My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
Last Wednesday morning, the Feast of the Ascension, I joined the mini-retreat for moms. Fr. Nathan Cromly of the Eagle Eye Ministries talked about Eagle Moms. And I thought, what a powerful image—a mom with an eye of an eagle, looking out for her eaglet even from afar. This image stuck with me because I have an eaglet who'd soon be flying out of my nest and going to college.
That evening, at Galleria Mall, five much-sought-after schools sent out their admission representatives to talk about college applications and admission: Harvard, Standford, Georgetown, Duke and Penn State.
My daughter, who is a Junior, is looking at these schools. I always tell her, in an echo of what my college teacher had once told us, “Aim for the moon, so when you fall, you will land on the trees. Don’t just aim for the trees, for you may land on the ground.”
And so there we were. My daughter sat beside me, listening.
Come Q&A and here was my little eaglet, the second who would raise her hand amidst hundreds of students and parents in a huge ballroom of the Westin Hotel. And she asked, "What are you looking for in an applicant?"
I smiled and thought, that was a very simple question, but probably the one question that hounded all these students and parents who attended the event, and it drew the whole panel to give their thorough and comprehensive answers. And these were the answers (not verbatim because I did not transcribe, but as how it was ingrained in my mind):
“No, we don't look at just the SAT and ACT scores, although these are part of the criteria, and would ensure that the student would be able to handle the rigor of our academic load.”
“And no, we don't look at just the transcripts either, but these too would also reveal their historical performance, their consistency, and discipline with which they would handle academic responsibility.”
“The above two are just quantitative and objective measurements that we look at the bare minimum.”
“We are looking for something more because many students would be able to meet the above criteria. But what would set a student apart from the others?”
“We look at the student as a whole person.”
“No, we're not just looking at the well-rounded student, the student who is involved in many different and varied extra-curricular activities. We want to see the quality of the involvement of these students, not jut mere memberships and attendance to multitudes of clubs.”
“We also look at the well-angled student, the one who would own her passion and purpose, the one who would have the drive to go beyond what is expected of the norm, and push herself to be good at what she is doing and even not be afraid to explore and expand her own capabilities.”
“In short, we want to see a student who is deeply in touch with his identity and uniqueness--
...one who would embrace his voice that would show up in his essay,
...one who is deeply authentic to excel in his field of interest and endeavor,
...one who is true to himself,
because this student will make the greatest good and impact in the society.”
And I guess, for all of these schools, that's one thing that they hope to be their legacy, to send out men and women who can make a difference to the society as a whole.
Quoting Oscar Wilde, one of the speakers said, “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken."
And I admire these institutions of excellence. I perceive that they see themselves as fertile soils for seeds to grow. But first, the seeds (these students) must know what kind of plant they are and will turn out to be and seek the right kind of soil where they will thrive, flourish and bloom.
This is the same message God had been telling me this week.
When the Lord had not spoken through my angel, He spoke through events, through people around me, through books and through the priest in his homily, when he told the graduating students, "This is not the end; it is just the beginning of another phase in your life. You will be sent out there to fly."
I thought of my daughter, my eaglet, who will soon be set free from my nest, to be trained to become an eagle, out there in college.
What can I give her?
Have I given enough?
She still has many questions left unanswered. The eagle mom in me longs to protect her from the strong wind of the world that may confuse her, from the predators that may harm her, and from the vicious hunters that may kill her spirit and identity. But she must fly if she is to become an eagle herself. I cannot clip her wings and tie her to my nest. I can only equip her and send her out to face the necessary elements that will make her strong and soar the sky with confidence.
And even if, someday, she does not become an eagle mom in the metaphoric sense of the word, she will certainly become a spiritual mother to someone, for all women are called to be that at every stage in our journeys. Spiritual nurturing is part of our call because eaglets—male and female alike cannot soar the sky without the eagle moms who would nurture them.
In my writing, I too have learned to embrace my identity. I found my niche.
In my spiritual journey, I have searched for my faith, and it led me to many places…
My faith has expanded and yet has remained deeply grounded in my heritage and my identity. And I have learned to embrace my faith.
I am a Catholic.
And I love my religion…
Because I also have seen people who are deeply faithful and pious. I’ve seen the devoted, the profound, the mystics, the Desert Fathers, the wise, the happy, the joyful, loving, and the humble… these small and great saints alike who would be salt and light to the world.
I love the mysteries of this religion… because it makes me more in touch with my humanity and limitations. It makes me accept that there will always be things in this world that I cannot fathom and answer…
Like how the Bread and Wine would turn into the real Body and Blood of Christ, that would heal my spiritual disease and transform my body into His body, the viral antidote to my weakness and sinfulness...
His Body in me, His Blood in me, and His Cells in me,
Because what I eat, I become.
Him in me,
I go to Church not for the music, because even without the uplifting effect of this, there is something more that uplifts me.
Not for the preacher, because even when this fail,
there is something more that will speak in and to me,
Not just for the community and fellowship,
because even when this too shall fail,
there is something more that binds me to Him.
I go because of His real and physical presence in the Eucharist, He, Who nourishes me, no matter where I am, no matter the language with which the Mass is spoken and celebrated, no matter who the priest who celebrates it.
The Eucharist is the same in form and substance,
One Baptism in Christ.
Because He had promised and He fulfilled His promise: "I shall be with You until the End of time."
And for me as a Catholic, it is in the Blessed Sacrament, the tabernacle where He assumes the form of the bread so my humanity could be united with His Divinity in the most physical sense.
And I know this is hard to accept and He had said so. In fact, many of His disciples deserted Him when He started talking about `eating His flesh and drinking His blood.' It’s something that logic and reasoning cannot comprehend.
But isn't that what faith is all about? When you no longer go by what logic and reason would tell you?
And as soon as I have embraced this identity, I found my niche—a Christian Catholic writer.
Catholicism is where I’m fed and nurtured. This is what I understand and what makes the greatest sense for me. This is where I thrive. This is where I give back.
But just when I thought I understood it all, my angel spoke, "You have not fully understood what it is to be Catholic."
And he surprised me. "You've not spoken much lately," I said.
I sensed his smile, and he said, "Because you've been doing much of the talking."
"Don't be. It is to be. Now that you’ve found your voice use it for God's greater glory and honor. Do not stifle your spirit anymore. Speak with freedom and liberty. As long as you’re confident of God's love burning in your mouth. All the words—whether praise or rebuke, whether words of encouragement or enlightenment—it shall fulfill its purpose, for the love that wraps around each word would be like a balm. Even though the words may be like a sharp sword that would cut through the heart, the healing balm of kindness, mercy, forgiveness and love shall instantly dress the wound and make it whole again. Nothing that comes from the mouth of the Lord will cause chaos and disunity but only to those hearts who are not yet ready. So discern the proper time when you shall speak in the name of the Lord because there is a proper time and there is necessary preparation for it, the way Queen Esther prayed and fasted for three days before she took upon herself to speak to the King on the people's behalf. You must also assume that same spirit of humility and submission to the Holy Spirit within you, to only go when summoned by the Lord and to speak only when prompted. With freedom comes restraint and prudence so you may know that what you do, you do for the glory of the Lord and not to satisfy yourself."
I turned to him and asked him. "So what is it that I have not yet understood about my religion?"
"It is all Universal and All-embracing."
I sat astounded, and the words of the Lord came upon me. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."
It came to me that as a Catholic, I must be all-embracing of all faiths. To embrace people of different faiths and seek to understand their faith is part of my Catholic identity.
“You must look for what unites and not what separates,” my angel said.
Then I came to understand, and my eyes were opened.
I saw how the people of other faith religions are in quest of the same thing—they are all in search of their identity, their purpose, the meaning of their lives, how to express their passion, to live for something bigger than themselves. They are all in search for God.
Even the pagans and the unlearned who have no knowledge of God would manifest this inner desire and this search by worshiping the sun or nature for lack of knowledge of whom to worship.
"They just have this inner instinct to worship something bigger than themselves. And how apt that they should find the sun to represent You, my Lord," I whispered in awe. "For aren't You like the sun, my Lord? Planets, the stars, the moon and other celestial bodies have their places in our milky way and revolve around the sun in such an orderly fashion. And as long as they stay where they should be and rotate in the manner that they are to rotate, everything is in order and harmony. But when one stays out of their own orbit then they collide with the others and cause harm and damage. Aren't we like those planets and celestial bodies, my Lord? We have our own place in this vast universe. It is so big that we should not even worry about using someone else's space. Yet when we stay out of our own orbit, that's when chaos happens and when we hurt ourselves and others. If only we are more mindful of the sun, that is You, our God, as the center of our existence, to revolve and rotate around You in a focused way, we would all live in unity, harmony, and peace."
"Truly, oh Lord, in our differences and uniqueness we can only come to unity with You and in You, because we are all made in your image and likeness. Only in You shall we achieve that oneness of body, mind, and spirit.
But to those who refuse your Lordship, who refuse to acknowledge their identity as Your mirror image, who refuse to surrender to Your love, who considers themselves or the world as their masters, you shall become like a sword that would divide—divide the father from the son, the mother from the daughter, the siblings from each other, for they shall not be of one mind and purpose. They shall be pursuing their own purposes and interests.
Only under Your Lordship shall we all be united—You, being the vine and us your branches. Apart from You, we separate ourselves from the body that is the Church. And You do not want to scatter but rather gather your people so we may all be one just as You and the Father are one. In humility, obedience, and self-knowledge we will all come together in peace, unity, and harmony."
Today, the Sunday of the Ascension, we remember the great event of Jesus gloriously embracing and claiming His full identity as Son of God and Son of Man—True God and True Man.
By assuming His throne in Heaven, He opened the gates of heaven to mankind again and gave him back his full stature of being a child of God. Jesus had united mankind once again to the Father. He had undone the separation that happened at the Garden of Eden when man rejected God and disobeyed His command, and in turn, God had rejected man and cast him out of the Garden. The Feast of the Ascension is the turnaround of the casting out of mankind from heaven. Today celebrates the opening of the Gate of Eden to mankind, and anyone who believes in this mystery will be welcomed.
And it is our duty as Christians to spread this good news to everyone. We are not to close the gates of heaven to people because Jesus had opened it to everyone. Who are we to do that? Our role on this earth is to invite as many people to enter heaven and come to eternal life. For what is eternal life?
"This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ (John 17:1-11)."
That is eternal life—full knowledge of God.
And that is our duty according to the Lord before He ascended, "to go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
This was His specific command…
To make disciples of our children, of our family, of our friends and relatives, of everyone by making sure they are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—no matter what Christian denomination.
We have received One Baptism.
That is the source of unity of all Christians that we are all baptized in the same manner, with water, in the name of the Holy Trinity.
But we do not stop there, we are to teach them to observe what Jesus had commanded … and what is His greatest commandment?
“Jesus had replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
“Yes, this is how you are to teach men,” my angel said, “because love is the universal language that crosses all borders and barriers of dialect, race, culture, age, gender and all your differences. Love is the one that would unite mankind. It is your common identity because God is love. You must mirror His image, that is love. Let there be love and there shall be peace, unity and harmony. And that is your identity and the one thing you should seek to achieve in self-knowledge—to know how to be love in the middle of everything, how to express your love.”
“Your identity and purpose mix and intermingle with the means that you use to express love to God and to His children,” he continued. “You can express it in various ways—your work, your everyday activities, your writing, the songs that you sing, and so on and so forth, but it only becomes the perfect way of expression when done in the light of God, when done for His greater glory, purpose and in accordance to His will. Knowledge of God as the Perfect Image is a prerequisite for the knowledge of you as His mirror image.”
As though to reinforce the message, I hear in my mind St. Catherine of Siena again, saying, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."
And St. Francis de Sales, "Do not wish to be anything but what you are and try to be that perfectly."
And St. Therese of Lisieux, “Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.
And finally, St. Peter, the first Pope as he spoke in 1Peter 4:8-11, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."
And my angel finally said, “To be a saint is simply to be true to yourself, to your identity as a child of God.”
To heed to Jesus' prayer that all may be one as the He and Father is one.
To dispel the spirit that separates us and embrace the spirit that unites us
For in the end we are all in this same journey
Seeking our purpose
Seeking the meaning of our life here on earth
Seeking for fulfilment
Seeking for real happiness, peace, joy, love, belongingness
Wanting to live a life of purpose, of leaving a true and lasting legacy to the world
Seeking for the power bigger than ourselves
These are the things that unite us
And I as a Catholic will strive to live as one,
To embrace all faith without losing my own
To embrace all tradition without losing my own
To embrace all race, gender, beliefs without losing my own sense of identity and giving up my own beliefs.
"It is a tight rope to tread," I said.
"That's why you need the power of the Holy Spirit because it is that power that will make people believe, through the signs and wonders manifested through His power. It is the only way that people will come to believe in what you believe in."
The power of the Holy Spirit.
Forty days ago, I found my voice and came out a new man through the power of His Resurrection.
Today, I embrace my true identity as an heir through His Ascension. Now, I look forward to Pentecost, to be empowered to live out this call and identity, so I can fulfill that part of my call.
I have received, now I must give.
It is not enough to enbrace Him as my personal Lord and Savior. I am called to embrace everyone as He embraced them all in His love.
I can only love in the same way through the power of His Spirit.
The Paraclete is coming that He may unite all men into one family. Let us put an end to our dissensions and prove ourselves to be members of the brotherhood established by the preaching of the Gospel.
"Be prudent and watch in prayer so the Holy Spirit may come upon you in His fullness," my angel said. "Remember what Jesus had said, "'When the spirit comes, the spirit of truth, He will give testimony of me and you shall give testimony'."
"He is the power of the Most High so you too will have power and not rely in your own strength and own wisdom. Everything shall come from the Spirit."
My heart swelled in excitement and I thought, "The Spirit will help us become Soldiers of Light to combat against three enemies -- the devil, the world and ourselves (our vile weaknesses and earthly passions and inclinations)."
Let us therefore desire to receive Him and we who have already received Him in the Sacrament of Confirmation must prepare ourselves to be imbued with the grace to release His power within us so He may no longer be stifled by fear, ignorance and concupiscence.
Now I understand when you say, my Lord:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12)
I woke up from my dream.
I was in a running race, and when a lot of runners had slowed down to a walk, I was still running. The song Titanium played in the background. It kept me going and drove my feet on the pavement, up and down the road. God had used that song a million times to inspire me to go on.
I am Titanium. You shoot me down, but I won't fall. I am Titanium.
And in my dream, I had gained distance and ran with the leaders of the race. And I woke up.
God had spoken in my dream, through the song.
Yesterday I was filled with self-doubt about my writing. I had gotten feedbacks, and I had to rewrite the first few chapters, again, for the nth time; I could no longer remember.
The dream reminded me. I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away.
He wanted me to keep on writing, keep on standing even when bullets of criticisms shoot me and machine guns of editorial comments about the draft barrage me. He wanted me to be bulletproof from these, to harden myself from the blows. He reminded me that for as long as I still feel sensitive about my work, I had not arrived at the detachment that was required of me. I still considered it to be my work. Yet, I knew even though I wrote it, the message was not mine. I was just a `hand piece'. But I was an imperfect one. So the message was delivered in an imperfect style that still needed to be perfected. And it was that style that was being targeted, skinned and tested in the fire so the message can shine. That was why it hurt because it was my style in the line of fire. I had to keep on trying until I achieved that perfect style, rewrite and edit relentlessly.
And at one point, I just wanted to cry and give up. This draft was rejected early last year. And I took the blow so hard that I hibernated and shoved the work in the shelves. It gathered dust for a long time. I only picked it up after a year. Why? Because it kept on beckoning me. And I will never be able to rest until I heeded that voice that kept telling me I need to write that book.
Clarity. Another song that hit me when I was running. I didn’t know why that song pierced my heart when I had no relationship of that sort, tragic or insane, that would make me relate to that song. And yet the lyrics nagged and my eyes watered. And then it hit me.
You are a piece of me, I wish I didn't need
Chasing relentlessly, still fight and I don't know why.
If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy
If our love's insanity why are you my clarity.
It was my writing dream, that piece of me that I wished I didn't need, that I've been chasing relentlessly and still fought, and I didn't know why. Yes, my writing dream had remained to be my remedy for this soul that ached to express itself in this world of noise. My writing dream was my insanity and yet also my clarity.
And when I realized it, I cried. I cried my heart out. There was no escaping my writing dream. It will continue to nag and bug until I heeded its voice, my writing dream.
And then the next song played, Don't You Worry, Child, the song that my Lord would use to comfort me.
Don't you worry child, heaven has a plan for you. Don't you worry now.
Three songs spoke to me. And now, it was speaking again to comfort me, encourage and tell me not to give up, that this road will have a lot of challenges and hurdles, the road to my writer's life. And just like running, my body will ache, my muscles will turn sore, my breath will run out but I only need to put one foot in front of the other and continue running, and I will reach my goal of 30 minutes every day.
One word at a time, and I shall achieve my goal, that too.
I remembered the book, The Artful Edit. It used Gatsby as an example. Fitzgerald, the author, edited his book for probably a million times, who knows, until he thought it was perfect and it was published and had become a classic. So successful was it that it had become a must-read book in high school, part of the curriculum for English composition and literature. And yet now, editors would still find many things in it that still could be edited to make it better, because the rules had changed, the styles had changed. And the two other books I had read on editing would speak about these changes in styles: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and The First Five Pages.
Then my daughter pointed out that these books may have run out of style too. They were published in 2007, 2004 and 2000 respectively. And I cringed because I had depended so much on these three books when I edited the entire manuscript the third time since I picked it up early this year.
Too fast pace, lacking the main character's voice, too much information—these were my daughter's observations of my first chapter of the manuscript. All these required another rewrite. And with the last one, I discarded the entire first chapter and started with a blank page. I realized, the voice of my character in chapter 25 was so different from the one in chapter 1. He had opened himself like a rose, and started as a bud that slowly and silently bloomed before my eyes.
I shoved my hands into my hair and cradled my head. When will this editing stop?
“You're pulling your hair again.”
I jolted. He was back, my angel. "You weren't around to hold my hands," I told him.
Yes, these past few days, I've been running on my own. Inspirations came in glimpses and were like flashes of light. I felt like my angel of inspiration deserted me. "You said you would not, but you did."
The tone of my voice challenged him. I realized I was wrestling with my guardian angel again, just like Jacob. He wrestled and wrestled until the break of day.Then the angel struck his hip, when it was apparent that Jacob would prevail over him. But in the end, Jacob sought the angel's blessing, for he was God's face in human form. Yes, I can wrestle with my angel and even with God, but in the end, I knew I needed God's blessings, and I know He'd bestow it through His angel.
"I never left you. I just did not talk," he said.
"Because you didn't want me to. If there's one command the Lord had stressed more than the others, it's to respect your will. I was to watch and guard your every step and protect you, but I must respect your will."
“My will?” And then I realized I had doubted his identity, his presence, and existence. And I thought I was better off without listening to his voice because I may be led astray and be deceived if I discerned him wrong. So he remained silent. He respected my will.
"Forgive me. I doubted you." I'm amazed he had not struck me like the angel who struck Zechariah dumb when he doubted the angel's message.
"If it had been Gabriel the Archangel, yes, he would have struck you dumb," my angel said. "But no, you're not Zechariah, and I'm not an archangel. I am your guardian angel."
Zechariah. He mentioned it as though to remind me of another Zechariah.
"I read the book of Zechariah, and I realized I had not given you the respect that you deserve, my lord," I said. Yes, that was how Zechariah addressed his angel—my lord, with small letters, not capitalized one, to distinguish him from the Lord.
"You are my angel," I said, "but you're also a mighty being created by the Lord to be His hands to guide me and protect me. I have not treated you accordingly, according to your stature. Forgive me for my insolence, my lord. You’re His divine representative here on earth. You’re His emissary. You do as He says. My mind cannot fathom the mysteries, and I will not delve into it unless you enlighten me. You have knowledge of good and evil. You chose to obey the Lord and remained in Him and with Him. Therefore you’re an extension of Him, like His hands that will not move of its own accord, unless willed by the Lord, its owner. I, therefore, submit to your counsel and guidance as I submit to the Lord."
"Your repentance is your forgiveness," he said. "I do not condemn you. Neither will the Lord. In the end, the words that you speak, all the words, will be the ones that will condemn you at the end of your life. So be careful and choose to be silent unless heeded and summoned to speak. And speak only what you deem to be true, for there is no guilt in innocence."
"And what if I speak something that is not true without meaning to, when I make a mistake?”
"Truth seeks the light, so falsehood is exposed. And truth thrives in humility. Admit your mistake, make amends and recompense and move on."
"And how do I know when it's truth and not a lie that I speak?"
"A tree is known by the fruit it bears. Truth bears the fruits of peace and joy."
"Peace and joy," I whispered.
"And humility, most importantly,” he said. “So why were you pulling your hair again?
“I had to rewrite Chapter 1 of my manuscript.”
He knew. "I'm tired of editing and rewriting. When will it ever be good enough? I have gone through it so many times. It has been ingrained in my mind, the characters lived and breathed with me. I used these three books on editing—"
"Three, that is a good sign," he said.
The Power of Three, I thought and smiled.
“But will I ever be good enough?”
“You offend the Lord when you say that!”
I shuddered at the ominous tone in my angel's voice. It was a grave warning.
“Everything that the Lord had created was good. He declared it to be good. It is false humility, a lie to say you can never be good enough, to say that you are not good enough. You are the mirror image of the Lord. Understand that? A mirror... of His Divine Image.”
I shook and trembled as I nodded my head. My angel sounded terrible to my spirit's ears.
“And like a mirror, you are nothing when you do not behold His image. Did you hear me? Nothing. But when you behold His image you are everything. You shall reflect all His goodness, His kindness, His greatness, and His love. Understand? You can be everything in Him.”
“Yes, yes, I can be everything in Him. But without Him I am nothing.” I cried and trembled.
My angel relented and said in a softer voice that comforted me, “You are His masterpiece. He, the Author of your life will not grow tired of editing you, His grand masterpiece. Each time you make a mistake, He will pick up the eraser and wipe away your mistakes. Each time you write a crooked line, He will straighten it. Each time. Each time. You are His masterpiece. You understand, dear child? He wants you to be perfect just as He is perfect.”
Tears streamed down my face. “He will not grow tired of editing me?”
“Remember your three songs,” he said. “Play it whenever you feel discouraged. And the three books, read and reread until your work had become a masterpiece. Do not grow tired and weary because He did not grow tired and weary with you, His masterpiece in the making.”
I nodded and wiped away my tears. My heart dilated from the breath of God's fresh air. Don't you worry, child, heaven has a plan for you. My weakened muscles started to move. I am Titanium. Shoot me down, and I won't fall. I will chase relentlessly because writing is my clarity.
“Did you know that that song is also Jesus' song for you?”
“Clarity. You are a piece of Him that He’s been chasing relentlessly.”
I cried at the thought. It shook me to the bones because in my mind I imagined and saw Jesus, heard Him as though He spoke the words of the song, `If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy?’ He thirsted for me and my love. And this thirst, I had the power to quench. I was His remedy for His thirst.
Jesus, on the cross, mangled and bleeding was a great tragedy. He had cried `I thirst,’ and in my mind, He seemed to speak, `If our love's insanity, why are you my clarity.’ Insanity, indeed that this Lord of heaven and earth should come down and take the form of man, the all-powerful and Almighty God to become the all-helpless baby. That only proved how much He loved me, His clarity, that He loved me tremendously, enough to leave Heaven and live on earth so I can live in heaven when I leave earth. And He did it all for me because I was His masterpiece in the making. He laid down His life for me. I was His clarity. I showed Him what He was willing to do to save me, the immensity of His love. He laid down His life for me.
I picked up my pen and started rewriting.
I will also not grow tired of editing and revising until this masterpiece was good enough. No, not just good enough. Until it was perfect before His eyes because He will make it perfect when I could not.
I did not want to make a disposable trinket. I wanted a diamond that would glitter in the sunlight, a masterpiece. Right now I still see gold wrapped in ore. I was the ore, and God's message the gold. Fire needed to burn the ore and it will hurt because I was the ore. I will have to die, so the Lord's message will emerge pure… pure gold, to die to myself as He died for me.
No longer will I ask how long still or how much more edits still? My Lord will declare the time, and I shall wait.
In the meantime, I will continue to edit, edit and edit and I will not give up until this piece had become a true masterpiece, worthy to be called the Lord's masterpiece. In the process, I too will grow to be God's masterpiece, the Lord's hand piece for His message.
"I never realized until now that the Bible would have so many signs and symbols. It's like a treasure buried by the inspired authors," I told my angel. "The frankincense, myrrh, and gold—it's amazing that these symbolize Christ's role as priest, prophet, and king."
"And mirrors your call as priest, prophet, and king."
I thought that was right.
I had a call to pray and worship -- priestly role,
to preach, teach and spread the Good News-- prophetic role,
and the call to serve and minister through my work-- kingly role.
"The Power of Three," he said, and I laughed.
Indeed, there it was again.
"You know why the use of signs and symbols?" he said.
I raised my eyebrows. Why, indeed?
"Because you don't want to throw pearls to the pigs who would merely trample on these treasures. Some truths are hard to swallow, so you hide it in symbols. The graver the truth, the more powerful the symbol. But be careful with symbols because some meanings of symbols change through time and events."
“The cross used to be a symbol of shame,” he continued. “Death through the cross used to be very demeaning and associated with heinous crimes. But Jesus changed its meaning. Now the symbol of the cross means salvation and freedom from our crimes and sins. The cross is honored and glorified in memory of Him who allowed himself to be hanged on such a demeaning wood, a tree so that those who embrace this tree, this cross will have life. It is the antidote for the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil which gave us death. This is the tree of life, the cross, and its fruit is Jesus, our source of eternal life. Just like the symbol of the serpent, which used to denote evil and the cause of our death. But when Moses took a serpent and mounted it on a pole, it denoted healing for those who believed.”
