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 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'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 fa├žade. 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 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, 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'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/ 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...