Not- How did he die? But- How did he live? Not- What did he gain? But- what did he give? These are the things that measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of birth. Not- What was his situation? But- had he a heart? And- How did he play his God- given part? Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer? To bring back a smile, to banish a tear? Not- What was his church? Not- What was his creed? But- Had he befriended those really in need? Not-What did the sketch in the newspaper say? But- How many were sorry when he passed away? These are the things that measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of birth. (Author Unknown) Note: I've come across this several times over the years, but never gave it much thought until recently when I saw it again. While trying to find the author and recall where I've seen it, several different versions came up. If anyone has any knowledge or feedback on this, I would greatly appreciate it.
(Throwback from 2013. My introduction to Ekphrastic poetry)
The woman I am today could not be, without struggles
Fortunate to find wisdom,
Making it through all life's troubles.
Still learning, each day I become more wise
Finding true love in the mirror, I cherish my prize.
I've always walked with confidence,
Filled with much pride
Though now, as if I'm glowing,
Floating with each stride.
Looking back, how foolish it was to think,
The pieces of my puzzle would remain incomplete.
Only time will tell the tale,
The story of my soul
My spirit is undivided,
My life "Finally Whole"!!
You Are Who You Are for a Reason
This book has been on my shelf for nearly a year. I’d been wanted to share in the reading with someone else during their spiritual journey who could offer a perspective. We read 1 short chapter daily for the next 40 days, (now on day 6) take notes and then discuss what we gained from the reading. Admittedly, I don’t talk about religion often because there is still so much, I don’t fully understand. However, my spirituality is my main coping skill with every challenge or aspect of life that I face. Here’s a poem from chapter 2 that touched me so deeply, I couldn’t resist sharing. I’m sure many of you may already be familiar with it and if not, I hope you enjoy.
by Russell Kelfer
You are who you are for a reason.
You’re part of an intricate plan.
You’re a precious and perfect unique design,
Called “God’s special woman or man”
You look like you look for a reason.
Our God made no mistake.
He knit you together within the womb,
You’re just what He wanted to make!
The parents you had were the ones He chose,
And no matter how you may feel,
They were custom-designed with God’s plan in mind,
And they bear the Master’s seal.
No, that trauma you faced was not easy;
And God wept that it hurt you so.
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into His likeness you’d grow.
You are who you are for a reason.
You’ve been formed by the Master’s rod.
You are who you are, Beloved,
Because there is a GOD.
Bio: Ziaeddin Torabi is an Iranian American poet residing in Sacramento, Ca. who I had the pleasure of meeting years ago at a writing conference. He holds a B.A. in English and Literature as well as an M.A. in Linguistics from Iranian Universities. Torabi has published more than 30 books of poetry.
The reasons not only the poetry was so memorable to me, but also Torabi himself is aside from being an extremely kind and gentle man, this was the first time I’d heard poetry recited in Persian or known to its native Iranian speakers as Farsi. It was an experience that touched my heart hearing the melodic lines of his poetry. Although I can’t seem to find the poem I wanted, I’d like to share another from his collection.
