Eugene Peterson


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

Author Quotes

Why there’s never been a “successful” church.

I've had a number of men and women who have served me in this way over the years - none carried the title spiritual director, although that is what they have been. Some had never heard of such a term. When I moved to Canada a few years ago and had to leave a long-term relationship of this sort, I looked around for someone whom I could be with in this way. I picked a man whom I knew to be a person of integrity and prayer, with seasoned Christian wisdom in his bones. I anticipated that he would disqualify himself. So I pre-composed my rebuttal: All I want you to do is two things: show up and shut up. Can you do that? Meet with me every six weeks or so, and just be there - an honest, prayerful presence with no responsibility to be anything other than what you have become in your obedient lifetime. And it worked. If that is what you mean by spiritual director, okay. But I still prefer friend.

Song and dance are the result of an excess energy. When we are normal we talk, when we are dying we whisper, but when there is more in us than we contain we sing. When we are healthy we walk, when we are decrepit we shuffle, but when we are beyond ourselves with vitality we dance.

The Sabbath is a time to “unplug”.

We learn to live not by our feelings about God but by the facts about God. If I break my leg I do not become less a person. My wife and children do not reject me. Neither when my faith fractures or my feelings bruise does God cast me off and reject me.

Without wonder, we approach spiritual formation as a self-help project. We employ techniques. we analyze gifts and potentialities. We set goals. We assess progress. Spiritual formation is reduced to cosmetics.

Like the sacramental use of water and bread and wine, friendship takes what's common in human experience and turns it into something holy.

Spiritual direction strikes me as pretentious in these circumstances, as if there were some expertise that can be acquired more or less on its own and then dispensed on demand.

The silence that makes it possible to hear God speak also makes it possible for us to hear the world's words for what they really are - tinny and unconvincing lies.

We live in a society that is in slavery. Maybe not institutionalized, but slavery, nonetheless. Freedom is on everyone’s lips. Freedom is announced and celebrated. But not many feel or act free. Evidence we live in a nation of complainers and a society of addicts. –

World is an atmosphere, a mood. It is nearly as hard for a sinner to recognize the worldÂ’s temptations as it is for a fish to discover impurities in the water. There is a sense, a feeling, that things arenÂ’t right, that the environment is not whole, but just what it is eludes analysis.

If we define the nature of our lives by the mistake of the moment or the defeat of the hour or the boredom of the day, we will define it wrongly. We need roots in the past to give obedience ballast and breadth; we need a vision of the future to give obedience direction and goal. There must be an organic unity between past and future lived in the present.

Ministry is a very confronting service. It does not allow people to live with illusions of immortality and wholeness. It keeps reminding others that they are mortal and broken, but also that with the recognition of this condition, liberation starts.

Spiritual formation is not something we master. ItÂ’s not something over which we have much, if any, control.

The story behind the writing of The Message (this was especially interesting to me).

We live in a time when everyoneÂ’s goal is to be perpetually healthy and constantly happy. If any one of us fails to live up to the standards that are advertised as normative, we are labeled as a problem to be solved, and a host of well-intentioned people rush to try out various cures on us.

Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God – it whets our appetite.

If we're trying to set education policy, we have to listen to the education experts.

My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel. Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not by what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors.

Stories are verbal acts of hospitality.

The value of rhythms in our lives.

We live in an “age of sensation.” We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.

Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God.

In the call to worship we hear GodÂ’s first word to us; in the benediction we hear GodÂ’s last word to us; in the Scripture lessons we hear God speaking to our fathers; in the sermon we hear that word re-expressed to us; in the hymns, which are all to a greater or lesser extent paraphrases of Scripture, the Word of God makes our prayers articulate.

Neither prophets nor priests nor psalmists offer quick cures for the suffering: we don’t find any of them telling us to take a vacation, use this drug, get a hobby. Nor do they ever engage in publicity cover-ups, the plastic-smile propaganda campaigns that hide trouble behind a billboard of positive thinking. None of that the suffering is held up and proclaimed – and prayed.

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