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.

Instead, why don't you look over the congregation on Sundays and pick someone who appears to be mature and congenial. Ask her or him if you can meet together every month or so - you feel the need to talk about your life in the company of someone who believes that Jesus is present and active in everything you are doing. Reassure the person that he or she doesn't have to say anything wise. You only want them to be there for you to listen and be prayerful in the listening. After three or four such meetings, write to me what has transpired, and we'll discuss it further.

Our Lord gave us the image of a child, not because of the childÂ’s helplessness, but because of the childÂ’s willingness to be led, to be taught, to be blessed.

The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God's creative genius is endless.

There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations called holiness.

We take precautions by learning safety rules, fastening our seat belts and taking out insurance policies, but we cannot guarantee safety.

Intimacy [with God] does not preclude reverence. True intimacy does not eliminate a sacred awe.

Our work creates neither life nor righteousness.

The Bible never refers to the past as “the good old days.”

This devalues the experience of suffering.

What does make a difference is the personal relationships that we create and develop.

IsnÂ’t it odd that pastors, who are responsible for interpreting the Scriptures, so much of which come in the form of poetry, have so little interest in poetry? Â… Words create. GodÂ’s word creates; our words can participate in creation.

Pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names still appear on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other Gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasnÂ’t the remotest connection with what the churchÂ’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuries.

The danger that is a threat to obedience is that we should reduce Christian existence to ritually obeying a few commandments that are congenial to our temperament and convenient to our standard of living.

Too often we think of religion as a far-off, mysteriously run bureaucracy to which we apply for assistance when we feel the need. We go to a local branch office and direct the clerk (sometimes called a pastor) to fill out our order for God. If we thought about it for two consecutive minutes, we would not want it that way. If God is God at all, he must know more about our needs than we do.

When we see the other as GodÂ’s anointed, a priest to us, our relationships are profoundly affected.

It is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts.

Perseverance does not mean “perfection.” It means we do not quit when we find that we are not yet mature and there is a long journey still before us.

The experts in our society who offer to help us have a kind of general staff mentality from which massive, top-down solutions are issued to solve our problems. Then when solutions donÂ’t work, we get mired in the nothing-can-be-done swamp. We are first incited into being grandiose and then intimidated into being infantile. But there is another way, the plain way of quiet Christian humility. We need pruning. Cut back to our roots, we learn this psalm and discover the quietness of the weaned child, the tranquility of maturing trust. It is such a minute psalm that many have overlooked it, but for all its brevity and lack of pretense, it is essential. For every Christian encounters problems of growth and difficulties of development.

Two biblical designations for people of faith: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple (mathetes) says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. We donÂ’t learn in a school, but at the work site of the craftsman. We seek not to acquire information about God but skills in faith.

When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn't go off and leave us- he enters into our trouble and saves us.

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.

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