Contemplating God’s Presence

City blend of steel and nature…

O what joy it is to
Contemplate on God’s Creation
His Divine Presence everywhere abounds
In the gentle wind rustling through
My few potted greens
Crisp air and quiet
cool rainy day
Clouds floating in the skies…
Music of sweet birds’ sweet refrains
Or soft rain’s rhythmic pattering…
Morning pale blue sky
Crowning the distant grey mountains…
Sunset’s glow blending
With the city’s evening lights in a show so striking

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

Rain or shine
In stormy weather too

God’s Mighty Presence abounds…

O GOD, may we always see You,

feel You in your Creation around us,

most especially in the people in our lives and

those we meet each day…

In good or bad times, in the ups and downs

of our lives, may we never fail

to praise and give You glory, O Lord. Amen

“It is not the objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence. That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get.”  — Frederick Buechner

 

 

How to Stay Positive Even In a Lockdown

It’s a Thursday morning, 78 days to Christmas and the 208th day of lockdown. The skies are gray and I’m feeling a bit down, but glad to see the sun shining through.

Despite how I am feeling, I choose to see the brighter side of things. I choose to let sunshine enter into my life.

Thus, here is a list of random thoughts I scribbled here and there in my notebook and journals which I’d like to share today.  These thoughts to ponder are my tips on how to stay positive even in a lockdown.

Photo by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash
  • As  is often said, the best antidote to one’s feelings of hopelessness is keeping the faith, being strong and positive. This can be real hard especially if we are beset with problems that seem insurmountable. If you are experiencing this right now, just know you are not alone. Each of us has our own difficulties to face — but then there are others in more desperate conditions.

 “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

  • Each one of us has our own “Dark Night” of the soul.
  • No matter how dire the present situation is, God is ALWAYS with us all, in each of us. He never forsakes us. We just have to experience our own Dark Night of the soul — for it is there we are strengthened and emboldened to SEEK GOD more and more.
  • Let us clothe ourselves with humility and love and adorn ourselves with kind thoughts and good deeds. Digest the Daily Bread for the sustenance of our spiritual lives.
  • When you are tempted to put others down, put yourself in others’ shoes. If you feel it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too.
  • There will always be someone who will find you beautiful, and someone who will find you ugly. The big difference will be in how you see yourself. Be confident and secure with who you are.
  • Though Up, UP HIGH we may Soar on the wings of success, may we still learn to keep our feet on the ground.
  • We all have only ONE life to lead, and each moment is precious. But it goes on quickly. Thus, let us make each moment last through our good deeds, words, and thoughts so that each moment will be filled with God’s blessings and graces.
  • Let each one of us be blessings to others, to our family and friends as well as foes.
A Good Morning indeed…

Source of Image on my screen (not downloaded)

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

 

 

 

My Difficult Journey as a Writer Finding Her Unique Voice

I’ve been thinking about this certain quote by American writer Jan Clausen for some time —

“How can a writer express what is most vital in her experience while anxiously watching her tongue lest she slip the wrong word?”

Then I came across an old scribbled note of mine from four years ago. I wish to share it here so you’ll see how I then thought of myself as a fledgling writer trying to find her unique voice. Oh, in fact, I wrote something along the same vein in a previous post – around the same time, On Finding My Unique Writing Voice.

Back to my scribbled note, most of it is still true of me though writing for work no longer takes too much of my time these days.

A work-in-progress, that’s what I am, as far as my being a writer (I’d like to think that of myself) is concerned.

I still have a long way to go before I can find my unique voice – in my personal blog and in the pieces I write for my work (even though I remain anonymous) – but I’m getting there.

Each time I post a piece of work content, over which I’ve spent precious hours laboring (researching, drafting, revising/editing, formatting, fact-checking, etc.) I get a huge relief and a sense of achievement, yet always with that nagging thought I can still make it better in the next article or post.

The more I write, the more passionate and committed I become to honing my writer’s skills, growing my craft, as they say.

My random personal thoughts find their way scribbled on my private paper journals every so often – there is nothing like handwriting…easier to get into that “sacred state of flow” as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist, describes that zone of “heightened focus.” Some I type in my digital journals, or in my personal blog.

As for work, I need to discipline myself to get wired in, the earlier in the morning, the better it is.

Like those athletes out there in the Olympics aiming to win even just a bronze, or breaking their personal records, so do I also aim to better my writing best with each piece I compose.

I used to teach writing, – enjoyed it much – but never thought writing for work is full of roadblocks: mental block, or doing my daily routine outside of work, of course.

And these I find as both a distraction and a diversion, each one pulling me away and pushing me back at the same time into the mode of writing and shutting me off from my immediate environment.

I cannot go back to class for now, though I hope so in the near future to attend writing workshops, or to secure a personal mentor to give me feedback.

Fortunately for me, in this age of the internet, there are many good and reliable resources for neophyte writers like me in the field of journalistic writing, blogging, and content-writing that I make use of.

Perhaps, this is why God has put me where I am now, so that each time I look out to the horizon – literally and metaphorically – I can see new frontiers waiting for me to forge, the doors waiting to be unlocked. The key. Myself. And I thank God so much for this talent and passion He has given me.

All for Your greater glory, O Lord!

Back to the present, nowadays, I continue to write on this blog of mine, not caring anymore whether there will be someone to read it or not. I write for the sheer delight of it without having to seek an applause or approval. While I still yearn for those caring enough to critique my writing for the sake of improving, I just content myself with nurturing this passion. I continue to read a lot and learn more about writing from experts.

As to the above quote, my writer’s voice is still a caged bird yearning to be free! Perhaps because I avoid discussing or expressing my opinions on difficult topics, such as politics — which most people on social media find it easy to do. But what I don’t like is how most opinions degenerate into expressions of hate or personal attacks, or how the rantings go on and on in each and every post ad nauseam.

Perhaps I still lack the courage or the venom or enough writing chops to help me crystallize my thoughts on such topics. Yes, many of the things happening in the country and in the world bother and pain me so much, or make my blood boil in anger and frustration. Yet, I’d rather write about what I think can help you and I grow to be the best human person we can become as we are meant to be by God.

Perhaps, in a future post, with the right words and form, my writer’s voice will find its way to say what’s on my mind.

One of my few attempts at digital 3D painting…

 

 

 

Lessons from Watching Birds Fly By

The pigeons and white doves flying about in our neighborhood have always fascinated me.

I also recall with fondness the little brown mayas back in our previous community who’d visit our backyard every single day, as soon as they learned of my bag of treats  for them– sunflower seeds.

So amazing how they quickly discovered where I put these, for then they’d line up, one by one, to peck at the plastic pack that held these precious delights. It was as if they instantly knew it was theirs for the taking.

Not only that, funny how they could also show their preference — just like any pet animals. These brown mayas would never want to eat any sunflower seeds, if I scattered them or even put them in a container on the ground! Maybe they thought the ground was not clean enough for them to feed on?

So each time I’d buy a new pack of seeds, I’d just place it on the sink counter outside. But they’d come only at certain hours of the day — in the morning and in the afternoon! Gluttony is never in the nature of birds.

Now in our present home, the pigeons here offer me a daily dose of delight, both sensual and spiritual, especially in this time of the community lockdown and restricted movements due to the Covid pandemic.

And they  provide me with inspiring life lessons as well, which I am sharing here.

  • Birds are so human in their ways.

Observing them for the most part, I’ve come to learn birds – pigeons, doves, and brown mayas — are as human as can be. The only difference is they take life as it is without much qualm, unlike our human tendency to whine or worry.

  • Creatures of habit and routine,  they start their day almost as the sun starts to rise and peer from the eastern sky. First order of the day is to stand in formation, if they happen to be in a flock, and fly together, circling the air above, as if paying homage to our Creator God. Then they go on flying up and low, round and round, above the metropolis, in what it seems to me their early morning exercise. To strengthen the muscles of their wings. To gain greater speed. To scour for food, like catch a worm or two, maybe, unless they have owners who feed them.

They disappear from my view for a while. Then one by one, they fly again to rest on the rooftop of the next building, where they stroll, flap their wings, or simply rest and gaze at the city below.

  • My winged friends enjoy bonding together as in a community, whether flying or at rest.
Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash
Photo by Gio Roca on Unsplash
  • But they also love to take some ‘me-time’ — time for being alone. Socializing and  being in solitude are essential to the well-being of our winged friends.

Just like birds, we also need time for our own ‘me-time’ — when we can go deep into ourselves, reflect, and converse with God, or even just spending some few minutes in silence to get our bearing and be nourished by Him.

  • They are masters in waiting meekly for their turn. Most of all, they are patient, relaxed, and ever so calm, serene and graceful. Nothing in their movements shows them to be worried or perturbed or restless.  Maybe because they trust in their Creator God to care for them no matter what. As is said in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

This nature of theirs speak to me clearly especially at times I get so overcome with anxiety, frustration, even despair.

  • Soar up into heights they fly in stately elegance, yet they humbly return and perch on the ground or wherever they can find rest in this urban jungle. Humility. It’s a constant reminder no matter where in life we go, how lofty or lowly our position in society is, or how much we have achieved or still striving to, our everyday living should be a reflection of Christ’s humility and obedience to God’s calling and mission for us.

Read also a related post of mine, Morning Lessons from the Birds.

I can’t help but compare these flock of birds with religious communities, such as those of contemplative nuns and monks. For while these religious communities are cloistered in their convents and monasteries and donned in their long habits, these birds are free to move up and around resplendent in their colorful feathers.

Yet both communities – human and avian alike — share the same pattern and rhythm of daily life. Communal yet with time for solitude and quiet; working/flying and worshiping, exercise, and rest — all these make up their everyday schedule. And let’s not forget the virtues of trust, faith, humility, and love that our feathered co-creatures mirror so well.

I do believe it is God’s way of showing us, through the pattern and rhythm of birds’ daily life which religious communities are practicing, together with the virtues they are striving to live out, that this way of life is good — for our physical and spiritual nourishment and wellness and growth.

I note from stories and status updates of friends and relatives, that many have been incorporating this pattern  and rhythm into their daily lives since the start of the pandemic. So it must be one good thing that has come out of this global health crisis. And it’s about time we did, don’t you think so?

  • Oh there’s another thing I almost forgot — singing is essential and second nature to birds, as well as religious communities — for singing is the highest form of praise we can offer to our Creator God.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.” — Lois Lowry

Wisdom comes in all we see, God writes His lessons in each flow’r, and every singing bird or bee can teach us something of His power.” — Maud Lindsay

 

 

 

Nature’s Brushstrokes at Sunset

“They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs;
You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.” — Psalm 65:8

I will never tire of looking at sunsets – whatever I can get from my vantage point. I appreciate nature’s brushstrokes at sunset, part of God’s wonderful creation. So here again with 2 of my sunset photos to practice composition.

Looks like that tower’s spewing fire across the sky…
Same scene at a slightly different angle with the last of the sun’s blaze fading away

“A sunset is the sun’s fiery kiss to the night.”
Crystal Woods, Write like no one is reading 3

 

Sign of Hope

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” — Desmond Tutu

The other day close to evening, the sky was overcast with dark, purple clouds threatening heavy rain. I didn’t exactly relish the thought of another rainy evening but my heart leapt with joy at the sight of a glimmer of light in the midst of the gloomy clouds.

Sign of Hope

“What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.” — Emil Brunner

 

Evening Purple Sky

 

A simple shot I took of an early evening sky using my phone camera

Purple-bluish skies…

when the fading daylight

slowly hides beneath

the dark mantle of the night

 

The Most Meaningful Preparation to Make for the Coming Christmas

“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis

92 days to Christmas! I am sure many of us Filipinos as well as the rest of the world are having mixed emotions about the coming Christmas season. Can there still be Christmas, no doubt many are asking in their hearts — especially those who have lost loved ones, jobs, and livelihood.

True, we are living in such a most difficult, painful, stressful time, with the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating until a safe vaccine is found. Given this, despair and fear can easily take hold when sickness, death, and loss are around us.

Yet, amidst the gloom, it is heartwarming to hear of stories of sharing, caring, and helping one another. This indeed is the most meaningful preparation we can make for the coming Christmas. Opening our hearts and doors to others. Being more kind, understanding, and compassionate.

Christmas this year may be totally different from what we have been used to — but isn’t it time to celebrate Christmas in the way it is meant to be — without the trimmings?

To make this year’s Christmas more meaningful, especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, may we celebrate it with more love to share, with more humility to accept our circumstances.  For after all, Jesus Himself was born in a stable rude, in the company of animals and a handful of poor shepherds.

I find the lyrics of this Christmas song for children simple yet so full of insightful reminder for us all. Each of us even in our littlest ways can do so much to light up the world around us and bring cheer to those who are suffering or in pain. Let each of us reflect the Light of Christ through our words and deeds, and maybe God will grant us the miracle we yearn for at this time – for COVID-19 to go away.

The Friendly Beasts

1 Jesus our brother, kind and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

2 “I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried his mother uphill and down.
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town.
I,” said the donkey shaggy and brown.

3 “I,” said the cow, all white and red,
“I gave him my manger for his bed.
I gave him my hay to pillow his head.
I,” said the cow all white and red.

4 “I,” said the sheep with curly horn,
“I gave him my wool for his blanket warm.
He wore my coat on Christmas morn.
I,” said the sheep with curly horn.

5 “I,” said the dove from rafters high,
“I cooed him to sleep, so he should not cry.
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I.
I,” said the dove from rafters high.

6 Thus every beast by some good spell,
in the stable dark was glad to tell
of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
the gift he gave Emmanuel.

 

 

 

Remembering My Father

“Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but in thankfulness that he was.” – Hebrew Proverb

Recently, my family commemorated the first anniversary of my father’s entry into eternal life. I still grieve at his passing and times when tears just well up in my eyes at the slightest thought of him.

Yet, at the same time, due to the raging pandemic, the pain seems to have been tempered by a sense of relief and gratefulness. Yes, it may seem selfish especially as I think of those who have suffered deaths in their families because of COVID-19. But to me and the rest of the family, it was a blessing in disguise that our parents had gone on when they did.

And as a tribute to my father on his first birthday in the afterlife, here I share another of Dad’s legacy to us his family and loved ones.

We grew up with Music at home, with different musical instruments: the violin which was Dad’s forte; harmonica, banduria, guitar, xylophone, and the organ. He even sent me and my sister to learn the piano in school from Grade 1 to Grade 3. But I grew tired of it.
My father’s violin and his loyal pet dog…artwork by another sister of mine
Dad was blessed with a deep baritone voice so he also taught us to sing, even teaching us the Solfeggio and letting us sing one by one. Singing together was one of our family weekend activities. We older ones were members of our church choir with Dad as the choir Conductor.
The nuns in the convent where my sister belonged would even request him to sing the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation) during the Easter Vigil each year, which he faithfully did, until my parents moved far outside the metropolis.
Dad also had a large collection of long-playing albums of classical music, Ray Conniff Christmas albums, plus many other musical records which we’d play and listened to on the stereo every weekend (often with him singing along or playing the violin).
Later on, he inspired one of my sons to play the violin and the banduria. Picking up from my Dad, my son learned the organ as well. Now a father himself, he guides his own children in playing the violin and the piano. Such is my Dad’s legacy of music to us, so cherished in our hearts.

 

Psalm 113:2-4

“Blessed be the Name of the LORD from this time on and for evermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the Name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations, and His Glory above the heavens.” — Psalm 113:2-4

Streaks of rain on the window pane

cannot dim the glow

of the fading sun slowly sinking

beneath the purple skies…

— teachmarich