Passion

Dave Canovas

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Just how did you do it?

How did you not flinch when it was too painful? When you fell while carrying the weight of the world, how did you rise up again? How far ahead did you see when your present was too agonizing? How far back did you have to look to remember that you were everything but a criminal?

How did you not break when they shattered you? When rebuked, how did you not hate? How long did it take you to forgive? A minute? A day?

How had you chosen pain over glory? Dying over living? How were you not reminded of ruthlessness by those scars, that instead of waging chaos you uttered “peace be with you”? How did you do it?

Lover of my soul, how do I become whole again?

Peace be with you.

Dave Canovas

I joined FB just few months ago. I refused to have one, most of my entire adult life. I thought it was rife with negativity and I thought there would be triggers there for me. Not good for my mental wellbeing but somehow thanks to the “snooze” option my wife taught me. That way I could avoid people posting messages of hate, sexism, racism and bullying. Just as there are positive messages out there, it is also replete with messages that could disturb your peace.

Peace is so hard to come by of late. Wars are being waged everywhere ranging from small to large scale and everything in between. Keeping an ear to the ground of Philippine election and politics has piqued my mental wellbeing recently.

Too bad that it is just few weeks from Easter Sunday when we were reminded of the powerful words Jesus spoke; “Peace be with you”. Today I thought it is time to invite peace again in my life. In our lives.

Know when to give up. Maybe the story has to end at some point. Maybe the wheels have to stop turning and start recharging. Maybe the fight is not worth it anymore. The time to stop is when you become exhausted, unproductive, vengeful, angered, unnerved, confused. Perhaps the best recourse is to “accept the things you cannot change (serenity prayer)”.

Forgive and ask for forgiveness. When others hurt us or when we hurt others, that is when it becomes most difficult. That is when you feel heavy. You sweat during those sleepless nights. But when we forgive or ask for forgiveness, it becomes lighter on our shoulder.

Years ago when I challenged a 4 year old boy into capturing his thoughts into drawing, I asked “What does peace look like?”I was really impressed with what I witnessed – a love heart drawn on paper. When I asked, “What does war look like?”. He started to draw vigorously, chaotic lines. I knew it was really war that he drew because of his “angry” body movements while he drew.

It is time to choose that tidy love heart of peace rather than the angry lines of war. It is time to remember and live what Jesus said after His resurrection, “Peace be with you”.

Beating the seven deadly sins

Dave Canovas

What is the opposite of pride? I thought it’s humility but the sharing of a speaker in a weekend retreat I attended had me reconsider my answer. He thought that it’s love.

Not since watching the film “Seven” have I given the seven deadly sins a good stare. I did agree with the speaker that love is the opposite of pride (Proverbs 16:5 – “arrogant in heart”). But I am also convinced that, so are gluttony (Philippians 3:19 -“their god is their belly”; envy (Proverbs 14:30 – the one the “makes the bones rot”); sloth ( Proverbs 19:15 – “idle person”); wrath (Matthew 26:52 – those “who take the sword”); greed (1 Timothy 6:10 – “love of money”) and lust (1 Corinthians 6:18 – “sexual immorality”).

Love’s OTHER-centeredness, no doubt, opposes the seven deadly sins’ SELF-centeredness.

In my life, I have wondered how I have fought a sinful thought.

First is by recognising these sins on their onset. These sins could sometimes blend into our skin slowly, cunningly and quite subtly. We watch out for signs of these sins and nip it in the bud before we get consumed by them.

I would call these early signs my moments of unease. Guilt-ridden urge. Sweating. Racing heartbeat. Feeling a “bit sad”. A mind peppered with the “what if’s”. Fantasizing and daydreaming. Cravings. Mindless scrolling on the phone. Restless feet. Indecisiveness. Aimless pressing of the TV remote control. Stressful eating. My signs could go on and based on my history, these underlie these sins. Before any of these signs spiral out of control, I try to nip it in the bud. But how?

Pray and in praying, each word really matters. Fr. Andrew Ricci has always suggested to NAME IT in our prayer. It does not have to be grand, thought-out well or grammatically correct. It just needs to be flowing, honest and specific. God I am feeling the urge to forgo again an opportunity. God I am feeling lazy today and I am not being productive. God, I am feeling the urge to stay home, lie on the couch, miss church and become slothful. God, I am being stuck in my thoughts and my cravings. You know that this could lead me to excess and become a glutton. God, I am feeling uneasy right now that I don’t have what my neighbour has. This is envy and it is not ok. Deliver me from envy and help me realise that what I have is enough. God, I don’t really understand why I am feeling annoyed right now. Help me through my feelings before it boils over and becomes anger. Prayer at its most specific could help win against the enemy.

In early childhood education, there is what is called dispositions or habits of the mind. If we train ourselves to resort to prayer every time we are challenged by sinful thoughts, then the mind becomes a very powerful tool which could stomp sins on their head.

Since love is the opposite of the seven deadly sins then it is only love that can vanquish them. When you love, then there is the “other” to think about; the “other” that we see beyond the “self”.

Giving to others for example, vanquishes greed. The law of marginal utility tells us that no matter how much material things we acquire, we will never ever be satisfied. Greed just gets us caught in the cycle of buying things that will never be as satisfying as when it is new but being generous? This empties us and allows us to see that others’ happiness could be truly gratifying.

When I slack, feel unmotivated and slothful, I think of the “other” who might benefit if I look ahead and soldier on; perhaps the children I teach who could learn from my enthusiasm or my family whom I could build great memories with. Lying on the couch all day is not what I would consider loving.

Beating the seven deadly sins today does not mean we have slayed them for good. Sinful thoughts are here to stay. A sinful thought is that unwanted visitor always wanting to hang out with us at home, at work or even at church. It could stare right at us through our TV screens. But remember that God is also here to stay; His goodness endures forever. God also loves to hang out with us in every corner of our home, at work and certainly He is alive and longs for us, at church. He is ready to meet us at each moment we are tested.

What could we learn from Job of Uz?

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Life is just full of experiences that could fill a person with so much suffering. Sickness. Poverty. Death. Depression. We all go through suffering at some point in our lives and we all deal with it differently. What could be a slight scratch for one could be an anguish for another. It is suffering just the same.

In dealing with suffering, would it help to think that life could be half a wreck or somewhat broken already to begin with? Thinking that life is half-broken already, then we come to understand that the chances of both failure or success and happiness or suffering; both exist. When we fail and when we do not meet expectations, others’ or our self-imposed ones; when we experience setbacks, bumps and bruising; then we are prepared to say, “Oh well, that is life and it is what it is.”

These seem like words coming from a mind of person fraught with negative thoughts. We usually resort to an antidote which is the power of positive thinking. I think positive thinking could only get us a mile ahead. Along the way, positive thinking tends to lose its power and the realities that life could be bleak at times, could start to set in. There must be no surprises there when we fail at times. Failures could be painful. We feel the pain but then we learn to move on.

Most of the time, we suffer from our failures immensely. It could be beyond our belief that we are undeserving of failures and that we are all meant to be first, to reach the finish line, to succeed. When we think we are underserving of failures and sufferings, we get tormented even more.

Not succeeding in our health, in our career, in our relationships , in our lives; could throw us off, dissapoint us, hurt us and make us suffer but very often what we consider success is just too much of this world. Whatever it is, of this world; it does not last. It withers, falters or dies.

We all could learn something from Job’s sufferings. He is a righteous man who faced failures and affliction like no other – poverty, sickness and death. He was berated. He lamented his life and how it came to be. He searched for answers and was tormented by his anguish: Is God unjust to allow the suffering of Job who is “blameless and upright”?

Like Job, we can’t escape failures and sufferings. Remember that life can be considered half-broken already to begin with. In life’s finiteness, there is hope in the greatness that awaits us beyond this life. Sufferings that our bodies and minds experience are real but are all, of this world. We look beyond and find meaning to our earthly sufferings by holding on to these words:

“I know my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on this earth . ” Job 19:25

Self-denial and self-love: a balancing act

Dave Canovas

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There are people who are “givers”. They are tireless, always looking out for others’ interests and wellbeing first before their very own. They hardly have time for themselves. They feel guilt when presented with moments when they can’t give any more. Most well-meaning parents are presented with this dilemma especially when balancing work and home life.

There are also people who are “takers”. These people find it hard to forego personal pleasure and interests. They are the impatient tailgaters and honkers during traffic. They “take” every opportunity to be ahead of others. They are constantly comparing themselves with others. They think world resources are dwindling thus feeling the need to accumulate material things while trampling upon others.

While the “giver” is seemingly altruistic, the “taker” lacks consideration for others and whose attitude borders on selfishness.

The giver needs to take a break and nurture self-love while the taker needs to learn self-denial and start making sacrifices for others. How? It is a fine balancing act requiring first, a stroll on the garden called the bible and second, a moment of searching and self-awareness.

We take a stroll in the garden called the bible. In Luke 9:23; we are reminded that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus Himself is the ultimate example of this pure, self-less, self-denying love for us. What about self-love? In Mark 12:31, it says, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. This verse never left the aspect of “love for oneself” out in the cold. To a certain degree, we are called to still love ourselves while loving others.

Self-awareness is another key to balancing self-denial and self-love. I have always admired the Maori concepts of wellbeing. It treats a person’s wellbeing as a whole, not as fragmented parts. One’s physical body (Tinana) is strongly related to one’s spiritual (Wairua) and emotional and mental (Hinengaro) wellbeing. These concepts constantly remind me to be more self-aware and for example, to rest when I am exhausted. I have found, time and again, that exerting your body to a helpless breaking point could lead to an emotional boiling point. In Mark 6:31, we are called to “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

In Proverbs 4:23, we are reminded, to keep our heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. For me, it means that we should never be afraid to say “no” when our cup is not full because we can only give when we are not empty. Therefore, we must not feel guilty of ever choosing to refill the cup, to pause, to sip from our own cup of coffee, to be alone, to take a breath, to have a break. We must not feel bad when sometimes, we decide not to give. It is because we just want to make sure that when we decide to give, we are really able to and are doing it freely, willingly and happily.

Self-love, I suppose, must precede self-denial. When you are less forgiving of others, it could be because you are less forgiving of yourself. When you unreasonably expect others to be perfect, it could be because, you yourself make no room for mistakes. When you find it hard to love others, it could be because you find it hard to love yourself. How we are towards others, is a reflection of how we are towards ourselves.

What does God say about our self-image?

Dave Canovas

It is very natural for human beings to need to belong or to be recognised but with billions of people in the world, who would actually want see you? You have BTS to contend with, brother.

The image of a child, a principle based on Reggio Emilia philosophy of teaching, is a concept that I live by when I am at kindergarten. In a nutshell, if your image of children, is that they are competent, strong or full of potential, then the way you teach them, will be based on what your image of them is. For example, if your image of children is that they are able, then you would let them change their clothes themselves when they get wet from water play, because as a teacher, you believe they could do it. For me, it does not matter if they have worn their shirt inside out. At least they did it themselves (Proud of you mate!). No offence to Filipino mums, but I have seen countless examples of them “rescuing” children in the times of need. Spoon-feeding, changing their children’s clothes, preparing their bags for school – all done by a parent, mostly, by mums. If you are a forty-something like me, you must have experienced the dabs of Johnson’s baby powder on your backs after play. Do Filipino mums still put Johnson’s baby powder on their children’s sweaty backs nowadays?

When children for a long time, are seen as able and powerful and allowed to act as such, then their self-image or the way they see themselves, becomes that – powerful and able. This begs the question – as adults, what is our self-image?

I have only been with Facebook, for literally, less than two weeks and man, the thought of people who might have seen my posts, the ones who clicked their like buttons or left a heart emoji, I must say, is quite intriguing. Well, I would eventually try to snap out of it as I have set the bar very low this time around that to be “successful” with my blog, I need to connect to at least ONE soul.

In this age, the number of “likes” we get, how we look, how much we have or don’t have, could sadly, cloud how we view ourselves.

It is very natural for human beings to need to belong or to be recognised but with billions of people in the world, who would actually want to see you? You have BTS to contend with, brother. I am highlighting what I believe in, that no matter how hard we try, there is someone out there, who will be more recognised, more seen, more popular, more handsome, more beautiful, richer and better at what we do. No matter how hard we try to garner the “likes” we aim for, we could still end up feeling unsatisfied, lonely and desperate. It is going to be an endless battle, that sadly, we could not win.

There is one practice that helps me improve my self-image and it is making me win life. On the wall, next to our altar is a wooden cross with words etched on it. It says: LOVED. It seems to me that thinking I am loved, I start feeling it. It brings me to my own personal memories in the past when God has been very faithful to me, never abandoning me. It brings me to the present when blessings are abound. My self-image that I am loved, just allows to be also hopeful and not to be fearful of the future. From Psalm 139:13-4, it says:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Indeed, we are made to perfection. God loves us so much that He made us perfect in His eyes. We sin and God sees us the same way as when He first created us.

If our self-image is that we are loved, then, we tend to love others by being giving and being more forgiving. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). So the next moment you start feeling down, alone and unworthy then halt that thought! Because you are LOVED and that should remain our self-image for as long as we live.