Musings From A Musical Mind

Posts tagged ‘Christ’

Guest Post From Ray Carroll

I’m excited to feature a very special article today from my friend, Ray Carroll.  You can find his blog here at: Fallen Pastor. Ray knows first hand what it feels like to fail, be forgiven and restored again to health.  He is passionate about helping others.  His articles and story are compelling and encouraging.  Failure has made him a different man.  He has written a book about his experiences, available at Amazon.com entitled: Fallen Pastor.  If you know of anyone that needs a little help or someone to talk to – Ray is an excellent person.

Below is his response to the recent news events that touch the Christian community.  You will find his statements powerful and provocative, but right on.  I hope you will read it and enjoy it as much as I have.

Enjoy and God Bless!

Gay Marriage, the Church, and the Jesus Response

I was so thankful yesterday to get a Facebook inbox message from a friend who was concerned about the current argument in America over gay marriage. Like many Christians, she was concerned about the moral failure of the country. She had been watching Facebook and so have I. I too, have seen many comments like, “Why don’t people see what Scripture says?”

I’ll be honest. I don’t watch television news. For a good reason. It’s only purpose seems to be to rile people up over things that are insignificant. You get stressed out. I mentioned in an online magazine recently how watching TV news in a constant flow caused my mother anxiety.

She said she read my blog occasionally and never saw me write anything about the issue. I don’t. My blog is about fallen

Pic courtesy of PBS

Pic courtesy of PBS

pastors, mostly. Then, I write about issues secondary to that. Then, after that, I write about what tickles my fancy. I don’t avoid the big issues. I’ve written about big issues before, but they’re just not on the radar of what I do.

My response to her was probably not what she expected, but I hope it was biblical. (She did thank me for the sermon :) ) I want to post it here then add some comments after. Here it is, verbatim:

Here is what I would say. And I pray it’s the biblical thing, because any response of my own would be wrong.

I’d take it back to the apostle Paul who wrote to a church that was probably going through more moral decay than we are, if you can imagine. In his time, it wasn’t just the culture, it was members of the church who were declining in morality. Members of the church were going up to the pagan temple and sleeping with temple prostitutes.

Paul was surrounded by a pagan Roman culture that was filled with violence, sex, child molestation, and hedonism – and all of it was legal. But Paul didn’t write against the evil around him in the world. He wrote about the sin within the church. He says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 5:

Please take time to read more important stuff after the jump:

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.

seekPaul tells the church that the church should be watching out for immorality within it, not outside of it. There’s plenty of immorality within to watch out for. He was right. Today, there is sexual immorality, pornography, adultery, gluttony, and all kinds of sin within our own four walls – I should know. We have our own problems to attend to. God will take care of the problems outside.

And on that issue – does that mean we aren’t to care about the world we live in? Of course not. In John 16:33, Jesus said:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

If the world will change, it will be because of Christ and the Gospel. It won’t be because Christians get on Facebook and complain. It will be because we care about people in this world, show the love and compassion of Christ to those in this world who are not like us, those who are outright sinners, rejected and thrown away by 99% of most churches.

Does that mean we accept all types of sin? Nope. But we love them and let God work on them.

Does it hurt to call a Congressman or Senator when a bill comes up that we don’t like or want to support? No, we should. We should be good citizens. But we should be even better citizens of heaven. Loving the rejected.

Remember that Christ didn’t minister to those who were religious. He went first to the outcast, the ill, the worst sinners in the bunch. Who would religious people see those people as today? I think it’s something to think about.

One more thing that I think is important. I think it’s easy to get worked up on one issue today. I don’t think gay marriage or any one other issue is going to ruin our country. Sin has been around since the fall of man. There is good news – that’s what Resurrection Sunday is about. We aren’t fighting a losing battle, we are in a winning one. Because of Christ, all is won for those who believe. There is always victory and he has given it to us.

Be confident in the future of the world that God has created. Be joyous in this life and know that Christ was victorious at the cross and continues to be victorious today.

That’s it. But I want to add a couple of things.

outcastsIt’s been a while since I pastored. If I was still the same man I was before I committed adultery, I think I’d probably be in the pulpit speaking a different message. And I think I would have been wrong. Have I gone into a grey area? No, I don’t think so.

