How To Defeat Prejudice

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, White Nationalists and alt-right groups and those against them clashed violently in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then, a 20-year-old man plowed into a crowd with his car, killing one young woman in the crowd.  Because of what happened that day, I felt a responsibility to not only condemn what happened but also to conquer all hate with love.  I admit that I have had some prejudicial thoughts myself about certain people and have sometimes judged people unfairly. We all have. This isn’t just about defeating racism (though that is, of course, very important too) but also about defeating all forms of prejudice and hatred in this world.  Here are some things I have found effective in defeating prejudice.

  1. Counter hate with love. Always.–To effectively defeat both prejudices in our own hearts, and melt others’ hard hearts, we must first aim to love.  There is a severe lack of love in this world, and not only because certain people are in power. I suspect this has been going on since near the beginning of time!  We don’t have to always agree with how people live or what they do, but we do have to love. I believe Jesus loved so much that even when He was being crucified and mocked by religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, and others, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 b and c, KJV) .  This is why He is now one of the most respected religious leaders that ever lived!  Never hate someone just because they are different than you.  One way you can do this is to find the good in everyone you meet, even those who rub you the wrong way. 99.5% (if not all) people have at least one admirable quality about them; no person is all bad.
  2. Forgive, forgive, forgive.– One of the ways to defeat prejudice is to have a forgiving heart because, most, if not all prejudice, stems from a grudge-filled heart against a person or group of people. Create a policy in your heart that says that you will not hold a grudge against anyone after a certain period of time (HINT: It needs to be sooner than “after many years” or “never”).  This may be harder for some, but we must persevere in forgiveness.  Yes, we may have a right to hold a grudge, especially if what someone did to you was grievous or vile, but what good will it do you? You are not really “punishing” the offender because they probably don’t give a care about what you think of them or what they did wrong. You are only hurting yourself and preventing other people who did nothing to hurt you from helping you to heal from your wounds and forget about the person that hurt you. I have also heard many stories about people forgiving their offenders for particularly horrific crimes ranging from rape to murder, and everything in between, and how they related that they felt freer once they let the offender off their hook and let God take care of the justice in their case.
  3. Stand up against prejudice in all forms.–Another way to defeat prejudice is to stand up against it in all its forms. For instance, if you see someone post a mean tweet about someone or a group of people, gently but very firmly rebuke that person.  I would personally say something like, “That is not true. Saying [name mean thing that they are saying in general terms], will not change anything.  Please stop it! ” OR if you feel too upset to say anything civil, report that post to the proper authorities.  If you see or hear someone ridiculing, for example, someone who is disabled or otherwise different in some way, stand up to the offender and/or tell them to “Stop it.” very firmly in an authoritative kind of voice. If they don’t or they escalate or make excuses for their behavior, report them to the proper authorities.  If a person or persons voicing prejudicial or hate-filled views is coming to your workplace or school, protest against them, but do so peacefully, otherwise, your message won’t be taken seriously by anyone and you will be cast as similar to the hate-filled people.

These are just some things you can do to defeat prejudice in all its forms. We must conquer hate-filled hearts with a message of love and hope for all people, not just ones that are similar to us in some way.  We also must be vigilant to conquer against any hate lurking in our own hearts and lives and eradicate it immediately.  What other things do YOU think can be done to combat prejudice? Who can YOU love today?

source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-car-crash/index.html

What I Learned From the Movie “Priceless”

Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with the movie’s producers or any distributors, nor am I making any money off these reviews.  Any opinions are always strictly my own. Also, contains spoilers!

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priceless_(2016_film))

“Priceless” starts out with a man named James who tragically loses his wife and subsequently loses custody of his daughter, Emerson, after not being able to keep a steady job and becoming an alcoholic. Then, a guy offers James money to drive a truck cross-country no questions asked. He does, until, one day when he crashes the truck and is run off the road after a storm. Curiosity and a gnawing sense something is wrong prompts him to open the back of the truck. He does and discovers two young ladies inside.  After discovering that these ladies were being recruited for prostitution purposes, James and his friend Dale, who later discovers the truck that James drove, tries to shut down the prostitution ring and rescue these women before it’s too late.

As with everything in life, even movies, there is always something to be learned from them. “Priceless” is no exception. Here’s what I learned from this movie:

  1. Everyone has value, and that alone is worthy of protection.–It’s obvious that even though James has been absent for most of Emerson’s young life, he still values her enough to think about her a lot. This is in contrast to the pimps that wanted to prostitute the two young women who James found inside his truck. Not only did the pimps in the story want to use them for their own perverted pleasures, but they didn’t even care about these women’s feelings or livelihood.  Because James and Dale knew that these men (the pimps) were up to no good, they knew they had to do something to rescue at the very least the two young women whose lives were in danger, and shut down the prostitution ring.  We can apply this concept even to our own lives. If we see or hear of someone that is lonely or feels depressed or hurt, we should not only comfort them but encourage and cultivate the positive aspects of their character and treat them as valuable human beings, rather than commodities to be used for our own purposes. For instance, if someone tells you that they have no friends and that they feel that no one cares about them, be their friend and love them. Yes, it may be difficult, but doing the right thing is sometimes not easy, but we have to strive to do the best we can.  If we witness someone being abused or bullied, stand up for them. Don’t let people hurt others, especially if they are in a vulnerable position. Everyone has value, cherish and protect that.
  2. Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult, but we have to do it.–At first, James was hesitant to rescue the two women (Antonia and Maria) because he had promised to be with his own daughter, Emerson. However, James knew he had to rescue Antonia and Maria, I believe, not only because he knew it was the right thing to do but also to be a good example to Emerson.  James had to sacrifice some time with his daughter, for a higher purpose. If he had forgotten about the two women, James’s conscience would have been eating at him, and he wouldn’t have been such a good example to his own daughter.  Of course, this can be applied to our own lives as well. Have you ever had to do something difficult, but it was right, morally, to do it, as in an obligation? I have.  For instance, several days ago I was having a bad day and yelled at someone I shouldn’t have.  Instead of clinging to my pride and blaming them for my anger, I apologized to them and have tried to make things right with them. It was difficult, because I had to let go of my pride and selfishness, but it was the right thing to do.
  3. One person can make a big difference.–James was just an ordinary guy that was down on his luck (and pride).  However, when the situation called, he made a huge impact in the lives of several girls and women caught in the throws of prostitution.  Yes, James was able to sacrifice even his life, to save Antonia and Maria, and other women.  However, we also can make a positive difference, even if it seems small. For instance, if you see or hear about a customer or client that doesn’t have enough money to pay for your services or products, but they really need it to survive, you can offer to pay for them.  Even something a simple as a sincere compliment or word or words of encouragement to someone who is depressed or suicidal can save someone’s life or at least make their day.  Never believe you can’t impact lives for the positive. Anyone can, even YOU can!

“Priceless” ends with James marrying Antonia, and them rescuing countless girls and women who were formerly involved with prostitution. It also ends with these women and girls being brought into James’ and Antonia’s home and being nurtured and encouraged into a new, hope-filled, love-filled life.

How To Grow as a Person

As some of you may know, I am a fairly short person, and I want to grow taller like the forest trees in this picture.  I’m fairly sure that will never ever happen. Today, though I can’t make one grow taller (even myself), I can share with you what I have learned about growing personally, experientially, and intellectually as a person.  This kind of growth, I believe, is of utmost importance if one truly wants to succeed in life. Here’s what I learned are the characteristics necessary to facilitate personal growth:

  1. Humility/A willingness to learn–One of the most overlooked and important qualities to personal growth is the power in humility.  In a previous post, I discussed the pitfalls of being arrogant, including not being able to get the help one needed,  broken relationships, and not being able to learn new things.  In contrast, one of the benefits of humility is that you are able to change and grow into a better person.  Think about it:  When you readily admit you don’t know everything, you are able to better receive correction and rebuke and learn ways to improve yourself than if you don’t.
  2. Motivation.–If you truly want to grow as a person, you most likely will, because you will want to do everything in your power to make this happen. Without motivation, almost all is lost.  For instance, if you are not motivated by anything or anyone to be less selfish (not saying anyone is or isn’t–just an example), then you will most likely continue to act in selfish ways and even probably not think twice about it.
  3. Perseverance.–There will be obstacles whenever one tries to grow as a person. Some people will not like the change, even if it is positive. The key to lasting and sustained growth is perseverance.  We need to keep on going in life to make positive and lasting changes as people.  We cannot give up. If we give up, we stop growing. We need to work hard to overcome the obstacles that bind us down.  We can do this by not only focusing on the positive but also using the negative obstacles as teaching tools for us to push through and move ahead in life. For instance, if you know you struggle with being patient, you can use the times when you got impatient as reminders of what not to do or say next time a similar situation like that happens.
  4. Adequate moral support.–One of the key factors in my personal growth as a person has been the support that I have gotten both on and offline.  I have not always had a lot of support, but as people have seen that I wanted to grow as a person, they have graciously taken the time to support and guide me.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to have adequate moral support, but for those of us who are,  use your supports to be a better person to them and grow yourself. If you don’t have much support, I would suggest starting slowly to build your support network.  I would frequent places where people have the same interests and goals you do and go from there, or I would go online to find communities that can give you some kind of moral support.

These are some of the characteristics that need to be present in order for someone to become emotionally and personally growing as a person. Sometimes it takes a long time to have any significant growth, but take things one step at a time, and do not give up. What other characteristics do you think is needed for one to grow as a person? Please discuss here.

How to Deal With Difficult People-More Detailed Version

There are often people that can rub us the wrong way. Whether it is a family member, an acquaintance, a boss at work, a teacher at school, or even a stranger that was rude to you once, we all have at least one person we don’t get along with as well as others in our life. We can either choose one of two things: a.) Continue in conflict and/or have resentment, anger, and bitterness towards that person or persons. OR b.) Resolve to be at peace with that person or persons to the best of our ability. We all can do a.) naturally, but b.) takes more work and time. However, though I am still learning, here’s what I found are the keys to deal with difficult people successfully.:

Three Basic Principles (and explanations) of Dealing With Difficult People Successfully:

  1. Be humble.– If you are too proud to admit your part of the conflict or part in causing the conflict, then you will most likely never be at peace with that person or persons. You will develop a “victim mentality,” meaning when you think that person is only out to hurt or use you when it could be a false assumption. Admitting your part in the rift, no matter how small, can open doors to reconciliation and change on both sides. Being humble tells the person you are having problems with that you are not out to hurt them but that you are the bigger person.
  2. Be unselfish.–If you are only out for number #1 (i.e. what you call, me, myself, and I)  then you will never be able to resolve conflict with that difficult person. However, if you try to put yourself in their shoes, and try to show them, sacrificial love, they will start to “melt.” This principle, found in Romans 12 of the Bible, is called “heaping burning coals on one’s head.” You “heap burning coals” by overwhelming the difficult person with love and care. Basically, you teach them how to love. Warning: You must love sincerely without expecting anything back, otherwise they will see through you and you won’t be able to have the effect you want in them changing their behavior towards you.
  3. Be patient.–Difficult people don’t change overnight. Even implementing these principles takes concerted time and effort. But be patient with them. Don’t give up on trying to work things out with them just because you don’t see immediate results. Sometimes, this may take years. Continue loving them, and if you are religious, pray for them.  Don’t let them affect how you see other people, but also don’t give up hope that one day they can either change or else suffer the consequences of their actions.

Difficult People in Authority: Principles to Follow

In addition to the above general principles, here are others that can be applied when specifically dealing with a difficult person in authority, such as a boss or a teacher:

  1. Never argue.–If your boss or teacher tells you to do something you don’t want to do unless it is immoral or illegal, don’t try to argue yourself out of it. In fact, try not to argue about anything they say to you! First of all, if you argue against them, you will never “win.” More than that, you may also not only get them irritated or upset with you, but you might get disciplined as well.
  2. Never defame their character.–People often gossip or even slander about authority figures they hate or dislike. Don’t fall into this trap! If you do, and it gets back to them (as it most likely will), at the very least you will get a verbal tongue-lashing from them because of the anger and hurt they feel towards you for having said those bad things about them, and you can even get severely disciplined or even shunned by everyone around you because of the effects of your gossip and/or slandering. Instead, build them up. Only speak to their positive qualities to others. In this, you will retain your integrity.
  3. Always phrase any questions you may have in a non-threatening manner. –For example, if something they said shocks you or you don’t quite understand what they just said, you can ask in a neutral tone of voice, “I didn’t understand quite what you meant by that. May you please explain it to me again?”

If they snipe at or criticize you, and at least some part of the criticism is true, ask what they think you can do to fix it or do better next time. Always maintain a humble attitude. For instance, if my boss tells me that I did labeling of items wrong and that I am too slow, I could say, “How would you like me to do the labeling instead? Is there any way that is effective that you use to do your work more efficiently that I should imitate so I can improve my work speed?”

Difficult People in the Family:

The most difficult people may be in one’s own family.  If there are major issues with abuse, you may only be able to do #1 most effectively, but for other situations, #2 and #3  do work wonders.  However, one should strive to be kind and unselfish to everyone, even though it may be a long and difficult road. Also, dealing with one’s family is the cornerstone for growing and coping with other relationships you have.

  1. Have limited contact, if possible.–If the difficult person does not live with you or is a distant relative, you don’t have to have constant contact with them. Love them from a distance.  Don’t be drawn into interactions with them that can create conflict and chaos. If you live with them or have to see them on a regular basis, see principles 2 and 3.
  2. Show them kindness.–You don’t have to like someone to show them kindness. Yes, it is easier if you do get along with them, but you can show people you don’t like kindness as well.  Intentionally show them love and grace. For instance, if the person you don’t get along with in your family has constant physical pain, you can help them with tasks that if they did them by themselves would exacerbate the pain. This way you show care for their pain and suffering and are telling them that they don’t have to suffer alone. This can open the door to reconciliation if you do these tasks with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
  3. Prefer them over yourself.–I have often said, and this is true, that the most difficult people in our lives are often the ones in most need of love. Preferring the difficult person over yourself says that you are willing to work to be at peace with them not only for your benefit but for theirs as well.  It will also show this difficult person that you have their best interests at heart and are not out to hurt them.

Strangers/people you don’t meet every day:

There are people that you don’t meet every day, but they still are difficult to handle, such as the person who cuts you off in traffic, the person who writes disparaging comments about you on YouTube or Twitter, or the person who cuts you in the grocery store line and has a thousand items when you only had several.  Here are three principles specific to them on how to deal:

  1. Don’t take what they say or do personally.–Some people (wrongly) take their bad days or difficult situations out on other people. I’m sure most of us have done this too at some point in our lives. These people are probably not trying to purposely hurt you though, so try not to take them personally. For instance, if someone says something nasty to you on Twitter or YouTube, try to chalk it up to their stupidity and ignorance, and not someone out to personally hurt you.  Usually, anonymous people who hurt others (often called, “trolls”) do so for attention or to get a rise out of people. Don’t give them the attention they don’t deserve.
  2. Ask sincerely, “What can I do to help you?”–This applies to only certain situations. For instance, it can apply to the person who cuts you in the grocery store line, or when a customer or client complains about something.  Asking “What can I do to help you?” in those situations shows the person that you are willing to attend to their needs, and are not bent on just hurting them or getting what you want. It shows both unselfishness and kindness, things that can go a long way to make peace with someone.
  3. Let them vent; Don’ t tell them to “calm down” or criticize them.–Often when a stranger or a person you don’t meet regularly is upset, they are not upset at you. Even if they are, never tell someone to “calm down” or, worse yet, condemn or criticize their response.  First of all, telling someone to calm down invalidates how they are feeling. Also, telling them something like, “Don’t be so rude!” or “You’re so selfish!” will only make things worse for them and for you.  Let them vent. Try to validate how they are feeling. Even telling them, “I”m sorry that you are feeling that way. It must be tough, ” is better than criticizing them or telling them to calm down.

A Godsend–My current job

I personally believe that God led me to where I am today and with everything I am.  This is no less true concerning how I got my current job.  I am a sales associate at a large store. Sometimes there is a lot of stress, and yes I do have to work very hard, but I love it.

The journey to my current job:

I worked at a thrift store for almost three years and had a lot of good experiences there too. In fact, I have applied some of what I learned about customer service in this store to my current job! However, later on, as I grew and changed, I knew God was starting to lead me somewhere else.

I had applied to different places for about six months, with little luck. Still, I persisted.  I had applied to my current job too, but I also applied to a bookstore in my area.  To my pleasure, the bookstore had called me in for an interview.  It hadn’t opened yet, so I was led into a dark building and basically was interviewed in a warehouse-like environment. I didn’t care though; I was happy just to get interviewed. However, I was very nervous (read: too nervous), and the interview didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I didn’t know how to answer some of the questions and quickly found out that this job wasn’t a good fit for me.  Needless to say, the people at the bookstore never called me back. Since I had considered this my “dream job,” I was a bit devastated, but still held out hope that I would find a good job soon.

A few weeks later, I went into the store (i.e where I work now) because my mom and I needed to buy items from there. So, I decided to ask whatever manager was out there the status of my resume that I had sent online there.  So, I asked one of the personnel coordinators there, and she was very nice and scheduled an interview for me at 1 pm.  I didn’t have time to change into more formal clothes, so I had to go there with the clothes that I had on at the time.

1 pm came, and I was so nervous. There was also a woman there who would also become an associate and later one of my dear friends at work. I decided to make small talk with that woman who I will name “A”.  A was also looking for work, but unlike me, she already quit her previous job.  A was also kind of nervous. We both got interviewed by one of my current managers who I will call *Chris (NOT his real name).  He only asked one question about customer service. I was so surprised by how short the interview was. I did not know if I was going to get the job because I was so nervous during the interview. A and I waited for one hour to get our results and if we were going to get the job or not.  Chris kept walking back and forth and updating us on progress and getting our papers, etc.

One hour passed, A and I were each called in separately, and I was offered the job! I felt so happy but was a little disappointed when it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. However, I felt this job may be for me too, because of the opportunity to later advance and eventually I would be making more than I did at the thrift store!  So, I told the store manager that I would discuss the job offer with family and tell him tomorrow whether I would accept the offer or not.

My family and I decided that this job would be worth it.  So, I went in again, and I explained to the higher-up manager there (but not the store manager, since he wasn’t there at the time) that I would accept the offer, but I would have to respectfully give the thrift store my two-week notice before starting the job.

After giving the two-week notice,  I went to orientation.  It was several hours, but I learned a lot about the company and got my schedule. I was happy that they were able to give me much better hours than at my previous job.

What I Learned

I am so glad that I accepted the offer when I did because I felt that God had led me to my current job for several reasons.

1.) God wanted me to show His love to many people, whether it would be customers, my fellow co-workers, or even my managers.—One of the reasons why I have stayed where I am at my current job is God’s prodding me to show people there that they are loved and that they don’t have to feel alone or unappreciated. Sometimes, I fail at this, but I pick myself back up and try again.

2) God wanted me to learn from the people around me.–God wanted me to learn how not only to serve others through these three groups (customers, co-workers, and managers) of people but how to excel at my job. He wanted to humble me, by letting me know in no uncertain terms on some days, that I still have a lot to learn and to apply to my life.

3.) God felt that I could apply my skills more effectively in this job, rather than the job at the bookstore.- While I am constantly learning new and wonderful things at my current job, I am also applying skills that I learned at my previous job to this one.  For instance, at my old job, we had to always walk the customer to the item they are looking for, and I strive to always do that whenever possible and if the customer doesn’t refuse or decline to be walked at my current job. Also, at my previous job, I learned from the store manager at the time that if a customer has several items that they are trying to carry, that they should be asked if they need a cart as a way to give good customer service to them.  I always try to do that at this store as well. Sometimes, the customers say, “No, but thank you for asking,” or something to that effect, but if they say something like, “Yes, I need a cart!,” I immediately get them a cart, no questions asked. At the bookstore, there are no carts and since it is smaller, the customers don’t need to be walked as much.

Conclusion: I thank everyone at my current and previous jobs that helped me to get to where I am at today.  One more thing I learned is that when God (or your intuition) leads you somewhere,  listen to that prodding.  It may change your life for the better so you will be where you are supposed to be.  Has God (or your intuition) ever led you to somewhere where you felt “right”?  Please discuss in the comments.

How To Be a Coffee Bean (or Change Your World)

This analogy/story is inspired by one of my managers at work who told us this following story (origin–unknown) to motivate us during a meeting we had:

One day, a mother wanted to teach her daughter a lesson, and so she told her daughter to buy these three ingredients: carrots, eggs and coffee beans. After the daughter bought these items, her mother told her to boil them and to tell her what happened.  So, after boiling these three items, this is what she told her mother: The carrots that were hard before they got boiled became soft after they were boiled. The eggs, which were previously soft, became hard, but the coffee beans stayed the same and permeated everything around them. 

Our manager told us not to be like the carrot which became soft under pressure (boiled). She told us not to be like the eggs, which hardened (became calloused) under pressure, but to be like the coffee beans that stayed the same under pressure and then permeated everything around them.  This concept, in Christian circles, is called “Being a Light,”  but can be applied to most anyone, regardless of belief. Here’s what I found are just three characteristics of people who positively change the world (i.e. “became a coffee bean”).

  1.  They invested in people.–These coffee bean-like people invested in others, not just themselves, or not just them and a few close family members and friends. This means they intentionally strove to positively interact with everyone around them.  This does not mean they succeed every time, but it also means they strive to make a positive impact on the majority they meet, not just a few people.  When I think of people like that, I think of all five of my faith heroes (for more on my faith heroes, see this post.), who inspired others to live their best life possible.  I think of my pastor, Pastor David Shoaf, who has served in the same church for over 40 years and has touched almost everyone he met there. I think of Chris* (NOT his real name) who makes sure people have time off work sometimes because he cares that people have families and lives outside the job and my manager Tom* (NOT his real name) who helps his workers succeed and strive for excellence every day.
  2. Be genuine.–What my faith heroes and coffee beans have in common are their genuineness. They both don’t change who they are because they are pressured to “fit in,” or because they “feel like it.” For instance, one of my faith heroes, Jesus Christ, did not change His purpose, mission, or personality just so that the Pharisees would like him. He always stayed true to His character. Also, another of my faith heroes, Rachel Scott, had lost all her friends due to her newfound faith in Christ. Even so, she was adamant about staying true to her belief and who she was, and not some tamed-down image of who her friends thought she should be. Never change who you are due to circumstances or people wanting to mold you into their own image of how you “should” be. Be true to yourself, while still willing to be open and teachable to change for the better, but change for your own reasons, not just another person’s.
  3. Stand Out.-Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in order to be a true world-changer or coffee bean, you have to stand out. Rachel Scott has been quoted in multiple sources as saying, ” I won’t be labeled as average.” In order to be a true coffee bean, you have to want to be better than average in your mentality and attitude towards life. That is, you can’t just blend in, be like everyone else, and/or do the minimum.  For instance, at work, one way I am trying to be a coffee bean is to work hard every day, and sometimes even volunteer to do extra work when I have the time and when needed, to help others. Moreover, I strive for excellence in my work, and not simply to get things done. Rachel Scott stood out by being kind to everyone around her, not just the people she looked up to or with who she got along well.  She even was kind to those boys who would later murder her, and also to those who were shunned, looked down upon, or made fun of by everyone else in her school or by society.

These are the three things everybody who is like a coffee bean have and examples of how one can imitate them. Coffee-bean like people always have a positive impact in this world, and sometimes it is very great! Resolve to be your best–Be a coffee bean today!

Carrying Rachel’s Torch

One of my faith heroes has always been Columbine student Rachel Joy Scott, who was murdered in 1999 by two of her classmates. Rachel is my faith hero because of her great belief in God and because she has all the positive qualities I would like to embody in myself. Also, I must note that she wasn’t perfect so I can relate to some of her experiences very well, especially when I fall down or sin.

After I watched the movie “I Am Not Ashamed,” which is based on Rachel Scott’s life, God has inspired me not only to try to live out Rachel’s five challenges but also to carry her torch.

What is carrying Rachel’s Torch?

For Rachel’s 5 challenges, click here, and then click on the box where it says, “Program Challenges.” Carrying Rachel’s torch, to me,  involves not only striving to live out her five challenges every day but also to live a life that properly honors her life and legacy.

How do we (I) carry Rachel’s torch? 

Carrying Rachel’s torch not only involves living out the five challenges in Rachel’s challenge but also making these promises to yourself and to the community around you:

  1. I will strive to make a positive difference in my world and to do this with all my heart. –I remember that Rachel Scott wrote in her journal, ” I will not be labeled as average,” and so I don’t want to be either.
  2. I will strive to think of others before myself.– While Rachel wanted her peers to love and like her, sometimes they didn’t and outright rejected her because of her bold faith in Christ.  Rachel believed that others needed to know about God’s love, and she was willing to risk her own reputation so that people could know and experience Christ’s love. While she certainly didn’t believe in forcing people to convert, she did believe in sharing how He has impacted her life and even that sometimes shocked people.  She also sometimes risked her safety and comfort to help others in need. Her fellow torch bearers also will strive to live in the same way.
  3. I will strive to intentionally love and offer my friendship and support to people who are hurting or otherwise in need.–Rachel always intentionally strove to offer her love and kindness to those in need or were hurting. She even approached a formerly homeless man and offered to help him through his tough time. She also reached out to her killers before they committed the massacre and offered friendship to them.
  4.  I will strive never to hate anyone who hurts me.—Rachel never ever hated anyone, except maybe the devil. If someone gets upset and angry at her, it hurts her too, but she never (as far as I know) exacted vengeance on them. Rachel’s torch bearers should strive to do the same, and make an impact, like her, with love instead of hate.
  5. If I fail at any of these above objectives, I will shake the dust off my feet, so to speak, and carry Rachel’s torch again. –I bet Rachel sometimes failed at meeting her own standards, but like Rachel, we should not give up! We should keep trying!

Why the torch metaphor?
In the Olympics, a torch bearer in a marathon was to carry another’s torch and then pass it to others in order to successfully complete the race. Similarly, we are all running in a similar, longer race. It is called the “Race of Life.” We all want to be successful and belong somewhere.  In this instance, I use the torch metaphor in order to describe how we all can carry on Rachel Scott’s legacy not only so her positive impact on this world and the community around her will not be forgotten but also how we can all work as a team to finish the Race of Life well and to continue what Rachel started.

Epilogue

Personally, carrying Rachel’s torch will be a struggle for me, but this is what gives me a purpose and reason to live. Of course, this purpose pales a bit to glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, which will always be my number one purpose in life.  What do you think of carrying Rachel’s torch? Are you ready? Please comment here.

sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Scott

https://rachelschallenge.org/

Things I Learned From the Movie “I’m Not Ashamed”

As of this writing (July 5, 2017–publication will come later), I watched the movie “I’m Not Ashamed.” Although it is slow in parts, this was a pretty good movie and has taught me some very important lessons in life. This movie is based on the true-life story of Columbine martyr, Rachel Scott, whose life of faith and love has inspired me to pattern my life after hers. I also consider her to be one of my five faith heroes I list on my blog’s front page.  Here’s what I learned about life through the telling of Rachel Scott’s story through this movie:

  1. Love, compassion, and perseverance go a long way.—Rachel’s love, compassion, and perseverance not only in this movie but also in her real life, have also inspired many (like me) to pattern their lives after hers.  For instance, Rachel sees a guy taking the pizza from her youth group and was looking standoffish, and then he quickly leaves. Instead of ignoring him, she follows him into the street where he incidentally was living and confronts him.  He later tells her that his name is Nate and to basically leave him alone. Knowing something is off about him, she persists and when he tries to steal food from a store to feed his ailing mom, she volunteers to pay for them with her meager paycheck.  She doesn’t just stop there but continues to show him love and compassion as he eventually accepts Christ and grows in his faith. He then ends up helping her through tough times too.  Also, when Rachel’s best friend Madison steals her then-boyfriend Alex, and Rachel catches them making out together, Rachel, by the end of the movie, ends up sending Madison a note of compassion and forgiveness for having betrayed her (Rachel).  Most people when betrayed would either try to take vengeance on the offender or stay away from them and cut off relations completely with them. However, Rachel persisted in showing kindness and forgiveness to Madison even after she was betrayed by Madison. By the end of the movie, Madison also is touched by the forgiveness and love Rachel showed her before she (Rachel) died.
  2. Christians are not perfect.–Rachel was not the perfect Christian. She got in trouble by drinking and smoking with her girlfriends and her attempts to pursue a popular, attractive guy in school put her in situations where she wasn’t comfortable.  She snuck out of her parents’ house–probably more than once. In the movie,  it was even shown that Rachel attempted suicide once by jumping off a bridge near her home because she was so depressed. This does not mean us Christians are  “bad” or “evil” people, but like everyone else, we come with problems and baggage. However, like I explained in #1,  Rachel picked the dust off her feet, so to speak, and tried to do better next time, just like we all do, regardless of belief or lack thereof.
  3. Everyone has a story.–In the movie, Rachel’s story was intertwined with those of her killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Also, there were snippets of the story of Nate, Alex, and several of Rachel’s friends. The point is, though, that everyone has a life story, and if we care about changing the world for the positive, we need to listen to these stories! Sure we can’t “fix” everyone’s problems, and we probably shouldn’t always be trying to either, but if we know where people are coming from and their life goals and motivation, maybe we can encourage and support them better.  Also, knowing other people’s stories helps us not only understand them better but also our own life story and how theirs can intersect beautifully with theirs.  For instance, I believe God is using the people I work with, especially one of my managers, to help create not only a better life story for me, but also for them as well.

Though no one is perfect or better than another human being, showing love and compassion like Rachel Scott did will go a long way to change our world for the better.  However, we must persevere even when life gets difficult in order to see results.  We must also learn others’ stories to help not only we understand them better, but also ourselves better. Be a light to this world; it may just start a chain reaction!

Things I Struggle With

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me (or others) allowed! I write this from a very vulnerable and raw place, but I would like to share this with you, so you can learn from my struggles and mistakes, and not repeat the same stuff. There is, of course, some religious content, but nothing preachy I hope. Thank you for understanding and reading.

As I wrote in a previous post, no one is perfect, and there is beauty in imperfection. I believe God can use even my mistakes for His glory and purposes, and I believe He can use yours too! So, even when a mistake is pointed out to you, try not to give up on yourself or others.  It does not mean you are a mean, evil person, and it does not mean you are worthless. Even if someone unlovingly says so, this is not true. God and I see beauty and preciousness in you, even when you don’t see it in yourself. Here are some things that I personally struggle with in my life, and how I (and others struggling with similar things ) can improve:

  1. Patience—I half-jokingly say to myself that this is the Last Fruit (on fruits see Galatians 5:22-23) of the Spirit that will develop fully in me. I struggle with this so much because I have much anxiety about having to wait for certain things.  Sometimes, I wrongly think that if I have to wait for something, I will wait so long that it won’t happen anymore. I sometimes get upset in traffic if I have to wait for something because I have this fear that if I have to wait too long, I will be late for work (or wherever I have to get to).  For people like me who struggle in this area, I would recommend a few things. a.) If you are religious, trust God. He always works for the good of those who love Him. He will always turn bad situations into redeemable ones!  b.) Ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen if I wait for this? Chance are they are either not as bad as you think, or they are “fixable.” c.) Set “waiting” goals for yourself.- For instance, if I have to wait for a promotion until there is an opening, I would tell myself to wait until the end of a certain month before I do anything about it or ask my supervisor what is going on.  If you can wait a little while, chances are you can wait longer too.
  2. Being a people-pleaser-—When I was younger, I received so much invalidation from my peers (and even some teachers!), that I thought I was worthless and unacceptable.  I thought if I could even get one person to accept me for who I was, including my flaws and idiosyncrasies, that would have been great! About twenty years later, I still struggle with this concept of feeling accepted and loved for who I am.  Yesterday, one of the pastors at my church told me in so many words that I don’t need to be accepted and loved by everyone to be happy, that God already accepts me for who I am and loves me deeply.   That put the light on for me. I hope that you know that too, and even if you are not religious, that you also know that you are loved and accepted by others. Maybe you won’t be accepted by everyone, but I believe you are loved and accepted by at least one person. Also, never compromise your beliefs or personality just to get someone else to love and accept you.  Be the person you were created to be. There is a light in you! Never forget how valuable you are!
  3. Selfishness– I strive not to only think of myself, but of others. However, sometimes I do fail at that, to my disadvantage.  Ways I try to combat this that have worked for me are a.) I try to intentionally do something good for someone else, especially for someone who is struggling, without asking or expecting something from them in return.  b.) I try to understand and sympathize with what another person is going through. c.) I try to validate others. This is different from trying to flatter someone to get something out of them, rather this is a genuine attempt to show love and appreciation for another’s beliefs, thoughts and/or feelings. Validating someone shows the person that you think what they are telling you is not only important but appreciated as well.
  4. Negative thinking—I usually struggle the most with having negative thoughts when I am stressed, angry or depressed. When I am especially angry with myself, I almost immediately go into self-hate mode. For example, I don’t just tell myself, ” Why did you do that, [my name here]?” but, “You ruined your testimony! What are people going to think of you now? You’re useless to God and to everyone else. Why don’t you just run away so you don’t become a burden to others?” If I am angry at a situation or person, I wrongly want to a.) avoid dealing with the situation or person because it is just too much for me at that moment. This becomes an issue when the person wants to confront me on said situation immediately. I need time to process, otherwise, I may say or do things I regret later.  b.) My day is ruined because all I am thinking about is how angry or hurt I am by that person or situation. c.) I become so depressed, I tend to isolate and not want interaction with anyone, especially people who want to give me unsolicited advice or invalidate me more.   I am going to be really honest and say that I have a really hard time applying any of these to my life because when I am in this mode I literally cannot think straight!  However, the following may work for me in the future (I’m still trying) and to some of you: a.) When you need time to process the situation and/or anger you feel from someone, and the person wants to “resolve” it right now or wants to somehow confront you, say to that person, in as calm manner as you can muster, “Could we talk about this later? I need time to cool down and process my emotions. Please respect that. Thank you.” b.) Try to distract yourself from the negative thoughts by doing something that requires mind engagement, even if you don’t feel like doing it.  Also, if you are angry and you want to distract yourself from blowing up at someone or hurting someone, I would invest in a fidget spinner. That way your mind is engaged in a toy, instead of on negativity.  I plan to buy one for myself soon.  c.) Try to reframe your thoughts. For instance, if I did something wrong, and my self-talk is that I’m useless to God and everyone else, I could counter with truth and tell myself: God can still use my mistakes. He even used Abraham, who lied twice about his wife Sarah to save his own skin and disobeyed Him by not going to where he (Abraham) was supposed to be, to be his prophet! (Story: see Genesis 15-20 ) I just need to be humble enough to admit my mistake and do better next time. He still can do great things through me.

These are the main things I struggle with in my life. Of course, there are others too, but these are the main ones. I hope that by posting this, I will not only be held accountable to myself to improve but also to help others struggle with the same or similar issues.  What issues do you struggle with?  What can we do to help, or how would you advise someone struggling with the same thing(s)? Please feel free to comment.

My Top 5 Favorite Quotes and Why

Words. They are building blocks of our social life and communication with others. They can build up and tear down. I’d personally rather communicate words that build up instead of tear down. Here are some words that were spoken by some famous (and not-so-famous) people that have inspired and/or encouraged me, and not left me with a feeling of disgust, and why they inspire me.

DISCLAIMER: There will be religious content. 🙂

1) “I choose to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love this quote because it is actually one of my (unmentioned) life credos! I strive to love every day, precisely because I think hating someone is too great a burden to bear. The energy that I have spent even being close to hating some people has been, regretfully, time wasted. For instance, I have found that instead of spending time being upset at people that hurt me and going into a self-pitying mode, that the time was better spent intentionally doing and thinking nice things about them, for that is the best “revenge” for someone who has hurt you. This is a biblical principle called, “heaping burning coals upon their heads,” because if you overwhelm an undeserving person with kindness, they will probably a.) feel guilty for saying or doing these mean things to you. b.) stop the behavior because they would see it would be insufficient to get you “riled up” or upset. c.) get in trouble for it, as other people around them would start to realize that he or she is unfairly repaying you evil for good.

2) “If love depends on how the other person loves us, we have a business deal, not love.”-Paul E. Miller (Love Walked Among Us p. 143).

I love this quote because it teaches me how to love more sacrificially and less selfishly. Most of us fall into the trap at one point or another in our relationships of loving someone just because they love us back, or not loving someone at all because of how badly they have treated us, either currently or in the past.  However, the author of this quote is right: If our love is entirely dependent on how the other loves us, we have a business deal, not love.  Love does not keep a record of how well the other loves us.  I am trying to love someone I know better by not acting angry or hateful towards this person just because they are the same to me sometimes. In my faith, I am called to love others even if they don’t love me back, or even if they don’t like me.  I know loving others who don’t do the same back may seem futile and difficult to do, but hating others and becoming upset is just going to make things worse, as I can personally attest.

3) “People are neighbors to be loved, not commodities to be used.”-Jefferson Bethke

When I saw this quote on Twitter, I immediately retweeted it! This quote accurately reflects my belief that all people regardless of belief, gender, sexual orientation, income, race, ethnicity or any other human category we make to separate or distinguish each other, deserve to be loved and not treated as less than human in any way. This is because I believe that we all bear the sacred image of God, and are a unique and special creation. If you look at how complex and unique the human body is, not even counting the personality of the person inhabiting the body, we can see how wonderful and awesome our bodies are! Also, when interacting with different personalities and people, we can always learn something from them and thus grow and mature as individuals.  When we manipulate someone to our own ends, we not only insult the Creator of that person, we also insult the person’s inherent worth as an individual.  Also, it is very selfish to do that to another person, because in doing that, one is saying that they don’t care about the effect their manipulation is having on that other person, otherwise they wouldn’t do it in the first place!

 

4)“They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”-anonymous (regarding evangelism/teaching others)

I don’t know who wrote or said this quote, but this is a marvelous saying that means a lot to me. Whenever I share God’s love and/or the gospel of Jesus Christ, I want to be caring for that person, not just my own personal need to “save” them, which I can’t do anyway, no matter how hard I try.  If I don’t really care about them as a person, I will not only push them away from anything to do with my faith and any religious matters but also discredit the genuineness of my faith.  Also, whenever I teach someone how to do something, (Let’s say I teach a new co-worker how to straighten an aisle at work.), I want to do it not only with passion and knowledge but also with care for their abilities and where they are at in life.  If I don’t teach or share God’s love with love and care, then no one will listen to the message I am conveying. They will not only think I am a crock but may also question the veracity of the message itself, even if it is 100% true!

5)”God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.” – Tim Keller in The Reason for God, 19

I like this quote because it emphasizes the need for humility in this world.  Some people, even Christians, think that if you morally outperform someone then you will experience God’s grace and blessings more. That’s not necessarily true. One will experience more joy, blessings, grace (which is getting good things you don’t deserve) and mercy (not getting the bad things you do deserve) from God when one is humble and know that any blessing they get is undeserved!  This, I believe, is the catalyst for gratitude because it erases any sense of entitlement and arrogance on the recipient’s part. It erases the entitlement and arrogance because of their self-awareness that they don’t deserve anything good and are fortunate to not experience all the bad things that they do deserve in this life for their sins or moral failures.

These are my top 5 favorite quotes because they illustrate my credos in life so nicely.  The lessons in these quotes are things I want to carry with me and apply to my own life. Of course, I may fail from time to time in learning these lessons, but I will always strive to do my best to follow what I believe.  What are your favorite quotes? Why? Please feel free to share in the comments.