Lessons Learned From My Birthday

At the time of this writing (will be several days later when this is posted), yesterday was my birthday.  I am a whole year older than I was the day before yesterday, and, hopefully, a bit wiser. I admit that I had this idealized picture of what my birthday should be like, but it did not really match that ideal at all. However, I still had a good birthday overall because I learned these three important life lessons that could really be applied by, not only me, but everyone in various facets of their lives:

  1. If you really want to love others, you must be willing to sacrifice for them.—My managers and I held a meeting for work, both to discuss work matters and for me to let everyone know that they were appreciated and cared about by us. As the meeting dispersed, I was able to give the managers and associates I work with a small creation of mine that let them know that they matter to me. I wanted to give the tokens to others on my birthday, instead of everyone just giving me things because I have learned that life is not all about me, even on my birthday. Life is about appreciating others in your life that have held your hand, and have been there with and/or for you in both the triumphs and tragedies of life.  Also, since our store will get a visit from some Very Important people soon, the managers were desperate to get as many people as possible, even some from other stores, to help them get ready for the Big Visit.  If I did not care about the managers and the store I work in, and only considered it a way to earn money, I would have never even considered staying as late as I did last night. Because I care about what managers have to go through, I wanted to let them know by working late that they didn’t have to go through this alone. At work, and in other areas of my life, generally, when I wasn’t willing to sacrifice for someone, not only did they get upset at me, but this showed that I really didn’t love them as much as I said I did.
  2. Humility and a repentant attitude are really attractive traits to have.—I was quite upset at an associate on my birthday, for something (in retrospect), that was very minor. When I came to my senses, I apologized to said associate for having an angry and general bad attitude towards her. After that we made up, and I will genuinely strive to be more patient and humble with her the next time. However, one of my friends doesn’t get along with someone in authority in our store because they feel that they are not being appreciated and feel that they are constantly being put down by this authority figure.  If one or both of them had a humble attitude towards the other, they could very well have a better relationship, too.  One of the reasons my pastor is very well-liked and respected by our congregation is, not only because he is generally a very godly individual, but also because of his humble attitude. He does not lord himself over others and is also very down-to-earth.  Humility and a repentant attitude are very attractive traits to have, not only because of the healing and redemptive power they have on relationships, but also because of the value it places on the other person or persons.
  3. Gratitude for what you have and what has been graciously provided for you produces joy, not only to you—the giver, but to the recepient of your gratitude as well.—A lot of things yesterday could have made me grumble and complain—the fact that I didn’t get a chance to give everyone my token of appreciation, the fact that there will people that were rude to me and/or in bad moods, the fact that I didn’t have a birthday party at work like I did last year, etc… However, when I see things as gifts from God, rather than something I’m entitled to, I find that I have more joy in the things I receive.  I actually felt bad for all the people that were in a bad mood yesterday, and felt good that I, for the most part, was in a pretty good mood.  Even though I didn’t have a birthday party at work this year, I still found great joy in being able to get a lot of things done at work for others and being able to serve God by helping others at my job.  Even though I wasn’t able to give everyone my token of appreciation, the people I was able to give them to appreciated it very much.  And for that I am grateful.  I am also grateful for the many people that cared that it was my birthday, and have loved me as I am.  Being grateful (and not grumbly, as when I am not thinking in a grateful way) makes me very happy! So, I recommend that if you want to be happier in life, make a list of as many things as possible, of what you are grateful for, such as the people in your life that have encouraged you, the abilities you have (i.e If you can walk or see, those count too!), and the provisions that have been given to you to make your life better.

These three things are the major lessons that I took away from my birthday yesterday.  I hope that these lessons will not only be applied by me in my life, but also by others in their lives.  If we loved and were more willing to sacrifice for others, if we were more humble and repentant after we made a mistake, and if we were more grateful for everyone and everything we have been given, then I believe that this world would be a better place.

Advertisements

How You Changed Me (a poem)

Before I met You

I was on my last rope

I almost gave up all hope

Of ever becoming anything at all

 

But You transformed me

You made me see

Your light shining inside me

And gave me worth and hope

 

You breathed life into what was dead

With Your word I was fed

Precious nutrients to my hungry soul

Till again I was made whole

 

You have made me bloom

Into a precious rose

As you continue to grow me

Into what You made me to be

How God’s Love Has Changed My Life

When someone or something comes into your life and just changes the course of it forever, they will leave an indelible mark on who you are and the way you see things.  This is what God has done for me personally when He came into my life nearly seventeen years ago.  The more I have gotten to know God, the more He has changed me, and thus my life as well. Here are some ways He has done just that:

  1. He has worked in and through me to help me love people more.–As I have shared in previous posts, before God’s love took hold of my life, I was a very selfish and rigid person. As far as I can remember, as a young child, I don’t really recall me being very compassionate and caring of others. I did not understand why a lot of people refused to be friends with me. However, when God took hold of me, all that changed. Hearing stories about adults being abused as children and some of my peers getting bullied started to really bother and upset me, whereas before I didn’t care as much.  God even showed me the pain some ex-churchgoers experienced as a result of being hurt by professing Christians in churches, and that caused me to help others as I had never done before. In this past year especially, God has really been teaching me how to live more and more for Him and others, and less for just myself.  He is teaching me that I have to sacrifice my own conveniences and comforts for the benefit of others, especially if it would help them.
  2. God has revealed to me things that I need to change about myself and has given me the motivation to change.–The more God has taught me about Himself, life, and myself, the more I realize that I still have a long road ahead of me. This has given me the motivation to continually improve myself and strive for excellence in everything I do because if I thought there was nothing left to improve about myself, I would have little motivation to learn and become better. I don’t believe God reveals these things because He is tyrannical or wanting to smite us but for our own good, as to help us not to hinder our own relationships.  This fact, coupled with the fact, that I believe He is merciful, has helped me want to change for the better.
  3. God’s love has brought me tremendous blessings and abundant joy.—The more I know of God’s love, the more I realize how blessed I am. Yes, things get very difficult for me sometimes, and yes I have been through some trials and struggles. However, I consider myself blessed.  Before God’s love really started to shape and mold me, I had few friends.  I felt alone and was lost.  Now, God has blessed me with the type of support and love through Himself, other Christians, and other good friends of various faiths, that I had never thought existed!  For the first time in my life, I felt understood and loved by people other than just my immediate family!  He has also provided me with a good job in which I can do well.  His love has given me the freedom to enjoy His natural and human creations.  I now feel that I can better enjoy life without fear of being alone and abandoned, and I have the confidence and trust that He will always provide for me no matter what. His love has only proved that!

These are the major ways that God has changed my life.  One of the pastors at my church taught that God’s love for us will never cease and will never go away.  This is the confidence which I personally strive to live my life and share with others. How has God or a loved one’s love changed you? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Soul Invasion

I wrote this poem on 9/8/2017. This is about how God changed my life and filled my soul.  It can be also be seen as the love of a romantic partner or friend, but for me, this is more God’s great love for me that filled my soul and made it whole!

Soul Invasion

You created a spark in my heart

That could never be burnt out

You etched your love in me

That would always be

 

Your whole Being invaded my soul

Chasing away the hurt and pain

That threatened to doom me forever

And drive me insane

 

Your entire Being permeates my soul

And makes me happily whole

‘Til your amazing love oozes out of me

Like a lush, flowing stream of pure water

My Goals In Life

DISCLAIMER: This content is from a Christian perspective. However, people of all faiths and all walks of life can learn from this. Also, at the end,  I will talk about putting my goals into action, if you desire, for your own life. It will include resources for helping people who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Though I am promoting these organizations in a way, I make NO money from them in any way shape or form. Just want to help YOU help others.

Who or what motivates you to live your life? Is your life marked by passion and drive? When the chips are down, so to speak, what is it that keeps you going? For many people, it is often their loved ones. Sometimes, it is their job and sense of accomplishment. Other times the motivation is wanting love and approval. What motivates me to keep going when life is as dark as a tornado whirling during a fierce and powerful storm is the love that God through His Son Jesus Christ gave and continues to give to me.

These following two goals are based off the love that God has given and continues to give to me. They are:

  1. To love God with all my mind, soul, and strength. (Matthew 22:36-38)
  2. To show others the love that God gave to me, so they too can experience love, joy, and peace in their lives that I have.

How will I go about accomplishing these goals? 

How I will meet goal #1

  1. Read and study His Word, the Bible, daily for at least 15-30 minutes a day.
  2. Pray daily to meet the challenges of the day, for at least 15 minutes a day. Also, I will try to be in constant communication with God, not just for 15 minutes!
  3. Attend a Bible-believing church. (I am attending a good church that lines up with my beliefs nicely).
  4. Focus my mind on God and His will for my life, and for the day, as much as possible, without getting distracted. (I am still working on this one. Sometimes it is a struggle. Correction: Every day it is a struggle not to get distracted by other things that don’t matter to this goal at all, but I will not quit trying.)
  5. Memorize His Word and apply it to my daily life.

How I will meet goal #2

  1. When I do something that offends another person, I will strive to quickly confess that to the other person and repent (i.e not do that offense action anymore) of my offense.
  2. When someone offends me, I will let the person know in private, in a gentle and humble manner, with all honesty and love.
  3. I will never give up on a relationship unless they give up on me.
  4. I will do my best to show kindness and care to other people.
  5. I will do my best not to let my anger at someone linger for more than a day.
  6. I will encourage others by sharing with them how God loves me, and by telling them how much I love and/or care for them.
  7. I will do my best to sacrifice my time and resources if someone is in need of them and doing so will help the other person.
  8. I will do my best not to show any pretense towards another but be my genuine self, even if it is sometimes flawed.

These are practical ways anyone can join me in not only keeping me accountable but also joining with me to show others true, unconditional love to the whole world, instead of hate. Ban the hate!:

  1. Forgive at least one person who has hurt you deeply. –There are several people who I have had a hard time forgiving, mostly because they did the same bad things over and over to me again, even though I had confronted them more than once about these issues.  However, I now realized that letting go of my bitterness and anger towards them has changed the way these people treat me, and in some ways, my relationships with these people have been restored!  Who is someone who deeply offended you? It could be someone from a church or temple. It could be a family member or a once-close friend. It could be a boss or a manager.  Yes, forgiveness is very difficult at times, and sometimes you can’t forgive everyone at once, but an unforgiving heart keeps you, not the offender, in an emotional hell-hole prison that traps you and robs you of the joy that life is meant to bring.  Also, the very act of forgiveness necessitates the offense. It does not dismiss it or excuse it. It acknowledges it but leaves the justice in capable hands, NOT yours.
  2. Be genuine.–Do not hide who you are. Yes, if someone has demonstrated that they are untrustworthy you may have to hide some things about you. However, as a general rule, do your best to be genuine. Be willing to be vulnerable and forthright about your struggles. You shouldn’t have to hide yourself to be truly loved.
  3. Be willing to care about and sacrifice for others.– One practical way one can do this, especially if you are spiritual, is to pray for those who are hurting and suffering. Pray about what you can do to help these people. These may be people at work, at your school, at your place of worship, at home, or in your community. Once you pray or think about what to do to help these people, do it! Recently, in a huge chunk of Texas and some of the Southeast part of the U.S, there has been a hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, that has swept through there and devastated many people’s lives, and destroyed many homes and businesses.  This storm is still ongoing as of this writing (written 8/27/2017). Here are some organizations that are helping these people through this:

These are my two major goals in life. This is what keeps me going, even in the hardest times. What are yours? What steps can YOU take to accomplish your life purposes? Please feel free to discuss here.

On Sacrifice

According to Merriam-Webster’s website, sacrifice is, “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrifice).  Lately, God has been teaching me a lot about sacrificing, not only for Him (though that to me is the most important) but for others around me as well. Dying to self and sacrificing for others is not a popular concept in this current society. Many advertisements and social media posts even discourage us from doing these things. Yes, we must be careful not to sacrifice to the wrong things or people, or else we may not only lose everything but gain next to nothing in the process.  However, that does not mean it is wise to only live for oneself. Only living for yourself will ultimately lead to destruction and death of your spirit.  Your heart will most likely become so hardened that you will really have little or nothing to give or share with others, or you won’t want to.  This is why sacrifice is so important.

What God has taught me about sacrifice in my own life: 

The three major changes that I have had to go through last year were these: A) Getting a new job  B) Having my sibling move away. C) Going to a new church.  God has taught me through these three events that I have had to let go of certain people and things to get to where He wanted me to be in life.  For instance, if I stayed at the job in the thrift store and not listen to the inner promptings (I believe, of God) to look elsewhere, I would have never been blessed with some of the things that I enjoy today. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the job there or that the people in there were mean to me, but that God put in me the feeling that my time was up there and I needed to embrace a new challenge in my life.  In essence, God wanted me to sacrifice the security that I felt at the thrift store to trust Him with something bigger. Luckily, I did, with great results!  When my sibling moved away, it was very difficult for me at first. I felt a bit alone and empty inside where my sibling’s presence used to be. However, I realized I needed to sacrifice for that sibling so that they could accomplish what they needed to do get a better job without pressure or me (or my parents) hovering over that sibling.  I needed to allow them to grow.  Going to a new church was also very difficult for me. I remember God had asked and said to me a few years back, “What if [old church name] no longer existed? Wouldn’t I still be there for you? What if you had to go back to [another old church]? What if I have greater plans for [old church name]? What if you could just enjoy now and trust Me?” This was kind of prophetic, in retrospect, because now the old church doesn’t really exist (at least as that named church) and God has been doing something different through that church.  However, I felt God’ s nudging that I should look for a different church so that He could grow me better. Almost a year later, I have been going to my current church and grown so much there!  But I had to sacrifice the presence of my church family I had grown with for about ten years (and still miss them), in order to make room for something different that God wanted to do with my life.

Now, I sense God may be nudging me to give up some of my co-workers and managers at work, in a way, in order that I depend on Him more, and not on them and their approval so much. I am not saying that I no longer value them or that their approval doesn’t matter to me. What I am saying, through future events, is that I may need to give up having to be with some of them constantly (or for my own happiness) so that they may feel more joyful or less stressed in their lives.  It’s not that I was a burden to them or something either, but that change was needed in their lives so that they could have a deeper sense of purpose and positively impact the lives of others. (And, no  I’m not planning to quit my job either, in case you’re wondering…)

How to Sacrifice For Others (without sacrificing your identity):

  1. Allow them the option of leaving or rejecting you, if you really love or care about the other person.–This is why stalking is so wrong. It does not give the person the space they need to breathe apart from you. Even though I know most of you would never stalk someone, when we don’t allow a person close to you (i.e.. a family member, spouse or a close friend) adequate space apart from you, they may feel suffocated and trapped, and they will not be able to really love you fully from their heart(s), or their own free will.  This may be painful and upsetting for you. Trust me; I have experienced this many, many times in my life, more times than I care to count. However, if we don’t allow this option, not only will that person grow in their love for you but you won’t grow either! If this other person or persons really love you, they will at least visit you. If they don’t care to even acknowledge you anymore, then the relationship was not meant to be, and you have to move on for their sake and yours!
  2. Be willing to give up your selfish dreams and desires for that other person or persons.–For instance, if you and your friend are in the same car and he or she is driving, let them choose the music they listen to for their pleasure, even if you dislike it, especially if it is only a matter of taste.  Also, parents, never ever live vicariously through your child or children and impose your dreams and wants on them! Let them have their own dreams and goals. Yes, raise them with a set of rules and morals you believe will help them be successful in life, but never force your child into a profession or activity they don’t want just because you didn’t get to do it yourself.
  3. Be willing to give up something valuable for that other person or persons, if the situation calls for that.–This may be sacrificing financially for the sake of the poor, or it may be something as simple as sacrificing your time to help another person or friend in need.  For instance, if someone you know at work or at school often goes hungry and does not bring a lunch or dinner with them when they are feeling hungry, you could sacrifice for them by fasting that meal and giving your meal to them. Or you could still eat your meal, but offer to buy the person a meal from a restaurant or store.  This is not to cultivate a “poor-me” mentality, but to serve the other person in need.

As one can see, even if in some circles, sacrificing for others is highly discouraged or even rejected, sacrifice is an important part for both parties in a healthy relationship.  Though it may not be wise to sacrifice for someone who is constantly trying to take advantage of you, you should find someone for whom it is a wise and viable idea to sacrifice to, whether it be God or another person. Who has sacrificed a lot for you? And who have you sacrificed for? 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!