“But there are times when something becomes both a symbol and a sign, like the cross. The symbol of the cross had become the Sign of the Cross. Why do you make the sign of the Cross? Remember the door post that the Israelites had to mark with the blood of the lamb, so the angel of death will pass over them and spare their firstborn child from death? In the same manner, the Sign of the Cross marks you as a child who had been saved by the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus.”
“It is a sign of salvation. So do not be ashamed to make the Sign of the Cross. By it, you mark yourself as a child of God. Early Christians signaled to other Christians their belief through the Sign of the Cross. It was a sign that they are to gather together at some catacomb and celebrate the breaking of the bread, away from the eyes of Roman soldiers who were ordered to kill them. It was a powerful sign of unity and community, of fellowship that they belonged to a church that believed in one faith—that Jesus Christ had risen and is alive, among them, with them and in them through the breaking of the bread. So make the Sign of the Cross with as much reverence as you have in your heart for by the Cross you have been saved.”
“Don't make the Sign of the Cross in haste like you are swatting and shooing away flies, mosquitoes, and gnats.”
I lowered my head, ashamed and nodded.
"So do you know the difference between a sign and a symbol?"
I sat in silence. No, I didn’t. "That is a good question," I said.
"Funny how you compliment me to hide your ignorance."
I turned red—a sign of my pretentiousness. "Alright, I don't know. That is really a good question because I don't know how to answer that. My best guess is that a symbol is a subjective representation of a belief. It can change. When it has transformed into an objective representation of truth and reality, it becomes a sign."
"So bury the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God through signs and symbols,” he said, “just like the parables. So they will look but not see, and they will hear but not understand."
I marveled at this. "And it is through the Holy Spirit that I'm able to decode the hidden message, to unearth a parable within a parable, within a parable."
I remembered the Russian doll. You pry open one and inside you find the same doll but smaller. And when you open it, you find another smaller one, and so on and so forth.
And it came to me, another hidden meaning for the Parable of the Sower for a writer like me.
His words of inspirations would fall on many aspiring writers. But the words would fall on different paths—the unbelieving hearts, the rocky ground where the word will be received with joy but they have no root, so they fall away in the time of trial, and then there are those writers who hear but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit.
"I don't want to be those kinds of writers," I told my angel. "I want to be a rich soil where His words of inspiration will bear fruit and nourish my readers. I want to be a moist and fertile soil."
"And you shall be, for as long as you continue to drink the water of prayer, bodily disciplines, and spiritual reading,” he said. “God will nurture the word with His living water, air and light."
I smiled in my musings. There it was again, water. Leitmotiv.
"And symbolism," my angel added, reading my thoughts. "If He is the living water, you shall be like a mikvah."
"What?" Then I remembered Anne Rice's book. She described mikvah as a pool that the Jews used for purification where water flows and drains continuously.
So if I am to inspire as a writer, I need to be like a vessel that captures the water and has a hole that allows the water to flow freely so it does not stagnate. To become like a mikvah—a vessel of God's living water that purifies—I shuddered at the immensity of the call.
And I cried.
"Why do you cry?"
"Because I am not a mikvah. I am more like a broken vessel… a leaking clay pot."
"But don't you see, it is because of your leakiness and brokenness that makes the water flow freely—the living water. Remember, the water that drenches the soil will fulfill its purpose and does not come back to the heavens without having done what it had been sent to do… to moisten the dry soil of men. You just need to listen."
"In the silence of your heart. In the prayer of the quiet, where you do not speak, but you merely sit and wait for Him to speak. To say, `Speak Lord, your servant is listening.' To be ready to obey when He speaks, because the antidotes of pride and disobedience are humility and obedience."
I was struck. I remembered St. Bernard's writing regarding the ear, of how it was the instrument of our fall. It was through the ears that the words of temptations were whispered. Therefore, God had to keep the ears intact. We may not see Him, but we shall hear Him. It will be through the ears that we shall be brought back to Him. 'Hear o sinner so that you will see.' Everyone was blinded, but the ear was left intact. Therefore those who hear need to believe before they will see. To believe is to see, and not, to see is to believe. Faith. That is faith. And it will be conferred by hearing. And to hear, someone needs to proclaim… a prophet…
My thoughts ran like a train on mag lev. My angel had to pull it back to a screeching halt.
"Did you not wonder that when you read, the ear hears? There's a voice that speaks in the mind when the eye does its function."
So I paused and turned back my attention to him. Read and hear a voice. So I did. And yes, there it was. I heard it! My voice, my real voice. Deep in my mind. It is beautiful. It is the divine voice that speaks to my Divine Lord, his mirror voice image within my soul. Created in His image and likeness. My soul. Light for light. Love for love.
Once again, my angel pulled me back to a halt.
"Conform your natural voice to that divine voice. A voice lesson of sorts. Make it as your standard. Soon you shall speak your divine voice in the natural way. Then the ears of the called ones will hear," he said.
I nodded. I remembered the lecture on Death and Dying. My teacher said the ear is the last sense that goes away when one is dying and dies. So whisper to the ear of your beloved. Tell the departing soul your prayer intentions that you want to raise to heaven.
"Listen to the silence," my angel blurted through my thoughts. I was running a commentary again. I smiled sheepishly and fixed my attention on him. "That is where God is. Listen to the white noise. That is where you can speak to Him. Ignore all the other noise. Seek that static sound. It's like a radio frequency to the spiritual realm. It's a frequency where you and God can communicate apart from this world. It's a frequency where He can impart truth to you. It's a frequency where you feel relaxed and calm and joyful and happy. It's the frequency of prayer and meditation."
"You're right,” I said. “In the morning I feel like my mind's molecules have scattered everywhere and I had to draw them all back into me and unite them to God's Spirit so I can hear Him well. Otherwise, it just collects all these noises from around me and feeds me with all sorts of worthless and useless information. But when I gather them together and unite them with my body and spirit then my soul hears God clearly. It's like it had filtered out all the noise around and only feeds me with God's voice. Then I start hearing Him talk to me through people around me, events around me, books I read and just a silent knowing of what He wants of me."
"It signifies that all your bosons had gathered together,” he said, “and all your senses are recollected and waiting for Him to speak. Go to that frequency as often as you can throughout the day, and He shall lead you and I can guide you."
"Look it up," he said and I googled.
"It's some subatomic particle that's too technical for my dull brain to understand," I said.
"To listen in God's radiofrequency, a frequency where you can discern His will, is to gather these particles together."
"Gather—oh, you mean, when I come to His presence before I pray and after I read His words…"
"Yes, what do you do?"
"I collect my scattered thoughts and put them on a leash then I let silence settle in my mind. Wipe it blank. I listen to the sound of silence. It's like collecting back my thoughts when I wake up to remind myself of who I am, where I came from, where I'm going, like what you said…. Oh, it's recollection! I collect my scattered bosons."
"That's how you shall put yourself in God's presence. Stay in that SRF throughout the day and you shall be calm and at peace at all times, well disposed to hear His voice and commands, and obey His will."
"Just a code for you, a symbol of sorts: Spiritual Radiofrequency."
"The white noise…"
"Listen to it."
I did, and I noticed that when I was anxious and worried, I didn't hear the white noise. Or when I had negative thoughts about other people. I had to ask pardon for those thoughts before I could hear the white noise again.
So that's why Jesus first greeting to his anxious and fearful disciples was "Peace be with you," because without peace they cannot hear Him. It was imperative that the apostles and disciples let go of anxiety, fear and worry for them to hear Him, to forgive and be at peace with one another, to hear His voice. It was even more crucial when He would ascend to heaven because they would no longer see Him but would depend on their spiritual ears to hear His voice from within, the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Peace be with you. Be at peace with yourself and with one another because unrest and absence of peace will block the SRF.
A sort of tampering of the Spiritual Radiofrequency.
So I started to listen for the white noise during my runs. I noted that it was easier to hear and dwell on the SRF when I was outside because it resembled the sound of the gentle wind constantly blowing and rustling through the leaves-- swoooosh, the merging sound of cicadas-- chhhchhhchhh, the sound of flowing water chshchshchsh.
The sound of silence.
My angel seemed pleased.
Search for that SRF. It's like looking at 3D illusions. Once you break through it, you see a different realm and dimension. You'll see that the waves and patterns that you encounter in this world have a deeper meaning. You find a parable within a parable within a parable. The more you look deeper into it, the more your eyes open to a different image and reality, to different signs and symbols.
I vowed never to underestimate the power of signs and symbols again.
"Help me thank the Lord," I told my guardian angel.
"For what?" he asked.
I smiled and presented him the full draft of my manuscript, the first book of a trilogy.
"I wouldn't have made it this far. I know I have more distance to cover but there's no stopping now. I have come a long way—from the stressed-out, multi-tasking, work-from-home mom, to a disciplined writing disciple.”
“You've evolved,” he said.
"The power of three," I said. "I wouldn't have accomplished this much in my writing had I not heeded your call to discipline myself during the 40 days of Lent. Three things you required of me on those sorrowful days—PRAY, READ and RUN—led to this glory. I didn’t know how powerful those 40 days of mortification could be.”
"The power of forty," he said.
"Leitmotiv," I said and laughed.
“So have you done your homework?” he said.
“I did. I realized that the Bible had a lot of recurring themes, leitmotivs, but these two numbers tend to recur more— 40 and 3.”
“Forty years in the desert,” I said, “for the Israelites to journey and reach the Promised Land; but for Jesus, it was just forty days in the desert of temptation, and He was purified of all earthly motives before He started His ministry. That was my forty days of Lent, it purified my motives for my writing ministry. Forty days as well, from His Resurrection until His Ascension to heaven. And I am living and celebrating these glorious days of the Easter season until the Feast of the Ascension on May 28, 2017. The Power of Forty.”
“And the Power of Three?” he asked.
“The Trinity. The Mystery of the One God in Three Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And using another leitmotiv,” I said, my eyes dilated with excitement, “WATER, which I discovered to be the one that would be mentioned from Genesis to Revelation in a recurring way—I discovered the mystery of the Trinity.”
“Water… H20,” I said. “One molecular structure, two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, yet can exist in three forms: liquid, solid and gas, and remains the same—just like God.”
My angel nodded. This spurred me to continue, encouraged. “All three existed in the beginning, the Wind, the Word but it was the Water that covered the earth. Water that would be essential—that would compose a huge part of our human body, 55-60%. Water that would flood the earth, water that would part into two to free the Israelites from Egypt and slavery, water that they would cross to go to the Promised Land, water that would baptize, wash away our sins and make things new, water that would give us rebirth— to be born again, because our first birth was with water and blood, out of our mother’s womb; so to be born again is to be baptized with water, water that would come out from the pierced wound of Jesus together with the blood. Liquid water.”
My angel nodded. “And the solid part?”
“The Son, who came in a solid form, who was touched by mankind, who touched mankind. He allowed Himself to be touched, held, embraced, kissed, cuddled. Who ate and drank with mankind. The one who came down and allowed Himself to be trapped in the same mortal shell that I am entrapped. To feel the weakness and temptations of the body, and showed me that it can be overcome. The one who pierced this same mortal shell with His light and broke out of it forever. The One who assumed a new body and showed us that it can be done, and opened the path and the way for mankind to do the same— in the same manner that He did, following His way, following His footsteps.”
“Very good,” he nodded. “And then gas?”
“The Holy Spirit, of course. The one who will bestow me with supernatural gifts, to remind me that though I am a Divine Being trapped in this temporary, mortal shell, the body, He can exercise His power and perform signs and wonders through me, that this mortal shell shall no longer be able to stifle my spirit. It’s the same Spirit that turned the coward apostles into fearless and courageous disciples, who would heal the sick, raise the dead, and shed their blood to spread this Good News—that Jesus, once and for all, has freed us from this slavery of the body, saved us from the slavery of the mind, and has the capacity to release the potentials of the spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit that I anticipate to reveal more and more of Himself in the Feast of the Pentecost.”
I sensed my angel's pleasure at my answers. My spirit lifted.
"If you did not push me to discipline myself,” I added, “I wouldn't have been able to do it. Yes, during that Lenten season, you showed me how to enforce discipline on myself to nurture my body, mind and spirit. To change my habits.”
“Another three— body, mind and spirit,” he said.
“It was hard… to nurture my spirit,” I continued, “to wake up early in the morning to pray. I had to drag this mortal shell out of bed and pry open my droopy eyes. Yet these became my antidote to the viral symptom of spiritual amnesia. It’s like I had to remind myself each day of who I am, of my divine nature. The spiritual amnesia seemed to reboot my system when I sleep, so I had to reload the program at the start of the day, to remind me of my identity, where I came from, what’s my purpose and where I'm going. And I have to do it through prayer, at the start of the day, with the Word—to ponder on it and let it soak my spirit.”
“So now you know why Jesus had to wake up at dawn to pray to the Father,” my angel said. “Shackled with the same mortal shell, He was fully human, trapped with your human weaknesses. He was not born with the full knowledge that He was God. Just like you, He had to discover His identity and learn from His parents who were bestowed with the gift through the Angelic Revelation, nurtured by reading the scriptures and learned from men, and when the time came, confirmed by the Father and the Spirit at His baptism at the Jordan River."
I was silenced. God, in the form of a human, the God-Man, the Son of God and Son of Man… what a divine mystery. Unfathomable.
“Go on,” my angel interrupted my reverie.
I jolted back to my reality. Where was I? Oh… the mind.
“It was hard… to nurture my mind,” I continued. “To give up social media and blogging. Yet, these became my antidote to the viral symptom of distraction, lack of focus and noise. And I recovered a significant chunk of time for reading and learned so much from spiritual books, books on writing and editing; learned from those who've made it—the spiritual giants and the experts on writing.”
“And you realized how far still you had to go, and that you needed endurance and perseverance, which required the discipline of the body,” my angel prompted.
“Yes.” I sighed and grimaced. “It was hard… to nurture my body.”
“Was it more like... to torture your body?” my angel joked and I laughed.
“Yes,” I said, “hard to run everyday for 30 minutes. Perhaps this was the most difficult exercise of all. I realized it was my body that needed a lot of beating and mortification. It was prone to eating unhealthy food and prone to laziness, which made it hard to drag it to move and run. Yes, this mortal shell, my shackle. I had to trim down the excess weight, the flab that bears it down, trim it down with abstinence and fasting.”
“Yet, as you learned to tame it, you realized something,” he reminded me.
I smiled. That was true. “I soon realized it became my ally as it grew stronger. Nurtured by my spirit and mind at first, it eventually nurtured my mind and spirit. For when I ran, there I found silence, solitude, serenity, calm, focus, creativity, and inspiration. Much so that it would now complain and become painful when I don't push it to exercise… when I don't run. It seemed, even the body which I thought was my enemy, my shackle, had become my friend—the temple of my spirit, and the Holy Spirit.”
“Don’t forget the perks you got from the torture.”
I smiled. Perks, indeed. I’d rather call it unexpected and welcome side effects—trimmed belly, less flabby abs, and stronger core that warded off my chronic back pain.
“Now you know why you needed to undergo the 40 days of Lent.”
“Yes, I realized that Lent would prepare my body, mind, and spirit for His next spiritual gift—the gift of the Holy Spirit—the Pentecost. Now, I look forward to this most glorious event. Even with the gifts He had bestowed upon me, He still wants to give me more. Oh, how generous is my Lord. I only have to do my part, to make sure that my house is in order, ready and prepared for His coming.”
My angel nodded. “Like a thief in the night, like the bridegroom who arrived at dawn, He can come anytime to visit you. Your house, that is, your body, mind, and spirit must always be prepared and ready.”
I bowed in thanksgiving.
"That is how you can thank the Lord. Make sure His abode is always in order. So He will come to you and dwell in you. And you shall experience the mystery of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of the Father and the Son in you."
The Power of Three in me.
It sounded heavenly.
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