Monday, May 31, 2010

My mom's 60th birthday

My mom turned 60 last Saturday, May 29, 2010.  She usually doesn’t celebrate birthdays, but this just had to be an exception.  She reached the big six-oh, and it’s her first birthday in nearly four decades without my dad around.

Although we had little of both treasures and time, we absolutely had to make sure that the birthday would be special.  And it was.  The outpouring of love was overwhelming.  Nearly one hundred people came.  Her co-workers, family, friends, church  friends and her Discipleship Group…so many honored my mom with their attendance and participation.

There were hilarious games, lively song numbers (several from her eldest granddaughter), and testimonies from people who she has blessed.  And indeed, I realize even more strongly now how she has blessed so many people.  She was, and continues to be, a mentor and a councilor par excellence.  Many of the people giving their testimony broke down, most especially my wife, a woman whom, as a mother-in-law, she has given so much love and grace.  If there’s ever a person who can testify on how the Lord uses my mom to bring out the best in others, it’s Jhean.

The event once again shows that people are honored not on the size of their bank accounts, or job position, or accomplishments, or how they look, or how many toys they have.  What really counts is how one invests in and blesses others.  I’ve seen that so many times, and I saw it again last Saturday.  My mom was floored by such a great outpouring of love…and it’s because of how she touched their lives.

Below is a video that a family friend (one of the women that mom has discipled) made in her honor.  Below that is the transcript of the speech that I gave to my mom that night.  I hope you enjoy both.

Speech for mom’s birthday

First of all, I thank you for coming tonight.  You truly honor my mom with your presence.    So many areas in mom’s life are represented here.  This evening, I see family, church mates, co-workers…so many people who have blessed mom with friendship and company, and I hope she has blessed their lives as well.

I’m pretty sure she has, though.  You see, through the years I’ve heard many superlatives about my mom: everything from her being beautiful, to being the best boss some people have ever had, to having such a great disposition, and all that…you’ve heard them here earlier this evening.

But far and away, the best trait that my mom has is echoed in a bible passage I dug up for this occasion.    Say what you will about mom’s appearance or how easy she is to get along with, but “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

My mom’s relationship with God is, to me, the true reason why she is so admired, most likely because it is the source of it.

This vertical relationship has had a profound effect her outlook on life.  People around her say that she’s a very positive person, has a definite grace under pressure, and is rarely, if ever angry and rattled.  More than once, people have come up to her and said, in bewilderment, “There’s something very different about you.”  It’s not as if she’s had a problem free life.  Two out-of-the-country moves, changes in career, raising a stubborn only child who has been hospitalized several times, deaths of loved ones…and the basic problems that go on in life.  The trials were definitely there.  But I always see my mom shine above them, not because she’s headstrong, but because she’s surrendered.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11-12, NIV). None of us knows what the future holds, but we can know who holds the future.  And know him in a personal way like she does.

This vertical relationship has also affected her horizontal relationships.  She has a very forgiving spirit.  She needed that, bringing up somebody like me…but truly, she’s one of the most forgiving people I know.  I’m beginning to realize that she’s like that because she has been forgiven, herself.  She gives grace, because she has received it.  Those of us who have been on the receiving end of this forgiveness should also display it to others.  Isn’t it silly to have a Father in heaven who has forgiven us of all our sins but then we hold grudges against the next guy?

She also gets along with everyone.  I’ve never heard of her getting involved in office politics, gossip, or any other backbiting activity.  This is also biblical, where it says repeatedly that you have to live in peace with everyone and be motivated by love.

Many of you here know her as mentor, and Jhean and I are very familiar with that role of hers.  Whenever my wife needs guidance, she first runs to my mom, because for sure she would get solid, biblical advice that is correct just about every time.  There are only a handful of women who can give advice as good as she does.  In fact, I remember many years ago when CCF held a one day women’s conference.  There were four keynote speakers for that event, here are the first three: Ann Barrameda, Blessie Melicor, and Peachy Cacanando.  Now, you know them as wives of ministers, right?  Well, the fourth is an exception to that…and she was my mom.  And some of the attendees called the foursome the Dream Team.  Truly, when mom is asked to speak on anything, especially on spiritual things, she delivers…powerfully.

Another thing great about my mom is that she’s quite patriotic.  I remember when we were living in the states, and she saw that me and many of my peers were running the risk of losing our identity as Filipinos and instead becoming brown skinned Americans.  She spearheaded a movement in the local Filipino association to hold a Philippine cultural show in order to get us immersed in the culture of our homeland.  The reason why I use Filipino products whenever possible is because if her influence.

Another trait that my mom exemplifies is simplicity.  Yes, she comes from a family of privilege, but you can never tell if you look at her.  People from similar or even lesser backgrounds can be preoccupied with acquiring pretty, shiny, and expensive things, but mom is not ensnared with the showboating and materialism that has gripped so many.  In fact, she’s one of the few women I know who doesn’t like to shop.  She’s quite frugal, very frugal.  In fact you may notice that she doesn’t usually celebrate birthdays.  We’ll make an exception this one time.  This, again, is related to her relationship with God.  The bible says that “But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” 1 Tim 6:6-10 NIV

Finally, related to her simplicity is her servant’s heart.  She’s a great leader because she leads by serving.  Nothing is more inspiring than a leader who is willing to go down to the trenches along side you.  Also, few leaders are as nurturing and approachable as she is, as she often wants to make sure that even her staff’s lives outside the office are in order.  Many of you can vouch for that I’m sure.  I can vouch of this as her role today, as a mother of a married son.  As a mother and mother in law, she initiates and gives advice, but she never controls or becomes overbearing.

And many of you can vouch how she loves to serve the Lord.  I remember she was involved in the women’s ministry, in her D Group, the street kids ministry, the DSWD battered women ministry, children’s ministry, even in some of the admin work.  Right now, her D Group is handling the children’s ministry for the month of June, and mom is doing an excellent job as one of the teachers of the 10-12 year old class, at least that’s according to the teacher’s pet, her eldest granddaughter.

In fact, if there’s a source of frustration in her life right now, it’s that she’s not able to be a spiritual influence as much as she wants to, as much as she used to.  God seems to be teaching her how to be patient, even if it’s for His Kingdom work.  But I’m sure, mom, this dry period will end and one day you’ll be able to serve Him once again with gusto.

Well, I’ve said quite a mouthful.  So, mom, 60 years have passed, and it’s been one great ride.  I’ve placed you quite on a pedestal in the last few minutes, but I know you have your own faults.  Everybody does.  You’re not perfect…even better, you’re forgiven, and thank you for passing the source of that forgiveness to me and the rest of your family.

I would like to end with excerpts of Proverbs 31.  Many of you are familiar with these verses, but I’d like to read them as someone who is proud to be a son of a mother who exemplifies them more than just about any other woman I know.

Proverbs 31:10-12 and 25-31

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things,but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Yup, that is SO mom.  And so the final verse of that passage says:

Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Well, I hope this party is a good enough reward, but I’m sure it’s nothing to the rewards waiting for you.  Happy 60th birthday, mom.  May you continue to be used by God for his glory.

If you want to see pictures of the event, click here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

We have a bigger role than submitting a ballot

“When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability”. (Proverbs 28:2, NLT)

I was torn between doing a Mother’s Day blog to honor both my mother and the mother of my children (both very deserving of the glowing written piece I had in mind), or a blog as a citizen of a country that is on the verge of undergoing a great change in governance.

I was leaning towards the former, since Jhean and I are not voting in this election (long and very frustrating story) and we were quite involved in the Mother’s Day prep for our church. But the message of Pastor Peter Tanchi, our senior pastor and in my opinion one of the best Christian speakers in the country, was so good that I decided to do the latter. The message was so, so, so spot on. I’m going to try (keyword: try…I’m nowhere near Pastor Peter) to transfer his message to this blog.

Well, we Filipinos have a huge role to play today. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, circumstances dictate that the family wouldn’t be able to vote, which is such a shame because we have very strong opinions about our choices for both the local and national elections. All we can do is give vocal support (“molar support,” as they humorously say in these parts). But boy, is today’s decision important. The bible even says so, as you can see with the verse that I used to start this blog.

What kind of people should we cast our ballot for? While it was given in a different context, Exodus 18:21 shows what kind of guy (or girl, as is the case nowadays) we should vote for:

“But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. “ (Ex. 18:21, NIV)

But after all the dust settles and this country’s new leader is chosen, what’s next? We just go on our merry, irresponsible, get-me-to-the-US-embassy-quick ways? Or are we to do a task that’s bigger, much bigger, than submitting a ballot? Pastor Peter proposes that voting today is just one of the many duties as a citizen. There’s much more to be done.

One thing we should do is to be a good example. In the case of the aftermath of the elections, it’s to respect and cooperate with whoever wins. A member of my d-group and a dear friend of the family put it well. She posted her personal prayer as a Facebook status message the read something like (this is far from verbatim), “Lord, I have my bet, but I am willing to submit myself to whoever You put in office.” Beautiful.

Whether you like it or not, God placed governing authorities over us. Whoever wins, wins only because God allowed it, whether it be to bless us or to curse us. The first two verses of Romans 13 puts it this way, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Rom. 13:1-2, NIV)

But you may object and say, “But our government is so corrupt! Am I supposed to submit to something so horrid?” Well, who was in power when this verse was written? It was the Romans, who ruled over the Jewish people, destroyed the temple, kept the audience of the book of Romans as slaves, and who carried the biggest misdeed of all time when they crucified the Son of God…yet readers we’re commanded to submit to them. If the audience of the biblical books were tasked to do that, then we are to do so to the Philippine gov’t as well, under whoever wins today.

The next thing we do is to be prayerful. Who else will pray for this country besides those of us who truly believe in Jesus? Most Filipinos tend to condemn our gov’t leaders. I even catch some of my church mates (gasp!) doing this. Look, these guys need our prayers, not our criticisms. Again, we go to the Bible to see an example of a command (this time, regarding prayer) when the environment was far from ideal. Jeremiah wrote to the Israelites held captive as slaves in a foreign land:

“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jer. 29:7-8, NIV)

Wow. Pray for the pagan city that holds you captive as a slave. Amazing. Shame on us, as free men, who lambast our local and national leaders when we should be on our knees, praying on their behalf. Pray for them, for if they prosper, we prosper.

Let me end this entry by once again reminding you that although we are to choose our earthly ruler today, it is only because the true ruler of the universe and of this country has allowed it.  The song we sang in worship service yesterday is so apt for this truth, a video of which I have below. God is the God of the Philippines and of Cagayan de Oro, and greater things are yet to come. May He bless the Philippines.


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