Eugene Peterson


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

Author Quotes

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.

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.

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