Dear Winn – 30 July 2017

Dear Winn,

Its Sunday here. I suppose it is where you are too. I thought it was going to be a hectic Sabbath, but things eased up around noon and we’ve enjoyed a lazy afternoon, kind of like those Sunday afternoons in September when there’s a game on plus an autumn chill in the air so you grab a blanket and settle down to watch the game and then drift in and out of sleep and don’t mind missing a play here and there. Yeah, its been that kind of Sunday afternoon. The kids have all been home today, and that’s been nice too. Will and Sarah are here for just a few more weeks, then back to college. As always, I will miss them so when they go.

I’ve been reading Terry McDonell’s The Accidental Life. Its very good, and I love that title and wondered if he’d define it at some point. Yes, you understand what it means by reading the whole thing, but he did encapsulate it, on the very last page. Its “about letting life happen to you, regardless of the pain and so on but with its soaring joy.” Man I love that. Some might detect a hint of passivity in that, but I sure don’t. I hear bravery, and trust. McDonell was an editor for some of the notable names over the years, including, on occasion, our adopted uncle – Big Jim Harrison. In one chapter he talks about Harrison’s novel Dalva, where Jim wrote about women in a woman’s voice. Robert Houston reviewed it for The New York Times, and wrote that Harrison could “convincingly handle a woman’s point of view, once more giving the lie to the inane argument that a writer must stick only with his or her own sex, race, region, and so on. A talented writer who understands the human heart, as Mr. Harrison does, understands essence; the rest of a character is accident, and can be learned.” Man I love that.

I was sad a few weeks ago for our friend Eugene Peterson. He got crucified by one group one day, crucified by the other group the next day, and then had a few latecomers show up with hammer and nails to take a pound. So much for trying to teach our children that hey, mistakes are good, that they’re learning exercises and should be welcomed. I’m afraid our children hear that and then witness our reactions and think “Hypocrite? Table for hypocrite?” There were some things said about Eugene’s character that truly disappointed me. I’d like to find a better word, but it ultimately strikes me as meanness. There are days when I don’t think we understand how mercy works, Winn. Either that or we do and choose to do the opposite anyway, like looking in a mirror then turning away and forgetting what you look like.

I received a bound copy of your book yesterday, an uncorrected proof but nevertheless its pretty close to the finished product. Man it looks good, great cover, and as I told you, the content’s a winner. I’m proud of you and for you. I know you believe with all your heart in those pages and the fictional people that populate them. Good fiction may be one of the last ways we have these days of telling the truth. I believe that. I really do.

We step into August this week, my friend. Ready or not, here it comes, that all-too-long-hot month of back-to busyness. But then, then September comes…man I love that.






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  1. Ruth Brown on July 30, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    I agree with your remarks about Eugene Peterson, John. I felt so sad reading the news about it this week. Anyone who has read his writings wouldn’t malign his character as was done. Even one major Christian publishing company stating they would no longer carry his books or The Message! Could they not give him a call and check around for accuracy or context?

    It is all very sad and I’m afraid indicative of something so disappointing among us, the Church.

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on July 30, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    The whole Peterson thing was just sad. The dude who interviewed him pulled an ambush, and I really hate that.

    Being close to death (pancreatic malignancy, can’t bring myself to the C word tonight) I sure agree that life is accidental. There was so much I wanted to do, so many places I wanted to see…but working as a mercenary and construction worker and college teacher, I never quite got there.

    And then I learned that if your bucket list doesn’t resemble the life you’re living, there’s a SERIOUS problem.

    I appreciate and love the life I have had; I did my best. I would not change it, not even to be able to visit Hawaii.

  3. Rhonda on July 31, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Agreed. This pastor/author/speaker who has given us so much was not treated in a Micah 6:8 manner (justice, mercy, humbleness), and I also believe ageism was part of it. I was disappointed that there will be no more public speaking or writing for Mr. Peterson, but after that debacle, who could blame him? I will always be grateful for his talent and perspective.

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