Thursday, March 8, 2018

Under His Wing

 In the secret of His presence how my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons which I learn at Jesus’ side!
Earthly cares can never vex me, neither trials lay me low;
For when Satan comes to tempt me, to the secret place I go,
To the secret place I go.
When my soul is faint and thirsty, ’neath the shadow of His wing
There is cool and pleasant shelter, and a fresh and crystal spring;
And my Savior rests beside me, as we hold communion sweet:
If I tried, I could not utter what He says when thus we meet,
What He says when thus we meet.
Only this I know: I tell Him all my doubts, my griefs and fears;
Oh, how patiently He listens! and my drooping soul He cheers:
Do you think He ne’er reproves me? What a false Friend He would be,
If He never, never told me of the sins which He must see,
Of the sins which He must see.
Would you like to know the sweetness of the secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow: this shall then be your reward;
And whene’er you leave the silence of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image of the Master in your face,
Of the Master in your face.

“Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence.” Psalm 31:20

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


"Nowhere is Christianity more beautifully displayed, than in the home. It changes the home of wickedness, strife, and contention — into a peaceful and delightful Eden. It converts the home of the wicked — into a palace. It drives away discontentment, uneasiness, fear, and darkness — and showers contentment, peace, and sunlight into every heart.

Christianity in home life
— makes all . . .
love and kindness — between brothers and sisters;
love and dutifulness — between parents and children; love, peace, harmony, honesty, and faithfulness — between husband and wife.

Christianity makes a home — a Heaven! A Christian home where all is love and tenderness and devotion — is the sweetest and most sacred spot on earth! A home where Christianity is crowned a queen in every heart — is an Eden. The heart of God is filled with delight as He looks down upon such a home! His presence dwells there, and causes this home to be a beautiful oasis in this wilderness world of sin.

Alas, that such homes are so few! Sin destroys the happiness of man, and makes many a home — a hotbed of contention, strife, and confusion!

When the husband and wife are kind, loving, and gentle toward each other; when she in her weakness feels her dependence upon him, and lovingly, trustingly looks unto him as her defense; and he in his strength and delight enfolds her in his strong arms of protection with a feeling of responsibility to nourish and cherish her — then they can testify, that they have a Heaven in their home!

Unless we have attained unto such a life — we have not attained to Bible Christianity, nor to domestic
joy and happiness.

(Charles Orr, "Christianity in Home Life")

Monday, March 5, 2018


but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.
I rejoice at thy word,
as one that findeth great spoil.

Psalm 119:161b-162

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Fruitful Life

"The landscape, brown and sere beneath the sun,
Needs but the cloud to lift it into life;
The dews may damp the leaves of tree and flower,
But it requires the cloud-distilled shower
To bring rich verdure to the lifeless life.

"Ah, how like this, the landscape of a life:
Dews of trial fall like incense, rich and sweet;
But bearing little in the crystal tray
Like nymphs of night, dews lift at break of day
And transient impress leave, like lips that meet.
"But clouds of trials, bearing burdens rare,
Leave in the soul, a moisture settled deep:
Life kindles by the magic law of God;
And where before the thirsty camel trod,
There richest beauties to life's landscape leap.
"Then read thou in each cloud that comes to thee
The words of Paul, in letters large and clear:
So shall those clouds thy soul with blessing feed,
And with a constant trust as thou dost read,
All things together work for good. Fret not, nor fear!"

L. Cowman

Saturday, March 3, 2018


If the truth be known, I misunderstood this passage for a very long time. It was not until, perhaps, the last decade that it began to dawn on me that the desires of my heart were slowly but surely changing. "The things of earth were growing strangely dim in the light of His glorious face."

The following truly insightful piece by James Smith touches my heart:

Delighting in worldly things--effectually prevents our delighting in God. Therefore it is often the case, that the Lord strips us of these things, or incapacitates us to enjoy them--in order to bring us back to delight in Himself.

He delights in His people--and He desires that His people to delight in Him. In order to accomplish this, He has revealed Himself in the most amiable characters, as . . .
a Husband;
a Friend;
a Brother;
a Savior;
a Shepherd, and so forth--
all on purpose to endear Himself to us!

Surely if our hearts were right--we would delight in Him on account of . . .
His glorious perfections;
His unalterable love;
the perfect atonement made for our sins;
the promises made for our comfort and encouragement;
the gift of the Holy Spirit;
the communion we are urged to hold with Himself;
and the glorious paradise of blessedness set before us--where we shall forever . . .
view the unfolding of His glories,
enjoy the riches of His grace, and
drink of the river of His pleasures!

Sick Christian, Jesus bids you to delight in Him!
Delight in Him as your Savior, Friend, and Brother!
Delight in His person and glories!
Delight in His perfect work!
Delight in His glorious fullness!
Delight in your salvation in Him, union to Him, and claim upon Him.
Oh, delight in Jesus!
You will have no permanent peace or solid satisfaction--but as you are delight in Him, and rejoice in Him, saying, "You are my portion, O Lord!"
He who delights in God has the desires of His heart--because they are in accordance with the purpose, promise, and pleasure of God.

The mind is thrown into the mold of God's mind, and the soul cries from its inmost recesses, "Not my will--but may Your will be done!" Its pleasures are spiritual, permanent, and satisfactory. The desire for earthly things becomes very contracted--a little of the things of this poor world will satisfy a soul that is delighting in Jehovah.

Delighting in God always produces resignation and holy contentment. Whatever they have--they enjoy it as the undeserved gift of God; and they feel obligated and thankful for all. They would rather be conformed to God's will--than have their own will. They know that His appointments are best--because they are infinitely wise, holy, and gracious. They can say, "I trust in You, O Lord, for You are my God! My times are in Your hand!" They find that godliness with contentment is great gain; and say with one of old, "The little that a righteous man has--is better than the riches of many wicked!" "Better a little with the fear of the Lord--than great treasure with turmoil."

The presence, the promise, and the smile of God--are to them inestimably valuable; but other things are not so important. They seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness--and all other necessary things are added unto them. They live at the fountain--when all the streams are dried up! They delight in God--when creatures fade and wither!
O Lord! I would delight in Thee,
And on Your care depend;
To You in every trouble flee,
My best, my only Friend!

No good in creatures can be found,
But may be found in Thee;
I must have all things and abound,
While God is God to me!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842
~Painting: Lord Frederick Leighton: The Countess Brownlow (1879)

Friday, March 2, 2018


"God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God's hand is stretched out.
Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas He has promised to do it only step by step as they may need. You must get to the waters and into their floods before you can claim the promise."
~J. R. Miller

"When thou passest through the waters"
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
"When thou comest to the waters
Thou shalt not go down, BUT THROUGH."
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, "Thou passest THROUGH."
Annie Johnson Flint

Thursday, March 1, 2018


In Defense of Prudery

The Wisdom of the Victorian Quest for Innocence by David Sandifer
In 1818, Dr. Thomas Bowdler published his landmark Family Shakespeare, the subtitle of which announced that "those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." By mid-century it was the best-selling edition of the bard. In the typical Victorian home, this (or one of its even more severely excised competitors) was the edition that would have been found on the library shelf.
Bowdlerism is one of many manifestations of that most stereotypical of all Victorian qualities: its famed "prudery." And while the Victorians themselves have been largely rehabilitated from the ridicule that they were subject to in the popular imagination for much of the twentieth century, the reason for that ridicule has not; their increased respectability has been achieved (perversely) at the expense of downplaying their sexual conservatism in favor of highlighting the variability and paradoxes of Victorian culture.
But that conservatism itself, especially with respect to public morals, remains an embarrassment—the word "bowdlerism," after all, is only ever used pejoratively. Indeed, Victorian conservatism continues to be seen as an awkward detour in the grand liberal project of emancipation, which otherwise seems to flow uninterrupted from the Enlightenment forward. Yet the Victorian quest for innocence in fact reflects something much more profound: the flowering of a deeply Christian vision of sexuality into broad cultural norms. In a society bent on normalizing perversion and marginalizing purity, it is a vision that twenty-first-century Christians would do well to study.
The Ethic of Innocence
While no piano legs were ever modestly draped in nineteenth-century Britain, it is no caricature to say that concerns for a purified public space were central to Victorian morality. In fact, one may justly speak of an "ethic of innocence" as one of the defining aspects of the culture of the period. It was not just the popularity of bowdlerized works that marked a shift in the early part of the century. The theater simultaneously became more chaste and declined in popularity, as even the purified version became less creditable. Novels adopted a more upright tone—best epitomized in the works of Sir Walter Scott and, especially, Jane Austen—characteristic of a genre of "religious-didactic fiction" popular during the period. The upper classes no longer flaunted their excesses, and the lower classes, in their quest for respectability and under the growing influence of Methodism, moderated their coarseness and lewdness. An entire culture of bawdy satirical prints, which had thrived in the late eighteenth century, had disappeared by the 1820s.
It was a transformation that was noted with amazement by many at the time. The tailor and social reformer Francis Place meticulously documented the changes that had taken place in one generation among the working classes, noting, for example, that the lewd songs that were commonly sung in his youth "have all disappeared and are altogether unknown." At the other end of the social spectrum, Sir Walter Scott's great-aunt expressed her astonishment when she re-opened a novel she had enjoyed in her youth: "I found it impossible to get through . . . but is it not odd that I, an old woman of eighty and upwards, sitting alone, feel myself ashamed to read a book which sixty years ago I have heard read aloud for large circles consisting of the first and most creditable society in London?"
While historians continue to argue over what caused these changes, it is clear that they didn't emerge out of nowhere. Societies for the reformation of manners had existed since the late seventeenth century, attempting with various degrees of success to bring about moral reform. The eighteenth century had seen the rise of a "culture of sensibility," expressed in the likes of Samuel Johnson, which sought to soften and refine the mores of the middle and upper classes. Most significantly, the Evangelical Revival—the British expression of the Great Awakening—had acted as a spiritual leaven throughout British society, eventually reaching its most elevated stations by the late eighteenth century. William Wilberforce famously identified a "reformation of manners" as one of the "two great objects" that God had set before him, but he was not alone; multiple historical forces served to catalyze pre-existing beliefs into a growing consensus for the need for a purified public space.
Three Pivotal Beliefs
Among these beliefs, three in particular stand out. In the first place, the Victorians inherited a view of human nature that saw moral traits as radically plastic. This meant that every book, every play, every conversation, indeed, every aspect of one's environment, was viewed as contributing either positively or negatively toward the development of one's character. While Locke had famously referred to this in terms of a "blank slate," a more frequently used image to describe this pervasive dynamic was that of the garden: it will grow either weeds or flowers, depending entirely on what is sown—and it will not grow nothing. "Culture" (it is easy to forget the derivation of the word) thus consists in implanting the right sorts of things and in keeping the wrong sorts away.
Media in particular were viewed as having a decisive effect in shaping individuals and society, with Thomas Carlyle going so far as to argue that the influence of books and periodicals exceeded that of the pulpit, and likening their authors to a "priesthood." The controversy in the first part of the century over the poems of Lord Byron, virtually incomprehensible to modern readers, must be understood in this light: he was not viewed merely as morally reprehensible, but as truly dangerous—one journal accused him of flinging "firebrands in sport," while Thomas Macaulay asserted that he had corrupted a whole generation with a defective ethical system.
Second, the arts were viewed as existing first and foremost for moral improvement. This was not a matter of making art mercenary; our contemporary assumption that aesthetics and morality are independent realms—a view that gained ascendancy with the Aesthetic movement of the 1870s—would have been unfathomable to most people in the early nineteenth century. Like Plato (who taught that poets should be compelled to speak only moral truth), or Milton (who believed that only the good man could be a good poet—that he must be a "true poem" to write well), or Samuel Johnson (who affirmed that in novels "the best examples only should be exhibited"), or even Diderot (who believed that only moral art would last), most assumed that art which tended to corrupt was simply bad art.
A striking instance of this is found in the justification given for bowdlerization: it was often stressed that the work was aesthetically improved by the removal of its objectionable elements. Thus the pre-eminent journal of the period, the Edinburgh Review, described Bowdler's excisions as removing "not so much cankers in the flowers as weeds which have grown up by their side." As a result, Shakespeare's works appeared "more natural and harmonious without them."
Finally, Victorian society increasingly came to venerate marriage and family, an attitude that had been characteristic of Evangelicals since the Evangelical Revival. Marriage was conceived as the greatest good of earthly life, out of which flowed all manner of other goods, both for individuals and society. It was the key both to personal happiness and to societal order and progress. Thus, for example, the blessings of the nuclear family were given central place in the tracts of the Evangelical uber-reformer Hannah More, and home and hearth were conceived of as the center of a properly ordered life, and the joys of domestic peace as an antidote to seductive worldly pleasure.
Marriage was thus both a source of moral and spiritual energy, and a prophylactic against temptation. It followed from this that anything that undermined marriage was felt to be supremely dangerous, and so sexual immorality was singled out as especially pernicious. For Harriet Bowdler (sister of Thomas, and a reformer in her own right), seduction was a sin worse than murder, since "those who kill the body have no more that they can do," whereas the seducer would rob his victim of her virtue as well as "perhaps her eternal happiness."
Not Worth Knowing
Taken together, it is not hard to see how these beliefs would have resulted in an attitude of vigilance toward potentially corrupting influences. There was an obvious practical dimension to this, and one that applied disproportionately to women, as any reader of Jane Austen will know: a young woman of good standing who fell into an illicit relationship was likely to see her future options dramatically and irretrievably curtailed. But there was also something much more profound going on—after all, it is unlikely that anyone believed that reading Shakespeare's double-entendres would in itself make a girl ripe for seduction.
Instead, representations of sexuality that were coarse or that sanctioned immorality were seen not only to weaken resistance to vice, but also to sully the soul, to desensitize the conscience, and, ultimately, to dehumanize—debasing sex by divorcing it from its properly elevated context. Herein lay the justification for keeping certain sins hidden as much as possible, since the mere knowledge of them altered the moral landscape for the worse. When Lord Desart objected to a proposed provision in Parliament against lesbian acts, he expressed his objection in characteristically Victorian terms, even if the year was 1921: "You are going to tell the whole world that there is such an offence, to bring it to the notice of women who have never heard of it, never thought of it, never dreamt of it. I think this is a very great mischief."
Nor was the sense of loss from exposure to sexual sin limited to women. The mid-century novelist Charles Kingsley presents his love-struck protagonist reflecting on his earlier indiscretions in these terms: "How gladly . . . he would have welcomed centuries of a material hell, to escape from the more awful spiritual hell within him—to buy back that pearl of innocence which he had cast recklessly to be trampled under the feet of his own swinish passions!"
In fact, one of the most fruitful ways of framing the changing norms of public morality in nineteenth-century Britain is as a kind of feminization of society: the standards that had earlier been applied most forcefully to women came increasingly to be directed toward men as well. Thus Hannah More's extraordinarily popular tracts at the turn of the century may be read as a struggle to vanquish the bawdy and undisciplined masculine culture of the tavern with the order and tranquillity of domestic life. Revealingly, this was precisely the way that the rise of a purified tone was viewed by its detractors: William Thackeray lamented the fact that even satire had become "gentle and harmless, smitten into shame by the pure presence of our women and the sweet confiding smiles of our children," and Algernon Swinburne pined for a poetry that would not be "fit for the sole diet of girls."
Seen in this light, the censuring of sexual content for the purpose of protecting moral innocence was neither priggishness nor hypocrisy. The absurd characterization of Victorians as "anti-sex" profoundly misunderstands their attitude. Not only did such influential writers as Kingsley and Coventry Patmore (of The Angel in the House fame) extol the raptures of wedded love, but sterner moralists such as Harriet Bowdler likewise paid tribute to the chaste joys of marriage, albeit in more veiled language: "it is the glory of the Christian religion that, while it checks every approach to vice . . . it bids us to perform for [God's] sake, all those kind offices which even natural affection would lead us to perform for our own."
Fundamentally Binary
A moving record of this vision was provided by a recent oral history of early twentieth-century sexuality, Sex Before the Sexual Revolution,based on interviews with elderly Britons. While their attitudes were not uniform, one of the key findings of the study was that many of the interviewees prized the innocence and privacy that were characteristic of their own experience. The authors, Simon Szreter and Kate Fisher, observed that the respondents found the initiation into sex in marriage "joyous and exciting," not "despite their 'inhibited' and private culture, but, rather, because of it." In fact, for many of them, this was the reason they accepted to be interviewed: in spite of believing that sex ought to be private, they were willing to discuss it because of their concerns for contemporary society. As one respondent put it: "it's made dirty today . . . it's a private thing and it's not a dirty thing like they make it out; it's not!" This brings to mind the observation of German philosopher Max Scheler that, far from being inimical to sexual love, modesty is a prerequisite for it, creating a protected space that allows the fusion of the physical with the relational: full sexual pleasure is impossible without it.
Victorian public morality was indeed implacably, ferociously, pro-chastity. But undergirding this was a view of sexuality as fundamentally binary: it was necessarily either a very great good (in marriage) or a very great evil (in any other context). Dietrich von Hildebrand offered a vivid description of this dichotomous vision of sex:
Sex only possesses the tender, mysterious, ineffably uniting and intimate quality when exercised as the expression of something more ultimate—namely, wedded love. . . . Sex is always extraordinary, but its characteristic extraordinariness assumes diametrically opposite forms. At one time it is awe-inspiring, mysterious, noble, chaste, and free; at another, illegitimate, intoxicating and befogging. . . . An entire world divides the extraordinariness of miracle from the twilight of magic, sinister and devilish. . . . So it is, mutatis mutandis, with sex.
This attitude, of course, is not prudery. It recoils only from illicit sex, not sex itself. But in a cultural environment that acknowledges no such distinctions, it is not surprising it should be made to wear the label.
Learning from the Victorians
Contemporary Christians—especially, perhaps, conservative Christians—are often uneasy with their historical association with a more severe and moralistic kind of religion. Reacting perhaps to past excesses (and, for some of us, to our own upbringings), we are keen to emphasize our freedom in Christ when it comes to secondary matters. Many of us are also sensitive to being typed as conventional or traditionalist when we believe that the gospel is fundamentally radical and disruptive. Furthermore, we want to focus our attention on the reality of redemptive grace, and the fact that no sin is beyond the transforming reach of the Cross. Perhaps for these reasons, we are uncomfortable placing too much stress on the question of what Christians should read and watch.
The example of our Victorian forebears should give us pause, however. They lived in a world where media were both much less pervasive and much less perverse, and yet they were deeply aware of their own vulnerability to corruptive influences. We may not share their Lockean psychology, nor, in our post-Freudian world, ever be able to quite see sexuality as the discreet thing they did; we may feel that their squeamishness was excessive, and we may prefer our Shakespeare unmolested. Yet they offer us a bracing reminder of the truth that the battle for sexual purity begins in the mind. It was not they, but Paul, who enjoined us to be "innocent of evil" (Rom. 16:19) and to think on "whatever is pure, whatever is lovely" (Phil. 4:8). It was not they, but our Lord, who commanded us to pluck out the eye that offends (Matt. 5:29).
Today we face both the privilege and the challenge of navigating a world with virtually unlimited options for the media, which are available for us to consume. One lesson we can learn from nineteenth-century Christians is that the choices we make in this area are far from trivial. The standard they often employed in judging a play or a book was whether or not it was "improving," recalling Paul's injunction that "all things are lawful, but not all things build up" (1 Cor. 10:23). Adopting this principle for our lives would mean approaching our choices for media consumption as something like curators: each of us is charged by God with the delicate and vital task of determining which words and images ought to fill the collection which is our mind.
In a society that has abandoned any claim of being Christian, it is perhaps no longer appropriate for us to engage in an all-out effort to purify the public space. Surely, however, we should be seeking to purify our private ones. 
David Sandifer is the rector of St Alban’s Leura, an Anglican church near Sydney, Australia, and an adjunct lecturer in Christian Thought and History at Christ College, Sydney. His Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University (2014) examined changes in public morality in early nineteenth-century Britain, and the foundations of “Victorian values.”

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Making Memories

"Was it the smile of early spring
That made my bosom glow?
'Twas sweet, but neither sun nor wind
Could raise my spirit so.
Was it some feeling of delight,
All vague and undefined?
No, 'twas a rapture deep and strong,
Expanding in the mind!"

~Anne Bronte, 'In Memory of A Happy Day in February'

Monday, February 26, 2018


"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God"  (Isa. 40:1). Store up comfort. This was the prophet's mission. The world is full of comfortless hearts, and ere thou art sufficient for this lofty ministry, thou must be trained. And thy training is costly in the extreme; for, to render it perfect, thou too must pass through the same afflictions as are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood. Thus thy own life becomes the hospital ward where thou art taught the Divine art of comfort. Thou art wounded, that in the binding up of thy wounds by the Great Physician, thou mayest learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere. Dost thou wonder why thou art passing through some special sorrow? Wait till ten years are passed, and thou wilt find many others afflicted as thou art. Thou wilt tell them how thou hast suffered and hast been comforted; then as the tale is unfolded, and the anodynes applied which once thy God wrapped around thee, in the eager look and the gleam of hope that shall chase the shadow of despair across the sou l, thou shalt know why thou wast afflicted, and bless God for the discipline that stored thy life with such a fund of experience and helpfulness. --Selected

God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters. --Dr. Jowett
"They tell me I must bruise
The rose's leaf,
Ere I can keep and use
Its fragrance brief. "They tell me I must break
The skylark's heart,
Ere her cage song will make
The silence start.
"They tell me love must bleed,
And friendship weep,
Ere in my deepest need
I touch that deep.
"Must it be always so
With precious things?
Must they be bruised and go
With beaten wings?
"Ah, yes! by crushing days,
By caging nights, by scar
Of thorn and stony ways,
These blessings are!"

~Mrs. Charles Cowman

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sweet Repose

Come Rest Awhile
by Lucy Maude Montgomery 1874-1942

Come rest awhile, and let us idly stray,
In glimmering valleys, cool and far away.

Come from the greedy mart, the troubled street,
And listen to the music, faint and sweet,

That echoes ever to a listening ear,
Unheard by those who will not pause to hear­

The wayward chimes of memory's pensive bells,
Wind-blown o'er misty hills and curtained dells.

One step aside and dewy buds unclose
The sweetness of the violet and the rose;

Song and romance still linger in the green,
Emblossomed ways by you so seldom seen,

And near at hand, would you but see them, lie
All lovely things beloved in days gone by.

You have forgotten what it is to smile
In your too busy life--­come, rest awhile.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Consider the Lilies

Harmonious Development of Christian Character
by Harvey Newcomb, 1843
The design of clothing, then, is—
1. to furnish a modest covering for the body;
2. to provide a defense against the hostile elements;
3. perhaps to remind us of our spiritual nakedness and exposure to the wrath of God, and our need to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
From these ends we ought not to pervert it to the gratification of pride and vanity. But, if you will observe the following things in regard to your apparel, you will probably not go far astray—

1. All that we have is the Lord's. We have nothing but what he has given us; and this we have solemnly promised to employ in his service. We have no right, therefore, needlessly to squander it upon extravagant clothing. The apostle Paul directs women to adorn themselves with modest apparel, and discountenances the wearing of costly ornaments and jewelry. Peter also says that, instead of these, their adorning should be the "hidden person of the heart." The love of finery, or a fondness for mirthful apparel, is contrary to the spirit of these passages; nor is it easy to see how Christians can reconcile so much needless expense as is often lavished upon their dress, with the spirit of benevolence which the gospel breathes, when so many millions of precious souls are perishing without any knowledge of the only way of salvation, or while so many around them are suffering from poverty and need.

This is certainly contrary to the spirit of Christ. He who for our sakes became poor, who led a life of self-denial, toil, and suffering, that he might relieve distress and make known the way of salvation, could never have needlessly expended upon his clothing, what would have sent the gospel to the destitute, or supplied the needs of poverty. Extravagance in dress is, therefore, obviously inconsistent with the Christian character! But no precise rule can be laid down in relation to this matter. It must be left to the sober judgment of Christians; and a sanctified conscience will readily discern the bounds of propriety. By asking yourself two or three questions, whenever you think of purchasing a new article of dress, you may very easily decide upon the path of duty—"Do I need this? Is it necessary for my comfort, or for my decent appearance in society? Can I glorify God in wearing it?" 

2. Your time is the Lord's. You have no right to waste it in useless attention to dress. One of the greatest evils of extravagant modes of dress is, that so much precious time is consumed at the mirror. I have already shown the value and importance of time, and the obligations of Christians to spend it in the most profitable manner. I need not here advance any new arguments to show that it is wrong to consume your time needlessly in the adjustment of your apparel. 

3. It is duty to pay some regard to personal appearance. A Christian lady, by dressing slovenly, brings reproach upon the cause of Christ, instead of glorifying God. The apostle enjoins upon women to adorn themselves with modest apparel. Modesty signifies purity of sentiment and manners. When this idea is applied to dress, it immediately suggests to the mind a neatness, taste, and simplicity, alike opposed both to extravagance and finery, and to negligence and vulgar coarseness.

The exercise of a refined taste, in the adaptation and adjustment of apparel, may also be justified by the analogy of nature. Look abroad over the landscape, and see with what exquisite taste God has clothed the flowers of the field. There is a symmetry of proportion, a skilfulness of arrangement, and a fitness and adaptation of colors, which strike the eye with unmingled pleasure. And if God has shown a scrupulous regard to the pleasure of the eye, we may do the same.

Friday, February 23, 2018


"There is no better way -

no more practical, valuable, and effective way -

of expressing solicitude and affection for our fellow saints

than by bearing them up before God

by prayer in the arms of our faith and love."

~Arthur W. Pink "A Guide to Fervent Prayer

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sleeping in the Cold

All the complicated details of the attiring and the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds against a sure winter
the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold.

~William Carlos Williams
~Photography by c HNMMooreNiver (used with permission)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Teach Me Thy Way

 Teach me Thy way, O Lord, teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford, teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav'nly light, teach me Thy way!

When I am sad at heart, teach me Thy way!
When earthly joys depart, teach me Thy way!
In hours of loneliness, in times of dire distress,
In failure or success, teach me Thy way!

When doubts and fears arise, teach me Thy way!
When storms o'erspread the skies, teach me Thy way!
Shine through the cloud and rain, through sorrow, toil and pain;
Make Thou my pathway plain, teach me Thy way!

Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy way!
Where'er my lot be cast, teach me Thy way!
Until the race is run, until the journey's done,
Until the crown is won, teach me Thy way!

Benjamin M. Ramsey (1919)

 Teach me thy way, O LORD;
 I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.”
 Psalm 86:11

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Like a Rose

Ever wonder what your "gifts" are? Mine seem elusive at best, but I plod on prayerfully trying so hard to be receptive and obedient to what my Maker would have me to be and do. This passage from a book I am reading is very insightful:

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh,
with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;  (Eph 6:5)
"We should do everything also for God's eye and according to the principles of
righteousness. The consecrated mechanic must put absolute truth into every piece of
work he does. The consecrated business man must conduct his business on the principles
of divine righteousness. The consecrated millionaire must lay his money on God's altar,
so that every dollar of it shall do business for God, blessing the world. The consecra-
ted housekeeper must keep her home so sweet and so tidy and beautiful all the days,
that she would never be ashamed for her Master to come in without warning to be her
guest. That is, when we present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, we are to be
God's in every part and in every phase of our life wherever we go, whatever we do.

"I cannot be of any use," says one. "I cannot talk in meetings.I cannot pray in
public. I have no gift for visiting the sick. There is nothing I can do for Christ."

Well, if Christian service were all talking and praying in meetings, and visiting the
sick it would be discouraging to such talentless people. But are our tongues the only
faculties we can use for Christ? There are ways in which even silent people can
belong to God and be a blessing in the world. A star does not talk but its calm,
steady beam shines down continually out of the sky, and is a benediction to many.
A flower cannot sing bird-songs but its sweet beauty and gentle fragrance make it a
blessing wherever it is seen. Be like a star in your peaceful shining, and many will
thank God for your life. Be like the flower in your pure beauty and in the influence
of your unselfish spirit, and you may do more to bless the world than many who
talk incessantly. The living sacrifice does not always mean active work. It may mean
the patient endurance of a wrong, the quiet bearing of a pain; or cheerful
acquiescence in a disappointment."
~J. R. Miller "Making the Most of Life"

Monday, February 19, 2018

Dear Restless Heart

Dear restless heart, be still; don't fret and worry so;
God has a thousand ways His love and help to show;
Just trust, and trust, and trust, until His will you know.
Dear restless heart, be still, for peace is God's own smile,
His love can every wrong and sorrow reconcile;
Just love, and love, and love, and calmly wait awhile.
Dear restless heart, be brave; don't moan and sorrow so,
He hath a meaning kind in chilly winds that blow;
Just hope, and hope, and hope, until you braver grow.
Dear restless heart, repose upon His breast this hour, 
His grace is strength and life, His love is bloom and flower;
Just rest, and rest, and rest, within His tender power.
Dear restless heart, be still! Don't struggle to be free;
God's life is in your life, from Him you may not flee;
Just pray, and pray, and pray, till you have faith to see.

--Edith Willi
s Linn

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Sermons We See 
Edgar Guest

I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

I soon can learn to do it if you'll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind
Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.
And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way.

One good man teaches many, men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told.
Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language which to every one is clear.
Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say,
I'd rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.

Friday, February 16, 2018


"Let there be a cottage.... a real cottage... a white cottage, embowered with flowering shrubs, so chosen as to unfold a succession of flowers upon the walls, and clustering round the windows through all the months of spring, summer, and autumn—beginning, in fact, with May roses, and ending with jasmine. Let it, however, not be spring, nor summer, nor autumn—but winter, in his sternest shape. This is a most important point in the science of happiness. And I am surprised to see people overlook it, and think it matter of congratulation that winter is going; or, if coming, is not likely to be a severe one. On the contrary, I put up a petition annually, for as much snow, hail, frost, or storm, of one kind or other, as the skies can possibly afford us. Surely every body is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a winter fire-side: candles at four o’clock, warm hearth-rugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies on the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without... "

~Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Father's Prayer

Although my father lost his life when only thirty-one, my aunt so very thoughtfully shared some correspondence from when he was in the Navy, and I have a diary he kept while in Boot Camp, which spoke volumes of his values, hopes, inspirations and the profound influence of his own  mother who passed away when he, too, was very young.  The following poem is such that he might have whispered:

Lord, make me tolerant and wise;
Incline my ears to hear him through;
Let him not stand with downcast eyes,
Fearing to trust me and be true.
Instruct me so that I may know
The way my son and I should go.

When he shall err, as once did I,
Or boyhood folly bids him stray,
Let me not into anger fly
And drive the good in him away.
Teach me to win his trust, that he
Shall keep no secret hid from me.

Lord, strengthen me that I may be .
A fit example for my son.
Grant he may never hear or see
A shameful deed that I have done.
However sorely I am tried,
Let me not undermine his pride.

In spite of years and temples gray,
Still let my spirit beat with joy;
Teach me to share in all his play
And be a comrade with my boy.
Wherever we may chance to be,
Let him find happiness with me.

Lord, as his father, now I pray
For manhood's strength and counsel wise;
Let me deal justly, day by day,
In all that fatherhood implies.
To be his father, keep me fit;
Let me not play the hypocrite!

 Edgar A. Guest

Inspiration . . .

He who has smoothed another's way
And left a long remembered day
With one whose heart was sick with pain
Need never say he's lived in vain.
He who has done one kindly deed
And served another's hour of need
Has truly justified his birth
And made this world a richer earth. 

Edgar Albert Guest

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Be Still

"There is, perhaps, no solitary sensation so exquisite
as that of slumbering on the grass or hay,
shaded from the hot sun by a tree,
with the consciousness of a fresh light air
running through the wide atmosphere,
and the sky stretching far overhead upon all sides."
(Leigh Hunt)

"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)

Saturday, February 10, 2018


Grant us Thy peace, down from thy presence falling,
As on the thirsty earth cool night-dews sweet;
Grant us thy peace, to thy pure paths recalling,
From devious ways, our worn and wandering feet.

Grant us Thy peace, through winning and through losing,
Through gloom and gladness of our pilgrim way;
Grant us thy peace, safe in thy love's enclosing,
Thou who all things in heaven and earth dost sway.

Give us Thy peace, not as the world has given,
In momentary rays that fitful gleamed,
But calm, deep, sure, the peace of spirits shriven,
Of hearts surrendered and of souls redeemed.

Grant us thy peace, that like a deepening river
Swells ever outward to the sea of praise.
O thou of peace the only Lord and Giver,
Grant us thy peace, O Saviour, all our days.

—Eliza Scudder.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Why? Oh Why?

"Why must I weep when others sing?
'To test the deeps of suffering.'
Why must I work while others rest?
'To spend my strength at God's request.'
Why must I lose while others gain?
'To understand defeat's sharp pain.'
Why must this lot of life be mine
When that which fairer seems is thine?
'Because God knows what plans for me
Shall blossom in eternity.'

 author unknown

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Inner Calm


Calm me, my God, and keep me calm,
While these hot breezes blow;
Be like the night-dew's cooling balm
Upon earth's fevered brow.

Calm me, my God, and keep me calm,
Soft resting on thy breast;
Soothe me with holy hymn and psalm
And bid my spirit rest.

Yes, keep me calm, though loud and rude
The sounds my ear that greet;
Calm in the closet's solitude,
Calm in the bustling street;

Calm in the hour of buoyant health,
Calm in my hour of pain,
Calm in my poverty or wealth,
Calm in my loss or gain;

Calm when the great world's news with power
My listening spirit stir;
Let not the tidings of the hour
E'er find too fond an ear;

Calm as the ray of sun or star
Which storms assail in vain;
Moving unruffled through earth's war,
The eternal calm to gain.

—Horatius Bonar.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


"How beautiful thy frosty morn,
When brilliants gem each feathery thorn!
How fair thy cloudless noon!
And through the leafless trees, at night,
With more than Summer's soften'd light,
Shines thy resplendent moon."

~Bernard Barton, "Stanzas on the Approach of Winter"

Monday, February 5, 2018

Day by Day

1. Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

2. Ev'ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose Name is Counselor and Pow'r;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As your days, your strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

3. Help me then in ev'ry tribulation
So to trust Your promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Lyrics: Karolina Wilhelmina Sandell Berg

The LORD is good,
a strong hold in the day of trouble;
and he knoweth them that trust in him.
Na 1:7

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Barbs of Life

Whenever I see an old barbed wire fence, I remember the time I did something my mother objected to. She broke off a switch from the Spirea Bush by the side of the house, as I recall, and was about to emphasize her admonitions in no uncertain terms! I was little, maybe six or seven at the time. Anyway, I took off on a run toward the pasture with my mother after me (not a wise impulse!). Approaching the barbed wire fence, I hurriedly attempted to climb through catching my leg just above my knee on one of those vicious barbs. It was nasty and surely slowed me down! I still have a scar to this day. I don't recall her using the switch nor much sympathy, the nasty gouge in my leg being remembrance sufficient to emphasize a number of lessons!
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
 Reinhold Niebuhr's translation into English 
For he that will love life, and see good days,
let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
1Pe 3:10

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Be careful for nothing;
but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known unto God.
(Phil. 4:6).

"No anxiety ought to be found in a believer. Great, many and varied may be our trials, our afflictions, our difficulties, and yet there should be no anxiety under any circumstances, because we have a Father in Heaven who is almighty, who loves His children as He loves His only-begotten Son, and whose very joy and delight it is to succor and help them at all times and under all circumstances. We should attend to the Word, "In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."

"In everything," that is not merely when the house is on fire, not merely when the beloved wife and children are on the brink of the grave, but in the smallest matters of life, bring everything before God, the little things, the very little things, what the world calls trifling things--everything--living in holy communion with our Heavenly Father, arid with our precious Lord Jesus all day long. And when we awake at night, by a kind of spiritual instinct again turning to Him, and speaking to Him, bringing our various little matters before Him in the sleepless night, the difficulties in connection with the family, our trade, our profession. Whatever tries us in any way, speak to the Lord about it.

"By prayer and supplication," taking the place of beggars, with earnestness, with perseverance, going on and waiting, waiting, waiting on God.

"With thanksgiving." We should at all times lay a good foundation with thanksgiving. If everything else were wanting, this is always present, that He has saved us from hell. Then, that He has given us His Holy Word--His Son, His choicest gift--and the Holy Spirit. Therefore we have abundant reason for thanksgiving. O let us aim at this!

"And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." And this is so great a blessing, so real a blessing, so precious a blessing, that it must be known experimentally to be entered into, for it passeth understanding. O let us lay these things to heart, and the result will be, if we habitually walk in this spirit, we shall far more abundantly glorify God, than as yet we have done."

--George Mueller, in Life of Trust

Friday, February 2, 2018

My Garden

My Garden is a pleasant place
Of sun glory and leaf grace.
There is an ancient cherry tree
Where yellow warblers sing to me,
And an old grape arbor, where
A robin builds her nest, and there
Above the lima beans and peas
She croons her little melodies,
Her blue eggs hidden in the green
Fastness of that leafy screen.
Here are striped zinnias that bees
Fly far to visit; and sweet peas,
Like little butterflies newborn,
And over by the tasseled corn
Are sunflowers and hollyhocks,
And pink and yellow four-clocks.
Here are hummingbirds that come
To seek the tall delphinium -
Songless bird and scentless flower
Communing in a golden hour.
There is no blue like the blue cup
The tall delphinium holds up,
Not sky, nor distant hill, nor sea,
Sapphire, nor lapis lazuli.
My lilac trees are old and tall;
I cannot reach their bloom at all.
They send their perfume over trees
And roofs and streets, to find the bees.
I wish some power would touch my ear
With magic touch, and make me hear
What all the blossoms say, and so
I might know what the winged things know.
I'd hear the sunflower's mellow pipe,
"Goldfinch, goldfinch, my seeds are ripe!"
I'd hear the pale wisteria sing,
"Moon moth, moon moth, I'm blossoming!"
I'd hear the evening primrose cry,
"Oh, firefly! come, firefly!"
And I would learn the jeweled word
The ruby-throated hummingbird
Drops into cups of larkspur blue,
And I would sing them all for you!
My garden is a pleasant place
Of moon glory and wind grace.
O friend, wherever you may be,
Will you not come to visit me?
Over fields and streams and hills,
I'll pipe like yellow daffodils,
And every little wind that blows
Shall take my message as it goes.
A heart may travel very far
To come where its desires are,
Oh, may some power touch my ear,
And grant me grace, and make you hear!
~Louise Driscoll

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Something to think about

Don’t look for the flaws as you go through life;
And even when you find them,
It is wise and kind to be somewhat blind
And look for the virtue behind them.
For the cloudiest night has a hint of light
Somewhere in its shadows hiding;
It is better by far to hunt for a star,
Than the spots on the sun abiding.

The current of life runs ever away
To the bosom of God’s great ocean.
Don’t set your force ‘gainst the river’s course
And think to alter its motion.
Don’t waste a curse on the universe –
Remember it lived before you.
Don’t butt at the storm with your puny form,
But bend and let it go o’er you.

The world will never adjust itself
To suit your whims to the letter.
Some things must go wrong your whole life long,
And the sooner you know it the better.
It is folly to fight with the Infinite,
And go under at last in the wrestle;
The wiser man shapes into God’s plan
As water shapes into a vessel. 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


“Rest in the LORD,
and wait patiently for Him:
fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way,
because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” - Psalm 37:7

Abide with Me
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide:
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour;
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes:
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies:
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee:
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Abide With Me, Henry Lyte 1793-1847

To God be the glory.
For His mercy endureth forever.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Be sure to shut the door!

as used in the New Testament, signifies properly a storehouse (Lu 12:24), and hence a place of privacy and retirement (Mt 6:6; Lu 12:3).
"But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret." Matthew 6:6

It is as impossible to live and prosper spiritually without prayer--as it is to live and prosper physically without food. Those who enjoy a close walk with God and have power with Him--are those who pray. Natural abilities and intellect can never supply any lack in spirituality. Unless you are spiritual--you are of but little use to God; and to be spiritual--you must live much in prayer.

It is not those who are on their knees the oftenest or the longest--who do the most praying. Some may pray more real prayer in one hour--than others in two or three hours. Too many people leave the door open. Prayer that feeds the soul, must be offered with the door shut. "But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret."

God is in secret. He is hidden from the world. You can never reach God in your prayers--unless you shut out the world. Shutting the door means something more than closing the door of your literal closet. People may enter the literal closet and close the door--and yet have the world in their hearts and thoughts! Such have not closed the door, in the true sense.

Even in the public assembly you must enter your closet when you pray, and shut the door--or your prayers avail not with God. You must talk from your heart--to the heart of God.
There is a blessing in such praying; there is a joy that cannot be told. Such prayer feeds the soul upon the divine life, and lifts us into realms of holiness and happiness. Thank God for the sweet privilege of secret communion with Him.

O beloved, when you pray, enter into your closet--and be sure to shut the door!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Grace Gems has published Charles Orr's practical 60 page book, "How to Live a Holy Life".
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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