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Poem: The Weirdest Dream

You were here with me (in a room, in the
sun, by my side, one on one).  I could see
you so clearly, feel you, even, and smell
all your scents – you know, the natural ones;
the perfumed ones; your hands – so warm, so strong
and comforting (all, your essence) – so missed.
I talked with you; laughed with you; saw your smile,
as if never gone; in my arms, alive.

I rolled over and reached for the phone.  Hi,
Mom… “Hi, baby, what’s wrong,” you would ask me.
I just had the weirdest dream about you….
We would talk; our closing of choice being,
“I love you, baby.”  Love you, too, mommy.
Rolling over, as sleep left me, my smile
faded.  Glancing, pitifully, at a
telephone with no connection to you.
How can it be, you’re not here with me?
These dreams only intensify my pain. 

Lost so absolute and unexpected.
Time doesn’t heal the wounds – it spreads them out
to de-intensify… or to numb one.
Memories… they don’t fade, as we sometimes
wish they would – they become detailed through our
rose-colored 20/20 hindsight, as
we see our past as we wish we’d lived it;
perfect and happy, absent of pain and
misunderstandings; moving together,
not apart, one unit, blessed throughout time.

The Weirdest Dream from Clichés: A Life in Verse by LaShawnda Jones

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Poem: Without Reservation

My winter cleaning unearthed an old notebook. I opened it to this poem from over a decade ago. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it and I certainly understand it better today than I did then. Perhaps because it has played itself out over the years.

I’ve been thinking –
perhaps I had an epiphany –
I thought of how I was willing,
begged God actually,
for the boon of being
with you. To my mind,
you were the greatest
possible gift.
Then it came to me
this desire to give, give, give,
to love you with all
my heart and mind
to worship and praise
your body with mine –
it was all wrong.
I was backwards.
I’ve been requesting things
which would not satisfy me
in the long run.
Yes, I want you.
Yes, truly I want all
I’ve petitioned God for.
I do. I love you.
But there is something I want
much more than the pleasure of
pouring my life into yours.
There is something I need more
than my prayer answered.
Something I deserve more than
being a giver who receives
nothing in return.

My epiphany showed me
that more than anything
I want and need to be loved and
desired unreservedly.
It showed me you should be
the initiator and I should follow.
When you give of yourself, cover me,
pour your life into me –
those will be my true gifts.
When you choose to love me
with your heart, mind and spirit…
choose to join your body with mine in a
symphony of worship and praise…
Those are acts worthy of my devotion.

I was sitting and thinking –
what I wanted was so limiting.
What I was shown would open the heavens.
My efforts have proven useless against your inaction.
So, my love, I must back away from temptation.
I must resist the urge
to supplicate myself at your feet.
Resist my obsessive longing and
suppress the desire to shower my gifts on
a man who does not value
or reciprocate such devotion.
I must resist that part of me until
you present that part of yourself to me.
Your gifts will replenish and revive
even as your presence restores.
Your love will cover
even as your strength shelters.
When you join your gifts to my gifts
it will indeed be our greatest blessing.

~ LaShawnda Jones, 2004 (ed. 2017)

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Song & Verse: Worth Fighting For by Brian Courtney Wilson

“Worth Fighting For”

You met me deep in my despair
To show me You
Would never leave me there.
You claimed
Because I was made for so much more
I am Your child
And I’m worth fighting for
Though heavy
With the weight of my mistakes
You carried me
And refused to let me sink
Under the pressure
You meant for me to soar.
I am Your child
And I’m worth fighting for.

Eyes haven’t seen, ears haven’t heard
All You have planned for me
And nothing can separate me from
Your love when there’s so much More still worth fighting for

Now I’m moving by faith and not by
Sight towards victory by the power of Your might
You’re straightening out my past and opening
Every door.
I am Your child and I’m worth fighting for

Eyes haven’t seen. Ears haven’t heard
All You have planned for me and nothing
Can separate me from Your love when
There’s so much more still worth fighting for.

That’s why I’m pressing
Towards the mark
Because the calling on my life is worth fighting for.

And I keep my mind
Stayed on You Jesus
Because the peace it brings is worth fighting for.

And I’ll be faithful.
For my wife and children
Because my family is worth fighting for.

No this world
Is not my home
But Your kingdom here is worth fighting for.

I got a mansion.
Over in glory.
And my new home is worth fighting for

‘Til I see it I’ll shout Hallelujah here
Cause my praise is worth fighting for
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Life with You is worth fighting for

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Life with You is worth fighting for

Eyes haven’t seen. Ears haven’t heard
All you have planned for me
There is so much more still worth fighting for.

