Beautiful Lessons from a Bar Flunker


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.

Budgerigar by Joven Baloyo

I Think We Are Not Supposed to Die Alone

6am, May 30, 2014.

I think we are not supposed to die alone.

Sometime between 1am and 5am this morning, our little budgie, the one with a broken leg, the one whom the others were picking on, the one we tried to save by separating her from the healthy ones, our little budgie died.

We were going to take her to the bird doctor tomorrow—even made an appointment last night—but it was too late.

Lester's Dear Budgies

Lester’s Dear Budgies

I had a feeling she was not going to last the night. So I asked her, before I went to bed, to hold on just until we could get her to the doctor; but I also said, not to hang on just on our account. And she left. Perhaps, the injury was too much to bear. They say that birds have a way of keeping the appearance of being well; and so when they look unwell, that means they really are unwell and past “saving.”

And last night, she looked unwell. Call it instinct for self-preservation—this hiding one’s “injury;” this keeping suffering from others. And it makes sense—the law of the jungle is, “the fittest live”—so one must not show injury. One must keep suffering to one’s self.

From my point of view, human as it is, keeping one’s suffering from others is a marker of thoughtfulness—an expression of consideration for the other. But, I won’t turn it into a normative expectation.

Human community should be free and open enough to share both joy and sorrow, blessing and curse. Community and loneliness.

No one should be forced to die alone. No one must live in loneliness.

I made the choice of intervening when I saw our other budgies “bullying” the injured one. I thought my separating her from the others was a way of protecting her. Maybe that was right, maybe that was wrong.

I am not a bird expert. But, one thing I noticed, even though I kept her in a cage close to the others, separated only by the bars of the cage—so they could still hear each other, see each other. I noticed the others kept “looking” for her, kept in proximity of her.

And, I noticed, too, that last night, our injured one was trying to “re-join” the others. And when I opened her cage to feed her and to make things comfortable for her, she did not move away from my hand, she even allowed herself to be touched.

Maybe she was just too injured to move away. But then again, maybe, as a social species (budgies are supposed to be that), that is their “instinct”: to be with others even to the very last. And maybe, the “bullying” behavior was not intended to harm, but was an expression of “community” between them, even an attempt to care for the injured one.

And if so, I made a huge, terrible mistake. I took her away from her companions—and I probably should have not done that. It seems that her last acts of life were to rejoin her group. And interestingly, when I came down this morning, instead of being greeted by the noisy cackling and chirping of our budgies, there was silence. I think the others knew one of them was gone.

No one should die alone—or be forced to die alone. No one. Not even our injured budgie.

I will never know whether I did the right thing or not. But that is neither here nor there. The fact is, our injured budgie left us last night. And she did so quietly in the night, without making too many demands on us or on her companions. And this is her gift to our frail, oftentimes arrogant and self-centered human sensibilities.

We need to learn—I need to learn—to live in ways like our little, injured budgie.

Lester Edwin J. Ruiz

About Dr. Lester Edwin J. Ruiz

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 numerous 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 on the death of his pet he blogged on Facebook. Thank you Lester.

– From Worry To Glory

PHOTO CREDIT: Lester Edwin J. Ruiz; Association of Theological Schools; Joven Baloyo (Featured Image)

Mother's Day

Celebrating Mothers Day Daily

Mothers' Day

Nenita and Lynn

On Mother’s Day, we give honour and recognition to our mothers, Nenita Castillon and Lynn Kwe for their love and sacrifices for children and family.

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. (Proverbs 31:10 )

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: (Proverbs 31:28)

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:29)

We give the same thoughts to all mothers in our community and through all the world.

Let us celebrate Mother’s Day daily by always remembering (and never forgetting) the love and sacrifices they have done for us since our conception and as long as we live.

Thank you Lord God for motherhood!

Jonan, Jewel and Jadyn

Sunrise, A New Day, Another Time for Worship and Service

Sunrise at Caroline Bay by Jewel (1280x719)

I rise in the morning and thought about how God has blessed my life.
I thought of the birds who sang joyous songs as the sun ascends from the east,
I thought of the flowers all blooming with colors of pastel,
God be praised He gave me a beautiful world.

A new day promises another time for worship,
We give Him the praise as He showers His wonderful grace;
He gives us faith, hope and love,
That we may share with friends and family;
And most of all He gives life for you and me.

For from Him and through Him, all things were created,
Give Him the glory and praise for this wonderful world.

– from the song “A New Day” by Grace C. Dumlao

[quote cite=”Colossians 1:16″ url=””%5DFor in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.[/quote]

PHOTO CREDIT: Sunrise at Caroline Bay by Jewel Kwe Castillon

Insights for Contentment

Here is a suggestion for consideration on how to gain a balanced perspective on life, one that brings inner contentment. Without integrating these insights, life will be frustratingly like a rocking chair that keeps one moving but leading nowhere.

  1. Happiness comes from within.  It does not depend upon what happens outside. If you cannot be happy with who you are inside, no amount of external items can give you inner joy. Here is the news: The promises of advertised products by the media are just that – promises. They are undeliverable.
  2. How things happened cannot be changed.  Many people spend inordinate amount of time wishing things should have happened differently in the past. “If Only” is the title of their daily song. This is waste of precious energy. The wish to make things happen differently will not be granted. Things happened the way they did. The fact needs to be accepted for one to move on.
  3. Love for others stems from love of self.  Altruism is like a piece of cake – you cannot share with someone what you do not have. This love is not romantic. It is a result of hard look at self with all strengths and weaknesses and celebrating the whole package.
  4. To seek outside help is not weakness.  If people decide to seek help when problems are just developing they would have prevented themselves and those who are close to them from needless suffering. It takes enormous amount of courage to ask for help. And it takes strength to summon that courage.
  5. Mistakes are unavoidable.  It is not a question of “Will I make mistakes?” It is a question of “How do I learn from mistakes I will be making?” The idea of potentially making mistakes frees one from the lure of perfectionism and the need to do it right all the time, everywhere.
  6. Maintain balance between solitude and community.  Both are needed in life. To be alone all the time can foster acute loneliness. To be in community all the time may result to burn-out. We need to be part of a greater whole but we also need to isolate our slice from the bigger pie. The former promotes validation while the latter could lead to quietness and inner peace.
  7. Release that which is beyond control.  It will be a happy day when someone learns to release that which is beyond his power to amend. What do you do with the traffic, weather, what others say or think, your family of origin, your personal appearance, or past experiences could determine to a large degree your journey to the land called “bliss.”
  8. Welcome the opportunity to share. Life is not just about the “me.” Those who have learned the value of sacrifice for others can teach us a lesson or two about life’s meaning. The intent of experiencing prosperity is not to make one better off than others. It is to provide golden opportunity to share to meet the needs of others. Failure to participate in this endeavor could stand as major block to real satisfaction.
  9. Advocate for truth with courage.  There is an urgent need for this advocacy in society today. Lies and deceit seem to abound. Many will take the route of falsehood just to reach personal goals. In the end falsehood breeds pretense which breeds hypocrisy. A noble young person would not like to model his life from that of a hypocrite! And a house will not stand whose foundation is pretense.
  10. Learn to learn from unpleasant events.  This often calls for rigor in thinking. The difference between a contended individual from one who wallows in discontent is not in the amount of painful events for all are exposed to both pleasant sunshine and stormy rain. It is what these two groups think about these events. The former looks at them as cup half- full while the latter as cup half-empty.
  11. Life is both body and spirit.  It is well-documented that failure to take care of the body through nutrition and physical exercise results to either diseases of excess or of inadequacies. Failure to care for the spirit is responsible for the spiritual hunger and thirst which is at the very core of the manic pursuit of its twofold substitute: materialism and addiction. The nurture must not be done to one without the other. Nurture of the body alone will yield good appearance but shallow. Nurture of spirit alone results to religious rigidity that lacks attractiveness to observers.

Val Gonzales

About Dr. Val Gonzales

Val Gonzales (PhD, LCDC, LPC) serves as Senior Minister of Dallas Metroplex International Church in Dallas, Texas and does adjunct teaching at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas.

Originally trained in pastoral counseling, his work experience includes hospital-based program coordinator in psychiatry clinical research, program therapist with emphasis on individual/group counseling and family education, and triage manager for managed care. He has been active in higher education for more than 23 years.

Dr. Gonzales is an active member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors and the American Counseling Association. He is married to Chelly Molinos Gonzales and they have 2 children: Philippe Eirenaues and Tina Rachel.