My wife gave me the perfect birthday gift. Earlier in the year, she noticed my vital signs were languishing. A few families had left our church. I had stopped delegating and began to organize, execute, and run too many programs by myself. And a sermon series in the book of Hebrews dragged me into a world of rich, canonical observations that did not translate into rich, transformative applications.
Meanwhile, every ministerial meeting I attended with fellow pastors centered on big church programs made bigger by making passive men into godly leaders. All the churches around me were getting more spiritually lean by means of push-ups, Proverbs, and pornography purges. The slow and humble task of shepherding people seemed lost in the ruckus of chest bumps and self-help rallies.
My wife noticed my struggle to keep pace with the losses in our church and gains in other bodies. So she wrote a letter. Her addressee was Euguene Peterson, author of The Message and numerous books on spiritual formation and pastoral ministry. She asked if I could visit him. But if a face-to-face coversation were impossible, she requested a handwritten birthday greeting.
Eugene Peterson sent me a card. He wished me a birthday blessing a month in advance of the actual date. He spoiled the surprise, but redeemed himself by inviting me to Montana. "We should have a conversation about our shared vocation in pastoral ministry."
Weeks later, I contacted him to make traveling plans. The first week of September, I was invited to his residence. My friend Micah would join me for the journey, a Sabbath week to drive across the country, hike across some mountains, and hold counsel with a seasoned Christian pilgrim whose writings had shaped my pastoral imagination.
Eugene Peterson or Bust. I was ecstatic.
Part One of Five in My Sabbath Week.