November 23, 2013

The Right Person

There is a proverb once says, "Show me your friends, I will show you your future." Wow.. that's deep you know. I mean.. is it really you can tell more about me or furthermore my future just by seeing who my friends are? Yup.. we may not realise it, but the people surrounds us most of the time influence us more than we can imagine. The way they talk will much or less influence the way we talk too. What they think is right somehow will give influence in what we think as right too. If a friend who may not live with you and spend time with you let's say about three times a week will shape your future, how much more do you think your partner of life (spouse) will eventually influence you? 

I have been thinking lately about how much our boyfriend/girlfriend can start influencing us in many ways. I've felt that and I've seen that happens to other couple as well. I heard a mother says, "I do not have to know my son's girlfriend. I need only to see what change she has made into my son's life." It sounds harsh at first, but as I think about it more, I find a hidden wisdom there. Yup, a mother knows exactly that a partner will so much influence her son. She has experienced itself in her marriage by the way! The simplest way to know whether his son's girlfriend will do good for her son in the future is by seeing whether her son grow in character and behaviour after dating with the girl. 

When we are in love, many people say that we will be blind. We cannot see our partner's flaws so clearly because we are under the spell called "love". In contrast, our parents and good friends, can see much more clearly and objectively. Me, as a young woman, of course, there is so much energy to rebel and prove that they are wrong and my judgment is right. But reality has convicted me that most of the time, they are right, and I have to learn so much more. What an attitude! Yup, it's a process falling down to your knees and put to death to our young ego and truly seeks what God really wants for us in regard of romantic relationship. His will, not ours. His best plan, not our plan. So that makes me pondering what are the qualities for the right person to be with for the rest of our lives? Of course, I'm not referring to the perfect person which never exists. So we are talking about a person whose both strength and weakness can make our ship of love sail against all kinds of storm of life. Here are some of the qualities of the right person:

1. The right person will make you grow deeper in your relationship with God

This is the first and most important quality that our partner should have. The world often reverse the order in knowing someone to: body -> soul -> spirit. When we see hollywood movie, they all define the process of love backwards: one night stand -> knowing who you slept with -> I don't care what your believe system is as long as we are in love. We can see clearly that when we prioritise physical intimacy ahead of spiritual intimacy, our judgment will be clouded under the spell of 'love' or perhaps 'lust'. We can't see the purpose of the relationship objectively anymore. "I know he has different belief with me, but we are in love. He promises to come to church when we get married." If we are doing the order backwards, we are cooking with a recipe of disasters.

God wants there is a unity in spirit --> soul --> body. There should be a common in regard of our faith. Does he/she believe that Jesus Christ is their personal saviour? Does he/she live out their faith? Does he/she has a desire to grow, to serve, and to learn God's Word? Because many will admit as Christians, but many are doing that for lips service, or they might be in a baby stage of growth. They still need some time to grow. Their life will show whether their faith is genuine or not. We don't want to be judgmental regarding people's spirituality, but we are doing this to assess our compability in spiritual area with our potential partner. Be honest with your own eyes. You get what you see now. When you are in doubt, pray to the Lord, and ask what He wants for you and obey Him. The unity of body (sex) is preserved for marriage only. Outside of marriage, sex can only lead to misery: unwanted pregnancy, sexual diseases, heartache, and many more. The best time to control our sexual desire is now, when we are still single. When we can't control it when we are unmarried, we won't be able to control it when we are married either. It's just the way our body works. Pray for God's grace to enable you to do so. Because the best way to follow God's way, is to use God's strength and our decision to be willing to obey Him :)

2. The right person will challenge you to grow to be a better person inside and out

This is the one the mother referring to previously. If her son gets worse in behaviour, in his speech, etc, there is no doubt for her that her son's girlfriend has influenced him. We may not realise that we have changed in a certain way, but those who live with us and seeing us continually will do. They see what we cannot see. When parents are pointing out something that they disagree with, our response should be to humble ourselves and listen although it's hard. They give us a precious hint of what should be changed in our characters and behaviour. I dislike being treated with full of correction at first, but as I grow, I realise what my parents do is a favor. I mean, it is better for them to correct me now, rather than my (for example) mother-in-law to do so! Or it can be it is better to be embarrassed in front our our own parents  rather than someone outside correct us more harshly.

The right person, will simply make you a better person. If you always late before, he/she will challenge you to be on time. If you are lacking of patience, he/she will help you to be more patient. A good relationship will be as iron sharpens iron.
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." -Proverbs 27:17 [NIV]
It may get uncomfortable for us, but if we are willing to grow in character, the process will go less painful and it will get easier by time. Real love is tough, you may have heard. Tough love is defined as an expression when someone treats other person he loves sternly with the intent of helping him in the long run. If we don't want to make our partner uncomfortable in the process of growing their characters, we are actually letting them get into some difficulties in the future (same like parents' love to their children.)

3. The right person accepts you as you are, readily forgive your flaws in advance, but also encourage you to be all that you can be in the future

Jesus accepts us the way we are. He forgives once and for all of our sins at the cross. He knows we will sin again, but he has always been ready to forgive us on and on. But Jesus doesn't stop there. He challenges you too to grow so that you can fulfil His wonderful plans for you. He loves you too much to let you stay the same either. If we are still sinning as if we never know Him, we cannot fulfil His destiny for us. So he has shown us what real love is. There will be moment when we accept people. We also ready to forgive our partner's flaws. But he right partner will see our potential, on what we can be in the future. And he/she will always encourage you to fulfil it. 

After reading this, you may think, "Is there any person who is like that? It seems to good to be true." Oh yes, there is! Not many, but there is :) It always starts with faith. Do you believe that God is so good and He won't forget to give you the right partner? But we ourselves, need to grow first. Be the one you're looking for is looking for. When you want your partner to possess all these qualities, grow so that you may have it also. Be the right person first. The right person will attract the right person. And here's a little secret: after married, your spouse IS the right person! No matter how awful you start your marriage, keep in mind, the person you made vow with at the altar, IS and ALWAYS BE the right person. It keeps our lives from unnecessary regret and close the door for another adventure of love when we have got married. Treat your spouse "as if" he/she is the right person, have faith in what God can do in human's hearts, and one day (yes there will be some time.. and you need to have faith!) he/she will completely become the right person. Yes of course it will be easier if we choose carefully from the early beginning, it gives us a better start!! hehe 

So, are you the person you are looking for is looking for?

Leticia Seviraneta

pictures by Axioo photography

October 06, 2013

Rich Man and Poor Man

Money ... is something that so familiar with our lives. We work to earn money so that we can buy food and drinks, stuffs, houses, and live a good quality of life. What's interesting here is the "good" quality of life can be different from one man to another. Here I divided people into three categories regarding how they interpret their quality of life. For the first category of people, money is their everything. They think money as the solution of most problems in their lives. More money is equal to better quality of life; more money, more happiness. But for another, money doesn't have such a big value in their lives. Some may have already have a plenty of them, they spend it without thinking too much, but somehow still feel hollow inside. For them, more money doesn't equal to more happiness. But they can't figure out what's the better equation to replace that. And here we come to the third category of person: they are those who may not have plenty of money, but they can be content with what they have. They work, of course (we are not discussing about lazy or idle people). They have enough to pay the bills, they live a simple lifestyle (not a poor life) to match with their income. But the most important thing is they are content. Now, we have seen three categories, which one do you think really is a rich person? And which one is the poor person?

I think you understand what I am trying to say. Rich and poor ... at last aren't determined on how much money we have. Why is that so? It's simply because of true wealth talks more about our hearts' attitude rather than the amount of our possessions. People with lots of money but never satisfied, always wanting something more and more, can't be said as a rich person. They can't be content with what they have no matter how much it is. This discontentment will lead them to endless pursuit like running on a treadmill but going nowhere. Their lives can be either full of jealousy of what other have and craving for what they have or their lives perhaps are too busy to work to earn more and more money. The poor attitude will think that, "If I have more money, I will be happier." But at last, we know that when they already have more money, they always want more. Meanwhile, people with lack of money can also have the "never say enough" mentality. So both people (whether those who have lots of money and those who lacks of money) are actually poor. If people who can never say enough are categorized as poor people, who are then the rich people? Yes, the answer is clear enough.. the rich people are those who can be content with what they have.

"I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can dpoeverything through Christ who gives me strength." 
-Philippians 4:12-13 [NLT]

Paul,has experienced both having plenty of money and lack of money. But he has mastered and trained himself to be content in either situation. That's truly a rich person. But a rich person doesn't stop there.. not only they do content with whatever they have, but they also love to give. Now, that's really something!! 

"The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped." 
-Proverbs 11:24-25 [MSG]

People who are truly givers are the rich one. People who dislike giving are the poor one. God loves to bless the givers! Why? Because He knows His blessing will be poured out to others in need. It won't stuck with that person for too long. His love will be spread out and finally His name will be glorified. Do you know why the Dead Sea is called so? The dead sea has only one major water source: The Jordan River. It flows from the Jordan River and ends on the Dead Sea. There are no outlet streams which can make the water flow into the larger seas. With 33.7% salinity, which makes it the world's saltiest bodies of water, the Dead Sea gives a harsh environment in which animals can't flourish. There is no life in the Dead Sea. The same thing will happen to our heart. When we don't give to others, we make our condition of heart grows hard. It makes us becoming more insensitive, uncompassionate, cold, bitter, hollow inside. As time goes by, we can still be alive but not really 'alive'. You know.. it's kind of seeing a person with no spirit that can makes others' day happier because of his/her presence. Just as Robert Frost once said, "There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate."

"You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It s more blessed to give than to receive.'" -Acts 20:34-35 [NIV]

The issue of money is ALWAYS the issue of heart. Our attitude of money is always a good guidance of where are the location of our hearts. 

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Luke 12:34 [NIV] 

Giving is a way to protect our hearts for not too attach to money and stuffs. It keeps our focus on God.  It's an act of faith to God. Knowing that he will always provide. 

"Once I was young and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread." 
-Psalm 37:25 [NLT]

Now let's get a more complete picture of what Jesus was really saying by reading further Luke 12:13-34. When you read the passage, Jesus gave us a clue that we will have two bank accounts in our lives. The first one is our earthly bank accounts, the second one is our heavenly bank accounts. We can accumulate wealth as many as we can on this earth, but when we don't give, our heavenly account is still zero toward the end of our life. That's what Jesus described as "not rich toward God". We can be rich in front of humans' eyes, but if we don't give, we may be poor in God's eyes. Which one is more important? The opinions of people or the opinion of God? The temporary living on earth or the everlasting living on Heaven? 

Then Jesus continued to teach the disciple not to worry. Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?" (Luke 12:22-26)

This us leads us to a more complete tremendous truth: The issue of MONEY is always the issue of HEART. And the issue of heart is always the issue of TRUST. It's not merely about "having to give because God say so" but it's a matter of trusting God for every aspects of our lives. Do we dare to trust God's goodness that he will never abandon us? He knows what we need. He nurtures the birds and the flowers, and we are much more worth than that! We are God's children. As good parents, we will always try hard to fulfil our children's needs. How much more God will do that for us!

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" -Hebrews 13:5 [ESV]

Are you struggling to buy the property that you want but sees is so unaffordable? Trust God. Do your part in working smart and God will provide for you. Are you struggling to even pay the monthly bills? Trust God. Be content with what you have and give to others in need. Those who care for others will always be taken care by God. Adjust your lifestyle so that the spending will be less than your income. Make a financial plan. But always ... start with be content with what you have now. Do you have plenty of money but finding it's never enough? Trust God. Dedicate your money for Kingdom's work. Give it to people in need.. people who may can't pay you back. Bless those who are in God's field to spread God's words. Bless others generously, then you may find the true happiness you don't feel now. 

Give not for to be given back, give with a cheerful heart. You are rich, because you are a giver. 

Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won't have to hunt for happiness -William E. Gladstone

A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares -Debi Mazar

Leticia Seviraneta

Photos by: The Photography and Benny Lim

September 11, 2013

The Fatherhood Principle

The Fatherhood Principle is a book written by Myles Munroe which is dedicated specifically to men but women can also benefit a lot from learning this. Throughout the book, Myles addressed fundamental issues regarding the purpose of fatherhood, the role of men, and fulfilling the calling as father. I have been blessed a lot from learning this and cannot help not to share it. So, here is what I have learned and hopefully we together can apply it in our family to bring such a great impact to the world :)

First, I would like to share the facts and impacts of children who has no figure of father in their lives:
1. Children who was being raised without father have 5 times probability to become poor.
2. Babies mortality rate who were born by an unmarried mother is 1,8 times higher than married mother.
3. Teenagers who were raised without father has bigger probability to be involved in crime and got into prison than those who were raised in a family with father and mother.
4. Teenagers are having higher risk to get into drugs addiction without father's supervision.
5. Teenagers who were raised by single mother has higher risk to engage pre-marital sex.
6. Living with a single parent has doubled the risk of children to suffer from physical and emotional underdevelopment rather than those who live with both parents.

These facts has shown how important it is the presence and role of father in shaping their children's future. But the problems that we face in our society is many men don't know their purpose and the meaning of becoming a father. Inside of all men there is a potential to become a father. God wants every boy grows up to become a father. Having children on our own may automatically make us receive the title of "Father" but what is that all? What is really the meaning of being a father?

The word "father" in Hebrew comes from the word "ab". "Abba" means "papa". In Greek, the word "father" is "pater". There are definitions of ab and pater, such as:
- Source
- Preserver
- Guardian
- Supporter
- Pioneer
- Protector
These definitions will direct us to the purpose of men that we have been looking for. From them, we can draw the principles of fatherhood such as:

1. Man as the source of seeds. 
Man is the source of sperms (seeds). He is the source of human's life, while woman is the incubator of life. Woman gives life to the man's seeds.

2. Man as preserver of fruits. 
As the seeds have been planted, the seeds will grow into a tree that bear fruits. Man as a father is responsible to preserve the fruit. Fruits in the end will yield to new seed. Father is the preserver. That gives a glimpse of purpose of man for not to spread his seeds wherever he likes. Because as a responsible man, he needs to be responsible of his seeds and preserve it and its fruits (you know what I mean hehe)

3. Man as the source of woman. 
1 Cor 11:8-9 says, "For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither man was created for woman, but woman for man." Woman is man's glory. Man is responsible for whatever that comes out of him. Woman was created out of man so that man is responsible to woman and how he treats her. If you are a young man who have a romantic relationship with young woman, you need to honor her, just like you want others to honor your own daughter. It is inappropriate to force her to do sex before marriage. When a woman goes out with a man, she needs to feel protected physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

4. Man is designed to protect his fruits. It is the exact reason why God gave men physical strength. Men have heavier and bigger bone's structure than women's bone structure not to struck women but to protect them. There are so many men who struck and curse their wives and think that by doing so they have become true man. They are not true man; they are liar and foolish people who don't know the very purpose they were created for. This kind of men can be dangerous because when they don't know their purpose, violence is inevitable. The safest place of woman should be in her husband's embrace. When a woman is not safe in her husband's embrace, then she is in a trouble. If a man hates his own wife, he hates himself (Ephesians 5:25-33). "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." -Mark 10:7-9 Woman is a part of man. A man who struck and curse himself can be regarded as a crazy man. Fatherhood is an amazing responsibility because you are the ancestor of all that come out fro you and you have to protect all of them. A father means a protector.

5. Man determines what kind of descendants and their qualities he will have.
Have you ever heard the old saying that says, "Like father, like son"? Whether you like it or not, the qualities of man will be passed through to his descendants, either good qualities or bad ones. As a woman who considers marriage, you need to ensure your man's characters and qualities. There are some men who seem to have good fruits, but he is in disguise to trick you. If you don't want certain qualities of the man being passed to your children, then perhaps it's a 'red light' to proceed your relationship into the next phase.
For men, you also need to be careful regarding what kind of soil that you will use to plant your seeds. Your seeds can be good, but if the soil is lacking of nutrition, you will have certainly an unhealthy tree in the end. A good seed cannot be planted wherever you like. The quality of your woman will also influence the quality of the fruits.

6. Man nurtures his descendants. 
The fatherhood principle is nurturing. Men are responsible to guarantee safety, food, and the development of his seeds.

7. Man teaches his descendants.
Now we come to a very important role of a father ... teaching. Most people think that teaching is the role of a mother who is most likely at home. But God designed men to be the teacher, not women. He gave Adam knowledge in order for Adam to give it to Eve and their future children. Women can teach but still the source of the teaching needs to come from the father. Even when the father isn't present at home, women can still teach their children with the father's authority. For example, instead of saying, "I said you should not go home late beyond 6 pm," you can say, "Your daddy sad that you should not go home late beyond 6 pm." It gives a clue to children that even though their father is not there, they can feel his authority at home. And they know that their father and mother are one. It gives a clue for them to respect both.
It is a father's responsibility to train their children to walk in the ways of God. It's not Sunday School's teacher's responsibility, nor your pastor's. Of course it will be difficult to lead a child in Godly ways when the father does not know God's words or does not know God Himself very much. You cannot lead people where you haven't been there either. It takes a willingness to learn and grow so that you will be in a position to teach your own children about God's ways.

Men are the foundation of home. As husbands, men are the foundation of marriage. As fathers, men are the foundation of family. As shepherds, men are foundation of ministry.

We all know that the strength of a building truly depends on the strength of its foundation. It takes a strong character and willingness to sacrifice daily to be a strong foundation. Foundation is invisible. There are so many roles of men at home that may not be recognized by the society or even wives, but have such a tremendous impact. Men as foundation will bear all responsibilities and do whatever it takes to keep the family united. Men are the super glue that makes their whole family sticks together. They don't brag about how much they do for their  family. A carpenter doesn't brag about how many furnitures he has made throughout his life, because it's simply his job to do that. The same thing here, men don't need to brag about how much he has worked hard to bring the bread to the table, how much he has helped to do housework, and so on simply because it is their job and responsibility to do so. Foundation focuses on it's strength and endurance, but keep being invisible. When you have a foundation that is so strong, you will not need to worry about problems that may come because it will not tear the building of home down. 

Men are not only functioned as a foundation, but as an anchor for  their families. An anchor is something that is dependable, something that gives stability and safety. It makes your whole family feel at rest knowing that you are there and they can depend on you in everything. The anchor of men can only be tested its strength when the storms come. We can't see the strength of men before we have seen them in the midst of troubles of life.

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." - 1 Cor 10:13

When we are facing problems that we feel bigger than our strength, know that it is a lie. God will never allow a test that is bigger from your strength. If it is bigger than others, then perhaps your capacity of anchor is stronger than them. The more tests you have overcome, the stronger you become. 

The storm will inevitably come in our life. But take heart, "because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:3-4
For women, choose a man who has been tested through difficult times and endure it well. Don't rely on an anchor who hasn't been tested in the midst of storm.

There is no vision being legitimated until that vision is being tested. When you have made a declaration of vision, you will be tested in accordance to it. For example, if a man declares, "I will not have pre-marital sex before I got married," don't be surprised if suddenly his ex-es, other women can come to him again. If a man declares, "I will start up a business!" what will happen next will be obstacles to test the vision. Remember Peter? He said, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and death." but the next thing that happen was he denied Jesus.

Do you know what it takes to make a sword? The Greek and Romans used iron to make the swords which they will use for war. They would use iron and put it on fire so that it became so hot in order to look whether there are black spots on it or not. The black spots would appear when the molecules lack of density; the black spots simply show areas that are still mushy. When the black spots were founded, they would place the hot sword on a steel foundation and started hammering them. They would keep hammering the mushy areas until the molecules compacted and they would not see the black spots again. Then, they would put the hot sword into cold water so that the iron can be hardened. After that, they will put the sword on fire again to look whether there are still black spots again or not. If they still found it, they will repeat the process again -fire, hammering, cold water- until the black spots completely being removed.

When the sword has passed all the complete process, a soldier can be sure that it won't break in the midst of war where the life of a soldier will depend on the sword. This is the same process God uses to test us. To forge means to test weakness to ensuring strength. God doesn't need to forge to find our black spots, he can simply see directly into us. He knows our weakness, our habits, unhealthy relationship, and things we hid from others. He knows everything about us. But this forging process is for our own good. He allows us to get through obstacles and tests so that you can recognize what hinders you from your life and learn to remove it. Each time we endure a problem in our life, a few of black spots are being removed from us. The more problems you overcome, the more black spots are being removed. When all the black spots are completely being removed God can use you as His sword. He can use you as an example, "This is the man who defend for My purpose. I have no fear that he will break in the midst of war."

So many christians "break" in the midst of obstacles simply because they haven't been in the fire too long. They have not endured the hammering process long enough. They still have many black spots that make their swords become weak. The whole process will be going throughout our entire life. After we have passed one test, there will come another. God will never stop shaping you to become like Him. Because He knows that your true fulfilment of life can only be come true when you follow Him.

Remember that it will be too late to test an anchor when the storm has come. It will be late to test a sword in the midst of war. Make sure you become a man who has been tested and endured well, and if you are a woman, make sure you choose a man who has been tested through difficult times to become your life-long partner.

I once asked Billy, "What does actually turn a boy to a man?" Billy simply answers, "Problems."

An anchor, no matter how strong it is, isn't useful when it has no strong rock to being attached on. That strong rock is Jesus Christ. All these qualities of men can only grow when men meets and depends on His creator. Jesus will teach you how to be a true warrior for your marriage and family. Men support his family, but Jesus supports the men. Isn't it awesome? The burden of responsibility becomes so much lighter because men are not alone. He has Jesus to rely on. 

A man who completely depends on God, is dependable. You can see his ups and downs, and being confident that he will get up again, for He relies on God's power. He will keep his family safe and united no matter how, because he has seen his Father do so, God never leaves him no matter what. If you are a man, it is never too late to pursue your original design to be source, preserver, protector, and teacher for your marriage and family. Keep growing in Jesus! Be determined to endure all trials and keep your faith up in His power to make all things happen. If you are a woman, remember these are the qualities that you long for. Don't settle for the less. Don't settle for the good enough, wait patiently for the best of God. As you grow in God, He is growing a man also for you. It takes only a time before you two can meet and build His kingdom on earth, a Godly family. Keep growing and pursuing Him, your ultimate lover. Be determined to be the best helper a man can ever found in this planet!

Love and blessings,
Leticia Seviraneta

August 24, 2013

The Beauty of Submission

Have you ever thought why do married couple get divorced? How can a relationship that started so sweet and romantic turns into bitter and painful? How do they get from where they were to where they are now? What went wrong? Is there any way to prevent that happen to us? We see, it is hard to find a harmonious and long-lasting marriage these days. The celebrity whose movies we often watch may already have three marriages and they are going to divorce their current spouse. Most of the people are eager to find "the right one" and when they find their spouse isn't "the-right-one-should-be", they find an excuse to break the vow they made on their wedding day. Life has become an endless search for "the other half" and will not find rest until they find one. Reasons for divorce are also varying from unnegotiable differences, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, domestic violence, lack of money, no more love, and many more. I am not going to discuss whether we should or should not divorce out of these various reasons. What I would like to address in this post is to show us the picture of marriage as God has designed it to be. I know the world gives us many examples that is so different than what I want to reveal to you. But could it be the world's way simply does not work so that they end up mostly in heartbreak and divorce? If we want a different result from most of marriages around, we need to take a different role model, a marriage that is designed by God and not human. Before we make any decision that will change our entire life regarding marriage, whether entering marriage or getting out of it, let us move backward and see marriage as God sees it :)

Marriage ... in God's eyes is very special. God LOVES marriage. Jesus even made His first miracle, turning water into wine, in a wedding party just to save the party so that it would not ruin. The Bible started with marriage between Adam and Eve, and also will end with a great wedding banquet in heaven. Marriage is very dear to God's heart because it is the kind of relationship that reflects His love to human the most. Jesus consider us, sinful human, as bride while He is the groom. So man plays the role of Jesus while the woman plays the role as the church in a marriage.

I don't know whether you are familiar with the Bible passage below or not. Some people think that the Bible is boring, but I'd love to help to show you God's heart through this passage. So please bear with me and learn to read it slowly :)

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church -for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery -but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." 
-Ephesians 5:21-33

Why do I include a long passage here? It's because many people take only part of it but seldom see the whole picture. I found men who demand his wife to respect and submit to him because he is the head of the family. He can use Ephesians 5:22 which says, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" or Ephesians 5:33b which says, "...and the wife must respect her husband." But the question is, "Is it really what God want?" Nope. The verse before Eph 5:22 clearly says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." How can we submit to one another? What is it look like? How can the head of family submit to his wife?? Let us look at verse 25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.." How does Christ shows love to us (the church)? By dying for us. He sacrificed himself for us. When Paul said, "Husbands, love your wives .." he used the word 'agapao' for 'love'. Agape is the form of love from God to human. Agape is unconditional and sacrificial! Men are called to love with the highest form of love to their wives! Amazing :D And what an interesting connection with what Jesus once said, "In this world the kings and great men lord it over them; yet they are called 'friends of the people.' But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant." (Luke 22:25-26, NLT)
So, what the "head" in the family should do? To serve. The best way to go up is to go down. The best way to lead is to serve. That's what Jesus was saying. He even gave us example though washing His disciples' feet (John 13:1-16). In those days, washing feet is a job of the lowest of the lowest slave who cannot do anything else in the house! There was no way to be heard that a person in upper social hierarchy washed the feet of persons with lower social hierarchy! Jesus turned around the whole system. If we want to lead, serve. Don't call ourselves as the head of family when serving is the least thing we would want to do for our family members. 

Marriage in God's eyes is our place to practice servanthood. Marriage can only work when what we prioritise the most is "How can I serve my spouse better?" and not "What can you do for me?". It is so important that we should not allow one day even passes without considering how to make our spouse's life happier and easier. Imagine when both husband and wife serve one another daily like this! I bet there is no need divorce between marriage couple anymore. But of course, it won't be easy. It takes us to die for ourselves to serve others. It takes us to let our ego and pride die which makes the only way for love to grow and live. But  I never get bored saying this: hard does not mean impossible. It is possible as long as we are willing. 

The world's way of marriage turns into failure with one main general cause: because one or both of the couple use marriage as a place for them "to take" and not "to give". They focuses on, "What can I get" rather than "What can I give". Can you give me love, enough money to cover expenses, attention, faithfulness, security knowing that I am no longer single?" How about we think the other way around? Let's ask ourselves, "Can I give you love as God loves you? Can I commit to serve you all the days of my life?" If we are not ready to serve, then we are actually not ready for marriage. That makes marriage is only for mature persons. Maturity is not defined by our age. Many people get married because the age says so. But we can find 40-years old person who only think about themselves only. Maturity is when we are able to think others more than ourselves, bear the responsibility and willing to sacrifice ego for greater cause (long-lasting and enjoyable marriage, for example.)

Love is not enough to be a strong foundation of marriage. Moreover lust of sex will be much weaker foundation for marriage. Great marriage isn't just happen. It requires hard work. Our career is a work, but our relationship within marriage is the greater and more important work. A neglect of its importance can cause us a great heartache and sad ending as most people have. Submit to one another. Submission isn't the sign of the weak, but the strong. Strong is the man who can put down their ego for the greater cause, happiness of both. I believe we don't have to experience bad marriage as people do. There is a HOPE! What a good news! But we need to start and work on it with a different way, God's way. Would you like to embrace His way and make it your own too?

*this writing is inspired from Ian Vail's teaching :D Thank you Ian!

Leticia Seviraneta

August 09, 2013

Blessings in Disguise

As I observed people in the crowd, I found people in their various seasons of life. Some are teenagers who were going with their peers, some are young parents with their babies, some are families who were looking for a place to have a lunch, and so on. They are in completely different ages and seasons of life which later on lead to different priorities. For teenagers, their social life may mean the whole world. Their friends are everything. Hanging out with friends can make them feel cool and secure. For young parents, their babies are the attention grabber of their new life. They can't do whatever they want without being interrupted by the babies' needs. What about my world? Well, my role now in my home is as a young adult daughter with parents. It is quite challenging when we are in the age that society defines us as mature while we still need to submit to authority of our parents at many points in our lives. The culture I live in has a normal standard that a daughter lives their parents only when she gets married. Living alone when you haven't got married for our typical parents can be regarded as dangerous. Moreover when our generation's purity standard is in pitifully rate. So in sum, I feel stuck. I feel like I can't be free as I supposed to be on my age. I can't have a place to stay on my own, I can't fully decide everything major without permission from parents. To ignore their  prohibitions will be regarded as an act of disrespect according to them. But my view has changed when one incident came into my life ... and here I want to share what I find regarding obedience to parents.

Parents ... can be real enemy but can also be our true friends. It can be real enemy because they are mostly opposed your wants and current values in many areas of life. They are the one who can say, "No!" when everybody surrounds us shout, "Yes!" They are those who loves us but sometimes cannot express it the way it should be. Parents are still human you know.. In my culture, parents who can say, "I love you," everyday to their children are completely rare. They perhaps express their love on their provision of daily needs and protection. Please do highlight the word "protection" before! The willingness to protect us can be actualized in the forms of prohibitions, rules, and restraints. If you are young, you know that way is totally ineffective. More rules will only make young people gets more rebellious either in their hearts or actions. So, conflict between parents and children are totally unavoidable. There will always be difference of points of view, miscommunication, misunderstandings, and so on. Our language of love may be different from theirs. But on the opposite sites, parents are totally our true friends. Why do I think so? It's because they are those who will be on our side even when the whole world leave us out. They will always be there in our toughest moments of life. Friends do come and go, but parents ... will always forever be parents. They stick with us no matter what.

Apart from understanding this, I still find myself struggling with submission at times. Love ... seems natural for parents to children. But for children to love parents? It takes what I call: REAL MATURITY! We can see that we are accustomed to receive since we were being born to this earth. We receive milk, food, education, compassion, attention, gifts, and uncountable things to be mentioned. It would be unnatural for us to love because love demands us to take position as a giver unconditionally. That unconditional part sounds hard, does it? Parents' love are unconditional. They love us no matter what.. simply because we are their flesh and blood, their children. Keep a note that 'love' does not always go along with 'like'. There are a lot of our characters and behaviours which they may don't like. But no matter how many they are, they don't change our parents' love to us. That's how amazing their love is! They can tell out the world about all your weakness and even pissed off with you, but at the same time they also can't stop thinking and worrying about you [Okay, I do realise that not all parents are the same. But what I convey here is the truth in general which I see through my very own eyes :D) Back to my main point, so how can we love our parents unconditionally? And how can we submit to them more easily?

We are not love producers. Only God, who is love (1 John 4:8),can produce the wellspring of love within us. It takes us to catch His heart regarding honoring and obeying our parents and let Him work within us to will to do so. Realise that love is a decision, not a feeling. Like is a feeling. Love is the compassion you decide to give no matter how you feel. And that's lift up love to entirely a higher standard! It is completely a decision to keep caring and loving no matter they 'deserve' it or not. I have learned that it is through loving the things I don't like is where my character grows. When my parents asked me to do things I dislike, it takes a decision to obey as an expression of love to them. Since I was not a very good girl back then in this area of obedience, it is common that I am still treated as a disobedient girl most of the time. Parents can say many discouraging words that do not motivate us to express love further. I used to be discouraged because of such response. But as I grow now, I know that it should never hinder my very intention to express love to them. 

What we don't realise is, parents' heart have many pains caused by others in this world. It is not easy for them to receive love as love and be gratitude because of it instantly. For some, it takes continuous actions of love for years to make them believe that they are loved. Now we get into very important point here: our love is not love until the receiver feels loved. We may argue that we have done this and that but unless our receiver of love feels loved, that means nothing. It really takes ... patience to be a lover. 

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." - 1 Corintians 13:4[NIV]

In its origin language, "love" here is using the word "agape" which is the highest form of love from God to men. Unconditional and sacrificial love. And it becomes more interesting when "patient" in its original language is "makrothumeo" which means long-suffering, to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles, offenses and injuries of others, not to lose heart, slow to anger, slow to punish. A double WOW! Love is not that simple. Even the word patient lost its deep significance to describe what love really is. Love is a gift that can only be given by a real mature person.

As now I am growing as a young adult, I need to lift up my standard in my relationship with my parents. It is no longer about me as a spoil little princess who receive anything she wants and demanding love and attention from them, but me as young adult seeks to love, honor, respect, and serve them as my gratitude for raising me up this far. It's not an obligation, but the way to express my gratitude to them. And through the ups and downs in my journey of learning to love my parents, I have learned that parents do feel loved the most when they feel respected. Respect is being actualised through obedience. Of course, it doesn't make us to be like a robot who needs to do everything they want, but it is very very very (when I repeat it three times it means verrryy important) important to convey our opinions in respectable manner and neutral tone. Through my experience, it really sadden them a lot when you speak rudely to them. 

We will never can feel how hard it is being a mom/dad before being one. But trying to feel what it's like on their shoes will help us a lot to change our attitude to them. Prohibition can be translated as, "I am worrying about you when you do this and that.." So we need to ensure that worry-producer factor is being resolved. For example, when parents say, "You are not allowed to come home above 10 pm!" They are actually worrying about many crimes during late night especially when you are a girl and alone outside. They will feel safer when you go home earlier. Respect their feelings. Go home earlier will not make an end to our world  anyway :) Our friends, if they are really good, will understand about that. For every prohibition, there will always be a reason behind it. They may cannot communicate it clearly, but try to understand even it doesn't make sense to our logic. It takes faith to obey your parents just like it takes faith to obey our God. We have to believe first that they will always think for our own good. If they have to change their mind, trust that God will do it in His time. It is never be our job to change them. Our job is to provide a safe environment to allow the required changes to happen through continuous love and respect.

Last but not least, for me, parents are blessings in disguise from the Lord. There are so many blessings hidden behind their words and actions that we may don't like. We can only receive those blessings when we walk in obedience and faith day by day.  There are so many things that I am glad I obeyed my parents back then and protected me from unnecessary hurts. God has given our parents for a reason. Embrace them the way they are as they have embraced you since you were in the womb. 

Proverbs 10:1
The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother."

Proverbs 13:1
"Wise children take their parents' advice, but whoever makes fun of wisdom won't listen to correction."

Leticia Seviraneta

June 19, 2013

The "Say Hi" Friend

When I was in high school until college, I had lots of "say hi" friends. Why do I call them "say hi" friends? Because all that we do was just saying "Hi" each time we passed by. It seemed like I knew so many people yet in fact I knew so little about them. I may only remember their faces without name! As I grew up, I feel kind of tired having lots of "say hi" friends. Why? Maybe because    deep in my heart I long for an intimate friendship. Most of my 'friends' during my study years are 'gone'. No contact, no meeting. Each has their own path of lives. I even wonder how can be those who used to be close (not the "say hi" friends) are not close at all by now. It is like time and lack of maintenance  in a relationship really separate people. Now, I have tendency to be more selective with whom I spend my time with. Not because I am arrogant or picky. But because I really want to use my time for a long term relationship, with people who will be my forever friends and not just momentary one. 

It is being said that friends do come and go, but a true friend is the one who comes and never leave. I really believe that if a friendship is for true, no matter how distance separates us, we will always have a way to find one another. We will make time to maintain the relationship. Most of us are surprised when we already get so far from our used-to-be close friends. We expect that without investment of time to catch up with one another we can always be close. But the fact doesn't prove that to be true. Far from it, with no investment of time, friendship dies!

Jesus regards us as His friend. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. From now on I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:13-15) And of course for Him, you are so much more than a "say hi" friend. You don't die for a "say hi" friend, but you may be willing to die for your  very good friend. I guess that perspective separates people whom we spend time with different categories such as: true friend, just friends, and "say hi" friends. 

1. "Say hi" Friends

Our relationship with God sometimes stay in level of "say hi" friendship. We may stop by during the day or before we eat to say, "Hi" to Him. We have a fixed prayer on everything such as, "Thank you God for this food. Bless this food so it can be free from anything that can harm our body. In Jesus name we've prayed, amen!" On and on. We pray the same prayer. Or maybe we call on God when we are only in need. When we face problem, we immediately call on Him, "God, help me!" So let's have a check on our own friendship with God. Is He a "say hi" friend to you?

All of us will go through this phase first before going to another. If we find God trustworthy, we will be willing to advance our friendship with God to another phase. The same thing goes with our relationship with fellow humans. If we find they are trustworthy, don't keep them in "say hi" friends box, pursue them so that you may develop deeper friendship with them.

2. Just Friends

This is level of friendship where we exchange names and a little bit of general information about each other's lives. You may know their name, family, job, interests, likes or dislikes, etc. You may even often spend time with them for fun. But it stops there. You don't encourage one another to achieve goals in life, there is no depth intimacy, and so on. Sometimes we treat God as "just friends" too! "Jesus, here is what you should know and what you can interfere in my life. But in this area, let me control it in my own way." It's a half-surrender relationship. It may be fun at some point, but it goes no where. It makes us stuck in our spiritual growth.

3. True Friend

When Jesus called us as His friend, He meant it for the true friend. Why? He entrusted His secrets to you. He knew you can be trusted with the knowledge of His Kingdom and about his very heart for people. He has called you to be a vessel of love to share His love to the world. That is a huge secret! And also a huge responsibility.  God longs to have an intimate relationship with you, a communication between the two of you and not just one side communication. He wants to spend time with you.

We have seen that friendship grows through the investment of time. When we don't spend time much with Jesus, no wonder we feel Him so far away. We cannot treat Him as a "say hi" friend and expect true friendship will emerge. Start prioritizing time with Jesus that will not be bothered with other activities. Say no to all activities that will interupt your time with Jesus. We will always make time for those whom we regard as important. Job is good, ministry is good. But your time with God is the best of all.

Another element of a true friend that must exist is the trust you share with him/her. You absolutely can trust Jesus for all your secrets. He does not merely keep it, but He can guide you to overcome the sins that keep you in bondage. Trust Him. When you do what He commands, you allow Him to give the solution of your problems. When it is so hard to forgive people who offend you, but you know Jesus command you to forgive, and you do it anyway, you will reap the sweet harvest of peace afterward. Of course it will not be easy. Therefore it really takes TRUST in Him. When your father command you to jump from the second floor and promise that he will catch you, it is no longer depend on his power to make it work but your trust in him that will make it succeed. God is like a very good Father who will not harm you. If He commands one thing, He is trying to save you from more horrible consequences.

"Faith don't come in a bushel basket. It comes one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He's so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands." -Lynn Austin

Trust takes time to grow. The very reason we experience broken trust in this world is because we give it too soon to untrustworthy people. It takes both time and trustworthy character before we can give trust to someone else. You don't need to doubt on God about this. He is the expert of it! He even cannot lie! "God is not a human that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19) But on human being, test their character first before you give trust to somebody. See what they do with little stuff. Does lying seem okay with them? [Even lying for good] Do they keep their promise? Do they prioritise friendship with you? Don't give portions of your heart to those who are unreliable to treasure it. Allow some time and open your eyes to see straight into their hearts.

Just like having so many "say hi" friends eventually makes me tired, our spiritual life may be dry too when we treat our supposed-to-be True Friend as "say hi" friends. We will get bored with shallow relationships. Go deeper in your relationship with God. Do you find it hard to understand your Bible? Start reading, googling its background, and search for what He wants for you. Do you find it is hard to find time to have quiet time? Wake up earlier or schedule some time later that is unnegotiable with other activities. Guard your friendship with God with all your might. 

Friendship may start effortless. You know someone when he is your classmate back then and it happened that you were in the same group study as him. But our friendship with God started with a very high price, His blood at the cross. Treasure it. He did not start it easy, so it is so worth catching up on regular basis. Value each of your friendship too with others. Invest your time more on your true friends, and if you find them can build you up, leverage their level from "say hi" or "just friend" to true friends.

Have a truly fulfilling friendship with God and others!

Leticia Seviraneta