Tuesday, 31 December 2013

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2013

In no particular order:

  • Richard  F Lovelace, Disciplines of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal  
  • Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, The President's Club: Inside The World's Most Exclusive Fraternity
  • Flannery O'Connor (Edited by Sally Fitzgerald), The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'Connor 
  • John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence
  • Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
  • Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope
  • Wallace Stegner, The Big Rock Candy Mountain 
  • Christopher West, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex and the Universal Longing
  • John Williams, Stoner 
  • Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ 

Thursday, 26 December 2013


'...I would like to be a mystic and immediately.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.38. 


'The Sex act is a religious act & and when it occurs without God is a mock act or at best an empty act. Proust is right that only a love which does not satisfy can continue. Two people can remain "in love" - a phrase made practically useless by stinking romanticism - only if their common desire for each other unites in a greater desire for God - i.e., they do not become satisfied but more desirous together of the supernatural love in union with God.'
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.31.


'Man's desire for God is bedded in his unconscious & seeks to satisfy itself in physical possession of another human. This necessarily is a passing, fading attachment in its sensuous aspects since it is a poor substitute for what the unconscious is after. The more conscious the desire for God becomes the more successful the union with another becomes because the intelligence realizes the relation in its relation to a greater desire & if this intelligence is in both parties the motive power in the desire for God becomes double & gains in becoming God-like. The modern man isolated from faith, from raising his desire for God into a conscious desire, is sunk in the position of seeing physical love as an end in itself. Thus his romanticizing it, wallowing in it, & then cynicizing it.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.30.


'No one can be an atheist who does not know all things. Only God is an atheist. \\\the devil is the greatest believer & he has his reasons.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal,  p.25. 


'If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.23. 


'Sin is large & stale. You can never finish eating it nor ever digest it. It has to be vomited.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.22. 


'I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.3. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


'The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
                My God, no hymn for thee?
My soul ’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
                Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is thy word: the streams, thy grace
                Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
                Out-sing the day-light houres.
Then we will chide the sunne for letting night
                Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
                Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I finde a sunne
                Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
                As frost-nipt sunnes look sadly.
Then we will sing, shine all our own day,
                And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev’n his beams sing, and my musick shine.'
George Herbert 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


'Reticence, then - a healthy respect for limits - is a requisite pastoral skill. An enthusiasm for God's unlimited grace requires as its corollary a developed sensitivity to human limits. We have to know when and where to stop.'
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.139.


'For Christ plays in ten thousand places,   
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.' 
Gerard Manley Hopkins in Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.126. 

Monday, 23 December 2013


'There are no dittos among souls.'
Friedrich von Hagel in Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.108. 


'If we want to pray our true condition, our total selves in response to the living God, expressing our feelings is not enough - we need a long apprenticeship in prayer. And then we need graduate school. The Psalms are the school.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant,  p.102. 


'Are infant sounds more honest than Shakespeare's sonnets? They are both  honest, but the sonnets have far more experience in them. Honesty is essential in prayer, but we are after more. We are after as much of life as possible - all of life if possible - brought to expression in answering God, That means learning a form of prayer adequate to the complexity of our lives.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.101. 


'All men and women hunger for God. The hunger is masked and misinterpreted in many ways, but it is always there. Everyone is one the verge of crying out "My Lord and my God!" but the cry is drowned out by doubts or defiance, muffled by the dull ache of their routines, masked by the cozy accommodations with mediocrity.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.86. 


'We who regularly speak in the name of God to the people around us easily slip into speaking in godlike tones and assuming a godlike posture. The moment we do that, even slightly, any deference to us or any defiance of us can lead us into taking on a god-identity. We are, after all, speaking God's word. When people praise us, there is something God-honoring in what they say. When people reject us, there is something God-defying in the way they act. In either case our vocational identification with God's cause and God's word make us vulnerable to mistaken god-identities. No pastor, of course, is explicit in a claim to self-divinity, but year after year or adulation (or lack of it) make their mark. The condition works its way underground and requires strenuous vigilance to detect.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.84. 


'All out theological texts teach this...that it is characteristic of post-Eden human beings to try to be or get their own gods and that this characteristic is persistent, subtle and relentless. But when everyone around us is self-defined as a Christian, listens to us tell the gospel story regularly, and smiles in appreciation when we pray in the name of Jesus, we drop our guard, supposing that all that idol business is behind us, ancient history on the hills of Samaria. We assume that we are now free to concentrate on getting rid of the conspicuous trespasses of morality written in the second tablet of the law and no longer need to be vigilant regarding the so easily camouflaged spiritual sins in the first tablet.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.81. 

Friday, 20 December 2013


'The scientific ideals of objectivity and specialization have now crept into the humanities and made themselves at home. This has happened, I think, because have come to be infected with a suspicion of their usefulness or worthlessness in the face of the provability or workability or profitability of the applied sciences. The conviction is now widespread, for instance, that "a work of art" has no purpose but to be itself. Or if it is allowed that a poem, for instance, has a meaning, then its meaning is peculiar to its author, its time, or its convention.'
Wendell Berry, 'An Argument for Diversity' in What Are People For?, p.116. 


'...we need to stop thinking about the economic functions of individuals for a while, and try to learn to think of the economic functions of communities and households. We need to try to understand the long-term economies of places - places that is, that are considered as dwelling places for humans and their fellow creatures, not as exploitable resources.' 
Wendell Berry. 'An Argument for Diversity' in What Are People For? Essays, p.111. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


'...it is in our virtuous behavior that we are liable to the gravest of sins. It is while we are being good that we have the chance of being really bad.'
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.31. 

Thursday, 12 December 2013


'...the norm for pastoral work is stability. Twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year long pastorates should be typical among us (as they once were) and not exceptional. Far too many pastors change parishes out of adolescent boredom, not as a consequence of mature wisdom. When this happens, neither pastors nor congregations have access to the conditions that are hospitable to maturity in the faith.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable plant, p.29. 


'Pastoral work consists of modest, daily, assigned work. It is like farm work. Most pastoral work involves routines similar to cleaning out the barn, mucking out the stalls, spreading manure, pulling weeds. This is not, any of it, bad work in itself, but if we expected to ride a glistening black stallion in daily parades and then return to the barn where a lackey grooms our steed for us, we will be severely disappointed and end up being horribly resentful.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.16. 


'I take it as a given that all of us would prefer to be our own gods than to worship God. Th Eden story is reenacted daily, not only generally in the homes and workplaces of our parishioners but quite particularly in the sanctuaries and meeting rooms in which we do our work. The only difference in the dynamics of the serpent's seduction in the explicitly religious workplace is that when pastors are seduced, our facility with language provides us with a thesaurus of self-deceiving euphemisms. Our skill in handling religious concepts gives us above average competence in phrasing things in such a way that our vocational shift from tending the Garden to running the Garden, our radical fall from vocational holiness to career idolatry, goes undetected by all but the serpent.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p.7.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


'Let us learn from the divine principle lived fully and perfectly in Jesus's life that God will not fail to honor those who honor him, that he will exalt those who are humble, that he will reward obedience in ways beyond our comprehension. Oh, how our obedience matters! So, how wrong it is of us to appeal to our obedience as the basis for our right standing before God. If we could just get Ephesians 2:8-10 (i.e., not just vv.8-9) all together, we would be in such better shape as Christian people. Yes, we are saved by grace, through faith, fully and completely apart from works. But our salvation apart from works breeds a life filled with good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. May God grant us longing of heart to live more fully as Jesus lived. May we see that just as his relentless and perfect obedience, rendered in the power of the Spirit and in faith, brought him the full approval of his Father and the reward of his exaltation, so our obedience, rendered in the power of the Spirit and in faith, likewise will be seen and rewarded by our gracious and benevolent God. Let us learn from Jesus that obedience matters.'
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.146.   


'Let us take this truth to heart: Christ was exalted to the right hand of the Father and given his place of authority over all creation because he was "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil.2:6-11). What we see here is, no doubt, the most glorious illustration ever lived out of the principle articulated in James 4:10: "Humble yourselves before God and he will exalt you."'  
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.146. 


'In his first coming the wideness of God's mercy is manifest as his Son dies for the world and offers salvation to any and all who believe. But in his second coming the fury of God's judgement is manifest as his Son - the one and very same Son who died for the nations - now takes up his sword and smites the nations in their ongoing idolatry and rebellion against their creator God. Although God announces the certainty of this coming judgment, he does so in part to persuade rebels to drop their arms and bow to Jesus as their personal Lord and King. What mercy preceded such horrific destruction. How infinitely kind of of God to plan the first coming of Christ rather than to move directly to the substance of the second.' 
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.136. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013


'I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is to be abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God - to mention a few non-negotiable elements of basic Christianity.' 
DA Carson, The difficult doctrine of the love of God, p.11. 


'If anyone might be thought to have lived on auto-pilot, it would be Jesus. After all, along with his true and full humanity, he was fully God; and although he had the nature of a man, his human nature was totally sinless. You would think such a person (unlike any of us!) could coast. To have a divine nature and a sinless human nature would seem to make obedience easy. Well,  look again at Jesus. What you see is a man who labored to obey, who agonized in the testings the Father designed for him, who fought through the trials of life to maintain his integrity and obedience before his Father.
In the light of this, it should be certain that we who are not God, we who do not have sinless natures, will find it necessary also to fight for faith and labor for obedience.' 
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.70. 


'Where everything speaks against God, those who pray them attribute everything to God.' 
Erich Zenger, A God of Vengeance?, p.88.


'...the psalms of vengeance are a passionate clinging to God when everything really speaks against God. For that reason they can rightly be called psalms of zeal, to the extent that in them passion for God is aflame in the midst of ashes of doubt about God and despair over human beings. These psalms are an the expression of a longing that evil, and evil people, may not have the last word in history, for this world and its history belong to God. This, to use the theological terminology, these psalms are realized theodicy. They affirm God by surrendering the last word to God. They give to God not only their lament about their desperate situation, but also the right to judge the originators of that situation. They leave everything in God's hands, even feelings of hated and aggression. 
These psalms do not arise from the well-tempered psychological state of people from who every scrap of sensitivity and emotion has been driven out. On the contrary, they are serious about the fundamental biblical conviction that in prayer we may say everything, literally everything, if only we say it to GOD, who is our father... We have, in the meantime, learned from psychology that suppressed fears and repressed aggression do not overcome violence, but multiply it. What is necessary is that we learn to live with fears and aggressions by bringing them to consciousness and acting against their destructiveness. The psalms do not repress all this; they express it before GOD and place it in GOD'S hands.'
Erich Zenger, A God of Vengeance?, p.79.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


'One of the biggest dangers in preaching - one of the main reasons that Bible teachers fail to engage their listeners - is this: the preacher assumes that their listeners want  to go to the same destination as them. They think that by simply announcing their topic - or reading their Bible text - or even by opening the scriptures - their congregation will be salivating at the mouth with excitement - thrilled beyond measure to be taken into the wonderful destination that has been announced by the hard-working and faithful preacher.' 
Tim Hawkins, Messages that Move: How to give Bible talks that challenge and inspire, p.83. 

Monday, 2 December 2013


'Biblical poetry is a living space into which you can enter, as you might pass into the shade of a primeval olive tree that speaks with the winds of heaven.' 
Ludwig Strauss in Erich Zenger, A God of Vengeance: Understanding the Psalms of Divine Wrath, p.1.

Saturday, 30 November 2013


'What I've said to Sam is, as a rough rule of thumb, such behaviour as impresses a woman is worth pursuing, and such behaviour as impresses another man probably isn't. Or, put another way, the traditional elements of masculinity that are most likely worth keeping are those valued by women, while those elements we should dump tend to be prized by other men.' 
Robert Crampton, 'How to be a Man' in The Times Magazine (30th November 2013), p.21.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


'...we ask: what could the Spirit of God contribute to the deity of Christ? And the answer we must give is: Nothing! As God he possesses every quality infinitely, and nothing can be added to him. So then we ask instead this question: what could the Spirit of God contribute to the humanity  of Christ? The answer is: everything of supernatural power and enablement that he, in his human nature, would lack. The only way to make sense, then, of the fact that Jesus came in the power of the Spirit is to understand that he lived his life fundamentally as a man, and as such, he relied on the Spirit to provide the power, grace, knowledge, wisdom, direction, and enablement he needed, moment by moment, and day by day, to fulfill the mission the Father sent him to accomplish.' 
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.34. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


'...we will inevitably trivialize what it means to "do what Jesus would do" or to "live like Jesus."...until we see the heights from which he came and the depths to which he descended in coming as the suffering Servant who would bear our sin. We will belittle the magnitude of what Jesus has done if we fail to see the kind of obedience he rendered and the extent to which he was willing to go in ensuring that he fulfilled the will of his Father. The antidote to such trivializing and belittling is found in deep and prolonged meditation on the magnitude of the humble obedience and agonizing suffering of our Lord. May we take up the banner of "living like Jesus" only when we first have come to understand something more deep and profound about just what that life was like. May our minds be granted greater comprehension so that our hearts may be filled with deepened affection. Only then will we move in the direction we need to go in falling on our faces before this servitude, this obedience, that surpasses all others in all of time.' 
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ, p.27. 

Thursday, 21 November 2013


'The stream of evil will not run on forever, over blood and victims, goodness, evil, innocence and justice. God will put an end to the course of history and will make it clear that there is a difference between justice and injustice, and that this difference must be demonstrated. God will seek out the buried victims, the forgotten, the starved children, the dishonored women, and God will find the hidden doers of these deeds. God will gather all of them before God's eternal, holy will for good, so that all must see how it stands with their lives.' 
Gottfried Bachl in Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed, p.140. 


'These cries for help are not about minor conflicts that could be resolved by greater generosity on the part of the one praying or by the exercise of love of neighbor. Rather those who pray these psalms are crying out about the injustice they suffer and are protesting about the arrogance of the violent. They are impelled by the contradiction posed by the mystery of evil and the presence of evil people in a world supposedly in God's care. This is no a trivial or selfish complaint: they are protesting not just because they are being hurt, but because God's justice, goodness, and power are at stake. These are not mere grievances about their own suffering, rather they are protests about the challenge that real wickedness poses for believers in an omnipotent God of love. The passion that drives these laments arises from a belief in God's justice that is called in question by unrestrained evil.' 
Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed, p.139. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


'God works on us in the midst of trouble, because trouble catches our attention. Difficulties make us need him. Faith has to sink roots, as profession deepens into reality. Martin Luther called tentatio - trial, ordeal, affliction - the "touchstone" of Christian experience and his greatest teacher. Hardships make Scripture and prayer come alive. The difficulties that we experience necessitate grace and awaken a sense of weakness - where the Spirit is working. People change because something is hard - not because everything goes well. Something - including myself - is off. Ministry traffics in trouble, because Christ enters trouble, lives through trouble, is unafraid of trouble, speaks and acts into trouble. Struggles force us to need God. And we only learn to love the way Christ loves by experiencing the hard things that he experienced in loving us.'
David Powlison, 'How Does Sanctification Happen?' in Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 27 No.2), p.48.  


'In Scripture, God comes in person.'
David Powlison, 'How Does Sanctification Happen?' in Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 27 No.2), p.47.  


'God is man's environment. We are continually under observation, continually needing and receiving mercies, continually disciplined. He interrupts us, protects us, leads us, afflicts us, encourages us.'
David Powlison, 'How Does Sanctification Happen?' in Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 27 No.2), p.45.  


'In suffering, I learned to need mercy. From suffering, I learned to give mercy.'
David Powlison, 'How Does Sanctification Happen?' in Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 27 No.2), p.43.  


'...Jesus never ministers by rote - because people and circumstances never clone. There is no boilerplate in his counseling or preaching. No distilled formula. No abstract generalizations. No "Just____" sorts of advice. Because situations and persons come unscripted, fluid, and unpredictable, Jesus engages each person and situation in a personalized way. It is no truism to say that Jesus really does meet you where you are. Always.'
David Powlison, 'How Does Sanctification Happen?' in Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 27 No.2), p.36.  

Friday, 15 November 2013


'Here is one of the points about this planet which should be remembered: into every penetrable corner of it, and into most of the impenetrable corners, the English will penetrate. They are like that; born invaders. They cannot stay at home. So that even in the desert heart of hottest Africa you shall see little wigwams bearing the legend "Grand Hotel of London. Five o'clock tea,"and if you visit the Arctic regions, you will find Esquimaux infants babbling broken Anglo-Saxon, and huts inscribed W.C. Every train running over the globe is full of them, and the world's roads, plains and mountains are dense with knapsacked British walkers, burnt brick-red by sun and air.'
Rose Macaulay, Crewe Train, p.12.


'A Mr Dobie, a clergyman, wearying of his job, relinquished it, ostensibly on the grounds that he did not care to bury dissenters or to baptize illegitimate infants, but in reality because he was tired of being so busy, so sociable and so conversational, of attending parish meetings, sitting on committees, calling on parishioners and asking them how they did - an inquiry the answer to which he was wholly indifferent.' 
Rose Macaulay, Crewe Train, p.11.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


'Hymns of praise are not very frequent at the beginning of the book, but as you read on, you will find more and more of them. It is as though the more you pray, the more you will realize God's goodness. In fact the book closes with five great hymns of praise, the last being the most spectacular of all, Psalm 150. Here we are given a glimpse of what heaven will be like.' 
Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed, p.43.  


'A memorized work (like a lover, a friend, a spouse, a child) has entered into the fabric of its possessor's intellectual and emotional life in a way that makes deep claims upon that life, claims that can only be ignored with effort and deliberation.' 
Paul J Griffiths in Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed, p.22. 


'Taste the goodness of your Redeemer, burn with love for your Saviour. Chew the honeycomb of his words, suck their flavour, which is more pleasing than honey, swallow their health-giving sweetness.' 
Anselm of Canterbury in Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed, p.23. 


'Whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you not merely hear and then pass on, but learn the way to remedy your ill.'
Athanasius in Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms, p.15. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


'Nothing is sweeter in this sad world that the sound of someone you love calling your name.' 
Kate Dicamillo in Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.299. 


'...look at each day as an apprenticeship with Jesus for his recovery of your humanity...' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.288. 


'What does it say about the way we're approaching ministry if we who have been trained for it do not know how to follow Jesus when we have our pajamas on? Give us the role to play, and we know what to do. Take the role away on a day off or for good and we stamp about restlessly. We know how to do things pastorally but struggle when asked to do them humbly.' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.286. 

Monday, 4 November 2013


'Do you have the stamina for waiting on God when gratification isn't immediate, faith is sightless, and neighbor love is hard work? Is your Christianity merely a series of shortcuts designed to avoid the embrace of the mundane that real soul work requires? Patience waits for them.' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.280. 

Thursday, 31 October 2013


'A thought occurs to me: do I possess a stamina for going unnoticed? Can I handle being overlooked? Do I have a spirituality that equips me to an unknown thing for his glory?'  
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.245. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013


'Some men compare penis size, other men compare church size - there is little difference between these games. Both are false measures and are of the same genre of self-misdirection.' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.215. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013


'Christianity offers another life; but it also sanctifies the present one.' 
Roger Scruton, Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England, p.93.  


'The full, horrifying, exhilarating truth is that if you actually look at the tenets of Christianity they tell you that good behaviour is only the baseline, the launching pad, the sine qua non. The point at which Christianity takes off and begins to glow is when it does become counter-intuitive and downright troublesome in worldly terms. There are some very disturbing, subversive instructions there: 'Sell all thou hast and give to the poor...turn the other cheek...judge not, that ye shall not be judged...blessed are the meek...lay not treasures on earth...consider the lilies of the field....' 
These are not sensible injunctions, fit for a Lord Chesterfield letter or a newspaper leader column. They sit uneasily in a society convinced that decent people are those who own property and are constantly busy, getting and spending. They sound odd in a time when every group bristles with awareness of its "rights" and is determined to stand on the and sue for compensation at the slightest, even accidental, tap to its cheek. 
They sit uneasily too, with the tough landlording policies over the years of the Church Commissioners in England, with the arrogant obduracy of feuding clerics in the great cathedrals, with the wealth of the Vatican, with the argument against priestly celibacy which focuses on the "natural right" to a married life, with the snobberies and snarlings of different layers of Catholic and Anglo-Catholic spokesmen, and with the fact that more and more clergymen are joining trade unions and speaking with a blush of their "security" and "career structures."'
Libby Purves, Holy Smoke, p.186. 


'If one thing unties crystal-gazers, huckster TV evangelists and High Church heritage-aesthetes, it is the elevation of religious feeling above dull plodding religious duty. If you bristle with mistrust at the self-indulgence of Glastonbury wire-twisters, you should extend that mistrust to emotional revival meetings where you are urged to"Let Jesus be your friend" and to "bear witness' to Jesus on stage - but never told that when the meeting is over you should go home and be nicer to your family, not to mention your enemies at the office.' 
Libby Purves, Holy Smoke: Religion and Roots: A Personal Memoir, p.183. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


'Jesus taught his disciples sound doctrine. Yet throughout the Gospels we consistently observe Jesus teaching theology in the midst of the pysch ward. He took his disciples into the hospital, as it were, sat them down in the emergency room; and confronted them with the ghastly sights, grieved sounds, and rank aromas of actual human people in their diseases, their wrestling with demons, their disputes, their poverty, and their loss of spouses. He brought them near to ethnic prejudices, injustices, anxieties, and traumas, not to mention the joys, pleasures, delights, and longings of ordinary human beings. Disciples learned about God in the context of the bodily life situations that actually exist in the world, the sensory ramifications of an under-the-sun reality.'  
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.180. 

Monday, 21 October 2013


'Remembering how we feel when others detonate our lives with their decision making will help us remember those who are in our way and at our whim when the decisions are ours to make.' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.145. 


'"Partial knowledge" is the name of the street on which each of us must have an address and build our lives. Our hope is not what we know but what Jesus knows.' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.143. 


'I've carried the subtle idea around with me that growing in knowledge will mean that I get to depend less and control more. But Jesus indicates the opposite, and this challenges the way we do theology and Bible study. To know God truly, we have to know that we are not him. In a word, Jesus teaches us that humility is the dominant quality of becoming like a child in order to see the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3-4).'
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.136. 

Monday, 14 October 2013


'Lazarus raised was a sign that Jesus was the resurrection and the life. The blind man given sight was the sign that Jesus is the light of the world. The people fed was a sign that Jesus is the bread of life. As a result, every dying person, every blind person, and every hungry person has been shown that something more powerful than death, disease, and hunger exists.'
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.114. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013


'While our first step should always include making sure things have been made clear, most of us know from our own lives that often it is not a lack of clarity that troubles us. Often we already know the right thing to do, and still we choose otherwise. So why do leaders, parents, spouses, and friends often assume that if we just arrange the quotes the right way, or just say the verses enough times or loud enough, that such a change will immediately start to happen?
The Bible simply does not teach us that if we say the right words, right things will follow. Jesus taught us that the self-centred heart is tamed not by human will but by God's intervention. No one was more plain, reasonable, and clear than Jesus, and they crucified him. Somewhere along the way, those of us gifted with words will receive a painful reminder that it is Jesus and not our explanations that can change a heart. Words aren't string. People aren't puppets. Eloquent speech isn't magic...
Jesus instead will often invite us to the more powerful way of quiet, prayer, and time. In this regard, Job's friends got it right when they sat silent with him in the ashes. The damage began when they spoke. Jesus will sit in the ashes on the broken porches of our lives and teach us how trust him more than our multiplied words.' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.104. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


'The Devil wants you to think that your ministry is particularly difficult. He wants you to think you have been singled out for unique suffering. He wants you to begin to believe that your ministry situation, location, and relationships are definitely more difficult than what others face. He wants you to buy into the lie that while you're suffering, they're thriving; while you're being questioned, they're being respected; and while your work is hard, their work is easy. He wants you to carry around the burden that somehow, someway, you've been singled out.' 
Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling, p.220. 


'The fact of the matter is that we will never figure God out. He will never do all the things that we were expecting. He will never stay on our agenda page. He will never be comfortably predictable. If we rest in God's care only when we understand just what he's doing, there will be many times and places where we won't rest in his care.' 
Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling, p.127. 

Monday, 7 October 2013


'Our spiritual inability to remain with a people in a place as a family through thick and thin when not everything is how we prefer it or want it becomes apparent. We do not believe we need to stay in a place in which our feelings and needs are incompletely met. After we've left church after church, or job after job, or relationship after relationship, we still haven't yet learned to ask if some spiritual skill might be lacking in us, that maybe all of these churches, jobs, and people acting imperfectly aren't alone in their need of help. We too might need some.' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p.70. 

Sunday, 6 October 2013


'I've noticed that when one is not concerned with being somewhere else, she tends to notice where she is. In such an environment, daily moments naturally becomes what one talks about at night. For example, the granddaughter's smile down at the A&P becomes a fifteen-minutes story that draws everyone into belly laughter. The smile was important enough to notice and the story valuable enough to tell. The laughter, the story, and the smile each form a sufficient agenda for conversation. I found this attention to the mundane lacking. I wanted "real" conversation about "real" life. I wanted us to talk about things that mattered, things that make a difference. Now I'm beginning to reflect more on those feelings. When did it happen that to talk about what one lives is not enough for real conversation? When did it happen that a granddaughter's smile is not substantial enough to speak of?' 
Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus: Life and ministry as a Human Being, p.62. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


'...a war rages, and wounded soldiers sit before you.'
Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling, p.139. 

Thursday, 26 September 2013


'Modern secular education is failing not because it doesn't teach who Ginger Rogers, Norman Mailer and a thousand other people are but because it has no moral, social or intellectual center. There is no set of idea of attitudes that permeates all parts of the curriculum. The curriculum is not, in fact, a "course of study" at all but a meaningless hodgepodge of subjects. It does not even put forward a clear vision of what constitutes an educated person, unless it is a person who possess "skills." In other word's a technocrats ideal - a person with no commitment and no point of view but with plenty of marketable skills.' 
Neil Postman in Steven Garber, The Fabric of Faithfulness, p.90. 

Monday, 23 September 2013


'...when there is a question as to whether a man is good, one does not ask what he believes, or what he hopes, but what he loves.'
Augustine of Hippo in Steven Garber, The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving together belief and behavior, p.35.  

Saturday, 21 September 2013


'...despite the speculations of some clinicians, the idea that it is healthy for an adolescent to identify with a sexuality has not been proved. Clinicians are fond of assuming that not adopting a label is unhealthy, that it may be an indication of possible psychological problems. An individual's reluctance to embrace a sexual identity, they say, suggests that the person is in denial, afraid to confront his or her sexual reality.  Yet how do we square this view with the overwhelming evidence - produced by these same clinicians - of alarmingly high levels of depression, substance abuse, dangerous sexual activities, and suicidality among these young people who self-identify as gay? Is it possible that self-identifying gay youth are more unhealthy that nonidentified same-sex attracted young adults? 
I believe this is entirely possible. Some gay teens come out "loud and proud" as an act of self-affirmation, and some nonidentified same-sex attracted young people, are in hiding for self-destructive reasons, But it is also true that some declare their sexuality as a cry for help from horrific circumstances and that others are psychologically healthy because they have base for self-definition other than sexuality that are more developmentally appropriate. 
Is it possible that our advice to same-sex attracted young people has been wrong, and that perhaps we should be encouraging not to identify as gay?'
Ritch C Savin-Williams, The New Gay Teenager, p.204. 


'...diversity is both the greatest treasure and the biggest hurdle in the field of what has come to be known as queer studies. In the current epoch of greater cultural visibility and political protection, any notion of the singularity of gayness should disappear. Yet the academy and government continue to allude to gays as a single entity. Gay lobbying and interest groups are just as guilty as this in their quest for political unity. The reality is that gay people are diverse and at times paradoxical in how they identify themselves, in their politics and political strategies, and in the degrees to which they assimilate or want to assimilate into mainstream culture.' 
Ritch C Savin-Williams, The New Gay Teenager, p.187. 


'Sexual identity models are example number one of the tendency to treat all gay people as the same, as a "separate species." Not only are these models wrong for most individuals with a same-sex orientation, they are also harmful because they keep us from understanding the diverse and ever-changing lives of contemporary teenagers. They foster archaic, male-centric views of gay development.'
Ritch C Savin-Williams, The New Gay Teenager, p.178.


'Descriptive terms, such as "same-sex attracted" and "homoerotic," name particular aspects of sexuality. They encourage discussion of a spectrum of sexualities rather than specific sexual categories. I also prefer them because of their neutrality and serviceability, their simplicity and naivete. An individual can be homoerotic in some sexual domains and not in others. Similarly, one can be little or greatly same-sex attracted, in varying degrees and in varying ways. Using descriptive terms for the behavior includes gay, lesbian, and bisexual young people as well as those who refuse or resist labels for sexual identity. It also includes a person's having one or many same-sex encounters. So, too, virgins who would like to be sexual and /or romantic relationship with others can be included. A teen with same-sex attractions can feel separate from straight and gay adult-centered worlds or feel part of them. Describing same-sex behavior, feelings, and attitudes carries neither positive nor negative qualities, although some teenagers would disagree with this assertion, given the negative views of homosexuality in their own world.' 
Ritch C Savin-Williams, The New Gay Teenager, p.8. 


'I don't worry about the wounds. When I go up there, which is my intention, the Big Judge will say to me, Where are your wounds? and if I say I haven't any, he will say, Was there nothing to fight for? I couldn't face that question.' 
Alan Paton, Ah, But Your Land is Beautiful, p.75. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


'There are few things that will reveal to you the full range of your sin, immaturity, weakness, and failure like ministry will. There are few things that will expose your weaknesses to others as consistently as ministry does. There are few endeavors that will put you under public expectancy and scrutiny like ministry does. There are few things that are as personally humbling as ministry is. There are few endeavors that have the power to produce in you such deep feelings of inadequacy as ministry does. There are few things that can be such a vat of self-doubt as ministry is. In your ministry there is a great temptation to be sidetracked and harmed by fear of you.'  
Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling, p.129.  

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


'...we have forgotten that pastoral ministry is war and that you will never live successfully in the pastorate if you live with a peacetime mentality. Permit me to explain. The fundamental battle of pastoral ministry is not with the shifting values of the surrounding culture. It is not the struggle with resistant people who don't seem to esteem the gospel. It is not the fight for the success of the ministries of the church. And it is not the constant struggle of resources and personnel to accomplish the mission. No the war of the pastorate is a deeply personal war. It is fought on the ground of the pastor's heart. It is a war of values, allegiances, and motivations. It is about subtle desires and foundational dreams. This war is the greatest threat to every pastor. Yet is a war that we often naively ignore or quickly forget in the busyness of local-church ministry.' 
Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling, p.98. 

Saturday, 14 September 2013


'Like so many men that consider their success incomplete, he was extraordinarily vain and consumed with a sense of his own importance.'
John Williams, Stoner, p.58. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


'Know this: if your eyes ever see or your ears ever hear the sin, weakness, or failure of your pastor, it should never be viewed as a hassle or an interruption; it is always grace. God loves that man and will expose his needs to you so that you can be part of his instrumentality of change and growth.' 
Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling: The Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, p.95. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


'So we were all struck down. Because he would not tell one man, therefore the whole world knew.' 
Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope, p.196. 

Monday, 9 September 2013


'Celibacy for the kingdom is not a declaration that sex is "bad." It's a declaration that while sex can be awesome, there's something even better - infinitely better! Christian celibacy is a bold declaration that heaven is real, and it is worth selling everything to possess.' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.172. 


'A modern mystic-nun, after giving a presentation in which she shared something of her experience of "nuptial union" with God, was rebuked by an agnostic psychologist: "You're sick!" he insisted. "What you really want is sex. But you're disguising your desire for sex with all this ridiculous talk about union with God." She responded firmly: "Oh no. I beg to differ. What the world really wants is union with God, but it's disguising that desire with all this ridiculous sex." Who do you think was right?' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.171. 


'STARVATION DIET: If it feels good, it must be sinful.
FAST FOOD: If it feels good, do it.
BANQUET: If it feels good it's meant to be a preview of coming attractions.'
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.164. 


'Unbridled indulgence in sex and alcohol are arguably the two most addictive pleasures offered by the fast food gospel. There's a reason for that: the joining of man and woman in "one flesh" and the joys of wine are two of the primary biblical images of heaven. We can't forget that Christ's first miracle was at a wedding feast - a celebration of the two becoming "one flesh" - where he enlivens the party with 150 gallons of "the best wine" (see John 2:1-11). Untwist the indulgences of the typical frat party - the abuse of sex and alcohol - and we find ourselves at the wedding feast of Cana, a true foreshadowing of heaven...' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.162. 


'Love that hankers after what is merely pleasing and repeatable in a person will do just that: repeat itself with whoever possesses those pleasing qualities. In this case, the inherent "adventurousness" of love - the desire for expansion, growth, and new discoveries - will lead a person to take his delight in wandering from person to person. On the other hand, love that reaches the unrepeatable mystery of the other person is a love that's truly that: unrepeatable, stable, sure. It's an inexhaustible treasure that can't possibly be found elsewhere. In this case, love's inherent adventurousness finds its delight not in wandering from person to person, but from wandering ever more deeply into the heart of the one and only beloved.' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.154. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013


'The little guy always dies so the big guy can live. That's the logic of the food chain: big fish eat little fish, much to the little fish's chagrin. But in the Christ-event, the "Big Fish" freely dies in order to offer himself as food for us minnows.' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.117. 


'In Christ, man who made himself God encounters God who made himself man. Unrivaled self-importance and pride encounters unrivaled self-emptying and humility.' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.116. 


'There is only one temptation...All particular temptations are expressions of this one original or "primordial" temptation. It is the temptation to believe that the fulfillment of the desires of the human heart depends entirely on us.' 
Lorenzo Albacete in Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.112.  


'...it was the nature of man and of creation, that some sound, long remembered from the days of innocence before the world's corruption, could open the door to the soul, flooding it with a sudden knowledge of the sadness and terror and beauty of man's home and the earth. But you could not keep such knowledge, you could not hold it in your hand like a flower or a book, for it came and went like the wind and the door of the soul would not say open, for maybe it was too great joy and sorrow for a man, and meant only for angels.' 
Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope, p.40. 

Friday, 6 September 2013


'We are not who the pornified media tell us we are. We are not valuable only if we can attract and arouse another's lust. In fact, lust devalues us by reducing us to the level of a thing to be used and discarded. Our true value, our true worth and dignity, comes from the fact that we have been chosen by Love and for Love, and that Love is an utterly gratuitous and free gift. We have been chosen to participate in infinite love, in love without measure, in ecstasy and bliss beyond imagining. This is what we desire. This is what we're designed and destined for. Somehow we know it. And this Love is ours is we would only open to it and receive "the gift."' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.108. 


'...the purpose of sexual difference and the call to union is not only to reproduce the human species, although that an essential part of it. It's not only for the sake of human companionship, although that, too, is an essential part of it. The ultimate purpose of sexual difference and the call to union is signify the difference and call to union of the Creator and the creature, of Christ and his Church.' 
Christopher West , Fill These Hearts, p.93.  


'Did it ever occur to you that...human sexuality is derived from cosmic sexuality and not vice versa, that we are a local application of a universal principle? If not, please seriously consider the idea now, for it is one of the oldest and most widely held ideas in our history, and one of the happiest. It is a happy idea because it puts humanity into a more human universe. We fit; we are not freaks. What we are, everything else is also, though in different ways and different degrees. We are, to use the medieval image, a microcosm, a little cosmos; the universe is the macrocosm, the same pattern written large...[And this] means that sexuality goes all the way up and down the cosmic ladder.'
Peter Kreeft in Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.89.  

Thursday, 5 September 2013


'When you would fill a purse, knowing how large a present it is to hold, you stretch wide its cloth or leather: knowing how much you are to put in it, and seeing that the purse is small, you extend it to make more room. So by delaying [his gift] God strengthens our longing, through longing he expands our soul, and by expanding our soul he increases its capacity. So brethren, let us long, because we are to be filled...That is our life, to be trained by longing: and our training through the holy longing advances in the measure that our longings are detached from the love of this world...Let us stretch ourselves out towards him, that when he comes he may fill us full.' 
Augustine of Hippo in Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.77.  


'One of the things God wants to show us is that behind all our misdirected desires and lusts there is a legitimate desire God put there and wants to satisfy. Uncovering that legitimate desire and entrusting its satisfaction entirely to God is critical to our healing and wholeness.' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.67. 


'Beyond the tears of sorrow and sadness that we shed in this life, hope brings tears of sweetness and joy. Hope may break through in a song, a sunset, a poem, a movie, an unexpected act of kindness,a good laugh, the birth of a child, the embrace of a loved one. And when these moments come (they can't really be manufactured, although we can dispose ourselves to them) we should drink them in...and listen. If we listen, we can almost hear a voice whispering to out hearts: "It is good to be here. Rest here for a while. Savor it. For this is a taste, a taste of what is to come. Let it lift you up. Let it fire you up. Let it give you hope. You're not crazy. You're not wrong to believe there's something more. You will not be unhappy. Have faith. Trust. Open to the gift. It's coming. Your desire for Life is not in vain."'
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.61. 


'Christianity is the religion of desire - the religion that redeems eros  - and its saints are the ones who have had the courage to feel  the abyss of longing in their souls and in their bodies and to open that longing in "the groaning of prayer" to the One who alone can heal their "wound of love."'
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, p.39. 

Monday, 2 September 2013


'...God made us as sexual beings - as men and women with a desire for union - precisely to tell the story of his love for us. In the biblical view, the fulfillment of love between the sexes is a great foreshadowing of something quite literally "out of this world" - the infinite bliss and ecstasy that awaits us in heaven.' 
Christopher West, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex and the Universal Longing, p.11. 

Friday, 30 August 2013


'Most of the sin that we do not commit are not because of our virtue, but because we lack either energy or opportunity. We would sin a great deal more than we do if we were only energetic enough and were provided with more generous opportunities. It is well to stay in touch with the sins that we would have committed if we had had the chance. The Psalms extend our memory to not only the sins that we have committed but to those we would have if we had not been so tired at the time.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God, p.114. 


'The most persistent manifestation of sin is to obliterate the memory of sin. This is accomplished by blurring our connection with God. We avoid a detailed awareness of our sin not by claiming perfection or by professing blamelessness but by disassociating whatever is wrong with us from a sense of God and renaming it as either ignorance or sickness. The act of renaming is, in fact, obfuscation: it is now no longer apparent that what is wrong with us has anything to do with God. If what is wrong is a matter of our minds (ignorance) or of our bodies (sickness), then we can do something about what is wrong by applying ourselves to education or medicine without ever having to deal with God.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God, p.112. 


'It is easy to be honest about God with our hallelujahs; it is somewhat more difficult to be honest in our hurts; it is near impossible to be honest before God in the dark emotions of our hate. So we commonly suppress our negative emotions (unless neurotically, we advertise them). Or, when we do express them, we do it far from the presence, or what we think is the presence of God, ashamed or embarrassed to be seen in these curse-stained bib overalls. But when we pray the psalms, these classic prayers of God's people, we find that will not do. We must pray who we actually are, not who we think we should be. In prayer all is not sweetness and light. The way of prayer is not to cover our own unlovely emotions so that they will appear respectable, but expose them so that they can be enlisted in the work of the kingdom.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God, p.100. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013


'Feelings are the scourge of prayer. To pray by feelings is to be at the mercy of glands and weather and digestion. And there is no mercy in any of them. Feelings lie. Feelings deceive. Feelings seduce. Because they are so emphatically there, and so incontrovertibly interior, it is almost inevitable that we take our feelings seriously as reputable guides to the reality that is deep within us - our hearts before God. 
But feelings are no more spiritual than muscles. They are entirely physical. They are real, and they are important. But they are real and important in the same way that our fingernails and noses are important - we would not want to live without them (although we could if we had to), but their length and shape and color tell us nothing about our life with God. To suppose that our emotions in any way give us reliable evidence of the nature or quality of our life with God is to misinterpret them.'
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God, p.87. 


'The assumption that prayer is what we do when we are alone - the solitary soul before God - is an egregious, and distressingly persistent, error. We imagine a lonely shepherd on the hills composing lyrics to the glory of God. We imagine a beleaguered soul sinking in a swamp of trouble calling for help. But our imaginations betray us. We are part of something before we are anything, and never more so than when we pray. Prayer begins in community.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God, p.84. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


'The Psalms that teach us to pray by metaphor, using the experience of the sense to develop within us the experience of faith, come to fulfillment in Christ who was actual flesh and blood ("which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands," 1 John 1:1) thereby vindicating the goodness of the entire material creation.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God, p.78. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


'The language of prayer occurs primarily at one level, the personal, and for one purpose, salvation. The human condition teeters on the edge of disaster. Human beings are in trouble most of the time. Those who don't know they are in trouble are in the most trouble. Prayer is the language of the people who are in trouble and know it, and who believe or hope that God can get them out.'  
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God, p.36. 


'Israel was surrounded by world powers that boasted impressive temples, ruthless armies, Brobdingnagian statues, and extensive libraries. But when God wanted to show them how his rule was greater than anything that they saw around them, he directed that men be taken from local families and anointed. He trained them to look at the ordinary and the personal as the places where he initiated his rule and established his sovereignty. The people were turned away from trembling in awe or fear before the world's so-called mighty, they were patiently taught to see God working in and through messiah, an anointed one.'  
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God, p.30.  

Monday, 26 August 2013


'Well, where is home? he said. It isn't where your family comes from, and it isn't where you were born, unless you have been lucky enough to live in one place all your life. Home is where you hang your hat. (He had never owned a hat). Or home is where you spent your childhood, the good years when waking every morning was an excitement, when the round of the day could always produce something to fill your mind, tear your emotions, excite your wonder or awe or delight. Is home that, or is it the place where the people you love live, or the place where you have buried your dead, or the place where you want to be buried yourself?'
Wallace Stegner, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, p.459.  


'...their eyes jumped to meet each other, and it seemed to me that all of a sudden I could see what living together twenty-five years can do to two people. They asked and answered a dozen questions in that one look.'
Wallace Stegner, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, p.440. 


'If a man could understand himself and his own family, Bruce thought, he'd have a good start toward understanding everything he'd ever need to know.'
Wallace Stegner, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, p.436. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013


'At the center of the whole enterprise of being human, prayers are the primary technology. Prayers are tools that God uses to work his will in our bodies and souls. Prayers are tools that we use to collaborate in his work with us.
For the tool-making, tool-using creatures who venture into the ocean depths of being and journey into the wilderness frontiers of becoming, making and being made into eternal habitations, the Psalms are the requisite toolbox. The Psalms are the best tools available for working the faith - one hundred and fifty carefully crafted prayers that deal with the great variety of operations that God carries on in us and attend to all parts of our lives that are, at various times and in different ways, rebelling and trusting, hurting and praising. People of faith take possession of the Psalms with the same attitude and the same reason that gardeners gather up rake and hoe on their way to the vegetable patch, and students carry paper and pencil as they enter a lecture hall. It is a simple matter of practicality - acquiring the tools for carrying out the human work at hand.'  
Eugene H Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms As Tools For Prayer, p.2. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


'It was a truly a dreadful thing he was doing, leaving his father to die without him. It was the kind of thing only his father would forgive him for.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.274. 


'...what is the purpose of a prophet except to find meaning in trouble?' 
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.267. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013


'In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable - which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likenesses, because those around have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same custom, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.224. 


'It is one of the best traits of good people that they love where they pity. And this truer of women than of men. So they get themselves drawn into situations that are harmful to them. I have seen this happen many, many times. I have always had trouble finding a way to caution against it it. Since it is, in a word, Christlike.'
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.213.  


'I'm not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I'm saying you must be sure that the doubt and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion of any particular moment.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.204. 


'...but I believe Boughton is right to enjoy the imagination of heaven as the best pleasure of this world.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.189. 


'I'm not going to force some theory on a mystery and make foolishness of it, just because that is what people who talk about it normally do.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.173. 


'I tell them there are certain attributes our faith assigns to God: omniscience, omnipotence, justice, and grace. We human beings have such a slight acquaintance with power and knowledge, so little conception of justice, and so slight a capacity for grace, that the workings of these great attributes together is a mystery we cannot hope to penetrate.'
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.171. 


'Now, that is probably my least favorite topic of conversation in the entire world. I have spent a great part of my life hearing that doctrine talked up and down, and no-one's understanding ever advanced one iota. I've seen grown men, God-fearing men, come to blows over that doctrine.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.170. 


'I believe the sin of covetise is that pang of resentment you may feel when even the people you love best have what you want and don't have. From the point of view of loving your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), there is nothing that makes a person's falleness more undeniable than covetise - you feel it right in your heart, your bone. In that way it is instructive. I have never really succeeded in obeying that commandment, Thou shalt not covet.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.152. 

Monday, 19 August 2013


'When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.'
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.141.


'I realize there is nothing more astonishing than a human face...It has something to do with incarnation. You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it. Any human face is a claim on you, because you can't help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it.'
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.75.


'Existence seems to me the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined.'
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.60.


'A good sermon is one side of a passionate conversation. It has to be heard in that way. There are three parties to it, of course, but so are there even to the most private thought - the self that yields the thought, the self that responds to the thought and the Lord. That is a remarkable thing to consider.'
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.51.


'...I've developed a great reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from, except, of course, that some very tedious gentlemen have written books.'
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.45.


'That's the strangest thing about this life, about being in the ministry. People change the subject when they see you coming. And then sometimes those very same people come into your study and tell you the most remarkable things.'
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p.6.

Friday, 2 August 2013


'...half-hidden behind the campaign to deny respect to religion, there lies a far-reaching project: to deny not just respect but reverence to any person or text or patch of sand or lump of rock. In short, to eliminate the idea of the sacred.'
Ferdinand Mount, Full Circle, p.204.


'The Christian Catechism which all Christian children used to learn by heart sets out the two great duties of men: to love God, "with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength; and to love my Neighbor as myself." Humanists may say that this is an absurd impossible demand, and settle for the lower, less demanding command, "to do to all men as as I would they should do unto me." This is an illuminating example, perhaps the most illuminating example, of how modern humanism adopts the demands of the Gospel after first draining them of passion. Hitchens tells us that "many of the sayings and deeds of Jesus are innocuous, most especially the 'beatitudes' which express such fanciful wish-thinking about the meek and peace-makers." But the beatitudes are anything but innocuous. They call for a complete transvaluation of values in which the poor, humble and meek are to be regarded as blessed; nor is this wishful thinking, for in many religions the devout have carried the principle into practice.'
Ferdinand Mount, Full Circle, p.203.  


'The marriage-tie, the marriage bond, take it which way you like, is the fundamental connecting link in Christian society. Break it, and you will have to go back to the overwhelming dominance of the State, which existed before the Christian era.'
DH Lawrence in Ferdinand Mount, Full Circle, p.110.


'We are now hard-wired to expect history to deliver progress, jerky, flawed progress marred by horrors usually of our own making, but progress nonetheless. We look back primarily in order to see how far we have moved on. And one central element in that ever-growing sense of self-confidence was the gradual exclusion of religion from the picture. Man had wriggled free of the divine plan. We were no longer the creation of the mind of God but the product of natural development. 
This wriggling-free was not accomplished without pain or regret. To extricate ourselves from religious belief was a slow and often agonizing proceeds which left many heads muzzy with grief, disorientated in a universe that was suddenly without purpose or pathways. In such a time, only the most confident ideologues of progress could remain confident that they knew exactly where they were heading.   
What none of them would have dreamed of saying was that we might be retracing our steps. That would have been a deeply uncongenial thought. For part of the ideology of modernity is that we are moving forward and that we are going somewhere new. It is our novelty that comforts us. We are travelers who are thrilled to be told that we have reached the trackless quarter of the desert. Besides, it is better not to think too hard about what we have left behind.'
Ferdinand Mount, Full Circle, p.6.


'God's long funeral is over, and we are back where we started. Two thousand years of history have melted into the back story that no-one reads any more. We have returned to Year Zero, AD 0, or rather 0 CE, because we are in the Common Era now, the years of our Lord having expired.
So much about society that is now emerging bear an astonishing resemblance to the most prominent features of what we call the classical world - its institutions, its priorities, its recreations, its physics, its sexual morality, its food, its politics, even its religion. Often without our being in the least aware of it, the ways in which we live our rich and varied lives correspond, almost eerlily so, to the ways in which the Greeks and Romans lived theirs'. Whether we are eating and drinking, bathing or exercising or making love, pondering, admiring or enquiring, our habits of thought and action, our diversions and concentrations recall theirs. It is as though the 1,500 years after the fall of Rome had been time out from traditional ways of being human.'   
Ferdinand Mount, Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us, p.1.

Friday, 26 July 2013


'Ever since God declared that it was "not good" for Adam to be alone, human beings have being living alongside one another, sharing life together. I need other people in my life. I need them to offload to after a bad day; I need them to work alongside me in ministry; I need them to share a bottle of wine with me as we put the world to rights; I need them to point out to me the parts of my character that need working on; I need them to celebrate with me when good things happen; I need them to spend my days off and holidays with; I need them to give me a hug and tell me everything's going to be OK.'
Kate Wharton, Single-Minded, p.173. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013


'Joy is not gush. Joy is not mere jolly-ness. Joy is perfect acquiescence - acceptance, rest - in God's will, whatever comes. And that is so, only for the soul that delights in God.' 
Amy Carmichael in Kate Wharton, Single-Minded, p.80. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


'I've never once heard a church leader say, "What we could do with in our church is a few more single people."' 
Kate Wharton, Single-Minded: Being single, whole and living life to the full, p.29. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


'Chastity demands personal and total commitment. It requires a brave, patient and tenacious decision to go against the social and intellectual tide, to face the double burden of an loneliness that having no partner implies. It must be embraced, not simply tolerated. It entails the proactive - and in our emotionally starving age - prophetic attempt to refound community. Where there are difficulties in finding love and affection, they can be addressed. Chastity is not itself the issue. Chastity clarifies what the real issues are, both in self and society.' 
Jenny Taylor, A Wild Constraint, p.156. 


'To be chaste is to embrace the fullness of our creativity and our Christian discipleship, and to refocus them. What is essential is a changed perception of oneself and one's meaning - and for that there is no alternative to a daily reckoning with oneself. Chastity is a form of poverty that is foundational to spiritual growth. It is an aridity that cleanses the doors of perception and helps one begin to see God and his purposes.' 
Jenny Taylor, A Wild Constraint, p.145. 

Monday, 22 July 2013


'True community implies difference. A group of identikit people is not a community, it is a regiment.' 
Jenny Taylor, A Wild Constraint, p.69.

Friday, 19 July 2013


'Over the last century, in the pursuit of happiness, a trade-off has taken place between the cultural goods and safety of civilization and the pleasures of individual sexual licence. And we have called it science. We have deemed it obligatory to put up with a degree of sexual anarchy in the name of a spurious account of mental health, against the evidence of history, even though it endangers our very lives in community.
Modern people, particularly the young, are caught between peer-driven, scientistically legitimated and educationally imperatives of sexual activity - and the truth of their real feelings. What they feel does not match what they're being told to feel - but instead of trusting their feelings, they disavow those feelings, believing them still to be attached to values they are taught to believe are outmoded, patriarchal and very dangerous. Those values are Christian.' 
Jenny Taylor, A Wild Constraint, p.37. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013


'Chastity properly understood is an attitude that anticipates grace; that accepts there is a time and a place for all things. Learning how to wait well is the secret of maturity and satisfaction, even if it's for a lifetime.' 
Jenny Taylor, Wild Constraint: The Case for Chastity, p.4. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


'Anyone who cannot obey God's command to obey the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. Your own heart, or our materialistic culture, or an exploitative organization, or all of the above, will be abusing you if you don't have the ability to be disciplined in your practice of the Sabbath. Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. It means you are not a slave - not to your culture's expectations, your family's hopes, your medical school's demands, not even to your own insecurities. It is important that you learn to speak this truth to yourself with a note of triumph - otherwise you will feel guilty for taking time off, or you will be unable to truly unplug.' 
Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavour, p.236. 


'...Christians are never as good as their right beliefs should make them and non-Christians are never as bad as their wrong beliefs should make them...' 
Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavour, p.197. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


'Our children must know the genuineness of our own spiritual lives, not because we parade our sanctity before them, but because they see the reality of grace. Some say that parents should never be seen to disagree in front of children...which is an excellent thing if the parents never disagree. But if marriage is like most marriages are, it is not the absence of conflict but the resolution of conflict which demonstrates grace. It is not hiding away our sin, as though a cross word or selfish act never occurs within the relationship, but it is the working out of grace in the lives of two sinners. Our children know that we are sinners, and need to know that we  know that we are sinners, and that we know that they know we are sinners...and that nevertheless the grace of God has broken into our lives to save us.'  
Mark Ashton, 'God's gift of parenting' in The Briefing No.406 (July-August 2013),  p.33.

Friday, 12 July 2013


'If the Victorian era represents the repression of sexual desire, then the era of the hookup is about the repression of romantic feeling, love, and sexual desire too., in favor of greater access to sex - sex for the sake of sex. Women and men both learn to shove their desires deep down into a dark place, to be revealed to no one. They learn to be ashamed if they long for love, and embarrassed if they fail to uphold the social contract of hookup culture and do not happen to enjoy no-strings attached sex that much. 
The further irony of hookup culture is that, while being sexually active is the norm for students, the sex itself becomes unmechanical as a result of so much repression of emotion. College, ideally, is supposed to function as a time in life when people get to let go of repression; it's supposed to open them up to the world, not shut them down to it; it's supposed to encourage them to become who they are meant to become, not teach them to hide that self; and, most of all, college is supposed to empower them to find their voices and speak up, not learn that the voices bubbling up inside them are shameful. That a culture that has come to dominate so many colleges and universities thwarts those ideals among its students - and within an aspect of their lives that is so central, intimate, and identity-shaping as sex - is unacceptable.' 
Donna Freitas, The End of Sex, p.181. 


'Our view of men and masculinity in America is not only deeply flawed and misleading but disastrous for the psyches of young men. It interferes with their ability to mature and develop emotionally as well as to express emotion, to have healthy and fulfilling relationships and sex lives, to communicate emotional pain when they experience it, to feel empathy, and to do all these things without believing that by doing so, they are imperiling their standing as men.  Women experience glass ceilings just about every...way they try to move, but men also face an emotional glass ceiling. We ask that they repress their feelings surrounding their own vulnerabilities and need for love, respect, and relationship so intensely that we've convinced them that to express such feeling is to have somehow failed as men; that to express such feeling not only makes them look bad in front of other men, but in front of women too. And we do all of this on college campuses, where we imagine that students will open up and grow into who they really are. Within hookup culture, no one really wins, but perhaps men loose most of all.'
Donna Freitas, The End of Sex, p.114. 


'The stereotype that men are animals and will act like animals until a woman civilizes them is not only exploited in popular and broader media. It's also the kind of rigid view of gender common to evangelical books that give advice about dating, purity, courtship, and marriage to teens and young adults. Much of this literature teaches young men that they are naturally sexual predators. One guide by a Christian author tells young men that the "ultimate test of your manhood" is to"1) Think clearly,. 2) About sex." The presumption is that, when it comes to sex, men's brains stop working, and all sorts of idiotic, unfeeling, hurtful, and jerkish behaviour ensues - and than men can't help this. In the most successful manual in this genre, Every Young Man's Battle: Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation, authors Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker employ war metaphors in their discussions of men and sex, speaking of all men as sex addicts who need to be taught how to cope with their "addictive sexual cravings." For a young man not to feel such constant lust for women the second they hit puberty is the equivalent to failing one's masculinity.
From all directions young men are taught that they want sex far more than young women do, and that part of their job - part of what it means to be a man - is to either continually battle to deny themselves any indulgence in sex (the Christian view) or to trick women into having sex, even if this requires lying to them (the secular view). What we don't see much in our culture is an intelligent gender critique for men, by men, on the movie, TV, sex and porn industries.' 
Donna Freitas, The End of Sex, p.99.