Good morning all! Today our guest blogger is one of my dearest and best friends Jeff Peterson. Jeff is a sociology professor at Linfield. He also is the director of the Linfield Center for the Northwest. I met Jeff because when I moved to McMinnville he was the Lutheran president at the CoOp and we hit it off immediately through our love of coffee, use of sarcasm, and want to go to concerts…we have been fast friends ever since. I learn a lot about a journey to God through this man…well,you can see for yourself….
The Message (MSG)
A David Psalm
27 Light, space, zest — that’s God! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing.
2 When vandal hordes ride down ready to eat me alive, Those bullies and toughs fall flat on their faces.
3 When besieged, I’m calm as a baby. When all hell breaks loose, I’m collected and cool.
4 I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.
5 That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, The perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic.
6 God holds me head and shoulders above all who try to pull me down. I’m headed for his place to offer anthems that will raise the roof! Already I’m singing God-songs; I’m making music to God.
7-9 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs: “Be good to me! Answer me!” When my heart whispered, “Seek God,” my whole being replied, “I’m seeking him!” Don’t hide from me now!
9-10 You’ve always been right there for me; don’t turn your back on me now. Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me; you’ve always kept the door open. My father and mother walked out and left me, but God took me in.
11-12 Point me down your highway, God; direct me along a well-lighted street; show my enemies whose side you’re on. Don’t throw me to the dogs, those liars who are out to get me, filling the air with their threats.
13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.
The Quiet, Secure Place
This has been a profound year of change for me and my family; and as I read through all of the scriptures for this week of Lent, it was the reading of Psalms, Psalms 27, that really spoke to me. The fifth verse, which is the refrain, especially drew my attention:
5 That’s the only quiet,
secure place in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
far from the buzz of traffic.
My friends, family and bare acquaintances know me – I am loud, blustery, a bit of an ass, ridiculously public on Facebook, and as my daughter once said, a person with authority issues. These are all, in some sense, accurate descriptions of who I am, especially in public. This image has not served me well in the last year, as I have gone through many changes in my family life, nor even earlier in my career at Linfield College, where I teach sociology and run a center.
I have worked, in this past year, to establish a better balance. I need to communicate my struggle with my own weaknesses more, and to also be better at letting myself be seen as someone who agonizes, cares, and is deeply aware of his own shortcomings. Much of the bluster described above hides my daily reality; that I often awake in a state of panic about my new day – will I be good enough… will I do enough… what if I fail…?
Psalm 27 speaks to me because it is both joyous and contemplative. It talks of yearning to find the answers, to find God, and yet expresses exuberance at the relationship that is possible with God. It expresses fear of abandonment and the assuredness of not just belonging, but being raised up by God. This year has been one of finding quiet spaces, at times. It has been one of communicating with loved ones who will hear me, about what I can do better, and listening to them about what I should do better.
As with the 5th verse, I have often found myself in contemplation. Sometimes I have found it actively, it by going up to Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey to meditate, while other times it has been coming home to a quiet house and simply not finding the need to turn on the television to fill the house with noise. And I have spent several holidays on my own; holidays that are normally filled with family and laughter and friendship. Some of this alone time has been imposed by others and some self-imposed, and quite often people frown and express concern that I have not filled those quiet spaces. And yet it has been good to resist filling those pauses and interludes with noise, just to be distracted. It has been helpful to see that my bluster, my being an ass, my loudness, is actually a very good cover for weakness. This Lenten season I have given up Facebook, which astounds most of my friends and family. I understand; there are few people who have been on it as publicly as I have. It is the perfect tool for the narcissist, in addition to creating the person you would like to have. And yet it feels peaceful to have given it up.
Seeking out these quiet moments, and accepting the ones that come my way, has helped me to know that who I am, as a man, father, friend, lover, professor, and son, IS really the person who resides in those quite spaces. It is the person who finds worth and value in my own humanity and the humanity of others, and who can both plead for God’s attention and grace, while at the same time knowing that it is most assuredly his.