Several times a week, I grab a copy of  Seminar in a Sentence, a little book I published a few years ago that contains some of my favorite quotes. When I was tracking down a half-remembered bit of wisdom today, I reread the introduction to the book and decided to share it here.


Although I don’t know when I began collecting quotes, I do know that I learned about the power of words early in life. As a student at Trinity Lutheran School, I began memorizing Bible passages as so as I entered first grade.

As I got older, I discovered that these words I’d committed to memory often came in handy when I was confused or frustrated. They also could be used to win arguments with my younger siblings.

When I was a bit older, my hardworking Aunt Marge advised me to memorize beautiful poems, “So you can recite them to yourself when you’re scrubbing the floor.” That bit of advice both surprised and moved me. Seeing her working hard to care for her two daughters, I often wondered what lovely poem was on her mind.

More beautiful words entered my life when I chose English as my college major and, later, taught English to reluctant high school students. However, this was more an exercise in appreciating fine writing than it was in taking those words to heart.

It wasn’t until I began my journey of self-discovery that I found myself startled, encouraged and inspired by the words of others.

How did that author know I needed to hear those very words? Were there universal truths that could be revisited over and over again and make an impact every time?

I didn’t really care what the explanation was. It was enough to know that despite distances of time and geography, there were others who had thoughts that touched me and, frequently, lighted my path.

When I began writing myself, it seemed natural to include quotes from my growing collection. I also noticed that although I never intentionally memorized these words—not even my favorites—they often had lodged in my memory and would show up in the most casual of conversations.

One day a quote-loving friend and I were talking about the power of words. I said, “I think a good quote is a seminar in a sentence.”

I still think that and urge you to start your own collection, if  you haven’t done so already. They will be at your service when you need a quick seminar.

Here’s the quote I was searching for today. It’s from C.S. Lewis and has been a favorite of mine ever since I first came across it.

Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection.

If you want to get warm, you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water.

If you want joy, peace, eternal life you must get close to, or even into the thing that has them.

They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.

If you are close to it, the spray will wet you. If you are not, you will remain dry.