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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:

By reason of strength: Thanking God for my life

June 17, 2022

With each passing year, my heart overflows with gratitude to God who has blessed me to be alive another year. This year, 2022, is especially meaningful in that I celebrate my eightieth birthday. As is my custom, I compose a poem to celebrate my birthday and give all glory, honor, and praise to my gracious Heavenly Father. Here is my composition for this year.   

A psalm celebration for my Eightieth Birthday

June 17, 2022

By Reason of Strength

 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.

 Psalm 90:10 (NKJV)

By reason of strength that only comes from the Lord,

I have reached another milestone in my journey,

Sustained by the life-giving power of God’s Word,

As I proclaim great is your faithfulness toward me

And attempt one more time to thank you for my life:

For all you say I am and all I will become.

Praise God  for countless blessings: for my lovely wife

And daughters and their families and heirs still to come

Who will honor and love and serve you all their days.

Though I have known you, may I know you even more,

While  walking in wisdom, still numbering my days

As your favor abounds with greater blessings in store.

God, the Father of all grace, goes to any length

To protect and to provide by reason of strength.

“Dear God” by Smokie Norful captures the essence of what I attempt to express in my song of celebration:

God bless you on Mother’s Day and every day

May 8, 2022

On today, Mother’s Day,  May 8, 2022, I express my gratitude to God for my wife, Brenda, the mother of our two daughters, Melissa and Angela, and the grandmother of our grandson, Kingston. Happy Mother’s Day to a special Lady, affectionately called, Mom, Mommy, Mimi, and My Beloved Brenda.

I love you and God bless you

On Mother’s Day and Every Day

For My Beloved Brenda

Brenda Joyce, the wife of my youth in whom I rejoice…                        

On Mother’s Day and every day, I thank God for you.

At times words fail, and so I say, “If only you knew.”

I try to reassure you in all I say and do.

Again, I say, “God bless you. You make me feel brand new.”       

Reflecting upon our lives since the day we first met,             

His love still enriches and sustains us yet.

That He answered each of our prayers, how can we forget?

Brenda Joyce, the wife of my youth in whom I rejoice…   

                                   

God deeply touched our lives so that we might also share             

This “Sunday kind of love,” one that is, indeed, so rare.

Through every storm of life, He sheltered us in His care.

Though we try to describe it, it is beyond compare.

The world ever changes, but God’s love is always there,         

Brenda Joyce, the wife of my youth in whom I rejoice…                                      

                   

Poem in Your Pocket Day: April 29, 2022

April 29, 2022

In celebration of National Poetry Month, the American Academy of Poets has designated April 29 as National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Until the Pandemic, the idea was simple: people selected a poem that they loved during National Poetry Month and carried it with them to share with co-workers, family, and friends. People unfolded poems from pockets throughout the day with events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores. In light of the current COVID-19 circumstances, the celebration can continue digitally:

Here are ways to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day 2022:

  • Select a poem and share it on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem. 
  • Simultaneously participate in the Shelter in Poems initiative and select a poem that brings you solace during this time of distance and solitude. Share what it means to you and use the hashtags #pocketpoem and #ShelterInPoems.
  • Record a video of yourself reading a poem, then share it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or another social media platform you use. 
  • Email a poem to your friends, family, neighbors, or local government leaders.
  • Schedule a video chat and read a poem to your loved ones.
  • Add a poem to your email footer.
  • Read a poem aloud from your porch, window, backyard, or outdoor space. 

Poem in My Pocket:

During times of crisis and personal upheaval, especially meaningful poetry comes from the Book of Psalms. David, my all-time favorite poet, has provided comfort, encouragement, and strength during my darkest days. The Book of Psalms continues to be a source of inspiration as well. Despite the devastating aftermath of the pandemic, including a personal encounter with the virus, I wake up each morning abiding in the safety of the Lord, thankful for life, health, and strength, being able to express in words my gratitude. In reflecting on being hospitalized and testing positive for Covid, I am grateful to God for bringing me through that experience triumphantly. Here is a personal poetic expression, an original psalm, “a taste of the blues,” that I would like to share on Poem in Your Pocket Day:

Beyond the Dark Night of Covid

Yet they don’t ask, ‘Where is God, my Creator,

the one who gives songs in the night?

Job 35:10 (NLT)

Like nothing we’ve ever known, the Covid Pandemic gripped the world in fear

Like nothing we’ve ever known, the Covid Pandemic gripped the world in fear

Bless the Lord, O my soul. What in the world’s going on down here

Twice they rushed me to the hospital—I couldn’t believe my eyes

Twice they rushed me to the hospital—I couldn’t believe my eyes

That low-down Covid pulled a sneak attack that took me by surprise

To steal, kill, and destroy—that’s always what the Enemy has planned

To steal, kill, and destroy—that’s always what the Enemy has planned

But be encouraged and don’t forget God’s got the whole world in His hands

Beyond the dark night of Covid, we shall walk in the light of a brand-new day

Beyond the dark night of Covid, we shall walk in the light of a brand-new day

We won’t be defeated, but we will survive and thrive, no matter what comes our way

God Almighty, our Father, our redeemer, delivers from Covid and every infirmity

Even this perplexing pandemic will work together for the good, just you wait and see

We conclude with a perfect music video: Matt Redman’s “Songs in the Night”

To Abide in God’s Presence

January 10, 2022
The theme for the Week of Prayer, Fasting, and Consecration at Grace Covenant Church and Every Nation Churches across the globe

January 10-14, 2022, marks the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer, Fasting, and Consecration at Grace Covenant Church and other Every Nation churches across the globe. The theme for this year’s observance is Abide: The Power and Beauty of God’s Word.  

Telos Fuller, one of the Associate Pastors at Grace Covenant Church—Chantilly, VA, provided the perfect prelude to this special time when he ministered regarding “The Prize” on Sunday, January 10, 2022. He touched upon the awareness, access, and emphasis of “The Presence of  God” which should be the ultimate prize that all believers aspire to attain. Examining passages from Psalm 84 and other scriptures, he encouraged believers to pursue a deeper awareness of the presence of God which becomes a different metric for measuring our success as Christians.

He went on to say that everything we need and want we find in the presence of God. He referred to Psalm 16:11 which inspired this original psalm written in response to the teaching, as my own expression of “Amen” to the truths that resonated so deeply with me:

To Abide in God’s Presence

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore                 

Psalm 16:11

To abide in God’s presence is our utmost desire,

Beyond the wealth of any treasure we may acquire.

With all of our being, we pursue the Lord, our delight,

Who brings such joy and peace to comfort us through the night.

Our desire to linger in His presence burns like a fire.

He clothes us in righteousness, garments of praise, our attire.

We seek to do God’s will and all that He may require.

We meditate on the Word of God both day and night

To abide in God’s presence.           

God has touched our lives and made us perfect and entire,          

We are learning to trust him as our sole supplier.

Challenges confront us when we seek to do what is right,

But beyond the dark is the golden edge of daylight.

We know weeping may endure only for a night,

 But we rejoice each new day, reflecting our  desire

To abide in God’s presence.

I anticipate that this week will be life-changing for all who participate in this time of dedication and consecration: “Abide—The Power and Beauty of God’s Word.”

We close with this selection by Life Worship: “Here in Your Presence”

Happy Birthday My Sweet Lady

October 9, 2021

Birthdays are wonderful times of celebration, and today, October 8, 2021, is a special time of celebration for a special lady, Brenda Joyce, the wife of my youth in whom I rejoice. In thinking about my beloved Brenda, I recall these words composed for

My Sweet Lady

My Sweet Lady, much more than treasured fruit of the vine,

We both prayed, then we met by God’s divine design.

He has truly guided our lives by His own right hand,

Leading us here far beyond all that we could have planned.

As we reflect upon our lives, we now understand.

God said that you would meet me; you asked Him for a sign.

We were wed: Our hearts knit together; our hearts entwine.

Seeking to do God’s will, we traveled across the land,

My Sweet Lady. 

The deepest meaning of love we still seek to define. 

You are my Beloved; I am yours and you are mine.  

Despite the fiercest storms, we continue to withstand

And celebrate this life that continues to be grand.

I cherish you, my love, more than the mellowest wine,

My Sweet Lady.

I love you, BJ

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month 2021

September 19, 2021

As the ninth month of the year continues to unfold, we sound the trumpet to alert the public that September has been designated as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. As we focus on this important health concern among American men, we revise and repost this entry.

About 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Last year, over 170,000 men received such a diagnosis. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men, especially in African American men. However, prostate cancer develops mainly in older men. About 6 out of 10 cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

Although prostate cancer can be a serious disease, the good news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it—”I am a living witness!” In fact, in the United States, more than 2.9 million men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives are still alive today. A diagnosis of prostate cancer or any other cancer or debilitating disease is not a “death sentence,” but it can be a “life sentence” to build your faith and trust in God.

During National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we remember those we have lost to prostate cancer and celebrate survivors, as we renew our commitment to preventing, detecting, and treating this frequently occurring illness. During September, we encourage men to have a health check-up and talk to their doctor about prostate cancer. In fact, September 17 is also designated Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. Light blue is the color of the ribbon bringing attention to prostate cancer.

Blue signifies the blue skies or the life-giving air and often symbolizes hope or good health. As the poet proclaims:

pastel blue
lighter, brighter
subtle twinge
of powder blue
like Betty Lou
hop-scotchin
up to sky blue
and back

As a prostate cancer survivor, I recognize the personal significance of September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2000 was life-changing for me, as I asked God what to do. He gave me a holistic strategy, a battle plan, that took me down the road less traveled by that ultimately led to my being not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. I share my testimony in Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. The book closes with an original poem of celebration with Romans 8:37 as its introduction, expressing my new identity not, just during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month but every day I draw breath:

Embracing Your Life Sentence–
More than a Conqueror


Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors
and gain an overwhelming victory through Him
who loved us [so much that He died for us].

Romans 8:37 (AMP)


Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,
Defying the odds as a brave conquistador.
Despite intense pressure, I learn to rest in grace,
More than enough to withstand the daily tests I face,
Not merely to survive but to thrive even more.

A mighty warrior, triumphant super-victor
With a cause, prepared not to die but to live for.
At times I fell behind but fought to keep the pace:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,

To fulfill all the will of God and then to soar
To heights sublime where I have never been before.
Overcomer, bearing light in the darkest place,
I still fight the good fight, as I finish my race,
Moving forward, seeking to find the next open door:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,

We close with Steven Curtis Chapman reinforcing the message “More than Conquerors”:

My book is available through Amazon.com and wherever books are sold and through my website: https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com. Check out another tribute to Prostate Cancer Awareness Month on Medium.com and celebrate the goodness and the grace of God with me.

Dr. J is celebrating as not just a survivor but more than a conqueror.