Archive for June, 2013

Reflections on the message: “He Found Me”

June 24, 2013
No matter how seemingly forsaken and uncomfortable the place where we are located in difficult times, God will always find us.

No matter how seemingly forsaken and uncomfortable the place where we are located in difficult times, God will always find us.

This past Sunday, June 23, 2013, Pastor Michael T. Bivens of Equip U Ministries, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, offered another powerful message that impacted me in a powerful way. The message was entitled “He Found Me,” and Pastor Bivens focused on places of desperation and disappointment, places of barrenness and weakness in a dry desert. Despite our being in an undesirable and uncomfortable place, God knows exactly where we are, and He will always manage to find us right where we are. I thought of the familiar quote, “Wherever you go, there you are,” which I augmented with this “And wherever you are, God will find you there.” Pastor Bivens made a similar statement which became the introduction to a poem inspired by the message:

But He Found Me

God sees me where I am,

and He has found me in this place.

 Pastor Michael T. Bivens

But He found me, in a wasteland, in a deserted place.

Surrounded by lack, pressed on all sides in a narrow space.

Alone in a place where I never thought that I would be,

How I longed to seek His face, but it seemed so far from me,

As I shivered in the darkness wrapped in shame and disgrace.

Surrounded by enemies, I was pursued on the chase,

With painful memories of failure nothing could erase.

At the end of my rope, I had fallen and grown weary,

But He found me.

From my rightful position the enemy tried to displace,

But with loving arms God reached out to forgive and embrace.

With arms that ached and weary feet, stumbling to keep the pace,

I had grown tired and seemed to faint at the end of the race,

But He found me.

In the course of the morning message, Pastor Bivens shared a poem by an unknown author:

"Keep your hand on the plow--hold on!"

“Keep your hand on the plow–hold on!”

The Plough

Keep me from turning back
My hand is on the plough, my faltering hand:
But all in front of me is untilled land,
The wilderness and solitary place,
The lonely desert with its interspace.
What harvest have I but this paltry grain,
These dwindling husks, a handful of dry corn,
These poor lean stalks? My courage is outworn,
Keep me from turning back.
The handles of my plough with tears are wet,
The shares with rust are spoiled, and yet, and yet,
My God! My God! Keep me from turning back.

This particular poem brought to mind a similar original poem which also makes reference to the words of Jesus Christ who talked those put their hands to the plow and looked back:

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.

Accompanying the poem is a lively version of the spiritual “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” sung by Mahalia Jackson, the Queen of  Gospel, who reigned throughout most of the 20th century.

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Celebrating my birthday: Recalling the first and most recent “occasional” poetry

June 17, 2013

June 17

As an “occasional” poet, meaning that I have been known to pen a poem or two from time to time, as well as being someone who writes poetry for specific occasions. One such occasion that generally inspires me to write a poem is my birthday. Today is my birthday, and as I began my day in reflecting with great gratitude over the past 71 years, I happened to recall the first occasional poem that I wrote, even before I ever acknowledged and accepted the poet’s calling.  My twenty-first birthday seemed a noteworthy occasion worth commenting on, and so I wrote a few lines which I entitled “Upon Turning Twenty-one,” a title that suggests a work of much grander proportions than my feeble first efforts might indicate.  Two years ago, I posted a blog entry written in celebration of my birthday, making reference to my first “occasional poem.” Here is a link to that particular entry:

https://drlej.wordpress.com/tag/the-great-adventure/

Today, in celebration of my birthday, I composed a new poem in which I refer to that first poem and several other compositions written over the years. I trust that you will read, reflect, and appreciate the sentiment that I express as a poet rooted in the Bible, writing from a Christian perspective

 

Poet Laureate

Reflections on my 71st birthday

June 17, 2013

 

The breath of the Spirit stirred my passion to create

With words to commemorate “Upon Turning Twenty-one”

My calling as so-called “self-appointed poet laureate:”

Before God even spoke, the work was already done.

He knew I would seek to be all He called me to be.

A son of Issachar, I inquire what does it mean

To stand at this time and place: “This Year of My Jubilee”

“Upon Turning Seventy-one” today in 2013.

“Young man, you’re born for luck,” I heard a wise woman say.

Happy, blessed, and fortunate is the man in the first Psalm.

The blessings of the Lord have abounded all along the way,

As I flourish in the courts of God as a fruitful palm.

The grace of God still abounds these three score years and ten plus one

I assess my life with gratitude “When All is Said and Done.”

 

 

Four qualities of a good father and “Daddy’s Little Girl”

June 17, 2013
L-O-V-E provides the basis for four qualities of a good father.

L-O-V-E provides the basis for four qualities of a good father.

On June 15, the day before Father’s Day, my daughter, Melissa, and I shared at a Father/Daughter Luncheon/Tea, which was part of a 2-day conference in Columbus, Ohio sponsored by Girls Night Out Slumber Party (GNOS). Phillippa Singleton Jackson, Founding President and Director of this community resource for young girls, had invited me to speak at their luncheon, and Melissa “just happened” to be in town for Father’s Day and my birthday as well as for a wedding reception in her honor.  Even though she is getting married soon, I realize that she will always be “Daddy’s Little Girl.” She reflected on what’s it’s like to be “Daddy’s Little Girl,” and I shared four qualities that make up a “good father,” the kind of father I strive to be.

These four qualities are embodied in the word “love– L-O-V-E” the foundation for building healthy father/daughter relationships. Each letter represents a specific characteristic of a “good father.”

L stands for Love.

First and foremost, a father loves.  As a verb, love connotes action, for love is a decision.  Love leads by example, in that love moves first. . . God so loved that He gave, as John 3:16 so clearly reveals. Following the example of God, our Father, a father loves because God is love, and He tells him to love. The poem by John Oxenham also reinforces this message:

Love ever lives/outlives/forgives

And while it stands/with open hands/

It lives/for this love’s prerogative/to give and give and give

It has been said that you can give without loving, but you cannot love with giving.  A father loves and shows his love by giving . . . his time, his attention, his resources, all that he has he is willing to give to support his family.

O is for “Observes and looks out for”

 A “watchman” in Bible times stood on guard to protect the community from those who might come into take from the resources of the people. Similarly, the father observes who’s coming in and who’s going out of his environment.  A good father is especially keen in checking out any young man who is trying to come in take away the precious treasure that is his daughter. Fathers have an application process in place, a series of interviews and preliminary requisites leading up to the first date and beyond.  A good father is always on the lookout and always looking out for, praying interceding for his daughter.

V is for “Values and esteems highly”

Fathers wear a jeweler’s glass –In the same way that an expert gemologist keeps a jeweler’s glass around his neck when examining precious gems, I keep my eyes open, ever watchful for those rare “blue diamonds” whose color adds to their value and rarity. Diamonds are precious gems that are of great value, but blue diamonds are even more valuable because they are even more rare than white diamonds.

A good father is always looking for those hidden qualities or traits that others might not see. Indeed, he finds them and bring them to his daughter’s attention, and reminder her of just how special she is. She is unique, one of a kind, a priceless treasure that he values and thanks God for, and he tells her so.

E is for “Encourages”

A good father is like a coach—who supports—cheers onward—celebrates success and is present to comfort and console when things don’t turn out as you had expected.  Despite the results of any endeavor, good fathers show unconditional love and continual affirmation.  Anea Bogue in discussing “9 Ways Dad Can Help their Daughters Self-esteem” makes this statement:

“Studies confirm that a girl’s self-esteem is directly impacted by her experience of unconditional love and affirmation from her father. Not a day should pass without her knowing, through word or action that you love and appreciate her. Acknowledge her accomplishments and express your confidence in her ability to do better when she falls short of her best.”

Fathers remind their daughters of the motto which is used in athletics, academics, and all of life, a poem by James Casey:

Good, better, best

Never let it rest
Until the good is better

And the better is best

Review   

The essence of a good father is found in the verb “L-O-V-E” which reveals four characteristics of a good father, four broad strokes of a self-portrait of the good father I aspire to be:

Like God, the ultimate example of a good father, each individual who strives to be a good father will love because God is love, and He tells us to love one another with a pure heart fervently.

Like a watchman on the wall, a good father observes and watches out for his daughter.

Like a jeweler, a good father is always on the lookout for special qualities that make a precious gem even more valuable, as he values and esteems highly his daughter.

Like a coach, a good father encourages and supports and celebrates each victory and comforts and cheers up any shortcoming along the road to success.

Closing thoughts on “Daddy’s Little Girl”

I conclude this blog entry with a poem “A Blush of Innocence.”The original inspiration for the piece was an experience that occurred more than 30 years ago when I taught Children’s Fellowship, and I had gone away for a period of time and returned a few years later. One of the young girls whom I taught had blossomed into a beautiful young lady, and I was amazed at how quickly she had grown up. She was not even aware of my presence, and she probably didn’t even remember me, but I marveled at her poise and maturity. After a few moments of talking back and forth with her friends, someone said something humorous, and she began to blush. In that instance, I recognized that glimpse of innocence in her eyes, a precious glint that you wish you could freeze frame and keep forever in your heart and mind. Later I came to recognize a similar look in my daughters’ eyes, and when I completed the poem inspired by the experience with the young girl, I dedicated it” to them.

Blush of Innocence

 For Melissa and Angela

 A blush of innocence upon the face

 Of budding girl at a tender age

 Is the rare reward of those who trace

 The essence of youth to its purest stage.

 The heart of a child is an open garden

 Where the rarest of flowers flourish and grow,

 Though time schemes and devises to harden

 The heart with weeds and walls that hide the glow.

 Pure innocence blooms in a young girl’s eyes.

 Look upon the glowing face and cherish

The petals, the bud where such beauty lies,

 For fruit shall come and the blossom perish.

 Though beauty spans beyond adolescence,

 No smile outshines a blush of innocence.

 “A Blush of Innocence,” offers a fleeting reminder that Melissa will always be “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

As I was preparing to make my presentation for the father/daughter tea, I came across this wonderful recording by Michael Buble who sings “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

 

Father’s Day Reflections–2014

June 14, 2013

Prov. 23,24-25

Today, June 15, 2014, is Father’s Day, and the Verse of the Day from Proverbs 23:24 is apropos of this occasion:

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.

Another verse from the Old Testament related to fathers also comes to mind at this time. In the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament, in Malachi 4:5-6 we find another reference to fathers and their children. This passage provided an introduction to a Father’s Day Tribute last year, and I am re-posting that entry on Father’s Day, 2014:

In the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament, the Scriptures make this declaration:

This passage from Malachi comes to mind as we approach Father's Day 2013

This passage from Malachi 4:5-6 in the New King James Version comes to mind on Father’s Day 2014.

The third Sunday in June is Father’s Day, a day of commemoration and celebration to honor fathers–whether as Stepfathers, Uncles, Grandfathers, or “Big Brothers” or adult male family friends—we recognize all men who have acted as father figures in our lives.

The actual celebration of Father’s Day in the United States goes back to the early part of the 20th Century, when Sonora Smart Dodd, Mrs. John B. Dodd, of Washington State, first proposed the idea of a “father’s day” in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, who was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd’s mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington State. After Mrs. Dodd became an adult, she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.

The first Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America other people were beginning to celebrate a “father’s day.” In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day, which is also recognized in a number of countries around the world and celebrated at various times throughout the year. Roses are the Father’s Day flowers: red to be worn for a living father and white if the father has died.

I recalled the lyrics to one of the hymns sung so many times as child and as an adult, which seems most appropriate for this occasion, “Faith of Our Fathers”:

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
We all shall then be truly free.

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

The accompanying video provides a rendering of the hymn in celebration of the Fourth of July.

As believers we have a remarkable inheritance of faith, the Faith of our Fathers, that has been passed down to us from countless generations, going back to Abraham, the father of faith, passed on to the mighty men of faith of the Old Testament all the way through to Jesus Christ, for we have received the “faith of Jesus Christ.” Moreover we are surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in the New Testament and giants of faith who have lived beyond the first Century, as we are still inspired by the lives of great men of faith today. Men of faith inspire faith in others, as this original Father’s Day poem speaks of that priceless inheritance passed on:

Legacies

I

Faithful and true heroes ever remain
And generate legacies we pass on
To each generation, father to son,
Heart to heart. The light of life left behind
Ever shines to brighten the path of truth,
Raised and then passed on from elder to youth.

II

Faithful and true heroes ever remain for all
Who hear the mandate and rise to answer God’s call.
Our lives of service are legacies we pass on
To the next generation, from father to son.
With the love of Christ in us, we tear down each wall.

We rally to support a brother should he fall.
Our ears have been pierced with the sharp tip of an awl:
A covenant of blood ever seals our union.
Faithful and true heroes ever remain.

Spiritual athletes excel beyond glove or ball.
They seek to bring out the best, as iron sharpens iron,
Striving to finish strong and pass on the baton.
On the shoulders of our fathers we now stand tall
To view the future where greater victories are won.
Faithful and true heroes ever remain.

This particular Father’s Day may be a very difficult time for many families who have lost a father, as result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and conflicts elsewhere in the world where many of those who serve in the military have offered that last full measure of devotion and sacrificed their lives. Others may have suffered the loss of their fathers in other ways that are no less painful. A fitting way to close is with this reminder that God is our Father, a Father who is deeply touched by our grief. He is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. Here is a wonderful reminder of God our Father’s compassion, as the song written by Eddie Carswell and Babbie Mason in the video below encourages us to “Trust His Heart.”

The Word for the Day: Encourage

June 5, 2013
The word for the day taken from "The Word for the Day" in Biblegateway.com is "Encourage."

The word for the day taken from “The Word for the Day” in Biblegateway.com:  “Encourage.”

This morning as I began to pull up the Bible on my laptop, I noticed that the “Verse of the Day” was taken from I Thessalonians 5:11. As I went over the verse and compared the scripture in a couple of other versions, I was inspired to write a few words of encouragement, expressed in this poem:

 

Encourage

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

.

.

Don’t stop now—keep on pursuing

Keep seeking His face

Don’t get weary in well doing

You must keep the pace

Seek and you shall find

The strength to be transformed–

Renewed in the spirit of your mind

Encourage yourself

And encourage one another

Build each other up

Every sister and brother

Speaking the truth, we grow up

Therefore, encourage one another

 

I found the accompanying video “Encourage one another” which is a compilation of the same verse from I Thessalonians 5:11 and other scriptures and words of encouragement from Kimberly Culpen. May we all be strengthened and encouraged today.

 

Recent Reflections: Remember the Sabbath Day…

June 3, 2013
Recent teachings on the 4th Commandment have inspired a couple of poetic expressions.

Recent teachings on the 4th Commandment have inspired a couple of poetic expressions.

As I attempt to hone my skills as a writer, through this blog or by way of my Examiner.com pages, I sometimes think of the words of Saint Augustine: “To contemplate the truth and to share the fruits of that contemplation.” Recently I have been giving considerable thought to a series of messages given by Pastor Michael Bivens relative to the 4th Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. In reflecting on the first message of the series along with a follow up message by his wife, Pastor Joy Bivens, I was inspired to write two poems which are included in today’s blog entry.

My family was not Seventh Day Adventists nor were we strict legalists with regard to keeping the Sabbath, but as I was growing up, I recognized early on that Sunday, which we taught was the Sabbath, was a special day that somehow differed from the first seven days of the week. My mother always prepared a special meal that was more elaborate than the usual weekday fare which was very satisfying, nonetheless. Following the meal, we could not do any household chores, and there was no sewing or ironing of clothes or tending to any other mundane matters. My sister and I could not go to the movies (although we could watch television) or participate in other events outside the church. All this was practiced with an assumed recognition of “keeping the Sabbath day holy.”

For the past 46 years, I have been an ardent student of the Word of God with a passion to study the Bible and teach its precepts. As I took extensive notes during most Sunday morning messages, I would sometimes review my notes later that evening and reflect and write. For a period of time, I would review my notes on the following Monday morning when my schedule allowed me to do so. Since the reminder of the significance of the Sabbath, I now devote Sunday evenings to reflecting, writing, and communing with God in a new way.

To reinforce the initial message, I composed this poetic reminder:

 Do Remember the Sabbath Day

Once again for Pastor Michael T. Bivens

 

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

 Exodus 20:8

Do remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy:

Time of rest and worship, devoted to God solely.

Never forget–Imprint this truth in your heart and mind.

In the Sabbath rest of God this is where we will find

God’s will that we cease from labor and serve Him wholly.

Represent creation, even as He is holy.

Serve not yourselves but the true and living God only.

Leave a legacy of service for all who come behind.

Do remember the Sabbath day.

The Lord displaces the proud and exalts the lowly,

Who savor the goodness of God ever so slowly

And reflect the glorious creation He designed.

Seek God’s perfect will and do it and then be aligned.

Keep God first and never entertain the unholy.

Do remember the Sabbath day.

This familiar passage also relates to keeping the Sabbath, as God intended it to be kept.

This familiar passage also relates to keeping the Sabbath, as God intended it to be kept.

Pastor Joy Bivens, co-pastor of Equip U Ministries, offered a follow-up teaching on the importance of keeping the Sabbath, this past Sunday, and her message based on Isaiah 58 inspired this poem:

“Lord, I will. . .”

For Pastor Joy Bivens

Isaiah 58: 13-14

“If you will . . . , then I will,” says the Lord, who cannot lie.

I say, “Lord, I will . . .” and know that you will not deny:

No good thing will you withhold from those who walk upright,

Who do your good pleasure to make the Sabbath their delight.

To honor you and obey you this day is my good pleasure.

To serve you shall be my delight beyond all measure.

I will speak for you–what would you have me to say?

I do not seek my own way but honor you this day.

From the depths of the Valley of Despair I ascend,

For you cause me to ride upon the wings of the wind

And feed me with the heritage of Jacob, my father.

To lavish love upon those who serve you is no bother.

Assured of the final victory, you give this token

And bring to pass all things the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Listen to a reading of Isaiah 58 by Alexander Scourby:

Following the message by Pastor Joy, I shared a prophetic poetic word of exhortation that captured the essence of how we should view the subject of keeping the Sabbath day. God desires that we “change our attitude,” as this piece encourages us to do:

From “Gotta” to “Gitta“

For Yolanda Stewart

 with gratitude to Dr. Dale Sides

 who introduced the concept

 

 

 Little biddy things can happen that don’t make sense.

Changing one little letter makes a big difference.

Subtle changes in the words we speak can change our mood:

From “gotta” to “gitta” shows a whole new attitude.

“I ‘gotta’ go to work and pass the time away”

Becomes “I ‘gitta’ go to work; I have a job today!”

“I ‘gotta’ take care of these kids—that’s another world”

Becomes “I ‘gitta’ nurture those who will someday change the world!”

Work heartily for the Lord whatever you do.

Remember in the end that He will reward you.

You may not agree with me, but it’s still so true,

Especially when you face tasks you don’t “wanna” do.

Some doors may close, but this key to life you will find:

Put off the old, put on the new–renew your mind.

“ ‘Gotta’ to ‘gitta’ ” is thinking of another kind.

Move ahead in faith, and you won’t be left behind.

We have to change in the midst of these changing times.

Standing on the mountain top is the one who climbs.

Changing how we think and what we say does make sense;

From “gotta” to “gitta” makes a really big difference.

 

“Words of Wisdom”—a daily dose of “words to the wise”–Day 15

June 1, 2013
This blog entry is another in a series featuring a daily dose of “words to the wise,” poetically expressed from the Book of Proverbs.

This blog entry is another in a series featuring a daily dose of “words to the wise,” poetically expressed from the Book of Proverbs.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading about and reflecting upon wisdom as revealed in the Book of Proverbs. Often I begin my day with such a period of meditation and reflection, which often results in a poetic expression that I incorporate into a blog entry for that day. In a number of the poems posted over the past two weeks there have been references, not just to “wisdom” per se, but to the “spirit of wisdom” which is a specific aspect of the “seven spirits of God,” spoken of in Isaiah 11:2 and elsewhere in the Bible.  Apostle Eric L. Warren’s most enlightening book The Seven Spirits of God: Learning to Walk in the Dominion and Authority of Christ provides an in-depth discussion of this vitally important and relevant concept.

One of the seven spirits mentioned in Isaiah 11:2 is the Spirit of Wisdom which has been mentioned in this series on wisdom.

One of the seven spirits mentioned in Isaiah 11:2 is the Spirit of Wisdom which has been mentioned in this series on wisdom.

The poem posted on Day 11 of the “Words of Wisdom” series examined “My True Identity,” a fundamental part of which relates to looking at myself spiritually in a new way, as I apply my heart unto wisdom, using the “Seven Spirits of God” in this manner:

The Seven Spirits of God: This Seven-fold Template

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge

and of the fear of the LORD;

Isaiah 11:2

 

As my teacher, clearly show me how I relate

To the Seven Spirits of God revealed in Your Word,

As I place my life against this seven-fold template:

From dark chaos I call forth the Spirit of the Lord;

With creative insight from the Spirit of Wisdom

And the Spirit of Knowledge I am eager to learn

Of the unfolding fullness of the coming Kingdom;

Impart understanding that I might also discern,

As You enlighten my eyes and teach my hands to fight,

To win in spiritual warfare of the highest degree,

To be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might,

To walk in dominion, knowing Christ’s authority,

As the Spirit of Counsel offers advice, gives consent;

To know the fear of the Lord is ever to revere

And finish my course, my God-given assignment:

To abide in God’s awesome presence in meekness and fear.

Isaiah_11-2