#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: No Weapon

“Behold, I have created the blacksmith who blows the coals in the fire, who brings forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the spoiler to destroy. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.
Isaiah 54:16-17, NKJV

Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

God made dirt, dirt don’t hurt.
The blind blessing we recited
as children over spilled food
on the dirty linoleum before
placing it back in our mouths,
swallowing with the confidence
that because God made it,
we cannot die.

But did God not create man,
and does he not hurt me
every day? From his heart
brews my downfall.
Date rape—
White supremacy—
Mass shootings—
A black, bitter coffee
he drinks with grit,
though it’s still boiling.

Shall I eat this bread
retrieved from a floor
on which a murderer may tread,
dragging my family and me
in a trail of blood behind?
God made him, right?
He cannot hurt us.


A revised version of the untitled original poem published February 4, 2015…may revise again later.

Charlottesville, 2017

“The light of the righteous shines brightly,
but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.”
Proverbs 13:9

Jesus tells me I am the light of this world;
so let my light shine.
There’s a glow outside my dorm room window.
I dare not go to it—
won’t be a moth to the flame.
The spirit of fear consumes me.
I cower in a corner, wedged between bed—
sheets damp with sweat—
and wall—cool to the touch.
I hear their voices rising — “White Lives Matter” —
demons behind them chanting, White is Power.
These are not lights of salvation;
theses torches seek to light crosses in front lawns,
to set ablaze nooses that string up bodies,
bodies broken like my Christ’s, and I pray—
God, why have you forsaken us?
Sealed us in a world so consumed with sin and hate
that even at high twelve noon all I see is darkness;
my own hand, extended in front of my eyes, becomes invisible.
A lake of fire flows outside my window.
Skin white as alabaster turns blacker than my own.
Hearts hardened like stone.
There’s no pumping of blood, no echo of life.
A flat beat, a solid stomp, a marching in unison,
like the rigid motions of a rusted metal machine,
like the recurring lashes of the whip.
In my corner I hide, like a lamp doused by shade.
Tested by fire, my works amount to nothing
and my world will be encased in a blackness more
cursed than the skin I wish to shed to the knocking
at my door. The devil and his angels wait for me,
beckoning with their false light
too dim to pass the crack in the threshold.
Today is the day I decide whose shame I will bear;
if I will pick up my cross and
deny my life for light’s sake.
Planted on the top floor where all can see,
I lift my covering off my Head and release
a brightness so incorruptible it expels the darkness
from my door, my window, my campus, my town—
miles away. Blinding like sun reflected
in glass, even from space.
Let it shine, I hear my Jesus whisper,
Let is shine.

—Nortina


Some words I strung together in response to the horrific scenes coming out of Charlottesville, VA this week.

Sunday Morning Word Has a New Home!

Sunday Morning Word has moved to a new site! This is a project I’ve been working on for years now, both here, and on another blog. It’s come and gone over the years as I’ve repeatedly put it on the back burner for months at a time, wanting to focus on different things. But God continues to bring it back to the forefront, and I’ve come to accept that this is my assignment from Him—to teach His word and simplify it in a way that others will understand. But instead of bogging it down and having it get lost amid the content of my other blogs, I’ve created a dedicated blog for it. And no, I won’t only be posting on Sundays; there will be much more content to come.

So head over and read my first post about why bad things happen to good people, and feel free to follow!

Source: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

X is for… [Χ]ριστός #AtoZChallenge

I got nothing. A big fat ZERO. There just aren’t enough “X” letters in the English alphabet. The dictionary agrees with me too.

My writer’s thesaurus skipped the letter “X” entirely, jumping from “W” straight to “Y,” and when I attempted to look up some words in a dated Webster’s Dictionary I found at work (labeled, “Best Reference Source 1989” by the American Library Association), it had one word, one word, for “X”: Xmas. That’s not even a freaking word! All it does is cross Christ out of Christmas. Of course, the dictionary had an elaborate definition for why the “X” is not meant to offend but to educate, apparently derived from the Greek letter chi (X), which is the first letter in Χριστός, which translated means Christos. So in fact, the “X” stands for Christ, not against Him.

Yea, yea, so you expect me to believe that everyone who says, “Merry Xmas!” is an expert on Greek language? Nah, I don’t think Leslie’s buying that excuse either.

But, since we’re here, let’s talk about Leslie, and her Christian foundation, and how on earth she’s going to bring her wayward sons back to her, and more importantly, back to Christ.

We’re down to the last three (and arguably the hardest) letters in the A to Z Challenge, and I’m getting a little anxious because I still don’t have a definitive ending to Lost Boy. I took a brief moment to revisit my outline, hoping to spark some inspiration—and laughing at how much has changed already since posting it (for example, Detective Maye has been reduced to a secondary character, and Gio, Clara, and Bethel are all out).

For today’s purposes, I want to focus on the Falling Action and how it can lead to a resolution. So what’s happening…

  • Leslie visits the scene of the crime
  • Leslie confronts Jacqui
  • Maye bails out Gregory

Already the last scene has to change, since Maye is no longer a main character, but there’s opportunity for me to add layers to the other two scenes. Eventually, I want to bring all the characters back together for a final intervention, or showdown, if you will. I think it will start with Leslie retracing Gregory’s steps, going to the gas station, talking with the bank teller who gave him the money. When she stops by Jacqui’s trailer, another character, whom she doesn’t expect, will already be there, waiting for her.

Being a member of the jail ministry, Leslie witnesses to complete strangers often. She’s gotten complacent in her message, telling people about the Gospel of Christ with the hope that she’ll probably never see them again.

You have nothing to lose when you’re talking with a stranger. If they reject you, or respond in an offensive matter, you just move on to the next person; you don’t let it affect you, because the goal is not to seek the approval of man, but to save as many souls for Christ as possible. But evangelism starts at home, does it not? What about your own family and friends who are unsaved? Will you pray that the Lord sends forth laborers (Matthew 9:35-38)? Will you be that laborer to reap God’s harvest?

Everyone in Leslie’s circle needs redemption: Will Gregory’s poor choices prevent him from reconciling with his family? Will Tony be able to quench the resonating anger he feels toward his mother and brother? Will Jacqui and Tammi turn from their selfish greed and seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness? Will Kerry learn to forgive? Will Leslie continue to put her hope, faith, and trust in the Lord?

Leslie’s going to need all of her prayer warriors plus the empowering presence of God to fix her family, and it will start in the most unlikeliest of places. A revival is coming to Pleasant’s Edge, a city in exile, but as scripture says, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but there is hope, for we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Amen! Let’s hope Leslie can do it!

—Nortina

S is for… [S]cripture #AtoZChallenge

Thank you for tuning in to another planning session for Lost Boy! The novel is quickly coming together, and I’m so excited for November, when I will actually begin writing it for NaNoWriMo.

Throughout this A to Z Challenge, we’ve talked a lot about the contents of the novel—outline, character sketches, backstory, and more. Today I want to dive into the structure of the novel, specifically how I plan to open each new chapter.

I love epigraphs in literature. An epigraph is a short poem, sentence, or quotation from another work that appears at the beginning of a piece of literature. An author may use an epigraph to introduce a reader to the themes on context of his or her work, similar to a preface.

I love epigraphs because they are like quick previews or summaries to the stories or poems I am about to read.

In my very first A to Z Challenge, I began work on a novel/novella (still not sure how long it will be) entitled Love Poetry. As the title suggests, I wanted to incorporate the use of love poetry (written between the characters) throughout the story. After the challenge was over, I decided to put the poems at the beginning of each chapter in the form of an epigraph (although the thought of ending each chapter with a haibun has crossed my mind also), as a way to introduce what will happen in the chapter.

In a similar fashion, I want to introduce each chapter of Lost Boy with an epigraph. Because the novel has very strong Christian themes, I thought it would be a great idea to begin each chapter with a quote from scripture.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

One thing I love about reading the Bible is that no matter what situation you’re in, there is always a bible verse that speaks to that situation and helps you get through it. Even for those bible verses you’ve read a million times. On your one million and first time reading it, a new revelation will come to you that you never even thought of, and you will see the verse in a totally different light. It’s true! I can’t tell you how many times it has happened for me. It’s that power of the Holy Spirit—He convicts the world of sin, and He leads and guides you into all truth.

The purpose of using a bible verse as an epigraph at the opening of each chapter is to show, especially in Leslie’s case, that there is help in the Bible for every situation. There is help, hope, a lesson to be learned, guidance, conviction, etc. There are 66 books in the Bible, over 1,000 chapters, and thousands more verses—there’s no reason why you can’t open it up and find one that pertains to your particular situation, which is why Leslie reads hers twice a day.

I haven’t decided which ones I’m going to use yet. The verses about the Prodigal Son is an obvious choice since this entire novel alludes to that parable. The above quoted Jeremiah 29:11, is also an option, maybe for one of the earlier chapters.

But I also want to use verses that most people don’t know. We all have those memory verses and scriptures we were taught growing up in church, like John 3:16, Philippians 4:19, and Psalm 23, just to name a few, but what about James 4:3 (“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.”), 1 Samuel 16:7c (“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”), or Exodus 22:22 (“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.”)

There are so many other bible verses that could help the characters of Lost Boy get through their problems. I guess I need to open up my own Bible so I can get some of those verses in my arsenal!

Until next time…

#BlaPoWriMo: Psalm 90 (poem)

A Negro Preacher’s Haiku

We ain’t nothin’ but
grass, Lawd—green in da morn’, by
night, brown—dry like hay.

—Nortina

The Bottomless Pit

Benny’s mom got down on all fours and leaned over the mysterious hole in their driveway. She picked up the flashlight next to her and shined a beam of light into the darkness.

“I can’t see anything.” Her voice returned to her in low, grumbling echoes rising from the unseen bottom.

“I have this burning urge to shout, ‘This is Sparta!’ ” Benny said from behind her.

She sat up on her haunches and frowned at him over her shoulder. “Boy, I will whip your behind if you kick me into this hole.”

“I’m just joking, Ma.” He slapped her back, and she jerked away losing her balance, teetering over the hole momentarily before digging her nails into the concrete edge and pushing herself backward. Benny immediately threw his hands up, professing innocence to attempted foul play.

“If I had a belt,” she mumbled, shaking her head. “Get one of those rocks,” she directed, “throw it down there, listen for it to hit the bottom.

Benny did as he was told then dropped to his stomach and held his ear over the hole. “I can’t hear anything.”

“It can’t possibly be that de—”

“Wait! There’s something. It’s…it’s…a chirping? No, wait…a buzzing? Like bugs…big ones. It’s getting louder, like they’re coming up to the top. Oh, my god, there’s gotta be like a million of them!”

Benny fell back on his rear. Kicking up dust and rocks, he speedily propelled himself backward, away from the hole. He scrambled to stand and run, but his feet were like lead plates in his shoes. He tripped and rolled down the driveway out into the street.

Benny’s mom crawled to the back step. Believing the strength in her legs had abandoned her, she used the post to lift herself to her feet, only to realize the ground beneath her was shaking. She turned around just as what appeared to be a cloud of black smoke burst from the hole. She brought her arms to her face to shield her eyes.

A large cricket, the size of her hand, landed on her wrist. A second on her shoulder. A third clung to her shirt at her hip.

She looked up. Her son stood frozen at the end of the driveway, mouth agape.

“Benny! Benny, run!” she screamed as the swarm of locusts engulfed her.

—Nortina


128-11-november-1st-2015This piece of flash fiction is in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

 

Black History Month: Bible Defense of Slavery

Here’s a poem written by the “inaugural protest poet,” Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who used rhetoric, allusions, allegories, metaphors, and irony,  in her poetry to examine racial and gender divisions in America.

 

Bible Defense of Slavery

Take sackcloth of the darkest dye,
And shroud the pulpits round!
Servants of Him that cannot lie,
Sit mourning on the ground.

Let holy horror blanch each cheek,
Pale every brow with fears;
And rocks and stones, if ye could speak,
Ye well might melt to tears!

Let sorrow breathe in every tone,
In every strain ye raise;
Insult not God’s majestic throne
With th’ mockery of praise.

A ‘reverend’ man, whose light should be
The guide of age and youth,
Brings to the shrine of Slavery
The sacrifice of truth!

For the direst wrong by man imposed,
Since Sodom’s fearful cry,
The word of life has been unclos’d,
To give your God the lie.

Oh! When ye pray for heathen lands,
And plead for their dark shores,
Remember Slavery’s cruel hands
Make heathens at your doors!