Thursday, February 2, 2012

Some Ramblings and Reflections on The Pastor: A Memoir” by Eugene Peterson (Part three)

"Intently haphazard". (Part II subtitle - page 25) I really like this phrase!

"Something like that is the way pastor feels to me. Pastor: not something added on to or imposed on who I am; it was there all along. But it was not linear - no straight line development. Seemingly unconnected, haphazard events and people turned out to be organic to who I am. In retrospect, intent comes as no surprise." (p.25)

I am not sure I like getting older. Have too many little physical ailments that slow me down. Trying to reduce my growing pot belly the last few days with sit ups resulted in fresh blood in my stool (again!). Every time I try to go for a walk where the ground is uneven and requires climbing up and down, my knees kind of lock up and I have joint pains. Now it seems I have early degeneration of my cervical spine. *sigh*
Of course I still intend to do sit ups and walks (but less ambitious in the sit ups department and walking on gentler even slopes. Life does go on! :-)

BUT one good thing that I like about getting older is that I have lived long enough to to now be able to start looking back at my life and be able to see patterns and ups and downs that can be more clearly traced to then hand of God upon my life. While many people and circumstances that have made an impression on my life (positively as well as negatively) have arguably been out of my control (meaning I was the passive person in the mix), it is indeed interesting to me that some seem to have been the direct result of my initiative (though at the time it seemed to be more of an impulsive action with no logical thought or plan). Drawn to it? ...

Anyway, when I look back, many haphazard acts are more clearly seen (in my eyes) as bits an pieces of an amazing visual tapestry of my life. Something like a jig saw puzzle with some pieces filled in and many others currently missing because the full picture is yet unclear (as I have the pieces but not the box cover with the picture!) but I still have a rough idea of the basic picture.

Peterson (chapter 3) shares about "My mother's songs and stories" - basically reflecting on his mother's influence on his life in many aspects of his life and the way he does ministry (?). Her passion, story telling skills and imagination in particular.

I know too that I have been influenced by my mother too (even though she only came to know Christ much later in her life) - in particular her loyal and helpful nature and the way she naturally befriends people from all walks of life. Some not necessarily positive stuff too but that's not something I wish to share! Not because it bothers me though ... as I also see the hand of God in those things as there's much to be learnt there too! :-)  Though perhaps more accurately as Peterson wrote "unlearning" to do.

From hind sight I can see that while I am not necessarily as natural as my mother in the above traits, they are traits that I have absorbed (or seek to absorb more and more) that has made me become who I am - and a better pastor too. No accidents, that's for sure.

Also I find it interesting that some of the bad examples in my life growing up has actually helped to keep me on the narrow road! :-)

"The way we learn something is more influential than the something that we learn. No content comes into our lives free-floating; it is always embedded in a form of some kind." (p.33)

That's true .... It's not as if I made up my mind to become a "loyal person". It's not something I thought about and analyzed. It's something I "picked up" through years of being around my mother and watching her (without realizing I was watching and subconsciously analyzing?).

In chapter 4, where Peterson reflects on his father's influence, in particular through working in his father's butcher shop, his sharing on his father's attitude towards people affected me more than I expected.

This sentence among others elicited a strong reaction on me. "Everyone felt welcome. He gave people dignity by the tone and manner of his greetings." (p.39)

Clearly a sensitive subject for me as immediately many negative examples from my childhood (and adulthood) of people in authority abusing others leaped to my mind. 

Thankfully there were also positive memories of people being given DIGNITY .. especially from my mother. I have watched her with admiration (awe at times) mixing as we all as being host to all kinds of people - from different ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, gender and socio-economic background.

As I look at the direction of my current church, it warms my heart to see that "human dignity" is important to us. And it is a joy to get feedback from visitors that they feel welcomed when they come to our church.

And this one made me sad as well  ... "Oddly, the one person who seemed out of place in our market was a pastor we had for a couple of years." (p.39)

That though is not something I want to blog on right now .... maybe another time...

One other thought (random?) before I end. When I read this part (below), I put in the margin "Good point!" "How true!" and "How sad!" 

"As so often happens in things like this, the dissonance between what was done and what people expected was so great that it's unlikely anyone in Bethlehem "saw" the anointing. In looking back, they would have remembered that David had showed up late as usual. But those memories would have faded fast. It wouldn't have been long before the seven brothers were dominating the town again with their pushiness and David was out with his sheep, out of sight and out of mind."(p.32)

Too often I have seen seeds of faith sprout only to wither and die and spiritual lives become stagnant or even worse "die" with people turning away from God and the Church. I have seen "miracles" in my life and they have caused me to reflect and grow (despite of the doubts and wrestling that go hand in hand with these "miracles"). What is sad and still vivid in my mind are people who shared the experience of some of these miracles but as time passed, deny (rationalize them away) or even genuinely forget that they ever happened.

I am thankful to God that He made me in such a way that I have not forgotten.

Oops I went off track again ... wanted to write about the metaphor that expresses my "philosophy of life" :-) Will try and do that in part 4 ... and when I eventually get down to doing it, my tendency to "ramble" (a cousin of "haphazard"?)  might actually make sense to some! LOL

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