January 12, 2016

The Art of Balance

Hi! It's been really a long time for not writing on this blog. It's hard to pull out ourselves over doing things that we have been not doing for so long haha.. but here I am! Yeay! I'm writing again! :D 

Today I would like to discuss about balance. Yes, whether we realize it or not, balance is the key essentials of life. We have learned balance since we're a toddler. We learned how to balance our feet so that we are able to stand, walk, and then finally run. Losing out balance will make us stumble to the front of fall to the back. From this simple experience, we can define balance as an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Balance can also be defined as a condition where things are in correct proportion. So the key word related to balance is always talking about proportion and allocation. 

As we growing up, maintaining balance in every aspect of our lives have grown to become much more challenging. There are a lot of factors that can easily make us losing our balance. Okay we might not struggling whether we can stand on our feet steadily as we were back then, but we might struggling to maintain balance between work, relationship, time, ministry, and so on. It is very easy to have a tendency to be consumed only in a few aspects in our lives. We can end up so drawn on our work and building up our career that we neglect our family and friends. We allocate too much time at work rather than on relationship. We may think after we gain this amount of money and afford that kind of lifestyle, we would have time then to spend with our family. "After  I achieve ..., then I will ..." "I am not such a multi-tasking person" on and on. These excuses are reasonable and seems common in our lives. There is nothing weird saying those statements. But the consequences of uneven allocation of focus in our lives are real. Have you ever discovered that after few years passed by from our Senior High School's graduation day, you end up being a completely stranger to your 'ex' best buddies? Or have you ever discovered that your eating habits eventually make you overweight? We cannot deny that balance is important. Then the next question will be: How can we maintain or regain our balance?

A ballerina is the one who practice maintaining their body's balance on her entire life. She learned to dance in her toes since little til the end. She practices over and over again to do more complex movement while remaining steady all the way. On her practice, there will be moment when she can run off balance too. But it's not about never falling off, but how to get back to the balance and learn not to fall off again. The same principle goes too in our lives. We can never be perfectly balance ALL the time. But we can wake up and learn to regain the balance we once had. That's why it is an art. It is a journey that we must embrace bravely. So, are you ready to regain your balance your balance? Here are the steps:

#1 Order your priorities

Patrick Lencioni once said, "If everything is important, then nothing is." Imagine you receive an invitation to an exclusive party. On the invitation, it is written your name as their VVIP guest. How would you feel? Perhaps we will be flattered because we are on the important guests' list. But imagine if all of the invited guests has their own VVIP's invitations as well and they are basically everyone! Would you still feel important? Surely not. If everybody is a VVIP, then no one is. If everything is important to you, then perhaps nothing is truly important. So, order your priorities! Priority means a thing that is regarded as MORE IMPORTANT than the other. In your daily life, which one is more important? You can name A vs B, C vs D, and so on. You will face many situations where you should choose. But as you keep practicing on making the right priorities, it will be more easily for the days to come. 

Our life starts to lose balance when we place our activities on the WRONG ORDER. For example: Pray vs Work. Do you pray first then do your work or do you work first and pray later when in need? In our natural eyes, somethings we may think that praying = doing nothing. But the truth is, as spoken by Oswald Chambers, prayer does not equip us for the greater works, prayer is the greater work. It is through prayer that we involve our supernatural God to work into our natural situations. 

"Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear and to be healed of their sickness. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." -Luke 5:15-16

Jesus did not wait until his busyness fade or when the crowds leave him alone to make time for him to pray. He withdrew from the crowd intentionally and left the busyness for a moment to pray. Jesus knew exactly that his praying time is more important that even a good thing called as ministry. If you are too busy to pray, then you are to busy! If you feel praying is important now, withdraw for a while and simply say a prayer. 

In regarding making decision for life-time partner, you can consider: Wealth vs Character, Look vs Spirituality, Life's goals vs Your Goals, and so on. Make a list of all the choices you have and you will be able to see clearly which one is truly more important than the others. Do accordingly to the order which you know deeply is right without any excuse.

#2 Value your time

"Time is the most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can't make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you'll never get back in your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give to someone is your time." -Rick Warren

"So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do."-Ephesians 5:16-18 [NLT]

We won't master balance in any area of our lives before we master our time. Learn to value your time. Don't waste it for something that will not last long. On average, we spend most of our time at work. What do we do at our work? Don't just work to spend the day nor just to earn the money, but work wholeheartedly giving your best so that your working time, too, will be meaningful. If you really don't enjoy your job, please do change your line of work. Don't get stuck and waste another huge amount of time doing job that doesn't even make you excited. 

If you spend most of our time being lazy, then it's time for you to wake up! Lift up your body from your bed and start your day early. Be bold in starting new things that you long to do. Live in a such a way that you will not regret someday.

#3 Value your relationship

Any kind of relationship is like plants. It needs to be watered regularly with communication and quality time. We can be a stranger to our ex-best buddies if we don't maintain our communication with them. If we don't put attention to our relationship, we will start to grow apart from one another. Value the relationship with your parents, spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend,and friends. Don't ever take your relationship for granted. Just because we even meet with them everyday, does not guarantee that we know him/her more.If we stop listening and communicating with them, the relationship will eventually die. 

God designed humans to live in community. God said that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). We need one another to grow to become a better person. Of course, being with another human sometimes make conflict unavoidable. But only through those inflictions, as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). We as humans are tend to be happy when we have people whom we enjoy to be with. We are never really very happy when we feel lonely. It is just not how we are wired. 

#4 Value your money
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Matthew 6:21

Some people value their money so much that they keep it for themselves only. If they have to spend it, they spend it for their needs, their wants, and just for them. If we spend our money so much in branded stuffs, it is observable that our heart too is on those stuffs. If we spend our money on gadgets, our heart is for the gadgets. There is nothing wrong with buying things for ourselves. But again, we will start to lose balance in money when we overdo the concept of our money just for our own pleasure.

To balance our financial style, we simply can do the opposite. It is   TAKING vs GIVING. We receive our salary, but we also have portions to give generously to others. If we give money to someone, our heart too goes to that person. It means we value them, we do care for them. And instead we end up being poorer, we will end up being richer in heart and eventually in the real world. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

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

I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrase the proverbs. It emphasizes how true it is that those who give will eventually enlarge also many areas in their lives. 

We are never become the owner of our money even if we work hard to earn it. We are a steward of the money whom God has entrusted to us. If our employer gives us salary, that is from God. If our parents give us allowance, that is from God. There is no money that ever comes on our own and that means we are not supposed to spend it recklessly. Make a budget on how you will spend your money. Balance in financial style comes from knowing first what God wants you to do with it. Remember, we are just a steward and never be the owner of money itself.

I earnestly hope that we all can run together to bounce back from failure in many areas of our lives. If you have lost your balance, as I had too many times, let's bounce back and go back on track to live productively for God! Good luck!

Leticia Seviraneta

August 12, 2014

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Three days ago, the Deeper Bible team have lost one of of our teachers, Ruth. She is Peters' wife, a mother of her two unborn babies, a friend, a family. Within hours, Peters lost both of his wife and daughter, Queen Sofia (almost 7 months old in Ruth's womb). If you know Peters and Ruth, you may know how they have dedicated their lives to serve the Lord faithfully in music, drama, Bible teaching, Bible radio on Heartline FM, etc. Yes we can say, Peters is going through the Job's experience in our century. "Bad things" happen to "good people". For some people, this perhaps sounds like a tragedy of unknown people. But because I know them personally, I see how difficult this moment really is. He has befriended Ruth and loved her over 15 years. No words would be sufficient to express such kind of lost. I can only be there and speechless. It is a time to mourn with those who mourn, to cry with those who cry.

Some people commented, "This can't be happened to believer..." For those people, I actually want to say, "Why not?" We see.. some of Christians have mindset that by faith in Jesus everything is going to be fine. No disease will struck us, no disaster will attack us, we will live a blessed live, then we can add: 'coz we are blessed to be a blessing.. or other Christian's favorite quotes. But over thousands of years, the Bible does testify many "good people" experience "bad things". But before we discuss it any further, let's  agree what we define as "good people". The world defines good people as people who do good things in general. They don't commit crime, they live a normal life. The Christians often define good people as people who love Jesus, live out for Jesus, and do some ministry here and there. Although in God's eyes, He doesn't determine someone is good or not in terms of what they do, but this writing will stick to the Christian's definition of "good people" for now.

God praised Job in front of Satan: "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." [Job 1:8, NIV] But as Satan asked to shake everything Job had to prove his theory that Job would  certainly curse God afterwards, God allowed him to do that. And yes, within one day, Job lost all of his sons and daughters, the sheep and the servants, the camels and all of his wealth. But Job responded it well in verse 21 he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." And I like the note in verse 22: In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Paul, the apostle who wrote most of the letters in New Testament, the early church builders and missionary of Christ's gospel, suffered. "Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." [2 Corinthians 11:23-28, NIV]

Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of us, suffered. Isaiah prophesied about him, "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem." [Isaiah 53:3, NIV]
"He was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth; he was like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." [Isaiah 53:7]
"He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." [Isaiah 53:9, NIV]
"Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities." [Isa 53:11, NIV]

We are familiar with the phrase of "from glory to glory", but what kind of glory are we expecting to? When life turns out not as we expected them to, we don't like that kind of 'glory', do we? But the Bible testifies many of the saints and even Jesus, went through the "glory of pain". We don't like God's glory plan -not if it involves our suffering. Not if it involves waiting for God and wondering if he's ever going to act. If life is a puzzle, we can say to this part of life, "I don't like this piece of puzzle. It's not what I have planned. It's not comfortable nor pleasing. I don't understand." So do I. I don't understand that kind of glory either. But what I do know is, God loves to work in our weakness. He can use us when we are strong, but he uses us MORE when we are weak. Because through our weakness, everyone will know that if we can do great things out of it, this must be of God

It is important that our faith is based on the true character of God, and not in the circumstances. God never promises us a life free of pain, but he promises us to walk with us through the pain. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." [Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV] Yes, there is a cost of following Jesus, but there would be a greater cost not to follow Jesus. Tragedy and pain happens. Why? Because we are living in the fallen world. Death is inevitable part of life. The world is not our permanent home, we are here only for a while. We are longing for the day when we meet again with Jesus face to face, the day when we will be home safely to our Father. By then, God will wipe away every tears and pain. But before that happens to us, let us embrace God's way in our lives. God doesn't work with formula: good people will certainly receive always good things nor bad people will certainly receive always bad things. No. God's ways are unpredictable. I guess that's what makes him God after all. His ways are higher than ours. But what we can predict is his love and goodness will always be constant in our lives. Even we don't see it through the lens of circumstances now, we can see it through the lens of faith. David saw it. He wrote in Psalm 23:6, "Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

So, why do bad things happen to good people? I hope I can wrap out this writing neatly with a perfect bow (beautiful ending). But truly the answer is I don't know. God works in a mysterious way. God doesn't give us answers of everything. If he does, we won't need faith anymore. Pete Wilson once said, "Somehow, mysteriously, when we receive the love of Jesus into our lives through suffering; when we decide to choose that love and share it, we keep suffering from the last word in our lives." Suffering produces such an opportunity to experience the love of Jesus in a very unique way. The beautiful side in Peters' story is when the church [not spiritual organization, but the people within the church] be there for him through the sorrow. They initiatively poured out their hands, support, and love at the most painful moment. It was the time when the church is not merely a place we attend to every Sunday, but becomes a true community of support. Yes it didn't change the fact, but it touches the hearts of many with fingerprints of Jesus' love everywhere. 

Matt Chandler once said, "There is a difference between trust and understanding. Trust is what we need when we don't have understanding." So when bad things happen to good people, it's definitely not a place to understand, but to trust. Trust in the God who loves you, always be with you, never leaves you nor forsakes you. Trust grows not through convenience of life, but through the glory of pain. Trust in what God is doing in your life. Because all that matters in this life is not when everything goes as we plan it to be, but the journey of knowing our true God. 

Leticia Seviraneta

May 02, 2014

Be Content

The reason I wrote this is not because I have mastered in being content in everything. But in opposite, I would like to share my struggling with contentment issue and what I have learned so far. I am too, still growing in this contentment area. But what encourages me the most is, as I learned the truth about God's words and applied it in my life, my world has started to achieve its balance again. I do not struggle as much as before anymore. And I hope you can experience the same :)

So this is what I am struggling about. I love flare skirts. I always love wearing dresses and skirts. But these months lately, I love them even more. I also love many colours. Mostly I love pastel colours such as blue, pink, yellow, mint green, and even white, grey, many more. So I found that one flare skirt with one colour was not enough. I started to order another skirt with the same model with another colour on and on [one day if I have taken pictures for all of it I will show you here and I bet it will be beautiful pictures :D] I kept reasoning with myself how 'useful' are all my flare skirts. I like it first because it suits my body figure. I have small waist but long torso. So wearing flare skirt (which its waits usually about 5 cm above belly button), can cover up both of my strength and weakness. It enhances the look of my small waist, but also shortened my torso so that my feet looks longer (better if I wear high heels). I also reasoned that flare skirt looks modest. So I can wear it when I teach the class, I can feel 'beautiful' without having to display too much of my skin. Those are good reasons, right? But God knocked on my heart and reveal the real truth inside me. This is not just a matter of I love to buy flare skirts, but this is a matter of discontentment and always finding what I have not enough (whoa..)

For information, I spend a lot to buy flare skirts. But I never spend more than I earn (which made another reason to reduce my guilty feeling about buying more flare skirts haha). But God showed me this: "Although you can buy it, doesn't mean you have to." Which is a very good principle that can be applied anywhere in our lives. Hey, although you can do sin, doesn't mean you have to sin. Although you can spend more time in playing game, doesn't mean that you have to play all the time. God is showing that the real power is not releasing our abilities in any way we can, but the real power in self-control. Like people who are strong is not people who show their anger to anyone they meet. The true strong people instead are those who can withhold their anger and still able to speak in gentle tone. That is self-control. That is gentleness, power under reserve.  So my problem is the lack of control which take roots on discontentment. I never feel enough. I always want more. And biblically saying, that is my flesh which is at work

You perhaps think, "Why are you taking this so seriously? C'mon it's just buying skirts.." No, I'm telling the truth God spoke to me. When I was 'on high' to buy flare skirts, I spent a lot of time searching on instagram for good skirt makers, I compared the prices, I consulted the materials (I even became smarter regarding clothing materials now), and many more. It has became distraction for me. It was time consuming and I can say also 'brain' consuming. For these few months, I constantly think about this. Some of you may don't understand why do I so obsessed with flare skirts, but just look at this discontentment issue generally. I believe each of us face it in different form. We perhaps have different struggle but the roots is still about discontentment. Some of us perhaps are discontent about their family situation, financially, and relationally. God wants us to be content in everything.

Apostle Paul said how he has learned to be content no matter what his situation is. "I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern of me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through God who gives me strength." -Philippians 4:10-13 [NIV]

How do I know that the root of my problem is discontentment? Because  being discontent is feeling that we don't have enough. We don't have enough clothings to wear on, we don't have enough money, our families are not good enough, our achievements are not outstanding enough, and so on. So to be content is deciding to feel that we have enough right here right now. It is a matter of shifting our focus on what we already have rather than what we don't have. We are rich when we can be thankful for our present situation, but we will always be poor when we keep feeling as if we are lacking of anything. Paul had mastered contentment because he decided to be content wherever he was and whatever he had. Knowing this truth, I learn to be content in what I already have. Have the courage to say to yourself, "What I have is enough."

In 1 Timothy 6, Paul was writing to Timothy regarding the love of money. There were some people who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. Then Paul continued, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." -1 Timothy 6:6-10 [NIV]

Paul said, "Godliness + contentment = great gain [abundant gain]" I believe Paul was saying this because if our walk with God doesn't accompanied by contentment, our heart can easily be distracted with worldly things. For example, I spent some money for flare skirts. And since, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," (Matthew 6:21) then as I buy a lot of flare skirts, it became an indication that some parts of my hearts were in flare skirts. For some, it can be the money you have spent for your hobbies. Something we like, but we don't need. Something we feel like we don't have enough (If we want to be honest with ourselves, we can know what it is..) That is why, I realise the importance of nurturing contentment in my life. I know contentment while enhance my productivity as God's ambassador on earth. My mind becomes no longer occupied on worldly things, but on things for God's Kingdom. Imagine if each of God's children do the same! The Kingdom of God will be shown greatly through our lives :D

I learn to be content not just regarding what I have on my closet. But I learn to be content on the season where I am in now. The season of waiting. Building marriage and family has become a longing for many years in my heart. I was kind of expecting it. I don't want to be in a rush to it, but I also don't want to wait for too long neither. I have learned and prepared myself for marriage and family life for years. But God showed me that perhaps I can enter that season about three years from now. #deepsigh When I found out that plan, I was a bit of paralysed. I thought, "Then what am I going to do these three years? Is there anything I can still prepare?" But God gave me such a huge comfort. This singleness season is such a blessing from him that perhaps one day I am going to miss. It's really an opportunity where I can serve God freely without distractions and responsibilities which housewives and mothers have. So I learn to embrace it anyway. No matter how long I should wait, I need to be content. And I am sure, three years from now, I will become more mature woman to serve my future family. 

So that's my story. What about you? Are you having discontentment in any area of our lives? Thank him for everything you now have and what you are now going through. It is just for a season. It will pass. For how long I do not know. And I learn to not care either about the timing. Why? Because God is always with me right here, right now, and for the future to come. As long as he accompanies me, all things will be well. I pray that your lives will be filled with contentment so that we can be more focused on Him as our source of contentment and not on worldly things or even other human beings.

"And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need to be self-sufficient (possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation)." -2 Corinthians 9:8 [AMP]

Being content is the very key to continuous happiness.

When Paul and Silas were in prison, they prayed and sang. It isn't troubles that make saints, but their response to troubles 
-Elisabeth Elliot

Everything about which we are tempted to complain may be the very instrument whereby the Potter intends to shape His clay into the image of His Son -Elisabeth Elliot

God knows very well what happens to people when they are caught up in envy. What God really intends for us is that we would be content with who we are and what we have. Content with Him -Ron Mehl

When Christ becomes our central focus, contentment replaces our anxiety as well as our fears and insecurities -Charles Swindoll

Love and Blessings,
Leticia Seviraneta

Some photos are in courtesy of Axioo and Jennifer Phelps Photography

April 28, 2014

He Holds Our World in His Hands

As a common human being, it's easy for us to be worry for our future. We worry how can we meet up our daily needs, we worry for our health, we worry for our future spouse who haven't showed up until now, we worry for danger surround us as news broadcast it everyday, and many more. Yes, worry perhaps is inevitable in our lives. Yet when we allow worry to be permanent resident of our hearts, we allow it to cripple our faith and blur our eyes with fear. Someone says that worry means that we are praying to the wrong God. Our loving God surely doesn't want his children to live in worry and fear. He wants us to be victorious over all of concerns in this world. Why? Because he holds our world in his hands. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He knows you before you were born and he also knows your future. So chill out and take a deep breath. Your future is safe in his hands.

"For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear 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 I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." -Jeremiah 29:9-14 [ESV]

In this passage, God gave Israelites assurance and comfort in Babylon. Many people lost their hope when they were far away from their promised land. But God assured them that their exile in Babylon would only last for 70 years. After that, they would return to the promised land. God did not plan their exile for evil. If you read the context, God had sent his prophets to warn the Israelites to repent from their sins over and over again. Their exile was part of the consequence of their generational sins. But even in their transgression, God still have mercy on them and promised that "this too will end." 

Isaiah foretold that, "I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but for for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty." (Isaiah 45:13) What is so interesting is Isaiah made this prophecy 150 years before Cyrus was born, 180 years before Cyrus performed any of this feats, and 80 years before the Jews were taken into exile. 

And yes 180 years later, it was recorded in Ezra 1:1 that King Cyrus of Persia whose heart was stirred by the LORD to allow the exiles to return to Jerusalem and even rebuild the temple!

God knows the future. That is why it is easy for him to predict someone who even has not even born yet to become tools to achieve his purpose. He knows all the decisions you even have not made yet. And yes, he is more than able to guide you to walk in his plans. What a comfort! We need not to worry of worry of tomorrow, because God has been there already!

I like Israel Houghton song, titled "You Hold My World". The lyric goes below:

Take my heart
Lord will you take my heart
As I surrender to your will
I confess You are my righteousness
And until you move me I'll be still
And know that you are God

You hold my world in Your hands
You hold my world in Your hands
And I am amazed at Your love
I am amazed that You love me
You hold my world in Your hands
You hold my world in Your hands
And I'm not afraid my world is safe
In Your hands oh
In Your hands

Take my life 
Lord will You take my life
You are the reason that I live
I believe You have forgiven me
And by Your grace I will forgive
And know that You are God
And know that You are God

Isn't it amazing to know such a beautiful truth knowing that God already hold our world and future in his hands? We are not left alone in facing all of our problems on earth. We have him. We have God. And not just a merely 'god' but God of all created things. He is King of all kings. 

In order for us to defeat worry in our lives, we need a constant reminder which says, "God is in control". I was reminded about this truth about God as I made cross-stitch [a counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture]. I made cross-stitch based on the pattern given. So what I must do was simply follow the pattern, count the stitches before I stitch, change the thread with other colour as shown by the pattern. I realised that was exactly how God works in our lives. God has a beautiful plan (pattern) for each of our lives. All we have to do is to follow His guidance step by step. We don't have to figure out all things ahead today. Because mostly God's magnificent plan will overwhelm us. He is gracious enough to let us handle what we can handle for now.

It takes patience and perseverance to allow stitches formed clearer picture. There were times and I got bored  moreover when I stitch the dark threads. It's like the moment in our lives when we feel uncertain. But again, we must re-focus to the divine pattern and keep walking not. If we stop now, the picture will be still unfinished.

As I continued stitching, I often committed lots of miscounting the stitches. So often I found that what I had stitched and the original pattern were not exactly the same. I needed to improvise to keep up with the original pattern and hope that my miscounted stitches would not affect much on the pattern. But as you can see, when finally I had finished all the stitches, the beautiful pattern had transformed into beautiful embroidery. You won't notice anymore the mistakes I had made. So does our lives. We often make mistakes and deviate from God's original plan for us. But it doesn't matter that much as we always come back to him and continue walking in his path. Many of us are so afraid of making mistakes that we never take a step of faith. When God lead us on certain direction, we doubt that it is from God. We demand God to give us complete picture on what is ahead of us so that we have no doubt anymore. But when we do have all of God's plans unfold one time, we won't need him anymore to walk with us. We won't need faith anymore. And that is not what God wants. He doesn't only want to take you from here to your destiny, but he wants us to enjoy the walk with him, grow in faith and trust to him. 

"The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD do not abandon those who search for you." -Psalm 9:10 [NLT]

We can learn to trust God more as we know him more. Our level of trust in God will be in harmony with our knowledge about him. We say someone is trustworthy because he has shown his strong character constantly over time. He has proven that what he says, he will do. Our God deserves our 100% trust because for thousands of years throughout the Scripture, God has shown faithfully from generation to generation how faithful he is. What he says, he will do. So we can hold him at his words.

"God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?" -Numbers 23:19 [NLT]

Today, it is time for us to redirect our thoughts to pray to the right God and place completely our trust in the Lord. When each time worry comes to settle down in our hearts, attack it with words of faith through prayer. Instead of worrying, say instead, "I know this problems trouble me and I admit that I am worry. But I don't want to stay in anxiety any longer. I trust you Lord that you are in control. May you comfort my heart and let my heart remain in peace." For many of us, it takes discipline to change our habit to worry. We need to be discipline to guard our minds so it will only be filled with good things. 

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix you thought on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." -Phillipians 4:6-8 [NLT]

"Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength -carrying two days at once. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." -Corrie ten Boom

"The more you pray, the less you'll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You'll feel more patient and less pressured." -Rick Warren

"Quit questioning God and start trusting Him!" -Joel Osteen

"You cannot expect victory and plan for defeat." -Joel Osteen

"My greatest comfort is knowing that God is in control." -Andry Panjaitan

Leticia Seviraneta

Photos by Axioo Photography

March 10, 2014

First Thing First

One of my favourite TV Reality Show is Master Chef US. I love seeing people cook passionately as they pursue their dreams. After watching it, I was inspired to learn cooking by myself as well haha.. I started to watch some Youtube videos about the basics in cooking. What I love most is what Gordon Ramsay said in one of the episode of his Ultimate Cooking Course: "When you cut your ingredients, use your three-fingers-rule to hold it and start to cut it slowly. Don't worry about the speed. If you get the basic right, speed will come along."

It is kind of reminding me about the basic of piano when I learned it few years ago. When I started to play piano, all I wanted was to learn new song every week. I disliked practicing for fingering (which is not in a form of song). It consisted of a lot of repetition  of tones that are close in its position to strengthen your fingers.  All great piano players started with that since they were very young. But what I wanted was skipping that part and learning difficult songs right away. As you may guess, it didn't work well. I might be able to play the song, but not as good as people who has more refined techniques and strong fingers. I think most of us who has a nature of being impatient struggle with this kind of stuff in many areas of life. We don't want spend a lot of time to learn about the basics, all we want is to to the advanced stuff so that we can be cool.

This happened also in church life. You may hear, "All we want is to get married, don't tell us to join pre-marital classes to be fed up with lots of theories. We want to just do it and let it flow. We love each other. We can get married NOW." Or you may also hear, "I can preach! I know lots of stuff in the Bible. I can preach NOW." Woww.. such impatience can really lead us to disaster! Why? Because it is like building a tall building without a strong foundation. It just cannot be. Even if it stand tall by now, it is only a matter of time, when trouble hits, it will be destroyed. Imagine if we start to cut the ingredients as if we are a Master Chef when we have zero experience with the knife. We tried to cut it as fast as we can just like what we watch in TV. We don't want to cut it slow like a snail. We ignore the bla-bla-bla rules of how to cut properly and all we think about is the speed. We may cut our finger accidentally as a result. Imagine, if we enter marriage without enough knowledge and skills about how to build a great marriage. Many failed marriages around us should make us think that marriage is not easy. There were things that they did that make their marriages failed. And there must be also things that we can do to make it work. How can we know? When we learn from those who has a great marriage! And the more we learn before it, the better preparation and the stronger we have to move ahead. As another example, imagine if we preach just out of knowledge without enough good practical example and character that we have lived in our own life. People will see our double-life and soon they will not listen anymore to our teaching. Why? Because people will respect what they see more than what they hear from us. So, if this is not the time for us to appear in front of public, call it a preparation phase to build our character, which will be our foundation in our future ministry.So, first thing first. Build the foundation of everything in your life, before you build anything. 

We have known that foundation is so important. Now, what does a strong foundation look like? The Bible always points Jesus Christ as the foundation of everything. 

"For by him all things are created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." -Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV).

"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." -Psalm 18:2 (NIV)

We have seen many people tend to rush in building their dreams with least preparation or wrong foundation. For example,many people enter marriage with weak motives such as, "Because my age is already 29." Many don't realise that such weak motives can create cracks on the building of marriage they are going to build. The most common question which is being asked by psychologist when they face problematic couple is, "Why did you marry at the first place?" Weak motives are weak foundation and no wonder the road will get bumpier in days to come. So, first thing first. Find the WHY before you make every huge decision in life. And make the WHY become your strong statement so that each time you are tempted to give up in the middle, you can go back and be strengthened with it. If you ask me why will I choose to marry, I will give this answers:

1. Because I want to build a Godly marriage, family, and home. A marriage that will glorify God and become blessing for others. A marriage that will inspire others to love their spouse in the way God wants it. 
2. Because I trust completely in my partner and together we can build a stronger partnership for ministry.
3. Because I want to grow more in Christ-like characters. I fully aware that marriage will become the toughest school of character in life, yet it will also be the most rewarding. I realise that in order to make a great marriage, I have to die to self. I have to say goodbye to my ego, I have to serve, sacrifice, and prioritising spouse and others to bring harmony at home and glory to God. I also aware that marriage comes with a huge responsibility. I honestly feel that I haven't ready yet to do it now and I manage to focus on keep building my character as foundation later on so that once I enter marriage I am already a fully grown woman (cannot be perfect for sure!) and mature in Christ so I will be more equipped to be Godly wife and mother.

These reasons may sound so ideal. But as we have discussed before, we need to set up the WHY so strong at the very beginning so that when we are tempted to give up, we can re-focus again and gain strength for long haul. 

Your marriage, your dreams in the end are not about YOU. It's all about JESUS. The question is not: "How can my marriage makes me happy? How can my dreams make me happy?" But instead, "How can God's name be glorified through my marriage and dreams?" Many do whatever it takes to reach their success in life, but do we do whatever it takes to please God in every area of our lives? First thing first. Behind everything you do, aim for pleasing God in every step of it. Thereby, we won't be confused of taking the wrong steps where God clearly won't guide us to do. If our role are as husbands and wives, aim to be the best spouse we could ever be. If our role are businessmen, aim to be the successful one while maintaining integrity in the eyes of God. In everything ... do as if  unto the LORD. 

"Whatever you do, work it with all your heart, as working for the LORD, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." -Colossians 3:23-24 [NIV]

When we have build strong foundation and aim for pleasing the Lord in everything we do, this doesn't mean that we are immune from calamities, suffering, and failure in the eyes of the world. The fact that we live in a fallen world will keep being our background of our daily lives. We will be different from the majority who do things in worldly ways. We may be considered weird, odd, 'holy', conventional, and many others. We may be even mocked or get into trouble simply because we are different from them. That's why we need to keep back on trusting the Lord day by day. First thing first. The whole journey of life is not about how many people you please. It is not how many achievements you get from the world. It is not about how much money you earn. It is a constant journey of trusting the Lord from the beginning until the end. Do we believe that the Lord will protect us from any harm? Do we believe that if I  refuse to do things in worldly ways, God will reward me? Do we believe that God's peace will abide in us in spite of our circumstances? Do we believe that God will provide for whatever we need? 

"For in the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
 -Romans 1:17

Our whole journey of live began with faith in God and will end with faith also. Steadfast on your faith in God. Believe that God is good no matter what. Because with such strong and steady faith, we can conquer every suffering of the world and every attacks from the enemy. Of course, it doesn't make any sense to our logic to believe the goodness of God when everything in our lives go from bad to worse. I have to admit that it is difficult. You know what I did when I face difficulties in life? I poured out my heart to God. My sorrow, my complaints, everything. I am honest with the Lord. I will tell Him when it is painful. I will cry. I live as a normal human being when facing difficulties. But after that, I will come back in track. I will seek what is God's will for me at that moment. I will find my refuge back in His faithfulness which has been proven for thousands of years in the Scripture. I learn to be grateful and to praise Him even though it is hard. And I believe, by then I grew. I grew stronger in my faith with the Lord and more intimate with Him. King David, a man after God's own heart, wrote so many complaints to God in the book of Psalms. But I like his attitude after delivering those complaints, he would go back to praise God and declared his trust on Him. 

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,

    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

    by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

    you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;

    they trusted and you delivered them.

To you they cried out and were saved;

    in you they trusted and were not put to shame." 
-Psalm 22:1-5 [NIV]

There is nothing please God more than we trust Him. Trust will lead to obedience to His Word (because we trust that His Words will be a great recipe to solve ALL of our problems even it doesn't happen in our time, but His time!)

First thing first. Build such a strong foundation in our lives although it will require us to have a long preparation. Do everything as if unto the Lord and make it a purpose for us to pursue. And trust God's faithfulness and goodness no matter what. By then, we will grow strong in the Lord and live a life in a way that will give a meaning to God and others.

Leticia Seviraneta

Pictures in courtesy of Jennifer Phelps Photography, Axioo, and thePhotograph