Dedicated to my friend Alex, who taught me how to let go of all that holds me back and to love freely
I have found that as I go through life, I have not been able to do everything that I wanted, say everything I have wanted to my loved ones, or even see everyone I have wanted to see at certain times in my life. I had to learn to let go of these expectations and desires. In fact, my pastor said, to a mostly younger audience, something like, “Don’t wait until you’re old to let go of things. Do it now while you are still young.” He also explained that as one ages, that one has to let go of more things, until things, both literal and figurative, fall out of their grasp. The three main areas I am learning and/or have learned to let go include: a.) past hurts and offenses. b) my possessions c.) my expectations, with c , being the toughest for me to release.
When I was even a decade younger, I had the most difficult time letting go of grudges. I would hold on to internal anger for years, if I deemed the offense serious enough to merit that much wrath. Every time I would see the person or person that hurt me, I had a mixture of terror and disgust. This grudge-holding greatly impaired my ability to fully be myself even around my closest friends. I was afraid that they, too, would hurt me, like my offender did. However, about a year and a half ago, I was able to finally let go of the grudges I had against several people. I remember that my grudge against one person was so bad, that I thought of how angry and hurt I was, even in church! The anger was so intense; I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. The grudge I had against them became all-consuming. When I finally saw the light and let go of my grudge, I found that I was able to feel compassion and even love for them. I realized I didn’t want to die holding a grudge against anyone. I wish I had let go of my grudges earlier, because I would have been a much easier person to be around. I would have become less bitter and less angry. I want to be able to love freely without a barrier between anyone else and me.
I have also been learning how to let go of some of my possessions. One of my friends has had to let go of almost everything he once owned or stewarded, including things he treasured. However, in letting go of these things, he has learned that he is able to love more freely. Through him, and what he has given me, I have learned that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive! Also, over time, certain things that I have had in my possession have either broken or gotten old. I have also learned to let go of certain material possessions because I know someone else needed it more than I did. In my sophomore year of high school, I remember getting really upset because someone had stolen my yearbook with people already having signed it! I recently gave my dad my old mp3 player because he needed one for our last vacation. Although that one is better than the one I have now, I don’t have much regret because I know that mp3 player will bless my dad. Over the years, through church and my jobs, I have learned the value of generosity and sharing, and that it is not good to hold on to “stuff” too tightly. One of the congregants in my church had described the process of letting go of stuff in this analogy:
Everything we own is on a big conveyor belt—our cars, our televisions, our houses, our food, etc. We are also on the conveyor belt enjoying our stuff. The conveyor belt is moving very slowly. In fact, it is moving so slowly, you don’t even realize it’s moving. But then, at the very end of the conveyor belt is a dumpster. Everything we own is ultimately going to be put in the dumpster—to be thrown away. Then, we get off the conveyor belt. The ‘getting off’ part signifies our passing from the earth.
The last thing that I am learning to let go (and still struggle with releasing) is my expectations. I absolutely hate it when circumstances turn out worse than I expect! For instance, I expect a day at work to be easy, but then it turns out to be a really stressful one. I tend to get upset at God and everyone else when that happens. One thing that I used to get really upset about is when I expect traffic to be smooth, but it turns out to be very jammed. However, when I went to where my relatives lived, I had to deal with consistently jammed traffic almost every day I was there. This situation helped me to let go of my expectation that traffic always be smooth every time I wanted to go somewhere, and also appreciate the relatively good traffic system here! Yesterday, I expected to be able to buy a book I needed for a class/bible study I’m taking at church. However, since my pastor (who was substituting for the pastor and teacher of this class/bible study) couldn’t find the books that the teacher had ordered, I will have to wait until at least Sunday to be able to get them. At first I admit I was a bit annoyed, but I quickly was able to enjoy and learn from my pastor without really worrying about the book. I learned that sometimes I have to adjust and make the best of the situation at hand, and not get upset and complain that things should be different. I also recently learned that even through these tough situations, God is still there for me and will give me the grace to handle these situations in a godly manner.
Everyone has to let go of, at least, some things in life. Even though we may not be able to do everything we want, say everything we want to say, or even see our loved ones and friends sometimes, we still can be content in our circumstances by letting go of the expectation that we have to get what we want when we want it. In letting go, I am realizing more and more, that there is a freedom in just letting things be. What do you need to let go of today? What are some things that you struggle or have struggled with letting go? Feel free to discuss in comments.
I have lived in some fear for most of my life. Even back to my elementary school days, I was chided by teachers and peers alike for “worrying too much.” I had severe OCD in my early teen years. Later, some of my anxiety sometimes turned into paranoia. Moreover, in my senior year of high school I was dubbed “most paranoid” by my graduating class.
But God has rescued me out of many of my fears. Yes, He is the same God that has said, “Do not fear” numerous times in the Bible.
I recovered from my severe OCD with medication and by slowly trying to reduce the time I spent on my nonsensical rituals. Now, many years later, I barely even remember what the rituals were! God used people and situations in my life to help me to combat the devil’s lies that not doing the rituals would bring me “bad luck”. (Yes, I actually believed that “bad luck” deal! ) God helped me realize that not doing the nonsensical rituals actually freed me to joy and to do what He wanted me to do with my life in the first place.
I also used to be so afraid what people would think of me if they found out that I was on the autistic spectrum and had other struggles. I tried to hide my struggles from the outside world even before I realized I was on the spectrum. I was taught by my parents, my culture, and the community around me to not tell anyone about my “dirty laundry.” I know they all meant well—as they did not want to further expose me to becoming prey to unscrupulous people who may have wanted to take advantage of my openness. However, I also felt alone and powerless to fight the battles that still raged on in my heart long after the visible symptoms of the struggles had passed. When the Spirit impressed upon my heart to write about my struggles, I expected people to judge and even reject me, but, at that point, I did not care. I knew God wanted to use me to bring hope to others struggling similarly. When I started writing about my struggles, something amazing happened! Not only did God use me in His amazing way, but I also found that most people found my newfound vulnerability refreshing. It opened up the way for them to share their own struggles, and find acceptance and camaraderie with those struggling similarly, including myself.
Sometimes, I would also be afraid of certain people themselves, as when an abuse survivor sees his or her abuser in close proximity to them after going “no contact” for a long time. This probably stems from an incident where a teacher growled at me and acted threateningly to me when I ran from him in fear. I still fear people when they yell at me because of this, but thankfully my fear abates within hours, if not only a couple days, of the yelling incident. God has infused the power of forgiveness and redemption to quell my fears of people yelling at or hurting me. He has taught me (and continues to teach me) the power of releasing bitterness and replacing it with mercy, compassion and grace.
When I was in school, I used to worry about what would happen the consecutive days, whether it was the fear that I would not pass a test or quiz, or if I was going to get in trouble for something that I may have said or done. Sometimes, I would lay awake for some time worrying about these and other such things. What I learned was that my worries and fears either never came to pass at all, or it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I still struggle with this sometimes, but one major way God has helped me with my fears is redirecting my focus from my circumstances and the “what-ifs” that I fear (like what if I don’t pass that test….or what if I get laid off or fired from my job? ) to His sovereignty and goodness. Now, I am learning how to say, “Even if I don’t pass the test, God will give me a second chance, for example….or even if I got laid off, God will provide me another job. Even if I get COVID-19, God will use my illness to glorify Himself and bring about good in my life) This has quelled my fears about COVID-19 significantly, and has helped me to trust God’s sovereignty and goodness in my life, no matter what will happen.
Almost everyone I know has at least one fear, even if they don’t readily acknowledge that fact. It’s normal, but when fear starts to paralyze your joy and freedom in life, then it needs to leave. With God’s help, you can conquer your fears and experience the joy and freedom He has for you.
I have been repeatedly reminded in these past few weeks that
nothing on earth is going to stay the same or remain forever. To that end, I
have also been reminded that one day I will pass from life on this earth, to
life in eternity with God. I have sensed
in my heart that God has been whispering to me over and over again, “Patricia,
you don’t have much time left.” The
following is the message I believe God is relaying to my heart, and also, I
believe, God’s message to all of us, to live life so that we will die well:
I know no one wants to ponder their death. It all seems so depressing and
final—but it doesn’t have to be. Dying
well, to me, does not mean having all the toys and grandeurs of this world. One
can have that, and still not die well.
Dying well does not just mean being popular and having everyone love
you. To me, dying well means to have
lived knowing you have fulfilled your purpose and that God will say to you when
you come before Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So, how does one fulfill his or her purpose? Well, first one
needs to find out what it is! I believe
that my overarching purpose can be surmised in the Westminster Shorter
Catechism, where it says, “The [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy
Him forever.” If you are a follower of Christ, that should be your purpose
However, I think God gives us different assignments, if you
will, to help us fulfill that purpose, through both our circumstances and the
people He puts in our path. For
instance, despite the stresses that my day job brings, I believe He has and
continues to use that job as a calling for me to minister to broken and hurting
people around me and to strengthen my character. In this job, I am learning, not only some
marketable skills in my job, but also how to be more patient, kind, caring and
at peace with life. I have learned that
anxiety gets me nowhere, but trusting God does.
When I cooperate with God in these lessons, I am much better able to
fulfill His purposes for me. When it is
my time to depart this world, if I persevere in this and all other assignments
He gives me to fulfill His purposes, then I would die well.
Another example is my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. She
became a Christian a few years before her death in April 1999, and God used
people in her school, her church, and her job to strengthen and build her
character and to be a dynamic example for those around her that would be
recounted long after she had departed this earth. Although Rachel died what many consider a
tragic death, I think she died well, not because thousands of people came to
her funeral, but because of the positive impact she had and continues to have
in millions of people’s lives today because of how she had lived her life and
fulfilled her God-given purpose.
I believe to truly die well, we must die to self. In fact,
in Luke 9:23-24 (KJV), Jesus says, “ If any man should come after me, he must
deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose
it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Jesus is saying that in order to live, and,
ultimately, die well, we have to be willing to give up our selfish desires,
ambitions and hopes for the benefit of others.
