Dad Martens

Dad Martens is one of the most important people in our lives. Even though we barely see him anymore, he has probably done more to shape the faith and piety of the “California Peperkorns” than anyone else, save our parents. Kathryn and I were in Acappella choir at Concordia, Seward, with Dad from 1988-1992(3). Over thirty years ago he introduced us to Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Decius, and a host of other luminaries of the faith and of music. That same faith continues in our own children.

Why do we call him Dad? We call him Dad because he was a father to us when we went to college. He taught us how to be adults, how to share the faith, how to play Schapfskopf, how to make (and eat!) Brötchen, and he even taught us how to take correction. I can remember more than a couple times when Dad’s temper at a choir was just the right thing at the right time. It’s a lesson every father must learn, sooner or later. But those brief moments of heat were nothing compared to the light and joy of watching him direct us in the proclamation of the Gospel all over the country and over Northern Europe. 

This was the first time I saw Dad since Mom died after a frustrating battle with Alzheimers. We didn’t actually talk about her in our short visit, but her presence was undeniably there as well. 

We named our son Richard Edmund, because God’s gift of faith comes through God’s gift of music, and we were privileged to be mentored under one of the very best.

Our daughter, Renata, will be going to Seward this fall, where she will (among others) study and learn under another one of Dad’s musical and spiritual children, Dr. Kurt von Kampen. If she has half the experience that Kathryn and I did, then she will be blessed for a lifetime. The music department at Concordia has never been better, and men and women such as von Kampen, Jeff Blersch, Joe Herl, and Elizabeth Grimpo are among the best that our church body has to offer to the future. I am, admittedly, just a little bias.

If you are a ‘Pellacan who sang under Dad from 1978-1998, I would encourage you to stop by and see him in Lincoln. You’ll be glad you did, and it will draw you back to the best times of your life. He’ll love to see you, and might even give you a Bier if you ask politely. 

We love you, Dad.

6 Survival Tips for Pastors with Depression

I’m not sure if it is because it is mental health awareness month, or if we are all just feeling the end of the school year pressure, but there are a lot of pastors out there right now who are really struggling with depression and other mental illnesses. Thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with major clinical depression. It’s been a long road that has included being suicidal, going on disability, and eventually taking a call to another congregation. So in the interest of all those who struggle with me, here are a few tips from one who has been there.

  • Take it a day at a time. One of the tricks of the depression brain is that it always wants you to globalize. Globalizing means taking one bad experience and using that as the lens through which you look at the rest of your life. One parishioner complains because you didn’t see them, and all the sudden you’ve convinced yourself that you’re about to be removed from your congregation. Resist the urge to make sweeping self-judgments. It’s not easy, I know. But by focusing on one day at a time, it can keep you in the here and now, and not talk yourself into more nonsense.
  • Think process, not outcome. What I mean by that is that the steps you take every day as a pastor, the things you do, may not feel like much. Making that shut-in visit doesn’t seem like a victory. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I would say “BE their pastor, don’t DO their pastor.” By focusing on individual steps and the process, it can free you to think of each step as a gift and a victory of God’s mercy, and not just a false step toward failure.
  • Plan for down time. Learn your own triggers and limits, and try as much as possible to plan for them. If you know you will be exhausted and useless after making a certain visit, then give yourself permission to rest. God rested. It’s okay for you, too.
  • Bring community with you. For me, it is the one-on-one visits that are often the hardest. That level of attention and emotional energy drains it right out of me. So why not bring the church with you? A deaconess, an elder, even someone who just likes to visit can be a huge help when you are feeling drained. You bring Christ to your people. Why not bring the Bride?
  • Recognize what is causing you the most stress and anxiety, and deal with that first. This is a hard one, because it goes against what our depression brain and our own lazy nature might want. But by tackling it right away, that allows you time to recover, and may reduce your stress level for the rest of the week.
  • Do an emotional inventory or journal. I find that if I pay a little bit of attention to self-evaluation, that often can help me identify what is really making things bad. Journaling helps a lot with this, but if that sounds too hippy, thing of it as an emotional inventory.

These are the ones that occur to me on a Thursday night. What are some of your best tips for pastoring with depression?

He Restores My Soul

I just finished reading He Restores My Soul. This book is a series of essays by twelve women, and a pastoral response from Rev. Rick Stuckwisch.

The book in many ways is both exhausting and liberating. It is exhausting, because of the vulnerability and courage shHRMS-front-cover.jpegown by these women. They each have their own voice. They each have their own crosses to bear. Yet somehow, through it all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ shines through. They tell the story of the God who is ever present with His people, who walks with them through the valley of the shadow of death, and who never leaves their side, no matter what the trial. It doesn’t matter if they are talking about he burden of disease or death, single-hood or dementia, they share this language of faith in a way that I did not expect.

But vulnerability is exhausting. It lets other people into your life. It gives them a place a your table, and you at theirs. It’s why true vulnerability is so rare. It is easy to have a strange kind of pride in suffering and sorrow. LOOK AT ME, we might be saying. But that’s not the voices of these authors. They see their own weaknesses and fears. They see how Satan has tried to sift through them. But more importantly, they see what it means to be one in the body of Christ, in communion with God and with each other. It is a rare treat. I feel like I’ve had a peek into an important family conversation, and I am all the more blessed for it.

What I like the most about these essays is that they hit the challenges head on. They don’t sugar coat. They don’t turn the Gospel into the over sweet saccharine of the false hope of our age. Real sin demands a real savior, who really died, and really rose again from the dead.

At the same time, they all point us to the flesh and blood work of our Savior, drawing us in, walking with us, dying for us, and rising for us. This is no small task, especially in the face of so many challenges and hardships.

This book will probably be most enjoyed by women, although I don’t think that is exclusively so. I thoroughly appreciated it, and I hope and pray that each one of these authors continues to write more for the sake of the Church and those in need everywhere.

It is available for $18 plus shipping at Emmanuel Press by CLICKING HERE

You may also purchase it at Amazon by CLICKING HERE

There is also an Amazon Kindle version by CLICKING HERE


Rev. Todd Peperkorn, Pastor

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California


One Thing that The Last Jedi Gets Right…

Well, having an article published about Star Wars may mean that my life is now complete. I’m a nerd, and most certainly a Star Wars nerd. I saw the original Star Wars in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, when I was six years old. I am oh so aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the franchise, but for good or ill, it is the mythology of my childhood, along with The Lord of the Rings.