How's that for honesty? Also, since I'm being honest here, sometimes I eat chips for supper. Or popcorn.
Recently, someone highly recommended "The Pastor" by Eugene Peterson to me. It is his personal memoir. Eugene Peterson is, of course, the dude who translated The Message version of the Bible. Just from knowing that, I suspect this is a man with imagination and courage and passion. (I know some of you don't like The Message. That's OK.)
The way my friend described it caught my attention. He said he would leave it in the office for a week or two if either my co-pastor or I wanted to read it, no pressure. EXCEPT ... this is a person who highly values his books in that he doesn't fold pages, or highlight, or scribble notes, ever. He doesn't even write his own name in the book. He likes his books to stay in pristine condition. I, on the other hand, am a person who highly values my books in that I read them while eating (thus risking food splatter), while lying in bed (thus risking falling asleep on a bent page), and if it's a good book, I highlight the living daylights out of it. I like my books to evolve to well-loved condition, like the Velveteen Rabbit.
So there's a little bit of pressure. I'm rather terrified to touch his book at all.
I took it home on several different days. Didn't read it. Brought it back. Finally started it at work Thursday (while carefully eating soup), and continued reading a bit of it at home Friday (while carefully eating cereal).
I'm going to return it to him. It's too good. I'm only on page 40, and my brain is shrieking in frustration as one line after another demands highlighting and scribbling for later consideration and conversation. There is no way that I can return this book to him unmarked if I don't stop reading it RIGHT NOW.
Plus I want my own copy.
It's a rare book that bypasses all the others in line, and makes it to the top of my pile. This one has done it, unless it takes a dive at page 41 and continues downhill from there.
I will leave you with a quote, and then I'm closing it up, wrapping it in cheesecloth, and gently transporting it back to the office. The context of this quote is Peterson's assertion that he learned what a congregation should be from working in his dad's butcher shop, where everyone - the respectable, the odd and the downright unwelcome - everyone - was treated with respect.
"Congregation is composed of people, who, upon entering a church,
leave behind what people on the street name or call them.
A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged.
It must never be a place where a person is labeled.
It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated.
Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted,
whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus's name.
A place where dignity is conferred."