Where is the Syllabus?

I taught Economics. I taught Theology. In both courses, the syllabus was an essential handout. As a student, I somehow predicted the weight of every beginning class from the required syllabus.


If Christianity is a life course, clear navigation is necessary. Much has been said about the journey but there seems an intriguing absence of a given syllabus on how it ought to be lived.


Every excellent course follows from a good guide that seeks to simplify the dots by connecting them with proper order.


Having followed Christ, I have often searched for a biblical guide that follows the form of a good syllabus. Through the long chase, I have found or should I say, the Pilgrim Psalms found me (Psalms 120-134).


God’s people annually sang the Pilgrim Psalms on their ascent to Jerusalem to rehearse both their identity and responsibility based on a divine manual, which discloses the primacy of God’s gracious work in their lives. 


This wonderful guide has remained relevant as it presumes the ultimate mentorship of the Messiah in all of life’s stations.


This blog seeks to provide a simple guide by adapting the indescribable symmetry of the Pilgrim Psalms into our daily lives.


The format follows a simple flow. The chronological points of the syllabus are presented based on the order of the Pilgrim Psalms accompanied by a distinct invitation to join God in what He seeks to accomplish through us. Before and after a syllabus Psalm, two reflective original journal entries introduce and validate the distinctive application of its practice, at least in my own personal journey. 

Journal One will be introduced by a story about my life before I knew the wisdom of Troubleshooting (Syllabus, no. 1). Psalm 120 will then be presented as the major teaching point. The journal will then conclude with another story from my life, validating the usefulness of the point being introduced. This format repeats fifteen times (Psalm 120-134).


This is not a journal of random thoughts but an exposition of God’s impeccable wisdom lived out in a most ordinary life. It is my prayer that as one reads through it, one takes on the journey of a psalm-maker, revisiting points of life and praying through a renewal of one’s steps, onward and upward to where Christ dwells.

Journal One: Troubleshoot



 I was not even half a decade old when I stumbled upon what seemed like a crooked discovery. I was quite tall for my age and somehow endued with modest intelligence. My father’s love for knowledge somehow hitched my delight in learning, while picking up clues from his analytical mind and passion for chess. I always lingered as he finished reading the morning newspaper so that I could glance over next. I often wondered why he primarily pondered on the editorial section. I would try reading the first few lines and quickly skid towards the comic section for a scoop of wit and humor. It never occurred to me that the best jokes were to be found in the editorials of human involvements. 

My mother was a licensed pharmacist and so she took prescribing about almost anything, rather seriously. She gravitates towards fashion and initiating friendships. One day, she spoke of her alliance with the new first grade teacher. They had some kind of an internal conspiracy. Since there was some shortage of kid-sitters that month, I was inadvertently enrolled without prior proof of requirements. It was probably an inconsequential detail for both but I was only a four-year old smart aleck, turning five in a class of 7’s and 8’s!

The realities of this gulf took its toll right from the first day when I sensed the troubling disparity. It seemed like the boys had beards and the girls had breasts. Through this confusion, my teacher’s kind benevolence always seemed to rig out a safe shelter. Still, it was rather intimidating to walk through the halls of a grown-up fraternity. 

My coping mechanism resorted to an introspective asylum: I pretended to be of age by being silent. The evidence for my ploy was well documented. My report card read: first term: he is shy; second term: he is too shy; third term: he is very, very shy. It was rather ironic that a boy so rambunctious could pass for a meek persona with very little acting. 

One day, birthdays had to be recited. I somehow naively disclosed my true age: 4 years young. There was a concerted gasp from my aged peers while I quickly deciphered the unspoken script of their jeers: “That boy is a cheat!  What has he to do with Club First-Grade?”  Call it pre-adolescent ethnocentrism, but its apparent sophistication was evident. I was given a tag, which had the stamp of being marginalized as menial.

For someone so lost and seeking for adoption within my new circle, this felt like some great tribulation. That year, I fought back isolation by garnering first honors. The laurel did not mean anything to the pundits, their resolve to put me in a box as a lying scum had been drilled to my coffin, free of charge.

As days went by, I began to realize that lying was to be the generic jargon. My classmates lied, my parents lied, my teacher lied, I lied.

All that I learned that year was the inexplicable truth that all people are liars. 

I was to learn later, that what kept men and women in touch within our rather small world is our disposition to lie. 

I once asked my dad why he always won his chess games. He nonchalantly revealed: “It’s always about thinking ahead and outsmarting the opponent, by using a gambit.” I asked, “What is a gambit, Dad?” He replied: “Well, it is a move where you simply deceive the other person so you can win.”





A song of ascents.


I call on the LORD in my distress,

and he answers me.

Save me, O LORD, from lying lips

and from deceitful tongues.

What will he do to you, 

and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?

He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,

with burning coals of the broom tree.

Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech,

that I live among the tents of Kedar!

Too long have I lived

among those who hate peace.

I am a man of peace;

but when I speak, they are for war.





For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

First Corinthians 1:18 NIV


It doesn’t take much honesty to admit the unrelenting pressure of life’s challenges in our lives. Every person seeking to make sense out of life, experiences some form of distress in one way or another. The initial guidepost in our life syllabus prompts us to confront our troubles by seeking to understand what is truly taking place. The contribution of this initial Psalm is to raise our troubled awareness with a sense of urgency to let out a sincere lament of where we are presently situated. A person who seeks the truth through God’s help will mourn an alienated identity: “I call on the LORD in my distress … save me, O LORD, from lying lips and deceitful tongues.”


It is equally important to carefully choose who becomes our primary guide in this endeavor. Our life support ought to come from an impeccable mentor whose rectitude yields nothing more, nothing less but a corresponding wisdom beyond compare. The Psalmist turns to the LORD for such help in his distress.


The primary challenge in any human struggle hinges upon the reality of where we live. The Psalmist decries his location amidst a climate of deceit. Our fallen world rests upon the fragmented scaffoldings of human wisdom. The plethora of religion and philosophy attests to our on-going thirst for meaning and significance. Every attempt to clarify the origin and destiny of our existence seeks to answer our universal distress upon our shared ignorance. While all these are well meaning and kind-intentioned, they somehow reveal their ineptness to redeem us from our despair. The psalmist refers to all these wonderful human perspectives as mere fiction. 


Meshech and Kedar serve as metaphors for all the representative genius of humanity that seeks to understand life apart from God’s revelation. Distress is a by-product of a life lived apart from the centrality of the One who created it. To live without God is to live a life devoid of proper connectivity.


It is to Shalom, the peace of God’s evincing presence, that we are called to lean in. The Psalmist recognizes the urgent need for our deepest cry to be knitted into the fabric of God’s unique intervention. When we allow the presence of God to invade our time and space, life takes on a new form. We experience redemption from deception. We veer away from the lies. While consequently ostracized for our defection from our default location, we find our lament transform into a deep prayer of advanced gratitude: “What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue? He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom tree.”


The beginning step is towards troubleshooting: “Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace”. 


God prescribes that whenever we experience any symptom of distress, we have to check our connectivity. If we are plugged in to a compromised source, we are called to recognize the lie and disconnect with a sense of urgency from the myopic circuitry. 


We then turn on to the proper source and reconnect to the solitary source that brings Shalom to all our false directions.


The biblical story discloses a meta-narrative of lost peace. God created humans so that they may be ushered into His presence. The fall towards the lie of self-actualization ushered the dark era of a God-denying existence. But God cannot be denied. As He is the very essence of the life He created, the life of peace had to be restored. The singular way for such redemption will have to be His way. The way back to God’s presence will have to be an accompanied rescue, and the extraction from the fall will have to be done by God, Himself. There is no other way to accomplish this deliverance apart from the incredible action of God to send His only begotten Son, to incarnate into humanity in order to restore peace into our war-torn lives. In Christ’s mission, the cry of the Psalmist finds its fruition. The Son of God determined to take humanity’s damnation upon His Being by owning up to the penalty of our sins, dying on the cross of Golgotha, two thousand years ago. While suffering for our rebellion, his words on the cross “it is finished!” said it all. God’s presence has invaded our woeful situation. With unabridged dignity, he refers to himself as the Prince of Peace. The peace of God is found in the person of Christ. No one experiences true life apart from his abiding guide. 


The witness of Scriptures points to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the singular touchstone of humanity due to this revelatory mission. His person confronts every human destiny. It is impossible not to meet Christ within the intersections of life because he was the only one sent to reclaim our true designation. When he stands at the crossroads, it is either you take him at his word or you push him aside while connecting to another source. His claim to being the only way out from all our troubles reveals the very nature of his integrity: God sent his only Son to accomplish only one mission: to redeem fallen humanity, one person at a time by granting His peace, one decision at a time. This personal salvation was made accessible through the unique unalterable once and for all crucifixion of the Son of God for our sins. This rescue operation found its vindication upon the resurrection of Christ. Humans who will turn to Jesus by faith are thereby granted the full benefits of redemption. No other escape is possible from Meshech and Kedar apart from this exclusive peace-invading way: “I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” Only the person of Jesus Christ brings an end to such war by His attested conquest and final victory. There is simply no other way.


There are only two kinds of connectivity in life. You are either connected to Jesus Christ who audaciously claims power over your distress or you are tied in elsewhere. The first thing in our syllabus, if life is to be lived well, according to how we are made, is the call to disconnect from all sources that reflect Meshech and Kedar, devoid of peace and a true understanding of created life.


I lived right through the avenues of lies. At an early age, I was ushered deceitfully into a world alien to Shalom. For eighteen years, I languished, seeking to fill the emptiness inside my soul. Certainly, not by my initiative, I was led to cry for help. It was then that God led me graciously to troubleshoot my distress.





I always had the last word. It seemed not only necessary, but clever to do so in a world that offered divergent conversations. I always had my mental processors hooked up on any and every point at issue. I always flaunted my brazen prowess as interpretive editor of my soul and destiny, ex cathedra.

Renzo was quite like a clone, except that he had more finesse and mafioso. He was one of the senior studs in college. Where there is action, he was there. Where there are girls, he was central. Where there is sin, he’s scuba diving right into it. It was a concession just to be around who seemed like an accomplished dude.

I thought he lost his grip when I spotted him alone reading a bible–he seemed enthralled by some inner calm, just leafing through pages without being bothered by the intrusive campus noise. It was rather disconcerting to observe this mysterious ritual on a daily basis. He turned curiously different–like one celebrity who got caged-in to some addiction. 

Detached as he was during those days, there seemed to develop an aura of organic brightness about him–like some kind of disconnection from hurriedness, while projecting calm akin to being exempted from the Quantitative Analysis final exams.

I was at the gym with my friend Joe, when the gossip about Renzo’s metamorphosis snatched our conversation. I was told that I was actually invited to attend his exclusive caucus on Tuesday afternoon, hosted by the Renaissance Man himself. I initially got repulsed with the idea when it was intimated that this was all going to be a talk about God and Religion.

The scrutiny of God was a matter that I have somehow considered open ended. There is simply no way to figure out who had the best handle. I got all A’s in Religious Studies, just because I was a good ape: I just cut and pasted from the theological buffet, whether I believed it or not. And so, it was Renzo’s turn to pipe in his smoke, I guess. It was September 10, 1980 on a Wednesday afternoon when I sat bored waiting for the quasi-social forum to begin and quickly end.

I thought I knew Renzo quite well–certainly not this guy who showed up with his little black book. He began by introducing his purpose for gathering us: to quit guessing about what really transpired in his life. There was a pronounced lack of religious cliché in his talk. He was right on vulnerable about his personal distress and of his silent quest for peace. All he shared was an astonishingly appealing transformative answer facilitated by the person of Jesus Christ. 

It happened with a most unusual tenacity. The gnawing sense of emptiness within me began to fill up with every spoken verse of truth. The incongruence of my existence was met by the consonance of his take on how his story is merely an entry within God’s meta-narrative. Deep down, I sensed the unique simplicity of Christ’s gospel as wonderfully true and devoid of any strand of duplicity. Whatever blinds I had pertaining God suddenly gave way to an astonishing awareness of his invitation. Like some sudden shifting of the wind, I came to terms with my need for the Redeemer who was willing to receive my wholesale guilt with an accompanying grant of forgiving grace. The Son of God found my hideous hiding place and ushered me to the one place where I can find peace: within the companionship of His intimate lordship.

At around 2 pm that afternoon, I decided to disconnect from my fictitious life sources, invoking the revelatory person of Jesus Christ to lead me out from my misdirected orientation and lead me into a dynamic recognition of his central presence in my life. For the very first time, I suddenly saw where my journey was meant to be. I did not have to remain in Meshech and Kedar, where definitions of life, are at best magnificent reckonings. 

With my newly endowed identity, I did not have to register the last word. 

The Word of the LORD had been spoken.

Journal Two: Read



I never enjoyed going to church. I could not reconcile the opportunity cost of losing my Sunday morning play rights in exchange for an interlude where one has to dress preppy and feign enthusiasm to some sacrosanct gathering. Our preacher never made much sense anyway, as he seemed to be more of a cross between a woebegone entertainer and a prosaic politician. 

My grandfather was a retired pastor. Ironically, he was my favorite old guy. So dignified. So remarkably quiet. So much like my favorite Martian. He was, however, uninhibited each time he spoke about his faith. I remember a night in his home when I was absorbed deep in a game of hide and seek with my siblings. We got interrupted with the announcement of some prayer time. We were then gathered in a circle, while he read from his tattered book. He droned explanations about some ancient texts with the verbal tonality approximating some archaic prophet. I was bored as hell. When prayer began, I tuned off. Inching close to my sister, I began teasing her with all kinds of devilry. It was a most enjoyable intermission, especially, as all eyes were closed and heads bowed down. 

In a flash, like the unforeseen descent of a cascading meteor, I suddenly felt a wrathful swat hitting my nape. It was so firm and strong that I got dislodged from my seat, propelled hard to the floor while simultaneously confronted with my grandfather’s bony point-finger–his voice thundering: “no one plays when we pray to God!” His eyes were like emerald-glazed with fury. I was more flabbergasted with the incredible transformation of this man’s demeanor from meek to wild, just because I disturbed his sacred conversation.

I was engulfed with a sense of mystery. Was his deity as real as his grandson? As my head throbbed, my brain spun wondering why grandpa’s god disdained my unabridged version of practical joy.

As I was left with no words to read what just happened, I began wondering what alphabets I missed about knowing an unseen God who’s supposed to listen to human chatter.




A song of ascents


I lift up my eyes to the hills–

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip–

he who watches over you will not slumber.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you–

the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day, 

nor the moon by night.

The LORD will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your

coming and going,

both now and forevermore.





Here is another reason why we never stop thanking God: When you received God’s word from us, you realized it wasn’t the word of humans. Instead, you accepted it for what it really is—the word of God. This word is at work in you believers. 

First Thessalonians 2:13 NIV


From the outside looking in, there seems to be a suspicion of shared arrogance among those who claim to know God in personal terms. The projection of this confident aura somehow makes the irreligious uncomfortable: “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”


On a closer scrutiny however, true spirituality if it is to be authentic, must exhibit a deep personal zeal that reveals the robust object of its faith. True faith is always fiercely intense. At times, it is made manifest with an outstretched hand laid upon the sick to implore healing; At times, it is offered through a calculated spank to a soul so dead, in order to rouse life: “He will not let your foot slip.”


Before the pilgrims set out on their journey, an inquiry is directed towards their lead guide: “how safe is this pilgrimage?” The seasoned veteran recognizes the trepidation and declares the assured watchfulness of their vigilant companion: The LORD of creation watches over their feet along the arduous journey.


When proper connectivity gets underway, the first thing that becomes evident is the transformation within the heart of the believer. Disturbingly recognizable, the sobering reality of Meschech and Kedar’s staunch vision becomes apparent. The world remains the same in the midst of the believer’s metamorphosis. While on journey, the psalmist looks up and sighs: “I lift up my eyes to the hills …” The hills along the way are representative of the alternative altars that are strewn along the way, seeking to pull us back to our former idolatries. The unseen forces behind these heights perceive our propensity to be lulled quickly when beset with fatigue or any sort of weariness. The delicious offering of a detour away from God bears down upon the believer who seeks to walk by faith. 


To this allurement, vigilance to lift up our eyes beyond the seduction to read the way of God becomes our second call. We are beckoned to study the table of God’s contents by intentionally digesting the pages of his revelation, both created and written.


Through all of life, connectivity to the Giver and Source provides a stirring encouragement: He himself will provide all necessary help. The unreliability of human chartings will be overshadowed by the LORD’s competence. To the pilgrim, his personal guidance has been committed in word and in oath. God wrote down his thoughts to facilitate pinpoint accuracy on what we ought to do if we are to live well under his tutelage. Any well-intentioned designer provides a well-thought instructive manual to facilitate the proper use of a worthy commodity. It is inconceivable to think of human life, with its weight of unfathomable complexity, not to be augmented by a word from its creator. It is likewise most natural to think that clarity ought to characterize such instructions. As the human mind was created to think, thus the manual had to be read in some way or form. To this, we set our attention in each and every step along life’s trek. The reading relationship with life’s true Guide sets the course.


The nature of this divine assistance differs from the sophisticated technical support the world offers: “He who watches over you … will neither slumber nor sleep.” God needs no caffeine in order to stay awake while in monitor. He has no use for sleep and is thus able to commit a watchfulness that is most comprehensive. Help that is thus provided is backed by the warranty of God’s incomprehensible attentiveness to every detail concerning our daily lives. Our thoughts are invited to observe his commitment to the grass of the fields, the flowers in the garden, the birds in the air, … they never lack, for they are thus provided. He informs us of our infinite worth and of the care emphasized by his spoken word. The scope of this unique protection encompasses every breadth, depth, height, crevice, crack, flaw, leak, anomaly, etc., that involves frail humanity. There is no given issue or concern that voids the loyal commitment of God’s promise. The believer shall travel through life, safe and accompanied by this revelatory and abiding guidance. The commanding force of God’s word rests upon its integrity. Upon such promise, we are called to act upon by reading what we ought to urgently follow. 


From the very first step of one’s decision to leave Meshech and Kedar, every succeeding pace follows the cadence of His written guide. There shall be no absence of zealous opposition to the life of faith: setbacks, illness, troubles, bankruptcy, and even death, may be experienced; but a greater reality usurps each and every condition: GOD will be there, speaking his renewed presence, at all times.


Vigilance of this sort is foreign to humans. God’s commitment to see us through the rough and dangerous terrain of this world is contingent upon our posture to accept the terms of his blessings. He is the vigilant one. We are called to run to him for help every single day. We are enabled to accomplish this through the diligent readership of God’s Word. Walking with the LORD must be accompanied by keeping in step with His revealed thoughts. This leads us away from dangerous paths: we are called to read the Bible as our way of life.


This is why those who know God deeply, represent him rather fiercely. When they are stumbling and falling, they know by reading: who leans to pick them up without fail.




I breathe music. Life is too melodious to miss its accompanying score. My spiritual rebirth imbibed a prolific thirst that sought to find expression in song compositions.  I have close to fifty originals that somehow capture the inner raptures of my faith. My favorite instrument is the twelve-strings guitar. The echoing reverb weaves panache to the tone.

My grandfather was instrumental in encouraging me to join the city’s Christian Music festival. It was a weekly gathering of talented artists where a recording career awaits the champion. Most of the contestants sang popular hits while I only sang my own craft. For a year, it was rather surprising that I kept on staying in the winner’s circle, until there were only four left towards the Grand Finale. Since the event was on live national radio, my family cheered on with much glee. My younger brother followed my string of good fortune like a hawk. He saw me as the ordained shoe-in winner, proclaiming that I was quite a cut above the rest. Although this was rather presumptive, I must admit taking delight in deeming it quite true.

The Finals was held at the plush metropolitan auditorium. The crowd swelled to a full capacity as they awaited the one blessed to win. I had a settled sense of confidence that afternoon. One that is quite free from arrogance. It was nestled on simple factual guts. I was ready for the show as my kid-assistant proudly bore my encased instrument. We were two hours early into the event. While on the long wait, some kind of alien virus invaded me. I was suddenly having chills with fever. Through the convulsions, I did not have the luxury to call in sick. The contest began.

The first two contestants sang impeccably. When I heard my name, I thought I was half-dreaming, half ricocheting in space. I stood up with my heavy acoustic. With my first strum, I knew I was out. Right in the middle of the refrain, the twelve-strings dropped with a loud thud, sending a ripple of hush from the audience. I managed to recover, but totally forgot what I was singing. I ended up rendering a totally different piece! Descending from the stage, visibly shaking and flushed from the fever’s heat, I slumped back next to my brother. I whispered, “Tommy, I am so ill …”

The night ended with a drifting melodrama. My brother suddenly blurted: “What happened? Why did God allow your guitar to slide?” With what little strength I had, I explained, “It was not the Lord’s will, my brother. He knows I did my best, but He has some other plans. He knows what is best. His word assures me that all things work together for good, including this painful setback.”

It has been more than three decades and my songs have not ceased from being born. My brother never lost faith and continues to applaud whenever I sing.

The sweeping panorama of God’s grand story silences my propensity to settle in with my backyard dreams. I was intending to sing my way to his kingdom but God’s script differed.

 I was designed to live out the songs of Kingdom Epic through a cappella, preaching from a pulpit, devoid of twelve-strings but resplendent with a thousand images strung.

I am a preacher, by His design. 



I know this by reading the book He signed.

Journal Three: Enter



There was a constant air of apprehension each time I got dropped off to school. I always felt a sense of disquiet, especially heightened by the pungent odor of the old school building. One Saturday morning, an exciting break came to be: Cub Scouts were accepting neophytes for the club. I begged my mother to enlist me to balance the equilibrium of my sanity. I got into the crisp blue uniform, knee socks, neckerchief, and of course, the stunning blue cap. The meeting flew by quickly with tons of fun and inspiring promises. Soon, every parent, guardian, friend arrived to fetch their little warriors … All, except mine. 

I waited for minutes and hours but there was no sign of retrieve. I couldn’t help sobbing as my little mind began to imagine a solitary trek to our house, which was vaguely five miles through town and highway. As I mustered whatever soul-fuel I had, the first step went out screeching with blubber. My uniform got so drenched with dust and snot as my stride seemed to reach nowhere. Crossing the highway simulated the Alcatraz swim to shore. Somehow, hiking alone for a 4 year old came across like the Everest trail.

Suicide steps finally had me rushing to our front door only to discover a deeper abyss: my parents and siblings were all having lunch, enjoying the succulence of their feast while I literally got feasted and became lunch to feelings of catastrophic insignificance.

Home, sweet home? 

Translate that to someone who just lost the meaning of his last name.




A song of ascents. Of David.


I rejoiced with those who said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

our feet are standing

In your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is built like a city

that is closely compacted together.

That is where the tribes go up,

the tribes of the LORD,

to praise the name of the LORD

according to the statute given to Israel.

There the thrones for judgment stand,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem;

“May those who love you be secure.

May there be peace within your walls

and security within your citadels.”

For the sake of my brothers and friends,

I will say, “Peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

I will seek your prosperity.





And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

Ephesians 1:22-23 NIV


The third aspect of our life with God involves our affections towards his house. Home is a place where joy ought to exude in abundance. This is most pronounced where the dwelling place is that of the Lord’s: “I rejoiced with those who said to me “Let us go to the house of the LORD.””


In stark contrast to the mercurial atmosphere of our homes, the house of the LORD invites the pilgrim to discover a steady milieu: consummate joy! 


While the pilgrim stands at the very gates of Yerushalayim, the joy of the LORD draws the weary traveler towards His living room: “ … our feet are standing … In your gates, O Jerusalem.” The transcending atmosphere induces an act of spontaneous thanksgiving: Praise and worship begins!


The believer’s walk, as it is directed by God’s guiding words culminates in an arrival to where God dwells. The personal joy of every believer is most tangible in the company of gathered praise within God’s house. The place of worship is described with an emphasis on its bonded structure: “Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the name of the LORD.” Within God’s community, the primary context of life is experienced– shared gratitude for all the benefits of God’s redemption. This is deeply experienced in the gathering of people bonded by a common covenant to live together under Christ’s lordship: each one, volunteering to a covenant contract to live by God’s terms. Nothing more, nothing less but Christ’s will being done within their watchful yet sincere accountabilities. 


The call to rejoice while we live out our days of faith must consistently find its context within the household of faith. The covenant-making nature of the church speaks of God’s architectural prowess in inaugurating a joyful company. As co-journeyers towards God’s kingdom, the reality of Christ’s accomplished victory is incarnated within the collective affection of Christ’s followers to nurture one another from the depths of spiritual formation. Such praise is both necessary and spontaneous for it is “according to the statute given to Israel.” As adopted children, we have become joyful associates bestowed with God’s spoken precepts! We hold each one in high regard while nurturing each other with God’s wisdom. Nowhere is this found other than the “house of the Lord.”


While the collective praise of God’s people is lived out from within our intertwined lives, the essence of divine justice finds a home: “There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.” All our depravity and sinfulness are met with the astounding offer of God’s peace found in Christ’s reconciling work. The requirements for peace are met: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”” All our breaches had been paid for. Not a single stain remains as we are ushered to come into His house, brilliant as snow! Justice meets Shalom right at the doorsteps of God’s home producing a feast of secured prosperity for all those who have come: “For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.” The echoes of thanksgiving resound for what God has done, for what He is doing, and for what He has yet to do.


Our homes have been befouled by superficial glee. The spiritual climate occasionally tilts to the protean promises of this world. The cathedrals of entertainment and recreation openly compete with the primacy of worship, every single day. It is by sheer compassion that God’s doors are still left open.


Our third anchor is to enter into intentional joy by prioritizing corporate worship at a specific local church. We are called to come into God’s presence with his gathered people. We are gently asked to leave our stained and worn-out sandals outside the door, while being ushered with beautiful shoes to come inside where joy beckons every guest to stay for good. The joy of the LORD as it is both declared and expressed in corporate worship is much too potent for any gloom!


 Every believer is called to abandon the hypocrisy of despondency and turn towards becoming a joyful witness to all the wonderful gifts that we have been receiving. We turn away from all injustice and cling to God’s offer of settled peace. As we enter His courts with kindred believers, we leave our personal wrath and enter into His mercy-laden vindication. With much leisure and satisfaction, we are admonished to declare our shared experience as we come together in corporate adoration. We relinquish our rhetorical dreams in exchange for God’s guaranteed promise.


Go to church! 


Enter into the vibrancy of shared life! 


We are joyfully in God’s house, fully furnished by the accoutrements of His glory, honor, and praise!


Welcome Home!




When my call to ministry turned crystal, I was faced with a herculean dilemma of letting go and trusting Christ to fill my shoes to care for my younger siblings.  In our Asian culture, it was expected for the eldest male son to share the load of burden to assist each and every financial obligation the siblings might have until they commence with work on their own. I had a brother and three younger sisters to look out for. This responsibility was made considerably light when three of these left for the US, leaving me with only one sister to support. Before I left for seminary, I had an agreement with God regarding the consignment of this cultural responsibility. I thought He had it clear that it was now fully His purview to oversee my sister’s needs.

Life within the cloistered premises of the seminary was akin to a slice of paradise regained. Challenging as it was, the spurts of growth induced was worth all its accompanying travails. Meanwhile, my sister was faithfully cruising through life back home as a working student. She once disclosed how her good-looking single boss took much interest in her beauty and brains. I visited home one summer and spotted a spiffy sports car parked in front. The young gentleman courteously stopped by to court his young employee. He was dignified and kind in all respects. His warm smile was quite disarming. 

While on a choir tour, I was left without a clue on the unfolding saga of delusion ravaging my home. I was informed, that my sister was pregnant by her boss who apparently concealed his true identity: a married man with three children. He had evaporated since discovering my sister’s unwanted condition. I learned later that week that an abortion had been scheduled to take care of our family’s ethical pride. No wonder, my sister’s tears, while languishing in solitary pain, sent upheavals to every crevice of my soul. When I asked her how she was doing, all she could muster was a whisper: “they wish to kill my baby; why can’t I just keep him?”

For two long hours, I argued for life and was granted favor with reservation. I took my sister to a relative from out of town to shelter her from social ostracism. 

That Sunday, while I felt quite detached from the visible joy of the congregation, the ministry of prayer, word and fellowship stubbornly seeped through my languor.

One afternoon, demons from the East assaulted my conviction to stay the course of peace. I stole my father’s loaded gun to settle the score with the runaway gigolo. 

While I stood trembling with my impulse to take matters away from God and into my fury, I was halted by the weekend memory of believers at church who were all spurring me to let God have his way. It was as almost literal as their cumulative push to toss my sight towards my sprawled bible. With much anger, I begged God to talk now or else, the trigger will have to speak. He did: “vengeance is mine,” was his retort. I unloaded, weeping and trembling from my repulsive withdrawal. There shall be no retaliation. The blood of the Lamb shall replace what had been spilled.

Erico was born to a new home.

Once, I visited the church he attends. He was playing drums with the exuberance of a young man comfortably settled where he belongs. Glad tidings replaced the doom as God himself signed his birth certificate in cursive red.

Journal Four: Delight



The aftermath of any ravaging hurricane leaves an impression so deep that no puny wave can seek to alter. Such was the indelible rash I quaffed while lazily playing Cowboys and Indians in my father’s cave. I was pretending a chase while throwing my weight towards the bed, the pillows were rocks, the blanket was creek. The savages were in hot pursuit and I took cover. Just then, there was the unusual scent of stateside gloss, a misplaced reading book with a winking beauty adorning the front cover. I mumbled at the heading: Pl …ay..boy. There was something seductively glorious about the magazine. I rubbed the genie pages and in seconds, I set foot in a whole new world. I was a meager and eager five-year old boy thrown into the cistern of prurient men.

The centerfold material was a spreadsheet of everything that seemed ethereal yet alien; the bliss was suffocating to say the least. I was holding on to my eyeballs for fear that they might pop out from their missile-shocked sockets. My body temperature revolted with feverish angst until I heard the footsteps of my enemies … the Indians, well, not quite … my mother, searching for her boy. It was lunchtime; but my hunger was instantly transformed from my guts to some inner sphere. I suddenly felt possessed by some plague. As I heaved, I kept the book where it originally sat, making sure that I had attached a low jack to track its whereabouts, from now hence.

My father did not have the slightest clue on who was sharing his imaginary hetaeras, every single turn.

What I did not realize was my pummeling descent unto Aladdin’s cave. There was free entrance but no known keys for the exit. The scent of flesh decay was organically revealing a putrid cancer yet delicious in its cruel assault. My visual universe took on a tsunami that was mysteriously too wild to tame. 

Lust became my adjunct lens wherever I looked for delight. 




A song of ascents.


I lift up my eyes to you,

to you whose throne is in heaven.

As the eyes of slaves look to the

hand of their master,

as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,

so our eyes look to the LORD our God,

till he shows us his mercy.

Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us,

for we have endured much contempt.

We have endured much ridicule from the proud,

much contempt from the arrogant.





I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:11 NIV


The decision to choose life with God grants the pilgrim a firm guide while imbibing an incredible accession of joy. Although this may seem to be most formidable in being able to navigate through the maze of our daily crossroads, the pull of other gods can be most trying.

The allure of pornography is subversively graphic. A virtual relationship is offered through the photoshop displays of unclad lovers. Who would not fall prey to an arrangement of affections where there is absolutely no need for committed accountability? Who would not be flattered by multiple flings, baring all, except their concealed languish, for a few cents per minute? Who would not hitch with a centerfold spouse or a web porn-star who never gets wrinkled and gets unstrung when the dishes are dirty and the toilet gets clogged?

Similarly, the attraction of opulence is its claim to omnipotence. The promise of money propels a sense of security and abiding trust that we shall remain on top of all things, ad infinitum. The insatiable greed that accompanies the pursuit of this delusion is deemed conventional and ethically impressive. We amass enormous amounts of wealth in a race that seems to preclude a finish line.

In parallel, the appeal of power is towards a desire to dwell at Mt. Olympus in affiliation with Zeus. The drive to control others translates into our convictions to herald the summa cum laude, the top jock, the beauty queen, the Silicon man, the face of the book, et al, as demigods whom we must emulate at all cost. Since they possess the eternal fountain of wisdom, theirs is our allegiance. Theirs is our delight.

To all these, our syllabus clamors for a serious audit.

Delight is the fourth crucial peg in our walk with God. Without the accompanying bridle of this volitional trait, we shall fall prey to the slightest provocations of any charlatan.

We are called to experience the realm of true delight by affirming our solitary allegiance to the LORD, our God. 

The posture of this approach is determinedly upward. It conveys our humble, yet true place in God’s economy. We look up to our worthy Deity for we are His’ and not the other way around. We revel our attention to his majestic presence, firmly convinced of his integrity and life-giving mercies. 

The metaphor of slaves and maids points to the benevolent arrangement that occurs between two loyal persons: the master to the slave; the mistress toward the maid. Both of these relationships flow forth from a seasoned recognition of trustworthiness. There is an overriding sense of delight in conveying what needs to be done, while there is an equal relish in being able to serve well. There is not a hint of oppression, greed, or lust. All that is on the table is the matter of delight on what needs to be done, because it has to be done. Only the One who seats enthroned in heaven is able to initiate such a disposition.

The practicum of our call to delight in the things of God must be bounded by mercy. Mercy belongs to God alone. When mercy is granted, delight multiplies. When we receive favor for what we clearly do not deserve, our existence gets radically altered. When we turn to God with utmost concern for His delight, our eyes are resected. Suddenly we see things differently.

We look at people and we behold the image from which they were created. We begin to experience the stunning treasure of deep relationships. We give up control while allowing the spontaneity of flourishing grace. We cherish the jewels of forgiveness and intimate integrity. We do things for others, not to machinate our hidden agenda, but simply because of its joyful privilege. We cease undressing people, while constantly finding ways and means to clothe each other with beatified dignity.

We turn to our things for what they truly are: mere tools to advance the lumens of God’s work. We volunteer our glad labor while recognizing the mercy-favor that has gotten us to our points of responsibility. We discover the magnificent purpose of work: we toil not to secure our lot, but in order to allot the riches of the One who owns all, towards those who are truly in need. We become the true rich, secured in our favored heritage as recipients of opulent mercy.

We spot power for what it is. No one is more powerful than God. We rest content in our posture of utmost dependence. We simply look up and cease pursuing the myth of Olympus. God knows what we ought to do, where we ought to go, when we ought to move, how we ought to walk. We discover the wonderful distinction of traveling through life, being powerfully led by the Spirit within the sure cadence of God’s mercy.

The arrogant chooses to walk alone. Instead of looking up, the posture is reversed. Contempt prevails as their mother-language. There is no mercy. There is no grace. The eyes are forever staring on the mirage of self-absorption. There is no experience of delight. How can there be, when there is no accompanying light?

Our fourth call in the syllabus of our journey, beckons us to delight in the LORD. The posture of this delight is intentionally upward. Being true to our nature as mercy-laden creatures, we turn to our God for each and every concern. We start our day with a commitment to live it, according to what we are told to do. We end with a recollection of a string of delight that has been lavished upon us. As we fix our lives on this God-ward trajectory, we enlist in the practices of spiritual formation. We savor the work of God being coursed through our available lives.

As we look up to God, He peers through all our days, delighted with what He has granted by His mercies. 




The search for one’s true love is perhaps the most knotty in terms of grappling with the ghost’s of one’s own pretensions. If one is to be honest with undiluted motives, the purpose for seeking a lifetime companion seems defiantly elusive. My own journey towards this desperate quest had been dolorous not because of what I discovered about those whom I pursued but on account of what got disclosed about my heart. All my honest explorations have gone to the black holes of this enigmatic universe. 

It was all about looking for the perfect ointment to balm my narcissistic pain.

My first try, revealed a heart so inept; it could not even pass its own shadows.  My second attempt accomplished nothing but validate my wild ego. The third episode revealed a script so cruel even to rewrite. And the fourth was catastrophic: inducing shrapnel wounds to innocent dignity, where the bleeding doesn’t seem to stop. My heart crimes deserve punishment and so I imposed a voluntary embargo, to stop any such seeking expedition and settle to be a eunuch.

But grace is an ocean. One New Year’s Eve, I made peace with God and myself, by rushing headlong to repentance. I lifted up my eyes and wailed for God’s mercy. I turned my heart’s restlessness over to the only One who can hold it still. 

Freedom replaced my impulsive longings. At God’s opportune time, He led His chosen daughter towards my rested patience, while I was asleep in His garden. When I was roused, my flummoxed ribs pounded with joy!

There was no need to feign who I was not. In all my previous rendezvous, I was a complete stranger not only to the beguiled yet more to myself. But this was different. I was vulnerable, yet without shame. There was nothing to hide from her. She saw right through my soul and recognized the rib that she was to me. 

One ordinary night, we were walking hand in hand atop a hill, circling a tennis court, just talking, when she somehow sensed the moment I was waiting for. The hour was ripe for my heart’s intent, but I was taking forever. 

She said in a most kind and soft verse: “I know that you are intending to say something, but you are being hindered … Here it is …” 

I just graduated from the seminary and had no financial leverage to impress with. Despite my lack, I never truly felt any degree of poverty. God’s affluence had been my sufficiency. But that night, I was desperately hoping for some decent engagement ring for I knew it was the night to be. In prayer, I silently mumbled my cry for mercy: “Father, where do I go to offer the seal of engagement?”

“… (She gently removed her own sapphire ring from her finger, taking my palms, saying) … there … now, you have a ring … speak what’s in your heart.”

I never took God’s provision as literally falling straight from heaven. But that night, it expressly did.

“Will you marry me?”

I set the ring back to her awaiting embrace while witnessing the delicious poignancy of her affirming “Yes, of course.”

It was bliss at first sight: nothing hidden, but the rib from mine own, concealed in her Father’s most intricate gown.

He who spins the universe restored my sight towards a Son-lit delight in knowing that I am truly beloved. 



The eyes of my heart regained its proper place joyfully looking up towards God’s powerful mercy.

Journal Five: Speak



The era for blue jeans swept my generation like a swarm of locusts preying relentlessly on ripe luscious fields. Every teenager was on to bell-bottomed denims. It had to be the original, though. I remember a sad uprising of jealousy whenever a peer would show up with the iconic standard.

I constantly prodded and pestered my father to find generosity in his heart to get me the Levi’s. He would of course nod his head, somehow registering some fumbling reflections, and then proceed to whatever was occupying his moments. I kept on appealing for his sensitivities to at least understand why I cannot continue walking the streets of my generation, naked.

It was a humid afternoon when my old man came early from work. He had a crisp brown bag from the Big City department store clutched in his arms alongside his briefcase. There was an unusual glow in his countenance, which betrayed a forthcoming surprise.

He handed me the present with a sense of accomplished pride, while I felt a sudden rush of adrenaline. This is the day that I had been dreaming of. A young boy finally clad with swag.

The glad tidings quickly got ransack by confusion when I tore the bag: there was no Levi’s. It was blue pants but with an unusual horrific twist. The pockets, front and back, were laden with feminine-accented paisley flowers: the kind that simulated a stained glass cathedral for lost souls! I was aghast at what I perceived was a cruel joke. I threw the jeans back to him, and hollered some bee sting invectives.

The jeans remained untouched throughout the day resting on his bed. I somehow retrieved the blue corpse, forcing my senses to befriend the insult. It just wouldn’t happen. I was so caught up with my own version of how the world was made and of how it ought to serve my self-actualized definitions. 

There was surely a hidden dragon underneath all my self-serving needs. I felt the invisible entrapment of a raging flood that ensnared my personal glory, at the expense of others. Although, I sought to flee, the shackles seemed locked for good. Too proud to admit this, I kept silent. I did not speak to my father for a week.

Levi’s or leave it.




A song of ascents. Of David.


If the LORD had not been on our side–

let Israel say–

If the LORD had not been on our side

when men attacked us,

when their anger flared against us,

they would have swallowed us alive;

the flood would have engulfed us,

the torrent would have swept over us,

the raging waters would have swept us away.

Praise be to the LORD,

who has not let us be torn by their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare;

the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.





But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 

John 16:13 NIV


When delight takes its form in the believer’s life, words are somehow commissioned to bear witness to its wonderful occurrence. The fifth aspect in our syllabus deals with the necessity to speak. We are called to serve as witnesses to the comprehensive triumph of God in our lives by way of rehearsing what He alone has done in and through our epic struggles.

We serve notice to the stark contrast of how we used to battle the insurmountable enemy using our own feeble munitions and of how God’s mere breath petrifies the opposition.

We join the shouts of remembrance: “If the LORD had not been on our side …” We speak of our redemption from sure doom. We make reference to our own myopic efforts as the root of our own damnation. We detect some nuance about the enemy and we quickly feign competence on how to quell the imposing dragons. If it were not for God’s intervention within our fateful rounds, we would have been utterly destroyed. 

But, God had intervened. Alas, we have been extricated from our deep dungeons, set free by his emancipating grace.

And so, we are called to speak our praise of the LORD!

The fowler’s snare speaks of the cunning nature of both our personal and corporate entrapments. We are quick prey to our mindless preoccupations. We are quickly driven into passionate pursuits without reviewing their vital connection to God’s purposes. We tend to create our own little stories and magnify their imagined significance so that we can acquire a semblance of pragmatic reason. But anything done, apart from the primary point of serving the praise of God misses the mark. No matter how grand the enterprise is, no matter how monumental the endeavor is, if God is not in the equation, it is a mere entrapment; a snare that distracts us from our true point. We wonder and wander about the viciousness of the cycle we are in. And so, whether it is mere clothing or career, we need an honest scrutiny of why these things revolve either from within or from without. It is only then, that we find a way to escape from the invisible traps that are set to swallow us alive, engulf and tear us apart. 

When we intentionally speak the praise of God, we cause every conversation to rush back to Christ’s victory at the Cross. When this witness is spoken, demons literally outsprint their intent to do us harm. Satan and his cohorts stand paralyzed at the mention of the Blood of the Lamb. When we speak God’s redemption as our life’s preface, we boldly call out the freedom that has been endowed to us by grace.

The name of the LORD is our refuge. This matters only because the Maker of heaven and earth knows us by name. His name meets our wandering identity and as we turn to him for help, we are granted so much more than a first, middle and last appellation. We are handed a white stone: a new name, known only to Him who has bought our freedom. 

Through our desert experiences, we are granted a chosen identity, a chosen race. Suddenly, the ethnocentric hold of culture loses its grip upon us and we enter into a realm of new citizenship. We have been infused with a kindred blood from the consular station of the cross: Christ’s crimson spill delineates our shared DNA.

We have become a royalty of priests. We are granted direct access to God’s holy throne as intercessors: who serve the world with Kingdom prayers. We represent the transforming will of our Father as He seeks to change the world of darkness into a realm of everlasting light.

Such is our pedigree: a holy nation, delivered from entrapment and reserved for God’s exclusive use. We have received our designated assignment to speak in behalf of his glorious work. With the testimony of our transformed lives, we describe the darkness of our former way of life and expose the stunning resplendence of our new life in Christ. We cease being silent. We open our mouths wide, both to receive God’s provisions and to declare His praise.

Because of God’s help, our speech is forever altered. We articulate the holy wardrobe of praise-worthy vestments. Our new life becomes our dress, while our witness becomes the sacred tattoo of our grace-laden heritage.




My youngest daughter is alluringly quiet. You always got cued when she is excited–her feet wiggles in a rhythmic pendulum. She was born in mid-September, which somehow catalyzed the mild yet effervescent purity of her soul. After but a few minutes via normal delivery, I took her in my arms absorbing all the vestiges of a grand miracle.

Her sense of purity is epochal. She spoke few words, yet her vertical extent released a chorus so magnanimously refreshing. Everyone gravitates to her guileless world.

She weeps in whispers, not because of any fear but due to the ineptness of words in representing what she thinks and feels. And so, she resorts to the unabridged capability of her soul to non-verbally declare the foreign language of unmitigated truth.

Barely three years old, we were visiting her cousins in California when she got invited, along with her elder sister for a swim. This was all too exhilarating for our little mermaid!

What was not quite foreseen was her penchant for solitary adventure. Driven by sheer delight, she wandered alone into a separate pool. In a split second, she was drowning without any boisterous yelp. Water filled her lungs and stomach; her lips blistered to gray-pale; but somehow, defying gravity, held afloat by her guardian angel. 

Within these precious moments, without any provocation, her sister providentially moved to the other pool where she spotted the floating body of her unconscious sibling. Immediately lunging towards her, they eventually got pulled out to safety. 

It was a long night of resuscitating silence. I cradled her next to my heart, while tears and prayers sought to assuage my vacillation between hope and anguish. The miracle of breath was restored but not a single word was pronounced.

The following morning, I was shocked to see the spectacle of running and frolic like nothing transpired. The purity of her resilient life cannot endure silence. She emblazons the horizon of every sordid doubt with unrelenting witness.

The years have gone swiftly. When beauty and purity are choreographed with symbiotic craftsmanship, design is etched to speak. She is currently pursuing Visual Design in Fashion as her call to describe sacred glamour. 

One winter day, she asked what I thought about her desire to acquire a tattoo. I always had reservations with embedded marks just because I prefer clean skin. I did not have much leverage, so I just braced myself for some aesthetic surprise. She chose word marks: one for each inner forearm where the elbows swung. “I am yours” and “You are mine.” 

When I first saw the almost microscopic encryptions, I was quite repulsed by its visible audacity. But then, the more I looked at it, the more it made pure sense. I was being drawn to its message. Indeed, her true help, the Maker of heaven and earth, had vanquished the torrents of dragon and raging waters sweeping through her life.

