A Universe of Wonder

Today, I was mesmerized by the fact that I am so small.

Not in height (I already knew that), but I am talking about my size in relation to the cosmos. I’m afraid that am nothing worth compared to such vastness and immensity… but still, I feel so great. And it’s a real good shrinking feeling.

I have always been fascinated by space, stars, planets, galaxies, light years, milky way. I am a huge astronomy fan! It just goes to show that in my tiniest existence, there is an unimaginably enormous existence outside of the world that I’m actually living in. I bet I am still smaller than a bacterium invisibly swimming in the Pacific Ocean, as I am in this universe. There are even claims that our universe is not the only one; there are a lot of other universes (multiverse) that are impossible to count or explore. These have always blown my mind, why, it cannot certainly grasp its enormity!

This astonishing knowledge leads me to the realization that, everything on earth, the things in my life, or the ideals I cling to, are just a speck of what there really is. Most of the time, we get so entangled with the mundanities of everyday life, including its worries, imperfections, injustices, doubts and fears. At other times, we get caught up in our happiness, pleasures, successes, and worldly affairs. There is nothing wrong with being on a pursuit to finding life’s joy and triumph. After all, we all live and struggle to attain happiness and contentment. However, if we picture it in a larger (way, way larger) scale, everything in life is temporary… and limited. And if we focus only on this finite measure of existence, then most likely we will end up always searching for something that cannot be possibly found anywhere in the visible reality. Thus, we end up always desiring for more, dissatisfied, discontented, hungry, thirsty, wanting, incomplete.

Empty.

That’s what cripples us- the void in each one of us that is so dejecting and gruelling. And so we desperately fill it with things in this meek, small earth in order to feel complete. (But even the earth itself needs the sun for survival of its living inhabitants). It seems that all things imaginable must depend on something or someone to be complete, but wherever we look, we just can’t find our fulfillment.

That someone complete and perfect” is sometimes the most neglected reality. Maybe because he is invisible? I say He is the most visible evidence of greatness and power in all existence!

Who keeps the planets in place in space? Who knows the number of the stars and each of their names (Psalm 147:4)? Who holds together the entire universe in His hands (Colossians 1:17)? Who goes from the beginning to the end (Revelation 1:8)?

No one, but the God of the universe.

He is the God who causes the sun to rise up in the morning and set at dusk. He is the God who causes bolts of lightning and sends rain from the sky. He is the God who creatively crafts snowflakes and cause them to fall from the clouds. He is the God who sprinkled endless sands on the shore and sends waves into the seas. He is the God who breathed the stars and made the heavens when He spoke. And He is the God who breathed life into us, His very masterpiece of limitless, endless, and immeasurable love.

We are a galaxy of thoughts from our loving and great God. If He created space and time in ways that we cannot fathom, then how much more when He created our very being that is infused with the love of an eternal God? How much more value and favor and power there is?

I may not be able to fully comprehend and describe this magnificent love that I’m talking about, but I’m sure it is what has compelled me to believe and surrender my life to the One who is the ultimate expression of His love, and that is Jesus. His son whom He sent to die on the cross for our own sins is, for me, the meaning of my existence and by which God’s love is measured. He is the beginning and the end, the power that is before all things and in whom all things hold together.

It is true that we are so small. But our God, who is bigger than endlessness and eternity itself, has loved us with such greatness that our significance stands out among all the universes…

That love alone completes us, makes us understand the unfathomable, and makes us see the invisible.

How great is our GOD!

If you want to be more amazed by God’s greatness in His creation, you can watch these videos (Links below). Trust me, they’re worth watching. ūüôā

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAuGRhZsMCs

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Everything is Meaningless

If the title has raised some eyebrows, or has made you cynical or wary for some reasons, then most likely you are reading this right now. Just who is this woman trying to say that everything is meaningless?

Am I not invalidating the toils and sweat and tears of those who struggle to make a living? Or, am I not discrediting all the good deeds of my fellowmen with kindred spirits throughout history?

For goodness’ sake, no.

But for King Solomon, he had all the guts (and glory) to proclaim that everything on earth is completely and utterly meaningless!

‚ÄúEverything is meaningless,‚ÄĚ says the Teacher, ‚Äúcompletely meaningless!‚ÄĚ

What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‚ÄúHere is something new!‚ÄĚ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don‚Äôt remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)

The melancholic mood of Ecclesiastes is so great and articulate that when one gets to read this account of King Solomon, there may either be wonder, confusion, or curiosity lingering in our minds. If King Solomon really had “everything” then- unparalleled wisdom, great wealth, and fame- then what made him come to the conclusion that everything is actually meaningless?

For starters, King Solomon, amidst all the splendors of worldly pleasures and possessions, was saying that all things in this world are just temporary and fleeting. All things, i.e., material possessions, money, beauty, popularity, career, achievements, and trials, difficulties, hardships, pain, suffering, and misery alike, will all soon fade. Even life itself will pass away (Matthew 24:35, Psalm 103:15). He presents that reality that we are mortals and all that is on earth will soon vanish. Hence, “meaningless”, like a chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

He is asserting mortals’ need for something or someone who is imperishable or relentless. One that is persisting and enduring throughout the ages. Solomon is pertaining to the One who has an endless existence and essence. Every part of his Ecclesiastes account portrays the stark contrast between the mortality, limitation, and helplessness of man and the endlessness, power, and greatness of God.

I, for one, have spoken these for a few number of times, “Bakit paulit-ulit na lang? Wala nang katapusan. Para tayong mundo, paikot-ikot lang.” (“Why does this happen again and again? It seems to be never-ending. We’re like earth on its orbit, going round in circles with no end.”). When I heard myself crying out in consternation, I remembered the king of Israel. I concede to his words.

History merely repeats itself. I believe that I am not the only one in the boat, many of us are in the same boat. We go through a great deal of trials and heartaches and difficulties, and they are inevitable. Our forefathers themselves also experienced the circumstances we are facing today. Ever since time began, human beings all have felt happiness and sadness alike, peacefulness and anger, or fulfillment and frustration. Nothing is really new.

Now, who am I really to complain about the pursuit of human life? Even the wise King Solomon was not spared from the mundaneness and “senselessness” of earthly existence. Thousands of years have gone by since he reigned in Israel, and here I am, seeing these temporal circumstances as nothing more than ordinary and repetitive.

Nevertheless, I am more greatly filled with gratitude and content that in the midst of these tedious life processes, there is Someone who never ceases to give me a new heart each time I am weary. God’s grace for me is new everyday and His love for me never changes. I know that there is an end to these seemingly perpetual worldly undertakings, and, when that time comes, one thing is for sure will never end- my praise and worship before His revealed glory.

On Idolatry: Who is Your God?


There’s this story I read tonight about a mother who is so passionate about writing her own book. Little did she know that she was slowly veering away from her duties and responsibilities for her family… all because of her utter obsession with her ambition. Then one day, a friend truthfully told her that her writing was not ‘that good’ and that it needs a lot of work. That struck her so hard that she realized she’s forgetting the real important things in life- her motherhood, her marriage, and most of all, her devotion to God.

 
I love how God simply describes idolatry. Idols don’t just come in carved little statues or beautifully painted images or faces. They can also be money, fame, vanity, physical beauty, profession, job, accomplishments, talents, intelligence, your ideals, your car, big house, your lover, your happiness, your calling, or even yourself. Basically anything or anyone you’re so obsessed with, and anything or anyone you put before God is an idol (Exodus 20:3). An idol is something that you want more than God. And it is as surprising as it is hard to accept that we all have had an idol at least once in our lives.

Like the woman in the scenario, I also dreamed of writing my own book. But time and time again, God reminds me of His most perfect timing for my dreams to materialize. He is most carefully laying out His plans before me, one by one.

