On Self-Giving

The simple gift of self is the greatest gift of all.

The above quote is from a reflection contained in the book, Thoughts In Solitude: Capturing the Essence of Being Human” by Felix Berto O. Magallanes, in which the author speaks of sharing oneself to others not just utter words, communicating our very being, and expressing our inner feelings, to share […] as we would to one who is not totally “other,” but is part of oneself.

self-giving-waterThe most profound example of this giving of self is God’s self-giving – sending His Only Begotten Son to be born in a humble manger to become one of us. And again, as the Son’s total obedience to the Father, Jesus Christ gave up His life on the Cross in atonement for our sins and to redeem humanity.

It’s Advent. So it’s an opportune time to reflect on this wonderful gift of God’s Love, which we Christians are called upon to exemplify in our daily life by sharing our blessings with others, for example.

To help us ponder on the message of God’s self-, sacrificing-love, here are more words of wisdom about the Blessedness of Self-Giving. What I understand as the main point in the author’s reflection is that of humility. The giving of self without the temptation to seek glory, except for the Glory of God. And aside from the perfect example of Christ, the writer also mentions about Paul: With lowliness of mind, with tears, with trials, coveting no man’s silver or gold or apparel, but caring for himself and his companions by daily labour at his trade, he gave himself to teaching publicly and from house to house, going about preaching the kingdom.

I also came upon this insightful article on self-giving love. It invites us to think about these important questions: How can one person give himself to another? What does this mean? According to the writer, only each of us can find the answers. Each person has his own mind and his own free will. In the end, no one else can think for me. No one else can choose for me. Yet, at the same time, the article helps us ponder more deeply: in what sense can one person give himself to his beloved?

I’d like to add my own thoughts on self-giving; I also believe – as in the 2nd reflection I mentioned above – that the sincerity of our giving is clothed in humility, without vainglory. This truth struck me one time I was browsing through my social media news feed.

I couldn’t help noticing the postings of friends wherein they shared about the charitable activities they were doing for their respective orgs. There is nothing wrong with that. Their generosity and active participation in community-building are inspiring, encouraging, uplifting.

So just a timely reminder for us — that while we give ourselves in service to others, let Humility live in our hearts – to restrain ourselves from bragging about the good we do for others. There’s a thin dividing line between sharing in order to inspire and sharing in order to seek people’s praises and recognition.

In our self-giving, may God’s praise suffice.

My Heart Bleeds

My heart bleeds for all children of violence and injustice
in the world – dying because rulers and ideologues fight
and cling to their dominance —
people are mere pawns in their brutal games of chess

Pity the parents who cannot protect their young
from the ravages of war, famine and tyranny;
from flimsy excuses of leaders to install autocracy
just to hoard the wealth that should belong to all;
from leaders with only disdain and contempt
for their own people

The earth is carpeted
with the blood of innocents;
blackened with soot from burning flames of hatred, greed and power

Has humanity indeed descended to the lowest of pits
to take the place of beasts
who now transcend their nature to become more
noble, loyal and compassionate?

Hear the voice of the just O Lord
their cries are our pleas to you O God of Mercy
when will your Justice ever reign over us?
To separate the sheep from the goats
and spare our beloved lands from becoming a vast wilderness

If this is how the world will go on living its days
I dare pray the Almighty to please stop allowing more infants to be born
O Mighty God, Ruler of All
The fate of the innocents yet to see the light
seems doomed —
to suffer indignity or apathy from the hands of their own
flesh and blood —
or if not, what kind of life would they have in
a world where disparity and cruelty rule

When can those in authority recognize their time on
earth is limited
that they have to face You O Lord in
the Great Day of Reckoning!

The wombs of the earth shake with silent rage from
the depths of hallow graves of innocents
they await Your Great Justice O Lord

When will people’s tears crystallize
into steely resolve to snatch their rights and dignity
from oppressors —
Your Armor send to your dying
children in Allepo, here and elsewhere, we beseech You!

On Finding My Unique Writing Voice

I know I’m smart, but I don’t sound smart when I write. I know I’m intelligent, but I don’t want to sound all-knowing or intellectual. I know I’m fun to be with, but I don’t want to sound like fun.

I’m a serious person – but I don’t want to sound too staid or flat when I write. I want my articles to be able to speak to you, move you, make you react or comment. You may give me pointers or feedback or anything as long as we can strike up a conversation. To create a ripple among other readers, I hope.

I want my blog to have a far reach – especially among people my age – but anyone is most welcome. I want my blog not only as a repository of my reflective thoughts on life in general. But of opinions on issues that matter around the world today. More so with the kind of world we have today that abounds with hatred, violence, lack of civility, and the like.

But I don’t want to write about anything political or of current events. Maybe just an opinion or two about some issues. Maybe just to influence some thinking and inspire some deep conversation.

I feel shy or embarrassed whenever I tell people I write in my own blog because I feel my writing lacks something. Perhaps what they say as personality or voice. Hence what I’m doing now is an exercise to find my own voice.

I know I write with sense – but I see now it lacks chutzpah. What can I do to add some life to my pieces?

Okay. I’m writing now to you my dear friend. You know me well enough, and one thing I like is I’m able to make you laugh because I’m witty, smart. There – I’ve just found two adjectives I want my blog to sound like: WITTY, SMART (not trying hard nor trite).

I also wish my blog to sound cool, soft and flowing – peaceful and serene. Because a deep part of myself longs for quiet and calm. Like meditative sounds in the background — that’s how I long my blog to sound like.

I came across this quote; somehow it makes sense.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard

Being in the Here-and-Now

Surely most of you have found yourselves at one task, yet your mind was elsewhere. I guess this is a normal part of a busy person’s life. Or of the modern person.

And many of us are not even aware that our thoughts drift, here and there. We seem to be always running after time. Catching our breaths. Cramming so many things within a short span. Mindless doing.

We lack attention. Our focus is elsewhere. We tend to think of what we have to do next.

Such is the illness that plagues our modern times. Our time has become more stressful due to the Noise that comes with our wired space/environment.

Hence, we destroy our bodies. We burden our minds. And we sap our spirit. No wonder why the world seems to experience these health conditions more and more: depression, anxiety, cancer, and other diseases.

We often forget: the best way to heal ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, is in our Being at the moment. In being present in the Here-and Now. In being mindful of our task at hand. Enjoying our life at the moment. Leaving past aches behind. Not worrying about tomorrow.

We are given ONE LIFE to live. We have only this moment — Now. Life becomes more Meaningful; Fruitful; Enriching — if we try to live in the moment. Not rushing headlong into the far unknown, nor being stuck or fixated on the past. (Of course, this does not mean not cherishing good memories and forgetting life’s invaluable lessons gained).

The PRESENT is precious and sacred. We are called by the Almighty God to relish His Gift of Today. To hold and honor it with all the good we can do in the best we can. Before it slips away…

It’s Not How Many That Matters

A lively group discussion, an intimate tête-à-tête, an inner monologue — in your view, when it comes to a good conversation, what’s the ideal number of people?

Thus goes a  writing prompt on Word Press’ The Daily Post sometime ago…and as I ponder, I find not one right number of people to include in a meaningful conversation. It depends perhaps on the purpose or setting.

For instance, in social gatherings in the family, or in school, or at work, the more, the merrier seems to be a good dictum to follow. But then one should not expect a meaningful exchange of ideas, thoughts or feelings…it’s just an avenue to keep up with each other, or feel/pretend like one belongs, not as an intruder or outcast. Sometimes big social events have this intimidating effect on me.

Mostly in this setting, it’s more fun to observe where the ball is rolling. Listen carefully and one isn’t sure if she can get the flow..each seems to be waiting to throw their own ball in this verbal ping-pong interaction that often results in a cacophony of voices that falter to meaningless ‘Ohs’, ‘ahs’ ‘uhmmmms I see’…Anyone can just drift in or out…And no one seems to mind. Have you ever experienced something like this. Did it also make you feel awkward?

A lively group discussion can be had though when there’s a meeting of the minds – no matter what the topic or where the discussion takes place — at home over dinner, in the classroom, in the gym, on the street corner — you can sense people in the group are having a great time debating, arguing, or simply exchanging views, because each one listens and responds accordingly, and each has learned something. That’s the biggest take away.

Hence, I’d say it’s not really how many people that matters to make a conversation good or meaningful. For as long as each participant gets into the flow, each voice speaks up, each gives a listening ear, making everyone feel good about themselves and the interactive moment, then it’s good, for it brings out the best in each in the group.


Respect: What Today’s World So Badly Needs

It’s my first time to write something like this but I can’t just help it. What urged me to do so was the recent news that reported about one Law student being shamed by her professor when she came to class wearing shorts.

Her professor reportedly made sexist remarks to the third year female student and asked her to “dress properly.”  The comments made by the professor were indeed uncalled for, over the top, and yes, sexist —  arrogantly putting into question the student’s credibility and character!

Couldn’t he have just waited after class to reprimand his student in private? It would’ve been more respectful of him to do so, and could’ve avoided needless hurt on his student and the rest of the class. He should have comported himself with decorum, in the first place, for it was his perceived “lack of decorum” of his student that he was being angry about, and because he is a professor who should be modeling proper behavior to his students – at all times and circumstances. His profession demands he conducts himself respectfully, politely and with dignity.

Granted he could not wait after his class – shouldn’t he have chosen his words more wisely? Why did he have to go out of the issue anyway — the matter of dress code in his class.

Just because he is male, and an esteemed professor, he perhaps thought he had every right to chastised his student in front of everybody. So he chose to do so, without much discernment, without much thought to his choice of words and act. And according to another report, the professor said in an interview, there was no written dress code for students in NLSIU’s rules currently but he has asked the university administration to issue clarifications about the dress code to the students, especially keeping in mind that “certain decorum” is expected from students attending lectures taken “especially by a senior faculty member”.

certain decorum” is expected from students attending lectures taken “especially by a senior faculty member” — Clearly, the professor’s ego got pricked at seeing his student in shorts. More so, as this happened in a culture that is predominantly conservative, traditional and where a machismo attitude still takes hold of many males. But he could have acted with grace by keeping quiet until the bell rang, and talk with the student in a nice way.

Yes, I feel for the female student – and young as she is, I can just imagine the pain, embarrassment and shame she had to endure. She and her classmates had every right to feel aggrieved and protest this uncivilised act of their professor’s public shaming.

Yet on the other hand — I also wonder about people’s sense of propriety nowadays, not just the young. But older ones too. It seems to me that the very idea of being proper – is no longer observed because what is given more importance today is one’s individual preferences, one’s own comfort, one’s own ways. Individualism is the rage!

Who cares about what others say? But to observe propriety or decorum is still called for because showing respect is never out of place and is never out of fashion. Proper behavior or decorum is still a must in a civilised society. We all should adhere to unspoken rules as well that we give consideration for others, as we would expect them to be considerate of us. Respect for others, for places, for people’s time — this is part of plain good manners and right conduct. Giving others due respect is also respecting ourselves.

Yet many people — men and women, young and old alike — do not think about this, as they think of only themselves and what makes them happy and comfortable.

How would you think if a guest attends your formal wedding rites or that of your offspring, in very casual outfit – slippers and shorts? Would you not also feel upset about that? Or  even inviting your friend to a sit-down dinner at your home – honestly, wouldn’t you have some sort of expectation as to how your friends will be attired, or even you, when you visit other homes?

I’m not blaming the young girl – what I am just saying is, perhaps she, just like so many others – no longer think twice about discomfiting others – with the way they behave and dress in public.

Thus – my point is – whether the professor was right or wrong on being upset with what his student wore to class – he shouldn’t have behaved the way he did. And for the young girl, unless her shorts were of knee-length, such attire in class is improper indeed.

What the world today needs more of is RESPECT – respect for oneself, for one another, for rules of propriety, for whatever it takes to make the world a better, civilized place to live in.

Young and old, all should observe proper decorum. Let’s remember, the world isn’t just about us. We live with others; thus, it shouldn’t always be “live and let live.”

 

Morning Lessons from the Birds

Today, my morning blessing as I watched the dawn break into a beautiful sweet day came through a delightful treat. A flock of birds – doves or pigeons – circled the sky in a choreographed dance. In flight formation, they cut an awesome picture of grace and fluidity, and I realize they have been doing this each morning. How many times I’ve watched them by the window.

by-my-window

The birds glided together forming a wide triangle across the sky when in a split second, the head bird at the tip of the formation winged away on its own into another direction. It swept the sky with more dramatic, graceful motions. Yet the other members of the flock did not seem to mind, as if it were but natural for their guide to move away to oversee them from afar.

Despite the gulf that now lay between them and their head, the courageous birds held on with each other in formation without missing a beat.

How beautiful it is! Their morning ritual. Just like it’s become my morning ritual to gaze by the window.

Back to that bird going solo, and his flock, isn’t that an image of how God manifests His presence in our lives? Times when His presence is so palpable we can feel He is indeed leading the way. But sometimes, He seems to be gone particularly in our most trying times, or when we are overwhelmed with our daily concerns.

Yet, the truth is He is always with us, in us…we need only to trust in His constant presence and care, much like those birds whose confidence in their leader never falters. 

Isn’t it awesome that we can glean many of life’s greatest lessons from the natural world around us?

A Poem at Dawn

Sometimes, the Muses come visiting at unexpected moments, just like in the early hours this morning. Thus this reflection-poem of mine came to be.

I

 Waking up at dawn

 I see darkness around

 Only flickering lights

 Beaming from buildings afar

 Cast a shimmering glow

 to everything below

 For a second I wonder –

Who’d need the stars?

 Nothing ever though

 can Overshadow

 the Wondrous shine from

 Those heavenly bodies…

 Yet

 in that hour,

Blackness covers the sky.

 II

Sleep still tugging at me

 I recline on the seat

 By the window

 and turn my gaze

 at the sleeping city

beneath my feet…

Everything is still

 Everything quiet

 Save for the rumblings

 in my mind

 which I quell

by my Prayers

III

Gazing by the window

I wonder

Could there be any other soul

Brooding as I do

Over the vast view

of our side of the metropolis…

Or perhaps someone

from his own window

Watching me

Watching the world outside?

The Broken Glass: A Reflection

God heals a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces.

This quote came to mind after I broke a glass by accident, and I was keeping it away intending to wrap it carefully before I’d relegate it to the trash bin.

Despite the damage, a sparkling glean radiated – like a glint of the rising sun – from its sharp, broken edges and the shards scattered at the bottom, transforming the broken glass into a stunning beauty!

Reflection

We are just like that glass ~~  broken, crushed at times. Yet we can appreciate ourselves even more, if we can look at ourselves through God’s eyes. And if despite our weaknesses, our failures, our struggles, we carry on and lift to God our pains and sorrows, we strengthen our character; we strengthen our faith in God and in ourselves.

But we need to trust God, first of all. Trust that He can work His miracle in us if we allow Him to do so. Thus, we need to lift up to Him all our cares, our sufferings — He has to have all the broken pieces” of ourselves to make us whole again, and again, and again…

Times when I do get angry at myself for some reasons, such as not meeting my goals for the day, or when stuck at a certain task, or faced with situations that make me think low of myself. Tears flow, especially when the hurt inside is much like the pain caused by the sharp edges of a broken glass. Yet I remember to pray – sometimes, it’s a real struggle to, still I cry my heart out to Him.

At that point, God’s Peace and Mercy fill my heart to the brim, and I get the confidence to move on. Indeed, I can start to love myself wholly again, for God makes me whole again with His undying Love.

A Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit…replace the tension within us with a holy relaxation.

Replace the turbulence within us with a sacred calm.

Replace the anxiety within us with a quiet confidence.

Replace the fear within us with a strong faith.

Replace the bitterness within us with the sweetness of grace.

Replace the darkness within us with a gentle light.

Replace the coldness within us with a loving warmth.

Replace the night within with Your day.

Replace the winter within us with Your spring.

Straighten our crookedness, Fill our emptiness,

Dull the edge of our pride, Sharpen the edge of our humility,

Light the fires of our love, Quench the flames of our lust.

Let us see ourselves as You see us.

That we may see You as You have promised,

And be fortunate according to Your word:

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

(prayer courtesy of the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration, Hemady, Quezon City)

 

(I edited this piece because the glass photos that came with this post could no longer be used since I updated the theme of my blog…)

Finding Contentment

When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade.

Thus the saying goes. And I say, when there’s brownout (power cut-off), take some photos.

So what else is there to do when it’s raining, with a pestering brownout to boot – almost eight-hours long. You take photos, just like I did.  Thus, during yesterday’s heavy afternoon downpour that led to that long power cut-off, I busied myself with my simple phone camera looking for interesting angles, textures and patterns.

And here they are. Be warned though; they’re not pro. These are just snapshots meant to amuse, and let the creative juice flow. Just my way of finding beauty in the mundane – just as in my previous post with the same title– even during a heavy rain.

Looking through the rain-covered window

Finding contentment, seeing beauty even in the most mundane…

reflection in the rain
light and shadow
tangled wires and bamboo leaves freshened by the passing storm

 

a glow in the dark