Love Beyond Poetry And Passion

When I was married in my 20s, I knew only of young love — the kind that inspired poetry and passion. But now that love has aged with me and for me in the heart of Edric, I prefer this version of love – one that feels young but old at the same time.

There are moments when Edric looks at me and I know he beholds me as one who is familiar. But then his eyes glint with a curiosity, as though he is meeting a part of me for the first time.

It’s a wonder that he remains committed to discovering that there can be more to me. More to the face he has seen ten thousand times. More to the person he has shared ten thousand conversations with.

I blush under his affectionate scrutiny and blurt out, “Why are you looking at me like that?” He replies, “I’m getting that feeling again.” And he will tell me how much he loves me.

After 13 years of marriage, I am grateful to be loved like this — loved beyond the poetry and passion…where Edric and I can celebrate honesty as two unmasked, unraveled persons. This is intimacy. And intimacy blossoms in the context of permanence and security, where a man is as Christ to his wife and a wife as the church to Christ. The fruit of intimacy is a sacred and profound love where husband and wife choose to need, want, and give to the other through the changing seasons of life’s landscape. Perhaps I can share this better through a story…

When I was a child, my siblings and I made whirlpools in a circular kiddie pool at the clubhouse we frequented as a family. We collaborated to run around the edges as fast as we could, forcing the water to spin in one direction. Then came the most fun part — letting ourselves float along and be dragged by the current.

My life as of late has felt like a spinning whirlpool. Unlike those glorious days of childhood where it was okay to be pulled around and around for the fun of it, whirlpools in adulthood are stressful and maddening. I blame mine on the centrifugal force of busyness.

When Edric and I got back from Brazil, we jumped right back into our activities. Two days after we arrived, still recovering from jetlag, we went on an out of town trip. During the same week we entertained guests and attended social events. I was confronted by all the make-up work my kids and I had to get done for homeschooling. Furthermore, I accepted several commitments and appointments that were crammed into an already packed schedule following our arrival. All of these were good things in and of themselves. But when I saw no hope for a pause, I grew anxious.

There are super women out there who live, breathe, and eat stress. It them stronger. But I don’t have that kind of power. Busyness is my kryptonite. My immunity drops and my emotions go south.

So I lost it…emotionally. Edric had no inkling apart from a few exchanges where I made quips like, “I think we were doing too much again.”

It was 12 AM on Thursday night when Edric turned over to his side to fall asleep after his “good night and I love you, hon.” I lay on my side feeling lost and confused, praying honestly to the Lord about my frustrations. While I wallowed in self-pity, clutching my pillow a little too melodramatically, Edric heard my quiet sobbing and asked if I was alright.

“No. No I’m not. I don’t feel like anyone understands what I’m going through right now.” (Of course these sort of statements are never true.)

“What’s wrong?”

He saw me get out of bed with my disheveled hair, oversized Florida Gators T-shirt, doing like a Frankenstein walk over to my desk in the darkness. I was feeling for my laptop in the darkness having suddenly remembered that I had to send an email to a couple we were counseling.

“What are you doing?” He followed me to my table. “Stop it. You look like a crazy person. I want to show you something.”

He pulled me to himself and walked me over to the large floor to ceiling glass sliding doors that opened up to our balcony. The lights of the city illuminated the quiet night like a canopy of colorful stars. In the distance I could make out the outline of the mountains set against the cloudless expanse of the sky. It was a spectacular view.

“Look at this. Do you remember when I surprised you for Valentines Day and prepared dinner for you on this balcony, when the house wasn’t finished yet? And we looked forward to moving in? Can you believe that we are actually living here now?”

He invited me to sit with him outside so we could talk. I was reluctant to at first but his persistence prevailed. There was no getting away from this. He wasn’t going to leave me alone. We sat out there with the crickets as background music to a monologue of my thoughts. When the mosquitos wouldn’t quit biting Edric’s legs, he decided to be more practical and said we could continue this on our bed.

Edric listened until he could interpret my emotional driveling and concluded, “I think you have been through some major life events as a woman this past year and you have had no time to process all the changes. And you need that. I know you.”

I nodded then sobbed like a little child with my head tucked under my arm. Yes, that was it! What a relief to be psychoanalyzed so correctly.

Then he asked me to come even closer to him so that I was completely in his arms and he whispered, “I will take care of you. I think I haven’t given you enough attention lately. Do you want me to take the afternoon off tomorrow? I can come home early. You know that I like to rescue you…”

I wanted to be taken care of. I wanted to be rescued. At that moment I was the epitome of spiritual and emotional weakness.

The next day, Edric finished off a meeting in the morning and came home to do his work in the dining room. Every time I saw him, I had one of those puerile, giddy, girly smiles. We didn’t have to be joined at the hip that afternoon but knowing that he was around gave me inspiration as I tended to the kids and managed home affairs.

I’m the kind of woman who will climb off the balcony of a three-story home to get to another balcony to find a way into a study room to fix a jammed door. (I had to do that about two months ago and the workers saw me doing my acrobatics from our back yard while my children looked on in terror. “Mom! You might die!” The workers were pointing and making comments like I was insane. I assured them that I knew what I was doing. To my children I said, “You are NOT allowed to do this. EVER.”)

The point is I can take care of myself if I need to. I can deal with my emotions and process them with the Lord so I don’t dump them on Edric every single day. But there are times when I need his perspective, his friendship, his understanding, or a hug and a kiss, and the calm of his voice when he says, “everything is going to be alright.”

God didn’t create women to be helpless creatures who are dependent on men for their survival and happiness. Heck, we bear the physical pain of birthing children on our own. We find fulfillment in the work of our hands, in the pursuit of our God-given talents and abilities, and in the relationships we keep. However, there is something about the strength of a man, the assurance of his presence, and his desire to take the lead and protect that settles us and allays our fears.

Is it just me?

People have criticized me for saying this. But I think they’ve missed the point. I’m not saying that a woman needs a man to feel complete or satisfied with life. At the same time, it would be ignorant for someone to say that a woman NEVER needs a man. (Hello…sperm + egg = person.)

I suspect that most of the women who say this don’t really believe this deep inside. But they have been hurt and disappointed by men. So have I. At some point, we have all been victims or casualties of men’s wrong choices. (As they have been of our own sinful decisions, too.)

To protect myself, I concluded that I would not let myself be vulnerable to a man. I wanted to be in control, independent, and capable of looking out for myself. But then I married a man whom I could trust, who invited me to a relationship with no pretenses. There was no promise that he would never hurt me, but I knew with certainty that he was a man who loved God. So God gave me peace — the peace of knowing that Edric would be the one to keep my heart.

I let myself be honest…honest about needing him. I’ve chosen to need him as he has chosen to need me. We need one another for different reasons, but in this truthful surrender of independence, we found that the journey together was better.

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In a recent event for my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary, they sang an edited version of Adam Sandler’s song, “I Want to Grow Old With You.” Their rendition reminded me that marriage isn’t about growing past each other’s imperfections. Sometimes the areas that we don’t like about our spouse or ourselves still remain. But when we choose to need, want, and give to the one we married as the years go by, God provides the filter of grace. This filter distills the flaws and harsh realities, removing the impurities that would otherwise poison and corrupt our hearts with selfishness, bitterness, fear, pride or regret. And meltdown moments at 12 AM, when held as one’s beloved, wearing an ugly t-shirt and haloed by unkempt hair, bear image to the sweet irony of love. For in loving beyond the poetry and passion we find that we return again to these.

Happy Anniversary, Edric Mendoza! This one was for you.

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The Isaac of Money

When my kids do anything noteworthy in their lives, I attribute it to the Lord. I know that I am a flawed mother and it is only by God’s grace that my children have the desire and commitment to love him with all that they are.

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A few weeks ago I was blessed by the resolve of my 11-year old son, Elijah, to give his hard-earned money to our church, as an offering. Elijah has money in three “instruments.” The first is his small stock portfolio. Second, he has a savings account where he has placed his salary from Edric. His job is to speak with Edric on road shows around the Philippines. Third, he has a glass jar at home where he had several thousands of pesos in cash stashed in it.

Over three years he has put money into this jar from garage sale earnings, birthday money, origami business earnings, and odd jobs he has done for me, like tutoring his younger brother, Edan, in Filipino. It wasn’t a ton of money but it was valuable to him.

We don’t give our kids an allowance. As homeschoolers, they don’t need one. If they are hungry they can go to the fridge or pantry and get something to eat. Lunch is on the house, too…naturally. So, if they want money, they learn that it has to be earned and worked for.

During one Sunday service, Elijah heard a message about Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son. The preacher asked, “What is the Isaac of your life?” Unbeknownst to me, it got Elijah thinking.

After worship, he confided in me. “Mom, I am going to give God all the money in my glass jar.”

I must admit that I was tempted to respond, “Are you sure? You don’t have to. God will understand if you keep it. You worked hard for that money.”

But I didn’t want to quell the Holy Spirit’s prodding in his heart so I affirmed his desire to give to the Lord. I asked him why he thought money was his Isaac. And he replied, “I think about money a lot. How to make money and what I can buy with it. How to invest it. It preoccupies my mind. And I had not tithed in a long time.”

So before we left for Brazil, he emptied out his glass jar and stuffed his bills and coins into an envelope. I saw him holding on to it during worship and then he dropped the envelope into the tithe box at our church.

An “Isaac” can be symbolic of something or someone we love most in this world which has the potential to replace our love for God. Sometimes it can be a blessing that has turned into a curse.

When I was in college, Edric was a kind of Isaac in my life. He and I compromised in the area of purity so we decided to break off our relationship after we graduated, to honor God first. It was a painful period in my life and his. But purging ourselves of one another’s presence allowed us to devote our time and attention to growing in our walk with Christ and serving him.

God allowed Edric and I to get back together and marry, just as he returned Isaac to Abraham. But this may not always be the case when we surrender a person, circumstance, material possession or pursuit to God.

God declares himself a jealous God in the holiest sense of the word. He is jealous for our love, not in a selfish, self-centered way, but in a manner that seeks our good. After all, our truest joy is found in worshiping and loving him above all else. Substitute gods may bring us a measure of happiness and pleasure, but satisfaction is NOT guaranteed.

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience …” (Colossians 3:5-6)

For my son, Elijah, money was becoming his idol. Interestingly, after he gave his money, he felt relieved and more “relaxed” because he didn’t have any more money in the jar to focus on. This is what he told me!

In the same way, when Edric and I broke up, it was painful but I felt peace. We made a difficult choice but it was for the right reasons. I knew that if God wanted Edric and I to get married he would bring us back together. If not he had someone better for him and someone better for me.

To this day, there are things in my life that can take the place of God if I am not careful. Elijah’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit encouraged me to be more vigilant. I too need to make sure that my heart is wholeheartedly devoted to God.

What Is This Love?

Brazilians are very much like Filipinos — warm, relational, and sincere. It’s been such a joy to interact with them and get to know their culture better. I have to gesticulate to communicate because most Brazilians don’t speak a smidgen of English. I’ve learned a few Portuguese words — obrigada (thank you), todo (total), Deus (God), minha (my), agua (water), bom (good), boa noite (good evening), oferta (special discount), saida (exit), entrada (enter)…

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Over the past week of sitting through the family conference sessions at First Baptist Church of Curutiba, I picked up a couple of insights that have been especially meaningful to me. Two days ago, Pastor Paschoal Pirigine talked about the idea of love as found in Ephesians 5:25.

The text reads, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

What is this love that Christ demonstrated? How can we love our spouses and children in the same way? 

He shared two insights: Love must give itself completely, without limits. Love must reinvent and resurrect itself.

Interestingly, it was observed that people in concentration camps during World War II were of two kinds. The ones who were perceived to be strong, who were most likely to survive, did not. It was those who where weak but cared for others that tended to survive. Why? Because they had something to live for. They loved beyond their own capacities.

We tend to lose perspective about the fact that the God of the universe came to earth in human flesh. The endless had to “fit” into the finite. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

When Jesus sacrificed himself, he died for the sins of the world. He could’ve stopped it all and come off the cross to end his suffering. Yet he gave his life with complete abandon. We may think it was easy to do because he was also divine. However, we know that he struggled with the realities of his limitations when he said, “Father if possible, remove this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done.”

We too are confronted by our limitations so often, especially in the context of a marriage and family. How does a person keep loving a spouse who is unfaithful? How does a mother keep loving a child who is impaired by a disability? How does a child keep loving a parent who is consistently angry and unreasonable?

Some of these limitations seem insurmountable. Yet true love sees beyond the impossible. Against all odds it seeks to exceed its limits for the sake of the person it chooses to love. Christ didn’t come off the cross because he loves us. He came to finish his mission — to die in our place so we might receive forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God.

Do we easily give up on our family members?

Pastor Paschoal told the story of a son who was addicted to drugs. This person was jailed thirty times! When he asked the parents if they felt like giving up, they replied, “We will never give up on our son.”

I don’t know what I would do if my son was this way! The reality is we are used to replacing and forsaking what pushes us to our limits. It’s the easier way out. But the solution to overcoming these limits is to focus on what Christ did on the cross for us.

We must seek to do as Christ did. Love must “raise and reinvent” itself. After Jesus died, he raised himself and “reinvented” his body. He was raised with a new body. We know this because his friends didn’t recognise him right away. Similarly, we must resurrect our love and reinvent it in new forms, expressing it in new ways.

Pastor Paschoal went on to share that at 15, his love for his wife (his girlfriend at the time) was to show up at the seashore to meet her. When there was a flood in their city, his love compelled him to walk through the waters to go to her. At 21, love was to sit down with his young wife and say, “no matter how much we have, we will find a way to go through life together.” Today, loving his wife is to care for her as she struggles through the pain and challenges of an autoimmune disease that is affecting her nervous system. The disease is causing her brain to shrink.

According to Pastor Paschoal love must be reinvented for every phase of life. As each year passes, it should change according to the need of the other. It must be expressed in new ways to communicate itself. It must be resurrected newly, daily, through the seasons and phases of life, through the history of a marriage and a family.

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

I know of a couple who survived the crisis of multiple infidelities on the part of the husband. Because the wife understood Christ-like love, she chose to forgive her husband unconditionally. This resurrected their love. Today, they have a beautiful marriage and they are impacting multitudes for the Lord. Although it didn’t happen overnight, the choice to forgive gave their marriage a fighting chance.

Only love that is amplified by the grace of God allows us to experience what is humanly impossible. Until we recognise what Christ did for us, “how he loved the church and gave himself up for her,” as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, we will not be able to love beyond our limitations or resurrect and reinvent love to meet the needs of our beloved. We need to abide in this love to give of this love.

When we embrace Christ’s love and mirror it in our marriage something amazing happens. A man and a woman who are so different, who come from dissimilar contexts become one person. This is the miracle of love. God creates one person, one life, one family, one dream, one culture.

I want to end with something John Piper said in his book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” Marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. A marriage between a man and a woman was designed form the beginning to be a reflection of the covenant relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

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When I read this, it really ministered to me. It renewed my resolve and commitment to love Edric for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. Why? Because marriage was designed to showcase the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church. Christ will never leave his church, his bride. Christ will never betray or forsake his church, his bride.

Do our marriages display the same truth for our children? For the world? It is this truth that makes a marriage sacred. To love without limitations, to resurrect and reinvent love in our marriages is to declare the gospel — that God is a good and loving God. When this happens society will pay attention and notice. This love will spread from our marriages, to our children, and to the world.

If you want to read a book on marriage that will radically change your perception and understanding of it, click this link:
This Momentary Marriage

Vomit

It’s not a pretty title but it’s my descriptor for what happened this afternoon, in the car, on Edric’s leg, on his leather shoes, on his hand, and laptop bag. Of all the people to vomit on, I wish it hadn’t been Edric. No it wasn’t my throw up. It was Titus’. He gagged on the lettuce in his tuna sandwich while he was sitting on Edric’s lap.

I saw it project out of Titus’ mouth like it was happening in slow motion. All I could think of was Noooo. Stoooop. And then the jarring sound of Edric’s voice interrupted the freeze-frame scene. “TITUS!!!” He yelled his name and there was silence. The vomit was out.

Who was to be pitied? I was torn. Edric couldn’t clean himself because Titus was on his lap. But Titus was tearing because Edric had shouted his name. I felt badly for both.

I can deal with vomit. As a mother, I have conquered worse. But Edric wasn’t prepared to take on the regurgitated mess that was oozing down his handsome pair of slacks and staining his leather shoes. For one thing, he had some of it on his hand.

Yet my heart also went out to Titus. Although he had no vomit on him (let’s call him vomit-free), he was hurting inside. I wanted to start preaching to Edric about our family bible study two nights ago. Edric had asked the kids to memorize and apply 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It begins with LOVE IS PATIENT, LOVE IS KIND. Furthermore, we attended a worship service last Sunday where the preacher spoke about RESPONDING AND NOT REACTING.

The acronym he shared was P.R.A.Y. – Pause, Resist your first instinct, Ask God how you should respond, Yield to his will. During Sunday service Edric had repeatedly whispered to me that this was a perfect message for him.

I suppose expecting Edric to apply this when Titus threw up on him was a little much. But it was the shouting that really disappointed me. That part wasn’t necessary. However, correcting Edric in front of the kids would have been the worst thing to do. So I just waited for the Lord to convict him. In the meantime, I cleaned the vomit off with wet wipes, praying in my heart that Edric would say sorry.

Praise God for whoever invented wet wipes! They are a mom’s best friend.

Very shortly after, Edric asked for Titus’ forgiveness and embraced him. Titus felt the liberty to express his hurt and they were reconciled as father and son. Edric knew he had been wrong to raise his voice…vomit or no vomit.

Interestingly, that same evening while I was baking salted caramel cupcakes for our friends, I had a wonderful chat with a dear sister in the Lord. It just so happened that the topic veered towards her husband. And she shared with me an insight about marriage that ministered to me.

“When I got married my dad told me to let my husband make mistakes.”

One incident that she narrated was particularly hilarious. Many years ago her husband was in charge of a fundraising activity for their church. He successfully collected seven thousand dollars. At the time, there was no account to deposit the amount in and he didn’t want to put it into his own bank account, for integrity’s sake. So while he was responsible for holding on to the cash, he stuck the bills in a sour cream container which he put in the freezer for safe-keeping.

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I know this guy. He is intelligent. So as crazy as this freezer idea was, I know it had nothing to do with his IQ. He did, however, fail to mention this very important detail about the sour cream container to his wife (my friend).

One day his mom came over and cleaned out their freezer while they were away. Like any loving mother, she thought she was doing her children a good deed. The sour cream container was thrown out! She just assumed it was trash.

When my friend found out that her husband had “deposited” the money into their freezer and lost it, she was incredulous. She couldn’t believe that he had stored it in their freezer!

But being the supportive, godly and faith-filed woman that she was, she encouraged her husband by saying, “I think your boss is going to write you a check to replace the money.”

Amazingly, her husband received a check from his boss. Furthermore, because her husband was man enough to come before their church congregation and explain what happened to the money, God redeemed the situation. Donations poured in, so much so that the church had to turn down cash at a certain point.

When my friend told me this I was encouraged. There are occasions when Edric’s decisions or actions trouble me. Because I love him deeply and recognize the impact his choices have on our family, I get nervous and worried when I feel like he isn’t applying godly wisdom or Christ-likeness.

The vomit incident was a case in point for me. I really wanted to hammer Edric down with statements about what he did wrong and why it was wrong. Why did he have to get angry at Titus? Why didn’t he consider how yelling might wound his spirit and upset the rest of us who were witnesses to his reaction? Would the kids think he was being a hypocrite for teaching one thing and then doing the opposite?

Had it not been for the prodding of the Lord to be cool and calm, I would have spewed out my own form of verbal vomit. But thankfully, Edric came to his own realization about his shouting. Surely this was the working of the Holy Spirit in his own heart.

Here is where I want my friend’s story and this vomit incident to converge. God is in control of our husbands. When we are tempted to panic and instigate a “coup” to overthrow or undermine their authority, we need to step back and remember whose authority they are under.

Edric is accountable to God. If and when he gives in to thinking and behaviors that don’t please God, I know that God is going to minister to him and discipline him if necessary, for his good. If I don’t let God deal with Edric in his own way and time, then I may become the reason for my husband’s greater failures! I may become the blockade that prevents him from experiencing God’s work and victory in his life!

As I think about what my friend’s father told her — be willing to let your husband fail — I must answer certain questions. Do I trust that God loves Edric? Do I trust that he is control? Do I trust that he can turn his failures into the best opportunities for godly instruction and growing in wisdom?

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It may not happen in an instant or overnight. And sometimes the changes I hope for may take years and years of prayer. Yet my confidence is in this promise “that He (God) who began a good work in his life will complete it.” (Philippians 1:6)

And might I add that Edric used to be much more hot-headed. Small inconveniences would spike a great rise in his emotional temperature. But through the years God has caused him to change remarkably in this area. He is much more patient and careful about his words and actions. In fact, our eldest son, Elijah, told him recently, “Dad you have really changed.”

This blesses me. It’s a miracle when spouses change for the better, a miracle that speaks of God’s handiwork. When people ask me if a husband or wife will change in a marriage, hoping that marrying them will be a catalyst for positive change, I tell them, “Don’t expect that YOU can change your spouse, but GOD can. That’s why he needs to be present in your marriage.”

Tonight, Titus was the last one to finish his dinner. I saw him sitting by himself looking very much alone on our balcony. The back drop of the expansive night sky made his six year old frame look especially tiny. When Edric noticed that he was in need of company, he stayed with him. I watched the two of them engage in conversation and laugh together until Titus was done. I thought of what a tender site they were as father and son.

A wife and a mother can mop up vomit with wet wipes. But only the God of the universe can mop up the vomit of our lives. He does things like turn the heart of a hurting son back to his father’s and a father’s to his son’s. He alone can redeem the stink and mess that we make. The question is are we willing to surrender our lives and the lives of those whom we love to him so he can do so?

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From Head to Heart

My second son, Edan, is reading through the Bible. But he has admitted to me several times that he finds it tedious to do so and he doesn’t feel like keeping up the habit of a daily quiet time with the Lord. I have tried to encourage him by talking about the importance of growing in his faith and the joys of getting to know God more intimately. However, it remains a struggle for him to cultivate the desire to read.

Yesterday, he expressed the same reluctancy to study the word of God. So I invited him to sit down beside me and we read a chapter in Malachi together. I explained to him the passages we studied — how they related to our own experiences as a family and how they could be applied as principles for living. He was very engaged in our discussion.

At one point, he began to tear and I didn’t know where this was coming from. So I asked him if it was something we read or something I said. He wasn’t ready to answer then but after we finished reading, he grabbed a couple of pillows, curled up on the floor and told me, “When you spend time explaining the Bible to me, I feel touched.”

Touched? Did my reserved and calculated son just use that word to express himself? It wasn’t a word he had used before.

He began to have tears in his eyes again.

For the first time, he saw how amazing God’s word can be. It had come alive to him. I suppose he had always wanted to feel like a daily quiet time with the Lord was worthwhile but he had gotten discouraged by his inability to understand the adult vocabulary. I assumed too much when I handed him an adult version of the Bible and expected him to magically absorb it all because he reads well.

Over breakfast, he added something like this, “I am happy because God tells you to take care of me.” His eyes turned red again and he was trying to express to me that the experience of shared time in the word was an example of this. As a young child struggling with the guilt of NOT loving God’s word, a solution was given to him. God sent me, his mother, to help him. What mattered to him was the Lord knew his heartfelt and secret need.

I asked him what he does when he reads through his Bible by himself. His reply was, “When I don’t know the words, I just ignore them. I just read to finish.”

There had been no joy in his encounters with truth because its meaning was unclear to him and its applications, a mystery. What a great disservice I had done him, by operating with a false assumption that he could navigate through the text. My eldest, Elijah, has a richer vocabulary so it is easier for him to comprehend what he reads. As for Edan, he was going through the motion of reading but there was no delight in it. It was becoming a ritual. Having those 20 minutes together, talking about how applicable the text was to everyday life was precious to him.

Author Tedd Tripp writes that parents need to see the Bible as a family album. The Bible isn’t a literary piece about a nation or people who bear no relation to us, it is a living text that tells us what God has done, can do and will do in our lives. It is the history of our faith in Jesus Christ and the future of it. Do our children know this?

As for me, I have a lot to improve on in this area. My children cannot be left alone to guide themselves in matters of the faith. They are dependent on Edric and I during these tender years, while under our care, to elucidate and illuminate the character of God, his principles, the warnings and promises, and stories as found in the Scriptures.

Furthermore, for faith to blossom in the lives of our children, it has to become personal. It is one thing to teach our kids about what we believe, to emphasize character, and to read Bible stories. It is a totally different and more important thing to teach them how to enjoy God, to find that their deepest longings and questions can be satisfied in him, and to discover the truth that sets them free in his word. When this happens, faith can move from cultural and traditional to convincingly meaningful so it can be embraced as completely acceptable. Faith can’t reside merely in the head, it must finds it’s way to our children’s hearts so that convictions and commitments can be formed.

This morning, Edan reminded me that we had to read together again and he eagerly brought me the bookmarked page of Scripture to go over with him. I may not be able to do this every single day but I pray that I can pass on to Edan a love for God’s word while he is still young.

O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. (Psalms 71:17 NASB)

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I love you even with your braces and bangs.

Braces and bangs…what was I thinking?! I didn’t realize how awkward I would look. And I must admit that I struggle with vanity from time to time. The comedy of it all is I had to give so many talks these past two weeks. There were blog readers who came up to me wanting photos and I wanted to run away because I am vain!!! I didn’t want to smile and pose for the camera. I know…it’s silly.

After one of my seminars, Edric confronted me in a loving way and told me to get over it. He knew I was self conscious because I was hardly moving my upper lip. I looked like an unskilled ventriloquist. Part of the problem was my lips kept snagging on my braces.

It’s been a few weeks since I first got them. Thankfully, these are fast braces so I shouldn’t have to wear them for too long. In the meantime, while I am looking like a teenager with wrinkles, I am so glad Edric told me two mornings ago, “I love you even with your braces and bangs.”

He would prefer that I didn’t have either but at this stage, 13 years into marriage, we understand that physical appearances aren’t the most important aspect of a marriage. I am not saying it’s not necessary to be attracted to your spouse and to do your best to be attractive for your spouse. But it’s certainly wonderful to know that braces and bangs aren’t going to change the way Edric feels about me. I don’t have to look perfect. I am not pressured to be flawless.

At the recent wedding of my cousin, Joseph, the officiating pastor, Jay Jackson, said, “Because love sees more it is willing to see less.”

He certainly meant more than just the physical but since I am on the topic of external appearances, permit me to say how much I appreciate a couple of things about my husband…

I am so thankful I married a guy who doesn’t compare me to the attractive women he meets. (He interviewed three gorgeous beauty queens for his TV show a few weeks ago.) I am so thankful that he doesn’t entertain attractive stalker women online. (Some women don’t care that he is a married man. They still attempt to get his attention and flirt with him.) I am so thankful he doesn’t ogle at bill boards of younger women or look up pornography. He admits that he is tempted to just like any other man, but he tries his best to guard what he sees.

Why? Because he loves God. He wants to please Him. If Edric didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord, I wouldn’t have the same sort of peace that I do about our marriage. But because he does it affords me rest from trying to KEEP him attracted to me. I try to stay fit and take care of myself so I don’t fall apart physically. However, no amount of striving in this area would make him faithful to me unless he desired to live for God.

I have seen the same conviction in my father who has stayed faithful to my mother. The other day I was showing my dad old photos of him and my mom. And he began to have tears in his eyes. My dad hardly gets emotional! But he went through each photo with me, commenting on how beautiful my mom looked. Afterwards he asked me to send the photos to him. As he made his way up the stairs to his study room, he glanced back at me with an expression of tender affection and added, “It is good for a husband to look through old photos and remember how much he loves the wife of his youth…” He seemed to be lost in a moment of sweet remembering as he smiled and climbed the remainder of the stairs.

When he said “wife of your youth,” I remembered this passage in Proverbs…Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:15, 18 NLT)

A man marries the woman he loves but a man who loves God keeps loving the woman he married.

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Confessions of An Imperfect Mother

I lost it with my kids yesterday. We were looking through homeschool math kits and materials and I found out that Titus, Tiana and one of their cousins had gotten into them. Parts were misplaced and items were incomplete. Everything was jumbled together and carelessly thrown into one box.

My mistake was I took the box and intentionally dumped it on the floor in front of the children. It crashed in a loud way, pieces scattering in all directions.

Titus started to cry. The others were in shock. This was the first time they saw me react this way. My cortisol levels walked out of the room.

I was so frustrated because of the irresponsibility and lack of stewardship. When we bought these things I clearly told my kids to take care of them. They agreed to do so.

After sorting and tallying, a letter “y” was missing from the lower case letters of a kindergarten assessment kit; a test tube, three test tube covers, tweezers, and a magnifying glass were missing from a pre-school science kit; and the bear counters, as well as the colored and different-sized rubber bands weren’t in their box.

It may not seem like a huge deal but these are homeschooling materials I need for teaching. They aren’t easy to replace. Still…sigh…throwing the box was uncalled for. It was such a bad example to my kids. I knew it too but I struggled with thoughts like, if I don’t get mad how will my kids learn that this sort of irresponsibility is not acceptable? How will they take me seriously if I am always so patient and forgiving?

These were ridiculous thoughts but I entertained them for a bit after I left the room. I went downstairs to grab some ziploc bags so the mess could be sorted.

Everyone was quiet when I came back into the room. I placed Catalina on the floor and sat beside them. They kept making side glances at me, expecting an apology. At first I tried to explain what made me irate.

I went on and on about stewardship and what it means to take care of what God has given us. Bad timing. Of course nothing was sinking in because my kids had not recovered from my outburst of anger.

Over lunch, I gathered them around me. “Mommy needs to talk to all of you. Mommy was angry because you were not good stewards but it was wrong of me to throw the box on the floor. I was very wrong. Will you forgive me? I was a bad example. I am so sorry.”

They nodded their heads. Titus and Tiana started to smile. But my older boys needed more time. They were still dealing with the emotional and spiritual pain I had caused them. I let them speak up and express their feelings. They teared up, especially Elijah.

“You have never done that before, mom.” His voice cracked as he tried to stay in control of his emotions. He also added, “My throat is sore from crying. I was crying while I was going around the house looking for all the things you asked us to.” (I made a list of missing items for them to find.) I hugged him and asked for forgiveness again.

At that point I felt so wretched, and I felt like a total hypocrite. Last weekend I gave a parenting talk with Edric and I boldly stated, “Our responses to our children should be redemptive, they should lead them to Christ, not away from him.”

Ayayay. Choke. Gag me. I had done just the opposite!

I spent time with the kids in the afternoon and they livened up to their usual selves. They even said, “W are okay now, mom.” But there was definitely regret on my part. I really wish I had controlled myself and not chucked the box on the floor.

God reminded me that I am an imperfect, sinful mother who needs to depend on his grace daily to love my children to Christ. The moment when I think I am most OKAY, like I am in control and cruising along, is the moment when I am most vulnerable to the sins of pride, anger, impatience, criticism and judgementalism.

During Holy Week Edric and I were busy serving God. We did two parenting seminars. Edric also spoke thrice on Sunday and I shared along side him. And my 700 Club testimony was featured on TV.

Encouragement and praise flooded my inbox and without realizing it, I was eating it all up and reveling in it, thinking that I had done something of worth for the Lord. I was “resting on my spiritual laurels.” But my outburst was a very humbling reminder that whenever I do anything of worth ALL CREDIT goes to God. There is nothing good in me apart from him. It’s not about what I do for God or what I accomplish. It’s about who he is and what he has done. The instant I start patting myself on the back and stealing even a smidgen of God’s glory, I will fall and fail like I did yesterday.

This post is a confession before God and to Him that my heart was deceived. I equated spiritual success with the doings of a person. But the muchness of service can often belie the true disposition of the heart and its devotion. What is more important is the being — the unmasked self, the exposed motives that are hidden to others but seen by God.

Why do I do what I do for His kingdom?

Is it for him or is it really for me? Is it because I really love Christ and others or is it because I love myself? Is it because I want him to get all the glory or do I want some of it? Is it an offering of worship to a God who is worthy of my praise and my best or is it obligatory preoccupation with the doings of Christianity?

God is not more pleased with displays of service as he is with the heart of the one who serves with gratitude, joy, love and truthful worship. As his word says, But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. (John 4:23 NLT)

In everything I do, whether it be as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, and servant of God, I must have the same perspective that John had in reference to Christ. May the perfect Jesus always increase in this imperfect me…

He must increase, but I must decrease. “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. (John 3:30, 31 NASB)

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The Triumvirate of Unconditional Love

Let me begin by saying it’s absolutely impossible to survive a marriage without forgiveness. It is one of the three triplets that define unconditional love, especially in marriage — forgiveness, grace and hope. Every single day that a person is married, at least one of these (if not all) are put to the test. Without this triumvirate a marriage cannot grow in intimacy and it will certainly not overcome what threatens to break it apart. Whether it be daily annoyances, personality clashes, unmet expectations or longings, lack of priorities, or betrayal, a marital relationship is constantly under attack. It is the game plan of the evil one to break it apart and destroy the people who are in and around it — the couple, the children, the family. And naturally, when more and more families fall, society will follow.

So a marriage must be treated as sacred, and those who commit to it must understand that saying yes to one another, before God, is for better or for worse.

John Piper wrote an amazing book called “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” He says that marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. Marriage between a man and a woman was designed from the beginning to be a reflection of the relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

I used to wonder why the Bible says that there is no marriage in heaven. This question was answered when I read Piper’s book. Marriage is a mirror of the relationship between Jesus Christ (the husband) and his church (his bride). “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…”(Ephesians 5:23-26 NASB)

In heaven, there is no need for a marriage to display this relationship. But on earth, what a privilege we have to show the world how much God loves us! Christ will never leave his church, his bride, just as a man ought never to leave his wife. And the church is to be faithful and subject to Christ, as a wife ought to be to her husband.

The problem is marriage is between two imperfect people. Unlike Christ to us, we do not always love one another as he loves us. But we have a reference for the kind of love that ought to be shared by a husband and wife because of Christ’s example. There has to be forgiveness, grace and hope.

Last week Edric and I got into a serious fight. It wasn’t one of those silly ones that have to do with personality quirks or toothpaste tubes left uncovered in the bathroom. I brought up a concern about Family Ministry and his involvement in it, and he was very discouraged by the things I said. He called me Ms. Gloom and Doom for being negative and corrective about the way he was running it. I didn’t relent. My mistake was I kept pursuing the discussion, intentionally pulverizing him with my frustrations. And I knew I was being disrespectful but I didn’t care. I just wanted him to acknowledge what I was saying and validate my perspective. But he reacted with anger (not shouting but he didn’t like what I had to say at all), and he withdrew and avoided me because he was deeply hurt. So I pulled away, too.

When I apologized for my disrespect, I made the mistake of bringing up the same topic again. And it came to a point where he actually said that he didn’t want to come home if he was going to come home to a complaining, nagging wife who had no confidence in him.

In my mind I wasn’t being a nag and I wasn’t communicating that he wasn’t capable of heading the ministry. I was merely expressing a concern. But for guys, well, my husband atleast, when he responds with a statement like, “I will take care of it,” that means he’s going to take action and I need not badger him repeatedly to make sure. That was my problem. I didn’t stop talking. Even after Edric said he would take care of it, I kept going and going.

It took two and a half days before we resolved our conflict. (This is long for us.) And it was a pretty emotional discussion. We went back and forth deliberating and articulating our deep frustrations towards one another until I just broke down and he did, too. We sat in the kitchen in tears.

Neither of us wanted to be fighting. We loved each other. But there was a lot of garbage being shoveled on top of that love. All we began to see and smell was the stink.

As we humbled ourselves and acknowledged our wrongs, we applied forgiveness, grace and hope. We accepted one another’s apology without thinking, “Well, you are just going to do this again” — FORGIVENESS. And we made ourselves vulnerable by choosing to love one another still — GRACE. Afterwards, we talked about what to improve on and we were comforted by Christ’s work in each of us — HOPE.

Years ago Edric and I attended a marriage retreat where we learned about the stages of marriage — romantic, reality, reaction, retaliation, retreat, resignation, and rebuilding. Romantic is like the honey moon stage, when you are both starry-eyed, blissful, and totally clueless about how different you are from one another. Reality is the day you wake up and realize that your husband doesn’t put the toilet seat down after using it, and your husband realizes you spend 3 hours in the bathroom (I hope none of us wives really do this!) As the idiosyncrasies, attitudes and behaviors begin to bug and irritate you, you begin to react, and then conflict arises. Retaliation happens. If the conflicts remain unresolved and there is no attempt to change, then you both begin to withdraw. This is the retreat stage. When neither of you want to fix the marriage and feel a kind of hopelessness about it, this is resignation. If you can’t get past this stage, you may separate or divorce. Another possibility is you will live together but have absolutely no relationship. The good news is, in Christ, a marriage can be rebuilt. It can keep on being rebuilt.

Edric and I have experienced these stages over and over again. As much as possible, we don’t linger in the retreat stage too long, and we skip on to the rebuilding stage soon after a conflict. In order to do this, forgiveness, grace and hope are necessary. But these would be impossible to apply if God wasn’t present in our marriage.

Both of us need a reference for unconditional love that is outside of ourselves. Our human capacity to forgive, dispense grace, and hope is limited by who we are – sinful, fallen people. Honestly, I don’t always like to forgive. Most of the time it’s not the big offenses that are hard to deal with, it’s the repeated ones that are wearying. When Edric gets irritated or loses his cool, I feel very hurt. And it makes me angry when he has a problem calibrating his emotions. I praise God that his “flare-ups” have become more infrequent over the years. He tries his best to be cool, calm, and collected, as well as mindful of his tone. But, on occasion, when he gets busy or overexerts himself to the point of exhaustion, he is more vulnerable to spikes in his temperament. When this happens, I want to react and fight back, or at least correct him. My first instinct is not to forgive. I don’t feel like it. It’s not easy for Edric to keep forgiving me for my shortcomings either. But he said something really sweet to me that nearly brought me to tears. “Hon, from the moment of the offense, I forgive you.” In other words, as soon as I display a behavior, attitude or speak words that hurt him, he already chooses to forgive.

“Why?” I asked.

“Christ’s love compels me to,” was his answer.

We choose to forgive because God has forgiven us through his son, Jesus. And we know that forgiveness is the starting point. It’s like the antivenin that removes emotional toxins that poison our love for one another.

The Bible says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…” Hebrews 12:15

Recently I heard an amazing story of a couple who wanted to quit on one another. One of the spouses had kept a second family and lived a secret life. It was an offense that any normal person would struggle to forgive. For a while, it seemed like this couple was at the resignation stage. The marriage seemed impossible to fix. As a last effort, they attended a retreat where they learned about Jesus Christ and his forgiveness. The grieving spouse made a decision to forgive because of Christ’s forgiveness. Together they committed to rebuild the relationship, an act of grace. And miraculously, their marriage bounced back to the romantic stage as they were able to unearth issues, and unmet longings and expectations. Hope was restored.

Even though stories like this one may seem uncommon in a world where marriages fall apart because of infidelity and betrayal, it is a common occurrence for couples who choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of their lives and marriages. Jesus Christ doesn’t just save people. He saves marriages.

I love Edric. I want to love him always. But marriage is not an easy relationship. We will continue to disappoint one another because we are flawed people. We will continue to go through the stages of marriage. However, the great news is we can keep returning to the romantic stage. For as long as we apply the same unconditional love that Jesus Christ affords us there will always be forgiveness, grace and hope in our marriage.

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HOPE

Sunday morning I was invited to speak at CRIBS, a center for abused women. When I was praying about what to share, God impressed upon my heart to talk about hope…

It’s easy to lose hope when you go through sexual abuse, molestation, incest, or rape. I know the feeling of losing hope — hope for the future, hope for acceptance, hope for security and protection, hope that you can ever be whole and undamaged again.

When I was raped at fifteen, I felt like something was stolen from me, something that no one could ever give back.

But then I remembered verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”

So I made up my mind. I chose to believe that God was good, that he still had a plan for my life. I clung to the promise in Romans 8:28 which says, “But God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him.”

What good could ever come out of rape? I didn’t know how God would redeem this tragedy, but I made a personal choice not to allow tragedy to define or determine who I would become.

When I was speaking to the ladies at CRIBS, I told them, “God is not like the men who hurt you or who hurt me. Some of you may have been abused and betrayed by the men in your life who are supposed to take care of you and protect you — fathers, uncles, maybe even cousins, and brothers. But God is not like these men.

God is a loving, caring Father who is mindful of us. I have five children. They are all special to me. And I don’t think there will ever be a time when I will forget any of them. But here is what God says about himself:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

What a tender description of God’s love for us! He doesn’t forget any of us, no matter what we have been through.

God loves us so much, He gave us His own son, Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus was abused for our sake. He was mocked and humiliated, abandoned by those who were closest to him. He endured all this so that his death could bring us eternal life.

John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world he gave us his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Why? Why would the God of the universe do this? GOD LOVES US SO MUCH HE WANTS TO HEAL MORE THAN OUR PHYSICAL PROBLEMS. HE WANTS TO HEAL OUR BIGGER PROBLEM — OUR SPIRITUAL PROBLEM.

Those of us who have gone through sexual assault had our physical bodies hurt and damaged. But there is a greater and more serious wrong that we have to come to terms with. Before God, we are ALL sinners.

Romans 3:9 -11 “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.’”

What is our spiritual problem? Sin. We are separated from God. Our orientation is away from God.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In the past I used to think that the men who raped me were the evil ones. Yes, they were wrong and what they did was horrible. But God reminded me that I am also a sinner. I may not hurt people the same way those men hurt me. However, I stand just as guilty before God. I too fall short of his righteousness. And because He forgave me then I should do the same to the men who violated me.

The entire world groans under the weight of sin. That’s why people assault, pillage, plunder and kill. That was never God’s plan. God made a beautiful world where people were supposed to be in harmony with Him, with one another, with creation. Relationships were intended to provide security and unconditional love.

After I was raped, a kind of skepticism and distrustful point of view grew in me. I often interpreted the affections of men as malicious and perverse. The sins committed against me altered my natural inclination to trust in people.

This is what sin does. It destroys, corrupts, and disrupts God’s good design. And the consequences of sin — heartache, hardships, problems, pain, and multiplied sorrows — these are the enemies of hope.

But Jesus gave his life, to restore and heal what sin took away, to give us hope. What is the hope we have in Jesus?

1. THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE

“For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

The verse says “so that you may know.” It is a certainty, not a false promise.

Having the hope of eternal life comforted me greatly the night of the rape. I thought, “Lord they may be able to touch my body, but they cannot touch my spirit. My real life is hidden in you.”

No matter what happens to our physical bodies, we can look forward to heaven where the book of Revelations tells us, “every tear shall be wiped away.”

2. THE HOPE OF PEACE

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.”

The reality is we live in a world that is broken, fallen. While we cannot change this (at least not until Christ comes again), we can still have the peace he offers. If Jesus is present in our lives, we do not have to be afraid, to worry or doubt that he will take care of us when trials and difficulties come. He gives us the assurance that he has already overcome the world.

3. THE HOPE OF A NEW BEGINNING

“For if anyone is in Christ he is new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I felt soiled and dirty after I was raped, but this verse reminded me that in Christ all things can be new again. I wanted new memories. I wanted to move on and move past what happened to me. Even if I was victimized, I didn’t want to live like a victim.

Today I am happily married and blessed with five children. I have the privilege of serving the Lord along-side my husband, Edric. Together we are enjoying the adventures of parenting and homeschooling our children. The dark memories of that night have been replaced by beautiful, delightful ones that speak of the wonders and faithfulness of God in my life and in my family’s.

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The Lord is a redeemer. He isn’t like the people or problems that steal and take away what is precious to us. He is a GIVER. He wants to GIVE us hope for the future — eternal life, hope for today — peace, and hope for our past — a new beginning.

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Years ago I gave my life to Jesus. He is the only reason why I was able to come away from this tragedy with hope and forgive the men who raped me. Will you let God redeem your life, too, so you can experience the hope that he has promised through his son, Jesus?

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Sweet Beedie Dies

What a sad morning.

Beedie, one of Edan’s cockatiels, died at about 10 AM. We were all pretty devastated. But Edan was especially despondent. When I pulled Beedie out of the cage and showed Edan his lifeless body, he walked away, up the stairs to be alone and cry.

I cried, too.

Beedie was the sweetest bird. And my heart ached for Edan.

Edan’s a pretty dutiful boy. He had a routine with his two cockatiels. Every morning he would change the water, feed them, and spend time playing with them. Beedie was his favorite because he was very good-natured. Whenever Edan would extend his fingers to him, Beedie would willingly climb on and chirp a happy tune.

I wish I hadn’t been the last to see him alive. He wasn’t doing too well early this morning. My dad used to breed cockatiels and parakeets so I knew that Beedie had all the symptoms of a sick bird. His head was bowed down, his eyes were closed and he refused to eat or drink anything. I didn’t expect him to survive for very much longer. But it was still hard to see him keeled over, his claws curled under him, with one eye shut and the other half open. He wasn’t breathing anymore. Geedie (Edan’s other cockatiel) looked on in a lonely sort of way.

Although I’m not entirely sure of what made him sick, I have a theory.  About two weeks ago I told Edan to quick tossing his cockatiels up into the air to make them fly. They came from the pet shop with their wings clipped so they couldn’t fly very far at all. Edan thought he was “helping them” learn how to fly. But I kept telling him that birds instinctively know how to fly. My fear was he was stressing them out by forcing them to fly when they obviously couldn’t because their wings were clipped.

Well, he forgot that I had told him this. A few days ago, Edan experimented with flying lessons again and Beedie accidentally dove into the pond in the garden because he couldn’t flap his wings very well. Edan freaked out and called Elijah who ran over to rescue Beedie. When the kids reported to me what happened, I reminded Edan that he wasn’t supposed to throw the birds up into the air. I also expressed concern that Beedie might get sick.

I know birds bathe in water but this was dirty pond water. And I’m pretty sure Beedie gulped in some of it. His feces were loose and the wrong color before he died.

Birds are really sensitive. And once they get sick, it’s not very likely that they will recover.

As a mom, I really wanted to spare Edan from experiencing the loss of his bird. But I couldn’t. I even prayed that he would live. But God didn’t let that happen.

To empathize with Edan, I held him for a while as we both cried about Beedie. We looked at the picture on my phone when we got him from the pet store and that made us cry even more.

This afternoon, I tried, in a very gentle way to ask Edan if he learned anything from this unfortunate experience…especially in the area of obedience. At the time he was hanging out with his cousins and his reply was, “Yes mom, but I don’t want to talk about it in front of my cousins.”

When it was just the two of us, I asked him again and he admitted to me that he should have obeyed and taken better care of Beedie, specifically, he should have NOT thrown him into the air to fly or twirled him around. As he went out the door of the study room, he also added, “The punishment of sin is death.” I actually laughed when he said this because I didn’t expect such an insightful comment from him. We both smiled at one another.

Obedience is a principle that my children will have to keep on learning as they grow up. The first command we teach our children is to obey. When our kids are younger, we emphasize it a lot. We even spank for disobedience. But as they get older, we don’t force them to obey. By about 6 or 7, they usually get obedience, and they understand why it is important. The next stage of their instruction when it comes to obeying is developing a conviction for it.

We want them to connect obedience with blessing. And when they don’t obey it’s beneficial for them to experience the consequences of their choices, even if hurts to watch this happen as a parent. My parents taught my siblings and I, “you are free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of your choices.”

As an 8 year old, Edan experienced a life lesson I hope he will not forget. It was painful for him to loose Beedie. But it would be more painful for him in the future if he didn’t internalize obedience this early on.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

For homeschooling today, I asked Edan to write a tribute to Beedie so he can remember him…

Beedie was my Cocktail and he died today. We had him for 18 days. He was a kind bird. I loved him so much…. He was also loving, and happy. He was my pet. Everyday we would play together. I would clean his cage every day. He was a child bird, not yet an adult. In the morning he would call out for me.

But today he was very sick. When I checked on him, he was weak and he wouldn’t eat or drink. A few hours later he died. I felt sad. I will miss him very much. I had lots of fun with him. He was my favourite pet….

_____

WAAAAHHH (THAT’S ME…) 

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Two Become One

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My parents are literally East meets West, a Chinese and an American. When they met one another in the Philippines, they were from two distinctly different cultures brought together by a common love for Jesus Christ and the desire to serve him. Now married for nearly 41 years, and still in love (more so than ever before), it is their identity in Christ — as one — that has kept them together.

While I was cleaning out old albums, I came across a published narrative of how God brought them together, and I was so blessed to read their story again. I’m hoping you will feel the same way…

“Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-24

PETER (DAD):

As I meditated on this passage one morning in December 1971, I was confident that if I asked anything in the name of Jesus, he would do it. There was great peace in my heart as  I prayed, “Lord, allow me to meet my future wife. I am tired of dating girls and wasting time.”

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20140329-180017.jpgI met Deonna in Janauary at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. She had arrived in the Philippines on November 21 as a member of the Crossroads, a musical team for Asia of the aforementioned Christian organization.

At that time, I never imaged that she was the Lord’s answer to my prayer. There were two incidents, however, which prompted me to become better acquainted with her. The first occurred when my younger sister, Beth, went shopping with her. Beth commented afterwards, “she is so simple and wise in her shopping.”

The other happened a week after our encounter. The Crossroads and I were having dinner together. As we were sharing our experiences with the Lord, I noticed that Deonna had a deep comprehension of life. She showed great spiritual discernment in what she was saying. I talked with her again at the next Friday night meeting. That evening, I asked her for a date on Sunday afternoon.

Our first date was a unique experience for me. My original plan was to show her some interesting places in the greater Manila area and get-to-know her at the same time. However, a few days before Sunday, a pastor-friend invited me to speak in his church on the same afternoon that I was to be with Deonna. I accepted the invitation. Not being well-acquainted with Deonna, I didn’t know what she would think about my acceptance of the speaking engagement. I hoped she would be willing to minister with me. I waited until Sunday to tell her. When I did, I was delighted because she welcomed the idea. She remarked that it is good to have a balance between being together and ministering together. That Sunday afternoon, she helped me by sharing her testimony at the church I spoke at.

This was how our relationship began. It was the type of relationship I prayed I would have with a girl. I had spent time with other girls but none of them had expressed a willingness to serve the Lord the way Deonna did. I was encouraged by the fact that we were closer to the Lord and to each other when we parted that evening.

After our first date, we committed the future of our relationship to the Lord. Although we saw each other frequently between the months of February and August, we had to be separated for a period of three and a half months. Deonna toured with the Crossroads in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines in March and April; then in July, I went to the U.S. for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Explo’ 72 and Lay Staff Training.

With the possibility of marriage in mind, Deonna and I thought it would be wise for me to visit her family while in the U.S. During the second week of my trip to the U.S., I spent four days in Florida with them. I discussed with her father what the Lord had been showing us in regards to our relationship. I left her family with the assurance that her parents would welcome our marriage if it were the Lord’s will.

My love for Deonna grew during the rest of my time in the U.S. For the first time in my life, I began to realize the meaning of Agape Love – an unconditional, unselfish love. I discovered within myself a freedom to love her without the fear of losing her or of becoming jealous. Regardless of her response to me, I knew I would still love her. I only desired the best for her.

In August, the Lord finally confirmed that he had chosen Deonna to be my wife. He did this through many Bible verses and through the love which He had placed within me for her. Knowing that Deonna was to be my wife, I was eager to see her. As soon as my responsibilities would allow me, I began my trip home.

I had to stop in Germany to attend to some business affairs. Although I originally intended to spend a few months in Germany to complete my business there, I was able to do everything in a week. Then, I immediately flew to the Philippines with the intention of asking Deonna to marry me.

Wasting no time, I proposed to Deonna on Sunday, the 27th of August, which was just one day after I returned to Manila. I did not know what the Lord had revealed to her concerning our future. I only knew that I loved her and that the Lord had showed me that Deonna was to be my wife. Trusting His promises me, I had the courage to ask her to marry me. But when I asked her, she did not answer me immediately. After a moment of silence, she said, “Peter, please get my Bible out of the car. I want to share with you what the Lord showed me concerning our relationship.”

I never expected her to respond this way! Nevertheless, I brought her Bible and “patiently” waited for thirty minutes while she read the many Bible verses God had shown her. When she finally finished, I asked, “Deonna, what is your answer?” Again, she surprised me by saying, “Peter, let’s pray.” Not knowing what to expect next, I bowed my head. At the end of her prayer to the Lord, I heard her say, “Father, before you and all of heaven I say ‘yes’ to Peter. I will be his wife.”

I opened my eyes and looked at her. I never though that the woman I would marry would say “yes” to me through a prayer to our heavenly Father. Yet, Deonna had done it! I was overjoyed as I thought, “I am looking at my wife to be. She is God’s gift to me.” I remember my prayer in December, “Lord, let me meet my future wife.” God faithfully fulfilled His promise to me…” Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do…” My heart was full of joy, praise, and thanksgiving to God for giving me such a wonderful woman.

I can honestly say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

God is so good. He knows what is best for His children and when it is best to give it to us. Through this experience with Deonna, I have learned that “Faith” means to trust the Lord moment by moment, one step at a time.

 

DEONNA (MOM):

A week before leaving California for Asia, my mother entered the kitchen while I was cooking my lunch. “Deonna,” she said. “I am glad that you have chosen to obey the Lord by going to Asia to minster there as a member of the Crossroads.” Then I observed tears welling up in her eyes as she continued, “But honey, you are already 25. When will you get married?”

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20140329-204257.jpgI was deeply touched by her motherly concern. However, I had already given this problem to Christ and left it for Him to solve. Because of this, I was able to encourage her by replying, “Mother, if there was only one man in the world but the Lord Jesus Christ wanted me to marry him, then Jesus would bring me to him.” Then unexpectedly I added, “Who knows, Mom, maybe I’ll marry an Asian? God might have a permanent ministry planned for me in Asia.” This last statement certainly didn’t comfort her. She burst into tears at the thought of me staying in Asia for life.

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When I left Lost Angeles airport on November 14, 1971, I did not know that Jesus was actually taking me to meet a handsome Chinese man who would be my husband. Nor did I realize that I was leaving one way of life to eventually begin a new life with him in a foreign country. Unknowingly, Jesus had given me a glimpse of my future through my statement to my mom.

The Crossroads arrived in the Philippines on November 21. Manila had been chosen as our home base since the Asian Training Center for Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) was located there. Three weeks after arriving we attended the CCC Leadership Training Institute. On the second day of the institute, the topic of marriage came up again when Becky,  a newly married Filipino staff of CCC, shared with me that months before she met Ben, her husband, she had prayed for certain qualities to be in the man she married.

The results of Becky’s prayer inspired me to do the same. After the institute, I prayerfully made the list of qualities, which I wanted to be in the man I would marry. It was my desire that each quality would be pleasing to Lord. Let me share these qualities with you. I wanted:

  1. A true Christian – a man who has trusted Christ to forgive his sins and because of this, has Christ’s Spirit living in him.
  2. One who loves God more than he loves me.
  3. A man who allows Christ’s Spirit to control him and to guide his life.
  4. One chosen by the Lord to serve Him.
  5. One who understands that the Lord’s role for a Christian husband is to be the head of his home – to lead his wife through his love and not by force.
  6. A man with leadership ability.
  7. A man who is sensitive and understanding with others and wise in human relationships.
  8. One who is intelligent, has achieved the same level of education as I have, has a positive attitude toward life, and one who enjoys sports like swimming, (something that we can do together).

Although I didn’t know where this man was, I did know that the Lord would bring me to him someday. Until that time, I was content to pray for him and to wait.

In January, just one month after I had begun praying for my future husband, I met Peter. Our first meeting was very casual, and to be honest, very ordinary. We were at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. Approaching me with a friendly smile, he said, “Hi, I’m Peter.” I smiled and returned the greeting. I remember little of the rest of our one and a half minute conversation. But, I did take note of Peter and his personality. He appeared very friendly, sure of himself, and capable of leadership.

Later the following week, Peter invited the Crossroads to dinner. It was then that I learned he was in the textile business. The next Friday night at the Crusade meeting, he asked me to go sightseeing on Sunday afternoon. I accepted his invitation. However, our date did not turn out as I had expected. Since Peter had accepted a speaking engagement during our date, we ended Sunday afternoon ministering together in a small local church.

As I listened to him preach, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to minister together like this with my husband.” At that time, I did not realize that I would be ministering with Peter for the rest of my life. Standing before me was the man I would marry and for whom I had been praying. But, I didn’t know it.

After our first date, Peter and I began dating frequently. Each time we were with each other, we were drawn closer together. God also used the two of us, a blonde American lady and a dark-haired Chinese man, to bring many people to Christ. The more I was with Peter, the more I discovered that his qualities were identical to the qualities I had prayed to have in my husband.

Then in April, Peter told me that he believed the Lord was showing him that I was to be his wife. When he told me this, I became excited, but at the same time, I felt uneasy. To be married to a man with Peter’s qualities was in my prayer. Yet, to marry Peter meant marrying outside my own race. In order to make such a decision I had to know God’s attitude towards mixed marriages. I also had to be absolutely sure that it was God’s will for me to marry Peter. So, I replied, “Peter, I believe that a marriage relationship requires a mutual confirmation from the Lord that it is his will.” He agreed.

That night I returned home and wrote a list of practical questions to the Lord Jesus. I desired to know his perspective on mixed marriages, leaving my country, the future of our children, and the type of ministry Peter and I would have. I committed these questions to Him and expected Him to answer me from the Bible.

Finally, five months later on August 24 while I was returning by ship from the Southern Philippines, the Lord directed me to passages in the Bible which specifically answered all of my questions. Although I had many questions which He answered, I will only share with you His attitude towards races. In Galatians 3:26-28, He showed me that those of us who are in Christ are children of God. The earthly classifications of individuals by race and social status are replaced by a new classification for the children of God; we are one in Christ.

After he answered all my questions positively, I was confident that it was His will for Peter and me to be married. Bowing my head, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for showing me your will and for giving me to such a wonderful man as Peter.”

Two days after this revelation, Peter unexpectedly returned from his two months trip to the U.S. The day after his return, the 27th of August, he proposed to me. I did not expect him to ask me to marry him this soon after his return. I was excited but surprised.

I wanted to first share with him all the verses the Lord had given me in regards to our relationship before I answered him. After sharing the verses, I was still uneasy about the future. Even though I loved Peter, I realized that saying “yes” to him would change the entire course of my life. That was a difficult decision for me to make. However, God had clearly shown me that this was His perfect plan; that I should be Peter’s wife. I knew that I needed to pray in order to have the courage to make such a decision. I asked Peter to pray with me. I thanked the Lord for His plan for our lives, for Christ’s power to be obedient to His will, and most of all for Peter. While still praying, I said “yes” to the Lord and then “yes” to Peter.

THIS WAS PUBLISHED ON JULY 12, 1973.

Recently, my mom gave a shortened version of her testimony before our church and I want to add what she said:

My vows to Peter were consistent to the vow I had made to God.  As Ruth had said to Naoimi  in  Ruth 1:16 “…Where you go I will go … Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”

When I first arrived in Manila, the Lord had given me a promise of blessing which I did not really understand at that time from Mark 10:29-30. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sister or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms along with persecution; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Peter and I have now been married for nearly 41 wonderful years and looking back I can see that the Lord has literally fulfilled these promises to me. He gave me a wonderful husband whom I love and respect even more then ever!  And five children and in-law children who love and serve the Lord and thirteen, going on fifteen, amazing grandchildren! Of course, I also have many spiritual brothers and sisters whom I love who are also the fulfillment of God’s promise of blessing in my life as well. Truly it is the nature of God to bless us!  And He has blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined! All by His grace!

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Real Socialization

Do homeschooled children know how to relate to other children? A lot of parents ask this when they are considering homeschooling.

From an outsider’s perspective, I get it. Homeschoolers seem weird. They are at home while most children sit in populated (and sometimes overpopulated) classrooms at school. To a certain extent, homeschoolers appear to be cut-off from daily contact with their peer-aged counterparts.

But over the years of homeschooling I have learned a couple of things about children and socialization, particularly homeschooled children and how they relate to others, that will dispel the notion that they are socially-starved.

Recently, I was having a conversation with my eldest son, Elijah, who shared that people who talk to him about homeschooling almost always ask if he has any friends.

Out of curiosity I asked, “What do you say?”

“I tell them I have SO many friends! I have playgroup and coop friends, friends in my music and pe classes, and bible study friends.”

Whew.

Most homeschoolers have a network of relationships like Elijah described. They may not have typical same age, uniform social class groupings that would be more common for school-based kids. Instead, they often have friends of varied ages and backgrounds who give them a richer context for social development.

In our playgroup, for instance, my kids interact with girls and boys ages 0 to 15 years old. We represent different ethnicities and we bring our kids together on a weekly basis. Our kids look forward to this time of socialization. And of course, as moms, we look forward to the fellowship. We are like a community of families with distinct heritages, experiences, values, and expertise. So our kids learn to adjust and get along with all kinds of people and accommodate what is not familiar, too.

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I am not one of those homeschoolers who isolates her children from other kids. (Some families can be extreme, but most aren’t.) However, I am particular about whom they spend a lot of time with. Unlike a school, where parents can’t pick their children’s friends, homeschool parents can.

Some may argue that this isn’t representative of reality. Shouldn’t children learn to deal with the daily stress of bullies, peer pressure, and survival-of-the-fittest sort of scenarios?

Oh come on! Is there any parent who really believes this is going to do their child any good? Haven’t we instead seen good kids physically and emotionally wounded by the bad ones, and the bad ones spawn evil clones of themselves?

So no, I don’t think it is beneficial to subject my kids to that sort of daily social stress. Instead, I believe in teaching my children to respond appropriately and positively to people who are unkind and ill-mannered. Whether they are in school or not, my kids encounter bullies or socially disruptive sort of children. Edric and I explain to them that these kids probably don’t know Jesus and we ask our kids to model kindness and goodness to them. Since they aren’t perpetually subject to negative social experiences, they aren’t likely to adapt other children’s bad behavior or be harmed by them. But these instances give Edric and I enough of a chance to help our kids process what the proper, Christ-centered response ought to be.

I have to admit that it’s not easy to tell our kids not to fight back and take an eye for an eye. When Elijah was pushed by another child in Sunday School, I wanted to push that child over myself! Elijah was only one at the time and so was the girl that pushed him. As a first time mom many years ago I didn’t know that one year olds could be so cruel. Now that I have five kids, I know that folly is most definitely bound up in the heart of a child just as Proverbs says. My own kids pick on each other!

I also remember an instance when Edan was punched and chased by a kid in Active Fun. Edric happened to be there and he was so upset about it, he told the yaya of the boy to watch him closely. The kid still harassed Edan. By this time Edan was wailing and Edric told him to hit the kid back if necessary. (Not his proudest moment.) Edan didn’t want to but at a few moments later he jabbed the kid in the stomach in self-defense.

Edric also called out to Elijah, Titus and our nephews to protect one another and “put the kid in his place” if he went after any of them. This kid was like a wild animal. It turned out that he had special needs and Edric felt so guilty afterwards. He had a conference with our boys and nephews to address what happened and go over what should be done if they come across true bullies in the future.

But the point is, homeschool kids don’t have to be in school to experience the “real world.” In our family alone, our children are exposed to the realities of man’s fallen nature. They see our imperfections as parents. We all see one another’s imperfections and we must all practice forgiveness, long suffering and unconditional love — character traits that are indispensable to relating well with others.

My kids know that the world we live in isn’t rose-colored. But as early as now, we can teach our children to choose the right kinds of friends — friends who will cause them to love God more, who will encourage them to make wise choices that lead to blessing. If they experience what it is like to have meaningful relationships like these now, they will have a benchmark for what to look for in others when they are older. Of course the added benefit is we get to pass on to them how to develop godly convictions so they can influence others positively, too.

Relationships are important. God intended us to be in community — the family providing the first stable and secure relationship that our children need to experience. Afterwards, children can relate in healthy ways with others, and they ought to be given opportunities to do so. Children get to live out character traits in the context of interacting with others. My kids have to share when they play with their friends. They have to take turns and sacrifice their preferences. These are valuable lessons.

My son Edan doesn’t like mess and gets stressed whenever his friends come over and don’t clean up afterwards. Our family value is to leave a home arranged and not tornadoed by our five children. So when others don’t do the same, he feels upset. But I have talked with him about this. He is learning to be flexible and enjoy his friends without creating so many rules for how they will play with his toys or what rooms they can enter to play in.

Do kids need a lot of friends? Well, if you ask me I would say just give them more siblings. But that is me! My children are blessed to have one another.

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When they aren’t together, they miss each other. On Tuesdays, Tiana is home without her brothers because they have their music, art and pe classes. She is 3 years old so a nap in the middle of the morning is strange. But, she is such a social child. When her brothers, aka playmates, are not around, she tells me, “I am sleepy.” And she will curl up on a bed and fall asleep!

There are homeschooled kids who can get lonely like Tiana does. To address this, parents can provide venues for their children to hang out with other kids. But trust me, kids don’t need 100 friends and they don’t need to be with them constantly.

I was just listening to a talk by Gerry Argosino, managing director of TMA Homeschool, who presented a very interesting topic on the commonalities between child geniuses. It was observed that these children didn’t frequently socialize with their peers so they tended to be more creative. Being alone pushed them to invent, play, design, and entertain themselves using their imaginations. While children benefit from friendships, they don’t need a classroom full of friends and they don’t need to be around them all the time.

Furthermore, even though children aren’t in daily contact with other kids doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to be friendly or acquire social skills. My kids go with Edric and I everywhere, as often as possible. This allows them to meet all kinds of people. It also means they get to practice manners and develop an appreciation for other cultures and traditions. We are right there with them so it’s hands on learning.

If we notice that they don’t acknowledge a person who asks them a question, we say things like, “Please look at them in the eyes and answer them. They are asking you a question.” If they act shy and self-conscious we show them how to be friendly. We don’t let them get away with ignoring people.

When Tiana was smaller she wouldn’t respond to people who tried to get her attention. So I would take her hand and say, “This is how you say hi,” and then I would wave it in the air. I didn’t say, “Oh she is shy.” In fact, when people would say that she was, I would respond, “No, she is not,” and make sure that Tiana would reciprocate a greeting in whatever way possible. Shyness, my mom used to say, is rooted in pride. It’s thinking of yourself. Well, at one point, Tiana started waving at everyone, even strangers! Sometimes she still gets self-conscious, but we are working on this.

Having five kids and dealing with their different personalities has taught Edric and I that it is our responsibility, as parents, to teach our children how to behave in social situations and how to treat others. Politeness and deference aren’t traits they will pick up automatically. They have to see these things modeled and demonstrated. They have to be guided and mentored.

For example, saying thank you when a sales clerk helps them find something…apologizing when they accidentally bump someone while walking…modulating the loudness of their voices…giving up their seat for an elderly woman…not running around like monkeys when they are in a mall (this is a hard one)…asking for permission before going into a room when they are house guests… including a kid who looks out of place…looking at a person in the eye when they are sharing a conversation with them, etc. Our children aren’t likely to learn these behaviors when they are with their friends. They may pick up some things here and there, but learning about social graces requires intentionality from parents.

A few weekends ago, while swimming in the pool there was a boy who didn’t have any friends. Our kids were busy entertaining each other. Edric and I saw the boy swimming all alone so we asked our sons to invite him to play. The boys gladly did so.

Edan swam up to him and asked what his name was. At first the boy seemed guarded but he warmed up as Edan engaged him in conversation, asking how old he was and what kinds of games he liked to play. Edan also called Elijah over and introduced Tiana and Titus to the boy. They had another homeschool friend, Santiago, who was friendly to the boy in the pool, too.

After a while, Edan was like, “do you want to play sharks and limmos?” (He meant minnows.) The boy said he didn’t know how to play it. But Edan assured him that he would teach him the rules.

The kids included the boy in our family game of sharks and minnows. Edric and I were the minnows and all the kids were the sharks.

I watched them interact with this boy but I was most blessed when Edan came up to me afterwards and asked, “Does he know Jesus?”

It wasn’t even something that had crossed my mind, but Edan was concerned. It’s one thing to be well socialized, to be able to get along with people. But it’s another thing to care about the spiritual condition of a person — to be purposeful about being friendly and kind to others so we can tell them how much God loves them…that he wants to have a personal relationship with them.

We need to impart to our children a higher reason for being well-mannered, kind, and considerate of others. For our family, the desire to reflect Jesus Christ and glorify him pushes us to look beyond what is comfortable or default-mode in us. We want to be a light and testimony that attracts other to Christ. Cultivating a good relationship with others ought to have as it’s intention the desire to connect them to the most powerful, amazing and loving person of all so they can enter into a life-changing relationship with Him! That’s what real socialization should be about!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NLT)