Mary Oliver: “…with your one wild and precious life.”

“…I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I don’t know how to pay attention, how to fall down
Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
Which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver, from the poem “The Summer Day”

Mary Oliver: “When it’s over…”

When it’s over I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

– Mary Oliver, from the poem “When Death Comes”.

Ann Lewin, poem on prayer

Prayer is like watching for the
Kingfisher. All you can do is
Be there where he is likely to appear, and

Often, nothing much happens;
There is space, silence, and expectancy.
No visible sign, only the
Knowledge that he’s been there,
And may come again.

Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But sometimes, when you’ve almost
Stopped expecting it,
A flash of brightness
Gives encouragement.

– Ann Lewin, “Candles and Kingfishers”, quoted in Lost In Wonder , Esther de Waal, without title.

Charles Taylor: St. Francis and the Particular

“So it is not altogether surprising that this attempt to bring Christ to the world, the lay world, the previously unhallowed world, should inspire a new focus on this world. On one side, this involved a new vision of nature, as we see in the rich Franciscan spirituality of the life of God in the animate and inanimate things which surround us; on another it brought ordinary people into focus.

And we might add, ordinary people in their individuality. Because another important facet of Franciscan spirituality was its intense focus on the person of Jesus Christ. This devotion, as Louis Dupré argues, ends up opening “a new perspective on the unique particularity of the person.” On the intellectual level, this takes time to work its way out, in the writings of the great Franciscan thinkers, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Qccam, but it ends up giving a new status to the particular, as something more than a mere instantiation of the universal. Perfect knowledge will mean now grasping the “individual form”, the haecceitas, in Scotus’ language.”

Though it couldn’t be clear at the time, we with hindsight can recognize this as a major turning point in the history of Western civilization, an important step towards that primacy of the individual which defines our culture. But of course, it could only have this significance because it was more than a mere intellectual shift, reflected in the invention of new unpronounceable scholastic terms. It was primarily a revolution in devotion, in the focus of prayer and love: the paradigm human individual, the God-Man, in relation to whom alone the humanity of all the others can be truly known, begins to emerge more into the light.

And so it seems to be no coincidence that one of the First reflections of this focus in painting should have been Giotto’s murals in the church at Assisi. This interest in the variety and detailed features of real contemporary people did not arise alongside and extrinsic to the religious point of the painting; it was intrinsic to the new spiritual stance to the world.”

– A Secular Age, p. 94

And on, to the Bill of Rights?

David Bentley Hart: “…things we know before we can speak them…”

I start from the conviction that many

of the most important things we know are things we know before

we can speak them; indeed, we know them though with very

little in the way of concepts to make them intelligible to useven

as children, and see them with the greatest immediacy when we

look at them with the eyes of innocence. But, as they are hard to

say, and as they are often so immediate to us that we cannot stand

back from them objectively, we tend to put them out of mind as

we grow older, and make ourselves oblivious to them, and try to

silence the voice of knowledge that speaks within our own experiences of the world. Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the fat

end of experience; it is the ability to see again what most of us

have forgotten how to see, but now fortified by the ability to

translate some of that vision into words, however inadequate.

There is a point, that is to say, where reason and revelation are one

and the same.

“…I felt my heart strangely warmed…” John Wesley

May 24, 1738

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

Christian Wiman: “The task is not to believe…”

‘The task is not to “believe” in a life beyond this one; the task is to
perceive it.   Perception is not projection: We are not meant to project
our experience of this life into another, nor are we meant to imag-
ine, by means of the details of this life (which is the only resource we
have for imagining), some impossible beyond. Life is not life without
an afterlife, and there is no afterlife beyond the life we treasure and
suffer and feel slipping from us moment by moment.  I don°t mean
to hide within an impenetrable paradox.  I mean to say something
along the lines of what Paul Eluard said a century ago: “There is
another world, but it is in this one.”  Or, more to the point, Christ
two thousand years ago: “‘The kingdom of God is within you.”  We cannot get beyond our lives until we eliminate all notions and expectations of a “beyond.”

“My Bright Abyss”, page 169


“There is a brilliantly worded explanation for this.”


“Lots of people are secure in their religious beliefs using rationale akin to, “There is a brilliantly worded explanation for this.” The problem is that mutually exclusive beliefs can all claim this. I Either every belief with such an explanation is truly a reasonable thing to believe, or absolutely unreasonable things can be brilliantly defended to the point where our minds think them sane and reasonable. Another problem I have been running to, especially as I discuss religion with others, is that I have noticed pagan Hindus and heathen Muslims are just as capable of brilliant religious philosophy as we are. Not being of the disposition to find Christ hiding anonymously in the heart of every intelligent person, or Trinitarian theology lurking beneath the leaves of every eloquently written text, it has made me ask why we as a race are capable of so brilliantly deceiving ourselves. And the fact is that even if the Lutheran or the Catholic is right, then the Hindu is brilliantly and eloquently self-deceived, as much as a man who has absolutely convinced himself using the most brilliant arguments that the sun orbits the Earth.I suggest that we humans are much more easily amused than we give ourselves credit for. A vast system of thought is like a room filled with shiny toys. If the system is vast enough, has enough complicated trains of reason, enough technical definitions, and at least occasionally lifts itself into the poetic, our minds will stay occupied with it and therefore amused by it. As long as the mind is occupied and engaged, it believes and accepts. This is even more true when set in the context of a religion with its various practices, rules and rites. Our whole selves are engaged, making our beliefs appear that much more true to us, as long as we don’t entertain too often the idea that someone else might be equally engaged by an opposite religion. That someone else might have just as total a foundation to his own belief is a little too much for us, so we go back to playing with our shiny toys and imagine that ours is the only such room in the world.

We are leaves floating on the wind.

“Prayer of Incompetence”


“Prayer of Incompetence

The desert is a classic symbol of the monastic life and it is particularly apt in reference to monastic prayer. It is easy to be lyrical when speaking of prayer but the reality of praying is anything but lyrical. A realistic appraisal of the experience of prayer must lead one to acknowledge that most people meet with growing dissatisfaction and frustration when they come to spend time in prayer. Normally one begins with a honeymoon period when prayer is easy and even exciting but then it becomes boring, and those who keep on trying to pray feel they are getting nowhere. Distractions abound; the imagination runs riot; they are unable to concentrate for more than two seconds; and, worst of all, there does not seem to be anything to concentrate on. Prayer appears to be impossible. This is what Cardinal Hume calls the “prayer of incompetence”. He writes: “… this, I think, is the normal experience of many of us. A method does not help; images or ideas seem to be obstacles, and yet when we abandon these we find we still have no awareness of God. It is at this point that we are tempted to give up” 

Not sure of the source of the questions quote.

Dallas Willard: Paralyzed by grace

The Apprentices – Leadership journal –

In most churches we’re not only saved by grace, we’re paralyzed by it. We’re afraid to do anything that might be a “work.” The funny thing is we will preach to people for an hour that they can’t do anything to be saved, and then sing to them for a half an hour trying to get them to do something. This is confusing. People need to see that action is a receptacle for grace, not a substitute for it. Grace is God acting in our lives to do things we can’t do on our own. Grace is not opposed to effort; it’s opposed to earning.

Tim Enloe: “I…repudiate the entire mode of discourse.”

Note: these links are now dead, after several years.


Societas Christiana » Tim Enloe: Reformed Polemicist, R.I.P.

I never heard of this guy till I stumbled across this post today. I love this so much I just want to memorialize it here, and extract a few quotes that are particularly well-stated. The bold is MINE.

I hereby openly repudiate the entire mode of discourse… the fundamentally adversarial mode and its entrenched negative intellectual and social orientation. I deny that truly constructive, properly Christian discourse with other Christians, and chiefly between Catholics and Protestants, can be carried on from an adversarial standpoint. I want nothing to do with this type of “dialogue.” It is a sham that lives in the worst parts of the past (bitterly carrying on the 17th century Wars of Religion by different means) and the worst parts of the present (taking Fundamentalist Protestantism and Fortress Catholicism as normative).

I hereby formally repudiate that mode of discourse and all my doings from within its paradigm. Although thereare things within the linked materials with which I would probably still agree and things with which I probably would not, I consign the whole mass to the category of “Fruitless Bickering” carried on, at
least from my end, by someone whose priorities were deeply out of
order. For several years, apologetics—chiefly apologetics against
Catholic controversialists on the Internet—virtually consumed my life,
and I believe I was ultimately intellectually and spiritually poorer
for it.

There are certainly times when fighting must occur,
when men must stand up for what they believe is right and, if
necessary, slug it out with other men. However, I do not believe that
the bulk of fighting on the Internet, especially between Catholics and
Protestants, constitutes such times of necessary fighting. To be fair,
the online apologetics community is made up of a variety of people.
Some on both sides have noble intentions and do actually seek
to respectfully and constructively discuss troublesome issues with
their counterparts. I count among my friends a number of Catholics of
this type who have often been most faithful to me by inflicting wounds
that have driven me onward and upward toward Christ. [Edit: Although
truthfully, probably none of these Catholics would consider themselves
“apologists” proper, and apologetics proper does not constitute the
bulk of their Internet activities].

Nevertheless, for the most part Internet apologetics on both sides is a morass of ill-taught, insecure, and intransigent people on both sides. Their incessant bickering in the grand name of “Truth” ultimately reduces to shameless, sinful intellectual and cultural fratricide. There are significant issues between Catholics and Protestants which need to be addressed, and which are very difficult to discuss because of our long legacy of bloodletting and caricaturing of each other. It is difficult to avoid tension when talking about disputed issues of theology, history, and Christian experience in the world. Nevertheless, I deny that these issues can be properly addressed, or that solutions can be found, if discussions are carried on within the war-mongering matrix of apologetics.

Rest, Tim. God, in His mercy, has delivered you from “apologetics.”