Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Marriage Isn't for Me" Got it Partially Right

There is a blog post that has gone viral online, Marriage Isn't For Me by Seth Smith. At first, the title threw me off, but why would my Christian friends share an article saying marriage isn't for them? So I had to read it and immediately thought the author got it right. But then, did he really? I think he got it just partially right.

Mr. Smith postulates that marriage is all about the other person, i.e. the spouse. Selfishness destroys a marriage, and therefore, selflessness is the key to a good one. I agree. I especially love this part, "Selfishness demands, 'What’s in it for me?', while Love asks, 'What can I give?'" Amen to that and to this statement, "...a true marriage (and true love) is never about you." But, he went on to say, "It's for others," i.e, his wife, her friends and family, future kids, etc. This is when I knew something was amiss. Though his conclusions seem noble, they just don't seem enough. Please keep in mind that I'm taking the article at face value. I don't know Mr. Smith and am not attempting to guess his motivation for his actions.

As a Christian woman, my loving my husband selflessly out of my desire to make him happy simply just sounded incomplete. Though selflessness plays a key role in order to have a happy marriage, it's not enough. I think Mr. Smith's post missed the number one necessary ingredient for a good and successful marriage: God. And not just any god, but THE God of the Bible that is revealed in His Holy Word. And to truly make God the focus of your marriage, you need to be changed by His grace first. You need to be saved by Christ's redeeming work and death on the cross. Our motivation to have selfless love in marriage has to come from God Himself.

Do you want to have a happy marriage? It is imperative to make God your focus. Make Him the real reason for marriage and any relationship you pursue. Without God in the picture, it would be impossible to be completely selfless and therefore, it's impossible to have a happy marriage as suggested by Mr. Smith, at least to sustain it long-term. Without God's grace, none of us would ever truly love sacrificially. We are all born selfish. Just look at a little baby and you'll quickly see the selfishness innate in all of us. It's part of our sinful nature. But we, who are redeemed, are empowered by the Holy Spirit to change. We can pursue God's glory and desire to honor Him every day.

Mr. Smith only got it partially right because:
  • Marriage is not merely for the sake of your spouse and others (and their good), no matter how noble that sounds. We will eventually see our spouse's selfishness. One unkind word or undesirable expression from our spouse will make us question if our spouse really deserves our sacrificial love when he/she isn't reciprocating and/or when he/she doesn't act deserving of our efforts. But when we love because God first loved us (1 Jn 4;19), we can overlook our spouse's faults and continue on loving him/her, even if we don't receive anything in return from him/her. And as with everything else we do (1Cor 10:31), marriage is ultimately for God.
  • Our spouse's happiness cannot be the litmus test for a happy marriage because they're fickle like we all are. What makes them happy today may not be the same tomorrow. Our goal is not a happy marriage, but a joyful life in Christ.
  • Mr. Smith says, "the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive." There is no guarantee that when you love, you receive it back, at least not all the time. Otherwise, "unrequited love" wouldn't be a familiar theme in literature. I think Mr. Smith's statement can be better said from a Christian standpoint, "the more you truly love, the more you become more like Christ, and the more profoundly you see His love for you."
  • Selflessness in marriage is not sustainable on our own because we will undoubtedly fail. We need the Holy Spirit in us to make us become more like Christ. We can look to Him who will not fail us. Without His sanctifying work, we would all fail miserably in our marriage. And I'm not referring merely to longevity or quantity, but quality of marriage. I desire not just a marriage that lasts a long time, but one that is characterized by a loyal friendship between husband and wife, a sweet blessing to others, and a beautiful picture of true Biblical love. A friend once told me that a successful marriage is not 50-50. It's giving 100% with 0 expectations. Imagine what kind of marriage it produces when both parties do this.

Finally, I have to add that a happy marriage, though certainly a huge blessing, is not our ultimate goal in being selfless. We pursue selflessness in our marriage because it glorifies God and we belong to Him. We do it even if it doesn't result in a happy marriage. We do it even when it's hard, when our spouses disappoint us. We live in an imperfect world. We are still sinners and are married to sinners. But, what a relief that we can base our ultimate happiness in Him who is unchanging, who deserves our utmost love and devotion, who gives us the strength to keep going, and who loves us perfectly and sacrificially ALL the time. God doesn't promise us a happy, long-lasting marriage. Instead, He promises eternal joy to those who belong to Him, who faithfully seek to glorify Him every day. And for that reason, marriage, or anything in life for that matter, is not really for us or others. It's for God!

Further thoughts on Mr. Smith's Article

Here are some thoughts and questions that crossed my mind after reading his post. Some of these questions were also raised by another article, a response post by the Center of Women's Psychology to Mr. Smith's:
  1. Does true selflessness exist? Is it sustainable in the long run? Is a happy marriage attainable simply by being selfless?
  2. Is it really about the person you love? Mr. Smith's answer to have a happy marriage really only works if your spouse is kind and also self-sacrificial. What if your spouse doesn't meet you half-way in the selflessness path? Even worse, what if he/she is mean or being unreasonable? Do I have to defer to my spouse every single time?
  3. Mr. Smith says, "the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive." Is this true?
  4. Is it entirely wrong to think of one's own preference, wants and needs in a marriage? What if my spouse is asking me to do something against my conscience?
  5. If one is always selfless and giving in to the wants of the spouse, does that make one lose his/her identity eventually? 
  6. Is there really no place for hedonism in a happy marriage?
  7. Does being selfless really make you happy? For how long do you try if it doesn't?
The following points answer the questions above and are my feeble attempt to "complete" what's missing in Mr. Smith's solution to a true marriage. With the help of the Holy Spirit,:
  1. Selflessness can exist and be achieved only through Christ by His redeeming power and atoning death on the cross As Christians, we are now dead to sin and alive in Him (Romans 6:11). A happy marriage is attainable because what it takes to get it is not wholly dependent on our own efforts. The sin that makes a marriage unhappy can be overcome by the Spirit. This doesn't mean we will never give in to selfishness, but it doesn't define us anymore. As believers, we ask for forgiveness and must use every day and every moment as an opportunity to exercise the fruits of a changed heart.
  2. Marriage is not about us or our spouses. It's about God's glory. So, even if our spouse doesn't act sacrificially toward us, we are still obligated to be kind to him/her because God's glory dictates that we commit to doing good, regardless of our circumstances. Our motivation for a good marriage is no longer to please ourselves or even our spouse, but to honor Him who deserves our all. We make a commitment to do good to our sometimes unreasonable spouse because it's what pleases the Lord.
  3. There is no guarantee that when you love, you receive it back, at least not all the time. Otherwise, "unrequited love" wouldn't be a familiar theme in literature. As Christians, we love because He first loved us (1 Jn 4;19) and that is enough. We love even if it's not reciprocated.
  4. Because we live for Christ, we should despise any form of sin. We cannot defer to our spouse when they're asking us to do something against our conscience and convictions. In this situation, through careful examination of Scripture and God's glory in mind, we have to put ourselves (our conscience and convictions) first. This also applies when dealing with abusive spouses. In which case, please seek help and counsel immediately.
  5. If our identity is undesirable and sinful, then we should certainly and gladly give it up. Our identity as believers is in Christ (Gal 2:20) and should be exemplified by the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). 
  6. Hedonism, i.e., Christian hedonism, has to be present in a marriage. Christian hedonism, per Desiring God, is defined as "the truth that 'God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.' Therefore, if we are going to glorify God as we ought, the pursuit of joy is not optional—it is essential. We not only may, but ought to pursue our maximum pleasure—in God." When we pursue God, joy comes inevitably. So in that sense, we can be hedonists.
  7. Being selfless in itself will not make us happy. But done with God's glory as our goal then yes, and not just happiness but all-fulfilling, eternal joy. It may not be experienced right away, may not even in this lifetime, but it will come because God keeps His promises (see Psalm 16:11, Isaiah 35:10, Psalm 105:43, Psalm 5:11 and many others). And we have to continue to be selfless for as long as we live.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Grandpa's Amazing Story

My grandfather passed away on Saturday, peacefully in his sleep. He was 96 years old. He was a WW2 veteran and one of the very last Bataan Death March survivors. Though he was Filipino, he served in the US Army, but somehow was never recognized for his service during the war. Perhaps this little tribute would bring to light his amazing story, which is definitely worth telling.

Below is his short autobiography, written many years ago. He had a sharp mind till the end. He was the one who introduced me to the Bible. He was always curious about spirituality and I remember him taking us from one church to another. He finally found his "home church" in a small church plant where I attended Sunday School for the first time. I will forever be thankful to him for not accepting the religion of the masses, but looked for the truth on his own. I'm glad he found it in the Bible, which has changed so many lives in our family.

by MGM
Originally Written on 24 June 1997
Revised on 10 November 2008 and 11 October 2010

I began my first military training in the Philippine Army between 1939 and 1940.  Then I enlisted in the 12th Signal Company, Philippine Scouts (Army of the United States) at Fort William McKinley on February 1941.  After the recruiting period, I was promoted and acted as a specialist. Together with five company mates acting as a team, we were put on a special detail, at Fort Stotsenberg, We were assigned as switchboard operators.

Several months later, the Japanese Air Force suddenly sneaked into, and attacked, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, USA, and then bombed Nichols Field and Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Philippines.  World War II began.

Our team was assigned in the First Philippine Corps under the direct command of Commanding General Wainwright. In the midst of intense fighting and bombings, we forwarded to Pampanga, and stayed four or five days, then proceeded to a town in Tarlac.  After two days, we went to Alcala, Pangasinan, and stayed there longer.  After that, we retreated to our last stand, Bagac, Bataan.

Then the surrender was announced. We heard thunderous noises and explosions all over on the eve of the surrender. We later learned that the USAFFE destroyed and demolished all the war armaments and materials so that it will not fall into Japanese hands.

On April 9, 1942, we (Filipino and American soldiers) surrendered.  Thereafter, we all became prisoners of war.  We were then transported and converged at Mariveles, Bataan.  The following day, April 10, around 9:00 a.m., we began the infamous Death March to San Fernando, Pampanga, which is about 120 miles. During the march, any troops who fell behind were executed. The Japanese soldiers randomly beat the prisoners, and denied them food and water for many days.  One of their tortures was known as the sun treatment. The month of April in the Philippines is one of the hottest months. Therefore, the prisoners were forced to sit in the sun without any shade or water and anyone who dared ask for water was immediately executed. On rare occasion when they were given any food, it was only a handful of contaminated rice. 

With feelings of uncertainty, coupled with apprehension and anxiety, I marched with hundreds of prisoners of war.  We marched continuously for days, with no water, no food, and in the intense summer heat.  There were numerous American GIs – I do not recall the precise number, but I believe there were thousands of Filipino and American GIs.  There were hundreds of Japanese soldiers; a few of them rode the bikes; some of them carried a long horse whip which they used to beat the marching soldiers, especially the weak and the disabled, mainly aimed towards the American GIs who were not used to the intense heat, the lack of food and water and fatigue. 

On several occasions, I had painfully witnessed Japanese soldiers beat on American GIs without any provocation.  Any prisoner who lagged behind the line was either shot or bayoneted.  Some comrades, both Filipinos and Americans, were just too sick to go on, fell and were bayoneted to death, some were forced to dig their own graves.  We then decided to march shoulder to shoulder to assist the more feeble comrades, mostly American GIs.  At night, we slept where we were allowed to stop.  (When the prisoners were allowed to sleep for a few hours at night, they were packed into tight enclosures that they could barely move.  Those who survived collapsed on the dead bodies of their fellow prisoners.)  Despite my thirst, hunger and total physical exhaustion, I felt strong, mentally and emotionally.

When we reached the town of Guagua, Pampanga, we were allowed to drink from the faucets along the roadside.  For the first time in days, I tasted the cool, refreshing, sweet water.  I had never appreciated water as I did then – it just felt good and satisfying.

When we reached another town, civilians tried to offer us food.  Although the Japanese soldiers prevented them from doing so, somehow some of them did manage to give us panochita (sweets made of sugar can).  We grabbed them like hungry dogs.  I was able to grasp about two pieces which provided a much-needed nourishment.  Then we reached a sugar plantation with tall sugar canes.  We were allowed to gather some.  I managed to get a little piece and ran back in line for fear of being reprimanded and consequently beaten up.

From the day of surrender, the prisoners of war would be harshly beaten and killed for the slightest or no reason at all.  Even officer status did not provide protection. First the troops were searched.  Any prisoner found with Japanese souvenirs was executed immediately, because the Japanese believed the soldier must have killed a Japanese soldier in order to get it. Many soldiers had found these items, such as money and shaving mirrors. Their own personal property was usually stolen as well.

After several days of marching, we reached San Fernando, Pampanga.  We were then ushered to the railroad station and loaded into a packed caboose like the proverbial sardines.  I stayed near the door of the caboose so as to be able to get a little bit of air.  We all felt sick; some were very weak from hunger and physical exhaustion; others were dying.  For only a brief part of the march would prisoners be packed into railroad cars and allowed to ride.  Those who did not die in the suffocating boxcars were forced to march about seven more miles until they reached their camp.  

When we reached Capas, Tarlac, we rested for about half an hour, and then began the trek to the concentration camp, Camp O’Donnell, about eight miles.  It took the prisoners over a week to reach their destination.

At the camp, we were allowed to rest for a little while.  One of the Japanese officers tried to communicate with us in broken English and managed to tell us what we were supposed to do.  They had us classified into groups, I think about ten in all.  I belonged to Group 8.

We were then sent to our barracks, an elongated hut made of bamboo and nipa (coconut) leaves.  We were not fed for a few days; many died in delirium, moaning and uttering the names of their loved ones until their last breath.  Those who died were then piled in front of our barracks.  The air was polluted with foul odor; the sight was unbelievably pathetic and unbearable; it almost felt like hell itself.

Although some of the wealthy citizens in the town donated medicine, rice, sugar, salt and some animals, such as carabaos, pigs, and chickens, for our consumption, we were only provided with a handful of rice and salty soup, with no meat, once a day.  The officers who were in charge were corrupt, heartless, self-serving and selfish, almost like no conscience at all. The dying continued -– almost 300 or more Filipinos and American soldiers died everyday.

We were all assigned duties around the Camp.  One of the unpleasant duties I was assigned to was the burial detail.  My partner and I wrapped corpses with Army official blankets, strapped them on a bamboo poles, and carried them on our shoulders to the cemetery which was two long blocks or more away from our Camp.  In a common grove, 25 dead were piled sideways to accommodate more.  It was sickening.

All of these, tripped with fear and trepidation of what the future might hold and the lack of nutrition, made me physically weaker; but, surprisingly, my willpower to live had never been stronger.  One thing we never forgot to do was to pray.  There were quite a bit of us who felt that the Hand of the Almighty was upon us and somehow believed that we would get through it all.  I was right.  the Lord never abandoned me.

I was also assigned doing various duties like cutting grass, hauling water from the well to the Camp, and repairing buildings around the Camp gate.  Then, one day, I found out that the Commanding Officer of Group 1 was my first cousin, Col. Dumlao.  I approached him and requested that I be transferred to his Group.  He assigned me to kitchen patrol.  For the first time in months, I had enough food to eat, although the menu was the same once a day – rice and soup.  I was also able to take a bath for the first time since I was incarcerated.  It felt refreshingly good.

On the fifth month, we finally heard the best news that a prisoner of war could possibly hear.  The enemy was releasing some of the prisoners.  At about the middle of August, my cousin, Col. Dumlao, sent for me and informed me that he was to be released soon.  He said that the sick and the bedridden were being released first, but that I should not worry because I would be included in the second batch.  He then talked to his junior officer, Maj. Maranon, and asked him to take care of me.

On August 30, 1942, almost five months later, I was freed at last.  There were not enough words that could have expressed my elation and relief.  The night before I was released, I was told that I had to memorize some Japanese verses, and that I better be prepared to answer twenty questions or more.  I stayed up all night learning how to count in Japanese, and memorized Japanese phrases.  I was able to answer their questions, and was allowed to leave the Camp – which was hell for hundreds of us for almost five months.

When I was finally released, I was emaciated, malnourished, afflicted with malaria, ulcer and other stomach problems, but I was alive and felt very blessed that God Almighty allowed me to survive the ordeal, married, and raised a family.  This experience confirmed my belief in the greatness of Our God. 

Although it was a day of celebration for us, it was sad to note that some of the prisoners did not even make it to the City.  Somehow the sight of food was just too much temptation, and instead of taking it slowly, they ate in a hurry and ate much until they passed out and died.

When I reached the City of Manila, I was treated at the Philippine General Hospital.  It took some months before I regained my strength.  When I felt stronger, I joined the ROTC Guerilla.  When Liberation from the Japanese came, I reported to the U.S. Army Military Control, reenlisted, and served until I was honorably discharged on June 30, 1946.

I do not know how I survived the war and its atrocities, but I did.  The Lord had plans for me and I want to thank Him for sustaining me.  I would also like to thank my cousin (who has passed away) who helped me, and for the numerous and countless comrades to whom I shared the most difficult and harrowing experience of my life.  Most of them perished.  I honorably and respectfully salute them!! 

After the war, I took advantage of the U.S. GI Bill of Rights, pursued a college as a teacher, and graduated in March 1950.  While in my third year in college, I fell in love and married.
My wife, who passed away in July of 2008, and I were married for 60 years.  We are blessed with seven children (one boy died at age 3) and raised six (5 girls and one boy).  They are all wonderful, healthy and intelligent children, pursued their college education and their respective careers, some of whom decided to become stay-home mothers and raised their children.  My youngest daughter graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in education, and by the Grace of God was able to start her own school.  I have seven grandchildren.  The oldest grandchild graduated from UCLA in Los Angeles, California. She and her husband and three daughters (my great granddaughters) are serving the Lord in Croatia, Europe. 

Two granddaughters are nurses; two are teachers; one majored in computers; the second to the youngest is in college studying to be an architect; and, the youngest is in high school. I would like to continue to thank my children and grandchildren for making my life complete. I am a born-again christian, so I am ready to meet my Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you LORD for everything!  I am truly blessed that You have allowed me to go this far; it has been a great earthly journey.  With contentment and peace of mind, I am enjoying my life now with my loved ones.  I am ready to go home to my mansion you have prepared for me to be with You forever and ever! 

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believed on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Alternatives to Google Reader

Now that Google is shutting down its Google Reader RSS services, I have had to look for alternatives to view blogs I follow. Here are some options I found that I want to share with you all. You can sign up with either one and they will seamlessly migrate the blogs you follow through Google before the deadline of July 1, 2013. The transfer didn't take more than a couple of minutes.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin - -HERE is the link to import your blogs to Bloglovin'.
Feedly - works as an addon to your web browser. Instructions on transferring from Google to this new service can be found HERE.

If you're an email subscriber, I'm still investigating what other options are available since I have heard rumors that Feedburner, my current email subscription service, might also soon be shut down. Stay tuned. Thank you, friends!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Is Modesty Obsolete?

Way back when my kids were much younger and before I became a serious paper crafter, I used to maintain a blog that updated our friends and family about life in Croatia. In it, I posted things I was learning, pictures of our fast-growing kids, and links worth sharing. It was more like a journal that I hoped would encourage others who were in the same similar life journey as I was. That blog is gone now, but I do miss writing and sharing topics that are more important to me than paper crafting. I hope to get started again since God teaches me so much every day. I want to shout out His goodness to me and encourage others that life with Christ is beautiful! At the very least, I'm writing this for my girls who someday may want to know what their momma was like when she was younger. So here goes...
Modesty is a hot topic. And as a mom to 3 girls, I am constantly aware how fast the world (even among the Christian circles) has changed on the general view of it.

It seems that the standard for modesty has changed in the last decade or so. Or maybe it's because things are more public now with FB. Or maybe because I've been stuck in the 90's fashion having lived here in a very small town overseas for a while now :). I have noticed that many of my like-minded, conservative friends wear clothes that I would probably consider immodest like strapless dresses, halter tops, very short skirts (at least half their thighs are showing), plunging necklines (low enough to show cleavage), tight pants, 2-piece bikini suits.

I am not surprised that women in general wear these, but I'm talking about Christian women who I think a decade ago would have also considered their outfits immodest. What changed? And here I notice young girls wearing boots/shoes that were the types that Pretty Woman would have worn. The "woman of the night" look seems like normal attire now. When we go to the US, I feel so out of place because women wear the clothes mentioned above to church (our standard should be the same wherever we go, but we do tend to dress conservatively there) and they're not a minority either!

I don't want to sound legalistic, nor reduce the rules of modesty to "do's" and "don't's". As one writer says, "Modesty is an issue of the heart, not the hemline." I want to teach my girls how to properly view modesty, even when mommy is not there to remind them. I just wonder does modesty go along with the times? After all, we don't hide our ankles and cover our heads like our Victorian-era sisters did. If modesty is relative, is that okay? And how far do we go? What do we, as mothers, teach our girls with what we wear?
Some helpful links on this topic: