You Are Treasured

I was counseling a young woman over the weekend who confessed that all her life she was trying to prove her worth and value to herself and others. She was so exhausted, emotionally and spiritually that she tried to commit suicide. God ordained for us to meet through a series of circumstances and I sat down with her to share the gospel.

When she realized that she is perfectly loved, despite each and every tragic experience; completely accepted, despite her many godless choices; valued beyond measure, despite the ill-treatment she has received from undeserving men, her face changed and she began to tear. I asked her to read this passage:

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? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 31-32, 38-39 NASB)

The love and acceptance she had spent years searching for and failed to find, she found in Jesus Christ.

God’s unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.  ~ Jerry Bridges

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Women want to be TREASURED. Married or single, underneath our choices, perspectives, fears and frustrations, there is a current of desire. We want to be treated as special and affirmed for who we are. The problem is we often look to people and accomplishments to fill this longing.

Most of the time, when I get upset with Edric, it’s usually because I feel like he is not considering me or weighing what’s important to me. My judgmental thoughts are, “I don’t DESERVE to be treated this way. Of all people and preoccupations in his life, I should be número uno.” Why? I want to be cherished by him. It makes me feel important and special. But as amazing I think Edric is, there’s no way he can meet 100% of my expectations 100% of the time.

A few months ago, we were discussing my five-time-affected-post-baby-body. I was worried that I had fallen short of his “standard” because he told me that he found some (unnamed) women attractive. Edric and I are very open with one another. I can put on the best-friend hat. But at that point in time, I was looking at my body in the mirror (without him around) and I was like, man…the heights from which I’ve fallen! Why, gravity?! Why?! I used to be this and that, etc. etc.

Well, we had a long, drawn-out conversation that had me in tears and he felt powerless to comfort me. Edric tried everything to reassure me that I was still the most beautiful woman to him, that he had eyes only for me, and on and on. I was past that point of rationality, where there was nothing Edric could say to make me believe him.

On the one hand, I had to embrace contentment with who I am today. On the other hand, when I stepped back to pay attention to what was really going on inside of me, I realized that I was looking to Edric to make me feel special, happy and good about myself. Even though Edric is a great husband…the best, in my opinion, he cannot COMPLETELY meet, what I would like to call, a black-hole-need…this longing to be treasured.

If I make my self-worth dependent on Edric, I might as well be a yoyo. Up and down, up and down…emotionally unstable and volatile. Edric will feel suffocated, incapable of pleasing me, unable to enjoy our marriage, and very tired!

There’s only one person who can COMPLETELY meet the longing to be treasured – Jesus Christ.

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Christ is the one who loves you and me perfectly, completely, wholly, unchangingly, and eternally. He treasures us, as we want to be treasured. When we struggle with feelings of insecurity, when we feel alone, unappreciated, unimportant, inadequate, cast aside, rejected, betrayed, or forgotten, the solution is not to expect people to heal what is hurting in us or preoccupy ourselves with doings that mask the hollow in us. The answer is to run into the arms of Christ, to abide there, to dwell in his love and be full of it.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

Kari Jobe sings a beautiful song called “My Beloved,” and I’ve included her lyrics here, but it’s much better listened to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqr-Q1U87fY

 

You’re my beloved, you’re my bride

To sing over you is my delight

Come away with me my love

 

Under my mercy come and wait

Till we are standing face to face

I see no stain on you my child

 

You’re beautiful to me

So beautiful to me

 

I sing over you my song of peace

Cast all your care down at my feet

Come and find your rest in me

 

I’ll breathe my life inside of you

I’ll bear you up on eagle’s wings

And hide you in the shadow of my strength

 

I’ll take you to my quiet waters

I’ll restore your soul

Come rest in me and be made whole

 

You’re my beloved, you’re my bride

To sing over you is my delight

Come away with me my love

 

1 John 4:9 “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.”

 

 

 

The Triumvirate of Unconditional Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HOPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

2. THE HOPE OF PEACE

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

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

3. THE HOPE OF A NEW BEGINNING

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

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

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

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

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

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Real Wealth

We checked on the status of our house a few days ago. It was exciting to see all the bedroom furniture being assembled in the rooms. Once the bedrooms are done, we can move in even if the rest of the house isn’t completely finished yet. Well, that’s the plan. Edric’s plan. Most people have said this is the best way to move things along when you are in the finishing stages.

When we were at the site, the kids ran up the stairs to look into the rooms, eager to see their personal spaces taking form. In the boy’s room, we assigned areas.

“Elijah this will be your bed, Edan this is yours and Titus this is for you.”

The boys started cheering and Titus pointed to the floor and asked, “On the floor?” There was no disappointment in his tone. He identified a spot in between two beds and waited for me to confirm it.

I took his face in my hands and said, “Oh no honey, you will have your own bed!” And I started to tear. It probably sounds silly that I did. But if you know Titus, how candid and unpretentious he can be, then my reaction would make sense. He has never complained about sleeping on a mat, on the floor. For him this has been the manner of his place as the youngest son. He didn’t have a “real” bed because there was no room for one in our condo. But at that moment I was showing him a new bed frame and he didn’t see it. He just assumed he would be getting the floor as always.

When I corrected him, he was like, “Really? Yeah! I will have my own bed!”

And he went on to say, “You know,
Mom, I never liked sleeping on the floor…”

I went to the bathroom and composed myself because I was VERY teary-eyed by then. Edric saw me and took me in his arms. Both of us stood there in gratefulness and amazement for the house that God has given to us. It’s a big upgrade for our entire family. Previously, we lived in 137 square meters shared between 9 people (our family and two househelps).

That is still larger than 90% of what the world’s population probably lives in. So I am not saying that we had a bad deal. But I grew up in a large house and when I got married, our first home — a one bedroom condo — was relatively small.

God taught me through the years to look forward to his provision and not to worry about when it would come. Besides, I didn’t need our first home to be larger. I had to do all the cleaning so I was okay with small! More importantly, Edric was in it and that’s what mattered to me. There was love, joy, and peace…things that expanded infinitely beyond the four walls of our home.

We had friends who started off with generously sized houses when they were newly married. That was not our beginning. We did not have much, financially speaking, so our initial home was simple. In fact, when we had our eldest, Elijah, he didn’t even have a crib for a while. He slept on a mattress on the floor. When I needed to feed him at night, I would go down to the floor and sleep beside him.

It’s amazing that he didn’t crawl off! The floor was carpeted so he wasn’t in danger of hitting himself. I think we put all kinds of pillows around him to keep him safe. Well…I probably would’ve been chided by sleep safe advocates, but back then, it was our best option.

God increased the size of our home as children were added. When Edan was born, we moved to a three bedroom condo. It suited us just fine until our fifth, Catalina, came along. Thankfully, by then, we were building our house.

In September 2013, we said goodbye to our condo and had it renovated shortly after. We had most of our belongings boxed up and stored in a warehouse. In the interim we stayed at my parents, and Edric’s for a bit, too. (We are still in this nomadic state until our final move.)

Our most recent home with hardly anything left in it…

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After we finished renovating the condo, I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I was excited that we had moved out and moved on. But on the other hand, we spent 8 years in that place. It was hard for me to say goodbye. Even if it was emptied out, retouched and repainted, I still had visions of our children in the rooms, playing, laughing, growing up.

I will miss every inch of that three bedroom condo. It was cozy. It had the smells and sounds of us.

When Titus made the comment about the floor, I thought of how
God has been our faithful provider. I know others may get their house and lot dreams fulfilled much earlier. And maybe others are still waiting on theirs, but for us this is neither too early or too late.

If it had happened sooner we wouldn’t have been ready. Edric and I needed to learn simplicity, humility, gratitude, and so did our children. We are still learning these virtues. But had we skipped to the house and lot bit of our history without going through condo living and tighter spaces, we might have become casualties of too much comfort. It’s always easier to upgrade than to downgrade, to upsize than to downsize.

I like our Heavenly Father’s manner of blessing, too. He is and always will be the source of infinite resources and abundance, but he tempers and minds the valve that releases these to his children. Material things have a way of replacing our spiritual hunger for the eternal. And, there is nothing more impoverishing to the human soul than to be stuffed full of prosperity and thereby emptied of the want for God.

Edric used to tell me that this passage was one of his favorites. “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord ?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT)

I have to admit that when he told me this was one of his “prayers” I thought, “Oh great, that’s it. We are never going to be rich.” But my mindset was all wrong. I was thinking that money would bring me security and happiness. It’s not that I wanted loads of it to spend on myself. I just wanted to know we had it, that we didn’t have to worry about where it would come from.

Well, God allowed Edric and I to begin simply to teach me not to anchor my faith on money but on Him. When I learned to live with less — less money, less space, less possessions — I found that I always had more than enough to be happy and thankful for. I like what English clergyman and writer Thomas Fuller said, “Riches enlarge rather than satisfy appetites.”

I am not saying that I have graduated from contentment. Not at all! This is a lesson that needs to be learned and re-learned depending on the circumstances that test it. Neither am I saying that money is unimportant. Edric and I have five kids! Money is necessary and very much welcome whenever it comes. What I am saying is that starting off with a small home and having a very limited budget to work with when we were newly married was a blessing. It was God’s master plan for our character development.

From this genesis Edric and I grew to understand that God always takes care of his children. We also learned that abundance is not the condition for true joy. True joy is to know God and his love for us, to be certain that his plans for our welfare are always for our good.

What is a big house without God in the hearts of those who live in it? And conversely, the tiniest of spaces can be home to the richest people on earth — people who abound with the joy of the Lord, who can laugh, cry, and love without fear, who extend forgiveness and grace to one another, who can sleep peacefully at night, and wake up with hopeful expectation and the gift of new mercies.

With just a few weeks left till we are finally in our “dream home”, a house that only God could’ve built and provided for, I want to remember that real wealth is the treasure of Jesus Christ. It is not the absence of struggle or the fulfillment of desire. It is the recognition and enjoyment of His presence with the ones we cherish the most, and finding that we can be fully satisfied during seasons of want and seasons of plenty because he is with us, in our home, and in our hearts.

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Twelve Things I Love About Christmas

Top 12 reasons why Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year:

1. Food. It feels like I gain an extra five pounds every Christmas but the pounds are well worth the pleasure of the food I get to eat. This season I am a breastfeeding mom so at least I get to burn off some of it without having to exercise. Thank you Lord for breastfeeding!

Breakfast Christmas morning at my in-laws…Tapa, Ham, Bangus (my dream breakfast)

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2. Going up to Baguio. A couple of days before Christmas we stay at Baguio Country Club with my parents and siblings. We invade the place with all our children!

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The kids always look forward to being with their cousins and the cooler weather. It wasn’t too cold this year…unfortunately. But we still enjoyed a bunch of activities — strawberry picking, horseback riding, zip-lining, roller blading, and buffet-eating at the club.

Tree Top Adventure in John Hay…

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Zip-lining for the little ones…

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Strawberry picking in Trinidad Valley…DSC_0233

3. Celebrating my birthday. My birthday is so close to Christmas, but Edric always manages to make it a special day for me.

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This year, he got each of the children to bring me flowers and he asked all of them to write me notes, including our househelp. Those were especially meaningful to read. He also secretly deposited shopping money into my account. Yay!
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4. Shopping for gifts. I really enjoy buying gifts for friends and loved ones. With the help of Amazon, Bath & Body, Christian Book and my sister’s mad packing skills, I received a balikbayan box full of presents to wrap early December.

5. Wrapping gifts. Because I like paper so much, I have so much fun using wrapping paper, paper bags, ribbons and gift tags to package each present. It’s therapeutic. I found a great deal for Christmas gift bags at Uniwide. P150 a kilo! Also, S and R had a buy one take one for their paper. I like the width of the bigger paper you can buy there. Easier to wrap big presents.

6. Letting the kids shop for one another. We have this tradition of giving the kids shopping money to buy toys for one another and their cousins. It makes them think of others before themselves and they learn how to work with a budget. The little ones have to resist the urge to pick out things for themselves. Of course I go bananas trying to manage them in the toy store. We went to the Toy Kingdom in Podium because it was smaller, less crowded, and more “contained.” I wasn’t worried about the kids walking around by themselves.

7. Throwing a party for our househelp. My siblings and I plan a party for all of our househelp. We organize games and buy them prizes and let them have a big feast. It is our yearly appreciation party, to let them know how much we care about them. These men and women are partners in our ministry and parenting. We value their loyalty and service very much.

Edric’s mom and dad also invite people to come to their home — people who have worked for them in the past or people who are related to those who work for them at present. There were about 40 people who came to receive gifts and money on the 25th. The kids learned to be a blessing. They were assigned to give money to each person that passed in front of them. Afterwards one of my kids said, “I am so glad we did this!”

8. Get-togethers. I am blessed to have married into a wonderful family. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) and his siblings are amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better in laws. They are a joy to be with and it’s very easy to love them. They are big on traditions like Christmas morning spent together, lunches with the Mendozas and dinners with the Espiritus. My parents and siblings are less particular about the 25th, so we see each other on the 26th.

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9. Celebrating with our Bible Study Group. We have an even bigger family that is made up of dear friends. We have shared in one another’s victories, defeats, struggles, afflictions, and joys. When we get together during the Christmas season it is a reminder that we are all recipients of God’s grace. These are the people who have journeyed alongside us in our Christian walk.

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10. Edric is on vacation-mode. This means he is totally chill and relaxed. He has lots of time to give to the kids and I and he is not stressed by deadlines or commitments. I lost his wallet the day we were supposed to leave for Baguio. I told him I didn’t have it but I accidentally put it into my bag! We looked for it for an hour. He didn’t get upset at all. Finally I saw it and sheepishly told him that it was with me the whole time. He just smiled. Whew.

11. Our Children’s Excitement. The countdown to Christmas begins early for our children. I see the twinkling in their eyes when they know it’s just a few days away and I share in their anticipation.

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It is such a thrill to watch them pull everything out of their stockings and then move on to their gifts and tear at the wrapping paper (even if I laboured over each gift’s presentation). They say things like, “Yay! This is awesome! This is my favourite! Thank you mom and dad!” Of course we remind them that they are to share all their toys and we have a policy…only one present is played with at a time so they learn restraint and self-control. Otherwise, they will not appreciate what they have received. This is how we curb their materialism and gift-gluttony. Edric also encourages them to go through their old toys to give some away. (We can’t do this yet because most of their toys are stored in a warehouse until we move to our new place).

12. God’s goodness to our family. I am so grateful to the Lord for his blessings. Everything that we have and everything that we are able to enjoy is from him. We were disappointed that we couldn’t be in our new house for Christmas. Our nomadic situation (spending a good number of weeks in my parents’ and then in Edric’s parent’s place) has been humbling. Even though both sides (Edric’s and mine) have enjoyed housing our army of a family, we want to be the grown ups we are and finally settle into our own home.

Soon after we gave birth we boxed up our condo in anticipation of being able to be in our place by December. But certain uncontrollable factors have extended the end date of the finishing stage. So we have been reminded to be grateful as a family. Our true source of happiness is beyond the material things. It is the presence of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. He is the center of our family, the center of our Christmas. He is home to us.

DSC_0610-1Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You All! Thank you for being a part of my life as a reader. You inspire me to keep on writing. I praise God for all of you!

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)

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.

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

Wanted: Father.

When Edric and I first became parents, we were wet behind the ears. Most of what we knew about raising our kids was theoretical or passed on from our own experiences as children. Eventually, we learned about biblical parenting principles and we applied them. We are still learning…

When we had Elijah, we were thrilled to be parents. But we didn’t quite get what it meant to be intentional and purposeful in raising our son. Edric was often preoccupied with doing his own thing when he got home from work — like turning on the TV or playing computer games, going out in the evenings for basketball with friends. Edric didn’t ignore Elijah, but their interactions with one another were minimal. The baby stage was foreign territory to him and I didn’t blame him for feeling like he couldn’t relate to a bouncing boy who pooped and peed on himself and wanted to be with mommy to breast feed. He would play with Elijah once in a while but father and son bonding occasions were not in his radar.

As Elijah got older and we had more kids, Edric began to change as a father. I remember an evening when we were sitting around the table for dinner and Edric asked Elijah how he could improve as a dad. Elijah must have been about five years old when he made the statement, “You can spend more time with me.” He used his hands to show that he had this imaginary meter for spending time with dad, and he explained that Edric was at the bottom of the meter. We all started laughing out loud because it was very candid and unscripted. He said it just like it was. “Dad your level is at 0.”

Of course, Edric wanted to improve! And I prayed for him, too. One of the things that really changed in his parenting style was the desire to be present and purposefully available to our kids, especially our sons. At a certain point, he recognized that God gave us three sons for a reason and he had to prayerfully consider what kind of father he needed to be. The boys were not going to grow up to be godly men by accident or osmosis. They needed guidance. They needed their dad.

So every year, he would sit down with me and talk about our goals for the kids. He would share about the areas he felt they needed to work on and how he intended to play a big part in mentoring and teaching them. I always appreciated this because it made me feel very secure and confident as a wife that my husband was in charge, that he actually had a plan and direction for the family. (In fact, I often tell him that this is one of his more attractive traits.)

During the second week of January, we had a meeting to talk about goals for the kids. He asked me to prepare my homeschool goals and we aligned on what I would work on and what he had itemized as a priority list for each of our kids. Some of the list covered spiritual and emotional aspects and others were practical skills.

One of the practical skills Edric outlined for our six year old, Edan, was to acquire the ability to swim and bike. Living in the city has put constraints on the amount of time we spend outside and this means we don’t have as many opportunities to expose our children to biking, swimming, climbing trees, playing in parks, etc. Sadly, our kids would be well-content to stay indoors and let their muscles atrophy too if Edric and I did not do anything about it. But since we grew up being outside for most of our childhood, we want our kids to experience the same joys and adventures we had. Plus, they need Vitamin D!

So…swimming and biking it is for now. Edric started Edan’s training program two weekends ago and I must say, it is impressive to watch him “coach” Edan. I am not talking about doggie-paddling stuff. Edric used to be a swimmer so he knows all the drills. His first hurdle was getting Edan to overcome his fear of the water and then putting his head under water and blowing bubbles. Well, I was amazed last Sunday when I saw Edan swimming in the big pool! He touched the bottom of the pool with his hands and he swam a significant distance all by himself. After just two sessions with his dad, Edan was laughing and thrilled that he accomplished so much. I was clapping my hands and cheering everytime time he would pop his head out of the water for recognition. (That’s my role in this swimming and biking training…the over-affirming cheerleader.)

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Edric is able to do, in a fraction of the time, what would take me days and days to achieve with the boys. With him, they learn quicker. They develop confidence and masculine traits. They overcome their insecurities. I actually enjoy being on the sidelines spying on them. For one thing, it is fun to check out my husband. (Did I already say I find him so attractive earlier?) My second delight is seeing the expressions on my sons’ faces when they have Edric’s full and undivided attention. I see the way they look at Edric. Admiration, respect, desire to please, assurance, favor, love…it’s all mixed in there.

I get puppy eyes for sympathy when they need a hug or when they want me to say yes to a request. Okay, on occasion, I get sparkly eyes when they are excited about learning. Of course, I get the love look. The point is, I am not perceived as the hero. That sort of adulation is reserved for Edric. And it doesn’t make me envious. I want the boys to gravitate towards him. After all, I have my own little acolyte and her name is Tiana.

When Edric and I got home from “swimming lessons,” we talked about Edan’s progress. I also thanked him for following through with his commitment to teach Edan. He went on to say that Edan didn’t want to get out of the water because he was having so much fun, and then Edric started to get teary-eyed which caught me off-guard. “Are you okay?”, I asked him. Spontaneous tears seemed like a hormonal thing that would have been much more characteristic of me than him.

He answered, “I don’t know. I guess it is because I live for these moments, seeing our kids bloom and mature and being able to be a part of that. I enjoy ministry and I know that it is important, but you guys are my first ministry…you and the kids.”

Who had the love look now?! Me, of course! I fall in love with my husband all over again when he says things like this. I have always appreciated Edric as a husband, but in recent years, I have been so grateful to the Lord that he has embraced being a father. His commitment to family is a blessing that I attribute to the Lord’s work in his life. Many years ago, I really prayed that he would recognize how irreplaceable he is in the lives of our children…that they need him now, not just later, not from a distance, but up close. When Edric developed a burden to disciple, teach and train our kids, I knew that it was God who put that desire in him and continues to do so.

The reality is Edric is still very busy and he is not able to be with the kids 24/7 but he came up with a game-plan for our kids about 4 years ago. He told me we were going to use Luke 2:52 as a reference for how our children should mature. It reads, “And Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men.”

WISDOM: Are they able to discern right from wrong and make wise choices?
STATURE: Are they developing their physical abilities and talents?
FAVOR WITH GOD: Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and do they have the heart to know, love, obey, worship, and serve him?
FAVOR WITH MAN: Are they learning biblical character traits and applying them with family members and others?

These four areas have simplified our parenting to the essentials. It has helped me to think through the goals I set for our homeschooling and Edric can major on the major to maximize his time with the kids. Just the other night, he reminded me again that it boils down to, “passing on a godly legacy.”

Being an intentional father doesn’t mean a dad has to quit his job and spend 14 hours with his child everyday. It’s about setting aside purposeful moments that are devoted to discipleship with resulting big impact.


The statistics on fatherless homes are so compelling, I thought I would include some highlights here to encourage all of us to pray for our husbands. We need them to lead spiritually and by godly example, and we need their effective discipleship in the home.

From http://fatherhood.gov/library/dad-stats:

Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.
Amato, P.R., and Rivera, F., 1999, “Paternal Involvement and Children’s Behavior Problems,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 375–384.

Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.
Radin, N., and Russell, G., 1983, “Increased Father Participation and Child Development Outcomes,” in Fatherhood and Family Policy, edited by M.E. Lamb and A. Sagi, Hillside, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 191–218.

Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
Biller, H.B. 1993, Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development, Westport, CT: Auburn House.

Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
Pruett, Kyle D. 2000. Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. New York: Free Press.

From First Things First

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers.

“….the absence of the father from the home affects significantly the behavior of adolescents and results in greater use of alcohol and marijuana.” Source: Beman, Deane Scott. “Risk Factors Leading to Adolescent Substance Abuse.”

A 15-year-old girl who has lived with her mother only is three times as likely to lose her virginity before her sixteenth birthday than one who has lived in a home with both parents. Lee Smith, “The New Wave of Illegitimacy,” Fortune 18 (April 1994) 81-94.

85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control) Fallen Fathers, 2008.

80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26

85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction- Fallen Fathers

From The Fatherless Generation

Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.

Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.

Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.

Studies on parent-child relationships and child wellbeing show that father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.

——

Fatherlessness is being passed on from one generation to another like a cancer that is killing the families of today and tomorrow. Sadly, the cure is not found within ourselves. We cannot cure this ill without being healed by Jesus Christ first. Why? We have been separated from our own father — God the Father — by sin. But Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I think of Edric and my own dad as great fathers but God is still the best father of all. He loves each one of us perfectly and unconditionally, and he desires to have a relationship with us for eternity. If you came from a fatherless home or live in one, you don’t have be a victim of this trend. Come to the Father of All and experience his love through Jesus Christ. He will be father to you. He will love you as you long to be loved.

The Rise of the Unloved Woman

WARNING…if you are NOT complete in the Lord before you come into marriage you will be like an insatiable, carnivorous beast for love in marriage. Seriously. It sounds hideous but that is exactly what we become when we expect our spouse to fulfill all our longings and desires. This was one of the more significant realizations I had during a recent couples retreat I attended.

During the retreat I watched Andy Stanley’s video, I-Marriage, and he talked about how desires turn into expectations in marriage. And that drives away love quicker than we can ever imagine. Romance flies right out the front door, and we find ourselves unhappy, unfulfilled, and disillusioned by the one relationship we thought would surely make us happy.

I have yet to see a sad bride standing at the altar as she makes her vows. I have seen many brides cry out of joy. But a depressed bride on the day of her wedding? Have you ever seen one? (Okay, some women have arranged marriages but that is a different story. I am referring to weddings where the woman chooses to marry the “man of her dreams.”)

If marriage begins with so much happiness then why are there so many unhappy wives?

Here is the truth — there is no person in the world who can perfectly fulfill all your desires. No one. That’s all fantasy.

I too had this googly- eyed idea of love when I got married. And soon after, my eyes went from starry-eyed to blood shot fiery red. (Okay that sounds downright beastly.) I am exaggerating. I was not perpetually angry with Edric but sometimes he would do things that hurt me and I would do things that hurt him. Why? No matter how much we profess to love each other marriage exposes our flaws and tendency toward selfishness.

I know countless others who have experienced this, too. I married an amazing guy. I am married to an amazing guy. And I would, in an instant, say yes to marry him again. But both of us know from the word of God, from experience, from the many others whom we have encountered along the way, that ultimately, completeness and happiness are not found in persons, possessions, or accomplishments, but in Jesus Christ alone.

It’s interesting that the Bible says, “Under three things the earth quakes, and under four, it cannot bear up: under a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is satisfied with food, UNDER AN UNLOVED WOMAN WHEN SHE GETS A HUSBAND…” (Proverbs 30:21-23 NASB)

An unloved woman.

To desire love is natural. That’s no epiphany. We were built for love. But the kind of love we are looking for is the inexhaustible, absolutely secure, dependable, earth-shaking kind. And only Jesus can give it. Jesus wants to give it.

When Jesus came to the Samaritan woman at the well, a woman who had gone through one relationship to another, he said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13, 14 NASB)

Jesus knew that the Samaritan woman was an unloved woman. She had tried to find the answer in relationships, relationships that failed her. What she was really looking for was Jesus.

Jesus. The inexhaustible source. The living water we crave and need. Jesus found the unloved Samaritan woman. He sought her out. The conversation between them is the longest recorded conversation between Jesus and any person. Imagine that! Women are special to Jesus!

Afterwards, she was exuberant with joy and told everyone she knew, “I have found the Messiah!” Instead of looking to fill her own need for love, she began telling others about the best lover of all.

Marriage is so much more about giving versus taking. And unless we are overflowing with the love of Christ, the giving becomes exhausting. Emotional resources get depleted. My encouragement to women is to find wholeness in the Lord. Seek his love and be filled with it. He loves us perfectly. His love transforms us into better wives and mothers.

Yesterday, during the women’s conference led by Ann Chan, I was reminded that women tend to cling to past hurt and it turns into a reservoir of pain or bitterness. We can get so preoccupied with nursing our wounds, withholding forgiveness, or plotting vengeance, we can’t possibly be a blessing. When we do this, we are easily angered, easily offended, negative, and demanding. This translates to totally unpleasant. When we are bitter, we become bitter to the taste of those around us, too! We develop toxic personalities. Is it a wonder then that husbands or children want to avoid or replace the women in their lives who become like this?

I disciple a group of wonderful women. Sadly, more than 50% of them have, what I like to call, CRAZY moms or mothers-in-law. These moms are angry, shouting, controlling, or depressive kinds of moms. It seems to be a growing epidemic. I hear the sad stories of daughters who have endured physical, verbal abuse, or neglect. And it is very hard for them to heal from the experiences of their childhood. They continue to be affected by the on-going stress of interacting with their crazy moms.

I don’t believe moms become this way over night. Based on stories shared by women I know, their moms were damaged by their own relationships — husband, parents, friends — or circumstances…and instead of becoming better, they became bitter.

How do we protect ourselves from becoming “toxified” by relationships and circumstances? Just like the Samaritan woman, we need to realize that relationships, accomplishments, and material things are an INCOMPLETE answer to our deepest longings and desires. We were made for living water. We settle and strive for what makes us thirst again and again. In the pursuit of our idea of satisfaction, we end up disappointed, wounded, or deeply pained.

Whenever I fail to realize that Jesus is everything I long for — my inexhaustible joy, an ever-present companion, the promise of salvation, my daily delight, comforter in my sorrows, the source of peace when my spirit is troubled, forgiver of my iniquities, grace to live another day, and lover of my soul — I look to Edric to be these things. But it is not a fair expectation. It is wrong. Edric can fill a number of those longings but to make the mistake of thinking that he can do this for me every single moment, every single day, is an impossible standard.

Here is the good news, God wants us to hold him to this standard because he can fulfill it. He fulfilled it at the cross. The song, Jesus Son of God, by Cris Tomlin is all about how much God loves us.

“You came down from heaven’s throne,
this earth you formed was not your home,
a love like this the world had never known.

A crown of thorns to mock your name,
forgiveness fell upon your face,
a love like this the world has never known.

You bore our sin,
you took our shame,
you rose to life,
you defeated the grave,
and a love like this the world has never known.

On the altar of our praise,
let there be no higher praise,
Jesus son of God…
be lifter higher than all..
the cross was enough.”

Two people who have experienced God’s love, coming together in marriage can give of that love to one another. Marriage becomes a relationship to enjoy, not because we need our spouse to be happy, but because we are happy in the Lord, we are fully satisfied in his love. We become conduits of blessing instead of vacuums that take-take-take to fill up a void inside. The Bible tells us to abide in God’s love.

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love…These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:9,11 NASB)

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Knowing Jesus doesn’t guarantee a pain-free life or a pain-free marriage but our relationship with him gives us the capacity to overcome trials, grow more beautiful through them, and exude the joy of the Lord in our relationships. Why? Because NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.

The book of Romans tells us, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39 NASB)

Faith Like A Child

Listening to my children’s conversations over meals gives me a very good idea of what’s going on in their noggins. This morning, Edan and Titus were talking about who their “best friends” were. They said the names of their cousins, each other, and then they said Jesus was their best friend. When I asked them why, Titus answered, “I like Jesus because he has lots of silver and gold!” He really meant this and then he also wanted to know if Jesus had lots of toys.

A few days ago, he went running around our house proclaiming Jesus to our house help. He went up to each one of them and very boldly asked, “Do you know Jesus? Do you know Jesus? Do you want to come with us to heaven? In heaven Jesus has many big buildings and houses!” He was practically jumping up and down with excitement. He also said a bunch of other things like yelling, “I want to be with Jesus!”

I know Titus is still young and his theology needs tweaking. But his innocent perspective on the personhood of Jesus makes me better understand what childlike faith is. Titus has been acting like a preacher with a prosperity gospel (we will work on that). But as he matures he will begin to love Jesus for who he is and not merely for what he can give. For now, I am thrilled to know that Jesus is real to Titus — that he is excited about heaven, that he wants to be with Jesus, and that he confidently says, “Jesus is my best friend.”

Confessions of a Semi-Hypochondriac

For the past couple of months, I have been feeling a discomfort in my right chest cavity. I can’t pin-point the exact location but I feel something like pressure on my ribs. It has troubled me because I haven’t been able to isolate the cause.

Last year, when I felt the same sort of sensation near my sternum, I had my heart checked and there were no significant findings. I did the 2-D echo thing and saw my heart for the first time. I thought to myself, That’s it?! That’s what sustains all the organs in my body? That’s sobering! I also had to do a stress-test which I passed. Yeah! So I ruled out heart problems.

When I began feeling a similar discomfort again and being the slight hypochondriac that I am, I started researching on-line about symptoms and how to detect tumors. I thought, maybe I have a tumor!

This fear was heightened when I found out that a friend of ours discovered she had breast cancer. Then one of my househelp had to go to the province because she had a very hard mass under her armpit.

I expressed to my doctor my concern and when she examined me, she found some nodules. So it was off to ultrasound and mammography for me. Years ago I had both procedures done because I was also worried about nodules. Nothing significant was found. But I thought, I am older now. My body is more weather-worn so it won’t hurt to be sure. 

I value peace of mind. I am the type of person who wants to know what is wrong or what is going on. Understanding only bits and pieces of a problem or issue can make me crazy.

So how did the procedures go? The ultrasound was sticky, cold, and long (well, 20 to 30 minutes). But it was and is a safe procedure for the body, according to the radiologist. An ultrasound looks for cysts which will appear different than breast tissue because cysts appear as dark and round spots on the screen. A sonologist will glide an instrument across the skin (just like when you get a pregnancy ultrasound). Then a radiologist will come in to check and explain what is seen on the screen.  Praise God there were no significant findings! Results were given right away, too.

The mammogram, on the other hand, was very painful. The technician who operated the machine said that women cry when they get this procedure done because of the pain. But if you have felt full blown labor pains, you will do just fine. The procedure is quick, awkward, and strange. They smash you! Let’s put it this way, it is not something I would ever ever want Edric to see me doing. He would be disturbed for life. There were a total of 4 images taken and I got the results a few days after.

Once again, nothing significant was found. Praise God again!

So what is wrong with me? I don’t know. AGE?! Phantom pains due to imagined diseases?

God is teaching me not to worry. I may not be a full-blown hypochondriac. But, I can be a little bit too preoccupied with physical health.  And I think this has transferred to my eldest son, Elijah. I’ve noticed that he has gotten more and more paranoid about his health. He doesn’t hear me talking about ultrasounds, mammograms and breastcancer. But he does hear me say things like, “Did you brush your teeth? If you don’t brush your teeth, you will get cavities. You need to brush your teeth after every meal.” “Did you wash your hands? Your hands are the dirtiest part of your body.” “Did you drink water today? Your body is 70% water. You need to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.” “We shouldn’t eat too many fried things because eating too much oil is bad for our hearts.” “You need to get enough sleep because your body releases growth hormones when you sleep.”  “Did you go outside today? Your body needs sunlight. Without Vitamin D, you can’t absorb calcium.” (I don’t even know if half this stuff is true and why I have to nag my kids about these things. But I must be programming some form of paranoia in Elijah!)

Now, he is the one that says things like… “Mom, my mole is growing, I think it needs to be removed.” “Mom, we ran out of oxygen in the airplane. I had a hard time breathing.” “Do you think I ate too much cholesterol at McDonalds? I had fries, fried chicken, and a burger.” “My gum line is receding and there is plaque stuck inside my gums. I can’t get it out.” “Is this pork? I’m not eating pork.” “There is a pain that radiates from my kidneys to my stomach. Maybe I have UTI.” “Splinter!!! Aaah!!! Splinter!!!”

Whenever he gets this way, I want to tell him, “Relax! Don’t worry!” But wait a second. I am just the same!

So what’s the remedy for semi-hypochondriacs like me (and Elijah)? Philippians 4:6-7.

 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What a comfort this verse is! It is a promise of peace to all those who surrender their troubles to the Lord. But it also says that this peace of God is found in Jesus. When I was nine years old I made Jesus the Lord and Savior of my life. I entrusted my eternal destiny to him in faith. Because of this, I wasn’t afraid to die. I had a peace the surpassed understanding.

God promises eternal life to all those who have his son, Jesus.

1 John 5:11-12 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

 

So do I know what is causing my chest discomfort? Nope. Is that okay? Yes. I’m doing my part to stay healthy and fit and consulting the people I need to find out what’s wrong. But I may not figure out what’s going on with my body. But that doesn’t have to rob me of my peace. Peace is knowing that if something should happen to my physical body, my eternity is secure. And that is what guards my heart and my mind. This is the peace that comes from God, in Christ Jesus! And it is a peace that he offers to everyone…