Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Palms of His Hands

Isaiah 49:15-16

Can a woman forget her nursing child, 
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, 
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.




Can you see His palm
outstretched,
fingers and flesh,
as He has become like us?

He cradles the essence of all we will become,
an etching 
that is to be you,
another that will be me.

He has made us
a part of Himself.
He has counted
all our days
and all our nights.

How can He forget
what is engraved
on His palm,
carved into the fibers?
His wounds
of His love
scar Him.

The names of His children
fill each nail hole
with their rebellion.
My heart and words
slander His blood.

Even when you are cast aside,
by those without compassion,
He will not forget
His children.

For behold,
He has engraved us on the palms of His hands.




copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Monday, February 27, 2017

Approving the Crime


They raised their fists in anger, forcing him out into the street.  How dare this one preach about the faith given to them by their forefathers.  How dare this one twist the word spoken by Moses.  How dare he utter the slanderous name of the crucified Nazarene.  They were tired of listening, tired of this man's words, tired of his foolishness.

And still, this man Stephen, did not stop speaking.

"The Most Holy God does not reside in houses built of stone, places constructed by men.  Heaven is His throne... and this soil you walk upon is His footstool."

He called their hearts heathen, men who worshiped in the temple and offered unblemished animals for their sins.  He accused their ancestors of crimes against the prophets.  He referred to them as murderers.

There were stones at their feet, dolomite and limestone, they considered them as they listened.

He smiled like an angel looking up into the heavens, at the sun bathing the clear sky.  Did any clouds pass over that vast sea of purity?  A lunatic, the council members mumbled to themselves.  He sees the unreal and preaches a fable.

And behind the crowd stood the observer, one of their kind  A young man, named Saul, who had taken note of those who spoke of the Nazarene's death and believed in His resurrection.  Many will die or be imprisoned for breathing the name of the imposter.

"Look," Stephen said with his face aglow. "I see the heavens... and I see Jesus standing at the right hand of His Father."

Juan de Juanes - The Stoning of Stephen
They put their hands over their ears to block out his words.  Still they heard.  They screamed with anger.  Some picked up large rocks from the dusty ground, balancing the weight in the palms of their hands.  Some left their cloaks in a pile by the observer.  More joined their ranks as Stephen knelt and continued to utter his blasphemy.

The first chunk of jagged limestone flew through the air.  It struck the target in the torso.  the victim backed up against a wall, unable to flee.  Another stone struck his shoulder, before a third drew blood from the side of his head.  He shielded his eyes from their assault and prayed.

Stephen fell as the mob quickly surrounded him, lifting pieces of heavy stone over their heads with both hands.  Blood flowed onto the street as the rocks crushed the victim's skull.  In their fever the attackers became a single force with a unified mission.

Weakly, in a voice heard by the observer, the martyr offered his spirit.  His plea asked God to forget this sin of a blood thirsty crowd.  His plea asked God to forgive this murder.

The task done.  The anger ebbed.  The pious and righteous men of the council picked up their cloaks where they had been left.  They ignored the blood on their hands.  Saul met their stares.  To a few he nodded and approved of the crime.




copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Come Aside (A Place of Retreat)

Come aside and rest awhile
in a place where the spirit dwells,
where there is planted
a refreshing seed of life.

Come aside and rest awhile
on pathways of serenity,
built by hands
that fold themselves in prayer.

Come aside and rest awhile
beneath a tree that feels all seasons.
Here there are no barren bushes
blown by dry winds,
only voices of children
loved by their God.

Come away from your troubles,
from the concrete walls of your world.
Turn away
from your loneliness and fear.

Come aside and rest awhile
in a place where the spirit dwells,
where  gentle song
is carried on a breeze.

Come aside and rest awhile
with a deep prayer of love,
words without need
of worldly acceptance.


copyright 1992 - Donald P James Jr 

Friday, February 24, 2017

His Touch

Touch
and heal all that ails.
Cleanse all that stains your soul.
He has offered His pain,
His blood
and His life on this earth.
You are white as snow
because He bled.

A woman comes from the crowd,
reaching for the hem
of His dusty garment.
A man asks for His sight.
A prostitute washes His feet
in the house of Simon.
A leper can reach out for others
and the voiceless
can speak of miraculous events unfolding.

Touch
with faith coursing through your heart.
He will not deny those who reach
with hands and voices.
Hearts
overflowing with belief,
a grip that will not let go.
A touch crushing sin
and soothing us with grace.



copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Temple of My Soul

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

English Standard Version (ESV) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publisher




Temple,
cradling everything I am.
Flesh, bone and muscle,
I am made out of compassion
to be compassion.

You dwell in me
wherever I wander,
even when I take You into places defiling my spirit,
injuring You,
showing no respect
for the love You have for me.

I am more at risk
of destroying my own temple,
than of having an enemy slaughter me.
I slowly walk my spirit
into the mire of sin,
finding momentary pleasure in the sensations.

Temple,
desecrated by my acts of rebellion.
Help me Lord,
to bring what I am,
a body created by Your love,
into realms of purity.

Dwell in me Lord,
fill me with the desire
to honor the temple of my soul.
Give me the strength
to walk amid the light
and forsake the darkness.



copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Coming Down the Mountain

Mark 9:9

As they came down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has risen from death.”

Good News Translation (GNT) Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society




So down the side of the mountain they come.
Excitement, confusion, they are filled with an array of emotion,
those who aren't divine.
What did all of this mean?
Elijah, Moses, the teacher's face bathed in radiant sunlight.
They have heard him say to others,
not His chosen,
to keep silent about the miracles witnessed,
but they have never considered themselves stymied by those words.
And what of this rising from death?
How can this occur?
Why should it be allowed to happen?

They are simple men who desire simple lives.
Miracles have been set out before their eyes
like a banquet filled with every treat ever desired.
This man, this prophet, this God
has shown them everything their hearts have longed to see.
They have heard the voice of the Almighty Father speak from the clouds.
This is the son of Yahweh.
This is the one the forefathers have ached for,
and He walks, in stride, beside them.

"Until I rise from death, be silent about all that you have seen."
The three who have been witnesses to the glorification want to call out,
they want to stand upon the mountain top and tell all who will listen
about miracles, about this miracle,
but not about the death He says He must endure.
Why rabbi?
Why teacher?
Why Lord?

None of them yet understand such concepts as salvation,
or how it is to be obtained.
They are aware of life as it is lived, hardship, need and pain.
They understand death as the final breath taken.
Do they have a concept of what lies beyond?
The kingdom of God.
Is it a palace of gold?
Is it a pristine meadow with flowing streams?

Be silent for now for the time will come when you can speak,
when you can shout from the highest pinnacle.
For this man is the son long awaited.
He is the light of the world,
the word that will forever be spoken.
So come down the side of the mountain embracing your joy.
Set all your confusion aside
until the day all answers are given to you.



copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Monday, February 20, 2017

My Refuge

Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

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

His wings are wrapped around me,
embracing me within His shield.
The dark shadows of night
have no dangers that I need to fear
for the Lord stands by my side.

Thousands have fallen
in the battles being waged
and a thousands more will be defeated,
but the one who trusts
will rise up unharmed in their midst.

The Lord
will put His angels in charge of me,
protect my soul from dangers along the road.
I will be in His safe care
as I travel
through the lands
where He has guided me.

My refuge,
my fortress,
my God,
in whom I trust.
Keep me in the safety
of Your wings.





copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Sunday, February 19, 2017

You Are My God


You are light
where there is darkness.

You are hope
where there is despair.

You are the word
in the deepest silence.

You are bread
where there is hunger.

You are water
where there is thirst.

You are healing
where there is sickness.

You are truth
where there is doubt.

You are love
where there is emptiness.

You are compassion
where there is no mercy.

And You are my God
where there is no other.


copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Saturday, February 18, 2017

His Rainbow

Genesis 9:13

I am putting my bow in the clouds. It will be the sign of my covenant with the world 
 
Good News Translation (GNT) Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society



His rainbow sets across the clouds.
The storm has passed
and good things shall follow.
This is a covenant of smiles
and not sorrow.
He has washed the darkness away,
night has been obliterated.
You shall,
the children of the Lord,
walk in the light
and breathe air,
fresh.

He will never draw water over you again.
You have no need to drown in you sins,
no need
to shield yourselves from His face.
His beautiful bow of color
is spread out over the world.
Once again He calls out
to the sons of Adam,
come in from the darkness
and trust in His ways.



copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Friday, February 17, 2017

Peace (Welcome to Grandma's House)

Peace,
to rest your eyes while the world moves onward.

Peace,
to find comfort for your head to lay.

Peace,
to find warmth when the day is cold.

Peace,
to find love where it is in abundance.

Peace,
to not know strife.

Peace,
soothed by the music of voices familiar.

Peace,
a lamb in the embrace of his Shepard.


copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dwelling (Ezekiel 37:27)

Ezekiel 37:27

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
 
English Standard Version (ESV) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

God the Father - Cima da Conegliano,

Dwell as You said,
among Your people.
Be our sustenance,
the light that guides us,
the air we breathe.

Come to us,
walk amid the valleys
and mountains
You created
when we were less than dust.

Dwell in our hearts,
places kept tidy and neat,
yet often littered
with gossip
and hatred.

Caress our hearts of stone
into flesh.
Enter into our tents,
allow us a meal to share
and a cup to drink.

Dwell in my home,
elaborate or tiny.
Remind me daily
of Your presence
as I praise You for mine.



copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Still, I See the Signs

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Sometimes I look for the Lord's coming,
seeing the world unfold around me.
At other moments I want to watch those precious to me
bask in all the good He offers.
I am told we will not know
the day or the hour, (Matthew 25:13)
still, I see the signs.

Voices tell me the day is on the horizon,
they predict days and times
or the colors of the moon.
I say,
only God in His wisdom
holds that knowledge,
we have no right to it.
He has not shared this single thought
with the angels
or His son. (Matthew 24:36)

There have been false messiahs.
The temple lies in ruin.
Wars and famine,
earthquakes and persecution,
have come,
gone and returned.
Still the Father has not uttered the word
to send His Son. 

I could spend my life waiting to hear the trumpet
and not live.
I could spend my life waiting to see the dead rise
and never have walked among them
when they were alive.
I could spend my life waiting to see a prophecy fulfilled,
Jesus descending from the clouds,
and never have come to love Him.




 copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Home

Home,
do you remember the scent?
Do you recall a moment of innocence
when no knowledge of evil
entered into your soul?
Is the journey far
from the point where you stand right now?
Is it off on the horizon,
between the trees,
along the rails,
or a dusty back road?

Home,
I sense it nearby
when I open my heart to its embrace,
when I follow right paths
and forsake the wrong.
I am the one wandering
through pages of a life lived without fanfare.
I am not a victor
or a victim.
I am inadequate in this world,
not quite ready for the next.

Home,
I know the direction to take,
each step brings me closer,
a destination soothing my being.
There is a place
where I am worthy
as I am.
There is a place where joy is abundant.
There is a place I will always call
my home.




 copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr


Monday, February 13, 2017

Signs

The Pharisees Demand a Sign (Mark 8:11-13)

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.  And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”  And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

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



Sometimes I want to be shown,
when I am as blind as the righteous
who claim to know God
within the laws of their doctrine.
Make the wind change its course,
turn the torrent to drizzle
bathe my flesh in sunlight
when the moon dominates the sky.

Is this true of every generation?
Prove to us,
who You are
so my doubts can disprove the theory.
Feed the hungry with loaves and fish
so I can claim You staged starvation.
Heal the sick and lame before me
so I can praise modern medicine.
Give me Your word on paper
so I can analyze them into fairy tales.

You do not want faith
as a response to miracles.
Belief without love,
a false god is rendered the same respect.
You want my heart
and You wait daily
for me to offer it
to You.



Copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fire and Water

Sirach 15:15-18

If you want to, you can keep the Lord's commands. You can decide whether you will be loyal to him or not.  He has placed fire and water before you; reach out and take whichever you want.  You have a choice between life and death; you will get whichever you choose.  The Lord's wisdom and power are great and he sees everything.
 
Good News Translation (GNT) Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society


Wisdom speaks where we sometimes choose not to go.
He has placed before us a pool of cool fresh water, nourishment for the soul
and a pit of fire, unending.
We choose.

The pit of flame mesmerizes us with passion.
It promises us everything the world teaches as fulfillment.
We lust for the fire,
our souls bake with the heat of the flames.

Choose the pit,
or step into the pool.

Cool, refreshing water,
bathe my blemishes,
cleanse away my stains and shame,
refresh and rejuvenate.
The water is life and the fire is death.
We can not possess both.

So choose one,
reach out and take what is offered.
It is up to you.
He will guide you to the water's edge,
the living water.
It is your choice if you accept the fire.



copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Sirach,
also known as The Wisdom of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus
Deuterocanonicals/Apocraypha

Friday, February 10, 2017

Last Supper

Gather around my wooden table
rest yourselves upon my floor
those of you with initials carved
who would enter through my door.

All deniers and betrayers
open your hearts
share my bread
it is offered from my flesh
wheat of living and of dead.

Gather around this wooden table
Judas, Peter, James and John
those of you who know my name
hold tightly these unbroken bonds.

On this vine I bleed for you
again I will not taste its wine
until I drink it next to you
in a promised place
a joyful time.

Just sit with me at the end of this day
before you deny
before betray,
my dying will save you
though now you don't understand.

copyright 1991 - Donald P James Jr

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Eden (How Lovely is Your Garden)

 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, 
in the east, 
and there he put the man whom he had formed.

Genesis 2:8


How lovely is Your garden.
Do we ache for the unblemished beauty?
There is not a single creation of man
that can stand upright in Your presence.

Your waterways of purification
reflect trees of endless life.
The carpet beneath my feet is never rough
all summits of faith have been reached.


I long to walk among the flowers and ferns,
listening to Your instructions.
I will no longer need to read Your thoughts.
I will listen with a waiting ear.

Eden,
that I might walk where You intended me to tread,
knowing I could not resist temptation.
Eden,
the garden You made as my dwelling,
lost in my desire to disobey Your word.



copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Grain of Your Life


 

 A lyric written over twenty years ago, 
in a moment when the peacefulness of complete surrender 
caressed me.

~
                      

Purify the grain of your life

Simplify the course of your waters.

Be humble and stand without pride.

Feel the grace that comes in surrender.


Plant seeds nourished by our God.

Harvest with joy the gift He offers.

Make the rough-hewn barns of your soul

a place of worship, not worldly stores.


Sing your psalms to a small child's ear.

Amplify the voice of holiness.

Be gentle peace after the storm

a bright light guiding through darkness.


Be a prayer of life without end.

A heart reflecting His sacred name.

A straight path of hard clay and stone

leading to an eternal embrace. 




copyright 1996 - Donald P James Jr


Monday, February 6, 2017

Heal Me

And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Mark 6:56 (ESV)

Jesus Heals the Blind and Lame on the Mountain - James Tissot

Lord,
that I might touch
just the hem 
of Your garment.
I am sick.
I am scarred by the world's expectations.
I am crippled by the blemishes on my soul.

Lord,
we flock to You,
expecting miracles
without price.
We do not know the cost
of the blessing
You place on our foreheads.

Still we come,
ailing in every possible way.
I am possessed.
I am a paralytic.
I am covered with the stigma of leprosy.

And You heal me
whether I am capable of standing beneath Your cross
or not.




copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr


Friday, February 3, 2017

The Same Today

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:7-8 (ESV)



You are the same today,
always the light of salvation.
You nurture us in spirit
as You did in flesh.

You are the same today,
speaking in places of worship,
listening when prayers are uttered.
You are the bread of life,
the wine
poured out for all.
You wash the feet of those in need.

You are the same today,
touching those the world discards.
You are present
in every drop of grace
poured out
upon those who seek.

You are the same today,
word spoken in the knowledge of truth.
A promise offered
to those who came before us
and those who will follow.

You are the same today,
always the light of my salvation.
The one who gives strength when I struggle
and guides me
along the road to my home.



copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr
 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Judging a Prophet (Mark 6:4)

Jesus said to them, 
“Prophets are respected everywhere 
except in their own hometown and by their relatives and their family.”

Mark 6:4 


How guilty are we?
Judging a prophet who stands up for the Word.
We hear Him speak
and we say, "But he is..."
or maybe was.

And what rumors about Him
have tickled our ears?
Did He pull a pigtail?
Did He curse in anger?
Did the taste of humanness
overcome Him for a moment?

Yesterday
the neighbors in Nazareth judged.
Today we judge.
A modern prophet prays out loud
or speaks truths from the Bible
and we consider who he was before the words
left his mouth.

God has always chosen
those who will speak for Him.
He has never selected one
who would voice their own ideals,
they chose themselves.
The pompous preacher lectures for his glory
while the carpenter
and the new born saint
utter the Holy Word in humility.


copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr