Monday, August 20, 2012

The Day Is Done

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling, 
And banish the thoughts of the day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of time. .......

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers form the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start:

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
of wonderful melodies. 

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction 
That follows after prayer.......

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, painting by Thomas Faed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dull and uncomfortable

 The following is a piece from William Law’s book, “A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.” If you have never read it you have deprived yourself of one of Christendom’s classic inspirational books. The following piece addresses the objection that a strict life of religion leads one to a “dull and uncomfortable life”. His response to this objection is typical of his style throughout the book. 

  "Let us suppose a person destitute of that knowledge which we have from our senses, placed somewhere alone by himself, in the midst of a variety of things which he did not know how to use; that he has by him bread, wine, water, golden dust, iron chains, gravel, garments, fire etc. Let it be supposed that he has no knowledge of the right use of these things, nor any direction from his senses how to quench his thirst, or satisfy his hunger, or make any use of the things about him. Let it be supposed, that in his drought he puts golden dust into his eyes; when his eyes smart, he puts wine into his ears; that in his hunger, he puts gravel into his mouth; that in pain, he loads himself with the iron chains; that feeling cold, he puts his feet in the water; that being frighted at the fire, he runs away from it; that being weary, he makes a seat of his bread. Let it be supposed, that through his ignorance of the right use of the things that are about him, he will vainly torment himself whilst he live, and at last die, blinded with dust, choked with gravel, and loaded with irons.
Let it be supposed that some good being came to him, and showed him the nature and use of all the things that were about him, and gave him such strict rules of using them, as would certainly, if observed, make him the happier for all that he had, and deliver him from the pains of hunger, and thirst, and cold.
  Now could you with any reason affirm, that those strict rules of using those things that were about him, had rendered that poor man’s life dull and uncomfortable?
  Now this is in some measure a representation of the strict rules of religion; they only relieve our ignorance, save us from tormenting ourselves, and teach us to use everything about us to our proper advantage.” 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Very important piece.

  The compassion of Christ was so infinitely attractive to people because he never dealt with them in a mass, but always with distinct individuals. Nothing hurts our philanthropy so much as the habit of classing men together under certain great divisions, and dealing with all members of a class on the same principle. In this way our finer feelings become deadened. We look at the forest; Christ knows every tree, nay, each branch and twig. We view the crowds as Xerxes did from the eminence of his throne; Christ is familiar with the bitter story of each human life, its tragedy and comedy, its hope and fear, its temptations and burdens, down sittings and uprisings. 
  We read in the newspapers that eight or ten thousand men have fallen in a single battle, but Christ knows how each man fell, the havoc the news brought into the home circle, and the bitter tears for one whose step would never be heard returning along the garden path. The woman that was a sinner, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, were all distinct subjects of his thought. 
  The fountains of compassion would begin to rise in each heart, if we would begin to individualize the need of men, thinking not of the lame, but of the one lame man; not of the blind, but of one sunless face; not of the dumb, but of the one man whose tongue was locked; not of the flock, but of the one sheep which has wondered from the fold, and is in danger. Remember that the one lost sheep attracted the Shepherd, the one lost money-piece incited the woman's search, the one lost child returning, filled the father's home with mirth.   F.B. Meyer.

  I think this piece contains some of the best advice I have ever read. If you have no heart for missions; or care not for the plight of the homeless; if you are able to put out of your mind the oppressed; the hungry, naked, in prison, thirsty and hungry, this is the reason. It is not personal. We must investigate human suffering; expose ourselves to the needs of others, one person at a time, if we will ever find our hearts pouring out. To be a cheerful giver we must know someones plight to whom we are moved by God's compassion to care for, to love. Then we will want to give, and will be willing to sacrifice for their well being; we will become a cheerful giver. When we individualize, we sense a Godly bond and we will truly be blessed in our mourning for them. Christ censures those that He never knew. "Lord, when did I ever see you????" We must be personally involved to ever see Him in the poor.

Painting by Sienna van Rossum

Christianity is not a theory

   The teaching of our Lord and Savior was imminently practical. So far was he from introducing abstract and difficult questions into his own discourses, that he even rebuked those who brought them to him for solution. But all who come to him with such questions were sure to get good advice, even if their curiosity remained unsatisfied. The instance in our text (Luke 13:23,24) is a case in point. One came inquiring as to the number that should be saved; and Christ bade him "strive to enter in at the straight gate." As if he had said, "It is not your business to inquire, or your interest to know, whether few or many shall be saved, but to use your most earnest endeavor to be found in that blessed number yourself. All that shall be saved, whether they be few or many, must be saved in the same way, by striving to secure the favor of God." It is the business of the Christian not to speculate upon religion, but to practice it. Christianity is not a theory but a life. It is perhaps, not going too far, to say that all speculative inquiries which have no relation to practice are unprofitable and even hurtful. I do not wish you to understand me as dissuading you from the study of Christian doctrine, even of its more difficult topics, if you study them with reference to the Christian life. But the lesson of our text rebukes that simply inquisitive spirit which meddles with questions absolutely beyond our comprehension, or speculates upon those that are within it, simply for the sake of speculation. The tests of Christianity are not metaphysical but practical. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." It is wise for us to remember that while there is much to be done in our state of probation, there is comparatively little to be known. There is a mine of practical wisdom in the proverb, --

                       "Do what is right in thine own affair,
                            the rest will of itself take care."   John M'clintock

This piece reminds me of the words of Christ, "The fields are white unto harvest, but the workers are few." Not the scholars are few; we have many who like to untie knots and speculate about times and seasons, but the fields lay fallow.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Gentle spirit

 " In Contrast to false and delusive affections, truly gracious affections are associated with the gentle spirit of Jesus Christ. Like the lamb and the dove, they promote a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness, and mercy as seen in Christ. 
  Evidence of this in Scripture is abundant. If we judge the true nature of Christianity and the proper spirit of the gospel by the word of God, this may well be called Christian spirit. It is the distinguishing disposition in the hearts of Christians to be identified as Christians. 
  When some of the disciples spoke in weakness and inconsideration, Christ reprimanded them saying they knew not of what manner of spirit they were (Luke 9:55). He implied that theirs was not the proper spirit of His kingdom. But all who are truly godly and are real disciples of Christ have a gentle spirit in them. This spirit so possess and governs them that it becomes their true and proper character. This is evident by what the wise man says: "A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit (Proverbs 17:27)." Christ, when he describes the qualities and temper of those that are truly blessed, says, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:5, 7, 9.)"

  This piece comes from Jonathan Edward's book "Religious Affections." I so admire this spirit when I see it in people, and it is in me at times but I wouldn't say of myself that this spirit possess and governs me. Rather, there is the tension that I battle with daily, part angel, part beast. But I want more of it and all the ground I have ever gained was by it.

Picture from the Internet.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Tips for long life

I read this piece in a chapter called, "The Art of Keeping Well," and thought it was interesting. and I like his humble way giving credit where credit is due.

  "General Neal Dow, when ninety years old, rose daily at five o'clock, and took three-mile walk every morning "to keep the bloom of youth upon his cheeks."
Not lone before his death, General Dow wrote the author the following letter: --
  Yours of the 12th inst. asking me to give you the secret of a long and happy life, is at hand, and I have only time for a few words. I came of strong stock on my father's side. He was hardly sick a day in his life of nearly ninety-five years. His father died at eighty-five, his grandfather at a very advanced age, and his grandmother at on hundred and two, in full possession of all her mental powers, and physically active up to the day before she died, as I have been told.
  Industry, frugality, and temperance, through several generations, distinctly impressed their effect upon the physical characteristics of the family. I inherited a good constitution, robust health, bodily activity, a fondness for all athletic exercises, in which I was generally equal to my schoolfellows, and afterwards to the young men of my acquaintance. This inherited tendency to long life has undoubtedly been strengthened by my own regular and temperate habits, and perhaps more yet by my keeping myself constantly employed. When not otherwise engaged, reading has been my chief delight, so that I have never known an idle moment, and time, therefore, has never hung heavy on my hands. Nature has no room for uselessness; and, all other things being equal, a life conscious of usefulness is likely to be long, as it is sure to be happy." Neal Dow.

Orison Swett Marden, The Secret of Achievement; picture from the internet.

Neal Dow (1804-1897)

Neal Dow was a Union soldier and an ardent temperance reformer. Before the Civil War, as Mayor of Portland, he drafted the "Maine Law" to drive the illegal liquor trade from the city. During the Civil War he was Colonel of the 13th Maine and then promoted to Brigadier General, Volunteers. He was twice wounded at the Battle of Port Hudson and while recovering, he was captured and spent eight months in Libby Prison.