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.