anthem, community, credos, eternal matters, fear, God, inspiration, life, life lessons, love, peace, positivity, purpose, truth

Fear No More

-written May 19 and June 8, 2022

Almost two years ago, near the end of October 2020, I felt like my life was over. This was during the height of the pandemic, where I felt so isolated and alone that I didn’t even see God working. I gave into fear and disillusionment. I was on leave from work because the increasing stress had caused me to have an anxiety attack and nervous breakdown.

What I did not know was that after my leave was over, the stress at work would dissipate for awhile, before becoming bad again. Fear paralyzed me and threatened to permanently steal the joy I should have had as a believer in Christ.

A little over a month ago today, God blessed me with my current job. One Wednesday night, I went to church service, but didn’t expect anything great since there were very few people in our congregation that attended (the rest were with the children to celebrate the kids’ accomplishments in AWANA). What I didn’t know is that service has the potential to change my perspective and my life forever.

A missionary in our congregation spoke on living the victorious Christian life. This was not some sort of feel-good easy-believism kind of sermon. No, this was personal. This missionary’s message was both challenging and hopeful at the same time. He spoke of surrendering one’s entire self to God instead of trying to live the Christian life under one’s own power and strength. He spoke of the spiritual battles that will happen when one makes this commitment to God, but that we also need to use God’s strength and power through the shed blood of Jesus to bind these evil forces that try to dissuade us from fully following and surrendering to Him.

I suddenly realized why I was feeling so stressed out in my previous job, and still struggling with Impostor syndrome when people complimented me at my new job. I was trying to navigate the stressors at work under my own power! I realized that my life could be radically changed if I just trusted God in this area and let go of the illusion of control over what happened at work. I needed to let go of the pain I experienced in the past, whether from previous jobs or other past experiences.

I did not need to “prove” to anyone anything. I did not need to be the best at work just to be “acceptable” in God’s or my manager’s eyes. I just needed to give up the illusion that I could control things or that I could do anything worthwhile in my own power. Most of all, I needed to put my “self” to death, that is my selfish desires and ambitions, and give it all to God to allow Him to use me however He sees fit, and I can trust Him because He will always work all things to my good and His ultimate glory! I also realized that I needed to not fear trials and tribulations of life, but trust that God would lead me through them in His power and for His glory!

Sometimes, I still struggle with my fears, especially of trials, because I doubt I can handle them. However, by God’s strength and love, I know God will bring me through them for His glory.

anthem, community, credos, errors, eternal matters, fear, forgiveness, friends, God, life, life lessons, love, positivity, purpose, stories, thankfulness, truth

God Saved My Life

by Patricia A. Go

written March 20 and 22, 2022

Despite it being a sunny and pleasant day, weather-wise, I had no motivation left to do anything. I felt ashamed, useless, angry, and powerless. Much of who I identified with was tied to my job. I was one of the top performers there, and since my job and seemingly everything that went with it was taken away from me, I was devastated. Most of my friends were tied up either at work or being swept through with the daily stressors of their lives. Besides, I no longer wanted to add burdens to them by relating *my* stresses.

I planned to take the books, magazines and DVDs my parents and I had borrowed and return them to the library, and then go to my church as a last ditch effort to get the emotional care I so desperately needed at the time. It was around three-thirty in the afternoon. I did not think anyone was in there, since most of the staff I thought already went home during this time.

I thought to myself that if that didn’t work, then I was going to have to find some way to end it all. I did not really have any specific exit plan, but I knew if I didn’t get help, this Monster inside me was going to take over and destroy me forever.

I tried to open the front door, that led to the church sanctuary, where services were held. Of course, that was locked, since there was no service at that time of day. However, I saw several cars parked in front of the church office.

“Good,” I thought to myself. ” Maybe someone is there.”

I tried to open the door to the church office. It was unlocked. I walked quickly to the church foyer where people usually ate and congregated before services. I saw a man. Immediately, I felt a heavy spirit pressing upon me, as I wept from utter relief and overwhelm.

“I need to talk to a pastor.” I told him, in desperation. Then, the man quickly notified a couple of my pastors that I was there and needed support.

