The Perfect Home

If you could live anywhere in the U.S.A., where would you live?

This is a question I have been entertaining recently. I knew that I wanted to leave New York. I had done that. It had grown stale (ok, truthfully, I miss it). But, it's not where I want to be. I wanted to stretch my arms and see where the wind would take me, or as the case may be, where God would take me. I fantasized about farming communities, Midwestern prairies, New England harbors and small cities dotted across our nation. I didn't know where I would end up. But, now, I have come to the point that I need to make a decision about where I want to live. Where do I want to live for the next five or ten years?

Most people make this decision before they seek a job, but it's interesting to do the reverse. To fall in love with a church family (which for me, is to fall in love with my work) and then begin to ponder the question of whether or not I could live here. Would a big city girl grow bored? Would there be enough beauty around me to inspire me? Would there be people outside of the church to challenge me and make me laugh?

I wonder. If I could live anywhere, would I live there?


The Perfect Church

Clergy will tell you that there is no such thing. There is no such thing as the perfect church. I found myself telling my father this the other night. And now, I wonder, is it true?

Earlier this week, I was offered a call. In church language, this means that I was offered a job. It's a big deal and I'm flabbergasted in many ways. I thought that this adorable church was calling to interview me with a couple more questions. But, the two questions that they wanted to ask were straight out of the UCC Manual on Ministry in offering a call (job) to a minister. Holy cow. I stared at the phone in disbelief.

And then, I asked for two weeks to discern. We talk about discernment a lot in church talk. We discern what God is doing. We discern where God is leading us. We discern where we feel God is leading us (which can sometimes be different). And we discern what we want. People, I want a perfect church. I don't know what that will look like. But, I want one. My father started to tell me about the concerns that I had listed in being called as the Associate Pastor at this congregation. And I shook my head and grimaced.

"Yeah Dad, but..." But before I could continue, he told me that he didn't think that I wanted this job. Hmmmm. I don't often agree with things that my father says. And this one was automatic. "But, Dad there is no such thing as the perfect church. Every church has problems. I'm going to be concerned no matter where I go."

And this is true. But, the concerns are all mine. It has nothing to do with the church. The Search Committee may be reading this now. Hi Search Committee! And if you are reading this, I want you to know that you are a wonderful church. And they are. They are an adorable church that feels like a family. It feels right. But, as I seek to realize my professional career and become an adult, I want to be certain. So, I have to ask about the possibility of the perfect church and wonder what might be missing. That is, if anything is missing.

Getting Dirty for Jesus

This is what I did for a whole summer in Appalachia. I did it in paint and in the dirt. I did it with caulk (I learned that I loved caulk) and a hammer. But, this summer, I'm getting dirty with all that emotional stuff.

I'm getting dirty as I unpack and try to organize all of my baggage. I have a wealth of gifts that I can use to relate to people's pain. That's what they tell me. I've heard a lot about the pain that I have felt and how it can be a gift to the people that I minister to in the hospital. But, I've learned that I have been a survivor for 20 years. I hated it when people told me that. But, I really was. I was a survivor who knew when and how I could display my grief. And mostly, I just kept it tidy in a suitcase somewhere near my heart. I didn't show it. I rarely shared it. It was just there.

And now, after 20 years of being a survivor, I'm trying to figure out how to live into my grief. I'm having a really hard time with this. I'm not sure how to do it and I mostly find myself resistant, as I am right now. I want to get dirty. I want to get dirty in all of these emotions, but I'm scared. I'm totally freaked out actually. I want to be the strong one. I want to be ok with everything that's happening. And I'm not.

My friend Nayon and I have this tendency to people watch. Not only do we busy ourselves with watching people, we like to figure out their whole story. We start telling their drama to each other. We make it up as we go along. Perhaps this is the same protective distance that I maintain as I approach the families and patients in the hospital. I can read their charts and speculate about what their drama will be. But, I'm really afraid to get dirty in their drama, because their drama will reveal my own. It's a wondrous thing to be so connected to people's pain. But, at the same time, it's really scary and I'm not sure that I'm ready to get dirty for Jesus with all of these tears washing down my face.


Looking Good for Jesus

I wish that I had thought of this. But, it's the brilliance of another blogger and fellow female minister. She's onto something and can't help but love her a little for her brutal honesty. Read it for yourself.



Did you know that Verizon is anti-labor?

I love my mobile service with Verizon. I love the coverage. I love the service. I'm a very satisified customer. So, it is with great dismay and unease that I opened my email the other day to discover that VERIZON IS ANTI-LABOR.

Perhaps you get as many of these emails as I do. I delete a lot of them. I often send their email pleas and petitions, without revising them. It's a guilty admission because I should be able to say something about this. After all, I spent a summer advocating for labor rights among clergy with Interfaith Worker's Rights. And, it turns out that I'm guilty as sin. The email announced:

Verizon Wireless is one of the nation’s most popular wireless providers, serving 42 million customers. But did you know the company is also one of the most anti-union?

A federal Administrative Law Judge recently found that Verizon Wireless illegally disciplined a pro-union worker and interfered with employees’ rights to form or support a union. And Verizon Wireless workers say the company used “scare tactics” and intimidation to prevent employees from joining unions.

Maybe you too are outraged (or beginning to wonder why you are a Verizon customer, like I am) and if you are, please send Verizon the message. And you know, these email actions make it really easy so here it is:



Growing Pains

I always loved that 80s (or was it early 90s) TV show, perhaps because I had a crush on Kirk Cameron in his adorable years before he went off the deep end creating these Left Behind movies. But, it seems that I have come to star in my very own season of this TV show, at least by title. Last weekend or perhaps two weekends ago, I was at a BBQ at the seminary. I've become an outsider there which is strange in and of itself. But, chowing down on a hot dog, I was chatting with an old friend. She's one of the early friends that I had in seminary, but one that I felt I had grown apart from in the three years of seminary. But, there I sat stressing with her about the uncertainty of what lies ahead and remembering why we had first become friends. As we shared in our frustrations and fears, I told her about my work this summer in dealing with my demons. And she turned to me and said, very honestly and very sincerely, "Ya know, I think that this is going to be a really big change for you. You are going to become someone new this summer." When she said this, I was humbled and a little freaked out.

But, I think she was right. As much as I talk about seeing the divine in others, I often forget to notice it in my life. And there She was. There was God shining through my friend Carrie. Because Carrie was right. I realized that today as I sat with my therapist talking about the loss of a 17 day old infant the day prior. In my complete and total fear, I had frozen. I hadn't risen to the occassion. I had remained outside. I was still seven. And I didn't want to go close to the reality of this pain that haunts me. As a minister, I feel great failure. I was there. I held presence. But, I failed to minister to these grieving parents as I know they needed.

My therapist and I laughed about this. And it feels good to laugh. It feels so good to laugh because most of me just wants to break down and cry. But, in laughter, I can begin to talk about what I miss. I talked about the few memories I have of my mother. I remembered the fragments and gave them a space. I don't often share these stories. More often, I keep them inside as I have kept most of this narrative. In 20 years, I have survived. Now, I'm broken open. I'm oozing all over the place as my grief no longer remains in neat little boxes. Suddenly, I'm broken open for the first time in 20 years. And now. Holy cow. And now, I have to figure out a way to be oozing. It sounds sticky and gross. And I admit that I don't really want to deal with it. I want to store it in the neat boxes that I have found security in for 20 years. But, I'm allowing myself to ooze. And my therapist hit the real truth. I'm afraid to grow up. I'm afraid to grow up and leave my mother behind. I'm afraid she will disappear if I grow up. It's sticky and painful. But, I'm trying to grow up.

Perhaps it seems odd that I share this reality in a blog format where anyone could read it (including my ordination committee who may then ignore the results of my psychological examination), but this is part of my growing pains. Maybe this is part of my ministry, but it is certainly part of the reality of my preaching the Gospel. This is how it really is. It's not neat. It's not tidy. Join me in the ooze and maybe we can grow together.


You've Heard it Before...

..that old adage, "The Lord works in mysterious ways."

Well, it happened today. I can't believe it. It's been a hard week already. See, this summer, I'm dealing with my demons. I'm working in a hospital doing pastoral care. Seminarians know this program well. Affectionately, we refer to this program as CPE. However, my affection isn't overwhelming. Instead, I'm more or less terrified. And it got better today, but not before this mysterious work of God happened.

One of the staff chaplains came into the office while I was sitting at the desk. He checked my name tag and paused a moment. I thought he was just going to reintroduce himself. Instead, he asked, "Is your mother Diana Peters?" My stomach fell. My mother died 20 years ago. No one asks me this question anymore. It might be a normal question for anyone else. But, this is a question I never hear. I nodded. I think I deeply sighed and somehow managed to utter a "yes" as tears began to well up in my eyes again.

He asked about my brother and my father, by name. He remembered that my brother played hockey and my father coached. He remembered the hospitals that cared for her during her illness. He told a story about how she had once worn a clown suit. It was just a few minutes. But, I can't believe it. Twenty years later, during the summer that I choose to work out these demons of loss and fear of death, I meet someone that ministered to my mother twenty years ago. I meet one of the men that cared for her spirit while she struggled with her illness. Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Isn't that amazing?


When the Tears Won't Stop

Last week, I had dinner with a friend. One of those rare friends who actually understands some part of me that very few people understand. This friend and I share the grief of the loss of our parents. I only have a few friends like this. But, this friend... well, I don't think that I have ever met anyone like him.

But, what we share is our grief. I lost my mother when I was 7. I feel like I talk about this a lot. It is the defining moment in my life. It's the one thing in my life that has determined how everything else has turned out. But, as this friend alluded, I don't share the most intimate reality of this loss. I'll talk about it every so often. But after twenty years of loss, I'm not sure how to talk about it. Moreover, I'm not sure that anyone cares.

This is what I had told my friend: I'm not sure that anyone cares. Last week, he reminded me that I was wrong. People need to hear this story, he said. I didn't really take these words to heart. Though I trust his wisdom, I didn't really know what to do with this truth.

And I know he's right. I know it so well. But, the truth is that I'm not sure how to share this part of me. Over the past twenty years, I can talk about grief. I talk about it like it is. But, I forget to allow myself to feel it. Once a year on my mother's anniversary, I allow myself to let go. I do a ritual. I share a story. I do something to remember and actually speak my pain. But, the rest of the time, I don't think anyone really cares.

Does anyone care? Of course they do. Sure they do. But, having spent this past week wandering around a hospital to simply begin the process of thinking about caring and walking with patients, I'm overwhelmed. And today I finally cried. I cried for the number of times that I have seen my mother's face in that hospital. I cried for the memories that are creeping into my thoughts -- things that have remained buried for over twenty years. I cried for the 7 year-old kid inside me that still doesn't know what to do with the pain in her heart. And I have no idea how to share this. I feel crazy to not be able to stop crying. I feel childish for allowing myself to be overcome with emotion. How in the world can I be a professional chaplain, even for 10 weeks?

Of course you care. And thank you. But, I don't want to hear how hard it must have been. I don't even really want to be encouraged with how hard it must be now. I've reverted to the 7 year-old little girl that just wants everything to be OK. And how do I share this? How can I share this without being the irrational little girl? And will it help anyone but me? And what happens when the tears just won't stop? There is no way to be rational. I'm a hurting 7 year-old girl all over again. Oh Jesus. Help me.


God's Language

By Sheryl Gay Stolsberg
The New York Times
Published: June 8, 2006

OMAHA, June 7 — President Bush urged immigrants on Wednesday to learn English and history and civics with the goal of "helping us remain one nation under God."

Children of God, when did we get the gumption to decide that God speaks English and only English? Last I checked, Jesus spoke Aramaic while his followers continued to preach in Greek. Ancient Greek, at that. Not modern day Greek. And let's not even get started with the holy power of Hebrew, shall we?

Children of God, be blessed. Speak in tongues. Your own native tongue.


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