Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I have a collection of books that were written a hundred years ago, with a target audience of young men who maybe worked on the farm or had little in the way of material goods, and could not go to college. These books were written to encourage them to be all that they could be and not to lay down under discouragement. It was the prevalent thought of the century and much of it was still around when I grew up. I do think much of it is lacking today, and encouraging pieces like the following are sometimes never heard by young men and women today. Tis a pity. God has knitted us together and with such potential to overcome the “tyranny of circumstance”, but without words of encouragement, we may never realize but half of what He had in store for us. So, fathers and mothers, the gauntlet is in your hands, pass it on.

A Roman politician, when captured by traitors, was tauntingly asked: -- “Where is thy stronghold now?” Placing his hand upon his heart, he answered: -- “Here!”
And this must be the stronghold of every seeker after knowledge. I am sure that no good work in the way of maturity will be done by young men who accustom themselves to lean upon others, who are always finding new leaders, and professing themselves disciples of new Gamaliels. They must learn to think their own thoughts, to form their own opinions, valuing authority justly, but not submitting to it slavishly. Call it independence, self-reliance, self-help, what you will; the spirit I speak of is that which distinguishes the man from the slave. It is the spirit which made Columbus the discoverer of the New World; Luther the author of the German Reformation. It is the spirit that glowed in the great reformer’s heart when he replied to the messenger who half-warned, half-threatened him not to visit Worms:-- “Go, tell thy master that were there as many devils in Worms as there are tiles upon the roofs, I would enter it.” It is the spirit that strengthens a man to live laborious days and bear the storms of poverty, in order that he may gain some small portion at least of the ample treasures of knowledge. It is the spirit that nerves us to resist temptation, to trample it under our feet, to repel the wicked suggestions, to love and defend the pure. It is the spirit that in the workshop keeps a young man temperate and true, in spite of the example and solicitations of men who, having forfeited their own self-respect, are intent upon dragging others down into the same slough of despond.
It is the spirit that ennobled the loneliness of the great Beethoven, and found expression in his favorite saying:-- “The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, ‘Thus far and no farther.’”
It is the spirit which lifts a man above the common herd, gives him a purpose and an aim in life, and constitutes him a center of wholesome and elevating influences; as was said of Sir Philip Sidney, that, “his wit and understanding leant upon his heart, to make himself and others, not in word or opinion, but in life and action, good and great.”
The spirit of independence, which is indeed, to be a moral and intellectual power, unfettered by circumstances and disregardful of material conditions. The young student who does his work thoroughly and honestly, who feeds his mind with the contemplation of wise thoughts and noble actions, who is conscious of aspirations after an ideal truth and beauty, who helps as best he can to diminish the vast mass of human suffering, who struggles persistently towards the light, who nobly scorns the solicitations of worldly pleasure, who holds himself free to weigh the worth of everything that is set before him, who cherishes in his heart a deep reverence for woman, who strives after knowledge and wisdom with a ceaseless endeavor, and who, knowing God, daily lifts up hands of prayer both for himself and those who call him friend, he it is whom I would call independent. He can go his way, leaning on no man’s arm, borrowing staff or crutch from none…….”

The powerful image by Bobby Carlyle of the rugged “Self Made Man,” chiseling himself out of a solid block of rock captures the essence of the freedom philosophy – that left to his own devices; man will use his God-given talents to be creative, productive, and prosperous. Using free will, he will better his own situation and that of those around him, thereby influencing in a positive way his own destiny.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"The Tyranny of Circumstance"

In the following piece by Robert Lois Stevenson, he contrasts the difference between Faith and hope, in the context of a marriage. I though it was very insightful and the applications to our overall outlook on life, and our faith in God are apparent.

The greater virtue is “Faith--- Hope is the boy, a blind headlong, pleasant fellow, good to chase swallows with the salt; Faith is the grave, experienced, yet smiling man. Hope lives on ignorance; open-eyed Faith is built upon a knowledge of our life, of the tyranny of circumstance and the frailty of human resolution. Hope looks for unqualified success; but Faith counts certainly on failure, and takes honorable defeat to be a form of victory.
Hope is a kind old pagan; but Faith grew up in Christian days, and early learnt humility. In the one temper, a man is indignant that he cannot spring up in a clap to heights of elegance and virtue; in the other, out of a sense of his infirmities, he is filled with confidence because a year has come and gone, and he has still preserved some rags of honor. In the first he expects an angel for a wife; in the last, he knows that she is like himself—erring, thoughtless, and untrue; but like himself, also, filled with a struggling radiancy of better things, and adorned with ineffective qualities….”

I especially liked the line—“The tyranny of circumstance and the frailty of human resolution.”
By the time you are thirty or less, you have come under the tyranny of circumstance. You find yourself in situations that you may have not caused, but that are bringing great hardship to you. It happens to all, hopefully your seasons will be short. Then he speaks to “The frailty of human resolution”. We can quote Paul’s frustration but we all battle with failed resolutions in our marriage, child rearing, faith towards God, the list is endless. It is a fact of life and “Faith” picks up and moves on.
Then I relate to Hope’s impatience that he cannot “spring up in a clap” to maturity. But not to leave this thinking it is melancholy, because Faith has abiding deep within, though struggling, a radiancy of better things.
I have been reading --The Wisdom of Robert Louis Stevenson. When I ran across this paragraph on young love, and all of its thrills, I thought you might enjoy reminiscing.
"One thing that accompanies the passion in its first blush is certainly difficult to explain. It comes ( I do not see how ) from having a very supreme sense of pleasure in all parts of life – in lying down to sleep, in waking , in motion, in breathing, in continuing to be --- the lover begins to regard his happiness as beneficial for the rest of the world and highly meritorious in himself…..
When people find a great to-do in their own breasts, they imagine it must have some influence in their neighborhood. The presence of the two lovers is so enchanting to each other that it seems as if it must be the best thing possible for everybody else. They are half inclined to fancy it is because of them and their love that the sky is blue and the sun shines. And certainly the weather is usually fine while people are courting……the dizziest elevation is to love and be loved in return.
The caption under this painting by Bob Byerley is--
"The girl's sister is sixteen. She has a new boyfriend. Need we say more?"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I don't remember where I found this picture or what the painter was thinking of; but it makes me worry about what young children are exposed to now. When I was growing up in the fifties, I was spared graphic horror and violence. But like this little child who seems to be in a home with symbols of the macabre at her feet and behind her back, I worry about its affects. We are admonished to guard our hearts, how much more should we guard the hearts of our children. I think the ratings on movies are pretty liberal but if Hollyweird considers a movie to be inappropriate for children, shouldn't we as Christians be even more certain?

"Were we as eloquent as angels, yet we should please some men, some women, and some children much more by listening, than by talking." C.C. Colton

I chose this picture because she has the look of someone engrossed in the speakers thoughts. I doubt one can be a good speaker unless, first, they become a good listener.

Artist--Alma Tadema

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Leave a hopeful impulse behind

“It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. It is better to live and be done with it, than to die daily in the sick room. By all means begin your folio; even if the doctor does not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week. It is not only in completed undertakings that we ought to honor useful labor. A spirit goes out of the man who means execution, which outlives the most untimely ending. All who have meant good with their whole hearts, have done good work, although they may die before they have the time to sign it. Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind. And even if death catch people, like an open pitfall, and in mid-career, laying out vast projects, and planning monstrous foundations, flushed with hope, and their mouths full of boastful language, they should be at once tripped up and silenced; is there not something brave and spirited in such a termination? And does not life go down with a better grace, foaming in full body over a precipice, than miserably straggling to an end in sandy deltas?”
Robert Louis Stevenson

As your aim in life, so should be your company

In my reading I came across this paragraph about choosing acquaintances; now this is not to be confused with choosing friends, the considerations for a close friend are much more discriminating.

“In choosing our acquaintances, we must display a certain selfishness; they must be persons from whom we can gain something; persons who will help us to make our lives better and brighter, though in a less degree than our friends and intimates can do. For example, if Mr. A. and B. and C. can do nothing for us, cannot say a wise thing or a witty, cannot suggest a good thought or do a good action, cannot strengthen or move us by their sympathy, cannot share in our wholesome pleasures, cannot keep ever before us the idea of duty, for Heaven’s sake let us have none of them!”
Shall we make acquaintances of idiotic young men who ape follies and vices of their social superiors, who mimic the inanities of the “crutch-and-toothpick” class, who buy the photographs of loose women exposed in shop-windows, who noisily applaud the coarse and stupid ditties roared out by “the lions “of the music halls, who infest the streets with their silly laughter and rank tobacco-smoke; a stranger to all innocent pleasures, to all wholesome enjoyments.
For him the poets have never sung, for him the great men have never lived. Not for him have heroes done those deeds, or great writers put on record those thoughts, which have nerved the hearts of nations. Not for him is the glory in the grass or the splendor in the flower, the beauty of God’s heavens, the music of murmuring streams, the mystery and majesty of the ocean Not for him is the joy of honest endeavor or the rapture of the strife. Not for him the happiness of a pure love or the confidence of a tender heart. A conscience seared by incessant self-indulgence, a mind degraded and debased by the lowest associations and coarsest motives – who will not pity this poor fool who stumbles on in the blackness and darkness of certain ruin?” W.H.Davenport Adams
Now of course this was written in the 1800s, and the list of negative influences is much longer today.
It does not imply that we are to seperate ourselves from those that need our influence, but rather a warning to young men and women in school and all through life, to carefully consider who we run with.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I found this passage by William Ellery Channing thought provoking—

“ A Roman Centurion who approached Jesus and made application to him for a cure of a servant, whom he particularly valued; and on expressing, in a strong manner, his conviction of the power of Jesus to heal at a distance, Jesus, marveled and said to those that followed, ‘Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith in Israel; and I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom” (that is the Jews) “shall be cast out.” Here all the hopes which the Jews had cherished of an exclusive or peculiar possession of the Messiah’s kingdom were crushed.

Now I thought about how that stung the Jews, but I wonder, are we any different? If the words of that account were changed, and instead of a Roman Centurion, it said Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon, and instead of Jews we insert the word Christians, would we recoil in indignation like the Jews did?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The first shall be last

I want to introduce you to this woman who serves the living God. She has traveled over a hundred miles on foot, through malaria infested jungle with danger from the Burmese army drunk on blood lust, happy to capture her and ravish her, make a slave of her or simply murder her. She walks on trails that could have land mines that would maim or kill her. She reaches the camp of the oppressed and begins her ministry, digging a toilet for the villagers. Have you ever seen a picture that glorifies God more? May God keep and protect this humble servant.
"My heart is stirred by a noble theme" Ps. 45:1
I began thinking about the movie Jesus Camp and how it portrays Christianity.
The children were being raised to do battle, and like the words in the old hymn--“Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war”, these children were trained to be warriors, but in the movie it was not clear what the warriors were busy fighting.

Now when I look at this young woman a sense of pride and admiration wells up in me. This is the kind of Soldier that Jesus enlists in His army. No question, she is in a war; she battles poverty, oppression and injustice. Can you see her battle raiment? Now she wears no helmet, fatigues, or combat boots, no uniform with stars and medals, but simply the common dress of the culture with flip-flops for marching; I suspect her body, fit for the task at hand, has been trained by temperance and self-control, not a regimented boot camp.
Her offensive weapon is a pick-axe, wielded in service for the poor as she digs a toilet and explains the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
Her war cry? her battle plan? Perspiration, prayer and a smile to disarm.

What Makes The Gentleman?

I found this definition of a Gentleman in the book "Plain Living and High Thinking", and I think it holds a lot of truth.

"It is not wit, or beauty, or wealth, or power that lies at the root of the true idea of a gentleman -- it is sympathy; the power of accommodating one's self to those with whom one mixes so that they shall feel no galling sense of inferiority, shall be set completely at their ease, shall be maintained and encouraged in their self-respect."


"In our own time the simplification of style has been carried to such an extreme that, as I have already hinted, the majority of authors who "write with ease" write also with the most perplexing uniformity. A few have shown an indication to revive the old luxuriance; as, for instance, Professor Wilson; while Mr. Ruskin in his finest passages is scarcely less poetical than Jeremy Taylor himself; but the prevailing tendency is towards the most absolute conventionalism and even colloquialism of diction. The grandest scenes of Nature, the most heroic actions, the loftiest aims, are all described or discussed in the same slipshod style which is used for the vulgarest incidents."
Now, I am not an educted man, but I agree with the above sentiments. I like reading something that introduces different thought, or adds color or action to the subject. I chose to add the above picture to remind us of how the Lord takes joy in the unique. Let me read something that on occasion causes me to stretch my neck, or is bold enough to leave the flock.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Deadly Foe

I have been reading in a book titled, "Plain Living and High Thinking". In the chapter on chivalry and obedience, I found this story interesting.

"Take another illustration of the way in which chivalry shows itself from the annals of the Knights of St. John. At one time during their residence in Rhodes, the island was infested by a monster -- it is not know whether it was some huge crocodile or python -- which had made many victims. Several knights had attempted its destruction, but as all had perished, the Grand Master commanded that the grisly creature should be let alone. To one young knight this order was very grievous, as he longed to kill the monster which had caused the loss of so many lives, and hoped thereby to gain great favour. So secretly he made a model of it, and trained two young mastiffs to fly at the belly, which was known to be unprotected by scales, while he mounted his war-horse and accustomed it to the sight of the strange and laidly foe. His preparations completed, he rode out towards the haunt of the dragon, and when it made its appearance, set his brave dogs upon it to divert its attention, and after a desperate struggle smote it in the undefended parts and killed it. As soon as his victory was known, the people of Rhodes went forth to do him honor, and conducted him in triumph to the Grand Master's palace. But there his reception was of the coldest. The Grand Master, turning upon him a grave brow and a stern eye, demanded of him what was the first duty of a Christian Knight. Helim, with his cheek aflame, murmured, "Obedience." The Grand Master proceeded to do justice to the admirable courage of his achievement, but declared that by disobeying his command he had bred a deadlier foe than his hand had killed -- the spirit of contumacy (obstinate or perverse opposition to authority) and disorder.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I ran across this account of a rector of a church who showed great bravery during the times of the plague. I will set the stage by adding some correspondence made concerning the horror and virulence of the plague.

“The condition of the place hath been so dreadful, that I persuaded myself it exceedeth all history and example. I may truly say our town has become a Golgotha, a place of skulls; and had there not been a small remnant of us left, we had been as Sodom, and like unto Gomorrah. My ears have never heard such doleful lamentations, my nose never smelt such noisome smells, and my eyes never beheld such ghastly spectacles. Here have been seventy-six families visited within my parish, out of which died two hundred and fifty nine persons.”

So virulent was the contagion, that ninety one years after, in 1757, when five laboring men, who were digging up land near the plague-graves for a potato garden, came upon what appeared to be some linen, though they buried it again directly, they all sickened with typhus fever, three of them died, and it was so infectious that no less than seventy persons in the parish were carried off.

“The rector of the parish, the Rev. William Mompesson, was still a young man, and had been married only a few years. His wife, a beautiful young woman, only twenty-seven years old, was exceedingly terrified at the tidings from the village, and wept bitterly as she implored her husband to take her and her two children, who were three and four years old, away to some place of safety. But Mr. Mompesson gravely showed her that it was his duty not to forsake his flock in their hour of need, and began at once to make arrangements for sending her and the children away. She saw he was right in remaining, and ceased to urge him to forsake his charge; but she insisted that, if he ought not to desert his flock, his wife ought not to leave him; and she wept and entreated so earnestly, that he at length consented that she should be with him, and that only the two little ones should be removed while yet there was time.”

“Day and night the rector and his wife were among the sick, nursing, feeding, and tending them with all that care and skill could do; but in spite of all their endeavors, only a fifth part of the inhabitants lived.”

In the end his wife became ill – “She lay peacefully, saying, “she was but looking for the good hour to come,” and calmly died, making responses to her husbands prayers even to the last….He himself had never been touched by the complaint; nor had his maid-servant.”
The reason I posted this heroic account is that it dovetails with an earlier post of mine, about how we influence our spouses.
"The more affectionate and doting, a woman is the worse for her husband, unless he be a saint. Were she a termagant (loud and violent), he could harden himself against her, but when she coaxes and cries like Sampson's wife, in the nine cases out of ten he will do what Lygate did when he married Rosamond Vincy--give up all his ambition for study, stifle the voice of his conscience when it demands sacrifice, and devote himself to gaining the wherewithal to keep sunshine at his fireside by the unlimited indulgence of a frivolous woman's fancy." -Author Unknown
"My heart is stirred by a noble theme" Ps. 45:1

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What I love most about Christ

“Suppose you had never heard of Christ, never heard of the particulars of Christ’s history, but were told in general that, ages ago, an extraordinary man appeared in the world, whose mind was wholly possessed with the idea of having come from God, who regarded himself as clothed with divine power and charged with the most sublime work in the universe, who had the consciousness of sustaining a relation of unexampled authority and beneficence, not to one nation or age, but to all nations and all times, and who anticipated a spiritual kingdom and everlasting power beyond the grave. Suppose you should be told that, on entering the world, he found not one mind able to comprehend his views, and felt himself immeasurably exalted in thought and purpose above all around him, and suppose you should then be asked what appearance, what mode of life, what tone, what air, what deportment, what intercourse with the multitude seemed to you to suit such a character, and were probably adopted by him; how would you represent him to your minds?”

“But, what is his look? What is his manner? He comes in the ordinary dress of the class of society in which he had grown up. He retreats to no solitude nor seeks any spot which had been consecrated in Jewish history. Where would you find him? Go to the house of Peter, the fisherman. Go to the well of Samaria, where he rests after the fatigues of his journey. Would you hear him teach? You may find him, indeed, sometimes in the temple, for that was a place of general resort; but commonly you may find him instructing in the open air, now from a boat on the Galilean lake, now on a mount, and now in the streets of the crowded city. He has no place wherein to lay his head, nor will he have one.
Something more striking remains to be told. He did not merely live in the streets and in the houses of fishermen. But in these places and everywhere, he lived with men as a man, a brother, a friend, sometimes a servant; and entered, with a deep, unexampled sympathy, into the feelings, interests, wants, sorrows of individuals, of ordinary men, and even of the most depressed, despised, and forsaken of the race. Here is the most striking view of Jesus. This combination of the spirit of humanity, in its lowliest, tenderest form, with the consciousness of unrivalled and divine glories, is the most wonderful distinction of this wonderful character. Here we learn the chief reason why he chose poverty, and refused every peculiarity of manner and appearance. He did this because he desired to come near to the multitude of men, to make himself accessible to all, to pour out the fullness of his sympathy upon all, to know and weep over their sorrows and sins, and to manifest his interest in their affections and joys.
I can offer but a few instances of this sympathy of Christ with human nature in all its varieties of character and condition. But how beautiful are they!"

William Ellery Channing

Thursday, January 10, 2008


" Criticism often takes from the tree caterpillars and
blossoms together." Richter.

The painting "Escaping Criticism" by Pere Borrell del Caso 1874
It is often better to have a great deal of harm happen to one than a little; a great deal may rouse you to remove what a little will only accustom you to endure." -Greville

I have a book on child rearing called "The coming man is the present child". The title, in itself, is evocative. The following quote comes from this book---
"Only that man 'in whom the child-heart hath not died' can successfully teach the young. 'Men from whose narrow bosoms the great child-heart has withered' are unfit for so sacred a task."
With that in mind, if you find you cannot enter into the picture above, you may want to stay single.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Jesus Camp, you must see it.

I finally rented “Jesus Camp” last night. I see this video nearly each time I visit Blockbuster; it has tempted me but each time I consider it I get this sick feeling that it will either be another syrupy Christian movie or another attack on my faith. But this time I rented it and I’m glad I did, although I came away from it with many differing emotions, and some confusion; but it made me think and that is good.
It is a documentary about a children’s ministry in Missouri. It is a charismatic church and they have a strong children’s program. The movie is filmed through an unbeliever’s camera lens. That in itself is interesting; there are many things that as Christians we do in worship and in ministry that would take some context to understand. The context was not supplied in the movie, and I think they documented honestly from their perspective. It may have been more biased than I think, and if I were in the editing room with them I may have seen that bias.
That really wasn’t my concern but rather what are we teaching our children?

In this movie there are some great Christian children, and they are very devoted and charming as well. I just wanted to hug them over and over again. But, the thing that I found disappointing is it appeared to me that the children, in many ways, were taught their parents theology and concerns, and that limited the children’s vision. There was a big focus portrayed in the film regarding political issues. Now this is certainly of concern to all Christians, but it can dominate the conversation of some Christians, and the focus becomes so narrowed you would think Jesus came only to stop abortion and elect a Christian President as well as hand out a track to lead to salvation. Now, all these things are good, and I would like to see abortion stopped, a Christian elected to President and the way of salvation presented to all; that being said, it is not the whole counsel of God, it reduces Christianity to an impersonal level which I think is what most troubled me about the film.
One example was when a sweet little girl about ten approached three men in a park and asked them if they were to die today did they think they would go to heaven. I won’t get into the wisdom of young children approaching adults, but when the man said he thought he would, her abilities were exhausted.
She left and her comment to her friends was, “They are probably Muslims.”
The way it struck me, and I may be wrong, is she knew what to say, but not what to do. She approached them out of a devotion to God, doing what she thought was her duty, but what she lacked was a concern for the man. And I couldn’t help but wonder what she had been taught about Muslims.

I thought to myself, does she care if he’s lonely, sick, poor, happy, hungry, or if he would enjoy talking with her? It appeared to me, from the content they were taught in the movie, that people are souls that need to be saved and not people to be loved.
I thought if I were sitting in the park and a nice young girl approached me and began to talk first, that I would be happy to talk with her, listen to what she thought and believed, I would have soaked up her youthful joy and energy and thoroughly enjoy her visit. It would make an impact on me and whether I believed the way she did or not she would have been a delightful blessing.

Another part of the children’s ministry that was heavily emphasized was the defeat of sin. I think these four things are the total emphasis, victory over sin, defeat abortion, get the salvation message out, and vote in Christian leaders.
Again, all good, but not all I would teach my children.
Let me use this illustration from James Dobson, he used a sport analogy saying we should teach our children to play offense as well as defense, meaning, if our focus is always about what we shouldn’t do instead of what we should do, or be involved with, we will have much less of a faith.
All Christians need to be taught to look for the needs in our fellow man. If we come to the conclusion that we know what the need is before we even meet the person, we will miss many an opportunity and allow faith to become impersonal. Christianity is learning to hear the mind and heart of Christ; He was busy doing many things, what ever the task at hand was, healing the sick, forgiving the adulteress, feeding the hungry, teaching about the Kingdom, correcting, reproving, encouraging.

I liked the fact that they got some of the children involved in demonstrating; the issue was abortion, and I thought, this is what the parents should do and the children should be visiting a children’s hospital, a nursing home, raising money for the hungry, and let the high school kids and parents march on Washington.

It was a movie all about subtleties, and it is difficult to describe all the things I saw, just watch it and see what you think. This is one movie I wouldn’t miss.

Here is another opinion on the movie.

February 15, 2007Written by Cara de Pescado
Jesus Camp is one of the Oscar nominated documentaries this year. I found it both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. It is the only nominated documentary I have seen so far, but I can certainly understand why it earned a nomination. If it is anything to judge the others by, the documentaries this past year have been excellent.
The documentary is exemplary in that there is no commentary from the filmmakers. I have no idea what their stance is on the subject, if they are from an Evangelical Christian background or a nonreligious one. It is truly a documentary in the sense that only what is filmed is presented, and there is no agreement or disagreement with what is being shown.
The only disagreement was from an Air America radio host who happened to be a former minister and against the particular type of Christianity being taught at this camp. These clips are probably the only things that didn’t seem to work within the documentary. There wasn’t equal time spent with the radio host, nor much explaining what exactly his views are. The film would have been just as well made and unbiased without them, if not more so. But he is as “intolerant” in his views as the children at the Christian camp are taught to be in theirs, just reversely so.
Jesus Camp documents a camp in North Dakota that children (and some of their families) attend to get closer to God. It is an evangelical Christian camp with guest speakers and a few select child speakers. The film focuses on a few children and the camp director, documenting their experiences at camp and following them into their lives away from camp.
What is frightening is that this film is a documentary and these things are real. Don’t get me wrong — I grew up Christian, that isn’t what makes it frightening. But it is the extreme to which the people – the children – are taking their faith. They only listen to Christian music, watch Christian television, and read Christian books. They are taught science has no answers and is stupid.
They are forming a bubble around their lives and developing a world view that can only prove to hurt them later. When they are in their teens and someone offers them a square, will they know enough to reject the offer or will they be so ignorant about life outside their bubble to not know and take it? There is a difference between having a strong faith and denying the existence of anything not a part of that faith.
At the camp, no messages of God’s love are shared. Instead the speakers share messages of politics through a religious avenue – smashing mugs to demonstrate the breaking of the power of evil over our government or duct taping mouths to demonstrate the value of life. The mix of religion and politics is what makes this film terrifying. Our future generations are growing up being fed this hodge-podge under the guise of Christianity and not being taught to think for themselves.
No longer are Christian children taught messages of the Good Samaritan or how faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. No longer is God our shepherd and we his flock. Now children are being raised to be warriors for Christ, part of God’s army. Uncontrollable convulsions, hysterical tears, and speaking in tongues are badges of honor – the proof of one’s faith.
But in showing all of this, Jesus Camp strangely has a tinge of hope about it. Hope that these children will grow up and become more compassionate in their passionate faith. Without saying a word, that is the only hope you can come away from the documentary thinking. We can hope these children give up their desire to be martyrs and instead hope to be beacons of light and hope, helping those in need – like the Christ they worship.

Two of my favorite singers are Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Brown.
In this duet they sing together a mournful song of loss. If you have experienced separation and loss you may find your eyes well up with the poweful lyrics.
To watch these two professionals singing and playing effortlessly is what has made their careers endure.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Christian Martyrs

The picture is of St. Eulalia, her method of death is traditionally said to be torture by fire. In this painting by J.W. Waterhouse, he depicts no miraculous intervention but for the snow which the Christians conceived a heaven-sent shroud for the young saint, whose body was exposed in the Roman Forum. The composition of St. Eulalia is daring by any standards, leaving the center of the canvas virtually unoccupied. Yet is succeeds beyond measure. The youngest mourner points upward at the rising dove which symbolizes the departing soul.
The following story of another young girl martyerd for her faith comes from a book called "Martyrs of the Colliseum", I have condensed this from 17 pages.
Christian Martyr – St. Prisca

The identity of St Prisca is uncertain. One tradition claims that she is identical with Priscilla, who is mentioned in the New Testament, another that she was the daughter of Aquila and Priscilla. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts XVIII, 1-4), it is written that St Paul stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish Christians exiled from Rome, when he was in Corinth and again in Ephesus after they had moved there. Later, they were apparently able to move back to Rome, as St Paul sends his greetings to them there (Romans 16, 3-5). The tradition claims that this was her house. This has been challenged, and Prisca may be another woman altogether. Prisca was supposedly baptized by St Peter the Apostle, and this event is shown in a fine 17th century painting by Domenico Cresti.

The Story

At the time when Claudius was Caesar, he issued a new and most impious edict to the whole world, that the Christians should offer sacrifices to the gods or be put to death. He ordered his presidents and judges to carry out this law that he might destroy the worship of the Christians.

There were then malignant men who ardently desired to destroy the Christian worship; and coming to a certain church, they found the blessed Prisca praying. She was of noble blood; her father had been thrice consul and was exceeding rich. This holy child was in her eleventh year, and was adorned with the grace of God and the most perfect purity of morals. The ministers of the Emperor said to her,” Our Emperor Claudius has commanded you to sacrifice voluntarily to the gods.”
Prisca went and many times was ordered to pray to the gods, which she did not and instead called out, “But I will sacrifice without blood, and only to the immaculate God, my Lord Jesus Christ.” Many miraculous things occurred but the heart of the Emperor was hardened and he ordered many tortures, this is the account of one when she was ordered to be fed to wild animals—

The perfect said, “Behold, O Emperor, this sorceress who overthrew our gods; may she be torn to pieces by the beast.”
Amongst the animals was a savage lion, which had not been fed for four days. The Emperor, sitting on his throne, said to Prisca, ‘Believe and consent to my wishes; avert this terrible calamity that is hanging over you..”
The holy child raised her eyes to heaven, and said, “O Lord Jesus Christ, who has manifested the knowledge of thy divinity, and crowned Thy saints with glory, preserve me perfect in this combat to-day.” Then turning towards the Emperor, she said: “O miserable wretch! Know that I would rather be devoured by beasts, that I may merit eternal life with Christ, than fall into the snares of eternal death by yielding to thy seductions.”
The Emperor then ordered the most ferocious lion to be let loose to devour her. The lion was roaring in his den, so that he terrified all the people. His keeper let him out, and he entered the arena bounding and roaring; then he walked towards the Saint, not showing terror but love, and leaving forward he adored her, and kissed her feet. The blessed Prisca, praying to the Lord, said; ”O God, Thou permittest me to combat like a criminal in this theater of guilt, but Thou preservest my soul unsullied and undefiled.” Then turning towards the Emperor, she said,” You see, O Emperor, you have but manifested our power over tortures and wild beasts because Christ, who made heaven and earth, and everything in them, is always victorious ; to Him everything is subjected by the will of His Father.”
The Emperor commanded the lions to be taken back to his den; but, before he left the arena, he attacked one of the relations of the Emperor, and killed him. The enraged Claudius ordered the blessed Prisca to be cast again into prison; she was filled with the grace of God, and said; “Preserve me, O Lord, from the snares they have laid for me, and from the scandals of the workers of iniquity.”
After three days the Emperor once more ordered a sacrifice to be offered in the temple, and sent for the holy virgin. She came, and was resplendent as the sun. Claudius said to her, “ Believe and sacrifice, and you will be safe.” But she said,
“I do sacrifice, and I believe in Jesus Christ.” Then the Emperor in anger ordered her to be suspended and torn with hooks. When she was drawn up, she said,
“Thou hast rejoiced me, O Lord, in Thy holy will, and I will delight in they works of Thy hands; They judgments, O Lord, are true and eternal light!
Saying these things, immediately the arms and bones of those who were tormenting her were afflicted with the sharpest pain, so that they cried out to the Emperor; “Free us, we beseech thee, from these pains; the angels of God are tormenting us.”
Then the Emperor, enraged beyond measure, ordered her to be led outside the city to be beheaded. The holy martyr Prisca, rejoicing, said; “O, Lord Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all, I praise Thee, I adore Thee, I beseech Thee, I implore Thee, who hast liberated me from all the evils intended for me. Save me now, O Lord Jesus Christ, with whom there is no acceptation of persons; perfect me in the confession of Thy name; order me to be received into They glory, that I may happily escape the evils by which I am surrounded; and reward the impious Claudius according to his works towards Thy helpless handmaid!”
And having said this she turned towards the executioners and addressed them thus : “Fulfill the orders you have received.” And thus did the blessed Prisca end her life by the sword….”

Then it was announced to the Bishop of Rome by a Christian who watched in concealment, how they led the blessed Prisca along the Ostian Way, to about the tenth milestone, and there beheaded her, and took away her life. The Bishop, having heard this went with him to the place he mentioned, and they found her body between two eagles, one at her head and the other at her feet, guarding it, lest the beasts should touch it.

There are many stories of Martyrs that have had miraculous graces during their deaths. I don’t know if they are all true or if some are exaggerated, but while reading and typing this story I welled up so many times, and could scarcely type at times. Whether it be the protection and graces Jesus gave to this eleven year old girl of great faith, which I believe this savior of ours would do, or some other element I cannot describe, but I want to pass it on to those who get the same inspiration and blessing that I do from reading it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What God Is Doing For Us

This post and the one below are excerpts by Jeremy Taylor. It comes from a chapter on Judgment Day, and the parts I drew from speak to our assistance from God and the second, he gives us insights on the terrors of facing God without a redeemer.

"I shall draw a short scheme, which, although it needs be infinitely short, of what God hath done for us, yet it will be enough to shame us. God did not only give his Son for an example, and the Son gave himself for a price for us, but both gave the Holy Spirit to assist us in mighty graces, for the verification of faith, and the entertainments of hope, and the increase and the perseverance of charity. God gave to us a new nature, he put another principle into us, a third part of a perfective constitution; we have the Spirit put into us, to be a part of us, as properly to produce actions of a holy life, as the soul of man in the body does produce the natural. God hath exalted human nature, and made it in the person of Jesus Christ, to sit above the highest seat of angles, and the angels are made ministering spirits, ever since their Lord became our brother. Christ hath by a miraculous sacrament given us his body to eat and his blood to drink, he made ways that we may become all one with him. He hath given us an easy religion, and hath established our future happiness upon natural and pleasant conditions, and we are to be happy hereafter if we allow God to make us happy here; and things are so ordered that a man must take more pains to perish than to be happy. God hath found rare ways to make our prayers acceptable, our weak petitions, the desires of our imperfect souls, to prevail mightily with God.
Add to this account that God did heap blessings upon us without order, infinitely, perpetually, and in all instances, when we needed and when we needed not. He heard us when we prayed, giving us all, and giving us more, than we desired. He desires that we should ask, and yet he hath also prevented our desires. He watched for us, and at his own charge sent a whole order of men whose employment is to minister to our souls; and if all this had not been enough, he had given us more also. He promised heaven to our obedience, a province for a dish of water, a kingdom for a prayer, satisfaction for desiring it, grace for receiving, and more grace for accepting and using the first. He invited us with gracious words and perfect entertainments; he bears our charges; he is always beforehand with us in every act of favor, and perpetually slow in striking, and his arrows are unfeathered; and he is so long, first, in drawing his sword, and another long while in whetting it, and yet longer in lifting his hand to strike, that before the blow comes the man hath repented long, unless he be a fool and impudent; and then God is so glad of an excuse to lay his anger aside, that certainly, if after all this, we refuse life and glory, there is no more to be said; this plain story will condemn us; but the story is very much longer; and, as our conscience will represent all our sins to us, so the Judge will represent all his Father’s kindnesses, as Nathan did to David, when he was to make the justice of the divine sentence appear against him.

"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ."

As there are treasures of good things, and God has crowns and scepters in store for his saints and servants, and coronets for martyrs, and rosaries for virgins, and vials full of prayers, and bottles full of tears, and a register of sighs and penitential groans, so God hath a treasure of wrath and fury, of scourges and scorpions for the wicked. When the Lion of the tribe of Judah shall appear upon his own mountain of the Lord, in his natural dress of majesty, and that Justice shall have her chain and golden fetters taken off, then Justice shall strike, and Mercy shall not hold her hands; she shall strike sore strokes, and Pity shall not break the blow; and God shall account with us by minutes, and for words, and for thoughts, and then he shall be severe to mark what is done amiss; and that Justice may reign entirely, God shall open the wicked man’s treasure, and tell the sums and weigh grains and scruples; and then shall be produced the shame of lust, and the malice of envy, and the groans of the oppressed, and the persecutions of the saints, and the cares of covetousness, and the troubles of ambition, and the insolences of traitors, and the violence’s of rebels, and the rage of anger, and the uneasiness of impatience, and the restlessness of unlawful desires…..

We may guess at the severity of the Judge by the lesser strokes of that judgment which he is pleased to send upon sinners in this world, to make them afraid of the horrible pains of doomsday --- I mean the torments of an unquiet conscience, the amazement and confusions of some sins and some persons. For I have sometimes seen persons caught and surprised in a base action, and taken in the circumstances of crafty theft and secret injustices, before their excuse was ready.
They have changed their color, their speech hath faltered, their tongue stammered, their eyes did wander and fix nowhere, till shame made them sink into their hollow eye-pits to retreat from the images and circumstances of discovery; their wits are lost, their reason useless, the whole order of their soul is discomposed, and they neither see nor feel, nor think, as they used to do, but they are broken into disorder by a stroke of damnation and a lesser stripe of hell…
If guilt will make a man despair – and despair will make a man mad, confounded, and dissolved in all the regions of his senses and more noble faculties, that he shall neither feel, nor hear, nor see, anything but specters and illusions, devils and frightful dreams, and hear noises, and shriek fearfully and look pale and distracted, like a hopeless man from the horrors and confusions of a lost battle, upon which all his hopes did stand – then the wicked must at the day of judgment expect strange things and fearful, and such which now no language can express, and then no patience can endure.