Sunday, May 29, 2011

twitter

Tonight I've been in the midst of a conversation about all kinds of exciting things, bouncing ideas around, brainstorming, giggling, despairing, hoping, and planning. There's been a fast-paced back-and-forth about music, liturgy, church, children/families, discipleship, and our least favorite praise songs. New resources are being born, new ideas are taking shape, energy is flowing.

And the whole conversation has taken place in 140-character snippets, on Twitter.

I have all kinds of new ideas, and can't wait to try some of them out with people here...and it came from Twitter.

Never let anyone say it's just a silly collection of what people eat for breakfast--there's cool stuff going on there.

also, for the record, I only post about my breakfast on facebook. ;-)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Five--allergies

It's been what feels like a hundred years since I played the Friday Five...but I'm starting a long weekend where the only thing on the calendar is to show up at church Sunday morning. Off today, tomorrow, Sunday afternoon, and Monday--it's like a pajama party for me and the kitties! Not to mention the sun is kind of shining, which makes everything better. Therefore today I'll join the fun over at RGBP, where Mary Beth says she is allergic to ligustrum.

Ligustrum is a type of privet hedge and it is very invasive. VERY. It's a spready green bush with leaves of various sizes and tiny white flowers of a head-piercing sweetness.
The house I grew up in had 14-foot ligustrum bushes on three sides. The house I live in now, 250 miles to the north, also has several...they are a different variety but the flowers still get me. Instant sinus attack, that's what these are. And: they are in bloom.
You can remove them, but they grow back. Forever and ever. My husband recently had his helper cut all the blooming branches off of this one, next to where I park my car. What a guy!

So, thinking about allergies:
1. Do you experience any seasonal allergies? Are you allergic to anything else?
I have lived almost my entire life with no allergies. I'm one of the lucky ones, I know. However, after living in Atlanta where the pollen is so thick it covers everything--even inside houses with closed windows--and then in Cairo where the air is basically made of pollution, I have developed some allergies of the sniffly type. I don't know exactly what I'm now allergic to, but it's something gross.

And, of course, in the realm of things-it-sucks-to-be-allergic-to-if-you're-a-pastor, I'm allergic to easter lilies. in a hardcore eyes-watering (and not because the service was so moving), can't breathe kind of way. Which I discovered my first Easter here, when the sanctuary was covered in lilies and I spent 4 services completely unable to see or breathe. There are some other flowers I have trouble with if I'm going to be up-close-and-personal with them (aka if they're next to my seat on the chancel or something) as well.


As a vegetarian, when I lived in Egypt I told people I was allergic to meat. "vegetarian" is a word but not a concept people understand. LOL.

2. What kinds of symptoms do you experience during your allergic reactions?
sniffliness mostly, except RE lilies, which also involve copious amounts of eye watering and itching.

3. How do you manage your allergies? (ie: medication, avoidance, alternative therapies, etc)
mostly I avoid avoid avoid. We no longer have lilies on Easter--now we have tulips and daffodils, which are beautiful and not nearly so difficult. I do take Claritin on high-flower-concentration Sundays, and occasional other days when I'm going to be out and about near flowers or pollution.

4. What is the strangest allergy you've ever heard of?
One of my dear friends is deathly allergic to oregano. (She also has allergies to eggplant and bell peppers...) I find this completely bizarre, and also a good reason to go out for sushi or Mexican food rather than the Italian/pizza places so popular around here....

5. How do you feel about school and social policies that banning peanuts and other allergens?

I have to admit I kind of like the no-peanut rules. We do have one teenager at church with a peanut allergy (thankfully just ingestion, not contact or airborne) and it's so much easier to just remind people we have a policy than to ask them to remember the one child with the allergy. It makes it safer all around. School-wise, if I were a parent of a child with an allergy, I would love the help on that front because it can be so hard if you're the one kid who can't eat something, or the kid who hasn't figured out how to ask/say no yet. (For example: vegetarian kids who are given hot dogs that look just like the veggie dogs they eat at home, and they don't know to ask, and they don't want to be the one kid not eating one...)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

imagining myself back to sunny SoCal...

The weather here has turned from kinda-nice to completely-gross, with sky so dark it looks like twilight, pouring rain, and booming thunder. And the temperature has dropped about 30 degrees (or more) since two days ago. blah.
Therefore, I will blog about my vacation, which was a month ago and therefore needs to be refreshed in cyber-memory. :-)

The weather was gorgeous...

I visited the LaBrea tar pits for the first time. They are super weird..and you can totally see how animals got stuck. It looks like just a mud puddle, until the creepy tar bubbles start oozing out.
Ground sloths (shown actual size!) are one of many species now extinct whose bones have been found in the tar pits. can you imagine these things wandering around southern california?


We went whale watching and saw thousands of dolphins. they were so fun, playing in the wake, joyriding along the front of the boat, and generally just being dolphin-y.


we also saw lots of sea lions lounging around--on the back of boats, on buoys, on anything they could find to lounge on. On the other side of this buoy was one sea lion who was clearly swimming around going "when is it my turn? come on, guys, you said we could swap out...let me up!"


Max engaged in the ever popular rolling-down-a-hill activity. Good times! much giggling ensued.

Of course we visited the Land of Mickey....

I did not ride the teacups, as they make me want to vomit. We did, however, ride basically everything else in both Disneyland and California Adventure. There were very few lines, and Max is tall enough for everything except California Screamin'...he even got to ride Indiana Jones for the first time (and second time!). Indy is still my favorite ride in the park. Space Mountain is a close second. And I rode the Matterhorn for the first time in 24 years and it was not as rough/jerky as I remembered--it was hilarious. At every ride, we would ask Max who he wanted to ride with and he always said "I want to ride with Teri!" oh yeah. :-)
We played in the Bugs Life water area when it got hot...immediately after which, he was freezing. LOL.

We visited the San Diego Zoo twice (the benefits of membership!), so I got to see all the pandas. yay!
Bai Yun loves her some bamboo....we're hoping she's preggers again and there might be a new zoobaby this summer!

Gao Gao almost always has his back to the crowd when I'm there...munching away.

Yun Zi has gotten so big--he's a real grown up panda now. he had some treats and was looking to see if there were any more. delish!



of course, there are also other animals at the zoo. (LOL)
baby hippo! mom was pushing him around the floor of the tank, then up to breathe, then around to "swim"...it was hilarious.

it was bird mating season...the ducks were insane, and the peacocks were strutting their stuff in full regalia.

Max appears to be peahen colored...luckily, the peacock still saw a difference between a girly bird and a 6 year old. :-)

Aside from all the incredible food (which I ate too fast to take pictures of...nomnomnom) and the fun conversations had with my fam (including some very intense conversation about various games for the iPod), that pretty well sums up my awesome vacation. Loved it! :-)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jesus Glasses--a sermon for Easter 5A

Rev. Teri Peterson
RCLPC
Jesus Glasses
John 14.1-14
22 May 2011, Easter 5A

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.


I feel like there's some serious irony that this is the lectionary text for the day after the rapture--I mean, wouldn't it be better for the rapture to be tonight, after we've all heard about this?
Jesus said, “I will come and take you to myself”…and even though he also said that even he did not know the day or the hour, we have a long and proud tradition of predicting the date for the return of Jesus, the rapture when the faithful will be caught up with Jesus and transported to heaven or, depending on your tradition, to the newly re-created earth. People predicted the rapture for March or October of 1844, for sometime in 1981, for 2000, for 6pm last night, and for the year 2060. The fact that we’re all here after last night’s rapture is a little surprising, and either means that Presbyterians didn’t make the cut or that our fascination with The End is obscuring the rest of the story.

Looking around at the world, you can kind of see why. I mean, something is obviously not right. In a world where children die of hunger, tornadoes wipe out whole towns, war is seen as a solution, and Justin Timberlake’s Saturday Night Live performance trends on twitter while people riot for food and water, sometimes it seems like the only thing we can do is hope for a way out.

But Jesus doesn’t seem to be offering an emergency exit slide. In fact, he doesn’t seem much interested in exiting at all—he tells Phillip that he’s already seen God, and he tells Thomas that he already knows the way. Is it possible that we can already see God, and that we already know the way, and we’ve all been so busy looking for a way out that we’ve missed the way in? Jesus says that his mission is to bring abundant life, that in God’s house there are many rooms—enough for everyone—that loving God by loving our neighbor, and vice versa, are how we are to go about life. It’s as if he sees something different when he looks at the world. Instead of seeing a hopeless and horrible place that needs to be destroyed and re-made, he sees a place loved and redeemed, a place of wonder and hope.

We need to get ourselves some of those Jesus Glasses. Because it seems like we’ve been looking at the world all wrong…fuzzy, like watching a 3D movie without the cheesy paper glasses. It turns out we really need those glasses, because our vision is in need of some correction.
In the early years of the church, people preparing for baptism were taught that when they were baptized and entered into the community and the community’s sacred space, their eyes would be opened to how God sees the world. They came up out of the water and the first thing they saw were beautiful mosaics evoking the garden of Eden, and their first food was the overflowing bounty of communion from a table filled with bread, fruit, cheese, wine, and all manner of good things. They joined a community that saw differently, a body that believed its mission was to show the rest of the world what God could see—a world beloved, a world created with purpose and called good, a paradise, right here on earth. This paradise was not utopia, with no problems and no work required, but it’s God’s paradise nonetheless. And their job was to share their vision with others, to show what living as a citizen of the kingdom of God looked like.

This is not an easy task, to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God right here and now. It’s much easier to think that’s something we do when we die. But in a world where food rationing was used to control and pacify the masses, Jesus fed people and showed them how to share their resources; in a world where children were property to be used, Jesus said we must all become like a child; in a world where violence is equated with power, Jesus showed the power of love. Living with kingdom vision will mean following in Jesus’ footsteps here, today—did you catch in that reading when he said that those who believe in him will do the works he has done, and even greater works. We’ll feed the hungry, and also create a system where no one goes hungry in our world of plenty. We’ll heal the afflicted, and also stop hurting people. We’ll love our enemies, and work to create a world where hate is no more. It won’t be easy, but with our Jesus Glasses on, it’s possible. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is here…we just need to open our eyes.

I wonder, then, if we might think about the rapture differently. Perhaps the end of the world as we know it is just that—the end of our way of knowing. Maybe it did happen yesterday. Maybe it’s been happening to people all along, for centuries. Maybe it’s happening right now. Because what if being caught up with Jesus is not about people floating up into the sky, but about people seeing with kingdom vision, seeing God here and now, and living in the kingdom of heaven right now, today? We look through the lens of Christ and behold, God is doing a new thing—we can see a new heaven and a new earth, because for us, the old is gone and the new has come. There are glimpses of God’s work all around us, and glimpses of God whenever we look into the face of another person created in God’s image, and glimpses of the kingdom wherever people are living and loving and doing justice. Through the Body of Christ, Jesus comes again to show us the way, the truth, and the life, and they are more beautiful and more difficult than we ever imagined.

The church used to teach that we, the body of Christ, are living in the kingdom of heaven right now, that in baptism the scales fell from our eyes and we could see paradise here on earth, that our citizenship is in God’s kingdom and so we live differently and show the world a glimpse of that wonder.

Over the years that message has often been lost in all the hubbub, but it’s still there—in scripture and even in the good old Presbyterian Book of Order, which lists one of the 6 most important purposes of the church as “the exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world.” Our job as the body of Christ is to show God’s kingdom to the world, wherever we go and whatever we do. Once we open our eyes, we’ll see the beauty and hope and love infusing the world. We’ll see that God has not failed to bring the kingdom, we have failed to see the power of God in unexpected ways. We'll have kingdom vision, and there’s no going back. We’ll no longer be willing to settle for the status quo, we won’t be able to step aside and let the way of the world go on as it has been. When we live as kingdom-citizens, we can’t help changing the world—and we’ll be so busy doing justice, loving mercy, and walking with God we won’t have time to look for an escape from the world God so loves. When people look at us as members of the body of Christ, when people look at us as a community, when people look at the church, they should see the kingdom of heaven. If that’s going to happen, we need to see it too—so let’s put our JesusGlasses on and get to work. We know The Way, after all.

May it be so. Amen.

(for the complete experience: hymns today are Christ Be Our Light, Open My Eyes That I May See, and Come Great God of All the Ages. Alternative service music included the sending song Salt and Light. Special music offerings: Ordinary Miracle and He Never Failed Me Yet. awesome.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

a new day

I have been wondering for a long time what I would say if this day ever came. This is a day that I have been working toward for several years -- almost as long as I've been in the church, in fact. It's a day I have dreamed about, despaired of ever seeing, hoped for, longed for, prayed for, and worked for. It's also a day that brings out fear--fear of what might happen, who might leave, what will be said/misrepresented/misconstrued/misunderstood...

But, I have to say, even with a large amount of compassion for the many people for whom this day is sad, I celebrate.

Today, the 87th (and 88th!) presbyteries voted in favor of a change to the PC(USA) Book of Order's ordination standards, putting the "yes" vote in the majority. The language that was inserted 15 years ago with the sole purpose of keeping GLBT people out of church office will be removed and replaced with language that more closely adheres to our historic church standards and that raises the bar pretty significantly for all of us who presume to undertake the task to which God has called us.

No longer will the standard be "fidelity in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness." Now it will be that we all "submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every aspect of life." No longer will everything the confessions call sin disqualify people from leadership (since that disqualifies every single person who ever lived, in my read of the Book of Confessions), instead the standard will be the living Word of God, with the examinations focusing on our character and conduct and ability to uphold our ordination vows--and not just our favorites (energy intelligence imagination and love!) but all of them.

To be clear: as I said when the PUP report was released, I do not believe this is going to cause a wholesale change in the way we do preparation or examination for office. The reality on the ground has always been that sessions and presbyteries prepare candidates, oversee their education, and determine whether a) they are called AND b) are suitable for the office. While the "standard" has been in effect, it has been applied inconsistently at best, because the way ordination in the PCUSA words it is inherently local-on-behalf-of-the-wider-church. We don't all gather at a central place once a year and have the bishop do examinations and ordinations. We discern and learn in community, and prayerfully consider who is called and how we can best support them into their ministry. Sessions ordain the people they believe have been called to lead the local congregation. Presbyteries ordain people they believe have been called to serve. There's never been a national body double checking those ordinations. In that sense, this is not a change--each session and presbytery will have to prepare, examine, and determine the calling and qualifications of each candidate, just as we have been doing for decades now.

People have been using the words "lowering" or "relaxing" to talk about this "new" standard.
I don't know about you, but fidelity or chastity seems like a pretty low bar. I mean, how hard is it to not cheat on your spouse? Is that really the requirement?
Submitting *joyfully* to the Lordship of Christ in every aspect of my life? Let's just say that I don't submit to many people (anyone?) and that joy isn't part of my understanding of that word. This is a high bar--and I try really hard! This is actually a major part of how I understand what it means to be a Christian, and I still choke a little on the word "submit."

I also think it's a hard thing for us to admit that we do not get to choose whom God calls. We are Reformed Christians, we believe in a God who is sovereign over all things, including who gets to do God's work. Scripture is full of unexpected and unworthy people being used to do God's will in the world...and so is the church; it's just that we've often forgotten that we're just as unlikely to be good enough as the next person. None of us live up to God's expectations--but God uses us anyway. None of us is equipped and ready for the work--God equips us with what we need for the task at hand. None of us is a likely candidate--but we're all recipients of grace upon grace.

Now...can we extend that grace to those with whom we disagree? Can we work together for a kingdom of God that has many mansions within? Can we work together as parts of the body who cannot say to one another "I have no need of you"? Can we allow the church to be a reflection of God's grace in the world?

I am hopeful and even joyful about today's turning of the page in the story. I believe we have made the right step toward being the people God calls us to be, loving, serving, and caring for the world. I am grateful for the friends and colleagues who have suffered in their work to be accepted as people called by God, and saddened by the loss of so many people who had to seek other outlets to live out their calling. I celebrate with those who finally know there is a place for them in God's church.
I know there are people who disagree. May we all find ways to serve the living God, who would not be contained in a tomb or a book or a church.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Dear mom...

This is the first year I haven't written to you on mother's day. I mean, it's not midnight yet so I suppose technically, this counts, but you know what I mean.

I spent my day trying to relax, but often thinking about you. Except that's not different from any other day (well, if you replace the word "relax" with "work" anyway). What's different about this time of year is the build-up. The emails, the internet ads, the newspaper ads, commercials, etc. They always say things like "don't forget mom..." Which always makes me wonder: who forgets their mom? In our advertising saturated world, you can't forget mother's day anyway, but who forgets their mom? I haven't been able to talk to you in five and a half years, but you are not forgotten. I think of you every day. I wish I could pick up the phone or send a card or get you a present from one of those ubiquitous email advertisers. Instead I stay home from work, I sit on the couch with my cats, I make myself brunch...

I don't think much of the world has turned out the way you thought it would. I know it hasn't turned out the way I thought it would. But one thing is the same: I won't be forgetting my mom. Ever.

I love you.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Reading

I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately...but because I can't seem to keep track of calendar dates, only how things work within the program year of the church....this winter (the middle of the program year) I've read:

I disliked this book, because it felt like it was premature. Published as the first Millennials were graduating from high school (2000), I felt it characterized the bridge people (born between, say, 1979 and 1985) more than most Millennials. It's pre-9/11 and pre-recession, two serious markers of the growing up/coming-of-age years of most Millennials, so its understanding of the generation is, in my opinion, inaccurate. The way the world has shaped them, and the ways they have shaped the world, is lightyears different from how this book reads.

I loved this book. We are working on getting a team together to try to make our youth ministry more sustainable (ie not so much dependent on me and 7 other amazing youth leaders who are basically irreplaceable), more integrated (we're better than many churches, but we have a long way to go), and more about vertical relationships that nurture and sustain inquiry about faith and life rather than about just playing human battleship (which is important too--don't worry, we're not jettisoning game nights!).

Yes, yes yes. Everyone needs to be reading this book...and then trying to figure out how we do something about the issue of our churches being full of people who not only teach our children but also believe themselves that God is just "there when you need him." First of all: not a him. Second: not a servant. Third: shallow. We need to find ways to engage a serious biblical and reflective faith. This book is a good start.

I really liked this novel, though my colleague did not. I confess that I mainly liked it as food p0*n but it had some engaging story to it as well. The family dynamics and intersections of cultures via food were interesting. My colleague thought it betrayed a colonial mindset of assimilation, I thought it was about two cultures meeting...so there you go. It was not the best written novel ever--it was clearly written to be a movie, not a book, but then the author died or something and the movie was never made, so it reads a little sparsely--there are things that would have been better portrayed on screen that are not well written into the script. But overall, I kinda liked it.

Reframing Hope (a re-read in preparation for the BE4)
I heart Carol Howard Merritt. This book didn't bring up new things for me, exactly, but then again I'm hardly the target audience. I'm a young adult who IS in the church, and I work in a congregation that is intentionally seeking to be more intergenerational, that has a long history of mission and social justice, and that is invested in trying to BE the church, not just go to church. I love this book because it makes accessible the things that many church leaders (lay and ordained) need to be thinking about. The book is not long, nor is it hard to read (no dictionaries necessary here!), and it brings up things I wish more people were talking about. I feel like a large portion of the church is busy hand-wringing about my generation and the one(s) after me, but simultaneously ignoring what it means to be church in a world that is constantly changing. It's about time someone wrote a book that explains in plain english that each generation is different enough that while the faith remains the same, the ways we go about living it do not. Thanks Carol.

I love me some princess books! Philippa Gregory is always a good go-to-princess-book writer. I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading The Red Queen as well. This was a pre-Tudors story, and just as engaging as most of her work is. I love that she finds women in history and plays up their roles, instead of the usual downplaying of women in "important" stories. I like that the women are both feminine/traditional and strong/independent/interesting/stereotype-defying. I like that the story has plot twists I wouldn't necessarily expect. I like that I get to escape into a story that is both so different from my own and yet so related. loved.

I could not put these down. The story was so interesting, the characters so intriguing, the plot so not-predictable (at least at first) that I couldn't help myself. I read all three books in less than a week, because seriously...could.not.stop. The violence was a little out of control, and the sexism and heterosexism...oh my god. I nearly threw my kindle across the room more than once. But the story felt so real, and so important...and I wanted to know what was going to happen to these characters. They were just so...human. I haven't watched the movies yet, because I don't know if I can handle all that violence again (it's seriously graphic) but I probably will eventually. They're streaming on Netflix, after all. And I want to see how other people see these characters and places and interactions...my imagination ran a little wild as I contemplated all the possibilities while simultaneously devouring every page.

Sometimes you just need a little classic poetry in your life.

And sometimes you just need to read something you read as a young person...and then discover that it was completely drug induced in a way you had no idea about. I mean, seriously? SERIOUSLY? I had no clue when I was little...it was a fanciful story. Now I read this and go "Oh My God, what were you taking???" It's completely bizarre in every possible way. Still a great story, but wow. I did not remember it like that...

Kind of a princess book, sort of...it was fluff. But I liked it a lot. Again, plot twists, good character development, interesting people you get sort of invested in. I found this book a good escape, amusing, thought-provoking, and full of gentle commentary on the place of women in society. Then again, every historical novel is probably a commentary on the place of women in society.

This may be my favorite new theology book. It should clearly be required reading for, oh, everyone. I tried to finish the book before the lecture and workshop I attended, but didn't quite make it...I got halfway through though. Then I realized how long the book was (I was reading it on my kindle and could not figure out why the percentage wasn't increasing as I kept turning pages...now I know that it's because the book is 560 pages, but over 100 of those are notes and whatnot...it's just over 420 of actual text and images...but that 100+ pages at the end skews the kindle percentage significantly!) and I didn't feel so bad about not finishing before I went to the workshop. Anyway: Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker do amazing research, write great church history and theology, and delve into an art history mystery all in the same book. It's eye-opening and thought-provoking, and relieves a great burden for those of us who have trouble with the "traditional" theories of atonement. Of course, I have been saying for years now (along with some other people like, oh, Jesus) that the kingdom of God is here and we just lack the eyes to see it...which is basically what they say. So since they confirm my beliefs, they are of course the best scholars *ever*... ;-) No, seriously, read this book. Because I want to be able to talk about it, and about the work we did in their lectures and workshops. They were awesome.

Abundance: a novel about Marie Antoinette.
We all think we know about Marie Antoinette, the supposedly callous queen who valued herself above her people and sparked the french revolution with her extravagant indifference to the rest of the population. This novel, drawing on significant historical evidence including MA's own letters and letters of her court, suggests otherwise. First of all, as is pointed out in the introduction, "let them eat cake" was not said by MA but by the queen of Louis XIV, two generations before MA. Second, this novel portrays her as a compassionate, loving, interested and interesting woman whose life did not turn out as she planned. In this novel she is a woman who knows anxiety, disappointment, uncertainty, love, hope, dreams, friendship, fun, despair...in other words, she's a human being. Again, it's often a commentary on the place of women, on class and status, and on the political realities of 18th century Europe. It's intriguing. I read it mostly on the plane...it looks long, but it doesn't feel long. Enjoy.

I'm moving on now to Open Leadership, a book I'm reading with my S3 group....I'll let you know how it goes.