Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jesus is my Firecracker

We Filipinos always want to welcome New Year with a bang. Our most popular choice in doing this is using firecrackers. There are also other means like trumpets and drums. Of course, we should celebrate the New Year especially if we see it as a time for a new beginning, a new start, a time to change for the better. We always want to start the New Year right as we hope for a good year ahead. But should we celebrate with firecrackers, especially us Christians? I will argue that it is unwise for us Christians to use firecrackers. I will offer three insights on why Christians should not use firecrackers after giving a short background on the significance of firecrackers.

The use of firecrackers is a Chinese tradition that we Filipinos inherited. In a capsule, Chinese people welcome their new year with the loud sounds of firecrackers to scare the evil spirits away. They complement it with the dragon dance, red color and lots of circular shapes that all symbolize prosperity and good luck. This is their way of starting the New Year right - driving demons away and welcoming prosperity in. As the Chinese have become part of our Filipino community, we have assimilated their tradition. We have adapted their tradition of welcoming New Year in the hope that we may also be prosperous like most of our Filipino-Chinese brothers and sisters. We light up the air, make noises and wear lucky colors and shapes in hoping for good luck and good health for the New Year. However, is it wise for Christians to also use firecrackers?

Firecrackers will not make us healthy. In fact, they are hazardous to our health. Every year, hundreds of people seek medical attention due to firecracker injury or poisoning. Last year, the DOH reported 613 firecracker-related injuries from the period of Dec 21, '08 to Jan 3 '09. Of those injured, 24 underwent finger or hand amputation, 116 suffered eye injuries and the rest had blast and burn injuries. The use of firecrackers is risky for our bodies and health. The Bible reminds us to take care of our bodies, the temple of God. Caring for our bodies’ means walking away from risky and insignificant practices that nay hurt us

As Christians, we are to be stewards of this Earth. It is unwise for us to engage in practices that contribute to the destruction of our world. The smoke that comes from the firecrackers increases the carbon in the air that causes the environmentally destructive 'greenhouse effect.' Add this to the fact that the debris and empty shells of the firecrackers add to the pile of everyday garbage. The production and use of firecrackers also wastes our energy resources. We must be responsible stewards of Gods creation. Let us therefore refrain from hastening Earths destruction.

As Christians, we do not believe firecrackers have the power to defeat evil like Jesus does. Only Christ has the power to defeat evil. As Christians, we also do not believe in good luck. Our hope for a prosperous New Year does not lay with luck but with Jesus Christ our Messiah. He delivers us from harm and evil. Our faith in Christ is complete that He will do great things for us, things that will prosper us and not harm us. I do not mean in a simplistic way that Christianity spells prosperity. But we can boldly say that it is in Jesus Christ where we put all our hope, our future, and our successes. We don’t have to make the loudest bang of a firecracker, because Jesus is the firecracker that will bless us through the New Year and always.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Ninth

Save the best for last. The last morning watch today was very artistic and symbolic. The theme centered on the light of the world - Jesus. The songs focused on Jesus being the light. The sermon centered on how Jesus brings light to our lives. The whole service was then highlighted by a very meaningful candle-lighting ceremony. This for me was very symbolic. The whole place was enveloped with darkness with the turning off of the lights. Add to this the fact that it was still dark outside. Only the Christ candle was the light on. The Reverend Boni then lighted a candle from the Christ candle. Then he lighted another persons candle, and another and another and another. And the lighted candles lighted another and another and another until the whole church was bright with candle lights. The candle lights were our only lights throughout the service. It kept the place bright until the Son (sun) was shining light to the whole world. It was already morning when the service ended and the darkness of the night was now replaced with brightness. Jesus has now given light to the world. Christmas is here. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Eight

Today is probably the most humbling message that I have heard. Putting the delivery aside, I was so blessed by the content of the morning devotion today. The theological assertions were so sound and were very challenging too. One of the point is the intentionality of humility. The other point that really made me pause was the kind of humility we know and the kind that God demands.
Christian humility is different from being humble. Much more, our humility does not come from us but a humility that comes from God. This I guess, and rightly so, distinguishes human from Christian humility. This is the humility that Abraham, David and Mary exhibited when God demanded their obedience. I pray for such humility that I may serve and obey God rightly.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Seventh

It was a quick and short one. The sermon that is. Time flew without me noticing it. Two more worships and the Simbang Gabi will be over too. I don't want it to be over. I'm getting used to this. I could do this forever, waking up early and worshiping God the whole time. Well, that seems like what angels do in heaven. I guess I'll have my time to do that someday. But for now, everything seems to happen so fast. Sometimes, even life is like that. We think we have a lot more years ahead and tomorrow is eternity. But when we pause and look back, it was too short a time. Time passed without us knowing it. And we haven't done a thing. But what are we supposed to do? A lot. I'm rambling here. I'm overwhelmed. It's just ironic, when everything happens fast, the sermon message begs us to slow down and be patient.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Sixth

I can get used to this. Waking up early when everyone is asleep and getting ready ahead of everybody. The Simbang Gabi as a worship service is a good morning meal for the spirit.
It was not that I had a full stomach from the breakfast served by the Abrahams, the worship services were such blessings. The words of God and the songs awakened my soul. I went out of the church energized and renewed. Despite my handicap, I felt healthy and strong. This is what a worship does to our spirits. It gives us renewed strength to face the challenges and stresses of everyday life. We usually enter the church enveloped by a dark world but after each worship, we go out and see the light. The word of God gives light in this dark world and hope in this desperate times. It is our food for our souls. It keeps our spirits healthy and strong as we battle temptations everyday. The more we face battles, the more we need food. When one is hungry, one ask for more. And I am, so I will look forward to more food for my soul.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Fifth

The youth were leading today. I remember when I was a UMYF, how I used to see things differently. I loved being involved in the church.
I was preoccupied with the thought that after the morning watch there will still be the regular Sunday service. The morning watch ends at 6 and the first regular service is at 7am. I wondered if there was going to be anybody who would take the marathon service. I mean, I could have stayed and check it myself but I was already tired. But I did came back for the 10am service. Its not that I am bragging that I went to two services today, the worship leaders had to be in all five services, that's more amazing. But that's not my point. The thing is, although there are those who are lazy to even go to church, there are also people who are tireless in going to one. The youth exemplified such faith today. They were up early and they would stay until the Contemporary service late in the afternoon today. I could only pray that many more Christians would find similar convictions.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Fourth

Fourth Simbang Gabi. I finally had some company. We weren't late too. A pastor was preaching, so we were not subjected to testimonies and speeches (no offense but I have a strong theology about homiletics). The preacher opened with a complaint about not having the luxury to choose the text and the focus of the message. Although it was more of an opening line than a real complaint, it made me reflect back on the significance of Simbang Gabi. I tend to simplify things, so indulge me if I say, Simbang Gabi is but watchful waiting for the coming and birth of Jesus. The question leads to another, how do we wait for Jesus through a worship service? I remembered the time when we were waiting for my first son to be born. We were all waiting but there was no real activity designed for the waiting. We talked about how to take care of the baby. How to become good parents. How Nea will behave as a big sister. When he was about to be born, I was at bedside watching for the signs that he is coming. On the other hand, my daughter and family were outside waiting too. While waiting, my daughter entertained them. We were ready for the new baby but we are still waiting until he comes. We were anticipating and we were hopeful. The same goes while waiting for Christmas. If Christmas is the time where hope, peace, joy and love comes to reign then we prepare for it by practicing how to do it. We give hope, share peace, bring joy and love others even as we await Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Third

Third day ng Simbang Gabi. I am starting to feel the Christmas spirit. Indeed, the lights, the decors, the cold air, the early morning service and the traditional church breakfast sets the tone for me that it is Christmas time. That is not to say that these things define Christmas. But we must acknowledge that for us humans who use our human senses, it is important for us to see, hear, feel, smell and even taste Christmas. Christmas in our hearts are prepared and also intensified by the things, events and people around us. For example, when we did not have any Christmas decor in our house last week, I panicked. We have forgotten to do our traditional Christmas tree decorations. Now, the tree serves as reminder that it is Christmas and it is the season of life, hope and love. My 3year old daughter was asking me where is our Christmas tree and why she did not get to hang decors if is is Christmas. These material things serves as reminders to us. That is why it is important for us to give importance to these symbolic things. Such could be Simbang Gabi and as the days go by, may we feel Christmas more in our hearts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Simbang Gabi: Second

This is the second day of Simbang Gabi. Let me share what 'typically' happens. Since I was late yesterday, I vowed I will be early today. So I set the alarm, to 430 am last night. Of course it alarmed but I slept it off until 511am. I have to rush my preparation, washing up and dressing all in 30 seconds. Yup. Then I have to drive up to church with a blurry windshield. I have to zoom the car to get a 15 minute travel down to 5. I was able to arrive right at the end of scripture reading. At least I got to hear the sermon, the "most important" part for us protestants (you know what I mean). However, it did not really matter if I arrived before or after the sermon. I wasn't listening. Although I heard the preacher talk about the three trees and something about Jesus ignoring the bad news of Jairos daughter's death, I wasn't listening to God's word. Probably because I was late again. I did not want to have a partial worship. I want to go the whole nine yard. So I said, tomorrow will be another chance. I just sat at the back and went through the rhythm. I just resigned myself to that thought and instead enjoyed the fellowship with other churchgoers. The breakfast was a hot arroz caldo. It was so good I had to ask for seconds. My tummy was satisfied. The meal was the highlight of my Simbang Gabi. Hopefully tomorrow the highlight will be the meal for my soul.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Simbang Gabi: First

I was on the first night of simbang gabi. The first question that popped in my mind was what was the theological significance of it. I searched it over some old books and over the internet. The most common answer is usually historical. They claim the practice began during the Spanish era when people went to hear early mass before they went to their farms. This was done for nine straight days as a novena. It eventually became a superstitious belief that completing it would give the devotee their wish. But I thought the theological significance lies on the drama of the worship hour. The mass was a morning watch to anticipate the birth of Christ on Christmas. The birth is said to be signaled by the roosters crow thus called Misa de Gallo. Worship was done to await the birth of Christ. I like the theological meaning of watchful waiting. And the mass done at dawn break was symbolic of the hope that the Christ brings, a light to this dark world. That was something to reflect for this season.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day

AIDS has just become a byword in this medically oriented world. When people talk about AIDS people talk about the virus and how it can be transmitted and how it can be avoided. Of course those are important topics. But people seem to forget about the person with AIDS. It is not that people cannot put a face to the disease but rather again because of the too much medical emphasis on the disease.

As we observe World AIDS Day let us remember the persons affected by it and the families that suffer with them. Let us pray for them that they may have strength and hope in their time of trials. That they may feel the love of God through the people around that care and support them and with the concern of all the people. Let us make this day not just a day to educate people about the disease but rather a moment where we can show our solidarity with PWA who are our brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trials and Temptations in the Hospital

My last blog was a reflection on the temptations in the hospital. I thought it was going to change when I will change the setting. But my prospective new setting already foreshadows to me much difficult scenario where temptation gets even harder to resist.

I realized early that moving in a secular world makes it tough for a Christian to remain one.. This becomes doubly tough when you are expected to perform ecular activities that goes against your belief. How do you behave when you are expected, as per tradition, to drink alcohol as welcome gesture when you know it goes against your rwligious belief? How do you say no when they only expect a yes?
By Gods grace God will deliver us from temptation. God will give us stregth and tthe right decision to make on such occassions..only by Gods grace...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to remain Christian? (Psalm 1:1)

In a hospital that is founded on Christian values but set upon a very materialistic world, temptations of evils come from every side. Even within the hospital, it is not unusual to see bits of the devil's work. You hear it from conversations about who wants to do wrong to who, thoughts of anger, vengeance, lust, and malice. You even see it done in public. The rampant and widespread claw of evil does not spare anyone. Temptations creep even to the noblest and holiest of humans.

One thing that I have realized in my stay here in the hospital is that it is easy to be a Christian but hard to remain one. Of course, at first instance, no amount of human strength will ever be enough for us to resist evil if not with the power of God. It is only by God's grace and strength that we are able to remain in God's presence.

The Psalmist in 1:1 reminds us that because we are planted and rooted deeply in the stream of water that nourishes us, we are able to withstand any withering. We bare good fruits because we are sustained by the water of life. And however strong is the wind, whatever drought may come, our strong foundation will sustain us.

Our life in the hospital cannot be said to be perfect. We will always eet temptations. In a place where everybody is stressed, fatigued, and tired; it is easy to get angry, mad, envious and commit evil. But as long as we remain close to the stream of God's living water, the peace of God will always be with us.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What To Say?

The first week of y hospital training is done. The three days that I was on duty, one thing kept bothering me. What will I tell patients? How will I be a compassionate doctor without sacrificng my decisiveness? So I thought, I will tell you folks verbatims about doctors instructions and dialogues with patients that helps me learn and become better Christian doctors.

Like the first night I was on duty, there came a patient who was drunk. He kept demanding doctors to come attend to him even after he was attended to and was already stabilized. How can a doctor refuse his pestering demands so that the doctor can attend to other patients, without being impolite to the drunk patient? Here, the doctor was very firm but gently said that "I already attended to you, talked to you but it seems you are drunk and unable to comprehend well. Now I have to attend to other patients." Simple, firm but still polite. Yet, the drunk patient still kept complaining and demanding that the doctor talk to him and attend to him. One thing I learned, a doctor need not be too polite to heed to every patient request. One must also learn to refuse and follow one own judgement especially if there are other important matters to attend to (not that the drunk patient was unimportant but that other patients are important to attend to as well). Simple logic, but sometimes difficult to practice especially when you are overtaken by annoyance and anger to persistent patients.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Looking from the other side

The last three years have been an exciting journey for me. I was given the oppurtunity to see the theology from an academic perspective. It was also a time for me to learn about church people's theology. And as I try to find and learn more about the intersection of theology and medicine, I will be looking from the other side of the equation. The next five years will be a journey into the medical field as I train to be a surgeon. I hope you will journey with me as I try to find where God is and how God works in the medical field, among the sick and the dying. I hope we will all enjoy and learn in this new exciting oppurtunity.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Psalms 51

Psalms 51
(Prayer by Little Paradise)

1 Loving and Merciful God, have mercy on me… Take away my sins…
2 Forgive me so you can see me to my basicness, simpleness, and inner beauty that is underneath
3 I recognize my wrongdoing because it is in front of my face
4 Because you are my God and you are righteous, I confess before you that I am a sinner and your judgment against me is right
5 I was born prideful already. Before I was even able to sit up on my own, I already thought I was better than others
6 You want us to be honest and laid bare before you so that you can teach us who you are and who you want us to be
7 So You have to wash my stains Lord with the best cleaner so that I will be clean and white again
8 Bring me back to life… back to my senses
9 See me for who I want to be, please
10 Make me function perfectly and re-breath into me a breath that last
11 Be with me forever. Although I am a sinner, please do not take your Spirit from me lest I feel unrest
12 Let me realize the greatness of your gift of forgiveness. Open my heart so I will allow you to do what you want instead of what I want.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jesus has bobo...

It's Holy Week. And we are trying to tell our 2 years old daughter what it is all about. Her mother told her about how Jesus came in a parade on Palm Sunday but that later some "not good" people took him and put him in "timeout." It becomes tricky because she gets "timeout" when she does something not nice to make us upset, but Jesus did not do anything "not nice." It confuses her how Jesus got "timeout." Then the "not good" people hurt Jesus and put him in the cross. With a sad look in her face, she replied, "Oh, Jesus has bobo."
Now, it's only Good Friday. We still have to tell her the story of Jesus's death and resurrection on Easter. That will be a challenge...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Who is your God?

Last weeks episode of Gray's Anatomy showed us a glimpse of how people - patients, their families and doctors, perceive healing by God.
Dr. Allison Montgomery was back in Seattle Grace to bring his brother who needed brain surgery. Her brother's case was next to impossible to be resolved. Thus, Dr. Montgomery seeks the help of God. Quite interestingly, she goes to two different gods. In one scene, we see her in the chapel, down on her knees, silently staring at the cross. We gather from her friend's comments who were watching her that she is not a known churchgoer. In fact, she doesn't know how to pray. Here is a doctor that doesn't know how to pray - basically she doesn't know how to talk to God. She cannot verbalize the desires of her heart that her brother would be healed and that her brain surgery will be succesful.
On the next scene, we see Dr. Montgomery pleading to her ex-husband, the great neurosurgeon Dr. Shephard. Dr. Montgomery asked Dr. Derek Shephard to play god - to be powerful enough to cure her brother. She pleads whole heartedly, emotionally and with with tears flowing from her eyes. It almost looks like she is praying to Dr. Shephard for help.
Here are two pictures of the gods that people look up to in times of need. In the first case, God is perceived as the healer. But as often the case, God is only called upon in times of need. God is the patch to every hole. A band aid to every scratch. On the otherhand, medicine is the healer. Medical science can figure out a creative way to work around the difficulties of diseases and solve the problem. Medicine can do anything. Medicine is god.
Notice that in the two scenario, I have left out the doctor. The reasons I did that needs another blog. Suffice it to say, that the doctor here is perceived to the gods.
The point of the distinction I am making is that in times of medical crisis, we pray to a god to help us. We seek a powerful god. Sometimes we seek help from God. Sometimes we seek help from medicine. Sometimes we seek help from both because one is not enough. It is the latter two that I will criticize. Most of the time, we are blinded by the fact that when we seek medical help we put our hope in medicine. We make medicine the god who can heal us. Yes, we might believe that there is God but we really think that it is medical science who cures us. We simply reduce God to a metaphor of healing power. We do not really trust that God can work miracles and heal diseases. Worse, like the second case, we might indeed be praying that God will heal us. But in case he does not, we hope that medicine will step up and pick up the slack. Sad but true. Now, when we ourselves are faced in a situation similar to that of Dr. Montgomery, to whom will we pray?