mulling it over

I’m mulling over this quote from Connecting by Larry Crabb.

Sin is any effort to make life work without absolute dependence on God.



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

conversation with God

Me: Right now, everything feels precarious and changeable. Sometimes I feel like time, and with it my life, is slipping away from me. Why do I feel so out of control?

Him: Are you ever in control?

Me: No. But you usually let me feel like I am.

Him: Isn’t it better to know the truth?

Me: I guess so. But it’s hard. I’m anxious. My life looks different than I planned.

Him: Hmm, I thought you wanted me to do the planning.

Me: Well, I do. But why don’t I have all the things I’ve prayed for? Why do I still feel, in some ways, like a helpless child even though I’m nearly 30? Why are the people around me suffering? Why am I suffering?

Him: Pain is part of life. Through it you can truly know me, because when you are in pain you let me get close. You stop pushing me away, and let me really love you.

Me: I know. I’m so glad I know that’s true. There’s nothing better. But…I still feel like there are missing pieces. I’m confused.

Him: If you look at what is lacking, you can’t see what I have given. You can’t see what I am doing. Jesus says:

What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. (Luke 12:29-32, Message).

Me: I love that. And I love you. Adjust my perspective again. I want to see things your way.

checking my baggage

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

I read this verse the other day and later, maybe while I was washing dishes or in the shower (I don’t remember exactly), I thought about it again.

We often use the term “baggage” to describe past emotional trauma, family drama, or other internal issues. In a literal sense, baggage is what I take on a trip. I pack my suitcase and backpack and drag them through airports and onto planes. Traveling is made more difficult with baggage. I have to lift up my suitcase and cram it into the overhead compartment. My back aches from the weight of the book-filled backpack. Even on wheels, luggage is awkward and uncomfortable to manage while trying to navigate an airport or public transportation.

If I didn’t have to carry baggage on a trip, I wouldn’t do it.

Luggage is needed on a physical journey, so I assume it’s the same on my spiritual journey. My suitcase is filled with guilt, regret, frustration, anxiety, anger, fear, impatience, and pain. Once in a while I unzip the baggage and sort through it, but when I try to stuff it all back inside, the contents seem to have multiplied.

Why does it seem pious to carry guilt? Why do I rationalize fear as “caution” or “self-protection”? Why is my impatience always someone else’s fault? Why do I hide my pain, covering it like it’s an embarrassing blemish?

The truth is, I don’t have to carry any baggage. Jesus said if I come to him, he will give me rest–and when I do, he does. And I wonder why I didn’t drop my bags earlier.

in the middle

I love this man’s writing. Here is a paragraph from the preface of the book I just began reading. It’s worth a good think.

People who live by faith have a particularly acute sense of living “in the middle.” We believe that God is at the beginning of all things, and we believe that God is at the conclusion of all life – in St. John’s striking epigram: “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8). It is routine among us to assume that the beginning was good (“and God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good”). It is agreed among us that the conclusion will be good (“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth”). That would seem to guarantee that everything between the good beginning and the good ending will also be good. But it doesn’t turn out that way. Or at least it doesn’t in the ways we expect. That always comes as a surprise. We expect uninterrupted goodness, and it is interrupted: I am rejected by a parent, coerced by a government, divorced by a spouse, discriminated against by a society, injured by another’s carelessness. All of this in a life which at its creation was very good and at its conclusion will be completed according to God’s design. Between the believed but unremembered beginning and the hoped for but unimaginable ending there are disappointments, contradictions, not-to-be-explained absurdities, bewildering paradoxes – each of them a reversal of expectation.

–Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder

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But my mind has not ceased to twist and turn thoughts over and over; has not stopped questioning the things I’ve always believed and reaching for the truth amidst my fears.

The pursuit of truth is worth the trouble. I hope I never stop chasing it, and I hope that the more I find of it, the less fear I will harbor in my heart. I’ve been thinking about this: that the truth might be difficult, but it is always good. Believers in the truth need never be afraid to seek it, and its Source, whether in our hearts, in other people, or in the wider world. The truth cuts, but it also heals. As I seek truth, I experience a feeling of freedom: because I believe there is something solid beneath my feet; something that I can’t fully see, but that gets larger and larger the more I walk on it and explore it.

The truth is like clear air in a brisk wind by the sea. It heartens and invigorates me. I want to know it better, and for it to know me better, reaching even to the deepest parts of my heart.


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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