Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How to Celebrate Birthdays with Technology

I am often on travel. Because of technology people are more mobile than ever before. We can be from one corner of the world and to the other side in just a matter of hours. Technology is supposed to help us live a better life. Although technology can let you travel a great distance in a short time, technology can also bridge people together faster. Here is how I was able to celebrate my birthday with my family despite the great physical distance with them.

1. The good "old" e-mail

Yes, email may sound old but it is still relatively a new technology that brings people close together. The first birthday greeting I received today is through my email. And to prove to you that email is not an outdated technology, the emails I received are from my friends who are senior citizens. Of course, they still pride themselves to being abreast with modern life because they know how to use an email. E-mails like mails can be saved. And I love reading mails again and again even after years have gone.

2. Facebook

Facebook messages can bring your message across faster. The simple greetings in my posts are heartwarming. The FB posts are public, making any birthday announced publicly. Good for me, I am not home so I am saved from the usual dinner blowouts and parties. But it blesses me to receive greetings, wishes and prayers from family and friends. FB can make e-birthday celebrations.

3. Skype

Skype allows you to feel like you are with your loved ones. The first greeting I received on my birthday was a skype call from my wife. Skype gives the technology where I can talk to my wife and see her at the same time. What more, it is free. I can even talk to other family members simultaneously even if they are in different places. Even with a different timezone, our celebrations can happen at the same time. My family prepared a thanksgiving meal for me with a cake and they sang a birthday song and I can see and hear them. I even get to blow the cake.

Technology can really bring people closer together despite the physical distance. But sometimes, we only realize this when we are apart. So, the next time we are together with our family and friends, let us make sure we enjoy each others presence. There is nothing much comforting than being in the presence of your loved one. "And remember that I am always with you..." M

atthew 28;20.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Three Steps to Glimpse God's Glory

* Sermon by Rev. Dr. Nezer A. Soriano delivered during Transfiguration Sunday in Kamuning UMC, Quezon City last February 15, 2015.
Text: Mark 9: 2 - 9.

The Lord be with you.

Recently puro, bad news ang nababasa natin at puro bad news din ang sinasabi ko sa mga patients ko. So, I am happy to share God’s good news today.
Let me share a story. I recently told a patient she has hypertension. She cried after I told her that. I asked what made her sad? She replied, she will probably die of heart attack or stroke in a few years time. I told her, she can reduce the risk if she would change her lifestyle. I told her if she would avoid eating lechon, kare kare, stop eating too junk foods, burgers and fries, avoid softdrinks, stop partying at night, sleep early and exercise regularly she would decrease the risk. She cried even further. (You are supposed to laugh). She was only seeing the disease. She only sees superficially.

Let us pray.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday and our Gospel story tells us about this event.
A week ago, Jesus was talking to the disciples about his coming suffering, crucifixion and resurrection. The disciples were scared at what they heard. They criticize Jesus for speaking about death. They only understood the superficial meaning of the sufferings Jesus will experience. Maybe they were scared for Jesus. Imagine your friend talking about the pain, humiliation, struggles and even death that he will experience.
Even though the disciples has been with Jesus for the longest time, and have witnessed the miracles of Jesus, how he healed the sick, how he fed thousands, how he commanded the wind and rain to stop, they only saw a Jesus as a mortal being prone to suffering and pain.

How long have you been Christians? I have been a Christian since I can remember. I know of Jesus from Sunday School. Every CI I receive Jesus in my heart. Just to be sure. Yet, everyday in the clinic and in the hospital, I only see things as they are. I only see sickness, suffering and pain as they are. And for many of us Christians, we just see things as they appear to us. Look at the person beside you. He is just a friend. Look at the other person across the pew, just any other church member. Every Sunday, we just see the worship service as a time to sing songs and recite your prayer requests. We often do that. Yes, we see Jesus but only superficially.
Now, everything changed for the disciples when they saw beyond the superficial. This is especially true for Peter, James and John in their transfiguration experience.  An experience when they had a glimpse of God’s glory.
We need to learn to see beyond the superficial to be able to see the glory of God, even if it is just a glimpse. Let us continue our story and journey with the Disciples and learn from them, how they were able to see beyond the superficial. And have a glimpse into the glory of God. Three basic actions.
 
First, climb and expect to see God.
Jesus invited Peter, James and John to climb up the mountain.  In the mountain, they saw God. The mountain has been symbolically the place where we meet the divine. I do not tell you to climb mountains although that is a good spiritual exercise that I will encourage you to do. But climb mountains everyday. Be intentional in meeting God out of the ordinary. In everyday people you engage with. In everyday activities that you do. In every place that you go. You can meet God there.
For example, when you go to church on Sundays. Do you expect to see God out of the ordinary things we do here in church? Or do you expect to sing hymns only? Do you expect that the words that comes from your mouth will be heard by God? Or when we light the candles as we begin the worship service? Do you just see a candle being lit? Or do you expect to feel the presence of Jesus symbolized in the light? Or when we give offerings? Are you intentional in allowing God to use these resources for his work or do you see money subtracted from your budget? Do you expect to see Jesus in the fellowship of your fellow Christians? Do you expect to see the image of God in the other person beside you? Hindi ko naman kilala yan eh. If you do not climb the mountain - if you are not intentional in finding time to meet God, it will be difficult to see God’s glory in ordinary things. Peter, James and John found time and were intentional when they climb the mountain that they will commune with God. Climb the mountain.

Let us continue our story. The disciples are now ready to see God. They prayed. So they closed their eyes and fell asleep. How many of you are falling asleep when you are praying? Paminsan nga kahit sa sermon, natutulog. Tignan mo yung katabi mo, kung nakapikit ang mata, wag mo distorbohin, nagdarasal lang yan.
In the Gospel of Luke, while the disciples were in the mountain praying, they were sleepy. Their eyes were closed or maybe half closed. The disciples had to open their eyes wide to see the transfiguration.

Open your eyes. That is the second principle.

Luke noted that Peter, James and John were very sleepy at that time but when they opened their eyes and became fully awake, they saw the glory of God. We need to open our eyes to see God’s glory out of the ordinary. We will only see the physical being of Jesus if we are sleep and half awake.
By opening our eyes, I do not simply mean that idilat mo ang iyong mga mata. Ako, dilat na dilat ang mga mata ko but sometimes I still do not see clearly. More than the physical eyes, we must see with the eyes of our hearts and our soul. That is the message of the song “Open the eyes of my heart” by Michael Smith. “Open the eyes of my heart… I want to see you… High and lifted up… Shining in the light of your glory”

When the disciples opened their eyes, the eyes of their hearts and soul, they saw a bright light shining from Jesus. God’s glory was revealed to them. If we open the eyes of our heart, if we are fully awake we can see God’s glory beyond the ordinary. They saw that Jesus was not just any other prophet or teacher, they saw he was divine.  They saw God’s glory.

Now I have to explain that the transfiguration of Jesus did not mean Jesus was transformed from ordinary to divine. No. when the disciples opened their eyes, they saw Jesus beyond the ordinary, and saw who Jesus really is and has been all along.
Since yesterday was Valentines, let's use the example of your best friend na babae. Dati you saw her only as a friend, but you have that transfiguration moment, she was not just your ordinary friend, she was the love of your life na pala.
Their view of the ordinary was transfigured. It was transformed. We can see God’s glory in everyday people we meet. We can see God’s glory in ordinary events in our lives. We can see God’s glory out of the sufferings we endure. We can see glory in everyday of our lives.

Speaking of Valentines Day. It was a day to celebrate love. But what kind of love did you celebrate? Did you celebrate your love for your husband and wife? Did you see God’s love in that? Where does the love come from in the first place? The love that you received from your parents? Or relatives? Where does that come from? The love that you give to your friends? Is that kind of love the love of God? What does it mean then for us Christians to confess that God is love if your love is not the glorious presence of God in your relationships?

Open your eyes to see God’s glory in the ordinary. Open your eyes to see God’s glory in ordinary relationships between husband and wife, parents and child, among friends and even with a stranger. Lagi ba kayong nag-aaway ng asawa mo? When you forgive your spouse and confess your shortcomings to God, do you not see the glory of God? Even among strangers, when you see boy respectfully giving his seat to the elderly in a full bus, do you not see the glory of God? When you go in the hospital and see a newborn baby cuddled by a mother, do you not see the glory of God? When you see a stranger, worshipping with us for the first time, do you not see the glory of God? Open the eyes of your heart and soul to see God’s glory in the ordinary.

The third action from the disciples is going down the mountain.

Going down the mountain means moving beyond the moment. After Peter, James and John saw the transfiguration of Jesus, they wanted to bask in the moment. They were awe struck and that was understandable. If you experience the most wonderful thing, you don’t want to let it go. Maybe that is why Peter suggested that they build altars there. He wanted to enjoy the experience and stay in that moment. He wanted it to last forever.

Just like many of us, we enjoy having wonderful experiences. I remember as a student, I had those wonderful moments after receiving grades from your exams. Pagkatapos mong maghirap mag-aral at magpuyat, you will receive the passing score and your grade for the semester. You enjoy that moment. You want it to last. Sometimes, you want it to be your last. Ayaw mo na. Kaya hindi ka na papasok sa next semester. What you do after the glorious moment will spell the difference. So for most of us, after that glorious moment, you have to go down from the mountaintop experience.

The disciples just did that. They had a glorious experience and wanted it to last. But like any wonderful moment, it had to come to an end. They had to go back down and continue the ministry work. And when their faith was being tested, they used that moment to strengthen them during the difficult time when Jesus was arrested, crucified until he resurrected.

You don’t have to hold on to that singular glorious moment. My dear brothers and sisters, the good news is that we can glimpse of the glory of Jesus anytime, anywhere. But we need to go down the mountain to have more glimpses of God in our everyday life. For God is always with us and around us. We can have a transfiguration experience and catch a glimpse of God’s glory everyday. Those little glimpses of God’s glory will assure us that God is always around us. That God is in control of everything. 

You can choose to live in that glorious moment or use that moment to find hope in times of struggles. You can choose to make that glorious moment help you carry through difficult times knowing that Jesus who is both human and divine had to suffer and be crucified like what we experience in this life. But just as Jesus overcome death, we know we will also triumph.  Allow God to transform our minds.

Climb. Open your eyes. Go down.

So my dear brothers and sisters, find and see the transfigured Christ in the ordinary things in our life and experience the glory of God. What you do after the transfiguration experience is up to you.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentines Day

Today is Valentines Day.

I don't usually give flowers to my wife on Valentine's Day but today I felt it is only right to give a bouquet to my lovely wife to show my love to her. I was thinking how she will feel and respond to my acts of love.

I wonder how God also thinks of our reactions to God's act of love? Everyday, we receive showers of blessings from our loving Provider. The hugs and affection from family and friends are acts of love from the Source of love. Yet, we often fail to see that.

This Valentine's Day, let us not look for love. God gives it to us everyday without fail. God brings us flowers everyday to show God's unconditional love. Only, the flowers we receive comes in different shapes and forms.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hospitality

Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church visits the Philippines on January 14 to 18, 2015.

The Roman Catholic Church members are excited to welcome the Pope. But not all non-RC are as welcoming. Some did not welcome the Pope's economic impact as private businesses closed including banks, schools and airports. Other non-Christians did not welcome the festivities and dismissed it as religious fanaticism. Some other non-RC did not welcome the Pope who reminded them of the colonization and abuses of Roman Catholics in the past.   Some non-RC Christians still did not welcome the Pope's arrival simply because they hold beliefs different from them.

That night, everybody in the family is in the living room watching the news about the arrival of the Pope. My 5 year-old son noted how everybody is watching the TV intensely.

"What's happening?," he asked.

His sister replied, "the Philippines have a visitor. He is the Pope."

"We should get ready then and welcome him also," my son replied.

"We are not Roman Catholics. Do you know what is a Pope?" her sister answered back.

"I don't know what is a Pope. But if he is a visitor, we should welcome him," my son replied.



Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

January 2015

It's  New Year.

After the holidays and feast, many people are definitely looking at the weighing scales.  The next agenda in line is to hit that ideal body weight and gain that perfect body shape before summer hits in two months time. TWO MONTHS. Gaining weight and unhealthy food intake increases the risk for lifestyle diseases. In fact, worldwide, Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are the top causes of death all because of unhealthy living.

So, how can Christians have healthy living? I have been asked this question time and again. So, from a medical perspective founded on Christian understanding, let share some thoughts. This advise is a brief summary from the e-book I'm writing. Here we go. Living a Christian and Healthy Lifestyle includes:

1. Eating healthy. Choose to eat for nutrition.

2. Exercise and meditate. Move your body and cleanse your mind.

3. Hit the ideal weight. Know your numbers.

4. Stop smoking. You have the right to breath clean air.

5. Stress relief. Cast your burdens and sorrows to God.

6. Make friends. Share God's love.

7. Pray. Pray without ceasing.


Our body is God's temple. Let us take care of it. This New Year, let us resolve to live a Christian and Healthy Lifestyle.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hospitality on Christmas

We went to a non-Christian country during the holiday season. There was a holiday spirit but not necessarily a Christmas celebration. People were coming from different places to have a vacation. We looked for a place where we feel welcome as visitors. But no one bothered. Everybody was too busy with their own stuff. Everybody was settled in their own comfortable places. We stayed in a backpackers inn as there were no more available hotels during this time.

It was quite an experience going to our inn. We had to walk for almost a kilometer from the nearest train station before we could reach the place. We walked carrying four big luggage plus our backpacks while tagging along 3 kids and walking on sore foot and broken ankle. When we reached the inn, the inn was full. We had to wait until late in the afternoon because the room still needs cleaning and the previous room occupant has not yet checked out. So we had to wait in the crowded lobby - standing. It was really a tiring but learning experience for me.

Our Christmas vacation made me reflect on the story of Mary and Joseph as they were traveling to Bethlehem and were looking for an inn that night. All the inn was full. Maybe they were as tired as we were, NO, much more tired as they had to walk and ride the donkey while we rode the bus and train. They had to walk for several kilometers while we only did one. We were fortunate to find an inn, although we needed to wait before we could settle in, but Mary and Joseph had no room for an inn. And so they settled for the manger. Our Christmas story this year was quite an experience that will change my perspective of the merry making holidays. Hospitality takes on a whole new meaning. The Christmas story of Mary and Joseph and the unborn baby changed the world. Do we have a room for them in our hearts?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent and Christmas

It's not yet Christmas. It is December. But it is still Advent.

December 25 is Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Below is an Advent Sermon I delivered during the Simbang Gabi on December 20 in Kamuning UMC leading to the Christmas Season.

Advent: Waiting for the coming
Luke 1:26-38

Who among you already had their Christmas party? How many of you opened their gifts already? How many of you have their gifts still wrapped? We are teaching our kids to also wait until Christmas. We already gave Christmas gifts to our kids as early as November, but they are not yet opened until now.  This will be the message for us this early morning.

We are on the third week of Advent. Advent is a season of waiting – hopeful waiting. I hate to break the bad news, but in the Christian calendar, it is not yet Christmas. It is still advent, the season of waiting – a time of anticipation and expectation… expecting for the coming of Jesus and anticipating for that day to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas day, and hopeful waiting for the second coming of our Lord.

Our story this morning is about that anticipation period. The time before Mary gave birth. This is the time when Mary became pregnant and had to wait for that first Christmas.  This was about a little teenager girl. Imagine a girl – in a patriarchal society, she is considered a second class citizen. This is a child – in a society, she is innocent and without experience. She was given a task by God and the task is big – to bear a king.

Let us focus as our story tells us that Mary will be pregnant. She will be expecting. She will be waiting for nine months until the boy whom Israel has been waiting to be their messiah will be born. I remember princess Kate and prince William when she got pregnant with her baby two years ago. It was all over the news, people were excited, not only English people. People were waiting and anticipating, they even camped outside the palace and the hospital during the due month. She will be the mother of a future king. People asked, “is it going to be a boy? lalaki kaya? Healthy ba yung baby paglabas? Guapo ba?” How did the Princess feel? Ano kaya yung iniisip niya? Ano kaya yung pressure sa kanya to be expecting a baby king? But that’s for a princess. How about the commoner? Yung ordinary pregnant women?

What is it like to be expecting a baby and waiting for it to be born? I had a patient who became my friend (Gina) who wanted to get pregnant. They were expecting to get pregnant for years. They waited for the baby to be born. They got pregnant after more than 7 years of waiting. While they were waiting, they were also preparing. While waiting for the baby to be born, there needs to be preparation. As doctors, we help the family, the father, especially the mother to prepare for the coming of the newborn baby.  

Pregnancy is a time of preparation. “Nine months of preparation yan.” You need pre-natal care. We make sure the mother is healthy. Regular check up is needed to make sure no infection that will jeopardize the pregnancy. We need to provide nutritious food and vitamins to the mother. Also given is vaccine to the mother to make sure no  infection happens. Then we need to monitor the baby inside that it is healthy. We do an ultrasound. We check the movement of the baby and the position of the baby. We also tell the family to prepare a baby bag ready to be brought during the due date. We ask the mothers to prepare a duster during that day. We ask the father to prepare diapers, ready some medicines that will be necessary during the birth.

Pero hindi ko pa rin maintindihan hanggang ngayon, kapag may nanganganak at dinala sa ospital yung tatay wala pa ring tsinelas. Kapag hiningi mo yung lampin, yung mga gamit, dextrose, gamut wala daw. Wala din daw dalang pera pambili ng gamut sa botika. Emergency daw kasi kaya nakalimutan. Nine months siyang nagbuntis, they were expecting for this day for nine months pero wala pa rin preparation. Emergency pa rin. Hindi napaghandaan.

The Advent season is a time for us to prepare ourselves as we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus. Most of us are unprepared for that coming of Jesus. As Christians we are like Mary, we are made pregnant by the Holy Spirit. That is the good news. The Holy Spirit has filled us. Within us, we bear the image of Christ. But many of us are not ready to give birth to the image of Christ.

We fear and doubt that great things will be accomplished. We cannot do it because we are too small, we are too weak. We are just simple people. The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 winner is the youngest winner. She is a little girl. She is only a teenager, 17 years old. She is Malala Yousafzai. She is a Pakistani. She is advocating for women to be educated. She wrote a blog for this advocacy because the Taliban ban the education of girls in their country. When she became famous because of this advocacy, the Taliban tried to silence her and shoot her in the head. She survived it.

Educating little children and forming them in Christian values is a preparation for these children to become willing instruments of Gods plan. We need to prepare them early and properly to become willing instruments of God. The world will experience the saving grace of Jesus in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, pulling down the wicked, finding the lost, through the body of Christ today.

We join the anticipation of the pregnant Mary. She anticipate the birth of a child who will deliver Israel. Mary was told that his son will be the king who will reign over the house of Jacob forever. We anticipate that day when the hungry will be filled, the rich are sent empty, the sick healed, the humbled lifted. As Christians, we are made pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the image of Christ. We wait with hope, we wait with joy, we wait in solidarity with all who suffer. We wait knowing that it will come. As we wait, we know that God is with us as all of us are pregnant and filled by the Holy Spirit. The challenge for us, are we ready and willing to give birth to Jesus Christ in our life?