Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Fishers of Men

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Jesus’ choice of a motley band of ordinary men to be his disciples can be very reassuring for us "ordinary" men and women. He chose a fisherman, Andrew, who recognized Jesus as the Messiah and hastened to introduce Him to his brother Peter. Then there's James and John, nicknamed (perhaps fondly by Jesus) as Boanerges or sons of thunder because they were impetuous and wanted to rain fire upon some villagers who refused them accommodation. Philip did not pass Jesus' test question of how to feed the five thousand. Nathaniel was initially skeptical of Jesus, scoffing, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Matthew was a despised tax collector who went on to write one of the Gospels. Then there's Thomas, forever famous or infamous for doubting and needing proof before believing. James is most known for being Jesus' "brother", or cousin by Catholic tradition. Jude Thaddeus wrote one of the epistles, and asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He showed Himself to them but not to the whole world. Simon is known as a Zealot (or a political radical). And we all know what Judas Iscariot did!

We don't have to be extraordinary for Jesus to choose us! He chose us in spite of our weaknesses, idiosyncracies, and failures! He knows each one of us and gives us chance after chance to turn back to Him, to be fed by His Word like the apostles. He knows we are weak, that we deny Him (even more than 3 times!), that we doubt, are skeptical sometimes, and even betray Him. But as long as we repent, turn back to Him, we can continue with grace, and finish the journey with Him in victory!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Best Gift

“Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Most of us miss Advent and go straight to Christmas. My husband was a stickler for observing Advent when we got married, and I could not put up a Christmas tree till really late in December. But the ‘advent’ of our son Josh changed that, and we put up the tree for the little boy who was fascinated with the lights.

But Advent and Christmas are not all about the decor, the lights, the gifts, the food, but more about what goes on in our hearts. We are in an in-between time, in between Christ’s first coming when He arrived as a babe in a manger, and His second coming. We do not know when Christ will come again. Meanwhile, we are to be watchful, ready, and waiting. Jesus likens us to servants waiting for the master who has gone on a long journey. The master has placed his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to keep watch over the property. What is our work, do you think? Is it to be a mother, a teacher, a garbage collector, a chef, a congressman, a businessman? Whatever our role is in society, we need to do that to the best of our ability, using all the resources and gifts God has given us. But when our Master left, He gave us clear instructions to be good stewards of all these material blessings. We need to build His Kingdom here on earth. Before He left, He ordered, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” If we’re a mother, we need to spread the gospel in our children’s hearts and minds. We need to be an example of love and generosity to all we meet. If we’re a manager, a teacher, a cook, etc., we need to be vigilant, and offer to God the best Christmas gift of all, ourselves! 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

When Anxiety Knocks

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life…” Luke 21:34

I don't know why but it is so much easier to dwell on the negative. To be anxious about the future. To go over and over thoughts about what CAN happen from here to eternity!!!

In one of Bo Sanchez’ talks, he said, "If we can control our thoughts, we can control our destiny!"

Do you know where the main battle for our lives begins? In our minds! Our minds are target practice for the enemy who wants us to succumb to fear, anxiety, temptation, depression, loneliness, feelings of incompetence, failure, insecurity....The list goes on and on.

When fear knocks, 

we should let faith open the door.

When anxiety knocks,

 we should let faith open the door.

When insecurity, inadequacy,  knocks, 

we should let _________ open the door!!!

Many people, young and old, have panic attacks, especially these days. Some things that have helped are prayer, keeping a gratitude journal, counting our blessings, and reaching out for help. I confess when this pandemic started and all our stores had to close, I had some anxiety attacks and I could feel my heart palpitate. Where would we get the money to help our employees survive if we did not have income from our sales? What can we do to keep going? The questions with no answers just kept piling up. I told my sisters and we decided to pray together every day. It helped immensely. We continue to pray together at 9 am, and I am so grateful God has shown His presence in our lives through this challenging time.  Tomorrow as we begin the season of Advent, let us be more conscious of the need to set aside time for Him who is Lord over all.

2 Timothy 1:7 says we are not given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a disciplined mind! So let's take control of our thoughts, and have faith in a loving God  who wants to favor us with His blessing!

Friday, November 26, 2021

My Words Will Not Pass Away

 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away." Luke 21:33

It will be my birthday in a few days, and whenever one has a birthday, one marvels at the passage of time. I remember that I was traumatized about turning 25! But now I am happy about being a Senior Citizen! I am even excited about the end of the world, and hope I witness it. But what does "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away" mean? Surely it means that things are sure to change and keep changing, but God's Word stands forever.

My grandfather, DD Alejandro, was appointed DISTRICT EVANGELIST for Bulacan and Nueva Ecija in August 1915. He became editor of the Tagalog monthly "Mabuting Balita" (Good News) and an instructor in Union Theological Seminary. In 1924, he became the Pastor of Knox Methodist Episcopal Church. Then he was elected the first Filipino Bishop of the Methodist Church in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation!

When he studied Philosophy in Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, I can imagine him in the library pouring over hundreds of books. When he became editor, he would have written his articles on a trusty old typewritter. As an evangelist, I suppose he would have had to walk through countless dusty roads and knock on doors. But today, his granddaughter, sits at her computer, and can read and listen to so many sermons and preachings from evangelists dead and alive, and attend prayer meetings around the world, on YouTube and podcasts. If I write, I can reach many people through a click of a mouse that will transport my words and pictures through my blog, FB and IG posts across the seas in seconds! 

Isn't it amazing how the world has changed? But in the midst of all this change and turmoil, we can depend on one thing, the Word of God stands sure. “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8

Thursday, November 25, 2021

End of the World

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Luke 21:25-28

When you see someone carrying a sign, “The end is near", or hear some man preaching about "the end of the world is at hand", what is our reaction? Do we scoff and say, "What a loony?" I have to confess I get excited! I do! I get excited that I'll see my mom and dad again. I get relieved that I won't have to think about all the horrible things happening in the world today that I can't do much about. People lonely in the hospital without their family around them because they’re sick of COVID, hungering for the touch of a hand, or even to see a face, because the people that treat them are all wrapped up in protective gear. Blatant corruption aided and abetted by people in the government who should have prioritized taking care of the health of our people and our ailing economy. A Presidential campaign marked by insults and fake news and absurd maneuvering of the political dynasties. The thing is we don't have to wait for the world to end. 

Our world will end. One day. That's inevitable. Is it possible to be ready, to be prepared, every day for God's coming? We don't have to be prepared for the Second Coming. God comes into our life every day! In the form of a little child. A beggar. Someone who is sick. Someone who is depressed. How do we respond?

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Most Selfish Thing to Do

“Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace.” Daniel 5:5

Many odd things happen in Bible stories, and this one in the book of Daniel is one of them. King Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, held a feast. He was drunk with wine and power and ordered the holy vessels his father had stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem, to be brought out from storage. He and his guests then used the gold and silver chalices for drinking wine. While drinking, they praised gods of their own making, gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. 

Eerily, the fingers of a human hand appeared out of thin air, and started writing words on the wall. “MENE, TEKEL, PERES,” was inscribed, and the king shivered, his face turned white, as did his guests. Then he called for Daniel the prophet to interpret the words. Daniel said, “You have rebelled against the Lord of heaven. The God in whose hand is your life breath and the whole course of your life, you did not glorify. You have been found wanting.” 

Poor King Belshazzar had wealth beyond his wildest dreams. He had so much power which he could have used to help his people. But he didn’t do that. That night, God took his life. 

I was listening to the speech the actor Denzel Washington gave in 2015 to the graduates of Dillard University. He said they should always put God first in everything they do. He proclaimed that everything he has, everything he accomplished in his life, was by the grace of God. He told the story that when he was young and was starting to make it as an actor, he asked his mom, “Mom, did you think this was going to happen? I’d be so big and I’ll be able to take care of everybody and I can do this and I can do that.” Then his mom shushed him and corrected him, “Boy, stop it right there, stop! If you only knew how many people been praying for you!” She had asked so many groups to pray for him, even splashed him with holy water to protect him from evil! 

One thing Denzel said was that you never see a U-haul behind a hearse because no matter how much money you’ve amassed, how many mansions you’ve built or bought, how much jewelry or bitcoins or gold bullion you have, you’ll never be able to take it with you. 

He emphasized that the most selfish thing we can do is help others. The more we help others, the more successful we are. There’s joy in it, there’s satisfaction, plus we add to our treasure in heaven! Better to follow Denzel’s advice than King Belshazzar’s example! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Never Be Destroyed

“…the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed...” Daniel 2:44

Daniel was asked to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and he told the King that another Kingdom will take the place of his, then another kingdom, then another kingdom, and another until all these worldly kingdoms will end. But the Kingdom that God will set up will stand forever. 

We do not set up kingdoms, but we do try to save for the future, build homes, set up trust funds, build investments, buy land, gold, establish businesses, etc. This is all well and good but do we also prepare for the Kingdom to come? Do we build our treasure in heaven, knowing that we will never be able to keep whatever we have on earth? We can only have what we give away to God’s work. That is how we invest in the Kingdom which will stand forever. 

We should not only stake our money in God’s Kingdom, but our time, and effort. We should also pursue relationships. Imagine praying for someone lost who finally found Jesus? We will see them in the everlasting Kingdom! All our efforts at building God’s Kingdom will never be wasted! 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Generosity is a Kingdom Value

 “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Luke 21:1-4

The story of the Widow's Mite should be very reassuring for all of us. Imagine if how much we gave was the measure of our pleasing God? Then would not Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have the biggest chance of making God happy even if they gave a mere 1/1000th of their wealth? As it is, ALL OF US can and should try to make God happy.

Jesus was watching the poor widow as she put her 2 small coins. It didn't matter to Him that what she sacrificed was equivalent to a few minutes of work at minimum wage. What was important was He saw her heart. He saw her faith in action, that she knew she had a rich Father in heaven who would take care of her. 

The same story in Mark 12:41 reads “..and he saw HOW the people put the money into the treasury.” The “how” (pos) in this passage means “in what way.” We should remember Jesus is also watching when we make our check to give our tithes, when we give alms, when we give our time for God’s work. It matters not the amount. It matters what is in our heart. William Barclay said “The amount of the gift never matters so much as its cost to the giver, not the size of the gift but the sacrifice.”

Yesterday was Christ the King Sunday, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the secularism, the atheistic and totalitarian regimes of that time.

Christ came to establish His Kingdom. His Kingdom is not like the Kingdoms of this world. People admire philanthropists who give millions to charity. Would they see, like Jesus, the poor widow who gave 2 copper coins? Would they laud her for it? Mother Teresa was always praising the poor she served. She had witnessed first hand how they were generous with the little that they had. When she would give rice and food, either the mother or a child would run out with half of what Mother Teresa brought, to share with another destitute family. Generosity is a Kingdom value. If we want Jesus to reign in our hearts, we have to have him reign over our wallets and checkbooks as well!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Family Business

“My kingdom does not belong to this world.” John 18:36

I have been working in our family business since I was 11 years old. We always say our business is a miracle. So it is. It was started by my mom with no capital. One could say she had more common sense than business sense. And it is being managed by a family with more creative inclinations than business savvy. During this time of pandemic it is surviving by the grace of God! Every day my sisters and I get together to pray for God’s provision, guidance and mercy! It is truly by God’s kindness and plan that we were able to pivot to online selling via Shopee, Lazada and shop.papemelroti.com. 

But there is another business that is even more of a miracle, one billion more times a miracle! More than 2000 years ago, the Father left the business to His Son (1 Cor. 15:24-28). And the Son had to learn everything in 30 years, and pass it on to all sorts of ordinary people. Fishermen, tax collectors, even prostitutes, lepers and blind men who were healed, followed Him and learned His way. He invited them to invest, to commit themselves to this amazing business plan, and to advertise the business and spread the Word.

It is a business that will never fail, never go bankrupt, and you don't have to be rich or smart, popular or beautiful to be a part of it! It's not easy, because to share in the Family business, you have to carry your own cross just as the Son did on one amazing Friday that changed the whole game plan. The great thing about this business is there is a manual of instructions, a guide to read and follow. 

If we join this business wholeheartedly, and obey the manual, there is the promise of victory and blessing (Dt. 28:1-2) And if we continue to be faithful, the retirement plan is out of this world!

Father, thank You for this chance to invest in Your Kingdom which is not of this world, to have riches that cannot be taken away! 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

God of the Living

"He is not God of the dead but of the living, for to Him all are alive." Luke 20:38

Do we really realize that 100% of us, with no exception, are going to die? This body which we take so much care of, is decaying, even as we breathe.

St. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:8, "For bodily exercise and discipline is of some value, but Godliness and spiritual training is profitable, has value for all things in every way, for it holds promise for the present but also for the life to come."

I can't help comparing the time we spend for our bodies (eating, dressing up, putting on make-up, buying clothes and shoes, exercising, etc.) with the time we spend tending our spirits. Our body is not who we are. When we take care of our body, we are taking care of a temporary thing, a decaying thing. But when we take care of our spirits, we take care of the eternal. C.S. Lewis wrote the memorable words: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal….But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Jesus, as He was on the cross, called out, "Father, into Your hands, I commit my Spirit." To commit means to entrust for safekeeping. Jesus didn't say, "I commit my body", because He knew He would get a brand new one as He did when He rose from the dead. It was so easy for His Father to gloriously recreate Jesus’ mangled and bloody body, just as He will for us one day.

Do we spend more time taking care of our physical bodies than we do for our true selves, our spirits? Let's take stock of our priorities!!! Of course we prefer one day to be an everlasting splendor and not an immortal horror! Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit! 

Friday, November 19, 2021

House of Prayer

“My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” Luke 19:46

Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 56:7, “...for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”, and Jeremiah 7:11, “Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?” He was very angry to find that the thieves and robbers which usually infested the dens and caves of Judea were cheating and defrauding people in the Temple area! They were taking advantage of the poor who came to give their sacrifice offerings to God. Their exchange rate was usurious and their doves and sheep were exorbitantly priced. The poor pilgrims visiting the Temple from far away were being cheated. 

If Jesus was zealous about the physical structure in Jerusalem, how much more would He be zealous about the temple of our bodies? “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” (1 Cor. 6:19)

When Jesus comes to visit, what does He find in our hearts? Is it a house of prayer? Of the study of His Word? Will He be pleased that we love the people He loves, and take care of them, the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden? Or will He react in righteous anger and want to throw out the idols that have replaced Him in our hearts? Will He find that instead of our King and Lord on the throne, we have set up ourselves instead? 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Come Lord Jesus!

“…you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:44

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, we learn that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and was given to us by God. We do not belong to ourselves. God bought us with a high price. So we must honor God with your bodies. How? Just as Jesus ejected the traders in the Jerusalem Temple, so too we should keep the temple of our bodies clean of anything that would anger the Lord.

In Amy Tan’s book, ‘The Kitchen God’s Wife’, she describes all the the cleaning, wiping, washing, and throwing out done by the household before Chinese New Year. Not a single speck of dust from the old year could remain for the new year! As Advent approaches, now would be a good time for cleaning up the temple of the Lord. 

Here in the Philippines, we usually skip Advent and go straight to Christmas. But when we expect an important person to visit our home, isn’t it but natural that we take some time to look around and evaluate what needs to be cleaned, fixed or removed? That’s what Advent is, a time of anticipation and expectation certainly, but also a time of preparation. Advent comes from the Latin ‘Adventus’, which means ‘coming’. We prepare for the visitation of the Lord into our lives on Christmas, the special season of grace. We also await His second coming in glory. 

I have to admit it is hard for me to keep in mind that Advent is like Lent in a way. We are supposed to devote more time to prayer, scripture reading, lighting the Advent wreath, sharing our blessings, and even fasting. 

We can read in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church (524): “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming.” 

So before we spend so much of our time shopping, wrapping gifts, partying, decorating our homes and cooking, let us first make sure our temple is ready for our Lord’s visitation. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, come! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Apple of His Eye

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 17:8

I think we can never know how much God loves us, not until we reach heaven, our real home. I see how God prepared a special place for Adam and Eve. How beautiful the garden must have been! Out of all the fragrant and delicious fruits in the garden, the forbidden one caught Eve's eye. God prepared an equally beautiful place for us here on earth. Just like Adam and Eve, we continue to make wrong choices. Out of all the amazing things we have to do, we also choose the wrong ones. Instead of praying first thing in the morning, we open Facebook. Instead of reading the Bible, we watch a telenovela. Instead of encouraging someone, we gossip. Instead of forgiving or asking for forgiveness, we harden our hearts.

But does God condemn us? No. He loves us more. He comes nearer. He does not love us because we are perfect. He loves us because we are His sons and daughters. Peter probably committed the greatest sin. He denied Jesus 3 times and left Him at a time when Jesus was so alone. And Peter didn't have the chance to say, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

Did God give up on Peter? In Mark 16:7, after the women found Jesus' tomb empty, an angel instructed them, "Go tell His disciples AND PETER, He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you." Out of all the disciples, Peter was singled out for this message. Whenever we sin, whenever we believe we fall short of what we believe God wants us to do or be, we should remember this. God never condemns. He calls us closer.

In Zechariah 2:8, we read, "He that touches you, touches the apple of His eye." "Apple" is translated from the Hebrew for "little man" or "pupil" of the eye. Consider how protected the pupil is- hemmed in by our eyelids, our eyelashes, and our eyebrows. So is God the Father's love for us. We are protected, hedged, guarded, looked after. Thank you Lord for Your amazing, inconceivable love!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

God Shaped Hole

“Zaccheus, hurry and come down...”  

Luke 19:5

We must never give up on people, and we must never ever give up on ourselves. Just one touch, one call from Jesus can change everything. No matter how bad, selfish, or arrogant a person is, there’s a God shaped hole in all of us that only God can fill. Hurting people are those that most need Him, especially when they are intentionally mean, insensitive, or cruel. 

Zaccheus was sort of a comic character. He was of short stature and had to clamber up a tree to see Jesus. He was the chief tax collector in Jesus’ day and he was very rich. That meant that he was corrupt, mean and insensitive to people’s plight. But that God-shaped hole inside him yearned for something, someONE! When Jesus was passing through his town, Zaccheus ran on ahead and climbed the sycamore tree, forgetting his dignity, the better to see Jesus. 

“Zaccheus, come down,” Jesus called, “I must stay at your house.” Did Jesus really say that? I must stay in your heart and fill that gaping hole where only I belong! You don’t have to go searching anymore for what you need. You don’t have to keep harassing people, and amassing wealth. I will teach You that I am your treasure. I am your joy. 

So if there’s anyone we know, insecure, grasping, cursing all the time, threatening, or bullying us or someone we know, let us pray. Get plenty of people to pray that Jesus will call him down from that lonely tree and fill his heart with what he needs. He may become like funny Zaccheus and turn his life around and follow Jesus! Nothing is impossible with God! 

Monday, November 15, 2021

God in a Box

“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Luke 18:37

We don't need to be in church to hear God or see His hand in our life. Many of us box God in. We only take Him out on a Sunday, during mass, during a prayer meeting, where we sing our hearts out in worship.

But what about the rest of the week? When we have to make decisions? Do we put God before all our responsibilities at home and at work? Do we make time for God in our schedule?  In our priorities? 

I remember when my son was young and he did not want to join the youth camp of our community. He asked me, "Don't I have a choice, mom?" I answered, "You do! You have a choice whether to enjoy it or not!" It's the same with us. We don't have a choice about God being sovereign, about His presence in our life. But we DO have a choice whether we work WITH Him or fight Him!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Path to Life

“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joy in Your presence...” Psalm 16:11

The reason why I like waking up early is because every morning God meets me where I am and shows me more of His “path to life”. There is so much in Scriptures one cannot see at first reading. The Bible used to bore me and I could not spend even 5 minutes reading it. I suppose it was a case of “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6), and it took years for my eyes to open to see not only the strands of pearls, but the many treasures in the Old and New Testaments. 

In the Gospel reading for today, Mark 13:24-32, Jesus says, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When it’s branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you will know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that He is near at the gates.” Jesus was speaking of signs of His coming again. One of the signs is widespread apostasy, or abandoning faith in God. We see that today everywhere! 

In II Timothy 3:1-5, St. Paul writes, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

In I Thessalonians 5:2-3, we read, “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” 

Reading the Bible can be fascinating. It’s like a treasure hunt, but it’s a real live hunting down of clues to get real treasure at the end of our life on earth. The amazing things Indiana Jones found are nothing compared to the treasures in store for us who believe in Jesus and follow Him! 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Pray Without Ceasing

“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” Luke 18:1

When I was pregnant with Josh, I was filled with anxiety. I was 38 years old, and I entertained fears about whether my baby would be born normal. I had spotting, pre-eclampsia, and pains in my pelvic region. And the baby would have spasms of what would turn out to be bouts of hiccups.

Because of my anxiety, I would nag God, and “pray without ceasing". Then I felt God say to me, “Patsy, when you hold your baby in your arms, you will know how much I love you." True enough, my delivery was super quick, and almost painless. And more importantly, Josh was a normal, healthy baby. 

When Joshua arrived, he had a big nose and even bigger ears. My mom was so dismayed that she nagged God to make Joshua cute. And after a few days, Josh was the cutest baby ever!

There are many times in our life that give us anxiety, fear, grief, or pain. We go through many challenges. But if we HOPE in God, 'pray without ceasing', and trust that God always wants the best for us, ALL our troubles will turn into JOY!

“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.” (John 16:20-23)

Now, we are praying about the 2022 campaign and elections. Our country is in one of the darkest times of our history, with our economy in shambles, so many businesses closed, a sorry number of people with no jobs, corruption scandals left and right during a pandemic when the health of our people should be the priority. Will God give us a miracle? I believe He will if we pray without ceasing. We will never be disappointed if we put our Hope in Him. (Isaiah 49:23)

Friday, November 12, 2021

Glory of God

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

Creation is God's first missionary. The beauty of the flower, the majesty of the mountains, the power of the volcano, the terribleness of the storm, the grandeur of an eagle in flight, the perfect peace of a sleeping baby, all speak to us of God's character and nature. He may be invisible, but we can see and experience His love, His creativity, His nobility, His patience, His kindness and His awesome power. 

One year, atheist Bennie Hart applied for a license plate which said "IMGOD", and was refused by the Kentucky Transportation Department. Because Mr. Hart does not believe in God, he makes himself his god. That's what we all do when we disregard the laws God put into place FOR OUR OWN GOOD! It's sad that instead of worshipping the Creator, people put created things on a pedestal. It happened in Moses' time with the golden calf in the Book of Exodus. It is amazing that after all the miracles the Jews experienced, when Moses left them for 40 days, they decided they wanted a god for them to follow! And they created one!!!! Perhaps by our very nature, human beings want to see the god we choose to worship. That's why people make idols. And yet there is the whole universe to ponder that gives testimony to the God of miracles, the God of precise order, the God of exquisite beauty. 

“When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have established; what are human beings that You are mindful of them, mortals that You care for them?” (Psalm 8:3,4). 

Lord, forgive us our many failings. Your creation declares Your glory and majesty. May we not make the mistake of making things and people more important than You! 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Kingdom of God

“For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” Luke 17:21

One of the scribes asked Jesus a question, and at the end of the exchange Jesus told him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God." (Mark 12:34)

If only that scribe knew! He was literally, NOT FAR from the Kingdom of God! Jesus was probably just a foot and a half away from Him! How about us? Do we realize how near to us heaven could be?

In different versions of Luke 17:21, we can read that the Kingdom of God is in our midst, already among us, within us, is with us! The Aramaic Bible interestingly translates this verse “The Kingdom of God is within SOME of you." I think I prefer this translation!

Some people have the gift of bringing the presence of God with them even in the mundane, ordinary, tedious tasks of every day life. I would like to be like Brother Lawrence, a uneducated lay brother with the Discalced Carmelites, who practiced infusing his work  in the kitchen with love for God.

This from Wikipedia: For Brother Lawrence, "common business," no matter how mundane or routine, could be a medium of God's love. The sacredness or worldly status of a task mattered less than motivation behind it. “Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God."

“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving..." (Psalm 95:2) If we want more of God's power, victory and fullness in our life, we need to praise and thank Him! David praised His way into God's heart! He prayed three times a day but praised God seven times a day! And God called him a "man after my own heart." (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22)

If we want to be like Brother Lawrence or King David, and bring God’s Kingdom down to earth, I think the easiest way is to begin by praising God!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Intentionally Grateful

“Where are the other nine?” Luke 17:17

Today I read in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of Luke about 10 lepers. Jesus instructed them to go to the priests. On the way, all 10 lepers were healed. Only one returned to Jesus.

Jesus said, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?"

When I was watching CNN earlier, I was listening to the story of a woman who was rescued from human traffickers. She said that she was sold like a slave to three different men, and two of them tattooed their names on her back. After she was rescued, she put up a foundation to help others like her. She knew that it was so difficult for these women to have hope, much less to experience joy. They had to dig deep for the strength to decide to be grateful. 

We too have to decide to be grateful every single day. We do not want to be like the 9 lepers, who did not even turn back and express their gratitude to God for their healing. They took it for granted.

We want to be like the one leper who went back to Jesus, fell at His feet and thanked Him. When I look back at my prayer journal,  I see I have a list of blessings, but I see days when I do not list even one. I have to be more conscious, more awake, more aware of what I have. I have so many blessings!

Scientific studies show that gratitude expressed and shared, restructures our brain, physically remaps the connections in our brain, and unlocks happiness and even, joy! Digging up bad memories, hurts, traumatic experiences, reinforces the negative and holds us back. So let us be INTENTIONALLY grateful, and let that gratefulness overflow into blessing for others.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

We are God’s Garden

"We are God's Garden..." 1 Corinthians 3:9

We are God's field, His husbandry, where God cultivates His flowers and fruit. This is one of my favorite bible verses! I don't know how many times I've painted this and I never get tired of it. Perhaps because it reminds me of the one and only vision God gave me. I experienced this during a singles' retreat in our community. I was before the Blessed Sacrament, and Jesus and I were in a beautiful garden. Everything was lush and blooming and vibrant. Jesus said to me, "I am the gardener here. I take care of all these plants. I prune them all. I will show you one that I do not prune." And he brought me to a dead, decaying tree. All brown and withered leaves.

Then Jesus continued. “I am sure you do not like to be like this tree."  In a way He was preparing me for pruning. You see up to that point, ever since I was young, I would pray, "Lord, treat me gently." And God answered my prayers. I had a very comfortable, enjoyable life. No problems. But God was saying if He continued to treat me gently I would not bloom, I would not bear fruit!!!

In the Song of Solomon, we read, “Awake North wind, and come, O South wind! Blow upon my garden, let its fragrance flow. Let my beloved come to my garden and eat its choicest fruit." (SS 4:16)

Why does she want the bitter cold North wind to come? Trials and challenges, this is what God uses to prune us. He knows what we need to become better people. Just like coal needs to be exposed to temperatures of more than 2000 degrees and pressure 50 times greater than what we find on the surface of the earth to become a DIAMOND! And then after that, it needs some sort of volcanic  eruption to bring it up to the surface of the earth!

 Pressure makes us who we are. It can build our character. I guess we are all coal starting out. When the pressure builds, and adversity comes, we have to stay in faith, and work with God to become a diamond. Or we can give up, and crumble to dust!  

So come North wind! Help me to become a diamond!!!

Monday, November 08, 2021

Why Forgive?

“If he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” Luke 17:4

Detective Steven McDonald worked in the New York City Police Department when he was shot in the face and throat by one of the teenage boys he was questioning. As a result, Steven was paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair and breathing machine. 

He was interviewed by Johann Christoph Arnold who wrote Steven’s story in his book, “Why Forgive?”. This is an excerpt from the book:

“Then, about six months after I was shot, Patti Ann (his wife of a little over a year) gave birth to a baby boy. We named him Conor. To me, Conor’s birth was like a message from God that I should live, and live differently. And it was clear to me that I had to respond to that message. I prayed that I would be changed, that the person I was would be replaced by something new.

That prayer was answered with a desire to forgive the young man who shot me. I wanted to free myself of all the negative, destructive emotions that his act of violence had unleashed in me: anger, bitterness, hatred, and other feelings. I needed to free myself of those emotions so that I could love my wife and our child and those around us.

Then, shortly after Conor’s birth, we held a press conference. People wanted to know what I was thinking and how I was doing. That’s when Patti Ann told everyone that I had forgiven the young man who tried to kill me.”

Steven wrote to Shavod Jones while the teenager was in prison, and eventually Shavod called him and apologized. “I accepted his apology, and I told him I hoped he and I could work together in the future. I hoped that one day we might travel around the country together sharing how this act of violence had changed both our lives, and how it had given us an understanding of what is most important in life....I forgave Shavod because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart. Such an attitude would have extended my injury to my soul, hurting my wife, son, and others even more. It’s bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.”

Thank God that very few of us will experience what Steven experienced. His superhuman act of forgiveness should show us that if we open our heart to God’s grace, we too will be able to forgive those who have hurt us and set our lives on the road to freedom.