 
Now that I am a married woman, living as an expatriate in a foreign land together with my husband, I know that God, in all His wisdom and love, will put us in such a place where we will declare His glory and praise. He is a righteous and a gracious God who puts beautiful dreams and truth in our hearts. He is a God who banishes all idols from our lives, only when we put our full trust and dependence on Him. He is a God of perfect timing, when everything happens as He pleases and as He knows. He is a God of wait-and-see and a God who never disappoints. He is the God who put Jesus in our midst to remind us that there is hope, always. And, unlike our once-idols, He is a God who speaks, sees, hears, and breathes… Like when He breathed the breath of LIFE into us… And when He breathed the stars and all that is within our universe.

 
He is my God, and He will always be, forever. 

‚ÄúYou must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected‚ÄĒeven children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.‚ÄĚ Exodus‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠20:5

In the Name of Justice and Truth

Since I was young, I have been a firm believer of truth, justice, and fairness. It is as if they are intertwined with my DNA. Throughout my life, I have not been able to tolerate or approve of something that’s not true, or fair. Especially if it involves and affects not only my life, but also the lives of people who are very important to me.

I didn’t know then why I had such strong belief in these virtues. As a child, all I knew was that I would not want to say something that is literally not true, or pretend that I am someone who I really am not, or hide something ¬†that’s supposed to be known by the people around me. The only thing is, as I grew older and held firmly to this belief, I noticed that there are people who misinterpret me for doing so– and I am left with disbelief that some people just hate the truth.

So at one point I questioned my so-called virtues. Is it wrong to be truthful? Is it abominable to stand for what is just and fair? Is it condemning to tell the truth and abhor lies? Why do people love having two faces? Why do they seem to find favor in foolishness and pretensions? Why do they choose falsehood over truth?

Those questions lingered in my mind. They still do. I have always been thinking how come people manage to live in lies for the sake of fulfilling their own selfish desires. That’s it, my own words gave me away-¬†it’s because of selfishness.

But don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to be hypocritical. I am also not perfect and I have my own flaws. I have my own downsides and ugliness within. It is said in the Bible in Romans 3:23 that,

Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Truthfully, no one is exempted in falling short of the standards of God, for He is perfect. We all have sinned against Him, for He is the only one who’s righteous.

But this does not mean that we can continue sinning just because we know we aren’t perfect. We cannot simply justify our wrongdoings for the sake of gratifying our selfish desires.

God has given us the freedom to live by granting us our free will, but freedom is rather a responsibility. All too often, we misunderstand the freedom as a license to do anything and everything we want. But the truth is, God has given us the freedom from sin, not the freedom to sin. Jesus Christ died for us to atone our sins and save us from eternal damnation- all because God loves us that much and He never wants us to perish. In 2 Peter 3:9, this truth is being demonstrated:

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

When you have the love of God within you, you cannot and will not be able to stand sinning against Him, for love is greater than wickedness. When you have truly made Jesus as Lord over your life, your heart will be automatically changed, your perspective will broaden and your faith will grow. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, another precious truth is written:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

In the same way, those who continue to walk with the Lord would always seek to do what pleases Him because their hearts belong to Him.

Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is. (1 John 3:6)

God knows our hearts and its motives. He knows its every desire and dream. It is best to stay honest and open to Him because He knows what we want to say before we even say it (Matthew 6:8).

What sorrow awaits those who try to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their evil deeds in the dark! ‘The LORD can’t see us,’ they say. ‘He doesn’t know what’s going on!’¬†How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, ‘He didn’t make me’? Does a jar ever say, ‘The potter who made me is stupid’? (Isaiah 29:15-16)

 

When you know who really God is in your life, you would only seek to glorify Him in all you do because His love can change hearts and His words can change lives in ways that only He can do. God is a God of truth and justice. He commands us to live in the light and not in darkness, because He is light (1 John 1:5).

Let us all be careful in choosing our own path. We do not live for ourselves only. As a wise old woman told us once,¬†“(You) don’t tell lies. It is better to tell the truth right from the start to avoid pain in the end. That’s what I always told my children.”

Sure enough, our Heavenly Father desires the same. Or should I say, He desires what’s good for us more greatly than anyone does. He wants us to live a life full of love, freedom, justice, and peace. And yes, that is the truth.

“Do You Have Love?”

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it isn’t proud. Love is not rude. It isn’t self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, it always perseveres.

Love is patient. It is enduring. It bears difficulties and understands flaws. When the right time comes, love will always rejoice, it will celebrate its persistence and faithfulness.

Love is kind. Love is generous. It is broadminded and forgiving. It teaches, not degrades. It empowers, not cripples. It uplifts, not pulls down.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it isn’t proud. When genuine love is present, it doesn’t have to be a life compared to that of others’. When there is love, one can live with peace and gratitude in their hearts, because love completes and satisfies.
It doesn’t brag about what it has. Love doesn’t make one conceited nor arrogant, rather, it makes one humble and wise.
Love puts our feet on the ground; it makes us level-headed. It consumes our pride and drains our self-righteousness. It acknowledges the love of others; it is always ready to listen.

Love is not rude. Love is gentle. Love is when one is down on his knees, a hand reaches out and pulls him back to his feet to stand again. It encourages and nurtures. It disciplines in the right way. It gives what it can give, until the end.

It isn’t self-seeking. Love is selfless, not selfish. It isn’t “me first”. It realizes the sake and needs of others before oneself.

It is not easily angered. It is not ill-tempered. It sets allowance for faults and shortcomings. It does not oppress nor unreasonably judge, rather, it shows respect and understanding to those who are honorable.

It keeps no record of wrongs. Love forgives. It forgives right away. It doesn’t take revenge. It doesn’t set boundaries and conditions. It is unconditional. Love is immeasurable, unfathomable, beyond understanding. It does not imprison; it gives life. It does not condemn, doesn’t hold one’s past mistakes against him. Love sets one free.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love knows the truth. Love loves the truth. It does not lie. It does not scoff, humiliate, and abandon. It always seeks, does, and shows what is true, honorable, and admirable. It sets out the path to wholeness and fullness of joy. Love guides and corrects.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. One can trust without loving but one cannot love without trusting. Love comes with trust. They are inseparable, a perfect combination in a world that is otherwise full of lies and chaos.
Love always wants what is best for the other. It does not wish ill of others nor does it bring harm to them. It does what it can for others’ sake.
Love never gives up. It gives hope and shines its light in darkness. It provides a way out; it directs to the right path. It gives what it can. Love never gets tired. It never fails.

God is love.

Inspired by: 

Jaeson Ma’s “Love”, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and real, personal experiences

Would Anyone Care to Listen?

Only by listening can you truly gain a deeper understanding.

I will never forget that line. It’s from a life insurance T.V. commercial that I overheard some six years ago. I say, it was perfectly catchy and meaningful. It was so substantial to the point that I had to stop from what I was doing and turn my head to the television.

Days after, I waited for that advertisement to replay. When I watched the whole commercial, I got to love its essence all the more:

Listen to me, even if it is difficult, even if I don’t speak up, even if you disagree, even when you already know the story, whether it’s sad, or late…

I loved how they formulated the essence of their cause and business right off the bat. They got their audiences’ attention, and at the same time were able to insinuate in their minds that, as an insurance company, they do listen to people’s concerns.

We all have something to say. We do because we’re humans, we’re social beings. We have the inclination to convey our inner thoughts and ideas to others. We may have different ways of expressing them, but we all express ourselves either consciously or subconsciously. Some of us stay silent, or want to be just introspective. Some of us communicate verbally, or through actions and body language. Some people demonstrate their convictions through writing. We use our freedom of expression most of the time. However, do we also make use of our privilege to listen to others at least from time to time?

Listening is different from hearing. We may all hear the words a person is saying, but we can also choose to not listen to those words. Listening comes with understanding. How can we effectively communicate to each other when we refuse to comprehend, appreciate, recognize, and realize what the other is conveying to us?

Communication is not a monologue. It is a two-way process wherein both communicators are able to understand and respond to each other.

It is always important that we exercise and improve our listening skills during social interactions. One can only be an excellent conversationalist if he/she knows how to apprehend what his/her fellow discourser is saying. Your interpersonal skills are measured by how you clearly express your ideas while properly interpreting and responding to the person you are talking to.

Sometimes, I get to think why the world is full of chaos, misunderstandings, and wars. Yes, there may be people who are listening and communicating, but either one of them fails to understand and acknowledge the true essence of what the other is saying. Or maybe one of them does understand and acknowledge but fails to accept what is being said.

It is not only understanding that is needed in communication, but also acceptance.

And accepting is different from agreeing. One can accept but disagree. One can also choose to agree but not accept. The difference lies within the right and necessary way of showing this irony.

It is true that not all of us may agree with a given truth. It is also true that not all of us are willing to realize that the world does not adjust for us, but that we are the ones who should adjust to the happenings in the world around us.

The world does not succumb to our own shortcomings, but we should learn how to adapt to the unfairness and injustice in our lives.

We do not know everything, so it is but fitting to also listen to the people around us. Real wisdom does not only mean knowing a precious truth, but it is also about knowing how to apprehend the wisdom of others.

Listening also means respecting. A broad and wise perception is approved and accepted if the person himself knows how to respect other people’s decisions, opinions, beliefs, and convictions. And when one knows how to respect, then he is all the more being listened to.

We should learn how to listen, understand, and accept. If not, we can never taste the goodness and simplicity of life. You see, life is really simple. It is our own pride and ignorance that make it complicated and hard to grasp. If only there was love, understanding, and humility, then the world would be such a beautiful place to live in. If only there was the giving of chance for others to speak up and explain, then the world would be fair and forgiving as well. If only there was understanding and acceptance, then our lives would be simple and worthwhile.

Now, I have said what I wanted and needed to say. Have you listened? I hope anyone has understood.

 

¬© CJDP 2016

Credits to: Pru Life U.K. 2010 advertisements

 

At Ocean’s Depth

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

Mesmerized by the words of this song, “Oceans”, I saw myself drowning in the grace of God. Perhaps the reason why the title of my blog is “At Ocean’s Depth” is because when I first heard this song, my spirit was caught up in the loving presence of the Lord. As His words tell us in Ephesians 3:18,

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

This blog is all about the love and grace of God speaking through an imperfect and flawed woman like me. The musings contained in this portfolio of sentiments and realizations are inspired by the subtle yet powerful love of the Lord for me. As I cannot grasp how deep His love is, I pour it out through my words. Though my words can never be sufficient to at least express His goodness in my life, I try to. There is nothing that can be enough to tell of His faithfulness in my life, even at the hardest times, even at the most fearful moments. 

Even when the tides and waves of oceans are raging. 

His depth and unfathomable understanding can never be surpassed by anything that is great in this world.

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

His words convict me to trust Him in this voyage, without limits and measure. Perhaps what I have always been dreaming of is only a prerequisite of His irrefutably perfect dream for me. No one knows but Him. Perhaps what I have always loved to have is only the start of the unfolding of His indispensably beautiful plan. But surely, everything is going to be completely magnificent and amazing.

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

Though my life seemed to have no unfurled sails, I know His undeniable love is the compass of my boat. He never abandoned me in this ocean of life.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

At ocean’s depth, He is with me. And though the ocean is deep, I do not drown in the waters, but I drown in His grace.

The Reciprocity Between Giving and Receiving

I learned the word reciprocity during my college days. I was then reading Republic Act 5527 (The Philippine Medical Technology Act of 1969) Section 27:

Foreign Reciprocity. ‚ÄĒ No foreigner shall be admitted to examination, or be given a certificate of registration or be entitled to any of the rights and privileges under this Act, unless the country or state which he is a subject or a citizen permits Filipino Medical Technologists to practice within its territorial limits on the same basis as the subjects or citizens of said country or state.

It stated that no any foreign national can practice their profession here in the Philippines unless their country lets Filipinos practice Medical Technology in their territory in return. It is fair enough, I should say, since other countries are also looking for Clinical Laboratory Scientists (U.S.A.) and HAAD-licensed Medical Technologists (Middle East).

Furthermore, I had also encountered reciprocity when I studied Real Estate a year ago- Republic Act 9646 (Real Estate Service Act of the Philippines) Section 24:

Foreign Reciprocity. No foreign real estate service practitioner shall be admitted to the licensure examination or be given a certificate of registration or a professional identification card, or be entitled to any of the privileges under this Act unless the country of which he/she is a citizen specifically allows Filipino real estate service practitioners to practice within its territorial limits on the same basis as citizens of such foreign country.

It is quite similar with the one formerly mentioned, only that the latter is a different profession. All in all, almost every profession that is practiced in the country has its corresponding foreign reciprocity.

So what am I trying to say here?

The word¬†reciprocity¬†has gained importance in my everyday life.¬†I can say, with utter certainty, that in order for us¬†to receive blessings in abundance, we¬†should learn how to give generously, freely, and cheerfully. That is what I call, “The Give and Take Reciprocity”. Let me present an analogy.

A man¬†keeps and values his possessions so much. He thinks that by holding¬†these material things, say, money, jewelries, a house, a car, or any material possession, can make himself financially secure, or assured of his future, or he won’t be in deep water when the going gets tough. Metaphorically, he deliberately closes his hands, so tightly, thinking that those things are his treasured possessions. He believes those are¬†all¬†he needs in order to live and enjoy life. Because of this, he refused to give.

Time passes and he lives the same life he has lived, with the same amount of possessions, the same “financial stability”, the same mediocre life, with the same mindset. He doesn’t open his hands for he fears that he would lose something that is his. He wants to keep them all for himself. Little did he know that there are greater blessings that should have landed on his hands should he opened them by the time he was so confident that he has everything he needs, and that he was okay with it. There have been many times when chances for a better and more prosperous life were given to him, but he missed them because he thinks that when he let them go, he will live in misery.

Logically thinking, how can that man receive more if his hands are closed?

The reciprocity of life is portrayed in our ability to open our hands wide enough to give, and wide enough to receive. This fact is also counted as a law of balance in our nature: The sun rises at dawn but eventually sets at dusk. The heat of the day is replaced by the coolness of night; there is darkness after the light. The animals in the wild are under the¬†laws of ecology- they eat and are being eaten. People’s cries are followed by laughters; there is joy after sadness. And as we give, we are to receive. In the law of nature, there is balance. In¬†everything and everywhere, there is a reciprocal equivalent, there is fairness.

If we, the doubtful and the fearful ones, cannot trust this mandated balance, then we are fated to live in mediocrity, ordinarily. Like the man in the analogy, we can never have the extraordinary life that we have always wanted if we cannot trust the One who is the author of this natural balance on earth.

God is the maker of everything that we have, and it is but right and fair if we know how to return to Him what is ought to be His. We should not forget what He said in the Bible in Proverbs 3:9-10 which is called the “Principles of Plenty”:

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

God is not unjust to not give us His abundant blessings if we know how to give back to Him. If we just learn how to open our hands to give to the poor, to give support to those who need help, to share a word of encouragement to the hopeless, to bring our tithe to church, to give love to those who are feeling left out, then see if God will not open the heavens and shower us with His abundant riches!

God is also clear about giving, out of the pure intention of our hearts:

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7

Giving is not just about money. It can also be in the form of words or actions for those who who need them. If we want a wealthy and extraordinary life, then believe in the rich and extraordinary God who is “able to bless us abundantly” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Don’t settle for earthly gains. What matters most is our heavenly wealth that is intended for us in eternity.

 

© CJDP 2016

The Whispers of the Wind

The rustling of the winds is rattling against the windows. The servile movements of the curtains, the incessant chattering of the trees, and the inexplicable silence of the clouds seem to coalesce with my body, with my rhythm. They all have something to say, yes, even the mute skies, and I seem to understand every gust of the winds.

Where should I stay? Is it here inside this room? Is it beside the windows, where within an inch or two, I can embrace the breeze, the hum of air, the deafening silence of the blue sky? Where is my peace?

As I comprehend the mumbling of the trees, I can also recognise the direction the winds are heading to.  We’re going to places where we have gone before. Only this time, in a different way.

Ahh… That’s where you’re going! Can you bring me with you?

No, we can’t. First, you are not a leaf from a tree, a speck of dust, or a feather. We cannot carry you, we can only talk to you.

I was not surprised at all. The winds are selfish, brutally insensitive. They only let the things they love to be with to go with them- And I’m not one of those things. But how come they make the trees talk, the birds soar, the curtains dance, the windows shut, the doors ramble, and my mind fly? How do they do that? They are selfish and yet they lead.

They are free. They can go to places as they please. They do not invite others, however, but they bring them unknowingly.

They are selfish, yet they are loving. They go beneath a fledgeling’s wings. They never leave them until they are old, until they die. As they die, their inexistence is blown again by the wind; they whisper that once, they loved a bird.

And no, they are not selfish at all. Sometimes they are mistakenly labeled too.

And so I asked them again, But why wouldn’t you want to bring me where you’re going? Don’t you love me to be your companion?

We just can’t. We’re not commanded to take you. We’re not even strong enough to carry you. And you might get hurt if we force it.

They are not just loving, after all. They are also caring. They have a lot of sense, too.

Don’t the trees get tired of talking? Don’t their leaves give up from holding on as the winds drag them? Don’t the birds feel insecure as they lift them beneath their wings? Don’t the skies feel compelled to talk, as they watch what the winds are doing?

Behold, they are all happy and contented!

Finally, I asked the winds again, Why don’t you tell those who command you to let you carry me?

And they told me, We can never dictate. We also never know where we should come from and where we should go. We just… follow. We move from a secret place and we are gone in the unknown.

You see, you are the wind, too. You are the trees, the leaves, the bird, the skies. You are the hum of the air, and you are the silence of the clouds. You are a secret place in a beautiful unknown. You are the love, the loving selfishness, the care, the happiness, and the freedom. You are everything. And you do not know it.

At that, I was quieted.

The winds never left. The curtains beside me are still dancing, only with different tempos. The trees, still singing. A bird, somewhere, is still flying, gracefully, uncaringly. Even the waters from afar are calling out the names of infinite waves rushing to the grains of sand. And I, blown away and sensing the peace within, whispered,

I will go. I will go with you. 


© Camille de Pano, 2016

Why Do We Smile in Photographs?

We do it a lot of times. When a camera sets in, we have the automatic response of showing our pearly whites, sometimes preceded with a “Say cheese.” Well it can also be “Say pizza,” donuts, sweets or maybe even bacon. Err.. Whatever word you prefer and is classified under the food category that’ll surely make you grin with excitement is acceptable.

But what is really in smiling that we do it whenever our picture is taken? Why do we smile in front of the camera? And what is in your smile that makes you think it’s picture-worthy? Oh, forgive me. Sheez.

I have been wondering why medieval people were unsmiling or stern-looking in their portraits. Perhaps they weren’t happy about their outfit? But recently I learned that photography at those times required a very long exposure in capturing their subjects. It would take at least eight hours for a single photo to be captured by the very first camera invented (some historians say it would have actually taken days), which must be the probable reason why people couldn’t stand to smile. History also tells us that there were even head rests to support them as they did their poses. Talk about being already stressed out before the camera clicks- hence the plausible cause of Victorian people’s almost angry demeanor. Certainly no cheese moments for them.

Technology back in the 1800s was still underdeveloped. Until years later, another inventor came up with a more improved camera, the Daguerreotype camera, which only required 60-90 seconds to keep the subject motionless. And, at least hold a smile.

Another reason why people in the Middle Ages couldn’t manage to smile for portraits and photographs is that, they didn’t have proper dental hygiene. Unlike today, anyone who dreams of having perfect white teeth can wear dentures and voil√†, can flaunt their captivating smiles!

Years passed and there came the inexpensive and efficient photography that had shorter exposure time. Not only the nobles were able to afford to have their pictures taken, but also the middle class and peasants at the time. Children were also a lovely subject for photographers too, and there are old photos showing smiling children during the Middle Ages.

Media and Hollywood are also a reason why we believe a smile and a happy countenance looks attractive when we are being photographed. Actors and actresses on TV were always being candidly captured smiling, laughing, or with their mouth open. Hence, the start of photos with smiling people!

So, that was the history of smiling in pictures. On a personal level, there linger questions such as: Why do we really smile for it? Is it because it’s the norm? Or, do we see ourselves beautiful when we actually smile? Is it because we’re commanded to say cheese, or we’re being told of a funny joke by the photographer perhaps? Does smiling in photographs make us appear happy? And I mean truthfully happy?

We can always have the choice to just frown, pout, or make a poker face or show an unforgiving look. Or even make a duck face if you please! (Ughhh.)

When I was five, I held a Kodak camera in my hand. I took pictures of just about everything at the mall. Only to find out afterwards that I won the competition of some sort of young photographers. I mean, I was just so little and didn’t know anything about photography and the only scenario that I can remember is when my dad and mom were smiling for the camera that I was playing with using. Now I don’t know if they were grinning at my smallness (because I was so tiny as a child) and like, “Aww look at her! She’s so cute and little and she’s acting like a real photographer,” or something like that. Or maybe they were beaming ’cause I actually joined that contest, the timid and tiny me. Whatever their reason was, their wide smile at the photograph was clearly evident. And hey, that particular shot was my winning entry!

I reckoned that putting a smile on my face would make me look jovial and look like I’m enjoying my life! But dear fellas, I also realised years ago that smiling doesn’t mean being happy. Sometimes there’s no connection at all! Smiling doesn’t equate to the person’s real life disposition.

We can always smile in front of people but we can never fake our smile to ourselves.

We know the truth. A smile does not mask out our despair, sorrow, and sadness. It can never masquerade true happiness. Some say, “Fake it ’til you make it.” But I believe it doesn’t apply to a person’s expression of his/her own happiness. We can never fake a smile. Yes, we can smile to a friend, to a stranger, to our loved ones but we can never smile at the fact that we are hurting or unhappy deep inside.

We can’t fake happiness, for the truth is written all over our faces.

Truth is, it’s not only our smile that’s the basis of our true spirit. It’s our eyes that give us away. Our eyes hold the truth that can never be defied and denied, for

Our eyes are the windows to our soul.

The eyes also know how to smile, likewise. When we’re happy and we smile, that smile radiates brightness to our countenance; it gives sparkle to our eyes. It shows. And it impacts the people who come close to us.

Smiling in photographs has become a tradition. It has become the norm. Nonetheless, who could say that the medieval people who looked sullen in their portraits weren’t happy and fulfilled in their lives? That was their norm. And it’s the same with us today. Who could say that we can’t smile even if we feel the otherwise? Or we can’t cry when we’re happy? Crying when one is actually overjoyed is called gratitude or thankfulness. Tears of joy, as what they say.

Painting a smile on our face entails different meanings. Whatever our reasons for smiling might be, the expression that we bear says a lot about who we are.

So, the next time you prep up for the camera, you have the options of expressions that you can make. Seriously, who cares?! If you want to look somber or unfriendly or rather frivolous or merry, go ahead! Breaking the norms is fun. And the next time a camera clicks and you’re not ready for the shot, you can say “Hey!” unsolicitedly. You’ll be surprised afterwards to see yourself almost smiling in the photo, with mouth open, though unintentionally. But at least it’s close to smiling. Though not that pretty. But then again, who cares?

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Daguerrotype of author Henry David Thoreau
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Dutch painting of a smiling woman
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from “The Smiling Victorian”
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from “The Smiling Victorian”
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Ambrotype of a smiling man, 1860s
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from “The Smiling Victorian”
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Photo credits: All photos are grabbed from the internet.

Author’s note:

This article was shared 26 times on Facebook with its old domain name. Too bad for the author, those ‚Äúappreciation badges‚ÄĚ were gone with the old blog name. BLNT.

 

© Camille de Pano, 2016