"A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" by Eugene Peterson


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Title: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Author: Eugene Peterson
Start Date: 2/20/17
End Date: 3/5/17
# of Pages: 216
Edition: InterVarsity Press 20th Anniversary hardcover (2000)
ISBN: 9780830822775
Purchase: Amazon

Quick Take: beautiful

Source: Wil Sloan

Why I Chose It: The best book recommendations are those which come from a friend who trusted the recommendation of another friend and found the original recommendation to be true, right, and worthy. So I have Wil Sloan and Paul Turner to thank for this one.

Quotes: (1) "One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile to be acquired it once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently." (2) "For those who choose to live no longer as tourists but his pilgrams, the Songs of Ascents combine all the cheerfulness of a travel song with the practicality of a guidebook and map. Their unpretentious brevity is excellently described by William Faulkner. 'They are not monuments, but footprints. A monument only says, 'At least I got this far,' while a footprint says, 'This is where I was when I moved again.''" (3) "Psalm 120 is the decision to take one way over against the other. It is the turning point marking the transition from a dreamy nostalgia for a better life to a rugged pilgrimage of discipleship in faith, from complaining about how bad things are to pursuing all things good." (4) "No literature is more realistic and honest in facing the harsh facts of life than the Bible. At no time is there the faintest suggestion that the life of faith exempt us from difficulties. What it promises is preservation from all the evil in them." (5) "God's help is not a private experience; it is a corporate reality - not an exception that occurs among isolated strangers, but the norm among the people of God." (6) "My feelings are important for many things. They are essential and valuable. They keep me aware of much that is true and real. But they tell me next to nothing about God or my relation to God. I security comes from who God is, not from how I feel." (7) "It is not possible to drift unconsciously from faith to perdition." (8) "[Psalm 126] reminds us of the accelerating costs and diminishing returns of those who pursue pleasure as a path to joy." (9) "Perseverance does not mean "perfection." It means that we keep going. We do not quit when we find that we are not yet mature and there is a long journey still before us." (10) "George MacDonald put it with epigrammatic force: "The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His."

Other Notes: I have never really known what to make of The Message, Eugene Peterson's paraphrase-translation of the Bible. Even with that statement there's a decision to be made...it is often described as a translation, but I tend to shy away from that description and refer to it as a one man's paraphrase (which doesn't take away from the obvious labor it represents). My only exposure to Peterson before reading this book was The Message and the Bono interview, which was interesting. And so, I was interested in reading some of his writing firsthand. Peterson has a wonderful tone and rhythm to his writing, and it fits very well the structure of sermonettes exploring Psalm 120 - 134, collectively known as the Songs of Ascent. I underlined and starred much more than I can reproduce here. The icing on the cake is how relevant much of the content addressing "discipleship in an instant society" is in 2017, in the world of Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Amazon Now etc., considering the words were written in 1980. Not to mention the phrase "a long obedience in the same direction" is a beautiful collection of words. He leads off with this, attributing it to Friedrich Nietzsche of all people, only to close the book with a eye-twinkling paragraph (perhaps) slyly aimed at anyone (like me) who scratched their head at the decision to base the book on a Nietzsche quote.

BooksKarl Magnuson