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

In my senior year of seminary, a good friend of mine invited me to join her for a ministry to the homeless in downtown Atlanta. The Open Door community served hundreds of homeless brothers and sisters on a weekly basis, including meals, showers, clean clothes, and a medical clinic on Thursday nights. At the clinic, med students from Emory University would come and see patients for free. The Open Door also hosted a “foot clinic” where volunteers (overseen by a nurse) would wash and care for the feet of the homeless. That was the ministry I was invited to do.


First, we would share dinner and then we would clear the dining room and set up chairs with hot water tubs and stools for the volunteers to sit at the clients’ feet. They would soak their feet, and then we’d scrub them, trim their toenails, remove callouses and corns, and then lotion them and give them clean socks to wear.


Living on the streets often demands a lot of walking. People walk to stay warm. Walk to stay safe from others. Walk from agency to agency to try and get assistance. Walk from potential employer to potential employer. They walk a lot. In Atlanta it is humid and rains a good bit, which means their feet get wet. And when you sleep on the streets, you keep your shoes and socks on. 1) It keeps your feet warmer. 2) You can get up and run faster if you have to. 3) They don’t generally get stolen straight off your feet.


If you’ve never experienced it, feet that stay wet and soggy for days can be extra charming. =) The callouses are thick. Foot fungus is normative. And corns are common.


And we were expected to welcome each person with love and warmth—to be kind and generous, recognizing their vulnerability when they presented us their feet to be washed. We were gentle and tried to help with whatever was needed. We treated the foot fungus. We cut away corns. We massaged their weary feet. And we invited them to share whatever of their story that they wanted to. It was a holy and sacred task.


To sit at someone’s feet as the servant, when under ordinary circumstances our roles (or at least our perceived power) could be considered inverted was truly a gift. It was so clear to me that washing dirty feet was what Jesus chose to do and commanded us to do that to do so myself was easy.


This week in our small groups you will (likely) be invited to participate in the vulnerability and care of foot washing. I know it can be intimidating for some. You will also have the option of washing one another’s hands instead. Even if you’re reluctant, I invite you to participate. It is a holy act. And a beautiful thing. If you’re not in a group but want to share in the experience, please let me know, I would be more than willing to wash your feet. And if you’re shy about your feet, or you think they’re too this or too that, please know that I have seen the worst of what can be offered. I’m not bothered by the looks of your feet, or the smell, or your unpainted toes.


I believe it is my calling to serve God’s people, including this holy and unconventional way.


In Christ,

Pastor Debbie



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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - February 26, 2020

Our first year here the winter was particularly snowy. It started snowing before Thanksgiving and snowed regularly and often. We set record snowfall in December. And it just kept snowing. We had a sheet of ice on our cul de sac and piles of snow everywhere. At one point we had close to 3’ of standing snow in the back yard. And I distinctly remember being “in the snow” until mid-May. We expected a cold and snowy winter and since we hadn’t experienced any Idaho winter otherwise, it was all normal as far as we were concerned.


I went out regularly for work and other things and wasn’t afraid of driving in the snow (we grew up near snow), but I also wasn’t quite ready (or prepared) to embrace being out in it on a regular basis. Which is to say, I was inside a good bit.


Then I remember sometime in the Spring (though I couldn’t tell you exactly which month) I was out for a walk and there was a blue sky! I was elated because it felt like forever since I had seen a blue sky. I’ve mentioned it a few times recently…how much I appreciate the blue skies this year. I don’t honestly know if there are more blue skies this year, or if I simply am outside more to see and appreciate them. Either way, each time I see blue sky, I pay attention and appreciate it’s beauty amid the winter weather.


In many ways, I think meditation has helped me become more aware of God’s presence and actions. I sometimes wonder, “Was God always this active, or am I just more observant?!” I don’t know the answer to that either (though I have my guess that God has been equally active and attentive in my life and I’m just growing in receptivity, but I couldn’t guarantee it). =)


If you’re willing to try the discipline of meditation, I imagine you might gain receptivity and awareness of your own. You might hear or see God more regularly, or more clearly and might even ask, “Has it always been this way or was I just not noticing?”




Pastor Debbie

Ash Wednesday 20


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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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Sunday morning parking at the church is available in the high school parking lot on Third Street across from the church and in the city lots west of the church. These lots are available only on Sunday mornings. A small lot for handicapped parking is available just off of Adams Street on the north side of the church, with an accessible entrance directly into the sanctuary. A lift operates between the Fellowship Hall (3rd Street level) and the Sanctuary. William Sound System Receivers and Headsets are available to assist with hearing problems.

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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...

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