Lifetime Priorities

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
– Psalm 90:12

In this extremely fast-paced world, it is important that I am responsibly handling how I allocate my time. I’ve been adopting techniques to help me improve focus, remove distractions, and increase productivity, one of which is keeping my phone on Do Not Disturb for most of the day. Of all the different productivity hacks, I’ve found that most useful to me is simply setting the 3-4 Most Important To-Dos for the day, stubbornly focusing on those, and then, and only then, do I move to the others. Sometimes a little flexibility is required, but this is the exception to the rule. Most of the time, the determined priorities for the day stay.

A question popped into my head as I was reviewing my daily priorities from the past couple of days, checking how well I did at addressing them, where I can improve, and if they truly were important or urgent, which is a distinction Stephen Covey makes in his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a book you will see me mention over and over.

The question was: What are my days adding up to?

As with all good questions, more questions followed behind it:

  • Do the accomplishment of my daily priorities lead to my lifetime priorities, specifically, to honor God, to love my family, and to impact the world in a significant, scalable, and sustainable way?
  • Or am I just reacting to circumstances and events?

As I pondered on my answers to these questions, I started writing down ideas on how to streamline my life better, to sync effectively the different priorities, and to achieve flow. A spiritual term for this concept, a much more powerful term, is the word Shalom: harmony, wholeness, completeness, health, and peace.

One way I am putting this into practice is by better connecting my life roles with my writing, sharing the purpose, principles, and performance ideas of each role with my readers as I study them. This way I am able to have a neat flow from my life’s role, the requirements of that role, my efforts to fulfill those requirements, and to what I share on my blog.

The categories I will be focusing on are: Business (particularly the ideas that relate to my company Bridge), Family (my series on How to Live for my son Elijah, and about the lessons my wife has been teaching me in How Not to Be a Husband), Faith (my devotions), Society (my thoughts on the human condition and the institutions that influence us), and finally a category I call Overflow (my art, stories, poetry, etc.).

Overtime, I will also be categorizing old posts into these sections as well. The world is evolving, and so must I. I hope this blog continuous to encourage you to make most of every day, even as it evolves as well.

#DB

 

The Freedom and Beauty of Worship Through Self-Control

A notification went off on my phone telling me I slept only 66% of my sleep goal of 6 hours a day. The same alarm pings my Apple Watch, iPad, and MacBook. (Am I really this dense that I need so many reminders?) None of these notifications are needed to inform me that I am tired. Exhausted is probably a better word. I would like nothing more than to be snoring loudly on this warm Sunday morning.

But I am awake and typing this. Why? Am I really some sort of blogging addict? Nope. It’s because I scheduled to post an article today, meaning, I committed to myself that I would sit down, process my thoughts, and share them with others, hoping that they may encourage and empower others. The ability to do things not because it feels good, or feels right, or is popular, fun, or respectable, and despite being opposite all those things,but following through simply because you made an invisible commitment to yourself, is what is known as self-control. Self-Control, the ability to respond to life, not merely react like little babies do, is a key indicator of maturity. What about ourselves should we control? This often-shared quote encapsulates things nicely:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits;

watch your habits, they become character;

watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Self-Control means controlling our thoughts, words, actions, habits, character, and ultimately our destiny (our destination, where our lives go).

When we don’t control our thoughts, when we let circumstances, the opinions of others, our worries and fears, our lusts, our anger, our impatience, our unprocessed thoughts, and unrefined ideas dictate what we think, we exhibit a lack of self-control. We are reacting to things outside of us, instead of doing what the Bible says:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things

– Philippians 4:8

This is not so easy during a stressful situation, like trying to make your finances work while calming a wailing baby at 3am. But it is possible and very beneficial. For this specific example, a true example from my own life, I CHOOSE to go beyond the surface suffering and look at the profound privilege of the activity. I am not merely struggling to pay the bills and calm my son. I am participating in the amazing process of raising a godly man. If being up at this time is part of it, it’s worth it. If having to tighten our belts and move funds around is part of it, it’s worth it. If feeling very tired is part of it, it’s worth it. And it’s extra worth it because I know that not only am I part of such a meaningful activity, but that if I set my eyes on Jesus, if I trust Him and obey Him in all circumstances, not only will things work out, but I’ll be transformed to be more like Him. Sometimes, I forget that God’s main goal is not to give me the life I want or a life with no struggles, but to make me more like Christ, which means, that my thoughts words, actions, habits, and character reflect those of Christs because the spiritual virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and, here it comes again, self-control, are so evident in my life. I have born fruit. The pleasure of having a son, and the privilege to be able to become more like my Jesus, makes everything worth it. Of course I find it worth it because I have activated the self-control required to reject society’s values of success and the good life but determined for myself that I want to please God and love my family. My success is based on how well I do the latter two. I think most people simply live by recommendation and convention, not by conviction, so actually live others-controlled and wonder why they don’t feel free. Is it not logical to understand that to be others-controlled means you’re not truly choosing for yourself?

Cultivate self-control. Be free.

Last Friday morning, my son, Elijah, was circumcised. While I won’t go through the reasoning of why we chose to have him circumcised, I want to share a simple story from it. Inside the operating room, after preparing Elijah for the procedure, the doctor warned me that the babies usually cry when they’re injected but that after that they’d be fine. Right before they injected him, the doctor said, “Ok, here we go. 1-2-3…” And proceeded to inject him, only to marvel, “Oh. He didn’t cry.” Elijah had only made a slight grunt and went back to sleep. Throughout the whole procedure, he did not cry at all. He’d whine a bit, but then relax again. The anaesthesia must have taken over at some point. I was so proud to watch how my 3-week old son handled what is a painful situation. He took it, winced, and let it go. “That’s my son.” I thought to myself. The nurses told me that he was very brave. I don’t know how much of that is true or them being nice, but I’ll take it. Haha!

Anyway, the next day, I was still so proud of how tough my son was when I had a thought: Maybe this is how God the Father feels when He sees me win over my anger, surrender my pride, defeat lust, or choose kindness and godliness under pressure. Maybe this is how He felt watching Job take hit after hit yet remain faithful. Maybe this is how He felt when the disciples worshipped until death. Maybe this is how He felt when His Son chose the Father’s will. More than enjoying freedom as we become self-determining when we are self-controlled, the beauty of self-control is that we are able to worship God in our own special way, responding to our own individual circumstances in our own unique acts of worship. For me and Yasmin, one of the songs we sing to God looks more like ass-wiping with a smile at 2am. For me, the melody I send to Heaven, is the sincere gratefulness in my heart at working in Bridge on such an awesome mission, even though I haven’t slept. The chorus I repeat is my recurring repentance of my many sins and constant trusting in His goodness, even as I face consequences.

This, I believe, is true worship as Romans 12:1 explains it:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.“

Just as there is good singing and bad singing, there is beautiful and pointless worship. Pointless worship is lip service. Beautiful worship comes from our self-controlled choosing to please God in all that we do, knowing that He is pleased when we walk in faith, obey His word, and love others as ourselves.

#db

Brothers Bonifacio – It Is Well

Dedicated to three people:
My superwoman, Yasmin. Thank you for our son.
My Papa Joey and Mama Marie. Thank you for all that you have done for me. I cannot thank you enough.

 

The Morning of the Delivery

I didn’t realize it until one of the nurses asked me to stand to cut the umbilical cord, that I was already passing out. Sitting in that operating room, watching them operate a cesarean on my wife, had hijacked my system. I felt like fainting, throwing up, and taking a crap all at the same time. As I grabbed the scissor-like instrument, I was so worried I would lose control and drop it into my wife’s open belly. Somehow I was able to muster what little control I had left to cut our child’s cord, complete with a photo of me looking like I didn’t know where to look – and that’s because I didn’t know where the camera was. As soon as I cut it, I excused myself from the room, and sat on a stretcher outside. A nurse who saw me very concernedly told me to take deep breaths and gave me a cup of water. It was around then that I realized I was soaking with sweat, as if I had run half a kilometer. It was not my most Instagrammable moment.

But it was one of the best moments of my life, probably the single best moment of my life.

“I’m a father.” I thought to myself. Followed by a “I want to see my son.” and “I’m sure glad I’m not a woman.” in that order.

I walked-back in, held our son, and went to my wife, “You did well, Yasmin. Look at Elijah.” “He’s perfect.” she said. Of course he’s not “perfect”, no one really is, but he is to us.

After 15 months of having given up my much beloved bachelorhood, I have learned three priceless lessons:

1. Marriage taught me the beauty of true love, that the more I chose the satisfaction of another, the more that other satisfied me.

2. Having a son taught me there exists a pure love that has nothing to do with my son’s achievements and everything to do with him being mine.

3. And we (the community of Christ’s followers) are both Christ’s bride and God the Father’s children, and we have access to the satisfaction of choosing to satisfy Christ and the pure love of knowing we are loved, not because of our accomplishments, of which we have nothing to be proud of, but simply because we are His.

In this social-media soaked society, where so much effort is placed on projecting a “likable” life, we must remain sensitive to the important lessons from the simple and mundane, difficult and painful, and unposed and embarrassing.

In my very close fainting-vommiting-crapping-combo moment, I fell in love with my wife in a special way, appreciated my parents in a greater way, and worshipped my God in a deeper way. In my emotional and physical, weakness, when my normally very calm and clear mind just wanted to shut down, His power to communicate His love to me was perfect. There was nothing to capture, no lights, no takes, no slow-motion, no OOTD, no brand to hashtag. Just a very sweaty, anxious, light-headed man needing a puke bag and a diaper, overjoyed at having a son and being a son.

Then my mind drifted for a moment, “Are there nine people operating? Am I paying for all of them?? How am I paying for all of them???” How quickly the cares of the world steal our joy.

Then I heard my wife’s voice ask worriedly about the sutures, and our baby’s soft cry as they observed him, and out went the worry, replaced with just simple unadulterated care. How quickly loving others brings our joy back.

It Is What It Is and It Is Well.

The next day, I walked to the billing center of the hospital. St. Luke’s has been an incredible hospital. The facilities are amazing, the nurses were very helpful, and we’re extremely grateful for our OB Gynecologist Dr. Sapaula and Pediatrician Dr. Saulog, as well as our anesthesiologists Dr. Gary and Dr. Inciong, who was very reassuring towards Yasmin during the operation. Seeing what my wife went through made me appreciate my mother so much. Seeing the bill made me appreciate my father! ”Woah!” I thought. “And it’s only Day 2!!! Another 18 years of this! Another…” my negative thoughts were arrested. “Another collection of moments with my son.” For a second I felt I could afford anything. The idea only lasted for exactly one second. But it is what it is.

As parents know, pregnanacy and having children can be expensive. It is a range of more expensive and less expensive, depending on one’s means, but always expensive. When my wife was pregnant, she purchased just one pair of maternity jeans (which she washed every day!) partly because she couldn’t find ones that fit her height, and mostly because I had given her a very tight budget. But our budget is what it is. The available choices are what they are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. She was happy, we were happy, and 38 weeks later, we have a healthy son. With  faith in God and grateful hearts, it is well.

We were asked if we wanted to store the umbilical cord for future stem cells, and we said it’s out of our budget, it’s not something I prepared for, and not a priority. We have some friends who did it, we have some friends who did not, and there are also those who know nothing of stem cells, and there’s no right or wrong here. What one can afford at the moment is what one can afford. What one knows is what one knows. It is what it is. With faith in God and grateful hearts, it is well.

After just about 3 days, my wife has started to see some success with her breastfeeding. It wasn’t easy. We tried many times, had so many nurses help us, and amazedly watched YouTube videos of babies finding boobs on their own. Some mothers take days, some take weeks, some are instant milk farms, and some are never able to produce. I’ve learned that there’s a whole range of nipples, and not all lend well to breastfeeding. Some have access to breastmilk banks, some can afford nipple shields, some can’t afford these supplements, and some don’t need them. Whatever the case, it is what it is. With faith in God and grateful hearts, it is well.

While my wife was recuperating, we read an article of kids being kidnapped in refugee areas and being found killed, and were told of some serious medical conditions that have happened to other babies. The next day, my wife told me, “I cannot stop thinking of those babies. Why does God allow that?” I answered her simply, “The truth is, I don’t know. Some of life is because we or others use our freedom in ways that lead to bad consequences. But there’s also so much we don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know about what is already known, of what has already been discovered, and there’s still so much more to discover. Who can say they fully understand life?” I thought about this more through the evening, and I never found any answers. I did remember that God asks us, the living, to be grateful in all circumstances, to love by serving others (especially those who have less than us), and to have faith in God’s goodness. And while this may seem like the simple-minded belief of those too weak to handle life’s painful truth, I’ve come to realize that whether one believes this is truth or superstition in this situation is irrelevant. Being grateful in all circumstances will bullet-proof your soul and make you more able to face life. From an evolutionary perspective, developing gratefulness is good for you. Continuing to love despite our own personal doubts, personal suffering, and personal loss is good for the world in general. It flicks the finger at the cycle of violence and hurt caused, when people use their own hurt, their own doubt, their own suffering, and their own loss to justify unkind or even inhumane actions. From a social perspective, it’s beneficial to be like a human desalinization plant, taking our salty doubts, suffering, and loss, and releasing a purified love. Finally, believing that there is divine goodness, makes people hope, and hope is a balm for the soul. With faith in God and grateful hearts, we face what is as it is, and know that it is well.

And it is well not simply because we have everything figured out, or can afford everything we want or need, or because everything is wonderful, colorful, and great. It is well not simply because we’re laughing, content, and succeeding in our goals. It is well not simply because pain, doubt, and suffering are absent. Neither is it because we experience something relatively better than what someone else is suffering. (I hate it when people try to comfort you by pointing out how someone has it worse.) Just like I learned that I could love my son not because of any perfection but simply because he is mine, you need to love your own gift of life simply because it is yours. Don’t compare it to someone else’s, as any parent would be a fool to compare their own with someone else’s. But realize that it is special because it is yours. Without getting political or controversial, this is why I am so against any thought process that makes killing a solution. Life, your life, every life, is special in itself, not comparatively or relatively special, but special and amazing, a true miracle. A life that travels the world and one that stays put are equally special. A life celebrated by the world on social media and tbe one no one knew existed are equally special as well. We need to move away from valuing our lives and the lives of others comparatively, based on man-made metrics that are really mostly focused on utility: how useful this person is in satisfying society’s needs and wants. We value good looking people and celebrities because they fill our need for beauty. We value rich people or successful people to fill our aspirations. We value powerful people because we look for security and order. We value the intelligent child because he will discover things and get a good job. We value ourselves and people by how good we are at meeting society’s needs and wants. This is why we think it is smart, advanced, even humane to abort children and kill crooks. Why maintain a life that does not fulfill society’s needs and wants? Why maintain a life that drains society from meeting its needs and wants? The answer is because it is a life. Even if one doesn’t believe in God, each life is owned by a corresponding person. Is it not more sophisticated to be able to go beyond utilitarianism into the metaphysical understanding that this life is the private property of someone, and to snuff it out means breaking that person’s rights, and showing we value utility over honoring individual lives? And if utility is the best score for a person’s right to live, never expect a peaceful world. Expect a highly competitive world, expect a divided world, expect a highly insecure world, and expect a highly unequal world as we all prioritize that which maximizes our own individual utility. This is a world I know I can thrive in given my personality, skills, and relational advantages.

But it is not the world I want to live in nor want to raise our son in.

Instead, we decide to live by the simplicity and elegance of remembering that every life is God’s, and it is only for Him to decide on whether it lives or dies, and our role is to love; to care; to cultivate; to improve, to take our 1, 2, or 5 “talents” and multiply them, not compare them, but expand them; and to hope for the day that we share in our Father’s happiness. Walking with faith in God and gratefulness in our hearts, knowing that no matter what happens, it is well. #db

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