After that, the assistant pastor Ted* and the youth director, A.J came out. They immediately sensed something was wrong with me. All the overwhelming feelings and past experiences that were attached to my depression, spilled in words of desperation out of my mouth. I had expected to be condemned or ridiculed, or just brushed aside. Ted and A. J did neither of those. Instead, they listened patiently and encouraged me, as I dealt with my feelings of shame, anger and hurt that I tried to bury for many months before. A.J invited me to volunteer at church the next day to clean and organize some things in it, and he prayed for my healing and strength to get through this tough time. The teens in the church were also planning to volunteer. I felt a sense of relief and hope that I was finally heard and that I was not rejected by them. I knew God had brought them there at that time to save my life!

The next day, I went to volunteer at church. I almost felt like I was working again. I was energized and felt better about myself and the world around me. What I did not know, is that God would be working again through the speaker in the evening service, later that day.

It was around 5:45 in the evening, and the wind was fairly strong, but not overly so. I was sitting outside on the church steps leading to the sanctuary waiting for the church to be opened, so I could go inside and eat my dinner, which I had stored in the church’s refrigerator.

Then, suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a car pull up by the church office. “Good!” I thought. ” Maybe that’s A. J and he will be able to open the door for me.”

It turned out to be the missionary, Tim Bundy, who was going to be a guest speaker at the church that evening! I told him that my name was Patricia and that I was a member of the church.

Then, later the children’s ministry director, Sara, * opened the door for me and I was able to eat my dinner.

I was still feeling a little depressed and lonely as I waited for service to start. However, I was still a lot better than I was the previous afternoon before I went to the church.

Bundy talked about how God had led him into the ministry and how he had found his wife. However, it was when he turned to the message that I really felt God speaking to me through him that would change my mindset for the better.

He talked about how God can use anyone, even those who have disabilities or problems to accomplish His will in their lives.

He says, “There is nothing we can offer God, but the willingness to be used of Him. [God says], ‘I have called each and every one of you to be used of Me equally. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have riches, or strength, or popularity, or fame or influence; you have Me, and as I lead you, that is all you will ever need.”

Bundy also talked about the extent of God’s love, and how God does not love us less based on what we do or experience in our life. Furthermore, he talked about how God loves all kinds of people, even the drug addict or the difficult boss or family member who does not want to hear about Him, that we should look at them with the boundless grace and mercy God looked at us even before we were conceived.

I felt God speaking to me, right then, saying, “You can forgive the people that hurt you at your former job and in your past. You don’t have to be angry and bitter at them anymore. You can let them go now. You can let Me take care of them for you. You don’t have to get even. You just show them the love and grace that I showed you.”

God also said, “I still can use you even though you don’t have a job now. You still can be used of Me if you are willing to trust me that I have the best possible plan for you. You are not useless, powerless or shameful. You are Mine, and you can draw upon My strength to persevere throughout your life.”

God saved me from making a mistake that could have taken my life prematurely, through the support and care of my pastors, the message that He spoke through Tim Bundy, and the determination and joy that Tim and Jennifer have for ministering and soul winning for the people of Ethiopia. I still struggle at times, but knowing that God is on my side and will help me persevere gives me peace and strength to not give up on what God has for my life.

If you would like to support Timothy and Jennifer Bundy’s ministry, please see this link . Like me, they are trusting God to use them mightily.

*= These names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com
anthem, emodiversity, eternal matters, fear, hiding, life, life lessons, pain, peace, positivity, purpose, stories, suffering, truth

Live Life Unafraid

Photo by Emma Li on Pexels.com

Fear, in my life, has been like the tangled web of lies and entrapment that suffocated me, and constantly sucked joy out of my life. Fear led to my depression, and subsequently an eating disorder which I struggled from my tween years into my early teens. Fear led me to continue in toxic friendships and other relationships in fear of what would happen if I ended them. Fear prevented me from really experiencing some of the blessings that God had for me. However, in the past couple years, God has untied the knots of fear in my life and has led me out into a place of joy and freedom that I haven’t felt since I was a little girl!

Since I was a little girl, I have striven to perform well, whether it be in school or in work. However, I believe the devil used this trait to develop in me the attitude of perfectionism, which led to one of my biggest fears—fear of failure. Whether it be from my parents, society, teachers, bosses, or my peers, when I failed, I could see, in their eyes, their disappointment and sometimes anger at my failure. I felt so invalidated and discouraged during those times, that I subconsciously told myself that I would try never to fail in front of them. That, however, proved impossible.

A couple years ago, the fear of failure and not performing up to my “normal” performance rate (which was already above what management wanted) led to a mental breakdown, which led me to take a leave of absence from work. After I came back to work, I knew I had to face my fear of failing to perform at my “normal” standards head on if I were to prevent future problems at my job.

A couple weeks ago, a new procedure was put into place which confronted my fear of not performing to my normal rate/speed head on. Since the new procedure was put into place, I was no longer in complete control of how fast I could pick the items for the customer. I also learned a couple days ago, that even with the new procedures at work, there were other aspects of my performance (We call them “metrics.”) where I may not be able to be in complete control over the results, because of issues related to the worldwide supply chain disruption or with vendors, drivers, or other people in which I cannot control. With the realization that I did not have to (and could not) control every aspect of my performance, I am now just resolved to do the best I can and now have some semblance of peace in how I perform.

Another way that God has taught me to live life unafraid is by working on me to help me combat my fear of what others think of me. My fear of man had led me to think of how God created me as deficient and inferior, which led to a very unhealthy obsession with restrictive eating. This fear of what others thought of me also led me to continue in some toxic and abusive friendships that reinforced my low self-worth. When God opened my eyes to the lies and the abuse that I had acquiesced to, I was finally able to break much of the ties that I had with the toxicity that enslaved me and almost destroyed me. I realized that I did not need to be friends with people that constantly put me down and bullied me. I did not need to change my personality or appearance for fear that people would not accept the Real me. I could be my unique, neurodivergent, joyful self and who God created me to be, and if people don’t like who I am, at least I know that I am developing into who God wants me to be, and He will always love and cherish me, even if no one else ever does. Thankfully though, God has led me to people that do like the Real me, just the way I am.

In all these situations, God has shown me that if I trust Him to provide for my every need and not worry so much about what would happen if I lacked something I think I “need,” I am able to free myself from the grip of fear and live life unafraid.

anthem, credos, errors, eternal matters, genuineness, goals, God, inspiration, life, life lessons, pain, peace, positivity, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Fear Is a Liar

I love my friend’s podcast. He has given me so much insight about life and hope for my own. One of the things I remember him saying in the podcast was how society/people in life have ingrained fear into our lives. I realize now that many of the fears that I instilled in myself and that society has instilled in me are lies from the pit of hell. They have crept into my life, wrecking havoc and paralyzing me to the point where the joy of life was sucked out from beneath me.

One of the biggest fears that I have continually struggled with is fear of failure. I fear losing my job so much that I did everything in my power to be the best at everything at my job, and when I failed, I went into a meltdown. When I did poorly in a school assignment, sometimes I would hide my bad grades from my parents, not only so that they wouldn’t get upset at me, but also because of the shame that I felt from my bad grade. I do everything in my power to be Christlike sometimes, not to glorify God, but because I am afraid of what would happen if I failed. Would I get kicked out of church? Would I ruin my testimony so much that God would not be able to use me anymore for any good in others’ lives or even my own? Even with this fear of failure, there have already been times when I have failed in each of these areas. I believe God is teaching me that even if I fail, He can still use me and my failures for my good and for His glory. Even if I do lose my job, either because I got fired or laid off for some reason, God will inevitably lead me to another one or provide another way for my needs to be met. God is teaching me that even if I try my best at work and fail, that there will be other days to make it up. Also, if I continue doing my best at work and in life, God will inevitably bless and grow me into a reflection of His image and character.

Another fear that I have struggled with for so long is fear of what others may think of me. Another word for this is “fear of man”. I have constantly tried to please others so that people would think much of me and so I wouldn’t lose their love and respect. However, when people saw my flaws, some of them proved that they didn’t really like the Real Me anyway. God has been teaching me that it is not beneficial or right for me to vie for the love of people all the time, that everyone has different expectations, and that some people are just not good confidants for me. God is also teaching me to let go of those relationships which neither the other person nor me can be built up, and to nurture those where I am more free to be myself and where I have opportunities to build the other person up.

Yet another fear I have struggled with since childhood is the fear of suffering. I have been afraid of suffering because I am afraid that I would not handle it well and that it would last, in my mind, “too long.” However, God has been reminding me that it does get better and that I need to trust Him more when I am in the midst of a trial instead of questioning His care and love for me. God also reminds me that He can help me overcome the trial and help me to be able to glorify Him through it.

