By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine
Can you hear it? See it? Feel it?
Have you ever had such an experience? Or, have you sometimes wished that the chaos of life around you would calm to a point that you could take a deep breath and pause to listen, to watch, to feel what’s around you? In the stillness, maybe you’ll sense God’s presence in some way.
If so, then we’ve got a book for you: Peter Wallace’s new A Generous Beckoning: God’s Gracious Invitations to Authentic Spiritual Life. Here’s how Peter describes his book’s purpose in the Introduction:
My goal in these pages is to help you listen carefully for what God is saying to you today, what God is inviting into your life. As we journey together through a variety of texts throughout the Bible, each springing from a verb in the imperative case, I hope we will train our spiritual ears and eyes to see God beckoning generously to us, ever coaxing us to come closer, inviting us to experience life in all its fulness.
Hmmm, “the imperative case”? What’s that? Wikipedia calls that phrase a “a grammatical mood,” describing verbs that ask us something or, more specifically, ask us to do something.
In an interview about his new book, Peter said, “All of us would like to know: What is God saying to us? What does God want us to do? So, that is how I organized this book. Every Bible verse we consider together in this collection is in the imperative case. I want to capture what God is saying to us in terms of an invitation, a command, an urging or sometimes a nudge. God is talking to us in these verses we will explore together in these pages.”
That’s a big claim for an inspirational book, so I asked Peter to explain further how we might expect to discover God’s calls in these pages.
“There is a good summary on the last page,” he said.
We flipped to that last page. It says:
God is indeed beckoning us onward. Onward to Christ. Onward to sacrificial service. Onward to eternal fulfillment. God woos us to embrace Jesus and be embraced by him. God coaxes us to keep focused on everything God has for us. God beckons us to live generously in holy love, grace and power. It’s time to accept these incredible invtations to real life. And enjoy them forever.
That’s one way to sum up the book’s central theme.
Another one-word summary is: Relationship.
Restoring Relationships after Three Years of Pandemic
In our interview, I said, “Peter, just a few weeks ago, we featured a ReadTheSpirit interview with Rachel Srubas about her new Lenten reader, The Desert of Compassion. One of the major themes that I see both in her book and in your book is: relationship. Both of you are encouraging readers to realize that, after three years of pandemic, we all need to reach out intentionally to restore relationships and build new ones.”
I could see Peter nodding on our Zoom screen. He said, “I really appreciate that you caught that theme. Especially post-pandemic, we’re all hoping to restore and build new relationships. But as we try to do that, we need to stop and think about how and why we are doing this.”
During the pandemic, thousands of congregations have had a portion of their membership switch to streaming services rather than attending in person. As the head of a nationwide radio network, Peter has unique experience with the challenges of building a far-flung “virtual” audience into a network that feels like a community.
“I have participated myself in my own church’s Facebook-live streaming, when I can’t be there in person,” Peter said. “And I’ve enjoyed that very active online group. We share comments and prayer requests live during a service. So, I know myself that this kind of online group has become a very important part of many congregations.
“But we also need to think about ways that we can come together to put our faith into action,” he continued. “Part of an active, living and growing faith involves appreciating all the relationships we can have as parts of the Body of Christ. This is a big question for so many congregations right now: What does it mean to have a hybrid community of people both in person and online? How do we come together? And what does it mean for us to come together? How do we encompass that virtual congregation into the life of the whole church and how do we communicate most effectively to the people right in front of us—as well as those who are tuning in? These are questions congregations are facing everywhere today.”
‘A Veteran Voice in Ministry’
That’s another reason why this new book is so valuable. In these pages, Peter is sharing years of wisdom he has gleaned as a veteran voice in both ministry and in Christian media. For many years, Peter has been the creative hand at the helm of the Day1 radio network, which originated in 1945 as The Protestant Radio Hour. Peter came on board in 2001 and in many ways restructured the nonprofit program so that it has a bright future.
In addition to all of the famous Protestant preachers Peter has hosted on the network over the past two decades, Peter’s 15 books have carried his message of faith and hope into thousands of readers’ homes. His books also spark spirited conversations in congregations, especially because Peter offers easy-to-use discussion guides along with his new books. And, once again, there’s a free discussion guide with this new book, A Generous Beckoning.
Through all of his media outreach, Peter’s central theme is that there is a loving God who, through Jesus, wants to welcome all of us into a compassionate community of faith. For decades now, whatever specific subject Peter’s broadcasts and books may explore—from global issues of injustice to the challenges of personal spirituality—the defining theme is Christian compassion.
What’s in this Book? And how can we use it?
Christian compassion—that’s the best way I can describe the 100 meditations in this book, based on short selections from the Bible. This is a mainline Protestant look at the timeless call of the Trinity—God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit—to inspire, console and motivate us to make this world a better place. That total of 100 includes an introduction, followed by three sections of 33 chapters. The first major section draws on passages from the Old Testament about God; the second section draws on Gospel verses about Jesus; and the third explores the Holy Spirit at work in our world from selections in the Epistles (that is, the “letters” that follow the Gospels in the New Testament).
In a little over three months of daily reading, Peter takes us through the entire Bible, focusing in this book especially on passages in which God speaks to people through scripture—that “imperative case” we talked about in our interview.
As a media veteran, Peter has honed a friendly conversational voice as he illustrates these daily reflections mainly with stories from his own life—his childhood, his various professional roles over the years and his home life now. His intention is that readers will recognize these stories as common experiences that they most of us share. By taking a journey through our lives, Peter hopes, we may discover that God has been there all along, waiting for us to reach out.
This book is great for individual spiritual reflection, for small-group discussion and for gift giving if you have a friend or loved one who might enjoy such a resource.
At the close of our interview, I asked Peter what he hopes readers will take away from this book.
“My hope is that readers will sense an authentic voice—often a painfully honest voice—that encourages them to be authentic in their own life both in the groaning and the joy, and everything in between, as a way to grow into maturity in the faith,” he said. “I hope people really can be invited to put their faith to work. We need that so much today.”
Care to Read More?
THIS MAY SURPRISE YOU! Recently, we featured a Read the Spirit magazine cover story written by Peter Wallace about his professional connection with Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee, who was contemplating launching a line of Christian comics. No kidding! In fact, there are several daily readings in Peter’s new book, A Generous Beckoning, that draw on stories from his life-long love of comics. Here’s that earlier story by Peter about Stan Lee.
MEET PETER. A great one-stop webpage of Peter Wallace links is this “About” page from his personal website. This page lists all of Peter’s books and includes links to his Amazon page, to the Day1 radio network—and much more.
Want more Lenten recommendations?
PETER’S NEW BOOK is designed to be read anytime throughout the year, but we can confirm that it would be appropriate to start this book during Lent 2023. Of course, with so many readings between these two covers, it will carry you into summer if you enjoy these chapters on a daily basis.
MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS make a point of daily devotional reading during Lent. Our team at the publishing house recommends several books, this year:
FIRST, if you have not already enjoyed Our Lent: Things We Carry by David Crumm, you can find that daily reader in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.
SECOND, for Lent 2023, we also are recommending Rachel Srubas’ thoughtful new book, The Desert of Compassion, which we featured in a Read the Spirit Cover Story in early February this year.
PLUS, we also are pleased to recommend the latest Kindle edition in the best-selling Lenten series launched by the late Bishop Kenneth Untener back in 2000: The Little Black Book for Lent 2023. David Crumm reviews this new edition and shares the inspiring story of this worldwide outreach from Ken’s team in Michigan.