I can attest to this fact in my own life. When I am thinking selfishly,
I often find that I don’t get what I wanted anyway, and my life unravels before
me. Not only that, people often lose respect for me, and I become an angry,
resentful and bitter mess. However, when I humble myself and submit my desires
and ambitions to God, I find that I am more at peace, no matter what my
circumstances are, and things often go a lot more smoothly. I also find the same is true for those around
me. Those around me who complain the
most are often, and not just coincidentally, the same people who have not
submitted their selfish desires and ambitions to God! What a miserable way, not only to live, but
to die! Many people think that when we die to self, we will live a miserable
life and never get to do what we want to do. I won’t lie; sometimes I am
tempted to believe this very lie!
However, in reality, the opposite is most often true. When we are willing to sacrifice for others,
we become more fulfilled in our God-given purpose and are more likely to be
content with our lives, rather if we just lived for ourselves and our desires.
Another part of dying to self is being willing to serve
others. Helping others not only encourages us to keep the focus off ourselves,
it also makes us more content and fulfilled with our lives, because we sense we
are making a positive contribution to this world. For instance, when I work to
focus on making the customers satisfied and happy with our products and
service, I find I feel much more confident and willing to serve them, rather
than if I am focused on just checking something off my list. Dying well, means
having died knowing that you served others the best you could, and were not
just out for yourself.
In order to truly die well, I believe we must strive daily to
fulfill our God-given purpose for this life, deny ourselves, and be willing to
live to serve God and others with a whole heart. As God has said in my heart, repeatedly, “You
don’t have much time left.” Yes, we
don’t have as much time left as we may perceive in our minds, but we can use
what is left to make sure we die well, and full of purpose.
Recently, I have seen or witnessed more than my fair share
of what happens when compassion is lacking or absent in the workplace. I saw a
video of a person vandalizing company property because they had been bullied so
much there. Now, there is even training in many companies of how to survive a
workplace shooting! What has this world come to? And how can we do our part to
make sure each associate and client in the workplace is treated with dignity
One of the ways we can do this is by showing compassion to others. According to Merriam- Webster.com, compassion can be defined as “ sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress to alleviate it.” (“Definition of Compassion, Merriam-Webster). In other words, compassion is having a heart to help and heal others through their pain and struggles.
Why we should show compassion:
The primary reason for us to show compassion is because
Christ did. In Matt 9:36, when he was preaching in the cities to crowds, He
“was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered
abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In Matt 15:32, Jesus said to His
disciples, “ I have compassion on the multitude,because they continue with me
now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting,
lest they faint in the way.” In each instance, Jesus wanted to provide for
them, either or both physical or spiritual nourishment. Compassion is different
from pity in that compassion strives for action, while pity is more passive and
often takes a hint of condescension.
We should also show compassion for the sake of our humanity.
When we regularly and intentionally show compassion to others, we become more
caring, and thus, more human. Some people reason if they stop caring about
others, they won’t get hurt. While that may have some truth to it, being
completely apathetic breeds monsters. The results are people murdering and/ or
abusing others “for fun” or just to suit some sadistic fantasy. These people are so callous, they no longer
have the capacity to truly care about anyone outside themselves.
Furthermore, we should show compassion for others to help
save lives or at least avert violence in the workplace. In the example of a
person being bullied by colleagues and even managers, what if instead they
tried to ascribe dignity and compassion to them? What if instead of
participating in workplace gossip, we focused instead on thanking those who
work hard for us everyday? If someone is clearly distraught or upset, instead
of ignoring or ridiculing them, we should try to comfort and be encouraging to
them. When we do this for the people who
work with us, or for our clients, we can sometimes save their lives. Maybe if
more people showed compassion, less troubled people would be tempted to wreak
havoc at our jobs. Instead, they would have more motivation to do something
positive with their lives because they know someone cares.
Last, but not least, compassion breeds productivity. For
example, one of my now-former managers, *Elizabeth, knew I was very stressed
one day, and instead of punishing me or getting upset at me, reiterated the
qualities she admired in me, and encouraged me to not give up. Also, Elizabeth
also allowed me to learn many things under her direction and didn’t give up on
me when I didn’t get it right the first time. Her compassion for me when I was
stressed and when no one else believed in me is a big part of what kept me
going during tough times in our store.
Now when I’m stressed and remember what Elizabeth said to me, I feel
much more motivated to persevere through the stress.
Ways to Demonstrate Compassion:
Some of the ways we should demonstrate compassion are:
To encourage others who are going through a tough time.– When someone looks stressed or upset, be there to comfort and encourage them. For instance, if a co-worker is going through a divorce with their soon-to-be ex spouse, tell them they are not alone and help them through that with whatever you can.
To pray for others.– Another way we can demonstrate compassion at work is to be willing to pray for others if they tell you of a need or concern and are open to prayer. Many people see our willingness to care enough to put their needs and concerns before the Lord as a refreshing and positive thing.
To serve others.– I have had several coworkers who have struggled with physical health issues, so I have offered to help them with some of their tasks. This allows them to be more relaxed and thus heal faster, then if they had to work at the same frantic pace that may be expected of them when they are 100%. Another way one can help is to pick up some of their shifts if they anticipate not being able to work at all.
To appreciate others’ good work– When you see someone doing a good job or if someone does something to help you, thank them. Write a note of encouragement and appreciation to the colleagues that have helped you the most, and the managers that do above and beyond what is expected of them.
As you can see, compassion goes a long way to improving morale and general workplace conditions. When we show compassion and care, we learn to be more Christlike; we avoid becoming callous monsters, we can help save lives, and help increase productivity, and thus profit for our company.
I’m not going to lie. Being content is still a struggle for
me, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I am more content now
than I was even five years ago. Over the past couple years or so, I have
learned many things about how to be content and why for many people,
contentment with life seems to elude them.
In this New Year, contentment can be a reality for you. It
can be an even greater reality for me. In general, from what I have read,
heard, and learned, these are some of the major factors in cultivating
contentment in one’s life:
Live with purpose.—I had always had this lingering question in my mind about work: Why do most people hate or dislike their jobs and have no passion in what they do for a living? When I observed people and the general trends from the world around me, I found the answer. Basically, for a lot of people, their attitude towards work and much of their other parts of their lives, too, is “I’ll do what I can to survive another day.” While that can motivate some to not give up, I believe we need to live with greater purpose than just survival if we are to be truly content. I recommend that to find your life purpose (if you haven’t already), you think about what your passions are in life, and what God-given abilities you have, and see how they can fit together. For instance, one of my passions in my life is to see people know and experience the joy and love of Christ in their lives. God has given me the ability to articulate myself well through writing (though I am much less gifted in speaking!). Therefore, I have chosen to write a blog about lessons I’m learning about God’s love and joy in my life, and how others can cultivate the same. Though my day job does not involve writing at all, I can still be content in my job, because my passion to see people experience the love and joy of Christ is still being realized through the opportunities I get to interact with people on a daily basis.
Live in forgiveness.—I used to hold grudges against certain people for years, and then wonder why I wasn’t content with my life. It was like there was something always holding me back from experiencing true joy. Once, I held anger and resentment against someone that was so bad that I started experiencing PTSD-like symptoms and a real dread of ever seeing them again. However, when I finally forgave them and let my anger go, I felt an enormous weight lifted off me. I was finally able to live in love and freedom from the bitterness that held me captive for so long! Some people think if they forgive someone, they are letting them off the hook, so to speak, or excusing the offender’s behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth! The very fact of having to forgive someone necessitates that they did something wrong or sinful to hurt you. Also, like so many others who have struggled to forgive someone, I used to think that the longer I held a grudge, the longer I would make the offender “suffer” for what they did to me and feel the isolation and pain of my hurt. Then, I realized that the offender often either does not know what they did to hurt you or to what degree, or if they do, they don’t care at all. I realized that holding a grudge only makes you and the people around you that have nothing to do with what the offender did suffer. Let. It. go. By holding a grudge, you are continuing to let the offender hurt you. Get out of your offender’s prison! Forgive them—for your sake, not theirs!
Live with gratitude.—I believe that one of the biggest barriers to contentment is a complaining spirit. Often the people who complain the most are also the most depressed. This has little to do with the person’s circumstances, and more to do with the person’s attitude towards them. For instance, I know several people from my church who have had to struggle through cancer. Even though a lot of them had some trying times just battling the disease and having to go through strenuous treatments to combat it, they remained in good spirits because they focused on God and the good that was still in their lives. When I looked back on the good in my life and the blessings that God has given me, I find that I am much more satisfied with my life than when I focus on the negatives. One thing that I find helpful is to start a list of some of the blessings in your life. I keep mine in a notebook that I update occasionally throughout the year. I started it about 10 years ago, and it has over 100 ways that God has blessed me throughout that time!
These are the three main lessons that I am learning about
contentment. Though practicing these things is not always easily, and we may
fail to live these at times, never give up.
The more purpose, forgiveness, and gratitude are implemented in our
lives, the more content we will be with our lives. Try living these, and you
won’t be disappointed with the results.
Along my blogging journey, I have met some amazing people that have encouraged and inspired my own as well. One of these people is R. Christian Bohlen, who has quite an extraordinary testimony of how he came to know God, through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
R. Christian Bohlen has been
involved in ministry and church leadership for over thirty years, including
oversight of a prison ministry program in central PA. He holds an M.S. degree
in communications and has received multiple personal and team awards as a human
performance improvement consultant, instructional designer, and program manager
to Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and Canada.
His prior work with juvenile offenders and his own
family’s trauma due to mental health issues instilled a commitment to somehow
help those who need it most to find comfort in Christ. For over twenty years,
he has labored to simplify and clarify the beauties of the life of Jesus Christ
for everyone, regardless of background or knowledge of the scriptures. In 2018,
he launched Christ on the Inside
prison and addiction recovery ministry with the goal of making easy-to-read
books about the life of Jesus available at no cost (and no profit to anyone).
My Conversion Story
I’ve devoted over 20 years to
writing a book about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, mostly because of
the remarkable and unforgettable way Christ kept pursuing me and not giving up
In my 20’s, the confusion of trying
to find my way to God was torturous—in spite of my sincerest efforts.
Finally “finding Christ”
brought the peace and clarity I was looking for, but it certainly wasn’t like
walking into a door labeled Nirvana and then thinking, “Ahh!
It’s all good now.”
There was a process that gradually
filled me with light—triggered by one key insight and the most difficult
decision of my entire life.
Up in Light and Truth
I was raised by faith-filled parents
in a gospel-centered home. It was an idyllic setting. A family with father,
mother, three children and a large community with kids everywhere, bordered by
the dense forests of northwest Pennsylvania where we played and fantasized.
Attending church every Sunday was a
given. Family prayer was routine and sincere and our home had a spirit of
meekness, love, and obedience to God.
As a child and teenager, the other members of our small church family were important influences on me. The older members of our congregation had the Spirit of God with them when they spoke. Their kind and patient ways were noticeably different than the world around me, showing a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).
I was taught many stories from the
scriptures. These often touched me and, looking back, I sensed that they were
true. I felt good when I read the scriptures myself, although I typically had
better things to do and simply didn’t bother.
I didn’t pray on my own. I didn’t disbelieve
that there was a God but I didn’t really believe it. And I certainly didn’t
feel his love, nor did I ever feel what I would call love for God either.
Sayings like “God loves you” just bounced off. “Everybody knows
that,” I would think to myself.
But I didn’t know it.
Gift to the Undeserving
Maybe you can relate to what I’m
about to share. Maybe in some way, God touched you whether you deserved it or
whether you were seeking him or not. Maybe, at the time, you didn’t recognize
it as such.
God reached down to me powerfully
twice when I was a teenager.
One day in church, after watching an
inspiring video about some story in the scriptures, I recall walking into the
hallway feeling touched and uplifted. I paused in front of a bulletin
board and looked at a picture of Christ surrounded by people in
old-fashioned clothes like the ancients might wear.
A pure spiritual light of
understanding entered my whole being as I stared at Christ in the center
of this picture. I wasn’t consciously trying to think of anything. It just hit
I comprehended that Christ was God,
the unchangeable God of the universe. I mean, I knew it and I understood
it. I comprehended that the trends and fashions and ideas of men will come and
go, but the wisdom and supremacy of God are unchanging. It was obvious why some
people were bent down in an attitude of worship. This insight was a gift
of spiritual light that filled me mercifully, with no effort of my own.
This gift entered my soul at a time
that I was behaviorally in rebellion against God and was giving him no thought
whatsoever. It was pure grace.
The next day I was supposed to meet
someone new—a large scale drug dealer—to buy a sheet of acid (meaning, a large
volume of LSD doses intended for distribution and sale). This was only one of
several drugs I was involved with. Getting caught selling hard drugs would have
changed the course of my life with a minimum of many months in a juvenile jail
and all that comes with entering the “system,” the stigma, and
dashing my parents’ hearts.
I stood there nearly in shock.
“What am I doing to my life? How can I do this tomorrow?” But I had
been panged by remorse before and it had only lasted a day or two and I went
right back into my double life.
Nevertheless, I never met with that
person. I don’t recall why. And I never pursued it again.
Unforgettable Witness of Christ
A few months after that incident, I
was getting ready to head out for college. I had been taught many times that
there are a few important crossroads in life that we’d better pay attention to
and make the right move: going to college, getting married, those kinds of
I recognized this as a chance to
reprioritize my life. So, I sought out one of our pastors for counsel and
began making small steps to get ready for a big change. Like the Parable
of the Lost Son, I was trying to leave the “wild living” behind and
trying to head back to the house of my Father (Luke 15:11-32, NIV).
This pastor asked my friend and me
to sing a duet during our last Sunday in church before leaving for college.
“Sure, no problem,” I answered. I didn’t think much about it.
The song was, “Abide with
There we stood in front of the small
congregation that we knew so well. My friend and I had decent voices and had
practiced a time or two and I wasn’t too worried about it.
But the strangest thing happened.
The sounds of the hymn became hauntingly beautiful, moving me to a different
place. I was filled with the sound of the notes as the words became crystal
clear on the page and full of significance:
other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.”
Suddenly, I couldn’t see well. The
words blurred as water filled my eyes. To my teenage horror, I was crying, on
stage in front of everyone.
But I couldn’t stop. Just like
before, the light that filled me was sweet and clear and so satisfying. It was
worth more than anything. I just kept reading and listening to the surreal
At that moment, I understood the
character of Jesus: the help of the helpless. The compassionate one who cares
when nobody else does.
The revelation continued, flowing
pure and sweet into my mind and heart. Again, I understood that God was the
supreme, unchangeable being—more important than any earthly thing. I tried to
sing but could only read the words and listen as my friend sung his part. He
kept looking at me like, “Whoa, what is goin’ on here?”
joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see— O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”
It all made perfect sense. I was
comprehending the character of Christ, “who changest not,” and for
some reason he chose to “abide with me,” on that stage, in front of
the entire congregation.
Forward to Near Madness
Within one week of this precious
gift I was back to “wild living.”
I didn’t realize it but I was an
I’m not going to recount my entire life story here, but suffice it to say that my life went back and forth between long periods of no drug abuse with sincere strivings to live a godly life and occasional relapses.
My feelings regarding the goodness
of the gospel were real but I lacked the faith and understanding to truly live
the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had no real foundation.
At one point in 1983, I reached a
crisis of sorts. My efforts to live the gospel and keep the commandments of God
were not working. I was intensely miserable and confused. I decided the only way
to get past it was to start over again: forget everything I knew about God,
religion, and just follow my heart, make the best decisions I could, and see
where that would lead me. I didn’t know what else to do!
I stopped going to church and
stopped “keeping the commandments of God,” as such, although that
doesn’t mean my life turned into a hedonist free-for-all either. I treated
people decently, didn’t party, and did a lot of thinking.
“How could this happen?” I
often thought. “I had really tried to change my life. I tried to follow
God and ‘follow the rules.'”
After a year or so of this, I
suddenly became despondent. I was scared, in fact, at how gloomy and hopeless I
felt. I feared that I was losing my sanity and thought about taking my life to
I can still remember where I was
sitting and staring at the floor in this unstable, panicked state with no idea
of what to do.
A thought came to me: “Go see
Bob was a good friend, a former
spiritual advisor, and a man that I simply trusted. I felt a tiny bit of hope
and decided to do it.
Our conversation was intense and his
love for me was palpable and comforting. He said I was “hanging by a
thread,” which I felt was a truthful statement and didn’t take it as an
insult at all.
“You are in Satan’s
power,” he said, “and you need to cast him out.”
Hmm… Okay, so this was kind of
dramatic and not what I expected. A little crazy, to be honest. “Me? I’m a
pretty nice guy,” I thought. “I’m not like a Satanic dude or
anything.” I started to pull back from Bob.
“I want you to tell Satan to
leave you,” Bob said.
“Huh? How?” I asked.
“Say, ‘Satan. In the name of
Jesus Christ, I command you to leave me,'” Bob instructed.
I probably just sat and looked at
him. I don’t remember. But I do remember being frightened and feeling very
unstable. Not evil, but very confused and unhappy.
“Oh, great,” I
thought. “Me. Possessed.”
Could it be true? As crazy as it
sounded, I opened my mind that it might be true. I had a tiny, new hope.
As we parted that day, he hugged me
and just wept and wept and wept. I sensed that it was the love of God reaching
through him in hope and celebration for my willingness to try.
Reality of Satan
Writing this now, in 2018, I’m sure
that most people have not and will not ever experience what I’m about to
describe. But it was a reality for me and what I felt and experienced was
I learned what constitutes light as
I truly witnessed darkness.
I went home and awkwardly explained
to my mother what was happening to me and what Bob counseled me to do. I have
no idea how I broached the topic with her but somehow my mother and I sat side
by side on a couch and I decided to do what Bob advised.
I opened my mouth and verbally
commanded Satan to leave me in the name of Jesus Christ using the words above.
Within seconds, I felt a terrifying,
dark force pull away from me. The best I can explain it is that I knew it had
been enmeshed with me and now it was just a “few inches” outside of
me. It was menacing and extremely angry at what was happening and by no means
intending to stay outside of me. It was waiting for me to lose focus and come
But now I knew there was
“me” and there was “it” and I could distinguish the two.
I commanded Satan again. And again.
Always in the name of Jesus Christ. Over time, the line between us because
firmer and the distance greater. My peace and sense of self were forming again.
Truthfully, I had forgotten some of
these details until just a year ago when my mother said, “I sure know that
Satan is real, like when you cast him out as we were sitting together. What a
horrible feeling that was.”
From her vantage point, she had
experienced it as vividly as I had: an awful, frightening, threatening presence
in that room. I did not know (or recall) that she felt it that way until she
shared her memory of it with me last year.
In the weeks and months that
followed, I continued to tell Satan to leave me in the name of Christ, as
Two things were certain and beyond
The evil force I felt was real. Satan was an actual entity and not just a concept.
The name of Jesus Christ has real power. Satan was enmeshed with me but he could not disobey the command to leave, in Christ’s name. I had been given a tool that worked 100% of the time and that was enormously reassuring.
How Christ Found Me and Cared for Me
I’ve listed just a few episodes in
my life where Christ reached out to me to teach me, inspire me, help me
understand the truth, and save me—even when I was doing little or nothing to
seek him out.
I can’t say that I found Christ. I
prefer to say he has been watching over me all my life and finding and touching
me, according to his own wisdom and ways.
He gave me sweet and loving parents who shared their testimonies of truth lived godly lives to the best of their understanding.
He gave me the examples of other church members whose sincerity and willingness to love God first was real to me, even as a boy.
He gave me light and understanding as I read scriptures, participated in church activities, and that one eventful day in front of the bulletin board.
He gave me the freedom to make decisions and figure things out on my own but he was always watching for my return. At the first sign of turning, he ran to me like the father of the lost (prodigal) son and whispered the idea to call Bob Johnson to help me.
He kicked Satan out of my life like the mighty God of the universe that he is. All I had to do was invoke his name, which always has power.
Christ Finds and Cares for You
I know that our Christ reaches out
to every living soul on this earth in ways that are suitable to that person.
Take just a moment to reflect back
on your life. Who were the people that were good examples in your life? It
might not have been your family. What were the experiences where heavenly light
and understanding called you to something higher and helped you understand the
things of God? Maybe you appreciated it. Maybe you didn’t.
All of us have been touched and
called to something higher. Through somebody. Through a life experience.
Through the Spirit of God directly to our souls. But every living soul feels
the fingers of God reaching down. But will we take that hand?
When did you hear something or read
something that touched you? Maybe you felt an impression like, “I can do
more with my life; I can turn away from these destructive things in my
life,” or “God really is there and he wants me to listen and trust
Those inspired impressions are from
God. When we say, “I want to please God and keep feeling those good things
more than my destructive, sinful past,” we are moving toward Christ.
I Came to Christ: Believe in the Name of Jesus
My troubles weren’t over yet,
however. Confusion returned frequently because other than knowing how to get Satan’s
power to release me, I didn’t really understand what to do next.
I recall telling people, “I
feel like I have no foundation. I’m walking in quicksand. I don’t know where to
For someone who had attended church
for most of his life and had read the scriptures many times over this seems
ludicrous, looking back, but so it was. I found that there’s a difference
between knowing from the head and internalizing from the heart. But I did find
my way to Christ.
I recall a certain day when I was
staring at green, patterned carpet in a different bedroom, trying to figure out
what to do next.
Because I knew the Bible well
(meaning, I had made some good decisions in the past to invest effort and try
to learn the ways of God), a key phrase popped into my head:
is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John
“Just believe in the name of
Jesus Christ,” I repeated to myself. I didn’t know Jesus as a man. I
had never seen him. But I could just believe in his name. I mean really
put my whole heart into it. I could decide to trust this Jesus Christ.
“Just do it,” I recall
But oh, it was hard to do.
I had many atheist friends who
poo-pooed the idea of believing the unseen. Their faces and voices in my mind
made this a spiritually terrifying decision.
But one thing I knew for sure. I had
factual, first-hand, experiential knowledge of this: the name of Jesus Christ
has power. “So why not believe in that name,” I reasoned.
“Perhaps more good will follow?”
I then received another merciful,
beautiful insight: Into my mind’s eye came the John the Apostle and John the
Baptist. I pictured Peter and Paul. I felt them saying, “We gave our everything
to give you this knowledge. Believe it. We love you. Believe in the name of Jesus.
I felt in my heart that these dear scriptural friends were just and holy men. Real people. Worthy of my trust.
The Pivotal Decision: Jumping in
with Both Feet
Sometime in 1983, I made that great decision. I opened the faucet of belief in Jesus Christ and the water of life began to trickle into my life. I could feel the difference. What the scriptures call “salvation” was happening for the first time in my life. (See Acts 16:30-33
I often said in my mind—and still do
to this day—”I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He was sent from the
Father. I believe He is the Messiah. I believe Jesus Christ is the very Son of
God.” These thoughts and intentions fill my heart with light and happiness
There is power in believing. We should never underestimate the power of believing on the Light of the World.
Today, I am grateful and thrilled to tell you that—praise
and thanks be to God—I am truly happy. Genuinely, deeply happy and at
This past week had been very stressful for me—and for many people around me. Two or three departments at my job were without management, including mine, leaving me to do even more work than usual. Managers, associates, and customers were seemingly extra busy and pressured this past week—especially some of the higher levels of management at my workplace. At church, we just voted in a new pastor, who will officially start a few months from now. Finally, in the midst of all this, my family and I are making our own preparations for Christmas.
You may be also experiencing similar stressors—but, maybe, hopefully not. Regardless, I was encouraged by God to develop more peace in my life and to incorporate more of the character of what Christmas truly should be about, in my life. As I read in my church bulletin today, Roy L. Smith, had said, “He who has not Christmas in his heart, will never find it under a tree.” So, if we can’t find Christmas under a tree, how can we find the true character of Christmas? Here is what I learned about finding the true character of Christmas in my heart:
One of the things that I learned about having Christmas in my heart is that I needed to have more peace in my life. – In Matthew 11:28-30, it says that when we rest in Jesus, He gives us peace for our souls (translated in the KJV as “rest,” which is essentially the same thing). Unfortunately during this week, I found myself being anxious about bad things that either never happened at all, or wasn’t as bad as I once thought. For instance, I was very upset at myself because I accidentally spilled my entire lunch. Not only did it needed to be cleaned up, but I would have to now waste time and money buying myself a new one so I would be able to sustain myself energy wise to continue to be able to work afterwards. I was also stressed out as I thought about all that I already spent on presents for various people in my life, and now I had to spend this additional money and have less time to eat my lunch! However, all my anxiety turned out to be for naught, because although I did have to spend more time and money, I also got to eat some things that I have never really tried before—and turned out to be pretty good. Additionally, one of my kind and generous friends, Allison*, graciously gave me almost her whole bag of her favorite onion ring chips. What I have learned about not being anxious is to look for the good in my uncomfortable, bad, or anxiety-producing situations. If I can’t think of any, I should try to ask myself what good can come out of the situation at hand. For instance, if I don’t have time to complete my work, I should try to focus on doing a good job on the work that I CAN complete, instead of rushing to try to complete everything and doing a half-hearted job. I also am still learning and have learned that when I let God be in control, my anxiety goes away. When you become anxious, reminding yourself that God’s got this, or that things often don’t turn out as badly as we fear they might, really can help the anxiety go away, or, at least, lessen in severity.
Another thing that I learned about having Christmas in my heart is to cultivate joy. — Sometimes, in the midst of stress and busyness, we forget to enjoy life. I know that is often the case with me. One of my online friends even had suggested to me in the midst of me writing about my stress that week to take time and enjoy myself. Yes, we should love and serve others, but we should also not forget to have joy in doing so. Also, we need to take time to rest and recharge occasionally so we can minister more effectively to others and not get burnt out. One of the things that I like to do for relaxation and recharging is to read about various topics such as various recipes, different places around the world (travel), exercise, inspirational topics, and much more. I used to be part of an online blogging group that encouraged me to read other people’s blogs, which were on a wide range of topics. Because of this, I was able to broaden my interests. One thing I would recommend to anyone struggling to find something that they enjoy doing or having more hobbies is to force yourself to read books in a library or articles online on a variety of topics that seem interesting to you. Then, as you learn about more things, often your interest in that said topic broadens as well. Also, when we serve others, we should have joy in getting to know those who we are serving and focusing on their contentment, rather than on the stress of having one more thing added to our “list” of things to do. Also, when we focus this Christmas on having the joy in having Jesus come to earth as a human baby to eventually grow up and become the ultimate sacrifice for us, instead of the busyness and commercialism that this society often puts in Christmas, we will be happier to serve others.
The most important thing I learned about having Christmas in my heart is to cultivate love.– Since it says in the Bible, in various places, that Jesus is the embodiment of love, and since love is what makes Christmas more meaningful, I learned that instead of acting like the Grinch, I should strive to love others more. Christmas is not only the time to give presents to family and friends, but also to be willing to sacrifice for them and others. For instance, if Christmas is difficult for someone, sacrificing your time to be there for them to encourage them through it and helping them cope with this time of year, can make their Christmas a little bit brighter than usual. Giving others hope when they are in a hopeless or a desperate situation can help them to see God’s love and to know that they are not alone. Another way to love others is to thank the people in your life that have made the most positive difference in your life. For instance, if a teacher or manager at work has really encouraged you in your abilities in some ways, now is the time to thank them and to let them know that they are not taken for granted. If your parents and/or significant other have served you faithfully for a long time, now is the time to let them know that you notice their sacrifice and their service on your behalf.
So, as this post is as much to myself, as to you, the reader, I hope we will cultivate the character of Christmas in our hearts and lives, so that we can impact the world for the better. When we don’t have Christmas in our hearts, the joy, peace, and love that flows out of the Christmas spirit, will never be found even under a tree. Let’s pray that this will not be true of us this Christmas season, but instead we will embody the joy, love, and peace that this time of year is supposed to bring, not only to ourselves, but more importantly, to God and others.
I have been saddened by the general climate of the world around me. So many people are hurting, and some people seem to have the need to be nasty to others. Despite it being the holiday/Christmas season, it seems that a lot of people are more stressed than ever. I think Roy L. Smith was right when he said, “If one does not have Christmas in his heart, he will never find it under a tree.”
So, how do we have Christmas in our hearts, or how can we have joy and peace this holiday season? The answer is simple, yet difficult to do: We need to love each other like we never have before. I don’t mean the mushy, romantic type love. I don’t even mean just friendship love. I mean the all-out, sacrificial, agape love!
Many around you carry deep pain and hurt inside. Some may have lost a loved one around the holidays. You may even be one of these people, and to you, I say this: There is hope when you can be vulnerable and tell a trusted friend or loved one how you have been feeling, so that you can begin to heal. Someone out there cares for you. Don’t give up.
If you are not, or if you are already in the process of healing, I say this: Do not let the stresses and pressures of life allow you to overlook these people. Do not let your heart become calloused and apathetic to the hurting people around you. Always strive to be compassionate and caring to others. It could make a world of difference in their lives, and could even save a life! Don’t just ask someone how they are doing and walk away. Listen to and try to be genuinely interested in what they have to say in response.
Always try to uplift people and encourage them. If you see a peer or co-worker doing a good job, thank them for their efforts. If someone is down on themselves, encourage them by pointing out the good you see in them. If someone thinks no one cares about them, tell them that you do and then demonstrate that love and care by doing a tangible act of kindness for them. Maybe it can be as simple as a kind, encouraging word. Or maybe it can be watching their kids, if they have children.
This can take us out of our comfort zone, especially if we don’t like some of the people we are dealing with, but it is well worth it.
Friends, let us bring joy and love to the hurting people around us today and help them experience the best Christmas or holiday ever!