Tuesday, March 31, 2015

  I hesitated whether to post this piece because it was a difficult one for me, but oh so relevant.
I think we all suffer to some degree in having our aspirations, goals, visions etc. wilted by the seeming unresponsiveness when we share or try and join in with others. That's the subject of the following quote by James Martineau. I confess to abridging it and it can be read in its entirety at this link --- https://archive.org/stream/hoursthoughtons07martgoog#page/n139/mode/1up

   When we experience a regretful glance at the fading colors of the past, or the longing to find rest from the ceaseless flow of change that life brings to us, however big or small; we can react to it in two ways; one is false and evil; the other true and good.
Regarding the false, when it leads us to the mere negative resource of --- ease and exemption. When in a difficult circumstance we can seek a place of ease, or refuge if you will. That familiar place that we go to in search of peace, relief, and usually solitude. 
The other response is to exempt us from the circumstance, conversation, or involvement: either mental or physical: we give up our vision of unity or friendship, camaraderie, or a giving up on a good and Godly goal or aspiration. When instead, our only cry is to be left alone, that our sleep be not disturbed too soon; or we simply shrink from the touch of new duties or opportunities, and along with them the possibility of new sorrow that always attend charitable causes or any new venture.
Sometimes we show anger at the noble passion that urges us to work at something new because of the toil and possible attending dangers; and we end up shutting down the very love that inspired us originally.

  Now the impulse is true and good when it leads us to a positive repose in God. When it makes us, in our quest of peace, go out beyond the steady changes in the state of things, instead of weaving a comfortable nest or refuge within it. That impulse is true when it refers us to a place of stability, a sense of the constancy of the Almighty, a presence of pure and infinite affection, amid and behind the fluctuations of the created things of this world; when, instead of returning to our ark at the first spray of cold flood, we rise upon the wing in search of the upper air, and then take our resolute track to the fixed and illuminated hills. We get our eyes and heart above the confusion and by soaring in faith until we see the goal we first aspired to.
  The soul is faithless which, when it is stung by severities and bowed by afflictions, tries to choke its sympathies and bring a frost upon its mellow seasons. When facing set-backs because people overlook us; don't include us; treat us as an inferior, or we fail to achieve the sense of corporate vision, or worse yet , when our vision is discounted: whatever the circumstance that stings us and bows us down emotionally we must not let it cause us to shut off our sympathy to the original cause or let circumstances chill our initial zeal.
No, just the opposite! It is not by reducing life to less, but by expanding it more; not by muffling its stern tones, but by ringing its sweetness out clearly, then a serene harmony can be obtained.
When duty is severe, we must be more reverently dutiful; if love brings sorrow, we must love more and better; when thought chills us with doubt and fear, we must think again with fuller soul and deeper trust.
These changes, these thousands of soliciting impressions we get when we enter any new circumstance, be it a job, joining a new group of any type: be it a church, study group, charitable cause, opportunity for friendship, any thing we aspire to, or feel called by God to, will have our lower instincts protesting against it; but this is the very discipline by which God would draw us to himself.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

 The following piece is by James Martineau, and he discusses the difficulty we have in recognizing God's presence, although he lives and is ever around us. He initiates a relationship with us continually, but we miss it, calling events common. He makes a comment that sometimes we find Him by a new insight of duty, which I illustrate by the photo.  

"God is ever living in us and around us, he does not enable us to compare his presence with his absence: if we miss him, it is from his perpetual presence and nearness; if we meet him, it is not by feeling after him abroad, but by dropping inwards and returning home. The differences by which he is revealed are in us and not in him; in our faculty of recognition, by no means in his constancy of action. His light is alive in the very hearts that neglect or deny him; and in those that most own him He is visible but not apparent a thousand times for once that it flashes on their conscious eye. But there are moments when the beauty of the universe looks in at us with a meaning quite divine; or a new insight of duty opens a path, which he alone could show. In these instances, we strain no ingenuity to discover him; it is he who comes to us and finds us; his presence rises of itself, and the revelation is spontaneous. Our sole concern is to accept it, to revere it, to follow it, to live by it.

  Thus the true attitude of the devout mind always involves a certain quietism and self-relinquishment. Instead of pressing curiously forward, it sinks in meditation back, rests upon the moment as divine, and feels the very pavement beneath its feet as holy. It has neither any distance to go, nor any time to wait, in order to close in with the Spirit of God; only to own and trust him now and here, -- to pass into his hand with simple faith, a disarmed and un-reluctant captive to his will." James Martineau.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

   "Not all that dwells in God's thought and lives in his heart has he put forth; and vast as is the field, and sublime the record, of creation; solemn as we find the path of life, and awful the insight of the conscience; these are but a part of his ways; and there is yet a hiding-place of his thunder that none can understand.

Everything in him is infinite; and all the splendor of his revelation in the old earth and in the older sky, and on the heart of humanity, and even in the unique life of the Man of sorrows, are but a few front lines of light, streaking the surface of immensity. He says to us much; but he is silent more." James Martineau painting by Karen Holland. 
  "When we willing sin against God, the transgression drives us from before his face, and we wander in awful solitudes like Cain did. But the banishment is too dreary to be borne. We are first stopped in our flight to sit down and think upon our shame; and then we are drawn to steal back, and seek, though doubtfully, our old neighborhood again; and its dear looks smite us to the heart, till we lift up our voice and weep aloud, saying 'If perchance the Lord would look upon our tears'; and at length we hint our prayer no more, but catch his very eye, and say 'Lord put me to grief, but don't cast me off: not from thine absence but from thy hand, let me receive thy chastisement: let me be stricken, but bear with me here: thy darkest frown is better to my soul than the dry light upon the wilderness of exile.' And with this self-surrender there comes an unexpected peace, so sad and solemn that surely it is the response of God; and must be accepted as a token that, truly, "The contrite heart he does not despise." 
James Martineau, painting by George Frederick Watts, Eve repentant. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

  "True charity is not that which thinks lightly of evil, but that which is slow to believe in it; whose presumptions are ever those of a trustful and holy heart; and which, even when a brother's guilt is indisputably clear, thinks, amid its shock and grief, that he has fallen from his real nature, and cannot be at peace with himself, that there must be a better soul behind, where God's long-suffering solicitation may find a hearing yet; and that any how, through whatever suffering and discipline, the right ways of heaven, the everlasting sanctities, must triumph in the end. And so it is, that without faith there can be no charity." James Martineau.