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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - September 16, 2020

 I’ve been hearing a lot lately “I’m just tired.” “It’s just hard.” Both are true. Very true for a lot of us. We’re physically tired, emotionally tired, mentally tired, and spiritually tired. We’re worn out and tired of the changes and new things and adaptations. We’re tired of the isolation and the restrictions and things we can’t do. And, it’s hard….all of it is hard. Even the “easy” things in life seem hard. One friend shared the other day, “my decider is broken.” She meant she was tired of making decisions. It seems ironic since we all make 1000 decisions a day, but there is so much that we have to think about that used to come naturally or be a “no brainer” that we’re tired of making decisions—especially when we’re weighing variables and risks that were not part of our equation 7 months ago.

I’ve said more than a few times this week, “I’m running on fumes.” And I don’t think I’m alone in that. I know I’m not. So many of us pushed through summer to get back to the (late) start of school only to have that upended by the smoke. Some of us laughed. Some cried. Some ate cake. Some shook our fists at 2020 (as if it’s some entity with any kind of intent or power). And others of us shrugged…ruined plans are all too normal these days.

I’ll speak my own truth and you can speak yours. My truth is I’ve just kept swimming. I kept going and going. My coping mechanism is to over function. I kind of take pride in it. I’m good at doing things so I do things. And when things are out of control I find things I can control (like going for a run or baking some bread or making a quilt) and do some more things. And I’ve found that with the pandemic I keep pushing. I work hard to keep things up and running and that’s been do-able. But I’m finding, like so many others, I’m tired and it’s hard. I kept pushing in ways I’ve pushed before. But, the pandemic isn’t like anything before, and it keeps going and going and going.

I’ve thought back on some prophetic insight Dave McCarroll had shared along the way and he said (no direct quote here) that we are likely to be in this for 18 months (or more) and it’s likely to change the shape of things forever. Any notion we have of “going back” is naïve. I gave up that hope of going “back” a long time ago. But I think I thought I could push through. I heard Dave’s words and I had heard other things he saw about the pandemic that others simply didn’t (at the time) and I knew I had to take heed. But how were we going to prepare for 18 months (or more!) of this?! None of us knew and many of us were not at all inclined to think that might be true. Most of us would still rather it’s not.

But we’re not done with this pandemic yet. We’re in this for the long haul. And it feels like we’re entering a new wave…maybe the wave of exhaustion. Maybe the wave of Day 2 that Brene Brown talks about here. Either way, it feels like we need to shift gears. From what many of you have told me, we need to slow down and reevaluate. We need to stop pushing for what was, or even the “new normal” and actually stop to take stock and ask, “If we’re going to be doing this for at least another year, what can we manage? How can we manage? And what do we need to be more than tired?”

I think it’s important that we slow down. I think in a lot of ways we need to lower the bar. These are not the norms we’re used to and we can’t expect ourselves to operate at “normal” levels. We need to reconnect with our community—with more than texts and emails and Facebook messages. (And yes, I say that knowing it’s so hard when we’re trying to keep each other safe!!) We need to refuel—spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. (Which should feel like a gift not a burden of another thing to do). =).

I don’t have answers or magical maps of what to do. But I do feel the weight and see that many things need to change. So I’m slowing down to acknowledge that. And I’m turning to God for guidance. And if you need those things too, feel free to pray with me:

God of change and transformation, we love the way you make things new and give rise to radical changes….when they aren’t so darn hard. I don’t think you *gave* us the pandemic. It’s part of our broken world. But I do think you will help us through it. I think you have the creativity, imagination, and hope we need to get through this in fruitful and life-giving ways. Help me to stop relying on my resources and instead to plug into you, daily, hourly, by the minute! Shine your light on our path. Help us to look with hope for what is coming next. Help me be fully present in today, for it is all I can manage and all I can control. Help me to relish the good things—the smiles, the laughter, the friendships, the tasty treats, and the everyday grace. Help me to pause when I need to rest. Fill me with your living water so that I can stop feeling parched and start feeling satisfied. Remind me that I am enough—for you, in you, and because of you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.


In Christ,
Pastor Debbie


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

 When we were in Puerto Rico in 2019 for mission work, we drove around with some of our free time to explore the area. After the hurricane, much of the infrastructure was damaged. We didn’t always know what wasn’t there, to begin with, and what wasn’t there because of the storm, but there were regularly street signs missing. Google maps’ Spanish was pretty poor, which generally meant I had to translate what it said into actual Spanish and then translate that into directions for the driver. It also didn’t help that the satellite connection for said maps was spotty, so we took a few detours. Sonya was one of the women on the trip and she and her husband, Fred, have traveled a good bit. She said that when they went somewhere new, they didn’t say they were lost, Fred just said, “We’re seeing something we haven’t seen before.” It was a lovely phrase that our team adopted easily. We weren’t lost, we were just seeing something we hadn’t seen before. And it was true, and it made it all a bit of adventure—seeing things and doing things we’d never done before.

Mission trips often push you outside of your comfort zone. For many eating new foods, or being in a country where you can’t speak the language can be challenging. It’s hard to lose the confidence of self-sufficiency and instead rely on others in such significant ways. But it also forces you to experience things in new ways and grow in who you are. It requires humility, patience, and courage.

Yesterday, when I visited with Cally and Cathy, we talked about the challenges of the pandemic. I said, “It’s an adventure.” They laughed a little and I shared Sonya’s motto. We’re doing things and seeing things we’ve never done before. It’s challenging and forces us out of our comfort zone. And, if we can keep our focus—it’s an adventure that will allow us to grow. We’re trying new things, doing old things in ways we’ve never tried before. We are exploring. We might feel a little lost, or it might take longer to get to our destination. We could get upset and frustrated about it. Or, we might relocate ourselves within our current circumstances, get the supplies we need, and move ahead into the great unknown—after all, we’ve never been here before.

That’s not me trying to wash over the very real challenges of our current situation. I’m exhausted like most everyone. And, I know that perspective matters. How we look at something that will affect how we’re able to deal with it. If I only choose to grieve what isn’t, I’ll miss the opportunity of this season. It will be challenging. It will be exhausting. It will take longer to get where I want to go. AND…I’m hoping to lean into this adventure and see and do things I’ve never done before.


May God bless you,
Pastor Debbie


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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - August 28, 2020

 I was talking with a friend the other day about the need for more growth, healing, and repentance for racial relations across the country. We talked about microaggressions, the challenge of being challenged to confront our own prejudice, and a need to be open and humble to continued learning. As I thought about it, it seemed a lot like working out. Stay with me….

When you work out, you are working on strength, endurance, and flexibility. If you haven’t been working out regularly when you start back everything hurts. Often for days. You become aware of muscles you didn’t even know you had. Right? And, the pain can tempt you to go back to the couch instead of the gym. But, as you grow back into the habit, generally you hurt less. A daily routine of exercise gives you a sustainable strength and flexibility that frees you to try more, and do more without as much pain. Though every once in a while, you’ll do a new exercise, or add weight, or go further, and then you have that significant pain all over again.

I call it “good pain”. It’s different than “bad pain”—the pain signals when something is broken, or torn, or bruised. Good pain is a signal that your muscles are growing stronger. It can be hard to differentiate between the types of pain…after all…it hurts either way. But, with good pain you know it’s because you’ve been working hard at growing stronger. It’s a reflection of your efforts. And there’s an odd satisfaction in it because you know you’ll be stronger, have more endurance, and be more flexible.

Confronting racial prejudice and injustice is often painful. If you aren’t accustomed, it can be really painful as you get started, so much so that you don’t want to go back to it. But, when we work to fight injustice, be more compassionate, and truly hear the stories of those around us we become stronger and more flexible. And…it hurts. That truth is there, too. It takes consistent work. Without it, every time we come back to it, the pain will be severe. But if we stick with it, taking action almost daily, then our efforts pay off. We suffer less with each “exercise” of racial reconciliation; and even when it hurts, we can take some heart in knowing it’s “good pain”. It’s pain that’s helping us become a better person, one who is more readily able to reflect the kingdom of God—where all persons are valued and treated with respect, dignity, and compassion.

I have to admit, there have been times in my life when I was fully immersed in the work of racial reconciliation. I was doing “exercises” daily that opened my heart and my eyes to systemic injustice, unstated prejudice, and micro-aggressions. And, there have been other times in my life where I knew that I did it then and didn’t work as hard at staying in shape. And when I got back at it…examining my own prejudice, listening to perspectives that were divergent from my own, and practicing humility in it, it hurt. It hurt to think I might be contributing to racial injustice. It hurt to think that my friends from other races and ethnicities may think I’m participating or complicit in their suffering. But as I get back into the rhythm, it hurts less. I build my strength and my flexibility, and hopefully my endurance, too.

One thing that seems abundantly clear in this wave of racial awareness (for lack of another way of saying it) is that we can’t think that changing systems of oppression, injustice, and outright hatred will be overcome in just a couple of weeks, months, or even years. We have to commit to a life-long journey of being better as individuals to be better as a community to be better as a society.

Just like exercising for a couple of months won’t sustain my health for the next couple of decades, my work of racial reconciliation for a manner of weeks won’t make the change needed to be different in 20 years. I have to be consistent.

At the very least, I hope you know I’m in it for the long haul. Just like I’ve spent significant time and energy over the last few years modifying my daily exercise habits, I’ve also worked to modify my daily racial justice habits. I’m not fully fit in either regard. There is always room to grow. But I’m in it. And I hope that means you’ll see me as a resource. If I can be a sounding board, if I can recommend podcasts, or books, or movies that have helped me think and see differently, I’m happy to do that.

In Christ
Pastor Debbie


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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - August 21, 2020

 Hello Moscow Family!
I wanted to check in and let you know how things have gone this summer in terms of our ministries and re-opening.

First, thank you to all who filled out the survey we sent about re-opening. Knowing your inclinations has been helpful in thinking about ministries this summer and into the Fall.

We are currently in the orange zone of re-opening (aka Phase 2 of the GNW reopening plan). It allows us up to 10 for worship recording, up to 10 for small groups (though online is still preferred), pastoral visits, outdoor worship with safety precautions (which we will do Saturday 8/22 at 7 pm--please contact me asap if you haven't yet received that information), and continued work with essential ministries like AA and Family Promise.

We have created and submitted a plan for the yellow zone/Phase 3 of re-opening. We will not be allowed to move into that until local COVID cases decrease dramatically. A standard marker for consideration, though not an automatic green light is 25 cases/100,000. That number can be found here. Today's number for Latah county is 120/100,000. As you can see we are well above the indicator. Without general population testing and more consistent contact tracing for our area, it is likely we will continue to see a rise in cases over the next few weeks. The DS and bishop also look at Whitman county numbers when considering re-opening since there is so much cross over in our communities.

That is the long way of saying we are likely to stay in the orange zone for the foreseeable future, though we do have plans for how to safely move into the next phase when we are allowed. That plan includes limiting the capacity of each room, disinfecting practices, and contact tracing information for when people enter and use the building.

That's all hard to share. I wish I had different news. I wish we had been able to keep our numbers low so we could do more together.

But we do still have an incredible team for our virtual services and would love to continue including more people. We can work to include you at a full-service recording, or record you separately during the week and plug in your recording where it fits. You could pray, share a testimony, read a scripture, dance, read a poem, share with the children, or share a musical piece. If you would like to participate in one of those ways, please let me know.

We also are planning small groups for the Fall (Starting after Labor Day). We are looking for leaders who would be willing to do a class on zoom, and potentially those who could do something in person (following our restrictions on numbers and public safety). If you are interested in a small group (leading or participating), please contact Crystal at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We will also see how the outdoor service goes and see if we might offer more of those. Please stay tuned as we keep planning and working on what is possible.

Thank you for your faithfulness in all of this. I miss seeing you on Sundays and relish when I happen upon you at the store or on the street.

If I can be praying specifically for you, please feel free to reach out at any time. I'm always happy to pray privately and treat requests as private unless you give me permission to share them with others.


In Christ,
Pastor Debbie



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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - July 31, 2020


 When I first tried meditation in college, the facilitator told us to close our eyes and imagine a peaceful place. I readily called Lake Mary to mind. It was the place my father had spent his summers growing up. And because his parents later bought a cabin near the lake, it was also a place we spent time as a family each year. There wasn’t a TV, and it was before the internet or laptop computers, so when you went to the cabin you really got away from things. We read books, we played cards and board games, we’d sit on the porch and listen to the birds and the wind rustling through the pine trees, and we went on lots of hikes. As a child, I wasn’t a real fan of the hikes. I was the youngest and the slowest, and always brought up the rear. It felt as though every time I caught up the others would start again, so I was perpetually behind. My whole family reports that I complained easily and regularly. Despite everyone’s recollections of my whining, Lake Mary was a favorite place. As an adult, I looked forward to our time back at the cabin.


In 2015, Rick, Ruth, and I made the trek up the hill (it’s about 6 hours from Los Angeles—in the highest mountains in the contiguous US) and had a family trip anticipating Steven’s arrival in our family. We had a fun family photoshoot at the lake, which was very low that year and allowed us to walk in what would normally be covered by water. This year is the first year we’ve been able to come back to visit. We waffled on whether we should make the trip—was it safe with COVID and could we properly keep our family safe? Those were not easy decisions, but we’ve tried to be very cautious in the Pandemic and believed the family time together would be important. And, it was amazing. The familiarity of the sights and sounds was so good for me in mind, body, and Spirit. We did many of the hikes I did as a child, but this time I didn’t whine. Instead, I looked around and appreciated the changing vistas, the amazing diversity of God’s creation, even in such a small (relative) area, and I relished making memories with my kids. The porch still offers the same sweet solace—the smell of pine warmed by the sun, the chipmunks racing around outside (which our kids LOVED and named and chased all day every day!), the sterling jays dropping by for a visit, and the forced disconnect—there’s a TV now…but only with a DVD player, still no internet or cable.
This truly was Sabbath time—a chance for rest and restoration, renewal, and nurturing of my whole self.
As you know, living in the pandemic has been hard. It’s been hard to adapt, and then adapt again, and then adapt some more. While I think we are out of “crisis mode”, it’s been hard to settle in and imagine life and ministry for the long view. Stopping for extended Sabbath has helped me reset and hopefully will help me settle into more of our new norms in terms of planning and imagining life as a church in the foreseeable future.
I’m very grateful we get to go home to Moscow. July is the anniversary month, so to speak, for United Methodists, it marks the beginning of the appointment year and while it goes fairly unnoticed when we are reappointed (meaning sent back to the same church instead of sent to a new one), it’s still pretty cool to think we are starting year 5 together at Moscow First. I love doing church with all of you. And despite the pandemic, I’m excited for another year together.
We are traveling home this weekend and I covet your prayers for safe travels. I’ll be sheltering at home this next week to help ensure we haven’t picked up the virus while we were away, and I’m excited to be reading for and studying for our next worship series on grace. I’ll be available by phone and email if there’s anything you’d like to discuss.


In Christ,
Pastor Debbie


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