Posts Tagged ‘Application of Biblical Principles’

Grace, love, and fellowship

September 21, 2016

2-corinthians-13-14

From the closing verses of the second epistle to the Corinthians comes this benediction which serves as the Verse of the Day for September 21, 2016:

2 Corinthians 13:14 (MSG)

The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

The verse is rendered this way in the Amplified Bible:

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all

The powerful benediction at the end of 2 Corinthians embraces believers as a three-fold cord which begins with “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the means whereby we “receive and experience “the love of God,” which leads to sublime, indescribably sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The verse also brings to mind the lyrics to “Blessed be the ties that bind,” the classic hymn sung countless times in the small church where I grew up in the 1950s, way back in the day:

This verse was also the inspiration for:

Grace, Love, and Fellowship: A Three-fold Cord

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

 Dr. John Fawcett

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:14 (New Living Translation)

Grace, love, and fellowship bind our hearts as a three-fold cord.

These three traits never diminish but only increase.

Our lives are enriched as we learn to walk with the Lord.

Grace: a priceless gift that no one on earth can afford.

God’s great grace abounds toward us and shall never decrease.

Grace, mercy, and fellowship bind our hearts as three-fold cord.

That the love of God never fails cannot be ignored.

Spanning from age to age the same, this love shall never cease.

Our lives are enriched as we learn to walk with the Lord.

Fellowship with God abounds when we live in one accord.

All those who are bound the Word of the Lord will release.

Grace, love, and fellowship bind our hearts as a three-fold cord.

All who seemed forsaken, God, our Father, has restored.

We commune with God and find that in His will is our peace.

Our lives are enriched as we learn to walk with the Lord.

Boundless love and favor are waiting to be explored,

For we are so designed to shine as God’s masterpiece.

Grace, love, and fellowship bind our hearts as a three-fold cord.

Our lives are enriched as we learn to walk with the Lord.                

Here are three notable songs that express the essence of these three spiritual qualities:

Grace:

 A song with a simple title is “Grace,” written and performed by Michael W. Smith

Love:

“The Love of God,” as performed by Mercy Me, is among the most recognized songs describing God’s love:

Fellowship:

The contemporary Christian group A cappella describes “Sweet Fellowship” in song:

Love your neighbor as yourself

June 26, 2015

Leviticus 19-18The Verse of the Day for June 26, 2015 is found in Leviticus 18:19 (NLT):

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Leviticus, the third book of the Pentateuch, literally means The Book of the Law and indicates how the Children of Israel should conduct their lives in relationship to God, to one another and to the wider community. The phrase “I am the Lord” serves as a reminder of the source of the pronouncements that are made throughout the Book of the Law. In chapter 19 the phrase is used not only to punctuate verse 19, but the expression is the final phrase of fourteen additional verses.

The familiar phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” is part of the Ten Commandments, being part of the opening relationship establish in the Decalogue, whereby Israel was commanded to love God first and foremost and then to love others to the same degree as they love themselves.

When Jesus Christ is confronted by the Pharisees in Matthew 22:36-40, they conspired to trap him with a question:

36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.

In a familiar account in Luke 10, the Lord Jesus, responds to a similar situation whereby the rich, younger ruler asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. He answers his own question when Jesus Christ asks, “What does the Law say?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

When Jesus told the young man to “Do this and live,” the man seeking to justify himself, asked, “Who is my neighbor?” That question provides the introduction to one of the most familiar parables of the Gospel, “The parable of the Good Samaritan.”

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

When I think of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I recall teaching in a summer program more than a dozen years ago where we explained the parable and connected it to the virtue of compassion and taught the children this song:

I Want to Touch the World with Compassion

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

Whatever I give to others, it shall be given back to me,

Not just the same but to an even greater degree.

Lord, help me to be merciful.

May I see with the eyes of Jesus.

Lord, I want to walk in the steps of Jesus

And always be loving and kind.

May I reach out my hand to others,

To heal broken hearts and give sight to the blind.

I want to touch the world with compassion.

I want to do whatever I can.

I want to be like the Good Samaritan.

I want to touch the world with compassion.

I want to do whatever I can.

I want to be like the Good Samaritan.

I want to touch the world with compassion.

Lord, help me touch the world with compassion.

Even more amazingly, today, June 26, is National Forgiveness Day, a day set aside to forgive and to be forgiven. In light of the unfolding circumstances surrounding the response to the brutal slayings of the nine men and women at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, the Verse of the Day is certainly well-suited.

Click here to read about the response in Charleston as a prelude to National Forgiveness Day.

2 Timothy 1:9: Reflecting on The Call

March 9, 2015

                                          2_Timothy_1-9

From 2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV) comes the Verse of the Day for March 9, 2015:

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

This verse brings to mind a most memorable event that occurred 41 years ago when I was ordained to the Christian ministry. In reflecting upon my ordination ceremony which also involved a prayer of consecration, the laying on of hands, and a word of prophecy, all of which have been sources of inspiration and direction over the years, I continue to respond to God whereby I first heard His voice and answered:

The Call             

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,

beseech you to walk worthy of the calling

with which you were called,

Ephesians 4:1

The call resounds like a repeated name

From the lips of a dear friend who knows you.

I clearly hear my name and see the flame

That lights the path of those whom God foreknew

Would hear and heed a higher destiny.

This calling only God can verify.

My ear cannot hear; my eye cannot see;

Yet within my heart I cannot deny

That I have heard and seen what few will know.

I must arise and strive to reach the place

Where the rivers of understanding flow

And never doubt God’s purpose and His grace.

I stand in the unbroken line of all

Those who, having heard, rise to heed the call.

I make reference to my ordination and celebrate this milestone in this poem:

 

Forty-one Years ago

Forty has long been universally recognized as an important number,                                      

both on account of the frequency of its occurrence, and the uniformity                                        

of its association with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement. . . .                                  

It is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5),                                                    

leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8). (The number eight                                          

also signifies “a new beginning”)

There can be no doubt as to the significance of this primary number [one].

In all languages it is the symbol of unity.

E.W. Bullinger

 

Forty-one years ago, the passion to fulfill the call

Inflamed deep within my soul a desire to give my all.

In this golden moment, past, present, and future all converge

Where the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God emerge,

As words that God spoke over my life I vividly recall.

“The Teacher” laid hands upon me to bless and to install

Me to lead God’s people and to give my all in all.

I my mind I stand in another place where two roads diverged

Forty-one years ago.

Renewed in strength to run through a troop and leap over a wall,

To fulfill God’s divine calling nothing can ever forestall.

The rivers of understanding God’s purpose and grace still merge.

Today I stand triumphant in Christ Jesus while on the verge

Of a renewed commitment to give all or nothing at all:

Forty-one years ago.

 

The accompanying video also invites us to “Answer God’s call”

For a more in-depth discussion of ordination and its personal significance, take a look at this Examiner.com article:

Being Compliant: Taking Your “Good Medicine”

March 14, 2011

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

Although medication must be taken as the doctor has prescribed in order to be most effective, often many people, however, follow only half of their doctor’s advice. Editors web, the voice of the health consumer, discusses the perplexing issue of “noncompliance,” occuring when patients do not follow their doctors’ orders. Noncompliant patients simply forget to take medications on time, misunderstand the directions, cannot make the lifestyle changes required for certain treatments or simply ignore medical advice. Such neglect often has tragic consequences. Editorsweb, the voice of the health consumer, discusses the perplexing issue of “noncompliance,” occuring when patients do not follow their doctors’ orders. Noncompliant patients simply forget to take medications on time, misunderstand the directions, cannot make the lifestyle changes required for certain treatments or simply ignore medical advice. Such neglect often has tragic consequences. According to Editorsweb.org, “It is estimated that 125,000 people with treatable ailments die each year simply because they do not take prescribed medications properly or they skip them altogether.” As a former pharmacist, I am especially aware that failure to be compliant or being noncompliant often marks the difference between the successful treatment of a disease and a lingering illness that shows little or no improvement or even death.

To get better, patients must follow both their mothers’ and their doctors’ advice and “take their medicine.” In a parallel manner, the prescriptions compounded by “the good doctor” and filled in this apothecary shoppe are prepared “to minister to the heart and soul.”  The opening stanza of “After the Art of the Apothecary,” the poem that could be considered the theme song for my spiritual endeavors, expresses my purpose for opening this enterprise:  

I desire to follow recipes and not to vary

From the prescribed formulas for the remedies I need,

 To compound after the art of the apothecary.

As is generally the case, whenever I am privileged to teach from the Bible or deliver a message in a more formal teaching setting, I share what God has been revealing to me or what I have been learning or experiencing of late. Often what I have been learning also has application to those whom I am teaching who most often relate to my message because they are in a similar situation. I am saying that, first and foremost, the medication prescribed is for me. I recognized this truth when I wrote the following poem in response to those who say “Why don’t you take your own medicine and heal yourself instead of trying to heal others?”:      

Good Doctor, Heal Yourself

                                                                                                                                              

They were all speaking well of Him and were amazed by                                                                                                                        the gracious words that came from His mouth, yet they said,                                                                                                          “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

Then He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me:                                                                                           ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ ‘All we’ve heard that took place                                                                                                                             in Capernaum do here in Your hometown also.’

Luke 4:22-23

“Good doctor, heal yourself.”: words coming from the heart,

Hardened by unbelief that taints the inner part.

 Beyond any disguise, Jesus knew what they thought.

They wanted the right remedy that could be bought,

But they all doubted the Savior’s words from the start.        

Christ has healing words He desires to impart:                

Custom prescriptions written for each patient’s chart.     

Compounded to perfection, the work has been wrought.

“Good doctor, heal yourself.”                                   

For this apothecary, work becomes an art.        

Consecrated to minister and set apart

To teach the joy of serving, as I have been taught,

I triumph in Christ in the battles I have fought          

And rest in knowing God’s presence will never depart.         

“Good doctor, heal yourself.”    

As I have been developing my blog and posting new entries, I recognized that I have been touching upon a number of topics that I plan to discuss in greater detail in a book that I am in the process of writing. A tentative title is Good Medicine: Prescriptions for Overcoming Toxic Emotions.  Some of my recent blog entries deal with negative emotions, such as “discouragement, disappointment and despair” which I refer to as the “Three Deadly Ds.” In addition, I also discuss fear, a potentially debilitating toxic emotion which is counteracted by “love, the perfect antidote.” In Watch, Fight and Pray: My Personal Three-fold Strategy to Overcome Prostate Cancer, I also came to recognize firsthand the importance of overcoming “dangerous emotions,” as I compound remedies that I needed to combat my diagnosis of cancer.

In Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe I share my prescriptions, anticipating that those who come to my establishment will find remedies that can be applied in practical ways to improve their spiritual health which is directly connected with their physical and emotional health as well. I concur with Dr. Larry Dossey, another former pharmacist and MD with “the experience of a practicing internist and the soul of a poet,” who has written extensively on the role of the mind in health and the role of spirituality in healthcare. One of his many books is entitled Prayer is Good Medicine.  A blog appropriately called “Good Medicine” offers this definition of the term used in Native American spirituality: “. . . things that are good for you and will heal you.”  The term also reflects the kind of medications offered in my dispensary, but “good medicine” is good only when it is taken as prescribed and applied with faith.

Facing and overcoming disappointment in 2011–Part 1

January 20, 2011

Disappointments are a part of life, but we cannot allow them to corrode the hope that lies within.

In a prophetic word to the Body of Christ for 2011, Sandie Freed made the following statement that caught my attention:

“It is time for your wineskin to agree with God’s Word concerning your future. As you “let go of the old,” allow the disappointments of the past to totally die. You cannot carry old disappointments into your future and walk in victory. Every disappointment you carry into your new season will sabotage your new beginning. Take a moment and confess to the Lord your past disappointments and then receive His love and power to move ahead. You will be renewed and refreshed as you also agree with His Word concerning your future.”

Disappointment is a most destructive toxic emotion. If left unchecked, it can have deadly consequences, as an acid that slowly corrodes metal. I recall that to neutralize a strong acid, you must add a strong base or alkaline substance. Disappointment, with its destructive acidic elements, can have a decidedly negative impact upon our lives if we do not neutralize it with the base of the Word of Life. Although we have all experienced disappointments, of varying degrees, we must recognize that disappointments occurred when situations have not turned out the way we thought they would. In actuality our disappointments – every one of them – stem from the “add-ons” we attach, those conditions that God never promised but that we add to God’s promises. In every situation whereby we might feel disappointed, we need to focus on the Word of God and be grateful for the promises that we have rather than dwelling on what we do not have, which ultimately leads to being disappointed:

2 Peter 1:4 reminds of the vast reservoir of God’s pledges:

By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. [NKJV]

2 Corinthians 1:20

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. [NKJV]

We must continually look to God and to those exceedingly great and precious promises in His Word. As we do this we recognize that God does not disappoint nor fail to fulfill His promises. No, He does not prevent hopes or expectations from being realized, which is how we define the verb to “disappoint.” One is said to be “disappointed” or sad or displeased because one’s hopes or expectations have not been fulfilled.

We cannot hold onto any feelings of being disappointed!  In reality, feelings of disappointment consist of our hopes and expectations. Disappointments come when God does not come through at the time that we “expect” Him to nor in the way we “expect” Him to. Disappointment is the result of “failed expectations” on our part. Kim Clement speaks of the “power of presuppositions.”  He goes on to say that “Presupposition is an enemy to destiny. . . .” We may sense that God has failed when our lives fail to unfold according to our prescribed patterns and plans, as expressed in this poem inspired by the statement from Kim Clement:

Presupposition: Enemy to Destiny

“Known to God from eternity are all His works.”

                            Acts 15:18 

“Presupposition is an enemy to destiny….” 

                    Kim Clement

Prophetic words that God desires to bring to pass

Wither as un-ripened fruit that fails to mature,

As our lives seem to diminish from gold to brass.

In the midst of changing times, of this we must be sure:

“Presupposition is an enemy to destiny.”

 Our failed expectations shipwreck us and distort

 Our view of the place where we thought that we would be,

 As we accept what appears to be the last resort.

 Though this downward spiral plummets to depths of despair,

 We trust our all-wise Father who makes no mistakes,

 For God heals broken lives that seem beyond repair

 With exquisite beauty that fills all that He makes.

 Known to God are all His works from eternity:

 His perfect will unfolds to those with eyes to see.

We must remember that there is no failure in God, for God is good. The very essence of God is goodness. Indeed, Jesus Christ said, “There is none good but the Father.” And there is no comparative or superlative with God. There are no “better” days with God. God does not have the “best” day He’s had in a long time in comparison to others. With God everyday is a “Good News Day” because “God is good.” Period! Because God is good, “. . . all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) So no matter how bad the situation may appear to be, it will work together for the good. When facing what appears to be disappointing aspects in life, the lyrics to “Trust His Heart” written by Babbie Mason provide great strength and comfort:

                       

To counter the corrosive nature of being “disappointed” let’s take a look at our base, the Word of God where we find that those who trust in God will not be disappointed 

Throughout the Psalms, we find this reality reinforced:

Psalm 22:5

They cried to You and were delivered; they trusted in, leaned on, and confidently relied on You, and were not    ashamed or confounded or disappointed. [AMP] 

The Psalmist also reminds us that God will not let those who trust Him to be disappointed

Psalm 25:2-3

O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You. Let me not be put to shame or[my hope in You] be disappointed; let not my enemies triumph over me. [AMP] 

 Psalm 31:1

In You, O Lord, do I put my trust and seek refuge; let me never be put to shame or [have my hope in You] disappointed; deliver me in Your righteousness! AMP

Paul reiterates the point that those who trust in God will not be disappointed in their expectations in his reference to Isaiah 28:16 in Romans 9:33:

As it is written, Behold I am laying in Zion a Stone that will make men stumble, a Rock that will make them fall; but he who believes in Him [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] shall not be put to shame nor be disappointed in his expectations. AMP

Romans 10:11

The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him [who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him] will [ever] be put to shame or be disappointed. [AMP]

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the quintessential illustration of “failed expectations” transformed by God into a glorious outcome that was exceedingly abundantly above anything that anyone could have ever imagined. Once again, we attempt to grasp this reality in Romans 11:33:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!

In such a demonstration of power, not to mention love of the highest degree, we can find no disappointment whatsoever.

“My Dwelling Transformed”: He who dwells. . .

January 18, 2011

Psalm 91:1 expresses the deepest yearning of my heart.

After reviewing my notes from last Sunday’s message at church entitled “God is Looking for a Dwelling Place,” I was inspired to write to following poem:

                  My Dwelling Transformed

   He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

                            Psalm 91:1

 

Despite perilous times embroiled in confusion and strife,

I continue to learn that everything has its own price,

As I pursue the ultimate goal, I offer my life:

A first-born son, presented as a living sacrifice.

With clean hands and a pure heart, I prepare a dwelling place.

To attract You, I must provide a pleasing ambiance:

As your songs of love flow from the depths of my inner space,

A habitation designed and arrayed for your entrance.

To walk by the spirit of life I am driven to pursue.

I dance to my own music, softly playing in my mind,

And strive to understand that You alone make all things new.

As the eyes of the Lord scan this green planet, may they find

My dwelling transformed into a place of simple beauty,

As I offer all that I am and ever hope to be.

Don Moen leads this praise and worship rendition of “I Surrender All” to remind me of such a commitment to God.

Many fellow believer are earnestly seeking to situate themselves to be in position for the next “move of God,” yearning for a fresh visitation from the Lord. While to bask in His glorious presence would bring with it unspeakable joy, the innermost yearning of my heart is to experience an unprecedented visitation that goes on without interruption, a move of God extending indefinitely.  Francis Frangipane reiterates this point, “Let us also keep in mind that the goal of a visitation from God is that we become the habitation of God.”  Today in traveling about town, I noticed a billboard on a neighborhood church with this message: “2011: Make this a year of transformation.” The poem “My Dwelling Transformed” expresses my desire to see times of visitation transformed into times of habitation.

Imagine this scenario—You have a good friend who sometimes comes by to visit. You would like to have that individual come by more often, so you prepare a place for them to stay when they’re in town. In a similar way, the Shunamite woman and her husband prepared a special abode for Elijah, who visited them periodically. You know what your close acquaintance likes and doesn’t like, so you have what he/she likes, place is custom-designed and appointed to suit your visitor.

It is no different with God. We endeavor to provide the perfect atmosphere, the ideal conditions that will welcome Him so that He shows up often and stays long. In fact, our ultimate desire is to turn a visitation into a habitation, but how is this accomplished?

When God makes visiting a habit, then visitation becomes habitation. God visits so often and enjoys Himself so much that His visits become more and more frequent, and He stays longer and longer until His visits are a habit, and He decides to abide. Our heart’s deepest yearning for intimacy is expressed in this poem:

         Times of Visitation

As you once visited Abraham, our father,

and sent angelic hosts to reinforce your pledge,

in these times of barrenness and seeming defeat,

where are the times of visitation set for us?

We offer our heart, a place prepared for you to meet.

As you sojourn, may you find in our lives a place

so prepared for you to come with friendly intent

that on each occasion where you show up

that your ultimate purpose is most apparent.

As you clearly reveal your promise to fulfill

your will, receive our obedience as sacrifice,

and favor shall be our portion as faithful sons.

May you find us yielded vessels, clean and fitted

for the glory of your presence that you might pour

blessings without measure to overflow and flood

our soul, as we commune with you in perfect peace.

May we never squander times of visitation

but shut the door in face of the enemy,

as we open wide the portals of our spirit

and transform our heart into your habitation.

As I concluded these comments, the lyrics from a cherished hymn from childhood days and beyond came to mind:

Abide With Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Abide, O Lord, abide with me.

I discovered this moving rendition of the familiar hymn by the Antrim Mennonite Choir with beautiful accompanying photos.

To abide means to remain, to stay, to take up residence, to dwell

Thanatopsis: A New View of Death

January 13, 2011

The title of a well-known poem by William Cullen Bryant, "Thanatopsis" literally means a "meditation on death", a subject I have given considerable thought to over the years.

“Thanatopsis,” the title of a poem by William Cullen Bryant, literally means ”a meditation upon death.” While I am not morbidly preoccupied with death, I have considered deeply the possibility that I too may experience this polar opposite of life, should the Lord tarry. Certainly I have thought about death on countless occasions since my diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2000. For the past eight weeks, I have been participating in a nutritional clinical trial related to prostate cancer at the OSU Medical Center, where I provide periodic blood and urine samples. Prior to Christmas, I went to have a blood sample drawn on the same day that I attended funeral services for a church member who passed away with pancreatic cancer within a short time after her diagnosis.  As I participated in the clinical study, I recognized with gratitude the timeless truth, “But for the grace of God, go I.” Each time I attend a funeral, whether as a clergy member participating in the service or simply as someone attending, I thank God that the homegoing service is not my own.

Now that I think about  it, my thoughts turned toward death at a time long before my cancer diagnosis. Oddly enough I recall one of the presentations I offered in an oral interpretation course taken as an undergraduate was a collection of poetry and prose centered on death. Poetic works included John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud,” Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Dirge without Music” along with “Go Down, Death” by James Weldon Johnson while the prose pieces that I recall were a passage from I Corinthians 15 and an excerpt from Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat.” I don’t recall the circumstances behind my selecting death as the theme for the works that I recited, but I simply remember that I was impressed by the works which lent themselves well to oral recitation. That particular class made me more aware of power of the spoken word to move an audience when the word spoken is recited in an artful dramatic manner.  The skills that I learned in reciting literary works by other authors, I developed to an even greater degree when I began to write and recite original works. 

A number of my poems touch upon the subject of death, as I make known my views in the last stanza of “Songs Since” a work discussing the influence of music in my life:

 

  All is a song, a noted writer said,

And I too sing my song and hold no strife.

Instead of a just a dirge drummed for the dead,

I sing a mighty melody of life.

 

I note a parallel between Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Dirge without Music” and this poem:

Song of Triumph

And having disarmed principalities and powers,

He made a public spectacle of them openly,

triumphing over them in it.

Colossians 2:15

Death, I will not succumb to your dull drum,

Nor march in cadence to your muffled dirge.

Though toward a common end all flesh must merge,

Your lifelong lament I refuse to hum.

 

Though I endeavor to compute the sum

Of all my days that toward this end converge,

Death, I will not succumb to your dull drum,

Nor march in cadence to your muffled dirge.

 

My pace in double time defies the plumb

Line dropped before life’s final tide shall surge.

I have hope even death can never purge.

Though my heart may be pierced, my brain go numb,

Death, I will not succumb to your dull drum,

Nor march in cadence to your muffled dirge.

Watch, Fight & Pray: My Personal Three-fold Strategy to Combat Prostate Cancer

A few years ago as I was walking to the mailbox, I noticed a dead mouse on the sidewalk leading up to our condo. It had probably been deposited by a cat that may have tired of playing “cat and mouse.” When I saw the mouse, I went to the garage to find a broom and small plastic bag, into which I scooped the dead animal before tying the ends of the bag. In the trash receptacle in the garage was a large trash bag from the kitchen, holding the deposits from earlier in the week. As I completed the task, I thought of the passage from I Corinthians 15:54-55, which is often read at memorial services:

 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?

O Hades, where is your victory?” 

The situation with my disposing of the dead mouse was a graphic illustration of the phrase “swallowed up in victory.” At the memorial service for another church member, I had used the illustration of using the all the water in the Pacific Ocean to wash down a nitroglycerin tablet which is remarkably small, a fraction of an inch in diameter and height.

Another illustration came to mind as I thought of the small rodent about 4 inches long inside the small plastic bag that had been stuffed inside the 13-gallon trash bag that would be tossed into a dumpster that would compress hundreds of similar-sized trash bags, all of which would be taken to a massive landfill encompassing several acres. I could see that in the same way the dead mouse would be swallowed up when it eventually found its way to the landfill, even so to an even great degree, “Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory,” according to the Amplified Bible. I rejoiced as I saw how God illustrated in such a striking manner just how inconsequential death, the last enemy, has become because of Jesus Christ’s triumphant defeat of him “who has the power over death, that is the devil.”

I Corinthians 15:57 offers this assuring reminder:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The disease cancer takes its name from the constellation "Cancer" symbolized by the crab, hence the name "Old Man Crab" refers to cancer.

Of course, the blues poem “Final Victory” that introduces Watch, Fight & Pray, captures the essence of our perspective on death and the ultimate triumph over the last enemy when we shall experience the reality of the “Final Victory”: 

 Final Victory

I Corinthians 15:53-57 & Romans 8:37-39

Old man crab is mighty sneaky,

            always creepin and up to no good,

Old man crab, is mighty sneaky,

            always creepin and up to no good,

That low-down dirty rascal,

            Messin with folk all round the neighborhood.

One dark day old man crab came callin,

            Crawlin in like some uninvited mouse,

One dark day old man crab came callin,

            Crawlin in like some uninvited mouse,

That nasty dirty devil,

            Sneakin in the back door of my sister’s house.

First you first attacked my mama, old man crab,

            You tried to pinch her with your greatest fears,

First you first attacked my mama, old man crab,

            You tried to pinch her with your greatest fears,

But she didn’t want no she-crab soup,

            You tried to served with pain and bitter tears.

You may have come to our house, old man crab,

            But I’m sorry, you can’t stay.

You may have come to our house, old man crab,

            But I’m sorry, you can’t stay.

Whatsonever in the world you may do,

            Everyday we still gonna watch, fight, and pray.

Nothin’ low down on earth, old man crab,

            Or nothin high up in heaven above,

Nothin’ low down on earth, old man crab,

            Or nothin high up in heaven above,

Not even death, your creepin pardner,

            Can ever separate us from God’s love.

So git out my face, old man crab,

            I got your number, don’t you see.

So git out my face, old man crab,

            I got your number, don’t you see.

You may win this li’l biddy battle,

            But we show-nuff got the final victory.

Some say our Savior’s comin in the mornin;

            Some say in the midnight hour or high noon

Some say our Savior’s comin in the mornin;

            Some say in the midnight hour or high noon

I got a feelin He’s comin back

            To gather us together soon . . . and very soon.

The olive wreath is a symbol of victory, a crown given to those who "run their best race and win it."

Many times as I “walked through the valley of the shadow of death,” I recalled Psalm 118:17 from the Amplified Bible:

I shall not die but live, and shall declare the works and recount the illustrious acts of the Lord.

 Often I think of a spiritual that succinctly summarizes my thoughts regarding death at this time in my life: “Ain’t Got Time to Die.”

 Ain\’t Got Time to Die by Romanian \”Accoustic Choir\”, conducted by Daniel Jinga

Love suffers long: learning from an unlikely source

January 12, 2011
Love endures for all time and never fails.

Since making the commitment to participate in the postaday2011 initiative, I have been endeavoring to post a blog each day. Sometimes I awake with a topic or issue of interest, and the flow comes forth almost effortlessly.  At other times I seem hard pressed to come up with a topic that I can really get into. Occasionally I will “stumble upon” an idea while looking for something totally unrelated. Such was the case, yesterday with “Wait on God City of My Soul.” Today I read an email from a friend and fellow believer, Tom Swift,  who sends out weekly devotionals from  Truth in Love Ministries, and I was immediately drawn into his discussion of love in light of the mythological figure  Sisyphus, whom Countee Cullen, famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance, described as doomed “to struggle up a never ending stair.”  Tom used what is generally perceived as a grossly negative character to show the positive attribute of charity/love as “long-suffering.” Click here to read the devotional in its entirety.

As I read the sharing by Brother Tom, I recalled the quotation that my wife, Brenda, placed on our wedding invitation when we sent them out going on 38 years ago: “Sharing is caring/A love of endless giving.”

In addition, I recently composed a poem for one of the students in a writing class that I teach, a young woman from Ghana named “Everlove.”  Recently she has endured a number of personal tragedies, and as I was thinking about her and praying for her, I was inspired to compose poem to encourage her. I had never met anyone with the name “Everlove” which has deep significance in light of the essence of the message regarding love which endures all things and never fails.

Everlove Is Your Name 

For Everlove Agyeiwae

Love ever gives,
Forgives,
outlives,
And ever stands
With open hands.

And while it lives,
It gives.

For this is love’s prerogative:
To give, and give, and give.

John Oxenham

 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful,

and endures through every circumstance.

1 Corinthians 13:   [New Living Translation]

                                                                    

Everlove is your name, given to remind you             

To let love prevail in all that you say and do.                 

That God’s love endures forever, never forget.                      

In trying times accept God’s love–have no regret.   

 

Men may disappoint, but God’s love is ever true                   

To all who follow the path of love and pursue.       

In the midst of storms, never worry–do not fret.         

Everlove is your name.                                   

 

Look to the God of love, one who makes all things new.       

He restores and refreshes, as the morning dew.                                                           

Although Satan’s fiery darts seem to pose a threat,    

Trust God–He will not fail but will be with you yet.        

These words from God’s heart are given to remind you:          

Everlove is your name.         

I wrote the poem as a reminder to someone whose name has profound significance, but it is likewise a reminder to me that love has sustaining power that endures for all time.  May you also recall that love never fails, as so beautifully expressed in this recording by pianist Jim Brickman and vocalist Amy Sky.

For further discussion of the three golden attributes of life: faith, hope and love, check out these articles:

http://www.examiner.com/christian-spirituality-in-columbus/faith-hope-and-love-three-essentials-christianity

“Wait on God City of My Soul”: Poetic Reflections

January 10, 2011

Where I presently live in Columbus, Ohio is the “City of My Soul” where I wait on God.

We have all experienced looking for a specific item, and in the process we come across something unexpected that turns out to be more fascinating than the object we were initially seeking to find. Recently while looking for the email address of my Facebook friend, Lester Wiley Carver, I “happened upon” one of his poems posted in his notes. The title intrigued me, and as I read, I was moved by the message which seemed to speak directly to me;

Wait On God “City of my Soul”

I could give you all you seek and pleased you would be.
You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know me.
You’d not know the depths of my love for each saint.
You’d not know the power I give to the faint.

You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair.
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in me.
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

You’d never experience the fullness of love;
When the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save for a start,
But you would not know the depth of the love of my heart.

The glow of my comfort late into the night.
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask.
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

You’d never know should your pain quickly flee;
What it means that my grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true;
But, oh, the loss, if I lost what I’m doing in you.

So be silent my child, and in time you will see;
That the greatest gift is to truly know me.
And though if my answers seem terribly late;
My most precious of all is still, “WAIT”!

Throughout the Bible, believers are encouraged “to wait on God.” The concluding verse of my favorite Psalm (27:14) offers this reminder:

Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.

Another passage that I especially enjoy and have committed to memory is found in Isaiah 40:28-31:

28Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

 29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

 30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

 31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

As I reflected upon Lester’s poem, one of my own poetic works came to mind which in turn brought to mind a song:

“Waiting in Gilgal” describes “The City of My Soul”, as I wait at this time in my life.

Waiting in Gilgal

If a man die, shall he live again?

all the days of my appointed time

will I wait, till my change come.

Job 14:14 

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

In the midnight harbor, place black as a raven,

Yielded and still in this new place of transition,

Seeking to do God’s will, in ready position,

To be launched from here to my desired haven.

Waiting in Gilgal. . . 

Groaning, travailing resounds from this place on earth,

In the birthing room where thoughts rise to the sublime;

Prolonged moments extend toward the fullness of time

Where agony precedes ecstasy in childbirth.

Waiting in Gilgal. . . 

To be raised from the tomb, released from the cocoon;

Exhausted, I yearn to escape and touch the sky,

To be freed from these quarters of the butterfly,

Where to be transformed at last can come none too soon.

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

This place demands sacrifice and obedience:

Not like Saul in Gilgal, foolish and immature,

But like Caleb, who with age, had strength to endure,

Fulfilled all God’s will and claimed his inheritance,

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

“A Change is Gonna Come” by the late Sam Cooke seems to be the perfect song to accompany the waiting period.  

 

No Black-eyed Peas on New Year’s Day

December 31, 2010

Among the traditional foods served on New Year's Day is black-eyed peas.

In anticipation of New Year’s Day, as Columbus Christian Spirituality Examiner, I published an article regarding special food that is eaten on the first day of the New Year:

http://www.examiner.com/christian-spirituality-in-columbus/bringing-the-new-year-with-special-food

Earlier in the week, I had written a note to the director of a nutritional clinical trial that I am participating in at the OSU Medical Center. Participants are not supposed to eat any legumes during the clinical trial: That means no beans or peas. Among the list of specific legumes to avoid eating are black-eyed peas, which as the article notes, have been part of the African American tradition of New Year’s Day food that represents prosperity in the coming year.

In light of my participating in the Nutrition 40 Clinical Trial, I realized that I won’t be enjoying that tradition this year. The idea caused me to smile and inspired this poem:

 No Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day

 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     and be in health, even as your soul prospers.

                                     3 John 2

This New Year begins in a most unusual way:

2011 finds me in a clinical study.

A part of the soy bread trial is to be “legume-free.”

In the midst of a “two-week wash out” comes New Year’s Day.

 I must avoid food with beans or peas of any kind.

 No black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day: a contradiction.

From childhood I remember this soul food tradition

That now provides another chance to renew my mind.

Some insist that menus on the first day of the year

Include black eyed peas for prosperity, by all means,

And wealth symbolized in mustard, kale or collard greens.

These valued kitchen customs many folk still hold dear.

But beyond traditions and symbols of earthly wealth,

I know God desires that I prosper and be in health.

The verse from 3 John is also the introductory scripture to another poem related to the same theme of wealth and prosperity from a different perspective. 

A Question of Wealth

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper  in all things and  be in health, even as your soul  prospers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3 3 John 2

 

 How do you measure the fullest meaning of wealth?

 What is the total value?  How much is the price

Of a fruitful spirit, a sound mind and good health?

Can you calculate the sum and then square it twice?

To prosper and be in health, even as your soul

Prospers cannot be measured by any amount

Withdrawn from the world’s treasures, for even the whole

Earth could never contain so vast a bank account.

But those who set their affections on things above

And not on things on the earth are free to explore

The infinite riches of God’s favor and love,

For they alone know their true value even more.

The truly rich ask to receive and seek to find

The priceless wealth of strength in God and peace of mind. 

As 2011 unfolds, we recognize that true prosperity does not come from the food we eat on the first day of the New Year, but that the blessings of the Lord abound to those who hear and heed His Word.