Wednesday, August 31, 2016

We Belong to You


Often I pray for things I don't require, trinkets in life You know I don't really need.
I am Your child, we are Your children, believing we need the glitter of this world.
We belong to You Lord, nourish us as You would the sparrow, dress us like the lilies of the field.
Walk among us, guide us down the road You desire most for our travel.
We are Yours, we belong to You.

I hope my prayer is not childish, that it is found important to You.
I know You hear my every cadence and promise to give me only good things.
Still, I know I am a child and my voice needs to be uttered with simplicity and humility.
You know the deepest prayer in my heart today.  You know my unspoken sonnet for tomorrow.
And You answer always, because we belong to You.

I am Yours.
My wife and family are Yours.
Wrap us in Your embrace and secure us from all that binds our minds to worry.

Often I pray for those closest to me, the gifts You have loaned to me.
Caress their wounds when the world puts them on trial, make their burden light.
They belong to You Lord, give them joy in the morning and peace at nightfall.
Keep them focused on You, walking in the direction You gently move them.
They are Yours, they belong to You.

Amen



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Prayer at Midday

Lord,
the day You have given
is all I can ask to receive.
You have blessed me
with the songs of birds
to begin my morning
and bread for my table.
You have given me
a voice to sing praise
and eyes with which
to read Your word.

Lord,
the new day
whether bathed with showers
or warmed by the sun
is laid out in perfection.
I will sing praise
for every season
for it is what You wish
to bestow upon me.

Lord,
when my toil nears its daily end
give me the satisfaction
of tired muscles
and an attitude for prayer.
Feed me the nourishment
my body requires
and the spirit
my soul longs to embrace.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Name is Malchus (John 18:10)

I can't shake the feeling, lingering in my core, since the night in the garden.  Caiaphas instructed me to follow the guards out to the meeting point.  I would be his eyes and ears.  The High Priest hoped the Nazarene would say something, anything which could be brought as evidence in front of the Sanhedrin.  There were still a few members who needed convincing of the dire political crisis we faced.  As Caiaphas said, "It is better that one man be destroyed, rather than a whole nation."

But the horror that occurred there still plagues my dreams by day and night.  The betrayer, I believe his name was Judas, greeted the one named Jesus with a kiss.  The moment seemed unreal, an expression of kinship in return for blood.  What did this disciple of his expect to gain by turning over a man who harbored no guilt?

A sword was drawn to defend the teacher.  I saw only a flash of the moon's reflection in the steel blade.  The burly fisherman had taken up arms against the authorities.  He would pay dearly.  The next moment is a blur in my mind.  I saw blood and knew it was mine.  It was on my tunic and in the palm of my hand.  There were shouts from both sides, but no retaliation.

He touched me, the Nazarene, and my ear, which had been severed by the sword, was healed.  The moment calmed.  Jesus chastised the overzealous fisherman and it seemed as if no resistance had ever been mustered.

Yet there was blood on my garment.  My blood.


So this afternoon, the third day since they crucified Jesus, my master has sent me out to listen to voices who speak of a resurrection.  Some of the Nazarene's followers claimed that their friend would rise from his tomb.  This concerns Caiaphas.  Not that he believes it possible, that a dead man can raise himself from the grave.  Caiaphas is convinced the Nazarene's followers will steal the body.  I do not know what I believe.  All I am certain of, is he touched me and I am healed.

I was told they were still gathered in an upper room of a particular house.  I enter the structure with caution and approach the men called disciples, not as the ears of the High Priest, but as someone who needs to know about this man named Jesus.

When they see me there is fear etched on their faces.  I say, "My name is Malchus.  Your master healed my ear, in the garden." I feel the side of my head to ensure my ear is still in place.

One of them steps forth, the burly one, the fisherman.  He approaches me.  The expression on his face shows no hatred or anger toward me.  Slowly the one named Peter smiles.

"I have heard that the stone has been rolled away," I say.

"What you have heard is true.  We are His witnesses.  We welcome you among us, Malchus." Peter draws me into his embrace as he speaks my name.

"We have seen him.  He is alive." Two of the other men in the room state.

Peter releases his hold on me and looks deeply into my eyes. "You, my friend were sent to be the ears of Caiaphas.  To listen to the words he needed to hear.  But those words reached your heart instead.  And because of your listening, Malchus, you have been healed."



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

In the Church

Originally Submitted to https://christianwriters.com/

In the Church,
His spirit dwells not
in the stone,
wood,
or stained glass.
He is not an icon in the temple
kept behind the veil.
He is not controlled
by our boundaries or doctrine,
despite the parables
we preach.

He is
in the parking lot of the supermarket,
the main street of a borough,
the sidewalk of a slum,
waiting to be encountered.
He is untethered
from our expectations.
He is
more than our simplistic views
can comprehend.

In the true church,
wherever His people gather.
In flowering meadows,
cragged mountain tops,
or littered back alleys,
He is present.
The air does breathe His name
and the songs,
no matter how imperfect,
move the heart
of the almighty.


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Morning Prayer


A chorus of Barn Swallows
greets the new morning.
A simple song of praise,
reminding me
that the birds of the air
do not sow
or reap,
Yet You care for all their needs.

Help me Lord
to take today for what it is,
without worry
about those things I cannot change.
Help me to focus
on Your truth
and not the fables of the world.

Lord,
give me a voice today
to sing praises
for what You have offered
and not what the world
has tempted me
to want.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Friday, August 26, 2016

Moments of Grace



The tender hug of a small child.

The warm hand of your spouse, in yours.

A softly picked melody on a guitar.

Gentle laughter carrying across the breeze.

A murmured prayer of thanks.

Glistening sun on the face of a lake.

The rush of a mountain river in Spring.

Two bunny's playing on the front lawn.

The first red tomato of Summer.

Crisp Autumn air and an unblemished sky of blue.

Light rain on the porch roof.

The sunset at the end of a Spring day.

A hymn sung sweetly in a tiny chapel.

A wave crashing on a sandy beach.

A cluster of Tiger Lilies along the road side.

A white tailed deer eating apples from a tree.

The view from the summit of a mountain.

A worn trail in the deep woods.

A soaring hawk against an overcast sky.

Flannel sheets on a cold Winter's night.

Gathering at table with those considered precious.

A church bell calling us to prayer.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Canopy of Leaves


Under a canopy of leaves,
am I out of Your sight?
My thoughts seek a hiding place
in shadows.
I am the product of my failures,
looking away from Your face,
because I am less
than You have made me to be.

Shade along the byway
hides me from the rays of warmth.
I feel cold
into my marrow.
How can You know me
and still wait patiently
for me to turn around,
step into the light?

Under a canopy of leaves,
I fight the need
to step into the open.
I know You see the core
of my sacrilege,
the sin
I won't admit.
Still You wait
to embrace me
and kill the fattened calf.


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Heart to Know You

This poem is from 20 years ago, inspired by Isaiah 64:8
"We are the clay, and You are the potter; we are the work of Your hands"
I wanted to illustrate the Father as not only the potter, but the painter as well,
as the one who molds us into shape and gives us color.


Here I am, oh Lord
listening to the silence.
Your voice filters through
all this stillness.
I give You my heart.
I give You my every breath.
Come into my life, direct me.

Show me the road You choose
for me to follow.
Mold Your gentleness into my heart.
Make of me what You will,
every color You desire.
Paint me humble and without pride.

'Cause You
are the painter
and I am the canvas.
You are the potter
and I
am the soft mound of clay

Paint my empty canvas with the colors of life,
the hues I need to be.
Paint my eyes to see You clearly.
Paint my heart to know You.

Mold my shapeless form
into a vessel of love,
the form of which You choose.
Mold my hands to reach out to You.
Mold my heart to know You.



copyright 1996 - Donald P James Jr

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Priory

The poem below reflects on a recent afternoon visit to Weston Priory in Weston Vt 
http://www.westonpriory.org/

Silence.
Only the brief interruption
of a bird's song
or sandals walking
prayerfully
over stone.

Silence.
Walk around a reflective pond
and through a garden
cared for
meticulously.
Rest in contemplation
and listen
to the quiet.

This is a place
of silence.
On a summit in Weston Vermont
resides the ultimate peace.

Silence.
Until the monastery bells
call us to prayer.
A handful of men,
monks,
enter the chapel
and begin to sing.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Friday, August 19, 2016

Calm is the Night


Calm is the night
when I can rest after my toil,
knowing I have felt
the Lord's presence
in the day's effort.

Restful peace encircles me,
a prayer,
a passage,
scripture,
all spoken to touch my heart
with compassion.

My thoughts,
less chaotic,
centered on truth
and not the claimed ideologies
of the humanistic
world.

Calm is the night
when I have focused
often
on His word
and left my guilt
in healing hands.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Knocking

Will you open the door
when the knocking
disturbs
your routine?
I'm not selling
religion,
politics
or encyclopedias.

You think I am the outcast,
the hungry, the thirsty,
the one without shelter.
So you sit back in your chair,
bring your book
of romance into view
and live a fantasy.

I will not cease to knock,
an annoyance in your life,
hoping soon
you will realize
I have so much more
to offer
than what you choose to receive.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Trip to Jericho (Luke 10.25-37)

I was traveling a road some of my associates had warned me about.  But I had business to attend and felt the risk was not too great.  They told me the road was filled with thieves, that vagabonds ambushed the unwary travelers daily, especially those who traveled alone.  I did not consider myself careless as I set out over the rocky roads toward Jericho.

They approached me from behind, three of them, muscular and unruly.  The hungry and destitute of the land.  Some commit crimes to survive, others because of their hatred for fellow men.  I offered the little gold I had, a handful of coins with Caesar's image.  They struck me anyway, wanting my money, the cloth I wore and my blood.  When they left me by the roadside I thought death was near.  I faded into a world of darkness.  I asked God to be compassionate toward me, to keep the animals from gnawing on my bones.  Through a mouth tasting my own blood I prayed for deliverance.

I heard steps on the hard earth.  I moaned so as not to be missed.  I saw a figure pause a short distance from me.  He wore the dressings of a temple priest.  I felt God had answered my plea, but the priest crossed the road, fearing the unclean.  In his wake stood his assistant, a Levite.  He too crossed the road and the two of them watched me for a moment as I continued to suffer.

"We would be made unclean," the Levite said. "So much blood and death is surely near."

I heard his statement as I drifted in and out of consciousness.  My ribs ached.  My head throbbed.  My breath was short and shallow.

"Someone else will come along," the priest responded. "Someone who does not require purification under the law."

My world went gray again as my pain ravaged body surrendered to its fate.  The laws followed in the temple do not favor man.  Please tell me God, you are not as cruel as these laws make You to be.

Again someone approached.  My body would be abandoned for a third time to the beasts who hunger for flesh.  But this traveler touched me and inspected my wounds.

"I am a traveler from Samaria," he said. "I know of someone along the way who will care for you.  You need not worry about any expense that may be incurred.

He set me on his donkey and led me to a local village.  His friend cared for my injuries and the traveler promised to stop back on his return trip.

Now I lay in comfort, in the healing embrace of the one God.  I prayed for deliverance and the men of the temple, the men of the law, saw my life as unworthy.  I was impure because I was naked and bleeding, possibly even dead.  But the one despised by the righteous covered me, cared for my injuries and comforted my flesh.  Who is my neighbor?  Those who stand by their dogmas, pompous and holy, or the unrighteous traveler, who cares more for man than the law?




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Quest for the House of Creation

At first I rose up
out of the dust of creation,
and I chose
the thrill of temptation
over the love of my creator.
I chose to turn
in the direction of my choice.
To form my own meanings
for my existence.
I chose
to eat the fruit of my desire,
and by choice
I left the house of creation.

It was then,
after the garden of my peace
was a distant memory,
as I watched the struggle
of my offspring,
to find their meaning,
that I directed myself
toward my father's home.
I set off in search of his love
only I'd forgotten who he was.

I looked to the sun
high in the sky,
full of warmth and brightness,
and mistook the caress
of its light
as love.
But when I made my plea
for deepening kinship
the sun vanished into the clouds.
When I asked it to protect me
with its light
it fell victim to the darkness.  

Then I sought the solace of the moon.
The strengthening hope
in my fear of the night.
The gentle spirit above the branches
reaching outward
with silent prayer.
But then one eve
it chose not to appear
and I was frightened by the total darkness.
I prayed for its spirit to return,
but its distance from me
was too great,
my cries were not heard.

Then I bowed down to the wind.
Its fierce energy
frightened me.
Through sacrifice I sought to calm
its fury
and soothe its anger
until it was just a soft whisper
through the trees.
But in its hurry
the gusts of wind blew by me,
heading in its chosen direction.
Leaving me alone in my desert
longing for the relief
of a gentle breeze.

Was in the years that followed
that we carved from bronze,
a calf.
We covered it with a layer of gold
ordaining it in glory.
How we embraced the cold metal
and adored it.
But it gave no response to our existence.
It didn't shield itself from us,
like the sun or moon.
It didn't lead us in a direction
alien to our boundaries,
and we felt no fear or love in its presence.    

Then from among us came men
of sacred scripture.
Who read and studied
the written teachings of their ancestors.
They stood before us
and spoke of a single God,
but they wore the commandments
as a garment on their flesh
not their spirit.
They demanded of each,
who gathered in their great temples,
to bring forth to the world
a goodness.
A goodness their pious example
failed to caress.

During the time
of Pharisaical power 
He came.
The man from Nazareth.
He drew unto himself
fishermen
tax collectors,
the blind,
the lepers,
the harlots.
And He gathered us together
on a hillside.
He spoke of His love for His Father
and the Father's love for Him.
He showed us the path
returning to love.

And He taught us to pray.....,

Our Father....





copyright 2007 - Donald P James Jr

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What Will You Do?

When the world steals our focus
on the road ahead,
adding stones to the path
causing us to stumble.
When it shows our eyes
falsehoods
of its design
and the trail leads to thickets
too dense to pass.

When the world takes our faith
and tries to crush
every truth we believe.
When its politics degrade
and its offspring
tell us we are the weeds,
they are the wheat.

When the world calls you foolish
and tells us we must be
more tolerant
of sin and other creeds.
When it holds trial
against the Word
you believe...

What will you do?




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Anguished Soul

I wrote the poem below as part of a writing challenge on ChristianWriters.com.
I wanted to share it with the readers of Scarlet Robe. 


Who views our anguished soul
when we lie cowering in shadows of despair?
When we cannot stand before
the reflection
of what we are,
or who we've become.
 
Who views our anguished soul
when we feel unworthy to pray?
When we feel that life has taken
the best we had to give
and left us
abused in its wake.
 
Who views our anguished soul
from the wooden scaffolding of another creed?
Who stretched out His arms
to embrace all our sins?
Who allowed His hands to be nailed in place
so that we might be saved?



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

His Beloved

Gather in His name
In places of low esteem
and high.
He hears your song
as clearly
on street corners
as on mountain tops.

Gather in temples
or in barns set in open fields.
Come rich
come poor.
Come saint and sinner.
All will find a seat
at His table.

All are called to gather.
To come together
embracing our unity,
no matter how different.
Leave your skin color,
leave your ethnicity,
leave the voice of your land.

Step free
of your denomination.
Release the burden
of pious thought.
Gather where the spirit beckons
and call yourselves
His beloved.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

John 11:35

Jesus wept.

This is perhaps one of the shortest verses in the Bible, but it gives us so much insight to the nature of our Lord.

Jesus cried outwardly for His friend.

John tells us, in Chapter 11, that Lazarus lived in Bethany with his sisters Mary and Martha.  The Gospel also tells us that Lazarus was a dear friend.

I had an old friend who was a priest and a missionary.  His travels took him all over the United States and Canada.  When he was home he would often get together with my family.  We told jokes, talked about the new music we've discovered, reminisced about early days in his ministry and laughed.

Was the relationship Jesus had with Lazarus similar?

Although the Apostles were in a close relationship with Jesus, it seems he was constantly teaching them the same parables as those who sat at His feet.  Lazarus might have been a breath of fresh air.

Maybe I read more into the passage than there actually is.  But here is what we know, Jesus knew Lazarus would die.  He knew the moment when Mary and Martha's brother would breathe his last.  There was a purpose to the death of His 'dear friend'.

So why did He weep?
He knew He could raise Lazarus from the tomb.
He thanked His Father for listening, knowing He would be heard.
He thanked His Father for showing His glory to those who witnessed.

And He wept, enough so that those nearby took note.

Perhaps the deepest portion of Jesus' pain for His friend was the truth that Jesus is the key to unlocking Heaven.  Jesus had not yet gone to the cross.  He had yet to take the sin of the world onto himself.  The soul of Lazarus had nowhere to dwell for four days except Hades.

I read of a tradition that says Lazarus never smiled after Jesus resurrected him, worried by the sight of the lost souls he encountered during his four days in Hades.

I wonder if the tears Jesus shed were because of what His friend endured, dying without having been saved, dying before grace paved the way for us to achieve Heaven.

I believe this is how Jesus weeps for us.  When we direct our lives away from Him, away from His grace and embrace sin instead of His love.

Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet - The Raising of Lazarus


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Friday, August 5, 2016

Hung From One Rusted Nail


I woke in the morning
while the new day was in its infancy,
and began searching
for an item lost,
yet never truly possessed.
A pearl,
a rare coin,
a valuable asset to my soul.

I had no illumination.
Darkness ruled.
Its prince holding me firmly in his grasp.
Pulling me below the horizon.
Into the shadows
cast in dark corners.
Existing only to defile the light.

One ray of hope.
One soft glimpse of morning light
reaches the plain wall
in the room in which my nights are spent.
And in its glow
I see hung from one rusted nail,
my pearl,
my rare coin,
my salvation.



copyright 2014 - Donald P James Jr