God is beyond hide and seek

June 25, 2017

Revised and re-posted is the Verse of the Day for June 25, 2017 comes from Jeremiah 23:24 (AMP):

“Can anyone hide himself in secret places So that I cannot see him?” says the Lord. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.

The Verse of the Day brings to mind the childhood game of “hide and seek”, played countless times as we were growing up. At times we would be the individual who would “hide” while the other player would endeavor to find the person hiding and tag him or her before they reached “home base.” At other times a player would switch roles, hence the name of the game is “hide and seek.”

As believers grow in their relationship with God, we sometimes seem to be playing “hide and seek with God.” It seems that at times He is doing all the hiding, and we are doing all the seeking. On other occasions, we are doing all the hiding, and He’s doing all the seeking.”

I recall playing hide and seek with one of my nieces as she was growing up. I was baby-sitting her when she was about eight or nine years old, and we went to a park where she was trying to hide behind a tree. From her perspective she could not see me, and she thought that I could not see her. Her body, however, was slightly wider than the tree, and from my perspective, I could clearly see the outline of her body when I looked at her “hiding place.”
How much more is the case when we endeavor to hide ourselves from God?

Psalm 139:7 reminds us

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?

The Scriptures clearly reveal that God is omnipresent and that we cannot by any means hide from Him, just as the Verse of the Day so clearly states.

While we cannot hide from God, we can seek Him, being reminded to “Seek the Lord while he may be found,” knowing that God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). The Psalmist declares, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. . . when you said seek my face, my heart said to you, your face will I seek.” (Psalm 27:4-5, 8).

Psalm 9:9-10:

The LORD also will be a refuge and a stronghold for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble;

10 And those who know Your name [who have experienced Your precious mercy] will put their confident trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not abandoned those who seek You.

Jesus Christ in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well points out these truths:

23 But a time is coming and is already here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit [from the heart, the inner self] and in truth; for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

A recent blog post discussed two passages from Isaiah 40 and Psalm 27 related to watching and waiting, and they also brought to mind that while we are watching and waiting, we are also seeking. The three action words converge in this poem:

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD!

Psalm 27:14

We are strengthened by the words of the bard gone blind,
Who said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
We look into the mirror of God’s word and find
That God has been ever faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job we wait until at last our change shall come,
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
May we not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times we are yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all God’s will.

We conclude with Greg Long, who captures the essence of Verse of the Day and other related scriptures with the song “I Cannot Hide from You.”

God our deliverer

June 24, 2017

The Verse of the Day for June 24, 2017 reminds us of who God is and what He will do:

2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. 2
Throughout the Bible we see the faithfulness of God never fails to deliver those who serve him.

In the Old Testament some form of the verb palat, the Hebrew word for “deliver,” is translated “to pluck out of the hands of an oppressor or enemy; to preserve, recover, remove; to deliver from danger, evil, trouble; to be delivered, to escape.” Note how the term is used in Psalm 31:1-5 in the New Living Translation:

O LORD, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me, for you do what is right.
2 Turn your ear to listen to me;
rescue me quickly.
Be my rock of protection,
a fortress where I will be safe.
3 You are my rock and my fortress.
For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger.
4 Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me,
for I find protection in you alone.
5 I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God.

Psalm 31:1-5 states this:

1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.
2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defense to save me.
3 For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.
4 Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.
5 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

Isaiah 46:4 offers this promise in the New King James version:

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

In the New Testament the Greek verb ruomai is translated “to draw or snatch to one’s self from danger, to rescue, to deliver.”
In the poem “Why Don’t Somebody Help Me Praise the Lord, “my personal testimony expressed poetically I make reference being rescued from of a horrible situation:

With lovin arms you reached way down
And snatched me from Satan’s outhouse,
Sought me and flat-out rescued me,
Fixed me up in my Father’s house.

The Verse of the Day also uses the expression “keep from evil.” We recognize a similar phrase in the prayer that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke before his crucifixion:

John 17:15 (New Living Translation)

15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.

