Monday, February 22, 2010

"There is something about a stringed instrument that makes it more human than all others.
The violin has a soul. The voice of the violoncello is a spirit's cry.
A tone's a tone, of course, just as a man's a man; yet as some men have kingly and prophetic spirits, and some are but little better than animals, so some tones come all surrounded with suggestions, enclosing strange implications, attended by spiritual connotations, drenched with mystery, dripping with the waters of the infinite.
I wonder if it is the catgut? Does this fragment of a dead animal become the medium speaking to us the unknowable secrets of that darkness into which animal-souls go when the body dies?
When I hear a skillful cellist draw his bow across the string, the sound that penetrates me is not like that of a drum or a harp-string, but it is a veritable voice, the voice of one calling across the lake of tears in my heart."

This little essay comes from a book titled "Four Minute Essays" by Dr. Frank Crane.
I found it rummaging around antique stores last week on a trip to the coast. The post below this one comes from the same book. A delightful, thought filled little book, quite a find for six bucks.

Picture by Alexander Kharlamov

There is no way to get the values of the countryside so good as walking. If you have a horse he gets in between you and the glory of the landscape, and if you whiz along the road in an automobile, you had as well, save for the fresh air, be at a moving picture show. Only when you walk do you get the personal, minute, and intimate acquaintance with nature.

It is even so in our intellectual life. When we think along with a political party, a religious sect, a literary cult, or an artistic school, we may be said to be traveling by train through the land of ideas. When we leave all groups and creeds and plunge alone into life’s problems, see and determine things for ourselves, and form our own tastes and persuasions, we may be said to walk.

There are times, perhaps most of the time, when we must perforce go by train; the affairs of society and the state being too complex for individual capacity. We must possibly vote the party ticket, go to church, join the literary crusade, and co-operate in this or that group; but we should reserve the right to go often upon an independent ramble.

“There are men,” writes Hamerton, “whose whole art of living consists in passing from one conventionalism to another, as a traveler changes his train. To them intellectual independence is unintelligible. Why go afoot when you may sit comfortably in a train, a rug around your lazy legs and your head resting softly in a corner?”

When I read this I thought about my friend Soto launching out on a new path alone, "upon an independent ramble." There is a certain degree of fright to it but that is overtaken by the fresh newness of it all and the energy that is generated by discovery and adventure. May he "walk" in green pastures.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I was in my office yesterday morning typing out a quote to share with some of the guys at our daily meeting before work when there was a knock at my door and in came Soto with a brother new to the program. He had been praying with him upstairs because the new fellow was feeling discouraged, then he said, let me take you down to Fred and see if he has a word for you.” So as he entered and asked me I said, “Well imagine that, I’m just typing out that very word”.

Here’s that quote --

“God hath given his laws to rule us, his word to instruct us, his spirit to guide us, his angels to protect us, his ministers to exhort us. His mercies make our weak efforts instrumental to great purposes, as a small herb the remedy of the greatest diseases. He impedes the devil’s rage and although he allows him to walk in solitary places, and yet fetters him that he cannot disturb the sleep of a child; He hath given him mighty power, and yet a young maiden that resists him shall make him flee away; he hath given him a vast knowledge, and yet an ignorant man can confute him with the twelve articles of his creed; He gave him power over the winds, and made him prince of the air, and yet the breath of a holy prayer can drive him as far as the utmost sea….”

Jeremy Taylor, photo from the Internet

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The following two posts are taken from a book titled "The Imperial Highway", written in 1881. While working with the guys at the center, even though this book was written over a hundred years ago, I can't help but laugh when I see the same behaviors at the center. Certain men come immediately to mind, whom I will leave unnamed, but the pride and folly of man hasn't changed much with "evolution". Of course I saw nothing of myself in either of the posts...... ;)

"There are many kinds of idle young men. One can be seen almost any day haunting sunny benches or breezy piazzas. The real business of this fellow is to see; his desire, to be seen; and no one fails to see him, -- so gaudily dressed, his hat sitting aslant upon a wilderness of hair like a bird half startled from its nest, and every thread arranged to provoke attention. His is a man of honor; not that he keeps his word, or shrinks from meanness. He defrauds his laundress, his tailor, and his landlord. He drinks and smokes at other men’s expense. He gambles, and swears, and fights, -- when he is too drunk to be afraid; but still he is a man of honor, for he has whiskers, looks fierce, and wears moustaches."

I had to laugh at the line about "hair like a bird half startled".

Photos taken from the Internet

"Another young fellow is rich, has a fine form and manly beauty, and the chief end of his life is to display them. With notable diligence he ransacks the shops for rare and curious fabrics, for costly seals, and chains and rings. A coat poorly fitted is the unpardonable sin of his creed. He meditates upon cravats, employs a profound discrimination in selecting a hat or a vest, and adopts his conclusions upon the tastefulness of a button or a collar, with the deliberation of a statesman.

Thus caparisoned, he saunters in fashionable galleries, or flaunts in stylish equipage, parades the streets with simpering belles, and delights their itching ears with compliments of flattery, or with choice-culled scandal. He is a reader of fiction, if it be not too substantial.

He is as corrupt in imagination as he is refined in manners; he is as selfish in private as he is generous in public; and even what he gives to another, is given for his own sake. He worships where fashion worships, today at the theater, tomorrow at the church, as either exhibits the whitest hand or the most polished actor. A gaudy, active and indolent flower, until summer closes, and frosts sting him, and then sinks down and dies unthought-of , unremembered, and unspeakably wretched."

Monday, February 01, 2010

I thought I had written about one of the most alarming experiences I had at Teen Challenge about three months ago, but apparently I have not. It was a cold rainy day and the guys called me because a man about thirty was standing right outside of our front door barefooted in the rain and cold, and yelling at the cars as they drove by. He continued for some time when I reluctantly decided I needed to go out and see if I could help him; or at least get him to go away and stop running off all my customers. I asked the students to pray for me because he was a tall guy and I could see he was not in his right mind. I cautiously walked up to his side and asked him if he needed any help. He had a vacant look in his eyes, he was terribly thin and his speech was off in many directions but he was willing to come inside where it was warm and I promised to get him some dry socks for his shoes which were sitting on the sidewalk. Once he came inside about six of the brothers and I, circled him and tried to see if we could help. He was wasted on Meth or some other drug and half of what he said made no sense whatsoever. Luckily one of the visiting Pastors was at the center, and old fellow with lots of experience, so I had one of the guys go and get him, pronto! When Pastor Glen came, he and I led the fella to a more private spot in the store where we could sit down and talk. It was as though we were talking with the demon possessed man that Jesus talked with named “Legion; for many demons had entered him.” What was most alarming to me was that his head was filled with scripture, he quoted the Bible, talked about reaching the lost, spoke with boldness and yet he heart was absolutely vacant; nothing of God resided there, the drugs had cast out all that was holy and he was enslaved, bound with chains and shackles.

I noticed some cuts on his arms and asked him if he would mind pulling up his sleeves; he didn’t mind and he exposed cuts and scratches that covered his entire forearms. Hundreds on each arm. I asked him about it but he was oblivious and off telling me a mile a minute, how he goes into the adult book stores and preaches.

I have never felt more helpless and ill-equipped. None of us got anywhere with him and after the director of the center came to speak with him I bowed out feeling useless and disturbed by the horrid drug state that he was in and although I have seen old men who seemed to have lost their minds I have never seen a young man so mentally disturbed. Ultimately he went back out and disappeared down the street.

That was about three months ago and I have thought about that incident from time to time especially when guys are first admitted to the program and many look just horrible; scrawny, dirty, and lost.

As I was sitting in my office on Friday one of the guys brought a young man back to see me. He was a nice looking fella, big smile, bright eyed and bushy tailed about six feet tall and 190 pounds. He asked me if I remembered this man.

I didn’t think so but there was something about him that seemed familiar; turns out it was the same guy that I had tried to help three months ago. What a contrast! I could barely believe it was the same man. He was level headed, gained 40 pounds of muscle, now in a program and free of drugs. It was a miracle, I just couldn’t get over the contrast. I had to ask him, “What was it that caused you to change?”

He gave me a two word answer, “The law”. He then described how he was picked up by the police and put in jail where he could detox and be ministered to by a jail minister and re-dedicated his life back to Christ. It was an amazing transformation and I still can’t get over the change.

Photo by Stephen Oachs