Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Often people’s compassionate thoughts and sympathies towards us are often missed, or misunderstood; ideas are often poor ghosts and they just cannot make themselves felt.
"But sometimes they are made flesh; they breath upon us with warm breath, they touch us with soft responsive hands, they look at us with sad, sincere eyes, and speak to us in appealing tones; they are clothed in a living human soul, with all its conflicts, its faith, and its love. Then their presence is a power, then they shake us like a passion, and we are drawn after them by a gentle compulsion, as flame is drawn to flame."

This week I talked with a 26 yr. old young woman who has fought years of heroin addiction and I have been drawn to her. I believe it is the Holy Spirit but she has the look of a lost puppy, a shy and humble demeanor that begs for help without her saying a word. When she came to the corrections center her face was ashen with dark circles under her eyes, lacking nearly any bloom of youth. As I have befriended her over the last month she has been greedily responsive, and as she has shared candid details, my sympathies continue to grow. I left the center Monday night with such strong feelings of care and love for her that some of the emotions bordered on romance. All evening I thought of her and wished I could just sweep her away from all her sorrows and rescue her from the callings of addiction. The thoughts were so intense that it almost alarmed me and left me wondering if this was truly the work of the Holy Spirit or some carnal desire. Now I have felt this before but I can't recall  it ever being this strong. The next day the feelings were gone and I was left perplexed until I read the line from the above quote, " Then their presence is a power, then they shake us like a passion, and we are drawn after them by a gentle compulsion, as flame is drawn to flame." That embodies the emotions of that moment; and although they passed, I'm comforted knowing God was at work.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I preached at the corrections center last night and my subject was the Parable of the Talents from Matt. 25. The direction I took had to do with defining the three servants: one given five talents, another two and lastly one.
I likened the servant who received five talents as one who is born into a country of affluence, opportunity and wealth; born into a family where the cradle is rocked by a loving mother who attends to every need: coos and nurtures the child along with a strong, hard working father who models manhood, responsibility and character.

Now the second servant who receives two talents, is like the soul who is born into a family where the parents are more self-seeking, less nurturing, to the point of neglect; the soul grows up learning much of life from his peers; his character is shallow, his education is short, and his confidence is in fantasy and dreams.

The third servant who receives but one talent is the soul that is born into a home of turbulence; mother is fighting addiction, barely meets the child's necessities for life; her addiction has damaged her bond to the child and the father, absent, at the local tavern at night. As the child grows he cowers as father bursts into the house in a drunken rage, filled with criticisms and anger; or, in another, one talent home, the child lays in bed fearful that the bedroom door will creak open and a whiskey breath softly coercing with promises, sweet-talk and secrets into another hour of sexual abuse.

Oh Christian, whatever your state, God will give you talents suited to your circumstances and abilities. You may struggle from underneath a pile of emotional rubble, with but a dim glimmer of light ahead; but God has given you a hope, a call and a promise of support! You may never turn your talent into five, nor even two, but Christ will strengthen you to improve if you will but trust and try. 
Your talent may have but a mustard seed of growth in the beginning, small as the interest at a bank, but it is a beginning.
He has given you the encouragement of others like yourself, that have held tightly to the hem of His garment and watched their talent grow from one, into one and a quarter and then a half and then two, and in some cases, the soul with but one talent, exceeds all and returns with ten!
Think not that a past blurred with sorrow, affliction and abuse will hinder you from improving your state; think not that your life has no future or hope; that you will be left to scrape from the earth some meager existence void of love, trust and value. Oh no, if we but take the good way; if we begin to show ourselves faithful, with the enabling power of God, He will help us multiply our talent, and we too will hear him say, "Well done! you chose the good way, so much as was in you, you followed the faithful way, and as mean as the beginnings were you served me with what you have, and it is enough!! Enter into my joy!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Is there one of us who cannot remember how, in the hours when he tried to do what was right, the possibility of God, perhaps the certainty of God, grew clear to him, and it seemed to him as if the world opened and spiritual things bore direct testimony of themselves?

And is there one of us who has not the other recollection also, of hours when, in the tumult of indulged passion, or in times when we let ourselves be mean, or when we cared for ourselves, the whole world of spiritual being, God, heaven, immortality, the power of divine love, the vast, infinite hopes, aye, even the spiritual quality of our own self -- all seemed to fade away from us as the landscape fades away out of the sight of the eye when blindness drops upon it?" Phillips Brooks, painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, "The Annunciation.' 

  It would be a sad story if when we are faithless, and the landscape of spiritual things fade away, that God would leaves us to ourselves; ah, but, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful..." 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. Ecclesiastes 7:14

The following poem by Alexander Pope fleshes this thought out in these lines from one of his essays.

 HEAVEN from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib’d, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas’d to the last, he crops the flow’ry food,
And licks the hand just rais’d to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv’n,
That each may fill the circle mark’d by Heav’n:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall.
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl’d,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
  Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar; 
Wait the great teacher death, and God adore.
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest.

So, Pope's conclusion of the essay is this ---

"All nature is but art, unknown to thee;

All chance, direction, which tho canst not see; 

All discord, harmon not understood; 

All partial evil, universal good;

And spite of pride, in erring reason's spite, 

One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

  Robert Louis Stevenson loved to travel on foot with none but a pack-animal for company. If you haven't read any of his works the following excerpts from some of his works will serve to wet your appetite. 

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.
I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite under foot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about the future."

"I began my little pilgrimage in the most enviable of all humours: that in which a person, with a sufficiency of money and a knapsack, turns his back on a town and walks forward into a country of which he knows only by the vague report of others. Such an one has not surrendered his will and contracted for the next hundred miles, like a man on a railway. He may change his mind at every finger-post, and, where ways meet, follow vague preferences freely and go the low road or the high, choose the shadow or the sunshine, suffer himself to be tempted by the lane that turns immediately into the woods, or the broad road that lies open before him into the distance, and show him the far-off spires of some city, or a range of mountaintops, or a run of sea, perhaps, along a low horizon. In short, he may gratify his every whim and fancy, without a pang of reposing conscience, or the least jostle of his self-respect. It is true, however, that most men do not possess the faculty of free action, the priceless gift of being able to live for the moment only...."

  "There is nobody under thirty so dead but his heart will stir a little at the sight of a gypsie's camp. 'We are not cotton-spinners all;' or, at least, not all through. There is some life in humanity yet; and youth will now and again find a brave word to say in dispraise of riches, and throw up a situation to go strolling with a knapsack."
  "I have a shelf in my study for tried authors; one in my mind for tried principles; and one in my heart for tried friends." Richard Cecil.

"A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessaries of life. A book is better for weariness than sleep; better for cheerfulness than wine; it is often a better physician than the doctor, a better preacher than the minister, a better sanctuary than a drowsy church." H. W. Beecher

"No good book, or good thing of any sort, shows its best face at first." Carlyle. 

"A habit cannot be tossed out the window, it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time." Mark Twain. 

I like this quote, but as a Christian I have seen the Lord miraculously deliver people from the throws of addiction, a life of crime or debauchery, with the preaching of a single sermon, an isolated passage in the Bible or a single conversation with someone. That being said, for every deliverance like that, the majority are "coaxed down the stairs, a step at a time. 
Photo by Jordan Matter

Thursday, October 08, 2015

  "The best part of a dinner is the half hour before it." 
Or after. 

Clifford Raymond, painting by Pietro Saltini.