Friday, December 31, 2010

The other day a fella came into the center with a small box and said his company had some leftover food they were going to donate and wondered if we would like it. I happily accepted his donation and enthusiastically thanked him. Later as I opened the box in anticipation, I found his loving donation to be............well, I'll let the picture speak.

In the following quote by Jeremy Taylor, he exhorts us to redeem the time by reminding us of the opportunities we often waste.

“If, besides the ordinary returns of our prayers and periodical and festival solemnities, and our seldom communions, we should allow to religion and the studies of wisdom those great shares that are trifled away upon vain sorrow, foolish mirth, troublesome ambition, busy covetousness, watchful lust, and impertinent amours, and balls and revel lings, and banquets, all that which was spent viciously, and all that time that lay fallow and without employment, our life would quickly amount to a great sum.”

I wonder if my life was illustrated with a pie chart, how it would fair? What percentage would “lay fallow”, or is spent in front of the television with “foolish mirth”?

Painting by W.C.Duyster

Monday, December 20, 2010

I ran across this photo the other day and it so captures the spirit of childhood for me. With Christmas nearly upon us, and the excitement and anticipation that comes with it for children, I can't help but remember how the true childhood joys came from moments like these depicted in the photo. The times of exploration, stalking creatures, imagined or real; wading in a stream or irrigation ditch anticipating the capture of some wild, elusive creature.
This photo by Umpaporn Sathanphop illustrates the stealth and focused attention required for the catch. Ahhhh, the joys of childhood.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


"The Shakespeare of the divines”, the nick name given to Jeremy Taylor, is clearly illustrated in this following piece. It is from his book “Holy Dying”, where he calls us to prepare for death as we live. It is a sobering and highly practical book. I’ll help set the context by this paragraph --- “Since we stay not here, (on earth), being people but of a day’s abode, and our age is like that of a fly and contemporary with a gourd, we must look somewhere else for an abiding city, a place in another country to fix our house in, whose walls and foundation is God, where we must find rest, or else be restless for ever.”

Now the following piece is on the brevity and vanity of life, admittedly a difficult read but worth it.

“It is a mighty change that is made by the death of every person, and it is visible to us who are alive. Reckon but from the sprightfulness of youth, and the fair cheeks and full eyes of childhood, from the vigorousness and strong flexure of the joints of five-and-twenty, to the hollowness and dead paleness, to the loathsomeness and horror of a three day’s burial, and we shall perceive the distance to be very great and very strange. But so have I seen a rose newly springing from the clefts of its hood, and at first it was fair as the morning, and full with the dew of heaven as a lamb’s fleece; but when a ruder breath had forced open its virgin modesty, and dismantled its too youthful and unripe retirements, it began to put on darkness, and to decline to softness and the symptoms of a sickly age; it bowed the head, and broke its stalk, and at night having lost some of its leaves and all its beauty, it fell into the portion of weeds and outworn faces. The same is the portion of every man and every woman, the heritage of worms and serpents, rottenness and cold dishonor, and our beauty so changed, that our acquaintance quickly knew us not; and that change mingled with so much horror, or else meets so with our fears and weak discoursing, that they who six hours ago tended upon us either with charitable or ambitious services, cannot without some regret stay in the room alone where the body lies stripped of its life and honor. I have read of a fair young German gentleman who living often refused to be pictured, but put off the importunity of his friend’s desire by giving way that after a few days’ burial they might send a painter to his vault, and if they saw cause for it draw the image of his death unto life: they did so, and found his face half eaten, and his midriff and backbone full of serpents; and so he stands pictured among his armed ancestors. So does the fairest beauty change, and it will be as bad with you and me; and then what servants shall we have to wait upon us in the grave? What friends to visit us?”

Top picture by James Pan, bottom picture by Facundo Jose.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

True generosity measured....

"Generosity is a virtue not just for those with a special spiritual gifting or an admirable philanthropic passion. It is at the very heart of our rebirth. Popular culture has taught us to believe that charity is a virtue. But for Christians, it is only what is expected. True generosity is measured not by how much we give away but by how much is left, especially when we look at the needs of our neighbors. We have no right not to be charitable. The early Christians taught that charity is merely returning what we have stolen. In the seventeenth century, St. Vincent de Paul said that when he gives bread to the beggars, he gets on his knees and asks for forgiveness from them.

The early Christians used to write that when they did not have enough food for the hungry people at their door, the entire community would fast until everyone could share a meal together. What an incredible economy of love. The early Christians said that if a child starves while a Christian has extra food, then the Christian is guilty of murder." Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution.




While I was looking for a picture for this post I ran across these two photos and was taken by the similarity in their gaze. They seem to have the haunting look of hopelessness in their eyes and it is bad enough to see that look in an adult, but how much worse in the face of a child?

Photos by Mitchell Kanashkevic

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I love the following piece by Jeremy Taylor; it makes me laugh to think about some of the things I have heard sermonized or debated. I accept that I’m a simple man and like a simple faith. Christianity contains many great mysteries I must confess; but Micah 6:8 can be read, obeyed and lived out even if your brain is the size of a hickory nut. In Jeremy Taylor’s eloquent way, he makes this point.

“For that which we are taught by the Holy Spirit of God, this new nature, this vital principle within us, it is that which is worth our learning; not vain and empty, idle and insignificant notions, in which when you have labored till your eyes are fixed in their orbs, and your flesh unfixed from its bones, you are no better and no wiser.

If the Spirit of God be your teacher, He will teach you such truths as will make you know and love God, and become like to Him, and enjoy Him forever, by passing from similitude to union and eternal fruition. But what are you the better if any man should pretend to teach you whether every angel makes a species, and what is the individuation of the soul in the state of separation? What are you the wiser if you should study and find out what place Adam should for ever have lived in if he had not fallen? And what is any man the more learned if he hears the disputes, whether Adam should have multiplied children in the state of innocence, and what would have been the event of things if one child had been born before his father’s sin?

Too many scholars have lived upon air and empty notions for many ages past, and troubled themselves with tying and untying knots, like hypochondriacs in a fit of melancholy, thinking of nothing, and troubling themselves with nothing, and falling out about nothings…..

Men’s notions are often like the mules, begotten by equivocal and unnatural generations; but they make no species: they are begotten, but they can beget nothing; they are the effects of long study, but they can do no good when they are produced: they are not that which Solomon calls “the way of understanding.”

If the Spirit of God be our teacher, we shall learn to avoid evil, and to do good, to be wise and to be holy, to be profitable and careful: and they that walk in this way shall find more peace in their consciences, more skill in the scriptures, more satisfaction in their doubts, than can be obtained by all the controversial and impertinent disputations of the world.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

Discouraged?

My experience in the Christian walk has been a series of steps forward, then steps back; a success followed by a failure and it seems God has ordained this in the life of the Christian to keep them humble but in spite of our many failings we still find pride and self-righteousness nipping at our heels with each success.

The following piece by John Newton is of special comfort to the guys at the center who have lived much of their lives in addiction and coming out is an exhausting series of baby steps forward and long jumps back. But God is forever patient and faithful when we are not.

“I have been troubled of late with the rheumatism in my left arm. Mine is a sinful, vile body, and it is a mercy that any part of it is free from pain. It is virtually the seat and subject of all diseases; but the Lord holds them like wild beasts in a chain, under a strong restraint; were that restraint taken off, they would rush upon their prey from every quarter, and seize upon every limb, member, joint, and nerve, at once. Yet, though I am a sinner and though my whole texture is so frail and exposed, I have enjoyed for a number of years an almost perfect exemption both from pain and sickness. This is wonderful indeed, even in my own eyes.

But my soul is far from being in a healthy state. There I have labored, and still labor, under a complication of diseases; and, but for the care and skill of an infallible Physician, I must have died the death long ago. At this very moment my soul is feverish, dropsical, paralytic. I feel a loss of appetite, disinclination both to food and medicine: so that I am alive by miracle; yet I trust I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. When I faint, He revives me again. I am sure He is able, and I trust He has promised, to heal me; but how inveterate must my disease be, that is not yet subdued, even under His management!

Well, my friend, there is a land where the inhabitants shall no more say, “I am sick.” Then my eyes will not be dim, nor my ear heavy, nor my heart hard.

One sight of Jesus as He is

Will strike all sin forever dead.

Blessed be His name for this glorious hope! May it cheer us under all our present uneasy feelings, and reconcile us to every cross! The way must be right, however rough, that leads to such a glorious end.

Oh for more of that gracious influence, which in a moment can make the wilderness-soul rejoice and blossom like the rose! I want something which neither critics nor commentators can help me to. The Scripture itself, whether I read it in Hebrew, Greek, French, or English, is a sealed book in all languages unless the Spirit of the Lord is present to expound and apply. Pray for me. No prayer seems more suitable to me than that of the Psalmist: “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name.” John Newton

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

There is a constant temptation for the men in Teen Challenge who make dramatic progress at first which then gives them a false sense of security and they feel they are prepared to leave the program without completing it. Sadly, drug and alcohol addiction is rarely overcome with a month of treatment. Years of abuse will take, in some cases, years to overcome. There certainly are miraculous deliverance's where a person may walk away from addiction and never turn back, but this is the exception and not the rule. The following piece was a letter I wrote to one of the men who was wavering about completing the program. Later I shared it with all the guys because of its relevance.


"And look that you make constant resistance, as well as strong resistance; be constant in arms.

Satan will come on with new temptations when old ones are weak. In a calm prepare for a storm.

The tempter is restless, always on the offense, and subtle; he will suit his temptations to your personality and desires. Satan loves to sail with the wind. Therefore while you are still fit for fresh assaults, make one victory a step to another. When you have overcome a temptation, take heed of unbending your bow, and see to it, that your bow be always bent, and that it remains in strength.

When you have overcome one temptation you must be ready to enter the course with another. As distrust in some sense is the mother of safety, so security is the gate of danger.

A man had need to fear this most of all, that he fears not at all. If Satan be always roaring, we should be always a-watching and resisting him.” Thomas Brooks


I think this theme is summed up in the following scripture --

Genesis 4:7
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

We soon forget that sin is crouching at our door and we drift off to the land of “Nod” and like the sentry who fell asleep at his post while the opposing army chose that very night to wage their attack and found opportunity for a victorious surprise attack because of the sleeping sentry.

I think it’s very important to remember that even though while in the walls of Teen Challenge, where its structure encourages every form of spiritual discipline; you have brothers to share with and staff to encourage you; classes to teach, chapels to inspire and the environment is relatively free of temptations for gross sins, you will not long from now be back in the world, with little or no structure and none to exhort you to follow the disciplines that have helped you thus far. Remember, the battle has not yet been won. I like the words of Winston Churchill which were applied to the Nazi takeover of Europe, but can be applied to the battle against addictions –

“This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

So if you find yourself without a hunger and thirst for a deeper walk with Christ you must ask, ‘if not here, where? If not now, when? There is a famous quote by Shakespeare that is so relevant to your circumstance –

“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Now the tide of opportunity is in, your life is at a crossroad.

The “flood” or circumstances, exist now that may well lead to fortune, or victory.

If you let this opportunity go by in hopes that there's a promise of another easier time, or more advantages place, you may find yourself bound to shallows and miseries. You are now afloat a strong tide and current, and it will serve you well, if taken advantage of;

redeem the time!

Photo by Amanda Hoskin

Monday, November 01, 2010

I appreciate the knowledge and information we have learned about human behavior: the insights we have today with all of history to look back on and help us grow into more responsible, mature and civilized persons. We have come a long way since Shakespeare uttered the words “know thyself.”

Now I love a good motivational speaker and I’m always lifted by “a noble theme.”

That being said, when it comes to dealing with the men at Teen Challenge, who need all of the above to help them overcome life-controlling addictions, and of course overcoming my own personal demons; I know but one way that truly leads to personal victory and that is with the old time preaching found in the writings of the spiritual divines of the past. When it comes to advice that I have found effective in my own life and see change and turn around lives in others, I find but one answer and it is contained in the following piece from Thomas Brooks. Here is the only fail safe, true power I know of to offer a person in desperation and bondage. Taste and see……

“Make strong and constant resistance against Satan’s temptations.

Make resistance against temptations by arguments drawn from the honor of God, the love of God, your union and communion with God; and from the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, the kindness of Christ, the intercession of Christ, and the glory of Christ; and from the voice of the Spirit, the counsel of the Spirit, the comforts of the Spirit, the presence of the Spirit, the seal of the Spirit, the whisperings of the Spirit, the commands of the Spirit, the assistance of the Spirit, the witness of the Spirit; and from the glory of heaven, the excellency of grace, the beauty of holiness, the worth of the soul, and the vileness or bitterness and evil of sin……”

I know of no other way but by application of the above quote poured out at the feet of Christ, bathed in tears in a deep spirit of contrition.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In this poem a view of opportunity is presented. The recreant or the dreamer complains that he has no real chance. He would succeed, he says, if he had but the implements of success: money, influence, social prestige, and the like. But success lies far less in implements than in the use we make of them.

What one man throws away as useless, another man seizes as the best means of victory at hand. For every one of us the materials for achievement are sufficient. The spirit that prompts us is what ultimately counts.

This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:--

There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;

And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged

A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords

Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s

Banner

Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by

foes.

A craven hung along the battle’s edge,

And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steel –

That blue blade that the king’s son bears, ---but

This

Blunt thing --------!” he snapt and flung it from his

hand,

and lowering crept away and left the field.

Then came the king’s son, wounded, sore bested,

And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,

Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,

And ran and snatched it, and with battle-shout

Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,

And saved a great cause that heroic day.

Edward Rowland Sill

Psalm 142

Give heed to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are too strong for me.
Bring my soul out of prison........

When I read this scripture I knew it was to be shared at the Teen Challenge center.
This is the cry from the battle, the persecution of addiction, too strong to be overcome;
souls imprisoned, longing for a rescuer, whose name and life we offer as the only lasting hope.
May God be praised forever!

Psalm 142: 5-7, photo by Manuel Libres Librodo Jr.

When I think I have heard the worst story of victimization a student at the center can tell, sadly, it is followed by another, reaching new heights of evil. Such is the story of one of the guys at center now; I’ll call him Bill, who was prey to an adult pedophile neighbor whose lust for evil knows no bounds. He drew in Bill with the intent of filming him and the only female victim available was Bill’s younger sister who he was forced to have sex with while being filmed. It didn’t end there; he was also forced to have sex with animals while being filmed. I’ll end the details there, which should suffice to paint the picture of his case of horrid child abuse; I wish it ended there but no normal mind can imagine the extent of the abuse.

Enduring these abuses caused Bill to act out which caused his father, not to inquire about the changes but rather to react to them and draw away from Bill and ultimately to punish, verbally abuse and lastly, physically abuse him.

Living in this world of madness where the vileness of the acts penetrated to the very marrow of his young bones, as soon as he was introduced to the numbing and mood elevating effects of intoxicants, he was soon addicted.

But the story does not end there because when Bill heard the story of Christ’s power to cleanse the darkest soul and forgive the vilest sins: Bill clutched the hem of Christ’s garment with such fervor that, be it dragged to heaven or carried, he would not let go. Of course Jesus lifted him up and lavished His emergency grace over Bill and washed him white as snow. I can’t remember a more devoted student, who longs to serve and please God with such a single mind that my faith blushes in comparison.

May I never resist the promptings of the Spirit of Christ when he bids me speak.

Painting by Simon Dewey

Saturday, September 04, 2010

I ran across this piece the other day and I thought it was really good. It is about “What Jesus do you believe in.” Even though this is from new minds of today, I think it is filled with insightful thoughts. Enjoy.

“We must face the fact that many different saviors can be smuggled in under the name “Jesus”, just as many different deities can be disguised under the term “God” and vastly different ways of living can be promoted under the name “Christianity.” Jesus can be a victim of identity theft, and peoples can say and do things with and in his name that he would never ever do. Nobody has helped me see this more clearly than one of my most loyal and dedicated critics.

He was being interviewed a couple of years ago and described me and my friends as those that want: to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes.

Quite a way with words! The characterization of my friends and me was nothing, though, compared to his characterization of Jesus that came shortly thereafter:

“In Revelation, Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper; halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”

What would cause this articulate and highly committed Christian to portray Jesus as a prize-fighter, armed with a sword, intent on harming, killing, inflicting violence, drawing blood?

……However ridiculous – or tasteless – some portray Christ, it mirrors as only satire can a sad reality of church history and of today’s religious landscape. We all are tempted to remake Jesus into just about anything we like. We like a Jesus who hates the people we hate and likes whatever we like, a certain kind of politics, either right or left, or cuddly omnipotence. Too many of us, whether as individuals or groups, honestly – and naively – believe our view is “objective” and “true”, with no distortion at all.

Among those who become more self-aware about the danger of distortion, an understandable fear arises; if all of us (not just “all of them”) are tempted to remake Jesus in our own image, then we should be extremely cautious about compromising, letting Jesus be reimaged according to our contemporary tastes.

Thoughtful readers have probably already anticipated a problem with this otherwise well-founded caution. By holding a presumptive hostility to new views of Jesus, which may indeed reflect contemporary biases, we may unwittingly preserve old views of Jesus, which also reflect dangerous and comprising biases – just biases of the past rather that the present.

So, in successfully rejecting an insipid “hippie, diaper, halo Christ,” we may unintentionally protect and uphold --

The white supremacist Jesus,

The colonial Jesus,

The Eurocentric Jesus,

The slave-owning Jesus,

The nuclear bomb-dropping America first Jesus,

The organ-music stained glass nostalgic-sentimental Jesus,

The Native American-slaying genocidal Jesus,

The cuddly omnipotent Christmas Jesus,

The male-chauvinist Jesus,

The homophobic “God hates fags” Jesus,

The South African pro-apartheid Jesus,

The Joe-six-pack-Jesus, and so on.

Those who think they stand had better take heed lest they fall, and those who think they know may have some more learning to do.

As we noted earlier, the slippery slope argument – that we’d better not budge on or rethink anything for fear we’ll slip down into liberalism, apostasy, or some other hell – proves itself dangerous and naïve even as it tries to protect us from danger and naiveté. First it assumes we’re already at the top of the slope, when it’s just as likely that we’re at the bottom or somewhere in the middle. Second, it assumes that, even if we were at the peak, there’s only one side we might be in danger of sliding down, as if the mountain had only a northern liberal slope without an equally dangerous southern conservative slope, or an Eastern “new age” slope without an equally Western “old age” slope. You can back away from one danger smack over the hill of another.

My loyal critic sincerely and passionately believes in the tattooed, sword wielding prize fighter Jesus because of his reading of Revelation 19:11-16 –

“Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horsed. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

Now, if we read this passage not as a constitutional document decreeing future events, but as a crucial document in the biblical library, we need to place it in its historical context and genre. Clearly, this is a work of Jewish apocalyptic literature, which in turn is part of a larger genre known as the literature of the oppressed. These kinds of literature worked in the first century in ways similar to the way some science fiction works for us today. For example, when we read or watch Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, The Matrix, or Wall-E, we don’t think the writers and filmmakers are trying to predict the future. No, we understand they are really talking about the present, and they are doing so in hopes of changing the future.

So Planet of the Apes turns out to be a way of talking about how nuclear war—a hot topic in the Cold War era in which it was written – could destroy humanity……

The depictions of the future given in these works of science fiction are not predictions or prognostications. They provide windows on the actual present from the perspective of an imagined future, and they do so in hopes of influencing us in the present to live and choose wisely, thus creating a better future than we otherwise would.

In the Apocalypse, or Revelation, early followers of Jesus are in a similar moment of creative possibility. They must deal with the fact that they believe Jesus was right and his kingdom was true, yet they are being vilified and persecuted brutally. The emperor of Rome seems firmly in control, and nothing seems to be moving in the direction of the Kingdom of God. In that light, what message do they need? Do they need to hear that soon they can forget about all that naïve peace and forgiveness stuff that Jesus taught, because soon they’ll be allowed to pull out their swords, mount their warhorses, and kick some persecutor’s hindquarters? Or do they need a message of reassurance, encouragement and confidence that the way of peace that Jesus modeled is indeed the good and right way, that it will triumph in the end, and so they shouldn’t give up on it?

Apparently, the passage in question can be interpreted wither way – one way that subverts the reconciling messages of Jesus’s gospel and life, and another way that reinforces them.

For me, the latter approach is the only acceptable one.

The passage in question isn’t telling us Jesus is a prize-fighter with a commitment to make somebody bleed. Nor is it claiming that the Jesus of the gospels was a fake-me-out Jesus pretending to be a peace-and-love guy, when really he was planning to come back and act like a proper Caesar, more of a slash-and-burn guy, brutal, willing to torture, and determined to conquer with crushing violence.

Nor is it informing us that even God has to use violence to impose the divine will in the end.

Instead, this image of Jesus as a conqueror reassures believers that the peaceful Jesus who entered Jerusalem on a donkey that day wasn’t actually weak and defeated; he was in fact every bit as powerful as a Caesar on a steed. His message of forgiveness and reconciliation – conveyed as a sword coming out of his mouth (not in his hand, as my loyal critic asserted – quite an important detail)

Will in the end prove far more powerful than Caesar’s handheld swords and spears. And the blood on his robe—that’s not the blood of his enemies. It’s his own blood, because the battle hasn’t even begun yet, and Revelation has already shown us Jesus “as a lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered” (5:6)

And it may also recall the blood of the peaceful martyrs (6:9-11), since in attacking them, violent forces were also attacking Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who taught them the way of peace.

To repeat, Revelation is not portraying Jesus returning to earth in the future, having repented of his naïve gospel ways and having converted to Caesar’s “realistic” methods instead. He hasn’t gotten discouraged about Caesar seeming to get the upper hand after his resurrection and on that basis concluded that it’s best to live by the sword after all. Jesus hasn’t abandoned the way of peace and concluded the way of Pilate is better, mandating that his disciples should fight after all. He hasn’t had second thoughts about all that talk about forgiveness and concluded that on the 78th offense (or 491st, depending on interpretation), you should pull out your sword and hack off your offender’s head rather than turn the other cheek.

He hasn’t given up on that “love your enemies” stuff and judged it naïve and foolish after all, concluding instead that God’s strength is made manifest not in weakness but in crushing domination. He hasn’t had a change of heart, concluding that the weapons he needs are physical after all or that the enemies of the kingdom are flesh and blood after all, which would mean that the way to glory isn’t actually by dying on the cross but rather by nailing others on it.


When I read this I thought of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, and how absurd it would be to think that either of them would turn to the sword if they had lived longer.