Why must she hide the only reason why her life still breathes with boundless joy?



She is left with no choice, but to speak.

Journal Six: Stand Firm



Fifth grade seemed magical. The boys seemed to transform to little men while the girls bloomed into resplendent sunflowers. I was not quite prepared for this awakening but when she sat one desk behind me, I thought I was caught up in the seventh heaven. There was no flaw in her porcelain-glistened skin; her facial symmetry would be Michelangelo’s delight; her speaking voice was that of a siren from a Sri-Lankan depth; her posture was ordained with a royal gait; her eyes were simply azure with a glint of Saturn’s rings; her redolence was a concoction devoid of any mortal whiff; she was a goddess–sent to magnetize my quiescent affections.

Every single day was Disney-flavored. All that was needed was a glimpse towards her shrine. There she was: constantly reciprocating my incessant innuendos. The perceived mutuality of our undefined soiree escalated in my imagination. I hated class dismissals and longed for its initial bell. How can I withstand such an intense call towards destiny?

One afternoon, a silly game of “truth or consequence” was being played. It was her turn to answer a question with hard truth. She was asked “who is your crush … your inspiration … the love of your life?” Of course, my heart palpitated while I carefully eavesdropped upon her sweet disclosure. Surely, my name shall resonate the halls of her heart and listeners.

Opening her floral lips, the words of a name so foreign detonated my heart with fragments so numerous I internally bled unabated. The object of her affection was some guy from the other classroom. I was left with no strength to even reflect upon this holocaust. I shrunk unto a staggered molehill, shaken by the aftershocks of my fleeting foundation.

I was not even ten years old, but it felt like I vaulted to eighty years with a spine that would not hold nor stand firm.

Beauty died as I began breathing like a beast.




A song of ascents.


Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,

which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

so the LORD surrounds his people

both now and forevermore.

The scepter of the wicked will not remain

over the land allotted to the righteous,

for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.

Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,

to those who are upright in heart.

But those who turn to crooked ways

the LORD will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be upon Israel.





But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 

Mark 9:27 NIV


The sixth anchor in our syllabus describes the appropriate stance along the highway of faith. As the journey ascends God-ward, we are called to maintain a steadfast posture. We are to stand firm.

To trust in the LORD is portrayed akin to the formidable stability of Mount Zion, whose imposing strength reveals an eternal breadth. The symbolic imagery refers to the centrality of God in the life of faith. The infrastructure of our dependence relies upon the rock-solid stability of our core existence. Our trust is in no one else, but in God. 

The encompassing security of God’s care upon his people has been guaranteed “both now and forevermore.” Our flawed vision somehow leads us to dangerous paths. We lay victimized, once over again by the cunning deceitfulness of our own hearts. Our imaginations betray us, both the young and old, as we recoil from being rising stars to plummeting beasts, devoid of any beauty to rescue. We slip and slide through our self-crafted tracks, oftentimes wondering where and how, we missed the right turn. Through the mishaps, we are taken by a deeper surprise, we have been kept standing.

We are admonished to stand firm on the muscularity of God’s loyal love. The strength that surrounds our frailty comes from the established hold of God’s promised covenant. We are hemmed in by his love, forever.

The hounding presence of evil lurks alongside our journey. The unrelenting stratagems of unseen principalities always come in full force. We experience shipwrecks, earthquakes, landslides, and depressions along the way. We get the sense that forces wrestle us beyond our visual recognition. We audit our arsenal and find our bullets inept against the wicked infantry. We cower in seeing the triumph of evil in our land, wondering who might be capable to dislodge the egregious scepter. To this gloom, erupts God’s oath: “the scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous.”

As we choose to stand firm under God’s might, we are providentially tethered with His armor unbeknownst to our enemies. God Himself, fights in our behalf. Through the exquisite warfare, we stand firm, amazed with whose side we’ve been drafted in. The enemies are vanquished indeed!

The hurriedness of the world we live in diametrically opposes the requirement to stand firm. We would rather join the rush, the panic, and the maddening sprint to quell what seems to threaten us. But God calls us to a sacred hush: a divine stillness. We are called to reconsider our posture and as such, turn all our cares to the One who truly cares.

And so we are called to a stance of belief: we stand firm by choosing faith upon faith to claim that Christ does the doing in order for us to maintain our being. We rest by breathing oxygenated trust in all aspects of life by choosing not to conform towards wickedness but to be transformed unto Christ’s goodness. This we do by committing to memory God’s promises: both word and will.

When we stand firm, Peace enters our lives. Not by some manufactured human ideology; not by some perceptive psychology; not by some sophisticated sophistry, but through the grounded reality of sacred geology: our Rock-Mountain fortress shall stand guard over us with his enduring word of peace.




Her name means “beautiful one belonging to God.” She was born with a face lit by the morning sun while clad with a demeanor reflecting the dance of glittering stars. Dress became her imprinted personality. At two years, she knew the elegant runways of vogue. Her speech was loquacious but enchantingly pure. Naturally, she had her first boyfriend at five, a little prince in the neighborhood.

There was always a signature of charm wherever she went. My eldest daughter was an encapsulated bliss, which I incessantly pondered on, wondering what sort of purpose God had for this jewel. Her intellect was organic. Her social rapport was politic. Her spirituality was resonant. There was only one thing that seemed misplaced: a true mirror to remind her of who she really is.

Years of riding on the accolades of one’s genius can somehow take an awkward toll. Her accomplishments have gone too numerous even to recount. Her glories too elaborate to rehearse. And so, the invitations for relationships have gone unabated. Young men have been smitten with much exigency. A few were rewarded for their patience and resiliency. She knew how to love but the oil of affection constantly lacked in luster. One by one, those who sought her endearment died on third base. The explanation for this demise is rather simple, they were all seeking to pursue a rose that seemed devoid of thorns, only to be pricked by the reality of her pedestrian struggles.

One day, love came by swiftly through the enticing hymns of an eastern troubadour. His wealth promised her the galaxies and beyond. My daughter was no match to the ravishing weight of the prince’s offer. When I met him, I was hypnotically mesmerized by his distinctive suave. Finally, a mirror for my child or so I thought.

What took place in the aftermath was horror beyond words. Instead of redemption, there was machination. The deception, which took over our hearts, wrecked the simple foundation of trust I had for decent humans. As I watched the incarceration of my daughter’s soul, I bled with a resolve not to trust in garbs of young men, ever again.

One ordinary day, she came home for a visit while I lay slumbered in bed. She tucked herself close to where I was and whispered, “Dad, you have to pull yourself up from this hole.” I looked up and saw a glow like I’ve never seen before. Her face was lit no longer by some manufactured lumens but with radiance so ethereal. 

We had a long chat that afternoon, reviewing the enduring goodness of God and renewing the rekindled peace of loyal redemption. 

She recently got engaged to a man of no pretense. His opulence rests upon his wild integrity. He offers none of his own but, all of his Father’s kingdom. His songs are deeply spoken in verses of love, joy and peace. When I met him, he called me Papa.



Their story follows a script written by the original author, ebbing with a heartbeat far deeper than the beloved tales as old as time. For theirs is no tale, but the very life of redemption captured by a mirror truthfully reflective of their Father’s loyal love.

Journal Seven: Return



In 1893 James Naismith invented the game of basketball. Some 82 years later, I was faced-up with surprising odds while engaging my eldest sister in a game of one on one.

I had my first basketball that year on my birthday. I remember quite poignantly, receiving the present while still recuperating from a strong flu. The gong-like bounce on its scales was spellbinding. Later that week, my father took me to the backyard for its sequential bonus: from scratch, he crafted a post, a backboard, attached a rim, and after about three hours of dedicated labor, we were both soaked in sweat gutting out our first ever hoops scrimmage. 

I owned our back stadium. No one ever came close to an uprising: my ball; my hoops – they were simply my loyal pawns. Home always won. Visitors always had the cheap consolation of a glass of chilled water.

My eldest sister took interest in the game and somehow had the audacity to challenge me for a prize. I hesitated on grounds of mercy, but her persistent chide got the nod. She had zero aptitude for the game but her defensive tenacity was the equivalent of a dozen Dennis Rodman. She came in with claws and mortars. I was thrown into an octagon of confusion, fumbling and losing every point. Her reincarnation into a solo Dream Team machine ushered the horrific collapse of my kingdom domain. As she was doing her cartwheels of jubilee, a manic instinct sprung from my venomous ego: I lunged at her and bit her arm!

My father appeared rather quickly to the scene, arresting me with several bottom whips and fierce reprimands. I kept on arguing about my anger rights as I was firmly reminded that basketball never included an option for cannibalism. I was banned for a season. It was the modern version of a Babylonian exile.

I held on to the basketball, walking away from the crime scene.

It all seemed like hallucination. Laughter, cheers, and spirit went to the dugout. I began wondering why glee evaporates rather swiftly, or was this simply my self-enthroned dynasty that got exposed for what it truly was: nothing but empty gas.

Will someone please return my missing joy?




A song of ascents.


When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,

we were like men who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, 

Our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.”

Restore our fortunes, O LORD

like streams in the Negev.

Those who sow in tears

will reap with songs of joy.

He who goes out weeping,

carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy, 

carrying sheaves with him.




In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 

First Corinthians 11:25 NIV


A unique virtue constitutes our seventh point. It stands on the premise of vigorous joy. Akin to the lure of a well-crafted espresso, one only returns to what is noteworthy if the recollection brings to life a generous history of bliss. It is to this introspective discipline that we are called next. We are admonished to return to what is real, albeit absent from our current events. The life of faith cultivates a necessity to develop the sacred habit of revisiting the grand vista of God’s enduring work. We are called to return to vestiges of hope, ever so often. 

Life without God follows the trajectory of a dog-eat-dog existence. The survival of the fittest and the desecration of the weak, serves as the unspoken mantra. Everything is done according to the hard fabrications of human labor. Blood, sweat and tears facilitate personal rights to private acclaim. Our self-earned trophies abound with one message: we are the most valuable player within our own magnified domains. When others seek to dismantle our reign, our fangs settle the score. We bite, if need be … to ascertain who is the alpha and who gets licked to be omega. Through the intense drama of such existence, one definitive realization becomes apparent: the absence of joy. 

Entertainment and giddiness abound for sure, but never deep abiding jubilation. The stultifying atmosphere negates any remote possibility of even the slightest hint of glee. In a word, the experience is exilic. 

There resides a vacuum deep down in the human psyche for our image betrays our origin: the Imago Dei was the original birth pattern. We were crafted in God’s image and as such, we are patterned for irrepressible joy. No wonder, we all long for its companionship.

The radical inverse is true of those who are in the current streams of God’s care. While the prevalence of captivity looms, the promise of redemption is always guaranteed by covenant. 

The Christian life is all about experiencing God within the context of redemption. From darkness, we have been transported into dazzling existence. From bondage, we have been set free unto unshackled faith. This intense reality is always accompanied by laughter, by joy, akin to the bliss of a child’s playful dream. Every believer’s journal discloses a wonderful segment of God’s mighty intervention, every now and then: every page, a testimony of joyful recollection. It is to this habit of retracing that we are admonished to pursue. God is calling us to return to the never changing reality of his stubborn love towards us. Whenever we turn on to these instant replays, the joy that we miss is suddenly beheld.

The ways of this world disables our mind from developing the discipline of creating space for remembering God. We are lulled into being read into multiple scripts that speak of life situating us to the front, end and center. It is a narrative with no true center. Such existence always misses the opulence of joy while afflicting a malignancy of despondency. The joy-filled life only thrives when God is central.

The way to recover our proper life script is to enter into a conversation with the Author. God has our story. He beckons us to return to the original script. In solitude, we retrace our steps and remember what God has done. We flesh out our creed: Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again! 

When we return to recognize God’s amazing loyalty, our experiences of drought are immediately overtaken by the flood-rush of God’s abiding presence.

God’s love takes its form by way of seed sowing. He cultivates our existence with his enduring patience. The weeds are gently pulled; the pests are urgently snuffed; new kernels are introduced. While this is done, the air sniffs the mist of joy. All of humanity seeks the joy that is lost. God has not ceased to work. He desires for all, to find it all over again. The simple discipline of writing a journal leads us to remember.

Like carefully handpicked Arabica beans, we are being gathered to distill an aroma that brings joy to every sip. Life with God was designed with exuberant joy in mind. 

Return to this cup of blessing, every single day. 

Redeem your demitasse of joy!




The concept of God was her target. She was raised in Europe to form an intellectual crusade against this delusional opiate. She was young, beautiful and intuitively articulate. Her tour included the US, as part of a student exchange program. Her host family happened to attend my church.

She was all books and journals. Her social life got relegated to the few hours of worship on Sundays, while she sipped a cup of Starbucks latte. I always sensed her quivering revolt each time I spoke about the absolutes of the Christian gospel. Without fail, she would come with civil kindness and say: “that was quite a strong cup of coffee, pastor!” I always responded with a smile: “no apologies, it is the only coffee that I know to be best.”

She became such a darling to our community of faith, despite her solid resistance to our faith. Her friendship was honest. She only had a year to finish her program and the days zoomed by like a blur. On her final week, I got invited to her place for a true European feast. She cooked her family’s recipe and took out her precious photo albums. It was a delightful night of good food, family bonding, and brewed coffee.

As I was looking at the collage of photographs, I was particularly drawn to the pull of her baby picture. While I was intently holding the polaroid, she reminded me: “that’s me, the baby!” Of course, I knew, but there was something explosive that beckoned my senses to engage her serious curiosity. I looked at her, while looking at the photograph saying: “Nadia, please look at this picture, and tell me straight in the eye, that there is no God.” She abruptly changed the topic, gave me a cup of espresso while nonchalantly grabbing her own.

I left that night, with a deep sense of excitement on what comes next. On the way out, she surprised me with a quip: “okay, pastor-friend, if you find a Romanian bible, I shall read it!”

Call it a quirky coincidence, but that week I met a Romanian pastor at a parking lot, headed for Europe but with a spare bible available for my friend. She was so stunned when I handed her the providential gift.

On her very last Sunday, I preached on the audacious exclusivity of God’s grace found in Christ alone. At the sermon’s end, she went up to me with her customary grace … knowing what she was about to say … I interrupted: “It was quadruple espresso, I know but that is for you to remember until we see each other again.” I handed her the book of Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, with my parting words: “Lee is a seasoned journalist just like you, who never thought it possible to believe in God. His memoirs are written in this book. Just for friendship’s sake, will you please read this personal present?” She smiled, while sipping her latte.

Two years passed and there was no news about her.

Joy carried on within the community of faith, while I wondered why some seeds just seem to fall through the cracks. As God’s postman, I always long for good returns: a smile of consolation, a nod of affirmation … the surprise of conversion.

One afternoon, an email resonated with sonic boom: “dear pastor, thank you for all the incessant prayers. I have recently chosen Christ and presently growing in the faith with a bible-study group here at home. Please send my love to my family there. Signed, Nadia, God’s coffee bean.”



The propulsion of joy moved to an otherwise parched existence. Like the sudden burst of oasis through the streams of Negev, songs of joy have returned to a foreign land.


Journal Eight: Rest



He was scary. Those red eyes; the impish grin; the sun-parched skin; the greased apparel. He roamed the streets without ever reaching anywhere. He carried a huge blackened duffle bag that seemed to grow heavier each passing day. He wore no shoes. His feet calluses served as soles against the emaciating hubris of asphalt and dirt. He had no name but his identity was renowned. No one ever came near. He was constantly at least ten feet away from civilized humanity.

There was only one instance when our eyes met. I was on my way home from school as I spotted him savoring what seemed like a corn cob. His horrid hair, kept me from fully scrutinizing his version of a feast. In a split second, he looked up towards my direction and his eyeballs screamed at mine while a cacophony of messages were hurled. I felt an unusual pain, the excruciating agony of a person seeking to discover a lost story. I looked for a second, but I melted the next. I could not stand staring at the caricature of my very existence so graphically depicted inside this man’s countenance.

There was no difference between him and my personal sojourn. It was just that I am the sanitized version of what is plain true about the person that I know I am. I quickly grabbed my school bag and rushed home.

He was too painful for me to endure. My head knocks from an unusual vertigo that had me spinning on how I actually looked like from within.

How is it that this nomad avoids toil, while I seem to be neck-deep in rigor, yet somehow sensing the mutuality of our frustration?

Homeless and helpless, defines us both.




A song of ascents. Of Solomon.


Unless the LORD builds the house,

its builders labor in vain.

Unless the LORD watches over the city,

the watchmen stand guard in vain.

In vain you rise early and stay up late,

toiling for food to eat–

for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,

children a reward from him.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior

are sons born in one’s youth.

Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

They will not be put to shame

When they contend with their enemies in the gate.





Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

Matthew 11:28 NIV


It is but appropriate to meet the central aspect of our syllabus in the call to rest. The irony of this invitation springs from the very nature of what God does so well: wonderful work. Before seeking to enter such repose, it is important to recognize the primacy of fruitful labor within God’s itinerary. He works within a framed rhythm that sets the universe on a course of fluid motion. The Scriptures introduces God, not loading off in some leisurely cruise, but right in the middle of constructive work. The cadence of the first pages of divine revelation heralds the consummate quality of God’s craftsmanship. It is within the pulse of this divine industry that our call to rest arises.

Equally crucial is a determined awareness to shun any semblance of sloth in conjunction with God’s known work schedule. The call to rest within our ongoing steps towards godliness is not an invitation to resign, nor retire in lieu of some guaranteed cash-out benefits. On the other end of the spectrum, lies the necessity to understand the evils of compulsive work. Work done apart from the centrality of God’s supervision is deplorably a royal waste of time and resource. The prayer of rest must guide our work by leaning in on God’s extensive labor.

The current phase of work in our generation simulates the sophisticated machinery of humanity’s ancient enterprise to build the tower of Babel. Nothing was for mediocrity: first-class was the by-word of production. Efficiency was set in motion without any compromise. Persons took on the chains of production under the steady whips of grinding machines. The result of Genesis 11 was catastrophic. The stairway to heaven turned into a nightmarish monument to human ineptness. It is a testimony to all human ventures devoid of God’s superintendence. 

The opposing scenario presents an equally disruptive reality. Society is fraught with lazybones whose primary pursuit is towards charity. Their existence is contingent upon the expected benevolence of those whose calling is that of enabling a race of parasites. 

The call to rest has nothing to do with these previous preoccupations. The mandate is primarily for those who are called to do serious work, in God’s name.

The Psalmist declares with certitude the condition of fruitfulness: “Unless the Lord builds the house; Unless the Lord watches over the city …” all efforts precluding God’s input lead to the highway of uselessness. In deep personal tone, he warns of the unrivaled intensity of unaccompanied human effort, with all the savvy as mere dross. The opposite is lucid: “to those he loves, he grants rest.” 

The secured provision towards God’s own is wrapped around the vehicle of rest. God’s work ethic covers all the necessary grounds for human existence. Absolutely: everything from air to morsel. The primary work of the believer then is rested prayer. It is work that anchors on the sufficiency of the LORD’s being. 

The illustration of heritage presents the stunning commitment of this divine grace. The way of rest takes into consideration the overriding motivation of God’s love in seeking to lead us, in all our work. Children are bestowed to us by way of the most delicious of human intimacy. There is hardly any vestige of labor in the act of sex, and yet the seeds are planted to bloom with wondrous profundity. Our children serve us well within the gates of our secured villages. With fluency, we are affirmed: “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” With humility, we acknowledge the sole competence of our working God to satisfy our vats with his goodness.

What this does to our perception of work is that of providing precision on who truly grants our needs. God’s invitation for us to come to him guarantees the gift of rest.

We are roused to a new kind of labor. We build homes, not despondent from lack of help but profuse with guided workmanship. We raise families, not burdened from lack of wisdom but equipped with sacred sagacity. We look back at our labor and find none to brag. It has been God all along, carrying us through all our dedication and centered devotion.

The beauty of this arrangement rests upon the weight of its accompanying freedom. God grants us all things. When he decides to remove anything, it is a mere reallocation of his sovereign grace. When he adds something, it is a rehearsal of creation.

To all this, we pray: “let us do this, Lord!”




I have always dreamt of having a boy. He was destined to become the NBA’s post-Jordan phenom. It was a long time coming, but on our third pregnancy, all signs were looking bright. My excitement to mentor a young turk was feral. I would accompany my wife wherever she went, as though I was in charge of transporting the Ark of Israel. I handled her with obsessive attentiveness. 

When the announcement was made in church, the congregation responded with a feast. Hail, to the coming champion! The festivity was short-lived. I was doing garden work when my expectant wife showed up with tears describing a tragic irregularity. The doctor validated our fears. Luke Daniel will not be able to cross the line. 

It was a week of deep sadness. I remember merely holding my wife’s tremors with my own trembling hands. When I made the announcement in church, their alloyed tears flowed freely. Through the darkness, God had granted me the vista to have a glimpse of its discreet blessing. I declared publicly: “Despite the pain of loss, I praise God for having at least experienced how it feels to be a father to a son, even for a few days. I truly am grateful.”

After these words, there was one young man seated at the front, whom I’ve never met before, who stood abruptly and left.

After a week, I received a phone call from him. With awkwardness, he revealed why he had to leave. He was convicted through his soul. He was visiting from out of state, trying to clear his mind. He had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and had personally scheduled an abortion. After heeding the clear message, he cancelled the procedure while promising the young woman, his pledge of marriage. He called to ask, if I had time to officiate their wedding.

It was a simple yet eloquent manifestation of God’s intervention through chaos. The redemption of this young family fuels my soul with exceeding gladness. Indeed, everything has been turned over from tears to heaven.

 Resting solely upon the magnanimity of God’s enduring work, my fondest dream took on an eternal shape. The scope of God’s work has been unveiled. It may seem like I do most of the work but it is the LORD who does the heavy lifting. I have found the best effort to be that of resting under the shadow of His wings.



My son, who now resides in my Father’s mansion, has become a phenom, solely by God’s working grace.

Journal Nine: Receive



My little brother thought I was a demigod. Whatever I did, he emulated. Whatever I tasted, he ingested. Whatever I thought, he ruminated. I resolved to aid his ascent to manhood with a sense of marvel-lit mission. If he was to climb the Everest, there was one starting point, I must grant him mentorship on how to conquer the heights. 

The carnival was in town for a season of frolic. I took the glorious opportunity to initiate him by introducing him to the nuance of levitation. He was with adorned pride while we marched to the rusty Ferris wheel cadenced by some loud Motown beat. I bought our tickets and quickly hopped in for the thrill. There were no seat belts; just a tiny iron rod that latched to our front seats. Our cabin was like a makeshift half-drum of petroleum barrel. It was painted with acrylic yellow, which somehow turned tangerine with the reflective lights. 

The wheel did not turn, until all seats were taken. Almost thirty minutes for the wait. We were at the very pinnacle, when the flimsy iron contraption got dislodged, rushing headlong with a quiet thud. No one even noticed except us, who by now have gone into serious panic due to the final descent of the machine. I wailed for the engineer to hit the pause button, but the speed swallowed up any vocal efforts. 

My brother shook with astonished tremor, while I held on to him like a gorilla in rigor mortis. There was no room for idealized maxims about any ladder to success; all that I had in mind were stairs to slip us down and out. Nervousness held our bladders from spilling, while our hearts soared to their maximum decibels. After the eternal damnation, we bolted out of the massacre, both trembling and nauseous. My little brother never bothered to look up, nor ask what just ate us.

The god of heights laughed all night long, as two wannabe gladiators disappeared in the thick night, emaciated and utterly dwarfed.

The jargon of blessing could not be uttered. I had nothing to teach, nor offer, except my brawny cowardice that utterly exposed my personal bankruptcy.




A song of ascents.


Blessed are all who fear the LORD,

who walk in his ways,

You will eat the fruit of your labor;

blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;

your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.

Thus is the man blessed

who fears the LORD.

May the LORD bless you from Zion

all the days of your life;

May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,

and may you live to see your children’s children.

Peace be upon Israel.




Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Luke 6:38 NIV


Our ninth anchor hinges upon God’s unrivaled generosity. He seeks to bless his people with an ever-increasing measure! The substance of our relationship with Him finds affirmation in the realities of tangible blessings that we receive. To all those who truly fear the LORD, the call to make preparations to receive are given.

Deeply ingrained into our human psyche is a virtuous craving towards endowment. Call it mentorship, discipleship, tutelage, initiation, OJT, walk-through, etc., there is such a unique pull towards impacting others by way of sharing what we think we have received. Be it an imagined mastery over fear of heights or depths, we tend to gather our young, to pass on what we treasure. It is towards this propensity that we are to examine the aspect of what we are currently receiving.

When God is taken seriously, a new kind of living ensues. A person’s walk follows a specific path that leads to the land of blessing. Through the journey, fruitfulness is experienced in terms of God’s promise of prosperity. 

Since our faith-walk is towards God, the version of blessing flows from his carefully revealed parameters. We are granted discernment to see that all that glitters is not necessarily gold. Primary in our consideration of true wealth is the blessing of flourishing relationships. We see our families as incomparable bestowals of God’s love. We receive friendships with the honest agenda of genuine other-centeredness. Material grants are seen precisely for what they are: mere materials designed to build God’s kingdom. The fear of the LORD does all these: we are made to receive full blessings in order to make preparations to give up the same, causing others to taste and see true opulence.

We pass on the blessings by receiving the peaceable favor of God’s gifts. 

As God’s true people, we understand how rich we have become. We suddenly turn to the grace of generosity and find the joy of giving.

Freely we have received. Freely we give.

Lessons, cars, lives … are received in order to be given.




My first car was a midnight-blue coupe named Brutus. I endowed him with obsessive care and compulsive delight. I guess that’s what happens when your heart is young and toys easily trick your affections into hidden idolatry. Through the years, I have somehow outgrown this myopia and had found a deeper source of grounding.

I just gave my personal SUV to a family who just joined our church. A near fatal accident caused the loss of their only vehicle: an F-150 truck that somehow morphs into a bus to accommodate the young couple and their five kids. It did not take much for me to part ways with my favorite recreational toy, and although it did pinch, I knew the Lord had a better use for it.

That very day, a good friend called to ask if I could be of help. Her old car was just about to be towed away. It was parked at her relative’s front garage for some months now, oil leaking, dead battery, flat tires etc. She was wondering, if I had a room for an extra baby. I said: “You do not have a clue on what I just did. I do need a spare car. Let me help you with it.”

I was looking at an old masterpiece: a 1988 BMW iS Coupe. It used to be cherry red, but has turned oxidized pink. The engine was coated with gunk. She was a silent shadow of her former glory. I got married in 1988, and this was the ultimate eye candy back then. I just had to sign the adoption papers.

The restoration process was both expensive and rewarding. It was close to its mint condition except for a mysterious leak on the power-steering receptacle. I have gone to a handful mechanics that shared my frustration over the riddle. Exasperated with the fluid mess in my garage, I finally went to the snooty dealership. The manager was too impressed with the old steed. He intimated that “she must have been handed down to me by my good Dad.” When I told him about the leak issue. The first thing he asked was what kind of fluid was I using. “Power steering fluid of course!” He smiled and said: “This model does not use power-steering fluid. It is a proprietary blend only from BMW!” It was a forty-five dollar bottle miracle. I drove home and took my wife for a spin. With glee, I said: “Back in 1988, if I had the money, I would have bought this very car, glued the engagement ring on its key and asked: what does BMW mean? Of course … Be My Wife!” 

I drove the sterling speedster with growing pride. One day I met a city cop who demonstrated an impeccable demeanor in helping me sort out some regulation issues. I invited him and his wife to join us for dinner. The African-American couple was a delight, to say the least. His wife was a schoolteacher in downtown Dallas. After our dinner, I asked how I might pray for them. They shared an urgent need for another car. 

I knew I had to pray alongside. I also know that when one prays seriously, one must be ready for anything. A silent tremor grew everyday within my heart until, I called my friend to ask about the car situation. He said, “don’t worry my friend, the Lord will provide!”

The following week, I invited him to attend the prayer meeting at my house. Walking him outside my door, I told him, the Lord has supplied his need: I handed him the keys, title and license. He stared at the showcase with disbelief. I had to force him to get inside, lest I change my mind.

The uninterrupted string of God’s blessings had found its best expression: while I am constantly on the receiving end, nothing quite compares to the finality of being able to mimic what God does. The gifts that we receive turn into eternal memoirs once they get released to bless others.

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, stands for their ultimate driving machines, but within the paradigm of my blessed existence, the acronym helps me conjugate a deeper grace: Be Most Willing to give!

Journal Ten: Stay



Friar Svanovski was the sort of priest who exemplified a seasoned pious stability that kept those around him safe and fastened. With serious demeanor he once declared with absolute certitude that all non-Roman Catholics are hell-bound. I was the only Protestant in our exclusive Catholic school. But then, I got ordained with the grace of proximity to his inner circle. I played the ropes well by leeching away from my predicted descent to Sheol. I constantly served as his knight of the altar. My religious wardrobe became a convenient ride to emphatic affections, albeit the steep price: I had to imbibe Pharisaical legalism. I was an impeccable saint, at least while within the synod’s radar. 

One of the mandatory requirements was to maintain apt decorum whenever religious rituals ensued. This was most pronounced during one particular rite. It is believed that actual divine transcendence took place at the moment of its invocation. And so, participants were to stay in place with serious fidelity.

One humid day, all classes were led for such gathering. I was about to take a restroom break but expediency did not allow for it. The program extended beyond normal while I was experiencing the excruciation of holding back every fabric of expulsive muscle from imploding my bladder. Every part of my internal anatomy wanted to rush towards the exit but the subliminal memorandum of the holiness code was omnipotent. When the scent of smoke unleashed the signal of the apparent epiphany, I felt a sudden quiver–a simultaneous push of every dormant fluid: perspiration and bladder-flow gushed unashamedly unabated. Therein lies the vignette of one kneeling saint wetting his pants prostrate before the god of Niagara!

I literally knelt frozen, while everyone began to leave. One classmate noticed my immobility, asking if I was all right. Discovering my calamity, he ushered me out from the puddle. I wondered why the janitor never bothered to dry-clean the wet evidence. Perhaps, the custodian suspected a mirage. 

Not a bad guess at all. I was merely a glorified liquid vessel, held by the ecclesiology of my own scheming. 

With a growing confusion, I began asking myself what was it that really shackled me to my sacred pew?

What in the world washed my brain to think that I can lean in to stay for comfort other than the rest room?




A song of ascents.


They have greatly oppressed me from my youth–

let Israel say–

they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,

but they have not gained the victory over me.

Plowmen have plowed my back

and made their furrows long.

But the LORD is righteous;

he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.

May all who hate Zion

Be turned back in shame.

May they be like grass on the roof,

which withers before it can grow.

with it the reaper cannot fill his hands,

nor the one who gathers fill his hands,

May those who pass by not say,

“The blessing of the LORD be upon you;

we bless you in the name of the LORD.”




He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39 NIV


The tenth aspect in our pilgrim syllabus especially bears upon the unfavorable setting of our transient cultures. We are called to adopt a most difficult discipline: to stay. 

In a world that is constantly subject to coercive schemes and calculated manipulations, we have somehow learned the art of ejecting ourselves from any discomfort whenever we feel like it. And so we transfer from place to place without much thought. This has become the norm for relationships, jobs, dwelling, faith, etc. Whenever there is some inconvenience, we have been conditioned to consider our multiple options and henceforth, move with haste.

There is likewise an inverse reality to this. There are those who have been so entrenched in deep tradition, albeit life-drenching, that are somehow stuck in between tight screws, paralyzed and disabled to move. There is a call to engage our current life stations with the proper application of God’s mandate for us to stay when needed, but move whenever absolutely necessary. In both scenarios, we are called to consider the firm invitation to stay within God’s purview.

The psalmist lays out the unrelenting nature of debilitating challenges: “They have greatly oppressed me from my youth …” This world has its way of enfeebling its participants. Since humanity’s fall, there has been a predominant atmosphere of cultural insurgency that seeks to harm God’s people. There has arisen a consensus that followers of Christ are dangerous elements in that they seek to subvert the existing social order. The distinction as God’s own is seen as misplaced arrogance: the establishment of a chosen race. Thus the oppression seems warranted. The psalmist experiences this unceasing assault but with a reasoned rigor, declares: “but they have not gained the victory over me.” The life of faith calls for a resolve to stay the course, through the unrelenting attacks. The word stay brings out the distinctiveness of persevering patience amidst the storms of life. 

The person of faith who chooses to hold on to the anchor of God’s covenant loyalty will be granted divine rescue each time a need arises. God made a promise to defend us from all our enemies in order to safeguard the integrity of our faith in him. The protection plan is offered only to those who are willing to stay within God’s policy plan.

There is a curse that befalls those who oppress God’s people. They shall be put to shame. Their arrogant positions shall yield nothing but temporal weeds. Whatever they seek to accumulate will be assessed as leading to emptiness. No blessing follows their generation.

The wicked choose to stay bolted within their imagined prowess but the believer turns to the Lord’s strength for vindication. It is towards this divine grant that we are called to stay.

When we translate the principles of this psalm into the very tapestry of our lives, we find ourselves making commitments to stay in our God-ordained locus, knowing that his strong right hand shall keep us standing, no matter what.

As we choose to stay, our relationships are restored from their brokenness while being infused with increased energy to live another day, another year… another life. 




Frank seemed to have it all. He owns an illustrious enterprise in Manhattan. The most gorgeous family adores him. His suburban home reflects the flair of an architectural digest. Life was good, until one curious look and an accompanying wrong turn blindsided his trek.

His wife flew in to Dallas to shut the doors forever. He was caught in broad daylight. There is no excuse for infidelity when your wife exudes exceeding pulchritude. Her brother told me about the impending divorce and was just asking if I had any spare time to comfort Frank who was rather fouled out of steam and despondent. I said “no divorce is final until it is signed.”

The following week, there was a gentle knock at the front door. He flew in from out of state, just to see me. I welcomed him and without ado, he went into serious business. His thick Italian accent flavored the heaviness of his travail. Going through the events leading to his tragedy, he screeched with a firm question: “Is there still some hope to save this marriage?”

My response was terse: “None.”

He then stood up, began to say goodbye, when I interrupted: “There is none, except for one.” “What is it then?” he curiously asked. “You have to die, first.” To this, he looked at me blankly, rather perplexed if I was a clown digging through his grave. I went on to explain the metaphor of dying to self in order to live anew. He saw the urgency of turning his life over to God. Upon surrender, I reminded him of his acquired nature: a person in Christ is a new one. The old Frank is dead and gone.

He flew back and true to his new conviction, he cut all peripheral cords that somehow entangled him. News of his conversion reached his wife. This led to escalated infuriation but somehow, granted her curiosity to visit with me. I shared the story, but it did not end with Frank. She too, needed to die, if their marriage was to live.

After about a month, a first class miracle took place. I was present during the awkward reunion. There were few words uttered. The first was preceded by Frank’s hand reaching out to hers asking, “May I hold your hand again?”

A year after their reconciliation, I visited the East Coast and was invited to stay overnight at their house. It was such a splendor to witness the sweet turnaround. Sleeping at the attic guest room, I was awakened by their son’s cry: “Daddy, daddy … where are you? Please take me to your bed!” The rushing footsteps of Frank followed instantaneously as I heard him whisper: “Son, it’s okay, Dad is here, I’ll take you to our room … come … “

 I pondered if it were not for mercy the urgency of forgiveness would have been stunted. If it were not for the accompanying death-to-self on that ordinary day, there would have been no forthcoming footsteps or comforting words for the toddler. 



If it were not for grace, we would have all been divorced. But God stayed, and thus we stay.

Journal Eleven: Exchange



I got introduced to the study of living things with some sense of reservation. I always thought that organic existence ought to be left alone un-dissected. This all changed when my teacher demonstrated a riveting theatrical demeanor towards the living universe. His love for Biology was akin to the surge of an epidemic: our class got hooked. I was captivated by this man’s torrid passion for his academic fanaticism. His seriousness was ridiculously inspiring. He demanded utmost respect for all his acolytes each time his botanical cathedral chimed for learning.

I was his number one disciple. My notes turned obsessively verbatim. I was so enamored by his pedagogical prowess that my personal delight in the scrutiny of protoplasm grew with equal vigor.

One morning, all classes were being dismissed to proceed to the gym to cheer for the basketball team. While all classes were quickly emptied, ours remained fastened to our sacred subject. He warned our class not to veer any of our attention to the distraction of student traffic converging along the corridors. I was completely compliant with this edict for I was his unflinching loyalist.

One millisecond though, my eyes wandered away from the blackboard while glancing at some rowdy pedestrian. His highness, immediately roared his thunder, leaped from his throne and in a single bounce, both his hands and scepter were on my collars. He uprooted me out of my chair, dragging me towards the door while hoarsely shouting: “If that’s where you want to be, then scram … run outside and don’t look back!” 

It felt like I was thrown into some demilitarized zone left with no option but roam unto oblivion. I was in severe shock on what just transpired. It took me about a week to wiggle past the dust of my incoherent fate.

I never had the strength to ask my teacher what got into him to publicly demonstrate such an epic ignorance of my deep allegiance. The classes ran as usual but I merely attended the sessions with my soul parked and my countenance anchored somewhere else. 

Biology grew pale on my list, as my weakened attention drifted with complacency, not even willing for any exchange of any further affection towards the study of living monsters.

Why must I entrust my thoughts to a heartless guru who knows nothing but tadpoles and bad foils. 

No return. No exchange. 




A song of ascents.


Out of the depths I cry to you. O LORD;

O LORD, hear my voice.

Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,

O LORD, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness;

Therefore, you are feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,

and in his word I put my hope.

My soul waits for the LORD

more than watchmen wait for the morning,

more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,

for with the LORD is unfailing love

and with him is full redemption.

He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.





What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 

Matthew 16:26 NIV


The honest recognition of human travail longs for the integrity of our eleventh element. In the midst of our tumultuous conditions, God calls us for an exchange. The kind of transaction that he offers defies the conventional meaning of human calculations. It is an offer of trade between the benevolent God and for only those who are willing. For lack of a better description, it is simply a Great Exchange: an incredible form of redemption from sufferings. 

The cry of the Psalmist reveals deep pain: “Out of the depths I cry to you. O LORD.” The life of faith does not seek to hide nor diminish the realities of pain and suffering. The way out of darkness always presupposes an honest accounting of how dark one’s gloaming has been. Persons who are in denial of their own duress are never led to the doors of freeing light. It is crucial to face one’s painful experiences in order to be able to cry out the precise volume of its depressing depths. It is towards this plea that we are called to weep out to the LORD.

A believer who cries out to the LORD with honest integrity, hopes upon the personal attendance of God to all who seek his solace. It is towards his mercies that this dependence is leaned on. Indeed, there is not a single person who deserves God’s attention, but because of mercy, He turns his eyes towards the lowly and hears them.

The bulwark of sin in our lives causes us to recoil in fear of others. Those whom we have formerly entrusted have betrayed us. Those who trusted us, we have denounced. Apart from the mercies of forgiveness, bitterness runs the course of our lives. How can our affections be restarted to trust those whom we deem untrustworthy? Sin stains our relationships with deep dark indelible ink. Apart from forgiveness, all wrongdoers, including us, are doomed. But God shows up with forgiveness. He offers himself to settle the injustice that cannot be undone by any human judge. He throws away the record books and replaces it with one that lists those who have been pardoned without any record of wrongs.

While this recognition takes place, God ushers us to apply the call to exchange. Whatever weakness, whatever ineptness, whatever malignancy, etc., all such personal incompetence is being ushered into the trade market of God’s grace: His strength for all our weakness. The ancient meaning of waiting speaks of a definitive exchange between two unequals. The benevolent bestows favor towards a humble subject. God calls us to a proper accounting of our prevailing pains and in the midst of all our agony we are to cry out for his help.

The posture of waiting seeks the dawning of sure hope. Waiting upon the LORD, intentionally focuses upon the reliability of God to turn things around, because of his unfailing and loyal love. The Great Exchange is grand due to the comprehensive nature of its intent: full redemption.

We cease defining ourselves while turning to our Creator for our true identity. God does not save us from retail pain. He sent his Son to provide full redemption from all our delusions. When the Great Exchange takes place, we are forever changed. He answers our prayers by being the answer Himself.

We are no longer mere wanderers but redeemed people, set apart and adopted with God’s enduring favor.




I was visiting Manila, still reeling from the cataclysm of a friend’s suicide. It happened just a week prior to my arrival from Dallas. He suffered from asphyxiation; the trauma of losing his boyfriend snapped his lifeline. I will be flying back in a week to conduct the funeral service as was requested by his family. I was at a loss for both words and meaning.

Being both a pastor and friend to a lot of folks can be truly enervating. One week of reconnection seemed the equivalence of seven. I was re-packing for home when Bryan called at around 1 am. He just needed to talk. The abysmal loss of his eight-year old son on Christmas Day, took his marriage cascading down in a spiral.

I was booked at central hotel, and it was convenient to call the appointment downstairs. I spent about two hours clarifying the need for deep empathy in what he and his wife were going through. Our session ended with his summary: “ It is just so difficult to enter her dark world. She stays there, and tries to pull me into her death-trap … I can’t help but rush out quickly.” I assured him of my prayers, while hinting my need for desperate sleep.

Walking towards the elevator, I noticed a young gentleman, half-slouching and half-lying on a bar chair. There were about fifteen bottles of beer on his table, cradled by the putrid smell from his ashtray. Spotting us, he propped himself up and bawled my friend’s name: “Bryan! Bryan … my goodness! … it is so f…. ing late and you’re still up with your boyfriend? Long time, no see, dude … What’s up with you, man? Who’s this f … ing hunk, anyway?” 

Bryan was obviously embarrassed and stunted from speech. The stranger was his high school classmate. He was the designated watchdog that night for some big shot foreign executives who were ferrying high-class women to their clients. He was directing the traffic, all night long. Obviously exasperated and drunk, he was merely intending for some company. He pursued his fulmination towards me: “I’ve never met you before … Hey Bryan, would you mind me stealing your boy for the night?” Bryan was now pulp-red, when I spoke: “I am not Bryan’s boyfriend, I am his pastor.” It was as though some kryptonite detonated. He dashed towards the exit only to return, cursing Bryan for not stopping him from his miserable rap of ignorance. “Pastor, forgive me, I did not know … Bryan, for Christ’s sake, he is your pastor, man … uhh, Pastor, you see … I was once born-again too.”

He ordered coffee for all three of us. He shared why he defected from the faith with a clear introduction: “Your God, plays favorites. I used to like him, but he just chooses whom to bless and I am certainly not one of those!” I just listened for about an hour of anecdotes on darkness, desert, and dungeon. It was rather amazing that I was able to keep up with his narrative, considering my droopy state. Sensing perhaps my courtesy in lending him my undivided attention, he asked what brought me to the city.

I shared my itinerary, which somehow led to a disclosure of my unresolved grief pertaining my friend’s suicide. I was surprised by his calm while he listened with depth. He then interjected: “I think I catch his drift. I am not really gay, as in happy. I slog through a melancholic river. I have had a thousand and one affairs with every stud in this city and they all seem to facilitate cascades to rapids of dole. It is just a matter of time, I guess, before one hits rock-bottom.” He paused, and with poignancy, he continued: “You are married I suppose and each time you make love, a propulsion of life begets you. Inversely, I don’t know why a dagger hits me each time I try that with my lovers … I die a thousand times.” “That’s why, your friend’s fate does not surprise me at all. It happens to me all the time.” “I keep on praying for rescue but I guess I am not one of his favorites.”

With a prompt of urgency, I interrupted his poignant exegesis: “Benny, I flew all the way from Dallas to hear from God what I needed to understand. I never had you on my schedule, but it seems like you were on His. Could it be that you have remained precious in his sight, for him to book this conversation to lead off?”

We talked about the possibilities of hope amidst darkness among others. It was close to 4:30 AM when I got dismissed. At the hotel’s door, Bryan bid goodbye saying: “the deep empathy of soul, I witnessed tonight ignited my redemption …”

Well, salvation for Bryan and Benny, I guess … but it was actually, more for mine. Redemption sounds like a deep theological term but it is nothing more, nothing less but an incredible trade: all our weaknesses surrendered, in exchange for God’s awaiting strength. 

Thousands of feet above, huddled within the clouds, I peered down the gray-scaled earth, smiling with thoughts of expectancy through all the vast, yet truly puny chaos. 

God does play favorites.



His calendar gets filled with their appointed schedules: exchanging grand mercies for piddling morsels.

Journal Twelve: Hush



The four-stringed instrument was surely crafted for romantic transcendental bliss. But that’s not quite the case with my gritty violin. It was bought from some third class provender. One afternoon, I was surprised with the encased present; but then, I quickly wondered what must have been the collaborated ploy. Well, the week after, true to my premonition, I got introduced to a nerdy Professor who was to be my Tuesday night solfeggio and violin mentor, from now hence. With disdain, I bid goodbye to my street-play commitments in lieu of my parent’s cultural imposition.

It was a journey of pain and lament. During the very first lesson my teacher asked for my instrument, which upon his quick scan revealed an insidious smirk. With an accompanying cattiness, he then unpacked his violin from its costly brown case. His was truly beautiful: the light tan, the unusual gloss, which emitted a sensuous scent. With the first down stroke … I was so enthralled by its resonant ambience. When I was asked to play mine, all that it could produce was a half-muted eek, which rode on four wheels while stirring off-road notes. Nonetheless, I was consoled to pay close scrutiny to my lessons and not to focus on my challenged implement. And so I tried. Months of hard labor took me to some degree of competence. The constant backdrop of extemporaneous howl from our neighborhood canine chorale at least affirmed the proper placement of my high notes. 

On Christmas night, a social gathering of about 300 people, were set to witness my first solo finale: Stille Nacht. All kinds of dignified persons showed up with holiday smiles and kind expectations. Not to be hidden by any limelight, the Professor kept on fine-tuning my violin despite its dormant readiness. Up to the very last second, he compulsively directed the audience’s attention towards who was the protégé’s Maestro. 

And so it was time for the serenade of the night.

On the first down-stroke, all of Hades seemed loose. I noticed that all strings except for one were in tune. For some mysterious conspiracy, my violin defected from any good intentions and went on a sordid recalculation towards self-expression. Silent Night was hardly recognizable as I fought with incongruence for every note. I could not make sense of whatever dissonance was fueling the cruel coup de tat. The audience grew silently pale each seconds. The Professor was obviously wincing in pain as I sought to terminate the malignancy of my misery. While there was a courteous applause, I hurried to bury my violin to its casket, while imploring my mentor not to lay any more hands upon this hushed renegade. 

Silent Night, Wholly Blight!




A song of ascents. Of David.


My heart is not proud, O LORD,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul;

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD

both now and forevermore.




But Jesus remained silent. 

Matthew 26:63 NIV


There is a specific kind of stillness that calls the believer to enter in: a sacred hush before the Almighty. In a world that is both hurried and noisy, the discipline of being silent before God becomes a formidable undertaking. There is nothing in our rambunctious culture that truly understands what it means to be hushed in the presence of the Triune God.

There is much silence, to be sure, but it is the kind that is elicited from despondency. There is silence that emanates from defeat and utter hopelessness. There is silence that comes from the unceasing blows of heaping rape and abuse. There is silence that rises from the face of death. Silence becomes a sting that deflates the human soul from soaring and wrestled unto a crawling existence. But there is a kind of stillness that this world knows not of. It is the kind of serene solitude that results from being in God’s presence. 

A proud heart does not understand such stillness. The arrogance of humanity is expressed in our propensity to solicit control of all things. We seem to find a semblance of established identity when we exert our will to govern anything that surrounds us. We become managers of this, and managers of that. We superintend all things, from tuning violins to defining earthlings. We seek to control in order to feign who we are not: omnipotent creatures made to reign over all things, devoid of God’s lead.

The Psalmist declares: “My heart is not proud, O LORD,” as the starting point of his intent to be still before God. We are called to enter into a holy hush by bridling our hearts to recognize our proper place in God’s economy. God alone is God. When we consider the immensity of His character as Trinity, we are sent into a sense of deep awe on who has committed to walk alongside our life journey: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Three in One. One in Three. The Triune God in perfect tune with their delight in seeking what is good for us. When this is acknowledged, all arrogant haughtiness comes to a halt.

The stillness of one’s soul passes through the discipline of trusting the One who alone can do no wrong. Like the stillness of a weaned child next to his mother, we assume the posture of utmost dependence. Our hope is singularly anchored upon God’s wisdom: his timing and provisions are impeccable. We move out of his way, in order to experience the full measure of his care.

The challenge of this discipline lies in its consistency. We are called to a life of abiding hush “both now and forevermore.” Our present journey, as well as our future steps find sure ground under God’s all-knowing care.

As we imbibe this kind of stillness, we enter into a life of celebration where nothing ever succeeds in pulling us down. The stings of this world no longer bite. Even the captain of all anguish, lies decapitated: O death, where is thy sting?

The true knowledge of God’s abiding presence has taken over all our strident anxieties. God is amongst us. We are hushed within His presence.




 I considered king Muhammad Ali nonpareil. I followed his illustrious reign without impedance. When father showed up with boxing gloves, I transformed between a dancing butterfly and a stinging bee. Papa was no pugilist but he understood the science of a good punch. We had hours of sparred laughter, yielding lessons to quell cowardice and its kinsman. For the big man, quitting was out of the question. If you fall, you better hit the deck fighting.

There was not a challenge he did not face. The fabric of his difficult childhood had forged a seasoned fighter. Through the conquests and havocs, I see him as some Gibraltar-mound constantly pulling me up to heights beyond my reckoning.

Alzheimer’s in red trunks struck him while he was battling esophageal cancer. The brilliance of his intellect faded like an abused pair of jeans washed through a million cycles of detergent impunity. One day, he called complaining about my mother’s insensitivity to his triumphant promotion: he has been recently named the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He excitedly shared details of his talks with Kobe Bryant, and the exciting stratagems he was devising. He intimated the need for my help to help him move to a large house, guaranteed alongside his astronomic paycheck. It was painfully cruel to listen to these intermittent figments, but nothing was more revolting than his lost affections towards mother. The escalating verbal abuse, incoherently hurled towards her was overpowering, to say the least.

Life had a way of throwing him towards the ropes while methodically pummeling every live tissue in his withered frame. In moments of temporary lucidity, he would remind me that in the event of serious intervention, “please spare my dignity, do not allow any tube to hold my life.”

That week, an awakening took place. He inquired for the wife of his youth. Mother was in New Jersey that time, assisting my youngest sister with her pregnancy. Over the phone, he went on a surreal rehearsal of my mother’s charm, beauty and enduring grace. His final words were: “Please tell the beautiful lady to come home, I need her next to me.”

I did not realize the evanescent cadence of his hourglass until I was told that he was dying. I flew to Los Angeles with haste and upon arrival, all that I saw were multiple tubes attached to the fallen warrior. I knew exactly what he was subconsciously beseeching for me to pull off.

The final minute stood still like a wind so strong yet completely tamed. I held his hand, sensing the torrid punches being fiercely landed. It was my turn to be in his corner. I whispered “ Papa, please show me how this is done. How must I pass this way to Christ, when the final tap is heard? Show me, now.” With one strong breath, he beamed his robust admonition with opulence.  



There was this kind of hush that I knew my father experienced: his King of Glory, proclaimed him winner by magnanimous redemption.

Journal Thirteen: Promise



I was a party animal. The zoo of social interaction that takes place on these masqueraded gatherings is much too scintillating to pass. When one is able to hide behind the kliegs and beats, instant pretensions abound. One night, I feign a regal persona; the following gig, I turn into some wild outback junkie. There is no telling who is really who during these unremitting rendezvous. 

It was a full moon in May, I stole my father’s mustang and I was wearing a thick US Navy jacket, which somehow hid my scrawny physique. The party was at some rich girl’s house. I remember arriving late, but with swag. The night’s most popular girl somehow gravitated towards my charisma and decided to zero-in on me. She was from the most affluent clan in the city. Well bred and naturally unsuspecting of duplicity. It was a feast for my social dexterity as I floored my accelerator to impress her with my camouflage. It was not every night that one gets to spend it with some cool hunk, you know.

The following day, she called and audaciously proposed for an exclusive relationship. Astounded as I was, without much room for leverage, I just said, “let’s do this.” When I hung up, I felt a giant load of sudden responsibility encroaching upon me as though I was coerced into a matrimonial pact. My emotional reserves rattled with tectonic anxiety: I never had experienced having a girlfriend.

The days went by fast and furious. Every passing day, I got exposed for my true ineptness. I was offering nothing but dry straws. After only a few weeks, she faced up with the sting of truth and broke up the delusional cul-de-sac.

I was more relieved than humiliated. Amidst my initial test-drive, however, sprang a stigma that emits a haunting poison taunting the clay-natured feet that barely holds me up. How can I even dream of seeking to be in a relationship, when my own evaluation demeans everything about who I really am from the inside out? Strip me of my stolen goods and social steroids and what is left are negative decimals–the mathematics of which could not even add up to a decent sum of wholeness.

I am scandalized by my mere thoughts of restarting anything about love, among others. How can one enter the gates of relationships when there is not an iota of integrity to muster a promise, let alone, the pretension of keeping it? 

My heart desperately needs a radical transplant. But what kind of heart fits some animal, who does nothing but party till he’s dead?




A song of ascents.


O LORD, remember David

and all the hardships he endured.

He swore an oath to the LORD

and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:

“I will not enter my house or go to my bed–

I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids,

till I find a place for the LORD, 

a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

We heard it in Ephrathah,

We came upon it in the fields of Jaar;

“Let us go to his dwelling place;

let us worship at his footstool–

arise, O LORD, and come to your resting place,

you and the ark of your might.

May your priests be clothed with righteousness;

may your saints sing for joy.”

For the sake of David your servant,

do not reject your anointed one.

The LORD swore an oath to David,

a sure oath that he will not revoke:

“One of your descendants I will place on your throne–

if your sons keep my covenant

and the statutes I teach them,

then their sons will sit on your throne

for ever and ever.

For the LORD has chosen Zion,

he has desired it for his dwelling:

“This is my resting place forever and ever;

here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it–

I will bless her with abundant provisions;

her poor will I satisfy with food.

I will clothe her priests with salvation, 

and her saints will ever sing for joy.

“Here I will make a horn grow for David

and set up a lamp for my anointed one.

I will clothe his enemies with shame,

but the crown on his head will be resplendent.




Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 

Galatians 4:28 NIV


God’s relationship towards us stands upon the integrity of his promises. When God speaks, every word he utters demonstrates his impeccable character and wisdom. In direct contrast to humans, we speak a lot, but with very little concern for true substance. Our world runs on an unceasing stream of information, which are for the most part, limited guesses to who we are and why we even exist. 

So, when we utter promises, there are no real guarantees on the quality of our follow-through. But we make them anyway, with an unspoken understanding that our verbal warranties must never be taken at face value. We cannot simply stand behind our words for they are fickle and fleeting.

What God does to remedy this duplicity is to infuse his very nature into our lives so that our anchors are forever changed. We are enabled to speak with fluent humility, recognizing the primacy of God in causing all things to work together for our good. We are called to join God in his work, and as such, we find ourselves endowed with the simplicity of making promises that are actually made for keeping.

The Psalmist recounts such incident in the life of David who made a promise: “I will not enter my house or go to my bed - I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.” Having experienced God, David’s resolve to offer his utmost efforts for his LORD came rather naturally. The LORD’s dealing with David and his people characterized a covenant promise. As such, the very trustworthy nature of God ensures the fruition of His promises. When a person of faith experiences God’s unwavering loyalty, a kindred conviction is imbibed. In gratitude, we turn to God and offer a promise.

Quite disparate from our former oaths, our words take on the substance of integrity. We learn of God’s ways and having been infused by His spirit, we are enabled to speak a language of precision. Our yes becomes yes, our no, means no. Our commitments have been taken over by God’s superintending acuity in our lives.

We are being transformed to become a people of promise. God spoke his blessings to his people and as such we are called to believe not only its dissemination but also its culmination. We learn the simplicity of God’s speech: when he opens his mouth to speak, it is as good as done.

Our call to adopt the language of promise originates from the impetus of God’s oath to do what he said he will accomplish through David, and for all kindred believers who take the stipulations of God’s promises seriously, There is a specified guarantee of promise in the person of One of David’s descendants who will sit on God’s royal throne forever and ever. The promise comes from the chosen place of Zion where the specifics of that promise shall be born without hindrance. All those promises revealed in the Old Covenant are now revealed in the New Covenant in the flowering disclosure of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of God. As the promised Mediator, the Messiah shall usher a new era of priesthood, where in royalty, the redeemed shall sing with joy for eternity. The promise is contingent solely upon the initiative and determination of God’s actions, devoid of any human scheme: a new people of promise shall arise akin to a lamp that is lit by no more no less than the resplendence of their glorious King. While all this is accomplished by divine fiat, all those who have chosen to ignore the promised Messiah, shall be “clothed with shame.” 

The light of the world shines into the lives of men and women who are currently sifting through darkness. It is within this search that God introduces the good news of salvation found in Christ alone. There is no other means to understand life apart from the revelation of the person of Christ. It is either you take refuge in the singular lumens of Christ’s witness or you stay forever in eternal gloom.

God made this promise. It shall therefore take place, as He said. 




There is something about travel that sets me on a course of anticipation. Japan Airlines normally took eighteen hours from the US to the Pacific Islands. I usually occupy those hours oscillating between reading and napping. The layover at Narita had always been a welcome respite, especially when paired with fresh sushi and sashimi. On one particular flight, I was hoping to sleep-in undisturbed for the last few hours but fate had other intentions. 

There was a well-dressed blue-eyed gentleman rushing towards the seat next right to me. He pulled out his noise canceling headsets and dove straight to dreamland. After about twenty minutes, he reached for his briefcase to retrieve a book with Hebrew scripts. 

Within the hour, I stood up to stretch, proceeding towards the far end. My seatmate likewise strode to where I was. A conversation began which somehow caused him to be nonplussed with my basic knowledge of some Hebraic lines, particularly about the Tehillim. I shared my curiosity regarding the Jewish religion, causing him to go for the jugular: “It is all about honoring God with our best efforts. There is always the proper way to do stuff. A good Jew is one who pays attention to details of how life ought to be lived.” He then quickly added: “I am not quite a good Jew. No one gets to do all the strict laws. I get by with the basics; just enough to make God happy.” 

After about thirty minutes of Judaica, he turned the table and asked what Christianity was all about. I began by saying that there would not have been any Christianity if there were no Judaism. “The Messiah came to fulfill all your laws. He claims to have fully satisfied every single requirement laid out by Yahweh.” He interrupted, “So what does that have to do with you?” I quickly responded: “Well, here is where it gets interesting … since he knows my ineptness, he simply invites me to believe in him and confide in the efficacy of his work. He promised to take it from there. It’s like, riding on all his merits so that I might look good in God’s eyes.” And this Messiah is your Jesus, I suppose?” he mutters, and continues, “You know … that is so unique and quite attractive to me: with your formula I do not need to strain for anything, huh?” 

He abruptly left my discourse by opening his laptop and introducing me to his young family. He bragged that if this Jesus is truly the Son of God, he might be among the first ones to see him: he lives right next door to Armageddon. He walked me through pictures of his kids hiking in the streets of Jerusalem, even showing me Golgotha! He intimated: “If you visit Israel, be my honored guest!” 

I felt a great deal of uneasiness, having disclosed my faith without granting my new friend an opportunity to see its kerygma. I subtly grabbed the opportunity with a restart: “Just to add, when the Messiah was crucified in between two criminals …” he then interrupted, “what do you mean, crucified in between two … where did you get this story?” “I did not invent it …” “… It is a historical gospel incident.” He prodded me to continue. “Well, the criminal on his right was chiding him about his claim to be the Son of God and was coarsely coaxing him to demonstrate his claim to power. The one on his left hollered a rebuke saying: “You better shut your mouth, we are both guilty of our crimes, but not him!” Jesus then turned to him, saying: “I promise you, today you will surely be with me in paradise.”  This snapshot pretty much summarizes the weight of Christianity. With absolutely no personal worthiness, Jesus takes the man’s raw belief as sole basis for being made right with God.” My friend looked astonished, saddled with a quietness that seemed to take all the notes in. 

As the plane landed, he handed me his calling card, thanking me for taking time to bring in some gleam on the things discussed. I noticed his Hebrew name, which I quickly recognized to mean: “my resplendent promise.” 

Upon returning home, I curiously invited him to my social network. God’s promise to shine through lives on, as promised.