Here is what has changed. I’ve seen what Christ did when he came to us. He didn’t waste his time with the religious people of the day. He went straight for the outcasts. Those who knew they needed something to happen in their lives. And he made it happen. They were broken people and they were ready to listen. Go check it out. Any story where Christ saved someone. Any story in Acts where people were saved after Christ ascended. Those people were broken. Their sins weren’t called out one by one, they just wanted to know God and they were called upon to repent.

What I see today is a church that is the religious right of Jesus’ day. Christ corrected those people. He interacted with the religious people, but he mostly told them that their hearts weren’t right. He told them that they needed internal cleansing. Then, he spent no more time with them and turned his attention to the people the religious crowd wanted nothing to do with.

Ask yourself – who are the people most mainline denominations want nothing to do with? That’s an easy answer. Who isn’t visiting your church? Bikers, ex-cons, homosexuals, thieves, adulterers, drug addicts, single parents with bratty children, fallen pastors, people with tattoos all over their bodies, alcoholics, people who have been married three or more times, suicidal people, those who have severe depression, those with severe financial difficulty, and if you’re in a white church – African-Americans, Latinos, or any other ethnic group.

I am afraid that our churches have become safe-havens for the self-righteous.

Our immediate response is, “Well, those people need to repent before they come to Christ.” Friends, our job isn’t the same job as God. God’s job is the work of salvation. Ours is to love and speak truth and show compassion. Salvation is entirely the work of God.

If we really, really believe that God can change a person who is not like us, then we will welcome them into our community of faith and treat them like Christ treated them. With love and compassion. When we rail against any people group with hatred, we’ve lost them. I’m not saying there isn’t sin in this world. There is. But God is judge of what is right. And He is the one who changes hearts.

Our job? Love. Embrace those in this world. Give them space, shelter, love, empathy and maybe for the first time a friendsteps who knows Jesus Christ.

Listen. Go ahead and do your Good Friday reconstruction of Jesus on the cross. Have some forty year old guy stand on some wooden platform for six hours this week. People will drive by on their way home from work, after 40 hours of torture, look up and say, “What in the heck are those people doing?” There’s no message for them there. They are looking for authenticity. They want people who just love them for who they are.

That’s what Christ did. He loved people for who they were. That’s what we are supposed to do. Let God sort it out after that. Our job isn’t to say, “Well, I don’t think that person will fit in here. They don’t dress well, they have personal issues, they sure are strange.” Nope.

You know what happened when Christ loved people? They responded with repentance. He didn’t excuse sin. But he showed them love beyond borders. He showed them something the religious establishment of the day wasn’t giving them. I say that’s what’s going on in the majority of churches today. I pray it isn’t so. But I believe it is.

We are to love. Plain and simple. Get over ourselves. Start loving like Christ did and then turn anyone who comes over to Him and see the miracle He can do.

This is what makes me want to start a church in my own county where anyone who walks through the door is accepted, loved and will be treated kindly. Anyone can come in, know they don’t have to give money, know they will hear the good news, and know that there is hope. May the compassionate Christ resonate during this Resurrection week.

What Wondrous Love Is This?

On this beautiful Palm Sunday, this hymn closed our service.  It is beautiful.

Enjoy and God Bless!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,

what wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss

to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,

to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,

when I was sinking down, sinking down;

when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,

Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,

Christ laid aside his crown for my soul!

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.

To God and to the Lamb who is the great I Am;

While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;

While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;

And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;

And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

It Could Have Been Worse

Cover of "It Could Have Been Worse"

Cover of It Could Have Been Worse

For some strange reason I have a weird way of looking at things.  Good things happen.  Bad things happen.  Really ugly things happen.  I find myself thinking – this could have been worse.

Does everyone think like this?  I’m not sure.  I don’t think so.  I see people around me that are stuck in a quick sand of bad circumstances that have bullied them and beaten them down – until they are a mere shadow of their former selves.  Somehow they have not been able to rise above the negative, hurt and sadness in their lives.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

 

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

This in itself should give us that ability to “press on” even in times of unusual stress and bad times.  But sadly, I know it is not.

When something bad happens to me my first response is not, “Thank you, Lord – I see this is going to hurt but I also know you’re going to teach me something through this”  Not at all!  But I have found that much later it helps to practice this one thing:    I have allowed my thoughts to go to a place that could have been worse.   There is always something worse.

I fell the other day.  My own stupidity.  Tripped over a carpet end after trying to go over a puppy gate.  I got my one foot caught on the end of the carpet and the other foot did not make it over the gate.  I hung for a moment suspended in an awkward straddled position and then gravity propelled me forward and on to an oak side table.  The momentum was so great that the side table actually broke as I fell on it.  Can you say, “Ouch”?  Needless to say my side that hit and broke the table was VERY sore and badly bruised.  My foot that was caught in the rug, twisted as I fell – another “Ouch” – and I had several other bruises on my arm and hand.  Oh I still have the visual reminders of my fall – and probably will have them for a while.  A bruise is still a bruise after all – and it still hurts.

But oddly enough, as in other unfortunate circumstances that have come my way (and plenty of them) – I have started allowing my thoughts to take me to a place of “what-ifs” instead of just “Oh-Nos!”   You know that place.  The place that is “better” or “worse” depending on how you look at it.  It’s more than just a “glass half empty or full” it’s a place of real discovery.  The discovery is in how I choose to be defined by what happens to me.

I always try to choose blessing and see God’s protection on my life.  Even in the bad things that come my way.  Even in the bad fall.  Here’s what I thought:  “This could have been so much worse.  If I had been older, had less padding and my bones had been more brittle, I surely would have broken my hip or cracked a rib.  I would have not just twisted and bruised my foot – I would have badly sprained or broken it.  The blessing is that I only have bad bruises and a little limp while I recover but  this too shall pass.

I remember an ugly thing that happened years ago now – as I tried to help another person and got too emotionally involved.  Even then, God was protecting me.  That person ended up betraying all my kindness and the friendship,  accusing me of some ugly things.  It could have gone down a much more dangerous and ugly road if I hadn’t realized first I needed to say goodbye.   But as it turned out – God used that person to turn things around, force me to become wiser about who to discuss things with and confide in.  And even though that hard lesson cost me that friendship – I have not stopped being kind and helpful.  I still reach out and want to help people.  I know it could have been worse.  Much worse.

Maybe you have an issue or circumstance that is weighing you down.  You can’t see anything positive about it.  You feel like it’s the worst experience of your life.  You don’t see any way out.  Here’s a thought for you today:

Look at the blessings and protection from God on your life so far.  Think of how things might have been worse if left entirely up to you.  Try to think of ways that God has truly intervened on your behalf.  Are there things in your story that are more than just coincidence?  Can someone benefit from your story of God’s grace in your life?  Are you able to still be positive and joyful even through your pain and trials?  Can you see any way that others might learn a life lesson from you?  Can you look through a different “God lens” and see how things could have been worse?

I am praying for you today.

 

God Bless 

When Others Wrong You

“Living well is the best revenge.” 

George Herbert English clergyman & metaphysical poet (1593 – 1633) 

Asking For Forgiveness

Asking For Forgiveness (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

 

I heard this quote a while back.  I can’t remember where.  But it struck a chord with me.  All of us at one time or another have had an uncomfortable situation with another person.  A situation that leaves you feeling – well – confused, upset and sad.  Some of those same situations do much more than that – they make us ANGRY and wanting to retaliate.  Sadly, I have not always kept these feelings to myself and I have been angry and said things I should not have said.  But honestly, for me – silence or a soft answer is the best method.  It seriously will drive that person crazy!   Killing them with kindness and all that jazz :)
For me – I have not always been able to control what others say, think or even how they react.  If we look out through the  lens of our own uncertainty and insecurity – we at least know our own personal limitations and can anticipate an outcome.  But when it comes to guessing how others are thinking – we can expect  to get it wrong most of the time.
There was a time not long ago that a situation with another person caused me to look at things very differently.  I can no longer assume people always have my best interest in mind – or always have my back.  I’ve learned not to take things lightly.  I’ve learned not to presume that everyone who seems kind, sensitive and helpful – really is.  Sometimes things have happened and I’ve found out the very character of the person I thought was incredibly different. 
A while back it troubled me.  Really troubled me.  Now I just look at the incredible opportunity for growth and character in me.  I know that not everyone is going to react to stress and trouble in the same way that I do.  I can’t control the way people think, the way they were raised and the role models, both positive and sadly, negative that they have had.  And I’ve learned that while my heart wants to help and even rescue and change someone to be healthier and more positive – I just can’t do it.  Only God can fix the very broken and heal the heart.
When someone hurts you – it is often because they themselves are hurting.  If they are not healthy and whole, they will often lash out, retreat at the first sign of trouble or make themselves the victim.   Even those you thought you knew really well.  Even those who thought would protect and never hurt you.
It is sad but true.
One thing you can do  is come to a place of real deep forgiveness.  Even if the other person never forgives back.  Even if the other person cuts you out of their life and acts as if you are the problem.  When we forgive – it is for us.  It is a healthy place to live.  Forgiveness says, “You do not owe me anything – I freely forgive the pain and other things creating a wall between us.  I choose not to remember what you have done to me any more.  I value you above all the circumstances and pain.”  Forgiveness always gives a second chance.  Forgiveness always finds a way.  Forgiveness always reconciles.
The other thing to do is this:  Live well.  Do not allow the grievances of the past to control you.  Continue to grow as a person, to value others and not be afraid to love again.  Love is always a risk.  But a risk worth taking.  In living well – you are an example to the world of God’s love and forgiveness.  You will feel better and live longer.  That is a promise.
Try on a little forgiveness today.  Take on a ‘short-memory’ when others wrong you.  Start each day as a new day of opportunity and a find a way to bless others.  It is truly the best revenge.

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another: merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ. 

God Bless

Are You Alone?

I am at a Starbucks out of town, while on a road trip with Greg. I noticed when walking in this place that it was unusually crowded. I peered around for a vacant table – and then I saw it. The only empty table in the place. A lonely LARGE table. This table holds eight people. It is empty. There are many smaller tables around it – all full. It is awkward. Little old me at such a large table. By myself. Alone.

Throughout the years I have witnessed people alone at a table for two in restaurants. I'm sure they are uncomfortable. They avoid eye contact, are often reading a book or a magazine and trying to “appear” busy. At the few times I have found myself alone out in public having to eat alone at a table for two – it is very awkward. I try not to feel that way – but the society in which we live – dictates that to be alone means something dreadful and sad. You feel people watching you – you want to scream, “I'm only alone because I am choosing it” but it is no use. Alone is alone. No matter how you slice it.

Many people find themselves alone at different seasons in life. Usually it is not planned, can happen suddenly and takes them by surprise. Being alone is an unpleasant prospect. Being alone out in public – even scarier. Especially for women.

I have often marveled at how people, once in a long-term relationship and suddenly alone, can begin again. They takes the necessary steps to go out in public again – and even after time *gasp* – begin the thought process of dating again. *Double gasp* The first time around is scary enough for anyone – why oh WHY would anyone choose to do it again? – I've always thought. But at the same time – I am amazed and warmed by those who have not only taken steps to not be alone – but actually find someone else. The chances for 'love the second time around' are really great!! And I have witnessed this marvel – many times over the years. Usually it is a long time friend, who also finds them-self alone or in this technically advanced society – through online dating sites.

The holidays can be wonderful – but also very lonely. Especially for those who have lost a mate, child or friend. There are so many sad songs surrounding the holidays. Some of the best lyrics involve sadness and loss. You would have to be intensely naive – to think that this season is automatically joyful for all.

If you are alone this season, the best thing you can do is get out and be with people. Attend a church service, holiday concert or an invite to a Christmas party. You may find that the warmth of friendship is your anchor and will bring you additional courage in the months to come. And because you are alone – your relationship with others in your life will become much more precious and you will now have time to renew old ties. If you have The Lord in your life – you know how much of a comfort it is to have a friend that “sticks closer than a brother” and who knows it all. He will become more dear to you during this time.

If you know someone who is alone for the first time this season – invite them over. Be a friend. Look around. Notice the ones who are alone in your church services. Get involved. Show gentleness and compassion. Spread love around. Sprinkle kindness. Stir in humor. Fold in understanding. Bring true meaning to the season this year. Make someone's Christmas truly special. You may be the only person who can.

God Bless

 

Waiting

And so we enter into the season of Advent.

English: Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday

English: Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We lit the candle in our church service and our pastor explained that this season is about waiting.  Waiting for the coming of Christ.  We symbolically express that through our congregational singing and the choir singing songs like “The Yearning” so picturesque and beautiful.

I do not like to wait.  And yet I have spent most of my life doing just that.  It started back when I was a little girl.  The waiting for Christmas to open gifts, the waiting for birthdays and other special events.  Time seemed to take forever back then.  As I got older I realized that things did not always happen the way we thought they should – and many things took a lot of time, patience and endurance to just wait.

When I first met Greg – it was the end of our freshman year in college.  Shortly after we met he had to return to Alaska, where he was from – to work in the summer months.  It was four months back before cell phones and internet which keeps people connected day and night – no matter where you are in the world.  Waiting then seemed like four years instead of months.

When we became engaged the next year – it seemed like so long until our wedding – just 5 months later.  But it finally came.  Then the next was waiting for college graduation and then a job that would take us to Alaska and then Pennsylvania.

The next big “wait” was when we wanted a baby – and it didn’t happen very fast.  Both times!  Then when it finally did – there was the waiting for the baby to just get here!  After that – it’s waiting for the babies to grow up from the toddler and diaper stage, then the young children stage and then the teenager stage with all the drama – to where they finally become independent responsible adults.  They finally did this.  In time.  Our children were very much worth the wait.  And we learned to love every stage of their development – though it wasn’t always easy to wait it out.  But we appreciated them so much more because of all the long waiting.

Last year I had to “wait” again.  I have wanted a Bichon puppy for years – we found a breeder out of town and waited for our puppy to be old enough to bring home.  But after waiting – my first puppy and the whole litter died at 5 weeks of age from a routine anti-worming medication.  So we began the wait again – another 6 weeks.  I’m happy to say that we got the right puppy – but the waiting was hard.

Life is a series of waiting – events – waiting again – events and then more waiting.

I thought I would be done waiting when I became an adult.  There seems to still be a lot of waiting.  Waiting for the fulfillment of a dream.  Waiting on God’s timing for a much-needed reconciliation with a friend.  Waiting on a family situation.  Waiting for direction.  Waiting, waiting, WAITING!!!  WHY DOES IT HAVE TO TAKE SO LONG???

God’s promises are always fulfilled – in HIS time.  Sometimes I would like to know what that time is – other times I just have to trust and know that He is working all things out – behind the scenes.  And sometimes I believe that this waiting is His idea for me.  It is in the “waiting” that we are still, focused and intense.  If we don’t give up – keep believing and stay positive – using that waiting to develop good things like tolerance and patience.

Here is a great song by Michael W. Smith – it is perfect in this season of Advent.  This season of the long wait.

Enjoy and God Bless

Thanksgiving Prayer

English: Oven roasted turkey, common fare for ...

English: Oven roasted turkey, common fare for Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Thanksgiving.  The Turkey is in the roaster oven, the stuffing is made and a pie is in the oven.  The house is cleaned and prepared, ready for family to gather, eat, laugh and eat some more.

As I think of this day – I am reminded of so many reasons I have to be thankful.  And like you – I think about them all year-long.  Sometimes the simple things we are thankful for – are hard to express.  So many of our blessings are taken for granted – until something happens.  I have been more thankful this season because of that reason.  Those “things” that happen in our lives only cause us to pause and take a breath.  They make us truly grateful for small blessings.  Here are a few of mine:

1)  I am thankful for health for myself and my family members.  In this season I am reminded of how many of my friends are touched my bad news concerning health – and I know for those people, Thanksgiving has a whole new meaning.

2)  I am thankful for a happy home with laughter and joy, not a whole lot of material things or money – but happiness and contentment just the same.

3)  I am thankful for my wonderful husband of 31 years.  He is without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to me – and the biggest blessing in my life.  He has stood by me and defended me in all and every situation – always believing the best in me – and I am forever grateful.

4)  I am thankful for two wonderful children – who are both grown-up and on their own journey in this life – with its many twist and turns and obstacles that could trip them up and make them turn down a wrong path – if they allowed it.  I am grateful that they had a strong foundation in godly things and know the Lord personally.  I am so proud of both of them and their lives as they continue to bless and inspire others.

5)  I am thankful that both my husband and I were raised in similar Christian homes – full of love and laughter – Christ centered in every way.  It helped to prepare us for many things we would encounter in our long marriage and in church work through the years.  Both sets of our parents have been married to one person for over 50 years.
And so as I reflect on these blessings my prayer for all of you is this:

May you find joy and laughter in the simple things of life as you look around your table today.  And if you are alone this Thanksgiving – I pray you will be reminded of the small blessings of the past – and how it has touched you and made you the person you are today.  May smiles and not tears be your companion today and may you have at least one friend to share this memorable day.  Amen.

 

God Bless

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