Spiritual Soil (Things to Ponder)

Everyday, I wonder and worry if the “soil” of our family and home is cultivated and watered enough for every member to grow and bear fruit. I often find myself asking, “Are my husband and I doing the best we can to nourish the soil of our family? Are we being shining lights to each other and to our children and are we setting good example for them to follow?” I believe that if we say we follow Jesus, it should be manifested in our words and actions, in our relationships and the very lives we live.

spiritual soil

During those moments of deep pondering and self-examination, I know that we’re not intentional and punctilious enough in nurturing our soil and this brings sighing and heaviness to my heart. Such problems usually come up when the spouses have varying magnitudes of faith and differing principles, attitudes, and practices. But then again, many times in the Bible, we are admonished to be of one mind.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  (Phil. 2:1-2, emphasis mine)

Fruitfulness in the Spirit is what the Lord desires for all of His followers.

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

So, we go to church every Sunday (for most of our Church, it’s even three times a week), the children sing in the choir, the family doesn’t watch trashy TV shows or movies or listen to secular music. But how about the moments and hours that make up the day? What does our family and home life look like?

There were times that I have broken down in tears because of the children’s gross misbehaviors and my failure to tackle them as the Bible’s teachings would have me do. We have this great desire to be nurturing parents, endeavoring to train our children in the love and admonition of the Lord, but when we see them disrespectful, disobedient, ungrateful, and lazy in all things except to waste hours on gadgets, we feel the weight of failure on our shoulders and it’s heartbreaking. We ask ourselves, “What more should be done?”

We bathe our family with prayers so that in one accord, we will all be obedient and pleasing in God’s sight, fervently following Him and His will, so that we will be living out Apostle Peter’s teaching:

“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” (1 Pet. 3:8)

But sometimes, even our prayers seem not enough and we can’t seem to see much fruit.

People in our church, especially the choir leaders, praise our children’s quiet behavior in Sunday school and choir practices. I thank God for working on them to behave properly outside our home. They are not rowdy as other children. No, ma’am. They are shy, especially Hannah, to a fault.

But I see in our children things that the world does not see. And what I see breaks my heart. I know that families and homes differ from one another. But even Christian homes have their problems. I can see the huge difference between our life in the old days and our children’s life now. I grew up in a small, slumbrous town in a faraway province where life was as simple as you could get. Frivolity was out, for life, generally, bordered on poverty.

In that uncomplicated way of life, people were industrious. Young girls could help around the house: clean, cook, wash dirty dishes and laundry, and care for baby siblings, or around the farm (for those who lived in the barrios). Young people were respectful, obedient, responsible. They looked up and listened to older people. And they had a deep sense of gratitude.

I lament that this generation of young people displays an entirely different attitude. It’s kind of bratty, selfish, self-indulgent, insolent, indolent, ungrateful, prideful. We see them on TV and the Internet. And when we see traces of these on our children, oh, how it rips our hearts!

I’m not saying that our children, Hannah and Tim, are completely all that. No, they are fairly good kids who generally bring us joy. Hannah, by God’s grace, is now “under observation” for the Youth Choir and she’s assigned church chores like maintaining cleanliness in the toilets during services, etc. As for Tim, he sings in the Children’s Choir, attends Sunday School diligently and I can see that he is developing an awareness of the Bible’s teachings.

But it is evident that they still lack in the more important things: love and kindness toward one another, humility, gratefulness, respect, and also industriousness. It only takes a small act of unkindness or indifference to see what is utterly wrong, like seeing a child pick up her own used glass to bring to the sink and intentionally leave the other beside it just because it’s her brother’s. Or when they are often rude to one another, speaking biting or cold remarks. What does that mean?!

If we’re sensitive parents who see beneath such subtle acts, we would not dismiss and consider them as not worthy of our attention. We would discern at once that there’s an underlying reason to them. The children could be cold and uncaring and those are serious things that need to be addressed.

When I see our children displaying a lack in any of the things mentioned above, I feel really sad and frustrated and this compels me to strive harder: to be a more effective “life coach” to them who leads by example. And I pray the more, pleadingly and unrelentingly.

I always try to examine myself when failures happen. I strive to be better: a better wife, mom, person,  leader, friend. A better role model. More Christlike. That’s the heart of my prayers lately.

I’ve been asking myself, “Do our marriage, family, and home provide rich soil for spiritual growth for each and everyone of us? Does our relationship (my husband’s and mine) set a good example about relationships, honor, respect, love, and kindness? Do we intentionally live a life that exemplifies the Bible’s teachings which our children can observe and learn?”

Do we seek to cultivate the ground, the soil in which their minds, hearts, and souls will develop, grow, flourish, and bear much fruit?

Is each one of us a rich soil in which others could grow well and thrive?

Do we build up others or bring them down? Do we heal or do we inflict wound? Do we speak words that minister grace to others or do we speak to incite contentions, discouragements, strifes, resentments, or bitterness? Do we intentionally bring hope and encouragement for a soul to grow and thrive or do we unmindfully bring out the worst in others? Do we strive to coax out goodness and beauty in others or do we live indifferently, minding only our own welfare and growth?

Well, is there real growth when we think and work only for ourselves? Isn’t growth happens when we live outside of ourselves and reach out to others also? There is no growth when there is no expansion.

But not everyone thinks and desires the same things as we do. Others may not want to be in and if it is a spouse, that would be difficult. If the parents are not of one mind and desire or of varying degree of commitment in leading the family into rich, verdant pastures of spiritual growth, that can be a problem. It will be too taxing to be hauling the burden on your own or on unequal or opposing forces. The ship cannot sail smoothly if the winds are contrary.

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Journey with Jesus,

Parenting Teens

My soul is burdened with the stories of some of the children of Christian brethren who have strayed from the Lord. What is more perplexing is that, the parents of these rebellious youngsters are faithful in serving God. I’ve heard that some have yielded to drug addiction and other vices, teen pregnancy, and marrying young only to end up in separation. I’m puzzled as well as depressed that this should happen considering that these families serve the one true living God. As testimonies of former drug addicts and such echo from the pulpit, how they have been delivered from their addictions and vices that had enslaved them, stories about rebellious, backsliding teenagers are discussed privately.

I look at other girls and boys whose families have religions but don’t have personal relationships with the Lord, and yet, they have discipline. They respect and obey their parents and bring them honor.

So, what could be wrong with some of these Christian families who are laden with teenage rebellion? One mother who is also close to us has lamented that she and her husband have long given up on their straying daughter. Their daughter has had an on-and-off relationship with the Lord through the years. But lately, after her young marriage broke apart, she turned to drugs and will not leave it. Her marriage was destroyed because of her vices that she couldn’t give up. But her parents continue to serve the Lord faithfully. Such a story is truly lamentable.

Although prayer is paramount in raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we don’t stop there. As our children enter into adolescence, the more vigilant we should be in guiding them. A regular heart-to-heart talk is a must. We use the teachings of the Bible as our guide. There is a need for parents to instill in the minds of their youngsters the fear of God. For them to understand that if they fear God, they must also need to honor Him in their minds, hearts, bodies, and in the way they live. There must develop in them an appreciation of the goodness of the Lord. It is important, therefore, that the parents exemplify a life of gratitude. One of the roots of rebellion is ingratitude. 

Another mother told the story of her teenage daughter who became pregnant at a very young age. When the daughter confessed her pregnancy to her mother, the mother forewent questioning her. She did not ask her any questions. She didn’t even bother asking who the boyfriend was. I admit I was incensed when I heard it. The daughter was so young that there was a problem with the pregnancy, her ovary being not fully developed.

If parents are afraid to discipline their children and set rules and boundaries, they are actually driving them to destruction.

He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly. (Prov. 13:24)

I am not advocating for parents to hit their children. What I want to emphasise here is the strict discipline that we need to enforce. We don’t want them to turn their backs to the Lord and go astray. We don’t want them to take lightly the salvation that they have received. This is serious business for parents.

Mothers, don’t be afraid to talk to your teenage children. Prov. 31:26 says “She opens her mouth with wisdom…”. Ask God for wisdom and anointing, that your words will have power over them.

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Journey with Jesus,

My World {and Some Discipline}

I’ve pretty much made up my mind: there’ll be no second year for my lifestyle blog Live Joy-Fully! I had given this much thought during the holidays. With my deepening desire to spend more time in the presence of the Lord, I had felt that that “little” blog had become superfluous. I still have another blog (the very first I put up) beside this – Minister of Mercy, and I also maintain our company’s website. Needless to say, I have enough on my plate. But, of course, I can never discount the year that Live Joy-Fully! had served my purpose: To chronicle the daily ordinary in my world and in so doing, I might convert it into joy. I had felt the need to capture it in words on a page and share it to the world.

Writing about the daily ordinary was like being “defiant” that however mundane the happenings in my world were, they could be special. And I know they were. Every single one of them was grace from the Lord. But I need not share them. I will continue celebrating life – like preparing those scrumptious pastries and dishes, arranging flowers, making improvements in the home – but I will just revel in the glory of it quietly, much like Mary who “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” in the occasion of the Savior’s birth. My family would never know how much joy seeing them enjoy the food I prepare brings. And these are priceless treasures that need to be kept in the heart and memory.

For the longest time, I had carried a gnawing ache deep inside for a piece of my old life – the traveling part. The pain would be aggravated when I see “reminders” around me. It had been like a heavy burden I’d been hauling around. It’s true that amidst my ailing life, I overflow in inspiration and never run out of joy – I owe all that to the Lord! But accompanying my daily desire to delight in Him is the unshakable nuisance that is my longing for a piece of the world. But recently during a Spirit-filled worship, I was reminded that the Lord is actually my world.

If He is my world then I lack no good thing. If He is my world then I am at the center of all divine blessings and adventures and not being left behind as I had always felt and believed. It is true – the Lord is my world and I understand that it is entirely different from the world we know of. Entirely different in terms of wealth, happiness, values, and experience. We can never compare the two so I will not even attempt to do it. I just need to embrace it. You, too, friend, who abide in the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in the Spirit. He is your world. Gladly embrace that truth.

Another important reason why I’m cutting down on not-too-important tasks is the new book I’m writing. To be honest, I squirm when I say that I’m writing a book because I’m not even a known blogger let alone an author. But the Lord has given me something to learn in my own life and write about it. I have come to realize that this something is equally important both in daily life and in our spiritual journey. I am far from having perfected it. I can say that I’m yielding myself to the training at the same time that I’m writing about it. We need strict discipline to accomplish that which the Lord has assigned us to do. 

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Cor. 9:25 NIV)

(Photo courtesy of my friend Perla Frisberg).

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Pulling Down Strongholds

After morning prayer, I laid my back against the pillow and closed my eyes to rest awhile. I thought, “I don’t think I can resume today my Bible Study with the kids in the early evenings. I still don’t have enough strength to discuss and stress the lessons.” An inner voice answered me, “It’s important that you resume and that’s beginning today. Just open the Bible and the strength will be supplied.” I still didn’t know. And I didn’t have any clue what lay ahead of the rest of the day.

At sundown, I heard scuffling and screaming from upstairs. I knew the kids were in disagreement and were fighting again. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t run, couldn’t climb up the stairs, although in these instances, I always want so much to be able to do all those things. I sent  a maid to tell them to come down. There would be explanations, and in the end, always a showing of humility from both sides (with my urging and insistence), apologies, and reconciliation. The little one came without hesitation, face sullen.

I had to ask a maid twice to fetch the older. I was beginning to feel irked and frustrated. The older, she’s developing an independent disposition that is not always honoring as she’s entering puberty. Sadly, there had been many instances of her showing a rebellious heart which had caused me grief and drove me to more gruelling prayers. There are not so many things that puzzle me about life, but motherhood remains to be one of them. And I’m feeling it’s getting harder as my daughter and I are entering into her adolescence.

She came and I tackled first the problem at hand: Why couldn’t she come down at once? Why always the resistance? The exchange became more difficult and frustrating when I learned that the things she needed to do and had been daily reminded of for days remained unaccomplished. But that same afternoon, before the uproar, when she came to me for something she needed at the bookstore, I listened at once and did what she requested, as always.

There is no willing obedience without having learned honor first. As a mother, I do my best to model humility and honor. I sincerely ask for forgiveness from my children when I am wrong and have hurt their feelings. I tell them that I listen to their needs and act on them because I honor and care for them. We teach them to honor us, their parents, and one another, and in so doing, they are honoring God in their lives.

At dinnertime, when the daddy arrived from mid-week service, I hoped to unite the family around the table and, yes, resume our evening devotion reading the Bible. No, she wouldn’t come and didn’t want to eat. How much longer and more painful this “rebellion” would be! Rebellion dishonors the rest of the family and, ultimately, God. Rebellion must be rooted out. 

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

More furor. How can you turn ugly into beauty? I wept, I begged, I expressed my love. This love of a mother, I realized, is as durable as a diamond though the heart is many times broken. More efforts, yes. Parenting is like Jacob wrestling with God until you have obtained victory. My ailing and weak body was begging for rest, but when all had quieted and settled down, we found ourselves around our table, the daddy opening our NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible to chapter 2 which is Genesis 3, after his opening prayer. We listened to him reading how Adam and Eve challenged God by rebelling and disobeying Him. And how they lacked humility by not acknowledging and repenting of their sin, but instead, blamed another.

What Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden could still be occurring in our homes over and over:



Lack of humility (repentance)


With hearts pried open by aches, love, and the words of the Lord, these lessons were talked about, instilled, and hopefully digested to the inmost being. I saw bowed heads, faint nods. I saw a cold heart thawing. We prayed in closing. Around our dinner table, I saw the beauty of the Lord once again shining.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Cor. 10:4-6)

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Journey with Jesus,

More Than My Hands Can Handle

My beloved husband had just left for the overnight worship service and I was already running late for my viewing of the live webcast of it, so I asked my daughter Hannah to bring the vaio and all its attachments (speaker, charger, mouse, HDMI cable). Then I leaned on my propped-up pillows because I felt weak and quite exhausted (I have been feeling these and other difficulties the past week).

One of the maids was in and out of the room fixing for the night and Tim also was there drawing, so I didn’t notice when Hannah dumped the vaio on a corner table far from me and hurriedly left. When I saw it I asked one of the maids where she was (I was hoping she went to get the speaker but I doubted it; I knew how negligent she was). I called for her three times. I waited patiently. I wasn’t feeling well and already an hour late for the live webcast.

When she finally came into the room, I asked her calmly and quietly, “Hannah, is this the way you serve? You just dump everything on a corner table which I can’t even reach?” There was sadness and resignation in my voice. Maybe even before she came into the room she already had that sullen look, but at my words, I noticed it. Instead of saying sorry, she displayed a silent resentment as she went about fixing the attachments of the vaio. My heart sank.

Just a few days before, she came to me requesting for a new sporty shirt and matching skirt as costume for their batch dinner in school. Right away, I arranged for someone to buy them in Mega Mall.

I felt so deeply hurt and disappointed to see that she was becoming disrespectful and ungrateful. And lacking in love. Her Dad and I have been observing her behavior for a long time now. We often remind her and teach her. We read and study the Bible. I pray with her. We meet and discuss about loving and caring for and respecting others. I urge (no, plead) her and Tim to fervently love and be kind to one another. With love and tears, prayers and persistence, I teach them.

After I rebuked her now for her attitude, she walked out of the room, but I called her again. Even though my breath was coming in gasps and my left chest was tightening, I wanted to fix this. I needed to. I was —- desperate.

I cried uncontrollably because I was sick and felt weak and inadequate.

I cried because I wanted to spend all my days and weeks and months and years (as the Lord would have mercy upon me) only loving and being gentle and kind. I cried because I never wanted to blow it all up.

I cried because I didn’t want to displease the Lord but to be always pleasing in His sight to obtain His favor.

I cried because I was losing my Hannah to bad attitudes, to typical teenage problems perhaps (I don’t know, I don’t have a clue!), to peer pressure and influence outside of our family and Church…

I cried because I didn’t want to lose our closeness, our good friendship. I cried because I always wished I would always be her best friend, my company she would always seek. I cried because she was changing and slowly going farther away.

I cried because I didn’t want her to be hardly reachable. I cried because I long for her.

After I was left alone in the room and had recovered from my difficulties, I sat up. And prayed. I prayed for myself, for strength in all aspects, for wisdom, and for love that can cover all.

And I prayed for my daughter, laying her down at the Savior’s feet. I prayed and asked for help until there was no more tears left. Then His peace that passes all understanding enveloped me. The Lord made me know that I needed not shoulder all the burdens of motherhood. My hands are not enough to handle them. He gave me the ministry of motherhood, not to carry it out on my own strength and wisdom, but always with His strength and wisdom and constant help. It is a partnership with Him.

So I will stand by my daughter (even though sometimes she makes me feel like she doesn’t want me there, hovering over her) as my Lord stands by me. By the abundant grace of God, I will be a very present exemplary figure in her life (and my son’s) as my Lord is my very present help and guide. There is no quitting this.

 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. (Psalm 127:3).

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Journey with Jesus,


Are you scared already just by reading the title (~ smile)? But seriously, we do need this just as much as our kids do. We bring out the letter of Paul to the Corinthians, dust it up, bring it under the light, and study closely:

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24-28 NLT)

Highlighting these:

Run with purpose in every step.

Discipline the body, training it to do what it should.

Do it for the eternal prize.

In and after all your teachings, do not let yourselves be disqualified.

The danger is that, we may get used to doing those things that are not spiritually profitable, ways and practices that are unpleasant in God’s eyes, and our consciences may adapt to them and embrace them in the passing of time. The way we use our minds, eyes, lips and hands, and how we store up stuff in our hearts in everyday life – these will either lead us to a life that honors God or offends Him.

Here are just some of the things we may get used to practicing:

Being unable to concentrate in God during worship service or in private worship and prayer time. Letting the mind roam and focus on other things that distract communion with God. ~ (And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment – Mark 12:30)

Complaining, cussing, judging others, comparing, competing in the mind. ~ (Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things arejust, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things – Phil. 4:8)

Maintaining a thought life that glorifies covetousness, materialism, malice. ~ (But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints – Eph. 5:3);

Letting resentments, ill will, hurts, unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, pride be stored up in the heart and multiply. ~ (Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice – Eph. 4:31; Therefore, lay aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking – 1 Pet. 2:1; For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there – James 3:16)

Not making the practice of examining own motives. ~ (But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy – James 3:17)

Letting the eyes see and read things that make the heart and mind impure. ~ (…be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless – 2 Pet. 3:14; Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ – 1 Thess. 5:23)

Letting the tongue get used to speaking harshly, abrasively; snapping at the spouse, the kids. ~ (Let your gentleness be known to all men – Phil. 4:5; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness – Prov. 31:26)

Being carried away by an unsaved relative or friend to gossip. ~ (Do not cast off [your] first faith.  Do not be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which [you] ought not. … manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully – 1 Tim. 5:11-14)

Striving against the husband: criticizing, sermoning, not submitting to him or honoring him. ~ (Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives – 1 Pet. 3:1)

Spending too much time online and neglecting to spend time with God and reading and meditating on His Word. ~ (Continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers – Acts 2:42; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word – Acts 6:4)

Giving more priority to social networking, TV, phone, going out than to tending the home and the family. ~ (She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. – Prov. 31:27)

Giving more importance to fashion and how one appears to the world rather than on how to be a light to others, reflecting the Lord’s beauty and showing Christlikeness. ~ (Let others see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves – 1 Pet. 3:2-5)

 It is easy to read the Word regularly, yet, when this is not lived out in everyday basis, in every opportunity and situation, it will not have its mighty work in our lives. Walking in the Word and practicing all its teachings need our conscientious, diligent, intentional, steadfast efforts. We need discipline.

Linked to A Holy ExperienceBrag on God FridayEncourage My HeartPink SaturdaySpiritual SundaysState of the HeartTeach Me TuesdayTeaching What is GoodThe Beauty in His GripTitus 2sdaysWomen in the Word WednesdayWomen Living Well, We are That FamilyProverbs 31 Thursdays