Thursday, January 17, 2008

Empowered to Serve

Serving is more a blessing than a burden when we serve according to our gifts. We serve more in the power of the Spirit and less in our own strength. One way of checking what spiritual gifts we have is through the way we respond to a need.

During a church potluck, a member dropped a plate of pancit noodles on the new floor of the fellowship hall. Here’s how people with different gifts responded: The one with the gift of service rushed to help and said, “Oh, let me help you clean it up.” Then the person with the gift of administration immediately took charge, “Lucas, would you get the mop? Matthew, please help pick this up. John could you get him another plate?”

“The reason that it fell was because it was too heavy on one side,” the person with the gift of teaching commented. The one with the gift of exhortation added, “Next time, maybe you should let someone else carry it.” Another with the gift of giving handed her own plate, “Here, you can have my pancit.” The one with the gift of mercy patted the person on the back, “Don’t feel too bad. It could have happened to anyone.” 

What about the person with the gift of prophecy? He shook his head and said, “I told you so!” (Adapted from the illustration database of Sermon Central)

First Peter 4:11 say, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (ESV). Note that each one of us has a gift. Second, our gifts are not for our personal benefit but we are to use it to serve others. Third, since we are God’s stewards, we are ultimately accountable to Him for the way we maximized our gifts.

When we serve according to our gifts, we work smarter, not just harder. In the end, we are more effective in our service. Truly, when God calls, He empowers.

Brethren, God called and empowered us to serve others.


Monday, January 07, 2008

My Beloved Mother-In-Law

[ Note: I wrote this the day after she died.]

"Seventy years are given to us! Some may even reach
eighty. But even the best of these years are filled
with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we are
gone… Teach us to make the most of our time, so that
we may grow in wisdom." Psalm 90:10, 12, NLT

My beloved mother-in-law, Benita Gamboa-Buccat, went
home peacefully to be with the Lord yesterday,
December 22, 2007.

She is 81 years old.

When she first learned that Ellen and I were going
steady, at first she rejected me. She would walk out
of the house whenever I would visit Ellen. When I was
about to leave, I would look for her outside. I would
say goodbye and she would reply with a courteous,
"Adios!" (Spanish for "Good bye.")

I decided to travel 200 kilometers from Manila to
Pozzorubio, Pangasinan to visit their ancestral home
and have a heart-to-heart talk with her. I explained
to her my intentions. She explained her side.

She won my heart.

Mothers-in-law are caricatured on TV and in movies as
"Monsters-in-law." In-laws, they say, are outlaws.

Not my Mama.

Whenever Ellen and I got into an argument, she would
seek to explain MY side to Ellen. She may disagree
with me on certain issues. But she never corrected me
in front of my wife or our kids. I only knew she was
burdened though… she would go to the kitchen to drink
her anti-hypertensive medicine.

Yet, she always made it clear that she lovingly
support me.

She took care of my kids when my wife and I were both
working. Just imagine the sight of a short, thin, old
woman carrying my 8-pounder baby! She would sing
lullabies to them, play with them… simply love them.

I would tell her to rest and relax… enjoy the fruit of
her labors. I have an open invitation for her and my
mother to stay with us. But she politely refused. She
said she wants to take care of her other children and
her grandchildren. Whenever she was with us, she would
always find things to do in our house. She would get a
broom and sweep the garden. She would get a rag and
wipe our sofas. I asked her to stop. But she would
insist.

That's my Mama… so full of energy …overflowing with
life and love.

She would read my books and even underline them. She
is the only person who can do that with my precious
books... not even Ellen can do that. We would discuss
all sorts of issues. A retired teacher, she can match
wits with me. (You go to her hometown. Ask any person
for the house of the "Maestra" or the "Teacher." Ask,
"Where is the house of Mrs. Buccat?" You would be
directed to her house. Most of the people there went
under her tutelage.) And we would spend time talking
about the Bible and her relationship with the Lord.
She's a devout woman of God.

Whenever I would preach, she would be there seating up
front, cheering me, listening to me, taking down
notes. When I get down from the pulpit, she would even
exclaim, "Wonderful! Powerful! Such a blessing!" …even
if I felt my sermon sucks. She is so encouraging and
so loving.

When she had her stroke a few years ago, she became
just a shell of her old self. She went through second
childhood. She became senile. There were times we had
to look for her in the wee hours of the night because
she wandered out of the house. One time we saw her
with a wound on her chin. Maybe she fell in a canal.
It was a pain to see her deteriorate.

But there were times she would be lucid. Those were
the times we would hear how she loves us.

Yesterday early morning, just a few days before
Christmas, my sister in law called. Mama is gasping
for breath. We rushed to her house. Finding no pulse,
I carried her limp body to the car and drove fast to a
nearby hospital. I was hoping against hope, begging
for her life. The doctor said she was dead on arrival.

She looked so frail… so fragile. I kissed her goodbye.
I caressed her hair... looked at the woman who
expected nothing in return and loved us so much.

She went through a lot but still gave life her best
shot. She had little in life but she made life so
meaningful.

I miss her.

I love you, Mama.