bed beside me. I had to divide my attention between my work and him. While cooking, I had to divide my attention on my pasta and his crying. It took plenty of multi-tasking skills. I guess this is probably why most women are wired by God to have the multi-tasking ability.

When I met Shiloh’s mom, I was like a child in gradeschool learning about animals. I was amazed at the practical and aesthetic aspects of God’s creation. Check out this logic: since dogs usually bear and deliver a larger number of babies than humans at one period of conception, dogs would need more breasts to nurse the little babies. I discovered that afternoon that female dogs have 10 milking breasts. This gives every puppy opportunity to be nourished.

While Shiloh was in my arms, I was thinking, how do dogs fit-in in the eco-system anyway? Why did God even create them? They do not belong in the wilderness, nor do they fly in the air or swim under the sea. Most often than not, I see them in houses of people. Sometimes locked in cages, sometimes wandering in a bedroom. Then I realized, God may have created them for a beautiful unique purpose... to be the first to greet us when we get home, to follow us joyfully with its tail wiggling wherever we go, to make us feel needed, to listen when no one is around. Perhaps, God may have created dogs for us to have a loyal friend.

This is Shiloh with my handy-dandy pencil case. They are just about the same size!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vikings: A Luxurious Feast

We held a despedida dinner for my dear cousin and co-chained trio* member, Saunder last night in a new place called Vikings. I thought it would just be another American steak place which I am not very fond of. (Beef is not my favorite meat). But when I entered, I saw platters and platters of food laid all around the place. Then I told my mom, “We need to go to the gym tomorrow.”

Vikings is the newest eat-all-you-can buffet hub in the Manila area. Believe it or not, Vikings is only six days old at this very day. Vikings stands beside the events place Oceana and overlooks the serene Manila Bay.

For a price of Php 888.00, my eyes and taste buds were stuffed to the brim with the delightful and delectable feast in Vikings! I spent the first fifteen minutes walking about, filling my eyes with the yellow egg salads, purple beetroots and green leaves on the salad bar, the tempting cakes, mousse on mini red cups, frozen yoghurt and ice cream on the dessert corner, and rows and rows of real food.

Let me take you to a little tour. At the leftmost side of Vikings, you'd see sticks of squid balls, fish balls, dirty tofu fried in sate sauce.

When you turn right, you'd see a row of Japanese food. You can also spot raw tuna and salmon, slices of octopus, fresh oysters and extremely colorful set of sushi. Vikings also serve miso soup in teapots. How adorable!

When you turn left, you'd reach the Chinese section. You can taste dishes like spareribs, polunchai and even some pika-pika dimsum foods. Moreover, if you prefer hot Chinese soup, go and order a bowl of hotpot. Vikings allow you to cook it right on your table.

If you are a meat lover or a healthy eater, there are loads of dishes to fit your distinct appetite.

My first course. Green salads topped with corn and olives. I heart black olives!

My very asian meal! The tuna (behind that giant chili crab) melted in my mouth! Behind the tuna is a scallop dumpling with the skin of ha-kaw. On the plate are also the tamago, kani sushi, and a slice of futo maki.

My third plate was very mediterranean. The two white scoops you see at the bottom of the plate are French Boursin with grated fruit peels on top. Imagine cream cheese with specs of bittersweet spinach. (Yum!) Around them are mashed potatoes with truffle oil, beetroots, Egyptian hummus on pita bread, and cured ham embracing a carrot stick with a thin slice of cheddar cheese underneath. I got these from a table between the salad bar and the Filipino food. They were right beside the kids' section. (Yes, Vikings even have a kids' section that features mac n' cheese, mini burgers, fries and the like, probably they were right when they said "even adults enjoy it here too.")

They also have an Italian spot where you can choose your sauces and toppings for your pizza and pasta.

Time to drink up! I was very surprised when I discovered the numerous drink options inside Vikings. Vikings have bottomless soda fountain, an array of fruit juices and iced tea, a pale pilsen reservoir, brewed coffee and fresh fruit shakes! I opted for a glass of Mango juice and water. The only complaint that I have are the fingerprints and stains of unwashed coffee on some cups. But all is well. There is a couple of faucets strategically located at the middle of the buffet tables for the OC.

Next comes my favorite part of the meal, the dessert! Vikings have cakes in mini squares, creamy desserts on cute little cups and conveniently sliced fruits such as kiwi, melon and orange on a platter. My sweet tooth would like to recommend the chocolate peanut butter cake. It's sweet, but not sweet enough to give you a tooth ache. *wink*

In order to cool down your taste buds and calm your heart rate after a festive meal, end it with a scoop or two of ice cream.
This is the end of your little tour. Hope you had a mouth-watering time! :)

*Chained Trio is an informal group my cousins Saunder, Elaine and I created more than ten years ago. We'll miss you Saundy! God bless you!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dry and Parched Land

I'm not sure if you have passed through a dry and parched land in your own adventure. You are leading a ministry in church and you've invited some people to become officers. You had to persistently ask people to accept the open positions. And finally when a number did, you had to push them to move and sometimes wait tirelessly for them to respond to your texts or emails. There just don't seem to have an oil that keeps the machine running on its own. You had to push and push.

Other times, you try to give your time, resources, energies to them and yet all your efforts seem to be in vain. Have you experienced these things? I haven't heard anyone who dare to talk about this matter openly, and so I dare you to think about this, read the bible about this, and be brave enough to rattle the comfortable status quo.

I got to experience this when I was heading a ministry. I spent resources and time to make the group happy, to make them want to attend the group meetings. I tried to create fun activities. I tried to talk to them individually, asked them how they were, told them I'd be there for them whenever they need me. But it seemed like I wasn't getting through to them. I felt the dryness and I somehow got tired. Dryness is a distressing condition of loneliness and pain which is caused by separation from God.

I only got to learn that there's such a thing as spiritual dryness in Jeremiah recently! One main cause of spiritual dryness is found is Jeremiah 17:5: when we depend on the human flesh. Depending on one's own strength may come in different shapes and sizes. It may be hidden under the achievements of different ministries or under the pile of your wisdom and knowledge. This self-dependence is not easily seen by the naked eye, although many times, it can be seen the in the local church's culture. If the culture tends to uphold people for the skills that they possess to perform certain ministries, then we diminish the value of Christ in the church.

There are two effects of depending on one's own strength: (1) You turn away from the Lord (Jeremiah 17:5); and (2) The whole land is desolate, and no one even cares (Jeremiah 12:11).

Now, why do we experience spiritual dryness when we depend on the flesh? It is because we do not see our need for (or if we do see, we do not completely believe that we need) JESUS CHRIST. This leave us little reason to appreciate the very big news that Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross. And why don't we appreciate that good news? It is because we do not see ourselves as SINNERS.

Yes, sometimes we forget about our wretchedness, we do not experience the 'down' of being lowly pitiful sinners, and so we fail to experience the 'up' or the high of receiving God's grace and mercy. This entails more than a mere humble view of self. Knowing that we were (and still are) sinners, with only Jesus Christ to make us sinless before God, it entails an utter dependence on God, a desperate need for Him. That's why the first of Jesus' beatitudes is this, "Blessed are those who are poor in spirit and realize their need for Him for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs." God didn't say "They MUST be poor in spirit to be blessed." We are already poor in Spirit to begin with. It is just a matter of realizing it. As Lloyd Jones said, "Ultimately, the only thing which is going to drive a man to Christ and make him rely upon Christ alone, is a true conviction of sin." And it is through this conviction of sin that brings us to repentance, and allows us to turn back to God.

While I was walking to a meeting awhile ago, one quote suddenly popped in my head. I shared it with a group and I would also like to share it with you, "You do not need me, you need Christ." It is wonderful to feel needed, but in reality no one needs us. We can boast of nothing in us that is as important as Christ. Let's point to Him always.


Additional readings:

What are the Symptoms of Spiritual Dryness?

  1. We pursue ministry and not the presence of God. In sincerity we begin by ministering to the needs of others but along the way we forget to minister the gospel in our own lives (Eccl. 10:10). Perceived success in ministry feeds this proclivity to operate outside of God’s power and before long we are too busy to pray, to meditate on the Scriptures or to do good works out of a Spirit-responsive heart. We do these things to perform our weekly act.
  2. We are over-extended in our time, relationships and finances. Dry hearts always seek refreshment. Unrepentant hearts seek it by doing more stuff with people who can advance our goals and costing us money we can’t afford. But we do it in faith that God is opening doors and He will provide.
  3. We focus on the faults of others and we resort to cynicism, sarcasm and criticism. If we can “discern” the weaknesses of others, perhaps our spiritual dryness will not be revealed. And if we can do it in a way that is humorously mocking, we can hide our sin even more stealthily. Those people that we criticize the most are the ones who are radically devoted to a pursuit of God. It makes us feel better if we can marginalize those who could accentuate our dryness.
  4. We resort to creativity or knowledge or charisma to build a ministry. We watch other mega-church pastors online and we think they are ministering from human skills, so we try to emulate them. As I got to know many of these pastors, I discovered that their gifts are secondary to their passion for God. Some are even embarrassed by their rock-star status. Whenever I have lacked spiritual depth, I leaned into my talents and convinced myself that people in the church didn’t recognize my spiritual dryness.
  5. We distract ourselves with other interests—almost compulsively. When our joy and peace and satisfaction is not in God, we have to replace that with hobbies, sports, family, exercise, food, politics, social causes, social media and even ministry.
  6. We entertain sin in our minds and hearts to find relief from the demands and pressures of ministry. We may never sin with our hands—because we are proud of our “holiness”—but we often sin in our minds and in our hearts by lusting after bigger churches or opportunities or relationships. We sin in our hearts before we sin with our hands and giving in to temptation is inevitable over time if we do not repent.
  7. We promote self to impress man. John the Baptist said that he must decrease and Jesus must increase. The opposite seems true today. The Apostle Paul called himself “the very least of all saints”(Eph. 3:8). We justify this by believing that if we get our name out there, it will advance the gospel.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Happy Quarter Life (crisis!?) Birthday! :)

I just turned 25. I feel a little bit old, like a fresh notebook that has been stuck in a bookshelf for years and little do you know it, its sheets have already turned yellow. What's sadder is that the pages of this book are not only yellow, but they are frighteningly blank. I guess what I am experiencing is a symptom of the quarterlife crisis.

Just a few nights ago, while I was tossing and turning and trying to fall asleep, I was asking God one of my most favorite questions, "What shall I do, Lord?" Somehow I didn't feel that God wanted me back in the corporate world. Was it just a feeling? Maybe. Or an excuse so I could slack off? I don't think so. God closed several doors right in my face and even showed me why. I told God that I really want to support my parents in the future, but I don't know how.

The very next day, I prayed to God about my standstill situation. I asked Him to make it clear to me that it is Him who is calling me to move. I didn't want to do things my way anymore. I've tried doing that, and at the end of the day, I would usually feel empty and meaningless. As I continued talking to Him, I looked outside my window and saw a couple of chubby maya birds frolicking on the wires and railings outside our house. They were bouncing from one wire to the other, very much alive and kicking, i mean, alive and flying. They were so energetic that they didn't seem to feel any pangs of hunger whatsoever. Then I remembered what Jesus said in Matthew 6, "Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?"

God gave me one simple answer that day. "Seek Me." He reminded me that He knows my needs, like He knows the needs of those birds. Those birds were not lacking anything, what more I, His princess? His word was so clear when He stated He would provide for my needs.

As a child of God, I realized, my primary and most important task in life is to seek Him first. God wants me to seek Him first before I seek any work or business of my own or search for means to support my family or my own way of helping the poor.

Seeking Him first entails trust. It entails that we believe God will be the one providing us everything, even the burden and the passion to do His will. (Doing His will includes the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do . That's why I don't think there is an opportunity to slack off.) On the other hand, if we do not seek Him first, it's like we tell God, "Wait God, I'll work first and I'll come back for you once I've saved enough for myself." This line implies that "Lord, you may not provide for me if I choose to seek you now so allow me to work first." There is no trust there I guess.

I got to talk with a friend named, Fifi today, and she reminded me that my standstill is a preparation for the future ahead. She told me her side of the story, on how she knew where God wanted her to be at the present. For more than a decade, she worked in the corporate world. She jumped from one job to another, very much discontented. And for at least two times, she was bypassed for promotion. The first time, it really hurt. When the second time and the third times came, she seeked God and asked, "Okay Lord, this is the 2nd time and the 3rd time I got bypassed, what are you trying to say?" She realized that the image, status or position she had for herself may not be the one God has in plan for her. Even if she were to remain as a staff, God made it clear to her that she would still be provided for, like how the birds of the air were provided for.

It took her ten humbling years to learn and accept the good works that God has prepared her to do. Those ten years of preparation taught her things about herself, like how God has designed her, how and where she would fit. One of the learnings were, she doesn't have the make-up to manage people. Now she is working as a pastoral care staff in a known church. Would you believe that she is very much joyful, contented and stress-free? I hope that like Fifi, I too can look back one day and say, "God's amazing. He has led me through these years of wandering, to place me here."

Let me end this blog entry with a prayer,

"Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank You for your wonderful promise in Matthew 6. You said that when we seek You first, you will provide us all that we need. How beautiful is your word Lord! However Lord, there are times that we do not fully appreciate them. We would like to ask for your forgiveness for the times we lacked faith in Your word and we followed our own will.

May you fill us with your joyful and peaceful presence day by day as we seek you. May you become the Master of our lives. The pen is for you to hold, please be the one to write on the blank sheets of our book. Thank You.

In Jesus name we pray,