Friday, January 30, 2009

RGBP Friday Five: HGTV edition

WillSmama is buying her first house!  She says: It is a new-build and so some of the fun was picking out upgrades and major decor items to my taste rather than walking into a previously owned home that needed to be upgraded room by room (pink and teal tiles in the bathroom, anyone?). As much as decorating is not my thing, I did try to embrace the moment because just how many times do you get to have a do-over on kitchen cabinets/floors/countertops?

And so, my questions to you this fine Friday involve your home past, present or future...

1) If you could, what room in the place you are currently living would you redo first?
probably the kitchen.  I would love different cabinet doors and more counter space!  But then, who doesn't?  I also sort of want to take down the wall between the kitchen and living room and make it a half wall (like the one in between the kitchen and dining room) and make it into an L shaped bar instead--extra counter, extra seating, more open feel in a pretty open space already--what would there be to not love?

2) What is the most hideous feature/color/decor item you have ever seen in a home?
hmmm...for the moment, I'm going to have to go with the viney wallpaper in the kitchen at one of the condos I looked at before buying this one.  It was basically floor-to-ceiling grapevines on the wall paper.  a little busy for my taste...

3) What feature do you most covet? Do you have it? If not, is it within reach?
hardwood floors.  It could be within reach if I could just save up, oh, several thousand dollars...

4) Your kitchen - love it or hate it? Why?
Most of the time I really love it, actually--I just don't like the cabinet doors (you have to open them in the right order or else the flap that hides the inside, which is attached to the other door, blocks your progress in opening AND makes a loud slamming very likely!) or the countertops (fake wood laminate).   I LOVE the sink (which I had my grandpa replace the same day I moved in) and the appliances and even the layout.  It needs a little more counter space, or else I need to get way more organized so I don't have so much stuff on the counters!  

5) Here is $10,000 and you HAVE to spend it on the place you are living now. What do you do?
Excellent!  New floors, new trim, and crown molding, here I come!  Also the paying off of the new windows (not yet installed)--woohoo!

BONUS: Why do you think there was such a surplus of ugly bathroom tile colors showcased in all homes built from the 1950's right through the early 80's?
hmm...magazines influencing people?  lots of color blind interior decorators?  surplus of ceramic dyes in the system made the ugly tile cheaper?

Monday, January 26, 2009

thinking out loud about church

So our current Adult Education offering (well, one of them--the one I'm teaching) is a study of the book "A New Church For A New World" by John Buchanan.  This past week we talked about how The Church (the institution) interacts with The World.  We talked about three main ways Protestants (and Presbyterians in particular) have interacted with the world--through acts of charity/mercy/compassion, through engaging with social/cultural issues, and through attempts to transform society/politics.  We reviewed church history (from Acts through Constantine through Reformation through to now) and ways the church has engaged the world around (or not) throughout history.

We also talked about whether we are successful as The Institutional Church at engaging The World.  One of the things I said that I didn't realize I thought until I said it (one of the pitfalls of being an off-the-charts E, and think-out-louder) was that something important happened to American Presbyterians in the 16-and 1700s:  the frontier opened and there were many opportunities for sharing the gospel and engaging the new emerging world.  Unfortunately, Presbyterians were still requiring clergy to be educated in Europe (the old world).  At that moment, we lost ground and we lost the ability to engage the new world because our clergy was trained for the old world (and slowly, to boot).  

And I said:  "I'm not sure that we ever caught up."  

I think that might be true, though I hadn't really thought about it before.  I haven't entirely fleshed out this thought, but it does seem that though we (the Presbys) have managed some pretty good things (lots of acts of compassion, missionaries, working for education, etc) and even had a brief heyday in the 40s/50s, we really have no Institutional ability to attempt to engage with social/cultural issues or have political relevance.  I know many (all?) mainline churches are thinking about this, but I just started wondering whether this might actually have started when we made the choice to insist on an old-world education for new-world clergy.

That's as far as the thought goes right now--I keep hoping I'll have more time to contemplate this, but alas other things happen and I don't have the chance to think really.  I do know that what I said at the end of the class, to follow up on thinking about this, is that I think the only way the Church will be able to engage the world in any credible way in the emerging world will likely be one-to-one (like back in the Old Days, aka before Constantine) because Institutions are no longer the primary way of changing the world.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why I didn't like the Lord's Prayer at the Inauguration

I've had a number of conversations about this, and I know they're ongoing elsewhere, but I just wanted to add my two cents, if that.

I felt at the time and still, 24 hours later, feel that Rick Warren's prayer overall was nowhere near as awful as I'd expected (in fact I was actually sort of impressed by it), until he started in on the Lord's Prayer.  

I don't feel the inauguration, or any other civic event in this country, is the place for that prayer for one simple reason:

Though Warren was invited to pray as a Christian and from his Christian faith, he was praying on behalf of all those gathered (just as any person who prays in public is praying on behalf of the congregation, not just him/herself).  In this case, all those gathered included the 2 million who were present as well as many millions more who gathered via television all around the world.  And when he began to pray a prayer that only a portion of us could pray along with, he crossed the line.  He was no longer praying the prayer of the people, he was praying the prayer of the Christian.  And, though I am a Christian, I still found that to not be okay, because now my brothers and sisters around the world who were gathered to pray (or not, if that's not what they do) had to stop praying with us because it was clear that it was OUR prayer, not theirs.

Whether it's a part of his tradition to end every prayer, even invocations, with the Lord's Prayer (which I highly doubt--every prayer? really?), is up for debate.  And even if it is, I'm not sure it would have been okay in this situation--every tradition is fluid, every tradition rises to the occasion it finds itself in, and this occasion required praying on behalf of millions of people, many of whom couldn't pray along with him anymore at the end.  

And that's why I'm saddened that he chose to use one of the highlights of our faith in a venue that excluded rather than included.  The end.

In other news:  when are we going to insist on calling it an "opening prayer" rather than an invocation (the purpose of which is to invoke, to call in, the presence of God) when that's not really what's going on?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

putting the past in the past, for real

Today our country steps forward, making an ex- out of a public official (at last).  We look forward with hope, with cautious optimism... (and some people with downright fear).  This week our congregation holds our annual meeting, reviewing last year's report and looking forward to next year via the budget, the mission statement, and the election of a Pastor Nominating Committee.  So, as we celebrate today with parties and parades and speeches, as we review and leave the past and step into the future, it occurs to me that it might be time to wrap up last year's loose ends on my blog.  So here goes....

On my way to Christmas Vacation in CA, I read two more books to round out the year:  The Last Wife of Henry VIII, and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England.  The first was your standard princess book, and of course I loved it.  The second proclaimed that it was funny and witty, which I suppose it was.  What I missed while I was perusing the airport bookstore was the last review quoted on the back cover that said, "Darkly comic."  That seems more accurate--it was mildly depressing.  Although every time I try to summarize the book for someone, or tell them about it in any way, I do crack up laughing.  So maybe it was funny, but on the plane it was depressing.  Who knows.

Anyway, that brings my total of 2008 books to 62.  I have a feeling that I'm forgetting at least one, but nonetheless that's pretty good.  I think I'll be keeping track this year too, and since I've already read 2 books this year I should probably get on that.

Is there any other business I need to clean up/tie up/etc before we move forward to the new year in earnest?  I thought I had two or three things, but I seem to have forgotten them while looking up the links for those two books.  hmm....

Does anyone know how to save my link list as another page?  Does blogger have other pages?  Or should I just transfer the whole list into one post and start again for 2009?

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Today's Friday Five at the RGBP is all about one of my favorite foods--pancakes!

So...pull up a chair to the kitchen table and tell us all about your pancake preferences.

1. Scratch or mix? Buttermilk or plain?  Well, scratch is always better but usually I use Bisquick, and modify into buttermilk.  mmmm....

2. Pure and simple, or with additions cooked in?  usually I prefer pure and simple, though the occasional berry pancake is pretty awesome.

3. For breakfast or for dinner?  Or????  You forgot lunch!

4. Preferred syrup or other topping? How about the best side dish?  Cheesy though this sounds, Mrs. Butterworth's.  It reminds me of being a kid.  Or else I like berries and whipped cream on top!  The best side dish is easily Gimme Lean "sausage" (vegetarian!).  Closely followed by hashbrowns (the shredded kind) of course!!!

5. Favorite pancake restaurant?  Hmm....probably Richard Walker's, where they have the fabulous apple pancake (german pan-filled style).  But when I go there I usually order french toast or an omelette...and extra hashbrowns!

Bonus: Any tasty recipes out there, for pancakes or other special breakfast dishes? Bring 'em on!   There's a woman in my church who makes French Toast Casserole, which is probably one of my top ten breakfast foods...but I don't know how to make it.  sorry...

Monday, January 05, 2009

what i did on my christmas vacation

I hung out with this little cutie, played games, pretended to be a marshmallow (a vegan one, of course) trying to get away from the fire so we didn't become a s'more, etc.

For the record, Max (who's 3-1/2) said to me at the beginning of this marshmallow game:  "I can't eat marshmallows because they're made with gelatin and gelatin comes from animals."  That's awareness!

We went to the San Diego Zoo one day.  It was 70 degrees outside at the end of December!

We saw tons of cool stuff, including lots of Galapagos Tortoises.  At every enclosure, Max looked in and then said, "are they real?????"
So cute.

And, of course:

In addition to standing in line for half an hour to see the pandas, we did get to see gorillas, monkeys, birds, tortoises, turtles, elephants, giraffes, and many other fun things!!

Toward the end of the day, it started to get chilly, especially in the shade, so I gave Max my fleece.  So here's my fam walking around the zoo--Dad pushing, Susan rubbing her fingers to warm up, and Max "wearing" my fleece.  :-)

A couple of days later, dad and I made the drive back to San Diego (75 degrees!) for a visit to the Wild Animal Park, designed to look like a nature preserve in Africa or so
mething, and where you can go on "safari" without leaving the country.  It was pretty excellent!

The day after our safari, we spent a day at Disneyland, happiest place on earth.  
It was completely mobbed, but still fun!  
The best rides at Disneyland/California Adventure are:  Indiana Jones!, Soaring Over California, and what Max calls the "5-4-3-2-1 roller coaster"--the only big fast true roller coaster over there, actually called California Screaming.  Also good:  Space Mountain.  The gumbo is good!  Fantasmic is fun.  The Castle contains a gift shop, of course.  It's A Small World has been revamped with a deeper canal and new boats (the boatload of average americans is too heavy for the original now!) and with a new coat of paint on all the inside.

In addition to all this stuff, I got to eat lots (mmm, Mother's chicken-free salad, Del Taco, Koshary, and all kinds of Susan-made yumminess!), sleep some, and even read. I did finish two books on my way there, so I need to finish my Reading Challenge 2008 posts.  Maybe that's tomorrow....

I love vacation.  I want to go on vacation again tomorrow.  Alas, no.  I came home to a funeral to conduct, a Sunday to preach/celebrate communion, and the big choir party!  Good times, many many good times.  

Saturday, January 03, 2009

let there be light--a sermon for Epiphany

(we are singing We 3 Kings...("guide us to thy perfect light")...and the choir is singing "True Light" which incorporates "this little light of mine"...that might help this sermon make a little more sense.  It's more tied to the rest of the service than usual--picks up a lot of other language that I might not use in a different setting...)

Rev. Teri Peterson
let there be light
Matthew 2.1-12
January 4 2009, Epiphany

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Well, another Christmas has come and gone—mostly. Contrary to popular belief, Christmas isn’t a day or even a month leading up to a day, but a 12 day season beginning on the 25th and ending on the eve of Epiphany…tomorrow night. Which would make today the 11th day of Christmas…I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for 11 pipers piping to make an appearance any minute now!

Well, okay, so for most people the decorations are down, the 11 pipers piping are not coming, and where would we put them anyway? The new stuff is put away, the wrapping paper recycled. But here in church we’re still celebrating! We’ve read the Epiphany story a couple of days early, all the better to get ready for Tuesday! If you’d like to worship and pray on the actual Epiphany day, you can come to Taize Tuesday night for more singing and celebrating the light that shines in the darkness. In the meantime, we read this story and contemplate, again, just what all this might mean. Strange stars, strange men, strange gifts.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the joke about the wise men—that if they’d been women they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, cleaned the stable, brought a casserole, and thought of practical gifts rather than those strange things the strange men brought. And those things are probably true—though they miss the point a little bit. There are already three wise women in the Christmas story—Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, who recognizes the mother of her Lord before he’s even born; Mary, mother of Jesus, God-bearer; and Anna, the prophetess in the Temple who proclaims who Jesus is going to be for his people. And there are already women who care for Jesus throughout his life in the story—women who provided for him out of their resources, women who opened their homes to him, fed him and his disciples, washed his feet, came to the tomb to anoint his body (probably with frankincense and myrrh, actually), and believed the angels who said he was risen. There are lots of wise women around.

I think the story of the wise men is different. It’s a story of following a star, wishing and hoping—of following light that leads to light. It’s a story of how God has made Godself known in the world. It’s a story of an epiphany—a revealing. God, who said “Let there be light” and there was light, has revealed the true light to the world in a small child. This is all part of one story—from before the creation, through all the shenanigans of the Israelites, to the birth of Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, all the way to us. Jesus, light of the world, wasn’t God’s “plan B”, something God decided after seeing that the first way didn’t work—the Son was there with the Creator and the Spirit when the words “let there be light” began the first day, and knew that he’d be coming to live with us to show us what real light looks like.

And so, the Epiphany—the revealing of light for the world. The wise men, however many there were, came from far away—they weren’t Jews, they weren’t people who’d been reading Isaiah and waiting for the Messiah, they were men who looked for light. Each night they looked at the sky, gazing at stars, hoping for a sign. And one night, there was a new light. What makes the wise men wise is that they knew that this new light was not the thing they were looking for—it was a map, a guidepost, a beacon. Following the star would guide them to perfect light, and so they went.

Why would they be looking for light? Why do any of us look for light? During these darkest days of the year, light is fleeting. During dark times in our lives, light can be almost painful. Sometimes dark is comfortable because light would show the unknown, the thing we fear. But then again, on a dark and stormy night or a foggy morning, a light can be a life-saver, hope made visible. And light is always stronger than darkness—no matter how small the light, it can’t be made darker just because of the surrounding darkness. A dark room doesn’t put the candle out—in fact, the darker the room, the brighter the candle appears. The same with the stars—the darker it is, the brighter the stars appear. Here in Crystal Lake it can be hard to see stars sometimes, but not as hard as it is down in the Loop! Out in the middle of nowhere—out on a farm in Montana or an island in the midst of the sea or up on a mountain—it’s so dark that you can see millions of stars, sometimes even the band of the Milky Way shining.

But the point isn’t the star, or the candle—it’s the true light that these smaller lights symbolize. The candles on the Advent wreath are not the light of the world, they’re a symbol of that light. The star the wise men followed was not the light, it was the guide to the light. The true splendor and glory were to be found in a child, a helpless wonder in a crib who was joy and peace and light for all the world.

So where is the star now? Where is the guide to the light? Where is the beacon shining in the night? How will we know our way to the manger when we are looking for the true light of the world, the deeper meaning of God’s words “let there be light”?

I suspect each of us could answer this question differently. Some might say we no longer need a star, now that the revelation of God’s light has been given to us already. Some might say the symbols of our faith—the cross, the table, the baptismal font—are the sign that points the way. Some might say the story of God’s work in the world, of God’s interaction with people, the story of Scripture, is the guiding star. And all of those are true and good and right.

There’s one more thing I want to think about though…I wonder if we might be the star? We, the community of God’s people, the body of Christ, the gathering of those who’ve heard the calling. Could we be the star, the candle that gives off even a feeble light, a sign that shows the way? I know the church has often gotten things wrong, done horrible deeds, perpetuated hate and darkness rather than love and light. But I still wonder—are we the beacon that points to the light of the world? And is that where our beacon points? Are we a symbol of hope, a guide to the perfect light? Is it possible that we are the ones we’ve been waiting and looking for?

God said “let there be light”—and there was light. The wise men followed a star, light leading to light. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”

May it be so.