“Diway” By Leonard Oakes

Please Click on this link to hear the song: Diway 

Here’s a sample song I composed and arranged which I will be singing at the benefit concert for Northern Japan earthquake and Tsunami victims. This is without the percussions yet and other voices. please copy and paste above link. Thanks


By Leonard Oakes

 Sallidumma ay diway, salidumma ay diway

She carries Banga on her head, pounding rice for daily bread

while baby Diway sleeps with a blanket on her back

He wears Ba-ag around his waist, carries spear to hunt a prey

comes home late at night with a wild boar on his shoulder, singing

Dong-dong-ay si dong i lay, insina li dumma-ay

Diway turned 18 when she left dear town

to far away city she found another home

But life here in the city is nothing like home

it’s always been so busy she misssed dancing the pattong

Dong-dong ay si dong i lay, insina li dumma-ay

She took the plane bound home after 15 years

with a little baby girl and a blanket on her back

The whole tribe gathered ’round the fire

to celebrate love and life

drinking basi and rice wine while dancing the gangsa, singing

Dong dong ay si dong i lay, insina li dumma ay

Salidumma ay diway, salidumma ay diway

dong dong ay di dong ilay, insina li dumma ay

Second Sunday in Lent A 2011

Second Sunday in Lent 2011

John 3:1-17

HCSM March 20, 2011

The Gospel read today tells us about a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader and a member of the Sanhedrin who may have been reluctant to approach Jesus by night to ask about the truth of salvation. Recognizing Jesus as a teacher from God, he said, “No one can do this sign unless God is with him.” “Truly, truly I say to you,” rejoined Jesus, “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus curiously replied, “How can a man who is getting old, with wrinkles, possibly born anew? How can he go back into his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” Nicodemus, surely as a teacher, realized that Jesus is not talking about literal rebirth but was speaking figuratively. He must surely have known that being born anew means only a fresh start to a life. However, if we try to regard the passage with some care, perhaps the question that Nicodemus asked was much more profound than he realized: Can he go back a second time into his mother’s womb? For there is a sense in which this is just what a person can so easily tries to do. Let me try to expound that:


Allow me first to share with you what happened to me, to you and to all of us when were born.

For all of us, the event of birth has been so far the most important event in our lives. I hope that you don’t think that I am being indelicate in reminding you of what happened at our birth. For how can we possibly know what it means to be born again unless we know what it meant to us to be born at all?

The very reason that we don’t like thinking about our birth shows that we feel strongly about it. Indeed the evidence goes to show that many of us have buried deep in our unconscious minds the events of our birth. They are nearly always painful. During my clinical rounds as a student nurse at Kaiser Redwood city, I was stunned when I heard the words “Leonard!!! If had it not been because of you, I wouldn’t have been in so much pain like this” Screamed a woman in the delivery room trying to push the baby out of her womb. Then the baby came out crying. I thanked God that Leonard wasn’t me.


Let me draw your attention to two points in connection with our birth, and each case I would like to invite you to consider their relevance to spiritual rebirth.


First, to us, our birth must have been a trying experience. When we were born, we did nothing ourselves to assist our birth. It was not our own effort but the force of our mother’s muscles. We had to be pushed through a narrow passage into the light of day from being under pressure in a tight place. Many doctors have claimed that this experience was so vivid that it persists in our feelings later in life. Although of course we do not recognize it as such. When we are in a panic, we may be reliving the experience. When we are under pressure, we may feel that everything is closing in on us. We may experience breathlessness.  We may feel constrictions of movement. We may seem to be in a state of helplessness. It should be the same experience with spiritual rebirth. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself went into the same experience when he was forced by the spirit in the wilderness, almost as it were in spite of himself. And if this was true for Jesus, how true must it be for us if we are spiritually reborn! But people so often feel that they are only making progress in their spiritual life when everything seems to be going easily. If they feel emptiness, depression or panic, they usually feel like something might be wrong. It seldom occurs to them that. On the contrary, this may well mean that things are going right. This principle remains true for us all though we may differ in ways. Spiritual pressure prepares us for spiritual life.


The second point about our birth is that it was the end of a comfortable and sheltered existence. Before we were born, we lived effortlessly, cushioned and protected and fed by our mother. Indeed we were still part of our mother, so that we did not have to take upon ourselves the strains and stresses of an individual life. But after we were born, how different it was! A baby at birth is exposed for the first time to cold and heat, to pressure and roughness, to nice and nasty sensations. A baby at birth no longer has oxygen supplied free. He has to breathe in the cold air and his very first breath shocks him into a cry. I suppose the best commentary on our birth is that the first noise we uttered was a cry.

 “Ungeee” That’s our first word. “Well, had it not because of that midwife slapping my behind, I wouldn’t have cried.”

