Eugene Peterson has retired to a place that is as still and rich as his inner life. The water of Flathead Lake, Montana, is deep, clear blue—deep because the blue is so rich; clear because you can see the bottom for some ways out. His home sits on a hill just above the lake, in a cove, and you can hear the water lap the shore as the wind hums through the trees.

Peterson is thin, with an even thinner hairline, and he speaks with a gravelly voice. His handshake is like a hug and his smile inviting. He walks a bit stiffly, but his knobby-kneed legs have a tensile strength from all his hiking. When he smiles, his teeth are broadly exposed, and his eyes squint almost shut.

During the interview ("Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons"), he often paused after a question. He paused so long, I sometimes thought I must have stumped him, or embarrassed him. But I soon discovered he just has the self-confidence to let silence hang in the air (though I find myself uncomfortable with it) until he has something to say.

His wife, Jan, arrived about an hour into the interview, with a couple of white plastic sacks of groceries. She said she was very glad to meet me, and though I know she has to entertain gobs of people visiting Eugene, she said it in such a way that I believed her. Her handshake was even warmer than Eugene's. I got the distinct impression that she was ready to give me a hug, but my Midwestern reserve demurred, and I stuck out my hand quickly. But the sense of welcome was unmistakable. This woman has the gift of hospitality, I thought.

Nothing in the next couple of hours tarnished that assessment. "Mark, you must be starving," she said. "Do you want me to fix something quickly?" It was about 12:30 p.m., and we had scheduled ...

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