No, this graveyard is not so pleasant with statues along the sides of the roads and fainted distorted paintings hung on the walls Let's go back There is no shortage of graveyards There are so many villages and hamlets in this country that give shelter to the corpses of a homeless man like me You just start your hearse and go Stop the nonsense You just lie down and die I myself know my way Let me read this last one and then... No, since morning you have read so many poems that made me delirious It is not my fault that your hearse is broken as its wheels are limping No surprise for delirium
When the Bad Boys Came for Me
It would be great if I were actually talking about Martin and Will as actors but unfortunately, I’m referring to the real bad boys in blue. It was about a month ago when I was standing outside the doctor’s office waiting for medical transport to pick me up after waiting over two hours to be seen. Which didn’t happen because once I received a text informing me the driver is on the way (usually already outside) and if I’m not out there, they will leave and it’s uncertain how long the wait will be to arrange for another driver or if one is even available depending on the area. As I’m waiting, talking to a driver there for someone else, several police vans pull up. Jokingly, I say to the driver, ” I wouldn’t be surprised if they were here for me”. Guess what, they walk up asking “is there anyone here name Tammy?” In shock, I’m giggling with a huge smile I’m desperately trying to erase. Apparently because of my facial expression, they didn’t believe I was the person they were seeking. The female officer glances around asking if there’s anyone else out here name Tammy. She was under the impression they were looking for someone angry, hostile and argumentative. After finishing their questioning, looking as confused as I was and then returning from the actual office I had visited they were now seemingly annoyed. Still the officers and I managed to share a giggle as they informed me not to worry, and everything was fine before they went on their way. For the remainder of that day, although in disbelief, I couldn’t bring myself to stop smiling and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because the entire scenario caused me to reflect on all the occasions throughout my life when I’ve had encounters with law enforcement. In some cases, they were called on me and others, I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time during the midst of someone else’s drama. I thought it’d be interesting to share a few of those incidents. By the way, myself and two other patients waiting hours were having a conversation about a recent news story regarding mass shooting. It may have come up that physician’s should be held accountable, especially since this particular doctor I was seeing that day had recently cussed me out over the phone when I confronted him about a lie, he’d been caught in. I may have mention how unfortunate it is that the receptionist is usually the first victim to make contact with the shooter likely due to the actions of their superiors. The officers informed me of how sensitive this topic is, too which I responded, I am well aware considering mass shootings have affected me personally as well.
My second experience when the bad boys came for me, I was 17 years old and apparently my mother had just realized I was pregnant. Her reaction to the discovery was to beat me after just finishing a bath, still naked and flopping around on the floor she attempted to strangle me with an old telephone cord. Before this day I had never once talked back to my mom, raised my voice to her or dared to lay a finger on her. Now though that I was responsible for another life, in fear and desperation, I bit my mother on her shoulder resulting in her calling the police. They arrested us both and we sat in the holding tank for hours before we were released on our own recognizance and paying a fee of $50 each back then in the state of Michigan.
Sometime during my 20’s while working as a shift manager for Taco Bell, I had begun to feel a bit overwhelmed between motherhood, school and working full-time. Reluctantly per the advice of my very best friend to this day, “smoke a ‘lil bud Tammy, you’ll be relaxed, and your day will fly by”. I had always been against marijuana due to discovering as a teen how it affected me. I had even been interviewed in college when discussions were first brought up to legalize it, still in my ignorance, I went against my better judgement. One day during lunch rush, I was on the line stuffing an order of twenty or so taco’s when I was sure I kept hearing a guy in the lobby making derogatory remarks about me. I put it off until the orders were filled, and the rush was over. This same guy was still there, now walking around being loud and annoying other customers. I went to the lobby to inform him he needed to leave as I held the door open for him. In the midst of his refusal, I mentioned how I didn’t appreciate his comments towards me (turns out until that moment he hadn’t actually said anything to or about me, I was hallucinating from the chronic, lol). Unfortunately, though after being punched in the face by this guy when refusing to leave, (his mistake was not knocking me out) in a matter of a few minutes I created a hostage situation (by locking the doors with customers inside), and also assault with a deadly weapon (by going behind the counter and returning to cut his face up with the tool for cutting the Mexican pizza’s). I was lucky because he struck me first. However, he came back the next day and I was suspended when my GM saw what I’d done to his face. After a week though, I returned, got the keys back to the store along with a raise. Turns out although I was in fact paranoid from being under the influence of the sticky green, this guy had been harassing and terrorizing employees of fast-food chains in the area for weeks. Needless to say, I still don’t smoke the endo and am actually scared to and not solely because of the lessons I learned that day.
I had a couple more of these disturbing encounters to share, but I’m afraid if I don’t wrap it up now, I won’t be getting this post scheduled for Friday so here’s one more for the road. Briefly, during my time of homelessness I stayed with a former classmate of my son. A young man who had no one and had been in and out of trouble. Preparing a nice dinner in the kitchen while babysitting my grandson, I suddenly hear glass crashing and a loud bang becoming paralyzed yet wanted to grab my grandson but scared to move after hearing the police orders not to. The young man had been spotted on a warrant and when trying to flee, the police followed by jumping through a back window to his apartment where their pursuit ended. I was eventually detained and questioned momentarily because I was on probation due to a conviction two years prior. Initially I was frustrated and embarrassed for having to be there in the first place. My attitude changed though after my son thanked me for likely saving his friend and caring for him. I literally had to bury his face in my bosom to stop him from being confrontational with the police. I simply held on to him as tight as I could with care and hadn’t even realized it had been ages since he had a home cooked meal which he nearly missed the opportunity to enjoy that evening. Thankfully he wasn’t the person they previously thought he was and ran out of fear due to his past. I’m happy to say he is doing very well today.
I don’t recall the number of encounters I’ve had with law enforcement over nearly fifty years; however, I have been arrested three times from those instances. Two as a juvenile and once as an adult in 2015. Aside from the encounter in 2015, all the times when I was the victim, I choose NOT to call the police for help or to report the crime. I’ve been held at gun point and robbed, jumped at age 18 by five men while holding my newborn daughter and the list goes on. When I did call in 2015, even though my drunk male neighbor came banging on my door, trying to force his way into my home-I was still the one who was placed under arrest. Although the charges were initially dismissed and I was released the next morning, the case was picked up a month later and the police arrested me at my home at 5am on a warrant. At the trial I was never given the opportunity to tell how my children and I constantly heard him beating his wife through our wall heater which is why I was already on guard with him. All this because I simply asked if he could tell his guest not to spit down on my patio where my G-son plays. My son, who’s trained in various forms of martial arts could’ve handled the situation and was upset that I didn’t let him. He was still a minor at the time, but now understands the situation could’ve been much worse when the police show up to find a black “boy” over 6ft tall. So as a mother bear does, protecting my cubs, I handled it. This in short explains my thought process as to why I never called police before. I have no ill feelings towards law enforcement because honestly, I haven’t had a bad experience with them but that doesn’t stop me from being fearful for my brown son, brother’s and G-son’s. Other than this most recent occurrence at the doctor’s office, there was nothing humorous about any of my previous encounters in the moment. However now, looking back, I can’t help but see the humor in my run-ins with the so-called bad boys of law enforcement. Some were traumatic and I cope by finding the humor in the situation and embracing it as healthy.
You might start your journey in the southwest United States in a dusty town called Why, Arizona. Heading cross-country would take you through Uncertain, Texas. Bearing northeast, you’d make a rest stop in Dismal, Tennessee. Ultimately, you’d reach your destination—Panic, Pennsylvania. These are real places across the landscape of America, though not likely a trip you’d ever choose to take.
Sometimes this is exactly what the journey of life feels like. We easily identify with the Israelites’ tough life in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2:7)—life can be hard. But do we see the other parallels? We create our own itinerary, turning from God’s way (1:42–43). Like the Israelites, we often grumble about getting our needs met (Numbers 14:2). In our daily fretting, we likewise doubt God’s purposes (v. 11). The story of the Israelites is repeated over and over in our own.
God assures us that if we follow His path, He’ll deliver us into a far better place than Dismal. He’ll provide and we’ll lack nothing we really need (Deuteronomy 2:7; Philippians 4:19). Yet as much as we already know this, we often fail to do it. We need to follow God’s roadmap.
It’s a bit more of a drive, but another six hours by car would take you from the town of Panic to the place known as Assurance, West Virginia. If we let God direct our paths (Psalm 119:35), we’ll journey in joy with Him at the wheel—blessed assurance indeed!
Reflect: What are some of the ways you’ve followed your own roadmap instead of God’s? What have you been fretting about?
Pray: Faithful God, help me rest in the assurance of Your direction.
New Dialing Code
988 is an ACT that has been implemented and will go live beginning Saturday July 16th, 2022. The purpose of this is to provide federal support designated by Congress as a dialing code and an alternative to dialing the former 1-800 number that will operate through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. One benefit of this is providing 24/7 resources to connect those in crisis as well as their family members/caregivers with services which include but are not limited to responders and crisis centers that have been trained specifically in the mental health fields. For parties interested in the Sacramento area, WellSpace is currently hiring for this position.
According to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one goal of this new suicide and crisis hotline is to strengthen suicide prevention and take a step in the direction of transforming the crisis care system in the U.S. Their data shows that in 2020, there was one death by suicide every eleven minutes and that suicide is the leading cause of death for people 10-34 years of age.
Although I personally have yet to come across any information on it but listening to discussions amongst peers a huge concern seems to view this new dialing code as an alternative or another option to dialing 911 having police show up to a scene with guns drawn when in some cases it’s not necessary. I’ve witnessed scenarios where in some instances, law enforcement was not trained to access or conclude a mental health crisis resulting in the worst possible outcome. However, since my own training of acquiring the tools necessary to successfully deescalate these situations, I’ve had opportunities to speak with law enforcement regarding key factors and triggers to look for in recognizing when someone is in crisis as opposed to an actual threat. There has been mention of programs being put into place where peers trained in mental health crisis may be called to a scene to assist officers in an effort of a more positive outcome. There are courses offered free to law enforcement, first responders and other medical professionals to help aid them which ultimately leads to a better outcome for all involved. While I have personally seen these professionals in action in an attempt to do their very best, they too are human, and it is a team effort for us all. I’m certain we all if not through our own experiences, know of someone who has been affected by mental health in some form. Even if/when taken into custody, these individuals can receive treatment and resources to get them started on their journey to recovery. As with any new concept, there are usually flaws or aspects that continually need to be worked out; however, I am hopeful for the implementation of this new ACT.
Giving God My Work
The magazine I was writing for felt “important,” so I struggled to present the best possible article I could for the high-ranking editor. Feeling pressure to meet her standards, I kept rewriting my thoughts and ideas. But what was my problem? Was it my challenging topic? Or was my real worry personal: Would the editor approve of me and not just my words?
For answers to our job worries, Paul gives trustworthy instruction. In a letter to the Colossian church, Paul urged believers to work not for approval of people, but for God. As the apostle said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24).
Reflecting on Paul’s wisdom, we can stop struggling to look good in the eyes of our earthly bosses. For certain, we honor them as people and seek to give them our best. But if we work “as for the Lord”—asking Him to lead and anoint our work for Him—He’ll shine a light on our efforts. Our reward? Our job pressures ease and our assignments are completed. Even more, we’ll one day hear Him say, “Well done!
Reflect: On your job, what pressures do you feel to please others or yourself? In what ways would your work improve on every level if you started working “as for the Lord”?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as I face job pressures, it’s easy to forget that I’m working for You. Redirect my heart and mind, so I put You first in all I do.
This devotion deeply resonated since starting a new job a few months ago that I’ve been working towards and preparing for by becoming familiar with basic technology for nearly a year. I’d been so worried about efficiency, meeting deadlines amongst other aspects all while worrying about what I wouldn’t be able to remember. Thinking I’m moving too slow, making mistakes, not fully understanding certain concepts, even though every continues telling me I’m doing a great job. This is the first actual position I’ve held (working for someone other than myself) in 13 years. I juggle 5 different positions within the organization, 1 which spans throughout 3 various counties, and I love it! I’m aware that I’ve always been my own worst critic even when I try my best not to be. I’m fortunate to work in a field where I not only am able to use my lived experiences to help others but am also supported as well as encouraged to pursue my personal ventures with my writing and as a motivational speaker. Now I simply need to stay mindful that I am working for the Lord (not man) while knowing that I am always putting forth my best effort from a place of passion and empathy. I am thankful to have finally found my purpose and feel extremely blessed with doing what I love.
It’s rare I turn my television on except to enjoy my music or watch the first 15 minutes of news reports. On the occasions when I’d attempt to watch a movie, it’s nearly impossible to view all the way to the end or not constantly pressing pause because I can’t sit still. However, recently I came across a 2015 film streaming on Tubi titled War Room, directed by Alex Kendrick. Initially I passed it over based on the title, never being a fan of actual war movies, but the title continued to appear in the rotation, so I decided to take a closer look by watching the trailer. To my surprise, it was not directly related to war and the trailer alone had so many powerful messages that stood out for me. Finally, a movie that captured my undivided attention and my only reason to press pause was to take notes. This film was truly inspiring and touched me in such a way that I’d like to share it with all of you while trying not to give too much away in case you choose to watch yourself. Had I watched this years ago, it would not have resonated the same. I wouldn’t have noticed key points and my perspective regarding the roles of the actors likely would have been different.
