Archive for January, 2011

Facing and overcoming disappointment in 2011–Part 2

January 22, 2011

In searching for a definition of disappointment, I “happened upon” a most insightful discussion of the term in a motivational article in Nazareth on line by Dr. Francis, a pastor who states, “Disappointment is often defined as a feeling of dissatisfaction that results when your expectations are not realized; it’s a deep emotion felt when a strongly held expectation is not met or proved to be wrong.”

Disappointment occurs when our expectations are not met as we thought they would be.

Disappointment is one of three toxic emotions, a potentially deadly triumvirate of Disappointment–Discouragement—Despair. These three dangerous emotions, if unchecked or not countered, can precipitate a most destructive downward spiral that can sabotage the destiny of a believer. Once again, we must neutralize disappointment with expectations according to the Word of God. We 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 reminds us:

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

Jeremiah 29:11 also informs us of God’s concern for our future or “final outcome”:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. [NKJV]             

The Amplified Bible expresses this truth this way:

 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. [AMP]

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

Psalm 39:7

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

Psalm 62:5

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. [AMP]

Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. also reminds us of the proper attitude we should have toward disappointment which I characterize as the first of the “Deadly Ds”:

The statement by Dr. King expresses a profound truth regarding the difference between disappointment and hope.

As believers, 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. We draw close to God and He draws close to us (James 4:7-8) 

So often we are plagued by disappointment when we pray, and God does not answer our prayers in the way that we think that He should. I once heard an account of a woman who prayed and was blessed in a most unusual and unexpected way. A statement was made at the end of her story regarding three possible responses to our prayer requests, which inspired this poem which includes the quotation: Sometimes we pray and find that the answer is “yes.” Other times we find that the answer is “not yet.” Or God may say, “I have something better in mind.”

So often we are plagued by disappointment when we pray, and God does not answer our prayers in the way that we think that He should. I once heard an account of a woman who prayed and was blessed in a most unusual and unexpected way. A statement was made at the end of her story regarding three possible responses to our prayer requests, which inspired this poem which includes the quotation: Sometimes we pray and find that the answer is “yes.” Other times we find that the answer is “not yet.”Or God may say, “I have something better in mind.”
                           We Pray—God Answers

 Wherefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray,

  believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

 Mark 11:24 

 

                                                                                        

 We pray, asking to receive and seeking to find.

 If we knock, the door shall be opened all our days,

 For God answers prayer in one of three sovereign ways:

 Sometimes we pray and find that the answer is “yes.”

 In Christ each promise is “yes” and “amen”,

 For God is not a man that He should lie.

 He has already spoken—What shall we say then

 But give thanks, for when we call Him, He hears each cry.

 Other times we find that the answer is “not yet.”

  We need more patience so that after we have done

  All the will of God, as sons we might be instilled

  With confident assurance given to each one,

  Set as an empty vessel, yet to be fulfilled.

  Or God may say, “I have something better in mind.”

  Before we abandon hope, feeling left behind,

  Though it may seem we cannot pass another test,

  But if we stop and think a moment, we will find

 God, our all-wise Father, really knows what is best.   

In part of a stanza from “Stone upon Stone: A Psalm of Remembrance” I describe a place where “disappointments and stillborn dreams lie at my feet,/wet with red, splattered with blood of miscarried sons.” I recognize that past disappointments and failures are many times difficult and seemingly impossible to get over.

But then I happened to think of a statement made by Dr. Dale Sides, who led a workshop in Columbus, and offered this candid advice for those who had been wounded by traumatic circumstances and devastating disappointments of the past:“Get a life; get a verse,  and get over it!” 

As I continued to work on this blog,reflecting on his remarks, I smiled and modified Dr. Side’s comment to say “Get a life; get a ‘life verse’ and get on with it!” For me, my “life verse” has been Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

As I face the rising sun of a new day begun, I must move forward and forget the past, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are ahead, I must press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

I must place all my past disappointments and failures on the altar. During such times often I think of a song from my childhood days and way beyond which asks, “Is Your All on the Altar?” Here is a very moving rendition by Yolanda Adams:

        

Edith Lillian Young has found a simple way of countering disappointment simply by making a small change which can result in a big change in our attitude toward this particular “Deadly D.”

Disappointment

“Disappointment – His appointment,”
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.
His appointment must be a blessing,
Though it may come in disguise,
For the end from the beginning
Open to His wisdom lies.

“Disappointment – His appointment,”
Whose? The Lord, who loves me best,
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test;
For, like a loving earthly parent,
He rejoices when He knows
That His child accepts, unquestioned,
All that from His wisdom flows.

“Disappointment – His appointment,”
“No good thing will He withhold,”
From denials oft we gather
Treasures of His love untold,
Well He knows each broken purpose
Leads to fuller, deeper trust,
And the end of all His dealings
Proves our God is wise and just.

