Nuggets of Wisdom

I thought it would be interesting to start a series from Solomon’s book of Proverbs.  What is a proverb?  Well according to the NLT Bible,  “A proverb is a short, concise sentence that conveys moral truth.”   To paraphrase, a proverb is a nugget of wisdom, and when used makes our life better.  Knowledge is good, but it benefits us little until it is applied.

***

Mad-Driver

 

Beginning a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.  Proverbs 17:14

There were five lanes of traffic to cross, so I patiently bid my time.  When the perfect moment arrived, I pulled out of Food Lions’s parking lot, turned left, and headed West, towards home.  I eased into the correct lane and was content on the journey; however, after only a few seconds of peace, I heard horns blowing and tires screeching.  I glanced in my rearview mirror to see what had caused such a ruckus.  It seemed the truck that had sat behind me in Food Lion’s parking lot, had recklessly pulled out in front of the oncoming traffic.  A number of vehicles came to a complete stop in order to avoid an accident.  The truck was now speeding, closing the distance between us.

“What in the world,”  I said, thinking there must be some sort of emergency for the man in the truck to so carelessly tempt harm.  He pulled up beside me on the passenger side.  I noticed his window was down, and he was leaning out trying to get my attention.

My first thought… “OMG…I’ve got a flat tire…”

So, I rolled my window down to hear what he was saying.  With his face contorted in anger, the man began tossing F-bombs in my direction.  My stomach dropped and I wondered what in the world I had done to upset this man, and then the “B-word” came out, and I realized I was being cussed out because of a certain political sticker on my bumper.

I couldn’t believe this person would risk his life and lives of others in order to “rip me a new” over my political views.

After the initial shock wore off, I did the only thing that came to mind…I laughed. That pissed him off even more and again he bathed me with “Bitches and F-bombs.”  After he had his say,  he floored it and swerved in front of me.  I slowed down to keep a safe distance between us.  The southern bell in me wanted to say, “Bless his heart…,” the Christian in me wanted to pray, and the rebel inside wanted to flip him off.

On that particular day, I was a rebel.

Not the wisest decision on my part…I know…

For the rest of the day, I played out the scenario in my mind and rehearsed cute little comebacks, I wished I would have said to “get back” at the obnoxious man.

Sometimes I wish I could be “quick-draw” with the witty comebacks!  Then, I wouldn’t have to bop myself on the head later and say, “Man…I WISH I would’ve said that!”

I believe it’s human nature to think and feel this way…but that doesn’t make it right.

Cute little comebacks do much to appease our pride but do little to accomplish peace.

Quite the opposite…it only opens the floodgate.  Once the dam has broken there’s little we can do to hold back a flood.  Most of the time, our best course of action is to drop the matter, or at least put it off until tempers have cooled and the subject can be discussed in a somewhat peaceable manner.

Two cannot quarrel when one will not.  –David C. Egner

***

Holy Spirit, please temper what I say and do.  I need your strength and intervention.  Amen.

***

Epilogue…after the incident above, I peeled the sticker from my bumper, not because I was ashamed of my political views, but because I thought it best to curtail future road rage.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Always Assume the Worst

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Plik: Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee

“And a furious storm of wind [of hurricane proportions] arose, and the waves kept beating into the boat so that it was already becoming filled.”  (Mark 4:37)

***

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be a rider in the boat above!

First of all, I’m not a very good swimmer.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE the ocean, but I don’t like treading it without some sort of flotation device.

Second of all, hurricane force winds can rip a little fishing boat to shreds.

And third of all, I’m sure the air was full of electricity, and I don’t relish the thought of being struck by lightning.

If I were a character in the story above I would fear for my life.  I admit I would assume the worst.

Corinne, my wife, and I once stayed in a high-rise in New Hartford Connecticut.  On the 17th floor, we had settled in for the night, under covers and enjoying an episode of Law and Order SVU.  At approximately 11p.m. a voice from the speaker above filled our room.

“Attention, there may be a fire in the building.  Please exit your room, in an orderly fashion and take the stairway down to the first floor, …there is no need to panic.” 

Corinne and I proceeded to the closest exit and began our descent with hundreds of other guests.  We had a long way to go to reach the bottom.  The 17th floor turned into the 16th and the 16th turned into the 15th, and with each passing floor, the fear inside of me increased.  My mind filled with pictures of people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center.  As I continued down the long stairway, I heard the sirens from the firetrucks below.  At that moment  I made the assumption that this was it…I was going to die.  In my mind, I decided that I too would jump rather than burn.

Obviously, I didn’t die that night.  When we finally reached the bottom, we discovered it was a false alarm and were directed back to our rooms.  Once again in our room, it took me a while to calm down.  When I wondered how the episode of Law and Order ended, I knew I was back to normal.

It is so easy for my mind to automatically jump to the worst scenarios.

Maybe you have this problem as well.

The men in the boat from Mark’s story felt the same way and I don’t blame them!  The story goes, “…but soon a fierce storm arose.  High waves began to break into the boat until it was nearly full of water.”  But Jesus was in the boat.  The frightened men ran to Jesus and cried, “…don’t you even care that we are going to drown?” Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Quiet down!”  Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.  Then Jesus looked at the men, I believe lovingly, and said, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still not have faith in me?”

This morning, for my personal devotion, I read an article called, Facing Unexpected Storms, from one of my many Joyce Meyer books.  She made the point that “…not all storms are in the forecast…”  Her advice, “Don’t get distracted by the storms of life.  Stay focused and do what you need to do whether it is easy or difficult.  The more we use our faith, the stronger it will become.”

Her words comforted my heart and reminded me to do what I could and to not fret over what I couldn’t.  Whether it’s easy or difficult…only one step at a time.

Remember, Friends,…Jesus is in the boat!

***

Daily Prompt:  Assumption

 

 

My Soul To Take

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Painting by Florence Kroger

 

Oh, that God would mold this clay,

nothing but dust, dirt and decay!

And yet, in me, He saw some worth;

He sent his Son, from Heaven to Earth.

To lay down his life, upon the cross,

to thirst, and bleed, and suffer loss.

And so for me, His Glory awaits;

one day I’ll walk, through pearly gates.

So nothing to fear, because I am free;

His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

The shadow of death, there is no escape,

But God’s in the valley, my soul, to take.

***

As a tiny girl, often, my mom and I, prayed the prayer, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”  I was always comforted by this bedtime ritual.  As an adult, when I think on the memory, I find I am blessed just as much now, as I was then; perhaps even more.  Thus was the inspiration for this poem.

“Mama, thank you for the foundations of strength you’ve given me.  I am a better woman because of you.”

now i lay me down

(Daily prompt: Luck)

Luck has nothing to do with my spiritual life.  It is orchestrated by the hand of God.

 

God’s Abstract Love

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There are some things we will never understand, and God’s love is one of them.  Maybe there are times, we think, we comprehend its depth, only to have the knowledge drift away, like a cloud in the sky.

If it were possible to put God’s love to canvas, you can be sure, it would be abstract art.  I truly enjoy abstract paintings, because every time I view it, I learn something new; and for me, that is exciting!

Such is God’s love, dear friends.  It is multifaceted with many doors, but, behind each door stands Jesus.  He tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in.”

Jesus knocks at our door, but sometimes it is required of us to knock. In the book of  Matthew, Jesus speaks, “Ask and it shall be given you, seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Sometimes we hear, see and feel his love, but often we do not.  When we walk the latter, we walk in God’s abstract love; but don’t despair; for it’s during these times, our faith is strengthened, and our eyes are opened to something new.

Jesus is whispering, “Seek, and you shall find.”

***

Daily Prompt: Abstract

 

Fairy Dust of Magic

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Photo by Renee Dawson

 

Fairy Dust of Magic

 

I sit here basking, under rays of sun,

with grass interwoven between bare toes.

The bumble bee, he buzzes, he’s on a mission,

to a fragrant purple…a lilac…he knows.

***

Humming birds flit, their wings all a flutter.

 The nectar they crave, from this purple place.

Orange  Monarchs, and  Swallow-tails of yellow,

 land on the flowers, to hide their face.

***

Nervous, I was, at the dawn of this day.

 But now, I smile at nature’s display.

 And all of those critters, they…like the fay,

  fairy dust of magic, upon me, convey.

***

This poem is a result of today’s Daily Prompt, Nervous.  It was inspired from memories of me  as child, sitting in the shade an old lilac bush, my mom had planted.  I loved watching the birds, bees, and butterflies that frequented its branches.

 

 

 

 

The Lord is my Shepherd

When, blessings like a river, swarm.

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“The Lord is my shepherd.”  And thus begins Psalm 23.

King David is the author of Psalm 23; however, as much as we Christians would like to believe, David was not the first to pen the idea of God as shepherd.

History tells us, this metaphor, of comparing god to shepherd, was common place within the Eastern world.  For example:

  • There was a song written about Marduk, patron deity of the city of Babylon, during the early 18th Century BC, describing his care for the weak like a “benevolent shepherd.”  
  • Another song written of Shamash, Mesopotamian sun-god, proclaims, “You shepherd all living creatures, together, you are the herdsman, above and below.”
  • Hammurabi (c.1750 BC) claimed kingship by providing “the people with pastures and watering places, having settled them in peaceful abodes.”
  • A phrase, which closely parallels Psalm 23, was found inscribed upon ancient Samaritan text and it reads,  “A man’s personal god is a shepherd who finds pasturage for him.  Let him lead him like sheep to the grass they can eat.”

