Saturday, June 30, 2012

Irony and Pity

  Of the great soul there are two characteristics, irony and pity.
By irony I mean nothing hard or cruel, but only that gentle laugher which arises from the realization that most things make no matter. Most tempests are in a teapot, much of the world’s ado is about nothing, most frantic medicines are for diseases that would best cure themselves if let alone.

  With irony, a sense of removal, comes pity, a sense of nearness. We may be far from men but we are nearer than ever before. We pity because we no longer condemn. We have come down from the judge’s bench and are a friend at court, because we have found out that human hearts do not need judgment, but help…….
 Once we criticized; now we see it is not worth while; the essential is sympathy. We dealt damnation right and left, we divided sheep from goats with a thorny stick, we had heroes and villains.
Time has budded our staff, has blunted our sword…… 
  Pity weeps and makes life sacred. Irony smiles and makes life amiable. And irony is gentle and kind. “It teaches us to smile at wicked men and fools whom, without it, we might have the weakness to hate.” Dr. Frank Crane photo from the Internet

No question, as I read this in my sixties, I see much of it developing within; I like that, wish it were more. Being raised up in evangelical churches I have experienced much "damnation right and left,   dividing sheep from goats with a thorny stick, having heroes and villains". Surely you know God hates the wicked....... Or so I used to think, but I see so much evil in the best of men and good in the worst of men I find my judgments at best premature and as I evaluate this soul of mine flowing with the nature of Angels, but alas, also of beasts I think I will work more on pity, forgiveness, love and leave the balance sheet to someone else. 

A good definition of a fool is one 
who thinks that this time doesn't count.
Dr. Frank Crane

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Unto you therefore which believe He is precious

  I will tell you one thing that proves -- proves to a demonstration, that Christ is still precious to his people, and it is this:-- send one of Christ's people to hear the most noted preacher of the age, whoever that may be; he preaches a very learned sermon, very fine and magnificent, but there is not a word about Christ in that sermon. suppose that to be the case, and the Christian man will go out and say,
"I did not care a farthing for that man's discourse." Why? "because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. I heard nothing about Christ." Send that man on the Sabbath morning to hear some hedge and ditch preacher, some one who cuts the king's English about never so badly, but who preaches Jesus Christ -- you will see the tears rolling down that man's face, and when he comes out he will say, "I do not like that man's bad grammar; I do not like the many mistakes he has made, but oh! it has done my heart good, for he spoke about Christ."

C.H. Spurgeon, picture from the Internet

Saturday, June 23, 2012

No longer traditional

  I have been getting acquainted with Frederick W. Robertson as of late and the two following quotes really resonate with me. We begin our faith in Christ with much influence from others, our denomination, and the books we read. At some point we must cling to Christ with a faith that is our own, it may look like others but it is distinctly our own, hewn with our own experiences and as distinct as our personality, anything less.......... is less. 

 It is an awful moment when the soul begins to find that the props on which it has blindly rested so long are, many of them, rotten, and begins to suspect them all; when it begins to feel the nothingness of many of the traditionary opinions which have been received with implicit confidence, and in that horrible insecurity begins also to doubt whether there be any thing to believe at all………
I appeal to the recollection of any man who has passed through that hour of agony, and stood upon the rock at last, the surges stilled below him, and the last cloud drifted from the sky above, with a faith, and hope, and trust no longer traditional, but of his own – a trust which neither earth nor hell shall shake thenceforth forever.
 I am quite sure that what you say is true about getting truth – at least truth enough – at last, and I am quite willing to struggle on in twilight until the light comes. True, manly struggle cannot fail. I know that. Only a man must struggle alone. His own view of truth, or rather his own way of viewing it, and that alone, will give him rest.
He can only adopt the views of other minds for a time; and so long as his own is inert, the help that he gets directly from others generally does no good.

Picture from the Internet

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Stray Thought

 The following piece is by Frederick W. Robertson, and like the title, "A Stray Thought", it is random but intrigues me. I have never read this subject addressed in this way and it puts to words many thoughts I've had. 

A Stray Thought

  “Perhaps no man can attain the highest excellence who is insensible to sensuous beauty. A sense of earthly beauty may, and often does, lead to softness, voluptuousness, and defilement of heart; but its right result is to lead on as a stepping-stone to the sense of a higher beauty. Sensuous beauty leaves the heart unsatisfied; it gives conceptions which are infinite, but it never give or realizes the infinite.

                  For human beauty is a sight
                  To sadden rather than delight,
                  Being the prelude of a lay
                  Whose burden is decay.

Still it leads on to the infinite. It answers partly to a sense which it does not satisfy, but leaves you craving still, and, because craving, therefore seeking. The true objective of that sense is moral beauty; and by degrees we find and feel, as the outward fades and crumbles away, that there is a type of super sensuous; through the visible the invisible loveliness. Through disappointment at the unreal phantom, we learn to believe in and live for the unchangeable. No man knows the highest goodness who does not feel beauty. The beauty of holiness is its highest aspect. To act right because it is beautiful, and because noble, true, self-denying, pure acts commend themselves to a soul attuned to harmony, is the highest kind of goodness.
 “To see the King in his beauty” is the loftiest and most unearthly attainment. Can any one be keenly alive to this who has no heart for external beauty? Surely he who is callous to form and color, and unmoved by visible beauty, is not above but below our nature; he may be good, but not in the highest order of goodness. Goethe says that "Beautiful is above the Good": probably meaning that the beauty of an action is a more spiritual and elevated notion that its obligation or usefulness.”

I like this final quote and Robertson's interpretation; deeds of obligation and usefulness are always appreciated, but when an action is not required or expected it has its own beauty. 

The following piece by John Newton speaks to the blessings found in prayer, Church, sacraments etc. I enjoy his writings because of his keen insight into the hearts of men; this practical piece is a good example.

  Real communion with the Lord, in his appointed means of grace, is likewise an important branch of His blessedness. They were instituted for this end, and are sufficient, by virtue of his power and Spirit, to answer it. I do not believe this enjoyment will always be equal. But I believe a comfortable sense of it, in some measure, is generally attainable. To read the Scripture, not as an attorney may read a will, merely to know the sense; but as the heir reads it, as a description and proof of his interest; to hear the Gospel, as the voice of our Beloved, so as to have little leisure either for admiring the abilities, or censuring the defects of the preacher; and, in prayer, to feel a liberty of pouring out our hearts before the Lord, to behold some glances of his goodness passing before us, and to breathe forth before him the tempers of a child, the spirit of adoption; and thus, by beholding his glory, to be conformed more and more to his image, and to renew our strength by drawing out of the wells of salvation – herein is blessedness.” 

Gales of hope and fear

  "It may be thought then but common prudence in a man not to change a better state for a worse, nor ever to quit that which he knows he shall take up again with pleasure; and yet if human life be not a little moved with the gales of hope and fears, there may be some danger of its stagnating in an unmanly indolence and security. It is a know story of Domitian, that after he had possessed himself of the Roman Empire his desire turned upon catching flies. 
Active and masculine spirits in the vigor of youth neither can nor ought to remain at rest; if they debar themselves from aiming at a noble object, their desires will move downwards, and they will feel themselves actuated by some low and abject passion. Thus if you cut off the top branches of a tree, and will not allow it to grow any higher, it will not therefore cease to grow, but will quickly shoot out at the bottom." 

I want to add something to this but it stands on its own so well I will leave it. 

Joseph Addison, photo from the Internet.

Sculpting men

 “Aristotle tells us that a statue lies hid in a block of marble; and that the art of the statuary only clears away the superfluous matter and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone, the sculptor only finds it. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to an human soul. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero, the wise, the good, or the great man, very often lie hid and concealed in a plebeian (common or vulgar person), which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light. I am therefore much delighted with reading the accounts of savage nations, and with contemplating those virtues which are wild and uncultivated; to see courage exerting itself in fierceness, resolution in obstinacy, wisdom in cunning, patience in sullenness and despair.” 

  This paragraph by Joseph Addison is so relative when working with men in Teen Challenge; many men have come from prison or homelessness and although by no means do I consider them as “savages”, they have nonetheless displayed the traits he attributes to savages. Street smart, resourceful, and cunning are all virtues developed to get along in the hostile places some of the men come from. When gospel light, work ethic and Godly wisdom are applied, and as the rubbish falls away, we see emerging a glorious new creature.

Sculpture by Philippe Faraut

Thursday, June 07, 2012

I picked up a copy of this movie at a garage sale and watched it the other night; wow! what a powerful movie that illustrates its title. Morgan Freeman plays a great part as a mentor to a young English boy caught in the madness of Hitlers hatred and persecution. It takes place in the 30's in South Africa and the cast and acting is wonderful. Soooooo inspirational but bring your handkerchief.