Joy in the Midst of Hardship

A group of pilgrims were walking along a road, headed for a sacred shrine, to make a special petition. Each of them was carrying a burden of some sort. But they kept their mind on their goal, and not on what they were carrying. An angel joined the little band and passing from one to another, threw onto the burdens a few little white seeds. These sprouted and grew into a pair of large wings which carried the burdened travelers along the dusty road.

Farther down the same road there was another party of pilgrims moving along with downcast faces and complaining of their heavy loads. The same angel came up to them and kept on going. Someone asked him, “Why didn’t you give them wings, too? They are so downcast and gloomy; they need help more than the cheerful ones up front.”

The angel answered, “The kind of seeds I have will only grow in the right kind of soil. They need cheerfulness and helpfulness; but an atmosphere of grumbling kills them.”

— Tony Castle

When faced with burdens, it is often so much easier for us to complain and ask God, “Why me?” Maybe instead of grumbling, we should, like the first group of pilgrims, ask God, “Lord, what do You want me to learn from these?” and keep our eyes on the goal.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22) Don’t our doctors tell us the same thing? 🙂


‘Weather’ You Like It or Not

Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” I say, “Life is like the weather – unpredictable; sometimes full of sunshine; sometimes full of clouds.” We can’t control certain circumstances in life, much like we can’t control the weather. Does the “weather” in your life determine your happiness?

Sometimes, we sabotage our own chance at happiness by our attitude. We say, “If only I had this, or that, then I’d be happy.” “If only I was like him/her, then I’d be happy.” “If only I was rich, then I’d be happy.” Happiness is a choice. When we learn to be grateful for what we have in our life, instead of focusing on what we don’t have, then we can be happy.

Pleasant moments in life are like warm, sunny days. Be grateful for the sunshine and the warmth – it’s not going to last forever, you know. When we have major problems, it’s like dark, stormy days. Be grateful for the waters that will replenish the earth – in these times, be thankful that God is giving us trials to make us grow stronger. When we’re confused and lost, it’s like a foggy day – we can’t see much of where we’re going. Be grateful for the chance to trust completely in God and to let Him take our hand and guide us through the fog. On cold days when we can’t do much but just sleep in, be grateful for the chance to rest, for our bodies to heal, for the chance to meditate and to talk to God.

Remember, the only thing that we can control is our attitude. Learn to be happy; choose to be grateful, whatever the weather, the circumstances, in life are. As Vivian Greene said, “Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass.. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Buy a Lottery Ticket

The front of a used Mark Six ticket

The front of a used Mark Six ticket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an old Italian joke that goes like this:

A long time ago, in a small village, there lived an old man. This old man visited the statue of a great Italian saint everyday. And everyday, he prayed for the same thing: “Please, please, please, make me win the lottery.” Rain or shine, the old man would visit the saint’s statue and pray the same thing over and over again. Finally, one day, the saint had enough! When the old man came to the statue again and prayed to win the lottery, the saint finally replied, “My dear old man, please buy a lottery ticket first!”

Silly old man, right? Of course, he should’ve bought the lottery ticket first. But aren’t we sometimes like this old man? When we want something, we pray.. and well, that’s it. Nothing wrong with praying, of course. It is our means of communing with God. But, partnered with prayer should be our own effort and action. There is a popular Filipino saying that goes – Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa. (God’s mercy is on those who help themselves.) I know we’re all familiar with this saying and you’re probably going, “Duh, everybody knows that.” Yes, we all know it, but do we all REALLY practice it?

Sometimes, we Christians tend to use the term “God’s will” a little too far. I have some single Christian guy friends who LOVE using this term to excuse them from having to court a girl. If someone asks them why they don’t court anyone , they’ll be like, “Oh, cause I haven’t found the right girl yet. I’ll just wait for God’s will.” And they really do just sit around and wait. Unfortunately, life is not like an Axe commercial where hot girls will just fall out of the sky and land at your feet. We all want to meet our life partner according to God’s will – no argument there. But guys, do you expect God to do the courting and dating for you, too?

Or how about someone looking for a job? Yes, we all want a good job. But do we just sit around and wait for God to hand the job to us? That’s not really the way it works. You expect God to be the one to put on a suit and go from job interview to job interview?

I just think that Christians who keep using “God’s will” as an excuse for everything that’s happening (or not happening) in their life are misleading testimonies of Christianity. We are NOT exemplifying great faith by this kind of behavior; we’re displaying laziness and a waste of God-given skills and talents.

After all, “God’s will is not an itinerary, but an attitude.” It’s not a step-by-step life guide we demand from God. As children of God, we have the free will to choose our paths in life – but always with submissiveness to God’s will for us. Now that’s what I call faith.

Just Another Wemmick Monday

“You are Special” by Max Lucado tells the story of a village of Wemmicks.

The Wemmicks are small wooden people all carved out by a woodworker named Eli. Some Wemmicks were tall, some were short, some had big eyes, some had small noses. Some Wemmicks were good at sports, others were talented singers. And then there were some who could only do little things and were not very pretty or talented at all. All day, everyday, the Wemmicks did only one thing: give stars or dots to each other. You see, each Wemmick had a box of golden star stickers and a box of gray dot stickers. The good-looking, talented, or athletic Wemmicks got golden stars – lots of them. And some got A LOT of golden stars that they keep doing other stuff in order to gain more stars. On the other hand, the Wemmicks who could do very little were given gray dots. 

Punchinello was one such Wemmick. He wasn’t good-looking, he wasn’t athletic, and he had no special talent. He’d try to improve himself and dare to do difficult things, but he’d fail and then the other Wemmicks gave him more gray dots. And then the Wemmicks would give him more gray dots for having too many gray dots! Things got so bad that he preferred to stay home – or if he went outside, he’d hang out with the Wemmicks who also had lots of gray dots. 

One day, Punchinello met a Wemmick unlike any other. She didn’t have any stars or dots. She was just wooden. Her name was Lucia. It wasn’t that the other Wemmicks did not try to give her stars or dots; they did. They just didn’t stick. When a Wemmick tried to give her a star, it just fell off. When a Wemmick tried to give her a dot, it also fell off. 

Punchinello wanted to be just like Lucia. So he asked her how she prevented the stickers from getting on her. Lucia told Punchinello that the reason is that she goes to visit Eli, the wood carver, everyday. And she told him to go see Eli, too.

Punchinello hesitated. Surely, someone as important as Eli wouldn’t want to see him. But, when he saw the Wemmicks going about their business of sticking stars and dots to one another, he resolved to visit Eli. So, he walked up the narrow path to Eli’s house and went in. There, he found Eli and they had a good conversation. At first, Punchinello tried to defend himself and to apologize to Eli for having so many gray dots. But Eli told him that he doesn’t really care what the other Wemmicks thought.

“You don’t?” Punchinello asked. 

“No, and you shouldn’t either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They’re Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.”

Punchinello was astounded as to why Eli would think someone like him special. And Eli told him, “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.” 

Punchinello was touched. He’d never felt this loved – this worthy. And by none other than his maker!

Then he asked Eli about Lucia – why the stickers don’t stay on her.

To which Eli replied, “Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them.” The stickers only stay on a Wemmick if it matters to them. If they learn to trust in Eli’s love and decide that what the other Wemmicks think doesn’t matter, then the stickers won’t stay.

Eli asked Punchinello to come see him everyday, so he can always remind him of how much he cares. Eli further reminded Punchinello that he is special because he made him. And Eli never makes mistakes. 

As Punchinello walked home, pondering over the meeting, he felt in his heart that Eli meant everything that he said. And a dot fell to the ground.

Did the story hit home? I have loved this story since the first time I read it in an email, back when I was eighteen years old. Recently, I came across the book in my class’s mobile library. And I was reminded of the beautiful moral lessons of this story.

Who are the Wemmicks? They’re you and I. Everyone is a Wemmick. We are all created by a sole wood carver, Eli – God. Like the Wemmicks, we all have different physical characteristics, talents, abilities, intellectual capacities. In a society obsessed with beauty and perfection, we are all subjected to praise and/or criticisms everyday. These are the golden stars and the gray dots.

Is it wrong for the Wemmicks to go around sticking stars  and gray dots on each other? Maybe. But can we really stop people from admiring us and/or judging us? Nope. Just like in the story, Eli’s solution for Punchinello’s problem wasn’t to stop all the other Wemmicks from what they were doing. He wasn’t like, “Hey, all you Wemmicks, stop sticking stickers on each other. Mind your own business.” Do you think we’d ever learn anything if God always took away our problems? No. Instead, God helps us overcome – to become stronger, better, to trust Him more.

I have met people who are full of gold stars. Nothing wrong with that. We all want to be admired, emulated, looked up to. Only, we shouldn’t let it get to our heads. People with gold stars sometimes find it hard to be honest with themselves – because they think they’re perfect. After all, you can’t argue with the masses, right? Don’t let the stars blind you. That’s why there are people who are so beautiful on the outside, but have no substance. Or people who are geniuses but lack compassion.

I have also met people who are full of gray dots. People who have been criticized too much, they think nothing they ever say or do is right. Like Punchinello, some try to emulate the gold star people so they can also get stars. Others just hide in their shells, until they’re barely visible. I remember this classmate of mine, back in high school. She was a nice girl, smart, well-behaved. At first, everything was fine. She got good grades, participated in class, had friends. But some time later, she started missing school a lot. I mean, she would be absent for days. Then she’d come back for a while, and then be absent again. Eventually, she stopped coming to school. And this is when we learned the reason for her absences. She felt that some of my classmates were making fun of her and saying nasty things about her behind her back. I can’t really speak for those classmates of mine. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. But what I really hated about this incident was that she let these ‘gray dots’ get to her and she and her education suffered because of it.    

Like Lucia, we shouldn’t let what others ‘stick’ on us define our existence – never let the opinion of others define who you are or what you are. That was what Eli was telling Punchinello. Because they’re all Wemmicks, just like him. Because we’re all human, just like everybody else.

It is only God’s opinion of us that matters. In the end, we will not be asked whether we got gold stars or gray dots… it is how we lived our lives and how the people around us were influenced by the life that we lived.