Sunday, 29 July 2012


'The truest vision of life I know is that bird in the Venerable Bede that flutters from the dark into a lighted hall, and after a while flutters out again into the dark. But Ruth is right. It is something - it can be everything - to have found a fellow bird with whom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting and fighting go on below; a fellow bird whom you can look after and find bugs and seeds for; one who will patch your bruises and straighten your ruffled feathers and mourn over your hurts when you accidently fly into something you can't handle.' 
Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird, p.213.


'Getting old is like standing in a long, slow line. You wake up out of the shuffle and torpor only at those moments when the line moves you one step closer to the window.'
Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird, p.171.

Saturday, 28 July 2012


'Friendship can be a dangerous enemy, a seduction of the mind lying beyond the reach of investigation. Out of a game and a jest came an avid desire to do injury and an appetite to inflict loss on someone without any motive on my part of personal game, and no pleasure in settling a score. As soon as the words are spoken "Let us go and do it," one is ashamed not to be shameless.'
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, p.34.


'No one who considers his frailty would dare to attribute to his own strength his chastity and innocence, so that he has less cause to love you - as if he had less need of your mercy by which you forgive the sins of those converted to you. If man is called by you, follows your voice, and has avoided doing those acts which I am recalling and avowing in my own life, he should not mock the healing of a sick man by the Physician, whose help has kept him from falling sick, or at least enabled him to be less gravely ill. He should not love you less, indeed even more; for he sees that the one who delivered me from the great sickness of my sins is also he through whom he may see that he himself  has not been the victim of the same great sicknesses.'
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, p.32.


'The single desire that dominated my search for delight was simply to love and to be loved.'
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, p.24.

Friday, 27 July 2012


'Some people, I am told, have memories like computers, nothing to do but punch the button and wait for the print-out. Mine is more like a Japanese library of the old style, without card file or an indexing system or any systematic shelf plan. Nobody knows where anything is except some old geezer in felt slippers who has been shuffling up and down those stacks for sixty-nine years. When you hand  him a problem he doesn't come back with a cartful and dump it before you, a jackpot of instant retrieval. He finds one thing, which reminds him of another, which leads him off to the annex, which directs him to the east wing which sends him back two tiers from where he started. Bit by bit he finds you what you want, but like his boss who seems to be under pressure to examine his life, he takes his time.'
Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird, p.22.


'Only gradually did it occur to me that these complicated responses - grief at the other's rejection, terror for the other's well-being and guilt for endangering it, attention to the minutest aspects of another's condition, defense of the other's right to choose his own way - are the marks not of repulsion but of passionate attachment. Everything  in my experience and education had suggested that "love" was reactive, an upwelling of delight caused by the the beloved's pleasing looks or ways. My beloved did not please me. In fact, much of the time he drove me stark ravers. But he absorbed me utterly. And still does. Just this morning we were playing computers. a sport that highlights not only the quickness and grace of his mind but also his tact as a teacher. I'm installing a new system and turning my old one over to him, a process that would render me paralytic with stupidity if he didn't keep reassuring me that we're having here is fun. Now he's gone off, and my studio, which generally looks as though a whirlwind had recently torn through, has acheived a new apotheosis of chaos, crowned by his forgotten black felt hat on top of the bookcase. We're just like that. Matthew and I.
If this is love - and it is - then I can faintly glimpse what the love of God might be, So long as I understand it as a response to my pleasigness - if I was good, then God would love me (and contrariwise, if I was bad, then God would throw me into hell, the most hateful gesture imaginiable) - I couldn't believe in it, since the chances of my ever being good enough to merit the love of God were slenderer than a strand of silk. But suppose God takes no particular delight in me at all. Suppose God finds me about as attractive as I found Matthew during the the years when razorblades dangled from his ears and his room was littered with plates and glasses growing long green hairs and his favourite band was called Useless Pieces of Shit. Suppose God keeps me steadily in sight, agonizing over my drunken motorcycle rides and failed courses. laughing at my jokes, putting in earplugs and attending my gigs, signing for my release at the police station, weeping with me as we bury the dead dog...'
Nancy Mairs, Ordinary Time, p.146.


'Oh, how I quail at using that word! It's been so sentimentalized in contemporary culture that almost all its resonances have been smothered in a drift of red hearts and teddy bears: I LOVE NY, I LOVE MY VOLVO, JESUS LOVES YOU. It's a transitive verb whose object is always pleasing; the instant the object ceases to delight we switch the verb to "like" or "can live without" or "downright detest." But the great commandment permits no lexical shift, without regard to your pleasure: (1) God; (2) everybody else, yourself included. If you love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and also love your neighbour as yourself, you will naturally carry out all the other commandments as well. Of course, this is a harder task than any they set. I've had far less trouble refraining from adultery, in the years since I've discovered I had the power to choose fidelity, than I've had loving Ronald Regan, for instance, in fact, I've never quite accomplished the latter.'
Nancy Mairs, Ordinary Time, p.138.


'Marriage As Process, not a state of wedded bliss (or, less thinkably, a slough of shattered dreams) but a sustained negotiatry association between two creatures who speak, at best, only pidgin versions of each other's language. I'm not referring here to theoretical linguistic differentiation according to gender, race, class, age, and so on; I have in mind the even more profound idiolectical differences that render each of us (except perhaps identical twins) capable of only the roughest sense of what on earth any other, no matter how beloved, is talking about, "I know exactly what you mean," we tend to say, trying through sympathy and good will to deny the slippage along the fault lines between us, the way we drift together and apart but never merge, our radical insular grief. To be honest, at least half the time I, for one, don't know exactly what I mean, much less what you mean. If I tell you I do, you will expect from me something I can never give: an end to never being alone. Better I should tell you I know approximately what you mean. No, not even that. Better I should shut up.'
Nancy Mairs, Ordinary Time, p.114.


'Marriage offers culture shock enough without any other change in locale or routine.'
Nancy Mairs, Ordinary Time, p.73.


'Religious belief is something like masturbation: You may do it - and it won't even make you crazy or give you warts if you do - but it's the sort of thing you keep to yourself.'
Nancy Mairs, Ordinary Time: Cycles in Mariage, Faith, and Renewal, p.4.


'I didn't need to understand the hypostatic unity of the Trinity; I just needed to turn my life to whoever came up with redwood trees.'
Anne Lamott, Plan B, p.295.


'...he performed the two most important functions for an uncle - made farting sounds to amuse her, and took care that he didn't get her fingers caught in any drawers.'
Anne Lamott, Plan B, p.261.


'This drives me crazy, that God seems to have no taste, and no standards. Yet on most days, this is what gives some of us hope.'
Anne Lamott, Plan B, p.222.


'Rubble is the ground on which our deepest friendships are built.'
Anne Lamott, Plan B, p.174.

Friday, 20 July 2012


'...time, and showing up, turns most messes to compost, and something surprising may grow, and I have noticed this especially at my church.'
Anne Lamott, Plan B, p.77.


'Grace means you're in a different universe from where you had been stuck, when you had absolutely no way to get there on your own.'
Anne Lamott, Plan B, p.55.


'When God is going to do something wonderful, He...always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, He...starts with an impossibility.'
Anne Lamott, Plan B, p.34.


'You've got to love this in God - consistently assemblying the motleyist people to bring, into the lonely and frightening world, a commitment to caring and community. It's a centuries-long reality show - Moses the stutterer, Rahab the hooker, David the adulterer, Mary the homeless teenager. Not to mention all the mealy-mouthed disciples. Not to mention a raging insecure narcissist like me.'
Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, p.22.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


'My sin consisted in this, that I sought pleasure, sublimity, and truth not in God but in his creatures, in myself and other created beings. So it was that I plunged into miseries, confusions, and errors.'
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, p.23.


'I have personally watched and studied a jealous baby. He could not yet speak and, pale with jealousy and bitterness, glared at his brother sharing his mother's milk. Who is unaware of this fact of experience?'
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, p.9.


'Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet most intinmately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new and "leading" the proud "to be old without their knowledge" (Job 9:5...); always active, always in repose, gathering to yourself but not in need, supporting and filling and protecting, creating and nurturing and bringing to maturity, searching even though to you nothing is lacking: you love without burning, you are jealous in a way that is free of anxiety, you "repent" (Gen.6:6) without the pain of regret, you are wrathful and yet you remain tranquil. You will a change without any change in your design. You recover what you find, yet have never lost. Never in any need, you rejoice in your gains (Luke 15:7)...'
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, p.5.


' praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.'
Augustine of Hippo (Translated by Henry Chadwick), Confessions, p.3.  

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


'Hearts on earth often say in the course of a joyful experience, "I don't want this ever to end." But it invariably does. The hearts in heaven say, "I want this to go forever." And it will.'
JI Packer in Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.181.


'All artists are theologians and preachers. They provide us, even unintentionally, with really great theology if we listen to them like theologians of the truth and lovers of the beautiful. Try to see the Big Story in human art. When it is consistent with that story, rejoice in the truth. When it contradicts it, rejoice in the truth too!'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.161.


'...when was the last time you heard an animal name something? There are billions of life forms on our planet, yet only humans name things.'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.135.

Monday, 16 July 2012


'We think we want a spouse, but what we really want is Him.
We think we want a friend, but what we really want is Him.
We think we want a family, but what we really want is Him.
We think we want anything, but what we really want is Him.' 
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.108.


'All beauty is a breadcrumb path that leads us to Christ.'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.107.


'Loneliness has become a guide and a friend in my spiritual journey. When I feel lonely, I am feeling theology inside. All the pleasures, desires, and loves in this world will not take that pain away. We desperately want someone to love us perfectly, yet no one does. But when we wake up to the fact that no relationship can fully satisfy, we realize that we are lonely for God.'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.107.


'His moral perfection lies in the unique balance of opposite virtues. It is the presence in one soul of seemingly contradictory qualities that gives his character its completeness; it is their perfect harmony that lends to His whole life that poise which is the perfection of strength. Strength of mind and will are so rarely wedded to gentleness; gentleness and sympathy do not always succeed in preserving the highest standards of righteousness and purity; and again righteousness and purity so rarely keep their tolerance and goodwill, especially toward the unrighteous and the impure. It seems enough if we could excel in one virtue or the other: Jesus reveals the summit of each one in symetrical character.'  
REO White in Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.105.


'Beauty is both a gift and a map. It is a gift to be enjoyed and a map to be followed back to the source of the beauty with praise and thanksgiving.'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.91.


'In the presence of the beautiful we intuitively respond in delight, wanting to be involved, getting near, entering in - tapping our feet, humming along, touching, kissing, meditating, contemplating, imitating, believing, praying. It's the very nature of our five senses to pull us into whatever is there - scent, rhythm, texture, vision.'
Eugene H Peterson in Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.90.


'At such moments one suddenly sees everything with new eyes; one feels on the brink of some great revelation. It is as if we caught a glimpse of some incredibly beautiful world that lies silently about us all the time. I remember vividly my first experience of the kind when, as a boy, I came suddenly upon the quiet miracle of an ivy-clad wall glistening under a London street-lamp. I wanted to weep and I wanted to pray; to weep for the Paradise from which I had been exiled, and to pray that I might yet be made worthy of it.'
JHN Sullivan in Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.88.

Friday, 13 July 2012


'We were made for God's beauty, and all beauty is God's beauty. When we see or hear or taste or smell one of the reflections of God's beauty, we love it; and it creates wonder within us. Then we become junkies. A single rush of wonder is fantastic, but we quickly want more of it. We take pictures to possess the moment and share the wonder with friends. The sight of beauty makes us want to touch or taste. This is why children lick strange things and "Do Not Touch" signs clutter botanical gardens and museums.'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.78.


'The wonderland of God's creation includes a masterpiece whose beauty more closley resembles the actual nature of God than anything else in the whole universe. What is it?
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.73.


'Beauty boomerangs from God into created beauty, then through the senses and soul of the image-bearer, and finally back to God with praise and glory.'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.69.


'Why is what is there so beautiful? If the mere existence of matter confounds us, explaining its universal symetries and harmonies is baffling. Matter is a problem. Beauty is a marvel.'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.61.

Thursday, 12 July 2012


'...a fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something...'
George Marsden in Alister Chapman, Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement, p.42.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


'How does the infinity of God relate to our cravings? Our longings seem insatiable to us. We have even made the situation into a self-evident law, the law of diminishing returns. This law says that the more we do something, the less and less we enjoy it. Might it be that our insatiable longings also relate to an infinte God? Might the unending nature of our desires point to the unending nature of his infinity? Who but an infinite Person can gratify seemingly infinite longings?'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.36.


'What we need, more than anything else, is to be convinced that the most desirable and soul-satisfying reality in the world is God.'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.23.


'For as God is infinitely the greatest Being, so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent: and all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation is but the reflection of the diffused beams of that Being who hath an infinite fullness of brightness and glory; the foundation and fountain of all being and beauty.'
Jonathan Edwards in Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.18.


'The fact is that God is beautiful and the Church is hiding this.'
Richard Harries in Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.9.


'What if we were to realize that every sunset viewed, every sexual intimacy enjoyed, every favourite food savored, every song sung or listened to, every house decorated, and every rich moment enjoyed in this life isn't ultimately about itself but is an expression and reflection of God's essential character? Wouldn't such beautiful and desirable reflections mean that their Source must be even more beautiful - and, ultimately, more desirable?'
Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open, p.8.


'The world everywhere gives evidence of a vanished God, and man in all his actions gives evidence of a longing for that God.'
Blaise Pascal in Steve DeWitt, Eyese Wide Open, p.7.


'There are but two lessons for the Christian to learn: the one is to enjoy God in everything; the other is to enjoy every thing in God.'
Charles Simeon in Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything, p.3.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


'Scripture is full of individuals and communities who do not know who they are until God reveals it to them. To insist on a theological premise for understanding sexual difference it to insist that we learn from this pattern and wait in trust that who we are in the sexual sphere is a datum that will come from God and nowhere else. Israel was was once not a people, but now called together by God, it is "a people" (1 Peter 2:10, alluding to Hos 1:9). Israel cannot know that it is a chosen people beloved by a faithful God, until it is told and its election is announced to it. At the individual level, biblical patriarchs, prophets and priests often resist their vocation until their true identity is forced upon them: Abraham, Jacob, Peter, and Paul do not know their true names until God renames them and reorients their lives.
For Christians, especially postmodern Christians bereft of any consensus, sexual difference is in a similar category. We will not know what it means until we allow God to tell us what it means. The tradition has claimed that we do not know who we are and what it means to find ourselves until we allow the premises and practices of revelation to unfold. In the tradition, stretching from Augustine to John Paul II, sexual difference is not mute, inert, nonexistent, or indifferent. In this tradition, God brings man to woman and tells the two sexes something that they would otherwise not know: that their creation is good, that their creation as two sexes is for the sake of enabling a church and covenant, and that despite their falleness, their twoness can in itself become a witness to reconciliation and redemption through marriage. Marriage gives this aspect of our creation the power to testify, and the nonmarried offer supporting testimony through their chastity, which creates the social ecology supporting marriage.'  
Christopher C Roberts, Creation & Covenant, p.247.


'Acceptance of traditional teaching with regard to sexual difference entails a certain asceticism. If sexual difference is so significant that it should be an organizing principle fior married life, then, as the revisionists point out, many men and women who want to marry will probably not, for their erotic desires do not appear to respond to the opposite sex. But like the young Augustine, revealed in Confessionum, many of these gays and lesbians will equally be unable to imagine a continent life. These people would appear to be trapped. The prospect of life without the embraces of those for whom they long strikes them as miserable and impossible, but a life without marital embraces is what the tradition appears to suggest. Are the churches prepared to insist that such a life is nevertheless necessary and redemptive? Where is the good news here?
It would not the the first time that, for the sake of the gospel, the church has insisted on renunciations that strike the culture as absurd. The rich man in Mark 10 "was shocked and went away grieving" when Jesus told him to share his many possessions. Are the contemporary romantics and revisionists, the gays and lesbians who want to marry perhaps a new version of the rich man? The revisionists speak for men and women who, like the young Augustine, are shocked and grieved at the prospect of forgoing certain erotic embraces. Could it be that expectations of erotic-fulfillment, an attitude of sexual entitlement, is a variation upon wealth, a new possession modern people grip so tightly that we cannot be whole-hearted followers of Christ? If so, the insisting upon a nuptial significance for sexual difference, a significance that would order ecclesial life into the twofold ranks of the continent and the married, would be a difficult thing to do, but it would be prophetic. As with the church's teaching on voluntary poverty, or other types of suffering, a language will have to be recovered, to the effect that there is freedom and joy in a life without those things the world calls necessary.'
Christopher C Roberts, Creation & Covenant, p.245.


'Sexual difference is the most primordial of the distinctions between different modes of being human, and it is the only distinction that implicates everyone. Humans can resent this distinction, and our life in this sphere can be marred by sin and imperfection, but, in the end, our own humanity depends upon finding ways of life that are premised on gratitude for it. To be what we are, we find ways of life that thank God for having made us male and female. To be fully human and follow Christ faithfully, there are many things we must do, but among them must be some sort of embrace of sexual difference.'
Christopher C Roberts, Creation & Covenant, p.237.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


' theology, it often requires a debate before a doctrine is clarified and defined.'
Christopher C Roberts, Creation & Covenant, p.4.


'...the language of liberalism fails to engage on common terms with the communion of saints and the Lordship of Christ. Arguments about sexuality that dispense with the theological logic and that are premised on human autonomy and experience are incongrous in debates within the churches, even when glossed with appeals to justice or love, for such liberal arguments suggest that we can know ourselves sufficiently apart from revelation and doctrine, as if there were parts of life removed from God's grace, address, vocation, command, judgment, or teleology.'
Christopher C Roberts, Creation & Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage, p.3.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


'How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed;
for I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I'll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I cause you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with you, your trouble to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

E'en down to old age all my people shall prove
my sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
and when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavour to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake."'

Anonymous in David Powlison, 'God's Grace and Your Sufferings' in Piper & Taylor (Ed.), Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p.147.  

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


'Human sexuality reveals our incompleteness and provides the drive toward completeness, but this is a drive that finds expression in innumerable human activities. "The mystery of our sexuality is the mystery of our need to reach out to embrace others both physically and spiritually. Sexuality thus expresses God's intention that we find our authentic humanness in relationship." Indeed, although this drive toward bonding in community has its ground in human sexuality, its ultimate human expression resides in the bonding found in the eschatalogical coming together of the people of God. This is the end toward which human sexuality is findamentally orientated, and it is here that human community in its truest form will be fully realized. Rather than denying the essetial importance of human sexuality is the eschaton, then, this approach affirms that "the eschatalogical community is a realm in which sexuality - that is, the dynamic of finding one's personal incompleteness fulfilled through relationality - not only remains operative but operates on the highest level."' 
Marc Cortez, Theological Anthropology, p.66.  


'Sexuality, then, reveals an openess within the human person that can only be addressed by someone who is both "other" and "same." That an "other" is required can be seen in that Adam's need could not be met by himself alone. That the need be addressed by someone who is also the "same" as Adam is seen in the fact that niether God nor the other animals were suitable to serve as a counterpart for Adam. Thus, the sexual human being finds within itself a desire for another in whom there is both difference and identity.'
Marc Cortez, Theological Anthroplogy, p.65.  

Monday, 2 July 2012


'First, the image of God is the task in which human persons serve as God's representatives by manifesting his presence in creation. Second, the image of God involves God creating and constituting humans as personal beings through whom he can manifest himself personally in creation. Third, the image of God involves the continual unfolding of God's personal being as he manifests himself in and through his covenantal relationships with his people, Israel and the Church. Putting these three elements together, then , the image of God can be understood as God manifesting his personal presence in creation through his covenental relationships with human persons, whom he has constituted as personal beings to serve as his representatives in creation and to whom he remains faithful despite their rejection of him.'
Marc Cortez, Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed, p.36.