Monday, December 31, 2018

Life lessons

In a few hours, the new year, 2019, will ring in. Looking at my planner this year, I can't help but be amazed at how fast time flies. So many things happened this year, 2018. New friends were made, old friends found again, and wonderful moments were spent with loved ones.

One of the lessons I have learned and am still learning this year is the need to make time to rest. Rest is good. Rest is refreshing. Rest is a must.

One of the country's most successful businessmen, John Gokongwei, Jr., apparently makes sure to take care of himself well. He takes hour-long power naps after lunch. He also exercises every day and is always home for dinner. More of his life lessons are in the book "Lessons from Dad, John Gokongwei, Jr." by Lance Gokongwei with Yvette Fernandez -- a little book worth reading.

What has this year taught you? May we all take stock to look back at what we have learned and ought to learn some more, and thank God for His blessings. Happy new year!

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I finally finished Nick Joaquin's "A Question of Heroes" which casts a critical eye on our history. Heneral Antonio Luna, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Jose Rizal, and Andres Bonifacio, among others, come alive in this book and you come away feeling that history would have turned out differently had cooler heads prevailed.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Is he the one?

By Karen Galarpe

These days I'm feeling the pain of a couple of friends who are both going through something hard -- something that hits the core, the love life kind of pain.

The most I could do is listen and pray.

A few years back, another friend opened up to me and with tears asked me, "How do you know he's the one?"

Well how do you answer that?

When I was so much younger I asked this too of someone more mature than me. And she said if you have to ask that, then chances are he's not the one. Because if he's the one, you would know.

There are some couples, who when you see them, they just seem so right for each other. They're a good fit, they complement each other, and they're so happy to know they're meant for each other. It's a joy coming from deep within.

Some of these couples are our pastor Peter Tan-Chi and his wife Deonna (authors of the book "Motivate"), their daughter Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza and her husband Edric Mendoza, and our pastor Dr. Alex Marcos and his wife Dr. May Marcos.

Two of my friends have also found the one for them. I asked them how they met and how they knew the other was the one. Maybe this can help point you to the right direction.

Met at McDonald's

Vie Lising-Velasco is a ballet teacher. She is married to Rene. Let's hear it straight from Vie:

"Back in the day when McDonald's was at its peak in hiring college students, I was summoned three times for interviews and got the job! That was where I met my now-husband Rene. According to him, it was never the same after he saw me. I detected by his actions that he wanted to court me. I hesitated because in my heart I was not sure if he was the right man for me.

"After around a total of six hours of intermittent conversations, he mentioned that he is a Christian. He was exhilarated to know that I, too, am a follower of Christ.

"During our four-year boyfriend and girlfriend relationship, we broke up twice. My mother would call Rene and ask him to reconcile with me. Now that I am reminiscing that God-sent moment, I realize that God can use parents to make His will known.

"Through all the circumstances that God orchestrated plus Rene showing the fruit of the Holy Spirit of what a Christian should be, I knew he was the one.

"We celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary last July. Every year, our three wonderful daughters would always come up with something on our wedding anniversary!"

Youth pastor to husband

Anna Carlos-Alegre is an educator. She is married to Venjoy. Here's Anna in her own words:

"My story may be unique, but I think it is the best way to find your forever! My husband was my youth pastor, my mentor, and eventually, became my best friend and confidant. For 15 years! That is probably the most unique part of our story.

"To condense the impressions that God made in my heart over that span of 15 years (met him when I was 16), he was my best friend -- he knew me inside out. He was selfless; he saw me through my string of "love lives" and broken hearts (because he was my confidant), and always gave good advice -- that wasn't necessarily favorable towards him. 

"He also said, 'You need me!' as he made his love known, and in my youthful proud heart, I tried proving to him that I did not. He was loving enough to confront me when I was wrong, and he did it gently. And despite the happiest romances I had over those years, I always felt like he was home.

"When I lost him to the US and silence for 4 years, that was when I knew that he was the one that this phrase embodied: 'Don't marry the one you can live with. Marry the one you feel you cannot live without.' He was right and I had to humble myself!"

So there. If it is God's will for you to marry, He knows best. Seek His guidance and trust Him.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

BOOK OF THE WEEK: There are two kinds of leaders: the self-serving leader and the servant leader. Which one are you? According to The Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard, the self-serving leader spends most of his time protecting his status. Feedback is thus received negatively. The servant leader, on the other hand, views leadership as an act of service. He embraces feedback and sees it as a way to improve and provide even better service. To be an effective leader, you have to start with the heart.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hunter's got a new heart!

By Karen Galarpe

There is this little baby in Gainesville, Florida, whom I look out for daily. His name is Hunter Fenix.

Every day for many months now, I've been following the updates of his parents, Pastor Jonathan and Coco Fenix, on Facebook. 

Born with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which affects the normal blood flow of the heart, Hunter has been hooked to a Berlin heart for quite some time now. That Berlin heart is an artificial device that pumps blood from a ventricle and delivers it to the aorta.

Sometimes clots form and there was a time he had sepsis. But God has delivered him from those otherwise worrisome instances. 

He has many tubes going into his body, but that doesn't stop him from enjoying cuddling with his parents and playing with his rattles and mobile toys.

According to his parents, Hunter needs a donor heart since he can't use the Berlin heart forever. And so I joined the many people praying for little Hunter to get a heart soon.

Well, guess what, God has heard our prayers! Hunter got a new heart today! Thank you, Lord!

Let's continue praying for Hunter, that his body won't reject the heart. Let us also pray for the family of the donor, that they may feel God's comfort and love most especially at this difficult time.

Join me in following updates on Hunter. Like the FB page Heart for Hunter Fenix and see this miracle baby.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I picked up the book "Perennial" by Twila Paris at Books for Less inside SM Hypermart in Tiendesitas about a year ago or so. It's a beautiful book collating her musings about life and the lessons God has been teaching her. Written in a warm, friendly tone, the book also gives gardening tips and includes lyrics to Twila's songs. Twila is a Christian singer with several albums to her name. A delightful read.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13

Friday, July 20, 2018

Leptospirosis took a freshman's life

By Karen Galarpe

More than 20 years ago, I found myself walking with someone toward a yard with a huge tree somewhere in a barangay near the yet-to-be developed Bonifacio Global City. It was a cloudy afternoon, and the skies, with its dark clouds soon to bring rain, seemed to be mourning.

Outside a simple house were a few chairs, and we were met by a woman with a sad look on her face. She was the mother of the young girl in a coffin inside the house.

Entering the house, she gestured toward the simple white coffin, and "introduced" us to the young girl. "Anak ko," she said.

We barely said a word, and proceeded to view the body. She was a lovely girl, so young and full of promise.

Her mother then bade us to sit, then told us about her.

She was a freshman at Centro Escolar University in Manila studying dentistry. One day it rained so hard, and she had no choice but wade through calf-deep floodwaters somewhere on her way home from Mendiola to Fort Bonifacio.

Then she became ill with fever and malaise. "Akala namin, trangkaso lang," the mother said. But the young woman got worse as the days went on, complaining of headache and body ache. Then she turned yellow.

They brought her to a doctor but by then the leptospirosis had already caused kidney failure. She died a few days after.

We didn't know what to say. What made it worse was that only after the girl died did my companion find out that she was his sister from a different mother.

This is a true story. It's what made me want to reach out to my own brother from a different mother.

Leptospirosis can strike innocent youth as well as otherwise healthy adults. This rainy season, please do take the necessary precautions and avoid wading through floodwaters.

And reach out to your family. Before it's too late.

READ: Even simple skin abrasion can lead to leptospirosis --doctor

READ: Infographic: What is leptospirosis?

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I am currently finishing the Left Behind: The Kids series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye with Chris Fabry after I was able to order the books missing from our collection. Yes, I read young adult fiction. :) The Kids series is the young adult version of the Left Behind series. It's Christian fiction that's hard to put down.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday, June 08, 2018

Thank you, and thank you again

I wrote this back in 2012, and found it my email today. Sharing because it is still a good reminder to be grateful. 🙂

Thank you, and thank you again

What are some of the first few words and phrases we teach children? It could be "please" or "mama" or "papa". Or even "yaya." After a child masters these words, don't we teach him or her to say "thank you" too?

Yet be honest with me. How many times have you said thank you today to someone or for something? Maybe less than what we hope to have done.

Don't worry; don't be guilty. I, too, need more practice in that department.

Have you ever wondered why it's not easy or it's not a default mode for adults to be thankful--even if this is one of the first things they are taught?

Maybe we have been busy. Or skeptical, or jaded, or cynical. And that is a sad thing.

Toward the end of the little book of 1 Thessalonians (I say little because you can finish it in one sitting; go ahead and try it) is one phrase--it's not even a sentence--that God wants us to do.

It says "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

If you paraphrase it, it will be something like this: Thank God for whatever happens to you because He wants you to go through it now that you are one with Christ.

When I read that, I am struck by when we are supposed to be grateful. It says "in all circumstances." Are we supposed to thank God even for the circumstances which are not pleasant, example: financial difficulty?

Yes, because the Bible says "give thanks in all circumstances" -- that means both the pleasant and unpleasant circumstances.

Now when you have only P500 left in your wallet, it might be hard and even illogical to thank God.

Or when your child or sibling or parent gets really sick, it is hard to say, "Thank you Lord," isn't it?

But God has a plan for each one of us, since this verse says God wills it that certain events happen in our lives.

So I think it's all a matter of trust. 

Let's look at what the Bible has to day further:

Psalm 34:1: I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

Daniel 6:10: Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees  and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Ephesians 5:20: always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The words "at all times", "as he had done before", and "always" appear in these verses, making it clear to us when we should give thanks--in both the good and hard times because God is in control.

I can be at peace knowing that God has a plan for me, and nothing happens to me without His permission. Although some things may happen that we don't like, God must have a purpose why such events happen, thus we should trust Him and be thankful that He is in control.

Aren't you glad God is in control? And because He is, we can just rest secure in His love, no matter what happens.

To summarize, let us have this mindset: thank God for everything, for both the pleasant and seemingly unpleasant events in my life. Trust Him that He is in control of everything and you are safe in His loving arms.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm just in the first three chapters of "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano but so far I like what I have read so far. To lose weight, go for quality over quantity (a little piece of dark chocolate twice a week for instance instead of Snickers bars), never be hungry, have yogurt (hurray!), and have a little pack of nuts as emergency food. This looks to be one diet book that doesn't make you feel deprived.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. ~ Habakkuk 3:19

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Happy happy hormones

by Karen Galarpe

Let's see... that's two Happys (by Pharrell Williams), two Septembers (Earth, Wind and Fire), two Boogie Wonderlands (Earth, Wind and Fire), one more Happy, and to catch my breath, one Can't Take My Eyes Off You (Frankie Valli).

Those were for my 30-minute workout today at home, which I am happy to report, I finished. Yay! Never mind the awkward moves (it's true, I have two left feet) but if I can stretch and move and do so without blacking out, then that's good enough for me.

I've been trying to have a healthier lifestyle since last year, and although I think I am more fit now than I was a couple of years ago, I wish I could be more consistent in working out. My mission: 30 minutes a day at least, or on most days. My vision: a flatter tummy, slimmer arms, or, if those two are unreachable, then just a body that's more fit today than yesterday.

And so I cheered myself on as I rose from the comfy armchair I usually plop into when I get home from work. C'mon, Karen, you can do it, I told myself as I set the alarm for 30 minutes afterward on my phone.

So yeah, I did those aerobic/Zumba moves or what passed for those, and although midway I was contemplating ditching the workout and just resort to singing instead (mas kaya yata), I soldiered on, lunges, grapevine steps, and all.

Soon, the alarm rang. But wait, I want one more Happy! And so, one more Happy then. Thirty-four minutes workout today as a result. Happy happy hormones!

Have you done some exercise today? Lately? This year? Go and do something, and if you need some music to groove to, try two Happys, two Septembers, two Boogie Wonderlands, one Can't Take My Eyes Off You, and another dose of Happy. Have a great workout!

BOOK OF THE WEEKI learned so many things about myself and other introverts in this book "Quiet" by Susan Cain. "The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice." Ha! Is she talking about me? 😂 

VERSE OF THE WEEKAs you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5

Friday, April 06, 2018

Christians on social media: How to be the light online

How many hours do you spend a day in social media? If you're like me, surfing on the Internet and checking what's up with friends on social media -- whether that's Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram -- is a daily thing. 

But while there are a lot of good stuff online, there are negative stuff too. Such content discourage rather than encourage, bring despair rather than build up.

The Chronicle Ministry of Christ's Commission Fellowship-Commonwealth will be conducting a social media workshop for Christians on Saturday, April 7, 2018, 9 am-12nn at CCF Commonwealth, Berkeley Square, Commonwealth Avenue near cor. Tandang Sora, Quezon City. The workshop aims to help Christians be more of a blessing to others on social media. Let's lessen the negative stuff online and spread the good news instead.

I had the opportunity to interview our speaker Lyqa Maravilla, a YouTube influencer herself, via e-mail, and here's what we talked about:

Q: Please tell us something about yourself.

A: I just turned 30 a few weeks ago. I finished the Basic Bible Course from FEBIAS College of Bible and got my degree in Psychology, magna cum laude, from Messiah College. I’m also a registered psychometrician. In 2013, God gave me the gift of getting the top spot in the Civil Service Exam. I didn’t know it then, but that was God’s giant blinking detour sign for my life. The past four years after that has been an adventure. God led me away from the corporate lifestyle that I’ve always wanted to pursue and towards the unconventional path of being a YouTube creator, online educator, and social media influencer. 

Q: How did you get into YouTube vlogging?

A: When I was in college, I was part of a non-profit organization called Sound Check Ministry. We travelled around the country helping local churches establish and strengthen their worship ministries. I was in charge of teaching people how to play the drums. We could only stay and teach for a few days at a time and it wasn’t enough for my students to learn all they needed. That was the primary reason why I started my first YouTube channel. I’d record lessons and drum covers of praise and worship songs so that my students can keep learning.

A little more than three years ago, I started making educational videos to help people pass aptitude tests like the Civil Service Exam. It all started with one video. When people from all over the country started reaching out to ask for more lessons, God showed me how important these tests are to others. They can determine which school or university they can attend, which job they can get, and whether or not they’ll be promoted to a better position. After some time, my first viewers created a Facebook page which helped us build a community of learners from all over the world. With their encouragement, I developed my own review program and reviewers. I also hold review events and teach all over the country.

Q: Please talk briefly about your ministry -- what do you do, and why do you do it.

A: I consider making YouTube videos and teaching through social media as my primary ministry. Through this platform, I can teach and reach people from all over the world and share God’s hope with them. Bible verses are integrated into my lessons and I pray really hard to represent Christ to them. I also started a personal Facebook page where I share encouraging verses and motivational quotes. After people started reaching out with their personal problems, it became a great way for me to share a Christian perspective and offer Bible-based advice to people who are looking for it.

Aside from those, I also volunteer as a writer and editor for our church’s weekly publication, CCF’s Chronicle. Being surrounded by volunteers who love God and want to give back through writing helps keep me grounded. I love how the printed content doesn’t show the name of the people who worked on it. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do. The goal is to get God’s message across and we work as a team to accomplish that. After more than a decade of being onstage with the music ministry and as a speaker, working behind the scenes gave me a better appreciation of how the body of Christ functions. 

Q: In a nutshell, how should Christians use social media?

A: Social media is a tool. Like any other tool, you can use it to do good. But, in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it properly, it can be very dangerous. The key is, as with anything else in this world, moderation. We must filter everything we read or see online through God’s word. We must be aware of how much we use social media. And, even before we create an online profile, we must ask, “What is your purpose for using social media?” Too many people are focused on getting more followers that they forget God’s call to help others become Christ-followers.

I know Christians who chose to stay away from social media entirely and I see the wisdom in that, but I also think that we need more godly people who speak God’s truth online. The reality is that most people, especially the younger generations, spend more time online than in the “real world”. Sometimes, the only way to reach them is through social media. Think of it as doing missions work. In the same way that we go to different places and learn a different language to reach people and share God’s word, we must meet people where they are to tell them about Christ. If they’re online, we should be, too.

Q: What can we expect from your talk on Saturday?

A: "Declare" is divided into two parts. In the first hour, we’ll talk about the Dos and Don’ts of Using Social Media. I’m going to share some of the things I learned or had to learn the bad way. We’ll set simple goals and guidelines to help us maximize the power of social media and keep it from overpowering us. The second part is a workshop on Content Creation. It’s a guided course to help potential creators gather ideas, produce content, build a brand, and, maybe, earn money through social media. I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned and learn from everyone in the group on Saturday.

Interested to hear Lyqa's talk? Just come over to CCF Commonwealth on Saturday, April 7, 2018, 9 am at Berkeley Square, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City! Open to all.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Childhood revisited

I just finished reading the memoir "An American Childhood" by Annie Dillard and wow, what a lovely read!

I enjoyed reading about the author's days spent as a young girl growing up in Pittsburgh in the 50s, throwing ice balls, reading books, spending summers with her Scottish-Irish grandparents, and collecting and identifying rocks, among others. There were hours spent learning to dance, hours spent praying in church (but checking if others were praying too), and vacations which called for diving into the cool waters and boating with her dad.

Her stories hint of a privileged childhood, but you don't get the feeling that the author was showing off. Instead, I felt like she was a best friend telling me about her life while we sit drinking iced tea and giggling over funny anecdotes while outside the hot summer sun is preparing for sunset across the beach we're in.

I have always loved reading, for books take me places I can't physically go to. Books let me meet people I wouldn't otherwise bump into on the streets of Manila.

Reading also makes me introspective. This book, for instance, brought memories of my own childhood -- times spent climbing the guava tree in the backyard, waiting for the neighbor's santol fruits to drop on our side of the fence when someone climbs their tree and shakes it so the ripe fruits fall, following with my eyes the little colorful fishes as they go round and round in the little aquarium my sister and brother-in-law bought.

I also remember going up on the roof and just sitting there mid-afternoon because there's nothing to do and the view up there seemed different.

I remember piano lessons in school with Miss Arceo, and more piano lessons at home with teachers I can't bear coz they either seemed to be bored or frustrated with me that I got a slight slap on my hands whenever I made mistakes.

There was Snoopy, our white (or make that off-white) poodle who one day ran out of our gate. I was so heartbroken, our neighbor volunteered to help me look for him at the city dog pound and a nearby barangay.

I remember I had a birthday party at home and we kids danced to the hottest tune then -- "El Bimbo". To this day I remember that dance step.

And how can I forget playing bahay-bahayan with my cousins at our bahay kubo in the backyard? We dressed our dolls, pretended we were cooking, and swept the floor to keep house.

I hope we can all find time to read books -- not just social media posts and news articles, but real books to widen our world and inspire us to journey on this life with a spring in our step and hope for the future.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Tonight I started reading "Silver Linings" by Cathy S. Babao, a collection of her heartwarming posts on Facebook. Cathy writes from the heart.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is." Ephesians 3:18