How to Find Someone’s Spark

Written in honor of Rachel Joy Scott, the first Columbine martyr, and the one who lived an amazing life, full of love and faith

Many times in my life, whether it would be people at school (when I was attending), at work, and even in the churches I attended; people have broken off contact with someone because of a couple bad incidents.  So, maybe they were really bad! Still, I think the following that Rachel Scott wrote in her essay, “My Ethics, My Codes of Life, “deserve serious consideration and application to our relationships:

[I]magine you had just met someone, and you speak to them three times on brief, everyday conversations. They come off as a harsh, cruel, stubborn and ignorant person. You reach your judgment just on these three encounters. Let me ask you something…did you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from, did they experience love, did they experience hurt, did you look into their soul and just at their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type,” you have no right to shun them. You have not looked their beauty, their good. You have not seen the light in their eyes. Look hard enough and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow, if you don’t walk away from those three impressions first.

So, how can we find the light, or the positive parts of another’s personality, particularly if they do come off as cruel, stubborn, harsh, ignorant, or negative in any way to us?  How can we not give up on our relationships when things get tough?  How can we prevent ourselves from writing off people who we disagree with, or who aggravate us sometimes? (Note: This does not apply to situations of abuse or people who are genuinely unsafe to be around).  How can we cultivate a passion for loving those who are initially undesirable in some way to us? Here is what I learned about finding someone’s spark, or light, in their soul and how I would help it grow:

  1. Strive not to make snap judgments of others.—Much of our society makes snap judgments based on things that won’t matter in eternity, such as physical appearance and social class. I believe this is very sad, not only because many people in our world write off people who could be very kind and gentle inside, just because of something trivial like their physical appearance or how much money they make, but also because these judgers will not be able to grow past their preconceived notions of others and cultivate growing relationships with others.  Unfortunately, even making snap judgments about someone’s character is not effective in gauging who would be a good friend.  For instance, I know of several people at work who I initially did not get along with well.  Most people, if they were in my place, would probably quit their job and/or avoid these people at all costs.  However, God prevented me from doing so.  In addition, I even had to interact with most of these people on at least a weekly, if not, daily basis!  One thing I learned from having to interact with these people was not to make snap judgments of them, and instead look for their light in their souls.
  2. Learn their life stories.—Another thing that can help us find the spark in someone, is to learn some of their life story. Find out what kind of past they came from—what they had to endure to get to where they are now. Find out how they were treated in the past, if they have ever experienced true, sacrificial (agape) love, and not just a flippant form of “love,” what hurts and triumphs they have experienced in their lives?  When I learned some of the life story about someone that I initially did not really like, I began to understand why they acted like they did and began to have compassion and even love for them. When we are able to appreciate what someone we may not initially get along with, has gone through, I find that we are more able to relate to and/or have compassion for them.
  3. Do intentional acts of kindness for them.—What I have had to learn to do with certain people with whom it was difficult to get along is to intentionally be kind to them. This won’t work if you do this only out of obligation or because you say “I’ll be the better person” but inside you are still full of anger and resentment towards them.  However, if you strive to be kind to even those who you dislike, in order to show them the love they probably so desperately need, then the light in their souls will most likely start to expose itself.  For instance, if you live next to a grumpy neighbor, but he keeps a neat yard, compliment him on his maintenance of the yard.  Tell him how much you appreciate his hard work and dedication to do his part to make the neighborhood look neat.  Be genuine in your compliment, of course, but also don’t be afraid to encourage others in need.  For another example, I have had coworkers who I have had trouble dealing with at first, but when I tried to encourage them in something good that they did and tried to help them with their work, I found that I got along much better with them! Not only that, but I found some positive qualities in them that I had not taken the time to find before!

When we strive not to judge against people whom we initially not see eye-to-eye, when we strive to learn more about others’ life stories, and when we intentionally strive to be kind to those we don’t  like, at first, then we will be able to find the light in these people’ s souls.  When we find the light in them, we can help their light grow by continuing to apply these principles to our relationship with them. May we do that, and make the world a better place.

 

Source: Scott, Rachel Joy. My Ethics, My Codes of Life. March 1999. Retrieved from: https://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf.

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Being Kind in a Pain Filled World

I wrote the following poem in response to the pain around me.  While I was watching the news in my job’s break room on my “lunch” (read: dinner) hour, I heard of yet another school shooting where at least two people had died. I had just gotten done talking to a friend whose family is battling illness and pain.  I felt like I needed a good cry; I was nearing a feeling of overwhelm and anguish because I felt helpless and depressed for these people.  Then, I remembered  how one of my faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott,  lived her life, and one of the things Jesus wanted me to accomplish on this earth—namely to spread His love in a world of pain.  Here is the poem I wrote:

 

Love in a World of Pain    written on : 3/20/2018

 

Hearts full of hate

People chasing

Longings that will never sate

The pain inside them leaks

 

Who will dare

To be the one who will care

Instead of giving them just

A blank stare

 

Before we leave a gaping wound

In someone’s heart…forever

Before tragedy strikes

And we are left reeling

 

So to whom will you give

The gift of agape love

The sacrificial type from up above

And change someone’s life for good

 

 

Then, I realized that it would do no one any good if I just sat there and moped about all the pain in this world that I could supposedly do nothing about.  I realized that I (and you too), can do something about the pain around us. One of the most effective ways to relieve someone’s pain is to be kind to them.  Here are some of the ways that I believe we can spread kindness and love around us:

 

  1. Do not ignore, ridicule, or stare at someone in visible (or invisible) pain. Reach out.—On the second stanza of my poem, I write, “Who will dare/ To be the one who will care/Instead of giving them just/A blank stare.” One of the most aggravating things a person can do to another in visible pain is just to stare at them. I hate this because this behavior implies that the person in pain is crazy or weird for expressing and having these emotions. First of all, we are not in the position to judge others’ expressions of emotions because we do not know the person’s whole story. We don’t know if we would have really responded better or even worse than if we were the same place they were.  Secondly, it implies apathy and a lack of care for the other person in pain because a stare implies that we are more concerned with how they are affecting us, than we are about the other person’s well-being.  In various things that I have read about Rachel Scott, she wasn’t one of the people who just stared at or ignored people in pain. She reached out. She not only talked to them, but was willing to be their needed friend as well.  We should follow her lead.  If someone is visibly upset, just asking them if there is anything you can do to help, or just listening to them vent can show that you care about them.  Yes, it does require some emotional labor to do this, but spending this labor can save someone’s life and is well-worth it!  Regarding the school shooting that I just heard about yesterday, what if someone just reached out to the person responsible for the act of violence instead of just ignoring, or even worse, ridiculing them?  What if their teachers or anyone around them showed compassion to them, and intentionally showed them several acts of kindness that would have demonstrated to them that they matter and that they could do something positive with their life? Reach out to someone in pain today, whether it is a friend or someone who no one would dare to reach out.
  2. Make it a point to be intentionally kind to everyone, especially the ones that could have hidden hurts. –On my birthday, I wanted the people that I work with the most to know that they mattered to me, and the hard work that they put in was worth it. So, one of the things I did was make them bookmarks with their name and their name meaning or meanings. Everyone has a name, every name means something. That is why we name people and some of our pets. They have intrinsic value to us. However, we typically don’t name inanimate objects. Sure, they may have some value, but those who you can have relationships with have infinitely more value and impact than any inanimate objects can.  Several of my friends make it a point to be kind to others, simply by smiling and asking them “How are you doing?”  Sure, it sounds simple, but how many of us constantly do it with a sincere and genuinely good-hearted attitude? Be kind, especially to those who are suffering silently.
  3. If you are religious, pray for people who are in pain.—If you are religious or spiritual, I would wholeheartedly pray for those around you who are suffering, either physically or mentally. Pray that they would be healed of their pain. Pray that they will receive some measure of comfort and peace, even in the midst of their pain. Pray that people around them (even you) would be able to and would be willing to help them in some way.  Finally, pray that they will have the strength to get through each day, because this in itself is often a struggle for those going through suffering and hurt.

 

These are some of the ways we can make a positive difference in a pain-filled world. We can reach out to those we see that are visibly hurting, instead of just staring at or ignoring them.  We can think of creative ways to get to the root of their hurt and soothe them with intentional acts of kindness and love.  We can also pray for those who are in pain.  Doing these things can not only alleviate someone else’s suffering, but can also show them that there is still love and hope in this world.

Benefits of Humility

Some people scoff at the idea of lowering yourself or allowing others to get ahead of you, because, they think, it shows weakness.  However, I believe, since it is unnatural to want to humble oneself or to allow others the greater benefit, the opposite is true. –In fact, I would even add that it takes great emotional and spiritual strength to truly humble oneself.  All around us, society whispers to us, in different ways, “Take care of number one first and foremost, then you will have great success,” and even “Be successful at all costs, even if you have to step on others’ toes to get there.” However, I would attest that most people, who are truly successful and truly make the greatest difference in our world, turn these whisperings upside down—through their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.  In fact, not only does humility grant us a type of success that can’t be measured by the society around us, but a humble attitude also has lasting benefits to you as well. Here are just some of them that I have observed when people (including me) demonstrate a humble attitude:

  1. Humility allows you to be your genuine self.—When we are entangled in arrogant pride, I find that we are constantly on our toes to try to impress the Next Bigger and Better person, sometimes in an effort to cover up our flaws and deceive ourselves and others, subconsciously, about them. It’s like we don’t want to face our flaws in ourselves, and we end up living in an illusion. Many people I have observed, who present themselves arrogantly, have deep-seated pain and/or flaws that they are desperately trying to hide from the rest of the world. They may be afraid of feeling rejected and unloved by others, or otherwise, being inadequate to the world. However, when we are humble, we are more likely to have a realistic view of ourselves. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. “Humility” that degrades oneself is not really humility, but reverse pride.  Degrading oneself says that “I am so broken and “special” that I can’t be fixed by anyone,” which is, of course, a lie, no matter how true it may seem at the time.  While having a humble attitude does acknowledge the self as a unique and beautiful creation, it acknowledges others’ beauty and worth even more! When you are humble, you are not afraid to be vulnerable with others and show your true self—the good mixed in with your flaws—because you are not afraid of rejection or lowering of status. Status and fear of rejection no longer matter to you. The welfare of others is more important.
  2. Humility diminishes jealousy and selfish attitudes.—I firmly believe that 99.9% of all jealous attitudes stem from pride. When we are jealous of others, it not only shows ingratitude for the gifts we already received in our lives, but also a kind of entitled pride that says, in effect, “ I deserve what that other person has, and he or she doesn’t! “ However, humility acknowledges and believes that everything, even life itself, is a gift.  Humility says, “Even though I don’t deserve much, I am grateful when I do get something.”  Humility has power and strength to think about the needs of others because it isn’t preoccupied with oneself.  Humility does not ever compete against another, whereas pride wants to beat everyone at their own game, so only it gets the benefit. Humility can be demonstrated when we put others’ needs and egos, ahead of our own.  For instance, if we have a humble attitude, we will readily admit when we do something wrong and sincerely apologize and repent of our actions.  In contrast, when we are prideful, we will often excuse our sinful (morally wrong) actions or diminish the true magnitude and seriousness of our sins.  Humility is happy when another co-worker gets the promotion we wanted, but pride is envious and resentful of the other coworker getting the promotion.
  3. Being humble will get you more respect in the end.—Although there are still some people who think being prideful will get you more respect, most people appreciate it more when one is humble. Being humble will get you more respect, because it allows you to consider their needs more.  Having a humble attitude develops our empathy because you think of yourself less, and on others’ feelings and experiences more.  Yes, there is a time for self-care, but all in all, being humble involves knowing that your needs will be met, in the process of caring for others. My faith hero, Rachel Scott, was a humble person. She didn’t tell everyone about all the kind things that she did to be noticed, but just did them out of her love and care for people. Her parents and others only found out about her kind acts from her recipients, and only after her death.  Jesus Christ, another one of my faith heroes, and my Lord and Savior, also demonstrated great humility by being willing to die an excruciatingly painful death in our place, so we didn’t have to.  Now, both Jesus and Rachel Scott, are greatly respected by many people because of their acts of kindness and humility.

As you can see, having a humble attitude has many benefits.  Humility allows you to be your genuine self, without reserve or regret. Humility eliminates, or at least, lessens jealousy and self-centered attitudes, and humility can get you more respect in the end.  Allowing others to be bigger than yourselves is a sign of great strength, not weakness. Humility does have a price of sacrifice to pay, but it is worth it in the end.

Practical Life Lessons From Ephesians For Everyone

I realize not everyone believes in the Bible, though I do. However, these life lessons that are drawn from a book of the Bible called Ephesians, I think can apply to most anyone, regardless of religious belief.  These lessons are drawn from my own life experiences, and occasionally, also from those around me whom I have observed and heard.

Without further ado, here is the passage where I will focus:

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Neither give place to the devil.

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:25-29 (KJV)

 

Here are some of the life lessons that I learned from these verses:

  1. It is better to be honest, because honesty unites, but lying separates close friends.–Even gossip can be a form of lying, as I have realized the hard way at work. A lot of people have spread rumors about certain people at work. Most of them were not founded in an ounce of truth! I have seen these rumors influence how others thought and acted towards these people, without finding out from the source as to whether these statements were true or not.  To think we acted or spoke in hurtful ways towards another because of unproven rumors we heard about someone! What I learned from this is to a.) Try not to listen to rumors, especially if you don’t know the truth in it, and b) Try to verify from the source or sources of the rumors themselves the veracity of the rumors. It is often not as dramatic and bad as it has been related. For another example, when we learn people’s life stories (Post on that is at this link) and people are vulnerable and honest with each other, I find that these things often unite people. Before I really knew one of my managers, I hated him.  I didn’t understand why he had aggravated me so much. However, one day, when he told me about some of the pain he went through in his life, and God intervened in our lives, the hate and aggravation that I felt for him began to melt away and be replaced with only love and compassion.  When I honestly tell other people my life story, people also begin to act with more love and compassion towards me.
  2. Don’t let anger fester in your heart for more than a day, lest it turn into bitterness and resentment later. –Because, in the past, I had held grudges against certain people for a really long time (literally, years), my spiritual and emotional growth were stunted.  Yes, I did grow, but not as much as I should have.  I now realize why I had trouble applying some spiritual principles to my life at the time.—I held grudges, and thus couldn’t receive God’s (or anyone else’s, for that matter) forgiveness in my life.  It was only when I let go of these long-standing grudges and intentionally began to act with kindness and grace towards my offenders, that I started to grow spiritually the way God (and, frankly, I as well) wanted to for so long.  Now, my policy is to try to resolve issues that I have with a person within a day, or a week, at the very latest.  However, I try my very best to follow the day rule prescribed in Scripture. This way, my anger dissipates quickly, and I can be at peace with that person as soon as possible.  I wish everyone followed this principle because this can have practical benefits to not only other people, but also our own emotional growth as well. When people succumb to bitterness and resentment towards others, and hold grudges, I find that they get discouraged and disgruntled more easily than those who let go.  These grudge-holders are often the first to complain, and the last to say “thank you”.  Don’t let resentment and bitterness rule over you. Let. It. Go.
  3. Live to encourage others, not put down others.—There is a saying that goes like this: Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Nothing could be further from the truth! I’m sure each one of you has been hurt by the sting of condescending and demeaning words before. Almost twenty years ago, one of my teachers almost destroyed my motivation to live and help others. He never beat me up physically, but I still feel the sting of his words today.  Some of my peers, who bullied me at school, also said things to hurt me.  Though I  wish these people nothing but the best, words can still have a crippling effect on me.  Because I know the pain of hurtful words, I strive to encourage others as much as possible. Yes, I fail at times at encouraging others, as we all do, but we must do our best.  I want to only speak words that will help and/or uplift someone‘s spirit.  I want others to be able to see that I value and care about them, especially through how and what I speak to them.  If we live to encourage, and not tear down, we may be able to save the lives of people that have almost given up emotionally, as we revive their spirits.

These are some of the life lessons I learned from Ephesians 4. When we are honest, and not deceptive with one another, when we resolve our anger and problems quickly to be at peace with others, and when we live to encourage others, I believe we will lead more spiritually and emotionally successful lives.  May we live with love and compassion for one another!

Because You Can : Not Letting People Limit Your Dreams

Dedicated to my mentor, J

Because I had problems “catching on” to certain things that most other people understood how to do easily, many people didn’t believe I would be able to get very far in life. One of my teachers even said, in so many words and by their actions, that I wouldn’t really amount to anything.  Sadly, I believed him for almost fifteen years. But then, I met my mentor, J, about seven or eight years ago. She changed my life! Here’s what I learned about life from her about not letting people or your own limitations get in the way of accomplishing your God-given dreams:

  1. Don’t take what the naysayers in your life say to heart.—There were a great number of people in my life that acted like or even said straight out that I wouldn’t be able to do this or that. I was often treated as if I would never be able to said thing, without even letting me try it first.  It was as if they were afraid that the inevitable (i.e:  failure) would happen.  For instance, in one job I had, I wanted to move up in the company.  I wanted to cross-train, and then become full-time.  My boss at the time told me flat-out that I wouldn’t be good at doing said thing that I wanted to cross-train in. However, the problem with that was that I wasn’t even given the opportunity to train! So, how would they know that I wouldn’t be able to do said thing if it wasn’t even proven that I actually was bad at it? In retrospect, I should have pointed this fact out to my boss at the time, but was too discouraged to ask again. However, in contrast to the naysayers in my life, J pushed me to succeed and believed in my God-given abilities. She didn’t even pay mind to the people in my life that discouraged me from trying said things that they thought I couldn’t do, but helped me find a way to prove them all wrong instead.  Also, I am happy to say, my current job encourages everyone to cross-train, even me, whom others in my past said that I wouldn’t amount to all that I do now.  Various people that were in my life had said because of my past difficulties, I would not be even able to drive, get a job, or work full-time.  I’ve done all of that, because J was finally able to get me to stop listening to those naysayers.  If you are facing naysayers in your life right now, even if those include your own voices, do NOT listen to them!  Prove them wrong. Listen to the voices that believe in you and your dreams, and do what you can to make that dream come true.
  2. Be motivated to work hard.—What I have accomplished in my life wasn’t just magically handed to me on a silver platter. Some people who get jealous of others think that their object of their envy has or had it “easy.”  More often than not, the people who are jealous of others, including the ones jealous of me, want what we have for themselves. Furthermore, they do not realize how much effort it took for us to get this far.  It took me literally years to be able to get a full-time job. However, with the support of my mentor J, God’s perfect timing, and the will to work hard every day at whatever job I was in at the time, I was finally able to be full-time.  If you want to accomplish your dreams, it will take hard work and determination as well. Sure, we all have certain abilities and talents that make certain things easier for us than others.  However, someone once said that there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. There are no shortcuts to accomplish your dreams either. It will take time and hard work, but it will be so worth it in the end!
  3. Be patient, and don’t give up.—The more significant your dream or dreams, often, the longer it will take for you to realize the dream or dreams. However, do not give up! Be patient and persevere, even when you have some setbacks. For example, some of you may know that I have battled depression for years, and one of my unconscious goals was to find joy in my life. During the height of my depression, I just wanted to give up completely on my life, and end it all.  However, someone or something in me (probably, I believe, God in me) urged me on.  I listened to that voice inside me. Consequently, for the past year or so, I have had significantly fewer depressive episodes than I have ever had in my life!  For the first time in my life, I feel a sense of sustained joy.   For another instance, it took several months for my previous job, and several months from when I started to look for another opportunity, to find my current job. Before I found my current job, I was interviewed at a bookstore. I had really wanted to work at a bookstore, because I love to read. However, I found out quickly at the interview that I wasn’t a good fit for their company. Yes, I did get discouraged, but I didn’t give up looking for a job, and several weeks later I got an interview at my current job. The rest is history.

My mentor J has taught me many things about not giving up on my dreams, but the most important things she has taught me are:

  • Do not listen to the naysayers. Do not let what they say to you influence your heart or actions.
  • Be willing to work hard to accomplish your dreams.
  • Be patient, and don’t give up on your dreams.

If you seem to have  insurmountable obstacles in the way of accomplishing your God-given dreams, even if it is as simple as wanting to have joy in your life, start by telling yourself that it is not hopeless for you as long as you are alive.  Also, don’t listen to the people that tear you or your dreams down.  Take that first step towards your dream today, even if it is a little step. It will make all the difference. Because I believe that you can do it. You can!

Creating a Legacy: Living with Purpose

Over the past few weeks, I have heard and/or witnessed one of my dear friends almost dying, going to a funeral of a friend that I hadn’t been able to see for a long time, my pastor getting sick, various people holding grudges against one another (thankfully, not me), and the stress of my workplace getting tested by our company.   In all these things, I believe God has been teaching me to a.) make my life count, and  b.) create a lasting legacy for my life.

I hate to be morbid, but we will all die someday. This is why I believe it is imperative to live with purpose, and create a legacy, not only for ourselves, but also for future generations that may not even know our names.

Even when I was at the lowest depths of my depression, I thought about my purpose in life. I knew that where I was then was not where I wanted to end up, in the final moments of my life.  Yes, I have always had happy moments in my life, despite the looming depression, but I had never really realized lasting joy until recently.  Little by little, God has shown me how to live powerfully, with lasting and great purpose. I believe that anyone here can live their life with purpose and can make a positive and powerful difference in the world around them.

Here is what I learned about living life with purpose:

  1. If you want to live your life with purpose, you cannot be a half-hearted individual.—I see a lot of people around me going through life, not only struggling just to survive, but also without aim or purpose. I was that way when I was growing up. If I was aware that I would forget some of what I learned in school or that I would never see 90% of my peers that I grew up with up until now, I am afraid I would have done more things to get them over with, without any heart, or passion, in what I was doing.  However, during the past five or so years, God has taught me how to live my life with passion and purpose. For more information about finding a purpose in your life, read this post.  At work, for example, when I go into get-things-done mode (a.k.a—doing things to get them over with), I find that I am much less effective in getting said things done right, than if I did them with concentration and put my heart into what I am doing.  This is true for other areas of one’s life as well. For example, if you are married (I personally am not, just my observations of relationships I see) and you do things for your spouse just for duty’s sake or get him or her off your back, you are less likely to please him or her, than if you did said things with thoughtfulness and heart.
  2. If you want to live your life with purpose, you must be willing to forsake certain things.—We all get distracted in life. However, when living your life with purpose, you want to limit these distractions as much as possible.  For instance, if you are living with the purpose of being there and providing for your family, you want to work enough that everyone is adequately fed and provided for, but not so much that you won’t have any meaningful time to spend with them.  So, in that example, the person who wants to be there and provide for his or her family must get a job that would adequately provide for everyone in their family and that they won’t have to work too many hours, at the wrong times, so they can be there for their family.   For me, my purpose in life is to glorify God and love others. This means I must actively strive to forsake things that would prevent me from carrying out this purpose, such as listening to or watching media that promotes the hatred of or devalues my God or others.
  3. If you want to live your life with purpose, you must persevere. –If you want to create a lasting legacy, you must not give up on life, or your purpose, even when it gets tough. For instance, if part of your purpose involves making a positive difference in certain relationships in your life, you must not give up on these relationships when tension or difficulties threaten them. In my life, to my shame, l almost gave up on several people, who hurt me in the past. However, I believe God didn’t allow me to, and something (or Someone) in me kept me from giving up on these people completely. Thankfully, these relationships are restored, and I am able to be, not only a friend to them, but, hopefully, make a positive and lasting impact on them, as well. For another example, if you want to be successful, career-wise, you must not let obstacles get in the way of your goals.  You must not let a couple of failures or bad days at work, make you quit your job completely, if you aim to be successful career or work wise.

 

These are the principles that I have learned in helping me to live my life with purpose.  If you want people to remember you after your time on earth is up, you must live your life with passion, be willing to forsake certain things, and persevere through it all.  If you want to be remembered well, I believe investing in other people’s lives, instead of only your own, is a good place to start. Yes, it takes work to live with purpose, but I believe it will be well worth it in the end.

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.