 A new born baby experiences the same discomfort of cold. The effort of breathing, the feeling of hunger and yet all this is essential if a baby is to make progress and fulfill the potentialities within him and grow up into a mature person. Because of love, God sent His only Son to the world that he may lead us to salvation by going into the same experience all of us have gone through in our birth. He felt the same discomfort; Breathing, the feeling of hunger, pain, even death, his painful death on the cross that we might be saved. Like us, he made progress and fulfilled the potentialities within him and grew up into a mature person. God made this possible for us to learn that bewildering and unfamiliar surrounding experiences are essential to salvation. Although that happened, many of us still long to get back to that haven of peace and security that we had before we were born. We often feel what bliss it would be to have no responsibilities at all. How marvelous if we could just have peace and security all over again. How wonderful if we could just sink ourselves in someone else’s personality and forget everything else. When we feel like that, and we all do from time to time especially if we are frightened or confused, then we are probably harking back to the security we had before we were born. Now if birth means the loss of peace and security, so also must spiritual rebirth. We can no longer lean on the conviction of others. We can no longer take things for granted on the authority of others. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that being born again means he has to live the life of a mature individual person, no longer cushioned and protected or insulated against the heat and cold of life. Often we hear people say, “If only we could rely on the authority of the mother church or the diocese and place ourselves unreservedly under her protection.” Let us be quite clear that such people are very far indeed from spiritual rebirth.  They are going in the opposite direction. They remind us of Nicodemus question “Can a man go back a second time into his mother’s womb?” That is the just what this people would like to do. They want to escape from the responsibilities of personal existence and return to that unreflective peace and security which they have in the womb.


Spiritual rebirth means the opposite. It means maturity. It means no longer an effortless existence but reliance on our own convictions and on our own experience in life, our relationship with God.  We need to rise up from where we are, able to stand up and sustain ourselves and experience rebirth spiritually. Of course we do not stand alone. We belong as Christians with the Christian society, but our relations with others, if we are spiritually reborn, must be characterized by maturity and not by dependence.


In this season of Lent, let us open ourselves to God through Christ in faith, hope and love to prepare ourselves for the Holy week and finally arrive in Easter with great celebration. May we all learn from our birth experiences and grow from that experience to become more matured in our spiritual rebirth. Amen.

Wedding of Karen Williams and Steve Morales

Wedding of Karen Williams and Steve Morales   

Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal Church

Daly City Ca

March 19, 2011

The air is filled with joy today in this God’s Holy Place. The Holy Spirit has brought us all here to witness the miracle that is about to be bestowed upon these wonderful, loving and joyful couple, Karen and Steve.

Karen and Steve – your special day has arrived and it is a Blessed day.  This is both an ending and a beginning. It is the ending of the months and months of planning for this special day. The decisions and the worrying about how it would all come together for this day is finally realized.

It is also a beginning. No more dreaming – reality is here. You are about to take one of the most important steps of your life – and I say “one” not because there are no more important decisions – but perhaps among the most holy and life giving ones. Your special day has arrived and it is picture perfect. You are both beautiful – handsome, your family and special friends are here in this Holy Place to witness your joy together in the presence of God and His people. But life is not a fairly tale – it is very real. In the lesson that you chose for this special day you heard poetic and elegant words from St. Paul’s written to very real people – people like you and me, people trying to live in this world. St. Paul always seemed to be addressing people who were having difficulty in living the gospel and this reading is about how you do it correctly.

Love is kind, it is gentle. You probably didn’t hear it today, but you’ve heard it before. Make a copy of it and put it on the refrigerator as a reminder. For these words were first written to ordinary people like us who had forgotten how to live and love. Love is also very practical. It is hard work.  God created each of you as wonderful unique individuals – who have chosen to share their lives. Rejoice in the others uniqueness. You cannot create the other person to be the image that you created in your mind – but only rejoice in what you are both becoming as you hold hands and share that journey.

Marriage vows are sacred, for you vow to the other person that you will always be there for them and that you can trust them – no matter what may come.  Marriage is not “if” experience. It is a commitment, a covenant before God with another person.  And that brings us to God. You have to this Holy church – not only because it fulfills your dreams as to where you wanted to make your vows, but because God is important in your lives. Your invitation for God’s blessing does not end here; it extends to the rest of your lives together even in the life after. That’s why Paul said Love is the greatest because it transcends even to the life after.

 Karen, you’re so beautiful from inside and out. I became a part of your family when your mom Rita passed away. You made your family feel her presence in your celebration. A song goes, “there’s hole in the floor of heaven, her tears are falling down, that’s how you know she’s watching” telling you how proud she is in how you have become just like the day she met your dad. It was a blessing knowing your beautiful and wonderful grandmother. Her smile is very uplifting. Your love for her is the reason why you brought yourself here in the heart of the Lenten season.

 Steve, you touched my heart when you shared the life of your dad Hugo and how you wished he is here. Your uncle has helped you become a man as you are today. Your mom and your family are so proud of you.


Both of you came from a family of faith. Let that be strength in your marriage. Pray together, let God be in the center of your life together and not relegated to the edge or crises.

Thank God each day for your daily bread and for the courage and wisdom for living each day. And when it is time to rest at the end of the day remember God is up all night and will watch over you.

 Karen and Steve, I have one special advice to share and for you to treasure. When the going gets tough, which is a given part of every relationship, let one of you be subject to humility. It takes two to quarrel. But somehow I’ve learned that when one is willing to listen with humility, the sense of respect follows.

I am sure you will find that effective in your togetherness. Always remember what we shared during your marriage counseling, that Love is a two way process. Love cannot fulfill itself in a one way process; unless there is both giving and receiving, love must remain unsatisfied. This element of receiving is very often overlooked in our concept of Christian Love. Love, is the basic law of life, it is both giving and receiving. Today, you will affirm that love is both giving and receiving. Continue your passion with sports and things that make your hearts grow. At the end of Lakers and Golden Gate basketball game, don’t mind about the score, what matters most is that you had time and fun together. Continue being SF Giants fans.


Finally, look around and know how much you are loved. We are each here to show that love and when the tough times of life come, know that we will be there for you – to walk beside you and support you. And that includes me – so when you go from this place be assured that you go with God’s blessing and ours. Amen


The Rev. Leonard Oakes

The Rev. Richard Schaper, Diocesan Gift and Planning Officer at HCSM First Sunday in Lent A

A Lent I

Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal Church

Daly City CA

Behind the Fig Leaf


“Open, O Lord, the eyes of all people to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works, that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may honor thee with our substance, and be faithful stewards of thy bounty.”


Do you know what this is?  (fig leaf)

Not very big, is it?  Sort of a fig leaf bikini, it seems to me.

It’s what Adam and Eve used, the first reading says, to try to hide from God.

But you know from the story that they were not successful.

God found them.  As God finds us.  Which is what this Lenten season is about—letting ourselves be found by God.

We just heard this story from the book of Beginnings, of Genesis, that tells the beginning of our trying to hide from God. Adam and Eve have done the one thing that they were told not to do.  Later there would be 10 commandments, but in the beginning there was only one: Don’t eat from the tree in the middle to the garden.  So what did we do?  We ate from the tree in the middle of the garden.

Then came the first “Uh-oh!”  And that’s when we first tried to hide the truth—with a fig leaf, Genesis says.

The next 3 verses after today’s reading ends continues the story of the first attempted cover-up:

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid so I hid myself.”  (Gen. 3: 8-10)

Clad in their fig leaves and taking cover behind the trees, they attempt to hide from God.  But God calls out to them: “Where arrrrrrre yooooou?”

Now once found out, Adam comes clean. – I know: in a few moments he will try to blame everything on the woman, and she will try to blame everything on the serpent.

But first off, Adam comes clean and confesses:  “I was afraid” he confesses, “so I hid myself.”

This is why any of us hide— because we are afraid.  Why else would we hide except when we are afraid, when there is something in our life that we would like to avoid facing.

            I was at a financial planning conference not long ago where I attended a seminar on “life planning.”   In the financial planning profession nationally, there is a movement among financial planners that is called “life planning.”  Life planning challenges the assumption that the role of a financial planner is to help the client to maximize their wealth.  Instead, it begins with the question, ‘What is the wealth for?” In other words, the role of the financial planner is not simply to help you to get more money; it is to ask you, “What is the money for???”

            Roy Dilberto, our former national CFP resident who has a practice in Kansas City, says that when they do an intake of new client, they have the client come in and they bring the client into a comfortable conference room and they ask the client three questions.  The first question is, “If you had all the money that you wanted, what would you do?”   The second question is, ‘If you knew that you only had 10 more years to live, how would you spend these next years ahead?’  And finally, “If you were to die at midnight tonight, what would be your biggest regrets?”  March 13, 2011. 

Here is where they bring out the box of tissues, for it is a question that stirs up deep feelings in us because it gets us in touch with places in our lives where we might want to make some adjustments.  If for a moment we consider our how we are living our life from the standpoint of its sudden and inevitable end—which is of course is the whole point of putting ashes on our heads to bring to stark awareness that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return”—if we can for a moment imagine how our life would look from the perspective of all our chances to do anything different being completely over: then what does it feel like to us?

Of course, by the grace of God, our lives are not yet over, and we have this season of repentance, of turning, in which we may still make some significant changes in order to bring our lives more into alignment with what we know is most important in life, and with what alone lasts forever.

This third and final question asked by this financial planner of his new prospective clients—if you were to die tonight, what would be your biggest regrets?—is an apt question for us as we enter a season of coming out from hiding and letting our secrets be exposed to God who is merciful and will love us into a happier path.

It should not escape our notice that the person, the professional advisor, who is asking these three questions is a FINANCIAL advisor.  He is someone who is seeking to help people come into more fruitful relationship with their money.  I don’t think that I have to point out to you how rare this is, that people come into a relationship with their money, their financial assets, that is positive and meaningful for their lives.

In my experience as a professional financial planner as well as a priest, I come into touch with a broad range of people in terms of their financial circumstances and I can reliably report to you that there seems to be no direct correlation whatsoever between net worth and net happiness. Financially wealthy or financially poor, the genuine happiness of a fulfilling life seems to be as remote or as accessible to one as to the other.  On a per capita basis, you may not find more happiness in Ross than you would in the Canal.  It all depends, I have found, on what relationship a person has found with life and with their money as an expression of their life.

Do you remember the old Jack Benny gag in which the penny-pinching Jack Benny is accosted by a mugger who sticks a gun in his face and demands, “Your money or your life!”  Finding no response, the mugger demands more urgently: “Your money or your life!”  Jack Benny replies, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!”

Well, our money and our lives do get pretty twisted together, often in ways that we do not understand.  Unless we have had occasion to explore our feelings about money, we are likely to still be living out whatever the messages were about money in the family we grew up in when we were still tiny youngsters.  I won’t go into what these messages were in the household I grew up in, but I will encourage you to consider your own personal earliest experiences and how these may have blindly shaped how you feel about money today.

Perhaps you’ve heard enough about money now and want to get back to the Bible.  Perhaps you recall the final words of Jesus from the Ash Wednesday gospel: “Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”  This is how Jesus concludes his counsel to us about how we are to engage in our spiritual disciplines, disciplines of praying, and fasting, and alms-giving.  Did I say alms-giving? Then we are back to money again.  But if we examine the teachings of Jesus, then it is hard for us to avoid this topic that often makes us feel uncomfortable, because fully 40% of Jesus’ sayings relate to money.

The only reason that Jesus talks so much about the M-word is because his concern is for our souls, our hearts, and—as he says—where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.  We invest our money with such deep and often unexamined meaning.  I was a parish pastor for 12 years before I left parish ministry and became a financial planner.  These two occupations seemed poles apart to most people.  “So you abandoned God for Mammon!”, I was teased. But what I discovered is that there was about a 70% carryover from my skills as a pastor to my skills as a financial planner, from pastoral care and counseling to financial care and counseling. And this is because – as Jack Benny exemplified—there is a deep connection between our money and our life.

In one of the first interviews I was conducting as a financial planner, when the husband got up and left the room, the wife leaned forward and confided, “We tell you things that we haven’t even told our therapist!”   Yes, I was thinking, or your priest.

When we peek behind our own fig leaf at the things we try to hide from one another and from God, we may find there our relationship with money.  “I was afraid,” Adam explained, “so I hid.”  It is easy in our culture to be afraid of money.  We may be afraid that we do not have enough, or we may be afraid that we have too much, or that we are not managing it well, and so on and so on.

This is precisely where we want to listen for the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, and calling out to us: “Where are you?”  Because the mercy of God is bigger than our fear, and the forgiveness of God is bigger than our sins, and God can lead us out into a new place of resurrection.  The direction is pointed to by Jesus when he speaks of getting our hearts and our treasure moving together in the same direction.

“If you were to die tonight, what would be your biggest regrets?” the financial planner asks. This is an exercise that can bring us to a clearer recognition of what it is that is most important to us.  What is it that matters most to you in your life, what is more precious to you than anything else—perhaps more than life itself?  The more clearly you can discern and name what is most important to you—your deepest values, your faith really—the more completely you can bring your life including your money into alignment with what gives your life meaning.

To the extent that we can get our lives and our money lined up with our hearts, we will know the genuine happiness that comes from knowing that we are on the right path, a path that leads to God and to being a blessing for others with whom we share this world during our brief pilgrimage on earth.  To the extent that we get our financial assets—our income, our capital and our estates—lined up with our souls, our money becomes an expression of our hearts and our heart’s devotion and a source of joy.  Imagine that: our money becoming a source not of anxiety, but rather of joy.

And the first step in this direction is precisely the step that we have already taken this morning of coming here to this place, before this Table, to come consciously into the presence of the one before whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid.  –Before whom no fig leaves hold up.  The one who dealt with his temptations so that he might help us with ours.  The one who gave his life, and said, “Take eat, this is my body, given for you. Take and drink, this is my blood poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”

            Our money or our life?  God wants them both.

            Thanks be to God!