My life Epiphanies

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an epiphany is either “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being,” or “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”  In this blog post, the latter meaning will be discussed.  Though I have never had God appear to me physically, I believe God and others have been instrumental in me having several epiphanies (the latter meaning) in my life.  These epiphanies have been instrumental in shaping me and helping me become a better person than I was before.

Epiphany #1- Have compassion and understanding on those with differing beliefs, both religiously and in other areas.  

I had this epiphany about fifteen years ago thanks to one of my favorite authors, Dave Burchett, who wrote the book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. Before I read his book, I had rigid views on almost everything. One of the weirder beliefs I had had was that people who really liked a certain singing group, but hated my favorite group, were immoral and intolerant people.  I also thought that people who didn’t believe in a God were likewise rude and immoral.  However, when I read that book, I began to have compassion and understanding for those two groups of people.  I realized that I couldn’t, in good faith, force people to have the same beliefs about anything that I had.  I also learned that music is more a matter of taste, and not always about morality.  I no longer cared about the group that I liked, or about whether people liked the other group or not.  I also learned from that book that some people who profess my faith in God don’t really do what they believe, and that, understandably, a lot of people have been turned away from any type of religion.  Moreover, I discovered some atheists who are some of the kindest and most non-judgmental people I have ever met.

Epiphany #2—Don’t hold grudges. Forgive others as you have been forgiven, and be free at last.

This epiphany occurred to me after discussing a personal issue with one of my pastors at my current church.  I had had trouble forgiving someone and it had gotten to the point where I was coming to church with a bad attitude towards everybody and everything.  Sometime after the discussion, I discovered my excuse for holding grudges for this person and others didn’t really hold water.  I had mainly held grudges as a form of vengeance against the party that hurt me, so that they would “feel” my pain and regret their choices. However, I realized what had really happened was I was hurting myself and my relationships with others not even involved in the incident or incidents, and that the guilty party either didn’t care or didn’t know the pain and bitterness I held inside against them!  So, when I forgave this person, the burden of vengeance, anger, and hatred melted away from me.  I was free at last, and today I am much happier, both with this person and those around me, than I ever was before!

Epiphany #3-Don’t worry so much. You cannot control everything, and that’s OK.

This epiphany occurred to me just several days ago, after I had just experienced a stressful week before. I got this epiphany after reading the book, Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick. People had told me numerous times in my life (even before I became a Christian) not to worry and stress so much, and this is something that I am still learning, despite this epiphany. However, this time I think it is really starting to sink in more.  My type of worry, I must confess, is a defense mechanism for the helplessness I feel because I can’t control my circumstances. I hate uncertainty and not being able to  plan for my future because I am afraid that if I am unprepared I will totally lose control of my emotions and/or well-being. In other words, I won’t cope well with the situation.  However, I realized that no fallible human being can really control their circumstances—that some things are just out of our hands. For instance, there is no way to anticipate when exactly you or a loved one will get sick and/or die, or if there will be traffic accident that will make you late to work.  However, when suffering and trials come, I learned that God will always use that situation to teach me something about myself or others and that He will be with me through it all.  Whether you believe in God or not, you can always learn something from the sufferings of your life, which lessons can be used to make you a better and stronger person.  I realized that even in the unexpected or horrible circumstances of life, that there is always hope and resources that will be given to me that I can use to cope better with the resulting pain and trauma.  For instance, when I have worried about not getting some part of my area straightened on time, I have found that one of these three things usually happen:  a.) I can ask for help from the managers or other associates.  b) Most likely, other people will also not be able to finish their areas, either   c) I will really be able to finish, and that I worried for nothing!

 

All these epiphanies have shaped my life and character in some way.  Having compassion on those with differing beliefs has helped me widen my circle of friends and helped me understand and love the people around me better.  Forgiving others has helped me become less guarded and carry less long-term anger at others.  Learning not to worry so much and letting go of my need to control has freed me from the crippling effects of anxiety and depression and has helped me become more confident in myself and in those around me.  What epiphanies have you had in your life?  What lessons have you learned recently? Please feel free to share in the comments.

 

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany

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How to Find Peace After Betrayal

Disclaimer: Absolutely no disparaging comments about anyone or your comment will be deleted! Also, mild triggers for talk about abuse and bullying.

This is a blog post that I wish I wouldn’t have to write, much less, experience, time and time again in my own life.  I wish people would never have to experience betrayal in their lives. However, even my Savior did, when Judas betrayed Him for a paltry sum of money.

I know many of you have also experienced betrayal—whether it be by a family member, a close friend, a trusted person who held authority over you, or any number or varieties of people.  Many of you are, or were, very angry and hurt by their betrayal.  You may have been blindsided by it, as you did not expect this of them, or you did, but didn’t think it would be you. Whatever the case may have been, I know it can be absolutely very painful and difficult to pick up the pieces and live fully again.  However, we must not let the betrayers in our lives control us or keep us from accomplishing our dreams. Here is what I have learned about how to find peace after betrayal:

First of all, it is absolutely essential that you have or build some type of support for yourself.  –You will not heal very well or quickly if you have to deal with the aftermath of betrayal alone. This is especially true if you have just been abused and/or bullied by someone, and the wounds, whether it be physical and/or emotional, are still fresh.  If you or a loved one has experienced some type of criminal abuse, do not be afraid to report it to the proper authorities—police, attorneys, medical personnel such as therapists and doctors, etc.  The betrayer, as well as their supports, may dissuade, or even threaten you if you report the abuse. Do not be afraid of their threats!.  I know it may be easier said than done, but if you have the power to stop their cycle of abuse, even to the risk of your own life, to me (and to many others), you are a hero or heroine!  This will help others who may be also suffering at your abuser’s hands, and will help the abuser to repent of their actions and stop hurting others.  Besides reporting the abuse, make sure you seek out support for yourself to help you heal from the trauma of the betrayal and/or abuse.  This may include trusted family members, loved ones, friends, and therapists and clergy.  Make sure they will support you and will not either vouch for the abuser or play the devil’s advocate and blame the betrayal and/or abuse on you.  If access to these supports seems nonexistent for you, there are many online groups that support and validate people who have been betrayed and abused by others.  Please contact me privately if you would like to know a few of them that I’m a part.

Second of all, make sure you are having adequate self-care. –When I am betrayed by someone who I thought was trustworthy, I often delve into depression and self-pity. It is also very difficult for me to eat and sleep well, or even be kind to myself, as I tend to blame myself for the betrayal.  I think in order to get out of this pit, one needs a.) adequate outside supports and  b.) good self-talk. Good self-care includes educating yourself on the effects of abuse and betrayal and telling yourself that it is NOT your fault. Because when someone else abuses or betrays you, it is never your fault! That the person even schemed and thought to attack you means that they could have controlled their thoughts and temptations, but they chose not to!  Also, try to be kind to yourself by engaging in hobbies that you love to do. Of course, do not do anything that is against the law or that is not true to your moral beliefs. Doing something you love, should help you find peace and purpose in your life again, and not be held back by the betrayal you experienced.

Also, don’t let your experience of betrayal diminish your love for others. –At least for me, I have found that after I have just been betrayed by someone, I tend to snap at others more easily or even become paranoid of everyone.  I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I have learned that I should not let my experiences color my perceptions of everyone.  Not everyone is like your betrayer, even if it may seem that way.  Remember the betrayer is the one responsible for his or her actions, not everyone else, especially if they had nothing to do with the incident.

Also, continue to cultivate positivity to the other people who didn’t betray you.  Do not hold back your love or kindness from them because of the actions of someone else.  First of all, it is not fair to take out your anger and hurt on them because they did nothing wrong. Second of all, you will ruin the good relationships you have with them.  If you are angry and hurt at someone for betraying you, try to only focus your anger on them, not on everyone else.

Finally, forgive your betrayer.—This does not mean you have to reunite and reconcile with them. I read somewhere that it takes two to reconcile, but only one to forgive.  How true that is!  For instance, even though Jesus forgave the people that cruelly beat and taunted Him, He did not necessarily reconcile with all of them.  Also, though I am willing to forgive people for their betrayal, it does not mean that I will give up my trust so easily to them the next time.  You don’t even have to give your trust to the betrayer ever again.  Not only is it not wise to do that, but, if they haven’t earned back your trust, I learned that you are setting yourself up for more betrayals and heartache, as they will most likely take advantage of you again!

Forgiveness does mean letting go of your anger and bitterness towards them.  This is not for their benefit. I repeat; this is not for the betrayer’s benefit, but for yours!  When you let go of your anger and bitterness against your betrayer, you are, in effect, saying that you will not be tied down to or controlled by them.  You are saying that you let go of the need for avenging yourself, and that you will trust the proper authorities, whether it be police, the law, or God, to make this situation “right”.  You are saying that you move on with your life, and you will not let the betrayer tie you down to pain, anger, or bitterness.  You are saying that your love is stronger than their hate against you!

Betrayal is very painful and difficult to go through, but when one comes out of it and begins to heal, I found that inside of that person comes a very strong, determined, and compassionate person that will shine like the sun and fly like a butterfly.

 

image courtesy of: www.LumoProject.com.

Letting Go of Past Hurts

I know many people who hold onto grudges and the darkness of the past for dear life.  For a long time, I was one of those people.  Sometimes, I still glance at the past darkness, but it no longer affects me as much as it used to, and I am finally healing from the people that have hurt me in the past. Because of so many great people that I am blessed to have in my life, I have learned to let go of many of my past hurts. Here is what I learned in the process, and I am still learning, day by day:

A) Dealing with Past (and Present) Rejection

I have heard of many instances where Person A is rejected by Person B in, let’s say, a long-term friendship, and Person A has a very tough time letting go of Person B.  In some cases, the person being rejected even takes vengeance against the person rejecting them, with deadly consequences.

Being rejected, starting at the tender age of two, at a daycare center, I know how it feels like to not be wanted. I was also often the last to be picked on a sports team, or any group, growing up in school. If I had the attitude of some people in society about being rejected so many times, I would probably be a miserable, cruel person, similar to people who abuse or hurt others regularly.

Thankfully, I learned to let go.  I learned that though rejection is painful, I don’t need a particular person (other than Christ) to make me happy or fulfilled in life.  I learned that people always come and go out of our lives, and that my goal in life is just to make a positive difference in as many people’s lives as possible. If I am only with the same group of people my entire life, yes, we would be very close, but I wouldn’t be able to make as great an impact to the world, as if some of them chose to or had to leave me. Tell yourself, “I can live without them.”

Also remind yourself of your own value and worth, even in the face of rejection. Repeat after me: I am not a less valuable person because someone else fails to see my worth to them.  Truth! Your value does not change based on how popular you are, or how many people love or don’t love you.  You are infinitely valuable, no matter what people say about you. Remember that.

Finally, ask yourself what you can learn in the face of the rejection. If someone rejected you because you did not treat them well, resolve to learn how to treat others better, so you won’t be rejected in that way again. If someone rejected you for superficial or other flimsy reasons,

don’t take that personally. Use that experience as a lesson in how not to treat others.

B)Dealing with Past Hurts

When someone hurts you.—I’m sure almost everyone has experienced someone hurting them in the past. Some of you have even experienced some horrific abuse by the people who were supposed to love and protect you.  For those people, I am sorry, and I hope you will be able to heal from that, at your own pace and timing.  For others of us, however, we may have been hurt emotionally by someone who isn’t even that close to us, but for whatever reason, have not been able to fully let go or forgive them.  This following advice is more for you.

First of all, if I was dealing with someone that hurt me emotionally that didn’t live in my house and was not family (and even if they were family),  I would try to remind myself of all the times that I was shown mercy  when I hurt someone else.  Sometimes, when you are able to put your hurt into perspective, it alleviates the pain a little bit.

Second of all, intentionally strive to be kind to your offender. This is what I did for several people at work when they had hurt me emotionally.  Important to note: You cannot have a “martyr’s” attitude (i.e : the “I guess I’ll be nice so they know how much it costs me” attitude) towards them, otherwise this doesn’t work the way it should.  Being kind to them must be from the heart.  You must have some compassion and love for them, even in your hurt.  What I found when I intentionally tried to be kind to them from my heart, they eventually softened towards me, and in many cases, we were even able to be reconciled to each other!

Another thing that can be useful, especially if you believe in God, is to pray for your offender or offenders.  Praying for them is different from praying against them. Do not pray, for example, that they will get cancer or die. Pray instead for their success in life, their repentance, their joy, and positive things like that.

If you hurt them.—We also all have hurt someone else.  When someone tells you that you have hurt them, or if you know somehow that you have offended someone, seek forgiveness from them. Offer them a contrite and humble apology. Any so-called apology with “but” or “if” in it is not a real apology because it excuses or blames, and does not take full responsibility for one’s actions.  In an apology, never blame the victim. Also, always be willing to do anything you can to restore the situation and make amends for your wrongdoing and hurtful actions.  For instance, if you slandered someone else out of envy, you could try to amend the situation by admitting to all those you bad-mouthed the victim to that you lied about the victim, and asking for forgiveness.  However, if the forgiveness is refused by any of these parties, then you need to let go. Demanding forgiveness is evidence of a proud, unrepentant heart.  Forgiveness must be given freely in order to be genuine.  Don’t try to force it out of someone.

C) Dealing with Fallen Dreams

If I got a U.S dollar for all the dreams that I had for my life, beginning when I was five years old, that failed, I’d probably be pretty rich.  We all have had wishes and goals that never have come to fruition, or plans that have changed.

Several people I know have had their career dreams cut short or been changed by a certain event or events.  I know I have. For instance, when I was a little child, one of my career goals, was to be astronaut. However, that fell on its head when I had to get glasses a few years later. (They don’t allow people to be astronauts who don’t have 20/20 vision, at least, as far as I know.).  Also, when I was in college, I wanted to do something in biology, until I realized that chemistry and physics were required, and they were not my strong suits.

One thing that has helped me deal with these (and other) fallen dreams is to see the good in my current situation. For example, I believe I am able to make more of a difference at my current job as a sales associate, rather than I would as an astronaut with maybe ten other people (max) in the shuttle. Yes, astronauts do make a world of difference still, and I am not discounting that. Rather, I am saying that for me I am better suited in my current job than I would be as an astronaut.

Another thing that has helped me overcome fallen dreams is learning from my mistakes.  For instance, I failed a course in school, but later relearned the concepts again to the point that I would be able to probably pass the course if I had to take it now.

Also, if a lot of your dreams are shattered, sometimes you can get so discouraged that you quit trying. That is what happened to me with driving. Luckily, I found my mentor J that encouraged me to try again. Find someone who will encourage you to persevere, and don’t quit.  Try not to set too lofty goals, at first, but set small, reachable goals, and do whatever it takes to reach them. Be determined and believe that you can accomplish your dreams… because you can!

 

These are the ways that I have let go of my past hurts. Yes, I have been through a lot in my past, and yes I still carry battle (emotional) scars, but my past has only made me a stronger person.  Your past doesn’t have to get in the way of being who you were meant to be.  Letting go may not be easy, but it is worth it.

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.

Finishing Well: Living and Dying Without Regrets

There has been so much going on, in and around my life, that have shown me the frailty of life and how much we need to make sure that our lives are counting for something positive.  People all around us are hurting, begging for love and attention—Someone to give them a hope and a future. According to an article in the Business Insider, Bronnie Ware, who was an Australian nurse, asked dying patients what their regrets in life were. Here is what they said:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

(Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/5-things-people-regret-on-their-deathbed-2013-12, article written by Susan Steiner of The Guardian)

 

And here are some things that people typically think of or are concerned about that, though may have lasting life effects, have absolutely no eternal effect on anyone.

  1. Outer appearance—Our bodies on earth will decay, and I believe, we are getting new bodies. Either way, regardless of how you believe religiously, how you look like now, will not be how you will look like after you die.
  2. Money—Money may be relevant to our lives now, but there is no way to take money, or any other material things with you when you die.
  3. Popularity—Many people aspire to be famous, but how long will it last? I don’t even know my great-grandparents personally! Even though one of my grandfathers was a prominent member of his community when he was still alive, he died when I was a small child. I, unfortunately, don’t remember him at all.  So, why are some of us chasing after popularity? It doesn’t last as long as we wish it could.

I don’t know about anyone else here, but when my race in life is over, I would not want to have any of the five regrets that Bronnie Ware’s patients are reported as having, before they died.  Here is what I have learned in my life so far that can help each of us keep our life regrets to the minimum:

  1. Tell your loved ones—family and friends—how much they mean to you.—How many times have we (including me, unfortunately) rush out of our homes we share with loved ones without telling them how much you love them, or how much they mean to you? I, think, we have done that far too many times.  What if it were the last day you saw them alive, or the last day they saw you alive, and they didn’t know how much you loved and cared about them? In Darrell Scott (father of my faith hero—Rachel Joy Scott), he relates to us how someone asked him what he wanted to say to Rachel if she came back. Scott said, “I said everything I had to say to Rachel. I told her exactly how I felt about her, and I told her how much I loved her. We left no stones unturned.” (Scott, 98). May we tell our loved ones exactly how we feel about them and that we love them. Let us leave no stones unturned. Let’s not be afraid to do that. You never know when and how your loved ones will be or could be taken from you. Let our love for them, triumph over our fear and busyness.
  2. Invest in people, not in projects—As I have often implied or reiterated, sometimes we are so busy with work and different projects, that we forget about people whom we are serving. Yes, we should always be diligent at our jobs in life. However, do not become so diligent that it becomes all-consuming, or an obsession.  We can invest more in people by being willing to learn their life stories, instead of being quick to judge them. If you are having lunch in school and/or at work, try to get to know the people around you, whether in your office or lunchroom.  When you spend time with even close friends and other loved ones, listen (really listen) to their concerns and stories in order to a.) learn more about them b.) Love them better and more.
  3. Don’t listen to naysayers.—Unfortunately, I listened to my share of naysayers for over 15 years, until, finally my mentor J believed in me and helped me to turn a deaf ear to them. For more on how I overcame the naysayers in my life and followed my dreams, see this post.  In order to live and die with minimal regrets, we should refuse to listen to negativity. Though we should listen to constructive criticism, so we can improve on our flaws and become better people, we shouldn’t listen to people who don’t believe in us or our God-given abilities. For instance, if I continued to listen to some of the people that said I could never drive, I would have never been motivated to learn how.  However, once I stopped listening to them, and my negative inner voices, I was able to drive myself.
  4. Don’t let petty stuff get in the way of our lives and legacies.—First of all, let us strive to forgive, forgive, forgive, and let the little things go. One of my friends sometimes says, “Don’t let [the little things] rent space in your head.” For instance, if a friend of mine doesn’t say “Hi” to me one day or if a customer gives me a dirty look because he or she thinks I’m beneath them, I can either be frustrated with them and let them ruin my entire day, or I can tell myself that they are having a bad day, and overlook their sour attitudes and go on with my day, not letting them affect me. When someone hurts us, either accidentally or on purpose, yes we can be angry with them. In fact, it is a natural and normal reaction to an injustice done to us!  However, don’t let the anger fester and have it turn into bitterness and resentment.  Being bitter and angry does not only affect you and the person who hurt you, but they also affect everyone around us, including people having nothing to do with our hurt and pain!  Also, do not value the superficial over the eternally important.  That is, don’t place a supreme importance on things that will not last. For instance, though we should value our finances, we shouldn’t be so obsessed with it that we are willing to rob others and/or fight against others in order to get more money for ourselves.

 

If we want to live life without the big five regrets that Bronnie Ware’s dying patients were reported as  having, we should always strive to tell our loved ones that we love them, and how much they mean to us; we should always be willing to invest more in our personal relationships, instead of projects at work or school. We should not listen to naysayers that hold us back from our God-given dreams. Finally, we should not let the small stuff of life get in the way of living a fulfilling life and a lasting, positive legacy.  What are some things you can do to leave a lasting legacy? May we live, and finish the race of live with much joy, love and minimal regrets!

 

Sources:

Scott, Darrell and Rabey, Steve. (2001). Chain Reaction. Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Steiner, Susan.  5 Dec. 2013. “The 5 Things People Most Regret on Their Deathbed.” The Guardian, via Business Insider.  Retrieved 3/25/2018, from the World Wide Web. < http://www.businessinsider.com/5-things-people-regret-on-their-deathbed-2013-12&gt;.

 

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.

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!