A Year with G. K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder

A Year with G. K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder

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by Kevin Belmonte

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“A Year with G.K.
will be a treasure, both for those who are coming to his wit and wisdom as a fresh discovery, and for those who have known and loved his work for years. . . . Chesterton’s talent for paradox, and his ability to embody profound truth in simple images, makes him as compelling now as he was a hundred years ago. . . .

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“A Year with G.K.
will be a treasure, both for those who are coming to his wit and wisdom as a fresh discovery, and for those who have known and loved his work for years. . . . Chesterton’s talent for paradox, and his ability to embody profound truth in simple images, makes him as compelling now as he was a hundred years ago. . . . He was a prophet in his own time and a prophet for ours, speaking out against insidious evils and kindling us all again to a common love of the common good.”

—The Reverend Dr. Malcolm Guite, chaplain of Girton College,
Cambridge University

“This world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a Person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story, there is a Storyteller.”

—G. K. Chesterton

A Year with G. K. Chesterton daily brings this truth to life. And we are heir to the winsome, arresting, utterly original outpouring of Chesterton’s reasons for hope. During his lifetime, a host of perspectives clamored for his attention, but he saw nothing as vital and alive as Christianity. Readers of this book will find their faith strengthened and enriched, even as they see the many reasons why George Bernard Shaw called Chesterton “a colossal genius.”

A true anthology,
the best of Chesterton’s many works are presented in concise, memorable selections. From New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve, each page contains a passage of Scripture and myriad moments for reflection, appreciation, and laughter.

“Chesterton once a day? Well, that’s a start. It is good to see that someone is finally recognizing the need for a daily minimum requirement of mirth and meditation from GKC.”

—Dale Ahlquist, President, American
Chesterton Society

“Kevin Belmonte writes in the preface to this excellent book that his editing of it has been a gift. As an author who has written regularly on Chesterton I can understand his sense of gratitude at having been able to spend so much time with a genius as genial as the great GKC. Thanks to
Belmonte's labor of love we can all spend a few moments of every day of the year in Chesterton's inimitable company. All admirers of Chesterton and the
Christian truth he explicates so sublimely will be grateful to Kevin Belmonte for this gem of a gift.”

—Joseph Pearce, author of Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K.

"Who could not be grateful for a year spent with GKC?
The great subverter of everything taken for granted, he stretches and deepens us with his insights, shakes us with his startling paradoxes and delights us with his wit. Thank God there is no getting to the end of Chesterton."

—Os Guinness, author of A Free People's Suicide

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365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2012 Kevin Belmonte
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59555-494-9

Chapter One


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.


Liberty is altogether a mystical thing. All attempts to justify it rationally have always failed. Ruskin tried to attack it by pointing out that the stars had it not and the universe had it not. So good a mystic ought to have known that it is just because man has it and the universe has it not, that man is called the Image of God and the universe merely His masterpiece.


• In 1920, GKC and his wife, Frances, visited the Forum and Colosseum in Rome.


• In 1887, twelve-year-old GKC graduated to St. Paul's day school.

• And in 1914, GKC's novel The Flying Inn was published.


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. —John 3:16 NKJV

Every one on this earth should believe, amid whatever madness or moral failure, that his life and temperament have some object on the earth. Every one on the earth should believe that he has something to give to the world which cannot otherwise be given. Every one should, for the good of men and the saving of his own soul, believe that it is possible, even if we are the enemies of the human race, to be the friends of God.


This forgetfulness of what we have is the real Fall of Man and the Fall of All Things. The evil which infects the immense goodness of existence does not embody itself in the fact that men are weary of woes and oppressions. It embodies itself in the shameful fact that they are often weary of joys and weary of generosities. Poetry, the highest form of literature, has here its immortal function; it is engaged continually in a desperate and divine battle against things being taken for granted. A fierce sense of the value of things lies at the heart [of literature].


• In 1932, GKC's article "How Gray Wrote 'The Elegy'" was published in the Illustrated London News.


But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. —Ephesians 2:13 NKJV

Red is the most joyful and dreadful thing in the physical universe; it is the fiercest note, it is the highest light, it is the place where the walls of this world of ours wear thinnest and something beyond burns through. It glows in the blood which sustains and in the fire which destroys us, in the roses of our romance and in the awful cup of our religion. It stands for all passionate happiness, as in faith or in first love.


If a man were to say that science stands for barbarism and religion for civilization, he would in these days be accused of a mere trick of topsy-turveydom. Yet there is one sense, at least, in which this is unquestionably true. The generalizations which science makes true or false are of necessity limitations of human hope. The laws which science deduces, fairly or unfairly, are necessarily, like all laws, a restraint of liberty. The nearer a man is to an ordered and classified being, the nearer he is to an automaton. The nearer he is to an automaton, the nearer he is to a beast. The lowest part of man is that which he does in accordance with law, such as eating, drinking, growing a beard, or falling over a precipice. The highest part of him is that which is most lawless: spiritual movements, passionate attachment, art.


• In 1920, GKC and his wife, Frances, set sail for the Holy Land.

• And in 1931, GKC's article "The Breakdown of the Materialist System" was published in the Illustrated London News.


I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. —Psalm 139:14 NKJV

This world and all our powers in it are far more awful and beautiful than we ever know until some accident reminds us. If you wish to perceive that limitless felicity, limit yourself if only for a moment. If you wish to realize how fearfully and wonderfully God's image is made, stand upon one leg. If you want to realize the splendid vision of all visible things—wink the other eye.


The universe is of necessity the perfectly lonely thing. You may state the eternal problem in the form of saying: "Why is there a Cosmos?" But you can state it just as well by saying: "Why is there an omnibus?" You can say: "Why is there everything?" You can say instead: "Why is there anything?" For that law and sequence and harmony and inevitability on which science so proudly insists are in their nature only true of the relations of the parts to each other. The whole, the nature of things itself, is not legal, is not consecutive, is not harmonious, and not inevitable. It is wild, like a poem; arbitrary, like a poem; unique, like a poem.


• In 1908, GKC's article "Why I Am Not a Socialist" was published in The New Age.

• And in 1930, GKC's article "The Complexity of Liberty" was published in the Illustrated London News.


So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel. —Romans 1:15 NKJV

I am not prepared to admit that there is, or can be, properly speaking, in the world anything that is too sacred to be known. That spiritual beauty and spiritual truth are in their nature communicable and that they should be communicated, is a principle which lies at the root of every conceivable religion. Christ was crucified upon a hill, and not in a cavern, and the word Gospel itself involves the same idea as the ordinary name of a daily paper. Whenever, therefore, a poet or any similar type of man can, or conceives that he can, make all men partakers in some splendid secret of his own heart, I can imagine nothing saner and nothing manlier than his course in doing so. Thus it was that Dante made a new heaven and a new hell out of a girl's nod in the streets of Florence.


It is the function, then, of literature to liberate a subject, or a spirit, or an incident, or a personality, from those irrelevancies which prevent it, first from being itself, and, secondly, from becoming perfectly allegorical of the essence of things. Everything about the cow in our daily experience of it which accidentally prevents us from realizing its deeper magic, such, for instance, as our happening to be an old lady and afraid of cows, or our being an impecunious farmer and obliged to sell the cow, or even (though this is less likely) an ox and obliged to regard the cow with more specialized and perhaps more passionate sentiment ... We must, if necessary, put the cow in greener fields of fairy land, and under a sun that is strange to men. We must set her dark against an impossible sunset, like the end of the gods—or breast deep amid flowers of Paradise; if only so we can make her seem more utterly cowish, and therefore more utterly mysterious. We must put her in Eden; we must put her in Elysium; we must put her in Topsy-turveydom. To sum it all up in a word, we must put her in a book, in a book where her rounded cowishness will be safe from impertinences and side issues, from bulls who regard her as a female, and farmers who regard her as a property—and old ladies who regard her as the devil. Similar methods, I need hardly say, are needed to preserve the rounded humanity of the Cabinet Minister.


• In 1929, GKC's article "The Guild Idea" was published in the Illustrated London News.


And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. —Revelation 21:24

If our faith had been a mere fad of the fading empire, fad would have followed fad in the twilight, and if the civilization ever re-emerged (and many such have never re-emerged) it would have been under some new barbaric flag. But the Christian Church was the last life of the old society and was also the first life of the new. She took the people who were forgetting how to make an arch, and she taught them to invent the Gothic arch. In a word, the most absurd thing that could be said of the Church is the thing we have all heard said of it. How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them.


Literatureatitsbest,then,isessentiallyaliberationoftypes,persons, and things; a permission to them to be themselves in safety and to the glory of God. It offers a fuller consideration of a man's case than the world can give him; it offers, to all, noble possibilities of fuller growth than is practicable upon earth; it offers to the meanest soul whom it studies the divine emptiness of an uncreated world. It gives a man what he often longs for more than houses or gardens—deserts.


But travelling in the great level lands has a curiously still and lonely quality; lonely even when there are plenty of people on the road and in the market-place. One's voice seems to break an almost elvish silence.


• In 1901, GKC's first review for the Daily News was published.


For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. —I Corinthians 1:18 NKJV

His soul will never starve for exploits or excitements who is wise enough to be made a fool of. He will make himself happy in the traps that have been laid for him; he will roll in their nets and sleep. All doors will fly open to him who has a mildness more defiant than mere courage. The whole is unerringly expressed in one fortunate phrase—he will be always taken in. To be taken in everywhere is to see the inside of everything. It is the hospitality of circumstance. With torches and trumpets, like a guest, the greenhorn is taken in by Life. And the sceptic is cast out by it.


I came along a lean, pale road south of the fens, and found myself in a large, quiet, and seemingly forgotten village. It was one of those places that instantly produce a frame of mind which, it may be, one afterwards decks out with unreal details. I dare say that grass did not really grow in the streets, but I came away with a curious impression that it did. I daresay the marketplace was not literally lonely and without sign of life, but it left the vague impression of being so. The place was large and even loose in design, yet it had the air of something hidden away and always overlooked. It seemed shy, like a big yokel; the low roofs seemed to be ducking behind the hedges and railings; and the chimneys holding their breath. I came into it in that dead hour of the afternoon which is neither after lunch nor before tea, nor anything else even on a half-holiday; and I had a fantastic feeling that I had strayed into a lost and extra hour that is not numbered in the twenty-four.


• In 1914, GKC presided over an evening event in the King's Hall, King Street, Covent Garden, as judge at the mock trial of John Jasper for the murder of Edwin Drood—all in celebration of Charles Dickens' unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood.


O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens! —Psalm 8:1 NKJV

The fact is that purification and austerity are even more necessary for the appreciation of life and laughter than for anything else. To let no bird fly past unnoticed, to spell patiently the stones and weeds, to have the mind a storehouse of sunsets, requires a discipline in pleasure and an education in gratitude.


I entered an inn which stood openly in the market-place yet was almost as private as a private house ... In the front window a stout old lady in black with an elaborate cap sat doing a large piece of needlework. She had a kind of comfortable Puritanism about her; and might have been (perhaps she was) the original Mrs. Grundy. A little more withdrawn into the parlour sat a tall, strong, and serious girl, with a face of beautiful honesty and a pair of scissors stuck in her belt, doing a small piece of needlework. Two feet behind them sat a hulking labourer with a humorous face like wood painted scarlet, with a huge mug of mild beer which he had not touched, and probably would not touch for hours. On the hearthrug there was an equally motionless cat; and on the table a copy of Household Words. I was conscious of some atmosphere, still and yet bracing, that I had met somewhere in literature.


• In 1920, GKC and his wife, Frances, arrived in Cairo, Egypt, a stage of their journey to the Holy Land.


But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. —Mark 10:6–8

When I say that religion and marriage and local loyalty are permanent in humanity, I mean that they recur when humanity is most human; and only comparatively decline when society is comparatively inhuman.


Then I remembered that it was the atmosphere in some of Wordsworth's rural poems; which are full of genuine freshness and wonder, and yet are in some incurable way commonplace. This was curious; for Wordsworth's men were of the rocks and fells, and not of the fenlands or flats. But perhaps it is the clearness of still water and the mirrored skies of meres and pools that produces this crystalline virtue. Perhaps that is why Wordsworth is called a Lake Poet instead of a mountain poet. Perhaps it is the water that does it. Certainly the whole of that town [where I found myself] was like a cup of water given at morning.


• In 1932, GKC's article "A Detective Story with Twelve Authors" was published in the Illustrated London News.


And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority. —Matthew 7:28–29 NKJV

A man's soul is as full of voices as a forest; there are ten thousand tongues there like all the tongues of the trees: fancies, follies, memories, madnesses, mysterious fears, and more mysterious hopes. All the settlement and sane government of life consists in coming to the conclusion that some of those voices have authority and others not.


After a few sentences exchanged at long intervals in the manner of rustic courtesy, I inquired casually what was the name of the town. The old lady answered that its name was Stilton, and composedly continued her needlework. But I had paused with my mugin air, and was gazing at her with a suddenly arrested concern. "I suppose," I said, "that it has nothing to do with the cheese of that name."

"Oh, yes," she answered, with a staggering indifference, "they used to make it here."

I put down my mug with a gravity far greater than her own. "But this place is a Shrine!" I said. "Pilgrims should be pouring into it from wherever the English legend has endured alive. There ought to be a colossal statue in the market-place of the man who invented Stilton cheese. There ought to be another colossal statue of the first cow who provided the foundations of it. There should be a burnished tablet let into the ground on the spot where some courageous man first ate Stilton cheese, and survived."


And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. —2 Peter 1:19 NKJV

The idea of a crowd of human strangers turned into comrades for a journey is full of the oldest pathos and piety of human life. That profound feeling of moral fraternity and frailty, which tells us we are indeed all in the same boat, is not the less true if expressed in the formula that we are all in the same bus. As for the idea of the lamp-post, the idea of the fixed beacon of the branching thoroughfares, the terrestrial star of the terrestrial traveller, it could only be, but actually is, the subject of countless songs.


Excerpted from A YEAR WITH G. K. CHESTERTON Copyright © 2012 by Kevin Belmonte. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Kevin Belmonte holds a BA in English Literature and two MA's in Church History and American and New England studies. He is the author of several books including William Wilberforce: A Hero for Humanity and winner of the prestigious John Pollock Award for Christian Biography

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A Year with G. K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SilviaBlogs More than 1 year ago
A Year with G.K.Chesterton, 365 days of wisdom, wit, and wonder, is already my favorite book of the year and already a classic. It has everything a person who loves reading desires. The format is brilliant. I do not recall having read any book like this. I feel the same warmth as I open and read this book. It has this formula for each day, it always starts with a Bible verse from the New King James Bible, it proceeds to include a paragraph from Chesterton related to the verse, and a second passage from one of his books or a writing from a publication or magazine that wrote about him. It always ends with a few records of what Chesterton did on that day of the month, in different years. As you read it you get to know Chesterton more, and through him other writers such as Dickens or C.S. Lewis. It amazes me to read thoughts penned in 1909 and feel them to close to the topics that are of relevance today. Chesterton's wisdom, wit, and wonder will always be of interest. And all the credit to Belmonte for making him so approachable. I had read some of Chesterton essays before, and though I grasped enough as to admire him, I got very lost in many of his writings for lack of understanding of his context and the authors and philosophies he alludes to. Now even though some of the passages are more challenging to me, in such a varied compilation I have enough for a year and more! A book you will take with you to the kitchen, to your nightstand, the doctor's office, and your reading chair. *I received this book free from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.
jdubes More than 1 year ago
The subtitle of this book is “365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder”--it can hardly be better described. A Year with G.K. Chesterton, edited by Kevin Belmonte, is a collection of this brilliant author’s writings compiled as a cross between a devotional and anthology. The book is divided into daily readings, for each secular calendar date and for selected important dates from the church calendar as well (so you really get more than 365 days’ worth of Chesterton). Each reading begins with a Bible verse, continues with one or two passes from Chesterton or about Chesterton, and often finishes with significant biographical information form that date in his life. The writing selections come from various types of his writing, including his musings, essays, literary criticisms, short stories, and anything else he may have written. Though this book was written to be read in short snippets, I read it cover to cover in a few days in order to review it. I think I may need to read it again as it was intended, for I found that the selections were for the most part morsels so delightful and delectable that they wanted more chewing and savoring than I was able to give in a quick reading. As someone who is familiar but not intimate with Chesterton’s works, I found it whet my appetite for more. I think it will likely do the same for any who are even remotely interested in his work. Chesterton was a gifted writer and a probing thinker who invites his reader into his rather remarkable thought life. I had to stop a number of times and write down quotes that I wanted to think about more or that I wanted to remember in living my own life. If words have ever delighted you, I think you will enjoy this book. * I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
gadfly1974 More than 1 year ago
If you’re a fan of G.K. Chesterton, then you’ll enjoy this book. Mr. Belmonte has compiled many of Chesterton’s best works and divided them into bit-sized pieces. This is quite an accomplishment given Chesterton’s dense style. Every day includes a brief scripture reading, and many days include tidbits about what happened to the Chesterton family on that date. The material is not new, but it is well-structured and enjoyable. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this unbiased review.
Benj-O More than 1 year ago
A Year Worth Spending ©2012 Thomas Nelson, Nashville G.K. Chesterton. That great Christian author from England who gave us the Father Brown mystery stories was also the prolific writer of philosophy and apologetics. He was one of the influencers of C.S. Lewis in his own personal journey to Christianity. Is it any wonder that when I found a devotional based on Chesterton’s life and writings I grabbed at it? This book holds a full year’s worth of writings and anecdotes from Chesterton’s life to provide devotional reading on a day-by-day basis. In addition, the editor has included some extra readings in the back of the book which he labels “Supplemental Readings: The Main Festival Days of the Church.” Of course these would specifically be related to the Roman Catholic Church of which Chesterton was a member. With little variation, the reader will find a Scripture for the day, a short writing (it is unclear in the book whether this is by Chesterton or an observation by Belmonte), then an excerpt from one of Chesterton’s essays, stories, or other writings. Most days will also include a verbal snapshot of what happened “On this day” in the life of Chesterton. It gives a quick overview of the man and his writing. Each day is filled with inspiration or as the subtitle of the book suggests “Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder.” Because I needed to get this review done in a timely manner, I’ve based it on a hurried perusal of the pages. I can’t wait to take the time as designated by the book’s design and spend “A Year with G. K. Chesterton.” I would recommend this for anyone who has enjoyed Chesterton’s prose, or for faithful readers of Lewis and Tolkien. Readings only require a few minutes daily and the uplifting one gets is worth the moment. Four out of five reading glasses. —Benjamin Potter December 6, 2012 [This book was provided free of charge by the publisher for purposes of this review. The opinions are my own.]
BeautifulExcellentBooks More than 1 year ago
A Year with G.K. Chesterton, edited by Kevin Belmonte, is a daily dose of writings by an author who has been called “a cheerleader of truth, goodness and the humorous ways of God.” Each page contains a short passage of scripture, followed by one of Chesterton’s poems, a piece from one of his articles or books, or another’s words about him, adding up to “365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder”. I assumed that the elements for each day would be related, as in most other daily readings, however, on many days it seemed the passages had nothing to do with the scripture verse. But during the second (or third) read, connections usually appeared which helped to stretch my faith and my understanding of the world. I love how Chesterton takes us out of our little corners, our little homes and communities and concerns, up to a grand view of life from the universe’s point of view. “About the whole cosmos there is a tense and secret festivity…Eternity is the eve of something. I never look up at the stars without feeling that they are the fires of a schoolboy’s rockets, fixed in their everlasting fall.” Aside from the short daily scriptures, A Year with G.K. Chesterton has fewer overt Biblical or Christian references than I expected, but I am not complaining because it is big on Biblical truth. The pondering of life and literature by a philosopher with a Christian faith that saturates his mind and soul is a powerful way to one’s heart. Kevin Belmonte’s book gives Chesterton in small doses which allows us time to absorb and contemplate deep truths. Readers will find humor, verse, history, paradox and intellectual challenge as they make their way through the pages, and like me, they may not be satisfied with just one “day” at a time. I recommend G.K. Chesterton especially to those who want to see a “transformed mind” in action, those who want an inspired, less conventional presentation of faith and a Christian world view. [Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.]
Anonymous More than 1 year ago