Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The birthdays since I became a real grown up (aka since graduating from a zillion years of consecutive schooling):

4 years ago today, I lived in Egypt and I spoke to my mother for the last time before she died.

3 years ago today, I was at the White Mountain Cooking School, learning many vegetarian yummies, with my fabulous friend Jennifer!

2 years ago today, David LaMotte was playing a concert right here at my own church, and it was completely amazing.

1 year ago today, my small group (which was supposed to be meeting and learning about Body Prayer and embodied spirituality) surprised me by giving me a beautiful gift and also taking me out for Mexican food instead of having a regular small group class.

Today, I received all the gifts that were on my wish list (new stainless steel saucepans, TWO snuggies (one for home and one for office), and a Wii!! And tonight I will have Mexican food (catered by an amazing local restaurant) and chocolate and cake with lots of great church people.

I am 29 today. Since I was born in 1980, I can do this: next year, I will turn 2010, and in 2011 I will turn 2011, and so on. I love it. :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009


is the day that I will make a huge leap and get 10" of my hair cut off to send to Locks of Love.
5pm central time. pray for me and for Arthur (my hair guy). :-)


Saturday, October 17, 2009

be my best--a sermon for Ordinary 29B

Rev. Teri Peterson
be my best
Mark 10.35-45
18 October 2009, Ordinary 29B

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

You can’t always get what you want…hard words for a child of the 80’s, part of the first generation of girls to be told “you can be anything you want to be” with any real sense of truth to that statement. “You can be anything you want to be,” said my mother, who had been told that “girls aren’t marine biologists.” I’m not sure “preacher” was ever a line my non-churched family imagined for their little girl, but there you have it—you can be anything you want to be. Of course, that line was usually followed up with “you just have to work the hardest, do your best, try hard, be the best you can be.” In other words, you just have to be the Best…which of course means being better than everyone else.

There’s danger in being the best. Sure, it can open doors and you can be anything you want. It can also close the mind, making it hard to see when the things we’re seeking are not the things we ought to be doing.

James and John only wanted to be the best—the best disciples, with the best place of honor. And, since they knew that they could be anything they wanted to be, they just asked. “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

Jesus lets them tell him what it is they want him to do before going all Rolling Stones on them—“you can’t always get what you want.”

Part of me wants to go easy on James and John—after all, didn’t Jesus say, “ask and you shall receive”?? Aren’t we supposed to go to God with the deepest desires of our hearts? Aren’t we supposed to want to be the best, strive for the greater things, work toward that place of honor? What’s wrong with asking for what you want? Isn’t that sort of what prayer is about—asking God for things?

I’m pretty sure this is the sort of halfway understanding of prayer-as-magic that floats around in our nominally Christian western culture. When we pray, we ask God for what we want, and we hope God will do it or give it to us. The stereotypical version is the prayer for a parking space, but this is a pretty common approach in a lot of situations, I think. We ask God for peace, for comfort, for healing, for hope, for sunny days, for courage, for partners and friends and colleagues, for justice. And we hope that God will grant those things, at least at some point—though preferably sooner rather than later.

In some ways, it’s a little like we pray to a Jeez-O-Matic, a vending machine God. We press D-8 and we hope for Twix…and if Twix are not what come out, we try C-12 and E-4 and any other combination the vending machine offers, and some it doesn’t offer, hoping for the response we want. Taken to an extreme, this soon becomes a “what’s in it for me?” approach. Sure, I’ll come and follow you—what will you do for me? Yeah, I’ll think about helping my elderly neighbor, but…what’s in it for me? Yes, something needs to be done…but what good will it do me?

“We want for you to do for us whatever we ask of you….in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

But, as Bishop Will Willimon says, Jesus is not a technique for getting what we want out of God; Jesus is God's way of getting what God wants out of us.

While we are praying, asking God for things we want, talking to God about things that matter to us—often life-or-death things—God is also talking to us, in some ways praying to US to do these same things—to bring peace, to do justice, to have the courage to comfort hurting people, to offer hope to those in despair. We pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and that is also what God wants…and what God wants us to do. To live as transformed people who help build the kingdom of God right here on earth. Jesus came to show us God’s will, to be God’s voice and hands and feet…and then to call us, US! the Body of Christ—God’s very own hands and feet and voice and heart right here on earth, where the kingdom is nearby, at hand, coming even now.

We all know that we have to try our hardest and do our best and be all that we can be…but what does it mean to Be My Best in the kingdom of God? Jesus tells us—unlike the rest of the world, in the community of God’s people, in the body of Christ, in the kingdom of God, the greatest is the servant, the VIPs are the slaves of all. When we serve others, when we work for peace and justice, when we comfort the downtrodden and cry with the grieving and laugh with the joyful, when we help those in need, then we are the greatest. The lowest of the low are the ones who end up with the greatest place of glory. Being the best, in the sense of being better than others, won’t get us the place of honor. Instead, Jesus tells us to find our identity in him, to Come, Follow, to wash feet and feed the hungry, to have compassion, to heal. Then we will be our best—our best selves, fully the people God calls us to be. This is exactly what we need.

You can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, October 16, 2009

it's almost my birthday!

Only a few more days.
So the question is...
when do I open all these????


Thanks Dad and grandma!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Columbus" Day

Dear Christopher Columbus,

You were lost. You didn't know where you had landed for months after you got "here" (which wasn't even "here" but islands hundreds of miles south of here, and which had already been "discovered"). You were greedy and cruel, and you exploited both people and land for your own personal gain (perhaps the only of your characteristics we have actually taken on as we celebrate you). Your sense of adventure was driven entirely by your desire to get rich. Your intellectual curiosity did not extend to actually caring about people or their context, only what they could do for you.

And for this, we take a day off school, the banks and post offices are closed, and we supposedly "celebrate"?

I think not.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the day off when I was a student, and I know there are people out there who don't get many holidays and are deserving of this one. It's YOU I don't think are deserving. There are hundreds of better people and better reasons to celebrate--people who have made the world a better place rather than laying groundwork for slavery, people who believed in and practiced justice that leads to peace, rather than exploitation that leads to violence and sickness and poverty, people whose faith led them to do amazing things that have advanced our civilization, our culture, and our sense of hope rather than destroying various parts of God's amazing creation.

But there YOU are, on the calendar, every year.

I hope you enjoy it. And I hope the justice, peace, love, and hope that so eluded people who crossed your path may find it, and find it soon.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

three years ago this weekend...

...I was preaching my first sermon as the associate pastor at RCLPC.

the text? Mark 10, where Jesus tells the rich man to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor, and to "come, follow me." When the man went away saddened by this call, Jesus famously told his disciples that it was "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

I don't think that's very fair for a first sermon for a new pastor, do you?

I didn't either.

I preached it anyway (not well, but that's another story), partly because I am committed to the lectionary even when I hate it and partly because Richard basically told me to and partly because it was stewardship season and mainly because I think it holds words we need to hear.

In the three years since Mark's version of this story last appeared in the lectionary, I've preached somewhere in the realm of 60 other sermons--a lot, for an associate. Some are better and some are worse than that first one here. Most are shorter, since I've finally figured out that sometimes less is more when it comes to preaching (and because our worship schedule just Does.Not.Allow. for 2000 word sermons!).

Also in those three years I have prayed, celebrated communion in the sanctuary/fellowship hall/retreat center/home/park, baptised a bunch of babies, a couple of kids, and an adult. I've participated in the confirmation process of 25 youth. I've organized and led 3 retreats, 2 Thirty Hour Famines, 2 mission trips and 1 Montreat youth conference, and more lock-ins than I care to think about. I've listened to people (and given more advice than I should have), planned about 200 youth group meetings, had a dozen margaritas with the youth leaders, taught adult classes, searched for tons of new music for worship, welcomed 50-ish new members, said goodbye to dear friends who've moved on from this life, listened in about 50 choir rehearsals, sat in hospitals, sung silly songs with children, danced to energizers, played musical chairs, hoped for the best and prepared for the worst, sat in a distressing number of meetings, filled out a zillion building surveys, sent thousands of emails, set up a church facebook page, eaten hundreds upon hundreds of meals (and millions of calories, I'm sure!), dreamed big dreams and cried big tears.

And that doesn't even begin to get into it.

Many associate pastors stay only 3 years. Many first call pastors leave the ministry entirely during that same period of time. The latter is not me, and I hope and pray that the former isn't either. I love this place, I know I'm called to be here, and I look forward to the amazing work still to be done with amazing people.

I seem to have recovered well from that first (bad) sermon. May there be many more cycles of the lectionary still to come. And may the next three years include a slightly cleaner office than the past three...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

o'dark thirty

is right now.

This is the first Sunday when I have woken and readied and (probably, I haven't done it yet, but...) left in the dark.

I don't care what the calendar or the seasons say, it's winter.


Friday, October 02, 2009


This morning I heard a really interesting story on NPR. It seems that Elderhostel, the popular travel and edu-travel program for seniors, is changing its name because people don't like to be called "elders" and are embarrassed to admit that they went on an Elderhostel trip because it might make them seem old. Simultaneously, they insist that if the program allows younger people to come, they won't participate any more. "If the younger people come, I'm out. They'll make us feel old." anyone else seeing a problem? Or possibly a couple of problems?

How about that tired old complaint that young people are just not the same, that we don't listen to or learn from older people, that there's too much separation between generations and families and worldview and history and whatever else...

Gee, I wonder why.

I think this is like the church in a lot of ways. We want younger people, but not the change younger people bring and certainly not noise or movement from children during worship. We don't want to feel old/worn out/doddering/irrelevant/fading. We want to pretend that we aren't something that we are. And, of course, every group can say "we don't want *them* to come be with *us*..." and with the next breath lament the lack of new volunteers, new people in the pews, new families in the Sunday School.

Elderhostel has been renamed "Exploritas"...but it still doesn't make me want to do it, especially after this story. A rose by any other name...

Thursday, October 01, 2009


The weather is changing...well, as much as it can from a cold grey summer to a cold grey fall. It's chilly. The sky is covered in clouds. The wind is cool. The windows are not flung wide, they're just letting in a little fresh air. The kitties are snuggly. My closet can't keep up. It gets dark earlier and light later every day.

Yesterday there was a butterfly that hung out on the screen of my office window. She just sat there for about half an hour. I suspect there's also changing going on there.

The fall routine is beginning to settle in--with crazy busy weeks followed by crazy busier weekends. Youth group, confirmation class, Inquirers' Class, Sunday School, fellowship events, meetings, planning...the switch from summer to fall has seemed more difficult this year, but I'm not sure why. It just seems...more jarring than usual. Maybe because summer weather didn't come until right when the programming/calendar switch happened, so it felt like summer but the full calendar boxes said fall. who knows.

I like the changing of the seasons, I really do. But I could use some sunshine, and about an hour more sleep and three hours more working time every day. It's crazy hard to do the amount of work that needs to be done when it's cloudy all the time!!!