Lessons Learned From My Birthday

At the time of this writing (will be several days later when this is posted), yesterday was my birthday.  I am a whole year older than I was the day before yesterday, and, hopefully, a bit wiser. I admit that I had this idealized picture of what my birthday should be like, but it did not really match that ideal at all. However, I still had a good birthday overall because I learned these three important life lessons that could really be applied by, not only me, but everyone in various facets of their lives:

  1. If you really want to love others, you must be willing to sacrifice for them.—My managers and I held a meeting for work, both to discuss work matters and for me to let everyone know that they were appreciated and cared about by us. As the meeting dispersed, I was able to give the managers and associates I work with a small creation of mine that let them know that they matter to me. I wanted to give the tokens to others on my birthday, instead of everyone just giving me things because I have learned that life is not all about me, even on my birthday. Life is about appreciating others in your life that have held your hand, and have been there with and/or for you in both the triumphs and tragedies of life.  Also, since our store will get a visit from some Very Important people soon, the managers were desperate to get as many people as possible, even some from other stores, to help them get ready for the Big Visit.  If I did not care about the managers and the store I work in, and only considered it a way to earn money, I would have never even considered staying as late as I did last night. Because I care about what managers have to go through, I wanted to let them know by working late that they didn’t have to go through this alone. At work, and in other areas of my life, generally, when I wasn’t willing to sacrifice for someone, not only did they get upset at me, but this showed that I really didn’t love them as much as I said I did.
  2. Humility and a repentant attitude are really attractive traits to have.—I was quite upset at an associate on my birthday, for something (in retrospect), that was very minor. When I came to my senses, I apologized to said associate for having an angry and general bad attitude towards her. After that we made up, and I will genuinely strive to be more patient and humble with her the next time. However, one of my friends doesn’t get along with someone in authority in our store because they feel that they are not being appreciated and feel that they are constantly being put down by this authority figure.  If one or both of them had a humble attitude towards the other, they could very well have a better relationship, too.  One of the reasons my pastor is very well-liked and respected by our congregation is, not only because he is generally a very godly individual, but also because of his humble attitude. He does not lord himself over others and is also very down-to-earth.  Humility and a repentant attitude are very attractive traits to have, not only because of the healing and redemptive power they have on relationships, but also because of the value it places on the other person or persons.
  3. Gratitude for what you have and what has been graciously provided for you produces joy, not only to you—the giver, but to the recepient of your gratitude as well.—A lot of things yesterday could have made me grumble and complain—the fact that I didn’t get a chance to give everyone my token of appreciation, the fact that there will people that were rude to me and/or in bad moods, the fact that I didn’t have a birthday party at work like I did last year, etc… However, when I see things as gifts from God, rather than something I’m entitled to, I find that I have more joy in the things I receive.  I actually felt bad for all the people that were in a bad mood yesterday, and felt good that I, for the most part, was in a pretty good mood.  Even though I didn’t have a birthday party at work this year, I still found great joy in being able to get a lot of things done at work for others and being able to serve God by helping others at my job.  Even though I wasn’t able to give everyone my token of appreciation, the people I was able to give them to appreciated it very much.  And for that I am grateful.  I am also grateful for the many people that cared that it was my birthday, and have loved me as I am.  Being grateful (and not grumbly, as when I am not thinking in a grateful way) makes me very happy! So, I recommend that if you want to be happier in life, make a list of as many things as possible, of what you are grateful for, such as the people in your life that have encouraged you, the abilities you have (i.e If you can walk or see, those count too!), and the provisions that have been given to you to make your life better.

These three things are the major lessons that I took away from my birthday yesterday.  I hope that these lessons will not only be applied by me in my life, but also by others in their lives.  If we loved and were more willing to sacrifice for others, if we were more humble and repentant after we made a mistake, and if we were more grateful for everyone and everything we have been given, then I believe that this world would be a better place.

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What I Learned From Peter

The apostle Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, and the writer of 1 and 2 Peter. To me, he is a dynamic example of how God can use the ordinary and make them extraordinary.  These principles I have learned from Peter are so universal that anyone, no matter religion, race, class, ethnicity, gender, or any other human identifier, can apply these to their lives!  I’ve had a tough week, and more and more, I have been thinking about how the apostle Peter also had tough times- -Times where he was hypocritical in his character, so his actions betrayed what he believed;  times where he was persecuted against and rejected by others, times where he felt inadequate to God and to others. All these I have also experienced in my life, and I can bet, some of you have, too.  However, I have learned these following things from the life of Peter that has helped me not only to understand him better, but also to encourage myself and others in our life’s journeys:

  1. Think before doing or saying
  2. You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference
  3. Never give up.

One of the mistakes that Peter made throughout his life, was he did a lot of things without thinking them through.  This is something I struggle with as well.  For example, in Matthew 26, Peter is recorded as saying that he would die for Jesus even if he were being persecuted! We know that he didn’t think about what that really meant, because even when three different people, including a servant girl with no power to do anything bad to Peter, asked if he (Peter) had been with Jesus, Peter denied even knowing of or being with Jesus, all three times! In another instance, the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2 :11 (KJV), that  Peter “was to be blamed, “ meaning he was to be corrected, because he separated himself from eating with the Gentiles (non-Jews). Peter did this only because he was afraid of what some other Jewish people would think.  Peter did not think about the implications that his actions would have on the Church, as a whole, nor on the example he was setting for the rest of the Jewish believers.  From these two instances, I learn from Peter that it is better to think things through before saying or doing anything. For instance, when I am upset at someone, I want to say very mean and hurtful things to that person as a way of making them “feel” my rage at the time. However, when I really take the time to think through the implications and consequences of my actions, I often am successful at not saying those things.

Another thing that I learn from Peter is the fact that one does not have to be perfect, or even saintly, to make a positive difference in this world.  As I noted before, even the apostle Peter, was far from perfect! However, some weeks after Peter denied Jesus, Jesus encourages Peter by reinstating him to ministry and preparing his heart for this endeavor by asking Peter if he loved Him. Jesus reinstates him to ministry by basically telling him to “feed His sheep,” meaning to encourage people (the sheep) to follow God’s directives by “feeding” them His words and His teachings.  Even though, Paul had to reprimand Peter later, Peter still made a huge difference in helping the early Christians be able to withstand persecution for their faith, and to be able to stay mentally strong despite these persecutions and other life trials.  We know this, through Peter’s writings, where he encourages the churches he lead to stand firm in their faith and persevere.  Sometimes, the perfectionistic-me thinks that when I fail morally or in another way, that I can’t do anything worthy for God or for others. However, through learning about Peter’s life, I am encouraged that this is not the case.  I believe that this is not the case for any of you either. No matter where you are in life, or what you have done or failed to do, you still can make a positive difference in this world. You just have to believe you can!

Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, I learned from Peter never to give up.  Even when Peter made, what I think to be the biggest error of his life—denying even knowing Jesus, Peter did not give up on life or on himself.  As noted in John 21, Peter went back to hanging out with Jesus and, eventually, accepted his mission from Jesus. Peter did not avoid Jesus or the other disciples that were left, but faced his mistake when Jesus gently confronted Peter with the issue of his love for Him.  In contrast, another disciple (Judas) that betrayed Jesus, went and committed suicide, giving up on life and on everything else.  Also, in several biblical passages, Peter is recorded casting his nets all day, or all night, for fish, but not getting any. Peter could have given up until Jesus came to him, or waited for another day, but Peter persevered.  Eventually, in John 21:11 (KJV), it says, “Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.”

Many times in my life, even several days ago, I have felt so overwhelmed with life, that I just wanted to give up.  However, my faith in God and the hope of a better future, prodded me on.  When I look to the apostle Peter and see his perseverance, I am also inspired to keep going, because I know the reward can be great for me, if I don’t give up. I’m sure the rewards you can get, both in this life and in the next, can be very great, if you don’t lose hope and if you keep on, keeping on!

Sacrifice

Sacrifice  written on 2/19/2018

dedicated to a dear friend.

Once, the Savior,

His body shattered

On a blood-stained tree

Became the sacrifice for me

 

Then, one day He found me

At the end of my rope

Looking for any sign of hope

And gave me His love

 

One day I found you

Trying to get through life

Even though all around you

Was pain and strife

 

Since I met you

Everyone always took from you

Without giving you true love

But that’s not what I want to do

 

Because of my Savior

And everything He is,

All He embodies to me

His love is all I want you to see

 

His love that would

Take the bullet for you

His love that would

Always prove pure and true

 

His love that would

Infuse joy into your life

And would be with you

When you experience strife

 

His love that would

Give His all for you

Because His love is the most true

This love I want to show to you

What I Want For My Birthday

My birthday is in a few days! Normally, when a person has a birthday, they want material gifts like outfits, a birthday cake or special treat to eat, or something that delights their fancy. After all, a birthday is a celebration of that person’s very existence!  Though it is nice for me to have things like these, the things that I want most for my birthday are not solely for me—but for the whole world, especially those I interact with regularly.  They cannot be bought at any store, but their worth is beyond anything that can be tagged with a price. The three things I want most for my birthday are:

  1. For the world to experience God’s love.
  2. For peace for the people around me.
  3. For people around me, both online and offline, to experience joy.

I want the world to experience God’s love because I believe that if they did, this world would be a better place. What do I mean by God’s love?  Mainly, agape love.  According to a source in the Wikipedia, theologian O.C Quick describes agape love this way:

If we could imagine the love of one who loves men purely for their own sake, and not because of any need or desire of his own, purely desires their good, and yet loves them wholly, not for what at this moment they are, but for what he knows he can make of them because he made them, then we should have in our minds some true image of the love of the Father and Creator of mankind.

(source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape)

In other words, this love is so unselfish that when someone loves like this, it is purely for the other’s benefit, not anything that they can gain back from the object of their love.  Agape love is so unconditional that it will love its recipient, even with their flaws, and no matter what their actions may be.

Many people in this world seek this kind of love. Yet, many search, far and wide, for this kind of love, because of its stability and genuineness. However, they come up empty.  They have a gaping hole in their souls where this love should be.  Some have given up hope of ever finding someone who will love them like that, and either they will delve into bitter hate for this world, or have callous indifference to everyone and everything around them.

However, for anyone who has experienced God’s love, agape love, I would strongly encourage you to share it with others, because all of us desperately need this type of love. For those who think they have never experienced this type of love, that have only experienced “love” on the basis of merit or a trade of some sorts, know that agape love is out there for you. Don’t ever give up on this type of love! Agape love can change your life, and change this world for the better.

 

Another thing that I want for my birthday is for people around me to experience peace. (Yes, this also includes those who read this that I have never met face-to-face.) I don’t really like watching the news all that much because it feeds on our fears.  It seems like every two minutes, the news reports someone being shot or killed.  There is rarely any encouraging news on television, even though I know this type of thing does happen more often than one would think.  Also, I see people at my workplace, my family, and even some of those that attend my church, carrying burdens and cares that have them on edge or worried.  I admit that sometimes I am one of these people. However, when I focus on my blessings and what God has done for me, I am able to be much more at peace than when I focus only on my circumstances and the bad happening around me.  I see how God is working, and how good can come out of a bad situation.

I would love those around me to experience similar peace. I want you all to know that things will turn out OK, or even gloriously, if you don’t give up.  I would advise everyone reading this not to worry your life away.  I used to worry so much about things, when I was growing up, that I did not enjoy life as much as I should and could have.  Now, as I am learning to let go of certain worries and fears, I find that I am able to experience joy and peace much more in my life.

 

The other thing I want for my birthday is for people to experience joy.  As some of you regular readers may know, I have struggled with depression for many years.  It has only been fairly recently that I have begun to experience true and more lasting joy.  I never want another soul to experience the depression I have battled with for so long. This does not mean I necessarily want everyone to get what they want, especially if their desires won’t really make them experience true joy in the long run.  However, I do want people to experience lasting joy—joy that will last through the trials, the tears, and the pains of life. I want people to have joy that can triumph over every obstacle in its way, and joy that can last forever!

I want those around me to be able to have so much joy in their hearts that they will not even consider comparing themselves to the Joneses, and being jealous of those who supposedly have it “better” than them.  I want those around me to have so much joy, that they can no longer keep it to themselves. –They are compelled to spread their joy, wherever they go.

These are the three things I want most for my birthday. I don’t want my birthday to only be about me, even though it is technically celebrating my existence.  I want my birthday to be about spreading love, peace, and joy to others, so that my special day would not only make me happy, but would make  those around me joyful as well.

Why I Blog

I started this particular blog on the Eve of Christmas Eve, December 23, 2015.  I never dreamed that I would now blog twice a week, and be engaged in a blogging community that has opened my eyes to a unique, amazing world of wisdom and knowledge around me.  Some well-meaning loved ones have told me that since I don’t make money off my blog (yet), that I should only engage in this as a mere hobby.  However, to me, blogging is much more than a hobby.  Blogging, for me, is a ministry–a service, if you will.  Yes, I still have a day job, and I love it! However, when it all comes down to it, about 90% (I’m estimating, of course) of the blogs that I have read have to do with life, whether it is a life about how we dress and carry ourselves, a life of exploring new places (travel), a life of being a parent, a life of doing what we love the most, or how to live life well.  The three primary purposes of my blog are:

  1. To teach others about how to live life well—both emotionally and spiritually.
  2. To encourage others—So that my readers will know that they never have to face life’s challenges alone and feel invalidated by anyone.
  3. To teach myself the things that I need to work on. I often know what to do, but fail to put what I learn into practice. I blog to keep myself accountable.

 

First of all, I blog to teach others how to live life well, both emotionally and spiritually.  I, not only want to teach others from the things that the people in my life, including myself, have done well, but also so that others can learn from the mistakes I’ve made, to spare people the consequences of doing the same thing wrong.  I want my readers to be able to grow as individuals and together, and be catalysts to make their world a better place, not only for themselves, but also for those around them.   I write from a primarily motivational/spiritual perspective, and incorporate that into what I hope to teach others.

I also write to encourage others.  Many people that I have encountered in life feel alone and believe that, few, if any, people really care about and want to make any kind of investment in them, or their life stories.  One of the main reasons why I often relate my own experiences into my blog is to let, you, the reader know that if you, or a loved one, are facing anything similar, that you don’t have to face that trial alone.  I also want you to know that you are loved and cared about, and I value you and your life stories very much.  When I write about my personal experiences, I also want you to be encouraged not to give up. This is, because, from experience, I have always found that, in perseverance, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.  If you ever need moral support and feel like you have no one to talk to, you can always email me privately, using the contact form on my website.  I will be more than willing to offer you words of support, validation, and/or advice (if you want it).

Finally, I write to teach myself things that I need to improve.  Sometimes, when I blog, I feel like I fall woefully short of the ideals I believe. This is why, when I blog about something, I often write about things that I do well, or that other people in my life have done well. Of course, I also write about things that I need to work through, from a self-teaching perspective. For instance, I once wrote about the things that I still struggle with. For that post, see this link.  This serves not only to re-teach myself, but also to keep myself accountable, so that I will, at least, strive to line up my beliefs and actions better.

These are the three primary reasons why I blog.  I hope one day some of my posts will be published in a magazine or some other media form, but that is not my primary goal. My primary goal in all this is, through my words that I type up on my blog website, to  inspire others to live better, not only for themselves, but also to change the world for the better. If you blog, why do you blog? Please share in the comments.

On Overcoming Fear

What are you afraid of? For me, my biggest fears have been fear of rejection and fear of failure. My other, lesser fears include fear of tarantulas, fear of heights, fear of wasps and big spiders.  Yes, many fears can be crippling and can pull one down, but some of them can actually be beneficial. Fear can be good if it protects you from greater dangers, if it creates respect and reverence for someone or something that deserves or is entitled to it, and when it influences us to make wise decisions.  For instance, recently I wanted to pull a double-shift for one of my managers to help him get things done, but because of a big snowstorm, he advised me not to. Because I was afraid of what would happen with me being possibly drowsy (I would have been up for more than 24 hours that day if I did said shift, and working more than 12!) and bad weather conditions , I listened to his advice to cancel working the double shift and just work my normal shift that day.  His care and my willingness to listen that day could have possibly saved my life, because even when I was going home at the normal time (and the weather and roads weren’t as bad yet) the drive was still a bit treacherous. Imagine how it would have been in the midst of the storm and with me being drowsy! Also, the Bible says to fear God, and this is a good fear because it helps believers to respect Him and to worship Him better.

However, fear can also be bad. This kind of fear can cripple you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Furthermore, this fear can keep you from accomplishing your goals and purposes in life and, in some cases, can even kill you!  For instance, fear of failure has prevented me, in the past, from trying new things or doing things that I needed to do to be more successful.  When I didn’t think there was even a slight possibility of accomplishing something, I tend to either give up, or more likely, just get very frustrated, instead of finding a new way to accomplish said thing.  Certain fears, like a fear of rejection, can also be an indicator of your lack of trust both in your own God-given abilities and in everyone else.

Overcoming fear is about triumphing over “bad” fear in order to live a more successful and fulfilling life. Though I still struggle with certain fears, these are several ways that I have strived to overcome them:

The first step in overcoming fears that cripple and depress you is finding the root cause of your fear or fears. There are many root causes of fear. For instance, I often struggle with the fear of failure because I want things to be just right.  The root causes, or the things that cause me to fear failure, are:

  1. Feeling that I wouldn’t be of use to the world if I didn’t succeed in said thing. (a sense of inadequacy)
  2. Feeling that other people would think I am “stupid” or “worthless” for my perceived failure. (fear of rejection)
  3. Fear of the consequences of my failure.

Other common “root causes” of fear are our lack of trust for a person or institution, a feeling of discouragement (that we can never get it right anyway no matter how much we tried), or shame if we did feared thing. Once we find the root cause or causes of our fear or fears, we are ready to begin overcoming our fears.

The second step in overcoming fears is what I call, exposure.  I would not try to expose yourself to the fear all at once; it will be too overwhelming.  Instead, slowly expose yourself to the fear.  For instance, if you are afraid of spiders, I would start by looking at pictures online, in a magazine or book, of a spider.  Then, when you can look at said pictures without feeling anxious or icky about, then buy a plastic spider at a craft or party store, and touch it and feel it crawl against your skin.  When you can do that without feeling anxious and squeamish about it, then try to do the same with a small real- life spider. When that doesn’t bother you (i.e.. you don’t scream or get squeamish), you have conquered your fear! Congratulations! For another example, if you fear rejection by people when you share your struggles with others, first tell someone else about a minor struggle you faced this week. Then, when you can do that without worry or fear, tell someone about an on-going struggle you faced this month. If you can do that with no problems, then you are ready to share the struggle you had to face this year, or in your life. Also, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen to me if I were confronted with my fear or if my fear came true? “ and “How can I deal with what would happen without giving into fear?”

For physical fears, such as fear of spiders, I would a.) expose myself to the fear little by little, and b) Find support in dealing with my fears. This support person or persons would make sure I can get through the fear well and would “talk me out” of the fear when I am afraid. For emotional fears, such as fear of rejection, I would remind myself of the people that love me, and believe that they actually love me.  I would remind myself that these fears are usually lies that cripple me into becoming the person I want to be. Finally, I would also seek out supportive people that will help me in coping with my fears by encouraging me and talking me out of giving in to my fears.

Finally, if you have overcome your fear or fears, I would try to help others overcome their fears. However, make sure that you yourself are still not struggling with said fears, otherwise you will pull both you and the other person down!  In order to be a good supportive friend in helping others overcome their fears, make sure you can in some way relate to their fear or fears. Also, never ever minimize or act condescendingly towards them for their fears. For instance, if your friend is afraid of wasps, do not tell them they are a “baby” for being afraid of them.  Also, don’t dangle a wasp in front of them to tease them. This is very condescending and bullying behavior. It will not only make them even more fearful, but also, they won’t trust you to help them overcome their fears anymore, and you will have lost the opportunity to make a real difference for them. The point is to always help them in a positive, supportive way.

These are the ways that I try to overcome my fears. Yes, I still struggle at times, but I have overcome and am overcoming many of my past fears.  Being triumphant over these fears has definitely helped me to be a more motivated and successful person.  What are your fears? How have you tried to overcome them? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Why I Love

I will fully admit. –Since I love, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  Some may say it is foolish to love so hard, and I understand where they are coming from, but , from my understanding, that is the power of true love.  Love goes all out for someone.  As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:5-7 (KJV): [Love] beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (bold italics emphasis mine). Here is why I strive to love so hard:

1.Because of God’s love for me—God has been actively orchestrating my life since the beginning of time! Even when I wanted to give up on myself and my life because of the difficulties I have I had to endure in my life, I firmly believe God has never given up on me. He loved me even when I didn’t feel good enough for anyone and had a self-pity party.  He has showered me blessings way beyond my comprehension and my merit!  He has shown me care and compassion, even when I have forgotten His goodness and God Himself.  That is true love!  That is why I strive every day to love God, through loving others. Yes, I may fail at loving others at times, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get up and try again.  With God’s love, there is always hope for anyone, even me.

2. Because of my life’s purpose—One of my life’s purposes is to love others as God has loved me. I want to share this great love with others because I can believe true love can change the world for the better.  I found that when I want to give up on loving someone, I feel depressed and even suicidal at times! That is because if I refuse to love others, all other things that I do are fruitless and meaningless.  It even says that in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-4 (KJV), where charity equals love:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

3.Because it gives joy—I strive to love others because it not only gives me great joy, but because the joy in love and being loved is contagious! I find when I strive to love others the way God has loved me, it brings great joy to everyone involved. For instance, during the Christmas season/holidays at work, I made it a point to give every salaried member of management a Christmas card to let them know, in essence, that their hard work and dedication to our company does not go unnoticed.  All the managers seemed appreciative and joyful upon receiving the cards.  It also gave me joy to be able to make the managers feel loved and appreciated.  When I have the difficult task of loving someone that I’m either upset with or that I don’t particularly like, and I do, it’s like a burden is lifted off me.  However, when I do love these people, I don’t only feel better about myself, but I often feel like there is hope for restoration and healing in our relationships.

4. Because it is better than the alternative.—Today, as I write this, I am deeply troubled and saddened by the hatred and anger in this world, as I hear of another mass shooting in my country. However, today is also Valentine’s Day, a day that we are all supposed to love and care for each other.  Over and over again, hatred always creates destruction and dissension.  As hard as it is to love certain people, we must be diligent in at least attempting to be kind and love others.  Don’t rely on feelings alone to love someone; otherwise, we may fall woefully short.  However, love because your very life and your very legacy depend on it!

This is why I strive to love others every day. Yes, there are times when I fall woefully short of where I should be in loving others, but even in times when we fall short; we must not give up on love.  When we give up on love, we lose our lives, both spiritually and emotionally.  However, when we do love, we can turn the world upside down for its good and preservation.