One Fine Day in the Life of Edward

Brother Edward is a gracious soul today, his lips beaming with much thanksgiving. “The good Lord has blessed us so greatly.”

One Sunday two years ago he was a different person. You should see him now walking in great strides as he surveys his little world in this hamlet of Maraag, Sudlon 2, Cebu City. No longer is he the man I saw that Sunday, with a big wound on his head, with a just cause to take on the ones who almost killed him.

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Lost, or Stolen!

IMG_0574Crime indeed does not pay, but the Philippine government really meant business when it made the thieves pay. Their crime: The systematical pilfering of priceless historical documents at the National Library, selling these to antique shops and collectors.

On May 29, a Manila Regional Trial Court judge will decide on the case, so says ABS-CBN Online. This will put to a close the 18-year saga of retrieving thousands of stolen Philippine historical documents and bringing the thieves to justice.

A sting operation in 1993 had led to the arrest of Rolando Bayhon, a researcher of National Historical Institute. He was caught with 42 historical documents in his possession. He was planning to sell these documents at P1,000 each to a Manila antique store but justice caught up with him. Seven hundred other documents were also recovered from that antique store.

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Gems from Leroy Brownlow: On Taking Aims

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Years ago an accomplished marksman was passing through a community in which he saw evidence of amazing shooting. On barns, on trees, and on fences were many targets with a bullet hole in the exact center of the bull’s eye. So he anxiously sought out the marksman who had performed such outstanding feats.

In a congratulatory and inquisitive vein he said: “Your shooting beats anything I have ever seen. How did you do it?”

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“La Lupa”

Giovanni Verga was a man with class— he belonged to the landed gentry— but wrote about the common, the low, and the mundane, in a writing style noted for its terse accuracy and intense passion. Called verismo, realism, it became the pattern for the later Neo-Realism school of thought among writers.

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A Cause Worth Dying For?

The lady at the cash register knows I am angry. She can’t look at me, and chooses to talk to the wall. She pretends to be reading from a notebook that keeps a record of e-load sales, gives a casual glance at the SIM card number I have given her. “Sir, there is actually no record of a customer with this SIM number.”

I shot back at her, in a voice low but firm. “I was that customer. I remember your face, I remember you getting my money. But I have not received that load I had paid for. And it’s been two days.”

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Of Typhoons, Cyclones and Quakes

If you go through life without learning any lesson from cyclone Nargis or China quake or typhoon Halong, you’re not only doing something unthinkable, you’re missing something. Even the Burmese junta has capitalized on their national weakness to keep the US naval ship at bay, and would allow disaster to pile upon disaster than to accept aid from the enemy; that’s the lesson they learn. The loss of many lives in China, many of them children from one-child families, would perhaps make the Chinese government rethink about their forced abortion policy to keep the lid on their population growth; the quake should put an end to that one-child policy. Typhoon Halong on the other hand has kept the blogs and the emails running. Already there is an appeal for help from a preaching brother in Pangasinan.

They never stop blowing, these contrary winds of life. They keep inserting themselves into an otherwise peaceful landscape of our lives; and we keep exerting efforts to battle them. Jesus once restrained the wind, a project of great impact meant to teach His mastery over nature; today man’s little project of restraining the wind is by turning off the electric fans, making him the master of the switches. Contrary winds, they always come on days we never expect. God no longer restrains these forces but rather permits them to blow against us. But as He lets these winds into the landscape of our being, He also sends us moments of quiet, brief cessations, lest we be overcome.

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It is an honor to have friends. In fact I am honored to have bosom buddies who have told me they’re going to die for me. I have suspicions that they might be joking, since we have been partners in everything. But I am always on the lookout—they might make good their promise.

On the other hand, it is not necessarily a dishonor to have enemies. I have not seen or heard of anyone who has not made any enemy. Jesus had. Paul and Peter had. While social decorums may find enemy-making a downside, it is next to impossible to be able to live as old as 62 with your life story having no villains. It simply does not make you normal. My wife has become insomniac because of the enemies I had; on the other hand, I have become amnesiac as to the number of people who have desired to do me harm. No, it is not a compliment for one to be without enemies at all. “Woe unto you,” says Jesus, “when all men shall speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).

When it comes to making enemies, I am very choosy. None of those I had guided to enter the kingdom, none of those I had baptized, had become my enemies either in the kingdom or out.

I had tried to make friends of my enemies, because it was what the Lord desires for his disciples to do. It wasn’t easy, but I did. I had hugged the man who once tried to stab me to death, reconciled with the cousin who once tried to stone me, made peace with the mountain man who wanted to hack me with a bolo. The past is past between us. The lady who became my most rabid enemy had patched up with me, and she it was who later defended me from those who would destroy me by word and by deed. Yes, it is a sweet thing to be able to live under one world roof with former enemies now upgraded to friends.

You may consider enemies as the villains in your life, but some enemies became heroes. Abraham Lincoln, for example. Alive, he was the most hated man in the southern United States. Dead, they carve his head on Mt. Rushmore. Martin Luther King is another. Now they give him a holiday.

So, it is evident that we may have enemies at times, at all times, any time. When Paul told the Thessalonians, “Finally, brethren, pray for us… that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all have not faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2), I am inclined to believe that one reason we make enemies is because some people in this world are really unreasonable. Meaning, he is just devoid of reason.

I had once lent a man some money and I did that for many months and it had totalled to almost two thousand pesos, and many in that village were surprised why one day he wanted me dead. His village record says he had already killed a total of ten men when he was still with the NPA, and another ten men when he became a military agent. “Harming the one who was helping you makes you a persona non grata,” according to these mountain people, and when the man was persuaded and made to understand he had been unreasonable, by no less than his wife and another older lady, he felt ashamed and apologized to me. However, I never had my money back.

People devoid of good reason are filled with hatred, resentment, bitterness and desire to get even, and in the perverseness of their imagination they have a strong compulsion to find a whipping boy. If you get elected to that status, you will surely be whipped without a just cause. Your best recourse here is to believe that this social abnormality in them is just normal. Paul says so (2 Timothy 3:12).

If you in some way have been mistreated, that man may now be your enemy. Maybe he now fights you in an effort to justify the wrong committed against you, rationalizing perhaps that he is not doing you wrong, and that you are an evil person who deserves to be fought against. In a way, the man is wrestling against his sin, and is fighting in an effort to justify himself. Rejoice, dear soul, if you are an enemy of this man. Don’t fight back.

So many first wrongs can become the reasons why people will hate you and make you their enemy. One is the result of unpaid debts of a debtor to a creditor. The creditor has done the man no harm, but the debtor hates him anyway. In the language of the mountain people of Cebu, “Giimpas ang utang pinaagi sa away,” meaning he erases his debts by quarreling with you.

Another reason could also be because of some shady transactions whereby the cheater hates the man who has been cheated. Or, the taxi driver may hate you because you have discovered that he has been overcharging you for the fares. It may happen when someone interferes with your promotion because he does not want you to become his boss. Or when one gossips about you after you bring home a new appliance or gadget. It may happen when you correct a man’s error in a class, or when you don’t side with him in his fight against a clique. A man may hate you also because you have exposed the anomalies of his friend, not necessarily his. Or you may boycott the speaker from Indonesia who’s going to lecture in a church near yours. What’s the cause? This speaker from Indonesia has been immersed by the man from America who has been responsible for the cutting off of your mission support. “The friend of my enemy is my enemy.”

Some enmity may result when one reproves the wrongdoer. Reprove is either good or bad, depending on who gets the axe. Solomon is one from whom I have learned much. He says: “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee; rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (Proverbs 9:8).

A man may hate you also because you know something ugly about his life. Well, you may resolve this by trying to keep mum about his shady past, or trying not to know.

My preaching life of thirty-nine years is a journey characterized by stepping and treading: I have stepped on many toes and tread on paths jealously guarded, resulting to enemies that have given my wife sleepless nights.

Enemies. They become ours not because of our own making. But they also become ours because we make them. What do we do about them? You can invite them to Jollibee or McDonalds to have burgers snack (Romans 12:19, 20). Or you can be like Stephen, who prayed, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60). You can refrain from getting on his level (1 Peter 2:23). You can refrain from rejoicing when he falls (Proverbs 24:17). You can follow God’s way and be wiser than them (Psalm 119:98). Or you can pray that you may escape from their clutch (Psalm 59:1). Lastly you can look up to the One who is stronger than your enemy, and that One stronger lives in heaven.

No, I cannot help having enemies but I try to solve this by the subtraction process, eliminating what I could by making them my friends. Some enemies still remain, of course, and I try to resolve this by praying that they will not forever remain my enemies. And if the problem persists, I go to Him for healing. I would ask Him to heal my heart from its wounds and help it to become amnesiac.

Amnesiac or Alzheimeresque, whatever. Someday I would bump onto an enemy in need, and I would smile my sweetest, saying, “I don’t seem to remember you. Is there anything I can do to help?”

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