Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Dawn 'til Dawn"

In college, my classmates and I were assigned to design a product and then advertise it as part of a communications class. We decided to "create" a new perfume. We called it Dusk 'til Dawn. Catchy name, isn't it? We were actually very proud and happy of our great idea. Then it was time to design a commercial for it. We had to do both print and audio advertisements. Thankfully, we didn't have to do a TV commercial. We composed a song for the project and we had to look for a "model" to promote the product.

You have to use your imagination on how we did all these. You have to understand that we lived in a small town, we had a small-town setting, and we didn't have the accessibility to a music studio to record our "jingle" nor did we have the modern-day luxury of having high-tech equipment at our disposal to use for these ads. All we had were our "raw" skills and talents, backed-up by the theories and lessons we got from the advertising class. We also had our creativity and our imaginations tucked under our belts, lots of it. It was so much fun working with friends who had the same interests as I had back then. And when the product creation, song composition, the photo shoot, and the creative deliberations have all been done and put into paper, it was time to unveil the Dusk 'til Dawn commercials. And of course, we nailed it! Those were very exciting times indeed, and lots of great memories. We had a blast.

Why did we call the perfume Dusk 'til Dawn? We wanted to create the impression of a long lasting, all-day-long scent. Just by hearing the name of the perfume alone, we wanted to create the feeling of an enduring and top quality product. This is one factor of advertisement --creating and injecting a need in people and then meeting that need with a product that needed to be advertised so people would know that it exists. Our main target consumer was the female gender, for we know that women like to smell great from morning 'til night, and when you're in a tropical climate, that's always a challenge. But with Dusk 'til Dawn, problem solved! Easy enough, huh? I wish.

We love products that can stand the test of time, live up to the promises they give, and those that meet our expectations. I'd like to believe we now have become very smart consumers. With all the information, data and feedbacks available to us anytime we can now make informed choices of what's the best for us and our family. I hope. Sometimes we try new products after careful research and consideration but still they end up to be a waste of money. There are times that these products can even be harmful to us. But we learn our lesson, we move on and we try to stay away from those particular products and brands.

If only manufacturing industries and consumer companies will make and promote products which are of outstanding quality that meet people's "high standards," they will have loyal buyers for ever! Yet I know it's not as easy as 1-2-3. For one, even with the best-est of our highest standards, humans are inherently flawed. And when matched with some human error, negligence here and imperfections there, we will always be a problem at hand. Defective and contaminated products end up in our cupboards and into our homes all the time. Product recalls are everywhere. Lawsuits are coming in from all sides against giant corporations and even against the "small" farmers and manufacturers. We try our very best but our best isn't good enough, as some song lyrics go somewhat.

Even with the make-believe perfume we created, we couldn't make it flawless. It was just a figment of our imagination but we could only do so much, limited by our minds, hindered by our resources and pressed short by our talents. We can't even come up with a perfect product out of sheer creativity. We could have named it "Dusk 'til Dusk" or "Dawn 'til Dawn," to give the illusion of a 24-hour, forever-lasting, best-quality perfume. Yet even if we tried and did that, no one would've believed us. And there goes our target consumers..... 

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." -1 Thessalonians 5:21

Thankfully, there exists a real "Dawn 'til Dawn" presence in our lives. Whether we like it or not, there is a 24/7, enduring, omnipresent and perfect Being that exists amidst of us. Like any "smart shoppers," we wouldn't and shouldn't believe nor accept and trust in such an existence just because some people happen to preach it. We must do our own research on this very important subject. We must never believe anything until we are fully persuaded and completely convinced that it's absolutely true. God Himself tells us to ask Him for wisdom so we may understand His Word through the Holy Spirit. He also tells us to "test all spirits" so we may not be deceived. We are also encouraged to study (not just read) the Scriptures so at the end of the day, there's nothing more we can say and we are left with no more excuses on whatever decision we arrive at in regards to His claims of truth and His existence.
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." -1 John 4:1-3 

Dawn 'til Dawn. Dusk 'til Dusk. What an all-encompassing, all-inclusive descriptions. We have absolutely no escape. From sunrise to sunrise and sunset to sunset, God's presence is with us. Whether we believe it or not, His existence is real and it doesn't need to be advertised to create a need within us for we were created with that need He alone can fill. We may try to hide or deny Him from our minds but we only end up miserable and hopeless. No matter how much we convince ourselves that we are in control of our lives and everything that happens to us yet the powerful truth is, we can't even control the daily oxygen supply from the air that we breathe. Ultimately, we can not even control our own death. This is His universe, we can try to exclude Him from our lives but we can only do as much. Even all the hard-core atheists are not excluded from His perfect love. Without our permission, God still exists, God still reigns, and God still continues to love us.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A "Boring" Life

"I'm bored!" Kids these days, that's all they say! I'm glad I don't hear it much too often from my teenager. Looking back to my own teenage years, I don't ever remember being bored. Maybe my memory doesn't serve me right anymore but I honestly don't remember boredom. Although I don't remember parties nor "hang-outs" during my younger years either but still I had a pretty busy life as a teenager. Probably because I grew up in a busy household with six children all growing up almost at the same time? Everyone has to go to school so everyone has to wake up at the same time, use the bathroom (or fight for it, is more like it), dress up and have breakfast, prepare some lunch then get a ride to school, all at the same time. Can you imagine how it was in the mornings? Just one word --lively.

School, homeworks, projects, younger siblings to take care of, helping out in the kitchen and cleaning up the house --these are only few of what kept me to not even consider boredom. Nothing kills boredom fast than a roomful of kids trying to "survive" until the next day when we had to do it all over again. It might seem to you reading this that it was so terrible in our household. On the contrary, it was fun! Maybe stressful at times but so much fun! Tiring, yes, but that's what helped me go to bed and sleep soundly through the night. I feel a little sorry for my son now that he will not get to experience the "happy chaos" of having siblings around. Although I guess, whatever he never experienced he will not miss nor long for.

We also didn't have computers nor video games at that time. I later remembered during my freshman year in high school that we had the newest Game&Watch handheld game, but in my memory, no one was fighting to play it. It was just there, lying around in the house. Yes, we had television and radio, but those were the main source of entertainment for the adults. As for the kids, it was mainly the outdoors --street games, tree-climbing, bikes and scooters, roller skates, dancing in the rain, digging up worms and snails, ruffling birds' nests and stealing some of the tiny eggs, and throwing mud at each other. These, my friends, were what made life exciting for kids of my generation, at least in my world. Not a single minute was wasted indoors sitting behind an electronic devise (well, primarily because as I've mentioned, we didn't have any). 

Boredom. Such a dark word and an even much darker thing to experience. It might not be too serious by itself but it can also be a symptom of something deeper happening within a person. As I got older, I started to have glimpses of this "dark monster," and it's not very pretty. I don't know what brought it on but I started to feel listless about some things. I become restless quite easily after just 5 minutes of sitting down and doing nothing. Maybe it's because I wasn't used to being relaxed for long stretches of time? I was trained to be on my toes all the time since I was a kid. I'm the eldest among my siblings and I had to help out a lot in the house. As I think about it, I really didn't get to "relax" or enjoy even my after-college-days because I got married young. At 23, I already had my son. I guess, busy was my motto in life. Until my son is now grown up, and I've already settled down pretty well in my job, all my "extra-curricular" activities are on schedule and are in place, and my life in general is quite manageable. Then boredom started to creep in.

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." -Psalm 1:1-3
God knows that we become victims of boredom and restlessness so easily. He knows us too well that's why He keeps on telling us from the Scriptures to be at peace with Him no matter what our situation is. He wants us to be like trees planted by the river whose roots go so deep that no amount of currents, winds nor storms can uproot us. Have you seen those kinds of trees along bodies of water? They grow so big and so lush that if they were people, they'd look like they are the most content, happy, healthy, and sturdy people we will ever meet. And these are the kinds of trees that produce fruits that are so big, plump, juicy and oh-so sweet. I hope I can be like one of those trees, planted firmly by the Living Waters itself, basking in the "Son," and producing fruits in the Spirit that will glorify God in all His majesty forever.

Maybe, by the world's standards, my life now may seem boring since I don't do a lot of "fun" stuff. I am what you might call a "party pooper" since I don't drink any alcoholic beverages, I don't smoke, I don't party, as some people will define "partying," and I make an effort to stay away from stuff that I know are not pleasing to my God. This may seem a blow-in-the-head kind of boring and in some ways it may even be viewed as a righteous-than-thou kind of lifestyle, but really, it is not. To love the King and the Creator is never boring. And it has never been my intention to rub anything in anybody's face especially so since my only focus is to glorify God with what I do and I don't even do these things for my own self. I do it all for the One who matters the most. My life may seem boring for the world to see as I try to conduct myself according to God's standards but there's one thing I'm completely sure of --I'll be having the greatest time of my eternal life even after everything in this world has passed away.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Small World

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:11-13

The world has certainly gone smaller in a hurry. In this digital age, the world continues to become smaller with just one click of a button. The wonders of the internet continue to amaze me. New models of cellphones and electronic gadgets are sprouting like mushrooms, too fast for me to catch up. The computer world has certainly become one of the most powerful and even the most dangerous part of human life. This is the "Star Wars" age we've only watched in the movies 30 or 40 years ago, and something which we've only tried to imagine before. I've never thought I'd live to see these times. The robotic age has skyrocketed just in the past 10 to 20 years. That's scary fast!

© Copyright, MMD Images, 2011
© Copyright, MMD Images, 2011
© Copyright, MMD Images, 2011
I still remember the very first time we got hooked-up with a telephone set in our house. That was so exciting! To my child's eyes, it was the most modern, high-tech, and intimidating piece of appliance in the house at that time. Even just to make a simple call to the province to speak with my grandmother was such a daunting task that I ended up making just one call and that was it. I'd rather endure the almost 2-hour commute to visit my grandma than pick-up that strange contraption. And the ringer! Oh, how I still remember the shrill, loud bell ring of that telephone. It was more than enough to make my heart skip a beat. And do you still remember the rotary dial? I loved playing with that thing. Not to make a call but just to fit my little fingers into the holes and to hear the swooshing and rapid clicking sound it made. That was pure fun for a child, I tell you.

Then talk about complicated. It was time to call long-distance. Oh boy. I'm not even sure how we managed but we did make a few long distance calls to family and friends around the world. It seemed like there were sets of codes that we had to know to be able to speak with someone on the other line. It was like deciphering a Morse code or some Egyptian hieroglyphics. We had to dial oh-so carefully with the correct pass codes so the call can go through. Worst of all, the lines were static most of the time. And speaking of lines, have you ever experienced having a "party" line on your telephone? Believe me, it was no party. Some friendships and neighborly relations have been ruined by those shared lines.

And to top all these, I later landed a job as a telephone operator two years after college! Though I didn't last long with the job, I think it was a very exciting work. Manning a switchboard as big as a room, with cables and wires sticking out in every which way, was a small feat to tackle everyday. The job had several "stages" to it. First, I did the easier job of answering calls from people who needed help with directory assistance. When I said "easier," I meant I only needed to focus on the blinking lights on the switchboard (which meant people are calling!) and to memorize hundreds of phone numbers from the directory. Easy enough, huh? The next stage was to handle domestic long-distance calls. What's up with these long-distance calls? It seems like it carries with it a "stigma" which is bordering to traumatic. To process a long distance call back then was very complicated stuff. A lot of cables, switching, and more pass codes were involved. But I survived that stage after hours of practice and patience. Next was to process international long-distance calls. That part I wasn't able to train for because I got another job. I was a little sad though to leave that "bustling" workplace.

How about now? I don't even know if there are still telephone operators around? I guess it's one of those "endangered" jobs? One of the easiest thing to do these days is to make a phone call. No matter if it's local, domestic or an international call, all we have to do is push some buttons and voila! No more complicated codes we've got to memorize. Gone are the days of cables and operators. There's even speed-dial now, and we even have "phonebooks" on our cellphones so there's no need to memorize any numbers anymore. You ask me what my number is? Uh wait, let me call myself or check my "phonebook" so I can tell you what it is. Need to call the Philippines? No problem. Just give me the number and we'll dial it right here, right now.

Isn't all these too easy yet complex at the same time? 

"And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." -Psalm 50:15 

"Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation." -Psalm 91:14-16
But the irony of having a "smaller" world and a very high-tech environment is the reality of how secluded and lonely people have become. So many have aired their feelings of "aloneness" in this very "connected," online and crowded world. The digital age has come up with new diseases which they call cyber depression and online addiction. These are very real mental and psychological disorders caused by too much time spent on cyberspace, chatting, and building "relationships" with online people of whom you're not even sure how they really look like in person. Too much video games can also be very dangerous. Also, if it's so easy to make a phone call now, why don't we answer much more often? Why do we let the voicemails do most of the "conversing?" And when I want to ask something from a co-worker who is just two cubicles away, I "shoot" her an email instead of taking two steps to go and visit her. What's wrong with this picture?

As with any other wonderful man-made inventions, we need to ask God for His wisdom and guidance to help us not to abuse but to use these things for good. Aren't you glad that the King of the whole universe is not too busy to take your "call?" That we can always rely on His promise that He will deliver us from trouble and all we need to do is call on Him? No cables nor operators required! That's so wonderful for my limited mind to comprehend yet I trust His Word. Cellphones and the internet are great stuff which can help us do wonders in our world today and to make it a little bit easier for all of us but they can also put us in big trouble if we're not too careful. It's great to be computer savvy and to join in the fun of cyberspace communities but please, let's try to be "online" without being out-of-line.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Is Your Religion?

According to the online dictionary, being religious means of, or relating to, or concerned with religion; a pious, devout, godly person; a member of a religious order or congregation; and one who is in accordance with the principles of a religion.

And what is religion? Religion is any formal or institutionalized expression of a belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny; it is the practice of sacred rituals, rites and ceremonies as observed by the religious institution.

Whoa, brain freeze right? I first needed to pause and ponder on those meanings before I could continue with this post. Those are big words! But ok, I guess my pondering has to stop sooner or later. Now it's time for me to tackle on my very own "religiosity." 

"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." -James 1:26-27

I was raised in the Catholic religion. Growing up, I was surrounded by very deeply religious people. My grandmothers, aunts, cousins, relatives, teachers, classmates, my neighbors and my playmates' families, they were all religious. I felt so inadequate in my own religiosity as I compared myself to them. It seemed like they were always in church, they were praying day and night, they follow different traditions and rites and they attend every ritual and ceremony required of them. But not me (oops), I was too lazy to be in church all the time, I fall asleep as I recite the prayers given by the church. I just wanted to climb trees and play with my "slingshot team" rather than go to any rituals. It was always too hot to be in any kind of ceremony. Yup, that was me. No wonder I felt so inadequate and undeserving of God's blessings. I was doomed.

Fast forward to when I was almost 21 years old. I worked at a DHL branch in my hometown. I met a lot of people who come in to send their mails and packages to anywhere around the world. Through that receiving counter, I met a young pastor named Mike. One day, just out of the blue, he asked if anybody would like to have a home bible study. I don't remember now but I think I was the only one who raised my hand and I was so excited I said, "Me, me, me!" It was one of the greatest decisions I've made in my life. It was in one of those bible study sessions where I began to read the Bible and learn about God's plan of salvation very clearly and understood it for the first time. That's also where I finally made the greatest decision of my life --trusting in what Jesus has done for me on the cross to save me and to accept Him as my Lord and Savior.

As I've said, I understood God's plan of salvation in one of those studies but I did not totally and completely grasp it yet at that time. God was not done with me. You know how you understand something but then an a-ha! moment comes and it helps you to understand it more deeply and clearly than before? That's how the reality of my salvation came upon me. I knew I had to trust and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior but my sinful nature still has to catch up with my new self and of what I already knew in my soul. I was already a new creation through the cleansing power of Jesus' blood yet at the same time I was still being renewed and being sanctified starting with my mind, my thoughts and then with my heart and my deeds. I'm a work in progress. I should carry a sign with me that says: "BEWARE of falling debris -- STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION!"

As God continues to teach me, mold me, renew me, test me, restore and purify me with His power by His Word and Spirit, the more I understand that my religiosity or the lack of it, has nothing to do with His plan of salvation. There's nothing wrong with being religious but the question is, to what and for whom is our religiosity focused on? God said being religious doesn't give me any merit for His salvation. Just like any government laws, rules and regulations, all persons are required to follow those laws at all times but we know that we can't always follow them and sometimes we just simply don't. But I'm sure that there's someone out there (maybe it's you) who follows all these rules at all the time? Then an accident happens, maybe by human error or negligence and make you break the law. Despite your perfect record or spotless past history with the government, it doesn't excuse you from paying the fine, a ticket or facing the consequences of your actions. There may be some rewards the government might give to mitigate the punishment but it doesn't really erase the fact that you broke the rule.

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." -Isaiah 64:6

My point is, being religious doesn't give me any special place with God, especially if I only want to be called "religious" in order to gain points from Him. If we're hoping that by lighting hundreds of candles or by walking on our knees to the altar and by flogging ourselves that it will allow us access in His presence but the truth is it's all pointless according to God. He says in the Scriptures that salvation is only by faith. Faith in Jesus Christ alone. And that His salvation is free and is only given by His grace. Grace is a gift or favor that no one deserves.

Looking back to my childhood, I'm still the same girl. I'm still too lazy to go to church but now I do it anyway because I love God. I still fall asleep when I meditate and pray but not as much as before since my prayer is now a conversation with a Person.. I still don't follow traditions and rites or rituals primarily because I'm still a stubborn sinner but more so because I really don't have to. But there are traditions I love to follow because they're heart-warming, they're lovely and they're not against God's commands. Traditions like celebrating birthdays, some holidays and especially Christmas, having baby dedications and house dedications, and remembering the life of loved ones who have passed away, going on a date on Valentine's day and counting the years on anniversaries. 

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." -Matthew 5:16

It becomes pleasing to God when we do good works and if we become "religious" for Him. When we produce great deeds and when we try hard to be blameless in our speech and actions. These as a result of our salvation. It also becomes easier to do good things not only because we have God's power and guidance but because we do it out of our love for Him. If we're in love with someone we simply can't get enough of that person, right? We want to be with that person all the time and we do beautiful things out of that love. How different should it be when we are in love with God?

Friday, August 5, 2011

One-Pot Cuisines

This is one of my favorite things to do --cooking. I love to cook because I love to eat but I hate the clean-up after. So anytime I can get a one-pot meal going, that would be the best. I just throw in everything into a pot --the meat, vegetables, seasonings, flavoring, with water or with stock, and then boil it, simmer it, saute it, bake it or broil it, I don't care, for as long as I don't have to wash a dozen of cooking pots and wares after.

© Copyright, MMD Images, 2011
But my husband is of a different specie when it comes to cooking. He also loves to cook and he is truly a blessing when he volunteers to cook for us especially after a long day at work. He is the "traditional" Filipino cook where he makes a single dish with two or three separate pans and pots. First, he boils the meat in a nice sauce and then sauté it. Or, he simmers the fish in vinegar then fries it after. That's one of the ways with Filipino cooking. We sometimes call it "double murder" for the obvious reason that even after when it's cooked for the first time, we cook it again the second time. Boil then fry, bake then sauté, sear then broil, get it? Of course, needless to say, it's very tasty food. I love it, and with no doubt, Filipino cuisine is one of my favorites. Do I need to say why?

And yet, can you begin to imagine the clean-up after such an adventure in the kitchen? Yes, it's a small disaster. I love my husband so much and I tell him all the time that he is a blessing to me especially when he helps out in the kitchen, but I beg him to please stay away from frying oil and too many pots and pans! Yet surely, some habits are just too hard to break.

Then there's my son. He is a whole different story all together. He loves my cooking for as long as I don't put any kind of vegetables in it. But with one-pot cooking, that's almost never going to happen. One of the reasons why we don't eat out a lot, aside from the fact that everything is just getting ridiculously expensive out there, is the one fact that my son picks on his food, specifically on the vegetables. So at least, if I cook and if we eat at home, he doesn't have any choice but to sit down and eat whatever is served on the table and for him to finish with a clean plate. Oh I forgot, of course he has a choice --he can also go to bed hungry if he doesn't want to eat my one-pot meals.

© Copyright, MMD Images, 2011
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. We love him, because he first loved us." -1 John 4:9-10, 14-15, 19

One-pot meals also kinda remind me of God's love. Everything is included in His love --His grace and mercy, His forgiveness and healing, His compassion and guidance, His salvation, and with it comes eternal life. We can accept His "one-pot" love but it's a choice. He doesn't force us to eat our "vegetables" although He sure knows it's good for us. He has given us the choice to sit at His table and partake of His "one-pot meal" but He has also given us a choice to leave if we choose to. It's up to us. He never made us to be like robots. He wants us to love Him back, to accept Him, and to enjoy His offering of love and salvation through our own personal decision and choice.
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