Ordination: Reflections on my calling

On August 11, 2012, I begin this day with a time of grateful reflection upon an event taking place thirty-eight years ago when I was first ordained to the Christian ministry. For me this was one of the spiritual highlights of my life, and I commented upon the significance of this event in one of the first articles that I wrote as Columbus Christian Spirituality Examiner for Examiner.com, an Internet publication. Click here to read Ordination: Responding to the call.

In celebration of the grand occasion, I would like to share this poetic, pictorial portrait, as I continue to echo the lyrics to an old gospel song sung countless times as I grew up: “How I got over, How I got over, My Lord/My soul looks back and wonders, How I got over.” And so we begin by looking back, as the opening line of this poem suggests:

Strengthened for the Journey

 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,

 and he shall strengthen your heart;

 wait, I say, on the LORD!

 Psalm 27:14

Let us pause to reflect upon the past,

Not with longing to relive bygone days.

Though some were fine, such moments cannot last

A lifetime. The budding rose never stays

The same but unfolds in lovelier ways.

Let us linger to absorb the essence

Of this moment’s triumph. Another phase

Of growth we note within our lifetime since

We first began the quest toward excellence.

Let us look ahead with vision and strive

Toward greater goals, for each day we commence

To grow toward our perfection, as we thrive.

May we see clearly where our paths have led

And be strengthened for the journey ahead.

The inspiration for the following poem is statement by Elijah Pierce, renowned minister of the gospel, internationally acclaimed woodcarver, and local barber. Rev. Pierce took the statement and carved it into a magnificent sculpture that profoundly impacted me when I first viewed it more than ten years ago. I published an Examiner.com article based on that unforgettable experience. Click here to read it.

Your Life is a Book 

Your life is a book, and every day is a page. 

You cannot deny the pages of your own book,

because you’ve already written into the pages of life. 

And that life will be open in the eyes of God.

When the book is finished, you cannot deny it.

 Elijah Pierce

Your life is a book, and every day is a page.

We all write our story, whether fool or sage.

Printed words in boldface impress to curse or bless,

Revealing measures of both failure and success

In applying hearts unto wisdom as we age.

No one knows the future nor can anyone gauge

The impact of one life with its living message.

Every word of our history continues to stress

Your life is a book.

Work heartily as to the Lord–forget the wage.

Accept this–it is futile to wrestle and rage

Against God’s divine plan that we know and express

His purpose, for each day we write as we progress.

From infant to elder, through each unfolding stage,

Your life is a book.

This picture of me taken when I was about six years old brings to mind fun-filled, carefree summer days from childhood when life for me was one grand adventure, expressed in this poem:

Man-child . . . Giddy-up, going on the great adventure

 “Here they beheld the man-child to someday reign as king. . . .”

 The Wise Men 

I leaped out of bed just after the sun came up;

I could not stay cause I had to be on my way.

Life overflowed like a fountain and filled my cup.

“Be back in a minute” was all I had to say. . . .

Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, going on the great adventure.

I was laughing and loving every good news day,

Running with abandon into the blazing sun,

With my heart wide-open and tender, pure for sure,

All that really mattered to me was having fun.

Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, going on the great adventure.

One day a white-haired man spoke as he looked at me.

“Say, little man, when you grow up to be a man,

Tell me, little fella, what do you want to be?”

His question made me think, just for a little while

Then I nodded my head, and I began to smile,

“That’s a real long time away, far as I can see,

But when I grow up to be a real grown up man,

“A man-child, man-child, is what I still want to be,

Man-child, a man-child, is what I still want to be.”

Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, going on the great adventure.

In the sixth grade I recall that I committed to memory Psalm 1, a passage of scripture that I still recall by heart and keep close to my heart. Mrs. Little, the undertaker’s wife, gathered kids from the neighborhood and told us to memorize the First Psalm, which I did and still recall by heart to this day. For me it was “the first Word,” a term used in the following poem with that title.   

 The First Word                  

When you’re in a difficult situation,

go back to ‘the first word.’ It still works.

 Apostle John Tetsola

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

Just like Samuel, I clearly heard God speak to me:

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

The desire to read and to learn by heart God’s Word:

Planted deep within my soul seeds of destiny.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

Early years of famine and drought God has restored.

My Shepherd ever sets a table before me.

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

From an early age God became my shield and sword,

As the Psalms enflamed a passion for poetry.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

The sound words of the First Psalm could not be ignored:

“Planted by the rivers of waters, like a tree. . .”

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

Striving toward the finish, ever pressing forward,

I now fondly recall glimpses of God’s glory.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord:

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

I graduated from Froebel High School in Gary, Indiana, as valedictorian, in June 1960, and as my academic career has unfolded, I recognize that I have always desire to excel. The epigraph to the following poem expresses my heart’s desire:

To Graduate with Honors

I desire to be a straight-A student in the University of Life.

Lonnell E. Johnson

 

To graduate with honors, the first in my class;

Once more “to pioneer a new and living way.”

To rise above the mundane, striving to surpass

Past limits, still moving toward a more perfect day.

In reflecting on bygone years, I recall

These words: “The Lord is my light and my salvation,

Whom shall I fear?” words implanted to strengthen me,

Learned by heart, this prophetic declaration.

Though my thoughts may stray, Your presence is always near.

Hand-in-hand, while walking toward my destination,

With my ears still near your lips, ever listening to hear

Words of life that endear, words of exhortation.

I ponder the winding path that my life has turned,

With deepest gratitude for all that I have learned.

                                                                                                                     We are soldiers in the Army

                                                                                                      We have to fight although we have to cry

                                                                                                   We have to hold up the blood-stained banner

                                                                                                              We have to hold it up until we die.

                                                                                                                         Traditional Gospel Song

Upon graduation from high school in June 1960, I enrolled as pharmacy student in Purdue University in September of that year. In 1965 I graduated with a BS degree in Pharmacy and worked as a hospital pharmacist at Methodist Hospital in Gary from 1965-67 when I was drafted into the US Army, where I embarked upon another phase of my journey of discovery from January, 1967 through December, 1968. While I was a pharmacy instructor at the Medical Field Service School in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, I 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 of the Bible.  I began to write poetry and continued to write once I was discharged from the Army.

And the Lord says,” My son when I saved you I had to find you, for you were running, going your own way, and I mean this in a lovely way. But you were like a wild and a stubborn ass, doing your own thing. And I saved you, and I convinced you intellectually and spiritually that you were mine. And I put the fear of God within you on that day that I saved you, and I told you ‘You can do this your way or you can do this my way.’  And you said, ‘Yes, Sir.’ And you are a man under authority. You understood that early in your Christian career. And you understood that there were people under you, and you understood that there were people over you. And you’ve always understood authority. You’ve always understood that the Kingdom of God is like an army. And you always knew that you had power and power and authority.

 Personal Prophecy from Dennis Cramer, May 9, 2009                                                                                                                                                                                                        

After being discharged from the Army in 1968, I moved to Washington, DC where I worked for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association until 1971. During this time I became involved with The Way International, having been introduced to the Ministry while I was in the Army at Fort Sam Houston. I met Brenda Warren, who worked in the same office building. I also introduced Brenda to The Way International prior to my leaving Washington, DC to join The Way Corps in 1971. Brenda and I were married in 1973, and we were assigned as coordinators of The Way International fellowships in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and a portion of Pennsylvania. I was ordained the following year.

Lonnell Edward Johnson

Ordained

August 11, 1974

Prayer and Prophecy by Dr. Victor Paul Wierwille

Prayer:

Father, for your loving kindness and tender mercy and your goodness, for the great favor that thou hast showered upon us we are truly grateful, and Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, I lay my hands upon my Lonnell this night to bless him and to set him apart unto the ministry whereunto you have called him.

Prophecy:

For surely I the Lord thy God hath brought thee unto this day and time. It is I who succored thee and strengthened thee and upheld thee. It is I who have put the burning desire of this Word within thy soul, my son.  Surely, I the Lord thy God have called thee to send thee forth as one who is being sent to hold forth my Word rightly divided in this our time. Surely I the Lord thy God have called thee to teach and to manifest forth my greatness and to be a real pastor to my people, for I have loved you with an everlasting love. And I will under-gird you and keep you, my son. Walk forth in all boldness.

Prayer:

Father, I thank you for your love, and I ordain him this night to this sacred ministry whereunto you have called us through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

I was a part of The Way International from 1968-1988. Since that time I have received a number of personal prophetic words that provided exhortation and comfort,  as I continued to seek God’s direction. Here is one of the first such words that impacted me in a profoundly significant way.

Personal Prophecy to Lonnell and Brenda Johnson given by Marva Pharis in Raleigh, NC, September, 1993:

 Oh, Dear God, What a precious gift you are to the Body of Christ.  Oh, you are so precious in God’s sight, and you’re so precious to the Body of Christ.  And God has used you to speak words of wisdom and words of life in years past.  And that is only just a bare, and that is only a small amount of what He is going to use you in the future.  He says you have paid a price; you have paid a price; you have laid down the ministry and walked away and said ‘God, I will do whatever, if it’s scrub the toilets and sweep the floor, I will do whatever,’ and God has said I will honor that, I honor a servant’s heart, and God says I’m going to raise you to new levels of ministry that you have only dreamed about.  My Word is in you, within both of you, and I’m going to use you to teach, to preach, to prophesy, to move in areas that you’ve never even dreamed about because you have been faithful in the little things, and I’m going to make you ruler over much; I’m going to make you ruler and master of many things; and I’m going to use those giftings, and Sister, God is not leaving you behind.  There’s giftings and ministries in you that have not even been tapped into yet.  He’s going to bring forth those things; He’s going to pull those things, and you’re going to speak into ladies’ lives and release them to be all God has made them to be because He’s raising up a mighty army that’s made up of men and ladies. And, Oh, I see in the church that you’re working in, it’s going to start little, and it’s going to get bigger, and it’s a world-wide ministry, and it’s not just to ex-Way people; it’s to the Body of Christ; it’s to the Body of Christ; it’s all over the world, because you are precious in the Father’s sight.

Here is another excerpt from a personal word of prophecy from Dr. Kingsley Fletcher, spoken in April 21, 2001. I have read and reflected upon this word of encouragement countless times:

The anointing of the Lord is upon you. You shall walk through doors, and you shall bring the people of God behind you. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Mighty man of faith! When you declare, it shall be done. You shall affect many through your faith, for out of the faith you shall see my faithfulness. . . . And you shall declare this is the way of the Lord, and they shall follow. For you shall stand and declare just as Caleb declared. You shall stand and say, ‘If God said it, it shall come to pass. If God declares it, I believe it. If God points the way, I will follow.’ And the people of God shall be inspired by your humble faith. For you are a man that has pleased me, and I’m delighted in you. This is the word of the Lord to you, Lonnell. To Lonnell, the word of the Lord. You shall walk in faith and not by sight.                                                                    

The reference to Caleb inspired this poem:

             Like Caleb

But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him,

 and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land

   whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

                                      Numbers 14:24

Caleb, son of Jephunneh, of the tribe of Judah:

The impact of this solitary life who can gauge?

May I be like Caleb, who grew in faith with the years

That passed, who with renewed courage transformed his fears

Into faith and lived to slay giants in his old age.

May I rise above any adverse circumstance.

As Caleb claimed for himself his inheritance,

May I too seize God’s promises at this new stage,

To remain fruitful in this season of my life.

And may I wholly follow the ways of the Lord,

Teaching by example the precepts of the Word.

As a servant, may I dispel envy and strife.

Like Caleb, may I look at life as one who sees

Not obstacles but endless possibilities.

As I reflect upon the many milestones of accomplishments leading up to and subsequent to my ordination to the Christian ministry, my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude to God. I would like to conclude my reverie with a single poem which captures the essence of my heart’s desire at this present time: 

  When All Is Said and Done

  His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant;

  you were faithful over a few things,

  I will make you ruler over many things.

  Enter into the joy of your lord.’

  Matthew 25:21

When all things of this life on earth are said and done

And all accounts settled, may this be said of me:

He was a good husband, father, and faithful son,

Who sought to serve the Master with integrity.

May God find a branded bondslave who came to learn

Firsthand that to run to serve is life’s highest goal,

Beyond fame, acclaim, wealth or status one can earn.

That I loved God with all my heart and mind and soul:

A  son who practiced obedience as a lifestyle,

Seeking to please the Lord and follow each command,

With an attitude of gratitude all the while,

Giving praise to Christ before whom we all shall stand.

When I have finished my course, and my race is won,

I long to hear “Good and faithful servant, well done.”

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