The Good, the Bad and the Blessings

“Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.” – Fridrich Nietzche

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There is this thing about good and bad that is understood as black and white. But what if if is more complex than that? As parents, we instill in our children the difference between good and evil and right from wrong. The ability to discern between things are important for life. But at some point, we have to consider that it’s all good, even when it doesn’t appear so in our own eyes.

Growing up I’ve always held in the back of my mind, that the forces of good and evil are at work against each other equally. Even after becoming a Christian, I still held the idea of good and evil being equal. If God’s goodness reigns supreme, why doesn’t it seem that way. I had always resorted to the idea that we will lose certain battles but the war had already been won. But there’s a problem with this pattern of thinking, because it reinforced the same beliefs held under the old nature. If we are called to have a renewed mind, it would require us to have a new pattern of thinking.

You might recall the story of Joseph in the Old Testament who was betrayed by his brothers. They had plotted to kill him, all because he was a dreamer. However, One brother named Reuben wanted to rescue him and convinced the other brothers to not kill him, but to leave him in the pit instead. Meanwhile, the brothers went back to their father Jacob with his bloody robe with the report that he was devoured by an animal. Long story short, Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up ranking up to become the prime minister of Egypt. Famine had struck the land pretty bad and the brothers in Israel ended up being rescued by the very brother they betrayed. After all that Joseph had been through, he  had every right to deny his brothers the help they needed. Instead, he said to them with a kind voice, ” But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Genesis 50:20-21).

If you go back even further, you’ll find the story of Adam, Eve and the serpent in the garden. They were given everything to eat of accept for one tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were met by a serpent who tempted Eve to eat of the tree that was desirable to her eyes. After a back and forth conversation, they were given into this idea that they would become like God knowing good and evil. The result of this is two fold. Their one perspective that was pure and innocent had now become corrupted by dualism. They had been banished from the garden far from the tree of life to prevent them from being in this state forever.

What I’ve learned from these two narratives, is that I was still feasting on that old tree, even though we now have access to the tree of life. We no longer have to be double minded but of one sound mind. The mind that is enabled to transcend good and evil. To see just like Joseph. This trail of thinking helped me to stop blaming the devil for every thing bad that had happened to me. I found myself war-faring less and being more thankful in my trials.

This last year, had presented itself with some personal health concerns. It started out with an acute ringing in my ear. It sounded like construction was happening. Being that it was the peak of summer, it very well could have been except it never stopped. I thought it might have been the sound of someone pounding the ground but then it transpired to someone repeatedly playing loud bass music. Much of the symptoms I was experiencing seemed to fall under tinnitus. I felt like I was screwed, as there no cures for this diagnosis. My usual daily routine to listening to music, audio books and podcast were far from desirable. I realized how much I missed the silence. Fortunately, after about two weeks it had gone away on its own.

Fall comes around. I notice a bump in my front top gum line of my mouth. It was a minor irritant that I pushed it down towards the roots of my teeth in hopes it would dissipate. Instead, it awaken the worst abscess you could imagine. I don’t know if you’ve experienced mouth pain before, but it’s one of the worst feelings to have ever deal with. This pain was bad enough that I ended up going to the dentist to find out that I needed a root canal and that the next available date was three months from now. A few concerns came from this “bad” news. One this was to far out for me to deal with and upon doing my research, abscess can spread out to other areas of your head and can lead to death. So I was determined to do what I can to maintain with antibiotics, oils and prayer. A week goes by and I finally get a phone call about a root canal appointment that was just cancelled and if I wanted to take it, I had decide right then on the spot. So I left work early that day to get it done. I was relieved.

As much as it sucks, there is a necessary pain and discomfort that I believe is necessary in order to appreciate everything. Had I not gone through the constant ringing of the ear, I would not learned the gift of stillness and quietness. Had I not known the discomfort in my mouth, I would have not known the joys of a gentle voice or a smile. This I believe is the grace we are to behold, that is sufficient for every circumstance in life…good or bad. In the end, it is all good. Knowing this was a blessing.

Passion & Purpose

“Passion serves self while purpose serves others” -Robert Kiyosaki

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I use to live by the idea, do what you love and money will follow! But there is a problem with this. If you are like most of us, you have bills and expenses that need to be paid. I often hear folks fresh out of college, say things like, “I hate my job, I need to find something else that pays me better.” So then they hop from one job to the next in hopes of finding their passions that pays.

Back in 2011, I started 2819 Paintings LLC with the idea of being able to do what I love which was making art while making a living. I’ve always heard the term starving artist but didn’t quite understand what that meant. I traveled to churches, concerts, schools to do stage art along with a message. This was my passion, sharing the gospel and painting.

I was fortunate to get a stipend for some of my travels. Some of them were out of state. One of my farthest travels was Sioux Falls, SD for Life Light Music Festival. I was given a merchant table where I had the opportunity to sell my prints, accessories and paintings. I was also given the artist treatment, where meals were provided and professional massages back stage. I got to share this space with other Christian talent like Lacrae and Family Force 5. Hind sight, I realize my audience were budget friendly folks. Most of those passing by were youth and families who came with no intention to by art but maybe a CD or shirt from their favorite musician. I recall one year I sold a large painting and canvas bracelet that added up to $65. The amount of money I spent on gas and materials alone exceeded that amount. This is to be expected in the beginning of any business process. It was a learning experience for me.

A year later, I got married to the love of my life. I decided to put a pause towards 2819 Paintings LLC. Years into my marriage, not a single artistic bone could be found in my body.  I ended up letting my license for the business lapse and hadn’t picked up the brush since. It saddens my wife that I don’t paint anymore, as she thought she had married an artist. Looking back though, it was for good reasons I left it behind me. Our family was expanding and I couldn’t find the time or energy to continue in my passion. Catherine was pregnant with Josiah. She was getting ready for maternity leave with no intention of returning as her priority was to being a stay at home mom. I was working as a special ed paraprofessional at the time and realized my art business was a passion I was willing to leave behind to discover something more sustainable for our family.

Hindsight, I made some assumptions that didn’t fit reality. I was trying to find passion in my work, when the whole time it was meant to be purpose. Part of my dilemma was my attempt to be a profitable artist. There is nothing wrong with being a profitable artist, but in my context, it was my attempt to do it with ministry and business together. By trying to merge the two, I was in conflict with the idea of selling the gospel, when it was meant to be shared at no cost. It was why I enjoyed giving away my art work to bless others rather than selling it.

The lesson here isn’t to find what you love and get paid for it, but to separate passion from purpose, so that you can afford to do what I love.

If Only

“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem”

― Captain Jack Sparrow

I witness my son the other day walking into a door knob. He started to cry. So I asked him, “What’s wrong bud?” He said to me, “That door hit me!” I chuckled to myself trying my best not to show my expressions. He of course was disgruntled for a moment but eventually calmed down to have a conversation. This was a teachable moment him. My son had to learn that the door was not the problem, but his perspective in that moment.

As silly as blaming the door may sound, we are prone to this behavior–blame shifting. I used to be this way. Not owning up my mistakes. Denying responsibility. How we view our problem determines how we can effectively problem solve for a solution. In order to find the right resolve, we must ask ourselves, is the problem really out there? “Son, did that door really hit you?” In most cases, the problem wasn’t out there, but in here–internal perception.

In my previous blogs, I touched on the topic “changing your mind.” It is the ability to  exchange viewpoints. For most of us, it is the gift of being able to exchange toxic thought patterns that bring us down for ones that promote growth and wellbeing. If we are able to walk in the change, we no longer are prisoners of our own victimization.

What follows most problems is regret. I use to avoid regret because it sometimes leaves us thinking that there could been a better outcome. However, I’ve come to the understanding that regret is inevitable. It’s part of the human experience. We cannot control the circumstances that have led us to regret, but we can control how we respond to it. For example, when faced with an “if only” thought, we can get sucked into an endless loop of regret. One option, is to dwell in the past and relish in the ideas of what we should have done differently. This is the natural thing to do. The other option, is to accept what has happened and choose to see the good that has come out of it. This is the supernatural thing to do.

Here is how we can put it to practice. When you “see a problem” in your life:

  1. Stop and Think
    • “Where is the underlying issue in this scenario?”
  2. Relinquish reaction in order to seek resolve.
    • What you choose to do from here matters. Remove yourself temporarily if you have to in order to clear your mind.
  3. Take responsibility on your part and move on.
    • You will be thankful looking back how easily it was to overcome a bump in the road that appeared to be a mountain.

If you put these tips into good practice, I guarantee your communication across all types of relationships will become more pleasant and appreciative. You might even be sought after by others for your “problem” solving skills!

The Good Neighbor

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”
-Fred Rogers

It’s healthy to reflect back on your childhood memories every now and then. One of those moments took place while I was watching the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? directed by Morgan Neville. It follows the late Fred Rogers with his career on public television and his influence throughout all generations, particularly with children through compassion and infinite imagination.

Does Bruno Mar’s Just The Way You Are, sound familiar to you? That’s because the chorus echos a similar message to Mr. Roger’s songs. What about PBS’s children program, Daniel’s Tiger Neighborhood, does the opening soundtrack sound familiar? That’s because it is a show based on the original series, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Interestingly, Roger’s timing towards becoming an ordained minister could not have come at a better time. He found that there was no programming for children saw it as a tool for his message. For the next several years, Rogers’ took time to learn all that he could about television broadcast.

In the spring of 1969, Fred Roger’s stood before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee and presented the best argument for saving public media. Just when funds were about to be cut, Roger’s went off the script and shared his case to senator John O. Pastore. Roger’s shared his daily work with Pastore stating, “This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are.” And I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health. I think that it’s much more dramatic that two men could be working out their feelings of anger ― much more dramatic than showing something of gunfire.” He closed out his plea with one of his songs and by the end of it all, Pastore looked back at Roger’s and said, “I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I’ve had goose bumps for the last two days,” he said. “Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”

Rogers clearly has impacted many people. Surprisingly, he might have been the first person I’ve heard personally share the gospel–a televangelist if you will. It was the message of acceptance without conditions. He was the sheep in wolves clothing. His message of accepting you just the way you are and that you are loved is what children needed to hear. For most of us, we didn’t get to hear that growing up. At least not in the house I grew up in. There was the pressure of becoming something your parents want you to be, rather than discovering what that means for yourself. Mr. Roger’s promoted that imagination for us adolescents growing up.

When you listen to the lyric’s of Mr. Roger’s song, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” you hear an invitation. An invitation to love and be loved. Jesus commanded his disciples, “You shall love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This kind of love proceeds from the love of the Father. Roger’s embodied this through his songs and messages. While the news reports death from the war, rogers’ was able to talk to children about death through their eyes and understanding. He is able to address the sadness they might feel when a fish dies. Hindsight, you forget how a child feels when faced with adult situations.

I never really knew how much a simple children’s program had impacted me. I didn’t see the message clearly until I became an adult. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the latest documentary on Fred Rogers, I would highly recommend it. It will be a good reminder to know that humanity has a hope in the shadows of Mr. Rogers. This generation seeks a Mr. Rogers. Will you take the time to be their neighbor?

Divine Persuasion

“Faith is like Wi-Fi, it’s invisible but it has the power to connect you to what you need.” -Unknown

I have fearless children, especially when it comes to the playground. They’re standing up on the tallest part of the structure looking down at me, wondering if I am going to catch them. I glance back with a head nod of permission. Every one of them successfully leap into my arms. Moments like these make me wonder what faith looks like with the creator of the universe.

Faith is one of those ambiguous words that can be used in many forms. For example, shouting at your classmate to run across the finish line “I have faith in you,” is not the same as reading Paul’s letters about certain folks departing from “the faith.” One implies a faith as a verb while the other as a noun. Faith can be something in which someone is exercising while it can also be used to describe ones disposition. As Shrek told Donkey, “Onions have layers, Ogres have layers…” so faith also has layers, we must peel back.

Have you ever gone through a trust fall? What does it take to make a successful trust fall to happen? It usually involves the entrusted (person catching) to have the present knowledge in order to catch the believer (person falling). It takes an equal two way exchange of trust and belief in order for the process to work. This is a practical understanding of faith.

Faith is described as one of the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Faith can also be described as a gift of the Spirit. “Now to each one manifestation of the Spirit given for the common good…to another faith by the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:7 & 9). Thus faith can be described as both a fruit and a gift of the Spirit. The author of Hebrews describes faith this way, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). It follows with countless examples of the ancients who lived by faith.

There’s a great example of how faith plays out between Jesus and Peter. Jesus is found walking on the Sea of Galilee. Peter and the others initially thought they had seen a ghost, but the Lord said to them, “Take courage, It is I, Don’t be afraid.” To test this, Peter replied, “If it is you Lord, call me out onto the water.” The Lord calls him out and Peter steps off the side of the boat. With both feet on the waters and nothing beneath him, he steps forward as if he was walking on dry pavement. He was doing just fine until he notices the wind. This is where peter exchanges his faith for fear and begins to sink and shouts, “Lord save me!” Jesus replies, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”(Matthew 14:27-31).

A few observations I want to point out here. Jesus is walking on water and once the disciples noticed, Peter doesn’t just go out on his own, but request that Jesus calls him out unto the waters. I believe Peter recognized that it required more than just faith in himself but faith in Jesus in order to accomplish. Secondly, once given the approval to step forward, Peter does well until his own natural understanding to weighs him down. Most often, fear prevents faith to mature. Thirdly, Jesus not only measures Peter’s faith but also calls out his unbelief.

This is the type of faith that most people have, “the faith in” mentality. This type of faith that is followed up with action. Something personal. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having faith in…but have you ever considered “faith of’? As we pointed out Peter having faith not of himself, but in Jesus calling him out, I believe that there was also the faith of Christ at work. Jesus calling Peter out of the water is much like when a father says, “You got this!” to their son or daughter.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we are saved by grace through through faith, it is our faith in Christ or the faith of Christ? I would lean more towards faith of Christ. If it were my faith in Christ that saves me, I would be on myself and I would have something to boast of.

If I had to compare between faith in Christ and faith of Christ, I find that there is more rest in the faith of Christ. When I operate with “my faith in” Christ, I am prone to fear and failure because I am relying on myself and own understanding. When I acknowledge “the faith of Jesus Christ” much weight is lifted off my shoulders and I rely on the finished work of Christ on the Cross.

I’ve always thought faith was something that could muster up. I come to realize, it is the substance given by God. It is the gift that overcomes doubt and the fruit that edifies the soul. In short, if you find that you are caught in a tough place, know that the faith of Son and the faithfulness of the Father will deliver us through all things.

An Inconvenient Rescue

“Courage is a kind of salvation” – Plato

The other day, I had seen that the weather had called for clear skies, sun shine, and a high of 74 degrees. So, I decided that I would bike to my Thursday night class. Meanwhile, our eldest son, Jonathan is getting ready for baseball and my wife is getting our two youngest children ready to drop their brother off to practice. Once I arrived, I had gotten into my normal routine, say hi to fellow classmates, grab a snack and get ready for lecture. Thirty minutes into the class, I see my wife standing at the entry way. She doesn’t look so hot. She informed me that she wasn’t feeling well and doesn’t feel in the best condition to watch the little ones. She was seeking salvation in this moment from the potential hell that she imagined. She insisted that I come home to watch the children. At that moment, I am thinking to myself, she’s overreacting. I should send her back home to tough it out. Plus, I didn’t want to miss one of my favorite topics, World Religions course. However, I didn’t want to be a jerk. So, I ended up biking home to assist my wife. As I approached within a mile of my house, I noticed the sky above was getting darker and the winds were picking up. A storm was brewing. My wife and I arrived to the house at the same time. I assist her getting our children inside and informed her that I was going to pick up Jonathan from baseball. His practice technically was scheduled to continue for another hour. As I drove up to the field, I noticed the first drop of rain begin to fall on my windshield. By now the other parents were in their vehicles with their kids, while my son and two other coaches are packing bats into a bag. I call him into the vehicle. As we were heading back home, it began to down pour. While all this is happening, I had this thought, what an inconvenient rescue this all was.

Could you imagine how it could’ve all played out, had I decided to stay in class? Jonathan would have been stuck out in the rain, my wife could have been in hell trying to watch our little ones and I would have ended up biking home in all that mess. Hind sight, I was very grateful for what had happened as this was my inconvenient salvation.

When we think of the word salvation or saved, most people associate it with some form of religious status, particularly dealing with the state of the soul. The word salvation, in Greek is translated from the word sozo which means “safe”. The New Testament Greek Lexicon defines it as, “to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction”(1). It goes on further to explain, that it can be used in delivery from penalties of the Messianic judgment and evils. With this in mind, can there be a practical way to view salvation for the present life and not only the afterlife?

Much of what we find in the scriptures seem to acknowledge of God rescuing them from their current situation. For example, Moses is leading the Exodus for Israel out of Egypt. They are in hot pursuit by the Egyptian army. The Israelites became terrified and cried out to the LORD for help. They complained to Moses accusing him of leading them out to die in the wilderness. Moses responds, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the LORD’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you must be quiet.” (Exodus 14:13). The Israelites end up passing through the Red Sea with the Egyptian army following after them to be swallowed up by the waters around them. In this example, we can observe salvation is or rescuing is God’s doing for Israel in a time of immediate danger. We also see that the people needing salvation, not even asking for it, yet are being provided for it. They didn’t have a choice in the matter. It did however, require a response for them to be quiet. In the next chapter that they are praising God in song in their rescued state, “The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2). God was preserving the life they lived in the moment and not the afterlife.

Let’s look at another example, particularly in the New Testament. Paul discusses the current state of Israel in the book Romans. There seems to be a dispute among the assemblies in regards to how righteousness is obtained. Some believe to the Jews by law and the Gentiles by the faith. Paul writes, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:2). So if salvation is to rescue, what is it that they are being rescued from? Is it from an impending doom that comes in the afterlife? No, Paul tells us, “Because they disregarded the righteousness from God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:3). In other words, Paul’s desire is that they would be set apart from their own political beliefs and establishments that are harming them in their current condition. Paul goes on to further explain, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth once confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:10). Is Paul letting the Gentiles know how to preserve the state of their soul? Maybe, but I think it has more to do with being set free from bondage under the Mosaic covenant.

In the book of Acts, we witness the prison doors shaken by a violent earthquake. When the jailer arose to the shaking, he drew his sword to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped. Paul and Silas pleaded with the jailer to not take his own life as all the prisoners were present. After this event, the jailer takes aside Paul and Silas and asks, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31). Now, consider for a moment the jailer and his question. As a roman guard, you are responsible for every single prisoner present within that cell. Putting yourself in this man’s shoes, in that moment, are you worried about the current state of your soul or the immediate danger that is going to come upon you for being “irresponsible” under Caesars rule? I would lean towards the latter, for a few reasons. First, the jailer was a roman soldier. Rome is ruthless for its punishments. If a mistake was made by a soldier, they are either stoned or clubbed to death by their own. He’s thinking what would happen to him and his family if the commander had found out some prisoners had escaped, not realizing all were present. Secondly, Paul instructs the jailer to believe on the Lord Jesus and he and his household would be saved. How can one man’s belief be on behalf of his household? He would trust in Jesus that he would deliver his household from the potential dangers of Rome. Later, we learn that the jailer and his family hear the message of the Lord and are all baptized.

Where did this idea of the soul needing saving come from? It is a very Greek way of thinking to say that the body is the vessel for the soul. By default, Americans tend to think tend to think this way. But to the Hebrew mind, the soul is much more than a vess-less entity. It is mentioned 700 times in the Old Testament and is the Hebrew word “Nephesh” which literally means “throat.” That’s why we run into places like Psalm 42 where it says, “My soul (throat) thirst for you.” Nephesh is designed to show the essential physicality of a person in contrast to “soul” implies the non-physicality of a person. This word not only is a description for humans, but also for animals, plants and seas. A better way of viewing the soul, is not that you possess one but that you are one (2). If we are souls–souls that belong to God (Ezekiel 18:4), does it require salvation?

Salvation is a gift to humanity from God, both for the moment and thereafter. “For it is by grace through faith–and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The faith we inherit, isn’t our own but His very own that restores us all. God is in the business of reconciling all he has created to himself and we get to partake of it in the process.

Sources:

  1. Sozo – New Testament Greek Lexicon – New American Standard.” Bible Study Tools, Salem Web Network, http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/sozo.html.
  2. Word Study: Nephesh / Soul P1 – You Are a Soul.” The Bible Project, thebibleproject.com/podcast/you-are-soul/.

Possessions

“We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”-2 Corinthians 6:10 b

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There was once a wealthy man, who ended up squandering his wealth. In the process, he thought to himself, “Since I have nothing, I will return back to my homeland where I can be restored through family.” He had saved up all that he had, just enough to board a ship. While on the ship, the man became hungry and had nothing to eat. He would stand by and watch as the others sat at their tables enjoying their delicious meals. After they got done, he would wait for the opportune time to forge left over bread crumbs. Eventually, the man got tired. Having no place to lay down, he eventually found himself a wooden bench to lay on. With each day passing, he became hungrier and weary. The day had finally arrived when the ship had docked. As he was exiting the ship, the captain stopped to ask the man why he never joined the other guest for a meal or slept in his room. With a puzzled look, he asked the captain, “What do you mean?” The captain advised the man about what was included in his fare!

How can a wealthy man miss the value of what he possesses? The sad thing is, like this man, many of us live this way. Growing up as a first generation born American in my family, it was common for us to take baths with a pale in the shower. When it came time to have a meal, I would observe my mother cooking most of the food outside in the garage. My father was very particular about how we did dishes. Where my father is from, water is a hot commodity. With the idea of clean water being a luxury, it was hard to have the water run endlessly without waste. My father was a preserver of many things. One of them was the napkin. He made sure to not throw it away until every square inch of it was used up.

I didn’t question the environment I was raised in, until I got older. I watched a lot of movies and television in my teenage years which allowed me to see a different perspective. I was also thankful for friends, as it would allow me to see how their parents did things. They would cook meals in their kitchen with their stove tops and ovens. When it came time to do dishes, the water would be running while the suds and sponges were scrubbing plates. Even if there was a smudge on a napkin, no one was collecting them, except for the trash can. Although we had these same items in our home, we never used them for their full potential.

My parents migrated from Laos back in 1981. They were fortunate to have been sponsored by Muffy and Larry. Though they had very little, they took no shame in bringing with them their cultural practices. So much of what I raised to do, was the normal in our family. It wasn’t until 2001 when my father started using the shower the way it was intended. My mother was cooking in the garage still, but started incorporating the oven and stove more often.

The reality is, we all have to deal with mindsets that prevented us from the benefits that we truly have. To understand why this is, we have to look back to humanities past. Particularly in the Genesis story. Put yourself in Adam’s shoes for a moment. Can you imagine one day you’re walking with God in the cool of day and the next your hiding from Him? This is precisely what Adam had gone through back in the garden. Because of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam was exposed to, the idea of a foreign god was introduced into his mind. Not only did it impact his perspective of the Creator, but also how he viewed himself, naked and ashamed (Genesis 3:10). So our exposure to certain beliefs can impact our view of others, ourselves, and how we navigate this life.

For the longest time, I had battled this impoverished mindset. Even certain denominations of Christianity that taught the benefits of a prosperity gospel, I had a hard time accepting. Not because I didn’t agree with it, but because I didn’t feel worthy of accepting the financial blessings that would come with it. Now whether you agree with the prosperity gospel or not is beside the point. I could not humbly receive the help I needed is the problem. I had to repent–change my mind. I had to see the value in myself and what is around me.

Paul writes to the church of Corinth, “For what makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). We as humans, have natural tendencies to focus on what we do not have and miss out on the simple blessings that are present. Start out each day being intentional to have an attitude of gratitude. In doing so, we begin to see value in all things.

Every man can recognize his own shadow, but in doing so, misses the substance of what he truly possess. In other words, until we change our perspective, we prevent ourselves from enjoying the fullness of life. So I ask you, are you in possession of what you have or does ignorance have you as its own possession?

Oneness

“Our entire biological system, the brain and the earth itself, work on the same frequencies.” –Nikola Tesla

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Have you ever had that moment where your with someone and said to them, “You thinking what I am thinking?” You both give each other the confirming nod and proceed with what you had in mind. Turns out, it was not what you were thinking at all.

In my case it’s hit or miss equally. There are times where I wish my wife could read my mind, so that when it came time to make a decision, it wouldn’t require the verbal communication to make it. There were times where I would draw near to my wife to hold her hand, but when I did, I felt no closer than if I were standing across the room from her. In contrast, I’ve heard of stories where spouses are operating on the same frequency, wearing the same outfit or completing each other’s sentences without exchanging thoughts. Does this form of oneness exist in relationships? Is it something we’ve arrived at and work from or something we journey towards? We will examine various types of oneness through scripture and experience.

I am often marveled by Paul’s letters. They provide valuable insight into the culture he addressed and in turn can give insight for today. One in particular is when he address the sexual immorality that the church in Corinth was going through. He points out the following, “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh’ But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:16-17 NIV). I had always assumed oneness was about marriage, yet Paul describes it here as an act of sex. While there is a fleshly union between two people through intercourse, there is a spiritual union between God and humanity through Christ. If what Paul is saying is true, it would mean that every women I slept with before Catherine, was technically one with me. Though those relationship are long gone and over with am I still one with them today?

Paul gives us a clear definition, both bodily and spiritually as something that is joined together, working from a position of oneness–not towards. If this is the case, then why do we in our marriages, assemblies of common beliefs and variety of relationships feel isolated? At times we feel like we are two separate beings working against each other. Let’s examine what the Psalmist writes to address this issue. He writes, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe” (Psalms 133: 1-2 NIV). In this example, the psalmist uses comparison between oil and priestly elements to illustrate what unity looks like. The beard and garment are symbolic of being set apart while the oil represents the spirit. Thus, when the oil that soothes joins in with the beard and garments of holiness, it is anointed. When unity viewed in its proper form, we than can move in unison in all of our relationships.

Reflecting back on my last six years of marriage, I’ve come to realize that oneness isn’t necessarily being the exact same person, but rather becoming of one mind through our differences. I see the importance of winning a marriage rather than an argument. My spouse is not the enemy, but the companion worth fighting for.

Maybe we’ve looked at oneness the wrong way. Maybe it was never a feeling to obtain but a declared position breathed unto humanity by its very own creator. The ability to complement each other by our differences. Jesus was the best model demonstrator of oneness as he declared “I and the Father are one” (John 10:31 NIV). Maybe this is why we observe a theme of unity and oneness in Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Oneness isn’t something that we have to strive for, but by revelation, a responsibility to carry out. It is truth we can embody, that will strengthen our marriages, bond the assemblies, and unite humanity.

Continue reading “Oneness”

Wasted Words

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your words, a smile, and a grateful heart.” – Zig Ziglar

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Have you ever been in a scenario, where you made plans with someone and they ended up falling through? Whatever, the reason for falling through, it can be very frustrating.

One of the challenges I’ve decided to take on this year, is to be a man of my word. I am choosing to be a doer of what I say and not just an ear tickler. Letting my ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ be ‘no.’ It was not long ago, when I realized how my actions failed to catch up to my words. My wife requested something simple. She asked me to take meat out of the freezer to thaw. I told her I would. Next day rolls around and I am given the stink eye. My throat dropped down into the pit of my stomach. I had forgotten to follow through with her request. Now fortunately, we had some frozen pizzas and we made up before the night ended. But can something so simple as that be that detrimental? I think it can, especially if this was a habitual practice, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It doesn’t matter if we are asked to do something or if we say are going to do something, the lack of follow through can be detrimental. Let me give you another example.

In certain occult rituals, members are given a task to test their loyalty. They are told by their leader to tell the truth for the next year. Whatever they say they will or will not do, they resolve to following through.  When they return, they are tasked with one final test. They are commanded to pierce their arm with a needle without pain or drawing blood. They are able to achieve this, because of the truth they speak over their arm, that there will be no pain or blood. If they accomplish this, they are allowed to advance in the ranks. However, if they fail, they are given no advancement.

Don’t worry, I am not joining the occult or some secret society. But in this example, I observe some serious implications. In the occult practices, our words have significant power over the elements. Though, not our aim, it is great example of how the weight of our words have impact when followed with resolve.

Jesus gives a parable about two sons recorded in Matthew 21:29-31. A man has two sons and tells them to go and work in the vineyard that day. The first son says he will not, but later changes his mind and went, whereas the other son says he would, but did not go. Jesus then poses the question, “Which of the two sons did his father’s will?” The response was obvious, the first son. He then goes on to contrast the beliefs between the tax collectors, prostitutes and Pharisees.

We also are provided a teaching in the sermon on the mount. Jesus says, “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one (Matthew 5:33-37). We observe that this example is talking about oaths to the Lord. But I would also add that any plans we make with our neighbor who is created in the image of God, is just as important to consider.

You could always end everything with, “Lord willing” (cf. James 4:15) but be careful with this one as it often and subtly becomes the equivalent of “if I feel like it.”  Can you imagine if your wife says, “Hey dear, can you take out the trash?” To which you reply, “Lord willing, hon!” Try that one out and let me know how that goes. We also understand, there will be conditions and circumstances that are beyond our control that can interrupt plans. Consider this wisdom, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’—when you already have it with you” (Proverbs 3:27-28).

What makes a person successful at keeping their word? Being intentional.  We are better fathers when we toss the ball with our children when requested. We are better mothers when we offer a hand, at the time when our children need it. We are better children, when we obey the command of our parents. We are better parents when we say we are going to do something, even in disciplining.  I share this with you, in hopes that you become more mindful of what you say, avoid the potential trappings of your own words, and becoming more honest with yourself and others. So next time you’re either given or giving an opportunity, consider the weight of your words, so they don’t become wasted words.

UN-BELIEVING

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If I were to approach you and say, “you get to believe,” you wouldn’t bat an eye and wonder what I am talking about. You would agree that we have choices in what we believe. At least, it appears to be. Let’s say I were to rephrase that statement, “you get what you believe.” What thoughts come to mind? Do you question what is presented before you or blindly accept the thought based on what you see and hear.

For example, let’s say your coach sits you out next game because you missed a really good play. He tells you he’s ashamed and there’s no hope or future for you. Or how about going to see a doctor, getting a physical, especially if you have insurance. You go in, only to be told you only two months to live and there is no treatment available. How do you respond to these “experts?” Regardless if you agree with them or not, your subconscious mind has accepted the new truth. Daily, we are presented with thoughts or ideas that hijack our beliefs without our permission. This happens more often than we think, with doctors, teachers, coaches, leaders, co-workers, peers, and even our parents. Our beliefs play an essential role in how live.

I remember growing up as child with very overly protective parents. My father gave me advice based on the worst case scenarios he could imagine. For example, when starting your car in cold weather, let it run for at least 10 to 15 minutes before taking off. Also, make sure the radio and heat is off too. If I didn’t, the car would die. He also gave me some relationship advice. He told me to marry a Laotian girl as they are committed and faithful. If I marry an American girl, I am at risk of losing my money quicker than I can make and end up divorced. My mother on the other hand, was more subtle with her advice. For example, we would be having dinner. She would give me the look. The kind of look, where you better pay attention. She asked me if I had been exercising lately. To be fair, I have the body type that is wider on the spectrum. So where I saw muscle, she saw fat. Regardless how I answered, it didn’t satisfy her. She’d still give me a reason to take care of myself and exercise.

Now consider all the advice my parents gave me. Did I have car problems? Yes, but it probably was due to normal wear and tear. Was I losing money quicker than I can make and end up divorced? No, we are making a stable income and are enjoying married life. She’s also white. Am I dead? I don’t recall every having to go to a doctor visit and I am alive and well.

I overcame much of their superstitions that come from cultural influence and pratical understanding. To say it was a walk in the park would be an exaggeration. There were moments where my car did not want start right away and acted on my father’s advice just to be safe. When I met Catie, that lingering thought of insecurity was a constant battle up until our wedding day. As for my health, there are times I looked in the mirror with some concerns. So then why did their thoughts still have an impact on me to this day?

In 2002, Baylor College of Medicine did a study on patients who required knee surgery. 180 patients were divided randomly into three groups. Two of the groups were given actual knee surgeries where it required an actual incision and removal of tissue either by cut out or flush out. The third group were given an incision but no removal or work done on the actual knee. All the patients were aware of the prospective groups but had no idea which group they would be put into. All three groups were conscious of the operation but was unable to see the actual operation because of the veil. All they could trust were the shadows and sounds in the room. By the time the surgery had ended and each patient was given time to heal, the researchers found that all patients felt significant improvement in their knee (1). What allowed all patients who went through different processes to have the same results? One can conclude that the placebo effect.

The mind is a fascinating component that we all possess. When given the right environment, we can live a more abundant life. We saw what impact the placebo effect had on those patients. They relied on “information,” and “facts,” that provided a positive outcome for them. Having the consciousness to witness the operation most likely strengthened their belief with the sights and sound around them. That same placebo effect can also play a negative role, as in the example of my parent’s advice.

As I mentioned earlier, “you get what you believe,” I would also contrast that “you give what you believe,” too. We all are in a position to give and receive when it comes to our thoughts. We all have a responsibility as to how we handle these thoughts. As parents, we have the best interest for our children. The thoughts we have towards our children manifest over time, both good and bad. Be mindful of how you speak to your children and what you speak over them. As children, which we once were, we have choices in accepting or rejecting the thoughts given to us. Make it a conscious effort to embrace the thoughts that build you up and reject the thoughts that tear you down.

Here are some practical ways you can start with:

  • Recognizing what thoughts or beliefs you currently have that need to change (I am not good at my job, my kids are rebellious, my life sucks)
  • Embracing the new reality contrary to that old belief (I am good at my job, my kids are obedient, my life is awesome)
  • Interacting with those new beliefs (having a visual aid for the job you want accomplished, reading material on good parenting, building others up from a place that you came from)

To demonstrate how I put this into practice, I will use my work life as an example. I’ve been working in the telecommunications industry for three years. My role requires that I provide sales and customer service to our customers. In the beginning, I was adverse to the idea of sales because I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t believe in pitching new products to customers who didn’t have it. I was good with customer service and was content with what I was making. A year into the job and I felt stagnant. I wanted growth, I wanted challenge—sales was it! Reflecting back to why I didn’t like it, I realize I didn’t like rejection. Can you imagine getting no’s repeatedly? How encouraging is that.

You know the folks at Costco and Sam’s Club who are trying to sell you something when you already know what you want? I tried to avoid them as much as possible. But then it dawned on me. As much as I hated the idea of sales, these guys had to make a living just as I did. The difference is they depended on their commission, where I didn’t. I was fortunate to be provided an hourly base plus commission. So that is when my thoughts and attitude towards sales had to change. This was recognizing the belief that needs changing. Although I didn’t believe in sales at the time, I had to start believing in it. If my customers noticed any lack of confidence in my pitch, they lacked the confidence to take up my offer. So for a while, I was faking it to make it (the placebo). I had to start finding the silver lining in the products and position the sale that fit the confidence of my customers. This is embracing the new reality contrary to that old belief. I got over the repeated no’s and learned to not take it personally. Slowly but surely, it worked. Eventually, a sale came through followed by another. I learned to at least make a solid offer, regardless of how they responded. In order to interact with those beliefs, I decided to set goals that I can see and measure. Rather than being content with getting a sale for the week, it evolved to getting a sale a day. I started watching ABC’s Shark Tank, talking with other successful agents and giving thanks for the sales before they even came to pass. All this was motivating me to be a better sales agent. The result led me to be the #1 Sales agent out in the call center to date. That’s 1 out of 400 agents.

I hope this inspires you get unstuck from any ideas or beliefs that have prevented you from moving forward in life. It’s time to UN-BELIEVE the things that has bounded you for so long. Regardless of where you’re at in this moment, change will happen if you allow it.

Sources:

  1. Baylor College Of Medicine. “Study Finds Common Knee Surgery No Better Than Placebo.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2002.