Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

I Long to Dwell

Self-knowledge:

I long to dwell in a gentle place

Where acceptance doesn’t depend on race.

Where sins are forgiven, each person driven

By self-knowledge of their own sin.

Understanding:

I long to dwell where people smile;

They say to me, “Sit down a while.”

They listen quietly, as do I;

And understanding, we say “aye”.

Safety:

I long to dwell where children are safe

No longer victims of hate or rape.

No longer killed inside the womb,

Nor harmed by parents’ angry gloom.

Growth:

I long to dwell with an inner peace,

Having confessed my anger and grief,

No longer concerned what others think —

Nor under their opinions shrink.

Humility:

I long to love as Jesus loves,

To fly like an eagle or a dove,

To have a purpose that fits like a glove,

And remember my gifts have come from above.

So many people go about quietly doing their jobs and fulfilling their family and/or civic duties. Some of their work may be dangerous, or sometimes achingly boring or mundane. They may never be famous. They may never be rich. There is nothing glamorous about them. Yet they are real heroes.

Who Can Stand?

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.” (Psalm 130:3-4)

Wow! Indeed, who can stand before a holy, pure God? If He were like humans, He would have destroyed us long ago. Humans constantly find fault with one another. But the Lord is patient and kind. Yes, we will suffer consequences for our sins, but unlike many people, once we have repented, God forgets our sins. (see Psalm 103:11-13)

What a gift to walk today

‘Midst falling leaves, by river’s run.

To hear the birds and crickets sing,

Walk under trees in dappled sun.

I do not know this wild wood-land,

Suburban-bred, not woodsman’s child.

Yet, not so wild as it could be;

The asphalt makes the trail seem mild.

Some leaves that fell, so many pressed

By feet and wheels, a thousand times,

As if the leaves on trail embossed,

Of passing life to be the signs.

And mild, too, the weath’r today;

It draws the people out to play

They walk, they talk, they bike, they run.

A peaceful time; most smile and wave.

In wilder places I have been,

But urban trails, they make me smile.

Oasis in a crowded world,

A piece of heaven for a while.

A Worthless Slave?

“So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” (Luke 17:10).

In his book, “Jesus, the Master Psychologist,” Dr. Ray Guarendi comments on the above passage: “Jesus never questions the infinite value of a person … [Jesus’] counsel: When you do what is expected of you, do not expect approval.” Guarandi continues, “Don’t seek praise when acting praiseworthy. [A worthless slave] is not a worthless human being … Being a worthless servant is the path to being a worthy disciple.”

In other words, we are infinitely valuable, but it is God, not ourselves, Who provides the value. Whatever we do to serve Him is not to our credit, but is only what we would be expected to do, because He is worthy of all service.

Mood Disorder?

First, a disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, and have no psychological training except a few college classes and one five-day workshop. However, I have been in and out of counseling/therapy since age 12 or 13 (I’m now 66), sometimes with a break of many years. So, any psychological terms I use will be my understanding of what they mean, as a layperson.

My main diagnosis through all these years has been mild to moderate depression, or dysthymia. If I understand correctly, dysthymia comes under a broader category called “mood disorders”.

There are many opinions about depression, including “Just pull yourself together,” “It’s because of your sins,” “It’s a lack of faith,” “It’s from ‘stinkin’ thinking’ (irrational, untrue, or unrealistic thinking),” and “It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain.” Of course, all of these can be true, or overlapping.

I am often (not always) in a state of low-grade melancholy, for whatever reasons, as noted above. I could even add the excuse of my cultural background, which is Hungarian. My parents grew up there and then emigrated to the United States. From what I have read, melancholy is a common characteristic among Hungarians. Again, this could be for many reasons. One of my theories is that Hungary, for hundreds of years, has been overrun by foreign powers and has been constantly at their mercy (if there was any mercy). At any rate, melancholy does seem to be common among Hungarians, indeed, many eastern Europeans.

But, today I would like to share a surprising recent occurrence for me, perhaps a small miracle. The other day, I was in the typical, mildly low, mood. Sometime around 5:30 p.m., it was like someone turned on a switch. I was happy! I felt loved, and worthwhile, like God, and some people, loved me! It was inexplicable! I repeat, it was literally like a switch was turned on in my mood. No longer the negative thoughts like “Nobody likes me,” “I’m evil (or at best, worthless),” “Things are going to turn out badly,” etc. Lest this sounds frightening to anyone, let me be clear; I sometimes have these thoughts, but I don’t give in to them. They are like attacks that happen periodically. I have found ways to combat them. I am not miserable anymore, as I was in younger days. I have the hope of Jesus Christ, which is what keeps me alive and functioning and purposeful. Speculating on where they come from could be another blog post.

Like any mood change, I cannot explain what happened. I’ve even had the opposite happen. I will be in a mildly low mood and plunge into a more severe depression. Happily, this happens less and less in my life.

What can I learn from this? I believe God is trying to tell me, “Don’t rely on how you FEEL. I am with you despite any moods, feelings, or thoughts. I never leave you. Do not base your worth on how you feel, or how others treat you.” Whether I feel happy, sad, or in between, I mustn’t take that as my major reality. My major reality is that God is present and will not abandon me. THIS IS THE REALITY, not what I FEEL!

Confession

Whether you confess to a priest, a minister, a trusted friend, and/or privately to God, repentance and confession are powerful things. The Bible references confession, including “When you realize your guilt in any of these, you shall confess the sin that you have committed.” (Leviticus 5:5), “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16a), and ‘”[Jesus] … breathed on [his disciples] and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”’ (John 20:22-23). Stating our sins explicitly brings them out in the open, into the light. I believe Jesus knew that unconfessed sin was like an untreated wound; if not exposed and cleansed, it would fester.

Once, when I confessed resentment at being hurt or misunderstood, the priest advised, “Think of the hurt like a knife in your heart. You pull out the knife. Now you have a choice. You can keep dwelling on the hurt and/or stab the other person, or you can say to Jesus, “Jesus, I give you this knife and my hurt. You take it. I ask You to handle this because I cannot.”

I don’t always get such helpful advice when I confess, nor do I always have a dramatic experience as some do (for example, a radical experience of cleansing), but I trust that Jesus IS cleansing me and granting me the grace to grow in love for Him and for others.

[Perhaps I should add that wounds from others, or from our own sins, should not be ignored, but neither should we wallow in self-pity. Sometimes the wounds are so deep that we might need counseling from others, or serious therapy. But learning to let Jesus heal our wounds is a big step.]

Don’t be afraid to confess! Unlike with people at times, God will take you back, and all you confess and repent of will be forgotten in the ocean of His mercy.

There Is a God

There is a God, unfath’mable,
Whom many do not know.
Dark forces work continually 
So that our faith won’t grow.


They work on unsuspecting minds
And turn our thoughts away
From heavenly things, from angel’s wings;
Mankind’s their greatest prey.


There is a God Whose love is deep,
Who knows our ev’ry care.
He woos us with a perfect love;
His love is everywhere.


He never lies; nor does he cheat,
Nor practice any foul deceit.
He will not force His ways on us,
But waits in patience so discreet.


A love that’s forced can never be;
A real love must be free choice.
For freely chosen love’s the way
We’ll enter heaven and rejoice.

Every Place

Every place

Has its ups and downs —

The smiles and the frowns,

The spooks and the clowns,

Disgraces or crowns.

You’ll find

Snakes or bugs,

Scorpions or slugs,

Crows or eagles,

Mosquitos or seagulls.

Every place

Has climate and weather,

The storms and the thunder,

Hurricanes or earthquakes,

Humidity or drought.

Every place

Has interesting neighbors

Who do you kind favors,

They help with their labors,

And pick up your papers.

Every place

Has frowning faces —

Won’t give you the time,

To judgment inclined,

Won’t lend you a dime.

Every place

Has pleasures and dangers —

Or are they both one?

Pleasure can be danger

If overdone.

Every life

Has its moments

Of goodness and closeness,

Of fear or of faith,

Of love or of hate.

O Lord,

Give me hope,

So with life I can cope —

To keep a deep peace

As my faith You increase.

What is Freedom?

Freedom is the grace to make good decisions, the power to do good. Freedom is being able to express your beliefs, while respecting others beliefs. Freedom is to receive forgiveness, to be released by the grace of God from the guilt of my wrongdoing, and to offer forgiveness to others. Freedom is receiving the grace to forgive my enemies, instead of living a life of resentment and blame. Freedom is letting go of the past, and having hope for the future. Freedom is appreciating those who have helped you have freedom. Gratitude increases freedom. Freedom is a great gift, and a great responsibility. Thank you, God, for the great gift of freedom.

Written July 3, 2021

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