Monday, December 31, 2007

plans

The best laid plans do change, don't they? My most-of-a-week of vacation plan was changed rather suddenly by a death in our church family. My plans to post something brilliant to my blog this week were changed by the fact that the book I was reading kept requiring me to do research. My plans to think of myself as a well-read person were changed by reading The Gospel According to America, the book which not only required research but has now lengthened by reading list. My plans to write something about the new year and all that stuff were changed by the fact that I needed a post-funeral/pre-train-ride/pre-staying-up-late nap. So did my kitties, so that at least sort of worked out....

Perhaps when I come back tomorrow night I'll have witty things to say, observations to make, and bits of the book to share. In the meantime, enjoy your parties, be safe out there....and, of course, make exciting plans for a new year! (But be prepared for them to change! God loves when we make plans...)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

at last the Christmas season REALLY begins...

...and to kick off these 12 days, my favorite men's a capella group:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Room--a sermon for Advent 4A

The Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
Room
Isaiah 7.10-16, Matthew 1.18-25
December 23, 2007—Advent 4A

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.”

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


Well, friends, I believe this is panic time. There are two shopping days left. Just two more days. And, because our culture celebrates Christmas ahead of time rather than seeing it as a 12-day season that begins Christmas Day, there are also just two more days for all the cooking, baking, decorating, wrapping, caroling, and parties. In about 48 hours, it’ll be all over and we’ll be sitting amid piles of torn wrapping paper, wondering where we’ll put all our new stuff, and getting ready to gorge ourselves on yet another feast.

Given the short time span, I’m surprised and hopeful at how many of you are here. It’s snowy and cold, this is one of the few remaining prime shopping hours, and there’s lots to be done. We are all full up—our schedules, our houses, our brains are full to the brim with things to do, people to see, family to entertain. It’s hard to get in a single thought about anything else, really. It’s almost enough to make you just want to curl up under the covers and stay there.

And then reality sets in. Curling up under the covers and staying there is an option that only works for a very few people, most of them college boys on winter break. The rest of us set about our busy lives, hoping to fit in a few moments of quiet, of rest, of prayer, of remembering “the reason for the season” wherever we can.

The trouble is, of course, that if we make a habit of simply fitting God into our already busy schedules, it’s only a small step to not fitting God in at all, or—possibly worse—using God for our own ends.

Sometimes that’s a really attractive option. Unfortunately it doesn’t often work. King Ahaz tried it—at the moment when two armies were threatening his city, his crown, and his coffers, he tried on biblical literalism, righteousness, and piety. Even when God said “ask me for a sign!” Ahaz insisted on holding literally to “do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Given that Ahaz built a new temple and altar modeled after the one in Damascus and that he forced people to worship a foreign God, I suspect this is false piety on the part of Ahaz. He’s playing a part—publicly, he is acting like a righteous king, though he will be remembered for not walking in the way of the Lord. His act leaves no room in his life for God to speak and act. While God gives a sign anyway, and ultimately the other armies are overtaken and the threat dissipates, still Ahaz has no time or space for a God who isn’t convenient. He would rather stay in his cozy palace, with his shiny gold and his new altar, with his façade of righteousness.

Joseph, on the other hand, is a different story. He’s not a king, but he is descended from kings. He knows the scriptures, he knows what he has to do when his fiancée turns up pregnant. The law says that she is to be stoned. Following Ahaz’s example of public piety, a righteous man would put her to death in the village square. But did you notice Matthew’s editorializing? He says Joseph was a righteous man, unwilling to expose Mary to public disgrace. He is compassionate, and he follows the spirit rather than the letter of the law. He probably knows his family tree, so perhaps he’s used to making room for strange exceptions. After all, the genealogy that comes right before this story is very strange, as it lists 4 women in the midst of all the usual men, and not a single one of the women is a righteous Israelite. They are all outsiders, women who did unorthodox things. But they are women who knew God and made room for God’s word and work in their lives and who are remembered as part of an illustrious family tree—that of king David, and therefore of Joseph. Indeed, Joseph knows compassion, he knows how to move his self-interest aside a little bit to help others. So it comes as no surprise, then, that when he is told by an angel to keep Mary rather than dismissing her, and to keep the baby and to give him the name “the Lord saves,”—Joseph follows these instructions, quietly and without fanfare. He takes Mary into his house and he names her baby, thus legitimizing him in the eyes of the community. He endures the gossip, the loss of reputation, the change in his life story. And, according to Matthew, he does it without complaint.

It’s completely illogical, of course. This kind of moving over, stepping aside, making room—it makes very little sense. Everyone would have known that Joseph was not the father. It’s likely that his entire family suffered ridicule and shame. It’s possible that his business suffered. And it’s definite that his life took a drastically different direction than he’d planned. After all, who plans to adopt an illegitimate child—angels or no—who then gets a visit by some very rich foreigners? Who plans to become a refugee in a foreign country with a new wife and an adopted child? Who plans to resettle in a town inferior to the one he’d left, starting his career all over again? I doubt Joseph planned these things, but when he followed the angel’s instructions, when he moved over and made room for God, his life changed forever. It’s not an easy decision, to sacrifice in this way. Joseph’s life was likely comfortable and full. He was cozy in his house and career and family, until that fateful day when Mary turned up “with child from the Holy Spirit.”

Most of us have cozy lives. We snuggle up under the covers, our houses and calendars and minds full of many things. But soon—maybe even tomorrow night, maybe even today—God is coming to tap us on the shoulder and find out if we can move over to the cold side of the bed to make some space. Can we make permanent room? It will change our lives. They may be less cozy. They may be colder than our comfy beds. They may be less full of things and feasts and more full of ridicule and heartache. They may be more full of compassion and less full of false piety. They may also be less full of logic than we might like, and more full of mystery. There is a poem by Madeleine L’Engle that sums this up nicely, and though it is about Mary it seems to work for Joseph, and for us, too. She writes:
This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child. (1)

We’re full of many things, especially with only 48 hours until Christmas morning. There’s a lot to do and we have a lot of stuff. Will there be room for the child? This Christmas season, will we be like Ahaz, going through the motions, doing what we think is pleasing to God? Or will we be like Joseph, listening, obeying, showing compassion, making room for God’s presence with us even when it disturbs our cozy lives and defies the logic of the world?

Immanuel—God is with us. God comes not with fanfare but with newborn cries. Have we noticed God creeping in? Have we heard God’s messengers? Whether we notice or not, God comes. Let every heart and home be made ready, and may we all have plenty of good room, for the Word is coming among us again to bring light and life.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

(1) Madeleine L'Engle, "After Annunciation"

guest shower

According to my brother, the shower head in the guest bathroom at my house "is like being spit on by a kid with no lips and no tongue. The water just falls out on you."

I've never heard a complaint about my guest shower until now (I also haven't ever used that shower and so had no idea I needed a new shower head in there).

This is a hilarious description...it needed to be shared.

That's all--back to the sermon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Another christmas idea....

Looking for a year-end giving opportunity? Looking for a new and different Christmas gift? How about microfinance that enables entrepreneurs in developing countries to open or expand their businesses. It's cool. You give $25, then they use it to develop their business, which helps bring them and their community out of poverty. They pay back the loan and you can reinvest in another person's small business. How neat! Learn more about someone you can help today by clicking the new box in the sidebar....I loaned some money to a woman in Africa who runs a general store in Tanzania, on the border with Uganda. The box in the sidebar updates automatically so you can see people whose businesses aren't yet fully funded.

Susan, thanks for the gift certificate that allowed me to start helping an African woman run a small business!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

confession...

I thought about not posting this because I want you who read my blog to like and respect me, but in the interest of being authentic, I will push publish...

I was thinking in the shower this morning about a recent realization I had. Not like today or yesterday recent, but in the last few weeks.

You know the song Winter Wonderland?
It has the lines:
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
and pretend that he is Parson Brown.
He'll say are you married? We'll say "no,man,
but you can do the job while you're in town."
Well, I'd never thought much about these lines--in fact, probably haven't given them a thought at all since I was a child. When I was little, I simply assumed that the story was about young girlfriends (these days I should probably call them friend-girls) playing on a snow day when there's no school (because who plays with boys?) and pretending to be married to the pastor.

Upon some actual adult reflection, particularly now that I AM a pastor, I don't think that's what the song is about.

Monday, December 10, 2007

new toy


I finally sucked it up and got wireless internet at my house. That's right, I bought an AirPort Express --which, incidentally, looks almost exactly like my power station, except it has a pretty green light there on the side and also has several ports to plug in things I'm not likely to use, like stereo cables--(this is not to be confused with Airport Express, which is totally different, much larger, and doesn't come anywhere near my house now that I'm not a city-dweller any longer) and now I can be online anywhere in my house. And I don't have to install the modem software on my brand-new 'puter, which is one less thing that could cause it problems, you know?

Anyway, I am now cable-free in my living room. No more need to stretch the ethernet cable across my living room floor. No more need to wish I was in my comfy bed under the covers while playing scrabulous. My beautiful new 'puter and I can go anywhere in the house together.

A very handy thing, given the ice storm that is supposed to be coming through tonight and lingering for a whole day tomorrow, decidedly outstaying its welcome. I hope not to be trapped at home, but if I am...well, I'm wireless. :-)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's that time of year again...

Time for Heifer gifts!



This year I've decided on a variety of things...



...things that go to a variety of areas...



...and help people and the planet in a variety of ways.




Ending hunger, working toward sustainable agriculture...what a great way to give to friends and family and to other children of God this Christmas. I'm excited!

Get your own here!

snow

what it is about snow that makes me crave hot fudge sundaes? I don't know, but WOW do I want one right now. The craving started yesterday as it began to snow. Today it is sunny and the six inches of snow on everything is sparkly sparkly sparkly....and I continue to want a hot fudge sundae. Doesn't that just sound lovely? Alas, it is not to be had, at least not right now....

who can resist pie?

You Are Lemon Meringue Pie

You're the perfect combo of sassy and sweet.
You always know how to brighten someone's mood, but you're not overly sappy.
In fact, you can be a bit too honest at times. And most people find that refreshing.
While you're always true to yourself, you keep things light. That's how people are able to stomach your slightly bitter outlook.

Those who like you have well refined tastes.
You're complicated - and let's face it - a true enigma.
You enjoy defying expectations, and there are many layers to your personality.
There's not one easy way to define you.

(seen on several RevGal blogs...)

Coincidentally, I really love lemon meringue pie. I've never tried to make one, as one of my youth in Atlanta made (probably makes) the best ever lemon meringue. I have been known to invite myself over to her house for pie. I'm sad to live so far away now!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

in the quiet

Advent is a time of quiet--the earth is beginning to rest, the days are short and the darkness long, the animals go into hibernation, the birds migrate to warmer climes, and in the church we resist the temptation to head to the mall and instead head to the sanctuary. We light candles, we sing in a minor key, and we practice silence. We listen--to ourselves, to others, to God, to the world around us. We wait. We try to be still while the culture says we need to get a bunch of things done.

I've been thinking about quietness a lot lately. I live alone with two cats, so I have a pretty good amount of silence in my life. I don't think we have enough of it in the church--really, in our Sunday worship, we have no silence at all. We have music, we have talking, we have passing the peace/gossip time, but we don't have silence.

Illinois schools have been mandated to begin each day with a moment of silence. However long the school decides it will be, it is to be a period of the day that is to be passed in silence. Some of my youth said theirs is 15 seconds, some one minute. In any case, the school is quiet. There's no direction given as to what to do with this time. Some call it a "silent reflection"--time to think about what's coming up in the day, to make a list of the homework that needs to be done at lunch, to practice a conversation you want to have between classes, to stew about the playground controversy, whatever. You can pray if you want to but it's not required or even spoken about.

I am sort of a fan of this. I see the value in beginning each day with a few seconds of quiet to think about and prepare for what's ahead. I see the value in forcing silence on a generation that lives in sound. I see the value in practicing being quiet and listening to yourself in a time and place where we are surrounded by music, noise, and talking nearly every minute of every day.

And yet there is uproar. Apparently others do not view this the way I do--they think it's mandated prayer. They see no value in silence, stillness, quiet reflection. I'm not sure what kind of children we want to raise, but I'm fairly certain that we don't want another generation that finds it impossible to sit still or to be quiet with themselves, another generation besides mine that is so uncomfortable with silence they will fill it up with anything they can find--bad music, inane conversation, disgusting displays of ignorance, or whatever happens to be available. I like to think that our children can handle 15-60 seconds of silence. I like to think that our public schools teach kids more than just reading and math but also how to be a person, one who thinks without being told what to think about. Is that so much to ask?

Perhaps I am guilty of blurring a line here, but I just don't think that quiet thinking is the same thing as prayer, and I don't think that encouraging thinking is the same as encouraging prayer, and I don't think that requiring that children learn the value of silence is the same as requiring religious belief. Perhaps I'm wrong, but this is my opinion.

Monday, December 03, 2007

yay!

at last I have had a fantastic day:
good meeting this morning...
indian food for lunch ....
good meeting over lunch....
new computer ready when I was already going to be in the area of the apple store!...
new 'puter is beautiful, actually new with Leopard, and full of my documents, photos, iTunes, and even emails.

Thanks Brandon! You are truly an Apple Genius.

That was pretty much the highlight of my day....though other good stuff happened later too. :-)

please, please, please, God, let this be the end of the kernel panics. I do NOT want to see them anymore!!! This 'puter is beautiful and I want it to last me a very long time. And thank you for Brandon. Amen.

Friday, November 30, 2007

slacker

I have been remiss in my blog posting of late. I would love to say it's because I've been too busy, but really it's not hard to make time to blog. The last couple of weeks I've been traveling and sans computer (as my macbook went to Apple Heaven, or at least purgatory, and my new one has not yet arrived) so it's been harder than usual, but still...

I suspect I've not been blogging because a) there are so many things going on inside my head, and b) it's a lot of work to figure out what I can and can't post here.

Having said that, it's been a good couple of months. The fall has gone beautifully here and we are headed for winter. Advent is upon us. People keep asking for my Christmas wishes--my Amazon list is up to date and my preferred gift cards are: Borders, Trader Joe's, Ann Taylor/Ann Taylor Loft, and Costco. I'm giving to Heifer again this year instead of gifts to everyone I know. Last year I got a water buffalo (!) but this year I think I'm going with a goat, a flock of ducks/geese, and some bees. The picture of the Kenyan woman with a baby goat in the catalog was so adorable it swayed me from my favorite farm animal!

Last night I went to a concert sponsored by WorldVision: The Watoto Children's Choir. They are truly amazing children with amazing stories. They sang and danced, they gave testimony, they told their life stories, and they were fantastic. The concert was free, but we were encouraged to sponsor a child. I've been contemplating sponsoring and I think I might do that at last--I've been sort of holding out for some way to sponsor Middle Eastern children, but that is not forthcoming. African it is...

I must get some work done so I can go to the grocery store and home to play with my kitties! I have three meetings next week that are a 45-minute-each-way drive away from here, so I have to be very efficient in my time. ha!

also, for your information: "Just Jane" is only a so-so book. It's a novel about the life of Jane Austen. It's written entirely in the first person and I find that mildly irritating. That's all.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Here We Go Again--a sermon for Christ the King Sunday, year C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
Here We Go Again
November 25 2007—Christ the King C
Luke 1.68-79

‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have some confessions to make today. First, I have to tell you that I am somewhat cynical when it comes to matters of capitalism, consumer culture, materialism, and mass marketing. Second, I have to tell you that I spent 14 hours at Disneyland while I was visiting family in California last week, and I loved every single minute of being there. In spite of the blatant marketing to children, in spite of the consumerist mindset, in spite of the excess, it truly is a magical place and I was definitely swept up in the Disney holiday magic. It’s a Small World was lavishly decorated, the rides were fun, the food was good, the level of detail was impressive, the Castle was covered in snow and twinkling lights—even though it was 70 degrees and sunny.

I’ve been to Disneyland before—once before, to be precise—20, or possibly 21, years ago this Christmas. My brother was so young he was in a stroller, and now he’s 21 years old. All I remember about that trip is getting a red Mickey hat with my name embroidered on the back. So this time, when my brother and I walked through those front gates, we were like little kids all over again. We ran and skipped and frolicked, we waited in lines, we made jokes, we rode rides, we explored nearly every inch of both Disney parks in those 14 hours. Though we had been there before, the whole thing seemed new, it was like it was our first time.

Now I know you’re sitting there thinking “well, you were very small children and it was a long time ago” and that’s true. But it’s also true that this kind of thing happens to us all the time. We return to things we have done before and they seem new. And there are some things where perhaps it should happen, but instead we come to the place or the time of year and it all seems old-hat, like nothing new could ever happen.

That’s a little like how I feel about Christ the King Sunday. This is a weird Sunday—it doesn’t always appear in the liturgical calendar, but most years it’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It’s the last Sunday in the church year—sort of a liturgical New Year’s Eve. As I’m sure many of you know, our liturgical calendar begins with Advent, moves through Christmas and Epiphany, Lent and Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time, bringing us to Christ the King Sunday, and each season has a color and often a theme. Our calendar uses a three-year cycle of Scripture readings, and today marks the last day in this cycle. Next Sunday we are in Advent, a new year has begun. But this Sunday we are on the cusp of the cycle, waiting for the dawn. Normally we would be talking about how Christ is King of our lives, or how God is more powerful than any human monarch, or some other sort of regal topic. Sometimes we read crucifixion stories and hear about God’s love breaking human power. It’s the same theme every year, and this is my fifth time in a row preaching it, and after a while it just feels old, like we’ve been here before. I imagine that’s how many of us feel, year after year, as we approach Christmas and its attendant consumer joys. Here we go again…didn’t we just do this? Haven’t we bought all the presents by now? Haven’t we heard the story a hundred times before?

Poet T. S. Eliot writes:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.[1]

Yes, we have done it a hundred times before. Time does not in fact march ever onward. The seasons, the clocks, the calendar, and the church year show us what time really is—a circle. We repeat the cycle because there is such value in hearing the story again, in returning to the place where we started. Remembering is an important thing, and it’s what our liturgical calendar helps us to do. It’s not just a way to move from green to purple to white decorations, it’s a way to remind us what God has done and to open our eyes to what God is still doing, to be formed by God’s story. Because, of course, you can’t really go home again, can you? The circle may actually be more like a spiral—we return to the same place but we know it for the first time. There is something new waiting for us around this bend.

Zechariah sings about remembering—about remembering God’s promises, being reminded of the covenant. God has looked favorably on the people and we too have remembered the covenant. But it’s not only about remembering. There is a forward part of the circle, too—as Eliot says, we shall not cease from exploration. Zechariah’s son, John, will go before the Lord, will prepare the way. The dawn from on high will break upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. However dark things are in the last part of the circle, light comes again. The shadow death casts is long. When you are sitting in its darkness, dawn seems impossible. When you live in a world like ours, ways of peace seem unlikely. But this dawn is not just the usual spinning of the earth on its axis, this is God breaking into our cycle, this is the dawn from on high—the dawn to which we return year after year…always to find it as though it is the first time.

Our faith tradition leads us each year to a new old thing. Some people lately have taken to calling Christianity an Ancient-Future faith, or to calling themselves an Ancient-Future church. Whenever I hear this, I wonder where the present is—what about now? But I also think there’s something right about this. We arrive where we started, and we know the place for the first time. We hear new things in old stories, we sing old songs with new words, we practice an ancient faith in a forward-looking world.

On this last day of the liturgical calendar, we are pointed toward Advent but, like any other New Year’s Eve, we are looking back as well. We look back on a year walking with Jesus through the gospel of Luke and forward to a year in Matthew’s gospel, we look back on God’s promises and forward into Advent looking anew at the promise of light for the world, we look back on all God has done for us and forward at the beginning of all things with a Word, and we look again for the coming of the true King. Zechariah has broken his silence, John is preparing the way, and we journey again toward God’s vision of light and peace. Though we have been here before, we will once again know it for the first time. There is something magical about it—about the waiting and the singing and the images, about living the story over and over. We thought we knew it, but our memories have gaps that exploring the circle can fill, we’ve missed things before, and God has new things to say even using the old stories and songs.

You may notice that this service seems a little different than some. It’s sort of a circle like the liturgical calendar, like my Disney trip, like life. The end is like the beginning, but it’s also different. We can see and hear new things even in the old tunes. We explore together, and we arrive where we started and know it for the first time, this time in the light.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

[1] T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets: Little Gidding, V.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunny SoCal

I'm in Southern California. It's 70 degrees and sunny. I approve.

'puter is in mac hospital. I'll either pick it up fixed on Friday or pick up a new one on Friday. I don't know which yet. If I pick it up fixed and it doesn't stay fixed, then I get a new one for sure--thus sayeth the guy on the phone and several guys in the store. But store guy also said I might have a new one when I get home, so who knows.

DisneyLand tomorrow! I haven't been there in 21 years. I'm kind of excited, like little kid excited, instead of appalled by the consumerism and mass marketing to children. Although, talk to me tomorrow night.... ;-)

Back to the fam....

Friday, November 16, 2007

Apple Care

Apple Care is a good thing. I love my macbook--it's cute and personable and generally does what I want it to do.

It also does some things I don't want it to do--namely, kernel panics. Suddenly, in the middle of formerly harmless activities like sermon writing, blogging, facebook-checking, blog-reading, emailing, playing Scrabulous, listening to iTunes, chatting, etc......this screen appears. It's commonly known by me and several other mac users as the "gray (or grey) screen of death." There doesn't appear to be a pattern to the madness. Sometimes I will have 6-10 in a row--including having it happen when I am restarting from another one. This is where AppleCare comes in--it's the service/warranty program that allows me to call or go to the store without paying an arm and a leg each time. I have spoken with the AppleCare people probably 15 times. I've been to the Genius Bar 5 times. One of those times they took my 'puter away and fixed it and gave it back to me 5 days later. I was good for 10 whole days after that! Two of those times I've been at the Genius Bar for more than an hour while they fixed the problem. Every single time I go there, the grey screen of death is elusive. It seems it only happens when there's no Apple Genius nearby.

I have reached the end of my patience with this problem and how it's been "fixed" many times now. It's time for a new computer. That's what I'm going to tell the product specialist I am waiting for now. I've only been on hold 35 minutes so far--that's better than yesterday, when I had to hang up and go to a meeting after an hour and twenty minutes (10 of which I spent talking to the tech support guy who answered the phone, then took pity on me because I've called so many times for the same problem).

I'm putting this on my blog partially for the publicity of a problem and partially so I won't lose my nerve when I finally get a product specialist on the phone. I am not going to send my computer to them, I am not going to go back to the Apple Store so they can take my computer away to be "fixed" again. I want a new one. Something is not right with mine that all the previous repairs have not solved. I am resolved, I am firm...I can do this. Without being mean (you know, I don't want to be "that customer") and hopefully without crying.

Pray for me and my 'puter...and maybe for the Apple guy (or girl) who comes on the phone!

learning stuff

So at Tuesday's interminable-feeling Presbytery meeting, I learned new stuff about polity--namely, how to introduce a substitute motion and what happens after that. I think the Moderator was learning along with the rest of us, but it all went well. Our substitute motion failed, of course, but so did the main motion, so all is well (from my perspective on polity, anyway). Who knew that a Presbytery meeting could be so exciting?

Walter Brueggemann used to mark up all the papers I turned in to him with "don't start a sentence with so!" Obviously I have not learned this lesson. It's a speech quirk that I think is common in my generation, and since I write the way I talk (generally frowned upon in academia), sometimes sentences begin with "so..." Plus, if you are stating a conclusion in an academic paper, wouldn't you be allowed to start a sentence with "so"??

Anyway, that's all for now.

Monday, November 12, 2007

home

The retreat.was.awesome. somewhere between 170-180 people came. The speaker was GREAT. The music was fabulous. The kids were energized and participated well. The setting was beautiful. It was a wonderful time.

Can I use any more superlatives?

It was insanely busy for me, but it was loads of fun. And then I came home and I was very very very tired. So naturally I slept a couple of hours, woke up, ate, and tried to stay awake until a decent hour by watching Buffy. For the first time in over two years, I watched the episodes where Buffy's mom dies (and the aftermath). I survived. It was even kind of good--I was reminded what great work those episodes were, and also learned that I can do it--no need for dread.

But today I am tired, very tired. Work productivity is low, to say the least. And tomorrow is a Presbytery meeting. (joy of joys)

Okay, on to the "stuff I have to do before tomorrow" list!

Friday, November 09, 2007

retreat!

I'm off to the Presbytery Senior High Retreat--good times! 169 participants are signed up this year (including adults), so we are looking good. The musicians and speaker are ready, the small groups are planned, the workshops are prepped, the housing situation is ALMOST ready (got some news this morning that means I have to do some re-arranging, but whatever), I'm headed up before everyone else to make sure everything is in readiness....I'm very excited. Lake Geneva, here we come! (and Geneva Java, in the basement of the old First Baptist Church, get ready for me. I'm going to need you!)

Friday 5

Friday 5- extravagant unbusyness....


Sally at RGBP says: I am writing in my official capacity of grump!!! No seriously, with the shops and stores around us filling with Christmas gifts and decorations, the holiday season moving up on us quickly for many the time from Thanksgiving onwards will be spent in a headlong rush towards Christmas with hardly a time to breathe.... I am looking at the possibility of finding little gaps in the day or the week to spend in extravagant unbusyness ( a wonderful phrase coined by fellow revgal Michelle)...

So given those little gaps, name 5 things you would do to;

1.to care for your body
nap.
exercise regularly (ie stop making excuses when the alarm goes off and actually get myself to the gym!)

2. to care for your spirit
nap.
Play with my kitties.
visit my city friends more often.

3. to care for your mind
nap.
read fun books. (I have taken up doing this at the gym so I can, umm, set two birds free with one stone?)

4. to bring a sparkle to your eye
nap.
cook fun things and then eat them!

5. to place a spring in your step
nap.
cook/read/play!

Enjoy the time to indulge and dream.... and then for a bonus which one on the list are you determined to put into action?
I guess I'd better make time for a nap!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"invitation"--a sermon for Ordinary 31C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
Invitation
Luke 19.1-10
November 4, 2007; Ordinary 31C


Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

All week long I have been walking around singing a song you probably know: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man…” It’s so sad that this is what we remember about Zacchaeus two thousand years later—that he was so short he had to climb a tree to see Jesus. I wonder if what you all will remember about me twenty years from now is that I’m short enough that I need an extra platform in the pulpit so I can stand in here without looking like a child. I would like to think that “short” is not my memorable, song-worthy defining characteristic!

For a short man, Zacchaeus seems to be pretty well-known—at least, people think they know all about him. He’s a tax collector, which means he collaborates with the oppressor, so that must mean that he doesn’t care about his people and that he is power-hungry. He’s rich, so that must mean that he is corrupt. Basically, he’s a sinner. He’s a short-in-stature sinner. What else do we need to know?

Jericho was a fairly large, bustling city. The scene that day might have been rather like a parade—people lining the streets, calling out to Jesus, begging for healing, grasping at his clothes, hoping and praying that will be enough. Parade routes tend to be crowded—I have spent more than my fair share of parades trying to peek through the people to see floats and marching bands—and this road was no exception. Zacchaeus didn’t arrive in time to get a good seat, to spread out his lawn chair and cooler, so he’s peeking through. But it’s not enough—he doesn’t want just a glimpse, he doesn’t want to peek, he wants to see. Something about Jesus has captured his imagination and piqued his curiosity, something has touched him deep enough inside that he is willing to go for a jog and climb a tree. He disregards his status, his nice clothes, his image (which is already tarnished anyway), and runs through the crowd toward the tallest tree he can find. He works pretty hard just to see who Jesus is.

You know those people who stand in line all night to see a new movie, who camp out for concert tickets, who line the red carpet at a movie opening? Zacchaeus is like these hardcore fans, except that they’re not waiting to see the Son of God, and except that Zacchaeus doesn’t even know who Jesus is yet. He knows Jesus is popular, he’s probably heard some teachings, but he couldn’t pick Jesus out of a line-up. He wants to know more, to see this man he’s heard about, and he’s willing to go out on a limb to do it.

I imagine that he’s just gotten up there when Jesus approaches, stops, and calls up the tree to invite himself over. Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone were to invite themselves over to my house on the way out the door at the end of this service, my response would not be the same as Zacchaeus. I might fudge a little, suggest dinner instead of lunch, say “what about tomorrow night?” or remind them that there’s a luncheon at noon that none of us should really miss. My house, especially on days when I preach, is a disaster area. Today there are Operation Christmas Child boxes all over my living room floor, Vegetarian Times magazines all over the dining room table, and unhealthy snacks all over my kitchen. I’m not ready to have people over! And if Jesus invited himself over, well, I’d be in trouble. It’s a good thing that “cleanliness is next to godliness” doesn’t actually come from the Bible.

But Zacchaeus doesn’t miss a beat. He climbs down from the tree and is happy—happy!—to welcome Jesus into his home. Zacchaeus is a wealthy man, so his hospitality is probably very excellent. It’s likely that his house is well-cared for, or maybe that he sends a runner ahead to warn his wife that a Very Important Guest is coming for dinner. It’s likely that he has the best wine and wonderful food to offer. Jesus really knows how to pick his hosts! A sinner, to be sure, but a sinner who understands hospitality.

While Jesus is busy inviting himself over to dinner, the crowd is busy grumbling about his choice of host. I mean, we’ve already established that everyone knows everything there is to know about Zacchaeus. He’s the bad guy in the story, right? Well…maybe, but maybe not. How often crowds act on their assumptions! They assume that because Zacchaeus is rich, he must be corrupt. They assume that because he is a tax-collector, collaborating with the Romans, he must have renounced his Jewish heritage. Zacchaeus hears their grumbling and takes the opportunity to point out that he gives to charity and he makes restitution when he finds fraud—he defends himself against the very inhospitable crowd and their assumption that they know him. “They don’t know me,” is what Zacchaeus says to Jesus.

But Jesus knows. Jesus looked up into the tree, and he knew. He knew that Zacchaeus wanted to see him. He knew that Zacchaeus was willing to risk his status, his appearance, and even his life to see. Climbing a tree can be a dangerous thing, after all—limbs break, people fall, and with 1st century doctors … Where the crowd sees a swindler, Jesus sees a seeker. Where the crowd sees a thief, Jesus sees a good host. Where the crowd sees a collaborator, only as good as a gentile, Jesus sees a beloved child of God, one of the chosen people.

It is in this moment, with just a few words, that Jesus turns from guest to host. While trespassing on Zacchaeus’ excellent hospitality, he turns the tables. Zacchaeus can offer great food and drink, but Jesus offers him this: “salvation has come to this house, for he too is a Son of Abraham.” Jesus offers him his very self—salvation, wholeness, right here, in Zacchaeus’ own house. Jesus offers him restoration to his community. Jesus offers him his true identity as a Son of Abraham. Not just bread, not just wine, but his very self. Jesus issued an invitation—he invited himself over for dinner. But he issued another invitation—an invitation to wholeness, an invitation to his table, an invitation to know your full identity as a child of God.

And right here is where my own assumptions about Zacchaeus and about Jesus have obscured the point: sure, Zacchaeus may have had a nice house and a housekeeper and a great cook—he may have been ready for guests on a moment’s notice. But that doesn’t matter. Jesus knows when he invites himself over that our houses may not be in order, that we haven’t swept or washed the dishes or hidden the sugary snacks. Jesus does the inviting and the hosting—whether we’re ready or not. There’s no dress code on this invitation, just “RSVP.”

Jesus has invited himself over to our house, and he is the one who has set this table with the finest feast. This is an invitation that, for all our riches, we cannot afford to pass up. Instead, like Zacchaeus, let us welcome, and be welcomed, with joy.

May it be so.
Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Reformation

Yesterday was Reformation Sunday. Reformation Day proper is two days away. Today is the calendar-date anniversary of my ordination, but yesterday was the liturgical anniversary.
I was ordained on Reformation Sunday on purpose, for so many reasons. It's one of my favorite days. Aside from being in the best season of the year, it's also a good day of remembering. We Protestants remember where we came from, where we've been, and what it has cost to get where we are. We Reformed-always-being-Reformed types look ahead at all that needs to be reformed. I love the music, the remembering, the tartans, the bagpipes, the history. At heart I am Reformed, though I lean in other theological directions sometimes (process theology can be so seductive, after all). Though our history is bloody, I love the people and the confluence of historical events that made this all possible--the printing press, the ability to travel, the political climate, the decline of Latin, etc etc etc. It's so interesting! And deep inside, I think something very right has come out of it all, along with all the wrong things. Reformed and always being Reformed by the Word and Spirit of God.

I also chose Reformation Sunday because my mother died on Reformation Day, and I needed a way to redeem (in some sense) the date on the calendar. Though her body wasn't with us on that evening in a neo-gothic cathedral one year ago, I know her spirit was there. It was a wonderful evening filled with friends and food (I am my mother's daughter, after all!). It was a chance for both me and the date to be re-formed. And we have--there's been a lot of reformation in the past year.

And so I choose to remember my ordination anniversary as "Reformation Sunday" rather than "October 29" because, in this as in so many things, the liturgical marker is so much more important to me than the calendrical one. Time being cyclical (or perhaps spiral?), especially in the church, I love those markers. Even this one that marks division, because it also marks new beginnings, re-formings, re-creation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dear T.S. Eliot...

...I love you and your words.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

home

my puter has come home with a new logic board.
I have come home from two days in Wisconsin where the leaves have changed colors and things are pretty. and the cheese is good.
Dad's on his way home tomorrow.

Birthday was awesome--David LaMotte sang me Happy Birthday! :-) Presents were amazing. I am now in possession of more cake/cheesecake/sweet goodies than one person can possibly eat.

I am going to pet my kitties now, to get ready for back-to-work tomorrow.... :-)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

birthday

Happy birthday to me!
The ballet was awesome.
David LaMotte is on his way here.
I got amazing presents. And I can almost buy a drum!

Gotta go do church.... :-)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

puter sick, and other tales

My 'puter has had a kernel panic issue for the third time in 6 months. It has gone to the MacDoctor and will hopefully be returned or replaced sometime in the next week. In the meantime, I am at the mercy of office computers (which are all windows) so my puter life is mostly on hold for a little while. It's hard to be away from your email when you didn't really plan that! (now when you do plan it, it's a beautiful and liberating thing....but unexpectedly? no.)



In other news, my dad has arrived and we are going to play. Saturday we have tickets to the ballet--Joffrey doing Giselle! I am very excited. Sunday is church day and David LaMotte is coming!!! (yay for a really fantastic birthday present!) Monday and Tuesday we go to Wisconsin for some "pretty"--since apparently Illinois is ugly? Good times.

A bunch more episodes of Cadfael came in to the library today so I am looking forward to watching them sometime soon. I asked for episdoes 5-13, and they had to be brought from another library because we only had 1-4. Interestingly, I got all but 10 and 13 today. Luckily, it's not critical that they be watched in order. It's an amusing show. I know I'm super behind, since it was on PBS 14 years ago, but whatever. It is entertaining me now! And the library, man--who knew they had so much great stuff?

My birthday is on Sunday! woohoo!

Okay, I am going to do some work that doesn't involve my computer. I hope it comes home soon....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday...check

It was a good day in church today--good music, good feel, etc. The choir was amazing. The post-church hours were taken up by the CROP walk--4 miles in the rain. One of our youth walked it with one of those electronic fake babies for a class, and that baby cannot get wet. But no complaining from her--it was great! Our church raised about $2700, which is more than our goal, so that's pretty good. I'm sure we could do better, though. Next year?
It was plague day in confirmation. That's right, we read the stories of the plagues and then the confirmands draw pictures of each plague on its own poster. The fellowship hall is currently covered in plagues. Awesome.

when I got home I reheated some risotto (yesterday's dinner: butternut squash and spinach risotto, with all ingredients except rice coming from my local farm, including my homemade veggie broth!) and watched episode 4 of Cadfael. It's a highly amusing show. Only 13 episodes were made (each 75 minutes). My library has only the first 4 so I have to determine whether I can ILL dvds or not. oy.

I am so tired. My body is tired. I have a headache, probably because I'm dehydrated (you don't think about that walking in the rain!). My brain is worn out from talking with 8th graders about plagues and the power of God and whether God is spiteful, mean, or hate-filled. I'm not really sure how to lean toward a process view of God when we're talking about God killing off the first born sons of Egyptians. What was that about not overpowering/coercing/forcing?

There's a lot going on in the world that I want to blog about. Condy in Israel. the 20 year civil war in Uganda and how Tappert Smiley stated that the Israelis have been successful in their "never again" so why can't the rest of the world...and somehow that had to do with Uganda, where 12,000 people are killed every (day? week? month? I can't remember). Perhaps he should ask a Palestinian about that. This whole business with Armenian genocide not being called what it is because we still want to be friends with the people who did it, and they aren't willing to admit a mistake on the part of their forbears (remember, it happened at the end of Ottoman rule...between WWI and II). A whole school district in my area is under emotional/psychological siege after a student threatened to come in and "shoot up a school"--only days after tragedy in Cleveland. How we are willing to talk about being disturbed by non-democratic trends in Russia but not blatant democracy-killing in Egypt. The fact that military officials are calling the war a disaster. the story of a marine of our church family, shared in worship today. The 3,000 children that have died while I've typed this post. The people who have nowhere to go tonight and it's cold and rainy outside.

My brain is full. My heart is full. My body is tired--and I do not have to walk 4 miles for food or water tomorrow like the people we were supporting today.

It's NPR pledge season. If you listen to a local NPR station and you're not a member, you should change that. In Chicago they are offering an "Eco pack" as a thank you gift for $180 and above. It has a nalgene bottle, reusable (and washable!) shopping bags, and some other green stuff. A great way to save the planet and support public radio! Just do it.

I tried to determine whether I could go to bed at about 8.30 and not be lame. The verdict? that is not lame on a Sunday. other days? well...case by case. We'll see tomorrow.....when our first ever Ministry Team Night is over at 9, I may very well be ready to sleep immediately! RCLPC members reading this--now's your chance to get on one of those coveted teams! 7pm. Be there or be square. :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

no!!!!

Oh no! Tragedy in the buffyverse! Fox has (hopefully temporarily) pulled the licensing for showing any of their shows in theaters, which means no more Buffy-Sing-Along. boo.
Show your support for the funnest few hours of good clean fun you can spend starting at midnight! Learn more here. I am too traumatized to write more. After having such a great time when I went this spring, I was so looking forward to the next time the show would be anywhere nearby....alas, not for now.

I continue to wait with hope...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

at last

Fall has come at last. The 90 degrees have dropped to 75 and will drop further tomorrow--now we are praying for some fall days and not an immediate descent into winter!
Fall is my favorite season--the colors, the temperature, the warm wind, the harvest smells. I look best in fall colors, especially burgundy and berry colors, and I'm currently wearing my favorite new brown pants. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

To make my day even more perfect, I had an Amy's Baked Ziti bowl for lunch. Holy cow was that good. vegan, gluten free (though neither of those are my needs), and amazing. The sauce, with the soy "ricotta" (I don't even like ricotta) was so good, I wanted to lick the recyclable bowl. But since that's generally frowned upon in polite company, I didn't. Even though I was alone in the church kitchen, you just never know who's going to walk in to see their pastor licking a recyclable bowl clean of its tomato sauce, and possibly getting said sauce on her face at the same time. I resisted the extremely strong temptation.

Then, to make the day EVEN BETTER I went over to Two-A-Tea, my favorite coffee shop (which is, sob!, closing at the end of the month so the owner can focus on teaching yoga and pilates and being a massage therapist!) and had a wonderful caramel apple cider. And I'm about to eat my cinnamon apple scone (yes, for dinner...I had a good lunch!). I love everything from there and will be sad to see it go.

I also got out and about a little bit today, walking around Ridgefield (our little antique shop filled neighborhood-that-was-supposed-to-be-the-town-but-Crystal-Lake-happened) handing out posters for our David LaMotte concert! That's right, David LaMotte is playing a concert At.My.Church....On.My.BIRTHDAY!!!!! I am beyond excited and am having a great time around town taking posters and telling people about it. I cannot believe he is playing a concert right here at my church on my birthday. dang, it's awesome. It's the best birthday present to myself I have ever organized. I have no words besides overused superlatives to express myself on this point. wow. So if you are in the Chicago area, come to our little church for a concert! Here's the info: David LaMotte at RCLPC!
You know you want to come celebrate with me. Come on now...we're 50 miles northwest of the city....come on out!

I think that's enough gushing for today--it's time to get back to work getting ready for meetings and whatnot. yippee. However I am avoiding news as it is likely to make me angry and I'm in a good mood today--I want it to last!

(So cool! David LaMotte is coming to my church!!!)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

check

I feel that I have really had my call as an Associate Pastor confirmed recently. The last two weekends on my own with Senior Pastor away have shown me my gifts, and they do not lie in the areas of remembering-everything-involved-in-communion-sunday-alone, preaching-every-week, or organizing-people-to-do-things-for-you-ahead-of-time. I could probably preach every week if it weren't for all the other things--if I had an associate to take care of programs and a good volunteer base to take care of dramas, table-setting, ushers, communion servers, or whatever. And I suppose I would remember details as it became more rote for me to go through the movements myself. but wow do I not want to be alone in this. So I guess I could maybe one day be the SP but I'm definitely not called to be a solo pastor! It's about all I can handle to do it alone for two weekends, let alone all the days in between!

so, if I was looking for it: confirmation of my sense of call: check.
now back to your regularly scheduled Sunday naps (or confirmation class, in my case....).

Saturday, October 06, 2007

LOTR quotes of the day

after a whole day watching the movies, I have this to say:

"you're late."

"I am no man."

and

"certainty of death? small chance of victory? what are we waiting for?"

That's a little how I feel heading into Sunday this week....

"The Food of Faith"--a sermon for Ordinary 27C/World Communion Sunday

The Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
The Food of Faith
Lamentations 3.19-26, 2 Timothy 1.5-14
October 7 2007, Ordinary 27 C, World Communion Sunday

Lamentations 3.19-26
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

2 Timothy 1.5-14
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.


Think back with me to a visit to your grandmother’s house. What are some of the things you can always count on your grandmother to have when you go to visit her?

At my grandmother’s house I can always count on a couple of things: butterscotch brownies, those rice krispie treats with chocolate on top, and a jar of m-n-ms. Sound familiar?

I was reminded of this earlier this week when I had a phone call from my brother, asking if I had the recipe for “those brownie things with chocolate that grandma always makes.” After a only little conversation, I was able to untangle his memory of two different foods and get him the recipe for one. For the rice krispie bars with chocolate, and maybe they have peanut butter in them too? I was at a loss. I’ll have to call my grandma for the recipe. If any of you have it and feel inclined to make those for me, however, I will not refuse.

Grandma’s house, for many of us, is about food, but not just about food. It’s about comfort, it’s about familiarity, it’s about going somewhere where the people love you and teach you things your parents would never tell you about, like how to slurp spaghetti, and give you things your parents won’t, like toys that make noise. According to Paul, it’s also where we learn how to live—from our grandmothers and mothers, from our ancestors in the faith. Now at my grandma’s house, I didn’t learn about Jesus, but I did learn about good manners and hospitality. At my parent’s house, I didn’t learn about church but I did learn about being a loyal friend, following through on my commitments, and being honest. At both houses I learned about cooking, I learned about how important food can be for building community, I learned how to share my love and talent for working with food with others in need, and most importantly I learned how to learn from my mistakes and to experience grace and mercy in them rather than expecting the end of the world coming on the heels of some too-crunchy rice.

We all have these places, places where God’s mercies are indeed new every morning, places and people we call to mind as examples of God’s steadfast love, as reminders of hope in dark moments, people who have shared their lives, their faith, their love, and their food with us and who still live inside of us.

These memories, along with hope in God’s steadfast love, are our good treasure. Whenever we have a treasure, it’s tempting to hoard it, to keep it a secret, to bury it in the backyard and draw a secret map with an X to mark the spot. But that’s not the kind of treasure this is, it’s not the kind you store up for yourself. This kind of treasure only retains its value, and it only accrues interest, when we share it. A hug, a phone call, a prayer, a meal brought to a home, and we are all Lois and Eunice sharing our treasure. I make it sound so simple, I know, and I also know it’s not that easy. We’re busy people, we don’t want to impose our beliefs on others, we don’t know what to say. Thankfully one of God’s great gifts to us is the Holy Spirit living in us. She gives us the words, the actions, the courage to pass on our most treasured possession.

The best place, of course, to share anything is around a table. When bread and wine flow freely, so does conversation. We’ve all been at parties that revolved around the kitchen or the buffet table, and this one is no different. In a world where 70% of the people are hungry, in a world that feels more like night than a mercy-filled morning, in a time when hate seems to be overpowering love, in a time when money is more valued than relationships, we gather at table to share the food of faith, to share our treasure. Around the world on this day Christians have gathered at tables. When the sun came up far in the east, they celebrated, and as the sun set there it rose here and we take up the celebration, the pealing of bells, the singing, the sharing, the feasting. When the sun goes down here it will rise somewhere else and they will take up our silence with their song—God’s mercies are new every morning in every nation, in every language.

At this table, we gather with all our grandmothers and mothers, with our ancestors in the faith, with our brothers and sisters around the globe, with all God’s children, to experience God’s faithfulness and to be strengthened for God’s kingdom. Here is the steadfast love of the Lord, here is the family of faith gathered for a meal of bread and wine, and here is the food of our faith, nourishment for kingdom work.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

ok, for real

my last LOTR post for the morning....
can I just say, they handle the feeling of grief really well in this movie? They really capture the shock, the despair, the sadness, and the way you have to keep going anyway.

And, I will point out again: I love Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen. I want them to come to my house. Is there a contest I can enter or something?

i'm slow

okay, so I'm sure everyone else has noticed this long before now, but I just noticed this morning that the troll in the Fellowship of the Ring and the troll in Harry Potter are awfully similar looking. Like maybe the same special effects thing/guy or the same model? Pardon me while I go look this up....

crazy

so I'm on my own again this weekend, with senior pastor away for a wedding. Good times. I love World Communion Sunday. Except, of course, that once again I have no sermon and it's Saturday morning. What can I say--it's been busy week. And what am I doing right now? Watching the first Lord of the Rings movie. Obviously that's the best use of my morning. And I have a wedding this afternoon...

Anyway, on to the point of this post. I love the head of buildings and grounds. He came over to my house yesterday to look at an outlet that wasn't working. It stopped working suddenly one day while I was not at home (I could tell b/c the clock on the stereo was on when I left and not when I returned). So my friend from B&G came over to scope it out. He'd already advised me to check the GFCI outlets and to flip all the circuit breakers off and on, which I had done. I thought.

He couldn't figure out where the circuit went/came from that fed that outlet. He ended up in the attic, hopping from rafter to rafter in the insulation, only to discover this outlet too was on a GFCI....though it doesn't look like it....and the one in the guest bathroom (two rooms away) was its partner in circuitry. And of course it was tripped and all I had to do was push the button in the bathroom. Did I know there was a GFCI with a button in there? no, because I don't generally use that bathroom. Could I have avoided calling on fabulous B&G man to spend an hour at my house, climbing into the attic, etc, by looking in ALL the rooms? yes. Do I feel dumb? yes, a little. Am I happy my outlet is fixed? yes, very.

while the outlet was not working, however, I managed to rearrange my living room furniture, so that's fun and exciting. :-)

Okay, I'm going to write a sermon now, for real...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

field trip!!

After church today some friends and I took a field trip to one of my favorite restaurants: Chowpatti! I love that place. It was supposed to be a youth group outing but with RSVPs low (homecoming was last night, after all), we canceled and just the adults went. woohoo! I got to eat Indian food (my main dish was baingan bharta with brown rice and roti). We also had some incredible indian "nachos" that blew us all away, hummus and really good pita, and I taste-tested Jodi's Dosa (excellent), Cecily's stew (fab) and Scott's uttampana (??)--probably my favorite of all the dishes. I even finished up with an ice cream sundae topped with mango sauce! It was incredible. I was so happy, oh my.

Follow that up with a trip to Whole Foods (which is a good 45 minutes away from here when there's no traffic) for "a few things" that turned into lots of things--organic arborio rice in bulk, and miso, and amy's refried beans (which my local stores are no longer carrying), and chocolate chewies, and and and and. It was a truly fantastic Sunday afternoon. I needed it after the hectic morning. there's a reason I'm not a solo pastor or a senior pastor--it was insane. Three services on my own, with three casts for the drama, a whole host of excitement, children's choirs, deacon ordination....wow. Crazy. On my own next week too....better get started now! Well, after a chocolate chewie and maybe a good night's sleep. (not right this minute, it's not even 7! but soon. Since it's getting dark earlier now, and light later. My days are less productive when there's less light.)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Real Bargain--a sermon for Ordinary 26C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
A Real Bargain
Jeremiah 32.1-3a, 6-15
September 30 2007, Ordinary 26 C

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, ‘Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

~~~~~
Please tell me I am not the only one here who hears this story of Jeremiah buying a field and thinks either “so?” or “what?” Anyone else? Oh good.

This isn’t the kind of story we generally hear a lot about. It’s not a thrill a minute, it’s not an exciting healing or a particularly powerful sermon. In fact, it all seems a little ordinary. I mean, buying a field? That is Bible-quality narrative?

Well, yes, in a lot of ways it is. You see, Jeremiah was “confined in the court of the guard” which basically means he was imprisoned. Maybe not in a cell or a dungeon or the pit of despair, but imprisoned nonetheless. Why was he in prison? For telling the king God’s Own Truth. You see, Jeremiah is a prophet. He hears God’s voice and then speaks God’s word to the people….in this case, very important people. It’s not an easy job, speaking God’s word to people. Especially when the word is not favorable to the administration. So the king, tired of hearing the voice of God through Jeremiah, tired of hearing how he and everyone else have broken the covenant with God, tired of hearing how the Babylonians are coming and we can’t stop them, has Jeremiah confined. But Jeremiah has tried before not to speak the word God gives him, and that has gone badly for him. So he keeps relaying the message of God’s judgment and God’s hope, of God’s plan to pluck up and to plant, of God’s future for the people. He’s been bringing these messages in spite of the ridicule, the mocking, the torture, for years now. He knows that exile is coming. He knows he will live out the rest of his days far from his home. He knows that his people will suffer in exile. But he also knows that one day, though it may generations from now, they’ll come home. And so he continues to speak.

For the last two chapters Jeremiah has, for a change, been talking about God’s future for these stubborn people. God said “surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for your harm, plans to give you a future with hope.” And then God said “I will make a new covenant with the people. I will write it on their hearts. They will not need to teach each other because they will all know me.” And now God says “Jeremiah, buy a field.” Well, if everyone didn’t think Jeremiah was crazy already, they sure would now! So Jeremiah waits. He takes some time to discern if this is really the voice of God or if he’s cracking up. I mean, the Babylonian army has arrived. They are besieging Jerusalem. They are occupying the land and preparing to take the people into exile hundreds of miles away. They are working out how best to destroy the Temple. They have overrun God’s holy city, they have taken over God’s chosen people. Buy a field? That’s insane! You can’t buy property when you live under occupation. It’s not your land to buy or sell. You certainly can’t go inspect the property, since you can’t freely move about your own country because the occupying army thinks you are dangerous. Besides, money is precious when you live in an occupied land, since the economy is generally destroyed under occupation, and the Babylonian occupation of Israel and Judah was no exception. Buy a field!?!? Please.

It’s not just any field, but his cousin’s field, and Jeremiah has a duty to keep it in the family and to help out his cousin who must be in dire straits to sell his land. Or is he? It’s possible he needs the money, and it’s also possible he’s looking to unload the field because it’s not helping him make a living anymore. You see, Anathoth is just a couple miles north of Jerusalem, the perfect location for a besieging, occupying army to camp. The Babylonians are literally occupying this field. Hanamel is therefore in need of other income and also willing to sell the field for a good price. Yeah, Jeremiah, this field is a real bargain! Buy it for yourself! One day only!

Jeremiah, now certain that it was in fact the word of the Lord, walks into this crazy scheme and buys the useless field, in an act that defies both his own government and the occupying forces. He knows he’ll never see the field, never plow it or build a house on it. He knows everyone will call him crazy. He also knows that God has plans to give us all a future with hope. What better way to show you mean what you say than to put your money where your mouth is? Jeremiah makes an investment—but the return is so far in the future that he will never reap the benefits. He invests in God’s vision, in hope, in faith, in trust of God’s promises. That’s a real bargain, not the “bargain” Hanamel offered. This is high-stakes investment at bargain-basement prices. All Jeremiah has to do is act on the words he’s been preaching. That’s not so hard, right?

Wrong, of course. As David LaMotte says in his song “Hope”—“I’ve got a lot of hope for the future, got a lot of faith things can work out fine, got a lot dreams for a better world…got a lot of work to do if I’m going to make them mine.” It’s a lot of work. We all know how hard it can be to practice what you preach. Well, if you’re a prophet like Jeremiah, it becomes even trickier. It’s easy to say the nation is full of covenant breakers, and less easy to model keeping covenant. It’s easy to say “trust in God” and less easy to stop placing your trust in the government or your locked doors. It’s easy to say “have hope!” and less easy to act on your hope in God rather than despair. Jeremiah lived in a time of national tragedy, of despair. To preach about hope was one thing. To actually have hope was something totally different.

Yes, it’s easy to use words. It’s much harder to prove that your witness, your testimony, is valid by marrying word and action, by sealing your life to your testimony, by acting on what you say. That’s exactly what Jeremiah does here. He doesn’t just say “God said that houses and fields and vineyards would once again be bought in this land,” he demonstrates it, he invests, he seals not just the deed of purchase but all his words with action. While this same action doesn’t say the same thing to us today, there are plenty of ways we can practice what we preach and so bring hope to the despair many people face, ways we can put our money where our mouth is and so bring light into the darkness of the world, ways we can seal our life to our testimony that God promises a future with hope. Downstairs there are tables upon tables of places and ways you can be involved, ways you can invest your time or your money and your prayers in bringing hope and light and good news to people who need it.

To speak and act in truth and hope can be dangerous, at least for your social life. It can be a risky investment. But to defy the order of the day, the culture of fear, the prevailing despair, with God’s hope is a real bargain. Those who spend their time and money for such things rather than material things are often ridiculed, and those who invest in hope rarely see the return on the investment, but that’s the price of being a prophet.

Archbishop Oscar Romero said it this way:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

May God give us the courage to join with Jeremiah in investing in hope, in sealing our testimony with our lives, in practicing what we preach, in working for God’s future, a future with hope.

Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2007

a busy but fun day off

--slept in as much as cats would allow
--road-tripped the 40 miles to 10,000 villages, hoping for either a rug or a table for the Fellowship Hall and also hoping not to spend hundreds of dollars on things I just wanted for myself. Got a table, but it's square so who knows how that will go. Also got organic fair trade mint chocolate, which I ate for lunch on the way home. Awesome.
--had spider in car while driving in express lanes. freaked out. adrenaline still in body.
--played with children of friend/colleague for a couple of hours to help out in a crunch. Killed spider by shooing it out of car then crunching it underfoot while small children were in car.
--contemplated briefly what had happened with said spider: saw it on top of car a few days ago, decided to let live (eating bugs and all) but hoped would fly off top of car while driving. No such luck apparently as same spider was in car today. Killed part of God's creation in interest of not freaking out while on road a second time.
--ate Taco Bell for dinner, cuz that's healthy.
--looked at 10,000 Villages rugs online. Wanted all of them. Went virtually bankrupt dreaming about rugs. Plotted way to sell the idea of a very expensive rug to session (as opposed to $100-200 rug from Target): "it's handmade, the people actually get paid to make it, it's not made by children, it's naturally stain resistant, it only needs to be cleaned every 10-20 years, it will last between 100-200 years even with extremely heavy use...." That should work, right? I'm talking about approximately $500-600 more than they gave me to spend. Part of me says "that bequest has tons of money in it, why don't we spend some to give some Pakistani women an honest living and way to feed their children as well as practice their craft" and another part of me says "we're running a deficit budget this year--get the cheap rug, even if it means we replace it later!"
--wishing I had some Breyer's Fried Ice Cream right now. Dang that stuff is good.
--Remembering these "people" from my childhood...
--Did not write sermon. Guess I'll do that tomorrow...AFTER going to the Johnny Appleseed Festival and having some good old fashioned small town fun. :-)

Monday, September 24, 2007

to those who have asked...

...my wish lists at Amazon and Williams-Sonoma have been updated.

But remember, what I really want for my birthday (coming up soon for those who don't know!) is to pick out my very own djembe from holy goat.

27 days until I'm 27!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

facebook=timesuck

so there's an application you can ad to facebook that allows you to test your geography/travel memory/recognition. It's crazy addictive with the little quiz. It tells you a place or shows you a photo and you click on the place on a map.

Now, the map is too small to really get right on anything (except by sheer luck) though the application seems to think you can do that.

In any case, I want desperately to be good enough at it to advance past level 10.

So, I am going to bed right now with a map of central and eastern Europe rattling around in my head so maybe I'll recognize Croatia and Belarus and Bulgaria next time. I mean, really. I call myself well traveled and intelligent and I mixed up Belarus and Bulgaria. oy.

;-)

resting

Yesterday I finally took a real day off. And while I was off from work I decided to also be off from...oh, everything else. I left my laptop in the office so I couldn't check email or headlines or blogs. I didn't go to the gym so I wouldn't watch CNN or MSNBC or Oprah or whatever. I don't have any TV channels anyway (literally--the television is only for DVD watching). I didn't listen to the radio in the car. I was off, unplugged, media fasting, whatever.

I hopped a train into the city, met some friends for a few minutes, got horrible blisters from wearing new but adorable shoes, and saw panels from the Gates of Paradise at the Art Institute. They are amazing. Saw the replica doors in Florence a couple of years ago, but there's nothing like seeing these restored panels up close and personal. So cool. Met up with a church member/friend on the train, took him home when we arrived, got invited in by his wife (who happens to be the music director and also a good friend) for bread, cheese, and wine, and ended up there for more than 5 hours, just talking talking talking.

It was awesome.

Today I have gone out shopping for cat food and people food and also some clothes...fall/winter is coming! I have eaten mushroom brie and a baguette for lunch, followed by mango sauce (yum). Now I'm getting ready to make my own veggie broth, to roast and freeze some eggplant, and probably to make deviled eggs or something. I also need to practice this piece of music I'm supposed to have all learned by Monday night...hmmm.....

I think I might take a nap first. Maybe while the veggies are simmering into vegetable stock?

Remind me again why I don't take days like this every week?

Monday, September 17, 2007

everybody's doing it...

This is funny to me because a) that's pretty much what my hair looks like and b) this is almost exactly the outfit I'm wearing right now (brown pants, burgundy top) except for the shoes (olive green dansko mary jane clogs..."madrigal" style).

from SimpsonizeMe

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A time for everything?

Reverendmother has already written eloquently on the concept of time scarcity. After much thinking, I am ready to sign on. I've been thinking a lot about time management and all the things that are expected of us, and how difficult it is to get volunteers and to get youth involved in church things and all kinds of other stuff.

You see, we started this new Wednesday Evening program, which is awesome and so far has been a wonderful success (in its two weeks!). But I'm having trouble getting volunteers to help out with things like children's storytime, helping coordinate food/catering, and cleanup. If we continue like this, the program will last maybe another month before I die. That sounds melodramatic, but I mean it. There's just not enough time for me to do all of the things involved in WEAVE and also the youth and also supervising sunday school and also teaching confirmation and also leading worship and also and also and also...you see what I mean.

Now, I know that people are busy. I understand that none of us have the amount of time we want to do the things we want/need to do. The question is: how do we still get things done? I don't know the answer to that yet. I want to be like Jesus: just stop in the middle of the work and take a rest. but I haven't done it yet--it's been three weeks since I had a whole day off. Or even a half a day REALLY off.

On to the real point of this post. Given the fact that no one has the amount of time they would like to have, why is it that we feel the need to be busier than other people, or to suggest that our time is more valuable than others' time, or to prove that our things or our busyness is more important than others? Can we not just say "we're all busy, how can we spread the work-love?" instead of "don't tell me how busy you are...I'm even more busy!" or "it's just a small inconvenience for you to do that." Both of those are unhelpful and condescending things to say, and they only make us defensive. Or at least, they make me defensive. I recognize that's not a helpful response, but it's my response nonetheless. And the follow up response is to prove my busyness by being more busy, which is, frankly, stupid.

So, how can I stop being stupid?

It's clear that I need to change this pattern ASAP because the fall will kill me, either physically or spiritually. My brain is full, things fall through the cracks (like my hardboiled eggs, the most benign of the examples from last week), and that makes people anxious. but part of my job is to not be the one producing anxiety. you know?

I think that's all I have to think about for today. I'm sure there will be more as I continue to think about this. For now, I'm going to eat dinner, listen to Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me by podcast, and figure out the children's time for tomorrow. yippee!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

lots

There's tons I want to blog about, but not tons of time to blog.
Maybe this Saturday?
by then the things I want to say about the whole Petraus/Crocker hearings will be irrelevant, but maybe my temper will have cooled down by then too. I mean, who says "Sunni Arab"???? Sunni is a religious term, Arab is an ethnic term...they are not used together except by uninformed people. It disturbs me that a man who is "leading" our armed forces on the ground in Iraq uses a phrase like that.

Also, I'm tired of hearing about how factions within Islam are the only religious groups in Iraq or anywhere else in the middle east. It's just not true. There are Christians, there are Zoroastrians, there are some other small minority religious groups, and guess what? They're all persecuted like crazy. No to mention Kurds, who get no mention at all; even when there's talk of "partition" they only talked about Sunnis and Shiites. News flash: Iraq is more diverse than we give it credit for. Where's the US military for those other people? Somewhere else, apparently. Talking about "Sunni Arabs" as though that's even a thing. And saying things that come out sounding an awful lot like "we can't leave because it would force the Iraqis to work together and that wouldn't be good." I mean, really. You went into a country where you didn't understand the culture or language or really anything else, and now that it's all falling apart (or fallen apart, as the case may be) you're talking about how they don't work together the way we do...well duh...and that it's better not to have an authoritarian government (which is sort of true but culturally not true because strong authority is a key value in Arab culture) but eventually they'll do things "our way" (one of them actually said that). Honestly.

One more thing. I'll be the first to admit I don't understand all the complexities of this, but I have a basic logic question. IF "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is in fact linked to Al Qaeda the original, THEN doesn't it make sense that spending resources dismantling (the polite way to say killing, unfortunately, since we can't seem to see any nonviolent way to dismantle anything) Al Qaeda the original would ultimately put a stop to AQI? If there's no command central, then organizations like that (particularly in the middle east where authoritarianism is valued) tend to crumble, right? So we could actually solve the AQI problem by focusing on Afghanistan? I have yet to hear a convincing argument against this, though it must be out there in the ether I don't understand...otherwise, wouldn't we be doing that? I can't be the only one who's thought of this.

Okay, so apparently I let all of that out today instead of Saturday. But there's more, about other stuff, so that will have to wait because now I have to do some work. ta.