Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of... 1... (Post 1,000!)

Over-anxiety?

“Imitate a little child, which will walk along with one hand clinging to its father, and with the other it gathers strawberries or blackberries from the wayside hedge. Even so, while you gather and use this world’s goods with one hand, always let the other be fast in your Heavenly Father’s hand, and look round from time to time to make sure that He is satisfied with what you are doing, at home or abroad. Beware of letting go, under the idea of making or receiving more—for if He is not with you, you will fall to the ground at the first step. When your ordinary work or business is not specially engrossing, let your heart be fixed more on God than on it; and if the work be such as to require your undivided attention, then pause from time to time and look to God, just as the sailor on his homeward voyage looks oftener to the sky than to the waves which carry him. So will God work with you, in you, and for you, and your work will be blessed.”
~St. Francis de Sales

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of... 2...

Humility

“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call 'humble' nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you had to say to him. If you do dislike him, it will be because you feel a bit envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
~C. S. Lewis

“We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity — as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble — delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are. I wish I had got a bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancy-dress off — getting rid of the false self, with all its 'Look at me' and 'Aren’t I a good boy?' and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in the desert.”
~C. S. Lewis

3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
~Philippians 2:3-8 (English Standard Version)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of... 3...

Passionate Truth-seeking

The following quotes are from a book by Peter Kreeft who selects the parts of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées (English translation=Thoughts) that are generally considered great and interesting, and most respond to the needs of today. Kreeft quotes Pascal and then offers his own comments and insights on applying Pascal’s wisdom to today’s questions and problems. Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. Kreeft is a modern Christian apologist and professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King's College.

“I condemn equally those who choose to praise man, those who choose to condemn him, and those who choose to divert themselves, and I can only approve of those who seek with groans.”

“It is good to be tired and weary from fruitlessly seeking the true good, so that one can stretch out one’s arms to the Redeemer.”

“Truth is so obscured nowadays and lies [are] so well established that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it.”

“My whole heart strains to know what the true good is in order to pursue it: no price would be too high to pay for eternity.”
~Blaise Pascal

“This is why the discovery of truth depends on the heart and will, not just the head and mind. This is why the prime requisite for finding any great truth (like God, or the meaning of life or death, or who we are and what we ought to do, or even finding the right mate and the right career) is love, passion, questing and questioning. Once we pursue a question with our whole being, as Socrates pursued 'know thyself', we will find answers. Answers are not as hard to come by as we think; and questions, real questioning, is a lot more rare and precious than we think. Finding is not the problem, seeking is. For truth is hidden, ever since the Fall but especially 'nowadays', now that our secular society no longer helps us to God, as traditional societies did. Lies are well established on the level of appearance (for example, movies); truth and reality are hidden, behind the lies. No one will find the truth today just by listening to the media, which are largely in the power of the Father of Lies. We have to ignore the pervasive chatter and seek the countercultural, unfashionable, media-scorned truth behind these obstacles.

Clearly, this situation has become vastly exacerbated since Pascal’s day. Here again he plays the prophet; he is more relevant to our time than to his own.

If we do not love the truth, we will not seek it. If we do not seek it, we will not find it. If we do not find it, we will not know it. If we do not know it, we have failed our fundamental task in time, and quite likely also in eternity.”
~Peter Kreeft

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of... 4...

The World

“I am old. Time has revealed itself and shed its pretense of eternity, though it is of course contained within eternity. I clean the hallways, take out the garbage, try not to be irritated by the roar of ten million automobiles, and by the jackhammers that are breaking up the street outside the front door, only to lay down another stratum of tar for future generations to dig up. This is a big city, and though I have lived within it for close to forty years, I still do not understand how it survives.

Its people display an astonishing variety of colors, languages, temperaments, and ratios of good and evil (as is everywhere), but they do not seem unhappy. Neither do they contemplate the body of the world. Its foundations are below them, they believe, in the concrete and tar, the pipes and wires. During my time among them I have noticed this delusion particularly. Seldom have I encountered the few who are awake, who cast their gaze to the real foundations, which, as human beings should know, are above.”
~from The Island of the World by Michael O’Brien

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best of... 5...

Courage

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,’ is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. The paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to live, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best of... 6...

A Good Mess

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly.”
~Andy Rooney

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Best of... 7...

The Incarnation

“Just as our unaided eyes cannot look directly into the sun’s brilliant light without our having to close them immediately, being momentarily blinded, so, in a similar way, our understanding is blinded and darkened by the brilliant light and splendor of the mystery of the Incarnation. Our understanding, the eye of our soul, cannot consider this mystery for any length of time without becoming clouded, humbly confessing that it cannot penetrate it deeply enough to understand how God became incarnate in the virginal womb of the Blessed Virgin and how He became one like us to make us like God.”
~St. Frances de Sales

Monday, December 24, 2012

Best of... 8...

Favorite Christmas Hymn Verse

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.
~Phillips Brooks (from O Little Town of Bethlehem)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best of... 9...

Little Things

“We ought not weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
~Brother Lawrence

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Best of... 10...

Interesting...

“A church that can’t worship must be entertained; and men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide entertainment.”
~A. W. Tozer

Friday, December 21, 2012

Best of... 11...

All Fathers Fail but One

“I just read this in Tolkien’s letters to his grown children: ‘I live in anxiety concerning my children, who in this harder, crueler, and more mocking world into which I have survived must suffer more assaults than I have … I have brought you all up and talked to you too little … I failed as a father. Now I pray for you all, unceasingly, that the Healer shall heal my defects.’

Joseph Pearce, Tolkien’s biographer, comments: ‘One cannot help but feel that Tolkien was being unduly harsh in seeing himself as a failure as a father. Whatever shortcomings he exhibited must be countered by the mitigating pleas of those who remembered him as a loving and conscientious parent.’

Pearce was still young when he wrote that. When he gets as old as Tolkien was when he wrote his letter, he will understand, and perhaps write one like it to his children. What parents can look back and be satisfied with their own efforts? Only shallow and materialistic fools. (‘My kids never lacked any toy that other kids had!’)

Good parents are never satisfied with their efforts to love and understand their kids, but they are satisfied with their kids. How can we be satisfied with the results of our efforts but not with our efforts? Because the good in our kids now is due 1% to us, 2% to them, and 97% to God’s grace.

There is only one perfect Father. And even His kids mess up. All of them.”
~Peter Kreeft

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best of... 12...

A Song of Praises

for the gray nudge of dawn at the window
for the chill that hangs around the bed and slips

     its cold tongue under the covers

for the cat who walks over my face purring murderously
for the warmth of the hip next to mine and sweet lethargy
for the cranking up of the will until it turns me out of bed
for the robe’s caress along arm and neck
for the welcome of hot water, the dissolving of

     the night’s stiff mask in the warm washcloth

for the light along the white porcelain sink
for the toothbrush’s savory invasion of the tomb of the mouth

     and resurrection of the breath

for the warm lather and the clean scrape of the razor

     and the skin smooth and pink that emerges

for the steam of the shower, the apprehensive shiver and then

     its warm enfolding of the shoulders

     its falling on the head like grace

     its anointing of the whole body

     and the soap’s smooth absolution

for the rough nap of the towel and its message to each skin cell
for the hairbrush’s pulling and pulling,

     waking the root of each hair

for the reassuring snap of elastic
for the hug of the belt that pulls all together

for the smell of coffee rising up the stairs announcing paradise
for the glass of golden juice in which light is condensed

     and the grapefruit’s sweet flesh

for the incense of butter on toast
for the eggs like two peaks over which the sun rises

     and the jam for which the strawberries of summer have

     saved themselves

for the light whose long shaft lifts the kitchen

     into the realms of day

for Mozart elegantly measuring out the gazebos

     of heaven on the radio

and for her face, for whom the kettle sings, the coffee percs,

     and all the yellow birds in the wallpaper spread their wings.

~Robert Siegel

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Best of... 13...

Here and Now; In The Moment

“Much thought has at its root a dissatisfaction with what is. Wanting is the urge for the next moment to contain what this moment does not. When there’s wanting in the mind, that moment feels incomplete. Wanting is seeking elsewhere. Completeness is being right here.”
~Stephen Levine

“…one of the best ways that our faith expresses itself is by our ability to be still, to be present, and not to panic or lose perspective. God still does His best work in the most difficult of circumstances. The Spirit is more powerful than the will, more powerful than the flesh, more powerful than pain, more powerful than guilt, even more powerful than our weakness and our doubt.

We can experience the living Christ here and now, and our difficult circumstances will be the very opportunity for our faith to grow.”
~Tim Hansel

“We know that the real stuff of life cannot be located either at our desk or on the beach. Whatever it is, it won’t be parceled out that way. Experience doesn’t hold off while we are at work and begin when the whistle blows. The whole thing is ‘the real stuff’, and the irony is that, unless we take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and make ourselves reflect upon it, we allow it to tumble past us helter-skelter and never grasp any of it as real. Here, parenthetically, is one of the losses sustained in growing up: it is in the nature of childhood to live fully in the moment, savoring the warmth of the sand or the dancing of the dust in the sunbeam or the new taste of raspberries, without emasculating the sensation by worrying over what has just occurred or what is about to occur. Adulthood, on the other hand, entails the pitiless awareness of time, which drains away our pleasures (much more rapidly, it always seems, than our pains), and hurries crisis and doom at its heels…”
~Thomas Howard

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best of... 14...

A Farewell, Age 10

While its owner looks away I touch the rabbit.
Its long soft ears fold back under my hand.
Miles of yellow wheat bend; their leaves
rustle away and wait for the sun and wind.

This day belongs to my uncle. This is his farm.
We have stopped on our journey; when my father says to
we will go on, leaving this paradise, leaving
the family place. We have my father's job.

Like him, I will be strong all my life.
We are men. If we squint our eyes in the sun
we will see far. I'm ready. It's good, this resolve.
But I will never pet the rabbit again.

~William Stafford

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best of... 15...

Courage in the Face of the Unknown

“...As he went forward it grew and grew, till there was no doubt about it. It was a red light steadily getting redder and redder. Also it was now undoubtedly hot in the tunnel. Wisps of vapour floated up and past him and he began to sweat. A sound, too, began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring. This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him.

It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait...”
~from The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Best of... 16...

I started this blog during a bitter/sweet time in my life. The bitter was quite overwhelming and the sweet was otherworldly. I was ignorant of the blog genre. My wife encouraged me to try. I knew I wanted to catalog the ideas I was discovering during my reading, searching, seeking, and finding. This seemed a good way even if it ended up being a mostly personal endeavor. It does appear there are a few consistent “followers” of this effort and I hope/pray that the sharing has been beneficial. God has been very gracious to this poor man. He definitely comes to those who truly and passionately seek. I greatly desire to be the child of God, husband, father, son, brother, church member, friend, neighbor, employee, etc. that God wants me to be. May He have mercy and help me...

The best quotes contained in this blog are those sharing the truths of God’s revelation. There are many direct quotes from Holy Scripture. One could meditate on these passages everyday (the Psalms being a great example)—joining God in eternity as the earth/sky fall away. Good hymns have a similar power (there are many contained here). The saintly Christians who have gone on before and whose lives so beautifully retell/restate the deep Truth (big “T”) are a constant thread throughout as well.

As we near 2013 and as this blog nears 1,000 entries, I thought it might be fun to pull out just a few “Best of” posts from the past, repost them here, and do a bit of a countdown. I hope you enjoy!

God bless,

Kevin


Come Down, O Love Divine

Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.

~Words: Bianco of Siena & Music: Ralph Vaughn Williams

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lord of the Winter

“It was now dark. We were the under half of the world. The sun was scorching and glowing on the other side, leaving us to night and frost. But the night and the frost wake the sunshine of a higher world in our hearts; and who cares for winter weather at Christmas? - I believe in the proximate correctness of the date of our Saviour's birth. I believe he always comes in winter. And then let Winter reign without: Love is king within; and Love is lord of the Winter.”
~George MacDonald

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hark! A Herald Voice Is Calling

Hark! a herald voice is calling
  Through the shadows of the night
‘Cast away the dreams of darkness
  Christ descends with heavenly light.’

Wakened by the solemn warning,
  Let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ, her sun, all sloth dispelling,
  Shines upon the morning skies.

Lo, the Lamb, so long expected,
  Comes with pardon down from heav’n;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
  One and all to be forgiv’n;

So, when next He comes with glory,
  And His judgement-day draws near,
Faithful He may find His servants,
  Watching till their Lord appear.

Honour, glory, might, and blessing
  To the Father and the Son,
With the everlasting Spirit,
  While eternal ages run.

~Words: Anonymous (6th Century, Translation by Edward Caswall) & Music: W. H. Monk

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Snowflake


Picture used with permission by photographer Elsa Kettinger. All rights reserved.

“As a snowflake, icy-edged, unique in shape and kind,
So a soul traversing, alone until it finds
One to which it cleaves and forms, a new and wondrous thing,
God in perfect wisdom makes the human heart to sing.”
~Kristen Heitzmann
 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Miracles

“Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation.”
~C. S. Lewis

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Dream

“...an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.”

Amiably at home with virtue and evil -
The righteousness of Joseph and Herod’s
Wickedness – I’m ever and always a stranger to grace.
I need this annual angel visitation.

- this sudden drive by dream into reality -
to know the virgin conceives and God is with us.
The dream powers its way through winter weather
and gives me vision to see the Jesus gift.

Light from the dream lasts a year. Through
Equinox and solstice I am given twelve months

Of daylight by which to build the crèche where my
Redeemer lives. The fetus of praise grows

deep in my spirit. As autumn wanes I count
the days until I bear the dream again.
~Eugene Peterson

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Noël

When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they're cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet's message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies

Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

~Anne Porter

Monday, December 3, 2012

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
    to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
    unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
    that it is made by passing through
    some stages of instability—
    and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
    your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
    let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
    as though you could be today what time
    (that is to say, grace and circumstances
    acting on your own good will)
    will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
    gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
    that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
    in suspense and incomplete.

~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Sunday, December 2, 2012

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

 




















O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

~Words: Combined from various antiphons by an unknown author, possibly in the 12th Century & Music: Veni Emmanuel, from a 15th Century processional of French Franciscan nuns