Saturday, December 26, 2009


G. K. CHESTERTON: "Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live."

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Lord of daily life

This quote is a little late in the year, but potent all the same.

To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.

- Pope John Paul II

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jesus: King of the World

If Jesus is the true King of all the world, whose kingdom redefines power and glory so that they are now seen in the manger, on the cross, and in the garden, then to pray "Thy kingdom come" from the Lord's Prayer is to ask that this kingdom, this power, and this glory may be seen in all the world. It is not enough, though it is the essential starting point, that we submit in our own lives to God's alternative kingdom-vision; we must pray and work for the vision to come in reality, with the rulers of this world being confronted with the claims of their rightful King.

N. T. Wright
"The Most Dangerous Baby" from Christianity Today

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Maya Angelou

I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God's will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at commensurate speed.

- Maya Angelou
from her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rollo May

Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt. To believe fully and at the same moment to have doubts is not at all a contradiction: [rather] it presupposes a greater respect for truth, an awareness that truth always goes beyond anything that can be said or done at any given moment…”

Rollo May, in The Courage to Create

Saturday, December 19, 2009


The creation is not in any sense independent of the Creator, the result of a primal creative act long over and done with, but is the continuous, constant participation of all creatures in the being of God.

- Wendell Berry, from his essay Christianity and the Survival of Creation

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Barbara Brown Taylor

When it comes down to being a provider of God's love, there is really only one provider, who sends us out with nothing at all and with everything we need: healing, forgiveness, restoration, resurrection. Those are the only things we really have to share with the world, which is just as well, since they are the only things the world really needs.

- Barbara Brown Taylor, from her book Bread of Angels

I haven't read this book by Taylor, but her more autobiographical one, Leaving Church, has some very good things in it. This quote is similar to the one I've put on another blog today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Marilyn McEntyre

I have come to believe that saying yes to Christ means saying yes to seeking truth--truth that will set us and others free, and consenting to act on that truth when we find it. For me, this has meant that even though I haven't given away all my possessions or abandoned my car, I have begun to cultivate new habits of awareness and action--to ask about economic and agricultural and political processes, to consider what I'm supporting when I vote, buy, or travel. It has meant evaluating my moral choices not only in terms of whether I personally lie, cheat, steal, or play fair, but also how the systems that I inhabit function, for whose benefit, and at whose cost.

Marilyn McEntyre
"Consenting to Consciousness" in Zealous Love

Susanna Wesley

May I be careful to have my mind in order when I take upon myself the honour to speak to the sovereign Lord of the universe, remembering that upon the temper of my soul depends, in very great measure, my success.

- Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism (1669-1742)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Brian McLaren

“… It is the societal map of greed, lust, arrogance, fear, racism, domination, oppression, revenge, and injustice that [Jesus] wants to redraw. He wants his disciples to move mountains of injustice and make new rivers of creativity and compassion flow. He wants them to uproot the fruitless fig tree of dual-narrative religion and plant in its place a spiritual vineyard of joy and transformation. He wants his followers to do the impossible: to label as unacceptable, unnatural, and changeable a world where homeless children beg outside the sprawling estates of the super-rich … a world that could tithe its weapons budget and so feed, clothe, and shelter the poor…. Faith brings God’s creative power into our global crises, so the impossible first becomes possible and then inevitable for those who believe.”

McLaren, Everything Must Change, 300-301


The ache for friends is the one ache that did not come from sin.... God made us in such a way that we cannot experience paradise without friends.

Tim Keller
"Spiritual Friendship" from Redeemer Presbyterian Church

The link above leads to a page where you can listen to the mp3 of this sermon.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Subjugating the will

However high be your endeavors, unless you renounce and subjugate your own will -- unless you forget yourself and all that pertains to yourself -- not one step will you advance on the road to perfection.

St. John of the Cross,
Spanish mystic, friar, and priest (1542-1591)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Alan Roxburgh

Why this Western infatuation with the Dalai Lama? For [Andy] Lemey [writing in Macleans] it’s because the Dalai Lama’s persona solves a specifically Western problem. He puts it this way: In the 19th century the shared religious values that once permeated civilization began a ‘long withdrawing roar’... Any religion one adopts now is merely one possibility among many, a reality that drains each of its explanatory value and force. An infatuation with the Dalai Lama is the Goldilocks solution for a culture that finds its traditional religion too hot and atheism too cold. His exoticism marks him as authentic, and subjecting his teaching to critical scrutiny is beside the point, as there is never any chance we are going to engage his teachings seriously enough to be challenged by them. We instead want to bask in his distant spiritual glow.

Alan Roxburgh, in a blog post, 29.11.09 on the Roxburgh Missional Network.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), Seek That Which Is Above,1986

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Stephen Jay Gould

I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

- Stephen Jay Gould, American evolutionary biologist (1941-2002)

This is an interesting quote from Gould, who is perhaps better known for being his promotion of evolution in biology.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hope and Grief

You become what you do. We are shaped from the outside in ... So we do the Works of Mercy, we bend and we kneel, even when our head is clouded and our spirit is grudging. We cross ourselves even as our faith fails. We light candles and sing "O Radiant Light, O Sun Divine," even when the world seems dark.

- Mary Margaret Nussbaum, from her essay "Hope Is Our Means"

Even in the midst of great pain, Lord,
I praise you for that which is.
I will not refuse this grief
Or close myself to this anguish.
Let shallow men pray for ease:
"Comfort us; shield us from sorrow."
I pray for whatever you send me,
and I ask to receive it as your gift.
You have put a joy in my heart
greater than all the world’s riches.
I lie down trusting the darkness,
for I know that even now you are here.

Psalm 4, adapted from the Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Although it is not always socially acceptable, not always popular, we are called to the ministry of reconciliation. We have been entrusted with a specific message -- that Jesus Christ died to reconcile us to God and to each other. The two things were accomplished at the same time, in the same act of salvation ... This is our story, and we have a mandate to tell it.

- Brenda Salter McNeil, from her book A Credible Witness

Friday, November 20, 2009

Morton Kelsey

Genuine Christian love is forged against the anvil of our selfishness and possessiveness.
... It is important to remember that love is more than a feeling. It is active and transitive. The real test of my loving is not that I feel loving, but that the other person feels loved by me. Love is what I do to create this sense of feeling cared for.

Morton T. Kelsey,
from his book Companions on the Inner Way

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle

It's a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand. It stops us from taking anything for granted.

Madeleine L'Engle
from: Glimpses of Grace

Monday, November 16, 2009


Jesus tells us that if our discipleship doesn’t get us into trouble, we’re going to have some serious explaining to do.

from a sermon by Kim Fabricius, at least part of which is online in a post on Richard Hall's Connexions blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Tree Full of Angels

Conversion is what happens between birth and death. By ... conversion as a process, I do not mean to disclaim the many accounts of people being suddenly and mysteriously touched by God and changed tremendously ... However, even people who have had a dramatic encounter with the Divine, still must go through that daily purifying process of continued conversion. A deep and lasting conversion is a process, an unfolding, a slow turning and turning again.

- Macrina Wiederkehr, from her book A Tree Full of Angels

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mutual Ministry

The Christian faith for most people is not communicated by doctrinal pronouncements ... but by what goes on in the church in its most local setting. It is here, in the church down the street, that people are caught up in the Gospel promise -- or are turned away.

- James C. Fenhagen, from his book Mutual Ministry

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Smith and Neruda

Nothing is more countercultural than a community serving the Suffering Servant in a world devoted to consumption and violence.

James K.A. Smith
Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?

I have often maintained that the best poet is ... the baker who ... does [the] majestic and unpretentious work of kneading the dough, consigning it to the oven, baking it in golden colours and handing us our daily bread as a duty of fellowship.

- Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet and 1971 Nobel Laureate in Literature (1904-1973)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The concept of grace

One of the elements that drew me into the Catholic Church was the concept of grace, although I've never been able to make more than clumsy sense of it. I am moved by the idea that God always already loves us first, before we love God, wholly and without condition, that God forgives us even before we have done anything to require forgiveness, as we will inevitably do, and that this outpouring of love and forgiveness fortifies us for repentance and reform.

- Nancy Mairs, from her essay "Here: Grace"

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Kathleen Norris

In a religion centered on what is in Christian convention termed a "living Word," even our ridiculously fallible language becomes a lesson in how God's grace works despite and even through our human frailty. We will never get the words exactly right. There will always be room for imperfection, for struggle, growth, and change. And this is as it should be.

Kathleen Norris

Amazing Grace

See a review of Norris' more recent book, Acedia and Me, here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Paradox of Faith

Even though our faith may be 2,000 years old, our thinking is not. True progress is a balance between preserving the essence of a certain way of life and changing things that are not essential. Christianity was born a revolutionary faith, and we have preserved that ... Paradoxically, we have succeeded in not changing the faith that is itself dedicated to change.

- His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Christian World

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Desiring the Kingdom

... liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love.  They do this because we are the sorts of animals whose orientation to the world is shaped from the body up more than from the head down.  Liturgies aim our love to different ends precisely by training our hearts through our bodies.  They prime us to approach the world in a certain way, to value certain things, to aim for certain goals, to pursue certain dreams, to work together on certain projects.

James K.A. Smith
Desiring the Kingdom

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Edward J Farrell

We begin, sometimes without realizing it, to worship things, to relate to them as persons. And in the process, we inevitably relate to other persons as if they were things.

- Edward J. Farrell, from his book Gathering the Fragments

Saturday, October 31, 2009

When Death Comes

I found this poem on Bart Campolo's blog.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn,
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

To buy me, and snaps the purse shut,
when death comes
like the measle-pox

When death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

And I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

And each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver

From New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press, 25 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02108-2892, ISBN 0 870 6819 5).

The River Within

After a long period during which this blog has been in abeyance, I've decided to bring it back into play by using it as a place for collecting quotes relating to the spiritual life. They won't be as lengthy as the earlier set; just short and to the point.

So here's today's entry.

We declare how we value God as much by our actions, by the way we treat other people, by the manner in which we do our work, as by anything we say. If my actions are wrong or wrongly motivated prayer cannot make them right. If however, despite my failures and inconsistencies, I do on the whole want to put God above all things then prayer will help to purify my motives and clarify my judgement.
Christopher Bryant, from his book The River Within: the search for God in the depth
published Darton, Longman and Todd, 1979

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
- Hebrews 12:14