Saturday, August 29, 2009

I ran across this paragraph and believe it to be true, it betrays an independent spirit but I think it is wise counsel about following the teachings of one person too closely --

"I endeavor to avail my self of the examples, advice and sentiments of my brethren; yet at the same time to guard against calling any man master. This is the prerogative of Christ.
The best are but men; the wisest may be mistaken, and that which may be right in another might be wrong in me, through a difference in circumstances. The Spirit of God distributes variously, both in gifts and dispensations; and I would no more be tied to act strictly by other's rules than to walk in shoes of the same size. My shoes must fit my own feet."

John Newton - Photo by Shane Willi
This picture of Albert Finny the actor, is taken from the movie Amazing Grace. He has a concerned look on his face as he plays the part of John Newton, ex-slave trader and the author of the song Amazing Grace. I post it because this last week at work I had my first confrontation with one of the students at work. It was my first experience with a student resisting me and giving me attitude. I think I handled it as well as I could but it left me somewhat discouraged and the following morning I needed some encouragement from the Lord and asked for a blessing. I decided to read one of the letters John Newton had written to a friend going through some difficulty and I'll quote the first lines I laid my eyes on ---

"The work you are engaged in is great, and your difficulties many; but faithful is He that hath called you, who also will do it......... He will plead our cause and fight our battles; He will pardon our mistakes and teach us to do better."

Call me a fanatical mystic, but I took that as from the lips of Christ Himself.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The following piece by Jeremy Taylor, after the loss of a son, imprisoned for his theology during the turbulent times in the 1600s, where he more than once lost all, writes the following paragraph about his remaining blessings.

“I am fallen into the hands of publicans and sequestrators, and they have taken all from me; what now? Let me look about me. They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving wife, and many friends to pity me, some to relieve me, and I can still discourse; and unless I list they have not taken away my merry countenance, and my cheerful spirit, and a good conscience, they still have left me the providence of God, and all the promises of the Gospel, and my religion, and my hopes of heaven, and my charity to them too; and still I sleep and digest, I eat and drink, I read and meditate, I can walk in my neighbor’s pleasant fields, and see the varieties of natural beauties, and delight in all that in which God delights, that is, in virtue and wisdom, in the whole creation, and in God himself.

And he that hath so many causes of joy and so great, is very much in love with sorrow and peevishness, who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to sit down on his little handful of thorns.”

I looked at a lot of photos for this piece but decided on these two because the top one by Seema, captures for me the bliss and simple pleasure of one of natures gifts to us-water.
The second picture by Maciej Dakowicz captures the essence of the post, we can be happy in nearly all circumstances if we enjoy what God has abundantly provided for all.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In reading through a section of "The Unsearchable Riches of Christ" by Brooks, he addresses the importance of a genuine, living faith in the heart of the preacher. The entire chapter is good but I will just share a few nuggets tucked within.

"Talk not of a good life," said the heathen, "but let thy life speak." Ministers should be like musk among linen, which casts a fragrant smell, or like that box of spikenard, which being broken open, filled the house with its odor.

Gregory saith of Anthanasius, that his life was a continual sermon and wooing men to Christ.

A painter being blamed by a cardinal for putting too much red upon the visages of Peter and Paul, tartly replied, that he painted them so, as blushing at the lives of those men who styled themselves their successors. Ah how do lewd and wicked lives of many that are called and accounted ministers, make others to blush!

The highest mystery in the divine rhetoric, is to feel what a man speaks, and then speak what a man feels.
Praxiteles exquisitely drew love, taking the pattern from that passion which he felt in his own heart.
It was said of Luther, that he spake as if he had been within a man. Ministers must so speak to the people, as if they lived in the very hearts of the people; as if they had been told all their wants, and all their ways, all their sins, and all their doubts.

And lastly -- "Ministers must preach feelingly, experimentally, as well as exemplarily. They must speak from the heart to the heart; they must feel the worth, the weight, the sweet of those things upon their own souls that they give out to others." 1 John 1: 1-3

Well that's a tall order and in these days they may be more rare than ever, but I can't disagree.

Photo by Steiner

"The name of a Savior is honey in the mouth, and music in the ear, and a jubilee in the heart." Saint Bernard.

I read that the other morning after a particularly sweet time of devotion and wanted to commit it to memory so I embellished it this way -

I ate of the word and I still taste its honey; I called to the Lord and my ears still hear His melody;
I cried to the Lord and now my heart is in jubilee.

I was reading some of Thomas Brooks and ran across this in his epistle dedicatory, where he gives his reasons for writing the book. As he describes his purpose I realized it is the reason we all are drawn to Christ, and it is a simple but clear description of the Gospel.

“…….You that are weak may, in this treatise, as in a glass, see your weakness, your mercies, your graces, your duties, your privileges, and your comforts. You that are weak in grace may, here find many questions answered and doubts resolved, that tend to the satisfying, quieting, settling, and establishing of your precious souls in peace, joy, and assurance. You that are weak in grace, may find here a staff to support you, a light to direct you, a sword to defend you, and a cordial to strengthen you. And you that are strong in grace, may here see what is your way, what is your work, and what at last shall be your reward. Here you will find that which tends to the discovery of spirits, the sweetening of spirits, the uniting of spirits, the healing of spirits, and the making up of breaches.”

I especially like the last line, and in particular "the discovery of spirits". I thought one application of that is as we meet people we should be on the lookout for the Godly spirits that they are graced with, so that we may better learn of Christ from them and better serve and encourage them.

I chose this delightful picture because it made me think how readily we would seek to know and learn about someone like this vibrant looking girl; so approachable, delightful and energized; but I have heard it said that, often men look upon another man they do not know as a potential threat, and I can't help but agree it is often the case.

Photo by David Larson

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I was talking with a friend about the thing most needful, and I ran across the following quote by John Newton. I think it reduces things down to its essentials.

"The longer I live, the more I see of the vanity and the sinfulness of our unchristian disputes; they eat up the very vitals of religion. I grieve to think how often I have lost my time and my temper in that way, in presuming to regulate the vineyards of others, when I have neglected my own; when the beam in my own eye has so contracted my sight that I could discern nothing but the mote in my neighbor's. I am now desirous to choose a better part. Could I speak the publican's words with a proper feeling, I wish not for the tongue of men or angles to fight about notions or sentiments. I allow that every branch of gospel truth is precious, that errors are abounding, and that it is our duty to bear an honest testimony to what the Lord has enabled us to find comfort in and to instruct with meekness such as are willing to be instructed; but I cannot see it my duty, nay, I believe it would be my sin, to attempt to beat my notions into other people's heads. Too often I have attempted it in time past; but now I judge that both my zeal and my weapons were carnal. When our dear Lord questioned Peter, after his fall and recovery, He said not, Art thou wise, learned, and eloquent? Nay, He said not, Art thou clear, and sound, and orthodox? But this only, "Lovest thou me?"
An answer to this was sufficient then; why not now? Any other answer, we may believe, would have been insufficient then. If Peter had made the most pompous confession of his faith and sentiments, still the first question would have recurred,
"Lovest thou me?"

Photo by J. Gao

Friday, August 14, 2009

So, my son Eric and his family came down from Spokane to visit and we had a great time. Always, if the weather is hot, we head to water. I grew up ten miles from the beach and had a swimming pool in my back yard as a boy so I love water! I have passed this love on to my children so when Eric and his four children came we went to the Lewis River where there are lots of cliffs and rocks to safely dive from. My son Matt made a comment about this one, which is me diving off a cliff ( it's hard to make me out but I just left the top and I'm mid-air head first in a dark shirt). My Granddaughter Jordan is in the water having just jumped in. I won't repeat what my son Matt said about this picture but suffice to say it had something to do with age.
If you click on it you should get a better look.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What I love about reading is finding my indescribable feelings, described. Whether some poet has captured longings, or some intellectual has unpacked emotions and laid them out clearly on paper. This is the case with the following quote by Addison. He describes many of the difficult emotions I experience when I see human drama. In this quote he is walking in a cemetery and jots down his thoughts.

"When I am in a serious humor; I very often walk by myself in Westminster Abbey; where the gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condition of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable....
I could not but be very much delighted with several modern epitaphs, which are written with great elegance of expressions and justness of thought, and therefore do honor to the living as well as the dead.

I know that entertainments of this nature are apt to raise dark and dismal thoughts in timorous minds, and gloomy imaginations; but for my own part, though I am always serious, I do not know what it is to be melancholy; and can therefore take a view of nature, in her deep and solemn scenes, with the same pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones. By this means I can improve myself with those objects which others consider with terror.
When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read of several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries and make our appearance together."

Photo taken from the Internet

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I was reading in my book Treasures New and Old, when I came upon a chapter of epitaphs.
There are quotes taken from the tombs of children, men and women. Some of them really got to me. If you have ever strolled in an old cemetery and read tombstones you know how sobering it is. These speak to those who have left an indelible imprint on the lives of those left behind.

The first, and the shortest on a tomb named "Nellie" -
"She flung but one shadow, and that only when she died."
That short epitaph is fleshed out further in this one on A.B.P.'s tomb --

"Thy greeting smile was pledge and prelude
of generous deeds and kindly words;
In thy large heart were fair guest-chambers,
Open to sunrise and the birds;
The task was thine to mould and fashion
Life's plastic newness into grace;
To make the boyish heart heroic,
and light with thought the maiden's face."

I just love that, her greeting smile was a pledge of goodness to come; what a wonderful thing to say about someone. And what a heritage, to inspire the young to heroism and enlightenment.

And this line from a tomb simply inscribed H.B. - "The friend of man, to vice alone a foe
'For e'en his failings lean'd to virtue's side."

I'll leave off with this tender epitaph about "Lottie" -

"Ah, can we live and bear to miss,
Out of our lives, this life how rare?
Tender, so tender! an angel's kiss
Hallowed it daily unaware;
Gracious as sunshine, sweet as dew
Shut in a lily's golden core,
Fragrant with goodness through and through,
Pure as the spikenard Mary bore;
Holy as twilight, soft as dawn,
She has gone."

Photo of "Asleep in Christ" from the Internet.

"You cannot expect that a man while he is struggling to get out of the water and on the shore, will practice a dancing master's paces."

This quote captured my attention and I think it speaks well to us when we are in whatever situation that has ensnared us. A new Christian will produce fruit, but not until they have been established in grace and laid the foundation of repentance. To judge them because they lack certain graces is out of place. We learn 'line upon line' and at first we need only to find solid ground and escape the clutches of the world; fruit will come, but it grows in the summer season.

Photo by Miguel Pappan