“After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations.”

“After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations.”

(We welcome our newest guest blogger—Servant Books author Julie Davis.)

H.L. Mencken was joking about Shakespeare when he said that. I’m no Shakespeare but I really do love to string together quotes and tell them to people. To my delight everyone seems to enjoy them just as much as I do. I keep waiting for that moment when I have already seen every idea, when a quote I have matches a new one I just found, and when I can stop writing great thoughts in my quote journal. That moment never comes. I’m on quote journal #6 now and still being delighted by the perfect wording used to express the truths that are so basic and yet so new that we say, “Wow, that’s right!” when we read them.

My new book, Happy Catholic: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life, shares a lot of quotes and I continually hear how much people love them. If I were given the chance, I might beg and plead for a few more pages so I could add these new ones I’ve come across since then.

Called to Be Saints

Christina Rossetti
(English, 1830-1894)

The lowest place. Ah, Lord, how steep and high
That lowest place whereon a saint shall sit!
Which of us halting, trembling, pressing nigh,
Shall quite attain to it?
Yet, Lord, Thou pressest nigh to hail and grace
Some happy soul, it may be still unfit
For Right Hand or for Left Hand, but whose place
Waits there prepared for it.

This is from a daily devotional, At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer, compiled by Sarah Arthur. Designed to be used in ordinary time, it features wonderful selections of poetry and classic literature grouped week by week under different subjects. This one is from Week 20, “Growing Good.” Not only does this point my thoughts in a new direction, opening them up to God, but I have never been exposed to much poetry so it is mind-altering in several ways.

It Is No New Thing to Be Lonely

“Let me tell you something very important,” said Meredith patiently. “It is no new thing to be lonely. It comes to all of us sooner or later. Friends die, families die. Lovers and husbands, too. We get old, we get sick. And the last and greatest loneliness is death, which I am facing now. There are no pills to cure that. No formulas to charm it away. It’s a condition of men that we can’t escape. If we try to retreat from it, we end in a darker hell—ourselves. But if we face it, if we remember that there are a million others like us, if we try to reach out to comfort them and not ourselves, we find in the end that we are lonely no longer. We are in a new family, the family of men, whose Father is God Almighty…

I recently reread The Devil’s Advocate by Morris West for my Catholic women’s book club, which is where I found this quote. I was astounded by the depth of this book. There is something about reading a book for discussion that makes you pay attention in a different way than when reading it for yourself alone.

Cherishing a Miracle

Maybe you ain’t so interested in miracles. But still and all, you can cherish a miracle without deserving one. We’re all of us beholden to the beauty of the world, even the bad ones of us. Maybe the bad ones most of all.

I believe I have bored everyone to tears about The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell, but it is chock-full of great moments like these. I originally listened to the audio version almost as a dare because a reviewer had called it “Flannery O’Connor with zombies.” I couldn’t let that lie and was determined to point out just how wrong that comparison was. Alden Bell is not O’Connor but he communicates many of the same concerns of the soul about which she wrote. It is the most surprising zombie book I ever read, because, for one thing, the zombies really don’t matter that much in the scheme of things. In fact, prompted the first episode of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, because Scott Danielson and I wanted to talk about it and thought we’d go ahead and share it with everyone.

The Trouble With Angels

The trouble with you dear, is that you think an angel of the Lord is a creature with wings, whereas he is probably a scruffy little man with a bowler hat.

This is one of those instances where I was rereading a book that I thought I had memorized and realized that I hadn’t been paying nearly as much attention as I thought. The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey had been a favorite of mine since high school but since I wasn’t a Christian I just let the moral subtext go by unheeded in the excitement of trying to solve the absorbing mystery. Tey makes a very definite point with the quote above and it is just the sort that turns a mystery into something deeper.

Showing Who We Are

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

The recent release of the last Harry Potter movie made me interested in rereading the books, but I chose to get the audiobooks from the library so I could listen to them instead. Jim Dale gives a wonderful narration that brings them to life and keeps even the early, simpler books lively. What I realized when listening, instead of reading them aloud to the kids as we did when they came out, is that each book has a nugget of solid truth like the one above from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Now that the series is done, we can look back and see how author J. K. Rowling incorporated these and many more to add up to a rich message of how to live and the importance of discerning truth.

What the Past is For

This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.

Corrie ten Boom wrote The Hiding Place to tell the message about God’s love for all of us that she and her sister learned in a concentration camp in Germany during World War II. This is another of those books that that many of us read long ago and think we remember well. Take it from me, you probably don’t. It was the free audiobook one month from christianaudio.com and so I began listening to see what the narration was like. I was instantly gripped and it changed my life.

Choosing Our Friends

Max: Dr. Bernard Hazelhof said if I was on a desert island, then I would have to get used to my own company—just me and the coconuts. He said I would have to accept myself, my warts and all, and that we don’t get to choose our warts. They are part of us and we have to live with them. We can, however, choose our friends, and I am glad I have chosen you.

This is from one of the most wonderful and unusual movies I have ever seen, Mary and Max. It is a claymation movie that careens from humorous to dark and back again. It is a tale about a penpal friendship developed between an 8-year-old lonely Australian girl and a 40-year-old lonely New York man. They correspond for 20 years and we see how their lives are changed. Not a movie for children but for anyone who values a richly told tale.

A Leap of Faith

Faith isn’t leaping from Point A to Point B. It’s leaping from Point A.

Author Heather King overheard this at a coffee shop and mentioned it on her blog, Shirt of Flame. There are some very wise people drinking coffee in Los Angeles. I’m sure glad that she passed that along.

The Good Wife

Alicia: Are you becoming religious?

Peter: I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m becoming. But I want to change.

Alicia: Oh.

Peter: No, really…change.

One of my favorite television shows, The Good Wife,” is part legal drama, part political commentary, and part soap opera. More importantly, it is intelligent, brilliantly nuanced, and doesn’t veer away from discussing faith and true human nature in authentic terms.

Keeping Your Doves in a Row

Sometimes when your will is united with God, your other faculties may intrude. Ignore them if that happens. Continue basking in joy and peace. In response, your faculties will act like unhappy doves that are displeased with the food freely offered them. They fly off looking for something better. When they find food scarce out in wild areas they return to the feeder. Wandering faculties come back to discover what your personal will is enjoying so much. If the Lord tosses them a handful of food they will setle down and eat. Otherwise they keep looking. The soul gains nothing by attempting to force the faculties of memory and imagination to paint a picture of what it is enjoying.

We began these quotes with a devotional so let’s end with one also, just to keep things tidy. This is from A Little Daily Wisdom: Through the Year with Saint Teresa of Avila, translation and compilation by Barnard Bangley. I love St. Teresa’s sassy, practical nature but I also relate to the mental images she provides to help with prayer. Imagining my careening, distracted thoughts at prayer like doves is just one of the ways this daily devotional has helped move me a bit closer to God.

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JULIE DAVIS is the creator of the Happy Catholic blog, podcasts novels at Forgotten Classics and foodblogs at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen. She and her husband live in Dallas and have two grown daughters.

 
 

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