The Winter Time

I live in country where there are no four seasons. There are no spring, summer, autumn, nor winter. In my country (Indonesia), we have only two seasons: dry season and rainy season. Most of Indonesians dislike the peak of dry season where the weather gets very hot (around 33 degrees of Celcius). Okay, I know that means “nothing” to those who lives in four seasons country, because on summer their average temperature can be between 41-57 degrees of Celcius. But for Indonesians, 33 degrees is hot. Especially living in busy city like Jakarta with its traffic jam, walking under the sun is the least favorable option for the citizens. We desperately long for a cooler weather and get addicted with air conditioner in every room. That is why Indonesians also has greater interest to travel to cooler country or perhaps certain country during the winter time. We long to see SNOW! For us, it is exciting! But as I have observed, the people who live in four seasons country may not see winter season as an enjoyable one. In contrast to Indonesians, they may much prefer summer than winter. Winter is dreary, the sun sets earlier, the city gets more quiet because people prefer to stay within their warm home, the road gets more slippery so that people have to be more careful in driving, and many more. Isn’t that interesting? For some, winter is fun, while for some others winter is dreary!

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Isn’t our life’s approach similar to the seasons that happen in where we live to? Although each of us may have different preference regarding our favourite season, I would like to share my illustration from the general point of view. Let us assume that summer is associated when things in our life are running well. Then winter is associated when things are not as smooth as we planned it to or even bad things are really happening in our life such as disaster, “big” problems that seem impossible to solve, etc. Most of people love when summer season is happening. Life seems so free from its problems, they can do what they want to do, have fun, and “enjoy” life. But as certain as the season changes, so does the season of our lives will change. Your summer time perhaps was in your childhood. As you grow up as teenager you started to face that your parents have to divorce, your school friends dislike you, and life seems so “dark”. No dream, no hope. Or maybe your summer is your single life back then. The season changed as you entered marriage life with “wrong” man. You cannot stop wishing how you would make a better decision back then which is not choosing him as your life partner. The point is, either it is because of your mistake or others’ decision in your life, your season of life will change. Summer is not for forever, neither winter is for the end of time. Joy does not last forever, neither sorrow is meant for the end of time. Knowing this seasons of life and anticipating its changes is a wisdom. If you embrace this wisdom, you may be better prepared to face the winter time. Just because the winter is cold doesn’t mean you have to become a cold person too. I know that the heaviness of problems you are facing offer many chances to let you become one. But again, I want to encourage you to embrace the wisdom and anticipate the change in your life well.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.                                       -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 [NLT]

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I know exactly that winter time can really be awful. Your car can be all covered by snow and ice which takes a lot of effort to remove it. You can get a flu. Even waking up in the morning requires high level of determination. But try to imagine this.. In the midst of the coldness that your body is difficult to bear, you start to sip and holding on your hot chocolate. Hmm.. I bet that the hot chocolate will taste so much better than when you drink it in summer. What I want to show you is, yes, problems in your life can really make your life seems bad. It can even make you feel helpless, desperate, tired, worry, angry, and so on. Yes, it can also make you sick, either mentally or physically. But realise that only in this “winter” season, you can allow some works God has to do inside of you. It is the only season where the smallest act of kindness such as a simple smile given to you can mean the world to you. Just a feeling that someone cares for you will influence your soul so much. It is the season  where you can see who your friends really are. And as odd as it seems, it is a season where your friends can turn to strangers, and strangers turn to friends. It is a fragile moment where if you open your heart enough, you can allow some “strangers” to be the extension hands of God and touch your heart. There is still a beauty in winter time. It depends on how you choose to see it.

Believe that God will not allow winter time in your life for no reason. If He allows you to face difficult circumstances, He has a purpose for you. You may be bored with these words. But I cannot tell other truth besides this. There once a girl who has just went home after serving the Lord in the church. She was practicing choir until late at night. When she had almost arrived at her home, some guys approached her and almost raped her. She wasn’t being raped at that night. But she could feel the disgust brim over her mind knowing that she has been sexually abused. After that happened, she took a bath again and again. The water from the shower washed her crying face. In her heart she kept screaming, “Why Lord? Why Lord?” She didn’t do anything bad. She had just SERVING the Lord. Why would God allow such thing to happen? She didn’t find the answer until 20 years later her ministry came to reach the women who became victims of rape. At first she started to reach one woman, the woman lashed out her saying, “You don’t know how it feels!” Now she realise why would God allow that horrible night 20 years ago to happen. She confidently said to the victim, “I do. I know how it feels. Although I wasn’t being raped fully but all the condemnation and disgust feeling was the same as yours.” I will never forget the lesson here. God will make you so strong at the broken places in your life so that you should minister to others out of that hidden strength. God may allow you have a background of alcoholic and drug users so that one day you can reach those who are just the same as you used to be. I am not saying if you never be in their position God can never use you. I am saying that God can use all things that happen in your life (including bad things) to serve a greater purpose in others’ life. 

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” -Genesis 50:20

“And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” -Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Winter is not always bad. The thick ice can be used for ice skating. You can spend more time with your family at home or read your untouched books so far. You can make snowballs, ski, etc. There is a beauty in every winter. It may be hidden, so you need to use your eyes of faith to see it. In the midst of the plants that run dry during winter, there is one type of flower grows in it. It is snowdrop flower. Snowdrops symbolize new beginnings and hope because they typically bloom at the end of winter and announce the approach to spring. Growing close to the ground, they also represent death. In winter time, your character is being purified. That will require the death of “self”. No more selfishness, no more “I” in everything. You try to see things as God sees it, treat people as God wants them to be treated, and even consider them more important than your needs . And out of the death of “self” is actually the beginning of hope. Snowdrops are beautiful not just physically but because of the message they bring. There is a hope in the midst of your heavy problems. Do not let the light of hope diminish in your life. Pray to God, ask Him what He wants to teach you in this season. Keep believing that this winter time won’t last forever. And as you keep trusting in the goodness of the Lord, keep praising and giving thanks to Him, the spring is approaching you. The hope will announce its coming. And you may no longer realise that the season of your life has changed simply because you are embracing the beauty of your winter time. Don’t wait for things to be better first to be thankful, start being grateful today and your life will change! Life is not about waiting the storm out there to pass, but to get out and dancing in the rain 🙂

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“God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless” -Chester W. Nimitz

“A little more persistence, a little more effort and what seems hopeless failure may turn to glorious success” -Elbert Hubbard

Blessings,
Leticia

The Light at the End of Tunnel

The light at the end of tunnel is one of English idiom which means something which makes you believe that a difficult or unpleasant situation will end. Although time has passed, days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and months turn to years; some situations in your life may have not changed yet. But don’t worry! You are not alone! I feel the same too. I learn a lot of things in this “dark tunnel” situation. I am inspired by a line said by Habibie from the “Habibie & Ainun” movie (such a great movie about true love story 🙂 I remember that Habibie once encouraged Ainun who was homesick, felt lonely, and really sick because of her first pregnancy. He said, “We are like a railway carriage passing through a long dark tunnel. All we can see is the darkness by now. But every tunnel has the end. And at the end of it, there will be light. I promise you, I will bring you to that light.”

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When troubles seem to overwhelm you, it’s tempting to think that it will never end. Moreover, if all that you can see with your physical eyes is dark and gloomy. Without light, without hope. Many people keep asking, “Why is this happening to me? Why does God allow me to experience this?” The questions of whys are so natural to pop out in this situation. Some people may think it must be because of sins that they did in the past. But they wonder what is it since they think they are good enough so far. (Well not all of bad situations is the result of your sins. Remember Joseph?) I don’t know all the whys about your situation, as I don’t know all the whys in my situation too. But one thing I know for sure is that this season will have an ending and God has a purpose of it. I am determined to end it with a good attitude and come out as a better person, not a bitter one. You see, the railway carriage will find its light later on, but it has to keep moving forward. If the railway carriage stops in the midst of the tunnel, the darkness will be its permanent season for the rest its life. Some people get discouraged in this dark tunnel and decide to give up at last. They may think, “It’s hopeless. I have prayed and nothing has changed.” Being “hopeless” is a dangerous state of mind that we ever deal with. Without hope, you lose your strength to carry on. And here is the good news. There is no such thing called as “hopeless”. With God, there is always a hope! Without God, everything seems hopeless.

“I will love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.” -Psalm 18:1-3,28,35

“Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.” -Psalm 31:24

Hope is the light of your soul. It sees before everything becomes a reality. It lightens your day before the outer light in your circumstance appear. So even when your situations give you no reason to be joyful, you can still be joyful by maintaining the light of hope in your heart. Keep gazing upon the Lord, your source of hope and strength. Remember that there is nothing that He cannot do over your circumstance. He is your Almighty God! Almighty simply means … all mighty! He has unlimited power of everything! In this dark tunnel, it is an opportunity where you can really know who your God really is. You can experience the depth of intimacy with God more than before. God may not explain the whys behind your pain and suffering, but he promised you to walk with you in the midst of it. He is a faithful God! He will never leave you even for a second in this season. Be patient and be still knowing that our beloved God is totally in control in every situation of your life.

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Last night, the LORD impressed me these verses in my heart:

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, “declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity …” -Jeremiah 29:10-14

There are some truths being conveyed in these verses. As God determined a period of time where the Israel would be carried away by Babylonians, so does He set a period of time of your dark tunnel. Again, there is the end of the tunnel. And the gap between your now and that the end is only time. God does not allow a dark season for merely nothing. He has a beautiful purpose and plan out of it. But you have to seek the Lord. Keep pressing on, keep moving forward. The darker your situation it seems, the more you need to stick to the Lord. He promises that he will always be found by those who seek Him with all of their hearts. God is not playing hide and seek with you. He is always there in your heart. It is you who need to take one step closer to Him and He will run the thousand steps to embrace you. He wants to be closer with you more than you want to be with Him 🙂 John The Cross expressed this truth beautifully: If you are seeking after God you may be sure of this: God is seeking you much more. He is the Lover, and you are His beloved, He has promised Himself to you.

“I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me.” -Proverbs 8:17

One of the situations on my dark tunnel require me to keep loving those who may be unloveable toward me. It’s a season when I desperately ask for the Lord’s strength to accompany me each day. I also wait for the closed door of my relationship to be opened. But instead of the tough situations I am facing now, I discover how I need to grow in prayer. My relationship with God is much more intimate than before. His love becomes so real even my situations can give me reasons that I am unloved. His love has made me stronger and stronger. So the dark situation is actually a calling for you to kneel and pray. It is an opportunity to grow in depending more upon God than your own strength. Mother Teresa spoke gently, “Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of Himself. Ask and seek, and your heart will grow big enough to receive Him and keep Him as your own.”

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I know it does not answer all your whys but the the dark tunnel in your life is always an opportunity to grow more in the Lord. It can either make you or break you. It can make you better or bitter. The response is yours to make 🙂 My prayer and hope for you is that you do not give up and keep pressing on. Your hope should not based on your circumstance, but on God who can change your circumstance. The world may see it impossible, but to God nothing is impossible. Be patient, keep doing your part with all your heart. One day the light is certainly coming through the tunnel, for you have reached the end of it. You will look back at the past and thank God for what He has taught during that moments.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up for your work will be rewarded.” -2 Chronicles 15:7

Blessings,
Leticia Seviraneta

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

True Faith

We may often hear that faith is believing before seeing. It is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see [Hebrews 11:1] It sounds simple, but it seems like most of us have difficulty in believing. How can we believe on things we do not see? How can we believe in things that are too good to be true? Here is where this talk is getting more interesting 😉 Believing after seeing will not be called as faith at all. Faith will only be as strong as its object. If somehow you feel that your faith just doesn’t work like you want it to be, maybe we need to check where we have put our faith on. True faith is being placed in nothing else but in the goodness of God alone. It is believing that our God is a good God who wants to give us the best no matter it may seem at the current moment. Have faith in a good God, not in his gifts.

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Jesus once elaborated His loving Father’s character in Matthew 7:9-11. He said, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Here Jesus laid down a very strong foundation of faith. Our faith will be strong when we realize that the God we serve is the God of “how much more.” He wants nothing but the best for you. He will never give you a stone when you ask him for bread, and he will never give you a snake when you ask for a fish. God is a good God. His goodness even surpasses the most loving saint you’ve ever known.”

The level of our faith will be deeply influenced by how deep we know our God. Faith is not something attained by our effort or righteousness. Faith is not even a conscious thing, but an unconscious result of believing in Someone. In original language of New Testament, Greek, the word of “pistis” which means “faith” rarely stands alone. It always followerd by a preposition “eis” or others which means “into”. It is always “faith into,”  “faith unto,”  or “faith upon.” It is not just a noun. It is a noun attached into Someone. We often substitute the Someone with ‘something.’ We placed our faith in money, health, possessions, and so on.

“For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me,” -John 6:44a [NLT]

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. -Ephesians 2:8 [NLT]

Faith is a gift of those who believe in Jesus and intimate relationship with Him. It is granted, not earned. It is being born out of a loving relationship. We do not need to put effort on maximizing our faith. We just need to trust and abide in His love. That is the secret power of faith.

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The sad part is … many people have faith to achieve something but their faith is not based on the will of God nor His goodness. Many people simply abuse the word of faith to justify their wants. So it is important to pray first before we declare boldly that I have faith that … come out from our mouth. To check out our motive, ask this, “Will you maintain the same level of faith when God does not fulfill it as you wish?” Well, God’s way is often different from ours. There is no exact formula on how God will work in each of your case. Are you ready to face whatever He gives to you? Remember, the nature of faith is that it must be tried. Faith must be purified. And along the way of its purification, there will be so many things that may leave us behind with question marks.

Oswald Chambers described faith as deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you cannot understand at the time. It’s an attitude of saying, “I don’t know why God allows what He does, but I will stick to my faith in His character no matter how contradictory things look.”

One of the great example of people who executed true faith for me are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They refused to bow down and worship the image [idol]of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Their declaration against the king’s command show their true faith in the only one God of Israel whom they serve. They exclaimed, “O Nebuchadnezar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image you have set up.” [Daniel 3:16-18]

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego completely believed in the mighty power of God which could save them from the blazing furnace without any doubt. Yet at the same time, they also know even if it was God’s will for them to be burned, their attitude would remain the same. They would still acknowledge their God as the good and only God whom deserves their worship.

Do we have the same attitude to our God today? Or are we a demanding one who insists God to do what we wish Him to do? Are you ready for your faith to be purified?

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The opposite of faith is not disbelief, but fear. Fear simply paralyzes our faith. It makes our problem bigger and God smaller. It involves doubt that our God cannot handle things that we regard as out of our control. Remember, God is always in control. To grow in our faith is to die in fear. Each time fear whispers, it needs to be shut down. Many people settle in their comfort zone because they are afraid of making the ‘wrong steps’. But God never offers certainty and all the details that we are going through from beginning to the end. Otherwise, we will not need faith to accomplish the journey. Yet He offers that He will be the certainty in the midst of uncertainty that we would have to face.

Faith never knows where it is being led,
but it loves and knows the One who is leading
-Oswald Chambers

Whatever the problems you are facing right now, my prayer is that you will keep your faith alive. You will fix your eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Your faith will completely relies on His goodness alone. You will take a step of faith to wherever He is leading you and leave all your fears behind. I believe that if what we ask out of faith is according to His will, it is just a matter of time He will make it comes true beyond our imagination. God is truly a God of how much more!

Blessings,

Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

Faith Based Relationship

In my previous post titled “Healthy Soul” I have discussed how we often some sort of expectations on people. We much likely desire people to change things that we dislike on them. Now I want to discuss how can we see them differently? You may say, “It is easy to speak but hard to do.” But I would like to share some truth that can help you to shift your perspective 😉

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In God’s eyes, everybody is a 10. Do you believe it? If you believe that everybody is sinner, then saying “Everybody is a 10” will equal to “Every sinner, too, is a 10” Yes, your score in God’s eyes does not depend on your performance. It’s not about how righteous you are. God is your own creator. He knows you inside out. He knows whether you will sin or not, He knows all of your motives. Nothing that you choose in life surprises Him.

“O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” -Psalm 139:1-6

“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” -Psalm 139:15-16

When God created you, He put all the potentials hidden inside of you. Sin causes His image on you to be distorted and that potentials cannot be found and grown. That’s what makes you feel hard to see everybody as a 10 with your physical eyes. They are all the “10” who don’t realise themselves as “10”. They may live without knowing who they are, why they are here on earth, what is their purpose of life, how they suppose to treat people, and so on. There are times when I, too, don’t realise myself as a 10. We have been grown by thinking that, “When I sin, I hit the lower score than before.” “I used to be so close to God, but now it is gone.” Right now, let us stop thinking of those things and start to embrace the way God sees us.

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Paul knew exactly how God saw the church in Corinth. You may be able to recall the most famous scripture about love is located on 1 Corinthians 13. But the citizens of Corinthians at that time were far from the image of love. They practiced of immorality and wickedness. The culture of the city also had influenced the church. The church at Corinth continued to struggle for a very long time with basic issues concerning unity and moral living. But look closely at how Paul addressed them.

“To the church of God is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” -1 Corinthians 1:2

Paul called them as saints! Sinners are seen by the eyes of God as saints by the blood of Jesus Christ 🙂 So how are we going to apply this truth to our relationship with fellow human? I learn that each time I am disturbed by certain characters and what they do to me, I learn to pray for them. Instead of trying to change people with my own way, either by nagging or criticise them, I learn to surrender it to the Lord and let God works to convict and change their hearts. Do you realise that it takes more faith to pray your problems to the Lord than to try solving it by your own? You may not realise it, but when you correct people in inappropriate way, it does not build them up but tear them down. Instead of helping them to see themselves as a 10, you are convincing them that they are “3” or “5”. Of course there are times when we have to speak up our advices, but God gives a specific guidance regarding correcting people.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” -Ephesians 4:15

If we point out others’ weakness out of our own frustration or anger, for sure our tone, our choice of words and our body language will be less likely express love to them. We are more likely to have tendency to say “truth” because we are the one who dislike it and try to change it. This habit destroys so many relationships. People who are constantly receiving that behavior can be depressed and have a low-self esteem. Everyone loves to be accepted. And even their behavior is unacceptable for you, there is a way to communicate it. And again for me, a faith based relationship will mean that you surrender it to God and trusting that God is the one who will work in their hearts. Sometimes you really don’t have to say anything to particular person. Say it to God, and God will deliver it in His time. Sounds weird? I am a speak up person. When I apply it into my life, I feel helpless. How can you use a “mediator” to convey your message when you can speak to them directly? But this “mediator” is not a merely “mediator”. He is GOD. He is the ONLY one who can change people’s heart and your situation. I always remember what Kay Warren said, “Christianity is about SURRENDER.” I have tried this and I have experience how God delivered my message to some people (both believers and unbelievers). Will you surrender that person and your relationship to God?

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“Praying for those who love you, that is sincerity.

Praying for those who hurt you, that is maturity.” -Leticia Seviraneta

This faith based relationship can be applied in every kind of relationship in your life. If you are a wife who desperately wants your husband to change in some areas (the one that you know exactly God would love to change them too), pray it to the Lord. Don’t constantly criticising him. One prayer full of faith in God is more efficient than thousands of words to convince him to change. What a truth! You may see prayer as the last effort or somewhat a passive one. Yet Oswald Chambers described prayer so beautifully. “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” If you ever want God change and heal your “hopeless” relationship, the first thing to do is to pray. Surrender them to the Lord completely. Remember that faith is believing before it is seen and believing that God can change the situation. You may find it very very difficult to see people as a 10, but with your eyes of faith, you can! You may not see how things can turn around, but with the big God you serve and TRUST, you can. Your relationship will be transformed so greatly when you apply your faith in it. Those people whom you hardly like, is one of God’s precious 10. He wants them to realise it. And he would love to use you to help them seeing themselves as a 10. Don’t tear them down with your own words, build them up. There is always something to be praised and appreciated. When you can shift your focus from their weakness to their strength, it can help you a lot. In the end, as we are on the journey on this faith based relationship process, we will find that we are the one who is being transformed! Our faith is growing stronger. People may not change, but your attitude to them will. Put your faith in each of your relationship. God works the most when we surrender all to Him.

“Go home, and let all your relatives off the potter’s wheel. You are not the potter!”

-Joyce Meyer

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

Healthy Soul

“A relationship will only be as healthy as the individuals in it”

Nowadays, many people become more aware for their health by doing more exercises in the gym, take rpm or yoga classes, and many more. Some men are very dedicated to restrict their foods and drink high protein milk to build up their muscles. We are more easily motivated to maintain what our eyes can see, rather than what our eyes cannot see. Not many people realise that just like our bodies need exercise to maintain its health, so does our souls too. As what you eat determines your future health, so does what we feed into our souls will determine how healthy our souls will be and how rich our relationship can be.

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How is the condition of relationship in your life? Is it  satisfying or frustrating? You may feel that having a successful relationship is definitely not easy. You face lots of people with background, emotional baggages, characters, and habits that entirely different from yours. The situation gets more complicated as each people brings some sets of unspoken expectation in relationship with you. I feel you! Are you tired for all the conflicts arise and wondering how could you make the relationships in your life run well? If yes, then this article is for you 🙂

The Unmet Expectations

People tend to have expectations based on who they are and what they usually do. For example, if you are a typical of person who is always come “in time” which means you come early before the scheduled time, then you will be more likely to expect people to behave the same as you. Even “on time” would be regarded as “late” for you. Of course few people will expect differently depending on their degree of tolerance. For those who is very strict in time, people who always come late will frustrate them. Some may respond it with disappointment, anger, or just keep the negative emotion sealed in their hearts. The case will be more often found in relationship with people you live with whether your parents, siblings, or spouse. Your behaviour and character will have greater possibility to clash with theirs. You may wish that your parents will compliment your achievement, but they simply don’t express love in words. You may wish that your spouse will give you surprises, flowers, or just simply be romantic; but he is completely not a romantic guy. You may wish your children do exactly as you instruct them to do because you know it is the best way, but they want to have their way. As the unmet expectations pile up, disappointment grows. At last, all we have is our hearts are full of resentment and bitterness. No body wants to be bitter, but if we don’t exercise our soul to stay away from it, it will be hard for not having bitterness dwell in us. The right way to look at disappointment is always remember that disappointment lasts for a season, but relationship is for a lifetime. Which one is more important to you?

“We need to learn to have a realistic expectations and let people off the hook. By giving people room to be human, we can avoid a lot of heartache.” -Victoria Osteen

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One thing we need to remember and apply it in our daily lives is that knowing that every person we meet in this life is never and will never be perfect. Your parents, your children, your friends, and your spouse are just imperfect humans. You may choose your own spouse because he/she fulfills your criteria’s list. But there will always a time when he/she cannot fulfill all of your expectations (moreover when you have unspoken expectations). Why? Because they are not you. As simple as that. Your ways of thinking and their ways of thinking are different. What you think is good, may not be good for them (at least at the first time you say it). Because we all are imperfect humans, if you depend your happiness on the suitability of each of your expectations with the realities you get, you will always get disappointed. And disappointed person is NEVER be a happy person. 

“I realize that I can’t make people change. I can’t force someone to be a certain way. I can only be a model for change. When I treat people the way I want them to be, that’s the seed God uses to bring about change. ” -Victoria Osteen

So what should we do with all of our expectations? Should we stop expecting from others? Not really. The problems here are not a matter of the existence of expectation but more about what we do when we don’t get what we expect 🙂 Children may whine when they don’t get what they want. Are we doing the same? Maybe we don’t whine physically but whine in our hearts? So here is my point.. If you want to improve your relationship, then the first step toward it is by being a healthy person. Even people you relate with are unhealthy or have some heart issues, as long as you are healthy, your relationship will not be as problematic as the way it is now. We cannot change people, but we can change ourselves. And here are some rules in order to have a healthy soul 😉

1. Your happiness is your own responsibility

It is true that what people say or do to you can really affect the condition of your heart naturally. But I want to shift the natural to be supernatural. Happiness is not a product of circumstances. Happiness is a choice you make on your own regardless of the circumstances. Surely it is not always easy. It is like you try to swim against the current. But if you consistently exercise your ability to choose your own happiness, it can happen. Rather than being driven by other people’s negative emotion toward you, be a driver to your own emotion.

2. Don’t let offenses hang around

A pearl is formed when a single grain of sand or a tiny foreign particle is lodged inside an oyster. If left alone, that tiny particle will cause damage to the tender mollusk. The interesting part is the oyster will immediately secrets nacre (lacquer-like substance) as a means of protecting itself. It seals away the irritation and at last forming gorgeous pearl. It doesn’t take longer time pass before it begins to cover the grain of sand with nacre. If we let offenses to hang around they will cause damage which will be harder to recover. Some people save offenses in deposits of their memory and hearts. They may not speak to the offender for quite some time. They think that it is better not to speak to each other rather than to fight. They do not realise that by not speaking to each other means they are making more holes of misunderstanding and hinder the relationship to grow. Whenever people say words or do things that hurt you, be quick to seal your heart. Don’t let it get into your heart and irritate your inside. Be quick to let go forgiveness.

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3. Words and actions are equally important

Some people say that it is more important our actions rather than our words. No need to say, “I love you”. “I wash the dishes, that’s how I express love.” But meanwhile, you find him always criticise you. There seems to be always something wrong in what you do or what you wear. I have to disagree with opinion which states actions are more important than words. Words are important too. Words can either bring life or death. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who live it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21) Your words can either build up or tear down someone. I also learn to think before speak. If we don’t do so, we are more likely to say things we will regret, moreover when we are offended. Words are your treasure. It must be handled carefully. I am a typical of person which is affected by words spoken to me so much. I am mentally drained when I relate with people who only point my mistake constantly. They think they are good and care for me. But that kind of relationship only makes me more broken. Every people needs a space to be allowed to be on their own. If we start “fixing” everyone around us, we miss the true riches we were meant to gain from those relationships. Again, words are meant to build up and not to tear down. You can give your ‘inputs’ at the right time, but be willing to let your listener to choose their own choice without making them losing their ability and right to decide.

If you cannot be happy on your own, other people also cannot bring that happiness to you. I’ve seen so many people suffer simply because they depend so much on others to make them happy. If you want to enjoy a rich and satisfying relationship, be the change you want. Be the healthy individual within that relationship. Release all your past hurts and unforgiveness. That’s what make us different from children who are basically immature. Instead of demanding from others to give to us, give what we want to others. If you want to have a good communication with your partner, don’t be the one who talk. Be the listener. Learn to see things from others’ point of view. I always believe that a healthy person will seek opportunity to give rather than to receive. They focus on others more on themselves. Of course.. it takes an exercise 😀 As we practice it daily, one day we will master it! A healthy relationship is a product of hard work! Let’s make it happen!

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Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

From A Father’s Heart

Father and daughter relationship is one of the most beautiful gift to human being. Our God himself is always take a position as a Father and embrace us as His daughters. A daughter is safe when her father fulfils his calling by protecting and loving her with all of his might. Sadly, we know that in reality it doesn’t always happen. We have seen a relationship where father and daughter don’t communicate so much because he is busy with his occupation or think that it is her mother’s job to nurture the children. We have seen a father who emotionally and physically abuses his daughter. We have seen a father who abandons her daughter. If you don’t have the gift of father and daughter relationship as it supposed to be, then I want to encourage you to embrace your loving Father in heaven. His love is more than enough to heal your wound, disappointment, and hunger for father’s love. This is important because without our Father’s love in heaven, we will eventually become limp in the area of love and also may not have a healthy self image.

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Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. -Psalms 68:4-6

Hereby, I would like to give a father’s letter to his daughter. It is made by Ps. Philip Wagner, the one who has become a true father to his daughter. I know that most of us may not have this kind of earthly ‘ideal’ father, so I am deeply convinced that his letter will share a bit of real father’s heart for you. Take this letter as what our Father in heaven would like you to know. He always wants the best for you. He always wants to protect you. Nothing sadden him most then when you make wrong decision for your partner of life. May it blesses you all 🙂

January 12, 2009

Dear Paris,

Today is your mother’s and our 24th anniversary.

Those are kind of rare these days. Many times, relationships just don’t make for a marriage that will last that long. Sometimes people stay married that long, but they just kind of endure it and don’t really enjoy it like they once did.

My wish for you is that you enjoy a loving relationship and have a marriage that will last.

After having been married 24 years and helping hundreds of others in their relationships, I believe it has a lot to do with who you choose to give your heart to. A father wants the best in life for his daughter, and I’m no different.

You once said in a video message that when you got married, you wanted a man like me. You may not need someone like me (although I loved hearing that), but I do hope you end up choosing someone to give your heart to who will be a great match for you. As a dad, I would say to choose someone who is good enough for you, someone who is worthy of you. Ultimately, this is your choice … no one can make it for you. Others can only hope that you guard your heart above all else.

I’ve given similar advice to thousands of others but I thought I’d share it with you on this special day in a more personal way. My advice to you, as your daddy, is to find someone who is:

1. A Christ-follower.

This should be the number-one thing. I’m not talking about picking someone who says he is a Christian; we’ve met many people like that. I’m not talking about someone who knows a lot of Scripture or has been a church member; there are plenty of people who do those things who may not make a very good spouse.

I’m talking about a young man who has a genuine love for God.

Find someone whose faith inspires you to believe more and live with a higher focus, a person who wants to honor Jesus Christ in how he lives and in the choices he makes.

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This kind of faith will cause the person you choose to look for direction from a Source beyond his own thoughts and feelings. He will be compelled to be a servant at times when others focus on themselves; he will forgive when others want to hold on to little disagreements; and he will try to trust God when others just do it their own way. He will look to God’s Word for guidance and will be accountable to God for his choices.

I’ve seen some people compromise on this number-one quality and regret later because it affects so many other areas.

2. Respectful

A person who respects you will think about your feelings and desires before taking action and making decisions. He will make decisions that demonstrate that he genuinely honors you.

Respect changes everything about how we talk to each other, how we work through differences and how we arrive at our ultimate decisions.

He will respect God’s plan for your life. He will never encourage you or support you in disregarding what’s best for your life.

Respect causes us to be kind in way that others are not. It affects how we speak about each other to others and how we approach life together.

3. Protective

This does not mean that he is defensive. He is protective. To me, this means he is considerate of you. In our world today, it’s easy to be self-focused. When the pressure is on, we tend to take care of our own needs first. A person who is protective will think of you before himself.

He will protect you physically from harm and from his own desires that would put you at risk. To young people this includes pregnancy and disease, but it also means meeting your physical needs in everyday life.

He will protect you emotionally by stepping up in times when you may need that extra sensitivity.

He will protect you spiritually by keeping a watchful eye over temptations and distractions.

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He will protect your relationships, conducting his relationship with you in a way that does not jeopardize the other relationships that are important to you. He will not be competitive or unnecessarily jealous, forcing you to choose him in order to feel more important.

Love inspires someone to care for others enough to protect them.

4. A Man with Vision

A person with vision has ambition with purpose. A person with vision has direction.

Some people may have goals, but vision takes you somewhere.

Most young boys have big dreams. Some young men have interesting ideas about ways to make money. But ultimately you will probably want a man that is focused on “making a life,” not just “making a living,” someone who wants to make a difference in the world,

Vision brings confidence, confidence brings strength and strength brings greater vision. (Confidence is a quality that brings so much to a relationship, because it allows us to deal with situations that come up by focusing on those situations alone -not on our own hidden needs that subtly affect every conversation.)

Well, these are a few important qualities … Maybe you can stuck this note away somewhere and let it speak to your heart in the months and years ahead.

My wish for you is to enjoy love in its greatest form.

Love,
Dad

When it comes to men, please do aim high. 
Characters matter more than you can imagine. 

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As a man on his own, a father knows the best what to look for in a man to became his precious daughter’s partner of life. If a human father hopes the best for his daughter, wouldn’t be our heavenly Father wants the best of the best for his children?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. -James 1:17 [NIV]

A Godly partner of life is a gift from God. Ask him to guide your path to choose wisely. He knows the future. He knows which one is the best for you. God is not a God who wanted to hide the good things from you. But you have to let him guide you. And while you wait, grow in such a way that you will be the right partner for him too 🙂

Blessings,

Leticia

Photos by Baby Axioo Photography

True Love

When I ask people what is true love, they will reply with various kinds of answers. Some people may not believe in it, some people believe but they still have not experienced it. Some has lowered their standard regarding of their love story because the ideal so-called ‘true love’ is too good to be true. Some wait for the mr/mrs right because they believe that will be the moment they will experience true love. So they hop in one relationship to another to seek ‘the one’ meant to be for them. I’m not an expert of love. But in this writing, I’m going to share my definition of true love.

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True love has one source, God. God IS love (1 John 4:8). In Him, we can find what is true love and what is true love in actions. I find it is impossible to try to define true love apart from this truth. God has shown us what love is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In Rome 5:8, Paul described it so beautifully: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” True love sacrifices even to the point of death for someone who may not deserve it. We don’t deserve that kind of love from our God, but He gave it to us. He has shown us what it truly means to love someone. Love is giving … your very own for the sake of your beloved. It’s always comes from within and not because of what others have done for you. Otherwise, it will be a business transaction, no longer a ‘love’.

Yes, true love nowadays is rare. Maybe because many people refuse to believe on its existence. Even if they do believe, they believe it for the wrong reasons and motive. True love is not when you find the right one for you. It’s unrealistic to depend entirely on someone ‘perfect’ who can make your life happy. If we see it closer, it’s a bit of selfish, isn’t it? If we strive for this definition of true love, we will always fail. We will end up in jumping from one relationship to another, looking desperately for ‘the one’, leaving more scars in our hearts. True love is also not when everything is perfect. No one is perfect. Therefore there will be flaws in your partner, obstacles in your relationships. Parents’ approval, emotional baggage, difference in characters, habits, and preferences may be obstacles that you have to face together. True love isn’t free from these problems, but it always find a way out and endure the hard seasons of life together. I know it sounds so idealistic. But it really takes two people who are committed to each other through the good and bad to make love lasts. Only a love that has persevered and conquered many obstacles in life can be called true love.

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The whole point in loving someone is sacrifice. Will you sacrifice your preference in watching movies that you like and watch his/her preference? Will you sacrifice your time to be with him/her? Will you sacrifice your money to satisfy him/her? Will you sacrifice your ego to apologize to reconcile with him/her? You can see that the standard of true love is so high that we find it is very difficult to achieve the perfect score. Yes, it’s difficult. Therefore we really need to connect with the Source of love itself and draw love supply from Him. Only people who has satisfying relationship with God can satisfy his/her partner of life. Only people who feel loved all the time by God can love their partner all the time. We may dislike our partner sometimes, but we can still choose to love him/her anyway. If you feel that your relationship with God is not right or you ‘feel’ distant [I emphasize the word ‘feel’ because it is always us who feel that God is distant, but actually He is always with us], then it is wiser to build your relationship with God first before you start with someone. How can you do that? Spend time with Him. Pray and spend time to read His words and let it works in your heart. Too many people settle  in their relationship with God. They think they have it enough. Keep Him involved in everydays of your life and let Him fill you with His abundant love.

I find that the partner who is ready in a committed relationship is the one who doesn’t need a partner anymore. Why? Because God is their partner. They find Him sufficient. An earthly partner will be an addition to their wholeness in God. Don’t let human being fill your loneliness in life. Go to God. True love is given to those who are mature enough to sacrifice and love the God’s gift of partner. You don’t expect partner who has so and so qualities while you don’t have it either. Grow yourself first. Make it a purpose that you will give the very best version of you once you meet him/her. Make them feel blessed when they have a partner who love the Lord with all of their hearts, minds, and souls. Make them proud when they have a partner with mature characters, responsible, committed, honest, discipline, and strive for growth in life.

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True love is a gift from God. It happens when you REST in Him and not frantically seek potential partner of life. Some argue that we need to pray and work to find him/her. Some argue that we need only to pray and wait. So which one is right? I believe it is both in the right proportion. We don’t expect that we can only pray and really do nothing in our home and hope God will send him/her right at our door. But we also are not frantically seek him/her as if it really depends on our own effort. Do you get what I mean? It is a beautiful balance between praying, developing pure friendships with opposite sex, and waiting. I highlight “pure friendships” because most of people do not intend for friendship. They intend for dating. It’s really a different stage. The very sign whether you are developing pure friendships or dating him/her is asking yourself, “Will you still be friend with him/her when they have boyfriend/girlfriend?” I find that most people who intend for dating draws their presence from their  opposite sex ‘friend’ when they commit relationship with other. There is also none of physical contact that can send different signals when it is in pure friendship stage. Don’t rush in to “dating stage”. Take time to really know him/her. Don’t let the flings or the ‘feeling’ of love blind you from defining the truth.

I believe that as a woman, my part is to wait and not to seek. My part is to develop Godly woman qualities that will be a gift to my future partner. My part is to preserve dignity and not tossing my feelings and bodies easily to men who may not committed for long term relationship. There is no space for trial and error for me. I wait for 21 years and not get into relationship until God shows me the right time has comes. I don’t wait idly but productively doing things for His Kingdom. And in spite of many ugly realities around, I preserve my faith that my God, the Source of love, is the best Author of love story. He really writes a beautiful love story for those who give the pen for Him. Surrender your love story in full of faith. Don’t expect less because the world around you give you bad examples. Expect more in God. When it comes to your love story, aim high. Get ready to make a lot sacrifices but also get ready to reap the beautiful fruits of it in the end. Choose a partner who has been tested through difficult times. Someone … who is worthy of you. Someone who fights for you. And wait patiently for God’s timing to make His wonderful plans unfold. I can ensure you, it will be worth the wait.

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

When Hope Calls

I went to Christian school since Junior High until Senior High. The name of the school is “Faith, Hope, and Love”. In Indonesians, we call it “Iman, Pengharapan, dan Kasih” or known well with its acronym “IPeKa.” It was a good Christian school where I met some Godly friends who led me to Jesus and grew in my faith. But up until the graduation, I didn’t know what faith, hope, and love really mean. Let’s imagine that you are standing on stage of Miss Indonesia 2013 and the jury asks you, “According to you, what is the difference between faith, hope, and love?” Ding.. dong.. We may start to think.. “Hmm.. I never think of that question before..” These three are known well as three pillars of Christianity but we can be a Christian for so long not knowing what exactly they are. That’s what happened to me. I can search for the theological definitions easily. But unless those definitions touch my heart and change my life, it will be only merely beautiful ordered words. One day, I went into a Christian store and saw a simple wall decoration with this writing on it:

“Faith makes a closed door to be opened.
Hope makes an unseen opened door can be seen.
Love makes an opened door stays opened.”

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That writing really went into my heart!! Finally, it made sense to me. I noted it and keep remembering it until now. The Bible says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Although Paul described love as the greatest, I believe these three complement one another. Faith in Jesus Christ is the beginning which leads us to trust Him in every areas of our lives. Faith helps us to believe the impossible is possible in God’s hands.

Faith gives birth to hope. A hope that has no basic of faith in Jesus is a wishful thinking. For a hope to be anchored so strongly it must be rooted in faith in Jesus again. Jesus came to the world to give us a hope of reconciliation to Father from sins. He is our hope. “And hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5) God’s love is the reason why we have such an endless hope. And God’s love is what makes us too to love others. God did not just merely come to introduce faith, hope, and love; but he wants us to share this good news to others. Because faith, hope, and love refers to one in common.. the very person of Jesus Christ. These three becomes one in Jesus Christ.

I hope that this doesn’t confuse you. I’ve just revealed what faith, hope, and love has been applied in my personal life. They are all talking about Jesus Christ.

Let us talk more about hope. How can we maintain such an endless hope in our life? Many people use hope for different kind of situations such as: hope of deliverance when the circumstances seem impossible, hope when we are in despair, hope when will our dreams come true, and many more. Well, hope is the anchor for our ships of life. It keeps our life safe and sound as the storm in life comes. Not alike many other people who is easily swept away when the storm comes, our anchor of hope keeps our lives steady and peaceful no matter what. Do you remember when Jesus fell asleep when the storm came on the lake of Galilee?

(Matthew 8:24-26)
“Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown! He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

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I have a picture of the lake of Galilee. You can see how perfectly peaceful the water. When I went there, it’s hard to imagine such a furious storm had ever come upon it.

This story shows us that when Jesus is in your boat (ship) of life, you can rest in full assurance that your life is under His control. You can remain in peace and not easily respond to the storm based on your fear, anxiety, and worry. God is more than able to make any kind of storm in your life calm.

Of course, in order to defeat our natural emotion is not as easy as flipping our hands. It takes a daily decision to surrender your remote control of life to God. It’s an honest acknowledgement that we don’t see the light of hope in this situation, but we believe that God will show it to us in His time. And we hold fast to our faith and that’s how we can keep seeing the opened door ahead. It’s okay to say, “It’s hard, Lord!” but don’t forget to keep proclaiming, “But You can make it possible.”

The very reason why I have such a peaceful life is because I have surrendered my life to Jesus. My dreams, my financial condition, my family, my love story, my activities, my everything. I know deep inside my heart that my God is a very good God and whatever He gives will be the best for me.

My partner once illustrated the unopened door as the elevator door which is closed for a momentary. We may see it now as a closed door, a dead-end, a hopeless state. But it’s actually just a matter of time, God will open the elevator door and deliver us to our destination.

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When you are placed in difficult circumstance with difficult people, it is a season for you to grow in your faith, hope, love, and character. We are most likely pray for a change outside rather than a change inside of us. We pray for deliverance instead of growth. That’s not what God intend to do when He is training His children to be mature. He is so into maturity process rather than momentary happy life. Trust and surrender to God in molding you into a beautiful vessel in this season. We always came up with a better character when we respond right during hard times. Let’s admit it, we cannot grow with no problems in life. And any organism who doesn’t grow anymore is basically dead! When we stop growing, we start dying! Hey, God does not want you to die! He wants you to grow into the fullness of Jesus Christ, to become more like Him each day. Knowing this purpose will set you at the right perspective and help you in nurturing the hope in your heart.

I want to close this article with a quote that is very dear to my heart. “People with hope can dance without music.” I believe that is the happiest person ever alive! We don’t need the circumstance or people we are upset with to change first before we can enjoy our life. Hope always begins far before the reality match with it. That’s why it is being described as “seeing the unseen opened door“. Your level of hope will keep you strong and steady no matter hard life can be. And Jesus is always be our hope. When everything seems gone wild outside of your control, always RUN to Him. He is your Prince of Peace.

“Peace I live with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not  be afraid.” -John 14:27

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” -Philippians 1:6

Have a hopeful life! 😀

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Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Baby Axioo Photography

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 were 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 life. 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 feels like the passing 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.

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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 real, no matter how far 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.

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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. Having a career 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.

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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!

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography

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? As you can 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 which are 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 🙂

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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. One of the first thing happened in the beginning of the Bible was the  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 (Ephesians 5).

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 [NIV]

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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 😀 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 you want to lead, serve. Don’t call yourselves as the head of family when serving is the least thing you would want to do for our family members.

Marriage in God’s eyes is the best 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 to ourselves to serve others. It takes us to let our ego and pride die to make a 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.

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The world’s ways of marriage turn 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 itself is not defined by our age. Many people get married because their 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 does not just happen. It requires intentional 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?

Blessings,
Leticia

Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography