PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

 

"Just For Today"

Copy-pasted from the Internet:

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Just for today, I will improve myself. For today is the sure preparation for future success.Just for today, I will no longer compare myself to others; instead I compare only my past self so I can be able to become the master of myself! Just for today, I will laugh at myself, at my errors and at my failures in life for these are the secret of refinement and emotional maturity.Just for today, I will remind myself often with these words: Life is yours to enjoy. Don’t waste it. Don’t pass up living by thinking yourself into a failure and defeat. For there is always a room for opportunity and success. What you shall need to do, is to create one! Just for today, I will cultivate myself to give its best to the world and the world will give back its best to me. For the world is a mirror of king and slave.Just for today, I will be careful, watchful and vigilant. For the world is full of treacherous individuals. Therefore, in order not to fall in their traps, I’ll think thrice before I act and do my activities under the sun! Just for today, I will motivate myself to be self-reliant, honest, hard working, humble, open-minded, have word of honor, respect, and originality. For these are the true secret of power, fame and integrity.Just for today, no longer I compete myself to others, instead I compete only with my own self for here is a true secret of greatness and success.Just for today, I will value the reading of good books. Books are gifts where hidden treasures laid given by Loving God to motivate my intellect to think and grow rich! Just for today, I will share my knowledge, skills and talents to the world, so I can be able to lift up and give comfort to the wondering broken-soul.Just for today, I will greet my beloved fellow human being with a sweet smile instead of frown. Encouragement instead of discouragement for “whatever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”Just for today, I will not neglect to give praises and thanks to my Loving Creator. For He is the source of my energy, breath, strength, and wisdom. Without Him, I am vanities in all vanities under the sun! Just for today, I will talk to Him with these words: 



My great Creator, loving and faithful friend of mine, I am here now in your front to glorify your name. I would like to thank thee for all the trials, pains and sorrows in life you prescribed to me because these help me a lot to refine my character and views in life. I pray that you now help me to remove every single defect of my character that stands in the way of usefulness to you and to my fellow human being. Please help me to follow these precepts in my hands diligently, so I can gradually become a catalyst of change and inspiration to those people around me. Finally, I pray that I will be able to bring them successfully nearer and closer to you. Thank you, dear Lord, for listening and answering my petitions. In Christ's name, I pray…Amen.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

 

"When we think God is late, we're not trusting him."

Speaking to God about injustices, telling him our needs, and asking for his help is right and good. But when the asking comes with the implication that God doesn't already understand the situation, we're being anxious like Martha. When we think God is late, we're not trusting him. When we pray repeatedly and persistently in an ongoing state of worry, it's time to sit still and listen, like the quiet Mary.

-Terry Mojica

Friday, July 26, 2013

 

Impossibility, I want you!

Nothing is impossible these days.

Justin Bieber became Justin Bieber, or so it was reported, because of one YouTube video t.hat went viral. The same story is repeated in the case of, say, Charice Pempengco and Arnel Pineda.

To be sure, these three people have something remarkable in them with or without the validation of bazillion YouTube hits. Their respective talents have always been there. It just so happened that new technology turned things around in their favor.

When I look around these days and review where certain people are, the people I knew from childhood, compared to when they were just snivelling ball of naivete, I am totally amazed. It couldn't be entirely them who's responsible for it the unlikely turns of events in their lives. There must have been an X factor. I prefer to call that factor divine intervention, the hand of God intervening in His love for the person to fulfill his or her own destiny

Take the case of my friend R., with whom I used to rent a house together with a bunch of siblings and cousins. Nothing in her told me she'd become a computer programmer in the US, first in Georgia, then next in Florida. What's more, she just finished a master's degree. For someone who's not the studious type, that's so unexpected.

Then there's my college roommate G. He used to be 'just' a medical representative working Ozamiz City. He happened to marry a nurse, who happened to find work in New York City. Now, he's a New Yorker!

The same happy, unexpected story happened to B, a girl I thought looked too dark, too small, and too plain. She married a German guy, who has a successful business here, and next thing you know, she is traveling to Germany, Macau, Paris, Florida, etc. for vacation. Wow. Astounding is the word.

A next-door neighbor boy, who I suspected to be mentally ill because of his weird, annoying ways, is now an engineer in the big city who can buy anything he wants. His family used to be very poor, and at the time, the prospects for any of them were too dark.

These tales of the unbelievable are repeated in numerous cousins, former classmates, townmates of old, and friends from here and there, who found their good fortune abroad, or even at home. E. as a nurse in Leeds, England, together with former officemates of mine. J. as a chef in Calgary. J., M., et al. as nurse in California and all over the US. R. as saxophonist in cruise ships, enabling him to see the whole world. The seamen I know who have seen the same. B. was able to come to America by marrying a nurse. R. was able to come to Ireland for the same reason. How many of them are like that? Several girls and women I know -- J., E., C., A., J. -- are now living in various prosperous countries that way by finding their destiny in a foreign man -- who knew? Oh, how their lives have changed, judging from their Facebook photos alone.

T. now lives in a condo with her son and husband, who's now a big shot at ADB. Time was when they were just lowly employees like me at ASEC? And whenever T. reminisced about her life then, it was always about deprivation, extreme poverty, and all that sob story/teledrama. Look at them now.

J. a bank collector, now drives his own service car, when all his family could afford was a tricycle. I., who didn't even step on college grounds, is now a middleman dealer in the local wet market's fish trade. From his incredible earnings, he was able to build a beautiful house and buy his own cars and trucks (note the plural form). After failing in his attempts to be a nurse and a policeman, T. ended up with Business Administration and, after graduation, was able to put up a small eatery, funded by his father and siblings abroad. These are all former neighborhood kids, who looked unpromising back then, to say the least.

I used to be one of these kids in the neighborhood who looked like nothing bright was ahead of us. I hope I'll get to share the same tale someday, if not soon. Because I believe that nothing is impossible these days.

But, in unexpected ways, I was touched by the God of impossibility, too. After I graduated from college, I expected my life to be largely academic in nature, owing to my nerdy persona. I thought I'd be immersed in teaching, researching, writing theses, pursuing PhD, and so on. Being the eldest child in the family, I also thought, or strongly expected, I'd discover the means to a great money-making career or venture. Well, the Guy Upstairs had other ideas. He thought up of something else for me, something better, something that's beyond my imagination, which proves punier by the minute as my life story unfolds.

He trained me to become a writer. He brought me to places and situations that I needed to discipline myself for the strictures of writing. But here's the horrible part: He brought me to defeat, shame, embarrassment, poverty, loss, illness, loneliness, aloneness. He let me experience pain.

But he also brought me to an awareness of the vastness of the universe, especially the unknown, and the depth of human experience. Most importantly, and I consider this my greatest achievement, God led me to a taste of wholeness, healing, integration, self-awareness.

God's definition of impossible is painful and funny, in my case. It's somewhat no different from the counterintuitive twists of fate that 'befell' those I know who have left the life of material comforts in favor of the seminary -- and I think there are quite a number of them. The difference -- big difference, actually -- is that they seem happy and fulfilled with their choice, while I can't say the same in categorical terms. There remains great dissatisfaction with my lot so far. I don't feel complete yet, like I still have lots of things to prove in me, although I am now speaking in practical terms, like finances and properties and other worldly accomplishments. It might seem like a weird twist, but yes, after the spiritual comes the downward movement to humbler quests in life for me in my journey. It's as though it is a part of my struggle to become normal, to be just like the rest of hoi polloi.

I pray to the God of the Impossible for impossible turnarounds and impossible breakthroughs, for he has proven time and again that there's nothing He can't do.

 

Hey, you, Mr. Certain!

Yes, you! Listen to me.

Why are you so sure of yourself?

What if you were wrong? Wouldn't you sound ridiculous? Wouldn't you be the butt of all jokes?

Go ahead -- do yourself a favor. Read yourself aloud. Notice that haughty air of certitude, that know-it-all attitude. Does it not bother you at all?

Notice the pattern in your thoughts. Note how the world is always wrong, and you always right. Don't you find that a bit disturbing?

Shouldn't you be shaking your head by now? What's the use of fame, renown, awards, acclaim, achievements? All empty, meaningless vanities.

Could it be you're doing this because there's something you're trying to prove? Do something because it must be done, not because it's all about you.

If you are obviously wrong yet insist that you are right, you can be sure of one thing: a future that is not so bright.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

 

Adventures in unemployment limbo

How did I come to this? I can’t believe I have reached this place at all. It’s all quite disempowering, especially since it had to happen to me right after attending a series of talks about empowerment, transformation, and all that.

It’s true I sometimes battle anxiety and panic attacks at home, but I’m not totally disabled. I can still hold down a job, so I should not feel totally useless. Yet, here I am hobbled by exactly that kind of feeling, as Manila’s job market seems to have left me out. To think the job market has changed: it hasn't exactly shrunk; in fact, much of it has gone online and thus has gone global and borderless.

It’s true my own unique situation imposes hard conditions: I have been looking for a job that is online and home-based that I can do at my own time because the daily commute stresses me out, making me dizzy and hypertensive. I am at least gunning for writing, editing, and even proofreading projects. These are a lot doable these days, supposedly; I know the market is out there. But because I am also asking for a steady source of income that way, which I know is a lot demanding, I am met with difficulty. Yet even this demand is not impossible. I know I could hack it, if only I could tap into the right market: clients from all over Metro Manila's offices and universities, and beyond, just waiting for me. Because I've been a long-time blogger, I can even do blogging work; just spare me the repetitive jobs like SEO writing. There are many freelancers like me out there, it's true, but I strongly believe there's also an entire multitude awaiting our assistance. Like they say, it's a big world -- there's more than enough to go around.

I am incredulous at my situation because it’s totally unbelievable. No one of my stature at my age could possibly be jobless. I am a UP graduate and a DOST scholar, too. The knowledge and experience I have accumulated in my field in my accidental profession as a freelance writer is nothing to sneeze at. Just like most of my contemporaries, I should still be seriously at work, saving big while enjoying the fruits of my labor, among which is imparting the knowledge I had gained in my 20s and 30s. And yet here I am.

As I sit inside a 7-11 branch along Merville Access Rd. waiting for the right break, I can see my raison d’etre staring at me in the face. It comes in the form of a billboard hanging near a David Salon franchise. It says, “Stamina Fitness Center. Specialize (sic) in Women’s Body. Services Offered: Loose (sic) Weight. Gain Weight. See Upstair (sic!)." And that's just for starters.

“See,” I convince myself, “I am not totally useless yet. I can still copyedit, or if worse comes to worst, proofread.”

To be really accurate about it, I wasn’t totally left jobless after I lost my job at the last company I worked for. The truth is the Australian client in our project suddenly backed out because of change of plans, and Innodata, to be fair, offered me another project. The problem is the new schedule being offered was an option that would have killed me at the time, given my sensitivity to heat and humidity. Moreover, there’s the other option of continuing my tutorial work online. The problem with this one is that the work is too demanding intellectually and too stressful to handle because of the time frame for each essay I have to work on. This part-time job always left me feeling exhausted, causing my blood pressure to shoot up to dangerous levels. As well, I could still probably be a contributing writer in several media outfits. However, I know the tight deadlines would be oppressive. Besides, the pay in media writing leaves so much to be desired. It was never a source of sustenance, to begin with, that’s why I treated media work as more of a hobby. Simply put, I need a bread and butter, a stable, because steady, source of income.

Lastly, I had clients now and then, as a freelance writer and editor – my friends, mostly, who needed someone to edit their work or help with their graduate school assignment. But with this arrangement, I could hardly make both ends meet. I have bills to pay, among other responsibilities, and since these are my friends, I tend to accept starvation pay. Charity can’t keep my body and soul together. I need stability more than the kindness of favors.

