One of my friends is walking through the Valley of the Shadow. As I was listening to him share his heart this morning, and when the appropriate amount of silence had settled over us, this came out of me:
“You have permission to live the most difficult days of your life in the safety of our presence.”
That’s a summary of Christian community. We all need that permission from each other, permission to *be where we are*.
Some folks understand “faith” to be a rugged shaking-off-of our feelings. Some people have been taught that “faith” means you ignore the painful realities in favor of a grit-your-teeth positivity. No, sir.
The life of faith is the life where the saints learn to play the long game with each other. If we do it right, the seasons of bottoming out in grief and overwhelming despair do not have to be seen as final, but can be seen as stops along the way.
Impetuous Peter wobbled in his faith and denied he ever even knew Jesus, but he didn’t stay there. He grew into the man on whose back the Church would ride. Thomas didn’t always do it right either. Neither did Mary Magdalene. And neither will you and I.
So let’s sign up for the long game with each other. Let’s covenant to be companions as we pass through the Valley of the Shadow. Let’s give each other permission to live the most difficult days of your lives in the safety of each other’s presence. And let’s do it until we’re able to look back and see the difficulties swallowed up by God’s deliverance.
The news has spread throughout the land and many of the tribes of God’s people are in mourning today: Eugene Hoiland Peterson has entered his rest. The Pastor has completed his pilgrimage. He was nearing his 86th birthday, and his days in the land of the living numbered 31,397.
In December 2008, I wrote my first letter to Eugene after reading his book, The Contemplative Pastor. I was a 26-year-old pastor serving in a church that was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but something about Eugene’s writing awakened hope in me that we could find our way back to the quiet waters. I had never met Eugene before I sent that letter and, frankly, he had no reason to write me back. He was 76 and could have ridden off into the sunset of the retirement he had earned. Nobody would have blamed him, not even I. But to my great surprise, he wrote back and invited me to their home in Montana for a few days of conversation and prayer. Since then, I’ve made seven trips to be with Eugene and Jan, their kindness making possible a friendship for which I’ll be eternally grateful.
Continue reading “Remembering Eugene Peterson”
As a weekly preacher, here are 10 Things I’ve Learned About Preaching:
- I’ve learned that prayer is the most essential work for a preacher. A sermon that has not been prayed into existence is a sermon that will miss the target.
- I’ve learned that my angsty preacher jitters about will this sermon sing? and will it dance with the Spirit’s creativity? decrease in direct proportion to the vitality of my prayer life.
- I’ve learned that there is a difference between exegeting a text and discerning what the Spirit wants to do among a particular people through that text. I may think I know what a text is trying to say/do, but that doesn’t mean I have tapped into what the Spirit is up to right here, right now, with these people. Both are necessary: exegesis and
Continue reading “10 Things I’ve Learned About Preaching”
Eugene Peterson recently celebrated his 85th birthday, so to wrap up my three-part blog series, Eugene and Me, I thought this would be a great occasion to share a little of what friendship with Eugene and Jan Peterson has meant to me over the years.
At the end of August, I went to spend two days with them at their home. Though I’ve met up with them a few times at retreat centers across the country, this was my fifth visit to their home in Montana. Every time I had gone to their house before this trip, they were in a position to receive me with some semblance of strength. On my first visit, Eugene was a vibrant 77-year-old who had just finished writing Practice Resurrection: A Conversation On Growing Up In Christ.
Continue reading “Eugene and Me, Part 3: What I Learned from the Man Behind The Message”
Author’s Preface: Eugene Peterson, the acclaimed writer, poet, pastor, and translator of The Message Bible, has become a friend and one of the more important figures in my life. I’m writing a three-part series, and here’s a link the first installment in case you missed it.
Eugene and Me, Part 2–On Megachurches
Recently, an interview with Eugene Peterson was published in which he was asked whether he’s encouraged or discouraged by what he’s seeing across the landscape of the American church. In his response, he talked about megachurches:
Continue reading “Eugene and Me, Part 2: What I Learned from the Man Behind The Message”