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Poem: Without Reservation

Repost: Have you ever felt like you’re a prophet in your own life? Writing instructions decades in advance of a moment? Or is it that people remain the same no matter the decade?

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.

Epiphany showed me
more than anything
I want and need
to be loved and desired
without reservation.

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 –
my ask was so limiting.
What I was shown opened the heavens.
My efforts are 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 my 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 mine
WE will become our greatest blessing.

~ LaShawnda Jones, 2004 (ed. 2017, 2022)

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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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Study: Courage to Build, Maintain and Restore Relationships

courage: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

relationship: a connection, association, or involvement; an emotional or other connection between people

I think I’ve been working towards this study for a few years now. Looking forward to compiling it all summer. And I’ve been building it statement by statement for the last few weeks. Ultimately is formed from the prior “COURAGE” studies, however it encompasses everything I write about – RELATIONSHIPS.

Our primary relationship is with God. We have to know and understand His word in order to properly interact with Him. Once we understand the importance of “right relationship” with God, we pursue it continually. More immediately in our physical world, we have a proper working model of a “good” relationship. Our human relationships are to mirror our primary spiritual relationship. I hope this compilation of God’s Word helps you with your relationship with Him and with people.

Be blessed and live your life to be a blessing.

It takes courage to love

love: a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection

1 John 4:7-11 Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child and knows God.8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.9 This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. 10 This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us that much we also should love each other.

1 John 4:18 Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears.

1 Corinthians 13:2-8 …if I do not have love, then I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and I may even give my body as an offering to be burned. But I gain nothing if I do not have love. 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud.5 Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. 6 Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. 7 Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures. 8 Love never ends.

The courage to commit

commit: to give in trust or charge; consign; to consign for preservation (to hand over or deliver formally or officially; to transfer to another’s custody or charge; to set apart for or devote to); to pledge (oneself) to a position; express (one’s intention, feeling, etc.); to bind or obligate; to entrust, especially for safekeeping; commend (to entrust; give in charge; deliver with confidence)

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. (NLT)

Psalm 37:3 Trust the Lord and do good. Live in the land and feed on truth. 4 Enjoy serving the LORD, and he will give you what you want. 5 Depend on the LORD; trust him, and he will take care of you. 6 Then your goodness will shine like the sun, and your fairness like the noonday sun.

Acts 20:32 “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.

John 15:13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

It takes courage to prepare

prepare: to put in proper condition or readiness; to lead up to by some preliminary action

1 Chronicles 22:5 David said, “We should build a great Temple for the LORD, which will be famous everywhere for its greatness and beauty. But my son Solomon is young. He hasn’t yet learned what he needs to know, so I will prepare for the building of it.” So David got many of the materials ready before he died.

Esther 2:12 Before a girl could take her turn with King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments that were ordered for the women. For six months she was treated with oil and myrrh and for six months with perfumes and cosmetics.13 Then she was ready to go to the king.

Esther 3: 13 Then Mordecai sent back word to Esther: “Just because you live in the king’s palace, don’t think that out of all the Jewish people you alone will escape.14 If you keep quiet at this time, someone else will help and save the Jewish people, but you and your father’s family will all die. And who knows, you may have been chosen queen for just such a time as this.”
      15 Then Esther sent this answer to Mordecai: 16 “Go and get all the Jewish people in Susa together. For my sake, fast; do not eat or drink for three days, night and day. I and my servant girls will also fast . Then I will go to the king, even though it is against the law, and if I die, I die.”

Matthew 25:1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to wait for the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.3 The five foolish bridesmaids took their lamps, but they did not take more oil for the lamps to burn.4 The wise bridesmaids took their lamps and more oil in jars. 5 Because the bridegroom was late, they became sleepy and went to sleep.
      6 “At midnight someone cried out, ‘The bridegroom is coming! Come and meet him!’ 7 Then all the bridesmaids woke up and got their lamps ready.8 But the foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9 The wise bridesmaids answered, ‘No, the oil we have might not be enough for all of us. Go to the people who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
      10 “So while the five foolish bridesmaids went to buy oil, the bridegroom came. The bridesmaids who were ready went in with the bridegroom to the wedding feast. Then the door was closed and locked.

It takes courage to build

build: to construct (especially something complex) by assembling and joining parts or materials; to establish, increase, or strengthen; to mold, form, or create; to base; found

1 Chronicles 22:11 David said, “Now, my son, may the LORD be with you. May you build a temple for the LORD your God, as he said you would.12 He will make you the king of Israel. May the LORD give you wisdom and understanding so you will be able to obey the teachings of the LORD your God.13 Be careful to obey the rules and laws the LORD gave Moses for Israel. If you obey them, you will have success. Be strong and brave. Don’t be afraid or discouraged.

Matthew 16:18 So I tell you, you are Peter. On this rock I will build my church, and the power of death will not be able to defeat it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; the things you don’t allow on earth will be the things that God does not allow, and the things you allow on earth will be the things that God allows.”

Ephesians 4:22 You were taught to leave your old self—to stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self becomes worse, because people are fooled by the evil things they want to do.23 But you were taught to be made new in your hearts,24 to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God—made to be truly good and holy.

Ephesians 4:25 So you must stop telling lies. Tell each other the truth, because we all belong to each other in the same body. 26 When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.27 Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.

Ephesians 4:29 When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.30 And do not make the Holy Spirit sad. The Spirit is God’s proof that you belong to him. God gave you the Spirit to show that God will make you free when the final day comes.31 Do not be bitter or angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil.32 Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.

It takes courage to acknowledge our sin

acknowledge: to admit to be real or true; recognize the existence, truth, or fact of; to show or express recognition or realization of

sin: any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, or lapse

Psalm 32:3 When I kept things to myself, I felt weak deep inside me. I moaned all day long. 4 Day and night you punished me. My strength was gone as in the summer heat.
      5 Then I confessed my sins to you and didn’t hide my guilt. I said, “I will confess my sins to the LORD,” and you forgave my guilt.

James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen.

It takes courage to hold others accountable

accountable: liable; obliged to accept responsibility; subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable; responsible to someone or for some action; answerable

Leviticus 26:40 “‘But maybe the people will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors; maybe they will admit they turned against me and sinned against me,41 which made me turn against them and send them into the land of their enemies. If these disobedient people are sorry for what they did and accept punishment for their sin,42 I will remember my agreement with Jacob, my agreement with Isaac, and my agreement with Abraham, and I will remember the land.43 The land will be left empty by its people, and it will enjoy its time of rest as it lies bare without them. Then those who are left alive will accept the punishment for their sins. They will learn that they were punished because they hated my laws and refused to obey my rules.44 But even though this is true, I will not turn away from them when they are in the land of their enemies. I will not hate them so much that I completely destroy them and break my agreement with them, because I am the LORD their God.

Revelation 3:19 “I correct and punish those whom I love. So be eager to do right, and change your hearts and lives. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you will eat with me.

It takes courage to repent

repent: to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc; to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent

2 Corinthians 7:8 Even if my letter made you sad, I am not sorry I wrote it. At first I was sorry, because it made you sad, but you were sad only for a short time.9 Now I am happy, not because you were made sad, but because your sorrow made you change your lives. You became sad in the way God wanted you to, so you were not hurt by us in any way.10 The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that.

Revelation 2:16 So change your hearts and lives. If you do not, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword that comes out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:2 Wake up! Strengthen what you have left before it dies completely. I have found that what you are doing is less than what my God wants. 3 So do not forget what you have received and heard. Obey it, and change your hearts and lives.

It takes courage to forgive

forgive: to grant pardon for or remission of; to give up all claim on account of; remit; to grant pardon to a person;  to cease to feel resentment against; to cancel an indebtedness or liability of

Colossians 3:12 God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So you should always clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. 14 Even more than all this, clothe yourself in love. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking, because you were all called together in one body to have peace.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you should be in agreement, understanding each other, loving each other as family, being kind and humble.9 Do not do wrong to repay a wrong, and do not insult to repay an insult. But repay with a blessing, because you yourselves were called to do this so that you might receive a blessing.

Ephesians 4:31 Do not be bitter or angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil.32 Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.

It takes courage to restore relationships

restore: to bring back into existence; to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor; to bring back to a former, original, or normal condition

2 Corinthians 7:11 See what this sorrow—the sorrow God wanted you to have—has done to you: It has made you very serious. It made you want to restore yourselves. It made you angry and afraid. It made you want to see me. It made you care. It made you want to do the right thing. In every way you have regained your innocence. 12 I wrote that letter, not because of the one who did the wrong or because of the person who was hurt. I wrote the letter so you could see, before God, the great care you have for us.13 That is why we were comforted.
      Not only were we very comforted, we were even happier to see that Titus was so happy. All of you made him feel much better.14 I bragged to Titus about you, and you showed that I was right. Everything we said to you was true, and you have proved that what we bragged about to Titus is true.15 And his love for you is stronger when he remembers that you were all ready to obey. You welcomed him with respect and fear.16 I am very happy that I can trust you fully.

It takes courage to continue and maintain relationships

continue: to go on after suspension or interruption; to go on or keep on, as in some course or action; to last or endure

maintain: to keep in existence or continuance; preserve; retain; to keep in an appropriate condition, operation, or force; keep unimpaired; to keep in a specified state, position; to affirm; assert; declare

Colossians 3:23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

James 1:2 My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, 3 because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.4 Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need.

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily,20 because anger will not help you live the right kind of life God wants.21 So put out of your life every evil thing and every kind of wrong. Then in gentleness accept God’s teaching that is planted in your hearts, which can save you.

Ephesians 4:2 Always be humble, gentle, and patient, accepting each other in love.3 You are joined together with peace through the Spirit, so make every effort to continue together in this way.4 There is one body and one Spirit, and God called you to have one hope.5 There is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.6 There is one God and Father of everything. He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything.

Ephesians 4:13 We must become like a mature person, growing until we become like Christ and have his perfection. 14 Then we will no longer be babies. We will not be tossed about like a ship that the waves carry one way and then another. We will not be influenced by every new teaching we hear from people who are trying to fool us. They make plans and try any kind of trick to fool people into following the wrong path.15 No! Speaking the truth with love, we will grow up in every way into Christ, who is the head.16 The whole body depends on Christ, and all the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part does its own work to make the whole body grow and be strong with love.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.

See other COURAGE word and verse studies:

Courage to Hear, See, Believe and Obey God

Courage to Seek God, Follow Jesus and Receive the Holy Spirit

Seeing Your Enemies As They Are: David vs. Goliath

All definitons are from www.dictionary.comAll scripture is from, New Century Version, unless otherwise noted.