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By Dan Baumgartner on
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May 31 in Musings
I am increasingly appreciative of the value of things being done well over a long period of time. When Eugene Peterson wrote his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, he borrowed the title from an unlikely source- the atheist (debatable, perhaps) philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Peterson’s book is a reflection on Psalms 120-134. The title helps me remember that God often meets us in the ordinary, as we persistently follow him through various situations and seasons of life. The truth is, though major events capture most our attention, our lives have many more small moments which stack one on top of another and become significant. Sometimes it takes a while before we realize it.
I have observed this by watching several mentors of mine. A friend who is a Bible scholar with an office in Pasadena modeled the faithful, day-in day-out “showing up” that is required for a long obedience. Every day for years he went to his office. Every day. On any given day, he would say he accomplished very little. But when he had done that for a month, a year, two years, eight years...there came a time when his project was complete, and the Church received the gift of an outstanding bible commentary. The many ho-hum days accumulated to form a significant whole.
In ministry, Eugene Peterson has been a role model for me in the same way. Long before he became well-known for translating The Message, he pastored a church. Not a megachurch, not a high profile one but an ordinary church full of ordinary people in Maryland. For 29 years he pastored, day in and day out. Sermons, visits, baptisms, memorial services, counseling, conversation, listening. Again, on any one day he probably would have thought not much had been accomplished. He walked with one person at a time. But over three decades, he saw families reconcile, people come to faith, prayers answered and grieving shared. 
On January 1st of this year I added a small, new piece to my morning quiet times. I resolved to read one Psalm each day. Just one Psalm. It didn’t take long. Each time I read, I chose one line out of the Psalm of the day and wrote it in my journal. One day, two days, a week, a month. No one day seemed terribly significant. But on Wednesday this week, I finished Psalm 150.  And I have a list of 150 meaningful lines of scripture written down.
We spend most of our time in the ordinary. Though we are hugely attracted to the spectacular and instantaneous, that is not the normal story. And it isn’t the way God usually shows up. Most often, it’s in the ordinary, one foot in front of the other. It’s cumulative. A long obedience. In the same direction.
See you soon,
            Pastor Dan

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