Thursday, June 22, 2017
To go full-circle on the whole waiting-at-the-airport adventure from last week, I have to tell you that, I did meet up with my sister and niece in NYC after all. Also, after the days we spent there, I found myself … you guessed it… waiting at the airport… again, on my way back home.
I spent about 8 hours at JFK that Sunday… gosh… this time, it was not due to airplane malfunctioning. It was due to brain malfunctioning… my brain! Just to avoid taking a cab by myself from the hotel to the airport, I decided to leave with my sister and niece… both of whom had super-early-departing flights…sigh.
After the initial shock of realizing the insanity of my decision, I found a place to set camp for my wait. Feet up on my suitcase and hotel pen in hand, I began to write down my thoughts about the trip… o yes, and I also bought a really neat, but highly over-priced journal at the airport because I ran out of space to write on my itinerary and boarding passes…
In summary, the so long-awaited and anticipated visit with my sister and niece started on a high point at the Empire State Building, went down very quickly as we sailed under the Brooklyn Bridge, to then stabilize and go back up again thanks to some black-market dealings in China Town that shall remain unspoken. All I’d like to say is that a bit of retail therapy has an effectiveness rate rarely outmatched.
All in all, the trip was mostly a learning experience that allowed me to discover the power of prayer and the gift of self-control… or shall I say, the fruit. Saying that self-control is a gift is not only biblically inaccurate, but it may lead us to latching onto the idea that it is a gift we don’t possess; therefore, don’t ask me to display it ‘cause I don’t got it! Wink, wink…
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, one of which the Apostle Paul tells us we would be recognized by. – I’m in big trouble here -. But, once we are able to see this fruit’s richness appear…Oh, what a gift it is!
The same with every fruit… patience being anther one of them…
I also learned a lot about the fact that I don’t want the thought of lacking hope crossing my path anymore. I want my faith to increase. I want to be recognized by my fruits. I want the truth that I am a child of God to be evident to those around me on the way I act!
Isn’t it funny how things turn out so unexpectedly sometimes? I had been looking forward to this trip to New York City for a long, long while…and today, I can honestly say, that the most memorable, productive and positive thing about it ended up being the time I spent at the airports…waiting…maybe waiting, in a way, could be considered also a gift, after all.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5: 22-23
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Well, yes… that’s what the Holy Spirit placed in my mind that early afternoon, last week, while stuck on a plane, in the middle of the Pittsburgh airport’s runway, waiting to take off to meet my niece and sister in NYC… “it is in the waiting that we find the gift.”
I think it is not necessarily the actual period of time that we get to spend waiting what the true gift is… but, rather, that the wait is the packaging where the gift comes wrapped in.
As it is easily inferred from my writings, I allow my thoughts to run wild, once in a while, to the point of causing unnecessary stress and uncontrolled anxiety. Therefore, waiting for me usually becomes life-threatening… particularly if I leave my mild idle. Waiting for that delayed flight to NYC last week was a good example. During that time, I realized that the best thing for my sanity and that of those around me, is for me to keep my mind occupied whenever I am faced with having to wait.
Knowing that about myself, I happened to grab a book on my way out of the house which I had started earlier this year and had to put down because I was so busy I couldn’t finish it. Well, guess what, the delay on my flight gave me the perfecto opportunity to get caught up on my reading of that book. As God would have it, the chapter I picked it up at was on the topic of… wait… wait for it… yes, it was on the topic of waiting, of course!
The Lord has a way of speaking to me in a loving, caring and sometimes, VERY clear way – this was one of those times.
The thoughts on waiting paired up with an actual wait, topped by a book with a chapter on waiting… c’mon… even I could not miss that message…
Anyway, how often God puts us in a position where we have nothing to do but wait? In my case, rather than taking the waiting time as an opportunity to discern what God wants me to learn, I have wasted many of those moments fretting, panicking or being upset. Waiting for test results has, over the last few years, been a re-occurring example of such a waste. Hands sweating, body shaking, back aching as I wait for the telephone to ring… until, one day, the Holy Spirit led me to the Word. In one of those occasions, I picked up my Bible and began to read through the Psalms, starting with #1. Ever since that day, that has become my ritual every time I have to wait for test results.
Covering up the icy-cold rooms of anxiety and fear with the warm blanket of the Word as I wait has helped me, in those moments, to refocus by taking away my eyes from the circumstances to center them on Jesus. The key is to always do that…to always be able to re-direct my sight towards the One who is Hope so I can unwrap the gift that comes to me neatly packed in the wait…like for instance, these meditations I was able to jot down while waiting for the airplane to depart.
Therefore, though I might not totally agree with the author of the book I was reading when she pointed out that the waiting is the gift… I do agree with the idea that waiting might just be the packaging where the gift is packed in. The time we wait should be then, used to unwrap it so we can enjoy it! Simple, huh?
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Patience is something I’ve ever been accused of… waiting patiently has not been anything, anybody has witnessed me doing much at all… ever!
As I sat in one of those airport chairs, last week, still waiting to hear about our flight… isn’t it funny how they make those chairs look as if they are comfy, when actually, they are not? … anyway, I read a line in the book I was trying to finish that stroke me: “waiting patiently is about hope.” Hmmm…
What did that statement mean? Well, to me, that means that if I find myself not being able to accomplish patient waiting, that signifies that I have no hope. If I have no hope, that means I don’t trust the One Who is Hope… and that if that’s the case, then I have little to no faith…
Next, the book presented the idea of considering the waiting periods in our lives as a gift. Needless to say, I found that concept hard to accept. Gifts are usually things that I like receiving. I don’t like to wait…so, how am I ever going to consider waiting as a gift?
By this time, I was no longer waiting at the gate, but I was actually on the plane, in my seat. But we were still waiting. The plane had begun to move, but suddenly, it stopped again…waiting became unbearable! How is it possible that we got on the plane, the plane pulled off the gate, moved around the runway, to then just stop! UGH!
How can I consider this a gift?
In this scenario, the real gift is to spend time with my niece and my sister, NOT SITTING ON A STOPPED PLANE in Pittsburgh!
The way I see it, the wait is chipping away at the gift!
How could I ever begin to consider waiting as “THE” gift?
Well, after my desperation gave way to a rare occurrence of peace, I realized that one way to accomplish that different perspective could be by choosing wisely what I do while I wait.
The Holy Spirit felt restless inside of me as I waited, and He moved me to grab a pen and whatever piece of paper at hand. Luckily, I’m still a bit old fashion when it comes to airplane tickets, so I always print them along with the itinerary. Therefore, I had some paper I could use. Then, I wrote:
It is in the waiting that we find the gift.
Monday, June 19, 2017
To wait… patience… two concepts that have a dark and resounding heaviness in my soul. I know, the adjectives I’ve chosen to describe the feelings that the words evoke in my heart do not necessarily go together. At first glance, the adjectives might sound too concrete, not the most accurate to define abstract concepts, but in the depths of my being, they do make sense.
Dark: opposite to light – what happens when it’s dark? Well, when it is dark, we can’t see very well or at all. When I’m confronted with the reality of waiting, suddenly, there is a darkness that comes upon me, blinding me… I can’t see what’s coming. I have to wait to find out. Like when I was on board an airplane not too long ago, to go to NYC to meet my sister and niece for our yearly get-together, unexpectedly, the waiting began. There was something wrong with the plane and we had to wait… there was not much info given to the passengers… just the wait… in a fog of sorts, in the darkness of the unknown…
Resounding: when something is described as resounding, the idea of loud comes to mind. But it is a loudness that causes waves, that reverberates. It can also be something huge, very great. To me, waiting can become very loud as my mind screams at me with an ocean of scenarios, many of which are absolutely terrifying. The waves caused by the loud noise of my mind often threaten to overpower me as they become bigger and bigger with the increasing worries of my overactive imagination. I’m going to never make it to NYC and I’m going to miss out on a wonderful gathering with my beloved!
Heaviness: a crushing weight hard to bear. Waiting asphyxiates me. Whether it is waiting in traffic, at the doctor’s office, at home by the phone, at the airport for some news of what’s going on with my flight, waiting causes me to stop breathing regularly and my chest feels as if under a press. Physically, I feel the crushing heaviness descend upon me when I’m faced with a wait, and the interruption of the air flow drives me to desperation. Waiting, therefore, results in a very physical, concrete reaction within me... I know… I have issues!
Now, throw in the word “patience” or “patiently” in front or after the word “waiting,” and the reactions become exponential…
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
I read something a few days ago that talked about the writer’s experience doing white-water rafting for the first time, and it reminded me of the time Dan and I also went on this exhilarating experience. It was a LONG time ago. If I remember well, it was during our first year of marriage. We went to Costa Rica and booked the tour…and boy, was it an experience!
