Two Days with Eugene and Jan Peterson

Here is a blog from September 2003 that I wrote right after my visit with Eugene and Jan Peterson at Flathead. I thought you might enjoy revisiting.

Jan and Eugene Peterson Eugene and Jan Peterson, what kind and gracious people. I had the privilege of spending two evenings in their home in Montana this last week. I flew to Boise from Seattle and met up with Todd Hunter, Eric Keck, and Mark Priddy and we drove through the mountains of Idaho to Montana. We arrived at the Peterson home on Monday evening. They had prepared homemade soup and bread. We ate and chatted around their dinner table for several hours. We asked questions and he kindly answered and told stories. Before we retired for the evening, we had evening prayers together. Eugene offered a brief background and story about the writer of the prayer.

Montana HomeThe next morning we had breakfast together and then some chores. We pulled a paddleboat onto the dock and emptied the water and chopped and carried wood to stack at the back of their house, and Eric cleaned up the compost container that a bear had overturned more than likely looking for food. Late morning and early afternoon was spent with Eugene on the deck overlooking the lake with more Q&A. After lunch we continued our conversation. We ate the evening meal about 7:00 pm and continued our conversation around the table until evening prayers. The next morning was spent with another conversation time and Eugene signing the Message. Eugene is not retired. He is in his early ’70s and carries on a rigorous day. He is up at 6:00 am and plugs in the coffee. He goes down to the lake and does a morning ritual of Mikvah, a ritual purification bath taken by Jews. Idaho TravelHe returns and brings Jan a cup of coffee and then to his office for prayer. About 7:30 he takes a walk (about a mile) to retrieve the local morning paper. Breakfast. About 8:30-9:00 am he goes to his office to write until about 1:00. Lunch. Then a “liturgical nap.” After the nap he takes another walk (about 2 miles). He returns to the study to finish the day’s work and then the evening meal around 7:00 pm followed by evening prayers.

Winn Chopping WoodOn Tuesday we followed his liturgical nap schedule (at least two of us did, I’ll leave you to guess which who the other one was). All of us took a walk with him through the woods where we saw three deer and one quail. (BTW: the first night as we were driving in we saw a bear in the middle of the road (about 5 foot tall as he stood up, one of us got out of the vehicle and started throwing rocks at him (I’m sure you can guess which one. The letters of his name are ERIC.). The walk that day was about 3 miles and took about an hour and a half. Most of the conversation we had was about the church and scripture. (BTW: he translated the whole New Testament and the Book of Psalms in about a 16-month period. When he translated the rest of the OT he worked about 14 hours a day covering about 5 pages of Hebrew text a day.) He believes church is the place where God’s people are trained in faithfulness and obedience. He suggested that it was a mistake to think strategically about the church. For him the Holy Spirit creates the church, not us. We should be careful not to develop strategies to beef up our own significance. Size is not what brings true significance, influence is. Regarding groups who have entered into a “conversation only” mode as a pedagogical method he was quite clear. He said that mere “conversation only” implies “no truth and no authority.” There needs to be someone who is trained to provide instruction. Story as a pedagogical method was natural and normal while propositional teaching was not useful. One of his favorite contemporary authors is Wendell Berry. I told him that my dad was a barber and he told me that I should read Berry’s Jayber Crow.

The last morning he suggested that followers of Jesus should be aggressive in their attentiveness to God and apathetic to what others say about their attentiveness. Aggressive attentiveness and apathy should be seen as spiritual disciplines.

Winn and EugeneI came away from this experience with a quiet settled calm about life. Here was a man and woman who have influenced the church greatly over the years living a simple Christian life on a daily basis now in their Montana home. It was a sight to behold! I believe that I am changed, I’m not sure how, because of the encounter with Eugene and Jan Peterson.

From The Message: This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

+++ May the peace of God be richly yours as you live in harmony
as God’s renewed humanity in the midst of his world for her sake. +++

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth Wacome Keck September 23, 2005 at 9:15 am

Miss you Winn … Nice stroll down memory lane ….

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Matt Dampier October 12, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Dr. Winn,

Several friends and I are considering planning a trip to Montana to visit with Eugene and Jan for a day (or less). We come from different walks of life, some married, two currently attending Asbury seminary, an Asbury graduate, and an undergraduate student who is planning on attending seminary. We have been greatly impacted by Eugene Peterson’s writings and would love the chance to talk with him in person about some of the topics related to being a pastor-the pastor as a learner, as a disciple-maker, and as a husband and father.

We stumbled across your blog on line and discovered that you did basically exactly what we wanted to do. Are there any tips or pieces of advice you could offer to us for setting up something like this without imposing too much on the Petersons? We’d appreciate any support that you could lend.

Many thanks,

Matt Dampier

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Matt Dampier October 12, 2007 at 5:15 pm

ps…you can respond to me at dampier.matt@gmail.com. Thanks.

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John Acuff November 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I just reread a note from Jan and in it she mentioned that she might try face book so I came to check and see if I could find her and stumbled across your blog. I have not found her yer and guess she decided it was not worth it. She did mention that one or more of her kids were own it.

Eugene and Jan got me reading Wendell Berry as I reminded them of a country lawyer in one of the books. Have since become a correspondent with Berry another gracious man.and my dad was a barber also. Jan if you see this please hit me.

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