Q&A: Peter Wallace, author of A Generous Beckoning

Peter M. Wallace, an Episcopal priest serving in the Diocese of Atlanta, is the executive producer and host of the Day1 radio/podcast and internet ministry (Day1.org). Peter is the author of eleven books, including his newest meditative exploration, A Generous Beckoning. Learn more about Peter and his work in this author Q&A.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I’ve written devotional books on the gospel of John and the Psalms, among others, but the basis for this set of meditations came when I was contemplating God’s invitations. Years ago, one of my mentors, the Rev. Gray Temple Jr., used the phrase “a generous beckoning” in a sermon, referring to God’s welcoming invitation for all. That concept prompted a series of meditations springing from Bible verses in which God—as Father in the Old Testament, as Son in the gospels, and as Holy Spirit in the epistles—used the imperative case, speaking directly with a command, an invitation, a nudge, or an admonition. What I discovered was that the scriptures are full of such invitations, and when I opened myself to them they became immediately relevant, calling for a prayerful and active response.

What is your hope for this book?

I hope readers will spend some time first thinking through the verse I’ve selected for each meditation, listening for what God is saying to them in that moment. And I hope my meditation on the verse will help bring it home for them so that they will wrestle personally with what God is inviting them to be or to do. When I can hear God speaking directly to me through scriptures, will I respond more authentically? Will I hear God inviting me to answer in a way that is meaningful and authentic? I also encourage readers—individually or in their prayer, study, or formation groups—to use the Study Guide for A Generous Beckoning (available at no charge from Forward Movement) and consider prayerfully the questions posed in each section. My prayer is that folks will find this book to be a springboard to robust moments of meditation that will equip them to love and serve the Lord in the world.

Can you share a moment where you experienced God in your daily life?

I try to be open to the Spirit’s nudges throughout the day, and to prepare myself for them so I will be in a place to readily say “yes.” But one encounter with God stands out for me, when I decided to go on a personal retreat for the first time. I share this experience in the book (“A Peaceful Burden,” pp. 252ff, edited here):

I wanted to meet with God to get a fresh sense of direction for my life, so I arranged to stay in a cabin next to a rocky, rolling creek at Camp Mikell, the Episcopal conference center in North Georgia. On the covered porch overlooking a rambunctious creek, sitting in a rocking chair, I cataloged my feelings. I felt frazzled after a long, hard day at work. I was also scared, unsettled—I had gotten lost on the way up in the dark. But now I was starting to feel safe. And a little hopeful. Even though I had no idea what I would do or what would happen, I was just going to play it by ear.

Saturday morning, after a restful night’s sleep, I started with Morning Prayer. In the confession, the phrase “and what we have left undone” struck me. I was feeling as though my life was full of “left undones.” A series of verses came to me as I read the prayer book. As verse tumbled upon verse, I found myself weeping. I remember almost viscerally sensing the embrace of Jesus. My simple notes, hardly able to capture the depth of renewal I felt, read: “Overcome by the love and presence of Jesus! Weeping tears of love and joy—not sadness. Feel accepted and loved and cherished like a friend and lover.”

This experience carried on through the rest of my retreat weekend and helped me begin the hard process of opening my heart and my eyes to God’s wider will for my life—and a painful but ultimately life-giving journey to where I am today.

Where do you typically write?

Anywhere I can! I usually write in my little home office on an iMac, but I also take my laptop to write wherever I can. My spouse and I love to travel, and I always bring my laptop in case the muse strikes. Whether it’s in Brazil or Vietnam or on a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean, I enjoy finding a quiet place to write. Pleasant scenery always helps!

What was the most enjoyable part of writing?

Sometimes I’m amazed at what comes out of my head! Even when I feel I have nothing to say about a particular verse or topic, I’m often amazed at what ends up on the laptop screen after some quiet contemplation and careful study of the text. I love the discovery along the way of new thoughts, unexpected insights, surprising ideas. I enjoy capturing all that in early drafts, but I also enjoy wordsmithing and polishing—including the pain of cutting things out that I first thought were so interesting, but in hindsight turned out not to be all that helpful. I hope readers are also caught up in the same spiritual current so they can discover their own captivating insights into God’s Word as they read and meditate.

Do you have a favorite prayer?

When I first wake up, I recite in my head a series of prayers and Bible verses—I’ve found it’s a wonderful way to start the day before getting out of bed…
– “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
– Psalm 23
– “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
– The Hail Mary
– The Lord’s Prayer
– The hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”
And some others from time to time. But perhaps my favorite and most-used prayer, always at the ready at any moment of the day or night, is The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” I repeat that often throughout the day and night and am grateful for the healing and strength it can offer. (I write about this in “Request Line” on pp. 325ff.)

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

I am grateful and honored that Forward Movement is publishing this book. I’ve been enriched spiritually over the years by so many resources FM has published, especially Forward Day by Day, which I started reading when I first became an Episcopalian in 1990, and still read daily (well, there were times I drifted away, but I’m glad I always came back home!). Through my work with the “Day 1” radio and podcast program over the years, I have worked with several church leaders connected with Forward Movement, including the Rev. Scott Gunn, who serves on the Day 1 Advisory Council. On this book it’s been a deep joy to work with Scott and his amazing staff, particularly Richelle Thompson, Jason Merritt, Chris Yaw, and others. I have been blessed in so many ways through the Forward Movement ministry, and I hope readers will also experience that blessing themselves through this new book.

A Generous Beckoning is available on the Forward Movement website. Read a sample or order your copy today.