When I was in elementary and junior-high school, I looked forward to the arrival of the new edition of Readers’ Digest. I liked the jokes (“Laughter is the Best Medicine,” “Humor in Uniform,” and “Campus Comedy”) and enjoyed the challenge of the vocabulary-building feature known as “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power.”
For a brief while, I tried to memorize each of the “Quotable Quotes” listed in each issue. Even though I gave up that practice, I held-on to my fascination with the ability of some writers and speakers, with a brief phrase, to spark the imagination or illumine understanding.
During this first year of teaching at Mars Hill University, I’ve been scrambling, most weeks, to prepare for my classes. Having never taught these courses before, I’ve spent a lot of time ransacking my library, files, and earlier writings and presentations for relevant material.
As I’ve sifted through much of my past work, I’ve noticed some “quotable quotes” to which I very often return:
“In God, there is no unChristlikeness at all.” (Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey)
“There are those who know everything about Jesus except that he is love, who use the Bible like a bludgeon, people for whom Christianity is a way to divide, separate, put down others. Without love, faith, the Christian faith, can become cruel, ugly.” (William Willimon)
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” (Irenaeus of Lyons)
“Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” (Linus, in Peanuts)
“I would not give a fig for the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
“Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)
“I vowed . . . I would follow faithfully whatever new light I might be given, wherever it led.” (Carlyle Marney)
“When you return to the road, you return to the place where you left it, not to where you started.” (Henri Nouwen).
“Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.” (William James)
And, while not as quotable, there are a few lines of my own that I say again and again:
Agreement is overrated.
It’s all about Jesus.
God does not cause our pain but loves us too much to waste it.
The more like Jesus you become, the more your honest-to-God self you will be.
You are here. I am here. We are one.
You are a child of God, and God takes great delight in you. God is giving you everything you need to live the life God is calling you to live.
This miscellany of quotes lacks a clear thread, unless it is the thread of my ongoing quest for words more adequate to the perplexities and wonders of life and faith.