25 of My Favorite Quotations…in no particular order

25 of My Favorite Quotations…in no particular order July 14, 2012

“The religious quest is not about discovering ‘the truth’ or ‘the meaning of life,’ but about living as intensely as possible here and now. The idea is not to latch onto some superhuman personality or to ‘get to heaven’ but to discover how to be fully human.” ~Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” ~Agnes De Mille, Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham: A Biography

“If you don’t start today, what makes you think you’re going to start tomorrow?” ~Ray Moss

“Throw away those lamentations; we both know them all too well. If there’s a Book of Jubilations, we’ll have to write it for ourselves.” ~Josh Ritter, Lantern

“Enlightenment is not about knowing as much as it is about unknowing; it is not so much learning as unlearning. It is about surrendering and letting go rather than achieving and possessing. It’s more about entering the mystery than arriving at a mental certitude.” ~Richard Rohr, On the Threshold of Transformation

“We try to be formed and held and kept by God, but instead God offers us freedom. And now when I try to know God’s will, God’s kindness floods me, God’s great love overwhelms me, and I hear God whisper, ‘Surprise me!’” ~Ron Hansen, Mariette in Ecstasy: A Novel 

“Not too long ago a priest told me that he canceled his subscription to The New York Times because he felt that the endless stories about war, crime, power games and political manipulation only disturbed his mind and heart, and prevented him from meditation and prayer. That is a sad story because it suggests that only by denying the world can you live in it, that only by surrounding yourself by an artificial, self-induced quietude can you live a spiritual life. A real spiritual life does exactly the opposite: it makes us so alert and aware of the world around us, that all that is and happens becomes part of our contemplation and meditation and invites us to a free and fearless response.” ~Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

“There are two kinds of Christianity, along with two kinds of Islam, Judaism, and every other religion and non-religion too: one of social control and one of social transformation; one to hold people down, one to lift them up; one an opiate to pacify people into compliance, the other a stimulant to empower people to imagine a better world, a better future, a better life ~ giving them the courage to live in peaceful defiance of violent, corrupt, and greedy powers-that-be.  Neither kind is perfect, and both kinds contain good and sincere people. But if those who use God and religion for social control are left to define faith, the religion they define will be a false one, an ugly one, an idolatrous one.”  ~Brian McLaren

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.” ~Paul Hawken

“Recognizing and responding to God’s presence among us means recognizing something about the very nature of God: a God the ‘pressure’ of whose being is toward the other, so intensely that the eternal divine life itself is a pattern of interweaving difference that then animates a world of time, change, differentiation, in which the unifying calling for all things and persons is to show forth God in the way each one is uniquely capable of doing.”  ~Rowan Williams

“God is the infinite sphere whose center is everywhere, whose circumference nowhere.”  ~Alan of Lille

“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is the manifestation of compassion.”  ~Dalai Lama

“Even when a need exists and we are well qualified to meet it, we are not necessarily called to respond to it.  Something may seem logical for us to do, but that does not mean that God calls us to do it….  Similarly, simply because a task or undertaking is good to do, does it mean that we are called to do it or that we should continue doing it?  To be doing good can be the greatest obstacle to doing something even better.”  ~Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community

“What we once dubbed ‘the seven deadly sins’ [pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust] now describe the much craved ‘good life’ in America.”  ~James Howell

“The Bible says a lot of things.”  ~Chief Wiggum

“The United States of America is not a Christian nation but a constitutional republic that allows religious freedom for all its citizens.” ~ Walter Shurden

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”  ~Martin Luther King Jr.

“Mohandas Gandhi called his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Give it a shot…. Go a week without Google, bike to work, cut your own hair, observe the Sabbath, quit carbonated drinks, give away half your wardrobe, walk a ridiculously long distance to visit a friend, read only words written by women.”  ~Geez Magazine

“It is important that religious intolerance and antimodern attitudes not be treated as cultural variations that must be respected.  Whether it is Hindu intolerance in India, anti-Semitism in Europe, or Muslim bigotry in Saudi Arabia, the modern world rightly condemns them all as violating universal values.”  ~Fareed Zakaria

“There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.”  ~Annie Dillard, For the Time Being 

“Jesus was not born to be the patron saint of fourth-quarter earnings.”  ~John Boykin

“It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, ‘Let justice roll down like mighty waters,’ and quite another to work out the irrigation system.”  ~William Sloane Coffin

“Theology is poetry that got left in the oven too long”  ~Phyllis Tickle

“The opposite of war isn’t peace…it’s creation.”  ~Rent

“Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal.  We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I welcome your feedback in the comments section. Which quotation(s) resonated with you the most?

Note: The depicted Yale Book of Quotations is a tremendous resource for identifying the authentic origins of quotes that often float around the Internet misattributed.

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg is a trained spiritual director, a D.Min. graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook ( and Twitter (@carlgregg).

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