Devotionals
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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - February 19, 2020

I was in my early 20s when I first heard any kind of preaching that suggested Sabbath was something we should do as Christians. The woman who was preaching didn’t seem to think it needed to be an absolution of duties for the day, but rather a day that was dedicated to self-care. When she shared about her sabbath practices she mentioned things like reading a book, going out to eat, and getting a pedicure. If that was sabbath, I was totally on board. I don’t know how soon I started, but it was within a few weeks. Only once I declared that Saturday was my Sabbath, some of my friends saw it as a free day so that we could go do things. We set up meals and movies and other things. All of which I enjoyed, but I quickly realized that even though I liked doing those things, putting them on my calendar gave me yet another obligation. Something I had to be ready for and do. Something that interrupted whatever else it was I was choosing to do that day. So I changed the rules, creating stricter boundaries, and refusing to schedule anything for Sabbath. No appointments. No dates. Then on my Sabbath when I got up (naturally, not to an alarm), I’d ask myself, “What do I want to do today?” I might want to watch TV. I might want to work in the yard. I might want to cook. I might want to go out to eat with a friend. But I wouldn’t arrange those things until the day of, and if my waiting meant I missed certain opportunities with friends, I had to live with that.

 

My sabbath rule early on was, “I won’t do anything I have to do.” If I had to do laundry, or read a book, or write a paper for a class, it was automatically off-limits until the next day. As I established and honored that rule, I found I had more energy in the days that followed. I wanted to do the reading and writing and chores on my non-sabbath days. Despite the incessant demands on my time, if I honored my sabbath, I was restored in strength, creativity, and stamina and was much more fruitful the following week.

 

Over the years, the rules of sabbath have had to change. I obviously had to change diapers once our kids came along. And I’ve had to learn to navigate personal time to recharge my introverted side, and social time to enjoy my family or friends. Nevertheless, Sabbath is a key practice in my life. When I neglect it, I pay for it—emotionally and spiritually. Fridays are my sabbath day (which means I generally won’t schedule an appointment or meeting unless it’s an emergency, and when I’m dutiful, I won’t return an email or a phone call unless it’s urgent).

 

Sabbath time is important for all of us, no matter how neglected it is in our society. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to think about practicing sabbath for yourself. Set aside a day (or a half-day to start) and ask yourself what you want to do that day. What will recharge and refill your spirit so you are ready for what comes after your sabbath?

 

Shabbat Shalom. (Sabbath peace)

Pastor Debbie

 

 

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - February 14, 2020

Most often in the Protestant calendar, fasting is practiced during Lent (40 days plus Sundays before Easter). Fasting is often seen as a sacrifice. We forsake something to help us be mindful of others who may go without by force rather than choice (fasting from food can help us be mindful of those who are hungry day in and day out, fasting from specialty drinks can remind us of those who don’t even have clean water to drink). Fasting can be used to clear the clutter from our lives. We can be challenged to clear the noise of television or the internet. Fasting can also challenge us to turn to God instead of vices or distractions. Instead of chocolate, or alcohol, or Facebook, or whatever else we might use to help ourselves feel better, or feel less…we are invited to fast and ask God to fill our void instead.

 

 

Fasting has taken many forms in my life over the years. During Lent, I’ve fasted from coffee, dessert, TV, Facebook. I’ve “fasted” in the sense of clearing SpaceX for God and adding in a spiritual practice…adding in a devotional time, a journaling practice, or some type of self-care.

 

In seminary, I noticed (with the help of my pastoral counselor) how hard I was on myself. I was regularly speaking words of judgment and criticism to myself. So, that year I gave up self-deprecation for Lent. If a negative thought came to mind, I’d simply say “Not today” and dismiss it. (Some judgments were easier to quiet than others). And in its place, I added a ritual of blessing myself. I would take time daily to bless my body and my being, recognizing that I was a beloved child of God and claiming that as more important than any critique I, or others, might offer.

 

Which is all to say fasting isn’t just making yourself “hangry for Jesus.” It is a beautiful practice of mindfulness, intentionality, humility, and yes, sacrifice to draw us into a deeper relationship with God and others. If you haven’t tried it yet, I invite you to try it.

 

 

p.s. I know not all of us were able to join a small group, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the study and try the practices yourself. We have extra booklets available if you’d like one. And if you are interested in a small group, we still have space. Simply contact me or Crystal Tibbals (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


Peace and Grace

Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - January 9, 2020

Good morning!
Last week you probably saw that the UMC was in the news. A cohort of 16 leaders of varying perspectives had been meeting for months with a professional mediator to help them decide terms of potential division (not exactly a split, since the denomination wouldn't be divided down the middle, but instead allows a gracious plan for a group that isn't prepared to live under a more inclusive polity). The cohort then released its "Protocol of reconciliation and grace through separation" on January 3, 2020. National media groups interpreted the protocol as an actual "split" in the denomination. This is not the case. The ONLY body within the UMC that could decide the terms of a "split" (or otherwise) is the General Conference (scheduled to meet in May in Minneapolis).

The protocol will be sent to the Judicial Council (like the Supreme Court) to rule on the constitutionality (per church law) of what is proposed. The protocol will be but one (or 4 or 8---or more depending on how many different pieces of law it will have to address) piece of legislation to be considered at General Conference. However, what it seeks to do is take precedence over the other proposals (because of the diversity of those who participated in forming it) in a way that would expedite the various types of meetings that need to take place (global, regional, and possibly a break-off group) assuming some type of separation.

The 16 representatives are from varying theological perspectives and are part of different groups in the UMC. They are people who have invested considerable time and energy into figuring out a possibility for moving forward without tearing apart the church so many of us know and love. They have tried to address some of the big issues that remain untouched with some of the other legislation (or possibly simply a place where there will be a considerable debate). Some of those areas include how we would fund the group/s that break off, how we would fund ministries aimed at traditionally marginalized or excluded people groups, how clergy might maintain their pension plan, and how all of us stay deeply invested in the global church. For an FAQ of the people and the process, click here.

It should also be noted that they are also not the only group to have been convening to determine avenues for a different future (within and without the UMC). Some of those groups and proposals were previously shared, and others are still in the midst of their work. Attached is a pdf of the different plans, pros and cons, and additional information. This may be too "deep in the weeds" for many folks but may be of great interest to others. Use it for what it is worth to you. It was put together by another clergywoman and can be helpful to see the plans compared side by side.

As I have said many times before, nothing is "sure" yet. General Conference (as a voting body) holds the power. Please be in prayer for each of the delegates and bishops as they read the legislation, pray for the church, seek wisdom, and are in conversation with others. In the meantime, we at Moscow FUMC will continue to live our faith as we love God and love neighbor.

As always, I am here if you have any questions.

Peace and grace,
Pastor Debbie

 

 

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Pastor Debbie's E Spire - December 19, 2019

I have a couple of close friends from over the years. Our friendship has been able to endure beyond distance and moves, marriage and kids. We check-in and talk here and there...texting more than talking most times. But on the holidays, there's a little extra needed. Some of us have hard family situations. At this point they're not surprising or unexpected, they're the same difficult family members we've struggled with before...but we need extra support for the holiday. One nitpicks. One always arrives late. One isn't ever happy with the gifts or the food, or the whatever. Some deal with (or rather don't deal with...) mental illness. You get it. I'd like it if our families were perfect. But they're not. They're human. And, truth be told, I'm human too, and I'm sure I have my own quirks and habits that drive them just as crazy.

The point is, those special friends know just how to hold space to help us vent, take a deep breath, and go back in with a smile on our face. They get us. They sympathize with our frustration, and they hold us accountable to rise above and offer our best selves.

This week in worship we will be looking at moving from scared to sacred in terms of our relationships. We acknowledge that the holidays can be tough--and we know that there are ways to find blessings and solidarity despite it all. As you look at your calendar for the next few days, have you dedicated some time to see the people you're excited to spend time with? Or at least carved out time to check in by phone? Offer some support and encouragement and be encouraged yourself?

If you haven't yet, I hope you do!

We hope to see you Sunday for worship at 10:30 or Christmas Eve at either 4:30 or 7 pm.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - December 4, 2019

What do you want to do? It seems like a simple enough question. But I’ve found it can be really hard to answer. I started intentionally asking this question 15 years ago when I began practicing sabbath. I started claiming a full day for myself for sabbath rest(oration) and then I’d wake up on those mornings and ask, “What do I want to do?”

 

Maybe you have more motivation or clarity than I do, but I struggled to answer that question. What did I want to do? Really want to do? Not have to do. Not think I should do. But genuinely want to do. It varied from week to week. Sometimes I wanted to read, sometimes sleep, sometimes watch a movie, sometimes go for a hike, sometimes do some yard work, sometimes cook a meal. It wasn’t one clear answer every sabbath. I had to learn to listen to my spirit and discern what would be fulfilling and fruitful.

 

As we’ve planned for worship this Advent we’ve talked about moving from scared to sacred—looking at rejecting all of the expectations that surround us and claiming the things that make Advent truly holy. That practice begs the question, what do you want to do this Advent? For decorating? For baking or cooking? For time with family? For community events? For gift-giving? What do you actually want to do? I’m sure the answers will vary for each of us, and they may be different for you this year than they’ll be next year. There’s no singular right answer. Really, there isn’t. I promise. Though it’s a shame to think that we’ve been cultured to believe there is—lights on the house, a tree decorated in the living room, family recipes in the oven, presents wrapped and beautiful (and likely expensive). But that isn’t it. That isn’t Christmas. Doing the things we feel we have to doesn’t generally draw us closer to the holy.

 

But slowing down to listen to what we want to do for ourselves and for others just might draw us closer to God. (It also helps if we honor what we feel, which can be its own challenge). But if you dare, I invite you to take some time to slow down and ask yourself, “What do I want to do to prepare for and celebrate Christmas this year?” And wait and see what comes to mind. Then maybe slow down and ask again tomorrow, and again the next day. You aren’t likely to have all the answers on the first shot, but it’s worth practicing and listening and honoring the way God’s Spirit speaks to and leads your spirit.

 

May you have the courage to ask the question and ears to hear the answer!

 

Happy Advent.

In Christ

Pastor Debbie

 

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