Archive for June, 2021

Reflections on the Journey—Strengthened for the Journey Ahead

June 23, 2021

Last week as it unfolded into a new week included my 79th birthday on Thursday, June 17 and Father’s Day on June 20. Sometime my birthday occurs on the third Sunday in June, but whether these two occasions coincide or not, this period of time is significant for me, as I reflect with deepest gratitude to God for these two grand occasions. Indeed, I have been in a reflective mood these past few days, and when I look at the Verse of the Day for June 23, 2021, I continue to pause and consider deeply, to “Selah” one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament. Today’s Verse of the Day comes from Isaiah 40:31, but I have committed the entire closing passage to memory because it offers great comfort and assurance, so needed in my life at this time:

Isaiah 40:28-31 (New Living Translation):

28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

In Psalm 103:3-5 (NLT) we find another reference to being renewed like the eagle.

He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

These passages also bring to mind the closing verses of Psalm 27, my favorite Psalm:

Psalm 27:13-14

New King James Version (NKJV)

13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 27:14 also inspired the following original psalm that I recite to myself and share with others:  

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.                                                    

Donnie McClurkin and Karen Clark Sheard offer this comforting advice: “Wait on the Lord.”

Blessed beyond words

June 21, 2021

In reflecting over the past week which included my 79th birthday and Father’s Day, my soul overflows with gratitude to God for innumerable blessings that I continue to enjoy. My immediate family and my spiritual family of brothers and sisters in Christ have been so gracious in expressing their love and warmest regards for my well-being. Although I cannot respond to every good wish on Facebook and comment on blog posts, please know that I am so grateful beyond words.

To say that I am “blessed” is quite the understatement, and the term I use so often has become almost a cliché. The expression “blessed” goes back to the first passage of scripture I ever committed to memory more than 65 years ago, back in the day, in what we called “junior high school.” I remember that Mrs. Little, the local undertaker’s wife, gathered kids from the neighborhood and in an improvised Vacation Bible School, told us to memorize Psalm 1. Although I memorized the First Psalm in the King James Version, here is the translation of one of my favorite psalms in the Amplified Bible:

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example],
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers).

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.

And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season;
Its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity].


The wicked [those who live in disobedience to God’s law] are not so,
But they are like the chaff [worthless and without substance] which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand [unpunished] in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord knows and fully approves the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked shall perish.

The first two verses in the Amplified Bible offer a more comprehensive definition of “blessed” which only begins to describe how I feel today:

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example],
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers).

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.

The First Psalm, which I still know by heart, continues to be a source of encouragement and strength and an inspiration, as reflected is this original psalm: 

Talk about a Man

Psalm 1

Talk about a man that show is blessed—I’m the man.

 Talk about a man that show is blessed—I’m the man.

 At first, I couldn’t, but now I see God’s master plan.

To study the Word of Life show is my delight.

To study the Word of Life show is my delight.

I’m all the time thinking about it—day and night.

Planted by the rivers of water, my roots reach deep.

Planted by the rivers of water, my roots reach deep.

By the still waters the Good Shepherd leads his sheep.

In God, all His promises are yes and amen.

In God, all His promises are yes and amen.

I have been so blessed since I can remember when.

The Word of God soothes my soul like a healing balm.

I’m the man they are talking about in that First Psalm.

To close our time of reflection, here is a musical rendering of Psalm 1 offered by the Joel Limpic

Reflections of My Father on Father’s Day 2021

June 20, 2021

Each morning, I arise with a heart overflowing with gratitude to God for being alive to see another day. On Father’s Day, I am especially thankful that I am a father with a loving wife and two beautiful daughters, Melissa and Angela,  and two great sons-in-law, William and Shajuan, and a grandson, Kingston Edward, all of whom have been blessings beyond words. This Father’s Day is special because of one of the special gifts that I received inspired this poetic response, as I thought of my father:

A Good-looking Hat

When my son-in-law asked what I wanted for Father’s Day,

He was wearing one of his signature hats that he wears with

Style and class, and I said, “I want a hat like that.”

And quicker than I could say “Jackie Robinson,” he took note

And made sure I received my request in time for Father’s Day.

As I look into the mirror and try on the Father’s Day gift,

I smile as I remembered my dapper Dad,

Styling and profiling, getting ready for church and other special occasions.

As far as I can remember,  whether summer or winter, Dad always wore a hat,

But Dad didn’t just put a hat on his head. Back in the day, as they would  say,

“He was wearing that hat!”

And so today, as I get ready for church,  I put on my beau chapeau nouveau,

And wear it proudly,  remembering my father, Lonnie Johnson, and I know he would

Have liked it, and I can hear him say, “That’s a good-looking hat. . .

You’re looking good, my son.”

This Father’s Day post also brings to mind another blog entry where I recall something that my father said. Although my father was a man of few words,  on a couple of memorable occasions, he told me, “Son, I’m proud of you.” Every man since Adam has sensed a deep yearning to hear these words or some variation thereof from his father. On one specific occasion occurring around Father’s Day, my dad made a similar comment that inspired this work:

The Perfect Father’s Day Gift

There was a time when I would stretch my mind,

Make a list and try to think of the perfect gift,

As we approached Father’s Day, the third Sunday in June.

Now let me see what will it be?

I know. . . a portable radio. . .

What about a shirt—extra-large—to fit?

Pajamas, house shoes, another Dopp kit?

Each year I would really try, as I resolved:

No more cologne—not another tie!

One year I ran out of ideas, and so I asked,

“Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?”

He thought awhile and in his own quiet way,

He smiled and had this to say:

“Just between me and you,

Here’s what you can do.

Just keep me proud of you.

Son, just keep me proud of you.”

Now when my daughters ask,

What can they get me for Father’s Day,

I fondly remember, and I smile and say,

“The words of your Grandpa are still true.

As he said to me, so I say to you:

‘Just between me and you,

Here’s what you can do.

Just keep me proud of you.

Girls, just keep me proud of you.”

I continue to thank God for my father and all that he contributed to my success in all areas of my life. I have so many fond memories of my father, and so often this

I continue to thank God for my father and all that he contributed to my success in all areas of my life. I have so many fond memories of my father, and so often this song by Chris Tomlin comes to mind:

Still numbering my days: A birthday celebration

June 17, 2021

Each morning I begin my day with a  time of prayer and meditation, thinking about the goodness of God and His mercy that have brought me thus far along my journey of faith.  Today, June 17, 2021, is especially significant as I celebrate my 78th birthday. My heart overflows with gratitude to God, my gracious heavenly Father, for all that He has done. Many times on such occasions, I compose a psalm of praise to the Lord as an expression of gratitude in celebration of being alive to see another year and to enjoy the bounty of God’s love. Rejoice and celebrate with me as I am

Still Numbering My Days

The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11 Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:10-12 (NKJV)

On the brink of the cherished four score years,

If the Lord tarries and if  the Lord will,

I press toward the mark, learning to be still–

Watching, waiting as Christ’s appearing nears,

Yearning to see what Father has in store

Beyond all I could ever think or ask for.

Looking ahead, I cannot hold back the tears.

With more than a portion of health and strength,

I have tasted His boundless love,

Flowing from the heart of the Father above

Beyond the breadth and depth and height and length.

I yearn to hear, “Faithful servant, well done.

Enter in the joy of the Lord, my son,”

On the brink of the cherished four score years.

We close with a musical rendering of the essence of Psalm 90 by Marty Goetz:

A Triptych from Hebrews 6: Take a Look (Panel 3)

June 10, 2021

Today’s blog entry is the third of a series of three poems that form a triptych inspired by Hebrews 6:10-12. OxfordDictionaries.com defines a triptych as, “a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.” WordNet 3.6 provides this definition of triptych art, as “art consisting of a painting or carving (especially an altarpiece) on three panels (usually hinged together).” Here is an example of one panel of a triptych carved from wood with three sections on each leaf. Each of the three poems that form my triptych is also accompanied by commentary and a musical selection related to that work.

ONE LEAF OF A TRIPTYCH IN CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE

For our discussion of the third panel of our triptych from Hebrews 6, we are going to look at Hebrews 6:12, but we begin with a statement from Brian Adams:

“Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.”

As believers, perfecting the art of patience involves learning to wait on the Lord. The closing verses of my favorite psalm come to mind:

Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord;
be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Note this Biblical definition of patience which has also been translated endurance or perseverance, steadfastly bearing up under and remaining faithful while waiting. Patience or perseverance is a fruit of the spirit that should be evident in our lives, as we wait on the Lord.

When we examine one of the words translated “patience”, we see a compound word meaning “to stay, remain, abide”, literally abiding under. The verb form means to stay under (behind), i.e. remain; figuratively, to undergo, i.e. bear (trials), have fortitude, to persevere — abide, endure, suffer, tarry behind.

The root idea of the noun is that of remaining under some discipline, subjecting oneself to something which demands the yielding of the will to something against which one naturally would rebel.  It means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy — enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting). It is a bearing up in a way that honors and glorifies our heavenly Father, not merely to grin and bear it.

James 5:11 provides an excellent example of the word for patience being used as a verband as a noun. The New Living Translation offers this rendering containing a familiar phrase that encompasses a character trait most often associated with Job:

11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

The Book of Job is a classic example of the principle of first usage and first spiritual principle, which highlights as particularly important the first time that a concept is mentioned in the Bible.  It is believed by E.W. Bullinger and other Bible scholars that the first book written was the Book of Job, believed to have been composed by Moses. Job, whom Chuck Swindoll described as a “man of heroic endurance,” was, indeed, a real person, and his story is one of the first demonstrations of many spiritual principles, one being that God is “full of compassion and tender mercy” and that he rewards those who demonstrate “patience.” Although it is said that “Patience is its own reward,” God also rewards patience, as so clearly demonstrated at the end the Book of Job. Recall Job 42:10:

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends: also the

LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

Hebrews 10:36 (AMP) also reinforces the message that patience precedes what one is striving to achieve:

For you have need of patient endurance [to bear up under difficult circumstances without compromising], so that when you have carried out the will of God, you may receive and enjoy to the full what is promised.

Previously, while working on a teaching related to patience, I read about an apple orchard run by “Farmer Johnson” in Washington State, an individual with whom I spiritually identified. Reading about the apples produced by this individual also inspired the following poem which opens with Hebrews 6:12, another reference using “patient endurance” or patience.

Farmer Johnson

Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent.

Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going

to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

Hebrews 6:12

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.


Lyrics by Joseph H. Gilmore

Farmer Johnson owns orchards in Washington State.
His apples are renowned and said to be the best.
As scriptures remind us to labor and to rest,
This Farmer Johnson is patient and learns to wait
For the bountiful fruit of his harvest season.
Patience now abounds to complete and perfect me,
As I walk by faith, despite all that I may see.
I assess my times and unfold the real reason
For all the trials and seeming setbacks that came.
At times I felt as though being torn asunder
But like Job, I still abide and bear up under.
God yet delivers those who call upon His name.
Committed to go wherever the Lord shall send,
A faithful follower, I endure to the end.

As a youngster I recall singing this hymn “He Leadeth Me” countless times, performed here by the Michael Curb Congregation.

A Triptych from Hebrews 6: Take a look (Panel 2)

June 9, 2021

Today’s blog entry is the second of a series of three poems that form a triptych inspired by Hebrews 6:10-12. OxfordDictionaries.com defines a triptych as, “a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.” WordNet 3.6 provides this definition of triptych art, as “art consisting of a painting or carving (especially an altarpiece) on three panels (usually hinged together).” Here is an example of one panel of a triptych carved from wood with three sections on each leaf. Each of the three poems that form my triptych is also accompanied by commentary and a musical selection related to that work.

ONE LEAF OF A TRIPTYCH IN CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE

Watchman Nee, early 20th Century church leader and teacher in China, describes the life of each believer in this way—“the Christian journey, from start to finish, is a journey of faith.” As we journey through life, we encounter challenges designed to build our faith. Believers are on a journey that takes us from faith to faith, glory to glory, and victory to victory as we pursue the will of God for our lives.

My life continues to unfold as a journey of faith  with several notable milestones along the way.  At 12 years of age I became a member of Carter Chapel C.M.E (Christian Methodist Episcopal) Church in Gary, Indiana, where I accepted Christ as my savior. The spiritual foundation for my life was laid in that church where I was actively involved throughout elementary and high school. I recall attending a summer camp in Saugatuck, MI as a rising sophomore and volunteering to do a short teaching on youth night. For some reason, I was inspired to share from Hebrews 11 verses one and six, two verses related to faith, the bedrock of my life:

Upon graduation as Valedictorian, Class of 1960 from Froebel High School, I attended Purdue University from 1960-1965, earning a BS Degree in Pharmacy and becoming a Registered Pharmacist in Indiana. In 1967 I was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era, as I experienced a close encounter of the most intimate kind with Jesus Christ, my Savior. While serving as 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 and experienced a powerful conversion that introduced me to the transforming power of God through receiving the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible. During my stint in the military, I discovered the joys of classroom teaching, a passion that continues to burn. I also recognized my poetic inclination and sought to develop the art and craft of the poet.

Here is an original psalm inspired in part by Hebrews 6:11

This Far by Faith

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence

to the full assurance of hope until the end,      

Hebrews 6:11

 “We have come this far by faith.”      

Traditional Black Gospel Song   

Though we see truth, there is still the rest of the story, 

As we strive to be all that God called us to be,   

Created to be to the praise of His glory, 

We walk by faith and not by what we can see. 

We now rise above to view life from God’s grand scope: 

Each day our faith will increase and not diminish.

With diligence to the full assurance of hope, 

We will complete our course, striving toward the finish.  

A great cloudof witnesses surround us to cheer 

Us on from faith to faith and victory to victory.

The mighty hand of our gracious God brought us here,

For such a time as this—behold our destiny. 

While pressing toward the mark, we must still watch and wait,

As we sing our song, “We have come this far by faith.” 

Growing up in the 1950s in Gary, IN, I have fond musical memories from the “Golden Age of Gospel Music.” One of the most popular songs of this period was “We’ve Come This Far by Faith,” a selection often used as a processional for morning services at countless Black churches across the country. The opening lyrics of the renowned gospel favorite are woven into the tapestry of the poem:

Voices of Hope, a choir from Los Angeles under the direction of Thurston Frazier, offer a rendition of one of the most popular gospel songs of the Fifties and Sixties.

A Triptych from Hebrews 6: Take a look

June 8, 2021

This morning while listening to a YouTube recording of peaceful relaxation music for meditation, one of the accompanying verses arrested my attention and brought to mind three verses from Hebrews 6:10-12. These verses inspired three poems which when connected together form “A Triptych from Hebrews 6.” OxfordDictionaries.com offers this definition of the term “triptych”: “A set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.” WordNet 3.6 provides this definition of triptych art, as “art consisting of a painting or carving (especially an altarpiece) on three panels (usually hinged together).” Here is an example taken from the same source: a cathedral door in Seville, Spain.

ONE LEAF OF A TRIPTYCH IN CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE

Over the next three days, I will feature a blog post inspired by one the verses from Hebrews 6:10-12. The first panel of this collection appeared in a recent blog post, “Each sunrise reminds us God is faithful” Here is an excerpt:

In Hebrews 6:10 (New Living Translation) we find another reminder that God is faithful and that He is not unjust

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

As believers we endeavor to serve God and minister to one another. Our efforts may not always be recognized nor appreciated. Those whom we serve in love may not always remember what we say and do, but we are assured that God never forgets. Not only is God, our Father, faithful and just, but He is also a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), as the following poetic comments illustrate:

A Reminder: God Is Faithful

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,

which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered

to the saints and do minister.

Hebrews 6:10

All the good deeds you have done may not be extolled

When the fervor of God’s love has long since grown cold.

Some so quickly forget all the good you have done,

And they fail to recall you were the only one

To answer the call, seek the Lord and intercede.

Time after time you were the one to meet the need.

When others were busy and chose to walk away,

You were there and remained in the thick of the fray.

In dark times when words of thanks are distant memories,

Recall our God knows all things, for He alone sees

Your labor and saves every tear you have shed.

Our Father is ever mindful of how you serve,

And He shall reward you beyond all you deserve.

As you strive to finish your course, have no regret:

Our God is faithful–He will never forget.

In reflecting upon God’s faithfulness as expressed in the Word of God, I thought of this medley of two songs that have come to mean so much to me: “He’s Been Faithful” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” offered by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: