Posted in mother's day

Young Son Travels Far to Buy Rare Gift for Mother’s Day – Ube (Purple Yam) Cake

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. … (Proverbs 31:26-31)

mothers' day gift food haven cakes

I can’t help but be touched by a young Filipino who came to Food Haven yesterday and bought a whole Ube cake.

They live in Oamaru, an hour’s drive from Timaru where Food Haven is located.

Ube or purple yam is popular dessert ingredient in the Philippines. It’s even a staple food for some Filipinos.

For most Filipinos living in New Zealand, having Ube Cake is a special treat.

There’s no doubt that the son’s mother will be overjoyed this Mother’s Day for her son’s thoughtfulness.

I’m very sure that each and every one of us has his or her own way of remembering and appreciating our mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to all

 


Additional information about Ube (Dioscorea alata) from Wikipedia:

Purple yam is used in a variety of desserts, as well as a flavor for ice cream, milk, Swiss rolls, tarts, cookies, cakes, and other pastries. In the Philippines, it is known as ube and is often eaten boiled or as a sweetened jam called ube halayá; the latter is a popular ingredient in the iced dessert called halo-halo. In Maharashtra, the stir-fried chips are eaten during religious fasting.[citation needed] Purple yam is an essential ingredient in Undhiyu.[6] Purple yam is a popular dessert in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioscorea_alata)

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Posted in From Worry To Glory, Resurrection

The Resurrection In Retrospect

Guest post by Dr. Lester Edwin J. Ruiz

“Not powerful enough to prevent crucifixion; but influential enough to take the crucified off the cross”

Resurrection in Retrospect

“When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph brought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid. Mark 15: 42-47, NRSV.”

I have always been drawn to the gospel narratives of the “empty tomb.” As a metaphor for the resurrection, the “empty tomb” proclaims the triumph of life over death; it asserts the promise of the fundamentally new that may also be fundamentally better. It holds forth the promise that our ordinary, perhaps, unhappy lives are not the last word for our journeys on this earth.

The “empty tomb” signifies hope. It is no surprise, then, that for most of its history, Christianity, especially in those times when it has struggled for recognition proclaims Easter as the fundamental ground—the foundation—for all of Christian life and faith. Hope, it is said, is necessary for life.

This fundamental ground, even the necessity of hope for life, is an experience of power. For what can be more powerful than the experience of life overcoming death? It is part of the human experience to be attracted to life, and to fear, if not detest, death—especially premature, untimely death.

It is also not uncommon to understand life as “the good, the true, and the beautiful” as defined by the dominant cultures of privilege in which we often move and have our being. Without this experience of being filled with power, the reality of resurrection remains a promise to be fulfilled.

So, it is very easy, in this fragile life of ours, for the resurrection to be interpreted along two different, if sometimes incommensurable, trajectories.

On the one hand, for those of us who have experienced being powerful—perhaps because of the way our societies have valued particular statuses based on race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability—the resurrection is readily experienced as legitimacy of our experience.

On the other hand, for those of us who have yet to experience being powerful—perhaps because of the way our societies have devalued our particular statuses based on race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability—the resurrection remains a promise.

Both trajectories are experiences of power—and therefore of life: a promise can inspire; legitimacy can move one to action. But, a promise can also be broken; just as legitimacy can be withdrawn. As forms of betrayal, they can result in death.

Indeed, the distance between power-as-legitimacy and power-as-promise is miniscule. Which is why, the metaphor of the resurrection has been used both by the powerful and the powerless in their quest for meaning and significance.

Resurrection, in this sense, can be a temptation that will distract from God’s eternal call to us to throw ourselves into the heart of transformation.

When we insist on placing ourselves at the very mouth of the empty tomb where the resurrection looms so large—instead of preparing ourselves to receive the Resurrected One in our midst—we just might lead ourselves to believe that we are the bearers of resurrection, instead of mere witnesses to it.

We might actually think that we have the power to prevent suffering in our world and to usher in God’s reign, God’s commonwealth.

The narrative around Joseph of Arimathea helps uncover the contours of this temptation.

Mark takes us to Golgotha, the “place of the skull.” But not satisfied with focusing on the crucified Jesus, he reminds us who among the followers of Jesus were lingering in that almost God-forsaken place: “Looking on from a distance,” Mark writes, “were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These women used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.”

Later in the narrative we are told that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus “saw where the body [of Jesus] was laid.” I suspect, that not only did they see what Joseph of Arimathea did, but that they also saw this “from a distance” since, Joseph was not a disciple, but a member of the Council.

But, what did Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council that was instrumental in putting Jesus to death, do that earned him a special place in the gospel narrative of Mark?

We are told that Joseph of Arimathea, a “respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”

And after determining that Jesus was actually dead, Pilate “granted the body to Joseph” who “brought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock” and secured it by “rolling a stone against the door of the tomb.”

There is no sign that Joseph was a “believer” in the resurrection. So his actions may be understood appropriately as arising only out of a respect, not only for the tradition of “the Day of Preparation,” but also for the life of Jesus, a Jewish rabbi—now ended.

There is no sign either that Joseph was a man with the kind of power that could have stopped the Council and Rome from going down the pathway of crucifying Jesus. He certainly had no power to fight the angry, disillusioned crowds that shouted “Crucify him!”

However, Joseph of Arimathea, as Kay Northcutt points out, had some influence, in having the lifeless body of Jesus taken down from the cross, given the briefest of care—but care nonetheless—and laid in an empty, some say unused tomb, before the Sabbath commenced, in order that it could be properly cared for, once the Sabbath was over.

Joseph of Arimathea was not powerful enough to prevent the crucifixion of Jesus; but he had the influence to take Jesus’ body off the cross.

My friends, there is a lesson here for many of us who are not unlike Joseph of Arimathea.

For not many of us have the power to stop a crucifixion; or to prevent suffering—especially unjust suffering. All of us do not have the power to give life, much less give it back to those from whom it was taken by others, if not by us.

But, my friends, some of us, if not all of us, have some influence in taking lifeless bodies off of crosses—especially unjust crosses; or, if God’s grace allows, to keep them from mounting undeserved crosses, or take them down before death arrives.

Today, after seeing a little more suffering and a little less success in overcoming that suffering, I am less certain of the promise of the “empty tomb.”

And while I know in my heart of hearts that hope remains the soul of that empty tomb, I am inspired more by the witness from a distance of the women in the life of Jesus; and, inspired by the testimony of Joseph of Arimathea, who did not find himself at the mouth of the empty tomb, who did not claim the promises of the resurrection, but who, without hesitation, boldly asked the powerful of his day, to respect, care for, protect the memory of human life. And, who, while not having the power to prevent the crucifixion, had the influence to take the crucified from the cross.

Perhaps, this “influence” is God’s gift of power for those of us who, like the women in Jesus’ life, and Joseph of Arimathea, heed the call to be witnesses for God today–and not the bearers of God’s life in the world.

About Dr. Lester Edwin J. Ruiz

filipino theologian

Lester was a faculty member of New York Theological Seminary in New York City beginning in 1997, where he was professor of theology and culture.

He became vice president for academic affairs and academic dean in 2006. As associate professor of political science at International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan, he taught courses in peace and world order studies, international relations, and politics and culture.

A graduate in pastoral care and counseling from Ottawa University (Kansas), he holds the Master of Divinity with an emphasis on religion and society and the PhD in social ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is ordained in the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.

Ruiz is co-editor of four published works, including Re-Framing the International: Law, Culture, Politics, with Richard Falk and R.B.J. Walker. He has contributed many chapters to books and has been widely published in journals and other periodicals.

Active in social media, like Facebook, Lester shares his ideas and reflections on a variety of topics. We have taken the opportunity and permission to share his thoughts. Thank you Lester.

– From Worry To Glory


Posted in Lessons Learned from Sickness, Women of God

Faithful, Generous, Prayerful Women of God

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 29: Women

generous faithful loving women of God

I have a few women in my life, but that does not mean I’m a womanizer.

First, there’s my mother who gave me life. Next, there’s my wife, who gave meaning to my life. And then our daughter who gave purpose to my meaningful life.

My life is being strengthened and sustained by the love of these women.

Aside from them, God gave me the strong support of JEC women in my ministry since I was called as pastor in 2003. They always accompanied and supported me during outreach services, vigil services, shut-in visits, and when there were invitations extended to me outside the city.

Their active presence and support through prayers, choir songs, generous contributions, add blessings to the many engagements we have participated in many areas of ministries of the church.

Reading Luke 8: 1-3, I’m glad to know that Jesus had the same circle of support from faithful, generous and prayerful women.

Aside from disciples like Peter, James, John, Matthew, etc. there were also women like Mary, Joanna and Susanna who supported Christ’s ministry out of their own means.

I thought that all these would come to an abrupt end when I was diagnosed with my sickness.

I have to resign my post as pastor of the church since I am already weak to carry my responsibilities. I can no longer preach, led bible studies, conduct home visitations, led vigil services, make lectures and seminars, do counseling sessions and other pastoral duties.

During my long hospital confinement, I have to explain these facts to these JEC women – that I can no longer spent time with them since I’ll be confined to my living quarters for my treatment and convalescence.

But these women have a totally different plan and would not be limited by that. When I was released from confinement, they became my regular visitors to bring me foodstuff and pray for me.

They also accompanied me and my family in our walking exercise at Fort San Pedro, in my doctor’s consultation and even to perform some errands.

They also took me and my family out for special lunch or dinners so that our fellowship will continue and I will not be deprived of these kind of celebrations!

Yesterday, eight of them treated Mam Martha and I to a sumptuous lunch at Tatoy’s.

I’m thankful to God for these faithful, generous and prayerful JEC women!

Posted on FB: 22 March 2015 – 12:34 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.

Posted in Lessons Learned from Sickness, Sharing and Caring

The Language of Silence

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 28: The Language of Silence

Lessons Learned from Sickness

It is customary for people to make or create a noise when emphasizing something. New business or products are introduced by loud public announcements, accompanied with drum beats, full volume music, street parades, caravans, fireworks, etc.

It seems that people are convinced of the products’ effectivity by the loudness of its propaganda or advertisement. The louder the noise, the popular the business.

Silence is perceived as a weakness or a show of insignificance. But is it?

My sickness has introduced me to the world of silence – by force.

In other words, I was forced to be silent, otherwise I will suffer a state of incessant coughing if I continue talking.

It took me quite a while to adjust to this condition.

You see, as a Pastor, my job was to speak, and not just speak, but to speak loudly. I was not used to just sit in a corner and be silent.

But my sickness made me discover the virtue of silence. I discovered that it’s also a means which I can still communicate with others.

I discovered that I can listen more while others are talking, and I can fully internalized what they felt. I discovered that I’m more sensitive to the feelings of others.

Not only that. I also discovered that I have plenty of time to think more deeply, analyze things more broadly, and in so doing, learn quite a lot of things more frequently.

I have more time for personal devotions and to read the scriptures. I have plenty of opportunities to pray for many people in my prayers of intercessions. I have more time to reflect and write my reflections.

What I missed doing when my faculty of speech was still intact I learned to value and maximize in my world of silence.

Posted on FB: 20 March 2015 – 4:39 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.

Posted in Community, Lessons Learned from Sickness

Reverse Isolation

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 27: Reverse Isolation

lessons learned from sickness

I confess there were lots of things that I didn’t like during my hospitalization.

Foremost is the cost. I found out that it’s really very expensive to get sick.

It’s no wonder why many people who need immediate medical attention, just preferred to stay at home and learn to maximize the use of alternative or herbal medicines.

I even read of a joke about a patient who was already healed of his heart ailment and was given the go-signal to be released after his long confinement. But he died of cardiac arrest when he saw his hospital bills!

I certainly hope that it’s really a joke and not a true story.

Next that I dislike is the pain and discomfort related to or resulting from my treatment. But I have come to accept them, since I knew that they were a significant part of my healing.

But there’s still another thing that I didn’t like – no matter how this doctrine was explained to me.

They called this Reverse Isolation.

According to this phenomenon, I can’t accept visitors in my hospital room because they might have colds, cough or flu, and their virus may affect me.

While I understand that this was a valid way of safeguarding my already feeble health, I find it difficult to just accept it.

That is why there were some instances that I struggled against the insistence of people looking after me, to allow people especially those who came from far away places to enter my room and pray for me.

I really sympathized with those people who came from churches that I previously served as pastor. I knew that they came from remote communities.

They traveled long distances, and spent their hard earned money for transportation just to show their love and affection to their former pastor.

In a way I’m grateful that my requests for exemptions such as these were also granted by my guardians.

Isolation is never a good thing for me because I just don’t want to be alone.

Posted on FB: 19 March 2015 – 7:18 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.

Posted in Determination, Inspirational, Perseverance

Beautiful Lessons from a Bar Flunker

GUEST POST BY ANGIE OCCENO-LIBARDO

Angie Occeno-Libardo
Angie Occeno-Libardo

Setbacks come naturally to life, perhaps second to breathing. The unfortunates will even get a shrill experience of the “Murphy’s Law,” that when things go bad it will just be.

Dazed in amazement over the intensity of some issues, one can only shake his head and wonder. Inaccurate the prospects of them seeping into our systems, struggles can either pierce our whole being or embolden us to create that better person in us.

I guess when it comes to experiencing and managing failures I have become an authority.

I used to be getting A’s from elementary to college. Government exams were not even too difficult to pass. I have not felt any tinge of inadequacy because I seemed to do well each time I took the test.

But when I went to College of Law things changed for me. Gone are the days when I would be getting A’s. My grades were insanely bad.

My professors wondered why I even enrolled in the law school when I seemed to lack the ability to even survive first year law. But as you can see, I still finished the course but the final test to whether or not the concepts were retained and mastered, the Bar exams had to be passed.

I thought I knew the basics but the examiners thought otherwise so I failed. The first time I took it and failed was not as painful as I did the second time because it felt like I did not learn anything at all.

The whole experience cut my heart and my mind was gripped with all disparaging words about myself like, “So you are smart? So I thought.” “Your luster has died and you are no good.”

What could be worse than thinking that those people that I hurt in the past were just so jubilant about my failures. Magnified in my thoughts are their sneers and insults.

My self- esteem plummeted. But how did I surmount my pitiful condition and started hoping and desiring again to take the Bar exams?

Let me share to you the things that I forced myself to do in order to put my hopeful prospects back.

Acknowledge the need to be strengthened.

When adversities befall us we tend to live a hermit life. We shy away from people even to trusted friends for fear that we would be ridiculed.

Doing this however will cost us our own happiness and will further lead us to despair.

Go out and look for your trusted friends. Share to them what you feel and honestly ask for their prayers.

I did just that, the comfort that I got after was exhilarating.

Reconcile with God.

Right after I failed the exams, I asked the Lord so many questions. Like I blamed Him for not honoring my prayers or even rewarding me for my efforts, I would reason in my head, that I deserved to pass because I worked very hard for it.

I invested so many sleepless nights for it, I knew I studied very hard too; all to no avail. I cried alone, grieving over God’s decision.

Even a firm believer like me despaired but who am I to question the Lord?

He knows the future! Jesus, who began the good work in us will be faithful to complete it. He will send people either to teach us or propel us to minister on God’s unfailing love, similar to what He did to me. God is sovereign.

He cannot be dictated upon. Being the creator that He is, He knows our very being and powerfully discerns what is best for us; so when what we prayed for remained unanswered, be still and ask for divine understanding.

We might not immediately understand why bad things happen to us, we need to trust in the Lord because He is too good to be unkind.

The safest place to be in when situations become unreasonable is in God’s arms.

Restore your self-worth.

No one has the right to belittle you. It can only be so if you yourself tolerated others to look down on you.

However, the best assurance that we can hold on to is the truth about God’s unconditional love, that whatever and however we become, He will take us to Himself unconditionally.

Remember the cross. Jesus died for your sins and mine. He even became sin himself to offer to us His greatest sacrifice, His own life for our salvation.

Aren’t we so special to God? Acknowledging who Jesus is and the sacrifices that He endured will revive our hearts’ desires and brighten our chances for better opportunities, that regardless of the hurtful remarks people say about us, it is definitely not the same with how Jesus thought of us.

The abundance of His loving kindness will be ours to have and enjoy if only we would also take Him in our lives. Be confident in the Lord because He is a father that restores.

While failures are admittedly part of our lives, we can’t do anything much but pray for God’s leading. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength and intelligently learn from those painful experiences.

Will I still take the bar exams again? Hmmm… Why not?

NOTE: This article was first published on the author’s blog “Echoes of the Heart” on 27 March 2015.

Posted in Each New Day, From Worry To Glory, Lessons Learned from Sickness

One Fine Day

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 26: One Fine Day

Castlepoint Lighthouse at Wairarapa NZ
One fine day with God at Castlepoint Lighthouse, Wairarapa NZ. Photo by Jade Mark Jarbadan

How do you define a fine day? Perhaps to many of us, a fine day is a day that is devoid of any problems, burdens or cares.

Everything you encountered provides you joy, blessings, entertainment, and gives you a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. That’s why people who encountered such kind of day blurts with excitement, “You have made my day!”

One of the most common greetings I heard from people who came to visit me was, “How’s your day?”

I’m grateful that they are so concerned about my situation and that they would like to know whether I still find joy, meaning, hope and peace in that particular day.

My ready answer to that is of course, “I have a fine day! Or, “My day is fine!” This is because I do not look at the negative circumstances surrounding me on a particular day in order to make my judgment, but I focus on God’s goodness and grace which enables me to appreciate the new day that God gave me.

The fact that I still woke up to a new day is already a great reason for me to say that my day is fine!

Proverbs 11: 27 says, “He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it.”

In other words, we will be able to define our day as a fine day by looking at all the positive things that God gave us and learn to celebrate that day by affirming God’s goodness and faithfulness.

But if we focus our attention to all the negative, hard, evil aspects of the day then that’s how we will also perceive our day – negative, hard and evil.

Ever since I discovered this verse, I learned to focus on searching the good things that God prepared for me on that particular day.

For what you seek, you will find! Have a fine day everyone!

Posted on FB: 18 March 2015 – 8:41 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.