Joyful People

Why are we naturally drawn to joyful people? One reason, I believe, is that joy is a sign of God’s presence, which is naturally attractive to us. God’s joy speaks to the joy that dwells sometimes hidden in our hearts. “Deep calls to deep,” as Psalm 42 says. Or, as St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.” Augustine, a fourth-century North African theologian, understood something fundamental about human beings: we naturally desire God, the source of all joy. We are drawn to joy because we are drawn to God.

— James Martin, Between Heaven and Mirth, p. 29

The Bible From Life’s Autumn

The Bible looks different once you’ve survived the autumn. It’s no longer a repository for theological abstractions that can be organized into a tidy fortress called a “Christian worldview” or “orthodoxy.” It’s no longer a wallet full of credit cards that you can slap on the table to pay every bill. It’s no longer a weapon by which you vanquish those who don’t have the good fortune of sharing your approved opinions. No, for an autumn-humbled seeker, the Bible is the living legacy of people who have lived in the real world, a diary of complexities and perplexities survived and reflected upon. It’s the family album that carries the memories of ancestors who managed to keep their faith, hope, and love alive in a world that shocked them, rocked them, and mocked them. When you’re in springtime, you love the Bible for the affirmation of the goodness of life that it offers. When you’re in summertime, you love the Bible for the motivation to stay in the fray that it offers. But in autumn, you love the Bible more than ever, now for the honesty it offers — honesty about the death of naivete, the falling of all green leaves.

— Brian MacLaren, Naked Spirituality, p. 171

The Father’s Unfairness

The father redefines fairness. It’s not that his father hasn’t been fair with him; it’s that his father never set out to be fair in the first place. Grace and generosity aren’t fair; that’s their very essence. The father sees the younger brother’s return as one more occasion to practice unfairness. The younger son doesn’t deserve a party — that’s the point of the party. That’s how things work in the father’s world. Profound unfairness.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 168

Why Children’s Literature?

That can be annoying for the people who packed the box. They want children to learn to read, for example, and of course they are right. The most important thing you learn at school is how to read. It’s important because we live in a literate society and in our society it’s as important to be able to read as it is to be able to walk and talk — if you can’t do these things, your ability to participate in society is restricted. But literature is bounding along ahead like the white rabbit, and before you know where you are, it’s over the hills and far away. Because children’s literature knows perfectly well that literacy is only a beginning, not an end. It’s the starting point, not the goal.

Literature soars way up into the air like a kite and makes us gasp. It’s held in place by a string wound around a spool, and the spool is maybe in the box. We have to have the spool of string, but the spool isn’t the interesting thing. It’s the kite that’s beautiful and buoyant and alive and that tugs for freedom.

— Siobhan Parkinson, “Flying Kites and Chasing White Rabbits: Children’s Literature in Functional Times,” The Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2011, p. 53

Proud Survivors

Nothing can erase what happened to you; you can’t go back. And, even if you could, there are gifts you have gained that you would likely not want to trade. What we survivors know makes us uniquely equipped to live full, vibrant, courageous lives. Our experiences have given us an exquisite, and sometimes painful, sensitivity. We are stronger, wiser, more compassionate, more appreciative, and more real because of what we have endured. We have acquired the ability to see things more clearly and more beautifully, to live more fully and more meaningfully. We are a proud tribe.

— Alicia Salzer, MD, Back to Life, p. 250-251

Breaking Through the Ceiling

What if that which we dream of being is actually God’s will for us? What if we are the ones who hold back, setting an arbitrary limit on what God’s power in our life will be? What if we are the ones who decide “this is too good to be true”? What if we turn back God’s gifts over and over and over again? It is possible that this is the case.

Most of us do not believe that the sky is the limit. Instead, we have a ceiling that we set, which is the height we think of as God’s will for us. Do we consult God when we set this ceiling? No, we ordinarily do not. We set it with the help of parents and friends, well-meaning spouses and therapists. We try to set our ceiling at a “reasonable” height. We do not want to get our hopes up and have them dashed. We fear being too big for our britches, and so we define as grandiose many plans that may be well within our grasp with the help of God.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 138-139