What I get instead, in the face of the certainty of financial obligations, is some great uncertainty. One can just imagine how anxiety-inducing, even panic-triggering this is. Where, pray tell, would I get my next meal, and I mean literally? “Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?” (Yes, I am quoting Rent, the musical play.) Even if I could ask cash from a few members of my family, that would be too embarrassing for me. I know it's a matter of pride. All my life, I was the giver, and because of my background, I am loathe to tell any of them, “It’s payback time,” because I’d like to think I gave because I wanted to, without any preconditions, and not because I was bound to get something back. At least that's an important lesson I want to teach everyone. I found that it’s utterly humiliating to ask my siblings for anything, even if they are my close siblings, because they each have their own obligations, too, and as I said, I don't want to impose myself to them as another obligation.

Frustrating and embarrassing is the ensuing disability to give, no matter how much I wanted to give anything to anyone. I want to be the one providing for my parents in their old age; I'd endure all that complaining it entails; no, I will try very hard not to complain of compassion fatigue by thinking of my obligation as sacrifice by choice. I want to be able to give anything in support to any family member having a birthday, wedding, and the like. I too find joy in giving nice things to other people I care about.

At this point, perhaps what I need to practice more is to receive, without any trace of embarrassment or humiliation because of pride.

I have tried searching for jobs online, but so far, I have been unsuccessful. I tried Odesk, Craiglist, Freelancer, and Elance, but I have yet to find something of interest to me. And with the closest project I had found to have potential, did it have to be a ghost-writing job for an erotic material ("How to give oral sex")? More than gasping at the prospect, I laughed, and incredulously said to myself, “God, why this, of all subjects?” I knew I couldn't hack this one.

But, yes, this desperate situation has forced me to swallow my principles a bit. When a friend requested me to write her paper for her because she was too busy to do it, I had to say yes, even though a part of me was revolting at the very idea of cheating her teacher. I am a part-time English writing tutor, not a ghostwriter of term papers. To what lengths of ridiculousness will I be subjected to next? I hope I have tanked out, I hope I have reached bottom.

Right now, here I am writing down my heartache in the middle of trawling through the vast ocean of social media, hurling lines and hoping to catch small fish, or hopefully big fish.

Snapped back to square one, back to job-hunter mode, all the thoughts of rejection and uncertainty from the past are coming back one by one. I am particularly reminded of the jobs I longed for but didn't get: The teaching position I was hoping to win at my high school alma mater, Pangasinan State University, College of Education, any of the office positions I was expecting to snag at the Department of Science and Technology and its many allied agencies, the researcher position at the Philippine National Oil Company, and so on. There was also the high possibility of a good job with great benefits at the US Embassy, which I forsook in favor of Asec, and the attempt to be a media regular for the long haul, which did not happen, for some reason (my media writing career was in fits and starts, especially when I discovered blogging, where I could write anything I wanted in any way). A few years back, I also tried Landbank because I have many backers there, but I failed even at this latest attempt.

One of the things I learned from being jobless/unemployed is that it is impossible to live without money, and very difficult to live without a steady stream of income. I have learned to let go of my wishes and desires and make do with what’s available. I had to forego malling and my cherished time at the café with friends. I had to let go of movies, concerts, and plays as well, which can cost an arm and a leg. I had to refrain from buying new clothes; I couldn’t afford it anyway. If I prefer a bath soap with aloe because of my dry skin, I had to make do with the usual soap that everybody uses. The same goes with shampoo, toothpaste, and other everyday things at home.

I had to account where every peso goes to. My typical day is not expense-free. It means spending for the following immediate needs: vegetables and fruits, meat/fish/canned goods, tip for the garbage disposal guy. Lest I forget, I need to spend for the following in advance if I have to stay alive, and sane: rice, water, mineral water (because the tap looks suspicious), electricity, other kitchen essentials (cooking oil, spices, condiments, etc.), Internet, gas, maintenance medicine, bathroom essentials, newspaper (because I don’t like watching the news and reading news online tires me out).

If there's anything positive about this, perhaps it is that this has driven me to feel for the jobless much more intensely than before and those who lose their jobs at the snap of a finger with zero safety nets. I can say in all honesty "I feel your pain," because I have gone through it personally.

Where do I go from here? I am now officially a soul of an unbaptized child, waiting for redemption on the wings of uncertainty.

Monday, July 22, 2013

 

Answered prayers

I'm bad at gratitude when it comes to God. I'm bad at remembering the blessings I received, and better at complaining. I figure I should jot down all the tremendous blessings I received after praying for these concerns, some for just a few minutes or days, some after how many years. I should recall in vivid detail how each prayer was answered.

How I got this new laptop.

Finally finding a job with Saturdays off.

How Ronnie found work after years of unemployment.


How Ronnie's work situation changed, particularly his crazy, inhumane schedule after an inspection by the Labor Department.

How my mother and father found little livelihoods in their sunset years, restoring their dignity.

How Robert got into Angelicum College in Quezon City ad finishing his B.S. Computer Science course.

How he landed a job at the Philippine Women's University after failing to find one for the longest time.

How Rommel managed to finish school, Computer Technology at Polytechnic University of the Philippines

How Ricky found work after losing his job at Temic/Telefunken

How he and his wife were able to have their marriage blessed in church (the same prayer I have for the rest of my poor siblings)

How this person became a member of our community after I prayed about it in a stroke of genius moment

How I got cured of serious psychological-emotional problems rooted deep in my family history

How I was able to visit the Sto. Nino de Cebu Shrine after wildly wishing for it, with no hope of ever making it a reality -- within just a few months, I think.

How I was able to wriggle my way out of two of the most stupid things I ever did in life: max out on my Citibank credit card, not just once, but TWICE!

How patches of hell in Metro Manila got their taste of major urban renewal after I prayed over it while suffering its terror and ugliness. (Pasay Rotunda is still awaiting God's response to this day, though, but the time will soon come.)

Nothing is impossible with God. God answers prayers. I've proven it for myself a hundred-, thousand-fold.

I owe these stories to God. I have lots to write about just recalling each answered prayer. To think these are just the personal and family prayers!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

 

Which part are you in the house of Christ?


Today’s first reading tells us that you and I are members of the same kingdom – a "country" whose residents include saints in heaven as well as the family ("household") of God that still lives on earth. With citizenship come certain responsibilities.

St. Paul says, "You form a building." The foundation is the apostles and prophets; the capstone is Jesus. Which part of the building are you?

Are you already deeply involved in ministry? You're a pillar. Are you covering in prayer or financial support the ministries that others do? You're part of the roof. Or maybe you're a window through which others look in and realize that they want to join the Church, or a window sill upon which people lean as they look for God. Maybe you're a fireplace, warming others to the idea of having faith in God, or one of the bricks in the fireplace that keeps danger from spreading.

Are you a carpet that gives comfort to feet that have been walking on hard roads? Are you an altar because of the sacrifices you make for others? Are you a chair that gives others rest? Are you a keyhole that unlocks the love of God in people's hearts? Are you a crystal chandelier shedding the light of truth and giving it a wonderful sparkle? Are you a telephone that helps others connect to God?

Imagine what this building would be like without you. You are needed, my friend! You are very, very important. There are never enough telephones and chandeliers and soft carpets and other furnishings that make the House of God what it needs to be.

Many try to live on the outside, thinking they can have a good relationship with God without being part of the Christian community. Some only visit and don't help with the chores. And some complain that the building is too large and that nobody reaches out to them.

The only way to experience the support and love of God's household is to get involved in the family. This is how we become a "holy temple in the Lord" rather than a bunch of unconnected people who profess the same faith yet remain strangers. If it seems like the Church has cracks in it, it's because some of the construction materials are missing.

By our love for each other and a spirit of collaboration, we are "being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit." This is how faith grows. Notice that, in today’s Gospel reading, Thomas overcame his doubts while in community. Although Thomas had missed Christ's first appearance, Jesus did not go to him and appear to him alone. Jesus waited until Thomas rejoined the community.

Never underestimate how very important you are to the community life of your Church!


- Terry Modica

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