We are, of course, familiar with closing words of the Lord’s Prayer in

Matthew 6:13 from the King James Version

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

The New Living Translation renders the verse this way:

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

II Timothy 4:18 also reminds us

And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever.

The poem “Protect Us,” from a series of teachings entitled “A Five-fold Prayer,” reinforces the message that God is faithful and that He will deliver, just as He promised:

As children run to safety in their father’s arms,
So we, too, run to you, “our shelter from life’s storms.”
Lord, we long to dwell with you in the secret place,
Our buckler, our shield, deliverer, our fortress,
Strong tower, defender, who responds to our prayer.
For Lord, you are faithful, who will establish us
And protect us and deliver us from evil.

The Verse of the Day and other related scriptures remind us of God’s promise to deliver, even though we may not know how:

Just How God Will Deliver Us

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves,
that we should not trust in ourselves,
but in God which raises the dead:
Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver:
in whom we trust that he will still deliver us;
1 Corinthians 1:8-9

Just how God will deliver us we do not know,
But of His unfailing love and power we are sure:
He can send a raven and command a widow
To sustain Elijah and all who will endure.
Though He may not be early, God is never late.
We rest in knowing that our Father is faithful,
As we trust Him, learning to labor and to wait.
For each promise fulfilled we are ever grateful
And express our gratitude in word and in deed.
Despite the gross darkness of these perilous times,
Each day we walk by faith wherever Christ may lead,
For grand mountain vistas await the one who climbs.
The hand of God brought us thus far along the way,
And we will finish my course is all we can say.

Psalm 18 speaks of God as our deliverer, expressed musically by Clint Brown:

Waiting on Lord with patience

June 23, 2017

One of my favorite passages from the Old Testament is taken from the closing verses of Isaiah 40, where we find the Verse of the Day for June 23, 2017. This passage offers comfort and assurance revealed in Isaiah 40:31 in the Message Bible:

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles; they run and don’t get tired; they walk and don’t lag behind.

The New Living Translation renders these verses this way:

Isaiah 40:28-31:

28 Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

In Psalm 103:3-5 (NLT) we find another reference to being renewed like the eagle.

He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5 He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

Esther Mui offers Scripture Worship Lyrics in the Song “Those Who Wait on the Lord” based on Isaiah 40:25-31:

These passages also bring to mind the closing verses of Psalm 27, my favorite Psalm:

Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

A previous blog post discussed waiting on the Lord in relation to the character trait of patience or endurance or perseverance, steadfastly bearing up under and remaining faithful while waiting. Patience or perseverance is a fruit of the spirit that should be evident in our lives, as we wait on the Lord. In examining “patience” in the scriptures, the term is translated “to stay, remain, abide”, literally abiding under. It means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy — enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting). It is a bearing up in a way that honors and glorifies our heavenly Father, not merely to grin and bear it.

These two related passages from Isaiah 40 and Psalm 27 become the inspiration for lyrics for the following original song:

They That Wait Upon the Lord
(Isaiah 40:31 and Psalm 27:13, 14)

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as an eagle.
They shall run and not be weary.
They shall walk and shall not faint.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.

I had fainted unless I had believed
To see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait upon the Lord, and he shall strengthen your heart.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.

There are times when you may feel your strength is almost gone.
Pressed and beset on every hand, you just can’t seem to carry on.
But at the point when your world seems to be torn apart,
That’s when the Lord comes through for you,
Your strength He promised to renew.
He will encourage your heart.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.

At times it seems you are always climbing up an endless hill.
All the pressures and the trials of life have broken down your will.
Those about you seem to doubt you and say this is the end.
Don’t give up; try one more time.
Straight ahead is the finish line.
The Lord will give that second wind.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as an eagle.
They shall run and not be weary.
They shall walk and shall not faint.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.
Wait, I say, upon the Lord.

Karen Clark Sheard and Donnie McClurkin offer a stirring rendition of a song that captures the essence of patiently waiting as expressed in Psalm 27:14: “Wait on the Lord.”

Unto the hills: Looking toward Zion

June 22, 2017

Taken from Psalm 121:7-8 in the Message Bible, the Verse of the Day for June 22, 2017 provides great comfort and assurance to the believer:

GOD guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.

A previous blog entry entitled “Psalm 121: Looking beyond the hills” gives a more in-depth discussion of this celebrated psalm which is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel. Paul Stroble, in his blog devoted to this psalm, points out that “Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.”

Stroble, also mentions that various writers refer to Psalm 121 as “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners.” He continues his discussion of the merits of this psalm that he finds especially meaningful “because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively.”

Indeed, Zion is the ultimate destination of those pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem and those sojourning through life. Fourteen years ago I heard a life-changing teaching on the spiritual significance of Zion in a believer’s life, and the message inspired this poem:

Zion

For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.
Psalm 132:13

To ascend the holy hill, the quest to reach Mount Zion,
To dwell in that high mountain, a place of untold beauty.
Still onward and upward in this lifelong journey,
We situate ourselves in an accurate position,
As our obedience activates the blessings of God.
Our spirit overflows and floods our heart with new song.

With all that is within us, we yearn to sing the Lord’s song,
As we migrate upward from Babylon to Mount Zion,
Up to Jerusalem, the place of the Temple of God,
The place where we shall worship God in all of His beauty.
We are ever moving toward that ultimate position,
Knowing both anguish and joy in our perfecting journey.

We are moving toward a place of wholeness as we journey
From an alien land where we could not sing the Lord’s song,
As we arise to a more elevated position,
To stand on the Rock, the chief cornerstone, laid in Zion,
Where we shall behold the Lord in His resplendent beauty
And see more clearly revelation from the heart of God.

Great and glorious and wondrous is the City of God.
We celebrate the goodness of God along this journey.
The Lord, our God, has fashioned the perfection of beauty.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised with joyful song.
God displays His passion for Jerusalem and Zion:
He reigns over all the earth from this lofty position.

The grace of God flows freely from the highest position,
From the exalted place of the tabernacle of God,
Who has set His King upon the holy hill of Zion.
The sons of God shall be blessed and refreshed on their journey,
Teaching each other with psalm and hymn and spiritual song.
Ascend to worship at the transcendent throne of beauty.

The stone once rejected is now the stone of great beauty.
The chief cornerstone has become the foremost position.
The Rock of our Salvation fills our hearts with a new song.
Glory and honor and power and wisdom to our God,
Who strengthens and sustains us with power on our journey
To our destiny, perfected in a place called Zion.

The Lord, the Almighty God, is enthroned in great beauty.
As we journey, we maintain an accurate position,
For from Mount Zion flow countless blessings and endless song.

To conclude, Clint Brown offers a stirring medley Zion/Highest Praise:

Secure and at rest in the shadow of the Almighty

June 21, 2017

               Psalm 91:1 expresses the deepest yearning of our heart.

Since 2007 a World Economic Forum survey of about 750 experts has identified some of the mostly likely threats confronting the world. In the initial years of the survey, economic risks dominated the responses, but for the past two years, geopolitical, environmental and societal threats have risen to the top, particularly the threat of “large terrorist attacks.” The overriding the threat of massive terrorist attacks preoccupies the mind of countless individuals across the globe. Despite these threats, as believers we are comforted and strengthened by the words of the Psalmist who reassures us that we should have no fear when we abide in the presence of God Almighty. The Verse of the Day for June 21, 2014 reinforces this message:

Psalm 91:1 (AMP):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].

In light of the seemingly endless list of global crises that arise, the entire psalm is especially meaningful:

Psalm 91 (AMP)

Security of the One Who Trusts in the LORD.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].
2
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!”
3
For He will save you from the trap of the fowler,
And from the deadly pestilence.
4
He will cover you and completely protect you with His pinions,
And under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and a wall.
5
You will not be afraid of the terror of night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6
Nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction (sudden death) that lays waste at noon.
7
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But danger will not come near you.
8
You will only [be a spectator as you] look on with your eyes
And witness the [divine] repayment of the wicked [as you watch safely from the shelter of the Most High].
9
Because you have made the LORD, [who is] my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
11
For He will command His angels in regard to you,
To protect and defend and guard you in all your ways [of obedience and service].
12
They will lift you up in their hands,
So that you do not [even] strike your foot against a stone.
13
You will tread upon the lion and cobra;
The young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14
“Because he set his love on Me, therefore I will save him;
I will set him [securely] on high, because he knows My name [he confidently trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never abandon him, no, never].
15
“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16
“With a long life I will satisfy him
And I will let him see My salvation.”

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind a teaching entitled “God is Looking for a Dwelling Place,” and it inspired the following which uses Psalm 91:1 as its introductory verse.

Our Dwelling Transformed

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91:1

Despite perilous times embroiled in confusion and strife,
We continue to learn that everything has its own price.
As we pursue the ultimate goal, we offer our lives
Of service presented as a living sacrifice.
With clean hands and a pure heart, we prepare our dwelling place.
To attract you, Lord, we provide a pleasing ambiance:
Our songs of love flow from the depths of our inner space,
A habitation designed and arrayed for your entrance.
Our desire is to please you in all we say and do,
As we are transformed by the renewing of our mind,
Striving to understand that You alone make all things new.
As the eyes of the Lord scan this green planet, may they find
Our dwelling transformed into a place of simple beauty,
As we offer all that we are and ever hope to be.

Esther Mui offers this moving Christian Scripture Praise Worship song based on Psalm 91:

Ephesians 5:25-26: Husbands love your wives

June 19, 2017

The Verse of the Day for June 19, 2017 is a passage from a section of Scripture often recited at weddings and other occasions centering on the role of husbands:

The Message Bible offers this exhortation:

Ephesians 5:25-26

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.

Here is how the Amplified Bible (AMP) puts it:

25 Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God],

A couple of years ago I attended a men’s Bible study with one of my sons-in-law, focusing on “The Journey to Authentic Manhood,” as modeled by Jesus Christ in his 33 years on earth. That particular session was one of a series of discussions related to some of the challenges that confront men in the quest for “authentic manhood” in our roles as husbands, fathers, co-workers, and other areas of responsibilities.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind this poem that captures the essence of one of the principal attributes of authentic manhood that husbands should demonstrate in their relationship with their wives:

Sacrificial Living: Assignment of Manhood

Forgetting things left behind, we press toward the mark.
The passion that now inflames our souls was once a spark.
This all-consuming fire, great light dispels the dark,
As we abide in God’s presence in a place beyond the Ark.

We continue to strive ever toward the highest good
With sacrificial living: assignment of manhood.

Like Christ, we endure the cross while despising the shame
And accept this high calling and embrace our new name.
By grace we stand in His presence without any blame;
We continue to strive ever toward the highest good.

Always remaining aware that God is in control,
We are still running to serve as our life’s highest goal.
This zeal for God and His Word burns deep within our soul,
With sacrificial living: assignment of manhood.

Being fully persuaded, we now know that we know
That God will fulfill His will and declare, “It is so!”
We set aside pride; where He leads us we will follow
And continue to strive ever toward the highest good.

Looking to the future, we walk by faith, not by sight.
To do all the will of God still remains our delight,
To follow Christ’s command that we should be salt and light
With sacrificial Living: assignment of manhood.

To speak the Word of life in all that we do and say,
To follow in the steps of Christ all along the way.
Until the final victory, we must watch, fight and pray.
We continue to strive ever toward the highest good.

Triumphant from faith to faith and glory to glory,
We still seek God’s face in the place of our destiny.
Our lives unfold as scrolls read by those with eyes to see
Our sacrificial living: assignment of manhood.

With a love so strong, yet ever so tender,
Nothing can dissuade us, nor can anything hinder.
We will hold fast to the faith and never surrender.
God’s Word hidden in our heart, we’ll always remember:

We continue to strive ever toward the highest good
With sacrificial living: assignment of manhood.

In order for us to love as Christ loved the Church, we must first receive that same love ourselves and then demonstrate the love of Christ to our wives. The song “My Lord, What Love is This” expresses the wonder of such “Amazing Love”:

Faith of our Fathers and our Legacies

June 18, 2017

Today is the third Sunday in June, June 18, Father’s Day 2017. This is day of commemoration and celebration to honor fathers–whether as Stepfathers, Uncles, Grandfathers, or “Big Brothers” or adult male family friends—we recognize all men who have acted as father figures in our lives.

The actual celebration of Father’s Day in the United States goes back to the early part of the 20th Century, when Sonora Smart Dodd, Mrs. John B. Dodd, of Washington State, first proposed the idea of a “father’s day” in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, who was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd’s mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington State. After Mrs. Dodd became an adult, she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.

The first Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America other people were beginning to celebrate a “father’s day.” In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day, which is also recognized in a number of countries around the world and celebrated at various times throughout the year. Roses are the Father’s Day flowers: red to be worn for a living father and white if the father has died.

I recall the lyrics to one of the stalwart hymns of the Christian Church sung so many times as a child and as an adult, which seems most appropriate in light of recently sharing my personal testimony involving the importance of faith in life.

Faith of Our Fathers

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
We all shall then be truly free.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

As believers we have a remarkable inheritance of faith, the Faith of our Fathers, that has been passed down to us from countless generations, going back to Abraham, the father of faith, passed on to the mighty men of faith of the Old Testament all the way through to Jesus Christ, for we have received the “faith of Jesus Christ.” Moreover we are surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in the New Testament and giants of faith who have lived beyond the first Century, as we are still inspired by the lives of great men of faith today. Men of faith inspire faith in others, as this original Father’s Day poem speaks of that priceless inheritance passed on:

Legacies

I

Faithful and true heroes ever remain
And generate legacies we pass on
To each generation, father to son,
Heart to heart. The light of life left behind
Ever shines to brighten the path of truth,
Raised and then passed on from elder to youth.

II

Faithful and true heroes ever remain for all
Who hear the mandate and rise to answer God’s call.
Our lives of service are legacies we pass on
To the next generation, from father to son.
With the love of Christ in us, we tear down each wall.
We rally to support a brother should he fall.
Our ears have been pierced with the sharp tip of an awl:
A covenant of blood ever seals our union.

Faithful and true heroes ever remain.
Spiritual athletes excel beyond glove or ball.
They seek to bring out the best, as iron sharpens iron,
Striving to finish strong and pass on the baton.
On the shoulders of our fathers we now stand tall
to view the future where greater victories are won.
Faithful and true heroes ever remain.

This poem composed on Father’s Day fifteen years ago takes on even more significance this year with the birth of Kingston Edward Simkins, my first grandson, who was born August 11, 2016. This experience has heightened my awareness of “Legacies” and the importance leaving behind a legacy as a faithful man of God. This song by Nicole Nordeman expresses the deepest yearning of my soul: “Legacy”

Birthday Reflections: A new Song

June 17, 2017

Each day I try to begin with a time prayer, offering thanks to God for awakening me to see the dawning of a brand a new day. Today, June 17, 2017, by the grace of God, marks my 75th birthday. I now understand to a much greater degree the words of the elderly from my youthful days of growing up in the Church, as they expressed their gratitude to God for being “clothed in their right mind, with a reasonable portion of health and strength.” Oh, yes, I am truly grateful for being blessed with “a healthy body and a sound mind.”

As is so often the case, when waxing reflective, I also wax poetic. In many instances I have composed a new poetic piece on my birthday. In fact, even before identifying the poet coming alive inside me, the first poem I intentionally wrote was an occasional piece entitled “Upon Turning Twenty-one.” Today that tradition continues as I would like to share a birthday medley of poems of celebration: Something old, something new, and something laced with a taste of the blues:

A few months ago, a dear friend, spiritual daughter, fellow writer with a passion for the written and spoken word, Johari Parnell Mitchell introduced me to a new poetic form called the “Golden Shovel.” I was intrigued by the phrase “Golden Shovel” which I recognized as part of the subtitle of a celebrated poem by Gwendolyn Brooks: “We Real Cool—The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel.” Johari shared her excitement with having read a collection of “Golden Shovel” poems by Nikki Grimes, One Last Word. She talks about this fascinating book on her Facebook discussion “The Writing Life.” Her infectious enthusiasm stimulated me with a desire to try out this new form. Before the weekend was over, Johari had given me a copy of the book, and I left with a determination to master this new form which I later found had these stipulations:

The poet is to take a short poem in its entirety or selected lines from a poem by a poet whose work the writer admires. Each word in the line or lines is to serve as the end word in the new poem. The words should be kept in the same order. The topic of the new poem does not have be the same as the poem offering the end words.

In my haste to write in this new form, I selected one of my own pieces, not realizing that it should have been the work of another poet; not that I do not admire my own works, I simply did not think about that. As it turned out, the poem I selected was a Miltonic sonnet composed on my 40th birthday. The “Golden Shovel” I completed used the same end words as end words as well as the same beginning words in the same order, resulting in a kind of “book-end sonnet” of sorts. In any case, I had fun, and I share this work, combining “something old and something new”:

I Sing in My Garden

Oh, sing unto the LORD a new song!
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
Proclaim the good news from day to day.
Psalm 96:1-2

I sing in my garden and reap the good,
The bounty of living these forty years.
Each note seems to evoke a stream of tears
That fall, not because of some somber mood
But flow from a heart filled with gratitude.
The folk song of the farmer thrills my ears
Each time plowing, planting or harvest nears.
I compose my song, having understood
Lyrics I did not know when I was young,
When life was uncertain, my song unsure.
Now from my green garden I garner truth.
A song of conviction flows from my tongue.
I am seasoned and strengthened to endure,
Knowing the best lines are yet to be sung.

June 17, 1982

 

I Sing in My Garden a New Song

He has given me a new song to sing,
A hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:3

Good, so good, O taste and see the Lord is good.
Years, days of praise in the endless flow of years.
Tears, from joy and pain fill my bottle of tears.
Mood indigo rises to a brand new mood.
Gratitude–Bedrock of life is gratitude.
Ears placed near the lips of God, listening ears.
Nears—Look up for the day of redemption nears.
Understood—understand, then be understood.
Young at heart: while I mature, I am still young.
Unsure—once–Now rooted, no longer unsure.
Truth makes me free. I am free in Christ, the Truth.
Tongue—all my days I praise with more than my tongue.
Endure—victory awaits all who will endure.
Sung–soon and very soon a new song will be sung.

June 17, 2017

The final selection in my birthday medley is a blues sonnet inspired by Psalm 1, the first passage of scripture I ever committed to memory back in the day in the mid-fifties as an adolescent. The first Psalm, which I still know by heart, continues to be a source of encouragement and strength:

Talk about a Man
Psalm 1

Talk about a man that show is blessed—I’m the man.

Talk about a man that show is blessed—I’m the man.

At first I couldn’t, but now I see God’s master plan.

 

To study the Word of Life show is my delight.

To study the Word of Life show is my delight.

I’m all the time thinking about it—day and night.

 

Planted by the rivers of water, my roots reach deep.

Planted by the rivers of water, my roots reach deep.

By the still waters the Good Shepherd leads his sheep.

 

In God all His promises are yes and amen.

In God all His promises are yes and amen.

I have been so blessed since I can remember when.

 

The Word of God soothes my soul like a healing balm.

I’m the man they talking about in that First Psalm.

 

From the depths of my soul, I offer thanks to God for the blessing of knowing Jesus Christ as my savior and having experienced the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. All that I write on my birthday or any day for that matter, indeed, all that I do is an attempt to express to God, my Father, just how grateful I am for all He has done for me. Recently I discovered this song which expresses in part my thoughts today, as David Huff offers “My Song of Praise”:

Psalm 103 in its entirety

June 16, 2017

The Verse of the Day for June 16, 2017 is taken from Psalm 103:13 in the Message Bible:

God makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet. He showed Moses how he went about his work, opened up his plans to all Israel. God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud. Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, but a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here. God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him, making everything right for them and their children as they follow his Covenant ways and remember to do whatever he said.

On the day before Father’s Day, verse 13 in the New Living Translation provides an appropriate  glimpse of God:

The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

Although the Message Bible provides a more robust translation of a single verse, many times I prefer to read and savor each verse in the Amplified Bible which is posted below. In the same way that an individual might slowly partake of a special dessert or enjoy one’s favorite pastry served with coffee or tea, take really close a look at this magnificent Psalm:

Psalm 103

[A Psalm] of David—Amplified Bible

1 Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul; and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul, and forget not [one of] all His benefits—
3 Who forgives [every one of] all your iniquities, Who heals [each one of] all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption, Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy;
5 Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s [strong, overcoming, soaring]!
6 The Lord executes righteousness and justice [not for me only, but] for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known His ways [of righteousness and justice] to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving-kindness.
9 He will not always chide or be contending, neither will He keep His anger forever or hold a grudge.
10 He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe].
14 For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place shall know it no more.
17 But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children—
18 To such as keep His covenant [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying it] and to those who [earnestly] remember His commandments to do them [imprinting them on their hearts].
19 The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word.
21 Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, all you His hosts, you His ministers who do His pleasure.
22 Bless the Lord, all His works in all places of His dominion; bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul!

We cap off this special reading with a magnificent musical rendering of Psalm 103 by Zach Jones:

Godly parents and their children

June 15, 2017

In anticipation of Father’s Day, which occurs on the third Sunday in June, the Verse of the Day for June 15, 2017 is taken from Proverbs 23:24 in the Message Bible:

[Buy Wisdom, Education, Insight ] [16] Listen with respect to the father who raised you, and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her. Buy truth—don’t sell it for love or money; buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight. Parents rejoice when their children turn out well; wise children become proud parents. So make your father happy! Make your mother proud!

Here is how the New Living Translation puts it:

Proverbs 23:23-25

23 Get the truth and never sell it;
also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.
24 The father of godly children has cause for joy.
What a pleasure to have children who are wise.
25 So give your father and mother joy!
May she who gave you birth be happy.

The relationship between godly parents and their godly offspring is one of mutual joy, deep satisfaction, and utmost pleasure. Children seek to bring a smile to their parents’ faces, as they yearn to hear parents express some variation of these affirming words, “I am so proud of you.” Similarly, Jesus Christ in his relationship with his heavenly Father, seeks to please Him, “. . . to do the will of Him who sent Me and to completely finish His work.” As the Lord is embarking upon the final phase of his ministry on earth, a voice from heaven speaks, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased and delighted!” (Matthew 6:13—Amplified Bible).

This discussion occurring prior to Father’s Day brings to mind a conversation I had with my father a number of years before his passing in 1996. The situation inspired the following poem which captures the essence of what the Verse of the Day is attempting to convey:

The Perfect Father’s Day Gift

There was a time when I would stretch my mind,
Make a list and try to think of the perfect gift,
As we approached Father’s Day, the third Sunday in June.
Now let me see what will it be?
I know. . . a portable radio. . .
What about a shirt—extra-large—to fit?
Pajamas, house shoes, another Dopp kit?
Each year I would really try, as I resolved:
No more cologne—not another tie!
One year I ran out of ideas, and so I asked,
“Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?”
He thought awhile and in his own quiet way,
He smiled and had this to say:
“Just between me and you,
Here’s what you can do.
Just keep me proud of you.
Son, just keep me proud of you.”

Now when my daughters ask,
What can they get me for Father’s Day,
I fondly remember, and I smile and say,
“The words of your Grandpa are still true.
As he said to me, so I say to you:
‘Just between me and you,
Here’s what you can do.
Just keep me proud of you.
Girls, just keep me proud of you.”

We close with “Just to Please You Father” by Fighting Instinct: