Editor's note:

Each time I read Thomas Kel­ly’s clas­sic work, A Tes­ta­ment of Devo­tion, I get the feel­ing that Kel­ly’s fin­gers are rest­ing on my wrist, tak­ing my pulse. He describes per­fect­ly the con­di­tion in which I too often find myself: We feel hon­est­ly the pull of many oblig­a­tions and try to ful­fill them all. And we are unhap­py, uneasy, strained, oppressed, and fear­ful we shall be shal­low.” Espe­cial­ly in busy sea­sons, I need the direc­tion that Kel­ly pro­vides to live and work out of what he calls the divine Center.” 

Life from the Cen­ter is a heav­en-direct­ed life,” Kel­ly coun­sels. Yes, please. That’s the kind of life I want to live.

—Richella Parham

Excerpt from A Testament of Devotion

Let me talk very inti­mate­ly and very earnest­ly with you about Him who is dear­er than life. Do you real­ly want to live your lives, every moment of your lives, in His Pres­ence? Do you long for Him, crave Him? Do you love His Pres­ence? Does every drop of blood in your body love Him? Does every breath you draw breathe a prayer, a praise to Him? Do you sing and dance with­in your­selves, as you glo­ry in His love? Have you set your­selves to be His, and only His, walk­ing every moment in holy obe­di­ence? I know I’m talk­ing like an old-time evan­ge­list. But I can’t help that, nor dare I restrain myself and get prim and con­ven­tion­al. We have too long been prim and restrained. 

The fires of the love of God, of our love toward God, and of His love toward us, are very hot. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength.” Do we real­ly do it? Is love stead­fast­ly direct­ed toward God, in our minds, all day long? Do we inter­sperse our work with gen­tle prayers and prais­es to Him? Do we live in the steady peace of God, a peace down at the very depths of our souls, where all strain is gone and God is already vic­tor over the world, already vic­tor over our weak­ness­es? This life, this abid­ing, endur­ing peace that nev­er fails, this serene pow­er and unhur­ried con­quest, inward con­quest over our­selves, out­ward con­quest over the world, is meant to be ours. It is a life that is freed from strain and anx­i­ety and hur­ry, for some­thing of the Cos­mic Patience of God becomes ours. Are our lives unshak­able, because we are clear down on bed rock, root­ed and ground­ed in the love of God? This is the first and the great commandment. 

Do you want to live in such an amaz­ing divine Pres­ence that life is trans­formed and trans­fig­ured and trans­mut­ed into peace and pow­er and glo­ry and mir­a­cle? If you do, then you can. But if you say you haven’t the time to go down into the recre­at­ing silences, I can only say to you, Then you don’t real­ly want to, you don’t yet love God above all else in the world, with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.” For except for spells of sick­ness in the fam­i­ly and when the chil­dren are small, when ter­rif­ic pres­sure comes upon us, we find time for what we real­ly want to do.…

Much of our accep­tance of mul­ti­tudes of oblig­a­tions is due to our inabil­i­ty to say No. We cal­cu­lat­ed that that task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to under­take it. We cal­cu­lat­ed the need, and then cal­cu­lat­ed our time, and decid­ed maybe we could squeeze it in some­where. But the deci­sion was a heady deci­sion, not made with­in the sanc­tu­ary of the soul. When we say Yes or No to calls for ser­vice on the basis of heady deci­sions, we have to give rea­sons, to our­selves and to oth­ers. But when we say Yes or No to calls on the basis of inner guid­ance and whis­pered prompt­ings of encour­age­ment from the Cen­ter of our life, or on the basis of a lack of any inward ris­ing” of that Life to encour­age us in the call, we have no rea­son to give, except one — the will of God as we dis­cern it. Then we have begun to live in guid­ance. And I find He nev­er guides us into an intol­er­a­ble scram­ble of pant­i­ng fever­ish­ness. The Cos­mic Patience becomes, in part, our patience, for after all God is at work in the world. It is not we alone who are at work in the world, fran­ti­cal­ly fin­ish­ing a work to be offered to God. 

Life from the Cen­ter is a life of unhur­ried peace and pow­er. It is sim­ple. It is serene. It is amaz­ing. It is tri­umphant. It is radi­ant. It takes no time, but it occu­pies all our time. And it makes our life pro­grams new and over­com­ing. We need not get fran­tic. He is at the helm. And when our lit­tle day is done we lie down qui­et­ly in peace, for all is well.

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Excerpt­ed from Thomas Kel­ly’s A Tes­ta­ment of Devo­tion, pp. 95 – 96; 99 – 100. Harper­Collins 1996.

Originally published December 1940