Wednesday, 31 December 2014

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2014

In, as ever, no particular order (other than the rough order in which I read them):
  • Wallace Stegner, Remembering Laughter
  • James Agee, A Death in the Family
  • Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Reading for Preaching: The preacher in conversation with storytellers, biographers, poets, and journalists. 
  • Rod Dehrer, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
  • Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule 
  • John Williams, Augustus
  • Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter
  • Marilynne Robinson, Lila
  • David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church....And Rethinking Faith
  • Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern


'...those who see in Genesis 1:28 the source of all our abuse of the natural world (most of them apparently having read no more of the Bible than that verse) are guilty of an extremely unintelligent misreading of Genesis 1:28 itself. How, for example, would one arrange to "replenish the earth" if "subdue" means, as alleged, "conquer" or "defeat" or "destroy"?' 
Wendell Berry, 'God and Country' in What Are People For? p.98.


'The evident ability of most church leaders to be "born again in Christ" without in the least discomforting their faith in the industrial economy's bill of goods, however convenient and understandable it may be, is not scriptural.'
Wendell Berry, 'God and Country' in What Are People For? p.98.


'No wonder so many sermons are devoted exclusively to "spiritual" subjects. If one is living by the tithes of history's most destructive economy, then the disembodiment of the soul becomes the chief of worldly conveniences.'
Wendell Berry, 'God and Country' in What Are People For?, p.96.


'That God created all this for for His pleasure, and that they continue to exist because they please Him, is formidable doctrine indeed, as far as possible both from the "anthropocentric" utilitarianism that some environmentalist critics claim to find in the Bible and from the grouchy spirituality of many Christians.'
Wendell Berry, 'Economy and Pleasure' in What Are People For?, p.138.


'Can a university, or a nation, afford this exclusive rule of competition, this purely economic economy? The great fault of this approach to things is that it is so drastically reductive; it does not permit us to live and work as human beings, as the best of our inheritance defines us. Rats and roaches live by competition under the law of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy. It is impossible not to notice how little the proponents of the ideal of competition have to say about honesty, which is the fundamental economic virtue, and how very little they have to say about community, compassion, and mutual help.' 
Wendell Berry, 'Economy and Pleasure' in What Are People For?, p.135.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


'God is here, within these walls; before me, behind me, on my right hand, on my left hand. He who fills immensity has come down to me here. I am now about to bow at His feet, and speak to Him...I may pour forth my desires before Him, and not one syllable from my lips shall escape his ear. I may speak to him as I would to my dearest friend I have on earth.'
Austin Phelps in Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.127.


'The worst sin is prayerlessness. Overt sin...or the glaring inconsistencies which often surprise us in Christian people are the effect of this, or its punishment...Not to want to pray, then, is the sin behind sin.'
PT Forsyth in Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.121.

Saturday, 27 December 2014


'We humans may say, "Let there be light in this room," but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God's words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing. The God of the Bible is a God who "by his very nature, acts through speaking."'
Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.52.


'Gods breath in man returning to his birth.'
George Herbert in Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.28.


'To discover the real you, look at what you spend time thinking about when no one is looking, when nothing is forcing you to think about anything in particular. At such moments, do your thoughts go toward God? You may want to be seen as a humble, unassuming person, but do you take the initiative to confess your sins before God? You wish to be perceived as a positive, cheerful person, but do you habitually thank God for everything you have and praise him for who he is? You may speak a great deal about what a "blessing" your faith is and how you "just really love the Lord," but if you are prayerless - is that really true? If you aren't joyful, humble, and faithful in private before God, then what you want to appear on the outside won't match what you truly are.'
Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.22.

Friday, 26 December 2014


'A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.'
Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.22.


'Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change - the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God,the way that we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. 
We must learn to pray. We have to.'
Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.18.


'...prayer is not simply the solitary exploration of your own subjectivity. You are with Another, and he is unique. God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before him you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.' 
Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Intimacy with God, p.12. 

Thursday, 25 December 2014


The Coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
                    On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. many People
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

RS Thomas

Thursday, 18 December 2014


'If people in our Christian fellowships today were to announce that they had decided to keep God's law, we would probably be sceptical and alarmed. We would probably take them aside for some counselling and possibly alert other responsible people in the group to keep an eye on them. We would be sure nothing good would come of it. We know that one is not saved by keeping the law and can think of no other reason one should try to do it. 
This leaves us caught in a strange inversion of the work of the Judaizing teachers who digged the footsteps of Paul in New Testament days. As they wanted to add obedience to ritual law to faith in Christ, we want to subtract moral law from faith in Christ. How to combine faith with obedience is surely the essential task of the church...'
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.157.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


'...the aim of the popular teacher in Jesus' time was not to impart information, but to make a significant change in the lives of the hearers. Of course that may require an information transfer, but it is a peculiarly modern notion that the aim of teaching is to bring people to know things that may have no effect at all on their lives.'
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.128.


'The powerful though vague and unsubstantiated presumption is that something has been found out that renders a spiritual understanding of reality in the manner of Jesus simply foolish to those who are "in the know." But when it comes time to say exactly what it is that has been found out, nothing of substance is forthcoming.'
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.106.


'When you become a Christian - a disciple of Jesus - you do not become his helper. He becomes your helper. You do not become his benefactor. He becomes your benefactor. You do not become his servant. He becomes your servant. Jesus does not need your help; he commands your obedience and offers his help. 
Christmas. He came to serve, not to be served. He came to help us to do everything he calls us to do.'
John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, p.56.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


'History has brought us to the point where the Christian message is thought to be essentially concerned only with how to deal with sin: with wrongdoing or wrong-being and its effects. Life, our actual existence, is not included in what is now presented as the heart of the Christian message, or its is included only marginally. This is where we find ourselves today.
...When we examine the broad spectrum of Christian proclamation and practice, we see that the only thing made essential on the right wing of theology is forgiveness of the individual's sins. On the left it is the removal of structural evils. The current gospel then becomes a "gospel of sin management." Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message. Moment-to-moment human reality in its depths is not the area of faith and eternal living. 
To the right, being a Christian is a matter of having your sins forgiven...To the left, you are a Christian if you have a significant commitment to the elimination of social evils. A Christian is either one who is ready to die and face the judgment of God or one who has an identifiable commitment to love and justice in society. That's it.
...What right and left have in common is that neither group has laid down a coherent framework of knowledge and practical direction adequate to personal transformation towards the abundance and redemption of ordinary life. What is taught as the essential message about Jesus has no natural connection to entering a life of discipleship to him. 
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.49.


'Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?'
Jaroslav Pelikan in Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: rediscovering our Hidden Life in God, p.19. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


'...the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or you situation can't be changed - these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy. 
It is God's message of hope this Advent that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed. The Devil works to take the good and bring the bad. And Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil.' 
John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, p.38. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


'Probably the easiest definition of an intime friend is someone else, not related by blood, for whom our existence matters significantly; someone, who is not our family per se but who cares whether we are around or not. In practical terms this means a person who, if they called you at a time when they expected you at home and found you were not there, would wonder a bit as they hung up the phone about where you might be and hope that you are OK.' 
David Morrison, Beyond Gay, p.181. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014


'...which is the higher view of human sexuality? Christianity's, in which human beings as free men and women give themselves to each other out of their own free will in a lifetime embrace, or the world's, in which human coupling appears to have more to do with being captive to emotion and desire than to free choice?' 
David Morrison, Beyond Gay, p.107. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
         Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
         And do run still, though still I do deplore?
                When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
                        For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
         Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
         A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
                When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
                        For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
         My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
         Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
                And, having done that, thou hast done;
                        I fear no more.

John Donne. Available at: 

Monday, 24 November 2014


'I noted earlier the evangelical declaration that "it is well with my soul," and insisted that this is an important and profoundly expression of Christian assurance. But it is not enough. It is a central confession, but it is a central confession; it is not a full expression of Christian assurance. The God who declares here and now that it is "well" with my soul is the same creating Lord who once looked at the whole world he had made and proclaimed, "This is good." This God wants once again to say that things are "well" with his entire creation - and he will someday do so when he announces: "Behold, I make all things new...It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end'" (Rev.21:5-6). "It is well with my soul" is only a first step, an initial fruit of God's redeeming activity. We must share in God's restless yearning for the renewal of the cosmos.' 
Richard J Mouw, When the Kings Come Marching In, p.110. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014


'...even when a belief in an afterlife is functioning correctly for Christians, it contains an element of "pie in the sky." There is no getting around this fact, and it should not be embarrassing for a Christian to admit it. After all, if the pie is actually in the sky, then a "pie in the sky" belief is very appropriate.' 
Richard J Mouw, When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem, p.44. 

Monday, 10 November 2014


'I have got plenty of people to do something with, but nobody to do nothing with.' 
Felicity Jones in The Week (8th November 2014), p.25.


'Wisdom is the spiritual, mental, and emotional ability to relate rightly to God, to others, and to our culture.' 
David Kinnaman, You Lost Me, p.210. 


'I want to suggest that when we accept the terms of the debate - exclusion vs. tolerance - we lose. When we chose exclusion, the church circles the wagons and becomes a fortresslike, members-only organization overcome by a siege mentality. We bar the door to everyone who looks scary or asks questions that make us uncomfortable. 
When we choose tolerance of every person and ideology, on the other hand, we shrink from sharing the very, very good news of Good's love, demonstrated like never before or since in Christ, and from confronting sin and suffering that is sin's results. Exclusion lacks love; the wrong kind of tolerance lacks courage. 
At the heart of the Christian story, however, is the Triune God's rejection of both exclusion and tolerance. The Creator was not content to exclude those who had rejected him, but neither was he prepared to tolerate our hatefulness and sin. So what did he do? He became one of us, one of the "other," identifying with us to embrace us in solidarity, empathy, and selfless agape love - all the way to the cross.'
David Kinnaman, You Lost Me, p.180. 

Monday, 3 November 2014


'The experience that faced the Jewish exiles mirrors the church's experience today. In fact, the biblical metaphor that best suits our current times and faith situation is that of exile. Just like the Jewish exiles, the church today is grieving its loss and is struggling with humiliation.' 
Michael Frost in David Kinnaman, You Lost Me, p.76. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014


'...disciples cannot be mass produced. Disciples are handmade, one relationship at a time.'
David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church....And Rethinking Faith, p.13.

Saturday, 1 November 2014


'The remarkable power of technology to shape worldview along with the enormous amount of time young people spend with its many forms make the small amount of time they spend in Christian nurture seem almost negligible by comparison. The best preaching, worship, and education programs of a church simply cannot compete with television, movies, the internet, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, and the ever-expanding list of technologies that shape our vision of the world. If families are not taught to make radical, costly, and time-consuming commitments to nurturing their children, the future of the church as a missional community in the West will be bleak.' 
Michael Goheen in Jason B Hood, Imitating God ion Christ, p.215. 


'If the Bible is about Christ, some preachers and interpreters conclude that any direction application of Scripture to the life of the believer introduces works and threatens to collapse into moralism. Others preachers insist that the Bible be made practical, so that the stories of David are read not as foreshadowings of Christ but as stories that teach us courage, faith, and tricks for dealing with oppressive fathers-in-law and kings. The first has the head, the second has the body. Neither has the whole Christ.' 
Peter Leithart in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.180. 

Friday, 31 October 2014


'Christians, particularly in the Western world, have for a long time been divided between "epistles people" and "gospels people." The "epistles people" have thought of Christianity primarily in terms of Jesus's death and resurrection "saving us from our sins." The "gospels people" have thought primarily about in terms of following Jesus in feeding the hungry, helping the poor, and so on. The "epistles people" have found it difficult to give a clear account of what was going on in Jesus's kingdom-announcement and his call to his followers to be "perfect." The "gospels people" - or perhaps we should say the "beginning-of-the-gospels people," since the line of thought they embrace usually screens out the last few chapters - have often found it difficult to explain why the Jesus who was doing those remarkable things had to die, and die so soon. They have often found it difficult, in consequence, to relate to the central themes of Pauline theology. 
This either/or split does no justice, in fact, to either the epistles or the gospels. Still less does it do justice to Jesus himself.' 
Tom Wright, Virtue Reborn, p.96. 


'Jesus is in fact inviting his hearers to something much more radical: an anticipation of what we might call eschatalogical authenticity. Yes, there will be a time when God's people will serve and love him, and live out the genuine humanness of what the ancient Law had spoken, "naturally" and from the heart. But this will be a God-given "second nature," a new way of being human. And you can begin to practice this now, difficult though it will be, because Jesus is here, inaugurating God's kingdom. It won't happen "automatically," precisely because God wants you to be, as we might put it, humans rather than puppets. You will have to think about it, to struggle with it, to pray for grace and strength; but this is at least now within reach. You can't collapse the whole question of "how to believe" into the command "It must come naturally; otherwise it isn't authentic." Jesus puts it the other way around: he says, in effect, "Follow me, and the authenticity will begin to happen." The authenticity that really matters is living in accordance with the genuine human being God is calling you to become. What the ancient Law really wanted - genuine human life, reflecting God's glory into the world - will start to appear.' 
Tom Wright, Virtue Reborn, p.93. 


'An epistolary romance, after all, is often a romance between two people who bear no resemblance to either person...'
David James Duncan, The Brothers K, p.448. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


'Virtually all the trouble that the best, and most talented pastors get into comes from not following the Way of the Cross....Sexual sin gets the press, but ego sin kills the church.' 
David Hansen in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.158. 


'At the heart of the pastoral office is the suffering of the pastor, even as Christ came as the suffering servant who was obedient to the point of death.' 
Scott Haffemann in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.157. 


'A true Christian pastor will be one who can dare say to his people: "Follow me, as I am following Jesus." That is a terrible test for any pastor. A true pastor must have such a relation with Jesus and with his people that he follows Jesus and they follow him.' 
Lesslie Newbigin in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.155. 


'...the church's task is to make more Jesus-people: people united to him who begin to look like him.' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.139. 


'Christ, the master of the mint, came along to stamp the coins afresh.' 
Augustine of Hippo in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.137. 


'The Messiahs's suffering did not provide bread and education for Africa's poor, leadership training for Latin American churches, evangelists for pagan North America, companionship for the rejected or families for the orphans and the lonely. Jesus' death and resurrection were God's great Word to us, but they did not do the hard work of translating the Bible into ten thousand languages. The church's suffering and self-sacrifice, with a million crosses modeled after his cross, meet these needs and more as we imitate the infinitely greater sacrifice and suffering of Jesus.' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.135. 


'The purpose of doctrine is to ensure that those who bear Christ's name walk in Christ's way.' 
Kevin Vanhoozer in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.131. 

Monday, 27 October 2014


'The Holy Spirit is God's present-tense guarantee that in due time he will deliver the full restoration for which his people are waiting.' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.111. 


'...apprenticing with Jesus to be human again...'
Zack Eswine in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.83. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014


'The good news is that God has gone to work as a true human, from the incarnation to his triumphant return. The blast zone of his work is the church and the whole of the new creation, where God establishes his kingdom with renewed godlike humans enthroned as royalty according to his original design.' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.68. 


'The great drama in Scripture revolves around the question, when will humans be the rulers God intended them to be?' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.63. 


' God's plan humanity saves itself. For muddy images mired in sin and misery, into the depths of humanity's tragedy and Israel's carnage, God sent a true human, the perfect participant in God's work and God's story. 
Jesus came to share or clay and restore our royalty. He is the human who brings humanity back to God and the world back to humanity.' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.57. 


'For many evangelicals, the only significance of image-bearing is that murder and abortion are wrong. They have lost sight of the dignity God gave their work when he made it (after a fashion) his own work and enabled our thoughts and deeds to reflect his own. As a result, it is very easy to accept God's love for us on a spiritual level and ignore God's involvement and delight in everyday life, laughing or love-making. Many Christians do not believe that their activities - whether parenting or preaching, pastoring or partying - are important, that they have been done "in him" (Acts 17:28) and that God enjoys them. We struggle to affirm the good our unbelieving friends sometimes accomplish, such as great works of art, wise governance and acts of moral goodness. As Luther's comments on vocation suggest, we must learn to see ourselves as God's agents in tasks as humble as milking a cow and labors as spectacular as composing a masterful symphony.' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.55. 


'Unless Christians are taught that God's work and human work are compatible, they often believe that in any given thought or action either God is at work or humans are, but never both. This dualistic approach can create confusion and even despair as Christians wrestle with sanctification, discipleship and mission. Many Christians believe than any use of their own mind or strength to accomplish a task means they have not worked in the Lord's strength. As a result, these believers have little vision for living life as God's agents, working for his kingdom and for his glory in their vocations, families, witness and relationship with God.
But the God-given ability to imitate makes humans participants in God's own mission. Thinking rightly about both our roles as participants in God's mission on the one hand and God's role in our efforts on the other encourages us and feds our fruitfulness. We discover that this message produces postures of restful reliance and radical effort. It simultaneously leads to security and striving, quiet confidence and courageous action.' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.49. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014


'It is often said that the Bible represents God anthropomorphically (i.e., as a human being). More accurately, a human being is theomorphic, made like God so that God can communicate himself to people. He gave people ears to show that he hears the cry of the afflicted and eyes to show that he sees the plight of the pitiful (Ps.94:9).' 
Bruce Waltke in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.39. 


'Beliefs are always dangerous things. One of the hidden dangers in theology is that beliefs often come in pairs, like two sides of the coin, which can lead to error if we focus on one to the exclusion of the other: the divinity and the humanity of the Son of God, divine transcendence and immanence, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, grace and judgment. Throughout its history the church has had to learn and relearn that believers are sinners and saints all at once. We can fall into the pits of lawlessness and legalism; we can find ourselves trapped in the deep caves of hedonism or asceticism. The challenge is holding two notions together at the same time. The moment we get one idea nailed down, we must be aware of privileging that idea to the extent that we downplay or ignore a parallel concept that might keep our theology from going off rails.' 
Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.25. 


'Homer attributed human properties to the gods; I would prefer to attribute divine properties to us humans.' 
Herman Bavinck in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ, p.19. 


'Jesus is not only friend of sinners but also prophetic nemesis of the wicked.' 
Richard B Hays in Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern, p.14. 

Monday, 20 October 2014


'Whatever post of honor or influence we may be placed in, we should show that, in it, we are solicitous for the good of the public, so that the world may be better for our living in it, and that, when we are gone, it may be said of us, as it was so nobly said of David (Acts 13:6), that we "served our generation by the will of God."' 
Jonathan Edwards in Matt Perman, What's Best Next, p.303. 


'I must confess equally boldly that my own solid hopes for the well-being of my country depend, not so much on her navies and armies, nor on the wisdom of her rules, nor on the spirit of her people, as on the persuasion that she still contains many who love and obey the Gospel of Christ. I believe that their prayers may yet prevail.' 
William Wilberforce in Matt Perman, What's Best Next, p.303. 

Friday, 17 October 2014


'God is the only multitasker.'
Matt Perman, What Best Next, p.242.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


'She meant to ask him sometime how praying is different from worrying.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Lila, p.234. 


'Things happen for reasons that are hidden from us, utterly hidden for as long as we think they must proceed from what has come before, our guilt or our deserving, rather than coming to us from a future that God in his freedom offers to us.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Lila, p.222. 


'She knew there were words so terrible you heard them with your whole body. Guilty.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Lila, p.110. 


'"Maybe you don't have to think about hell because probly nobody you know going to end up there."'
Marilynne Robinson, Lila, p.102. 


'The best thing about church was that when she sat in the last pew there was no one looking at her. She could come a little late and leave a little early. when she wanted to. She could listen to the sermon and the singing. People might wonder why she was there, but they never asked.' 
Marilynne Robinson, Lila, p.36. 

Monday, 13 October 2014


'Refrain tonight;
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence; the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either curb the devil, or throw him out,
With wondrous potency.'
William Shakespeare (Hamlet) in Tom Wright, Virtue Reborn, p.53. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


'If you are selfish and make yourself and your own private interest your idol, God will leave you to yourself, and let you promote your own interests as well as you can. 
But if you do not selfishly seek your own, but do seek the things that are Jesus Christ's, and the things of your fellow human beings, then God will make your interest and happiness his own charge, and he is infinitely more able to provide and promote it than you are. The resources of the universe move at his bidding, and he can easily command them all to observe your welfare. 
So that, not to seek your own, in the selfish sense, is the best way of seeking your own in a better sense. It is the directest course you can take to secure your highest happiness.'  
Jonathan Edwards in Matt Perman, What's Best Next, p.100. 


'Slack work is a form of vandalism...Slack work is like vandalism because it makes life harder for people.' 
Matt Perman, What's Best Next, pp.98. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


'You don't want to be the one to plan your whole life, because God does a better job than you ever will.'
Matt Perman, What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, p.57.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


'Of all the evidences of the real work of the Spirit, a habit of hearty private prayer is one of the most satisfactory that can be named. A man may preach from false motives. A man may write books, and make fine speeches, and seem diligent in good works, and yet be a Judas Iscariot. But a man seldom goes into his secret closet, and pours out his soul before God in secret, unless he is serious.'
JC Ryle in Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy, p.11. 


'The busyness that's bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things. It's being busy trying to please people, busy trying to control others, busy trying to do things we haven't been called to do.' 
Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy, p.102. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014


'The dreams we have that refuse to die - dreams of freedom and beauty, of order and love, dreams that we can make a real difference in the world - come into their own when we put them within a framework of belief in a God who made the world and is going to sort it out once and for all, and wants to involve human beings in that process.' 
Tom Wright, Virtue Reborn, p.xi. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


'One of the most resilient and cherished myths of parenting is that parenting creates the child.' 
Leslie Leyland Fields in Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy, p.68. 


'Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs) while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night. They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can't leave the car seat until they are about 5 ft 6.' 
Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy, p.67. 

Monday, 15 September 2014


'...until the Reformation, people heard the Scriptures in church - and only in church. That meant the natural question when interpreting the Bible was, "What does this mean to us?" With the double-edged gift of Gutenberg's printing press, the process is often reduced merely to writing-reading. Now we read the Bible alone in our homes. This allows a communal process to become individualized. Worse, one can own the Word of God (meaning a book), rather than hear the Word of God, which is actually a communal act. The act of carrying around a book gives the individual the perception: I have the Word of God. Now instead of asking,  "What does this mean to us?" our instinctive question is "What does it mean to me?" The shift to individual, reader-centered interpretation was natural, post-Gutenberg. But we must never lose sight of the implications of that shift.' 
E Randolph Richards and Brandon J O'Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, p.197. 


'So anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbour, has not yet succeeded in understanding them.' 
Augustine of Hippo in E Randolph Richards and Brandon J O'Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, p.190. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014


'When I...was living in a remote part of Indonesia, I was often awakened in the middle of the night by grave news: "Quick, come to the dormitory, so-and-so is dying." That will wake you up in a hurry. The first times it happened, I nearly killed myself dressing and running full speed through the dark to rescue a student from the precipice of death...only to discover that he or she had a cold. The old "take two pills and call me in the morning" approach literally was the best treatment. Hundreds of students were sped towards recovery by the thousands of of ibuprofen tablets I distributed.  
A few years later, I discovered that students considered me a man of little faith. All I did was give them medicine! They would always pray for the student after I had left. In my worldview, we had quit praying for colds and ear infections a generation ago. We understood them, so God was no longer involved - although we never said it so crassly. This is a serious loss. We no longer had a loving Father watching over in the night. Our point is not that there is anything faithless about taking medicine. Our point is that at an unconscious level, our expectation that the universe operates according to natural laws excludes the possibility from our minds that God might intervene in our daily affairs.' 
E Randolph Richards and Brandon J O'Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, p.172.  


'...the Christian life is more helpfully viewed as a journey along a use Jesus' image. Along this road, there is a ditch on both sides. The goal is to avoid both ditches, which means that the difference between good instruction and bad instruction depends upon which ditch you have drifted toward. The problem with the Western view of a rule is that it has to always apply. But "veer right" is only good instruction if you're headed toward the ditch on the left.' 
E Randolph Richards and Brandon J O'Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, p.167. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


'...Good hospital-ity is making your home a hospital. The idea is that friends and family and the wounded and weary people come to your home and leave helped and refreshed. And yet too often hospitality is a nerve-racking experience for hosts and guests alike. Instead of setting our guests at ease, we set them on edge by telling them how bad the food will be, and what a mess the house is, and how sorry we are for our kids' behaviour. We get worked up and crazy busy in all the wrong ways because we are more concerned with looking good than with doing good. So instead of our encouraging those we host, they feel compelled to encourage us with constant reassurances that everything is just fine.' 
Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy, p.41. 


'Busyness kills more Christians than bullets.'
Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy, p.30. 


'We've heard countless sermons warning us about the dangers of money. But the real danger comes after you spend the money. Once you own it you need to keep it clean, keep it working, and keep up with the latest improvements. If the worries of life don't swamp us, the upkeep will.' 
Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A [Mercifully] Short Book about a [Really] Big Problem, p.30. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


'We deceive ourselves when we think sin is individual and independent of a community's honor. Our individualism feeds the false sense that sin is merely an inner wrong - the private business between and God to be worked out on judgement day. Paul thought otherwise. He considered sin yeast that influences the whole batch of dough (1 Cor 5:6).' 
E Randolph Richards and Brandon J O'Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understanding the Bible, p.132. 

Monday, 1 September 2014


'Beauty is not just what we agree to call it, nor does it go away if we ignore it. We can't remake our values at will. There may of course be shifts in art theory, but that is distinct from beauty itself, and we cannot rid ourselves of the value of beauty by a decision in theory. In this, beauty is like other transcendental ideals, such as goodness. Societies may dispute what is to be considered good, but they cannot do away with the concept. What is more the concept is remarkably stable over time. Exactly what is to be considered good may shift around the edges, but the core remains unchanged. Similarly, exactly what is to be called beautiful may vary a little over time, but the core concepts of beauty remain, which is why we have no difficulty in appreciating the beauty of mediaeval or ancient art despite the passage of centuries. Art theory can pronounce the death of beauty, but in doing so it revives memories of King Canute.' 
Ian McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary, p.443. 


'The single most common finding from a half a century's research on the correlates of life satisfaction, not only in the United States but around the world is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one's social connections.' 
Robert Putnam in Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary, p.435. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


'The defining features of the human condition can all be traced to our ability to stand back from the world, for our selves and from the immediacy of experience. This enables us to plan, to think flexibly and inventively, and, in brief, to take control of the world around us rather than simply respond to it passively.' 
Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, p.21. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


"...Mighty hard to get a boy to come to it right under his daddy's hand. I don'y know why."...
"Well," Mat says, "I do know why. By the time a boy gets big enough to work, his daddy's already been his boss for a long time, and not always an easy one. They've already pretty well-tested each other, and know each other's weaknesses and flaws. There are a lot of old irritations all ready-made. And then a man teaching his own boy gets misled by pride. What he does wrong looks like your failure as much as it is his, and so you don't correct or punish for his sake, but yours. The way around to let him work with somebody older than he is....that you know he admires.'
Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth, p.177.


'...the worst thing about preachers is they think they've got to say something whether anything can be said or not.'
Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth, p.105.


'The ideal rides ahead of the real, renewing beyond it, perishing in it - unreachable, surely, but made new over and over again just by hope and by the passage of time; what has not yet failed remains possible. And the ideal, remaining undiminished and perfect, out of reach, makes possible a judgment of failure, and a just grief and sympathy.'
Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth, p.72.


'...why do you think Jesus Christ came into this world through a pregnant, unwed teenage girl in a patriarchal shame-and-honor culture? God didn't have to do it that way. But I think it was his way of saying, "I don't do things the way the world expects, but in the opposite way altogether. My power is made perfect in weakness. My Savior-Prince will be born not into a cradle in a royal palace but into a feed trough in a stable - not to powerful and famous people but to disgraced peasants. And that is all part of the pattern.'
Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, p.203.


'You ascended from before our eyes and we turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts.'
Augustine of Hippo in Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, p.179.


'The basic purpose of prayer is not to bend God's will to mine but to mold my will into his.' 
Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, p.167.


'When you are in moments of pain and shock, the things that come out of your mind and mouth are the most primal things in your being. And when Jesus was in such moments, out came the words of the Bible. Something like 10 per cent of all the things he says in the Bible are quotations of, or allusions to, the Hebrew Scriptures. When you know Scripture that well, you process all thoughts and feelings through a grid of biblical revelation. And when you have God's own assurances, summonses, promises, and revelations secured that deep inside you, its extremely difficult for Satan to get a foothold and block your assurance of your salvation. You aren't vulnerable along the front where he can best attack you.'
Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions, p.123.

Monday, 11 August 2014


' caress that body which is of one's own sex is to caress one's self, and thus is not an escape of the self but an imprisonment within it.' 
John Williams, Augustus, p. 304. 


'...there is no wall that can be built to protect the human heart from its own weakness.' 
John Williams, Augustus, p.301.  


'The poet contemplates the chaos of experience, the confusion of accident, and the incomprehensible realms of possibility - which is to say the world in which we all so intimately live that few of us take the trouble to examine it. The fruits of that contemplation are the discovery, or invention, of some small principle of harmony and order that may be isolated from that disorder which obscures it, and the subjection of that discovery to those who poetic laws which at last make it possible. No general ever more carefully exercises his troops in their intricate formations than does the poet dispose his words to the rigorous necessity of meter; no consul more shrewdly aligns this faction against that in order to achieve his need than the poet who balances one line with another in order to display his truth; and no Emperor ever so carefully organizes the disparate parts of the world that he rules so that they will constitute a whole than does the poet dispose the details of his poem so that another world, perhaps more real than the one that we so precariously inhabit, will spin in the universe of men's minds.' 
John Williams, Augustus, p.295. 


'How contrary an animal is man, who most treasures what he refuse or abandons! The soldier who has chosen war for his profession in the midst of battle longs for peace, and in the security of peace hungers for the clash of sword and the chaos of the bloody field; the slave who sets himself against his unchosen servitude and by his industry purchases his freedom, then binds himself to a patron more cruel and demanding than his master was; the lover who abandons his mistress lives thereafter in his dreams of her imagined perfection.' 
John Williams, Augustus, p.284. 

Friday, 25 July 2014


'...the evolution of the contemporary world has involved the intersection of two broad tendencies. There has been a humanising of the divine. To give an example: one could argue that the universal declaration of the rights of man is no more than (and again Nietzche saw this clearly) a "secularised" Christianity, in other words a restatement of the content of the Christian religion without belief in God being a requisite. And there is no doubt that we are living through a reversal of divinisation, or a making sacred of the human, in the sense I have just defined: it is only on behalf of another human being that we are prepared, in the case of necessity, to undertake risks, and certainly not to defend the abstract entities of the past.' 
Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought, p.244. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014


'...Sin itself receives a measure-for-measure punishment from God: although it sought precisely to suppress God's revelation, it is - against its own will - press-ganged into service as an agent of that revelation.' 
Simon J Gathercole, 'Sin in God's Economy: Agencies in Romans 1 and 7' in Divine and Human Agency in Paul and his Cultural Environment (Edited by John MG Barclay & Simon J Gathercole), p. 172. 


'Looking at the larger canvas of God's action...we can see that for Paul, God is intimately involved in the history of human sin. In both Romans 1 and 7, he shapes human disobedience so that it serves a purpose in his economy - specifically the purpose of revelation. In Romans 1, the massa perditionis of a humanity under the meta-sin or rejection of the divine glory is all set within the framework of the revelation of his wrath. God's judgement issues forth in the actions of that humanity, so that those actions function to reveal more fully the nature of that meta-sin of the human suppression  and exchange of God's glory. In Romans 7, this divine moulding takes a particular form within Israel. God gives the Law so that as Sin surges with all its energy, it is shown up in all its horror.'  
Simon J Gathercole, 'Sin in God's Economy: Agencies in Romans 1 and 7' in Divine and Human Agency in Paul and his Cultural Environment (Edited by John MG Barclay & Simon J Gathercole), p. 171. 


'...there is a relation between idolatry and homosexual practice which is much more clearly at work in this particular argument. The key correspondence lies in the fact that both involve turning away from the "other" to the "same". Although the nature (understood as that which is determined by God) argument is certainly valid, it does not explain as much, perhaps, as the in se model. The greater scope of this latter model is apparent from the fact that Paul uses it in connection with both the meta-sin of idolatry (worshipping "creation, rather than the creator") and in the particular instantation of homosexual practice... In 1.25, creation worships creation, rather than creator, that is to say, it turns away from God, and worships itself. This leads, correspondingly, to a similar structure of sexual relationships: men give up sexual activity with women for passion "for each other" (1.27). To put it another way:

Humanity should be orientated toward God but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.25).
Woman should be oriented toward man, but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.26).
Man should be oriented toward woman, but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.27). 

The meta-sin of creation turning in on itself toward self-worship, then, leads to sexual relationships which mirror this same turn in se.' 
Simon J Gathercole, 'Sin in God's Economy: Agencies in Romans 1 and 7' in Divine and Human Agency in Paul and his Cultural Environment (Edited by John MG Barclay & Simon J Gathercole), p. 164. 


'...contrary to the philosophy of the Enlightenment, which aimed at emancipation and human happiness, technology is well and truly a process without purpose, devoid of any objectives: ultimately, nobody knows any longer the directions in which the world is moving, because it is automatically governed by competition and in no sense directed by the conscious will of men united by a project, at the heart of society...' 
Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought, p.215. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


'Although atheists would have us believe otherwise, the Christian religion is not entirely given over to waging war against the body, the flesh, the senses. If that were so, how would Christianity have accepted that the divine principle be incarnated in the person of Christ, that the Logos take on the physical aspect of a simple mortal?' 
Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought, p.89. 


'There is...a double humility in religion, which opposes it to Greek philosophy from the outset, and which corresponds to the two aspects of the theoria , that of the divinit (theion) and that of contemplative seeing (orao). On the one hand there is the humility, "objective" if you like, of a divine Logos which finds itself "reduced" in the person of Jesus to the status of a lowly mortal (too lowly, for the Greeks). On the other hand, there is the subjective humility of our being enjoined by believers to "let go" of our own thinking faculty, to forsake reason for trust, so as to make a place for faith.'   
Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought, p.66. 


' resting its case upon a definition of the human person and an unprecedented idea of love, Christianity was to have an incalculable effect upon the history of ideas. To give one example, it is quite clear that, in this Christian re-evaluation of the human person, of the individual as such, the philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe today would have never established itself.'  
Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought, p.60. 


'...what does it matter - for us, today - that the Logos (for the Stoics a "logical" ordering of the world) came to mean Christ as far as Christians were concerned? I might reply that today there exist more than a thousand million Christians - and that for this reason alone, to understand what drives them, their motives, the content and meaning of their faith, is not absurd for anyone with a modicum of interest in their fellow men. But this answer would be inadequate. For what is at stake in this seemingly abstract debate as to where the divine principle resides - whether in the structure of the universe or in the personality of one exceptional man - is no less that the transition from an anonymous and blind doctrine of salvation to one that promises not only that we shall be saved by one person, Christ, but that we shall be saved as individuals in our own right: for what we are, and as we are.' 
Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought, p.59. 


'...death means everything that is unrepeatable. Death is, in the midst of life, that which will not return; that which belongs irreversibly to time past, which we have no hope of ever recovering. It can mean childhood holidays with friends, the divorce of parents, or houses and schools we have to leave, or a thousand other examples: even if it does not always mean the disappearance of a loved one, everything that comes under the heads of "Nevermore" belongs in death's ledger.'  
Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: a A Philosophical Guide to Living, p.5. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


‘That was the trouble, he thought ruefully, about trying to take refuge in simplicity. The lovers of the simple were too inevitably complex.’
Wallace Stegner, Second Growth, p.208. 


‘We measure time by its deaths, yes, and by its births. For time is also told by life. As some depart, others come. The hand opened in farewell remains open in welcome. I, who once had grandparents and parents, now have children and grandchildren. Like a flowing river that is yet always present, time that is always going is always coming. And that time is told by death and birth is held and redeemed by love, which is always present. Time, then, is told by love’s losses, and by the coming of love, and by love continuing in gratitude for what is lost. It is folded and enfolded forever and ever, the love by which the dead are alive and the unborn welcomed into the womb. The great question for the old and dying, I think, is not if they have loved and been loved enough, but if they have been grateful enough for love received and given, however much. No one who has gratitude is the onliest one. Let us pray to be grateful to the last.’
Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett, p.119. 


‘Increasingly over the last maybe forty years, the thought has come to me that the old world in which our people lived by the work of their hands, close to the weather and earth, plants and animals, was the true world; and that the new world of cheap energy and even cheaper money, honored greed, and dreams of liberation from every restraint, is mostly theater. This new world seems a jumble of scenery and props never quite believable, an economy of fantasies and moods, in which it is hard to remember either the timely world of nature or the eternal world of the prophets and poets. And, I fear, I believe I know, that the doom of the older world I knew as a boy will finally afflict the new one that replaced it. 
The world I knew as a boy was flawed, surely, but it was substantial and authentic. The households of my grandparents seemed to breathe forth a sense of the real cost and worth of things. Whatever came, came by somebody’s work.’
Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett, p.93.


‘…I have learned to understand the old structure of racism as a malevolent convention, the malevolence of which it is hard to locate in the conscious intentions of most people. It was a circumstance that was mostly taken for granted. It was inexcusable, and yet we had the formidable excuse of being used to it. It was an injustice both accommodated and varyingly obscured not only by daily custom, but also by the exigencies and preoccupations of everyday life. We left the issue alone, not exactly by ignoring it, but by observing an elaborate etiquette that permitted us to ignore it. White people who wished to think well of themselves did not use the language of racial insult in front of black people. But the problem for us white people, as we finally had to understand, was that we could not be selectively complicit. To be complicit at all, even thoughtlessly by custom, was to be complicit in the whole extent and reach of the injustice. It is hard for a customary indifference to unstick itself from the abominations to which it tacitly consents. But we were used to it. What is hardest to get used to maybe, once you are aware, is the range of things humans are able to get used to. I was more used to this once than I am now.’
Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett, p.76. 


‘…a boy’s mind is different from an old man’s by precisely a lifetime.’
Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett: Early Travels, p.71. 


'I have often thought that the death of a parent is the one misfortune for which there is no compensation. Even when circumstances don't compound it. Even when others who love the child move quickly and smoothly to guard it and care for it. There is not any wisdom to be gained from the death of a parent. There are no memories of the parent that are not rendered painful by the death, no event surrounding the death that is redeemed by a single happy thought.'  
Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres, p.292. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014


'The married should be advised, then, that they not worry themselves so much about what they must endure from their spouse but consider what their spouse must endure on account of them.'
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.171. 


'For those who are bound in marriage should be advised that as they mutually consider what is good for their partner, they should be careful that when they please their spouse, they do not displease their Maker.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.169. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


'Since it is often the case that when a sermon is delivered in accordance with a high standard, the soul of the speaker is inflated by the hidden joys of self-display, therefore it is necessary that great care be taken so that he might feel the sting of fearful conscience. Otherwise, the one who is able to return others to health will ignore himself and develop the swelling of pride. Let him not abandon himself by helping others or stumble as he enables others to rise. Unfortunately, there are some for whom the greatness of their virtue has become the occasion for their perdition because they were foolishly secure in the confidence of their strength and then died unexpectedly  through negligence. For when virtue resists the vices, the soul is gratified. But in doing so, the mind of the one who does these good things ignores fear and circumspection and instead, rests secure in self-confidence.' 
Gregory the Great, Book of Pastoral Rule, p.209. 


'...every preacher should be "heard" more by his deeds than by his words. Moreover, the footprint of his good living should be that path that others follow rather than the sound of his voice showing them where to go.'
Gregory the Great, Book of the Pastoral Rule, p.206.


'...the human soul in this world is like a ship sailing against the current of a river - it is never able to stay in one place, because it will slide back to the lowest area, unless it struggles mightily.' 
Gregory the Great, Book of Pastoral Rule, p.197. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


'...those who desire the things of the world but are worn out by the labor of adversity should be advised that they wisely consider how great it is that the Creator and Dispenser of all things watches over all those whom he does not release to their own desires. For when a physician despairs for the life of a sick man, he allows him to take anything that he desires. But if it is believed that he might be made well, he is not permitted to have many of the things he desires.' 
Gregory the Great, Book of the Pastoral Rule, p.168. 


'....the hearts of novices who are growing in their understanding of the Word cut themselves with the sword of error as they make for themselves a reputation as teachers. Therefore, when we  instruct these people not to follow perverse teachings, it is necessary that we first advice them against seeking vainglory. For if the root of pride is cut out, then the branches of false teaching will wither.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.157. 


' hate God's enemies with a perfect hatred is to love what they were made to be but to reprove what they do; in other words, to reprove the actions of the wicked but to remain of assistance to them.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.152. 


' is a perfect justice for the one who receives from the common Lord to use it for the common good.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.146. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


'Let the humble hear how the things they strive for are eternal, and the things that they despise are transitory; let the proud hear that the things that they pursue are transitory, and the things that they abandon are eternal.' 
Gregory the Great, Book of Pastoral Rule, p.131. 

Monday, 23 June 2014


''s a sort of law, if you like, of political assassination that the person you hit should be a moderate - someone who holds the prospect of improvement rather than a hardliner. Hardliners are always the friends of extremists, moderates are their worst enemies.' 
Christopher Clark, 'Sarajevo' (Episode 1 of Month of Madness), BBC Radio 4, 23rd  June 2014.  


Exhortation to Prayer

What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of pray'r,
But wishes to be often there.

Pray'r makes the dark'ned cloud withdraw,
Pry'r climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings ev'ry blessing from above.

Restraining pray'r, we cease to fight;
Pray'r makes the christian's armor bright;
And Satan trembles, when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel's side;
But when thro' weariness they fail'd,
That moment Amalek prevail'd.

Have you no words? ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain;
And fill your fellow-creatures's ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath this vainly spent,
To heaven in supplication sent;
Your cheerful song would oft'ner be,
"Hear what the Lord has done for me!"

William Cowper, Verse and Letters, p.153.

Friday, 20 June 2014


'If there is anything more difficult or more real than the death of one's mother, I don't know what it is.'
Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres, p.54.


'Seeing him somewhere was always a pleasure, like taking a drink of water.'
Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres, p.7.


'O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.'
Gerard Manley Hopkins. 'No worst' in The Major Works, p.167.  


'It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. The intellect is stunned by the shock and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully wanting. The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss - that is all. It will take the mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details and this learn the whole extent of the loss. A man's house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And when he casts around for it he finds that it was in that house. Always it is an essential - there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house. It is irrevocably lost. He did not realize that it was an essential when he had it; he only discovers it now when he finds himself half balked, hampered by its absence. It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of the disaster.' 
Mark Twain in Frederick Buechner, Speak What We Feel (Not What We Ought to Say): Four Who Wrote in Blood,  p.78. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


'...the kind of equality which implies that the equals are interchangeable (like counters or identical machines) is, among humans, a legal fiction. It may be a useful fiction, but in church we turn our back on fictions. One of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolise to us the hidden things of God. One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living and seminal figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures.'  
CS Lewis, 'Priestesses in the Church?' in Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church (Edited by Lesley Walmsley), p.401.  

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


The Contrite Heart

Isaiah, lvii, 15

The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow:
Then tell me, gracious GOD, is mine
A contrite heart, or no?

I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel;
If aught is felt, 'tis only pain,
To find I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclin'd
To love thee, if I could;
But often feel another mind,
Averse to all that's good.

My best desires are faint and few,
I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry "My strength renew,"
Seem weaker than before.

They saints are comforted I know,
And love thy house of pray'r;
I therefore go where others go,
But find no comfort there.

O make this heart rejoice, or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break,
And heal it, if it be.

William Cowper, Verse and Letters, p.147. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


'...often those who are overtly silent, when they suffer some injustice, develop a greater pain because they do not speak about what they endure. For if their tongues spoke calmly about what they suffered, the pain would fade from consciousness. For wounds that are enclosed are more painful. But where the pain that burns internally is released, the wound is opened for healing. They should know, therefore, that they aggravate the seriousness of their pain by withholding all speech when they become annoyed. They are to be advised, therefore, that if they love their neighbors as themselves, they should not keep silent about the things that justly deserve censure. For by the medicine of the voice, both parties can receive healing: for the one who inflicted the harm, his evil actions are checked, and the one who sustained the pain is relieved by releasing his wound.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.122. 

Monday, 9 June 2014


'The wise of the world and the dull should be advised differently. For the wise should ignore what they know, and the dull should be encouraged to learn what they do not know. For the former, the first thing to eradicate is the notion that they are intelligent. For the latter, whatever is already known of heavenly wisdom is to be encouraged because, as they do not suffer from pride, their hearts are able to sustain some building.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.98. 


'...consolation is to be offered to those who are tried by the "furnace of poverty," while fear is to be instilled in those who exalt in the consolation of temporal glory. The first are to learn that they possess riches that they do not see, and the latter are to know that they cannot truly possess the riches that they behold.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.91. 

Friday, 6 June 2014


'It should also be known that good spiritual directors desire to please others, but this is to lead their neighbors by the sweetness of their own character to an affection for the Truth. It is not because they desire to be loved, but instead because they use affection for themselves as a sort of road to introduce the hearts of their audience to the love of the Creator. For it is certainly difficult for a preacher who is not loved, regardless of how well he speaks, to be heard. The one, then, who is set over others should study how to be endearing so that he may be heard, but not so that he can be loved for its own sake.'
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.76.  


' is important that the spiritual director be vigilant that he is not assailed by a desire to please others, or else even though he might carefully penetrate the things of the internal life and provide what is necessary of external concerns, he seeks the love of the laity more than he seeks the Truth; or supported by his good works and appearing to be otherworldly, his love of self separates him from his Creator. For he is the enemy of the Redeemer, who through the good works that he performs desires to be loved by members of the Church rather than by him. For indeed, a servant is guilty of adulterous thoughts if he desires to please the eyes of the bride when he is sent by the groom to offer gifts.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.74. 


'Doctrine does not penetrate the mind of the needy if the hand of compassion does not commend it to the soul. But the seed of the Word grows well, when the kindness of the preacher waters it in the heart of  his audience.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.72. 


'...when he was small to himself, he was great to the Lord; but when he thought of himself as great, he became small to the Lord.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.63.


'Often...a spiritual director swells with pride by virtue of being placed in a position in a position of authority over others. Because everything serves his needs and his orders are quickly performed according to his wishes and all the laity praise him for the things he does well but have no authority to critique what goes wrong, and because they often praise what really should be rebuked, the mind of the priest is often seduced by the approval of those below him, and as a consequence, he is exalted inordinately. And while he is outwardly encircled with immense favor, internally he loses his sense of truth. Forgetful of who he is, he scatters himself among the voices of others and believes what he hears them say about him rather than what he should discern about himself from within.'
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.62. 


'By nature a human is superior to a brute animal, but not other humans.'
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.62. 


'...those who preside over others should exhibit a type of behavior that will lead the laity to disclose their secrets to them. Consequently, when the weak endure the waves of temptation, they will return to their pastor's counsel as a crying child seeks its mother's breast. And in the solace of his counsel and the tears of prayer, the laity will cleanse themselves of the the defilement of sin that attacks them.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.60. 


'The spiritual director should be the first in service so that by his way of life he might show the laity how to live, and so that the flock (which follows the voice and behavior of its shepherd) may advance all the better by his example than by his words alone. For indeed, the one who is compelled by his position to speak of the highest things is also compelled, by necessity, to show the highest things by example. For his voice more easily penetrates his listeners' hearts when his way of life commends what he says. Thus, what he enjoins by speaking he helps by showing how it is to be done.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.51. 


In honour of St Alphonsus Rodriguez

'Glory is a flame off exploit, so we say,
And those fell strokes that once scarred flesh, scored shield,
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
Record, and on the fighter forge the day.
On Christ they do, they on the martyr may;
But where war is within, what sword we wield
Not seen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.
Yet, he that hews out mountain, continent,
Earth, all, at last; who, with fine increment
Trickling, vein violets and tall trees makes more
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.'

Gerard Many Hopkins, The Major Works, p.182. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


'If you can accept the existence of a Being powerful enough to be called God - the Creator and Sustainer of the universe - why is it so difficult to believe that he would be capable of communicating authentically and clearly to his creatures? That seems a somewhat smaller matter than spinning all the electrons around all the nuclei of billions upon billions of worlds, never mind simultaneously attending to the broken hearts and crushed spirits of his sentiment creatures.' 
Kathy Keller, Jesus, Justice, & Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry, p.12.

Monday, 2 June 2014


'...feeling and thinking are like two hands with which we grasp the world and that together serve us in gaining knowledge. Just as without good thinking we are prone to inappropriate feelings, so without our feelings we are actually incapable of proper feeling.' 
Michael Jensen, 'On Being Moved: A Theological Anthropology of the Emotions' in True Feelings: Perspectives on emotions in Christian life and ministry,  p.182. 


'Finally I thought of one true thing, which is that sometimes I act just as juvenile as I ever did, but as I get older, I do it for shorter periods of time. I find my way back to the path sooner...' 
Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually), p.251. 

Sunday, 1 June 2014


'God has not revealed His truth in a system; the Bible has no system as such. Lay aside system and fly to the Bible; receive its words with simple submission, and without eye to any system. Be Bible Christians and not system Christians.' 
Charles Simeon in Andrew Atherstone, Charles Simeon on the Excellency of the Liturgy, p.29. 


'That the constant repetition of the same form does not forcibly arrest the attention as new sentiments and expressions would do, must be confessed: but, on the other other hand, the use of a well-composed form secures us against the dry, dull, tedious repetitions which are but too frequently the fruit of extemporaneous devotions. Only let any person be in a devout frame, and will be far more likely to have his soul elevated to heaven by the Liturgy of the Established Church, than he will by the generality of prayers which he would hear in other places of worship...' 
Charles Simeon in Andrew Atherstone, Charles Simeon on the Excellency of the Liturgy, p.25. 

Saturday, 31 May 2014


'You can't give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself over to suffering.' 
Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter, p.171.


' have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of if, and now you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence.
But you have a life too that you remember. It stays with you. You have lived a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present, and your memories of it, remembered now, are of a different life in a different world and time.When you remember the past, you are not remembering it as it was. You are remembering it as it is. It is a vision or a dream, present with you in the present, alive with you in the only time you are alive. 
Your life, as you have lived it, is way back yonder in time. But you are still living, and you living life, expectations subtracted, has a shape, and the shape of it includes the past. The absent and the dead are in it. And the living are in it.' 
Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter, p.148.


'The hardest resentments to give up are the ones you felt knowingly as a child...'
Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter, p.103.

Friday, 30 May 2014


'Some Christians repress their emotions as they sing. They fear feeling everything too strongly and think maturity means holding back. But the problem is emotionalism  not emotions. Emotionalism pursues feelings as an end in themselves. It's wanting to feel something with no regard for how that feeling is produced or its ultimate purpose. Emotionalism can also be view heightened emotions as the infallible sign that God is present. In contrast, the emotions that singing is meant to invoke are a response to who God is and what he's done. Vibrant singing enables us to combine truth about God seamlessly with passion for  God.'  
Bob Kauflin in David G Peterson, Encountering God Together, p.141. 


'In thanking, blessing or praising God, a person expresses his or her own relation to the God he or she is adoring: joyous gratitude for what God has done and reverent alignment with God's character from which God's actions spring.' 
Miroslav Volf in David G Peterson, Encountering God Together, p.120. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


'He a model for everyone. He must be devoted entirely to the example of good living. He must be dead to the passions of the flesh and live a spiritual life. He must have no regard for worldly prosperity and never cower in the face of adversity. He must desire the internal life only. His intentions should not be thwarted by the frailty of the body, nor repelled by the abuse of the spirit. He should not lust for the possessions of others, but give freely of his own. He should be quick to forgive through compassion, but never so far removed from righteousness as to forgive indiscriminately. He must perform no evil acts but instead deplore the evil perpetrated by others as though it were his own. In his own heart, he must suffer the afflictions of others and likewise rejoice as the fortune of his neighbor, as though the good thing was happening to him. He must set such a positive example for others that he has nothing for which he should ever be ashamed. He should be such a student of how to live that he is able to water the arid hearts of his neighbors with the streams of doctrinal teaching. He should have already learned by practice and experience of prayer that he can obtain from the Lord whatever he requests, as though it were already said to him, specifically, by the voice of experience: "When you are speaking, I will say 'Here I am'"'  
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.43. 


'...if one recalls how he acted as a layperson, he suddenly knows if he will be able, as a leader, to do well. For no one is able to acquire humility while in the position of authority if he did not refrain from pride when in a position of subjection. He does not know to flee from praise when it abounds if he yearned for it when it was absent, just as no one is able to conquer his greed when he is given the role of sustaining many if he was unable to sustain himself on his own resources. Therefore, let everyone discover what he is from his past life, so that the fantasy of his thoughts does not deceive him because of his desire to lead. For its is very often the case that the discipline of good works, which was maintained in a time of tranquility, is ruined in the assumption of leadership. For an inexperienced sailor can steer a ship in calm waters, but even an experienced seaman is disordered by a storm. For what, indeed, is a position of spiritual authority but a mental tempest in which the ship of the heart is constantly shaken by storms of thoughts, tossed back and forth, until it is shattered by a sudden excess of words like hidden rocks of the sea?' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of the Pastoral Rule (Trans: George E Demacopoulos), p.42. 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


'Every Christ-centred gathering is an expression of our union with him and with each other before God's heavenly throne.' 
David G Peterson, Encountering God Together: Biblical patterns for ministry and worship, p.19. 

Monday, 26 May 2014


'The Church does not impose on us the idea that love should be permanent. Permanence is what the heart longs for. In her teaching that sex is meant to express permanent love (that is, marital love), the Church is simply inviting us to be true to the "song" that wells up from the deepest recesses of our souls. Listen to it! It is the Song of Songs.'
Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, p.101.