Crucified with Christ, yet I live

April 7, 2021

Revised and reposted, the Verse of the Day on Biblegate.com for April 7, 2021, comes from Galatians 2:20:

The New Living Translation renders the verse this way:

20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 1:21 in the Amplified Bible also makes known this truth:

21 For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity].

The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead resides in every born-again believer. For in Christ we live, we move, and have our being. We have the privilege of demonstrating that same power that raised him from the dead, as we apply the principles of the Word of God whereby we manifest all that God desires for us:

Ephesians 3:17-20

 17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—

19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.

Verse 19 uses a particular expression that inspired this response:

All the Fullness of God

To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God

Ephesians 3:19

In wisdom, God gives power to loose and to bind,

To enlighten souls and open eyes of the blind.

All the promises of God are “yes and amen.”

God’s Word is true today, just as it was back then

When Christ first spoke the truth to those with ears to hear.

We walk in the spirit of love and have no fear.

We have been empowered by the spirit of might.

To serve the Lord, to please Him is our soul’s delight.

Secure, knowing nothing can snatch us from His hand,

We shall know fulfillment of all that God has planned.

Filled with all the fullness of God, that we might see:

The riches of the glory of this mystery.

We walk by faith and not by sight, for we now know

God sealed us by a covenant, and it is so.

This message of the Verse of the Day is powerfully reinforced in this stirring rendition of the song based on this verse by Phillips, Craig, and Dean, “I am crucified with Christ”:

During Holy Week, taking it personally

March 31, 2021

The Verse of the Day on Biblegate.com for May 31, 2021 comes from Isaiah 53: 5-6 (New Living Translation):

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

Isaiah 53 provides a portrait of “the Suffering Servant” and is often referenced during Holy Week, the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. For Christian believers, this special period culminates with Resurrection Sunday, which commemorates his resurrection from the dead. There have been times that during that same period, Jews are preparing for Passover. The 8-day festival began this year at Sundown on Saturday, March 27 and ends on the evening of Sunday, April 4. Passover, also known as Pesach,  commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt, as families traditionally gather for a Seder dinner, where they retell the story of the escape from slavery, through the plagues, and to the parting of the Red Sea.

Jesus Christ appears as a type, a foreshadowing of events to come, throughout the Old Testament, where the Messiah represents the Passover Lamb and other aspects of the Seder, the traditional meal served as part of the observance of Passover. In the New Testament, we find this reference:

1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (NLT):

Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old breadof wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.

The verse from 1 Corinthians 5:7 also brings to mind a most memorable intersection of Passover and the events of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ on Earth. I recall a particularly meaningful Holy Week occurring more than twenty years ago. At that time as a congregation, our church participated in Holy Communion. Although I had observed and participated in the Lord’s Supper countless times since adolescence when I first learned the significance of what that observance really meant, on that particular occasion, I took communion and observed the elements of Christ’s sacrifice with new eyes. That experience brought to mind Isaiah 53 and 1 Corinthians 5:7, inspiring the following response in which we recognized and personalized the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf:

Taking It Personally

Isaiah 53

“For indeed Christ, our Passover,

 was sacrificed for us.”

Corinthians 5:7b          

Cursed with a curse, He was hung on a tree.

The suffering servant bartered for a price,

Battered and bruised for our iniquity.

Behold the Lamb, unblemished sacrifice,

Offered once, Jesus Christ, our Passover.

Afflicted, stricken, smitten that God should

Freely pour out His mercy, moreover,

Lay on Him the chastisement of our peace.

From His side flowed water and sinless blood,

A new covenant established that we might cease

From dead works by a new and living way.

God’s good pleasure no longer concealed

But memorialized this solemn day.

Man of sorrows, with His stripes we are healed.

By the blood of the Lamb, we are made whole,

Quickened, cleansed in spirit, body, and soul.

Listen to this recording of Isaiah 53: 3-7 set to music from Christian Worship & Scripture Songs (Esther Mui), words to consider deeply today.

