Words to live by

I love aphorisms — short, pointed, insightful observations.

It all started with writing speeches for the Optimist Club.  They once sponsored “oratorical contests” and I loved competing in them.  Each year they advertised a new topic and the assignment was to write, memorize, and deliver a speech of five to seven minutes in length.  The first year the topic was “Optimism, youth’s greatest asset.”

It seems kind of corny now, but it prompted me to think, read, and build my vocabulary.  I don’t rely nearly as much on the quotations that I once used in those speeches, but I am still attracted to the sharp, short, observation that has sticking power.  That is the genius of proverbs.

The beginning of a new year is a good time to review some of those proverbial bits of wisdom.  And, on balance, I think that kind of wisdom is a better bet than a boat load of resolutions that are too easily abandoned in the first week of February.

I’ve tried to identify a shortlist that have spiritual import.  Here’s my list.  It’s random in its selection and listed in no particular order.  If you don’t find one that is helpful to you, feel free to offer one of your own.

  • If you are going through hell, keep going.  Winston Churchill
  • We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned to have the life that is waiting for us.  E.M. Forster
  • If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?  Joe Namath
  • The most misleading assumptions are the ones you don’t even know you are making.  Douglas Noel Adams
  • Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites.  William Ruckelshaus
  • Stop living life for what’s around the corner and start enjoying the walk down the street.  Grant L. Miller
  • In a moment the ashes are made, but the forest is a long time growing.  Seneca
  • Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can read.  Mark Twain
  • Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.  Unknown
  • The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.  Nelson Mandela
  • I would rather regret the things I have done than the things I have not.  Lucille Ball
  • Discovery consists in seeing what every one else has seen but understanding it for the first time.  Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
  • Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare.  Japanese proverb
  • It’s not how busy you are, but why you are busy.  The bee is praised; the mosquito swatted.  Mary O’Connor
  • Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.  Theodore Roosevelt

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, including forty-four entries in Doubleday’s Anchor Bible Dictionary, as well as articles in Feminist Theology and The Scottish Journal of Theology. He is author of A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). His latest work, The Dave Test (Abingdon Press) will appear in the autumn of 2013. He is also the series editor for the new Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars Study Series.

From 2000-2012, he worked as Director of Spiritual Life and Formation and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas. As one of Perkins’ senior administrators, Dr. Schmidt was responsible for programs in formation, serving over 500 students. He developed the School's program in Spiritual Direction which has thus far served over 150 students from across the country; the program in Anglican and Episcopal studies; and the spiritual formation track in the Doctor of Ministry program. Prior to his arrival at SMU, he served as Canon Educator, Director of Programs in Spirituality and Religious Education, and Acting Program Area Manager at Washington National Cathedral. In this capacity Dr. Schmidt was responsible for the development of a program of religious education and spirituality that annually provided resources for broad-based audiences of over 5000 adults. He also designed and produced workshops and seminars for ecumenical and interfaith constituencies; hosted foreign dignitaries from the Middle East and the former Soviet Union on behalf of the Meridian Institute; and developed the programmatic work and daily operations of the Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage. Before going to the Cathedral, Dr. Schmidt served as special assistant to the President and Provost of La Salle University in Philadelphia and as a Fellow of the American Council on Education. From 1994 to 1995, he resided in Jerusalem, where he was Dean of St. George’s College and Residentiary Canon of the Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr. He has also served in numerous parishes, including St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, All Saints Episcopal Church in Hershey, Pennsylvania and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas.

His work in higher education includes service as associate professor of New Testament Studies, as a lecturer in New Testament studies at Oxford University, and as a tutor at Keble College, Oxford. He has been a guest lecturer at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas, Dallas.

Dr. Schmidt holds a bachelor’s degree from Asbury College, the Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University. His honors include a Fellowship in administrative leadership with the American Council on Education; a Senior Fellowship with the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research; the Young Scholars Fellowship presented by the Catholic Biblical Association; nomination to Class XI of the Clergy Leadership Project, sponsored by Trinity Church, Wall Street; the Angus Dun Fellowship (Episcopal Diocese of Washington); and an Ecumenical Service Award given by Christian Churches United (an ecumenical organization covering a tri-county area and based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania). He is a recipient of the F. W. Dillstone Scholarship awarded by Oriel College, Oxford; the Hall Houghton Studentship awarded by the Theology Faculty of Oxford University; and an Overseas Research Student Award, presented by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom. Dr. Schmidt is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality. From 1998 to 2000 he served as a member of the Institutional Review Board for Heart, Lung and Blood Research at the National Institutes of Health and he currently serves on two Data Safety Monitoring Boards for NIH. He is Secretary-Treasurer of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars and a member of the Board of Examining Chaplains for the Episcopal Church, USA.

In addition to his work in the academy and the church Dr. Schmidt currently serves as a patient safety and ethics consultant on Data Safety Monitoring Boards for the National Institutes of Health and Allergan, Inc.

He lives with his wife, Natalie (who is also an academic and an Episcopal priest), and Hilda of Whitby, their Gordon Setter.