Friday, May 26, 2017

A Letter To My Younger, Easily Offended Self

Dear Younger Self,

You're beating yourself up again for blowing up in front of your family members. You just finished screaming at your brother for his insensitive remarks on how poorly you do things, even though you've sincerely put in effort to do better. But no matter how hard you tried, it wasn't good enough. You're frustrated and aggravated with your poor performance. I can see your tears of shame and embarrassment pouring down your face. It's not the first time you've felt this way. There have been many instances where you get offended so easily when people criticize you. You feel like a victim, always being looked down on and insulted for your limitations and failings. You're trapped in this secluded bubble of pestering thoughts lingering in your head. You speak hateful and harsh words to yourself, wondering why you're always so sensitive. Why your feathers get ruffled when someone points out your flaws. You wish you could be someone who just shrugs off offenses and moves on with her life, but you struggle to let go of your mistakes and people's callousness/misunderstanding towards you.

You perceive people's misintended (usually) words or actions as an insult and lose your stability(and sometimes your sanity). You're so tired of people telling you, "You're so sensitive!" "Grow up!" "What's wrong with you!?" Yet you don't deny the truth to these words. You feel like such an idiot when you make the pettiest offenses larger than they appear. You call yourself a failure and a weakling because you're not a rational stoic and curse your emotions for existing. You think you're better off without emotions. After all, nobody understands you and why you struggle with this.

I wish I could jump out from this letter and give you the biggest hug you could get and comfort you face to face. But sadly time is keeping me here, leaving me no choice but to send you this letter in a small time vault headed towards your time.

The beliefs you're carrying right now are meaningless lies. You are not weak for being sensitive and emotional. They're actually a GOOD THING because it lets you have empathy and compassion for others in their misfortune. What you're really struggling with is understanding the root cause behind your offenses. For many years, you've carried this hatred towards yourself because of how you were wired. There's so many things you can't do by yourself and you perceive that as a weakness, a curse you can't get rid of. You think you're worthless, incapable, pathetic, weak, and stupid. And so every time someone criticizes you, laughs at or brushes off your failed attempts, you take it very personal. Like they're seeing you the same way you see yourself, or worse.

Behind every emotional outburst is a girl pleading for worth and validation behind everything she puts effort into, whether it's the tiniest, pettiest thing or larger ones. Obsessed with perfection to such a fault that you don't realize, consuming you to where you're unstable and obsessive. And it reeks negativity and disgust in a lot of people, even some of your Christian friends. They just don't understand your behavior and judge by what they see on the surface. Instead of coming along side you to demonstrate Christ-like humility and compassion, and wanting to understand, they push you away and say something callous. You're going to be offended by their words and actions. People aren't perfect. But understand that screaming at them, playing guilt trips, and crying about it won't improve the situation.

The best advice I can give you is to find your worth in Jesus. Only He defines your worth and value. He went through so much to prove it for you. Trust me when I tell you that you are NOT defined by your limitations, failures, and shortcomings. You're God's daughter; therefore, you're capable, intelligent, strong, brave, insightful, and wise in Him even when you don't "feel" that way at all. I'd tell you more but I'm running out of time, the portal won't hold any longer. So I'll attach some more letters I've written you to this letter to help navigate the current seasons you're in. Each one will resonate with you since you're experiencing multiple layers of other inner turmoils peeling off the surface.

Just always try to remember that you're not alone. There are many people out there going through similar problems. Don't beat yourself up when you rely too easily on your feelings. Take them captive and make them obey Christ instead. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Shake off negative and demeaning insults like Taylor Swift sings it in one of her songs. It hasn't come out yet, but you'll know which one that is ;) Take it one day at a time. I have absolute confidence that you're going to do great things for the Lord and impact many peoples' lives, more than you'll ever know.


Your Future Self

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reading The Bible When You Don't Feel Like It

I read a quote from a pastor that said, "If you want to grow your trust in God, you need to grow in your knowledge of God."

Many of us want to be diligent in our walk with the Lord, yet most of us don't put forth the effort to sit still and soak in God's Word, letting it bask in our minds and cleanse our hearts. Instead, we come up with all kinds of excuses not to read and study our Bibles. Here are the most common ones that I've heard:

1. "I don't know where to start." The Bible is a collection of many books into one, written by various authors in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Translated and distributed worldwide and categorized by genres of literature. Many scholars debate on where to start, but it's really up to you. Everyone has their own preference. Whether it's reading from cover to cover, chronologically, or the gospels, etc. it doesn't matter. The Holy Word is divinely inspired, so it won't return void(Isaiah 55:11). So don't waste time mulling over your options and just start!

2. "I don't have the time." But you have time to browse on Pinterest, update your Facebook or Twitter status, watch back to back episodes or reruns on Netflix, stalk someone's Instagram, gossip, the list could go on. I think a priority check needs to be in order. As well as time management. If you're going to say that you're unable to "make" time for God, stop right there. You may want to consider how you're phrasing that. Wouldn't saying that be an insult to the One who literally invented time? It really sounds like you're saying that your time is more important than His. 

3. "I don't have the money to spend on commentaries, Bible dictionaries, study guides, and concordances like my pastor has in his library." Whoever said you had to buy them? I mean, it's not like there's FREE resources available to choose from.

4. "I don't feel like it." Why? Is it because deep down, you know the Bible really isn't easy and fun to read, when it's full of truths that's not designed to make you feel comfortable and well-liked? Think some of the greatest disciples throughout history didn't have these dilemmas? THINK AGAIN. They faced all kinds of discomfort, rejection, and ridicule. I'm sure they had their moments where they didn't want to spend time with God AT ALL. But if they had chosen to rely on their feelings, they wouldn't have been a huge impact in people's lives. So why should we?

5. "I get distracted and bored easily." Distractions will occur and there will be times when reading the Bible feels like a chore. You may get a call about grandma being sick at a hospital or a neighbor might drop by unexpectedly, asking you to babysit their kids at the last minute. I'm not saying you should hang up the phone or turn down your neighbor's request. If such situations or similar do occur, consider bringing God's Word with you by hand or on your phone while you're in the waiting room, or when the kids are asleep or occupied. Make a note on your phone with an alarm or sticky notes to remind you to get in His Word. Don't say you "forgot" when you chose not to be proactive....

As for boredom, spending time with God should be a privilege, not an obligation. When you're busy getting to know Him more, loving Him, and serving Him genuinely and wholeheartedly, I guarantee the word "boredom" won't exist in your vocabulary. 

Now at the end of the day, these excuses may seem plausible at first glance, but in all honesty they're not. If you know you need to spend more time in God's Word, but you don't, no matter how often you say you want to, you really don't want to. All these excuses that you use to shield your laziness, apathy, and complacency stem from your lack of desire.

Wanting to spend time in the Word and actually spending time in the Word are totally different. You either want more of God or you don't. There is no middle ground. (Revelation 3:16) It all comes down to desire and how strong that desire is. And the proof lies within your daily obedience and fruit produced through your actions and words. Words must be consistent with action. Without action, it's meaningless. People do notice a difference in a person who maintains an active and vibrant walk with God. Do people see that in you?

My challenge for you and myself is to really examine our motives for not getting in God's Word. John 14:21 makes it clear that if we love God, we'll do what He says. It's not an option, it's a command. When we don't however, there's something wrong(1 John 2:4). I understand that as humans, we're imperfect and we will make mistakes. But are you going to use that as an excuse too? Or will you own responsibility?

"I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word."-Psalm 119:15-16

Friday, May 19, 2017

Having A Mary Heart

Just wanted to take time to focus on a particular woman of the Bible…Mary of Bethany!

Her story is absolutely one of the most beautiful ones in Scriptures. Parts of her story are featured in all four of the gospel accounts: Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:1-9, Luke 10:38-40 and John 11:1-12:3.

Mary was the sister of Martha and Lazarus(whom Jesus raised from the dead), and she and Martha welcomed Jesus and His disciples into their home. They were well known for their hospitality. While Martha was busy with getting everything ready for the guests, Mary sat down at the feet of Jesus, listening to what He had to say. It was very out of place for Mary to sit around and listen instead of getting the house in shape for the guests which was something women were accustomed to doing, and needless to say, Martha became very upset. She demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help her. But instead, Jesus gently rebuked Martha for being stressed out about everything while her sister Mary had chosen what was best; spending quality time with her Lord and soaking in everything He says.

How often do we find ourselves busy with everyday tasks? From school, work, preparing our meals, finding time to socialize with friends and spend time with our family. None of these things are bad. But when we allow them to take our focus away from our Heavenly Father, who wants us to seek Him first and in everything we do(Proverbs 3:6; Matthew 6:33), they become our “idols” or better yet “gods”.

What stood out to me from Mary is that she was a quiet, contemplative, and singled-minded woman. Mary understood the importance of finding rest in the Lord and meditating on what He said. She was very observant of the pain and anxiety of Jesus during the week leading to His crucifixion. As Jesus was dining at Simon’s home in Bethany, Mary came in with an expensive jar of perfume and anointed Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. Some of the apostles criticized her for breaking in while they were eating(which was considered very inappropriate for women to do) and wasting expensive perfume. But Jesus defended her again saying that she was anointing His body for burial. Mary did not care in the least that she wasn’t complying to the traditions of her custom, instead, her focus was wholeheartedly set on her Lord and Savior. Not once did she explain her actions when criticized. All that mattered to her was pleasing and obeying Him.

This following week, what are some habits you can develop to align your focus on Jesus?

• Turning off your phone, tablets, laptop and start soaking in God’s Word. Set a time(preferably morning) as that is when you have a fresh start of the day to study and ponder on His Word.
• Play worship music in the background and start thanking Him and praising Him for who He is
• Ask Him what He wants to reveal to your heart throughout the day
• Start a gratitude journal,(I wrote a post about that here)
• While cooking, cleaning, or walking outside or to class, listen to a sermon, podcast, or instrumental worship music
• Journal your prayers to the Lord, like writing a letter to Him. Writing helps to slow the brain down and focus better. (That’s my personal opinion)
• Paint or sketch for Him in a journaling art Bible.

What are some of your ideas?? I'd love to hear your thoughts? :)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Appreciating How God Made You

When I was little, my mom would make me sit at the table on evenings and solve math equations out of a workbook. Coming from an Asian background, academics was very important to my mom. She would often get frustrated and yell at me when I failed to do it correctly. I was always bawling my eyes out every time she got angry. The more I cried, the angrier she got. Growing up, I struggled a bit in school. I always needed help from teachers and other students because I couldn't do things right by myself.

Thinking logically and rationally doesn't come naturally for me. My brain has a difficult time slowing down and processing thoughts. People would constantly tell me, "Think, Jennifer, think!" "Use your brain!" "Why are you always making this so difficult!" It was really frustrating every time I struggled or people assumed I wasn't trying when I was.

Eventually I wore a mask called "apathy" and became very lazy. I felt so incapable, helpless, and weak. I convinced myself it was pointless to try. I cheated off of homework assignments from friends and let my teammates do most of the work during group projects and boss me around with doing easy tasks. In the meantime, people would compare me to my brother who was more natural at making good grades and didn't have to apply himself much. Some would say, "Seriously? You're his sister? You're supposed to be real brainy like him! What's wrong with you!" When someone would try to correct a fault I made, I'd get very angry or discouraged and walk away. Sometimes I'd lash out or throw an object at them or on the ground. I felt like I was constantly being attacked and looked down on.

I became a victim of my own pity parties that I threw myself all the time. I started questioning God, demanding why He made me the way I am. It didn't seem fair to me that I struggled with this while everyone around me was more self-reliant, capable, intelligent, and strong. The hatred I harbored towards myself kept rising and the more I hated myself, the more I hated God.

Just two weeks before my high school graduation, I tried to commit suicide. I didn't think I would be able to graduate from high school and head to college. I felt like the world was crumbling down on me. I wasn't sure how I was going to survive in the real world. It made more sense to take the "easier" way out. I feared being alone in my limitations and failures. I told God that it was pointless to keep me alive and He should replace me with someone more capable and strong to fulfill His grand purpose. However, my plan failed and I ended up staying in a mental health facility for a little while.

If you're wondering why God made you the way you are, it's because He has a special, unique role for you! I don't know how it will unfold for you, but we all have the same purpose: To love God and share His love with others.

"But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?"-(Romans 9:20). In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul illustrates the importance of everyone belonging to the body of Christ and how each part has a function. Verses 22-23 says, "On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we consider less honorable, we treat with greater honor." I'm certainly not the strongest, smartest, wisest, most talented, and skilled person. I'm terribly weak, but because I'm so weak, I have to depend on God so that He could use my weaknesses to showcase His awesome strength. That's the only way I can positively impact people's lives through words of encouragement, insight, wisdom, and bridging the gap to resources and other people to help their spiritual growth. It's only THROUGH GOD I am capable of what I do. Instead of viewing my single-mindedness and utter dependence as a curse, I now consider them a blessing. Thus, like Paul, I will boast evermore in my weaknesses(2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

That being said, whatever "flaw", "imperfection", "failing", or "weakness" you consider yourself having, I want you to embrace them as gifts to impact your calling in this life you were given. I heard a story about Amy Carmichael(1867-1951), who wished her eyes were blue instead of brown when she was younger. She hoped and prayed that God would change her eye color, but became disappointed when He didn't. Little did she know that many years later, God would use her to save countless lives of children and women from sex trafficking and rituals performed in Hindu temples in India. Her brown eyes allowed her to blend in as she disguised herself with mud to look like the Indians and help them escape. Many came to know Christ through her as a result.

I want you to know and accept that who you are and how you were made is no accident. God didn't make garbage(Genesis 1:31). Just because you don't "feel" that way doesn't mean that it's not true. You are beautiful, adored, cherished, and dearly loved by God. And you each have something valuable to share with others. So celebrate that instead of feeling sorry for yourself. Feeling sorry for yourself only stifles your gifts. Don't let anyone (especially the devil) say otherwise. Everything will work out the way it's supposed to as long as You continue to trust Him and center your identity in Him.

Romans 8:28, "And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose."

Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Psalm 139:14, "I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well."

Psalm 139:15-16, "My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

I've compiled two separate lists at the bottom to help you embrace how God made you and walk out your identity in Him. You can print them out, journal, or copy and paste them into Word, Evernote, OneNote, etc. Look at them and rehearse them out loud to yourself daily. Or just keep them somewhere where you can pull them up when you need them. There's no right or wrong way to do this. Just as long as they help you to see yourself in God's eyes. Because honestly, it's His opinion that truly matters.

True Identity In Christ Scriptures