Tuesday, 31 December 2019

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2019

In the order I enjoyed them:

  • Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces 
  • Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End 
  • J Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer & Life in Christ
  • Robert A Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York 
  • David Gibson, Destiny: Learning to Live By Preparing To Die 
  • Margaret Craven, I Heard the Owl Call My Name 
  • Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure 
  • Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction 
  • Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience 
  • Julian Hardyman, Fresh Pathways in Prayer

Saturday, 28 December 2019

DIARY PLANNING

'...if someone invites you to a two-day conference in six months' time, what should you do? I suggest asking yourself this question. Does the thought of fitting a two-day conference into the next fortnight fill you with dread because you are already so overcommitted? If the answer is yes, you should turn down the invitation to the conference later in the year because it's very unlikely that in a few months' time you'll be less busy than now. 
Or how about this scenario? You are asked to sit an a committee next year. Have you read the papers for the meeting you are going to tomorrow? No. Well, don't join another committee then. Because if you do, you will find yourself in the same position as now, unless you plan to take steps to change your regular schedule, which - experience should tell you - you are unlikely to be able to do.' 
Claudia Hammond, The Art of Rest, p.259. 

THE GOOD COMPANY OF A BOOK

'...reading is special. It not only allows us to escape other people, but simultaneously provides us with company, company that as well as being more interesting is more restful than real people, company you can ignore whenever you choose to, without giving any explanation.' 
Claudia Hammond, The Art of Rest, p.239. 

THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS

'The opposite of loneliness is wanting some time alone.'
Sean O'Hagan in Claudia Hammond, The Art of Rest, p.173. 

THE LONELINESS OF TOO MANY FRIENDS

'Researchers at Iowa State University found that among college students, as the number of close friends they have approaches the number they think ideal, so feelings of loneliness decrease. It doesn't matter how high or low that number is - that's a subjective judgement - but if a person feels there is a deficit of quality relationships in their lives, then they tend towards loneliness. The Iowa researchers also discovered something which surprised even them. When the number of friends students have exceeds the number they desire, the students begin to feel lonelier again. Perhaps they find having an excess of friends a burden, or perhaps although they consider these friends to be close friends, they aren't close enough.' 
Claudia Hammond, The Art of Rest, p.172.  

A WAITING PEOPLE?

'One good answer to the question "What sort of church are you? Who are you?" is to say, "We are a community of men and women who are waiting for Jesus to return". Not waiting passively, as if we just wait and never do anything; no, that would be nonsense! But waiting actively - working at our daily work, loving God, loving people, giving our lives for Jesus and his gospel, and all the time praying, "Your Kingdom come, Lord Jesus!" As we do so, we will never be satisfied by what this world offers, never too disappointed when we do not experience healing or reconciliation or happiness in this life, always keeping our hopes set on that great future day.'
Christopher Ash, Repeat the Sounding Joy: A daily Advent devotional on Luke 1-2, p.345. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

A CHRISTMAS POEM

Into the Darkest Hour  

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss-
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight-
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

Madeleine L’Engle in Winter Songs:Christmas Readings (Madeleine L'Engle & Luci Shaw), p.67. 

Saturday, 21 December 2019

BORN THAT WAY

'The single factor that has most clearly helped to change public opinion about homosexuality in the West has been the decision that homosexuality is in fact a 'hardware' rather than a 'software' issue.'
Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds, p.30. 

SEXUAL DOUBLE STANDARDS

'In society as large, when people come put as gay they are celebrated for having arrived at their natural end-point. For most people this is a decent recognition by society that there is no problem with them being who they are: they have arrived at a place that is natural and right for them. But one oddity of this position is that anybody who is gay and then subsequently decides they are straight will be the subject not just of a degree of ostracism and suspicion, but widespread doubt that they are are being honest about their true selves. A straight who becomes gay has settled. A gay who has become straight has rendered himself an object of permanent suspicion. From being strongly inclined towards straight the culture has settled with a mild inclination towards gay.'
Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds, p.22. 

MAGNANIMOUS IN VICTORY

'The manner in which people and movements behave at the point of victory can be the most revealing thing about them. Do you allow arguments that have worked for you to work for others? Are reciprocity and tolerance principles or fig-leaves? Do those who have been censored go on to censor others when the ability is in their own hands?'
Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds, p.16.

IDENTITY TOTALITARIANISM

'...we are being asked to perform a set of leaps and jumps which we cannot, and are perhaps ill advised to make. We are asked to believe things that are unbelievable and being told not to object to things (such as giving children drugs to stop them going through puberty) which most people feel a strong objection to. The pain that comes being expected to remain silent on some important matters and perform impossible leaps on others is tremendous, not least because the problems (including the internal contradictions) are so evident. As anyone who has lived under totalitarianism can attest, there is something demeaning and eventually soul-destroying about being expected to go along with claims that you do not believe to be true and cannot hold to be true. If the belief is that all people should be regarded as having equal value and be accorded equal dignity, then that may be all well and good. If you are asked to believe that there are differences between homosexuality and heterosexuality, men and women, racism and anti-racism, then this will in time drive you to distraction. That distraction - or crowd madness - is something we are in the middle of and something we need to try and find our way out from.' 
Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds, p.8. 

BAD FOUNDATIONS

'...while racial equality, minority rights and women's rights are among the best products of liberalism, they make the most destabilizing foundations. Attempting to make them the foundation is like turning a bar stool upside down and then trying to balance on top of it. The products of the system cannot reproduce the stability of the system that produced them.'
Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds, p.8.

IDENTITY POLITICS TODAY

'...one thing that everybody has begun to sense in recent years is that a set of tripwires have been laid across the culture. Whether placed by individuals, collectives or some divine satirist, there they have been waiting for one person after another to walk into them. Sometimes a person's foot has unwittingly nicked the tripwire and they have immediately blown up. On other occasions people have watched some brave madman walking straight into no man's land, fully aware of what they are doing. After each resulting detonation there is some disputation (including the occasional "coo" of admiration) and the world moves on accepting that another victim has been notched up to the odd, apparently improvisatory value system of our time.'
Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, p.5.

TIME HEALS?

'...time heals all wounds or at least dresses them, makes them endurable.'
Frederick Buechner, A Sacred Journey, p.55. 

WHERE BEAUTY TAKES YOU

'It was the upward-reaching and fathomlessly hungering, heart-breaking love for the beauty of the world at its most beautiful and beyond that, for that beauty east of the sun and west of the moon which is past the reach of all but our most desperate desiring and is finally the beauty of Beauty itself, of Being itself and what lies at the heart of Being.' 
Frederick Buechner, A Sacred Journey, p.52.

DEATH CANNOT HOLD THEM

'How they do live on, those giants of our childhood, and how well they manage to take even death in their stride because although death can put an end to them right enough, it can never put an end to our relationship with them. Wherever or however else they may have come to life since, it is beyond  doubt that they still live in us.' 
Frederick Buechner, A Sacred Journey, p.21. 

READING AS A CHILD

'I suppose it is partly because you read so much more slowly as a child that the books you come to then seem as endless as summer and richer, fuller, more inexhaustible than anything you are likely to read later on.'
Frederick Buechner, A Sacred Journey, p.15.

SIN & GRACE

'What about sin itself as a means of grace? What above grace, when misappropriated and misunderstood, becoming an occasion for sin?'
Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey, p.3

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

CHRIST-LIKE EMPATHY

'Trying to understand someone else's predicament lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.' 
Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion, p.107. 

Monday, 16 December 2019

THE HUMILITY CREATED BY OUR FAILURES

'The web of our life is of mingled yarn, good and ill together; our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipped them not.'
William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well quoted in Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once & Future Coming of Jesus, p.20. 

Sunday, 15 December 2019

OUR DIVINE CREATIVITY

'Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
     is the piece of God that is inside each of us.'
Mary Oliver, from 'Blue Horses in Blue Horses, p.43. 

INSTITUTIONS ARE COMPROMISED - BUT NEEDED

'All human traditions, institutions, and structures are prone to evil - including religion and including Christianity and the Church. They are all part of this present age. They are all prone to make absolutist claims. They are all ambiguous. There are always good reasons for attacking them. But human life is impossible without them, and God in his mercy preserves them in order to give time for the Church to fulfill its calling to make manifest to them the wisdom of God...' 
Lesslie Newbigin in John G Stackhouse Jr., Why You're Here, p.283. 

REJOICE IN WHAT IS GOOD

'We can rejoice, and we ought to rejoice, in goodness discovered anywhere, since all goodness comes from the same fountain.' 
John G Stackhouse Jr., Why You're Here, p.283. 

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE DEATH OF CHRISTENDOM

'...we Christians should be taking the initiative to surrender those privileges that no longer make sense in a post- or semi-Christian society. And we ought to use our shrinking cultural power to establish new relations of religion-society and church-state that will benefit all participants, including religious communities and state institutions, without unjustly penalizing or privileging any. Indeed, we should use what influence we have left to help construct the sort of society in which we ourselves would like to live once our power to effect it has disappeared. And we can be guided in part by our "tribal heritage" of being a minority as the beginning of our religion and in various societies ever since. How unseemly it is for Christians to fight in the courts and legislatures for what remains of the dubious honors and advantages of Christendom! There is no more prudent time to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.' 
John G Stackhouse Jr., Why You're Here, p.268. 

Saturday, 14 December 2019

THE STRENGTHS OF DEMOCRACY

'One of the great things about democracy is that the way is always open for a defeated party to make its case again.' 
John G Stackhouse Jr., Why You're Here, p.243. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSITY

'Cultivation of diversity can seem inefficient; it is, at least initially, more costly than uniformity in time, effort, and attention. But if we fail to provide places for different people to grow, and to grow together, we will alienate both our own "non-standard" brothers and sisters and also, in the case of churches and other Christian organisations, all those outside our company who might have wanted to join but now see that they would not be welcomed as themselves. Such an attitude fosters a kind of social inbreeding that inevitably results in pathology. God has so arranged the world that we actually need a certain amount of diversity just to avoid going wrong, let alone to help us go more and more right.' 
John G Stackhouse Jr, Why You're Here, p.235. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

THE CENTRALITY OF THE CROSS

'There is a centrifugal force at work in human nature; we want to spin out and away from the offense of the cross.' 
Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion, p.61. 

Monday, 2 December 2019

GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY OVER SIN

'We trust that the God who specializes in bringing good out of evil will make something beautiful out of our efforts to love God and our neighbors in creation. Indeed, God often brings good out of our failures, and even our sins. For in the aftermath, we sometimes learn humility, and faith, and other vital lessons we would learn no other way.' 
John G Stackhouse Jr., Why You're Here, p.179. 

POLITICAL DECISIONS ARE MADE BY THOSE WHO SHOW UP

'...in the world as God has seemed to ordain it, and from the pages of scriptural history in which God is shown to act politically, it appears that the adage is true: Political decisions are made by those who show up. The monastic movement, important as it was in nurturing Christian piety and promoting evangelism, shaped broader contours of European culture only as monasteries became significant landlords, educators, artistic centers, and advisers to the powerful.' 
John G Stackgouse Jr., Why You're Here, p.177 

THE MULTIPLICITY OF FORMS

'The multiplicity of forms! The hummingbird,
the fox, the raven, the sparrow hawk, the
otter, the dragonfly, the water lily! And
on and on. It must be a great disappointment
to God if we are not dazzled at least ten
times a day.'
Mary Oliver, from 'Good Morning' Blue Horses, p.22. 

ANGELS & PINHEADS

'I don't care how many angels can
dance on the head of a pin. It's
enough to know that for some people
they exist, and that they dance.'
Mary Oliver, from 'Angels' in Blue Horses, p.15. 

THE POWER OF A GOOD WALK

'All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.'
Friedrich Nietzsche in Claudia Hammond, The Art of Rest: How to Find Respite in the Modern Age, p.97. 

Thursday, 7 November 2019

THE POWER OF STORY

'Opposed to the brutally coercive power of the Roman state, Christians brought a conviction as potent as it was subversive: that they were actors in a cosmic drama.' 
Tom Holland, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind. p.92. 

A VALID POINT?

'In my pastoral work I've started to suspect that the more someone was exposed to religious messages about controlling their desires, avoiding sexual thoughts, and not lusting in their hearts, the less likely they are to be integrated physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. I've also noticed that the less integrated physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually someone is, the more pornography they tend to consume. This is anecdotal evidence and not a scientific study. Nonetheless, I'd like to congratulate conservative Christians on their success in bolstering an industry they claim to despise.' 
Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, p.140. 

Sunday, 27 October 2019

THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE

'In the wake of the affair, Rabih, adopts a different view of the purpose of marriage. As a younger man he thought of it as a consecration of a special set of feelings: tenderness, desire, enthusiasm, longing. However, he now understands that it is also, and just as importantly, an institution, one which is meant to stand fast from year to year without reference to every passing change in the emotions of its participants. It has its justification in more stable and enduring phenomena than feelings: in an original act of commitment impervious to later revisions and, more notably, in children, a class of beings constitutionally uninterested in the daily satisfactions of those who created them.' 
Alain de Botton, The Course of Love, p.182. 

SEXUAL DESIRE

'Sexual desire is driven by a wish to establish closeness - and is hence contingent on a pre-existing sense of distance, which it is a perpetually distinctive pleasure and relief to bridge.' 
Alain de Botton, The Course of Love, p.137. 

HUMAN IDIOCY

'...the progress of the human race is at every turn stymied by an ingrained resistance to being rushed to conclusions. We are held back by an inherent interest in re-exploring entire chapters in the back catalogue of our species' idiocies - and to wasting a good part of life finding out for ourselves what has already been extensively and painfully charted by others.' 
Alain de Botton, The Course of Love, p.126. 

Monday, 21 October 2019

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY

'If we keep our churches, homes, and bodies bereft of art (or, alas, bereft of good art), we are saying something about what we hold to be Kingdom values - and what we are saying is heretical, namely, that God doesn't care about beauty.' 
John G Stackhouse Jr., Why You're Here, p.99. 

EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM

'...Christians who narrow their understanding and practice of mission to evangelism alone end up being less effective in that evangelism precisely because what they are witnessing to, exemplifying, and acting out is a much-reduced gospel, an important but thin slice of the abundant Kingdom life. Proclamation of the Gospel is an essential of both Christian mission and Christian life, but it is not the totality of either. When it becomes the only mode of Christian service to God, the message being proclaimed becomes less attractive because it is less vital and less evident in those proclaiming it. How do we expect people to be attracted to a society of people who live only to convert other people to their society? We will be better evangelists if we do not concentrate all of our energies on evangelism.' 
John G Stackhouse Jr. Why You're Here p.97. 

Sunday, 20 October 2019

ELEPHANTS AREN'T SEEKING TO SAVE HUMANITY

'In the whole known universe we are the only species that takes responsibility for the others; the only species that demonstrates the slightest interest in naming, tending, and conserving the others; that indeed is accountable for the stewardship of the others; and the only species that feels guilt (however fitfully and hypocritically) when its stewardship fails.' 
Andy Crouch in John G Stackhouse Jr., Why You're Here: Ethics for the Real World, p.23. 

Friday, 18 October 2019

A DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE

'Marriage: a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don't know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully omitted to investigate.' 
Alain de Botton, The Course of Love, p.43. 

WHY PEOPLE SEEK TO ESCAPE SINGLENESS

'To a shameful extent, the charm of marriage boils down to how unpleasant it is to be alone. This isn't necessarily our faults as individuals. Society as a whole appears determined to render the single state as nettlesome and depressing as possible: once the freewheeling days of school and university are over, company and warmth become dispiritingly  hard to find; social life starts to resolve oppressively around couples; there's no one left to call and hang out with. It hardly surprising, then, if when we find someone half decent, we might cling.' 
Alain de Botton, The Course of Love, p.39.

LOVE IS...

'...love is a search for completion.'
Alain de Botton, The Course of Love  p.16.

THE IMPORTANCE OF READING

'For me, reading was never an antisocial activity. It was deeply social. It was the most profound kind of socialising there was. A deep connection to the imagination of another human being. A way to connect without many filters society normally demands...
Reading isn't important because it helps to get you a job. It's important because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you're given. It is how humans merge. How minds connect. Dreams. Empathy. Understanding. Escape.'
Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet, p.257.

THE POWER OF ADDICTION

'Nothing is ever enough.
I have always been addicted to something. That something changes but the sense of need doesn't.'
Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet, p.233.

WELL-MEANING BUT UNHELPFUL ENCOURAGEMENT

'Imagine if were heading for a quiet walk in the forest and someone came up to you. 
"Where are you going?" she asks.
"I'm going to the forest," you tell her.
"Wow," she gasps, stepping back. 
"Wow what?"
And then a tear forms in her eye. She places a hand on your shoulder. "You're so brave."
"Am I?"
"So incredibly brave. An inspiration, in fact."
And you would gulp, and go pale, and be permanently put off going into the forest.'
Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet, p.207.

OUR CHRONIC DISSATISFACTION

'We are ruled by the clock. By the light bulb. By the glowing smartphone. By the insatiable feeling we are encouraged to have. The feeling of this is never enough. Our happiness is just around the corner. A single purchase, or interaction, or click, away. Waiting, glowing, like the light at the end of the tunnel that we can never quite reach.'
Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet, p.143.

Monday, 14 October 2019

ANXIETY

'One frustration with anxiety is that it is often hard find a reason behind it. There may be no visible threat and yet you can feel utterly terrified. It's all intense suspense, no action. It's like Jaws without the shark.' 
Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet, p.21. 

Thursday, 10 October 2019

WHAT ARE YOU ATTACHED TO?

'Attachment to the God of heaven manifests itself in an absence of attachment to the things of earth.' 
Darrell L Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p.1168. 

Monday, 7 October 2019

THE DIFFERENCE BOOKS & FLOWERS MAKE

'Books and flowers are invincible beautifiers. I have often used them to make horrible surroundings habitable.' 
Keith Douglas, Alamein to Zem Zem, p.98. 

SINGLENESS & SEXUALITY

'To be sexual - to be male or female - means to be incomplete as an isolated individual. For as isolated individuals we are unable to reflect the fullness of humanity and thus the fullness of the divine image. We see the other who is sexually different from us, and as this occurs we are reminded of our own incompleteness. 
The fullness of humanness, therefore, is reflected only in community. As a result, our existence as sexual beings gives rise to the desire to enter into community, and thereby to actualize our design as human individuals. Sexuality, then, is an expression of our nature as social beings. We are not isolated entities existing to ourselves; nor are we the source of our fulfillment. On the contrary, we derive fulfillment beyond ourselves. This need to find fulfillment beyond ourselves is the dynamic that leads to the desire to develop relationships with others and ultimately with God. 
This dynamic is present in a person's life regardless of marital status. Married persons have entered into this intimate bond as a result of their sexuality. But the drive toward bonding as an expression of human sexuality is operative in the single life as well, albeit in a less formal way. Just as bonding is a dynamic of the single life, so also this drive to bond with others n community is an expression of our fundamental sexuality, a sexuality that goes deeper than body parts, potential roles in reproduction, and genital acts.'  
Stanley J Grenz, Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective,  p.193. 

Sunday, 6 October 2019

ALL IDEAS ARE DANGEROUS

'...all ideas are dangerous - dangerous because ideas can only lead to action and where the action leads no man can say. And dangerous in this respect: that confronted with the impossibility of remaining faithful to one's beliefs, and the equal impossibility of becoming free of them, one can be driven to the most inhuman excesses.' 
James Baldwin, 'Stranger in the Village' in Notes of a Native Son, p.175. 

HUMAN RIGHTS

'No one, after all, can be liked whose human weight and complexity cannot be, or has not been, admitted.' 
James Baldwin, 'Stranger in the Village' in Notes of a Native Son, p.185. 

Saturday, 28 September 2019

AN AUDIENCE OF ONE

'The public for which masterpieces are intended is not on this earth.' 
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, p.87. 

LOVE IS NEVER EQUALLY MATCHED?

'Now he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other. There may be two equally good, equally gifted, equally beautiful, but there may never be two that love one another equally well.' 
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, p.49

THE IMPORTANCE OF NURSES

'...nursing is not so much about tasks, but about how in every detail a nurse can provide comfort to a patient and a family. It is a privilege to witness people at the frailest, most significant and most extreme moments of life, and to have the capacity to love complete strangers. Nursing, like poetry, is the place where metaphorical and literal meanings cross borders. A hole in the heart is a hole in the heart; the nurse is the thing at the centre: between the surgeon's skill at fixing the literal hole, and the patient's anxiety and loss, the metaphorical hole. Nursing is - or should be - an indiscriminate act of caring, compassion and empathy. It should be a reminder of our capacity to love one another. If the way we treat our most vulnerable is a measure of our society, then the act of nursing itself is a measure of of our humanity. Yet it is the most undervalued of professions.'
Christie Watson, The Language of Kindness: A Nurse's Story, p.265. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

JESUS & THE SATISFACTION OF WORK

'When absorbed in work, clocks dissolve, mealtimes pass, and we hardly know where we are. The best work does not deplete our energy; it renews it. Jesus knew the experience. As he died on the cross, he exulted, "It is finished," and then delivered his spirit to the Father (19:30). "It is finished" can refer to Jesus' substitutionary atonement, but the phrase normally means just that - something is finished. Jesus finished his redemptive task by laying down his life. When Jesus says, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me," he means that his work invigorates him. Since Jesus is the archetypal human being, we might be able to experience similar results.' 
Daniel M Doriani, Work: Its Purpose, Dignity, and Transformation, p.25. 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

THE POWER OF THE BIBLE'S STORY

'In a confused and contradictory world, the grand theme of Scripture offers a coherent worldview. Instead of the choppy narrative of the single-person play, the gospel invites us into God's great story, of which our singular part contributes to the great mosaic of salvation beauty, in which we are invited to partner with the Creator God Himself in the redemption of the world and the marriage of heaven and earth. This story, even whispered between people on a suburban train, is grander and more resonant than the biggest budget Hollywood blockbuster or the cleverest viral marketing campaign.' 
Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church, p.144. 

WHERE FREEDOM HAS GOT US

'Our culture is depleted and burned out because it rebels against the God-given limitations placed on it. Individuals are depleted because we refuse to live within the fields that God has given us. Instead, we burn ourselves out seeking greater freedom and autonomy.' 
Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church, p.137. 

THE GOOD OF INSTITUTIONS

'Institutions have to instruct us what to do. They must contain commands. These commands may mean short-term sacrifice, but they will ensure freedom, human flourishing, and peace, so we obey to benefit. If there are commands, there must also be prohibitions and regulations that prevent behaviours that the institution believes will harm the collective and the individual, or the institution itself. Institutions thus require the individual to at some point submit to the authority of the institution with its commands and controls to enjoy a flourishing that they could not achieve on their own. 
The universal nature of institutions, in which anyone can join if they are willing to submit to the commands and regulations, is a natural guard against tribalism, nepotism, and special interest groups dominating. Institutions act as safeguards.' 
Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church, p.133. 

BIBLICAL SPIRITUALITY

'The Scriptures of Israel could contain prophetic, ethereal visions of the heavenly court, alongside commandments regarding menstrual blood, ethical outpourings for justice alongside erotically charged verse, and psalms filled with praise, tears, anger, and joy. This was no "spirituality." This was a blood and gits religion that did not tolerate a distance between heart and mind, word and deed. It was a world of commitments and connections, a universe of relationships and responsibilities.' 
Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church, p.130. 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

CONTEMPORARY DISCIPLESHIP

'We need to release ourselves from the addiction of trying to win over the public and the burden of trying to influence public opinion, of trying to build ministries upon pitch alone. Instead we need to remember that if we are to build resilient disciples in our "on-to-the-next-shiny-thing" culture, we need to do as Jesus did and focus on the concreteness of actual people. We see Jesus building His ministry upon going deep with a few, rather than going shallow with the public.' 
Mark Sayers, Dsiappearing Church, p.117 

WHY PEOPLE WALK AWAY FROM CHURCH

'In the beautiful world, there is a point in which many realise that while their hip and fantastic church may offer them opportunities to engage in justice projects, a life group that meets for community and meal at the pub, and digestible life advice, they can leave the church and find similar opportunities. The kicker is that you can still enjoy all of this while ditching the biblical prohibitions on sex, or having to measure up to the limitations of biblical holiness, or the commitments of creedal Christian community. If you still want to keep your sneaker toe in the Christian camp, no problme. Just pick up a book or suscribe to that podcast by a "progressive" Christian author who will reassure you that you can still be a Christian while not getting too stressed about sex or Scripture of going to church.' 
Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church, p.99. 

Monday, 9 September 2019

THE IMPLICIT PROSPERITY GOSPEL

'If, in the explicit prosperity gospel, it is unthinkable that God would withold from His faithful followers cash, cars, and mansions, in the implicit prosperity gospel of many, shaped by a culture that must elevate sex beyond its station in God's created order, we cannot imagine that God would ask of some celibacy.'
Mark Sayers, Disappearning Church, p.82.  

A GROWING CHURCH

'A church that is no longer disppearing is one that leads people into realizing that they are not God.' 
Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church, p.79. 

CHURCH & CULTURE

'New Cultural Landscapes + Faithful Orthodoxy + Courageous Creative Response = Revitalization of the Church and Culture.'
Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church, p.70. 

Thursday, 5 September 2019

THE SELF-DESTRUCTION OF LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY

'Like a team of suicide bombers who obliterate themselves yet irrevocably change the cultural atmosphere, liberal Christianity has essentially destroyed itself as an ecclesiological, institutional force, yet has won the culture over to its vision of a Christianity reshaped for contemporary tastes.' 
Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience, p.23. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

CHRISTIANS TALK TO THEMSELVES

'...he is no fool that...talks to himself and excites his own soul to that which is good.'
Matthew Henry in Julian Hardyman, Fresh Pathways in Prayer, p.27.  

Monday, 2 September 2019

THE SACAMENTS

'We believe that our good God,
mindful of our crudeness and weakness,
has ordained sacraments for us
to seal his promises in us,
to pledge good will and grace toward us,
and also to nourish and sustain our faith.
God has added these to the Word of the gospel
to represent better to our external senses
both what God enables us to understand by the Word
and what he does inwardly in our hearts,
confirming in us
the salvation he imparts to us.'
Belgic Coonfession 33 in Todd Billings, 'Sacraments' in Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic (Edited by Michael Allen & Scott R Swain), p.342.  

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

'Few friendly remarks are more annoying than the information that we are always seeming to do what we never mean to do.' 
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, p.409. 

Sunday, 1 September 2019

HOW CHRISTIANITY ATTTRACTS IN A HOSTILE CULTURE

'One is immediately struck in 1 Peter with two contrary reactions of outsiders to the soft missionary difference. On the one hand, there is angered surprise and blaspheming from non-Christians that Christians are no longer joining them  "in the same excesses of dissipation" (4:4). The Christian difference is the cause of discrimination and persecution. Moreover, 1 Peter tells us, such negative reaction is to be expected from non-Christians. Christians should not be surprised by the "fiery ordeal" which they have to endure (4:12). The negative reactions of non-Christians do not rest on misunderstanding, but are rooted in the inner logic of the non-Christian constellation of values which seem incompatible with the values of Christians. On the other hand, one of the central passages in 1 Peter entertains a lively hope that precisely the Christian difference - outwardly visible in their good deeds - will cause non-Christians to see the truth and eventually convert (2:12,15; 3:1;3:16). This expectation presupposes overlap between Christan and non-Christian constellations of values. The good works of Christians can be appreciated by non-Christians and look attractive to them.' 
Miroslav Volf, Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter, p.25.

WHERE CHRISTIAN IDENTITY LIES

'Notice the significance of the new birth for Christian social identity. Christians do not come into their social world from outside seeking either to accommodate to their new home (like second generation immigrants would), shape it in the image of the one they have left behind (like colonizers would), or establish a little haven in the strange new world reminiscent of the old (as resident aliens would). They are not outsiders who either seek to become insiders or maintain strenuously the status of outsiders. Christians are the insiders who have diverted from their culture by being born again. They are by definition those who are not what they used to be, those who do not live like they used to live. Christian difference is therefore not an insertion of something new into the old from outside, but a bursting out of the new precisely within the proper space of the old.'
Miroslav Volf, Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter, p.18.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

INTIMACY IS KEY TO HUMANITY

'Humans are distinctly made to respond to God with a level of intimacy that distinguishes them from the rest of the creaturely realm.' 
Kelly M Kapic, 'Anthropology' in Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic (Edited by Michael Allen & Scott R Swain)p.182.  

BEING HUMAN IS ALL ABOUT COMMUNION

'Being human in God's image is fundamentally about communion, loving God and neighbor. That is always an embodied love, a love that fully engages the whole human being...
...What makes us human is our distinctive ability to love and commune with God, other humans, and the earth.' 
Kelly M Kapic, 'Anthropology' in Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic (Edited by Michael Allen & Scott R Swain)p.178.  

Friday, 30 August 2019

CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIPS BETWEEN THE SEXES

'Our call to Christian love and fellowship as brothers and sisters doesn't call us to the "false modesty of the prude" but to a "humble sincerity." Of course we promote one another's holiness, take sin seriously, and realise that we can easily fall into it. We don't think of a bunch of reasons to be alone with the other sex, we don't naively assume that everyone is safe, and we don't overestimate our own virtue. But, rather than creating extrabiblical rules, we are to do the hard work of rightly orientating our affections and exercising wisdom and discernment with others. We live before God in every situation. And in this manner, we will be able to perform ordinary acts of kindness and business without scandal.' 
Aimee Byrd, Why Can't We Be Friends? p.77. 

WHAT WERE WE CREATED FOR?

'We are created for communion with the Triune God and with one another...Our sexuaility is expressed in more places than the bedroom.' 
Aimee Byrd, Why Can't We Be Friends? p.49. 

HOW HOLLYWOOD HAS TAUGHT THE CHURCH

'...over time I learned that much of the conservative church believes the "Billy Crystal rule" taught by Burns. In a complete contradiction of our fight to uphold a biblical standard of sexuality, Hollywood became our teacher on relationships and gender after all. The church sent messages that a woman's attractiveness serves the purpose of landinbg a husband, then becomes a threat to all other men. My sexuality became a barrier to friendship. This has been quite a challnegs in my adult years.' 
Aimee Byrd, Why Can't We Be Friends: Aviodance is not purity, p.23. 

GREEK

'...in practical life nobody does give you the cue for pages of Greek.'
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, p.217. 

SUFFERING CAN PRODUCE EMPATHY

'The sense of an entailed disadvantage - the deformed foot doubtfully hidden by the shoe, makes a restlessly active spiritual yeast, and easily turns a self-centred, unloving nature into a Ishmaelite. But in the rarer sort, who presently see their own frustrated claim as one among a myriad, the inexorable sorrow takes the form of fellowship and makes the imagination tender.' 
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, p.215. 

GOSSIP

'Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it; it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker.' 
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, p.177. 

WE ENGLISH

'We English are a miscellaneous people, and any chance fifty of us will present many varieties of animal architecture or facial ornament; but it must be admitted that our prevailing expression is not that of a lively, impassioned race, preoccupied with the ideal and carrying the real as a mere make-weight. The strong point of the English gentleman pure is the easy style of his figure and clothing; he objects to marked ins and outs in his costume, and he also objects to looking inspired.' 
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, p.135. 

SCRIPTURE & PRAYER ARE INSEPERABLE

'Scripture and prayer are not two separate entities. My pastoral work was to fuse them into a single act: scriptureprayer or prayerscripture. It is this fusion of God speaking to us (Scripture) and us speaking to him (prayter) that the Holy Spirit uses to form the life of Christ in us.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.196. 

GRACE & GRATITUDE

'Grace and gratitude blong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightning.' 
Karl Barth in Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.192. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

'...history is important, for without it we are at the mercy of whims. Memory is a databank we use to evaluate our position and make decisions. With a biblical memory we have two thousand years of experience from which to make the off-the-cuff responses that are required each day in the life of faith. If we are going to live adequately and maturely as the people of God, we need more data to work from than our own experience can give us. 
What would we think of pollster who issues a definitive report on how the American people felt about a new television special, if we discovered later that he has interviewed only one person who had seen only ten minutes of the program? We would dismiss the conclusions as frivolous. Yet that is exactly the kind of evidence that too many Christians accept as the final truth about many much more important matters - matters such as answered prayer, God's judgement, Christ's forgiveness, eternal salvation. The only person they consult is themselves, and only experience they evaluate is the most recent ten minutes. But we need other experiences, the community of experience of brothers and sisters in the church, the centuries of experience provided by our biblical ancestors. A Christian who has David in his bones, Jeremiah in his bloodstream, Paul in his fingers tips and Christ in his heart will know how much and how little value to put on his own momentary feelings and the experience of the past week.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.160.  

GOING WITH THE GRAIN OF CREATION

'Our lives are lived well only when they are lived on the terms of their creation, with God loving and us being loved, with God making and us being made, with God revealing and us understanding, with God commanding and us responding. Being a Christian means accepting the terms of creation, accepting God as our maker and redeemer, and growing day by day into an increasingly glorious creature in Christ, developing joy, experiencing love, maturing in peace. By the grace of Christ we experience the marvel of being made in the image of God. If we reject this way, the only alternative is to attempt the hopelessly fourth-rate, embarrassingly awkward imitation of God made in the image of men and women like us.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.147. 

HUMAN LONGING

'A man's reach should exceed his gasp, or what's a heaven for?' 
Robert Browning in Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.147. 

WHEN A SIN BECOMES A CULTURAL IDOL

'...when an ancient temptation or trial becomes an approved feature in the culture, a way of life that is expected and encouraged, Christians have a stumbling block put before them that is hard to recognise for what it is, for it has been made into a monument, gilded with bronze and bathed in decorative lights. It has become an object of veneration. But the plain fact is that it is right in the middle of the road of faith, obstructing discipleship. For all its fancy dress and honored position, it is still a stumbling box.'  
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.144. 

THE COUNSELLING WE NEED

'When we suffer we attract counselors as money attracts thieves. Everybody has an idea of what we did wrong to get ourselves into such trouble and a prescription for what we can do to get out of it. We are flooded first with sympathy and then with advice, and when we don't come around quickly we are abandoned as a hopeless case. But none of that is what we need. We need hope. We need to know that we are in relation to God. We need to know that suffering is part of what it means to be human and not something alien. 
We need an eye specialist rather, then, say, a painter. A painter tries to convey to us with the aid of his brush and palette a picture of the world as he sees it; an ophthalmologist tries to enable us to see the world as it really is.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.138. 

WHAT TRUE HOPE IS

'Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. 
And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let God do it his way and in his time.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.138. 

Friday, 23 August 2019

THE DANGERS OF NOT RECKONING WITH SUFFERING

'A Christian is a person who decides to face and live through suffering. If we do not make that decision, we are endangered on every side. A man or woman of faith who fails to acknowledge and deal with suffering becomes, at last, either a cynic or a melancholic or a suicide.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.131.

PLUMBING & MORALITY

'...next to plumbing, morality is social convenience number one.'
Austin Farrer in Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.114. 

FEAR OF THE LORD

'...the Bible talks of the fear of the Lord - not to scare us but to bring us to awesome attention before the overwhelming grandeur of God, to shut up our whining and chattering and stop our running and fidgeting so that we can really see him as he is and listen to him as he speaks his merciful, life-changing words of forgiveness.'
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.114.

THE ROLE OF FEELINGS IN DISCIPLESHIP

'My feelings are so important for many things. They are essential and valuable. They keep me aware of much that is true and real. But they tell me next to nothing about God or my relation to God. My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel. Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.81. 

Thursday, 15 August 2019

THE BEST POETRY IS HONEST POETRY

'There is no literature in all the world that is more true to life and more honest than Psalms, for here we have warts-and-all religion. Every skeptical thought, every disappointing venture, every pain, every despair that we can face is lived through and integrated into a personal, saving relationship with God - a relationship that also has in it acts of praise, blessing, peace, security, trust, and love. 
Good poetry survives not when it is pretty or beautiful or nice but when it is true: accurate and honest. The psalms are great poetry and have lasted not because they appeal to our fantasies and our wishes but because they are confirmed in the intensities of honest and hazardous living.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.69. 

THE PRACTICALITY OF THE PSALMS

'A psalm is not a lecture; it is a song. In a psalm we have the observable evidence of what happens when a person of faith goes about the business of believing and loving and following God. We don't have a rule book defining the action, we have a snapshot of players playing the game.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.55.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT IN WORSHIP

'We think that if we don't feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much better than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship. When we obey the command to praise God in worship, our deep, essential need to be in relationship with God is nurtured.'
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.48.

AVOID THIS MISTAKE WHEN SUFFERING

'The only serious mistake we can make when illness comes, when anxiety threatens, when conflict disturbs our relationships with others is to conclude that God has gotten bored looking after us and has shifted his attention to a more exciting Christian, or that God has become disgusted with our meandering obedience and decided to let us fend for ourselves for a while, or that God has gotten too busy fulfilling prophecy in the Middle Easr to take time now to sort out the complicated mess we have gotten ourselves into. That is the only serious mistake we can make.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.37. 

WHERE TRUE WISDOM LIES

'...to deviate from the truth for the sake of some prospect of hope of our own can never be wise, however slight the deviation may be. It is not our judgment of the situation which can show us what is wise, but only the truth of the Word of God. Here alone lies the power of God's faithfulness and help. It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is always to abide soley by the Word of God in all simplicity.' 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.30. 

Friday, 9 August 2019

WHAT REPENTANCE LOOKS LIKE

'Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision. It is deciding that you have been wrong in suppoosing that you could manage your own own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the stregnth, education and training to make it on your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbors and your world. And it is deciding that God in Jesus Christ is telling you the truth.' 
Eugene H Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.23. 

THE NEED FOR DISGUST BEFORE CONVERSION

'A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay rise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquillity, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith,. A person has to get fed up with ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.'
Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.19. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

HUMANS EXCLUDE

'Cultural exclusion seems to happen almost universally. People are shamed and punished in our modern, pluralistic societies if they do not conform to the reigning parties. For all our talk of tolerance, we demand that others adopt our characteristics and beliefs. They must express no difference from us, or we will name them as beyond the pale of engagement. It is common for us to insist that everyone "respect difference" - allow people to be themselves - but in the very next moment we show complete disrespect for anyone who diverges from out cherished beliefs. We sneer at people more liberal than us as social justice warriors; we disdain those more conservative than us as hateful bigots.' 
Timothy J Keller, The Prodigal Prophet, p.171. 

Sunday, 4 August 2019

SIN

'Sin always begins with character assassination of God.'
Timothy J Keller, The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God's Mercy,  p.138. 

Saturday, 3 August 2019

THE MISEDUCATION OF PORN

'For both straight and gay boys, Internet pornography now offers an easily available correspondence degree with a major in sex, from a third-rate faculty with a poorly conceived curriculum.'
Walt Odets, Out of the Shadows, p.239.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DIFFERENCE FOR SEX

'A beautiful, potent body engaged in hot sex with the beautiful body of an idealized stranger is what all men, but particularly gay men, have been acculturated to believe is the definition of "good sex." Long-term partners usually know way too much about each other - and each other's imperfect bodies - for either to buy the "I'm hot, you're hot, let's fuck" approach that characterizes most gay adolescent, and much adult singles, sex. When the male sensibility cannot make any transition from pure sport sex to relationship sex, both gay and straight couples experience a "loss of sexual interest." Against this loss, straight couples often have an advantage: they have some measure of feminine sensibility in the game, a sensibility much more attuned to emotional expression.
Among gay men I have worked with in therapy, those with no previous sexual experience with women almost invariably have more difficulty in understanding the idea of relationship sex.'
Walt Odets, Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men's Lives, p.239. 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

YOUNG PREACHERS

'He was young enough to be a little proud of his first sermon, to which he had given considerable thought.' 
Margaret Craven, I Heard The Owl Call My Name, p.35.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

WHAT TO ASK GOD FOR?

'One question, then, we should bring to our petitions is "Can they be accommodated under the Lord's Prayer?"'
Lauren F Winner, The Dangers of Christian Practice, p.88.

THE INTIMACY OF PETITION

'Petition is arguably the most powerful means for us to gain intimacy with God. This is precisely the knot of petition and its friendship. One might say: Our prayers would be safe, protected from at least one sort of deformation, it we would refrain from asking God to give us the specific object of our desire. We could pray only the last clause of Gethsemane and the third clause of the Lord's Prayer; we could pray only "they will be done," and never hazard the presumption that our own desires are things the Lord might grant or endorse. But we cannot have the friendship that petition makes possible if we do not name our desires.'
Lauren F Winner, The Dangers of Christian Practice, p.83. 

THE IMTIMACY OF PETITIONING GOD

'...petition offers the possibility of intimacy: Something close to my real self (or at least, what I perceive my real self to be) is now revealed before God. Of course, God already knows my real self, better than I will ever know it. The intimacy that follows my petitions is made possible not by God's new knowledge of me but by my new availability to God.' 
Lauren F Winner, The Dangers of Christian Practice, p.81.

Friday, 28 June 2019

CHRISTIAN HEALTH & SAFETY

'Identification, rather than obfuscation, of the damage characteristic of indispensable (and sometimes dominically given) Christian practices helps us describe the practices more truthfully, and helps us be on the alert for deformations.'
Lauren F Winner, The Dangers of Christian Practice, p.16. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF MEALS

'The people you eat with are the people you belong to.'
Lauren F Winner, The Dangers of Christian Practice, p.15. 

WHAT GOD CAN DO WITH SIN

'A doctrine of sin requires us to acknowledge that our perceptions are faulty - and a doctrine of providence requires us to acknowledge that in the face of sin, God will bring about goods that otherwise would never have existed.' 
Lauren F Winner, The Dangers of Christian Practice, p.9. 

WHAT WE HAVE LOST

'God created all things with forms. When created, formed by God, these creatures were perfect - the shape of every creature, whether an ocean or a lion or a human being, was all good, all Godward, all lovely. But in the present era, after the Fall and before the consummation of God's redemption, none of the things God formed is wholly good. We have lost some of our goodness; it has vanished into absence and curvature. We are all still formed as God formed us, but now our forms are distorted and our actions sometimes perverse.'
Lauren F Winner, The Dangers of Christian Practice, p.4.  

THE CHARACTERISTC DAMAGES OF CHRISTIAN MINISTRY

'...because nothing created is untouched by the Fall, Christians should not be surprised when lovely and good, potentially gracious Christian gestures are damaged, or when human beings deploy those Christian gestures in the perpetuation of damage. Because often damage is expressed in a way that is not arbitrary, but is proper to what is expressing it, Christians ought to be able to predict some of the characteristic damages that might be found in those potentially gracious gestures, and Christians ought to be able to predict some of the ways in which human beings put those gestures to work in perpetuating damage.' 
Lauren F Winner, The Dangers of Christian Practice: On Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage and Sin, p.3. 

Monday, 17 June 2019

BITE-SIZED SELF-KNOWLEDGE

'I sometimes pray not for self-knowledge in general but for just so much self-knowledge at the moment as I can bear and use at that moment; the little daily dose.' 
CS Lewis, Prayer: Letters to Malcolm, p.32. 

THE PERFECT CHURCH SERVICE

'The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.' 
CS Lewis, Prayer: Letters to Malcolm, p2. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

A DECENT EDUCATION

'...for a boy is only sent to be taught at school when it is too late to teach him anything. The real thing has been done already, and thank God it's nearly always done by women.' 
GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p.115. 

THE COMMUNITY AT THE HEART OF THE UNIVERSE

'The heart of humanity, especially of European humanity, is certainly much more satisfied by the strange hints and symbols that gather round the Trinitarian idea, the image of a council at which mercy pleads as well as justice, the conception of a sort of liberty and variety existing even in the inmost chamber of the world. For Western religion has always felt keenly the idea "it is not good for man to be alone.'"
GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p.99. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

HOW TO CHANGE

'True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you'll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity.' 
James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, p.34. 

Sunday, 2 June 2019

FUNCTIONING AS AN EVANGELICAL

'For me, the only way to be a properly functioning evangelical is to keep arguing about what it means to be an evangelical.' 
Richard J Mouw, Restless Faith, p.174. 

Friday, 31 May 2019

COMMON GRACE?

'The forest ecosystem is held in a delicate balance. Every being has its niche and its function, which contribute to the well-being of all. Nature is often described like that, or something along those lines; however, that is, unfortunately, false. For out there under the trees the law of the jungle rules. Every species wants to survive, and each takes from the others what it needs. All are basically ruthless, and the only reason that everything doesn't collapse is because there are safeguards against those who demand more than their due. And one final limitation is an organism's own genetics: an organism that is too greedy and takes too much much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life and dies out.'  
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate:Discoveries from a Secret World, p.113. 

THEOLOGY

'...a mystery discerning exercise...'
Thomas Weinandy in Richard J Mouw, Restless Faith: holding evangelical beliefs in a world of contested labels, p.96. 

Thursday, 30 May 2019

MARRIAGE

'Mrs Tulliver had lived thirteen years with her husband, yet she retained in all the freshness of her early married life a facility of saying things which drove him in the opposite direction to the one she desired.' 
George Eliot, Mill on the Floss, p.81. 

CHILDHOOD & CREATION

'We could never have loved the earth so well if we had no childhood in it...Our delight in the sunshine on the deep bladed grass today, might be no more than the faint perception of wearied souls, if it were not for the sunshine and grass in the far-off years, which still live in us and transform our perception into love.' 
George Eliot, Mill of the Floss, p.45.  

THE GIFT OF SMALL THINGS

'When we are not grateful for the little things, it is only a very short step to no longer being grateful for anything. When we do not enjoy and savour and love and love and laugh and delight in the little things, then we are heading towards losing our delight in anything.' 
David Gibson, Destiny, p.135. 

PLEASURE IS A DIVINE DECREE

'...pleasure is a divine decree that we ignore at our peril. For it is precisely in enjoying the world God has made that we show how we have grasped the goodness of the God we say we love. Failure to enjoy is an offence, not merely an oversight. When the child does not enjoy the gift the parent has lavished on them, it is an affront to the parent's love as much as the child deliberately breaking the toy. No parent is glad that Buzz Lightyear sits pristinely in the box rather than being lovingly bashed and bumped in daily adventures. Real relationship involves seeing another person take pleasure in gifts given; delight is what we ask of the other as we freely give to them.'
David Gibson, Destiny, p.133. 

EAT & DRINK BECAUSE TOMORROW WE LIVE

'Those without Christ often abandon themselves to eating and drinking because sometimes it looks as if tht's all there is to do before we die. But those who love Christ cherish eating and drinking because it looks a little like what we will do after we die.' 
David Gibson, Destiny, p.111. 

LEARNING FROM FUNERALS

'...there are two types of people at the funeral in the crematorium. The fool sits there thinking how unbearably grim this is, and can't wait to be outside in the sunshine and back to what he was doing, and to get out to the pub in the evening. But the wise person sits in the crematorium and stares at the coffin, and realizes that one day it will be his turn. The wise person asks himself, "When it is my turn, what will my life have been worth? What will they be saying about me?" He loved his bowling and his partying and his holidays. Is that it?'
David Gibson, Destiny, p.88.   

WE'RE TO BE CYNICAL - OF OURSELVES

'...the reality of God is measured by the truthfulness of his speech, not by my grasp of his presence. Under the sun sometimes everything is mixed up and back to front that actually we are meant to learn that God intends for us to be suspicious of ourselves - suspicious of why we doubt him and why cannot find him, suspicious of the deceptions our our own hearts - but nevertheless trusting the truth of his Word with every fibre of our being, even when we cannot see him.' 
David Gibson, Destiny, p.79. 

WHAT WORK DOES TO FAMILIES

'To be unhappy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.'
Samuel Johnson in David Gibson, Destiny, p.64. 

CHRISTIAN JUSTICE

'There is something unique, however, about the Christain approach to injustice and oppression. Any relief organisation will be eloquent in their explanantion of the damage that the powerful can inflict on the weak. But the Bible is just as concerned with the damage done to the oppressor in their acts of oppression.'  
David Gibson, Destiny, p.39. 

OUR CONTRADICTORY DESIRES

'...at the heart of our human condition is an unwillingness to accept things as they really are. We long for lives of permanence in a world of constant change and we strive to achieve it. We long for change in a world of permanent repetition and we dream of how to interrupt it.'  
David Gibson, Destiny, p.32. 

THE MESSAGE OF ECCLESIASTES

'Ecclesiastes teaches us to live life backwards. It encourages us to take the one thing in the future that is certain - our death - and work backwards from that point into all the details and decisions and heartaches of our lives, and to think about them from the perspective of the end.' 
David Gibson, Destiny: Learning to live by preparing to die, p. xii. 

THE POWER OF SILENCE

'Interviews: silence is the weapon, silence and people's need to fill it - as long as the person isn't you, the interviewer. Tow of fiction's greatest interviewers - George Simeon's Inspector Maigret and John le Carre's George Smiley - have little devices they use to keep themselves from talking, and let silence do its work. Maigret cleans his ever-present pipe, tapping it gently on his desk and then scraping it out until the witness breaks down and talks. Smiley takes off his eyeglasses and polishes them with the thick end of his necktie. As for myself I have less class. When I'm waiting for the person I'm interviewing to break a silence by giving me a piece of information I want, I write "SU" (for Shut Up!") in my notebook. If anyone were ever to look through my notebooks, he would find a lot of "SUs" there.' 
Robert A Caro, Working, p.137. 

INSTITUTIONS

'An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.'
Ralph Waldo Emerson in Robert A Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, p.633. 

Saturday, 27 April 2019

GRIEVING A HUSBAND

'Oh, she thought, oh, this is how it is, it is the small things; a bonfire in the evening; this is what makes it so hard to bear. For what she missed now was not passion or important deeds, significant words, but the routine of everyday life, eating and work and sleep and talk of this and that, and the sound of footsteps about the house, the smell of wet boots on the step. Nothing could replace all of this, nothing, though she might live forever. It was not vows and fleshly love and the bearing of children she wanted, it was much less, and so much more.' 
Susan Hill, In the Springtime of the Year, p.125. 

WE LOOK FOR THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

'He was talking about gathering the flowers, in the woods and along the banks and hedgerows, and moss from besides the stream. On Easter Saturday evening, people took them up to the churchyard and spent hours, dressing the graves, making beautiful floral patterns on the turf, they worked until it was dark and even later, by lantern light, so that, on the following morning, all the dead should be decked out with fresh-growing blooms, a resurrection.' 
Susan Hill, In the Springtime of the Year, p.102. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

THE PROBLEM WITH FAMILY LIKENESS

'Vi loved her mother, but was too much like her not to get irritated after fifteen minutes.' 
Penelope Fitzgerald, Human Voices, p.104. 

THE BBC

'...a cross between a civil service, a powerful moral force, and an amateur theatrical company that wasn't too sure where next week's money was coming from...'
Penelope Fitgerald, Human Voices, p.43. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

FINALLY WHOLE

'To affirm the resurrection of the dead is to confess that the God who made us will finally make us whole - spirit, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23).' 
Richard B Hays, First Corinthians, p.279. 

Sunday, 7 April 2019

PRAYER AS FELLOWSHIP

'Prayer is a divinely ordained means of living in fellowship with God and each other.' 
J Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament, p.123. 

Monday, 25 March 2019

LOVING THE GIVER NOT THE GIFT

'...if the things of this world delight you, praise God for them, but turn your love away from them and give it to their Maker.' 
Augustine of Hippo in Andrew Wilson, Spirit and Sacrament, p.35. 

THE GIFT OF CREATION

'Most of us, I suspect, have never considered the theological implications of the existence of purple.'
Andrew Wilson, Spirit and Sacrament: An invitation to Eucharismatic Worship, p.26. 

Sunday, 24 March 2019

ENGLISH FRIENDSHIP

'My father and he had one of those English friendships which begin by avoiding intimacies and eventually eliminate speech altogether.' 
Jorge Luis Borges in Philip Rhys Evans, A Country Doctor's Commonplace Book, p.39. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

CHOOSING A CHURCH

'...a top recommended question from me for "church shoppers" might be this: who would you like to bury you?'
J Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament, p.99. 

HOW DO WE STAND OUT FROM THE ANIMALS?

'Only animals live entirely in the Here and Now. Only nature knows niether memory nor history. But man - let me offer you a definition - is a storytelling animal. Wherever he goes he wants to leave behind not a chaotic wake, not an empty space, but the comfortable marker-buoys and trail-signs of stories.' 
Graham Swift in J Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament, p.97. 

GOD & SUFFERING

'Somehow, in a way we are inclined to find offensive, God has to get his boots muddy and, it seems, to get his hands bloody, to put the world back to rights. If we declare, as so many have done, that we would rather it not be so, we face a counter question: Which bit of dry, clean ground are we standing on that we should pronounce on the matter with such certainty?' 
Tom Wright in J Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament, p.87. 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

HOW TO CHEER YOURSELF UP

'It is the word of God alone which can first and effectively cheer the heart of any sinner. There is no true or solid peace to be enjoyed in the world except in the way of reposing upon the promises of God.' 
John Calvin in J Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament, p.47.  

NOT ANSWERING THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

'...in my view the biblical "answer" to the speculative problem of evil is this (drum roll, please): we don't have an answer. It's not that the Bible hasn't addressed the question so that we as humans are left with a shoulder-shrugging: "I don't know." The Bible has addressed the question, and God's response - as in  the book of Job - is that humans don't have an answer to the problem of evil, and we shouldn't claim to have one. It should remain an open question, one that we continue to ask in prayer and in our lives in response to the world's suffering.' 
J Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestlng with Incurable Cancer & Life in Christ, p.21. 

Saturday, 9 March 2019

MIDDLE-CLASS MATERIALISM

'...it was the same as with all people who are not exactly rich, but who want to resemble the rich, and for that reason only resemble each other: damasks, ebony, flowers, carpets, and bronzes, dark and gleaming - all that all people of a certain kind acquire in order to resemble people of a certain kind.' 
Leo Tolstoy, 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich' in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories, p.57. 

ESCAPING DEATH

'...the very fact of the death of a close acquaintence called up in all those who heard of it, as always, a feeling of joy that it was he who was dead and not I.' 
Leo Tolstoy, 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich' in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories, p.40. 

WHY FAITH NEEDS IMAGINATION

'...faith is a form of imagination, because to have faith means that is one is living as though it is true that Jesus is Lord, that salvation has been won and that the kingdom is both present and future. Faith is not merely a form of assent to certain doctrines; it is much more a form of trusting, or actually living in, a new reality that God has amde. There is a sense in which faith is a form of make-believe; it means living as though everything that God says is true and has come about. In worship one acts as if it were true, but with the belief that it really is so. Imagination is central to faith and a playful attitude lies at the heart of worship, and it is these capacities that enable the believer to transcend the immediate world and experience the new. Play and imagination are central to religious experience.' 
Brian Edgar, The God Who Plays, p.36. 

A LIFE OF PLAYFUL SERVICE?

'A life of Christian ministry. service, sacrifice and worship that does not embody, as part of it, the joy and delight of a playful relationship with God will become a duty bound and moralistic life that will have difficulty in developing a close, intimate relationship with the one who is our chief and best Friend. This is because a playful attitude lies at the heart of all close relationships. The absence of this kind of relationship has meant burnout for far too many Christians. Just as in everyday life work without play makes one dull, in the Christian life service without a playful relationship with God leads to spiritual dullness.' 
Brian Edgar, The God Who Plays, p.8. 

ESCHATOLOGY DONE WELL

'...eschatological thinking that follows a biblical mode of thought really means allowing the final events, the end purpose of all things, to influence one's understanding of all preceding doctrines and events, including the form of the present life of the believer.' 
Brian Edgar, The God Who Plays: A Playful Approach to Theology and Spirituality, p.5. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

MOTIVE CHECKING

'First Corinthians 13 ought to encourage us to step back from even our most cherished projects and ask, "Why am I doing this?" If we cannot honestly say, "I am doing this for love and in love," then the legitimacy of the whole enterprise must come under serious doubt. This test applies, of course, not just to explicitly religious practices but to to everything we do: business, academics, politics.'
Richard B Hays, First Corinthians, p.232.   

Friday, 15 February 2019

A DIFFERENT ECONOMIC IMPERATIVE

'Practicing neighborly economics means you don't go for what's cheapest and easiest. You think about which relationships and stores you want to preserve in your town and you shop there.' 
Melody Warnick, This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are, p.59. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

BIBLE STUDY CHALLENGES

'There are two major difficulties frequently encountered in Bible study. Some passages are hard to understand, and so engage the mind at full stretch as we try to work out their meaning. Other passages are hard to accept, and so engage the will at full stretch as we try to respond to them in obedience. But this passage comes into both categories, so that as we approach it we need to do so in humility and dependence on God, expressed in prayer, that he will be pleased to make its message clear and plain to us, and give us grace to put it into practice.' 
David Jackman, Let's Study 1 Corinthians, p.183. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

THE CENTRALITY OF SEXUAL ETHICS TO CHRISTIANITY

'In the early Church, sexual morality was not baggage, afterthought, or accident. It was the plane on which Christians tried to live in the world, but not of it. Which is why adapting this sexual morality to the modern age has proven as simple as extricating a taut thread from a spider’s web.'
Kyle Harper, 'The First Sexual Revolution' in https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/01/the-first-sexual-revolution (Accessed 9th February 2019). 

THE CHALLENGE OF OUR CULTURAL MOMENT

'...the modern Church finds itself in an odd position. It is surrounded by a culture that bears some of its own values, but they are shorn of their enchanted origins and presented as neutral axioms of the universe. Ironically, some of the most unabashedly secular models of human sexuality also share with Christianity a belief in the central place of the erotic within the architecture of morality. This is utterly alien to Epictetus, and for that matter to most religions outside the Christian (and to some extent the Jewish) tradition. An avowed secularist is as likely as a Christian activist to proclaim the universal dignity of all individuals and insist upon the individual’s freedom. And yet, however moralized the domain of sex might be, the vast, vacant universe seems to have left only authenticity and consent as the shared, public principles of sexual morality. These axioms derive from a picture of the universe different from the one imagined by Paul, who always envisioned the individual—including the sexual self—within the larger story of the gospel and its picture of a created cosmos in the throes of restoration.' 
Kyle Harper, 'The First Sexual Revolution': https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/01/the-first-sexual-revolution (Accessed 6th February 201 9)

Monday, 4 February 2019

HUMAN LIMITATIONS

'..to be human is to be limited...'
Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, p.260. 

Sunday, 3 February 2019

THE KEY TO EVANGELISM

'I was willing to be rejected. That's what allows you to be a good salesperson. You have to be willing to be rejected.' 
Bill Thomas in Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, p.113. 

Saturday, 2 February 2019

DEATH & DOCTORS

'The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don't want a general who fights toi the point of total annihilation. You don't want Custer. You want Robert A. Lee, someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can't, someone who undestands that the damage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end.' 
Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End, p.187. 

Saturday, 19 January 2019

CHILD-LIKE FAITH

'...within the child-self that is part of us all, there is perhaps nothing more precious than the fathomless capacity to trust.' 
Frederick Buechner, 'All's Lost - All's Found' in A Room Called Remember, p.190. 

LITERARY HYPOCONDRIA

'I have never had an ache or pain that wasn't fatal or an illness that wasn't terminal. One of the occupational hazards of being a writer of fiction is to have an imagination as overdeveloped as a blacksmith's right arm.' 
Frederick Buechner, 'All's Lost - All's Found' in A Room to Remember, p.185. 

HERMENEUTICAL HUMILITY

'...the principle of hermeneutical honesty: we should never pretend to understand more than we do.'
Richard B Hays, First Corinthians, p.190. 

CORRECTING FRIENDS

'A friend should sympathize with and make allowance for a friend. He should consider his friend's fault his own. He should correct his friend with humility and compassion. His face and voice should show sadness and disappointment , with sobs interrupting his words. His friend should not only see but feel that the correction comes not fout of rancour but out of love.'
Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, p.117.   

THE IMPORTANCE OF FRIENDSHIP

'...no life can be pleasing without friends...'
Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, p.106.  

FRIENDSHIP & LOVING GOD

'...friendship is a step toward the love and knowledge of God.' 
Aelred of Rievaulx, Spritual Friendship, p.74. 

A FRIEND IS MEDICINE FOR LIFE

"a friend is medicine for life." What a striking metaphor! No remedy is more powerful, effective, and distinctive in everything that fills this life than to have someone to share your every loss with compassion and your every gain with congratulation.' 
Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship (Translated by Lawrence C Braceland), p.73. 

FAITH IS WAITING

'Faith is a way of waiting - never quite knowing, never quite hearing or seeing, because in the darkness we are all but a little lost. There is doubt hard on the heels of every belief, fear hard on the heels of every hope, and many holy thing lie in ruins because the world has ruined them and we have ruined them. But faith waits even so, delivered at least from that final despair which gives up waiting altogether because it sees nothing worth waiting through. Faith waits - for the opening of a door, the sound of footsteps in the hall, that beloved voice delayed, delayed, so long that there are times when you all but give up hoping of ever hearing it. And when at moments you think you do hear it (if only faintly, from far away) the question is: Can it possibly be, impossibly be, the one voice of all voices.' 
Frederick Buechner, 'Delay' in A Room Called Remember, p.130. 

Thursday, 10 January 2019

HOW HUMANKIND DOESN'T CHANGE

'Three things were immortal: good and evil and the hope in men's hearts that evil would be overcome by good.' 
Howard Spring, Fame is the Spur, p.646. 

AMBITION

'"...he'll do like the rest of us. He'll do what he wants to, till the time comes for him to wonder whether it was worth doing...'"
Howard Spring, Fame is the Spur, p.469. 

Monday, 7 January 2019

GRIEF

'It hurts just as much as it is worth'
Julian Barnes in Zadie Smith. 'Joy' in Feeling Free, p.435. 

JOY

'The thing no one ever tells you about joy is that it has very little real pleasure in it. And yet if it hadn't happended at all, at least once, how should we live?' 
Zadie Smith, 'Joy' in Feel Free, p.434. 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS ABOUT WAITING

'There is a kind of high comedy about our faith. There is a kind of high comedy about our seeing and not seeing, about waiting, about being human but not quite human. We wait for him to come - more than we know, each of us waits for our heart's desire - and he comes only in metaphors, in shadowy glimpses through the tall and bleeding trees; in long silences through which some words should be spoken and are spoken but never quite audibly enough for us to be sure we've heard them right: "The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee preserve they body and soul unto everlasting life" 
Body and soul, we wait for the new life to make us everlastingly alive, new blood to flow through our dusty and sorrowing world, soft as rainwater and almost without taste but with the faintest tinge of sweetness to it. He was a fine man, our Lord and General. He was everything a man should be. He was everything we all should be and from the deepest part of ourselves yearn to be - loving, brave, just - but are not yet, not by a long shot.' 
Frederick Buechner, 'A Little While' in A Room Called Remember, p.103.