James Weldon Johnson started working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1917. He was the first African-American person to serve as the organization’s executive secretary. But one of his most important contributions to the NAACP may have been something he did before he started working there.
In 1900, Johnson wrote a poem titled, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which his brother set to music. The lyrics evoke the biblical exodus from slavery to God’s promised land, and in 1919 the NAACP adopted the song as the Black national anthem.
For our inspiration today, we’re looking at another of Johnson’s poems. In this piece, Johnson invites us to seek God in the silence and solitude of nature. It’s titled, “Deep in the Quiet Wood.”
DEEP IN THE QUIET WOOD
By James Weldon Johnson
Are you bowed down in heart?
Do you but hear the clashing discords and the din of life?
Then come away, come to the peaceful wood.
Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now,
From out the palpitating solitude
Do you not catch, yet faint, elusive strains?
They are above, around, within you, everywhere.
Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come.
They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones.
Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scale
Until, responsive to the tonic chord,
It touches the diapason of God’s grand cathedral organ,
Filling earth for you with heavenly peace
And holy harmonies.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse by James Weldon Johnson
More spiritual nuggets for today …
On this day in 1258, the city of Baghdad fell to the Mongols, ending the Golden Age of Islam.
At the time, Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Mongols began their siege on January 20 and within two weeks seized a sizable portion of the city. Although the Caliph and others attempted to negotiate with the Mongols, they were unsuccessful and were forced to surrender the city. The Mongols entered Baghdad on February 13, and initiated a week-long massacre of its residents.
And on this day in 1633, the Italian astronomer, Galileo Galilei, arrived in Rome to defend his assertion that the earth revolves around the sun.
Galileo was summoned to trial by the chief inquisitor appointed by Pope Urban VIII. The charges stemmed from the Church’s misguided view that the sun’s revolution around the Earth was absolute biblical fact — even though Galileo and other scientists had known for centuries that the earth was not the center of the universe.
Galileo never stood a chance. The Inquisition found him guilty of the crime of heresy, and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. It would take another 300 years for the Church to admit it was wrong and clear Galileo’s name.
Today is also the birthday of the former politician and talk show host, Jerry Springer, in 1944.
Springer was born in a bomb shelter — a London Underground train station used to protect the public from German bombs during WWII. His parents were Jewish refugees who had escaped from Poland, and many of his relatives died in Nazi concentration camps. When Springer was six years old, his family left England and emigrated to the U.S., settling in Queens, New York.
Although he’s best known for his role as the host of the tabloid talk show that carried his name, Springer apparently has a spiritual side. His Jewish heritage remains important to him, but his spiritual sensibilities extend beyond Judaism. Speaking about his spirituality, Springer said:
“… I believe in God, because someone created this wonderful thing that I experience every day. And under any moral code you say thank you. My parents happened to be Jewish so I use Jewish traditions to thank whoever is responsible for it. If I was born to Catholic parents, I would use the Catholic tradition. So I’m not saying Jews have the answer more than Catholics. I don’t know …”
Finally, today’s words of wisdom come to us from the writer and theologian Kahlil Gibran:
“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”
I hope you’re able to find some joy in your service today.
And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.
For additional reading, see God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse by James Weldon Johnson. There’s a link above.
Thanks for listening. If you heard something that inspired you today, gives us a share or like. Until next time, be kind, take good care and I’ll see you soon.