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Kingdom of Heaven (ACAD: Matthew 10)

Then Jesus[a] summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[b] Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.[c] Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers,[d] cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[e] Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;  but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

 


Source: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+10&version=NRSV

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 10:1 Gk he
  2. Matthew 10:3 Other ancient authorities read Lebbaeus, or Lebbaeus called Thaddaeus
  3. Matthew 10:7 Or is at hand
  4. Matthew 10:8 The terms leper and leprosy can refer to several diseases
  5. Matthew 10:28 Gk Gehenna

 

 

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Poem: If, in leaving a place…

If, in leaving a place,
Those you leave behind
Sigh in relief and
Give thanks to God
For your departure
Then you can trust that
You offered no good
Provided nothing of substance
Added no value
To the space you vacated.

If, in leaving a place,
Your absence
Brings relief and praise
Then your presence must
Lend towards darkness.
Hate, malice, venom –
These are choices.
You choose to do wrong.
Plot to go out of your way
To cause harm.
You speak death even as
You’re wrapped in the embrace of life.
I have no sympathy for your wayward travels.
I spoke caution for the danger
You’re rushing towards
Offered respite from the
Consequences of your choices.
Warm shelter and full belly
In the midst of a concrete jungle.
You took what you wanted
Wasted the remainder unnecessarily
Misused, overused and abused my hospitality.
You left with no understanding of the
Safe harbor you cast aside in
Favor of lies and misrepresentations
There was no acknowledgement of grace
No thank you
No gratitude
Not even a: ♫♯ Dear John, by the time
you read this line, I’ll be gone…♭ ♫
No, instead you left a petition
for an order of protection
claiming harassment and abuse.
As if I were the one who
Showed up on your doorstep
Without warning or invitation
You asked for a restraining order
As if I were the one
Sleeping in your home with ill intent
Plotting against your peace
And dreaming of your downfall.

Entitled complaints all.
As if you have a right
To my life.
My property, my income,
My provision, my inheritance
Simply because you showed up
And lusted for the fruit of my
Praise, hard work and perseverance.
My struggle.
I have no curses to hurl at you
There’s no need.
You aren’t worth my frustration.
When I opened my home to you,
I made available to you everything
God has made available to me.
You have no idea how blessed you were
sitting in the shelter of the grace that covers me.
You rejected that when you attacked me.

A character like yours
doesn’t require strong sight to see.
Your stench permeates around you
It turns the edges of the space you inhabit.
You are your own worst enemy,
But you think you’re a boss
Making boss moves.
High-rise self-aggrandizement
In a borrowed Top Ramen reality.
Check yourself.
Check yourself.
Check yourself,
‘Cause you’re
Wr-wr-wr-wreckin’ yourself.

If, in leaving a place,
Those you leave behind
Are filled with satisfaction and joy,
Then your boss move –
Your departure –
Was actually an
Answered prayer.

Thank you for testing
My faith and resolve.
Thank you for dropping in.
Thanks so much more for leaving.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

~Ephesians 6:10-12

LaShawnda Jones
April 29, 2017

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Stork Delivery, Part 2: Uninvited & Misguided

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.  

~ Ephesians 4:14-16

Last summer when the stork delivered the ill-tempered 22-year-old relative and her tag-along-friend, I was happy for the company. After our discussion the first night, I was looking forward to sharing some quintessential New York moments with a couple of out-of-towners. I’m sad to report that my gratitude for their company and hopeful outlook didn’t last long. Mostly because my house guests were exhausting. They weren’t gracious. They were dismissive of me, my time and the largesse of my hospitality (i.e. opening my home to two people I didn’t know). In short, they were not good guests. Still, I didn’t regret inviting them in. From the first day, I felt I was being tested in some way. That was the true source of my giddiness. I was looking forward to the test. Eager to embrace blessings. Not so eager to embrace the disappointment that quickly arrived to overshadow my small spot of light.

Youngin’ comes from a very vicious degenerate family. Her grandmother, my aunt by marriage, used to use words against me that left no doubt that she thought me ugly, unappealing and practically worthless – usually as compared to her daughter, Big Cuz (Youngin’s mother), who was deemed everything I was not. I never held this against Big Cuz because her mother brainwashed her in other ways and essentially thwarted her growth, development and life. I eventually forgave Big Cuz’s mother because I had witnessed how much she deluded herself, and through her self-delusion spread damage and hate throughout her immediate and extended families. Big Cuz’s mom was devoted to an emotionally and physically abusive husband who turned out to be an amazingly adept liar and destroyer. Unfortunately, her devotion and delusion stemmed from her own mother/father issues. Overall, her issues from her primary relationships were magnified and poured into her only surviving daughter – the cousin whom I have remained available to for the length of our lives. Even though we hadn’t spent time with one another since Youngin’ was around two years old, except for a brief visit when our grandmother was dying a few years ago. That’s when Big Cuz and I exchanged numbers… “to keep in touch.”

I provide this background to give insight into the history that feeds my concerns, as there remains some resentment and mistrust on my end.

I’ve never been comfortable applying all the malice and wrongdoing of her parents to Big Cuz. By the same token, I did not burden Youngin’ with the history I have with her mother and grandparents. My word to her was that she’d be judged by her own interactions with me. I’ve always hoped Big Cuz had survived her childhood whole and intact, if not spiritually, then perhaps emotionally. Unfortunately, time and very limited exposure tells a different story. Being around her daughter for a cumulative two months tells the remainder of what I need to know about the type of women Big Cuz and her daughter became.

Within a couple of days with Youngin’, I was thanking God for not giving me situations in life I had no preparation or wisdom for. I could see how the things her mother hadn’t been taught were glaring absent lessons in Youngin’s interactions with me. I could see how she mimicked an emotional hardness she had no true understanding of, a street persona she had no experience of, and a world-weary nonchalance she couldn’t quite pull off. I hoped to reverse some of that. People I spoke with encouraged me to simply live my life and allow her to see an alternative way to live. Honestly, that’s all I can do and therefore all I had been doing. Unfortunately, she closed herself to me before we ever got started. She’s actually admitted to shutting herself down and just trying to get through the remainder of the days I’ve agreed to share my home with her. As if dropping in on me and pleading for shelter without notice or grace was is a hardship to her.

At the end of her third week, she posted on Instagram an exchange with her grandmother, Big Cuz’s mom, in which she was inviting her “Grammy” to NYC in July to celebrate her mixed tape (CD) release party. She then went on to invite her whole family to the City and the party. Now as far as I know, she’s broke. That’s the premise on which she asked to stay with me. She had started a minimum wage job a week prior and had plans to move out the following weekend into a weekly rental in New Jersey. By no stretch of the imagination, based on the information she had given me, could she afford to produce a CD recording and host a release party in New York City within the next two months.

I didn’t mention the Instagram post to her. She mentioned her plans to me a couple of days later. I asked no questions. She won’t be in my home in July. She’s been insisting that she’s independent and is getting by in NYC on her own. However this venture works out, it’s her experience; she has to own it and figure it out. What I know for sure is that her grandmother will not step foot in my home. At all. Ever. If asked, I would meet her in a public place but I would not bring that unfiltered dark energy into my private space.

So essentially, Youngin’s decision to post her plans and invitation aligned her firmly with an attacker on my life and existence. The characteristics I had not been willing to fully apply to Youngin’ became undeniably obvious.

During her last week in my home, I sat Youngin’ down twice to discuss the way she chose to communicate with me. Both conversations were the result of text messages. The first text we discussed was one in which she asked to stay for another two weeks after she started working. I responded a few days later with the sit-down and a typed weekly rental contract. The second text was her snarky response to a paper note I left next to a dirty can on the counter, “rinse before recycle” on my way out the door to work. In both sit-downs she applied negative characteristics to my personality.

During the first sit-down, she said that she didn’t want to talk to me (in general) because I would “go left” (go off on her) and she didn’t want to deal with that. She had no examples of me “going left.” There are none. When I asked for further clarification, she told me I was a dictator. I asked her if she knew what “dictator” meant. She asked for a definition. I said simply, “someone who controls you and tells you what to do.” She double-downed and said, “Yeah, you’re a dictator.” I told her I had never been called that before and asked for examples. She cited the fact that she can’t come and go as she pleases. “This is my home. You had fuller access when you first came. You messed that up. Next.” She then said that my telling her that she needed a job made her anxious and she felt like she needed to please me by accepting anything. At that point, I realized she was just talking out the side of her mouth.

At the beginning of her second week with me, she had an orientation for a sales job and a second interview for a hostess post at Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock. I told her from her from her first mention of Top of the Rock that that would be a good place for her to work. She had made it sound like she was working in a restaurant at the Top of the Rock. I told her she would meet and see a lot of entertainment folks. She could start building a network for her music. When she was confronted with an orientation for a job she couldn’t even explain which conflicted with a job I had hyped, she asked me what to do and I told her a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. She asked for clarification. I said, an orientation is better than an interview. She asked me, “What would you do?” The orientation was 9:00am-3:00pm and the second interview was at 2:00pm. I told her I would go to the orientation and ask for an early release. If they refused, I would make a decision by lunch time on whether or not I wanted the job. If it wasn’t for me, I would head to the second interview. She did what I said I would do and she got offered the job at Rockefeller Center. She started the following week.

So… as she sat at my dining table and told me I was a dictator whom she didn’t want to talk to about her concerns because I might “go left” on her when all I’ve done is attempt to encourage her towards actual independence in New York City, I became disheartened by her very amateur character assignation attempt.

I had started that first sit-down by telling her that my struggle was staying true to myself and my faith practices while not condemning her for her choices and preferences – though I hoped she would grow out of some of her preferences. I told her that she was bringing things into my home that I had purposefully expelled from my life years ago. Though they may seem like small things, small things make a way for larger intrusions.

She asked for an example, I gave her three.

One night during her first week, she spoke about how much she depends on horoscopes. She doesn’t begin her day with them, but she ends her day with them because she likes to see how they can explain her emotions and the content of her day to her. I told her I stopped reading horoscopes years ago and don’t pay attention to them at all. I shared that I depended on God for everything and he’s been good to me. She responded that she has never needed to depend on God for anything because she has her parents. I wanted to point out that the fact that she was in my house proved her statement a lie. It was only by God’s grace that I opened myself and my home to her at all. I held my tongue.

A couple of days before Good Friday, Youngin’ asked me to look at some lyrics she had written that day. The first two lines were a refrain, “God is good. Amen n—-a.” After my eyes registered that she wrote that twice, I tossed her phone back to her. “That’s extremely disrespectful. Why would you approach God like that?”

“I’m not calling God a n—a!” She laughed as she said this.

“But you’re calling someone He created one while referencing Him. We are to approach God with reverence and respect.”

“We communicate with God in different ways, Shawnda. He understands me and knows what I mean.”

I ignored that foolishness. Maybe I went back to watching TV. She was writing for commercial gain and shock value. Her words were not meant to be an actual communication to or about God. It was blasphemy.

This exchange was one of the reasons she said she doesn’t like talking to me. Apparently, my rejection of her blasphemy had hurt her feelings.

I no longer actively listen to popular music (radio, cd, parties, clubs, etc.). I mentioned that her choice of music – with words that were offensive to women and Black people was nothing that I wanted to hear in my home. She had taken to playing her iPhone on speaker while in the bathroom. Music that raised my eyebrows in the morning, was her motivation to get going. I think I told her what she feeds her ears and mind will flow through her life – I was certainly thinking it. She agreed to keep her ear buds in going forward.

My third example was the port incident from a week prior. I stopped eating pork about five years ago. The first year was a pork fast to see if I could do it. I did it and I haven’t gone back – for the most part. During the second year I spent two weeks in Poland and I couldn’t see myself staying in Poland and not having any polish sausage. I ate so much sausage during my stay that I was over it before the trip ended. I haven’t craved pork since. During her second weekend, Youngin’ made dinner. She made baked spaghetti, home fries and salmon patties. I was out of the house when she came from the store and started cooking but I saw that she put sausage in the pasta. I asked her what kind of sausage she had used. She said pork. I said ok. She then asked if I eat pork. I said no. She apologized for cooking with pork. I told her not to worry about it. When I saw how much pasta she had cooked – an overflowing 13×9 inch pan – I felt bad for not eating any. I thanked her for cooking dinner and told her everything smelled great. She looked really disappointed, so I gave in and told her maybe I could eat a little of the pasta. She cheered up and said please do! I fixed my plate with all of her options. I picked out noticeable pieces of sausage and I thought I was doing good. So good in fact that when I packed up the pasta to freeze for her I nibbled quite a bit more. That night I woke up vomiting in bed. I have no way of knowing if it was from the first mercy bite or the last greedy bite, but I know that my body rejected it. The next morning, I told her what happened and told her that I knew better and I shouldn’t have agreed to eat the pork dish when I knew my body couldn’t handle it.

The pork incident was wrapped up the list of expelled things Youngin’ had brought back into my life. I was a breath away from mentioning her grandmother as the main thing I’ve exorcised that felt as if it was seeking a foot hold to climb back in, but I have no kind words for her grandmother, though long forgiven, I have no found memories of her; so I don’t mention her. I told Youngin’, “When you have a faith practice, or a life practice for that matter, it is imperative that you protect what is important to you. For years now, I had been removing things from my life on purpose. There was a time when I was trying to write my own horoscope charts. A time when I went to clubs and danced to the raps songs. I used to LOVE pork! Now, I’m done with those things. There’s a twenty year age difference between us. I don’t expect you to be where I am. I got here by living and making choices for myself. You will do the same. There are some things that I will say “no” to from now on and some things that just aren’t welcome in my home.”

She apologized for those instances. I assured her I didn’t think she had done any of those things with malicious intent. By the same token, I know that many people are not aware of how they are being used by the enemy. I was very much under attack. The instrument being used against me simply didn’t know she was a tool. I told Youngin’ I wanted her to be who she was, by the same token I needed to be true to myself and protect the work that has been done in my life.

A few days later during her text rebuttal of a simple instruction that didn’t require a response, she asked “Where is all this animosity coming from?” When I sat her down later that day, I began with, “This is the second time in a week that you’ve applied negative characteristics to me that have nothing to do with me. Where are your preconceived notions coming from?” Of course I knew. I thought she’d want to come clean as a sneak-attack-agent-sent-by-the-enemy.

“I don’t have any preconceived notions. That’s not how I treat people.”

“No, you do have preconceived notions about me. Have I ever “gone left” on you?”

“No, but I haven’t given you a reason to.”

I restrained from rolling my eyes. Even though I wanted to believe she was unaware of her negative impact, she was hitting former soft spots with no way of knowing these were former vulnerabilities of mine. “I don’t need a reason to go left. Have I gone left on you?”

“No.”

“Yet last week you said that you thought that I would. That’s a preconceived notion. You had no basis for that comment or belief. I am not a dictator and I have no animosity in me. I am a very consistent person. I can tell you without a doubt that you could ask people about me from different time periods of my life, who have never met each other, and you will pretty much get the same description of me as a person. I know how I come across to people, because they tell me and they tell other people. I hear the same things over and over again.”

She uttered some feeble defense that made no sense. Then began talking about how uncomfortable, yet comfortable, she was in my home.

That actually hit me in the heart. I take pleasure in my hospitality and how well it’s received. I had told her during our last sit-down that her haphazard way of living put me at a disadvantage. She skeptically asked how. I responded that the two times she showed up on my doorstep asking for shelter left me unable to prepare myself or my home for her. My home is a clutter fest with piles of personal papers, documents, writing projects, photo prints and supplies covering every surface. My life is exposed to this person I know nothing about and I had no notice or time to put my home in order. A person’s mess is an intimate thing – as is their home. The only thing that made me feel less exposed was her obtuseness – her utter lack of awareness of how exposed I really was. I live in a two room apartment. I can close the door to my bedroom but the rest of the space is open (kitchen, dining and living area). “You’re uncomfortable here?”

“Yes.”

“No one has ever told me they’ve felt uncomfortable in my home.” I paused. “I don’t think I’ve ever stayed anywhere I was not comfortable.” I was completely taken aback. She was sitting curled up in the curved arm of my velvet sofa, feet tucked to the side with my faux fur throw tossed over her lap. I wanted to ask her why she was still in my house. Perhaps the expression on my face conveyed my thoughts.

She tried to backtrack and said, “Well, that’s why I said I’m comfortable, but uncomfortable. I feel safe here, but we don’t have the same interests and that makes me uncomfortable. We like different music and different TV shows. I don’t know what to talk to you about. Each week I’ve been here, I’ve tried to adjust to how I think you want me to be. I’ve tried to stay out your way. I know you’re used to living alone so I’ve tried to give you your space. When you’re on the sofa, I sit at the table. I figure it would be awkward to sit on the sofa with you while you’re watching TV and I’m on my phone. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable in your home.”

“Are you serious?” I was incredulous. “You don’t have to worry about me feeling uncomfortable in my home. That’s not going to happen. If I want to do something and you’re in my way, I will let you know. Trying to act like you’re not here, doesn’t make it so. Do you think I don’t know you’re here when you’re sitting behind me at the table? Yes, I like living alone, but you’re here, so be here. You don’t get to know people by avoiding interacting with them. How are we going to learn anything about each other if you’re constantly changing based on what you think I want? Just be yourself. It shouldn’t be so hard to be who you are.” Famous last words….

“I tried being myself. You don’t like horoscopes. You don’t like my music or my creativity. I’m not like you.”

“So… you can’t talk about anything other than horoscopes? The first two lines of your song is a summary of everything you’ve ever written?”

“No!”

“Then there must be more to talk about. You keep talking about how different we are. We both write. There’s a great deal to talk about with writing.” She mumbled an agreement.

I’m pretty amazed at the ridiculous words she sprouted. I spoke only enough to refute what she was saying. By the second sit-down I had already resolved that the agreed upon day would be her last day in my house. She would not be welcomed back a third time. I even debated blocking her number so she couldn’t reach me, but I decided I would rather know how she was getting on in the City than not.

She seems to have gotten more comfortable showing more attitude with time. I could hear in her various ramblings that she was choosing the wrong words, but even with follow-up questions and providing definitions she insisted she was saying what she wanted to say. When she first arrived to my home, I told her I would hold her to her words. Words carry weight with me. Though I don’t believe she believes the ridiculous accusations she’s hurling at my character, I do believe her intent is to inflict harm any way she can. That exposes her character and what I see is not pleasant.

 

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Stork Delivery, Part 1: When a 22yo Dropped Into My Life

Have you ever had someone crash land into your life with all the force that nature can provide and immediately know that your life as you know and appreciate it is about to change?

Yeah, it’s something like that….

Back Story: Meet Lil Cuz

Last summer some misguided and unrepentant stork dropped a 22-year-old prima donna aspiring hardcore rap superstar into my quiet solitary life. She’s the daughter of a cousin from a branch of the family that has done me no type of good and therefore we’ve had nothing to do with each other most of my life. Be that as it may, apparently my living in New York City is now a benefit to them so the homing device on the stork was set to me and I became the most unsuspecting and unprepared recipient of a post-teen, fully attitudinal, unemployed, broke dreamer with extremely anti-reality-based expectations. Additionally, she acts like she knows everything, doesn’t have to learn anything, shares nothing, can take whatever and answer to no one. She expects to live off of others’ yet has no understanding of respect, grace or hospitality. She was also traveling with a male friend who shared all her qualities.

I started referring to her as Lil Cuz initially. That soon became Lil Girl which was usually accompanied by Father, have mercy! I now simply refer to her as Youngin’. It’s a verbal cue for me to patiently respond to the child and not the adult she thinks she is.

The way Youngin’ got to me was through a frantic text from her mother who is my older cousin by eight months. Big Cuz and I were truly close as children. We were each other’s confidants and protectors until our thirteenth year when I moved across the country.

During a rather humdrum morning at work last summer, I received a text from Big Cuz stating, “My daughter’s in New York and I’m worried about her. I gave her your number so I won’t go crazy.” Fifteen minutes later Lil Cuz called me (for the first time ever). She had been in NYC for two weeks and had run out of money. Or so her story went. She came so she could attend an eight week acting class. One of her best friends was traveling with her to help her, but he wasn’t working and didn’t have any money either – so he hadn’t proven to be much help. He wasn’t her boyfriend but they started the grand NYC adventure as good friends. By the time they showed up at my job that afternoon, they could barely look at each other. They both shared that they had been fighting and bickering from the stress of the City for the last week. I allowed them both to come home with me to decompress and think about their next steps.

They ended up asking if they could stay for two weeks. The goal was to look for work and then they would set off for an affordable hostel for the remainder of their time in NYC. I agreed to two weeks rent free but they had to get out of the house each day to look for work (day jobs at least) or otherwise find something to do in the City. I made it clear that they were not allowed or welcome to lay up in my house, while I was at work supporting myself.

Towards the end of two weeks (with one day to go), Lil Cuz’s friend lost it and snapped, “I don’t need to put up with this” and stormed out of my home. I had come home early (@3pm) and found him dancing around my apartment with loud music blaring. He hadn’t left the house all day but lied to my face swearing that he had.

Liz Cuz on the other hand asked if she could impose (my word, she has no understanding of what an imposition is) on me for two more weeks. She effectively stayed for a month without contributing to her expenses but offering slick remarks and major attitude – as well as disrupting my sleep, peace, equilibrium and summer. Her end came when she told me in effect that she was grown, living her life and could handle her money (after getting her first pay check). This was in response to me asking follow up questions about her new job and plans. Whatever I responded, she came back with, I’ll get out of your house tonight. I replied with a simple ok.

I think they both expected me to chase them down and beg them to stay. They were both disappointed. The first night they arrived in my home, I told them both I would hold them to their words. I stayed true to mine…. Except for when I told Lil Cuz we were done after her outburst. She moved out but she did not lose my number. She’s been working me like some sort of guerilla warfare strategist.

Lil Cuz left NYC at the end of the summer. She returned to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Brooklyn. I asked no questions then either. She texted me to let me know how fly she was to be flying in for the New Year and to ask if I could go to Brooklyn on a Friday afternoon to check her into her bed and breakfast room because she was landing after the office closes. All via text. I don’t know how long I looked at my phone with my head tilted to the side. Finally, I responded that the only place I was going to be on a Friday afternoon was at my desk at work. To which she blithely responded, “Oh, yeah, I forgot about work.” That one statement pretty much sums up Lil Cuz and her grasp of the real world.

Back to the Present: Youngin’

Earlier this month (April), during another blissfully normal day at work, Youngin’ (formerly Lil Cuz) text’d to say she was back in NYC and asked if she could stay with me for two weeks. She offered to pay $150 per week. I told her that was a discussion, not a text. We spoke during my lunch hour and she ended up meeting me at my apartment after work. A few days before her two weeks were up, without contributing a dime to her upkeep (again), despite setting her own terms, she text’d me again at work to say she had gotten a job and asked if she could stay another two weeks. I congratulated her on the job and ignored the remainder. It was the day before Good Friday and I was intent on enjoying my three-day weekend with a pure faith-focus – no distractions or frustrating conversations.

The day after Resurrection Sunday, I wrote talking points for a discussion with Youngin’. It came to a full single space page. I also drew up a weekly roommate rental agreement that represented half of my monthly housing expenses. The revelation I had while doing that was that in opening my home to this little imp she decided that I was easy pickings for being taken advantage of. Youngin’ was the first one to mention money last summer. I believe her expectation was that by offering me $100 for her last week, she’s be allowed to do whatever she wanted to do in my home. I quickly disabused her of that notion. When she offered to pay, I told her it was up to her, but whatever she decided, I would hold her to it. My reasoning then was: she’s a young woman taking a big step to build a life in NYC and though she hadn’t planned for the cost of an extended stay in NYC, she was still responsible for the decisions and agreements she made. It also provided me an opportunity to evaluate how she valued her word.

What I learned is that I will never again allow anyone to enter my home with the idea that their terms are ruling my roost. My hospitality was too broad. It always has been. I offered her the same hospitality I’ve provided to friends who have known me for years. She was not a friend and we did not know each other. Nor is she a good guest. I had to learn that also. The more she took my generosity and hospitality for granted, the less I offered.

I reined myself in when I reined her in. The haphazard way she lives her life is a disruption to my life. I’m twenty years her senior and have been working and contributing to households since I was sixteen. I don’t understand her – the way she thinks, the way she acts her complete lack of responsibility and honor.

When she first contacted me, I thought it extremely possible that she would be a pure blessing to my life. An opportunity for me to love someone and share some of the bounty and provision God has blessed me with in New York City. By the time she left last summer, I was disappointed and disillusioned by yet another contact that didn’t have to go as sour as it did. I was no longer interested in even sharing time with her.

This second time around I was reluctant to open my home to her again. Luckily for Youngin’, I admire the passion it takes to pursue one’s dreams. I also believe I should do what I can to help those who ask for assistance. Two weeks didn’t sound so bad. It sounded like an opportunity to try building a relationship with the Youngin’ again. An opportunity to provide guidance and support for her transition to New York City. We’re now nearing the end of four weeks, her scheduled departure is two days away, and I can’t wait to shut my door behind her.

For the most part she’s been pleasant in my home. We’ve had a few good conversations. Red herrings for the most part. Overall, I have a sense that she’s misrepresenting herself, her interests and/or her intent – that she essentially is not being honest. She has a philosophy that you either crap on people or get crapped on (language edited). She shared this message on Instagram. After seeing it, I asked her if she was crapping on me or was I crapping on her. She tried to insist that neither was the case while also insisting that her followers understood what she meant. I am well aware that she thinks she’s getting over on me. Her blatant post was simply a crude confirmation. She’s since posted other things that have confirmed her character and true outlook on life and human interactions. However, her behavior and her explicit lack of interest in spending time in my presence (I.e getting to know me) has led to me enjoying her presence less and less which directly corresponds to my eagerness for her departure.

So the blessings I had hoped for from the interactions with Youngin’ did not manifest. Nevertheless, I still received blessings in the form of closures and revelations.

 

Blessings for Obedience

If you will only obey the Lord your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God:

Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.

Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock.

Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

~ Deut 28 NRSV

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ACAD – Accepted: 1 Thessalonians 2

Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters,[a] that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle[b] among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters;[c] we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. For you, brothers and sisters,[d] became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets,[e] and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.[f]

Paul’s Desire to Visit the Thessalonians Again

As for us, brothers and sisters,[g] when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!


Footnotes:

a. 1 Thessalonians 2:1 Gk brothers
b. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 Other ancient authorities read infants
c. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 Gk brothers
d. 1 Thessalonians 2:14 Gk brothers
e. 1 Thessalonians 2:15 Other ancient authorities read their own prophets
f. 1 Thessalonians 2:16 Or completely or forever
g. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 Gk brothers


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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ACAD – Accepted: 2 Corinthians 8

Encouragement to Be Generous

We want you to know, brothers and sisters,[a] about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege[b] of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking[c] among you. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you[d]—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.[e]

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act[f] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

“The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Commendation of Titus

But thanks be to God who put in the heart of Titus the same eagerness for you that I myself have. For he not only accepted our appeal, but since he is more eager than ever, he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his proclaiming the good news;[g] and not only that, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us while we are administering this generous undertaking[h] for the glory of the Lord himself[i] and to show our goodwill. We intend that no one should blame us about this generous gift that we are administering, for we intend to do what is right not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of others. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found eager in many matters, but who is now more eager than ever because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker in your service; as for our brothers, they are messengers[j] of the churches, the glory of Christ. Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.


Footnotes:

a. 2 Corinthians 8:1 Gk brothers
b. 2 Corinthians 8:4 Gk grace
c. 2 Corinthians 8:6 Gk this grace
d. 2 Corinthians 8:7 Other ancient authorities read your love for us
e. 2 Corinthians 8:7 Gk this grace
f. 2 Corinthians 8:9 Gk the grace
g. 2 Corinthians 8:18 Or the gospel
h. 2 Corinthians 8:19 Gk this grace
i. 2 Corinthians 8:19 Other ancient authorities lack himself
j. 2 Corinthians 8:23 Gk apostles


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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ACAD – Accepted: Genesis 33

Jacob and Esau Meet

Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.

Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you.” But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die. Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why should my lord be so kind to me?” So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed to Succoth,[a] and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth.

Jacob Reaches Shechem

Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram; and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for one hundred pieces of money[b] the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.[c]


Footnotes:

Genesis 33:17 That is Booths
Genesis 33:19 Heb one hundred qesitah
Genesis 33:20 That is God, the God of Israel


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Film: A Dream for Christmas (1973)

On Christmas day I watched a lovely movie about new opportunities, hope and perseverance. A Dream for Christmas was made in 1973 but is set in 1950. It should be on a classic Christmas movie rotation every year, but it’s not. I had never seen it nor heard of it before and I think that’s a shame since it’s a really good story about a family working together through change and challenges. It’s a slice of life and a looking glass into an every day poor African-American experience pre-Civil Rights Movement. Very intriguing. Very warm. Very well done.

a-dream-for-christmas-black-holiday-moviesA Dream for Christmas is a story about Reverend Will Douglas and his family moving from rural Arkansas in 1950 to Los Angeles to pastor a church. Unbeknownst to the Reverend Douglas, his new church is scheduled to be demolished with the rest of the block by a developer intent on building a shopping mall. Familiar story, isn’t it? Yes, this is also a very modern story of overcoming money and opposition with hope and faith while working towards a goal.

Treat yourself, your family and your friends – watch and share.

A Dream for Christmas
(1973, starring Hari Rhodes, Beah Richards, Lynn Hamilton)

The picture on this link is clearer: https://youtu.be/0wLZ1ZPlOrY

New York Times Review: http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/14754/A-Dream-for-Christmas/overview

 

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Devotional: Got Your Back

Got Your Back: Leviticus 25:35-55 

Read

“If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.” (Leviticus 25:35-38)

Reflect

The Bible places great emphasis on assisting the poor and helpless, especially orphans, widows, and the handicapped. In Israelite society, no paid work was available to women; thus, a widow and her children had no livelihood. Neither was work available for the seriously handicapped in this nation of farmers and shepherds. The poor were to be helped without charging any interest. God said that neglecting the poor was a sin. Permanent poverty was not allowed in Israel. Financially secure families were responsible to help and house those in need.

Many times we do nothing, not because we lack compassion, but because the size of the problem overwhelms us and we don’t know where to begin. God doesn’t expect you to eliminate poverty, nor does he expect you to neglect your family while providing for others. He does, however, expect that when you see an individual in need, you will reach out with whatever help you can offer, including hospitality.

Respond

Ask God to open your eyes to the desperate needs of people in your world. Consider what you can do to help alleviate those needs, to show compassion in Christ’s name. Then pray for the courage and wisdom to respond to the needs you see.

from Life Application Daily Devotional; 2015 © Tyndale House Publishers

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ACAD – Praise: Luke 19

Jesus and Zacchaeus

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The Parable of the Ten Minas

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants,[a] he gave them ten minas,[b] and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant![c] Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”

The Triumphal Entry

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near — already on the way down the Mount of Olives — the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 19:13 Greek bondservants; also verse 15
  2. Luke 19:13 A mina was about three months’ wages for a laborer
  3. Luke 19:17 Greek bondservant; also verse 22

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.