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Amy Peterson

Amy Peterson

Amy Peterson works with the Honors program at Taylor University. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Texas A&M and an M.A. in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College, and is completing an M.F.A. through Seattle Pacific University. Amy taught ESL for two years in Southeast Asia before returning stateside to teach in California, Arkansas, Washington, and Indiana. She is the author of Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World. Amy enjoys reading, quilting, hiking, and experimenting in sustainable practices of living.

Articles by Amy Peterson

The Foolish Way of New Life

Some things just don’t make sense until you experience them. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read multiple books about childbirth and listened to dozens of women tell their stories of labor and delivery. But I still couldn’t really imagine what the experience would be like. What my body was going to do seemed impossible! 

Birth into God’s kingdom, the salvation that God offers us through Christ, seems equally incomprehensible to those who haven’t experienced it, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians. It sounds like “foolishness” to say that salvation could come through a cross — a death marked by weakness, defeat, and humiliation. Yet this “foolishness” was the salvation that Paul preached! 

It wasn’t what anyone could have imagined it would be like. Some people thought that salvation would come through a strong political leader or a miraculous sign. Others thought that their own academic or philosophical achievements would be their salvation (1 Corinthians 1: 22). But God surprised everyone by bringing salvation in a way that would only make sense to those who believed, to those who experienced it.

God took something shameful and weak—death on a cross—and made it the foundation of wisdom and power. God does the unimaginable. He chooses the weak and foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).

 

And His surprising, confounding ways are always the best ways.

Love Passed Down

My daughter has become fascinated with Nancy Drew. In the last three weeks, she’s read at least a dozen of the novels featuring the girl sleuth. She comes by her love of detective stories honestly: I loved Nancy Drew too, and the blue-bound copies that my mom read in the 1960s still line a shelf in her house.

Seeing this affection passed down makes me wonder what else I’m passing down. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that when he thought of Timothy, he was reminded of the “sincere faith” that lived in Timothy’s grandmother and mother. I hope that along with her love of mysteries, my daughter is also inheriting faith—that she will “serve” as her grandparents have, that she will pray, and that she will hold on “to the promise of life that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 1:1, 3).

I also see hope here for those who don’t have parents or grandparents who know Jesus. Though Timothy’s father isn’t mentioned, Paul calls Timothy his “dear son” (v. 2). Those who don’t have families to pass down faith can still find parents and grandparents in the church—people who will help us figure out how to live a “holy life” (v. 9), and to embrace the gifts God has given us of “power, love and self-discipline” (v. 7). Truly, we all have a beautiful inheritance.

My daughter has become fascinated with Nancy Drew. In the last three weeks, she’s read at least a dozen of the novels featuring the girl sleuth. She comes by her love of detective stories honestly: I loved Nancy Drew too, and the blue-bound copies that my mom read in the 1960s still line a shelf in her house.

Seeing this affection passed down makes me wonder what else I’m passing down. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that when he thought of Timothy, he was reminded of the “sincere faith” that lived in Timothy’s grandmother and mother. I hope that along with her love of mysteries, my daughter is also inheriting faith—that she will “serve” as her grandparents have, that she will pray, and that she will hold on “to the promise of life that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 1:1, 3).

I also see hope here for those who don’t have parents or grandparents who know Jesus. Though Timothy’s father isn’t mentioned, Paul calls Timothy his “dear son” (v. 2). Those who don’t have families to pass down faith can still find parents and grandparents in the church—people who will help us figure out how to live a “holy life” (v. 9), and to embrace the gifts God has given us of “power, love and self-discipline” (v. 7). Truly, we all have a beautiful inheritance.

Take Your Tears to God

Last summer, an orca named Talequah gave birth. Talequah’s pod of killer whales was endangered, and her newborn was their hope for the future. But the calf lived for less than an hour. In a show of grief that was watched by people around the world, Talequah pushed her dead calf through the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean for seventeen days before letting her go.

Sometimes believers in Jesus have a hard time knowing what to do with grief. Perhaps we fear that our sorrow might look like a lack of hope. But the Bible gives us many examples of humans crying out to God in grief. Lament and hope can both be part of a faithful response.

Lamentations is a book of five poems that express the sorrow of people who have lost their home. They’ve been hunted by enemies and were near death (3:52–54), and they weep and call on God to bring justice (v. 64). They cry out to God not because they have lost hope, but because they believe God is listening. And when they call, God does come near (v. 57).

It’s not wrong to lament the broken things in our world or in your life. God is always listening, and you can be sure that God will look down from heaven and see you.

Before You Even Ask

My friends Robert and Colleen have experienced a healthy marriage for decades, and I love watching them interact. One will pass the butter to the other at dinner before being asked for it. The other will refill a glass at the perfect moment. When they tell stories, they finish each other’s sentences. Sometimes it seems they can read each other’s mind.

It’s comforting that God knows and cares for us even more than any person we know and love. When the prophet Isaiah describes the relationship between God and His people in the coming kingdom, he describes a tender, intimate relationship. God says about his people, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”

But how can this be true? After all, there are things I’ve prayed about for years without hearing a response. I believe that as we grow in intimacy with God, aligning our hearts with God’s heart for us, we can learn to trust in God’s timing and care. We can begin to desire what God desires. When we pray, we ask for—among other things—the things that are part of God’s kingdom as described in Isaiah 65: An end to sorrow (v. 19). Safe homes and full bellies and meaningful work for all people (vv. 21–23). Peace in the natural world (v. 25). When God’s kingdom comes in its fullness, God will answer these prayers completely.

Waiting with the Turtle

Every fall, when the painted turtle senses winter coming, she dives to the bottom of her pond, burying herself in the muck and mud. She pulls into her shell and goes still: her heart rate slows, almost stopping. Her body temperature drops, staying just above freezing. She stops breathing, and she waits. For six months, she stays buried, and her body releases calcium from her bones into her bloodstream, so that she slowly begins even to lose her shape.

But when the pond thaws, she will float up, and breathe again. Her bones will reform, and she will feel the warmth of the sun on her shell.

I think of the painted turtle when I read the psalmist’s description of waiting for God. The psalmist is in a “slimy pit” of “mud and mire,” but God hears him (Psalm 40:2). God lifts him out, and gives him a firm place to stand. God is “my help and my deliverer,” he sings (v. 17).

Perhaps it feels like you’ve been waiting forever for something to change—for a new direction in your career, for a relationship to be restored, for the willpower to break a bad habit, or for deliverance from a difficult situation. The painted turtle and the psalmist are here to remind us to trust in God: God hears, and God will deliver.

Written on the Heart

As a professor, I’m often asked by students to write letters of recommendation for them—for leadership positions, study-abroad programs, graduate schools, and even jobs. In each letter, I have a chance to praise the student’s character and qualifications.

When Christians traveled in the ancient world, they often carried with them similar “letters of commendation” from their churches. Such a letter ensured that the traveling brother or sister would be welcomed hospitably.

The apostle Paul didn’t need a letter of recommendation when he spoke to the church in Corinth—they knew him. In his second letter to that church, Paul wrote that he preached the gospel out of sincerity, not for personal gain (2 Corinthians 2:17). But then he wondered if his readers would think that in defending his motives in preaching, he was trying to write a letter of recommendation for himself.

He didn’t need such a letter, he said, because the people in the church in Corinth were themselves like letters of recommendation. The visible work of Christ in their lives was like a letter “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (3:3). Their lives testified to the true gospel Paul had preached to them—their lives were letters of reference that could be “known and read by everyone” (3:2). As we follow Christ, this becomes true of us too—our lives tell the story of the goodness of the gospel.

God Talk

A study conducted by the Barna Group in 2018 found that most Americans don’t like to talk about God. Only seven percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly — and practicing Christians in America aren’t that different. Only thirteen percent of regular churchgoers say they have a spiritual conversation about once a week.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that spiritual conversations are on the decline. Talking about God can be dangerous. Whether because of a polarized political climate, because disagreement might cause a rift in a relationship, or because a spiritual conversation might cause you to realize a change you need to make in your life—these can feel like high-stakes conversations.

But in the instructions given to God’s people, the Israelites, in the book of Deuteronomy, talking about God can be a normal, natural part of everyday life. God’s people were to memorize His words, and to display them in places where they’d often be seen. The law said to talk about God’s instructions for life with your children and “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (11:19).

God calls us to conversation. Take a chance, rely on the Spirit, and try turning your small talk toward something deeper. God will bless our communities as we talk about God’s words and practice them.

A Feast of Love

In the Danish film Babette’s Feast, a French refugee appears in a coastal village. Two elderly sisters, leaders of the community’s religious life, take her in, and for fourteen years Babette works as their housekeeper. When Babette comes into a large sum of money, she invites the congregation of twelve to join her for an extravagant French meal of caviar, quail in puff pastry, and more.

As they move from one course to the next, the guests relax; some find forgiveness, some find love rekindled, and some begin recalling miracles they’d witnessed and truths they’d learned in childhood. “Remember what we were taught?” they say. “Little children, love one another.” When the meal ends, Babette reveals to the sisters that she spent all she had on the food. She gave everything — including any chance of returning to her old life as an acclaimed chef in Paris — so that her friends, eating, might feel their hearts open.

Jesus appeared on earth as a stranger and servant, and He gave everything so that our spiritual hunger might be satisfied. In John’s gospel, He reminds His listeners that when their ancestors wandered hungry in the wilderness, God provided quail and bread (Exodus 16). That food satisfied for a time, but Jesus promises that those who accept Him as the “bread of life” will “live forever” (John 6:48, 51). His sacrifice satisfies our spiritual cravings.

A Ready Remedy

Following the park guide, I scribbled notes as he taught about the plants of the Bahamian primeval forest. He told us which trees to avoid. The Poison wood tree, he said, secretes a black sap that causes a painful, itchy rash. But not to worry! The antidote could usually be found growing right next it. “Cut into the red bark of the Gum Elemi tree,” he said, “and rub the sap on the rash. It will immediately begin to heal.”

I nearly dropped my pencil in astonishment. I hadn’t expected to find a picture of salvation in the forest. But in the Gum Elemi tree, I saw Jesus. Jesus is the ready remedy wherever the poison of sin is found. Like the red bark of that tree, the blood of Jesus brings healing.

The prophet Isaiah understood that humanity needed healing. The rash of sin had infected us. Isaiah promised that our healing would come through “a man of sorrows” who would take our sickness upon Himself (53:3). That man was Jesus. We were sick, but Christ was willing to be wounded in our place. When we believe in Jesus, we are healed from the sickness of sin (53:5). It may take a lifetime to learn to live as those who are healed—to recognize our sins and to reject them in favor of our new identity, but because of Christ, we can.

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