“Disappointment – His appointment,”
Lord, I take it, then, as such.
Like the clay in hands of potter,
Yielding wholly to Thy touch.
All my life’s plan is Thy moulding,
Not one single choice be mine;
Let me answer, unrepining –
“Father, not my will, but Thine.”

If we truly believe that the Lord, our God, is good and that His mercy endures forever, and if we know that He always keeps His promise, and that as a good Father, He knows what is best for us, then we will release any disappointments we may have experienced and hold fast to His goodness and mercy which follow us all the days of our lives. Eliza Tabor offers this perspective of some of the positive effects that this seemingly negative emotion can have. “Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”

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Facing and overcoming disappointment in 2011–Part 1

January 20, 2011

Disappointments are a part of life, but we cannot allow them to corrode the hope that lies within.

In a prophetic word to the Body of Christ for 2011, Sandie Freed made the following statement that caught my attention:

“It is time for your wineskin to agree with God’s Word concerning your future. As you “let go of the old,” allow the disappointments of the past to totally die. You cannot carry old disappointments into your future and walk in victory. Every disappointment you carry into your new season will sabotage your new beginning. Take a moment and confess to the Lord your past disappointments and then receive His love and power to move ahead. You will be renewed and refreshed as you also agree with His Word concerning your future.”

Disappointment is a most destructive toxic emotion. If left unchecked, it can have deadly consequences, as an acid that slowly corrodes metal. I recall that to neutralize a strong acid, you must add a strong base or alkaline substance. Disappointment, with its destructive acidic elements, can have a decidedly negative impact upon our lives if we do not neutralize it with the base of the Word of Life. Although we have all experienced disappointments, of varying degrees, we must recognize that disappointments occurred when situations have not turned out the way we thought they would. In actuality our disappointments – every one of them – stem from the “add-ons” we attach, those conditions that God never promised but that we add to God’s promises. In every situation whereby we might feel disappointed, we need to focus on the Word of God and be grateful for the promises that we have rather than dwelling on what we do not have, which ultimately leads to being disappointed:

2 Peter 1:4 reminds of the vast reservoir of God’s pledges:

By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. [NKJV]

2 Corinthians 1:20

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. [NKJV]

We must continually look to God and to those exceedingly great and precious promises in His Word. As we do this we recognize that God does not disappoint nor fail to fulfill His promises. No, He does not prevent hopes or expectations from being realized, which is how we define the verb to “disappoint.” One is said to be “disappointed” or sad or displeased because one’s hopes or expectations have not been fulfilled.

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” Him to nor in the way we “expect” Him to. Disappointment is the result of “failed expectations” on our part. Kim Clement speaks of the “power of presuppositions.”  He goes on to say that “Presupposition is an enemy to destiny. . . .” We may sense that God has failed when our lives fail to unfold according to our prescribed patterns and plans, as expressed in this poem inspired by the statement from Kim 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.

We must remember that there is no failure in God, for God is good. The very essence of God is goodness. Indeed, Jesus Christ said, “There is none good but the Father.” And there is no comparative or superlative with God. There are no “better” days with God. God does not have the “best” day He’s had in a long time in comparison to others. With God everyday is a “Good News Day” because “God is good.” Period! Because God is good, “. . . all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 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” written by Babbie Mason provide great strength and comfort:

                       

To counter the corrosive nature of being “disappointed” let’s take a look at our base, 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

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. [AMP] 

The Psalmist also reminds us that God will not let those who trust Him to be disappointed

Psalm 25:2-3

O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You. Let me not be put to shame or[my hope in You] be disappointed; let not my enemies triumph over me. [AMP] 

 Psalm 31:1

In You, O Lord, do I put my trust and seek refuge; let me never be put to shame or [have my hope in You] disappointed; deliver me in Your righteousness! AMP

Paul reiterates the point that those who trust in God will not be disappointed in their expectations in his reference to Isaiah 28:16 in Romans 9:33:

As it is written, Behold I am laying in Zion a Stone that will make men stumble, a Rock that will make them fall; but he who believes in Him [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] shall not be put to shame nor be disappointed in his expectations. AMP

Romans 10:11

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. [AMP]

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the quintessential illustration of “failed expectations” transformed by God into a glorious outcome that was exceedingly abundantly above anything that anyone could have ever imagined. Once again, we attempt to grasp this reality in Romans 11:33:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!

In such a demonstration of power, not to mention love of the highest degree, we can find no disappointment whatsoever.

“My Dwelling Transformed”: He who dwells. . .

January 18, 2011

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

After reviewing my notes from last Sunday’s message at church entitled “God is Looking for a Dwelling Place,” I was inspired to write to following poem:

                  My Dwelling Transformed

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

                            Psalm 91:1

 

Despite perilous times embroiled in confusion and strife,

I continue to learn that everything has its own price,

As I pursue the ultimate goal, I offer my life:

A first-born son, presented as a living sacrifice.

With clean hands and a pure heart, I prepare a dwelling place.

To attract You, I must provide a pleasing ambiance:

As your songs of love flow from the depths of my inner space,

A habitation designed and arrayed for your entrance.

To walk by the spirit of life I am driven to pursue.

I dance to my own music, softly playing in my mind,

And strive to understand that You alone make all things new.

As the eyes of the Lord scan this green planet, may they find

My dwelling transformed into a place of simple beauty,

As I offer all that I am and ever hope to be.

Don Moen leads this praise and worship rendition of “I Surrender All” to remind me of such a commitment to God.

Many fellow believer are earnestly seeking to situate themselves to be in position for the next “move of God,” yearning for a fresh visitation from the Lord. While to bask in His glorious presence would bring with it unspeakable joy, the innermost yearning of my heart is to experience an unprecedented visitation that goes on without interruption, a move of God extending indefinitely.  Francis Frangipane reiterates this point, “Let us also keep in mind that the goal of a visitation from God is that we become the habitation of God.”  Today in traveling about town, I noticed a billboard on a neighborhood church with this message: “2011: Make this a year of transformation.” The poem “My Dwelling Transformed” expresses my desire to see times of visitation transformed into times of habitation.

Imagine this scenario—You have a good friend who sometimes comes by to visit. You would like to have that individual come by more often, so you prepare a place for them to stay when they’re in town. In a similar way, the Shunamite woman and her husband prepared a special abode for Elijah, who visited them periodically. You know what your close acquaintance likes and doesn’t like, so you have what he/she likes, place is custom-designed and appointed to suit your visitor.

It is no different with God. We endeavor to provide the perfect atmosphere, the ideal conditions that will welcome Him so that He shows up often and stays long. In fact, our ultimate desire is to turn a visitation into a habitation, but how is this accomplished?

When God makes visiting a habit, then visitation becomes habitation. God visits so often and enjoys Himself so much that His visits become more and more frequent, and He stays longer and longer until His visits are a habit, and He decides to abide. Our heart’s deepest yearning for intimacy is expressed in this poem:

         Times of Visitation

As you once visited Abraham, our father,

and sent angelic hosts to reinforce your pledge,

in these times of barrenness and seeming defeat,

where are the times of visitation set for us?

We offer our heart, a place prepared for you to meet.

As you sojourn, may you find in our lives a place

so prepared for you to come with friendly intent

that on each occasion where you show up

that your ultimate purpose is most apparent.

As you clearly reveal your promise to fulfill

your will, receive our obedience as sacrifice,

and favor shall be our portion as faithful sons.

May you find us yielded vessels, clean and fitted

for the glory of your presence that you might pour

blessings without measure to overflow and flood

our soul, as we commune with you in perfect peace.

May we never squander times of visitation

but shut the door in face of the enemy,

as we open wide the portals of our spirit

and transform our heart into your habitation.

As I concluded these comments, the lyrics from a cherished hymn from childhood days and beyond came to mind:

Abide With Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Abide, O Lord, abide with me.

I discovered this moving rendition of the familiar hymn by the Antrim Mennonite Choir with beautiful accompanying photos.

To abide means to remain, to stay, to take up residence, to dwell

Thanatopsis: A New View of Death

January 13, 2011

The title of a well-known poem by William Cullen Bryant, "Thanatopsis" literally means a "meditation on death", a subject I have given considerable thought to over the years.

“Thanatopsis,” the title of a poem by William Cullen Bryant, literally means ”a meditation upon death.” While I am not morbidly preoccupied with death, I have considered deeply the possibility that I too may experience this polar opposite of life, should the Lord tarry. Certainly I have thought about death on countless occasions since my diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2000. For the past eight weeks, I have been participating in a nutritional clinical trial related to prostate cancer at the OSU Medical Center, where I provide periodic blood and urine samples. Prior to Christmas, I went to have a blood sample drawn on the same day that I attended funeral services for a church member who passed away with pancreatic cancer within a short time after her diagnosis.  As I participated in the clinical study, I recognized with gratitude the timeless truth, “But for the grace of God, go I.” Each time I attend a funeral, whether as a clergy member participating in the service or simply as someone attending, I thank God that the homegoing service is not my own.

Now that I think about  it, my thoughts turned toward death at a time long before my cancer diagnosis. Oddly enough I recall one of the presentations I offered in an oral interpretation course taken as an undergraduate was a collection of poetry and prose centered on death. Poetic works included John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud,” Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Dirge without Music” along with “Go Down, Death” by James Weldon Johnson while the prose pieces that I recall were a passage from I Corinthians 15 and an excerpt from Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat.” I don’t recall the circumstances behind my selecting death as the theme for the works that I recited, but I simply remember that I was impressed by the works which lent themselves well to oral recitation. That particular class made me more aware of power of the spoken word to move an audience when the word spoken is recited in an artful dramatic manner.  The skills that I learned in reciting literary works by other authors, I developed to an even greater degree when I began to write and recite original works. 

A number of my poems touch upon the subject of death, as I make known my views in the last stanza of “Songs Since” a work discussing the influence of music in my life:

 

  All is a song, a noted writer said,

And I too sing my song and hold no strife.

Instead of a just a dirge drummed for the dead,

I sing a mighty melody of life.

 

I note a parallel between Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Dirge without Music” and this poem:

Song of Triumph

And having disarmed principalities and powers,

He made a public spectacle of them openly,

triumphing over them in it.

Colossians 2:15

Death, I will not succumb to your dull drum,

Nor march in cadence to your muffled dirge.

Though toward a common end all flesh must merge,

Your lifelong lament I refuse to hum.

 

Though I endeavor to compute the sum

Of all my days that toward this end converge,

Death, I will not succumb to your dull drum,

Nor march in cadence to your muffled dirge.

 

My pace in double time defies the plumb

Line dropped before life’s final tide shall surge.

I have hope even death can never purge.

Though my heart may be pierced, my brain go numb,

Death, I will not succumb to your dull drum,

Nor march in cadence to your muffled dirge.

Watch, Fight & Pray: My Personal Three-fold Strategy to Combat Prostate Cancer

A few years ago as I was walking to the mailbox, I noticed a dead mouse on the sidewalk leading up to our condo. It had probably been deposited by a cat that may have tired of playing “cat and mouse.” When I saw the mouse, I went to the garage to find a broom and small plastic bag, into which I scooped the dead animal before tying the ends of the bag. In the trash receptacle in the garage was a large trash bag from the kitchen, holding the deposits from earlier in the week. As I completed the task, I thought of the passage from I Corinthians 15:54-55, which is often read at memorial services:

 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?” 

The situation with my disposing of the dead mouse was a graphic illustration of the phrase “swallowed up in victory.” At the memorial service for another church member, I had used the illustration of using the all the water in the Pacific Ocean to wash down a nitroglycerin tablet which is remarkably small, a fraction of an inch in diameter and height.

Another illustration came to mind as I thought of the small rodent about 4 inches long inside the small plastic bag that had been stuffed inside the 13-gallon trash bag that would be tossed into a dumpster that would compress hundreds of similar-sized trash bags, all of which would be taken to a massive landfill encompassing several acres. I could see that in the same way the dead mouse would be swallowed up when it eventually found its way to the landfill, even so to an even great degree, “Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory,” according to the Amplified Bible. I rejoiced as I saw how God illustrated in such a striking manner just how inconsequential death, the last enemy, has become because of Jesus Christ’s triumphant defeat of him “who has the power over death, that is the devil.”

I Corinthians 15:57 offers this assuring reminder:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The disease cancer takes its name from the constellation "Cancer" symbolized by the crab, hence the name "Old Man Crab" refers to cancer.

Of course, the blues poem “Final Victory” that introduces Watch, Fight & Pray, captures the essence of our perspective on death and the ultimate triumph over the last enemy when we shall experience the reality of the “Final Victory”: 

 Final Victory

I Corinthians 15:53-57 & Romans 8:37-39

Old man crab is mighty sneaky,

            always creepin and up to no good,

Old man crab, is mighty sneaky,

            always creepin and up to no good,

That low-down dirty rascal,

            Messin with folk all round the neighborhood.

One dark day old man crab came callin,

            Crawlin in like some uninvited mouse,

One dark day old man crab came callin,

            Crawlin in like some uninvited mouse,

That nasty dirty devil,

            Sneakin in the back door of my sister’s house.

First you first attacked my mama, old man crab,

            You tried to pinch her with your greatest fears,

First you first attacked my mama, old man crab,

            You tried to pinch her with your greatest fears,

But she didn’t want no she-crab soup,

            You tried to served with pain and bitter tears.

You may have come to our house, old man crab,

            But I’m sorry, you can’t stay.

You may have come to our house, old man crab,

            But I’m sorry, you can’t stay.

Whatsonever in the world you may do,

            Everyday we still gonna watch, fight, and pray.

Nothin’ low down on earth, old man crab,

            Or nothin high up in heaven above,

Nothin’ low down on earth, old man crab,

            Or nothin high up in heaven above,

Not even death, your creepin pardner,

            Can ever separate us from God’s love.

So git out my face, old man crab,

            I got your number, don’t you see.

So git out my face, old man crab,

            I got your number, don’t you see.

You may win this li’l biddy battle,

            But we show-nuff got the final victory.

Some say our Savior’s comin in the mornin;

            Some say in the midnight hour or high noon

Some say our Savior’s comin in the mornin;

            Some say in the midnight hour or high noon

I got a feelin He’s comin back

            To gather us together soon . . . and very soon.

The olive wreath is a symbol of victory, a crown given to those who "run their best race and win it."

Many times as I “walked through the valley of the shadow of death,” I recalled Psalm 118:17 from the Amplified Bible:

I shall not die but live, and shall declare the works and recount the illustrious acts of the Lord.

 Often I think of a spiritual that succinctly summarizes my thoughts regarding death at this time in my life: “Ain’t Got Time to Die.”

 Ain\’t Got Time to Die by Romanian \”Accoustic Choir\”, conducted by Daniel Jinga

Love suffers long: learning from an unlikely source

January 12, 2011
Love endures for all time and never fails.

Since making the commitment to participate in the postaday2011 initiative, I have been endeavoring to post a blog each day. Sometimes I awake with a topic or issue of interest, and the flow comes forth almost effortlessly.  At other times I seem hard pressed to come up with a topic that I can really get into. Occasionally I will “stumble upon” an idea while looking for something totally unrelated. Such was the case, yesterday with “Wait on God City of My Soul.” Today I read an email from a friend and fellow believer, Tom Swift,  who sends out weekly devotionals from  Truth in Love Ministries, and I was immediately drawn into his discussion of love in light of the mythological figure  Sisyphus, whom Countee Cullen, famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance, described as doomed “to struggle up a never ending stair.”  Tom used what is generally perceived as a grossly negative character to show the positive attribute of charity/love as “long-suffering.” Click here to read the devotional in its entirety.

As I read the sharing by Brother Tom, I recalled the quotation that my wife, Brenda, placed on our wedding invitation when we sent them out going on 38 years ago: “Sharing is caring/A love of endless giving.”

In addition, I recently composed a poem for one of the students in a writing class that I teach, a young woman from Ghana named “Everlove.”  Recently she has endured a number of personal tragedies, and as I was thinking about her and praying for her, I was inspired to compose poem to encourage her. I had never met anyone with the name “Everlove” which has deep significance in light of the essence of the message regarding love which endures all things and never fails.

Everlove Is Your Name 

For Everlove Agyeiwae

Love ever gives,
Forgives,
outlives,
And ever stands
With open hands.

And while it lives,
It gives.

For this is love’s prerogative:
To give, and give, and give.

John Oxenham

 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful,

and endures through every circumstance.

1 Corinthians 13:   [New Living Translation]

                                                                    

Everlove is your name, given to remind you             

To let love prevail in all that you say and do.                 

That God’s love endures forever, never forget.                      

In trying times accept God’s love–have no regret.   

 

Men may disappoint, but God’s love is ever true                   

To all who follow the path of love and pursue.       

In the midst of storms, never worry–do not fret.         

Everlove is your name.                                   

 

Look to the God of love, one who makes all things new.       

He restores and refreshes, as the morning dew.                                                           

Although Satan’s fiery darts seem to pose a threat,    

Trust God–He will not fail but will be with you yet.        

These words from God’s heart are given to remind you:          

Everlove is your name.         

I wrote the poem as a reminder to someone whose name has profound significance, but it is likewise a reminder to me that love has sustaining power that endures for all time.  May you also recall that love never fails, as so beautifully expressed in this recording by pianist Jim Brickman and vocalist Amy Sky.

For further discussion of the three golden attributes of life: faith, hope and love, check out these articles:

http://www.examiner.com/christian-spirituality-in-columbus/faith-hope-and-love-three-essentials-christianity

“Barrenness to bloom with rivers in the desert”: theme for the New Year

January 11, 2011

Among the theme verses for the New Year is Isaiah 43:19-21.

Some of the theme verses for the New Year are found in Isaiah 43:19-21, a passage that introduces the following poem:

Barrenness

19  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.

20  The beast of the field shall honour 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.

21  This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.

Isaiah 43:19-21                                                    

I am waiting with my eyes fixed toward open skies

That I might behold the wonders of this new thing.

From parched, lifeless places now shall it spring forth,

As you shall make a highway in the wilderness.

Even in the wasteland shall you give cool waters;

You bless and refresh with rivers in the desert.

You have formed me for yourself: for your good pleasure

You chose me and set me apart to show forth praise.

All things for your glory: even the barren womb

You have 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 poem immediately brought to mind a popular song composed by Don Moen, “God Will Make a Way”:

Here is another poem with a similar theme:                           

Even in Winter

 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,

 That brings forth its fruit in its season,

 Whose leaf also shall not wither;

 And whatever he does shall prosper.

 Psalm 1:3

Mournful dark notes of the wind’s contralto solo

Pierce the heart and chill the soul with its somber tones.

Shrouded in widow’s weeds all of creation groans,

Bemoans winter’s wilderness, lifeless and hollow.

Tall stark naked trees where nothing appears to grow                

Bend in the wind, vacant lodges closed for the season.

To find life in this dead time seems beyond reason,

Yet tender buds sleep in blankets of ice and snow.

Though leaves once green have faded, fallen to frostbite,

Leaf buds cluster in secret places to keep warm;

Buds wrapped in snow are stronger than before the storm.

Soon the voice of the bridegroom will ring in the night.

The time nears when the turtledove returns to sing,                                              

When ice-covered buds will blossom: firstfruits of spring 

Even in winter, growth takes place that shall blossom in due season.

I recall some of the remarks that I made during the eulogy for an individual whose earthly body had been cremated.  As I was reflecting on the greatness of God, two verses of scripture came to mind, both of which are saying the same thing, but in different ways. I recited this poem which speaks of the God of seemingly impossible situations. It opens with two verses that remind us that God is all-powerful, whether expressed in terms of the possibility or impossibility.  I thought of a principle from Geometry that “Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.”

No Matter How You Phrase It

And Jesus looking upon them saith,  

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 your 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, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and such come from ashes.  You see this with many of the volcanoes that erupt: when they settle and cool, you find beautiful gems. Watch God turn it around, what seems like a disaster, He can turn it into a magnificent triumph. The lyrics to an old song say,

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?       

Got any mountains you cannot tunnel through?

God specializes in things called impossible,

And He can do what no other power, Holy Ghost power can do.

In the account of Abraham and Sara, who were confronted with a seemingly impossible situation, we find an astounding demonstration of the power of God, who “specializes in things called impossible.” The song “God Specializes” was one of the popular songs originally recorded by the Roberta Martin Singers:

When you face a situation that some, perhaps including yourself, have called impossible, take comfort and recall the words of Jeremiah 32:27 :

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

Sung by the late Calvin Hunt with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, “Nothing is Impossible with God” reminds us of that profound truth.

 

“Wait on God City of My Soul”: Poetic Reflections

January 10, 2011

Where I presently live in Columbus, Ohio is the “City of My Soul” where I wait on God.

We have all experienced looking for a specific item, and in the process we come across something unexpected that turns out to be more fascinating than the object we were initially seeking to find. Recently while looking for the email address of my Facebook friend, Lester Wiley Carver, I “happened upon” one of his poems posted in his notes. The title intrigued me, and as I read, I was moved by the message which seemed to speak directly to me;

Wait On God “City of my Soul”

I could give you all you seek and pleased you would be.
You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know me.
You’d not know the depths of my love for each saint.
You’d not know the power I give to the faint.

You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair.
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in me.
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

You’d never experience the fullness of love;
When the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save for a start,
But you would not know the depth of the love of my heart.

The glow of my comfort late into the night.
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask.
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

You’d never know should your pain quickly flee;
What it means that my grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true;
But, oh, the loss, if I lost what I’m doing in you.

So be silent my child, and in time you will see;
That the greatest gift is to truly know me.
And though if my answers seem terribly late;
My most precious of all is still, “WAIT”!

Throughout the Bible, believers are encouraged “to wait on God.” The concluding verse of my favorite Psalm (27:14) offers this reminder:

Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.

Another passage that I especially enjoy and have committed to memory is found in Isaiah 40:28-31:

28Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

 29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

 30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

 31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

As I reflected upon Lester’s poem, one of my own poetic works came to mind which in turn brought to mind a song:

“Waiting in Gilgal” describes “The City of My Soul”, as I wait at this time in my life.

Waiting in Gilgal

If a man die, shall he live again?

all the days of my appointed time

will I wait, till my change come.

Job 14:14 

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

In the midnight harbor, place black as a raven,

Yielded and still in this new place of transition,

Seeking to do God’s will, in ready position,

To be launched from here to my desired haven.

Waiting in Gilgal. . . 

Groaning, travailing resounds from this place on earth,

In the birthing room where thoughts rise to the sublime;

Prolonged moments extend toward the fullness of time

Where agony precedes ecstasy in childbirth.

Waiting in Gilgal. . . 

To be raised from the tomb, released from the cocoon;

Exhausted, I yearn to escape and touch the sky,

To be freed from these quarters of the butterfly,

Where to be transformed at last can come none too soon.

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

This place demands sacrifice and obedience:

Not like Saul in Gilgal, foolish and immature,

But like Caleb, who with age, had strength to endure,

Fulfilled all God’s will and claimed his inheritance,

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

“A Change is Gonna Come” by the late Sam Cooke seems to be the perfect song to accompany the waiting period.  

 

Reflections on Week 1 of January, 2011: Beholding the New in the New Year

January 9, 2011

The first week in the first month of the New Year, 2011, was particularly significant.

On January 2, the first Sunday in 2011, Apostle Eric Warren of Equip U Ministries of Columbus, Ohio delivered a message “Behold, I Do a New Thing.” He discussed the significance of the number 1 and its relation to the number 11. He went on to talk about “new things” which bring with them “first things.” He said, “First things become critically important in the season of new things.” While he focused primarily upon Romans 8, he began with Isaiah 43:19:

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.

In reflecting upon the first week of the first month of the New Year, I noticed that a number of significant events took place, having particular importance to Equip U Ministries and beyond, to the Body of Christ in Columbus. The week began with a meeting of our Intercessory Prayer and Prophetic Cell Group known as Issachar, named for the “Sons of Issachar,” who in the Old Testament not only observed the times and seasons but explained the meaning behind what occurred. This meeting, held on New Year’s Day, was a powerful time of prayer and intercession for our church and for the city and beyond. We concluded with a most enjoyable meal with each member contributing.

The Sons of Issachar did not just know the times and seasons but understood what to do.

The first Sunday service was held in our new facility, which in itself is noteworthy, and the message focused on the first 14 verses of Romans 8 and emphasized “The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.” As is often my custom, I reviewed my notes and wrote a poem that captures the essence of the message from my perspective.  That poem was the first that I composed in the New Year:

The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus                                                                                                                                                 has made me free from the law of sin and death

                              Romans 8:2 

As I move into the New Year to see just what it brings,

I must learn that the life in the Spirit is where I should be.

As I press toward the mark of the prize set before me,

I have been brought into the new to do new things.

 Though my desire is to please God, to succeed and to excel,

I know that I am saved by grace, not by my own merit.

I covenant with God that I will walk in the Spirit

And provide a place where the Spirit of God may dwell.

Ever aware of God’s loving kindness and faithfulness,

I embrace the Seven Spirits of God and understand

That to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh, is God’s command.

As I mature, I attain a measure of Christ’s fullness.

The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set me free

To walk into the true fullness of God in Christ in me.

The emphasis on the “Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus” became even more relevant when I learned that “Celebration of Life Week” is the first week in January, which is also known as “Celebration of Life Month.”  As a writer for Examiner.com, an Internet publication, I published my first article in 2011 regarding these two celebrations occurring in the first month of the New Year. Click here to learn more about their significance to Columbus, Ohio.

Located in downtown Columbus, the "Celebration of Life" sculpture shows a mother holding up a child in love.

Following the admonition from Apostle Warren, I noted specifically some of the events that took place during the first week of January. Monday began with the amazing story of Ted Williams, the homeless panhandler, who quite providentially was interviewed regarding his “God-given gift of voice” and became an overnight celebrity who demonstrated the grace of the God of, not just a “second chance,” but of “another chance.” To read my observations and comments regarding this occurrence right here in Columbus, click here.

The week began on an astoundingly high note and continued to go even higher on Tuesday when the Buckeyes of Ohio State defeated Arkansas, 31-26, to win the Sugar Bowl. The final score and other aspects of the game clearly revealed “the grace of God.” You can read more of the details connected with the number five, as symbolic of grace, in the article “Ohio State enjoys sweet 31-26 win over Arkansas in Sugar Bowl.”

Buckeyes defeat Arkansas 31-26 in the Sugar Bowl--How sweet it is!

The Sugar Bowl win was, in actuality, a repeat performance of last year when the Bucs defeated the Oregon Ducks to win the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Faith the size of a mustard seed reveals what God can do with a little.

The culmination of the week occurred on Friday in a most unusual way for me personally, in that it was a “doubly lovely day—a payday” for which I thanked God. When I noticed the amount that had been directly deposited to my account, it was unusually low. I then realized that I had not worked during the week of Christmas and that I did not return to town until late on Monday, meaning I missed another day of work. As I looked at the small amount, I thought of a poem I had written at the end of last year. Pastor Michael Bivens made a casual remark which I transformed into a prayer which came to mind on Friday:

“Take My Meager. . .”

To  Pastor Michael T. Bivens

For a casual remark that resonated to the depths of my soul

…it may be that the LORD will work for us.                                                                                                                                                    For nothing restrains the LORD from saving                                                                                                                                                    by many or by few.”

                    1 Samuel 14:6b

“Take my meager and turn it into something mighty.”

Increase my meager faith like a tiny mustard seed.

Magnify my mite beyond anything I can see.

Replenish my supply, far above my greatest need.

At times I can’t surge ahead, no matter what I do,

But little is made into more than enough in Your hands.

With Gideon, You vanquished armies with only a few.

The widow’s oil did not fail, according to Your commands.

I must remember that one can put ten thousand to flight,

And that You multiply without measure the least amount,

That the smallest candle overwhelms the darkest night

 And fruit from a single seed no device on earth can count.

I know that the almighty hand of God will reveal

Great power, like leaven hidden in three measures of meal.

The magnitude of these events occurring in first week of the first month of 2011 is only a prelude to even greater victories ahead in the New Year that has just begun to unfold. For believers, we go from victory to victory, faith to faith and glory to glory.” Starting off the New Year with the situation regarding Ted Williams reveals the strong arm of the Lord God, the God of grace, the God of another chance, and likewise, the Bucs’ sweet 5-point Sugar Bowl victory—also demonstrates the overflowing grace of God. I think of Acts 4:33 which summarizes all that transpired during the first week in 2011:

And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. (KJV)

And with great strength and ability and power the apostles delivered their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord

Jesus, and great grace (loving-kindness and favor and goodwill) rested richly upon them all. (AMP)

 

The events of Week 1 of January, 2011 are sealed with the lyrics of “Great Grace” sung by Mary Alessi.

Doulos: Free to serve

January 8, 2011

Galatians-5-13Taken from Galatians 5:13 in the New Living Translation, the Verse of the Day for May 22, 2015 highlights the paradox between freedom and servitude:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

This verse and other related scriptures bring to mind the idea of the servant or slave who has been set free. In the early 70s or thereabout, I was introduced to the Greek term “doulos”, translated servant or more literally “bondslave,” one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Scriptures. The portrayal of the servant or slave, as revealed in the Bible has particular significance to me for a number of reasons, aside from my being a descendant of slaves brought from Africa to America.

In 1975 I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave.” In 1978 while completing my Master’s thesis, I explored the subject in light of Paul’s literary style in the Church Epistles. I went on to complete my Ph.D. in 1986 with a dissertation entitled Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets. Four years ago, I posted a blog at “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe” that I am revising and re-posting in celebration of the original article published 40 years ago.

Being a doulos involves a deep commitment to one’s Lord and Master.

The term doulos has become an intricate part of my life since I first learned of the concept of the “bond servant” or “bond slave” back in the early 70s. Last year I celebrated the 35th anniversary of my publishing an article entitled “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave.” As used in the Bible, doulos is a metaphor that I have personalized and internalized. I explored the concept in Master’s thesis which looked at the literary style of Paul in the Church Epistles, where he opens the Book of Romans with his “calling card”: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle (note the order).”  In my Ph.D. dissertation I looked at the metaphor of the “servant” or “bond slave” in the Bible and in the works of four African American poets who were influenced by the Bible. Beyond that, the concept is deeply embedded into my soul, in that it has become the essence of who I am. I attempt to express that essence in this poem:

More Than Metaphor

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,

separated to the gospel of God

Romans 1:1

To capture my essence I strive to find a word,

Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,

To express my deep yearning for intimacy.

Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”

Each fiber of my being and each emotion

Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.

As I endeavor to learn and live to impart

The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,

I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,

As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,

To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,

To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.

Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor

Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.

The basin and towel are symbolic of the essence of servanthood as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13.

In discussing this topic of the servant or bond slave, an image almost immediately comes to mind: a basin and a towel, representative of one of my favorite passages regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ, who revealed so clearly the heart of a bond servant when he washed the disciples’ feet in the account from John 13. This very moving excerpt inspired another related poem:

Let Me Wash Your Feet

            John 13:4-5, 19

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel

around himself,

So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and

expose myself.

As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.

You could yourself

Perform this deed of loving service, but let me

Serve you myself.

To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,

as Christ himself

Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.

You have yourself

The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took

Upon himself

The servant’s form

That I myself

Might freely give

To you yourself,

So I ask you

As Christ himself

Still asks of me,

So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

One of the ancient practices associated with bond servants in the Bible is the year of the Jubilee, the Old Testament practice whereby the 50th year was a special sabbatical period when Hebrew slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established. On my 50th birthday, I wrote “This Year of My Jubilee” which alludes to this Old Testament practice:

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17 

 

I stand alone, clothed only with the wind

At the end of my seventh sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bondslave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as you command,

Pierce my ear–place your brand upon my soul.

Enlighten me so I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of your ways

And seal my vows to serve you all my days.

Once more Michael Card has the perfect song entitled “Jubilee” to accompany this poem.

I will conclude this entry by posting a PDF of the original article “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave” which was first published in 1975. Accompanying the article is a letter to  Apostle Thamo Naidoo to whom I sent the original article along with two of the poems posted above: “More Than Metaphor” and “This Year of My Jubilee.” I am grateful to my beloved Brother Lester Wiley Carver, who encouraged me to post the article. I trust that it will minister to all who read it. I welcome any comments or thoughts that this post might have inspired.

Before reading the article, listen to a powerful song written and performed by Dean Ellenwood, who captures the depth of commitment embodied in the individual called of God to be a  bondslave, a true Doulos. 

Doulos

Doulos: A Different View of a Slave

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a “servant” or “bondslave”–a doulos