Thursday, April 17, 2014
“I should like to like Schumann’s music better than I do; I dare say I could make myself like it better if I tried, but I do not like having to try to make myself like things; I like things that make me like them at once with no trying at all.” Samuel Butler. Here in lies the largest part of men’s dissatisfaction with life; we don’t like having to try and make ourselves like things. Be it asparagus or algebra, prayer or Pilates, we don’t want to cultivate ourselves but would rather dine on spiced sauces and cheesecake.
This comes from an essay titled, “On Knowing What Gives Us Pleasure.” He considers the importance of putting a sufficient value upon pleasure, and there is no greater sign of a fool than the thinking that he can tell at once and easily what it is that pleases him. To know this is not easy. Please understand me to mean pleasure that is life giving, love expanding, holy and just, found in God and in the vast abundance of good things He has provided in creation.
Much of what we consider to be pleasure we learn from our ancestors and we adopt these without question. The reason this interests me is I see in the men and women I minister too, as well as myself, a contentment with less: less spiritual life, education, fullness, less of life in general, much less.
We adopt routines, accept things as they are and make little effort to change, and when we do seek change, we may pursue it as a blind man launching out in any direction hoping to stumble upon and find pleasure without sacrifice. I agreed with his advice about seeking methods to obtain pleasure --
“To those, however, who are desirous of knowing what gives them pleasure but do not quite know how to set about it I have no better advice to give than that they must take the same pains about acquiring this difficult art as about any other, and must acquire it in the same way--that is by attending to one thing at a time and not being in too great a hurry. Proficiency is not to be attained here, any more than elsewhere, by short cuts or by getting other people to do work that no other than oneself can do.”
I think the Bible teaches us that life is strategic and deliberate, if we will find gold we will have to roll up our sleeves and dig because few are the nuggets found on the surface. In 2 Tim. 1:6 Paul stirs us by saying, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…..” My library has many books, which inspire and encourage people to press in and take life in earnest. I’ve read much and even seen in a few movies the offer encouragement to expand our horizons, on whatever level. The Dead Poets Society comes to mind. Being a child of the sixties, it left its mark on me as well, to question, to think and look beyond the borders was the mantra of the time.
I thank God for all the influences that have come into my life and inspired me to reach out for deeper meaning, deeper relationships and brought greater and lasting pleasures as well as interests that are meaningful and help keep life new and fresh.
Sue and I went to New Orleans this month, a destination that never lacks subject matter for the camera. This fella was a local artist and was selling his wares to the right of this storefront. He, like so many, was an interesting subject and happy to have his picture taken in front of this colorful entrance.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;
That nothing walks with aimless feet,
that not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;
That not a worm is cloven in vain,
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shriveled in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another’s gain.
Behold, we know not anything:
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last- far off- at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.
So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
For many of us who had little instruction growing up, our employers become our teachers, or parents if you will; they take over the roll of teaching us the practical skills of work and living such as –
The ability to focus, attention to detail, perseverance, resourcefulness, submission to authority, self-discipline, exercise, organization and order, cleanliness, overcoming obstacles, working through common pains and discomforts, the use of many tools that prove useful in our personal lives, as well as a sense of achievement. Proverbs 14:23 states that, “In all labor there is profit.” These are some of the reasons why. I might add, the training process is costly and requires a great deal of patience; if we are employed we should be grateful.
Friday, March 14, 2014
“Our most exalted feelings are not meant to be the common food of daily life. Contentment is more satisfying than exhilaration; and contentment means simply the sum of small and quiet pleasures. We ought not to seek high joys. We may be bright without transfiguration. The even flow of constant cheerfulness strengthens; while great excitements, driving us with fierce speed, both rack the ship and end often in explosions. If we were just ready to break out of the body with delight, I know not but we should disdain many things important to be done. Low measures of feeling are better than ecstasies, for ordinary life. God sends his rains in gentle drops, else flowers would be beaten to pieces.” H. W. Beecher.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Why I’m a Christian - I’ve seen, I’ve watched, I’ve heard and this is my report why I believe and follow Christ.
In this fraternity of sinners saved by grace I’ve seen the clearest revelation of goodness, love and perseverance in well doing than anywhere else. It’s been my privilege to witness men wrestle with personal desire, selfish ambitions: to lay their wants aside and work for the betterment of others. Accepting the sacrifices as worthy to be born as I watch a Godly fire burning within, leading them on to care for the downcast.
I’ve seen, over and over, brute beasts inflamed with self-destructive lusts and addictions, fall down before the feet of Christ and rise up with a new life beating so fervently in their hearts that hell and all of its arts are to no avail. I’ve watch men and women stumble, stagger, pitch and fall in their pursuit of wholeness, when friendless and alone, only to encounter this heavenly force of mercy, and watch them rise and walk on to victory. Too many times, too many miracles to deny! I’ve seen death bed saints with hope in their eyes as they leave this world for the next. Infants protected and advocated for by hearts that beat with love for the unwanted. I’ve seen faces alight with such a heavenly glow and hope that the world and all its punishments could not dampen nor extinguish. I’ve witnessed souls abused, neglected and damaged beyond any human repair, crumble under God’s forgiveness and extend that forgiveness to those who least deserve it. I’ve watched as prayer has transformed the most deteriorated, shanty into the Sistine Chapel and felt the Holy Spirit’s electricity arc between brothers.
I’ve watched the downcast lifted up, the refugee cared for, the poor and destitute assisted, the darkest evils resisted, the clasping jaws of addiction crushed, the estranged restored.
I know not where I can go to watch the lives of the least the last and the lost so cared for, so loved, so invested in; and then to watch that rescued person join the fray and do unto others. I testify not of creeds or party’s, studies or schools, but this raw, life changing power that runs through all of Christianity, reaches down to the least, changes the brute to the gentleness of a child; changes the child to a man with noble vision, holy purposes and care for all, and gratitude to God.
I care not to wrestle or wrangle about it, but only to live in it.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” I have seen and I believe!