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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: Head to the Heart by United Pursuit

This song is so pure. So very real.

My heart is open wide | I will receive your light.

There’s no shame | in looking like fool | When I give you what I can’t keep |To take a hold of you

Many times on our journey with God into the Depth of His Heart and the Breadth of His Spirit, we begin to think we know the way. Like tottering toddlers, we recklessly push away the encouraging hand and storm forward in our excitement. We become so confident in God’s abundant grace that we assume we know the next move. And we begin to forage ahead on instinct, on prayer, on hope… but perhaps without permission, guidance or grace.

More than words | More than good ideas | I found your love in the open fields

Our tottering leads to a continual rediscovery – of God’s Love, Provision and Protection. Without repeatedly being confronted with the limitations of our bodies, our understanding, our feelings, our experience, our energy, our capabilities – our humanity – without constantly coming back to God’s good will and good thoughts for us, we would not grow in faith and strength or dexterity. We have to test the boundaries of our existence to even begin to understand the totality of who God Is… and to appreciate who we are in Him.

From the head to the heart | You take me on a journey | Of letting go | And getting lost in you

No matter what any given day holds for me, I trust in God’s love for me. I trust in His provision and His good thoughts for me. The details of any day may get me down or float me high, but this overarching reality keeps me moving forward on level ground.

Be blessed as you go.

LaShawnda

Head to the Heart

by United Pursuit

I open up to you
This love that makes me new
Oh may my heart receive
This love that carries me

From the head to the heart
You take me on a journey
Of letting go
And getting lost in you

From the head to the heart
You take me on a journey
Of letting go
And getting lost in you

My heart is open wide
I will receive your light
You give me faith like a child
In you my heart runs wild

Cuz there’s no shame
In looking like a fool
When I give you what I can’t keep
To take a hold of you

There’s no shame
In looking like a fool
When I give you what I can’t keep
To take a hold of you

More than words
More than good ideas
I found your love in the open fields

[Repeat 3x]

From the head to the heart
You take me on a journey
Of letting go
And getting lost in you

From the head to the heart
You take me on a journey
Of letting go
And getting lost in you

There’s no shame
In looking like a fool
When I give you what I can’t keep
To take a hold of you

There’s no shame
In looking like a fool
When I give you what I cant keep
To take a hold of you

And take a hold of you
[Repeat 4x]

©2015 United Pursuit Music (ASCAP) and Capitol CMG Genesis (ASCAP)

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ACAD – New Self: Isaiah 57

Israel’s Futile Idolatry

The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness. But you, draw near, sons of the sorceress, offspring of the adulterer and the loose woman. Whom are you mocking? Against whom do you open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of transgression, the offspring of deceit, you who burn with lust among the oaks,[aunder every green tree, who slaughter your children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks? Among the smooth stones of the valley is your portion; they, they, are your lot; to them you have poured out a drink offering, you have brought a grain offering. Shall I relent for these things? On a high and lofty mountain you have set your bed, and there you went up to offer sacrifice. Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your memorial; for, deserting me, you have uncovered your bed, you have gone up to it, you have made it wide; and you have made a covenant for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on nakedness.[bYou journeyed to the king with oil and multiplied your perfumes; you sent your envoys far off, and sent down even to Sheol. You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.[c]

Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied, and did not remember me, did not lay it to heart? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and you do not fear me? I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them all off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain.

Comfort for the Contrite

And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made. Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Footnotes:

  1. Isaiah 57:5 Or among the terebinths
  2. Isaiah 57:8 Or on a monument (see 56:5); Hebrew on a hand
  3. Isaiah 57:10 Hebrew and so you were not sick

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

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ACAD – Praise: Deuteronomy 10

New Tablets of Stone

“At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.’ So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments[a] that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the Lord commanded me.”

(The people of Israel journeyed from Beeroth Bene-jaakan[b] to Moserah.There Aaron died, and there he was buried. And his son Eleazar ministered as priest in his place. From there they journeyed to Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land with brooks of water. At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day.Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God said to him.)

“I myself stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights, and the Lord listened to me that time also. The Lord was unwilling to destroy you. And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, go on your journey at the head of the people, so that they may go in and possess the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them.’

Circumcise Your Heart

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.  He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.

Footnotes:

  1. Deuteronomy 10:4 Hebrew words
  2. Deuteronomy 10:6 Or the wells of the Bene-jaakan

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

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Song & Verse: One and Only by Adele

A Pop Culture vs. The Bible post

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  ~ John 14:6

Adele’s voice moves me. The emotion she pours into her music stirs similar emotion in me — but that’s nothing new; that’s what makes music so powerful. From the first time I heard her song, One and Only, I envisioned Jesus serenading me – serenading us all, actually: Come on, let Me be your one and only. I promise I’m worthy to hold in your heart. I know it ain’t easy giving up your heart… but you’ll get all of Me in return – so come on and give me a chance…. In my mind, I accept Jesus’s serenade and offer the same words to the one God allows me to love.

“Surrender” is the word that comes to mind. Full, sweet surrender to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and my mate in life. Everyday, in every way necessary to maintain the vibrancy of our relatinship. Surrender. In giving up (offering) yourself, you gain so much more.

“…Surrender is one of the most important words in all of Christianity. Do you want to know just how important the act of you surrendering is?

  • Surrendering to Jesus Christ is another name for “being born again.”
  • Surrendering is allowing Jesus Christ to live inside you.
  • Surrendering means living a life (a Godly life) that is pleasing and acceptable to Jesus Christ.
  • Surrendering is you confessing your sins when you sin and really repenting and turning away from them.
  • Surrendering is the thing that allows you to accept the free gift of grace that God wants to give you.
  • Surrendering is the one thing that will allow you to have eternal life.

So surrendering means giving up pride, giving up control, giving up independence, giving up all those things in our life that we have deemed important and precious and have placed ahead of Jesus Christ. Surrendering to Him means allowing Him to guide your life, it means bearing our crosses for His sake, it means acknowledging Him in all things, it means realizing that everything we have in this life comes from Him. And most of all it means that we finally understand that we cannot make it without his constant guidance and protection.” (Bob Wells, http://robertwells.tripod.com/surrender.html)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  ~ Romans 12:1-2

Do you translate any secular songs with your Kingdom ear? Please share.

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How’s Your Heart?

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Recently, someone asked me, “How are you? How’s your heart.” I was so overwhelmed by the many truthful answers I could have given that I couldn’t reply immediately. I meditated on the question throughout the day, even long after I sent a reply.

The first defensive reply that rose up in me was, “By what right do you ask the condition of my heart – you, who have not given any care to it at all?”

I scratched that – sounded too bitter. But the thought persisted and morphed into, “It’s grown distant from you.” Then I wondered – if my heart had grown distant from people it once sought, had it also grown distant from God?

I put the question in Google and read some passages and sermons that came up. The Parable of the Sower was prominent. I had always thought I resembled the good ground that received the seed and nurtured it into abundant reproduction, but as I reread this parable in light of the question being put to me, “How’s your heart,” along with a sermon of the same name, I began to see how my heart was close to transforming into a thorny, barren wasteland. Was the Word being choked out of me through all my disappointing interactions with people?

Eventually, I sent the reply, “My heart is as pure as I can keep it in this world. And as open as God needs it to be in this moment.”

When speaking and sharing the question with an old friend later that day, I asked, “How pure can a polluted heart be? Purity in this world still leaves me quite dirty and damaged.” I told her I could have just as truthfully replied, “My heart is bruised and battered. It’s pained and tormented. It’s lonely and sad. It’s been taken for granted and taken advantage of. And it’s no longer trusting. My heart used to be so trusting… It used to be so open….

“Now it’s protected. Now it’s guarded. Now it’s cautious. Now it’s closed to many who once had free access to it.”

She didn’t think that was a bad thing.

I’ve been struggling for balance. Seeking to remain available to those I had offered myself to, while still protecting myself from their lack of care and consideration. Balance between two such opposing goals is impossible. And it’s not necessary.

God isn’t seeking balance from us. He’s demanding all from us.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.  ~ Deuteronomy 10:14-16

Perhaps this is where my bruised and battered heart is healed – with the knowledge that it shouldn’t be entrusted to people. People have no respect for something so fragile and precious. So I resurrender fully to my Lord, my God, to my Savior, my Healer, my Shield and Protector. I recommit my heart o the One who created me and knows best how to soothe me.

I must have held some of my heart back from Him in order for it to become so damaged and abused. Psalm 55:22 says when we give our burdens to the Lord, He will take care of us. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. So, what didn’t I give to my Lord?

Whatever I tried to balance with God left me exposed to people’s ill intentions and selfishness.

For my enemies refuse to change their ways; they do not fear God. As for my companion, he betrayed his friends; he broke his promises. His words are as smooth as butter, but in his heart is war. His words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers!  ~ Psalm 55:19b-21

My heart keeps reaching out to people because it’s full of compassion and has a desire to connect and share its experiences on this journey. Even its bruised and battered condition doesn’t keep it from being powered by love, expressing joy and hope and operating by faith. But when my heart is surrendered to God –every time I surrender to God – the wounds are forgotten as my heart opens and expands to a greater capacity. Perhaps the many scars are necessary. Perhaps the rips and tears, the gouges and punctures are paving way for future expansion. Perhaps everything I saw as people trying to destroy the purity I was trying to maintain was God conditioning my heart for greater battles. Perhaps He was conditioning me for a better reaction to the attacks on my life – the blows don’t stop coming, indeed the enemies refuse to change their ways – but I am better protected when I rest in the shelter of the Most High. I’ve learned to seek Him immediately. I look for His Word first. When I give Him my burdens  – the hurt, pain, loneliness and sadness, the many disappointments of dealing with His creation, yes, even those who identify themselves as His chosen – when I am able to confront my weakness and transfer everything that’s damaging me, I am always strengthened in unforeseen ways. I am always better for the process and experience once it has completely run its course.

“How’s your heart,” was a great question to make me evaluate how I’m presenting myself to God… and to others. Though what I dug up wasn’t a complete surprise to me, it may be to those who think they know me. Though I was initially surprised that someone actually asked me such a question, the surprise was short-lived. I began to wonder about their motives, because our interactions had not expressed any care for my heart condition. I wondered if they were seeking to do more damage, i.e. is your heart healed enough to take another beating? However, assuming there was true concern, I wondered if they were aware of the condition of their own heart and if they had traced its roots to see if their heart was resting in Christ or if their negligence left it exposed elsewhere.

As I’ve ruminated on my actual reply, “My heart is as pure as I can keep it in this world. And as open as God needs it to be in this moment,” I’ve come to appreciate it more. The best I can do is constantly seek God. If, in seeking Him, people hurt me, then I trust the result is still for His glory. The grace He has on tap for me is greater than any harm that comes my way.

May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.  ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:13 NLT

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. ~ 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT

That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.  ~ Hebrews 3:7-8 NLT