Reflections on my ordination and my legacy

August 11, 2020

August is a special month, and I recently published an article in Medium.com recognizing this month as “What will be Your Legacy Month.” August 11 is especially significant since it relates to a milestone in my life. An event of supreme significance occurred 46 years ago when I was ordained to the Christian ministry.

Ordination is the public recognition of a response of an individual to the call of God to serve. The recognition of this inner prompting to be of greater service may have transpired a considerable time prior to the actual ordination ceremony. I recall as a child being aware of the presence of God, and as I grew older and was introduced to the Bible, I remember reading the passage from Isaiah 6 where the glory of God overwhelms the Prophet, who responds to the question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us.” Isaiah answers saying, “Here am I, send me.” This simple response resonated within me for years, and I publicly acknowledge that I had heard and accepted the call in 1974 at age 32.

Ordination is said to be a process whereby individuals are called, chosen, and set apart to serve, considered as a “special sacrament.” Such an entry point for service can begin with “the new birth” experience when one accepts Jesus Christ as savior and endeavors to follow in his steps. A child, however, who gratefully and joyfully accepts the blessings of the Father, eventually matures to the point of being about the “Father’s business.” In the minds of some, ordination is considered a kind of “rite of passage” which commences with a higher level of service in ministering to Body of Christ, expressed in Ephesians 4:11-13:

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

In reflecting upon my ordination ceremony which also involved a prayer of consecration, the laying on of hands, and a word of prophecy, all of which have been sources of inspiration and direction over the years. I wrote an original psalm inspired by that experience, and I later dedicated to other fellow servants who continue to respond to God, those who heard His voice and answered

The Call of God

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,
beseech you to walk worthy of the calling
with which you were called,
Ephesians 4:1

The call of God resounds like a repeated name
From the lips of a beloved friend who knows us.
We wait and clearly hear our name and see the flame
Lighting the path to fulfill God’s divine purpose
As we choose to embrace a higher destiny.
This holy calling only God can verify.
We know our ears cannot hear; our eyes cannot see;
Yet from the depths of our heart, we cannot deny
That we have truly heard and seen what few will know.
We must, therefore, arise and strive to reach the place
Where the mighty rivers of understanding flow,
And we must never doubt God’s purpose and His grace.
In the unbroken line of all those ordained of God,
We stand. Having heard, we rise to heed the call of God.

August 11 is a “double lovely” day since it is also the birthday of my 4-year-old grandson, Kingston Edward Simkins, who answers, in part, the question raised in the monthlong celebration of What will be Your Legacy Month.”

Kingston and Grandpapa Johnson love to read together

Kingston Edward Simkins is part of my legacy that I believe will extend for generations to come. The lyrics to “The Blessing,” a powerful benediction by Elevation Worship featuring Kari Jobe and Mark Carney, express my innermost desire:

God, our refuge and strength: Be still and know

August 10, 2020

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for August 10, 2020 offers this blessed assurance found in Psalm 46:1 (AMP):

[God the Refuge of His People.] [To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to soprano voices. A Song. ] God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable], a very present and well-proved help in trouble

As we examine the verse more closely, we find great comfort and strength. First of all, God is described as “our refuge,” a place of trust, described in

Psalm 2:12 (NLT):

Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry,
and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

Throughout the Psalms and elsewhere we find numerous references to God as a source of strength. Psalm 27:2 reveals that “The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid,” while Psalm 18:2 declares:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.

The expression “a very present help” literally means “a help He has been found exceedingly.” As the Amplified Bible puts it, “a very present and well-proved help in trouble.” I also recall the opening and closing stanzas of the hymn by Dr. Isaac Watts: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

“In the time of trouble” also brings to mind other verses:


Psalm 27:5

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

Psalm 37:39

But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.

Isaiah 33:2

O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.

Psalm 46 opens with a striking declaration regarding who God is in verse 1, and the powerful psalm ends with a directive from God Almighty in verses 10 and 11:

10Let be, and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!
11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (our High Tower and Stronghold). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

Verse 10 introduces this poem with the first three words of the psalm as its title:

Be Still and Know

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
Psalms 46:10


Be still and know that I am God, that I am the eternal one.
Though your cherished dreams seem to have faded and gone
The way of all flesh, my divine plans you shall see,
As I weave the tapestry of eternity.

Though you seem forsaken, you are never alone,
Even when the burden of dark sin cannot atone,
And the hearts of men have hardened and turned to stone:
Be still and know that I am God.

Though storms may overwhelm, and friends may abandon
When diseases surface to assault flesh and bone.
These scenes reveal people whom we thought we could be,
As words of the Psalmist also help us to see,
When this life is over, and all is said and done:
Be still and know that I am God.

We pause and calmly think about that—as we “Selah” this Psalm and give heed to these words of Kari Jobe, who tenderly encourages us: “Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest)”


Promoting peace

July 27, 2020

Today, I received a blog post from Pastor Brett Fuller, Senior Pastor at Grace Covenant Church, Chantilly, VA, whose words inspired me to excerpt them and post comments in response as the Word for the Day on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe on July 27, 2020.

Pastor Brett opened with these words “Promoting Peace”:

Peace is a wonderful thing to possess and it’s equally tragic when it’s lost. Antagonistic environments seek to rob us of our peace. In conflict, even the most conciliatory of us find ourselves struggling to hold on to our God-given divine equilibrium.

Jesus gave a solution. He said in Matthew 10:12-13, “As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 “If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.”

The world is in perpetual conflict. People need help getting right with God and with one another. As divine agents of reconciliation, we are to be “promoters of peace” wherever we go. In fact, Ephesians 6:15 says we are to “…shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. . . .

Pastor Brett’s words of encouragement remind us that as believers we are to be “instruments of peace.” We are to let the peace of God rule in our hearts to which we are called in one body, and we are to be thankful. The peace that the Bible speaks of goes beyond the usual definition which refers to “the normal non-warring condition of a nation, a group of nations or the world. . . a state of harmony among people or groups; cessation or freedom from strife or dissension.”

In contrast, the Biblical definition encompasses a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being, expressed in the Hebrew expression shalom. According to Strong’s Concordance, shalom means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” It is an inner reality, for the peace of God indicates being free from anxiety and care; it is not dependent upon outside conditions.

The peace of God comes from the God of peace, and it is only possible to obtain it through the Prince of Peace. John 14:27 declares this truth:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

As my thoughts turned toward the peace that the Lord gives, I recall having composed this poem:

Peace

In His will is our peace.

Dante


O, Lord, make us instruments of your peace, we pray.
Touch our lives to flow with heavenly melodies.
As consummate virtuoso, compose and play
On our souls and inspire glorious harmonies.
In such measured moments of sweetest quietude
Arrange serenades of praise. Let grace notes resound,
As our lives crescendo in songs of gratitude,
From heart to heart, where your grace and mercy abound.
Orchestrate aubades, nocturnes, songs at eventide;
Complete cantatas of peace within us, align
Our desires and your pleasure. Here we abide,
Saxophone and soloist, communing by design.
Knowing our purpose, we remain quiet and still,
Composed in perfect peace, the center of Your will.

The essence of the intent of the poem is also expressed in the song “Instruments of Peace” recorded in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The blog post from Pastor Brett reminds us that the peace that Jesus Christ gives is a priceless commodity that we should not share with those who do not receive it.

More Good News from Dr. J

July 21, 2020

In my most recent blog post for July 19, 2020, I shared one more reminder encouraging believers: “Do not fear.” The heart of the entry came as an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs.

When diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, I did not see “a death sentence” but a “life sentence” that transformed my thinking. I share his holistic strategy to combat prostate cancer, weaving original poetry, Scripture, and a battle plan that shows how I emerged, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror.

Here is some good news. My triumphant account has been nominated for a book award through Author Academy Elite in the category of Religious Non-fiction. Selection of the Top Ten finalists will be based, in part, on popular vote.

To support Dr. J and participate in voting, go to, and click on the red link for https://authoracademyawards.com/vote2020/“2020 Authors Awards.”Using the Blue Arrow at the top, find the Religious Non-Fiction section, (Category 11) then go down and find his book’s cover, Embracing Your Life Sentence: How To Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs, and click on his book to Vote. The Top Ten Finalists in each category will be invited to present their book synopsis at an Author Academy Awards Red Carpet Gala on October 23, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. The winners will be announced later that evening at the Author Academy Awards Ceremony where they will be invited to give an acceptance speech.

Thanks for your support, and thanks for sharing the Good News.

One more reminder: Do not fear

July 19, 2020

Many times, the Verse of the Day and its commentary seem custom-crafted to address a specific issue that confronts believers on that day. Today, July 19, 2020, the inspiration for this prescription from Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe comes from Isaiah 41:10 (Revised Standard Version) to which I add verse 13 to solidify this reminder to have no fear:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

13 For I am the LORD your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

This comforting passage brings to mind my book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs where I discuss fear as one of the factors impacting my response to prostate cancer more than 20 years ago. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 The Fear Factor: “Do not fear; I will help you”:


. . . My situation with prostate cancer forced me to face head-on one of the potentially toxic emotions confronting me throughout the healing process: fear. A cancer diagnosis itself can evoke great fear, in that the term “cancer” too often generates one of the fundamental human fears–the fear of death.

Although we recognize fear as a common and natural emotional response to potential danger, but if not properly addressed, it can become a deadly emotion with serious consequences. Excessive fear can become crippling and impact our daily lives in a negative way. I recognized firsthand that unbridled fear is a toxic emotion that limits and inhibits. Pastor Rick Warren describes fear as “. . . a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be.”

Fear and Its Antidote

As noted in previous comments, we find 365 references to “have no fear” or “do not fear” in the Bible, so some say. This encouraging word from Isaiah 41 is yet another reminder to believers: “Do not fear.” We could view these particular verses as one of those daily memos from God to have no fear.

If not properly understood and dealt with, fear can metastasize into a toxic emotion that can negatively impact our lives. As believers, we must learn to counteract its harmful effects with the proper remedy. In this case, we find that love is the perfect antidote: the love of God, the highest form of love. This love is “more intimate than friend, or kin or wife.” This close-knit love is also known as agape, a term used exclusively in the New Testament, to reveal the uniqueness of God’s love.

The book of I John also reveals the “perfect” connection between fear and love, particularly in 1 John 2:5

But whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this know that we are in Him. [NKJV]

In those who hear the Word of God and keep it, the love of God is “perfected” or made perfect or complete, wanting in nothing or brought to maturity in them. To be “perfected” is to be brought to a full end.
The love of God is “perfected” or made complete or full in us when we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of perfect love. Verse 18 provides the basis for love being the perfect antidote to fear:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

When an individual is “perfected in love” and walks in or demonstrates that love, there no room for fear. The love of God is the key that releases each believer from the bondage of this “self-imposed prison” from which Christ came to set the captives free.

I recall learning about the love of God as a counteractant to fear in a very simple yet profound way. One of the first books that my wife and I used to teach our daughters about our Heavenly Father was My Little Golden Book about God. This was a kind of primer for our daughters who memorized the words and associated them with the illustrations long before they could actually “read.” Some of the most cherished lines were these words which closed out the small book: “Do not fear. I am here. And I love you, my dear. Close your eyes and sleep tight. For tomorrow will be bright. All is well, dear child. Good night.”

This simple response encourages all children of God to have no fear, for God is ever-present, and He continues to say, “And I love you, my dear.” Even in distressful and disturbing situations where we do not clearly understand what is transpiring in our lives health-wise and otherwise, we must remember

There is no Fear in Love

I John 4:18

“Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you
from becoming what God intends for you to be.”
– Rick Warren


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear
And abounds to transform any adverse atmosphere.
We are perfected and made whole when we walk in love,
A true love that we live and not one we just speak of.
Such love is pure and never repels but draws us near.

This balm of love heals all wounds, no matter how severe
With words of compassion each soul on earth longs to hear;
Love conquers any disaster and rises above.
There is no fear in love.

We follow in Christ’s steps, knowing our mandate is clear.
Assured of triumph, there is never a need to fear.
We press toward the mark, the prize we seek to lay hold of
To ascend in victory on wings of a gentle dove.
We walk forth as bold pioneers on a love frontier:
There is no fear in love.

The essence of the message for today is “Have no fear—walk in love.” We conclude as Whitley Phipps offers this encouraging musical reminder: “No Need to Fear”

All things are possible–Nothing is impossible: Same difference

July 11, 2020

The Verse of the Day for July 11, 2020, comes from Jeremiah 32:17 in the New International Version:

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

This verse offers encouragement and assurance during the challenging times in which we live, times described as perilous or difficult to deal with, where the nation and the world seem to be entangled in impossible situations.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind two other scriptures that speak of the awesome power of God and His Word. Both say the same thing but in different ways, that nothing is too hard for God. In one place in the Gospels, Jesus Christ states “. . . with God all things are possible.” In another place, the Word declares, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” The Amplified Bible renders Luke 1:37 in this way:

For with God, nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.

As I acknowledged that the two verses express the same concept but in different ways, I thought of a principle from Geometry: “Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” These two verses also inspired this poetic response:

No Matter How You Phrase It

And Jesus looking upon them said, With men, it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible
Mark 10:27


For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37

There is none like God who never fails to come through:
Whether you say “With God all things are possible”
Or say, “With God, nothing shall be impossible.”
No matter how you phrase it, the Word is still true.
As those who observe the times, we wisely surmise
That the Prince of Peace ascended to end all strife,
Leading captive even death to release new life,
Just as from ashes, beauty and splendor arise.
We boldly declare the Word of God and assert
The Providence of an all-wise Father who makes
Barrenness to bloom with rivers in the desert.
With the Word of Life, even death itself awakes.
We seek to walk in wisdom and number our days,
Humbly discerning that His ways are not our ways.

The line “Just as from ashes, beauty and splendor arise” brings to mind the verse which says, “God gives beauty for ashes.” Did you know that ashes under extreme heat and pressure form gemstones, and that diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and such come from ashes? You see this when many of the volcanoes erupt, and when they settle and cool, you find beautiful gems at the base. Similarly, watch God turn around what seems like a total disaster. No matter how challenging the situation may appear to be, He can turn it into a magnificent triumph.

In “No Matter How You Phrase It” we find a reference to another seemingly impossible situation whereby God “makes barrenness to bloom with rivers in the desert” which also illustrates the amazing power of God expressed in another original psalm:

Barrenness

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth;
shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert.
The beast of the field shall honor me,
the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

These people have I formed for myself;
they shall show forth my praise.
Isaiah 43:19-21


We are waiting with our eyes fixed toward open skies
That we might behold the wonders of this new thing.
From parched, lifeless places now shall it spring forth,
As the Lord makes a highway in the wilderness.
Even in the wasteland, shall He give cool waters;
To bless and refresh with rivers in the desert.
He has formed us for Himself: for His good pleasure
He chose us and set us apart to show forth praise.
All things for His glory: even the barren womb
He has prepared to bring forth life-changing seed.
Declare the Word, and thus shall it most surely be:
No word of God spoken shall be void of power.
Speak the Word only and barrenness shall vanish,
And fertile ground shall bring forth fruit in due season.

The Verse of the Day and the two poems reinforce a similar message that “Nothing is impossible.” These words also inspired this vibrant song of praise by Planetshakers”:

“That day” is not that far away

July 5, 2020

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for July 5, 2020, comes from Isaiah 12:4 (NIV) to remind us of what is coming on “that day”:

In that day you will say: “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.

The New Living Translation says this:

In that wonderful day, you will sing: “Thank the Lord! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is!

The passage of Scripture from which this celebratory verse is taken is labeled “Songs of Praise for Salvation”:

Isaiah 12:1-5 (NLT):

In that day you will sing:
“I will praise you, O LORD!
You were angry with me, but not anymore.
Now you comfort me.
2 See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The LORD GOD is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”
3 With joy, you will drink deeply
from the fountain of salvation
4 In that wonderful day you will sing:
“Thank the LORD! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done.
Let them know how mighty he is!

The phrase “that day” is used throughout the Old and New Testaments” to refer to a day in the future, a new day of salvation and judgment:

Malachi 3:17 makes such a reference:

And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.

Jesus Christ speaks of that day as a time of rejoicing for some:

Luke 6:23 (NLT)

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets…

In the New Testament we find references to “that day” as the day of the Return of Jesus Christ:

2 Thessalonians 1:10

When he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NKJV) reiterates with this word of exhortation:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

In 2 Timothy 1:12 (NLT) Paul again speaks of “that day”:

For this reason, I also suffer these things; nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

The lyrics to the hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” offer a series of statements that the hymn writer does not know:

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me, He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

The last verse culminates the series, bringing to mind something that neither the songwriter nor anyone else knows:

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noon-day fair,
Nor if I’ll walk the vale with Him,
Or “meet Him in the air.”

The chorus of the familiar hymn resounds with this assurance found in 2 Timothy 1:12:

But “I know Whom I have believed
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

Paul closes his letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, with these stirring words:

2 Timothy 4:7-9 (NKJV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing

Indeed, believers today are looking upward with outstretched necks, looking forward with eager anticipation to the dawning of a new day when the Lord Jesus Christ shall return. “That day” is now nearer than when we first believed. We open our eyes, and we recognize, indeed:

A New Day Dawning

We have also a more sure word of prophecy;
whereunto you do well that you take heed,
as unto a light that shines in a dark place,
until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

2 Peter 1:19

A new day dawning, look up toward the Eastern sky.
New horizons reveal our redemption is nigh.
All darkness departs, as the sun of righteousness
Arises with healing in his wings in fullness
Of joy to share the bounty of endless supply.

He shall gather us in the twinkling of an eye
To seize the final victory no one can deny.
His beloved shall savor forever God’s goodness:
A new day dawning.

We shall comprehend each wherefore and every why
As we shall know what mortal hearts could not apply
And bask in the fullness of boundless blessedness
Perfected in the presence of His holiness.
All life unfolds as a gift from the Lord on high:
A new day dawning.

We close as Joseph Habedank paints a vocal picture of “that day” with the classic gospel song: “What a Day That Will Be”

Reflections of meeting a civil rights activist with a powerful voice

July 1, 2020
Black Heritage Postage Stamp honoring the famed contralto

Yesterday, I commented in my blog post how touched I was by a video of celebrities singing a refrain from the Black spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” I was moved to tears when I also heard my young grandson singing refrains from the same song. This morning I continued to reflect upon that experience as I recalled hearing lyrics of spirituals flowing from soul Marian Anderson, a vocal artist of extraordinary talent who left a legacy as one of the admired and respected persons of the 20th Century. I have fondest recollections of meeting the famed contralto during my final year at Purdue University.

Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity that I was a part of at the time, had just acquired a fraternity house on campus. That accomplishment was certainly historic for the black frat but not altogether recognized and celebrated as such at the time. When I learned that Ms. Anderson was offering a recital at Purdue as part of her farewell concert tour before retiring from the concert stage, I wrote to her and asked if she would consent to on our having a reception in her honor at our house. She was staying at the Purdue Memorial Union where she had broken the color barrier with her being the first person of color to stay at the hotel facilities when she first sang on campus back in the 1950s. Our fraternity house was less than a block away, and she graciously accepted the invitation.

When I met the renowned contralto, I recall recognizing greatness in this woman of magnanimous spirit. In the presence of “greatness,” there is an aura of reverential respect; one desires to bow or genuflect or demonstrate some gesture of obeisance. I remember this almost automatic response to overwhelming greatness. Without question, meeting Marian Anderson was one of the highlights, not only of my college career but of my life.

Here is an excerpt from a blog post where I comment on my encounter with greatness and pay tribute to Ms. Anderson:

As I continue to reflect upon past events, I realized that we are presently in the period between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection Sunday. An event of profound significance occurred in 1939 during Holy Week when Marian Anderson was scheduled to perform at Constitution Hall, which was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but because she was African American, the DAR refused to allow her to use the facility. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, resigned from the DAR in protest, and she supported the NAACP as it organized an Easter Sunday concert on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, with more than 75,000 Americans attending that integrated outdoor event. Here is a news clip of that momentous event.

Most ironically, Marian Anderson passed away over Easter weekend in 1993, and I wrote this tribute which opens with part of a line from James Weldon Johnson’s famous poem “O Black and Unknown Bards”:

“My Lord, What A Morning”—

In memory of Marian Anderson
1902-1993


“You sang a race. . .”
James Weldon Johnson

On this weekend celebrating
the Resurrection of the Savior,
when dogwood and rebud debut,
as jonquils and tulips spring forth
to remind us of new life,
we read the news of her passing.

Though her voice is hushed,
silenced by death’s icy finger,
a grace note sustains,
as memories remain
to strengthen her legacy.

The world is far richer because she lived
to weave her tapestry
of talent, grace, and humility.

I am grateful to have lived in this century,
to have heard that rare, rich contralto,
a voice that comes but once in a hundred years.

In this moment of silent reflection,
refrains from her life resonate
with the awesome beauty of Springtime:

“My Lord, What a Morning.”

Though the perilous uncertainty of our times
would menace and threaten as storm clouds,
above it all, her voice still shines,
to remind us, even now:

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

Easter Sunday Morning
April 11, 1993


In 2005, Ms. Anderson was honored with a commemorative Black Heritage stamp featuring her portrait. Earlier that year I had read a passage from Exodus where the Children of Israel had to cross the River Jordan at flood stage. As I was reading some comments regarding our present age which has many parallels to crossing the Jordan, one of Ms. Anderson’s famous renditions of the spiritual “Deep River” came to mind: As I thought deeply about the lyrics and examined other situations, I was inspired to write this poem:

To Cross Over

Deep river, Lord,
I want to cross over into campground.


Black Spiritual


To cross over the swelling Jordan is my goal.
Here I stand at the beginning of my harvest
When waters of the river overflow and crest
Above my tableland to overwhelm my soul.
Streams converge upon me as far as I can see
And flood my camp from shore to shore. The rising tide
Would hold me back and keep me from the other side,
But I prepare my heart and mind for victory.
As you sent forth the sacred ark of the covenant
Borne on the strong shoulders of the priests, reliant
Upon your command that the waters would recede,
So, shall those who trust you, never fail but succeed.
Though trials seem to hinder me on every hand,
I shall walk through this Jordan and stand on dry land.

My reflections proved to be a source of strength and encouragement, as I remembered Romans 15:4 in the Amplified Bible:

For whatever was thus written in former days was written for our instruction, that by [our steadfast and patient] endurance and the encouragement [drawn] from the Scriptures we might hold fast to and cherish hope.

Listen to a rendering of “Deep River” by the inimitable Marian Anderson:

God has the whole world–even our times–in His hands

June 30, 2020

Recently one of my sons-in-law sent me a YouTube music video of a host of celebrities singing a simple refrain from the Black spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.’ My wife also sent me a clip of our three-and-a-half-year-old grandson “reading” from his picture book with the same title and singing some of the refrains. The entire experience moved me to tears as I recognized how simple the timeless words are, yet so profound. Once again, God reassures us that He is with us and that He has not forsaken us and that we never need to fear. I also thought of this blog entry which I have revised and re-posted:

As a youngster back in the day in the middle of the 20th Century, I recall elderly adults testifying that we were living in “the last and evil days.” As we continue to move rapidly into the first quarter of the 21st Century, some believers refer to 2 Timothy 3:1 and echo similar views of the times in which we presently live:

2 Timothy 3:1

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

This verse has also been translated this way in the Amplified Bible:

But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear].

Other versions of the Bible describe perilous times as “violent periods of time” or “times full of danger.”

The Passion Translation renders the verse:

But you need to be aware that in the final days the culture of society will become extremely fierce and difficult for the people of God.

Without question, the recent events surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic have catapulted the world into a state of anxiety and fearfulness, as the world has been engulfed in wars and rumors of wars, as ethnic conflicts flare up across the nation and around the globe. The world is still seeking “Peace in our times” and continues to cry out for “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.” In the midst of these turbulent times of seemingly endless turmoil and strife, those with spiritual eyes to see observe all that is transpiring as some of “the signs of the times.” Although the present times are stressful and difficult to deal with, we can find strength and comfort in the words of the Psalmist who personalizes his assurance that the Lord God is aware of the times in which David lives and that He will deliver his servant. Note this reference in Psalm 31:15 in the Amplified Bible:

My times are in Your hands;
Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from those who pursue and persecute me.

Verse 15 is also the inspiration for these original lyrics

My Times Are In Your Hand

There are times in life when I simply don’t understand,
When I cannot see the intricacy of your perfect plan,
When I’m tossed about and full of doubt,
When it seems I just can’t endure,
Your spirit comes beside me,
To comfort and to guide me,
To redirect and reassure,
To help me understand that my times are in your hand.

My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.
Your spirit comes beside me,
To comfort and to guide me,
To redirect and reassure,
To help me understand that my times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.

My times are in your hand.
I submit every vision, each purpose, and plan.
Though I may never fully understand,
I stand secure in knowing my times are in your hand.
It’s so comforting to know
My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.

We close as Jason Silver offers “Refuge,” a worship song based on Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

God: Our fortress, our deliverer

June 24, 2020


Revised and re-posted, one more time, the Verse of the Day for June 24, 2020, reminds us of who God is and what He will do:

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NKJV):

But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

The Wycliffe Bible puts it this way:

But the Lord is true, that shall confirm you, and shall keep [us] from evil.

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.

Note the introduction to Psalm 18 another psalm of deliverance:

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said:

Psalm 18:1-3 (NKJV):

1 I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

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 refer to 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 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 original poem “Just How God Will Deliver Us,” reinforces the message that God is faithful and that He will deliver us, just as He promised:

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 we express our gratitude in word and deed.
The Lord God is faithful to deliver every time
We call, so we walk by faith wherever Christ may lead,
For grand mountain vistas are waiting for all who climb.
The hand of God has brought us thus far along the way,
And we will finish our course is all we have to say.

Clint Brown provides a musical version of Psalm 18 which speaks of God as “my fortress and my deliverer.”