On this cold November Sunday morning, with the temperature down to 28 degrees, I feel a kinship with the Kentucky farmer poet, Wendell Berry, who imagines himself going out into the cold of his farm, opening a stall, and finding inside a family breathing.
There is the Child, bedded in straw, the mother kneeling over Him, the father standing in belief.
He imagines standing with one hand on the door, looking into another world and writes
we are here
as we have never been before
sighted as never before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.
He makes me wonder, what would it be like today, for me, to have my eyes opened to some unexpected, holy place?
This week Billy would have turned 100 – and his life is being well remembered.
Here are some choice thoughts sent to us by our friend Rich Stearns, president of World Vision. as they looked back on the service celebrating his life:
We watched the service earlier this week and thought Jeanie did a wonderful job. She seemed calm and in control of her message. Her humor helped to break the ice and relax the crowd. It had to be amazing for both of you to have been eyewitnesses to the phenomenon that Billy became. You had ringside seats.
Think it can only be explained by God’s supernatural anointing. Lately I have been reflecting on just who God selected in scripture for the most important jobs. And he never looked at resumes. He almost always chose the unlikely, the humble and the willing so that His glory cold be revealed. Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, Peter – none were especially remarkable but all were willing and obedient. I like to say ‘they were involved in what God was doing but it did not depend on them’.
I feel like that a WV – we are involved with what God is doing but it does not depend on us. As Mother Teresa famously said: “God did not call me to be successful, he called me to be obedient.”
This Sunday was All Saints Day at church, when we remembered those who have gone before us this year. But for me All Saints came a day early.
On Saturday I went to Great Harvest to get a loaf of their fine cinnamon chip bread for Jeanie. A woman handed it to me who I didn’t remember seeing there before. As she did, she said, “I always remember Sandy.”
I was startled. It’s been 37 years since he died during heart surgery, a long time to be remembered.
“You do?” I said, “Thank you for telling me. How do you remember him?”
” I never met him,” she said, “but I knew about him. I read your book about him. I’ve always been so thankful for him.”
Of course I was deeply moved.
She went on.
“There are a lot of people that we never know who do important things. Some people, God shows us to us so we might be reminded of his grace, And Sandy was one of those in his faithfulness to his Lord.”
I thanked her. I left. I received from her a loaf of bread, but even more a word of grace for my soul, for God’s light shining through Sandy, and all saints.
Monday was my birthday. It was also the day Eugene Peterson died. He was two years younger than I am. I am grateful for his life. I am thankful that he influenced my life, especially his A Long Obedience in the Same Direction which I read many years ago. And of course The Message, which put God’s everlasting and holy words into such accessible style, with true respect.
The Rev. Eugene Peterson in an undated photo. A beloved pastor, he was also a prodigious writer of religious-themed books, most notably “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.”via Baptist News Global
The Rev. Eugene H. Peterson, a Presbyterian minister who challenged the mass marketing of Christian evangelism and wrote a shelf of books on religion — notably “The Message,” a series that recast the Bible into everyday English — died on Monday at his home in Lakeside, Mont. He was 85.
Amy Peterson, his daughter-in-law, said the cause was congestive heart failure. Mr. Peterson, who had dementia, had been in hospice care.
For most of his life Mr. Peterson was a small-town pastor and college professor who spread the Gospel with paperback books and with his sermons and ministrations to a few hundred parishioners. But he became an influential voice of American evangelism in his 70s, after the publication in 2002 of his full translation of the Bible, which sold 15 million copies worldwide and lifted him out of anonymity.
While televangelists like Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Bob Jones Sr. and Joel Osteen reached millions with more impersonal and lucrative mass-media techniques, Mr. Peterson deplored modern megachurches, virtual religions online, televised preaching and what is known as the gospel of prosperity, which propounds the popular notion that God rewards the faithful in material ways.
“A pastor in personal relationships is not just trying to find ways to make people feel good, loved, whatever,” Mr. Peterson told the PBS program “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” in 2011. “This is a kingdom of life we are living. It has to do with salvation. It has to do with justice. It has to do with compassion, and you can’t do that wholesale. You just can’t.”
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13):
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best — as above, so below.
Eugene Hoiland Peterson was born in East Stanwood, Wash., on Nov. 6, 1932, to Robert and Evelyn (Hoiland) Peterson. Eugene and his siblings, Karen and Kenneth, were raised as Pentecostal Christians in Kalispell, Mont. Their father was a butcher, their mother an ordained Assemblies of God minister.
“Many of the difficulties in prayer come from too much attention to ourselves –
our moods, our feelings, our fitness to pray. But prayer is paying attention to God.
We Christians need theologians far more than we need psychologists. Keep a
therapist/counselor in the wings for those times when you need help untangling
your self from yourself, but make sure you get a theologian to walk by your side.”
Excerpt from Eugene Peterson, “Are You Ready for a Real Theologian” –