Archive for December, 2010

No Black-eyed Peas on New Year’s Day

December 31, 2010

Among the traditional foods served on New Year's Day is black-eyed peas.

In anticipation of New Year’s Day, as Columbus Christian Spirituality Examiner, I published an article regarding special food that is eaten on the first day of the New Year:

Earlier in the week, I had written a note to the director of a nutritional clinical trial that I am participating in at the OSU Medical Center. Participants are not supposed to eat any legumes during the clinical trial: That means no beans or peas. Among the list of specific legumes to avoid eating are black-eyed peas, which as the article notes, have been part of the African American tradition of New Year’s Day food that represents prosperity in the coming year.

In light of my participating in the Nutrition 40 Clinical Trial, I realized that I won’t be enjoying that tradition this year. The idea caused me to smile and inspired this poem:

 No Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day

 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     and be in health, even as your soul prospers.

                                     3 John 2

This New Year begins in a most unusual way:

2011 finds me in a clinical study.

A part of the soy bread trial is to be “legume-free.”

In the midst of a “two-week wash out” comes New Year’s Day.

 I must avoid food with beans or peas of any kind.

 No black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day: a contradiction.

From childhood I remember this soul food tradition

That now provides another chance to renew my mind.

Some insist that menus on the first day of the year

Include black eyed peas for prosperity, by all means,

And wealth symbolized in mustard, kale or collard greens.

These valued kitchen customs many folk still hold dear.

But beyond traditions and symbols of earthly wealth,

I know God desires that I prosper and be in health.

The verse from 3 John is also the introductory scripture to another poem related to the same theme of wealth and prosperity from a different perspective. 

A Question of Wealth

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper  in all things and  be in health, even as your soul  prospers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3 3 John 2


 How do you measure the fullest meaning of wealth?

 What is the total value?  How much is the price

Of a fruitful spirit, a sound mind and good health?

Can you calculate the sum and then square it twice?

To prosper and be in health, even as your soul

Prospers cannot be measured by any amount

Withdrawn from the world’s treasures, for even the whole

Earth could never contain so vast a bank account.

But those who set their affections on things above

And not on things on the earth are free to explore

The infinite riches of God’s favor and love,

For they alone know their true value even more.

The truly rich ask to receive and seek to find

The priceless wealth of strength in God and peace of mind. 

As 2011 unfolds, we recognize that true prosperity does not come from the food we eat on the first day of the New Year, but that the blessings of the Lord abound to those who hear and heed His Word.

In Memoriam: Tribute to Phyllis (Warren) Murdock

December 12, 2010
Phyllis Warren at Christmastime

A photo of Phyllis taken during the holiday season.

“Memories are the treasures that we keep locked deep within the storehouse of our souls, to keep our hearts warm when we are lonely.”  This quote from Becky Aligada expresses a profound truth that came to mind recently. I had been thinking about my late sister-in-law, Phyllis (Warren) Murdock, who had been a part of The Way Corps, a ministry leadership program of The Way International. While visiting the website for past Way Corps members, I was looking at the In Memoriam section dedicated to some of the former members who have fallen asleep in Christ, and I failed to see an entry for my dear friend and family member, Phyllis, who passed away in 1990. I decided to pay tribute to Phyllis, who was a member of the 10th Way Corps and to post it as a blog.

Phyllis Jean Warren was born January 20, 1951 in Kistler, West Virginia, and later her family moved to Hamilton, Ohio where she graduated from Garfield High School. She accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her savior at an early age and devoted her life to Christian service. Those who were privileged to know Phyllis will recall her passion for life and her zeal for God and His people. In fulfilling her call to serve, she ministered in Ohio, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Georgia, and elsewhere while affiliated with The Way International.

On June 17, 1984 she was joined in marriage to Staff Sergeant Duane Murdock, originally from Baltimore, Maryland. Shortly after their marriage, Phyllis and Duane lived in Bicester, England, where Duane was stationed in the Air Force, and they were a part of The Way of Great Britain. On September 22, 1990 Phyllis passed away following a brief illness, and she now awaits the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As a member of the 10th Way Corps, Phyllis also sang with Way Productions musical group “Limitless Love” and was featured on a number of songs, including “This Is Not the Time” and the ever-popular “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.” Thanks to Michael Kasiak, Phyllis’s 10th Corps brother, here are recordings of these songs rendered in her own inimitable style.

11_Keep On Moving On

10_I Dont Know About Tomorrow

Without question, there are times when words seem inadequate to express the depths of sorrow and sense of loss that come with the passing of someone who is close to us. Many times during such moments I think of the lyrics to a song by Babbie Mason, and they express my sentiments during those difficult times. May all those who have experienced the loss of a friend or family member, such as Phyllis, be strengthened and encouraged by the words of “Trust His Heart,” a song popularized by Babbie Mason, a contemporary Christian artist:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Phyllis radiated beauty from the inside out.


Phyllis and Duane 3

Phyllis and Duane Murdock

Phyllis and Duane with Lonnell 1

Phyllis and Duane celebrate with Lonnell

Phyllis and Duane on Bridge 2

“Only God can turn a mess into a message.”

December 1, 2010

The Verse of Day for June 14, 2014 is taken from Philippians 3:20 which in the King James Version ends with a colon, indicating that fullness of the subject is not complete without reading verse 21.

Philippians 3:20-21

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

This particular passage was the inspiration for this poem:

The Ultimate “Extreme Makeover”

For our citizenship is in heaven,

from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior,

The Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform

our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body,

according to the working by which

He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Philippians 3:20-21



We await with outstretched necks for that glorious day

When we shall see the sunrise in the eastern sky,

When we are gathered in the twinkling of an eye.

To behold our new bodies will take our breath away,

So transformed and fashioned in splendid array.

Those who love His appearing He will not deny,

As all creation yearns and utters their deepest cry.

No longer concealed but now proudly on display,

Every fleshly flaw the love of God shall cover.

We look upon his face and see ourselves reflected

In the rapturous gaze of our expectant lover.

The work of our ministry has been perfected.

In the fullness of His presence we discover

Sublime joy in the ultimate “Extreme Makeover.”


The concept of the “Ultimate Extreme Makeover” brought to mind a previous blog entry related to spiritual transformation entitled “Only God can turn a mess into a message” which is re-posted here:

Despite the most horrific mess we may find ourselves in, it is comforting to know that "only God can turn a mess into a message."

Despite the most horrific mess we may find ourselves in, it is comforting to know that “only God can turn a mess into a message.”

On Thanksgiving Day, as I was assisting my daughter to prepare a magnificent meal, a feast fit for a king, her television was on to an episode of “Clean House,” a show that I that I had not seen before.  “Clean House,” a home makeover and interior design television show on the Style Network, features host Niecy Nash and her cleanup-and-renovation crew who visit the homes of families to help them clean up their clutter. This particular episode focused on a number of contestants whose homes were selected as finalists in the search for the “Messiest Home in the Country.” As I watched the transformation of a home that was cluttered beyond belief, so that every room on every floor contributed to what was described as “an epic mess,” I noted a spiritual parallel. As is so often the case, my reflections on earthly matters result in a poetic expression, first in the natural then in the spirit.  In addition, earlier in the week I attended a funeral of a dear sister in Christ, whose departure from this life came suddenly without warning.  At the Homegoing service, my wife Brenda, read one of the most comforting passages from John 14:1-3 which added to the inspiration for the following poem that I completed on the day after Thanksgiving.

The poem opens with lyrics from “Lord, Keep Me Day by Day” a gospel song from the 1950s, popularized by Albertina Walker and the Caravans. Not too long ago, Albertina Walker passed at age 81 which makes the verse even more significant as the opening to the poem:

 Not Made by Man’s Hands

Lord, keep my day by day,
in a pure and perfect way.
I want to live, I want to live on
in a building not made by hand.

   Traditional gospel song 

I recall the poignant words of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Words of the Bridegroom to reassure his Beloved:

“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am

There you may be also, and if I go and prepare

A place for you, I will come again and receive you

Unto myself that where I am, you may be also.”

Though my dwelling place is furnished just to my tastes,

Will I need an office where I can compose my thoughts?

Is there a kitchen for me to prepare meals that bless?

Or will you make your servants sit down and enjoy

Sumptuous feasts prepared to satisfy the appetites

Of those who hunger and thirst for more than food or drink?

I know I will enjoy my custom-crafted mansion,

Exquisite design from God’s mind, not made by man’s hands.

Later on the day after Thanksgiving, I visited my sister who had a ceramic plaque with a saying that immediately caught my attention: “Only God can turn a mess into a message.” The statement seemed to reinforce the lesson learned by the television show “Clean House.” Once more I recognize that God is always speaking; certainly, God is never not speaking.  God, who is the ultimate in embodiment of creativity, knows just how to transform “a total mess” into a magnificent message. I recall the last sermon I heard preached by the late Dr. Sam Farina, who offered a most inspiring teaching that inspired this poem which begins with a most revealing first line:

Living in a Strange Land

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place

which he should after receive for an inheritance,

obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise,

as in a strange country,

dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob,

the heirs with him of the same promise:

Hebrews 11:8-9 


“The moment you start to walk by faith,         

you will come into a strange land.”

Dr. Sam Farina 


When your life seems to be one big mess.

You start in peace but end in distress:

All you ever wanted was just to bless.

Help me say, “Can I get a witness?”

Things may not turn out the way you planned

Because you’re living in a strange land.

Despite that you still must sing your song.

Keep walking in faith; it won’t be long.

Trust in the Lord, and you will grow strong.

Things may not turn out the way you planned.

Despite that you still must pray your prayers.

On Christ you must cast all of your cares.

God will separate wheat from the tares

Because you’re living in a strange land.

Despite that you still must shout your shout.

Walk in faith and don’t worry about doubt.

Ask Job who knows what it’s all about.

Things may not turn out the way you planned.

Look over your life; learn from the past:

Trials are for a moment and won’t last.

Grab hold of the Word and just hold fast

Because you’re living in a strange land.

There’s a great cloud of folk cheering you on.

Run with patience; you have the baton:

Finish your course, you’ve already won.

God sees and knows you’re a faithful son.

Things may not turn out the way you planned

Because you’re living in a strange land.

In looking back over my life, I sometimes recall lines from “Little by Little, Bit by Bit,” another poem that expresses a similar truth:

You started your journey with the Lord and just wanted to bless,

But seems like your life took a turn and is now one big mess.

Though things may not turn out the way you think they should,

Someday you’ll look back and see that all things worked together for your good.

Just remember that no matter what happens that the Lord is good.

A song that captures the essence of the transforming power of God to take what appears to be a disaster and fashion it into a vision of stunning loveliness is “Something Beautiful” written and performed by Bill and Gloria Gaither and the Gaither Vocal Band.

The last phrase of “Little by Little, Bit by Bit” reiterates that “the Lord is good” which also brings to mind, the last statement from the complete quotation by Robert Moorman:

“Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, and a victim into a victory. God is so good…all the time!”

In the midst of our messes, it is good to recall the goodness of God and His faithfulness to redeem, restore and to give life to every worst case scenario that we ever encounter.

"Only God can turn a mess into a message."