Posts Tagged ‘I love the Lord He heard my cry’

Black Poetry Day: A dual celebration

October 17, 2018

This photo copy shows the first poem published in 1761 by Jupiter Hammon, the Father of Black Poetry.

Today’s blog post spotlights a special celebration. Although not recognized as a national holiday, October 17 is designated as Black Poetry Day. During this time we celebrate poets of African American heritage and their contribution to the literary landscape of the nation and of the world. Why was this particular day selected for the celebration? For the answer we go back to the America’s literary beginnings and the “Father of Black Poetry.”

Jupiter Hammon, the first person of African descent to publish a poem in colonial America, was born October 17, 1711. Publishing a literary work of any kind during this period was a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but for a man born into slavery, writing and publishing “An Evening Thought” in 1761 was nothing short of a miracle.

Born on the estate of merchant Henry Lloyd of Oyster Bay, NY, Hammon was believed to have been a lay minister. As a devout Christian, he expressed his religious convictions in all of his poetry and prose. In addition to An Evening Thought, 1761, his works include “An Essay on the Ten Virgins,” 1779; “A Winter Piece,” 1782; “An Evening’s Improvement,” 1783; “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York,” 1787. In 2013 a University of Texas at Arlington English professor, Cedric May, and his doctoral student, Julie McGowan, located an unpublished poem, “An Essay on Slavery,” handwritten by Hammon around 1786.

Some believe that Hammon may have had a powerful conversion experience during the Great Awakening, the religious revival of the mid 1700s, as he hammers out the word “salvation” more than twenty times throughout this first poem, “An Evening Thought.” Written in hymn stanzas or common meter, the same metrical pattern as many of the hymns of John and Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts from the same period, the structure of the poem leads some to speculate that Hammon’s poetry may have been set to music.

Black Poetry Day was first proposed in 1970 by Stanley A. Ransom. As author of America’s First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon, Ransom has sought to bring wider recognition to Hammon and his works. Professor Ransom was among the scholars cited in my dissertation which examined the poetry of Hammon and three other black poets: Phillis Wheatley, George Moses Horton, and Frances E.W. Harper. Indeed, the poetry of Jupiter Hammon has profoundly influenced me as a practicing poet whose literary style also mirrors an attraction to the Bible for inspiration.

Black Poetry Day 2018 also marks a dual celebration as a “doubly lovely day” since I submitted the final approval for the release of my new book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. I share my response to a diagnosis of prostate cancer as I developed a holistic battle plan, weaving original poetry and Scripture to show how to I emerged, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. Here is one of the poems from the book revealing Hammon’s influence:

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

“Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD!”
—Psalm 27:14

Reassured once more we will not be left behind,
But with patience we must still learn to watch and wait.
We look into the mirror of God’s word and find
Our God has ever been faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job we wait until at last our change shall come,
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
May we not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times we remain yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all of God’s will.

In celebration of Black Poetry Day and the poetry of Jupiter Hammon, we close with a rendering of “I Love the Lord” arranged by Richard Smallwood. The original composition  was written by Isaac Watts in hymn stanzas, the same metrical pattern used by Hammon in all of his poetry. While living on the Lloyd estate, Hammon had access to the family library which contained a collection of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs by Dr. Watts, the “Father of Hymnody,” revealing a possible influence on the poetry of Hammon:

For more details about Embracing Your Life Sentence and its publication, stay tuned to Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe and see https://www.lonnelledwardjohnson.com/

I love the Lord; He heard my cry

August 24, 2017

psalm 116_1-2

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for August 24, 2017 comes from Psalm 116:1-2 in the Amplified Bible:

[Thanksgiving for Rescue from Death.] I love the Lord, because He hears [and continues to hear] my voice and my supplications (my pleas, my cries, my specific needs). Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore, I will call on Him as long as I live.

The Psalmist acknowledges his love for the Lord who heard him when called upon His name. Because the Lord “inclined his ear unto” the one who called upon Him, the caller will continue to call as long as he lives.

Verse 4 reiterates the same point:

Then I called on the name of the Lord“O Lord, please save my life!”

Echoes of these verses can be heard in this excerpt from “Plainsong,” a poem written in tribute to my father:

Your plainsong I know by heart,

a hymn stanza learned with ease,

lined out like the flow of chanted words,

syllables fused into a single sound:

I-love-the-Lord-He-heard-my-cry”

raised and repeated over countless Sunday mornings.

The poem makes reference to one of the vintage hymns composed by the great 18th Century hymn writer, Dr. Isaac Watts, who uses Psalm 116:1  as the inspiration for  “I love the Lord; He heard my cries” with this opening stanza:

I love the Lord; he heard my cries,
And pity’d every groan:
Long as I live, when troubles rise,
I’ll hasten to his throne.

The hymns of Dr. Watts found their way into African American churches, being transformed into chants and acapella songs that formed the foundation of 20th Century gospel music. Listen to Gloria Henderson who leads a congregation in lining out this memorable hymn by Dr. Watts.

In addition to Psalm 116:1-2, other verses remind us to call upon the name of the Lord:

1 Chronicles 16:8:

Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.

Psalm 105:1:

O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.

Romans 10:13 so clearly makes known the results occurring to those who petition the Lord:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Throughout the Scriptures we see that believers are encouraged to call upon the name of the Lord. Note this invitation extended in Jeremiah 33:2-3 (NIV):

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name:

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

One of the most often quoted passages from Jeremiah relates a promise given by God to Israel in Jeremiah 29:11-13, a passage that applies to Christians today as well:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Psalm 107 reveals the seemingly never-ending cycle whereby the people of God stray from the pathways of God and find themselves in difficult straights, and as verses, 6, 13, 19, and 28 make known:

Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.

Despite the truth that God consistently delivers those who cry out to him, His people too often fall back into trouble whereby they once again call upon the Lord in the midst of their struggles.  Throughout the Psalms and elsewhere in the Scriptures we see that our faithful God responds to those who call upon Him and that is why we love Him.

We close with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir offering their rendering of the classic hymn: “I Love the Lord He Heard my Cry”

Call upon the name of the Lord

August 24, 2014

psalm 116_1-2The Verse of the Day for August 24 is found in Psalm 116:1-2 (KJV):

I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

The Psalmist acknowledges his love for the Lord who heard him when called upon His name. Because the Lord “inclined his ear unto” the one who called upon Him, the caller will continue to call as long as he lives. Verse 4 reiterates the same point:

Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Echoes of these verses can be heard in this excerpt from “Plainsong,” a poem that I wrote in tribute to my father:

Your plainsong I know by heart,                         

a hymn stanza learned with ease,                       

lined out like the flow of chanted words,

syllables fused into a single sound:

I-love-the-Lord-He-heard-my-cry”

raised and repeated over countless Sunday mornings.

The poem makes reference to one of the vintage hymns composed by the great 18th Century hymn writer, Dr. Isaac Watts, who uses Psalm 116:1 as the inspiration for “I love the Lord; He heard my cries” with this opening stanza:

I love the Lord; he heard my cries,
And pity’d every groan:
Long as I live, when troubles rise,
I’ll hasten to his throne.

The hymns of Dr. Watts found their way into African American churches, being transformed into chants and acapella songs that formed the foundation of 20th Century gospel music. Listen to Debra Henderson who leads a congregation in lining out this classic hymn by Dr. Watts.

In addition to Psalm 116:1-2, other verses also remind us to call upon the name of the Lord:

1 Chronicles 16:8

Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.

Psalm 105:1

O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.

Romans 10:13 so clearly makes known the results occurring to those who petition the Lord:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Throughout the Scriptures we see that believers are encouraged to call upon the name of the Lord. Note this invitation extended in Jeremiah 33:2-3 (NIV):

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name:

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

One of the most often quotes passages from Jeremiah relates a promise given by God to Israel in Jeremiah 29:11-13, a passage that applies to Christians today as well:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Psalm 107 reveals the seemingly never-ending cycle whereby the people of God stray from the pathways of God and find themselves in difficult straights, and as verses, 6, 13, 19, and 28 make known:

Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.

Despite the truth that God consistently delivers those who cry out to him, His people too often fall back into trouble whereby they once again call upon the Lord in the midst of their struggles. Throughout the Psalms and elsewhere in the Scriptures we see that our faithful God responds to those who call upon Him

Jim and Ginger Hendricks provide a moving musical exhortation: “Call unto Me”