Saturday, 31 December 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


'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


'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 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 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.


'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.


'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.


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


'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.


'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.


'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.


'...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.


'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


'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.


'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.


'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.


'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.


'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.


'"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


'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


'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


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

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


'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. 


'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. 


'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


'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. 


'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. 


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


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


'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 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. 


'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


'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 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. 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 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


'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. 


'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. 


'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


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


'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 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.  


'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. 


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


'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. 


'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


'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. 


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


'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. 


'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. 


'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. 


'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. 


'...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 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.