Some Christians, learning of this, may feel it weakens David’s writing, but I feel quite the opposite.  I’m sure David, a learned man, was aware of such comparisons; therefore, when he chose to liken his God to that of a shepherd, he, in essence, was elevating his God, Yahweh, above all other gods.

David spent many of his younger years, tending his father’s sheep.  The book of II Samuel, speaks of two incidents where David had to kill a lion and a bear in order to protect the fold.  David understood the lambs were vulnerable, and without his protection, they would most likely die.  Knowing this fact, when he wrote Psalm 23, he visions himself to a lamb, that is dependent upon the shepherd, and for David, this shepherd could only be Yahweh.  David humbled himself, and placed his entire well-being, within the hands of God.

I love how David makes Psalm 23 personal.  He could have written, “The Lord is a shepherd” and that would have been true, but instead he writes “The Lord is ‘my’ Shepherd.”  By that simple two letter word, David sheds light upon his close relationship to God.

I believe when we read Psalm 23, God desires of us, to make it personal.  He wants each of us to slip our identity within this passage, and when we do, this ancient scripture becomes alive.  We like, David, can proclaim a personal relationship with God, and when we are able to do that, God Himself walks with us.

Oh, what peace and joy this brings!

My Daily Prayer:

Lord, you are my Shepherd.  You care about everything in my life, even unto the minutest detail.  Help me today to ponder this thought.

When I’m tired, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will feel rest.  When I’m afraid, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your protection.  When I am lonely, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your presence.  When I am guilty, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your forgiveness.  When I’m down upon myself, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know I’m enough.  When I feel unloved, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your love.  And in that time, when I face death, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and I will know comfort and peace.

Lord, thank you for this day, you have made for me.  Help me to live it, with my hand in yours.  Help me, to be a blessing, to those you bring to my path.

In the name of Jesus, my savior, I make these requests.  Amen

***

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  — Jesus

When blessings, like a river, swarm

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(Information about comparisons of gods to shepherd was taken from the NIV Study Bible)

 

 

 

 

 

Confident and Full of Hope

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Photo from: http://www.supernaturalmothering.com/is-your-future-full-of-hope/

Good day, dear friends!  Here we are at close of another year.  We’ve run, walked, and sometimes crawled these past 365 days.  Now we find ourselves tying the bow, on the box we call 2016, but before we put the box upon the shelf,  may we take a moment to ask the question:  What has 2016 taught us?

Well, I can’t speak for you, but here are just some of the lessons I’ve learned from 2016:

  • Strict New Year’s Resolutions never last.  Most New Year Resolutions have something to do with diet and exercise. I begin the new year with strict rules as to what I’ll eat and what I’ll not eat.  I plan a strict regime of running with at least three days of strength training per week.  I start out with the best intentions but as the weeks pass so does my determination, and I eventually find myself paying $20 a month to house a treadmill I rarely use.  So this year, my resolutions are not as strict.  Instead of limiting myself to a 1000 calories a day, I’ll pay more attention to eating healthier…you know, more vegetables and less junk food, and most of my exercises will consist of doing those things I love like playing with my dogs and taking long walks in the park.
  • True friends/family still love you, even when you’re ugly.  I’ve never been as ugly as I was on election night 2016.  That night I sat in front of my TV, and as I watched state after state vote for Trump, I entered into a downward spiral, one that wouldn’t stop until I drowned myself in gin and vomitted obscenities all over Facebook.   Friends, it was ugly…very ugly.  I was ugly.  If you’d like to read the sordid details visit my post Vomiting All Over Facebook  After that night, I was unfriended by many, however my true friends, understood I was in pain, and that the pain must have been great, for me to do something so out of character.  My true friends didn’t judge me, but rather offered a shoulder for my tears.  Most importantly, they gave me the space to hurt, while lingering close enough to feel their love.
  • Depression fades with passion.  I’ve battled depression for as long as I can remember.  I use to think, if I awoke in the morning with a feeling of depression, that I was doomed to spend the rest of that day feeling sad.  This past year I’ve learned, that my depression fades and sometimes, even disappears, when I’m doing the things I love, like painting, writing, reading, cooking, gardening and taking long walks.  The hard part is making myself begin, as the depression I battle begs for solitude and darkness.  The key, for me, in 2017 is to have the initial will power to set my passions in to play.
  • Making a difference in the world, happens one person at a time.  After Trump’s victory I fell into hopeless despair.  The very next day, I hid within my home, crying and thinking America was lost.  I worried for my fellow-man.  I worried immigrant families would be torn apart.  I worried suicide would increase  within the LGBTQ communities.  I worried, my rights as a gay American would be stripped away.  I worried young girls would lose self-esteem in a world that judged them by their  appearance. I worried for my Muslim friends…would they be sent to internment camps?  I worried for all out-casts…myself included.  I worried so much, I became debilitated with fear.  The third day after the election I forced myself to go outside.  As I drove, I noticed a homeless person standing on the side of the road, holding a cardboard sign with the words, “homeless and hungry,” scribbled across the front.  With tears running down my face I handed the gentlemen a twenty-dollar bill, our eyes met, and as we stared at each other, I felt the fear inside deminish. I smiled and he smiled and I felt hope.  I realized in that moment that, yes… “we are stronger together.”  Regardless of who our president happens to be, we still have the power to change the world…one person at a time.

Everyday I try to read something encouraging and then spend time in prayer.  The last day of 2016 I read a portion from “My Utmost For His Highest,” a devotional book written by Oswald Chambers.  His words gave me hope for the coming year.  When I sat down to write this blog, my intentions were to simply share this hope with you, but one word led to another, and so after 725 words, I still haven’t shared Mr. Chambers words.

His words reminded me, that our future is not contingent upon our past.  We are not bound by the mistakes of 2016, but rather we can be transformed by them.   By God’s Grace we have been given a new slate to write upon in 2017.

May his words bless you with hope for the coming year…

“…Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders.  But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future…As we go forth into the coming year…let us go out with the patient power of knowing that God will go before us.  Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us.  It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future.  Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.  Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.”  ___  Oswald Chambers

Friends, let us go into 2017, confident and full of hope!

(May hope fill the interior, and radiate outward.)

Lisa’s Watercolors, Peace & Tuscany

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Peace by Lisa Hardy

Peace Is a Place

I walk across this bridge,

Of which I often trod.

 Waters ripple and flow,

Caressing earth and sod.

Breezes comb my hair,

Gentle on my nose,

Fragrances so sweet,

Drifting from primrose.

I think of this my place,

Daydreams never cease,

So everywhere I go

I always carry, Peace.

***

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Tuscany by Lisa Hardy

Tuscany

Fill my glass, one more time.

Grape nectar to percolate!

(Daily Prompt:  Percolate)

Grace is Found in Hues of Gray

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Recently, I had a family member express concern for my soul.  Their reason?  I’m a lesbian.

Now, first of all, I realize their concern is an expression of love, but I also know, they fear if they fail to warn me, then my blood will stain their hands, at the great white throne of God’s judgement.  I know this because, I too, once held to such belief.  I am aware of the almost unbearable pain this causes, and it makes me sad.

After a lifetime of being taught this, it ceases to be an opinion, and becomes a way of life, which is extremely hard to escape.  Everything in life, is governed by the philosophy of black and white, cut and dry, leaving no room for debate. There are no hues of grays, it’s either wrong or right, irregardless of what modern technology or science proves different.

For example, I Corinthians 6:9-10 names a long list of characters who have no hope of heaven.  Listed among these, of course, are homosexuals, but also listed are people who covet, adulterers, thieves and drunkards.  There’s a significantly longer list, found in Romans chapter 1, and it contains, people who envy, people who gossip, people who are proud, and even people who are disobedient to their parents.

May I be so bold as to say, everyone in the world, falls somewhere within these categories.  So, if taken literally, no one, it seems, should ever make it to the pearly gates, but that, my friends, is the point; and this point, is often missed because the reader becomes side tracked by the mention of the “sin” of homosexuality.

The point is, no one, absolutely no one, is worthy of Gods Kingdom.  To stress this, Paul in the same book writes, “There is no one righteous, no, not one…for all have sinned…”

Thankfully, the book of Romans doesn’t end upon this dire note, but instead it points the reader to one person:  Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ, and what he means to all of mankind, is the sole emphasis of the whole book of Romans.  If you read the whole book, instead of picking scripture here and there, the conclusion is made that we are all “… justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deed of the law.”

Now, having written all of the above, I am aware there are arguments to be made.  My fundamental and evangelical friends pose some valid questions about homosexuality and sin in general.  I truly want to address these; however, that is another blog for another time.  To be honest, more than a blog post…a series.

In closing, I just want to say, as a gay-christian, (no oxymoron) I choose to live by grace.  Grace is a world of unanswered questions; a world full of wonder that drives us to seek answers. We become scrappy Christians, who wrestle and grapple to find answers, but at the end of the day, we still have to say, “I don’t know” and because of grace, that is okay.  Grace is, not knowing the answers while resting in peace.

In the past, the accusations, from well-meaning Christians-family and friends-would anger me and set me on the defensive.  I would think, “How dare they judge my relationship with God?”  That’s not, so much, my reaction anymore, instead, I am saddened by the fear, I know they feel.  I wish, there were a way, to draw back the curtains of my soul, so all concerned, could witness my relationship with God.  This, I know, is the only thing that would lay such fears to rest.