Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Watching You

When I saw this video, I knew I had to share it. It is so true what the video says. Our actions speak louder than words to our children. Our children learn by watching us as their parents. It is foolish to think that our children don't see what goes on in our homes. It starts at a very young age. Infants begin to mimic us as soon as they have the coordination to do so. Then when they learn to talk, they will repeat what they hear. We are to bring up our children in the ways of the Lord. Proverbs 22:6-"Train up a child in the way he should go,and when he is old he will not depart from it." It starts with our walk with God, this is how we train our children to love the Lord. When they see us put our faith in Him, no matter the situation, it builds faith in our children. When we worship Him at home, not just on Sunday at church, when we pray as a family, when we study His word, when we admit our faults and weaknesses, we train our children how to be humble. When we practice forgiveness at home we represent who Jesus is to our children. But when our walk with God is only on a Sunday, our marriages are on the verge of divorce, when we are selfish and full of pride, we also train our children. My wife and I truly want to be an example of Jesus to our children. Even with all our faults we can show who God is through our actions. It is in our weakness where God is glorified. But we must allow Him access to those areas. He tells us in Proverbs 14:26-"He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." I want God to be my children's refuge. My wife and I have made a lot of mistakes raising our children, especially before we became Christians. God has been good to us. I have seen my son try to live his life as a teenager without a relationship with God and now as a 22 year old man accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior. God is faithful! He keeps His promises. We showed our son the example of who God is, and he came back to Him. 2009 is almost over. Let's not take the same old attitude into 2010. It is time for change, time to renew our minds in Christ. Don't condemn yourself for past failures. Learn from them, look what God did for our son, even with all our faults. It is time to build a secure fortress for our children. It starts with us as parents and with our relationship with God. So ask yourself where you could allow God to come and make a change in your life. Our children are counting on us. Remember, they are watching you.

Mark Soto

Friday, December 25, 2009

God Is With Us

"Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people."
Luke 1:68
Immanuel: God is with us—God came to us. What a staggering thought. It is really the essence of the Christian faith and the Christian life. All other religious ideologies essentially tell you that you must do something: Do this, and you will find inner peace. . . . Do this, and you will reach nirvana. . . . Do this, and maybe you will make it to heaven. But Christianity says it is done—done for you at the Cross, paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.Being a Christian is not merely following a creed; it is having Christ himself live in you and through you, giving you the strength to be the man or woman He has called you to be. Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20) and "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).The message of Christmas is God with us. That is important to know, especially during those times when we are going through great difficulty. The psalmist said, "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:9–10). It is great to know that God is with you wherever you go.The Bible never teaches that we will have problem-free lives as followers of Christ. But the Bible does teach that we never will be alone. And because of that, we don't have to be afraid. As Ray Stedman said, "The chief mark of the Christian ought to be the absence of fear and the presence of joy."That is the message that this sin-sick world needs to hear: Immanuel—God is with us.

Greg Laurie

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tis The Season To Be Joyful?

I don’t know about you, this shopping stuff around Christmas time can be dangerous. I got to admit, I really don’t enjoy going to malls anytime of the year especially during Christmas time. . The other day I went out with my wife and my two daughters’. We were honked at repeatedly, yelled at, almost run over by an impatient driver, was pushed and shoved, cut off by another shopping cart, and watched someone give another person the high sign. What a day we had. It got to the point I just had to laugh or other wise I might have joined the people with some holiday cheer of my own. It all made me just reflect on what Christmas is really about. I thanked God for loving us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us. In years past I would have lost my temper and acted just like everyone else. I realize I must set an example to my family and to other’s. I can’t talk about patience, love, kindness, and the joy that Jesus fills me with, then go out and do the opposite. During this time of running around, being yelled at, honked at, cursed at, cut off, pushed, shoved, and almost run over, let’s remember who we represent. We represent our Savoir Jesus Christ who Christmas is all about. It is a true test of who we really are when we respond in love, kindness, patience, and a joy in our heart. This is who we should be all year round, not just during Christmas time. Remember a smile or an act of kindness can make a difference in someone else’s life. So let’s not be like the rest of the world. Let the light of Jesus shine through you during this busy holiday season. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Mark Soto

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart. - George Mathhew Adams

The Sotos
Mark and Raquel
Andrew, Ana, Samantha and Mikaila

The Gombojavs
Gana and Daja
Meg, Israel, Luc, Captain, Belgee, and Saraa

May your home be filled
with love and peace this Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

This Whole Christmas Thing

(I do not know who wrote this, but it's definitely worth sharing!)

A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids. She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season, overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, get that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, make sure we don't forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally the elevator doors opened, and there was already a crowd in the elevator. She pushed her way in and dragged her two kids in with her and all the shopping bags. When the doors closed, she couldn't take it anymore and stated, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up, and shot." From the back, everyone heard a quiet, calm voice respond, "Don't worry. We already crucified him." For the rest of the trip down the elevator, it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

Don't forget this year to keep the one who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all did it, just think how different this whole world would be.

--Author Unknown

Friday, December 18, 2009

Get A Jump On Christmas!

One more present to buy. Buy wrapping paper. Wrap gifts. Where did I hide that particular present? Oops, forgot to get a present for the mailman. Make cookies. Eat too many. School Christmas party. Gotta get a gift for the teacher. Address Christmas cards. Lost address book. Call grandmother for addresses. Stand in line at the post office and smile at the grumpy old man behind me. Maybe I should let him go in front of me. Go to the grocery store. How could they be out of currants? Go to another grocery store. Plan holiday meals. Fall into bed, exhausted.

In all your running around this final week before Christmas, don't forget to ENJOY the season! This season of great joy, because God put on flesh. We behold His glory. The only begotten of the Father. Grace. Truth.

Simplify the season. The first Christmas was rather simple. A man. A woman. A manger. And yet the Glory of God filled the place. The Messiah wrapped in swaddling clothes. Come and adore Him.

Take time for joy this week. Take time to let the reason of the season thrill you to your core. You just might feel the urge to jump.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Little Corrections Keep Us On Track

Have you ever or heard of someone falling asleep while driving and drifted across the lanes on the highway? Since you are asleep, you don’t even realize that you are drifting out of control. Usually once that person does realizes what has happened, they over correct by turning the steering wheel too much. This can very easily lead to an accident. We can very easily drift in our marriages and not realize it until we are about ready to crash. When we get married we truly believe it is for a lifetime. I don’t know of any couples who get married with the expectation of divorce later. But as time goes by we get busy, distracted, complacent, or preoccupied with kids or work or even ministry. Before you know it you have veered across the lanes into oncoming traffic. For some couples this can happen in months, and for others it can be over many years of marriage. When we finally do wake up and realize we are in a crisis we want instant change. It is natural to think for a big problem, we need a big solution. But when you look at when we drive our cars we are constantly making little corrections in steering to stay on course. This is what we need to do in our marriages and in our own lives. We need to constantly ask God to reveal areas of our life we need to change. Remember, He is not going to give us more than we can handle. Little corrections or changes will keep our marriages on course. This also applies with our walk with God, our role as parents, our friendships, and our personal lives. So when we run into our circumstances which can look like a mountain, we don’t always have to try and tackle the whole situation at once. Allow God to make little corrections in you. As we continue to make little corrections, it will lead to major change down the road in our life, our marriages, and in our families. Looking at the whole mountain can be overwhelming. Jesus tells us to have faith. With faith we allow God to remove those mountains that are in front of us. Sometimes those mountains can’t be avoided; the storms of life will come. But there are mountains in our life that are created by us. However you get there in your marriage making small corrections can be a powerful tool for moving a couple back toward healing, caring, closeness, and loving one another again. Let’s not take the fast food mentality when it comes to the trials in our marriage. Too many times we want instant change in our circumstances when it took us years to get there. We give up before God even has a chance to work in us. We end up settling for marriages that just go through the motions. Don’t buy the lie and settle for anything less than what God has in store for your marriage. Small corrections in your life can begin to change everything in your relationships. Focus on making little changes, and watch how much God can grow your marriage.

Mark Soto

The Gap In The Covenant

(An excerpt from Sarah Markley's blog.)

But, even so we have a covenant. We have binding promises. We didn’t say Until One Of Us Wounds The Other. Or Until You Get Really Mad At Me. Or even, Until We Really Really Hate Each Other. We said Until Death Do Us Part. It’s forever.

What makes the difference is this: we are learning to live in the gap of the covenant. Because sometimes only one of us is upholding our promises. Love. Honor. Respect.

When he doesn’t hold up his end, I hold up mine. When I fail miserably and say something un-take-back-able, he stands still as my husband, unshaken by something as fleeting as a word in the face of a promise. Even though it hurts and it takes time to get over, we are learning to practice this.

But our example for this isn’t each other (we are far from skilled even at this) or even another couple we admire. Our example is the first Covenant Maker.

Read the rest here. It's worth your time; you won't be disappointed!

With Gratefulness to the first Covenant Maker!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Docker's Man-ifesto!

In a society where gender lines are constantly blurred and movies like Twilight are portraying leading men that are much more feminine than generations of leading men before them, I stumbled across a Man-ifesto, an ad for khakis that makes me want to go out buy a pair for every real man I know!

This is a must see ad!

Wear The Pants

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Accountability Keeps it Real

· Let Someone Sharpen You
- How many high profile people have fallen prey to temptation;
especially sexual temptation.
- In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan the prophet spoke into King David’s life.
- David had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.
She became pregnant by David. Then David goes on to have Uriah
killed in battle.
- Nathan, sent by God tells King David a story about a rich man and
the poor man. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and the
poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb.
-This poor man raised and nourished this ewe lamb. It grew up
with him and his children. It was a family pet that they all loved
tremendously. It was like a daughter to him.
- It goes on to say that the rich man takes the poor man’s lamb to
prepare a meal for a traveler. The rich man could have easily
taken one from his flock.
- After David heard this story, he was angry at the rich man for
what he did. 2 Samuel 12:5-7- David says, “As the Lord lives, the
man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore
fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he
had no pity.” Than Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”
-As fellow believers in Christ, we need to hold each other
accountable and encourage one other.
-Proverbs 27:5- “Better is open rebuke, than hidden love.”
-It takes an act of submission to God first, then we need to learn to
submit to one another for personal accountability.
-Accountability is a decision we must make. No one can force us.
-We need others to have access into our lives. It keeps us from
isolating ourselves, isolation is where the enemy wants us.
-Martin Luther states, “Without confrontation, faith stagnates.”
-We all need to be sharpened, to grow, to avoid mediocrity, from
becoming lukewarm, and to be encouraged.
· Let Another In
-When you think of some of the famous sports stars, or even high
profile pastor’s that fell to temptation, I wonder how approachable
were they.
-Were they teachable? Did they allow pride or arrogance to get in
their way?
-We are all going to be tempted. It’s what you do with it that
-When we struggle and when we have accountability partner’s, we
know we are not going at it alone.
-When we build relationships, we are better able to become
transparent with each other. Transparency builds trust.
-Trust will allow us to speak into each others lives.
-Choose someone you are comfortable with, someone you respect.
-Someone who has your permission to speak the truth in love.
-Ephesians 4:25- “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood
and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of
one body.”
-We need to be real with each other. Remember we can fool one
another, but we cannot fool our Heavenly Father.
How are you really doing?
-That is the real question we need to ask each other.
-We need to get to the heart issue as men.
-So it is time to be accessible to one another.
-To allow other men into those closed off areas.
-There is no shame, no condemnation. We need to create an
atmosphere where failure is not death.
-We are a new creation with no record of wrong.
-So let’s encourage each other, be transparent, be teachable, let go
of pride, and let go of fear.
-It is not always going to be easy. It can be frustrating, but never
give up on each other.
-Imagine if God would have given up on you.
-Love one another.
-Share your testimonies, your testimony will speak life into
-Don’t ever sell yourself short. God is not looking for perfection.
-He is looking for men who are willing to step out in faith.

Mark Soto

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December Date-Your-Mate Winner!

At the last cell group meeting, we drew the winner for December Date-Your-Mate!

Kevin and Minoska met in college. Kevin proposed to Minoska in April 1996 and they were married June 1, 1996. They have two children, Isabel and Benjamin.

Kevin and Minoska's winning date, going to Taco Bell, wins them a one of a kind calendar, from Jaqueline Kyoda! (Click on the link on our sidebar to learn more about her work!)

Have a happy and romantic December!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are You The Leader Of Your Home?

Are you as the man taking the spiritual lead in your home or are you sitting back and allowing your wife to take the spiritual leadership role of the home? Marriages and families are falling apart at record numbers today. The sad part is that there is no difference between Christian marriages and non-Christian marriages. There are many factors why marriages are ending in divorce. One reason I would like to point out is the leadership roles that men are taking in their marriages today. A lot of men are sitting back and watching from the bleachers as oppose to being in the game. We are allowing our wives to take up that role where God has intended the man to take ownership of. It is hard enough to run the household, raise children, and be on duty 24 hours a day. Then we as men pile on the responsibility of spiritual head of home. That is too much for anyone person to bear. How loved do you think your wife must feel when she feels that all the responsibility falls on her shoulders. More women today are just burning out. The percentage of married women having adulterous affairs has increased dramatically. When your wife does not feel loved by you as her husband and she is burnt out that is a dangerous place to be. Satan will come like a wolf in sheep’s clothing to tempt her. If you look at Eve in Genesis 3:1- “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” Where was Adam at this time? So how are you covering your wife on a daily basis? We need to start praying for our wives everyday. There are so many areas of their lives that need our prayers as husbands for covering. Start with yourself as her husband, but also pray for her spirit, emotions, motherhood, moods, submission, relationships, beauty, fears, purpose, desires, and the list can go on. Believe you me I got pretty overwhelmed when I started thinking of all the areas that I need to pray for my wife. I just learned that I can’t pray for everything in her life everyday, so I broke it down to a smaller list each day and through the week I cover the areas in her life where God is leading me to pray.

