Word of the Week

Do you have wise words that you keep coming back to time and time again?

Of course, for many of us as people of faith, we might have a favorite scripture or two. Some Christians even have what they call a "life verse" that they memorize and recite in moments of life crisis. As a pastor, I've been asked more times than I can count what are places in the Bible I find most meaningful.

But I have to say, while I am a big fan of the Bible, it is quotes from other pieces of literature that I've come to treasure the most.

It's almost as if when I reach a crossroad in my life-- a time when I feel confused, a time when I don't understand God, life or even my place in it-- I find wisdom again in these words. These quotes are like anchors in all the uncertainty of what it means to live life from day-to-day.

If someone asked me for life wisdom, these quotes would be the best I had to offer.

First, in Thomas Merton's Thoughts on Solitude, he says:


 I've loved these words since I first encountered them on a retreat my first year of seminary because they speak to giving up control of our lives. At any point, we might say we're certain about a decision.

We might think we've made the right call. But, the truth of the matter is that NONE of us ever really know. We do the best we can.

And God does what only God can do, what we cannot!

It's a scary process but Merton adds, at the end of the prayer: "I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone." So what a comfort!  We're never alone. I never tire of hearing this.

Second, in Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke says:

i_beg_you,_to_have-132302This passage is one of my latest obsessions as I re-discovered it on the front of a birthday card a friend sent me years ago.

Here's the truth of these words: often times in life we just can't know what we want to know. Our lives crack into shambles. Try as we must but we just can't make it better. The tears keep coming. The anger seeks to boil over.

But, there's hope. There's always hope. We live the questions. And as we live the questions, we might just one day "live into the answers" without even knowing that we're doing it.  What lovely thought that I've seen come true in the stories of my life.

Third, in Beyond Words: Daily Readings of the ABCs of Faith, Frederick Buechner says:

the beautiful and the terribleTruth be told, I don't know any other way to sum up life than these words. I even shared a particular story about my love of this quote this time last year.

Beautiful things happen. Terrible things happen. They often happen in the same season of life, the same month of life, or even the same day.

None of us ever "arrive" to a happy state where terrible things can't hurt us. None of us ever find ourselves in a pit so deep that goodness can't save our lives. Part of what it means to be a citizen in this world to accept the presence of both. We ask for help when we need it. We celebrate when lovely things happen. Then, repeat.

And then finally, I love these words from Howard Thurman:

quoteonlife2We need not waste our precious time on earth on projects, ideas or even jobs for that matter that bring us down.

Sure the bills need to be paid. And sometimes we all need to do a particular kind of work just to have a steady paycheck.

But, never should this be our entire existence. We need to make spaces in our days to come alive-- to find joy, to love others, and to embrace new possibilities (even if others call us crazy).

You and I all know people who are "alive" and we want to be around them, don't we? No matter if their passion is keeping the greens at the golf course or babysitting their grandchildren or tutoring struggling elementary school students-- their excitement for life is contagious. Our world needs more of this, doesn't it?

So, what about you? What quotes do you keep close (and why?). I'd love to hear from you. Let's encourage each other.