Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Conscientiousness in small things.

A woman employed a man to paint a house she had just built. The painter was a member of a Christian church, active in the prayer-meeting and in church work, and apparently a man of exemplary piety. His work was seemingly well done, but it was afterwards discovered that he had slighted his work in places where he thought the neglect would not be noticed. His employer remarked: “I have discounted the man’s piety and prayers ever since. I prefer Christians who will fill up the nail holes with putty, and paint the tops of the doors in the upper story.” How many professed Christians fail to realize that piety has a connection with paint and putty – that the little things of life are the truest, as they are the severest tests of Christian character.

The painter Opie replied to a query as to how he mixed his colors, ‘With brains, sir.’ The best type of Christian character must be that of the man who mixes his daily work with conscience, and strives to do everything, even the most insignificant, as unto the Lord. Until this shall be the standard of everyday Christian living, there must be a great deal done in the way of discounting piety and prayers.
Christian Union.

I like this quote, although there is needed wisdom on what to attend to and what can be left. I'm reminded when I was asked to sweep the floor of a warehouse when I was employed in a factory at about age 19. I swept the floor fastidiously, as though my father was watching over my shoulder, which he often was when I worked for him. But the foreman came up to me and said, "Fred, this is a warehouse not a hospital." Suggesting I was overdoing it and needed to get the task done and on to more pressing work. Lesson learned.

Photo by Naret Visesvongsa

Sunday, December 28, 2008

“One moonlight evening in winter,” writes the biographer of Beethoven, “we were walking through a narrow street of Bonn. ‘Hush!’ exclaimed the great composer, suddenly pausing before a little, mean dwelling, ‘what sound is that? It is from my Sonata in F. Hark! How well it is played!’
“In the midst of the finale there was a break, and a sobbing voice cried: ‘I cannot play any more. It is so beautiful; it is utterly beyond my power to do it justice. Oh, what would I not give to go to the concert at Cologne!’ ‘Ah! My sister,’ said a second voice; ‘why create regrets when there is no remedy? We can scarcely pay our rent.’ ‘You are right,’ said the first speaker, ‘and yet I wish for once in my life to hear some really good music. But it is of no use.’
“’Let us go in,’ said Beethoven. ‘Go in!’ I remonstrated; ‘what should we go in for?’ ‘I will play to her,’ replied Beethoven in an excited tone; ‘here is feeling, - genius, - understanding! I will play to her, and she will understand it. Pardon me,’ he continued, as he opened the door and saw a young man sitting by a table, mending shoes, and a young girl leaning sorrowfully upon an old-fashioned piano; ‘I heard music and was tempted to enter. I am a musician. I – I also overheard something of what you said. You wish to hear – that is, you would like – that is – shall I play for you?’
“’Thank you,’ said the shoemaker, ‘but our piano is so wretched, and we have no music.’
“’No music!’ exclaimed the composer; ‘how then, does the young lady – I – I entreat your pardon,’ he added, stammering as he saw that the girl was blind; ‘I had not perceived before. Then you play by ear? But where do you hear the music, since you frequent no concerts?’
“’We lived at Bruhl for two years; and, while there, I used to hear a lady practicing near us. During the summer evenings her windows were generally open, and I walked to and fro outside to listen to her.’
“Beethoven seated himself at the piano. Never, during all the years I knew him, did I hear him play better than to that blind girl and her brother. Even the old instrument seemed inspired. The young man and woman sat as if entranced by the magical, sweet sounds that flowed out upon the air in rhythmical swell and cadence, until, suddenly, the flame of the single candle wavered, sank, flickered, and went out. The shutters were thrown open, admitting a flood of brilliant moonlight, but the player paused, as if lost in thought.
“’Wonderful man!’ said the shoemaker in a low tone; ‘who and what are you?’
“’Listen!’ replied the master, and he played the opening bars of the Sonata in F. ‘Then you are Beethoven!’ burst from the young people in delighted recognition.
‘Oh, play to us once more,’ they added, as he rose to go, - ‘only once more!’
“’ I will improvise a sonata to the moonlight,’ said he, gazing thoughtfully upon the liquid stars shining so softly out of the depths of a cloudless winter sky. Then he played a sad and infinitely lovely movement, which crept gently over the instrument, like the calm flow of moonlight over the earth. This was followed by a wild, elfin passage in triple time – a sort of grotesque interlude, like the dance of fairies upon the lawn. Then came a swift agitated ending – a breathless, hurrying, trembling movement, descriptive of flight, and uncertainty, and vague impulsive terror, which carried us away on its rustling wings, and left us all in emotion and wonder. ‘Farewell to you.’ He said, as he rose and turned toward the door. ‘You will come again?’ asked the host and hostess in a breath. ‘Yes, yes,’ said Beethoven hurriedly, ‘I will come again, and give the young lady some lessons.
Farewell!’ Then to me he added: ‘Let us make haste back, that I may write out that sonata while I can yet remember it.’ We did return in haste, and not until long past the dawn of day did he rise from his table with the full score of the “Moonlight Sonata” in his hand.”

This story comes from Orison Swett Marden's book "Pushing to the front". When I first read this account I put it down inspired to hear this music. I went and bought a copy and it began my interest in classical piano music. Hard to read an account like that and not want to hear it.

Painting from the Internet

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Matt. 7:24

The following is commentary about Matthew 7:24

"Jesus here wills to signify how great is the strength of virtue, even in the present life. What then is this her strength? To live in safety, to be easily subdued by no terror, to stand superior to all that despitefully use us. To this what can be equal? For this, not even he that wears a crown can provide for himself, but only that man who follows after virtue.
The truly marvelous thing being this, that not in fair weather, but when the storm is vehement, and the turmoil great, and the temptations continual, he cannot be shaken ever so little.
“For the rain descended” saith He, “the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon the rock.”
By “rain” here, and “floods”, and “winds”, He is expressing metaphorically the calamities and afflictions that befall men; such as false accusations, plots, bereavements, deaths, loss of friends, vexations from strangers, all the ills in our life that any one could mention. “But to none of these,” saith He, “doth such a soul give way; and the cause is, it is founded on the rock.”
He calls the steadfastness of His doctrine a rock; because in truth His commands are stronger than any rock, settling one above all the waves of human affairs.
And now what can be happier than this kind of life? For this, not wealth, not strength of body, not glory, not power, nor ought anything else will be able to secure, but only the possession of virtue.”
St. Chrysostom.

I am edified by Chrysostom, one of the early Fathers of the church, and when I read this it reminded me of things shared by fellow bloggers and others that we have all faced in the last few months. I'm not sure I would go so far as Chrysostom in saying that "we cannot be shaken ever so little," when the rain descends and the wind is blowing and beating upon our house; and the flood is rising it is loud, frightful and threatening, but we will not fall. That I can testify of myself and the testimonies of those I know who trust in Christ that have faced, and are still facing, howling wind and beating forces.

I took this photo in Metarie Cemetery just outside New Orleans. Sue and I walked among hundreds of above ground graves with one of the largest array of beautiful sculptured art in the U.S. This woman who is clinging to the cross of Christ was brought to mind with the above passage. She has fled to the only sure safety that this world offers, or the next.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I was reading a little from Beecher's "Star Papers", which are just random musings. I ran across this account of his travelings on a train or some type of express, it reminded me of all the people that may be traveling overnight this time of year and some of the difficulties.

"We left Albany at half-past ten. At about eleven, the hum of conversation died away. Every one was busy with the unnatural problem of sleep. In the cars, stretching one's self out for a balmy sleep, means, curling ones self up like a cat in a corner. Short limbs are a luxury when a man sleeps by the square inch. First, you lie down by the right side, against the window, till a stitch in your side, worming its way through your uneasy dream, like an awl, leads you to reverse your position. As you lean on the inside end of your seat, the conductor knocks your hat off, or used your head as a support to his steps as he sways along the rocking passage. At length, with a groan which expresses the very feeling of every bone and muscle and individual organ in your body, you try to sit upright, and to sleep erect. But erect sleep is perilous, even when it is possible. You nod and pitch, you collapse and condense, and finally settle down in a promiscuous heap, wishing that you were a squirrel, or a kitten, and curiously remembering dogs that could convolute on a mat, and birds that could tuck their heads under their wings, and draw their feet and legs up under their feathers. O! that I were round like a marble, and could be rid of protruding members! But such slumberous philosophy and somnolent yearnings for circular shapes die out as you sink again into a lethargy, until the scream of the whistle, the grinding of the brakes, the concussions and jerks, rouse you to the fact that you are stopping....."

Photo from the Internet

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"How often, in the choice of a text, or in the course of a sermon or in a letter to a friend, have I been led to speak a word in season!
And what I have expressed at large and in general has been so exactly suited to some case which I was utterly unacquainted with that I could hardly have hit it so well had I been previously informed of it. Some instances of this kind have been so striking as hardly to admit a doubt of Superior agency. And, indeed, if believers in Jesus, however unworthy in themselves, are the temples of the Holy Ghost; if the Lord lives, dwells, and walks in them; if He is their life and their light; if He has promised to guide them with His eye; and to work in them to will and to do of His own good pleasure - methinks what I have mentioned, and more, may be reasonably expected." John Newton
I know of no Christian that hasn't had this experience happen many times. We hear a sermon that is so suited to our circumstance we think the preacher has listened in to our private conversations or thoughts!
A ray of hope when we need it most.
Photo by Patrick P.

Monday, December 22, 2008

So, do you know of this singer? If not, like me, you are in for a treat.
I was introduced to her just recently on Candice's blog.
What a gift for Christmas. I can think of few things that continue to give like the introduction of a new singer, author or painter, sometimes a lifetime of enjoyment.


I was reading in the Bible today, (lucky to be off work because of the snow), and I began in Matt. 10 when I ran across verse 40--

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent me.”

I stopped on that verse and considered the context where Jesus is preparing His disciples for their ministry. He was speaking specifically to them but I began to wonder if it has universal application? I remembered a statement Mel said the other day, “That’s why we need each other”. Is there an application to her question here? I think there is.
If I receive you, as a believer in Christ, it makes no difference what your status, whether you are a minister, a brother that walks in victory, or newly converted or struggling, wilted Christian; when I receive you, I will gain something more of Christ.
I limit my own blessings from God when I judge another to be unworthy; and isn’t it just like God to send a Christian brother or sister in disguise, or one I may deem out of the faith and so I dismiss their fellowship. How many blessings will I deny myself? Many, I’m sure. Let me err on the side of liberality.
Painting by Norman Rockwell

Sunday, December 21, 2008

After two days of snow the freezing rain began, this is the last rose-bud I had, a Henry Fonda heat loving variety. I thought it looked rather unhappy, eh? If you can enlarge, it is more interesting.

This is a vase I have on my deck, now filled with snow, looks like a snow-cone or a coffee drink with whip cream on top.

When we got our first snow we had our granddaughter take this picture of my wife Sue and I thinking the snow may melt off. Hardly....

"A good archer is not known by his arrows but his aim."

I read this quote today, over cereal, and it sparked so many different thoughts. I replaced the word "archer" with Christian, that was easiest: then to replace arrows, hmmm, that brought up a far broader consideration.
In this picture, this child knows nothing of his mothers "arrows",( beliefs, knowledge, academics, history, status in life), all he knows is her aim, to love, to care for. It reminded me of a quote - "Love is an affection full of inventions, and sets the wit awork to devise good things."

Surely this mother's aim is to offer her child a world of wonder and love, although she may have no education or status in life.

I think young Christians can be discouraged because they know so little of the Bible and feel unqualified or unworthy; but if we remember our admonition to "not be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ", and make our aim to love one another, where ever we are, we shall be remembered for our aim though our arrows be ever so meager.

Photo by Jose A. Gallego

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I was reading in Proverbs 8 where Wisdom calls out to all. I really enjoyed the chapter, such a practical chapter highlighting the things that make for a better man and world. Verse 6-8 says - "Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse."

So, what does this have to do with the picture? When I read this chapter I was thinking about the story that goes with this picture and how I tend to spiritualize away the simple applications. If you go to Joseph's blog - http://ptjosephrosa.blogspot.com/
you will find a story that violates everthing in these few verses. As I am given a tour of life in India, by Joseph, just everyday things that happens to this Christian man as he walks the streets, with camera in hand, it helps me understand the Bible in a far broader context than when I see it through my cultures eyes alone. I recommend you visit his blog each week for a personal, up-close tour of India.

Photo by Joseph

Possibilities in spare moments

"One hour a day withdrawn from frivolous pursuits and profitably employed would enable any man of ordinary capacity to master a complete science. One hour a day would in ten years make an ignorant man a well-informed man. In an hour a day a boy or girl could read twenty pages thoughtfully - over seven thousand pages, or eighteen large volumes in a year. An hour a day might make all the difference between a bare existence and a useful, happy living. An hour a day might make - nay, has made - an unknown man a famous one, a useless man a benefactor to his race. Consider, then, the mighty possibilities of two -four - yes, six hours a day that are on average, thrown away by young men and women in the restless desire for fun and diversion." Orison Swett Marden.

When I was young, I used to read the cereal box as I ate breakfast. At some point it dawned on me that I could do better.

Photo by Miguel Angel de Arriba Cuadrado

Friday, December 19, 2008

"In all the relations of life, in all the countries of the world, it is with the oppressed that it is necessary to live: those who are happy and powerful are ignorant of half the feelings and ideas of mankind." Camillo Cavour.

This quote reminded me of Kay Warren, who fit the above catagory until she visited Africa and met the AIDS victims and orphans. She was seriously disturbed and gloriously ruined, as she calls it. I have never known anyone who has visited the oppressed and impoverished that is ever left the same; I would almost call it a second work of grace if I didn't know better.

Photo by Lars Gunnar

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Few or none are rich in all graces

“It is a hard thing, if possible, to find a soul that is generally rich; that is rich in every grace, that is rich in faith, and rich in wisdom, and rich in love, and rich in patience etc. Abraham was rich in faith, and Job was rich in patience, and Moses was rich in meekness, and David was rich in zeal; but none of these were rich in every grace. And so in these days you may find one Christian rich in one grace, and another Christian that is rich in another grace; but where will you find a Christian that is rich in every grace? Such that are rich in some graces, are yet very defective and lame in other graces. The saints once at Rome were richer in wisdom and knowledge than the saints at Thessalonica, and the saints at Thessalonica were richer in faith, love, patience and charity than the saints at Rome…..” Thomas Brooks

I used this photo by Harry Eggens to illustrate that even the noble eagle misses the mark sometimes.
In my attic I have an old trunk that contains old black and white pictures of my family. Nearly all my family is gone now, save a sister, but on occasion I open up the trunk and walk down memory lane. It is a bitter sweet experience. I would love to sit with my grandfather before he died and have him tell me stories about the people and places in these old photos. What brings up this subject is a song out now that speaks to this very issue and it is one of my favorites. It sung by a man with a deep country voice as he listens to his grandpa telling stories about old black and white pictures. Hope you like it.

Photo taken from the Internet

Monday, December 15, 2008

Opportunities whrere you are

During these hard times I hope that these practical illustrations will encourage some.
“The great natural philosopher, Faraday, who was the son of a blacksmith, wrote, when a young man, to Humphry Davy, asking for employment at the Royal Institution. Davy consulted a friend on the matter. “Here is a letter from a young man named Faraday; he has been attending my lectures, and wants me to give him employment at the Royal Institution – what can I do”, “Do? Put him to washing bottles; if he is good for anything he will do it directly; if he refuses he is good for nothing.” But the boy who could experiment in the attic of an apothecary shop with an old pan and glass vials during every moment he could snatch from his work saw an opportunity in washing bottles, which led to a professorship at the Royal Academy at Woolwich. Tyndall said of this boy with no chance, “He is the greatest experimental philosopher the world has ever seen.” He became the wonder of his age in science.

There is a legend of an artist who long sought for a piece of sandalwood, out of which to carve a Madonna. He was about to give up in despair, leaving the vision of his life unrealized, when in a dream he was bidden to carve his Madonna from a block of oak wood which was destined for the fire. He obeyed, and produced a masterpiece from a log of common firewood. Many of us lose great opportunities in life by waiting to find sandalwood for our carvings, when they really lie hidden in the common logs that we burn.”
Orison Swett Marden - Photo by JF Ochoa

Sunday, December 14, 2008

When I read John Newton’s remarks in my post titled “The deep things of God” on Saturday the 13th, regarding his visit with a mentally handicapped girl where he said –

“Sometimes when her heart is enlarged I listen to her with astonishment. I think no books or ministers I ever met with have given me such an impression and understanding of what the apostle calls ‘The deep things of God’ as I have upon some occasions received from her conversation.”

I had to stop and consider what he meant by “The deep things of God’.

I think that day he went to the hospital to share his faith. He knew not in what manner he would share it, either by word, deed, prayer, but off to share it he went. I picture him meeting this girl, who had some degree of mental handicap, and he thought that he would share his faith in words with her or maybe share a deed of kindness, when he came to find that Christ had visited her heart, and in spite of her mental capacity, Christ’s love poured out of her heart in profound simplicity, such as Newton had never witnessed or felt even among great scholars. Her infectious love for the Savior no doubt humbled him and simultaneously caused him to exalt in the mercies of God. He, who came to share, was rapt up in God’s presence as this simpleminded girl rejoiced in God’s love.

I believe these are ‘the deep things of God’; when we have a deep spiritual connection with someone in the midst of serving our God; worshiping in spirit and truth.

It makes no difference how we choose to share our faith; sharing our faith is the act of living out a conviction we hold by faith in the Lord’s teachings. It may be we share our faith in the goodness of doing a kind deed; it may be applying bandages to the wounded as an expression of our faith in Christ’s love, feeding the hungry or it may be we give a word of testimony to a stranger who has never heard the Gospel message. However we act upon our faith, so long as we “Do everything in love”, 1Co. 16:14, it becomes a pleasing sacrifice and this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus; these are the deep things of God.

This connection that God often graces our deeds of love with is what I think astonished John Newton as he talked with this girl. We too, sense His love in our deeds; where our souls unite with the person we serve in word or deed, and we are moved by God’s manifest love. Sometimes simply displayed by holding a hand we would not like to let go of.

As I look back over my posts this last year, I think this post by Newton and the July 2nd, 5th, and 15th posts by Kay Warren have left indelible marks on my spirit.
Marks left by the deep things of God.

Photo by Sheri Doty

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"There was an old deacon in a city in Michigan who was connected with a Church which had had no conversion for sixteen years. He came to his death-bed, and felt that he could not die in peace and leave his children in that cold and lifeless atmosphere. He sent for the minister, and tried to rouse him to the concern for souls which, in the face of death, pressed upon himself. But the minister had been too long accustomed to the darkness be be easily awakened. Failing also with the elders, and with all the male members of the Church, he sent for the leading ladies, and pleaded with them, as mothers, to pray for a revival. He entreated God for this day and night, and the Lord touched those mother's hearts, so that they prayed and fasted before God. In a little while the whole Church was moved. I received a dispatch from the minister. On my arrival, he took me into a room filled with these mothers, praying that the Lord would reveal His power. I felt, as soon as I entered, that God was there.

The first evening I preached it seemed as if every sinner had braced himself up to resist the truth. Many were up all night; they got down in the dust before God, beseeching Him to give the blessing. The next night the power came, and, in forty eight hours, there was scarcely a young man or young woman who was not converted to God, or anxious to be saved....."

D.L.Moody - Painting by Sheri Doty

The deep things of God

"My Lord,
For about six weeks past I have had occasion to spend several hours of almost every day with the sick and dying. These scenes are to a minister like walking the hospitals to a young surgeon. The various cases which occur exemplify, illustrate, and explain, with a commanding energy, many truths which may be learned indeed at home, but cannot be so well understood or their force so sensibly felt without the advantage of experience and observation.

I have a poor girl near me who looks like an idiot (one of weak intellect) and her natural capacity is indeed very small; but the Lord has been pleased to make her acquainted alternately with great temptations and proportionably great discoveries of His love and truth. Some times when her heart is enlarged I listen to her with astonishment. I think no books or ministers I ever met with have given me such an impression and understanding of what the apostle styles “The deep things of God”, as I have upon some occasion received from her conversations.”
John Newton - Photo by Banhup Teh

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Table Talk

I read this story about Benjamin Franklin again and I just love it. It is in Orison Swett Marden's book "Pushing to the front" in the chapter called "Possibilities in Spare Moments." He gathers stories about those who have learned to make the best use of time.
"What is the price of that book?" at length asked a man who had been dawdling for an hour in the front store of Benjamin Franklin's newspaper establishment. "One dollar," replied the clerk. "One dollar," echoed the lounger; "can't you take less than that?" "One dollar is the price," was the answer.
The would-be purchaser looked over the books on sale a while longer, and then inquired: "Is Mr. Franklin in?" "Yes," said the clerk, "he is very busy in the press room." "Well, I want to see him," persisted the man. The proprietor was called, and the stranger asked: "What is the lowest, Mr. Franklin, that you can take for that book?" "One dollar and a quarter," was the prompt rejoinder. "One dollar and a quarter! Why, your clerk asked me only a dollar just now." "True," said Franklin, "and I could have better afforded to take a dollar than to leave my work."
The man seemed surprised; but, wishing to end a parley of his own seeking, he demanded; "Well, come now, tell me your lowest price for this book." "One dollar and a half," replied Franklin. "A dollar and a half! Why, you offered it yourself for a dollar and a quarter." "Yes," said Franklin coolly, "and I could better have taken that price then than a dollar and a half now."
The man silently laid the money on the counter, took his book, and left the store, having received a salutary lesson from a master in the art of transmuting time at will, into either wealth or wisdom.
Photo taken from the Internet

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"If a mariner is surprised by a storm, and after one night spent in jeopardy is presently brought safe into port; though he may rejoice in his deliverance, it will not affect him so sensibly as if, after being tempest-tossed for a long season and experiencing a great number and variety of hairbreadth escapes, he at last gains the desired haven. The righteous are said to be scarcely saved, not with respect to the certainty of the event, for the purpose of God in their favor cannot be disappointed, but in respect of their own apprehensions and the great difficulties they are brought through. But when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility, they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of God in Christ. Jesus becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much because much has been forgiven them. They dare not, they will not, ascribe anything to themselves, but are glad to acknowledge that they must have perished (if possible) a thousand times over, if Jesus had not been their Savior, their Shepherd, and their Shield. When wandering He brought them back, when fallen He raised them, when wounded He healed them, when fainting He revived them……”

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus…..

John Newton - Photo from the Internet

Monday, December 08, 2008

"A character which religion does not fructify – does not soften, enlarge, beautify, and enrich – is not benefited by religion – or, rather, has not possessed itself of religion. God loves that which is beautiful and attractive in character, just as much as we do, and it makes no difference where he sees it. He does not dislike the amiable traits of a sinner, because he is a sinner, nor does he admire those traits of a Christian which we feel to be contemptible, simply because they belong to a Christian. A Christian sucked dry of his humanity, is just as juiceless and as flavorless as a sucked orange, and I believe that God regards him in the same light that we do. He will save such I doubt not, for their faith; and, in the coming world, they will learn what they do not know here; but the question whether they are as well worth saving as some of their neighbors, may, I think, be legitimately entertained.” Timothy Titcomb.
I love this post, and the 'tongue in cheek' last line, makes me smile.
Photo from the Internet

Sunday, December 07, 2008

After our service at the nursing home today, my wife, granddaughter and I sat down and talked with two fellows. One man named Lewis, 73, who we know, and a newcomer, Rod, 61. Both wheelchair bound. Conversation is very easy because no one ever gets enough visitors and they have stories stored up from months of loneliness. As we sat and listened to Rod pour out his stories without once taking a breath, in what I think was ten minutes, I found an opportunity to sneak a question to Lewis at a blink. Off he went like a dog who just stole another’s bone; he never looked back and were it not for his need to take a breath, there would have been no opportunity for Rod to steal back the bone and run with it. But steal it he did and much to Lewis’s chagrin, he told us about his entire family tree with but two breaths. It was humorous to watch the battle for the floor play out. But sad as well. James tells us that an important part of religion is to listen to orphans and widows, or widowers. It took no skill or education to minister a listening ear, and I enjoyed the stories of 62 pound Salmon, and Grandma’s great age of 103 years. Some, or all, of the stories may have been enhanced for listener’s pleasure I’m sure, but as I settled back in my chair and watched the joy they both shared strolling down memory lane, I couldn’t think of a place I would have rather been.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"I would not be the sport and prey of wild, vain, foolish, and worse imaginations; but this evil is present with me; my heart is like a highway, like a city without walls or gates. Nothing so false, so frivolous, so absurd, so impossible, or so horrid, but it can obtain access, and that at any time, or in any place: neither the study, the pulpit, nor even the Lord's table, exempts me from their intrusion. I sometimes compare my words to the treble of an instrument, which my thoughts accompany with a kind of bass, or rather anti-bass, in which every rule of harmony is broken, every possible combination of discord and confusion is introduced, utterly inconsistent with, and contradictory to, the intended melody. Ah! what music would my praying and preaching often make in the ears of the Lord of Hosts, if He listened to them as they are mine only! By men, the upper part only (if I may so speak) is heard; and small cause there is for self-gratulation, if they should happen to commend, when conscience tells me they would be struck with astonishment and abhorrence could they hear the whole." John Newton.
John Newton, wonderfully saved from a life of great evil, involved in the slave trade, which no doubt left him with such gratitude to God for such miraculous mercy: doubtless left him with soul scars that a person who lived without such violence and evil, can scarcely imagine. In this book called "Voice of the Heart", I sense his deep humility and I can relate to all he says; especially the last line, as my sins were as scarlet as well.
P.S. If you haven't seen the fairly recent movie "Amazing Grace", you missed a good one.
Picture from the internet.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I love criticism, a rebuke or retort,
Cloaked in praises, as long as it’s short.

And my blood sugar level is relatively high,
And given with smile and a wink of the eye.

Provided I’m not moody, grumpy or tired,
And only say words that will leave me inspired.

Dance, sidestep and skirt, the important issues
Lest you leave me daubing my eyes with tissues,

In a moment of my choosing, where and when I like,
With all restraint, lest my ego you strike.

And before you finish and walk out the door,
Am I loving me, more than I did before?

Lessen the blow; keep it light and airy,
Or tonight friends will read your obituary.

Okay, I know it's corny but if pretty near sums up my ability to accept criticism. We are emotional beings and we are hurt easily, and without care, a child may be brought to tears with a look. We resist advice and love our own way.

Jesus said "we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented." The Bible uses all manner and methods to reach our hard hearts, parable, poem, stories of history, urging, threatening, beseeching, maxims, and what ever method to be all things to all men that they may repent. God could have made one small book with His commands, but he chose to use all methods to reach us.

It is a strange and difficult thing to reach humans, we are a stiff necked creature, to understate it.

Photo by Adam Wesolowski

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Continuing on the theme of the last post, this quote offers additional insight in to the games we play and suffer from our feeble attempts to get along. I just love this picture by Bob Kurt, it so captures how sensitive I can be at the smallest inference that I am ill advised.
"There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice. We look upon the man who gives it to us as offering an affront to our understanding, and treating us like children or idiots. We consider the instruction as an implicit censure, and the zeal which any one shows for our good on such an occasion, as a piece of presumption or impertinence. The truth of it is, the person who pretends to advise, does, in that particular, exercise a superiority over us, and can have no other reason for it, but that, in comparing us with himself, he thinks us defective either in our conduct or our understanding. For these reasons, there is nothing so difficult as the art of making advice agreeable; and indeed all the writers, both ancient and modern, have distinguished themselves among one another, according to the perfection at which they have arrived in this art." Addison

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The following piece by Robert Louis Stevenson just tickles me to read. His insight into human nature is uncanny. Here he describes some of the gymnastics we go through when the timings just right, and we hit on a subject we can run with. I had to read it a few times before I got it all, but worth it.

A good talk is not to be had for the asking. Humors must first be accorded in a kind of overture or prologue; hour, company and circumstance must be suited; the quarry of two heated minds, spring up like a deer out of the wood. Not that the talker has any of the hunter’s pride, though he has all and more than all his ardor. The genuine artist follows the stream of conversation as an angler follows the windings of a brook, not dallying where he fails to “kill”…..

Indeed, there are few subjects; and so far as they are truly talkable, more than the half of them may be reduced to three -- that I am I, that you are you, and that there are other people dimly understood to be not quite the same as either.

Wherever talk may range, it still runs half the time on these eternal lines.

The theme being set, each plays on himself as on an instrument; asserts and justifies himself; ransacks his brain for instances and opinions, and brings them forth new-minted, to his own surprise and the admiration of his adversary.
All natural talk is a festival of ostentation; and by the laws of the game each accepts and fans the vanity of the other. It is from that reason that we venture to lay ourselves so open, that we dare to be so warmly eloquent, and that we swell in each other’s eyes to such a vast proportion. For talkers once launched, begin to overflow the limits of their ordinary selves, tower up to the height of their secret pretensions, and give themselves out for the heroes, brave, pious, musical and wise, that in their most shining moments the aspire to be. So they weave for themselves with words and for a while inhabit a palace of delights, temple at once and theater, where they fill the round of the world’s dignitaries, and feast with the gods, exulting in Kudos. And when the talk is over, each goes his way, still flushed with vanity and admiration, still trailing clouds of glory; each declines from the height of his ideal orgie, not in a moment, but by slow declension.”
Photo by Richard Mousel

Monday, December 01, 2008

"Count not of great importance who is for thee, or against thee; but let this be thy aim and care, that God be with thee in everything thou doest.
Great tranquility of heart hath he that careth neither for the praises nor the fault-finding of men. He will easily be content and pacified whose conscience is pure. Thou art not the more holy, if thou art praised; nor the more worthless, if thou art found fault with. What thou art, that thou art; neither by words canst thou be made greater than what thou art in the sight of God.
If thou consider what thou art within thee, thou wilt not care what men talk of thee."

Thomas A. Kempis - Photo by Donna Martinez