Brothers Bonifacio – There Be Eagles

Brothers Bonifacio – There Be Eagles

When we were kids, my parents told us a story of an eagle egg that got mixed up with the eggs in a chicken coop. When the eggs hatched, the mother hen simply raised them all like chickens. Of course as time passed the eagle grew bigger and stronger, but because it thought like a chicken, it did the things chickens do and don’t do. It clucked, it strut, but despite its large wings it never flew, because chickens don’t fly. He never even tried.

One day while playing with his chicken brothers and sisters, an eagle flew over their farm. All the chickens watched the eagle soar, none was more stirred than the young eagle on the ground. “What’s that?” He asked. “That’s an eagle.” The mother hen told him. “Wow he said. How’d he get so high?” He followed. “He’s flying, son.” She explained. “I want to fly too.” The eagle said without thinking, and this caused his chicken family to laugh, “You can’t fly. You’re a chicken like us. Chickens can’t fly like eagles. Come on, let’s go back to playing.” The young eagle took one last look at the soaring bird in the sky, turned around and went back to play with the chickens, never realizing that not only could he fly, that he was meant to fly, simply because he listened to the chickens.

I remember what my parents would remind us, “You boys are meant to be great. You’re Eagles. But if you think like chickens, if you hang around chickens, if you do the things chickens do, you’ll end up a chicken. And just like the young eagle, you’ll watch the other eagles soaring, and know somewhere deep inside that you should be flying, because you know you’re not a chicken, but an eagle, and that you were meant to soar.”

I don’t know if this was an original story of theirs. It probably wasn’t. But its lesson stuck with me. Actually, it haunts me.

Whenever I find myself thinking or acting like a chicken, whenever I’m spending too much time with chickens, I can hear my parents voice and the same images in my head that I had as a child imagi ing their story, “If you think like a chicken, even if you’re really an eagle, you’ll act like a chicken. If you surround yourself with chickens. You’ll think like them.”

So I make adjustments.

They’re right. When you’re an eagle, and I believe we’re all meant to soar, watching someone else fly high tugs at us. We feel both admiration and sense of envy. That admiration, if unchecked, will lead to idolatry. That envy, if unchecked, will lead to covetousness. Either one, or both, if unchecked, will turn us into chickens, people watching others soar, clucking to ourselves with opinions, criticisms, and admiration, yet never realizing that we were meant to be that person touching the sky.
Here’s today’s reminder: There be eagles. They’re rare but you’ll find them. They’re not doing what chickens are doing. They’re not buying into chicken-thinking. They’re soaring at heights very few reach. They’re doing things chickens can only watch and wish for. Yes, there are eagles in this world. My hope is that you’ll realize, before it’s too late, that eagle is you.

#db

Beautiful Eyes

let(From my Series She Listened With Her Eyes. This is fiction.)

I had come to Simon’s house to ask for advice. I had been thinking about my relationship with Yasmin and about the big decisions we would need to make as things progressed, and boy were things progressing. I wanted to talk to him about the practicalities of being in a relationship, of starting a family, of the money issues basically. I wanted to ask, “How in the world do you afford everything???”

I was standing in the living room of his apartment, looking at a row of frames featuring photos of his family. Mat his eldest son, a future scientist; Josh, the most magnetic little boy you’ve ever met; Diane, the sweet princess; and William. I nearly forgot about William. Born next to Mat, William was the second born, though it seemed like he was the youngest, his autism stunting much of his natural processes. I fixed on a photo of Simon cradling William, both their faces beaming with unadulterated happiness.

“Hey David. Sorry to keep you waiting. I had to get the kids to bed.” Simon called to me as he walked into the room, carrying a sleeping William in his arms, covering nearly his whole torso. I had forgotten that he was no longer a toddler but a growing boy.

“Hi Simon.” I shook his hand. “Thanks for making time for me.”

“Of course, David. Did you bring drinks?”

“Right here.” I said, holding up a bottle of Soylent.

“What the heck is that?” he said, with a suspicious look.

“It’s a meal replacement.”

“Get a wife, David. You’re becoming even more abnormal. Do us both a favor and grab two beers from the fridge. The kitchen is at the door to your right.”

I grabbed two bottles. “Where’s your bottle opener?” I called out.

“It’s somewhere there.” he answered, not being very helpful. I found it anyway after opening a third drawer.

I went back to the living room, put our beers on the coffee table, using old magazines as makeshift coasters. He told me to take the master’s seat while he sat on a long sofa. “I prefer sitting here. Lets me lay William down beside me and still have space. He’s gotten quite heavy now. Carrying an 8 year old is a whole lot heavier than a baby.” he explained without insecurity or the self-righteousness common to people aware of their sacrifices.

Carefully laying William down with his head on his lap, he caressed his son’s hair, smiled, looked at me, and said, “So what’s up? What brings the hermit to my home?”

“I’m not that bad.”

“You’re worse. How can I help you?”

“Can I ask you something? Is it hard to have a special child?”

“All children are special, David.” He replied dryly

“You know what I mean.”

“No I don’t know what you mean.” He said, not making it easy for me.

“I mean a child with a condition.”

“You mean an autistic child?” he said.

“If you put it that way…”

“It’s not how I put it. It is what it is. Don’t worry. I’m not offended. We’ve been friends long enough to know you’re good with words when you have the luxury of drafts, but terrible on the spot.”

“Thanks…”

“It’s true. And that’s what’s important right?”

“What are you talking about?” I asked him a bit confused.

“You asked me a question. You asked me what it’s like to have William. I’m answering you. To have William is a challenge. It’s true. It is what it is. I was featured in our community newsletter once. They interviewed Susan and I about what it’s like to raise a child with autism. For a few months after, we were overwhelmed with support and encouragement. Letters came in, people even sent gifts and money. That was a few years ago. These days, there’s not much encouragement, no letters about on how much we’ve inspired others, no ‘praise Gods’ or ‘God bless yous’. What we do have is an early morning every day, 4:00am to be exact, when William wakes up crying. We wake up to piss on sheets, and piss on me as I carry him to calm him. What we do have are never ending medical bills with no end in sight. What we do have is a responsibility to make daily sacrifices of time, money, energy for him.” He said the last sentence looking down at his son, he smiled, and looked back at me. “But after 8 years, here’s what I’ve learned, more than the things I just mentioned, what we have now, what we’ve always had, is William. We don’t have a special case or lifetime of sacrifice. We have our son. And that’s as beautiful as it gets.”

“I can’t say I completely understand.” I admitted.

“I don’t blame you. You single guys can be efficiently selfish. But you will someday. You’ll understand when you truly fall in love. When the joy of holding someone overwhelms the weight the of the responsibility.

“We have to be realistic Simon. There are responsibilities in the real world.” I cut him.

“I never said there weren’t any. Why do you think I work so hard? There are bills to pay! A lot of bills!” he said with a laugh. “And it’s tough” he said in contrastingly subdued voice. “It can get really hard. Especially during bad days. There’s quite a few of them to be honest. But I like how my wife put it in a prayer once, during a particularly trying period, she said, ‘Father, give us beautiful eyes that we may always see Your beauty even though we face dark times.’ It’s when we lose sight of God’s beauty that things get really dark. It’s not the circumstance. It’s our perspective. It’s not William that makes my load heavy. It’s my selfish heart that forgets that to change his sheets is to love him, and to love him daily, to love others daily, is to truly live. Because of William I truly live. It’s not our lack of money that causes me to worry. It’s because I have been conditioned to trust in money too much. It’s not the medical bills that makes me feel deprived. It’s my lack of contentment. We always think a change in circumstances will make all the difference, that a beautiful life is made up of beautiful circumstances. I’ve learned that a beautiful life is a life lived with beautiful eyes.”

As he was speaking, I remembered my conversation with Yasmin just a few hours earlier, “David, promise me that you won’t do bad things to others.” she started. “Even if it will give us more stuff. I’d rather we sleep in sleeping bags than we do anything bad to others. I’d be happier, and I know God will be happier too.”

“It’s not our circumstances that make life beautiful” I caught Simon saying again, clicking back to our conversation, “It’s how we see our circumstances that determine the beauty we recognize. Too many of us are praying for beautiful circumstances when we really should be praying for beautiful eyes.”

I thought about Yasmin’s eyes. She has beautiful eyes. The most beautiful I’ve ever seen. They’re dark sharp, they’re dark brown, and they look like kindness, with no malice through to her soul.

“David.” I heard Simon’s voice call me.

“Sorry. I was thinking about what you were saying.”

“I’m sorry for rambling. You asked.”

“No, don’t be. I liked what you said.”

“So, you still haven’t told me why we’re here. I’m sure it wasn’t to hear me talk about William.”

“How do you afford everything? I know where you work. I have a pretty good idea of how much you make. Yet you never seem stressed.”

“Haha!” He laughed. “Seem is the key word. I definitely get stressed. But that’s why I’m so grateful, despite not being able to afford much, I have Susan, Matt, William, Josh, Diane. I know I’ll never truly be able to afford them, but the good news is this: I don’t have to. They’re gifts. You never have to afford gifts. They’re given to you. To have them, you simply need to receive them.” he winked at me with that last sentence.

I thought about what he said.

“Is there anything else you want to talk about?” he asked, still brushing the sleeping William’s hair.

“No. This was good. Thanks. This was good.”

He smiled. “Come by anytime. Thanks for the beer.”

“The beer was yours.” I reminded him.

“Thanks for giving me a great reason to have one.”

I looked at my friend. How did a foolish guy like me end up with such a wise friend?

“Thanks Simon.” I said as I walked out the door of his place. “I’ll remember what you told me. Beautiful eyes.”

“Beautiful eyes my friend.” he said nodding, carrying William once more. “Oh crap.” He said, as a darker shade of his blue shirt spread across his chest and stomach. “William just peed. Have to go change him.” he offered his hand and I shook it, feeling something warm and wet.

“Is that pee?” I asked more than a little grossed out.

“Haha!” Simon laughed. “Don’t be such a wuss. Welcome to my world. Come back in, wash your hands. It’s not the end of the world.”

Brothers Bonifacio – Black Saturday

“When things happen to you, when you go through circumstances, it’s God’s way of calling you to respond to Him. How will you respond? Will you respond in faith and love? But more than that, when God is working in you He’s also working on everyone around you. He’s asking them to respond to Him through your situation and asking them to respond to Him through how your situation affects them. Will they respond in faith and love? When an unwed girl gets pregnant, God is calling the girl to respond in faith and love, and He is calling everyone around her to respond in faith and love. When a man goes bankrupt, God is calling him to respond in faith and love, and He is calling everyone around her to respond in faith and love. Whether you encounter the rich or poor, the wicked or the righteous, the foolish, the wise, those different, the question is, how will you respond, regardless of how anyone else responds, will you respond in faith and love?
– from my notes on what my dad, Joey Bonifacio, told me.

The sun was dying outside my apartment on this late Saturday afternoon of a very stressful week. To say business was bad was an understatement. My business was dying, and dead to many experts who had seen it. But I was fighting on and fighting hard, applying my obsessive study and disciplined effort to each day’s challenges. Anyone who has owned a business knows the difficulties of running one, particularly during crisis. Being my dad’s son has the extra pressure of having to succeed (or fail) in front of more people. I prefer being able to do things privately.

Anyway, business was bad.

But my mind was not on my business that Saturday afternoon. It was on another concern, something more serious, something so serious it risked putting a serious wedge between me and one of my most important relationships, my relationship with my dad.

We had just met earlier, and his words still rung in my head, “If you go through with this, you’re on your own. I can’t help you. You’ve made it impossible for me to help you.”

And he wasn’t trying to be mean. Yes, he was angry, but I was in the wrong. He couldn’t help me.

I remember driving home as if in a trance and somehow floating up to my apartment, landing on my bed and just staring blankly, the thought of the one person who had always been a constant pillar of strength and support throughout my childhood telling me “you’re on your own”. I never thought I could ever do anything so bad that would bring that kind of rejection, that my own father would refuse to help me. But I had.

It was a dark dark dark, loneliest of feelings. It was painful in a heart caving sort of way. It was a feeling of such hollowness, such emptiness, that it was extremely painful. Man was never meant to live on empty. Yet because of years of hardened determination I did not cry. In a way I had forgotten how.

With nothing much to do, I opened my Kindle to go through my daily list of things to read and continued on a book by Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him Savior, that read:

“But when God turned His head, that was more than He (Jesus) could handle.”

It was from the story of the crucifixion. Jesus, after withstanding everything, torture, mockery, betrayal, injustice, without caving, could not handle His primary relationship turning from Him.

Why did God turn?

Because Jesus had taken our sin. Jesus who was perfect and enjoyed perfect love for His Father, took on all of man’s sin and became an abomination to His Father.

By taking all our sins, Jesus became something so bad, that God, His Father, had to reject Him.

It was the perfect thing to read at that moment, me, reeling from my own mistake and rejection, finding solace in the story of Christ’s rejection…

… His rejection for me. And He had done nothing wrong, nothing to deserve the rejection, like I had, yet He was rejected.

That’s when I felt something inside break and tears started to roll down my face. And I could hear a gentle whisper, “I know your pain. I know what it feels like to be so abominable to my Father that He rejected me.”

And then I understood His love in a way I never have – and it made everything worth it. The shame, the pain, the rejection, the complication was all of a sudden worth it, not because they’re good, they were terrible, but because it led me closer to Christ.

For those who know the Gospel, for those who read the Bible, we know that the story ends well, that Jesus rose victoriously and defeated sin once and for all. But on this Black Saturday it’s good to reflect the price He paid, not just a physical price but infinite rejection, and we all know how painful even small rejections can be.

When I think about the cost I am led to believe that Christianity can’t be just about making our material dreams come true. God’s Son doesn’t die just so we can have kids with high grades, celebrity this and that, mansions, and cars, and food we’re too fat to eat, clothes filling overstuffed closets, bank accounts filled with fiat paper, and security in probabilities and algorithms. Did God’s Son really die for something so temporary, so shallow? Did He die simply to give us all one fine day? That’s an incredibly self-centered and prideful way to see things, to think that God’s Son’s life is payment for me to enjoy man-made dreams.

No. No one pays millions for a piece of trash. We pay millions for treasured things. When I think about the cost, about the price He paid, the ultimate price, I think about the ultimate gain: love.

1 Corinthians 13 says “the greatest of these is love.”

Ultimate cost paid, ultimate treasure gained.

What did God stand to gain from paying this price?

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son.”

You and me. That’s the crazy part.

Romans 5 says:

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Every time I read this I always find myself asking, “Why?” It just absolutely makes no sense.

But now that I have a better idea of what love is about, particularly a kind of love I observe with my brother, Joseph, and how he and his wife are crazy about Philip who has not done anything much more than depend on them for everything, I am reminded of a quote by a popular author I don’t exactly read often:

One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.
– Paulo Coelho

Could it be that such unmerited favor is upon us, that even in our darkest, our lowest, our emptiest, our weakest, our poorest, we find God Himself with us?

Yes, it could be. And is so.

Black Saturday reminds us of the ultimate price Christ paid that we may enjoy ultimate gain, an eternal love with Him.

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