Wednesday, July 13, 2011

God Speaks Through Yanthy

I was feeling very tired one evening and I couldn’t help but cry. I just felt weary – physically, emotionally and spiritually. l already knew from my previous experience that starting a community can be very tiring and draining but I still took on the responsibility of starting and leading another community recently because I can’t bring myself to say “No” to God. I can’t turn a blind eye to the obvious need in the community where I live. I knew deep inside that God has placed my family here at this time for a reason and that is for me to say “Yes” again to His invitation to help bring more people closer to His heart.

I cried to God while I hid my face on my pillow that night, as I acknowledged the overwhelming weariness that I felt. Then my two year old son came into our bedroom and saw me covered with a pillow. He got curious and asked. “Mommy, why are hiding?” Maybe he thought that I was playing hide and seek with him.

I continued to cover my face even though he tried to remove the pillow because I didn’t want him to see me crying; but he was persistent. I realized that it’s no use hiding from him so I allowed him to get the pillow from me.

When he saw my face with tears, he asked: “Mommy, why are you crying?”

“I’m just tired,” I told him.

What he said and did next surprised me and made me cry even harder.

He said, “Great job, Mommy! Great job!” Then, he embraced me tight.

How could my little boy know what was causing the heaviness in my heart? What he knew is that it is my joy to participate and serve in the Mass. How could he know the right words to say to me at that moment? How could he know what’s in my mind?

I felt that God has spoken through my son! No one knew what I was feeling that evening after we finished serving in the anticipated Mass. I haven’t told anyone, not even my husband. But Yanthy spoke as if he was certain that those words would make me feel better.

Then, I remembered this verse from Matthew 11:25: “I
praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (NIV)

I let go of all my burdens and weariness as I embraced my son. It seemed ironic that I felt the Father’s embrace in my little boy’s embrace. Yet that was exactly how I felt that night. I felt God’s powerful presence as my son spoke those words to me. He spoke with the understanding look of an adult in his eyes. That’s when I knew that God was speaking to me through my son. I was still crying when my husband came in. It was only much later that I was able to explain to him how God comforted me and ministered to me through Yanthy. Amazingly, that was not the only time that it happened.

Last Saturday night, I was disappointed and sad again. I made a mistake while leading the choir in the communion song and the recessional. I was embarrassed. It was the first that we sang the communion song in the Mass and I wasn’t confident that I have learned the tune by heart. We could easily choose another song that’s easier to sing and that I’m more familiar with. And yet we chose it because my husband and I felt that it’s very appropriate for the readings especially the Gospel. I thought that my husband would be singing the verses of the communion song with me because I only mastered the chorus portion. Unfortunately, he was focused on playing the guitar during the Mass and he was not able to sing the entire song. It was not our first time to sing the recessional song that evening; however, there were other singers usually who sing it with me whenever we sang that song in
the past. As in previous occasions, I forgot how to sing some parts of the song. Although I knew that it’s part of leading and going out of my comfort zone (in this case leading people to sing in the Mass) to make mistakes every now and then, I simply felt disappointed that I made a mistake.

The words of John Maxwell in his book The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader on courage were not enough to comfort me. “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s doing what you are afraid to do. It’s having the power to let go of the familiar and forge ahead into new territory.”

I knew in my heart that I should not dwell on my mistake and that it’s part of learning. I’m familiar with leading people. But leading people to sing is new to me. That’s something that makes me nervous. I knew that I made God proud by standing up for Him in spite of my fears and choosing to lead when no on
e else was willing to have the courage to make a commitment and take responsibility. I tried very hard to bear these things in mind at that hour of discouragement but my feelings of disappointment and sadness were strong. So, that night as I lie down in bed, I brought my disappointment again to God.

That was when Yanthy came to my side again and asked, “Mommy, why are you sad?”

Here he goes again, I thought. He speaks as if he’s an adult who sees through me.

He further said, “Don’t be sad, Mommy. Great job!”

I could no longer keep the tears in my eyes from falling as soon as he said those words again.

I hugged him tight and said “Thank you, Yanthy. Thank you.”

He kept on saying, “Great job, Mommy! Great job!” He says it looking straight into my eyes even after we let go from our embrace.

I said a prayer of thanks to God in my heart for He has comforted me again in a way that I didn’t expect. He has spoken the words that I needed to hear. He has touched my heart by speaking through my child.

Karl Barth, a Swiss Theologian, said: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” I perfectly agree. I know that there will be more challenges that I would be facing as I lead our young community and I couldn’t do so without being courageous. I pray that God would always give me the courage to face my fears and the grace to persevere when things don’t happen as I planned or expected. I pray that God would help me grow as a leader as I serve Him and His people, especially now that I have more responsibilities as part of our Parish Pastoral Council. Moreover, I pray that God would raise new leaders in our growing community who will also say “Yes” to His call. Send, O Lord, Holy Apostles into Your Church! For the harvest is great but the laborers are few.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Have All You Need Even In Times of Crisis

Times may be hard given that economic crises happen left and right -- not only in our country but even in First World Countries like the US. But it’s possible to be at peace even with all these financial challenges surrounding us. It may be difficult not to worry about our day-to-day needs especially if we have a family to feed or if there are people who are dependent on us for financial support. The good news is that we can have all we NEED even in times of crisis if we follow these teachings from Scriptures. Take note that I said need and not want.

1. Have Faith – If we know God as a loving, generous and almighty Father, we would not worry about our needs because we know that He will provide for us when we call to Him for help.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-32

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

2. Tithe Regularly – Tithing is an expression of our faith in the Lord. We give back to Him because we acknowledge that all we have comes from Him and that as we show our gratitude for His blessings, He will continue to bless and provide for us.

Tithing in the Old Testament and in the time of Jesus means giving ten percent of what a person has earned from the work of his hands. It may be in the form of the produce of his land, his flock or his wages.

These days, most Christian religions do not oblige their members to give ten percent. Christians are encouraged but not forced. We give voluntarily to our church, be it ten percent or not. It would be great if we give ten percent of our income. But more important than that, is giving to the Lord cheerfully regardless of the amount.

Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
(Deuteronomy 15:10)

I admire the woman in the New Testament who gave two copper coins to the temple (Luke 21:1-4). Jesus honored her for her trust and generosity for unlike the others who gave much money to the temple treasury, she gave whatever little that she had left. She did not give to the temple what she had in excess. This is truly a demonstration of great faith and trust in the Lord!

3. Give to the Poor or those in need
– When we show mercy and compassion to those in need, God will also show mercy and compassion to us. No one is too poor not to give. And no one is too rich not to receive from others.

Let me share with you the story of the Prophet Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17: 8-16).

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

This story encourages us not to hesitate in following God’s prompting to help whoever is in need that comes to us for help. In this story, God provided for the prophet Elijah through a poor widow and God provided for the widow and her son as she opened her heart to the God’s miracle.

May this story inspire us not to focus too much on our own needs or the needs of our families. May we also open our hearts to others, trusting that as we share what we have with the poor or needy, God Himself will supply our needs.

4. Work – Do whatever you know you can do to earn a living. Use your hands, your skills and your talents. Proverbs 28:19 says, “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.”

St. Paul, the Apostle, gives us a very good example to follow as he stated in 1 Thessalonians 2:9: “Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” He did not make it an excuse that he was busy proclaiming the Good News wherever God calls him to. He further says in 2 Thessalonians 3:9-10: “We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

5. Be Content – Be content or happy with what we have and live within our means. St. Paul in his first letter to Timothy said that we have brought nothing into the world and neither can we carry anything out, so having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things. For it’s true that no matter how much we have acquired and saved during our lifetime, we cannot bring all of our wealth with us. We may have bought hectares and hectares of land but when we die, we only need a small piece of land for our grave.

Thus, let us not spend too much effort and concern over acquiring wealth for ourselves here on earth. Let’s spend more time storing riches in heaven instead where moth and rust cannot destroy them, and where thieves cannot break in and steal.

I have followed these teachings for years until now and I can testify that not once has God failed me. He has faithfully provided for my needs and the needs of my loved ones even in times of crisis. In fact, a lot of times, He even gave me more than I asked for. Why don’t you try them yourself and experience God’s miracles in your life as well?