Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I used to make a list when I traveled--everything I needed to pack went on the list, and I carefully ensured that everything on the list went in the bag.
Now I just toss things in and hope I remember everything I need...and assume that if I forgot something, I can probably get it or else it's just not that essential.
Tomorrow's trip involves packing both a bridesmaid dress and a preaching robe. And, presumably, some clothes for the other two days of the trip. And a computer. And wedding-appropriate shoes. And possibly a raincoat (Seattle's looking....wet.). I'm not certain yet whether I'll take the list or the hope-for-the-best approach, since I don't leave for another 12 hours and 36 minutes. I do know that I'm hoping to fit everything into carry-on luggage (yes, everything including some Christmas gifts that need to travel that direction anyway!). At $20 each way for a checked bag, it's just not so practical. Then again, I don't know how practical it is to try to fit a dress and a preaching robe and some christmas presents and clothes all into carry-on/personal-item sized bags either.
In any case...I'm leaving on a jet plane in the morning so I can be a part of Rachel's wedding. I'll also see some family while I'm there. And, in theory, I'll be back in time for youth group Sunday night.
Dear weather: please cooperate. Love Teri.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

how I know winter is really here

Every winter is full of firsts, just like every year and every other kind of adventure. The first frost, the first freeze, the first snow, the first falling-down-in-a-parking-lot, etc.

Tonight was the first night that the temperature gauge on my car engine went backwards, showing that even as I drove alone my car was getting colder rather than warming up.

It happens every year, and once winter really gets going it'll happen nearly every day (unless I let my car run for 10 minutes before getting into it...and even then it might happen anyway). But the first time it's always a bit of a shock. One minute there are two or three dots there (it's digital). I'll glance away and look back only to find there's just one dot left. Sometimes it happens at a stoplight--during the time I sit there, my car gets colder. Sometimes it happens while driving (as it did tonight) which is even more shocking somehow. I mean, the car is moving and still getting colder!

Intellectually, I understand how this happens. I realize it often has to do with how high the heater is turned on to defrost the windows. I know about the physics involved.

But it's still shocking when it actually happens.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


It's the first day, and I always forget.
Short as the non-cold season may be here,
it's long enough to forget
how it doesn't take much--
a dusting, really, along with a cold night/day.
The snow turns to ice,
and what looks sparkly and pretty
and maybe even crunchy, if you get lucky,
is actually slippery.
One wrong step,
one extra swing of an arm,
one slightly-off-balance-from-carrying-a-bag-of-groceries move,
and suddenly I'm down.
and a car is coming.
Quickly enough I'm up again, hoping no one saw,
wondering what the bruise will be like,
glad I didn't get run over...
and glad to have gotten the first parking lot slide of the year out of the way.

Monday, November 29, 2010


We've reached the time of year when it's cloudy almost every day. As I look out my office window this morning, there's gray asphalt and gray sky and even gray-ish barren trees. Once snow falls and then gets old, freezing and re-freezing with dust and dirt and salt inside, it'll be gray ground and gray sky for pretty much all of the foreseeable future.
To say that clouds are not my favorite type of sky-adornment would be an understatement. I love the sun (though it does not love me, thanks to my ridiculously fair skin), I love blue sky, I love to see stars at night and vibrant color in the daytime. But here in the midwest, the blue sky and stars hide behind the clouds for months at a time.

It's not even so much the cold of winter that I find problematic -- though I don't prefer cold! -- it's the drabness. The gray everywhere. But on the other hand, blue skies in winter mean colder days (because the cloud cover does trap the heat a little), so that's a double edged sword. It makes it hard to hate clouds when they keep it slightly warmer, and when they do all their important water recycling work. But still...it's the beginning of the cloudy season, and I miss the sun already.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Be Peace--a sermon for Advent 1A

Rev. Teri Peterson
Be Peace
Psalm 122
28 November 2010, Advent 1A

I was glad when they said to me,

‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’ 

Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together. 

To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,

as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. 

For there the thrones for judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

‘May they prosper who love you. 

Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.’ 

For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’ 

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

I will seek your good.

Every Sunday we say these words to each other: “Peace be with you. And also with you.” Each and every worship service includes the sharing of peace—the peace of Christ, shared among the Body of Christ, and hopefully extended into the whole world.

On a day when we’re still stuffed from a feast, the tryptophan barely worn off, the leftover mashed potatoes beckoning, peace seems easy. Besides the food coma many of us are still in, there’s also the post-family-gathering peace, when we can take a deep breath and let go of the anxiety that often comes with those big family holidays. Once they’ve all gone home and things settle back into normal, the most conflict any of us expect is over who gets to eat the last bite of cranberry sauce. Things seem peaceful enough.

Of course, though, that’s not true in many places in the world. Conflict rages in homes, communities, and nations, and even within individuals. Sometimes those conflicts are supposed to lead to peace, sometimes they are waged only for monetary or political power gains, sometimes they simply end in chaos and tragedy with no redeeming qualities at all. But even when conflict ends, there’s often no peace. Because peace is not simply the absence of conflict—peace is something more than that.

The Hebrew word “shalom” is generally translated “peace,” and it’s a word we hear often enough that we often think we’ve got it down. We know that “shalom” is about wholeness, about healing, about redemption…and together, all these things make up “peace.” But when we use the word “peace” we don’t generally mean all those things…instead we settle for shallow “peace” which is really a façade behind which we suppress our feelings, and so suppress true community. The peace we generally think of is more of the calm surface, even if underneath the waters churn. But shalom is the kind of peace God has in mind for the world, the kind of peace the psalmist prays for, the kind of peace we are to make. This is peace that demands that we be real with ourselves and each other, peace that requires true listening and compassionate speaking, peace that will not settle for any to be left out or left behind. This is not only the absence of conflict, but also the presence of healing and growth. The words of the prophet Isaiah still ring in our ears even as they stick in our throats—the vision of swords turned to plowshares and all the nations walking together in God’s light. We yearn for this vision to be a reality, and yet so often we do nothing to make it a reality. Instead we do what is easy, we practice instant gratification, we turn a blind eye to peace-breaking even as we proclaim “peace be with you.”

During Advent we have an opportunity. Well, we have a choice, I suppose. Advent is a time of waiting—a time when we acknowledge the darkness and the “not-yet” nature of the kingdom of God. We wait with hope and expectation, looking for light that shines in unexpected places and for the coming of God who will bring peace on earth and goodwill to all people. We say no to a culture of instant gratification, no to the commodification of God’s kingdom of love, and no to the desire to skip the hard part in favor of the fun part of the season. The church is a place where we recognize the grief and darkness of the world even as we proclaim that God’s peace, justice, joy, and light are both coming and already here. These are good things, important reasons to observe Advent as a season even as the malls and radio stations skip right ahead to reindeer and jingling bells.

But on the other hand, Advent is a season of waiting—but that doesn’t mean a season of passivity or even patience. Too often, I think, we fall victim to the idea that waiting means doing nothing. That is not what Advent is for—because the kingdom of God is also “already” even if it is “not yet.” We are waiting for God to come and bring peace, and sometimes we forget that God has already come, has already broken in to our world, has already shined a great light, and has already sent us the Holy Spirit in order that WE may BE the Body of Christ in the world—that we may not just wait for peace, not even just make peace or work for it, but that we may BE the peace of Christ in our homes, churches, communities, nations.

We don’t just go up to the house of the Lord—we ARE living temples of the holy spirit, we ARE the body of Christ, we ARE the hands and feet, the hearts and voices, through which God works. Just as the psalmist was transformed from one among a crowd to a proclaimer of peace, when we pray and praise, worship and work, we are transformed from those who simply wait to those who embody the truth of God’s grace for all people, the promise of peace for a world prone to turn plows into swords rather than the other way around. That is why our mission statement says that “we ARE an ever-widening circle of grace.” That’s not something we’re waiting for, or something we’re like—it’s who and what we are. Have we lived up to our full potential, fully given ourselves to God’s will, completely followed God’s call to us? Not yet. But that doesn’t mean we ought to wait for God to do something about that. Instead it means that we strive to be who God calls us to be.

How can we BE peace in a world of ubiquitous violence? I don’t have an answer for that, and I suspect each of us will have to discern our ways. A good start would be to not engage in violence—and while it seems easy to refrain from physical violence, it’s much harder to discipline our words, our language, into peace. Perhaps that can be our Advent challenge—to speak only peace. Another way to be peace is to recognize where there is brokenness and work toward healing—to conspire with God to reconcile and lift up, to see truly and help wherever there is need—to feed people who are hungry, to give warmth to people who are cold, to offer hospitality to people who are lonely, and to recognize and encourage the humanity, the child of God, in each person we meet, whether we meet them at the food pantry, PADS, the grocery store, work, on the train or on a sidewalk. When we truly see one another, then we can truly have compassion for one another, and then we are on the road to shalom.

In many ways the world lives in Advent, though we don’t often recognize it. We are waiting for something…for someone to do something, for the world to get better, for God to break in and bring the kingdom, for a light to shine in the darkness. And waiting is important and good, it’s true, particularly if we can do it without filling the void with more gadgets and toys and things. Yet waiting can also be a distraction, a false idol of its own. At the risk of sounding cliché, I quote the elders of the Hopi nation, “we are the ones we have been waiting for.” And the ones God, and the world, has been waiting for. We are the body of Christ, called, equipped, and empowered to BE peace in and for the world. May that be our Advent task.

Peace be with you.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

giving thanks

Today I am thankful for:
safe travels.
friends who invite me into their family.
my many sets of extra parents around the world (I'm looking at you, John and Betsy, Martha and David, Norman and Ruth, Naadia and Marsa, and now Suzanne and Theo).
my family, who almost always pick up the phone when I call and are awesome.
my kitties.
having more food than my body needs to survive, and more space to live in than is absolutely necessary.
electricity and running water.
a comfy bed.
the time to relax, play games, talk, and laugh.

Today my favorite things to eat will all happen together!
Mashed Potatoes!!!!!!
Green Bean Casserole (the traditional and bad for you Campbells/French's goodness)
Pecan Pie
possibly ice cream...

Oh yes, it's going to be a good day.

What are you thankful for, and what are you excited to eat?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Every day I write on 750words.com. (I'm on a 60 day streak!) It's like morning pages, but typed...sort of a form of stream-of-consciousness free-write journalling, an opportunity to get all the stuff in my brain out of the way so I can think more clearly and be more creative (at least in theory). It's private, so don't bother looking for that writing, and don't be concerned that anyone is reading what you write (like they can on a blog...though whether anyone reads my blog is up for debate!).

At the end of your 750 words, the site will tell you your "stats"--things like how long it took you to write them (I average 10-15 minutes), what the weather was like, how many times you got distracted (stopped typing for more than three minutes), and your mood. It also tells you which voices you tend to write in, and which tense. I'm pretty equal on tenses--talking about past, present, and future. But when it comes to voice, I lean heavily on first person (both singular and plural) and occasionally third person...but I hardly ever write in second person.

So I was thinking about this yesterday....and I realized that I would have a very hard time writing "you"--particularly consistently for 750 words. I am not entirely sure why this is, but I have a suspicion.

Most of what I write are sermons.

And from the pulpit, using "you" does a couple of things I really abhor.
1. It separates me from the congregation, the people who need to hear the word, when really I am just as much in need of hearing the word (and Word) as any listener.
2. It is extremely difficult to use without sounding condescending, patronizing, or accusatory. In fact, I think I've heard it done well maybe once in the past 11 years of listening to sermons.

Now, obviously, my 750 words each day are not a sermon (though they are close in length, LOL!). No one is reading or hearing anything I write there--and believe me, most of what I brain-dump there is so awful no one would *want* to read or hear it. But I still persist in avoiding the second person voice. I don't know if that's a deficiency in my writing, a skill I haven't developed (or have intentionally suppressed), or if it's actually a good thing to keep avoiding it there so I don't get into a habit of using it and then end up with it in places I really don't want it to be.

I don't know that I'll change this, but it is interesting to think about.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

not playing on purpose

I confess that I didn't play the Friday Five yesterday on purpose. I could have--I have answers for all those questions, I had the free time, etc.

But I didn't do it because I'm just not ready to think about snow yet. The photo there looks exactly like my backyard will look any minute now. The cold and gray and snowy blah of winter is on its way--we've already had a reprieve of almost a month, so I know it's going to be here soon and it's going to last a lot longer than I want it to (I can handle snow and cold and yuck for about 6 weeks...then I'm just annoyed/sad/bitter/frozen).

So I didn't play the Friday Five because maybe if I pretend it's not about to be snow season, it won't come. that works, right?

Friday, November 12, 2010


I know this sounds kind of petty, but I have been irritated by the ways people have been using language lately. I don't know if I'm more sensitive to this kind of usage or if it's been getting worse, but here it is anyway.

"They" are not "the gays."
Nor are "they" "the poor."

these are people we're talking about...people who are gay, people who are poor, people who are homeless, people who are hungry, people who are straight, people who are rich, people who are in debt, etc.

Unless I'm going to start hearing about "the straights" on NPR, I don't want to hear about "the gays" either. (can you tell I was listening to a story about DADT on the radio this afternoon?)
Ditto for "the poor" or "the needy" or "the homeless." Those are not descriptors of WHO they are, they are descriptors of the situation they are in. That is not the same thing.

Please, people, use language in a way that does not devalue human beings. Because that is what we all are, regardless of any other way we might find ourselves described--we are people, children of God, part of a community, and worth the extra effort to avoid de-humanising.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Freeway Feud

On the way home from the (totally awesome) high school retreat, we in the lead car got to witness a freeway feud! I promised I would blog about it, so here it is.

We were a four-car caravan on I39. It wasn't late, but it was dark (thanks, time change). We passed a red truck as it entered the freeway...and then, about 45 minutes later, it passed us. And I don't mean that after 45 minutes he zoomed around us, I mean that he stayed in the left lane "passing" us for probably 35 of those minutes. There was a silver van behind the red truck...driven by an obviously irritated person. The van's bright headlights kept getting flashed...and so the driver of the red truck chose to block the van in. This stretch of freeway was 2 lanes in each direction...so our four-car-caravan was in the right lane, and this truck-and-flashing-light-van was in the left lane. Together. In sync. For almost 40 minutes.

When the truck finally got past me, the van took the exactly-van-width space to go around in front of me...and naturally then the truck sped up, zooming ahead until he was even with the next car up in the right lane, where he promptly slowed down to almost exactly the same speed as the right lane car. I mean, the truck must have been going about .08 mph faster than cars in the right lane, so he was *technically* passing...but not really. The van tried to go around but got stuck behind the truck again...repeat the whole sequence...and then here's where it gets interesting.

The second attempt ended with all of us trying to get around the car in the right lane, which was driving exactly the speed limit. (aside: ugh. we were only going 3-4 mph over, and still were irritated.) By now all of us in the car are on the edge of our seats, engaging in all kinds of commentary about what is going on in front of us. Then another truck we'd passed earlier came zooming up in the right lane, only to be stuck behind the speed-limit-observing driver. Soon the red truck and black truck were even with each other, and the red truck driver decided it was time to exit...and so tried to cut off the black truck. Unsuccessful...back into his left lane. Then he tried just drifting purposefully into the right lane, essentially attempting to sideswipe the black truck and force them out of the way. Also unsuccessful, though very nerve racking for those of us behind them watching this whole thing unfold! Finally the red truck slowed down precipitously and went around behind the black truck to exit, from the left lane, at the last possible exiting moment (not even really *on* the ramp, exactly).

And then the freeway was once again boring, the feud having ended.

But...wow. The whole time we're watching this happen, all at 65 miles an hour, and hoping that there's no accident (though one was likely more than once)! It definitely gave us a chance to talk about defensive driving, too--seeing something like that happening and then anticipating various moves, like the van cutting us off or the truck trying to exit. It was more excitement than we anticipated for the drive home, that's for sure!

And, in case you're wondering, the moral of the story is that we ALL know, even teenagers, why you drive that huge truck and why you're acting like an a** on the freeway. Your ...ahem... compensating... is obvious to all.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

going visiting

I'm trying to visit more RevGal blogs more regularly--it's such a wonderful community and I want to be sure others feel that community too, and besides that...I like to know things. That's right, I'm curious and inquisitive and I hate to miss stuff.
So...I've been visiting down the list (we don't have a ring anymore because ringsurf had become a nightmare in more ways than one). I'm trying to read one letter (or sometimes two) per day...so I'm through D right now. It occurred to me that I should perhaps post links to blogs that I find particularly interesting along the way...sort of like the old-fashioned round-up, only more subjective and, frankly, slower since there are so many blogs in the ring now!

So, in no particular order, here are a few of the blogs that caught my eye, or my imagination, or my prayers, in the A-D:

Ciona is in Malawi and is blogging about her adventures, complete with photos!

Karla caught my eye by blogging about sitting around doing nothing on her day off (which is one of the things I also like to do sometimes), and today she has some beautiful and prayer-provoking poetry up.

JJ has been practicing my other favorite thing to do on my day off: get out of town and do something fun...elsewhere!

MperiodPress is having adventures in Italy and in bridges (both physical and metaphorical). I love Rome, so I was excited to read her accounts of the city and her experiences both with the city/culture and with her group and the language and other difficulties.

Kirstin has had some good news and some disappointment, and needs prayers and support and help from people who might be nearby. Warning to people sensitive to cancer issues: Kirstin has cancer and is currently in treatment, and if reading about that is going to be difficult, please just pray for her.

Silent is doing the post-every-day-in-November blogging challenge. I always look forward to the tidbits about BabyGirl and their transition to a new home.

Katherine has posted some adorable Halloween pictures of Juliette, the cutest chicken on the block!

What (or who) have you been reading?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

ordination anniversary

As previously noted, I love the liturgical calendar. In fact, I love it so much that instead of celebrating my ordination anniversary on the calendar date (October 29) I celebrate it on the liturgical date (Reformation Sunday).
That's right, I was ordained on Reformation Sunday. How awesome is that?

It's been four years since that Reformation Sunday when I knelt on the cold marble steps of Fourth Presbyterian Church and felt the weight of hands laid on. Four years since the first time I got to break bread and remind people that whenever we eat together we literally Re-Member ourselves as the body of Christ. Four years since my house was overflowing with people I love yet empty of my possessions (which arrived a few days later).
In those four years I've done weddings and funerals, celebrated communion in all kinds of settings, laughed and cried, eaten and fasted, played and prayed and planned and preached, and survived multiple transitions in work and personal life. In some ways it's hard to believe it's only been four years. In other ways it's hard to believe it's already been four years.
I chose Reformation Sunday for my ordination very intentionally--not only because this liturgical and historical day is important to me (what's cooler than being ordained on the day on which we celebrate being able to read the Bible for ourselves--the very way that I came to faith? or being ordained on the day when the church changed forever, paving the way for people like me (girls) to be able to be pastors?) but also because it was the Sunday closest to the day my mom died, and that day was important to me for different reasons.
This year Reformation Sunday falls ON the anniversary of my mom dying (that's right, she died on Reformation Day/Halloween), and the whole weekend feels different. I don't know if it's bad different or good different, but I do know that I am glad to have this Sunday off, and glad to be celebrating life from two perspectives. And also sad, of course--sad that my mom never lived to see my ordination, or the anniversaries, or even me-becoming-a-productive-member-of-society. Sad that I can't share the things of life and work and home and whatever with her. And at the same time glad that I was able to arrange the dates that way so she could be with us even if in a different way than I had hoped.

Four years...time flies...and will continue to fly...

So, on this Reformation weekend, don't just eat candy but also crack open that Bible and give thanks for the people who made that possible, and for the people who have made all kinds of things possible, including your parents.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Five--comfort media

Kathryn writes over at RGBP:

It seems no matter how many new movies, tv shows or books come down the pike I still have my ol' stand by favorites that I can watch/read over and over and when I do they actually bring me comfort - like an old sweatshirt or a favorite food.

Today's Friday Five is an opportunity for you to list five of your favorite 'go-to' movies/tv shows/books. You can use images, links, explanations or netflix.

Well...let's see...five go-to movies, tv shows, books...

First, of course, is a movie I have probably seen 100+ times since it came out when I was 7 years old, and a book I've read probably two dozen times at least. I can quote the movie, word for word and sound for sound, from the beginning...by myself. I love it. Oh, Princess Bride, you are fantastic.

Second would probably have to be Buffy/Angel. I can pull out an episode for almost any feeling or situation, and I've watched both series multiple times through.

Third I think is Pride and Prejudice--either the book or the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth. Because what about Colin Firth doesn't scream "comfort media"??? ;-) NOT the Keira Knightley movie, which was a wonderful art film but not Pride and Prejudice, in my opinion. But seriously, I love the story and the characters...

Fourth...hmm...Harry Potter movies. In particular I love rewatching the first and the 5th/6th movies. I love the first because I can remember the excitement of seeing Quidditch played on the big screen for the first time and how awesome that was, and also I just love the story of Harry discovering this whole hidden world. The latter two I like because of the way the storylines are played out. I also like to re-read the books, because the description is so engaging and yet the books are fast reads.

Fifth...Lamb and Good Omens. I realize these are not related books, nor are they written by the same author, but they are similar in some ways, and they are both books that make me laugh laugh laugh about religion and life and everything. I re-read them each at least once a year if not more, and I give them away to others in need of a chuckle. Hilarious!

Monday, October 25, 2010

words words words

This is probably going to sound weird, but just go with it.

I think I've been word deficient.

It's sort of like being iron deficient (which most meat eaters will never be, but vegetarians know to watch out for...). Not quite anemic, but just in that stage of not ingesting or effectively processing enough iron to keep the body running top-notch. The general symptoms of iron deficiency (in my experience anyway) involve fatigue, more fatigue, and slightly paler skin than usual.
I know...I am already as pale as most people can even imagine, but trust me, I can get paler.

Word deficiency seems to be kind of the same--fatigue and unhealthy pallor. In a metaphorical sense, of course. I've noticed my imagination is less active (except in unhelpful ways). My writing is either non-existent or terrible. My sense of wonder and even general happiness is sort of lacking. And any poetic sensibilities I may have harbored at any point are completely missing. Even my listening skills seem dulled.

I think this is because I have not been reading as much as I normally do/should. My word intake is below the RDA.

I mean, yes, I read stuff. I read news stories online and I read facebook status updates and tweets and blogs and the occasional church-related magazine. And I read material that I'm planning to teach or use in preaching. But for several months now my general reading has been low.

I noticed it most when I was away on retreat and I read 4 books in 6 days.

Yeah. That's a lot of reading.

the thing is, it felt so GOOD! It was almost like replenishing my internal word count--like I had somehow depleted the sheer number and potential combinations of words inside of me, and was now coming back to healthy levels.

So now that I'm not on retreat anymore, I'm working on some kind of routine that will either allow or force (depending on your perspective...and probably mine too!) me to read something, or several different types of something, every day. Not just online, but in real books or kindle editions. Not just church related magazines but novels, sociological stuff, spiritual practices, poetry, theology, maybe even some other kind of non-fiction.

Just like I have to be intentional about iron, I think I need to be more intentional about my word intake. Healthy sources, plenty of them, and in combination with the right things that will make the words digestable, useable, things I can process. I'm taking suggestions for reading...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reframing Hope--a book review

Well, as much as I do a "book review" anyway. I don't really follow that formal format...it's not quite how my brain works. But I will share with you where my brain went while reading this book!

It’s taken me a long time to find the time to focus and read just one book that isn’t for an immediate (like, in a few hours) adult ed class. But wow, I am glad I spent the time reading Carol Howard Merritt’s latest work, Reframing Hope.

The thing I love about Carol’s writing is that I feel like she may be the only person writing about a new generation without talking down-to/about-from-the-outside. I realize that she is part of this generational shift and so speaks from within rather than outside, but she also manages to write in that sort of inside voice. (By contrast, books such as unchristian, They Like Jesus But Not Church, etc, all feel like they are attempting to talk about “us” via the GenX/Millennial stereotypes and caricatures common among older generations, rather than from within.)

This book was, for me, a relatively quick read, and while I didn’t find it earth-shattering for my worldview or faith or church involvement, I could see in every chapter something that others in my church life would find surprising, new, or challenging. I also heard echoes of my own preaching, which is often characterized as “always being about community.” Well, yes, of course it’s about community—because I believe that is one of the defining issues of our time and one of our greatest needs as human beings…and something that has been so changed by technological advances over the past 50 years. Carol also talks repeatedly about the importance of community, and what community might look like in generations that have grown up in a postmodern era/the internet age, and during a generation-long distrust of institutions. (And, of course, even as these cultural changes play out we see how the turnings of culture and generations are relatively predictable—see Strauss and Howe’s Fourth Turning for more about how we now live in the midst of a culture shift that is likely to bring about a greater desire for, and building of, community.)

As leaders (ordained and not!) of established congregations, particularly in the mainline, we need to be reading this book (and Tribal Church, too!). These shifts are real, the culture change across the generations is real, and the needs of a new generation are real. New generations are not going to turn into the previous ones—there is no chance that GenX-ers are going to magically turn into Boomers as we age. Instead we continue to live out our experiences and our archetypes (drawing again on Strauss and Howe), only older. GenX and Millennials and the new generation of children are not going away, and we are not going to change to be copies of our parents and grandparents, so it’s time the church learned what that means for ministry, for community, for sharing and living the gospel, for caring and bringing hope and loving one another as Christ has loved us. This book is a good start as we seek to understand and minister to/with people of a new generation.

30 and 1 day

I am now 30 years and 1 day old.

I have been having a fantastic week on retreat for my birthday...I've been with friends, I've read several books and eaten some amazing food and had some good wine...I've been to a new-ish restaurant called Kamasouptra (teehee) and seen gorgeous leaves and even seen some unexpected friends. I've gifted amazing cookies and slept in and stayed up late and talked the night away. I've had an awesome homecooked dinner and worn a party hat made out of a Whole Foods bag (did you know it's also Whole Foods' 30th birthday?).

I've also been in that weird space--the grief space--with some great friends to help me through. I don't know if they know they've been doing that, but they have. Because every year these 10 days are a little like Lent or something--it has the internal feel of a liturgical observance, from the time I last spoke to my mother (5 years and 1 day ago) to the day she died (4 years and 356 days ago). I can feel it--how I go inside myself, don't hear other things as clearly, and am generally less outgoing and more tired. Each year has been different, of course, and my birthday has been amazing in its own way each year since that one, but this one feels different somehow. I'm not sure how, but I'm glad to be with friends. (except for the part where I have to go home in the morning...that part, not so much glad, more sad.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

to me!

Happy birthday to me,
happy birthday to me,
happy birthday to MEEEEEEEE....
Happy birthday to me!

And also to Cassie and to WG, daughters of good friends.

Much love to the October 21 birthday girls! :-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

more than meets the eye--a sermon for Ordinary 29C

DRAFT written at the corn maze...edits later. comments welcome!

Rev. Teri Peterson
more than meets the eye
Jeremiah 31.31-34
17 October 2010, Ordinary 29C

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Did you know that your spinal cord is only as big around as your index finger, but contains 10 billion nerves cells? Or that there is enough iron in your body to make one nail? Or that your nervous system transmits messages to your brain at the speed of 180mph? Our bodies are incredible things, with all kinds of hidden beauty and complexity. (all facts from here)

Some of you have probably seen the exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry—the ones with cross sections of the human body, or where you can see a humongous 3-D heart. Exhibits like these, along with pictures and doctors and TV shows, have taught us much about how the body works, and just what is inside this skin of ours. Our bodies are much more on the inside than they appear on the outside. And, of course, who we are is much more than just our physical body—we are more than meets the eye.

Who we are includes all kinds of things—from our bodies to our thoughts and beliefs to our education and experiences to our actions and words. While we are more than the sum of our parts, our lives do reflect all those parts. Often we can see someone’s heart in the way they relate to others, we can see their faith reflected in their choices and actions. And we can see the changes God makes in people in the ways they live their life every day.

Jeremiah tells us of a promise—a promise given during the darkest shadow of death, in the midst of deepest despair and loss. The Israelites have been pulled from their homes and taken to Babylon and the Temple has been destroyed. In a culture and religion that bases identity on living in the land God gave them and on worshipping in the Temple where God lives, being in exile meant that they were no longer a people—no longer a nation and also no longer the people of God. They were abandoned, alone, without hope...and they were living their lives as if that were true. Until…the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah, saying “I’m still here—have courage.” God promises to stick around even in the dark days, even in the midst of horror, even when we can’t see God’s work or feel God’s presence or hear God’s breath. And to prove it: a new covenant, one not based on physical stone tablets or a small inner room in the Temple or even on Thou Shalt Nots.

At Sinai, God gave the gift of freedom and the gift of land and the gift of community, and made this covenant to remind us of those gifts. This new covenant is a little different. It’s a covenant for captivity, a covenant that can be kept anywhere, a covenant impossible to break. No matter where we are, what darkness surrounds us, or what dis-ease lurks below our surface, this covenant is for us. We shall be God’s people, because God has written the covenant inside us. When we were being knit together in our mothers’ wombs, already God was replacing our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. When we are lost and fear we might never be found, even then God’s word of life is within us. When hope has deserted us, or we have deserted it, still the Word dwells within us and God’s breath is nearer to us than our hands or feet. We may not see it, but God is there, working in and through us.

This is a covenant that changes us, changes who we are and how we live. God promises to be at work in our hearts, in our spirits, in our physical bodies and our spiritual lives…and that inner change will also bring outer change. God is in the business of transforming us, literally from the inside out, from the center of our being out into our actions and lives. God writes the word on our hearts, and sends the Living Word into our midst to be the heart of the Body. This is a community covenant, not really an individual one (though we often understand it that way). It’s a covenant with the house of Israel, with the whole body. And it’s a covenant that levels the playing field in the community, too—from the least to the greatest, everyone is a beloved and forgiven child of God, which means everyone has something to offer. Since transformation is something God does in communities, not something we do to ourselves or by ourselves, that also means that just showing up doesn’t guarantee the inside out change God promises…but at the same time that not being in the community is a hindrance to God’s work. So we need to be here and also engage our minds and hearts, not just tune out when the music or the prayer isn’t our favorite. We need to show up and also truly share our lives with one another, not just put on a happy façade. We need to come together and also pray for each other and for our community. We need to be here in this building and also out in the world working and playing together in God’s mission. We need to be a part of the community with our physical bodies and also with all that other stuff that makes up who we are—our intellects, our experiences, our resources. Then we too might experience this transformation, this change from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, from lost to found, from being confined by the smallness of our vision to being freed for God’s vision. God is always at work in us as individuals and as the body of Christ and as a part of the world community God created and called good.

Some of you may recognize my sermon title as being part of the Transformers cartoon theme song. Just like The Transformers, we are definitely more than meets the eye. But even the Transformers show their true nature out in the world! So it’s also true that this change is one that carries over into both our private and public lives, into our public discourse and our relationships and our choices, into our homes and our workplaces and playgrounds. For no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, we are the people of God, children of the covenant, loved and made to love others.

May it be so.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

watch and pray...

I should be packing up my stuff right now so we can get going on the last day of our Door County adventure (which has been so far pretty awesome!). But instead I'm watching the live coverage of the Chilean Miner Rescue on cnn.com. This is incredible to see and almost hard to believe. I can't imagine spending two and a half months trapped in one small section of mine half a mile underground. I can't imagine being raised or lowered through a tiny hole for 15 minutes. I can't imagine being a family member of one of those men. And, until late last night, I couldn't imagine watching something like this on TV or the internet. It's crazy.
And all I keep hearing in my head is the song from Taize... "stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray, watch...and pray..."

I imagine that has been the prayer of the miners, too--to not be forgotten, to not be given up on, to have people remain and pray. (I know that's not how Jesus used the words, but the way Jesus used them is not the way many of us use them anyway, even when we are not in crisis...)
And now it's my prayer--that we will continue to watch and to pray until all are free, whether from mines or from abusive relationships or from literal slavery or from addiction or from bullying or from illness or from anything else that binds us.

Door County, day 2

Eagle Bluff lighthouse, from a boat (according to the boat captain I talked to on the phone, "the way a lighthouse was meant to be seen."). I think I successfully got a slight sun/wind burn on this boat trip. It was gorgeous!

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, from the land. Peninsula State Park was beautiful and the lighthouse tour was fun.

view from the top of the Eagle Tower...toward the village of Ephraim (which, we learned later, is the only remaining "dry" town in all of Wisconsin!).

horseshoe island

Pretty stones (also smooth and soft feeling like Schoolhouse Beach was) at Pebble Beach. It is also illegal to take stones from here...but not to take pictures!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Door County Day 1--Washington Island

The Pottawatomie Light House on Rock Island--oldest light in Wisconsin. Thanks to state park volunteer Dave who stuck around to give us a tour through the house and all the way up to the 4th 0rder Fresnel lens (now a replica because the original was stolen. how one steals something so massive, I have no idea...). Getting here required two ferries, a fair amount of driving, a 2.5 mile round trip hike, and getting up really early. But it was totally worth it. (volunteer Dave may have been worth all that himself--he was amusing and insightful and knowledgeable...crucial in anyone giving a tour!)

Schoolhouse Beach--with smooth (and strangely velvety feeling) limestone gems rather than sand. So many of these have been taken from the beach that it's now illegal to remove them--and the fine if you're caught is $250 PER STONE. It was super pretty and the rocks were very tempting...but not $250/rock tempting.

we became "leafers" for just a few photos...because who wouldn't? We even climbed the 188 steps of the "mountain tower" for this one:

We also visited the Stavkirke, which is both strange and beautiful at the same time...

and we saw a gorgeous sunset. :-)

We ate dinner between a full suit of armor holding a sword and a backlit stained glass window. (why yes, we were at the English Inn, why do you ask?) I couldn't get photos because it was too dim, but trust me when I say it was very old-school-art-institutey.

Tomorrow: more lighthouses, more boats. I believe you might start to think there's a theme... :-)

Friday, October 08, 2010


It won't feel like a big deal to the rest of you, but it is a big deal.

Yesterday, I came to the end of the stack of magazines that have been piling up in my office for almost a year.

That's right, I managed to at least skim (but mostly read, as in full-on READ) every single magazine that I have put into the pile on my desk for the past 11 months. Youth ministry magazines, the Christian Century, Presbyterians Today, magazines from various charity and mission organizations, the Alban Institute magazine, etc. Every. Last. One.

When I began this particular part of the clean-my-office project, the stack was probably about 18 inches tall, maybe taller.

And last night, I finished.

Some of the magazines went into the stack of collage supplies. Some went into the recycling bin. Some had pages torn out and distributed to various ministry teams, colleagues, files, etc. But all have been read and dealt with in some way.

This is a huge milestone. It meant that when the new Christian Century arrived in my box (also yesterday), I could read it right away without feeling like I needed to just add it to the stack. It meant that I could see a roughly 9x12 area on the top of my desk for the first time in nearly a year. It meant that the tallest of the piles that needed to be dealt with in the office cleaning project was gone--poof.
And now it means that I can move on to the much quicker aspects of cleaning and organizing, because that huge project is finished, and I feel like I can safely move ahead. I know the things I should have known when these issues were published. I've filed the stories or poems or images that might be useful. Now it's time to file or recycle or otherwise deal with everything else on my desk.

Trust me, it's a milestone. A big one.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

the silent drive

Lately I've been keeping the radio in my car turned off.

No NPR, no CDs, no iPod playing over 87.7.

It's a little eerie, how quiet a car can be.
I've been trying to think about using my "commute" (13 minutes if every light is red) as a time for prayer and reflection and some form of meditation. It is, of course, possible to do that with the radio or CD player or iPod on. I've prayed for the people in news stories and for the media of our country, even for the NPR people who pretend they love pledge drives three times a year. I've prayed through singing along with the Indigo Girls at the top of my lungs. I've used pray-as-you-go in the car, since they last almost exactly the length of my "commute." I've listened for the Holy Spirit in the iPod Shuffle or the Global Activism segment on Worldview (Thursdays).
But now I'm trying out silence.

It feels weird, to be in the car with no sound. My car is surprisingly sound proof when the windows are all rolled up. I can hear the engine tick sometimes (in a good way), I can hear the fan running, and I can sometimes hear the tires on the road. But mostly it's quiet. Maybe quieter than anywhere else I go--there's always some kind of sound pretty much wherever I am, whether it's cats purring or the refrigerator running or the office administrator typing or the heater or the washing machine or any number of other things. But in the car, it's just quiet--the kind of quiet I'm not really used to.

I haven't quite figured out how to use that time yet. Because I still have to pay attention to driving, it's not quite the same thing as the traditional "quiet time" lots of very spiritual people claim to have. It's not the kind of meditation where I can take my brain to a happy place and just relax every muscle and wait for the Spirit to move. It's more...meditative awareness? Almost hyper-awareness, even? I can send good vibes and light into neighborhoods, homes, schools, and businesses that I pass. I can look at people in cars around me (this is best done via the rear view mirror, since people totally get weirded out if you stare at them when they're in the car next to you). I can imagine all these people, even the ones who don't know where they're going or how to merge properly, as children of God. I can notice the little red fox coming out of the woods as I drive home at night, and think about the other creatures that coexist with us in our neighborhoods. But somehow it still feels like I'm missing something...

Granted, I've been without the radio consistently for about 2 days, so that's not long. There have always been times when I've turned it off and just driven in silence, but not every time. I'm trying it out for the rest of the week and we'll see how it goes...

Do you use driving as a time to pray or to "commute with God"? How?

Monday, October 04, 2010

grand plans

I have grand plans for how my days are going to go. I have a plan for a new routine that involves getting up at roughly the same time every work day, writing on 750words.com, working out half an hour, taking a shower, writing a blog post or a book chapter, and then going to work. (I can do this because I don't work until 10 at the earliest except for Sundays...)

Of course, this plan only works if I wake up at the time I need to wake up. In other words, I have to get out of bed when the alarm goes off.

Even if I fell asleep on the couch for several hours and only "went to bed" (like in my actual bed) a few hours ago.

Even if it's still dark outside.

Even if it's really cold outside my bed but inside my bed is nice and warm and cozy.

Even if the kitties are all snuggly and warm and happy.

You can clearly see my problem, right?

My motivation dissipates in cold weather...which is bad news since cold weather and dark (or dark grey) is about to become the norm for, oh, the next 7 months.

So...tomorrow I try again. (yes, I'm going to go ahead and call today a failure on the new routine front, since I didn't get up until around the time I should have been finishing up the second spurt of writing this morning....) Wish me luck.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


This is a week when work and play have overlapped and intertwined and found their way through my days. I've recently been playing Mario Galaxy 2 on my Wii...it's crazy hard and many nights you can find me on my couch shouting at Mario on my tv screen, wildly waving the Wii-mote. Some may think that's not really play, or at least not relaxing, but it really is surprisingly fun. (well, most of it--there are a few levels that stretch the definition of fun to the max, but it's technically still play...)
Then this week I also WENT to a play...I saw Candide (oh, Leonard Bernstein, how I love your music) at the Goodman Theater with my friend Jenny. It was a very good show, capturing the spirit of Voltaire's novel and inviting the audience into the creative process of putting on the production. I found it funny and touching, inviting and depressing, strange and wonderful and beautiful and horrifying all at once.
And then this week at youth group we are planning a game that combines aspects of pilgrimage/labyrinth-walking, Cranium, and theology/bible/mission...in a life size board game. The game takes up the entire fellowship hall and we move around the "board" and have to answer questions or perform tasks at every square we land on. It will be awesome.

It occurs to me that these three types of play--personal, communal, and theatrical--are crucial aspects of the way we approach life. We need a little drama, a little problem solving, a little journey, a little laughter and a little stress and a little Bernstein music. We need to play alone (and learn to make our own fun and to amuse ourselves), we need to play with others (and figure out how to play well with others too), and sometimes we need to watch others play. One of the things I enjoyed about Candide was that the cast was obviously having a good time. They understood their roles in a satire to be filled with irony and subtle hilarity, and they were clearly enjoying it as much as we were. And if we never see others play, how do we learn to play ourselves? I mean, children play--at least, most (healthy) children do. They have active imaginations and lots of ideas and they play basically all the time. But at some point in our education or maturing process, we lose some of that. We lose imagination and wonder and wild abandon. Instead we play by doing grown up things like eating out or going to the movies or even playing video games (which, for me anyway, don't involve a lot of imagination or wild abandon--they are about figuring things out and accomplishing tasks to get points...which is still a form of being productive, if you think about it...).
But when we see others play, when we see a play, our imaginations are engaged, there are tons of possibilities, and we have to suspend reality for a little while. So ultimately, while the actors may be the ones playing a role, I think we are the ones playing--letting go and just having fun exploring an imaginary world for a little while. I'm glad I got to do that this week, and I am excited about seeing 2 more productions in coming weeks. May there be more play in all our lives...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Investment 101--a sermon for Ordinary 26C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Investment 101
Jeremiah 32.1-3a, 6-15
26 September 2010, Ordinary 26C

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was imprisoned in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had imprisoned him.
Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.
And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

I have to confess that, in spite of my sermon title, I don’t know very much about investing. The things I know are, in no particular order: that it involves money, usually large amounts; that the purpose of investing is both to support a company and to make money for myself, preferably lots of money for myself; that we should work to invest responsibly with companies that we trust and that don’t engage in activity or policy we find horrible…and that for many people that last point is optional.
So I’m probably the last person who should be talking about the basics of investing—I need to take that class, not teach it! Except that I think our usual investment strategies and portfolios are missing something—something that Jeremiah might be able to help us out with.
Now I know, you’re all sitting out there thinking that Jeremiah, and especially this story, is even harder to understand than the finer points of finance. Between the hard-to-pronounce names and the fuzzy historical details, the significance of a story like this is easily lost on us. We can barely make out what just happened, let alone why it was an important enough story to be told 2600 years later.

Here’s what happened: Jeremiah was in prison for doing his job well—for speaking the word of God to the people in power. The Babylonian army was camped all around Jerusalem and was using all the surrounding villages and fields to feed the troops. Jeremiah’s cousin came and offered him the deal of a lifetime—to buy a piece of prime real estate smack in the middle of the siege, a piece of real estate conveniently located under the tents and weapons of the Babylonian army. And Jeremiah, never one to pass up a good opportunity for symbolic action and metaphor, paid his cousin actual money for this piece of worthless land.

This is not unlike a Palestinian farmer buying a piece of land from his neighbor—a piece of land that just happens to be located under an Israeli settlement.

Or, if we leave the land part of the story behind for a moment, it’s a little like a conservation worker trying to save the pandas, even though the numbers don’t look good and the bamboo forests are being cut down and the people are moving further and further into the panda habitat.

Or like the architects who designed, and the patrons who financed, and the laborers who built, those cathedrals in Europe—cathedrals that took an average of 150 years—three lifetimes, or 4-5 generations of workers—to build.

The thing all of these people have in common is a vision—a vision of a future that others can’t always see, a vision for life in all its fullness, a vision of the kingdom of God. And they have invested themselves—their time, their imagination, their money, their energy—in that vision.

Just a few chapters ago, God reminded Jeremiah that God has a vision for the people—a vision for a future of hope. But if we really believe this—if we really believe that God keeps promises, that the promise is for a future of hope, that Christ came that we might have life in all its fullness, that the Spirit moves among us bringing life and light and hope, that God is widening the circle of grace even more than we can imagine, or (to use the words of the song we just sang a few minutes ago), “In you, O Lord, I put my trust” / “My hope is in no other save in Thee”…why aren’t we investing too? We’ve even been given investment guidelines: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind, and all our strength—in other words, with everything we are, everything we have, everything we do. This is an all-or-nothing investment strategy, one in which we put God, not ourselves, at the top of our portfolio list. We invest in God’s future of hope, not in securing our own futures. And Jeremiah shows us what that looks like—we put our money where we say our faith is. If we believe that God has a future of hope in store, that houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought, that occupying armies will leave and peace and justice will one day rule, that abundant life is possible and even desirable for every part of God’s creation…if we believe that God’s covenant is for real and we are a part of it, then it’s time to invest. It’s time to spend our money, our time, our reputations, our energy, our creativity, our resources, all our capital, on showing that we believe these things to be true. Because without investment, businesses don’t grow—and in this sense the kingdom of God is a little like a business. When we pray “your kingdom come” that must mean that we want it, so it’s time to back the words up with actions and resources.

Now, unlike most of our investments, the purpose of this one isn’t to improve our own lot in life, to ensure our own security, or make ourselves wealthy. We may not even see the returns on this investment. Like the architect who never saw his cathedral realized in his lifetime, we are people who invest in something that may be a ways down the road. Jeremiah told the scribe to put the deeds in earthenware jars so they might last a long time—and Jeremiah never saw that field in his lifetime. The Palestinian farmer who holds onto the deeds for his land on the other side of the separation barrier may never see his fields or olive trees again, but he has hope. The conservationists may never see the day pandas are successfully reintroduced in the wild, but they work in hope. The patrons and architects and laborers may never see their sanctuary, their refuge, their symbol of God’s presence finished, but they know it will be important for others they’ll never meet. But, as Oscar Romero points out, we are workers, not master builders, so we may never see the end results. We are prophets, and investors, in a future not our own—God’s future of hope.
May we be faithful workers, for the building up of God’s kingdom.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Five--music!

Over at RGBP, MaryBeth writes:
Music is a part of the human experience, and part of religious traditions the world over. It is evocative and stirring, and many forms of worship are incomplete without it.

Our title comes from a quote popularly attributed to St. Augustine: "He who sings prays twice." A little Googling, however, indicates that Augustine didn't say exactly that. In fact, what he said just doesn't fit well onto a t-shirt. So we'll stick with what we have.

"Singing reduces stress and increases healthy breathing and emotional expression. Singing taps into a deep, age-old power available to all of us. When we find our
voice, we find ourselves. Today, sing like you mean it." And let's talk about the role music plays in your life and worship.

1) Do you like to sing/listen to others sing? In worship, or on your own (or not at all?)
YES and YES and YES! :-)

2) Did you grow up with music in worship, or come to it later in life? Tell us about it, and how that has changed in your experience.
Since I didn't grow up in the church, no...I didn't grow up with music in worship. However, I did grow up a Camp Fire Girl, and we had our own rituals that included plenty of music...and my mom was a Camp Fire Girl before me and sang all the time...and we had plenty of music in my house! And some of those Camp Fire Girl songs still make appearances every now and then...

3) Some people find worship incomplete without music; others would just as soon not have it. Where do you fall?
I believe music is required...for me. I also believe worship isn't about me. So while "Sing to the Lord a new song" is one of the most important commandments, in my opinion, I also work really hard on at least wondering what my neighbor in the pew might need to worship more fully...so a range of worship experience, style, etc is important.

4) Do you prefer traditional music in worship, or contemporary? That can mean many different things!
Okay, so I used to be THE BIGGEST FAN of traditional worship (old hymns, organ, brass, professional level choir, nothing else) and THE BIGGEST HATER of "contemporary" worship. BUT...I have come to believe that a) all worship is contemporary and traditional in its own ways, and b) we have painted "contemporary worship" with this praise-chorus-brush that is not always true. I think we often think of contemporary worship the same way that the unchurched world thinks of Christians...we've been painted with the Religious-Right-Conservative-Politics-Megachurch brush which is not at all the way most Christians are. The same is true of contemporary worship music--it is not all the way we have stereotyped it (some is, it's true, but some Christians are like the stereotype too).
So: I like both. It's possible (we do it, in fact) to have contemporary worship music that is not IMeIMeIMe, not 7-11, not Jesus-is-my-boyfriend. It's possible to have traditional worship that is those things (I come to the garden, anyone?). Again, worship isn't about me, but it is about full expressions of who we are before God, and about communities worshipping together...and sometimes that means putting aside our stereotypes of what "worship" is. We have songs at our 830 ("alternative" aka with-a-band) service that I absolutely adore. We are able to bring in Carrie Newcomer or The Indigo Girls or David LaMotte. We sing hymns written in the 16th century and hymns written last week. We have words of the psalms, Calvin's words, David Crowder's words, and words written by members of our congregation. We have bluegrass, organ, singer-songwriter, gospel, jazz, spirituals, and edgy rock (one of our slogans is actually "from Bach to Rock"). The style is irrelevant as long as the purpose is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.

5) What's your go-to music ... when you need solace or want to express joy? A video/recording will garner bonus points!
I generally turn to the female indie singer-songwriters...the Indigo Girls, Carrie Newcomer...or to Mozart's 23rd piano concerto...though sometimes you just have to have a little Styx, you know?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

emancipation....but not yet.

today is the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. 150 years later, we still have work to do.


Tonight on my way home I thought of something I wanted to blog about.

By the time I got home through a raging thunderstorm and drove through my flooded street, then got inside my house and sat down on the couch with my computer, I couldn't remember.

Then I couldn't keep my eyes open and accidentally napped for almost an hour, including a dream about Anna.

So...sorry, I still can't remember what I planned to blog about, but I'm sure it was riveting.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


This article is asking a good question--why can we focus on debt relief, AIDS, war, Haiti/Katrina/tsunami/oil spill, and climate change but consistently miss the 25,000 people dying every day of hunger?

25,000 people a day...that's NINE MILLION, ONE HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND people a year.

The article quotes someone who says it's criminal negligence...yeah. That's putting it mildly. How do we live with ourselves?

And how do people of faith finally get our act together, stop fighting, and put some concerted pressure on governments and other systems to do something about this--not just by sending more food aid (which generally helps prop up our own unsustainable agriculture) but by working SERIOUSLY for development and system change? This is bigger than a mission trip, bigger than the 30 Hour Famine, bigger than the Offering of Letters, bigger than child sponsorship. Those are all good things, and they do make a difference, but we need something bigger. 9,125,000 people this year are depending on us.

This is one of those (many) moments when I wish I had more community organizing training...

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Usually I am sort of against rain, on philosophical principle. I mean, I get that it's necessary for plants to grow and stuff (and I do love me some fresh-from-the-garden food, including zucchini that seem to double in size after a night of rain), but in terms of mood and productivity, rain is a big downer for me. I dislike rain pretty intensely...which strongly suggests that Seattle was never really the place for me (ha!), and I'm constantly saying to people that I hope never to move back there. At the same time I'd be perfectly willing to move to Portland or Scotland, where it also rains a lot, so maybe there's something else going on there...

Anyway, today it's gray and it's supposed to rain a good portion of the day. This means a couple of things: 1. it will hopefully help cool us down just a tad, and break the humidity ickiness we've had going on; 2. Guinness is not going for a walk today.

Guinness is a Kerry Blue Terrier, feisty and gorgeous and hilarious. He owns my friends Laura and Bruce, who are on vacation in Hawaii, which is why I get to go to Guinness' house and feed him and take him for walks and watch him scarf up baby carrots more enthusiastically than treats. Guinness is a very spirited walker...by which I mean he walks me more than the other way around. So while we could cover the mile loop pretty quickly, doing it in the rain just doesn't sound terribly appealing. It's more likely that I'll attach him to the lead in the backyard and let him run around out there in the rain by himself.

On the bright side, rain will also wash off Guinness' back deck, where he insists on peeing while I'm hooking him to the lead or even to his leash if we're going for a walk. It's better than being so excited he pees in the house, but only by a little. I've been hosing the deck down, but a solid rain will probably do more good.

So there you have it--dogsitting has helped me see the light, and I can now say one good thing about rain. :-)

Hopefully the sun will be back tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

ever-widening, a sermon for August 29

Rev. Teri Peterson
Luke 13.18-21
29 August 2010, Ordinary 22C (off lectionary)

Jesus said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’
And again he said, ‘To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’

Have you ever noticed that Jesus is like the king of the one-liner? “love one another as I have loved you,” “the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,” blessed are the cheesemakers…”…well, okay, peacemakers, but still…Jesus is good at the one-line sayings—he packs more into one sentence than most of the scholars who try to explain them can say in whole books, and certainly more than I can say in a whole sermon!

Perhaps this is also a case of the form illustrating the content—a one-liner, just a little sentence, whose meaning expands until it’s illuminated our understanding, our faith, our life as people of God’s kingdom…like the tiny mustard seed that grows into a huge plant, a weed really, an invasive species that takes over the whole garden. Or like tiny grains of yeast that lead to bowls of dough rising to overflowing.

My mother loved to cook and bake. I remember watching as she mixed yeast and slightly warm water, I remember watching it fizz and then seeing it disappear into the bowl of other ingredients…and then the whole bowl disappearing under a towel. A while later, like magic, it would have doubled or tripled in size…and sometimes, depending on what she was making, this would even happen in two shifts. In between there was the punch-down-let-the-air-out move and some kneading…and in the end we would have a huge loaf of something very yummy, or we’d have bagels, or a braid of bread. Whatever it was, it always seemed so mysterious how it worked. I knew that yeast was some kind of living thing, and that it grew and it involved air..and that’s about it. And actually, now that I think about it, all these years later that’s pretty much still all I understand about how yeast works, but I can see now the beauty of Jesus’ one-liner too—the kingdom is stealthy but kind of fizzy, it works it’s way out into the world, it’s full of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, it’s tasty…

What’s so interesting is that generally in the Bible, the holy things and holy days require unleavened bread—yeast was corrupt and unholy and impure and inappropriate for holy places and holy days and holy worship. Yet Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like yeast mixed into flour…as one of the scholars from our Saving Jesus class last year said, “until all of it was corrupted.” (Bernard Brandon Scott)

It’s hard to imagine this kind of parable—the kingdom of God is like yeast that was mixed in until all the flour was corrupted, until all of it was impure. Corruption has no place in the Kingdom of God, right? The kingdom is about purity and holiness, so unholy things don’t belong in the kingdom, so where did Jesus come up with this one? And come to think of it, why on earth would anybody plant an invasive species of weed in their garden anyway? Mustard is even worse than strawberries gone wild—it just grows and grows and chokes out other plants and takes over the whole space, not to mention looking kind of unruly!

For an idea about what Jesus could be talking about, I looked back at the story right before this one, right before the “therefore” at the beginning of today’s sayings. It’s the story from last week of the woman that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and the leader of the synagogue who was so angry about Jesus “working” on God’s holy day. The people in power, the people who depended on things being done they way they had always been done, the people who needed for others to stay in their place, were upset that Jesus healed a woman when it should have been against the rules…a little bit of unruliness in a system that depended on dotting every I and crossing every T.

Could it be that the kingdom of God, in its mysterious workings, looks, feels, and even tastes like “corruption” of the values of the status quo, the values of the world’s power structure? That healing, speaking truth, sharing love would be unruly and unholy according to the rules?

Could it be that grace, like yeast and weeds, keeps growing, wider and wider, pushing the boundaries of the bowls and the garden plots, taking over…leaving no room for hate, no room for injustice, no room for self-righteousness and self-serving systems?

Could it be that we are called to be the yeast of the kingdom in the midst of the world…fizzing and working gently and mysteriously to make room for Holy Spirit to move and blow where she will, widening the circle of grace until the Love of God has taken over the world…could that be what “your kingdom come” means?

If these things could be…then what does it mean for us to be the yeast of the kingdom? What does it mean to be the agent of corruption of this world’s power systems and values, to be the ones who work to change the world from the inside out?

One thing is for certain—yeast doesn’t do anything if it stays sealed up in its little package. Yeast works by being activated by water and air and then by being mixed in to other ingredients.

I know you can already hear where that metaphor is going, right?

If we’re yeast, we must be activated for service by our baptism—by water and the breath of the Holy Spirit…and then we’re sent out into the world to do the work of the kingdom wherever we are. We’re not only the church, the Body of Christ, the people of God, the yeast of the kingdom when we’re gathered together but also when we’re out in the world. We’re participating in God’s mission when we are at work, when we are at play, and when we are at home. Each of our jobs is a ministry in some way, each of our relationships is a place for the Spirit to move, each of our actions is a chance for grace, love, and peace to overtake the values of gain, power, and violence.

Jesus is good at the one-liner, but none of these are throwaway lines. Even the smallest sentence, the smallest seed, the smallest grain of yeast, the smallest action, the smallest person, the smallest change, can work to change the world into the kingdom of God.

May it be so.

Friday, August 27, 2010


On this day (August 26) in 1920 (just 90 years ago), the 19th amendment went into effect.

For those whose memory of just which amendment is which is a little shaky (as mine is), the 19th is the one that gives women the right to vote.

Ninety years of voting in a "democracy" that is 225 years old.

Meanwhile we expect the rest of the world to conform instantly to our current value system, though it took us two and a quarter centuries to get here.

Anyway...it's my opinion that it took a shamefully long time for women to gain the right to vote. (It's also my knowledge that President Wilson was not, as he described himself in the New York Times on this day 90 years ago, "the biggest proponent of women's suffrage." A visit to his birthplace and library in Staunton Virginia will quickly disabuse anyone of this notion, and highlight just a few of the misogynist things that man did, though he's awesome in some other ways...) It's also my opinion that women both here and around the world are still treated horribly in so many ways--whether it's voting or abuse or being harassed in the streets or being told where/when/with whom they can go or being forced into arranged marriages or being sold into slavery or being paid 70 cents for every dollar a man makes or anything else. We have a long way to go--voting was hardly the culmination of our struggle, though it was a huge milestone to reach.

And it took 135 years to make even that step.

I heard a story on NPR a few minutes ago about the women who sit in or are running for Parliament in Afghanistan.

Women. In Parliament. In Afghanistan. Over 300 women (maybe even as many as 408) are running for office in next month's election there. In Afghanistan. They risk their lives and their families lives sometimes, but they believe the struggle is worth it, they believe they are making a difference, they believe that things are changing for the better and they want to be a part of that movement. One woman they interviewed has been in the Parliament since 2005.

2005. In Afghanistan.

Yet we insist on pushing them (and other cultures too) farther and faster--because we believe it's right, we believe that women deserve equality, that no one should be oppressed...all good and valid reasons. I'm not one to give up or to say "give it time" or even "just wait--the day will come." In fact, I'm much more along the line with Carrie Newcomer's song "If Not Now, When?"

But let's also get some perspective, people. A LOT of the countries in this world are much much younger than we are. And many of them are tribally/culturally/geographically diverse from the outset (which, remember, we weren't...not really, anyway). Some are amalgamations of people groups that have never lived together before but were close enough geographically to be convenient for the UN to make into a country, but they have no idea how to overcome centuries of cultural divides and even flat-out hatred. They are often poor, lack infrastructure, and endure a great deal of other disadvantages and hardship.

And then they look over here, where we haven't even achieved full equality but are full of preachiness about the best way to be a nation.

Meanwhile, 3-400 women are running for Parliament in Afghanistan's second EVER election.


Those women of 90+ years ago may have done more good than they realized...

but we still have a long way to go.

Monday, August 23, 2010


When I lived in Egypt, one of the frustrations I heard over and over was about how the government (supported by the general populace) under Nasser took over church buildings (schools, sanctuaries, etc) with no compensation, and refused to give building permits for new church buildings--whether schools, community centers, or worship spaces. It was an extremely frustrating and oppressive situation, one supported almost entirely by the subconscious idea that "they" (Christians) don't belong. Religious freedom extends only to the right to exist as people, and to congregate in approved locations (for now, and as long as the government and the neighborhood continue to consider that location "approved")...but not to build new locations, not to plant new churches, not to evangelize/proselytize/talk about Christianity (illegal), not to convert to Christianity (illegal), etc. The majority population, undergirded by hundreds of years of "Christian" imperialism and terrorism, have decided where Christians belong, and that's nowhere near where they are or where their children go or where their important sites are.

There, we called it unfair, we called it discrimination, we called it oppression.

What's it called here?

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I'm on vacation in Southern California, hanging out with my cousin Max (age 5). We've been to the Aquarium of the Pacific,

the San Diego Zoo,

SeaWorld (I totally teared up during the Shamu show as I was
thinking about how beautiful these
animals are and here they are performing for our benefit, very dance-
monkey-dance...), and


Today: whale watching for my mom's birthday. Tomorrow: Disneyland. And Monday too.

Today's mom's 52nd birthday. She loved the ocean, marine life, tide pools, whales, dolphins, etc. Hence the whale watching trip this afternoon. We're also plotting what to have for dinner...so far we've agreed on salad and black-beans-and-olives (mmmm, yummy).

Friday, August 13, 2010


So I've been involved in a number of discussions about "church growth" here at Church Unbound.
What's interesting about this to me is that even after a zillion unsuccessful campaigns to "grow" churches numerically, churches are still experiencing numerical and demographic decline, while the "no religious affiliation" demographic grows in number with every poll. And even KNOWING these two (dare I suggest related?) facts, people still incessantly talk about church growth and mean getting more people on the rolls and in the pews. For some reason church growth is pretty much only about membership.

Please tell me this is not what growth means. Because ultimately, the church is not the same as the purely capitalist economy, which must continually grow or die. Besides that, we won't even talk about how "membership" is an increasingly irrelevant thing, not just in the church but in all kinds of organizations.

The church is about being the people of God in the world. Which means we're supposed to be about loving people and creation, caring for one another, serving others, feeding the hungry (in all aspects of the word "hunger"), building community, etc...in other words, we're about living good news, exhibiting the kingdom of heaven to the world.

When people wonder why unchurched people are unchurched (or dechurched), I always remind them that the church is overwhelmingly known in our culture for *bad* news, not good news. It's hard to grow numerically when what we see of church is mostly exclusion, hate, and fighting.

But besides that, church growth shouldn't be about the number of people on our rolls. What if, instead, we measured as Reggie McNeal suggests--in numbers of people engaged in serving others or numbers of people who view their everyday jobs as ministry? What if "growing the church" was about communities cooperating with the Holy Spirit rather than trying to do what we think we're "supposed" to do as a church? What if growth has more to do with love and understanding than it does with numbers? What if growth is about people living the good news in every place where they are, about *being* the church in every context in which we find ourselves, about being the body of Christ out in the world...and has nothing whatsoever to do with how many people are in our Sunday School classes?

Nothing I'm saying is new or even news. (though some conversations I've had the past few days have shown me that it is a radical idea for some.) Jan and others have been talking about these things for a very long time, and I suspect we'll still be talking about them for a good long while yet. I just hope we can reframe the conversations into something not about a slick new marketing technique (because who needs more products, religious or otherwise, marketed at them?), conforming, and pew-filling, but instead about growth.