Back Story: A middle-aged wife comes in contact with an elderly widow of a war veteran who during his service, was in charge of fighting tactics/strategies. The widow also held resentment towards her husband due to feeling as if his job took priority over her. She regrets missing the opportunity to make things right with her husband before he dies in battle.
Basis: The wife grows to resent her husband for several reasons, mainly due to the obvious affect their constant fighting has had on their young daughter. Although both are successful in their careers, the marriage is falling apart. Even though the husband comes home every evening, he is not present mentally nor emotionally.
Plot: The “war room” is simply a safe and private space to pray while establishing a relationship with God. The wife was advised by the widow to pray for her husband. Write down the prayers for every area of her life, as she did along with lining the walls of the “war room” with them. Soon the young daughter noticed her mother had completely cleared out the closet that was previously filled with smelly shoes (a woman giving up closet space, really?). The mom’s new actions were soon mimicked by her daughter.
Messages (that stood out for me):
“To win a battle you need the right strategy and resources because victories don’t come by accident”.
The widow asked the wife how often she prays. Regularly, sometimes or not at all. The wife responds, “sometimes but not often”. To make a point, the widow offers a cup of coffee, and the wife is surprised after taking a sip and it’s luke-warm. The wife was confused until the widow explained with a giggle, “honey, coffee comes hot or cold and I like mine hot” as she relates the temperature of the coffee with consistent prayer.
The wife was then asked if when after fighting/arguing with her husband, has it ever felt like a win? After taking a moment to think, her answer was no. They widow replied that she hasn’t been fighting with the right weapon. This caused me to really think by reflecting on my past and present and how I choose to move forward with conflict in the future.
The husband had a friend who is a paramedic and asked him, how could he stand to do CPR on someone? The friend replied with a spiritual aspect then asked the husband if he would perform CPR on his own wife. The paramedic was ashamed and in awe when the husband responded that all he could do was call 9-1-1 and wait. They parted as the husband says, “I’ll see you in church”. His friend replies, “I’m gone pray that I see the church in you my brother”.
Wrap Up: The husband wasn’t a bad man, perhaps arrogant but his behavior ultimately cost him his job. After noticing his wife had no longer been fighting with him and seemed more patient, it made him nervous. He would sneak and switch their dinner plates thinking implying that she may poison him. The movie mentions that we are not deserving of grace, yet God still gives us his grace regardless of our actions. I appreciated the example of this when the husband returned to his job even after being fired, to make a full confession to his superiors. One, instantly wanted to pursue legally action while the other heard him out and made the decision to not press charges due to recognizing his sincerity and for taking accountability for his action, willing to accept whatever would be decided. It reminded me of the times when I have been shown grace and how often we take things for granted and why I am so thankful to be here today.
How Are You
Charla was dying, and she knew it. While she was lying on her hospital room bed, her surgeon and a group of young interns poured into the room. For the next several minutes, the doctor ignored Charla as he described her terminal condition to the interns. Finally, he turned to her and asked, “And how are you?” Charla weakly smiled and warmly told the group about her hope and peace in Jesus.
Some two thousand years ago, Jesus’ battered, naked body hung in humiliation on a cross before a crowd of onlookers. Would He lash out at His tormentors? No. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ ” (Luke 23:34). Though falsely convicted and crucified, He prayed for His enemies. Later, He told another humiliated man, a criminal, that—because of the man’s faith—he would soon be with Him “in paradise” (v. 43). In His pain and shame, Jesus chose to share words of hope and life out of love for others.
As Charla concluded sharing Christ to her listeners, she posed the question back to the doctor. She tenderly looked into his tear-filled eyes and asked, “And how are you?” By Christ’s grace and power, she’d shared words of life—showing love and concern for him and others in the room. In whatever trying situation we face today or in the days ahead, let’s trust God to provide courage to lovingly speak words of life.
REFLECT: What difficult and humbling circumstances are you facing these days? How can you rest on Jesus during this challenging season?
PRAY: Jesus, I praise You for Your example of grace and humility. Please help me reflect these qualities in my words.
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