Tag Archives: Scripture

Thoughts on the 23rd Psalm…and what it means to me.

So I’ve been thinking about the 23rd Psalm a lot lately. I go through periods where it seems to bubble up from my subconscious. I’m not one to know bible passages by heart, but this one I do. Over the past decade or so it has, on various occasions, helped me a great deal.

This psalm—as with most of the bible, or any sacred text for that matter—I take as metaphor. I like to see how it translates to my life in this time in history, not what it may have meant two or three thousand years ago. This said, before I speak directly of this psalm I have to mention my views on who (or what) I think God is. Yup, I said the G-word and with a capital G.

My views are very personal (but aren’t everyone’s?) and may be out on the fringe for some, so if you are a literalist (meaning, you take the bible as the inherent and unfailing word of God) or if you have religious views that lean decidedly to the right, you may want to close this page right now and not read any further. But if you do continue to read on please do not send me hate mail or try to “save me.”

Ok, so I’ll get back to the big G…who, or more specifically what, God is to me? Well, I certainly do not think of Him as an old man with a white beard sitting up on a cloud somewhere looking down. And I’m conscious that I just used the gender-specific “Him” in the previous sentence. I do this out of habit, I suppose, just in the same way I use the word God for what I consider to be the Ultimate Reality. To me—in my heart—the word God is also interchangeable with Spirit, Divine Source, Universe, Indwelling Presence (just to name a few)…the list could go on. I really believe that the concept of God is incomprehensible to our human minds (though not necessarily our hearts) but at the same time It/He/She is all that there is. I believe this Ultimate Reality is in everything and is in fact everything and we are part of It and It is part of us and in some unfathomable way we as humans live and move within this Reality and are connected to each other and everything and everyone is connected to us and everything in It. In short, I believe there is nowhere we can go where this Reality is not.

Split a piece of wood and I am there. Lift up a stone and you will find me there.” 
Gospel of Thomas, saying 77

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” 
Psalm 139:7-8
For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” 
Bagavad Gita 6:30
And how do I personally know that God exists? I see It/He/She reflected back at me when I look in the eyes of another fellow human. I feel Her when I see a person moved to tears…I know It when I am moved to tears. He is present in my heart when I help another person or if I see another person helping another. The Universe speaks to me when I feel a gentle breeze or rain on my face as I ride my bike, or when, amazingly, plants push through the spring soil after one of the harshest winters I can remember. And I even know this Reality when one of my beautiful dogs looks up at me with unconditional love the way that a canine does. I could go on, but you likely get the picture. Do I feel or know this Presence in my life all of the time? No, of course not. I’m a work in progress (but we all are). And that’s why I need helpers like this psalm to remind me.

And one last thing before I talk directly about the 23rd Psalm…I have to mention the J-word. Yup…Jesus. Because I know that if I’ve kept your attention long enough to read this far then there are at least a couple of you who are wondering what my views are on Jesus. I will only touch briefly on him because I have thoughts in my head about what I’d like to write and it could go on for pages and I don’t want to bore you with it now (but probably will in a later post). And another quick suggestion…if you are a literalist and you made it this far this may really be the time to click another link and get out of this page.

Firstly I would just like to say that while I believe that the Divine Spirit is part of each one of us and that we are part of It in equal measure, no matter what our race, religious background, gender, sexual orientation, etc….there is One Spirit that permeates all things, but at the same time I consider myself a Christian. And by this I mean that I try to follow the teachings of Jesus the Christ as best I can (but usually fail miserably on a daily basis). Do I think he was the only begotten son of God…no. Do I believe he died for our sins…nope. I’m not even convinced he died a physical death on the cross. Then what do I believe, you may be wondering? I believe that he was a divinely-inspired teacher who was trying to tell us how to live and that the life he lived was an example…pure love and compassion. He was truly enlightened in the same way that the Buddha was, and that he was telling us that if we did what he did we too could find heaven in this lifetime. So there it is.

Sorry for the long ramble, here—finally—is how I view this psalm, and what it means to me. To sum it up in just a sentence, this psalm makes me remember what is real and important in life, and that even when things seem hopeless I still am connected to and inseparable from the same Divine Source as you and the next person, and that I have this Source within me to know that deep down everything is just as it should be. The psalm is in bold and my thoughts/interpretations are in italics, and I have to emphasize that these are simply my personal thoughts. I am not trying to force them on anyone. Thank you for reading this far.



Psalm 23 

The Lord is my shepherd,

(The Divine Presence is all that there is. It dwells within all things including myself, and it guides me.) 

I shall not be in want.

(I have everything I need in life, including more food than I can eat, clothing to wear, a house to live in, and the love of family and friends.) 

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

(Even though I am often tired and overworked and feel like there is no end in sight it is often an illusion, because I am allowed to take rests whenever I need to…sometimes it’s just a matter of turning inward. And when I do, through prayer, yoga, and meditation, I realize that I am on the shores of quiet waters.) 

He refreshes my soul.

(When I am at my most tired and stressed, when things seem hopeless, all I need is to remember the above three things and I can be refreshed. Turning inward and to remember what is really important in life.) 

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

(I am guided by intuition, or “gut feeling,” the goodness that each one of us has written on our hearts. All I have to do is listen. And little by little It guides me to become the person that I was meant to be.) 

Even though I walk through the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

(Everyone has dark times—and I could write a book here, right?—but knowing that our Divine Source is with me always reminds me that there truly is nothing to fear. This, and the fact that I know I am in some sometimes incompressible or unknowing way being guided, comforts me.) 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

(The table is my life spread out before me—where I truly do have everything I need—and my enemies are internal (fear, selfishness, envy, etc), and these can be overcome.) 

You anoint my head with oil;

(Because I, like each one of us, is a welcome guest at this time allotted for me on earth.) 

My cup overflows.

(I may not have everything I “want” but I surely have more than I truly need. My cup (life) is literally overflowing with goodness.) 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

(Life really is what you make it. If I offer goodness and love, then goodness and love are returned to me. All I have to do is be open and allow it to happen). 

and I will dwell in the house of the Lordforever.

(Yes, I am a Christian that believes in reincarnation. Thus, I have been connected to this same Source—and probably you too—in previous incarnations, this current one, and those to come. And I could go on about this, but I won’t) 

Amen.

Another face, another very real story…

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Matthew 25:35-36

This post is a continuation of one I wrote nearly a month ago regarding the homeless in our city (click here to read it). In that post I mentioned witnessing a women being verbally abused while asking a group of young party goers for some spare change, and also of a man I spoke with who asked me for money on a sunny Sunday afternoon. He told me that he worked full-time (for minimum wage) but still had to beg on the street to support himself. The image above is of Sarah. I met her today while out on my bike. When I saw her sign it was as if my bike stopped itself. After giving her some cash she seemed a bit apprehensive when I asked her if I could take her photo. I told her that I have a blog, work as a chef, and am also an interfaith minister…she then looked at me like I was a bit crazy (and rightly so). Anyhow, we both relaxed and we had a nice but brief chat, this is her story. She’s a single mom just as the sign reads. She and her daughter are currently squatting in an undisclosed vacant house with a few other people. They eat mainly at food pantries and with money she earns on the street. She became homeless after her father–in an alcoholic rage–threw her and his grand daughter out in the middle of the night. She has had difficulty getting/holding a job because she suffers from crohn’s disease and is concerned about her daughter’s safety. I have always been moved by seeing people on the street. And as a person of faith I literally cannot help but respond. But in my own personal view I am not doing enough. While I believe that all faiths speak the same truth, I call myself a Christian. And to me, being a Christian is not just about going to church on Sunday mornings, it is a call to action. If I truly were to live out the gospel I would have emptied my wallet to Sarah (OK, I nearly did…but trust me it wasn’t much; I rarely have more than a few dollars on me), or I would have helped in other ways. Tonight when I lay my head on my pillow in my own home with a full belly Sarah and her daughter will be in an abandoned home somewhere. And yes, I am fully aware that she and others I have spoken with and given cash to may be making this all up, that they may in fact be asking for money to support a drug or alcohol habit. But then again, maybe they are not. And if they are not I can’t help but wonder how I couldn’t be doing more. Because seriously, as you read this, think about it…what if their stories are true. I’ll get off my little soapbox now, but not before I ask you to watch the below video (it’s only a little over a minute long).

Urban Simplicity.

Tomorrow will worry about itself (because a little bird told me so)…

So this is interesting, or funny, or coincidental, or whatever. Without revealing too much personal information, these past few months have been difficult for me financially. And yesterday I was stressing about money (but what is money…just pieces of paper, right?) so I did what I often do and took a long walk with headphones and music. This usually helps. It did for the most part (I also stopped for a beer). Anyhow, on my way home I passed a bank that had recently closed (it seems weird to see a bank close; I didn’t know they did that) and the place where there was once an ATM machine was covered with plywood and had this graffiti on it. I laughed aloud to myself; I’m sure I looked like a crazy person to passersby. Anyhow, I thought I’d share this and a bit of scripture which came to mind as well.


 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

Urban Simplicity.

 

Tomorrow will worry about itself (because a little bird told me so)…

So this is interesting, or funny, or coincidental, or whatever. Without revealing too much personal information, these past few months have been difficult for me financially. And yesterday I was stressing about money (but what is money…just pieces of paper, right?) so I did what I often do and took a long walk with headphones and music. This usually helps. It did for the most part (I also stopped for a beer). Anyhow, on my way home I passed a bank that had recently closed (it seems weird to see a bank close; I didn’t know they did that) and the place where there was once an ATM machine was covered with plywood and had this graffiti on it. I laughed aloud to myself; I’m sure I looked like a crazy person to passersby. Anyhow, I thought I’d share this and a bit of scripture which came to mind as well.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25-34

Urban Simplicity.

Five photos, two scriptures, a song, and a bad day made good…

So I had a “bad day” today. I know it sounds silly, but I did. Everyone has them from time-to-time, and today was my turn. It’s a very busy week for me at work and in my personal life and stress can really affect me in a negative way. I tend to internalize things. The thing is that I am fully aware that a person can choose how they want to feel. Yes it is true, and I fully believe this. But sometimes when I’m in the midst of stress and chaos I forget. All too often I forget. And when I left work today it was beautiful outside…still cold but the sun was out and the sky was blue. And I’ve mentioned this before but photography can, in a way, be a form of personal therapy for me. So I heeded my own previous advice and took a few photos of our Creator’s miracles that are right in front of me. But I have to say, and I even chuckled about it to myself (and that’s a good sign) that as I was removing my camera from its bag a lyric from the R.E.M. song, Bad Day, rang in my ears…”It’s been a bad day, please don’t take your picture.” (click here to watch them sing it live on Letterman) 

Anyhow, staring through the lens and really focusing on something has a calming effect on me. It really does. I’m sure it lowers my blood pressure. And as I took in the sights and sounds around me I couldn’t help but think how I had a change of mind. And that’s really all it takes sometimes…change your thoughts and change your world. And as I rode home feeling the cool air (cold, actually) on my face and taking in all the greatness that was right in front of me, all around me, and in fact within me, I felt grateful. And these two scriptures come to mind when I think of this.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2
“Be sure to fix your mind on Me and to apply your intelligence for Me and you will live in Me for certain and never suffer any doubt thereafter.”

Bhagavad Gita 12:8 

And then later in the evening–just a few minutes before writing this post–I had a text conversation with a very dear friend of mine. A friend whom I treated poorly earlier in the day. We both forgave each other. And it made me remember what is truly real and what matters to me in this lifetime. People matter. So does beauty. So does love. Stress (fear) is unreal and something I fabricate myself. So if I am able to choose my thoughts and feelings, then I choose love and compassion. This is what I choose to start my day tomorrow (and to end my night tonight). It’s not always easy, but it is possible. Tomorrow is another day, and another very busy day for me, but it’s okay…I’ll view it as a challenge, one which is able to be overcome.

Urban Simplicity.

Five photos, two scriptures, a song, and a bad day made good…

So I had a “bad day” today. I know it sounds silly, but I did. Everyone has them from time-to-time, and today was my turn. It’s a very busy week for me at work and in my personal life and stress can really affect me in a negative way. I tend to internalize things. The thing is that I am fully aware that a person can choose how they want to feel. Yes it is true, and I fully believe this. But sometimes when I’m in the midst of stress and chaos I forget. All too often I forget. And when I left work today it was beautiful outside…still cold but the sun was out and the sky was blue. And I’ve mentioned this before but photography can, in a way, be a form of personal therapy for me. So I heeded my own previous advice and took a few photos of our Creator’s miracles that are right in front of me. But I have to say, and I even chuckled about it to myself (and that’s a good sign) that as I was removing my camera from its bag a lyric from the R.E.M. song, Bad Day, rang in my ears…”It’s been a bad day, please don’t take your picture.” (click here to watch them sing it live on Letterman)
Anyhow, staring through the lens and really focusing on something has a calming effect on me. It really does. I’m sure it lowers my blood pressure. And as I took in the sights and sounds around me I couldn’t help but think how I had a change of mind. And that’s really all it takes sometimes…change your thoughts and change your world. And as I rode home feeling the cool air (cold, actually) on my face and taking in all the greatness that was right in front of me, all around me, and in fact within me, I felt grateful. And these two scriptures come to mind when I think of this. 
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
“Be sure to fix your mind on Me and to apply your intelligence for Me and you will live in Me for certain and never suffer any doubt thereafter.”
And then later in the evening–just a few minutes before writing this post–I had a text conversation with a very dear friend of mine. A friend whom I treated poorly earlier in the day. We both forgave each other. And it made me remember what is truly real and what matters to me in this lifetime. People matter. So does beauty. So does love. Stress (fear) is unreal and something I fabricate myself. So if I am able to choose my thoughts and feelings, then I choose love and compassion. This is what I choose to start my day tomorrow (and to end my night tonight). It’s not always easy, but it is possible. Tomorrow is another day, and another very busy day for me, but it’s okay…I’ll view it as a challenge, one which is able to be overcome.


Urban Simplicity.

A time for everything…

These pots are in the front of my house and are–in the summertime–part of my front yard victory garden. I see them everyday as I dismount my bike, and I’ve been noticing the snow getting taller and taller on them as the winter progresses. While I do find winter really lovely–even on a bike; especially on a bike–it has, with the frigid temperatures, been trying to say the least. And as I looked at those snow covered pots today I couldn’t help but think how lush they are with vegetables in the summer; growing food that feeds me on so many levels. Anyhow, the below scripture came to mind, and now I seem to be humming the below song.

1  There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,

    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

    a time to kill and a time to heal,

    a time to tear down and a time to build,

    a time to weep and a time to laugh,

    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

    a time to search and a time to give up,

    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

    a time to tear and a time to mend,

    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

    a time to love and a time to hate,

    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 

 

A time for everything…

These pots are in the front of my house and are–in the summertime–part of my front yard victory garden. I see them everyday as I dismount my bike, and I’ve been noticing the snow getting taller and taller on them as the winter progresses. While I do find winter really lovely–even on a bike; especially on a bike–it has, with the frigid temperatures, been trying to say the least. And as I looked at those snow covered pots today I couldn’t help but think how lush they are with vegetables in the summer; growing food that feeds me on so many levels. Anyhow, the below scripture came to mind, and now I seem to be humming the below song.

1  There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 


Harvest Moon…

This is the view of the harvest moon from the end of my street in the middle of a medium-sized city on the eastern side of America. I find it really interesting and truly amazing that no matter what part of the globe you are reading these words sometime within a 24 hour span you too will see this very same image in real life. While autumn does not officially start for a few days the harvest moon unofficially ushers it in. A change of seasons; summer is behind us and autumn ahead of us. Time to move forward.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to harvest.