Archive for October, 2012

Halloween Reflections: To the Rescue

October 31, 2012

In thinking about Halloween, I recall an experience a friend shared regarding a horrible prank that occurred as a child.

Halloween and some of its negative aspects, such as pranks, remind me of an incident a friend shared with me when he went to live with a relative in the rural South where there was no indoor plumbing, and everyone used an outdoor toilet known as an “outhouse.” Unbeknownst to my young friend, the custom on Halloween night was to move the “outhouse” from its original position so that when a person stepped inside, he would fall into the pit. That’s exactly what happened, and my friend immediately cried out, “Daddy, Daddy, come and get me!” His father came running with a flashlight and reached down and grabbed his son by the collar and snatched him out of the horrible pit.
That incident never fails to remind me of a spiritual parallel whereby I, like the young boy in horrific circumstances, called out to my Heavenly Father in desperation. I identified with my friend and expressed my thoughts in some of the lines of “my testimony in poetry”:

With lovin arms you reach way down
And snatched me from Satan’s outhouse,
Sought me and flat-out rescued me,
Fixed me up in my Father’s house.

Why Don’t Somebody Help Me Praise the Lord?

(from Stone upon Stone: Psalms of Remembrance)

Many times as we go through life, we become entangled in circumstances that restrict our efforts to succeed and impede our progress. Like the Psalmist we may find ourselves in situations whereby we cry out to God:

Psalm 35:17
Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.

The calling out to God in desperation to “come rescue me” is beautifully expressed in this rendition of “I Need You Now” by Smokie Norful:


When I think about being rescued from a dangerous situation, I recall some of the lyrics of this familiar “vintage hymn” from childhood days of growing up in the Church. The hymn was “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” which had these lines:

Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.

The words have become even more meaningful today. I was absolutely overwhelmed by this rendition of the song from the combined choruses of Brigham Young University:


Like Daniel in the den of lions, we sometimes find ourselves in desperate, seemingly impossible situations from which we cannot extract ourselves on our own. When we think of such situations like that of Daniel, we must remember the King’s response when God delivered Daniel:

Daniel 6:27

He [the God of Daniel] delivers and rescues, and he works signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

In thinking about the record of Daniel in the lion’s den, the words of a Black Spiritual also raise an important question:

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel, Deliver Daniel?
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel? Then why not every man?

“Hand upon the Plow” gives account in poetry of a number of instances where God came to the rescue of Daniel and other believers:

Hand upon the Plow

Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand
to the plow and looks back [to the things behind
is fit for the kingdom of God.
Luke 9:62

“Keep your hand on the plow, hold on!”
–Black Spiritual

When life ain’t like it spose to be,
Right then and there it occurs to me
Folks been in fixes worse than me,
Right in the Bible where I see:

The Lord will make a way somehow.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

Pharaoh said, “Kill each Hebrew boy,”
But Moses’ Ma was full of joy
Cause Pharaoh’s daughter raised her boy.
The Lord will make a way somehow.

The lions looked so lean and thin
When they throwed Daniel in the den,
But Old Man Daniel didn’t bend.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

When Jesus died, God paid the cost
And at that time all seem like lost,
But God planned ahead for Pentecost.
The Lord will make a way somehow.

Paul and Silas didn’t rant and wail
When they throwed both of them in jail.
They called on God, and He didn’t fail.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

When troubles start to buggin you
Remember, there’s just one thing to do:
Look to God and He’ll see you through.
What he did for them, He’ll do for you.

The Lord will make a way somehow.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

From Stone upon Stone: Psalms of Remembrance

During times of intense pressure when I forget just how faithful God has been, He gently comforts and reminds with these words:

Listen to Me
Isaiah 46:3-4
Listen to me. Open your ears and clearly hear
I have always been there. Though you had not perceived
My presence in the wasteland, I was ever near.
Indeed, I knew you before you were first conceived.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He
Who still holds you and causes you to remember.
I open deaf ears and cause blinded eyes to see
The passion that consumes your soul was once an ember.
Though I seem to be delayed, I will not tarry
But will return for the faithful ones who remain:
Those whom I have made those I will also carry;
Those whom I have called by name I will sustain.
Rest in me: I will perform all I said to do.
Know that I will sustain you and will rescue you.

Every Halloween when I recall my friend who found himself in a horrific situation and called out to his father or whenever I find myself in a horrible mess, generally of my own making, I am also reminded of this truth that when I cry out, my Heavenly Father will come “to the rescue.”

When I recall the circumstances from which God rescued me, many times I am overwhelmed with gratitude, as I shudder to think when I might be if He had not intervened in such a dramatic manner. In reflecting upon God’s intervention, I composed this poem which I use to conclude this blog.

If It Had Not Been for the Lord


“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,”

Let Israel now say—

Psalm 124:1

If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side,
I would have drowned in the sea from the tears I cried.
I shudder to think just where I would be today.
I would have lost my mind or turned and walked away,
But I learned that God is faithful—this cannot be denied.

He was there to guide when I was tempted and tried,
My shelter from the storm where I could run and hide.
He was my deliverer—that is all I have to say:
If it had not been for the Lord.

Enemies rose up like a flood to wash aside,
But God came through and rescued me and turned the tide.
Pressing toward the mark, dawning of a brand new day,
Through all my trials I learned to watch, fight and pray.
The Lord is my keeper; in Him I confide:
If it had not been for the Lord.

Helen Baylor offers her testimony in song with a selection with the same title: “If it Had Not Been for the Lord.”

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Beauty for Ashes and the Power of God–Part 2

October 20, 2012

 

Part II—The Power of God

The second of this two-part entry relates to how gemstones are formed, revealing the power of God to transform any situation of hopelessness or despair into a glorious triumph, giving “beauty for ashes.”

Gemstones are found underground all over the world. Hundreds of different gems are often polished and made into jewelry or collected as loose gems. I often think of the children’s ministry song which talks about the Body of Christ, as “chosen gems”:

We are all members of the Body of Christ,

We are all members of the Body of Christ,

Sons of God by birthright.

We are chosen gems, polished by God and His Word.

We are beautiful in God’s sight.

 

Because they are mineral products, gemstones are mined in a wide range of locations across the earth. Africa is one particular location that is abundant in deposits of precious metals and gemstones. In “Stone upon Stone: A Psalm of Remembrance,” the title poem from a collection of original poetry, I return to the place where I had a divine encounter with God in a life-transforming manner, and using twelve memorial stones, I erect an altar where I offer a sacrifice to the Lord. One of the stanzas makes reference to Africa:

Gathered from quarries of African origins,

gemstones for my parents and unknown ancestors,

all those who “. . .sang a race from wood and stone to Christ.”

This series of videos produced by Marc Sarosi shows how gemstones are mined in various parts of Africa.

Gemstone mining in Africa 

Another related poem refers to the passage from I Corinthians 3 which speaks of  the works of a believer’s life being tried by fire, and that individual will be rewarded according to that which survives the fiery process whereby precious metals and gemstones are tried and proven by God. I personalize the process and once again offer myself upon the altar as a living sacrifice.

 

 Gold, Silver and Precious Stones

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold,

silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

each one’s work will become clear;

for the Day will declare it,

because it will be revealed by fire;

and the fire will test each one’s work,

of what sort it is.

I Corinthians 3:12-13

 

The Lord is building His house and seeking to find

The most costly materials, sparing no expense

To complete the glorious temple that He designed.

His precious thoughts toward me rise as fragrant incense,

As I offer sanctified resources of great worth,

Customized to display the glory of excellence:

Gold, silver, purified in a furnace of earth,

And precious stones that complete this workmanship

Of the living God, dwelling place of awesome beauty.

Not made with man’s hands, this house of worship

Is constructed with all that I am, given freely.

To the all-wise master builder, the one who owns,

I offer myself: gold, silver and precious stones.

 

And so I conclude my discussion of “Beauty for Ashes and the Power of God,” which brought to mind an array of precious metals and gemstones that represent the life I have endeavored to live.

Beauty for Ashes and the Power of God: Part 1

October 20, 2012

Part I—Beauty for Ashes

Recently as I reflected upon God’s amazing ability to transform the most horrific circumstances into a glorious display of His wisdom, power and might, I thought of the expression “beauty for ashes.” Isaiah 61:3 offers a series of such transformations or exchanges that only God can give. I used that particular verse as the epigraph or introduction to a poem with that title:

Beauty for Ashes

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

Beauty for ashes–you are transformed to testify

Of a life radically changed that you might glorify

The God of Heaven who touches the earth with His love

That overflows with bountiful blessings from above.

You are blessed and highly favored–no one can deny.

That you should be chosen by God some may wonder why,

But none can fathom God’s grace, no matter how they try.

Ascend into God’s presence on the wings of a dove:

Beauty for ashes.

Many times it may seem as if life has passed you by,

But God is faithful; on Him you can always rely.

Nothing in this life surpasses God’s unchanging love;

It is far beyond all that you could ask or think of.

Remember that God is not a man that He should lie:

Beauty for ashes.

 

About a year later, I completed another poem containing a reference to Isaiah 61:3.  Shortly after writing the poem, I was asked to officiate at a funeral service and do the eulogy for someone who had not been affiliated with a local church. It was an unusual service for me in that for the first time the individual being eulogized had been cremated. On a table in front of the mortuary was an urn that contained the ashes of the deceased.  As it turned out, this was perfect occasion for sharing the poem which has a line “Just as from ashes beauty and splendor arise.” The poem also contains a theme related to God with whom all things are possible and with whom nothing is impossible.

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 one who observes the times, I 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,

I 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.

I seek to walk in wisdom and number my days,

Humbly discerning that your ways are not my ways.

In addition to reading the poem as part of the eulogy, I also commented about the beauty of gemstones that are formed from volcanic ash. Did you know that ashes in volcanoes under extreme heat and pressure provide the perfect conditions to form certain precious stones, such as diamonds?  As the volcanoes erupt, they push the gemstones to the surface where they can be seen after the site has cooled.  So, indeed, God both figuratively and literally “gives beauty for ashes.”

Crystal Lewis and Ron Kenoly offer a tender rendition of the song “Beauty for Ashes.”

“Constant Reminders”: Inspired by the Verse of the Day

October 17, 2012

This morning as I began my day, I thought of Psalm 46 and decided to look up that particular psalm on the Bible software on my laptop. I couldn’t help but marvel at how my routine has changed over the past 45 years since I was first made reading the Scriptures a part of my daily routine. I was drafted into the US Army in 1967 in the midst of the Vietnam crisis, which served as a backdrop to my commitment to Jesus Christ and my introduction to the Word of God upon which I decided to build my life. Before I left for basic training, the members of my former church in Gary, Indiana had given me a small leather-bound Bible with a zipper. I still have the well-worn Bible with frayed pages and though the place where my name was embossed in gold has been worn away, I have endeavored to “hide the word in my heart that I might not sin against God.” Back then with the Bible in hand, taking a “good look at the Good Book” was part of my daily routine. Now that routine often involves reading the Word of God from my laptop.

For the past 45 years I have tried to implement the discipline of reading the Bible as a way of beginning my day.

As I went to pull up Psalm 46, the “Verse of the Day” caught my eye. When I read the two verses, a melody came to mind while meditating on this passage from the New International Version:

Psalm 25:14-15

The Lord confides in those who fear him;
    he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
    for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Verse 14 caused me to think of a poem that I had written nine years ago after hearing a message by Apostle David Puplompu who used six words as the foundation for his teaching: God-faith-hope-promise-covenant-love. I used to those six words in crafting a particular kind of poem called a “sestina” which is structured using six words which serve as the ending word of lines of a series of six stanzas plus a three-line closing stanza. One of the six words used is “covenant” mentioned in Psalm 25:14.

 

  Constant Reminders

   for Apostle David Puplompu

 

Quick and powerful is the Word of God.

Once heard, it generates within us faith,

Arising to anchor our souls in hope,

Linked to a sure and unfailing promise,

Sealed with an everlasting covenant:

Constant reminders of His endless love.

 

Never failing, always abounding love,

Still overflowing from the heart of God,

Expressed in the oath of His covenant,

Salted before the offspring of great faith,

From God, who cannot lie in this promise:

That through the Scriptures we might rest in hope.

 

Though we do not see, yet we wait in hope,

For we are rooted and grounded in love

And know that God fulfills every promise.

We place our ears near to the lips of God

And learn to walk, not by sight, but by faith,

Assured that He will keep His covenant.

 

God makes known to us a new covenant,

Quickened within us by a lively hope,

Energized by ever-increasing faith,

That we might know and be known by His love,

Surpassing even the knowledge of God:

How great and how precious is each promise.

 

To us and our children is this promise,

For we are joint-heirs of the covenant.

Grace, mercy and peace from our Father, God:

His plans to give us a future and hope.

As His dear children, we must walk in love,

Since we know that the just shall live by faith.

 

Born again into the family of faith,

As God sent, so we received the promise,

A measure of the fullness of His love.

Bound by words of a righteous covenant,

We shall never be ashamed of our hope:

We know that faithful and true is our God.

 

The seed of faith planted in covenant,

Rooted in its promise, blossoms in hope:

Rich harvest of love from the Word of God.

 

Verse 15 and its reference to “my eyes are ever on the Lord” caused me to think of the lyrics to this original composition:

 

The Servant’s Song: My Eyes Are Only on You

 My eyes are only on you.

My eyes are only on you.

All that you tell me that I will do.

I offer my life; I give it to you,

For my eyes are only on you.

 

As the eyes of a servant look to the hands of His Lord,

As the ears of a servant know so well his master’s voice,

So my mind stays focused to watch and learn how you move.

Create in me a servant’s heart; teach me to serve in love.

 

 

My eyes are only on you.

My eyes are only on you.

All that you tell me that I will do.

I offer my life; I give it to you,

For my eyes are only on you.

 

As I continue to wait upon my Master and Lord,

I will quickly obey and gladly submit to His will.

I fulfill my calling as I watch and wait to see

When He bids me to the wedding feast, and He will wait on me.

 

My eyes are only on you.

My eyes are only on you.

All that you tell me that I will do.

I offer my life; I give it to you,

For my eyes are only on you.

 

What a wonderful way to begin my day.  My routine of reading the Word of God is still the same yet somehow different because of the technology that I did not have access to 45 years ago when I first began to “hide the Word in my heart.”

 

Though I may not literally read the Bible everyday, I still endeavor to apply Psalm 119:11, one of the first scriptures that I committed to memory more than 40 years ago.

 

Ten for Twelve on 10-4-12 (not exactly)

October 8, 2012

Isaiah 62 with its 12 verses comprises the theme for the New Year: “Twelve for Twelve in 2012.”

At the beginning of the New Year, I posted a blog in Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe based on my theme and scriptural focal point for 2012. In this case, I had selected Isaiah 62, a passage that most providentially contains twelve verses. In studying the chapter, I decided to write a series of poems, as I personalized each of the twelve verses, calling the collection “Twelve for Twelve for 2012.” Here is the link to the first installment, published in two parts, inspired by Isaiah 62:1: “One for Twelve”:

And so the series continues with the tenth installment “Ten for Twelve,” a personalized poetic rendering of Isaiah 62:10, that should have been posted on October 4, 2012 (10-4-12).  Here is the verse from the New Living Testament:

Go out through the gates!
Prepare the highway for my people to return!
Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders;
raise a flag for all the nations to see.

Ten for Twelve

Isaiah 62:10

Come before me with thanks and go out through the gates.       

Prepare the highway for my people to return.  

As a father sends for his sons and then awaits                             

Their arrival, so I prepare your grand estates.

The time is short for those with eyes to discern. 

Make smooth the road and remove all the stones that impede.        

Prepare the way of the Lord,   so shall He return.  

Behold, I instruct you that you might also learn.                       

I unfold my Word that you might harken and heed:        

Implant my Word in your heart as precious seed. 

Raise high my banner that all the nations might see                                             

The majestic power of the King of Glory.     

In keeping with the tradition set with the first and subsequent poems,  I had every intention of posting this blog on the 4th of October, but somehow I did not complete the entry until today, October 8, Columbus Day, a day of special significance, especially since I live in Columbus, Ohio, a pioneering city named for the famed explorer.

The famed explored viewed his assignment to seek another route to the East as a mandate from God.

In preparing to post the poem, I noticed that it was actually composed a year ago on October 9, 2011. Perhaps what I considered a delay works toward an even more suitable occasion than the originally intended publication date. As my mother-in-law so often quotes, “God’s delay doesn’t mean God’s denial.”

Click here to learn more about Christopher Columbus, who was believed to have been a Messianic Jew, who embarked upon his voyage to the New World as a fulfillment of his spiritual mandate from God, in some sense, “to prepare the way for Lord,” which I see as a theme in the passage from Isaiah and in the poem that it inspired.  Michael W. Smith offers a spirited rendition of the song “Prepare ye the Way of the Lord.”

The passage and the poem also bring to mind other songs related to idea that “The King is Coming,” one such version is by the Gaither Trio:

The reference to “flag” in closing couple brought to mind the term “banner” which is used in the New King James Version of Isaiah 62:10.  A song using the word “banner” almost immediately came to mind: “Onward, Christian soldiers,” composed by General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. Recently In discussing previous revival movements, I made reference to General Booth and his fervent prayer for God to “Send the Fire,” in light of our praying for “another Pentecost.” Here is video footage of William Booth reciting the lyrics to one of his most recognized hymns, along with other inspiring quotes from this respected Christian leader, as the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” resounds in the background.

In working on this blog entry, I discovered a YouTube video entitled “Isaiah 62 Song: Surely Your Salvation is Coming” from Scripturesongsforworship.com. It provides a musical rendition of the entire chapter based on the King James Version of the text, a most pleasant way to conclude the Ten for Twelve posted on 10-4-12 (not exactly).