Disappointment: a deadly emotion we cannot ignore

March 14, 2021

As the devastating effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic and other events continue to unfold, I recall a conversation I had some years ago with a fellow-believer where we commented on the word “disappointment” and how it can impact our lives. I posted a blog entry discussing the subject, and I am revising and re-posting it here:

Disappointment is a deadly emotion that we cannot ignore. If unchecked or not countered, it precipitates a most destructive downward spiral that can sabotage the destiny of a believer. We must continually look to God and to what He has promised in His Word when we encounter this potentially devastating emotion. As we do this, we recognize that God does not disappoint nor fail to fulfill the hopes or expectations of His children. No, He does not prevent hopes or expectations from being realized, which is how many define the verb to “disappoint.” One is said to feel “disappointed” or sad or displeased when one’s hopes or expectations have not been fulfilled. However, there is never any disappointment with God who does everything on purpose: As for God, His way is perfect.

As believers, we cannot hold onto any feelings of being disappointed! In reality, feelings of disappointment consist of our hopes and expectations. Disappointments come when God does not come through at the time that we “expect” nor in the way we “expect.” Disappointment is the result of “failed expectations” on our part.

The late Kim Clement spoke of the “power of presuppositions.” The term relates to assumptions or preconceived ideas as we speculate on a situation and how we think it should unfold. He went on to say that “Presupposition” is an enemy to destiny. . . .” We may sense that God has failed us when our lives fail to unfold according to our prescribed patterns and plans, as expressed in this poem inspired by the statement from Clement:

Presupposition: Enemy to Destiny

“Known to God from eternity are all His works.”

Acts 15:18

“Presupposition is an enemy to destiny. . . .”

Kim Clement

Prophetic words that God desires to bring to pass
Wither as un-ripened fruit that fails to mature,
As our lives seem to diminish from gold to brass
In the midst of changing times, of this we must be sure:
“Presupposition is an enemy to destiny.”
Our failed expectations shipwreck us and distort
Our view of the place where we thought that we would be,
As we accept what appears to be the last resort.
Though this downward spiral plummets to depths of despair,
We trust our all-wise Father who makes no mistakes,
For God heals broken lives that seem beyond repair
With exquisite beauty that fills all that He makes.
Known to God are all His works from eternity:
His perfect will unfolds to those with eyes to see.

When we think about it, however, there is no failure in God, for God is good, and because God is good, the Verse of the Day for March 13, 2021, a verse for every day of the year, reminds us of this truth:

Romans 8:28 (AMP):

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

We “silently submit to God”—not with wailing and bemoaning, not criticizing, not condemning nor complaining. We submit ourselves under the mighty hand of God and resist the Devil, who tries to convince us that God disappoints us and never fulfills His promises.

To counter the corrosive nature of being “disappointed” let’s take a look at the Word of God where we find that those who trust in God will not be disappointed.

Throughout the Psalms, we find this reality reinforced:

Psalm 22:5 (AMP)

They cried to you and were delivered; they trusted in, leaned on, and confidently relied on You, and were not ashamed or confounded or disappointed.

Psalm 25:20 (AMP):

O keep me, Lord, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed or disappointed, for my trust and my refuge are in You.

Paul reiterates the point those who trust in God will not be disappointed in their expectations:

Romans 10:11 (AMP):

The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him [who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him] will [ever] be put to shame or be disappointed.

When it comes to disappointment, we must counter this negative emotion with expectations according to the Word of God. We need to look to Our Great God with “Great Expectations” which is much more than a novel by Dickens.

First of all, we must remember this:

Numbers 23:19

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? KJV

Proverbs 23:18 (AMP) reminds us:

For surely there is a latter end [a future and a reward], and your hope and expectation shall not be cut off.

The Psalmist reminds us that our hope and expectations are in God, not in our circumstances, not in what we have or do not have:

Psalm 39:7 (AMP):

And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in You.

So no matter how bad the situation may appear to be, it will work together for the good. When facing what appears to be disappointing aspects in life, the lyrics to “Trust His Heart” sung by Babbie Mason provide great strength and comfort:

This time I will be still

March 3, 2021

As the days unfold in rapid succession since the presidential election and its aftermath, I thought of a recent blog post which I am reposting with a new music video that reinforces the message of that post:

A new day dawns after the horrific unfolding of events taking place in the Nation’s Capital and elsewhere across the globe last week. As we continue to pray, I recall a silver-framed plaque that was given to me with these words “God is in control” This quotation is a comforting reminder during these stressful, perilous times described as “difficult to deal with.” The quote also brings to mind Psalm 46: 10:

Let 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!

Here is the entire psalm from the Amplified Bible:

1GOD IS our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains be shaken into the midst of the seas,
3Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling and tumult. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
4There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early [at the dawn of the morning].
6The nations raged, the kingdoms tottered and were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (our Fortress and High Tower). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
8Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations and wonders in the earth.
9He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow into pieces and snaps the spear in two; He burns the chariots in the fire.
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 also 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 will reveal the people we thought we could be,
As words of the Psalmist comfort to remind you and me,
When this life is over, and all is said and done:
Be still and know that I am God.

As we pause and calmly think about that—as we “selah” this Psalm, we also give heed to these words—

Be Still

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still my soul and be at peace.
Rise above your circumstance and rest in me.

This morning during my time of meditation and prayer, I just “happened to see” a video by Brian Courtney Wilson whose lyrics ministered to me in a powerful way: “Still.”

Reflections on Black History: Seventy years ago

February 22, 2021
My class photo taken in the third grade 70 years ago reminds me of a desire to “make history” during the celebration of what was then Negro History Week. Times and the name have changed, but the desire still burns brightly.


As the celebration of Black History Month continues to unfold, I recall an event occurring 70 years ago to the date on February 22, 1951, when I was eight years old in the 3rd grade at Roosevelt School, an all-black school in Gary, Indiana where I was born. I have been reflecting while looking at my class picture and noticing the bulletin board in the back of the classroom decorated with these words: “Negro History Week.” Since that time, the celebration and recognition of the contribution of African Americans have been expanded to Black History Month.

The bulletin board in the picture reminded me that at that time I consciously determined that I would someday “make history” and do something significant as an African American. Back in the day, it was expressed this way: “I wanted to be a credit to the Negro Race.”

Over the past seven decades, I continue to strive to make that desire a reality. In 2019 during a book signing and presentation during Black History Month 2019, I shared from my newly published book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Transform Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. I also reflected upon the significance of Black History and related some of the events transpiring in my life since that class photo was taken.

I went on to graduate as Valedictorian of Froebel High School, class of 1960 and enrolled as a pharmacy student at Purdue University from 1960-1965, becoming the first African American to graduate from Purdue’s five-year pharmacy program. During my time as a pharmacy student, I was also introduced to Black poetry and would later discover my passion to teach and to write poetry.

Upon graduation from Purdue, I took the state board examination and passed to become a registered pharmacist in Indiana. My first full-time job was as a hospital pharmacist at Methodist Hospital in Gary, Indiana. I was enjoying the good life until I received “Greeting from Uncle Sam” and I was drafted into the US Army in 1967, in the midst of the Viet Nam conflict. That two-year stint I describe as my “Lemonade Experience” in that what I thought would have been the worst thing that could have ever happened turned out providentially to be far better than I could have ever imagined. While I was a pharmacy instructor at the Medical Field Service School in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, I discovered the joys of classroom teaching and writing poetry, passions that continue to burn.

During my stint in the military from 1967-1969, I also rode the crest of the Jesus Movement, a national revival impacting the lives of countless young people and others. I experienced a powerful conversion that introduced me to the transforming power of God through receiving the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible.

Twenty years later in 1981, I enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Indiana University, pursuing a doctorate in English with a minor of Afro-American Studies. I completed my dissertation in 1986 entitled “Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets.” Of those four early Black poets discussed, I first heard of three of them as a freshman at Purdue in 1961.

As I reflect upon my life, I acknowledge that I have been blessed to enjoy the overflow of God’s goodness and grace. Today, I am a Vietnam veteran and cancer survivor of more than 20 years. In addition, I am a former registered pharmacist, a published poet and a writer, a retired professor of African American Literature, who continues to teach because “I love the teacher’s task and find my richest prize in minds that open and in eyes that ask.”

Just as I made up my mind in elementary school that I would someday make a significant contribution as an African American and someday do something to “make history,” I am sure that others now living and those who come after me also have a similar burning aspiration to “make history.” So often we think of history as people and events of the past; however, we must remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “The reader of history must replace the words ‘there’ and ‘then’ with the words ‘here’ and ‘now.’”

I close my sharing with an original poem shared during the opening session of a New Testament History Class that I taught in 1976 at a Bible college in Kansas when I knew that I was destined to teach on the collegiate level. That class and countless other events confirmed my desire someday to make history.

The Living Gallery of the New Testament

In the living gallery of the New Testament is reserved a special space
An empty canvas awaits each feature of your face.
Each of us paints a self-portrait in the minutest detail.
To develop your life’s masterpiece, you can never fail
When you follow Christ’s example, the Master of the Word,
Beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord
Each day abounds with potential for matchless artistry.
Now is your golden moment—you are making “His Story.”

I close with this related song “History” by Maverick City Music



To come up smelling like a rose: what does it really mean?

February 10, 2021
To come up smelling like a rose: What does that commonly heard expression really mean from a spiritual perspective?

On February 10, 2021, instead of looking at the Verse of the Day, we are going to take a look at a common expression as the “Quote of the Day”:

“To come out/up smelling like a rose”

The Merriam Webster dictionary offers this definition:

“to have success or good fortune in a situation in which one was likely to fail, be harmed, etc.”

The Cambridge Dictionary has this to say about the expression:

“to have people believe that you are good and honest after a difficult situation that could have made you seem bad or dishonest”

I thought of all that Jesus Christ endured through his death, burial, and triumphant resurrection. Here is the account recorded in Colossians 2:12-15 (Amplified Bible):

12 having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him [to a new life] through [your] faith in the working of God, [as displayed] when He raised Christ from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (worldliness, manner of life), God made you alive together with Christ, having [freely] forgiven us all our sins,
14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross.
15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through the cross.

This passage inspired this poetic response:

Having. . .Having. . .Having. . .Having. . .Having. . .He made. . . 

Having forgiven all trespasses against us:
For every time we tried but failed and missed the mark,
When our flesh faltered, we received new strength within.
Christ, the Lord, washed and cleansed us from the stain of sin.
God made us to be lights that overcome the dark.
He set us free to sing on the wing, as a lark,
Having forgiven all trespasses against us.

Having wiped out the handwriting of ordinances:
The hand that records each failure to keep the Law
Graciously blots out each shortfall and each mistake
And releases us from the penalty, for Christ’s sake.
Through the eyes of love, He looked beyond what He saw
To decree that flesh should not be a fatal flaw,
Having wiped out the handwriting of ordinances.

Having taken it far from us, out of the way:
Guilt and shame removed and replaced with righteousness,
Transformed and fashioned with a new identity,
We stand in His presence, revealing the mystery.
Hurled and buried in the sea of forgetfulness,
The curse of sin has been replaced with blessedness,
Having taken it far from us, out of the way.

Having nailed it to the cross as a bold display,
Turning into triumph what seemed to be disgrace,
Symbolic sign displaying both shame and glory,
Dramatic unfolding of the greatest story.
To show his love for all, Christ took our place
To flaunt the victory right in the enemy’s face,
Having nailed it to the cross as a bold display.

Having disarmed principalities and powers,
Our triumphant warrior defeated every foe,
Crushing at once the head of the deadly serpent
To achieve our victory to the fullest extent.
To perform the greater works of Christ as we grow,
God enlightens and empowers that we might know,
Having disarmed principalities and powers.

He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
Coming attractions describe the Spectacular
Super-conquering show:
The captor has been made captive, a prisoner without parole
in his own prison,
The accuser of brethren, once idolized,
now the source of derision,
Stripped, crippled, toppled, and trampled
To be brought ever so low,
A foretaste of the day when every tongue shall confess
And every knee shall bow.
He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

Yes, indeed, we recognize and celebrate all that Jesus Christ went through when he endured the cross, despising the shame, and now he is seated in heavenly places at the right hand of the throne of God. As believers, we are also seated with him, having triumphed over sin, sickness, and even death itself.

The expression “smelling like a rose” also reminds us that gardeners recommend fertilizing roses in early spring to prepare for a bountiful, fragrant display of floral gardens that delight the eyes and please the noses of those who pass by. Ingredients in some of the fertilizers include manure, compost, and fish emulsions that may give off an unpleasant scent when applied, but as these elements are absorbed, the foul smell is replaced with a sweet-smelling fragrance. Indeed, we come up smelling like a rose in every situation that appears to be negative and designed to defeat us.

2 Corinthians 2:14 (New Living Translation) reminds us

But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.

Michael W. Smith’s powerful song of worship refers to a rose to illustrate that Jesus Christ rose triumphantly “Above it All”:

God is faithful; that’s for sure

February 5, 2021

The Verse of the Day for February 5, 2021, once again highlights who the everlasting God is and what He does, as so brilliantly displayed in Psalm 33:4-5 (NIV):

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

The passage states “He is faithful is in all He does.” Throughout the Scriptures we find references to the faithfulness of God Almighty:

Once again, David makes these powerful declarations:

Psalm 145:13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible):

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; Your rule is for all generations. The Lord is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His actions.

Beyond the beauty of the Psalms of David, words of the New Testament also make known God’s faithfulness. Throughout the Scriptures we find that “. . . God is faithful and means what He says.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 (AMP) makes know this truth:

God is faithful [He is reliable, trustworthy, and ever true to His promise—He can be depended on], and through Him, you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 (AMP) further attests to His faithfulness:

Faithful and absolutely trustworthy is He who is calling you [to Himself for your salvation], and He will do it [He will fulfill His call by making you holy, guarding you, watching over you, and protecting you as His own]. Faithful is He who calls you who will also do it.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (AMP):

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you [setting you on a firm foundation] and will protect and guard you from the evil one.

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) offers these words of encouragement:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Other scriptures also remind us that God is faithful, beginning with Philippians 1:6 in the Amplified Bible:

6 And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.

God completes the good work begun in us so that as believers we will be complete in every good work to do His will, as Hebrews 13:20-21 offers this benediction:

20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

This blessing and benediction also remind believers of God’s faithfulness:

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (AMP)

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

In Hebrews 6:10 (New Living Translation) we find another reminder that God is faithful and that He is not unjust:

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

As believers, we endeavor to serve God and minister to one another. Our efforts may not always be recognized nor appreciated. Those whom we serve in love may not always remember what we say and do, but we are assured that God never forgets. Not only is God, our Father, faithful and just, but He is also a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), as the following poetic comments illustrate:

A Reminder: God Is Faithful

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,
which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered
to the saints and do minister.
Hebrews 6:10

All the good deeds you have done may not be extolled
When the fervor of God’s love has long since grown cold.
Some so quickly forget all the good you have done,
And they fail to recall you were the only one
To answer the call, seek the Lord and intercede.
Time after time you were the one to meet the need.
When others were busy and chose to walk away,
You were there and remained in the thick of the fray.
In dark times when words of thanks are distant memories,
Recall our God knows all things, for He alone sees
Your labor and saves every tear you have shed.
Our Father is ever mindful of how you serve,
And He shall reward you beyond all you deserve.
As you strive to finish your course, have no regret:
Our God is faithful–He will never forget.

In reflecting upon God’s faithfulness as expressed in Philippians 1:6 and elsewhere, I thought of this song which has come to mean so much to me: “Great Work” offered by Brian Courtney Wilson:

Despite wintry predictions, Spring is still coming!

February 3, 2021

According to tradition, on Groundhog Day, February 2, if the furry critter sees his shadow and emerges from his burrow, we are in store for 6 more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t and retreats into his dwelling, the weather forecast is for milder weather in the interim. Since 1886 the celebration of Groundhog Day on a grand scale has been associated with western Pennsylvania, home of the legendary Punxsutawney Phil, the famed rodent. As it turned out, Punxsutawney Phil did behold his shadow this year, indicating a forecast of 6 more weeks of cold weather although other groundhogs around the world provided opposing predictions of a short winter.

This past weekend, a winter storm, Orlena, swept through the Midwest on her way to the East coast, leaving 4-6 inches of ice and snow in her aftermath. As I was glancing out my window, I was grateful to be safe and warm inside. I also thought of the familiar expression, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?’ I smiled as I thought, maybe it’s going to be an early spring this year, reminding myself. . . “Spring is coming.” These words caused me to remember my acting debut in the second grade in the basement of St. Timothy Community Church in Gary, Indiana when I played “Robin Redbreast with my red sweater and brown paper wings that I flapped vigorously as I ran across the stage proclaiming, “Spring is coming! Spring is coming! Spring is coming!”

A few years ago, my daughter, Melissa, sent me a card with the “Easter Legend of the Robin” on the cover:

A little grey robin, as he was flying to the Holy Land, saw Christ hanging on the cross. His heart filled with sadness. He noticed the crown of thorns the soldiers placed on the crucified Savior. The small bird, forgetting his timidity, flew down to remove a thorn from the brow of Christ. As he did so, a drop of Christ’s blood stained the little bird’s breast. The robin, through his act of love, earned the red badge of courage.

From this time forth, all robins have had redbreasts as reminders that one of them was kind to the Lord. Thus, the robin is truly the harbinger of spring. He welcomes Easter with his cheerful note of hope, reminding us that from death comes life.

In reflecting upon my acting debut, I composed a new song that I sing when I see robins returning in winter:

Red Robin, Red Robin—Harbinger of Spring,
Rear back with your redbreast
And sing, sing, sing.

Here is an original poem that offers a comforting reminder that although we may be in the midst of harsh winter weather that also symbolizes a dead time, a horrific season where hundreds of thousands of people have died due to the Coronavirus and other factors, we are waiting, anticipating. . .

Until Spring

So, when this corruptible has put on incorruption,
and this mortal has put on immortality,
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written,
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death,
where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?

I Corinthians 15:54-55

Death, the enemy, no one can deny,
Snuffs out our candles in devious ways,
For each man must learn to number his days,
Although the soul still probes to fathom why.
The mind made numb with pain can only try
To make sense of the immense ache that stays.
The answer sounds since Adam but still dismays:
It is appointed unto man once to die.
Though grief surrounds us, comfort can be shown.
The sun melts frost with new life as surely
As blossoms will flourish from seeds once sown.
Until Spring, on tiptoe, we yearn to see
The day when we shall know as we are known,
When death is swallowed up in victory.

To round out this discussion is a magnificent rendering of Steven Curtis Chapman’s exquisite musical composition, a reminder that, indeed, “Spring is coming.”

Not my cooling board. . .not my winding-sheet:

January 23, 2021

Today, as I stepped out of the shower, and thanked God once again that I could take a shower on my own and that no one had to bathe me. As I was rejoicing and expressing my gratitude, I had a flashback of an experience occurring while growing up in a small Black church in mid-town Gary, Indiana in the 1950s. On countless Sunday mornings, the congregation gathered between the end of Sunday School and the actual opening of the morning service, and I recall that a dark-skinned deacon, whose name I can’t remember, would rise to lead the church in prayer. Beginning with familiar expressions of gratitude to God, the elder church official began with a prelude, slowly mounting in intensity before ending with a grand crescendo to lead the people of God to the Throne of God.

After a time, a couple of my buddies and I memorized the opening lines, snickering to ourselves as we bowed our heads repeating the familiar refrain that went something like this:

“Lord, thank you that the four walls of my room was not my grave, that my bed was not my cooling board, and my cover was not my winding-sheet.” I knew from context what the deacon meant, but I later learned that in African American culture a cooling board is a board used to present a dead body. According to definitions.net, “In winter months it would be difficult to bury the dead due to the earth being frozen, so the body was wrapped and propped in a barn until the ground thawed out.”

I learned the meaning of the term “winding-sheet” in graduate school while working on my doctorate with a minor in Afro-American Studies. I was introduced to a powerful short story, “Like a Winding Sheet,” by Ann Petry, a Harlem Renaissance author with whom I had something in common. We were both Black writers who were pharmacists. Because of my exposure to African American literature, I learned the meaning of this term used in the deacon’s prayer.

In my daily time of prayer, I give thanks to God for another day that I am alive and well and “clothed in my right mind,” another phrase from the deacon’s prayer. Having been diagnosed with prostate cancer more than twenty years ago, I have come to understand on the deepest personal level exactly what the good deacon was saying in his prayer that was repeated on Sunday mornings across the land back in the day. In reflecting on my childhood experience, I was moved to tears and inspired to write this psalm of praise to God:

Lord, thank you for my soul.

That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Psalm 30:12 (AMP)

Lord, thank you for my soul. My God, you are so kind.
I woke up this morning sleeping in my own bed,         
Another day you clothed me in my right mind,       
Not wrapped in a winding-sheet but in your love instead.

If it had not been for you, I could have been dead,
Laid out on a cooling board, but one more time you remind
Me you are God of the living just as Jesus said.
Lord, thank you for my soul. My God, you are so kind.

Lord, you healed my body and gave me a sound mind.
You are my healer, and I believe what you said.
What you loose in heaven, no power on earth can bind.
I woke up this morning sleeping in my own bed.

You showed when you raised Jesus out from among the dead
The spirit of the living God cannot be confined.
Lord, I trust you—you alone know what lies ahead:
Another day you clothed me in my right mind,

Before you touched my soul, I was deaf, dumb, and blind.
After all I’ve been through, Lord knows I should have been dead,
But one more day you kept me clothed in my right mind,
Not wrapped in a winding-sheet but in your love instead.

From the soles of my feet to the crown of my head,
My total healing from the Lord is what is I find.
Yes, I can still pray, thank you for the presence of mind.
Lord, thank you for my soul.

I discovered this recording by Donny Hathaway, “Thank You, Master, for My Soul” where he mentions the familiar phrases I discussed and makes sidebar comments, “Y’all don’t know what I’m talking about.” I chuckled and fought back the tears, saying “Oh, yes I do!” Listen and reflect with gratitude with me.

What do you know? Three responses

January 16, 2021

Recently I thought of the expression “What do you know?” as I began my day in a reflective way. That phrase was also the title of a quiz show heard on BBC radio in the 1950s and 1960s. Generally used as a rhetorical question,  the expression also brings to mind a previous blog post entitled “These three things I Know,” revised and re-posted here:

  1. Some things I know
  2. Some things I don’t know
  3. Some things only God knows

Some things I know. . .

One thing I know for sure is that that God loves me.  I know that I love God and that’s really all that matters.  Not only do I know that God loves me and that I love God, but these lyrics express what I really know:

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

No matter how many times I go astray

And leave your side and choose to disobey. 

When I’m overwhelmed and can’t even pray,

No matter what I do or do not say.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

No one else knows my heart: You are the one

To call me home when I have no place to run.

When I look all around at all that I’ve done,

Despite all my failures, You still call me Son.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

Romans 8:28 is my favorite verse in the Bible, and it offers this reminder that because God is good, “We know that  all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” So no matter how bad any situation may appear to be,  I know that it will work together for the good.

Some things I don’t know. . .

I recall the lyrics to one of my all-time favorite Gospel songs “I Don’t Know about Tomorrow.” This song was especially meaningful because it was a song that my late sister-in-law, Phyllis Warren Murdock sang. Listen to this recording of the song that she sang so beautifully.

Without question, I don’t know the answers to many of life’s enigmas that seem to defy the mind of man. Quite honestly, I don’t know the answers to the questions that God asked Job. Some things are not mine to know. . . if God doesn’t tell me in the Word or by revelation, then I just don’t know

Romans 11:33-34 reminds us of this truth:

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

I recall the lyrics to the hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” which states a series of things 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 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.”

The last verse brings to mind something that neither I 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.”

Some things only God knows . . .

When asked about his return to the earth, Jesus Christ responded in Matthew 24:36:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Although we are assured that the Lord Jesus Christ will return, no one is privy of the exact day and hour, but “of the times and seasons we have no need,”  as I Thessalonians 5:1-3 remind us that the Lord’s return will happen suddenly, at the precise time that no one knows, only God.

When confronted with staggering vision of the dry bones, the prophet Ezekiel is asked a question in Ezekiel 37:3:

“Son of Man, can these bones live?” He responds, “O Lord God, You know!” As the New Living Testament puts it, “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

In thinking about things that only God knows, I recall this original poem written to express that very idea:

“Lord, You Know!”

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities:

For we know not what we should pray for

 as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes

intercession for us with groanings

which cannot be uttered.

Romans 8:16

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

When the right words won’t come, and we can’t even pray.    

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

We set our sights above but our thoughts fall below.

Though we walk by faith, we stumble along the way.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

We triumph in Christ and rise to defeat each foe.

Even though we wage spiritual warfare night and day,

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

God puts us in a place for us to prove what we know;

He tests us to see whether we rebel or obey.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

God leads the way and only asks that we follow.

We start in strength but often seem to go astray.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

We long to serve the Lord, the one who loves us so,

But doubts and fears arise and somehow still dismay.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

Despite what we may think that we know and what we may think that we don’t know, we are comforted and assured with the words of I John 3:20:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

We conclude our discussion with the classic hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed” which actually responds to what I know as well as what I do not know: