Friday, March 18, 2016

Ultimate Perks

Consumers are lured by stores’ perk cards, a loyalty program in which shoppers earn points for their purchases. The more you buy, the more points you have which translate into various freebies and discounts. You are encouraged to spend more. The caveat is that you have to avail of the perks within a year, others within just three months.

But there is an ultimate loyalty program where the spiritual rewards are perennial as the grass, have no expiration date, and satisfies all cravings, hunger, thirsts, longings and desires. The mechanics are all in The Bible.

Listed here are around 21 of the innumerable perks for being righteous, quoted from the Holy Bible NIV:

1.    The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. (Psalm 92: 12-14)

2.    Righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 10:2)

3.    The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry. (Proverbs 10:3)

4.    Blessings crown the head of the righteous. (Proverbs 10:6)

5.    The memory of the righteous will be a blessing. (Proverbs 10:7)

6.    The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. (Proverbs 10:11)

7.    The wages of the righteous bring them life. (Proverbs 10:16)

8.    The tongue of the righteous is choice silver. (Proverbs 10:20)

9.    The lips of the righteous nourish many. (Proverbs 10:21)

10.  What the righteous desire will be granted. (Proverbs 10:24)

11.  The righteous stand firm forever. (Proverbs 10:25)

12.  The prospect of the righteous is joy. (Proverbs 10:28)

13.  The way of the Lord is a refuge for the righteous. (Proverbs 10:29)

14.  The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom. (Proverbs 10:31)

15.  The righteous will never be uprooted. (Proverbs 10:30)

16.  The lips of the righteous know what is fitting. (Proverbs 10:32)

17.  The Lord watches over the way of the righteous. (Psalm 1:6)

18.  The Lord blesses the righteous. (Psalm 5:12)

19.   His children will be mighty in the land, the generation of the upright will be blessed. (Psalm 112:2)

20. Wealth and riches are in his house and his righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 112:3)

21.  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (Psalm 112:7)

The fact is, none among us is righteous, all have sinned. But when we ask God’s forgiveness, He clothe us with His Son, Jesus Christ’s righteousness. The first step towards righteousness is pentimento (repentance). Then surrender life to The Savior, walk in  His light and freedom.  What follows is a long but exciting journey of trials and triumphs, wherein you will turn your worries into worship and your battles into blessings. Decide and act now to make that first step to begin the first day of the rest of your life. I myself did the same on 3 January 2010, several months after I survived breast cancer, by God’s grace. Since then, there are moments when I am sweetly burdened to share my rewards with others. Now is one of such moments, surely because someone like you need to take the path to pentimento and make a fresh beginning.

Cymbeline Refalda-Villamin

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Biblical Principles of Beauty

In the past Women’s Fellowship I attended in our community Church in Dasmarinas City, our resource speaker, a Christian cosmetic dermatologist, 
Dr. Ryan Encabo < >, talked about his two patients— Patient X who wants to be beautiful because she needs to be loved and Patient Y who wants to be beautiful because she is loved. 

Whereas Patient X represents the mindset of a majority of women (and also men) in this world, Patient Y represents the mindset of Godly people who already knew they are loved with an unconditional, perfect love and so they want to be good stewards of all the gifts the Divine Creator has given, including talents and skills, wealth, health, wellness and beauty. Beauty and vitality are gifts of nature to those who know how to obey its laws. It is indeed such a pity that many people perish for lack of knowledge. It is the duty of everyone to share the good news.

Dr. Encabo shared with the mothers and wives in the Women’s Ministry the basic, ancient and yet timeless principles of beauty and wellness which are all contained in the teachings of the Holy Bible. For us to easily remember these, he encapsulized them in the acronym POWERED ranked according to importance but discussed them in reversed order, as follows:

D- is for doing…, actually, exercising, which delays aging. God created us to live full, abundant , active lives and not just wait for death even if we know we are already saved (having accepted Christ as Savior). Regular exercise such as a 15 to 20-minute brisk walking every morning prevents heart ailment, cancer; decreases anxiety and depression; enhances feeling of wellness; and improves performance at work, recreational, and sports activities.

E- stands for the essential nutrients that the body needs. Let food be our medicine. Although in the Old Testament, there were foods that were not allowed to be eaten, in the New Testament, everything has become permissible. But not all that is permissible is good. Essentially, we have to eat a balanced diet, one which has protein, carbohydrates and fats, vegetable and fruit. It is good to eat saba, kamote, oatmeal, native chickens and eggs; to use virgin coconut oil in green salad dressing. Butter is okay but not margarine which is almost plastic. Chicharon is good fat. One can enjoy brewed coffee (instead of instant) but drink plenty of water afterwards. We must take water in sips rather than in gulps to moisturize and hydrate the body. Drinking water in gulps is okay to detoxify, to cleanse the body. Alkaline water is best. An indication that the body is dehydrated or lacks water is when the urine appears dark orange in color.

R- is for rest and sleep to rejuvenate, repair tissues, and build muscles. We must have 6.5 to 8 hours of sleep daily. Excessive sleep may lead to depression, diabetes, and heart ailment. We must observe the Sabbath and keep it holy, refrain from physical and mental work, and just relax.

E- stands for emotions and relationships that must be kept always positive. Negative emotions cause 90% of hospitalization. Dreaded diseases are caused by unresolved spiritual issues. Guilt causes breast cancer. Anger causes heart disease. Anxiety causes hyperacidity and ulcer. Unforgiveness causes psoriasis. Let us bring all our guilt, anger, and unforgiveness to the altar, at the feet of the Savior and set ourselves free. Declare forgiveness for ourselves and others so that we will be liberated and empowered to live joyous, abundant lives. If not, we will be the ones who will suffer and die of cancer or heart failure. It is best to confess to our trusted sisters in the fellowship-ministry, to have them forgive us by the grace of God.

W- stands for the living water, the Savior Jesus Christ, the only one who can truly satisfy the deepest human longings and desires. It is amazing to note that 70% of our body is water and that 70% also of the earth is water. Hydrotherapy, aquatherapy, cleansing and detoxification are all about healing with water in physical as well as spiritual realms.

O- is for oxygen… When God created the first human being, He gave him the breath of life. We must know how to breathe properly— from the abdomen or stomach as babies do, instead of from the lungs and nose. It is a very good habit to engage in a 15-minute inhale-exhale exercise every morning, to take in oxygen and thus promote excellent blood circulation in the body. It is healthy to take a deep breath whenever stressed, angered, or afraid.

P- is the presence of God in our lives. By God’s grace we are saved and by His Holy Spirit, we are sealed for the day of redemption. We must seek God with all our hearts, accept His Son as Savior, confess our sins and ask forgiveness and allow God to clothe us with His righteousness.

By the way, before Dr. Encabo’s lecture, he instructed us to gather at the end of the hall and form a line. To the tune of a Gospel song, he asked each of us to come forward with a unique walk, dance or move that no one else will duplicate or else, she has to go back until able to make a unique move. Our moves ranged from stylish catwalk like a model on the fashion ramp, sexy dance, youthful hiphop, hilarious antic, frog leap, chicken dance, duck walk, queenly strides, etc. We really enjoyed it. After his talk, the young and charming doctor explained that it was our  symbolic crossing of the Jordan River on our journey to the Promised Land of health, wellness, and beauty. It was awesome! Indeed, we were all empowered for we have learned the basic, timeless principles of beauty that are lasting and immensely precious, which we can pass on to our daughters and grand daughters.

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Healing and Freedom

Since the ancient times up to now, there exists a gender divide with the women as the discriminated half of humanity. Evidences in the Old Testament attest to women bashing—Genesis 3:16 (Punishment for Eve), Numbers 5:11-31 (Test for an Unfaithful Wife), Ezekiel 16: 1-63 (An Allegory of Unfaithful Jerusalem) and Hosea 2:1-23 and 3:1-5 (Allegory of Israel Punished and Restored) to cite a few. It is good that in the New Testament, the anti-women mindset was overturned by the Messiah who is a true feminist, as evidenced by the narratives in Luke 7:36-50 (Jesus Anointed by the Sinful Woman), Luke 8:40-56 (A Dead Girl and a Sick Woman), Luke 10:38-41 (At the Home of Martha and Mary), Luke 13:10-17 (A Crippled Woman Healed on the Sabbath), John 4:1-42 (Jesus Talks with a Samaritan Woman), and John 8:1-11 (The Woman Caught in the Act of Adultery).

To this date, the punishment for Eve’s unenlightened daughters still holds power, “… with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you,” which is the root of all feminist pain and anguish. Women must seek freedom from this enslaving sexual desire to find peace, dignity, and true joy. It can be done.

Carcinoma of the Spirit

This situation is unbelievable but real-- martyr-wives opted to stay married to an abusive, alcoholic, philandering, violent husband and continue to give birth to his children; or a mistress could not cut off her relationship with a lover whom she knows to be married and could never give her a life of moral decency. Everything starts as a seemingly harmless and exciting attraction towards a handsome male, the euphoria of courtship, the delights of orgasm, the romance of the wedding ceremony, and then the woman is hooked and hell begins. Realities set in as the fleeting dream wears off— the pains of childbirth; the gradual deterioration of youth, wellness, and beauty; financial troubles; problems with in-laws; parenting blues; waning interest on the part of the husband; falling out of romantic love after two to three years; marital boredom after ten to fifteen years; and spiritual decay as one is swallowed down by the ways of the world.

Women may seek fulfillment in career, making money; or escape in the arts, entertainment, illicit affairs. The less discerning is not aware that the romantic notion discovered in one’s teens and nurtured in adulthood by multimedia, is like a deadly virus that found a host and continued to multiply the cell it has infected. Soon the infected cells grew into a full blown cancer of the spirit after a seemingly dormant period. Carnal and materialistic desires can keep us in bondage and we can only be set free through spiritual cleansing with the most precious blood of the Savior.

Cervical cancer, the second leading cause of death among women, and associated with  indiscriminately active sexual activities, is caused primarily by spiritual issues that find metaphor in  HPV or the human papilloma viruses. There are nearly 115 distinct HPVs. HPV 16 is the direct source of infection for nearly half of all cervical cancers. At least 30 HPV types target the genitalia. Approximately 15 types are cancer-causing types. Globally, types 16 and 18 together account for more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. Other types that cause cancer (in descending order of global prevalence) include 45, 31, 33, 52, 58, 35, 59, 56, 51, 39, 68, 73, and 82. A new vaccine that targets HIV 16 and 18, the most common cancer-causing types of HPV, is now available fortunately, in the same and yet unique way that spiritual healing is available in the past, at present, in the future and for all times for all of us who seek it.

Overzealous medical scientists recommend the injection of the anti HPV vaccine to young girls before the possibility of infection or their first sexual encounter, for their protection. But is it not far better to immerse them in the Word of God and righteous values and lifestyle to protect them. This is more desirable than telling our daughters this stressful and degrading explanation, “My child, now that you are already ten years old, I need to bring you to the doctor for a shot of the anti HPV vaccine to protect you in case you become promiscuous when you grow older or your future husband turns out to be a womanizer.” 

Ultimate Cure for the Dreaded Disease

Breast and cervical cancers threaten to become a pandemic affecting women all over the world. There are survivors but there are also others who are dying. Some got cured but had a recurrence after five years. We know that life on earth is temporary and everyone will die but we need not suffer the torments of a dreaded disease. We can pass onto the next realm gracefully and with dignity. The first thing to know to avoid a dreaded disease or to get healed of it is to realize that there is something far deadlier than a virus and it is— SIN, which destroys the soul and causes eternal death. Sin is a pandemic and yet humanity takes it all for granted.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, none is righteous, all our good works are mere filthy rugs in the sight of our Creator. Redemption rests in admitting our sinfulness and asking God’s forgiveness, accepting His Son, Christ, as personal Lord and Savior. Then we must strive to remain in God’s righteousness and walk on His blameless path. Not to do this is lethal for sin causes both physical and spiritual deaths. Let the sick among us find healing in Christ, for by His wounds we are healed:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities,
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

When the Son of God offered His life as a ransom for humanity’s sins, our major problem has already been solved and all that remain are easier burdens. Can He who is mighty enough to redeem us not be able to heal us of our pain, fear and loneliness; as well as minister to our deepest longing and desire to be accepted and loved purely, unconditionally as a woman? We are most precious and honored in the sight of Jesus Christ, the greatest healer and lover.  Let us strive to be beautiful as a woman not because we want to be loved, but because we are loved.

Prayer for all Women

Dear  women readers, let pray for ourselves and for our daughters and granddaughters:

Our Father, Almighty God
You are all powerful, all knowing, all loving, omnipresent
You are infinite and can never be contained.
How can we ever know you fully with our finite mind?
Even if we live a thousand years, we still can never know You
Who is without a beginning and without an end;
But with the little discernment You so graciously allow us,
You multiply for our needs and is more than enough
To comfort us, give us peace, not as the world gives; and give us true joy.
Forgive us our sins of pride and selfishness, anger and hatred, greed and lusts,
For allowing ourselves to be seduced by modern day serpents
Into biting from the forbidden fruit and giving it to the Adam in our lives to partake of also;
Forgive us all our misplaced desires
Wash us clean with the most precious blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and then
Create in us a pure heart and a steadfast spirit so that
We will continue to walk in Your light and righteousness.
Oh God heal us, provide for all of our spiritual, physical, material and financial needs, 
Give us freedom to be the best individuals we can be as
We surrender ourselves and our lives completely to Your plan for us.
Make us faithful wives and authentic mothers who nurture all children.
Empower us oh God to obey Your will and serve Your purpose for our lives
All these we ask in the mighty name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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The Holy Bible as Literature

From WikiMedia Commons
It has been more than 400 years now since the Holy Bible – King James Version (KJV) was first published in May 1611, England, giving the world the gift of unique language with many eloquent phrases as “salt of the earth,” “nothing new under the sun,” “a time and a place for everything,” “turn the other cheek,” “the leopard cannot change his spots,” to name a few.  No respectable teacher of literature should let pass the opportunity to at least introduce students to the greatest book ever written— unsurpassed as “voice” of human experiences, unrivaled in diversity of content and form, having God as the central character, whose presence unifies the complex story that dramatizes the evolution of the highest purpose revolving around divine providence, judgment, and redemption.

Fulfills requirements of the literary art form

The Bible fulfills Aristotle’s requirements for a complete story— beginning, middle, and ending. It starts with the story of creation and concludes with the apocalypse, a version of the end of the world. Between these cosmic events expands the history of the human race and God’s involvement in it. This is the plot.

Another vital element of literature, conflict, is also present— God versus Satan; good people against evil people (external conflict); and good versus evil within individuals (internal conflict). As my literature professor in college used to say, “No conflict, no story.”

Other elements— characters, background or setting are also present. There are “hero stories” such as those of Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Gideon, Ruth, Esther, David, and of course, Jesus. The favorite setting, the mountaintop, is symbolic. It is on the mountain where Biblical characters encounter God. Mt. Zion is God’s place.  Eden or Paradise is not just a location, it is a way of life. The pastoral setting is often the background for love stories as that of Ruth and Boaz, as well as that of the Shulammite and the Shepherd in Solomon’s Song of Songs.

Varied genres

Poetry and narrative are the two major genres in the Bible but there are other minor literary types such as proverbs, parables, epistles or letters, fantasy or visionary writing, satire, comedy, tragedy, and epic. Song of Songs and the Psalms are great poetry. They paint a picture of natural beauty that is fraught with perils (darkness, evil) but reassure and comfort with images of stability and sustenance, as illustrated in the favorite and popular Psalm 23— “The Lord is my Shepherd / I shall not want….”

The gospels by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are structured as narrative and deal with topics such as the nativity or birth of the Messiah, vocation or ministry, recogntion, witness, encounter, conflict, pronouncement, miracle and the Savior’s passion (death and resurrection).

Parables abound in the “kingdom gospel” of Matthew, the most comforting of which is “The Parable of Workers in the Vineyard.” It is about the vineyard’s owner hiring workers at various hours during the day but paying them the same amount of wage each, beginning with the late workers and ending with the early workers, which caused the early workers to complain because they think the owner is not fair. The owner asks the grumbling laborers, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.” This is reassuring because, the vineyard owner who represents God, is generous and not fair. Because if God is fair, the wages of sin would be death. But because God is generous and full of mercy, He forgives repentant sinners regardless of whether they repent early or late in life. When the vineyard owner says, “… the first will be last and the last will be first,” God is telling us that those who are humble, the repentant prostitutes and thieves, poor and social outcasts will be the first to enter heaven ahead of the kings, religious leaders, the wealthy and famous.

It is also in Matthew 7:7 where the defining trait of literature, artistry, is demonstrated best—“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you….” These lines are immortalized in Elvis Presley’s inspirational song, “Welcome to My World;” and the same verses quoted by my father to me over the telephone the day before I had mastectomy which at that time I dreaded more than dying of cancer. Now that I have a new life, I keep in mind and practise whenever possible Matthew 10:8—“Freely you have received, freely give.”  I have received so much (prayers, love, healing, financial help) and want to give back as generously.

Paul’s epistles in the New Testament have the following format— opening or salutation, thanksgiving, main text, moral exhortation (vices to avoid, virtues to practise), closing or final greetings, and benediction.

Satire is the style of Ecclesiastes (life is fleeting, all we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see) Jonah (how not to be a prophet), Amos (virtue from the viewoint of the privileged class), and Luke 10: 28-37 (“The Good Samaritan”).

Comedy, which is a story with happy ending, is format for the stories of Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Job, Noah, and of course, Jesus (He resurrected and thus conquered death, so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life).

The stories of Samson and Saul are tragedies (with unhappy ending).

Epic, which is a long read, sprawling, encyclopedic tale around a hero who performs a great feat is evident in Exodus (about Moses leading the Israelites from slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land) and the story of David in the two books of Samuel up to the beginnng part of 1 Kings.

Fantasy, visionary or supernatural writings are seen in Zechariah, Ezekiel, and Revelation. They consist of fantastic settings, imaginary creatures, and events that do not occur in real life.

What the Bible teaches us

In high school literature class, I could hardly wait for the time when our teacher would explain to class the “moral lesson” of the story. It was the same thing in college when my most awaited moment was  when our professor would discuss the “meaning of the story” with all the significance of the metaphors, symbols, classical allusions and references.

Critics of the Bible condemn it as the worst book ever written because of the violence (for example, in David’s exploits as warrior-king) and explicit sexual language (as in Ezekiel, for instance). We must take note that all great literature are a “voice of human experiences.” Nothing in the Bible is sanitized or sugar-coated. As in a painting, there are elements of light and darkness, illuminations and shadows to dramatize and bring home the artistic truth. Thus, the elements of good and evil are also used in the Bible to teach us these basic truths—
  • Human beings have the potential to be good or evil.
  • Human beings have the free will to choose between good and evil.
  • Humans are both physical and spiritual beings.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Final Moment

Many of us take death and dying for granted when we are still young, healthy, and productive in our career. We live for the moment and never think that someday we will grow old, our body will weaken, and will not be as productive as we used to be.

When we reached late forties, we begin to be aware of the frailty of human existence especially when a parent passes away and several colleagues begin going away one by one, year after year. We notice we are frequenting wakes and last rites more often.  And so we stop and reflect, shaping the words in our minds-- “One day, my moment will come. It will also be time for me to go. Am I afraid? Why should I be? Or rather, why should I not be?”

Everyday we die a little

Each night, we practise “dying” when we  lose awareness in rest and sleep. But of course, our body, while in state of inactivity, continues to function.Blood circulation goes on. Even our subconscious keeps on solving problems which the conscious mind cannot find solutions for.

Each day, we “die” a little to selfishness when we are “broken” for God, when we suffer pain for our loved ones, when we become “bread” for others-- like giving our strength in service of our family, cooking meals, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, bonding with children and spouse when we would rather crash into bed and fall asleep.

We also “die” to self when we reach farther away than family-- when we dare to develop a  meaningful friendship with a stranger, trustingly return the smile of someone we do not know, open our heart to the first sympathetic listener that comes our way, or give a bowl of hot soup or a glass of chilled water to anyone who needs such, according to his hunger and thirst for the moment, and when we forego our obsession for made-up beds and neat closets, because,come to think of it, how relevant are all these to eternity, anyway?

We choose our own manner of dying-- selfishly or unselfishly-- just like the way we choose our manner of living.

Each time I scream inside me, “God, I want to die!” when it is time to pay the bills, when it seems like eternal torture waiting for my children to come home on very late nights and they were not returning my text messages, when desperate and lonely-- these are selfish dying. I must be courageous to dare choose to live, and die to my despair and lack of faith instead. The reason I do not have is that I do not ask; and when I ask, I ask with a wrong motive. All things are possible with God to those who seek His righteousness.

When Gracia Burnham prayed for a hamburgher in the midst of the Mindanao jungle in the presence of her enemies, she got her hamburgher. God can do anything, anytime. The reason God allows me to experience pain is because He is tcceaching me to be strong and trusting, and I must be willing to learn, not to escape His molding hands. He will see me through. When I reach the end of the rope, God will take over.

The final dying, the final kiss

I would like to think that I will die the way I live. If I am calm and trusting and unafraid in living, I will pass away onto the next realm in the same manner, with God's grace. Am I not afraid of being enclosed in a sealed, dark coffin and then lowered to the ground, ultimately alone, absolutely silent? It would be such quintessential loneliness-- if I am there. But I will not be, for sure. Inside the coffin  would just be an empty shell. My spirit would be on a journey.  Maybe for a few moments my soul would experience an indescribable pain of separation from my body. Memories would be a lot of help. I would recall moments with my husband on the first nights we were together, my first experience of giving birth to my daughter, and the final tears that accompany me on the way to the burial site, the final throwing of flowers as my casket is lowered, the final kiss of my husband, who said that if ever I go ahead of him, he would not take too long to follow... and then I will look forward to the light at the end of the long dark tunnel, the welcoming presence of God... I would be HOME at long last and no bliss can ever compare with this.

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