Sunday, June 29, 2008

When I look at this picture I'm just spell-bound. I think when we are in heaven we will be able to attend endless symposiums where the Lord opens up his creative mind and we lean about His thinking and process in creation. I should like to sit in on the one where he discusses beauty and design. To fathom the kind of beauty and creativity displayed in this picture, and then to hear how he knitted it all together out of delight, will be one glad morning indeed.
This beautiful picture by Harry Eggens

Saturday, June 28, 2008


"Men ought always to pray.."

Top photo by Naret Visesvaongsa

"There are saints, and there are excellent saints. Now those are the excellent ones, that are most rich in heavenly treasures; and these you should make your bosom friends, your choicest companions: Prov. 13:20, 'He that walketh with the wise men shall be wise;' that is, he shall be more wise, more humble, more holy, and more abounding in spiritual riches. Not he that talks with the wise, nor he that commends the wise, nor he that takes a step or two with the wise that shall be wise, but he that gives up himself to the society and company of the wise, that shall be more and more wise, gracious and holy. He that cometh where sweet spices or ointments are stirring, doth carry away some of the sweet savour, though himself think not of it. The spouse's lips drop as the honeycomb: Cant. 4:10, 'The tongue of the just is as choice silver,' he scatters pearls, he throws abroad treasures where he comes: Prov. 15:7, 'The lips of the wise disperse knowledge.'

Christ says his spouse's lips are like a thread of scarlet, with talking of nothing but a crucified Christ; and thin like a thread, not swelled with other vain and wicked discourses."

Thomas Brooks - Photo by Matusciac Alex

Thursday, June 26, 2008

...go to heaven in a storm.

" I have read of one that did not fear what he did, nor what he suffered, so he might get riches; 'For,' saith he, 'men do not ask how good one is, or how gracious one is, but how rich one is.' Oh, Sirs! the day is a-coming when God will ask how rich your souls are; how rich you are in faith, in wisdom, in knowledge, in fear, etc.; and not how rich you are in money, or in jewels, or in land, or in goods, but how rich are you in grace; which should provoke your souls to strive in the face of all discouragements to be rich in grace. What will not the merchant do, and mariner do, for those temporal riches? Oh the dangers, the hazards, the tempests, the storms, the deaths that they run through for earthly riches, which are never without their sting! And shall not Christians labor in the face of all oppositions after spiritual riches?

It is reported of Vevessan the lawyer, that he should say, 'He that will not venture his body can never be valiant; and he that will not venture his soul will never be rich.' I am sure that man that will not venture, and venture hard, in the face of all discouragements, to be spiritually rich, will never be rich. He may be good in the main, and may go to heaven in a storm; but he will never be rich in spirituals, that will not venture himself to the uttermost for the gain of spiritual riches."

Thomas Brooks - Painting by Christopher Walker

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cardinal Bembo had a desk with thirty divisions, or pigeon holes; and whenever he completed a sonnet, he put it into the first hole, whence he took it, after a certain interval, and having read and corrected it, put it into the next compartment. In a little time he would take it out, give it some more touches here and there, and promote it to another pigeon hole. In this way he used to make his sonnet run the gauntlet through all the crypts, till he took it from the last of them, a pure and perfect chrysolite.

Alonzo Cano, the Spanish sculptor, completed a beautiful statue in twenty-five days. When the sordid merchant who had employed him wished to pay him by the day, he cried out, indignantly, “Wretch! I have been at work twenty-five years, learning to make this stature in twenty-five days.”

It is said that the greatest sermon ever preached by Dr. Lyman Beecher, the father of Henry, -- one of the most powerful pulpit orators in America, -- was one on “The Government of God.” When asked, as he descended the pulpit steps, how long it took him to prepare that sermon, he replied, “About forty years, sir.”

The Will and the Way by William Mathews. Photo by Naret Visevongsa, Thailand

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"The angels have their hands under their wings; they do much good, and yet make no noise, Ezek. 1:8 and 10:8. There are some in the world that are like them. The violet grows low, and covers itself with its own leaves, and yet of all flowers yields the most fragrant smell to others. There are some charitable Christians that resemble this sweet flower."

Thomas Brooks

The following quote is from Thomas Brooks sermon "A Cabinet of Jewels", in which he speaks to putting our treasure in heaven.

"The poor man's hand is Christ treasury, and he shall not lose his reward that casts his mites into that treasury. It is fabled of Midas, that whatever he touched he turned it into gold. But this is most sure, that whatever the hand of charity toucheth, it turneth it into gold, - be it but a cup of cold water, -- nay, into heaven itself : Mat. 10:42 'And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.' Cold water, having not fuel to heat it, cold water which cost not the charge of fire to warm it. A sea of pleasures, a heaven of blessings attends men of charitable minds, though their charity can extend no further than a cup of cold water; for God measures men's deeds by their minds, and not their minds by their deeds."

Photo by Brett Walker

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Visions that disturb contentment

"Here is that colored woman, Harriet Tubman, whom John Brown introduced to Wendell Phillips as the best and bravest person upon our continent. If Frederick Douglass wrought in the day, Harriet Tubman toiled at night; for when the man had praise and honor, the black woman had only obscurity and neglect. When this bravest of her race escaped from slavery in 1850 and reached Canada she exclaimed exultingly, 'I have only one more journey to make -- the journey to heaven." But in that hour when the tides of joy rose highest there came the vision calling her back to danger and service. She was not disobedient thereto, but turned her face again toward the cotton fields. Between 1850 and 1860 she made nineteen trips into the South, and rescued over three hundred slaves. One day while lying in a swamp with her band of fugitives, a black man brought her word that a reward of $40,000. had been offered by the slave dealers of Virginia for her apprehension. Hard pressed by her pursuers, she sent her fugitives on by a secret route and went herself to the train. But when she saw in the car advertisements for her arrest she left the Northern train and took the next one going south, thinking by her fearlessness to escape detection, and also to collect a new band of fugitives. And so her people came to call Harriet Tubman, the Moses of the black race. And, following on, the vision lifted her to a place among those whom the world will not willingly let die." Newell Dwight Hillis.

From William Still, diary entry: "Great fears were entertained for her safety, but she was wholly devoid of personal fear. The idea of being captured by slave-hunters or slave holders, seemed never to enter her mind."

"We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped."

From Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1859 letter: "... a more ordinary specimen of humanity could hardly be found among the most unfortunate-looking farm hands of the South. Yet in point of courage, shrewdness, and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-man, she was without equal."

The power of grace in the soul.

The purpose of spiritual riches

“But, then, fourthly and mainly, consider, that spiritual riches will enable you to live up to your principles.
That man that hath but so much grace as will keep hell and his soul asunder, will never live up to his principles. Souls weak in grace are too apt to deny, and in their practices to contradict, their own principle; and oh that this age could not furnish with too many instances of this nature! Oh! What is that, that is the reproach of religion and the dishonor of God and the gospel but this, that professors live below their principles, that they live not up to his own principles, but will upon every occasion and temptation be ready to wound two at once; the honor of God and his own soul. Yea, men that are not rich in grace, will be ready to deny their own principles…….”

“The young philosophers were very forward to get the precepts of their sect and the rules of severity, that they might discourse with kings and nobles, not that they reform their own manners. Many professors in this age are like those philosophers; they are very industrious to get knowledge, that they may be able to discourse, and that they may be eyed, owned, and honored among others, for their knowledge and understanding. But now souls that are rich in grace, they labor after greater measures of grace, out of love to grace, and because of an excellency that they see in grace. Grace is a very sparkling jewel, and he that loves it, and pursues after it for its own native beauty, hath much of it within him.”
Thomas Brooks

In the Christian life much is said about the wonder, glory, and joy given by the Holy Spirit. But what must never be lost is that this is a means to an end in God’s economy. We are saved by this glorious grace to become God’s workmanship created to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:8-10

We know that in us there is no good thing, but when God captures the heart with His grace, he sets the heart on fire, and this fire will go to the most remote parts of the world to labor and suffer for the good of others; Mother Teresa would be the perfect example of this. Another will travel night and day for years spreading the hope of God’s message through all manner of obstacles; John Wesley would be an example of this. Others empowered by this gift of grace will sacrifice there wants so they may send money and aid clear across the world to people they have never met because this love for mankind boils, burns and bursts into acts of charity motivated by this Great Grace God gives. Grace in the heart translates into compassion for others. The more grace, the more motivation, love and action.
Schools are erected, hospitals built, orphans cared for, widows supported, hope for the hopeless, oppression resisted, purity and innocence protected and defended.

Oh this matchless grace that works in the heart of man to love one another as He loves us.

I’ll leave off with two passages that clarify this heart changing, soul moving, compassion compelling grace.
Job, a man filled with grace, called by God blameless and upright speaks of the out-workings of grace in chapter 29 –

“…I rescued the poor who cried for help and the fatherless who had none to assist him. The man who was dying blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing.
I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the jaws of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.”

And lastly Isaiah 58:6- thru
Is not this the purpose of grace – “…to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and bread every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

Amazing Grace, to minister to the practical and the spiritual needs of the entire world thereby glorifying God, saving souls, and enjoying Him forever.

Friday, June 20, 2008

In Thomas Brooks epistle dedication, he lists a number of reasons why he wrote the sermon that follows. One of the reasons caught my eye and I have written it below --

"There are many who place all their religion in opinions, in brain-sick notions, in airy speculations, in quaint disputations, in immediate revelations, and in their warm zeal for this or that form of worship. Now, that these may be recovered, and healed, and prevented from doing further mischief in the world, I have at this time put to a helping hand."

Forgive me but that makes me chuckle.

Photo by mehmet alci

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"In the zeal of enquiry we do not always reflect on the silent encroachment of time, or remember that no man is in more danger of doing little, than he who flatters himself with abilities to do all."
Samuel Johnson

I was reading in Romans 12, which is so rich in practical Christianity, and I came across verse 16. "Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position." This is a powerful verse, and I pondered on it for some time, then decided to see what Matthew Henry's commentary had to say. It read --

"Be willing to associate with people of low position" We need not be ashamed to converse with the lowly, while the great God overlooks heaven and earth to look at such. True love values grace in rags as well as scarlet. A jewel is a jewel, though it lies in the dirt. "Associate"; that is, suit yourself to them for their good. (By the way, that definition of associate, really struck me), He adds, "Do not be conceited", do not be confident of the sufficiency of your own wisdom, nor be reluctant to communicate what you have to others. It is the merchandise of commerce, receiving and returning."

What struck me was the last line, don't be over confident nor under confident. Because, when you suit yourself for another's good, and listen to their wisdom and share what you have learned, it is good Christian commerce. I like that. I chose this picture as an illustration of "good Christian commerce", this woman, with no doubt much wisdom to share, and this child with brimming love to return, I see lots of good commerce in this picture.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More on the riches of Christ

"Thus you see that the Lord is generally rich, rich in houses, in lands, in gold, in silver, in cattle, etc. in all temporals as well as in spirituals; but where can you find a man that is generally rich either in spirituals or temporals? It is true, you may find one Christian rich in one grace, and another Christian rich in another; but where will you find a Christian that is generally rich, that is rich in every grace: that is rich in knowledge, in faith, in love, in wisdom, in humility, in meekness, in patience, in self-denial? Abraham was rich in faith, and Moses was rich in meekness, and Job was rich in patience, and Joshua was rich in courage, and David was rich in uprightness; but where will you find a saint that is rich in all these graces? Or where will you find a man that is generally rich in respect of temporals, as to be rich in lands, and moneys, and rich in wares, in jewels, etc. But now the Lord Jesus Christ is generally rich, both in respect of spirituals and temporals. 'In having nothing I have all things,' saith one, 'because I have Christ; having therefore all things in him, I seek no other reward, for he is the universal reward.'

Gregory the Great was wont to say that he was poor whose soul was void of grace, not whose coffers were empty of money.

Thomas Brooks - Sculpture of Mary Magdelan, rich in mercy.

Three ways to oil independence

A friend sent this video about oil independence to me and I found it interesting. I don't know if it's true or not, and this is not a political blog, but it is interesting.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Character of Nations

"..... The national character will necessarily depend more upon the moral qualities of the many than the few. And the same qualities which determine the character of individuals also determines the character of nations. Unless they are high minded, truthful, honest, virtuous, and courageous, they will be held in light esteem by other nations, and be without weight in the world. To have character they must needs also be reverential, disciplined, self-controlling, and devoted to duty. The nation that has no higher god than pleasure, or even dollars or calico, must needs be in a poor way. It were better to revert to Homer's gods than be devoted to these, for the heathen deities at least imagined human virtues, and were something to look up to."

Samuel Smiles 1882 - photo by Scott Cromwell, A Splash of Patriotisim.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The following piece is by Jonathan Edwards. This was found in his journal. Edwards was considered one of the most mystical of the Puritans and in this piece he shares the moment of divine rapture. Jonathan Edwards was used by God in the great spiritual awakening during the 1700s. Thanks to Mel for sharing with me a book about Edwards by John Piper.

Sometimes, only mentioning a single word caused my heart to burn
within me; or only seeing the name of Christ, or the name of some
attribute of God. . . . The sweetest joys and delights I have experienced,
have not been those that have arisen from a hope of my own good
estate, but in a direct view of the glorious things of the gospel.
Once, as I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having
alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has
been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for
me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator
between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet
grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that
appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The
person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great
enough to swallow up all thought and conception—which continued,
as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of
the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul
to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated;
to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love Him with
a holy and pure love; to trust in Him; to live upon Him; to serve and
follow Him; and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine
and heavenly purity. I have, several other times, had views very much
of the same nature, and which have had the same effects.

Picture by Paula Grenside.

"These are poor, dirty, Adivasi men. They were earning their lively hood by selling forest produce such as honey, parrots, monkeys, medicinal plants etc. Since they find that profession difficult to continue, they have come down to towns to eke out a living. These are illiterate men but they have found out an ingenious way to earn some money in the jungle called city.

They have a stick to which a magnet is attached to one end. They walk and hold the magnet a little above the ground. All iron pieces such as rusty nails etc. lying on the road stick to the magnet. They collect these iron pieces in a tin which they carry. They collect 7 to 8 kilos of iron pieces every day which will fetch them about Rs.100( $2) a day.

The only difficulty with this mode of work is that they have to walk 8 to 10 kilometres every day. The elderly man was telling me that his young friend was not happy to walk such long distances every day. I gave Rs.10 to the young man for them to have some tea and told him God has given him two good legs to walk and walking is good for health. The elderly man looked very happy at my motivational talk."


I borrowed this post from Joseph Pulikotil's blog. I found it a very interesting post describing a slice of life in India.
I was struck by the ingenuity of these two men and admire their hard work to make a living.
I also like the advice Joseph gave them.
Thanks Joseph

Saturday, June 14, 2008

People Watch

I ran across this picture a few months back and I just love it. Not that this is the style I would advocate, but as I have become familiar with it, I accept that different cultures find beauty in such varied ways. Certainly the face of this Mursi woman is majestic; with skin like ebony and sculptured facial features, strong nose and high cheek bones. The lip ring and the horns or tusks give her such an unusual look that in my twisted mind I can see how it could be looked on as beauty.
Photo by Dionys Moser

Friday, June 13, 2008

"It may be particularly observed, of women, that they are for the most part good or bad, as they fall among those who practise vice or virtue; and that neither education nor reason gives them much security against the influence of example. Whether it be, that they have less courage to stand against opposition, or that their desire of admiration makes them sacrifice their principles to the poor pleasure of worthless praise, it is certain, whatever be the cause, that female goodness seldom keeps its ground against laughter, flattery, or fashion."
Okay now, it's one man's opinion, Johnson's; don't shoot the messenger :) But..... if the shoe fits..
Samuel Johnson - Painting by Alma Tadema

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"You feel ashamed by seeing his handicap so clearly exposed ?You shouldn't cause this man is a very fine gentle man and it is most pleasant and refreshing to sit down and talk with him, soon you will feel that he doesn't have any hidden handicap at all and you forget his physical deformations by polio. His name is Selvam if ever you meet ...."
This was written by the photographer and it reminded me of a passage from a book called "The Simple Life", and in it was some very practical advice to care-givers about giving comfort to those afflicted --
"And when you know families in distress, or individuals in affliction, do not surround them like those with the plague, with a sanitary cordon, which you will cross only after taking precaution which recalls to them their unhappy lot. On the contrary, after having shown all your sympathy, and all your respect for their suffering, comfort them, aid them to live, bring them a perfume from outside; something, in short, to show them that their misery has not excluded them from the world."
I think the photographer, Henk Jacobs, did that very thing and surly it was a perfume to this man.

"Wit being an unexpected copulation of ideas, the discovery of some occult relation between images in appearance remote from each other; an effusion of wit, therefore, presupposes an accumulation of knowledge; a memory stored with notions, which the imagination may well cull out to compose new assemblages. Whatever may be the native vigor of the mind, she can never form many combinations from few ideas; as many changes can never be rung upon few bells.

Now, it is common to find men break out into a rage at any insinuations to the disadvantage of their wit, who have borne with great patience reflections on their morals."

Samuel Johnson - photo by Marina Cano

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"The riches of Christ are harmless riches. They are riches that will not hurt the soul, that will not harm the soul. Where is there a soul to be found in all the world that was ever made worse by spiritual riches? Oh but earthly riches have cast down many, they have slain many. If poverty, with Saul, hath killed her thousands, riches, with David, hath killed her ten thousands. Eccles. 5:13, 'There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt'. Earthly riches are called thorns, and well they may; for as thorns, they pierce both head and heart; the head with cares in getting them, and the heart with grief in parting with them. Oh the souls that riches have pierced through and through with many sorrows! Oh the minds that riches have blinded! Oh the hearts that riches have hardened! Oh the consciences that riches have benumbed! Oh the wills that riches have perverted! Oh the affections that riches have disordered and destroyed! Earthly riches are very vexing, very defiling, very dividing, and to multitudes prove very ruining.

It was a wise and Christian speech of Charles the Fifth to the Duke of Venice, who, when he had showed him the glory of his princely palace and earthly paradise, instead of admiring it, or him for it, only returned him this grave and serious memento, "These are the things which make us unwilling to die."

Thomas Brooks 1608-1680

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In conversation with Joseph, a blog reader from India, I mentioned I think India has some of the most beautiful people in the world. Here are two pictures as demonstration. First the beauty in the old.

And second, the beauty in the young.

Top photo by Henk Jacobs, bottom photo by Mirjam Letsch

Young men are fitter to invent than judge; fitter for execution than for counsel; for new projects than for settled business. The errors of young men are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men amount but to this--that more might have been done, or sooner. Young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than they can hold, stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end without consideration of the means and degrees; care not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences ; use extreme remedies at first; and that which doubleth all errors, like an unready horse, that will not either stop or turn. Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent to soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly it is good to compound employments of both...... Francis Bacon

Photo by Birte Ragland

Monday, June 09, 2008

"To put every man in possession of his own time, and rescue the day from a succession of usurpers, is beyond hope; yet, perhaps, some stop might be put to this unmerciful persecution, if all would seriously reflect, that whoever pays a visit that is not desired, or talks longer than the hearer is willing to attend, is guilty of an injury which he cannot repair, and takes away that which he cannot give."

Samuel Johnson - photo by Hitesh Pandya

"He who is spontaneously suspicious, may be justly charged with radical corruption; for if he has not known the prevalence of dishonesty by information, nor had time to observe it with his own eyes, whence can he take his measures of judgment but from himself?

Samuel Johnson - photo by Pascale Goswami

Sunday, June 08, 2008

But marriage, if comfortable, is not at all heroic. It certainly narrows and damps the spirit of generous men. In marriage, a man becomes slack and selfish, and undergoes a fatty degeneration of his moral being…..The air of the fireside withers out all the fire wildings of the husband’s heart. He is so comfortable and happy that he begins to prefer comfort and happiness to everything else on earth, his wife included. Yesterday he would have shared his last shilling; today, “his first duty is to his family,” and is fulfilled in large measure by laying down vintages and husbanding the health of an invaluable parent. Twenty years ago this man was equally capable of crime or heroism; now he is fit for neither. His soul is asleep, and you may speak without constraint; you will not wake him.”
From Robert Louis Stevenson, a little cynicism, a little tongue in cheek and some truth.
Photo by Wojtek Aleksandrowicz Reymont

Saturday, June 07, 2008

"Who is more indefatigable in toil, when there is occasion for toil, than a friend? Who is readier to rejoice in one's good fortune? Whose praise is sweeter? From whose lips does one learn the truth with less pain? What fortress, what bulwarks, what arms are more steadfast than loyal hearts?"

Photo by Paul Wager - Laos

An Introduction to Puritan Thought

The Puritan’s sense of priorities in life was one of their greatest strengths. Putting God first and valuing everything else in relation to him was a recurrent Puritan Theme.
The Puritans know that only God can satisfy people permanently and at the deepest level. John Winthrop wrote that “only the fruition of Jesus Christ and the hope of heaven can give us true comfort and rest.” He accordingly “resolved by the grace of God….not to allow my heart to delight more in anything than in the comfort of my salvation.”
Having identified God as “the great and ultimate object of religion,” Samuel Willard went on to conclude that “the knowledge of him is the first thing necessary to be sought after.” In such a hierarchy of values, the great mistake that a person can make is to “neglect his precious soul.”
For the Puritans, spiritual reality was the great single principle in life, the ultimately important factor. Samuel Willard wrote:
"The generality of men take their measures from the observation of outward providence: if there be outward peace and plenty, they call them happy days; of out ward distress and trouble, they call them evil. But we have a better rule, and more safe for Christians….. The more of Christ that a people enjoy, the happier are they, and the less He is known and acknowledged in his great design of mediatorship, the greater is the unhappiness of such a people.”
Delight in God’s presence was what the Puritans sought and found. Baxter’s parting advice to his parishioners at Kedderminster was to “be sure to maintain a constant delight in God.” Cornelius Burges preached that every person should
“lift up his soul to take hold of God, to be glued and united to him… to be only his forever.” For Thomas Watson, one of the signs of being a child of God “is to delight to be much in God’s presence.”

John Winthrop’s account of his life after his conversion sounded the authentic Puritan note: “I was now grown familiar with the Lord Jesus Christ; he would oft tell me he loved me. I did not doubt to believe him; if I went abroad, he went with me, when I returned, he come home with me. I talked with him upon the way, he lay down with me, and usually I did awake with him; and so sweet was his love to me, as I desired nothing but him in heaven or earth.”

The Puritan vision was not simply theocentric, but was Christocentric, William Perkins concluded his treatise on preaching with the statement, “The sum of the sum: preach one Christ by Christ to the praise of Christ.”
When Oliver Cromwell’s daughter was approaching her marriage, he wrote to her: - ‘Dear heart, let not anything cool thy affections after Christ. That which is best worthy of love in thy husband is that of the image of Christ he bears. Look on that and love it best, and all the rest for that’.

Samuel Ward wrote, “O Lord, give us grace to consider how that all our night watching and all ought to tend to this end, to the winning of Christ.’
And Richard Sibbes wrote: “Christ himself is ours. In the dividing of all things, some men have wealth, honors, friends and greatness, but not Christ…but a Christian hath Christ himself….Therefore what if he lacks those lesser things, he hath the main… the spring, the ocean, him to whom all things are.”

Worldly Saints

Here are two people, 95 years apart, both on the threshold of new life; one in this world and the other in the next.

Hope for both, from the womb to the grave, and beyond. The marvel in God's plans.

Photo by Pawel Kolowski

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jesus was rich.

"1.For the first, that the Lord Jesus Christ is very rich.
Express scripture speaks out this truth. He is rich in goodness: Rom. 2:4, 'Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness,' his 'native goodness', that is ready to be employed for thy internal and external good.
Again, He is rich in wisdom and knowledge: Col. 2:3, 'In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.'
Again, He is rich in grace: Eph. 1:7, 'By whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.'
Again, He is rich in glory: Eph. 1:18, 'That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.'

You may judge of riches of Christ by this, that he doth not only enrich all the saints, but all of the saints.
That is, he enriches all the faculties of their souls; he enriches their understandings with glorious light; their consciences with quickness, pureness, tenderness and quietness; and their wills with holy intentions and heavenly resolutions; and their affections of love, joy, fear, etc. with life, heat, and warmth, and with the beauty and glory of the most soul-enriching, soul-delighting, soul-ravishing, and soul-contenting objects. All saint's experiences seal to this truth, and therefore a touch shall suffice."

Thomas Brooks1608-1680
In Thomas Brook's book called "The Unsearchable Riches of Christ", he poses a question- 'When may a soul be said to be excellent in grace, or to have highly improved grace?'
He gives ten principles in his answer, which are lengthy, but he gives one illustration that caught my attention.

"Tenthly and lastly, Such will mourn for wicked men's sins as well as their own. Oh the tears, the sighs, the groans, that other's sins fetch from these men's hearts! Pambus, in the ecclesiastical history, wept when he saw a harlot dressed with much care and cost, partly to see one take so much pains to go to hell, and partly because he had not been so careful to please God, as she had been to please a wanton lover." Jer. 9:2 2nd Peter 2:7-9

I don't mean to insinuate that the girl in the picture is a harlot, but merely one who has taken far more care and cost in dressing than I most likely have spent in pleasing God today.
Photo by James Pan

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Mr. Foxe, that wrote the Book of Martyrs, would be sure to do him a kindness that had done him an injury: so that it used to be a proverb, 'If a man would have Mr. Foxe do him a kindness, let him do him an injury.'

An humble soul, though he be of never so rare abilities, yet he will not disdain to be taught what he knows not, by the meanest persons.
Apollos, 'an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures,' a master in Israel, and yet sits by an Aquila, a tent-maker, and Pricilla his wife, to be instructed by them. Sometimes the poorest and the meanest Christian may, for counsel and comfort, be a god to another, as Moses was to Aaron.
As an humble soul knows that the stars have their situations in heaven, though sometimes he sees them by their reflection in a puddle, in the bottom of a well, or in a stinking ditch........"

Thomas Brooks 1608-1680 Photo by Luc Majno

Monday, June 02, 2008

My Dancin'-Days is Over

The following poem is about an old farmer driving his team of horses to town to deliver his hay; when he heard an old man fiddling and it takes him back in time. The dialect (almost like a riddle), is difficult to read and the terms are antiquated, but if you catch his spell, it is rich.

What is it in old fiddle-chunes
'at makes me ketch my breath
And ripples up my backbone tel I'm
tickled most to death? --
Kind o' like that sweet-sick feelin', in
the long sweep of a swing,
The first time you ever swung in, with
yer first sweetheart, I jing!--

I never understood it -- and I s'pose I
never can,--
But right in town here, yisterd'y I
heard a pore blind man
A-fiddlin' old "Gray Eagle" -- And
sir! I jes' stopped my load
O' hay and listened at him - yes,
and watched the way he "bow'd,"-
and back I went, plum forty year'
with boys and girls I knowed
and loved, long 'fore my dancin'
days wuz over! --

At high noon in yer city, - with yer
blame' Magnetic cars
A-hummin' and a-scretchin' past - and
bands and G.A.R.'s
A-marchin' -and fire-ingines, - All
the noise, the whole street through,
Wuz lost on me! - I only heard a
whipperwill er two,
It 'peared-like, kind 'o callin' 'crost
the darkness and the dew,
Them nights afore my dancin'-
days wuz over.

The woods 'ats all be'n cut away wuz
growin' same as then;
The youngsters all wuz boys ag'in 'at's
now all oldish men;
And all the girls 'at then wuz girls --
I saw 'em, one and all,
As plain as then -- the middle-sized
the short-and-fat, and tall --
And 'peared-like, I danced "Tucker"
fer 'em up and downd the wall
Jes' like afore my dancin'-days wuz

The fact is, I wuz dazed so 'at I clean
fergot jes' where
I railly wuz, -- a blockin' streets, and
still a-standin' there;
I heard the po'leece yellin', but my
ears wuz kind o' blurred--
My eyes, too, fer the odds o' that,--
bekase I thought I heard
My wife 'ats dead, a-laughin'-like,
and jokin', word fer word
Jes' like afore her dancin'-days wuz

James Whitcomb Riley - photographer unknown

Sunday, June 01, 2008

"A girl came from outside India to join the Missionaries of Charity. We have a rule that the very next day new arrivals must go to the Home for the Dying. So I told this girl: "You saw Father during Holy Mass, with what love and care he touched Jesus in the Host. Do the same when you go to the Home for the Dying, because it is the same Jesus you will find there in the broken bodies of the poor." And they went. After three hours the newcomer came back and said to me with a big smile - I have never seen a smile quite like that -- "Mother, I have been touching the body of Christ for three hours." And I said to her: "How -- what did you do?" She replied: "When we arrived there, they brought a man who had fallen into a drain, and been there for some time.
He was covered with wounds and dirt and maggots, and I cleaned him and I knew I was touching the body of Christ."

"Some months back a man who had been beaten up was picked up from the streets of Melbourne. He was and alcoholic who had been for years in that state, and the Sisters took him to their Home of Compassion. From the way they touched him, the way they took care of him, suddenly it was clear to him: "God loves me!" He left the home and never touched alcohol again, and went back to his family, to his children, to his job. Later, when he got his first salary, he came to the Sisters and gave them the money, saying: "I want you to be for others the love of God, as you have been to me."

I love this picture of Mother Teresa because I see in her face a stern determination that this child, which I imagine she sees as hers now, will be taken care of and all of heaven will see that it is so.

This afternoon, in the afterglow of worship, I have been watching and listening to the Sara Groves video "I Saw What I Saw", it just filters down in me so deeply. Surly this is the great work of God, to change us to experience a taste of His love for humanity.
The words of her song continue to resonate with my soul. "I saw what I saw and I can't forget it,
your pain has changed me, your dreams inspire, your hope a fire, your face a memory." When I watch documentary videos of people in the deepest poverty or greatest of oppression, there seems to be nothing that can be so whelming that it is able to overcome the fire of hope and the dream of a better day. The lyric, "your courage asks me what I am made of, what I know of love", is haunting but her words "We are what we are and it's more than enough", is truly the answer. If we watch what God is doing and add what we are to it, it will be enough. I'm glad there are gifted song writers and poets that can put into words my stumbling thoughts.

Photo by Ales Og