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

Advertisements

Soul Healer

written : 5/11/2018

dedicated to  J, Erica*, Veronica*,  Kelly*, Alice*, Holly*, Anna*, and my managers Chris* and Hope*  (*= all are pseudonyms) 

I was alone and in pain

I was also going insane

I felt so much shame

And I was in despair

 

I felt so unworthy of love and care

I dared never to lay my soul bare

Because I knew they’d condemn me

And all I came to be

 

But then, as water

That refreshes the soul,

On a hot, dry day

You came to me

 

You affirmed me with your love

The one from up above

You gave me a reason to hope

When I was on my last rope

 

Now I want to always love you

And bare my soul to you

Because you saved my life

And showed me God’s love

On Investing in People

Every day people around us are dying for just a little love, an ounce of compassion, a kind and encouraging word.  During my thirty something years that I have lived on this earth, God has opened my eyes to a world where I can see the pain and hurt around me, and a voice inside me begging me to do something to alleviate their pain so that they, too, can experience the love and joy that I now experience in my life. Today, my pastor talked about investing in people and in their lives. While you won’t be able to commit wholeheartedly to everyone around you, we can strive to invest in at least one.  Here are some basic principles in what I learned about investing in other people:

  1. Investing in others requires love.—To truly invest in others’ lives, you have to care about and love them. Loving someone means being willing to forgive and/or overlook their faults, being willing to do what is best for them, being kind and compassionate to them, and being willing to be there for them, at least, to some extent. Investing in others with true love for them, not only requires constructive criticism when they are headed down the wrong path, but also encouragement and validation of what they are doing well with in life.  Without true love, the investment will sour and you will no longer be able to really invest in them.
  2. Investing in others requires sacrifice, without expecting a return.—Investing in others will take a lot out of you. It sometimes takes many spoons (For more on the spoon theory, see this link) for me to invest in certain people, but it is usually well worth it to me. However, if you are investing in a person just so that he or she will reciprocate, then I would say, “Don’t invest in them.” If, however, you are investing in them for God’s glory and/or so that they, not necessarily you, will gain something, then you have the right attitude.  Investing in others will require some sacrifices on your part.  For instance, I’m trying to invest in a certain person right now, but if this person leaves for whatever reason, but it would be to their benefit, I would have to sacrifice my possible feelings of abandonment, loss, and sadness, to fully support them in this new endeavor.  I cannot invest in this person, expecting that the person will one day come back to a place where I can minister to them again because then it becomes about me and what I get out of the investment, more than about their joy and their fulfillment.  Some people may wonder (as I sometimes have myself), if we have to invest in others without expecting a return from them, why should we do it at all?  While we may not get a return from the people we are ministering to themselves, we do get at least one return—the feeling that you did the right thing and that you were able to share the love and compassion you have been graciously given to others.  I don’t know about anyone else, but seeing people experience and bask in the love of God and have joy in their lives gives me hope and passion to give even more of myself to others.
  3. Investing in others requires initiative.—Investing in others requires the commitment to start, even with something small, like a kind word or sharing a meal with someone that needs to talk to you. If you don’t know who to invest in, and really pour your heart into, think about investing in those closest to you (like your family and close friends). You could also invest in someone who is aching for love and compassion, or who has some physical needs.  You can also invest in more than one person. Jesus invested in at least twelve people (His disciples), but probably more.  However, even investing in one person can make a world of difference.

 

 

Many people invest in money, material items, or other things that may not matter in eternity. However, the investment of loving and caring about people is an investment that will last forever. Many people are dying for love and someone who will just be there for them. There are many lonely, sad, and hurting people in this world. Will you be the one that reaches out and gives them the love, hope, and purpose they need?  Let’s be the change we want to see in this world, and invest in someone today.

Ingredients to Lasting Relationships

Many people are looking for lasting relationships with others—and I certainly don’t mean just the romantic type.  People usually look for companionship, loyalty, love and intimacy with those they value the most.  However, there are also many people who can’t seem to make a certain relationship or relationships last very long, and they wonder why.  Chances are they are missing one or more of these “ingredients” to having a lasting relationship. The following characteristics are personal qualities that both parties must possess or strive to have for the other in order to make the relationship work:

  1. Perseverance—I believe one of most important qualities to have that will make any type of relationship last is perseverance. Perseverance means being willing to “tough-it-out” in the difficult times of the relationship and to not give up on the other person.  I have seen too many times that when one person offends another, there is such disgust for the other that one or both parties are not willing to continue with the relationship. They then either avoid each other, or the offending party tries to retaliate by slandering or physically attacking the person that hurt them.  I have made similar mistakes with people, from the people I have worked with to my classmates when I was still in school. However, several years ago, I had so many difficulties with a few people at work that I essentially had asked God to remove them from my life. While I may not have used those exact words, what I meant was essentially that.  However, God wanted to teach me the principle of perseverance in order so I could learn from these people, so God refused to remove them from my presence. So, at least weekly, if not daily, I had some type of interaction with them—both good and bad.  However, when I was forced to interact with these people, eventually I was forced to deal with the issues that were creating a hedge between the other people and me. So, after some time, we did, and the relationship was even stronger than it was before we started having problems! I tell this story, not to rehash old wounds, but to teach others to deal with their relational issues and not give up so easily on other people.
  2. Love—Another essential quality to have that will make any type of relationship have is love. In order to truly have this kind of quality in a relationship, we must first be willing to be intentionally kind to the other person. One way to do this is to see what the other person’s needs are, and find ways we can help them. We must put aside our selfish desires, and do what is best for the other person.  For instance, if someone at work is overwhelmed by the amount of returns in their department that they are assigned to, and I am done early with my area, in order to really love them, I must be willing to help them out when they need it.  Finally, we must be willing to be faithful and loyal to the other person. This means we will refuse to gossip about the other person, or betray him or her in any other way.  They don’t have to be number one in our lives, but they do have to feel loved and valued by you.
  3. Sacrifice—Another quality that is essential to make a relationship last is sacrifice. When one or both parties are not willing to sometimes give up what they want for the other, the relationship will never last. This involves putting the other person’s needs ahead of their own. A good example of someone laying down their life in order to save the other person’s. Sacrifice is basically the willingness to lose something for the betterment of another. For instance, many mothers are willing to sacrifice time for refreshment and relaxation so that their children can spend time with them or so that she can drive them to extracurricular activities, which they can enjoy with their friends.  Sometimes when my managers are feeling overwhelmed, I am willing to sacrifice my time so that they have less on their plate, so to speak.
  4. Humility—I believe selfishness and its cousin, pride, are the top reasons why some relationships don’t last very long. However, when we are willing to, for example, admit and confess our faults to others, I believe our relationships will last longer because then they will know that we are not trying to pretend we are any better than they are and that we are willing to fix what is wrong or broken within us.  I read somewhere that Mark Hall (source: unknown) from Casting Crowns once said, “It does not bother the world that we sin, but it bothers them when we act like we don’t.” Everyone sins. Everyone makes mistakes.  The first step to remedy it is to admit that we were wrong.  Some people may think that admitting wrongdoing is “weak.” Nothing could be further from the truth. It often takes great strength and acting against every grain of prideful being to admit where we were wrong.  Another part of humility is valuing another person above ourselves. This often includes sacrifice, but it also comprises of love, persevering, and caring about the other person and their needs.

When we never give up on someone, they will see that we are there for them through the long haul. When we love someone with all of our being, the people who were are in relationships with will feel valued.  When we are willing to die to self in order to see another’s needs met, we tell these people that we really care about and for them.  When we are humble and willing to admit our faults, they will see that it is safe to open up about their faults without feeling judged and condemned by you because they will know that you don’t think lowly of them. I strongly believe that if we follow these characteristics, we will have more lasting relationships and change the world around us for the better.

 

 

Some Blessings in My Life

We all have some blessings in our life. I know sometimes we have bad days which cloud our view of what we have already been given in life. I know this is certainly true for me. However, today I would like to take the time to name some of the people, places, and things that have blessed my life the most and why they are a blessing. I hope they will inspire you to make a Blessing List of your own!

The Blessings:

  1. God and His love for me—God has given me everything I need. He has never given up on me even when others, including myself, have.  He has never rejected me, even when I sinned against Him. He saved my life, both physically and spiritually.  He is so amazing that I could not put into adequate words how awesome He is!
  2. Salvation—I am so grateful that God chose me as His own and plucked me from the doom of never being able have a relationship with Him. I also am grateful for how He has saved my physical life several times. One time I remember having an operation just in time, before my gallbladder would have burst. When taken out, it was inflamed and twice the size it should have been!  Another time, I remember, just several months ago, that God had awakened my reflexes to stop just in time when I was almost on the verge of getting into a serious car crash. The car and I were miraculously spared from any damage or injury.
  3. My parents—They have stuck by me through thick and thin. They have supported and provided me so much. I appreciate how hard they work and how much they were and are willing to sacrifice for me.
  4. My brother—He has taught me so much about life and love. He has worked hard to accomplish what he wants, and, at the same time, give of himself to his family and his community. His cleverness and intelligence are amazing, but that pales in comparison to his care and love for me.
  5. My mentor J—I met her during a time in my life where I was going through so much pain and heartache of not feeling like I could ever be enough or adequate to this world. She gently encouraged me to persevere through the naysayers, including the voices in my head that said I would never be able to. Thus, I was able to prove the naysayers wrong, again and again. She believed in me when no one else (except God) would or could.
  6. My friends
    • At church—My friends at church have encouraged me when I was discouraged and have shown me what true love looks like. They have taught me so much about perseverance in prayer and in life.
    • At work—My friends at my job have also encouraged me, especially when work was stressful. They have helped me by offering to help with the work I could not complete on my own in the time of my shift and by giving me encouragement and admonishment when I needed it.
    • Other places—My good friends *Erica, *Veronica, *Kelly, and others have been so supportive and loving of me for many years. They have encouraged me and cared for me when I was stressed, and we have gone through so many things together. I couldn’t have made it without their support and love. Their behavior models Christ in a way that challenges me to do the same.
  7. My online community—YOU, the readers and followers of this blog have blessed my life as well. You have not only encouraged me, but when I read some of your blogs, I learn a lot about life and about you too. I love learning about other people and about the things in life.  This has diversified my interests, and thus I am able to enjoy life more. My other online friends have supported and encouraged me as well. So, I thank you for you very much also!
  8. Writing—The ability God gave me to write has blessed me so much. It has helped me cope with my emotions better, and has slowly helped heal me of my depression. Writing has also helped me to communicate what I learned about life to others, so they, too, will be able to benefit from this learned knowledge.
  9. My pastors and deacons—I am immensely grateful to my pastors for guiding me, shepherding me, and showing me how to love better by following and teaching me about what it says in the Bible. I have learned so much from you guys, and I am so grateful that God brought me to you and your church.
  10. A running car—I am so grateful to have transportation that I can get to work and other places on time, without having to rely on public transportation or others to drive me.
  11. Books—I am so grateful for the ability to read many great books that have helped me learn more about the world around me, so that I can relate to others better and for my own knowledge. I love learning about new things, and sometimes review things that I have learned but have forgotten some things about.
  12. Uplifting music—Shortly before I became a Christian, I discovered music that I could relate to on a spiritual and emotional basis. The encouraging lyrics in the songs I l heard influenced me to learn more about God and eventually become a believer in Christ. Slowly, but surely, this music also helped me give up certain attitudes and thoughts that were not profitable or uplifting.

These are just some of the blessings that I believe God has generously given to me in my life. I am sure that there are so many more, but it would probably take an eternity to list them all. However, these blessings have served to not only show me how much I am loved, but also taught me the value of love and learning. What are some blessings in your life? How have they given you hope and purpose in life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

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.

The Shining Light

The Shining Light 4/3/2018

In a callous world

Full of hate

People everywhere

Searching for something

That will sate

 

People around us

Searching for that last hope

When they’re on this last rope

And all their dreams are gone

 

Then comes a savior

Digging down deep inside them

With all divine might

Revealing a bright light

 

The light blossoms and grows

Within the depths of their souls

And burst forth gems of love

The love from up above