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Looking back, To connect the moments, That brought me to you… Maybe it’s a heart that was once broken Maybe it’s a promise unkept Maybe it’s the hope I lost forever Maybe it’s my fear of what’s ahead Maybe it’s a dream I wish I’d woken But I didn’t and now regret Maybe it’s a step I should have taken Maybe it’s a shame I can’t forget Maybe a million things, A million moments, That brought me to you… – Connecting the Dots They say the lights of the fireflies are powered by memories, the memories of everyone alive and gone. And every night they fly back to this tree, to relive the closed eyes, and hands clasped, the kisses, and the moments long over. – The Tree of Memories Sometimes it’s good to slow down. Sometimes it’s good to stop completely. Even sometimes it’s better to take a step back – like I am now as I write this. There’s a lot of work to be finished, meetings to prepare for, emails to send, and numbers to crunch, but there’s also a soul to rest and a spirit to fill, both of which I have taken for granted despite the fact that they’re the parts of us that are eternal. But not anymore. I will remember to value these invisible treasures. Moment #1: Fireworks I remember being on a date once. It was her, me, and my slightly overweight wingman. We had climbed the fire escape ladder to the roof of her building and sat on a ledge. I remember her turning to me and saying, “Isn’t this great?” “Yeah”, I said “It sure is.” And I really did think it was great, because when you like someone, as in really really like someone, every simple act or experience becomes a moment, a moment unforgettable. “Do you know what would really be great?” “What?” I asked her. “Fireworks!” I don’t know why I said this, but I did, and I told her, “You’ll get your fireworks.” And I’m not making this up, but a few minutes later the dark sky lit up as red and amber sparks rained down from the welding in the building across us – like fireworks. It was amazing. The timing was perfect. Her wish was granted and I was the handsomest man in the world to her. But that was a long time ago. A lot has changed since. Moment #2: Primavera I remember walking through the almost empty Charles de Gaulle airport dragging my suitcase behind me. I had missed my overnight train to Madrid and had to catch the earliest flight in the morning to make it to my meeting. I was too tired to get a hotel for the evening and I didn’t think it was practical to get a room for a few hours. I was being practical but only because I had to: I didn’t have any money and the little I did have went to the only seat I could get: business class on Air France. That hurt, and that was before they lost my luggage. But I didn’t know that then while I sat down on one of the benches. It wasn’t long before I was surrounded by sleeping homeless guys. I don’t remember being scared. I think I was too tired to get scared. I do remember that they didn’t smell very pleasant. You’re never too tired to smell stink. But looking back, that misadventure was perfect. Sure it delayed my plans. Sure I got no sleep. Sure Air France lost my luggage. But I made it to my meeting, and not before seeing a golden-haired angel from a Botticelli painting behind the counter selling toothbrushes. And I had a thought, that maybe if I had made my train, I would have missed this most unassuming piece of divine art. But that was just that. It was great. But it was just a visit to the museum. Moment #3: A Sunset Painted Windy Day I can still remember walking on the soft grass. I can still feel the wind dancing with my hair. I used to visit that place to escape my responsibilities, but today was different. Because as I looked at the setting sun sink into the darkening sky, I felt an impression in my heart tell me, “Do you see how beautiful that is? I painted that for you.” And I took it all in, the light and dark blues blending with the grays, and whites, and violets, and vermillion and other kinds of reds, and oranges like the one from the fireworks. They were all there. We walked down that hill with the painting frescoed into our minds. Thoughts on that Sunset Painted Windy Day As I drove home, I still couldn’t get over it. “You painted that for me?” “I painted that for you. I paint every sky for you.” “Why?” “Because I love you.” “But why?” “Because you’re mine.” That never used to make sense to me, how having someone was enough reason to make you want to make every moment special for him or her. But then I began to understand, and as I did I could feel every beautiful experience being relived and every regret redeemed because I realized, what I didn’t see then, that every moment, was made especially for me. Every welder’s spark, every delayed plan, every deferred hope, every embarrassment and every failure, every dream, every open door, and every lesson was and is made especially for me. So tonight this post ends, and my midnight starts, by looking back at the moments that brought me to You.
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“But you can never go wrong with the priceless things. They’ll always be a steal.” The start of a new year is always a good time to step back and take deep look at the state of our lives. It’s a good time to evaluate ourselves, our desires and dreams, goals and accomplishments, our challenges and concerns, as well as our actions and decisions. I actually think we should be doing this regularly – as in all-year regularly. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions simply because, based on my experience and casual observance of others, we rarely sustain these grand decisions. Instead, I like to follow the Japanese practice of Kaizen – continuously growing through small improvements each day. So every evening, right before reading a self-imposed number of chapters before bed, I like to evaluate my day, what went right, what went wrong, what should I work on tomorrow or the next few days, what goes on my to-do list, what are the challenges, and after considering them I lift them to God to bless, to redeem, sometimes to forgive. I try to apply this practice of incremental growth powered by God’s grace to the things I do, whether it be business, social work, study, my creative pursuits, or whatever. Despite this I can still be a jerk (a capital JERK to some), still be selfish, or unkind, or lustful (Yes, you women can be incredibly beautiful – and irritatingly illogical so don’t let your head get too big.). I can still be arrogant sometimes (Ok, more than sometimes.), still insecure (Which is why I’m arrogant.), still fearful (Which is why I’m insecure.), and incredibly limited in my goodness and capabilities (Which is why I’m fearful.). All these shortcomings are products of wrong decisions, which in turn are products of a skewed value-system. Somewhere along the way, whether consciously or unconsciously, I learned to value the wrong things. Not everything of course, I do have right values, but enough mistaken valuations to leave a mark. When my brothers and I were kids my parents read us a story from the book No Wonder They Call Him Savior by Max Lucado. It tells the story of an unusual kind of robbery where some thieves broke into a store, and instead of taking items all they did was switch the price tags around. Some expensive things became cheap, and the cheap things became expensive. The funny thing was that no one noticed the price change at first. So people shopped as usual, buying things at unusually huge discounts and unusually huge markups. And sometimes our world is like that. We shop around through life sometimes making decisions that cost us more than what we get for it and sometimes taking other things of value for granted. And just like walking through a superstore, walking through life can be overwhelming with all the options calling out to you. And so to help me remember (because I can be immensely forgetful) I have brought out a shopping list – a shopping list for life that I thought about when I was a teenager, detailing the things I would pursuit. I’ve changed some of the words and ordering but the treasures have stayed the same. Proof that, despite my lack of experience and knowledge at the time, an open heart can see with amazing clarity. I use the article “a” instead of “the” because I don’t want to suggest that my list is the only list possible list or even the best. This is merely MY reminder for MYSELF that I hope will cause you to evaluate your situation, to see what it is you’re purchasing with your life decisions, and to weigh the cost that you’re paying. My simple shopping list for life: 1. A real relationship with God Where I’ll find it: In time spent with Him Where I won’t find it: Religion 2. A family with a lot of kids Where I’ll find it: With the birds and the bees, and a ball and chain – Kidding. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Where I won’t find it: In my chauvinism, E-Harmony (Not that there’s anything wrong with E-Harmony. How do I say it? It’s just not me?) 3. The means to help the poor and unjustly treated Where I’ll find it: Proper valuation Where I won’t find it: In my selfishness that only focuses on what I want and what I need 4. The ability to steward the resources that are entrusted to me Where I’ll find it: In humility – I don’t have it. I don’t know. Father, give me grace. Where I won’t find it: In my arrogance and self sufficiency Every now and then I get lost, while driving, while looking for a restaurant, or a shop, or just inside my head. Sometimes I get distracted, by a looming concern, a pretty face, a smart conversation. And even sometimes I lose my way, forgetting what’s really important, purchasing baggage at crazy prices. So I have to keep reminding myself of what I really want, of what’s really important to me. Because you’ll always go wrong by buying something you don’t really want, no matter how seemingly cheap. But you can never go wrong with the priceless things. They’ll always be a steal.
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Under the Mistletoe Standing under the mistletoe, I look into her eyes. She had to be the most beautiful female in the world, more beautiful than all the past females combined, and without their collective weight. I ask her, “You do know what they say about two people under a mistletoe?” She smiles sweetly, leans in, and then suddenly, knees me in the groin. The pain wakes me from my daydream. Time to get back to writing. In the spirit of the holidays, here is the Bonifacio Brothers Holiday Edition. The Rolling Thunder When we were younger, Christmas was the highlight of the year. I remember one early Christmas, when I was five or 6 years old, I received a GI Joe truck for Christmas. And it wasn’t just “a” truck, this was “THE” truck – it was the Rolling Thunder. The Rolling Thunder was more than three feet long when extended and came with its driver, codename: Armadillo, two huge missiles that had six mini-missiles inside it, a tank turret with two red missiles on each side, an opening ramp that allowed a scout vehicle to rollout, and a movable missile platform to kill those that managed to escape all the other weapons of destruction. Let me put it this way: If Chuck Norris was a truck; he’d be the Rolling Thunder. And if the Rolling Thunder was human it would be Chuck Norris, but not as hairy. We would sing the song How Great Thou Art in church and when the line “I feel the rolling thunder” would come up I would proudly whisper to my dad, “That’s my truck.” Why Joshua Can’t Be Santa From my best gift ever to the worst. A few Chrismases ago, my crazy younger brother, Joshua, thought it would be a good idea to give Joe and I something different, something exotic, something unusual for Christmas. So he decides to give us nipple whiteners. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a nipple whitener. And why would anyone want white nipples anyway? That’s actually a scary thought: me and my dark complexion with albino tips. It’s the sort of thing you expect from someone whose first email address was joshuaahotmale@hotmail.com. Enough of nipples. I better nip this in the bud. No pun intended. My Dad’s Favorite Gifts My mom has given me the best gifts my whole life. Of course my dad pays for them but my mom “knows”. This year I asked her if she could just pay for my insurance premium instead of a gift. Piece of advice: don’t ruin Christmas with stupid questions like this. For some reason when it comes to my dad, or maybe because it’s my dad, my mom’s gift radar goes haywire. This has led to some very interesting presents, two of which were: 1.The telescope. I know movies, such as A Walk to Remember (which works better than Sleepasil), like to romanticize telescopes. We’ve had more than one telescope and I’m telling you they’re incredibly difficult to operate. Leave them to the observatories. So my mom gives my dad this huge telescope for Christmas, and my dad is practicing his best poker face – which has never been really good. A few days later we tried the telescope. I don’t think we ever took it out again. I think my dad gave it to the first science prodigy he bumped into. 2.The Magic Sing. The only thing magical about ours is that my mom actually thought my dad would be happy. My dad calls this my mom’s gift to herself disguised as a gift to him. I think he only used it once – on Christmas day – just so my mom wouldn’t be upset that he didn’t like her gift. My dad is a lot simpler than most people think. One of his favorite gifts being a Man from Snowy River refrigerator magnet my mom found. And of course the best gift he’s ever gotten ever is my mom. Well… God… …then my mom. A Christmas Lesson You never really learn something, you never really understand, until you experience something first hand. The word experience comes from the experientia or the word “test”. And that’s what a lesson is, an experience, a test, that teaches you something through either proving or disproving something. There was a time when my father had lost his business, we had to move into a much smaller house, had to get rid of our cars and really most of our stuff. Christmas, like for everyone else, was usually a big event for our family but this year we really didn’t have any money so the nicely wrapped giant boxes were missing from under a smaller tree, and the turkey was a big chicken with misplaced gravy (that’s another story). But even as we downscaled what Christmas was to me, God was setting up a backdrop for one the greatest lessons I would ever learn. He had to remove the trappings, the traps we fall into, that distract us from Him. Having very little resources, my mom decided that our Advent would consist of a walk around our tiny village – which was one small circle. My brothers and I were complaining of the flies and having to walk, actually, I think I was the only one complaining. I was such a grumbler looking back. When we got back to the house we realized we had left the keys inside. We were locked out. So there we were sitting on the curb, my dad, my brothers, me, and my mom, who was still trying to turn everything into a lesson. I think Joe’s, mine, and Joshua’s minds were thinking “Be quiet”, “Shut up”, ‘Candy” respectively. Then my mom said: “Maybe this is how Joseph and Mary felt being locked out of every inn. Imagine what they were going through. And Mary was pregnant. This is what we do to Jesus when we don’t let Him into our lives.” Years later to today, I still remember her lesson, but I think I’ve realized something deeper. More tragic than what we do to Jesus when we don’t let Him reside in our heart, is what we do to our lives – we leave it a dark empty shell with no light and no life. This the great lesson I’ve learned, the Christmas message experienced first hand as a kid, that even as my mind grumbles at the state of my balance sheet, and worries at my evaporating cashflow, my heart rejoices in peace that the light of the world has brought me life.
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