A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren, painting from the Internet

Ya gotta love this gal's hair.
This is a painting of "Much Afraid" with her two helpers Sorrow and Suffering, from the book "Hinds Feet On High Places", by Daniel F. Gerhartz. She was comforted by her two companions and they helped her along her way to heaven. If you haven't read the book I highly recommend it, it is a Christian classic. I was feeling down the other day and I picked up a book titled Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices by Thomas Brooks. When ever I'm in the need of a full course meal I turn to Thomas, he rarely disappoints; this day was no different. Here is one of his many remedies against the enemy ----

"The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That believers must repent for their being discouraged by their sins. Their being discouraged by their sins will cost them many a prayer, many a tear, and many a groan; and that because their discouragements under sin flow from ignorance and unbelief. It springs from their ignorance of the richness, freeness, fullness, and everlastingness of God's love; and from their ignorance of the power, glory, sufficiency, and efficacy of the death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of the worth, glory, fullness, largeness, and completeness of the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of that real close, spiritual, glorious, and inseparable union that is between Christ and their precious souls. Ah! did precious souls know and believe the truth of these things as they should, they would not sit down dejected and overwhelmed under the sense and operation of sin, etc.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere. -

Frank A. Clark

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sidewalk debri

I was working in the center the other day and walked up towards the cash register and noticed my register man walking with a cell phone at his ear going towards the outside door. I assumed he had a customer question so I went to cover the register. He didn’t return right away which was out of character and I later found out that one of our men Eric was outside holding a sign when a man pulled up and got out of his car and opened the passenger side door where a woman was and he lifted her out and rolled her on the sidewalk, rushed back to his car, yelled out, “call 911” and sped away. Eric came in and called to the register man Seth, to call 911 which he did immediately; then he went to find out what he was calling for. When the operator answered he told her he could see a woman laying lifeless on the sidewalk. By then three other brothers from the center were outside around her praying. The 911 operator asked Seth to see if she was breathing, he said she didn’t appear to be. The operator asked him to put his ear to her mouth to see if he could hear her breathing; he did so but couldn’t hear anything and told the operator she was turning blue. She asked him if he was comfortable giving CPR, he wondered what his comfort had to do with anything but noticed what seemed to be a fluttering heart beat but it seemed to be diminishing. Just as he was about to administer CPR the woman gasped, then in a few seconds gasped again and continued to breath in a belabored fashion. Seth noticed an ambulance driving by and asked the operator if she could contact them and have them turn back. Soon the ambulance arrived and assessed her condition and gave her an injection of Norpan?, a drug that fools the opiate receptors in the brain so they cannot detect the opiate for about 15 minutes and then another injection is needed. The woman had overdosed on opiates and her beloved, who was captured not long after because of the presence of mind of the men who got his license plate numbers, had dumped her for who knows what reason?

It was another intense time at the center and one has to wonder why the man chose that location, between our center and a Porn shop, to discard her.

No question the woman’s life was saved because of the quick thinking and concentrated prayers of the men at the center.

This morning, as I was remembering this and wondering what it all meant, it came to me that the man who cast her aside and ran back to his car yelling for strangers to call 911 must certainly be desperately wicked. I wondered what he looked like, this monster of a man, and as I was thinking about this the Lord let me see his face; and the face was mine, as well as all of the guys at the center who have reeked havoc in the lives of others and then fled our responsibilities trusting the out-come to strangers, other family members, single moms, government institutions or just a 911 call to heaven. It was a sobering moment as I shared this today with the guys. It hit home and we ended with an earnest prayer of dedication and sober reflections.

Photo from the Internet

Monday, July 05, 2010

Going Home

I was reading in Thomas Brook’s “A String of Pearls”, a sermon given at a close friends funeral, and in his introduction he speaks of the woman – Mrs. Mary Blake deceased, with such fondness and inspiration that it moved me and I thought I would share some of the kind things he said of this woman who has gone to be with Christ some 400 years ago.

“Before I name my text, give me leave to speak a few words upon another text, viz., the glorified saint deceased, at whose funeral we are here met.

In life she was my joy… the work of grace upon her heart was clear, powerful, and thorough, as all know that knew her inwardly. She was a knowing woman in the things of Christ; and her knowledge was inward, experimental, growing, humbling, transforming, and practical. She knew Christ in the mystery as well as in the history; in the spirit as well as in the letter; feelingly, as well as notionally; she did not only eat of the tree of knowledge, but also tasted of the tree of life.

A sincere soul is like the violet, which grows low, and hides itself and its own sweetness, as much as may be, with its own leaves; and such a one was she. She had as many choice, visible characters of sincerity and uprightness upon her, as ever I read upon any Christian that I have had the happiness to be acquainted with. But I must not dwell on these things; I shall only say she was not like the actor in the comedy, who cried with his mouth, O heaven! But pointed with his finger to the earth. Such professors there be, but she was none of them.

She was as rich in spiritual experiences as most that I have been acquainted with. Ah! How often hath she warmed, gladded, and quickened my spirit, by acquainting me with what the Lord hath done for her precious soul. Experiences in religion are beyond notions and impressions. A sanctified heart is better than a silver tongue; and she found it so. Oh! The stories that she was able to tell of the love of God, the presence of Christ, the breathings of the Spirit, the exercise of grace, the sweetness of the word, the deceitfulness of sin, and the devices and methods of Satan. And though she made uses of her experiences, as crutches to lean on, yet she only made use of the promises as a foundation to build on.

As the star led the wise men to Christ, her experiences were her sauce, but Christ was still her food.

She was a Christian in profession, and a Christian in practice; a Christian in lip, and a Christian in life; a Christian in word, and a Christian in work; a Christian in show, and a Christian in power and spirit.

She was for patience and cheerfulness under her long lingering weakness, as exemplary as any that ever I was acquainted with. If at any time she groaned, yet she blessed God, as she used to say, that she did not grumble. Oh how quiet, how like a lamb she was under all her trials. Oh how well she would speak of God! oh how sweetly did she carry it towards God! oh how much was she taken up in justifying of God throughout her pining, wasting sicknesses!

What eyes thou read’st with, reader, know I wot,

Mine were not dry when I this story wrote."

Photo from the Internet

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Prayer-Seeker

Along the aisle where prayer was made,

A woman, all in black arrayed,

Close-veiled, between the kneeling host,

With gliding motion of a ghost,

Passed to the desk, and laid thereon

A scroll which bore these words alone,

Pray for me!

Back from the place of worshipping

She glided like a guilty thing:

The rustle of her draperies stirred

By hurrying feet, alone was read,

As out into the dark she sped:

Pray for me!

Back to the night from whence she came,

To unimagined grief or shame!

Across the threshold of that door

None knew the burden that she bore;

Alone she left the written scroll,

The legend of a troubled soul, ---

Pray for me!

Glide on, poor ghost of woe or sin!

Thou leav’st a common need within;

Each bears, like thee, some nameless weight,

Some misery inarticulate,

Some secret sin, some shrouded dread,

Some household sorrow all unsaid.

Pray for us!

Pass on! The type of all thou art,

Sad witness to the common heart!

With face in veil and seal on lip,

In mute and strange companionship,

Like thee we wander to and fro,

Dumbly imploring as we go:

Pray for us!

Ah, who shall pray, since he who pleads

Our want perchance hath greater needs?

Yet they who make their loss the gain

Of others shall not ask in vain,

And Heaven bends low to hear the prayer

Of love from lips of self-despair:

Pray for us!

In vain remorse and fear and hate

Beat with bruised hands against a fate

Whose walls of iron only move

And open to the touch of love.

He only feels his burdens fall

Who, taught by suffering, pities all.

Pray for us!

He prayeth best who leaves unguessed

The mystery of another’s breast.

Why cheeks grow pale, why eyes o’erflow,

Or heads are white, thou need’st not know.

Enough to note by many a sign

That every heart hath needs like thine.

Pray for us!


Poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, photo by Manuel Libres Librodo Jr.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Anger

At the center the most common problem we deal with is the men's anger. When you have been abusing drugs and alcohol for years you lose the respect of everyone and the easiest way to get compliance is with your anger because you have lost the power of love and respect. Certainly all men struggle to some degree with anger issues and I found this piece filled with good information and warning.

"It does no good to get angry. Some sins have a seeming compensation or apology, a present gratification of some sort, but anger has none. A man feels no better for it. It is really a torment, and when the storm of passion has cleared away, it leaves one to see that he has been a fool. And he has made himself a fool in the eyes of others too.

Sinful anger, when it becomes strong, is called wrath; when it makes outrages, it is fury; when it becomes fixed, it is termed hatred; and when it intends to injure any one, it is called malice. All these wicked passions spring from anger.

The continuance and frequent fits of anger produce an evil habit of the soul, a propensity to be angry, which oftentimes ends in choler, bitterness, and morosity;

When the mind becomes ulcerated, peevish, and fretting, and like a thin, weak plate of iron, receives impressions, and is wounded by the least occurrence.

Anger is such a headstrong and impetuous passion, that the ancients call it a short madness; and indeed there is no difference between an angry man and a madman while the fit continues, because both are void of reason and blind for the moment. It is a disease that, while it prevails, is no less dangerous than deforming to us; it swells the face, it agitates the body, and inflames the blood; and as the evil spirit mentioned in the Gospel threw the possessed into fire or water, so it casts us into all kinds of danger.

“There is not in nature a thing that

Makes man so deformed, so beastly

As does uncontrolled anger.” John Webster

It too often ruins or subverts whole families, towns, cities and kingdoms. It is a vice that very few can conceal; and if it does not betray itself by such external signs as paleness and trembling of the limbs, it is more violent within, and by gnawing in the heart injures the body and the mind very much.

No man is expected to live so free of passion as not so show some resentment; and it is rather stoical stupidity than virtue, to do otherwise. Anger may glance into the breast of a wise man for a moment, but it comes to rest in the bosom of fools.

“Wise anger is like fire from the flint;

There is a great ado to bring it out;

And when it does come,

It is out again immediately.” Matthew Henry

Fight hard against a hasty temper. Anger will come, but resist it strongly. A spark may set a house on fire. A fit of passion may give you cause to mourn all the days of your life. Never revenge an injury. If you are aware of being in a passion, keep your mouth shut, for words increase it. Dr. Fuller used to say that the heat of passion makes our souls crack, and the devil creeps in at the crevices. Anger is a passion the most criminal and destructive of all the passions;

The only passion that not only bears the appearance of insanity, but often produces the wildest form of madness. It is difficult, indeed, sometimes to mark the line that distinguishes the bursts of rage from the bursts of a mad frenzy; so similar are its movements, and too often equally similar are its actions.

What crime has not been committed in the passion and outbursts of anger? Has not the friend murdered his friend? The son massacred his parent? The creature blasphemed his Creator? When, indeed, the nature of this passion is considered, what crime may it not commit? Is it not the storm of the human mind, which wrecks every better affection – wrecks reason and conscience; and, as a ship driven without helm or compass before the rushing gale, it not the mind born away, without guide or government, by the tempest of unbounded rage?

A passionate temper renders a man unfit for advice, deprives him of his reason, robs him of all that is either great or noble in his nature; it makes him unfit for conversation, destroys friendships, changes justice into cruelty, and turns all order into confusion. One angry word sometimes raises a storm that time itself cannot calm. There is many a man whose tongue might govern multitudes, if he could only govern his tongue. He is the man of power who controls the storms and tempests of his mind. But he that will be angry for anything, will be angry for nothing. If we do not subdue our anger it will subdue us. Our passions are like the seas, agitated by the winds; and as God has set bounds to these, so should we to those – so far shalt thou go, and no farther.

Angry and choleric men are as ungrateful and unsociable as thunder and lightning, being in themselves all storm and tempests; but quiet and easy natures are like fair weather, welcome to all, and acceptable to all men; they gather together what the other disperses, and reconcile all whom the other pushes away; as they have good will and the good wishes of all other men, so they have the full possession of themselves, have all their own thoughts at peace, and enjoy quiet and ease in their own fortunes, how little so ever it may be.

But how is it with the angry man, and who thinks well of an ill-natured, churlish man, who has to be approached in the most guarded and cautious way?

Who wants him for a neighbor, or a partner in business?

He keeps all those around him in nearly the same state of mind as if they were living next door to a hornet’s nest or a rabid animal.

And how will the angry man be in business. What if business is perplexing and everything is contrary! Will a fit of passion make the wind calm, the ground productive, the market more favorable? Will bad temper draw customers, pay notes, and make creditors better natured? If men, animals, or senseless matter cause trouble, will getting “mad” help matters? Will it make men more subservient, brutes more docile, wood and stone easier to work with?

Any angry man adds nothing to the welfare of society. He may do some good, but more hurt. Heated passion makes him a firebrand, and it is a wonder that he does not kindle flames of discord on every hand.

The disadvantages arising from anger, no matter what the circumstances, should prove a remedy for the complaint. In moments of cool reflection, the man who indulges it, views with deep regret the desolations produced by a summer storm of angry passion. Friendship, domestic happiness, self-respect, the esteem of others, and sometimes property, are swept away by a whirlwind; perhaps a tornado of anger. I have more than once seen the furniture of a house in a mass of ruin, the work of an angry moment. I have seen anger make wives unhappy and cower in fear, children shake and cry out in fear of the very one they should run to for safety, all harmony lost, and the entire neighbor hood disturbed.

Anger, like too much wine, hides us from ourselves, but exposes us to others.

Some people seem to live in a perpetual storm; calm weather can never be reckoned upon when in their company. Suddenly, when you least expect it, without any adequate reason, and almost without any reason at all, the sky becomes black, and the wind rises, and there is growling thunder and pelting rain. You can hardly tell where the tempest came from. A simple accident by a child, a misunderstanding which a moments calm thought would have terminated, a chance word which meant no evil, a trifling difficulty which good sense might have removed at once, a slight disappointment which a cheerful heart would have borne with a smile, brings on earthquakes and hurricanes.

To be angry about trifles is low and childish; to rage and be furious is brutish; and to maintain perpetual wrath is akin to the practice and temper of devils.

Man was born to reason, to reflection, and to do all things quietly and in order. Anger takes from him this ability, transforms his manship into childish petulance, his reasoning powers into brute instinct. Consider, then, how much more you often suffer from your anger than from those things for which you are angry.

And where does it all end? More often than not, the angry man ends up alone.

Spouse gone, children lost, home shattered, friends driven off, parents left in grief.

Remember; don’t be angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself what you wish to be."

The Royal Path of Life - Photo by Tony Hnojcik