A Peculiar People


The man asked me what kind of writing I do.

“Christian writing.” I replied.

“Oh.” He answered with a tinge of disappointment. “Do you ever write for normal people?”

And I could hear God laugh.

In the King James translation of 1 Peter 2:9, God says to us “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people”. Boy, do we fulfill that scripture in spades! More recent translations replace “a peculiar people” with “a people for his own possession” or “His own special people” but I think peculiar hits the nail on the head. I learned early in life that God isn’t too discriminating about who He lets sit at His table and I’ve come to appreciate how fortunate I am that He isn’t.

Take, for instance, the motley crew that used to gather at the Baptist church in my hometown for Sunday night hymn sings. This was the seventies, mind you, so hymn sings weren’t the normal place to find anyone, never mind a teen-age girl, but I attended faithfully because the church family was my home and, well, I was peculiar even then.

Services were led by a young pastor fresh out of seminary. As I recall he wasn’t very popular with the adults and his tenure was not long-lived. I understood only enough to know he struggled under the weight of people’s criticism and being a Christian in high school in the seventies, it helped me to have a leader who knew the sting of rejection.

The pianist was a large woman named Lucy who played with enthusiasm but had a habit of changing the tempo of a song mid-verse. It made every hymn a bit of a musical adventure. The other regular attendees were a spinster school teacher named Louise who wore cat glasses and sang with a glass-shattering vibrato, a socially awkward woman named Melva who often interrupted the morning sermons to announce she was going to the bathroom and who once gave my mother a toilet bowl brush for Christmas and Fred Bailey, a man who was old from the time I was young, lost an arm in an industrial accident but still carved dollhouse furniture and who always requested hymn #333, Blessed Assurance, (“all three verses and could we please stand to sing” every time).

So, while my peers were home listening to rock opera, I was standing next to Mr. Bailey singing in full voice about our blessed assurance. I had no cool young youth minister who was targeting my demographic. There were no special youth services or lock-ins and good Christian music was still an oxymoron. So, God loved me and taught me through this gathering of misfits and small-town rejects.

Together, we sang about a love that was higher and deeper than any we could find on earth. We sang about a love that would not let us go even when others would not draw near. We sang about a promised home where we would have a place even though now we didn’t really belong. And we sang about the family of God into which we were welcomed even though we knew, only too well, all the reasons there were to reject us.

We were a mighty peculiar people but during the hours we spent together, we knew in the depths of our souls that we were also part of a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” As the body of Christ we were transformed. We were not clumsy, rejected pastors or unchosen spinsters or chubby studious virgin teens or damaged old men or widowed or divorced or socially awkward. We were beautiful, loved and accepted – a people of His own possession.

Together in that church basement, we would gather and we live out the second half of that verse for 1 Peter 2:9 “that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”. When I remember those nights, I don’t remember a gathering of misfits but rather a room alive with light in a dark town.
God revels in calling those of us the world rejects in order to make His power and glory known throughout the universe. He laughs at the judgments and conventions of people who see only the outward appearance for God looks on the heart.

No, I never write for normal people.

I write for people who know how much they deserve to be excluded but who bask in the audacious grace of a God who has chosen them, embraced them, transformed them and filled them with a brilliance that nothing on this earth will dim.

“Write what you know” they say. So, I write for a peculiar people and it’s my honor and joy to do so.

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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Glad we get to be peculiar together!

  2. Joe Crowley says:

    Very encouraging story and words. Also helps to explain some of the people at Church, and maybe me too. So happy that I’m not normal, and in fact that I am peculiar, so much so that I can consider that these tender written morsels are meant for me also! And, yes, I don’t ever have to worry about being “Normal”. Not that I could be if I wanted to. Thank you lord!

  3. Sarah says:

    That was a neat post. I have indeed been called “not normal” for my faith. Your comment made me laugh. Speaking of singing- We have great Psalm sings at our church- where we gather once a month on a Friday night to eat and sing. I sometimes think as we sing- this would probably be the oddest sight for an unbeliever to stumble upon. Sometimes one hundred of us men, women and children proclaiming the word of the Lord in song. No matter how odd or peculiar it may be it is my absolute favorite night of the month- and I guess I don’t want to be anything but part of God’s peculiar people.

  4. Karen says:

    I love your blog. I love how God takes a normal moment in your day — a bird in your backyard, a conversation with a “normal person,” tying shoes, watching a movie — and turns it into a beautiful message that glorifies Him.

    I’m now a follower of your blog and I’ll be adding a link on my blog page at http://www.mywritingloft.blogspot.com.

  5. Pam McCarthy says:

    i really enjoyed this post. it brought back some memories of my own….and i loved your last paragraph ~ “…bask in the audacious grace of a God who has…filled them with a brilliance that nothing on this earth will dim.” amen for the brilliance of God shining out of us!