Classic and contemporary excerpts

Screwtape On Joy

I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What that real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven—a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.

Screwtape (C. S. Lewis), The Screwtape Letters

Behavior’S Aftermath

No one’s behavior is entirely his or her own business. Even slight departures from health have their unseen eventual consequences. In our day of prized individuality and “it’s nobody’s business but mine” attitude, we trip each other up in more ways than we recognize. But when I set my mood tuned to joy, I create far-reaching results in health that I may never see.

Lloyd H. Ahlem, The Covenant Companion (Dec. 1985)

Life Here And Now

Listening to a student read the Scripture in seminary chapel, Joseph Sittler, now blind, heard something he’s never heard before. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

“The text does not speak,” said Sittler, “of the valley of death but of the valley of the shadow of death. There is a difference.… The wonderful truth … is that God is with us now. It is not simply that God will be with us in the experience of death itself; it is that God will walk with us through all of life, a life over which death sometimes casts its shadow.”

Quoted by Martin Marty in Context, August 1 and 15, 1984

Not Private Property

Like James Joyce’s characters, we read [the Bible] for epiphanies. We fasten on what is touching and strange. [We] Catholics have finally realized, one priest said, that the Bible is also a sacrament, the first that is truly do-it-yourself, and not the private property of the Church.

Thomas Geoghegan, “Confessions of a ‘Practicing’ Catholic,” The New Republic (Sept. 30, 1985)

The Master Is Coming!

Talk of the end of the world is in. Biblical or nuclear end—people are buying books that talk about it.

As early as Paul, the word “watch” confused people. He had to deal with people becoming irresponsible with family, job and paying their charge accounts on time because people literally were standing on the mountain looking for the return, bodily, of Jesus.… A mature Christian is one who will take the words “watch” and “beware” as overarchins Pointers for life, not words which point to a day and a week. As one woman said, “Tuesday, January 17. The Kingdom of God is not in the clouds. It’s here, in the United Nations, in Common Cause, and in the Sierra Club, AND I’M WORKING FOR IT!”

Alfred C. Kress, Five Lanterns at Sundown

Change: Treat Or Threat?

The hymn-writer wrote, “Change and decay in all around I see.” Change and decay are enemies that most people fear.… When we are young, change is a treat; but as we grow older, change becomes a threat. But when Jesus Christ is in control of your life, you need never fear change or decay.… When you are a part of eternity, the decay of the material only hastens the perfecting of the spiritual, if you walk by faith in Christ.

Warren W. Wiersbe, His Name Is Wonderful

God’S Garden

God took seeds from different worlds and sowed them on this earth, and His garden grew up and everything came up that could come up. But what grows lives and is alive only through the feeling of its contact with other mysterious worlds. If that feeling grows weak or is destroyed in you, the heavenly growth will die away in you. Then you will be indifferent to life and even grow to hate it. That’s what I think.

Fedor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Life Isn’T A Puzzle

Our lives are not puzzles to be figured out. Rather, we come to God, who knows us and reveals to us the truth of our lives. The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God. God is the center from which all life develops. If we use our ego as the center from which to plot the geometry of our lives, we will live eccentrically.

Eugene H. Peterson, Run with the Horses

When We “Suffer”

Physical sufferings, actual pain and so on, are certainly to be classed as “suffering.” We so like to stress spiritual suffering; and yet that is just what Christ is supposed to have taken from us, and I can find nothing about it in the New Testament, or in the acts of the early martyrs. After all, whether “the church suffers” is not at all the same as whether one of its servants has to put up with this or that. I think we need a good deal of correction on this point; indeed, I must admit candidly that I sometimes feel almost ashamed of how often we’ve talked about our own sufferings. No, suffering must be something quite different, and have a quite different dimension, from what I’ve so far experienced.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in The Martyred Christian

The Crown Of Adversity

Christ was despised on earth by men, and in his greatest need, amid insults, was abandoned by those who knew him and by friends; and you dare to complain of anyone? Christ had his adversaries and slanderers; and you wish to have everyone as friends and benefactors? Whence will your patience win its crown if it has encountered nothing of adversity?

Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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