Fireworks in the Dark    

Every 4th of July, besides the fact that people celebrate Independence Day, the firework display has always been a major picture to behold. We often hear children ask when the fireworks will begin. And as any knowledgeable adult who has at least a good understanding of contrast between colors and light would say that the display of magnificent colors in the sky would start when it’s dark enough for the light. And as the sun finally bids goodbye to the glorious day, and as the blackness of the night empowers the land, spectators wait and wait patiently. Soon, the dances of lights fly up in the sky, zipping through the night with its magnificent colors, gliding carelessly in the horizon.

As I think it through and deeply enough, I am in awe of what that scene has to symbolize in a different context of our lives. The fabric of society is indeed intertwined with the mysteries of life. We just have to wear the right lens to see it. In one way, I see life mirror the fireworks—from the preparation to the actual display, from the anticipation stage to the big show! During the downpour of problems and struggles, moments when we can barely breathe because life’s complexities are just not letting up, the time when we almost quit and throw in the towel, these are the periods in time comparable to the coming of the night. Sometimes, the fading of lights from the horizon is slow, but we know it’s very consistent. This is the first category and somehow it gives us the time to somewhat “prepare,” but this only happens when we are still and brazenly locked at the majestic sun fading in the distant. The first category represents the obstacles that we expect as we traverse life. We acknowledge their presence and we somehow know the darkness is about to behold the land, but even with that, we can barely say that we’re really prepared. At times, we don’t’ even recognize the darkness embracing the land. We do not have time to sit still and wait because we are all caught up with all activities that life has thrown at us. Most of us fall in this second category. We are caught up with life itself that we do not see the sun fade in the distant. The second class represents moments in our lives that are unexpected; unexpected struggles and mountains that suddenly appeared before us with little to no warnings at all.

But it doesn’t matter whether we fall in either category, because the darkness will have to come upon us all. Soon, when the sun finally let go of its power, and the breeze and majesty of the blackness arrives, the land will soon be in the mercy of darkness, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. It has to come because it’s the natural progression of time. Afraid we might be, it’s okay! It’s the first reaction. The real battle ensues and we all have to play our part. The difference between failing and succeeding, however, lies in how we use our resources — when we know how to navigate through the darkness even with little light that comes from our surrounding, our odds of winning increase exponentially. The first thing we have to consider is the lens we’re using. When we put on the armor of Godly wisdom, we can expect to see the glory of the Lord that is always at reach. We may feel lost and confused during the darkest days of our lives but while we all stand in the darkness, figuring which ways to go, what path to follow, don’t ever forget the stars above and the moon that still provides light to show us the dentures of the land. Its light, even though is not as powerful and as bright as the sun, is enough for us to course through land. And as we trek the undefined and unchartered landscape of ups and downs of life, bear in mind that there is a purpose— for every step we take is a closing us all to our destination. Just go, move on, the path can also be winding, be wise in how you move your feet. It doesn’t hurt to look back at times, to see how far we’ve come. This too will motivate us. Walk straight and walk to His path. Hold your head high for He is guiding you. He is with us and He will always be with us. As we go up the mountains, our physical body might get tired and we might even have moments when we have to stop and catch our breath, instances when clouds cover the light; but don’t quit the trail just because our muscles ache and we have to stop periodically. Rest is good. But then, it’s not forever, at least not on earth. We have to move, for once we reach the top of the mountain, once we reach our destination, the view is going to be breathtaking.

Once we reach the destination, sit down, rest well, and wait for the lights to dance up in the air. The firework display is greatly viewed on top of the mountain— when the land has less or no light at all, and the sky is dark enough. The power of the Lord works at its mightiest in the dark, so don’t lose hope. Move on, and have the excitement in your heart. Fuel our hearts with the oil of anticipation. We too shall come and experience the beauty of the fireworks—for the colors and the mighty works of God are brighter at night!

