Realities

Time is slipping away,

Time is money,

Time flies,

No time left,

perhaps,

Maybe.

Love is in bloom,

Love is eternal,

Love heals,

I give love,

not always,

Selfishness.

Laughter is good medicine,

Laughter is contagious,

Laughter rings,

I laugh,

at times,

Smile.

Pain, a constant companion.

Pain is healing

Pain reminds;

I’m human

I know,

Peace.

Childhood Memories

Painted Horse

He rode into my childhood, I can’t recall when,
Sometime before seven, definitely not after ten.
He changed colors through the years, a painted horse for sure;
Still lingers in my memory, his legacy endures.
We would ride and ride forever, facing all our fears,
I don’t quite know for certain, there were probably some tears.
The wind at our backs, the sunshine on our face,
We’d ride and ride for hours, yet not go anyplace.
© 2017 G. David Steele, All Rights Reserved

Poetry 101

Here is another offering I think is apropos for this time of year.

The Turning

They come, they call, seems like overnight

Monochromatic is the hue, yet beautiful in the sun.

A tapestry is woven as a respite to some,

Sweaty faces are dried by the wind as it hums.

 

They blow, they bend, through the sometimes raucous days and nights,

If they could speak you would hear their pain.

While some are lost, most remain, for another day’s sweet refrain.

We mourn the ones who no longer remain.

 

They turn on us! As if some magic wand was waved for change!

This transformation seems all too soon,

Could it be the beginning of their doom?

The turning is at their leisure,

For though they long gave pleasure,

this is all for good measure.

 

They come, they call, and then they fall, turning, turning, turning…

 

© 2017 G. David Steele,, All Rights Reserved

Facebook Epiphany

Today I deactivated my Facebook account.  This wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction, I put some time and prayer behind my decision and decided it was time to ‘cut the cord’ to what I realized had slowly been becoming a Facebook addiction.  For me however, it was more than an addiction, it was beginning to effect my thinking and shape my perspective.

facebook-logo

Facebook was becoming my source of identity.  I was gathering opinion and then spewing my own take on a thought or subject without a lot of thought or research.  It also gave me a platform from which I could speak my mind, and heart, with not much fear of recourse from anyone.  After all, I could ‘defriend’, or block anyone who disagreed with me or was rude, or ugly toward me.  Kind of cowardly, don’t you think?  I could hide behind my Facebook mask.  It was making me appear to be something I was not!

But the real crisis point came when I realized I was using Facebook to espouse some rather harsh views which were birthed out of my own fears.  Fears of the future, fears of the world’s upheaval, fears of the actions of certain individuals or groups, and the fear that others weren’t paying enough attention to all that is transpiring in the world today.  I guess I thought it was up to me to sound the alarm and expose the truth.

ISIS Men

You could say I was transferring my fear on everyone else through my posts and seeking out approval for the way I was thinking and responding.  I’ve come to realize this WAS NOT healthy for anyone, especially me. There was so much that had been swirling around in my mind lately, regarding the state of the world, eschatological events, terrorism and other things that were, in reality out of my control.  Yes, they were frightening and real to me,  and I took it upon myself to let everyone else know how real my fear was.  I was also expecting them to be just as alarmed, that wasn’t working either.

I desperately needed to find a better way to relieve this fear, angst, and inward turmoil.  I desperately needed to re-focus myself on what IS important.  I needed to learn to trust and keep quiet and listen.

antichrist

That’s when my mind was drawn immediately to Scripture, Philippians Chapter 4 to be exact.  Paul is writing to the church at Philippi which was experiencing persecution.  They were afraid, scared and in fear for their lives.  In an effort to encourage them to remain faithful to the faith, he offers this portion of his letter to help center them.  To help them battle unbelief and center their hearts and minds.

I needed this passage!  And what I’ve found to be so beautiful about what Paul writes is that it is a multi-stage process.  In verse 4 he exhorts them to rejoice.  Rejoice?  When fellow believers were being killed?  In verse 5 he exhorts them to be gentle.  Gentle?  When those who were persecuting their number were anything BUT gentle?

Then, in a two paragraph section (verses 6-9) he lays out how they are to accomplish all of the above.

First he tells them to not be anxious.  The words “be anxious” (Greek, merimnao), can refer to being unduly concerned about anything.  That was me!  I was concerned about things I could not control and fearful because I couldn’t.

Then he tells them to pray and through that, let the peace of God rule, or guard, their hearts and minds. (v. 7)  The term “guard” (Greek, phroureo) is a figure drawn from the arena of conflict and is frequently used to refer to the action of a military garrison stationed inside a city.  In other words, there wasn’t anything that was going to disturb their peace of mind!

Peace-of-God

And next the beautiful admonition;  “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

The impact of this admonition is probably best explained in an NIV commentary I read, which states;

He (Paul) tells the Philippians to look for the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy everywhere around them and to ponder the things in which these qualities are exemplified. Perhaps Paul knows that since the Philippians are being persecuted by the society around them, they will be tempted to reject everything outside the church as indelibly tainted with evil. If so, then this list, with its admonition to look for the virtue (arete; niv “excellent”) in the wider world, reminds the Philippians that, although society sometimes seems hostile and evil, it is still part of God’s world and contains much good that the believer can affirm.

I’ve decided to focus on things that reflect the above qualities and as the Psalmist said, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth!”  (emphasis added)

The Church and Cheers

If you grew up on TV in the 80’s and early 90’s you are most likely VERY well familiar with the sitcom Cheers.  You remember the lovable and quirky characters, Sam Malone, the bar’s owner, chief bartender, former baseball player and ladies’ man, who had an on-and-off again relationship with Diane, the grad student.  Then there was Rebecca, Cheers owner/manager after a buyout by the company she worked for.

Cheers1

There many ‘wacky’, yet affable characters that filled the bar on a regular basis,  as both employees and patrons.  There was Carla, the sarcastic waitress, beer-loving accountant Norm, know-it-all postman Cliff.  Then there was small-town, and sometimes clueless, Woody Boyd,  Frasier Crane, the psychiatrist, Lillian Sternin, an incredibly cold and placid psychiatrist and Coach, who eventually dies.

Cheers was a microcosm of society.  Losers, ‘wannabes’, misfits, has-been’s and those who were in search of their true identity and place in life.  The theme song for Cheers expressed the feelings of everyone who was caught up in this fish bowl of a bar.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. 
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 

Wouldn’t you like to get away? 

Sometimes you want to go 

Where everybody knows your name, 
and they’re always glad you came. 
You wanna be where you can see, 
our troubles are all the same 
You wanna be where everybody knows 
Your name. 

So, what can we learn from Cheers that we could apply in the church today?  What lessons could we take from the way the characters in the bar related to each other?  What might be missing in the church today that one kind readily find in a bar like Cheers?

church-05

I think some of what we could take away is found in the lyric of the Cheers theme song.

Here are what will hopefully be some thought-provoking questions that you could ask of your church, or ministry.

Is the church really a place that folks go to escape the worries of this world, the pressures of every day life, or do people see the church as a place that is full of judgmental and even hateful individuals who are not accepting of someone that thinks differently, dresses differently, or is an outcast of society?

Is the church a place where ‘everybody knows your name’, or are you just a face in the crowd?  

Is the church a place where people are ‘really glad you came’?

Is the church a place where we sit down and talk about our troubles?  Or, do we come and go and never really dive into life with each other?

It seems that there is more of life that was shared around the bar in Cheers that EVER gets shared within the wall of our churches.  Sure, have fellowships, we have programs, we have events and BIG services, but we never just pull a chair, grab a drink, and make people feel like they’re glad they came.  We don’t seem to share life the way the characters in the Cheers bar did.  They loved each other, they got involved in one another’s lives.  When one person hurt, they all hurt.  When one person was down, everybody tried whatever they could to cheer them up.  They were a family, a close-know family that were well of each others faults and shortcomings, yet loved even still.  

They cried together, they celebrated together, and did as Scripture exhorts us to do in Galatians 6:2-3, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  Or Romans 15:1-2 says, We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

One thing you quickly notice about the characters in Cheers, they do share in each others lives and are genuinely concerned for the welfare of others.  Do we do that in our churches today or do just shuffle in and out of our building never

Autumn’s Annual Abashment

fall+picFor me this time of year, autumn, fall, whichever word you choose to use, is filled with a sort of discomforting or unsettledness in my soul.  I’m not really sure why, but when I found this quote, it helped me to at least start to understand this annual event and how it affects me so deeply.

It was Stanley B. Horowitz, a prominent leader and humanitarian in the Jewish community, that said, “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.”

As the calendar seems to tumble quickly into the autumn season, a kind of melancholy mood mixes with the elation of seeing the glorious fireworks of nature that are on display this time of year.  I’m not sure why that with the rainbow-colored sunsets, the crispness of the air, the first smell of smoke from fireplaces and the rich depth of brilliant color all around, I being feeling this way. Each autumn, I experience a convergence of the entire year that has passed and quickly realize that we’re staring winter in its ugly face.

It might possibly be the sadness that another summer has faded away.  Or, maybe it’s the thought of winter’s icy grip coming just around the corner.  Perhaps it’s that the serene images of spring have long ago left my memory, who knows.  What I do know is that autumn has become kind of reckoning of all things regarding life for me.

In autumn, you see the death of things living, but in their death there is glorious beauty.  Isn’t it that way with us mortals as well, especially when that one knows they will be with God after leaving this earth?  It is certainly a spiritual event when a person passes from life unto death.  We don’t understand it, we cry, we grieve, we ask why, but how many times have you heard loved ones, who gather around the bedside of someone who has just been ushered from this world into the next say, “They had such a peaceful expression on their face when they passed.”  I know I have, and maybe a bit of that is reflected in nature during this time of year.

Yes, a lot of things that were vibrant and alive during spring and summer are now dying.  Yes, winter will continue complete this process and freeze nature until the warmth of spring will allow it to burst forth with life once again.  So we see it in a person that is passing from life unto death when they have secured their glorious eternal future through Jesus Christ.

I’ve found that it’s this convergence of all the seasons of the year, and what they each represent, that creates this annual discomforting, or discontentment in my soul.  It is nature’s visual representation of our mortal lives passing from life to death.  It is not unlike the fact that when someone dies, you often hear them talk about their entire life passing before eyes.  So I get it more now than ever before!  We see all the seasons of the year crammed into autumn because we experience the passing of spring and summer and nature preparing itself for the winter to come!

It is often said that ‘art imitates life’, I would like to suggest that ‘nature imitates life’ on a much deeper, yet often unnoticed level.

 

 

Dying Can Be Complicated

My mother has been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, she is 89.  In fact, she just turned 89 a few weeks ago.  It has taken us all by surprise.  This is a woman who has been widowed for almost 40 years and has lived by herself longer than she was married.  Hospice is at her home most everyday now and the Oncologist has not give her very long.  Of course, we know the One who gives life has already numbered her days and they, like ours, are in His hands.

She is at peace, and after speaking to the doctor has felt like it is best not to have surgery to remove the already large tumor.  Chemo is not in the picture. She is at a place where she knows what is next and has accepted it with grace and beauty. In fact, one of the great things about my mom is she still has her wit and sense of humor.  And this in spite of the fact that her life hasn’t been easy.  She has shared bits and pieces of her life with me from time to time and from those I’ve discerned it to be, let’s just say, less than comfortable.

waking dead graves

She and my dad were great together!  They shared life, work, struggles, triumphs and everything you can imagine.  I can always remember them as being happy and content, whether they had a little, or a lot.  They never really had a lot by the world’s standards but were two of the most loving and happy people I know.  My mother continued to pour into me in every way possible and I thank God for her life.

So, we’ve been dealing with a lot of what you would expect when a parent comes to the end of their life.  She still lives in the same house I was raised in, so there’s that to deal with.  We’ve talked about her dying and her wishes.  She has planned extremely well.  All of her documents and articles are in order and well managed.  If there is such as a thing during this time as easy, it would only be associated with how prepared she has made herself for this time of life.  She is an amazing woman.

We were at the attorney’s office the other day dealing with some legal issues.  After signing some legal documents, she turns to the attorney and says, “I never realized dying could be so complicated!”  She had everyone in the conference room laughing!  It was a wonderful moment and a small glimpse into where she is with life, or perhaps death, right now.  Her quip was loaded with truth.

The actual moment of our death is the total antithesis of complicated.  It’s everything in between, and what is left to deal with on earth that is complicated.  The legalities, the insurance, the burial, the obituary, the selling of an estate; it goes on and on.  It can take weeks, months or years.  Then there is the emotional aftermath of our lives.  We are the ones who have to pick the pieces of our souls and carry on.

Complicated?  Absolutely.  Yet there is also a beauty and grace in the death of someone who has lived their life to the full.

It’s the ending to a beautiful symphony, a sunset that takes your breath away, a lone eagle flying off into the distance.  We should all die that way.

Uncomplicated and full of grace.

You Gotta a Problem With That??

I have a problem, actually, I have lots of problems, but I learn to live with them. I pray each day that I’m not too big of a pain to live with. My normal is a new normal, my normal will never be the normal it used to be.

When asked, “How are doing?” I usually reply, “Good…considering, good overall.” Most people really don’t want to hear the WHOLE answer, it can take hours.

But I love what Ecclesiastes 7:10-14 says, and it pretty much wraps up my life. We live each day thinking the next one will be a carbon copy. Sure, our schedule might change a bit but as far as life goes, we tend to count on things remaining ‘normal’. Then, BOOM, our life explodes into tiny fragments and we’re left staring at the little pieces asking ourselves, “Why?”. Or perhaps, thinking it’s all over. How can we continue this journey?

question-mark

The wisdom of Solomon speaks to the heart of our world becoming ‘un-normal’ real fast. It speaks to our comfy little world shattering before our eyes. When that happens, you ask a LOT of questions. Is that wrong? No! And anyone who says it is, point them to the cross of Christ. Perhaps the greatest paradox in history. Jesus asked “why” so why shouldn’t we. 

And He even knew the answer!

Ecclesiastes 7, in fact the whole book, helps us know the answer as well, and IMO it is this, ‘in the middle of ALL your chaos, the debris of your life, the injustice of this world, the inequity that is around us, the moments of all we think unfair; there is One that NEVER changes and holds it ALL together.’

God has made things crooked for a purpose and a reason. You gotta problem? Did you ever think perhaps God gave it to you intentionally, just to remind you that you are NOT God.

10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.

12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.

13 Consider the work of God:
who can make straight what he has made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Heading Toward Disaster (I Didn’t See That Coming)

A couple of year’s ago, I was driving home from church, an hour commute for me one way, when I came upon a horrific accident that providentially, was on the other side of the interstate.  Cars were backed up for quite a distance and the police were in the process of closing the interstate.  However, I noticed there were a few cars that were heading in the direction of the stopped traffic due to the accident, but hadn’t reached the point where they had to stop.

As we passed each other on opposite sides of the interstate I wanted SO much to be able to communicate with them about the impending conditions ahead of them.  I wanted to be able to shout to them, “STOP!  Turn around!  Go back!  There is an accident ahead, and you’re about to be stuck in traffic for a LONG time!”  “You’re going to wind up going nowhere, real fast.”  I wanted to be able to warn them, turn them around, help them avoid the disaster ahead.

Don’t you think God looks at our lives and often sees the same scenario?  In his sovereign view of our lives He sees disaster ahead for us, in one area or another.  Then He sees us barreling down the ‘interstate of our lives’ directly for it.  How He must long to shout to us, “STOP!  You’re going to wind up in a lot of trouble if you don’t turn around and change direction!”

Jeremiah 29:11 in the ESV says this, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”   While this verse is specifically spoken to Israel, I believe it also applies to followers of Christ.  God intends good for us, as long as we are in His will, attempting to follow His commands and looking to Him.  But somehow, we find a way to get off course, lose our way and we often get stuck in a proverbial traffic jam.

Psalm 119:105 in the ESV, clues us in as to how we can see the way before us, it says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  God’s Word will enlighten our way if we are faithful to follow it.  And while we’re not promised a life full of “roses and sunshine” who knows, it might just help us avoid disaster on the road ahead.