Saturday, November 29, 2008


I am so disturbed and disgusted by the story of the Black Friday Wal-Mart stampede...every time I hear or read more about it, I get more disgusted.  No one thought "gee, it looks like I'm walking on a human being, maybe I shouldn't do that?" or "I could help here..."?????  Everyone in that line thought "how can I be first to get the good deals on stuff I don't need?"???  Really?  People continued shopping after the man was taken away.  People were upset when the store closed.  People waited in line beginning at 9pm Thursday night...why?  Why wait in line at WALMART of all places?  And then why kill someone to get cheap trinkets?

Something is very, very wrong here.  I wish I knew how to fix it.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Had a good time at make-your-own-family thanksgiving.  brought butternut squash soup and green bean casserole.  Ate mashed potatoes (lots) with veggie gravy (yum), green bean casserole (yum), soup (yum), cranberries (surprisingly yum), stuffing (medium yum...better than others I've eaten but still not my favorite part of t-day), and gingerbread-pumpkin trifle (OMG, yum).  Drank wine.  Avoided carrots, beets, and turkey.  Then came home, watched Buffy.  As I go to sleep now, I leave you all with a highly excellent quote from the thanksgiving episode (pangs, season 4)...

WILLOW: Well, yeah, sort of. That's why she doesn't celebrate thanksgiving or columbus day-- You know, the destruction of the indigenous peoples. I know it sounds a little overwrought, but really, she's...She's right.
BUFFY: Yeah. I guess I never really thought about it that way. With mom at aunt Darlene's this year, I'm not getting a thanksgiving. Maybe it's just as well.
ANYA: Well, I think that's a shame. I love a ritual sacrifice.
BUFFY: It's not really a one of those.
ANYA: To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice, with pie.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

dots for the day before thanksgiving

  • There are too many LIT christmas lights up.  And too many blow-up Santas.  At least don't turn them on/blow them up until Friday, people!
  • There are no frozen french cut green beans to be had in all of Crystal Lake.  You would think grocery stores would stock extra for this, the biggest of all food holidays.
  • Porgy and Bess was a super fun opera to see--though, of course, painful on the women-are-property and the crippled=not fully human fronts.  But the singers were, for the most part, excellent, and the acting was better than most operas, and we had amazing seat: fifth row, center!  Thanks Nancy V.
  • I love the TBM melt from Cosi.
  • Northwestern is still a prohibitively large hospital.  And how come anyone can just walk right in to the ICU?  I've never been at a hospital with such low security on that.  The doors are open, come on in!  Bizarre.  Those people are SICK!  Every random person should not be able to just waltz in there with their germs.  I'm just sayin'.
  • I'm hungry and am going to eat dinner that I've been to the hospital and lunch and the opera and the train station and all the grocery stores in's time to eat and relax with the kitties on this cold evening!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

reading Challenge 2008

I've been slightly remiss in posting my books, and also slightly remiss in reading in general.  Not a lot of free time lately...but the latest fun book I read (before today) was The Boleyn Inheritance.  It was a fun Philippa Gregory...a princess book, quite literally.  Following the women who spent their lives chasing after, trying to hold, and fearing Henry VIII.  It was an intriguiging court tale, as all her books are!

Today I spent the day in my pjs (though I did work from home for a few minutes), and I read The Virgin's Lover, another Philippa Gregory princess book--this time about Elizabeth.  I think it's the novel that immediately precedes her latest, The Other Queen, which is about what happens to Mary Queen of Scots when Elizabeth's paranoia gets the better of her.  This book is about Elizabeth's first two years as queen, and in essence is about what happens to Robert Dudley (and his wife) some ways, a cautionary tale about unbridled ambition, in other ways a story about the lizard brain and what happens when it takes over.  (um, to use more technical language, when the sympathetic nervous system rules and the parasympathetic nervous system gets shoved aside.)  It was a fun fluff book for today!

Just in time for the high school retreat (which was, by the way, fabulous--we had a good time and we explored lots of different types of prayer, including waking up in the middle of the night to just hang out with God in a campfire, of course.  It's November, after all...) I finished Downtime: helping teenagers pray.  It was great, of course.  With the one small problem I have with nearly all Yaconelli youth ministry books:  I'm not always convinced that the teenagers he writes about (and about whom he writes with such authority, it makes me forget that in some ways he stereotypes an entire generation--which makes me crazy when people do it about young adults!) are the same as the teenagers I work with.  He insists that teens are dying inside for lack of downtime, for space to pray and be quiet and that they will just fall all over contemplative practices.  I think the first part of that is true, but I'm not convinced about the second yet.  Having said that, on this retreat we had more silence and more real conversation about prayer than we've ever had before.  So maybe it's just an atmosphere thing...if you take them out of their comfort zones, they'll become contemplatives?  hmm...maybe not.  We'll see, I guess!  Anyway, I really liked this book--more than some of the others, actually.  Probably because it had concrete practice suggestions, many of which I already do and really like.  True scholarship because it confirms my biases! (so sayeth one of my church members...usually in jest, I promise!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dear Grammar Police,

I confess that tonight, while preaching the sermon posted below, I came up to the sentence that mentions "from where we have come" and, in the moment, decided it sounded too stuffy.  That's right, I intentionally ended a sentence with "from" so that I would sound more approachable from the pulpit.  "We remember where we have come from," I said.  (sigh)  I plead guilty to dumbing down my grammar so people would like me better, and doing so in a public speaking position.  Dangling participles, here I come.  

So sorry.

I don't think anyone noticed (or if they did, they didn't mention it).  The sermon was a home run, by all accounts (especially since 2/3 of the people were from other faith communities and so don't hear me preach all the time!), so perhaps I can be forgiven just this once?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Not Just One Day-- A sermon for the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Rev. Teri Peterson
Not Just One Day
Interfaith Thanksgiving Service
November 23, 2008

We have finally reached it—that time of year that everyone is supposed to love. The time of year marked by parties, by family time, by fun, by eating and eating and eating. Put another way, it’s a time of year marked by excess, stress, and consumerism. But that doesn’t sound quite as nice, does it? Most of us, I suspect, would just like to sit down to a Thanksgiving feast, maybe including mashed potatoes, green beans, yams, bread, squash, stuffing, Turkey, and dessert. We might gather around a table and each say one thing we’re thankful for. We might pray for those who spend the holiday alone, or on the street, or hungry. We might just dig in and eat and laugh and eat some more, until we collapse into a tryptophan coma. Then we’ll eat the leftovers as soup and sandwiches while we watch football and play games between naps and shopping trips, all the way through until January.

I have to admit that this stark description of Thanksgiving isn’t flattering. It reminds me that we seem to have given gratitude one day out of the year, and then turned it into something that is somehow about us. In my family growing up, we often had enough food at Thanksgiving to feed our family of four for at least a week, maybe more. But even with leftovers, we managed to devour the feast in a few days. Meanwhile, one of my neighbors was a single woman with two kids that I sometimes babysat for free. They were really struggling, and every year my brother and I packed up two paper grocery bags of all the Thanksgiving fixings for the three of them: a small turkey, a box of stuffing mix, some vegetables and rolls and canned pumpkin pie filling. One thing the kids always really looked forward to was olives. We always put in a can of whole black olives, and I could just imagine the kids each sticking the olives on the ends of their fingers and eating them off one by one. Olives were such a treat, they only got them at Thanksgiving, when my family included them in our grocery gift.
I don’t think of olives this way—olives are a normal thing to me. I like them on burritos at home, and quesadillas, and salads, and all kinds of things. I don’t even consider them to be expensive. But when times are hard, I suppose luxuries like olives can be hard to justify. Every year at Thanksgiving I think about that family and their olives.

I don’t think I’m alone in my experience of giving to “the needy” at the end of the year, especially around major holidays. I read recently that nearly 80% of Americans give to charity at this time of year, and many charities are wondering if the economic downturn is going to affect giving. Meanwhile, polls suggest that nearly ¾ of people who say they give to charity at the end of the year say they’re going to keep their giving constant this year in spite of the economy. I think many of us will be waiting to see if that’s true or not.

In the meantime, we have gathered here to pause and contemplate our blessings, even as some of us might be having a hard time making ends meet, some of us wonder if we’ll have a job next week, some of us plan to spend the feast day alone, missing family members and friends no longer with us. In a season of joy and exuberance and excess, we stop to remember from where we have come. We remember the many generations before us who have made our lives possible. We remember the One who has blessed us and guided us to this place. We give thanks to God, who is always good. To use a cliché, we count our blessings and find that, even though the economy looks dim, there are still too many blessings to count.

It is important to give thanks. And not just once a year, on the fourth Thursday of November. Not just when we sit at a table laden down with a feast. Not just when the whole family is together. All the time. Every day. “Give thanks in all circumstances” we heard a little while ago. “Give thanks to the Lord for God is good.” “If there is anything excellent, think about these things.” Gratitude doesn’t require its own holiday—it’s meant to be a part of the fabric of our being, a natural response to all that has been given to us. Sometimes gratitude is really hard—it’s hard to give thanks in all circumstances. Really, all circumstances? Even in the midst of grief? Depression? Anxiety? Fear? But Paul, when writing his letter, didn’t qualify his statement. Just “give thanks in all circumstances.” I think that might be a clue that it isn’t supposed to be simple, but it’s also not as complex as we often make it out to be.

Gratitude isn’t really about a feeling or even a word—though a “thank you” can go a long way! I suspect this is true in many of our traditions, and I know it’s true in my scriptural and theological tradition: feelings, while important, are not the point. God is much more interested in how we choose to act, how we respond, how we love, than how we feel. I wonder, then, what gratitude looks like as an action rather than as a feeling?

I suspect it looks like sharing. Even though we may not feel we have much to share, there’s probably something. Like the stone soup story, where the villagers were each certain that food was scarce until the man with the soup stone showed up. He mentioned that he was hungry, but the people he spoke to said there was no food. He said he had a magic stone that would make soup for all of them, he just needed a pot and some water. These were soon produced, and he put the stone in. He tasted the soup and said an onion would make it a little tastier, and an onion appeared out of a cellar. He thought a carrot might really help the color, and a carrot appeared from a cupboard. He thought a potato or two would really make the texture much better, and a few potatoes made their way up from the ground. Soon the whole village had brought something and there was an amazing soup for all to share.

I think about 75% of the sermons I preach are, in the end, about community. I really believe that when we come together as a true community, a community able to share our lives—our joys, our needs, our hopes, our fears, our love and compassion as well as the dark sides of our personalities—that’s how the Divine becomes known to us. When times are hard, it’s even more important for us to come together, to build community, to care for one another, and to share the grace we have received, to encounter God together.

I was listening to Chicago Public Radio this past Monday, and I happened to catch an interfaith dialogue on one of the programs. One of the participants said a phrase that I found very compelling. He said, “Each of our faiths was designed not to serve the faithful, they were designed to empower the faithful to serve humanity.” (Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld, Worldview from Chicago Public Radio, Monday November 17 2008) That’s not to say that there’s nothing in any of our religious traditions that’s good or helpful for us, but rather that our traditions give us a wonderful gift by empowering us to share love and grace and blessings with the world. There’s a lot of need in the world, even here in our own communities. And there’s also enough to go around—if one will bring a carrot, another a potato, another an onion, another some herbs, soon we’ll have soup for everyone. Another of Paul’s letters says it well: “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, that you may share abundantly in every good work. The sharing of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but overflows, with many thanksgivings.” (from 2 Cor. 9)

As we give thanks, both in this season and every season, this day and every day, let us remember that gratitude is not primarily a feeling, but an action—an action best known in community.

May it be so.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mix and Stir Friday Five

Songbird writes...
In a minor domestic crisis, my food processor, or more precisely the part you use for almost everything for which I use a food processor, picked the eve of the festive season of the year to give up the ghost. A crack in the lid expanded such that a batch of squash soup had to be liberated via that column shaped thing that sticks up on top.
Can you tell this is not my area of strength?

Next week, I'm hosting Thanksgiving. I need your help. Please answer the following kitchen-related questions:

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it?
I have a mini food processor. I hardly ever use it--except to make pesto.  It's more work than it's worth to get it out, use it for small batches of things (particularly anno
ying if I'm making a large batch of something), and then clean it and put it away again.  I normally use my Pampered Chef Food Chopper for chopping (quick and easy!), and a submersible hand blender for pureeing.  I love love love love love these things!!

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).)
ha!  no.  Those disks freak me out, and thankfully mini food processors don't come with those. now, for the next one...

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?
I do have an commercial-size/strength Kitchen Aid mixer (white).  It was my mom's.  I love it and use it often!  It does have all kinds of fun attachments to use for shredding or milling or sieving or slicing or goodness only knows what else.  Making a ton of mashed potatoes?  Making cookies?  Making something that requires shredded zucchini or pounds and pounds of cheese?  This is your thing.  It's utterly fabulous, and pretty easy to clean, too.

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?
Just a couple of weeks ago I was at church and wondering if I had a blender.  I do, and it's on the counter between the sink and the juicer.  I think that tells you how often I use the blender.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most?
ooh, toss up between my fabulous whisk and a potato masher.  There's something so fun about an old fashioned potato masher....

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?
hmm....this year, maybe.  since Senior Pastor left, I haven't had time to cook.  Sometimes I wonder if I can find my kitchen (plus, see the question about the blender...).  So this year I think the answer to this would be pretty much everything in the kitchen...but hopefully that problem will be remedied soon!!

you know how sometimes... don't write for a little while because either things are really busy or you don't have much to write about?
And then it becomes a habit, not writing.
And then even when you want to write, everything you have to say is either unbloggable church stuff OR would take more energy than you have to articulate clearly.

That's me right now.  I'm okay, I'm alive, but I'm tired and a little overwhelmed and really looking forward to a bunch of things, among them...

* tomorrow night's St. Andrew's Day dinner.  It will be probably the least vegetarian friendly thing I've ever been to, but I suspect the level of fun (bagpipes! cocktails! fancy new dress! friends! scottish dancers!) will make up for it.

* going to the opera on Wednesday.

* Thanksgiving.  I love mashed potatoes so much.  And I'm thinking of making a butternut squash something too.  Maybe risotto...I love risotto.  And what better time to eat mashed potatoes and risotto at the same meal than Thanksgiving, the holiday of the carbs?  Of course, I could end up just eating mashed potatoes (only) because that would be so simple and require so little work on my part...

* Advent.  I think it might be weird to look forward to Advent, but I actually think that this year my life will slow down during Advent.  I have fewer church program responsibilities then (retreat's over (and was great--must blog about that next week), Youth Sunday is in two days, Thanksgiving will be past, only two youth ministry events during Advent, etc etc) and I don't preach until the 4th Sunday of Advent (Dec. 21) so I might get to actually take days off and do silly things like go to the gym, cook actual meals, keep my house clean-ish, play with my kitties, read princess books, read real books, etc.  Imagine that!

* Christmas.  On Christmas Day I fly to SoCal for a week of fun in the sun with my fam.  San Diego Zoo, here I come!  I can watch the pandas in real life, not just on the panda cam.  woohoo!

So...that's me right now.  I'll try to get back into the discipline of writing, I swear.  after Youth Sunday and the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service (for which I am preaching), both of which are this Sunday. week...

Monday, November 10, 2008


It's that time again...the two-day Presbytery meeting. Ken Bailey is speaking at day one...right now.  He's talking about the New Testament so far...he's in the midst of a segment about how we as Christians will be unable to talk with Muslims unless we have a clear and developed doctrine of inspiration of Scripture.  He's not wrong.

I might live-blog Presbytery if I get bored...or when I get seminary overload.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

the big day

It's finally here.

Perhaps now the signs will disappear, the arguments will end, the ads will stop.

I work in a building used as a polling place.  The cars park pretty much right outside my window.  It seems to be taking an average of 8 minutes for people to leave their cars, go vote, and come back to their cars, which means no long lines!  But there are a TON of people coming and going, and people are also parking along both sides of both streets out front.

Tonight, after the Taize service (assuming anybody comes to the Taize service...), the PFC is having an election-watch party.  There's food.  There's champagne.  There's hope...or the ability to drown our sorrows if necessary.  :-)

Busy day!  Here's hoping for a good end...

Sunday, November 02, 2008


On my way home from church tonight, I saw some people in devil costumes stealing Obama yard signs. On a major thoroughfare. It was dark, but anyone driving by could clearly see what was going on.

Really? You're that desperate, three days before the election, in ILLINOIS? I have some news, people...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Three years ago...

Three years ago today, I was frantically making arrangements to come home from Egypt. I'd spent the day teaching, leading a Bible Study and a prayer group, and sharing table fellowship with my various international and Egyptian seminary students. I returned home to find a number of messages from my dad, and then an AIM away message from my brother saying my mom had died.

I spent the evening on the phone and internet with travel agents, PCUSA Young Adult Volunteer coordinators, and various other people. I made a list of things I needed to pack, and I packed them. I got plane tickets for the next day. I planned what I would say to the teachers as I went in to say I couldn't work for a while. I sat for a while with the pastor of the church I was attending then. I made plans for my classes that someone else would teach. I cried some, but was mostly numb.

The next day I flew home, which took nearly 24 hours. I was sick the entire way--I ate something for breakfast on the flight to London and had food poisoning for three days, probably mainly because I absolutely refused to throw up anywhere but my own house. I laid on floors, I drank 7-Up, I tried to keep cool and not talk to people around me. Flight attendants told me I couldn't lay on the floor. Airport gate agents looked after me and told me when my gate was changed or when the plane was arriving or getting ready to board. Seatmates tried to engage me in conversation that I avoided as much as possible. London to Seattle is a long flight, in case you didn't know that already.

Two years ago today, I was recovering from my ordination two days earlier, still entertaining family and friends, trying to celebrate rather than sit and mope.

One year ago today, I was eating mexican food and writing letters to my mother.

Today, I spoke with my old Atlanta mom (a church music director I've worked with), and I spent the day with my church music director who is also a good friend and sometimes an extra mom (I seem to have a record of this as far as church music directors are concerned!). We visited the Art Institute and were some of the first people to see the new special exhibit "The Divine Art: 400 years of European tapestries"--an exquisite collection. All of the Art Institute's 70+ tapestries have been restored and are on display at the same time. They're gorgeous. Today was the first member preview day so it wasn't crowded and we were able to move through at a fairly leisurely pace--even when the exhibit closed they didn't chase us out, they just didn't let any more people in. Then we bought Christmas cards (I love buying my cards at the Art Institute), had Cosi sandwiches for lunch, wandered Macy's and tried on $900 coats and a cute party dress (didn't fit properly). We sampled truffles and bought frango mints. We met her husband for the train home and then the three of us had a lovely Italian dinner--wine, great entrees (well, they had lamb-kabobs or something...I had a great mediterranean vegetable strata), lovely tiramisu for dessert.

It was a relaxing day, and a great way to honor the women who have gotten me this far. Today I remember my mom, and also Dana F, a pastor at my home church, who died this week and whose funeral was today, and also all the extra moms I've had over the years who have helped me out, taught me things, kept me on the good path, encouraged me, and have generally made me who I am today. So especially to Betsy and Martha and Sherri, thanks ladies--I know my mom appreciates you as much as I do. And while I miss her a lot (not a day goes by that I don't think about calling, only to remember that I can't), you're all doing a pretty good job too.