Classic and contemporary excerpts.

Climbing in the wrong place

It’s important to use your talents. But if that’s the end of it, there is a disillusionment that sets in between the ages of 35 and 50. This is commonly called the midlife crisis. I believe that it is more a phenomenon of a wrong value system than it is the age group in which it occurs. All of a sudden you realize the ladder you’ve been climbing is leaning against the wrong wall.

James Dobson in a commencement address given at Seattle Pacific University, June 1988

No private religions

The modern habit of saying, “This is my opinion, but I may be wrong,” is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong I say that it is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying, “Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me”: the habit of saying this is mere weakmindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.

From Selected Essays of G. K. Chesterton, “The Book of Job”

Born to lose?

Once walking through the twisted little streets of Kowloon in Hong Kong, I came upon a tattoo studio. In the window were displayed samples of the tatoos available. On the chesty or arms you could have tattooed an anchor or flag or mermaid or whatever. But what struck me with force were three words that could be tattooed on one’s flesh, Born to lose.

I entered the shop in astonishment and, pointing to those words, asked the Chinese tattoo artist, “Does anyone really have that terrible phrase, Born to lose, tattooed on his body.”

He replied, “Yes, sometimes.”

“But,” I said, “I just can’t believe that anyone in his right mind would do that.”

The Chinese man simply tapped his forehead and said in broken English, “Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind.”

Norman Vincent Peale in Power of the Plus Factor

The desert experience

When we follow Jesus into the desert, we are likely to experience what could be called ego desperation. Basically this means acknowledging that our life is not nor ever will be completely under our control. In the desert the pillars of human power, pleasure and possession are smashed. One feels powerless, miles away from sources of immediate gratification, the owner of little or nothing of material value. One cannot barter one’s way out of loneliness and silence. One can only wait until it passes on the wings of faith and hope.

Susan Muto in Pathways of Spiritual Living

In training for the world

Were universal conquest the leading object of our nation, then every student in our military and naval schools would regard the field of his duty as in some sense coextensive with the world.… And are not candidates for the gospel ministry in training for the world?

Rufus Anderson, senior secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, in Foreign Missions, 1869

Celebrity status

Under the rules of contemporary society, nobody, not even God, can afford to offend the media. It is all very well to be rich or talented or beautiful or brave, but unless one is known to be rich or talented or beautiful or brave, one cannot be a celebrity, and if one isn’t a celebrity, one might as well be dead.

Lewis H. Lapham in Harper’s Magazine (May 1988)

No culture shock

[In helping others traverse the Scriptures, we can], like Americans junketing in Asia, … carefully select the itinerary, stop only at Western-style hotels, use guides who speak fluent English, eat only American food, albeit with quaint seasonings, and shop for foreign bric-a-brac with Bankamericards. Indeed the guiding of travelers through the world of the Bible with a minimum of culture shock is often assumed to be the chief function of ministers and teachers.… They preserve the illusion of travel, without its risk or its profit. They remain blissfully unaware of how completely they have destroyed the integrity and independence of that other world.

Biblical scholar Paul Minear, quoted by Martin Marty in Context (March 1, 1988)

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