When It Rains Inside Your House

We spent the day moving boxes into our new home and everything was going great until there was a downpour outside. And then the downpour happened inside! The water started coming through the hanging chandelier in the entrance and out of the lights in the hallway on the second floor. It was like a waterfall from the top of our second floor ceiling to the ground floor below. I couldn’t believe it!

Thankfully, the architect assigned to our site (representing the contractor) was around to address the problem. Everyone else on his team was scrambling around looking lost and overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of the situation but eventually, they figured out what to do. Someone got up to the roof and found a piece of wood blocking the downspouts. (How the wood got stuck there in the first place is a mystery.) Others found containers to catch the water and throw it outside. The electrician borrowed my Iphone flashlight so he could go into the ceiling and spot the water’s point of entry.

When it rained this afternoon, the water began to pond and seep into the ceiling. Without any other outlet but the lights in the hallway, the water started to flow downwards. First it came down in trickles and then in a stream. It was almost beautiful seeing the water drop down two stories right in front of our main door. We have a lot of glass in our entry way so it was like a water feature! The only problem of course was this was happening inside. Had our four older children been with us, they would have been splashing around in the water and dancing for joy. My baby, Catalina, was with me and she was very fascinated by the spectacle.

Because it was such a crazy, unexpected disaster, I knew it wasn’t just a freak accident. This was a divine message for Edric and I. We went out onto the balcony and thanked God for reminding us that this world is not our home, and we should not love the things of this world.

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On a positive note, it was a blessing that this mess happened at the hour it did. First, the workers were still at the house to address the issue. Had it happened in the evening, when they had all gone home, we would have been in big trouble! Second, it was a good “test” shower before actual rainy season. We got to see how the house faired against lots of rain. Third, we hadn’t completely moved in yet so we weren’t put in physical jeopardy.

But the best reason of all was I believe God wanted us to share the gospel with the on-site architect. When I saw the water falling through the ceiling I wanted to freak out and blame someone, but God gave Edric and I the calmness to consider that there was a spiritual perspective to be had in all of this.

The architect was so apologetic and promised that his team would clear out the downspouts so it wouldn’t happen again. Of course, he also told us the ceiling and whatever else was affected would be rectified. At this juncture…when we are about to move in, the timing of this rectification is unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of eternity, the damage was “worth it.” Let me explain…

Ever since this architect came on board for the finishing stage of our housebuilding, I have been burdened for him to come to Christ. He is a very nice guy who has worked hard and well to manage the final phase of our house project. Two weeks ago, he told me he saw my feature on GMA, but we didn’t get to talk about it. I asked Edric if he could be the one to process the feature with him since it would be awkward for me to discuss something so personal with a man.

He wasn’t able to do so then because we were headed home but after the indoor downpour happened, it
was the perfect opportunity to tell him about Jesus. When he came up to me to apologize once again, I assured him, “This is a reminder that we should not love this world. This world is not our home, heaven is.” When Edric and I were in private, I was like, “Hon, you should share the gospel with him. This is the best time to do so!” Edric completely agreed and some moments later took the architect aside.

On the balcony, Edric introduced him to Jesus Christ and what it means to have a personal relationship with him. Given that the incident made people in the house consider how temporal the things of this world are, it was a great segue for Edric to get into the topic of eternity. Edric also referred to the Tanikala episode of 700 Club which the architect got to watch. At the end of their dialogue, Edric asked him if he wanted to pray with him to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and he said, “Yes! Gusto ko yan (I want that).”

I was so thrilled. I couldn’t help but take a photo of the two of them.

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Edric and I have been praying that God will use this house for his glory and his purposes, and that’s what happened today in the most unprecedented sort of way. This is HIS house, not ours.

Even if it meant getting rain inside our house, the ceiling being partially destroyed, our lights and chandelier possibly getting wrecked, and the floor warping because it flooded on the second floor, I was happy. Those things can be repaired and redone. But a soul…what is the price of soul?

God loves all of us so much. He wants to get our attention and make our hearts receptive to the gospel. If it means making rain fall inside a house in a disastrous way so that one person will come to know him, their soul is worth it!

Luke 15:10 “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

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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The Greater Tragedy

Almost everyday, I watch the early morning news on the aftermath of Hurricane Haiyan (Yolanda to us). In fact, I feel guilty as I sit there with my healthy baby, Catalina, kicking in her bouncer and cooing. Seated in a comfortable chair in a house with electricity, a comfortable bed, food and clean water seems excessive at a time when so many have lost everything.

Initially, the apocalyptic images were unsettling. But far grievous to me have been the personal stories of loss.

It is spiritually and emotionally troubling to hear about tragedies that resonate with my heart as a mother, as a parent. I was told of a mother and father who lost their 1 month old baby, their first child…a man who was found dead with his arms around his four year old son…a mom who is still waiting to hear from her husband and two children who lived by the shore-line while she was working in Manila…babies who have no milk because their mothers were killed.

Yesterday, I kept tearing as I went up and down the aisles of the grocery, shopping for the children of a lady who works for us – Catalina’s yaya. Her children have no access to food but she was too embarrassed to ask me for help until she was really desperate. When I asked her if she was okay, she started to cry. Shopping for her family was such an emotional event for me. I kept thinking about how diligently she had been taking care of Catalina while she feared for the well-being of her own children!

I was also heartbroken last Sunday, while singing songs during worship about the faithfulness of God. I kept thinking about the people who have been affected by the storm. Plagued by images of their horrifying circumstances, I was distracted as the congregation went through song after song.

I don’t doubt that God is faithful but I know it is one thing to stand in an air-conditioned church auditorium singing worship songs and another thing to be praising God when you are in the eye of a storm like Typhoon Haiyan. And what about afterwards, while assaulted by the stench of decomposing bodies, overcome by desperate thirst and hunger, and confronted with the reality that you no longer have a home to go back to or the resources to rebuild it?

In the most timely manner, however, last Sunday’s message given by Dr. Harold Sala ministered to me. He said, “When people asked, where was God during the storm?” his answer was, “The same place He was when His son was crucified.” It hurt God to watch his own son pay for the sins of the world but he stood aside and let it happen.

This was comforting because on the one hand, God is not far removed from our tragedies. He is not a distant spectator or unconcerned about the details of our pain. He is present. But it is sobering to consider that on the other hand, he may sometimes stand aside and allow suffering to crystalize the truth about sin. There are consequences to sin. He is so intolerant of it that he let Jesus, his only son, die to save us from it.

Death and destruction were never his original plan for mankind but he permits them to exist. So how do we reconcile what is true about God as loving and what happened 11 days ago when the most powerful storm to make landfall ravaged us?

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PHOTO CREDIT: www.ibtimes.co.uk

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

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

People may not agree with me but I believe our actions must be called into account for the curses that befall us. Could we have been accomplices to a murder of mass scale? Have we not abused the environment we were created to care for, ignored the poverty-stricken, celebrated immorality, sold innocent children to sexual predators, committed idolatry by worshipping materialism and success, cheated one another, and stolen from those whom we are supposed to serve under the pretense of good governance? And even after a storm pulverized our landscape there were those of us who pillaged and raped the fallen!

God has not abandoned us, but we have, in many ways, abandoned him – his Word, his principles, his prescriptions for an abundant and blessed life. So when there are consequences to our choices, we cannot say that he is not loving or absent for allowing us to reap what we have sown.

God has not moved. His offer of salvation through His son, Jesus Christ, still stands. His arms are ever open to receive those who repent and want to have a personal relationship with him. And his promises remain the same to those who believe in him — especially the promise of everlasting life with Him.

Tragedy causes an uncomfortable stirring in our souls that makes us more conscious of spiritual realities. Senseless dying and mass devastation are not pleasing to God. But if these things cause us to turn away from sin and run towards him, then they accomplish a salvific purpose, in the eternal sense of the word. We can trouble ourselves with the thought that it isn’t fair when innocent and good people have to perish. What of the thousands whose lives were taken away by the shoreline of Tacloban? I would like to hope that they had a moment to give their lives to Christ like the thief on the cross to whom Jesus said, today you will be with me in paradise. God’s grace is beyond our scope of understanding so who is to say where they are now.

But for those of us who live on, we must consider the consequence of eternity in hell as infinitely worse than the effects of a super typhoon. Hell is the one place where you cannot say to a tormented soul, “It’s going to get better.”

Perhaps this storm ought to be taken as a much-needed wake-up call, a kind of divine sideswipe to get our attention. We need to reflect on what course we are on as a nation. Are we becoming more Christ-like as a people? Is God really the center? Are we living in accordance with his word? What values are becoming commonplace in our homes and do they glorify him?

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Packing relief goods and organizing relief operations are important to meet present physical needs but we need a cure that is beyond the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter. We need Jesus Christ to heal our nation. He cannot merely be a cultural figurehead or a symbol of religion to us. We must receive him as Lord and Savior. His life, death, and resurrection warrant nothing less.

When I think of the fury of a 600 KM-wide tropical storm pulverizing an area like Tacloban, I cannot imagine the wrath God poured out upon Christ at the cross because of our sin, and I dread to think of what his wrath will be like at judgment.

The real threat to our nation is not the superstorms that may come again, but the state of our inner, spiritual lives and the effect they have on our country. Do we have God’s favor because we are committed to righteousness and holiness? Or, are we inviting trouble by making sinful choices?

