Saturday, December 26, 2009

"There is but one method of attaining to excellence, and that is hard labor;
and a man who will not pay that price for distinction had better at once dedicate himself to the pursuits of the fox, or sport with the tangles of Neaera's hair, or talk of bullocks and the glory in the goad."
Sydney Smith

When I first ran across this quote it completely baffled me. The pursuits of the fox, tangles of Neaera's hair and glory in the goad went right over my head. But as I thought through it and looked up Neaera's hair I came to the conclusion he is saying; if we won't work we had better learn to be sly like the fox or find hiding behind others or learn to like being goaded all our life.

In Henry Ward Beecher’s chapter titled Christ the Deliverer, he gives this practical story of the importance of personal involvement.

“Ah, are the Zebedees, then, so poor? John, take a quarter of beef and carry it down, with my compliments. No, stop; fill up that chest, put in those cordials, lay them on the cart, and bring it round, and I will drive it down myself.” Down I go; and on entering the house I hold out both hands, and say, “Why, my old friend, I am glad I found you out. I understand the world has gone hard with you. I came down to say that there is nothing wrong between you and me. We are on good terms, just as we always were. You have one friend, at any rate. Now do not be discouraged; keep up a good heart. I have brought you down a few articles for your comfort” And I empty all the things, and I see tears beating in his eyes, like rain on a pane of glass in summer; and I go away as soon as I can – for, hard as ingratitude is to bear, it is not so hard to bear as gratitude. And when I am gone, the man wipes his eyes, and says, “I did not know how I should feed my children, and I am thankful for the meat and the other things; but God knows that that man’s shaking my hands gave me more joy than all that he brought. It was him that I wanted.”

I tell you, when men are in trouble, it is the human soul that cures and feeds. It is one soul lying against another.

This was epitomized by the old prophet, when he went into the house where the widow’s son lay as one dead, and put his hands on the child’s hands, and stretched himself across the child’s body, and the spirit of life came back. Oh! If, when men are in trouble, there were some man to measure his whole stature against them, and give them the warmth of his sympathy, how many would be saved!

Photo from the Internet

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"When you see the men or women consecrated to severe tasks, or the painful office of visiting human miseries and binding wounds, remember that these beings are made like you, that they have the same needs, and that there are hours when they require pleasure and forgetfulness."

The following quote from Charles Wagner's book "The Simple Life", is such a practical word regarding placing our sympathies: the entire book is one that should be read by all.

"Offer your sympathy, also, to all who have absorbing occupations, and who are, so to speak, riveted to their places. The world is filled with sacrificed beings, who have never any rest or pleasure, and to whom the most modest interval of rest does them an immense good. And it would be so easy to secure this minimum of alleviation for them if one only thought of it.
But the broom is made to sweep with, and it seems that it cannot feel fatigue.
We must get rid of that culpable blindness which hinders us from seeing the weariness of those who are always in the breach. Lift up the sentinels lost in their duty; procure an hour for Sisyphus to breath in.
Take, for a moment, the place of the mother of a family whom the cares of the home and children enslave; sacrifice a little of our sleep to those who watch long hours by the bedsides of the sick. Young girl, whom perhaps going on a walk does not amuse, take the cook's apron and give her the "key to the fields."
Thus you will make others happy and be so yourself.
We walk forever by the side of beings loaded with burdens that we could take upon ourselves, even if only a little while. But this short pause would suffice to cure the evils, revive the joy almost stifled in many hearts, and open a large career to good will among men."

This fantastic photo taken by Anuar Patjane.

Now the following piece convicts me because, as I have aged, I have lost much of my gaiety and frolicsome nature. I do have young grandchildren and so this piece applies to me as much as those with children still at home. I do think it is a timely and important reminder, written in 1904 by Charles Wagner in his important book "The Simple Life".

"In the next place I wish to ask you to observe that you are mistaken in imagining that young people amuse themselves too much. Apart from those fictitious, enervating and disuniting pleasures which blast the life instead of making it blossom and become radiant, there remains today but little.
Our children are the heirs of a world that is not gay. We give them the legacy of great cares, embarrassing questions, and a life loaded with shackles and complications. Let us at least make an effort to light the morning of their days. Let us organize pleasure, create shelters, and open our hearts and our homes. put the family into your game. Let gaiety cease to be a an imported commodity. Reunite our sons whom our morose inward manners drive into the streets, and our girls who grow weary of solitude. Let us multiply family gatherings, receptions and family excursions, lift good humor among us to the heights of an institution."

Photo from the Internet

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I happened upon this piece by Professor David Swing, and in it he encourages Americans to learn their native tongue thoroughly. I struggle so with all the authors he lists in this piece and although I don't know how far I would take his conclusions, it sure made me think.

The prevailing idea among the upper American classes that even their little children must learn French, and to that end must speak it at the table, is highly blamable, for reasons more than one. It is based upon entire ignorance of the fact that it will require the life-time of each mortal to master the language of his birth and country. All the young years given by Americans to the study of French are years turned away from the greatest language yet known to man. All the acquisitions of the human race, all the sciences, and arts, and histories, and sentiments of humanity have passed into the English tongue….. He that has perfectly mastered his own language has a store of information immense in bulk and rich in value. To excavate many channels for a river is to lessen the unity and power of the stream otherwise majestic. It will always be proof of some blunder of judgment, or of some stubborn vanity, when Americans will be found using a little French and German and Italian, who have not mastered the English of William Wirt, or of Tennyson, or of the eloquent Ruskin.

