Featured Poet: Dwayne White-Smith – “If Not Now…When?”

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Dwayne White-Smith

Today, I want to share the work of my cousin, Dwayne. He’s a father, son, brother, husband; an every-day man walking through life’s challenges and pitfalls just like the rest of us. But D has a secret bag of talents stashed deep–REALLY deep–that he’s finally ready to share with the world. Writing is only one of them. It’s his outlet of choice, and he’s beginning to figure out that God gave him this talent for a reason. Today, we’re going to hear what he’s got to say.

I’m proud of you, kid. Always have been; always will be.


If Not Now…When?

I pray so much that my knees are bleeding,

Praying, “Lord please help me, cos my soul need healing.”

Praying, “Lord please help me, cos this sin I’m in got me beaten.”

Through my eyes, you can’t see the turmoil of my soul,

But I’m yearning for just a touch, of the helm of your clothes,

So I’m crying out, “JESUS PLEASE, WAIT DONT LEAVE!!!”

“It’s me; your lost sheep, and it’s through you I hope to gain the salvation I seek.”

My knees still bleeding from the way that I pray,

But God must have me on Do-Not-Disturb cos I don’t think he can hear what I say.

I can’t stand to take an “L” so with every loss that I take,

I re-evaluate my tools and every step of my faith.

With every step I’ve taken, did I keep my eyes on the Lord?

Did I give him my problems, then take them back?

I’ve done that multiple times before.

You say, “Don’t believe in Christ; to each his own my friend.”

But did you know that Jesus will receive you with open arms?

Meaning he will extend to you his holy hand.

You don’t believe in salvation, so that you can forever party in the promised land?

But you believe if you go home,

Into the bathroom with no lights on,

And say his name three times,

In the mirror you will see The Candy-Man.

Is your faith about religion or race?

If your faith is about division, then we’re in the wrong place.

I say, “We’re in the wrong place,” cos division breeds hate.

Jesus is all love y’all; that’s all I’m tryin’ to say.

But I’m only an expert of me; I can’t speak for you all.

Just telling you bits of my truths and progressions as I walk with the lord.

This is my story; a piece of it, if you may.

But before I leave, I have one last thing to say.

I share my story to speak for those who can relate to this.

Let’s get our vertical relationship right before our time expires and our salvation is missed.

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That Moment When God Reminds You…

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A good life is like a fantastic roller coaster. High peaks slowly creep, and the anticipation is scary-exciting. Then, the rush of the downhill race takes your breath away. Life throws a few speedy curves into the ride for good measure. The truly great coasters will even surprise you with quick peaks and valleys in succession, just to add witty surprise to the experience. Then, in a blink…it’s all over.

A mediocre life is like a drive along a dessert highway. The asphalt is slightly bumpy and quite often the anticipation stems from a need to arrive at the destination. The scenery is dull. The road is straight and yields no surprising twists or turns. The journey is so mundane, it seems to take several lifetimes before the end arrives.

The thing about life is, it’s often a combination of both the good and the mediocre. We experience the highs of the hilltops at times, but we also endure the lows of the valleys: the success of a promotion and the grief of a lost loved-one; that first kiss, and that first bee-sting; the triumph of broken spiritual chains, and the deflation of facing personal weak faith.

It’s the duality of life. Hills and valleys. Highs and lows. Ups and downs. It never stops. But one constant is true.

God’s always there.

I know, it may not always seem like it and some might have a genuine right to argue against my claim. There are real monsters in the world. There are tragedies everywhere. And sometimes, things don’t exactly have to be earth-shattering to bring you down from the hilltop. Sometimes, it’s just a series of little things subtly chipping away at your joy and confidence.

But, God is still there, too.

I believed God had given me specific talents, uniquely crafted for me. Sure…anyone could do what I can do. But no one could do it exactly the way I can. Surely, He had to have given me these talents for a reason. It’s a high point, when you realize your purpose.

But as the years continued to roll by, I didn’t seem to recognize any forward movement with my talents. My gifts just didn’t appear to make any difference in my life, or the lives of others. Despite the countless encouraging scriptures of faith, I really struggled to continue believing my apparent gifts were from God. More and more, I started to believe they were a product of my own design and that I was now wasting time with them. Where I’d once vehemently believed God had spoken those gifts into my heart, I was suddenly contemplating giving them up.

Friday morning, I was ready to stop writing altogether. And then…Friday evening came.

My home church–River of Life–hosted an outpouring service, and despite my secret decision to pack up my pens and journals, I came to church expecting to see God move in the lives of my church family members. The church was alive with the sounds of praise and worship, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was heavy in the sanctuary. For almost two hours, we sang and prayed, before my Pastor took to the pulpit.

Pastor Eddie launched into intercessory prayer; boldly praying for folks to receive the blessing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The place was electric! As he prayed, and pronounced blessings of healing for people he didn’t know personally, I simply basked in the presence of the Lord, watching the Spirit work through the lives of my church family and visitors alike. And then, something unexpected happened.

He called my name. Pastor Eddie called my name, and caught my eye.

“I don’t normally call people out,” he announced, “but the Lord wants you to know, don’t quit on your gifts. Brother don’t quit on your gifts.”

I broke. I lost strength and fell to ground. He could not have possibly known that very morning, I’d decided to stop writing. My Pastor had no idea what I had been struggling with since the beginning of the new year. He couldn’t have known I’d given up hope. There could be only one explanation.

God was still there. He was…He is…still watching me. He knows my name, and He knows my heart. And on that Friday, among so many different people coming to Him with their own issues–looking to be set free–He took the time to speak to me in a way that could not possibly be mistaken for anything other than what it was: miraculous.

I was completely undone. At some point, my wife came to my side and held on to me as every ounce of guilt and shame poured out through hot tears and naked sobs. When composure returned, it came with a renewed sense of purpose. With that purpose came freedom. I have no idea what God wants me to write, but He told me not to give up. I have faith in Him. I’m riding the hilltop.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now, at this very moment friend. But I can say this with fresh confidence: God sees you. He knows where you are, and knows exactly what you’re going through. I know life is hard sometimes, and it becomes easy to lose sight of what’s true; what’s good. Despite my struggles, I think the best thing I could have done was to go into that outpouring service with expectancy. I had no idea what I was looking for. I just wanted to be in His presence. And maybe–just maybe–that’s all you need. You just need to be in the Lord’s presence. You seek Him, even in your struggles, and I promise you He will find you; not that you’ve ever been lost to Him. I lost my youngest son once. It was a nightmare. I don’t wanna talk about it. But God never loses His real children. He’s always there. Sometimes, He just wants us to come to Him; to seek His presence.

So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t quit. I believe He’s rooting for you. You just have to keep on believing…

 

 

*always*

My Reason

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It’s that time of year again, when we focus on the true reason for the season. During December, arguments are always made by people focusing on the wrong aspects of the Christmas Holiday. I hear things like:

  • I’m not celebrating that Jew.
  • Christmas was really a pagan holiday, you know.
  • Jesus wasn’t even born in December.
  • Christmas is just a man-made holiday to celebrate western commercialism.
  • Easter is the holiday we should really celebrate.

The list can go on forever. I think folks lose sight of what the season is really about. Admittedly, even I am guilty of complaining about how much money my wife spends on presents every year. But then, I remember why we celebrate. When I do, the joy I see in my family on Christmas morning trumps all complaints. We celebrate Jesus, what He did and what He continues to do for us all.

One trait I love about Jesus, is His undying love for the sinful. That’s each and every one of us, by the way. We all sin; we are all sinful by nature. The Bible teaches me that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It also teaches me the very wages of sin, is death (Romans 6:23). That means from the time I (personally) was born, I deserved death because I could never live up to God’s standard of what holy really means. In spite of my naturally doomed life, the bible teaches me “To all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). It also teaches me that, “If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Now, someone might ask why I’ve brought all this scripture into this one-sided conversation. Well, let me break down why these particular scriptures are important to me. Here is my reason for the season:

 I am a sinner

Romans 3:23 teaches me I was born to make mistakes worthy of death, in the eyes of my Holy God. I could never be a “Good Man” in His eyes. That’s just the way it is. Adam and Eve ushered sin into a perfect world, essentially damning everyone who would ever be born. I could never do any acts or behave a certain way that would clear my debt to God. It’s like this: I could never naturally change my skin color. I was born a black man. In like fashion, I was born into a sinful world. As such, I’m a sin-filled man by nature.

My sin should have killed me

Romans 6:23 further explains that my sinful nature is worthy of death. Whenever I ogle an attractive woman, who isn’t my wife, I’m committing adultery by God’s standard of perfection. Whenever I wish death on a mass murderer, I’m committing murder in my heart. By God’s standard, He’s the only one qualified to commit a man to death. Since God is extremely serious about His standards, my very life is worthy of death, because everything I do is in violation of His standards. Based on these two scriptures alone, God views me as an outsider, because He’s holy and I am not. Sure, He loves me but, by nature, I have no part of Him.

This is where Jesus comes into play, in my life.

God adopted me, through Jesus

John 1:12 explains to me, that when I received Jesus into my heart, and actually believed in the power of His name—there is actual power in the very name of Jesus, people—I was granted, by God Himself, the privilege of being adopted into His family, as one of His very own children. Think of adoption, as you know it, on a Spiritual scale.

When my close friends—the Estermyers; a white family—adopted tiny brothers Avery and Omari—brothers born of a black family—into their natural family, Avery and Omari, joined Haley, Noah, Wyatt and Mattie as children of Nik and Tosha. They receive the same love and attention because they are now Estermyers, and always will be. These boys will grow up knowing they belong to this loving family of five boys and one girl. On a personal level, I will live out the rest of my days knowing I have been adopted into the family of Jesus, Moses, and Adam! They are my people. Because they are my family, Gd gives me the same love He granted to each of them. I did nothing to deserve it. His love was a free gift, just as Avery and Omari received the free gift of Estermyer love simply by being who they are.

Jesus forgives my sin

1 John 1:19 further explains this to me: now that I’m in the family of Jesus and because I love and trust Him, I can freely confess all of my sins to Him—past and present—and He will not hold them against me. The death I deserved before ever knowing the Lord Jesus? He died in my place, simply because He loved me before I ever knew Him! Because He still loves me, He forgives my sinful nature even as I continue to walk through life. Since my sins are forgiven, I don’t have to live a life of regret and shame, wishing I had not committed some of the acts of my past. I’m not condemned by them anymore. They are forgiven; paid in full!

This is why I celebrate Christmas. I was—and still am—a sinner deserving death, by God’s holy standards. But, because He loved me so much, God sent His son—Jesus—to take the penalty of death in my place. Because Jesus loves me just as much as God does, He forgave all of my past sins, and even forgives the sins of my present. Does that mean I can go on doing the same things that dishonor the Lord? Certainly not! Because I love and respect Him, I try to live a life separate from the things I used to do; things I fully know dishonor the Lord. My walk with Christ isn’t about following a bunch of rules. It’s about loving and trusting in Him because I understand that He has a plan for my life that’s better than anything that I could ever imagine. Because He loved me before I knew Him, He paid the ultimate price—His own life—just to free me from the slavery of damnation. Sometimes I forget what that really means. But, it always comes back to me and the truth is overwhelming. I was made for something greater than I can imagine. And although I fear the physical pain that might be associated with death, I do look forward to spending eternity in the presence of the man responsible for my salvation.

Christmas isn’t just a happy holiday. Christmas is a celebration of Jesus Christ. Never forget that. He is the entire reason for the season. Despite what other faiths may believe, if not for Jesus, the human race might have faced an unimaginably different and terrifying fate. So, don’t lose sight of the holiday. The gifts are nice. The parties are fantastic. The family celebrations are wonderful. But, remember the true family you belong to, as a believer. And even if you’re not a believer, know that Jesus loves you and will battle hell for you.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

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Hell is real, bruv.

Ask any saint, and he’ll tell you so.

Lives are cut short;

Lasting only as long as sin entertains, persuades and deceives and destroys;

Oh, the agony of the eternal fire!

When exactly did this happen?

Even now, I regret some of my past decisions; actually…

Every decision to ignore the truth of God;

Never to breathe a peaceful life again.

Sometimes, You Gotta Just Go With God

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“What does that mean, Enn?”

Yeah, I know…

“Sometimes, you gotta just go with God; what exactly are you saying?”

Well, see, that’s the thing. I don’t exactly know.

“What do you mean, ‘I don’t exactly know?’ What am I about to read here?”

I can’t rightly answer that question. But, I can tell you this: there are seasons when the Spirit moves in me and I recognize it’s time to sit down at the keyboard. Usually, I’ll turn on some inspiring music and wait for Him to put words into my heart. Tonight is no different. He’s moving, and I’m trying to listen.

One of my favorite songs is “Hymn of Praise” by William McDowell, featuring Julia McMillian and Daniel Johnson on lead vocals. Man, whenever I hear this powerful worship song, I can’t help but to fall in line with the Holy Spirit. Tonight, this song is on heavy repeat…even as I write. As I listen to the praises of God’s people, I’m trying to see the words forming in my heart. This special message is for someone tonight.

You’ve been trying so hard to make things work out in your favor, doing everything you think is right. You’ve been working hard, taking care of your responsibilities and doing everything by the book. Yet, for every step you take, it seems like something or someone pulls you two steps backward. When’s it going to be your time to catch a break, for once?

God sees you. He heard that prayer of desperation, last night. He knows exactly where you are and precisely what you’re going through right this moment, as you read these impossible words. Yeah…He sees you. He sees your struggles.

Mark 9:23-24 records a powerful exchange between Jesus and a father. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'”

That last verse is personal to me, because I know what it feels like to struggle with unbelief strapped to weak hope. But Jesus doesn’t say, “If you wait until your emotions line up with your head-belief, then I’ll act.” No. He simply tells us to believe. You may not feel it emotionally. It may not make any sense to you. It’s a leap of faith.

Tonight, I need you to believe, even if you don’t feel it in your bones. Just trust in God and know that He’s got you exactly where he wants you. Maybe it’s time to leave that job. Maybe it’s time to be brave and put yourself out there. Maybe it’s time to ask for help. Maybe it’s your time to pursue you calling. You’ve been struggling so hard. Believe. He is with you, and knows where you are.

 

*Always*

Find Your Space

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Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) – “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”

Everyone is born to do something. Everyone has pizzazz. Everybody has a unique gift. Yes; even you. The problem is, life has a tendency to strangle our calling. We might be sidetracked by alluring distractions, causing us to forgo the search for our niche. Maybe we’re born into a life full of never-ending challenges that literally choke the hope of fulfillment out of our hearts. Or just maybe…we’re too darned lazy to find our space in the world.

You ever see those images of a square peg being forced into a round hole? That image perfectly sums up the lives of many people. We busy ourselves trying to fit in where we don’t belong. In the process, life moves forward and we grow complacent and bitter.

What if I told you that Proverbs 16:9 is real? Would you believe me? If I said to you, “Hey Kim, you know that hobby you can’t seem to turn away from? God sewed that into your heart before you were ever born, and he wants you to use that to glorify him.” Would you call me nuts, and turn to another website? I hope you wouldn’t, because my favorite proverb is real. God is in the business of planting His design into your heart, and then causing you to chase after that very desire.

I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old. Trends, fads and styles came and went as I grew older–and actually still do. But, I always had a desire to write. It wasn’t until I submitted to Jesus, that I discovered I was born to write. Not for fame, money or notoriety. I was born to use my God-given talent to glorify Him. When I write about God and the kingdom, I honestly do my best work. It’s the perfectly shaped hole this square was born to fit into. And, I believe it happens easily because God planted that seed into my heart, to fulfill His purpose for my life.

Let’s look at it another way. A Suzuki GXS-R1000 crotch rocket was produced on the assembly line for a very specific purpose. If you try riding that motorcycle on a frozen pond, you’re going to have troubles making it up to 20 miles-per-hour. But if you throttle that sucker along twisting roads and open straightaways, you’re going to effortlessly peak 120 miles-per-hour without even trying. That’s because the bike was made to go fast and grip dry roads with precision. That’s its design, and it wants to go fast. If it wanted to go slow, it would have been made a moped. Round hole; round peg.

So here is your homework assignment: take a moment and look back at your life. What’s that one thing you’ve never been able to stay away from, and that you actually do pretty well? Trust me, everybody’s got one, so find yours.  Once you think you’ve got it, I want you to take an actual leap of faith. Ask God what you’re supposed to do with it. After you do that, start doing that one thing. If it was truly sewn into your heart, watch what God does in your life through His gifted talent in you.

Always Love You

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Hey there,

I’ve been pretty busy lately. The new job is going well and my family is enjoying a season of humble prosperity. Things are good. My oldest sons are growing into fine young men, and my daughters are both growing into beautiful young ladies. My lil guy is at that special age where I simultaneously want to wrap my arms around him in a protective bear-hug, but also seal his mouth shut with duct tape. He’s mostly the cause of my blooming gray goatee. My wife likes the silver. She thinks it’s sexy and wisdom looks good on me. I’ll take that. Everyday, I see more of the woman she’s destined to become and it brings me joy. We’ve been through some things over the years, but by the grace of our father, we’re about to celebrate 15 years of marriage. I wouldn’t trade her or her special brand of crazy for all the money in the world. She was made special for me. I see it all the time now. And I’m thankful for them all. They are my family.

There are days when I feel as if life has become so busy that I’ve placed you on the back burner, as some afterthought. But you know my heart. And even though I probably don’t need to say it, I will because I know you like to hear confession from the lips. I think about you all the time. No matter what I may be doing in my busy days, you’re always there. Sometimes I can hear past conversations and then marvel at how things have turned out. Sometimes I imagine your voice answering a spontaneous question. Sometimes I smile when I think to myself that its perfectly fine to love someone else the way I love my family. But then, you are family, aren’t you? I can’t exactly pinpoint when you officially became family to me, but I know it’s true.

I wanted to write this to you, just as a reminder. I know its a big world and you’ve got things to do that don’t necessarily involve me. But, I also know that you still love me. I know you’ll love me forever. I know you think about me often, because I can feel it from time to time. It’s that special bond we have. I hope I make you proud as not only the man I’ve become, but as the man I am becoming.

Some folks may read this and have no clue what it means. Others may read it as a misconstrued cryptic message. But you know exactly what it all means, and you know it’s straight from my heart. In time, people may turn away from you; maybe even close loved ones. That’s gonna hurt something terrible. But I want you to remember this truth: I figured out a long time ago that I’m going to always love you. Do you understand that? I’m going to *always* love you.

Good night.