Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Peace is Here

December 19, 2022

This past Sunday, December 18, 2022, Pastor Telos Fuller, of Grace Covenant Church, Chantilly, VA, delivered another life-changing message: “Peace is Here.” He spoke of “the peace of God” and “peace with God.” I recall this definition of the peace of God: “a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being. It is an inner reality. . . the peace of God indicates being free from anxiety and care; it is not dependent upon outside conditions. The peace of God is only possible through the Prince of Peace, as Pastor Telos began with John 14:25-27 where Jesus is preparing his disciples for his ultimate departure from this life and offers words of comfort:

25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Pastor Telos went on to explain that as believers we have the peace of God, as Romans 5:1 declares:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we have peace with God, then we have the peace of God. Colossians 3:15 reiterates this message:

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

I also thought of this passage from Philippians 4:6-7 in the New Living Translation:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The teaching concluded with a reminder that God invites us into the peace that only Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace can give. The peace of God is not the absence of problems, but it is the presence of Jesus in the midst of any situation we face.

Isaiah 26:3 encourages us with these words.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

As I reviewed my notes and considered deeply the message: “Peace is Here,” I thought of this original poem to conclude this entry:

Hold Your Peace

So shall they fear
The name of the Lord from the west,
And His glory from the rising of the sun;
When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.

Isaiah 59:19

The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.

Exodus 14:14

These days when the enemy enters as a flood

With distress and intense pressure on every side,

Despite signs of defeat, the Lord God is still good.

In the thick of battle in peace we shall abide.

The Spirit of the Lord raises a bold standard:

The Lord of Hosts bears His arm; as Jehovah Nissi,

He covers us with His love, though foes may have slandered.

He displays His banner for all the world to see:

Faithful Adonai has never slept nor slumbered.

God is not slack but hastens to perform His Word.

Despite outward signs, we are never outnumbered,

For we know that the battle belongs to the Lord.

On the battlefield, fierce attacks seem only to increase,

But as God said to Moses, “Stand still and hold your peace!”  

Here is a music video from Brianne Danter, a musical reminder entitled “Peace:”

Reflections on Psalm 1 and my first psalm

December 16, 2022

During my morning devotional today, I thought of Psalm 1, the first passage of Scripture I ever committed to memory. Here is the First Psalm 1 from 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.

As I completed reading the passage, an original psalm, a blues sonnet, written more than 15 years ago also came to mind:

Talk about a Man

Psalm 1

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

Talk about a man who 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 talking about in that First Psalm.

                                                                 

I would like to comment on Psalm 1 and the first “psalm” I ever wrote as a poet strongly influenced by David, the Psalmist whose work continues to delight me.  In my freshman composition course at Purdue University in 1961, we were given this prompt to discuss in an in-class essay: “May I tell you what delights me?” I completed the assignment by making a list of items that bring me pleasure: specific kinds of music, a variety of foods, certain literary works, and other delights. The professor asked for volunteers to share what they had written, and I offered to read mine. When I finished, she said, “Oh, you’ve written a poem.” I responded, “I did?” In my mind, I only shared “a few of my favorite things.” (By the way, there was a performance of the Broadway musical, “The Sound of Music,” during the time I was enrolled at Purdue.) Years later when I began to acknowledge my poetic inclination and attempted to refine my efforts, I learned that I had actually written a free-verse catalog poem in the style of Walt Whitman and other 20th-century writers. Although that experience occurred more than 60 years ago, the Psalms of David continue to be near the top of my list of “what delights me.”

In a recent blog post I concluded with this song of worship which seems an appropriate way to close today’s entry:

“My Delight is in You Lord,” featuring Christy Nockels:

Celebrating the Life of Lonnie Johnson: Ordinary Man of Extraordinary Deeds

December 2, 2022

Today, December 2, 2022, would have been the 100th birthday of my father, Lonnie Johnson, who passed away in 1996. I would like to share a few words of reflection upon the life of Lonnie Johnson: An Ordinary Man of Extraordinary Deeds.

Born in rural Arkansas in 1922, Lonnie Johnson eventually moved to Gary, Indiana where he met my mother, the lovely Jessie Marie Garrett, whom he married. In 1992, my parents celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in a special ceremony reaffirming their marriage vows. I had the absolute joy of officiating on that beautiful occasion. For a man to remain married to the same woman for more than fifty years is indeed an extraordinary accomplishment, but this is just one feature of the man whose life we celebrate.

My father did not have much formal education. Although he didn’t complete high school, he knew the value of education and instilled the importance of education in his children and grandchildren. My sister Cheryl has a Master’s degree and is a retired schoolteacher. I am a Professor of English who has taught for more than 40 years at the collegiate level. Unquestionably, we would not be where we are today without the support of our parents, but especially our father who worked very hard to put us through undergraduate school. During my second senior year of a five-year program, my sister and I were both in college at the same time, yet I never heard him complain. For forty years he worked as a crane operator in the Billet Mill at US Steel. For him, hard work was a way of life, and he passed that value on to me and my sister.

Not only did my father and mother support my sister and me in our college years, but my parents also made provisions to provide support for their grandchildren when each of them graduated from high school. In a real sense, they established a kind of scholarship fund–The Lonnie and Jessie Johnson Grandkids Scholarship fund. My Dad used to collect cans and put the money into the fund for his grandchildren. Among his greatest sources of pride were his children and grandchildren: my sister’s two sons Keith and Brian and my two daughters, Melissa and Angela.

When I reflect upon my father, I recall that he was “always there.”  Just as he was proud of his family, he was also proud of his home. My family and I lived in various parts of the country, and Mother and Dad would visit from time to time. After a few days, Dad would get restless and want to get back home. He loved his home. During the time that my sister and I were in college, my parents were purchasing a home: in fact, my parents purchased two homes–another extraordinary accomplishment for a man such as my father.

When I think of my father, I think of a good man who was always doing good. I recall the words of John Wesley who challenged Christians with these words: “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the places you can, at all times you can, as long as ever you can.”  I believe that the good men do lives on after them. It has been said that the greatest gift you can give is a good example. If that is the case, then Lonnie Johnson has left us an incredible gift. I know that his legacy lives on in my sister and me, and our children, and grandchildren, and in generations to come, as we follow his example of the strength of character and integrity, his quiet strength and diligence.

I close with a poem written in tribute to my father and recited at his memorial service.

Plainsong

for Lonnie Johnson

1922-1996     

Your plainsong I know by heart,                          

a hymn stanza learned with ease,            

lined out like the flow of chanted words,

syllables fused into a single sound:

I-love-the-Lord-He-heard-my-cry”

raised and repeated over countless Sunday mornings.

Your plainsong I continue to sing, expressed not in words

but in faithful deeds borne of a heart to serve.

Your rock-solid presence like a mantle clock keeping time

even beyond man’s three score years and ten.

Your plainsong resonates and flows through my being.

I sing with the strength of character, integrity,

unconsciously humming refrains, improvising

common melodies with grace notes, making my own

your plainsong that will not let go of me.

Many times when I think of my father, I am grateful to God that Lonnie Johnson was a good father, a good gift from God our Father, who alone is good. This contemporary worship song comes to mind: a fitting way to close this tribute:

“Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin:

Veterans Day Tribute 2022

November 11, 2022

Today, November 11, 2022, is Veterans Day, and I am revising and reposting a previous blog entry. I invite you to rejoice and celebrate with me:

Each year on November 11, I pause to reflect upon Veterans Day, a national holiday of special significance to me. First of all, I am a veteran, having served two years in the US Army, from 1967 to the end of 1968 during the Vietnam era. Most providentially that experience relates to my being back in the Washington, DC area where I lived from 1969 to 1971. Upon being discharged, I found a job as an information analyst working for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association in the Nation’s Capital. Most providentially, this is where I met my wife, Brenda. We were married in 1973 and returned to live in Arlington, VA, near the area where we currently live, right up the road from our older daughter, Melissa, and her husband, William, and our first grandson, Kingston.

Each Veterans Day, I reflect with the deepest gratitude upon my military experience, which first appeared to be a disaster but turned out to be a remarkable blessing and a time of great spiritual growth. When I graduated from high school in 1960, I enrolled at Purdue University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy in 1965, subsequently becoming a registered pharmacist, working as a staff pharmacist at Methodist Hospital in Gary.  While enjoying the “good life,” I received my “greetings from Uncle Sam” in 1967 and was drafted into the US Army. Back then I thought this was the worst thing that could have happened to me. Being drafted into the Army in the late sixties was not an ideal situation for a young African American male in light of the disproportionate number of Black men sent to Viet Nam, many of whom did not return and others who were forever changed by that experience.

In January of 1967 after a tearful farewell with my parents, I boarded the bus that took me to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Upon completing my basic training, I was sent to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, where I was given the option of working in a dispensary filling prescriptions, as I had done previously, or I could choose to become a pharmacy instructor and teach pharmacy technicians. The second option sounded intriguing since I had not done that before, so I opted to become a pharmacy instructor, which turned out to be ideally suited to me and opened up a new world of classroom teaching which ignited a passion to teach. This passion eventually motivated me to pursue a master’s degree in English from Emporia State University in Kansas and a Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. This passion continues to burn, even as I am teaching classes online at Carolina College of Biblical Studies and St. Augustine’s University.  

My time as a pharmacy instructor began with intense training at the Medical Field Service School.  During this time, I recall one particular veteran from Kentucky whom I knew briefly while serving as a pharmacy instructor at Fort Sam Houston. He and I had two things in common: we were both drafted as pharmacists who opted to become pharmacy instructors, but there was one notable difference. I had not signed up for an additional year of service, despite the Army’s indicating I might not get a pharmacy position if I didn’t. My fellow servicemember had signed up for the additional year, but we both received pharmacy positions. The additional year, however, increased the likelihood of being sent to Vietnam if a pharmacy position needed to be filled there.

About nine months after we completed our training as instructors, my fellow instructor received orders for Vietnam, and by the end of the year, he was shipped overseas. In the early part of the next year, we received the news that he had been killed. The impact of that experience did not fully resonate with me until years later on Memorial Day when I looked up the name of this individual on the website for the Vietnam Memorial and recognized that he was from a small town in Kentucky. I was teaching a class a composition and literature class at the time at the Louisville campus of Indiana Wesleyan University when I saw my colleague’s death in a totally different light. In literature, there is a term called a Christological figure or Christ Figure. The term refers to an object, person, or figure representing Christ allegorically or symbolically, or any similar object, person, or figure with qualities reminiscent of Christ, one of the most notable qualities being “self-sacrifice.”

I was overwhelmed by the reality that my fellow instructor, in a sense, went in my place. What transpired while I was in the Army culminated in an awareness of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who took my place and gave his life so that I might live. My whole experience in the military brings to mind my favorite verse in my favorite chapter of the Bible: Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.

Today I recognize more clearly than ever what Satan meant for evil, God in His providence, transforms it into something great and glorious. Each Veterans Day, I reflect with gratitude to God for my time of service in the military, recognizing the contribution that veterans have made and continue to make to secure the blessings of liberty that we enjoy, especially during this period in our nation’s history.   

We conclude with this Veterans Day Tribute:

Reformation Sunday 2022 and the Emerging Third Apostolic Reformation

October 30, 2022
Originally written in Latin by Martin Luther in 1517, the Ninety-Five Theses, which Luther posted on the door of the Cathedral at Wittenburg, are regarded as a primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

Although most Americans readily recognized October 31st as Halloween, countless people around the world acknowledge the last day in October as Reformation Day. Protestant Churches celebrate “Reformation Sunday” as the last Sunday in October, in light of October 31, 1517, being the actual date when Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany, igniting the Protestant Reformation.

Luther and other reformers who preceded him, such as John Wycliffe, John Hus, and William Tyndale, were not only concerned with what the Scriptures taught, but they also wanted the common people to have access to read the Bible in their own language. The conditions were perfect, as the truths declared by Luther set Europe ablaze with the biblical doctrines of grace.

From the Protestant Reformation emerged five phrases that summarized the movement. Using the word  Sola the Latin word for “alone,” these basic theological beliefs stood boldly in opposition to the prevailing teaching of the Roman Catholic Church at the time.

Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”) teaches that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God, the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all and that the Bible requires no interpretation outside of itself.
 
Sola Fide (“by faith alone”) teaches that justification, the act of “being declared right by God”, and assumed to mean exactly “salvation”), is received by faith only, without any mixture of or need for good works, though in classical Protestant theology, saving faith is always evidenced by good works.
 
Sola gratia (“by grace alone”) teaches that salvation comes by God’s grace or “unmerited favor” only. This means that salvation is an unearned gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”) teaches that Christ is the only mediator between God and man and that there is salvation through no other.
 
Soli Deo Gloria (“glory to God alone”) teaches that all glory is to be due to God alone since salvation is accomplished solely through His will and action — not only the gift of the all-sufficient atonement of Jesus on the cross but also the gift of faith in that atonement, created in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit.

With Scripture alone as the sure foundation, the Reformers affirmed that justification is by grace alone, received through faith alone because of Christ alone — for the glory of God alone. Today, Christians around the world give thanks to God for Martin Luther’s bold proclamation which occurred 505 years ago. We are also grateful for the brilliant display of God’s design for the Church, which continues to unfold. That number is laden with significance in that “five” symbolizes God’s grace.  

Emerging Third Apostolic Reformation

In reviewing the history of the Christian Church, certain historians recognize that the Protestant Reformation was actually the Second Apostolic Reformation, with the very first movement occurring in the 1st Century with the launching of the New Testament Church in the Book of Acts. The Protestant Reformation transitioned the Church from the “Dark Ages” to the beginning of the period of the restoration of the Church, described in Acts 3:21 as the “restitution or restoration of all things.” The underlying purpose of the second reformation was to restore and build the Church to the full maturity and ministry of Christ Jesus. This is accomplished through Christ’s five-fold ministers, of which the last two, prophets and apostles, are being restored to recognition, in light of the foundation of the Church being built on the doctrine of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:21).

Church historians and other observers of the times and seasons indicate that the Third and Final Apostolic Reformation is underway. During this period of time, the Church will emerge triumphant, as a glorious display of the multi-faceted wisdom and demonstration of the glorious power of God (Ephesians 3:10).  Christ will restore His Church to fulfill God’s original purpose and intent–as the Kingdoms of this world become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ. The beauty, splendor, and power of the Church in all its fullness are yet to be seen, as the third and final Apostolic Reformation gains momentum to transform the world.

A new sound for a new movement:

Out of the Reformation, came forth a “new sound”, commonly called “the hymn.” We now recognize the distinctive nature of this musical form, as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” became known as “The Battle Hymn of the Reformation.” Luther composed the song after reading Psalm 46 which became the text for this most popular and best-known hymn.

Likewise, we note a “new sound” representative of the times in which we live. Elevation Worship  and Maverick City Music offer  a “new song” of exhortation from the 21st Century: “Build Your Church”:

Rainmakers: Seeding the Clouds for Revival

October 23, 2022
What are rainmakers and what does it mean to seed the clouds for revival?

Recently, Grace Covenant Church, Chantilly, VA hosted the 2022 Prophetic Conference with the theme “Releasing the Rivers of Revival.” Pastor Jim Laffoon was the speaker for the evening session on Friday, October 21, 2022, and he encouraged participants to become “rainmakers” who would “seed the clouds” for an outpouring of a great revival to flood and transform the world with the presence of the Lord, God Almighty.

The message inspired a poetic response incorporated in a previous blog post that I have revised and reposted in this blog entry “Rainmakers: Seeding the Clouds for Revival”

According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, “A rainmaker is a person who attempts to cause rain to fall, either by rituals or by a scientific technique, such as seeding clouds with crystals.” Pastor Laffoon exhorted us as believers with a passion to see change and become change agents that we are to pray fervently for an outpouring of the life-transforming presence of God across the globe. His words inspired this poetic response:

We Are Rainmakers

 17 Elijah was as human as we are,

and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall,

none fell for three and a half years! 

 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain

 and the earth began to yield its crops.

James 5:17-18 (New Living Translation)

We are rainmakers, and we seed the clouds once more,

That God might revive the earth as He did before.

Even as Elijah prayed and You sent the rain,

We are confident that You will do it again.

Our fervent prayers for revival You will not ignore.           

Those moved with compassion are what you look for.             

Your desire is to show us mercy and restore.    

Our prayers are that you would one more time send the rain.         

We are rainmakers.                                   

The whole world seems engulfed in chaos; we, therefore,

Call on You to fulfill Your promise and pour                                    

Out the power of the former and latter rain.

When we express a great need, you do not restrain,     

But as we call unto You, You do even more.

We are rainmakers.

In the Bible, we find rain is the life source for an agricultural people whose lives are dependent upon crops. In the Land of Israel God, indeed, sends rain in due season in two specific forms:  the former rain and the latter rain. In the Middle East, the former rain occurs in October or November, accompanying the planting of crops, while the latter rain occurs in the Spring, around March or April, just before the harvest. Prophets Jeremiah, Hosea, and Joel all speak of both seasons of rain.

In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter addresses the multitude in referring to the Prophet Joel:

Acts 2:16-18:

16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,
    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions,
    and your old men will dream dreams.

To appreciate the promise of God who will send the latter rain when He pours out of His spirit upon all flesh, think of what happened when God opened the windows of heaven and “poured” out the rain. Genesis 7 gives the account of Noah and the ark when the heavens opened, and it rained for forty days and nights. In the last days when God opens the windows of heaven to pour out of His spirit on all flesh, do you think the outpouring will be any less great than the first time God poured out?  God predates Morton salt whose motto is “When it rains, it pours.”

Anyone who is spiritually observant can sense that a great outpouring of the spirit of God is about to take place. In a similar way, one can tell when a torrential downpour is about to occur.

To answer the question posed at the end of the song, here is my advice: “Pray and get ready for rain!” As Zechariah 10:1 exhorts:

Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so, the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.

The Book of James also reminds us of the importance of prayer in conjunction with the harvest.

James 5:7:

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.

James goes on to illustrate what can happen when a man of God prays:

James 5:17-18:

17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

The Old Testament account reveals that after a three-and-half-year drought, Elijah heard the “sound of abundance of rain.”  He sent his servant to investigate, but he saw nothing in the sky. Elijah told him to go check again seven times. After the seventh time, the servant saw a cloud about the size of a man’s hand. Shortly thereafter “that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.” 

God still answers prayer. His desire is to bless more than ours is to ask. Let us continue to pray for rain, the latter rain, an abundance of spiritual outpouring, which God promised to send before the abundant harvest toward which we are steadily moving. “Pray, the Latter Rain is on the way!” and remember, “We Are Rainmakers: Seeding Clouds for Revival.”

Alvin Slaughter offers a musical benediction to our prayer with “The Latter Rain.”

On 9-11-2022: Remembering God gives beauty for ashes

September 11, 2022

Today, September 11, 2022, marks the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC. In addition, the nation pauses to remember the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2012, attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where four Americans were killed, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. On such solemn occasions, we look for rays of hope, like radiant beams of light that penetrate plumes of dust and debris on that fateful day, September 11, 2001. This morning during my time of prayer and reflection, I thought of the passage from Isaiah 61:3:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Today, we reflect upon God’s amazing ability to transform the most horrific circumstances into a glorious display of His wisdom, power, and might. The expression “beauty for ashes” from Isaiah 61:3 offers a series of such transformations or exchanges that only He can give. That particular verse introduces this original psalm 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–we are transformed to testify                                                                             

Of lives so radically changed that we might glorify

The God of Heaven who touches the earth with His love

That overflows with bountiful blessings from above.

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

That we 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 us by,

But God is faithful; on Him, we can always rely.

Nothing in this life surpasses God’s unchanging love;

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

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

Beauty for ashes.

The expression “Beauty for ashes” also brings to mind the fact that beautiful gemstones 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.”

On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9-11, we recall God’s amazing power to transform an unimaginable disaster into a glorious display of His power and grace to restore.

Reflecting on God’s goodness as we celebrate forty-nine years

August 31, 2022
This family portrait reflects my gratitude to God on our 49th anniversary

Today, August 31, 2022, I reflect with the deepest gratitude to God for an event taking place 49 years ago. Brenda Joyce Warren and Lonnell Edward Johnson exchanged wedding vows, and that occasion always brings to mind the Providence of God that brought us together in Washington, DC. So often when I wax reflective, I also wax poetic and recall these poetic lines to describe our coming together:

We each prayed and God answered, as I remember.

Before I knew you, I reached toward you in my heart,                                 

Where I had prepared, set aside a special place.

Until we met, I had been patiently waiting.

Our lives were entwined, and we were forever changed,

As we vowed to walk in God’s love from that moment.

We have returned to live in the Washington, DC-Northern Virginia-Maryland area to be near our daughter, Melissa, her husband, William, and our first grandson, Kingston. Our younger daughter, Angela, and her husband, Shajuan are a couple of hours away in Wilmington, DE. We are blessed to be near our family as we embark upon the next phase of our journey. Indeed, we are thrilled beyond words to see what the Lord has awaits us.

All I know is that “The Best is Yet to Come,” so sings Mack Brock, featuring Pat Barrett:

Legacies lead…Legacies light the way. What will be your legacy?

August 7, 2022

Although August has no Federal holidays to celebrate, the eighth month offers this provocative designation:  August is “What will be your legacy?” month. Gone-ta-pott.com, the holiday website, offers this definition and elaborates upon the month-long celebration with this comment:

“A legacy is what someone or something is remembered for or what they have left behind that is remembered, revered or has influenced current events and the present day. . . What Will Your Legacy Be Month is a month for people to reflect on their past and present actions and vow to make positive changes that will affect generations. We have to remember the seeds, whether positive or negative, that we plant in our children’s lives. This observance is about making the right choices so our children and their children will make the right choices. Everything we do will grow and reflect our teachings. So teach your children well.”

This inspirational video by FellowshipStories.com also reminds us that “Legacies lead… Legacies light the way. What will be your legacy?”

In thinking about the legacy that I desire to leave, I recall the words of the late Rev. Billy Graham:

“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”

Eleven years ago, I also composed a personal psalm after reflecting on what I would like for others to remember about me:

When All Is Said and Done

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

you were faithful over a few things,

I will make you ruler over many things.

Enter into the joy of your lord.’

Matthew 25:21

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

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

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

Who sought to serve the Master with integrity.

May God find a branded bondslave who came to learn

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

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

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

A son who practiced obedience as a lifestyle,

Seeking to please the Lord and follow each command,

With an attitude of gratitude all the while,

Giving praise to Christ before whom we all shall stand.

For all those who follow, I leave this legacy,

As the mighty man of faith God called me to be.

Don Moen offers this musical reminder: “When All is Said and Done,”  a capstone to my reflection on the legacy I hope to leave, not only in August but every day I draw breath.

To follow the way of truth is a choice

July 22, 2022

In Psalm 119:30 (New King James Version) we find the Verse of the Day for July 21, 2022:

I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me.

The Voice Translation renders the verse this way:

I have decided to take the path of faith; I have focused my eyes on Your regulations.

The reference to “the way of truth” brings to mind an earlier blog entry in which I discussed “The Will of God,” using the analogy of the will of God as a road, a path, or a way, looking at the Hebrew word derek, translated “way, road, path, distance, journey, manner.” The word also refers to a direction, manner, habit, way of life, a course of life or mode of action, and a lifestyle.  

In “Why Don’t Somebody Help Me Praise the Lord?” a poetic expression of my personal testimony, I refer to “the path of truth”:  

Stumbling down the road of life,
I was wasting all my youth,
Then took a right turn to Jesus Christ;
Now I’m walking the path of truth.  

Why Don’t Somebody Help Me Praise the Lord?  

In a previous post on the Will of God, I spoke of the will of God as the road less traveled, referring to the often-quoted poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.” Most remarkably, I first committed that poem to memory as a junior in high school, back in the middle of the Twentieth Century. I still know the poem by heart and recognize now more clearly than ever its application to my life at this time:  

The Will of God: the Road Less Travelled by

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.  

The Road Not Taken
—Robert Frost    

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,
but let God transform you into a new person
by changing the way you think. Then you will learn
to know God’s will for you, which is good and   
pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (New Living Translation)  

I begin again, this year of my jubilee.
Reflecting on life’s journey, I cannot deny
That the will of God is the road less traveled by:
To choose to serve, even though having been set free.
The straight and narrow way I once again select.
I press on, still striving toward the highest good.
In this place, we renew our covenant of blood,
Reassured that “As for God His way is perfect.”
I see clearly with new eyes where our paths have led.
In the midst of turbulent times, I remain still,
Proving that good and acceptable and perfect will.
I look back, waiting in the now, then look ahead.
Each day God offers another chance to commence:
The choice to do God’s will makes all the difference.  

To follow the Will of God is to decide which path we are going to take. Many times it is easier to follow our own path and seek our own way rather than God’s way or God’s will. Like the Psalmist, we should choose to follow the path of truth, taking the “road less traveled by.” As believers we choose to follow that path, “the way, the truth, and the life,” revealed through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, expressed in this musical composition by Pat Barrett: