Saturday, 31 December 2016

TOP BOOKS OF 2016

In, as ever, no particular order (other than the rough order I read them in):
  • Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter
  • Jonathan Grant, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age
  • Mark Edmundson, Why Teach? In Defense of Real Education 
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life
  • Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies
  • Tim Winton, Scisson [Especially the story: A Blow, a kiss]
  • Penelope Lively,  Ammonites and Leaping Fish: A Life in Time
  • Godfrey Hodgson, JFK and LBJ: The Last Two Great Presidents
  • Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality
  • Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

PARENTS

'To this day, being able to "take advantage" of someone is the measure in my mind of having a parent.'
JD Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, p.104.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

ALL OUR DESIRES REALISED IN HIM

'Thank you so much for the expression of your desire and hope.
You know already that the young, attractive, affectionate, caring, intelligent, spiritual and socially conscious gay man has only one name: God!'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.343.

THE POWER OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

'The most beautiful fruit of accepting God's unconditional love for us is that it allows us to share that unconditional love with others. Indeed, strange as it may sound, we can become like God for others. It becomes possible to love without demanding love in return. That is the marvelous possibility of the children of God. They are free to love. It is a strong, energetic, vital and very active love. It is not a sentimental, all approving and always agreeing love. It even can be a confronting love. But it is unconditional.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.340.

OUR PERMANENT IDENTITY IN CHRIST

'Our first and most important spiritual task is to claim that unconditional love of God for ourselves. We have to dare to say 'Whether I feel it or not, whether I comprehend it or not, I know with a spiritual knowledge that I am God's beloved child, and nobody can take that divine childhood away from me.''
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.340.

BLESSED ARE THE POOR

'There was a time when I really wanted to help the poor, the sick and the broken, but to do it as one who was wealthy, healthy and strong. Now I see more and more how it is exactly through my weakness and brokenness that I minister to others. I am increasingly aware of the fact that Jesus does not say, 'Blessed are those who help the poor' but 'Blessed are the poor.' For me, this means that I have to come in touch with my own poverty to discover there the blessings of God and to minister from that place to others.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.281.

BODIES MATTER

'Spirit and Body cannot be separated. That is what the incarnation and resurrection is all about. But what a struggle! Some destroyed their bodies through self-castigation, others through unrestricted sensuality. Jesus loved the whole person body, mind and soul. But how to purify our passions while remaining passionate? I feel we need to keep thinking about these things. There remains so much hidden pain in so many hearts.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.249.

KNOWING GOD

'Doctrines and structures are basically nothing but the fences around the garden where we can meet God.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.235.

LIVING THE BIBLE

'I trust the Word of the Bible, and I want that Word to become, more and more, flesh in me. Maybe the question is not so much to read the Bible often but to let the Bible read me and reveal me to myself.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.220.

CHANGE COMES THROUGH LOOKING TO JESUS

'The more we look into ourselves and try to figure ourselves out, the more we become entangled in our own imperfections. Indeed, we cannot save ourelves. Only Jesus can save us. That is why it is so important to remove your inner eye away from the complexities of your own heart towards the pure but broken heart of Jesus. Looking at Him and His immense mercy will give you the ability to accept your own imperfections and to really let yourself be cared for by the mercy and love of Jesus.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.204.

CHURCH CONFLICT

'The fact is that much of the suffering taking place in the Church is the result of tensions among those who love the Lord. Ever since the conflict between Paul and Peter, and Paul and Barnabas, much pain within the Church has been the result of conflict among the disciples of Jesus. To live that kind of conflict is one of the hardest aspects of the Christian life. The only way to find our way through it is unceasing prayer. I really don't see any other way. I hope you agree.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.

COMMUNITY THROUGH DISABILITY

'...I have come to see that people with a mental handicap have a unique gift to call us to community. Precisely because they are so dependent on others, they call us to live together, sharing our gifts, and form a sign of light in the midst of this world. I have been deeply impressed by how people from the most different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, who otherwise would never have met, have started to live in community because of their common desire to live with and learn from the mentally handicapped people. In a world so filled with individualism and so preoccupied with stars and heroes, the call of the handicapped to form communities of love is truly a blessing from Heaven.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.152.

SINGLENESS

'A celibate is not a bachelor. It is a person with a unique connection with the Church and therefore with a special call to faithfulness, obedience and love.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.81.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

PASTORAL CARE

'When I think about my life and my work, I think about it more as a way of being present to people with all I have. I have always tried to respond as honestly as I possibly could to the needs and concerns of the people who became part of my life, and I have tried to respond with whatever my own life has taught me.
Jesus' invitation to 'lay down my life for others' has always meant more to me than any physical martyrdom. I have always heard these words as an invitation to make my own life struggles, my doubts, my hopes, my fears and my joys, my pains, and my moments of ecstasy available to others as a source of consolation and healing. To witness for Christ means to me to witness for Him with what I have seen with my own eyes, heard with my own ears and touched with my own hands.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.74.

HOW HONESTY BUILDS FRIENDSHIP & COMMUNITY

'It is amazing in my own life that true friendship and community became possible to the degree that I was able to share my weaknesses with others. Often I became aware of the fact that in the sharing of my weaknesses with others, the real depths of my human brokenness and weakness and sinfulness started to reveal itself to me, not as a source of despair but as a source of hope. As long as I try to convince myself or others of my independence a lot of my energy is invested building up my own false self. But once I am able to truly confess my most profound dependence on others and on God, I can come in touch with my true self and a real community can develop.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.48.

MEDITATION & IDENTITY

'The whole central idea of meditation is simply to pay attention to God and find your real self in him.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri, p.38.

THE PROBLEM WITH BEING A SERVANT OF GOD

'We all want to be of service, but it is very hard to be a servant when we realize that that implies that we cannot determine the nature of our service ourselves.'
Henri JM Nouwen, Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life, p.33.

THE GREAT TRUE FAIRY STORY

'Jesus Christ has come from that eternal supernatural world that we sense is there, that our hearts know is there even though our heads say no. At Christmas he punched a hole between the ideal and the real, the eternal and the temporal, and came into our world...there is an evil sorcerer in this world, and we are under enchantment, and there is a noble prince who has broken the enchantment, and there is a love from which we will never be parted.'
Timothy Keller, Hidden Christmas, p.27.

THE TRUTH IN FAIRY STORIES

'"Beauty and the Beast" tells us that there's a love that can break us out of the beastliness that we have created for ourselves. "Sleeping Beauty" tells us we are in a kind of sleeping enchantment and there is a noble prince who can come and destroy it. We hear these stories and they stir us, because deep inside our hearts [we] believe, or want to believe, that these things are true. Death should not be the end. We should not lose our loved ones. Evil should not triumph. Our hearts sense that even though the stories themselves aren't true, the underlying realities behind the stories are somehow true or ought to be.'
Timothy Keller, Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth behind the Birth of Christ, p.26.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

INTIMACY IS MORE THAN SEX

'The church's de facto decision to let popular culture define passion as sexual intimacy has disastrous theological consequences. On the one hand, separating body and spirit tends to reduce to 'parts and plumbing' - the usual content of church-sponsored sexual retreats - as the human desire for otherness becomes associated with biology rather than identity in God... When sexuality is primarily a matter of biological function, affirming sexuality (which Christian doctrine requires) means celebrating body parts, while at the same time telling teenagers not to use them. Teenagers are quick to see the inconsistency.'
Kenda Creasy Dean in Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, p.143.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

JESUS & WOMEN

'The depth and breadth of the robust embodiment with which Jesus related to women in highly significant for cultures obsessed with sex. The Gospel stories offer a rich embodied distinction between sex and sexuality. These stories highlight Jesus' freedom and authority to live and practice an enfleshed, physical, concrete, nonromantic nearness with women in a culture that had no place to put such physical nearness and touch with one's female neighbor.' 
Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, p.120. 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

CREATED FOR AND BY LOVE

'We were created and redeemed by Lovers and we are lovers.' 
Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, p.91. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

FRIENDSHIP

'A friendship that calls for reverence is a relationship in which the friend is valued as irreplaceable, as one for whom, within one's circle of affection, there could be no double. In the most significant kind of friendship, we value our friends for their own sake, not just as pleasant company or as social assets.' 
Caroline Simon in Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, p.81. 

LIFE IS ABOUT ONENESS

'Nothing in the Bible makes sense if one does not begin with the garden of Eden as a life one oneness - human beings in union with God and in communion with the self, with one another, and with the world around them. Life is about "oneness" - oneness with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. When the oneness is lived out, God is glorified and humans delight in that glory.' 
Scot McKnight in Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Scared Passions, p.71. 

MALE & FEMALE INTIMACY

'In my thirty years of attending churches I have heard two narratives in Christian communities: 1) the marital/ romantic story, and 2) the danger story. Both stories of course, involve an introduction, a plot, and a climax towards the same thing: sex. Freud no doubt, would heartily endorse these two stories. But are we to settle for only Freudian sexual formation in our faith communities? As Protestants, we have to ask ourselves, why do we reduce deep, male-female intimacy in our communities to the great Freudian "sex charade?" If the church is going to present an alternative, eschatological community of brothers and sisters bonded together as one in Christ, formation and friendship must suggest that Christian sexuality has multiple paths for men and women.' 
Dan Brennan, Sacred Union, Sacred Passions, p.56. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER

'God, who is love, calls us all - singles, husbands. wives, widows, widowers, divorced - into a spirituality of love and friendship in marriage, beyond marriage and outside of marriage. While God honors and blesses the marriage bed, God does not confine delight, goodness, passion, attraction, beauty, sensuality, spontaneity, or creativity to the boundaries of married love. Jesus himself embodied these realities as a single man.' 
Dan Brennan, Scared Unions, Sacred Passions, p.44. 

EVANGELICAL INDIVIDUALISM

'The beginning of the evangelical conversion story centers on the experience of a private and isolated decision to follow Christ. This focus on a privatized spirituality continues as the evangelical sub-culture stresses how our evangelical identity is found in "quiet times," or our commitment to private prayer and Bible reading. The isolated experience tends to be the high point for evangelical spirituality. In fact, evangelical theologians and pastors have encouraged, exhorted, and entreated Christians to depend on God alone as their helper, deliverer, burden bearer, refuge, strength, encourager, friend, and counselor. Scores of books have been written on the virtue and benefit of private, isolated, withdrawn, personal prayer. With an inordinate emphasis on the individual, it is rare to find an evangelical who values formation from paired friendship love and community.'  
Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, p.29. 

THE PURPOSE OF SEXUALITY

'Sexuality is the human drive toward intimate communion.' 
Lewis Smedes in Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions,. Sacred Passions, p.25. 

COUNTER-CULTURAL LOVE STORIES

'Romantic love does not have a monopoly on all deep love stories between men and women.' 
Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, p.20. 

SOME GOOD QUESTIONS

'What would our marriages, our friendships, our churches, and our communities look like if men and women were not afraid of connecting with each other in deep ways? What if men and women could really know each other without sex getting in the way? What if we did not have to be so afraid of own own and other's bodies that we cannot trust ourselves with them?' 
Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions,. Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women, p.17. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

SEX

'Sex is not a no-no. It is not taboo. It is a gift that invites husbands and wives to taste Eden together - naked and without shame, known and embraced, exposed and not rejected.' 
Scott Sauls, Befriend, p.76. 

RELATIONSHIPS

'One of the most overlooked benefits of love is how God works through it to mature us. Part of why he pouts us in each other's lives is to create a tension in our lives, a redemptive pressure, that has potential to improve our characters. If love and friendship aren't leading us to grow in the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, then love and friendship are malfunctioning in some way.' 
Scott Sauls, Befriend, p.66. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

POSITIVE EVANGELISM

'After eighteen years of pastoral ministry, I have never met a person who fell in love with Jesus because a Christian scolded them about their ethics. Have you?' 
Scott Sauls, Befriend, p.19. 

REAL FRIENDS

'Real friends not only agree but disagree; real friends not only applaud each other's strengths but challenge each other's weaknesses; real friends not only enjoy life together but struggle through life together; real friends not only praise one another but apologise to and forgive one another; real friends not only rally around their points of agreement but love and learn from their points of disagreement.' 
Scott Sauls, Befriend: create belonging in an age of judgment, isolation and fear, p.4. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

NOT ALL SINS ARE DECISIONS

'...not all sins are decisions. Because we tend to be intellectualists who assume that we are thinking things, we construe temptation and sin accordingly: we think temptation is an intellectual reality, where some idea is presented to us that we then think about and make a conscious choice to pursue (or not). But once you realize that we are not just thinking things but creatures of habit, you'll then realize that temptation isn't just about bad ideas or wrong decisions; it's often a factor of de-formation and wrongly ordered habits. In other words, our sins aren't just discrete, wrong actions and bad decisions; they reflect vices. And overcoming them requires more than just knowledge; it requires re habituation, a reformation of our loves.' 
James KA Smith, You Are What You Love, p.54. 

PASTORS AS ETHNOGRAPHERS

'Pastors need to be ethnographers of the everyday, helping parishioners see their own environment as one that is formative, and too often deformantive.' 
James KA Smith, You Are What You Love, p.40. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

CONFESSION IN WORSHIP

'The body of Christ is that unique community of practice whose members own up to the fact that we don't always love what we say we do - that the "devices and desires" of our hearts outstrip our best intentions. The practices of Christian worship are a tangible, practiced, re-formative way to address this tension and gap.' 
James KA Smith, You Are What You Love, p.30. 

THE POWER OF OUR IDOLS

'Our idolatries...are more liturgical than theological. Our most alluring idols are less intellectual inventions and more affective projections - they are the fruit of disordered wants, not just misunderstandings or ignorance.' 
James KA Smith, You Are What You Love, p.23. 

OUR LONGINGS ORIENTATE US

'To be human is to be animated and orientated by some vision of the good life, some picture of what we think counts as "flourishing." And we want that. We crave it. We desire it. This is why our most fundamental mode of orientation to the world is love. We are orientated by our longings, directed by our desires. We adopt ways of life that are indexed to such visions of the good life, not usually because we "think through" our options but rather because some picture captures our imagination.' 
James KA Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, p.11. 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

BEAUTY

'Abandoned of beauty, being loses something.'
Plotinus in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.243. 

A GOD WHO CREATES VENOM

'Whatever else may be true, God has created venom, and we must not scruple to say it. If we have any conception of goodness that forbids this kind of possibility in God, then our God plainly enough does not exists, or the God that does exists is not He...And we need not scruple to confess a degree of satisfaction in this kind of discovery, showing that goodness is no such innocent, mawkishly insipid character, not such mollusc softness swimming in God's bosom as may affect to suppose...' 
Horace Bushell in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.231. 

PRAISE

'Praise is a multi-species activity, expressed in the peregrine falcon's graceful flight as well as a performance of Handel's Messiah.'
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.222.  

HUMAN DESIRES GONE WRONG

'Desire has a volatile, risky character, ever teetering on the edge of disaster. The human response to God's longing for relationship is an imperfect, often twisted repetition of God's own desire. It is easily distracted and distorted, as we have seen in the course of Puritan history. Abandoning their deepest yearning for God, human beings seek out objects to dominate and use to their own advantage. The desire of the moment becomes more satisfying than the opened-ended longing that is God's persistent lure of the hungry heart. Wonder and awe give way to a quest for immediate possession and use. The result is a world transformed into commodities of desire.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.217. 

WHAT MAKES THE WORLD ROUND?

'The whole world is strangely linked together in vast mystery of attraction and interdependence.'
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.217.

REFORMED THEOLOGY, LONGING & DESIRE

'Reformed theology has been more absorbed in multiplying words than in entertaining mystery. Despite its lip service to the notion of God's indescribable grandeur, the tradition talks and writes endlessly about what cannot be said. It aspires to an apophatic sense of awe, but retains a penchant for logical expectation. It pierces the mystery of the divine will through intricate efforts at reconciling God's foreknowledge and human destiny. It solves the conundrum of God's permission of evil by reducing the divine to tidy intellectual constructs. It emphasizes God's utter transcendence to the extent of trivializing the world that God has made. The result is a relentless proliferation of words and an utter failure of wonder. 
In contrast, God's self-disclosure in creation (as emphasized in other parts of the tradition) would take us out of ourselves, opening our language to the energy of the metaphor, challenging our presumptions about our place in the world, and questioning our arrogant claims to master the mysteries of the divine. It summons us to amazement - to the irrepressible energies of desire. Calvin himslef urged that the goal of God's revelation in creation and Scripture alike is "that we be ravished in love with our God (d'estre ravis en l'armour de nostre dieu) and inflamed with a right affection to obey him, and keep ourselves strictly in awe of him."To know God, in his thinking, is to desire God, to be ravished by a beauty beyond our understanding. 
Calvin and Edwards grasped the truth that the sensuous body of the earth teaches us what our minds are unable to bear. For them, the spiritual life necessarily begins with longing. Intellectual questions are always secondary. Ours is a faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum). We understand only what we have first experienced through arousal of desire.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.213. 

CREATION

'Can we - when we behold the stately theatre of heaven and earth - conclude other, but that the finger, armes, and wisdome of God hath beene here, although we see not him that is invisible....? Every creature in heaven and earth is a loud preacher of this Truth.' 
Thomas Shepherd in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.211. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

LIVING THE BIBLE

'The Bible is not only a book to read, to learn, to pray over - an interesting and moving story. It is essentially a story to be relived. It presents me with things I cannot contemplate passively, as if it were an interesting story but one that did not concern me. I must react; I must relive the religious experience contained in the text.'  
Mariano Magrassi, Praying the Bible, p.89. 

THE BIBLE IS JUST A PRELUDE

'...a banquet of delights which is a prelude to that of heaven...'
Gregory the Great in Mariano Magrassi, Praying the Bible, p.65. 

THE INCARNATION

'All history is seen as a pregnancy that leads essentially to the birth of the incarnate Word of God.'
Mariano Magrassi, Praying the Bible, p.46. 

THE COMPLEXITY OF GOD'S WORD

'It is in point to notice also the structure and style of Scripture, a structure so unsystematic and various, and a style so figurative and indirect, that no one would presume at first sight to say what is in it and what is not. It cannot, as it were, be mapped, or its contents catalogued; but after all our diligence, to the end of our lives and the end of the Church, it must be an unexplored and subdued land, with heights and valleys, forests and streams, on the right and left of our path and close about us, full of concealed wonders and choice treasures.' 
John Henry Newman in Mariano Magrassi, Praying the Bible, p.38. 

INTIMACY WITH GOD

'If you pray, you are speaking to your Spouse; if you read, he is speaking to you.' 
Jerome in Mariano Magrassi, Praying the Bible, p.16. 

AN INSTANT CURE?

'The instant cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us. This would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be enlarged. This would burn away the impurities from our lives as the bugs and fungi were burnt away by the fire that dwelt in the bush.' 
AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p.40. 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD

'...the presence of God is central fact of Christianity. At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for his redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His presence. That type of Christianity that appears now to be in vogue knows this Presence only in theory. It fails to stress the Christian's privilege of present realisation. According to its teachings we are in the presence of God positionally, and nothing to be said about the need to experience that Presence actually. The fiery urge that drove men like McCheyne is wholly missing. And the present generation of Christians measures itself by this imperfect rule. Ignoble contentment takes the place of burning zeal. We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions and, for the most part, we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience.' 
AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p.38. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

THE POWER OF ART

'...the greater the art's beauty, the greater the sense of yearning it evokes.' 
Frank Burch Brown in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.193. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

JONATHAN EDWARDS & CONVERSION

'The light and comfort which some of them enjoy, gives a new relish to their common blessings, and causes all things about 'em to appear as it were beautiful, sweet and pleasant to them: all things abroad, the sun, moons and stars, the clouds and sky, the heavens and earth, appear as it were with a cast of divine glory and sweetness upon them.' 
Jonathan Edwards in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.186. 

JONATHAN EDWARDS & CREATION

'As an heir of John Locke, Edwards put a twist on the way that people in the eighteenth century ordinarily spoke of knowing God in comparison to how they knew the world around them. Most were accustomed to distinguishing between their knowledge of the physical world (by sensation) and their knowledge of an ethereal, non-sensory God (by faith and reason). Edwards argued, however, that God in the mystery of God's own being is far more "sensuous" - more full of infinite delights, more prone to endless expansion of relationships, more astonishingly beautiful - than anything that you can imagine in this stunningly sensuous world around us. In effect, he said, if you think this world is sensuous and beautiful you haven't seen anything yet!All this is but a dim, quasi-sensual reflection of God's still greater glory, overflowing spontaneously from the mystery of God's inner-Trinitarian life. That's when all desire and all connectedness find their birth.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.179. 

JESUS IN CREATION

'...when we are delighted with flowery meadows and gentles breezes of wind, we may consider that we only see the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ; when we behold the fragrant rose and lily, we see his love and purity. So the green trees and fields, and singing of birds, are emanations of his infinite joy and benignity; the easiness and naturalness of trees and vines shadows of his infinite beauty and loveliness; the crystal rivers and murmuring streams have the footsteps of his sweet grace and bounty.' 
Jonathan Edwards in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.177. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

DESPOILING CREATION

'...it is a sin to make ugly what God has created for the purpose of reflecting and sharing God's beauty.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.172. 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

THE ULTIMATE MARRIAGE

'Shall Mortall, and Immortall marry? nay,
Man Marry God? God be a Match for Mud?
The King of Glory Wed a Worm? mere Clay?
This is the Case. The Wonder too in Bliss.
Thy Maker is thy husband. Hearst thou this?'
Edward Taylor in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.110. 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

TRUE PREACHING

'Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the church of the living God. Without it no church can be New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, and that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and centre of their hearts.' 
AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p.13. 

KNOWING GOD

'We shall never be capable of clearly knowing till we are capable of fully enjoying...' 
Richard Baxter in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.105. 

ALL CREATURES GREAT & SMALL

'Every creature is a line leading to God.' 
Benjamin Whichcote in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.104. 

THE BEAUTY OF CREATION

'I said to all those things which stand about the gate to my senses: "Tell me about my God...tell me something about him." And they cried out in a loud voice: "He made us." My question was in my contemplation of them, and their answer was in their beauty.' 
Augustine of Hippo in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.101. 

DESIRE FOR JESUS

'Clear up thine eye, and fix it on him as upon the fairest of men, the perfection of spiritual beautie...., accordingly fasten on him, not thine eye only, but thy mightiest love, and hottest affection. Look on him so, that thou maist lust after him; for here it is a sin, not to look that thou maist lust, and not to lust having looked.' 
Bernard of Clairvaux in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.100. 

GOD'S GOODNESS

'God is a delicious good. That which is the chief good must ravish the soul with pleasure: there must be in it rapturous delight and quintessence of joy.' 
Thomas Watson in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.99. 

PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW

'When we taste things that are delicately sweet, let us say to ourselves, O how sweet is that God from whom all these creatures have received their sweetness.' 
Lewis Bayly in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.98. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

ANGRY PRAYER

'...the Psalmists insists that if the only prayer we have to offer is one of bitter anguish, we pray it nonetheless. The poet knows that in the release of anger, intimacy is realized. God longs for whatever lies in the depths of the soul.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.95. 

PREACHING

'The Word of God is not distinguished from the word of the prophet. God does not wish to be heard but by the voice of his ministers. Christ acts by them in such a manner that he wishes their mouth to be reckoned as his mouth, and their lips as his lips.' 
John Calvin in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.80. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

THE CLIMAX OF GOD'S PRODUCTION

'At the heart of the performance - near the end of the second act, perhaps - there is something easily misunderstood, if not missed altogether. What is set up to be the the grandest display of God's glory in the whole production turns out to be the enigmatic entrance of a clown, a fool who dies on a cross. This scene provokes nervous laughter from some, a degree of pity from others, but for most of the audience a strange sense that the play has somehow gotten off track and lost its direction. Yet this is the point of dramatic reversal on which everything else hinges. In this moment, all mask are removed, all costumes taken off and God's desire is revealed at last as naked and unbounded love.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.73. 

OUR FATHER GOD

'God of his nature is inclines to allure us to himself by gentle and loving means, as a father goes about to win his children, by laughing with them and giving them all they desire. If a father could always laugh with his children and fulfill all their desires, all his delight would surely be in them. Such a one does God show himself to be towards us.' 
John Calvin in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty,. p.71. 

GOD'S INTOXICATING CREATION

'We see, indeed, the world with our eyes, we tread the earth with our feet, we touch the innumerable kinds of God's works with our hands, we inhale a sweet and pleasant fragrance from herbs and flowers, we enjoy boundless benefits; but in those very things of which we attain some knowledge, there dwells such an immensity of divine power, goodness, and wisdom, as absorbs all our senses.' 
John Calvin in Belden C Lance, Ravished by Beauty, p.69. 

FORETASTES OF HEAVEN

'For in this world God blesses us in such a way as to give us a mere foretaste of his kindness, and by that taste to entice us to desire heavenly blessings with which we may be satisfied.' 
John Calvin in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.69.  

CALVIN THE CHARISMATIC

'We are cold when it comes to rejoicing in God! Hence, we need to exercise ourselves in it and employ all our senses in it - our feet, our hands, our arms and all the rest - that they all might serve in the worship of God and so magnify him.' 
John Calvin in Beldon C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.69 

THE CHURCH

'The whole world is a theater for the display of the divine goodness, wisdom, justice and power; but the church is the orchestra, as it were - the most conspicuous part of it.' 
John Calvin in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.67. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

THE SOURCE OF WISDOM

'The chief means for attaining wisdom...are the holy scriptures, and prayer. The one is the fountain of living water, the other the bucket with which we are to draw.' 
John Newton in Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, My Rock, My Refuge, p.314. 

FORGIVENESS

'....willingly to cast from the mind wrath, hatred, desire for revenge, and willingly to banish to oblivion the remembrance of injustice.' 
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Ed; John T McNeill), p.912. 

PRAYER IS LOVE

'...there is nothing in which we can benefit our brethren more than in commending them to the providential care of the best of fathers; for if he is kind and favorable, nothing at all else can be desired. Indeed, we owe this very thing to our Father. Just as one who truly and deeply loves any father of a family at the same time embraces his whole household with love and good will, so it becomes us in like measure to show his people, to his family, and lastly, to his inheritance, the same zeal and affection we have toward this heavenly Father.' 
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Ed: John T McNeill), p.901. 

Monday, 7 November 2016

THE DOUBLE IRONY OF REFORMED SPIRITUALITY

'The Puritans (as Reformed believers) had to set clear boundaries about sexual behavior because of their passionate spirituality. They also had to caution themselves against the danger of pantheism because of the earthly spirituality they espoused - warning themselves against confusing the world's lesser beauty with God's unique glory. Reformed Christians who seem prudish and proper are thus revealed to be a people of incredibly passionate desire. Calvinist believers who seem so focused on divine transcendence turn out to be closet nature mystics who exult in God's beauty everywhere in creation. This is the double irony of Reformed spirituality. Curiously the tradition has come to be known more for its cautions against pantheism and passion than for its original emphases on nature and desire themselves.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.26. 

CALVIN & NATURE

'We have been placed here, as in a spacious theater, to behold the works of God, and there is no work of God so small as we ought to pass by it it lightly, but all ought to be carefully and diligently observed.' 
John Calvin in Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.21. 

BEAUTY

'Every experience of beauty involves the joyous agony of a desire unattained.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty, p.6. 

GOOD TEACHERS

'The satisfied never make good teachers. It isn't the mastery of truth, but a relentless longing for it that qualifies those who become trusted guides for others. Mark it down as a rule: the desert alone possesses the secret knowledge of water.' 
Belden C Lane, Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality, p.1. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

THE BIBLE

'Contemporary people tend to examine the Bible, looking for things they can't accept, but Christians should reverse that, allowing the Bible to examine us looking for things God can't accept.' 
Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, My Rock, My Refuge, p.307. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

EVERY LIBRARY IS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL

'Every library is autobiographical...our books will bear witness for or against us, our books reflect who we are and what we have been...What makes a library a reflection of its owner is not merely the choice of titles themselves, but the mesh of associations implied in the choice.' 
Alberto Manguel in Penelope Lively, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, p.184. 

TO READ IS TO EXPERIENCE

'What we have read makes us what we are - quite as much as what we have experienced and where we have been and who we have known. To read is to experience.' 
Penelope Lively, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, p.161. 

MEMORY

'What memory has in common with art is the knack for selection, the taste for detail...Memory contains precisely details, not the whole picture; highlights, if you will, not the entire show.' 
Joseph Brodsky in Penelope Lively, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, p.127. 

AGE & IDENTITY

'The body may decline, may seem a dismal reflection of what went before, but the mind has a healthy continuity, and some kind of inbuilt fidelity to itself, a coherence over time. We learn, and experience; attitudes and opinions may change, but most people, it seems to me, retain an essential persona, a cast of mind, a trademark footprint. It is not so much that we simply get more like ourselves, as has been said, but that the self in question may expand, mutate, over time, but retains always that signature identity.' 
Penelope Lively, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, p.42. 

READING

'Reading in old age is doing for me what it has always done - it frees me from the closet of my own mind. Reading fiction, I see through the prism of another person's understanding; reading everything else, I am travelling - I am travelling in the way that I still can: new sights, new experiences. I am reminded sometimes of the intensity of childhood reading, that absolute absorption when the very ability to read was a heady new gain, the gateway to a different place, to a parallel universe you hadn't known was there. The one entirely benign mind-altering drug. Except of course for those who ban or burn books, in which benign doesn't come into it, but the power of books is all the more acknowledged.
So I have my drug, perfectly legal and I don't need a prescription.' 
Penelope Lively, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, p.36. 

MEMORY

'...memory - the vapour trail without which which we are undone...' 
Penelope Lively, Ammonites & Leaping Fish, p.5. 

A LIFE HAS CONTEXT

'A lifetime is embedded; it does not float free, it is tethered - to certain decades, to places, to people. It has a context; each departure leaves a person-shaped void - the absence within a family, the presence lost within a house, in a community, in society itself. We go, but hang on for a while in other people's heads - something we said, something we did; we leave a ghostly imprint on our backdrop. A very few people go one further and are distilled into a blue plaque on a building.' 
Penelope Lively, Ammonites & Leaping Fish: A Life in Time, p.3. 

LIFE IS THIRST

'Cavanaugh, lifting his wineglass, talked to it. "Life," he said. Then said, "Life is thirst." Nobody was listening. He drank his thirst.'
Leonard Michaels, The Men's Club, p.84. 

"MOVING ON"

'Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because
any sensible person knows grief is a long-term
project. I refuse to rush. The pain that is thrust upon
us let no man slow or speed or fix.' 
Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, p.99. 

LOVING KINDNESS

'They offer me a space on the sofa next to them
and the pain of them being so naturally kind is like
appendicitis. I need to double over and hold myself
because they are so kind and keep regenerating and
recharging their kindness without any input from me.'
Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, p.46.  

MEN & WOMEN

'She told us that men were rarely truly
kind, but they were often funny, which
is better. "You would do well to prepare
yourselves for disappointment" she said,
"in your dealings with men. Women are on
the whole much stronger, usually cleverer"
she said, "but less funny which is a shame..."
Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, p.33. 

CHILDHOOD GRIEF

'Holiday and school became the same.'
Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, p.14. 

CHILDHOOD GRIEF

'....every crayon, tractor, coat, welly, covered in a film of grief...'
Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, p.9. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

JESUS

'He is our mouth, through which we speak to the Father; he is our eye, through which we see the Father; he is our right hand, through which we offer ourselves to the Father. Unless he intercedes, there is no intercourse with God either for us or for all saints.' 
Ambrose in John Calvin, Institues of the Christina Religion 2 (Edited by John T McNeill) p.879. 

Monday, 31 October 2016

INCOMMUNICABLE KNOWLEDGE

'Older farmers I knew used to be fond of saying, "I can't tell you how to do that, but I can put you where you can learn." There is such a thing, then, as incommunicable knowledge, knowledge that comes only by experience and by association.' 
Wendell Berry, 'Local Knowledge in the Age of Information' in The Way of Ignorance, p.125. 

ROOTLESSNESS

'Since the end of World War II, the economic, technological and social forces of industrialism have pretty thoroughly disintegrated the rural communities of the United States and, I believe, of other parts of the world also, inducing in them a "mobility" that has boiled over in the cities, disintegrating them as well.' 
Wendell Berry, 'Local Knowledge in the Age of Information' in The Way of Ignorance, p.115. 

THE DANGER OF "AINT--IT-AWFUL" CONVERSATION

'All of us who are committed to saving things of value have been in what Wes Jackson calls "the ain't-it-awful conversation," in which we recite the current litany of outrages. We have been in that conversation, and, if we have brought to it a modicum of sanity, we have recognized sooner or later the need to get out of it. The logical end of the aint-it-awful conversation, as of the life devoted merely to opposition, is despair. People quit having any fun, they begin to talk about the "inevitability" of what they are against, and they give up. Mere opposition finally blinds us to the good of the things we are trying to save. And it divides us hopelessly from our opponents, who no doubt are caricaturing us while we are demonizing them. We lose, in short, the sense of shared humanity that would permit us to say even to our worst enemies, "We are working, after all, in your interest and your children's. Ours is a common effort, for the common good. Come and join us."' 
Wendell Berry, 'The Purpose of a Coherent Community' in The Way of Ignorance, p.74. 

BEING A FARMER & BEING A PASTOR

'The most insistent and formidable concern of agriculture, wherever it is taken seriously, is the distinct individuality of every farm, every field on every farm, every farm family, and every creature on every farm. Farming becomes a high art when farmers know and respect in their work the distinct individuality of their place and the neighborhood of creatures that lives there.' 
Wendell Berry, 'Imagination in Place' in The Way of Ignorance, p.45. 

THE RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM OF RIGHT & LEFT

'Conservative individualism strongly supports "family values" and abominates lust. But it does not dissociate itself from the profits accruing from the exercise of lust (and, in fact, of the other six deadly sins), which it encourages in its advertisements. The "conservatives" of our day understand pride, lust, envy, anger, covetousness, gluttony, and sloth as virtues when they lead to profit or to political power. Only as unprofitable or unauthorized personal indulgences do they rank as sins, imperiling salvation of the soul, family values, and national security. 
Liberal individualism, on the contrary, understands sin as a private matter. It strongly supports protecting "the environment," which is that part of the world which surrounds, at a safe distance, the privately-owned body. "The environment" does not include the economic landscape of agriculture and forestry or their human communities, and it does not include the privately-owned bodies of other people - all of which appear to have been bequeathed in fee simple to the corporate individualists. 
Conservative rugged individualists and liberal rugged individualists believe alike that they should be "free" to get as much as they can of whatever they want. Their major difference is that they want (some of the time) different sorts of things.'
Wendell Berry, 'Rugged Individualism' in The Way of Ignorance and other essays, p.10. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

MEETING GOD IN HIS WORD

'...reading the Bible is not fundamentally a comprehension exercise. Interpretation should serve only to lead us to an encounter with God as he actually presents himself to us in Scripture.' 
Timothy Ward, Words of Life, p.175. 

PREACHING & THE HOLY SPIRIT

'...in preaching the Spirit speaks through a Spirit-given Word, by means of a Spirit-formed preacher to a Spirit-indwelt people. At every point the preacher is hemmed in by the work and life of the Spirit.' 
Timothy Ward, Words of Life, p.169. 

SCRIPTURE & TRADITION

'...sola scriptura, in its proper formulation as found in the thinking of the mainstream Protestant Reformers, is not what many of its modern critics or defenders imagine it is. It does not deny the necessity of traditions of biblical interpretation, credal formulations of biblical faith, and inherited church practices that help to express and pass on the faith. Rather it ensures that all those traditions serve Scripture, the supreme authority, rather than compete with it. Sola Scriptura  means "Scripture supreme"' 
Timothy Ward, Words of Life, p.151. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

THE VALUE OF OUR BODIES

'If indeed the flesh possesses no useful function, why did Christ heal it?' 
Justin Martyr in Charlie Cleverly, The Song of Songs, p.222.  

Sunday, 23 October 2016

THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE

'The authority of Scripture is a statement about what God did in authoring Scripture, and about how he continues to act in relation to Scripture.' 
Timothy Ward, Words of Life, p.128. 

THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE

'The phrase "the authority of Scripture" must be understood to be shorthand for the "the authority of God as he speaks through Scripture". To speak about the authority of Scripture is really to say more about God, and about the ways he chooses to act and speak in the world, than it is to say something directly about Scripture itself. The authority of Scripture is dependent entirely on the authority of God, and comes about only because of what God has chosen to do in presenting himself to us through Scripture as a God we can know and trust.' 
Timothy Ward, Words of Life, p.128. 

GOD'S USE OF SIN

'...when the winding up of the chapter comes perhaps we shall see that our sins committed have been the means of saving us from other sins that would have been our ruin. Many believers would have grown too proud to be borne with if some infirmity had not plucked the plume from their helmets and made them mourn with brokenness of heart before God. God can bring good out of evil by his overwhelming grace, while on the other hand our good works have often puffed us up and led us into pride...' 
Charles Spurgeon in Charlie Cleverly, The Song of Songs, p.217. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

ENCOUNTERING GOD

'...to encounter the words of Scripture is to encounter God in action.'
Timothy Ward, Words of Life, p.48. 

LANGUAGE & GOD

'Whatever else may be true of human language, it is quite reasonable to suppose that it has the ability to speak truly of God, both because it was given to us by a God who speaks within himself as eternally three speaking persons, and also because our possession of language as made in God's image, is analogous to God's communicative capacity. Our language can be made by God to speak truthfully of him because our language has its origin in him and in some ways is like his own. The fall makes this much more problematic, of course, but sin does not erase humanity as the image of God, and thus does not destroy the capacity of human language to speak truly of God.' 
Timothy Ward, Words of Life: Scripture as the living and active word of God, p.34. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

COURAGE

'Where does courage come from? Primarily it comes from wanting something more than your own safety.' 
Timothy Keller, My Rock; My Refuge, p.285.  

Sunday, 9 October 2016

INTIMACY

'intimacy       which means knowing
the exact taste of someone's else's
sleep in their mouth on waking'
Andrew McMillan, physical, p.32. 

THE BEST LAID PLANS

'While we may have a simple plan for our life - to be happy, prosperous, successful and at peace - what God wants is for us to learn to trust him deeply and against the odds. Trouble comes for us when these two programmes are going in opposite directions, for God's is stronger and he will prevail.' 
Charlie Cleverly, Song of Songs, p.180. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

MARRIAGE

'Very soon the shadow will give way to the Reality. The partial will pass into the Perfect. The foretaste will lead to the Banquet. The troubled path will end in Paradise. A hundred candle-lit evenings will come to their consummation in the marriage supper of the Lamb. And this momentary marriage will be swallowed up by Life. Christ will be all and in all. And the purpose of marriage will be complete.' 
John Piper in Charlie Cleverly, The Song of Songs, p.154. 

JESUS

'He is a jewel more worth than a thousand worlds, as all know who have him. Get him, and get all; miss him and miss all... The soul can crave nothing. nor wish for anything, but which is to be found in this Portion. He is light to enlighten the soul, wisdom to counsel the soul, power to support the soul, goodness to supply the soul, mercy to pardon the soul, beauty to delight the soul, glory to ravish the soul, and fullness to fill the soul.' 
Thomas Brooks in Charlie Cleverly, The Song of Songs, p.120. 

Friday, 30 September 2016

COMMUNICATION

'I love that you can ask people what they meant right after they've said the most obvious things and almost invariably they'll think they are the ones who've failed to be clear and go to elaborate lengths to make themselves understood.' 
Greg Jackson, 'Wagner in the Desert' in Prodigals, p.22. 

DIVINE HUMOUR

'"Father Peregrine, won't you ever be serious?"
"Not until the good Lord is. Oh don't look so terribly shocked, please. The Lord is not serious. In fact, it is a little hard to know what else He is except loving. And love has a lot to do with humour, doesn't it? For you cannot love someone unless you put up with him, can  you? And you cannot put up with someone constantly unless you can laugh at him. Isn't that true? And certainly we are ridiculous little animals wallowing in the fudge-bowl, and God must love us all the more because we appeal to his humour." 
"I never thought of God as humorous," said Father Stone. 
"The Creator of the platypus, the camel, the ostrich, and man? Oh, come now!" Father Peregrine laughed.' 
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles, p.153. 

SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN HATE

'Enemies, he knew, often tell the truth. And these days, enemies. honest enemies, are few and far between. Nobody says anything unpleasant. Enemies will often tell you unsuspected truths about yourself, just as a photograph or a double mirror will show you your snoutish nose.' 
Walker Percy, The Second Coming, p.170. 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

SONG OF SONGS

'The historical books I may compare to the outer courts of the Temple; the Gospels, the Epistles, and the Psalms, bring us into the holy place or the Court of the priests; but the Song of Solomon is the the most holy place: the holy of holies, before which the veil still hangs to many an untaught believer...The Song is a golden casket, of which love is the key rather than learning.' 
Charles Spurgeon in Charlie Cleverly, Song of Songs: Exploring the Divine Romance, p.15.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

SPIRITUAL PARENTING

'In Acts, the Genesis 1:28 language of "be fruitful and multiply" marks the growth of the Church:
And the word of God continued to be fruitful and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem. (Acts 6:7; our translation). 
But the word of God bore fruit and multiplied (Acts 12:24; our translation)
So the word of the Lord continued to bear fruit and prevail mightily. (Acts 19:20; our literal translation 
....Genesis 1:28 likely does not have in mind only physical children, but children who were also to be spiritual image bearers of God.'
GK Beale and Mitchell Kim, God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth, p.36. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

UNITING CONSERVATIVES & LIBERALS AROUND GOD'S ORDER OF THINGS

'At present "conservative" Christians are often vociferous on issues like abortion and homosexuality while embodying a Western consumer lifestyle and laughing off global warming. Liberal Christians tend to take environmental issues more seriously but are more cautious on "sin" and tend to be pro-choice and in favor of blessing same-sex unions. A recovery of the biblical notion of creation order and its allied motif of the antithesis that runs through the whole of creation would go a long way toward challenging this polarity. God's order applies as much to marriage and sexuality as it does to how we care for the earth. So, just as it is important that Christians hold onto God's order for marriage and sexuality and thus refuse to affirms same-sex relationships as normative, and just as they uphold the sanctity of human life and refuse to condone most practice of abortion, so too Christians must be clear that environmental destruction and Western-style consumerism is downright sin.' 
Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.312. 

IDENTITY, PEOPLE & PLACE

'We necessarily live much of our lives in exile, so to be able to spot the people and places that re-establish our true identity is so important.' 
Eugene Peterson, in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.304. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

GOD'S LOVE

''Nothing! Nothing can separate us from Christ's love! Why? Because God loves us simply because of his choice, not because of anything in us (which may change), nor anything around us (which may change). He loves us because he loves us.' 
Timothy Keller, Romans for You, p.54. 

CHURCH BUILDINGS

'...it is to be expected that as a worshiping community takes root in a place, it will need a building of its own set apart for worship and institutional church activities. Worship of God clearly does not demand a place set apart for the gathered church, but then neither is a house essential to a family or an auditorium to an orchestra. However normal cultural development as we experience it would require that a church would sooner or later require a building of its own.' 
Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.293. 

HOMES NOT HOUSES

'An essential ingredient in the redemption of our towns, cities and countryside is a proliferation of houses that are in fact homes.' 
Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.284. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

INCARNATION, RESURRECTION & CREATION

'The incarnation and resurrection are the ultimate affirmation of creation.'
Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.245. 

THEOLOGY OF PLACE

'The doctrine of creation is fundamental to a theology of place. Indeed the failure of Christians to attend to place is largely owing to the eclipse of the doctrine of creation.'
Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.244.  

WHAT THE INCARNATION SAYS ABOUT CREATION

'...like as when a great king has entered into such large city and taken up his abode in one of the houses there, such city is at all events held worth of high honour, nor does any enemy or bandit any longer descend upon it and subject it; but, on the contrary, it is though entitled to all care, because of the king's having taken up his residence in a single home there: so, too, has it been with the Monarch of all.' 
Athanasius in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.241. 

THE WONDER OF CREATION

'If you really examine a kernel of grain thoroughly, you would die of wonder.' 
Martin Luther in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.236. 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

EARLY ENVIRONMENTALISM

'The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, that being content with a frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a filed, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavour to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us; let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.' 
John Calvin in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.215. 

WHY BODIES MATTER

'It is my body that separates me in space from other men and that presents me as a man to other men.' 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.213. 

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHURCH HISTORY

'Church history is the hidden center of world history.' 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.211. 

Monday, 5 September 2016

WHY BODIES MATTER

'For if the flesh were not in a position to be saved, the Word of God would in no wise have become flesh.' 
Irenaeus in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.195. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A TEST FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH

'The question which has to be put to every local congregation is the question whether it is a credible sign of God's reign in justice and mercy over the whole of life, whether it cares for its neighbours in a way which reflects and springs out of God's care for them, whether its common life is recognizable as a foretaste of the blessing which God intends for the whole human family.' 
Lesslie Newbigin in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.129. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

JESUS OWNS EVERYTHING

'The whole earth...belongs to Jesus. It belongs to him by right of creation, by right of redemption and by right of future inheritance - as Paul affirms in the magnificent cosmic declaration of Colossians 1:15-20. So wherever we go in his name, we are walking on his property. There is not an inch of the planet that does not belong to Christ. Mission then is the authorised activity carried out by tenants on the instructions of the owner of the property.' 
Christopher JH Wright in Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell, p.115. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

THE IMPORTANCE OF RITUAL

'To have any hope of resisting the worst elements of Western consumer culture, we Christians will need an arsenal of rituals to keep us alert to the story of the world that really matters.' 
Craig G Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today, p.75. 

Friday, 26 August 2016

MOTHERHOOD

'She stands back and surveys me and says only this.
Frankie.
But there is a birth, a childhood, a whole life buried in the word.'
Tim Lott, White City Blue, p.272.

FRIENDSHIP

'We don't compliment each other, the four of us. We never show that we're impressed or overjoyed on each other's behalf. Don't ask me why. It was the rules. There are always rules.'
Tim Lott, White City Blue, p.191.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

MASCULINITY

'The qualities we deem to be masculine can absolutely be admired, but in our pursuit of these we all too often erase their true meaning and end up chasing idealised, superficial versions. But there are are no shortcuts, and you cannot simply act masculine - it's a complex state that requires far more balance and nuance than we often accept. Strength, courage, assertiveness can all be wonderful characteristics but only in the right hands, and there is much more to masculinity than what we see on the surface. If you're trying to achieve an idealised state of masculinity then you've already failed at your goal; true masculinity is something you must earn by using your gender in a way that benefits everyone.' 
Jack Urwin, Man Up, p.231. 

SEX

'...we mostly have sex because it might feel good for a short time. Obviously this is great , but it does beg the question of why sex is spoken about these days as if it were the be-all and end-all of humanity. If it was that good, why did we bother inventing civilization instead of just spending the last 10,000 years having an orgy in a cave?' 
Jack Urwin, Man Up, p.204. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY HOMOPHOBIA

'Homophobia ruins the lives of gay people. It's often deadly, in fact, motivating both murder and suicide. I'm making a note of this now in the hope that what I say next doesn't come off as trivialising the LGBT victims of homophobia. or suggesting we should make this issue all about straight people. But homophobia is one of the earliest forces that conditions, and very often damages straight people too, particularly males. Boys, especially when they're in peer-driven environments like schools, fear others will think they're gay. They're taught to push out any remotely "effeminate" mannerisms or activities, to conceal their emotions, and ditch anything, or anyone, that may raise questions about their sexuality. They learn to treat women as mere objects that exist for their own pleasure, and are discouraged from forming platonic bonds with them (after all, the by whose friends are predominantly girls cannot be straight), and by doing so at such a crucial age, they fail to grasp the appropriate way to treat women and shut themselves off from the only people left in this environment who are likely to give a damn about their emotional problems and help them talk things through. They're forced to sacrifice hobbies they're genuinely interested in, choose subjects at school that aren't seen as girly - hell, pursue careers they don't really like because of a system that makes us decide the path our futures take before we're even old enough to drink. All to not look gay.' 
Jack Urwin, Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity, p.168. 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

FALLING IN LOVE VS. STANDING IN LOVE

'Standing in love is different. Unlike falling in love, which is premised on the fact that the lovers are still more or less strangers, to stand in love is to love a person because they are as well known to you as you are to yourself. Falling in love becomes standing in love, if it does, when the thrill of the unknown becomes the delight of knowing another and being known by them. It is the love of friendship and whilst it will no doubt not be perfect, it is focused on the other person. 
Just how unlike standing in love is compared with falling in love can be gleaned by thinking about the difference between being with individuals who are falling in love and with individuals who are standing in love. The first couple - the new lovers - are typically discomforting to be with. They are so in love with each other that they have little concern for anyone else. It's the lovey-dovey syndrome. It is annoying to have to share an evening with them or sit opposite them on the train. They are so absorbed in each other that they do not notice the rest of the world. You are left out. You feel alone when with them. 
Being with people who are standing in love is entirely different. It is a joy. The nicest people to know are those who are in love with each other and who make you feel part of their love. Standing in love bids you welcome too. Such lovers have learnt the art of love with each other and it results in generating a care and concern for others.' 
Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.247.

HUMAN LIFE IS RELATIONAL

'There is no being human on a desert island, anymore than there are such things are solitary ants. The good life is the attempt to live for others in life.' 
Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.243.

HUMANKIND

'Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellowman by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds.' 
Friedrich Nietzsche in Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.233.

Friday, 19 August 2016

MODERN SOCIETY & FRIENDSHIP

'...in practice we appear to be more in love with work, romance, mobility and ourselves than we are with the love called friendship, for all that many would confess otherwise. The structure of modern life, and the choices that people make in it, demonstrate as much.'
Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.219.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

LOVING STRANGERS

'...the best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.' 
John Henry Newman in Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.146. 

CHRISTIANITY & CULTURE

'In denying the holiness of the body, and of the so-called physical reality of the world - and in denying support to the good economy, the good work, by which alone the Creation can receive due honor - modern Christianity generally has cut itself off from both nature and culture. It has no serious or competent interest in biology or ecology. And it is equally uninterested in the arts by which humankind connects itself to nature. It manifests no awareness of the specifically Christian cultural lineages that connect us with the past.There is, for example, a splendid heritage of Christian poetry in English that most church members live and die without reading or hearing or hearing about. Most sermons are preached without any awareness of all that the making of sermons is an art that has at times been magnificent. Most modern churches look like they were built by robots without reference to the heritage of church architecture or respect for the place; they embody no awareness that work can be worship. Most religious music now attests to the general assumption that religion is no more than a vaguely pious (and vaguely romantic) emotion.'
Wendell Berry, 'Christianity and the Survival of Creation' in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, p.109. 

WORK

'The significance - and ultimately the quality - of the work we do is determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part.' 
Wendell Berry, 'Christianity and the Survival of Creation' in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, p.109. 

THE BLASPHEMY OF IGNORING THE PHYSICAL

'The dominant religious view, for a long time, has been that the body is a kind of scrip issued by the Great Company Store in the Sky, which can be cashed in to redeem the soul but is otherwise worthless. And the predictable result has been a human creature able to appreciate or tolerate only the "spiritual" (or mental) part of Creation and full of semiconscious hatred of the "physical" or "natural" part, which is ready and willing to destroy for "salvation," for profit, for "victory," or for fun. This madness constitutes the norm of modern humanity and of modern Christianity. 
But to despise the body or mistreat it for the sake of the "soul" is not just to burn one's house for the insurance, nor is it just self-hatred of the most deep and dangerous sort. It is yet another blasphemy. It is to make nothing - and worse than nothing - of the great Something in which we live and move and have our being.'
Wendell Berry, 'Christianity and the Survival of Creation' in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, p.107. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

THE VALUE OF WORK

'Good human work honors God's work. Good work uses no thing without respect, both for what it is in itself and for its origin. It uses neither tool nor material that it does not respect and that it does not love. It honors nature as a great mystery and power, as as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of the work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for. This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God. But such a blasphemy is not possible when the entire Creation is understood as holy and the works of God are understood as embodying and thus revealing His Spirit.'
Wendell Berry, 'Christianity and the Survival of Creation' in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, p.104. 

MIRACLES

'Whoever really has considered the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater miracle and still continuing miracle by which water with soil and sunlight is turned into grapes.' 
Wendell Berry, 'Christianity and the Survival of Creation' in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, p.103. 

FRIENDSHIP

'Quarrels between friends occur more than anything else when there is a difference between what they think the basis of the friendship is and what it actually is...' 
Aristotle in Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.101. 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

WHEN FRIENDSHIP GOES WRONG

'Friendship is two knives. They will sharpen each other when rubbed together, but often one of them will slip and slice off a thumb.'
Patrick White in Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.74.

FRIENDSHIP

'Perhaps friendship should assert itself more strongly in our romance obsessed world. Perhaps friends should refuse the otherwise overwhelming pressures of the quixotic and declare the joys of their own kind of passion, though that would be a hard thing to do in a culture besotted with the power of erotic possessiveness. The thought provides us with a conclusion. For contra the myth, there is a love that does not desire to possess. It is called friendship. It loves the other, and wants them both to be free. Once friendship has come to be the determining force in a relationship, individuals are able to find themselves and nurture a passion for life, not merely lose themselves lose themselves in starry-eyed love.' 
Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.72. 

MARRIAGE & FRIENDSHIP

'In today's world, there is a myth of romantic love based upon the idea that two lovers become one flesh, a totalisation of life in the other, supremely enacted in sexual ecstasy which is symbolic of that union. The myth or ideal tends to exclude others, not because lovers do not want friends, but because it tells them that their friends are incidental - pleasant but non-essential adornments to the lover's life together. Although few people in real life believe the myth in its entirety, it is difficult to ignore entirely too,' 
Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.71.

HAPPINESS

'A great part, perhaps the greatest part, of human happiness and misery arises from the view of our past conduct, and from the degree of approbation or disapprobation which we feel from the consideration of it.'
Adam Smith in Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.36.

HUMANKIND

'Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely.'
Adam Smith in Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.35. 

MARRIAGE

'"How does it feel to be married?" he called.
She did not answer; it seemed as though she had not heard. How does it feel? she was thinking. It feels like waking up on your twenty-first birthday and realizing that there's no change, that you don't feel an ounce older. That's how it feels. So why ask me? You know how it feels, it's written all over you.' 
Tim Winton, Scission, p.89.

Friday, 12 August 2016

GOD'S TOUCH

'As they turned off the bitumen road into their own run of gravel to the yellow-lit house down in the valley, Albie ended the silence with a question. He was startled by his own toneless delivery.
"Why did that man hit his son for getting hurt?"
His father sighed. He sounded relieved that the silence was finished. "I don't know, boy."
"Would you do that to me?"
The truck slewed and stopped.
"Lord, no. God A'mighty, no!"
"He was going home," Albie said.
His father's mouth moved. He reached out and put his knuckles to Albie's cheek, left them there for a long time, as though still waiting for words to come. "Sorry about the salmon," he said at last, "I should've known better."
The truck moved forward again. Albie felt those knuckles on his cheek still and knew, full to bursting, that that was how God would touch someone. He neither moved nor spoke, and the truck trundled on.'
Tim Winton, Scission, p.13.

PRAYER

'"Come on, Dad. Come on, Dad. Come on, Dad." He often prayed to his father in his absence. God, he decided, was just like his Dad, only bigger. It was easier to pray to him and hope God got the message on relay.'
Tim Winton, Scission, p.9.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

GODLINESS

'A good and devout man firstly sets in order in his mind whatever tasks he has in hand, and never allows them to lead him into occasions for sin, but humbly subjects them to the dictates of sound judgment. Who has a fiercer struggle than he who strives to conquer himself? Yet this must be our chief concern - to conquer self, and by daily growing stronger than self, to advance in holiness.'
Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, p.31.

Monday, 8 August 2016

HUMILITY

'If it seems to you that you know a great deal and have wide experience in many fields, yet remember that there are matters of which you are ignorant. So do not become conceited, but confess your ignorance. Why do you wish to esteem yourself above others, when there are many who are wise and more perfect in the Law of God? If you desire to know or learn anything, then take delight in being unknown and unregarded.
A true understanding and humble estimate of oneself is the highest and most valuable of all lessons. To take no account of oneself, but always to think well and highly of others is the highest wisdom and perfection. Should you see another person openly doing evil, or carrying out a wicked purpose, do not on that account consider yourself better than him, for you cannot tell how long you will remain in a state of grace. We are all frail; consider none more frail than yourself.'
Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, p.29. 

TOURISTS

'What was to our horror on entering the enclosure to see two tourists with staves and shoulder belts all complete postured among the ruins in an attitude of admiration, one of them of course discoursing learnedly to his gaping companion and pointing out objects of interest with his stick. If there is nothing more hateful than another it is being told what to admire and having objects pointed out with a stick. Of all noxious animals too the most noxious is a tourist. And of all tourists the most vulgar, illbred, offensive and loathsome is the British tourist.'
Francis Kilvert, Kilvert's Diary 1870-1879, p.26

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

PLACES

'Places have layers, undercoats. The longer you're in a place, the deeper and thicker they run.'
Oliver Balch, Under the Tump: Sketches of Rural Life on the Welsh Borders,  p.298. 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

FRIENDS

'For a start there are friends you don't like. I've got plenty of those. Then there are friends you do like, but never both to see. Then there are the ones you really like a lot, but can't stand their partners. There are those you just have out of habit and can't shake off. Then there's the ones you're friends with not because you like them, but because they're good-looking or popular and it's kind of cool to be their friends. Trophy friends... Then there are sports friends. There are friends of convenience - they're usually work friends. There are pity friends who you stay with because you feel sorry for them. There are acquaintances who are on probation as friends.' 
Tim Lott in Mark Vernon, The Meaning of Friendship, p.6.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

FRIENDSHIP

'Each of our friendships - some more, some less - contributes an element of individuality to our character. Each one leads us in a particular direction that no other can duplicate.' 
Alexander Nehamas, On Friendship, p.221. 

INTIMACY

'To know something intimately is to know it in detail, to understand what "makes it tick"; it is to know, to some extent, what makes it the particular person or thing it is, and to be aware of the subtle ways in which it differs from others that are still very much like it...' 
Alexander Nehamas, On Friendship, p.215. 

LIFE IS A HABIT

'Life is a habit. You do something, then you do it again, then again, and before you know it, that's what you are, and that's who you are, and you can't imagine being anything or anyone else.' 
Tim Lott in Alexander Nehamas, On Friendship, p.214. 

FRIENDSHIP

'Friendship has its own mortars and pestles, its own alembics and retorts: it comes closer to transmuting the self than any alchemist came to transmuting his metals. Like alchemy, friendship often delivers nothing but dross; unlike it, however, it sometimes arrives at gold.' 
Alexander Nehamas, On Friendship, p.211. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

CHARACTER & FRIENDSHIP

'Character is like style: that some artists have a distinct style doesn't mean that we predict what the works they produce in the future will be like. Once they are produced, however, we will recognize that they were made by the same hand and perhaps delight in seeing how a particular style is manifested in a distinct and, for that reason, engaging work. Just so, one of the great pleasures of friendship is recognizing our friends' character in all sorts of new situations and actions that, although we could never have predicted them, make perfect sense once they have been performed.' 
Alexander Nehamas, On Friendship, p.151. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

FRIENDSHIP

'Friendship, like very kind of love, requires more than an appreciation of what we already know our friends to be. It also makes, as I said, a commitment to the future. Saying "You are my friend" or, more generally, "I love you," it is not only an expression of how I feel at the present moment. It is also, and crucially, a promise that my feelings will last longer than this present moment and an expression of my sense that our place in each other's life will in some way make life for both of us better than it would be otherwise. Our friendship reflects not only what we already found attractive about each other (think how little we may know about each other some people when we make such a commitment) but also on the sense that other things about us, things we don't know yet - even things that may come into existence only because of our friendship - will seem attractive to us as we come to know each other better: "Love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another."' 
Alexander Nehamas, On Friendship, p.134.