We had never done anything like this before. We were in a group of…8 people? I think. They gave us a little training before we hit the water in which we learned where we were going to seat, 4 on each side, with the leader on the center back, at the “driver seat”. I remember thinking I better pay attention ‘cause my life might depend on it, so I focused y on the leader’s instructions as best as I could. The kid, I mean, I guess I was a kid back then too, was Australian… and one thing he said in his cool, down-under accent, which made everyone chuckle, was “OK, mates, remember your left from your right…don’t forget which side is right and which side is left…don’t laugh…because there’ll be a time when you might not remember…” Then he said: “always, listen to me and do what I say!”
We carried our raft to the river and on we went… or is it “in”?… The river is called, “Río Reventazón” which means something like “Big Burst...” or something like that…yikes… And burst it does. Those rapids came in quickly, my friend. Before I could ponder whose great idea that was, we were immersed in a whirlpool of roaring waters, and I saw nothing but white all around. I soon realized I had no clue what to do! Then, I remember what the guide said: “always listen to me and do what I say!”
“Left ahead, right back!!!” “Right ahead! Right ahead! Left back” “Left ahead! Left ahead! Right back!!!” Gosh… am I right or left? What’s ahead?
There was no doubt, I had forgotten my left from my right…
Someone fell off the raft. “Grab him by the lifejacket!!!” the guide yelled. “All ahead! All ahead!” “Left back! Right ahead!” We were trying to pull the raft mate out of the water and into the raft, while still paddling in frantic confusion. Soon we realized we needed to ACTUALLY pay attention and listen to the guide or else we would never get out of the river alive! Eventually, our raft began to move forward more cohesively as the inexperienced rafters became more comfortable following the barking orders coming from the leader... and remembering our left and right.
Once we understood the significance of truly tuning into the guide’s voice and doing what he commanded, the fun started and we were able to enjoy the ride. I mean, it was still hard, and exhausting (I have never felt more physically drained in my life!) but it made sense and we were able to have a meaningful experience.
Thinking back today I see how during the moments of relative calm, we navigated more on cruise control, without much instruction…but as soon as we hit the white waters, keen awareness of the leaders’ voice and acute obedience to his commands became a most.
Sounds familiar? Well…of course. As Christians, we have a Leader who is giving us guidance and precise instructions every step of the way…but often, in the midst of the struggle, when we are deep into the rapids, panic sets in and confusion wins the hour. We get so caught up with the circumstances at hand, and are so blinded by the bursting waters that we forget what’s left or what’s right! It is not until we intentionally tune into our Guide’s voice that we will listen to His instructions and be able to follow them. It will not necessarily make the waters be still, but it will make us know what to do to get us out of the whirlpool.
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!"
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Today I heard the news of the passing of Manuel Antonio Noriega. I don’t expect that name to mean anything to many reading this post, but to me, the name still stirs a violent combination of fearful memories, deep anger and an age-old frustration mitigated only by the almost thirty years that separate his last political actions from the people of Panama.
Noriega, known to Panamanians as El General Cara de Piña, is responsible for countless acts of terror against his own people. He breathed his last just hours ago… and my heart was conflicted, I have to admit.
The news of his death brought to my mind the still vivid scenes of my witnessing of the dramatic invasion of Panama in December of 1989 by the United States under Operation Just Cause. It was, indeed, a Just Cause operation because otherwise the people of Panama would not have been able to get rid of Noriega, but that does not deny the fact that experiencing it was horrifying. Being the recipient of the punishment of the USA’s military force is not to be taken lightly regardless of how just the operation is. The panic of realizing the lights you see in the sky are not fireworks is not easily forgotten. But neither are the years of living under the ruling of a ruthless dictator that treated the country as his personal farm and the people as his slaves.
I was born under a military dictatorship. General Omar Torrijos was in power at the time. Although more benevolent than Noriega, Torrijos taught me to live without the ability to be completely free. It is said that Noriega planned the “accident” where Torrijos died. After a quick succession of rulers, Noriega rose to power when I was a sophomore in High School. By the next year, hearing about people who had been thrown in jail for speaking their mind, disappeared or/and brutally murdered for disagreeing with Noriega’s rule were a common occurrence. Once I graduated from High School and moved to Panama City to attend college, things were so bad my sister and I lived in a constant state of worry that caused us to fear even buying white toilet paper… every day at noon, in Panama City, people from the tallest buildings in downtown would unroll white toilet paper from the windows like streamers of protest as others banged pots and pans in hopes of being heard by a world that seemed to be asleep to the plight of the people of Panama.
Anything white was banned. Nurses had to carry a special permission to walk about wearing their uniforms.
The night of the US invasion of Panama, I remembered I called my Dad and told him what was happening, since the heavy fire was only in Panama City. Back in our hometown, 4 hours away, things were still quiet at that time. My Dad would talk about that phone call for the rest of his life: “Dad, can’t you hear it? The sound… the sound you hear over the phone… that’s bombs, Dad, bombs from the sky!” He would repeat what he remembered as my words when I called every time the conversation revolved around the events of that December night…
That night, he quickly gathered my Mom and whatever he could, got in the car and drove away to seek refuge at one of my Mom’s brother’s house because our neighborhood had been targeted as one that would receive retaliation from Noriega’s forces if the US ever decided to invade…besides, our house was around the corner from the military headquarters of our province…easy target either way.
I remember my Dad saying how he locked the gate at the bottom of our driveway, got in the car, and looked back thinking that’d be the last time he’d see our house standing…
I owe all these memories and many more I don’t have time to relate here, to General Noriega. Mine are happy compared with those of the people directly at the other end of his gun. After the invasion, Noriega landed in prison in the USA and later in Panama, where he was when he got sick last month and later died last night. There is a whole new generation of Panamanians who do not share my history either because they were too young to be affected by it or were not even born. I pray that they do know it, however, so they are not bound to repeat it.
As for me, when I heard of his passing my heart was conflicted… then I read a devotional reading which heading says: “Expect and Extend Mercy.” The title made me shudder… but as I read it, the Holy Spirit manifested Himself into my heart showing me that the right thing to do is to forgive and to pray for God’s absolution. I am not his judge. God is. May He have mercy on this man’s soul. And may the people of Panama never forget.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Hace un par de días recibí un mensaje desde Panamá que me informaba del fallecimiento de un tío muy querido para mí…mi Tío Rafa. Él era uno de los hermanos de mi madre. Ella era una entre diez hermanos y hermanas. Ya solamente quedan cinco. Tío Rafa, sin embargo, tiene un lugar muy especial en mi corazón y siempre lo tendrá.
La razón principal es porque Tío Rafa fue un amigo fiel de mi padre, desde siempre, hasta el final. A diferencia de mi madre, mi padre solamente tenía un hermano y este hermano vivió siempre en su pueblo de origen. No se veían mucho y murió antes que mi papá. Al casarse con mi madre, papá adoptó a nuestro pueblo como el suyo y hasta llegó a ser hijo meritorio reconocido. Mudarse a nuestro pueblo lo obligó a también adoptar a la familia de mi madre como si fuera suya. Y así fue, de corazón. Mi Tío Rafa, fue un verdadero hermano para mi padre.
En las buenas y en las malas, mi tío Rafa siempre estuvo allí para mi papá. Hombre de pocas palabras, Tío Rafa visitaba nuestra casa a menudo. Él llegaba siempre después de la cena, en su pick up. Desde niña fui testigo de incontables repeticiones de la misma escena. Al escuchar el sonido del “picupsito” de Rafa, a mi papá se le dibujaba una gran sonrisa en la cara y se levantaba inmediatamente de donde estuviera para abrirle la puerta a su gran amigo. Juntos se sentaban en el portal del frente de mi casa donde había un juego de muebles de patio que se mecían. Tío Rafa se sentaba en una silla y mi papá en otra y allí, en la tranquilidad de la tarde, conversaban de los aconteceres de la vida. Mi mamá formó parte de ese ritual hasta que falleció. Por los doce años que pasaron después de la muerte de mi madre, y hasta la partida de mi padre, mi Tío Rafa fue un constante compañero en el portal de nuestra casa…dos siluetas maduras, con palabras serenas, en el atardecer de sus anos, contemplando melancólicamente hacia dónde se les escapaba la vida.
Sin interrumpir, yo era testigo de esos momentos cuando silenciosamente pasaba por la sala para encender la luz una vez que caía la noche. Casi instintivamente, siempre supe que lo que veía a través de las ventanas, en el portal de mi casa, ilustraba fraternidad.
Ahora, casi cinco años después de haberse ido mi padre, mi tío Rafa se le une en el cielo. Los que quedamos aún rezagados en nuestro camino terrenal sentimos un agudo punzado en el corazón al darnos cuenta que tan querida figura no nos acompañará más de este lado de la eternidad, pero al mismo tiempo nos regocijamos al estar seguros de que una gloriosa reunión familiar se lleva a cabo en estos instantes en los portales del cielo.