Friday, January 30, 2009

I don't think I have been warm since October! brrrrr, I'm longing for spring.
I ran across this piece by Nathaniel Hawthorne and just melted into it, hope you like it as well.

“Not a breeze can stir but it thrills us with the breath of autumn. A pensive glory is seen in the far, golden beams, among the shadows of the trees. The flowers – even the brightest of them, and they are the most gorgeous of the year…… It is good to be alive at such times. Thank Heaven for breath; yes, for mere breath, when it is made up of a heavenly breeze like this!
It comes with a real kiss upon our cheeks; it would linger fondly around us if it might; but, since it must be gone, it embraces us with its whole kindly heart, and passes onward to embrace likewise the next thing that it meets. A blessing is flung abroad and scattered far and wide over the earth, to be gathered up by all who choose. I recline upon the still unwithered grass and whisper to myself, “O perfect day! O beautiful world! O beneficent God!” And it is the promise of a blessed eternity; for our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal".

Photo by Yuri Bonder

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"The greatest object in the universe,
says a certain philosopher,
is a good man struggling with adversity;
Yet there is still a greater,which is the good man that comes to relieve it.”
Oliver Goldsmith

Do you remember when someone came to your aid? Someone without an agenda, not counting the cost, but seeing your need and coming to relieve it. Is there any deed greater? I doubt not. It brings with it a power and if you are like me, it has been a rare occasion, but one that is never forgotten.

Photo taken from the Internet

“There are saints, and there are excellent saints. Now those are the excellent ones, that are most rich in heavenly treasures; and these you should make your bosom friends, your choicest companions: Prov. 13:20, ‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise"; that is, he shall be more wise, more humble, more holy, and more abounding in all spiritual riches. Now, not he that talks with the wise, nor he that commends the wise, nor he that takes a step or two or three with the wise, that shall be wise, but he that gives up himself to the society and company of the wise, that shall be more and more wise, gracious and holy. He that cometh where sweet spices or ointments are stirring, doth carry away some of the sweet savor, though himself think not of it. The Spouse, in the Song of Solomon, has lips that drop as the honeycomb; “The tongue of the just is as choice as silver,” he scatters pearls, he throws abroad treasures where he comes: “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge”; A metaphor for scattering like the seedsmen scattering abroad of their seed in the furrows and field. They scatter their light, their love, their experiences, among those with whom they converse, as the seedsman scatter their seed in the field.
Christ says his spouse’s lips are like a thread of scarlet, with talking of nothing but a crucified Christ; and thin like a thread, not swelled with other vain and wicked discourses.”
Thomas Brooks, references to Song of Solomon 4.
I like this paragraph, so practical, and the illustration he draws from the Spouse's lips of scarlet lifts me. I hesitated to use this painting by Lord Frederick Leighton, because I wanted something.......different. But the more I looked and thought about this painting I decided it represents 'furrows' that need seed first and foremost; the patient, loving look of the instructor, maybe mother, may be tutor, demonstrates to me how all circumstances in life have opportunity to kiss with lips of scarlet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Each bud flowers but once, and each flower has but its minute of perfect beauty; so, in the garden of the soul each feeling has, as it were, its flowering instant, its one and only moment of expansive grace, and radiant kingship. Each star passes but once in the night through the meridian over our heads and shines there but an instant; so, in the heavens of the mind each thought touches its zenith but once, and in that moment all its brilliancy and all its greatness culminate. Artist, poet, or thinker, if you want to fix and immortalize your ideas or your feelings, seize them at this precise and fleeting moment, for it is their highest point. Before it, you have but vague outlines of dim presentiments of them. After it you will have only weakened reminiscence or powerless regret; that moment is the moment of your ideal." Amiel's Journal.
This little piece is a well know fact to any writer, artist, and I think Christian.
There is a moment when a thought is at its clearest and must be seized at that moment or it may never return. Write it down and don't delay, it matters and in just the time it takes to answer a brief question or in hunting for pen and paper it can be gone, forever. I chose this photo to illustrate the thought 5 minutes after you had it.
Photo by Sebina D.

Monday, January 26, 2009

He erred, no doubt, perhaps he sinned;

Shall I then dare to cast a stone?

Perhaps this blotch on a garment white,

Counts less than the dingy robes I own. - George Houghton.

I love this short poem, it slaps me in the face and begs me to stand ready. The battle when one has been a Christian for years is to maintain that first love. The following piece by John Newton adds another side to the same issue --

"And, I believe, the over doings of a young convert, proceeding from an honest simplicity of heart and a desire of pleasing the Lord, are more acceptable in His sight than a certain coolness of conduct which frequently takes place afterward, when we are apt to look back with pity upon one former weakness and secretly to applaud ourselves for our present greater attainments in knowledge, though perhaps (alas, that it should ever be so!) we may have lost as much in warmth as we have gained in light."

"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Eph. 514

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The following poem brought a smile to my face, the things that influence and stick, can often be so absurd, but when taught us as children, they may last a lifetime. This picture, which I had some hestitation in adding because of the racial struggles blacks have had in this country, I chose to use because anyone that knows me knows I am color blind and love all races.
I grew up with an Uncle who was mentally challenged, I think he had the mental development of a 14 year old, but he was the man I loved the most; I spent hours at his knee listening to his stories that enthralled me. This poem reminded me of him.
My mother said to me,
"Try to be good.
Keep your belongings
Neat as you should,
Say your prayers daily
Before you sleep,
And make no promise
You cannot keep."
My black mammy said to me,
"Thirteens bad.
Let it alone,
Or you'll wish you had.
Never cut yo' vittles
Wid a black-handled knife,
An' doan kill a spider.
Hit's de debbil's wife."
Seldom I'm good
For virtue's sake,
and many's the promise
I've made to break
But I shun thirteen
And a black-handled knife,
And I couldn't kill a spider
To save my life.
This tickles me so, it is the people we love the dearest that leave impressions on our life.
My Uncle told me a story of two children who rode the Ferris Wheel and a wind came up and blew dirt into the gears of the car they were in and it caused it to stick and they fell out!
I have never ridden a Ferris Wheel to this day!
Picture taken from the Internet
How does a new Christian interpret the Bible? This is a question that is on the mind of every new convert. There is such a volume of doctrine in the Bible, so many denominations, sects, eschatology’s it is mind boggling. What or who do we believe? How do we approach the Bible so we can benefit most and not be misled or sent down a rabbit trail that ends in a circle?
In general, there are two ways a Christian is introduced to Bible study. The first, and I think the most common is, the new convert reads their Bible, and is filled with an overwhelming amount of questions, and goes to church and listens to the Pastor or Priest; then they may join a Bible study or have a more mature Christian help you interpret passages; and people will typically give you an inspiring book to help learn and understand.
In general that is what I see as the normal and usual introduction to Christian thought.

Now, the second approach to learning Biblical truth is done by mentoring the new convert with a ‘hands on’ approach. The young Christian is brought into the church, hears the Pastor or Priest, reads their Bible and is asked to join in a local ministry with a mentor or other members. It may be they join others doing community service, be it city clean up, feeding the homeless, reading to the blind, helping an elder with house work or yard clean up, or some other way of donating time and talents in the service of their fellow man. These times of Christian application can often be done with the family, or two by two.

Now as the new convert reads and interprets their Bible within the context of service, the simple foundations of Christianity become clear and knowledge added on this foundation bears much fruit. As the serving Christian becomes established in the truth as it is in Jesus, the natural flow, as Biblical learning increases, is to engage in sharing this living faith and bringing others into family of faith and love.

In the first example I gave, there is a danger that the Pharisees were ensnared with -- the joy of learning, the self congratulation that comes with knowledge, the thrill of growing intellectually, the gratification of position when leading a younger Christian into truth you have already learned. Christianity may become more about words and theology.

To understand the mysteries of the Bible takes an entire lifetime and it is a noble goal, but one that can potentially lead to “ever learning without coming to the knowledge of the truth”. Because, search the scriptures as you will, they are they which testify of Christ, and Christ’s school is learned in the market place of humanity, be it in our immediate family, work, school, or community.

Here is where we learn to apply the Biblical teachings and so learn the spirit and not the letter.
It is here where we learn our individual spiritual gifts.
This is the safest way I know to learn how – “To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Which is what God has showed you in the life of Christ, and the foundation made of the most enduring rock.

Just one man’s opinion and I hope it is an encouragement.

Top photo by Monique Jansen, and bottom painting by Carl Bloch.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Morning Prayer

A gardener knows his garden must be well watered early in the morning to stand the hot noon day sun. The poem below weaves an analogy with the garden and morning prayer that prepares us for the days difficulties. Hope you like it.
A garden so well watered before morn
Is hotly up that not the swart sun’s blaze
Down beating with unmitigated rays,
Nor arid winds from scorching places borne,
Shall quite prevail to make it bare and shorn
Of its green beauty – shall not quite prevail
That all its morning freshness shall exhale,
Till evening and the evening dews return;
A blessing such as this our hearts might reap,
The freshness of the garden they might share,
Through the long day a heavenly freshness keep,
If, knowing how the day and the day’s glare
Must beat upon them, we would largely steep
And water them betimes with dews of prayer.
R.C. Trench - Photo from the Internet

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The following piece is by John Newton and he says he is attempting to sketch the Christian’s temper as it should be towards God. Whenever I read or hear that a description is coming to evaluate our faith, it always demands my attention to find how far I lag behind. I thought this was good hope you like it.

“The Christian’s temper Godward is evidenced by humility. He has received from Gethsemane and Golgotha such a sense of the evil of sin and of the holiness of God combined with His matchless love to sinners as has deeply penetrated his heart; he has an affecting remembrance of the state of rebellion and enmity in which he once lived against this holy and good God; and he has a quick perception of the defilements and defects which still debase his best services. His mouth is therefore stopped as to boasting; he is vile in his own eyes, and is filled with wonder that the Lord should visit such a sinner with such a salvation. He sees so vast a disproportion between the obligations he is under to grace and the returns he makes that he is disposed, yea, constrained, to adopt the apostle’s words without affectation and to account himself the least of all the saints; and knowing his own heart, while he sees only the outside of others, he is not easily persuaded there can be a believer upon the earth so faint, so unfruitful, so unworthy as himself.”
Photo by Karen Rexrode

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Sixteen year old Grandson Christian, produced this You-Tube video using The Passion of Christ clips to emphasis his message. Needless to say I am so grateful to Christ that His love is reaching to the third generation and capturing the hearts of my grandchildren, may they be mighty warriors of His peace and love.

From "Aurora Leigh"

“I sat on in my chamber green,
And lived my life, and thought my thoughts and prayed
My prayers without the vicar; read my books
Without considering whether they were fit
To do me good. Mark, there. We get no good
By being ungenerous even to a book,
And calculating profits – so much help
By so much reading. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book’s profound,
Impassioned for its beauty and salt of truth –
‘Tis then we get the right good from a book.”
Elizabeth Barrette Browning.

I nearly went past this little excerpt from Aurora Leigh but then I re-read it and it brought these thoughts to mind –
I felt as though she were making a statement of her independence in the first lines – she lived her life, not the life another imposed on her; her prayers – not with Pastor or Priest applying theirs to her; her books, ones she chose, not the catechism, or the approved list of the church, but in freedom choosing for herself.
I liked her approach to whatever she read – an attitude of generosity, maybe a simple respect for the labor someone has put into their work; and I take her to mean she chooses a peaceful time carved out to soul-fully plunge in and greedily gather all the sweetness offered, seeking bits of truth and beauty, leaving the work of a critic to another. Surely the author would appreciate this respectful approach to their work, be it man or God.
Photo from the Internet

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Of a sane man there is only one safe definition. He is a man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head." G.K. Chesterton.
When I read this quote it really struck me; as Christians we do not hide our eyes from the desperate and stricken in our world. Often we can but pray, and the world is big and the sorrows are great.
But we are not a sad people because tragedy resides in our hearts, we have God's joy in our minds. We can laugh and tease and play, and in some ways we may enjoy it more knowing it is a privilege.
In looking for a picture to go with this quote I had some difficulty until I remembered this picture of two boys in an orphanage. The boy on the right, with the face aglow, no doubt senses the struggles of his friend, but with that tragedy withing his heart he has laughter in his head, just what the doctor ordered for both.
Photo by Banhup Teh

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I hope you will watch the one and a half minute video that was sent to me from a friend. King David said his heart was stirred by a noble theme: this is a noble theme.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The context of the following illustrious quote by Jeremy Taylor is from his book titled "Holy Dying" (a serious call to prepare ourselves, by a good and holy life, for death) and this piece is from the chapter called “The miseries of Life”, in it he speaks to the madness and folly of loving the world, being infatuated with wealth and pleasure and trusting in one’s self and not God. It is difficult to lead in to but I will begin as he is speaking to the miseries in this world and how we should soberly consider if we would put our affections here instead of in heaven –

He that is no fool but can consider wisely, can see that loving this world is –
“to think charitably about dwelling with Vipers and Dragons, and entertaining his guests with the shrieks of Mandrakes, Cats and Screech Owls, with the filling of iron, and the harshness of rending silk; or to admire the harmony that is made of a herd of evening wolves when they miss their draught of blood in their midnight revels. The groans of a man in a fit of passing a stone are worse than these; and the distractions of a troubled conscience are worse than those groans; and yet a carefree merry sinner is worse than all that. But if we could from one of the battlements of heaven see how many men and women at this time lye fainting and dying for want of bread, how many young men are hewn down by the sword of war; how many poor orphans are now weeping over graves of their father, by whose life they were enabled to eat. If we could but hear how many Mariners, and passengers are at this present in a storm, and shriek out because their keel dashed against a rock, or bulges under them; how many people there are that weep with want, and are mad with oppression, or are desperate by too quick a sense of a constant infelicity, in all reason we should be glad to be out of the noise and participation of so many evils. This is a place of sorrows and tears,
of great evils and a constant calamity; let us remove from hence, at least in affections and preparation of mind.”

When you list the sorrows, calamities and want that truly is being experienced by thousands if not millions at this very time, it is a sobering thought and makes me so grateful that I live in peace and am spared nearly all of these horrors. But heaven’s windows are open and will hold us accountable if we help, or close the window. Oh Lord Jesus, let me not close my eyes!

Photo sent to me by Mel from the Internet -- and just as a side note: the look on the child that is carrying the baby, just pierces my heart, I see a determination to hold the precious load without resentment, no, but with a smile. God spare me for my pathetic complaints.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I have been so enjoying my new book “Treasures New and Old”. In it are so many delicious and wholesome thoughts. Now the one below is a piece by Lord Bulwer Lytton, in it he is prescribing different subjects as antidotes for different maladies.
It is just fun to read; he ends with a summation and recommendation of the “Book of Books”, the cardinal medicine for all, but I want to post his prescription for sectarianism and then on to a remedy for the cry baby. I enjoy his colorful and humorous illustrations, hope you do as well.

“Then, for that vice of the mind which I call sectarianism – not in the religious sense of the word, but little, narrow prejudices, that make you hate your next-door neighbor, because he has his eggs roasted when you have yours boiled; and gossiping and prying into people’s affairs, and backbiting, and thinking heaven and earth are coming together, if some broom touch a cobweb that you have let grow over the window-sill of your brains – for this, a large and generous course of history.”

“But,” continued my father, more gravely, “when some one sorrow that is yet reparable gets hold of your mind like a monomania – when you think, because heaven has denied you this or that, on which you had set your heart, that all your life must be a blank – oh! then diet your self well on biography – that biography of good and great men. See how little a space one sorrow really makes in life. See scarce a page, perhaps, given to some grief similar to your own; and how triumphantly the life sails on beyond it! You thought the wing was broken! – Tut – tut – it was but a bruised feather! See what life leaves behind it when all is done!

Painting by Leon Augustin

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Holy Scriptures

I read the following poem from my new book "Treasures New and Old", and I really like it, although I don’t understand it all.
He is speaking to the mystery and secrets of the scriptures -
their glory, and how they find us out, speak to us and point the way to
destiny and eternal life.

"Oh, that I knew how all thy lights combine,
And the configurations of their glory!
Seeing not only how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the story.
This verse marks that, and both do make a motion
Unto a third that ten leaves off doth lie.
Then, as dispersed herbs do make a potion,
These three make up some Christian's destiny.
Such are thy secrets, which my life makes good,
And comments on thee. For in everything
Thy words do find me out, and parallels bring,
And in another make me understood.
Stars are poor books, and oftentimes do miss:
This book of stars lights to eternal bliss."
George Herbert.

Here is a quote with similar content –

"In the Bible there is more that finds me than I have experienced in all other books put together; the words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit." S. T. Coleridge.

Photo by Metin Demiralay

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sue and I went out visiting some antique stores for a few hours today, and I ran across this gem. This is what I hope to find when poking around; a Christian classic filled with quotes, stories and poems, copyrighted 1883. This 750 page beauty titled, "Treasures New and Old", is filled with hours of reading and will of course look like a work of art on my bookshelf. You should smell it! How sweet it is!
Can't wait to post something from it.

I chose this picture by Martin Bushue which pictures all of our hopes for children; a carefree childhood with joy, laughter and safety. But it is not to be for all. The disturbing report from The Free Burma Rangers reminds us that our world is in desperate need of Christians to bring the love of the gospel and fight injustice and oppression. May 2009 be a year of greater action and support in Christendom.

2nd January, 2009
Urgent Statement by the Karen Women's Organization

KWO demands accountability for SPDC rape and killing of 7-year-old girl
The Karen Women's Organization is demanding the immediate arrest and prosecution of an SPDC soldier who raped and killed a young girl in Burma's northern Karen State last week, as well as punishment of his commanding officer for failing to take action over the crime.
The body of the 7-year-old girl was found near her house with gunshot wounds in her chest and signs of rape in the village of Ma Oo Bin, Kyauk Kyi Township, Nyaunglebin District, in the evening of December 27, 2008. Villagers had seen a soldier from SPDC Light Infantry enter the village shortly beforehand, and then heard sounds of a girl crying out and rifle shots.
The girl's parents and village leaders went to report the case the next day to Captain Thet Khaing, the local commander of SPDC LI 350, stationed near the village, but no action has been taken yet.
The KWO is appalled at this horrific crime, and that the SPDC authorities have failed to take any action over the case. If such impunity continues, the SPDC military will continue to commit such crimes, threatening the lives of women and girls throughout the country.
The KWO demands the immediate arrest of the rapist and prosecution in accordance with the severity of his crime. His commanding officer, Captain Thet Khaing, must also be held accountable for this crime and be punished for failing to ensure prosecution of the offender.
The KWO urges the international community to pressure the SPDC authorities to take action over this case, and to ensure that the victim's family and other community members face no retaliation for their attempts to seek justice.
"Men ought always to pray".

The Narrow Way

I love the words of Christ and His apostles who lay out the way of perfection for all followers to aspire to. I love the Puritan writers who hold up the standard of holiness and righteousness like few today. I want the word and I want it full strength without adulteration. Give me Jesus and don’t water it down.
Now, that said, what about the sad reality that all Christians sense when reading or hearing a soul piercing sermon that exposes their many faults and inadequacies? We are called to follow a way that is far above our ability and if we contrast what needs be done, to what we actually do, we can fall into discouragement.
Then let this following scripture become the healing salve for your wounds.
This heartening scripture, tucked away in the third chapter of Philippians the 12th verse, where God’s valiant servant gives succor to our fears—

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Here Paul explains that Christ has called and possessed each one of us for His wonderful purposes but while He is using us He condescends to our weaknesses.
Not that we have already obtained all that will be apprehended, but still we are loved, accepted and used in spite of our deficiencies.
There is great comfort in this and to me it is an ingredient that must be included in any preacher or brother that I will sit under or allow to influence me.
The Pharisees applied the word without this humility and made the easy way of the Spirit a heavy load which brought control and condemnation to the hearers.
This same spirit has been present in all of Christendom past and present.

I look for Paul’s humble spirit in anyone I read, and if it isn’t there, I realize I have detected legalism and will not return to that table for food.

Here is an example of Phil. 3:12 that ends a sermon written by John Newton who was preaching strongly on our need for a full surrender to the Lord; it expresses my above thoughts perfectly.

“I hope I may say that I desire to be thus entirely given up to the Lord; I am sure I must say that what I have written is far from being my actual experience. Alas! I might be condemned out of my own mouth were the Lord strict to mark what is amiss. But oh the comfort! We are not under the law but under grace.”

Now here is another example at the end of another sermon –

“I have touched upon a topic of great importance to myself. I am one among many who have suffered greatly for lack of paying more attention to my need of this prayer. Oh that I could be wiser hereafter, and always act and speak as knowing that I am always upon a field of battle, and beset by legions!”

I consider this candid expression of humility among the most necessary ingredients of preaching and witnessing, and if you are the victim of discouragement or despondency in your Christian walk, you may find comfort in this, and I cannot exaggerate the importance of this issue.

The above picture DOES NOT illustrate "The narrow way".

Photo by Daniel Bayer

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I wrote the following poem 11 years ago about that feeling most of us have at some time that we aren't as much a part of the whole as we would like to be. Now this feeling is far less in some than others but I think everyone can relate to some degree based on my conversations over a lifetime. I decided to post it, not because my claim to fame is writing poetry, but I read a post on Candice's blog that reminded me of it.

The Black Sheep

Haunting deep within
lurks accusing me I've been,
seen or done things less,
much less than the throng
where I don't fit, or belong
here the way the majority
are accepted in life's fraternity.

An outsider, with the obvious lack
of social grace, or some black
sheep sense of deficiency
keeping others at distance from me.
I'm fifty years old and then some
and can't evade or outrun
the lifelong shadow that clings.

I've learned to display a sanguine face,
covering the fear without a trace
of insecurity, giving me away.

Survival provides the missing part
pride takes over and rules the heart,
but the sister that shares prides home,
drives others away
and you end up alone.

Picture from the Internet

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

In William Gurnall's classic book "The Christian in Complete Armour", he gives much practical advice to Christians. This little snippet is encouragement for us when our peace is robbed.

"When Satan comes to take away your peace, if you do not understand the full significance of your justification in Christ you will be easily overcome. A saint without assurance of salvation is as unprotected as the rabbit that darts into a thicket to escape a fox, but is easily followed by the print of her own feet and the scent she leaves behind. In Christ you have a hiding place where the enemy dare not come: 'the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs' (Song of Sol. 2:14). While the devil may be in hot pursuit of your soul, the very scent of Christ's blood, by which you are justified, is noxious to him and will stop him in his tracks. Run straight into this tower of the gospel covenant, and roll this truth on the head of Satan, as the woman cast the stone on the head of Abimelech: 'To him....that....believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness' Rom. 4:5

Picture from the Internet

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The following poem speaks of a time in England when the common peasant enjoyed the simple pleasures of the little village. But then the wealthy came and exploited the land, developed it and pushed out the common man who used to live off the land and replaced it with luxury and folly, and now nothing remains of simplicity of life. It reminds me of the sight where Ruby’s Cafe once stood, but now replaced with a Starbucks, the mom and pop Cook’s store was ploughed down to be replaced with a 7-11. As you age you see much of the landmarks change and become but a memory. This poem captures that thought to me.

"Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay:
Princes and lords may flourish or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made,
But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed can never be supplied.
A time there was, ere England’s griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintained its man;
For him light labor spread her wholesome store,
Just gave what life required, but gave no more;
His best companions, innocence and health;
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are altered: trade’s unfeeling train
Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain;
Along the lawn, where scattered hamlets rose,
Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose;
And every want to luxury allied,
And every pang that folly pays to pride.
Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,
Those calm desires that asked but little room,
Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful scene,
Lived in each look, and brightened all the green;
These, far departing, seek a kinder shore,
And rural mirth and manners are no more."

Poem by Goldsmith - Photo by Erik Lewandowski

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I have seen the topic I address below cause more frustration for young people, and I mean people under 40, than any other issue. Not compatibility, wealth, position or location; although location can remove us from family and friends that in most cases can contribute to alleviating the problem discussed below to some degree. So if you are married and under forty, maybe there will be some practical help in this.

I think the most difficult season of life is when we have left single life where we are free to make choices for ourselves; when we have complete freedom to come and go; we report to few and are accountable to none; and no one depends on us. And then we enter into marriage where much of this comes to an abrupt end.
With the advent of children, we are taken further from this time of freedom and for some it comes suddenly, within a few years or less. That is not much time to make such a profound emotional change. We have duties that demand nearly all of our time, we have others that depend on us, our alone time is gone, and financial concerns are often pressing, babies crying, spouses needing, what an adjustment to make! Such a contrast! We leave one world and are ushered into another with memories like this --

“Everyone, probably, will be able to recall hours when, amid the competitive gladness of school or college companions, the impulses of enjoyment seemed to burst all bounds, and ran into the most riotous excitement; and in the reminiscences of such hours there may be the charm as of a long lost pleasure never to be felt again.

Our own natural and healthy instincts for wholesome enjoyment constantly reassert their power, and to deny them is to introduce an element of hurtful perplexity into the life.
It is vain to enter into this struggle with nature; it is cruel and wrong to do it. Nature must have play, and of course, it is to be kept within bounds by its own wise training and responsibilities. But human nature, as a prime condition of health, mental and physical, must have recreation, must have its moments of play, when it throws off the burden of work, and rejoices in the mere sensation of its own free activity. The younger we are the more we need these opportunities; we thirst for them – we are on the alert to catch them; and if denied them, we dwindle from our proper strength, emotionally or physically, and can pursue illegitimate and hurtful gratifications.”

I paraphrased the above from a chapter from Room at the Top, by A. Craig.

The solutions to this dilemma will be up to you to solve, and it is no easy task, but to deny it is to invite “illegitimate and hurtful gratifications.” Finding the time for oneself and one’s spouse, without neglecting our obligations requires continuing investigation and creativity, because circumstances and obligations seem to grow, not lessen, as the years go rapidly by. Some of us stretch to meet these growing duties with far more ease than others. Some feel chafed, caged and cornered while others may make the adjustments with little emotional distress. But all are affected to some degree. So, for those who are struggling I hope this will be of some help.

"Youth must have its healthy recreations. Enjoyment must mingle largely in the life of every healthy young person."

Top photo by Mike Roberts, bottom by Thomas.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I thought I would share the following pictures just for fun; both are so dramatic. It made me wonder why all cultures have gone to such lengths to beautify. There is so much craft in these two pictures and I don't consider either evil, but looking for a quote to shed light on the question, I was unable to find anything that did not either condemn or encourage, but nothing expressed my question or thoughts. The man is from Peru and I assume the girl is from the U.S. I decided to post some of the quotes I ran across: they differ greatly in opinion, and I endorse none. I did find them all interesting, maybe you will as well.

"Many a one, for the sake of finery on the back,
Has gone with a hungry belly, and half-starved their families.
“Silks and satins, scarlets and velvets, put out the kitchen fire.”
B. Franklin

"The tulip and the butterfly
Appear in gayer coats than I:
Let me be dressed fine as I will,
Flies, worms, and flowers exceed me still.”
Isaac Watts.

The adorning thee with so much art
Is but a barbarous skill;
‘Tis like the poisoning of a dart
Too apt before to kill.”
Abraham Cowley.

As for clothing…..perhaps we are led oftener by
The love of novelty and a regard for the opinions
Of men, in procuring it, than a true utility.”
H.D. Thoreau

“With silken coats, and caps, and golden rings,
With ruffs, and cuffs, and fardingales, and things;
With scarfs, and fans, and double change of bravery,
With amber bracelets, beads, and all this knavery.”

“Never teach false morality. How exquisitely absurd to tell
girls that beauty is of no value, dress of no use! Beauty is of value;
her whole prospects and happiness in life may often depend upon
A new gown or a becoming bonnet, and if she has five grains of common
Sense, she will find this out.”
Sydney Smith.
Oh man! it is good he lives in a different century!

"A gaudy dress and gentle air,
May slightly touch the heart,
But it’s innocence and modesty
That polishes the dart.”

Top photo by James Pam, bottom photo by Sergio Passolano.

In the following quote by Chrysostom, he is referring to the leper who came to Jesus saying, ‘if thou will, Thou canst make me clean.’ Chrysostom brings out some interesting points surrounding his response in word and action –

“But Jesus did not merely say, “I will, be thou clean,” but He also “put forth His hand, and touched him;” a thing especially worthy of inquiry. For then why after cleansing him by His will and word, did He add also the touch of His hand?
It seems to me, for no other purpose, but that He might signify by this that He is not subject to the law, but is set over it; and that to the clean, henceforth, nothing is unclean. For this cause we see Elisha did not so much as see Naaman, but though he perceived that he was offended at his not coming out and touching him, thereby observing the strictness of the law, he abides at home, and sends him to Jordan to wash. Whereas the Lord, to signify that He heals not as a servant, but as absolute master, does also touch. For His hand became not unclean from the leprosy, but the leprous body was rendered clean by His holy hand.”

In another place Jesus uses His own saliva to heal the blind man; this too was forbidden by the law for sanitary purposes. Somehow that always touched me, it made me wonder at the purity of Christ not only in spirit but in body, that His saliva gives sight and His blood cleanses sin. Such mystery, such glory.

I also thought that there may be some instruction for us, in principle, in the way Jesus worked; He had the will to serve, the word for power, and the touch for loving.

Picture taken from the Internet

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I ran across this little optimism evaluation and thought it was interesting and it did make me think. Maybe you will enjoy it.
After you have promised to be honest with yourself, jot down you numbers on a sheet of paper and add them up when done for an evaluation.

Answer the questions with a number from 1 to 5 that best describes you.
1 = Never
2 = Rarely
3 = Sometimes
4 = Often
5 = Always

Do you welcome change and feel comfortable with it?

Do you spend time in prayer and meditation?

Do you stop to admire flowers?

How often do you stop to have a conversation with a child?

Do you try to communicate with animals?

How often do you stop to wonder at the sky?

Do you adopt the philosophy of taking things lightly?

Do you feel grateful for life?

Do you ever have peak experiences of ecstasy?

How often do you find the humor in situations?

When you feel confused or worried about something, are you able
To trust in a higher power to help you through your difficulty?

When reading a mystery, does your enjoyment come from the mystery itself?

How often do you feel passionate about something?

How often are you able to keep your center when things around you seem to be falling apart?

Do you find more virtue in happiness than suffering?

How often do you wish on a star, a moonbeam, or a rainbow?

How often do you see beyond popular explanations held by your social group?

How often do you call in sick to work just because you need a day of fun?

Do you find enjoyment in little things?

Do you respect your intuition?

How often are you willing to accept pain in your life as a teacher rather than a tormentor?

Do you keep an open mind, even when you don’t understand something?

Do you take the time to remember others in little ways?

How often do you ask for – and expect – a miracle?

How often do you believe that you have the right to live a peaceful and happy life, even in the midst of disaster and sorrow?

How often do you believe that you have the power and the responsibility to bring joy and meaning to the lives of others?

Are you aware of and attuned to the cycles of nature?

When its gray and gloomy out, do you still take time to appreciate the more subtle beauty of the sky, the moods of the clouds, the coolness of the air?

Do you put a high premium on pleasure?

How often do you experience good old-fashioned synchronicity? (Coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related.)

Do you leave perfectionism to God?

Regardless of your age, do you feel young?

Do you ever think about the reason you are here?

Add up the numbers and here is an “optimistic” evaluation scale –
182-155 You are exceedingly optimistic.
154-125 very good,
124-85 It seems as though you’re having a little trouble deciding if life is infinitely beautiful or just a place to hang out; you have what it takes but you need a good dose of trust and faith.
84-55 Let this be your encouragement to start looking for and believing in greater possibilities.
54 and under – You may be too cynical and need to allow some passion, enthusiasm, love, generosity, humor, trust, peace and joy into your life.

Photo by Jose A. Gallego

Midnight musings

Last night I awoke in the early morning and two thoughts came to me with more clarity than normal, to my way of thinking, so I decided to jot them down. This post and the one below are what came to mind.

My thoughts are not your thoughts, mine are free from the stain of sin, no blush or hint of corruption; my thoughts are not clouded with self-love, my mind is not divided between good and evil, but my thoughts are the highest thoughts; pure and undefiled, as displayed in my Son, perfect in all ways; no root of bitterness, not guided by revenge, able to read plainly the mind and motives, dividing even to bone and marrow.
My ways are not as your ways; this way is without partiality, void of selfish ambition, the way of perfect love, justice and mercy. My way is the highway of holiness, and there is no oppression found on this way, no cast nor color, gender or prejudice: perfect equality.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.

This photo was taken from the Internet and her name was written in letters I am unable to read, maybe Arabic? Wish I could give her credit for this great photo.

Midnight museings

Milk is to nurture us as a child -- meat to serve as an adult.

Milk establishes us in grace -- meat for sinew and muscle to share one another’s burdens.

Milk, to bond us to the breast we suckle -- meat, to share the fruit of this bond.

Top photo by Jothy John, bottom photo by Wojtek Slesandrowic.