Harmful good

Maxwell Perkins, the famous book editor, once wrote: “One of my deepest convictions is that the terrible harms that are done in this world are not done by deliberately evil people, who are not numerous and are soon found out. They are done by the good—by those who are so sure that God is with them. Nothing can stop them, for they are certain that they are right.”

—quoted by Father Henry

Fehren in U.S. Catholic (May 1986)

Overcoming heart trouble

The unrest in church politics! “The heart is a stubborn and despondent thing.” Stubbornness and despondency—these can only be overcome in prayer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the German church’s controversy over Hitler

It only hurts when you hit bottom

Peradventure some sinner will say, “perceive nor feel any weight in myself, do I ever so many sins.” To whom we answer that if a dog having a great stone bound about his neck is cast down from a high tower, he feels no weight of that stone as long as he is falling down, but when he is once fallen to the ground he is burst all to pieces by the reason of that weight.

—from a sermon preached by John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (ca. 1508)

The human focus

If we decided to examine the universe objectively in the sense of paying equal attention to portions of equal mass, this would result in a lifelong preoccupation with interstellar dust, relieved only at brief intervals by a survey of incandescent masses of hydrogen—not in a thousand million lifetimes would the turn come to give man even a second’s notice. It goes without saying that no one—scientists included—looks at the universe this way, whatever lip-service is given to “objectivity.”

… Any attempt rigorously to eliminate our human perspective from our picture of the world must lead to absurdity.

—Michael Polanyi in

Personal Knowledge

Language as art

Most of us would hesitate to call the kind of writing we do “art.” … There are indeed times, indeed most times are these, when we do use language as a tool to accomplish a practical purpose. We spend a lot of time saying things like “Please pass the salt,” or “You’ll find the prayer request cards on the back of the pew in front of you.”

But on those rare occasions when the words of the Lord come to you and you eat them and find them your joy and your delight, as Jeremiah did, or a burning and cauterizing coal, as Ezekiel did, I do not think that “art” is too elevated a word for what is called for.

—Virginia Stem Owens, “On Eating Words” in The Reformed Journal (June 1986)

Happiness is …

Happiness is friendship and laughter; it is a loving companion; it is loving our neighbor; it is a lovely day; it is the beauty of the earth; it is the sweet content and peace which occasionally overwhelms us and which we cannot account for. But far surpassing all these and many more is the sublime happiness of finding God and loving him.

—Kitty Muggeridge in

Gazing on Truth

God’s will, our purpose

Thank God for purpose in life. So many contributive purposes come into existence when one works the will of God that there is no excuse for laziness or wasted time. He is redeeming our lives, as well as our souls.

—Jim Elliot in The Journals of Jim Elliot

When pain equals joy

I don’t envy those who have never known any pain, physical or spiritual, because I strongly suspect that the capacity for pain and the capacity for joy are equal.

Only those who have suffered great pain are able to know equally great joy.

—Madeleine L’Engle in

A Stone for a Pillow

Thanks, but …

Often we put a “but” at the end of a “thank you,” as in, “Thank you, Lord, for friends, but I wish I had more”; or, “I’m grateful for my health, but I wish I weren’t getting gray and creaky;” or, “I’m grateful for our home, but I wish we could afford new carpeting.”

—Carole Mayhall in

Words that Hurt, Words that Heal

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