Archive for May, 2011

Memorial Day 2011–A Most Significant Reflection

May 31, 2011

Memorial Day 2011 was a memorable time of reflection with gratitude to God for so much.

This has been a most significant Memorial Day weekend, beginning with recollections occurring a couple of days prior to the last Monday in May. I posted an article on my Examiner.com page in recognition of Memorial Day, providing some historical background and a listing a number of local celebrations here in the Central Ohio region. After publishing the article, I decided to add a youtube video,  A Memorial Day Tribute, featuring a narration and performance of Psalm 23 by Kathy Trocolli, a contemporary Christian artist. While viewing the video, I was deeply moved, as I reflected upon some of the veterans whom I knew who were now deceased.  Among those I thought about were my grandfather, Sampson Johnson, a World I War veteran who died a decade before I was born;

My father, Lonnie Johnson, a World War II veteran, contributed so much to success on so many fronts;

My father, Lonnie Johnson, served in the Philippines during World War II.

 

Other vets included, my former brother-in-law, Elliott Thompson, who served in the Air Force, whose valiant fight against cancer inspired me and impacted me in an immeasurable way.

 

I also thought of Uncle Prince Albert Crosby, “a veteran twice-over,” having served in the Navy and in the Army.  

Uncle Prince served in both the Navy and the Army. He would have volunteered for "Nam," but by then he was too old.

In 1967 I was drafted into the Army and completed my basic training before being sent to San Antonio where I was introduce to classroom teaching. In reflecting on that period, I also happened to recall another veteran who served in the Army with me as a pharmacy instructor at Fort Sam Houston during the Vietnam War period from 1967-1969. We both went through the Faculty Development Training Program at the Medical Field Service School in San Antonio, and we were both assigned as instructors who trained pharmacy technicians.  Although we were both drafted into the Army, he had signed up for an additional year in order to ensure that he received a pharmacy position after basic training, but I had not signed up for the additional year, yet I also had obtained a pharmacy position. There was a greater possibility of receiving orders for Vietnam for those who had an additional year of service than for those, like me, who had less than 2 years remaining. We served together as fellow instructors for five or six months, but before the year ended, he received orders for “Nam,” as we called it. Sometime after the first of the year, we received notice that he had been killed while serving in Vietnam. Countless times I have reflected upon that time period in my life, as my heart overflows with gratitude to God for having gone through my period of service to my country and returning with “more than a reasonable portion of health and strength and a sound mind.”

Visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was an unforgettable experience for me.

About ten years ago, I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, and I was overwhelmed as I viewed the inscribed names of those who sacrificed their lives in service to our nation. During that time I recalled the last name of my fellow pharmacy instructor, and I found his name on the Wall. Last week  I found his name on the website for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and I could not hold back the tears when I read that my fellow serviceman was from Kentucky, the place where I completed my basic training at Fort Campbell  in 1967 and the state where I presently teach a Communications course at the Louisville Teaching Center for Indiana Wesleyan University. In light of these circumstances, Memorial Day, 2011, has been especially memorable for me.

As I reflect upon my term of service in the Army, I recognize that God has always been “My Hiding Place,” as the lyrics to the song by Don Moen so clearly reveal.

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“I’m still here. . . ‘anchored in hope.’ “

May 27, 2011

According to radio minister Harold Camping, Christ was to return on May 21, 2011. Guess what? He didn't but be assured that "He shall return."

The pronouncement of radio minister Harold Camping that Jesus Christ would return precisely at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, 2011 drew unprecedented media attention across the globe.  Camping of Family Radio and his followers placed about 1,000 billboards across the country at an undisclosed cost, advertising “the end of the world.” In response to Camping’s predictions, most Christians referred to the words of Jesus Christ in answer to questions regarding the end times, so clearly stated in Matthew 13:32:

But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

Without question Camping and his followers experienced great disappointment when May 21 came and May 22 came to pass. Some have characterized Camping’s failed apocalyptic prediction as “A Replay of the Great Disappointment,”  referring to a similar occurrence when William Miller and his followers also promoted teachings regarding Christ’s Second Coming or the Second Advent that was predicted to occur October 22, 1844. Followers of the Millerite movement used newspapers to promote their message, just as Camping and his followers used radio and other media to spread their “end-times” message.

In “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe” you will find two blogs posted on the topic of disappointment, “a most destructive toxic emotion”:  “Facing and Overcoming Disappointment—Part I” and “Facing and Overcoming Disappointment—Part II.”

 Though many may have experienced “great disappointment” when Christ did not return on October 22, 1844 or on May 21, 2011, as predicted that he would, we are, nonetheless, assured that he shall return.  Just as we know that Jesus Christ was first born in the fullness of time, in God’s perfect timing,  even so, shall the Lord return to gather his own together. In reflecting upon recent events, I thought of this poem:

“If the Lord tarries. . .”

James 4:13-15

 

“If the Lord tarries” and “If the Lord will”:

May these phrases ever be my preface.

With each decision may I learn to be still                      

And never presume to know your desire.

Though I may read your Word and apply

It diligently to my heart to do

All you ask of me, some secrets are not

Mine to know. Once more you tell me to watch,

To prepare my heart and to look above.

Whether I understand or misconstrue,

I cannot deny I have tasted your love.

God is faithful and His word is true.

In my heart the hope continues to burn

As I yearn even more for Christ’s return.

 

No, I am not disappointed, for my soul remains anchored in hope, the essence of the message of the following poem:

 

Despite the turbulent times in which we live, Christ is the anchor of our souls, as we are achored in the hope of his return.

Anchored in Hope

[Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor

of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot down under

whoever steps out upon it–a hope] that reaches farther

and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil,

Hebrews 6:19 [Amplified Bible]

 

With deepest gratitude for all that I have learned:

That God is so good, as far as I am concerned.

My heart remains fixed; I continue to seek your face,

Striving to please you, to be faithful to the end.

Despite life’s trials, I press on to reach this place:

No longer a bondslave but esteemed as a friend.

 In this time between Passover and Pentecost

  We look up, as the fullness of time shall reveal

  The King of Glory, before whom all souls shall kneel,

  The Kinsman Redeemer sent to redeem the lost.

  Watching, waiting, in my heart I have prepared room,

  Assured by the promise of the faithful bridegroom.

  Looking to see far beyond my limited scope,

  I am steadfast– my soul remains anchored in hope.

The verse from Hebrews 6 brings to mind the second verse  from “On Christ, the Solid Rock,” one of my all-time favorite hymns. I recall that as a youngster I narrated the words while the Junior Choir sang the song:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

The following recording taken from the album, “Together for the Gospel Live” from Sovereign Grace Music, provides comfort and assurance, as I rest in God’s unchanging grace. 

Mother’s Day Reflections–2011

May 9, 2011

 

Thoughts regarding my mother and others on Mother's Day 2011

Though my mother passed from this life just before her 82nd birthday in 2002, Mother’s Day continues to be a special time of reflection and celebration. Having been blessed with wonderful parents who contributed so much to my success in so many ways, I am especially grateful for my mother whose unconditional love was one of the sustaining factors in my life. She died a short time before Mother’s Day, and as I recall that Mother’s Day that year was an especially difficult time, as I initially began thinking about what to get her on her special day, as I had so often done before.  As I began to compile a list of possibilities, I realized that would not be necessary this year. During that time, I was inspired to write a poem based on the tradition associated with many churches in my formative years, whereby individuals would wear a red carnation to symbolize that their mother was living, whereas a white carnation represented that the mother of the wearer was deceased. I had not thought about that tradition for many years, since that was not case with the churches that I had been affiliated with in recent years. While thinking about my mother and all that she meant to me, I composed this piece: 

Poetic reflections on the first Mother's Day after my mother passes from this life.

                                                                              

 In loving memory of

Jessie Marie Johnson

June 16, 1920-May 4, 2002

 

From Red to White

 I took for granted the years when I wore a red

 Carnation, symbolic of a loving, living mother.

 Now for the first time I wear a white one instead,

 As I reflect in gratitude of another

 Place and time when her gentle presence eased my mind,

 Soothed my fears, dried my tears, and kissed my hurts away

 With the right word at the right time.  She leaves behind

 A treasury of memories on this Mother’s Day.

 Now I know where the blood red color has gone.

 Once extracted, it is changed into a new form.

 God’s love never dies but with each new sunrise lives on

 To sustain and remain with us in sunshine or storm.

 Life-giving blood has been transfused into my heart.

 Though she is not here, her love will never depart.           

                            May 12, 2002

                             Mother’s Day

Portrait of my wonderful mother, Jessie Marie Johnson

I have so many fond memories of my mother, and I recall celebrating her 81st birthday with a special tribute:

From My Mother’s Heart

 for Jessie Marie Johnson  

on her 81st Birthday   

June 16, 2001

 

The song is ended, but the melody lingers on.

 Irving Berlin

Like a wide river flowing endlessly,

Your songs flow and never stop once they start.

Lullabies soothed my cries to comfort me:

Sweetest melodies from my mother’s heart.

You never knew, but you taught me to sing.

I learned to forget the past and move on,

To pray and see what each new day would bring,

To never be average but go beyond.

You taught me songs of faith and hope and love,

To always excel and strive for success,

To set my affection on things above,

Reminding me of God’s desire to bless.

God reveals His love, inspired in each part

Of melodies flowing from my mother’s heart.

As I think of this poem, particularly the line: “You taught me songs of faith and hope and love. . .” I recall one of the celebrated “gypsy songs” of Antonin Dvorak, “Songs My Mother Taught Me.” Over the years this well-known art song has been part of the vocal repertoire of many noted concert singers, such as Paul Robeson, who offers this sterling rendition:

Natalia Macfarren has provided the English translation of the lyrics:  

Songs my mother taught me,
In the days long vanished;
Seldom from her eyelids
Were the teardrops banished.
Now I teach my children,
Each melodious measure.
Oft the tears are flowing,
Oft they flow from my memory’s treasure.

I recall that both my mother and I loved the Psalms of David, and as a teenager memorized the 27th Psalm which was especially dear to my mother. Since both of my parents have passed away, verse 10 of my favorite Psalm has become especially meaningful to me: “When my father and my mother forsake, then the Lord will take me up.” Once again this verse was the inspiration behind another poem which I have shared with a number of friends who have experienced the loss of both parents:

When My Father and Mother

When my father and my mother forsake me,

Then the Lord will take me up.

Psalm 27:10

When my father and mother have forsaken me

And have left behind a deep hole within my soul,

When I seem alone, then the Lord will take me up.

When I am without strength, the Lord will sustain me.

Though I am blessed, I still know moments that disrupt

When my father and mother have forsaken me.

I rise on wings of joy but sorrow surrounds me.

My flesh is weak and seems to prevail, though corrupt.

When I seem alone, then the Lord will take me up.

God sent His Word to strengthen and encourage me.

Time prepares the heart, but the end is still abrupt

When my father and mother have forsaken me.

When disappointments seem to unfold before me,

The thief comes only to distract and to interrupt.

When I seem alone, then the Lord will take me up.

Though I would reject it, I must taste the bitter cup,

But beyond death’s door, Christ prepared a place for me.                           

When my father and mother have forsaken me,

When I seem alone, then the Lord will take me up. 

On Mother’s Day, 2011, my heart overflows with gratitude to God for the treasury of precious memories that continue to sustain me since my beloved parents have passed away. In sharing remarks at both of their funerals, I was comforted and strengthened and encouraged by the Scriptures that speak of the hope of Christ’s return and our gathering together with those who have fallen asleep in Christ:

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

 13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.