Customer Reviews: Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers
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on November 11, 2008
While Christian writers like Eugene Peterson, and Dallas Willard, and Richard Foster, and others are teaching us compehensively about what Jesus taught, along with how he lived, died, rose, and ascended, there are still many Christians who think the only important thing is to know what He did on the Cross, which gets us to heaven. I think all Christians will appreciate Peterson's book, Tell It Slant. The question is whether the reader has ears to hear. Jesus' purpose was not to get people into heaven. It was to get them into the Kingdom of God. And the difference between those two ideas is huge. The first is non-transformative and ego-serving. The second is radically life-altering, unto eternity. Eugene Peterson is an author who reliably guides us into understanding what it means to Repent -- change how you think -- and live in the present and eternal Kingdom. His use of Jesus' own words in stories and prayer guide us to an accurate understanding of the Kingdom and what it means to be a citizen of that Kingdom. In other words, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus (not just a convert who has the password to heaven's gates). If you're familiar with Willard, Foster, et al., why read this book? Preconceptions affect perceptions. The clearer your preconceptions are about the Kingdom of God, the more easily you will recognize it when you run into it. The less you know about the Kingdom, the less you will live according to its order and reality, and the less your life will truly work. Read Peterson to prepare yourself for the daily, moment to moment encounter with God and His Kingdom.
As an aside, I would disagree very slightly with Peterson's portrayal of these words of Jesus as just common talk. His words should certainly form the way we must commonly think about the Kingdom and life. But, as Kenneth Bailey points out in his books, Jesus words reflect intentional poetic genius when understood in His cultural context. So, I would highly recommend Bailey as a supplement to Peterson.
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on November 20, 2008
This is the 4th book in Peterson's conversation series. "Tell It Slant" is focused on the "conversational Jesus". The conversational Jesus is revealed in two parts ... along a long walk ... and through Jesus in prayers. Peterson tasks the reader to go beyond the words and engage the mind in the Jesus discussion.

Part one follows Christ through Luke's travel narrative of the final walk from Galilee, through troubled Samaria, to arrive in Jerusalem for His final days. Peterson reanimates and brings life to the words of the traveling Messiah as he teaches, considers, and observes along this final journey. The Jesus dialogue is intensely considered through 11 distinct, but interlaced conversations along the road. Part one alone is worth the price of the book. As I write 2 weeks after completing the book, I'm thinking that part one is a standalone masterpiece. Each conversation, as Peterson guides our minds, is a timeless, living metaphor that immerses the modern reader in the calm thoughts and considerations of the Master on the road to crucifixion. I found that I had to limit my reading to only one of 11 conversations per day ... so compelling is the Peterson contribution.

Part two shifts away from the "casual" travel narrative to the praying Jesus through 6 prayers ... 6 praying conversations, between Christ and God, about us, in increasing situational intensity. We have rote memory of these prayers. Therein lies a problem as Peterson considers them. Peterson does a superlative job in pointing the reader to the conclusion that there is much more to these well known prayers than our memories can evoke. The patterns of a life with Christ through, prayer dialogue, is compelling.

In Peterson's surely tireless career as translator, as an academic, and with long term roots as a pastor shepherding a real live congregation of sinners toward the Word, Peterson provides readers with his fascinating vantage and insight from his maturing walk in the Jesus way.

The 4 book series, and assuredly those to come, are a must read for the aggressive God seeker.
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on March 4, 2009
TELL IT SLANT. Huh? The phrase is a not-quite-grammatical derivative of the clichéd "tell it straight." It isn't original to author Peterson; it's from a line of poetry by Emily Dickinson: "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant." Peterson sees the idiom as descriptive of Jesus' mode of communication, especially as portrayed in 10 parables that are unique to the Gospel of Luke --- found between Luke 9 and 19, sometimes known as Luke's "Travel Narrative."

Peterson notes that Luke doesn't emphasize Jesus the teacher or the preacher; rather, "Luke has a particular interest in immersing us in the conversational aspects of Jesus' language." He's engaging the imagination and telling stories. These parables are told when Jesus is "on the road"; he has left his home territory in Galilee and is traveling with disciples, through Samaria, toward Jerusalem and his final days. "A kind of intimacy develops naturally when men and women walk and talk together, with no immediate agenda or assigned task except eventually getting to their destination." Here's where Jesus tells the story called the "prodigal son" and a story about an unfruitful fig tree that is given fertilizer and another year to prove itself.

The second part of the book moves from Luke's parables to six prayers of Jesus, as recorded primarily in Matthew and John. We've seen how Jesus talks with his friends and followers. How does he talk with God, whom he calls Father?

Peterson's "language" schema is most evident in the book's opening and closing chapters. In the scriptural discussion, it's easy to get delightfully lost in the textual insights --- which must be chewed and savored. As he acknowledges up front, the content was developed in college "courses on language, Scripture, and prayer" at Regent College, in Vancouver. This shouldn't scare off armchair readers with a modest interest in Christian spirituality. At the beginning of most chapters he deftly summarizes content previously covered, hooking it to the passage at hand, providing clear guideposts for readers.

Ultimately Peterson challenges us to emulate Jesus in his use of language, engaging people where they are and talking with God personally, not in stuffily pious phrases.

I particularly liked Peterson's take on Jesus' "Seven Last Words," which he categorizes as one prayer. He discusses the phrases in the order they are presented in the Gospels, so "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" is in the middle of the lineup. After three pages of reflection, Peterson draws a personal application: "This is not a prayer we hold in reserve for our deathbed... We pray it when we get out of bed each morning, alive yet another day, ready to go to work...: `Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.'"

You see, TELL IT SLANT is about more than Jesus' use of language. It's also about our relationships and how we communicate in them --- whether with neighbors, co-workers or God.

--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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on May 8, 2010
You cannot read anything by Eugene Peterson and not be touched and changed by your reading. Especially, applying his teaching on "spiritual reading" to his other works. Of the books in this series, THIS was my favorite. The last section of the book on entering/praying the prayers of Jesus is wonderful and worth the price of the book by itself. As Pastor Peterson unfolded the prayers of Jesus, I could not help but be transported into the various scenarios that occasioned each prayer. Then, I could not help but feel the presence of Christ as He entered my scenarios. It is an amazing exchange, an amazing experience, and one that drives me to want to be a better Christian. I know that, in myself, I cannot be. But, in HIM, I can and will be.

Thank you Pastor Peterson.
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on January 14, 2014
For me, what Peterson did with this book is open up the ministry of Christ. I used this book as a resource in developing a class on the Teachings of Christ. I was not very far into the book before I expanded my theme to include the stories of Jesus. Peterson took these stories that I was very familiar with and presented them to me as...stories. For one of the first times in my life, probably since I grew to be too old for stories, I simply enjoyed the telling of them and what they probably meant to the people of that time. If Peterson does one thing well, and he does many, it is to make us look at the relaxed unhurried nature of Christ and His life in the Gospels. But yet despite the fact that his pace does not seem so fast, He is always just where He needs to be. This is a book that I will go back to again and again to remind myself that the way of Christ is easy and His burden is light, and when I find that not to be true in my life it is because of the extra burdens I have added.
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on February 19, 2015
Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers (2008) by Eugene Peterson is the 4th book in his 5-volume spiritual theology series. As the subtitle says, Peterson uses the first part of this book to explore the stories and parables of Jesus and the second half to explore Jesus' way of praying.

The first section the book was centered around the journey to Samaria described in Luke 9 to 19. On his journey, Jesus used the opportunity to teach his disciples, typically through the medium of parable. Peterson looks at how Jesus was not simply a theologian, but that he engaged people through the telling of stories. Too often, storytelling seems to be a lost art today, though Jesus was the master storyteller. In this part of the book, chapter 5 "Manure: Luke 13:6-9" was perhaps my favorite. Peterson, through one of the stories of Jesus, educates the reader that Jesus often does not work quickly. He writes, "Manure is a slow solution. When it comes to doing something about what is wrong in the world, Jesus is best known for his fondness for the minute, the invisible, the quiet, the slow--yeast, salt, seeds, light. And manure."

In the second half of the book, Peterson introduces the reader to six prayers of Jesus. His exposition on Jesus' "high priestly prayer" in John 17 is essential reading for the Christian to know that we are invited to join in the Trinity. We are loved by a relational God who invites us in. Another important concept Peterson raised here was that of the importance of silence in prayer and in language, an oft overlooked virtue, particularly in modern culture.

I would recommend this book, or any in the series, to those who want a deeper understanding of the spiritual life of the believer.
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on September 7, 2015
Jesus was a story teller because he wanted those who heard could participate in the story. Something that is very difficult to do when a teacher is delivering a lesson or a professor delivering a lecture.
Thank you, Eugene Peterson, for making the greatness of truth so simple.
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on December 27, 2013
Peterson has done it again! Crisp and earthy, his storytelling skills shine in this volume. His grasp of context and flow are superb and enlightening. I have nearly finished a casual stroll through this little book and will likely read and enjoy it again soon.
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on August 20, 2015
Hands down, one of the most verbose, pontificating tomes I've yet to read. Interesting for approximately two chapters, then the novelty wears off and you wonder if he (Peterson) will ever shut up. This would be a fantastic book if the author had (and easily could have) reduced his commentary by two-thirds. Give me Max Lucado or Beth Moore; I just find Peterson's style to be entirely too pretentious.
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on April 5, 2013
My desire to read this book grew out of my deep appreciation for The Message. Peterson has been my favorite writer, translator, interpreter to quote for years.
I now more clearly understand how his use of language connects at such a deep spiritual level.
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