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Eugene Peterson shares the following story:

“Several years ago one of my students who lived a distance away and rode a crowded bus to the college each day said to his wife as he went out the door one morning, ‘I’m just going to go out and immerse myself in God’s creation today.’ The next day his parting words were the same. On the third day, she called him back, ‘Don’t you think you ought to go to class today? A couple of days of walking in the woods or on the beach is okay, but don’t you think enough is enough?’

He said, ‘Oh, I’ve been going to class every day.’

‘Then what,’ She said, ‘is all this business about immersing yourself in creation?’

‘Well, I spend forty minutes on the bus each morning and afternoon. Can you think of a setting more thick with creation than that — all these people created, created in the image of God, created male and female?’

‘I never thought of that,’ she said.

“You mean you’ve never read Genesis?'”

Enjoy your day in God’s creation.

“A name is particular and calls attention to the particular, the ‘nature,’ the specific. Two friends enter a forest. One sees a mass of trees, the other sees spruce and oak and pine and elm. One looks at the ground and sees tangles of needles and brush, the other looks down and sees bloodroot and hepatica and arnica. One looks up and sees a blur of motion through the leaves, the other looks up and sees a Red-Eyed Vireo and a McGillivray Warbler and the Least Flycatcher. Which of the two is more alive to the garden and more in relation to the life spilling out and reverberating all through it in colors and songs, forms and movements — and to god who planted the garden and put us in it? And which of the two is better trained to exercise the glorious freedom of obedience in the context of the intricate necessities of the place?”
— Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

Eugene Peterson, in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, describes how through creation God has given us the gift of time and place. Accompanying these gifts, God has given us freedom. In placing humans in his creation he gave them work to do. He commanded what they must not do. But these instructions are part of the freedom. We belong as a part of this creation, but we are not like the other creatures. Peterson writes,

“‘Free as a bird’ is not free. If we live in Minnesota, we can leave in October for Hawaii for a winter of sunshine, or stay at home and shovel snow. It’s up to us. We are free. The birds are not.”

“Freedom does not mean doing whatever pops into our heads, like flapping our arms and jumping off a bridge, expecting to soar lazily across the river. Freedom is, in fact, incomprehensible without necessity. Freedom and necessity are twinned realities. Much of the art of living consists in acquiring skill in negotiating with them.”

“If we slight necessity, our so-called freedom is nothing but blundering and flailing about, maiming ourselves and others, whether morally or physically — usually both. If we slight freedom, submitting passively to necessity, we become sluggish, forfeit the unique particularity of our humanness, and sink into the parasitic state of the consumer and spectator.”

Creation not only demonstrates God’s gift of time, but according to Peterson, creation also shows God’s gift of place. The Genesis story of creation is structured by place, geography. God creates places and then fills them with creatures.

Peterson observes that one temptation for Christians is the creation of a utopia, an ideal place to live. “Sometimes we attempt it politically in communities, sometimes socially in communes, sometimes religiously in churches.” But they never seem to work. Peterson asserts that Eden was not an ideal place, not a perfect place. “It is possible that bad things can happen here.”

The gift of place for the Christian does not seek to create some unrealistic setting, but to embrace God’s creation and community.

Eugene Peterson, in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, describes the importance of creation. One aspect is the creation of the gift of time.

“Time is the medium in which we do all our living. When time is desecrated, life is desecrated. The most conspicuous evidences of this desecration are hurry and procrastination: Hurry turns away from the gift of time in a compulsive grasping for abstractions that it can possess and control. Procrastination is distracted from the gift of time in a lazy inattentiveness to the life of obedience and adoration by which we enter the ‘fullness of time.’ Whether by a hurried grasping or by a procrastinating inattention, time is violated.”

Having just returned from our retreat I noticed these violations of time. It was difficult to drive behind the horse and buggies of the Amish. They’re in no real hurry, trotting along. Sometimes not even trotting. It took a couple of days to shift my mind from the hurried pace of every day life into the unhurried pace of retreat. And there are not a lot of distracting options so procrastination becomes less of an problem.

But now we’re back in the “real world.” How do we bring that pace to life when we’re not on retreat? Any suggestions?

My wife and I went to a retreat center in Ohio for a week. We left the kids with the grandparents and headed over to Amish country. It was a very restful, relaxing week. We stayed at a former bed and breakfast that now ministers to ministers. There were four other couples and a single minister (six rooms in total).

I think we were the odd couple at this retreat. We weren’t suffering from burnout or from church abuse. We were just there to relax. We are very thankful to be at Greenville Church of Christ. We have no major problems. The elders and members treat us well. Our kids aren’t really preacher’s kids they’re just part of the gang. We’re just very happy to be here.

I’ll start back with Peterson tomorrow.