It’s understandable for the human mind to wander in the face of so many responsibilities and unfavorable situations. In one of those careless detours my imagination takes, I found myself meandering in desperation. The power outage delayed the ability of completing and turning in the essays on time. Don’t worry about me! I’ve been between awake and asleep since yesterday 7 pm. But GOD. Have I mentioned that He’s good? Yes he is! Everything worked out just fine. However, I couldn’t really say I was exactly bursting with shouts of joy before that. When your brain has been tired of doing homework, projects, essays and reading a bunch of material, it’s safe to say that there’s a tendency to feel depressed or anxious. At least for a short amount of time that is. As I laid on the sofa, staring at the living room ceiling, I realized how incredibly overwhelming my thoughts had become. A few hours before the rain, hail, and power outage I was celebrating what seemed to be a sweet victory. I knew for sure God was going to let me finish my homework on time, but I wasn’t expecting that blackout. Oh baby. It was bad. My efforts of converting a potato into a primitive source outlet for my phone was useless. Two pennies and two galvanized screws were used, but nothing. Yes…I actually put pennies and screws in a potato. Don’t judge! Potato as a portable charger? It’s a real thing. Google it.
The saddest thing that happened was not that the potato experiment didn’t work. It wasn’t that the power came back around midnight. It wasn’t that the internet connection wasn’t fixed until 11 am today. It was what I wrote on my phone before going to bed.
Lord, help me get over the pain of being alone during this season. Help me become unbothered by the lack of support and the overwhelming presence of disloyalty. Help me not hurt myself. Help me pretend. Help me vent. Help me be me with you. Help me live through discouragement. Help me understand that you still see me. Help me not rely on people. Help me not tell people how I really feel. Help me, I am a sinner. Have mercy on me. Please don’t leave me Jesus. I need you. My family needs you.
You saw that? Let me rewind the first sentence. “Lord, help me get over the pain of being alone during this season.”
First of all, who told me I was alone? Isn’t that what the enemy wants us to feel? God is always with us, so how come I felt so overwhelmed to the point of saying that I was alone? On the other side of this interpretation you may be bubbling with all sorts of analysis and conclusions. I’ll tell you what the download extracted from that simple sentence. This is why I encourage people to journal their thoughts and prayers. Sometimes our prayers reveals to us things in the most wonderful way.
There was a dude called Nehemiah. His story is found in the book of Nehemiah. Go figure. I really didn’t want to insult your intelligence, but if you have been around church long enough you need to understand that there’s people like me who were not raised in church who are reading this. I will not give you the whole spiel of his story because it would be too long, but here’s several things you need to know about this fellow:
Let’s focus on #2 for today. He was alone for a while, but for a good reason. I had a mini breakthrough when I realized that God sometimes eliminates things, opportunities, and people, not because they are particularly bad. Sometimes you have to be alone in order to understand what a real leader means. A real leader knows how to wait in silence and praise like David, get out of the pit like Joseph, and be alone like Nehemiah. You see, Nehemiah is not often magnified in the aspect of loneliness, but in the courage of sticking it out with the reconstruction of the city walls. We’ll get to that eventually. Read this:
I went to Jerusalem and stayed there three days. Then at night I started out with a few men. I had not said anything to anyone about what my God had put on my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no horses with me except the horse I was riding. Nehemiah 2:11-12 ERV
Even horses have meaning in the bible. I will leave that part between you and God, for I don’t know in what season you are in and what is the horse in your season. If that makes sense. Selah.
Isn’t that verse wonderful? So next time you feel down in the dumps, in despair, confused, unacknowledged, overlooked, rejected know this: You are becoming Nehemiah. Every day and every step is part of the journey. We will never arrive or understand everything that happens around us, but we can be certain that God will bestow grace upon us to do the things that we have to do. It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it may seem not to be cool this season, but remember that Nehemiah didn’t become this focused and courageous man overnight. Talk to God. Ask him how this verse resonates with your life. It has for sure been comforting for my soul. You know sometimes you don’t have to tell everyone the things God is calling you to do. Just be obedient. Even if it gets lonely being a misfit. Being a misfit is better than operating in obedience. Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, we love you. We know you are close. Help us not grow weary when the only company we have is a horse. Help us not give up when we see the ruins. Help us not give in to intimidation when the assignment is in front of us. Help us not disclose any private information about future projects or instructions unless you give us permission to do so. Help us treasure the things you share with us and store them in our hearts like Mary. Help us get over the pain and the need of having people around us all the time to talk to you, trust you, and be honest with you. We praise you. Amen
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Shout out to my brother in law who took this picture!!
There are a few things that dare to govern my mind at 1:34 a.m. Things such as the prominent search in my zip code for watermelon popsicles, in order to ease my fruit cravings. Things like the different moon phases I would like to study whenever I get the chance...although from the place I’m sitting, there’s no glimpse of the sleeping sky. Things like remembering interesting memories attached to the song The Scientist by Coldplay. Or the underlying fact of how angry I am at the director of the last Korean drama series I watched. Sigh. You see, yesterday was the last episode and I can’t help but ponder on how the main protagonist is doing. Is she happy at her new job? Did she ever get married? Did she return the phone call to her former manager? The ending was too shallow. Why do I do this to myself? It’s 1:42 a.m. and now I wonder if somewhere between my duties and hobbies, if I have really embraced the meaning of time management. God is challenging and requiring so much of me this season, yet the storms fail to cease. You know, sometimes life just sucks. It really does. There’s nothing philosophical in that. But chances are if you are a Christian you will probably say this as I mouth the words in unison:
It’s just a season.
The book of Ecclesiastes reinforces that there is a time for everything. Can I be honest? I mean chances are you have been following this blog for a while, you know I will be without your consent. Here it goes. The fact that there is a time and a season for everything can be discouraging for those waiting for breakthroughs in specific areas of their lives. Why discouraging you ask? Well, because when will that time be? I mean maybe that portion doesn’t bother you at all as the acquiescent entity that you are, but for goal oriented individuals like myself, it can be quite frustrating. The other portion of that statement sits cordially in my heart; like a refreshing vegan peanut butter shake or a lovely old aged smiling woman sitting in her rocking chair. I think it’s because I’ve come to terms with the fact that time is not a thing, but a person. A person who arranged the sun, moon, stars, and galaxies in perfect order. Infinity is not a number, but a person. Like the wind, waves, rain, and occasional beautiful weather show up in the different seasons of my life, I keep trusting that God is not intimidated by time. How can he? There is no such thing as time for God. Maybe for humans, but not for God.
Genesis 1:14-18 in the New Living Translation says the following:
14 Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15 Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. 16 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
You see, the duality of sky lamps were created for us dysfunctional humans. Even before we were created. God was planning ahead because he knew that you still have to get through sleep by using night lights. Don’t worry, I won’t share your secret with anyone else. It took me a while to sleep in a completely dark room. My friend, God isn’t blind or wired to lack direction. God can see correctly in the dark. The different dynamics of light on nature’s switch was designed to create order in a way humans could understand it. The separation of days requires time. Time is order. There is a sincere desire for my inner passive-aggressive robot to comply with the ridiculous desires of this world. Sometimes I desire not to care for people or not entertain the washing machine with copious amounts of laundry. Sometimes I want to jump into decisions due to impatience. Sometimes I just want to believe we are still in the 90s in order to sport those comical high waisted jeans. That way I wouldn’t fall into comparison’s trap. Sometimes I wish there was no such thing as time. But there is. So here’s a couple of questions you might have asked yourself:
First of all, lemme tell you that I am no life expert. Although I’ve lived a lot of experiences for a 23-year-old. Unfortunately, all of the good, bad, and ugly things that God allowed in my life has granted me great wisdom. But because I love you and want you to turn to God for yourself for these answers- I cannot share special ones with you. It would be irresponsible on my part to make my experiences as theology. But these things I will share and hope it will minister to you in a personal way.
Check out the Railroad Notes here. You can print them if you want. View them as a guideline about this topic. You can print copies and share with friends if you would like. It is my prayer that the Lord will reveal to you in a fresh way how to trust him once again.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the times and seasons that occur in our lives. May your mercy and grace grant us peace and wisdom to walk in confidence knowing that you are in control. May the knowledge of your presence, even in days when we can’t hear, feel, or perceive it, be enough for our souls to understand that you will do what Isaiah 45:2 says. That you will indeed go before us to level our mountains and that you will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. Help us, Lord, not live in the prison of the pressures of this world. We give you praise for all that you’re doing during this time. We thank you.
In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.
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Have you ever felt so surprised by the words that come out of your mouth sometimes? By the less than kind remarks you make of others? The presence of criticism exposes unforgiveness. Many times we point at others because we still haven’t resolved the internal issues that if faced, would make us feel as small as an ant. Being fully aware of your own shortcomings, weaknesses, and mistakes is no fun. about pain is that it’s neither right or wrong, it’s just a fact. The person who hurt you probably moved on. This is also one of the reasons why you squander in painting a picture as if he or she was the perpetrator. And again, this may be valid, but it’s time to go deeper. As uncomfortable at it seems to have a field trip into the lairs of our hearts, it’s necessary. Let’s go to the book of Luke and explore this topic carefully. I believe it will change your perspective about not only forgiving others but yourself.
Our focus today is on the parable found on Luke 15. This is a famous story, which I know you’ve heard a gazillion times in church. Before we start our bible study, let’s pray and invite the Holy Spirit.
We come before you God in the name of Jesus. We acknowledge your greatness today and put our focus on you. We pray that you will create in us a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit with us. Holy Spirit we welcome you and ask you to give us a spirit of wisdom and understanding, in order to walk and mature in love. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen
A Son Who Knew
'Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. '
Luke 15:11-12 NIV
I am surprised by the younger son’s boldness to ask his father a portion of the estate. If you think about it he had an older brother, which means both were raised in the same environment but had two different perspectives when it came to the father and ownership. He didn’t have a poverty mindset. He knew that in his father he could obtain whatever he needed.
'I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! '
Luke 15:17-19 NIV
This is the part when the son understood his need of going back to his household. This is after he went to Vegas, fooled around with the wrong crowd, spend his dollars on worthless casino games and bets, among other things. Here’s my question for you: What did you do the last time you did something wrong? Maybe cussed someone out, didn’t keep your word, etc.? Did you went to alcohol, friends, Bath and Body Works, the movies, a concert? We sometimes do that to subside our conscious. However, it takes to be humble to understand our need of Jesus, instead of covering it up with fig leaves that will make it worse. The son was humble enough to understand this.
'For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ '
Luke 15:20-21,24 NIV
In this section we can see the vulnerability of the son. Now, before you hit your brakes and shut down on me, think about it. This son was a bad boy in modern terms. How hard is it for a bad boy to arrive at this level of vulnerability? If he could do it, then it gives me hope that I can as well. Vulnerability, honesty, sincerity, and transparency are not the same. We don’t have time to discuss the differences of each, but in a nutshell vulnerability is the willingness of exposing motives, feelings, and confession.
A Final Nugget
'For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. '
Luke 15:24 NIV
Lost and Found. What was the first thing that came to your mind this? I honestly thought of my former alma mater’s section in the cafeteria; stocked with bookbags, glasses, jackets, and knicknacks. I remember the joy I felt once I had retrieved my transparent Pochacco drawstring backpack from one of the cubbies. There’s nothing like being found. Found by friends, a lover, a talent agent, an employer… When you grieve the Holy Spirit (yes, it’s a real thing) you feel so lost and distant. It’s time to return to him. Return to him with boldness, humility, and vulnerability. Asking for forgiveness and repenting is essential for the medical state of your soul. You’ve been looking at others in a flawed manner because you haven’t really felt forgiveness from your past or current sins. I leave you with two verses to encourage you pursue forgiveness. Trust me, he will not turn away from you.
'And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.'
Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 NKJV
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Photo on Visual Hunt
My mind is not a trash can for accidents.
It was not created to withstand impossibilities. My mind is a cloudless sky. It’s supposed to have thoughts that fly. Just like a kite. But in actuality, my mind is like a landmark in the middle of a deserted city. It stands tall, but wrapped. Wrapped in a ghostly tarp. Such tarp is an irony, more than it is an impediment. The sun sets and rises. It rises and sets. It rests upon a gleaming city, that no one seems to get. No fancy details. No vivid colors. No statue to draw about. No footsteps to follow. My mind was an urban souvenir for friendly eyes to wallow. Now just fig leaves. No deep water. Everything's so shallow.
Have you ever felt that your passion died suddenly? Have you ever woke one day and felt the obvious shift in your heart? Almost like you have backslidden and the last person to notice was you. I found a gem in the Bible. Understatement indeed. The Bible itself is a gem, don't get me wrong, however, this passage rocked the very insides of my heart.
“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.”
Psalm 63:1-2, 4-6, 8-11 NIV
How is it that we lose our passion? One of the things I have been analyzing during this period of growth is that it's not about complying to the codes of church culture, but rather creating an environment where the Holy Spirit feels comfortable. Here some questions that I ask myself often:
I hope this simple entry can stir up in you a hunger for Jesus. I pray that you will be encouraged to rekindle the passion for Jesus.
I pray Jesus that you would soften their hearts and open their eyes, In Jesus name. Amen
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It was a painfully early morning as I sat in the dining room. No one was awake expect me. It was so cold that the thought of eating my ham and cheese annoyed me profoundly. Because as you guessed it, it was cold as well. My hands which 98% of the time is cold, were too. And then the feeling of being alone made it worse. This uncomfortable feeling of being alone so early tempts you to run back to your bed. This morning, however, I wanted to quiet time with Jesus to be that early. As I ate, I realized that the seat across me was empty. I reminisced what Psalm 23 said of “you prepare a table in the presence of my enemies.” So, I invited Jesus to sit with me. Not the negative words and phrases I hear in my mind on mornings. After spending some time reading my bible and meditating, I realized all of the things my heart was withholding. I wrote a list of things that were bothering on a piece of paper. After folding it and placing it on the empty plate with crumbs, I pushed the plate across me. I treated those things on that piece of paper like the beets; the vegetable I dislike the most. It was my way of saying to the Lord: “Take it. I don’t want it anymore.” I tossed it in the trash afterward.
The problems with forgiving someone else is that we don’t understand why we should and how. Also, we project our failure of receiving forgiveness for ourselves, unto others. To first address the why, let’s picture the following scenario. Imagine a fluffy perfectly balanced memory foam bed. 300 thread blankets, hotel pillows, and a peaceful atmosphere are at hand. Guess who’s gonna sleep in that bed tonight? I know you’re like: “I wish that were me.” And you are correct...unless you are actually in a hotel room reading this entry. The person who will sleep in that bed is the person who hurt you. Yes, not even you person-who-might-be-in-a-hotel-room-right now. (You may be physically, but are you really in your soul?) The person who hurt you might not be even aware that he or she hurt you. That individual may know and not even care. Perhaps they do but have no intention of making things right. That person may not also be shedding tears and going to sleep at 5 am. They might be having more fun than you. My question to you is the following: Where are you right now?
“You don’t know what they did to me!” “You don’t know how much that hurt!”. I think one of the most difficult things is forgiving others just because we are so misinformed of its benefits. At this point, you might be hovering your cursor on the x button to close this page or just insulted by my endorsing of this principle. I understand. However, before you proceed with your prerogatives, ask yourself if you have ever hurt anyone in any way shape or form. Intentionally or unintentionally. We all mess up. We all hurt. We all need forgiveness.
Forgiving the person who sexually abused me was very difficult at first. As time progressed, I understood that although the person was wrong in what they did, I also was wrong in many things I did in the past. I received forgiveness, and the least I could do was to extend that same mercy to this person. Which brings me to this brief point: there is no such thing as a more significant sin than another. Can we all agree in our human minds that abuse is more significant than a teenagers lie about him or her whereabouts on a Friday night? However, what we must realize is that in the eyes of God sin is sin. It is so when we point at someone and say: “At least I'm not like______ who does such and such.” Just because they sin differently from you, it doesn't mean you are better than them. Ouch. I had to learn this the hard way.
The first step of forgiveness in my journey was to make the decision. The second step was to pray for this person occasionally. The third step I took was to pray consistently for this person. My feelings eventually caught up with my decision. It took a long time friend. I feel sorry for this person now. Till this day I pray for this person to be restored. Just in case you were wondering, forgiving someone does not mean you don’t have to press charges or tell someone. This is for specific scenarios of course. In my case, none of that happened, because the people surrounding me didn't want shame to come upon the family. Nevertheless, I forgave. With a prison sentence or not, this individual needs Jesus as much as I do. And for a long time, the one who was behind bars was me, not the perpetrator. This individual has endured many hardships since then, and the knowledge of it all grieves my soul. Forgiveness is not the absence of consequences or the possibility of a reconciliation, but it is still your responsibility. I may never get an apology, and I don't care. I am free and pray this person will be too one day.
There are three scenarios that come to my mind when it comes to forgiveness. Today we’re going to explore only one for the sake of time. The scene consists of when Jesus was on the cross.
Matthew 27:34 is the context, and it reads as follows: “They offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.” (ESV version)
To understand the nature of this difficult act from the Romans, we need to understand what they were doing and why. First, they were mocking Jesus. And to answer why they were using such items, let's take a trip down in history. The Romans used sponges on sticks to wipe their butts after you know what. They would then put the sponge in a bucket in salt to sanitize it; the next person would come and use it at their discretion. By the next person, I mean...the next person. That’s because the bathrooms back then were public. I know. I know. Super gross. The actual article on this is at the bottom of the page.
We have this disturbing image of how Jesus was offered wine on a sponge on a stick. Wine is bitter, and you can often perceive it by the smell and taste. I suppose the sponge was sanitized when it was offered to Jesus because if it weren’t then Jesus would’ve rejected it immediately. The smell of human waste would’ve been a sign not to partake of it. However, being drenched in wine I guess covered the taste of it. But still, he refused to drink from it. He rejected the bitterness, even when he was in a position of pain and humiliation. You and I should practice this more often.
Bitterness may show its ugly head to taunt you and seduce you into nurturing it but don't. If our Lord and Savior rejected bitterness, we should too. I know it's easier than done, but how has living in bitterness been helped you? I know for me it has been terrible in the past. Offenses will always come. This is why we should always guard our hearts and not take offenses seriously because after all, they are distractions. At the cross, Jesus also mentioned this: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (NIV version)
Let's recap what we have learned:
I hope you have learned today a little bit more about forgiveness. I learned so much too!
Next entry: Receiving Forgiveness for Yourself
I pray that the eyes of your understanding will be opened today. I pray that every snare and trap of the enemy will be exposed as you grow in your walk with Jesus. And, may I also pray that you would understand how precious is the art of forgiveness and how essential it is to extend it to others. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.
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Golden streaks of the sun rearrange themselves to fit on painfully boring window blinds and an adjacent shy corner. As I look to my right a rather different scenario takes place. The glass windows which face the backyard, are also closed by blinds. However, there’s a larger perimeter of watercolor reflections; yellow, white, and at times a strange hue of grey. I sense a glimpse of something on the corner of my eye, and what my eyes saw surprised me. I perceive the window blinds overheard my senseless description of them earlier, because this time the glow of the sun seems deeper, richer, and warmer. I quietly apologize to them as I observe in awe this radical change. I also must take back what I said about that shy corner. The light on it is brighter than the reflection on the window and the door. The sight is quite mesmerizing. It's only a narrow strip illuminating almost the entire wall, and it looks beautiful. I'm proud of that shy corner. It proved me wrong.
The Importance of Light
I'm still sitting here like a complete clueless overslept individual, typing out these words and trying to make sense on what to write about. Also, thinking why would anyone want to read this entry. But then again as I ponder about light, reflections, angles, and blinds, my mind wonders about how these concepts could be appreciated if I were a passenger on a train. And not any kind of train, but the ones that have glass ceilings and huge windows. When you travel, you go through tunnels and pass by blankets of shadows provided by mountains or trees. Sometimes there's no shelter for your eyes if the journey gets interrupted by endless skies exposing the rays of the sun. When I was first introduced to the concept that my faith life is a faith journey, or a faith walk, I found it frustrating. As a person who needs constant prayer in the department of patience and self-control, the term seemed upsetting more than anything. Once I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I thought: "This is it! Things will finally be perfect!" The brightest light consumed my eyes exposing truth after so much trauma. However, as I kept expanding in experiences, years, knowledge, and wisdom I found out that I was missing something. Even towards the last days of 2017, I tried to analyze what that was. For years I couldn't place my finger on it. Then the lightbulb turned on. I don't know if it was my rational mind or the Holy Spirit that revealed this to me, but it turned out that I was living a joyless and hopeless life. A joyless and hopeless Christian. A unicorn amid humans. A rare thing. But is it really that rare?
The Benefits of Joy
Joy is not a quick come and get it drive through product with an expiration date. Therefore, you shouldn’t covet or envy it. It has your name on it, and it's waiting for your hands to pick it up, own it, and decide to nurture it like a freshly cut bouquet of peonies in May. You get to decide whether to choose it or not every single day. David, was known to speak to his soul when things got difficult in his life. Psalm 43:5 shows the evidence: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again--my Savior and my God!” Even in moments of loneliness, extreme isolation, and uncertainty, David chose to change his mind and attitude. Can I be honest? This is so hard!!! However, the more you practice doing it daily, the easier it’ll get. Joy has its benefits. It motivates you and it gives you strength to endure the battles of your life. Scripture tells us the following in Hebrews 12:2: “looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” You know how you sometimes read the bible and just skip verses and not pay much attention to them. Well this is one of the gems I found during the dark cave of this current season. I couldn’t help but cry. If the Savior went through that kind of depletion and still made it to the other side of pain, then I knew I could too. Friend, you can as well.
The following is a recollection of things I have learned during this season. I pray it helps and blesses you.
Let's pray, shall we?
I pray every person who is going through a difficult trial or situation to disregard discouraging thoughts and voices. I pray their soul is well during the test, and may your loving nature guide them as they pour out their hearts to you Lord. Be the lifter of their heads. Today and forever.
It has been a while since I've written anything valuable. I believe this may be the perfect time to unwind and transfer all of these useful portions of knowledge experienced during this season. This year has been the hardest one yet. I don't need to include details because I don't want to overwhelm you with foreign burdens. Maybe I'll share down the road some of them with the intention of helping others, but for now let's focus on today's topic.
The Silent Struggle
Today's topic is not one that is usually spoken about in churches. I write this because I'm sure someone out there can relate and may benefit in knowing they are well accompanied by this struggle. I am talking about loneliness. It's about the loneliness when you are in trouble and feel desperate. It's the kind of loneliness that comes when you lose friends, opportunities, strength, expectation, money, loved ones, etc. Loneliness can take place even when you do have people around you but they quite don't seem to understand you. It's the type of loneliness that creeps into your heart, when it's 3 a.m. and you go through the names of people you know in your mind, and know there's no one to call because they wouldn't probably pick up. When life hits you hard and friends that have their own thing going on, and can no longer be there for you, what do you do? I have been well acquainted with loneliness. It's not a place where you would want to stay for too long. However, you can't determine when will the wilderness or valley end. You can try and decorate the walls of the space called your situation, and still feel so unrelatable to other human beings. You may try to distract yourself by unconsciously forcing people to be your friend and compromising your current struggles for the sake of not being left alone with your own thoughts. Whatever tendency might be to do when you feel alone, I can assure you that your coping mechanism may not be the most healthy one. I do not blame you, for it is in our nature to follow the deceitful voices in our hearts and gravitate to sin to alleviate any type of pain. There's no condemnation, only love here. I relate and would like to suggest certain things that may help you if you are going through a season of loneliness. Make sure to get a pen and paper and write down anything that may resonate with you. I want you to put it somewhere visible. Whether that place is your mirror, work space, or bedroom. I want you to remember that you are not alone and that loneliness is not a permanent jail cell. You're not weird. You're just human.
Perspective is not the absence of severity in a situation; it's the ability to observe it in a different angle. I may have used this example before, but for the sake of this word I'll use it again. If you look at a mountain range directly, you will notice in the distance that the common denominator of unevenness is present. Step into a helicopter, ascend a couple of hundred feet, and the view is completely different. Remember the highs and lows of the peaks? Well, now they all seem to be the same height from above. You may be looking at your situation with your natural eyes, but ask God to reveal to you how He sees the situation in His eyes. There is nothing that can intimidate Him.
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
2 Kings 6:17-20
I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
Isaiah 45:2 NIV
Chill. Honesty is not a bad word. If there is something that God longs for, is for honesty on your behalf. There is no reason to hide behind fig leaves like Adam and Eve did and expect awesome results. God is a relational, loving, and caring God. Being honest about your current pressures, frustrations, incorrect motives, and brokenness can be the best thing you can do for yourself. Facing the truth of the things going on around us costs less than constructing a world of escapism. What are your coping mechanisms during this season? Do you tend to run away from problems? How is that working out for you? Remember the truth will set you free.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32 NIV
Remember Hannah when she poured her heart out before the Lord in the temple? Eli the priest thought she was drunk. She was upset because she couldn't get pregnant. When people don't understand the way you are acting is probably due to a lack of knowledge. Don't be surprised if people point at you and judge you for your tears or odd behavior. Going through the valley is hard enough, but dealing with the critiques of others is another type of animal as they say. Once Eli was informed by Hannah why she was crying and praying, Eli understood the whole picture. Now, I am not suggesting you have to provide a footnote to every person you known why you have inconsistent mood swings. God knows. He understands and he cares. If you go before him and pour out your complaints (Psalm 142:2) and give him your burdens (Matthew 11:28-30), you will find new strength. Free yourself from the pressure to perform for others and God.
Come as you are.
Jesus I come.
Make a list of the things you can change and the things you can't. Focus on what you can change to make life a little bit easier. The things you can't do anything about will gladly be managed by God, if you let him fight your battles that is! You have the power of believing what you want to believe. No one makes you wallow in self-pity or operate in destructive behaviors. No one makes you hear that depressing playlist on Spotify. No one makes you watch useless videos on YouTube all day and procrastinate. Make a decision to think about different things. You're welcome. [Insert smiling poop emoji here, because I felt I was too hard on you on this point.]
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1:8 NIV
Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Matthew 22:37 NIV
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
Proverbs 4:8 NIV
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV
During this season of loneliness, ask God to examine your heart and motives. It may not be the loveliest thing so to speak, but it will benefit you. Is there any envy, strife, insecurity, anger, depression, pride, lust, fear, anxiety in your heart? If we were face to face, you would probably smile and be like: "Me depressed? I don't think so." This is why is so important to submit under God's authority and let him reveal to you the deep parts of your heart. Because at scripture says the heart is a wicked thing and emotions can trick you from seeing reality. The following verses can really help you during your quiet time.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23 NIV
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26 NIV
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 NIV
Knowledge & Wisdom
Wisdom requires living some stuff out in order to dust off the ingenuity attached to societal and family based idiosyncrasies. Wisdom is obtained when you ask God to help you have insight on a recurring problem, a draining addiction, or a complicated relationship. Wisdom is heart awareness, whereas knowledge is head awareness. During this time, do not let the walls of boredom and isolation cave in. Learn about different topics and explore new stories. Read books and novels. Listen to an audiobook every month. For your own sanity, educate yourself. I am not suggesting you are not intellectual, but sometimes in loneliness we tend to stick to what we think. Does a person in solitary confinement develop a healthy mentality throughout time? I don't think so. Don't lean on your understanding, because bitterness and pain may be the foundation of your opinions. Going through pain is necessary, but pain is not a good teacher. Let God teach you through pain what you need to know. Your future self will thank you.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
Proverbs 3:5 NIV
David was always intentional about seeking the Lord during times of trouble and stability. Make sure to make time to spend with God. Even if you go out by yourself, be aware of his presence. Remember he is so invested in you and loves you. He is interested in every detail of your life. Not to dictate what you should or shouldn't do, but to help you navigate through the uncertain waters of life. Jesus is a gentleman, he will never force himself into any area of your life. If you open the doors, he will be more than glad to help, comfort, advice, listen, and speak to you. By doors I mean every segment of your life: your finances, relationships, emotions, physical health etc.
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek."
Psalm 27:8 ESV
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
If you are in a season of singleness may I suggest for you to start writing letters to your future husband or wife. Start praying for him or her. Don't focus so much on that all the time or else you end up dating the first doofus that comes across your path. Carry on with daily activities and responsibilities but make time and space to now and then ask God guidance on how to improve as a person. Remember you are not looking for the "one", you are becoming the one. The perfect person does not exist. A person cannot cater to everything you need. It's way too much pressure to put on another human being don't you think?. Don't expect for someone to enter into your life while you disregard your own issues. Work out any issues you may be experiencing during this season, so you won't bring it with you in your next relationship. While you wait, grow in God.
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.
Exodus 14:13 NKJV
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17 NIV
I know that the committee in your head stands firmly in objection with this idea, but wait! Just wait and reconsider! Maybe your friends haven't reached out to you because they are going through something. Can we stop being a generation that thinks this way: "I don't talk to people because people don't talk to me first. If people talk to me first then I will more likely engage." Baloney! We are humans remember? Gregarious? If you think of someone you haven't talked to in a while, make sure to text or call the person. Of course this depends on how close you are to that individual, and if you have their phone number. But in all seriousness, don't avoid reaching out because you may never know if that person is going through worse. This happened to me recently. A close of friend of mine and I had stopped talking for a long period of time. I reached out in attempts of ending the friendship, because I thought I was being a burden to that person and that I was no longer important. I later on apologized, it was all a misunderstanding. The reason why this person didn't reach out before was because there was a lack of awareness on how bad my situation was. Also, she had many personal things going on. I didn't have a clue she was going through the hardest test in her life as well. When I reached out to her and apologized I then understood that communicating with others is more than an act of courtesy. I personally dislike when someone says to me in person: "I was thinking about you." or "I had you on my heart." Thoughts are beautiful and well-intentioned but are not effective. Sometimes we have to get out of ourselves and start the conversation. For some people a simple text can literally save their lives.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 NIV
Whatever you do friend, don't give up!
If you feel any suicidal thoughts or know anyone who is depressed check out these resources below:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
24/7/365 Crisis Hotline
Call: (775) 784-8090
Text: “ANSWER” to 839863
We love you. Stay with us.
An Honest Conversation
I know this is a topic many people refuse to talk about due to its content. Can I be honest? I'm sick of the charades. Life is more than Instagram filters, the right caption, being part of a clique or having the right clothes for church. Why do we hide behind pain and not confront it? Let's talk about it. I want to apologize in advance for any undertone of annoyance. This is not done on purpose. My frustration is rooted in a genuine need to help others. I know how it feels like when people disregard you because they cannot connect with your pain. If you have not been through this, may I submit for your consideration that the education of such situation would benefit you? Maybe not now, but if you stick around long enough you’ll meet someone who has gone through this and feel hopeless. I think the world would be a better place if we practice compassion. Pain is not a cuss word, but I understand why people avoid it; it's not sexy. It's not attractive by any means. Can I share my own experience with this and be vulnerable? If you don't want the details just ignore the following text in teal and go directly to the tips and scriptures on how to cope with the pain.
11 years ago
It was November 24, 2006, the day after Thanksgiving, when I heard screams. My eyes were not open yet, but I heard them clearly. I couldn't quite understand where they were coming from. I thought I was dreaming. You see, I was still in bed. I guess my conscious was semi active because I was aware of the voices coming from my parents' bedroom. They were reading different offers from shoppers because it was the day before Black Friday. However, the screams kept going. I opened my eyes and heard it once again. In the country house where I lived in were five people: my aunt, my sister, my parents, and me. It was located in a large property where there was two additional acres of land along with my grandparents' house. The screams were coming from that house. Suddenly I sensed how my family members rushed out running to the other house. I stayed with my sister. (If you're reading this Charlene, I love you so much.) I jumped out of bed and put on my favorite blue leopard pajama pants over my short shorts. My 11-year-old mind was utterly confused. The serene, humid, and quiet atmosphere that was comforting the beginning of my day turned into a whirlwind of chaos sent by the devil himself. I ran to the living room and cranked open the Miami style steel windows. My aunt was somewhere between the two houses and then I heard someone (I'm not sure if it was her) yell that something happened to abuelo. "Oh, he probably cut his neck while shaving." I thought. That was my most innocent thought about the situation till I had updates on what was happening. The next thing I remember is lots of shouting, frantic cries, and a lot of silence inside my mind. My father announced my sister and I that abuelo had committed suicide by hanging.
Everyone Grieves Differently
My mind was not registering at all. I might have cried, but I don't recall. I was so in shock that it finally hit me two months after. I remember squatting in one of the corners of the living room and my sister hugging me. Due to my ignorance, I thought grandpa was still alive and shouted for him to come out of hiding. The curtain beside me was golden and had an elegant jacquard print. The color comforted my eyes as I munched on Cookie Crip cereal. I recall listening to Linkin Park more than ever before during this time. I felt extremely alone in sixth grade. I was already pushed aside by the pestering personalities of my classmates, so I was used to being mocked whether it was directly or indirectly by my friends. You see, the school I went was bilingual and private, and most of the people there were rich. At this point in my life I didn't care about whether my vacation compared to their destinations: Shanghai, Paris, or the Bahamas I didn't care if they were moving to a bigger mansion. I didn't care if their parents were sick of the Mercedes and traded it in for a Porsche. I didn't care if the other girls received a new pair of Tous earrings. You see, those things mattered to me before, but I was changed after this. I carried a picture of my grandfather in my gym sweatpants, but I lost it somewhere. My depression spiraled into a massive sinkhole and every day I wanted to die." Abuse, bullying, and now this?" It was not the first time I felt like I wanted to die.
Depression and Spiritual Life
The first suicidal thought caught me off guard when I was in fourth grade. Music has always served as an outlet for me, that's why I thank God for it because it truly helps. I don't know if my grandfather had any consciousness of the grace of Jesus or if he even accepted him as Lord and Savior. I doubt it. I'll never ever know. We were not raised in church and part of my family has been affiliated with spiritism. Salvation consciousness was little to nonexistent. Just when I thought I was getting over this pain, something happened again. This year. In July 20 of this year (2017 for those reading at another time) one of the greatest inspirations of my life committed suicide as well. His name was Chester Bennington, lead singer and front man of Linkin Park. Now, this was harder because it was his voice, his lyrics, his motivation to help others really helped me get through the hardest moments of my life. He was also sexually abused and went through many hardships, but somehow managed to remarry and establish a stronger family. I thought to myself how I wanted to have a healthy family too in the future. I wept so hard. I felt like I was going insane. I only wore black for weeks. The first time I went back to church after the news was hard. In fact, the following weeks were very hard. I bawled my eyes out in the bathroom before worship. I sat during worship. I couldn't lift my arms. I couldn't utter a word. I was mad and hated the fact that I had to be around people, because I knew I couldn’t be alone. I forced myself to be around others. I distinctively remember a Sunday where I was quite irritable. I arrived late to the service. The worship band was already playing once I reached to my seat. I threw my bible, phone, and journal to the floor. I closed my eyes and lifted my arms in worship. I said: "God I don't want to be here, but I need you." "I don't care what others think, they don't even understand my pain. I am here for you. Help me."
Don't listen to those voices
My ears were consumed by A Thousand Suns and Living Things during the last years of high school. The songs helped a lot. The songs were often heard on road trips, beside miles and miles of sea. I have beautiful memories from those albums because of where I listened to them. I tried to keep my composure the day after he died during bible study, but I couldn't. I couldn't understand how someone I had never ever met could leave such an impact in my life. I considered doing the same. But, God. Thank God. I'm still here. Many were not very helpful in their advice and I felt even more compelled to eliminate my existence. Others were more gracious. To be honest a hug did more than three bible scriptures, a long prayer, and a thorough theological explanation of why this happened. Some said I was making him a god and that I had to snap out of it. Others just couldn't understand how I could mourn a stranger's death. When I expressed my feelings about how this makes me relive my grandfather's death all over again, some interjected further hurtful opinions. "I know I'll get over this, but I don't know. I think the pain will always be there, but I'll learn how to cope with it." "Your problem is that you're carrying the pain around with you and you can live without the pain, but you're choosing not to." I wonder if every time someone remembers a loved one who passed away they don't feel any pain…
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
I learned to dissociate again with people and fake a smile. I guess I was a good actress because for weeks, people believed I was okay. I wasn't. Sometimes I'm still not. I must improve reaching out to my church community when I feel like this. I tend to hide my feelings. Some told me that it could've been well possible that these two individuals accepted Jesus and no one knew. I don't know what happens between God and an individual when they die, but that sentence helped me get over my 'Jesus complex' of demanding answers from heaven. The Holy Spirit brought to my attention Psalm 131:1 and it helped a lot. Some things we will never understand, but all we can do is trust God. Sometimes we don't need the answers we are looking for because the answers may very well carry a painful truth and a huge burden we can't carry. I realized how I went through this before, and how I could go through it again. In a weird way I believed this to be true. Putting my trust in myself, as other people have suggested is out of the question. Self-reliance is auto destructive. No one can bear pain by themselves.
How to cope with pain:
1. Jesus wants to be near you.
Just because you experience pain, this is not an automatic reaction for God to separate from you.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us not be quick to forget that Jesus himself went through this too. Remember Judas? He also committed suicide. He was one of the disciples. Imagine the pain our Savior might've felt. John the Baptist, his friend and cousin was beheaded. He was rejected in his own hometown. Kings tried to persecute him since he was born. Among other things. Jesus knew pain. And when you cry, he cries with you. I know because I have felt him with me when I cry. Remember that God turned his back on Jesus, so that he would never turn his back on you.
2. Talk to other people that have gone through the same.
If you isolate yourself, you will feel worse. Find others that have been through the same. Don't be afraid of being open about this. There's people around you that might've gone through this and you may not be aware.
3. God can handle your questions and your pain.
Do not let people convince you that God will strike you with lightning if you ask him why. Or that he allowed this to happen for X or Y reason. (People make decisions that unfortunately are hurtful. They were not in their right minds when did this happened. Let's be gracious.) He totally understands that this is hard for you. There's been countless of times where I was angry at God and articulately expressed my disappointment and anger towards him. It doesn't mean he caused the pain, but we tend to sometimes place the blame on him. It happens. Life happens. God can handle your disappointment.
4. Playlist for grieving.
It is well- Kristene DiMarco
You're gonna be okay- Jenn Johnson
Recovering- Celine Dion
Closer Than You Know- Hillsong United
Jesus I Come- Elevation Worship
Anchor- Hillsong United
I Am Not Alone- Kari Jobe
Dappy T Keys Instrumental Piano YouTube channel
The Garden- Kari Jobe
Here In The Presence- Elevation Worship
Give Me Faith- Elevation Worship
Miracles- Bethel Music
Be- Fresh Life Worship
Saturday- Fresh Life Worship
Mon secours est en toi- Impact Band
Eres Mi Salvador- Marco Barrientos
(You don't have to understand French or Spanish in order to feel God's presence.)
Gracefully Broken- Matt Redman and Tasha Cobbs Leonard
Lift My Eyes- Fresh Life Worship
How Beautiful- Mosaic MSC
Oceans- Hillsong United
Kind- Amanda Cook
I started using antidepressants at 14. I am not on them anymore. The reason why I am no longer on them is not because someone pressured me, I just decided not to take them anymore at 16. Don't feel ashamed if you need antidepressants. They can help a lot, especially during the first months of grief. I am not suggesting that you will have to live on medication your whole life, since it's your choice of whether you want stop being on them or not. The reason why I decided to stop was because I realized that the pain wasn't coming so much from the chemical unbalances in my brain. The fundamental issues were the roots of bitterness, rejection, self- hatred, trauma, and depression. And I was personally replacing the pills with God. The pills were my savior. I was putting my trust more on the pills than him. I knew that no matter how many times they would change the dose I would be messed up if I kept running away from the roots and not confronting the pain. However, being off meds might not be beneficial for you. Discuss with your counselor what would be the best thing for you. That's my next point.
I've done my share of counseling visits since I was 14. I think this is very beneficial, because a certified therapist has tools that your extended family and friends don't have. Don't get me wrong, they might have the best intentions, but they can only help so much. Don't feel ashamed about going to a counseling place. If you feel uncomfortable with your therapist after the first visit, don't get discouraged and keep looking for the right one. You can even tell this to the therapist, and they can refer you to someone else. Remember that people go to specialists for body issues: podiatrists, urologists, chiropractors, neurologists, dentists, etc. Your brain is part of your body too. Don't forget that.
7. You have something to look forward to.
One day, on my way home the Holy Spirit whispered to me: "Don't give up. You have something to look forward to." I didn't quite understand back then, but now I do. I was feeling like the pain was going to be eternal. If you have chosen to follow Christ, then you have a promise. All of this pain won't be forever my dear.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.
A final note: The day before my grandpa passed away, someone in my family sensed that my grandfather's funeral was the first funeral they were ever going to attend. Little did this person know that the day afterwards he died. No one couldn't do anything about the situation because things like these are very unpredictable at times. I will post a blog about to help a suicidal person in the future, as I am still healing from this topic. Who has the Holy Spirit put on your heart recently? Don't just tell them the next time you see them: "You've been on my heart" because that doesn't help a thing. Call the person. Text the person. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Tell them how great they are. Invite them to hangout. Ask them how they feel. Listen.
If you need hope, click here.
Don't forget to keep Talinda Bennington, her children, friends and family in your prayers. Also, don't forget to pray for the other band members of Linkin Park: Mike, Rob, Joe, Brad, and Dave. Let's honor his memory and not dwell on the tragedy.