God spoke to Adam about the do’s and don’ts in the Garden of Eden. It was his responsibility to make sure his wife truly understood these commands God gave him. God tells us husbands to love our wives; to dwell with them in understanding; to present them without a blemish; to cherish them. When our wives feel loved, when their love tanks are full, our wives will do anything to serve us as their husbands. We must learn to speak our wives love language. Gary Chapman has a book titled, “The Five Love Languages” men’s edition. I highly recommend it to all married men. It teaches us how to recognize our wife’s love language and how to speak it to her. It is time to humble ourselves as men and take ownership of our marriage and families. We need to stop shifting blame and stop hiding our shame. Shame is a lie of the enemy to keep us in bondage. After Adam and Eve ate of the fruit it says their eyes were open. They realized they were naked. And when God called for Adam he hid because he was afraid. This is where shame, fear, guilt, and condemnation entered into our lives and marriages. We have a tendency to hide and isolate ourselves when we struggle in our daily lives and in our marriages. The enemy’s mission is to destroy our marriage and families. But when we confess all our sins, our shame, our fears, our guilt, it releases us of the condemnation and allows God to restore us. We must truly repent and turn from our ways. We have all been their one time or another in our lives and maybe you are there today. No more excuses! Adam then goes on to tell God that it was the woman You gave me. That was his opportunity to confess his sins, but he chose to shift the blame on Eve and God. Men, we do this today when we are frustrated, tired of our wives nagging, complaining, and lack of respect. But instead of saying my wife is messed up, why don’t we ask God to show us where we are failing in our homes. I guarantee you that if your wife felt loved and cherished by you, she would not have much to complain about. You will reap the love from your wife when you sow into her.
How many of you know that we serve a good God? God goes on to clothe Adam and Eve, to cover up their shame. God also gave us Jesus to die on the cross so we can be restored to our rightful place as his children, in our marriages, and in our families. So men ask yourself if you are doing your part as servant leader. Are you taking charge of your family? Are you serving with love and a joy in your heart? I know there was a time when I sat back and did not take the role of spiritual leader. I can tell you from experience that I learned the hard way. Thank you God for humbling me as a man and continuing to humble me. It is time to take off that mask if you are wearing one and stop acting like everything is ok in your marriage. Let’s not hide behind the lie of shame. We need more men who are willing to be real and allow God and other brother’s in Christ to speak into their lives. So men I challenge you today to step up to the servant leader of your homes. To equally submit yourself as husband’s. Remember you don’t have to do it all on your own. God blessed you with a comparable helper in your wife. But she needs you to take initiative in your home. Being a provider is great, but you also need to be a protector, a supporter, a helper, a friend, and a lover. When you step into your role as a man, a husband, and a father, as God commanded you, you will not regret it. You will be a blessed man.

Mark Soto

Monday, November 30, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm More In Love Today!

I love my wife Raquel more today than I ever have before. It is my wife’s birthday tomorrow. I have been doing a lot of thinking, praying about all the things I am thankful for. Of course yesterday was Thanksgiving. I am truly a blessed man to have my beautiful wife Raquel in my life. She has definitely made me a better man. We have been together for 18 years. I can’t say that all those years were the best of times, but for all that we have been through I would not change a thing. I thank God that He took a marriage on the verge of divorce and is now using us to minister into other couples marriages. How good of a Father do we serve! There was a time when my wife told me that she did not love me anymore. She actually told me that I disgusted her. But when we allow God to work in our circumstances and hand it over to Him, we allow God to create miracles. And a miracle He did in our marriage. When I look back at all that my wife and I have been through, it brings a smile to my face to see how far God has brought the both of us. My love for her grows every day. It’s not that we don’t have our moments when we irritate or get on each others nerves, we do, but it's that God has shown me to look past those areas of our marriage and see the beautiful bride He has blessed me with. My wife is truly a godly woman. She walks it every day of her life. She is an example to our daughters of what a godly woman looks like. Thank you babe for passing on a gift like that to our precious girls. She is more beautiful today than the day I met her. We were not Christians when we first met. When I met her she was smoking hot. Not only is she smoking hot today, but she radiates the beauty of God. I could honestly say, she has got the whole package. She loves the Lord with all her heart, mind, body, and soul. She is a wonderful wife who truly makes me feel like the luckiest guy in the world. God really loves me! She is the sweetest mother to our two girls, our son and our daughter-in-law. And she is going to be the hottest grandma around. So babe, thank you for loving me as I am. I love you too much to not try and become that godly man that God commands me to be. You deserve the best that I have to offer. Even though I am not perfect and will make mistakes, I will continue to allow God to show me where I need to grow. Thank you for all the hard work you do to serve us. I know your job as a mother never ends. You are an amazing woman. I look forward to the years ahead. So, Happy Birthday Babe, I love you more and more every day.

Love Always,
Mark (your hubby)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Choose An Attitude For Gratitude

Where has your attitude been ? Has it been an attitude of thankfulness/gratefulness or of complaining? Ephesians 5:20- “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thanksgiving is just a few days away. How great is it to live in a country that dedicates a day to give thanks to God. It is truly a time when family gathers together and gives thanks and enjoys good food and watches some football. Unfortunately in today’s society we often go through our daily lives without giving thanks to God. We are a society of the me attitude. It’s about what have you done for me lately as to what can I do for you. Our default response to difficulties in life is to complain, whine, grumble, or blame. We complain about our situation, our self, our marriage, our kids, our finances, and everything else that doesn’t go our way. I am talking about Christians and non-Christians alike. I even include myself in this category of complainers. I thank God that He has really been working on me in this area. If we were to be more thankful in all things as Christians, maybe our divorce rate would not equal or surpass the divorce rate of the secular world.
Romans 8:28- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Can we see the good in bad? Can we look past our circumstances to see God at work on the other end? I work as a firefighter and over the years I have seen some horrendous things. I recently responded on a traffic accident on the freeway one early Sunday morning. An suv with a family of five crashed into the back of a parked big rig truck on the side of the freeway. A mother and father and there 14 year old son were killed in the crash. There 9 year old daughter and 11 year old son were able to escape out a window before the suv caught fire. Thank God the two young children were not injured in the accident. A passerby stopped and put the children into the back of his pickup truck. When I got on scene I was told that we would be treating the two children that survived. A captain explained to me that both there parents and 14 year old brother were killed and that they did not know yet. My partner and I carried the two children from the truck to the back of our ambulance. My heart was torn for them. I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t even know how to act. Knowing they just lost there family. They were beautiful children. When I started talking to them I found out that they were headed to their grandparent’s house in Oregon to celebrate Thanksgiving. The 11 year old boy then asked me if his parents and brother were dead. It really hit me; I told them that I didn’t know, that we were there to take care of them. I knew they had a sense that they might be dead, but they had some hope at that point. We transported them to the hospital. I gave them both a big hug and they both thanked me for being so kind to them. As I walked out of the hospital I began to cry for them. I can honestly say it is the first time I cried as a firefighter. I don’t have a problem with crying; just ask my wife and kids. They actually call me a big sensitive baby. I’m proud that God has softened my heart to that point.

It was on my way home that morning when I got off my shift that I felt convicted. It really put life into perspective of how we take for granted things in life. I kept thinking of those two children who just lost there family. The pain and suffering they will go through. He convicted me of the things I complain about. When a car drives to slow in front of me when I’m in a hurry. Standing in a checkout line at the market when all the other lines are moving faster. When the last person in the bathroom doesn’t change the toilet paper roll when it only has two little squares left on it. It could be when our phone is ringing all day, or having to go somewhere when all you want to do is stay home and relax. I thought to myself, how pitiful it is to complain about these meaningless things. Once again I thought about those two children and there loss. Someone just lost a son, a daughter, and a grandson.
We all go through trials and sufferings in life. Dr. Jerry Sitzer wrote a book called, “A Grace Disguised” after losing his wife, 4 year old daughter, and mother in a tragic car accident. In the book he states, “It’s not so much what happens to you that matters, it’s how you respond to it.” Is your circumstance going to drive you away from God, or is it going to drive you closer to God. When we respond in faith, we can look beyond our circumstance and see God at work in it. It is then we can give thanks to God in our circumstance no matter how difficult it may seem or be. Paul says in Philippians 4:11- “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” Not only does this bring joy in our lives, but we also model thankfulness, contentment, gratitude, and a faith in God to our children. We teach them how to handle the storms of life that will come. That they must be rooted in Christ Jesus first. Our children learn by our example. 1 Thessalonians 5:16- “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” I don’t know about you, but I want to live this will that God has for us in my life, my marriage, and see it in my children’s life. How can we not be thankful knowing Jesus died on the cross for us? Remember we were bought at a price.

Let’s make a choice today to have an attitude for gratitude. I’m thankful to wake up every morning to another day of life. I’m thankful to be able to walk, talk, hold my wife and children, or even to have teeth to brush and hair to comb. I’m thankful for what God has in store for me and my family. So ask yourself, are you truly thankful for your wife/husband? If so, do you tell them how thankful you are for them? Do you thank your children for who they are? How about thanking janitors, bus boys in restaurants, house keepers in hotels, and the list can go on. As Christians, we should stand out from the rest of the world. So let’s learn to be thankful in all things. Let’s give our worries to the Lord. Let’s do things without complaining and allow the love of Christ to shine through us for the world to see.
Psalm 100:4-5- “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Mark Soto

Monday, November 23, 2009


Life is relationships;
the rest is just details.
Gary Smalley

God has been talking to me about relationship. It's a word that gets thrown around a lot these days and so seemingly has no meaning. I detest when someone says that he or she is "in a relationship." What does that even mean? I'm in lots of relationships- -I'm a wife to my husband, a mother to my children, a daughter to my parents, a sister, a friend, a cell leader, a teacher, a church member, etc. These are all relationships. Usually when people say that they are "in a relationship" they mean they are having emotional or sexual encounters or soul-weaving with someone that is not defined by any covenant, legal agreement, or set of binding obligations. The expectations are very vague. There is no protection. No one says that they are "in a relationship" with their bank teller. No one says they are "in a relationship" with their children. These true relationships are defined by their very names. The obligations of both parties are understood.

Our God is a God of relationship. It's not just something God likes, but WHO GOD IS! God is defined in terms of relationship- -Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And He created us FROM relationship- -"Let us make man in Our image." He created us FOR relationship. And He is always leading us back TO relationship. "If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another." When we are walking with God (in relationship) we have fellowship (proper relationship) with one another! (I John 1:7) When God built the Church He used the patterns of a BODY and a FAMILY. Relational terms!

I think this is why Satan is always trying to attack people in the area of relationships. It's not God who prompts people to bail on their marriages (or settle for a second rate one). It's not God who causes people to church hop as if Christian fellowship is a Hometown Buffet. It's not God who causes division among brother and sisters in Christ causing them to exalt issues above relationships.

I Corinthians 1:10, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

Over and over again lately God keeps causing the message of godly, covenant relationships to leap out from the Scriptures, from prophecies, from stories. God just keeps saying: RELATIONSHIP, RELATIONSHIP, RELATIONSHIP.

In our busy, busy society one has to make effort and carve out time for relationships. Sometimes projects overshadow brotherhood and calendars overshadow marriages. Lately, I've been striving to be less busy, even saying no to GOOD THINGS so that I can save my time for the BEST THINGS. And the best things are relationships. I've been having more tea with friends, playing more with the kids, having more families over for dinner just because, etc. It's been enriching!

Family Cell Group has been a really important area of relationship building in the past year. Some of us have made the conscious choice to stick together through life's messy challenges. Like iron sharpening iron we've each been changed and challenged and perfected. That's a godly relationship. Godly relationships are not all roses and tea parties (although who doesn't like those! *smile*). But, godly relationships sometimes FORCE us to be more like God created us to be. That's not always easy or comfortable. But the result is BEAUTIFUL!

Thank you all for being a beautifying agent in our lives. Thank you for just being there. Your consistent presence has spoken to me of the consistency of the Lord. You are a beacon of covenant relationship light in a world of relational darkness!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wise Choices?

Are we making wise choices in our homes? I recently asked myself this question. It stemmed from a choice I made at home. We were hanging out as a family on a Saturday night. We all wanted to watch a movie and just relax. Our youngest daughter was already in bed, so it was my wife and I, our 22 year old son and his wife, our 13 year old daughter, and one of our spiritual sons. We were trying to figure out a movie that would be appropriate for us to watch. There was a new release out that no one had seen yet. I had heard that it was a good movie, but there was some mild language in it. We went back and forth on whether to watch it or not. So we decided to rent it on the pay per view. It wasn’t long into the movie when the inappropriate language started. I figured I would give it another chance. I mean I really wanted to see the movie. It was a good action flick from what I was told. Well I chose to watch the movie even though I felt a little uncomfortable. I compromised with myself. I figured it was later in the evening and it was time for our 13 year old to go to bed. So we put her to bed. I told myself that it would be ok to watch the movie now, since it was just us and our adult children. Well I can tell you that the language was horrendous. The movie ended late; in fact my wife fell asleep during it. I went to work the next day. It was at work where I felt God convict me. I compromised with my rules that my wife and I had set regarding movies that are appropriate for us. Not only did I compromise, I felt like I chased our 13 year old daughter off to bed so I wouldn’t feel as guilty. It just came down to the fact, as servant leader I let my guard down. Not was I only upset with myself, but I was also upset with my wife for allowing me to make that decision. I was trying to shift some of the blame. I then thought about Adam’s response to God after they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 3:12- Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” I was convicted, not only on the decision I made to watch the movie, but for also trying to include my wife along with me. I asked God to forgive me and accepted full responsibility for my actions. This is part of walking as a godly man. It’s not trying to go through life as a perfect person, but taking ownership of our failures and giving them to God. I also new I needed to ask for forgiveness from my family. The next day I got off work and before dinner when we were all together, I apologized to my wife, daughter, son, and daughter-in-law. I asked for forgiveness and explained that I made a bad decision to watch that movie. I want my children to see what a godly man looks like. I know that I have made mistakes, and I will make mistakes as a husband, a father, and a son. But I want to teach my children through my actions how to accept responsibility and deal with the consequences for our choices we make. Good or bad. Proverbs 22:6- “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” I was not proud of the decision I made that night, but I had a choice on how to handle it. I could have just brushed it off and gotten over it. Or I could have just ended it after asking God for forgiveness. But I want to be a godly man. I want to hand down a legacy to my children and the generations to come. I want to show my children what it means and how it looks to take ownership of their mistakes. That it is ok to stumble, but we must get back up and turn to God and lean on him. Psalm 37:24-“Though he stumble, he will not fall. For the Lord upholds him with His hand.” I want my children to know how to ask for forgiveness, even though it is not always easy, but that it takes a humble heart. I thank God for opening up my eyes. I can truly say that God is good to me. So as parents, even when we make poor choices, we need to own up to it. When we wrong our children, we need to ask for forgiveness from them. Not only do we teach our children, but we need to show them what it looks like in our every day life. What does love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, kindness, patience, transparency, peace, joy, and the list goes on. What do these things look like in your home? Are you teaching and showing these to your children every day? Is your home a safe haven for your children? Do their friends want to always be at your house? I know we as parents can always do a better job. It starts with our walk with the Lord. Jesus paid the ultimate price. Not just for our sins, but so we could be more like Him. Ask God today to show you how to be that parent He wants you to be. We can become godly models to our children. So lets step up to the plate and make the right decisions in our home. Let’s get connected with other families who love the Lord. Sometimes we need to just step out of our comfortable little life styles and reach out to others for encouragement. Proverbs 14:26- “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.”

Mark Soto

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ready? Set. Date!!!!

Good Afternoon, Happily Married People! (said in faith for some of you!)

As your cell leaders, we cannot stress enough how strongly we feel about married people dating! Life gets so busy with work, school, yard work, ministry commitments, extended family, and just LIFE! Dating your mate takes a conscious decision, careful planning, and sometimes throwing caution to the wind and being spontaneous!

To encourage you in your dating, we have decided to hold a monthly contest! Here's how it'll work:

1. You must have a date, just the two of you--NO CHILDREN, (with the exception of a nursing baby, of course)!

2. This date can be anything you want from traditional dinner and a movie to skydiving! We don't care as long as it's the two of you getting some one-on-one time! Even if all you have time for is a walk or a cup of coffee at the Corner Bakery, do it!

3. Enter on or before the first Friday of the month (which is when we have cell group). To enter, tell us the date of your date and what you did! It's that simple! You may enter in person at cell group, by email to Daja ( or Raquel, or by leaving a comment on the blog with the information and your name.

4. A winner will be drawn at cell group. (Next drawing December 4)

Who is the winner of this little game? Why every one of us is a winner! Strong marriages benefit individuals, children, the Church, society, etc!

However, we do also have some cool prizes in our prize vault! :-) You'll be competing for all sorts of wonderful things--art, gift certificates, books, movies, music! Each month we'll offer a different prize.

This month's prize is a calendar called EDEN! (Isn't that a wonderful name?!) HRC member and artist, Jaqueline Kyoda has donated her one-of-a-kind calendar to our prize vault! Every month, looking at EDEN, you'll be reminded of the way marriage is supposed to be! (Below are a few images so you can see how beautiful this calendar is!) By the way, you can see more of Jaqueline's work on her website:

Ready? Set? DATE!!!

The Sotos
The Gombojavs

Brave Affairs

I referenced this blog post at the last cell group. It's so beautiful, please read it and be inspired!

He lies stretched out in the dark and I lay long beside him, listen to him breathe, only sound there is. This is our love story, the one we’ve written with years and skin and the rings.

In his sleep, he finds my hand.

It’s the only one I’ve known. His only, hands larger than the rest. Hand in mine, that wraps around a waist, draws in close, slumbering strength always holding on.

I don’t know how another man’s skin feels.

My grandmother lived that kind of courage. The kind that made a vow and had the bravery to let it age. Wrinkled faithfulness of monogamy, pedestrian, the kind that finishes well, parades up through the Arc de Triomphe, battle scarred, and the tourists blithely shuffle by and the pigeons take to oblivious wing. She told me about this.

I remember it, nights like these.....

Warm it falls on nape of my neck, his sleep breath, close. I press closer. The drama's in the long faithfulness, and aged love is the heroic. God knows the passion of a covenant.

Read the rest (it's sooooo good) here: Holy Experience.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stuff We Recommend #4

“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a

Job 31:1

  • Surveys show at least 70% of men and 21% of women struggle with online pornography.

Covenant Eyes is unlike any internet filtering software you've ever seen! The downfall of internet filtering and parental controls is that they can be easily circumvented. While Covenant Eyes does have a filtering software, what sets it apart from all the rest is the Accountability Software.

At intervals you set, Covenant Eyes will email a report of all your online activity to the accountability partner you choose! In other words your spouse, your mentor or a friend can be privy to all your online activity!

"A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages
against all wise judgment."

Proverbs 18:1

Isolation and secrecy are two of Satan's biggest weapons to keep people in bondage and addiction. Accountability strips away the isolation. Covenant Eyes is a first line of defense against secrecy.

Visit Lady Dorothy's blog (Daja's mom!) to receive a coupon code for a 30-Day Free Trial of the accountability software!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happily Incompatible

(Originally posted September 17, 2007 on In Other Words.)

A sweet new friend from church asked recently how Gana and I met. After hearing the short version, she asked, “And you guys just match? You fit each other so well?”

At the time I answered, “Well, it’s not without its challenges, especially in a cross-cultural relationship. But, yes, we match.”

Then I got to thinking about it later. I don’t think I told the truth. We don’t match.

I like healthy vegetarian fare. He likes meat and if it ain’t fried, it ain’t food.

I love to try new and different foods. “Look, I found a new recipe for seaweed!” Gana would eat the same three meals on steady rotation….buuz, fried chicken, fried cabbage and sausage.

I like girly, warm fuzzy romantic comedies—basic chick-flick. He likes a movie with a healthy dose of violence, death and car chases.

I’d like to spend a vacation at a bed and breakfast by the beach. Two years ago on our anniversary he took me to a water-theme park.

I pray loudly and dramatically, castin’ out stuff, dancing like an undignified nut. He’s very contemplative and when he speaks it’s profound and carries authority without artificially asserting it.

To relax, I write in my journal or on this blog. Gana writes when it is assigned by a professor and carries a deadline.

I detest shopping. I go into the store, find what I need and get out as quickly as possible. Gana spends hours and days micro-comparing details, price and quality of every purchase.

Neither of us ever suffer buyer's remorse. Gana because he chose so perfectly. Me because I really don’t care.

I get where I’m going early, sometimes so early it’s awkward. Gana is getting in the shower at 10:40 and church starts at 11.

As for art, Gana likes Ansel Adams. I like Monet.

You can always tell who drove the van last by what comes through the stereo when you turn the car on. Bee Gees = Gana. AM Talk Radio = Daja.

I'm an unschooler, heavy on learning through experiences. He's more of a classic educator, heavy on learning through academics.

I’ve been the goodie-goodie most of my life. He’s been the wild child.

I think that Gana and I are what Billy and Ruth Graham called “happily incompatible.” Can such opposites co-exist and even enjoy life together? YES! And sometimes such opposites can irritate the living daylights out of each other and they start quarrelling over the variety of apples purchased at the Farmer’s Market.

Billy Graham said:
Ruth and I don’t have a perfect marriage, but we have a great one. In a perfect marriage, everything is always the finest and best imaginable; like a Greek statue, the proportions are exact and the finish is unblemished. Who knows any human beings like that? For a married couple to expect perfection in each other is unrealistic. We learned that even before we married. The unblemished ideal exists only in “happily ever after” fairy tales. I think that there is some merit to a description I once read of a married couple as “happily incompatible.” Ruth likes to say, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.” The sooner we accept that as a fact of life, the better we will be able to adjust to each other and enjoy togetherness.

And I think I’m finally--finally--after 7 years of matrimony learning that this is OK. I’m an emotional one and when we have a spat the enemy of marriage--the devil--tries to lie to me: “He doesn’t love you anymore!” I know it’s a lie. He does love me. He just wanted Red Delicious and not Fuji. Message received.

I’m finally learning to not try to remake the man I married and to let him be who he is. I’m learning that marriage isn’t really a fifties sitcom (although, wouldn’t it be great to vacuum in heels and pearls?). Marriage is vastly more interesting than that, especially when married to someone who is different from me. It’s challenging and exciting and crazy and romantic and surprising....and so....DAILY.

Marriage means having someone to run to when I need a good cry. It means having someone to run my hair-brained ideas by before I expose them to the world. It means someone who makes fun of me and someone I can make fun of. Marriage means I have a man whose vision I have pledged to support. I am a help-meet to someone who needs my help—just maybe not in the way I thought he did. Marriage means someone who begins and ends each day with me—someone who is a living witness to my life and my journey with God.

Gana is my secret keeper. And I am his.

Sometimes two opposites are perfect for each other. They are counter-balances. Gana and I are two extremes. Together we make a happy moderate.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Father's Love Letter

You may not know me, but I know everything about you.
I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
I am familiar with all your ways.
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
I knew you even before you were conceived.
I chose you when I planned creation.
For all your days are written in my book.
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
And brought you forth on the day you were born.
I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me.
I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of
And it is my desire to lavish my LOVE on you.
Simply because you are my child and I AM YOUR FATHER.
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Because I LOVE you with an EVERLASTING LOVE.
For you are my treasured possession.
I desire to establish you with all My heart and all My soul.
And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of you heart.

For I am your greatest encourager.
I am also the FATHER who comforts you in all your troubles.
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you.

And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth.

I love My son, Jesus.
He is the exact representation of My being.
He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you.
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
Jesus died so that we could be reconciled.
His death was the ultimate expression of

I gave up everything
If you receive the gift of My son Jesus, you receive me.
And nothing will ever separate you from MY LOVE again.
Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party

heaven has ever seen.
I have always been FATHER and will always be FATHER.
I Love You Always,
Your Daddy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Are You Lifting Her Up?

Yes men, are we lifting up our wives and our daughter’s? I was recently convicted about all the things my wife does around the house that goes unnoticed or goes without a thank you. My wife hurt her neck and was pretty much on her back for two weeks. I had the privilege to take care of her plus all the other responsibilities that she normally handles. I have to admit, there were times I got frustrated with the endless work of running a household and family. I was taking care of my wife, home schooling our youngest daughter, driving my oldest daughter to school and picking her up, volleyball games, laundry, folding and putting them away, breakfast, lunch, dinner, cleaning house, and the list goes on. Just writing about it makes me tired. Well God spoke to me. He reminded me that we should do all things in love and without complaining. That was a big one for me; I was totally feeling sorry for myself. I thought I use to do a good job of supporting my wife with words of encouragement, but I realized there was room for improvement. God revealed how beautifully he designed my wife Raquel. Everything about her is a true woman of God. There are things about her that I truly don’t understand, but I ask God to reveal those things. That week was a long week for me. I have to admit; when I left for work I felt relieved. I am a firefighter, so when I leave for work it is a 24 hour shift. I do get a break away from the hustle and bustle of our household. My wife doesn’t have that luxury. Her job is endless. When the week first began and I was running around trying to juggle all the hats my wife wears. I was just trying to get things done. You could say I was checking boxes. I really wasn’t putting all my effort into it. I then realized, who am I serving, me or my wife? I love the way my wife keeps our house. It is clean all the time and organized. There is definitely a comfort and a peace in our home that my wife brings through her service to us. She has great attention to detail. The colors, the furniture, and the way she arranges the house, I love it. I felt God tell me that I should take care of the house the way my wife does. I know I won’t have the same attention to detail that my wife has, but when I put forth the effort to do the chores the way my wife does, it speaks love to her. I am to nourish and cherish my wife. As her husband I mutually submit to her. It doesn’t bother me that the bed is not made, but it bothers my wife. So when I make the bed, I do with a joy in my heart. It is an honor for me to serve my wife in these areas that means so much to her. Not only am I dying to myself and putting my wife before anything I may think is important. I am also speaking volumes to my daughter’s and adult son on how a husband is to treat his wife. I want my daughter’s to see what a godly man looks like. I know I’m not perfect. I blow it as a husband and a father, but I also use that opportunity to teach them how to apologize and ask for forgiveness. I have had to ask for forgiveness on many occasions. Our actions as men are more influential in our children’s lives then our words. We must be able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Our words will fall on deaf ears if we don’t do as we say. It is my responsibility to teach my children who Jesus is through how I treat their mother. I want my daughters to settle for no less than a godly man who loves the Lord and treats them the way God commands them to. I’m still a work in progress, but we must continually ask God to show us how to be that godly image to our wife and children. I’m learning everyday how to lift my wife and children up with kind words. There are times I must remind myself to thank my wife for all she does. It doesn’t always come natural, but God is definitely working on me in these areas. He is working on me because I have been inviting Him into these areas of my life where I struggle. Our words can tear up or tear down. Proverbs 12:18- “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” This is so true, not only for our wives, but our children need to hear encouraging words also. I realize how important it is to our children. My oldest daughter is 13 years old. It is an age where she is very self conscious of her appearance. My words as father speak volumes to her even if at times she acts like it doesn’t. I know as men we could do a better job of lifting up our wives and children not just with words but also with what we do with a servant’s heart. I don’t want to ever get to a point as a husband or father, and soon to be grandfather, where I feel I don’t need to try to better myself. Some of us have more work to do than others, but that is ok. We as men need to make that choice, and then invite God to show us and lead us to be better husbands and fathers. Don’t try to fix it all at once. It will be too over whelming and you will get frustrated and give up. Start with small things that you can stick with. Consistency is very important to our wives and children. It could be as simple as just saying thank you and please. It doesn’t take much, but when your wife see’s you trying, you will reap more than what you sow. Like I said before guys, it is time to step up to the plate. Think about it as it is the bottom of the ninth inning, two outs, bases loaded with a three-two count on you. Are you going to be the hero with the game winning hit or walk off with your head down? I don’t know about you, but I’m running off that field as the hero with thousands of people cheering. I encourage you to start today to lift up your wife and children. We need more heroes in our homes. We need more men who are willing to fight for their families. We need more men who edify their wife and children with words of love, kindness, patience, joy, and with a smile. We need more men who are willing to encourage each other as men.

Mark Soto

Monday, October 19, 2009

Letting Your Husband Know You're Proud of Him

(by Sabrina Beasley. Archived here.)

My husband, David, has been working on a large project that takes up a lot of his free time. He has sacrificed time, energy, and money to make everything work together, and at moments, he's wondered if it's worth the effort.

One day when he was working particularly hard, I came into his office with a glass of iced tea, looked him in the eyes, and said, "Sweetheart, do you know how proud of you I am?"

He looked at me almost with relief, then looked down and said, "Would you still be proud of me even if none of this works out?"

"Of course, I will be," I softly assured him with a kiss and a smile. "I'm most proud of you for taking initiatives and seeking to do what's right for our family."

His eyes lit up and his face seemed comforted. As I departed the room, leaving him to his work, he took a deep breath and the rhythm of his fingers typed out a heartier tune. Just that one small comment from me seemed to give him the peace of mind and the energy that he needed to keep going.

If I were to guess, I would say that most of us wives are proud of our husbands. But if someone were to ask your husband, "When was the last time your wife let you know that she is proud of you?" What would he say?

Shaunti Feldhahn, author of For Women Only, surveyed 1,000 men to find out their emotional needs. On March 28, 2005, in an interview with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine on "FamilyLife Today," Feldhahn said:

"For men, their highest need is not to feel loved and cherished, as it is [for women]. It's to feel respected by us and trusted by us and, in fact, we can spend so much time trying to show our husbands that we love them, saying, "I love you," and doing all these things to show love, but if we tease them in public or make them think we don't respect their decisions or don't trust when they make a choice, they will feel disrespected, and they won't feel loved."

Feldhahn isn't the first to discover this truth. As a matter of fact, the Bible has been teaching us this fact for centuries. In Ephesians 5:33b, the apostle Paul is clear in his instruction to wives: "… the wife must see to it that she respects her husband."

If it has been a while since you've shown your husband that you're proud of him, don't let another day go by without communicating your admiration. Here are ten suggestions to help.

1. Just say it. Those five little words, "I'm so proud of you" are sometimes difficult to spit out, especially if it has been a while since you've said them. They may feel awkward at first, even "cheesy," but once you begin, this little phrase won't seem so strange anymore. But don't just leave it at "I'm proud of you." Tell him why: "I'm so proud of you for spending time with our son. That means a lot to him and to me."

2. Brag about him to others. If you have children, you already have plenty of bragging practice. If little Suzie wins the county spelling bee, you put her trophy in a place of honor and tout that your little girl is a genius. But we wives often forget that our husbands crave the same type of praise.

Did you show off the new paint job he did in the bathroom? Did you buy a frame for the certificate he received at work? Have you shown your friends the lawn or garden he nurtured all summer?

While bragging to others, don't forget to include his parents. Not only will they feel proud to know that their son is a great husband, but they will also feel encouraged that his wife recognizes it.

3. Dream with him. Early in our marriage, my husband would often tell me of his visions of entrepreneurship. I'll never forget when he told me about his plans to build a hotdog stand. He even had a name picked out and a logo developed. He also had several other business ideas in mind, like a coupon book and a local magazine—he thought they were ingenious ideas that were eventually going to make him rich, rich, rich!

Of course, all I could see was my security flying out of the door. But then my mother's voice called back in my mind, echoing her premarital advice, "Remember to dream with him."

Men often enjoy dreaming about the future, even when it's not currently possible, while women tend to think in the present, counting costs, roadblocks, and impossibilities. I used to think that if I allowed David to dream that I was non-verbally giving my permission for him to begin. In reality, I've found that the opposite is true. He actually begins to see the practical side of things for himself.

4. Listen to your husband when he tells stories in public ... and don't correct him! Have you ever been at a friend's house when your husband tells a story wrong? He may get most of it right, but he leaves out some interesting sideline or he gets the person's name wrong. The standard response is, "No, that's not the way it went. Here, let me tell it." And then he's left looking like a moron in front of your friends.

Let me challenge you to stop disagreeing with your husband on the little things. There may be times when he gets some details wrong, but no one is taking score about who gets the fine points right most of the time.

5. Look him in the eyes and smile. Just the way you look and react to your husband can give the impression that you are honored to be his wife.

Think about what it would mean to him if you stopped what you were doing, looked him in the eyes, listened and smiled. This action sends the message, "It pleases me to spend undistracted time with you and to hear what's going on in your life."

6. Resolve conflicts in private ... and avoid body language that undermines your husband in public. We all get upset with our husbands at times; that's part of marriage. But don't drag it out in front of others. Your friends won't see you make up later, and they'll be left with a lasting impression of a wife's disrespect for her husband.

I've been guilty of this, most often when bitterness from an earlier dispute carries over into our plans with friends that evening. When I consider my heart, I find that instead of love, my motive for huffiness is revenge, and deep down inside I hope to hurt him like he's hurt me. So I might roll my eyes at something he says, or elbow him, or put on a look of disbelief. Body language like this quietly undermines your husband in front of others. He may not know what you're trying to say, but he'll read it to mean, "I'm not proud of you, and I don't respect you."

7. Take his side. There's no one that's easier for a wife to pick on than her husband. You are all too familiar with his annoying little habits, and the areas where he needs improvement. But when others start to pick on him, take his side. The jokes might seem innocent, but if you make fun of your husband publicly, you are choosing to degrade him when you could esteem him.

The next time your husband is the brunt of teasing, stick up for him by talking about his good qualities and abilities. You don't have to act offended, but instead act proud of who he is and what he has accomplished. As a result, you will show your honey that even when you are given a choice you still choose to give him the respect that he deserves.

8. Cheer him on. Have you ever wondered why there are cheerleaders at a football game? They aren't helping the players throw the ball, run faster, or play smarter, but their job is just as important. They encourage the players by letting them know that someone believes they can win.

Husbands need cheerleaders, too. They don't need someone to fix their problems for them or even tell them how to do things. As a matter of fact, to try to fix their problems can insult their masculinity. What they need are wives who believe in them.

A great example of this kind of cheerleading comes from Meredith White of Longview, Tex. When her husband, Faber, was going through medical school and working long hours, Meredith knew he was struggling just to make it through each day. So she started "What's it Wednesdays" and would plan a weekly gift or surprise for her sweetheart. "Every week I looked forward to Wednesdays for that reason," Faber says. " It definitely helped me through a particularly hard time in my schooling."

9. Be interested in his projects. Every man I know has a passion for something, from watching sports to putting together model airplanes. My husband likes to play Fantasy Football from August to February. I have to admit there are times when I force myself to keep from rolling my eyes at the mention of the word "football" because I want him to know that I support his desire to fellowship with his friends and take part in clean sportsmanship.

This all boils down to starting a conversation with your husband. If he is busy researching in his office, sit down and ask him about his newest venture. "What are you working on, Sweetheart?" is a good way to begin. He may give you a short, non-descriptive answer like "Oh, just some stuff for Fantasy Football." Then that's your cue to start asking questions. Ask him how he's been playing, how he plans to improve, and don't forget to end with an encouraging word about how, "he's going to blow them all away at the finals this year."

10. Teach your children to respect him. It's easy to openly criticize your husband in front of your children, but when was the last time you boasted about him instead? Your words of admiration will not only make your children feel more secure as they witness their parents' love, it will also encourage them to speak as highly of their father as you do.

In addition, when your kids, particularly as teenagers, make comments that disrespect their father, be sure to let them know that such speech is unacceptable. This is important for the unity of your marriage. And when your husband hears about your comments, he will feel a renewed sense of appreciation for a wife who demands his respect

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Will Carry You

October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. If you have lost a baby, may the Lord comfort your heart and carry you until the day when you are able to hold your baby again.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Family Picnic!

As iron sharpens iron,

So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Today we had a family picnic on the grounds of the church under the lovely big tree. Although today started out grim and overcast, the sun came out and showered us with gentle warmth while we shared food, conversation and encouragement!

The kids played 'til their hearts content--rolling down the green hills, frolicking in the grass, climbing trees and chasing one another!

What a blessing to be with all you special families today! If you were not able to join us today, we hope you will join us next time! We plan do to this again soon!
(And if you are not on our email list, but would like to be, please leave us a comment with your email address. Thank you!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Family Time!

I don't know about you, but sometimes we could use a little inspiration for family times! We want them to be sweet and fun and memorable--not the same ol', same ol'.

Here are some ideas to inspire special bonding times with your family! We encourage you to make "family time" a regular occurrence at your house!

  • Build a tent in the living room together
  • Homemade mini-golf
  • Pillow fights

  • Coloring contest

  • Blow bubbles

  • Walk on the beach

  • Set a goal to visit every park in your town
  • Puzzles
  • Bake cookies together
  • Shrinky-dinks! (remember those?!)
  • Make homemade playdough
  • Bike-riding
  • Build a tree house or play house together
  • Wash the cars together (usually turns into a water fight!)
  • Set pop-corn popper in living room with the top off. See who can catch the flying popcorn in their mouths. (Careful! Unpopped kernels can be hot!)
  • Board games
  • Spoil Mommy Day/Spoil Daddy Day
  • Date nights with Dad
  • Camping (even in the backyard is fun!)
  • Candlelight dinners for no reason at all!

  • Tea parties (even for boys!)
  • Friendly wrestling (even for girls!)
  • Frisbee
  • Fly kites
  • Write, direct and video a mini-movie!
  • Start a family blog together
  • Finger painting
  • Family worship at home
  • Read aloud
  • Play hooky from school and go fishing!
  • Make Valentine’s for all your neighbors and deliver them together.
  • Visit local museums (Many have at least one free day a month! Call to check!)
  • Picnic!
  • Day trip to the snow.
  • Go to Barnes and Nobles. Buy coffee for parents and vanilla steamers for kids. Sit in the children’s section, read books and giggle.
  • Bake something for your pastors together.
  • Sidewalk chalk!
  • Family movie night.
  • Learn to make water bombs from paper and drop them off the balcony.
  • Buy bubble wrap just so you can all pop it together.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Stuff We Recommend #3

It's Not About Me
by Real Life Ministries

(click here to learn more)

Endorsed by Dr. C. Peter and Doris Wagner, Dr. Che and Sue Ahn, and Pastor Lou and Therese Engle! And now by Mark and Raquel Soto!

Blueprint for Marriage- Covenant Living Part 1

The American family is in big trouble!

The Harris Poll did a survey in the late 90’s. They asked college students to agree or disagree on some statements.

97% agreed that having a close knit family is the key to happiness; this is up 15% from 10 years prior regarding family.

Less than 25% of all the families in America are made up of a mom and dad married to each other that have children in the home who come out of that union of marriage.

60% of all the people who eventually get married live together first; People living together has increased steadily the last ten years.

In Western Europe, they are totally dismissing marriage.

The highest predictability for the ten most devastating things happening in our culture today is children who come from a broken home and specifically children who come from a father absent home.

Statistics show children from broken homes have a greater chance of poverty, violence,future felons, depression, teen suicide- ( between the ages of 10-14, suicide is up 120%; African American males is up 300%; White females is up 233%)

As the family is imploding, kids are seeing no hope to live. How sad is that.

The greatest prediction of domestic violence, promiscuity, gang violence, drug use, and sexual abuse is related to coming out of a broken home and fatherless homes. Christians are not immune; divorce in Christian marriages is now higher than in non-Christian marriages according to Barna and Gallup.

Carle Zimmerman, a sociologist from Harvard University studied the rise and fall of every great empire of the world, more specifically the family in each of these empires. He concluded that families go through three stages in his book, “Family and Civilization”.

He lists the characteristics of the family in the final stage.
-marriage lost its sacredness
-alternative forms of marriage were advocated
-feminist movements flourished
-parenting became more difficult
-adultery was celebrated, not punished-( 94% of all sex depicted on
- television is of two people outside of marriage).
-sexual perversion abounded- especially incest and homosexuality.

Dennis Rainy of Family Life writes, “America is certainly one of the greatest empires of history and if Zimmerman’s observations on family sends a shiver down your back as they do mine, your concern might be even more urgent when you realize his book was written in 1947.”

We need to make a definitive declaration and commitment today that we have a crisis on our hands in America and we’re going to do something about it. It starts with us, our church, our communities and cities. Let’s not be politically correct. The politically correct ideology for everyone to say that everything is o.k. doesn’t work. It’s not o.k. We have kids committing suicide, kids killing each other. The number one medication in America is anti-depressants! We have families being torn apart by divorce. When are we going to say it is time to get back to God’s design for marriage? When will our marriages in the church start to reflect and reveal who God is? We need to go back to the drawing board. Go back to the original design. God’s blueprint , His design, the first relationship He established We need to ask God, what does marriage look like, what does a parent look like, what does a husband and wife look like?

How do we move forward? How do we get our marriages and families where 20 years down the road we sit around a table with grown children, with our families still intact? Yes it’s been difficult. There’s been arguments, rebellion, hurts, pain, ups and downs but we’ve been reconciled, restored, share unconditional love through Jesus. We need to hand down a legacy to our children of what a marriage designed by God looks like. That is where we need to go in marriage.

The blueprint for marriage is Ephesians 5:21- 6:4

This is the core, the vortex of New Testament teaching of what the family: Ephesians 5:21-6:4

And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head (servant provider) of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being Savoir of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.

It tells us when God’s spirit fills us, controls us, we speak truth in love, we’re thankful for all things. When we allow God to fill us we learn to live out mutual submission, mutual love, mutual concern, mutual yielded ness, radical sacrificial love relationships filled with the Holy Spirit. We learn to live under God’s design for marriage, committed to caring, nurturing, mutual concern. He wants to show us, husbands, wives, children how to live in such a way we can have that close knit family. It is not only for our good, but will reflect His glory in our family. How we do family reflects God’s relationship with His people.

He has chosen family to be His metaphor, to be His word picture to the world. When we are not living this way in family, in the way that reflects our relationship with God the Father, we are marring the testimony of who God is.

So, how does it work? It goes back to Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:5-6,go back to the original, first marriage, Genesis 2:24, the first commandment. Ephesians 5:31-33 "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave (join) to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband. "

There is something mysterious about God in such a union with his people that there is an inner twining of lives. It is a oneness with us, it is pictured the way a man and a woman comes together to become one.

Marriage is the first application of close knit relationships in mutual submission to one another.

Oneness = Intimacy (transparency), one spirit, one body, one soul

God first, everything else is secondary to our spouse.

Marriage is God’s creation, a gift to us for intimacy, sexual pleasure, offspring, and to reflect His image.

We should be best friends, someone we can enjoy life with, laugh with, talk with, be passionate lovers. Remember its God’s plan. Not ours! The closer we draw to God, the closer we will draw to oneness in our marriages with each other.

In this fallen world we will fail at times, sometimes miserably. Why? So we can learn that there is something bigger than us. Marriage is God’s object lesson to teach us we can’t get there by ourselves, so that we have to be totally dependent on Him. He fills us with His unconditional love so we can give it away to our spouse and family whether we get anything back in return. The most fundamental relationship that will make us like His sons and daughters, if you’re honest, is a deep intimate marriage with all the conflict that occurs as you learn to love someone else who is as imperfect as you are. We have to shift our view of marriage from a contract to a covenant where there is no option out, but only to make it better. This is how marriage works. God’s original design.

Mark Soto