It is not a room full of violins, but the power to make music. It is therefore simply painful to hear a fashionable girl or woman or man combining several languages in conversation, when the listener knows well that this bright talker could not by any possibility compose an essay in the English of Washington Irving, or Charles Sumner, or the poet Whittier.

Even when a whole life is given to one’s native English or native French, so inadequate still is that language to express the soul, that it seems a form of wickedness to divide the heart between many masters, and to have no supreme friend. Chateaubriand, the greatest master of the French tongue, when he stood near the Niagara Falls almost a hundred years ago, ands saw evening coming down from the sky upon all the sublime scene; saw the woods growing gloomy in the deep shadows, and heard the sound of the waters increasing its solemnity as the little voices died away in the night’s repose, said: “It is not within the power of human words to express this grandeur of nature.” Skilled as he was in a most rich and sensitive form of speech, that speech , all of whose resources he knew so well, now failed him, and his spirit had to remain imprisoned, there being no gateway by which its sentiments could escape to the heart of his countrymen. What are you and I to do, then, if we have not loved early, and late, and deeply, our own English -- that English which is now the leader in literature and all learning; if we have not mastered its words, its elegancies, its power of logic, and humor, and pathos, and rhythm, and have not permitted our minds to become rich in its associations; if we have for years gone along with a heart divided in its love, or with a mind that has studied words more than has thought and prayed, and laughed, and wept, amid the sublime scenes of nature, or the more impressive mysteries of mankind? “Parlez vous Francais?” Not well; not at all; would to Heaven we could learn to speak English!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I was reading a sermon by Rev. F.W. Farrar, who I have never read before, although I find I have a copy of his commentary on the life of Paul in my library. Anyway, this piece was on the moral conditions at the time of Christ and shortly thereafter; and the thought of the pagan moralists of the time, such as Seneca, Epictetus and Aurelius. The vivid descriptions of the brutality towards slaves during that time is horrific. Rev. Farrar is liberal in his thought and his conclusion was far more generous than I ever hear from the pulpit. I found it......merciful.

“The morality of paganism was, on its own confession, insufficient. It was tentative, where Christianity is authoritative; it was dim and partial, where Christianity is bright and complete; it was inadequate to rouse the sluggish carelessness of mankind, where Christianity came in with an imperial and awakening power; it gives only a rule, where Christianity supplies a principle.

And even where its teachings were absolutely coincident with those of Scripture, it failed to ratify them with a sufficient sanction; it failed to announce them with the same powerful and contagious ardor; it failed to furnish an absolutely faultless and vivid example of their practice; it failed to inspire them with an irresistible motive; it failed to support them with comfort, hope and happy immortality after a consistent and moral life.

Seneca, Epictetus, Aurelius, are among the truest and loftiest of pagan moralists, yet Seneca ignored the Christians, Epictetus despised, and Aurelius persecuted them. All three, so far as they knew any thing about the Christians at all, had unhappily been taught to look upon them as the most detestable sect of what they had long regarded as the most degraded and the most detestable of religions.

There is something very touching in this fact; but, if there be something very touching, there is also something very encouraging. God was their God as well as ours—their Creator, their Preserver, who left not Himself without witness among them; who, as they blindly felt after Him, suffered their groping hands to grasp the hem of His robe; who sent the rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with joy and gladness. And His Spirit was with them, dwelling in them, though unseen and unknown, purifying and sanctifying the temple of their hearts, sending beams of illuminating light through the gross darkness which encompassed them, comforting their uncertainties, making intercession for them with groaning which can not be uttered. And more than all, our Savior was their Savior, too; He, whom they regarded as a crucified malefactor, was their true, invisible King; through His righteousness their poor merits were accepted, their inward sicknesses were healed; He whose worship they denounced as an “execrable superstition,” stood supplicating for them at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Photo from the Internet.

I ran across the picture of this woman, who I believe is from Ethiopia, and was captured by her beauty and interesting ethnic style. I have seen many photos of those from this people group and the red soil which they incorporate in their beauty styles is so unique. It makes no difference where in the world people are from, a sense of beauty is valued by all. The woman below is doubtless very proud of her latest fashion as well.

Top photo by Heinz Homatsch, bottom photo by Justin Grant.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Do you not know how many things you can do under personal influence that you cannot in any other way? My father said to me, when I was a little boy, “Henry, take these letters and go down to the Post Office with them.” I was a brave boy; and yet I had imagination. And thousands of people are not as cowardly as you think. Persons with quick imaginations, and quick sensibility, people the heavens and the earth, so that there are a thousand things in them that harder men do not think of and understand. I saw behind every thicket some shadowy form; and I heard trees say strange and weird things; and in the dark concave above I could hear flitting spirits. All the heaven was populous to me, and the earth was full of I know not what strange sights. These things wrought my system to a wonderful tension. When I went pit-a-pat along the road in the dark, I was brave enough; and if it had been anything that I could have seen, if it had been anything that I could have fought, it would have given me great relief; but it was not. It was only a vague, outlying fear. I knew not what it was. When father said to me, “Go,” I went – for I was obedient. I took my old felt hat, and stepped out of the door; and Charles Smith (a great thick-lipped black man, who worked on the farm, and who was always doing kind things) said to me, “Look here, I will go with you.” Oh! Sweeter music never came out of any instrument than that. The heaven was just as full, and the earth was just as full as before; but now I had somebody to go with me. It was not that I thought he was going to fight for me. I did not think there was going to be any need of fighting, but I had somebody to lean on; somebody to care for me; somebody to help and succor me. Let anything be done by direction, let anything be done by thought or rule, and how different it is from its being done by personal inspiration.”

There's a lot about this little story that tickles me, but what strikes me most is the sweet music that Charles Smith made to this youngster. It takes me back to my boyhood and memories of my uncle Jack, who would play this music to my ears on so many occasions. Whether it was something I feared or just to eliminate boredom, his company meant so much to me. The power of personal presence, it just cannot be over estimated.

Henry Ward Beecher - Photo by Taci Yuksel

The name above every name

"If the God that you beheld in imagination when you were converted, before whom you fell down rejoicing, and to whom you surrendered yourself, is the best that you have, woe to you! You have not grown since you came out of the nursery, and you stand in the orchard of truth without growth. A true man has a better and better God every year."
H. W. Beecher

So it is in respect to dispositions, and in respect to character at large. Little cracks, little flaws, little featherings in them, take away their exquisiteness and beauty, and take away that fine finish which makes moral art. How many noble men there are who are diminished, who are almost wasted, in their moral influence! How many men are like the red maple! It is one of the most gorgeous trees, both in spring, blossoming, and in autumn, with its crimson foliage. But it usually stands knee-deep in swamp-water.

To get to it, you must wade or leap from bog to bog, tearing your raiment, and soiling yourself. I see a great many noble men, but they stand in a swamp of faults. They bear fruit that you would fain pluck, but there are briars and thistles and thorns all about it; and to get it you must make your way through all these hindrances.

Faults are also dangerous, in their own way, because they have insect fecundity. They are apt to swarm. And though a few of them may not do much harm, when men come to have a great many of them they will avail as much as if they were actual transgressions. It is not necessary that there should be wolves, and lions, and bears in the woods to drive hunters out of them. Black flies, mosquitoes, or gnats will drive them out, if there are enough of them. These little winged points of creation make up what they lack in individual strength by their enormous multitude. You might kill a million, and make no impression upon them. Faults oftentimes swarm and become strong and dangerous by reason of their multitude. Multitude, in such cases is equivalent to power.

This little piece really made me stop and ponder. Ouch.

Henry Ward Beecher - picture from the Internet

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The following advice is from the book "Our Home" written in 1899 by Charles E. Sargent, M.A. I think its still pretty good advice for our modern times.

Home as a natural institution has for its primary object the nurturing of those tender buds of promise which can mature in no other soil. The human bud, unlike that of the flower, does not contain its future wholly wrapped up within itself, but depends much upon the hand that nurtures it. The rosebud, no matter in what soil it grows, no matter what care it receives, must blossom into a rose. No care or neglect, at least in any definite period of time, can transform it into a noxious week. But on every mother’s bosom there rests a bud of promise, and whether or not that promise shall be fulfilled depends on her. Whether that bud shall blossom into a pure and fragrant rose or into the flower of the deadly nightshade, is at the option of the guardian.

Let every mother act as if she held a bud of promise. Let those who have not felt the premonition attribute it to their insensibility. Better a thousand times bestow your tenderest care upon an idiot, better believe that you held the bud of genius and awake to bitter disappointment, than to learn in the end that you have failed to do your duty, and that a genius grand and awful like a fallen temple lies at your feet in the pitiful impotence of manifest but unused power.

The crying sin of modern parents is their unwillingness to let their children grow. They wish to transform them all at once from prattling infants into immortal geniuses. They have more faith in art than in Nature, in books and schoolrooms than in brooks and groves.

Painting by Elizabeth Nourse

I was reading a chapter titled "The Education of Our Boys, in a book called Our Home and he is describing the values of education, natural and academic; and after offering hope that most can find a way for an education, the author offers principles to those who are the least likely to get educated --

“At any rate, all may become well educated. Those men are almost numberless who have become great and useful by the light of a pine torch, who have learned the science of mathematics with a stick for a pencil and the ocean beach for a slate.

But suppose we meet the barefoot boy in the street picking rags, what word of advice have we for him? He will listen to all our fine talk about grand possibilities which are offered to the poorest and the worthiest in our great communities; he will listen to the story of those great souls who have climbed to glory over fence rails and canal boats; and when we have finished he will meet us with the question, “What shall I do and how shall I begin?”

Let us see if we can answer these questions. As the first step toward the desired result, he can pick up a rag, just as he has been wont to do, and examine it, not as heretofore with the simple purpose of determining whether he shall put it into one or the other of two baskets; but he can make it a text-book with which to begin an education. He can ask those older and wiser than himself what it is made of and how it is made. They will point him to the great mill yonder, where, if he tells his purpose, he can gain admission and learn something of the mechanical principles involved in the manufacture of the rag. If he continues to make inquiries until he can trace a piece of cotton through all its transformations, till it comes out a piece of fine bleached cotton, he has surely begun an education in earnest. He can save a penny a day for a few days and buy a primer, and with that primer under his arm he may politely approach any lady or gentleman with these words, “I am determined to make the most of myself. I want to learn to read. I have bought a little book. Can you give me any advice or help?”

There is not a man or woman in all that great city with a heart so hard as not to be melted to sympathy by that appeal. He would be astonished at the amount of love and sympathy and philanthropy in the world which he before had considered so cold and heartless.

Young man, -- bootblack, rag-picker, obscure farmer boy, or dweller in the dingy haunts of the city, -- remember that Freedom’s goddess holds over your head a crown. But she never puts that crown on any but a sweaty brow, -- the royal symbol of effort and worth.”

I found this picture of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller on the internet and found it so charming and full of devotion. Her story certainly verifies the authors principles.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

There are three generic conditions under which a man may hold his soul.

The first is where those instincts and passions which belong to our animal nature, and whose normal sphere is upon the material globe, predominate, and give tone to character. Under such circumstances, men are always sensual, -- fleshly, in scripture language. They live by the force of their material organization.

But as men come under better influences, there grows up an intermediate state, a mixed character, in which force alternates with higher and better feelings. Under great excitement, the physical qualities predominate; but in times of quiet, and away from temptation, there grow up milder influences, nobler sentiments. The result is that there is an occasional outburst of feeling, and also an occasional experience of sweetness and peace. It is, in such circumstances, an alternating condition of the mind, which results in great strife and conflict between the one part and the other – between the higher and the lower nature. And the greater part of men in civilized countries live in this intermediate condition, in which the animal is not predominate, and in which the spiritual is not predominate, but in which sometimes one and sometimes the other rules, neither having free course.

Then there is a final state – the highest we know of – that in which the moral sentiments completely rule. When these higher qualities give expression to the whole life—to the face, to the tone of the voice, to the language; where they surround the very soul, as with an atmosphere; where the whole nature is saturated with faith, hope, love—with truth, equity, benevolence – there is an air given to men, of strength in gentleness, of courage in sweetness, of activity in tranquility, of will without obstinacy, of self-confidence without conceit.

All these qualities may exist in the individual, and over them all there shall be a luminous refinement, a spiritual glow, which saves the soul from the charge of insipidity and flatness, and gives it authority and vitality. When the soul is completely under the dominion of these spiritual emotions, it shines. It impresses all that come near it. It rules whatever is within its sphere. In short, the spiritual is to become supreme in authority. And that which makes us men- not that which makes us animals – gives the color and tone to the whole life and character.

It is the atmosphere of the spiritual nature of man, or that appearance and those qualities which we see when the man is under complete control of his higher moral sentiments, which is what Jesus meant by “meekness”.

Matt, when I read this I immediately thought of the woman who was director at the AIDS orphanage where you took Carissa and I. I think so many of these qualities were evident in her.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I love to read Robert Louis Stevenson for pure entertainment. His insight into people just tickles me and he is always busy looking into the quirks and differences in people. Here he is talking about a good friend while they are on an ocean liner trip.

"If he had one taste more strongly than another, it was to study character. Many an hour have we two walked upon the deck dissecting our neighbors in a spirit that was too purely scientific to be called unkind; whenever a quaint or human trait slipped out in conversation; you might have seen Jones and me exchanging glances; and we could hardly go to bed in comfort till we had exchanged notes and discussed the day's experience. We were then like a couple of anglers comparing a day's kill. But the fish we angled for were of a metaphysical species, and we angled as often as not in one another's baskets. Once, in the midst of a serious talk, each found there was a scrutinizing eye upon himself; I own I paused in embarrassment at this double detection; but Jones, with a better civility, broke into a peal of unaffected laughter, and declared, what was the truth, that there was a pair of us indeed."

I ran across this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson where he was, as always, busy contemplating the nature of men. Here he makes some intriguing comments about the reformed drunkard whose life and identity is wrapt up in abstinence.

"Hence the comparative success of the teetotal pledge; because to a man who had nothing it sets at least a negative aim in life. Somewhat as prisoners beguile their days by taming a spider, the reformed drunkard makes an interest out of abstaining from intoxicating drinks, and may live for that negation. There is something, at least, not to be done each day; and a cold triumph awaits him every evening.”

I had to think that through a few times, visualizing a prisoner taming a poisonous spider, so at least at the end of the day he could say he was not bitten, which is some “cold triumph” that he can feel good about. Now the drunkard or drug addict is not the only one who becomes preoccupied in negatives; I ran across this quote about Christianity that is equally as stinging –

“Mr. Mills says, in his book on Liberty, that “Christian morality is in great part merely a protest against paganism: its ideal is negative rather than positive, passive rather than active.”

So my point; the recovering addict, who has made tea totaling his goal and his only goal, to abstain from the bite of abusing again, it becomes the focus and can be the entire goal of life to abstain, or as Stevenson puts it, “He may live for that negation.” So at least at the end of the day, although he has done nothing for others, he has, at least, this cold triumph. Now initially this is a most commendable goal, but at some point one must move on to living a positive life with offensive goals, concerns for others and not just saving one’s own soul or sobriety.

So in like manner, Mills quote that Christianity has reduced itself, in large part, to merely a protest against paganism, is the same principle, isn’t it? We do little to change the world, but we protest much, be it political issues, school policies, permitted words and lyrics, and of course those nasty agendas of the “gays”.

So in our idle time we boast of not being bitten by the spider, and with great conviction protest the ungodliness of the day, but booing the rival team that is carrying the ball will never win the game. One must play offense as well as defense.

Freaky picture of the black widow taken from the Internet, man spiders freak me out.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Name above every name

"Now when we are calculating God’s goodness, we must take measure by the family, according to Christ’s own declaration. On one occasion he taught the disciples on this very matter. He said to them, after giving them some other instruction, “if ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him!” What is the exact logical position here? When you argue from a man to God, you are accustomed to say, “Ah! That is not a fair argument – God is a different being.” “No,” says Christ, “take whatever is good in man and argue that God is not only that, but infinitely better than that. In fashioning your conception of God, make it as resplendent in justice, as august in truth, as noble and pure in love, as radiant and wondrous in pity, and as enduring as you please. Never be afraid that you will over draw the divine character. God is never better in your thought or imagination than he is in himself. You may pile on, and pile on, as much as you please, and your descriptions of God will not transcend, but will come short of, the reality. When you heart is warmest, when it is noblest when it is truest, when it is best, when it flashes out its ideal conceptions of God, that ideal is far more likely to be near the truth than one that is coldly, critically, philosophically deduced from definite premises. For God’s nature really outruns the human capacity for reasoning."

This piece affirms thoughts I began developing a number of years ago. I believed the emotions of compassion within men's hearts was a God given thing and that His level of compassion must far exceed ours. I saw within me a repulsion to see anything suffer, be it man or beast. How then can one reconcile this with the doctrine of eternal torment?

Henry Ward Beecher - Painting by Norman Rockwell.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

“Now, in the midst of this vast and ever-unwearied breaking of the surge on the shore of experience, how cheerful, how joyous are the words of God!

There is one reason why the Bible will never be upset just as long as the world lasts. You may prove to me that there is no such thing as inspiration; you may prove that this Book was dug out of a rock; you may destroy the prophet’s authority; you may take from the apostles their authority; you may take away the theory that the Bible came in any sense from God. Yet there is that in this Book which will keep it intact and make it potential as long as there is a heart to feel sorrow or to beat with hope. It is its humanity. It is its courage. It is the might and power of its love. It is the vast sympathy which wraps mankind as the atmosphere wraps the globe.

It is its thought and care for men in all their wants. For the poor, the needy, the weak, the helpless, the crying, the sighing, the discouraged, the down-trodden, the unvictorious, the captives, little children, mighty monarchs, peasants, nobles – for all men – there is here a throb and a yearning. There are thousands of blessings held out to them – strength, bread, fruit, water, wine, swords, spears – everything for humanity—whatever they need in their masterly struggles in this world. This Book is an ark into which men will run, as long as the world stands, for succor and consolation. And who should have made such a Book as this, as a way cast up on which “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads,” if it be not God?”

I love this quote by Henry Ward Beecher; it describes my feelings so well. "It is its humanity", displayed in every loving way Christ talked and walked among men. Let them say what they will, He walked into my life hearing "a throb and a yearning", and I can never deny it.

Photo by Krzysztof Buchowicz

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The following quote by Joseph Joubert I read in an essay by Matthew Arnold. In general the reading is way above my pay grade but this quote struck me. I'm around a lot of new Christians as well as older, dogmatic Christians, the kind that have "wings but no feet"; so this quote, though admittedly by a liberal Christian mind, made me pause to think.
Now I chose this picture of the colorful woman because I see in her face a look of "show me".
I presume she has been around and has heard many great swelling words and arguments of religion, and possibly they have left her unchanged. But when one "makes truth lovely", like in the bottom picture, even the hardest of hearts, those most fond of "picking holes", cannot refute the Christian gem of love.

“May I say it? It is not hard to know God, provided one will not force oneself to define Him.

“Do not bring into the domain of reasoning that which belongs to our innermost feeling. State truths of sentiment, and do not try to prove them. There is a danger in such proofs; for in arguing it is necessary to treat that which is in question as something problematic: now that which we accustom ourselves to treat as problematic ends by appearing to us as really doubtful. In things that are visible and palpable, never prove what is believed already; in things that are certain and mysterious- mysterious by their greatness and by their nature – make people believe them, and do not prove them; in things that are matters of practice and duty, command and do not explain. ‘Fear God,’ has made many men pious; the proofs of the existence of God have made many men atheists. From the defense springs the attack; the advocate begets in his hearer a wish to pick holes; and men are almost always led on, from the desire to contradict the doctor, to the desire to contradict the doctrine. Make truth lovely, and do not try to arm her; mankind will then be far less inclined to contend with her.” Joseph Joubert.

Top photo by Lawrence Paiken, bottom photo by Taci Yuksel.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

While reading a chapter on the Holy Spirit by Beecher, I ran across this paragraph. Needless to say with a center housing thirty men I found it fascinating and so relevant.

“We are so made that our first experience of excitement comes from physical or material excitements. Food, drink, heat, cold, agents of various kinds, on being applied to the body, or taken within it, develop nervous excitement. This nervous excitement goes on past mere sensational excitement, and becomes an excitement of the brain – of its passions, its reason and its affections. It is the lowest form of excitement. We very soon become familiar with the fact that men may be excited by other than mere physical stimuli. When men come to live with one another, they are excited. They are stimulated by each other’s presence. We may call it “mesmerism,” or “magnetism,” or whatever we choose; but one thing is certain, that men excite each other in a general way. We know that men are powerfully excited by the affections which they exercise, and by the evidences of reason, and by reasoning’s. In other words, while we begin life under the influence of mere physical stimulants, we soon rise to a point where excitements are social and moral. They are not physical stimulants applied to a physical body, but they are invisible moral influences which act as excitements and wake up the mind and affections.”

Photo from the Internet

I am touched by many of the guys at the center. Each man is unique and God speaks through them to me; and I hope in return God speaks through me in return. I believe He does. Of late there is one of the students, Dave that has captured my heart. To look at him, he’s a rough cut; no question if a conflict were to arise I would want him on my side. In some ways he reminds me of my son Richard who is blessed genetically with a large and unusually strong frame.

Dave has the prison tattoo of a tear under his eye, knuckles are scarred many times, and he explains matter of factly that these scars are the reality of prison life. Dave was the child of a broken home; his mother is Mexican his father is white. They lived in California when he was a baby where his father’s neglect and abuse applied through the haze of alcoholism broke the marriage up and Dave and his mother left to Mexico where Dave grew up. His mother hooked up with a man soon after whose business was growing marijuana in the hills of Mexico. Dave climbed the hills and began working in the family business farming pot at age six. He knew nothing of laws or dangers; he was a six year old child doing what his parents told him. Needless to say he continued the family tradition and this led him to drug dealing and trafficking which led to his repeated jail and prison terms. But this is where Christ got a hold of Dave and began his restoration. There were many relapses; and on Dave’s brow there is a reminder of one of the slips. He backslid and got into another drug deal and this time as he had his back turned, one of his “friends” pulled a gun and aimed it at the back of his head just at that time Dave turned around, the man discharged the gun and it hit Dave in the forehead, but because of the turn it glanced off, he shouted at the man, “Dude, you just shot me!”, and he returned fire and hit the guy in the butt. Such is the world Dave has been saved from and the stories are endless but what has captured my heart is the depth of Dave’s faith. Unlike so many, Dave truly listens to the Lord and he has a sharp mind and a deep faith at this time of his life and he strikes me as absolutely fearless. He fears not man nor circumstances and walks with such a self-assuredness clothed in a meek spirit that I find myself continually inspired and humbled. I’ll give you just one recent example; I was selling some furniture to two men obviously stoned, they wreaked with Pot, and what else one could only guess. They were in a good mood, we talked and teased and they bought. They asked me about some items that we had in stock way too long, so I gave them a generous discount and all was bliss, they were happy, money was flowing, all good. Now my lead man had a look of disgust and told me he’s sure they are drug dealers and wasted no Christian love on them. I’m sure he’s right but it went well.

The next day however, they returned to pick up a few more items and they weren’t in such a jolly mood, they expected a big discount on a bed they wanted to buy, and when I didn’t oblige they showed their less benevolent side. I could tell this may unravel so I stood firm explained my allegiance to the guys in the program and explained I can only discount on items that have been in the store 90 days or so. I salvaged the situation and we wrapped up the sale. But I could see the side of them my lead man had warned me about the night before. Now they wanted it all delivered and Dave is my delivery man along with another student. I was thankful it was Dave because I had no fear of sending him to these guys house, after all he is bulletproof. I talked with Dave and described the guys to him and warned him to keep it simple, be extra careful with the furniture because if they put a nick on it the whole thing will become a wrestling match over devaluation and it will likely all come back for a refund. This would not be a stretch. What next happened caught me by complete surprise; Dave was eager to meet these drug dealers and couldn’t wait to talk with them and hoped this was a ministry opportunity. He explained how he went downtown to witness to drug dealers and the Lord has used him to offer hope to many, and he was itching to see these guys to see what God would unfold.

Neither fear or anxiety entered his mind; he was off on a mission. He called them to let them know he was on his way and he spoke to them like long lost friends. They told him their car had broke down and asked him if he could give them a jump start. Oh no, my fears were about to unfold; I knew this was going to get screwed up and here was the first step. Before I shared my anxiety with Dave he gets a gleam in his eye and says,” Wow, we get an opportunity to do a good deed for them, the Lord is already preparing the ground.”

Here I had been filled with anxiety, worried this would end up in some big problem, or shouting match or scene of some kind; which I might add would not be the first I've seen of this kind while at the center; but Dave said, “Let’s huddle and pray that Christ will give me a word for these guys”. I sheepishly joined in the prayer trying to hide my lack of faith, but I couldn't hide the encouragement that Dave inspired me with. Here was a drug dealer that had been soundly saved by Christ and his heart burned to speak with other drug dealers and left in full anticipation of a blessing while I stood humbled in unbelief.

I left that evening before he returned, and I must say it wouldn't surprise me if we have two new drug dealers joining the program in the morning.

Dave is in the truck in the picture, the other man is Jay, who was a Professional bull rider.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I have been reading a little Henry Ward Beecher and I ran across this piece on "fear". His description is about as thorough as any I've ever read. The chapter is on the comfort of God, but this part of it simply describes one of the emotions where we need comfort.

“This view of comfort which is contained in our text, (2 Thess. 2:16,17) may be carried out in many particulars. Christian life is ordained to comfort us in our struggles, for instance, with fear. “Fear hath torment.” It is a tormentor. It haunts men, night and day.

Great fears may come seldom; but the poison emery, the dust of fear, comes in, as it were, at every crevice, and settles down upon every fair thing in life. There are innumerable petty fears. There are ten thousand little hauntings. How full is life of fear which takes away from men the enjoyment of their prosperity! Fear stands by the cradle, and threatens the mother; and all her love and thankfulness cannot make her happy while fear scowls and threatens. The specter of fear hovers between lovers, and they dread and suffer. It shoots like a meteor along the twilight meditations of evening. It hides the sun at noonday with clouds. It threatens health with sickness and sickness with death, and death with numberless terrors. Cares are the offspring of fear. They sting like noxious insects in tropical nights. Fear discourages poverty. It takes ease away from riches. It is the persecutor of ambition. It is the parasite of conscience. It plants upon conscience its own evil growth, until sometimes conscience is but an inquisitor, with a whip of scorpions. Fear perpetually exaggerates. It is always changing, and coming up in new forms, and always dread forms. It is full of illusions. All the way through it is undermining, undermining, the joys and hopes of life. And all this, too, in the realm where Christ has been revealed. Go from house to house and mark down how large a play there is of fear; how much of motive is fear; how largely men work for fear of more suffering than they choose to have. And see how men are restrained by fear, standing in the place of conscience. See how fear is like broken glass, every particle of which cuts the foot that treads on it. How is fear the destroyer of men’s peace, perpetually rasping them, and beating them with small whips, or large ones; as the case may be. One would think that the name of God who governs this world was Fear.

Right over against the gloomy face of fear stands the Lord Jesus Christ, and these words of ineffable cheer: “Our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts!” That is just what hearts that are sick want – comfort; and they have it in Christ Jesus, and in the fatherhood of God, and nowhere else, in such measure, or with such pertinency of application”.

Photo from the Internet

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"I asked the rock beside the road what joy existence lent,
It answered, "For a million years my heart has been content;"
I asked an angel, looking down on earth with gaze intent,
How man should rise to larger growth. Quoth he: "Through discontent."

Inspired Words For The Inspired Life - Photo by Rauly Sonia
"They never taste who always drink;
They always talk who never think."
Matthew Prior
Don't you just love this picture? You must enlarge it just to gaze at it. When I ran across it I hoped that I could find a great quote to go with it but for some time now I haven't found one and I just want to share this photo by A. Read titled, "Dream of sleep".
I have a book titled "The New Dictionary of Thoughts", so I looked up the word dream to see if there was anything that struck my fancy. I ran across this quote which I think is very interesting --

"We have in dreams no true perception of time - a strange property of mind! -- for if such be also its property when entered into the eternal disembodied state, time will appear to us eternity!" Winslow.

Now I never considered that in my dreams there is no perception of time but it is true, and somehow I find that so interesting.

How to concentrate and expedite

I ran across the following list of 9 tips to truly help one become more productive. If it weren't for these principles at work I would be lost in a sea of distractions. I think by the time I was 50 I became pretty good at applying these, so simple but so important.

1. Cut out non-essentials. 2. Don't hesitate; when done with one thing begin on the next.
3. Do the nearest, and, other things being equal, the hardest things first. 4. Finish one job before beginning the next, and don't pause between. 5. Do your thinking while you are acting. 6. If you have assistants use them, and do yourself what they can't do. Then help them out. 7. Do things right the first time, so as not to have to do them twice. 8. Don't look out the window, but keep thought and eye on the thing you are doing. 9. If a thing is important don't put it off; do it now while you think of it.

Author unknown - Photo by Jose A Gallego

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I ran across this little saying by Alice Cary, and thought it is a nice verse for children to memorize; adults too.

"Kind hearts are the garden, kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the blossoms, kind deeds are the fruits."

Photo by Margret Woodall - Shark.
I've been re-reading from Isaac Watt's book "The Improvement of the Mind," which is just filled with good suggestions on discoursing with people, especially those with whom you differ. This little piece is so practical --

"As you should carry about with you a constant and sincere sense of your own ignorance, by taking all proper opportunities to ask and inquire for farther information; whether it be the meaning of a word, the nature of a thing, the reason of a proposition, the custom of a nation, etc., never remain in ignorance for want of asking.
Many a person had arrived at some considerable degree of knowledge, if he had not been full of self-conceit, and imagined that he had known enough already, or else was ashamed to let others know that he was unacquainted with it. God and man are ready to teach the meek, the humble, and the ignorant; but he that fancies himself to know any particular subject well, or that will not venture to ask a question about it, such an one will not put himself into the way of improvement by inquiry and diligence. "A fool may be wiser in his own conceit than ten men who can render a reason," and such a one is very likely to be an everlasting fool; and perhaps also it is a silly shame renders his folly incurable.
"If fools have ulcers, and their pride conceal 'em;
They must have ulcers still, for none can heal 'em."

Photo by A. Small

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I ran across this poem about freedom from generational curses by E.W.Wilcox, and I just love it. It kind of goes along with the post below about removing the tree roots and all.

I care not who were vicious back of me,
No shadow of their sins on me is shed.
My will is greater than heredity,
I am no worm to feed upon the dead.

My face, my form, my gestures, and my voice
May be reflections from a race that was,
But this I know, and knowing, I rejoice:
I am myself a part of the Great Cause.

I am a spirit! Spirit would suffice
If rightly used to set a chained world free,
Am I not stronger than a mortal vice
That crawls the length of some ancestral tree?

Statue from the Internet

I watched a movie titled “Sometimes in April”. It was a moving show about Rwanda and the struggles and plight of the Tutsi during the 1994 genocide.

It haunted me in worship today as I longed to see an end to the madness and oppression of man against man. For the most part the world watched as nearly one million people were murdered in Rwanda, and at the very beginning of the movie they displayed the following quote –

” In the end, we will remember not

the words of our enemies

but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King Jr.

As we sang about the glory of God and His power over the whole earth I just couldn't reconcile what I witnessed the night before with the songs I was singing.

How can we be more effective in stopping the horrors in our world, why don’t we care more?

As I sat in church my eyes landed on a passage from Mark 8 verses 22 -25 and I saw it in a different light, and I’m sure it is not theologically correct but it helped me understand our blindness a little better.

“And the disciples brought a blind man to Jesus and entreated Him to touch him.And taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes, and laying His hands upon him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?”And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I am seeing them like trees walking about.”

Then again He laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.”

I wondered about the method that Jesus used to heal this man’s sight, and it is a stretch, but I could see the eyes of Jesus begin to well up with compassion and those tears, some of which ran down his face and some entering his mouth by way of his tear ducts, and he placed his finger on His tongue and applied them to the man’s eyes where his vision began to be restored, but incompletely; he saw men as trees. I thought that this is where my problem lies, I see and hear of the needs of the world but because I remain distant and uninvolved, they are not clear enough to move me to action. But Jesus repeated the process and the man saw clearly. This reminded me of growth in God’s grace where we begin our walk with Christ largely self-centered, but with more anointing we begin to see the needs of others through His eyes and His anguish which leads us to action.

Picture from the Internet

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I was talking to one of the guys in the program the other day and he was explaining why he came to Teen Challenge and not some other drug rehab. program. His answer was that all the other programs he inquired into presented drug addiction as a disease that can be overcome but will be with him forever. When he talked to them at Teen Challenge they spoke of being set free from addiction in Christ and that it was a choice we make and there is hope of total recovery. That message of hope struck him so deeply he immediately chose Teen Challenge.

It reminded me of the words of Christ – “If you had faith like a mustard see you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” The tree is not cut down, but it is pulled up roots and all; this was the hope this young man saw. Bless God forever.

Photo from the Internet

".... But we have a Shepherd full of care, full of kindness, full of power, who has said, " I will seek that which was lost, and bind up that which was broken, and bring again that which was driven away, and will strengthen that which was sick."
How tender are these expressions, and how well fulfilled! His sheep feed in the midst of wolves, yet are preserved safe; for though they see Him not, His eyes and His heart are upon them. Do we wonder that Daniel was preserved in the lion's den? Why, it is a common case. Which of God's children have not cause to say, "My soul is among lions"? But the Angel of the covenant stops their mouths, or only permits them to gape and roar, to show their teeth, and what they would do, if they might; but they may not; they shall not bite and tear us at their own will.
Let us trust Him, and all shall be well."

I want to add something to this but because it is a common case to be among lions I'll just say amen and thank you Lord.

John Newton - Awesome photo by James Pan

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Wesley's inspiration was a belief that no human being lived on earth, so base, so stupid, so worldly, so utterly corrupt and worthless, but that if could believe it, God was ready to kindle in his soul a fire of love which would wholly consume his evil."

Mmmm, here in lies our hope!!!!!

Photo by Michael Menekis
One of my granddaughters was telling me about a foreign exchange student from Denmark she has befriended and took to church last night; she could tell the friend was uncomfortable and later her friend commented it was "too religious" for her. My granddaughter was disappointed and was considering how to beautify religion for her new friend. The two following quotes I ran across address the situation as clearly as anything that comes to mind.

"Jennie, the working girl, brings to me
Hope and trust and a gentler grace,
Though her words are few and her manner shy,
I can read a sermon in her sweet face;
For Jennie, the working girl, makes it plain,
That to live for others is richest gain."

"To be full of goodness, cheerfulness, sympathy, and of helpful hope, causes one to move on human life as stars move on dark seas to bewildered mariners. - author unknown

So we concluded the discussion by simply agreeing that if she will just be herself and live out her faith freely, and speak her words sparingly, her impact on her new friend may well be the sermon that wins her heart.

Poem Jennie by Harriet F. Crocker - top photo by Anna Pagnacco, bottom photo by Sune Wenelboe.