Thursday, August 30, 2007

I love vacation!

It's an excellent time when you can hang out with good friends, eat good food, stay in your pj's most (or all) of the day, read books, watch Buffy, cook, and love on your kitties. And, of course, play Scrabble with foreign words and no points. :-)

I love being on vacation.

I want to be on vacation more often.
Like every day.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

tradition working for you

overheard yesterday afternoon:
B&G head into phone: "Well, sheriff, we've been parking there since 1874. When the car was invented, we painted lines for parking spots there and we've been parking cars there ever since."

House Rules (formerly "Whole-y Community")--a sermon for Ordinary 21 C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
House Rules (formerly Whole-y Community)
Ordinary 21 C—August 26, 2007
Luke 13.10-17

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things he was doing.

I want to tell you something that is probably no secret and will come as no surprise: I love words. I love talking, listening, reading, writing, learning new languages, figuring out how words, grammar, and rules work. I often don’t like when people misuse language—I want people to be precise with what they say. I have been known to correct my best friends’ grammar when they are in mid-sentence. I am particular about things like quotation marks, apostrophes, and trying not to use nouns as verbs. I know the rules about when to say “who” and when to say “whom.” At the same time, I love learning about language so I can figure out how to work it, how to massage it to work for me, how to make up my own words, to coin new phrases, to…not really break the rules, per se, but to use them in a new way that helps me communicate with people.

The people Jesus was teaching knew all the grammar rules of their community—when to sit and when to stand, when to speak and when to listen, what to eat and with whom, when to work and when to rest. They knew that their rules, especially their rules about resting and their rules about eating, were what made them who they were. The leader of the synagogue was charged with keeping the community inside the bounds of good grammar, making sure every t was crossed and i dotted, making sure there were no apostrophes loose in the sacred community of covenant people.

He had just such loose apostrophe, a rulebreaker, on his hands, it seems. But he was a rulebreaker who earned respect, a rulebreaker who spoke with authority, a rulebreaker who was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath day—not the time for a rebuke, not the place for a tongue lashing, and no way to do it without shaming a man who was extremely popular, thus putting his own reputation and life at risk.

As a woman, as a woman with an illness, as a woman with an illness attributed to a spirit, she lent herself to his need. Someone needed to be brought down, and here was a perfect victim—someone so burdened she could see only the dirt and feet, someone already victimized, someone used to public humiliation. And so the leader of the synagogue turns to his congregation and, rather than praising God as the woman does, shouts over the hubbub, over and over again, that this is not the day to come and be healed—there are plenty of days when you won’t find us all together here in the synagogue, there are plenty of days for work to be done, there are plenty of days for you outcasts to come and try to be healed. The day for new life to be given is not the Sabbath day. The day for experiencing God’s amazing grace is not the Sabbath day. The day for encountering the Living Word of God loose in the world, making up new phrases and re-defining old ones, is not the Sabbath day. The day for drinking from the streams of living water is not the Sabbath day—at least, not for you. Certainly, you may lead your animals, your livelihoods, your means of self-preservation, your status symbols, to the stream, but you may not come and be filled yourself. That is for another day.

Every community has rules. We have rules of the road that are designed to keep us safe. We have rules for games so that everything is fair and everyone’s chances are equal. We have rules in our church about who can stand in this pulpit and what we do in this room and who you ask when you want something done. We spent time this spring naming our own community’s written and unwritten rules—norms about families in worship, about liturgists, about education, about how we expect our clergy to behave and what we do in worship and how we treat one another and what we expect of children, youth, and parents.

Sometimes people get together and change the rules, or bend them into “house rules.” So if you come to my house to play Scrabble, we’ll agree ahead of time that foreign words are allowed, in spite of what the instructions say about English-only.

Sometimes, instead of changing the rules together ahead of time, we bend or break the rules first and ask forgiveness later. It is, after all, easier to ask forgiveness than permission. But when the rules we have are keeping people out, are placing more value on animals or objects than on people, or worse yet are holding up the rules as more important than the community they serve, then Jesus says that rulebreakers need ask neither permission nor forgiveness. This woman has been bound for 18 years. She has been as good as dead to you, and because of your hard-heartedness your community is just as broken as her body. When the woman stands up straight to look up to heaven and praise God for the first time in probably more than half her life, Jesus also reconciles her with her people and the whole community is healed. This woman, a daughter of Abraham, is much more valuable than your ox or donkey—and here Jesus has given both her life and ours back. Grace has fallen like rain on the just and the unjust, and the body that once was lame has been made whole again.

This is a scary thing. We like our rules—they make life easier to understand, easier to predict, easier to handle. These rules give us order and purpose and meaning. The trouble is just this: they are our rules. God asks us to play by different rules—rules founded on love, not fear. God says “Love me and love your neighbor.” God says “show compassion to the poor, the orphan, the widow.” God says “come and follow me.” God says, “come to me and I will give you rest”—rest from always being perfect, rest from upholding artificial boundaries, rest from paying so much attention to yourself that you have no time for others, rest from the human way, rest from trying to be God, rest that renews and restores and releases you from bondage, healing rest—Sabbath rest.

In following the letter of the law, we sometimes miss the spirit. While we follow all the grammar rules, no one can understand us. While we impose our rest on others, we keep ourselves from receiving healing and from true restorative, reconciling Sabbath keeping. While we keep the loose apostrophes and commas under control, the Word is loose in the world and can’t be contained in all our quotation marks. While we hold so tightly to the thing we think will keep our holy community whole-y, it shatters in our hands and we end up broken and bleeding, yet clinging to the shards and praying not for bandages but for glue.

Then the Living Word marches right into our midst and gives neither glue nor bandage, but instead living water, grace that falls like rain, true healing, new sight. And all of us, the entire crowd, rejoice together, whole at last, daughters and sons of Abraham, children of the holy covenant, people who belong to God forever.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom

Dear Mom,

Happy 49th! I hope it's a good one.
I'm away by myself on your birthday, only the second one since you've been gone. I didn't have time to cook at home today--this is a busy time in church cuz we're getting ready for fall, plus there was a newsletter that had to be done today. So I almost didn't get to eat enchiladas, but never fear! For lunch I went to my favorite local Mexican restaurant and ordered my favorite enchiladas suizas rojas (with the mild red sauce) with refried beans on the side. I took all the people who work at church and the people who were here for Bible Study with me and we drank margaritas. Five of us toasted you and wished you a happy birthday over our Mexican food, and then we didn't even have to wash the dishes.

Lots has happened in the last year...since your last birthday I got a real job, I've traveled a bunch, I broke up with my boyfriend, I bought a condo, I got a new cat, I've made new friends, I've been through some crazy weather, and who knows what else. I don't know what you've been doing this past year, floating on the waves of the ocean, spreading out to the parts of the world you've never seen, visiting marine wildlife you've only dreamed of before now, maybe you're even beginning to turn into pearls or you're becoming a sand castle or being mixed into glass or cement and holding up someone else's house. You've held up my "house" for a long time, and you still do...I'm glad you are out doing it for others too.

I still miss you. I hope you have a great birthday and that there are lots of cheese enchiladas and home-made refried beans where you are. I love you lots.

Happy Birthday!

Monday, August 20, 2007

brief whine

it'll be brief, then over, I promise...

...I do not like rainy summers. I do not like humidity. It's icky outside and I want it to stop. Where are the sunny, warm but not roasting, summer days? where where where? rain rain, go away, and take your stupid humidity and clouds with you.

...I am in need of Senior High Youth Group leaders. I am praying hard that someone will step up and say yes when I ask, but so far....

...Even inside my house is humid and I can't do anything about it. gross.

...I do not like ironing.

...September is only two weeks away. How is that possible? How is one supposed to do all of the tasks required by September in a mere two weeks? (I know, I had all summer....except for the mission trip planning and going, and the week away at the preaching conference with fabulous young women clergy...yeah, all summer. right.)

...I want to eat ice cream every day and not get fat. why is that not possible?

At least it's not polluted and humid like it was in Atlanta. I guess there's an up-side to everything. dumb silver lining.

{end whine}

Sunday, August 19, 2007

new foods

tonight I ate TVP for the first time. It was not bad. I mixed it with kidney beans, cooked barley, onions, green bell peppers, tomato sauce, and fresh yellow tomatoes. It didn't even need cheese.
I also ate not-the-usual eggplant but instead a rounder, white (with a hint of purple) eggplant for the first time tonight. It was good. I turned it into a variation on the "eggplant sandwiches" recipe from the farm newsletter this week. Their recipe involved breading the little sandwiches (made from eggplant and cheese). Instead I put down a layer of nutritional yeast on the pan, then eggplant slices, then fresh mozzarella medallions, tomatoes, and basil. Topped with another eggplant slice and some parmesan shavings. baked about 20 minutes, then sprinkled with salt and pepper and ate. yum.

Then I was wishing desperately for some of the cookies that are in my office right now. I contented myself with Trader Joe's Mango Sauce--like applesauce only better because it has nothing to do with apples. everyone knows that only homemade applesauce is good. But who has the patience to make mango sauce? Only my friend Trader Joe. Thanks Joe.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

sartorially speaking...

At the YCW conference we had many engaging discussions, some that provoked heated responses within our group of fabulous clergy women. Among my favorite new phrases are these: “princess parts” and “negotiate for the sisterhood” and “preacher paparazzi.”

One of these engaging discussions involved clothing, makeup, and hair choices. Now, as one with amazing and beautiful hair (yes, I’m vain and high maintenance about this one thing—just let me have it, okay?), I understand the need for a good haircut and good hair products. As one who has been told in the past that no preacher with curly hair can be taken seriously because “curly haired girls are very sexual” I also tend to bristle when the topic comes up. Luckily, none of that was heard in this discussion—just the usual things like “if you can’t stop touching your hair in the pulpit, pull it up!”

In the midst of this discussion we talked much about dressing as your congregation dresses, or perhaps a little bit better. In an area like mine, and I suspect in many areas, this is not a financially responsible thing to attempt—as was pointed out by a lovely young woman who lives near my area. Even at the outlet mall or on sale. Also, in my context, it’s relatively unnecessary. RCLPC is a pretty laid-back place for the most part, people are relaxed…I’ve only seen one woman wear a hat and only a handful of families wear what I would call “traditional church clothes.” I do tend to dress well, not just on Sundays but everyday because I do have preacher paparazzi. There’s a lot going on in our congregation, much of it noteworthy, and so we are often in the newspaper which means photographs designed to “put a face on” the ministry, program, or event. It’s exciting that this is a vibrant enough place to warrant the paparazzi. I feel good about that and I dress accordingly…which is a good thing because I often run into people who say “I saw you in the paper!” At a wedding I did a few months ago one of the groomsmen looked at me and said “I see you in the paper every week!” and I said, “yes, yes you do. There’s a lot going on at RCLPC!”

Back to the point. In this discussion I felt that we were told (this may not have been what was said or what others heard, so it’s my hearing here) that we needed to have a variety of outfits at varied levels of fancy-ness. That we should have good-looking casual clothes, tailored and pulled together every-day wear, and high-quality Sunday-wear. That if people in our churches wear a different outfit every day of the month, so should we. That if people in our churches wear designer clothes, so should we.

Well….I really am going to have to disagree. Perhaps this comes from my experience as a YAV when we talked incessantly about living simply. the cliché “live simply so others may simply live” seems to apply here…as does the whole conversation we are constantly having about boundaries and modeling healthy behavior for our congregations. I mean, think about it. We supposedly model good time boundaries, setting aside Sabbath time and play time and family time and friend time and work time, keeping a good balance. Why do we not also model good boundaries with materialism? Why do we have to have 30 designer outfits? Can I be just as effective a pastor if I have 8 outfits? If I buy my clothes on sale at Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft? Can I wear the same exact outfits every week (or maybe mix and match from the same 16 pieces)? If someone comments on it, can I say that I am trying not to be a slave to materialism, that it’s important to me to live simply and part of that is not having a closet full of clothes?

Since living simply is part of my life now (it has been for a while since I was so ridiculously unable to manage money in college), and since I’ve lived with people for whom living lavishly is not an option, I’m going to choose to answer yes to all of these questions. I’ve been here almost a year and no one has commented on my clothes besides to say “that’s a cute skirt” or some such thing…I’ve not had anyone say “didn’t you wear that last week?” or “hmm, I don’t think that’s the color for you” or anything negative at all about my clothes. I mix up my pieces but all told I seriously have about 8-10 options…a few pairs of pants in various colors, a pair of jeans, a few skirts (three summer and three winter), and about 10 tops of various styles (not counting the ubiquitous free t-shirt that comes with doing youth ministry or missionary work). And you know what? I’m okay with that. And I’m even in the paper every week.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

from east and west: techno remix

A night on the town in DC includes:
--fantastic clothes and shoes;
--even more fantastic friends;
--a hip club;
--an hour of dancing;
--people watching the amazing mix of ethnicities and cultures;
--returning to the hotel to eat ice cream.

The club, Lotus, was fun and expensive. There were lots of beautiful people there, some American Indian, some Asian, some Middle Eastern, some African, some vague Euro-American, and probably much more. It was fun to watch people dance, to watch people drink, to listen to all kinds of standard radio music of the 80s and 90s in techno remix...and to think "we are preachers...why don't we have our next sermon texts here so we can practice dislocation????" Also we realized that we are old for our generation. Very old. So old that one hour of loud music, dancing, flashing lights, and cold mists were more than enough for us.

We are 27.

A good evening. And now time for sleep, as tomorrow is Sunday!!

Friday, August 10, 2007


well, the week with the young clergy women (and our slightly older facilitators/mentors/faculty/group leaders) was fantastic. I am glad I came. I met loads of fun people, had a good time, and heard amazing sermons. Not to mention that I love Anna. Plus now I have most of a sermon for August 26 ready. woohoo!
This afternoon when we finished I went over to the National Cathedral and purchased a stuffed gargoyle. It's awesome and I'm excited to put him in my office with glide-action Jesus and some other inanimate friends. :-)

Now we're off to a hotel where we'll spend the next couple of days hanging out in downtown DC and visiting other churches on Sunday. Good times await....ta!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


There are lots of fabulous women here. Lots of fabulous preachers here. Lots of people my age here. Who knew that there could be so many people in these overlapping categories?
I want, though, for there to be a day when we aren't "young" clergywomen--we're just clergywomen. Our age brings specific issues, issues that we need to talk about. I guess I just wish we weren't defining ourselves this way so constantly.

The preaching in my group yesterday was amazing. Tomorrow we all preach new sermons that we write in the next 26 hours. I suspect it will be amazing again.

Also amazing: the new friends, the meeting of blog-friends, and the companionship of other people on the same way.

It's like a huge blog meetup, really: St. Casserole is here, Stacey is here, Pastor Peters is here, Nueva Cantora is here, Amy (of course) is here, Erica is here...there are more, but those are the ones I know about and can name off the top of my's fab.
edit: umm, I left out the anonymous bloggers. ReverendMother and the Polar Bear are here too. And some other people I didn't even know were bloggers until today, but now we're all friends. yay!

Today we are going out on the town to do the DC thing...and we're all carrying with us (either on pieces of paper or in our heads or both) the stories for our new sermons. Maybe something will cause us to be brilliant here in our nation's capital. Wouldn't that be a new thing for this town... ;-)

Monday, August 06, 2007

leaving on a jet plane...again

Okay, so I've only been home for a week, but it's time to be gone for another week. This morning (after I take out the trash, finish packing, play with the kitties, and wonder what I forgot) I'm headed to Washington DC for a lovely conference with loads of awesome young clergywomen. I think someone (or possibly several someones) is (are) blogging the conference at the website. Depending on time, I may even blog here--who knows!

So of course, since I've only been home a week and I have needy kitties clinging all over me, naturally last night as I was doing laundry to have clothes to pack I had a washing machine disaster. As I may have mentioned before, I have a Miele washer/dryer, stacked/frontloading. Last night on the last load, the washer refused to drain. I should perhaps mention that all the instruction manuals and various writings on the machines are in German. I don't know any German at all beyond understanding "do you speak German" and saying "no."

Well, I looked up how to manually drain and open the door. But when I went to do that, I accidentally just opened the door and of course water went everywhere. I thought most of it was out but apparently not because when I pulled the filter out (clogged filter was most likely reason for non-drainage) a couple more gallons went on the floor. Perhaps now is the time to point out that the litter box is in the utility room where the laundry is, and I'd already used all my not-my-regular-bath-towels in the first cleanup. And also that it was 12.30 at night and I had planned to go to bed at 10.

After much sopping, swearing, and saying "ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod" over and over, I finally cleaned up the last of the wet kitty litter, cleaned the filter for the machine, tested it with no clothes inside, rinsed my pants that had been trapped in the machine in the bathtub and got them into the dryer, and put the yucky towels in the machine, hoping it would drain and spin properly when I woke up to advance the cycle (since it doesn't do that itself for some reason). I then went to bed, but not to sleep as I was busy panicking about whether water had lead through to my downstairs neighbor's house and how much that would cost if it had.

And that was my evening drama that led to me being very tired this morning. So I'll sleep on the plane, I hope!

see you in Washington!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

rain, rain...

...go away, come again another day (preferably while I'm out of town)....

days like today make me want to stay in bed. I'll sing hymns in my bed if necessary.

sadly, I'm the pastor so I must go out in the rain, even if few others will......

also sadly, it's supposed to rain all day and I was planning to go to the Egyptian Festival today!! I wonder if they'll still be having it in the rain.

Well, I'd better go...out into the downpour...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

a week at home

In my one week at home between mission trip and preaching conference, I am working on:
* Kick Off Sunday and the ministry fair that goes with it
* Worship for this week and for August 26 (when I preach next)
* Next year's Confirmation Class--schedule, field trips, information, mentors, and lesson plans
* Youth Group plans
* Children's Worship Workshop plans
* Brainstorming a new Wednesday evening program and what we should call it
* Checking in on youth and friends whose grandmother died this week
* checking in on college students before they head back to school
* pretending to do above things while checking my own Facebook account
* getting a pedicure and a haircut (hey, I deserve them after "working" in the sun and heat all last week!)
* perusing potential lay-led adult education materials
* contemplating small groups
* session meeting (only 90 minutes! new record...)
* working on a new child protection policy and its attendant forms and necessities

It's been a busy week...and it's only Wednesday. dang. I used to wonder what pastors did with all their free time during the day. Now I know.