Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

lessons from the book of Job: you can say anything to God

Philip Yancey quote Disappointment with God Message of Job“One bold message in the Book of Job is that you can say anything to God.

Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment— he can absorb them all.

As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God.
They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out.

In this respect, the Bible prefigures a tenet of modern psychology: you can’t really deny your feelings or make them disappear, so you might as well express them. God can deal with every human response save one. He cannot abide the response I fall back on instinctively: an attempt to ignore him or treat him as though he does not exist.

That response never once occurred to Job.”

Philip Yancey
Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud

March 28, 2014 Posted by | pinterest, pragmatic communion, prayer, status updates, suffering, therefore I quote | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

therefore I quote: “violently face to face”

CS Lewis Quote Reading Violently face to face Letters to Malcolm

“C.S. Lewis (on reading another author):

“He brought me violently face to face with…”

from Yours, Jack by C.S. Lewis

YES!

I LOVE it when that happens! It’s why I read dead guys and footnotes when I don’t have to. I love it when a writer makes me think. I love it when my beliefs are challenged, when my complacency is given a swift kick in the pants, when my arrogant assumptions are blindsided by something I never considered before.

Why do I love it when a writer brings me “violently face to face” with a new perspective I hadn’t considered or a truth I hadn’t realized?

Long story short? Complicated and detailed reasoning summarized? I have an extreme aversion to uninformed myopic opinions being spouted as declarations of objective truth.

I like to learn. To think. And I learn a LOT from books. I like to plow into what other people have written. Reading and learning fuel me and fuel the conversations I have, the words I write and the decisions I make.

You don’t have to be a reader to be informed. In the age of Google and Wikipedia, you can find out whether what you believe is hooey in a matter of seconds.

I’m allergic to hooey. The last thing I want to do is spread it around.

November 15, 2013 Posted by | books, intentional living, learning curve, therefore I quote, what I've learned | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

hot pocket relationships.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing . . . And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 & 14

“If you want a deep relationship, you can’t always be the strong one.”
John Ortberg
Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them

or pretend to always be the strong one. And that means being authentic. And vulnerable. And maybe showing some ugly.

“People rarely drift into deep community . . . You can’t do community in a hurry. You can’t listen in a hurry. You can’t mourn in a hurry with those who mourn, or rejoice in a hurry with those who rejoice.”

When I fill my hours with busy, I fill my life with microwaved relationships. Reminds me of a hot pocket. It looks okay on the outside, but if I don’t give it enough time, it’s cold on the inside.

un. satisfying.

July 27, 2010 Posted by | books, christian living, devotions, intentional living, pragmatic communion, therefore I quote | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I can’t do it alone.

I read, therefore I quote:

“When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for me. Thus, your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me and increasing intimacy between us.”

Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence
by Sarah Young

“Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.”

Mere Christianity
by C.S. Lewis

May 10, 2010 Posted by | christian living, therefore I quote | , , , , | Leave a comment

who are your advisors?

I read, therefore I quote:

“Relationships protect us from myopia, selfishness and stupidity. They provide a mirror by which we can see ourselves, and they can help us to gain perspective when problems and immediate concerns turn us inward and threaten to dominate our lives. Spiritual advisers and Christian friends in particular are well suited to advise us, point out our strengths and weaknesses, and challenge us to think about life from an eternal perspective.”

The Will of God as a Way of Life: How to Make Every Decision with Peace and Confidence
by Jerry Sittser

I don’t believe I’m all that unique. There are those who’ve gone before me. Operating on the belief that there’s no shortage of people who have struggled with the very same things with which I struggle, I see no reason to start from scratch when it comes to problem solving and decision making. I’m a benchmarking kinda gal. I regularly seek out people who’ve done what I need and/or want to do. More importantly, I seek out people who’ve done those things WELL. Then I copy strive to emulate them. I’m lazy pragmatic that way.

