House Church Talk - Life Here & There

Janet Murphy dreamgirl at
Thu Jun 17 12:30:53 EDT 2004

Jim - I liked this and will be forwarding it.  To tell you the truth, right
now I feel like I am surrounded by "Snuffs" and am discouraged.

Thanks for this.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "jim sutton" <goodword at>
To: <House Church Talk  at>; <House Church Talk  at>
Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2004 9:47 AM
Subject: House Church Talk -  Life Here & There

> Ruined Souls
> They often call it being creative.  If you share by writing, speaking,
> building, or shaping things with your hands, you're creative.  If you work
> with colors, introduce a useful perspective, or generally help to make the
> world a better place in some small way, you're creative.
> I'm convinced that every human soul has the potential for great
>  God gave us this quality to increase our joy in life.
> The skill, and the willingness to devote many hours, days, even years to
> developing that skill, comes from God, from His gracious Spirit who
> to give good gifts to all people.  We see this in Exodus, where the Lord
> brought certain people together to create something very special, almost
> heavenly in the tabernacle.
> In all places there are people who take steps to make the world a little
> better.  And there's plenty of need.  People everywhere need to be
> prompted, provoked, even directed from time to time.  I think all of us
> to be reminded of the truth now and then.  God uses good things to
> the heart, to activate the brain, to lift up the spirit.  The earth is
> with good things: green grass, amber shifting sands, blue skies, great
> swaying trees, the sounds of wind and rain, the call of a bird.
> But not all people want to share good things.  There are people who only
> but never give.  There are ruined souls that never offer to say or do
> good.
> Some of these ruined souls actually attack the good that others do.  They
> in the shadows for someone -- anyone at all -- to do or say someing
> worthwhile.  And then they attack it, trying to spoil it, wanting to ruin
> in some way, or maybe just to leave their soiled mark on it.
> If you've ever set out to do some good or beautiful thing, then you've
> probably been attacked by an empty, ruined soul.  They cannot abide a
> word or deed.  They must try to bring it down.
> Something very wrong has happened to these poor creatures, I suppose.  And
> rather than recover, they simply try to bring the whole world down into
> ruin.  They choose to remain in the darkness.  They prefer evil to good.
> hate anything strong and wise and beautiful.
> Unable to produce anything good, they exist to denounce and pervert what
> others do.  They live to destroy.
> Can they be helped?  Of course they can.  Anyone and everyone can be saved
> from darkness and despair. But they must choose to let go of the dark evil
> that fills their twisted hearts.
> Only when we're willing to set down the darkness, the hatred, the
wrongness of
> heart, can we make room inside for the good gift of God.  God's perfect
> in Jesus Christ waits to fill us all with newness of life.  A new spirit.
> new heart.  Genuine laughter that springs from joy instead of a shrieking
> that rejoices in only evil and more ruin.
> Thinking of these things, I wrote a tiny story.  Maybe it'll help you to
> better see what I mean.  Here it is:
> Old Snuff
> I met a strange man while on the way into town the other day.  I'd taken
> path through the hills, as I like to be able to see the rolling landscape
> the hilltops.  As I came near the woods, I saw him.
> Dressed in drab gray clothing, he seemed out of place on such a bright
> morning.  He shuffled along, hanging close to the shadows, slipping behind
> tree whenever he saw anyone approaching.  He saw me and tried to hide, but
> stopped and waited.  When he remained hidden, I called to him.
> "I've already seem you," I said,  "so you may as well come out.  Why are
> sneaking around on a morning like this?  Who are you?"
> He finally peeked from behind the tree, and then he edged out a little,
> reluctant to leave the protection of the large sycamore and be fully in
> open.  He may have been tall, but he appeared bent, somehow, and looked
> frail.  I stepped closer, to get a better look at his face.
> It was the strangest thing, but even in the direct sunlight, his face
> to be in shadow, and the features were indistinct.  The eyes and nose and
> mouth kept shifting or changing, blurring from shape to shape.  I began to
> think my eyesight was failing.
> I told him my name and waited, but he made no reply.
> "Who are you?" I finally asked again.
> "Snuff," he said.  But it was a rasping whisper and I wasn't sure I'd
> anything at all.  So I asked him again and he repeated his name in a frail
> quiet voice.  "Snuff."
> His face and hands were smeared with black.  The smell of smoke was all
> him, and as I looked closer at his clothing, I could see that it was not a
> solid color but many smudges of various shades of gray and dark brown and
> black.  It was like billowing smoke might look if it suddenly froze.  I
> guessed that he must be stained from some fire.  I asked him if he'd been
in a
> fire.
> "Several," he said, his eyes darting back and forth along the path.  And
> after a long pause, he added, "Many. Many fires."  The words seemed to
> out of him, as though his throat was thoroughly parched or scarred.  I
> him some water from the skin I carried.  He looked longingly at it but
> declined to drink.
> "Where are you going?" I asked.  "Do you live in a village nearby?"   I
> couldn't remember seeing him before, but since he was so secretive, I may
> simply not noticed.
> "Away," he said. "Always away."  And he looked back down the path behind
> again, as though he thought someone might be after him.  Apparently being
> satisfied that he was safe for the moment, he almost smiled and said,
> west this time."
> "Oh really?  Do you have family in the west?" I asked.  But he shook his
> "Nothing for me there.  Just away" he managed to rasp.  And then he looked
> both ways along the pathway again.
> And so the conversation went.  I would use several pointed questions to
> out some tiny bit of information, and he would whisper his terse answers
> always looking along the path to see if anyone approached.
> But his appearance and behavior were not the oddest things about Snuff.
> the strangest thing was his occupation.  I asked him if he was a
> perhaps a builder.  He shook his head, indicating that he built nothing.
> asked if he were a craftsman, maybe a shoemaker.  But he said no.  So
> I had to ask him very directly again what he did, what his life was
> to.
> "Burn," he said, his throat cracking at the word.  Bringing his hands
> together, he hissed, "Snuff burns things."
> I couldn't imagine how anyone could make a living burning things, so I
> him to explain what he meant.  Did he manage the fires for some large
city, to
> get rid of trash?
> "No, not like that," he said.  "Burn good things."  And his eyes took on a
> wild look, an expression like a mixture of terror and uncontrolled
delight.  I
> was already baffled by Snuff's strange appearance and behavior.  But now I
> even more astonished.
> "But why?" I asked.  "Why would anyone want to burn good things?"  I was
> taken by the utter strangeness of this fellow that I almost missed his
> response when it came.
> Glancing quickly this way and then that, along the path, Snuff came a
> closer, seeming eager to share his strange secret with someone.  The harsh
> odor of old and new smoke surrounded me, almost choking me.  I think I may
> have taken a step backward.
> For the first time, Snuff looked directly at me, his eyes searching my
> for understanding.  He said, "Snuff cannot build.  Cannot make things
>  Cannot improve what others do well."  He paused while glancing again back
> along the way he had come, and then forward up the path.
> Then he said, "So I burns things.  I make fire.  The others build good
> and make good things.  And then I come and burn what I find.  I take what
> others make with their hands and I make fire and smoke.  I burns things."
> I just stared at him, trying to comprehend what he was saying, trying to
> sense of the words and the awful ideas.  He stood there for a while,
> into my face, and then he turned away.  He must have seen my confusion, my
> dismay, my disgust.  He turned and went back to shuffling on his way.
> I was still staring, still not believing what I had heard, when his
> words drifted back to me on the morning breeze.  His back was to me as he
> resumed his journey along the path.  But his faint whisper caught my ears
> he repeated to himself, again and again, "I burns things.  That's what I
> Jim Sutton

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