Musings From A Musical Mind

Archive for the ‘Judgement’ Category

We Are More Alike Than We Think

United Methodist Church, in

United Methodist Church, in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greg and I have had the privilege lately of visiting churches on Sunday mornings here in the Pacific Northwest.  We have been open to trying other denominations and have listened and taken everything in with no judgement or bias (well…maybe a little bias) and have appreciated things new and unfamiliar to us.

In our search we have met some really wonderful people, seen and heard some great music and teaching ministries. The most impressive have been the people in these different denominations.  Deep down inside I’m forced to admit, that I expected people who didn’t think and believe exactly like me to be unfriendly, hostile, pushy and illiterate, lacking depth and reasoning skills.  Pretty dumb.  But the teachings of childhood are hard to shake and once we get a preconceived idea in our head – it is very hard to change it.

As Greg and I have journeyed through our denomination and seen many changes happening in the music, it has been both good and bad for us.  Good in that our kids really enjoyed the progressive trend toward all things modern and new and bad for us in that some of it is just too much the same, some too hard to follow, some too loud etc.  We are somewhere between modern and 20 years ago – and to be honest the music of 15 years ago still suits us best.  Take away choir and orchestra music of our denomination and you’re left with just a worship band with not much variety.

So we have explored music of the more traditional denominations that we thought we would NEVER be interested in.  The Presbyterian and Methodist being among our favorite choices so far – for their depth of teaching, variety of music and beauty of the service.  I was never familiar with a more liturgical service (thought it was only in the Catholic church) had been to a Lutheran service once or twice where my Dad is the organist and was convinced that it was not for me.  But there is a beauty to the order and planning of every scripture reading – hymn chosen and scripture song sung for the message.

Nothing can compare to the pipe organ and huge choir at 1st Presbyterian Church in Bellevue.  The pastor is very interesting, uses humor and deep teaching to make his points clear – and honestly, it’s the best music in “church” I’ve ever heard.

But proximity is very important if hoping to become involved – and we are a couple of miles from Fairwood Community United Methodist Church where I visited yesterday.  I’ve always been curious because this is the lovely little church that I rent twice a year to have my recitals with my students.  I’m not sure what I expected – but it was certainly different (in a good way) than what I thought it would be.  The people were so friendly – had two people engage with me (I was late) before I even got into the sanctuary while standing in the foyer while the choir and teenagers being confirmed were on the platform singing an opening number.  They treated me like I was already one of them.  Then I found my seat toward the back and a nice older man behind me helped me as I stumbled a few times, wondering what book they were singing from.  There were 6 eighth graders that had been confirmed in the earlier service and were a part of the beginning part of the service that I was in – with introductions and explanation to the younger children and adults (like me unfamiliar with confirmation) of what was being done.

The pastor of this church is a woman.  I did not know how I would feel about this.  But my concerns were quickly diminished when I heard her speak and saw her with the children.  She uses humor and relevant topics to convey her point – yesterday she spoke on “Heroes” and used “The Hunger Games” as her premise.  It was relevant and interesting.  I looked around and saw many people just like me.  The same needs, concerns and place in life.  Many have never walked the road in ministry that we have – or ever will – they will never know what we have experienced in another denomination – never see things around the country and here in our own city inside a different type of church – and yet – I realized this:  we are more alike than we think.

I’m not sure where our journey will ultimately end – but in the meantime, I am reassured that God is not just restricted to one denomination.  He is everywhere – relevant to those who seek Him.  Ever present in our songs of worship, our traditional choir anthems and in our prayers offered up in reverence.  We have good friends from the Tri-Cities area who have been pastors like us in our denomination and have found themselves feeling quite at home in the Methodist Church.

When was the last time you visited something different from what you’re used to and were forced to removed the box where your God exists for you?  When was the last time you were really open?  Will it surprise you to see some people from other denominations in heaven with you?  We are the ones who put people in denominations and categories of “spiritual” and “non-spiritual” – God does not.  He just sees the heart.

Lord help me to be open to things that are different.  Help me to see people the way you see them.  Help me to engage in a way that I am always open to your leading.  Amen.

