Wednesday, 29 May 2013


'Compare the behaviour of Providence towards you, with your own behaviour towards the Lord; and it must needs melt your hearts to find so much mercy bestowed where so much sin has been committed. What place did you ever live in, where you cannot remember great provocation committed, and notwithstanding that, manifold mercies received? O with how many notwithstandings and neverthelesses has the Lord done you good in every place! What relationship has not been abused by sin, and yet both raised up and continued by Providence for your comfort! In every place God has left the marks of His goodness, and you the remembrances of your sinfulness. Give yourselves but leave to think of these things, and it will be strange if your hearts do not melt at the remembrance of them.' 
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p.166. 


'Other men pursue good, and it flies from them, they can never overtake it; but goodness and mercy follow the people of God, and they cannot avoid or escape it. It gives them the chase day by day, and finds them out even when they sometimes put themselves by sin out of the way of it. In all the providences that befall them goodness and mercy pursue them.' 
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p.150. 

Friday, 24 May 2013


'Christian martyrdom is a sign of the ongoing power and effectiveness of the gospel of Jesus in the world. That people are willing to die for Christ shows that the gospel of Jesus Christ is really effective to change the lives - the selves - of human beings. Clearly, in an ongoing way, people are prepared to stake all they have, and are, and potentially could be, on this construal of reality. Martyrs are, in this way, a divine provision for the edification of the body of Christ; they are also a divine gift to all the nations. They witness in their suffering bodies to the nature and scope of divine authority as it was established in the person and work of Christ.' 
Michael Jensen, Martyrdom and Identity, p.195. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013


'Ideal Christianity doesn't exist, because anything the human being touches, even Christian truth, he deforms slightly in his own image.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.516. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


'Beware therefore you do not lean too much on your own reasonings and understandings. Nothing is more plausible, nothing more dangerous.'  
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p.142. 


'Eye the wisdom of God in all your afflictions. Behold it in the choice of the kind of your affliction, this, and not another; the time, now and not at another season; the degree, in this measure only, and not in the greater; the supports offered you under it, not left together helpless; the issue to which it is overruled, it is to your good, not ruin. Look upon these and then ask your heart, that question God asked Jonah, "Doest thou well to be angry?" (4.9). Surely, when you consider all - what need you had of these rods, that your corruptions will require all this, it may be much more, to mortify them; that without the perishing of these things you might have perished for ever - you will see great reason to be quiet and well-satisfied under the hand of God.' 
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p.131. 


'Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of our lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed.' 
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p.118. 


'I find it reasonable to believe, even though these beliefs are beyond reason.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.479. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


'....time is very dangerous without a rigid routine. If you do the same thing every day at the same time for the same length of time you'll save yourself from many a stink. Routine is a condition of survival.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.465. 

Monday, 20 May 2013


'No one presumes to teach an art till he has first, with intent meditation, learnt it. What rashness is it, then, for the unskillful to assume pastoral authority, since the government of souls is the art of arts! ...And yet how often do men who have no knowledge whatever of spiritual precepts profess themselves physicians of the heart, though those who are ignorant of the effect of drugs blush to appear as physicians of the flesh!'
Gregory the Great, The Book of the Pastoral Rule and Selected Epistles of St Gregory I (Ed. James Barmby), p.59. 


'...I don't know if anyone can be converted without seeing themselves in a kind of blasting annihilating light, a blast that will last a lifetime.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.427. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013


'The examples of Jesus, Paul and Stephen shape Christian discipleship as a life in which suffering rejection is the likely norm. Christian discipleship is described as death to self and a taking on of a new life, in union with Jesus Christ. Union with Jesus Christ by faith creates a supreme bond of loyalty which is tested daily in the struggle against sin, the world, the Devil  and even when put to the test of martyrdom transcends all other loyalties. Not surprisingly, Christian baptism is a symbol of the offering of the old self over to death, which is what every Christian does as an identification with Jesus Christ. It is a kind of proto-martyrdom, with its act of testimony to Christ and the renunciation of the world, the flesh and the Devil. The plunging into the water symbolises dying and then rising to new life.' 
Michael Jensen, Martyrdom and Identity: The Self on Trial, p.5. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013


'If there were no hell, we would be like the animals. No hell, no dignity.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.354. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


‘...this, in summary, is my charge against the Anglican modernists. Can they point to biblical authority for what, on any estimate, amounts to a disturbing challenge to the values assumed in both Testaments? No. Can they point to any divinely inspired religious leader since to whom has been revealed God’s benevolent intentions towards homosexuals? I know of no such saint or holy man. Most have taught the opposite. 
Can they honestly say that they would have drawn from Christ’s teaching the same lessons of sexual tolerance in 1000, or 1590, or indeed 1950? Surely not, for almost no such voices were heard then. 
In which case, to what does this “reform” amount? Like changes to Church teaching on divorce or Sunday observance, the new tolerance gains its force within the Anglican Communion from a fear of becoming isolated from changing public morals. Is that a reason for a Christian to modify his own morality? I cannot recall that Moses took this view of golden calf worship. Whispering beneath the modernisers’ soft aspirational language of love and tolerance, I hear an insistent “when in Rome, we must do as the Romans do. Times have changed.” Gays in particular should be very wary of that message; some of us remember when it was used against us, and such a time may come again.
A religion needs a compass. Logic alone does not point the way and religion adds to the general stick of human reasonableness a new directional needle – if it adds anything at all. I cannot read the Gospels in any way other than as declaring that this was revealed to man by God through Jesus. Revelation, therefore, not logic, must lie at the core of the Church message. You cannot pick and choose from revealed truth.’
Matthew Parris, ‘No God would not have approved of Gay Bishops’ in The Times, 9th August 2003.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


'...all writing is painful and...if it is not painful then it is not worth doing.'
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.242. 


'The trouble with being a writer and taking on the activity of being a critic is that you tend to think everybody else's work should be like your own.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.181. 


'In a sense sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it's always a place where there's no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think that those who don't have it miss one of God's mercies.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.163. 


'Let me make no bones about it: I write from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. Nothing is more repulsive to me than the idea of myself setting up a little universe of my own choosing and propounding a little immoralistic message. I write with a solid belief in all the Christian dogmas. I find that this in no way limits my freedom as a writer and that it increases rather than decreases my vision. It is popular to believe that in order to see clearly one must believe nothing. This may work well if you are observing cells under a microscope  It will not work if you are writing fiction. For the fiction writer, to believe nothing is to see nothing. I don't write to bring anybody a message, as you know yourself that this is not the purpose of the novelist; but the message I find in the life I see is a moral message.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.147. 


'If someone understands the cross, it is either the greatest thing in their life, or it is repugnant to them. If it is neither of these two things, they haven't understood it.' 
Timothy Keller, Galatians for You, p.180. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013


'I doubt if your interests get less intellectual as you become more deeply involved in the Church, but what will happen is that the intellect will take its place in a larger context and will cease to be tyrannical, if it has been - and when there is nothing over the intellect it usually is tyrannical. Anyway, the mind serves best when it's anchored in the word of God. There is no danger then of becoming an intellectual without integrity...'
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.134.


'To see Christ as God and man is probably no more difficult today than it has always been, even if today there seem to be more reasons to doubt. For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the laws of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and physical really are, then I will know what God is. We know them as we see them, not as God sees them. For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws. I am always astonished at the emphasis the Church puts on the body. It is not the soul she says will rise but the body, glorified.'
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.100.  


'But I can never agree with you that the Incarnation, or any truth, has to satisfy emotionally to be right (and I would not agree that for the natural man the Incarnation does not satisfy emotionally). It does not satisfy emotionally for the person brought up under many forms of false intellectual discipline such as 19th century mechanism, for instance. Leaving the Incarnation aside, the very notion of God's existence is not emotionally satisfactory for great numbers of people, which does not mean that God ceases to exist. M.Satre finds God emotionally unsatisfactory in the extreme, as do most of my friends of less stature than he. The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.
There is a question whether faith can or is supposed to be emotionally satisfying. I must say that the thought of everyone lolling around in an emotionally satisfying faith is repugnant to me. I believe that we are ultimately directed Godward but that this journey is often impeded by emotion.' 
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being, p.100.   


'When I ask myself how I know I believe, I have no satisfactory answer at all, no assurance at all, no feeling at all. I can only say with Peter, Lord I believe, help my unbelief. And all I can say about my love of God is, Lord help my lack of it.'
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'Connor (Edited by Sally Fitzgerald), p.93. 


'As she straightened the stacks of stationary in her desk (because there was nothing else to do), a familiar little panic gripped her: she couldn't marry him - she hardly knew him. Sometimes it occurred to her differently, that she couldn't marry him because she knew him too well, and either way it left her badly shaken, vulnerable to all the things Martha, her roommate, had said right from the beginning.'  
Richard Yates, 'The Best of Everything' in Collected Stories, p.20. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


'Mercy ministry always comes down to this: you can help, but only Jesus can heal.' 
Rosario Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p.146. 


'He is a real friend, which means that, over the years, we have come to appreciate each others' strengths and weaknesses. Real Christian friends are like that. We fail one another and in repentance and restoration, we are made stronger and more humble. It is nice to have friends like that. Comforting. Restorative.' 
Rosario Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p.136. 


'Beware you do not lose your God in the crowd and hurry of earthly business.' 
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p.79. 


'If any that fear God shall complain that, although they have a calling, yet it is hard and laborious one, which takes up too much of their time which they would gladly employ in other and better work, I answer that it is likely that the wisdom of Providence foresaw this to be the most suitable and proper employment for you; and if you had more ease and rest, you might have more temptations than now you have. The strength and time which is now taken up in your labours, in which you serve God, might otherwise have been spent upon such lusts in which you might have served the devil.' 
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p.78. 


'It is a greater mercy to descend from praying parents than from the loins of nobles.' 
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, p.54. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


'We in the church tend to be more fearful of the (perceived) sin in the world than of the sin in our own heart. Why is that?' 
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p.115. 


'Making a life commitment to Christ was not merely a philosophical shift. It was not a one-step process. It did not involve rearranging the surface prejudices and fickle loyalties of my life. Conversion did not "fit" my life. Conversion overhauled my soul and personality. It was arduous and intense. I experienced with great depth the power and authority of God in my life. In it I learned - and am still learning - how to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to reshape your future.'
Rosario Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p.34.  

Monday, 6 May 2013


'I think that churches would be places of greater intimacy and growth in  Christ if people stopped lying about what we need, what we fear, where we fail, and how we sin. I think that many of us have a hard time believing the God we believe in, when the going gets tough. And I suspect that instead of seeking counsel and direction from those stronger in the Lord, we retreat into our isolation and shame and let the sin wash over us, defeating us again.' 
Rosario Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p.25. 


'I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we have to crawl there on our hands and knees  Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.' 
Rosario Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p.22. 


'Good teachers make it possible for people to change their positions without shame.' 
Rosario Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, p.14.  


'...where everybody thinks the same nobody thinks very much...'
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an english professor's journey into Christian faith, p.3. 


'The most common cause of sexual sin is isolation and loneliness. The sexual appetite is an urge to overcome isolation, to give and receive another person. A person who is fulfilled in their daily life through other forms of “knowing and being known” will find that chastity frees them to be generous and loving and to receive love and generosity without the clinging neediness of sex. The problem is that most people in the contemporary world are literally starving for human communion, and sex fills that need at least temporarily. 
Negative chastity, the kind of chastity that limits itself to saying “Thou shalt not,” has consistently failed to persuade the postmodern world because it is madness. The vast majority of people will eat things that are designated “unclean” by their religion or “unhealthy” by their doctors when faced with starvation. In most cases it's not even voluntary. Unless you have strengthened your will to a superhuman extent it's not possible to starve yourself to death. Likewise, unless you've devoted a huge number of character points to picking up the “Stoic” superpower you will simply not be able to endure the kind of social starvation that negative chastity demands in the contemporary world. The way that we live, our architecture, our social structures, our institutions, are all far too individualistic for it to even be possible. From the new institution of “the single life” to the catastrophic experiment of the “nuclear family” we have created a culture of isolation. In order to gain increased autonomy for the individual citizen and the individual family we have severed the ties that hold communities together. Within this insular existence sex is a powerful means of escape. Telling people that they can't have it is like telling a child who has eaten nothing in days that she shouldn't eat a lollipop because it's bad for her teeth. The distant threat of cavities will simply sound hollow and meaningless compared with the present experience of hunger pangs.'
Melinda Selmys, 'Sad Bad Sex' at: