Friday, February 27, 2009

Keep shining

When I was a little girl, one of the first things I wondered about was why stars twinkled. Thankfully, my question was not left hanging in the dark abyss of outer space indefinitely. Long before computers and internet search engines in our house, there was A Child's First Library Of Learning, a series of books created by Time-Life in the late 1980's to the late 1990's (Wikipedia), where I found the answer to my query. I love to read - my passion for books and literature sparked at a very young age. My parents bought the set of books back in the 80's to nurture in us kids an enthusiasm for learning.

Today, I was reading Part II of "To Thine Own Self Be True" by Cort R. Flint, ThD. As I was about halfway through page 82, the lights went off. I looked up at the ceiling and sighed. Another sudden power outage: no signs, no warnings, no nothing. I grabbed my mobile phone and used its feeble screen light to find my way to the cabinet where we keep traditional light generators that triumphed before the light bulb - candles. I lit two: a fat one already placed on a candle holder and a skinny one whose bottom I stuck on a can of Ligo sardines. I placed the thick candle in the kitchen while I put the thinner one in the living room. I turned the faucet by the sink and heard a sputter of air. Water was out of the picture as well. No electricity usually went hand in hand with no water.

Power outages in our area weren't uncommon. In fact, I was so used to it in elementary and high school that it was merely a welcomed disturbance from homework - a chance to get up from my study table to stretch a little, drink a glass of water, and then fetch some candles. To make the light bright enough for me to finish what I was doing, I'd have three to four candles on my table. I almost lived up literally to the saying, "nagsusunog ng kilay" meaning nag-aaral ng mabuti ("burning eyebrows" meaning studying hard). However, with laptops and other electronic devices nowadays helping people do the work, cutting off electricity certainly becomes a nuisance.

Nevertheless, power outages bring back fond memories no matter how badly having electric deficiency sounds like. You see, when power is out especially at night - we turn to nothing except each other in the family armed with a few candles, a few fans and a few thoughts or stories to share. We'd all be sitting in the living room staring at each other, waiting for the first person to crack up at the sight of straight faces trying hard not to giggle or snicker (but failing to do so).

In spite of, or perhaps thanks to, the black out tonight, I had an epiphany when I stepped outside our house and saw the twinkling stars shinging brighter than ever. They were like jewels strewn across the dark velvet sky enticing me to stare at their beauty.

In "To Thine Own Self Be True", Cort R. Flint mentioned that man's ultimate desire is to have a meaningful life. 

Many people embark on what they call 'soul-searching'. I was one of those people. I thought that a faraway place is where I will find what I am looking for. Oh, but how wrong I was! For the place where I began asking questions ended up being the place where I found the answers - HOME. The different destinations I had in mind were simply physical means of determining that I have truly moved and made 'progress' in my search. The journey, on the other hand, gives me only a new perspective and a fresher outlook that provides momentum for important revelations. What I'm looking for has always been there; it was only waiting to be acknowledged and brought forth to the light.

"Knowing God, self, and the purpose of life is the only fortune worth finding, and it is not to be found in faraway places - but in the heart itself."
- Cort R. Flint, 1968

Paulo Coehlo's book, "The Alchemist", tells a similar story:

"Santiago, a boy living in Spain, leads a common life of travel through his trade of shepherding and entertains thoughts of marrying a merchant's daughter. One day, he has a dream in which a child tells him to go to the Egyptian pyramids, which will lead him to hidden treasure...

When Santiago finally reaches the Pyramids, he sees an omen in the form of a scarab and begins to dig in the dunes. He is attacked by two refugees of the tribal war and has to admit that he is searching for treasure there. One of them laughs and reveals that on that very spot, he had a dream about finding treasure in the church where Santiago first had the dream. Santiago returns to the church and finds the treasure."

The Alchemist (novel). (2009). Retrieved February 27, 2009 from Wikipedia:

People are like stars then. We know ourselves as being nothing more than pinpoints of light.. plain white dots on a black background. Only when a star's light has passed through the atmosphere will it twinkle. Similarly, only when we let our lives be touched by the love of God will we shine.

Do shining stars know they sparkle? Do they know they inspire wonder and hope to others who have remained mere pinpoints of light? I wish, nay, I pray they do.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In Light of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season. A time of fasting and prayer in preparation for Easter, Lent is also a call to self-denial because this life was only lent to us. Our time here on earth is but a blink of an eye in eternity yet it matters greatly what we do with the time and life that is given to us. In the sermon this evening at church, everyone was reminded that we must die every single day and live every single day. And how is that? Philippians 1:21 answers us: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

May we reflect on and do wholeheartedly the more important things in life this Lent.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pray for the Philippines

Let's pray for our country everyday! 

We at Papemelroti believe in the power of prayer and it's something we can all do, to help bring restoration and healing to the many challenges we face as a nation. We encourage you to re-copy this prayer, print it out, get copies of it at our branches ('til supplies last) and post it at your offices, schools, churches and organizations.

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance."
- Psalm 33:12


Dearest Lord,

We praise and thank You for calling us to be Your people. We thank You for the times of triumph despite the ongoing challenges we face as a nation, knowing You have been with us always.

Have mercy for our failures, Lord, and make us into a people who will not forget You. Give us the grace to grow in love, service and obedience to Your laws.

We pray for our nation - strengthen and defend us in our daily battles. Help us to fight for our country by being good citizens and being part of the solution. Keep safe our families and the Godly values we hold dear.

We pray for our people - that we may grow united in love and appreciation for who we are as Filipinos. May we extend a hand to each other in selfless giving even when we feel we are the ones in need. Teach us to choose our leaders well.

We pray for our leaders - give them Your heart and wisdom to govern humbly and justly. Make them worthy examples of righteousness for the youth to emulate. We claim Your victory in our land Lord!

In Jesus' name. Amen.

I am overjoyed to have come across this prayer at the Papemelroti site! With the shadow of the 2010 elections upon us, we as citizens of our beloved Pearl of the Orient should start letting our voices be heard. Like raindrops on still water, let us make ripples of change in our nation. There is strength in number and power in prayer. Join me in prayer at 9:00 in the evening everyday - for the Philippines... for the Filipinos.

It's time to spread the word.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lead me, Lord

It's been almost a year since I graduated from college and I have to say that it's been an interesting, although sometimes frustrating, experience no longer having a definite path laid out before me. For the longest time, it seemed that whenever I'd find myself at a crossroads, the next step for me is readily indicated in a huge billboard that I can't miss. After I finished elementary, it was time to move on to high school. Four years later, I was on my way to college. Now that I'm an certified alumna, what's next? Work and further studies. But in what field? Where? When? Gone are the directive billboards. They've been replaced by the signpost with so many arrows pointing to so many directions.

I talked to one of my close friends from the university last evening and our conversation was a mixture of sorts: a trip down memory lane (more than anything else), an evaluation of the present, and a glimpse of the future. When we said goodbye, though feeling happy that we talked, I felt an uncertainty in myself. Oftentimes, I get that feeling - the feeling of having stood still while the rest of the world has gone forward.

I was browsing my files and folders when I stumbled upon one of the videos I made for Social Teachings of the Church class in my senior year in college. My groupmates and I had to present a report; before we began, I played this video I made for our opening prayer. The song featured in it is "Lead Me, Lord" sung by one of my favorite Filipino artists, Gary Valenciano. (The pictures included aren't mine. Some of them are from friends while the others are from the internet.)

My spirit rejoices in finding this video and listening to the song after a long time. I would like to say I am not lost afterall but that, perhaps, I have merely lost my way. So I pray to God, "Lead me, Lord".

Monday, February 16, 2009

Follow Me - GOD

This afternoon, I drove a few kilometers from our city of residence to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Batangas City and back. I had to do some paperwork in order to get my non-professional driver's license since my student permit is going to expire in a few months. My dad went with me.

As I drove through the expressway, I glanced at the the speed limit sign. Posted there in black ink was "100", which meant the maximum speed was 100 km/h. I looked briefly at the speedometer: 80 km/h. I bit my lip. For this reason, I knew I was nervous. Twice, I overtook a vehicle that was moving significantly slower than I was. I almost reached out to wipe an invisible sweat off my brow. With my eye condition, I know I have to exert more effort in sharpening my depth perception.

Moments later, vehicles of all shapes and sizes zoomed past me many times. Masyado ba akong mabagal? (Was I moving too slow?) I thought. I checked the speedometer again. It said 90-100 km/h. I gripped the steering wheel. Ito. Ay. Nakakatakot. (This. Is. Scary.) I said to myself.

All of a sudden, my dad - a man of a few words - said, "Magmaneho ka lang sa bilis na komportable ka at kaya mo." ("Drive at a speed you are comfortable with and can control [within the limit].") In the silence that followed, I knew his unsaid words would've been something like: "Never mind those speed-crazy drivers. You're not here to catch up to them. You're here to drive and learn from it."

After dealing with some matters at the LTO, I noticed that I was more relaxed while driving on the way back home. From today's experience, I gained a new insight: growing up is like a ride in the car.

When I was a little girl, I'd be at the backseat with my brother and sister. We'll eat, sleep, talk (Are we there yet?), and do kid stuff. Basically, we have no idea how to get from point A to point B. All we know is our parents know and we trust them to take us there. Then the teenage years came rolling by and I began having the honor of sitting in the passenger seat. It's a whole new world that I see through the windshield as opposed to mostly side window viewing before. More importantly, I have a better view of how drivers, well, drive. Next thing I know, I am a young adult; I have the privilege to actually be that person behind the steering wheel. It's a big responsibility. I have to check that the vehicle is in great working condition. I have to ensure the safety of my passengers. I have to adhere to traffic rules and regulations. More importantly, I have to be sure that I know where I'm going and how to get there.

"Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant."
- 2 Kings 23:3
Thank you, Lord, for showing me the Way.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Matters of the Heart

It is the day before Valentine's Day. In line with the celebration of this highly popular event, a thought crossed my mind and I decided to put it into writing. I remember jotting down some quotes regarding youth a few years ago and one of them is very relevant for the 14th of February.

"Young men make great mistakes in life; for one thing, they idealize love too much." 
I agree. (I noticed he used the term men but I would like to believe he meant 'man' in general because young women fall into the same trap, too.) Nowadays, it's not hard to find people wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to love. With the amount of 'idealism' being bombarded by the media regarding love and relationships - confusion and sadly, destruction, is often the result. Many young people enter premarital sex, deal with unwanted pregnancies, commit abortion and so on.

I came across this webpage on Christianity -- Youth Issues - Relationship and one of the thoughts there that struck me was this: "Immature love demands perfection." How true! Even I once dreamed of that fairy tale-like love story complete with "and they lived happily ever after". Thankfully, I know better now. I am also glad to share of the GREATEST LOVE STORY ever told summed up in John 3:16

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
On this eve of Valentine's Day, I share to you this poem. It is my own reflection of why the heart symbolizes love.

© 2009 Julie Ann Caringal

Many have sought to understand
this one word of letters four.
Two vowels, two consonants,
a pair like never before.

People have talked about it,
more so now than ever.
But they forget an important thing..
to listen well, nay, listen better!

For the heart is a shape
made from a union, no doubt, of two:
the left ear and the right ear,
which attend to matters both Godly and true.

If you lift your hands to heaven
and place them side by side,
again the heart is made visible
where prayers and charity reside.

The heart embodies love
for another good reason.
It is the best, yet most unnoticed,
 analogy and conclusion.

From that moment in the womb
until the day one dies,
every single heartbeat
is where the answer lies.

For the heart, too, is unconditional;
it 'suffers long and is kind'.
It 'bears all things, endures all things';
beats long after fallen is the mind.

Remember now and remember well,
this one word of letters four.
Two vowels, two consonants;
 fulfilled only in God forevermore.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
- Proverbs 4:23 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Have you checked in today?


I received this forwarded e-mail from an acquaintance yesterday evening. Honestly, I am not a fan of chain letters; I haven't received one in a long time. Nevertheless, quite a number of the best stories, poems and messages that I've read are forwarded e-mails from families and friends. I would love to put down the real author's name, however, I do not know who he or she is - but what I do know is this is worth sharing.

It's Me, Just Checking In Today

A minister passing through his church
in the middle of the day,
decided to pause by the altar
and see who had come to pray.

Just then the back door opened,
a man came down the aisle.
The minister frowned as he saw
the man hadn't shaved in a while.

His shirt was kinda shabby
and his coat was worn and frayed,
the man knelt, he bowed his head,
then rose and walked away.

In the days that followed,
each noon time came this chap,
each time he knelt jus t for a moment,
a lunch pail in his lap.

Well, the minister's suspicions grew,
with robbery a main fear.
He decided to stop the man and ask him,
'What are you doing here?'

The old man said, he worked down the road.
Lunch was half an hour..
Lunchtime was his prayer time,
for finding strength and power.

'I stay only moments, see,
because the factory is so far away;
as I kneel here talking to the Lord,
This is kinda what I say:

"I just came again to tell you, LORD,
how happy I've been,
since we found each other's friendship
and you took away my sin.
Don't know much of how to pray,
but I think about You everyday.
So, JESUS, this is Jim checking in today."

The minister feeling foolish,
told Jim, that was fine.
He told the man he was welcome
to come and pray just anytime.

Time to go, Jim smiled, said 'Thanks.'
He hurried to the door.
The minister knelt at the altar,
he'd never done it before.

His cold heart melted, warmed with love,
and met with Jesus there.
As the tears flowed, in his heart,
he repeated old Jim's prayer:

"I just came again to tell you, LORD,
how happy I've been,
since we found each other's friendship
and you took away my sin.
Don't know much of how to pray,
but I think about You everyday.
So, JESUS, this is me checking in today."

Past noon one day, the minister noticed
that old Jim hadn't come.
As more days passed without Jim,
he began to worry some.

At the factory, he asked about him,
learning he was ill.
The hospital staff was worried,
but he'd given them a thrill.

The week that Jim was with them,
brought changes in the ward.
His smiles, a joy contagious.
Changed people, were his reward.

The head nurse couldn't understand
why Jim was so glad,
when no flowers, calls or cards came,
not a visitor he had.

The minister stayed by his bed,
he voiced the nurse's concern:
No friends came to show they cared.
He had nowhere to turn.

Looking surprised, old Jim spoke up
and with a winsome smile;
"The nurse is wrong, she couldn't know,
that he's in here all the while

everyday at noon He's here,
a dear friend of mine, you see,
He sits right down, takes my hand,
leans over and says to me":

"I just came again to tell you, Jim,
how happy I have been,
since we found this friendship,
and I took away your sin.
Always love to hear you pray,
I think about you each day,
and so Jim, this is JESUS checking in today."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Wake-up Call

"Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
Matthew 18:19-20

I have decided to create this series in an effort to reach out to people and encourage them to commit to a prayerful life. I am not, by any means, an expert on prayer but I strongly believe that I can do something about it. I have posted a link All About Prayer, which I highly recommend that you visit.

When I was in high school, I read the book "God, Please Save Me" by Sister Mary Rose McGeady of Covenant House, a well-known agency for runaway teens that's based in Manhattan. I wish I could read the book one more time but I do not have it anymore. Written inside was a message telling me to pass the book to someone else after I am done reading it... and I did.

The book has a huge impact in my life. I never forgot the story found on its inside back cover. I do not know who the author of the story is but I saw myself in it and realized that God was talking to me.

On the street, I saw a small girl cold and shivering in a thin dress, with little hope of a decent meal. I became angry and said to God: 'Why did you permit this? Why don't you do something about it?'

For a while God said nothing.

That night however, he replied quite suddenly: 'I certainly did something about it. I made you.'

Wow. We are here to be instruments of God. There is so much we can do in this world. In fact, evidence of furthering the kingdom of heaven on earth is everywhere. The amount of campaigns and programs, fund-raising events and concerts, walks and runs, seminars and talks for a specific cause blows me away. As a student leader and active volunteer throughout my schooling years, I am overwhelmed by the zeal of the people all around me.

Even now, I often find myself wishing to make a difference or dreaming to do something great. (Perhaps, you are, too.) Now I realize that I need not 'wish' or 'dream'. I have to PRAY. Of the million and one things we can do to help others and reach out to people, we have forgotten this very simple yet powerful word: PRAYER.

Only recently has it dawned on me that a dedicated PRAYER life is something sorely lacking in our lives (including mine). When was the last time you went to church and knelt down to pray? Or when was the last time you were on your bedside, head bowed and kneeling in prayer?

The last time I felt that I truly prayed - with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength - was at the lowest point of my life in college. Late one afternoon, when our class was finally dismissed, I went to the university church, sat on the last pew and slowly got to my knees. As I faced the altar, I put my hands together and prayed to God. The moment I closed my eyes, tears streamed down my face. I was so burned out - exhausted from all that I do - and I felt as if the fire of life has gone out of me. I cried. Lord, I am tired. Please, give me rest. I cannot remember how I long I stayed there. All I know is I wanted to talk to God because He listens.

That was almost two years ago. God answered that prayer. I have in me a renewed passion to live - and to bring glory to Him. I read my Bible and a devotional daily. At night, I include in my prayers those posted in The Voice of the Martyrs Prayer Calendar 2009. I am also keeping a prayer journal.

My intention in creating this blog is to encourage you to live a life of prayer. Develop a habit of setting a specific time when you could talk to God and follow this daily. (If you can set time to talk to clients, colleagues, friends and family.. how much more for your Heavenly Father?) Remember to praise and thank Him when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep. You can talk to Him whenever and wherever. Read your Bible, too. It is the source of many great prayers.

There are many websites and online communities, including your local churches and groups, that foster a solid tie among prayer warriors. I have posted links to various sources, which I find very helpful in this personal mission. As no man is and can ever be an island, I firmly believe there is strength in numbers. I pray all of these will be of great help to you.

If you want to live a prayerful life and need encouragement, you can e-mail me and I will pray for you.

"Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker."
Psalm 95:6


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