December 1, 2020


“Sooner or later the world must burn, and all things in it—all the books, the cloister together with the brothel, Fra Angelico together with the Lucky Strike ads which I haven’t seen for seven years because I don’t remember seeing one in Louisville. Sooner or later it will all be consumed by fire and nobody will be left—for by that time the last man in the universe will have discovered the bomb capable of destroying the universe and will have been unable to resist the temptation to throw the thing and get over it.

“And here I sit writing a diary.

“But love laughs at the end of the world because love is the door to eternity and he who loves God is playing on the doorstep of eternity, and before anything can happen love will have drawn him over the sill and closed the door and he won’t bother about the world burning because he will know nothing but love.”

Thomas Merton, Echoing Silence

Modern minor poets are naturalists, and talk about bush or the brook; but the singers of the old epics and fables were supernaturalists, and talked about the gods of the brook and bush.   G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

“Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”

Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone To Talk

“Have no anxiety about anything,” Paul writes to the Philippians. In once sense it is like telling a woman with a bad head cold not to sniffle or sneeze so much or a lame man to stop dragging his feet. Or maybe it is more like telling a wino to lay off the booze or a compulsive gambler to stay away from the track.

“In everything,”  Paul says, they are to keep praying. Come Hell or high water, they are to keep on asking, keep on thanking, above keep on making themselves known. He does not promise them that as a result they will be delivered from the worst things any more than Jesus himself was delivered from them. What he promises them instead is that the “peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The worst things will surely happen no matter what—that is to be understood—but beyond all our power to understand, he writes, we will have peace both in heart and in mind. We are as sure to be in trouble as the sparks fly upward, but we will also be “in Christ” as he puts it. Ultimately not even sorrow, loss, death can get at us there.   Frederick Buechner, Whistling In The Dark

“Will we let God be as he is, majestic and holy, vast and wondrous, or will we always be trying to whittle him down to the size of our small minds, insist on confining him within the boundaries we are comfortable with, refuse to think of him other than in images that are convenient to our lifestyle? But then we are not dealing with the God of creation and the Christ of the cross, but with a dime-store reproduction of something made in our image.”

Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience In The Same Direction

We avoid the reality of Christ’s power in a number of ways. For instance, we’re tempted to spiritualize his power, to reduce the elemental potency and energy to a moment of personal religious inspiration. The stilling of the storm is about psychologist storms in our lives. The healing of the lame is about solving emotional problems that cripple us. Jesus bringing sight to the blind is about God’s ability to help us see our lives clearly. And so on and so forth. If we do that enough, we begin to think the Gospel stories are nothing but metaphors, and metaphors primarily about us.  Mark Galli, Jesus Mean And Wild

“I remember some time ago I visited a very wonderful home for old people. There were forty there and they had everything, but they were all looking toward the door. There was not a smile on their faces, and I asked the sister in charge of them, ‘Sister, why are these people not smiling? Why are they looking towards the door?’ And she, very beautifully, had to answer and give the truth: ‘It’s the same everyday. They are longing for someone to come an visit them.’ This is great poverty.”

Mother Teresa, Everything Starts From Prayer

As we were speaking we heard the snapping of twigs: the footsteps were coming closer. All at once five or six ferocious men darted out in front of us with lifted daggers. Two of them grabbed me and threw me to the ground; the rest pounced on Francis.

“Who are you?” they shouted at him, grinding their teeth.

“I am the emissary of the Great King,” Francis answered tranquilly.

“And what business do you have here?”

“I have come to invite my brothers the bandits to enter heaven. The Great King is holding a wedding. His son is being married, and the King asks you to take part in the festivities.”  Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis

“If you view Scripture as one long performance by a Divine Juggler who’s bent on revealing the Word himself, you finally escape from the blind alley of trying to discover the Word by sifting through the details of the Bible’s contents. When you watch a juggler, you clearly see all the balls, hats, cigars boxes, or canes he’s dealing with. But you can appreciate the significance of what he’s doing only by looking at his act as a whole. It’s the mystery of the entire performance that astonishes you, not the incidental properties of the items he’s juggling.”

Robert Capon, The Fingerprints of God



  1. Richard H. says

    Beautiful…. Truths expressed as art. Now I know one reason you’re such a good writer, Jeff: You stretch toward that bar set just out of reach by enjoying the gift God gave to others. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Richard. Thank you very much for your kind words.

      • Richard H. says

        You’re welcome, Jeff. Perhaps only a writer would understand the true nature of my compliment. Also, since you quote Robert Capon here, I think you are the one at iMonk who introduced me to his book “The Mystery of Christ.” (I’m about 30 pages from the end.). The paragraph you quote displays Capon’s wonderful gift for communication. But, in my limited reading of his work, he seems more often than not to…stumble upon, rather than discover, the truth. His worldview seems to be more influenced by his “reasoned” philosophy than by his reasonable faith. But, hey…I’ve learned from experience that Truth is more important than being right. So…I walk on, knowing that the Capon-like Christians I occasionally meet are looking at the world through a window just a bit to my left. Again, thank you for your Capon quote; he does drag me outside the box at times–to places I need to go.

  2. Agree on all, especially the Dillard quote, my second favorite of hers.

    My first favorite? “I feel I was set here on earth to describe church services, and there’s something intrinsically hilarious about them. Often I have almost died in church in the effort to keep from laughing out loud … What’s so funny? The gap between what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do. The relationship between the incongruity of who we are and who we’re trying to move with our prayers. It’s a sort of dancing bear act.”

    • Ray A, I like Dillard too. I read two of her books and will read more in the future.

      Thanks for the great quotations, Jeff!

  3. “He who loves God is playing on the doorstep of eternity.” I love that — and all the others here, too. Thank you — an inspirational way to start the day. And Ray A, thanks for the Dillard quotation. She’s an amazing writer.

  4. As Oliver begged, “More please?” WONDERFUL. thanks.

  5. After each quote I was determined to leave a comment on, “Yes, it was so-and-so’s quote that was my favorite!” But by the time I got to the end, I knew I couldn’t make a decision. They were all good. No, they were great!

    Thanks for a positive kickstart to a Friday Jeff!

  6. Scott Taylor says

    To be honest Jeff, I was a little bummed there wasn’t a Dr. Evil quote. You got me all excited with that initial picture you threw up of the bald genius only to then be confronted with deep, spiritual, “I need to sit down on this rock and contemplate the direction of my life” quotes( *said with a mild note of disdain). I thought to myself, finally, Jeff is gonna bring one of his intellectually razor-sharp posts down to my level but alas, perhaps next time…

  7. Scott Miller says

    Thanks. I needed that today.
    Also, please pray for me. I am currently unemployed.

  8. ““But love laughs at the end of the world because love is the door to eternity and he who loves God is playing on the doorstep of eternity, and before anything can happen love will have drawn him over the sill and closed the door and he won’t bother about the world burning because he will know nothing but love.”

    Thomas Merton strikes again. I love it.

  9. One of my favorite quotes is from P.T. Barnum. I think its describes a lot of aspects about our world. Anyhow P.T. Barnum once said that “there’s a sucker born every minute….” I also like the Lord Acton quote which I posted the other day. But another quote I like is from Richard Nixon in his speech he was giving to the White House staff after resigning the Presidency on national television the previous evening. He said…

    “Always remember others may hate you, but those that hate you don’t win unless you hate then. And then you destroy yourself.”

    • One more Mike says

      I wrote Richard Nixon’s name in at the last election. I’ll probably do it again in 2012 because even dead (and succession law notwithstanding) Richard Nixon is a better presidential candidate than any living American our political parties are foisting on us.

      Okay, so the thread doesn’t get hijacked, my favorite Merton quote (from the Seven Storey Mountain):

      “For now, oh my God, it is to You alone that I can talk, because nobody else will understand. I cannot bring any other man on this earth into the cloud where I dwell in Your light, that is, Your darkness, where I am lost and abashed. I cannot explain to any other man the anguish which is Your joy or the loss which is the possession of You, nor the distance from all things which is the arrival in You, nor the death which is the birth in You because I do not know anything about it myself and all I know is that I wish it were over – I wish it were begun.”

  10. Thanks for the tastey Friday fare, JeffD; all the quotes are precious gems, but the Dillard quote is my personal fave, in a sad kind of way. Any bus ride this tough should have Keaneau Reeves and Sandra Bullock on it, with some Dennis Hopper for added spice. Keep the quotes coming, and GOD help you in all your labors, editing included.


    • Tim Becker says

      I like ’em all except for the Dillard quote. She thinks God’s asleep eh? It also has a “I’m more spiritual than thou” flavor to it.

      • I don’t get that from her quote at all. Her point seems to be that GOD can be (terribly) active and is only seeminglly asleep. We should fear that HE would arouse HIMSELF as if from a slumber and make us accountable for all our silly talk. Or at least that’ s how I read it.

  11. Thank you for these.

  12. Brendan H says

    Does anyone else find Chesterton a bit, well, insufferable?