Everyone around the globe wants to help us move past this disaster so we can restore what once was. But it would be a greater tragedy if each of us did not look into the depths of our hearts and ask, “Is Jesus Lord and Savior of my life?” If he is then I need not fear the trials to come or lose hope during the trial I am in. But if he isn’t, I have no real security and I hazard everything, especially my eternity.

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Photo credit: Arlynn Aquino EU/ECHO, Leyte, Philippines, November 2013.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB)

Plagiarized

After a crazy week at the hospital, I checked my email and received a disturbing message. A concerned reader of Teachwithjoy told me that there is a blogger who is cutting and pasting from my articles and putting it on her site. This is different than sharing the articles or passing them around. She is using personal stories and reflections of mine and putting herself in them. Or, hacking up things I have written and using the insights as her own.

At first I was just shocked. Who does this? Especially from a site that is about a woman’s grace journey as a wife, mother, and homeschooler. It’s not like the content is that juicy! This is not about the life of a celebrity or famous person. It is not the kind of stuff that people would normally want to plagiarize. These are deeply personal reflections and stories about me and the people I love. These are spiritual lessons I have picked up along the way. They are meant to be shared and passed around in their integrative wholeness, in context, to bless others. But seeing them hacked up, butchered and stolen in this way is hurtful.

So this is what it feels like to be a victim of plagiarism. Ouch.

Admittedly the selfish and carnal me was offended on two fronts. First, any decent, educated person knows that this is plain unethical and inappropriate. Second, my thoughts were…Write about your own life instead of borrowing someone else’s. Don’t have a blog if you can’t do so. It makes you a thief, not a writer.

I did write the blogger to express my concern and sentiment about what she was doing (it was worded nicely) but I have not gotten a response. Hmm…maybe I was too nice? It doesn’t really matter at this point. If she has been doing this for a while, I doubt that a little note from me is going to bring about radical change. The reality is the digital world swarms with people who do this sort of thing. And by putting content on line I would be an ignorant fool to think that it was “safe” to do so. Of course this reality doesn’t make it less troubling.

Last night I told some of my family members about it just to get their perspective. One person was like, that’s kind of a compliment, right? (Umm…no. Violated was closer to how I felt.) Another one offered to spy on them, digitally speaking (also known as stalking them on social media.) Yet another suggested that I put her name out there and expose her publicly. Bingo! For an instant, this seemed like an attractive idea. But Edric cautioned me against doing so. Okay, okay. It would have been in bad taste if I did. It would be morally wrong, slanderous, to be more accurate. Furthermore, I don’t want to turn this site into an avenue for personal agenda.

I kind of let the whole thing go but this morning, my frustration mounted when, out of curiosity, I read another link that Ms. Concerned Reader sent to me. It was an article the blogger posted — a cut-up version of “The Rise of the Unloved Woman”. My agitation grew and I was tempted again to use my site to do an exposé. But the Holy Spirit stopped me.

What do you hope to gain? Isn’t this site supposed to be about God’s grace? Would that be an act of grace?

Of course not. It would be an act of ugly pride.

Here were some other questions the Lord prodded me to answer…
Why are you upset? Do you think you own the content on your site? Have I not given the insights to you and inspired you with the personal experiences to write? That content belongs to me, not to you. Furthermore, do I not know all things? I know what this person is doing. Why should you trouble yourself? I am better able to convict her to stop what she is doing. And if I don’t stop her what is that to you? Is it so bad that someone is copying your articles? Are you going to pick a fight over this and let it steal your joy?

Remember…”The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:14 NASB)

I had to acknowledge my selfish thinking and say sorry to the Lord. This blog may be personal but the spotlight is not supposed to be on me. This site is something I have dedicated to the Lord, to minister to others. It is supposed to highlight Jesus Christ. So if people pretend that the thoughts, ideas and stories here are theirs, well, it is a crime they can take up with God. He is the owner of everything I have written here.

It is easy to fall prey to the entitlement mentality. But the truth is I own nothing. Not even this site. God owns everything. He has the liberty to decide what ought to be done with the people, possessions, ministry, and gifts he has given me. A tell-tale sign that I am trying to take God’s place is when I become controlling, anxious, or upset when these things are “messed” with, or when circumstances don’t seem to favor what I want. Pride says, “Hey! That’s mine! Hands off!” It also says, “I deserve to be treated better. Don’t do this to me!” Or, “I deserve respect, recognition. I deserve more! Give me what is due me!”

When I was younger my mom read to me the Pineapple Story. It is a story about a missionary who loved pineapples. He had the locals plant them for him but they stole them when it was harvest time. Angered and frustrated because they kept stealing the pineapples, he began to lose his effectivity as a missionary. It wasn’t until he realized that the pineapples didn’t belong to him but to the Lord that he stopped getting angry. The locals noticed a remarkable difference in his personality and wondered what happened…why he wasn’t reacting to the stolen pineapples. He told them they were not stealing from him but from God. This convicted the locals and they repented and changed. But the real victory was this — the missionary began to bear fruit in his ministry because he was not consumed with self-centered thinking. He focused on what he was supposed to be doing — being a blessing and bringing Jesus Christ to the lost.

Similarly, I need to guard against the entitlement perspective in my own life which can side-swipe and cripple me from being used by God. If I am so preoccupied with fighting for my rights when they are trampled upon or taking up a defensive stance to protect what I believe to be mine then I lose the very purpose for which I exist — to lead others to Jesus Christ. When the entitlement mentality infects me, it becomes about me. But, it’s not about me, it’s all about Him.

I am actually thankful that this unpleasant discovery happened. Being a victim of plagiarism made me reevaluate why I write. Is to exalt myself or is it to exalt the Lord?

If it is to exalt the Lord then I need to keep focusing on the priorities God wants me to…growing in intimacy with him, loving my husband, kids, the ladies I disciple, and faithfully teaching my children so I can keep writing for his purposes and glory, plagiarized or not!

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No, You Cannot Feed the Lions

Some weeks ago we hand-fed giraffes in the Singapore Zoo, which was especially fun for Tiana who loves animals. When we got to the lions, she asked, “Can I feed the lions?” She was innocently insistent on it so I had to respond, “If you feed the lions they might eat you!” It probably wasn’t the most prudent thing to say to a little child who could potentially develop an inordinate fear of big cats. However, at the time, I just needed her to understand that it wasn’t a good idea. Lions were not the cute kitty-kitties she perceived them to be.

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Today, as I remembered that dialogue, I thought about how we can be as clueless when we ask things of God. Without realizing it, we make petitions and requests and want a yes, but God, in his infinite wisdom and perfect love, says wait or no. And unless we trust him and believe in his character we can mistakenly think that he does not want what is best for us.

For example, after Edric and I had Elijah we wanted to have another child. Thinking it would be easy to do so, we kept trying but to no avail. It was disappointing to get my period month after month. Having to wait on God’s timing was a struggle. But when we finally did conceive it ended up being just the right time. We had a three year gap between both boys which turned out to be a blessing. Elijah was old enough to be a helpful and accommodating older brother. We were also able to afford the move into a bigger apartment.

Another example was my bout with bad skin. One of the consequences I experienced after struggling with impurity in my relationship with Edric (in college), was acne. For the first time in my life, I had breakouts that were horrible. And it was very humbling for me because I could not fix my skin. I went to a dermatologist but God did not allow my skin to be healed right away. This happened when Edric and I were broken up. I felt really ugly and I prayed so hard for my skin problem to go away. But God said, no. In fact, I was left with some scars afterwards.

Was it wrong to ask to be healed? No. Yet, God was teaching me to be humble. He wanted me to remember that his forgiveness is always available but there are consequences to my choices. I still have these scars and I don’t have perfect skin. I wish I did. Edric does and so do my kids! As for me, I get occasional breakouts in my 30’s! I don’t have acne anymore but whenever I see my scars I recall what God said to me, “This will be a reminder to you that you are never to use your physical body as an instrument for unrighteousness.”

God is always more concerned about our character than our comfort. He is molding us into Christ-likeness and needs to empty us of ourselves so we can be spiritually fit for his purposes.

The Bible tells us…Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:20-22 NASB)

During worship this morning, the pastor, Ricky Sarthou, invited his wife, Aggie, to share her testimony. At the beginning, she talked about how God did not answer her request to take away her cancer. But she made the choice to surrender her life, dreams, and desires to him. When she decided to rejoice and find hope in Christ through her battle with cancer, God healed her for his glory. Even the doctors could not explain how she could have survived. It was a miracle for her to be delivered from stage 4 cancer of the breast that had metastasized to the bones. She has been cancer-free for the last 10 years! And the best part of all, she has used her cancer as a platform to effectively minister to others.

God always answers our prayers. Whether it is a yes, wait or no, he always has a better plan — for his glory amounting to our greater good.

Pastor Ricky said, “We pray to surrender.” I cannot agree more. The key to effective prayer is to say, “Lord, not my will, but yours be done. You know the desires of my heart, but you know best, so I trust you with my life.”

Post notes on the skin thing…

When I got back together with Edric after our breakup period, I was so self-conscious about my skin. This was a season when he was doing a lot of commercial modeling, too, and he was around all kinds of attractive people. But, he did not date anyone during our break-up and he also saw past my skin. He admits that he was surprised when he saw me, but when I asked him what he thought about it later on, he explained, “I loved you for who you were. The longing to be with you was greater than the physical.” Shortly after this he proposed to me and we got married, too. Yeah!

Even though God did not answer my prayer about my skin clearing up right away, I believe God used it for good in my life. First, he taught me not to depend on outward appearances but to work on my character. Second, he wanted me to really internalize the reality that there are consequences to sin. And third, he allowed me to see that Edric truly loved me for the person he saw inside which was incredibly reassuring.

God continues to teach me to look at his heart and his greater purposes when I don’t understand why he allows circumstances or why he says no when I want a yes. And being a mom and having to say no or not now to my own children when their wants are not for their ultimate good (like Tiana and her feeding-the-lion-request) has helped me to recognize that God’s perspective is always higher and more complete than mine could ever be…and I need to rest in the truth of that.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 NASB)

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The Unexpected Gift

It’s amazing how God demonstrates how personal he is, how thoughtful he is of his children. Alot of times it’s in the small ways that I see this attribute of him manifested. Like a few days ago…

I was doing my on-line baby shopping (which I enjoy much more than actual shopping in a store), and one of the things I was canvassing for was a thermoscan for taking the kids’ temperature when they are sick.

For many years, I used the digital kind and it worked fine but I thought it would be great to upgrade to something more accurate. However, since I had already put a bunch of stuff in my virtual cart, I felt like I would be exceeding my budget to include a thermoscan. So I didn’t think about it anymore and stopped looking at reviews and comparing prices.

The very next day I was asked to be present at a ladies lunch where my mom invited me to co-teach with her about marriage and a little bit about parenting. I wavered on the decision because I had been trying to slow down my activities. With my delivery date so close, I didn’t want to have too many commitments outside of the home. However, for this particular opportunity I was prodded by the Lord to go, to choose to be a blessing.

I ended up being the one so blessed by the hearts of the ladies and their hunger for God’s word. And the wonderful bonus at the end was the host came up to me and said, “I have something for you.” She handed me a Braun Thermoscan! I couldn’t believe it! In fact I told her I was wanting to buy one just the night before but had decided not to. And Braun is the best one, too. I’ve read the reviews. ;)

The greater marvel to me was how God allowed someone to be an instrument of his mindfulness. I don’t think it was coincidental that this person gave me the Thermoscan. God used her to let me know that he is intimately involved in my life, that he knows me personally. He truly is a loving father to his children. He is that way towards all who seek and serve him.

I had several kids sick since I got the device so it has come in very handy!

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Thank you, Lord, and thank you, Jessica Chan, for the unexpected generous gift of the Braun Thermoscan!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. (Psalms 139:2-6 NASB)

The Day I Said Yes to Edric

imageIt was amazing to find this document in my files! Twelve years ago, Edric and I wrote about how God brought us back together after our breakup.(Okay, I wrote most of this engagement story…he had a post script.) We had mutually agreed to seek God first as individuals and discern his will for our lives prior to our engagement. It was a very painful time of separation, but God used it to prepare both our hearts for the future.

We put this on a website before our wedding, but the website is long gone. I thought I would resurrect this to encourage the singles out there that God’s timing is perfect. And, well, it’s our anniversary in a few days and reading through this again reminded me how faithful God has been in our relationship. So for nostalgia’s sake…

March 3, 2001 — The day I said yes to E.

We often try to plan our lives with such careful precision, and every action becomes a determinant for what we will be in the next year, what we will accomplish, where we will find ourselves, but we never know when God will intervene to course our lives in the direction that he knows is best for us. When we recognize that God has allowed a tragedy or trial, pain or disappointment or even just change, we must be fully convinced that he loves us in order to experience and enjoy his perfect will.

Last year Edric and I thought we would be married. It was not uncommon that we would discuss our future together and our relationship seemed to be progressing toward that direction. However, when we were finally close to the possibility of being engaged, God changed our plans and we mutually resolved to be apart for a while, to discern His will first. We began to make decisions outside the context of a dating relationship and we no longer communicated on a regular basis after May 2000. This became the period of isolation from each other that God used to renew our desire to love Him above all else and to make us completely dependent upon Him.

I think there are many forms of idolatry and perhaps people can become so important to us, we allow them to replace God. Knowingly or unknowingly we find ourselves making choices based on what we value most at that point in our lives rather than what we know will please God. During this time of being away, Edric and I began to realize how we had become so focused on each other, so much so that we even made some compromises that caused us both and those whom we love a lot of grief.

There is only one God and he will not share his throne with anyone or anything because he wants us completely–heart, mind and soul. Using this period of absence from each other, we sought to reorient ourselves and seek God more passionately, while at the same time working on character traits that we needed to.

I would find myself frequenting Au Bon Pain a small café next to my office almost daily. Alone with my Bible and journal, I would order the same tuna cheese melt sandwich that I did each time I was there for my lunch break. Sitting in front of the window that faced the street, I would be devouring God’s word tearfully, reading chapters and chapters of the Old and New Testament while looking for answers to all my questioning and searching for His direction for me.

In a journal entry dated Saturday, June 10, 2000, I had written:

Just thinking about Edric now and how I have wished for the length of three years to be with him forever…I know it is not time to seal this relationship. Of course we are merely friends now and I know that decision was something God placed in both of our hearts so that we would come to know him more intimately, more personally.

Saturday, July 9, 2000

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

Monday, July 31, 2000

I know that I must wait for E a while longer than I might have wanted to but if God has chosen him for me then no waiting will be in vain, it will all be worth this temporal agony.

 

***

Year 2000 passed and Edric and I started communicating again. I had prayed for three specific things. Lord, if you want Edric and I to get married then please help him not to date anyone else while we are apart – help him to have eyes only for me even through the separation. (It sounds like a selfish prayer but I wanted to be certain that he really loved me.) Second, I prayed that if we opened up to my parents about how we struggled with our physical relationship, that they would still embrace him and accept him should he decide to marry me. Third, if Edric did ask me to marry him that he would get the blessing of his parents and mine first.

February 2001

I was in Bangkok, Thailand, visiting Rahab Ministries with the intention of doing research on how to be a care-giver for abused women. It didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated because the ladies at the center were fairly preoccupied with their day to day activities at a beauty parlor where they worked as hairdressers and make-up artists instead of at the pubs and bars in Patpong. However, Jenny Reed (who later became my sister-in-law) and I were able to observe the women and see how God had radically changed their lives. During their worship time in the early afternoons, they would gather around in a circle and sing praise songs, praying out loud and sharing from the word of God. It was hard to believe that these women had once been prostitutes. It was also during this trip that I learned that drinking water after eating spicy food is a useless attempt to quell the fire in your mouth. The Thais pass around leafy green vegetables, which quickly subdues the burning sensation on the tongue more effectively than water does.

Apart from losing our bearings several times and eating curry off the streets, I remember telling Jenny during that trip that I was waiting for Edric to ask me to marry him but it was taking a while. I admitted to her that I was feeling a little bit impatient because I was very eager to map out the rest of my life.

Tuesday Night, YMCA Hotel, Bangkok, February 6, 2001

What a relief to be away from Manila. I have needed this escape for the last year and finally here it is…the tumbling forwards had to come to a halt at some point. What next, where to, what of all this, what about Edric, what about a new job, what about China? If E doesn’t ask me to marry him before May, it will make a big difference in my decision-making process…Already I miss him but somehow we both understand the necessity of being away from each other to think. He asked me to pray for God’s guidance in his life. I know what he means. He wants to know if he should get married, go to China, changes jobs…Lord, give me the patience to wait on you as I wait for him to sort out these possibilities. Knowing that you are sovereign is my comfort and my assurance. I know that you will speak to E and speak to me and your will shall be pleasing and perfect.

The week before March 3 Edric had seemed very high strung and stressed, and for some reason I had been feeling a little agitated as well with my own work requirements. Both of us were really looking forward to Saturday and Sunday to escape from our day-to-day schedules and have the weekend to relax and breathe. He told me that we should go through all the things he had collected from our dating relationship. I was not excited to do this since I thought it would be more appropriate if we did this kind of memory-lane walking in the context of being engaged. However, since he made it sound so fun, I conceded.

About Wednesday of that week, Linda Reed, who was renting our old house in Valley Golf with her husband Nelson Reed, called and asked if I wanted to have dinner with Jenny (her daughter) and Paul (my brother) Saturday night. This was not something out of the ordinary since she enjoys putting together tea parties and dinners for people. She told me to ask Edric to come since he had never seen our old house.

I was thrilled! I had always wanted Edric to see where I had grown up and that house was pregnant with childhood memories. When I spoke with Edric he said he would get back to me and added that I ought to check if we have to dress up. By Friday, Edric confirmed that we could go to the Reeds place for dinner and I had found out from Paul that it was a formal occasion. Both of us went out on a movie date on Friday but Edric seemed so distant and reserved, very much unlike himself. This made me a little frustrated and hurt since I did not feel like he appreciated my company during the evening. Furthermore, I had written in my journal earlier that day that I was becoming impatient once again with waiting for Edric to ask me.

Friday morning, March 2, 2001

What is it Lord that you have in store for me? I wait expectantly and hear nothing…I look for signs and yet see nothing but a large, indefinable expanse which overwhelms me. Tell me, where I should go and lead me…Should I sit and wait for E to propose or should I move on with my life and go for everything—a job overseas, a ministry overseas. Should I stay put and be patient? It is enough to make me squirm, this waiting…like I have no walls to determine what passageway I might be in, no doorway visible to me that I might inch forward to…I am perpetually hanging. This is not liberating. It is uncomfortable, spacious but not spacious enough so that I feel held back and trapped by my own imaginings and wishful thinking about the future.

So after our date that night, we decided that he would pick me up before dinner Saturday the next day and we would drive out to the Reed’s place together. Saturday I spent cleaning my room and talking to my mom. She helped me get ready for the dinner in an unsuspicious sort of way, without acting like there was anything unusual about the date. I put on a gold-ish shirt and this long flowy skirt which I had not worn in years but felt that for some reason, I had to wear this particular skirt that evening. I waited all afternoon for Edric to call me and let me know if the plans were pushing through but there was no word from him. When I tried calling him at nearly 5:00 in the afternoon, he could not be reached. Dinner was at 5:00! When finally I got through to him, I had started sobbing. I don’t know why but possibly because I was emotional all week due to work-related stress and feeling like Edric was beginning to take me for granted. He tried consoling me by saying that he was so sorry that he had not called, that he had work to do, that he would make it up to me.

Arriving at my house at around 6:30 pm, Edric came in through the front door with a bouquet of flowers behind him. They were beautiful. Of course I was pleased with his efforts to appease me. He was also mindful enough to compliment me by saying, “what you are wearing is perfect for tonight.” My dad, for no particular reason, also said goodbye to me on the stairway by giving me a hug. In fact, everyone said goodbye to me, which wasn’t too bizarre since we commonly yell out goodbye when one of us leaves the front door. But looking back now, they all seemed very excited about saying goodbye, lined up on the stairs. My mom even mentioned that I shouldn’t be upset about Edric being late because it might ruin my time with him.

By the time Edric and I got into his car, I had forgotten that I was feeling down and we were on our way to the Reeds. He said, “Just tell me how to get there because I don’t know where it is.”

“No problem,” I responded, “Just take Ortigas.”

By the time we got to Valley Golf it was nearing 7:30 and I discovered, upon arriving at the Reed’s house, that Paul and Jenny were nowhere in sight. This irked me because we were supposed to start dinner and I felt quite embarrassed that my brother had been so ill-mannered about being on time. He did call Edric’s phone, however, so I spoke to him and barraged him with a flurry of questions about where he was, why he wasn’t there, what time he was planning to get there, blah, blah. Linda Reed was good enough to be such an accommodating hostess and she suggested that I go ahead and show Edric around the house to give him the grand tour. She didn’t mind serving us first. Distracted by the excitement of showing Edric my old room and the rest of the house, I carried on a running commentary about where we used to play as kids, what my favorite places were and so on. Since Paul and Jenny had not yet made it to the house by the time we finished the “tour”, Edric and I made our way to the balcony, where I discovered a romantic place setting for four people. And I matched the color scheme perfectly with my outfit!

I was soon overcome by the natural beauty of our surroundings…something I had always loved about that house, and forgot about Paul and Jenny, who, incidentally, were never going to come anyway. Linda Reed, who was our “waitress” along with Jan Landry, her neighbor, served us the most delicious food, all my favorite dishes from salad to mushrooms to fish. At the same time, there was very familiar music playing subtly in the background, which I suppose was meant to infuse my mind with subconscious thoughts about marriage. Very good planning, Edric.

We were having such a delightful, romantic time, talking about an infinite number of things, in between remote controlled photograph taking and praising the food, when Edric decided it was time to bring out the “box.” This “box” contained all our memorabilia from the time we started dating until then. This was what he had mentioned earlier in the week that we should do – reminisce. At that point, I conceded. It was such a wonderful evening. Although I should have wondered why he was so comfortable about being in the Reed’s house, it just did not occur to me at all that something extraordinary was going on. I mean, there he was, borrowing their tripod without asking and going in and out of the kitchen like he was getting something from their fridge.

Anyway, this box turned out to be incredible. It was filled with photographs and things like placemats from restaurants we had eaten at, movie tickets, pieces of material or just the oddest objects that I never knew he had the diligence to preserve. As we went through these articles Edric opportunely asked me, “Joy, I have been meaning to ask you what God has been teaching you lately through his word.”

The question seemed out-of-place but I was happy to answer it. “Well I have been reading in Exodus about how God told Moses and his people that he would fight for them while they kept silent, and lately I have felt like I really needed God to do this for me at work.”

“That’s very interesting,” He said. “You know, God has been speaking to me directly in Exodus as well. I have been praying about this one thing and this is what he showed me…”

At this point, Edric pulled out an old Bible which I recognized as the one he had when we first started dating.

“Do you remember this Bible?” He asked.

“Of course!,” I responded.

I took it from him and was about to turn to Exodus, when he said, “Let me do it.” So he found the passage he was referring to—Exodus 33:12-14. “The Lord said, I will go before you…” I noticed that he had underlined the sentence with one of those gold metallic pens but the rest of the sentence was on the next page, which he let me turn to. After I did so the rest of the verse read, “…and give you rest.” Waiting for him to explain the significance of this verse to me, he simply said, “this is what God has been saying to me directly, Joy.”

As I continued to look at him and at the verse, I noticed that he seemed edgy and nervous. I did not know why until something on the right page caught my attention. Written in bold letters, with the same metallic pen, were the words, “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” And, at the tip of the question mark was a diamond imbedded into the pages of the Bible. He had cut out a hole for the ring and placed it inside the Bible.

I stared at the page for a while, trying to process what was happening, and then looked back at Edric, who, by now was pointing to the question with trembling hands and saying something with quivering lips. “I have been praying about when to ask you and this is what I read in Exodus. I am serious, Joy, will you marry me?”

For a split second, in between my screaming out YES! and my verbal constipation, I wondered if Edric had asked my Dad for permission since this had been something that I prayed about. (The two previous prayers I had about our relationship had already been answered so this was the last one.) God must have told Edric to mention it to me without my prodding because very quickly he added, “I have asked your dad and my dad and gotten their blessing.” The tears began to stream down my cheeks because I knew that this was confirmation from God and I said, “YES…”

We lingered in the moment, taking photos, laughing, going over how crazy the last few days had been, and uncovering the plan he had masterminded with my family and the Reeds. The entire thing had been a grand set-up. Edric had been to my old house many times to coordinate the evening. And he had bought all the food from a restaurant which I liked – all my favorite dishes. Paul and Jenny were never supposed to show up. He also bought movie tickets for the rest of the people in the Reed household so it was just Edric and I, Linda Reed and Jan Landry in the house when he proposed. (They were peeking from behind the kitchen the whole while and I didn’t know it.)

That night, I kept staring at the ring. The engraving in it read 1 Corinthians 13 forever, 3/3/01, Your E.

Sunday, March 4, 2001

The day after my engagement to E. Last night Edric asked me to marry him. Saying yes was inexplicable bliss. I still cannot get over what happened last night but I have this ring on my finger to prove that it was all real and not just one unbelievable dream. That was the happiest I have ever been. Today, during breakfast, in the shower, lying on my bed, I couldn’t stop smiling. What can equal this? God’s love has overflowed within me. He and Edric have been planning this entire set-up.

 

Every little detail was pre-meditated. God’s hand was sovereign in it all—especially since I had absolutely no inkling that it was going to happen, that he had talked to my Dad while I was in Thailand and to everyone, while I was kept completely in the dark. What a wonderful conspiracy. It was absolutely amazing, beyond my expectations—the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me. E said it couldn’t have happened without God.

Before bedtime…

I have to keep on looking at the ring to remind myself that this fairytale is all true. My elation has not quit. I don’t suppose it will die down for a couple more days, at least until I realize that this all means forever.

I am getting married to the man I love. God made him just for me. How could we have found one another if not for God’s orchestration? I cannot stop marveling, cannot stop admiring the way God works, the way he accomplishes his purpose. As far as Edric and I are concerned, God designed and planned everything. He heard my prayer— those times of fasting and besieging God to guide Edric and to speak through him.

 

Postnotes by Edric:

I had decided to propose on March 3 upon a wild deduction from the Verse God lead me to. Ex. 33…3-3…March 3!? I pondered on the idea and realized that it all fit into place:

Joy was leaving for Thailand, work permanency was around the corner, and, on the practical side, the date fell on a Saturday. “Perfect”, I thought to myself…and the preparations began. I had all of two weeks.

What amazes me is how all the details fell into place on that Saturday…the motif, the food, the decor, the flowers, the ring, the bible, the memory box, and even the venue. Everything magically found its way into my consciousness (with monumental thanks to Linda Reed). God had planned it all in an instant. I just let go and watched it all happen. The only part I actually felt very emotional about was the pop-the-question moment. I was trembling because I had never done this before, nor did I expect to ever do such a thing again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime first-time experience that felt like a cross between the suspense of opening a college acceptance/rejection letter, and the excitement of a first kiss. That instance would change my life forever.

As her tears began to fall, she gracefully sprung towards me and said, “Yes!” In the blur that I recall, after this climactic response I took her hand and slid the ring onto her finger.

Voila! It didn’t fit.

“Not to worry,” I said to her, “We can have that repaired.” (I had planned out the repair of the ring in the event that it didn’t fit, along with the rest of the surprise proposal.) This is where I will end my “postnotes”…with the thought that in our future together there will be surprises like these that we will experience, but none that we cannot – together with God, handle or overcome.

My heartbeat has stabilized. Yes, I am alive, and she said yes, and we will be married and live happily ever after, by the grace of God. And the Lord said, “I will go before you and lead you…”

Amen.


We had no digital photography for our wedding! It was waaay too expensive in 2001…

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A Reflective Reaction to the Overruling of the DOMA

Before proceeding, let it be said that I espouse a Biblical worldview. Therefore this entry may be taken with offense by some who disagree with my frame of reference. However, my intention is not to attack anyone, but to offer a perspective and opinion that I pray will be worth considering.

Wednesday morning last week, I read about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overrule the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), declaring that “gay couples married in states where it is legal must receive the same federal health, tax, Social Security and other benefits that heterosexual couples receive.”

“The ruling means that same-sex marriage is now sanctioned in 13 states and the District of Columbia — a list representing more than a third of the population of the United States.”

(Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/supreme-court/2013/06/26/f0039814-d9ab-11e2-a016-92547bf094cc_story.html“>Washington Post)

I read through news article after article in tears. It wasn’t so much the decision as it was the moral condition of our times that troubled me — how godless a society we have become, how far off course we are from any sort of moral reference point. We dangerously celebrate and applaud equal treatment but not what is good, right, and pleasing to God. And why should this matter? Because when we don’t submit to God’s design for man and woman, for marriage, for family, for personal purity and righteousness, we forfeit his blessing and set ourselves up for most certain destruction.

There really isn’t anything new about the homosexuality we see today. Back in Biblical times an entire city of men would be at the doorstep of a home trying to break down the front door to have sex with the men inside. Does Sodom and Gomorrah ring any bells? But today, we must contend with the media influences that promote homosexuality as permissible and acceptable – the new normal.

How do we raise our children in this sort of spiritually hostile climate? How do we teach them biblical truth?

Well, for starters, we can go back to God’s design for man and woman, male and female. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27

And then we can talk about how, anatomically speaking, man and woman fit together. The very act of intercourse, the pinnacle of physical oneness, accommodates the anatomies of a man and woman most naturally. Our children know this. It’s nothing to be awkward about. Sex is a beautiful thing in the context of marriage between husband and wife, and that’s how we have explained it to our children.

Furthermore, the propagation of the human species is dependent on the meeting that happens between sperm and egg. A man and a man, and a woman and a woman cannot biologically have children together. They may adopt, have a surrogate, or get a donor but a sperm is required from a man and an egg from a woman. If the existence of the human race were dependent on two men to procreate we would have a big problem. This is so obvious I don’t even need to say it.

A family’s nuclear unit is the marriage — a union that is integral to the perpetuation of entire races and societies. I was quite shocked to read Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary define marriage as “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law or the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.

Homosexual marriages cannot be likened to traditional marriages. The partnering of a man and woman in marriage produces offspring who inherit the genetic make-up of both father and mother. Biologically speaking, same sex partnerships can’t do this because they were not designed to do so.

Pitirim Sorokin, the founder of sociology at Harvard University, pointed to the regulation of sexuality as the essential first mark of civilization. According to Sorokin, civilization is possible only when marriage is normative and sexual conduct is censured outside of the marital relationship. Furthermore, Sorokin traced the rise and fall of civilizations and concluded that the weakening of marriage was a first sign of civilizational collapse.

We should note that Sorokin made these arguments long before anything like homosexual marriage had been openly discussed. Sorokin’s insight was the realization that civilization requires men to take responsibility for their offspring. This was possible, he was convinced, only when marriage was held to be the unconditional expectation for sexual activity and procreation. Once individuals–especially males–are freed for sexual behavior outside of marriage, civilizational collapse becomes an inevitability. The weakening of marriage–even on heterosexual terms–has already brought a harvest of disaster to mothers and children abandoned in the name of sexual liberation.

The regulation of sexuality is thus a primary responsibility of any civilization. In their review of Western civilization, Will and Ariel Durant noted that sex is “a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints.” The primary restraint has always been the institution of marriage itself–an institution that is inescapably heterosexual and based in the monogamous union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. In postmodern America, the fires of sex are increasingly unbanked and uncooled. (Read more: The Case Against Homosexual Marriage)

Marriage has been understood and defined for centuries and throughout civilization as the union between a man and a woman, instituted for the continuance of life and to best protect and provide for children. Government and society grant benefits and protection to a man and a woman in marriage because of their biological potential to bear and effectively raise the next generation. Even childless couples or infertile couples always have the potential to procreate. Homosexual couplings always do not. If societies deviate from the standard of marriage as a child-based institution, they open the door to any kind of marriage. (Read more: Free Republic)

Think about it. If the decision to marry is treated as a right that everybody is entitled to, for as long as they love one another, then where is the line drawn? Who is to say that a father and daughter can’t be entitled to the same sort of treatment if they love each other and want to get married? Or how about one woman marrying three men? Or how about a man and his pet? It sounds ludicrous now but if equal rights is made to be such an idol then perhaps this would be allowed in the future (I really hope not!).

But others might argue that same-sex attraction and coupling is different. There is this very popular myth that a homosexual is born that way. However, there is absolutely no proof for a homosexual gene.

Homosexuality is not a genetically encoded condition. Contrary to media hype, there is no conclusive or compelling empirical evidence showing any absolute biological, genetic, or hormonal causation for homosexuality. Homosexual activist and molecular biologist Dean Hamer’s study claiming the existence of a homosexual gene has been scientifically discredited. Studies that claim to prove homosexuality is genetic have been purposefully designed from a homosexual advocacy perspective and seek to convince society that homosexuality is innate, psychologically normal, and thus socially desirable. (Read more: Free Republic)

A complexity of factors may cause a person to be predisposed to same-sex attraction but no one can use the argument, “I was born this way.”

Homosexuality is not genetically “hardwired,” according to Dr. Francis Collins, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work sequencing the human genetic code. Any genetic contribution to male homosexuality represents a predisposition, not a predetermination, he stated. If genetics were determinative, then identical twins should “virtually always” show the same pattern of same-sex attraction, said the Catholic Medical Association. But a study of the Australian Twin Registry cited by CMA showed that only 11% of identical twins with same-sex attraction had a twin brother who also experienced it. (Read more: Gay Gene Myth)

I don’t want to oversimplify a complex issue and sound cold-hearted. I do acknowledge the reality that personalities, behavior, experiences, hormones, familial backgrounds, parenting models, brain matter composition, etc may give people a predisposition toward same-sex attraction.

Don Schmierer, author of the book “An Ounce of Prevention” writes, “Same-sex attraction is a set of deficits – physical, emotional, and environmental—that set the stage for the homosexual condition. Deficits lead to tendencies and tendencies lead to attractions. The homosexual condition may involve sexual acting out, experimentation, and eventually, some involvement in the homosexual lifestyle.”[1]

According to him deficits are apparent early in a child’s life – from abuse (which may happen at infancy), physical challenges that lead to social out casting, a chronic illness, handicap or hormonal deficiencies or imbalances that are chemical in nature. Boys may seem more feminine than usual and girls more masculine. These imbalances can be treated and with the support of loving parents can help a child overcome feelings of being socially unaccepted.

Schmierer also explains the impact of parenting and the home environment on homosexuality. While these factors may not always be the direct cause, they do make children more vulnerable to homosexuality. I’ve highlighted a few here:

– A father who is absent physically or emotionally inaccessible to his children.

– A domineering, critical or controlling mother who wants to dominate and control everyone.

– Parents who unconsciously cultivate characteristics of the desired gender in their child. For example, parents who wanted to have a boy but had a girl instead.

– Estrangement between parents, providing no clear idea how healthy men and women should relate to one another. (I would like to add — no modeling for roles between husband and wife.)

– Access to pornography

– Lack of affection or inappropriate affection from parents such as sexual innuendos, incest, molestation or even rape.

In 2001, the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior published a study entitled Comparative data of childhood and adolescence molestation in heterosexual and homosexual persons. The abstract for this article states the following: In research with 942 nonclinical adult participants, gay men and lesbian women reported a significantly higher rate of childhood molestation than did heterosexual men and women. Forty-six percent of the homosexual men in contrast to 7% of the heterosexual men reported homosexual molestation. Twenty-two percent of lesbian women in contrast to 1% of heterosexual women reported homosexual molestation. This research is apparently the first survey that has reported substantial homosexual molestation of girls. [2]

It would not be fair to say that being sexually abused as a child always causes a person to become a homosexual. In fact, there may be no one isolated cause that leads a person to choose a homosexual lifestyle. However, the greater reality is that whatever the influential factors may be that predispose a person to same-sex attraction, they don’t have to determine a person’s destiny.

There may be a possibility of the existence of a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality, which is far different from causation. But even this possibility is far from scientifically proven. Predisposition toward something does not mean that it is inevitable, or that such a predisposition cannot or should not be resisted and overcome. Some people may have a predisposition to alcoholism, yet we do not affirm their disposition, but rather treat their condition and help them change. Current evidence suggests that environmental, familial, and personal influences contribute significantly to the development of homosexual tendencies. Seventy years of therapeutic counseling and case studies show a remarkable consistency concerning the origins of the homosexual impulse as an uncompleted gender identity seeking after its own sex to replace what was not fully developed in childhood. (NARTH.com)

I find it absolutely comforting that a person does not have to be the sum of past experiences. I have a choice. You have a choice. Isn’t this the highest compliment to the freedom we all desire?

To use a personal example, as a rape victim, I was cautioned by psychologists and counselors that I had the potential (let’s use the word predisposition) to become:

1. a bitter and angry person

2. a highly promiscuous woman

3. abusive towards others

However, I chose not to be any of those things. I believed that my life choices did not have to be defined by my life experiences…that I had the option to have faith in God’s plan for me — that he would use a bad experience for good. Fortunately, I was blessed to have a very supportive family who helped me process what I went through from a biblical perspective.

Did I still have to deal with the confusion, pain and wound of that experience? Of course, and I still do. Did I sometimes wonder why God allows bad things to happen to good people? Sure…especially because there are an overwhelming number of people with stories of horrifying physical or sexual abuse…waaaay worse than my own rape story.

Because of troubling experiences that are very often beyond our control, like loss or death of a loved one, conflict, crisis, betrayal, abandonment, abuse, and marital and familial problems, we are all in danger of becoming victims of circumstance. We are all in danger of believing the lie that we don’t have the choice to turn away from destructive perspectives or behaviors. Everyone has a choice and this includes people who have developed same-sex attractions.

Although individuals who experience homosexual attractions and thoughts may not have chosen these tendencies, they do have a choice as to whether or not they will act on the feelings. It is the acting on these feelings that constitutes homosexuality. Many people have left the homosexual community and live successful heterosexual lives, which often includes marriage and raising children. (Read more: Free Republic )

But where is the saving hope for people who have been wounded, broken by past experiences or mistakes? We live in a sinful, fallen world where we have all been victimized in one way or another. And this world does not have the solution – it isn’t within ourselves, the people around us, society, institutions or the government. We need rescuing. We need a Savior.

I like how Ravi Zacharias puts it in his book, “Can Man Live Without God?”

“I am convinced that all our attempts to change the letter of the law and to reeducate people have been, and are, merely band-aid solutions for a fatal hemorrhage. The system will never change because our starting point is flawed. The secular view of man can neither give the grandeur that God alone can give, nor can it see the evil with the human heart that God alone can reveal and cure…In the economy of God’s creation, there was intended an egalitarianism among human beings; that is, each person was equal in essence and dignity. On the other hand, there was to be an elitism in ideas, meaning that not all ideas are equal—some ideas are clearly superior to others. Antitheistic thinking has inverted that economy – indeed, it is compelled to – because its starting point leads to the opposite conclusion; people have been rendered elite, and ideas are egalitarian. As a result, we foolishly argue that all ideas are equal…The scriptural teaching is that man is created in the image of God…This dignity may not be conjured up or legalized by decree. This is our essential splendor, the splendor of people of all races and colors. We all share that equal glory, but having rejected God we find that glory marred by sin, which engenders hate. The glory can only be restored by dealing with that sin. We are in need of a heart transplant, but the more we refuse to acknowledge our wretched condition, the more the solution evades us, and people continue to live undignified lives. Jesus went to the core of the problem when He said, “You refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40).” [3]

I wasn’t angry when I read about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. I just felt a great deal of sorrow. The heart ache I felt was for the inching of a great country like America towards the same historical mistakes that have brought down empires and civilizations who have rejected God.

President Barrack Obama said, “This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better…”

I could not and still don’t agree with his concept of progress. Research on the decline of civilizations through the centuries have cited the breakdown of the traditional family as catalytic to a nation’s eventual destruction.

At the “front end” of a rising civilization, men are firmly, decisively in control, sometimes to the point of true, harsh, “male dominance.” With the rise of that civilization, the male changes from strict authoritarian to a kinder, more noble man. It is in this phase of civilization that society comes to full flower, experiencing great prosperity, stability, and growth. In the third stage, the male begins to disengage from his family, losing his nobility, and abandoning his role of leadership. Females in society are therefore forced to abandon their instinctive maternal roles and step forward to assume the leadership roles that men have relinquished. It is in this stage that society begins a rapid decline, eventually resulting in its demise. (Read more: Nation In Decline )

According to noted Harvard sociologist and Historian, Dr. Carle Zimmerman, there are eight specific patterns of domestic behavior that have signaled the downward spiral and imminent demise of every culture:

1. Marriage lost its sacredness; it was frequently broken by divorce.
2. Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony was lost. Alternate forms and definitions of marriage arose, and traditional marriage vows were replaced by individual marriage contracts.
3. Feminist movements appeared, and women lost interest in child bearing and mothering, preferring to pursue power and influence.
4. Public disrespect for parents and authority in general increased.
5. Juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion accelerated
6. People with traditional marriages refused to accept family responsibilities.
7. Desire for and acceptance of adultery grew.
8. Increased tolerance for sexual perversions of all kinds, particularly homosexuality, with a resultant increase in sex-related crimes.

He wrote his book, Family and Culture back in 1947, but it sounds very much like what we are facing today.

As a sociologist and historian, Zimmerman did not offer a spiritual solution to the same problems we are confronted with at present, however, God’s Word does.

Personally, I feel that the cry to be treated with fairness and equality is at the root, a desire to be loved and accepted. And I absolutely believe that God loves all of us and takes us just as we are. That’s why he sent Jesus, his son, to die for us while we were still sinners. He knew we could not heal ourselves. But he didn’t just come to deliver us from wretchedness but to gives us a greater life – a life according to his design, lived in obedience and submission to his will and plan, where we find true joy, peace, and clarity of purpose. Like Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…”

We really have only two options. Either we acknowledge and worship God as creator – a God who is personal, loving, powerful, and sovereign or we deny that he exists and have nothing to do with him. There is no middle ground. Whatever lies between these two polarities leans toward rejection. We cannot accept that there is a God and shelve him as a thought or construct, or place him in a line up of options to choose from when it is convenient to do so. Either he is and his word is true or he isn’t. Either his offer of salvation through Jesus Christ his son will redeem and restore what we cannot or it is a hoax of cosmic proportions. Either we embrace the grace he promises to give us freedom from a past that shackles us, perspectives that make us lose our way, a world that wounds us, and the sin that continually entangles us, or we subscribe to the lie that we cannot change who we are.

I don’t need to force people to believe that God is and that the best life is found in Him. God needs no defender or apologist to prove his existence, power or sovereignty. However, I cannot, in good conscience keep silent about the consequences of rejecting him, either.

Romans 1:25-27 says, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

What is happening in America convicted me to be more vigilant about teaching my children what is true and right according to God’s word, and not to be afraid to be labeled as ignorant, narrow-minded, or an enemy of equality because I do not support the choice to live a homosexual lifestyle. What I do support is the abundant life God promises which cannot be had apart from Him, and which he freely and lovingly gives to every person who would receive this gift through Jesus Christ, his son.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31, 32 NASB)



[1] Don Shcmierer with Lela Gilbert. An Ounce of Prevention. Preventing the Homosexual Condition in Today’s Youth. (Word Publishing: Nashville, 1998), pg. 9.

[2] Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, M.D. Sexual Abuse Being a Contributing Factor for Homosexuality. http://www.conservapedia.com/Sexual_abuse_being_a_contributing_factor_for_homosexuality

[3] Ravi Zacharias. Can Man Live Without God. (OMF Literature: Mandaluyong, 2006) Pg.140 – 142.

The Hearts I Hold

Titus is a very mechanically-inclined child. He is my little “tinkerer.” When he enters a room, he will touch whatever he can get his hands on, especially if he is in a room he has never been in before. He will fiddle with objects, turn them around, pull or push at them, or even take them apart if he has enough time to.

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I remember going into my friend’s dermatology clinic and Titus made a bee-line towards all the breakable objects, trying to pick them up or shake them. There was no malice or intent to destroy. He was simply exploring. I had to ask him to stop though because there were a number of fragile decorations that could have crashed onto the floor. He listened but I could tell that his fingers were itching to grab a hold of something…anything.

As his homeschool teacher, I have to be sensitive to this learning style of his and not curtail it too much, especially at home where his personality doesn’t have to be stifled. Our house is pretty child-friendly. I am not too particular about the kids breaking things. It happens. Life goes on.

Giving him his space to grow and develop the way God designed him to has been a wonderful sort of “experiment” to help me understand how my children learn. Titus is the kind of person that thrives when he is able to observe, experiment, and practice without the pressure of outcomes.

For instance, he has been writing words lately, not because I asked him to but because he was ready to, on his own. The most recent handwriting work I asked him to do was to copy the letters I wrote down in big and small caps. I only required him to do a page a day. But, through this exercise I discovered that he already knew how to write his letters.

How did this happen? It’s really quite a mystery. I have not made him do pages and pages of handwriting work. But I do let him draw, color, paint, cut, and paste a lot which has probably strengthened his finger muscles. On occasion I give him minimal doses of penmanship practice.

So it delighted me to witness his attempts to write out everyone’s names — family, cousins, as well as words that he was trying to sound out on his own. He spelled the word “start”, for instance, on top of his drawing of a maze.

I asked him, “How did you learn how to write?” I wanted to be able to take some credit but his answer was, “I just watched Edan. I saw how he did it.”

Titus and Mom
This really got me thinking about the blessings of having more than one child, especially because we are a homeschooling family. The younger children benefit from the older ones and their examples.

When I am concerned that I don’t get to invest the same amount of time teaching my two younger kids that I did with my two older ones, I am pleasantly delighted to discover that they teach one another, intentionally or not.

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The same thing happened with my youngest sister, Carolyn, when my mom was homeschooling us. She learned to read very early. One morning she came up to my mom and confidently said, “I know how to read, mom.” My mom was incredulous because she hadn’t really taught her to read. Carolyn was included in our homeschooling, but she was much younger than all of us so her studies were not too formal. However, when my mom asked Carolyn to demonstrate her ability to read she was able to do so.

Sometimes, as a mom, you come into the homeschooling experience with many doubts and questions. Will my kids turn out alright? Can I really do this even if I am not an educator? Is homeschooling going to give all my kids a good education? Having bought into the notion that conventional schooling will meet these needs more effectively, we tend to feel insecure about our ability to teach our children. Our preconceived ideas about how children learn and the context in which they learn is biased in favor of the institutional set-up. Yet, I am discovering more and more as my children grow and mature that they are learning all the time and in ways that often surprise me.

Without the impediment of time frames, lesson plans, leveling, same age groupings, and pressure of grades, they naturally discover, create, investigate, problem solve, interact, and imitate what you want them to.

God has designed each child with the potential to learn. And I have to trust in this innate capacity and nurture it. My greater role is to train my kids so they are disciplined, responsible, attentive, and obedient. I also need to instill in them a love for the Lord. This is the bedrock, the indispensable foundation that must be present in the hearts of my kids.

While standards and checklists are helpful as a reference, I have to remember that these should not define, box in, or ignore the uniquenesses of my kids. If Titus is not writing sentences at age 5 like school aged children might be doing, so what? He still has time to acquire that ability.

I do not doubt that he will if I constantly provide an environment that encourages the love for learning — an environment where there is joy, unconditional acceptance, generous praise, access to books, materials, and toys that stimulate creativity, and the formation of character and godliness. But what an impossible environment to have if I am not grace-filled and spirit-led. Unless the Lord is at work in my own life, I can be tyrannical, overbearing, demanding, and selfish as a teacher…all the things that can destroy my children’s desire to learn. So I have to be in continual partnership with Christ who designed and tenderly made the children he has entrusted to me. I need to be sensitive to his leading when he tells me I need to improve or modify the way I instruct my kids.

This morning, Titus climbed into bed next to me and I held him for a bit because I wasn’t fully awake. He snuggled up beside me and I wrapped my arms around him. My right hand happened to rest on the part of his chest where I felt his heart beating. I imagined that little, unique heart of his in my hand and I thought of my other children’s, too. And this was the prayer that came to me…

How fragile, Lord, are my kids. How easily wounded if I am not careful. How tender are their consciences. How opportune the season to plant your truth in them. May I not trample upon their fragility or desecrate their consciences with my own sinfulness. You have made me steward of four extraordinary treasures. I cannot be faithful to this trust if you do not supply the extraordinary help. So I look to you to teach me how to hold the hearts of my children. Let me treat motherhood as a sacred offering of love, time, and sacrifice that directs my children to you, to reflect and live for your glory. Reveal to me what I should teach and what I need not fret over, and calibrate my responses and instruction according to what pleases you so that each of my children can be redeemed and prepared for your purposes! Amen!

Homemaking and The Bird That Fell From A Tree

Before it sounds like I am on a campaign to define an entire generation’s perception on women, this is a personal reflection. It is my own wrestling with the realities of what a woman should be, a woman who is married and has children.

While I believe that a mom’s priority should be the home, women are, more often than not, lauded for what they accomplish outside of the home. I read about women’s successes in the corporate realm, professions of choice, businesses or advocacies. I watch them on the news, and ask myself, Did I miss out on something here? Am I living on another planet or maybe a different island with my Robinson Crusoe family? Am I lesser because I did not venture upon that track and join hands with the multitudinous number of women who are deemed significant by society because they have been catalytic to change, to history? Have I put limits on what I can and should be doing because I have turned my energies towards the home?

When I dwell on modern day perceptions of what women ought to be, that we must not only take care of our homes and the people inside them but be income generators, or a force to contend with in society (especially in terms of rights), or ably climbing the corporate ladder, or maybe breaking world records, too…well, it makes me feel like being a wife and mother are insufficient aspirations, undeserving of a standing ovation.

So I have to go back to what I decided a long time ago — that I would live for the praise of a different audience. And while bombarded by portrayals of the cosmopolitan woman…her celebrated independence and dominating power, I would not make that my pursuit. Instead I would concern myself with what God, my husband and children have to say.

In Titus 2:3-5 it reads, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

I like this checklist. It tells me to focus on loving my husband, my children, to be a good worker at home, and to do so in a way that honors God. Should God call me to anything more than this, he will confirm it. For the time being it is pleasing to him that I should wholeheartedly commit to fulfilling my roles as wife and mother. I need not burden or pressure myself to be more.

That is the cerebral part of my conviction. But there is an emotional side to it, too. God uses tender moments with my family to affirm the belief that home is where I should be. Like yesterday…

My second son, Edan came to me in the study room with a bird in his hand, wrapped in a white washcloth. “Mom, this bird fell from a tree. Can I keep him?” I saw him cradling the bird and I thought, this bird is probably going to die. What kind of bird falls out of a tree?! My second thought was, Is this bird carrying some sort of flu that will infect Edan and the other kids?!

I laid those thoughts aside and asked the kids to get a cup of water. We embarked upon a collaborative mission to save this bird. Titus eagerly went to get the water and Edan gently laid the bird on the ground. The bird toppled over on to its side like it had rigor mortis and its claws were curled in a strange sort of way. But it’s eyes were open and it was still breathing so there was a smidgen of hope that it would survive. We stood it back on to its feet and dripped water into its beak. It drank the water. Afterwards, I asked the boys to get some cooked brown rice and bread. As best as we could, we tried to feed it, giving it sips of water in between each dot of food.

Edan was very concerned. So I asked him to pray for the bird. “Pray that if it is God’s will, it will live.” After he prayed and we did our part to try and revive the bird, the boys found a box to keep him in.

Then the unexpected happened. As we lifted the bird into the box, it miraculously flew away! From looking half dead it regained its strength and found a tree to rest in.

This was a happy but sad turn of events for Edan. He really wanted to keep the bird. I reminded him that we had prayed and God healed it so we ought to be thankful. The rest of the day he kept asking me if he would see the bird again. Of course I could not answer definitively. And then this morning he asked for my phone which had a photo of him holding the bird saved on to it.

“Mom, can you print out this picture?” This was the first time he ever asked me to print out a photo for him. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to keep it so he could look at the bird.

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My heart melted. I did not realize how attached Edan had grown to that bird in the short hour of being its friend. He even made a drawing of the entire incident…the bird falling from a tree, the cat being nearby, himself coming to its rescue.

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I treasure these priceless moments with my kids — the interactions and insights into who they are. These circumstances cannot be timed or manipulated into form. I need to be around to catch them in their spontaneous appearances.

So when I stumble upon a conversation, an article, a news bit about “successful women” and start to feel that temptation to compare or measure myself against that standard, I think about the joys that I would not trade and the regrets I wouldn’t want to live with. Some of my greatest joys are being present for stories like Edan and the bird that fell from a tree.

I imagine that these stories will become the memories we laugh and cry about as a family when we revisit them someday. I don’t want to look back and regret that I had not made those memories with them. I have the privilege of making them now and that’s what I am doing! I also praise and thank God that he has so orchestrated the events of my life so I can choose to be at home.

Have You Ever Seen An Evil Person?

“Mom, have you ever seen an evil person?” This was the thought-provoking question my 7-year old posited to me when he was lying on his bed last night. I was praying with the kids for protection, health, good dreams, their obedience, etc. (Edric usually does this nightly routine but he was doing a show with Suze Orman for On the Money. So I was filling in for him.)

Edric and his co-hosts with Suze Orman

Edric and his co-hosts with Suze Orman

Well, Edan asked about the thieves that broke into our home many years ago when I was a teenager. It was too late to go into a lengthy discussion about that. But, I tried to explain to him that sometimes we think that people who do things like steal are evil. However, we can all be evil. Like, when we don’t obey God…that’s evil.

Many of us have a certain image that we associate with evil. We think of the Cleveland guy, Ariel Castro, who abducted, raped, and held Michelle Knight, Georgina Dejesus, and Amanda Berry captive for 10 years.

It broke my heart to imagine what it was like for the families to grieve over their missing daughters and for the victims to endure such a nightmare. Talk about hell on earth!

The news often highlights many other forms of crazy and it makes me deeply concerned for my children, to say the least. I look at my kids and treasure their innocence. If anyone were to steal or pollute that, I would be devastated.

Yet, the reality is there is no way to shield them completely from the godlessness that is present in this world. Edric and I can prepare them and arm them with the truth, but there is no bubble that they can float around in, completely untouched and unscathed. Why? The scarier reality is all our children have been hard-wired to sin, just like us. Our predisposition is toward selfishness and self-gratifying behavior. In today’s terminology, we might call such a person who acts upon their selfish inclinations, a sociopath. Okay, I’m not saying that all people are sociopaths but look at the description. Doesn’t it sound like many people we know, including our children, and ourselves (maybe not all the time, but at least some of the time?!).

What is a sociopath?[1] Someone who…

  1. Does not learn from experience
  2. Has no sense of responsibility
  3. Is unable to form meaningful relationships
  4. Is unable to control impulses
  5. Lack of moral sense
  6. Has chronically antisocial behavior
  7. Displays no change in behavior after punishment
  8. Lack of emotional maturity
  9. Lack of guilt
  10. Self-centeredness

Supposedly, this Antisocial Personality Disorder is said to begin at adolescence and is chronic. Really?! I’ve seen this sort of behavior exhibited by my children very early on which tells me that it seems to be inherent to the human person. But who will listen to me? I’m not a psychologist or a doctor who does clinical analysis. I’m just a mom who has to deal with addressing this tendency in my kids every day.

I have four wonderful children and I would like to believe that they are good and lovable. I wouldn’t want them lumped together with offenders who murder, commit adultery, steal, cheat, and rape. But they do act in undesirable and hurtful ways, especially when they aren’t trained or taught otherwise.

I’ve had my two year-old Tiana ignore me completely and walk away while I am talking to her. I’ve seen my boys get really angry and emotionally wound one another. At times, they struggle with admitting wrong and asking for forgiveness. One of them used to hit his siblings without conscience.

And what about myself? I’ve had moments when I’ve entertained thoughts of strangling or slapping my children out of frustration. Praise God I have never done so! But, if someone were to peer into my brain and itemize every wrong thought I’ve ever had, I would be ashamed of my crimes!

Personally, I feel that the many explanations given to understand the criminally inclined may help society and governments prioritize medication, the law, greater sanctions and penalties, controlled environments and better parenting to create boundaries that prevent people from hurting others, but they won’t solve the real problem.

The core issue is that evil resides in our hearts. It hatches at childhood and steers us like a compass. Deep inside, my children and I are no better than those who actually abuse others. We are not a higher class of good or righteousness. The only reason why our impulses and carnality are in check is because we have a greater power at work in our lives – the Holy Spirit.

When my children decided to make Jesus the Lord and Savior of their lives, they received the Holy Spirit. I saw the evidence of His fruit in their lives. Titus used to whine, cry, and sulk when he didn’t get his way. It was a struggle to teach him how to obey and listen. But, when he turned three years old, Edric shared the gospel message with him and he made a personal decision to acknowledge his sin and give his life to Jesus. A few weeks later, my mom noticed how different he was. When she told him he couldn’t have something that he wanted, he replied, “Okay, grandma,” without being upset or frustrated. Whoa. This was not Titus. This was the work of the Lord in his heart!

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

The Bible tells us that the secret to overcoming the flesh or sin is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. When it comes to parenting my children, I appeal to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. During occasions when I sense that their will is pitted against mine or they are not ready to listen, I pray for them and I ask them to check their hearts (especially my older children). I am witness to the unseen war between their flesh and the Spirit. They must learn to surrender to the Lord or the flesh will win.

Galatians 5:16-17 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please…”

When I observe my children, I look for proof of their relationship with Christ – evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. Until this is apparent, I cannot assume that they have really come into a personal relationship with Jesus.

Romans 8:9-11 tells us, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

Ariel Castro actually posted on his Facebook page on May 2, “miracles really do happen, God is good.” In the meantime, he was holding three women and a child in captivity, against their will.[2] Did he really know God? From the evidence, I don’t think so. He was living a dichotomy. No one figured him for a criminal until his secret was uncovered. Maybe he didn’t think himself such a bad guy either. I read that his intention is to plead not guilty. Wow.

We may not commit crimes like Castro did but we can be guilty of the same sort of dichotomy in our thinking. When our standard of morality is of our own making, we may be tempted to think, I’m not so awful. I’m not like the psycho in Cleveland. But that is a very relative plumb line. The standard for goodness cannot be people or ourselves because we are fallen to begin with. Just look at any two-year old who hasn’t been disciplined or taught obedience. It’s called terrible twos for a reason!

He displays the same sort of sinfulness that adults struggle with – the flesh that sets itself against God, a heart that is bent on rebellion. The Bible tells us every person “falls short” of the glory of God. This is the bad news. God’s holiness and goodness are the standard and we don’t make the cut. In fact, there is nothing we can do to merge the gap. But the good news, the gospel is that God, in his love, provided a solution through his son Jesus Christ.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Because we are sinful, we cannot clean ourselves out. This requires supernatural intervention. The cure for sin (also known as evil) is Jesus who makes us right with God, and the ability to resist falling into sin comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. Unless we embrace this truth, atrocities will continue as foretold in God’s word. Unless our children embrace this truth, they will grow up with a predisposition toward evil.

2 Timothy 3:1-7 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

___

What sobers me as a mom is recognizing that I am responsible to teach my kids about Jesus. Edric and I, as parents, have been commissioned to do so. We cannot close our eyes and hope that our children will grow up with a knowledge of God and a desire to live for him. No way. We have got to pay close attention to what is going on in their hearts and steer them towards God.

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When my children start trending towards selfish behavior, I ask them, “Who is in your heart?” They will answer, “Jesus.” “If Jesus is in your heart, will he want you to act the way you are acting? Are you making him happy or sad by what you are doing?” At this question, they will pause, think, and answer honestly.

“What will make Jesus happy?” is usually a good follow up question. And depending on the circumstance, they will tell me “I need to be kind.” Or, “I need to forgive.” Or, “I should share.” Or, “I have to change my attitude.” These heart checks have helped them to discern whether they are controlled by their evil-prone selves or controlled by the Holy Spirit. And because they do belong to the Lord, they have the desire to please him and do what is right in God’s eyes. But the key is to focus on their relationship with Christ. This is the foundation, the starting point. From there Edric and I can teach our children to be spirit-filled vs. self-filled. We can talk about what is moral and right in accordance with God’s standards and commands. Of course, Edric and I have to role-model the same or we become a counterweight and stumbling block to our children’s spiritual growth.

So…to answer the question, “Have you ever seen an evil person?” I sure have. Myself. Apart from God…apart form his grace and love through his son, Jesus Christ…and apart from the enablement of his Holy Spirit to reject evil. I like how 1 John 3:23-24 simplifies it all…“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

Do we believe in Jesus? If we do, we will love one another.

Do we keep his commandments? If we do, we remain in Him. There is continual evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 

 

 

 



[1] http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_a_sociopath

[2] http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/12/us/cleveland-abductions-narrative/index.html

The Habit of “I Love You”

At 1:45 in the morning, I was in between dream state and wakefulness when Edric came in to the room and got into bed beside me. “I love you,” he whispered like he almost always does every night since we got married. I whispered back, “I love you, too.” And he took my hand and held it for a while.

Ever since I can remember, these have been his closing words right before he goes to bed, no matter what his day is like.  It could be a great day, a stressful one, or a day when we’ve had an argument and he doesn’t feel like saying “I love you.” But he says it nonetheless because he wants it to be the last thing I remember before I sleep.

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I remember the day we first met. We were sitting on a bench outdoors. It was during a Psychology 101 class. Our teacher brought us all outside while we presented our projects. Under the shade of a tree, Edric sat at one end of a blue bench and I sat at the other. The gravitational pull must have been pretty strong and we sort of got lost in our own little world, striking up a random conversation about God and faith. A curiosity bloomed. I found him honest and unpretentious. He told me later on that he was “mysteriously fascinated.” (I like that description.)

From then on, we seemed to run into each other more often. Edric actually timed his encounters with me and I would strategically place myself in areas where he could find me. But he had to look. I wasn’t going to dangle myself and make it too easy. It sounds like a game, eh? Well, I would like to quote what Edric once said to singles. “Guys like the chase, the challenge of pursuit, but they need to at least see a tail or some part of the deer that makes them hopeful.”

So I gave him a measure of hope. After all, I was interested in getting to know him, too. During our encounters, I was friendly and engaged, and he picked up on this. That was the “tail.”

We shared similar values, family cultures, and interests. But our personalities were quite different. Yet, we connected in the most important ways, especially spiritually. By my Junior year, we were a couple. If I could’ve done it over again, I wouldn’t have dated in college because Edric and I struggled with our physical relationship. I would’ve waited till after college, when we are at the marrying age. But God has since redeemed all of this.

In 2001, two years after graduating from college, Edric asked me to marry him. This was after we had broken up for 6 months to discern about marriage. I was 24 and he was 25.

I had prayed that Edric would be the one I walked down the aisle to. That time of separation purified our motives and gave us clarity about marriage. We received the blessing of his parents and my own, and four months after he proposed to me, we got married. No, we were not pregnant! We wanted a short engagement. After all, we were absolutely sure that God had called us to marriage so why wait any longer than necessary?

On July 22, I stood in front of Edric, said my vows and heard his, and we declared our commitment to one another. It was beyond incredible. But that version of I love you pronounced before God, family and friends had no real experience. It knew little of real commitment or unconditional acceptance.

The test came after the honeymoon, during the first years. It was then that Edric and I really began to understand that love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person for their highest good, which often requires sacrifice. We were two very selfish, prideful people in need of a good spanking from the Lord. He taught us what it really means to love one another. And over time, our love has endured through life’s seasons, by God’s grace.

Edric has loved me unconditionally, flaws and all. And each night that he says I love you means more to me than the day he put a ring on my finger. Why? Because this love has mileage! It has gone the distance and weathered the crazy ups and downs of marriage. It has been thrown into the “furnace” of experience and survived!

If you have been a follower of this blog, you know that I have written entries about our romance. We are big cheeseballs. Yet, at the end of the day, our relationship cannot be anchored on romance. It is a commitment we have made before God, to one another. Declaring “I love you” even when we don’t feel like it reaffirms this.

It’s a practice that has made a big difference in our relationship – a reminder that marriage is the habit of choosing to love your spouse, for better or for worse, and living out that choice the next day, and the next, for the rest of your life.

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18