Monday, April 27, 2015

Inspire Me Monday: The Greatest Sermon!

 "The sheep follow Him, because they recognize His voice." John 10:4
Do we recognize God's voice?
I think He speaks in different ways, and we will never be able to box God in, much less the way He chooses to communicate with us. Yesterday, as we were driving home from a weekend at the beach, I had this urge to pray. First it was because there was a danger we would run out of gas, and when that danger passed, I still had that strong compulsion to pray. I prayed that angels surround our van, that God would thwart any evil intentions of bad men, that we and my sister's family would reach home safely, that we would not be in any accident. I prayed in tongues. I prayed for the people of Nepal affected by the strong earthquake, for persecuted Christians, etc, etc.

Back safely at home, when I was about to fall asleep, my husband Luigi asked me, "Did you have a good sleep?" as he thought I had been dozing in the van while he was driving. "No," I answered, "I was praying almost the whole time."
"Then you heard the loud noise?" 
"I did. I thought a rock hit our van." 
"That was a man with a gun," he said. 
"Whaaat!!" He then told me that there was this SUV that he went ahead of last night. After that, the driver kept trying to squeeze in front of our van but couldn't. He even turned on his flasher. Then, when our vehicles were caught in traffic on a bridge, the man got out and Luigi saw that he had a gun. Then the gun SLIPPED from his hand, and the man scrambled to find it in the dark. When the vehicles started to move, the man ran toward our van and hit it hard with his fist twice!

After Luigi told me this story, I realized that sometimes God gives us this need to pray for protection. When we do pray, we don't even realize what dangers we avert through prayer. I think God allowed this incident because I have been praying for protection for those being persecuted in the Middle East, India and Africa, and sometimes I think to myself, "Am I helping even a tiny little bit? Maybe this is all useless!" But God showed me that I should persist even if I do not see any results!
Yes God speaks. It doesn't have to be an audible voice, or a whisper. He constantly speaks to us in many different ways. Let us be like sheep who know the voice of our Shepherd, and listen and watch for when He speaks for He will if we but be vigilant and wait.

"I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me." John 10:14
On the 4th Sunday of Easter, the Catholic Church celebrates Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. Although a lamb is lovable and cuddly, it is not exactly a compliment to be compared to sheep! Sheep are quite dumb, short sighted, stubborn, and defenseless. They gather in groups and really need someone to guide them because they can't take care of themselves. They move all together in a herd. In 2006, 400 sheep fell into a 15 meter deep ravine and died because of this instinct.

 I like telling the story of my husband when he asked a shepherd if he could feed his sheep. The shepherd said, "That's my problem. Even my son can't feed them. They only recognize my voice!" True enough, when Luigi tried, the sheep did not come. He would approach them and the sheep would move away. Then when the shepherd called, they came right away!
Sheep who know a good master's voice and follows him, will be taken care of. But sheep who follow the wrong voice can end up in a ravine!!!!

 "Proclaim the good news to all creation." Mark 16:15
This 'great commission' is not for the apostles alone but for all of us, not just for priests and preachers, but for teachers, housewives, musicians, runners, carpenters, computer experts, garbage collectors, nurses, baby sitters, businessmen, etc.
My sister went to Osaka recently and she was very happy and proud when she went to mass there and most of the mass goers were Filipinos. A young Filipino altar boy and a Filipino nun was helping the Japanese priest read English. In many parts of the world, Filipinos sing heartily in the choirs just like in Osaka. Many Filipino yayas or baby sitters tell stories of Jesus to children they take care of. Sometimes, that is the only time they hear about Jesus.

There is a song that goes, "The greatest sermon ever preached on earth any day at any time is a sermon of a life well lived" and another which goes, "Make me like a love letter, open to all to see, make me legible to all to read...that when they look at me, they see You!"
Yes indeed, when Jesus is the center of our life, we too become part of the Word of God. And sometimes that is the only word they are exposed to!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Paint Party Friday: Water in the Desert

 "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?" Acts 9:4

Saul was traveling to Damascus on a mission to arrest and drag to Jerusalem anyone following the 'new way'. In Acts 9:1, he is described as 'breathing murderous threats' against Jesus' disciples. He was stopped by a light in the sky, and a voice asking,"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"

In Damascus today, Christians are being persecuted by modern day Sauls who want to exterminate them. Christians have lived in Damascus for more than 2000 years but now they are being driven away from their homes. Hundreds of thousands of Christians in Syria are being kidnapped, tortured, and even crucified and beheaded. There are still a few Christians who speak Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Their churches, St. Elias Church and St. Grace Church in the Christian village of Maaloula near Damascus are under attack. 

There is not much we can do. But I know prayer changes more things than this world thinks it can. Let us pray that these modern day Sauls get converted if not by a light from the sky and a voice from heaven, then by other miracles. Nothing is impossible with God! And He is so creative I believe that even now, saints are arising in the persecuted areas of the world! Let us cover those areas with prayer and fasting! Let us combat the jihad against Christians with an army of interceding warriors!

 "Do you really grasp what you are reading?" "How can I," the man replied,"unless someone explains it to me?" Acts 8:30-31
Philip was one of the seven men, along with Stephen, who were chosen to distribute bread to the widows and the community. Like Stephen, it was important to him, not only to give bread, but also the bread of life. In this chapter of Acts, he is instructed by an angel to go to the desert. There he meets an Ethiopian eunuch, a treasurer of the Queen of that country. This man was reading Isaiah and Philip asked him if he understood.

 "How can I unless someone explains it to me?" the man answered. Philip then took the opportunity to tell him about Jesus. Back then, it took a movement of the Spirit for someone to know about Christ. The Holy Spirit directed Philip to go to the desert. The Spirit told him to catch up with the man's carriage. After the encounter the Spirit snatched Philip away and the eunuch saw him no more!

But today, there is so much opportunity to read the Scriptures, to understand it, to know more. I love listening to preaching on YouTube, and reading teaching from books. I can search about almost any topic and like the eunuch, find living water in the desert!


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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WOYWW: Bread of Life

Here's a shelf on the right side of my desk.
I just keep changing what's on it.
I bought 3 old-fashioned jars but you can hardly see them
in this picture!!! But I know it's there! 

 This is what's on my desk this morning.
A man with a gun!!!
I was looking for a man that would symbolize Saul
persecuting the Christians in Jesus' time!

 "Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church." Acts 8:3

Chapter 8 of the Book of Acts begins with a lot of drama: "A great wave of persecution began that day (after Stephen was stoned). sweeping over the church in Jerusalem." Only the drama was very real, just as it is in the Middle East were people are being martyred, in China where the underground church flourishes in secret, in India, in Africa. 

Francis Chan tells of when he visited China, and visited an underground training place for young missionaries, aged 18-25 years old. He asked them to tell him stories. One young girl said that once she had to hide from government officials and she was so happy she was skinny, because she had to squeeze in between two boards. She could hear them looking around and she prayed hard her back pack would not be seen.  Another guy told him that there were 14 of them, and 3 govt. officials, and they just ran while they were being shot at.  They were puzzled that he was so hungry for their stories. 

"Why do you want us to tell you stories?" they asked. "Because you're all amazing!" he answered.  "Why are we amazing? Jesus said if we follow Him, we will be persecuted. Isn't it like that in your country?"  

And Francis Chan told them that where he comes from, people choose their church on the basis of how the songs are sung, or if there's parking, or if they like the people going there.  And while he was saying these things, the kids were laughing hysterically!

Yes, persecution and martyrdom are happening in many places of the globe today, just as it did in Jesus' time. This does not make sense to us. But Jesus did warn that "..if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you...because they do not know Him who sent Me."  These martyrs willing to shed their blood for Jesus know Him, know their Father in a very real way.  Because of them, many Sauls are becoming Pauls!

 "I am the Bread of Life." John 6:35 and John 6:47
This is one of the "I AM" statements of Jesus that we can't ignore. We have to decide if this man who claims to be the the bread of life, meaning "essential" for our existence, is saying what He knows to be truth. Is he a liar? The worst kind, who knows what he is saying is false but desires to deceive others? Or is he delusional, crazy, living his own reality? He could also be a fool, couldn't he? We could say "I like Jesus. I admire Him. I like reading His words. He is wise, compassionate, but I don't believe I have to obey Him. He's not God!" Well then, who is he? Isn't He who He claims to be?

Jesus said in John 6:32: " For the bread of God is that which COMES DOWN FROM HEAVEN, and GIVES LIFE TO THE WORLD." So of course, the people hearing that said: "Lord ALWAYS GIVE US THIS BREAD!!!" They were probably looking for manna, like the bread that fell from heaven during Moses' time every single day! But today, we can have the bread of life every single minute! If we believe. If we don't believe He is God, then we will always be hungry. Always be searching. But you see, that's OK. Jesus said, "If you seek, you will find." (Matthew 7:7) Let us just keep seeking, keep asking, keep looking. Don't stop. One day we'll be able to decide and know for ourselves if this man is who He claims to be!

Joining the lovely Julia Dunnit for a 
peek at desks and projects!
I find a lot of inspiration
visiting my friends here:


Monday, April 20, 2015

Blessed Sleep!

"As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for You alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling." Psalm 4:8
A good sleep is such a blessing. Sometimes I take coffee too late in the day because I have a meeting at night, and then I toss and turn and can't sleep. Or I can't sleep because I am thinking of the long list of things I have to do and take care of. Such a trial! People try all sorts of ways to sleep. Some take supplements of taurine, magnesium or vitamin B6. Some need a sleep mask and/or ear plugs to block out noise and light. I've heard of people praying the Rosary to sleep, or inhaling through the left nostril. Some even need to see a doctor, take sleeping pills or go to sleep clinics for insomnia! When I can't sleep, I count my blessings, and one of them is that I get a really good sleep almost every night. That is actually amazing, that we can sleep, in spite of the many challenges on our plate, the things we HAVE to remember to do, the things we need to do and want to do....

 Truly, we should know that we can leave all that with God, in His hands, and He will take care of the things we forget, or those things beyond our power to do. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of!" And while we sleep, we can be sure that He who keeps us will not slumber or rest. (Psalm 121:3-4)

 "Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power..." Acts 6:8
Saint Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic faith. His story is short but very dramatic. When the Church was growing, there were some complaints that some widows were not getting their share of food. It was decided that the disciples would preach the Word, and seven men would be chosen to take care of food distribution. One of these men was Stephen. In Acts 6:8, Stephen is said to have performed "amazing miracles and signs". You would think more would have been written about this, but it is just one line, as if this was quite ordinary among the disciples of Jesus.

 Apparently Stephen did not merely distribute bread to the members of the Church, or he would not have gotten himself into a whole lot of trouble. Jews from all over would debate with him, and he would be able to defend the faith with wisdom. Some men lied about what he said, and he was brought before the Sanhedrin. In John chapter 6, Jesus told the crowds to "NOT work for perishable food but for food that will last unto eternal life." Stephen made sure to follow what Jesus said. Even before the Sanhedrin, he spoke with conviction, filled with the Holy Spirit, about God's plan through the ages. This infuriated the Jewish leaders and they dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him. This does not happen today. But are we brave enough to stand up for truth, even if we will get stoned with criticism or censure? Are we willing to spread God's Word in a skeptical world, in the middle of a group of friends who would ridicule us, perhaps?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Paint Party Friday: Surrounded by Blessing!

“Better for us to obey God than men!” Acts 5:29
Obedience brings blessing. There are many absurd stories of men in the Bible who obeyed strange things that God told them to do. I can imagine how difficult that was! How Noah had to suspend his rational thinking when he obeyed God and built an ark. How Abraham had to leave all that was familiar for the unfamiliar. And how about Moses?!!!
When I was young, I went on a month long trip to Europe with my mom. I enjoyed it so much I vowed I would go back as soon as I saved enough money. Ten years after, on January 1, during my prayer time, when I had the money, I asked God permission to go back. I felt God say, "Go to Jerusalem." I was supremely disappointed. For a young girl, Jerusalem meant serious praying, not fun. I countered, "You have to confirm that, God!" The next day, I was back at prayer and asked God again. I opened the Bible, and out jumped at me the words, "Go to Jerusalem. That is where you will see my face." Sighing, I set out to obey. But every trip to Jerusalem I joined, did not push through. Even when I gave money, the tour operator would refund the money. I got very frustrated!

Then I was invited to the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (The Joy of the Lord) Covenant Community. The first time I attended a gathering as a member, the leader said, "In our district, we have a yearly theme. Our theme this year is "Holiness: Following Jesus to Jerusalem. To be led where we would rather not go. (John 21:18)"

 I thought the theme was very strange! Who makes a theme like that? But I had a feeling that Ligaya was my Jerusalem. When we were singing our hearts out to God, the head knowledge that Ligaya was my Jerusalem travelled down to my heart. It was like something concrete going down from my head to my heart and I could follow its path. When it reached my heart, God spoke and said, "Yes, this is your Jerusalem."
Yes, obedience brings blessing. In my community, I see the face of God through my wonderful brothers and sisters. I see the generosity of God, His goodness, forgiveness, His compassion. I met my husband in community. Yesterday, when I wrote this, it was our 21st wedding anniversary! We had a double wedding with my sister who also met her husband in community. How wonderful to be surrounded by God's love and blessing!

Here are some pictures from our double wedding.

Father Tarsi made a mistake when he said, Luigi and Lito...
instead of "Luigi and Patsy"!!!
Everyone laughed heartily with him
when he explained it was his first double wedding! 

So much fun and laughter...

And here is my family.

How amazing that it has been 21 years!!!!

"Gather up the crusts that are left over so that nothing will go to waste." John 6:12
In chapter 6, John recounts the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Jesus fed 5000 men (women and children were invisible in those days and were simply not counted!!!) with 2 fish and 5 barley loaves.
What is amazing to me is that after everyone was fed and had their fill, Jesus asked the disciples to "Gather up the crusts that are left over so that NOTHING will go to waste." Why? Couldn't He just forget about those crusts? Why did He not let the people bring it home? What did He do with those twelve baskets of left overs?

All that we have, our money, our home, our work is all God's. Our time, our gifts and talents, our energy is all His. So when we give, we are merely returning what is His. Still, it appears God is very careful with what we give Him, that NOTHING will go to waste. When I give Him my time in prayer, or serving in some way, I can be sure that He will multiply what time I have left and I am able to accomplish more than if I did not dedicate some time to Him in the morning. When I give Him my gifts, I have seen how He has made it bloom and grow. With money, when I give tithes, I have tested Him as He said in Malachi 3:10, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."
Lord, help me to always give thanks for everything I have. Give me the gift of generosity that nothing You have given me will go to waste!


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