The Light of That City

City with rainbow

This New Year will be filled with great opportunities. It may also confront us ith even greater problems. The uncertainty of our coming days can be hard to conceive. Perhaps even harder to embrace. There is the probability the unexpected can at times overwhelm us. Is there anywhere we can find hope and encouragement? I have found such in the following lyrics of one of the songs I feature on my Afterglow radio program.

In this house we’ve built of make-believe
Loved ones go long before seems it’s time to leave
But we will learn how to grieve, to forgive and receive
‘Til we see them there in that city

Span of stars overhead as we walk the road
While this darkness remains I will bear your load
And together we will tend the seed He’s sown
As we walk along the road to that city

Though my mind can’t conceive all that He’s prepared
There the blind will see the sun
What was old will be young
And the lame, they will run all over the streets of that city

On that day we will sing “Holy, Holy”
On that day we’ll bow down in the light
And then we’ll rise and turn our eyes
To the One who’s the light, the light of that city

We must never lose sight of all that’s ahead. We must always focus on what ultimately awaits. We must be assured we are going to “that city”.
Being with those who have left us, suddenly and unexpectedly is a wonderful future to claim, but most important of all is bowing before the throne in worship, then lifiting our eyes to the One Who will receive our adoring and loving commitment.

“See then that you live carefully, not as fools but walk as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17

Til next time, Don Johnson, Producer/Host/Afterglow

Clock in the clouds

Silent Night

Facing a Christmas Eve Service in 1818 Father Joseph Mohr, assistant priest of the Church of Saint Nicholas in the Austrian village of Obendorf, was very discouraged. The church organ was broken and the plans for the coming Christmas celebration could not be used. In this frustrating situation Father Mohr brought out a poem he had written’. He asked his church organist, Franz Gruber, to compose music for it. Gruber composed the tune for two voices and a guitar, and that’s the way it was presented at the Christmas Eve service in 1818. 

This popular carol of the season would likely have remained unknown had not organ maker Karl Mauracher arrived after the holidays to repair the Saint Nicholas Church organ. When his repair was finished he asked organist Gruber to check it out. Gruber played the melody of the new song “Silent Night.” Mauracher was so impressed that he secured a copy of the carol. Over the next few years he was responsible for spreading it throughout that part of Europe.

The Strausser family, well known glove makers and folk singers, added “Silent Night” to their Christmas program. When they sang at the famous Leipzig Fair they included it in their presentation. One national leader who heard the Straussers sing the song was King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Deeply moved by “Silent Night” he ordered his cathedral Choir to sing this song every Christmas Eve in all the years to come.

“Silent Night” spread over Europe and ultimately reached around the world. Three decades later a search for the writers of this carol began. It was discovered this was the work of Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber. They had not known that the song they composed together and presented on Christmas Eve, 1818, was not only a blessing in their lives but in the lives of thousands of others all over the world.

“Silent Night” presents lyrics that talk about the birth of Emmanuel ,.”God with us.” – Matthew 1:23. It refers to the singing by angels of “a Savior born.” And it sweetly but powerfully presents the Diety and Lordship of Christ. 

In reading of that first Christmas two thousand years ago we see it was a “silent night.” Mary and Joseph, traveling their long, tiring journey to Bethlehem. The crowded inn that had no room for them except with the animals. A rough feeding container for a crib. Straw for the usual blankets and coverings. Nighttime. A sleeping town. 

But in that quiet time everything changed.

The stars were outshined by an angel appearance. The quietness was shattered by the remarkable heaven-sent announcement and heavenly singing. The coming of the shepherds to see what was really happening. All this brought this silent night into amazing aliveness. 

Christmas brings us the much needed calm and quietness for our chaotic world. We are challenged that such a birth changed history. The superb message that “unto you is born in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord” – Luke 2:11 – offers hope to all. Let’s remember the story of the Christmas child moving from the manger to the cross and beyond. Let’s choose the shepherds commitment to go and tell everyone what Christmas really is.

Til next time, Don Johnson, Producer/Host/Afterglow 

Church of Saint Nicholas

Thankful Always

A teacher asked her students to list the names of their fellow classmates on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. They were then to think of the nicest thing they could say about each one of their class and write it down on the paper. The assignment took the entire class period. Each student handed in his or her paper. 

Over the weekend the teacher wrote every student’s name on a separate sheet and listed everything every classmate wrote about the person. 

On Monday the teacher gave every student his sheet listing all that the other classmates had written about them. Very quickly the entire class was smiling. One girl said, “Really? I never knew I meant anything to anyone’! Another said, “I didn’t know others liked me so much”. No one ever mentioned the papers in class again. The teacher never knew whether the students even mentioned the assignment to their parents, but the project seemed to accomplish its purpose. When the school year ended this class moved on. 

A few years later, one of the classmates who entered the military service was killed in Vietnam. A funeral service was held for him. The church was packed. One by one those who loved him walked by the casket, former students first and then the teacher. A soldier who was a pallbearer stepped up to the teacher and asked, “Were you Mark’s math teacher”? When she said, “Yes,” he replied, “Mark talked about you a lot”. 

After the funeral the former classmates and teacher joined Mark’s mother and father for lunch. His father said, “I want to show you something”. He pulled out a wallet that was found on Mark when he was killed. From the wallet the father pulled two torn pieces of notebook paper that had been torn, taped and folded many times. The teacher knew immediately that the papers were the ones she had given to Mark, listing all the good things his classmates had said about him. Mark’s mother said to the teacher, “As you can see, Mark treasured this”. 

Then the former classmates began to speak. Charlie commented, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home”. The wife of another, Chuck, said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album”. “I have mine, too. It’s in my diary,” replied Marilyn. Vickie pulled her worn list from her wallet saying, “I carry this with me at all times. I think we all saved our lists”. 

Then the teacher began to cry, for Mark, for his family and for all his friends who would never see him again but who would never forget him or each other because of her assignment. It was so simple, yet so profound. Writing something to someone who perhaps didn’t feel welcomed or loved. Reaching beyond ourselves to others. 

Has anyone ever spoken or written a word of appreciation or encouragement to you? Sometimes, especially as the years slip by, we wonder if anybody notices us or cares about us. It has been said, “Give flowers now while they can be smelt and enjoyed, not later when the person we would honor is gone”. If we ever intend to speak nice words let’s say them while they can be heard. 

If we had our name at the top of a sheet of paper so that the others from family or friends could write about us and what we mean to them, what would be written? Would the list be long or short? 

Through the years I’ve received a number of such comments. From a lady in prison who listened to my messages on the radio… from teenagers who were touched by God in one of my youth programs… from parents and older people who prayed for me and gave me rich encouragement through difficult times… from those in hospitals or homebound who longed to be prayed for. These notes I cherish and pray I can live up to each special expression. 

Have you written a thankful note to anyone else? Now would be the time to do that! Make that phone call. Jot down your gratitude for another and get it to them. Make that visit you have meant to make. 

I hope this will be the start of a special list for you, a special “Thanksgiving Always”. “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”. Ephesians 1:15-16 

Til next time, Don Johnson, Producer/Host/Afterglow 

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

Anna Warner and her sister, Susan, lived near West Point Military Academy and regularly led Bible studies for the cadets. Susan became a best selling novelist. In 1860 she wrote Say and Seal, a story about a dying child being helped by his teacher and her boyfriend. Anna, who also wrote novels and poems, wrote a special poem for Say and Seal. It was sung to the dying boy even though it was just a poem without music. Composer William Bradbury read the poem in the novel and composed the simple yet profound melody. It has become the best children’s hymns of all time. We know it as “Jesus Loves Me.” It still inspires children of all ages.

There’s a story of a Church in Atlanta honoring one of its senior pastors who had been retired many years. Following his introduction the 92 year old pastor rose from his high back chair and slowly walked to the podium. He placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself and then quietly began to speak. 

“When I was asked to come here today and talk to you, I was asked to tell you the greatest lesson I ever learned in my 50 odd years of preaching. I thought about it for a few days and decided there was just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials. The one thing that I could always rely on when tears and heart break and pain and fear and sorrow paralyzed me……the only thing that would comfort was this verse.”

“Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong,
We are weak but he is strong…..
Yes, Jesus loves me…
The Bible tells me so.”

God’s love so beautifully expressed by this pastor and by so many others does not just apply to children or young people. It relates to us all through life and becomes especially encouraging in our later years. Someone has even come up with a Senior Adult version of the song. It says,

Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow.
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.

Though my steps are oh, so slow,
With my hand in His I’ll go
On through life, let come what may,
He’ll be there to lead the way.

Though I am no longer young,
I have much which He’s begun.
Let me serve Christ with a smile,
Go with others the extra mile.

When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song.
Telling me in words so clear,
“Have no fear, for I am near.”

When my work on earth is done,
And life’s victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I’ll understand His love


To love God is no extraordinary thing. All that we know of Him shows He is lovely, loveable and loving. The reverse is what’s extraordinary. That God could love us is almost incomprehensible. We are often unlovely but He did not let us go unloved. How could we ever adequately express our gratitude and thanks for His personal and unconditional love? The eternal miracle is that God loves us. From John 3:16 to I John 4:9-10, 19 and many other passages we can see this powerfully described. It’s like He is saying to us, “I love you, is that alright?” Let’s joyfully reply, “Yes, Lord, that’s alright.”

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain

Crisis in Communication

Toy robots using a tin can communicator

Communication is very important but can at times be catastrophic. What we say is not always what others hear, and what they hear is not always what we say. Here’s a story that effectively illustrates this issue. 

The Colonel issued the following directive to his officers: “Tomorrow evening at approximately 2000 hours Halley’s comet will be visible in this area, an event which occurs only once every 75 years. Have the men fall out in the battalion area in fatigues and I will explain this rare phenomenon to them. In case of rain, we will not be able to see anything, so assemble the men in the theater and I will show them films of it.” 

This directive was passed on through the Chain of Command in a strange and incorrect way. 

Executive officer to company commander: “By order of the colonel. Tomorrow at 2000 hours, Halley’s comet will appear above the battalion area. If it rains, fall the men out in fatigues, then march to the theater where this rare phenomenon will take place, something which occurs only once every 75 years.” 

Company commander to lieutenant: “By order of the colonel in fatigues at 2000 hours tomorrow evening, the phenomenal Halley’s comet will appear in the theater. In case of rain in the battalion area, the colonel will give another order, something which occurs once every 75 years.” 

Lieutenant to sergeant: “Tomorrow at 2000 hours, the colonel will appear in the theater with Halley’s comet, something which happens every 75 years. If it rains, the colonel will order the comet into the battalion area.” 

Sergeant to squad: “When it rains tomorrow at 2000 hours, the phenomenal 75 year old general Halley, accompanied by the colonel, will drive his comet through the battalion area theater in fatigues.” 

It reminds me of Norman Rockwell’s painting with numerous rows of people speaking into each others’ ear, passing along what was said by the first person in the chain. When the message got back to the one who had initiated it, there was no resemblance to the original saying. Too often that happens. Transferring thoughts can lead to great misunderstanding. 

This happens not only personally but in the conveyance of things by those in leadership positions. Sometimes even the initial directive may be misleading and grows worse at each level of communication. We all know too many examples of this. Can we continue to say one thing and do another? Can we lie either intentionally or accidentally and believe we can get away with it? Remember the pride which was felt when it was said, “He (or she) was a man of his word.”? Those who stand on what they say and mean it is true of an increasing smaller number of persons. When we say what we don’t mean and we don’t mean what we say, our culture cannot long survive such a shaky standard. 

In His great Sermon On The Mount, Jesus declared, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” 

Psalms 19:14 is a fabulous guide for us: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” 

We should avoid communication chaos everywhere we can! Let’s get the message straight! Let’s communicate it correctly! Let’s start now! 

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain 

Really Know Where You’re Going

In January, 2000, leaders of Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon in his honor. Billy initially hesitated to accept the invitation because he struggled with Parkinson’s disease. But the Charlotte leaders said, “We don’t expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you.” So he agreed.

Albert Einstein & his wife,
Elsa Lowenthal on the train

After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the rostrum, looked at the crowd, and said. “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of every passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He could not find his ticket, so he reached in his trouser pockets. It wasn’t there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him. He still couldn’t find it. 

The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.” Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.” Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.”

Having said that Billy Graham continued, “See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grand-children are telling me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion.

Reverend Billy Graham

You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: ‘I not only know who I am…I also know where I’m going.’

How about us today? We may say we know who we are but do we know where we’re going? Is our ticket stamped Heaven? Have we left the broad way that leads to destruction to walk the narrow way that leads to life everlasting? Can we say our travel is leading upward and will end inside the gates of glory? This is the assurance the Lord gives to all. He said “Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37 

Till next time,

Don Johnson, Chaplain, Kirby Pines 

We Still Need Heroes

race track through a field

“The year was 490 B.C. On the open plains near the small town of Marathon, the ancient Greeks met the invading Persian army in a strategic battle. Against impossible odds, the Greeks charged into the Persian camp, catching their enemy by surprise, and defeated the Persians, thus saving the Greek Empire from sure defeat.

A Greek soldier—Pheidippedes—was then dispatched to run to headquarters in Athens, twenty-two miles away, with the good news of victory. With determination and resolve, Pheidippedes ran through the night all the way from Marathon to Athens.

Upon entering the city of Athens, he sprinted to his superiors. ‘Rejoice,’ Pheidippedes gasped, ‘we have conquered!’ As he delivered the message, he fell to the ground. Dead.

Pheidippedes became a Greek hero. A symbol of endurance and determination. As a tribute to this faithful soldier who ran so bravely through the night, the ‘matathon’ race was born. Runners in the Greek Empire would soon attempt to duplicate his courageous feat, calling up the same endurance.

The precise distance of the marathon was not fixed until recently. The distance Pheidippedes ran from Marathon to Athens was slightly more than twenty-two miles. In 1908 the Olympics were held in London, and the marathon was extended to twenty-six miles, 385 yards. Why such an unusual distance? That year, the race would begin at Windsor Castle and end at the new White City Stadium because an English princess wanted to watch the start of the race from her castle and then view the finish from her seat in the stadium. To meet the request of royalty the race would have to be extended. And it was.”

The new distance, set to please Her Highness, was measured to be exactly twenty-six miles, 385 yards. This became the standard distance for all marathons, even to this day.” Steve Lawson, Men Who Win, (pp, 150-151)

What can we learn from this point in history?

Victories can be won by smaller forces over much larger ones. Great distance may lie between the battle and home. Getting the message of success to those who need to hear it is a challenge that may seem impossible.

Sometimes we are called to travel a greater distance that we’ve gone before. We may have to do this in dark hours beyond normal. We can’t just start…we must stretch to the limit. The finish line must be reached. Why do we obediently follow orders? It is because we have a message to deliver. This may be very costly, but everything worthwhile always is.

At times the rules are changed. The finish line is moved, either arbitrarily or selfishly. We may be forced to go far beyond what was originally planned. But our reach must always exceed our grasp.

II Timothy 2:5 says “…if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” It’s that way in every area of life. Whether we like the rules or not we must faithfully follow them.

Could we become a Pheidippedes today? Yes! The world needs and is still looking for a hero. Let’s not keep it waiting!

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain

National Day of Prayer

National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday in May, designated by the US Congress to encourage people to turn to God in prayer and meditation.

This year the date of Prayer is scheduled for Thursday, May 7, 2020. We will be having a prayer service that evening for Vespers to be led by Dr. Jimmy Latimer, Chairman of Psalms Board of Directors.

Make plans to come early at 6:15 pm to spend a time in prayer before the service begins.

The theme for this year is “Pray God’s Glory Across the Earth”.


Thursday, May 7, 2020, America will celebrate it’s annual National Day of Prayer. We need to join in this wonderful commemoration of our need for God. And let’s recall the following: Prayer of the Year

Prayer of the Year

Father, thank You, especially for letting me fly this flight. Thank You for the privilege of being able to be in this position; to be up in this wondrous place, seeing all these many startling, wonderful things that You have created.

Help guide and direct all of us that we may shape our lives to be much better Christians, trying to help one another, and work with one another rather than fighting and bickering.

Help us to complete this mission successfully. Help us in our future space endeavors that we may show the world that a democracy really can compete…

Be with all our families. Give them guidance and encouragement and let them know that everything will be okay.

We ask in Thy name. Amen.

May 15-16, 1963, Major Gordan Cooper, USAF, stirred the world with his 22 orbit in space. To Major Cooper the experience was more than scientific. As he circled the earth he composed the following prayer, which he later read before a joint session of Congress. This Week Magazine, then the National Sunday Magazine with a circulation of over 14 ½ million, printed the words of Cooper on December 29, 1963, as “Prayer of the Year”

What a wonderful way to express God’s greatness and man’s need for clinging to the Creator wherever we might be. This could be the prayer for us today. The Lord is still here though trouble is everywhere. Truly Psalm 19:1 rings true: “The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain

Find the Parachute


A Nobel Prize winner, an old pastor and a boy scout were flying across the Atlantic when the pilot came bursting through the door and announced: “We’ve lost both engines, and there are only three parachutes on the plane. I only received my pilot’s license last month and I still have to serve a lot of people; I simply have to live.” With that he grabbed a parachute and jumped.

The Nobel Prize winner said: “Just last week I received the prize for being the smartest man on earth. I have a lot of work to do for mankind, sorry, I also have to live.” He grabbed what he thought was a parachute on the airplane floor and jumped.

The pastor turned to the boy and said; “Son, I have lived a long life; I have put my faith in what Jesus has done for me and I know for certain that when I die I will go to heaven. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you. You take the last parachute and jump.”

“Not to worry sir,” the boy replied, “there’s still two chutes left; the smartest man in the world just jumped out with my backpack.”

What a story!!! It illustrates something truer than we might think, “Look before you leap.” Sometimes we think we know more than everyone else. We consider ourselves smarter than all the rest. We may have even won outstanding awards. But when trouble comes how does it work out?

Many have grabbed the closest thing at hand. We have taken whatever is close and assumed it was what we needed and what we thought it was. But mistakes can be made and they can be great!

Scripture describes those who didn’t look and leaped too soon. “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9) It’s a paraphrase of Isaiah 29:13. We must not let this describe us!

Jumping out of a crashing airplane is one thing. But jumping out of Life into Eternity is quite another. Be sure you have the parachute God has provided through the Messiah. Don’t trust your words. Be sure you have a personal God relationship that will give you sufficiency and security.

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain

Sacrificial Love

Photo of A Tale of Two Cities book

Charles Dickens, in his remarkable story, A Tale of Two Cities,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going directly the other way—
in short, the period was so far like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received,
for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

This great novel unfolds the loving sacrifice one man-made for another. Sidney Carton, bearing a remarkable likeness to the imprisoned Charles Darnay facing imminent death, made a prison swap and substituted himself for Darnay, stepping to the French Revolution guillotine. Carton’s love was not so directly at Darnay as it was to his beautiful wife who chose Darnay in marriage, not Carton. What must Carton have been thinking as his time of death arrived? Here is what is recorded:

I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace.

I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. I see her, an old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this day. I see her and her husband, their course done, lying side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each was not more honored and held sacred in the other’s soul, than I was in the souls of both.

Charles Dickens

I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away. I see him, fore-most of just judges and honored men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this place—then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this day’s disfigurement—and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and a faltering voice.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

Carton tearfully hears the execution of the seamstress who had traveled with him to the place of death and who recognized he was not really the Darnay condemned to death. He is then pushed towards the slot where the blade would fall.

How you draw good out of evil. Think not only of the past and the dangerous now but of the joyful future to come. Too often the world threatens to crush us. Our problems seem much greater than any solution.

Dickens is so right. Today is like the day he wrote about. Is our life making any difference? Are we making any sacrifice, whether great or small? It may not be as monumental as Carton’s but it can make a change now and in the future.

Our Lord has set the pattern. Simply read Isaiah 53:4-12, Ephesians 5:2,I John 2:2 and many more scripture texts that declare the density and vastness of the Lord’s loving sacrifice.

Ask Him for strength to follow His example. You may be writing a new novel!

Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain