Classic and contemporary excerpts

Leaving God Under A Bench

In 1307 a crack Dominican administrator named Meister Eckhart was elected provincial of his order in the newly formed province of Saxony … home to 50 houses of friars and 9 convents of nuns; and the new provincial, later named vicar general, would spend the rest of his life steeped in the administrative and political duties attendant on his post. But Eckhart was also a keenly spiritual fellow, hardly content to leave his spiritual life behind in the chapel before heading off to the office each day. Those who did, he suggested in a sermon given at the time, “are behaving no differently than if they took God, wrapped a coat around his head, and shoved him under a bench.”

Dan Mintie, “It’s Not Easy to Be a Christian Boss,” U.S. Catholic (Dec. 1985)

Damaging Criticism

A man who is continually criticized becomes good for nothing, the effect of criticism knocks all the gumption and power out of him.

Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

Pity Vs. Self-Pity

The attractiveness of pity and the ugliness of self-pity are unarguable. Yet we live in a society in which self-pity far exceeds pity. The excessively popular genre of literature, the celebrity autobiography, that smothers us in self-pitying subjectivism is the unpleasant evidence that we may be the most self-pitying populace in all of human history. Feeling sorry for yourself has been developed into an art form. The whining and sniveling that wiser generations ridiculed with satire is given best-seller status among us.

Eugene Peterson, Earth and Altar

Lord, Is It I?

As murder storywriters assume, and as most of us learn in experience, we have in us capacities for fury, fear, envy, greed, conceit, callousness, and hate which, given the right provocation, could make killers out of us all—baby-batterers or Bluebeards, professional thugs or amateur hit men. G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown explained his method of detection by saying, “You see, it was I who killed all those people”—in the sense that he looked within himself to find the mentality that would produce the crime he was investigating, and did in fact discover it there. Chesterton lets him moralize:

“No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away … till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.”

Brown, though fictitious, states fact. When the fathomless wells of rage and hatred in the normal human heart are tapped, the results are fearful. “There but for the grace of God go I.” Only restraining and renewing grace enables anyone to keep the sixth commandment.

J. I. Packer, I Want to Be a Christian

Turning Song To “Twitter”

A man had a fine canary whose song was unusually beautiful. During the summer, it seemed a shame to keep the bird inside the house all the time. So the owner placed the cage in a nearby tree for the bird to enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air.

Many sparrows frequented the tree and were attracted to the cage. At first the canary was frightened, but soon enjoyed his companions. But gradually and almost imperceptibly he lost the sweetness of the song. By the end of the summer his “singing” was little more than the twitter of the sparrows. Spending his summer in the wrong environment caused the canary to lose his finest song.

Jerry Lock, Church Music World (Nov./Dec. 1985)

If God Be For Us …

Do not weigh highly who may be for you or against you. But take thought and care that God be with you in everything you do. Have a good conscience, and God will defend you well.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Well Said?

Consider this paradox: Almost everything that is publicly said these days is recorded. Almost nothing of what is said is worth remembering.

Ted Koppel, on receiving the “Broadcaster of the Year Award,” Harper’s (Jan. 1986).

Forgetting What Lies Behind …

If you’ve done the best you can—if you have done what you have to do—there is no use worrying about it, because nothing can change it, and to be in a position of leadership … you have to give thought to what’s going to happen the next day and you have to be fresh for … what you have to do the next day. What you’re going to do is more important than what you have done.

—The Words of Harry S. Truman, selected by Robert J. Donovan

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