 John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. “








A Thousand Years (Filipino Version) Walang Hanggan by Anjilou and Angel Flores

I. Puso ko’y tumitibok para sa iyo

Nangangamba man patuloy pa rin

Takot maglalaho

Ikaw lang sa puso ko

Gagawin ko, paglalaban kong pag-ibig mo

Naririto ako


Koro (Chorus)

  • Kaytagal kong hinintay pag-ibig mo
  • Pangamba’y mawawala sa piling mo
  • Walang hanggan, pag-ibig koy’y walang hanggan


II. Kagandahan mo ay di kukupas

Kalakasan ko’y galing sa iyo aking minamahal

Mga pagsubok malalampasan

Sa piling mo aking sinta ikaw lamang

Naririto ako


Video link:

An Ex-Mafia Boss Sharing God’s Word

Today is a very exciting Sunday in Restore Church. We’ve heard a very powerful message by the former ex-mafia boss Michael Franzese. We were on the edge of our sit as we listen to every word he said. He was one of the most notorious mob bosses of the 80s. After 10 years in prison, this former “Prince of the Mafia” is now a man on a mission for the King of Kings. He grew up as the son of the notorious Underboss of New York’s violent and feared Colombo crime family. Franzese was “one of the biggest money earners the Mob had seen since Al Capone” and the youngest individuals on Fortune magazine’s list of The Fifty Biggest Mafia Bosses, ranking #18, just five behind John Gotti. At his most affluent, he generated an estimated $5 to $8 million per week from legal and illegal businesses. It was a life filled with power, luxury and deadly violence.

He shared to us what their family went through as a kid and as he grow up hating the law enforcers, how they live the life under surveillance and the struggle of belonging to a mafia circle. Michael’s story is a modern-day Damascus Road experience, from his early days in the Mob and rise to power to God’s leading him to do the unthinkable: quit the Mob and follow Jesus. In fact, Nobody of Franzese’s rank had ever just walked away – and lived. Until now.

He gave up the mob lifestyle that he was used to initially for his love Camille but little did he know it was a divine set-up that will turn his life 180 degrees leaving his past behind and truly follow Jesus. What touched my heart the most was the time that he was thrown in “the hole” and kept isolated during most of the 3-year sentence in the prison cell. That was the worst time of his life, the very first time he felt hopeless and helpless but that was the time that he had a “one-on-one” encounter with God. After studying about 300 books about religion that was sent to him by his wife, he found the light in the Bible. He was able to reflect and God spoke to his heart. It was unexplainable how God changed his analytical thinking mind to a spiritual faith-filled one. Michael quoted “When you are at your worst, that is when God is at His best.” He can turn things around, He can make the most out of the worst situation we are in so we can hear from Him.

He is totally right when he said that the entire message of the bible is about forgiveness and redemption. He also emphasized that the sign of a real Christian is not to be perfect but ask for forgiveness for the sin committed and become better. We are going to sin but we have to keep in mind that God forgives all our sin. We can never be perfect but we can always become a better person than we were yesterday. Do not let the past haunt you because you are forgiven by God and born again. You can serve God regardless of your past mistakes because you are now a new creation in Him. If you feel unqualified to be used by God remember this: He tends to recruit from the PITS, and not the pedestal. Here are some examples: God found Gideon in a hole, Joseph in a prison cell, Daniel in a lion’s den and Paul in the midst of trouble. If you are at the worst time of your life and you thing that you are the worst person in the world, keep your head high because God is coming to rescue you. He will lift you out of the darkness and He will use you mightily for His Kingdom.

We do not need to live a mob life or experience a drastic change in our life so we can share a testimony or serve in God’s kingdom. May be you are called to share the gospel to one person that will eventually lead to his salvation. All of us are called by God to serve our purpose on earth. We are all a piece of God’s puzzle and we are all equally important. Are you ready to answer God’s call?

Remember these words from Michael Franzese “If you are not walking with God then, you are walking parallel to Him but at some point, it will intersect and you will encounter God.” 

Check his message: mob boss

Deconstructed to be Reconstructed

Note: This blog was written to share the message that we heard from Pastor Jess this morning. This is a very powerful, moving and timely Word. 

In Tough Times, Praise Him MORE…

Written last April 21,2011 @ Sinai Hospital 

During my 7 days stay in Sinai Hospital, I had a great encounter with God. He has given my heart a new song. Last March 20, 2011 when I lead the worship team the Lord impressed this verse in my heart (I shared with the congregation) “In ALL circumstances give thanks to the Lord for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” from  1 Thessalonians 5:18. It was easy to praise the Lord when we are in a good situation but when tough times come we sometimes forget to praise and thank Him. My husband said “Tough times call for tough prayers” and I totally agree. The Lord also taught me that “In good times, praise Him and in tough times, praise Him MORE” and He put a new song in my heart.


(April 18,2011 6:30 am-6:45 am)

When I am in good condition

I thank the Lord, I praise the Lord

For I know His love surround me.

You are my Abba Father, I praise you.

Chorus: O Lord I hungry for Your words,

I long to be in Your presence.

My heart and soul praise You alone.

In times I feel like falling,

In times I feel so weak,

When the problems are overwhelming,

You remind me to praise You more.

Chorus: O Lord I hungry for Your words,

I long to be in Your presence.

My heart and soul praise You more.

PS. My papa Pastor Henry Alim tells us: “In good times, praise Him.In bad times,do the same.”

I love teaching because it’s my L.I.F.E.

L- Love

Without love in my heart I will never survive the challenges of teaching in America. I am a Filipino math teacher and I started teaching in America last 2006. After 5 years of teaching in the Philippines, I accepted a teaching job offer from Baltimore City through a teacher exchange program. Teaching in the US is one of the biggest decisions in my life because I have to leave my family who is at least 8,600 miles away from me to live alone by myself in a foreign land but I love teaching and I want to gain new experiences and insights to help me grow professionally.

I know that teaching in the US, especially in the inner cities, will be very different from what I used to have (where students have respect and high regards to teachers) but I believe that if I love what I do and if I let my students feel the love I have for them I will be a good teacher or may be a great teacher. It is the love that I pour out in planning the lessons, finding creative and innovative ways to teach Math, inspiring and challenging the students to do their best in Math and in life. As I let love rule in my heart, I can help hopeless students do Math, forgive disobedient students, be patient with difficult students and genuinely care for students inside and outside the classroom. It is love- that will keep me going when I face tough times, when I feel like giving up and when I feel so stressed out. I always look back and remember the “love” and passion I have in teaching and that I consider it my very own mission in this life.



“You never know when or how greatly your words and actions will impact someone else.” As a teacher, we have the opportunity to inspire and touch the lives of our students. What mark do we want to leave in our students’ hearts and minds?

I always try to encourage my students to reach their maximum potential inside and outside the classroom. I challenge them so they can realize that there’s more than what they thought they could do. In my 13 years of teaching, I am experiencing the fruit of my labor and the sweet reward of teaching. I have students who thanked me through Facebook, email or text message because I have touched their lives in one way or another. One of them said that she never thought she would be a very good leader until I gave her a chance and told her she had the potential to be one. Another one said that he became interested and loved math because I made it fun to learn math. I am so blessed to see my students succeed in their chosen field. It feels so great that I am part of their molding process to be the best person that they can be.


F- Fun

Teaching can be very exhausting- meetings, professional developments, countless hours of working at home to prepare lessons, grade papers, contact parents and tons of paperwork. Guess what? With the overwhelming demands of this profession 24 hours a day will never be enough but in spite of it all, flexible teachers still see the “fun” in teaching. Fun is relative from one teacher to another. Some teachers consider it fun when a well-planned activity goes smoothly, or when a group of struggling students master a skill, or when the students learn through a game, or when the students discover what they are supposed to learn or it is fun when learning beyond the four corners of the classroom takes place.

I consider myself a modern teacher. I try different ways to teach a certain skill. I consider it fun when I see that students solve on their own or when we do fun activities like measuring the real objects in the classroom and finding the perimeter, area and volume, exploring geometric figures, play different games for probability lessons, calculating the circumference and area of different circular food then, eat and celebrate Pi day (March 13) after all the math hard work, math around the world (stations with different math problems with real facts from different countries), roller coaster project, doing exit tweets and a lot more. There are countless ways to make the subjects that we are teaching fun and exciting. There are interactive websites, apps and professional learning communities that can help us teachers plan to make learning fun for our students and teaching fun for ourselves.


E- Excellence

As the saying goes “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” We always remind our students to strive for excellence and to be in their A game. People might be thinking that teachers are delighted when the result of classwork, quizzes and exams are 100’s but do you know that a 70 may be equal to 100 sometimes? If a teacher working with students who have learning disabilities, that 70% might be the best that they can get and it will feel as great as a 100%. Don’t get me wrong…it is important to pass the tests and to get good grades but test scores and grades do not define learning. It is not just the concepts learned; but the learning process and the application of it is what really matter.

I remember a student  in  8th grade who could barely add or subtract single digit numbers. He stayed after school for coach class and sometimes lunch time to learn how to solve equations. After all his hard work, he got an 80% in his test and I rejoiced with him. I told him that he was an excellent student. After some more practice, he was able to solve 2 step equations and he even got 100’s. It was such a wonderful moment to see the joy in his eyes as he received his graded work. He couldn’t wait to show it to his mom.

As we remind our students to strive for excellence, we  teachers must also do the same and strive to be a good role model for our students as we make choices and decisions to cope with the demands of our profession and every day life.

I love teaching because it’s my L.I.F.E.

…and I can never image myself doing something else.    IMG_6299

What Makes a Christian Marriage Work? by Anjilou and Angel Flores

It is always a mystery that in a world with billions of people, two unique individuals find each other, fall in love and get married. In our ever-changing world where keeping families together has become a constant struggle, we sometimes wonder how love can still survive and how marriage can still work; but we don’t need to worry because we know that the God who loves us so much is also the God of our marriage.  Having God in the center of our marriage eliminates our fear of failing marriage. The Love Triangle reveals God’s design for marriage as detailed in Ephesians 5:22-33. Husbands learn what it means to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and wives understand the importance of submission to their husbands. The more the couple gets closer to God, the more they will be closer to each other. The more we love God, the more we will love our spouses.

Marriage is not a matter of compatibility, but it’s a matter of commonality– having God as the common denominator in your life and mutual admiration to each other. Here are some tips from Christian couples who enjoy the Christian marriage adventure together:

 1. Put God in the center of your marriage – make sure to spend time praying, meditating God’s Word and worshipping God together. One couple said, Joining bible study groups, fellowshipping with Christian friends, maintaining individual quiet time with the Lord early in the morning each day, lifting up to God our plans and desires, these are some of the things the we put in place to support the growth in our marriage. Time might be an issue, but we make “time” for it! Putting God in the center in our marriage is a decision that we have made earlier, and we have to be religious about it.”image

2. Spend time together, date and surprise each other – there are plenty of ways to spend quality time together like strolling around the park, jogging or exercising together, sipping a cup of coffee or tea at home together, grabbing a videoke/ karaoke and singing, turning on the Xbox or Wii and dancing to the groove of whatever music, going out on a movie date, celebrating special days like birthdays and wedding anniversaries, writing notes and love letters, sending a card, a text message or an email, composing a song or a poem, giving gifts like flowers, chocolates— something that will make him/her happy and surprised. Even with the demand of children around, couples need to make time for themselves.

 3. When having a fight, at least one must stay cool- one couple said  “Silent treatment but civil to each other in front of the kids when we’re mad at each other then we talk about the issue later on when we’ve cooled off; we don’t raise our voices to each other even if we are arguing.”  A personality or preference talk can be helpful. Couples need to understand their limitation and boundaries; talk about how both of you would handle conflict ahead of time, if one needs some space, talk about it. Don’t just storm out without prior agreement. When discussion is set ahead of time, couples are aware of what to expect when conflicts arise.

4. Honest and open communication – be transparent to each other, from simple questions like “how’s your day?” to deeper conversations like  “what are we going to do with this problem?”. One couple said, “ We have undergone a lot of trials in our 37 years of marriage, and we have learned a lot because of proper communication. We make sure that we listen to each other’s idea and opinions. We make decisions together especially when it comes to our children.” Telling your partners the truth means avoiding future conflicts; however, you must be sensitive to your language and tone. Again, it is not all about what you say, but how you say it that oftentimes matters to the discussion. So be very cognizant about your words! Yes, we want you to be honest, but you have to be like an engineer who constructs a building from a preplan blueprint. You should know your goal and how you would achieve that goal!

5. Read good books for self and relationship improvement- one couple said “ we read books to enrich us as whole persons”. Reading widens our understanding about God, prayer, marriage, family, communication, business and life. Think reading as a continuous process for discoveries; like explorers learning more and more as new terrain is discovered. As we read, we learn more things about ourselves and our surroundings; as we read, we give ourselves a chance for enrichment through the wisdom from people who have had the experience and eventually learn from them. Now, how you enjoy the new things you both will learn can be intimidating at times. New learning can only be in two ways, either you enjoy the new learning and readjust your current mode of living or dispose, reject it because you don’t agree with it. No matter how you would like to treat the new discovery, you must have an intended purpose.  Your end goal is for enrichment, and stick with it. Also, it is important that you get good reading materials from trusted sources. Join a book club or read reviews about the book you’re about to read. The quality of reading is as important as the quality of sources.

6.  Intimacy and enjoying sex as God intends it to be (and lots of surprises that come with it) take time to cuddle each other, hold hands, hug and kiss. Ask your spouse what makes him/her happy in bed. One couple said, “We share our thoughts in bed.” This might not be as easy as it seems for most couples, particularly when you have not made it a habit yet to talk about things. But one good start is to just play about it or make fun of it. Try to be casual and not serious, but subtly get your message across. You know your spouse and you should know how to get them on board. It is a process. Will it happen overnight? Definitely not! But you have to start at some point.

 7. Lots of God’s grace and forgiveness – know how to compromise and forgive each other, not being hysterical nor historical, avoid digging the past mistakes. This is a common problem with all marriages; oftentimes, we catch ourselves looking back to the past mistakes because a similar event has occurred recently. This is very dangerous because we are blinded by the past mistakes that aggravate the present crisis. Be very forgiving and focus on the good side, avoid making unnecessary strings that will only dampen both of your spirit; if you were to look back, look behind good things. This will lighten up the load, or better yet, decide earlier what you want to achieve when the talk is over. Do not be confrontational, if you want to clarify some things, ask with a purpose. In order to achieve harmony even with conflicts is to have self-control. This can be a frightening experience, but with constant practice, it can be very rewarding as you both get experience on how to handle conflicts, and how you get into the habit of not asking too many questions but show more of a forgiving spirit.

8. Greet each other with a smile – start the day greeting each other “Good morning & I love you” and end the day with “Good night & I love you.” This might be too simplistic, but we should not undermine the positive effect of a smile and words of affirmation of love. On a bad day, a simple smile coupled with “I love you” is like saying subtly “It is going to be alright! I’ll be here for you!” That makes a big difference. Again, this takes some time to develop especially with personality differences, but with practice, it’ll be second nature! But a word of caution: you must not do this haphazardly, rather be genuine about it!

 9. Know who & what matters most – in today’s world we are surrounded by a lot of distractions, one couple said “We always have a family night with kids: we put our money together and get from the same- meaning we have a common fund; we don’t assign household chores, we do them voluntarily; family bonding comes first over household chores.” With the ever-increasing demands in our workplace, we sometimes forget why we work so hard anyways, and that is for our family. Oftentimes, our jobs dictate how much time we devote with our families. Now, jobs are important, but they should not hold the string especially with our families. As much as possible, work at work, don’t bring it at home! Your home is not an extension of your workplace; treat your home as a sanctuary and bringing work is a sacrilege!

10. Respect and serve each other– accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses, always be thankful to God in all circumstances. Serve each other by doing household chores. Know and honor each other’s love language- words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service or physical touch. One spouse said His love language is the acts of service so I try to do stuffs for him like ironing his clothes, cooking for him (it’s really challenging coz he cooks better than me), and mine’s love language is receiving gifts, so he makes sure that he gives gifts on my birthday and Christmas. He never fails to give flowers and chocolates on our anniversary.”

 11. Serve God together – use your talents and skills in serving the Lord; take part in the church ministry together.  Express your love for God through tithes, offering your time and talents to serve the community. Serving God together eliminates the “time issue” in many ways. Now, some might have difficulties as couples have different preferences; the most important thing is you talk about it. Discuss and agree on things together. When you put God as the center of your marriage and you both know that you love your spouses secondary to God, then you eliminate “jealousy” in many ways.  When both of you serve God, you strengthen your marriage exponentially by the binding love of God.

 12. Laugh and play together- be a kid sometimes and play together, chase each other around the house or outside, play games, find a sport that you are both familiar or you’re both inclined to, have a good sense of humor, crack some good jokes and be happy.

13. Be selfless– true love is always ready to sacrifice and give way to push our partner’s dreams and goals in life even if it means setting aside ours. One couple said, “We always bring out the best in each other.”

 14. Always remember the first time you fall in love with your spouse- the only constant thing in life is change and whether we like it or not our spouses will change over time, when the change is uncomfortable or inconvenient we always look back to that very first time that we fall in love with our spouses.

15. Never argue about money – it is important to share responsibilities in finances. Remember we can always replace the money lost but a broken heart will leave a permanent mark. Money is not evil, but the act of making it more important than our marriage is evil in itself. Money can be a powerful tool to strengthen our marriage, if you have the means, then do extraordinary things for your spouse; but if you don’t, don’t worry, it’s not all about money! The most important thing is to have an open communication and understand that money is not your marriage!

No marriage is perfect because we are not perfect as individuals but God’s love helps us overcome the trials that come our way. As God has never promised our married life to be easy, it will surely be tested. Let’s treasure God’s word in James 1:2-4 “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.  For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.”

Our marriage goes deeper and stronger as we overcome each and every obstacle in life. It is our faith in God and love for our husband or wife that will help our marriage work amidst all the trials and storms. “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:17


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