Friday, September 30, 2016

Who Do the Crowds Say that I Am?

Let yourself enter this scene.

The apostles are gathered around, maybe there's a small fire, the night might have a slight chill.  They're sharing the remnants of bread and fish.  I imagine there is some laughter, celebrating over the wonders they have been witness to.  They have just seen five thousand people feast on five loafs and two fishes.  They've been filled by a miracle of God.  They have been present at the calming of the storm and the healing of an official's daughter.

And as their joyful chatter subsides for a brief moment, Jesus says, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" 

The day had been so long.  We were tired, yet filled with an excited energy.  Jesus preached, we listened and the crowds gathered.  With all that we have seen to this point, I... we still had our doubts.  The day was growing toward evening.  The time was getting short for all these people to return to the shelter of their homes.  They were hungry.

Jesus fed them with his word, the words of God.  He nourished their spirits, but their flesh craved something to eat, nourishment to fill their stomachs.  We expressed our concern. "You feed them," he said.  And that's when the most recent miracle occurred.

Now, as the darkness is upon us, Jesus asks us a confusing question. "Who do the crowds say that I am?"

"John the Baptist," one of my brothers says. "There are those in the crowd who repented of their sins when John called to them into the Jordan.  They were greatly saddened by his death at the hands of Herod.  They say that his spirit is reborn in you."

Jesus neither frowns or smiles.  He waits for the speaker to finish and keeps silent, knowing another voice will fill the empty void.

"Some say Elijah or one of the prophets," the expected voice speaks.  I hold my tongue and notice that Peter does the same.

"But who do you say that I am?"

A long moment of silence follows his question.  If Jesus is proclaimed to be a great man, or a teacher with authority, the utterance would be acceptable to most.  If we state he is a prophet, does that threaten those in control, those who govern our faith.  We have treated the prophets harshly in the past, sometimes to death.  But Jesus is more.  He is so much more a prophet voicing God's word.  I know we all believe this to be true.  We have seen works only God could perform and heard words only God would utter.  Yet we still hold tightly to our doubts, afraid to speak what is in the depths our hearts.

After peering into the eyes of the gathering, Peter turns his face toward the fire.  He is our anointed leader.  We look to him for strength.  For a moment he simply gazes into the flame.  I watch the light flicker against his face.  After a deep breath is taken by all his eyes focus on Jesus. "You are the Christ, the messiah, the one we have been waiting for."

The burden falls off our shoulders.  We are free to proclaim the Son of God, despite any repercussions.  Peter is the rock upon which faith in Jesus will be built.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Am the Light

To the crowd
gathering in His midst,
"I am the light".
And darkness tries to hide.
He offers,
opening the palms of His hands,
a way in
from the shadows.

To the crowd
is promised
no more darkness.
Separate your hearts
from the world of sin.
No longer
should the shadows be loved.
Your deeds are already shown,
forgiveness
is yours to accept.

To the crowd
bathed in beatitudes
on the side of a hill,
"You are the light."
Hide nothing of God,
place His light where it may be seen,
light the world
with Him
and darkness will cringe.


Inspired by John 8:12 & Matthew 5:14



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Withered Heart


The fog lifting from the fields of a new day.

Yesterday's faults behind us, today's promise within our grasp.

Praise you Lord, for each new awakening.




Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Book


Some tell me it's a book
of stories
contradictory
to each other.
A hundred fables
thrown into a volume,
much like any other book
with the same purpose.

Some let it set
collecting dust
on a table top
displayed,
so others might think
it is often read.

Some never leaf through
the pages
or sing one song
within.
They who who have no guide,
who say they don't need
crutches.

Some open the book
often
and see each passage
as an act of love.
They
are the wheat,
who acknowledge their need
for contradiction.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Monday, September 26, 2016

How Marvelous

Just a verse from a poem written a couple weeks ago,
against a field of wildflowers at a farm in Voluntown, Connecticut.

I am always amazed at how Sunflowers turn to face the sun.
It is an example of how we should turn our faces toward the One God who nurtures us.





copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Matthew 4:18-19

This was originally published on http://scarletrobescriptureverses.blogspot.com/
I added the location where the photograph was taken and reflected on the feel of the day for a community blog I post to.

The photo below was taken near Eastern Point Beach in Groton Ct, looking out over Long Island Sound. It's a late summer afternoon and the day is beginning to cool. A slight breeze comes off the water, peacefully. And in this moment, as in every moment, Jesus calls.


Friday, September 23, 2016

An Unfinished Project

The piece of wood
has been stripped of its bark.
Pine,
oak,
maple,
it matters little.
We all must come when beckoned.

The wood is shaped
by a saw,
a chisel and plane.
It is no more what it was,
but what it has become.

The carpenter assigns
shape,
texture,
color.
The fibers will build
a table or chairs
a shelter
or a cross.

Unfinished
is a state of grace.
Submitting our essence
to the will of other.
The will of He
who uses a chisel
to bore out my sins.






copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Solitude (A Moment at Rocky Neck)

The photograph below was taken by my wife, Susan, a few years ago during a Cross Country meet at Rocky Neck in Niantic Connecticut.  A brief respite between the rush to and fro cheering on our daughter and her High School team.

 





copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

His Song

The message we have heard,
a song sung to a child
through love.
Notes, filling us with melody,
taking us into
an emotional union
with the heart of God.


I will sing His song
today
and tomorrow.
It's verses will be ever on my tongue.
He calls out
and I answer.
I am here to offer praise,
despite my bruises and scars,
promising to change
in lieu of my failures.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50)

So he was the talk of the dusty streets.  Many had come to listen to this man of little education, a carpenter by trade.  I have to admit though, the things he has said must have come from God.  His words do not ridicule or chastise, as most of our laws.  His words are compassionate and the people, we take upon ourselves to lead spiritually, flock to him.

I saw him out in the fields, a few days ago, this man who does not dress like any of the temple leaders.  He holds himself with authority, wearing garments of the poor.  His followers claim he is more than just a man.  They say they have witnessed miracles.  Demons have been ripped free from tormented souls.  A paralytic has been raised to his feet and given the power to walk and dance.

I realize these claims may be exaggerations.  Still, I find myself, as do the others of my sect, drawn into the crowd with a desire to listen to his voice.

So when master Simon extended the invitation to share a meal at his home with the preacher, I had no choice but to attend.  There would be scribes and people of influence in attendance.  Joseph of Arimathea had stated his intention to go and listen to this man.  There are those among the leaders of the temple who see a teacher, such as this man from Nazareth, as a threat.  Still, there are others who feel much could be learned from him.  As I said, there are stories based on the claims of his followers, and there is the truth.  I am trapped somewhere in the middle.

And we shared a meal, an important custom among my people.  We break bread and we offer fine wine.  We share, as the God of Abraham instructed us to.  There was much that the Nazarene shared.  His insight into the minds and hearts of the people is quite astute.  I could see that Joseph and Simon were enthralled by his words.

They were discussing the commandments of God when the woman entered Simon's house.  Everyone at table knew what kind of woman she was.  She dressed the part and wore a gaudy scent.  There were whispers among the men as she forced her way into the room.  Have some of my brethren paid for her services?  I considered the possibility as she threw herself at the feet of the Nazarene.

"Rabbi, you should not let a woman like that touch you," the master of the house exclaimed. "Get this woman out of my house," he demanded, but no one moved to interfere.

The woman kissed the feet of the teacher, defiling him with her tears.  Then she used her long black hair to dry his feet.  At first I felt this display to be sickening, but the teacher didn't make any attempt to stop her.

"Rabbi," Simon spoke again, "you do not understand what this woman is.  She is a prostitute.  She corrupts you with her very touch."

"Please Simon, leave her alone," the teacher said calmly, before continuing. "Simon, when you welcomed me into your home you didn't wash my feet or give me a kiss of greeting.  But she has bathed my feet with her tears, kissed them and dried them with her hair.  She is forgiven... because of her great love... of every indiscretion, of every sin.

I felt the air leave the room.  The master of the house was speechless, as were the others of our sect.  The woman stared at the Nazarene, adoring him with a love, the likes one of her kind should not possess. "Go and sin no more." The words floated through the murmured voices of accusation.  Sins are not to be forgiven by anyone of flesh and blood.  Only God can forgive.

I turned in my seat and watched the woman leave.  She is a person, not so unlike myself.  But she has been cast out, segregated by the righteous.  Still, she is flesh and blood and we have spit on her, called her vile names.

As she turned and looked back, one last time, toward the Nazarene, I sensed a peace about her.  She touched this man, openly sobbed upon his feet and in turn he wiped her soul clean.  She had much to bring before God and received much in return.  How eagerly will we, the pious, offer our failings to God when we kneel at His feet.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Words

Originally Submitted to https://christianwriters.com/

You are the audience which pays me for tricks.
Have you not heard of my reputation?
I can perform whatever it is that you ask.
But I prefer that you listen to what I say
and pay little attention to what I do.
My words, print on paper
mean so much more than the blind gaining sight.
You seek physical manifestations
while I wait for your spiritual acceptance.
There is no miracle greater than my thoughts.
So don't expect me to stand on a stage and make the paralytic walk.
Don't expect me to come down from my cross with my wounds healed.
It is not your body that I come seeking to embrace,
but your heart.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Song of the Baptist

Anton Raphael Mengs - St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness

The wilderness embraces me.
Sand and rocks surround my feet.
The heat bakes my flesh.
It is here,
I stand in communion with Yahweh.  

I have sought solitude for my entire life, 
casting off the temple duties of my father 
to become a nomad.  
I feast daily on locusts 
and the wild fluids of nature.  

I hear the creator's voice 
and I know He hears me.
The Lord tells me 
it is time to come out from the dessert.  
He, 
who I have waited for 
since the days in my mother's womb, 
is ready to claim the course of his life.  

I must make straight 
the path he is to follow
and beckon the repentant to the Jordan's shore.
I must journey
from the solitude of the wilderness
to the persecution of the world.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Behold the Beauty


Behold the beauty of life.
As the sunflower
turns its face
to the body of light in the sky,
you too
should turn
towards your father,
to seek nourishment.

Behold the beauty of this world.
What was once
a seed
has grown in full bloom
to worship the light,
lifting its spirit
from the darkness,
to ease its hunger.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Monday, September 12, 2016

Journey to the Hill Country (Luke 1:39)


The road for the journey
smells of the past,
all the years of our God's promise
to free his people,
Israel.

A road of dust and stone,
traveled on by a father,
and then his children
and their children
in search of soil we speak of deserving.

A road of flesh and blood,
cut deep into the earth
by the voices
of prophets,
scarred by the sandals
of Roman dominance,
perfumed
by the hope of coming salvation.



copyright 1993 - Donald P James Jr

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Messenger (Isaiah 52:7)

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)

The Prophet Isaiah (Bible Card from 1904)

There is a shout from the mountain,
a herald calls out to the captives.
He is coming
to proclaim a victory,
won for those who know of love
and long to dwell in its embrace.

The messenger announces
good news,
a new way.
A life in the spirit,
no longer of the flesh.
A life of peace
not war.

I listen to him shout.
My soul clings to every word.
How marvelous the works
of this Lord
who stoops down
to touch my brow.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Friday, September 9, 2016

He Came for Us

Originally submitted to: https://christianwriters.com/
Christ, by Heinrich Hofmann

They cheated those people,
they who see themselves as justified.
Once they were kings and Pharisees
controlling the poor
and uneducated
with superstitions, rituals and laws.
Today they are politicians
with vile serpent like tongues
and tempting lies.

They cheated those people
in the Messiah's day
as in the present.
Convincing the underclass of society
that they lack value
compared to those who forge decrees
and interpret doctrine for their own use.

Today we divide
by origin,
or shade of flesh.
We stand for this truth
or that fallacy,
always right and never wrong.

Remember always,
He came for the abused,
He came for the overburdened,
He came for those
humbled
by a diseased culture.
He came for those
who did not expect Him to look in their direction.
And the pious, the cheaters,
could do nothing but watch.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) - Part 2

The land is vast, but daily I come to watch, hoping my son will someday change his heart and return to me.  I have aged much and the walk from my home to the crest of this hill is tiring.  My legs ache, but I will make this journey every day, because he is my son.

So I stand and wait, watching the horizon for a sign.

On the brink of the afternoon sun reaching the crown of its arch a figure approached.  Gradually characteristics clarified and I recognized the individual as my youngest son.  He was now bearded and his hair was uncut.  He looked to be overly thin and sickly.  My old tired legs carried me down the hill as fast as they were able.  He fell into my embrace and began to spout off a litany of apologies.  He claimed himself unworthy to be called my son.

My heart broke, as I knew it would, as he cried and begged for forgiveness.  I led him back to our home and beckoned one of my servants. "Take care of him," I said with a joy filled heart. "Bathe him and give him fresh clothing.  Tonight we are going to feast and celebrate.  Take one of our finest calves and slaughter it.  Today is the day I have prayed for.  My prayer has been answered.  This family of mine is whole once again."

Now as the evening neared my eldest son came out of the fields after a hard day's labor.  He was a hard and trustworthy worker, my reliable one. "What is this I hear," he asked, "about my brother who left with half the value of your holdings and now returns a pauper?"

"My son has returned... your brother."

"I don't understand this father," he continued. "This son of yours has sinned against all that you represent.  He returns after spending your wealth on gambling and prostitutes and you welcome him back with open arms, with no conditions.  You have never thrown a party for me... for any purpose.  I have slaved for you without complaint.  What have I received in return?"

"Please understand," I said with great sadness. "Your brother was lost and has now been found.  He was dead and has come back to life.  What I have is always yours... everything.  There is no need of envy.  Your brother has sought forgiveness.  I have prayed for his return... and now we celebrate that my prayer has been answered."

Rembrandt - Return of the Prodigal Son


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 
 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) - Part 1

He sat with tax collectors and others who were considered outcasts.  The Pharisees grumbled, upset because Jesus sat in the presence of sinners, those their law considered unworthy.  And He told them stories; about a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son:

I went to my father and told him that this life was not what I wanted for myself.  I needed to find my own sense of worth.  Despite the love he held in his heart for me I needed to find my own way.  A life of farming was not what I envisioned for myself.  I asked for my inheritance, as bold as that sounds.  I demanded my half of everything my father owned.

And he gave it to me.

With my share of my father's wealth I headed to a foreign land.  I intended to have the best of times, eat, drink, be merry and take my choice of beautiful, exotic women.  I fell in and out of love, if that's what you would have called it.  My father would have called my desires sinful lust.  I spent my money with abandon on every material item I could imagine, never thinking that every coin was earned by my father's hard work and calloused hands.

But soon my good time ended.  I heard of famines, droughts and wars.  At first I didn't think these hardships would affect me.  In time these disasters came knocking on my door.  In the aftermath my wealth had blown away like the desert dust.  I was without shelter on the street and not a single denarius in my pocket.

I begged for a job from a farmer not unlike my father, but not nearly as wealthy.  My job was to feed the pigs.  The scraps of garbage I gave them looked more tempting than the slop I had to force into my stomach.

One night, I said to myself, as I laid in the damp cold beside the pen for the swine. "My father's servants are better off than I am.  Even the lowest of his workers has more to eat than I do."  It pained me to consider returning home, without any of my father's wealth to my name. "Father, take me back," I planned to say. "Treat me as a servant, not your son.  I placed myself above you and threw the fruits of your labor into the streets with harlots."

I hoped he would at least allow me to harvest crops from the fields in the hot sun.

I started down the barren stretch of road, leading back to the home of my innocence.  This journey was hard, filled with so much regret.  My stomach ached from lack of nourishment.  I craved a drink of cool water to wash the dust from my throat.

But when my legs were at their weakest, I saw him.  A distant figure on a hillside.  My legs gained the strength to continue toward him.  I practiced my words of repentance until we were face to face and I fell into his embrace, sobbing.


Return of the Prodigal Son - Bartolomé Esteban Murillo


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Turning Back


Turn towards me,
I am constant.
My gaze is always upon you.
Step out of the shadows
and into the light of my being,
come home to me.
I am waiting.

Sometimes you choose to leave me
in the background,
thinking you will face me
when the time is of your own choosing.
I beckon you now
and leave you with a choice.
I will not force you
to love me,
although I adore you.

If turning in my direction
causes you to face the harshness
of your life,
I will be there
at your side.
I am always the father
on the crest of the hill
waiting for his son to return.

So please turn back,
knowing in your heart
that I have never turned away.
Give me the fabric
of your withered heart
and allow me to turn it into flesh.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pictures of the Messiah

  Pictures 
of the Messiah
 is now available on Amazon
in Kindle format
This book is going to be offered
as a free book promotion
from September 12th
to
September 16th
Please download a copy for your 
Kindle device, 
PC or phone App
and leave a review on Amazon.
Thank You
and God Bless 

Pictures of the Messiah is a collection of poems through the eyes of those who witnessed His three years of ministry. Those who speak of their encounters range from John the Baptist and Simon Peter, to the Pharisees and the soldier who swung the hammer of crucifixion.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01L9VPXIC


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Evening Prayer


Peace
deep in the fibers of my soul.
I come to prayer
with my guitar in hand
and sing songs
expressing the calm in my heart.

Give us peace
when we tire from the struggle.
Give us warm bodies
to embrace,
those You have brought into
our lives
with special purpose.

Give us health
when sickness weakens us.
Give us a longing
for Your touch,
the promise of salvation,
to shelter us in the night.

Peace,
I rest in a safe haven,
where You protect my soul
from all that
hinders.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Friday, September 2, 2016

By the West River


It is here
that I find a place to rest
on a grassy knoll
where the river flows gently.
The subtle voice of the creator
speaks with more clarity
when the world has given way
to silence.


It is here
that I come to seek peace,
in the quiet solitude
of time passed.
An oasis
from the desert
of the mundane,
where faith permeates my soul
in contemplation.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Matthew 23:16

"Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees"
Blind guides
standing the shadows
of hypocrisy.
Loading heavy burdens
on the shoulders
of my children,
causing them to stumble
beneath the weight
of your own ordained crosses,
not mine.

Stand up from your seats of judgement.
You are less
than those subjected
to your misinterpreted laws.
You have no right
to condemn,
or forgive.
You are the false prophets,
spoken of
when the truth was first known.

Blind guides,
the veil was torn long ago,
when the sacrificial lamb bled.
The spirit was set free,
over all the land
and sea,
with tongues of flame.
Did you not receive humility
in those days?

I come to carry my children
broken
by pious hypocrites.
The little ones
who gathered at my feet,
cast off by those
who appointed themselves
as holy.

Be not blind
to your own perceived virtue.
Compassion
is what I require of you.
A warm heart,
stepping into the light
and gently leading the flock from darkness.
They long for an embrace of love,
an ear to listen,
a voice to console.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr