Undeserved: Why Everything We Get Is A Gift

I believe that most of our problems in relationships stem from an “I-deserve-better” attitude.  This past Friday (at the time of this writing), a disgruntled former employee opened fire and killed five of his co-workers at a manufacturing facility, about a half hour from where I live. I attest one of the reasons why he got so angry was because he thought he truly deserved the job, and when his bosses fired him, everything in this former worker unraveled before him.  Though most of us would not murder when we don’t get what we think we deserve, we can still get tempted to get similarly angry when our “rights are being violated” or we think we aren’t “getting the good we deserve in this life.”  This causes us, me included, unfortunately, to become defensive and angry at those around us…and even at God.  However, a good thing to keep in mind, especially if you are a follower of Christ, is, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17a) and that we don’t really deserve anything!  When we have a mindset that everything good in this life is undeserved and is a gift of grace from above, this entitlement attitude starts to disappear. However, in the society we live in, especially if you live in a Western country, this entitlement attitude is deeply ingrained in us, me included, that I think we need to learn how to embrace the “gift” mentality instead.  Here are some things that I have learned about why we should strive to treat whoever and whatever comes our way as gifts, not as something “owed” to us.

When we think we are entitled to someone or something, we are not acknowledging that God really owns it all.  However, when we acknowledge that everything we get is a gift from God, we are recognizing His control and His power over our lives—an important aspect of true worship. My pastor said today that we must be willing to be a living sacrifice in order to truly worship God, and part of being a sacrifice is relinquishing our rights to His control.  If you work, even the money we “earn” from your job is a gift because it is God who gave you the abilities and skills to do your job well enough to be able to sustain employment and thus a paycheck! I wonder if the recent shooting on Friday could have been avoided if, when the man who shot five people at his job got fired, instead of getting angry at this perceived injustice, he just appreciated the money he had already gotten from his job and just appreciated the gifts he still had in his life more. 

When we see everything we have as a gift, and not something that someone “owes” us, we become more able to be content with life, even with its caveats and imperfections.  Think about how it feels when you get a gift that you totally do not expect or deserve.  Not only are you most likely to feel intense joy, but also, more likely, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility towards the person who gave you the gift.  When we strive to approach our lives the same way, each blessing we get will cause us to feel joy and gratitude.  However, when we think we are owed something or that we “earned” something, we are not as grateful because whatever we get is our due, anyway, or so we believe. This is why most of us get upset when we don’t feel we are getting what we perceive is owed us. We see it as an injustice, a violation of our moral rights.  However, if we take away the “scoreboard”  in our souls of things supposedly owed us, this anger has no longer has any place to reside, and will melt away.

When we see everyone and everything that is given to us as a gift, we tend to value them more.  For instance, if my friend gives me something that I perceive is from his or her heart and that is not owed me, I tend to want to take better care of it, so that I don’t lose the preciousness of the gift.  This not only applies to material gifts, it also applies to treating each person as a gift from above.  When we treat each person as a gift from above, instead of someone or something disposable or suited only to meet our needs, we tend to treat them better.  I have witnessed and heard in many different workplaces, unfortunately, of people being treated like disposable objects, or at best, tools, if you will, instead of the precious, complex image-bearers of God they are.  This mentality seems to be growing worse and more prevalent, not only in workplaces, but also in other social constructs as well.  However, when we go against the grain and strive to treat each person we encounter as the precious gifts they are, we can not only touch lives, we can change the world around us for the better.

father valuing his child as precious

When we acknowledge everything we get is a gift, not something we are owed, we are most ready to worship God rightly; we are more likely to be content and grateful with our lives, and we will value those around us more.  This week God has been teaching me over and over again that everything I get from Him is a gift, and not something I could really deserve or earn.  When I realize all that has been given to me, I realize that I am blessed beyond measure by a God who gives me more than I could ever deserve.

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How to Boost Morale at Work

Have you been tired, stressed, and overworked lately? Has the joy you once had at work been drained by the people and circumstances around you? If so, you are not alone.  In fact, according to the NIOSH report, about 40% of all workers in the U.S reported that their jobs are “very or extremely” stressful. (source: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/pdfs/99-101.pdf?id=10.26616/NIOSHPUB99101).  If you are working in a tough or a stressful work environment, there is hope. Personally, I can relate to being stressed at work, but when I apply these principles to how I approach my job, I find that I become less stressed.

  1. Maintain a good work ethic. –Yes, there have been several times during the whole of my work career in various places where I have been tempted to quit. However, something inside of me, probably the Spirit of God, urges me on.  This has helped me continue to persevere in spite of everything else inside of me screaming to “QUIT” or “Slack off.”  Always do your best, and never let anyone else convince you to do otherwise.  If you feel aimless or that you are just “going through the motions” at work, try to have a mindset of trying to learn everything you can to boost your credentials at work. This will also help you in case of layoffs, to be more indispensable and more likely to be secure in your job, or being more easily able to find another good job if that should happen. For instance, at my job, I have aimed to learn how to cashier, because I know that cashiering is an essential part of retail, and without these skills, I would be less likely to be able to move up or be versatile in the company I work for.  Now, my managers are able to use me to cashier in case the regular cashiers call in sick or we are shorthanded.
  2. Encourage others.—I have found that many people in various workplaces and in places where some of my friends work are in desperate need of encouragement and validation.  If you see someone going above or beyond, or are providing their clientele with excellent service, let a manager know that. More importantly, let the person know that they are doing a good job and that you value them. Be specific in your compliments. Don’t just say, “ You work very hard,” which can be good, but would mean more if you said something like, “ Joe, I appreciate how you took care of that customer today, making sure they had everything they needed, and making them feel valued  through your patience and making sure all their questions were answered.”  If you must criticize, assure the person that you still value them in other ways.  Never put down someone just to break their spirit. It is mean, callous, unnecessary, and ineffective in motivating people to do their best work.
  3. Have a servant’s heart.—Be willing to help others where needed, without stressing yourself out.  When someone feels overwhelmed by their work, and you are able to help them, do so.  If someone is going through a tough time and confides in you about it, offer to pray or help them in any way you can. When Jesus washed His disciples feet, He modeled for them—and us—a model we should all follow.  We should not only model that in church or at home, but also in the workplace. Managers, never be “too busy” to help and guide your associates.  Associates, be willing to do what your managers says, not only to be respectful, but also to help them through their struggles and lift a burden off them.

If we modeled a good work ethic, by persevering and doing our best, if we encouraged our co-workers, bosses, and clients/customers instead of putting them down, and if we had a servants’ heart approach to the tasks needed to be done at work, instead of only looking to our own interests, we could boost morale at our workplace significantly. By following these principles, not only will we boost morale, but we also will also build our integrity, which is something worth living for, in all areas of our lives.

I Will Never Give Up On You  – a poem

written : 12/6/18

 

Through all your triumph and glory

When I see the light in your soul

And I see you becoming whole

I will never give up on you

 

Through all the laughter and the pain

Through the joy of being with you

Through all the good times and the bad

I will never give up on you

 

Though at times you will fall and fail

And you want to give up and bail

Because you don’t think you’re enough

I will never give up on you

 

Though sometimes you drive me insane

And there are times of stress and hurt

Where some people treat you like dirt

I will never give up on you

What I Learned From Rachel Scott’s Life

On April 9, 1999, I wrote in my journal that I was dying inside. Nine days later, on April 20, one of my now-beloved faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott, was shot and killed by one of her classmates. Her legacy and impact, however, will live on for many, many years. One of the lives that she has touched is mine. I have been so inspired by what I learned about how she lived her life! The three major things I learned about life from how she lived is 1) how to appreciate people and things in one’s life more. 2.) how to be amazing— and strive for more than “average” or the status quo. 3.) how to be authentic.

First of all, Rachel was known by others as being appreciative of what she had. In fact, according to the book, Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott, she always stopped on her walks to look at the flowers and to engage with babies and small children when she went to the mall in her area ( Nimmo and Scott, 69). She also had the reputation of really engaging with the people she encountered on a regular basis and helping them when needed. Because of what I learned about how Rachel lived her life, I also aim to be an encouraging presence in others’ lives, instead of being a whiner or Debby downer. In order to do this, like Rachel, I must be willing to sacrifice my time in order to really be able to engage and invest in others.  In fact, in his book, “Chain Reaction,” Darrell Scott reiterates this fact. He says, “Many people are too busy, but if we want to be helpful, we will need to take the time.(Scott, 115).

Secondly, Rachel once wrote, according to multiple sources, that she wouldn’t “ be labeled as average.” In all the books and articles I had ever read about her, I sensed that Rachel Scott wasn’t one of those people who just lived to “get by”. She wanted to try her best in order to impact as many people as she could, for positive. She constantly strived to improve herself after she sensed that she fell short, both in her relationships with others and things like her job and work at school. She didn’t care if the people she encountered were outcasts or in any way different from her or perceived societal norms. She interacted with the people that needed her encouragement and love the most, even if it cost her reputation. I also aim to be so much more than “average” or the “status quo”. Like Rachel, I aim to upset the apple cart when necessary. I also aim to impact as many people as possible with the love Jesus Christ and countless others have graciously shown me. How much more satisfying life is when we strive to do our best everyday and not just do something halfheartedly.

Finally, another lesson I learned from how Rachel lived her life is how to be authentic. From all that I have read and heard about Rachel, I gathered that she was honest about her feelings and struggles, and therefore was able to be more relatable to others. It bothers me, however, when people act like they are perfect and don’t have any struggles, because I know they are hiding something from me and probably aren’t trustworthy either.  Rachel, in what I have gathered about her, was almost never, if ever, like this! I learned from her life to be open about my personal struggles, not so others will pity me, but to be more trustworthy and honest about who I really am, and to comfort and encourage those going through similar issues. I also learned that if one is honest about their struggles, it opens up the opportunity for others to open up as well, with less fear of being judged or condemned for their problems. This is where healing begins!

I have never personally met Rachel Scott, but am very excited to be able to meet her in paradise someday. To me, she is almost everything I would love to be–appreciative of others, amazing (or at least more than average), and most of all, authentic. This is why she remains one of my “faith heroes” today.


Sources:

Nimmo, Beth and Darrell Scott. (2000). Rachel’s Tears. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Scott, Darrell, with Steve Rabey. (2001). Chain Reaction. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Why I Don’t Do Fake


Image by Erik Stein from Pixabay , edit by: Patricia G.

It has been said in both media and general health circles that artificial flavoring, colors, and additives can have harmful effects on the body.  I can attest from personal experience that artificial people can also have harmful effects on us.  What do I mean by artificial, or “fake “ people? I do not mean that they physically do not exist in reality or that they are worthless, but, rather that these people display behaviors that regularly hide who they really are and their true intentions. For instance, fake people will be “kind” to you only if you are beneficial for them and do exactly what they want. When they realize you are a unique person with your own dreams and desires, or when you no longer can meet their desires, their true intentions will show.

In our society, many people tend to strive for power and prestige of some sort, whether it be popularity, money, or some other kind of status. This has led some to become so desperate, that they feel the need to impress and hide their true selves. There also seems to be a narcissistic tendency in these people and in societal culture in general.

I used to, when I was growing up, want similar prestige, thinking if I worked hard enough and succeeded in school, I would somehow gain the love and acceptance from others I so craved. However, when Jesus took a hold of my life, I realized that I really wanted authentic acceptance and love, things that only happened when God helped me open up and not fear who I was inside.

I don’t do fake.

I don’t do fake, because fakeness creates distance and separation between people. I have a problem with people who have a facade of never having trouble or personality deficits, because it 99.9% of the time means they are hiding something from you, while simultaneously pretending to be someone who they are really not. In fact, in my life, I have had to limit contact with several people like this, because I realized my friendship with them would no longer be sustainable if I wasn’t able to trust them. Fake- ness separates people and creates walls between them.

One of the reasons I created this blog is to strive everyday to live vulnerably and authentically. I have realized that if we are open to others about our struggles, it frees others from the fear of condemnation and judgment, and allows them to be more able to share their issues and struggles.

I don’t do fake because fake- ness impairs one’ s ability to truly love. Because many people wear facades and become “fake” to advance and/ or protect themselves, they become  so self-focused, they can give little or nothing to others around them. True love, by definition, is giving oneself for the benefit of another. When we are authentic, we are more free to give of ourselves because we are not tied down by fears of being exposed or rejected on a basis of our lies. When I was able to be more authentic with people in my life, I found that I became more confident in myself and my ability to give something of value to them.

I don’t do fake because it is deceptive and disappointing. Satan is the “Father of Lies,” and thus fakeness too. Christ was never fake! He always told people what He really thought and didn’t hide His true self from anyone, including His deity! In fact, He was so authentic that it irritated and angered the Pharisees, who lived in hiddenness and hypocrisy in order to maintain their power and prestige over the common people! I strive to be like Christ by not being afraid to show my true self to others. Of course it can be scary to show one’s true self because not everyone will accept you, but it’s better than being “loved” for who you are really notAlso, there will be people who will appreciate and accept your authenticity, and how freeing is that! Also, the truth will always be found out in the end. Yes, one may get away with being inauthentic for a while, but the day will come when they will be exposed as the fraud they had been all along. Don’t let that be you!

I don’t do fake because it devalues oneself and others. When someone hides from me and masquerades into someone who they are really not deep inside, they are, in essence, telling me they don’t think I’m worth the truth!  When we consistently hide our true selves from others, we are also devaluing ourselves because we are unconsciously telling ourselves that we are not worth loving for who we really are. We thus  say to ourselves that we have to create an “ideal” self to be acceptable to us and others.

I don’t do fake, and neither should you. Shine forth as the unique and beautiful person you were created to be, and strive not to be afraid of your struggles and flaws because everyone has them!

Worth The Fight

It was a cold, wintry February day, right after my birthday when I got interviewed for my current job. I sensed in my spirit to ask about the status of my resume. I honestly did not think anything would happen, but when the HR coordinator told me to come back for an interview, a couple hours later, I knew there was hope.

Since I didn’t have time to go home, I couldn’t adequately plan for the interview. When I came back to my current workplace, another interviewee, Anastasia * was already there, and we made some small talk, as we waited to be interviewed.  Anastasia was interviewed first, and after she came out, I was interviewed. The interviewer, I found out later, was also going to be my manager, Chris*! I was very nervous during the interview. All Chris asked me was, “How did you go above and beyond for a customer.” Nervously stuttering, I answered how I made sure the customer’s questions were answered, and how I would pray for them if they wanted me to.

I didn’t think I was going to get the job because I was so nervous, but to my surprise. Anastasia and I both got job offers! Anastasia accepted immediately, but I waited until the next day to accept after seeking counsel from my family.

During orientation, Chris kindly sat down with me to give me my schedule for the next couple weeks. It was many more hours than I got at my previous job. The only time I had ever worked that much, was during the Christmas season! I was very pleased. But then Chris went on vacation for two weeks, and everything changed….

Because I didn’t take the time to get to know Chris as a manager or a person initially, we had many conflicts. There was always a period where things were good again, but then there would be more conflict, that grew more intense, as time went on. This cycle repeated itself for one and a half years! During the worst of the conflicts, I flirted with the idea of switching departments or even quitting my job! However, God, in His sovereignty, didn’t allow me to follow through on these options

When the conflicts got really bad, I had also tried avoiding Chris completely, as I had dreaded seeing him every day, but that only lasted a few days. However, I knew I had a serious problem when, on my day off from work, I came to church still very upset about the situation with Chris. I was not only dreading possibly having to see him again the next day at work, but I also became consumed with thoughts of how much he had hurt me and so on. The bitterness and anger inside my heart, at the time, was like a whale about to consume its food whole!

I saw my pastor, John, and immediately sensed that I had to seek counsel about my situation with Chris, because I was afraid if I didn’t get help soon, I would eventually blow up at Chris, get myself disciplined and even lose my job!

I related these concerns to my pastor, John*. I also told him, “I tried to be nice to my manager, but I don’t think anything is happening.”  In retrospect, I wasn’t even really working hard in being that nice to Chris.  That is when Pastor John told me to turn to Romans 12:12-20, and Matthew 5:44-48.  The particular verse, Romans 12:20, struck me. It said, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”

Then, Pastor John said, “How do you know God is not working in Chris? Patricia, you have to trust God’s timing.  God may not bring about the changes now, but how do you know he won’t make the changes later, in His own perfect timing.”   The verses in Matthew 5:44-48, about loving your enemy, and Romans 12:15-20, about serving someone who you view to be the enemy, as to soften him or her, and what Pastor John said about God’s timing, made all the difference. I had renewed hope that things could change for the better between Chris and me. And it did!

That night, I sensed God telling me that I should apologize to Chris for the anger and bitterness I had against him, so I typed up an apology note to Chris for the anger and bitterness I had held. The next day, I wanted to give it to Chris but the department manager ended up doing it for me since another manager wanted me to straighten some aisles in the store right that second! After my break, I caught Chris doing freight, and asked him if he had read the note. He said he had. There, we worked things out, and that day, things really started to become better.

After that next day, I felt so much better and so hopeful that things would get better for us.  The barrier and slime of hatred and bitterness that I had for Chris melted away within days, if not hours, of me talking to Pastor John.  I started to be able to look at Chris with eyes of love and compassion, and not the revulsion and disgust that I had earlier.

However, several months later, Chris was moved to a different area of the store altogether. I would no longer have the opportunity to show the love and respect to him in the same capacity I did when things were tough between us.  I was sad, but now I know having Elizabeth* come on as my new manager was part of God’s good plan for me. 

Several weeks after that, Chris switched areas again to cover for someone else, who worked nights.  However, since Chris did such a good job covering for this other manager, the store manager kept him in that position for almost a year.

One wintry day in February of last year, I wanted to work overnight for Chris because many people had called in, due to a severe blizzard ensuing outside. I felt really bad for him that he had to do all of this work with only a few people to help him. However, when Chris realized that I lived more than a few minutes from work and I had already worked since two in the afternoon, he told me that working overnight that day for him wouldn’t be a good idea. He, in essence, said “I care about my associates. I would rather have you safely home, than to worry about getting all this work done.” That care he had for me contributed to me being physically safe that day.  I listened to him and went on my way, at a decent time.  The next day, the storm was so bad that I called in.  Had he not cared about my safety and just let me work for him, I don’t think I would be alive today.

After that, Chris and I got along much better.

Then, a few months ago, Elizabeth told me she had accepted another opportunity at another company. I cried, as I never thought she would leave that soon, and besides that, I considered her one of the best managers I have ever had!  I was also anxious because I didn’t know who would replace her or what would happen to our department.

Some people who know me well may think to themselves why I didn’t just quit when I felt Chris was hurting me, because when most people feel as hurt as I was, they will make sure that they never have to face that person again. They won’t take time to think about how they may have contributed to the conflict, or even think that things could ever be redeemed between them and the person who they have harbored anger and bitterness against. I confess that though I had prayed for one and a half years for things to be improved between Chris and me and for God to take away my anger and bitterness away from me, I never really thought anything would happen. God, however, in His grace,proved me wrong.

What people don’t understand is how the power of forgiveness and redemption changes you and allows you to see the light in someone you may have once hated. Upon seeing the light, you know you can never give up on that person again. You start to see beauty in that person, and the anger and revulsion will start melting away. That is how I saw Chris was worth the fight.

Epilogue: Chris is no longer with my company, but I will always remember him as someone who always worked hard and believed in me and my potential. I will never forget him. I wish him years of joy and success in wherever he ends up next in his life.

*= names changed for privacy reasons.

Being Different, Being Me

written February 26, 2019

I am not like many, or even, most people. At my church, most people are older than me, have children and even grandchildren, are married, and have been there for a long time.  In contrast, I am single, have exactly zero children, and have only attended this current church for a little over two years. I’m not only different at church, but also at work.  While many people at my job have either hated or just tolerated their job, most of the time, I find great joy and passion in my job, which is why I strive to give it my all every day. In general society, I am different from what most would consider “the norm” because I am neurodivergent, have the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type there is (In case, you are wondering, I’m an INFJ, and have only found one person in real life with this exact type as me!), and love organizing things more than most people.

And I like it that way.

Being different has forced me to not be able to hide myself behind a veneer of familiarity well, leading me to be able to be more genuine. For instance, when I try to hide behind a veneer, such as having no passion for my work and not trying my best, people will immediately notice something is wrong and that I am not really being “myself.” In fact, one time when I was just trying to get things “done” and not really striving for excellence, a manager admonished me for that, but understood I was just really stressed out.  Standing out in my differences has allowed me to be more genuine because I know I have an interesting life story to tell others.

Being different has also enabled me to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas into the world around me. Because I am realizing that many people do not think like I do, when I say something from my heart and offer my unique perspective on things, people will be more apt to listen to me since I stand apart, than to someone whose ideas are more common .  Being different has also helped me to learn about other perspectives with a fresh and more invigorating view. For instance, I observe that many people use small talk to get to know a person better. I do, too, however, I also strive to see into the soul and observe what their dreams and goals are in life by what they talk about.

Being different has helped me move away from the status quo when necessary. For instance, when I see or hear of something that I feel is not right, I won’t be as afraid to say so , because I am not pressured to maintain the status quo as other people may.  Even when most people are doing “A”, I won’t be afraid to do “B’ if I feel that would be the right thing to do. Sometimes, because I am different than most, I stand out more anyway.  So, I am less afraid of backlash in standing up for what is right.

Being different has motivated me to stand up for and support people who have been unfairly discriminated against due to their differences, including, but not limited to, certain minority ethnic groups, people who struggle with mental illness, those who are disabled,  and other societal identifiers that may be outside “the norm”.  Because I have also experienced teasing and bullying throughout my life due to my differences, I am able to better understand what it is like to be ridiculed, ignored, and bullied because of them.  These painful experiences have enabled me to have more compassion for and better able to relate to others who have been through similar abuse and bullying.

Yes, I am often considered an anomaly to the norms of society. Yes, I may be sometimes treated unjustly because of them. However, not being like most of society has allowed me to have a greater impact on it then I otherwise would if I were a carbon copy of the “normal person” in society.

We may be more or less “normal” than the standards and characteristics that society may deem “normal,” but everyone has uniqueness that makes them stand out in some way. Embrace yours, and accept others!  Upset the applecart to do what is right sometimes, and use your differences to be a catalyst for positive change in this world!