My Writer's Journey
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
Cupcakes are muffins that believed in miracles.
I laughed at these very simple but profound statement printed on the box that housed delicious cupcakes, cakes, and biscuits from the Silos Baking Co.
We were on our way to San Antonio, TX from Dallas and we thought it would be nice to have breakfast at this much-much-celebrated place in Waco called Magnolia Market. Apart from this bakery with a long queue, food trucks flanked the market complex and a playground with tables and benches in the open ground.
Who would have thought that a simple idea bred out of a woman's passion would give birth to this success slowly evolving into a tradition?
And that's God's promise to those who pursue one's passion and purpose: a life of fullness and abundance. The closer you get to your purpose, the happier you become.
And I thought about writing—my passion and purpose. I've never been happier with my work until now. I know I am drawing closer to my purpose, each day I write.
Last Wednesday, it was 88F outside, but I abandoned the treadmill and headed for the park. I was glad to be home. The three-day break rejuvenated me, but I longed for my routine once again—pray, run, read and write.
I ran in silence, enjoying the warm air. I had the park to myself. Suddenly, I saw in my mind a funnel.
What was that?
"God wants you to be a funnel."
It was my angel.
"He gave you a gift—the ability to devour books and understand the complicated."
He was right. It was a gift. "Why did He give me that gift?"
"He wants you to distil all the things that you've read and come up with the essentials. Like a funnel, open and wide at the top, you shall only pour out in digestible amounts the things He wants to your narrow bottom. Make the complicated simple."
I understood. I was once a research nurse. I rewrote many informed consents to readable level—7th grade. To do this, I employed the Flesch-Kincaid and Fry readability formulas.
I also gave a talk on how to create readable informed consents at the Health Care Education Association Conference. I didn't expect to find educators having trouble making this paragraph simple during the workshop portion:
This is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial that aims to test the hypothesis that the investigational drug XYZ100 can alter the course of disease ABC by delaying progression of myocardial fibrosis and reducing ambulatory deterioration.
I was surprised when they clapped at my simplified version.
This is a study that will test whether study drug XYZ100 will reduce heart scarring and delay loss of ability to walk. You will be assigned to two groups in a random manner. This is like drawing lots or flipping a coin. One group will receive the study drug and another group will receive the placebo. Placebo is not a drug but it looks and tastes like a real drug. It is sometimes called a sugar pill or starch pill. This is a double-blind study. This means that neither you nor your study doctor will know what drug you are receiving.
"Don't think your past experiences were for nothing. God uses all your existing skills and abilities to build His kingdom."
I was excited. "So what am I to do?"
"Speak about the kingdom in the language of a child for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
"Remember St Therese of Lisieux?
"Yes, she made sanctity simple and easy. She wrote The Story of a Soul as a simple testimony, her story. That's why it became a best-seller," I said.
This way of writing is also what attracted me to copywriting. Copywriters write to push people to action. It's direct response marketing and not mere advertising. And the power of this type of writing lies on the credibility of the testimony.
And I realized, the Scripture writers were the greatest copywriters in the world. With their testimonies, billions had come to believe in Jesus. And as a Christian copywriter, this was part of my call, to testify to the Lord's work in my life. My message can only evoke a response from the reader when it is personal, simple and credible. Readers can smell a fake from afar. And if not, they'd do when they come near.
"How did St. Therese surmount the steep summit of perfection?" my angel broke into my reverie.
"A lift." That was how she described it.
"How different, Lord, are the paths along which You guide souls!" she had written in The Story of a Soul. "In the lives of the saints, we find many who left nothing behind them… but there are others, like our Mother St. Teresa, who have enriched the Church by their teaching. They were not afraid to reveal "the secrets of the King," so that souls, by knowing Him better, would love Him more… Unfortunately, when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by."
"Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible, and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint," she wrote. "It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new. We live in an age of invention. We need no longer climb laboriously up flights of stairs; in well-to-do houses there are lifts. And I was determined to find a lift to carry me to Jesus, for I was far too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection. So I sought in Holy Scripture some idea of what this lift I wanted would be, and I read these words from the very mouth of eternal Wisdom: "Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me." I drew nearer to God fully realizing that I had found what I was looking for. I also wanted to know how God would deal with a "little one," so I continued my search and found this: "You shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees; as one whom the mother caresseth, so I will comfort you."
And this was the core of St. Therese of the Child Jesus' simple spirituality, and why she was embraced by all, this little flower. She would add, "Never before had I been gladdened by such sweet and tender words. It is Your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less."
"This is hard," I told my guardian angel. "But probably the only way to pass through the eye of the needle, to be little."
"With man, it is impossible. But anything and everything is possible with God," he said.
He was right. I remembered just the other day when I dropped off my daughter at school, the traffic officer blew his whistle vigorously at me for trying to make a right pass (which was normally allowed during regular school days, but apparently not during summer classes). My blood boiled, and I was tempted to ignore him. At the same time, I felt the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit calming my nerves. And the Spirit won and fanned down the angry flames in my eyes. I felt something die within me as I maneuvered the car to obey the traffic enforcer's bidding.
"You just chipped off a piece of your mortal shell," my angel had said.
"So is this how I am to kill the old man?"
"Yes. Each time you swallow your pride, bite your tongue from saying hurtful and angry words, overcome your weakness, you break off a piece of your sinful mortal shell, and the light within you is able to pierce out into the darkness of your earthly existence."
An antiviral, my antidote, I thought.
"Among the many," he had said.
"The Body and Blood of Jesus I took this morning, it healed me. The words 'Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, (this house that is mostly in disarray and dirty), but only say the word, and my soul will be healed,' did its purpose.”
Yes, those were the very same words the centurion told Jesus when he asked the Lord to heal his servant. His words amazed Jesus because the Roman soldier manifested a faith in Jesus’ authority over the spirits even from afar. It was Paulo Coelho who brought this to my attention in his book, The Alchemist.
"That is the most potent antidote to your viral illness. When He enters your body, He melts the mortal shell and thins it out," my angel said.
I envisioned His resurrection, and how the severe light pierced through His dead and mortal body, burning it into dust, leaving only the wounds that He bore as evidence of His former human body and how He assumed His Divine body that even Mary Magdalene did not recognize Him and thought He was the gardener.
"But why do some people remain wicked despite the fact that they receive His body and blood regularly?" I asked, and added to myself, just like me.
"Because venial and mortal sins thicken the mortal shell. As soon as He melts the shell away, these foolish men and women run out and cover their body with the filth of slander, malice, deceit, lies and these loathsome clothing as though they could not do without it for just a single day. So they lose the grace that His mystical presence provides. Because as I told you, it is by man's cooperative will that he is to be saved. God already opened the door for him, but he needs to make a move to enter the door of salvation and stay inside. More often than not, he ignores the open door. Worst for some, they enter and then decide to go out, lured by their former lives like the Israelites who clamored to Moses to go back to Egypt and eat the food of slaves rather than be in the desert of purification and eat the manna from heaven that the Lord provided freely. The foolishness of man…" I could sense my angel shaking his head in frustration.
So this is the reason why I also need to be cleaned regularly through the Sacrament of Confession.
I remembered Fr. Dom Gueranger's writing in the Liturgical Year, "It is the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts for the sole purpose of forming Christ, the New Man, within us, to the end that we may be united with Him forever as His members."
I imagine Him building Himself within me piece by piece, cell by cell, and the Holy Spirit gluing His pieces together until one day He will completely possess me. But each time I sin, the glue weakens. So I must strive to be loving to strengthen the glue. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, this love is infused with much warmth and fire.
"The Holy Spirit unceasingly shows His disciple the Great Original Whom he is to copy, namely Jesus, in Whom are all the virtues in all perfection." These words from Fr. Gueranger's book struck me.
It spurred me to deeper reflection. As we are a cell in God's most Holy Body, we embody a piece of God's perfection. When we perfect ourselves, we glorify God because we manifest a piece of His perfection on earth. We must encourage each other to be perfect because it makes God's image clearer to us, like putting pieces of the puzzle together to make a whole picture—God's Holy Image.
To imprint the message deeper in my soul, the priest in his homily gave a fresh take on the gospel reading about paying taxes, when Jesus had asked whose image was on the coin. And the reply was Caesar's and He had said, "Give to Caesars what is Caesars and to God what belongs to God." The priest then asked, "if the coin held Caesar's image, what holds God's image that should be given back to God?"
After a brief pause, he said, "WE hold God's image… Therefore, we must give our entire being back to God."
I was deeply moved to the core of my being.
God does not just want a piece of me or just a part of my life. He wants all of me; Everything that I am, I owe it back to God.
And St Therese did just that, as a child, she surrendered herself and entrusted her whole being to God.
Do with me as you please.
"You are a muffin right now. But God dreams that you shall become a beautiful cupcake—"
"Someday…" I sighed.
"He wants you to see that dream, share that dream and even live that dream now, not someday, when you're no longer living this earthly life, but now, so people will see that Jesus can truly bring the dead back to life, can perform wondrous miracles in the here and now—"
"—can turn muffins into cupcakes now," I added with a smile. If He can multiply the fish and bread, He can definitely turn this muffin into a cupcake.
I sighed and took a bite off the delectable cupcake. And I sighed with pleasure.
"God's pleasure will be immense when He sees your transformation from a muffin to a cupcake."
My heart dilated with joy because I believed.
And that's all it takes for a miracle to happen.
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