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ACAD – Rejected: Psalm 118

A Song of Victory
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?
The Lord is on my side to help me;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put confidence in mortals.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put confidence in princes.
All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees;
they blazed[a] like a fire of thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
I was pushed hard,[b] so that I was falling,
but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.[c]
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.[d]
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.[e]
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Footnotes:

Psalm 118:12 Gk: Heb were extinguished
Psalm 118:13 Gk Syr Jerome: Heb You pushed me hard
Psalm 118:24 Or in him
Psalm 118:26 Or Blessed in the name of the Lord is the one who comes
Psalm 118:27 Meaning of Heb uncertain
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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Song & Verse: Loyal & Come Alive (Dry Bones) by Lauren Daigle

A word in season

One of my early pastors used to say a lot about receiving a word in season. I can’t remember his exact quote, but the gist was that receiving a word for the season you’re in is invaluable and should be heeded.

This morning I went to YouTube with the intent of looking for high-energy, up-tempo songs to work-out to. I don’t keep up with popular music anymore, so it is a project trying to remember songs I’ve heard, liked and can keep moving to. The other night at Steak n’Shake I heard Masterpiece by Jesse J playing. Loved it. Her chorus is: I still fall on my face sometimes/ I can’t color inside the lines / You haven’t seen the best of me / I’m still working on my masterpiece. Her video is a bit hyper sexualized and it seemed to me that it took a lot away from the song. (The main reason I’ve left popular music alone.) That being said, I logged onto to YouTube to search out a song list of encouraging up-tempo self-improvement songs to fuel my physical fitness regimen. However the first song that caught my eye before I could enter anything in the search box was Loyal by Lauren Daigle. Followed by Come Alive (Dry Bones). There are no visual distractions from the messages within these songs. Verse by verse, these songs proved to be words in season indeed.

God is good. Be blessed.

Loyal by Lauren Daigle

I could never earn Your heart
I could never reach that far
But You have pulled me close
You’ve never let me go
I’m safe forever in Your arms
Your promises I can not break
And I know You will never change

Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal
Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal
More faithful than the rising sun
This grace for me I can’t outrun
Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal

You are always there for me
You listen every time I speak
You look into my eyes
You see the things I hide
And say that You will never leave
Your promises I can not break
And I know You will never change

Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal
Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal
More faithful than the rising sun
This grace for me I can’t outrun
Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal

When my world shakes
Your love remains unshaken
So constant, so perfect, unwavering
When my world falls
Your love remains unfailing
So constant, so perfect, unwavering
So constant, so perfect, unwavering

Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal
Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal
Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal
More faithful than the rising sun
This grace for me I can’t outrun
Your love is, Your love is
Your love is loyal

Loyal

Come Alive (Dry Bones) by Lauren Daigle

Verse 1
Through the eyes of man it seems there’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road where all the prodigals have walked
And one by one the enemy has whispered lies and led them off as slaves

Verse 2
But I know that You are God, Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come that we may not yet see
So with the faith You’ve given us we step into the valley unafraid

Chorus
We call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

Verse 3
God of endless mercy, God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter bring us back the wayward sons
And by Your spirit breathe upon them show the world that You alone can save
You alone can save

Bridge
So breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe

Written by Lauren Daigle and Michael Farren© 2013 CentricSongs (SESAC) Admin by Music Services, Wordspring Music LLC/Farren Love & War (SESAC).

Bonus tracks

First

Love Alone is Worth the Fight (cover)

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Song & Verse: Piece by Piece

by Kelly Clarkson

I first heard the last couple of bars of this song on an overhead speaker in a gym earlier this week. The emotion was so palpable, I had to find it and listen to it fully. The song pretty much says it all; nothing to add from me.

Piece by Piece
by Kelly Clarkson

And all I remember is your back
Walking towards the airport leaving us all in your past
I traveled 1500 miles to see you
Begged you to want me
But you didn’t want to

But piece by piece you collected me
Up off the ground but you abandoned things
And piece by piece you filled the holes that you burned in me
At six years old and no
He never walks away
He never asks for money
He takes care of me
He loves me
Piece by piece
He restored my faith
That a man can be kind
And a father could stay

And all of your words fall flat
I made something of myself and now you wanna come back
But your love isn’t free
It has to be earned
Back then I didn’t have anything you needed
So I was worthless

But piece by piece you collected me
Up off the ground but you abandoned things
And piece by piece you filled the holes that you burned in me
At six years old and no
He never walks away
He never asks for money
He takes care of me
He loves me
Piece by piece
He restored my faith
That a man can be kind
And a father could stay

Piece by piece…

Piece by piece I fell far from the tree
I would never leave her like you left me
She will never have to wonder her worth
Because unlike you I’m gonna put her first
He’ll never walk away
He’ll never break her heart
He’ll take care of things
He’ll love her
Piece by piece
He restored my faith
That a man can be kind
And a father should be great

Piece by piece…

℗ 2015 19 Recordings Limited under exclusive license to RCA Records

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Devotional: Love and Justice

February 1, 2016
Love and Justice: Hosea 12:1-6
Read

The people of Israel feed on the wind; they chase after the east wind all day long. They pile up lies and violence; they are making an alliance with Assyria while sending olive oil to buy support from Egypt.

Now the LORD is bringing charges against Judah. He is about to punish Jacob for all his deceitful ways, and pay him back for all he has done. Even in the womb, Jacob struggled with his brother; when he became a man, he even fought with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won. He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him. There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him—the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies, the LORD is his name! So now, come back to your God. Act with love and justice, and always depend on him. (Hosea 12:1-6)

Reflect

The two principles that Hosea called his nation to live by—love and justice—are at the very foundation of God’s character. They are essential to his followers, but they are not easy to balance. Some people practice love to the point that they excuse wrongdoing. Others practice justice to the extent that they forget love.

Love without justice leaves people in their sins because it is not aiming at a higher standard. Justice without love drives people away from God because it has no heart. If we forget God’s love, we’ll be left believing that our sins leave us hopeless. But if we forget his justice against our sins, we make the mistake of thinking he will continue to accept us no matter how we act.

Forgiveness is the key (Hosea 14:1-2). When God forgives us, he judges the sin but shows mercy to the sinner.

Respond

Today’s church, just like Hosea’s nation, must live out both love and justice. These two values are not in conflict. We maintain each of them by being a community of forgiveness. The church should practice both love and justice in the context of forgiveness. In this way, the world will be able to see Christ.

Life Application Daily Devotional; A daily devotional based on the New Living Translation

2016 © Tyndale House Publishers

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5 Minutes with Granddaddy / You Are an Incredible Testimony of Mercy

I love my grandfather…surely. But I certainly don’t know him, nor does he know me.

I know him like a story – highlights and references, but nothing of substance. I know what he never gave to me. I know how he willfully resisted helping me when asked. I know that he never came to see me or my Mom and our little family. I know when I showed up to visit, I got a hug hello and a hug goodbye and perhaps some random comments in between. But I never got anything to build or enhance a relationship with.

The two longest conversations I recall having had with my grandfather were while I was in college. Even with loans, grants, a work study and a part-time job, I couldn’t afford the tuition my first semester in college. I had begged my mother to ask her father for help. My mom was so reluctant to ask him for money, she repeatedly told me, “It will do no good. He’s going to say no.” Her way of softening the blow of rejection, I guess. She asked anyway. He said no. Then I asked for myself. He said no again. That Christmas. Granddaddy gave all his grandchildren – except for me – cash gifts. He had a lot of grandchildren. When I called to ask him why he wouldn’t help me when he knew I was struggling and when I asked for help, he responded simply, “You’re not here. They are.”

Perhaps I remember that as the longest conversation because the hurt burrowed deep. The second “long” conversation happened some time later during one of the times I was looking to transfer colleges. While talking to Granddaddy, he urged me to move back to my hometown, Gary, Indiana – a town that had been spiraling into ghost town status for decades – in order to be closer to him and my grandmother. He sweetened his request by promising to buy me a car to get to and from campus in. It was a generous offer. I turned him down. I wanted to move forward, not backwards. There were no opportunities in Gary and I had already become uncomfortably acquainted with the true lack of familial support.

I wish I had softer memories, kinder thoughts to dwell on as I’m confronted with the end of my granddaddy’s life; but these are the memories that I had to acknowledge and overcome so they would not be all I had to look back on in the future.

I wasn’t keen on visiting grandad in the hospital. I’m not a fan of hospitals in general, but Granddaddy has lived a relatively healthy and active life into his late eighties. I don’t recall him ever being sick or hospitalized. He’s become less mobile over the last few years, but he was still getting around and maintaining some independence. A few weeks ago, at the beginning of December he had a massive stroke. A few days later he had a second massive stroke. He went into a coma shortly thereafter. My internal debate about visiting him came to a head when I learned about the coma. From an uncomfortable amount of experience with death and loss, I knew his days were short. That surety drove me across the country with a determination to be present for the opportunity to touch his skin and kiss him as I told him I love him and bore witness to God’s love for him. These weren’t fully formed thoughts on the way to the hospital. I actually had no idea what I would say or do once I got there, but was elated to have experienced a flow of love so natural and fluid, I’m convinced he heard everything he needed to hear. His toes were stretching and curling in response to my words.

I spent half a day getting to him and had only five minutes at his bedside… but it was all I needed to say what I had to say… what I was sent to say.

On the drive into Indiana from the airport, I listened to a sermon titled You Are An Incredible Testimony Of Mercy  by Pastor Carter Conlon. It calmed me. It centered and focused me. It confirmed what I considered to be my mission to speak life into my granddad before he left this world.

I didn’t understand that so clearly until I showed up… until I got there to bless his life in person with all the love God has poured into me flowing through me.

That was on Sunday, December 20, 2015.

Today, Thursday, December 30, 2015, I received the call that my granddad has passed on. I was already grateful for the five minutes at his bedside, but now it will be the most prominent memory of the two of us alone and take over as our longest and deepest conversation.

Mercy, grace and love on your journey, Granddad.

2015-12-31 01.23.05

You Are An Incredible Testimony Of Mercy by Pastor Carter Conlon, December 6, 2015

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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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A Christ Message for Every Day

Over time, receiving little to nothing in response to my giving and openness has led to a distancing of my heart from the giving and services I offer. The below series of emails has cracked the shield around my heart today. It has warmed the coldness that sits like a bottomless pit in my chest.

I fully and thankfully receive the Christ in the call, the message and the process. And I humbly submit to you to consider giving where your gift(s) will make the most difference. What may be a small consideration for you, may impact another’s life greatly. In this process and cycle of giving and receiving, both parties experience God’s abundant supply.

Be blessed as you go, and in all you do, be sure to be a blessing.

Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2015 5:12 PM
Subject: Giving Opportunity from the Homeless Clinic
Dear Volunteers,
The Homeless Clinic (HC) is seeking a one-time donation for our formerly homeless client to be able to buy a Christmas present for her severely autistic son. Our client lost her mother in November. Not only is she devastated because her mother was a major source of emotional support, but our client used her very limited savings and borrowed money to pay for her mother’s funeral. Now she is without funds to pay for a Christmas present for her son.
If you would like to make a small, one-time dollar donation (no donation is too small) for this HC client before the end of Monday, December 21st, please respond to this email. Funds raised are not tax deductible and will be given to this client on a gift card. As always, we thank you for all you do on behalf of our homeless clients. Happy holidays.
Most sincerely, Program Coordinator
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2015 6:55 PM
Subject: RE: Giving Opportunity from the Homeless Clinic
Hi, I can make a donation. Do you want PayPal, cash, check or card? I can do $50 so she can have something left over hopefully.
Happy holidays and all the best, A Volunteer
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2015 9:53 AM
Subject: RE: Giving Opportunity from the Legal Clinic for the Homeless
Hi LaShawnda,
Thank you so much for your kind generosity. Please either drop off or mail a check. We appreciate all you do for our clients. Happy holidays to you and yours.
Program Coordinator
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2015 9:59 AM
Subject: Thank You from the Homeless Clinic
Due to the fantastic response from our wonderful HC volunteers, we are no longer accepting donations. Thank you to all who responded to help make this Christmas season special for this HC client and her son. We appreciate all that you do for our clients. Have a restful holiday season.
Kind regards, Program Coordinator
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 11:18 AM
Subject: Thank you!
Dear Ms. Jones,
It is such a pleasure to know that you took time out of your schedule to think about [my son] and I in our time of grief during this holiday season.
We are both struggling with the passing of my mother, and when I was informed by the Homeless Clinic that we were chosen for a special wish list to get us back on our feet I was overwhelmed with Joy. [They] pushed for overnight passes when we were in shelter so that my son could be with his Grandma due to their close bond. [My son] is devastated by her passing, and I know he will need some sensory items to keep him busy. God Bless you because you are a true Angel. Our Christmas will be difficult without Grandma, but it will be so much better. Thank You from the bottom of my heart, you are a life changer.
All the best, The Client
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 11:39 AM
Subject: RE: Thank you!
Dear Client,
My deepest condolences to you and your son during your time of grief and hardship. The kindness and thoughtfulness of your note has brought me to tears and has a great effect on my heart. So many take so much for granted that my giving has become somewhat grudging. That is not a space I ever want my heart to be in. Thank you for responding so generously. It means a great deal to me.
May you find comfort in your storm. May your heart be at peace in your valley. May you and your son never be without the knowledge and awareness of your mother’s deep love for you and the everlasting love our Heavenly Father has for you both. May you be forever blessed wherever you go, even in the darkness of all your nights.
With love and grace, A Volunteer

“These things did not really come from me and my people.
    Everything comes from You;
    we have given You back what You gave us.
We are like foreigners and strangers,
    as our ancestors were.
Our time on earth is like a shadow.
    There is no hope.
Lord our God, we have gathered all this
    to build your Temple for worship to You.
But everything has come from You;
    everything belongs to You.
I know, my God, that You test people’s hearts.
    You are happy when people do what is right.
I was happy to give all these things,
    and I gave with an honest heart.
Your people gathered here are happy to give to You,
    and I rejoice to see their giving.
Lord, You are the God of our ancestors,
    the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Make Your people want to serve You always,
    and make them want to obey You.
Give my son Solomon a desire to serve You.
    Help him always obey Your commands, laws, and rules.
Help him build the Temple
    for which I have prepared.”

~ 1 Chronicles 29:14-19