Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sonnet of Elizabeth (Luke 1:23-25)

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Luke 1:23-25 (NIV)


You have taken my disgrace.
That which was barren
is now fertile as the land,
because You have willed it so.
For all my life
I have prayed,
at times wondering
if You care to even hear my supplication,
and at last
You have answered my cry.

This impatient world
beckoning us
to live our lives on its time,
not Yours.
Yet You give
when least expected,
when the prayer has become routine
and the struggle the way of life.

My disgrace is gone
with but the cry
of a child.
One who will walk Your earth
with a purpose.
One who now moves gently
within his mother's womb.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gabriel's Song to Zechariah (Luke 1:13-17)

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Luke 1:13-17(NASB)

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Do not fear,
listen to the very thoughts of God
spoken through this form
manifested
before you.

Your wife
will bear a child
despite her years
and you will name him
John,
as He who sends me
has instructed.

He will be a joy
to you and to many
and the Lord will smile down
upon him,
blessing all his efforts
abundantly.

The Holy Spirit will dwell
within him,
deep in his heart.
He will walk ahead of the Lord
like a mighty prophet,
making straight
the road for travel.

He will unite
the Lord's children,
prepare them
for the one so long awaited.
He will soften their hearts,
incline upon them
the desire to open their arms wide
and greet their messiah.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Zechariah's Doubt (Luke 1:5-25)


The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (NIV)


To the right of the altar,
a light
growing intense,
chasing the shadowy film of life
from the alcove
of priestly duties.

The illumination
filters through the smoke
of the incense.
A form conjures its shape
from nothingness,
a man,
an angel.

The priest falls to his knees
and covers his eyes.
Fear and faith collide.
The light offers no threat,
just comfort
and peace.

A message proclaimed
by a messenger of God.
Elizabeth will bear a child,
his name will be John.
The child will lead
the people of Israel
back to their Lord.

How can this be?
Age does not allow such a thing,
but this one named
Gabriel,
this one within the light,
silences all protests
until promises are made truth.


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Waiting

Let us wait patiently for His coming in this Advent season
Let us not be rushed with all that we feel needs to encompass our lives.
Let us listen to the voices of the prophets, who anticipated the child who would 
be born unto us.


Russian icon of the Prophet Isaiah

I wait
from the shores overlooking the sea
from grassy fields
with clear views of flat plains,
from mountain tops
reaching majestically into the sky.

I wait
for a promise to be fulfilled,
for Isaiah's prophecy.

I wait
to hear the song of Gabriel
and the response of a teenager who says
"Yes Lord Your will be done".

I wait
to hear the prayer of Elizabeth
"Hail Mary, full of grace"
and to feel the joy of the child within her womb.

I Listen
for Mary's proclamation of great favor with the Lord.
Her voice will sing to my ear
and her trust in God will be mine.


copyright 1993 - Donald P James Jr 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Day or the Hour

 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Matthew 24:36-44


You said
we would not know the day
or the hour.
We will be feasting and drinking,
going about the lives we have made.
Some will be in sin,
others in grace.

You said
only the Father is aware
of the day.
He has not shared His mind
with the angels.
Some will be oblivious
and some will recognize the signs.

You said
one man in the field
will be taken,
another will be left.
One woman grinding at the mill
will see heaven
the other will not.

You said
we should keep watch
because You will return,
in a glory
we can not foresee,
when we are content in our routine
and relaxed
in our faith.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful (A Poem of Thanksgiving)


I am thankful that Jesus brought His love into the world
and gave it freely on the cross.

I am thankful that He has given light to the darkness
and dispersed my shadows.

I am thankful that He has brought into my world
the embrace of a loving spouse, my partner in faith.

I am thankful that He has seen me worthy
to be a father and a grand parent.

I am thankful for tiny foreheads that I can kiss
and ears hearing my promise to love always.

I am thankful for each breath I am given,
whether the air is cold, warm or somewhere in between.

I am thankful that the sun rises at His command, each morning
and lights my day.

I am thankful for bread, milk, honey and broccoli
to nourish the body molded for my soul.

I am thankful for a hard days work
and for the muscles crafted for each and every task.

I am thankful for the song reminding me of the Lord's love
and for the ability to sing along.

I am thankful for words, spoken and written
praising the giver of all good things.

And I am thankful for the night's sound sleep
when I am fatigued from the day.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hands

Hands
that rubbed mud onto the eyes
of a blind man
and touched the sores
of a leper.

Hands
that helped Jairus' daughter
rise up from her mat
and accepted a cool drink of water
from a Samaritan woman.

Hands
that prayed
over five loaves and two fishes
and calmed the ocean
with a simple gesture.

Hands
that broke bread
to be shared with friends
and washed their feet
as a servant.

Hands
that prayed in Gethsemane
and healed the ear
of the high priests
slave.

Hands 
that bore slivers
from the wooden cross carried
and soothed the women
who wept.

Hands
that were pierced by spikes,
mounted to a beam
and wounded
for the sake of love.

Hands
that were touched
by those who witnessed
and believed in
by those with faith.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Luke 21:1-4

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

Luke 21:1-4



Life had always been hard, but it had become so much more difficult since the death of her husband.  She herself was moving on in age, still she made the trek to the temple treasury to offer her pitiful amount.  She had two small copper coins in her hand.  She rubbed them together.  They were smoothed from friction and not worth much, but they were all she possessed at the moment.  She prayed God would provide, even a crust of bread, in the coming days.

When she entered the room for offerings she took note of a cluster of younger men across the way.  They looked to be men who had journeyed a great distance on foot to come to the temple.  They weren't wealthy in appearance.  Their garments were worn and coated with a layer of dust.  One of the men spoke to the others.  She heard them refer to him as teacher.  This confused her somewhat, since the one speaking was not dressed in the fine robes of a Pharisee.

A small group of obviously wealthy men were turning to leave, after giving their offering.  Their token from their bounty could provide her with a month's worth of bread for her barren table.  How she hungered for a tiny morsel to ease the pains in her stomach.

She looked at the two coins in her hand, rubbed them together again and considered their value.  They were worthless, even to a child, if picked up off the street.  All she had was her poverty and faith in the God of Abraham.  She set the two coins in the proper place and turned to leave.  Today God would provide or her stomach would surely rumble in protest.

The group of men, clustered across the room, still watched her as she left the treasury and once again she wondered why the one dressed as a pauper would be honored with the title of teacher.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Prayer of Weakness


Lord give me peace in my heart.
Take my anger
and soften it,
mold my hatred into kindness.
Reshape my foul temperament
into sonnets honoring You.

Lord give me strength of weakness
to embrace my enemies
against my flesh,
to harbor no wish to condemn.
Give me a heart to pray for them
when I am on my knees.

Lord give me the love of a child,
to ask not,
nor make demands of You.
Give me ears
to listen to the songs You sing
and not question,
what I as a child
knew to be true.

Lord take all my shallow darkness
and disperse its gloom
with Your overpowering love.
Find me
when I am lost in shadows
and bring me into the comfort 
of Your light.



copyright 1992 - Donald P James Jr 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Colors

Just a thought
offered to the Father
a few days after raking the backyard.

A reminder
that there are tasks, especially those leading us to Him,
which are never finished by our efforts alone
(not until every leaf has fallen).
And in every endeavor entered into
along the journey
we must seek the grace to witness His glory.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Demand for a Miracle (Mark 8:11-13)

Show us a miracle
to prove acceptance.
If the one
whose name we will not speak,
sent you
then miracles should ordain your path.
Show us
you are approved.


Heal the blind,
feed the hungry
and make clean a leper.
Don't simply perform your magic
on the Sabbath,
or forgive sins that cause these ailments.
We who are skeptics
need miraculous sights
to even consider
the words you speak.

So now,
while we still have some patience,
move a mountain for us
or a tree.
Tell the little girl to rise
from death.
Make the earth tremble
and the stars disappear.
Show us
the signs of the times
so that we might find fault
with the compassion you teach.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Churches, Barns and Coffee Tables

And while some were talking about the temple, 
that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, 
He said,

Luke 21:5


Beautiful stones,
gifts offered as sacrifice
to a God who longs for our hearts.
Wealth and pious ideals,
starving the children so loved,
this elaborate vessel
of outer expression
attempts to imprison the spirit.
Man's creativity,
intricate carvings
meant to impress the one who created
mountains,
oceans
and forests.

We are men
awed by material things,
vases of gold,
altars chiseled by the finest sculptors
and tapestries woven of imported cloth.
All this
is meant to fade
to a time
when one stone is no longer set
upon another.

Remind us Lord
that the new covenant
is of the spirit,
that the temple
is this body of flesh and blood.
Remind us that the Father desires
our souls,
the essence of our love,
more so than buildings
crafted by our hands.

Would the homeless messiah
rest His head in any of these castles?
Would He find comfort
among their furnishings?
For it is said
that birds have nests
and foxes have dens,
but the king of our salvation
did not have a home.

So praise God
in your living room
with an old coffee table as an altar,
exult Him in the rustic barn out back.
Offer prayers in the abandoned white church
in dire need of fresh paint.
Worship Him where there is no denomination
to dictate the tone of your prayer.
Praise Him in the fields of life
and at the rivers of salvation.
And bear in mind,
cathedrals and temples
pay homage to their builders
more so
than the creator of life.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

His Grace is Sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)

His grace
is sufficient,
when we are imprisoned
by trials
unable to see the value
in our pain.

His grace
is the answer received,
a beacon in the darkness
with purpose
beyond my limited
wisdom.


His grace
is the guiding hand
which leads me
through the valley,
calms my fear
and eases my doubt.

His grace
is the whispered voice on the breeze,
telling me to trust
despite my reservations,
telling me to have faith
despite my doubt.

His grace
is sufficient,
when I am losing the battle
and I have endured
the struggles
of my own doing.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Preacher on the Jordan

The following is a lyric written in 1989.  The words were later put to music and used in a play based on the life of Christ.  For four years I played John the Baptist in this play and sang this song while enacting the baptism.


On the banks of the Jordan,
repentant children.
So many coming toward me.
Their shouts to save them,
so uncontrolled,
with such a desire
to be cleansed
by the sea.

They gather in the sand.
Thousands of questions
about salvation
and God's plan.
Some with their piousness
disguising them,
but He who sends His son
sees through you man.

Your Messiah is coming.
Repent for the day is near.
He shall com to you with peace
to dispel all your fear.

Plague of threatened Pharisees,
Abraham adopted sons,
standing in your aura alone
pompous and arrogant.
My patience tried,
God could make
believers
out of these very stones.

Remember I am not he,
I wear sandals soiled.
His I am not worthy to tie.
His face you shall know.
My Israelites
He will come
to hear
your never ending cry.

Your Messiah is coming
as all the prophets have said.
He will come to embrace you,
your sins will crown His head.



copyright 1989 - Donald P James Jr 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Restful Peace


A photograph taken last summer,
along the Kancamagus Highway, 
situated in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The verse is from a poem shared last August
titled: Calm is the Night






copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sitting at His Feet (Luke 10:38-42)

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”  But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
 
Would you sit at His feet,
on the hard floor,
listening to His words?
Would you seek to learn
the paths which are chosen for you?
Would you choose
to hear the voice of the Father's Word,
a slight breeze
brushing against your forehead?

Lord,
some petition,
we are left to labor for you,
alone,
while our sisters (or brothers)
sit silently in prayer.
He says "My children,
my busy children,
it is the world that beckons you
to your tasks.
Do not be worried
or upset
about things which matter little."

Mary,
sitting at the Lord's feet
has chosen peace,
contentment,
knowledge of one so loved
and the intimacy of prayer.
This choice
shall never be taken from her,
or from any of those
who choose to sit at His feet.


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Luke 17:5-6

And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”



Faith and mustard seeds, not much in common.  But Jesus uses the tiny seed as a sort of metaphor for faith.  He tells his followers that it doesn't take a large amount of faith to move a mulberry tree from the place where it is rooted.  To me the comparison says that if we have a little faith, a tiny droplet of faith, we can do great things.

So I ask myself, what kind of faith do I have and how much?

Do I have this tiny amount of faith that will help me move mountains?

And is there even a mountain that I need to move, or a mulberry tree, for that matter?

I can believe Jesus died for me, as am today, as I was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  I can believe that he loves me, although my understanding of love pales greatly when it comes to the love of God.  I can say that I am forgiven, yet not know how to truly forgive.

Jesus does ask us to consider our faith, that a small amount is in itself an abundance.  He asks us to trust.  Yet if you are anything like me, you find trusting to be quite difficult.  I worry about tomorrow, even though we are told that tomorrow has enough worries for itself.  I look at that which has been done for me, in hindsight, thinking I should have trusted more from the beginning, before His blessings were unfolded before me.

So the Apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith and I wonder if we can ever have enough faith to stand up to the metaphor.  We have to know that Jesus understands this about our humanity.  He picks us up when we fail, helps us to brush the dirt from our jeans and try again.  I will be trying until the day I go to Him.  I am so glad He's patient.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Butterflies

My sister, Tammy, invited my wife and I to her church service this past Sunday,
to celebrate All Saints.

The entire church was decorated with Butterflies of various colors,
which was the creative work of my sister and a few other members of the parish.

I especially liked the pattern of Butterflies making up the flame
of the Spirit beside the Cross of our Lord.




Each attendee was given two paper Butterflies,
one to commemorate a living saint who has touched our lives,
the other for a saint in paradise who inspires us on our journey.
We all have special saints in heaven,
those we long to see when our journey home is complete.
My wife, Susan, and I have a special saint
one we only know as Poppy Seed.






Monday, November 7, 2016

The Ragamuffins

The first stanza was originally shared on https://christianwriters.com/


We shall live!
Dance
on the white washed bones
of those
who preached otherwise.
The Nazarene has embraced the Ragamuffins,
promised them the spirit
of holiness
and fishing nets
full of men saved
from the pious voices
condemning them of their sins


We shall live!
Persecution
makes every effort
to break the soul.
But we stand
with blemishes faded.
God's promised covenant washes Ragamuffins
of all their stains.
We are those who begged 
in the streets,
defiled our temples of flesh,
before being bathed
by His blood.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Seventy Years After (Luke 21:6)

Ruins,
whether it be by the will of
Nebuchadnezzar
or Titus,
no stone
lies on another.

The spirit is crushed
and the body crumbles.
He warned us
before we mocked Him,
drove cold nails
through His hands.

Why was the warning
not heeded?
A million have died
by the sword
or famine,
and a tenth more
are slaves unto slaughter.

Ruins,
the people
led out of Egypt,
purged
from the land promised.
Soil given
now taken,
offered to the gentiles
seeking to worship
a homeless preacher.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Hug from Our Lord

Just a simple thought
flickering through my mind,
a moment
when I need to be reminded
of His all encompassing embrace.




 

Friday, November 4, 2016

New Day's Light


Troubled at times,
by splinters
against raw wounds.
The wood
has no comfort
in its grain.
I could never do
as you did.
My fear
would crush me
before the first nail
found flesh.

They broke bone,
infused your blood
with the fiber of the tree.
A sapling grown tall
with purpose beyond
imagination.
Dark clouds
hover in the sky.
The moment
feels emptied of life.
Help my troubled heart
to find solace
in the new day's light.




copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 



Thursday, November 3, 2016

Shepherd (John 10:11-16)



You are our shepherd
You protect those of us
who are Your sheep.
The downtrodden,
the anguished
those who are weak,
struggling to find their way.
You keep us safe
when night falls and wolves howl.

You know Your sheep
and we know You.
You are what we have hoped for.
You search for those
who are lost.
You find them
and You bring them home.
Search for me Lord,
find me when I am lost
in places my soul should never wander.
Bring me back
to the flock
that listens to You.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Sycamore Tree (Luke 19:1-10)

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:1-10 (ESV)

 
He shaded his eyes with the palm of his hand to peer into the glaring afternoon sun.  High up in a sycamore tree, looming over the roadside, sat a man of little stature.  The man straddled a thick branch, trying desperately to get a good view of the man passing by on the road below.

A crowd surrounded the traveler.  The man sitting in the sycamore tree could only gain sight of the crowd's focus by climbing above them.  He had heard many good things about this man from Nazareth, who was traveling through the local villages, many amazing things.

"Hello up there," the traveler said.

The man in the tree heard the curses on his name from the crowd below. "Tax collector... friend of the Romans." Other comments were made as well, vile accusations.

The traveler continued to study the little man in the tree.  He did not move along once informed by the crowd of the little man's sin.

"Your name is Zacchaeus," the traveler stated.  Not a question, but a statement.  The traveler from Nazareth knew everything about him, even before the crowd offered their opinion.

"He is," someone in the crowd offered.

"A thievin' tax collector," another added.

And amidst the crowd's murmur the traveler spoke again. "Zacchaeus come down from up there.  I would like to stay at your house today."  Would you welcome me in, despite what these say about you?

 
Despite what these say about you.  Sometimes this is the most difficult aspect of the calling.  We welcome Him into our hearts, but the moments are private, the world isn't pointing out our sins and plastering them on billboards.  From a lofty position, on a tree branch, Jesus seems safer.  We can see Him, listen to Him, claim that we understand His teachings and seek to believe every word in the depths of our souls.

But He invites us to first come down from the sycamore tree, despite the accusing fingers stating we are not worthy.  I doubt that many of those following Jesus, in the afternoon sun, along the road through Jericho, were Pharisees.  Most of them were just normal people, good people, those who had been cast aside by higher authorities.

Yet even they would cast aside a tax collector.

The invitation is to climb down from your sycamore tree.  Welcome the homeless Nazarene into your home and offer repentance for your sins.  For Zacchaeus is to be judged by only the 'One' at the base of tree, the 'One' with true authority.



copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr