Sunday, November 30, 2008

Alcibiades, the most fashionable and unscrupulous young man in Athens, is here describing the effect upon him of the words of Socrates.

“When we hear any other speaker he produces no effect upon us, or not much; whereas the mere fragments of Socrates and his words amaze and possess the soul of every man.
My heart leaps within me and my eyes rain tears when I hear them. I have heard Pericles and other great orators, and I think they speak well, but my soul was not stirred by them. But Socrates has often brought me to such a pass that I have felt as if I could hardly endure the life I am leading, and I know that if I did not shut my ears against him he would transfix me, and I should grow old sitting at his feet.
For he makes me confess that I ought not to live as I do, neglecting the wants of my own soul; therefore I hold my ears and tear myself away from him.
He is the only person who ever made me ashamed, for I know that I cannot answer him; but when I leave his presence the love of popularity gets the better of me, and therefore I run away and fly from him, and am ashamed of what I have confessed to him. Many a time I wished that he were dead, and yet I know that I should be much more sorry than glad if he were to die.”

Wow, what a powerful and convicting quote. Socrates was one of the world’s great minds, and no doubt not a stranger to his soul but what this quote makes me think is that although great wisdom has a strong appeal, yet it has no destination. Where could this young man take his feelings of shame? Not to Socrates, because as wise as he was, he was but a man and he would join the state of the dead and what would the young man be left with. But we preach Jesus, and when the state of our soul is discovered we have a destination; we have a remedy that is not temporal and not in a man, but we go to the living God that can relieve the shame, empower the will, and change the soul.

Painting by Henryk Siemiradzki

"Completely destitute at a train station Joghis. Still enough for a smile. She could be a model anywhere but she begs for change here. Days, years in the unforgiving Indian sun." - Comments by the photographer Caleb Coleman.

I've had this picture filed for quite a while; it moves me. When I look at this young woman and notice her diminishing beauty and hear the struggles the photographer stated above, I want to personally come to her aid, but there are millions world-wide just like her, and I am but just one. But there are many others already in the harvest field, and my hope is to stir up that fruit of kindness so we may enable Christian workers to......... maybe even reach her.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dear Madam,
You would have me tell you what are the best means to be used by a young person to prevent the world, with all its opening and ensnaring scenes, from drawing the heart aside from God……
I could offer you rules, cautions, and advices in abundance; for I find it comparatively easy to preach to others. But if you should further ask me how you shall effectually reduce them to practice, I feel that I am so deficient and so much at a loss in this matter myself that I know not well what to say to you.

Yet something must be said.

In the fist place, then I would observe that though it be our bounden duty and the highest privilege we can propose to ourselves to have our hearts kept close to the Lord; yet we must not expect it absolutely or perfectly, much less all at once; we shall keep close to Him in proportion as we are solidly convinced of the infinite disparity between Him and the things which would presume to stand in competition with Him and the folly, as well as ingratitude, of departing from Him. But these points are only to be learned by experience and by smarting under a series of painful disappointments in our expectations from creatures.
Our judgments may be quickly satisfied that His favor is better than life, while yet it is in the power of a mere trifle to turn us aside. The Lord permits us to feel our weakness that we may be sensible of it; for though we are ready in words to confess that we are weak, we do not properly know it till that secret though unallowed dependence we have upon some strength in ourselves is brought to the trial and fails us. To be humble and like a little child, afraid of taking a step alone, and so conscious of snares and dangers around us as to cry to Him continually to hold us up that we may be safe, is the sure, the infallible, the only secret of walking closely with Him.”
I picked this up today and was immediately taken by his humility and his reality; He points out that we must not get false expectations as to the speed of spiritual growth, and when we think we stand, a mere trifle will sidetrack us. I like his prescription for walking closely with God as he concludes.
John Newton - Photo by John Potter

Friday, November 28, 2008

I was corresponding with a friend about TRUTH. How does one arrive at it, what is the difference between Truth and Facts; Is there a difference? So I decided to write the normal course I take in testing Truth.

The Bible is full of facts about truth: some are clearly evident to all, some are veiled. I interpret the veiled facts in a context of what I know to be the nature and love of God as I understand it; the clear and obvious teaching of Scripture, what I see demonstrated in the life of Christ, as well as the apostles, as I understand it in the Old Testament. I also include in that interpretation, opinions of others, Christian authors of all persuasions, commentaries, common sense, and lastly reason and my experiential walk with God. Not necessarily in that order.

When a veiled truth teaches something that violates some of the above for me, I choose to stand undecided. But if a "truth" or fact violates all of the above, I resist it and unless I hear a great deal more of clear evidence to prove the case, I choose to deny it.

If “truth” results in bondage, confusion, grievous burdens, division, arrogance, elitism, deprecation of others, bigotry or anything that holds no spiritual life in it for me, but rather causes me to stumble, entangle, doubt, repulse, offends, insights the carnal desires or denies what I believe to be solid truth about who Christ is, I resist it.

Jesus has a consistent way of moving in my soul to lift me and encourage me, grow compassion and adoration for Him within me, inflame my spirit to obey, to serve and to love Him and all of mankind; to overlook faults, seek the best of others, and want to sing and shout, cry and weep. So as I listen to a "truth" or fact when it is presented to me, regardless of how scholarly the source, I test that spirit to see if it is the Spirit I know and the One in whom I believe.
If it is not, or it is veiled in some way, I pass on it and trust those lessons, revelations, truths and facts that have brought me thus far.

I know I am one of His sheep, and I know His voice. Sometimes I hear His voice in nature, in other believers, in unbelievers and in the classroom of life as well as the depths of my being. But if it is God, I believe it will be consistent with the above.
Facts may persuade me, they may cause me to study, to search and question, but in the end if it isn't His voice, I take leave of it.

That's it in a nutshell and I don't think I have left anything out and I also think it is the general course of many.

Photo by Alvinas Balzekas

What is life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

Now time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

Not time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

Not time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

I read this the other day and somehow it seemed to illustrate part of the Thanksgiving Season to me.

I enjoy gardening, and when breath is bated, I often stand and stare. I think this is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much, time alone to study the beauty and watch the squirrel as the words of Beecher come to mind -

Yonder is a red squirrel on the ground, utterly without fear, and prying about in that pert and nimble way that always makes me laugh. They are so proud of their tails too! They always hold them up, and coquette with them as a lady twirls and flourishes her fan. And though when running on the ground, or peeping about for seeds, they trail them at full length, yet they never sit down for a moment without closing up this important member as if they feared that something would step on it.

Poem by W. H. Davies - Photo by Sergio Pessolano

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I picked up a little book I've had for some time called "Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius".
I have never read it, maybe because of the word exercises, I'm not naturally drawn to that word. But I have been reading some of it and I ran across a paragraph on evidences of the Holy Spirit or the consolations of God working in the soul. It is a succinct, compact almost legal presentation, but I have read it over many times and although presented in a rather formal manner, I think it sums up the subject rather well.

"Third Rule of spiritual consolation. I call it consolation when there is excited in the soul some interior movement by which it begins to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and when, consequently, it cannot love any created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but only in the Creator of all.
Likewise when it pours forth tears, moving it to the Love of its Lord, whether it be from sorrow for its sins or for the Passion of Christ our Lord, or for other things expressly directed to His service and praise.
In short, I call by the name of consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts the soul to heavenly things, and to its own salvation, rendering it quiet and at peace in its Creator and Lord."

The one verse that I don't completely understand is - "and when, consequently, it cannot love any created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but only in the Creator of all."

What's your take on it?

Photo by Renata Aska

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Table Talk

This paragraph is from Orison Swett Marden's chapter titled "Boys With No Chance".
"Stephen Girard had "no chance." He left his home in France when ten years old, and came to America as a cabin boy. His great ambition was to get on and succeed at any cost. There was no work, however hard and disagreeable, that he would not undertake. Midas like, he turned to gold everything he touched, and became one of the wealthiest merchants of Philadelphia.
His abnormal love of money cannot be commended, but his thoroughness in all he did, his public spirit at times of national need, and willingness to risk his life to save strangers sick with the deadly yellow fever, are traits of character well worthy of imitation."
There are a number of things I like about this quote; when I whine and moan, it sobers me; it offers encouragement in the difficult times we are in; and I like the way he separates the meat from the bones: he recognizes this man's faults, but appreciates his strengths. Emerson said
"a man should be remembered for his best traits", something like that, and that is what Marden does in this quote, he notes his abnormal love of money, but after that bone is removed, there is wholesome meat to enjoy. I like That.
I put this post under "Table Talk", which is a heading I'm using for quotes, thoughts, or stories that are not necessarily Christian, but are moral or ethical and good for discussion with friends or children.
Photo taken from the internet

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I heard Hayley DiMarco speak on radio last year about this book for young teens. I bought it and recommend it for all parents of young teen girls. Hayley talks to teen girls with tactful frankness about their appearance and how it affects those of the opposite sex. I think her comment "If it ain't on the menu, keep it covered up," gives the flavor of her writing style. Young teens will learn in depth about what triggers arousal and fantasy in males, and enlightens them that what may seem cool or flirty to a 14 year old boy, also triggers responses in the fifty year old man as she sashays past him in the mall. I think it is a must read for all young teens in our culture.
I was reading in Luke 10 when verse 8 raised itself – “And whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you:”…….

I began thinking that a blogspot is something of a city; it is a place where people share the world as they see it. They prepare, as it were, a meal for visitors that are invited to come in. When people visit a blog they peruse the fare served up and may find it quite different from ‘Mom’s’ cooking. Sometimes we look at this strange meal with a curious and reserved attitude. Sometimes we poke the food, turn it over, examine it on all sides and make sure that it is safe for consumption.
Of course we try and do this as discreetly as possible but if the meal is from a different culture or kitchen than we are used to, we can be reluctant and may but nibble at first. Or, we may be convinced that it is contaminated and leave the home, carefully cleaning our shoes so we don’t carry any contaminated crumb off with us.

Now if you came to Oregon and were to eat fresh Salmon, which is plentiful here, I would warn you to watch for bones, Salmon have many. But they are delicious.
Most folks are familiar with meat and the caution required to avoid bones, and have no fear. But there are some that never eat fish for fear of dying from swallowing a bone; those I strongly caution because I serve lots of Salmon here.

Picture from the internet

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Table Talk"

"The rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher, dressed in a new suit. Everyone who has mixed in equal terms with the poor knows this quite well."

I found this an interesting statement, and although I don't agree in whole, I think there is a lot of truth to it. Some poor have become so because of many poor choices that have led to addicitions, crimes and violence. But I don't think that is the thrust of his statement, but rather that people in general fight the same battles, feel the same woes and joys, and have the same worth in God's eyes. I have been born in a country where wealth abounds, but I have done some travel where wealth is nearly impossible to gain, but the people are the same, and in some cases appear to be happier. Without fail, I always leave feeling a strong kinship regardless of their circumstances.

When visiting my son in Thailand we were all invited to a birthday party and dinner. The party was for a little girl my son's family knew and cared about. The party was at the little girls home. The parents were lepers and lived in a leper colony. They cooked for us and we celebrated with them and although they knew little English and had less money, they prepared a wonderful feast for us and showed us such kindness and hospitality. I have never eaten in more humble surroundings, but I will likely never forget that night.

George Orwell - photo by Bob Kurt

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I have been reading in Orison Swett Marden’s book “Pushing to the Front”. In this chapter on “Opportunity” I think it will give you a flavor of the whole book.

Opportunities! Every life is full of them. Every lesson in school or college is and opportunity. Every examination is a chance in life. Every patient is an opportunity. Every newspaper article, every client is an opportunity. Every sermon is an opportunity, - an opportunity to be polite; an opportunity to be manly, an opportunity to be honest; an opportunity to make friends. Every proof of confidence in you is a great opportunity. Every responsibility thrust upon your strength and your honor is priceless. Existence is the privilege of effort, and when that privilege is met like a man, opportunities to succeed along the line of your aptitude will come faster than you can use them. If a slave like Fred Douglass, who did not even own his own body, can elevate himself into an orator, editor, statesman, what might you do?”

“On the morning of September 6th, 1838, a young woman in the Longstone Lighthouse, between England and Scotland, was awakened by shrieks of agony rising above the roar of wind and wave. A storm of unwonted fury was raging, and her parents could not hear the cries; but a telescope showed nine human beings clinging to the windlass of a wrecked vessel whose bow was hanging on the rocks half a mile away. “We can do nothing, it is too dangerous” said William Darling, the lighthouse keeper. “Ah, yes, we must go to the rescue,” exclaimed his daughter, pleading tearfully with both her father and mother, until her father replied: “Very well, Grace, I will let you persuade me, though it is against my better judgment.”
Like a feather in a whirlwind the little boat was tossed on the tumultuous sea, but borne on the blast that swept the cruel surge, the shrieks of those shipwrecked sailors seemed to change her weak sinews into cords of steel. Strength hitherto unsuspected came from somewhere, and the heroic girl pulled one oar in even time with her father. At length the nine were safely on board. “God Bless you; but you’re a bonny English lass,” said one poor fellow, as he looked wonderingly upon this marvelous girl, who that day had done a deed which added more to England’s glory than the exploits of many of her monarchs.”

I love stories like this one, and now that I have a brain, I read and pass on stories of this kind to my kids and grandkids. I believe they make indelible marks on their minds and hearts that I truly believe will bear fruit over and over throughout their lives.

Painting from the Internet

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I had the pleasure of listening to a lengthy sermon on a friend’s blog last night. It was a two hour sermon addressed to Pastors urging them to get back to putting first things first. He covered 10 issues he felt were pressing needs in the church today. I had to agree with him on all of his points, and it was encouraging to hear.
That being said, he did neglect what I consider to be an important element.
Let me begin by saying; if I were in a position to talk for two hours (not likely) there are some things that I would certainly not want to overlook. In this entire two hour sermon he did not once mention the plight of the oppressed, nor the world’s poor, nor the plight of the children being kidnapped and used as child prostitutes. In fact, the entire topic of charitable work never once came up.

As I was reading in Luke chapter 8 and 9 this morning, I found Jesus always busy about the Kingdom and all through the chapters he never neglected to stop and minister to the poor, the diseased and sick. When he sent the disciples out He gave them power and authority to drive out demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

This ever present compassion was pervasive in Christ’s earthly ministry.
I believe His heart was ever aware of the entire needs of mankind and be it a woman in a crowd that He never even looked upon, but knew of her faith and need, to the raising of Jairus’s daughter from the dead, he burned inside with love for mankind and as important as saving man from sin, offering eternal life in the next world, He never missed an opportunity to place his healing touch on some poor sufferer in this world.
So, when I assess a man and his ministry, I look for this compassion of Christ to spill over and season his entire ministry. If it is lacking or not mentioned at all,
I know some key ingredient is missing. Christ summarized his priorities on two occasions by saying - love God in holiness and love your neighbor. And also - Seek justice, mercy and faithfulness without neglecting the other things.
I felt he was unfaithful to the poor by neglecting them and had this burned within him like the other issues he spoke to, and with great passion I might add, then I would have been greatly encouraged. But it was not so. How can that be?
Photo by Tous Les Noms

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The following is a piece by Thomas Brooks on “The Hypocrite" taken from his book 'A Cabinet of Jewels'.

The hypocrite will not always call upon God; he will not persevere in prayer; he will not hold on nor hold out in prayer; he is short-spirited; he cannot always pray and not faint, or shrink back as sluggards do in work, or cowards in war. An hypocrite, for lack of an inward principle, can neither delight in God, nor always call upon God. If God comes not at his call, if he opens not as soon as he knocks, he is out of patience, and ready to say with that proud profane prince, “Behold, this evil is of the Lord, and why should I wait for him any longer?” 2Kings 6:33
If an hypocrite obtains the mercy he desires, then he will throw off prayer, as he said, “take away the net, the fish is caught;” if he obtains not the mercy, then he will grow weary of his duty. Prayer is too hard and too high a work for an unsound heart to hold on in. Prayer is heart-work, and that proves heavy work to him. The soul of prayer lies in the pouring out of the soul before God, and this is a work that an hypocrite has no skill in.”

This picture is taken by Eduardo Valdivia and it's called "Embrace", I thought it fitting to represent the soul of man united with the heart of God.

Monday, November 17, 2008

“The point of criticism is to explain what is obscure in the authors which we read, to supply what is defective, and amend what is erroneous in manuscripts, to correct the mistakes of authors and editors in the sense or the words, to reconcile the controversies of the learned, and by this means to spread a juster knowledge of those things among the inquisitive part of mankind.

And whensoever any person has arrived at such a degree of knowledge in these things as to furnish him well for the practice of criticism, let him take great care that pride and insolence, do not mingle themselves with his remarks and censures. Let him remember the common frailties of human nature, and the mistakes to which the wisest man is sometimes liable, that he may practice this art with due modesty and candor.”
I have learned so much from Isacck Watts book "Improving the Mind". He approaches conversation and debate in such a gentlemanly manner, and with great wisdom as to pull out the necessary while leaving the dignity of all in tact.
Photo by Yuri Bonder

"Often I have marvelled how each one of us loves himself
above all men, yet sets less store by his own opinion of
himself than by that of everyone else."
Marcus Aurelius - Painting by Jeffrey R. Watts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I watched a moving and inspiring documentary tonight titled “Darfur Now”. It informed the viewer about the atrocities going on in Sudan’s war torn Darfur, but it focused on six people, all with one desire to do something to help.

One young man who became an activist to get legislation passed that would help put financial pressure on the oppressing regime. One man a international prosecutor working to bring to justice the war criminals, one Sudanese woman (pictured below) who enlisted in the rebel army to protect the people, another man a leader of the World Food Program, another man working in the refugee camps to help people who have lost everything, and an internationally know actor who labors to find all means to achieve justice.
To see each of these people devoted in their own way, with their own abilities all working towards one goal was so inspirational. Such heroics, courage and faithfulness as they each work towards justice and mercy for the Sudanese in Darfur using their different talents.

The message was simple: each person can play a role in overcoming evil, whatever your talent, whether you go or send, use your hands or the political system, each of us can do something, must do something.

Photos from the Internet

"Do thou be wise. Prefer the person before money, virtue before beauty, the mind before the body: then thou hast a wife, a friend, a companion, a second self, one that bears an equal share with thee in all thy toils and troubles.
Choose one that measures her satisfactions, safety, and danger, by thine; and of whom thou are sure, as of thy most secret thoughts: a friend as well as a wife: which, indeed implies: for she is but half a wife that is not, or is not capable of being such a friend.
Sexes make no difference; since in souls there is none: and they are the subjects of friendship.
He that minds a body, and not a soul, has not the better part of that relation; and will consequently lack the noblest comfort of a married life.
The satisfaction of our senses is low, short, and transient: but the mind gives a more raised and extended pleasure, and is capable of a happiness founded upon reason, not bounded and limited by the circumstances that bodies are confined to..........

Between a man and his wife, nothing ought to rule but love. Authority is for children and servants; yet not without sweetness.
As love ought to bring them together, so it is the best way to keep them well together.
Wherefore, use her not as a servant, whom thou wouldst, perhaps, have served seven years to have obtained." William Penn.

I think this quote is proof that evolution is false, because this piece, written in the 1600s, is high above many of the motives for marriage today. Certainly many understand his simple logic and made choices accordingly, but far too many follow the impulses they let run riot as teens and seek to perpetuate them in marriage.

Photo from the Internet

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else. They constantly defile the silence of the forest and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness."

I have read many quotes by Thomas Merton and he always makes me stop and take immediate inventory of myself. Now when I was a young man, busy to fill the emptiness, my self-concern machine left a trail of debris wide and long and wreaked havoc among many a soul. Wish it were not so.
Also wish I could say I am guiltless now.

Thomas Merton - Photo by Kharlamov Sergey.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The following piece is by George MacDonald, a somewhat mystical Christian writer, and he chooses an interesting scripture to expound -"To him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. “ Rev. 2:17
He gives his insights on what this new name is. This will be very meaningful for some but I can see why it may not have as broad an appeal as some topics. I enjoyed it; the thrust of it is, we each are unique to God.

The true name is one which expresses the character, the nature, the being, the meaning of the person who bears it. It is the man’s own symbol, - his soul’s picture, in a word, - the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own name? God alone.
For no one but God sees what the man is, or even, seeing what he is, could express in a name-word the sum and harmony of what he sees.

For the name is one “which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Not only then has each man his individual relation to God, but each man has his peculiar relation to God. He is to God a peculiar being, made after his own fashion, and that of no one else; for when he is perfected he shall receive the new name which no one else can understand. Hence he can worship God as no man else can worship him, - can understand God as no man can understand him. This or that man may understand God more, may understand God better than he, but no other man can understand God as he understands him. God give me grace to be humble before thee, my brother, that I drag not my simulacrum (something that looks like or represents something else) of thee before the judgment-seat of the unjust judge, but look up to thyself for what revelation of God thou and no none else canst give.

As the fir tree lifts up itself with a far different need from the need of the palm-tree, so does each man stand before God, and lift up a different humanity to the common Father. And for each, God has a different response. With every man he has a secret – the secret of a new name. In every man there is a loneliness, an inner chamber of peculiar life into which God only can enter.
I say not it is the innermost chamber – but a chamber into which no brother, nay, no sister can come.
From this it follows that there is a chamber also….a chamber in God himself, into which none can enter but the one, the individual, the peculiar man, - out of which that man has to bring revelation and strength for his brethren. This is that for which he was made – to reveal the secret things of the Father……

“God has cared to make me for himself,” says the victor with the white stone, “and has called me that which I like best; for my own name must be what I would have it, seeing it is myself. What matter whether I be called a grass of the field, or an eagle of the air? A stone to build into his temple, or a Boanerges to wield his thunder? I am his; his idea, his making; perfect in my kind, yea, perfect in his sight; full of him, revealing him, alone with him. Let him call me what he will. The name shall be precious as my life. I seek no more.”

Now I have no doubt I will be "grass of the field" but I can add beauty for the eye, shade for the grasshopper, and nourishment for the cow.

Photo from the Internet

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"If thou must love me, let it be for naught
Except for love's sake only."

I like this quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browing because it reminds me of one of the main reasons that brought me to Christ. I saw a woman at a church drawing posters for an upcoming event for the children. She was hard at it and I asked her something which I now forget, but I left realizing she was doing her task on volunteer time, for no reason other than her love for children. I was about 22 years old, childless, and in my world nothing was done unless there was a payback.

I sometimes wonder if we betray love when we befriend a person with the motive of converting them. I know that sounds odd, but if I am befriended by someone and later find out they wanted to sell me Amway products, I'm let down.

I chose this picture by Pietro Elice, because it reminded me that we love animals but for naught, but loves sake. I wonder if humans don't deserve the same?

When I was a young Christian, we would go down to skid-row with the express intention of just helping whoever we saw that needed help. I remember one older man in a phone booth who went in to use it for a toilet, and in his drunken state collapsed with his pants down to his thighs, we just helped him up, pulled up and fastened his pants and helped him find a place to lay down. I never forgot that incident.

"The fruit of the spirit is love....goodness..."

Just my ramblings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pious fits

"We allow the arguments of religion to have so little impression upon our spirits, that they operate but like the discourses of childhood, or the problems of uncertain philosophy: A man talks of religion but as of a dream, and from hence he awakens into the business of the world, and performs that deliberately, with perfect action and full resolution, and he contrives, considers, and lives in it: but when he falls asleep again, or is taken from the scene of his own employment and choice; then he dreams again, and religion makes such impressions as is the conversation of a dreamer, and he acts accordingly.
Theocritus tells of a Fisherman, that dreamed he had taken a Fish of gold, upon which being over-joyed he made a vow, that he would never fish anymore: But when he waked, he soon declared his vow to be null, because he found his golden Fish had escaped through the holes of his eyes, when he first opened them. Just as we do in the purpose of religion; sometimes in a good mood we seem to see heaven opened, and all the streets of Heavenly Jerusalem paved with gold and precious stones, and we are ravished with spiritual apprehensions, and resolve never to return to the low affections of the world, and the impure adherencies of sin, but when this flash of lightning is gone, and we converse again with the inclinations, and habitual desires of our false hearts, those other desires and fine considerations disband, and the resolutions taken in that pious fit melt into indifferency, and old customs."

I would call this a pessimistic paragraph if I hadn't proved it so many times in my life. Times when I was "ravished with spiritual apprehensions" so rich and pure that I walked in the afterglow for days........ but then a little of this business, a little of that worry, and I slip back into my typical "habitual desires of my false heart." Thank God for mercy that endureth forever!

Jeremy Taylor - photo by Andrew Hefter

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I love both of these photos although the contrast of emotions is so dramatic. The little girl in the top photo so intent on paying back her unseen adversary, drenched in summer fun. Action in her taut arm muscles and circular gush of water. Memory laden with days of my youth.
The second dramatic, haunting photo, void of all the above emotions and captured so emotionally by the photographer, immediately snaps me into a world where need is the overwhelming reality.

Top photo by Flowsnow - songkran
Bottom photo by Birte Person

Monday, November 10, 2008

"When preaching on Isaiah 27:5, which says - "Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with Me," Mr. Toller of Kettering at once threw a flood of light on the text, and melted his audience into tenderness and tears, by saying, "I think I can convey the meaning of this passage so that every one may understand it by what took place in my own family within these last few days.

"One of my little children had committed a fault for which I thought it my duty to chastise him. I called him to me, explained to him the evil of what he had done, and told him how grieved I was that I must punish him for it. He heard me in silence, and then rushed into my arms, and burst into tears. I would have sooner cut off my arms than have then struck him for his fault. He had taken hold of my strength, and he had made peace with me." -- Sunday at Home.

I take that to mean that God's Mercy is His strength. I like that.

Photo taken from the Internet

Sunday, November 09, 2008

In the following quote from Isaac Watts’s book “Improving the Mind”; he addresses how we should take into consideration all circumstances surrounding an action; the persons, the time, place, manner, the purpose, etc. He uses a great little illustration to make his point. Now please, dog lovers don’t be prejudiced by the first line….

“Let me give a plain instance for the illustration of this matter. Mario kills a dog, which, considered merely in itself, seems to be an indifferent action: now the dog was Timon’s and not his own; this makes it look unlawful. But Timon bid him do it; this gives it an appearance of lawfulness again. It was done at church, and in time of Divine service; these circumstances added, cast on it an air of irreligion. But the dog flew at Mario, and put him in danger of his life; this relieves the seeming impiety of the action. Yet Mario might have escaped by flying thence; therefore the action appears to be improper. But the dog was known to be mad; this further circumstance makes it almost necessary that the dog should be slain, lest he might worry the assembly, and do much mischief. Yet again, Mario killed him with a pistol, which he happened to have in his pocket since yesterday’s journey; now, hereby the whole congregation was terrified and discomposed, and Divine service was broken off, this carries an appearance of great indecency and impropriety in it: but, after all, when we consider a further circumstance, that Mario, being thus violently assaulted by a mad dog, had no way of escape, and had no other weapon about him, it seems to take away all the colors of impropriety, indecency, or unlawfulness, and to allow that the preservation of one or many lives will justify the act as wise and good.
Now, all these concurrent appendices of the action ought to be surveyed, in order to pronounce with justice and truth concerning it.

There are a multitude of human actions in private life, in domestic affairs, in traffic, in civil government, in courts of justice, in schools of learning, etc. which have so many complicated circumstances, aspects, and situations, with regard to time and place, persons and things, that it is impossible for any one to pass a right judgment concerning them without entering into most of these circumstances, and surveying them extensively, and comparing and balancing them all rightly.”
Photo from Internet

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Out of the blue I picked up an old book of mine and read the following two stories, which I decided to post for all our inspiration, and they are great stories to tell your children and discuss the obvious applications.

Dionysius, a man of strange and capricious temper, though of great abilities, became a general and won many battles for his countrymen. His lust for power led him to forcefully establish his power and control over the city in which he lived. This power was not according to the laws but he was an exceedingly able man and know one dared to attempt to overthrow him. He made the city much more rich and powerful. There is a famous anecdote told about a friend of Dionysius named Damocles, who was overheard saying he wished to be in Dionysius’s position of wealth and power for just a night. Dionysius decided to give him his wish and for one night Damocles found himself at a banquet with everything that could delight his senses; delicious food, costly wine, flowers, perfumes, music; but with a sword and its point almost touching the top of his head, and hanging by a single horsehair! This was to show the condition in which the usurper Dionysius lived!

Story from "The Book of Golden Deeds". - photo from the Internet

Dionysius was in a constant dread and once put his barber to death for boasting that he held a razor to the tyrant’s throat. Many lost their lives to the tyrant and among those that came under the tyranny and distrust of Dionysius was a man called Pythias, who was sentenced to death, according to the usual fate of those who fell under his suspicion. Pythias owned land and had family in Greece, and he entreated Dionysius to do him the favor of allowing him to return home for a specified time after which he would return to face his death. The tyrant laughed his request to scorn. Once safely away who would answer for his return? Pythias made reply that he had a friend, who would become security for his return; and while Dionysius, the miserable man who trusted nobody, was ready to scoff at his simplicity, another friend of Pythias named Damon, came forward, and offered to become surety for his friend, engaging that, if Pythias did not return according to promise, he would suffer death in his stead.
Dionysius, much astonished, consented to let Pythias go, marveling what would happen. Time went on, and Pythias did not appear. The whole town watched Damon, but he showed no uneasiness. He said he was secure of his friend’s truth and honor, and if any accident had caused the delay of his return, he should rejoice in dying to save the life of one so dear to him.
Even to the last day Damon continued serene and content, however it might turn out; nay, even when the very hour drew nigh and still no Pythias. His trust was so perfect, that he did not even grieve at having to die for a faithless friend who had left him to the fate to which he had unwarily pledged himself. "It was not Pythias’ own will, but it must be the winds and waves that prevent him", he still declared, when the decree was brought and the instruments of death made ready. The hour had come, and a few moments more would have ended Damon’s life, when Pythias duly presented himself, embraced his friend, and stood forward himself to receive his sentence, calm, resolute, and rejoiced that he had come in time.
Even the dim hope they owned of a future state was enough to make these two brave men keep their word, and confront death for one another without quailing.
Dionysius the tyrant looked on more struck than ever. He felt that neither of such men must die. He reversed the sentence of Pythias, and calling the two to his judgment-seat, he entreated them to admit him as a third person in their friendship.
Story from "A Book of Golden Deeds". - Photo from internet

Friday, November 07, 2008

“Many a man conscientiously goes up to the weekly pulpit-feeding, through storm and sickness, as a matter of duty, who never thinks of doing a work of Christian mercy, or engaging in any kind of ministry during the week…….

Now the Christian world knows its duty well enough. It has
no need of half the teaching it gets. It is always feeding beyond the necessities, and, as I honestly believe, to its own damage. Let it ask itself which would please its Master best –
Teaching some ignorant child the way of life, or going to hear a great sermon – visiting and consoling some poor mourner, or going to a prayer meeting – stirring up some weak soul to duty, or seeking for an hour of emotional excitement – going to meeting always, or laboring occasionally for the reclamation of some sad wanderer from the path of virtue?
Timothy Titcomb - photo by Taci Yuksel

Thursday, November 06, 2008

“It is the narrowness of mind that awakens the surprise and aversion of some persons, when they hear of doctrines and schemes in human affairs, or in religion, quiet different from what they have embraced. Perhaps they have been trained up from their infancy in one set of notions, and their thoughts have been confined to one single tract, both in the civil or religious life, without ever hearing or knowing what other opinions are current among mankind; or at least they have seen all other notions besides their own represented in a false and malignant light, whereupon they judge and condemn at once every sentiment but what their own party receives, and they think it is a piece of justice and truth to lay heavy censures upon the practice of every different sect in Christianity or politics. They have so rooted themselves in the opinions of their party, that they cannot hear an objection with patience, nor can they bear a vindication, or so much as an apology for any set of principles besides their own: all the rest is nonsense or heresy, folly or blasphemy.”
I suppose if there is any one fault of the evangelical church it is spelled out in this post, especially in the last sentence. If a new thought arises it is immediately demonized and pulpits pound outrage and condemnation, and the large part of the congregation loves it so. How will improvement every come?
Isaac Watts - photo by Tony Hnojcik

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

“Come all you beasts of the field,
come and devour, all you beasts of the forest!
Israel’s watchmen are blind,
they all lack knowledge;
they are mute dogs,
they cannot bark,
they lie around and dream,
they love to sleep.
They are dogs with mighty appetites,
They never have enough.
They are shepherds who lack understanding,
They all turn to their own way,
Each seeks his own gain.
“Come”, each one cries, “let me get wine!”
Let us drink our fill of beer!
And tomorrow will be like today,
Or even far better.” Is. 56: 9-12

I read these verses this morning and somehow on the eve of a new President with promises of change, I have little hope of it coming to fruition lest I heed this

The words that stuck out to me were blind watchmen. In a world where through the many mediums of communication we see so much need I can find myself turning a blind eye and not even offering a prayer.

“They lack knowledge”-- I have doctrine, creeds, Bible studies, but the poor are lying at my gate, will my creed house them, feed them, rescue them?

Oh yes I love to dream, to pledge, to promise! …….. but I also love to sleep.

How will I lead even a flock of one without understanding?

Where is living simply so others may simply live? I must have my way and my possessions.

Do I then seek more of the intoxication of the world believing this is the narrow way?

Maybe change is coming for America -- I think I hear a howling.

Photo by Banovich

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The following is written by the photographer Yanglong7 from Flickr - "This guy is badly deformed and unable to rise. Each day he writes a poem on the pavement that describes his background and the difficulties he faces. Most people don't bat an eye at this in Guangzhou, and some even trampled over the words he had poured out."

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered". Pr. 21:13

I see that the photographer knows how often this man comes, what he writes about, and has told his story. I have no doubt that he heard the cry of this poor man and has offered what he could to him. God help me to hear and see and act.

Private matter

Please know that Sue and I are heartsick and we are here for you at any time, you are in our prayers and we hope you trust your instincts during this storm. In warmest affection fom both of us, love Fred and Sue.

Monday, November 03, 2008

“We should be very curious in examining all propositions that pretend to this honor of being general principles; and we should not, without just evidence, admit into this rank mere matters of common fame, or commonly received opinions; no, nor the general determinations of the learned, or the established articles of any church or nation, etc.; for there are many learned presumptions, many synodical and national mistakes, many established falsehoods, as well as many vulgar errors, wherein multitudes of men have followed one another for whole ages almost blindfold. It is of great importance for every man to be careful that these general principles are just and true; for one error may lead us into thousands which will naturally follow, if once a leading falsehood be admitted.”

“These are some of the advantages which arise from the eighth rule, viz: Pursue every inquiry and study in proportion to its real value and importance.
Have a care lest some beloved notion, or some darling science, so far prevail over your mind as to give a sovereign tincture to all your other studies, and discolor all your ideas; like a person in the jaundice, who spreads a yellow scene with his eyes over all the objects which he meets. I have know a man of peculiar skill in music, and much devoted to that science, who found out a great resemblance of the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity in every single note, and he thought it carried something of argument in it to prove that doctrine. I have read of another, who accommodated the seven days of the first week of creation to seven notes of music, and thus the whole creation became harmonious.”
These two paragraphs have so many applications; we can believe doctrinal issues that are in error and like the first paragraph, "that lead us into a thousand which will naturally follow", so in natural science, like evolution, one error can lead to the denial of God to some. Lately, this applied to me regarding a person, and applying error to misunderstanding them and finding a "jaundice tincture" coloring all conversation.
When I post things like this I don't mean we should question every thing we are taught, but after one has learned and become founded in a belief, this quote cautions us to not become settled and content to look no further. I am reminded how heretics were commonly killed by both Catholic and Protestants because of a blindness to fuller truth. The list of examples are endless, and who knows what each of us considers to be truth that may very well be error? Does this bring to mind any that have made the news lately?
Painting by Lord Frederick Leighton

Sunday, November 02, 2008

.....But while prosperity is apt to harden the heart of pride, adversity in a man of resolution will serve to ripen it with fortitude. To use the words of Burke, "Difficulty is a severe instructor, set over us by the supreme ordinance of a parental guardian and instructor, who knows us better than we know ourselves, as He loves us better too. He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill; our antagonist is thus our helper." Without the necessity of encountering difficulty, life might be easier, but men would be worth less. Samuel Smiles.

I looked at a number of pictures before choosing this one to go with this post; I see in this man's rugged exterior a look of kindness, and of course pride in whom I consider to be his child. He has a rough-hewn appearance and his hands are no stranger to hard labor. I have no doubt I would find conversation with him a pleasure. He holds his daughter with tenderness but who would doubt those arms would turn to violence if she needed protection.

Photo by Mitchel Kanashkevich

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I had no idea what a gem I had found in Isaac Watt’s book titled “Improving the Mind”, I have since read up on him and found out he was a prolific writer, not only of Christian hymns, which he wrote over 750, but he also wrote many other books and his book on Logic became the standard text on logic at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale; being used at Oxford University for well over 100 years. The following excerpt is so timely with elections so close at hand, but I think every one should take this piece to heart as they engage in conversation, whether it is politics, religion or what ever topic they enter in. I have heard some strange conversations regarding the elections this year, from “Thus saith The Lord” emphatically prophesied by some, to hateful outbursts by those unwilling to entertain a thought outside their opinion. This of course is normal dialogue for some in sharing their faith; so, hopefully this will give us some practical guidelines to consider.

Nor is it every sober person of your acquaintance, no, nor every man of bright talents, or rich in learning, that is fit to engage in free conversation for the inquiry after truth. Let a person have ever so illustrious talents, yet he is not a proper associate for such a purpose, if he lie under any of the following infirmities:

1. If he be haughty and proud of his knowledge, imperious in his airs, and is always fond of imposing his sentiments on all the company.

2. If he be positive and dogmatical in his own opinions, and will dispute to the end; if he will resist the brightest evidence of truth rather than suffer himself to be overcome, or yield to the plainest and strongest reasonings.

3. If he be one who always affects to outshine all the company, and delights to hear himself talk or flourish upon a subject, and make long harangues, while the rest must be all silent and attentive.

4. If he be fretful and peevish, and given to resentment upon all occasions; if he knows not how to bear contradiction, or is ready to take things in a wrong sense; if he is swift to feel a supposed offence, or to imagine himself affronted, and then break out into a sudden passion, or retain silent and sullen wrath.

5. If he affect wit on all occasions, and is full of his conceits and puns, quirks or quibbles, jests and repartees; these may agreeably entertain and animate an hour of mirth, but they have no place in the search after truth.

6. If he carry always about him a sort of craft, and cunning, and disguise, and act rather like a spy than a friend. Have care of such a one as will make an ill use of freedom in conversation, and immediately charge heresy upon you, when you happen to differ from those sentiments which authority or custom has established.

In short, you should avoid the man, in such select conversation, who practices anything that is unbecoming the character of a sincere, free, and open searcher of truth.”

Photo by Jose Miguel Rodriguez

We hosted a Halloween party last night, and both of my teen granddaughters invited some friends over which brought the population of females at my address to fifteen, I, of course, the only male. There is no way to exaggerate the excited energy flow reverberating through the walls. It was great fun. There were thirteen year olds upstairs and 16 year olds down stairs.
As I surveyed the 8 sixteen year olds I couldn't help but notice the diversity of friends my granddaughter invited. We had three exchange students, one from Norway, France and Japan.
We had a Muslim girl with proper Muslim attire; another is Peruvian and other nationalities mixed who is a L.D.S. girl living with her mom in a single parent family; another lives with her grandparents in nearly an identical situation as my granddaughters who is half Hawaiian and American Indian; and lastly a typical American girl. I don't ever remember being in such a diverse group, and I know that this group wasn't chosen by chance, but rather my granddaughter is mindful of the words of Christ "I was a stranger.....". She has been influenced in many ways to be sensitive to the needs of others and think globally and value all people. Her Uncle Matt with his influence and sensitivity to the stranger; her Uncle Eric with his efforts in a multicultural church; her travel to Asia, the teaching of a Christian school, the local church who's efforts reach all ethnic groups; and our family with its multiracial make-up. I had a deep sense of hope for our world as I watched these girls laugh and talk (all bathed in teen-age silliness) in complete unity with never a regard to accents, skin color, cultural dress or circumstances at home. A true taste of heaven.
Picture from the internet.