A Story Worth Sharing

I don’t know how many of you saw the airing of 700 Club’s feature “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” which came out Wednesday night on GMA News TV. But if you did see the segment, it might seem strange if I make no reference to it here. After all, this site has been so personal to me.

So, let me write this entry as someone considering two different readers. Some of your may know that I was a rape victim when I was 15, or you may be finding out for the first time. If you did not know this, here is the link to the feature that was done about me. Joy Tan-Chi: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Some months ago, 700 Club Asia asked if they could interview me because they had heard about this story. After getting Edric’s go signal, I agreed to meet with them. This was the first time, in many years, that I had talked about what happened in such detail. I had done counseling for other women, my dad had shared about it from the pulpit, and I had given my testimony to church groups. However, the interview was quite emotional for me because I had to narrate and recall what happened chronologically, and I had the added challenge of expressing myself in Filipino. (I think I did a pretty good job with the Filipino, by God’s grace!)

I said yes to 700 Club Asia because I wanted everyone to know who Jesus is. He is real. He heals the wounded, the broken-hearted, the devastated. I came to him in my darkest hour — unable to understand what I had lost, but Jesus gave me his beautiful grace. (He did the same for my family and my two dear friends who were also a part of that frightening night). He gives that same grace to anyone who chooses to believe in him and follow him…grace to live again with joy, purpose, faith and hope.

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Somehow, I feel that this is a story that belongs to every person. We all understand human tragedy. We all know what it is like to feel sorrow, loss, disappointment, and pain. And while bad things may happen to good people, bad things don’t have to define who we become or who we choose to be. We can still choose to believe that God has a divine plan. We can still choose to love and forgive.

People said that I was courageous for sharing this story, but I must confess that I am NOT so brave. I haven’t felt this vulnerable and “exposed” in a long time. In fact, I couldn’t watch the 700 Club feature! (Edric and I will do so at some point, maybe next week…) A part of me did not feel like I needed to because I had seen the final script and I knew which parts of the interview they were going to include. I prayed instead that God’s name would be lifted high above the tragedy itself, that many would come to Jesus, that hurting people would be encouraged to trust in God’s goodness and forgive. My desire was that people would realize, “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) So when a good friend passed on to me the statistics after the show aired and my Facebook account was flooded with responses, I was rejoicing in the Lord. Thank you for using this story, Lord. It is not about me. It is about you.

Immediately following the night of February 7, 1995, my two friends and I didn’t know how God would redeem this tragedy. We made a decision, along with our families, to believe that God had a purpose and a reason for allowing something so horrifying. But we couldn’t see it then. So we clung to the truth about who God is — his sovereignty, goodness, love, and faithfulness.

Many years later, Ginny Owens wrote a song that captured how I felt during the aftermath, as I processed and came to terms with the reality of rape. The song is called, IF YOU WANT ME TO…

The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I’m gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to

Cause I’m not who I was
When I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise You’re not through with me yet
so if all of these trials bring me closer to you
Then I will walk through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When you lead me through a world that’s not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I’d never go alone

So when the whole world turns against me
And I’m all by myself
And I can’t hear You answer my cries for help
I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley if You want me to.

Sometimes, we can’t always understand the why, but if we understand the WHO, the why can wait. I didn’t know how God would use what happened. It seemed like a black hole in the timeline of my life when I was fifteen. But I remembered that God has an everlasting love for me — a love that was demonstrated at the cross through his son, Jesus, when he died for my sins and suffered for my sake. So I walked through that valley, a valley that felt exactly like Psalm 23 describes as “the valley of the shadow of death.” I thought I was going to die that night. But God let me live to proclaim victory in Him. The WHY came later for me.

I want to borrow the words of Joseph in Genesis 50:20, where he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good…”

When I look back on my life, I have been the recipient of much good. How good the Lord has been! As for my two friends, who were also victimized, I remain in touch with them. They too would say the same thing. God has been good to all of us. We are happily married to wonderful, godly men. We are enjoying our children and the joys of parenting. We are serving God alongside our spouses.

God purposes to write each person’s life story. The question is, will we let him hold the pen? I am convinced that it is his authorship that makes a life beautiful. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfector of our faith,” we let him be the writer and the editor. (Hebrews 12:2) No matter how crooked or bent our way, no matter how ladden with hardship the journey is, if it begins and ends with God, we all have a story worth sharing.

Selah.Pause.Pay Attention

I love the quietness of the evening, after the kids are tucked in bed and sound asleep. It’s hard to imagine Edric and I have four of them when it is this still. Stillness is so important to me. The responsibility of child-rearing, homeschooling, ministry, work (when Edric needs me), and various commitments to family and friends can often cannibalize whatever space should be preserved for pause and meditation.

