Authentic power and external power: Trusting God and others

“AUTHENTIC power feels good. It is doing what you are supposed to be doing. It is fulfilling. Your life is filled with meaning and purpose. You have no doubts. You have no fears. You are happy to be alive. You have a reason to be alive. Everything you do is joyful. Everything is exciting. You look forward to each day and each night. Authentic power is different from external power. External power is the ability to manipulate and control. External power feels different from authentic power. It is trying to impress people, do the right thing, or succeed. It is trying to be better, smarter, stronger or more beautiful. External power comes and goes, like the value of your stock portfolio or the number of trees in your orchard. Pursuing it is a full-time job. It is hard to be more beautiful, wealthy, loving, intelligent, kind, or efficient than other people. Sooner or later, someone will be more beautiful, wealthy, loving, intelligent, kind, or efficient than you. Then they will have the external power. Creating authentic power is a full-time job, too, but it doesn’t depend on what happens outside of you. It depends on what happens inside.” — Gary Zukav, 2000.

At the Oscars, you can spot the actors who were trying to impress the next director they wish would cast them. They were self-conscious. They seemed to be adjusting their dresses all the time. Check them out closely and they were fretting and anxious. They spent many hours figuring out how to be the most beautiful and they need to be seen.

Yet, we all behave not unlike these actors at the Oscars. We act like them, worried how we are going to appear, wanting to make the best impression on others. We want to be noticed. We want to be adored. We want to wear the best accessories in the world. But, what does that really tell others about who we are?

How connected are we to our God? How connected are we to our own creative spirit?

Connection to God

Can you articulate the magic in your life? Magic not in terms of the hocus focus or the sleight of the hands or the flipping a hat to reveal a different object, but doors miraculously opened for you?

I had finished interviewing nine priests out of 10, a project assigned by Roger Oriel for the 25th anniversary of the Asian Journal. But the 10th priest was quite busy and elusive. I called twice, made contact, but still did not a confirm date for an interview.

But that week, that particular Sunday, I wanted to hear mass in Tagalog. Oh my, what God had in store for me, a door opened up. The priest whom I was trying to schedule an interview was saying the mass at 4 p.m., an impulse decision on my part to attend. I waited and at the end of the mass, he scheduled me for Tuesday.

Come Tuesday, I had a friend visiting from Japan. So, she came with me. We went to mass. No sign of the priest I was going to interview. I fretted, while even inside the church. We waited for a few minutes inside. No sign of him. Fifteen minutes later, we went to the patio. We waited some more. As we were about to walk back to my car, the priest arrived. He apologized, as the traffic was unpredictable.

We went to a nearby restaurant and had the most engaging conversation. I asked permission for my friend to be part of the interview, and he agreed. My friend even got to ask her own question about faith. He too shared his own God’s miracle. He was looking for a Japanese-speaking priest to minister to a largely Japanese speaking Catholic congregation. In a week, a Vietnamese priest walks in, who did his higher education in Japanese and knows how to speak Japanese. God opened doors for him too.

We all left happy, uplifted by our own stories of God’s miracles in our lives. I knew to simply rely on God, that if I offer whatever project I am working on, it would come to fruition, even an intended gift to our high school.

Generous spirits abound

A 50th high school reunion is coming up. How fitting it would be to not just attend the mass, eat, and share stories but to leave something behind for the nuns who educated us but also for the students to come. The chapel’s kneelers and pews were worn out, badly needing repair but with declining enrollment, nothing has been done for 25 years.

Not knowing what our collective group power yet, we opted for the easiest portion, the kneelers. We gathered up our resources, but some hesitated, constrained by their limited income.

I shared the story of Fr. Rodel’s Central American parishioners in Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (IHMC), refugees who survived the war and got to America with a few of their belongings, yet, handed over their precious jewelry to Fr. Rodel. He was grateful. But, as a priest, how do you convert them to renovate the floors? Lo and behold, a jeweler was attending mass, sitting in the back. She appraised the jewelry right after and gave Fr. Rodel its equivalent, $600. I also shared that the parishioners of St. Linus were hesitant to set a goal at first, yet exceeded their target last Christmas, in getting the pledges and funds for their church hall.

SRC’s batch 1967 acted quickly: one took photos of the worn out pews, the chapel, and the building. Another got estimates. One found a quality furniture reupholsterer, but cheaper even though she is based in the U.S. Another, based in the U.S., set up a crowdsourcing site.

In the middle of the project, we had not raised the needed funds. Instead of saying stop, we trusted God that funds will appear. One classmate not only supervised the work but even bought snacks for the workers. The nuns did the same.

We asked for an installment payment from the vendor/supplier, and not only did he agree, he lowered his contract price, opting less income for his business.

Lo and behold, two more donors came forward: one foundation exceeded the largest gift and a former teacher gave the final contribution. In 21 days, before Lent, the kneelers and pews were done, but not by our own efforts alone, but with American friends and supporters, and most of all, our total trust in one another and fully trusting our faithful God!

Each morning, we would open our Facebook accounts to see how much we raised and how much was done by workers in the Philippines. We would leave the site with a smile. We then became aware of our collective authentic power, the strength of solidarity for the larger common good. The chapel now has refurbished kneelers and pews, all by God’s grace and everyone’s generosity. The nuns are reportedly happy and eagerly await us.

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.

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