January 30, 2013

Scribbles of ambivalence: Looking back

While looking for materials to update my blog, I came across some drafts  saved  in computer files which were almost forgotten. I have decided to make a series of posts under  the scribbles of ambivalence. This  is the sequel of the  previous blog containing the first draft post encoded on September 9, 2012.

It is with  such thought that I am reminded of how God has saved me from my predicament during the  most critical moment in my life three years ago. I was at the peak of service when attacked by chronic heart ailment and hypertension. The scene during the most critical moment in my life has already been embedded in my mind. When I was about to make the last breath, my final thought was: “Not now, Lord… for my family… the CBMA…there are still evil to fight and conquer.

God took notice of that last appeal and sincere desire that He made me survive. Thereafter, I experienced the struggle  within and without, the ups and downs in the healing process. How I resisted illness by letting the mind dominated the body until my body would no longer listen to my mind. Until I was totally immobilized to the extent that I could no longer stand, walk and talk. That was when I accepted my limitation and  took the much needed rest. But the struggle did not end, right away.

Another struggle started- the struggle  within, the fight against depression. There came a point when  I even questioned God’s  discretion, considering  my unfinished tasks at the height of my ministry. How come He did not have to wait until I finished my term in a matter of three months? When all I was doing, including sacrifices, was for the good of the pastors and churches. It was there when I felt humiliated with the thought that human as I am, I had that degree of concern for the ministry. How much more for  God who gave his only begotten son to suffer and give his life for humanity.

I then recalled  the slow and painful process of healing, the healing inside, renewal of  mindset, changes in my life style. How I exercised  my faith by  taking one step at a time. And how these slow and painful experiences made me value the process apart from the changes within.     The long and painful process of recovery has become a purging process to me and almost daily I experience healing inside.

There was a point in my life when I even recalled my experience during the first attack in 1975 and how a literal interpretation of the Scripture became the turning point  in my  healing process. For weeks, I was terrorized by chest pain, difficulty in breathing and nightmares. My sleep had been interrupted with night sweats caused  by the piles of pillows  on my back to elevate my head and chest.

My heart condition was so fragile that I had to be bedridden for months with limited activity apart from reading the bible and prayer. I could not even speak longer than few minutes. I had repeated reading the 66 books in the bible many times. I had reached the point when I felt ready to go to the beyond. The only thing holding me was the thought that I was too young to die and I had not maximize my time to serve. Hence,  I made an earnest, sincere bargain to God for  just one  year to live so that I could serve Him fully well.

Thereafter, I had that sort of mystical experience – an  inner peace, a sense of security and confidence that when I  resumed reading the bible, I got struck by  Revelation 3:20 in its literal sense.  Upon reading the verse “ Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” I realized I had nothing to fear with my heart ailment. Because  Jesus was already in my heart when I accepted Him as personal Lord and Savior. Even when the worst condition come for the heart to stop its beat, Jesus being inside can make it move again. After that, every time I felt the pain, murmurs or any other abnormal sensation in my heart, that particular verse eliminated my fear.

My readings of the bible and miracle books had influenced me to apply the faith experience and how these improve my condition. I think I have to recall that first experience and  learn lessons to guide me now on this ambivalence. Thank you, God.

January 26, 2013

Scribbles of ambivalence

While looking for materials to update my blog, I came across some drafts  saved  in computer files which were almost forgotten. I have decided to make a series of posts under  the scribbles of ambivalence. This  first draft post was encoded on September 9, 2012.

“Last night, in prayer, I realized I have more to thank the Lord than my perceived deprivation. Until now, there is no medical ruling on  my abnormal condition of heat intolerance pending Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). What was clear in my previous laboratories are the problem with supply of oxygen to my brain, mitral regurgitation, larger than usual hole on my head. And of course,  hypertension.

While the problem with my heart is already given as it has been consistently manifested since 1975 with two succeeding attacks in 17 years interval, my nerve problem or should I say abnormal sensation is still a mystery. My heart problem, though clearly  existent, is seemingly manageable. Maintaining a stress-free life, healthy lifestyle- keeping watch of food intake with more on vegetables, fruits and fish, less cholesterol laden foodstuff, regular exercise, sleeping habit, self control as far as my emotion/anger, physical activities, meditation. All these are under my control.

What is beyond my control, which always gives me discomfort and makes me vulnerable, is the problem with my adjustment to less ventilated condition. There seems to be a failure in the regulatory system in my body. There is heat sensation inside me all over the body that can be attributed to blood circulation. The moment the external condition is hot, humid and without direct air to hit my head, I become vulnerable to heat exhaustation  leading to heat stroke.  Such condition is  stressful to my heart. My water intake is inexhaustible like an engine experiencing an overheat.  I was hospitalized last Summer 2010 because  of such condition which was nearly fatal, had it not been for the first aid tips I learned from the web.

Most often, I felt distress thinking about it. More so, that it is almost  three years that I became hostage to this situation. That’s why my mobility is limited within the university campus where I also reside. I only find comfort at home and in my office because I have already set up a mechanism to adapt to the environment. But I find discomfort every time I have meetings or appointments outside my comfort zones. Most often, I situate my self in an area with direct hit of air conditioner/electric fan at the discomfort of persons beside me. That’s why I always arrive early in the venue. Failure to do so makes me go out of the room from time to time to refresh myself or leave the meeting the moment the condition is intolerable.  The vulnerable  condition has prevented me to accept engagement/ invitation to meetings outside the campus or city, no matter how I want to go.

A neurologist suspected a problem with my hypothalamus which serves as the heat regulator. Hence, she recommended MRI. But lack of resources constrains me to undergo the process. Once, two friends  provided  me an amount. However, there was no MRI machine in the hospital where he issued a cheque. So, I underwent a nerve study instead. The findings revealed no problem with my nerves. I used the remaining amount for the basic  needs of my family due to necessity.

This condition makes me, from time-to-time, sad, especially the sense of deprivation we experience.  I thought to myself, had I been endowed with resources, I could have known my actual condition and undergo treatment and subsequent relief. On the second thought, I consoled myself from stories about rich people whose health condition was never solved, some getting worse, despite their inexhaustible resources."

(to be continued)

January 12, 2013

Failures are inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable

Article first published  as Never give up  on May 6, 2012.

My friend Jun Borres, an alumnus of the Department of Social Work, Central Philippine University, inspires me no end. He was the one I referred to in my Never lose hope post. Since then, his text messages are timely and relevant. At times, witty anecdotes that made me laugh. I have expounded some of his messages on my blog. There are three other friends, both pastors, who .like Jun have the gift to inspire people thru their text ministry. Text messages coming from Pastors Russel Ban, Edgardo Daitol and Bebing Tupas always contain inspirational thoughts.

Few days after I pushed myself beyond limits and suffered the consequences, I received this text message from Jun:
                  There is no perfect life. All of us human   beings have failures.  
                  Failures are inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable. 
                  That is why we never should give up. 
                  Rise and shine and do not let yesterday’s failures discourage you.    
                 They are temporary lessons we go through to become better.

Certainly, Jun did not know my condition at the time of his text. In fact, what happened to me was a sort of irony. I was about to draft the sequel to my post Pushing Beyond Limits on another blog which I  interluded with  Earth Day blog. However, my wife’s suggestion during our son’s birthday shifted my focus.  When she saw the need for a larger room  for two boys as they have outgrown their original room, the carpenter’s instinct in me was awakened.

Carpentry and gardening during week-ends had been my outlet for stressful life in the past. They kept me going despite the previous multiple tasks. It was only when I used my week-ends for voluntary extension classes for pastors in the provinces  that the hobbies had been suppressed. A mistake that took a toll on my health resulting to  serious illness in the last quarter of 2009 when still at the peak of service and leadership.

This carpenter’s instinct always challenges me to do the project by myself instead of contracting a skilled worker. Not necessarily for economical reason, though. It is more on the self fulfillment to complete a project outside my skill or expertise. I even remembered last year’s experience while still on a very vulnerable state of health. With my son’s assistance, I managed to construct a recycled make shift hut under the acacia tree beside our house. It served as refuge during day time against the scorching heat of summer aggravated by my unusual nerve disorder.  We also succeeded in making bamboo fences, as he did the digging of holes holing and moving of heavy woods and bamboo stalks. The experience was therapeutic against depression.

Taking cue from my wife’s suggestion, I started to plan out how to convert a space for a larger room for the boys. Working favorably was the long week-end on April 28 for the celebration of the Labor Day on May 1.Hence, I excitedly  worked out  the project forgetting my vulnerability. Too late to realize that the symptoms for the recurrence of my sickness were manifesting as I tried to push myself beyond limits.

Though disappointed, I humbly accepted my failure, giving more  value on my health than the accomplishment . I was forced to slow down and minimize exerting more effort as our female work student assisted me in completing the project longer than expected. Having been with us for quite a long time, she seemed to master my health condition and always at my rescue. My son was not able to assist me this time because of their Vacation Church School.

While we finished the project, my sense of success  was halfhearted. In the process, I was about to give up and leave the work to a professional carpenter. An ambivalent feeling enveloped me. There was more inclination  to blame myself  than feel  happy about the success.  I know it will take some time again to gradually recover from the present  state based on past experiences. It was in this context when the text message of Jun came in. It was timely. I have to rise up from the fall and learn lessons from the mistakes. But  I will never give up the struggle towards full recovery.

January 1, 2013

Never lose hope

As part of reorganizing my blogs with respective focus or niche, I am reposting  (with minor edition) an inspiring experience I had upon resuming my position at the Department of Social Work. Article first published on PADAYON: Our Life Journey.

We were preparing for the reunion of the Department to revive the alumni association. My spirit was low. Time constraints forced us to simplify everything – preparation, expectation, program and other activities. My mood became even lower when confronted with personal and familial concerns. For the nth time, we ran out of budget that I could not even take maintenance medicine to prioritize food and school needs of the kids.

As always, such situation renewed the spiritual ambivalence I experienced since day one of my ill health nearly two years ago. Admittedly, I was about to give in to depression again while struggling on both fronts. In times, like these, there is only thing that holds me back. It is the past experience of God’s provision with the inner voice telling me “not lose hope but keep on trusting God.” Clinging to God’s promise, I kept on doing my work with faith something good would happen.

Indeed, it happened a day before the alumni homecoming and the day after. Few days prior to the alumni homecoming, I made the last ditch effort to ensure attendance by sending text message to remind alumni of the event. After sending to active numbers in the directory, I tried to reach out to the inactive ones, with lesser expectation to receive response. It was then that I came across the number of an alumnus whom I met five years ago. We never met after that and seldom communicated even in text message. Still, I sent him a reminder. Unexpectedly, he responded with an apology that he could not attend due to previous family retreat on same date. However, he indicated his willingness to help in whatever way and set an appointment to see me.

Recalling our first meeting and the circumstances prior to the hibernation of our association, my discussion with Jun shifted to health condition upon learning what happened to me. He shared his healing experience, as well as that of his siblings from personal encounter with a gifted nun in Manila. Much to my surprise, he closed our meeting by issuing a cheque addressed to the hospital for my magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan which has long been delayed due to lack of resources. My neurologist recommended this among other nerve studies/tests many months ago to rule out the root cause of my heat intolerance, extreme thirst and unusual nerve problem. However, my health condition has drained our limited resources.

I was astonished, not expecting that God would answer my prayer through this person whom I met in an alumni reunion five years ago. The following day more surprises came. Prior to Jun’s visit, the only son of our former Department Head brought to the office her video message for our homecoming. Manay Ruth was our invited guest speaker but her health condition constrained her personal presence to grace the occasion. Hence, the recorded video. Pete and I had an interesting discussion on politics, principles and family life apart from the health related topics as we have never met for longer years.

After our successful alumni homecoming, I reflected on God’s providential guidance and provision just the time we needed it. Then I zeroed in on my health condition and the remaining recommended examinations I have to undergo. While I am glad that Jun has unexpectedly shoulder my MRI, I know the amount was not enough. Determined to go through all the prescriptive medical tests, I again asked God for additional resources to supplement the current blessings. Then I remember Pete, the son of Manay Ruth who is now a successful topnotch lawyer in Manila. I started to wrestle with the thought of requesting him to loan me an amount to add to Jun’s commitment. Ultimately my desire for healing overcame my pride and I texted him about my request. Much to my surprise, he immediately responded to give me same amount as Jun has given.

And before my amazement subsided, the more I was overwhelmed by his follow up messages which I saved and shared with my wife: “That’s not a loan. Consider it a small token of appreciation for your support to Nanay and myself when I had nothing…. I have always wanted to help you, Nong. But I was also very careful knowing you. I did not also want to hurt your pride. But it’s good that you opened up to me. It liberates us both.”

I almost cried. Yes, ever grateful to God for the monetary blessings. But more than that, the touching message. Recalling the past, I could not remember very significant act I had done to help him. What flashed back in my mind was a simple act of kindness being expected from me not even a recompense of her mother’s kindness to me, too. I realize the impact of any act of kindness to a person in a particular time can never be under estimated.