IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Ch02-part 2

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 1

Chapter 2 – Sin

For three decades, I always thought I was okay on a road to Heaven. Little did I know, according to Scriptures, that I was actually on the highway to destruction, because before 1990, I was ‘by nature a child of wrath’1. However, as I was going the wrong way, I recognized, in hindsight, a number of ‘road signs’ that the Lord had planted to get me to go the right way… His way. One of those road signs came to me in a riddle.

When is good news GOOD?

Believe it or not, it actually popped into my mind when learning that the word GOSPEL means Good News. The Gospel, of course, is what Jesus Christ did for mankind… let’s make it more personal, what He did for me. (We’ll talk more about this part in the next chapter.) For now though, why was this riddle significant to me? Well, the obvious answer to that riddle is actually the reverse of that question: When was bad news BAD, especially for me? Let me make a correction. Since, my focus is about SIN then ‘BAD’ is too mild of a word biblically. GRAVE is a word that is more accurate especially from an everlasting perspective.

In 1990, I had a fantastic Bible teacher named Peter Tan-chi. He is the founder of the Christ Commission Fellowship in Manila, the local church that reinforced my spiritual foundation. More importantly, he was the one I first seriously listened to about the Gospel and I became a true believer. It was also he that unapologetically declared to my class the worst news of our lives. Like splashing ice cold water on our faces, he woke us up to an ominous situation. His words were that we all had a SIN problem and if we didn’t change, eternal damnation would be my destiny! Guaranteed! This is the BAD news.

Growing up, I paid little attention to SIN. Even when I went through Catechism2 and my grandmother’s occasional preaching, especially when I misbehaved, sin was not real to me. I was not afraid of it as I should. One factor was my own ignorance of what sin meant.

During my backpacking days (1977-1980), I purchased a collapsible .22 caliber rifle. It was my first firearm which excited the school boy in me opening his long-awaited Christmas gift. And just like any kid, I wanted to try it out right away. So, the next day, off I went to the range with my new toy. Once there, I’d set up a target and got my rifle ready to fire. Now, I had come to that same range before to shoot an air-gun. My aim was pretty good then, so I was a little cocky when I sighted my rifle for a shot. I missed the whole target. I took seven more shots and the target had no marks. I went back to that range several times and spent a fortune on ammo. My aim got a little better and my targets started to show some holes. However, those holes were outside the bulls eye area. Try as I might, I have missed the mark every time. Everyway I think about it, SIN is biblically defined as missing the mark that God had set. And boy, was I far from the mark!

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23 NLT)

I really thought I was a fairly good guy. I mean I’m not exactly perfect, but I have never committed a crime… Oops, I should not say ‘never’. I did break into a neighbor’s house in Florida to take a peek at some… ahem… magazines once. I may have pilfered some items that were not exactly mine. But still nothing so bad for a growing kid. Okay, okay, I confess! Sorry, Mom! I kinda took five dollars or maybe more from your purse even after you said I could not. (My mom did have a bad habit of leaving her purse out where any one of us kids could lay our mischievous hands on it.) So, I made a lot of mistakes but I have never cheated anyone of their belongings, nor have I committed murder, or any of those “mortal sins” that would doom me to HELL. By the world’s standard, I was an average Joe. I really thought that all things were good. Oh, how far away I was from the truth. For instance, I had a wrong concept of God.

To be continued…

Footnotes:

[1] A child of wrath – Ephesians 2:3
[2] Catechism – a summary of religious doctrine often in the form of questions and answers conducted by the Catholic clergy. Catholic children study this manual as part of their religious education; it outlines the principal tenets of their faith.

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 3 (not yet posted)

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Ch02-part 1

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 5

Chapter 2 – Sin

It was the third week of September 2015. I had just left home and was on my way to the movies on my electric wheelchair. I was about two blocks from my apartment building driving on a busy one way street. I had no choice but to drive my power chair on the street because of no sidewalk access. I was about to turn right onto a driveway (my usual shortcut to the mall), when my right hand could not push the joystick control to the right. I had to lean my weight on the arm to make the turn. Safely away from traffic, I stopped to assess the problem. For some reason, I had no strength to push the joystick to the right. Keep in mind that I only need to move it a fraction of an inch, but when I tried my upper arm quivered. Fortunately, I still had the function to pull the joystick to the left. I would have gone on but prudence told me to return home. I don’t mind telling you that it was a struggle in itself since I could only go forward and make left turns. What should have been 5 minutes, took me almost half an hour to get home. By then, my entire right arm was uncontrollably shaking. That was the last time I got to drive that wheelchair and the last time I went outdoors on my own.

My life went from limited mobility to being full time bedridden. Months before, I lost the use of my left arm and both legs could not carry my weight. Then, my right arm finally gave out. You would think that was the worst thing I had to contend with. Then, the pain came. It emanated from my waist down. The only way I could describe it was that thousands of fire ants were burrowing under my skin chewing and burning their way downward. And it came in excruciating waves. Most of the time, I had a high threshold for pain, but this pain was new to me and beyond unbearable. The only relief I got was when my wife would transfer me onto a stiff commode chair. No other chair would work. Imagine that every night, I sat on a chair that had a hole in it and it would be propped against a corner. Thank goodness that my derriere had a cushioned commode seat to sit on and my head would rest on a cushion against the wall. It was not exactly comfortable but the pain was minimal. Unfortunately, prolonged sitting was causing blood circulation problems. So, when I was returned to the bed, the pain returned. Throughout those long nights, my poor tired out wife had to transfer me back and forth 2-3 times. For about two weeks, I had slept in that precarious sitting position until one day the pain throbbed so much that I was in tears. My wife had to call for an ambulance. It was early Thursday morning, the second week of October 2015, when the ambulance with whirling red lights and sirens blaring finally took me into the ER of the hospital.

In my mind, I was expecting to hear, like what we’ve heard before numerous times from different doctors, that everything was happening because of my post-polio condition. Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a disorder of the nerves and muscles. It happens to those polio victims who caught the disease decades later. PPS may cause new muscle weakness that gets worse over time, pain in the muscles and joints, and tiredness. And the news to me, as expected, was that there was nothing that can be done except strong pain killers for the rest of my life. At that time, I secretly felt that the end was not too long.

After I was checked in, the doctor came and explained that there were signs that went beyond the doctrinal conditions of post polio syndrome. He surmised that my spinal cord was affected. So, the next three days, I underwent a battery of tests and scans. When the nurse wheeled me to the doctor’s office, he showed us a number of CT scans. His diagnosis was that my spinal cord was being compressed at my neck and lower back. The doctor’s main concern was that the compression in the neck area was actually endangering my life. You see, the C2 down to the C5 part of my vertebrae actually regulates those parts of my body that have been failing. And to my surprise, the C4 vertebrae which regulated my ability to breathe was affected as well. I was in dire straits.

At about this time of the story, it would be normal and maybe even expected for anyone to ask…

HOW CAN THIS BE? HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT? WHY WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?

For the HOW questions, the Bible’s answer is quite clear:

SIN!

As to the question of WHY, let me answer with a humbling response:

WHY NOT?

To be continued…

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 2

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Ch01-part 5

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 4

Chapter 1 – He is Real

Continued…

I again thank the Lord for nature TV shows like Discovery, National Geographic, Nova, David Attenborough’s Living Planet, etc. These kinds of shows bring the hard work and meticulous research of numerous dedicated scientists to millions upon millions of ordinary average viewers. Because I grew up with my eyes glued to the boob tube, most of my biological education came from them. One of my favorite animals to watch are the long necked giraffes.

The giraffe has been one of those odd animals that has sparked more arguments between evolutionists and creationists, but I will not add into that ever continued debate. All I ask is that you watch this elegant creature intently, with humble eyes . See how they tower over the African savanna strolling on their stilt-like legs. By the way, those legs may seem awkward but they are capable of galloping at speeds up to almost 40 miles per hour. Amazingly, the female gives birth standing up and the newborn calf falls more than five feet to the ground. Within 15 minutes, the calf is up and standing on their gangly legs. Did you know that their lungs are eight times larger than human lungs? I will not even mention the intricate blood vessel system to maintain proper blood pressure by a heart that weighs about 25 pounds capable of pumping life-giving fluid up its six-foot long neck to the brain. Let’s not forget the dexterity of the giraffe’s 20-inch tongue designed to efficiently pluck the leaves off the tree. I never get tired of watching this animal. I don’t see a comic freak of nature. The giraffe is perfectly designed for this African environment and only God can be its designer. Karin Viet, the author of the posted article ‘Giraffes: Towering Testimonies to God’s Design’ (July 11, 2017) gave this wonderful suggestion.

The next time you visit the zoo, stop by the giraffe exhibit. With people gawking around you, discuss how the giraffe displays God’s handiwork. Look up that long neck, but don’t stop there. Draw your gaze up to the Creator and praise Him.

Worthy are you, O Lord,
to receive glory and honor and power;
for you created all things,
and by your will they exist and were created.
(Revelation 4:11)

http://www.answersingenesis.org

For the last 30 years or so, I have closely walked with the Lord knowing and experiencing great joy even in my current situation as a quadriplegic. I could never have reached this point unless I believed in Him. But I have not always been a true believer. Once upon a time, I was what the Bible called a child of disobedience.

To be continued…

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 1

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Ch01-part 4 (Rewritten)

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 3

Chapter 1 – He is Real

Continued…

I’m a logical kinda guy. Not like Star Trek’s Mr. Spock exactly, but things need to make sense to me. You would think that God, who is essentially invisible and a great mystery, is beyond my ability to sense His presence. So, how is it that I am 100% sure that He is? What makes me so special? That’s it! I am special, but not just me! You all are SPECIAL because of how the Bible described our creation.

At the time of creation, God made us in His image. When talking about ‘His image’, I will get into it more in later chapters. For now, though, let me say that in making us to be like Him, our Creator hardwired in us a way to perceive Him in the things that have been made.

For what can be known about God is plain to mankind, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So that mankind is without excuse. (Romans 1:19,20 ESV)

What can we learn about Him in nature, for instance? I hope you don’t mind, I’ll just use a few examples that I have illustrated to a class of kids back when I was still on my feet. Since I especially love trees, I’ll start with the memory of one tree that had awed me a long time ago.

Back in the early 1960s, my family took a weekend excursion to the Redwood forest north of San Francisco. I was in the second grade at that time and my right leg from thigh to foot was encased in a stiff cast, a by-product of another corrective surgery. Now, this was my first time in any forest. Being among those tall trees was exciting. Imagine my nose pressed against the windshield of our old station wagon looking up at the trees. I was blown away when we actually drove right through a giant Redwood. I thought that tree was big, until I saw what my dad claimed was the grandfather of trees. It was so humongous… so colossal that I could not believe that it was real. To give you an idea how big that tree was, I recalled an old photo of it in National Geographic which showed 10 or so people encircling its base holding onto out-stretched hands. My eyes tried to follow the giant trunk up to its very top but I comically ended up toppling backward. It’s a good thing my dad was close enough to catch me.

What did the memory of that Redwood giant, or the Lonely Sequoia at Pebble Beach, or even the Grand Old Angel Oak at South Carolina tell me about God? Well, Joyce Kilmer, a famous American poet, who wrote the poem titled “Trees” (published in 1914) said it better.

“Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Trees are wonderful organisms. Like the giant redwood, think about what it would take for it to grow from a seedling about the size of a fingernail to growing about 400 feet tall and this is not even including the dimensions of the roots. Let’s not forget to add that it can produce oxygen, store carbon and stabilize the soil. Then, consider what it takes for this tree, at that matter, all trees to propagate themselves. Keep in mind that these things do not walk around like the fantasy Ents of Middle Earth sowing their seeds left and right. For instance, there are trees out there that have seeds that can hitch a ride on the wind. They are the whirling, winged seeds of conifers that even a slight breeze can easily launch them into the air. I used to collect them off the ground when I was a kid. The seed had two propeller-like wings protruding from its core. When I threw a handful into the air, they would hover for a moment like tiny helicopters and gently float back to the ground. And when the wind catches them, I’ve seen them fly so high that I’ve lost sight of them. Naturalists had described them as an engineering wonder. Of course, this wonder is not limited just to trees.

To be continued…

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 5

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Ch01-part 3 (Rewritten)

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 2

Chapter 1 – He is Real

Continued…

Though I was not anymore in immediate danger, that is drowning from liquid build-up, my lungs, however, were severely compromised. The doctors said that I needed an iron lung.

An iron lung is a type of negative pressure ventilator (NPV), a mechanical respirator which encloses most of a person’s body, and varies the air pressure in the enclosed space, to stimulate breathing. It assists breathing when muscle control is lost, or the work of breathing exceeds the person’s ability. [from Wikipedia]

My Dad again faced a big problem. The hospital I was in only had one working iron lung and it was already occupied. He called every other hospital in Manila and none were available. Because time was a factor, he used his official position and reached out to the Americans. He told me that as he desperately waited for word, he would go to the chapel and pray like he had never done before. Do you know what? The Lord answered big time. Two iron lungs were loaned to us by the US Air Force at Clark Air Base and by the US Navy at Subic. But there was still a problem. Both iron lungs were built for adults, not for an infant-size body like mine.

Then, from out of the blue, enter an American Pediatrician experienced with polio-stricken kids visiting the hospital I was in. His name was Dr. Bud Hebert. It was he that figured out how to configure the iron lung from crushing my infant lungs. Imagine my one year old body inside an iron tube 7 feet long with my tiny head sticking out of one end. After a week or so, I was out of the iron lung breathing on my own. Many years later, when my family visited “Uncle Bud” (as we called him) at his ranch in California, he was astounded that I was able to hold my breath so long as I swam underwater from one end of his pool to the other. He once said that he was at my hospital by chance. These days, I can honestly say that it was not luck that brought him.

I thank the Lord for my Dad, for he was not just the hero of saving my life. He also had to contend with my other sister (who also caught polio) being hospitalized as well. He had to do this on his own because my Mom was in another hospital across town giving birth to twin sisters while my other siblings were scattered throughout Manila staying with relatives.

You know, it had been a very long time since the telling of this story. Whenever I think of it plus the rest of the miracles that I experienced including what is happening to me today, it is not hard to believe in Him. I may not be able to go to my church anymore and sing out loud in worship, but I can joyfully write…

HALLELUJAH!… For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is GOD. (Hebrews 3:4)

I can’t help being emotional like this, however for the rest of this chapter, I must for the sake of you who are skeptical and want a reasonable explanation of my conviction. So, how was the logical part of me convinced that God is not a figment of my imagination or just a desire for Him to be real?

To be continued…

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 4

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Ch01-part 2 (Rewritten)

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 1

Chapter 1 – He is Real

Continued…

I wish I could say that I knew God well when I was growing up. I knew of Him though. How could I not? My Lola… I mean my grandmother and other relatives would continually tell me that God had great plans for me because I was very special. You see, I was considered a… quote, quote… living walking miracle.

Back in 1958, on my very first birthday, I became a victim of Poliomyelitis. Commonly called the poliovirus, it was a highly infectious disease that mostly affected children under the age of 5. The virus was spread person to person and attacked the nervous system, and in some instances, it either led to paralysis and/or death. And I was literally at death’s door… according to my Dad’s story.

I was an active infant. It was said that I was up on my feet when I was around 5 months old. My Dad told me that our nanny would chase after me all the time. It was when my Mom noticed that both my sister and I were uncharacteristically quiet that she went to look into us. She found us still lying in our cribs with an extremely high fever. Because I had a cousin of the same age who showed the same symptoms and was already diagnosed as infected with polio, she quickly separated my sister and I from the rest of our siblings. But it was not long until I had to be hospitalized because of breathing problems. Then, my Dad went into action.

I was in critical condition. The doctors said that my lungs were filling with liquid leaving only less than a third of one lung free. They told my Dad that I may not survive the night, but he did not accept that. He literally fought to keep me alive. His first opponent was with a nun… to be specific, the mother-superior-in-charge of nurses.

I had a tracheostomy (a trachea, for short), which was a tube inserted through a hole in my throat into the windpipe. It was through the trachea that a nurse would carefully insert another tube to suction out the liquid out of my lungs. Of course, I have no memory of this, since I was just a baby. However, I used to have a recurring dream that I was a milkshake with a green striped straw sticking out of me and someone sucking the life out of me. LOL. Anyway, my Dad knew that it was a very tricky procedure that could have easily gone wrong and I would have been dead. Now, during the most crucial time, I was in the hands of two wonderful nurses who were experts in the procedure. My Dad made sure that they had everything they needed. Anyway, a couple of days later, to his horror, he found another nurse with less experience hovering over me trying to figure out what to do. Apparently, the mother-superior-in-charge of nurses felt that the two original nurses were being given preferential treatment and she wanted no jealousy among the nursing staff. According to my uncle, my Dad who wielded his government position as Chief State Prosecutor around made such a ruckus that the head of the hospital intervened and the two expert nurses were back to take care of me. Two weeks later, I was out of danger. For my Dad, one giant was vanquished and no, I’m not referring to the nun. But he still had an even bigger giant to defeat.

To be continued…

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 3

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Ch01-part 1

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Click here to read PREFACE

Chapter 1 – He is Real

In the beginning, GOD… (Genesis 1:1a)

At around 5:45 AM or so, I am awake. As usual my vision is blurred. I try to bring my hand up to my face to rub the sleep away but it would not budge an inch from its resting place. My first thought, again as usual, was ‘Oh, how I miss splashing cold water on my face’. So, I do the next best thing and squint a number of times to produce tears to clear it up. Now, as it clears, the scene that comes to focus is the turned-off TV mounted on the far wall. Nothing far-out there except that I am lying flat in bed. I should be looking up at the ceiling. Of course, now I remember. I sleep wearing specialized prism spectacles that I ordered from Amazon. I use them so that when I awaken I will not be staring helplessly at the ceiling which gives me vertigo. This dizzying condition was an after effect of being laid-up in a hospital bed, with my neck immobilized by a very stiff collar for 2 long months. This was not one of my favorite memories.

At 6:45 AM, my wife tiredly gets up from her bed. Her routine is to first give me my early morning pill that stimulates my intestine for… ahem… obvious reasons. Then, she would roll me to my side and inspect my posterior for bedsores. This is a real danger for every quadriplegic if not regularly monitored. After which, she disconnects my breathing tube from my respirator. This routine is for me to exercise my lungs to breathe on its own. I can stay off it for about 3 hours until my lung muscles tire. From there, my wife does other nursing chores until it’s about 8-8:30 AM. Before long, she is cranking my bed to about 30 degrees, not exactly to a sitting position, but just high enough for me to be fed.

This is just a taste of my reality as a quadriplegic, that is, being paralyzed from the neck down. This is not a condition that is temporary. This is for the rest of my life. No more backpacking in California’s Sierra Mountains. No more playing laser tag and ping pong. Even my dream to stroll the quaint country lanes of England, climb the highlands of Scotland as well touring the sites of Europe will remain a dream. My world is mostly limited to a 3 foot by 7 foot bed in a studio apartment. By every right, I should be bitter and in utter despair. I have seen that look of desperation before in the faces of quadriplegic patients, abandoned to live their lives in a poorly ventilated ward of a state run hospital. What I remember most was their eyes which reflected no hope at all. I may share the fate of quadriplegia for life just like them, but my spirit is not imprisoned in a useless shell. In fact, I am incredibly filled with a joy and peace that is beyond comprehension. And I can really see an incredible HOPE ahead. When asked, how can this be? My answer is simple.

GOD IS REAL!

To be continued…

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 2

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Preface

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Greetings to you all. I am known as Johann J. Quisumbing (pronounced as Kiss-oom-bing). In my birth certificate, my name is slightly different. Because of flagrant identity theft, I rarely reveal my legal name. Besides, I am more known as ‘Johann’ anyway. Now, I must confess that I have hesitated writing this autobiography for a long time even after the encouragement of many who wanted to read about my life as a joyful quadriplegic. I found myself in a Catch-22 situation. You see…

I’M A NATURAL SHOW OFF!

It is a habit that I make a point of curbing whenever the set up involves me being in front of people. I am afraid that a lot of my exaggerated outward show has raised a fair number of eyebrows.

One particular memory that haunts me was when I was part of a singing worship group at my church. I have been told many times that I had a good singing voice. Well, on one Sunday worship, when my best friend was song-leading, we were singing a song that when he sang the chorus, there was a part where a good voice could echo the song leader’s. Well, uninvited, I jumped in enthusiastically. I wish I could say that I did well, but by my best friend’s sidelong glance, I was bad… I mean, really bad.

I wish that was the only thing that haunts me but nope. There are a lot more. Even though I have reached an age where I have a little more self control, that bad habit does pop out of its rabbit hole. Just the other day, I asked a friend and a fellow thespian whether I exhibited any such swagger lately. Her response was with a slight derogatory chuckle.

Anyway, let me swing back to the Catch-22 part. As a discipline, I try not to show off, that is, I avoid being the center of attention. I liked it way too much. For years, I have managed to keep myself for the limelight. Then I was ‘convicted’ to write an autobiography. My best friend, who is a published author, had been hounding me to write my story. I hesitate… for obvious reasons. I almost decided not to when this passage came to mind.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” Matthew 5:14-15

I have extolled in my Bible study groups (many times) that for the sake of those who still wander this world of spiritual darkness, that they are the only source of light. Of course, when I refer to ‘light’, I speak of truth. When I speak of truth, I really mean Christ Jesus who is the Truth (John 14:6). Then when they ask ‘how’, I am quick to tell them that one of the ways is for them to tell their story… a testimony of what the Lord had done for them. I frequently remind my brothers and sisters of this passage as both a reminder and encouragement. Now, this passage speaks to me. It is my turn! As a quadriplegic with an unusual jovial personality, many have felt that I have much to share. But I must be careful of my old nature rearing its head.

You see, I am no stranger in giving testimonies. In my early years, I was always quick to go up on stage, stand before an entire congregation and give a great story. At first, I thought I was bringing glory to His name by telling all the things that the Lord had done for me. But then I found myself tweaking the story to make it sound better, mostly to get the expected reaction from my audience. I confess that I had even added embellishments, justifying that creativity is okay for as long as… again… that the Lord was praised. In hindsight, I unknowingly and knowingly loved the attention of the audience especially when I was personally hailed. That habit had even permeated in how I vocally pray before others.

These days I avoid getting on any stage and I prefer praying quietly. But writing an autobiography can easily yield into those same temptations. So, should I do this? Should I be safe and avoid the lure of recognition and fame? You would think that that would be the right course. But the conviction I got from Matthew 5:14-15 told me that if I did not, it would be like I was putting a basket cover on the very light that my Lord had lit in me. God’s intention was always for all of us to shine bright in this spiritually dark world. For myself, I just have to avoid certain pitfalls that can so easily entangle me. What are these pitfalls? Well, let us take a look at verse 16 of Matthew 5. Take note of the bold underlined part. The pitfalls for me is that my intent is opposite of what should happen below.

Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. vs16

So, the task for me is to write about me and tell a story that is hopefully a page turner, but yet not tickle my ego. This is not so easy, but I’m going for it. I think the first place I will start will be the title of this book.

Some friends and I tossed around a number of working titles. Keep in mind that we followed the rules of publishable Christian literature. Here are our top three titles:

THE LORD IN ONE NOT SO SPECIAL
THE SPIRIT FILLED LIFE OF A QUADRIPLEGIC
MY MIDDLE NAME IS ALSO JESUS

I don’t know. These titles seem good, however, I could not help but feel that they were still a little ‘amour-propre’. That is French for self-conceited, more or less anyway. No, I don’t think these titles will work out. My goal is to put out a book that must ‘shine’ for those who don’t really know the Lord. Secular folks tend to shy away from obvious ‘religious’ titles. So, strategically, I decided to use…

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME
A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography

I hope to show how the Lord has moved in my entire life; from when I became a polio victim on my first birthday to how I became paralyzed from the neck down 60 years later. You will get to know the Jesus that I know; the Jesus who taught and mentored me; the Jesus that I trust and believed; the Jesus that I willingly follow regardless how hard life is; and the Jesus who continues to save me. I pray you would discover how truly sweet salvation really is for us who are so undeserving.

So, shall we start?

To be continued…

Click here to read – Chapter 1 Part 1

BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #6

Why do Christians say I want to see Jesus but are afraid to die?

I can understand why. For many human beings, death is the great unknown and people fear the unknown. Once upon a time, I too was afraid to die except that I knew where I was going. You see, I knew that if I suddenly died in SIN at that time, I would end up standing before God and He would have cast me into eternal damnation.

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment… Hebrews 9:27

Of course, I have been a believer since the 90s and I lost my fear of death because of the Lord’s guarantee of eternal life (Matthew 3:16). In 2015, I went face to face with death when I had to undergo an extremely risky spinal operation. This was in my mind. I wanted to live but not because I was afraid. I was ready to die because it meant I would be with the Lord. But this Bible verse was forefront in my mind.

I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed. But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body… Philippians 1:23-24

The Apostle Paul would have loved to be with Christ in Heaven, but for the sake of serving others (the body) as well as those who were lost, he worked hard to stay alive.

When I woke up from that operating table, I was elated not because I was still breathing but because deep down, God still has use of me. And by the way, I am paralyzed and mostly bedridden, but He still cause me to work.

To Him goes all the glory!

If you agree, say “AMEN”

Sketching HIStory #4

Sketching-HIStory-2-w

Gen 1 – Creation of the Universe

I welcome you first to open and read your Bibles: Genesis chapter 1. For those who want to read online below are links to Bible Gateway in 3 English translations.

New International Version NIV
Good News Translation GNT  (for Catholics)     King James Version KJV

Here is an observation. Have you noticed that the account of the creation of the universe is covered only in one chapter of Genesis? In my old college library, I recalled seeing 5-6 tall book shelves dedicated to the sciences of our universe. In this age of computers, I’m sure you can find several terrabytes of the same research available in the world wide net. My point is, how is it that the most spectacular cosmological event was limited to less than a thousand words in the Bible? Keeping in mind that God inspired Moses to write it this way, I believe God intended Genesis 1 to be read so that the focus is not so much on the created but more on the CREATOR. This is after all HIS story.

As a storyteller, I always believe that Genesis was meant to be read out loud with a slight theatrical flair. Imagine those times when the Israelites wanted to hear more about Him from their leader, Moses. Besides preaching to the entire congregation from on top of a mountain, I think he would from time to time, join them in smaller groups at their open fires and regale them under the stars, strengthening their faith in God. So, let’s get on with… HIStory.

“Once upon a time…”

Hold on! I know that this is how most bedtime stories usually start. However, God’s story does not start this way.

In the beginning, God… [vs 1a]

As a matter of truth, God’s story didn’t start in Time, but way… way before it, in… Eternity!

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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was formless and empty,
and darkness covered the deep waters.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. [vs 1-2]

You know, I would have loved to present to you this part of the creation story from inside my old college planetarium. If I can get my hands on the planetarium’s animation generator, you… while resting in a reclined position, will be looking up into the dome ceiling and will see God’s spiritual hands laying out the heavens, in this case, the blackness of space.

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And in that vast expanse, He also made from nothing the earth. No, I do not mean our planet Earth with a capital ‘E’, but earth or ‘erets’ which means dirt in Hebrew (language of the Old Testament). This dirt is not the same you find on the ground. What is described in verse 2 as being formless and empty implies that this material, being so primordial, is in actuality an integral building block for all existing matter. Take note, so far, we have SPACE and MATTER. There is an acknowledged scientific process that when you take these two then add ENERGY, you get an ATOM. (Who said that the Bible and science can’t go hand in hand?)

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. [vs 2b]

What is God doing over the surface of the waters (by the way, this is not referring to a literal body of water)? He was ‘hovering’!? In other Bible translations, the word ‘moving’ was also used. Can anybody say… Kinetic ENERGY?!

It is right about here that something BIG is going to happen!

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. [vs 3]

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What is bigger than WOW!?

W O W ! ! !

Now, when God turns the light on, we’re not talking about Him flicking a switch and a light bulb comes on. No sir! This light probably and spectacularly lit up the entire universe. By the way, this almost sounds like what scientists call the Big Bang Theory (and I am not talking about the popular TV sitcom).

The Big Bang theory represents cosmologists’ best attempts to reconstruct the 14 billion year story of the universe based on the sliver of existence visible today. Most generally, it illustrates the arc of the observable universe as it thinned out and cooled down from an initially dense, hot state. The Big Bang theory found widespread acceptance for its unparalleled ability to explain what we see. [content from www.livescience.com]

And God saw that the light was good. [vs 4a]

In the Genesis creation story, God saw that what was created was good. In the surface, God was pleased that what He created and set into motion – will do what it was meant to do.

When He created the light (that I’m convinced was the BIG BANG), that event explosively pushed all that cosmological materials out into space forming gas clouds, dark matter, black holes, nebulas and galaxies.

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Imagine again, you sitting in the planetorium blinking rapidly after the effect of that bright flash of light from the Big Bang. Then you watch in wonder, blurred lights slowly float away from where the explosion subsided down to a distant glow. Those lights, as they come closer to you become swirling galaxies. Imagine 14 billion years of moving and expanding universe compressed into about a 10 minute planetarium presentation. I always loved those effects.

Anyway, one galaxy… a familiar one, at that… seem to be getting bigger than the rest. It is our own Milky Way Galaxy. And if it is like every planetarium show I’ve ever watched, we majesticall fly in toward one of our galaxy’s swirling arms to where God is preparing our world. However, before we fly in, let us finish our understanding the rest of Genesis 1:4-5.

Then He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. [vs 4b-5]

The passage of where God separated the light from the darkness, besides the obvious, actually have spiritual implications which I will cover more in-depth in later studies. For now, let me explain that the usage of ‘day and night’ which is repeated 6 other times, by the way, in the creation narrative were not meant to represent a 24 hour Earth time period. In other words, God did not create everything in just 6 days. However, I am not saying that God Almighty can not do it in 6 days. Frankly, He could probably flick His fingers and create everything instantly. But His words reflect differently. Remember, Genesis 1-3 was meant to be read as an Exalted Prose – that is, it is neither pure narrative nor pure poetry, but tells a story using a number of poetic features and a clear literary framework like the usage of the transition from night to day. Consider again Moses, as he told each of the creation event at the end of which, he theatrically swung his arm, east to west, with his fingers spread wide open uttering “And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day”.

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The purpose of Sketching HIStory is so that you can get to know Him more personally. We have just read the biblical account of how the universe was made but besides the claim that it was He that created it (which should be enough reason to praise Him), how else can we know Him more? How can we go beyond the intellectual knowledge to the faith building way of knowing Him? I mean that we may experience Him… feel Him deep inside. The answer was already provided to us by God when He created the universe.

The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, said that what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. [Roman 1:19-20]

Do you want to experience Him closely? Then open your eyes and look closely at what He created. Go out where you can escape the light pollution of the city and find a field where you can cast your eyes at the spectacular view of the Milky Way. Or go to the nearest planetarium. Then, I encourage you to believe the words of the Psalmist below.

Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

In the next post, we will see how God formed our world. See you then.

Click to go to Sketching HIStory #5