And I can learn just as easily from someone else’s mistakes. My voracious desire to avoid the same mistakes made by others is a foundational source of my relentless pursuit to live intentionally and to choose on purpose rather than in a self-focused, emotional vacuum. I will NOT take lightly my opportunities to positively impact the people God has placed in my life and I will NOT be blind to the possible damage I can do by neglecting to pay attention and to act intentionally when I come face to face with those daily opportunities. I’ve seen the damage that results when someone regularly operates on the assumption that the only decision making criteria needed is their own personal opinion and how they feel at the time. (yes. I know. I have issues. but they are extremely motivating.)

Like Mr. Sittser, I regularly look to books for wisdom:

“I receive guidance from people whom I have never met, never spoken to, and never known personally. Though strangers to me, they have exercised profound influence over my life. I consult them when I have to make a decisions by reading their writings and biographies . . . [they] are the great ‘cloud of witnesses’ who are still available to guide us through life.”

There are those who’ve gone before you. Who are your advisors? Your counselors? Your mentors? If you can’t identify them, ask God to reveal them to you today.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
Proverbs 19:20

April 27, 2010 Posted by | books, christian living, intentional living, therefore I quote | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

own it.

I’m not much for excuses. If you don’t have one minute and two seconds, skip to the 52 second mark.

I’m teaching my kids to own it. By example.

Two years ago, I blew it. BIG time. I said “yes” to too many things. Three of my responsibilities were non-negotiable:

1. Taking care of my family.
2. Helping my parents with the logistics of their divorce.
3. Taking care of my friend’s daughters while she went through the worst of her chemo treatments.

The other responsibilities in my life at that time could (and should) have been suspended, postponed or just flat out canceled. But no. I said yes one more time.

One of my clients had two new employees drive up from Miami to Orlando on a Sunday afternoon. The plan was for me to meet them in the client’s Orlando office Monday morning for computer training. Then the new hires would drive back to Miami Monday afternoon.

I forgot.

Flat. Out. Forgot. At the exact time I was supposed to be at my client’s office, I was sitting on my couch, in total peaceful silence – after back to back weeks of relentless, overwhelming, chaotic physical and emotional noise. The appointment was in my calendar. On my desktop computer and in my smart phone. The scheduling emails were in my inbox and sent items.

I forgot. Bottom line? My client paid two employees to drive to Orlando. They paid for their gas, hotel and meals. And I didn’t show up. Not a good first impression for a new employee. Not a good client/vendor situation for me.

I should have lost the client. But, by the grace of God and due to my distaste for excuses, I didn’t. I owned it. I didn’t tell the client about my problems, how busy I was, blah, blah, blah.

Irrelevant.

Instead, I took my well-deserved verbal lashing. My client was angry. I cost them money. They were embarrassed. I listened and I didn’t make one excuse. I didn’t interrupt or attempt to explain anything. Irrelevant. This was MY fault. I let them down. It didn’t matter that I was so busy I couldn’t keep all my balls in the air.

I CHOSE TO JUGGLE THAT MANY BALLS. I chose to take on more responsibilities than I should have. And I’m not necessarily saying I should have have turned down this appointment for client training. I’m saying I had a LOT of things going on at that time – personal and professional -and not all of them needed to be attended to during that overwhelming two week time period. I also could and should have asked for help, and I didn’t. My inability to do what was required was a result of my choices.

So after my client said everything they wanted to say, I owned it. I apologized, took full responsibility, asked for another chance, explained the changes I would make to insure this would never happen again . . .

. . . and comped them ten hours of my time.

They accepted my apology and I did the new hire training via Go To Meeting the next day on a conference call.

My kids know this story. And they know what I’m going to say if they start with excuses.

OWN IT.

I hate excuses. I have to CONSTANTLY make the changes I need to make in order to be fruitful instead of busy. I want to do what’s required, to the best of my ability, and if I can’t do that - if I let people down because I can’t do what’s required, I need to reevaluate and make the changes that are required to get me to that place.

“It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill

I would love to learn about your past, present or future “own it” experiences, so please don’t be shy about commenting!


Let’s consider this post part five of a series I’ll refer to as: “a job worth doing is worth doing well” -

1. therefore I quote: Mark Atteberry (the requirements of excellence)
2. therefore I quote: MacDonald & Lewis (seasons in life)
3. therefore I quote: Andy Stanley (the reasons behind my priorities)
4. I just don’t listen. (saying no to “good” and make room for “great.”)

April 18, 2010 Posted by | intentional living, therefore I quote, what I've learned, youtube | , , , | 4 Comments

therefore I quote: Andy Stanley

I read, therefore I quote:

“Vision gives significance to the otherwise meaningless details of our lives . . . It’s the difference between filling bags with dirt and building a dike in order to save a town. There’s nothing glamorous or fulfilling about filling bags with dirt. But saving a city is another thing altogether. Building a dike gives meaning to the chore of filling bags with dirt. And so it is with vision . . .

Too many times the routines of life begin to feel like shoveling dirt. But take those same routines, those same responsibilities, and view them through the lens of vision and everything looks different . . .

Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision
Andy Stanley

This is why I can sit in the bleachers for four hours at track meet to watch my son run a total of less than TWO MINUTES. This is why I let my daughter listen to her Mulan Jr. rehearsal CD for HOURS in the car. And in the family room. And in the bathroom. For 15 weeks. It’s why I don’t get angry about the fact that my husband’s work schedule often puts me in “single parent” mode. This is why I’m pausing the drafting of this post to go to lunch with my daughter at school right now.

. . . two days later.

I do these things because I see a bigger picture. I want my children to know, really KNOW that I’m their advocate. I’m home base. I’m the safe house. I’m to be trusted. Depended on. NO. MATTER. WHAT.

And I’ll tell you something. I don’t do it because I’m all that. I do it because I’m damaged. And I’m freakishly, relentlessly determined to BREAK the cycle. Come hell or high water, four hour track meets or obsessive rehearsing, broken glasses, gouges in the wood floor, dishes piled in the sink, 23 rolling water bottles in the floor of my van – MY children will not be damaged in the same way I was. (of course, they will be damaged in other ways – their therapist will tell them how later).

So yes. I relentlessly strive to choose on purpose because I’ve seen what “going with the flow” looks like. Significantly less than optimal. (ya know I edited THAT)

My son may not sit next to me at the track meet, but I’m confident – he’s glad I’m there. He ASKED me to be there. My TEENAGER asked me to be there. I see this as an honor, not four hours in captivity. I know that my daughter takes me and my rides to and from her rehearsals for granted. Now. But she’s nine. And when SHE has a child and drives them around, spending hours in the car everyday, my hope and prayer is that she remembers that I did that for her – and I didn’t complain about it. For years. Because I want her to know and extend grace without letting someone know how put out she was to do it. As we say around here, “It ain’t grace when you give it that way.”

So, yes. When I decide to do something, I give it my best effort. Because I see more than the tasks. I see the REASON behind the tasks. I have lots of hidden agendas and I take advantage of opportunities to teach by example. And by example, that includes asking for forgiveness when I lose my patience with my husband or one of my kids or speak harshly and hurt their feelings. It includes making things right when I do things wrong. And believe me, there’s plenty of “making things right” on my To Do List. Caring for my family is job one. Each one of them is a gift from God and I’m determined – and I mean DETERMINED – to be a good steward of His gifts. I’ve had a close up look at “reactive” parenting and my personal, long term struggle with the negative consequences has been life changing and tenaciously motivating. I’ve seen good enough. And it ain’t.

I chose to be intentional. Consistently intentional. Because I’ve known for a very long time that I was being prepared for a “good work.” And I know, from someplace deep and buried inside me, that if I allow myself to be used by God to do so, I can partner with Him to equip my children and husband for His good work too.

More from Andy Stanley:

“Specifically, vision weaves four things into the fabric of our daily experience:

1. Passion. A clear, focused vision actually allows us to experience ahead of time the emotions associated with our anticipated future. These emotions serve to reinforce our commitment to the vision. Even the most lifeless, meaningless task or routine can begin to “feel” good when it is attached to a vision . . . The emotions associated with being there [are] enough to motivate you through the drudgery of getting there. (emphasis added)

2. Motivation . . . Saving a town is enough to keep you working through the night. But just filling bags of dirt for the sake of bag-filling will leave you looking at your watch.

3. Direction. Maybe the most practical advantage of vision is it sets a direction for our lives. It serves as a road map . . . simplifies decision making . . . vision will prioritize your values. A clear vision has the power to bring what’s more important to the surface of your schedule and lifestyle. A clear vision makes it easy to weed our of your life those things that stand in the way of achieving what matters most . . . Once you have clarified your vision or visions, many decisions are already made. Without vision, good things will hinder you from achieving the best things. (emphasis added)

4. Purpose. A vision makes you an important link between current reality and the future. That dynamic gives your life purpose. And purpose carries with it the momentum to move you through the barriers that would otherwise slow you down and trip you up.

. . . you have probably heard or read this type of stuff before. Self-help books are full of this kind of hype . . . But here is where we part ways with the secular motivational gurus of our culture . . . as Christians, we do not have a right to take our talents, abilities, experiences, opportunities and education and run off in any direction we please . . .

Accumulating money or stuff is a vision of sorts. But it is the kind of vision that leaves men and women wondering. Wondering if there was more. Wondering what they could have done – should have done – with their brief stay on this little ball of dirt.”


“. . . therefore I quote” Thursday: If you have a quote to share from something you’ve read recently, feel free to comment and/or include a link to your own “quote” post.

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March 25, 2010 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, pragmatic parenting, therefore I quote, what I've learned, women | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

therefore I quote: MacDonald & Lewis

I read, therefore I quote Gordon MacDonald and C.S. Lewis:

“Years ago, my father wisely shared with me that one of the great tests of human character is found in making critical choices of selection and rejection amidst all of the opportunities that lurk in life’s path. ‘Your challenge,’ he told me, ‘will not be in separating out the good from the bad, but in grabbing the best out of all the possible good.’ He was absolutely correct. I did indeed have to learn, sometimes the hard way, that I had to say no to things I really wanted to do in order to say yes to the very best things . . .

If we are to command our time, we will have to bite the bullet and say a firm but courteous no to opportunities that are good but not the best.

Once again that demands, as it did in the ministry of our Lord, a sense of our mission . . . What do we do best with our time? What are the necessities without which we cannot get along? Everything else has to be considered negotiable: discretionary, not necessary.

I love the words C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to an American Lady about the importance of these choices:

‘Don’t be too easily convinced that God really wants you to do all sorts of work you needn’t do. Each must do his duty ‘in that state of life to which God has called him’ . . . there can be intemperance in work just as in drink. What feels like zeal may be only fidgets or even the flattering of one’s self-importance . . . By doing what ‘one’s station and its duties’ does not demand, one can make oneself less fit for the duties it does demand and so commit some injustice. Just you give Mary a little chance as well as Martha.’”

Ordering Your Private World
Gordon MacDonald

What C.S. Lewis refers to as “that state of life to which God has called him’ I frequently refer to as a “season” of life. There are seasons for things, as I mentioned at the end of my last therefore I quote post. I want to do everything I want to do, if you know what I mean, but I CAN’T.

I see friends working themselves to the point of sickness and stressing their minds and bodies to the point of exhaustion and poor health and ineffectiveness and I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I reacted to the demands of life and other people in my life and I just moved forward, taking action without contemplating whether I should. Without evaluating my capabilities and time limitations and without realizing the impact of adding responsibilities without letting go of others.

As a result, I failed. I failed in many ways. I failed friends, family, employers and clients. I did many things – none of them very well, in my opinion. I gained weight. My body got weaker. I got pneumonia three times and bronchitis so many times I lost count. I was cranky and irritable from a lack of both sleep and solitude. Overwhelmed with responsibilities, some of which resulted from poor, unthoughtful choices on my part.

Then, one by one, I began making hard and intentional choices. Saying no to things that were good, but not best. When I gave up a responsibility, someone else filled my shoes. In some cases, the jobs got done just as well and sometimes better than I did them. A blow the ego, yes. But the time I’ve found has been it’s own reward. More time with my family in this tiny season of life before my kids grow up. Time for solitude and a personal, daily time with God. Time to exercise and make healthy food choices for both myself and my family.

There are not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do right now. I don’t have the energy or stamina or skills or knowledge . . . I have to DECIDE what’s important in THIS season of my life and focus on those things. Other things will have to wait. The hard part is, some things may have to wait forever.


“. . . therefore I quote” Thursday: If you have a quote to share from something you’ve read recently, feel free to comment and/or include a link to your own “quote” post.

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March 11, 2010 Posted by | books, christian living, freakishly organized, intentional living, therefore I quote | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

therefore I quote: Mark Atteberry

I read, therefore I quote:

“Every time Christians are talking and the subject of excellence comes up, you can bet somebody will say, ‘It doesn’t really matter if things are done perfectly, as long as our hearts are right. After all, we’re not professionals.’ And there is truth in that statement. However, it’s a very short step from there to mediocrity . . . “

Mark Atteberry
The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do

Mr. Atteberry gives three reasons why excellence matters. The first is that God loves excellence. To support his premise, he refers to and discusses a number of Bible verses, including Genesis 1:31 and Psalm 145:1-7. Mr. Atteberry’s second thought on the idea that excellence matters is that the Bible commands excellence and he refers to Colossians 3:23 which reads “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” And finally, Mr. Atteberry claims that excellence is important because people respond to excellence.

“We all need to realize – like it or not – that we’ll probably get one chance to make a good impression. If what people see and experience when they walk through our doors is slipshod and disorganized, we likely will never see them again. And who knows, we may have soured them on church once and for all. Imagine the cumulative effect on the kingdom if thousands of churches across the country are making the same mistake.”

I love the following quote from Mr. Atteberry. I reminds me of Winston Churchill’s quote: “It’s not enough that we do our best, sometimes we have to do what’s required.”

“Excellence is intentional. It happens when people make a conscious choice to meet its requirements . . .”

These five requirements of excellence have had me pondering for a few weeks (emphasis mine):

“Let me mention five qualities that excellence, especially as it relates to our kingdom responsibilities, will always require:

Courage . . . there are many obstacles . . . such as apathy, a lack of funds, or small faith. But there are also shotgun-toting lovers of the status quo who view any disruption of their comfort zone as a personal attack . . . Many Christians have recognized the need for change in their churches, and even longed for it, but declined to pursue it because they knew it couldn’t be accomplished . . . they chose shallow harmony over effectiveness . . . Personally, I have never regretted choosing excellence over peace.

Giftedness . . . One of the greatest obstacles to excellence in the church is the mismanagement of God’s gifts. Too many people are not serving in their area of giftedness. There are three ways this can happen . . . some people have no idea what their gifts are. It might be because they’ve never thought about it. Or it might be because they’ve been lied to . . . some people know what their gifts are but they refuse to serve in that area . . . some people know what gifts they lack but insist on serving in those areas anyway . . . No one ever wants to admit that he’s not the right person for the job, but sometimes it’s the truth. Excellence requires that we serve in area where we can do the most good . . . and the least harm.

Money . . . The simple truth is that quality costs. Fact #1: Quality costs more, but generally pays for itself in the long run. Fact #2: Quality equipment and resources will be a blessing to your servants. Fact #3: High quality always makes a great first impression. Fact #4: A commitment to quality says something about your love for the Lord.

Thorough Planning and Preparation
. . . concerns about spontaneity, while sometimes legitimate, are just as often an excuse for not planning and preparing . . . God can do plenty of inspiring during the planning and preparation stage . . . whoever said that having a well-thought-out plan means you can’t deviate if the Lord does move in a mighty way . . . Nobody is good enough to wing it all the time and keep producing topflight results. You show me a person who insists upon flying by the seat of his pants in his service to the Lord and I’ll show you solid candidate for membership in the Slipshod Hall of Fame.

Perseverance . . . you will be surrounded by people who don’t see things the way you do. You’ll encounter people who have chosen mediocrity as a lifestyle. They’re comfortable in it and will resent your efforts to change things . . . your passion for excellence is going to be very difficult for them to understand . . . some people who have the best of intentions are simply blind to mediocrity . . . can look right at a slipshod, disorganized mess and not see a problem. If you start talking about changing it, they’ll give you a blank stare and say, “Why?”

Hang in there and give your service to God your best effort . . . try harder. That extra effort you give might be the difference between some lost person being drawn in or driven away.”

I can NOT do everything I want to do WELL. When I’ve tried, I’ve ended up doing things “good enough.” If you know me, you probably know what I think of “good enough.”

If I’m passionate about something, if it’s important to me, I want and need to focus my time and energy on it. I’m passionate my relationship with God. I’m passionate about caring for my family. I’m passionate about speaking and teaching. I’m passionate about singing and leading faith based music. I’m passionate about reading and learning. But. If I try to focus my time and energy on those things while simultaneously, spending my finite amount of time and energy on other things which don’t support those passions – or, in some cases, are counter-productive to those passions, I get . . . mediocrity.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time pondering and praying about my priorities. I know what’s important to me. The difficult thing is letting go of other things, which aren’t necessarily bad, and are sometimes even good, but just don’t fit within my goals.

We have a saying in our house concerning food – a chocolate Easter bunny, a pizza, a family size bag of chips, a half gallon of ice cream . . .”You can have it all, you just can have it all AT THE SAME TIME.”

I can be involved in lots and lots of activities and services. Just not at the same time. There are seasons for things. I have to know what’s MOST important to me NOW.

I have to choose on purpose. I have to do what’s required. I have to strive to do MORE than what’s required. God deserves my best effort.


“. . . therefore I quote” Thursday: If you have a quote to share from something you’ve read recently, feel free to comment and/or include a link to your own “quote” post.

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March 4, 2010 Posted by | books, christian living, intentional living, pragmatic practices, therefore I quote | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

now that’s romantic.

I read, therefore I quote.

I’ve always admired Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams. She had moxy. She was spunky. And smart. So it was no surprise when I snapped up her biography when I saw it in a bargain stack for just a few dollars. I wasn’t sure if the period language would befuddle and frustrate me, but surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. I actually laughed when I read the quoted passage below.

Let me set it up. Abigail and John have been “courting” for a few years and, at the time of the quoted letter, they were separated because John was quarantined after being inoculated for small pox. The book quotes one of John’s “love letters.”

“She can bear with it the more easily because he assures her ‘my affection for a certain Lady (you know who, my Dear) quickens my affection for every Body else that does not deserve my hatred.’”

“Every Body else that does not deserve my hatred.”

How sweet.

And he goes on:

“My soul and body have both been thrown into disorder by your absence,and a month or two more would make me the most insufferable cynic in the world. I see nothing but Faults, Follies, Frailties and Defects in anybody lately. People have lost all their good properties.”

Again with the sweetness. Here’s my paraphrase:

“Babe, since we’ve been apart I’ve become an irritable jerk and EVERY person I encounter has somehow been transformed into an idiot. Can’t wait to see you again!!

But he continues:

“But you, who have always softened and warmed my heart shall restore my Benevolence as well as my Health and Tranquility of mind. You shall polish and refine my Sentiments of Life and Manners, banish all the unsocial and ill-natured Particles in my composition and restore me to the happy Temper that can nourish a quick Discernment with a perfect Candour.”

okay. Now THAT’s a love letter.


“. . . therefore I quote” Thursday: If you have a quote to share from something you’ve read recently, feel free to comment and/or include a link to your own “quote” post.

January 7, 2010 Posted by | books, laugh!, therefore I quote | 4 Comments

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