Tag Archives: Jesus

Where Division Begins and Ends

I watched the children at their play
Left to their own devices
Selfishness and pride ruled the day
They seemed to forget what nice is

I saw the ones who had no toys
Longingly eye the others
The rich, the privileged girls and boys
Ignored by their busy mothers

On each small innocent face
I saw a measure of pain
What they needed was a helping of grace
So abundant love might reign

The poor kids think they’re missing out
The rich kids equate love with things
What both need I have no doubt
Is the love of the King of kings

But who will teach them how to love
And receive love in return
You and I must show grace from above
To create peace for which we all yearn

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Assumptions of Bias

During the past week watching the news and reading Facebook posts about the violence and racial tensions in this country, I was struck by the assumptions made by some who protested the loudest. One such assumption—a  statement I read more than once—was that white people are afraid of the big black man, and that’s the problem.

I would argue that this assumption contributes to the problem of racial tension and is not true because it is an over generalization. All white people cannot be lumped into one set of beliefs or viewpoints any more than all black people can. Many white people, as well as many black people, would prefer to be part of the solution.

As I pondered all of this, I was reminded of something that happened to me just a month or so ago. We were having mandatory “Implicit Bias” training at work. It’s not the first time we’ve had this training, but this time something happened that made me think about how sometimes our assumptions about implicit bias can be part of the problem. We focus on and assume bias where diversity and camaraderie might flourish if we didn’t try so hard to see the negative.

The presenter was talking about the online Harvard Implicit Bias Project tests. I’ve taken several of these tests before so I raised my hand to offer my unique experience.

“I’ve taken the race Implicit Bias test three times,” I said, “and each time it has revealed I have a strong preference for African Americans. I have no explanation for why that is because I really only know a few African Americans.”

The presenter thanked me for chiming in and started talking about how we don’t always know where these biases come from. Then she said,” That was very brave of you to admit that.”

”Wait,” I replied, “I think you misunderstood me. Why would it be brave for me to say I had a bias in favor of, strongly in favor of, blacks?”

“Oh,” she said,” you said against.”

My boss, who was sitting at the same table as me, replied,” No she didn’t, she said in favor of.”

Later I talked to several people who were on the other side of the room and they all said they clearly heard me say what I actually said. But the presenter—who spends much her time talking, thinking, and studying about implicit bias—heard what she assumed any white woman would say, that she was biased against blacks.

I share this because I think it is so important not to assume we know what others think about difficult issues like this. We have to stop making broad general assumptions about whole groups of people whose only thing in common might be the color of their skin. Human beings—and each individual human being—is so much more complex than that.

The second presenter at this training had commented at the beginning that we didn’t need to talk about religion or spirituality, because that isn’t really very important for people in Oregon. I found this comment odd because it was another inaccurate assumption. For me, my faith is very important and it is the teachings of Jesus that inform much of my belief about others. It is my understanding that we are all created in God’s image, no matter what color our skin, that helps me in dealing with and accepting those who are different from me.

D.C. Talk does a great song called Colored People that I want to end with. I’m linking to YouTube because often embedded videos don’t work on this free blog. I encourage you to follow the link and give it a listen.

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Seeking Truth

Words matter. Our choice of words, whether speaking or writing, makes a difference.

And words have meaning. That’s what dictionaries are for—to tell us what words mean. When we try to use words to mean something other than what they really mean, it causes confusion.

Sometimes people do this on purpose. One such misuse of a word that I have encountered lately is the use of the word “true” to substitute for “believe.” A person will say “such and such is true for me” when what they really mean is “I believe such and such.”

According to the dictionary, the word “true” means “being in accordance with the actual state or conditions; conforming to reality or fact.” Truth is not relative and is not affected by what any one person believes. Truth is external, and belief is internal, in origin.

Many years ago, when I was suffering from major clinical depression, there were a number of things I believed about myself. I believed I would always be depressed based on how long I had been depressed already and my doctor telling me I would always have bouts of major depression for the rest of my life. I also believed I would never be able to hold down a full-time job. I believed no one liked me and that I was worthless. In the parlance of relativism, these things were true for me.

But they weren’t true. They aren’t true and they never were, no matter how deeply I believed them.

And trust me, I deeply believed these things about myself.

But here I am, 18 years later, and I haven’t had a bout of major depression since God showed me how to be free. I’ve had the same good-paying full-time job for almost 12 years, and I had a different full-time job that paved the way for this one for 5 1/2 years before that. On top of my full-time job, I’m actively involved in my church and Bible Study Fellowship, have self-published two poetry books, and take care of my family. And I have a lot of friends, people who like me (and some who even love me).

As I look back over the past 20 years, I see God’s hand in my life, lifting me up and leading me to see the truth. I believe that. But it’s not my belief that makes it true. In fact, I could be dead wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

Whether God is real and cares about His creation enough to do all I believe He has for us is either true or not. It can’t be true for me and not for you, or vice versa. Truth is. As humans, our greatest purpose is to seek the truth. To say that truth is relative—that what is objectively true for me is different from what is objectively true for you—negates that essential human drive to know truth, to know our Creator, to know where we come from, and to know our reason for being.

At any rate, that’s what I believe.

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An Angel’s Life

I’ve had a blessed life
though I didn’t always
think it would be so

My first memory
is praying for the
frantic Christmas shoppers
at Costco, standing high on a shelf
It felt weird to look down
on the carts filled
with unnecessary things
while praying for their souls

At last I was taken home
by a nice family
placed in a garden corner
I was blessed with the honor
of praying over the nativity,
over the Holy Child
as the snow drifted down

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January came
and the nativity was taken away
Long, cold days followed
and I feared the dreary days ahead
The family would dart out the front door
to quickly get into their cars
and drive away, gone all day
I prayed for their safe return

I should have known
that each season passes to the next
Winter gave way to spring and
the family planted flowers,
the azalea bush bloomed,
and I was blessed once again
with the honor of praying
over what God had created
Never shall I despair again

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Lillian is tending the bar at dVerse Poets Pub today for Poetics and is thinking about statues. One of the options she offered is to write from the point of view of a statue, so I’ve written from the point of view of the angel statue in my front yard.

 

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If I Had a Gun

The latest mass shooting (I won’t mention which one, because there will likely be another, and this post will apply then) has brought out the gun control and how do we legislate a way to prevent the next one folks. We just need more laws and this violence wouldn’t happen, they say. They forget that Cain killed his brother Abel with a rock when the only laws on the books were to love God and love others.

But no one wants to look into their own heart and see that the possibility for such violence lies therein as well. It’s easier to point at others, at the evil “out there,” and ask how do we stop them.

I am reminded of a time, many years ago, when I was struggling with major clinical depression. My heart was shrouded in darkness and anger. I had been hurt and having never considered forgiveness as a solution, I simply wanted to hurt back.

I remember clearly one day pulling up to a stop light at the end of Hwy 217 in Lake Oswego. I glanced to my left at the man driving the pick-up in the lane next to me. The thought crossed my mind, “If I had a gun I’d shoot him.” That same thought recurred with every man I saw for the next few weeks. I found it incredibly disturbing, but I couldn’t seem to stop it. Although I had no gun and didn’t shoot anyone, I did take my anger out on others during this time, especially my poor long-suffering husband.

Now some might say my story is the perfect example to support the cause of gun control. But that’s not why I share it. I share it because it illustrates the darkness that lurks in the hearts of us all. People who have been hurt—and there are a lot of us—hurt other people if we cling to our anger and don’t forgive. And the only way to truly forgive is through the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

More laws are not the answer to the world’s violence problem. We cannot legislate love and forgiveness. We cannot legislate Jesus.

Paul wrote in Romans 8:3-4: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh [or sinful nature], God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

What we can do is teach our children to love and forgive by the power and grace of Jesus. And we can examine our own hearts and ask God to shine His light into any darkness therein. If every person on the planet did that, there would be no more violence and hatred. Yet you and I can’t control what others do, not even with laws. We can only control our own response to the hurts we experience in this world.

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All Good Vacations Must End

It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets Pub and Toni is calling for a haibun about everyday things with a true haiku at the end. I did my best. We’ll see what she thinks. This haibun is looking forward to later in the summer when I’ll get to enjoy the labors of this past vacation week.

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Vacations can’t last forever. This one has been wonderful, spent planting flowers, including 14 Lantana. But eventually the daily routine returns. Preparations for the work day, each important for different reasons. Start with coffee, my daily devotional, and treats and a game of fetch with the dog. Crazy cat gets in on the action, too. Then shower and teeth brushing makes one presentable to the world. Must select just the right outfit to be warm enough in an air-conditioned office but not too hot to sit outside in the summer sun for lunch. Most importantly, I must pause for prayer—a chat with God about the day ahead—preparation for whatever might come my way. Oh, and can’t forget to pack that lunch. What good leftovers are in the fridge? No leftovers, but mmmm, there’s hummus, crackers, fresh snap peas from the farmers’ market, crisp jicama slices, and of course a cold sparkling water. All packed to go, give the dog his leaving bone and the cat a few treats. Finally, it’s out the front door to the car with just a moment to enjoy the potted flowers on the front step.

Varied Lantana
Lovely summer dalliance
They’ve grown large since June

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Choices

Life is a series of choices

Some seem insignificant
but have life-changing impact

Others we agonize over
but are insignificant
in the grand scheme of things

Some choices
appear to be the only option
We can’t see the consequences to come
or alternatives before us

I’ve spent many long hours
pondering the” what ifs” of choices
that turned out bad.
If only I hadn’t…
then maybe everything would be better.

But ultimately
there is but one choice that truly matters
It is a choice we all face

Do I trust God or do I go it alone?

All is not rainbows and roses
if one chooses to trust
Hardship and regret don’t instantly
melt away

Life is still a series of choices
including the choice
to trust God with my mistakes

Including the choice
to share my story
my series of choices
with the world
in the hopes of encouraging another

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The Book of Life

I am not frightened by the sight of an
ugly deformed fallen angel
hovering in my room. I’m writing
of his presence because his fleeing in
the name of Jesus is evidence of a
name, my name, being written in a book—
the Lamb’s Book of
Life everlasting in a home of transparent gold

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Another short Golden Shovel for dVerse Poets Pub. I seem to be stuck on poems with “gold” in them. The line I started with was the fifth line from Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt. This is another poem I memorized for speech competitions in high school and has lately been running through my head at random times. I’m quite amazed that I still have it memorized after all these years.

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Speaking of Gold

She saw in nature’s
beauty and majesty her first
glimpse of the Divine, swathed in green
amidst the beauty is
an echo of gold

The home He gave her
turned out to be the hardest
to hold onto as the hue
of the forbidden fruit came to
tempt her and take hold

The loss of her
innocence came much too early
even as the green leaf’s
sprout was still on the tree and a
serpent offered a lovely flower

She could have walked away but
then there was only
nothing to lose or so
said the deceiver with an
invitation of an hour

to spare for then
it would have fallen, the leaf
as the temptation subsides
and yet that was not to
be the fate of the leaf

Temptation bowed to evil, so
rich and lovely Eden
survived, but humanity sank
deep into despair so as to
succumb to grief

Now we long so
earnestly for the Light to dawn
to know where love goes
or see love come down
and heal our souls to
see the break of a new day

A day where nothing
more precious than transparent gold
will pave the way so we can
in Eden forever stay

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The Meeting the Bar prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is a Golden Shovel poem, which is a poem in which you take one or more lines from a favorite poem and use those lines to be the end-line words in a new poem. The result is that if you read down the right margin of the poem you will see the original line or lines. I chose Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost and used the entire poem. This poem was a big challenge for me because I discovered that you can’t really write a Golden Shovel poem unless you use enjambment, which I have a hard time with usually, but I think I made it work.

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Living Water

I’m a prickly pear cactus
living in this hot Mojave Desert

They call my home
Death Valley for good reason

Life-giving water is scarce
but I know how to survive

When the rains come
I store up this treasure
deep in my veins

It sustains me when
the inevitable dry days come

I’m a Christian
living in this spiritually dry land

They call my home
earth, a fool’s paradise

Life-giving water is scarce
but I know how to survive

When I hear God’s Word
I store up this treasure
deep in my soul

It sustains me when
the inevitable dry days come

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For the Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today, Mish wants us to write poetry inspired by the Southwest, by the desert. I love the desert—the warmth and dryness appeal to me in a way the green and rain of the Pacific Northwest (where I live now) never could.

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