Monday, November 30, 2015

Grocery Store

Here is a true story my parents told me when I was growing up:  “Before you were born, before World War II, a Jewish family opened a grocery store in our predominately Christian town.  The ‘good Christian businessmen’ in town colluded against the ‘Jew store.’  That was wrong.  That’s not how we treat a neighbor.  There wasn’t much we could do.  Our family bought all our groceries from the store.  Your oldest brother worked there as a bag boy.  Others supported the store and today we still buy our groceries at that same store.”  I think of this every December when the annual “War on Christmas” talk flares up.
Tom Petersen

Monday, November 16, 2015

Courageous Love

        When I was in middle school, we had a controversy in my neighborhood one Christmastime.  We lived in an old neighborhood in Cincinnati, with big old houses, that was slowly becoming gentrified.  We had wealthy and not so wealthy people on my street.  The home across the street had been bought by a charity that wanted to put in a group home for the mentally disabled, much like the MOSAIC homes in our area.  It was perfectly legal by the zoning laws, but the neighbors were up in arms.  There were afraid of the mentally disabled and even more afraid of their property values going down.
        The neighbors became very outspoken and most of the put signs in their yards saying “RESELL 3437” (the address of the house.)  Unfortunately, the neighbors brought a case to court to prevent the group home from moving in.  And the main witness against the neighbors was the Chief City Planner who wrote most of the zoning code for the City of Cincinnati:  my father.  He actually received death threats over the phone for his testimony.   He modeled doing the right thing in the face of adversity.
       Being a smart alec, there was only one thing for me to do.  I made two signs very similar to the neighbors’ signs.  Same size, color and font.  But one read “PEACE ON EARTH” and the other “GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN.”   I didn’t know if the neighbors got the implication but my family appreciated it.
        But the group home moved in, and nothing bad ever happened.  I felt great that my family stuck up for those marginalized by society.  And like the proverbial “Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, I felt like my heart grew 3 sizes that day.  The gift of courageous of love inspired by my father has stayed with me and every once in a while, I am called to use it.  And every time, that is when I feel the presence of God the greatest. 

Emily Hoffman

Monday, November 9, 2015


We were entering middle age and our only child was in high school.  We had always wanted a larger family and we knew we were good parents.  We contacted an adoption agency.  They presented us with a girl who had been abandoned as a toddler and then spent the next five years in a third world orphanage.   Adopting her was a financial stretch but we would make it work.  We brought her home. We fell in love.   

We knew that she would have issues but we foolishly believed that we could handle them.  We were wrong.  We tried.  We got professional help.  And in the end we had to admit failure.  After a decade she moved out.  Our relationship was strained but we stayed in contact and prayed to love her as she was and to accept ourselves as we were.  Over time we became closer and closer.  We came to like, respect and love her as the caring, nurturing woman she had become. 

We are very glad that we were so foolish that we thought we could make a difference and that we put ourselves in a position where God could use us despite our failings.

Tom Petersen