The man behind the name: Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King

January 17, 2022

On January 17, 2022, the national holiday, celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I would like to share personal reflections and a poetic tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

 . . . the man behind the name

the name

the good brother

hammered out his

“Here I stand,

I can do none other. . .”

and forged “A mighty fortress”

the name

the same name

thunders through four centuries

anchored with a surname

a paradox,

oxymoronic

nature of a servant/King

the name

weight of that name

the burden of the same name

obligation to be true

to one’s namesake

as Ellison’s hidden name and complex fate

resounds from age to age the same–

the battle cry to defy the status quo

more than the name

is the memory of the man

behind the name

reflections on the man

behind the name

mirror commonalities

threads intertwine in black and gold

the life of this preacher,

teacher of the Word,

Walker’s prophet for a new day,

husband, father, mentor, and more:

fellow-laborer in the Lord,

fellow bondslave and brother

heeding the higher calling

first of all,

servants of all,

we shall transcend all

. . . the man behind the name

the man

praying, preaching,

leading through troubled waters

following in the steps of Christ,

along the higher path of love

the man

     buked and scorned,

called everything,

including a child of God,

tested, arrested, tried, and sentenced

penning his letter from a Birmingham jail

the man

sitting down and standing up,      

protesting and marching and singing

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round!

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round!

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round!

Keep on marchin’; keep on movin’;

keep on marchin’ toward the freedom land

from Selma to Montgomery to Memphis

where he waved and smiled the last time

the man. . .the man. . .the man

uprooting burdock and stinkweed,

bitter roots of prejudice

that blight the land

planting peace lilies instead

the man

images forever etched in my mind

an eloquent, passionate dreamer

working to weave into reality

his multi-colored dream of possibility

the vista of that gathering

with echoes of his oration

before the People of Promise

arm-over-arm, hand-in-hand

swaying in rhythmic waves

across the multitude of faces

singing softly in unison

this choir of celestial voices

“. . . Black and white together. . .”

embracing refrains from the anthem of his age:

We shall overcome

We shall overcome

We shall overcome, someday.

Oh, deep in my heart I do believe

We shall overcome, someday.

In thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King, a particular phrase comes to mind. Without question, “to serve” is one of the most powerful verbs in the English language. Listen to this excerpt from “The Drum Major Instinct,” an unforgettable sermon by Dr. King, whose life and ministry embodied the beauty and simplicity of the words “To serve,” the hallmark of his life.

To Abide in God’s Presence

January 10, 2022
The theme for the Week of Prayer, Fasting, and Consecration at Grace Covenant Church and Every Nation Churches across the globe

January 10-14, 2022, marks the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer, Fasting, and Consecration at Grace Covenant Church and other Every Nation churches across the globe. The theme for this year’s observance is Abide: The Power and Beauty of God’s Word.  

Telos Fuller, one of the Associate Pastors at Grace Covenant Church—Chantilly, VA, provided the perfect prelude to this special time when he ministered regarding “The Prize” on Sunday, January 10, 2022. He touched upon the awareness, access, and emphasis of “The Presence of  God” which should be the ultimate prize that all believers aspire to attain. Examining passages from Psalm 84 and other scriptures, he encouraged believers to pursue a deeper awareness of the presence of God which becomes a different metric for measuring our success as Christians.

He went on to say that everything we need and want we find in the presence of God. He referred to Psalm 16:11 which inspired this original psalm written in response to the teaching, as my own expression of “Amen” to the truths that resonated so deeply with me:

To Abide in God’s Presence

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore                 

Psalm 16:11

To abide in God’s presence is our utmost desire,

Beyond the wealth of any treasure we may acquire.

With all of our being, we pursue the Lord, our delight,

Who brings such joy and peace to comfort us through the night.

Our desire to linger in His presence burns like a fire.

He clothes us in righteousness, garments of praise, our attire.

We seek to do God’s will and all that He may require.

We meditate on the Word of God both day and night

To abide in God’s presence.           

God has touched our lives and made us perfect and entire,          

We are learning to trust him as our sole supplier.

Challenges confront us when we seek to do what is right,

But beyond the dark is the golden edge of daylight.

We know weeping may endure only for a night,

 But we rejoice each new day, reflecting our  desire

To abide in God’s presence.

I anticipate that this week will be life-changing for all who participate in this time of dedication and consecration: “Abide—The Power and Beauty of God’s Word.”

We close with this selection by Life Worship: “Here in Your Presence”

Wrapped in swaddling clothes: What does that mean?

December 22, 2021

A recent blog post focused on some of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ with the heralding of the “good news” to the shepherds. The proclamation of the glory of God revealed specific details that would confirm the birth of the Savior of the world. As we read the passage from the Gospel of Luke, we find a more complete unfolding of the sequence of events:

Luke 2:11-14 (Amplified Bible):

For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah). And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host (angelic army) praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest [heaven], And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.”

This passage contains a reference to an ancient custom associated with birth, that is, Mary wrapped the child in “swaddling cloths” or as the King James Version renders “swaddling clothes” or “swaddling strips” in the New Living Translation. We also find a reference in Luke 2:6-7:

6 While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to give birth, 7 and she gave birth to her Son, her firstborn; and she wrapped Him in [swaddling] cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no [private] room for them in the inn.

These passages refer to the practice whereby a child, particularly a child of royal lineage, was to be salted and swaddled. Shortly after birth, the child would be washed with water into which a pinch of salt had been added, symbolizing a covenant of salt, whereby the words spoken by the child would be words of truth, always seasoned with salt. The child would then be wrapped in swaddling bands or swaddling clothes, strips of fine linen to represent that the child would grow up to walk straight and tall.

KC Pillai, a converted Hindu who embraced Christianity, wrote extensively on Eastern customs and manners, known as Orientalisms, as revealed in the Bible. He point outs the distinctive features of the custom of swaddling and notes that when Israel strayed from the precepts of God and walked in idolatry, indicating how far they had strayed from the precepts of Jehovah:

Ezekiel 16:1-4 (NKJV):

Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, 3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: “Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.

Swaddling continued to be practiced beyond Biblical times, as a blog entry from needleprint.blogspot.com, commented on the elaborately embroidered bands made for young prince Federigo, Duke of Urbino, notable 15th Century figure from the Italian Renaissance, pictured here:

In addition, when the angels announced to the shepherds that the Savior had been born, they were given a sign that established the truth of their words:

And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12).

The timing of the arrival of the shepherds had to be precise since the swaddling clothes remained on the child for only a few minutes. The shepherds could not arrive on the scene before the swaddling had begun, nor could they arrive after the custom had been completed. They had to be in the right place at precisely the right time. As we so clearly see, the account of the birth of Jesus Christ abounds with signs, wonders, and miracles, one of which involves his being “wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.”

“He’s Here” sung by Eddie James offers a powerful, musical rendering of the account of the Savior who was “born of a virgin, wrapped in swaddling clothes. . .”

Announcing the Savior’s birth: A Good News Day for Sure

December 19, 2021
When the angel proclaimed the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, that was surely a “Good News Day.”

On the Sunday before Christmas Day, December 19, 2021, Telos Fuller, one of the associate pastors at Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, VA, set forth a most remarkably enlightening message based on the familiar passage describing the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded in Luke 2:9-15. Pastor Telos emphasized the words “Glory to God in the highest…” He went on to relate various aspects of the word glory, meaning that which belongs to God alone who is worthy of glory. This the multitude of the heavenly hosts offered this unprecedented proclamation of the glory of God in the highest degree to a lowly group of shepherds, individuals who appeared least likely to be chosen for such an honor. Later I read the passage in the Amplified Bible which gives a fuller account of what occurred:

Luke 2:8-14

8And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night.

9And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened.

10But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.

11For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!

12And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find [after searching] a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

13Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased, men of goodwill, of His favor].

Verse 10 indicates that the angel brought “good news” to the shepherds and ultimately, to the entire world. That day was “A Good News Day,” expressed this way in this original poem:

 Good News Day

 This is the day the LORD has made;

 we will rejoice and be glad in it.

 Psalm 118:24

It’s a good new day

no blues day

new shoes

no way to lose

What a good new day

It’s a great day

I can’t wait day

lift your voice

let’s rejoice

Good God, a good news day

It’s a payday

goin my way day

no nay–all yea

what you say

Such a good news day

It’s a live it up day

overflowin cup day

It’s a bright and bubbly

doubly lovely

Show-nuff good news day

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah) and as 2021 concludes while 2022 begins to unfold, may every day be a “Good News Day.”

We joyfully conclude with “Good News, Great Joy,” a glorious Christmas worship song by Attila Juhas:

Transforming Power of God: Beauty for Ashes

December 10, 2021

The Verse of the Day for December 10, 2021, in the Logos Bible software, reminds us of the transforming power of God found in Psalm 30:11 (New Living Translation):

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,

Today I read Psalm 30 in its entirety, and it ministered to me in a powerful way:

I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
    You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave,[a] O Lord.
    You kept me from falling into the pit of death.

Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
    Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

When I was prosperous, I said,
    “Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
    Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

I cried out to you, O Lord.
    I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
    if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
    Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
    Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind Isaiah 61:3 which contains a similar reference indicating that God exchanges the “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” About five years ago, I recall reflecting upon God’s amazing ability to transform the most horrific circumstances into a glorious display of His wisdom, power, and might, I thought of the expression “beauty for ashes.” Isaiah 61:3 offers a series of such transformations or exchanges that only God can give. That particular verse introduces an original psalm with that title:

Beauty for Ashes

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

Beauty for ashes–we are transformed to testify

Of lives so radically changed that we might glorify

The God of Heaven who touches the earth with His love

That overflows with bountiful blessings from above.

We are blessed and highly favored–no one can deny.

That we should be chosen by God, some may wonder why,

But none can fathom God’s grace, no matter how they try.

Ascend into God’s presence on the wings of a dove:

Beauty for ashes.

Many times, it may seem as if life has passed us by,

But God is faithful; on Him we can always rely.

Nothing in this life surpasses God’s unchanging love;

It is far beyond all that we could ask or think of.

Remember that God is not a man that He should lie:

Beauty for ashes.

Crystal Lewis and Ron Kenoly offer a tender rendition of the song “Beauty for Ashes.”

Let the words of my mouth. . .

October 16, 2021

The Verse of the Day for October 16, 2021,  comes from Psalm 19:14 in the New Living Translation:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

We can view the Book of Psalms as a collection of songs which has been the inspiration for countless musical compositions over the centuries. The Psalms continue to be one of my favorite books of the Bible and has been such an inspiration to me as believer who writes poetry. Psalm 19:14 inspired these original lyrics expressed as a prayer to God:

Lord, give us a heart like David,

A man after your own heart.

Purify our motives and intentions,

Cleanse us and set us apart.

Lord, give us a heart like David.

Lord, give us a heart like David.

Lord, give us a heart to serve you,

With all that lies within us,

To follow in the footsteps of Jesus,

As we serve you faithfully.

Lord, give us a heart to serve you.

Lord, give us a heart to serve you.

Lord, give us a heart of worship,

Overflowing with your praise.

May our words and our deeds give you glory.

May we serve you all our days.

Lord, give us a heart of worship.

Lord, give us a heart of worship.

Johnny Holmes concludes with a rendition of Psalm 19:14 entitled “Song of My Heart”

May these words express the deep desire of our heart uttered as a prayer as we begin this day and every day.

Happy Birthday My Sweet Lady

October 9, 2021

Birthdays are wonderful times of celebration, and today, October 8, 2021, is a special time of celebration for a special lady, Brenda Joyce, the wife of my youth in whom I rejoice. In thinking about my beloved Brenda, I recall these words composed for

My Sweet Lady

My Sweet Lady, much more than treasured fruit of the vine,

We both prayed, then we met by God’s divine design.

He has truly guided our lives by His own right hand,

Leading us here far beyond all that we could have planned.

As we reflect upon our lives, we now understand.

God said that you would meet me; you asked Him for a sign.

We were wed: Our hearts knit together; our hearts entwine.

Seeking to do God’s will, we traveled across the land,

My Sweet Lady. 

The deepest meaning of love we still seek to define. 

You are my Beloved; I am yours and you are mine.  

Despite the fiercest storms, we continue to withstand

And celebrate this life that continues to be grand.

I cherish you, my love, more than the mellowest wine,

My Sweet Lady.

I love you, BJ

The Beatitudes: The Be Attitudes

October 1, 2021

The Verse of the Day for October 1, 2021, comes from the section of Scripture known as “The Beatitudes.” The following entry is revised and reposted below:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Part of the “Sermon on the Mount,” which some scholars maintain is really the “Sermon on the Plain,” the Beatitudes form a series of eight declarations that begin with the word “blessed.” Translated from the Greek word, makarios, “blessed” refers to a state of spiritual well-being and prosperity, expressing deep joy and fulfillment of the soul. The word has been translated, happy, fortunate, favored. A contemporary response when asked about one’s state of being is the expression, “blessed and highly favored.”

The following scripture memory song speaks of the passage from Matthew 5 in this way:

The Beatitudes Are the “Be Attitudes”

The Beatitudes are the “Be Attitudes.”

They help us to see. They help us to be

All that God wants us to be.

We will be blessed and be a blessing in return

When we learn to follow the “Be Attitudes.”

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Blessed are you.  You shall be blessed.

You shall be blessed when you follow the “Be Attitudes.”

The Beatitudes are the “Be Attitudes.”

They help us to see.  They help us to be

All that God wants us to be.

We will be blessed and be a blessing in return

When we learn to follow the “Be Attitudes.”

The Sermon on the Mount begins with Matthew 5 which offers the Beatitudes which are dramatically recited in this video:

We close with a musical rendering of the Beatitudes by Hillsong:

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month 2021

September 19, 2021

As the ninth month of the year continues to unfold, we sound the trumpet to alert the public that September has been designated as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. As we focus on this important health concern among American men, we revise and repost this entry.

About 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Last year, over 170,000 men received such a diagnosis. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men, especially in African American men. However, prostate cancer develops mainly in older men. About 6 out of 10 cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

Although prostate cancer can be a serious disease, the good news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it—”I am a living witness!” In fact, in the United States, more than 2.9 million men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives are still alive today. A diagnosis of prostate cancer or any other cancer or debilitating disease is not a “death sentence,” but it can be a “life sentence” to build your faith and trust in God.

During National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we remember those we have lost to prostate cancer and celebrate survivors, as we renew our commitment to preventing, detecting, and treating this frequently occurring illness. During September, we encourage men to have a health check-up and talk to their doctor about prostate cancer. In fact, September 17 is also designated Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. Light blue is the color of the ribbon bringing attention to prostate cancer.

Blue signifies the blue skies or the life-giving air and often symbolizes hope or good health. As the poet proclaims:

pastel blue
lighter, brighter
subtle twinge
of powder blue
like Betty Lou
hop-scotchin
up to sky blue
and back

As a prostate cancer survivor, I recognize the personal significance of September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2000 was life-changing for me, as I asked God what to do. He gave me a holistic strategy, a battle plan, that took me down the road less traveled by that ultimately led to my being not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. I share my testimony in Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. The book closes with an original poem of celebration with Romans 8:37 as its introduction, expressing my new identity not, just during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month but every day I draw breath:

Embracing Your Life Sentence–
More than a Conqueror


Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors
and gain an overwhelming victory through Him
who loved us [so much that He died for us].

Romans 8:37 (AMP)


Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,
Defying the odds as a brave conquistador.
Despite intense pressure, I learn to rest in grace,
More than enough to withstand the daily tests I face,
Not merely to survive but to thrive even more.

A mighty warrior, triumphant super-victor
With a cause, prepared not to die but to live for.
At times I fell behind but fought to keep the pace:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,

To fulfill all the will of God and then to soar
To heights sublime where I have never been before.
Overcomer, bearing light in the darkest place,
I still fight the good fight, as I finish my race,
Moving forward, seeking to find the next open door:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,

We close with Steven Curtis Chapman reinforcing the message “More than Conquerors”:

My book is available through Amazon.com and wherever books are sold and through my website: https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com. Check out another tribute to Prostate Cancer Awareness Month on Medium.com and celebrate the goodness and the grace of God with me.

Dr. J is celebrating as not just a survivor but more than a conqueror.

The anointing of honor: Before honor is humility

September 18, 2021

Philippians 2:3-4, the Verse of the Day for September 18, 2021,  is revised and reposted with  this reminder:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, those who serve the Lord seek to set their priorities: They say to themselves and to others, “God is first; others are second, and I am willing to be last.” The first and great commandment establishes the order for our lives:

Matthew 28:37-39:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Romans 12:10 is another related verse that comes to mind when we think of putting others first:

10 Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

10 Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.

In a previous blog entry, I discussed the term “Honor one another” and commented, “To honor means to place value on, respect, to place esteem upon, to esteem. The word also means “to prefer—to go before, to lead, to be intentional.” Clearly, this is the essence of the latter part of Romans 12:10.

Apostle John Tetsola notes that “Honor produces an exchange, in that when we give honor, we receive honor in return.” He elaborates upon this principle by stating that associated with honor is the “process of welcoming the person you honor in your heart, whereby you celebrate their anointing and receive the individual with gladness.” He calls this the “process of acceptance” which we apply when we honor one another.

This same sentiment is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 5:13:

13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

Dr. Tetsola, in a teaching on the subject of honor, also inspired this response:

The Anointing  of Honor          

The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom;

and before honor is humility.

Proverbs 15:33

“Our honor activates the honor that is in the heart of God.”  

Apostle John Tetsola

“Before honor is humility,” says the Lord.                  

We give honor to those who minister the Word,

 Not withholding honor to whom honor is due.

We follow these precepts, for the Word of God is true,

Giving life, sharper than any two-edged sword.           

We honor one another and walk in one accord.                 

Husbands and wives—symbolic of a three-fold cord—

Must cherish honor, appreciate its value:

 “Before honor is humility.”                                  

The power of this precept cannot be ignored.   

All those who bestow honor have great reward.

We must give honor in all that we say and do,

Pressing toward the mark for the prize, we continue          

Striving for the perfection we all are moving toward:         

“Before honor is humility.”    

To wrap up our discussion, song writer Jimmy Scott sings a composition “To Honor You,” a tribute to the memory of a loved one.