Eugene Peterson


American Pastor, Scholar, Author, and Poet, Gold Medallion Book Award Winner

Author Quotes

You seem disappointed that I am not more responsive to your interest in spiritual direction. Actually, I am more than a little ambivalent about the term, particularly in the ways it is being used so loosely without any sense of knowledge of the church's traditions in these matters.

It is easier to find guides, someone to tell you what to do, than someone to be with you in a discerning, prayerful companionship as you work it out yourself. This is what spiritual direction is.

Religion in our day has been captured by the tourist mindset. So many have a “bent” for religious entertainment.

The irony here is that the rise of interest in spiritual direction almost certainly comes from the proliferation of role-defined activism in our culture. We are sick and tired of being slotted into a function and then manipulated with Scripture and prayer to do what someone has decided (often with the help of some psychological testing) that we should be doing to bring glory to some religious enterprise or other. And so when people begin to show up who are interested in us just as we are - our souls - we are ready to be paid attention to in this prayerful, listening, non-manipulative, nonfunctional way. Spiritual direction.

Understanding that life is a journey must take into account the pilgrimages of the Jews. They refreshed their memories of God’s saving ways at the Feast of Passover in the spring; they renewed their commitments as God’s covenantal people at the Feast of the Pentecost in early summer; they responded as a blessed community to the best that God had for them at the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn. They were a redeemed people, a commanded people, and a blessed people. Every pilgrimage reminded them of their journey with God – past, present, and future.

When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God's. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.

It is far easier to deal with people as problems to be solved than to have anything to do with them in community.

Sabbath is not primarily about us or how it benefits us; itÂ’s about God and how he forms us. ItÂ’s not, in the first place, about what we do or donÂ’t do; itÂ’s about God completing and resting and blessing and sanctifying. These are all things we donÂ’t know much about; they are beyond us but not beyond our recognition and participation.

The Latin words humus, soil/earth, and homo, human being, have a common derivation, from which we also get our word 'humble.' This is the Genesis origin of who we are: dust - dust that the Lord God used to make us a human being. If we cultivate a lively sense of our origin and nurture a sense of continuity with it, who knows, we may also acquire humility.

Wait and watch are the two words given to us in our suffering. The words are connected with the image of watchmen waiting through the night for the dawn. There is something you can do, or more exactly, there is someone you can be: be a watchman.

When we suffer we attract counselors as money attracts thieves. We are flooded first with sympathy and then with advice, and when we donÂ’t come around quickly we are abandoned as a hopeless case.

It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest.

Self is the soul minus God.

The mistake we so often make is thinking that GodÂ’s interest and care for us waxes and wanes according to our spiritual temperature.

Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, donÂ’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Why are we put on the spot of being God’s defender. We are expected to explain God to his disappointed clients. We’re thrust into the role of a clerk at Wal-Mart’s customer service desk – the complaints department of humanity.

It is uncommonly difficult to stay centered and absorbed on our primary life-affirming, life witnessing work. We continue to perform the vast array of activities in work and conversation that I’ve listed, and more than that. but we are also under the continual threat of death, of becoming disconnected from life and people and god and just going through the biological motions – mouthing clichés and not participating in life itself.

So the question is not “Am I going to be a part of a community of faith” but “How am I going to live in this community of faith.”

The only cure for cynicism is to bring it out behind the scenes. It is a parasite on faith. The reason that many of us donÂ’t ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it a rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts.

We are in special and constant need of expert correction. We need pruning.

Why he thought no one would ever buy The Message (boy, was he wrong).

ItÂ’s a wonderful formula for getting to heaven the quickest and easiest way. And virtually foolproof. There is no time to backslide, no temptations to bother with, no doubts to wrestle with, no spouse to have to honor, no kids to put up with, no enemies to love, no more sorrow, no more tears. Instant eternity.

So we will not make excuses for the psalmistÂ’s vindictiveness. What we will do is admire its energy. For it is apathetic, sluggish neutrality that is death to perseverance, acts like a virus in the bloodstream and enervates the muscles of discipleship.

The pastoral vocation in America is embarrassingly banal. It is banal because it is pursued under the canons of job efficiency and career management. It is banal because it is reduced to the dimensions of a job description. It is banal because it is an idol – a call from God exchanged for an offer by the devil for work that can be measured and manipulated at the convenience of the worker. Holiness is not banal. Holiness is blazing.

We cannot be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and they end up using us.

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American Pastor, Scholar, Author, and Poet, Gold Medallion Book Award Winner