When I think of being free from these fears, I feel so much exhilarating joy and hope! When I am free from my fears, I can then be completely who God made me to be, without fear of the repercussions of it, because I know He will be pleased.

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

anthem, caring, community, emodiversity, genuineness, hypocrisy, integrity, life, life lessons, positivity, truth

On Being Real

God has taught me so much over the last year or so since the pandemic started. One of the most significant lessons He has taught me is how to be more real both to Him and to those around me.

It’s always refreshing to be able to be around those who are honest in both their character and their demeanor. Being genuine, or real, to me involves possessing these characteristics. A lack of or deficiency in these traits may indicate a lack of authenticity in a person.

  1. Being real involves a willingness to be honest about who you really are–The most genuine people don’t only talk about the best parts of their personality or their lives, but they show the tough stuff that they have gone through as well. A good example of this is my friend Alex, who has revealed himself real and raw whenever he shares something with me or the world. Several of my pastors have also strived to be genuine by revealing their struggles with sin and temptation, as well as how they have overcome some of them, and how they are constantly working to become more godly. They don’t lord over people or have a holier-than-thou persona.
  2. Being real involves being able to be honest about how you are really feeling.–Nothing is more surface than answering the question of “How are you?” with a flat “fine,” especially if that is not the case. What’s even worse is when someone is trying to answer the “How are you?” question honestly, and the person asking the question blows them off and doesn’t really care for their true answer. When you create an environment that is free of judgment, ridicule and condemnation and really take the time to care about how a person really feels about something, the more likely the person will be willing to share their authentic feelings about a situation.
  3. Being real involves losing the need to always impress people and instead just be our true selves.–I felt that my one ex-friend always wanted to impress me with her “holiness” and her supposed religiosity. I finally saw through that, and now that is one of the reasons why she is now my EX-friend. If a person consistently expects you to impress them with a certain type of persona instead of being who you really are, including your flaws and foibles, chances are they are toxic to be around. You should probably show them the door. Either way, we should strive to be our true selves around those we care about in order to free them to be who they really are. The people who truly love us will want to know our real selves, and not just the persona you are trying to create to impress them or the persona you feel you must show to the general public.

Being real is crucial to building trust and maintaining good and lasting relationships with others. If you cannot be who you really are, then people are really not getting to know the real you. If they like “you” they are not liking the Real You, only the image of who they think “you” are. When people are acting fake or hypocritical to me, it feels like they are lying to me because in a sense they are. When one lies, they erode whatever trust I had in them. When one is authentic, however, it is one of the most refreshing, elating and freeing experiences one can ever experience in life.

anthem, caring, eternal matters, goals, God, inspiration, joy, life, life lessons, love, positivity, purpose, stories, truth, work

How Passion and Purpose Bring Joy

I have struggled on and off with depression for a long time. Thankfully, God put several people in my life that showed me how to have passion and purpose in my life. Having passion and purpose in my life has motivated me to work harder and with more joy than ever before.  This has caused my depression to dissipate significantly.

However, lack of passion and purpose can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. I see many people in today’s society just going to work to pay the bills, and for not much else. Consequently, when they have to do something they don’t like or when a co-worker or client really pushes their buttons, they become angry and/or miserable.  The same goes with students who are in school only because “their parents or guardians forced them.” They typically don’t have motivation to work hard and be the best they can be.  Moreover, their attitude shows that they can’t wait to graduate or somehow get out of school.

When I was in elementary school, I had to complete an assignment that I loathed. At the time, I had the attitude of many of the students who feel forced to go to school and do homework.  Basically, I refused to do the assigned work until my grade for the class would suffer if I didn’t. So, finally, I had to force myself to do the work. Miraculously, I was able to pass the class! After that, I learned a major life lesson that I have strived to carry throughout my life—Sometimes you have to do work you don’t like. Do not try to procrastinate or avoid doing it. Do it first and well enough so it’s out of the way.

When I was in a Bible Study group several months ago, I learned another lesson of passion and purpose that has helped me maintain joy at my job. The lesson can be summed up in this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Learn to love what must be done.”  That is, find joy in the work you are doing now.  Several days ago, I was initially perturbed and not very happy because they had assigned me to down stack totes, and I thought I was assigned that because I was not performing well at work.  Also, that was my least favorite part of the job. However, after one of my managers assured me that I wasn’t in trouble, I decided to find joy in this task by doing the best I could do.  This motivation to do well eventually made this task a bit more joyful and motivating to me! 

Some people may think to themselves, “Why should I do my best if I don’t get a tangible reward for it?”  First of all, even if you do get a tangible reward for good work, it will eventually disappear in some way, whether it would be consumed, stolen, broken or spent (as in the case with money). Nothing tangible or material will last forever.  Second of all, when you know you have done your best, you can acknowledge that fact within yourself. Don’t listen to people who try to criticize your best efforts, especially if you know they are unwarranted.  Finally, when you consistently do your best job, your work quality will eventually improve and you will be more respected, if even only for your work ethic.  This happened to me at a job many years ago before I had to quit. Even though the manager wasn’t pleased at how slow I was going, he did acknowledge that I was still working hard.  Many years later, I am motivated to work hard because I know it will eventually  lead to my work quality getting better.

Another way to find passion and purpose in your life is to have a thirst for learning. Beware of jobs where you are not allowed to even learn new things within your own department.  If you are having trouble at school in a certain class or at work with your performance in a certain area, learn as much as you can about that area or subject in order to improve your work.  For instance, one of the areas I had struggled in retail is cashiering. A couple years ago, I decided to train as a backup cashier, as maybe I would improve in this area.  After several months of training, I became confident enough to cashier on my own, and became one of the few registered trained associates, aside from the regular cashiers, in my store!  This brought me so much joy and a sense of accomplishment, especially since not everyone believed I was able to handle that job!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find a purpose that drives your entire life. Make sure that purpose will bring you lasting joy and fulfillment.  My purpose in life can be summed up in the Westminster’s Confession, which says,” Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Glorifying and enjoying God has brought me much joy, not only in my job, but also in my interactions with other. Glorifying God has freed me up to love others as He has loved me, without having to work so hard to impress other people to get them to like me.  Enjoying God has helped me trust in His love more and to appreciate all that He has done for me and all that He is to me.  Most importantly, my purpose in life has helped motivate me every day to continue to persevere in life even when I am tempted to give up.  Eventually, this perseverance reaps its rewards and brings me joy.  When we have that kind of passion and purpose in life we will yield great joy.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
anthem, caring, errors, eternal matters, God, life, life lessons, positivity, purpose, regrets, truth

Don’t Waste Your Life

One thing that COVID-19 has taught me, with the suddenness and the severity in which it could strike, is that we all have a limited time here on earth.

Even Pre-COVID times, I have been taught this lesson. I almost died in June 2014, because if I hadn’t gone to the ER when I did, my gall bladder would have burst. If that happened, I would not be here today!

As I have gotten older, I have realized that I have spent too much of my life angry and hurt.  I had spent too much time holding grudges and arguing with people who won’t even be there for my funeral! I spent too much of my life worrying about things that would be resolved within days of the incident or things that have no eternal impact at all.

In 2020, I have observed people around me fall into similar patterns.  I see people against who they voted for in the last election. Mind you, many of them are not arguing with close family members or friends who they see often, but people gone from their in-person life, or someone who they haven’t seen in twenty or so years.   I’ve seen people arguing with a store employee who they probably don’t have to deal with on a daily basis anyway about rights and mask wearing.  I’ve known people who have lost sleep over things that were resolved within days of the incident. 

If we do things like I have observed from various people this year and like I have done when I was younger, then we are wasting our lives! No one will say on their death bed, “ I wish I had spent more time arguing with person X about “xyz”” On their death bed, no one will care about whether a particular store requires us to wear a mask or not or anything related to that.  We will not be concerned with work-related stresses or, on the other hand, anything related to entertainment, such as how a favorite team is performing. 

Most people will think about what they had wish they had done differently in life, whether it is how they treated people or opportunities they wish they had taken.  They will want more time to make things right in their world, but at the same time, regretting that they hadn’t used the time they were given more wisely.

Don’t let that be you. Don’t waste your life!

Ask yourself when you are tempted to get in a heated debate with someone: Will that person even be in my life a year from now? Is that person even in my daily in-person life today? When I die, will the person most like be there for my funeral after I die? If the answer is “No,” disengage and walk away from the conversation.

Spend time with people who are supportive of you. Minister to those around you who you can have an impact for the positive. Smile at a person who is having a rough day, and encourage their soul.  Be determined to be a peacemaker and a life saver in someone’s life today.

Ask yourself when you are worried about something: Will this even matter a year from now? Does this situation have eternal significance?  If not, QUIT worrying about it!  Also, remember what it says in Isaiah 26:3 (KJV), “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee,” and Romans 8:28 (KJV), “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  In other words, God will give you peace when you give your worries to Him and trust that He will bring you through the situation for our good and His glory.

When we begin to have an eternal perspective on things and live like it could be our last days on earth, not only will we most likely have more joy in our lives, but our lives will never be wasted again!

Image by AD_Images from Pixabay
anthem, boundaries, caring, community, credos, errors, eternal matters, God, hypocrisy, integrity, life, life lessons, love, purpose, truth

4 Things All Professing Christians Should Stop Doing

I have seen and heard a lot of vitriol recently in my social media feed regarding our government, the coronavirus response, and quarantine life in general.  Although some of the vitriol has come from non-Christians, I have seen a disturbing number of professing believers also being just as vicious in their messages, and, as a follower of Christ, that makes me so upset and sad.  Just to clarify, I have also seen some believers being very gracious and kind in their responses to those who disagree with them, especially my former pastor who responds with the grace and dignity that I can only hope that more people, no matter their religious affiliation, would emulate. However, here are some things that I have heard and/or witnessed myself with some of those who profess belief in Christ that have grieved me, and that believers (myself included) should make sure we never do or stop doing, if we struggle with these issues.

  1. Not showing grace to those who disagree with them.—Years ago, before I was a true believer in Christ, I have to admit I was guilty of this. I condemned and cursed those who would even criticize my favorite musical group. Thankfully, I have grown from that, and I aim to show grace to those who disagree with my views on life.   Unfortunately, I was reading one of my friend’s social media feeds (The friend is a strong believer), and their friends (also believers) seemed to be attacking one another and not showing very much grace to one another.   I would be horrified to hear what non-Christians who witnessed this would think of us believers now in light of this! I would advise believers like myself to refrain from engaging in arguments or discussions if you are unable to keep from condemning or otherwise bad mouthing your opponent. This silence will keep your witness from being marred or even destroyed and from giving the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14).
  2. Loving their neighbor, but hating their enemies.—Going along with the first point, we should strive to love those around us, even our enemies.  I know it’s tough, and I also struggle with this. However, when we see even our enemies, as fellow image-bearers of God with real dreams and goals, we can make a new friend out of them! When I decided to humble myself before God and follow what Jesus said in Matt 5:44, which says,” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” winning them over is eventually what happened in numerous situations. For instance, I had trouble getting along with one of my now-former managers. In fact, at some point, I would actually have been honest in saying I hated them! However, after God revealed to me the unnecessary bitterness and anger in my heart towards them, I eventually saw them with eyes of love and compassion. Now, I hold them close to my heart as one of my good friends.
  3. Being prideful or self-righteous in any situation, especially when being confronted with sin in their lives.—I can usually tell if a person is a mature Christian by the way they respond to criticism and when they are confronted with their sins.  For instance, when confronted with criticism over an article he linked about obeying government, my pastor did not respond with vitriol or pride.  Instead, he humbly and gracefully explained his position, which caused some of the people who criticized him to examine the issue further and not get upset.  However, I also had a friend who I had to confront because they had violated my boundaries more than once, and instead of humbly apologizing or respecting me, they got upset and told me I was “crazy.” Both my pastor and my friend would claim to be professing Christians, but the way each of them responded reflects how true their belief in Christ really is. Unlike what society around us may say, pride is not an attractive quality in anyone. Humility is, because it shows that you can be real with someone without playing the victim or feeling attacked.
  4. Being one person in public, and another behind closed doors.—Believing one thing and doing another is called being a hypocrite, and being two-faced will grossly undermine any credible witness you may have.  In order to combat this, strive to be transparent with others about how you are living your life. This may include sharing your struggles with at least one or two close friends, and inviting their accountability and encouragement to do better.  Also, do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. In Galatians 6:2 (KJV), it says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” I believe when this verse says to bear one another’s burdens, it also includes letting other people bear yours!  Yes, I understand that trusting others is difficult sometimes, but do you trust God to do what is best for you through them? God will never let you go, and He has a good plan for you always, for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).

When we as a Body of believers resolve never to do these four things, we can have a major impact for the Kingdom of God! We can be the authentic, cross-bearing, Jesus loving believers we were created by God to be!

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How To Speak Your Mind Gracefully

I am saddened and dismayed by the political vitriol and discord that has gone on in my country, and frankly, around the world as well.  Unfortunately, I have taken part in heated and aggressive arguing before. It was about twenty years ago in an online forum.  I may have considered myself a believer in Christ, but I doubt I really was at the time.  Worse yet, one of my hateful messages became a featured message on that particular website! I regret writing that message to this day, and hope it is not still up there. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but I know it didn’t build up or respect anyone at all.  Thankfully, God did not leave me hate-filled and aggressive like I was before, and He has taught me, through many respectable and grace-filled Christians, how to speak my mind more gracefully. Here is what I learned, and continue to learn:

  1. When confronted with a person or person with an opposing view, make sure you understand what they are actually saying, and define terminology. —I was in an online discussion on a social media platform that got heated because both sides seemed to not understand what the other person’s view actually was. That’s why I asked them to define terms.  For instance, I’ve seen and heard people arguing against the stay at home order in their state.  Other people accused them of being “selfish” because they are arguing against it.  In order for either party to share their beliefs with grace, they need to try to understand where the party with the opposing belief is coming from.   The party that called the people protesting or arguing about the stay at home order “selfish” could instead see what part of the stay at home order they are against. The people protesting may not be against all stay at home orders, but just the more restrictive parts of it.  The people who are for the stay at home orders may just come out of a concern and care for others’ well -are and safety and are not intending to be “tyrannical,” as those protesting the orders may think.  Also, it would be useful for both parties to define clearly and precisely the term “stay at home order.” What would it include? What would it not include?
  2. Focus on what you agree on, not on what divides you.—In my example about the stay at home order, it may be useful to focus more on what unites you, not only what you disagree about.  Both parties in arguing about the stay at home order issue seem to come out of a concern for what they feel is the greater good. The party that supports people staying at home until COVID-19 passes wants people to stay safe and not potentially spread the virus, especially to the most vulnerable in society.  The party that supports lifting some restrictions on the stay at home order in their state may want the economy to recover so that less people would be out of work and have income to buy food and other necessities.
  3. Never name-call or denigrate the other side.–What I see in many bitter and contemptible debates is that people tend to demonize and denigrate the opposing side. They do not see the opposing side as humans with goals and dreams like us, but instead as a demon or even the devil himself! If we want to speak our mind with grace, we can never demonize the other side.  We must remember that no matter what side a person is on, they are humans, created in God’s image, like we are. They have hopes, dreams, and families, like we do.  If someone, especially in an online forum, starts resorting to name-calling or otherwise denigrating you, you can shut down the conversation by not responding to their comments and getting out of the forum.  This will allow both parties to cool down, or, at least stop the verbal escalation from getting worse. Sometimes, I even refrain from sharing my beliefs, not so much because I’m afraid to, but because I do not want to get into a name-calling, hateful debate with others.

I find that when we try to understand where our opponent is coming from,  when I focus on where I agree with my opponent instead of only what divides us, and  when I treat my opponent with respect and grace, that we will understand and love each other better.  This pandemic alone won’t unite people, but a heart that respects and gives grace to even our opponents, can and will.  Let’s feel free to share our beliefs, but let’s do so with a humble and a gracious attitude.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay
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Qualities of my Closest Friends We Should Strive to Have


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

I am willing to be friends with almost anyone, but every person that I consider to be my close friend embodies these characteristics. No, they are not perfect, and may fail at times, but they have consistently embodied these traits. Not only do I prefer these following character traits in close friends, but I think, everyone, me included, of course, should strive to embody these traits every single day, so we can make a true difference in this world:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Servant’s Heart
  3. Vulnerability
  4. Thoughtfulness/Care
  5. Depth

The most important trait that my close friends all have is authenticity. This means they always present themselves as honest, trustworthy, and genuine.  They do not act one way towards others, and another way towards you. They don’t do things with ulterior motives. All my close friends do not do things for people just to get something from them, but because my friends really want to help and bring joy to their lives.  Also, another part of how they are authentic is their honesty.  For instance, when one of my close friends gives me her wisdom, she always tells me the truth, even if it hurts. Some people have been afraid to tell me truth because they are scared that I will get upset at them and they will be looked upon as harsh or mean. Nothing could be further from the truth!  I appreciate this about my friend because her honesty shows that she values me and having integrity—a rare, but needed trait in our society today! By telling me the truth, she is inadvertently telling me that I am worth what is true.  Sure, some of the things she has said may “sting” a little bit, but I appreciate that because it shows that she values honesty.

Another trait that my closest friends all have is a servant’s heart.  All of my close friends have lived in one capacity or another to serve the Lord and to serve others.  Some are serving the Lord as missionaries. Others are serving their families when everyone else has abandoned them.  Still others are serving their community through their resources, gifts, and talents. I strive to do the same. When we have a servant’s heart, we emulate Christ, who went so far as to die on a cross for us, and to wash every one of His disciples’ feet, even those of the one who would eventually betray Him!  They are constantly thinking of others above themselves, working to make the world a better place for everyone.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Also, another trait that my closest friends all have is the willingness to be vulnerable.  I define vulnerability as being willing to share openly not only one’s triumphs and victories with a trusted person, but also one’s trials and struggles. When I see someone that is unwilling to admit to me or to the world that they are not always “perfect,” I feel like they are lying to me in a way, because I know no one, except God, is really perfect.  Mark Hall, of the contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, once said, “[I]t doesn’t bother the world that we sin. It bothers the world that we act like we don’t.” (CBN.com) One of my friends, Veronica,* is so passionate about being vulnerable, it saddens her when others are not willing to open up to her.  In years past, I admit I have struggled with being vulnerable because I did not want people to judge or ridicule me.  However, I have realized over the past five to ten years or so, that being willing to be open about one’s struggles opens up other people to not be afraid to share their struggles. It shows unity in our human-ness, and creates a deep bond between people who are like-minded in their willingness to open up to each other.  It also enables others to help us through our struggles, and us to help in theirs, so we will not feel alone in our pain and struggles.

Another ultra-important trait my close friends have is thoughtfulness and care towards others.  Along with having a servant’s heart, they are truly intuitive to the needs of others.  One of my close friends, Erica,* knowing that I have struggled off and on with the loneliness that comes with long term singleness, gave me a book that she thought would help me (as it has helped her as well) with my lonely and unfulfilled feelings that I sometimes struggle with, for my birthday.  I will always treasure the thoughtfulness of that gift and her friendship, even though we are not able to see each other very often right now. A few days ago, when I was distraught and anxious about several events that were going on in my life, my friend *Bonnie was willing to take time out of her busy life to answer my texts and encourage me, as she sensed that I was hurting and sad.  I aim to do the same for her, when she has issues, and also for anyone else who wants moral support in a time of need.   All my close friends are willing to take the time to attend to others’ needs and to give them the encouragement they need, especially in a tough time.

Last, but certainly not least, all my closest friends have spiritual and emotional depth in them. This is what I aim to have in my life more and more, though it is often a struggle for me, as it is even for these friends. This does not mean they shut themselves off from the world around them. However, this does mean that they are able to relate on a deeper level with people. For instance, when I want to discuss why there is injustice in this world, they can give me spiritual insight in wisdom into why God allows this and how we can remedy it. In contrast, some people either don’t care about these things or aren’t able to understand these things. For believers in Christ to have spiritual depth to them is an essential ingredient in being able to relate to others in their church and to get others, even those who don’t go to church, to think about their purpose and goals in life and how they can relate better to the world around them.

I’m so thankful to have these great, close friends—you know who you are—who embody these characteristics.  I pray that we all would strive to embody authenticity, a servant’s heart, vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and depth to our lives so we can bring love and joy to others, and lead them to freedom from their pain and fears.

Source: “Casting Crowns: The ‘Lifesong’ of Mark Hall.” Accessed 12 May 2019. < http://www1.cbn.com/music/casting-crowns:-the-‘lifesong’-of-mark-hall>.

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons