Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Morning reflections: More than my necessary food

April 3, 2013
This verse was, in part, the inspiration for a poem with the last five words as its title.

This verse was, in part, the inspiration for a poem with the last five words as its title.

This morning as I began my time of prayer and meditation, I opened up a Bible that was given to me prior to my being drafted into the Army in 1967 in the midst of the Vietnam War. The members of my home church Carter Chapel C.M.E Church in Gary, Indiana presented this small Bible with a zipper and with my name embossed in gold on the front along with the words “Holy Bible.” The zipper has pulled away from the binding and has not worked for years, and the first two letters of my name are barely visible with the rest of the letters having long since been worn away.

As I opened to Genesis, the first few pages were missing as well as the pages where I recall there was an inscription. The first pages are not only worn and discolored from notes that were written in ink that has not blurred the frayed pages, but the edges of some of the pages have been eaten away by some kind of microscopic insect or parasite. As I look at this particular Bible, my mind is flooded with wonderful memories of my tour of duty in the military when I became more keenly aware of the presence of God in my life, as I was introduced to reading and studying the Scriptures in a much deeper way than previously. As I reflected upon that significant period in my life, I was inspired to write this poem.

More than My Necessary Food

“Who stole the cookie out the cookie jar?”

  Childhood Song

Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips;

I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

Job 23:12

In thinking of God’s goodness over the years, I found

A cherished Bible received almost fifty years ago

When I met God through His Word, an encounter profound

And life-changing, as I recall the debt that I owe

To the members of my home church who expressed their love

With this precious gift that from constant use is so worn.

I open and find missing pages and some of

Them eaten away, devoured by a strange bookworm.

Like that insect, I found God’s Word and I did eat it,

And it was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart:

A child who steals the cookie with delight, I admit

I consumed it, hiding it in my heart’s deepest part.

Looking back, I have tasted and seen that God is good

And esteemed His Word more than my necessary food.

Cookie Jar 2

The poem opens with the lines from a children’s song that I recall singing way back in the 1960s. The Jeynetts offer a lively version of this children’s song sung so often at church camps or during pre-school activities or at other times when children gather.

As I completed the poem I also recalled the lyrics to an original song that I composed when I coordinated a children’s summer program ten years ago and used music as a means of memorizing scripture.

Psalm 34:8 inspired the lyrics to a scripture memory song "Oh, Taste and See."

Psalm 34:8 inspired the lyrics to a scripture memory song “Oh, Taste and See.”

Oh, Taste and See


Oh, taste and see, see that the Lord is good, so good.

Blessed is the man that puts his trust in Him.

Verse 1

Partake of the Word of God,

Taste and see that it is good.

It will fill you up

More than any kind of food.


Verse 2

Partake of the Word of God,

Let it richly dwell within.

It will help you grow.

It’s better than a vitamin.


Verse 3

Partake of the Word of God,

Read the Word and put God first.

It will feed your soul

And satisfy your thirst.


Oh, taste and see, see that the Lord is good, so good.

Blessed is the man that puts his trust in Him.

The Chicago Mass Choir offer another spirited rendering of a song entitled “O Taste and See”:

I thought I would share some of my reflective thoughts in another compounded recipe from Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe, my 100th blog entry.

“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.  


Doulos: Free to serve

January 8, 2011

Galatians-5-13Taken from Galatians 5:13 in the New Living Translation, the Verse of the Day for May 22, 2015 highlights the paradox between freedom and servitude:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

This verse and other related scriptures bring to mind the idea of the servant or slave who has been set free. In the early 70s or thereabout, I was introduced to the Greek term “doulos”, translated servant or more literally “bondslave,” one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Scriptures. The portrayal of the servant or slave, as revealed in the Bible has particular significance to me for a number of reasons, aside from my being a descendant of slaves brought from Africa to America.

In 1975 I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave.” In 1978 while completing my Master’s thesis, I explored the subject in light of Paul’s literary style in the Church Epistles. I went on to complete my Ph.D. in 1986 with a dissertation entitled Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets. Four years ago, I posted a blog at “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe” that I am revising and re-posting in celebration of the original article published 40 years ago.

Being a doulos involves a deep commitment to one’s Lord and Master.

The term doulos has become an intricate part of my life since I first learned of the concept of the “bond servant” or “bond slave” back in the early 70s. Last year I celebrated the 35th anniversary of my publishing an article entitled “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave.” As used in the Bible, doulos is a metaphor that I have personalized and internalized. I explored the concept in Master’s thesis which looked at the literary style of Paul in the Church Epistles, where he opens the Book of Romans with his “calling card”: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle (note the order).”  In my Ph.D. dissertation I looked at the metaphor of the “servant” or “bond slave” in the Bible and in the works of four African American poets who were influenced by the Bible. Beyond that, the concept is deeply embedded into my soul, in that it has become the essence of who I am. I attempt to express that essence in this poem:

More Than Metaphor

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,

separated to the gospel of God

Romans 1:1

To capture my essence I strive to find a word,

Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,

To express my deep yearning for intimacy.

Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”

Each fiber of my being and each emotion

Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.

As I endeavor to learn and live to impart

The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,

I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,

As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,

To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,

To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.

Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor

Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.

The basin and towel are symbolic of the essence of servanthood as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13.

In discussing this topic of the servant or bond slave, an image almost immediately comes to mind: a basin and a towel, representative of one of my favorite passages regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ, who revealed so clearly the heart of a bond servant when he washed the disciples’ feet in the account from John 13. This very moving excerpt inspired another related poem:

Let Me Wash Your Feet

            John 13:4-5, 19

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel

around himself,

So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and

expose myself.

As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.

You could yourself

Perform this deed of loving service, but let me

Serve you myself.

To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,

as Christ himself

Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.

You have yourself

The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took

Upon himself

The servant’s form

That I myself

Might freely give

To you yourself,

So I ask you

As Christ himself

Still asks of me,

So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

One of the ancient practices associated with bond servants in the Bible is the year of the Jubilee, the Old Testament practice whereby the 50th year was a special sabbatical period when Hebrew slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established. On my 50th birthday, I wrote “This Year of My Jubilee” which alludes to this Old Testament practice:

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17 


I stand alone, clothed only with the wind

At the end of my seventh sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bondslave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as you command,

Pierce my ear–place your brand upon my soul.

Enlighten me so I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of your ways

And seal my vows to serve you all my days.

Once more Michael Card has the perfect song entitled “Jubilee” to accompany this poem.

I will conclude this entry by posting a PDF of the original article “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave” which was first published in 1975. Accompanying the article is a letter to  Apostle Thamo Naidoo to whom I sent the original article along with two of the poems posted above: “More Than Metaphor” and “This Year of My Jubilee.” I am grateful to my beloved Brother Lester Wiley Carver, who encouraged me to post the article. I trust that it will minister to all who read it. I welcome any comments or thoughts that this post might have inspired.

Before reading the article, listen to a powerful song written and performed by Dean Ellenwood, who captures the depth of commitment embodied in the individual called of God to be a  bondslave, a true Doulos. 


Doulos: A Different View of a Slave

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a “servant” or “bondslave”–a doulos

My New Identity Kit

November 19, 2010
In August of this year, I returned to my hometown of Gary, Indiana to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. I recall learning to appreciate the rich beauty of the English language, as I excelled in the English classes that I took. Upon graduation I enrolled as a pharmacy student at Purdue University in the first class of a newly initiated 5-year program which allowed me to broaden my academic horizons through taking additional courses in English and speech. I continued to develop my writing skills after graduating and working as a pharmacist.  In 1971, I remember being asked to produce a writing sample at the beginning of my first year in ministry leadership training progran, and I wrote a brief commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:10:

 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Since that time, more than 30 years ago, I have come to appreciate the same verse in the Amplified Bible that renders a more precise definition of the word “judgment.”

But I urge and entreat you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in perfect harmony and full agreement in what you say, and that there be no dissensions or factions or divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your common understanding and in your opinions and judgments.

Someone has said that opinions are like noses—everybody has one. Even so, believers are encouraged to hold the same opinion regarding who we are in Christ. The verse from 1 Corinthians also came to mind in response to this statement by Nate Clements: “Don’t let someone else’s opinion become your reality.”


 As we continue on our lifelong journey of discovery of who we are, many times we encounter varying opinions, as our identity unfolds through the changing seasons of life. Recently conversations with various individuals have centered on the issue of identity, as everyone struggles to find and maintain his or her “true identity” Among of the principal challenges of the whole of humanity is to find the answer to two of life’s fundamental questions: “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” For the believer, God, our Father, the Creator of Life, provides the answers to those questions and every other question anyone may seek to find answers to in the Word of God which becomes the mirror in which we see ourselves clearly revealed. Recently I looked at some of the poems that I had written that relate to “identity” and I put them together and added some music to comprise this blog which I call “My True Identity Kit.”

 As a believer, the essence of who I am is grounded in God’s opinion of me and not any individual’s assessment of who I am. Israel Houghton and New Breed express this truth in the song “Identity.”

In August of 2003, I attended the Apostolic School of Ministry in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa where I wrote seven poems inspired by the series of teachings that I heard during that time. One, in particular, relates to who I am and how I see myself:

My True Identity

 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,

are changed into the same image from glory to glory,

even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

II Corinthians 3:18

 I look in the mirror of God’s Word and I see,

Not the man I am but the man I shall become,

Reflected in my eyes, my true identity.

Released from shackles of a slave mentality,

The bondage of Egypt I have now overcome.

I look in the mirror of God’s Word and I see.

I smile as I keep singing of “A Brand New Me.”

In my heart I have prepared for God a new home,

Reflected in my eyes, my true identity.

“I am what I am” is my new reality:

A first-born son, model of the Father’s Kingdom.

I look in the mirror of God’s Word and I see. 

God’s blessings in double measure overtake me,

Flowing by the spirit in knowledge and wisdom,

Reflected in my eyes, my true identity.

I live to fulfill my prophetic destiny,

As joys unfold with even greater joys to come.

I look in the mirror of God’s Word and I see

Reflected in my eyes, my true identity.

 One of the lines alludes to a popular song composed and performed by Dusty Springfield “A Brand New Me.” This selection, however, is by Jerry Butler, who croons as only “The Ice Man” can:

Another poem opens with a statement by Dr. Paula Price, whose words inspired this poetic work of identity: 

The Real Me

“Apostles are called to giants, heroes and winners.”

Dr. Paula Price

I am a man on a mission: I seek to find

The man I really am, my true identity.

Not by the outward but inner I am defined,

Renewed in faith, day by day, all for God’s glory.

I see the real me: a giant, a hero, a winner. 

I want to see for myself and never be blind

To the reality of all God called me to be.

I don’t conform to the world’s mold but renew my mind.

A banquet table is ever set before me.

I feast on God’s Word for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

I focus on God’s will and seek to be aligned.

Like a rose, the love of God unfolds before me.

I am a new creation in Christ, one of a kind.

With enlightened eyes of understanding I see

That the real man within grows fatter, not thinner. 

I move to the front of the race; I won’t be left behind,

For I know who I am and move into my destiny.

My life reveals the purpose for which I have been designed.

I am released from all bondage; I have been set free

By the Kinsman Redeemer. No longer a sinner,

I see the real me: a giant, a hero, a winner.

  The contemporary black gospel song by Marvin Sapp reminds us of whose opinion is the only one that really matters. Despite the fact that others saw the worst in me, God saw only the best in me:

Earlier this year, Pastor Michael Bivens of Equip U Ministries, delivered a powerful life-changing message related to our identity, as revealed in the Word of God. At the end of the message he encouraged the congregation to make a list of qualities or attributes that the Bible declares us to be. I personalized the assignment and composed a list of metaphors which opened with the phrase “I am.” Upon completion of the poem, I went on to finish another poem “Moreover, I am” with a corresponding list, each line of which ends with the phrase “I am.” 

 I AM says “I am” and all that I AM says “I am”

 “I am. . .” 

I am light, the light of the world, sent forth to shine.

 I am salt, the salt of the earth, full of savor.

I am alive in Christ; eternal life is mine.

I am blessed: in the midst of famine is favor.

I am trusting in the Lord; I am not afraid.

I am made whole in Christ; by His stripes I am healed. 

I am so fearfully and wonderfully made.

I am redeemed, and by the Spirit I am sealed.

I am a sweet savor, a living sacrifice.

I am ever before Him, always on His mind.

I am clothed in righteousness, bought with a price.

I am His beloved, the one He runs to find.

I am cleansed and made whole by the blood of the Lamb.

I am, by the grace of God, what He says I am.

Moreover, I am

Moreover, the word of the Lord

came to me, saying,

Ezekiel 7:1  

Called out of darkness into the great light, I am.

Living by faith in the power of His Word, I am.

Walled in by sin but now free in the Lord, I am.

Giving my life that I might walk upright, I am.

Where death once reigned, now grace abounds; therefore, I am.

Moving by the Spirit and not the flesh, I am.

There is no condemnation; alive in Christ I am.

Proving what is the perfect will of God, I am

Enduring in patience until the end, I

All creation groans and travails until I am

Maturing in Christ unto the perfect man I am.

This generation shall make known all that I am.

Until the trumpet blast from the horn of the ram,

Be still and abide in peace and know that I AM.

The phrase “I am” brought to mind another powerful reminder from Israel Houghton and New Breed: “I Know Who I Am.”

 It seems as if I am continually trying to convince myself and others as to who I really am. Often I respond to those who attempt to portray me in an unflattering light, as a man of small stature and insignificance, as a villain or a loser, in contrast to the man in the mirror of God’s Word where “I see the real me: a giant, a hero, a winner.” In response to those who see me as a villain, I wrote this piece:

 A Hero Plays the Villain

 “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Christopher Reeve


Though a hero, I will play the villain.

I will partake of the bread of self-sacrifice.

Others depart to save face, but I will remain.

Though it may cost me my life, I will pay the price.

If I die, the Lord will raise me up again.

The victor is winner by any other name;

He gives unselfishly and will never restrain,

Though at times victor and victim are both the same.

Type-cast to serve in this seemingly menial role,

I follow Christ who poured out his life, even to death.

Proving that running to serve is life’s highest goal,

He whispered “Father, forgive them” with his last breath.

This drama may not unfold as I thought it would,

But I know that all things work together for the good.

 In one of the composition and literature classes that I taught at Otterbein College (now called Otterbein University) I recall engaging my class in lively discussions regarding “Heroes, Super-Heroes, and Real Heroes.” One of the poems that I shared was this original work which is actually a heroic sonnet:

Real Heroes

Like a herald, history sounds the names,

The roll call sung from the chronicler’s page,

The champions of life’s heroic games,

Whose flame still flames for years beyond their age.

Are they real heroes as history claims

Or mere cowards lauded as saint or sage?

Life’s truest heroes we always ignore,

To mold giants of legend and folklore.


Real heroes never swell the ranks among

Annals of recorded time. History

Omits the common folk; yet their unsung

Legacies speak to those with eyes to see.

Heroic lives inspire old and young

To become all our hearts have yearned to be.

We search for gold in those whom we live with

And seek real heroes, not image nor myth.

Life’s real heroes still dwell with us today,

To pioneer a new and living way.

 When I think of a musical composition that embodies the essence of “real heroes,” I think of Mariah Carey’s “Hero”:

Many times when an individual experiences a close encounter with God of the most intimate kind, that person is forever changed and adopts a new identity that often involves a new name. Certainly this was the case with Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham, and most notably with Jacob, who was given the name of Israel after his encounter with the Most High. I allude to Jacob’s transformation which I also identify with in this poem: 

New Name

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit

says unto the churches. To him that overcomes

I will give to eat of the hidden manna,

and will give him a white stone, and in the stone

a new name written, which no man knows

except him that receives it.

Revelation 2:17

More than a moniker,

a sobriquet attached

to the bridal bouquet,

a new name to change

or not, hyphenate,

ignore, keep, or discard

like outdated his and her towels;

how to handle this essence of being,

my new identity.

Like the trickster,

who tried to run his game

and get over on Jehovah

when he wrestled out a blessing

from the evening till the break of day,

I woke up one morning

with a new name and a gimp leg

to remind me of that all-night-face-to-face encounter

when I sang

“I told Jesus, be all right if He changed my name.”

From Stone upon Stone: Psalms of Remembrance.

 The last line of the poem refers to a spiritual of the same title, performed here by Jennifer Bynum:

The Scriptures remind us that God makes all things new, as we excel, going from faith to faith, victory to victory and glory to glory. When a believer assumes a new identity, he or she closes out a previous chapter and moves forth in newness of life, as God begins to write a new chapter. The final poem of this collection describes what occurs as we seek “To Bring Closure”:

To Bring Closure 

“Your life is a book and everyday is a page.”

Elijah Pierce

In the eyes of God, each life is an open book,

Inscribed in first person, where nothing is hidden,

But to really see, we must take a closer look

To discern between each line as it is written.

Past pages reveal both the shame and the glory,

As we craft chronicles from confusion and strife,

Ongoing sagas of our personal history:

Tragic lines composed in the comedy of life.

We strive to bring closure to another chapter

And break free from the bondage of each past mistake,

To apply the painful lessons and grow thereafter

In fleeting years of heartbreak and exquisite laughter.

This real life drama transcends

the game of “Let’s Pretend,”

As each scene unfolds,

moving toward our perfected end.

“Aint Got Time to Die,” one of my favorite spirituals, is a fitting song to bring closure to this blog.

Photo credits:

To the Rescue

October 13, 2010

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera greets one of the first miners rescued after being trapped underground for 69 days.

The headlines joyously revealed the account of the rescue of another miner who had been trapped in a copper mine in Chile. That incident brought to mind  this blog “To the Rescue,” a compilation of scriptures, comments, poetry and music centered on the theme that when we call on God, He will come “To the Rescue.” Just as the Psalmist declares in Psalm 138:3

In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.

I am especially mindful of how God comes to the rescue of those who call on Him, around this time of the year. As we approach Halloween and some of its negative aspects, such as pranks, I recall an incident a friend shared with me when he went to live with a relative in the rural South where there was no indoor plumbing, and everyone used an outdoor toilet known as an “outhouse.” Unbeknownst to my young friend, the custom on Halloween night was to move the “outhouse” from its original position so that when a person stepped inside, he would fall into the pit. That’s exactly what happened, and my friend immediately cried out, “Daddy, Daddy, come and get me!” His father came running with a flashlight and reached down and grabbed his son by the collar and snatched him out of the horrible pit.

That incident never fails to remind me of a spiritual parallel whereby I, like the young boy in horrific circumstances, called out to my Heavenly Father in desperation. I identified with my friend and expressed my thoughts in some of the lines of “my testimony in poetry”:

With lovin arms you reach way down
And snatched me from Satan’s outhouse,
Sought me and flat-out rescued me,
Fixed me up in my Father’s house.

Why Don’t Somebody Help Me Praise the Lord?

(from Stone upon Stone: Psalms of Remembrance)
Many times as we go through life, we become entangled in circumstances that restrict our efforts to succeed and mired in unpleasant situation that impede our progress. Like the Psalmist we may find ourselves in situations whereby we cry out to God:

Psalm 35:17
Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.

The calling out to God in desperation to “come rescue me” is beautifully expressed in this rendition of “I Need You Now” by Smokie Norful:

When I think about being rescued from a dangerous situation, I recall some of the lyrics of this familiar “vintage hymn” from childhood days of growing up in the Church. The hymn was “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” which had these lines:

Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.

The words have become even more meaningful today. I was absolutely overwhelmed by this rendition of the song from the combined choruses of Brigham Young University:

Like Daniel in the den of lions, we sometimes find ourselves in desperate, seemingly impossible situations from which we cannot extract ourselves on our own. When we think of such situations like that of Daniel, we must remember the King’s response when God delivered Daniel:

Daniel 6:27

He [the God of Daniel] delivers and rescues, and he works signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

In thinking about the record of Daniel in the lion’s den, the words of a Black Spiritual also raise an important question:

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel, Deliver Daniel?
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel? Then why not every man?

“Hand upon the Plow” gives account in poetry of a number of instances where God came to the rescue of Daniel and other believers:

Hand upon the Plow

Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand
to the plow and looks back [to the things behind
is fit for the kingdom of God.
Luke 9:62

“Keep your hand on the plow, hold on!”
–Black Spiritual

When life ain’t like it spose to be,
Right then and there it occurs to me
Folks been in fixes worse than me,
Right in the Bible where I see:

The Lord will make a way somehow.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

Pharaoh said, “Kill each Hebrew boy,”
But Moses’ Ma was full of joy
Cause Pharaoh’s daughter raised her boy.
The Lord will make a way somehow.

The lions looked so lean and thin
When they throwed Daniel in the den,
But Old Man Daniel didn’t bend.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

When Jesus died, God paid the cost
And at that time all seem like lost,
But God planned ahead for Pentecost.
The Lord will make a way somehow.

Paul and Silas didn’t rant and wail
When they throwed both of them in jail.
They called on God, and He didn’t fail.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

When troubles start to buggin you
Remember, there’s just one thing to do:
Look to God and He’ll see you through.
What he did for them, He’ll do for you.

The Lord will make a way somehow.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

From Stone upon Stone: Psalms of Remembrance

During times of intense pressure when I forget just how faithful God has been, He gently comforts and reminds with these words:

Listen to Me

Isaiah 46:3-4

Listen to me. Open your ears and clearly hear
I have always been there. Though you had not perceived
My presence in the wasteland, I was ever near.
Indeed, I knew you before you were first conceived.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He
Who still holds you and causes you to remember.
I open deaf ears and cause blinded eyes to see
The passion that consumes your soul was once an ember.
Though I seem to be delayed, I will not tarry
But will return for the faithful ones who remain:
Those whom I have made those I will also carry;
Those whom I have called by name I will sustain.
Rest in me: I will perform all I said to do.
Know that I will sustain you and will rescue you.

Every Halloween when I recall my friend who found himself in a horrific situation and called out to his father or whenever I find myself in a horrible mess, generally of my own making, I am also reminded of this truth that when I cry out, my Heavenly Father will come “to the rescue.”

When I recall the circumstances from which God rescued me, many times I am overwhelmed with gratitude, as I shudder to think when I might be if He had not intervened in such a dramatic manner. In reflecting upon God’s intervention, I composed this poem which I use to conclude this blog:

If It Had Not Been for the Lord

If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side,

Let Israel now say–

Psalm 124:1

If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side,
I would have drowned in the sea from the tears I cried.
I shudder to think just where I would be today.
I would have lost my mind or turned and walked away,
But I learned that God is faithful—this cannot be denied.

He was there to guide when I was tempted and tried,
My shelter from the storm where I could run and hide.
He was my deliverer—that is all I have to say:
If it had not been for the Lord.

Enemies rose up like a flood to wash aside,
But God came through and rescued me and turned the tide.
Pressing toward the mark, dawning of a brand new day,
Through all my trials I learned to watch, fight and pray.
The Lord is my keeper; in Him I confide:
If it had not been for the Lord.

Last year I published an article regarding this valuable lesson that I learned from a Halloween prank.. Here is a link to the original article from which this discussion was taken.

From Here to There: Reflections on Psalm 133

December 8, 2009

How Do You Get from Here to There?

photo credit:

Recently I was reflecting upon a teaching related to Psalm 133 and the unfolding of the breathtaking beauty of unity. As I re-examined a poem that I had just completed, I thought of other poetry I had written related to striving to “get there”, to scale Mount Zion to arrive at the place of everlasting blessing. I also recall a prophetic word from Al Thomas who touched upon the same topic a few years ago. Finally a couple of songs also came to mind, as I recognize that God is always speaking, that God is never not speaking. When I hear these two songs in my “inner ear,” I hear what I believe God is speaking to me at the time.

The first song I thought of was “I’ll Take You There” the inimitable version by Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers, with its refrain that indicates the possibility of reaching a place where there are “no smiling faces, lying to the races.” Even beyond the purest aspirations of the Civil Rights movement or any human efforts to attain unity and harmony in daily living, is the desire to dwell together in peace expressed in Psalm 133 which the song brings to mind:

Psalm 133

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.

It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.

Here is an excerpt from an excellent word of exhortation and encouragement from Al Thomas regarding God’s desire that we also reach that place of sublime communion with one another and with Him. Indeed God will take us from “here to there,” Here are the concluding comments he makes. To read the entire prophetic word click here.


“There ahead of you is your destiny,” says the Lord. “The hope, the dream and the fulfillment of My promise–it’s simply staring you in the face! Here, is where you are now, but how you conduct yourself today has everything to do with where I will take you tomorrow—My there. Extend My grace to others when you least feel like doing so–it will prepare you to go from here to there. Determine that you are serious to get to My there for you (Luke 9:62). You will get there by serving Me in the here and now (1 Corinthians 10:21, James 1:8).

“Are you serious about the vision you are following? If so, then build in the now (here) for what I have shown you in the future (there). If you are faithful in little, here, I will give you much there (Luke 19:17). Use the compass of praise, private prayer and undaunted searching in My word to guide you and keep you on course (Mark 4:14-20).

“Be faithful today–tomorrow is almost upon you, and it is nearly time to take you from here to there. Look up, it’s approaching and you are about to leave here and arrive there–right where I’ve been waiting for you. Pack up, say goodbye, and prepare to leave here for there. My command is coming for many to move out–out there.”

“Faithful is He that called you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

In the poem “Deeper” I express my desire for God to “take me there,” as I strive for deeper intimacy:


Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
Psalm 42:7

There is a place I long to be.
There is a face I long to see,
And in that place your face I’ll see
When I behold the glory of your presence for all eternity.
But until then I strive to reach the pinnacle set before me,
As I walk in power to see miracle after miracle, for your glory
And fight the good fight for deeper intimacy.
I shall follow closely all your ways that take me there.
Take me there, take me there, take me there.
Here I am, show me how to get from here to there.
Until I get there, where the air is rare,
where I have ever longed to be,
I shall relentlessly pursue you to find
and abide in deeper and deeper intimacy,
To find and abide in deeper and deeper intimacy.

To get from “here to there” on the surface, seems such a simple process: you simply go! On the journey, however, one encounters obstacles, pitfalls, diversions, distractions and all kinds of set-backs. At times it seems as though “you can’t get there from here.” I respond to that notion as I encourage myself along this tedious journey called life with this poem:

When at Last I Get There

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended;
but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind
and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call
of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Despite constant reminders to the contrary,
I know in my soul that I can get there from here.
Someday I shall see the place of my destiny
And worship before the throne of God and serve there
When at last death is swallowed up in victory
And war and strife, poverty and disease have ceased.
In this place true believers dwell in unity.
Redeemed from sin, restored and made righteous; released,
Set free from bondage to savor sweet liberty,
To bask in the fullness of God’s glory and grace.
His favor and everlasting goodness increased
Beyond measure, as the champions finish the race
To stand under the banner of Judah’s lion
When at last I get there, when I reach Mount Zion.

God ever sets before us pictures of possibilities. The glorious portrait of harmony and communion of the highest degree is set before us in Psalm 133 which inspired another poem with a similar theme:

From Here to There

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together I fron unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron,
running down on the edge of his garments.

It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.

Psalm 133:1-3

The final phase of life’s journey from here to there,
Yearning to return to Eden, beyond the place
Of the first promise spoken to all who would hear
And receive the fullness of the measure of grace
And know the never-ending flow of perfect peace:
Where perfect love has triumphed to cast out all fear;
Where all shall dwell in harmony and wars shall cease;
Where there shall be no night, for the Lamb of God is near;
Where our joy shall never wane but only increase;
Where we know intimacy far beyond Hebron;
Where our raptured souls shall find rest and sweet release
In endless afterglow of sublime communion;
Where we know the everlasting blessings of unity
As we dwell in Zion for all eternity

Finally my most recent reflections on Psalm 133 not only reinforced the message of earlier poetry based on that scripture, but I recognized the application of that particular scripture to my life, as a member of the Body of Christ, whereby we are all “endeavoring to keep the unity of the faith in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3). I summarize my thoughts in this recent work:

How Good and How Pleasant

Psalm 133
Ephesians 4:3

I now behold how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity.
To commune together beyond the highest bliss
I strive to arrive at the place of my destiny.
Though small as a tiny grain, I add my measure:
A small amount multiplied in the Master’s hands.
In seeking to arouse the Father’s good pleasure,
I walk uprightly and follow as He commands.
May I come together to be of benefit
As one who adds favor but never takes nor divides
Now I see that God is faithful—His Word explicit:
In unity everlasting blessing abides.
As brethren we must come together to increase
The unity of the faith in the bond of peace.

I conclude my discussion with a final musical selection, a benediction of sorts, a message from the Father, by way of Oleta Adams, relating this reminder: “I don’t care how you get there. Get there, if you can.”