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.

Why Hate- a poem

Why all the hate
In God’s good green earth?
Why have a date
With Satan and all his hate

Why all the cursing and backstabbing?
Why all the lying and stealing?
Why all the hurting and pain?
Why all the hatred to drive us insane?

Why ever waste energy
Devising ways to cause hurt and pain
And driving yourself insane in vain
Instead of seeking love and peace

Why ever hurt others
When it hurts you the most
Why not instead love
With the love from up above

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (But Notice What’s Important)

DISCLAIMER: Please no negative or disparaging comments about the guest author or me here. Thank you. Also, this post is guest written by my friend and co-worker Ron Weimer, and also by myself.  This post was made through interviewing and collaborating our thoughts and ideas together.

We’ve all probably heard the phrase, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” right?  It may be difficult for many people to do, but we believe it is necessary to live a successful and joyful life.  Don’t sweat the small stuff basically means not to worry about the little things of life or things that are beyond our control. If we don’t sweat the small stuff of life, we will be better off for it. However, this is how to not sweat the small annoyances of life and what to do when big stuff does overwhelm you:

How not to sweat the small stuff:

  1. Don’t think about the little worries, but keep focused on the task at hand.—If someone calls you “stupid,” cuts you off in traffic, or bumps you in line, we can choose whether we will be so upset with them that it will ruin our entire day, or to shrug it off and just chalk it up to their rudeness. For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of cursing them and honking your horn, just shake your head at them and continue driving.  It’s no use to get angry at every little rude thing that people do to you.  If someone calls you a name like “stupid,” you don’t have to retaliate or get upset, though I admit it’s difficult not to, just try to walk away from that kind of verbal abuse, and continue on the task at hand.
  2. Try to always do better and stay optimistic. —When you make a mistake, just try to find ways to improve yourself. As I (main blog author)  said in the last post, making a mistake, even a moral one, does not necessarily mean you are a “bad” or “horrible” person.  Everyone makes mistakes. We are humans, not machines.  It takes time to learn something new or form a new habit (most sources say about 90 days).  Also, stay optimistic. Try to see hope even in the pain. I know it can be difficult, but one way to stay optimistic is to ask yourself, “What can I learn about this?” or if you are religious, “What is God teaching me through this?”  There is always a lesson to be learned from everything, sometimes even multiple lessons!
  3. Don’t give up.–I (main author of this blog) always tell people that as long as you are alive, there is always hope. In many ways, that is true!  Don’t give up on life, even when you feel like giving up.  When you give up, you stop learning, and you stop being able to be better as a person. I know I have struggled to keep afloat in life many times, but thankfully I have people around me who encourage me not to give up on myself or others.

Four principles that can help you and others not sweat the small stuff, and should be done regularly, if not every day: 

  1. Laugh–Find humor even in the most annoying situations.  For instance, when a client or customer calls you “stupid,” and you have graduated from high school and/or college, you can laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement rather than get offended at that person. You can chalk it up to their ignorance and lack of knowledge of reality, just as if someone said to you, “You’re purple! ” when you are obviously not at all purple!
  2. Cry– Ron and I don’t mean crying at everything that offends or hurts you, or in anger at someone, although that sometimes is OK too.  However, we mean to cry at something that moves you emotionally–like a thoughtful card, a heartfelt compliment, or seeing someone else do something nice for another person. I recently cried when I watched a movie that moved me.
  3. Never give up.–Ron and I agree that everyone should keep on keeping on and not give in to failure.  If you fail at something, at least you know a way not to do it again. Mistakes can be good for you because you can learn from them. Making mistakes or sinning does not mean you are a failure or irredeemable, but human.
  4. Make a lot of friends--One way to do this is by simply following the Golden Rule–that is, treating people the way you want to be treated yourself.  For instance, if you would like people to validate you, look in the mirror. Do you validate others? Another way to make more friends is by not only talking about yourself and your interests but taking an interest in others’ lives.  Ask them about their hobbies, their passions, their past,  their goals in life. Also, genuinely take an interest in them as a person. Never use people solely for your own benefit or needs, though one benefit of having a lot of friends is you can network more easily.  The more people in your group, or network, the more support you are going to have and can be available to help when you have a problem or an issue.  However, also be sure to be willing to be available for your network of people if they need support.

What to do when big stuff overwhelms you (DISCLAIMER: This is not an all exhaustive list of “Big Stuff” but these are the ones that Ron and I discussed and are most common to everyday people.):

Death of a loved one

  1. Spend time with loved ones.–When you lose a loved one–whether a family member or a dear friend,  spend time with the ones that knew them best. Exchange stories about the good and/or the funny memories you had with the lost loved one. Exchange the best and most memorable photographs you had of that loved one who passed away. Imagine with your other loved ones how great life would be when you all get to see him or her on the “other side” if you are religious or spiritual.
  2. Make time to grieve your loss.–Don’t hold in all your sadness and grief.  Spend a couple days to a week at least to grieve.
  3. Take time out.–Take time for self-care. Do something nice for yourself. Rest physically and emotionally from anything that tends to drain you. This may be a job that you have or a person who is more challenging to you. Rest from those people and things that drain you the most. I don’t mean to completely cut that out of your life but just take a break.

Losing a friendship/ relationship

  1. Take time out.–Take time for self-care. Also, allow yourself time to think. Ask yourself: What happened to cause the loss of the relationship or friendship? Is this anything I can change? If so, how can I change this? Did I do something to offend the other person, or did we just become distant naturally?
  2. Talk to another friend, if you have one. If you don’t, take the time to evaluate yourself and your principles. Ask yourself: What is it that drives people away from me? Why am I a friend/relationship magnet for toxic people?
  3. Seek professional help if necessary.– Sometimes things get too overwhelming for you to deal with on your own, and even for people around you who are untrained to deal with emotional or psychological issues well. It’s OK to ask for professional help. In fact, Ron and I agree that everyone probably should at least once in their lifetime.  We can’t do this alone.  Seek out recommendations from friends or reputable websites to see if they have a good trained counselor or therapist in your area. Someone once said, ” A person who doesn’t seek help when they have a problem, will create the same problem with another person.”

Losing a job:

  1. Take time out, especially if you got fired.–Take time out to regroup and reflect on the situation at hand.  Ask yourself: Did I do something wrong? And if so, what can I do to improve? What was the reason for the loss of the job? Being depressed or disappointed is a natural feeling of losing a job. Embarrassment is too. Nothing is wrong with you if you feel these emotions. They are valid.
  2. Tell your family.–If you got fired, or even if you got laid off, tell your family or loved ones the truth. They may be disappointed in you, but they may be even more disappointed and upset if you hide the truth from them, and then they find out the truth from some other source. Moreover, they probably won’t trust you as much anymore.
  3. After a few days or weeks- Start looking for a new job. Tell the supervisor (s) at your old job if you got fired that if you use them as a reference that they won’t mention your firing and the circumstances surrounding it. Most of them will be supportive and want you to find a better fit for you.  Also, never lie on an application. The truth will find you out eventually. Always tell the truth!

This is how to not sweat the small stuff, and how to overcome some big obstacles in your life.  Never give up on life, because your life can be used to be a benefit not only to yourself but to others. Also, life is too short for sweating the small stuff.

A Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me allowed! This was mostly written three years ago, with some obvious recent edits. This is a very raw post for me, so please be sensitive in your comments. Thank you.  Also, this post deals with issues of depression, Eating Disorders and verbal abuse, so if that triggers you, please feel free to skip and read another post.

 

To my 15-year-old self:

 

Dear me,

I know you feel depressed and lonely. I know you feel that there is no hope for your life anymore. I know the bad memories of four years ago when you almost destroyed yourself by half-starving yourself and when you had no friends still dog your mind and soul.  I know that guy that told you recently that you would never drive, never amount to anything at all etch in your very soul.  I know you don’t have many people that you would consider a “friend.”  You see your immediate family (your dad, mom, and sibling) seemingly joyous and glad. But you wonder where “that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold” is for you.

But please don’t despair. Don’t give up! I know you only have a handful of people that even want to talk to you at school at length and that you consider your buddies, if that. But you want a friend, a real friend. A friend that will give more than just an obligatory card or present on your birthday or on Christmas! A friend that will invite you to things and make you feel included. A friend that will not leave you even if you tell him or her all the sordid details of your past, even if you’re being selfish or just not being a good friend to them in general.  But, you know that teacher that is sometimes saying “hi” to you in the hallway and has a reputation for being nice? Well, she will become one of your good friends in the future.  Also, you will meet a better friend than even her in the future. His name? Jesus Christ. He will not only be your friend—He will be your Lord and Savior! He will never leave you. He will always be with you. He will forgive you for even your worst mistakes and moral failures. Because of your relationship with Jesus, you will have a loving and supportive church family (friends, if you prefer) and even many other people of all ages that will want to get to know you. The REAL you.

And your driving? You will be able to drive on your own to and from work with your car (which by the way won’t be your dream job and it will be rather far away from where you’re living now, but you will be content even in that job). You will be able to drive with confidence!  So, don’t listen to or take to heart what that guy that told you that you would never amount to anything and that you wouldn’t be able to drive. He’s not god and he’s not your future! Please don’t give up on your dream that one day you will be able to drive alone, and be joyful and fulfilled in life. Because though it seems out of reach, miracles can and will happen!

More importantly, because of Jesus, you will have purpose and meaning in your life that you never had before! You will love and serve Him! So, I urge you to keep searching for “that zest, that greatness that life is supposed to hold.”  Because you will find it!

Love,

Me (at 34)

 

Afterword: (to the readers): Please call 1-800-273-8255  (Suicide hotline) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. It can save a life.  Also, if you are feeling depressed or don’t know where your life is headed, please know that there is always hope as long as you are alive and you try your best. I hope my story will inspire you to not give up when things get tough because your pain will not last forever (even though it may seem that way) and joy and hope will once again permeate your life if you persevere.

The Beauty of Imperfection

I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be right, and everything to be in its right place. So, yesterday when a manager told me that I had done my job wrong, I felt really bad about myself. Granted, it wasn’t that manager’s fault, and they were really nice about it, but it was that I was so focused on making everything just right, I had almost missed learning from my mistakes and looking at the positive aspects of being human.  Yes, I believe there is a time for utopia, but not in this life! Yes, I believe we should always try our best, and strive for excellence. However, even so, we will make mistakes! I believe there is still beauty in that. Here’s why:

1.) Mistakes give us motivation to constantly learn about things and improve ourselves.–This is why we go to school and/or strive to have jobs.  This is also why even if we aren’t in school or have a job, we can still learn things by reading books and communicating with others. If we were already perfect, we wouldn’t need to learn anything!  Also, if we already knew everything, why should we want to learn anything more or grow?  However, since we do make mistakes constantly, we can have the motivation we need to do better because it is human nature to want to correct that which isn’t right in our lives, whether morally or pragmatically. For instance, if I made a mistake in straightening items at work, which I sometimes do, I could make sure the items are straightened in the right places next time and really neater than before.  If I never made any mistakes, I wouldn’t have much motivation to improve at my job.  I would probably just do my job mechanically, like a machine, and wouldn’t find much joy in that.  Morally, if I sinned (i.e. made a moral mistake) by slandering someone I don’t like (just an example, I rarely if ever do this to people), and this person found out, got really upset, and severed ties with me, this would give me the motivation and the wake-up call I need to be kinder in the way I approach people and in what I say to and about others.

2.)Making mistakes give us a glimpse of God’s and other people’s grace and mercy towards us.–When we make an honest mistake, we are usually met with some grace and mercy. For instance, when I had done my job badly yesterday, although I was really harsh and unforgiving towards myself, the manager that confronted me treated me with patience, grace, and compassion.  If I had never made the mistakes I did at my job yesterday, I would never have seen my manager’s grace and patience towards me. Also, when I sin against people and against God, as long as I admit that I made a mistake, am willing to own up to it, and make the proper amends, God and people are 95% of the time very gracious and forgiving towards me.  If I never sinned and if I was perfect in every way, never making a single mistake, I would probably never see either God’s or other people’s mercy extended towards me for my wrongdoings.  In seeing grace and/or mercy extended towards ourselves, we are probably more likely to extend it towards others as well.  We can thus relate better to our fellow humans better.

3.) Mistakes teach us how to humble ourselves.–When we make a mistake, we have basically two choices when we are confronted with them by someone else. a.) Be defensive, deny wrongdoing, and/or make excuses for our mistakes. OR b.) admit our mistakes and correct and better them the next time.  I hope I choose b) more often than not, because admitting and learning from our mistakes, is the pathway to humility. Humility is very important for many reasons I won’t get deep into right now since I already had discussed that in a previous post. However, one reason humility is important is that it teaches you to be genuine–to be who you really are inside, warts and all.  Mistakes confront you with the choice to be genuine by exposing a part of you that makes you human–being flawed!  You can try to hide it (be fake) or be open and honest about it (being genuine).  I believe mistakes–moral and otherwise–are tools that are used in your lives to teach us not to be too arrogant or closed-minded towards people or things.

This is why mistakes can be very beneficial in our lives. Since I am a perfectionist, in this post, I am also writing to myself, as much as I am to you, the readers.  Mistakes, besides being a part of learning, also helps us experience mercy and grace, and teaches us how to humble ourselves. So, don’t worry if you make an honest mistake. Just try to learn from it, and do better next time. You may find that is the beauty of imperfection!

What have mistakes taught you?  Please feel free to comment.

What I Learned From the Movie, Miracles From Heaven

DISCLAIMER: Contains movie spoilers!, sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_from_Heaven_(film)

Last Sunday night, my mom offered to watch a movie with me that she thought I’d like. It was called “Miracles From Heaven.” Wanting to spend a little quality time with her, I agreed. It turned out to be one of the best movie decisions I’ve ever made in my life! I learned so much from this movie about how to live life, and here are some of the main lessons I learned from that movie:

  1. Sometimes you have to go through the storms (i.e: pain) in order to see the sunshine (i.e the miracle or blessing). –10 year old Annabel (Anna) Beam started experiencing vomiting, intense stomach pains, and almost died, before being miraculously cured of her illness after falling into a hollow tree hole.  In the movie, Anna is depicted at one point as wanting to die because her pain is so intense. She no longer cared about life and became very depressed. However, after she was saved, life had a new purpose. However, if Anna had never gotten sick, she wouldn’t have seen God’s grace intervening in her desperate situation.
  2. Live life as if everything is a miracle.–Near the end of the movie, Christy Beam (played by Jennifer Garner), Anna’s mother, begins before telling about Anna’s miraculous recovery by saying, “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘You have two choices as to how to live your life. Live as if nothing is a miracle, OR live as if everything is a miracle.’ ” Because Christy’s daughter’s life was saved, Christy began to see everything as a miracle and as precious, because she almost lost her beloved daughter and almost lost her faith in the process!  I can relate to this too, as I almost lost my life three years ago when the doctors found out that I had an enlarged gallbladder (She said it was twice the normal size! ) and that I had gallstones. If that gallbladder had burst, and I had waited longer to go to the ER, I would have most likely not be here writing in this blog today! More on this story, go here.  God suddenly reminded me of this event after I watched this movie and remembered the quote about living as if everything were a miracle.  Today, I remembered that quote as I was going about my work at my job and felt really joyful because I had remembered and realized just how blessed I am to be here and to be able to meet all the wonderful people at my job. Truly, everyone I have met, especially those that I have known for less than three years or had helped me through my illness is a testament to my miraculous life!
  3. Be grateful for all those people in your life that helped you succeed or get you through life .—In the movie, Christy pays tribute to all those who helped her and her daughter Anna through her (Anna’s) illness. She thanks Angela, the waitress who befriends Christy and Anna and walks them through the ordeal so they would not have to suffer alone. She thanks Dr. Nurko who treats Anna, and the receptionist who barters for a last-minute opening for her (Anna) despite her mother not having an appointment for her.  She thanks a guy friend at Anna’s school who temporarily abandons his other friends to befriend Anna so she does not feel alone in her illness.  She thanks the guy at the ticket counter who lets Anna’s father and her siblings go on the plane free, so they can see her at the hospital.  Christy does this not to gain attention, and not because she is some holy-roller, but because she realizes that she and Anna couldn’t have made it alone.  I can certainly relate too. For instance, if it had not been for the many doctors, nurses, and the surgeon who operated on me in 2014, I would not be here today. Also, I want to give a shout out to my parents, sibling, and my friend K who came to see me a few days after surgery so I wouldn’t feel alone.  Without all these people and more in my life, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. So, thank you everyone. And I especially want to thank God, who I firmly believe made this all possible!

This is just some of what I learned in the movie, “Miracles From Heaven.” It’s a great movie; I highly recommend it.  (If you would like to purchase this movie, please go to the links in my “recommendations” section. ) It may be slow in parts, and it may not be for everyone, but if you want to live your life with more passion or purpose, this movie is a great supplement to get you thinking about life more deeply.

What I Learned During My Past Illness

In 2014, one day when I was working at my previous job, I suddenly had intense sharp pains in my back and side. My family and I thought they were just muscle pains from lifting heavy things. (This job involved some heavy lifting, and if any of you have met me in person, you know that I am quite small physically!) . One Friday, I got home from work and started to have diarrhea, chills, and fever, accompanied with the side and back pain. I knew I was in trouble the next day when I started to vomit blood. At this point, I had already tried many over-the-counter medications and other relief agents, but none of them worked. I had to call off work that day and go to the emergency room (ER). Immediately!

Going to the ER

When I went to the ER, after many hours and many tests, and even an ultrasound,  the doctors/nurses/surgeons/technicians discover two main things: 1) My gall bladder was inflamed and twice the size it should have been! 2.) I had several gall stones! Surgery to remove my gall bladder was scheduled the next day. I couldn’t sleep at all the previous night because of the stomach pains and diarrhea that occurred about every two hours. However, by the time I had the surgery, I was exhausted. The surgery couldn’t come soon enough!

Just before surgery, they gave me medications to induce sleep, and I was out in about two minutes. I woke up a couple of hours later, my body shaking a little, but quickly it calmed down with medication.

Recovery

I had trouble walking at a normal pace for the first few days after surgery, and I had trouble keeping food down. However, afterwards I was basically fine. At work, under doctors’ orders, I was not allowed to lift more than 5-10 pounds (about a gallon of milk) for a month after surgery.  However, I did get a point (point=punishment, closer to getting fired) for calling off to go the ER the day I went.

During this ordeal, I learned several things about life and how to deal with things:

  1. If you experience unusual or sudden pain, take it seriously. Go get it checked out immediately! –I was relating this story to a friend of mine at my current job, and she said to me, ” You could have died, especially if your gall bladder had burst!” Luckily for me, it hadn’t, and I was able to get it treated just in time. So, if you experience any unusual or sudden symptoms of pain or other signs of illness, it’s best to get it fixed ASAP. Your life may depend on it!
  2. Your pain won’t last forever— Whether you are faced with a minor illness or a life-threatening one, know the pain you are feeling now probably won’t last forever. It often feels that way, and your feelings should be acknowledged, both by yourself and others. However, try not to despair like I had after surgery. During my recovery, I was mostly confined to my house for a week, and couldn’t enjoy many things I wanted to do. So, I became very depressed and despondent. However, this did not last long. A week later, I was able to return to work and the pain eventually subsided.  Even if your pain or recovery lasts longer, don’t lose hope of things getting better. Keep on persevering even if you feel like giving up. This shows your strength and endurance not only to people around you, but also yourself. It does get better.
  3. Your health is WAY more important than your job— I was working in pain for the two weeks before I called off to go the ER, and I had to call off that day, because if I hadn’t, I could very well have not made it out alive, and never been able to enjoy any of the blessings that I have today! It is true that I had to suffer the consequences of having called off that one day (They fortunately gave me authorized sick leave for the other week I was off). However, it was much less than if I had to physically die, never to enjoy or see life’s fruits again!
  4. You’re stronger than you think— I always thought I was not only weak emotionally, but physically as well. However, when I was sick, I realized the opposite. I was surprised and humbled that I was able to work 2 weeks with an enlarged gallbladder and gall stones in my body! Also, I believe God gave me the strength to survive this ordeal and make it out alive, and this is a testament to His grace and love for me.  When you go through trials, I believe many of you will find out similarly as well. You are stronger than you may think you are!

