Archive for March, 2013

Reflections of the Resurrection: Three poems and three musical compositions

March 31, 2013
In thinking of all that Jesus Christ endured, we recognize that the priced he paid was more than enough.

In thinking of all that Jesus Christ endured, we recognize that the priced he paid was more than enough.

In reflecting upon the events leading up the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ and his subsequent resurrection, three poems came to mind that I would like to share. From time to time I attempt to comprehend to a limited degree the unimaginable anguish and suffering that the Savior took upon himself on my behalf. The scriptures speak of “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith . . . who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame. . . .” As I read about or view in a film or some other graphic portrayal, I am sometimes tempted to scream, “Enough is enough.” Such sentiments I express in this first poem which was composed on Resurrection Sunday, March 31, 2001:

More than Enough

How much is enough?

Can you measure the length of each scar on his back?

Can you trace the depth of each gash and follow each track?

Can you extract and analyze sweat, like drops of blood?

Can you remove water and blood and then weigh the good?

Can you collect the tears and hold them in a vial?

Can you assess the shame and disgrace of trumped up trial?

How much is enough?

One more mocking bow, one more man to spit in his face,

One more taunting gesture, one more mark of disgrace.

One more lash, one more gash, one more blow to the head,

As he endured the cross, despising the shame as he bled.

To smash once more, one blow short of certain death.

He cried, “It is finished” then yielded his last breath.

How much is enough?

Who can assess the worth of his blood and establish a price

For the precious Lamb of God, unblemished, sinless sacrifice?

God’s bounty of mercy is sufficient. His deep love will suffice.

Despite the deficit, God balances each account to set it right.

Where sin once had free reign, now grace has abounded instead.

The Lord himself provided the Lamb, whom He raised from the dead.

In His gracious goodness Jehovah-Jireh reminds us

That He is more than enough, yes, so much more than enough.

Listen to this corresponding musical composition, “More than Enough” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

On this particular occasion when I took communion, I took it personally.

On this particular occasion when I took communion, I took it personally.

As is often the case, Holy Week, or the commemoration of the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, takes place during the same period as the Jewish Passover celebration. Such was the case in 1998 when Passover began at sunset on Good Friday, April 15. The congregation at my church partook of the Lord Supper or Holy Communion, and although I had taken communion seemingly countless times prior to that particular occasion, I apprehended to a much greater degree the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ and was inspired to compose this poem:

Taking It Personally

Isaiah 53


Cursed with a curse, He was hung on a tree.

The suffering servant bartered for a price,

Battered and bruised for my iniquity.

Behold the Lamb, unblemished sacrifice,

Offered once, Jesus Christ, my Passover.

Afflicted, stricken, smitten that God should

Freely pour out His mercy, moreover,

Lay on Him the chastisement of my peace.

From His side flowed water and sinless blood,

A new covenant established that I might cease

From dead works by a new and living way.

God’s good pleasure no longer concealed

But memorialized this solemn day.

Man of sorrows, with His stripes I am healed

In spirit, mind and body, for I am

Quickened and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.

 

This morning I discovered this recording which expresses in part my response on that unforgettable Good Friday/Passover: “Just for Me” by Shekinah Glory Ministries

On a number of occasions, when I first awake on Resurrection Sunday, I would greet my wife or our daughters with the words “He is risen,” and the corresponding response would be “He is risen, indeed.” This phrase turns out to be the closing phrase in this poem:

Witness

 

Luke 24:1-9

The account of the women at the empty tomb

 

Though we did not journey with the women

In the dark before dawn that first day,

Nor were we walking, weeping with them when

Two angels spoke, nor did we hear them say,

“He is not here but risen as he said;

Recall that on the third day he should rise;

Why seek you the living among the dead?”

Though we did not see with our naked eyes,

In our hearts we know God’s desire to bless.

Though we did not touch Christ nor did we see

The open tomb, yet we still bear witness.

We have a more sure word of prophecy.

By the spirit, fruit of our Promised Seed,

We surely know He is risen, risen, indeed.

“My Soul is a Witness” is a tradition Black spiritual sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in a recording made in 1920. Here is a link to an article discussing the contribution of this musical ensemble who were pioneers in developing the spiritual and sharing it with the world. The group has a special connection with Columbus, Ohio where I presently live, as readers will discover:

http://www.examiner.com/list/top-ten-medley-of-favorite-songs-celebrating-the-resurrection

Because of what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished through his suffering, his death, burial and resurrection, we can all be “a witness for my Lord.”

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In Response to “Don’t D.I.E.” “I Shall L.I.V.E.”

March 19, 2013
Psalm 118:17 has meant a great deal to me, especially over the past 13 years.

Psalm 118:17 has meant a great deal to me, especially over the past 13 years.

Recently while reflecting on the first three months of 2013, I recall that I approached the New Year with eager anticipation that it would be a glorious display of God’s favor demonstrated in a special way. Take a look at the first blog entry for Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe where I talk about “The Number 13” to see what I mean:

https://drlej.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/2013-taking-a-new-look-at-the-number-13/

During January I also participated in a life-transforming workshop presented by Dr. Tom Edwards who spoke of the place where we find ourselves in this season, and he exhorted participants “Don’t D.I.E. in the Transition.” Using “D.I.E” as an acronym, he specifically addressed some of the factors that would hinder, inhibit or stop us altogether, as we journey to next level of success:

Dr. Edwards spoke of three ways to D.I.E. expressed in this way—we should not become:

DISTRACTED,                IDLED,                            ENTICED

DISCOURAGED,            INTIMIDATED,           ENTANGLED

DEFEATED,                 IMPLODED,                       EXPIRED

As I reviewed the notes from the workshop, I developed a personal response, as I reflected upon a verse that has come to mean a great deal to me over the past 13 years.

Psalm 118:17

 I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the Lord.

In addition, I added an acronym of my own: L.I.V.E.

LEARN to INVEST in and VALUE EACH day that you live.

When I first committed Psalm 118:17 to memory, I was also inspired to write a song which I sang for my former brother-in-law, Elliott Thompson, who was dying of cancer at the time.

This verse was the inspiration for a song composed for someone else, but I continue to sing it to myself.

This verse was the inspiration for a song composed for someone else, but I continue to sing it to myself.

I Shall Not Die, but Live!

Chorus:

I shall not die, but live!

And declare the works of the Lord.

I shall confess and claim the promises

According to God’s matchless Word.

Verse 1

I must work while it is day,

For there’s so much I have to do.

As I pass through the storms of life,

I know He’ll always see me through.

Chorus:

Verse 2

He’ll strengthen and encourage me

And uphold me with His right hand.

He works all things together for my good

According to His perfect plan.

Chorus:

Verse 3

He teaches me to wait on Him

And overcome each doubt and fear.

He is my Lord; in Him I put my trust.

Like a shepherd, He’s always near.

Chorus:

Verse 4

To find the answers to Life’s problems

In God’s Word His will is revealed.

Christ conquered poverty and disease:

By His stripes I know I am healed.

Chorus:

Sometime during last year my daughter, Melissa, sent me a YouTube video of a song that she said was a kind of “theme song” for me:  “I Shall Live” by Darlene McCoy

In addition to highlighting verse 17 of Psalm 118, I read over the entire psalm and a number of other verses caught my attention. The Psalm of David opens with an energetic exhortation which is repeated five times, symbolic of God’s grace, in Psalm 118:1, 2, 3, 4, and 29—

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 118:8 also caught my attention.

It is better to trust in the Lord
than to put confidence in man.

Some people say that this verse is “smack dab in the center” of the Bible, and others say that it is not the center verse of the Scriptures. In any case, it was the inspiration for a song with these lyrics:

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

Cast aside your own selfish schemes and follow His perfect plan.

Focus your eyes on Him and stay centered in His will.

Keep seeking the Lord with all your heart, stay prayerful and be still.

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

The power of man is limited, though he may do the best he can.

Put all your trust in the Lord, for righteousness shall prevail.

Keep putting your confidence in God, for He will never fail.

SONY DSC

Psalm 118:24 is one of the most recognized verses from the Book of Psalms:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

This verse is the inspiration for this recording with accompanying magnificent photos recorded by the—Bob Jones Academy Choir

As I continue to reflect upon Dr. Edwards’ workshop and study and apply the Word of God to my life, I will not “D.I.E.”  in the transition, but I will “L.I.V.E.” by “Learning to Invest in and Value Every day.”

I conclude this blog entry with this stirring reminder from Fred Hammond of Psalm 118:24:

What if. . .: Reflecting on God’s Goodness

March 13, 2013
Psalm 124:1 in the New Living Translation opens with a provocative question: "What if. . . "

Psalm 124:1 in the New Living Translation opens with a provocative question: “What if. . . “

This morning I woke up and began my day in grateful praise to God to see another day. I have so much to be thankful for, and as I reflected upon the goodness of God, I thought of Psalm 124 which I read aloud in the New Living Translation. The Psalmist stimulates our thinking with one of those “What if. . .” questions:

Psalm 124

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

What if the Lord had not been on our side?
Let all Israel repeat:
What if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us?
They would have swallowed us alive
in their burning anger.
The waters would have engulfed us;
a torrent would have overwhelmed us.
Yes, the raging waters of their fury
would have overwhelmed our very lives.                                                                                                                                                Praise the Lord,
who did not let their teeth tear us apart!
We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap.
The trap is broken, and we are free!
Our help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Verse 1 in the King James Version was the inspiration for this personal poetic expression:

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 sings “If it Had Not Been for the Lord on My Side.”

The essence of that message is reinforced with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, who remind me of “The Goodness of the Lord”

The Goodness of the Lord

I conclude this blog entry, as I reflect upon the past 70 years and metaphorically

I Sing in My Garden

Oh, sing unto the LORD a new song!

Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless his name;

Proclaim the good news from day to day.

Psalm 96:1-2

 

I sing in my garden and reap the good,

The bounty of living these seventy years.

Each note seems to evoke a stream of tears

That fall, not because of some somber mood

But flow from a heart filled with gratitude.

The folksong of the farmer thrills my ears

Each time plowing, planting or harvest nears.

I compose my song, having understood

Lyrics I did not know when I was young,

When life was uncertain, my song unsure.

Now from my green garden I garner truth.

A song of conviction flows from my tongue.

I am seasoned and strengthened to endure,

Knowing the best lines are yet to be sung.

garden 2

A New Prescription: “Medicine (For Someone Else)”—More Good Medicine

March 8, 2013
These antique medicine bottles bring to mind a song that I recently heard, bring to mind days when I "made medicine," as a pharmacist.

These antique medicine bottles bring to mind a song that I recently heard, bringing  to mind days when I “made medicine,” as a pharmacist.

Recently as I listened to a local gospel music radio station, I heard a rendition of “Medicine (For Someone Else)” performed by Ruben Studdard and The Black Academy Choir.  Described as a “comforting soul ballad,” the song brought to mind my blog “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe,” where I thought this would make a wonderful musical prescription that I could add to the shelves of “Good Medicine.” The following excerpt from an entry posted at the beginning of last year captures the essence of what I hoped the blog would be:

During the first week of the first month of the New Year 2012, as I prepare a blog entry for Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe, I recall the early days of my first profession as a registered pharmacist. For more than 25 years I was a practicing pharmacist, but now as a writer and minister, I use my skills in poetry and prose while incorporating music and visual arts to “fill prescriptions” designed to minister to the heart and soul in this blog.

To become more faithful in blogging, I plan to post “Word for the Day: Daily Dose of Good Medicine.” I invite you to stop by and see what remedies I have been working on recently, as I continue to compound “After the Art of the Apothecary.”

To learn more about “Good Medicine” from Dr. J. click here.

Now for your listening enjoyment, here is “Medicine (For Someone Else).”

As I listened to the song again, I realize that so often seemingly adverse situations that we encounter and endure turn out to be a blessing and inspiration for others whom we provide comfort to, as the God of all comfort comforts us in all our trials:

1 Corinthians 1:3-4:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

The lyrics to the Ruben Studdard song remind us, that as we walk in the steps of Christ we will come to realize that our lives are not really about us but about others:

Take the trials that you been through

And all the times life made you blue

Search down deep within yourself

Ooohhh make it medicine for someone else, someone else

Not too long ago, after a very stimulating discussion at a men’s meeting at our church, I was inspired to write a poem related to a distinguishing marks of manhood, described as “sacrificial living.”

Sacrificial Living: Assignment of Manhood

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,

that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,

which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12: 1

 

Forgetting things left behind, I press toward the mark.

The passion that now enflames my life was once a spark.

This all-consuming fire, great light dispels the dark,

As I abide in God’s presence in a place beyond the Ark.

I continue to strive ever toward the highest good

With sacrificial living: assignment of manhood.

 

Like Christ, I endure the cross while despising the shame

And accept this high calling and embrace my new name.

By grace to stand in His presence without any blame,

I continue to strive ever toward the highest good.

 

Always remaining aware that God is in control,

I am still running to serve as my life’s highest goal.

This zeal for God and His Word burns deep within my soul,

With sacrificial living: assignment of manhood.

 

Being fully persuaded, I now know that I know

That God will fulfill His will and declare, “It is so!”

I set aside pride; where He leads me I will follow:

I continue to strive ever toward the highest good.

 

Looking to the future, I walk by faith, not by sight.

To do all the will of God still remains my delight

To follow Christ’s command that I should be salt and light

With sacrificial Living: assignment of manhood.

 

To speak the Word of life in all that I do and say,

To follow in the steps of Christ all along the way.

Until the final victory I must watch, fight and pray.

I continue to strive ever toward the highest good.

 

Triumphant from faith to faith and glory to glory,

I still seek God’s face in the place of my destiny.

Life continues to unfold as a scroll before me.

With sacrificial living: assignment of manhood.

 

With a love so strong, yet ever so tender,

Nothing can dissuade me, nor can anything hinder.

I will hold fast to the faith and never surrender.

God’s Word hidden in my heart, I’ll always remember:

I continue to strive ever toward the highest good

With sacrificial living: assignment of manhood.

 

Hearing the song with its reference to “making medicine” along with other scriptures and conversations, I continue to be grateful for the constant reminders to live sacrificially.

Prescriptions filled in Dr. J's Apothecary Shoppe provide "Good Medicine" for those who partake.

Prescriptions filled in Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe provide “Good Medicine” for those who partake.