Live or die from criticism

“You need to grow a backbone, move on and woman up!” I’ve had to tell myself that quite a bit. Here’s something you’ll learn about me. I am a hardcore words of affirmation girl. I don’t need a plethora of lavished words. Rather, I just need to know that I did good. That personality doesn’t bode well when you live in a world that’s filled with criticism and varying opinions. Not everyone will like you, like what you do and who you are. There will always be that one person that disagrees with you or criticizes you and who you are. What do you do when this happens?

Many of us die from criticism. The world falls apart when we’re told we didn’t do good enough, when someone’s tone is a bit harsh or when we’ve failed or messed up and hear the noise of criticism. Some of us get depressed, withdraw from the world and give up on our dreams. Why is that? Why for those of you, like me who thrive on compliments, die from criticism. Why do we live on compliments and hype? Is it because we hate negative things, maybe so. There is a bigger reason behind our response to criticism, though.

Before I get into that, let’s just take a moment to appreciate criticism. Yes, you read that right. Criticism isn’t all bad. While some criticism may come from a negative heart and agenda, most criticism isn’t all bad. Many times, the reason why there are successful people is because of criticism. Someone told a person they couldn’t do something, so said person did exactly what they were criticized not being able to do. Many times the discoveries we call science, is because someone challenged or criticized another that their goal was to create facts from their discovery and fight back the critique thrown at them.

Criticism has created some of the greatest inventors, discoveries, written literature, invention and men and women today. Here’s the biggest difference between those who allow criticism to kill versus those who’ve used it to propel them? Their, attitude. Your attitude is the biggest game changer and determining factor in whether you fail or succeed. I’ve failed many times and have learned to quit wallowing in failure, get back up and get back at it. You allow what criticism does to you. It’s not a matter of, “this is just how I am.” It’s a matter of choice in character. While most criticism isn’t easy to process, you decide what it does to you. Too often we’ve given words power over us rather than taking authority over it.

Here’s the thing, you cannot control what people have to say about you. You cannot change how people view you. Their opinions are theirs. Your response to their criticism and opinion is a direct result of who you believe you are and where you allow your worth to come from. If worth comes from less criticism and more agreement, you will never win. Worth is far greater than what the world has to say about you and me. It is far more than people pleasing. Greatest success is found when our confidence lies in the one who’ve created us. Success is found when we refuse to fail. When we’ve relinquished the power critique has over us and take authority over it. That is success. No longer do words control who we are and what we do. Rather, we fight against the words spoken over us and challenge that which challenged us, not with depression and withdrawing. Rather, we challenge with hope, perspective, and endurance.

Have you allowed criticism to control how you live? Have you taken a backseat and given criticism the ability to stir the way you live and think? You will lose quite a bit of years of growth in making words control what you do and how you view yourself. You are your worst critic when you allow criticism to control you. You get to choose what words do to you. While some words can be terribly harsh, you determine whether those words thrown at you fall on concrete and get blown away, or it falls on the soil of you heart and grows root of bitterness and fear to live and be the best you, you were created to be.

I was told I wasn’t smart. I was told I was slow and a dunce. I was criticized for how I pronounced certain words, for needing extra time to grasp certain concepts. I’ve been criticized for being a follower of Christ. I’ve even been criticized for my enjoyment in health and fitness. While I did get caught up in the words of criticism, it wasn’t until the realization that I have control and power over what those words do to me, was I able to challenge and combat criticism. I’ve used words thrown at me to become a better me. I welcome critique. I welcome the challenge. Not out of an attitude to prove people wrong. No, not at all. Rather, to grow the attitude within that heavily relies on people being pleased with me.

Don’t let criticism kill who you are, your dreams and goals. You have power in your response and attitude to the words spoken at you. There’s new life in criticism. New life to bring hope, challenge negative outlook and perspective. Not everyone will be on your team. That is perfectly okay. Don’t live your life trying to get that nod of approval from everyone. Rather, live life striving to become the best version of you. And the best version of you is who God has called you to be. The best version of you is the version that chooses to never give up.

Did you give up on who you are and your dreams because someone critiqued you? Have you allowed criticism to control who you are? How can you shift control today?


You have God on “blocked”

I love visiting my parents. Whenever I am home there’s quite a bit to look forward to. Homemade Belizean food, the familiar smell of home, time with my family and the nightly debates about social, political or biblical topics. As a child I remember these debates happening at my grandparents home. My brothers and I would be upstairs listening to the adults go back and forth on their apologetics or point of view. My grandpa was the wiser of them all. Deuteronomy 11:18 states,

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

That is exactly what my grandpa did. These debates were never out of anger, but more so, healthy “heated” discussion. Bottom line, each party knew when the conversation ended, they would all agree to disagree if there was some type of disagreement involved.

Today, my siblings and I carry on the same tradition whenever we visit our parents. My nieces and nephews are busy playing together while we battle out our opinions and apologetics. I recently visited my parents with my husband. This time it was my parents with Jarrod and I battling out what we believe. The topic of God’s nearness and sin separation came up. The question posed was, “can we get too far away from God for Him to reach us?” My dad’s response was simple, “no… God is omnipresent and omniscient. He has the ability to reach anyone. There’s no one He cannot reach. The issue isn’t God. The issue is man. We’ve made ourselves unreachable. We have Him on blocked.

You probably don’t find his response profound, but I sure did. We have Him on blocked. For some, it’s you have Him on silent. If you’re like me you’ve probably had moments where it feels as if God’s pretty far away. You haven’t heard His voice and you feel far away from His embrace. I get that. I get that completely. You maybe feel as if God has you blocked or on silent. He’s not listening and He just won’t work on the miracle you’ve been praying and believing for! While the ways of God cannot be understood, the ways of man sure can. We are pretty predictable. Many a times, the reason why we are not hearing from God or receiving from God is not a matter of God neglecting us. It’s a matter of we rejecting and neglecting Him. We have Him blocked or on silent. He has not moved from where He’s been. Our hearts are simply closed to His voice and presence. Our hearts are hardened that we’ve become deaf to God’s voice.

If you’ve blocked someone on your phone you know that if that person is trying to reach you, they will not be able to get through. As much as they call (knock), they just won’t be able to get connected with you. That’s how many of us are with God. We have Him on blocked. He’s trying to reach us, He’s been knocking, but we are the one’s that are not responsive because we’ve removed access for Him to reach us. This isn’t the case all the time. I know some of you reading this might be thinking — there’s no way possible you can be more connected with God. You’ve been seeking and praying, but He just won’t answer your prayers or provide that miracle. To that I say, keep pressing in, don’t give up just yet. God’s timing and ways are not ours. He will come through. I believe that wholeheartedly.

I do however, want to address those who are believing for an answer and miracle and know their walk with Jesus just isn’t there. If you were honest with yourself, you’d say you have God on blocked or on silent. Here’s what that looks like. That’s neglect, excuse that we just don’t have enough time for Him and little to no interest in the things of God (church, worship in prayer and song). Negligence will hinder growth, reception and communication. God doesn’t neglect. While we like to believe that He does, He doesn’t. The very breath in your lungs is proof of that. If God doesn’t neglect us, why do we neglect Him? Hurt? Lack of miracle? Loss or pain? Understandable, but not justifiable. You might now say, “Vashti, how dare you say that. You don’t know what I’ve been though!” You’re right. I don’t. But I do know this, for as much as I’ve seen and walk through myself, the moments I was at my lowest low, God was there. The moments where I felt most neglected by God, it was actually negligence on my part, not making Jesus my priority. Refusing to have faith because things weren’t going my way.

Story time. In 2014 I was at a very low point in life. I wanted to give up. I was in great physical pain and no doctors had the answer. Between you and me, I got to the point where the thought of dying actually didn’t sound too bad. I was ready to leave the earth. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I felt God failed me. The physical pain didn’t help either. I was facing an all time low. I remember being cooped up in pain going to a new doctor each day for almost a month hoping someone would have the answer. No one did. Oh but God did. I remember being at my lowest, all alone right before my 3rd CAT-Scan crying out to God, “Where are you! Why have you left me all alone?” It wasn’t an audible voice. Rather an impression on my heart that said, “I’ve been here all along. I didn’t leave. You left me. You gave up on me.” I had God on blocked. I had Him muted. After all, I wasn’t getting my miracle. Why would I give time to someone who neglected me. Why would I trust God when I was in so much pain. If He was God then He would have given me my miracle of answers and healing, right?

