Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Parable (Luke 18:9-14)

This is a Parable

The young girl climbed the steps of the ancient church.  Desperation ate at her soul like a plague, gnawing deeper into her being with each cold stone step she climbed.  She pulled one of the heavy oaken doors open and slipped inside, breathing in a musty odor, reminding her of childhood and innocence past.  Suddenly she was self-conscious of her choice of garments.  Her jeans were faded and torn at both knees.  Her light colored tee-shirt wore the tarnish of unclean fabric.

She slowly stepped through a second set of doors and blessed herself at a font of Holy Water.  The cavernous building seemed to breathe a welcoming sigh.  Her intention was to light a candle at the front of the church.  She would pray for guidance, pray for a way home.

With reservations she began to walk down the center aisle.  The crucifix over the altar depicted Jesus in His moment of anguish.  She looked up at the arched ceiling and studied the ornate moldings.  The brass Votive Stand set in a small alcove off to her right.  She noticed a middle aged man in front of the candles.  He dug deep in the pocket of his black trousers and pulled out a roll of bills.  He thumbed a twenty, folded it and slipped the note into the metal box marked '$2.00'.  He knelt, folded his hands and bowed his head.  He prayed in silence, but occasionally he would turn his head and cast his gaze on the young girl.  She felt judged.  She knew he did not see the actual fabric of her life.  What he saw was a convoluted tapestry of his own prejudices.

She kept her distance until he rose from his prayer.  From the corner of his eye he studied her as she moved toward the candles.  She fingered a dime and two pennies in the depth of her pocket.  She felt the gaze of the man bear down on her as she slipped her final twelve cents into the same slot he had slipped a twenty dollar bill.  He grunted his disgust and moved away, finally leaving her alone.

She lit a single candle and studied the flickering flame.  She knelt, lowered her eyes and began to whisper a prayer. "Lord, I am so lost." Initially she spoke softly, then she turned to silence and prayed the words in her heart.  She considered every sin.  She was a homeless runaway without a quarter for a pay phone.  Her last twelve cents paid for the candle.  She didn't know that God listens for free.

She finished her internal conversation, rose from her kneeling position and began walking back up the aisle, feeling clean in spirit but hungry in her stomach.  She had faced her limited options.  Return to her home and ask for forgiveness, or embrace a life on the street.  She asked God to find a way for her to get home.

"Can I offer any help," a voice behind her said.  She turned and saw a middle aged man wearing a black suit and white collar.  His hair was gray and his eyes were a peaceful shade of blue.  A voice inside her head told her this was the answer to her prayer.

"I need to go home," she responded as a flood of tears erupted from her eyes.

So who has their prayer answered by God?

The story does not tells us what the man with the twenty dollar bill prayed for.  It is really quite unimportant.  He might have prayed for health.  He might have prayed for a promotion on his job.  Whatever he offered God, it didn't come from the humble depths of his soul.  He is the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14.  The young girl fills the role of the tax collector, the sinner.  She might not even be a subscriber to the rituals of the denomination whose church she chose to enter.  Yet for twelve cents God hears her prayer.

Do you know His attentive ear comes without charge?

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr  

Friday, October 28, 2016

Singing to the Heart of God

Celebrate our gifts.
If you sing, offer your voice to God.
If you paint, share His love in the tones.
If you play a musical instrument,
offer each note in praise
of the one who gives all good gifts.


copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

On Lake Tiberias (John 21)

Drifting on the lake,
wishing for a do over
of the last three years.

A voice calls out,
a shadowy figure on the shore.
A fire
boldly illuminates the surroundings.
The stranger is faceless,
to any of us.

We have caught nothing,
but at a suggestion
tossed out on the breeze
by the unknown silhouette,
we try once more
and our nets are overwhelmed.

Do we see Him,
the image of the man
we gave our lives to?
and confusion,
we take another miracle
to the shore.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fragrance of God

Inspired by (2 Corinthians 2:16)
"to those being saved, it is a fragrance that brings life"
Good News Bible - Today's English Version

We are the sweet smelling incense being offered to God by Jesus ,
yet it is His fragrance, breathed into our souls that gives us life.

Fragrance of God,
to those who believe.

The musty aroma
of the deep forest,
leaves underfoot,
pine needles fallen to the earth.
The first inhale of breath
from a mountain summit,
clean of all impurity.
The cool breeze
off a morning lake,
filling my senses with a new day.
The scent of an apple pie
on an Autumn afternoon.

The fragrance of God,
a smell pleasing to those
choosing to walk by His word,
to those
who take no heed
of His voice.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Merciful Victory

The whip slashes 
through the air
and meets bare skin.
I shudder
as He falls
and is assaulted by a Roman guard.

His head bleeds from the thorns,
blood trails into His eyes.
His back is opened from the flogging,
tendons exposed.
His life is pouring out
for those who mock Him.

Sacred blood
dripping on the hard clay.
He does not cry out
for mercy,
yet He is

And the hide arches through the air
Flesh of animal
against flesh of a man.
Again He rises,
calling on strength
no man possesses,
moving closer to His victory.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Artist

I Have always stood in awe at the creations of our loving God.
Despite all that I have never been for Him, He has been everything for me.
When I am discouraged I can turn to the east and watch the sunrise.
When I am lost I can face the western sky and watch the day come to rest.
When my soul is grounded and I am unable to look at His face, 
He lays out beautiful patterns of flowers at my feet.
He paints this world with every color imaginable and we have barely begun to see its beauty.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

This Promise

Below is a lyric I wrote nearly twenty years ago.
At the time I was singing and playing guitar with a Christian Folk Group known as Disciple.
We offered our music at a handful of folk festivals
and various churches in the late '80s and early '90s.
I have always treasured the way God speaks through the music of His people.  

From the time of Adam's sin,
when the serpent first spoke to Eve
and knowledge was given birth
in the lies of the apple's taste.
'Til time of Abraham's fold
when the Lord on high came down
and Sara laughed for joy 
at the promise of Isaac's birth.

I will promise you descendants
as numerous as the stars 
that shine in the nighttime sky.

Then Moses spoke to the people.
He said, "the Lord leads you out."
Pharaoh let them free 
so they may worship the Lord.  
To the edge of the river Jordan
where Joshua heard God's call     
and the people followed the word
and the walls of Jericho fell.

This land I give to you in love
That you may worship me 
and not any other gods.

Then the nation was divided by sin 
and slavery ruled the people again,
but God did not forsake
as his voice called out through men.  
I'll send a child to be born.
He'll be the promise fulfilled.
His spirit will reign forever.
His kingdom will never die.
This promise I give to you now
That I shall bring to you 
the gift of eternal life.

copyright 1997 - Donald P James Jr 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Snuggling into Grace

A Moment of grace,
my grandchild snuggling up against my shoulder,
two weeks old,
seeking security
in a world new to his senses.

My mind is separated
from every conversation in the room,
the chatter of life
that will move on tomorrow
and the day after.
My thoughts,
focusing on his breath against my neck.

For this moment
and the moments that follow,
I am a grandfather...
and little else matters...
when we allow the Lord's grace
to enfold us.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Prayer (A Persistent Conversation)

an unceasing request,
a conversation with the one
who desires our intimacy.

humbly expressing a need
already known
by the one who gives.

it matters only that we come
into the presence
of the one
who shelters us.

share the thoughts of the day,
the fears of night,
like a child
curled on the lap of a father.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Choices (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires.

Is the time upon us,
prophesied as such,
when some will no longer
give their hearts
to sound doctrine?

Their ears itch
for pleasant vices,
they long for
the sweetness
of corruption.

They wish to hear words,
in the midst
of drunken indiscretions,
condoning their sin
as God's truth.

In their desire
to live a life
of irresponsible choices
they separate themselves
from the love of God
and consume myths.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr