Magkano?

I heard it said the other day, “Every relationship is a transaction.” This expression caught my attention, and I have thought a lot about it. What the man who said those words went on to share was this, “In each relationship, you are either giving or taking.”

In my lifetime, I have been in a lot of different types of relationships. Working relationships, family relationships, friendships, general acquaintances, and marriage to name just a few. So what the man was saying was that in each one of those relationships, one was giving and one was taking, or at least some percentage of both.

Was I the giver? Or was I the taker? Or somehow did I manage the relationship to give and take? Did I take more than I gave? In some of those encounters with those individuals was I fair? Was I ever starving for so much that I partook first before considering the other’s needs?

I know me and in full disclosure, I have to consciously make an effort to stop talking and purposely make myself ask the other person questions about them. I like to talk, I like to tell stories, after all, I am a writer. But there are times when it is best to not say a word about me, and to listen, to inquire, and show that I care about them.

Jesus certainly was a giver in every relationship. He gave comfort, hope, and teachings on how to live an abundant life, and He still does! He also gave his life so that we may live eternally with Him in heaven.

Are you a giver, or a taker? Magkano (ma-con-o) in Tagalog (language of the Philippines) means “how much?” A phrase I learned to ask my tricycle driver when he would taxi me into town, or back home. It wasn’t long for the local ones to not answer me when I asked them, “Magkano?” I think word had gotten out that the American who had married April Joy Santiago Cruz was generous, and he would often pay more than the actual cost. This was a good reputation to have.

Be a giver. When meeting someone, ask yourself on the inside, magkano? Meaning how much is this going to cost me? You may have a lot of untold stories pent up inside, but investing in another person is always a good investment to make. They will certainly be richer for it, and in many ways, so will you! This will be a good reputation to have.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Flakes of God

As this past Christmas was April’s first in America, she was just as excited when she heard we could have snow. Growing up in the Philippines it would be her first time to see it, feel it, and see its beauty as it covers the ground. As I witnessed her enthusiasm I thought of people who have heard about God, but have never seen him, or felt his presence.

I have known some people that seem to stay on the fringes of God. They might even hear that God is at a certain location doing marvelous signs and wonders, but despite their own need for him, they won’t go.  They might need a healing, a place to live, or a job, but it’s as if they would rather continue to struggle and hurt on their own then accept Him, and truly know what real living is all about.  They settle for only “flakes of God”. They have never sensed his presence or have experienced the peace of his Spirit, and they have no idea how beautiful it is when their sins have been covered as white as snow.

Come now and let’s deliberate over the next steps to take together.
Yahweh promises you over and over:
“Though your sins stain you like scarlet,
I will whiten them like bright, new-fallen snow!
Even though they are deep red like crimson,
they will be made white like wool!” Isaiah 1:18 (TPT)

I heard this morning there is a chance of snow later this week. Hopefully this next front coming through will generate some accumulation instead of only flakes, or flurries, and perhaps provide enough snow so April can learn how to make a snowman, or a snow angel. I’m forecasting there is a move of God coming soon. I sense He wants to make himself known.  He wants to heal, He wants to rule and reign in the life of those who love him. I pray for those who have not ever experienced God in a personal way will seek him, and know for themselves what it is like to have their sins forgiven, and be white as snow.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

My First Christmas in America

by April Joy Brady (Mark’s wife)

This is my first Christmas in America.  My previous ones have been in my home country of the Philippines.  People’s attitudes here toward Christmas are a lot different than there.  It seems as if some of the people are forgetting the real reason for Christmas.  Some even go as far as to remove “Christ” from the word Christmas with “X-mas”.  It makes me wonder if they have removed Christ from their hearts as well.  I’m not trying to be judging, it would be difficult not to be that way growing up here in America, with constantly being bombarded with TV ads and popular culture.

This season here seems to be more about parties, gifts, and where to spend the holiday.  When in the Philippines, where resources don’t flow so freely, Christmas tends to be much simpler, and we are happy to get to see family and share a simple meal, and laugh.  There is a lot of laughter back home.  I imagine Jesus’s first Christmas was simple as well.  Mary and Joseph adoring their new born son, lying still in a feeding trough with some hay, and perhaps an animal’s covering over him.  A far cry from a beautiful wooden crib from Ashley Furniture with blankets from Macys!

I think I have been blessed to have my previous life and Christmas’ in the Philippines.  I hope in the years to come I do not stray too far from my roots, especially when it comes to the attitude of what Christmas really is, or supposed to be about.

I will enjoy the time spent with my husband and the gifts he has bought for me as well as the other gifts from friends and coworkers, but in my heart I will be in Bethlehem, humming, “Away in the Manger”.

Merry Christmas everyone.  May Christ fill your hearts with his love.

April

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

The April Effect

As most of my regular readers know, my wife April is now here with me in America as her immigration visa finally arrived.  In the past three weeks, she has been here, not only have I introduced her to life in America, and our foods, but also our conveniences.  It has been an enjoyable experience for me.

One such highlight was when we went through an automatic car wash.  You have thought we were at Disneyland and it was a ride.  Like “Mr. Toad’s Moving Lilly Pad”, or something.  She smiled, she laughed, and squealed through each phase of the process.  Evidently they don’t have them in the Philippines, or she had never seen one before.

But an even greater experience, for me at least, has been watching how my friends, and family members have reacted to her.  I have taken notice how easily they open up, and start sharing with her.  They warm up to her quickly and seem to feel comfortable around her, as if she was their “comfy” clothes they wear when at home.  One friend even said to her, “I feel as if I have known you all my life!”  Of course I smile with adoration when I witness this phenomenon.

Yesterday though I started thinking more about why this was the case.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out.  Okay, to be honest, I probably got a download from the Holy Spirit whispered into my mind.  God, is love. (1 John 4:8)  And my wife, April is a child of God.  She loves him very much and has taken on his character of loving people.  So whether people realize it or not they are responding, or reacting to the love of God in my wife’s heart.

I believe with strong passion that from the time a baby is born, the spirit man inside that child starts on a journey to be reunited with God.  So when a person enters their world, the spirit inside of them recognizes the Spirit of God inside the person who just entered, and they connect with the person easily.

This “effect” begs the question, shouldn’t all, who have a good relationship with God, seek and desire more of him and his love?  So when we are out and about in the world people will open up to us sooner, and easier and begin to have serious conversations that can eventually lead to God and potentially lead them to God?  Of course, the answer is, “Yes”.  What hinders this to happen is us.  We get in the way of God with our “rights” and our own “understanding” and “values”.  Ones that should be disregarded perhaps, or lined up to confirm to God’s “values”, and truths.

“Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you,but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.” Rom. 12:2 (TPT)

So, in conclusion, “The April Effect” isn’t really her, but what is happening when people encounter her is “The God Effect”.  May we all grow, in our hearts, an enormous amount of the love of God that it effects people.  It moves them closer to him then where they were before we entered their world.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Road Construction

At the entrance to my subdivision there is road construction.  I can only exit and enter by going one way while they upgrade the infrastructure, water, electric, and sewer that runs along the road, or under it.  Then, they will put down a new road, with new lane stripes and new signs.  They say it will take 6 months to complete.  It has already been two and a half.

If that wasn’t enough to endure, they have torn up a major highway interchange just blocks from the road I mentioned above.  It is reported to take two years to finish.  The officials say, “Go slow.  Proceed with caution.  Be patient.  It will be worth it in the end.”

As I have shared in previous posts, I married a Filipino woman in 2019.  Soon after the wedding, we worked with an immigration attorney to get the process started to bring my wife to America.  I lived in the Philippines for several months until I needed an eye procedure.  We discussed the situation and felt it was best if I came back to America to have it done here.  Thinking her immigration process wouldn’t take that long and she would follow me here shortly.  It seemed as if they had missed placed her file and then shortly after they started working on her case, Covid hit.

At the time of this writing, my wife is still not here with me.  There have been lots of conversations with God about the process and questions of, “Why is it taking so long?”  Walking with God in life is definitely a journey.  As we are now getting toward the end of the immigration process I can look back and see with greater understanding.  I can see how God has updated power lines in our lives making sure that in the future we look to him for uninterrupted power to live by.  He has put in a new sewer system to remove the waste and potentially toxic aspects of our personalities away safely and quickly.  My wife compares my temper to passing gas.  She says, “It stinks at first, but it doesn’t last long.”  She has learned to let me vent and then we can return to our regularly scheduled life already in progress.

If God didn’t take the time to pour new pavement in our lives we would be traveling with him on dirt, and when the storms come get bogged down in mud.  Yuk!  If he only put down stones travel would be easier but it would be a bumpy and rough ride.  Not enjoyable at all.  But God has used the time, while waiting for her immigration to be completed, to put down nice smooth pavement.  When the final touches are completed my wife and I will be able to come and go quickly in any direction with ease.  We will be able to see the lanes we should stay in so we avoid head on collisions and harm.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

Yes, walking with God is difficult at times, and it is hard to see what He is doing, because some improvements are below the surface. At times it’s hard to understand why it is taking so long, but He would say, “Go slow.  Proceed with caution.  Be patient.  It will be worth it in the end.”

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

A New Chapter

America.  She changed today.  Maybe the reality is, she changed a long time ago from the innocent days I once knew, but this truth is obvious today.  I grew up in Oklahoma, in a middle class family that somehow, always seem to have enough and then some.  I watched as my parents made good decisions and choices who worked hard for what they wanted.  “The American Dream”.  I believed in this dream and I too sought it out.  I wanted to own my own house, well after paying 30 years of payments.  I desired a good job, a loving wife, 2.5 kids, one of each sex, and to be a happy family.

The truth is, it took me 35 years to buy the house that will be mine in 26 and 1/2 years.  I have two kids, one of each sex, who don’t talk to me, and, their mother divorced me after she made a huge mistake, but convinced everyone our marriage failed solely due to me.  As a result, my biological family doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, so you could say I don’t have the happy family I desired.  Many Christmas days have been spent filling the empty stocking with tears.

After years of checking the “Divorced” box on forms I met and then married a Filipino woman.  I thought perhaps now I would get the happy family I desired.  You know what?  There are cynical, greedy, lying family members in all cultures, but the woman I married is the exception to a few members of her own family.  I have written about it a few times; my wife lives out God’s definition of love.

After our wedding, I was with her for seven months in the Philippines, until I needed a medical procedure, so I left her there thinking immigration wouldn’t take that long and she would come to America on my heels.  There was some delay in the process, but as we were reaching the finish line Covid hit.  Another year without her, another moist Christmas day.  A lot of crying out to God, and asking, “Why?”  The big three set in: Discouragement, Disappointment and yes, even Depression.  As I crawled through those dark days way down, deep inside me, was a mustard seed of faith that was whispering, “God knows what He is doing.”  In full disclosure, my mind was asking, “Are you sure?”

January 7th, we received an email stating my wife has her long awaited interview with the U.S. embassy in Manila.  LIGHT pierced our darkness.  I wanted to wait to share this until she was actually here, but someone needs to read these words now.  We are hoping we will be together by Valentine’s Day.  What a time to reunite our love for each other and for our God who loves us beyond belief.

When my wife is in our home in Oklahoma a new chapter of our lives together will begin.  Unfortunately, she will never know the “America” I grew up in.  Today, those with money want more, and those who “think” they have power want total control.  I sense days may be coming that perhaps will not be comfortable.  Standing up for what is true, for what is right could prove to be difficult.  There will most likely be a separation of those who have a solid relationship with God from those who were pretending, because in the America I grew up in, it was popular to say you were a “Christian”, but not anymore.

Yes a new chapter will be starting soon in my life, but also a new chapter in the life of America.  Our country’s slogan, printed on our currency, may no longer be, “In God We Trust”. Sometimes I wonder who is really holding the pen, writing each chapter.  As for my life, I want God to, because whether I understand his ways or not, He does know what He is doing!

Isaiah 55:8-11(MSG)

8-11 “I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
        God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
    so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
    and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
    and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
    producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
    not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
    they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Good, But Best

good, better and best word written by 3d hand“The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough.” (Oswald Chambers – My Utmost for His Highest – May 25)

Confused?  Let me explain.

We can be confident, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]”. 2 Tim. 1:7 (AMP)

Therefore, with our free will, we should be able to make good, sound, decisions for our own lives.  I felt like I had done that.  I retired from AT&T, at the age of 55, and instead of buying an RV and traveling, I decided to move back to my home town to take care of my father, to write, and occasionally speak publically.  I was happy with these good, sound decisions.

Not my will, but thine be done.

Life was, and would have remained good, but I always yield my choices and decisions to God.  Before my father passed, not long after I had moved back, we had some great moments fishing again.  (Not to tell a fish story, but we managed to “keep” 167 fish in only 3 outings.)  I bought a house I really enjoyed living in.  I was getting used to my new, good life, but God wanted “his best life for me”.  (Kind of sounds like something Joel Osteen would say.)

You see, I had been divorced for 24 years.  I kind of wanted to be married again, but was content being single.  Looking back, I see all the people God had put in front of me to work on my heart toward marriage.  One Friday I found myself filling out a profile on a dating website.  I submitted it and there she was.  From all of the women presented, the one, who would later become my wife, stood out.  I could see the love of God radiating from her postage stamp size photo.

To make a long story short, I contacted her, we texted, then talked, and then video chatted via Messenger.  I went to the Philippines to visit her and the family.  One month after returning home from the trip, I put everything in storage, rented my house out, and moved there to marry her.  It has not been a “cake walk”, but we always had love to build on.

While waiting for her immigration process to be completed, we have grown together, and lately started dreaming about our future.  There are several things beginning to open up, and reveal to us the will of God, for us, as a couple.  I love it!

You see, I could have continued to be single and have a good life, but because I surrendered my will to God, I am now living the best life I could ever have.  I thank God for loving me so much.  And ya know what?  He loves you too, just as much!

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Problem or Opportunity?

Charlie 777I ordered an item from Kohl’s.  I was looking forward to its arrival as it was going to be a gift for someone I love, a lot!  (My wife!  Who were you thinking of?  By the way, don’t tell her because she doesn’t know.)  Can you feel my disappointment when it didn’t arrive on the promised date(s)?  I tracked it, and learned it couldn’t be delivered for some reason, not disclosed to me.  So the item was sent back.

Was I mad?  No, but not happy about the situation either.  I like things to go smooth, and I am allergic to “problems”.  I looked on Kohl’s website to see what could be done when the bill arrives, but the package doesn’t.  I found an 800 number.  I called and John answered. (Name changed to protect the loved.)  John listened and then looked to see what he needed to do to resolve the “problem”.  While he was working, I mentioned living in the Philippines.  John said, “That’s where I am right now.”  Yes, Kohl’s has a call center in Manila.

When John informed me of his whereabouts, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me.  I said, “John, can I put you on my prayer list?”  He agreed that was okay, but asked why..  I answered by saying, “John, I sense you have an issue going on in your life right now that bothers you, or is hurting you.”  “I do,” John said.  I continued, “God knows it, and He wants you to know how much He loves you.  He loves you so much John, that He allowed me to have a “problem”, so you would have an “opportunity”, to know He sees you and how much He loves you.  My missing package was no accident!”  John was receptive.

If we, who believe in God, will stop complaining about “problems”, and look for “opportunities” for God to show his mighty hand, it would change our attitude, and a result of a changed attitude is it could change the life of someone else and change the world.  Isn’t that what Jesus called us to do?

NOTE:  Did you happen to notice Kohl’s very own tag line?  “Expect great things”.  What a statement of faith!

Copyright © 2019 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

My Last Stop

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Living in the Philippines, for the last six months, has taught me a lot!  More than I could have ever imagined.  I have observed, and recorded in my mind the people, their lives, their world.  I foresee, one of these days, the residents here showing up in a story somewhere.

I have tried my best to settle in, and get comfortable, which is difficult when you are a pampered American.  I have done what I could to fit in, but looking so different than them, some wouldn’t let me.  Like today, at the time of this writing, I was cursed and the old woman made a spitting motion at my feet three times.  I’m not saying I know racism in its fullest now, like some do in America, but I have experienced a taste of it, and it doesn’t taste too good.  On the flip side, I have made friends, who call out my name whenever they see me out on the streets.  That’s a good feeling no matter where you live!

As I made this place home, there were days I was jolted when the realization hit me, Mark, this is not your home.  You’re an alien, a sojourner.  Just passing through, for a specific time and purpose.  For that matter, America is not my home either.  I’m an alien there as well, just passing through for a specific time and purpose.

So where is my residence?

“So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” Ephesians 2:19 (ASV)

After I accepted Jesus, my forwarding address was in heaven, God’s kingdom.  As a residence of that land, I have full rights to everything the kingdom of God offers.  I’m an heir to the King of Kings.  I fit in.  Everyone is accepted, no matter how weird they are on earth.  Racism doesn’t exist!  With nothing but love there, I am making heaven, my last stop.

Copyright © 2019 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

A Casual Christian?

coldIn my last blog, I mentioned being in the Philippines. On that trip, one thing that really caught me off guard, was how hard it was to try to blend in. For instances, when in a grocery store I was looking for chili to put on hot dogs. They took me to the hot sauce isle. Then trying to speak their language was a disaster most of the time. They have a phrase there when you are trying to speak a foreign language, and doing a poor job of it, your nose bleeds. My bled a lot! The most difficult part was trying to accept how they do things there. At times, it felt like a part of me was dying. To quote Seinfeld, “If the two worlds collide, the George you know, will no longer exist!”

Going through this experience made me think of someone trying to live for God, and trying to fit in with the world. It doesn’t work, and usually, someone will get hurt. You! As it turns out God doesn’t think too much of it either. In Rev. 3:16 it says that God would rather you be hot or cold. And if you insist on being lukewarm, He will spit you out of his mouth.

So this very day make a decision. Accept God, and live for him, or don’t. That way, people who encounter you will know what to expect from you. And if you try not to make that decision today, I assure you, as the days move closer to the last one, you will be forced to.

Copyright © 2018 Mark Brady, All rights reserved