Loving Others Means You Have To Love Yourself

 

Now, I’ll be one to admit that I myself have a difficult time loving myself.  Sometimes I seem to only do the bare minimum for myself so I can just get by in life.  I want to talk about one of the most important things about life that you simply can’t live without.  You have to love yourself.  If you do, you will have the ability to love others.

I grew up making mistakes on a seemingly regular basis.  I wasn’t a straight-A student in school, in fact my grades were all over the place with not a whole lot of consistency regarding any grade.  I cheated in tests, lied about a variety of different things so that I can keep myself out of trouble (I wasn’t actually very good at lying in the first place, so I very rarely got away with it), and I picked fights with my brothers.  Today, I wish I had been a better ‘big brother’ to my younger brothers when I still lived with my family.  I wish I hadn’t lied and cheated and picked fights as often as I did.  I also seemed to have a bad lack of motivation when it came to school, and would only get really motivated if something I enjoyed was taken away from me as a consequence until I stepped up my game.

We all make mistakes.  That’s basic, common knowledge right there.  certainly made mistakes, there’s no doubt about that.  We’ve all done things that we regret, and then we punish ourselves or remind ourselves what we did, which prevents us from going far or adventuring out of our comfort zone.  We judge ourselves based on what we’ve done in the past.

A lot of us believe that we’re not worth loving, but God does.  And if God believes that we’re worth loving, shouldn’t we?  Your past doesn’t define who you are.  We’re all human beings after all.  Making mistakes is part of human nature.  God doesn’t care about that though.  He looks at the best in us and He loves us, flaws and all.

With that being said, if we don’t love ourselves for who we are, we’re simply incapable of loving others.  We need to accept ourselves for who we are, and we need to fill our own basic needs.  We need to have hope for ourselves, and pick ourselves up and push on after every mistake we make, because none of the mistakes we make are worth beating ourselves up over.  We are loved by God, so doesn’t that give us reason enough to love ourselves?

When I don’t love myself like I should, I normally find myself not loving others the way I should or the way God expects me to.  I can do nice things for people that would mean something to them, but it’s not out of genuine love for those people, it’s just a way to get appreciation or approval from others.  Even though you’re doing something to serve someone else, your motive is self-serving.  If we learn to love ourselves, we can have the joy that we need to serve others.  Loving others and serving them can be a rewarding experience, if you love yourself first.

‘Loving others as you love yourself’ is the second greatest commandment from God according to Matthew 22:39.  This commandment already assumes that you love yourself so you must love others too.  This speaks powerfully that loving yourself comes first.  How about this: If God found us worth loving enough to sacrifice His own Son, shouldn’t that give us reason enough to love ourselves?

The One Relationship That’s Forever

Another Valentine’s Day just recently passed by us.  I had a great time going with my girlfriend to ComedySportz, a comedy IMPROV show where nothing is scripted or rehearsed, but the cast is able to improvise the entire way through and still be funny and talented.  My girlfriend had a great time watching them and it was such a joy for me to know she had a good time.  She’s a great blessing in my life, and I’m so thankful to God that she’s a part of my life.

Lately I’ve been thinking though.  Relationships can always be great, as long they’re treated well and handled properly, and with God’s blessing, it’s one of the best experiences you can have in your life, but only one relationship is guaranteed and promised.  The world is full of heartbreak, division, and broken relationships.  Amidst all of this, what do we need to remember?  How can we find comfort or solitude if we have been dumped or betrayed by someone that we care about?

1.  Even when worldly relationships end, God never ends His relationship with us -  A lot of us fear that we might do something that could potentially ruin our relationships or that the other person might one day leave us behind, but there’s comfort in knowing that God will never leave me for someone else or decide that he can’t handle my habits.  He loves us exactly for who we are, scars and all, and there is not a single thing that we can do or say that will diffuse His passion and His love for us.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” (1 John 4:10)

2.  God gives us comfort even when no one else does –  We all try to find ways to fill our desires for fellowship or comfort from others, but there is only one that can promise the best fellowship and the best comfort, and the great thing is that it’s eternal.  He asks us to come to Him when we need comfort, because He can always give it to us.  His Word promises just that.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

3.  Not even the closest person in your life can top the sacrifice God made for you –  He created you, He made this beautiful world we live in, He comforts you when you’re hurting or lost, He loves you regardless of who you are, and He sacrificed His own son so that we can be forgiven and we can have an eternal relationship with Him that nothing, not even death, can separate us from.  His love is endless and His love for us is eternal.  Everything in this world is temporary, but His love for you is forever.  Trust God to take the reins in your life, because as long as God is in control, He will bless you even if you feel like you don’t deserve it.

 

Learning to Love What You Love

Yesterday, I was thinking about the fact that in all honesty, I don’t have very many interests.  I’ll admit that I don’t have a lot of variety in my life, and it makes me nervous that I may be boring because of that.  I’m one of those kinds of people who will stick to one or two things at a time and then move on to something else once I get bored with what I’m currently interested in.

This can mean interests in movies, books, and shows, and this means hobbies too.  Writing is something I always come back to even if I spend periods of time doing almost no writing.  I love to read, but sometimes I have a hard time finishing books.  I want to make something that I can show other people besides written work but I don’t know where to start.  Speaking of making things, the image below is a flower that my girlfriend made out of putty eraser.

You see?  I wish I can do something like that.  Growing up, I couldn’t ever really get myself into Legos even though I tried pretty hard.  I remember getting Lego sets for my birthday or for Christmas because I asked for them, but I spent very little time putting them together.  Now I know that every person is different and for me personally I work best with only one or two (or if I’m lucky, sometimes three) interests at a time.  Instead of feeling depressed about it, there are several positive ways you can look at it.

1. Having only one or two interests at a time means that you will most likely master the craft you love - If you only have one interest for instance, assuming it’s a hobby, you’ll spend so much time and energy in that project until you master it and make it your very own.  If you love writing, you will continue to write and write until you become the next John Grisham or Stephen King.  If you’re single interest is in drawing, you can hone the craft until your drawings would be worthy of being hung up in an art museum.  Having only one or two interests can be a blessing because all of your attention will be on it, which allows the talent you have to grow.

2. With fewer talents, there are fewer distractions - This isn’t to say that people with a wider range of talents are always distracted and are foolish.  If you have fewer talents or interests, it’s for a reason.  Not all of us can concentrate on more than one thing.  Having only one or two talents allows us to dedicate all of our focus on it, which allows us to hone our skills.

3. Remember that God gave you your talents, whether there are very few or very many - By complaining about the talents or interests you don’t have rather than feeling blessed by the interests you do have, you forget that God himself placed those talents there.  A perfect example of treating your God-given talents would be the parable of the talents.  In the story, there were three servants who were each left with a sum of their master’s own money and two of them worked to double the amount they were given.  The third servant however, buried the money until his master came back.  He did not take advantage of what he was given or tried to be responsible with it, and for that, it made his master inevitably angry.  Some versions of the Bible call the money in the story ‘talents’ for a reason, because that’s what the money was meant to represent.  They represented the talents given to us by God.  So it’s important to embrace what God has given us and use it according to His will.

It’s never too late to learn new things, and if you think you can handle it, by all means please do! It’s always good to expand our horizons, but while you’re still engaged in what you currently love doing, see it as a blessing and be excited because it can mean something big for you in the future.

“When you look at something, and you tend to use it, you have to emulate it and you have to understand it” – Monty Oum 1981-2015

In Memory of Monty Oum: Comprehending How Precious Life Really Is

 

I normally don’t post on my blog at this time of the week, but I felt very strongly about making an exception today.  On Sunday, Feb 1, at 4:34 PM, animator and show director Monty Oum passed away from a severe allergic reaction due to a simple medical procedure.  Now, we can rant and debate about how a medical procedure led to the cause of Monty’s death, but that’s not the point of this article, nor should it even really be argued.  Everyone has their own range of allergies, so there’s no possible way that hospitals can make sure every single possible thing people get allergic to gets removed from procedures.

Monty Oum died at a young age of 33.  He had a wife named Sheena, and was a creative animator and director working at RoosterTeeth, a very popular Internet web company that produces quality content every day.  I’ve been a fan of them for a few years now and at this point, I’ve almost become emotionally invested in the people that work in this company.  Monty Oum was the director of a web show called RWBY, which he was inspired to create because of a dream he had.  He worked so hard day in and day out to make his dream into a reality as if he knew he was going to pass away when he did.  He didn’t waste a lot of his time near as I can tell. He would work overnight to get stuff done but at the same time you can tell he still enjoyed life.

That being said, his passing has really made me think about just how precious and fragile life really is.  You never know when your day might come.  It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, or ten years from now.  Regardless, it’s important to live life like you’re dying.  Savor every moment of it and don’t allow your job to get in the way of building relationships with your loved ones and making a difference in the lives of others.  It’s going to be really hard for RoosterTeeth to move on, and after everything Monty did for them, I think they will be thinking of him every day.  I’ve never met him personally, but this is probably the hardest famous-person death I’ve had to think about so far.  He managed to achieve so much and touch so many lives in his short life.  It’s a common desire to want to be remembered once you’re gone, and it’s no exception with me.  If I die young, I want to know that I have made a difference in other people’s lives first.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget Monty Oum, and it’s striking to me how emotional I feel about his passing even though I’ve never met him.  I feel emotional about it because I’ve seen enough of him on videos and know a lot about what he’s done to draw an emotional connection.  He will be deeply and dearly missed.

Why Do I Get Depressed Even When Things Are Okay?

 

One of the biggest questions I’ve asked myself is the question in the title of this article.  Why do I get depressed even when things are okay?  Everything can be just fine and yet why do I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders?

1. When things are going well, we worry about how they can possibly go wrong –  Almost every aspect of your life can be going just fine.  Your family is intact, you have a job, you have yourself a good life, but you imagine how it can all go wrong.  Something like this is natural because you don’t want to see something so good get ruined.  It’s a very common fear that things will go wrong or that you’ll mess up somehow that will make things go wrong.  If you have it so good, you want to do everything in your power to keep it that way.

2. Despite how good you have it, you feel like there’s something missing - You can be grateful for so much and yet feel as though something is missing and you need it.  You’re not entirely sure what it is and half the time it’s nothing, but there’s still a part of you that feels empty.  When we feel like something is missing in our lives, we go to great lengths to fill that void, and sometimes not in the best ways.  We’re tempted to do things that are immoral when we feel down or depressed and then it becomes a fight over restraining yourself.  As humans, we constantly desire pleasure of some kind and some of those pleasures are not right.  Porn is a prime example of something that people will try to fill the emptiness with, and getting drunk helps numb whatever pain or emptiness we may feel, but only for a short while.

So how do we deal with these issues?  How can we continue to live a good life with an optimistic view on ourselves and what we’ve been able to accomplish?

1. When we fear that everything will go wrong, remember that God has our future in His hands - This isn’t to say that we should just sit back and let God do all the action.  No.  This is saying that when we move through our lives, we must put God first above all else.  Philippians 4:6 is pretty clear about what you should do: Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  God will help you if you’re willing to allow Him.  You must also have faith and confidence in yourself that you will do things right, and do what you can to get there in the meantime.

2. When we feel empty, fill yourself with something that is spiritually beneficial - Temptation is our enemy whether we’re depressed or not, so it’s important to always be ready for it.  Any immoral temptation is a desire of the flesh, not a desire of the spirit.  If you feel like there’s a part of you that’s empty, fill that void with something that’s beneficial.  Pray to God and ask him to fill you with His presence.  If you’re in a situation where fulfillment of temptation is too easy, get out of the house and go do something like take a walk or visit the library or see if you can spend time with a friend.  Depression in any form is not something we can win over ourselves.  If you have to, call someone you know you can trust and tell that person what’s wrong.  God put certain people in our lives for a reason, and don’t you forget it.

Depression only lasts as long as you allow it.  There are both right and wrong ways to overcome it, but the wrong ways are known for only keeping the depression away for a short while, and then it can come back stronger.  Remember that God is there for you even if no one else is.

 

 

 

Bible Epics: Why Do We Hate Them?

Last year, Hollywood gave us two big Biblical epics that covers two very important stories from the Bible.  First, there was the highly controversial and bizarre Noah.  Then we got Exodus: Gods and Kings starring…Christian Bale?  Interestingly enough, these were just two Hollywood Bible epics among a lot of independent Christian films like God’s Not DeadHeaven is for Real, and the unfortunately lesser known A Matter of Faith.

From what it looks like, the release of Christian films and Bible epics are not going to let up anytime soon.  Bible movies about Christ’s mother Mary, Jesus during his temptation in the desert, and Jesus’s time in Egypt is coming soon.  With all the outrage I’ve read about Noah and Exodus, it has begged me to ask this question: Why do Christians hate Bible epics?

I’ve seen both Noah and Exodus, and to a lot of my friends’ surprise, I really enjoyed Noah.  If that isn’t enough, I have a copy on DVD.  Exodus was a little bit different because I loved the story of Moses when I was a kid, and Prince of Egypt was, to me, a masterpiece based on a Bible story.  Unlike Noah, the artistic changes in Exodus felt almost forced and completely unnecessary.  There didn’t really seem to be any real good reason for the changes made, while the changes in Noah felt like there was some real creativity and vision behind it.

That all being said, I noticed recently that there are several things both movies have in common, and helps me to see that there is much more value in them than you would see at first glance:

1.  Both movies displays an accurate depiction of our relationship with God - Noah and Moses both have their own faith-related strengths and weaknesses that allow us to relate to them.  Noah is driven to obey God (or ‘the Creator’ as the movie calls Him).  Out of all the people on the earth in the movie, Noah is at least more righteous than everyone else.  His heart is set on protecting what’s left of God’s creation and he’s motivated to obey Him.  But, like us, he also ends up having his doubts and becomes confused with what God wants him to do.  He at one point questions God’s calling and His wishes.  Noah is portrayed as someone who wants so much to do the right thing and obey his creator, but he’s also still deeply flawed and makes some bad decisions, just like we do.  Just because he was referred to as a ‘righteous’ man in the Bible, doesn’t mean he was perfect.  He was still no Jesus.  In a similar way, Moses in Exodus questioned God’s ways and decisions to sway Ramses to let the Israelite slaves go.  Moses had a difficult time understanding God and would even get angry with Him.  But in both cases with Noah and Moses, God knew what He was doing, which leads to my second thing.

2. In both movies, God knew what He was doing even if His actions seemed questionable - One criticism from Christians about these movies that confuses me the most is that God is portrayed as a sadistic, terrifying, narcissistic god that just killed people just because.  If these movies were much more accurate to the source material, would Christians still say that God is being portrayed this way?  After all, God still sent a worldwide Flood to wipe everybody out and He still sent the plagues to Egypt.  He sent the Flood to wipe out mankind with the exception of one family because He had mercy and was willing to give mankind a second chance.  He sent the plagues so that the Pharaoh would get the picture that He wants his people freed and to display His power to show that the Pharaoh must take Him seriously.  We can’t understand God’s actions all the time, but that’s where trust and faith comes in.

3. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, God is always with Noah and Moses - There’s one big difference between the two movies.  In Noah, Noah and his family are basically left to discover for themselves what God’s plans for them are.  Noah chooses an act of mercy and love, which mirrors God’s choice of mercy when He spared Noah and his family in the real story so that the human race can start again.  In Exodus, it’s very obvious what God wants.  He wants the Israelite slaves freed, and He chooses Moses to do it.  God is with them every step of the way just as He is with us, even if we don’t feel like He is.  God never said that our walk with Him would be easy and certainly free of trials.  We are meant to trust Him.  Trust in Him and He will direct our paths.

 

Short Piece: Hanging by the Threads that Snap

Here’s a short piece I felt inspired to write.  For a while, I’m going to start writing different stuff that ranges from non-fiction to fiction while I listen to different music tracks to get inspired.  This is one that I felt really motivated to write, and I listened to an instrumental piece called “The Path of Irreversible Scars” to get me inspired.

Spirituality comes in many shapes and sizes.  It comes in many forms that will either make you or break you.  When it threatens to break me, I’m weak, tired, and crying.  I beg for it to stop, but there is no sun in the night of my pain and my struggles.  I cling to threads that are destined to snap, and my mind wanders off where I don’t want it to.  Every time I think I see a light, it’s covered by storm clouds and it begins to rain on me, soaking my hair and raindrops get mixed with the tears on my face.  I’m all alone sitting in the middle of nowhere.  All directions, north, east, south, and west, lead nowhere.  My pain leads me nowhere, and the directions I try to take lead nowhere.  What I try to do to ease the pain only numbs it for a short while, but returns with an army behind it.  I am defenseless and bleeding amidst this terrible storm.

I cry out, and I beg God to make it stop.  Where is He?  God, can you hear me?  Where are you in this void that threatens to suck me in?  I reach out a trembling hand, starving for an embrace in this frigid cold.  I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams.  What was whole is now broken.  What filled me with joy now only leaves me empty.  Through my blurry vision, I see a vague light.  It looks as though it’s trying to burst through the dark clouds.  But every time I try to focus on it, the pain calls to me like a seducing lover.  I feel as though I have no choice but to return to its side and submit to it.  A voice cries out in the empty land with more power and authority than any voice I’ve heard before.

“Let go of him, he’s mine.”

I cry out once more, summoning as much power in the voice as I can.  The light shines brighter and the rain dies down a bit.  Like night slowly beckoning forth the day, I’m drawn from the dark and the rain and the thunder and walk with no problems into a warmth that begins to snake down my body and embrace me like the father embracing the prodigal son after his return.  Doubt, anger, sorrow, self-pity, misery, depression.  All of those things.  Gone.  For me, there is only one form of spirituality that promises me hope, confidence, strength, and true life.

My life is a spiritual journey that should be traveled as a follower of Jesus Christ, with a deep consciousness of God’s loving and empowering presence.

Saying This Last Goodbye to 2014

 

Like Billy Boyd sang a last goodbye to the greatest fantasy epic saga of all time, I will say this last goodbye to such an incredible year.   The New Year is almost upon us, so I felt it only made sense to look back on 2014 and reflect on the amazing things God has done in my life and how far I’ve come.

When 2014 started, I had absolutely no idea that by the end of the year I would be working a job, living (almost) independently, going to college, and even have a girlfriend all at the same time.  I understand that God works in mysterious ways, and my life has certainly taken a turn I did not at all expect.  I didn’t plan to have any of these things at the start of the year.  Sure I obviously wanted a job and the idea of going to college sounded great, but now I’m in a completely different place now then I was twelve months ago.  Here are some of the amazing and incredible experiences I’ve had in 2014 that I will never forget.

1. Royal Family Kids Camp – It does seem a bit odd to have this be #1, but it’s true.  RFK was an unbelievable experience that I wish I can rewind and relive all over again as if I’m experiencing it for the first time.  It was a phenomenal five and a half days to leave home and volunteer for a camp for foster children.  When I came back from that event, I felt like Frodo when he came back from Mordor or like Bilbo when he came back home from Erebor.  It was just such an honor to be a friend to kids who have been through experiences that they should have never gone through in the first place.  I’m beyond glad that I get to look back at this and know that I made a difference in those kids’ lives.  I’m so excited for RFK next year, but no future time there will be the same as the first time.

2. New Friends and Relationships - One of the things I prayed to God the most for at the beginning of the year was for new friends.  At the time, I was going through some periods of loneliness, and it was a major struggle for me.  I know that God heard me, because I get to move on to the next year with new friends such as ones I made at college, and if that wasn’t enough, God gave me a friend who’s now my girlfriend, and I can’t be happier to know someone like her.  I’ve made new connections with other people and have bonded with them over a short period of time, and I believe that God brings people into my life for a reason.  Whatever happens in the future regarding my relationships is in God’s hands and I trust Him to guide me in the right direction.

3. The Start of a New Chapter - Between having a job, going to college, and living away from my parents now (nothing against my parents, they’re awesome), I feel very strongly that a new chapter in my life is on the horizon, and God has amazing plans for me that I think will begin to really bloom in 2015 if they haven’t already.  I should mention that despite the major changes that have occurred in my life this year, this year was still far from perfect.  I’ve still made mistakes and have had some deep struggles, but despite all of that, I’ve managed to continue on and trust that God knows what He’s doing.  I want to live life to the fullest and live the life that God has planned for me.  That being said, I’m beyond thrilled for the next chapter in my life in 2015!  Happy New Year everybody!

I know that this song is a little bit over-dramatic to go with this article, but I just think it’s awesome :)

http://youtu.be/r4j_kCQ4f2Q