Highlights #8: The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Eugene H. Peterson)



Peterson, who has been gaining a growing reputation as a “pastor’s pastor”, speaks words of wisdom and refreshment for pastors caught in the busy-ness of preaching, teaching, and “running the church”. Chapters include poetic reflections on the Beatitudes, advice on spiritual direction “between Sundays”, and the language of prayer.

The Contemplative Pastor is one of five books written by Peterson particularly for the American pastor. All of which should be required reading.

Here are some of the passages that I highlighted:

The assumption of spirituality is that God is always doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.

Prayer is subversive activity. It involves a more or less an open act of defiance against any claim by the current regime….

If I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless.

But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker.  It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.

I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant.

I am busy because I am lazy I indirectly let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself.

It was a favorite theme of C. S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the  last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone.

How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion?

What does it mean to be a pastor? If no one asked me to do anything, what would I do? Three things: I can be a pastor who prays. I can be a pastor who preaches. I can be a pastor who listens.

Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time.

The appointment calendar is the tool with which to get unbusy. It’s a gift of the Holy Ghost (unlisted by St. Paul, but a gift nonetheless) that provides the pastor with the means to get time and acquire leisure for praying, preaching, and listening.

The trick, of course, is to get to the calendar before anyone else does. I mark out the times for prayer, for reading, for leisure, for the silence and solitude out of which creative work-prayer, preaching, and listening can issue.

I am misunderstood by most of the people who call me pastor. Their misunderstandings are contagious, and I find myself misunderstanding: Who am I? What is my proper work?  I look around. I ask questions. I scout the American landscape for images of pastoral work. What does a pastor do? What does a pastor look like? What place does a pastor occupy in church and culture? I get handed a job description that seems to have been developed from the latest marketing studies of religious consumer needs.

How can I keep from settling into the salary and benefits of a checkout clerk in a store for religious consumers?

…one by one, pastors are rejecting the job description that has been handed to them and are taking on this new one or, as it turns out, the old one that has been in use for most of the Christian centuries.

…the work between Sundays has changed radically,  and it has not been a development but a defection.

I began to comprehend the obvious: that the central and shaping language of the church’s life has always been its prayer language.

Out of that recognition a conviction grew: that my primary educational task as pastor was to teach people to pray.

Pastoral work, I learned later, is that aspect of Christian ministry that specializes in the ordinary. It is the nature of pastoral life to be attentive to, immersed in, and appreciative of the everyday texture of people’s lives

Pastors especially, since we are frequently involved with large truths and are stewards of great mysteries, need to cultivate conversational humility.

Peterson says that we must be, “…convinced that the Holy Spirit is “beforehand” in all our meetings and conversations.”

We can impersonate a pastor without being a pastor. The problem, though, is that while we can get by with it in our communities, often with applause, we can’t get by with it within ourselves. Being a pastor who satisfies a congregation is one of the easiest jobs on the face of the earth – if we are satisfied with satisfying  congregations.

We believe that the invisible is more important than the visible at any one single moment and in any single event that we choose to examine.

Pastors are caretakers of language, the shepherds of words, keeping them from harm, exploitation, misuse. Words not only mean something; they are something, each with a sound and rhythm all its own. Poets.



Highlights #7: Spiritual Progress by Francois Fenelon

fenelonHighlights #7: Spiritual Progress by Francois Fenelon, and a few of his friends.

Book Description:

Spiritual Progress is a collection of five powerful works intended for daily devotions and personal reflection. These five inspiring works are composed by three closely linked mystical thinkers of the 17th century–Francois Fenelon, Madame Guyon, and Pere La Combe. Fenelon, an archbishop, wrote the first two works, Christian Counsel and Spiritual Letters, which illustrate his keen sense of spiritual counsel. Madame Guyon, a close friend of Fenelon, wrote the next works, Method of Prayer and On the Way to God, which indicate the importance of constant prayer. Pere La Combe, the spiritual director of Madame Guyon, wrote the final work, Spiritual Maxims, which emphasizes the importance of desire and love for God. Each stirring work is divided into short chapters, making Spiritual Progress ideal for morning or evening devotions. It is thus a wonderful book full of guidance for one’s spiritual progress.

Here are a few of the passages I highlighted:

With what face can we despise others, and dwell upon their faults, when we ourselves are filled with nothing else?

Our faults, even those most difficult to bear, will all be of service to us, if we make use of them for our humiliation, without relaxing our efforts to correct them. It does no good to be discouraged; it is the result of a disappointed and despairing self-love. The true method of profiting by the humiliation of our faults, is to behold them in all their deformity, without losing our hope in God, and without having any confidence in ourselves.

Never should we so abandon ourselves to God as when He seems to abandon us. Let us enjoy light and consolation when it is his pleasure to give it to us, but let us not attach ourselves to his gifts, but to Him; and when He plunges us into the night of pure faith, let us still press on through the agonizing darkness.

One of the cardinal rules of the spiritual life is, that we are to live exclusively in the present moment, without casting a look beyond.

Let the all-powerful hand of God work in you as he well knows how, to tear you from yourself.

The origin of our trouble is, that we love ourselves with a blind passion that amounts to idolatry.

If we are in the habit of neglecting little things, we shall be constantly offending our families, our domestics, and the public.

By neglecting small matters, the soul becomes accustomed to unfaithfulness.

We are not to meddle with things which God does not lay upon us.

We must follow after God, never precede Him.

Be faithful in keeping silence, when it is not necessary to speak, and God will send grace to preserve you from dissipation when it is.

Ah! What short-sighted and deceitful views are ours!

We must read according to our necessity and desire, but with frequent interruptions, for the purpose of recollection. A word or two, simple and full of the Spirit of God, will be to us as hidden manna. We forget the words, but the effect remains; they operate in secret, and the soul is fed and enriched.

The source of all our defects is the love of self.

We are strangely ingenious in perpetually seeking our own interest; and what the world does nakedly and without shame, those who desire to be devoted to God do also, but in a refined manner, under favor of some pretext which serves as a veil to hide from them the deformity of their conduct.

The heaviest cross must be borne in peace. At times it can neither be borne nor dragged; we can only fall down beneath it, overwhelmed and exhausted.

Be silent as much as you can. Be in no haste to judge; suspend your decisions, your likes and dislikes. Stop at once when you become aware that your activity is hurried.

O how strong we are when we begin to perceive that we are but weakness and infirmity!

I would warmly recommend to all, never to finish prayer without remaining some little time afterward in a respectful silence.

“Love,” says St. Augustine, “and then do what you please.”


Highlights #6: The Sign of Jonas by Thomas Merton

The Sign of Jonas by Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was born in France and came to live in the United States at the age of 24. He received several awards recognizing his contribution to religious study and contemplation, including the Pax Medal in 1963, and remained a devoted spiritualist and a tireless advocate for social justice until his death in 1968. The Sign of Jonas was originally published in 1953.

Book Description:

Begun five years after he entered the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, The Sign of Jonas is an extraordinary view of Merton’s life in a Trappist monastery, and it serves also as a spiritual log recording the deep meaning and increasing sureness he felt in his vocation: the growth of a mind that finds in its contracted physical world new intellectual and spiritual dimensions.

Here are some of the passages I highlighted:

Just because a cross is a cross, does it follow that it is the cross God intends for you? 46

The simplest and most effective way to sanctity is to disappear into the background of ordinary everyday routine. 35

As soon as you stop traveling you will have arrived. 28

You cannot begin to do anything unless you have some idea what you are trying to do. 15

By making a vow of Stability the monk renounces the vain hope of wandering off to find the “perfect monastery.” But for me, the vow of stability has been the belly of the whale. 10

I had to find out that in the plans of Divine providence there is no such thing as a defeat and that every step is, or ought to be, a step forward into the wilderness… 126

The smallest thing, touched by charity, is immediately transfigured and becomes sublime. 182

In order to have everything, desire to have nothing. 191

I am glad of my deep moral poverty which is always before me, these days, but which does not obsess or upset me, because it is all lost in His mercy.

The truth is, I am far from being the monk or the cleric that I ought to be. My life is a great mess and tangle of half conscious subterfuges to evade grace and  duty. I have done all things badly, I have thrown away great opportunities. My infidelity to Christ, instead of making me sick with despair, drives me to throw myself all the more blindly into the arms of His mercy. 193

We quite often decide on good things which are not good enough because they’re only our own idea. When God sees fit, he lets us know that he ignores them in favor of what is obviously much better. 196

Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you reread your journal you find out that your latest discoveries are something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas in the same experiences. 204

I am consoled to realize how often Jesus was abrupt in his words and movements. He never bothered to be diplomatic. Yet he was never impatient or impulsive. 219

I am all mixed up with illusions and attachments. 234

If I were more absorbed in the presence of God, I would be a better writer and would write much less. 239

What a relief to be indifferent to things, after having been pushed around by a crowd of different intoxication’s, some of which seem to be intensely holy and some of which do not even bother to wear a disguise. 241

It is not complicated, to lead a spiritual life. But it is difficult. We are blind, and subject to a thousand illusions. We must expect to the making mistakes almost all the time. We must be content to fail repeatedly. 242

The thing to do when you’ve made a mistake is not to give up doing what you are doing and start something altogether new, but to start over again with the thing you began badly and try, for the love of God, to do it well. 242

There is nothing to live for but God, and I’m still full of the orchestras that drown his voice. 242

If preaching is not born of silence and solitude, it is a waste of time. 266

I think the chief reason why we have so little joy is that we take ourselves too seriously. 273

God gives himself to those who give themselves to him. The way does not matter much, as long as it is the way he has chosen for us. 286

The Pharisees accused the woman in adultery and when Jesus bent down to write with his finger in the dust, perhaps he meant to show them by this mystery, that the judgments of men are words written in the dust, and that only God’s judgments are true and just. 290, 291

So to listen to God means, first of all, to recognize our helplessness, our stupidity, our blindness and our ignorance. How can we ever hear him if we think of ourselves as experts in religion? 295

Those who love God should attempt to preserve or create an atmosphere in which he can be found. 311

The things I thought were so important–because of the effort I put into them–have turned out to be of small value. And the things I never thought about, the things I was never able either to measure or to expect, were the things that mattered. 353



Highlights #5: Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation

Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation (Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken)

Book Description:

Copastors Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken tell the story of how God took their thriving, consumer-oriented church and transformed it into a modest congregation of unformed believers committed to the growth of the spirit–even when it meant a decline in numbers.

As Kent and Mike found out, a decade of major change is not easy on a church. Oak Hills Church, from the pastoral staff to the congregation, had to confront addiction to personal ambition, resist consumerism and reorient their lives around the teachings of Jesus. Their renewed focus on spiritual formation over numerical growth triggered major changes in the content of their sermons, the tenor of their worship services, and the reason for their outreach. They lost members. But the health and spiritual depth of their church today is a testimony of God’s transforming work and enduring faithfulness to the people he loves.

Here are some of the passages I highlighted:

Church growth is not just more Christians but bigger Christians, flush with Christ’s character.

We needed to learn how to be with God without an agenda.

Trust is demonstrated by our willingness to act as though what we claim to believe is true.

By the time our children reach elementary school, they are fully formed consumers.

Speaking to North Americans about consumerism is like talking to fish about water. It is an all-encompassing part of our daily existence and usually too close for us to even notice its pervasive presence

The church in North America has, for the most part, embraced this insidious monster of consumerism in the most pragmatic manner and has used it as a principle foundation for church growth. It’s impossible to create authentic Christian community with people whose commitment is dependent on having their perceived needs continually met.

“There is a pervasive value in the American culture that sucks all of us into believing that the world exists to meet our perceived needs. It is a ravenous, insatiable hunger that will permeate every square inch of our lives and drive us further from God and the experience of contentment.”

We are now stuck in this wearisome game of keeping these people (those attending our church) satisfied so they don’t go to another church.

Ambition is often fueled by the insatiable desire to be recognized as important.

Personal ambition is a ravenous monster not easily tamed. And it is time to admit to each other that it runs rampant in the religious subculture of our day.

My observation is that over the last thirty or forty years our pastoral ethic has shifted from one of faithfulness to one of productivity and success.

The church is messy, unfinished  and imperfect. But the church is the beloved bride of Christ.

American ideals have profoundly shaped our ecclesiology.

The leaders of the “fastest-growing” churches are invited to speak at conferences. They are the ones we want to hear from. They are the ones who have figured something out the rest of us need to discover. What would happen if the keynote speaker at the next national conference was the associate pastor of a sixty-person church in rural Nebraska who hasn’t had a visitor in five years? It’s just a hunch, but registrations might lag

We grow accustomed to running on fumes.

The Missional Movement seems to derive its identity in deconstructing the established church.

Perhaps our greatest lesson from the past decade is that it is spiritually   formative to be dissatisfied and unable to resolve that dissatisfaction.  In fact, there is hardly a better catalyst for transformation than to not get what we want. Sitting in the dissatisfaction, without frantically trying to resolve it, can do wonders for a human soul.

We began confronting consumerism, and prioritizing spiritual formation.

Spiritual formation is not about learning more information.

Busyness makes us feel necessary and important.

It is so important for pastors to rediscover their calling as spiritual directors.

We need to keep a rhythm between cultivating the inward life (spiritual formation) and giving ourselves away in outward service (mission and evangelism).

Transformation takes time. It’s impossible to hurry up and become more like Jesus.

Perhaps a hazard of Christian leadership is we don’t learn how to listen. We spend inordinate amounts of time trying to inspire people to do what they may not want to do. We’re always trying to persuade. We’re constantly answering questions. We are doling out counsel.

The church, as awkwardly inefficient as it often can be, is still a stunningly beautiful and powerful thing.

There seems to be a tendency these days to talk and write about the church in a very abstract, theoretical, almost wispy way. Some contemporary theorists tend to picture the church as something almost indistinguishable from a handful of Christians being in the same place at the same time with a vague intention to do good. But as soon as there is any semblance of organization or programming,  these theorists label it as bad, as something less than the church, a deviation from the new thing that God is doing in the world. Church programs are increasingly portrayed as the vestigial organs of a long-extinct dinosaur. This seems unfair and irrational.

It is the nature of organizations to forget why they exist, and the church is always going to be an organization

But like all organizations, churches are prone to bureaucracy and often become self-serving.

Highlights #4: Rethinking The Successful Church, by Samuel Rima


Rethinking the Successful Church by Samuel D. Rima

If your ministry isn’t growing toward mega-church size, something must be wrong. Right? Not necessarily. This eye-opening book acknowledges the positive contributions of the mega-church and today’s emphasis on growth but calls for a more balanced perspective on church success.

Samuel Rima develops a comprehensive measurement based on both qualitative experience and quantitative results.

Here are some of the things I highlighted:

Pg 12

…the stark reality is that much of what fuels this obsession  (to grow your church) is actually a desperate desire and need to succeed in one’s chosen field of endeavor, this providing a measure of self-validation.

Pg. 13

…when evangelical seminaries and denominations utilize the pastors of these churches (large churches) as keynote speakers and guest lecturers to the exclusion of pastors of lesser renown, they subtly imply that the famous mega-churches are the ecclesiastical benchmark by which all churches should be measured.

Pg. 17

…many in pastoral ministry today are looking to derive their personal happiness and sense of worth as a person from their success in ministry.

Pg. 22

…we need joy and a deep sense of spiritual satisfaction that can come from simply being a small part of God’s process.

Pg. 48

Today we live in a culture of success.

Pg. 52

There comes a time when those of us involved in ministry must come to grips with the awesome realities of God’s sovereignty and the implications that it has for our own personal success.

Pg. 66

Just because our church is not growing at the rate we have planned for does not mean God is displeased with us or that we have somehow missed His will.

Pg. 86

…God may want to teach the leader something that can be taught only through not allowing the church to grow for a season.

Pg. 163

For me, success in ministry has become much more qualitative than it is quantitative.

The reality is that it is entirely possible to manufacture phenomenal church growth and produce dramatic tangible indicators of success, while at the same time accomplish nothing of any genuine eternal value.

Pg. 168

The task of redefining our understanding of success will not be an easy one. Over the course of a lifetime we have had drilled into us a cultural view of success that is not easy to shake.

Pg. 173

At some point on our ministry journey we have got to realize that we can build the biggest church in the world and actually see thousands of people coming to Christ, and still be an abysmal failure in the eyes of God. If our motives are impure, our methods dubious, and our personal character and spirituality seriously flawed, I do not believe God considers us successful. When people come to Christ through the ministry or work of such a ministry practitioner it speaks more of God’s faithfulness to his Word than it does to that minister’s success.

Three questions Rima asks himself to determine if he is successful:

  • What is the current state of my relationship with God?
  • Am I truly enjoying my ministry?
  • How am I treating people?

Pg. 176

Without a question one of the sure signs that I have developed a perverted view of success is when I begin to use people as a means to my ends, rather than loving and motivating them to accomplish God’s purposes.

Manipulation involves attempting to move people in a direction for your own personal benefit, while motivation involves inspiring people to move in a direction for your mutual benefit as a congregation, in a way that will honor and glorify God. How am I handling the suffering that is part of ministry?





Highlights #3: Aesop’s Fables by Aesop


Aesop’s Fables A New Revised Version From Original Sources (Aesop, John Tenniel, Harrison Weir and Ernest Henry Griset)

Aesop’s Fables or the Aesopica is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and story-teller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE.

Here are a few that stood out to me that I felt are great illustrations that you might apply to your life or use as an illustration in a sermon:

The Great and the Little Fishes

A Fisherman was drawing up a net which he had cast into the sea, full of all sorts of fish. A little fish escaped through the meshes of the net, and got back into the deep, but the great fish were all caught and hauled into the ship. Our insignificance is often the cause of our safety.

The Hare and the Tortoise

A Hare one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise. The latter, laughing, said: “Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.” The Hare, deeming her assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course, and fix the goal. On the day appointed for the race they started together. The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The Hare, trusting to his native swiftness, cared little about the race, and lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue. Perseverance is surer than swiftness.

The Two Goats

Two Goats started at the same moment, from opposite ends, to cross a crude bridge that was only wide enough for one to cross at a time. Meeting at the middle of the bridge, neither would give way to the other. They locked horns and fought for the right of way, until they both fell into the torrent below and were drowned.

The Goose with the Golden Eggs

A certain man had the good fortune to possess a goose that laid him a golden egg every day. But dissatisfied with so slow an income, and thinking to seize the whole treasure at once, he killed the goose, and cutting her open, found her—just what any other goose would be! Much wants more, and loses all.

The Wild Boar and the Fox

A Wild Boar was whetting his tusks against a tree, when a Fox coming by, asked why he did so; “for,” said he, “I see no reason for it; there is neither hunter nor hound in sight, nor any other danger that I can see, at hand.” “True,” replied the Boar; “but when that danger does arise, I shall have something else to do than to sharpen my weapons.” It is too late to whet the sword when the trumpet sounds to draw it.

The Astronomer

An Astronomer used to walk out every night to gaze upon the stars. It happened one night that, with his whole thoughts rapt up in the skies, he fell into a well. One who heard his cries ran up to him, and said: “While you are trying to pry into the mysteries of heaven, you overlook the common objects under your feet.” We should never look so high as to miss seeing the things that are around us.



Highligths #2: Breakfast With Fred, by Fred Smith Sr.


Fred Smith, Sr. might be the best-kept secret of American Christianity today. His speaking engagements and books have inspired excellence in countless people, but even more influential are his now infamous breakfast meetings.  Now the wisdom he imparted to the dozens of Christian leaders he personally mentored can have the same shaping influence on your life. Fred’s clear views and exceptional insights into successful Christian living will inspire you to reach your potential with questions, Scripture, and one-liners that will stay with you long after you have put the book down. (From the back cover)

Here are some of passages that I highlighted:

In order to accomplish anything, you must have a definite goal. Unless you can write it down, it isn’t definite or specific.

The three legs of leadership are: Character, Passion, and Purpose. Lead with character, passion, and purpose.

Most people listen negatively, which is simply keeping silent or reloading while  the other is shooting.

Heroes don’t have to be famous-they only have to be heroic.

Fred Rogers, host of the children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, used to do a ritual every time he spoke before a crowd. He would ask the audience to pause for a minute of silence and think about all those who had helped them become who they are. Once, in a prestigious gathering at the White House, he was given only eight minutes to address children’s issues, and still he devoted one of those minutes to silence. “Invariably, that’s what people will remember,” he said, “that silence.”

Heroes are the people who lead us in the right direction.

What grieves you is a clue to what you are assigned to heal and restore.

What grieves you the most reveals the greatest gifts you contain.

Remember the great story of the statue of David? When Michelangelo was asked how he carved such a splendid work out of the massive piece of marble, he replied, “Simple. I just cut away everything that wasn’t David.”

People who want to change make a plan.

A problem well-defined is half solved. The secret of good decisions is in knowing all the options. Once we know the options, it is fairly simple to choose the best one.

Make clear decisions about what you read and why.

Leaders are readers.

Questions for reflection:

1. What one fact do I feel has affected my life the most?

2. What one final thing would I say to my children and grandchildren?

3. What is the one statement that most deeply stirs me?

4. What is the one thing that I could say that would affect my hearers the most?

To think about death too much is morbid. Not to think about it at all is stupid.

One young pastor remarked angrily, “I am tired of God calling me collect. Every time He calls, I end up paying.”

“A leader is not the one who has the best ideas; a leader is the man or woman who uses the best ideas.”

Our society has chosen personality over character.

Thomas Kelly, the eminent Quaker philosopher, said that inside each person there should be a quiet center that nothing can disturb.

Questions for reflection:

1. What are some of my best habits?

2. In what areas have I lacked accomplishment due to bad habits?


Highlights #1: The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery by Henri Nouwen


The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery is Henri Nouwen’s journal of his seven-month stay in the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. His reflections on daily life with the Trappists are funny, wise, profound and down to earth. Nouwen’s goal is simply to record what it’s like to pass the time in a cloistered community.

Here are some of the passages that I highlighted:

I have not learned yet to make the work of my hands into prayer. Page 12

There is a contemplative way of working that is more important for me than praying, reading, or singing. Page 12

The Christian life on earth is simply the beginning of our heavenly existence. Page 13

Sadness is often the result of our attachments to the world. Page 15

The Lord is at the center of all things and yet in such a quiet, unobtrusive, elusive way. He lives with us, even physically, but not in the same physical way that other elements are present to us. Page 19

Contemplative life is a human response to the fundamental fact that the central things in life, although spiritually perceptible, remain invisible in large measure and can very easily be overlooked by the inattentive, busy, distracted person that each of us can so readily become. The contemplative looks not so much around things but through them into their center. Through their center he discovers the world of spiritual beauty that is more real, has more density, more mass, more energy, and greater intensity than physical matter. In effect, the beauty of physical matter is a reflection of its inner content. Contemplation is a response to a world that is built in this fashion. Page 20

If I could just live the day quietly, then my mind would be more vacant for God and freer for the simple things of every moment. Page 21

Some things are unexplainable. Page 21

I keep thinking about distracting things and wonder if I ever will be “empty for God.” Page 22

The spiritual life does not consist of any special thoughts, ideas, or feelings but is contained in the most simple ordinary experiences of everyday living. Page 24

Moods are worth attention. Page 24

There is a healthy form of “indifference.” Page 25

I want to be committed without becoming a fanatic and open-minded without becoming wishy-washy… page 26

Anger often reveals how you feel and think about yourself and how important you’ve made your own ideas and insight. Page 27

Anger is indeed one of the main obstacles of the spiritual life. Page 29

Anger bars my way to God. Page 29

I am the source of my own anger and no one else. Page 30

The question is not, “Do I have time to prepare?” But, “Do I live in a state of preparedness?” Page 59

Here and now is what counts. Page 60

In the contemplative life every conflict, inner or outer, small or large, can be seen as the tip of an iceberg, the expressive part of something deeper and larger. It is worthwhile, even necessary, to explore that which is underneath the surface of our daily actions, thoughts, and feelings. Page 64

I become more and more aware that for me writing is a very powerful way of concentrating and of clarifying for myself many thoughts and feelings. Once I put my pen on paper and write for an hour or two, a real sense of peace and harmony comes to me. Page 103

Writing about prayer is often very painful since it makes you so aware of how far away you are from the ideal you write about. People who read your ideas tend to think that your writings reflect your life. Page 104

I have a sense of inner contamination… page 113

It almost seems as if it is impossible to speak and not sin. Even in the most elevated discussion, something enters that seems to pollute the atmosphere. Page 113

It always seems that there is something more urgent and more important than prayer. Page 118

There is a great difference between single-mindedness and narrow-mindedness. Page 121

Heschel tells the beautiful story of the Polish Jew who stopped praying “because of what happened in Auschwitz.” Later, however, he started to pray again. When asked, “What made you change your mind?” He answered, “It suddenly dawned on me to think how lonely God must be; look with whom he is left. I felt sorry for him. Page 122

Nouwen tells the story of visiting a hermit on the grounds of Genesee. The old man said, “Isn’t the rain beautiful?” He said. “Why do we keep resisting rain? Why do we only want the sun when we should be willing to be soaked by the rain? The Lord wants to soak us with his grace and love. Isn’t it marvelous when we can feel the Lord in so many ways and get to know him better and better! He lets us experience his presence even now in all that surrounds us. Imagine how it must be when we can see him face-to-face!” Page 136

The ideal of the monk is to live in the presence of God, to pray, read, work, eat, and sleep in the company of his Divine Lord. Monastic life is the continuing contemplation of the mysteries of God, not just during the periods of silent meditation but during all parts of the day. Page 148

God dwells only where man steps back to give him room. Page 148

To live a spiritual life is to live in the presence of God. Page 152