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.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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Trading Conversations with Gadgets

If there’s one thing I want to throw away, that is my husband’s iPad. When my husband comes home for lunch, he opens his iPad and closes it only when he’s ready to go back to the office. When he arrives in the afternoon and snacks while resting, his iPad is in front of him. Before dinner, he is glued to his iPad. After dinner, even before I’m finished eating (because I’m always the last one to finish), his iPad stands on the table between us. I so want to throw his iPad. I’m sure you get the picture? Is it the same scene in your homes, too?

(image source)

This is the painful part: since I can’t go out because of my illness, our bedroom is my world. That’s the truth (but please don’t pity me ~ :) ). Since our bedroom is in front of the house (beside the living room), I hear all sounds from the street and the neighbors’ movements across it. But I only see the street and the people and cars passing – from my window. From the bed (which is my writing and reading place, etc.), I can also gaze at the patio and garden through the french doors and watch the bunnies dart and nibble on my poor, undernourished plants. I hear the birds’ excited warbling amongst the branches of the narra tree but I can’t see them flitting and fluttering their wings.

Those are the sights and sounds of my day, everyday, from morning ’til dusk. That is, until the husband and kids arrive from the office and school in the afternoon. Only then my world becomes alive with human interactions.

But most of the day, my world is silent. Only my mind is full of conversations and words and chatter, which come out through writing novels and blogging (I just completed my first novel The Homecoming).

So, you understand that I crave for conversations. I’ve always loved conversations. All kinds – playful bantering with a Kindergarten kid, serious exchange with an elderly neighbor, frenzied chatter with a good friend, animated discussion with a spouse or better yet, a romantic conversation, heart-to-heart talk with a teenage child. I could go on and mention a wonderful exchange with a stranger (not the dangerous kind, mind you), the giddy exchange with a new acquaintance, and so on.

But I don’t think that world still exists today: when people talk to each other, eye to eye, noticing the nuances and inflections of the voice and language; how the corners of the eyes crinkle at a warm statement, or the lips twitch trying to stifle a smile, when a solitary tear trickles down the side of a face because a word has touched a person? Do couples, families, the world, still talk to each other? Really talk to each other, as in they are all there?

This is not a rare scene at home: husband is glued to his iPad, daughter to her smart phone, son to a borrowed cellphone or laptop (usually checking origami-making videos), and me, to my Macbook. The room is quiet. No one is talking to another. Where have spoken words gone? I once saw a picture of a small restaurant (more of a carinderia) with the sign: NO WIFI, TALK TO EACH OTHER! Exactly!

While my husband is gone, I plan the things I want to tell him when he comes home – some serious, some funny, some sweet. When I hear him at the door, I shut my laptop (after I’ve saved whatever I was writing) and eagerly anticipate a good conversation with him. But he gets hold of his iPad and I’m forgotten. At the dining table, I looove to talk (that’s the best place to talk, I think). When the kids leave the table, I’m excited to talk with my husband, but his eyes flit from the iPad to me, usually giving me a blank stare. It’s frustrating to say the least!

But one day, I put my foot down and told him this must stop. Thankfully, my hundred spoken words or so had their effect on my husband and he changed his ways.

We need real conversations, people!

I love how the King James version of the Bible puts it:

Thus were they defiled with their own works,
and went a whoring with their own inventions. (Ps. 106:39)

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Journey with Jesus,