Category Archives: Quotations

to the states

to the states_Whitman

Good reading for the Fourth, methinks.
I love to toss this at government students.
Interesting to contemplate within Whitman’s time and context.
Good to contemplate within ours
or any.

Resist much, obey little.

O the implications, applications.
The manner and temper of each is perhaps key.
From a biblical standpoint,
I would see the entire book of Romans as a dissertation on “resist much”
And in the first paragraph of Romans 13 the admonishment to “obey little.”
Like we do with the injunction of James
“Be swift to hear, slow to speak,”
We tend to reverse the order.


Posted by on July 3, 2015 in Poetry, Quotations


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wandering at morn

A friend recently turned me back to Whitman.
It has been awhile.
Rhythms of Writ, Rumi, Rilke and Rohr always leave me ready to roll.
Dusting you off this morning I see that truly have ! missed you, Uncle Walt,
my eyes first with you wandering at morn.

It’s curious how, depending on which way winds blow, we can sour on country
as quickly as fans over a poorly performing team.
How quickly we can sour on people, period,
screaming “Liar!” until kindly escorted out.
Oh yes, we all could use a bit of wandering at morn…

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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Poetry, Quotations


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hope in the ruins. where else?



How rich and varied, how lofty and challenging, Greco-Roman culture was when fused with the convictions derived from Jewish and Christian sources! And how truly regal man is when like Augustine he strips from himself all that is mortal in life for the sake of the radiance of immortality, keeping about him all the while a warmth which heartens and cleanses! It was, alas, true that he and those who were in some measure like him could not keep the walls and towers of Rome from tottering. Too much of the human substance of the Empire was gone. No new youth could be made to rise from its streets. The barbarian outsider, driving with his hordes against the ramparts like a mighty and incessant storm, would after his victory sit in darkness amidst the holy places. When Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, died on August 28, 430, the Vandals were laying siege to the city. But after a while the children who were born to them would begin to think of what treasure might be gleaned not from the shrines and palaces of Rome but from the memorials of its mind and heart. Then random sentences Augustine had written became texts used in schools. More and more were added until his doctrine was once more available. In particular, texts of the Confessions were found – imperfect, sometimes garbled, but rich in meaning. Therewith the time in which we now live had properly begun…

George N. Shuster, Preface to Augustine’s Confessions 

Okay. Two thoughts. No, three.

One. What a word for our time. “Too much of the substance of the Empire was gone. No new youth could be made to rise from its streets.” All that was left now was the future youth of the “barbarian outsider” to sit in the ruins and contemplate not the monuments but the meaning of the “mind and heart” of a civilization that had passed, and to see it reborn among them in what would hopefully be more redeeming ways.

barbarian joe

barbarian joe

This isn’t apocalyptic remorse or handwringing. There’s enough of that going around and I don’t need to add to it. Just a marvelous seed of hope however things turn in our world.

Two. Of course the Vandals would lay siege to the city (a throwaway for BSU fans, of course).

Three. I am the child of barbarians, and I have been privileged to sit “in darkness amidst the holy places.” Well, not literally. Haven’t been to Rome, to Italy, unlike some people I know who shall remain unnamed. Scotland and the highlands, aye, Italy, not so much. But in the journey of Greek and Hebrew, and the dabbling in Latin, and the tasting of ancient philosophers, theologians, poets, muses “in their random sentences,” I have sat amidst the ruins and have breathed deeply the meaning.

And “therewith the time in which I now live had properly begun…”



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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in haverings, Quotations


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speechless God

One of my favorite Robert E. Lee stories. After the war…from Lee: The Last Years by Charles Bracelen Flood:

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What self-styled orators we all can be when it comes to God.
When we come to God.

Such flourishes.
So many words as we gain the porch,
or perhaps hoping through our eloquence
to gain access to the porch?

How often, I wonder, do we leave Abba speechless
as we seek to impress him as we ascend;
God speechless,
we continuing;
how often the Spirit waits for us to pause,
to take a breath,
so she can invite us to have a seat
and enjoy some lemonade in the cool of the evening…





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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Books, Quotations


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dark color palette


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This has to be my favorite exchange between God and Bruce in Bruce Almighty.
And it’s just a deleted scene.

Somehow that seems so very fitting.

We really have no idea what we need, how life should go.
And I’m really, really glad I don’t have to decide.
Who lives.
Who dies.
Who wins the lottery.
Who has cancer roar back into their life.

Yes, You have to use some dark colors.

But I still hate them.

please nix the black fox; more sassy green, please

please nix the black fox; more sassy green all around, please

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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Quotations


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snowing in the kitchen


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I love and hate this scene from The Book Thief.
I don’t like being Hans Hubermann.

I really don’t.

But I keep getting cast in the role.

I only hope I play the part as well as Zusak paints the portrait.
I know I don’t always.
We must sit with grief. We must let its screams fill the street, and then escort it with painstaking care back through the front gate. Not just for a day or two, or even a month or two. It’s a lifelong journey. While most of us are ready to step out into sunny streets, for the one suffering it’s still snowing in the kitchen. It’s always snowing in the kitchen.

Which means, perhaps the greatest gift a Hubermann can give, is helping to haul that snow down into grief’s basement.

And building a snowman.



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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Books, Quotations


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dangerous preachers


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How’s that as a test for one’s true orthodoxy?
Not your letters.
Not your grasp of languages.
Not your mastery of classic works of systematic theology.
Not your memorization and recitation of vast tracts of Biblical text.

But your appreciation of beauty.
Your ability to say with Christ, “Behold the lilies of the field” or “Consider the ravens.”

Rohr observes this about St. Francis in his most recent book Eager to Love:

Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that…

…he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to five;
heart is used 42 times to one use of mind;
love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth;
Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only one time.

This is a very new perspective that is clearly different from (and an antidote to) the verbally argumentative Christianity of his time, and from the highly academic theology that would hold sway for the next thousand years. He took prayer on the road and into the activity of life itself.

May we all be such dangerous preachers with our path as our pulpit, the wide world our sanctuary, and our Sacred Text writ large across heaven and earth…






Posted by on August 19, 2014 in haverings, Pastoring, Quotations, Religion


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third law of theology


Yes. It’s a rule.

And it reminds me of my favorite statement ever by a theologian about theologians.

Theology – an enterprise that, despite the oftentimes homicidal urgency Christians attach to it, has yet to save anybody. What saves us is Jesus, and the way we lay hold of that salvation is by faith. And faith is something that, throughout this book, I shall resolutely refuse to let mean anything other than trusting Jesus. It is simply saying yes to him rather than no. It is, at its root, a mere “uh-huh” to him personally.
It does not necessarily involve any particular theological structure or formulation; it does not entail any particular degree of emotional fervor; and above all, it does not depend on any specific repertoire of good works – physical, mental, or moral. It’s Just “Yes, Jesus,” till we die – just letting the power of his resurrection do, in our deaths, what it has already done in his.

My purpose in saying this so strongly, however, is not simply to alert you to some little band of intellectuals called theologians who may try to talk you into thinking otherwise. Such types exist, of course, but they are usually such bores that all they do is talk you out of wanting even to breathe. No, the reason for my vehemence is that all of us are theologians. Every one of us would rather choose the right-handed logicalities of theology over the left-handed mystery of faith. Any day of the week – and twice on Sundays, often enough – we will labor with might and main to take the only thing that can save anyone and reduce it to a set of theological club rules designed to exclude almost everyone.

Christian theology, however, never is and never can be anything more than the thoughts that Christians have (alone or with others) after they have said yes to Jesus. Sure, it can be a thrilling subject. Of course, it is something you can do well or badly – or even get right or wrong. And naturally, it is one of the great fun things to do on weekends when your kidney stones aren’t acting up. Actually, it is almost exactly like another important human subject that meets all the same criteria: wind-surfing. Everybody admires it, and plenty of people try it. But the number of people who can do it well is even smaller than the number who can do it without making fools of themselves. Trust Jesus, then. After that, theologize all you want.

Just don’t lose your sense of humor if your theological surfboard deposits you unceremoniously in the drink.

Robert Farrar Capon. Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus

a watershed read for me

a watershed read for me


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Posted by on August 2, 2014 in Quotations, Religion


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Richard Rohr.

Just started reading his latest offering from which this is adapted –
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

Yes, Richard. Just, yes.


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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Quotations, Suffering


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I so identify with this.
I mean, this could be a really bad snippet –
keeping quiet in situations when we need to be shouting from rooftops.
But in this ongoing pastoral journey that often makes me wish in spades that I had listened to my dad and tried the whole accounting thing after all (could crunching numbers possibly hurt more than witnessing crunched lives?)
I see things.
I do.
I see pain and elation, beauty and ugliness, despair and hope. And such suffering.
It’s probably at those times most,
each bedside of suffering.
I see so much.
And yet I sense that to say anything – especially to blog or post it out there – would defile it, would hijack the moment, would co-opt the pain as if it were my own.
The seven thunders of suffering speak, but the revelation must be sealed.

Oh yes, this happens a lot.

It’s a tricky business, this knowing the time to speak, to write,
and the time for tacenda.

Good word.




Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Quotations, Suffering


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