Monday, September 29, 2008

Ha!!!!!!!! I am a lucky guy, my wife called me from work with the news that she was given two, not one, but two tickets to see Celine Dion on the 16th of this month! You heard me right, free tickets to the Tektronixs suite in the Rose Garden. If you couldn't tell, I really like her singing, one of the best female vocalists of all time in my opinion, other than my granddaughter Destiny.

But first I must be out of town on business for a another week. Won't have to go again until next spring, thank you Lord!

Should get a lot of reading in so hope to have something inspiring to share. I was answering a question from a friend, this is a little off the subject, about what we believe in and I remembered a quote that about sums it up for me. I think I'll include it here --

This is Jermey Taylor instructing young clergymen -- "What have your people to do whether Christ's body be in the sacrament by consubstantiation or transubstantiation; whether purgatory be in the center of the earth, or in the air, or any where, or nowhere; and who but a madman would trouble their heads with the entangled links of the fanatic chain of predestination? Teach them to fear God and honor the King, to keep the commandments of God, teach them to be sober and temperate, to be just and to pay their debts....teach them charity and teach them to be zealous of good works...."

There you have it, that's about 90% of what I believe. You may be able to divide the last 10% between a strict adherence to grace by the blood of Christ and repulsion to legalism.

See you in a week.

Photo by Francesco Scipion

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2 Cor. 1:4

“It is a blessed thing that the heart has an instinct which tells it without fail who has the right to teach it.
The stricken mother, sitting by the side of the lifeless form of her first-born, will hear unmoved the words of consolation and the persuasions to resignation which are urged by one who has not suffered, even though he eloquently draw motives from the highest heaven; while the silent pressure of her hand by some humble creature who has hidden her treasure under the daisies, will inspire her with calmness and strength. The world cares little for theorists and theories, - little for schools and schoolmen, - little for anything a man has to utter that has not previously been distilled in the alembic of his life. It is the life in literature that acts upon life. The pilgrim who knocks at the door of the human heart with gloved hands and attire borrowed fro the occasion, will meet with tardy welcome and sorry entertainment; but he who comes with shoes worn and dusty with the walk upon life’s highway – with face bronzed by fierce suns and muscles knit by conflict with the evils of the passage, will find abundant entrance and hospitable service.”
Timothy Titcomb - photo from internet
I was asked by a friend what I thought of the Bible and especially the Old Testament. When I ran across this statement I liked the way the author put it --

"When Christ, standing in the Temple, declares that the scriptures testify of him, I believe they do thus testify, and that it is right that they be bound up with the Gospels and the Epistles as an essential portion of the grand whole. I find the writers of the New Testament constantly referring to the Old, and the Old prophesyhing, or recording the preparation for, the events described in the New.
There is much that I do not understand, and no little that seems incredible; but I see no leaf that I have either the right or the wish to tear out and cast away. I receive it as, an authentic, inspired, and harmonious whole. I pin my faith to it, and rely upon it as the foundation of my own hope and the hope of the world." Timothy Titcomb 1885

"It is not for the fresh cheek, the full lip, the fair forehead, the parted sweeps of sunny hair, and the girlish charm of form and features, that we love the wives who have walked hand in hand with us for years, but for new graces, opening each morning like flowers in the garden, their predecessors having accomplished their beautiful mission and gone to seed. Old love renewed again, through new motives to love, is certainly a thing lovely in itself, and desirable by all whose ambition and happiness it is to sit supreme in a single heart...... "
Timothy Titcomb. Photo by Guenter Eh.


When in church today, the Pastor was speaking about being “salt and light” in the world. In many of my mind drifts, I thought back to my last post with the “Christians”, holding up their signs promoting ????? Surely this is salt that has lost its savor. Good for nothing but to be trampled on by men. We are taught by Christ that we are to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. This picture is the antithesis of what that scripture means.
I also drifted over to Luke 6:35 where Jesus says - “love your enemies, do good to them…..then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.
Now if words mean anything and if the simple, direct words of Christ are eternal and good for today and forever; God is kind to the wicked! God is merciful to the wicked, and if we would be true Salt, we would be like Him.
1st Peter 2:17 exhorts us to honor all men. Now we see through a glass darkly and we have but vague concepts as to what God will do with the wicked and unbelievers, but how we are to act in this age is perfectly clear – “be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Col. 4:5, and again in 1Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
Psalms 30:5 says that God’s anger lasts only for a moment, but I hear some who call Him Father, that seethe and boil up wrath continually. This ought not to be.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I wonder which picture testifies of Christ to the three girls in the bottom picture?
Bottom photo by Guenter Eh, top photo taken from the internet.

"Oh," says some one, "It isn't the grosser pleasures I covet, but it is the gratification of an artistic and intellectual taste." Why, my brother, you have the original from which these pictures are copied.

What is a sunset on a wall compared with a sunset hung in hoops of fire in the heavens? What is a cascade silent on a canvas compared with a cascade that makes the mountain tremble, its spray ascending like the departing spirit of the water slain on the rocks? Oh, there is a great deal of hollow affectation about a fondness for pictures on the part of those who never appreciate the original from which the pictures are taken. As though a parent should have no regard for a child, but go into ecstasies over its photograph. Bless the Lord today, O man! O woman! that though you may be shut out from the works of a Church, a Bierstadt, a Rubens, and a Raphael, you still have free access to a gallery grander than the Louvre or the Luxemburg or the Vatican - the royal gallery of the noonday heavens the King's gallery of the midnight sky."

T.DeWitt Talmagae - Photo by Oscar Vall Gallen

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ten years of Meth

The following sermon is by T.De Witt Talmage. He is one of my favorite authors. When he is at the top of his game there are few better. He preaches against the evils of intoxicants, and was a powerful influence in the temperance movement in the 1800's. Of course he lived long before Meth was invented, and if Talmage were to preach today his sermon would have been intensified I'm sure. Having been touched by the evils of Meth, as most of us have these days, someone we know and love has been in the grip of this epedemic, I think his semon is understated. Drug and alcohol abuse has it's millions of victims, and so Talmage preaches hard against it.

“An arch fiend arrived in our world, and built here an invisible cauldron of temptation. He built that cauldron strong and stout for all ages and all nations. First he squeezed into it the juices of the forbidden fruit of paradise. Then he gathered for it a distillation from the harvest fields and the orchards of the hemispheres. Then he poured into this cauldron capsicum, and copperas, and logwood, and deadly nightshade, and assault and battery, and vitriol, and opium, and rum, and murder, and sulphuric acid, and theft, and potash, and poverty, and death, and hops.

But it was a dry compound and must be moistened and liquefied, so the arch-fiend poured into the cauldron the tears of centuries of orphanage and widowhood, and the blood of twenty thousand assassinations.
Then he took a shovel that he had brought up from the furnaces of his dominion below, and he thrust that shovel into the great cauldron and began to stir, and the cauldron began to heave, and rock, and boil, and sputter, and hiss, and smoke, while nations gathered around it with cups and tankards and kegs. There was enough for all, and the arch-fiend cried, with satanic exultation: “Aha! Champion fiend am I! Who has done more than I have for the filling of coffins and graveyards and prisons and insane asylums, and the populating of the lost world? And when this cauldron is emptied I’ll fill it again, and stir it again, and it will smoke again, and that smoke shall join another smoke – the smoke of a torment that ascendeth forever and ever.
The cup out of which I ordinarily drink is a bleached human skull, and the upholstery of my palace is of the rich crimson hue of human gore, and the mosaic of my floors is made up of the bones of children dashed to death by drunken parents, and my favorite music – sweeter than Te Deum or triumphal march – is the cry of daughters turned out at midnight on the street because father has come home drunk form the carousal.
I have kindled more fires, I have wrung out more agonies, I have stretched out more midnight shadows, I have damned more souls than any other emissary of diabolism. Champion fiend that I am!”

“And perhaps the drunken man has a will which has not been proved in the courts. That will, put in writing, would read something like this; “In the name of disease and appetite and death, amen. I bequeath to my children my evil habits. My tankards shall be theirs, my wine-cup shall be theirs, my destroyed reputation shall be theirs. Share and share alike I bequeath them my infamy. Hereto I affix my hand and seal in the presence of all the applauding harpies of hell.”

Photo from the internet

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

People Watch

Don't you know this woman has much to say about everything. I could not pass by a woman like this without starting up a conversation about something.

"All Christians and myself form one body, one church, just as far as a common love and piety possess our hearts. Nothing is more real than this spiritual union. There is one grand, all-comprehending church; and if I am a Christian, I belong to it, and no man can shut me out of it. You may exclude me from your Roman church, your Episcopal church, and your Calvinistic church, on account of supposed defects in my creed or my sect, and I am content to be excluded. But I will not be severed from the great body of Christ. Who shall sunder me from such men as Fenelon, and Pascal, and Borromeo, from Archbishop Leighton, Jeremy Taylor, and John Howard? Who can rupture the spiritual bond between these men and myself? Do I not hold them dear? Does not their spirit, flowing out through their writings and lives, penetrate my soul? Are they not a portion of my being? Am I not a different man from what I should have been, had not these and other like spirits acted on mine? William Ellery Channing - American preacher and religious reformer, 1780-1842

I posted this quote not because I have been excluded from any church, as yet, but for the sentiments I share with Channing regarding Godly authors. I too am a "different man" in large part because of God's voice through past divines. And now, in this post, he names some I have not read, but if the company their in is indication of the content of their works, I'm off to the book store!

Photo by Laurentiu Margalin

Monday, September 22, 2008

This disturbing picture, taken by Birte Person called the next generation, captures the look that the carnage of war leaves in the soul. There is no mistaking the look of revenge in this boy's eyes. This is one of the reasons Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers." To minister forgiveness and bring about peace when rage is seated so deeply, is certainly a greater miracle than raising the dead, or maybe that is exactly what it is.

Even in a palace life may be led well!

So spake the imperial sage, purest of men,

Marcus Aurelius. But the stifling den

of common life, where, crowded up, pell-mell,

Our freedom for a little bread we sell,

And drudge under some foolish master's ken,

Who rates us if we peer outside our pen,--

Matched with a palace, is not this hell?

Even in a palace! On this truth sincere

Who spoke these words, no shadow ever came;

And when my ill-schooled spirit is aflame

Some nobler, ampler stage of life to win,

I'll stop, and say, "There were no succor here!

The aids to noble life are all within."

This difficult poem by Matthew Arnold, who is one of my favorite poets, that for the most part I can rarely understand, but when I do, I just love his mind.

In this poem he speaks about a quote by Marcus Aurelius, another great Greek philosopher from the past who you simply must read if you haven't. In this poem by Arnold he refers to him as imperial sage, purest of men, who no shadow ever came, which is pretty high praise for a mortal man. But Aurelius, whom I first became acquainted with by the encouragement of the Puritans who all read his thought, certainly had an enlightened mind and if he had become a Christian, the world can only imagine how he may have moved it. In this quote, Aurelius implies that wealth is an equal disadvantage for the soul, with its prosperity, gluttony and temptations. Arnold concludes with the point of the quote-- the Battle is within, and there we will find the answers to happiness, not in wealth or poverty. A tried and true theme for all religions and philosophies. But so well put in this poem.

Picture taken from the internet.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The true battle comes from within

"When open commissions of sin do humble and abase the heart, and secret inclinations to sin do even break and burst the heart asunder, then the heart is certainly sincere with God. A Christian will readily grant that his God is a good God, and that Jesus Christ is the chiefest of ten thousand, and that the gospel is a glorious gospel…….. But yet he will say, I have such a proud heart, such a hard heart, such a slight heart, such a carnal heart, etc., and I am so vexed and molested with sinful notions, and with sinful imaginations, and with sinful inclinations, and with atheistical risings, and with private murmurings, and with secret unbelievings, and that in despite of all my conflictings and strivings, prayings and mournings, sighing, groanings, complainings, so that I am oftentimes weary of my life. And if this does not speak out Christ within, and grace within, and the Spirit within such a soul, I know nothing. O friends! Remember this once for all, viz., that the main battle, the main warfare of a Christian lies not in the open field, it lies not in visible skirmishes; but his main quarrels and conflicts are most within, and his worst and greatest enemies are them of his own house, they are them of his own heart.

A little grace at first conversion may reform an ill life, but it must be a great deal of grace that must reform an ill heart. A little grace may make a man victorious over outward gross sins, but it must be a great deal of grace that makes a man victorious over inward sins, secret sins, spiritual sins, yea, a thorough conquest of these sins will hold a man in play all his days."
Thomas Brooks.

"A thorough conquest of these sins will hold a man in play all his days." There is the key issue; we feel less because we haven't attained to the place that will take a lifetime to reach. Or we hear a glorious testimony how God delivered a person from the depths of sin, they are now freed from addiction or unbelief, and it seems as thought the battle is won for them but we continue on weakly, slowly, with many upsets and drawbacks. They have won the battle of the “visible skirmish”, but they have just begun the life long battle of the conflict within. Now obviously we shouldn't kick back and accept our weaknesses, but the enemy makes us feel as though we are behind the norm. Not so, at fifty or sixty we will still be in the heat of the battle, still fighting the "ill heart”.

Creepy photo by Gianluca Nespoli.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Admire nobly

"Tell me who you admire," said Sainte-Beuve, "and I will tell you what you are, at least as regards your talents, tastes and character." So you admire mean men? -- your own nature is mean. Do you admire rich men? - you are of the earth, earthy. Do you admire men of title? -- you are a toad-eater, or a tuft-hunter. Do you admire honest, brave and manly men? --you are yourself of an honest, brave and manly spirit.
It was a fine trait in the character of Prince Albert that he was always so ready to express generous admiration of the good deeds of others. "He had the greatest delight," says the ablest delineater of his character, "in anybody else saying a fine saying, or doing a great deed. He would rejoice over it, and talk about it for days, and whether it was a thing nobly said or done by a little child, or by a veteran statesman, it gave him equal pleasure. He delighted in humanity doing well on any occasion and in any manner."
The picture of the older sibling attending to the younger, is a re-occurring sight. I suppose it gets to my heart as quick as anything. So many children, out of necessity, willingly give up their childhood. And in my culture there are many parents who are unwilling to do the same.
If you want an account of the above quote displayed, go to Joseph's blog and see his account of the hard-working poor where he lives in India; where brave and manly character is displayed year in and year out.
Samuel Smiles, Happy Homes and the Hearts That Make Them. - Photo by Darrin and Dana James.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Test of the Spirit

“You cannot tell by the plumage of a bird how it will leap. You cannot always tell by the way a man talks what he is. I would not say that he has it not; but it does not consist in the production of a powerful impression on the imagination. It does not consist in intensity of feeling. It does not consist in the fact that a man has an inspiration which leads him in this exalted way to bear witness. I want to know something more of the quality of his disposition. If I find that where other men are proud his is sweetly humble; that where other men are sharp and harsh he is easy to be entreated; that where others are stingy he is liberal and full of good works; and that where they are dim-eyed he is endowed with intuition, which comes from real faith and love in God; if I find, in looking into the jewel-box of his soul, that one after another of these jewels flashes brighter in him than others, then I say, “Very likely it is there.” He may not make the best proclamation of it; but if I find that there are these signs and tokens of it, I give him credit for possessing it. If, on the other hand, I see a man who goes about trumpeting his own virtue, and seeking praise and admiration for them from everybody he meets; if I find that he is arranging everything for his own benefit, and is living to enjoy himself, and that he is magisterial and imperial, then I come to the conclusion that he is empty; for he that has the indwelling of God, with all gentleness, and meekness, and humility, and tenderness, and pitifulness, and self-subjugation and submission to others, - he needs to bear no testimony…..
Now, I pluck one tea-rose, one blossom of tube-rose, and one sprig of some other odorous flower, and put them in a little wine-glass, and set them in some corner out of the way, and say nothing; and one opens the door, and snuffs, and snuffs, and says, “What have you here? Haven’t you something here?” They know there is something there. It is hidden, but there is no mistaking its fragrance.”

Henry Ward Beecher - Photo by Kelz

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Jewish friend of mine named Carol, has a daughter who has a benign tumor in her brain, she is waiting to hear from the doctor, this Friday, the details of the surgery. To attach words to her distress is impossible, but any parent can fathom to some degree her anxiety. As it happens, Carol will turn 70 this month and she asked her friends and family if they would kindly not send her any gifts save this one, if each would send her a story of a good deed they have done.
In response her son sent an email about his wife, who happens to be a nurse, and as she left the hospital with her husband, they saw an older woman having difficulty trying to cross the street, she went to her and asked if she could be of assistance; the woman said she just had trouble, she would begin and then be unable to cross the street. As she observed the older woman she saw signs that led her to believe she may be having a seizure or a stroke. She told the woman she felt strongly that she needed to see a doctor immediately. The woman resisted, but with continual insistence, she got the woman to the hospital.
It turned out, the woman was having a mild heart attack and had she not been there for treatment it could have been life threatening.
The woman recovered and found this good Samaritan that brought her to the hospital, and could not thank her enough. The older woman was amazed at the coincidence that brought her this timely help and made this comment - "Maybe I have been paid back for all the wounded soldiers I attended to as a nurse during the war."

I have never read Joseph Hall, but he was described as - "Eminent among the best and holiest men that any age or country has produced...... In common with many others of the good and great, his religious and moral worth was the fruit, under God, of maternal piety and care."

So my interest was peaked, but, what say he of Christ? I read a variety of things but for devotional reading I limit that to those great divines that build us up in the holy faith in Christ. So I was eager to read my first of this 15th century preacher, here goes, from the second page of his sermon--

"Blessing, honor, glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever." And ye, beloved, as ever ye hope to make music in heaven, learn t0 tune your harps to the note and ditty of those heavenly elders. Rejoice in this, and rejoice in nothing but this cross; not in transitory honors, titles, treasures, which will at the last leave you inconsolately sorrowful, but in this cross of Christ; whereby the world is crucified to you.....

See Him stretching out His arms to receive and embrace you; hanging down His head to take view of your misery; opening His precious side to receive you into his bosom; water to wash you, and blood to redeem you. O, all ye Nazarites that pass by, out of this dead lion seek and find the true honey of unspeakable and endless comfort! And ye great masters of Israel, whose lips profess to preserve knowledge, leave all curious and needless disquisitions, and with that divine and extatical doctor of the Gentiles, care only to know - to preach - "Christ and Him crucified."

I'll be adding him to my regular reading.

Photo by Chema Concellon

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Sharing the same point of happiness regardless of race or skin color, that's freedom."

Those are the comments of Guenter Eh, the photographer. When I ran across this photo I immediately liked it because I see in the expressions of this mixed group of people, like the photographer said, everyone sharing the same emotions. I have found that we often judge a people by its government; this is a mistake, we are all the same regardless where we live. We all want the same things, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, a world at peace, and society free of hatred that offers security for all. For just a moment, as you gaze at this picture, the possibility seems reachable.

"That's a good repentance that bears fruit, and not that which produces leaves only. When the heathen gods were to choose what trees they would have sacred to them and used in their festivals; Jupiter chose the Oak, Venus the Myrtle, Apollo loved the Laurel, but wise Minerva took the Olive. The other trees gave no fruit; a useless apple from the Oak, or little berries from the Laurel and the Myrtle; but besides the show, they were good but for very little: but the Olive gives an excellent fruit, fit for food and medicine, which when Jupiter observed, he kissed his daughter, and called her wise: for all pompousness is vain, and the solemn religion stands for nothing, unless that which we do, be profitable and good for material uses." Jeremy Taylor

Statue of Minerva, - She was considered to be the virgin goddess of warriors, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, crafts and the inventor of music.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Deut. 10 in part-
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep his commandments…….
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who love strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger,……”

I read this the other day and it came to mind in church today as the Pastor spoke on the 7th beatitude; “Blessed are the peacemakers”. His focus was local, centered on happy home building for the most part, but my thoughts began to drift more globally and the words – God is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice….and loves the stranger….began to take me away.
These attributes of God, if adopted by man, would nearly eliminate all war, oppression and hostility in the world. Bless those peacemakers in high places who show no partiality and reject bribes, which deters corruption; bless those who bring justice, which protects and gives hope; and bless those that defend, support and love strangers, demonstrating in the flesh, God’s love for mankind.
Yes, “blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called the children of God.”
Photo taken from internet.

"Even as we pass by the joy and beauty of youth on the streets without dreaming it is there, so we may hurry past the very presence of grand things without recognition. We may easily fail to sense those spiritual realities, which in every age have haunted youth and called to him without ceasing. It may relieve the mind to break forth in moments of irritation against "the folly of the coming generation," but whoso pauses on his plodding way to call even his youngest and rashest brother a fool ruins thereby the joy of his journey, - for youth is so vivid an element in life that unless it is cherished all the rest is spoiled. The most praiseworthy journey grows dull and leaden unless companioned by youth's iridescent dreams."

What stuck out to me in this quote was simply 'the vivid element and iridescent dreams of youth'. At 61 the boy in me has been nearly extinguished. But it rises up at times and brings with it the 'vivid element' in living; the adventure, the sense of wonder that tints the journey with iridescence. Now as a side note, I was typically like the boy in the picture hiding and not making the boldest move, or at least not until I was very certain our mischief would be undetected.

Jane Addams, writer on social reforms. -Photo by Wojtek Aleksandrowic

The Sparrow

"I was returning from hunting and walking alone an avenue of the garden, my dog running in front of me.
Suddenly he took shorter steps, and began to steal along as though tracking game.
I looked along the avenue and saw a young sparrow, with yellow about its beak and down on its head. It had fallen out of the nest (the wind was violently shaking the birch trees in the avenue) and sat unable to move, helplessly flapping its half-grown wings.
My dog was slowly approaching it, when, suddenly darting down from a tree close by, an old dark-throated sparrow fell like a stone right before my nose, and all ruffled up, terrified with despairing and pitiful cheeps, it flung itself twice towards the open jaws of shining teeth.
It sprang to save; it cast itself before its nestling, but all its tiny body was shaking with terror; its note was harsh and strange. Swooning with fear, it offered itself up!
What a huge monster must the dog have seemed to it! And yet it could not stay on its high branch out of danger. A force stronger than its will flung it down.
My dog stood still, drew back. Clearly he too recognized this force.
I hastened to call off the disconcerted dog, and I went away, full of reverence.
Love, I thought, is stronger than death or the fear of death. Only by it, by love, life holds together and advances."

Ivan Sergiewich Turgenev, Russian novelist, 1818-1883. - Photo by Liz Bickel

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"I confess to the Lord God it is with sufficient rashness, if it be not even shamelessness, that I venture to write concerning patience, for the practice of which I am altogether unfit, being a man in whom there is no good thing....

For that which is the most good, is the most in, the hands of God, and no other than He who possesseth "dispenseth it to each" as he seeth fit. Wherefore, it will be a sort of comfort to reason about that which it is not permitted us to enjoy, like sickly persons, who, when they lack health know not how to be silent about its blessings. In like manner I, wretched man that I am, ever sick with the fever of impatience, must needs sign for, and call upon, and speak all my thoughts upon, that healthy state of patience which I possess not....." Tertullian.

I think it is important that all Christians, and especially those young in the faith, realize that whether the subject be patience, or any other behavior, those that speak on it are like Tertullian describes-- like sickly persons that know not how to be silent about the blessings of health.

I feel compelled from time to time to state this about myself; a disclaimer of sorts, because I lack, or have such a small store of most of the virtues I post on, that at times, I too, feel rash and shameful. But all Christians can speak of the glories of Holiness though far from where they want to be, need to be, ought to be. We have seasons of great victory and then seasons of failure. That being so, I write on regardless of the season I'm in, because I'm complelled to speak all my thoughts upon that healthy state, which I possess not.

Photo by Biliana Rakocevic

When I got home my wife found a book she thought I might like titled "The Religious Personality". I began leafing through it and on the second page I found this -
"In many colleges and universities, on certain occasions students invite their professors to deliver a "last lecture." The students are asking the professor to talk to them on a different kind of subject from the one on which he usually lectures in the classroom. To facilitate the mood, they require the professor to put himself in the position of having an hour - one hour only, one last hour - in which to talk about whatever is of vital importance to him. They bid him raise these questions with himself: if this were my last opportunity to speak, about what would I speak? What should I say? What ought I to communicate? For what would I choose to be remembered?"
Initially I forgot about Randy Pausch and his 'last lecture' that was so popular and insightful a few months ago; and just pondered the question. It is such a large question. I tried to compose some thoughts, without sounding trite or simplistic or predictable. I never brought it to a conclusion. When you are older you begin to consider these things far more. After some thought, I realized that the reason I began this blog was to share the things that I think are the essence of a life well spent. I have been blogging since 2004 and haven't run out of subjects yet, so to distill them into an hour would be, seems to me, impossible. But it won't be necessary because, for those that care what I think, they will have the many posts which clearly spell out what is important to me. So, I felt somewhat off the hook and somewhat gratified the job is already done.
Needless to say, the living out these beliefs is a far greater task than to simply post them with a pretty picture. Jesus encourages us to keep on trying by his admonition - "men ought always to pray...."
Photo by Andre Arment

Friday, September 12, 2008

Social Worship

While away on business I read this piece and was so taken by his practical encouragement. I can't remember when I've read a quote this short that says so much about living out our faith in the practical good deeds God urges us to fulfill. I like the emphasis he puts on each of us as unique and necessary duties God created us for.

"Be assured that if thou failest, none other -- not nature, nor man, nor angel, nor Creator- will render the service or bestow the love due from thee. According to thine opportunity, thou must be the strength of the weak, the refuge of the sorrowful. Thou must have compassion on those within thy reach who are worn with toil; thou must defend and cherish the young, bless and support the aged, welcome strangers who come thy way; comfort those who are distressed in mind, body, or estate; extend thy mercy to the oppressed, and especially to those who suffer injustice or are persecuted for righteousness' sake. By strength of character thou art to help in saving the vicious. And by the sweet mystery of love it will be thy privilege to soothe into peace the spirit of the dying. All this thou must be and do. Thy deficiencies and imperfections offer no ground for exemption, for they will themselves be overcome and dissolved in the redemptive work that waits for thee." Stanton Coit, Social Worship. 1857

Christians with this attitude not only put wealth into the treasury of Christ, but find the world saying the words of Job 29:11-17. - "Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me." My heart wells up to see this young man serving this distressed man; he has received Godly council from good parents or mentors.

I don't know who the photographer was, a pity, he has an eye for the most excellent things.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I leave Sunday morning for a Trade Show in Las Vegas, I'll be there till Friday. Keep me in your prayers; few return from Vegas better than when they left.

What magic?

When I first read the following poem by Rabindranath Tagore, a philosopher and poet of India who lived in the mid 1800’s, I was so drawn in to the whelming love of this mother’s words for her child that it left me feeling like I had just risen from a cool swim on a hot day. Soul refreshment. Such anticipation and love. And then to contrast that to what I heard yesterday on Hank Hannegraph Bible Answer Man show, that the US had 2 million abortions last year; it leaves me speechless.
The Beginning

“Where have I come from, where did you pick me up?” the baby asked its mother.
She, half crying, half laughing, and clasping the baby to her breast,--
“You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling.
You were in the dolls of my childhood’s games; and when with clay I made the image of my god every morning, I made and unmade you then.
You were enshrined with our household deity; in his worship I worshiped you.
In all my hopes and my loves, in my life, in the life of my mother, you have lived.
in the lap of the deathless Spirit who rules our home you have been nursed for ages.
When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals, you hovered as a fragrance about it.
Your tender softness bloomed in my youthful limbs, like a glow in the sky before the sunrise.
Heaven’s first darling, twin-born with the morning light, you have floated down the stream of the world’s life, and at last you have stranded on my heart.
As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me: you who belong to all have become mine.
For fear of losing you I hold you tight to my breast. What magic has snared the world’s treasure in these slender arms of mine?”
Photo by Audrey Vahrushew

Friday, September 05, 2008

On a previous post we were discussing whether or not the poorest of the poor are able to appreciate beauty as much as those without such desperate needs. I had this picture in my folder awaiting a use, and when the discussion arose, I thought of it. I think it suggests that this person at least, who has the most humble of homes, does show appreciation for beauty with the humble plants and flowers adorning the house. I do know when sick or starving, the only comfort one gets is knowing they will live in the hereafter, but for the rest I am inclined to think they gain some comfort from the natural beauty God graced us with. I like to think so.

Photo by Veronique Lauro Lillo

I was asked about the work of Mother Teresa and those that are drawn to the "house of the mourning". I believe in the gifts of the Spirit, and one of those being the gift of "Helps", or as the NIV has it - "those able to help others". I have heard it called the gift of mercy or compassion. Certainly it is clarified in Matt. 23:23, "Don't neglect the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness." The importance of mercy is so apparent as not to need any further explanation. Ec. 7:2-4 says - "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure."

Interesting scriptures but any person with the gift of "helps", has a heart that resonates with understanding to this passage. I will include a quote that I posted a few years ago and I think it sheds additional light on this.

"Pity is a state of kindness excited by the sight of suffering." H.W. Beecher
Beecher has a way of defining things like few others I know. I have always felt the emotions one feels when sympathizing with a sufferer a very difficult thing to describe. The situations can be so grim but in the midst of it is a longing to be where the suffering abide. When I read this quote "a state of kindness" it seemed so clear to me. Suffering humanity draws out, compels us, to do something kind to that suffering person. Even the most hardened person is drawn into that 'state of kindness' when viewing suffering or sorrow. The 'state of kindness' not only brings consolation to the injured but it is a medicine to us. We are lifted even though we are in the most distressing circumstances. A bitter, sweet frame of mind. I can enter that state when I see dramatic needs, but I suspect the goal is to recognize quiet suffering with more and more sensitivity.

Their is a soul food in all ministry, and surely with those involved in ministries of compassion. So what may seem depressing to some, is life giving to others. I of course think Mother Teresa had this gift with unusual anointing, as the world stood in awe of her faithful imitation of Christ.

I'll insert one other quote from a past post -

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” Helps.

I think this quote relates to the scriptures I first quoted; being with people who are weeping sacred tears, draws us into those holy moments, and we learn there, what can be learned nowhere else.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

In Thomas Brook’s chapter “A Cabinet of Jewels”, he describes in ten parts comfort to the struggling Christian. I’ll only post the last of the ten, but it is a subject that is often neglected in Evangelical pulpits I have sat under. We have a high standard to work towards, “Be perfect.” It almost seems to me that we fear people will lose heart if we learn that people struggle in many ways. In this piece Brooks deals with these issues openly.

"Tenthly and lastly, Though poor, doubting, staggering, trembling Christians dare not say that Christ is their Savior, yet they dare say that they desire and endeavor to honor Christ as their Lord, though they cannot see Christ bestowing himself on them as their Redeemer, yet they are willing to make a resignation of themselves up to him as their King; they are willing to resign up their hearts and lives to the government of Jesus Christ. Though they cannot find comfort, yet they will oppose sin; though they cannot comprehend Christ, yet they will not willingly offend Christ: though they cannot see their own propriety in Christ, yet they desire nothing more than that Christ may claim a propriety in them; though they cannot see Christ as a friend, yet they can look upon sin as an enemy; though they cannot close with the promises, yet they will close with the precepts; though they cannot close with the privileges of a Christian, yet they will close with the services of a Christian; though they cannot share in the comforts of a Christian, yet they will side with the duties of a Christian; though they cannot clear up their interest in Christ, yet they are willing to yield subjection to Christ; though they lack strength to throw themselves into the arms of Christ to save them; yet they will cast themselves at the feet of Christ to serve him; though they lack the light of comfort and consolation, yet they will walk in the light of commands and directions.”

These are the signs of grace in the soul and though we stagger in many ways, His seal is not broken.

An eminent minister, who was a famous instrument of converting many to God, was wont to say, that for his own part, he had no other evidence in himself of being in the state of grace, than that he was sensible of his deadness.”

Photo by Nilpixel

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"Trying to be kind and honest seems an affair too simple and too inconsequential for gentlemen of our heroic mind; we had rather set ourselves to something bold, arduous, and conclusive: we had rather found a schism or suppress a heresy, cut off a hand or mortify an appetite. But the task before us, which is to co-endure with our existence, is rather one of microscopic fineness, and the heroism required is that of patience. There is no cutting of the Gordian knots of life; each must be smilingly unraveled.

To be honest, to be kind -- to earn a little and to spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence, to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered, to keep a few friends, but these without capitulation, -- above all, on the same grim condition, to keep friends with himself -- here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy." Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"To all persons interested in the betterment of society comes the reflection that getting on with men is life's abiding aim and end. Schools can teach no other knowledge comparable to this. It is important to train the child in music, to drill him in public speech, to teach him how to handle the horse and dog, how to swim and ride, the use of tools and engines, the nature and production of wealth,; but it is of far greater importance that youth should be given a knowledge of men, and become a skillful student of human nature; to learn how to read the face as an open book." Newell D. Hillis

"Be wise as serpents, but gentle as doves."

Photo by Nour Eddine El Ghourmari

Monday, September 01, 2008

Subject - The earnest and unfeigned desires and careful endeavors of the soul to abandon all sin, to forsake all sin, to be rid of all sin; - "Now where God sees this frame of spirit, there he will certainly pardon the failings, and pass by the imperfections of his people; and he 'will spare them as a man spareth his son that serveth him,' Mal. 3:17.
Now you know, when a prudent, tender, indulgent father sees his child to fail and come short in that which he enjoins him to do, yet knowing that his desires and endeavors are to please him and serve him, he will not be harsh, rigid, sour, or severe towards him, but will spare him, and exercise much tenderness and indulgence towards him; and will God, whose mercies reach above the heavens, and whose compassion's are infinite, and whose love is like himself, carry it worse towards his children than men do carry it towards theirs? Surely no. God's fatherly indulgence accepts of the will for the work, Heb.13:18, 2Cor. 8:12, as a father will accept in his child the desire for the deed, and if there be a blemish in his child, he will pity it, and cast a mantle of love over it.
A sick man is not more desirous to be rid of all his diseases, nor a prisoner to be freed from all his bolts and chains, than the true penitent is desirous to be rid of all his sins." Thomas Brooks

Until of late, I hadn't underlined 2Cor. 8:12, but I wonder how I haven't? Such an important verse in Christian societies where legalism prevails.

Thomas Brooks - Photo by Morteza Khorrami