Devotionals
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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - February 3, 2021

Have you ever fallen out of the habit? I’m sure you have. We’ve all established a habit of some sort…journaling, exercise, daily devotions, time with a loved one, reading the paper….it could be almost anything to which we dedicate ourselves. And then something happens…an illness, time away, change in expectations and we pause, sure we’ll get back right away, and then we don’t, and then we have a series of days without the habit and the longer we wait to restart, the harder it seems to get back at it. At least, that’s how it is for me.

And that’s how it’s been with the e-spire. I fell out of the habit in December as I recovered from COVID (and had significant “brain fog”), worked on Advent and Christmas services, and helped Rick recover from surgery. And then when I planned to start writing again in January, on Epiphany, we faced the attacks on the Capitol and I simply couldn’t find the right words. And then it felt nearly impossible—where would I start? What would I say? Should I apologize for my apparent silence?

Like figuring out when to jump in with double-dutch jump rope, I struggled to get the rhythm, and then I decided I just had to do it.

I don’t expect my writing to be perfect, or life-changing. I hope that, in general, these are helpful for your own reflections in your walk of faith. I try not to send anything that feels forced. If I don’t have a “good word” to share, I simply don’t. And I hope that these reflections are a way of helping you to “think theologically”—putting a faith lens on ordinary things in our everyday lives.

Today, I hope you’ll look at your own habits….are there any you’ve fallen out of? Any you wish to have back again? Could you start again today? Or tomorrow? Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to jump.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - November 25, 2020

I can’t taste or smell. I woke up in the night a little over a week ago and the cough drop I put in my mouth had no flavor. I thought, “Maybe it’s just old…” and didn’t worry too much. Until I woke up at my normal time and my brain kicked into gear and I still couldn’t taste it. I reached for the menthol and I couldn’t smell it. So I tried the clove cream—not that either. And I knew it must be coronavirus. I hope it wouldn’t be. The small group of people I told prayed that it wasn’t. But I knew it had to be…how else could I completely lose taste and smell overnight? Especially with no other symptoms. I had a telehealth call and then a Covid test. Positive. Not surprising.

 

It’s been 10 days and still no taste or smell. No taste is a little deceiving. I have the basics (if you remember that little anatomy picture with the parts of the tongue outlined….salty, sweet, sour….I have those. I can feel the burn of hot pepper, but no actual taste to know if it’s a serrano or a jalapeno (and yes, normally I can taste the difference).

 

In my family, the holidays are all about the food. I mean, we decorate and dress up and spend time together too, but the food is a BIG deal. People spend hours making pies (dough from scratch), sides, roasting meat, mixing drinks…all of it. And in some years we all get together. We used to be 21, then the cousins (that’s my generation) started getting married, and then having babies and we kept adding more and more. Now, if we were all to be together (without my grandmother or my mom) we’d be 52. And we would have a feast. So many memories are interlaced with food.

 

And this year, I can’t taste. I can’t taste ham, or turkey, or green bean casserole. I can’t taste weird jello salad or any of the made-from-scratch desserts.

 

I don’t say that for you to feel sorry for me, but so you’ll know I’m lamenting that this year. The things that make the holiday special and set apart are essentially numb. I can eat any of it that I want, but it’s not the same without the flavors. For all intents and purposes, I should probably eat greens all week, maybe even harken back to my childhood nemesis: liver and onions, I can’t taste it anyway!!

 

But, I’ve also been challenged to realize that a meal is more than the flavors. Textures and temperatures matter too (more than I used to think, actually, the crunch of a carrot, the hot creaminess of coffee with cream, the smoothness of chocolate pie, they’re all still there). Having the table set nicely with a bunch of flowers and a couple of taper candles, that matters too. That fosters the ambiance I grew up with, especially if I add in shining my grandmother’s silver serving dish to the work of the week.

 

That’s the long way of saying that even though things are drastically different and some things completely lost this year, there is still much to cherish and enjoy. Good music, making memories, being covered in flour by my little helpers, and laughing together, that’s also the heart of the holiday.

 

This Thanksgiving day will be different for lots of reasons. We didn’t get to go to New York as we had planned. We don’t get to gather with family (chosen or otherwise), at least one of us can’t taste. And so the holiday will be what we choose to make of it. In our house, it might be chicken soup to help everyone get better. Or it might be a turkey or a couple of slices of pie. It can be a beautiful table or TV trays. It can be the holiday mix on Pandora or a zoom call with family. It might be board games and puzzles, or a day out sledding.

 

The virus has taken and changed a lot for each of us this year, including, now, the holidays. But despite what is different, there are still things to relish. And, the lack of somethings will help us be more attuned to other things. I would invite you to savor the nuances, the details, and the things you can experience. Take it all in. Make it memorable. Maybe still buy yourself some flowers for the table, or break out the good dishes, even if it is just you or your household, make it special. Don’t count it all as a loss. Cherish what we you do have.

 

And please be safe. This virus is out there, often unbeknownst to us (remember, I was not knowingly in direct contact with someone, I mask where I go, I wash regularly, and I distance, and still, I got it). If you need help with food or a meal, we have resources for that too, just let me know and I’d be glad to help (I’m finally out of quarantine!).

 

Peace and blessings,

Pastor Debbie

  

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - November 12, 2020

When I was in high school and learning Spanish, a regular question in our classroom was “Como se dice ‘get’?” We wanted to know the Spanish word for “get” and much to our chagrin our teacher would say, “There isn’t one, what are you trying to say?” We really had to think hard on that since “get” is such a normal word in English. Did we mean get going? Or go get it? Or get upset?

As we worked our way through the words, we often found that we needed more action words—more verbs. To make, to do, to grab, to pick up, to leave. The pointed language forced the perspective—we needed actions.

I similarly think of grief—we often want the short answer—how do we get past/through it, but the answer is, with more action. We have to be active in doing the grieving work for us to find the deep healing we desire. Grief requires our active participation. It’s not passive. We can’t just sit and wait and get through grief. To get through our grief we have to move, we have to do. That moving and doing can take a lot of forms, but it absolutely requires action.

Last week I shared Pastor Molly’s summary of the types of loss. Each one elicits grief. And each form of grief requires our active work in order to find healing, closure, and progress.

Folks often say there is no timeline for grief, and that’s true. Nothing is promised or guaranteed for the duration of grief. And yet, it is also believed that “the length of time of intense grieving is diminished if the process of grieving can begin close to the moment of loss” (p. 63 All Our Losses, All Our Griefs). In other words, the sooner we get to the act of grieving (our doing) the shorter the span of our intense grief. Said another way—don’t avoid it! It’s ok (more than ok, it’s important and necessary) to lean into the emotions of grief and work toward healing, hope, and wholeness.

We’ve lost a lot this year. And we can’t expect that we’ll just get over it. The pain of our grief won’t just disappear. We must address it. Name our losses. Actively grieve what’s changed. And do the work so that we can experience wholeness and healing and move forward.

If you’re feeling lost in your sorrow, or want someone to help you do the work, please feel free to reach out. I’m here to help and support you so that you can heal and regroup.

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - October 4, 2020

Dear friends,
This month we are doing a series called Grief and Loss: finding God in the Midst of Sorrow. Pastor Molly at Gig Harbor wrote a great summary from the book we are using and I wanted to share it with you here. It's a little long, but certainly worth understanding how we experience loss...and that our grief is not just tied to death.

Whatever losses you may have experienced this year, whatever losses you may experience even this week, please know you are not alone. The weight and difficulty are real. And it’s worth spending some time reflecting and understanding your life in light of these losses and exploring healthy ways to grieve.

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

 

Definition
Grief is a normal emotional response to a significant loss.
Grief is something to live through, not to cure or mitigate. Grief is universal, inescapable, every life will be touched by grief. And grieving is the intentional work that grief-stricken people engage in, enabling them to eventually live full, satisfying lives promised by the God who journeys with us.

Here’s the thing: any loss that feels significant, is significant. When people discount loss, it simply gets packed away and will need to be unpacked again later. When we don’t acknowledge and name our grief, we struggle to be healed of the hole that is left in our hearts. And friends, that emptiness will get filled with something, but it might not be something healthy.

For our series, we’re using a book written by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson titled All Our Losses, All Our Griefs- resources for pastoral care. I am hoping that naming these and giving you some examples will help us recognize places of significant loss that we may be dealing with right now and give you some insight into yourself and others around you.

Six Types of Loss-
Material Loss- We often downplay material loss because we are taught that being materialistic is bad. Material loss is the loss of a physical object or of familiar surroundings to which one has an important attachment. Maybe you lost a ring that belonged to your grandmother and it was the one thing you had that was hers.
Material loss is often the first kind of loss we experience as a young child- think of the child who screams when the ice cream falls off the cone. Adults often think it’s silly and annoying because we understand that most things can be replaced. But the replacement of objects often masks the grief. If we always mask those icky feelings, it is likely harder for us to understand that we are experiencing significant loss when our childhood home is bulldozed or you move from a neighborhood where everyone feels safe and familiar to one where everyone parks their cars in the garage and you never see them.

Relationship Loss is the ending of opportunities to relate with another person, to talk with them, share experiences, make love, touch, settle issues, fight, and otherwise be in the emotional or physical presence of a particular human being. Everyone experiences this loss at one point or another. Human loss of a relationship can be powerful and all-consuming regardless of whether it is a broken, ended relationship like divorce, a friend moving far away, or the death of a loved one.

Unfortunately, we often think that death is the only kind of loss worth grieving and this causes us to discount other relationship losses as less significant. But the loss of a loved shares many components that make it like many other losses. Dementia settling in. Cut-off friendship, Someone who died. All of these losses may require us to sort through pain, anger, guilt, and years of memories. And like all loss, the good memories bring about an intense longing for what was and can never be again. The intensity of grief can truly take over your day-to-day life for a long while.

Intra-psychic Loss is the experience of losing an emotionally important image of oneself, losing the possibility of what might have been, abandonment of plans for a particular future, the dying of a dream. It is related to outward experiences, but it is an inward experience. Puberty and adolescence bring on this loss for most human beings.

This also happens, however, when we lose our courage, or our faith, or sense of safety. These are ‘things’ we possess within ourselves and we can lose them. I knew a young woman who believed her father to be the best dad and the most compassionate man she had ever known. She trusted him with everything. When she was 24 years old, she learned that her father had long ago had a child out of wedlock and never helped the mother, or tried to get in touch with the child. Meeting that grown brother of hers triggered an intra-psychic loss for her.

Her sense of safety had been shattered because it was centered on her sense of having a perfectly compassionate dad who would never abandon a human being. After moving through the grief for a season, she has a more adult relationship with her father now, but the loss caused intense grief that looked much like grief you have seen in suffers the death of someone they love.

Functional Loss
You’ve seen it somewhere: Aging ain’t for sissies. With aging, comes functional loss. Functional loss is when we lose some of the muscular or neurological functions of the body. Just because it may be somewhat expected doesn’t make the loss easier. Because our society makes light of it, there is some health there, but embracing the loss and grieving it in a healthy way will bring you some actual redemption. One of our beloved members can play the piano for hours on end, almost any hymn or show-tune you can imagine, but if you ask for her son’s name, it might take her 10 minutes to remember. There is much grief involved.

Functional loss isn’t just about aging. It can happen at any time- a child goes blind, a soldier loses a leg. Part of the healing process of functional loss is learning to work around the loss, but it requires letting go of things that once were that you can never get back. I imagine you are seeing the pattern now.

There are two more.
Role Loss is losing a specific role or one’s accustomed place in a social network. The significance of role loss to the individual is directly linked to the extent of the person’s identity to the lost role. Retirement is the most recognized period of role loss, and because there are rituals around retirement, we have some ways to begin to process it. But role loss also happens for people who change careers, or who get ‘voted off the island.” Role loss happens for some when they go back to school and become a student once again. It happens when people become parents for the first time and when the last child leaves the house.

For some, good promotion is so disorienting that it triggers every other kind of loss we’ve already mentioned. And it doesn’t always happen with a title. This pandemic has thrown countless people into role loss and change that no one seems to put their finger on. Role loss is one that is often discounted because it is often associated with something good- a promotion, a new baby, but people mourn the loss of what was and they can not get back.

Systemic Loss is perhaps hardest to understand because it is wrapped up in other kinds of losses. Systemic loss is when functions change within a system like family, work, church, any organization. When a child leaves home for college, the family system changes. You might find a parent shaking their head saying: it’ll never be the same. There is relationship loss, but there is a major disruption in how the family functions as well. And they go hand in hand.

When there is a pastoral change or a new boss comes on board, many people experience a major systemic loss as the new person comes with a different set of values and operates differently. Right now, the loss of a Sunday morning worship and all the systems that surround that Sunday morning routine is a systemic change that is wreaking havoc with our sense of well-being- we know it is not gone forever, but we’re still experiencing grief. Any time a major figure-head is replaced, a systemic change occurs- and even if the change is welcome, many folks will experience it as a loss. Elections often cause a systemic loss that is experienced very differently by various individuals. Keep that in mind over the next week.

 

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - October 16, 2020

 Moscow First Family,


It is a busy time of year for the church, even in the middle of a pandemic. We are working on budgeting and planning for next year, hiring a coach for help with visioning as a congregation over the next 6 months, recruiting volunteers for our various committees and ministry work, planning for Advent and Christmas (I know, it’s early, but we’re trying to plan well for all the new variables we’re dealing with) and working on doing church in general. It may not always be visible but there are lots of irons in the fire!!

And, as part of that, we need you and your help! We are the church because of who we are together and we are doing that differently as we make our way through the pandemic. Running the business of the church looks and feels different, but we still need folks to serve on finance, SPRC (the HR committee), missions (helping with local outreach and broader mission work), and to help us continue our ongoing work of discipleship.

We know that we all set boundaries, practice precautions, and generally live differently now. We are constantly evaluating what is safe, what is reasonable, and what we have time and energy for. We want to honor those differences among us and find creative ways to be the church together.

Specifically, we need help in some of our leadership positions. Most things are happening remotely (including meetings) and often those things happen less often to allow for the rebalancing of priorities and stresses of work and home life. I am asking you to prayerfully consider if you might serve in one of the following ways. I’m happy to work with you around your safety protocols. If you do find yourself willing to step into one of these roles, please reach out to me by phone or email.

Peace and grace,
Pastor Debbie

 

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