God Bless

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Secret Sin

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.   1 John 1:8-10

Our pastor spoke on the subject of the 10th commandment in his message last Sunday.  This commandment deals with the secret sin of “coveting”.  And while it sounds like nothing in light of the other big ones on the list – it is the one in which we can hide, push aside and even deny – making it the most dangerous one of all.

What exactly is coveting? And why is it so dangerous?  Coveting in it’s most basic form is this:  wanting something I don’t have. And in this last commandment that God gave to His people – He spelled it out for them – telling them not to want things that belong to their neighbor, their house, their wife or anything else that belongs to them.  Sounds simple right?  But it is not that simple.

Coveting goes beyond the above commandment.  It deals with the heart. It is all about the secret desires and motives –  known only by God.

Scripture has much to say about the heart. We’re told to “guard it” and that it is the “well-spring of life”.  And we truly believe it.  Until…there is something that we just can’t shake – a past relationship that won’t let us go – or a memory of better days – seeing someone or something that we would like to have for ourselves.  And we thing – “who are we hurting – no one knows”.  But God does.

Our pastor said that we can appear like we have it all together on the outside – we don’t murder, steal, commit adultery – you know the “BIG ONES” on the list.  We come to church and seem to have it all together.  In fact we’re so good that people are actually envious of us!  But this in itself can be a trap.  Sometimes those that look the part – are actually struggling with the most secret sin of their own.

But on the flip side of that – we can become “self-righteous” and “judgmental” when we are not as bad as all those other “sinners” out there.  Holding on to our private “secrets” but looking great on the outside.  It was those people who Jesus had to deal with most in His short 3 years on earth.  The ones that pointed their fingers at others – deflecting blame off of themselves – and the ones who did not acknowledge that they had a problem to begin with – and were just as guilty as the murderers, thieves and adulterers.  Jesus confronted this issue – knowing they all were good Jews and knew the commandments well – got right to the heart of the matter and said,

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Matthew 5:28

I imagine that this kind of radical thinking caused quite a stir.  After all – good Jewish men kept all the commandment to the letter of the law.  This one was uncomfortable and made them squirm.  Why?  Because their heart was wicked and far from repentance – far from God.

We are no different.  Sin is still sin.  Done out in the open – or in the secret places of our heart.  When we sin in a secret way – we are saying that we don’t need a Savior – that we can handle it on our own merit – that because everyone thinks we are good, pure, honest and without sin – that will be enough for God.  It isn’t.  He still knows.  Whether it’s an addiction problem, a lust problem or an unrepentant heart – it’s all the same to God.  Pride and stubbornness are the worst ones – because they tell us a lie – that we are alright without a Savior.

At the heart of our secret sin issue – is Jesus. He patiently waits for us to come to Him and to confess it.  He comes to not just forgive us when we blow it – but to fix us permanently and heal our disease. He heals us from the inside out – taking away the sin and any desire or residue that it leaves.  The sin that will ultimately lead to our destruction – little by little, bit by bit.

How many good moral people are out there?  That sit in our churches?  That have un-confessed sin in their lives?  That are so good in fact – they have no need for a Savior? Don’t be one of those – He is waiting for you today. When Jesus touches your life – you won’t be the same – the change will be permanent – done from the inside out. Something that good moral living alone cannot achieve.  We all have a sin problem – that is why He came.  To do a work that we ourselves cannot do.  Conquer sin in our lives for good – and change us, healing our disease of self-righteousness and pride.

When you get right down to the heart of the matter – Jesus came to save us from ourselves – our sinful tendencies and gave us a better way to live – healing us from the inside out.

Do you have secret sin hiding deep down in your heart that you believe is well hidden – even from God?  When you admit it to Him – He will not condemn you – but forgive you and heal you – giving you a new purpose and a new way to live.  That’s a promise.

God Bless

 

To Stand Alone

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, head-and-shoulders por...

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When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.   Eleanor Roosevelt

What does it mean to ‘stand alone’ and be counted?  Does it mean to be obnoxious about it?  Or isolate yourself?  Or be self-righteous or judgmental?

No.

We all have to come to the place where we have a conviction – either personal, social or spiritual – and we must decide for ourselves just what that conviction will mean for us.

Sometimes it means alienation from family and friends – sometimes it goes broader than that – in the political or social arena.  And we find ourselves ‘standing alone’.

Is it wrong to stand out – be all alone in what we believe and what we have decided is right?  How can we do so without being accused of forcing our personal opinion on another person?  Or being obnoxious?  Too opinionated?

I’ve had many interesting situations when I was trying to do the right thing – much opposition and many diverse reactions over the years.  I recently had an interesting situation in an email from a former close friend – who insisted that my ‘friendly and even humorous email was ‘forcing my opinion’ – when I was merely stating what I thought was the obvious – and in fact – the truth.  Let’s just say – the truth is subjective at best.  We all have a way of seeing our version of it.  And it is easy to get swept away into settling – for fear of opposition.  It is easier to just go along – to forget what the truth is – and choose an easier and less rocky road – even believe something that is not so. This friend should know me – but sadly has chosen to look and walk away – even when truth is right there.  That is the easy road – the one of least resistance and criticism.

I used to believe this – and I used to do this.   Not anymore.  Nor do I have a lot of respect for those that do.

I’ve had many interesting situations in this life of mine.  Nothing is harder than having a differing opinion with another human being – especially a good friend – who ought to know you better – but for some unknown reason – will not own or acknowledge it.  Even when doing the right thing.

And so, like Eleanor who knew what it was like to face controversy in her lifetime – I too have not only faced it – I’ve lived through it and even learned great things about people while going through a difficult time.

I wish I could say that people always understand my side of the story – or even listen to my side – but sadly, my side is often not even consulted – much less met with any understanding or dignity.  And yet – I still stand in my own ‘opinion’ or yes, my own convictions – and because I believe I am doing the right thing – standing up for truth and all that truth demands – I am stronger each day.

And I expect controversy – I even welcome it.  Jesus himself had plenty of it.  They didn’t like what He had to say – what He stood for.  He was ready and able to ‘stand alone’ and in His final hours – that’s exactly what He did.  Never compromising what He believed in – even when going to the cross.

And like Jesus – I want to live a life of graciousness.  A heart that freely and without reservation, embraces and loves.  Having a non-judgmental attitude – full of compassion and forgiveness.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

My prayer for you today is this:  That you will be forgiving of those that differ in their opinions from yours.  That you will decide what it is that you believe in – and not be afraid to be counted – and to stand alone.


God Bless

Speed Bumps

Speed bump made of rubber

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Every journey has them.  Every life encounters them.  They are speed bumps.

I’m keenly aware of the ones in my life.  Even long after they have happened.  It’s interesting that the speed bump appears just as I’ve hit my stride and I’m feeling great –  when sailing along at top speed – doing what I always do.

I don’t like speed bumps.  I never have.  I don’t like slowing down.  Sometimes I have not slowed down and made proper allowances for the speed bump – only to hear a very loud noise as my car plows over it – and it makes me cringe.  Speed bumps are put there for one purpose:  to MAKE us slow down.  Slow down – or ELSE.

There are events in my life that have also made me slow down.  Just when I thought I had it all together.  All the people important to me and my world in their proper place.  Something happens.  Causing my world to not only slow down – but come to a complete stop.  Oh I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t even want to slow down and call it a ‘speed bump’ – but in retrospect – that’s exactly what it was.  Something that shook me down to my foundation – made me take inventory and readjust.  I didn’t want to.  It hurt.

Ever feel like this?  Things happen that make you slow down and sometimes come to a complete stop?  Dead in your tracks?  You’re not alone.

I believe that God knows and understands this.  If I didn’t believe this – there would be no hope for me. He listens and understands without judgment – without condemnation.  He knows I am guilty – of so many things – of not slowing down and showing more caution  and much more. But He is in the restoring business – and He pursues me with a love like no other.  Lavish and full.  Complete in forgiveness and grace.  And I weep.  For no one understands my heart like He does.  No one loves me like this.  I weep for the loss.  I weep because I cannot fix things.  I weep because I am sad. And He knows and whispers to me that it’s only temporary – only a speed bump along my journey.

Those speed bumps have taught me something valuable that I can hang onto.  I am still me – and they don’t keep me from being who I am – but instead teach me an important lesson about slowing down – and recognizing danger – before I get there and plow recklessly into it.  And I have His promise that He will journey with me – no matter how bad the speed bump is in the future.

He is much more concerned with my heart than any external circumstances and I believe He will allow anything – even those speed bumps along the way in order for me to be more sensitive and bring me closer to understanding His heart.

I am praying for you

 

God Bless

What About The Love?

A song that was written 30 years ago – but is still relevant today – the lyrics are hauntingly real and VERY convicting.

 

God Bless

What About the Love?
Written by Kye Fleming, and
Janis Ian

I went to see my sister.
She was staying with a friend
Who had turned into a preacher
To save the world from sin.
He said, "First deny your body,
And then learn to submit.
Pray to be made worthy,
And tithe your ten percent."
I said, "Is this all there is,
Just the letter of the law?"
Something's wrong.
I went to see my brother
On the 32nd floor
Of a building down on Wall Street;
You could hear the future's roar.
He said, "Here we make decisions,
And we trade commodities;
If you tell me where there's famine,
I can make you guarantees."
I said, "Is this all there is,
Power to the strong?"
Something's wrong.
Something's wrong in heaven tonight.
You can almost hear them cry.
Angels to the left and the right,
Saying, "What about the love?
What about the love?
What about the love?"
I went to see my neighbor.
He'd been taken to a home
For the weak and the discarded
Who have no place to go.
He said, "Here I lack for nothing;
I am fed and I am clothed.
But at times I miss the freedom
I used to know."
I said, "Is this all there is,
When your usefulness is gone?"
Something's wrong.
Something's wrong in heaven tonight.  (Something's wrong.)
[From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/a/amy-grant-lyrics/what-about-the-love-lyrics.html]
You can almost hear them cry.         (Cry.)
Angels to the left and the right,
Saying, "What about the love?
What about the love?
What about the love?"
(Yeah, yeah, yeah....)
(Yeah.)
(Yeah.)
I looked into the mirror,             (Yeah.)
Proud as I could be,                  (Yeah.)
And I saw my pointing finger          (Yeah.)
Pointing back at me,
Saying, "Who named you accuser?       (Yeah.)
Who gave you the scales?"             (Yeah.)
I hung my head in sorrow;             (Yeah.)
I could almost feel the nails.
I said, "This is how it is
To be crucified and judged
Without love."
Something's wrong in heaven tonight.  (Something's wrong.)
You can almost hear them cry.         (Cry.)
Angels to the left and the right,
Saying, "What about the love?
What about the love?
What about the love of God?"
Something's wrong in heaven tonight.  (Something's wrong.)
You can almost hear them cry.         (Cry.)
Angels to the left and the right,
Saying, "What about the love?"
What about the love?
What about the love of God?"
Something's wrong in heaven tonight.  (Something's wrong.)
You can almost hear them cry.         (Cry.)
Angels to the left and the right,
Saying, "What about the love?
What about the love?
What about the love...?"

Mercy

Two candles in love. The flame is inverted hea...

Image via Wikipedia

My heart is stirred today in much emotion – a heavy heart over events and situations that have lately affected my life and made it difficult to press on.  A difficult season of life – with many things out of my control – leaving deep sadness,  remorse – and resignation.

Our pastor, Stephen Collins, spoke on the subject of ‘Mercy’ today.  And although it is a subject that is not new to me – or any people of faith  – I believe  I heard newness in this simple message today – things that I will continue to ponder in the coming weeks.  I found myself very emotional.  This is a subject that is close to my heart and life.  And so with tears streaming down my face – I sat there and took it all in – and allowed the Lord to minister sweet words of comfort and blessing.  I was touched and moved beyond words.

I’ve noticed something about people who are merciful. – they are the first ones to forgive, love, embrace and welcome back,  those who are lost or fallen away.  They have no trouble accepting forgiveness or giving it.  They do not accuse and blame.  They have tender hearts – and they understand the value of mercy – because God has shown mercy to them.  They are also the happiest and most positive people in the world – with many friends.  Their friends trust them – and turn to them when they are in trouble – with no fear of judgment of alienation.  These are people who have been forgiven.

We’ve been watching ‘A Christmas Carol’  – I was noting how Scrooge shows no mercy at the beginning of the story – and then after being shown his life by the ‘spirits’ – he begins to see others and himself in a new light.  The Scrooge story is a story of mercy.  A story of second chances and a new lease on life – a valuable reminder to all of us to remember that when you show mercy to others – others will be merciful.  And it is interesting to note – that the nephew and employee of Scrooge have merciful hearts and embrace him without question – at the beginning of the story – when he is NOT merciful – and later as he is transformed at the end of the story.  No questions – no judgment – no criteria.  Just open arms of love and mercy.

I want to be one that shows mercy – even when I feel as though others have judged me and not understood me – or shown mercy to me.  I want to be the first to say, ‘I understand, I forgive, I love’.  And leave it at that.  No questions asked.  No hesitation.  No disbelief.  Just love and mercy.

Help me Lord to be that kind of person.  Help me to get over myself, my pride, my hurt and pain.  Help me to let go of others that have wronged me – those who have no understanding that their words and actions have wounded me more than they will ever know – and help me to forgive them and show mercy. For I am very aware that if I do not show mercy to others who have failed – or not done what I think they should, then you will not show mercy to me.  Help me to walk with a pure clean heart – free of agenda – free of revenge.  Help me to see others through your eyes.  Amen.

God Bless

Fear Of Failure

Thoroughbred racing at Churchill Downs.

Image via Wikipedia

Heard an excellent message this morning from our pastor – “How to deal with Failure”.

I jotted down some thoughts while I was listening:

We have all failed.

We can let that failure make us better – or keep us bitter.

God uses failure in our lives to prepare us for better things.

It can be Fear of Failure that keeps us back and holds us down.

 

A few days ago my husband and I went to see ‘Secretariat‘.  And yes I am actually old enough to remember watching him race  in those ‘triple crown’ races in 1972-73.  It brought back many memories for me – and was thrilling to hearing the back story.  The film also had a common theme today with our pastor’s message.  Failure. The owner of that magnificent race horse – had experienced failure and set-backs.  She could have given in to defeat and even what she knew about the horse’s genetics – but she refused to give in to either.  She knew that horse was a winner and so against all odds – she believed and that belief empowered her.  Instead of being afraid – she pushed on – and Secretariat is still known today as the greatest race horse that ever lived – no race horse has come close to beating his record in 37 years.

When I heard the message today – I was reminded of that horse.  And of the horse’s owner, Penny.  She was completely convinced that her horse was the best – even though the horse had lost a race at first and others told her – to give up.  She stared failure in the face and didn’t bat an eye.  At a great financial gamble – she believed and made the investors believe too.

How much I would love to be like this.  Just because I know something is true – how often do I really believe it and act on it?  Stare fear in the face and not bat an eye?  Take my power back?  Not care about the whispers and humiliation set against me?  Push on past my own reputation and pride?  Get back up after failing and be changed and transformed through the experience? And most of all – see the blessing in it?

It’s hard.  I have failed.  I am just now seeing the blessing in that failure.  But at the time – I thought it would be what would take me down and steal my joy, my testimony and my walk.  And although I am no champion – like Secretariat and numerous others that have had set-back and failures that are far more high-profile than I – I would have to say that it is because of that failure and my response to it – that I am where I am today. I found God’s grace in the midst of pain and hurt.  I might never have discovered first hand how much He loves and forgives if it hadn’t been for my failure.  I might never have discovered how much my husband really loves and believes in me – or how many true friendships I have – how much they have my back and love me beyond my many mistakes.

The key is our response – not the fear of failure.  To fall down and be broken before our God –  but then to get back up. To allow that failure to create something gracious inside of us that sees past the shortcomings and failures of other people.   To allow grace, mercy, humility and love to be our close friends when dealing with other people.  And to release that champion in our hearts that just wants to run – free – just like that race horse.

Here is a beautiful passage of scripture from the Message Bible.  When I was listening to my friend lead worship on a youtube video – she quoted a portion of this Psalm and it is so fitting when speaking about failure.

Psalm 51

1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.

4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.

16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.
Then you’ll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!

 

May you find that this new week  steeped in ‘chaos’ – is actually a ‘Genesis’ week – a new beginning – rich with possibilities and newness.  And no fear of failure.

 

God Bless

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