During my time of trail and pain I didn’t give God the time of day. I wasn’t in His word. Neither was I praying or in worship. I had God on block. Why? I was bitter from not getting things my way. Isn’t it interesting how we want a miracle but in our pain we push God away rather than run to Him? He was there the entire time, but I failed to see what He was doing in the midst even in my neglect. He was providing for each doctor appointment. Each encounter I had with a specialist was a touch point for me to share my faith. I had family and friends surrounding me sharing their hope and assurance that God was in control. I was not alone. As much as I wanted to convince myself I was. I wasn’t neglected at all. God was there. He was always there, but I was too consumed by my ways that I failed to have faith.

If you are struggling to have faith that God is a good God I challenge you to read Hebrews 11. Here’s what faith is,

...Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1

Faith is not what fixes things. Faith however, removes the wall between you and God. It provides growth in God, reception to God’s word and a communication line to His voicd. Faith says, I know God is good and because of that, I believe His ways are better than mine.

So, how did my physical illness resolve? It took 6 months, one major surgery and three months bedridden, but I made it. Bills are paid, I was able to witness to many doctors and nurses, my family gained faith and I have a pretty nice scar on my back. Not one I look at in anger towards God, rather one I look at in thankfulness for answered prayers, life and God’s faithfulness. God’s ways are not ours. He works things out differently for everyone. We need to quit looking at others and how their miracle was fulfilled and ours weren’t. Remember, you don’t know the full story behind the process. The process is often times is filled with character building and many tears crying out to God. Seek God first and let Him take care of business. God is good and His goodness is very evident. I promise you don’t have to look too far for it. We live in a fallen world. Bad things will happen. But remember, God is there thorough it all. If you have God on blocked or silent, reset and get reconnected with Jesus. God isn’t neglecting you. He’s for you!

Do you have God on blocked? Do you have him on silent? If you do, what do you need to do to get right with Him? In what areas are you lacking faith?



Perhaps there are atheists because there are Christians. Perhaps people walk away from their belief in Jesus because there are Christians. Perhaps people walk away from the church because of Christians.

Have you ever been hurt by the church or by Christians? Probably so. I have. We who claim we are Christians are poor representation of who Jesus has called us to be. Christians are essentially Christ Followers, yet we selectively choose what we follow of Christ. We say we represent Jesus, rather we represent everything of the world but Jesus. Rather than do as we were called to do, we hurt and wound those around us. The Great Commission has shifted to selective commission.

The two greatest commandments is to love God and love people. We say we love God but our actions lack that reality as we fail to love people. We shun others because they are different than us. We talk negatively about our fellow Christ-followers and those who are outside of the “faith.” We look at people and treat them as scums of the earth.

The issue is, we look at others’ shortcomings and unknowingly (or maybe knowingly), view their shortcomings as planks that are too heavy for Jesus to forgive. We look at others negating to see that we too have logs we are carrying around. Far from perfect are we. Perhaps if we took a hard look at ourselves we would see that we are imperfect human beings. We need grace, compassion and love. Same as those who we view as “different.”

Let’s see what the Bible says. Leviticus 19:34 reads,

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

The self-righteous says, “Let’s create cliques; you don’t belong; you’re too different; if you don’t believe what I believe you’re not apart; your sin is too big; let’s hold a grudge and malice.” Man have we lost it. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus is inclusive and cradles those who didn’t think like he did or lived as He did. He bridged the gap and created the opportunity for connectivity and communication.

In the New Testament we see Jesus loved big and His love was and is relentless. There is always a seat at Jesus’ table. He ate with the tax collectors and sinners. They followed and they eventually turned to faith. They eventually became Christ-followers. What did it require, an openness to see people through the eyes of Christ? Welcoming without standards and requirements. That is not to say you agree with sin, but you love others despite their sin. You eat with them and talk in love, grace, and compassion. 

Throughout my 26 years, I have seen many hurt by the church. People who were ridiculed for how they dressed, because of their economic status, having too strong personalities or too shy personalities. I’ve seen people shunned because of pregnancy bearing and choosing to terminate a child. I’ve seen people judged because they didn’t know the Bible enough and for knowing too much. I’ve also seen major sins covered up in the church with no acknowledgment. I’ve seen leaders and pastors take the pulpit preaching redemption and salvation knowing the gravity of sin committed and actively living in it.

I’ve seen quite a bit. Maybe one of those resonated with you. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by the church and have found it difficult to forgive people who say they love God but only do so by word and show no fruit of that. Perhaps you’ve held on to hurt from being hurt by the church or by a Christian. Can I share something with you? Even Jesus was hurt by his own people. His own people took Him to the cross. His own people mocked and ridiculed Him. Jesus endured all that for you and me. And we should live in His example. While the hurt is understandable and maybe even justifiable, what isn’t is giving up on Jesus and giving up on the Church.

The devil will do whatever it takes to get you and me from being in communion with the body of Christ. He will stir contention and strife within the body of Christ to keep as many out as possible. For those of you who are hurt, it’s time to humble ourselves and seek Christs strength to forgive and become an example of humility and hope to others who have been hurt. For those who have done the hurting, it’s time to humble yourself and admit your wrong and seek reconciliation. Both sides require humility in order to heal. Humility allows Jesus to invade and heal hearts that are broken and calloused.

The house of God is a place of refuge. We’ve lost it though. The house of God has become a place of show and tell, cliques, flashing our economic status and knowledge. Sounds a lot like the rest of the world, doesn’t it? In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul writes that we should not conform to this world, rather we should be transformed by renewing our minds in God’s word. Simply put, Christianity is not like looking and acting like everyone else. It is living out the gospel message of loving the difficult, forgiving the difficult and remembering we are just as difficult. We are not to look like the world. We are a place of refuge for those in need, in open arms loving without condition.

Perhaps, the church would be a place of refuge if we did what Jesus did – loved people.


Lens Pt. 2 – “Scissors Strikes Again”

Hurt people hurt people.

I am not quite sure where the phrase came from, but it is a truer than truth can get. This phrase hits home a lot more when we read it as,

  • Angry people hurt people
  • Jealous people hurt people
  • Bitter people hurt people
  • Scarred people hurt people
  • Insecure people hurt people…

Personally, I prefer it being read as, “Broken people, hurt people.” Brokenness resonates strongly with me. I have been broken a number of times. In time, I will share the root of my once brokenness, but in light of not starting your day off on a sour note, I will share two childhood stories to use as examples of how brokenness can drive us to hurt those around us.

I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade. My hair was as long as the eyes can see. There is some exaggeration there, but it was long. This was a normal day at school. Teachers were teaching and we students were being students. Some listening, others are passing notes and a few completely checked out. There was one student in particular, scissors in hand sitting directly behind me ready to do some damage. These were fresh scissors. They made that sound only freshly sharpen scissors make. You know what I’m talking about? I remember the sound as if the snip was in my ear.


The class went into dead silence. I turned around; saw scissors in the students’ hand, those around jaws to floor and on the concrete floors, my hair. I was in disbelief. An inch of my hair was gone! Looking back now, I realize how dramatic the whole ordeal was. I cried, some of my classmates laughed while others really did not know how to react. My teacher quickly took me outside the class and my friend with the scissors to the principal’s office.

I remember calling my mom explaining what happened and seeing my friend with the scissors sent home from school for the day. That day was heavy with emotions. When my mom picked me up, I remember her asking me, “Vashti, do you know what provoked her to do that?” I really did not know. I naturally kept to myself, so I knew the blame should not be on me. It is not until my adolescent years do I now understand my mom’s question. She asked, not in accusation, but rather in compassion towards my friend with the scissors. What provoked her could have been something I did unconsciously, I still do not know, but it also could have been much deeper than that.

Here is another story to tickle your fancy. Have you watched Parent Trap? Not the remake. The original Parent Trap aired in 1961. Both are equally great, but there is one scene in particular in the original movie that left an imprint. Literally.

Sharon and Susan did not know just yet that they were sisters. Prior to finding out their birth connectedness, they got in a number of squabbles that ended with Sharon not being able to attend the boy/girl camp dance. Hurt at this, Sharon waits for the opportune time to do some damage to Susan’s dress. While Susan was distracted talking to a boy at the camp, Sharon got a sharpen pair of scissors and left a nice opening on Susan’s dress revealing Susan’s trouser puffed shorts. That is the short version of what happened of course.

This is what Vashti did. Not too long after watching the original Parent Trap, I too took matters into my hands with some scissors and followed the wonderful example Sharon laid out for me. I believe I was in 1st grade. We all wore uniforms. One girl in my class was particularly annoying so I decided to get back at her for being so irritating (at least that was my initial justification). I don’t quite remember her name, so for the sake of the story, we will call her Susan. During class, while the teacher faced the blackboard and everyone focused on the assignment explained, I pulled out some scissors I got from my grandma’s sewing kit and cut the back of Susan’s uniform dress. Did things escalate into a food fight as it did in Parent Trap? No. Worse. Vashti, the quiet, never gets into trouble well behaved girl, got sent to the principal’s office. The wait for my mom’s arrival was particularly dreadful. There’s nothing quite worse than knowing you’re in trouble and your parents are on their way.

What provoked me to do what I did? Simply following a movie? No. If that were the case, I would have done many nonsensical things prior. I thought my classmate was annoying when in all actuality, I was jealous that Susan had more friends than I had. Everyone liked her, and I wanted what she had. My friend with the scissors and myself share something in common. We were both broken. Brokenness stemmed from insecurities.

Hurt brings about a rippling effect. If we ignore hurt, it can easily turn into actions we cannot take back and are in turn unforgettable. Often it’s not even an action, rather they are words. Words that cut deeply that cannot be unsaid. Much of why we hurt others is because of hurt in our lives that remained unaddressed. Offenses can be limited if we identify hurt and separate that from the person or people. World peace anyone? All right, that is wishful thinking, but I do believe that as Christ-followers and imitators of the Jesus’ character, if we learn to shift our lens and view others through love rather than hurt, we can see the bigger picture and even see the root of the issue in ourselves. Easier said than done. Shifting lens or vantage point does not make the wrong done right, but it does grant the opening to create opportunity out of offense.

If you have offended someone, go ask for forgiveness. If you have been the one that the offense came to, try shifting your lens and see through the offender’s point of view. What provoked them? Could be you, could be someone else. Who knows! What I do know is that Jesus came to the earth to extend forgiveness to all, no matter the offense. Let that sink.

How can you create opportunity through offense today?



As a child, my siblings and I would try to walk blind. Walking in a straight line or from point A to point B vision impaired was fascinating. Not mockingly, rather, impressed at the perceptiveness of those who lacked physical sight. Many people struggle with vision impairment. Quite a number of people are blind. It is sad, but also encouraging when those who have been pinned with a “defect” take what the world calls a problem and make it into a testimony.

Have you heard of Ray Charles? Probably. If not, here’s a little something about him. He’s a somebody. Actually, more than somebody. Ray Charles is considered a master to the art of playing piano. Interestingly he was completely blind by age 7 due to glaucoma. For those of you who play piano, you know how important your eyes are. For Ray Charles, lack of sight did not stop him. Despite blindness, he became a musical pioneer who shifted his lens from his eyes to his fingers and heart. I’d say, Ray had all right to become offended. Maybe he was at times, but we know he didn’t live in the rut of offense from vision impairment. His lens shift led to emotive performances that left his audience in awe and wonder.

Offenses are inevitable. If no one’s told you yet, the world isn’t perfect because the world is filled with people who are perfectly imperfect. People who make mistakes, who fail and people who are born with and into difficulties. And in that there are offenses. An offensive world where everyone, anyone and all are offended. Offense can quickly turn to hurt and we hurt because…

  • “Life’s not fair”
  • “I got dealt the wrong hand/life”
  • “I didn’t get what I want or my way”
  • Sickness
  • Loss/Death
  • … and the list goes on

I get offended. I get deeply offended by injustice, people who are hurting, those who hurt my family, loss and financial crisis. I get offended by people, and I also get offended by God. These are real issues. Your offenses are real and you are right in them. I do however, am proposing that like the musical composer Ray Charles, we shift our offense to opportunity.

One year ago, I was driving on a very winding road. It was particularly dark that night. I’ve driven this road several times. This night it was also raining which meant the careful driver I am made sure I was extra cautious. I am sure those behind me were not thrilled. Despite feeling the frustration behind me, I remained careful. I cannot remember exactly how, but I ended up finding myself with my right feet planted on my breaks, heart stopped (not literally), and the life I knew flashed before my eyes. Those behind me followed suit. Like a deer caught in the headlights, I stared at the truck before my eyes slammed into the guardrail on my side. Coming from the opposite direction said truck swerved off the road into my line and crashed into the guard rail as I was heading in his direction.

To say I was in shock is an understatement. The driver of the truck thankfully was not injured. He jumped out and rushed over to my car. I of course was still sitting in my car frozen at what just happened. His yelling of “Are you, okay ma’am?” broke my composure. I jumped out of my car expecting damage only to see I was my fingers width away from his truck. I remember the man saying, “That’s a miracle, you didn’t get hit!” Again, I was in shock.

I looked over at the man in the truck with tears in my eyes confirming his statement with a nod. He asked again, “Are you okay?” This time with an evident speech impediment. I responded, “yes, sir. I am. Are you okay?” This is when the lens to the offense shifted. He was deaf. He could not hear my response and I had to mouth the best of my ability to communicate to him I was alright.

The temptation to become offended shifts when we begin to see things through the lens of the one that offended us. I could have become offended by the offense of near-death experience. Sure I can even wish he was more careful, but that wouldn’t have changed that night. That night I didn’t take offense because I saw through the offended one’s lens. His disability opened my eyes to the possibility that life is far more than what the eyes can see.

Okay you may be thinking, “Vashti, what if it a was drunk driver, or what about people who are kidnapped and people who die from illnesses or crime?” You are right. Those are painful and you are right in how you feel. I’ve lost some amazing people and have experienced tremendous pain from the unfairness of life. I almost lost my oldest brother by a drunk driver. God and I have battled it out a number of times, but I do stand by this…

Offense is not a choice. We live in an imperfect world. Offended is your attitude toward the offense. That is a choice.

Your attitude should not be all cheerful and happy either. That is not what I am saying. I am talking about when offense becomes bitterness. When it turns into rage. When hurt turns into calloused hearts hardened and unmalleable. That’s what I am talking about. Your attitude to offense, where numbness becomes reality and God is a stranger and outcast in your life. That’s the result of offensiveness that becomes dangerous.

Offenses are real. They come. They happen. And they hurt badly. But what we do with the offense is what determines if the offense has control over you or you have control over it. More importantly, God having control over it. Hear me out, I am not by any stretch of the imagination dismissing the hurt and agony that comes with offenses, but I do propose that maybe just maybe we can choose what we do with offenses that come.

Matthew 18 illustrates the reality of offenses in Jesus’ warning to his audience. Jesus says,

Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

In other words, “Awful it is that the world is full of offenses. It will come, it is inevitable, but even worse is it the one offenses come to or come through.”

We shall talk more on being the one who is the offender in another blog, because that too is very important. In the mean time, here’s why becoming offended is in essence wrong. The literal definition of offense is to become angry, resentful, outrage and aggressive. We get to this point in life when we give the offender control over our life, emotions, thoughts and being. The right to become offended really isn’t a right. That’s a made-up thought. You are right in how you feel but never right in rage, bitterness and callousness.

Who offended you and why? Have you tried to look through the offender’s lens? Have you tried shifting offense to opportunity? Shifting your lens doesn’t make the wrong done, right. Rather, it gives you the ability to live in freedom. It allows you to create opportunity through offense.

How are you going to shift your lens today?