Journal Fourteen: Bond



I was driven with a spirit of entrepreneurship while in college. I took Economics due to a personal mission to amass wealth. I somehow imbibed the ancient penchant for superstitious alliance in order to insure my projected dividends. The smorgasbord of eclectic soothsayers informed my daily calculations. From horoscopes to mantras, I was East to West in divergent accommodation.

The Pope was visiting the city and I remember, having a vision (or was it just a dream) to milk the opportunity for financial gain. I was enthused with an idea to convince our School Administrator to have all students wear a theme shirt on the day of his eminence’s appearance. I was too driven to accommodate a rejection. And so I coerced a negotiation to supply the school community with my crafted merchandise. Boxes of shirts were produced from personally outsourced capitalization. The macroeconomic scheme was quite in play: my friends and relatives bought into my lucrative proposal. All shirts were delivered and worn with divine glee. 

After the sacred festival, the depravity of human complacency took over. The supply and demand chain was shot. There was drought in the collectibles. I went bankrupt and disillusioned with the irrational loss. The investors saw my personal descent into embarrassment. I was not able to deliver my word.

Whoever god it was who played its trick while I was in deep slumber was truly a genius in planned catastrophe. I sought to redeem my bruised integrity by resorting to alibis but to no avail. It had nothing to do with mercantile system. It was all due to the myopia of how I misread the damn crystal ball. 

I never reckoned how crazy the gods might be. But with my economic bludgeon, whatever confidence I had in securing any business stall somehow evaporated in a mist of brutal surrender.

Nothing holds. Nothing bonds. I was simply doomed not to cash in but to crash in isolation amidst a self-serving community who is merely practicing the virtues of social necessity on top of my own greed and quantitative ineptness. 




A song of ascents. Of David.


How good and pleasant it is

when brothers live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,

running down on the beard,

running down on Aaron’s beard, 

down upon the collar of his robes.

It is as if the dew of Hermon

were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the LORD bestows his blessing,

Even life forevermore.




My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  

John 17:20-21 NIV


The call to unity serves as the penultimate anchor in our syllabus in order to establish the very foundation that keeps our life with God secure. Conversion to Christ involves integration into a true community. 

The personal nature of one’s submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ finds its deepest meaning when one enters into covenant relationship with a church in order to get involved in the experience of Body life. As we are one with Christ, we are called to share deep life with kindred believers, who by virtue of our blood affinity with Christ’s atonement, are now our brothers and sisters in God’s family. To this incredible adoption, we hear the affirmation of the Psalmist: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”

It is important to see the crucial aspect of this life together within the context of active nurture. The sweetness of this God-given familial arrangement implores a sacred kind of togetherness that simulates the unity of the Triune God. It is the kind of living that is devoid of schemes and hidden agenda. There is no shrewd commerce involved, nor any type of religious power play. What is being admonished is beyond ethnocentrism: it is a gathering of adopted children, who are currently living out the amazing grace-laden status they now possess. As such, there is freedom to treat each other with utmost decency.

The regard for others in the community of faith is likened to the respect that is granted to the oil-drenched Aaron upon ordination as God’s anointed priest. We take to heart the reality of our new identity as a special people, chosen by mercy and not by merit. With sacred expectations, we look at each other with a disposition of holiness, truly believing that our compassionate God has likewise chosen our brethren. The fragrance of such awareness is precious in the sight of the LORD. As we commit to such, the unity of believers takes on a new form: a sweet holiness that is both good and pleasant!

Such existence is likewise seen as a reflection of the constant refreshment Mt. Hermon receives daily. The mountain dew speaks of the organic newness of every single day that is granted to God’s creation. There is a sense of excitement as we anticipate the on-going transformation of our lives gathered together. We are being admonished to stay distant from the conventions of the world, which by default sort out humans based on pre-conceived labels. Humans were not created to reside in catalogued boxes but were placed in God’s house in order to increasingly grow in wild expectation. In the community of faith, we are called toward each other, while praying through all the adjustments and changes that shall take place, by virtue of Christ’s work in our lives. 

The blessings of God abound in the context of living together as God’s children. Christian community is not an option that works only for the socially gregarious. It is for all who claim to be God’s children. As the call to unite with one another comes with a blessing, the source from which it is lived out comes from Christ Himself. We are able to love one another within community because of Christ’s enduring example. As he remains at the very center of our gathered community, we are given a guaranteed assurance that we shall never fall apart. 

With Christ at the headship of our community, through and through, ours is an ever-glowing manifestation of God’s work of beauty, as though in a Bride, well taken-cared of, well loved, well bonded.




Stewart was your perfect puppy. The Shih-Tzu’s intelligent quotient was pretty impressive. He was quite popular in the neighborhood as the early riser who gallops like Secretariat. He was my wife’s delight. If there were one slip, it would be his obvious misreading of his canine identity: he really thought of himself as some commodious pit bull … ferociously loyal to his master.

It was a bright Sunday morning when his zest left with unfazed valor. My wife and the kid were on their early morning stroll when two unleashed pit bulls attacked without warning. The little soldier took it to the ring, while being mercilessly routed. It was a brutal day for our family. I buried the hero, while weeping gallons of gloom for such a cruel end.

It was a season to heal, and so I got my wife a present: two pups that should provide good balm: Teddy and Gracie. 

Stewart was beyond compare, but the new duo infused renewed perk to our home. Whenever we took them out for daily walks, it was always with optimized caution and organized vigilance.

It had been two years since, and trauma had clearly dissipated. We were enjoying the nice spring breeze, each with our leashed pets, when the menacing sight emerged: Déjà vu! There were two un-leased pit bulls approaching our path! 

I did not quite notice the owner who was lagging behind the corner. Suddenly, I heard a commanding voice. The beasts froze to a halt, resembling two marble statues that neither turned either ways, not even to a wink or a wag. The gentleman, who had the stance of Collin Powell with firm gentleness, assured us: “Friends, do not fear. They will not move. Please walk on by. My voice is stronger than any leash.” We crossed the line, amazed by such a defining moment. When we were about several yards away, the gentleman spoke to his loyalists: “Alright now, boys, let’s go.”

God’s alleys seem dangerous but truly safe and grand. He allows his children passages through valleys of death for a reason. I suddenly realized that it’s not about being a pit bull or a dachshund. It’s not about our orientation from the ghetto or the Hampton’s. It is all about the leash and who decides to let go of it, when deemed appropriate.

We only devour each other, when there is no such Master to call our actions into proper accountability. This is so true in the context of community. Left without a guiding lead, each breaks out to his own. But then, with a True Center, everything holds together. Life is lived in its full potential: people experiencing genuine care one for each other.

One day, hopefully, Teddy and Gracie will be seen strolling, without any restricting rope. Simply free with unbridled obedience and playfulness to and fro, our little village.



The little guy Stewart would have loved to see such a day.

Journal Fifteen: Glorify



He was the sort of kid whose face was constantly lit with incandescence.  His countenance revealed a soul that seems devoid of malice. Their family lived a few blocks away from home. His father, a dignified gentleman, was my dad’s social mentor. He seemed to know a lot about the intricate nuance of societal norms. Like his young boy, he had a beam that fills any gathering with some kind of inspiring shine. Our village upheld the honorable distinction of their family’s outstanding mirth.

One balmy afternoon, the boys in our neighborhood planned a trek to a nearby abandoned pool. It was an incautious expedition, yet packed with potential fun. The foul water was murky green, accentuated by uncut weeds serving the parasitic appetites of insects and other creepers. One after the other, the boys took the challenge to engage the chaotic dip like Tarzan. Their laughter was heard from a mile high. Until a disconcerting discovery screeched their party to a dead pause. A boy with spectacles drowned. He had been underwater for some time–his belly bloated, his face ashen and swollen to a pulp. It was the happy kid, now staring blank at the skies, devoid of any glint. 

Our neighborhood heard the breaking news almost instantaneously. His father rushed to the scene, quickly draping his son with a thick blanket. He had taken over like a commanding officer knowing the ropes of panic and restoration. After a brief, yet poised conference with his family, he and his boy disappeared with jackrabbit speed. We were told that he was rush-driving to see some necromancer some distant miles away. He was furious in hope to see his son rouse. 

Although detached from the action scene, I was one of those who followed the night’s intriguing saga. I was imagining the possible reckoning of magic in anticipating a miracle unfold.

The following morning, there was a sullen silence in the village. The boy’s coffin was being prepared while the gloom of his family echoed the depths of unfathomable pain. Why must light be snuffed out from those who radiate it the most? Why must the murky monster of moss be allowed to prevail in some kid’s interlude? This does not make any sense. 

That morning, daylight in our neighborhood seemed confused. It merely flickered and fainted, like one soul drowning while struggling. 

The clear absence of blessing on those few hours made me somehow wonder why God allows pain in the most unsuspecting locations. Perhaps, a better-phrased question would be to ask where was God in all these haunting doom.




A song of ascents.


Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD

who minister by night in the house of the LORD.

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary

and praise the LORD.

May the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth,

bless you from Zion.




I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 

John 17:4 NIV


The final word in our syllabus involves the deep language of blessing: glorify. We were made in the image of God to become a blessing to our Creator and for all of creation. When we act upon our mandate to “Praise the LORD,” we are fulfilling our ultimate reason for existence: to glorify God! 

The human experience encounters an influx of competing thrusts. There are pressing calls to industry, meditation, transcendence, communication, integration, technology, globalization, organization, religion etc., but there remains the primacy of one true purpose, if we allow the weight of God’s revelation to bear upon who we truly are and what we are rightfully about. In a word, our calling is not to do, but to be. We are called to glorify God by our being. When this is done according to God’s doxological design, everything else integrates in wonderful symmetry. 

When life is lived outside the orbit of God’s revealed purpose, we gravitate towards our individual axis and when this fails, we run to the nearby sorcerer and inquire if their connection signal is clearer than our guess. Of course, there is no blessing in this. All there is to this is a reminder of how far we have gone away from who we truly are. We’d rather be sons and daughters of mountebanks, instead of tapping into the infinite wisdom of the one true God.

In our journey as people of faith, it is necessary to constantly monitor our core motivation. If it has nothing to do with the purpose of giving God the glory, then brakes must be applied. No one finds the idea of roaming around the desert for forty years humorous. One generation of nominal believers walked through this the hard way. Amidst the redemption and provision of God’s grace, they chose to glorify their golden calves and the result was a march of death.

The term “Praise the Lord,” must be understood carefully in its biblical context. This is God’s imperative command to start us off into the depths of knowing Him. We are to praise God in all our preoccupations but most especially during the initial strides of any undertaking. As we commit into a rhythm of praising God, we are making sure that our tracks are leading God-ward. As servants of the LORD, we cease depending on what we feel, but rather upon what our Master beckons us to do. As he calls us to praise Him, we do without any slight trepidation.

The imagery of ministers by night in the house of the LORD implies the challenging setting of making oneself available for God’s kingdom work. Through the hard and difficult efforts, our calling to lift up our hands in praise of God remains unabated. The praise of God shall sustain his servants. When we do not feel like praising God, out of exhaustion or out of depression, we command our being to defect from our personal shadows and unto God’s desire, we praise God anyway. When the cadence of this praise-driven existence becomes ingrained into our souls, we become glorious personifications of God’s workmanship. We glorify God by being the kind of people he desires us to be: glory soaked vessels!

A life that follows God’s purposes is laden with freedom. God brings and takes away fluff and stuff from us, as He deems. We cease to usurp his role and rest in the wonder of His beautiful work. 

Even when illness or catastrophes strike, we remain at peace knowing that God’s lovely purposes are forever at work. Nothing happens by accident in God’s universe.

When Christ hung on the cross of Calvary, all mangled and disfigured, he never ceased to glorify his Father. There was not a single word, nor a single cry that was devoid of praise to Him who knows what is best. Even at the point of death, his breath was an exclamation of doxology to the One who has the power to raise him up. 

His death answers every question pertaining human tragedy. God chose to enter our world of suffering by taking it all upon Himself through his agonizing demise. Human pain is never experienced in isolation. Tears from heaven are as real as the historical sacrifice of Christ, our Savior.

Christ rose as an affirmation of what God does to those who fully seek to exalt the Father’s glory. All our days have been designed to experience the language of praise: all for the glory and honor of our Mighty GOD!




Byron was born without a jaw. That same week, a deeper infirmity was discovered: the newborn had a congenital anomaly impinged on his tiny heart. I drove some sixty miles, rehearsed and poised for just another crisis call. Being a pastor for more than three decades has somehow tamed my gumption to the homogeneity of human pain. I was ordained to chaperone every prevailing thorn, I guess.

The children’s hospital was ornate with medical efficiency. This backdrop contrasted my demeanor when I saw the child’s exposed chest cavity. The staggering visual rogue sent me to an excursion of curiosity. While both parents wobbled in tears, I was subliminally distant, sorting out the technical profundity of their boy’s misfortune.

I sat at the parking lot with a deep sense of incongruence. This was one of the most poignant sights of human pain, but why was I inexplicably aloof? While Byron’s parents languished in misery, I was subversively in some sort of a Discovery Channel inspection mode. I was force-feeding empathy to shove my tears, but there was none to pour. Like a man abruptly awakened by some terminal illness, I knew I was the one truly in need of a hospital. 

Where has my heart gone? Years of pastoral care must have eroded my points of tolerance. My prayer was terse but serious: “God, expose my heart.”

I did not realize how expedient God hears our pleas pertaining matters of affection. A few months later, I was diagnosed with a rare oral tumor.  An involved twelve-hour surgery took my lower mandible, lower teeth, fibula leg bone, skin grafts, and more aggressively, a metaphorical incision funneled straight to my heart. It has been more than a year of unremitting procedures, somehow understood by my emaciated senses as more like ten decades. 

Pain has become a faithful valet. The monstrosity of my present darkness however had produced grounding for depth. Through the desert, I found myself led to the abundance of ironic grace. The gravitas of unexplained joy has dawned exponentially in and through the context of my present suffering.

Whenever throbbing discomfort flares up from within and without, I have come to appreciate the option to choose its concealed blessing. I read the chapter of my agony as an outsourcing of God’s incredible loyalty. It is not freedom from pain that matters: it is the breathtaking marvel of his abiding nearness exhibited even through life’s deepest travails. He is not all about primarily answering our prayers for relief. God is our riposte. With God on our side, we remain eternally safe and strong. Even death has been conquered by the miracle of his presence. 

All through our life journey, his glorious company is all that we need.

God’s glory has become the substance of my journey. 

God has become my on-going story and my psalm: giving God’s glory, both now and towards eternity.


The surprising element of this journey has been the pronounced companionship of the person of Jesus Christ from the first few steps towards the culminating stride. The ancient Psalmist who served as a faithful songwriter/minstrel followed the inspiring cadence of the Author of our lives as the written notes and words coalesced to unpack the true substance of our lives. The syllabus of the Songs of Ascents reveals the indescribable intimacy of the Shepherd Guide in leading us every step of the way.

Life is lived well as it is led well through a guided journey. It is through following the footsteps of the Son of Man that we find true tracks. In His steps, we find a simple course. There is much difficulty, much suffering, but there abounds deep joy. 

The steps of the Messiah went through the Via Dolorosa leading to the cross, for such was the only path to our redemption. While the journey is hummed in loneliness, we were never invited to move right along through it, alone.

The Master knows the way. With formidable confidence, he declares that he is the only way to the Father. He beckons us to come to him for oasis.

Step right in and let the road come right toward you.