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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

Unseen Realities

In 1876, men drilling for coal in central Indiana thought they had found the gates of hell. Historian John Barlow Martin reports that at six hundred feet, “foul fumes issued forth amid awesome noises.” Afraid they had “bitten into the roof of the devil’s cave,” the miners plugged the well and scurried back to their homes.

The miners, of course, were mistaken — and some years later, they would drill again and be rich in natural gas. Even though they were mistaken, I find myself a little jealous of them. These miners lived with an awareness of the spiritual world that is often missing from my own life. It’s easy for me to live as if the supernatural and the natural rarely intersect and to forget that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

When we see evil winning in our world, we shouldn’t give in or try to fight it in our own strength. Instead, we are to resist evil by putting on “the full armor of God” (vv. 13-18). Studying Scripture, meeting regularly with other Christians for encouragement, and making choices with the good of others in mind can help us “stand against the schemes of the devil” (v. 11). Equipped by the Holy Spirit, we can able to stand firm in the face of anything (v. 13).

Golden Scars

In the Netherlands, a group of fashion designers offer a “Golden Joinery” workshop. Inspired by the Japanese technique Kintsugi, where broken porcelain is visibly repaired with gold, participants collaborate in mending clothes in ways that highlight the mending work rather than trying to mask it. Those who are invited bring “a dear but broken garment and mend it with gold.” As they remake their clothes, the repair becomes ornament, a “golden scar.”

Articles of clothing are transformed in ways that highlight the places where they were torn or frayed. Perhaps this is something like what Paul meant when he said that he would “boast” in the things that showed his weakness. Although he’d experienced “surpassingly great revelations,” he doesn’t brag about them (2 Corinthians 12:6). He is kept from getting proud and overconfident, he says, by a “thorn” in his flesh (v. 7). No one knows exactly what he was referring to—perhaps depression, a form of malaria, persecution from enemies, or something else. Whatever it was, he begged God to take it away. But God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).

Just as the rips and tears in old clothes can become sites of beauty as they are remade by designers, the broken and weak places in our lives can become places where God’s power and glory may shine. God holds us together, transforms us, and makes our weaknesses beautiful.

Rooted in Love

“That’s all it takes!” Megan said. She had clipped a stem from her geranium plant, dipped the cut end into honey, and stuck it into a pot filled with compost. Megan was teaching me how to propagate geraniums: how to turn one healthy plant into many plants, so she would have flowers to share with others. The honey, she said, was to help the young plant establish roots.

Watching her work, I wondered what kinds of things help us establish spiritual roots. What helps us mature into strong, flourishing people of faith? What keeps us from withering up or failing to grow? Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says that we are “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17). This love comes from God, who strengthens us by giving us the Holy Spirit. Christ dwells in our hearts, and as we begin to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (v. 18), we can have a rich experience of God’s presence, being “completely filled and flooded with God himself” (v. 19 amp). 

Growing spiritually requires rooting into the love of God—meditating on the truth that we are beloved by the God who is able to do “immeasurably more that we can ask or imagine” (3:20). What a glorious basis for our faith!

 

Time-Traveling Letters

More than a million young people take part in The International Letter Writing Competition each year. In 2018, the theme of the competition was “Imagine you are a letter traveling through time. What message do you want to convey to your readers?”

 

In the Bible, we have a collection of letters that — thanks to the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit — have made their way through time to us. As the Christian church grew, Jesus’s disciples wrote to churches across Europe and Asia Minor to help the people understand their new life in Christ; many of those letters were collected in the Bible we read today.

 

What did these letter-writers want to convey to readers? John explains, in his first letter, that he’s writing about “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched” — he’s writing about his encounter with the living Christ (1 John 1:1). He writes so that his readers may “have fellowship” with him, and with “the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (v. 3). When we have fellowship together, he writes, our joy will be complete (v. 4). The letters in the Bible draw us into a fellowship that is beyond time — fellowship with the eternal God.

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.

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