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Poem: Be Anything

I had such bright
hopes and dreams
when I believed
I could
be anything
I tried
strived
over-achieved
if thoughts manifest reality
the American Dream
wouldn’t be
unreachable
and life would be
different
all I truly wanted
was freedom to be me
without threat, violence
shame or compromise
how tragic
being me
proved to be
the hardest thing

~ LaShawnda Jones, 2020

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Prince on Larry King: Sharing Hope and Wisdom

This is truly a phenomenal interview. I’ve never viewed Prince as a particularly spiritually-minded individual, but he very clearly knew his Source and Provider. It’s very interesting to listen to how he processed and manifested his belief and balanced it with a demanding public image.

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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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Poem: SYMPATHY by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Sympathy

BY PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
    When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

Source: Twentieth-Century American Poetry (2004)

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Sermon: SPEAKING FOR GOD IN A HOPELESS TIME

by Pastor Carter Conlon

Click here Speaking for God in a Hopeless Time to listen.

Notes from the sermon

“Sometimes we miss the power of God because of it’s simplicity. We think it should be more complicated.”

John 20:13-16  “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

“Jesus appeared as an ordinary person. He never appeared in recognizable form. He was still Jesus, but not in the form people expected to see Him in. He appeared as a Gardener. How amazing is that? He was telling us that He will have a body here on earth. Many bodies in the form of ordinary people walking in the power of God.” ~ Pastor Carter

“You and I are not called to be super stars. We’re not called to have all the answers. We have an answer within us. We’re called to be just ordinary people with faith and compassion. There’s been more done in my life through words of assurance and tender hands than every prophets that’s ever lived in the Kingdom of God.” ~ Pastor Carter

Luke 24:13-27   “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

“Suffering and sorrow and confusion and darkness does not mean that we’ve lost the battle. We have to be able to explain to them, which He did – He opened the scriptures and showed them that it is the plan of God to send His Son, and have His Son die on a cross and to take the sins of the world upon Himself, to be placed in a grave and to be raised again from the dead on the third day – so that forgiveness and life and victory could be brought back for those who put their trust in Him. Sometimes darkness has to come before the dawn. Sometimes suffering has to come. You see, we’ve allowed a gospel to be preached that it’s all sunshine all the time. How do you explain when things start going the other way?” ~ Pastor Carter

“No matter what you’re suffering, no matter how dark it is, what God promised you is what it’s gonna be!” ~ Pastor Carter

John 21:4-14  “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”

Romans 8:34-36  Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

“Cast the net on the right side of God. Get back to where the power of God is! The victory…the battle…everything we long for is in Jesus Christ!”

Ephesians 1:17-22  Spirit of wisdom and revelation; the hope of His calling.: ...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

“There is power in speach. We are the only thing in creation given the ability to willfully speak the Word of God.” ~ Pastor Carter

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

“Lord, some of these things are so simple, they’re deep… but you have clearly shown us the pattern. Until the day we get home, will you help us understand these things? Embrace these things? Help us to meditate on these things today? And will you comfort us in our confusion and sorrow that we to willl comfort others? In the name of Jesus, amen.”

“We take something so simple and we make it so complicated. Then it becomes frustrating. And with the frustration comes fruitlessness.”

I’m trying to get back to the simplicity of just being a Christian.

God loves you.

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ACAD – Praise: Psalm 33

The Steadfast Love of the Lord

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
    he puts the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army;
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
    and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

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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Poem: Love, A Postmortem

by LaShawnda Jones

I once loved
With a purity of
Hope
Before
My love was tested
For conditions
By one who
Sought to break me
Now I love with an
Expectation
To be hurt
He meant me no good
So he presented no
Goodness to me
 
Interesting
I didn’t see that when
I saw us
 
This is why the world has
A shortage of Lovers
Those who love openly
Are hated viciously
By those they bare their
Hearts to
And each time the Lovers
Choose to love again
They are aware
Their love is poured from a
Tainted and ruptured vessel
From which it takes
Longer to give
And is harder to receive
This less pure
More defined
Conditional love
Hopes for little and
Expects the worse
The Lovers become less willing
To love those who don’t
Love them
And that’s how the
Lovers disappear from the earth
“People will hate you, shut you out, insult you, and say you are evil because you follow the Son of Man. But when they do, you will be blessed. Be full of joy at that time, because you have a great reward in heaven.  ~ Luke 6:22-23, NCV

TRUE LOVE by Phil Wickham 

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A grown man cried in my arms tonight.

free-hugs
Photo credit: Life is Color

February 14, 2014

I wasn’t expecting much from the day when I awoke this morning. It’s been snowing heavy in the northeast this week. Yesterday I braved the weather and went to work. This morning, before getting out of bed, my dominant thought was: please let it be bad enough outside so I’m justified in staying put and working from home. After dragging myself out of bed, I tripped into the living room to look out the window.

As I pulled back the curtain and opened the blinds I was nearly blinded by the brightness of the sun bouncing off the pristine white snow piled high on my patio.

My first thought was: It’s beautiful out.

Second thought: All this snow will melt in no time in the blazing mid-30 degree sun.

Third: There’s no excuse not to go to work.

On the agenda for the day was lunch with a friend and Bible study after work. Staying home to work didn’t really save me from anything because I had other commitments that required me to leave my apartment.

Lunch was heart wrenching. My friend is dealing with life altering issues from various areas of his life he believes he has to be a bulwark of strength for. I left him with the message: Gentleness is strength.

From my own experience, it’s when I try my hardest to be strong – exhibiting my idea of strength, anyway – that I am the most brittle. In my brittleness, I easily break. However, as I learned again that evening, it is in my gentleness that others see power and strength in me.

After lunch, I headed to the office. I did my best to be productive on a Friday afternoon before a three-day holiday weekend (*wink, wink*). On my way to Bible study I actually stopped in the McDonald’s next door to my church for a Shamrock shake. It’s my favorite special shake and I haven’t had one mixed with chocolate in years. (Side note: This is how the enemy distracts us – in very innocuous ways.) I was going to take the shake to go but decided to sit and enjoy it. But when I finished I was in no hurry to leave. I sat there staring out the window looking at people rush past, half listening to a conversation of two foreigners, one African and one European, discuss their origins. The African was claiming he was from America. He had one of the thickest African accents I had ever heard and the European wasn’t convinced either. Oddly enough, the European claimed he was from France and he didn’t sound too French either…. Anyway, I found myself sitting there listening to their debate about origins and identity for several minutes after I had finished my shake.

Eventually, I made my way up to the Bible study. Sat in the back of the room. Attempted to take notes. I was so not interested. I wanted to go home. Since I had missed most of the study (leaving work late and sitting in McDonald’s), it was over in no time. Yet, I sat there in my seat. Playing with my device. The woman in front of me left the room, but not with her things. The man sitting next to her turned to me and said, “God bless you, sister.”

I responded in kind. In the next breath he was pouring  out his heart. He’s a veteran. He has nightmares from multiple tours in war zones. He recalled parachuting with comrades behind enemy lines and seeing his fellows getting shot down in the air. Worst yet, he shared the horror of holding on to a fallen soldier as a shield. And worse than that, later seeing his best friend get shot in the head next to him while they were in a dug out. His mom and sister died in the States while he was away fighting. Even worse than all that, when he finally returned stateside with shrapnel in his body, he was denied benefits and had to fight for treatment. On top of all that, he’s homeless.

As he looked at me, tears filled his eyes and he asked me, “How can I ever get these thoughts out of my head? How can I stop seeing these visions over and over again? Is it possible for me to have peace? I want the peace that Christ offers.”

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: I saw this man as the reason I fought my lethargy all day. I hadn’t experienced loss, death and homelessness in the same way he had, but I had experienced it. I knew what it was to be a target of an enemy intent on stealing my next breath and all my hope. I knew what it was to wonder if God was even paying attention to me, if He was even aware of what was going on in my life. I shared that with him, then I asked him two questions: (1) Can I share a scripture passage that helped me this week? (2) Can I hug you?

He said yes to both.

I intended to read Philippians 4:1-9 to him. I had been meditating on this passage during the week. But a few sentences in, I realized the chapter had advanced on my tablet. I looked up and told him, “This passage is intended for you, because it’s not the passage I turned to.”

1. From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am an apostle because that is what God wanted. Also from Timothy, our brother.

2 To the holy and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ that live in Colossae:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 because we have heard about the faith you have in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all of God’s people. 5 You have this faith and love because of your hope, and what you hope for is kept safe for you in heaven. You learned about this hope when you heard the message about the truth, the Good News 6 that was told to you. Everywhere in the world that Good News is bringing blessings and is growing. This has happened with you, too, since you heard the Good News and understood the truth about the grace of God. 7 You learned about God’s grace from Epaphras, whom we love. He works together with us and is a faithful servant of Christ for us. 8 He also told us about the love you have from the Holy Spirit.

9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we have continued praying for you, asking God that you will know fully what he wants. We pray that you will also have great wisdom and understanding in spiritual things 10 so that you will live the kind of life that honors and pleases the Lord in every way. You will produce fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God. 11 God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient. 12 And you will joyfully give thanks to the Father who has made you able to have a share in all that he has prepared for his people in the kingdom of light. 13 God has freed us from the power of darkness, and he brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son. 14 The Son paid for our sins, and in him we have forgiveness.

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When what you want most is what frightens you the most

A few weeks ago, I took a walk with a stranger on a dark night. On the surface, I’m sure he wasn’t really interested in conversation, but he provided good insight. Some of his assessments of me are still playing in my mind.

One of his seemingly unloaded questions to me was, “Do you want a relationship?” I replied with a slight grin and nodded in the affirmative.

He continued, “That which you want most, frightens you the most. You will never get what you want if you continue to fight it and run away from it.”

That was unmistakably loaded. So much so, I asked him to stop talking so I could let that sink in. The statement is still rolling around in my mind weeks later.

Over the years, people have asked me often about my fears. For a number of years, my general response from a place of spiritual victory has been along the lines of: I’m fearless! I ain’t neva scared! However, this has been a summer where fear came to roost in my heart. It became an insidious transformer that greeted me throughout each day.

Throughout the last year, I had been thinking of relocating to Nashville, TN. The main lure had been the thought of coming across a crop marriage-minded Southern men, as opposed to the single-minded Northerners I encounter. Another lure had been the possibility of adopting children on my own and being able to manage it in a slower-paced environment. Neither of those ideas would have been sufficient “lures” had I not been afraid of never connecting with someone where I am. If I hadn’t given up on the thought of welcoming love in New York City. I had essentially come to the conclusion that if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s never going to happen.

During my visit to Nashville in August, I was fortunate enough to meet with a couple of ladies who unwittingly forced me to face the fears attacking my life. I remember telling them both, in different meetings, “I’m not in a real hurry to move. It’s not like I’m running from anything.” Or perhaps one of them first suggested to me that I need not be in any hurry; I should take my time with my decision as I wasn’t running from anything in my life.

Either way, that phrase has been haunting me since.

This week I realized all the roads of my life lead to New York City. The more I try to pull away from this city, the more I realize my purpose here isn’t complete. I also realized that I was running away – from my life. I was trying to run away from the hopelessness that my hope had turned into. From the sadness that my joy had descended into. From the dreams that had never manifested. From the vision of love that had become an instrument of torture simply because of the absence of love in my life.

How profound is it that three strangers would enter my life in the space of two weeks to point out my runaway tendencies? How amazing that God would halt me in the midst of my self-sabotaging plans?

That which you want most, frightens you the most, the stranger-man had said. What an amazingly astute statement for someone I had met less than two hours prior. Supernaturally so.

It brings to mind God’s pursuit of us and our pursuit of Him. How completely overwhelming the thought of His awesomeness is. And yet we are fearfully, intricately and wonderfully made in His image. It makes sense that the relationship I envision – one that physically represents my spiritual relationship with my Creator – would overwhelm me, because everything about Him is overwhelming. However, in the natural, if I’m running from someone who is also running from me because he too is overwhelmed by what he sees in me, then how do we ever meet up? Impossible — but for God who provides the sure knowledge that whatever track I’m on, I’m not on it alone; and whoever was at my back will eventually be coming towards me after we’ve both completed our individual laps of endurance and testing.

Lord, you have examined me and know all about me. You know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts before I think them. You know where I go and where I lie down. You know everything I do. Lord, even before I say a word, you already know it. You are all around me—in front and in back— and have put your hand on me. Your knowledge is amazing to me; it is more than I can understand.

Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? Where can I run from you? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in the grave, you are there. If I rise with the sun in the east and settle in the west beyond the sea, even there you would guide me. With your right hand you would hold me. ~ Psalm 139:1-10