These past few weeks, Edric and I have been unusually busy. Because of this, our time in the Word and prayer has been rushed or neglected. And the irony is, we have been doing a whole lot of ministry. One weekend was a couples retreat, the next was a parenting seminar for young families, and Edric spoke two weekends in a row for worship in various places. In between there were things like counseling, activities and new enrichment classes for the children, Elijah’s end year assessment and Edan’s graduation, parties we had to attend, evenings out for necessary meetings, sick kids, out of town trips, planning for the Global Home Education Conference in Berlin, booking our Europe itinerary, dealing with some challenges in our discipleship group, schedule changes and added responsibilities, etc…Of course, my homeschooling schedule was crazy, too. I missed a couple of days here and there.

Most of these experiences have been incredible blessings and God has allowed Edric and I to learn how to manage stress and flurry better. But circumstances and busy-ness also made Edric and I vulnerable to spiritual attack. All the ministry work turned us into a beeping signal on the radar of the Evil one. He constantly tried to divide us and cause dissension. Edric and I were getting irritated at one another for silly things and we became such nit-pickers. Since schedules were kind of hectic, there was hardly any time to get together and address the issues. We were living from one spiritual high to another, but our responses to issues between us seemed infantile. I would make hurtful comments when I was upset and Edric expected me to adjust to his needs and demanding circumstances without giving much thought to my own feelings.

But God, in his faithfulness, reminded both of us that we were focusing on each other and circumstances. We were not focusing on him. We were not making enough time for him. When Edric was preparing for last Sunday’s message on the topic, “Selah. Regularly,” he shared with me his renewed conviction to take a pause from all the activity and pay attention to God. I thought it was such a timely insight and I needed to practice immediately.

Well, lo and behold, last Saturday, God gave me the opportunity to apply the message. I had to call a company that does home service lab work. My grandfather (Angkong) is 93 years old and lately, his blood pressure has been low. So he needed some tests to be done. I tried to contact the company atleast 5 times without success. Every time I would call, I would be put on hold then re-routed to a basement storage area where the guy would say, “Ay, ma’m basement to. Tawag ka na lang sa tamang number.”

After this happened a multiple number of times, I told him that I had been put on hold and connected to him, even after he gave me the supposed right number to call. My tone was starting to change. I increased the volume for emphasis. Inside I was soooo annoyed. I wanted to pick a fight with mister basement guy even if he could do nothing to solve my problem. I didn’t care about the futility of doing so. But God reminded me, at the height of my aggravation, that I had not stopped to pray and ask for his help. Selah. Pause. Listen. So I hit myself on the head five times with a book to keep myself from getting angry. (It was a paperback!) Then, I hung up courteously.

The verse that was very clear in my mind was, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:20 NASB) So timely, Lord! I composed myself, called the company again and got through. That was a Selah experience for me. God spared me from losing my temper but it was a close call!

If I had not taken a pause to listen to the Lord, I would have blown up on the phone. I felt the heat rising. I was charged with irritation. There was nothing I wanted to do more than blast out insults and criticism for this company’s customer service. (At the same time, I also thought…this must be what people feel like when they try to call our organization and can’t get through! It is infuriating!) Well, what saved me was the gentle voice of the Lord reminding me to be Christ-like, to respond with grace to an unfavorable and inconvenient situation, and to be humble and kind even if I was upset.

The gist of Edric’s Sunday message was, PAUSE. PAY ATTENTION. In the midst of flurry and busy-ness, in the midst of stress and situations beyond our control, we need to take an intentional pause to consider who God is and what character trait he wants us to develop. Paying attention to who God is reminds us that he is the sovereign orchestrator of circumstances. He wants us to discover and experience how amazing he is and change what is wrong about ourselves so we can live the abundant life he calls us to.

If you would like to watch the message and Elijah’s testimony, check out Selah. Our nine year old son, Elijah, also gave his testimony that day.

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This Shouldn’t Be Taboo

The other evening, as I was about to meet Edric for a date, Titus asked me, “Why do you have to go out on a date?” So I turned the question around and asked him, “Why do you think mommy and daddy go out on dates?” His adorable reply was, “Because you love each other and you want to make babies!”

This moment of comedy made me think about how innocent our children are. It is something that Edric and I try very hard to safeguard. We are careful about what we watch as a family, the music we listen to, and the access our kids have to the Internet. But at the same time, we answer the questions our children have about sex. We don’t evade the topic or dismiss it.

They don’t ask about it often. In fact, these sort of conversations rarely happen. But when they do, Edric and I are ready to explain sex. And there is no malice or silliness about our dialogues because we make it clear that sex is something special that is shared between a husband and wife. It is an expression of intimacy and love in the context of marriage. It is God’s beautiful design. There is no corruption in it.

Recently, Edric spoke to one of our sons about it once again. His explanation was well-received. It was treated like any other conversation. But what I really appreciated was when Edric said to him, “I want to be the one to tell you about these things because I am your dad. No one taught me when I was younger. I found out the wrong way…from my friends.” He also added, “If you have any questions, you can always ask me because we are guys and I can relate to the way you think. You can also ask mom, but mom is a girl so she might not always understand guy stuff.”

Admittedly, I felt a little bit bad that he had to add that last part but I also realized that certain areas are really Edric’s department. I was happy that Edric made our son feel like he can tell his dad anything, that no topic is off limits.

I really believe that sons need their father to talk to them about sex as God designed it to be. Who really mentors their sons in this area? It’s not something we commonly practice because there is so much taboo surrounding sex. We have made it such an awkward topic. We get embarrassed to use correct terminology or talk about the details. But it is the world that has made sex something dirty and carnal. As parents, we can present it to our children as the pure and undefined thing that it is. We don’t have to divulge all the details at once, but as they ask questions, we should answer them truthfully. After all, the Bible says, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15 NASB)

I remember an instance when one of our sons said his friends were laughing and pointing at a poster that showed a woman who was not wearing much. He turned away and his friends noticed, so they made a big deal about it and said, “Oh, he’s not looking! He’s not looking!” This son of ours narrated the incident to me and I told him that he did the right thing. I have no idea what the poster was or how they even saw it. But it was one of those times when I was thankful that our son knew he should close his eyes to protect himself.

Edric and I want our kids to be informed correctly so they recognize that there is sex as God designed it and a corrupted version of sex out there that they need to run away from. If they are not taught early, they may very well discover the corrupted version first from others, making it difficult for them to perceive sex the way God designed them to. So we need to lovingly guide them to desire holiness and purity and of course, we have to model this ourselves in what we think, say, and do…

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NASB)

It Takes All Day

It takes all day to homeschool. I’m not talking about the part where we use books and workbooks or do homeschool “projects.” I’m talking about everything in between.

For example, today I had a talk with my second son, Edan. He was in a difficult mood yesterday when I was homeschooling him. But I knew that if I had tried to correct his attitude then, it wouldn’t have been effective. He was not ready.

He hovered over his math book like it was some form of torture. I looked at the page he had to complete and I knew, as his teacher, that it wasn’t anything beyond his capacity. It was merely a review of concepts he had already understood just a few weeks prior. I took the book away from him and told him to go to his room and pray about his attitude.

The last thing I want to do when I’m homeschooling my kids is force them to learn when they aren’t spiritually ready. Since I am available to them almost 24 hours, I know we have many more moments in the day to address the heart issues they face. I am not going to ballistic over a page or two of math work. But I won’t let my kids’ negative attitudes linger without addressing them either.

When they act de-motivated, I take a step back, compose myself before losing my cool, and let my kids isolate themselves to think and pray about their actions and attitudes. When they are ready, they will come back to me with some sort of resolution. If not, then I pursue them relationally and sit down with them to talk.

I had asked Edan in the car yesterday if he would like to explain to me why he didn’t want to do his work. He asked me if we could talk privately. This morning, I invited him to a conversation, just the two of us.

It’s amazing how a serious dialogue between a parent and child, without time pressure, can do much to unlock what’s going on inside a child’s heart. I suppose one of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that I’m not rushing my kids off to school or stressing out at the end of the day about their homework, test-preparation, etc. We can be together for extended periods of time to deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. Top on my list is the discipleship of my kids…their character.

So we sat there, on the bed and I asked him a few questions. He can be a tough nut to crack because he tends to be quiet about his feelings. When he is upset, he will go lie on his bed and cry. Rarely will he display dramatics. My eldest, Elijah, tends to be the more intense one so he’s more entertaining to watch when he is upset. (Did I just say that? What I mean is, it’s not difficult to guess what he’s feeling.)

With Edan, he has to be pried open gently and the right factors have to be present. When I asked him to come to my room to talk, he knew it was a safe place to tell me whatever he was thinking or feeling. “Can you tell me why you didn’t feel like doing your work yesterday? Mommy wants to be able to help you.” The conversation began along those lines. At first, he wanted to bury his face in a pillow and look at me out of just one eye, while the other one was covered. But I asked him to look directly at me. After a few seconds, he began to share about how he didn’t like books that only had two colors. That made absolute sense coming from a child who is a visual learner. I just didn’t know it made such a big difference to him. And so, I asked, “Do you think it is okay to have a bad attitude if you don’t like your book?” We talked some more about how he was feeling and then I reminded him about the character trait of gratefulness.

A couple months ago, we had covered this topic for our family bible study. My husband, Edric, had asked the kids to memorize the verse, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I shared with him that it was important to thank God for the blessings that we do have. We talked about how we could apply this in our homeschooling.

In between, Titus tried to spy on us. He poked his head around the door and stood there for a while, hoping to find out what we were talking about. I asked him to close the door and leave us for a bit. He acted like he was closing it but kept a part open so he could still spy on us. I saw his shadow, and said, “Titus…close the door.” Curious little Titus finally shut it.

The conversation between Edan and I resumed. It took a while but we finally arrived at a conclusion. Edan said he would choose to do the right thing and change his attitude. We prayed together. I also shared with him that there are times when I don’t have good attitude…like when “Daddy asks me to do something,” so I also have to work on this area. We both confessed our sins and Edan was back to his old smiley self.

Was he ready to be instructed after that? Yes.

When parents ask me, “How long do you homeschool for?”, I usually say, the kids do their work in the morning. But a more accurate answer to that question would really be, homeschooling takes all day. It’s not just about covering subject matter and saying, “Yes, it was a good day. We got all our ‘work’ done.” So much of what happens in between the work, throughout the many interactions I have with my kids, is the actual homeschooling. I consider this to be the more important part of what I do.

It’s very hard to explain this to parents who are on the outside looking in. And I understand where they are coming from because their concerns center around, “How many subjects do I have to teach? How much time will it take?” After all, this often seems like the most intimidating aspect of homeschooling. Many parents feel inadequate before they ever begin because the very word “homeschooling” sounds a whole lot like school-at-home. And we associate “school” with school-related work like learning about math, English, science, history, Filipino, social Studies, geography, music, art, etc. (Oh and don’t forget Bible and character!) We look at the line up of subject areas and it’s like, “How the heck am I going to teach all that?” I’m not a professional teacher!”

My encouragement to parents who feel this way is this…teaching subjects is the easier task when discipleship is a priority. Discipleship is primary. Once we make the acquisition of knowledge the priority, we start homeschooling for the wrong reasons and we can start teaching the wrong way, too. Outbursts of anger, irritation, impatience will surface when we feel that our “academic” goals for our kids are blocked. For example, when they aren’t cooperative and they aren’t motivated we get annoyed. And we want to push, push, push. What are we pushing towards? They may comply externally and complete ten pages of their math workbook in one sitting but their heart is far away from us, far away from the Lord.

I can’t settle for that kind of education in our home. My prayer is that each year our children grow deeper in love with Jesus, that their hearts remain teachable and receptive to our instruction, and they make leaps and bounds in the area of godly character. That is homeschooling. And that takes all day, every day, until God says they are ready to go out into the world to be his instruments of change, to bear his gospel, and to pursue the mission he has called them to.

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Home as the Best Social Context

I was at a convenient store with Edan, when he said, “I want to get something for Elijah because he got me something last time. I want to get him a snack.” I watched him go through each aisle thoughtfully, looking for a snack that Elijah would appreciate. He picked up a soymilk drink and a bag of oatmeal cookies.

It blesses my heart when my kids think about one another and do random acts of kindness for each other without being asked to. And while many people may question the socialization aspect of homeschooling, I really believe that socialization is so much more than children getting along with their peers and learning to make friends.

I think the broader definition should be about raising kids who show compassion, who know how to respond to people who are hurting, lost, or need a friend, who choose to respect others, and look beyond their own wants to seek the greater good of others. Often times, the harder context to develop these qualities is in the home.

My kids annoy each other almost daily and they behave selfishly on occasion. Their capacity to tolerate and accomodate each other’s differences is really put to the test. Because they are homeschooled and have a whole lot of daily interaction they have to learn to get along. Character traits like deference, thoughtfulness, benevolence, and joyfulness must be applied. Our children also have to practice humbling themselves to ask for forgiveness and choosing to extend forgiveness. In the process, they understand what love really means. They realize it’s so much more a choice than a feeling. But by choosing to love one another, they develop an affectionate loyalty for one another. They treasure each other.

The Bible tells us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Luke 12:34 NASB) Similarly, our children need to be taught to invest in the lives of their siblings. The more time they spend together, the greater the bond between them.

I remember just a few years back, my two older sons would constantly react to Titus. They would get so frustrated with him because he couldn’t really communicate well and he wasn’t able to play by their rules. He would knock down things they would build and he was a nuisance when they attempted to include him in their games. It got to a point where Elijah, my eldest, really struggled with being loving and kind towards him. He broke down in anger one day and I had to sit him down to talk. I explained to him that his responses to Titus were incredibly important. If he demonstrated unconditional acceptance towards Titus, Edan would do the same. And Titus would surely change and improve as he matured but he needed to feel our love. It was difficult for Elijah to change his attitude but he tried his best.

Two years later, and my three boys are inseparable. They always want to be together and Titus is very much a part of that trio. Without him, their fun wouldn’t be complete.

Titus is now learning to accommodate Tiana’s personality. But having bigger brothers who have shown him what it means to look out for a younger sibling has helped him alot. He has exhibited the kind of patience and kindness toward Tiana that I hoped he would. Of course, Tiana can be a pest at times and she knows how to harass her brother, Titus. But Edric and I are working on her character, too.

I remember a homeschooling friend who told me that socialization is about teaching kids the hierarchy of relationships — God, parents, siblings and then others. Children must first understand who they are in relation to God and how much he loves them, followed by parents reaching out to their children to pursue them relationally, and children learning to love their parents and siblings. Afterwards, relating to others comes naturally because a child’s most fundamental longings for relationship are fulfilled.

While I may not be a sociologist or psychologist, I have seen this ring true for our family. Our children’s first and best social context has been the home.

A photo of our sons, three years ago…

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Dirty, Sweaty, Stinky

I was at the park with my kids one afternoon, when I heard a mom freaking out about her son’s dirty shoes. In the background, I caught sight of my own kids looking like a bunch of scalawags compared to the neat little boy who was being protected from mud at all costs. They were making soupy sand with a water hose and tossing sand bombs. Disheveled hair, sweaty bodies, and muddy feet and legs made for quite a sight as they and their cousins took over the sandbox.

I don’t mind dirt. Kids need dirt once in a while. As long as they don’t eat it and as long as they take baths after they are done rolling around in it, then that’s quite alright with me.

My parents were the same way with my siblings and I growing up. They let us run around barefoot in the yard, climb trees, dig traps, slip and slid down the grass, play house and make actual fires for cooking our “food.” We could explore any part of the house, even the roof, and we spent a whole lot of time with our stinky pets (I had a native monkey). My siblings displayed mud balls on the bathroom counter like little trophies and we almost always had black feet when we came back into the house. I don’t remember wearing much either. We were always half-naked or so it seemed (until we hit puberty, of course).

Those were fun years.

It’s harder to replicate that kind of childhood for our kids because we are urbanites. Living in the heart of the city doesn’t give them much opportunity for mud adventures. I miss that kind of outdoorsy lifestyle which has been replaced by computer games, tv, Internet, IPods, IPads, etc.

I did some research on outdoor play and discovered that playing outside has many benefits that we don’t always think about. It helps improve eyesight, it encourages an appreciation for God’s creation, it exposes children to many opportunities to enhance their gross motor skills. They also invent games when they are outdoors. Running around, leaping, jumping, swinging, climbing are all great for burning calories, and these activities keep kids less susceptible to developing obesity and heart disease. Exposure to vitamin D from the sun (during less intense times of the day) also keeps them healthier. Furthermore, being surrounded by nature engages all of their senses. The National Wildlife Federation even claims that kids who get outside “need less medication and are less prone to depression.”

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Edric and I have to be creative as city people homeschooling our kids. The fact that our kids’ default mode is to play inside is not their fault, but ours. Edric and I may go running on some mornings but the kids don’t join us because it is way too early. And we spend most of our day inside. So our kids do the same and will continue to do so unless we are more purposeful about their daily activities.

I remember how intentional my parents were with us. They had daily morning walks with us. We would swim in the nearby club together. They built a simple, outdoor playground, and a mini basketball court in the backyard. We had a rope that hung from a tree so we could swing on it. And they got us all kinds of pets.

Edric and I may not be able to do exactly the same for our kids because of space constraints, but recently, we have been trying harder to instill a love for the outdoors in them. Even if we live in the city, there are many things that we can do for free or inexpensively. A condo lifestyle shouldn’t be a hindrance or an excuse.

One of the things we have done is enroll our older boys in a Football (soccer) club – Azkals Global Football. We pay 300 pesos/child for every 2.5 hours of soccer training. The group we joined is an all homeschoolers group of kids, which is great. The coaches are more exacting of the kids, too (which we prefer.) They toughen up the boys. Our little kids accompany them and play beside the field. During the rest of the week, we try to take the kids to a nearby park or go to High Street. Sometimes, we take walks with the kids, too.

The good news is our kids are starting to really like playing outside, but it is still a pitiful amount of time compared to what we had growing up. We really hope to condition them to prefer the outdoors as their play area of choice. But Edric and I can’t just hope that our children will prefer to play outside, we have to go outside with them. So we are doing that whenever we can.

Today, our playgroup was at a park. The kids ran around with their friends and they invented all sorts of games. I loved hearing them laugh and shout out game rules. They would come panting back to where the moms were gathered to ask for a drink or a snack every now and then. I looked at all their sweaty faces and dirtied clothes and I thought, this is what kids should be doing in the afternoons…getting sweaty, dirty, and stinky while playing outside. That’s the stuff that childhood memories are made of!

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Edan’s Curriculum

Edan’s 1st Grade books and materials…

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I have not included all the storybooks we read but here is a photo of the kids’ bookshelf:)

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Edan is also interested in geography…

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WORKSHOP – Creative Test Development

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Recruiting the Young

We just got back from Bataan. What a weekend! It was a joy to serve CCF Bataan. Edric gave today’s Sunday message, and yesterday, we did a parenting talk for young families. Well, it was supposed to be for young families, but there were some people there who knew a lot more than we did about raising kids. Nevertheless, we shared principles from God’s word and borrowed mom and dad’s talk on Motivating Your Children (tried and tested content they’ve shared with others for many many years). This was an incredible help because we didn’t have to re-invent anything.

For the first time, we also asked our eldest son, Elijah, to give a testimony about the importance of spending time together and open communication. We told him that he would be doing this to be a blessing to others and bring glory to God. So the night before, he dictated to me what he was going to share and I helped him organize his thoughts. Here’s what he came up with…

I like being homeschooled because I am with my parents a lot. And I really feel that I get to enjoy my childhood. We spend a lot of time together as a family. We play board games, we eat out together, we take walks, we laugh a lot, we talk a lot, and we have family devotions.

My mom also teaches me and my brothers in the morning. And there are days when my dad has “boys time” with me and my brothers. This is a very special time when my dad, my brothers, and I will go out to a place together and we have fun. We talk about how to be a gentleman. We talk about God and character.

And when I need to ask my dad questions about life, he spends time with me one-on-one. We sometimes go biking. This is an activity we both enjoy a lot because my dad is into it and I am into it also.

I also have talks with my mom. Sometimes we go out together, just the two of us, like a date. And we talk about life and spiritual things. For example, one time my mom talked to me about my attitude. I knew I was wrong and I knew I had to improve. But she wasn’t angry with me when she corrected me. We sat down in a private room and she talked to me. She taught me about how it is dangerous to let anger, pride, bad attitude and other sin stay in our hearts. She drew a picture for me of how sin gives the evil one a passage into our hearts to influence us. So she taught me how to confess my sins before the Lord and she reminded me about the verse in 1 John 1:9, that if I confess my sins, God will always forgive me. When she was telling me this, I started to get teary-eyed because I knew that I was wrong. I told her I struggled with pride, which was my major issue at that time. My mom also got teary-eyed and we prayed together and I told her after that it was one of our best conversations.

I really feel like I can open up to my parents about anything, no matter what it is. Even if it is embarrassing. We can talk about anything. I know that they will love me no matter what I say or do, and they also try to help me and train me in ways to improve. They also ask me how they can improve. And I tell them. For example, I told my dad before that he needs to improve with spending time with us and he changed a lot. With my mom, I told her that we should homeschool more regularly and she improved in that area.

One thing I am grateful for is that my parents keep teaching me about Jesus. There was a time that I really struggled about whether Jesus was real, if the bible was true, or if I really would go to heaven someday. I had already accepted Jesus into my heart when I was little but I had doubts when I got older. It took a while for me to fully understand what it means to believe in God. My dad told me to take the little faith that I had and let it grow. My mom told me about the verse in Romans 10:9, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. My mom also told me that if I keep seeking God I would find him. She made me read the passage in Jeremiah 29:12 which says, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. That was also the verse I had read in my quiet time. She also gave me kids books to read on apologetics — about creation, the bible, heaven.

To learn about Jesus I just kept reading my Bible. I started reading my bible regularly when I was almost 7. Then I asked for an adult bible when I was almost 8, and I got it for Christmas. So I read it almost everyday and my brother wanted one like mine. He also got one that had a hologram on the front page and it was a newer translation of my NIV. Anyway it took me a year and a half to finish my Bible. I might have skipped some parts accidentally, but I tried my best to finish it.

When I finished it, we celebrated by going to a Japanese restaurant because I love Japanese food. That was an important event for me. My dad told me that every time somebody finished their bible there would be a celebration.

My mom and dad asked me if I wanted to share a testimony to be a blessing to others. At first, I didn’t really want to but I wanted to bless others and give glory to God so I wrote this with my mom. And I want to end by saying that the most important thing that I have learned so far is to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. And that I need to grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and men. My dad taught me and my brothers that verse in Luke 2:52. 

Just to let you know this is my first time to give my testimony on stage. Thank you so much for listening.

The experience was momentous for him. It was his first time to ever do anything like this. We prayed together before he shared because he was feeling nervous. But he delivered his testimony well. People came up to him afterwards to tell him that they were blessed.

When I asked him what the highlight of our Bataan trip was, he said, “I’m so glad I was able to be a blessing to others.” He had this euphoric feeling after serving the Lord alongside us. And it made Edric and I realize once again, how important it is to involve children in ministry work, even at a young age. It makes them catch the vision of leading others to Jesus.

I remember how my own parents involved my siblings and I in ministry when we were little. As homeschooled kids, we would travel everywhere with them and go to their bible studies. We would be included in many of their counseling sessions, where we were allowed to give our input and perspective on issues. My parents did not make us feel like ministry took them away from us. It was a way of life and we were all a part of it. So we never grew up averse to being pastor’s kids. We thought that we were incredibly blessed to be able to interact with so many people from all walks of life, to learn from their victories and triumphs, and to watch our parents share the gospel, counsel, or teach the bible to others. Somehow, being so close to the “action” made us desire to do the same. We saw how Jesus transformed people’s lives and what a difference he made in people who were hurting and lost. So we hoped to bring Jesus to others as we grew up.

Edric and I are praying that our children will develop a heart for serving God, too. And the great thing about homeschooling is that they can start early! They are not so tirelessly caught up in the regimen of school, homework, and more school. We are enjoying the flexibility that homeschooling affords us to prioritize training and exposing our children to experiences that we believe are really worth their time. For our family, this means getting our kids to be part of God’s work while they are young. As Paul said to his disciple, Timothy…Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV) 

Let’s recruit our children into God’s service while they are young! There is no age requirement to serve God!

 

 

Bataan – Mt. Samat

What an amazing day in Bataan visiting Mount Samat, and making new friends!

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Homeschooling as A Sacred Trust

The gospel of Mark puts things into perspective when it says, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36-37) We can rephrase this question from the perspective of a parent and ask, “what good is it for our children to gain the whole world – wealth, prestige or power — but lose their souls?”

Have we ever stopped to consider how much at risk the souls of our children are when we send them to school? We mean well and pay well to send our children to reputable schools, but we don’t always think about the dangers they are susceptible to. Dangers like…

-          The loss of innocence and purity

-          Negative influence of peers

-          Emotional disconnection or distancing from parents and siblings

-          Pressure of materialism

-          Emphasis on the wrong values

-          Internalization of/or confusion due to a world-view that is not biblical

While schools may give children a foundation for “worldly” success, at what expense are we willing to risk their souls?

For example, many educational institutions have a humanistic or secular worldview. A humanistic worldview is “any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, or dignity predominate.”[1] Humanism denies the existence of God, and God as the creator of the universe. Without a creator, humanists say that life simply came to be by natural causes. Therefore, all that exists is what is material, natural. There is no spiritual dimension and no afterlife. Furthermore, without a God to determine absolute truth or absolute morality, truth and morality become relative. Humanist Max Hocutt says that human beings “may, and do, make up their own rules… Morality is not discovered; it is made.”[2]

This humanistic worldview can be found in the content of curriculums, in the methodology of instruction, and in the philosophies of institutions. Its roots can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks.

“The Greeks were history’s first humanists, believing that man was the measure of all things. The Greek aim was to prepare intellectually well-rounded young people to take leading roles in the activities of the state and society. Greek concepts served as the basis for the liberal arts, the teaching of the various branches of philosophy, the cultivation of the aesthetic idea, and the promotion of gymnastic training…Greek philosophers doubted that humanity would ever be able to reach objective truth through reason, and taught that materials success rather than truth should be the purpose of life…The way the Greeks interpreted life is how life is studied in the modern educational system. We must understand this thought and compare it to what the Bible says about understanding, knowledge and wisdom. To the Greek, knowledge was the primary way to goodness.”[3]

Humanism has been repackaged in many different ways through the centuries. But one thing remains the same…society keeps trying to find purpose, meaning, and goodness apart from God and schools are trying to completely remove God (if they haven’t already).

“Today’s public school system (American) teaches a secular worldview. Children are taught that the answers to all of life’s problems are money and education. Much of this philosophy has crept into the church; so much so, that many Christians value education to the extend that they will choose a ‘good education’ over God’s command to ‘be not unequally yoked.’ Or they will choose curriculum because it is equivalent to the academic requirements of a traditional education.

Developing a Christian worldview is of extreme importance in order to advance Christ’s kingdom. False systems will collapse under their own corrupted weight. One reason for the decline of Christianity in Western culture is the lack of a Bible-based worldview. Instead, the cultural world view of materialism, selfishness, and greed has become the predominant vision.”[4]

The problem is we have allowed secular worldviews like this to invade our homes. We have knowingly or unknowingly followed the same value system these worldviews espouse. For instance, many of us put so much emphasis on academics to the neglect of character training. Young children, as early as two years old are brought to playschools where they can get a head-start and develop their motor skills and social skills. We think to ourselves, if my child can excel in these areas, he will excel in life. And we have the best intentions. What parent, after all, doesn’t desire their child’s success?

But have we stopped to consider what success really means? Or, are we simply buying into the worldly idea that wealth, fame, and power spell success? Some of us may be more “spiritual” and we say things like, “Do well in school so you can glorify God.” Yet the focus of our instruction remains the same – the pursuit of knowledge and ability. While these pursuits are valuable, they cannot be primary. They cannot be the reason why we choose to homeschool.

The Bible tells us to be careful, “lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

We have to go back to the word of God and look at his command to us as parents. Ephesians 6:4 addresses fathers and says, “bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7 tells us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

Dueteronomy 6:5-7 compels us to consider the who, what, how, when, where and why of teaching our children.

Who are we teaching? Our children.

What will we teach? Love for God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

How will we teach this? By exemplifying it first then being intentional about teaching them – mentoring and discipleship style.

When will we teach this? Everyday, moment by moment.

Where will we teach this? Everywhere possible.

Why should we teach this? Let’s look at the preceding passages…

The backdrop to Deuteronomy 6:5-7 can be found in Deuteronomy 5. Moses gives the 10 commandments to the Israelites (again) and the people convey their desire to follow God. In response, God says in Deutereonomy 5:29, “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” We see the heart of the Lord – his desire to bless his people. The laws and statues of God have always been intended for the greater good of people. But, wait a minute, does this all apply to us if it these passages were referring to the Jews?

Galatians 3:6-9 explains that “Thus Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are men of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith.”

Therefore, it is faith in God that makes us sons of Abraham. And as sons of Abraham, we are invited to the same blessings that God promised his people. There is neither Jew nor Greek. A few verses down from Galatians 3::6-8 is verse 29, which tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

When the 10 commandments were given to the Israelites, they were about to enter the promise land – a land flowing with milk and honey. God wanted to prepare their hearts. He knew they were going to encounter pagan people who would lead them astray, who would cause them to follow other gods. He also knew that the blessing of the land could make their hearts grow cold so that they forget that it was by His hand that they it inherited it in the first place.

Therefore, God made it very clear to Moses to teach HIS statues to the people. Deuteronomy 6:1-3 begins with this: “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”

God has the best intentions for us and for our children. His heart is set on blessing his people. As Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” So he commands us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to teach our children to do the same. He wants us to experience the abundant life – a life of peace, joy, righteousness, and purpose. It is a life that is found in him and him alone.  This is the WHY of bringing up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord. It’s not just about following a command in Deuteronomy 6:5-7. It is a sacred trust.

At the end of our lives, God is going to hold us accountable for this sacred trust. And until we understand this, we will see homeschooling as a mere alternative to conventional schooling. But homeschooling is first and foremost, an act of obedience to bring up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord in order to fulfill his purposes and not ours. Second, it is a commitment to discipleship – the discipleship of our children for their greater good.

What we think to be true about our children will impact how seriously we consider our commitment to their discipleship. We must be aware of the following truths:

Our children are created by God, for God. Colossians 1:16 tells us, For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Parenting is a stewardship. We don’t have the liberty to treat our children however we want to, nor do we have the liberty to do whatever we want to with our children. While they were born to us, they exist for the purposes of God. So we have to ask God, “How do you want us to raise our kids?” He will certainly not say things like, shout at them when you are angry, lose your temper, or spoil them!

Our children are created in the image of God – uniquely designed, gifted and purposed. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27).

Human beings, as opposed to all other animals, are not merely animals. Our children, like us, have a spiritual dimension. They are not just physical beings. Therefore, they have the capacity to discern spiritual things, to enjoy God, and to ponder the meaning of life.

The problem is, our children fall short of God’s glory, just as we do (Romans 3:23). Our children are born with fallen natures. They are not born spiritually “neutral” or pre-disposed to choose God. As adorable as we may think them to be, as pure and as innocent as they may seem, they make sinful choices. They will disobey, disrespect us, fight, and behave in selfish ways. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Romans 3:10 reveals that “None is righteous, no, not one…” Romans 5:12 also says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all menbecause all sinned…”

Therefore, one of our urgent priorities as parents is to connect our children to the living Savior – Jesus Christ. Our children need Jesus Christ to save them and the Holy Spirit to transform them to fulfill God’s wonderful plan for their lives. Acts 4 tells us that, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

We need to tell them about the beautiful gospel story of God’s love. God loves us so much he sent Jesus to die for our sins and to save us from our unrighteousness and the penalty of sin (which is death). Our children need to understand God wants to have a relationship with us, but it is not possible until we recognize that we are sinful and lost and need Jesus to save us. Even young children have the capacity to understand this truth and invite Jesus into their hearts. When they do this, God begins to do his transforming work by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Philippians 1:6 promises, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

From a heart bent on rebellion, our children will begin to develop a desire to know God and seek God. “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19) 2 Peter 1:3 also says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

However, our work is hardly over. When a child prays the “sinner’s prayer,” it is merely the beginning of his faith journey – one that will require us to shepherd him through it. Our children need discipline, training and discipleship from parents. Proverbs 19:18 reminds us, Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.”

We must do everything we can to raise our kids to love God by teaching them about the Bible, helping them to grow in character, disciplining them when necessary, praying faithfully, leading by example, and “training them in the way they should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) We may make mistakes and our kids may still make sinful choices from time to time. But we can remain confident that God is at work in their innermost being to change them into the person he wants them to be.

And what should this person be like? To what aim are we going to home educate our children? True success is a person who loves God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, who love others, makes disciples (Christ-committed followers) and lives for the glory of God.

If we succeed in teaching subject matter, but neglect the hearts of our children, we will let lose into the world future leaders and influencers who are dangerously intelligent and capable but without, as author Tedd Tripp calls is, a “God-ward orientation”[5] or desire to live for God.



[1] Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Gramercy Books, 1989), 691.

[2] Max Hocutt, “Toward an Ethic of Mutual Accommodation,” in Humanist Ethics, ed. Morris B. Storer (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1980), 137.

[3] Robin Sampson. “What Your Child Needs to Know When: According to the Bible / According to the State.” (Heart of Wisdom Publishing, 2009), 34 – 35.

[4] Robin Sampson. “What Your Child Needs to Know When: According to the Bible / According to the State.” (Heart of Wisdom Publishing, 2009), 27.

[5] Tedd Tripp. “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.” (Shepherd Press: Wallopen, PA. 1994), 20.

Titus’ Curriculum

Books and materials I use for my four-year old, Titus:

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A good number of the story books I have posted here are used books I found in Book Sale.