Peterson on Freedom

I was on the verge of returning this book from a shelf in my room to its regular resting place in the living room, when I started skimming one of the early chapters and again my heart said yes, yes, yes! Here are some of my favorite quotes from a man who has easily become one of my top 5 favorite authors.

We are born into a world that shows everywhere the signs of some great primordial catastrophe. There are vast beauties and breathtaking virtues in this present age, but nothing pristine. The sign of our birth is a scar. The world into which we are born is dangerous. The parents to whom we are born are flawed. The governments under which we are reared are corrupt. Are we free to live? Or are we only allowed a meager energy and a compromised space to cope?

Sin is the fact of separation from God’s presence and purposes, experienced variously as restriction, limitation, inadequacy and weakness. Every interruption of the will or impulse or desire interferes with freedom. And the interruptions are endless. Life lived under these conditions cannot be called free, even though there will always be unforced and spontaneous moments that preserve a sense of the possibilities of freedom. Sensitive and thoughtful persons are often acutely aware of enslavement. Paul’s explosive “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24) is archetypal.

The rescue is not from the world, and not from limitations or boundaries, but from sin, that which separates us from God and his purposed creation and destined redemption. And the rescue is God’s work. Nothing else will do for a beginning. If there is no rescue from sin, there is no point in talking about freedom at all.

Remembering the Joseph story, we realize that no pit or prison is inaccessible to the freeing, delivering, rescuing power of God, and that freedom, once established even in one person, extends itself into political and social relationships and cultural movements.

We never develop the freedoms of maturity and wholeness and strength on our own, but always through the shared life of others in the faith.

Fear is a normal response to the chaos around us, the threat of being overcome by hostile forces or of being ineffective or hurt or thwarted or fated to poor and mean and scrubby lives…

It takes a certain bold courage to receive freedom. The free life is a strenuous life. Living in freedom is demanding and sometimes painful. If security is our highest priority, we will not want to live free.

Eugene Peterson, Traveling Light



A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant SocietyA Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene H. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is phenomenal. Perhaps it came at exactly the right moment in my faith and my appreciation for artistic writing style, but I loved it and would now rate it as one of my top 5 favorite books ever. Peterson writes beautifully, and with clarity, using the Psalms of Ascent as springboards to discuss aspects of long-term discipleship. The result is an honest assessment of the joys and tribulations of a walk with Christ. He does not candy-coat the faith or make apologies for sin, but instead communicates truth in such a lovely way that I couldn’t stop copying quotations into my journal. It shocked me to read, in the afterword, that this book was rejected by thirteen publishers on the claim that it was “not relevant to the church in North America today.” I beg to differ: it is precisely what we lackadaisical, feel-good Christians need to read, and to know, to find the deeper peace that comes with knowing God in a way that is true. I loved this book and will read it again, probably soon.

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the future of reading?

It seems a little presumptuous for someone to forecast the future of reading, but this article is highly interesting (to those of us who are bookish).

Unfortunately, I’m too sleepy from reading “familiar sentences printed in Helvetica and rendered on lucid e-ink screens” to be able to comment further at this time. 

Lewis on country and grace

A pair of unrelated thoughts from C.S. Lewis in his essay, “Learning in War-Time.”

A man may have to die for his country, but no man must, in any exclusive sense, live for his country. He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself (53).

A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received (61).

roaring lambs?

Tonight I finished the book I’ve been reading, Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner. It’s a “manifesto” of a Christian’s “proper stance regarding the culture-shaping arena” (according to the back cover). Although I agree with Briner’s general premise, I admit some disappointment in his presentation and I disagree with some of his strategies. I also think his metaphor of “roaring lambs” is a bit weak. (Lambs don’t roar in real life, so imagining a cute, fuzzy white animal belting out a lion’s roar is a trifle alarming – or worse, giggle-inducing.) He makes a few excellent points, though, and this one is my favorite:

In my circles, Christians are thought of as people who are against things. I want us to be known as people who are for things good, wholesome, creative, wonderful, and fulfilling.

In the book, he writes at length about Christian organizations who boycott and launch negative campaigns against media. He argues that, instead of constantly being negative, Christians should promote what is beautiful and good in art. We should create art of the finest quality possible, to be “salt” (a preserving agent) in our culture. I like this idea.

book reviews

On Keeping a Journal Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal by Alexandra Johnson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I found this book very inspiring. Those of us who love the idea of journal keeping but have a hard time with consistency will enjoy Johnson’s lavish descriptions of stationery shops and various types of journals, not to mention her numerous ideas and prompts to help you unlock creativity and start writing. She writes a book whose main premise is to sing the praises of keeping a journal, asserting that those who do are “leaving a trace” not only for the next generation, but for themselves. Johnson highlights the ways in which journal keeping assists in self-understanding. Not only is writing a therapeutic exercise, but it preserves your thoughts and impressions in a way that’s impossible through means such as photography, videos, or mere memory. Journals preserve what you felt and what you thought, not merely what you saw.

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Discovering the Lost Virtue A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue by Wendy Shalit

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is excellent. I love the way Shalit confronts liberal ideologies about sex and turns them inside-out, exposing the destructiveness of our culture’s “anything goes” mindset. Every woman who has grown up in the last 30 years should read this book. Even those of us who were raised in a protected subculture (in my case, homeschooling) can glean a lot from Shalit’s exposure of the social norms in public schools (I never encountered the peer pressures she and many others faced). More importantly, this book helped me understand why there seems to be no dating culture outside of religious subcultures, and why the “free love” touted by 1960s feminists is anything but “free”: on the contrary, it comes with the side effects of rampant divorce, abuse, abandonment, and emotional pain.

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