If you have the unfortunate experience of being sick or having a long-term illness, take it seriously. However, realize that this pain probably won’t last forever. Either you will go into eternity or you will get better.  Focus on the relationships you deem the most important. For me, it’s God, family, and friends, in that order, and remember if you are able to persevere, you will come out of this stronger!

Jesus’ Love for Mankind (and how to cultivate it)

Disclaimer: Will have religious/Christian content. So, please note that and NO disparaging comments or they will be deleted. Thank you. This post is also made in honor of Rachel Joy Scott, who died 18 years ago today, because she lived with so much love and grace even in the face of suffering.

Almost all of us have heard the song/phrase, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” but this phrase can get so trite that it almost loses its meaning and depth.  When people quote that song lyric or phrase to me, I want to say, ” Well, do you know how much Jesus loves you?” From professing Christians, I would probably hear, “Sure, He died for my sins!” From others, it would probably be, “Yes, He loves everyone!” Both responses would lack the depth and the height and the width of His love! In fact, anything I say cannot compare to how much He loves us!

I was doing my devotions yesterday, and am doing New Testament on weekdays, and Psalms (eventually Proverbs) on weekends. I was on John 13 yesterday, and was struck by HOW MUCH Jesus loved His disciples, and by implication, us too!  Jesus loved His disciples SO much that He was willing to wash His disciples’ feet. Usually, this service was reserved for Non-Jewish slaves, not a Jewish rabbi, as His disciples revered Him as! And certainly, it was not the picture of God they had in mind!  He even washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, who would so callously betray Him just hours later. And Jesus knew this too! He also washed Peter’s feet, who would deny even knowing Him hours later. Of course, Jesus also knew this, as well as the other disciples, who would desert Him in His time of need. (John 18:25-27, Mark 14:50) Jesus also did this humble act of love, just before He was to die a most brutal death for our (and their) sins, and He knew that too!  Not only did Jesus wash His disciples’ feet, but He also served them a meal (i.e.. The Last Supper). This is why we should strive not only to life for (or be responsible for) ourselves, but also for others, even our enemies, as well.

While there are times when we need what I call “self-care” to be re-energized and recharged so we can better serve others, living completely for only oneself is not good either, as this following anecdote I posted on Facebook will illustrate.

In September of 2009, Majorie Orbin was convicted of murdering her husband Jay Orbin in a most brutal fashion. During her marriage, she had had several affairs..and already been married 6 other times. Her credo that drove this lifestyle was this, in her own words: At 18, I was told that I could not have children. So I made a conscious decision at that point in my life I would only be responsible for myself. I danced, I traveled. I worked hard, played hard, went through a few marriages.

But this is how it is when Jesus takes hold of your heart and you make a conscious decision to live for others (also from my Facebook-bold emphasis mine):

 In about the year 1999, I was suffering from depression and lived a very selfish lifestyle. I wasn’t what people would call a “bad person,” but I WAS to an extent only responsible for myself—being successful in school was an idol. Like Majorie, I was looking for people to love and accept me for who I was and not really finding true joy in that search.

Then, sometime in the year 2000, Jesus Christ took a hold of my heart and life. Today I am in my 30s, and like Majorie I can’t have children either (namely because I haven’t been able to find a significant other yet). Because of Christ, I have made a conscious decision to serve God and others the best way I can, even if sometimes this is exhausting, not because I’m some saint (trust me, I’m NOT), but because Jesus is my Lord and Savior and He deserves nothing less! Praise Jesus,and thank you all, my life overall has been nothing short of AMAZING!

So, like Jesus, we should strive to live for and serve God and others, through our attitudes, words and actions by willing to help others out even in the times we don’t feel like it or we feel we have nothing left to give by drawing upon God’s strength to help you.  This is especially true when we have to serve people whom we don’t like or are hard to love, because when we show them our love, it shows that a.) We won’t give up on them  b.) We are “heaping burning coals on their head” (i.e….they will start to feel bad or pronounce judgment on themselves for treating us badly–because why would you treat someone badly who treats you so well?!)  c.) Who we belong to (Jesus) not our own sinful selves.  I admit that I don’t always succeed at doing this, but God is teaching me slowly how to love everyone–even those who give me a difficult time. May you do the same, and find your life so rewarding and fulfilling in the process!

Why God Allows Suffering

*triggers* : Mentions suicide

Suffering can be described as the gift no one wants, but it comes anyway. It teaches us lessons we never wanted to  learn (or not).  I (personally) have often wished that God didn’t allow suffering and that we could learn life’s lessons some other way. Sometimes, sadly, I have even doubted God’s goodness and justice when I was suffering. However, when I study passages in the Bible like John 9 (about a man born blind and Jesus heals him), I begin to understand WHY  God allows suffering and what we can learn from God’s character and how we should care for those who are suffering.

Reasons God allows suffering

  1. To refine our character- Some of you know that I experienced bullying in various forms when I was going to school, and I felt like no one really accepted me as I was or wanted my company.  Also, I have had experiences with being jobless and other various trials. I’ve had to deal with difficult people (as I’m sure all of you have), and felt like I was being abused and/or discounted as a person. I tell you this not so you will feel sorry for me, but to explain to you that God has used all these experiences to help refine my character. I believe that as a result of these experiences that God has worked through me to be a more compassionate and caring person, and less my selfish, sinful self.  Before I became a Christian, I was an extremely selfish person, but God has used these trials even before I was a Christian to help break down these walls of self-indulgence and self-absorption. Maybe there have been trials God has used in your life to help refine you and help others who are going through the same or similar things you are going through.
  2. To alert us to the fact that we need Him-If I didn’t go through some of the unpleasant things that I have, I probably would have never been a Christian or known how much I needed God.  I know people who have gone through very little trials in their lives that don’t even know they need God, or feel that God is not that important in their lives.  It is true that some people who go through stuff feel the same way about God, but it probably has to do with the fact that they don’t understand why God would allow them to suffer, rather than the suffering itself.  But when you suffer, it is often in these times when you grow closer to God and realize that you have needed Him all along.  In fact, in my testimony, I mention how I felt depressed before and felt that there wasn’t much meaning in my life. It is in the depths of my despair when I was in tenth grade, that God found and rescued me.
  3. To allow God’s glory to shine through you– When we suffer, especially as a Christian, we are able to use these experiences to glorify God. For instance, if someone is dealing with a difficult person but still tries to be kind to him or her, God can use this experience to bring him or her (i.e..the difficult person) into a relationship with Himself.  Or if a person is going through a physical illness, God can use that experience in his or her life to bring about miraculous healing or for that person to heal others. This is also why God allowed the blind man in John 9 to be born that way. God knew that allowing blindness into this man’s life, would bring about later, not only physical healing for that blind man, but spiritual healing as well.  Though he was kicked out of his religious community, the blind man thought it was worth it because he knew he could trust Jesus and thus followed Him.
  4. To alert us to what’s really important– Often when we are in trials, God uses these to alert us to what is really important, so we stop being distracted by minutia. For instance, if you are going through the trial of losing a loved one or a loved one is sick or in the hospital, a reaction that you may have is to spend more quality time with them or with the people who remain more. We become more intentional about doing the Most Important things with God and others, and leave the Less Important things to the side, which is how we should do things.

How We Should React to Another’s Suffering

  1. NEVER EVER discount what another person is going through! Everyone does not react the same way to suffering and it affects each person differently and to a different degree. For instance, when a person is being treated unfairly, one may react with anger or rage, while the other person may become despondent or feel hopeless.  Don’t call the despondent person “weak” for feeling the way they do. Always validate the person suffering.  It may help them see that you care about them and make them feel less alone.
  2. Be kind– Along with validating the other person’s suffering, ask how you can help them through it. Be there for them.  Tell them that they are NOT alone. Go out of your way to be kind and appreciative of them in a genuine way. Show you care for them. One thing I did was to send them a card to show them how much they are loved and cared for not only by God, but also by me.
  3. Don’t assign blame or rejoice in their suffering– Never assign blame for a person’s suffering, even if they are at fault. Now is not the time to revel  in their suffering or beat someone down either! Instead, be willing to be there for them and mourn with them in their pain.  If you are willing to mourn and be there for them, they will know that someone out there cares for them and for what they are going through.
  4. Listen to them– Listen to them attentively in their suffering. Offer words of validation and comfort. Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Only offer advice to them if they are willing (i.e.. ask for it) and are ready to receive it. Otherwise, it just leaves both parties frustrated.

If you are suffering right now, I want you to know that I care for you and that I am willing to listen to you.  If you are suffering so much that you are considering ending it all, please see this  before you do anything drastic and/or call 1-800-Suicide. There is always HOPE for you, but only when you are alive.   If you are not, and are happy with your life right now, please be willing to reach out to someone who is suffering so that they know that you care. It can save lives!

How to get out of the dump: Triumphing in and after suffering

*triggers: Mentions suicide*

A cursory look at the Facebook posts in my news feed today shows me that there are at least two phases that my Facebook friends find themselves in today: 1.) Going through a trial or trials and 2) Going through times of joy and jubilation. People don’t normally post the ordinary things that they are doing. For example, I would not post that I’m going to work later on today. It just won’t get people’s interest, but that’s commentary for another time.

However, I would like to focus today on how people can triumph over suffering and not lose hope in trials. I admit, for the author of this blog, this is still something I am working on, but these things I have found to be true not only for me, but also for others who I have seen and heard overcome their trials.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and talk things through.-Often in trials, we want to be alone and be able to get out of the dump ourselves. Though a few times I have been able to get out of the dump myself, I have found that asking for help and talking things through with another person, whether it be virtual or real-life, helps me gain perspective on my trial and be encouraged by another person either a.)going through the same thing I have or b.) already went through the same thing I have and has gotten out alive and well.  Also, when we ask for help, we can often find new solutions to our trials we ourselves never thought of before or at least remind us that we are not alone in our trials.  DISCLAIMER: If you feel that when you have asked for help, that no one was there or made things worse, I do apologize. In an ideal world, someone helping you would always make things better, but because of sin (moral wrongdoing) this happens. But I would recommend not giving up on all people, because I believe at least one of them will be able to give you the right kind of help.
  2. Try to persevere through the trial, even if you don’t want to-Often in trials we want to give up on working through it. This is because often we as people want comfort. God has been telling me time and time again that if I idolize anything other than Him, it’s comfort, and that I need to repent of that. Comfort, according to the Oxford Dictionary,  can be defined as,”A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.” (source:https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/comfort). We don’t want pain, but if we tell ourselves in no uncertain terms that this pain will not last forever, we will be able to better endure it. Give up trying to be comfortable.
  3. Try to learn from the trial. -This is often more difficult when you are in the midst of it. However, there is often something to learn, something to be gained, even and often after going through a trial. For instance, since I work in sales, sales are slower during this time of year (i.e.. after Christmas), and hours get cut. Because I thought my hours had been cut more drastically than they were, I thought for sure no one really appreciated me. I began to spiral down a depressive cycle. I was a sobbing mess…until God made me realize that I counted the total hours wrong. I was actually given more hours than the previous week! And then the next day, because I needed a correction on my schedule, I was incidentally given even more hours! So, what I learned in the trial, was to focus on the positives and that God can make even the bad scenarios into blessings for me.  Sometimes, when you go through a trial and you don’t understand why you are going through it, it can be tough to persevere through it and find any hope of ever getting out of the perpetual cycle of pain and suffering that goes with going through a trial. However, know that there is always something to be learned from the trial even when you don’t know what it is yet. This is beneficial to us, because it will help us not only learn from our mistakes or help us to know God or ourselves better, it will often help us be stronger and more compassionate and caring people. For instance, I shared in another post that I was often bullied by classmates and even a few teachers in school. Though I sometimes wished that I weren’t alive in those moments, I am glad that I survived this because I am better equipped to be able to relate to and help those who are being bullied and/or abused by others or have experienced similar or worse things than I have.

 

If you are going through a trial right now, I encourage you to not be afraid to ask for help, to not give up on life in the midst of the trials, and learn from the trial. If you are going through extended suffering and feel like giving up in life completely and are having thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-SUICIDE or some other crisis line. Know that whatever season of life you are going through, you are never alone and that there are people who care for you.