Unheralded

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Lifelong Calling

I always wanted to be a pastor. For as long as I can remember, I knew what God had called me to be. When I was 3, I crafted stoles out of toilet paper and presided over Communion of Wonder Bread and grape juice. By 4, I had advanced to burying dead birds and other animals I found with a …


Unheralded

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — In God We Trust

I hate the phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” I despise it because it draws to mind a picture of God who is somehow responsible for the result of human sin, the brokenness of our imperfect world and everything that results from those things. It pictures a God who is a master puppeteer, controlling our actions as part of some …


PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Active Listening

“What then shall we say about these things?” — (Romans 8:31) The Apostle Paul echoes what I feel this morning, faced with the task of writing a devotions as the pain, hurt and brokenness of our nation spills out the form of both peaceful protests and violence and looting. When then shall I say about these things? On my personal …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Traveling On The Spiritual Path

I usually begin planning my next trip during the waning days of the one I’m on, so this summer is more than a bit unusual. I have no bookmarked spots in Tripadvisor, no routes saved on Google Maps, no flights booked. I am not planning anything, except surgery on my foot, since I’m not going anywhere. My hobby is traveling. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Church Is More Than A Building

My congregation never closed. … Nor did the church. Since we began this time of Great Separation, the church I serve, Emanuel Lutheran in Hartford, Conn., has been alive and well. We have had worship — real worship — each week.  It may have been prerecorded, but God was present and Christ was praised — through song, children’s sermons, virtual choirs …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Time To Grieve

I watched the “Graduate Together” celebration of the Class of 2020 this weekend and truly enjoyed the efforts to highlight and rejoice with those students who will not get a traditional graduation ceremony this year. However, I must admit to having a little bit of trepidation about the efforts to place a Band-Aid on the consequences of COVID-19 and those …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Finding True Peace And Joy

There have been moments when 2020 has just seemed too … much. I was talking to someone the other day and they mentioned something about the U.S. being on the brink of war with Iran in January and I had completely forgotten that happened. And the fact that Australia was on fire. It’s just been too much this year, so …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Fostering Hope

Today I read their names. Five hundred names. Deliberately, slowly and intentionally. So that we will never forget. Since I’ve moved to Hartford, Conn., I have taken part in the Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Day, sponsored by Voice of Hope. In the past, I’ve gone to the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford, where I would take a 10- …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Paving The Road To Failure

It is possible to be a positive and encouraging leader, one who is able to weigh the balance between being honest and factual while also instilling hope. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower both embodied these characteristics, as did Winston Churchill. And many U.S. governors of both parties are displaying those characteristics each day right now. It is also …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Unmasking Our Feelings

Context is everything. As I was preparing for my sermon this week — on the wonderful Gospel story about Jesus, who on the day of his Resurrection, joined two of his followers as they walked the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus — I read the same comment at least three different times. In the story, the two companions did not recognize …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Reaping What We Sow

“Good leadership takes all of the blame and none of the credit.” As I was sorting through papers during my daily hour of deep cleaning, I came across this quote I gave to someone who interviewed me for a paper on leadership. I believe this is the key problem that is plaguing our country today and the reason that the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Time To Lament

“O Lord, my God and Savior, by day and night I cry to you. Let my prayer enter into your presence; incline your ear to my lamentation.” — Psalm 88:1-2 Good Friday is my favorite service in the church year and one of the reasons is because it is a service of lament. We as a society don’t really like …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Love In Action

“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech but in truth and action.” — 1 John 3:18 Today, and the next three days leading up to the great celebration of Easter, are going to be really hard ones for many people of faith. The ebb and flow of our lives are often built around the church year, and …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Waiting Upon The Lord

“They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.”  — Isaiah 40:31 Waiting is hard. It always has been, of course, but in the past few decades, we have increasingly become an instant gratification society. We used to …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — God Is Always With Us

“Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” — Psalm 23:4 I keep thinking about people dying alone. And it breaks my heart. I was in Europe when my dad died, but I was able to talk to him on the phone as they …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Walking By Faith

“For we walk by faith and not by sight” — 2 Cor. 5:7 My vision recently altered. I had the flu in January and in the aftermath, my previously very controlled prediabetis/diabetes went haywire. It took me awhile to figure out what was going on because I just thought it was residual from the flu and an infection that followed. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — We Need Each Other

“Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.” — Hebrews 10:24-25 My family held our …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Spring Into Lent

At 11:50 last night, spring officially began — the earliest possible day for the vernal equinox and the earliest spring in 124 years. However, I suspect most of us just aren’t feeling it — that renewal that comes when all the trees are budding, the birds begin to sing and the flowers start their blooming. Instead of trying to pass …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — ‘Behold I Am Doing A New Thing’

Paula Mehmel, senior pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hartford, Conn., along with her church leadership and staff, decided recently to move to virtual worship in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. In the meantime, she is doing some regular devotionals for her parish that she has decided to share. Here is today’s, from Isaiah 43:19. As I awoke for …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Leap Of Faith

My mom died on Leap Day four years ago. It was a blessed end to what had been a horribly long journey through the ravages of Alzheimer’s. I did not mourn her death but rather rejoiced in the New Life she began. My mom was an amazing person. I know everyone says that about their moms, but she really truly …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Health Crisis

Occasionally, I will hear from people that they don’t care about politics, that what happens in Washington doesn’t affect them. They don’t like the chaos or behavior of the current administration, but the stock market is doing well, so they can look the other way in the face of the rise in autocratic fascism that is threatening our national security …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Our Bonhoeffer Moment

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  — George Santayana Living as we are, in a time of extremes, it becomes  easy to fail to see the incremental steps in history.  Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, people started making comparisions to Nazi Germany and the discussion became immediately polarized. From a historical perspective, as …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Democracy In Shambles

We are in the midst of a full-blown constitutional crisis, as the elected leader of the country is using the Justice Department to punish his enemies and reward his defenders who committed crimes to get him into office. This is not the action of a free democracy. This is the action of an authoritarian leader and dictator. The kind of …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Don’t Give Up

I’ve been quiet for a while. Not because I haven’t been paying attention but because work has been overwhelming and I haven’t had the time to digest what has been an unbelievably painful week. These are just a few of the things that happened. There was an abhorrent Mideast “peace accord” that essentially endorsed apartheid for Palestinians and a destruction …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Our Armed Forces Deserve Better

After the Iranian attack on an Iraqi air base earlier this month we were told by President Trump that there were no injuries. However, this week, it turns out what the commander in chief told the U.S. was false. The numbered of injured was confirmed Friday to be 34. Seventeen of them have returned to duty. Eight have been returned …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Strategy For Surviving These Trying Times

It is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I am a citizen of a country whose leader is taking rogue actions, like assassinating a foreign general — albeit an evil one — without informing, to say nothing of having the support of allies or members of Congress. In addition, President Trump has been impeached for abusing power and withholding aid from …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Explosive Theology

Sometimes it is necessary to dig deeper behind the news story to really understand what is going on. I truly believe that is what is happening with the escalation of our conflict with Iran and to be honest, it is even more terrifying than it initially appears. The missing backstory to this warmongering is the belief by many evangelical Christians …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — You Promote What You Permit

You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they respond to adversity. Implying the spouse of someone who voted to impeach you is in hell is reprehensible at any time, but when you are at a rally where you say you are celebrating Christmas, it goes beyond any form of human decency. I truly and deeply do …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Be A Beacon Of Light

If someone like me, a lifelong political junkie who is continually appalled at what is transpiring in this current administration, is wearied at the impeachment votes unfold, I cannot imagine what people who are less obsessed with politics feel. But that is exactly what authoritarian regimes want to happen and why they succeed. Because people get worn down by the continual …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Between Obsession And Oblivion

When I come home after a long day at work, I admit the last thing I want to do is follow what is happening in the impeachment process or even follow what is unfolding in our government. It is doubly hard during the Christmas season. Truth be told, I just want to put on Christmas music, bake cookies, tune out …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Standing In The Gap

This is the final blog about Paula Mehmel’s trip to the southern border of the U.S. with Abriendo Fronteras/Opening Borders delegation, which spent six days in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, exploring issues related to immigration. Who are the people who are willing to stand in the gap? In the midst of the attack on the people of Juarez from …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Clear And Present Danger

Over the past week, we have seen highly ethical, nonpartisan and committed foreign service officers and members of the military with nothing to gain and everything but their integrity and vow to defend and protect the U.S. Constitution to lose, say essentially the same thing. Our policy toward Ukraine, which was in the best interest of our national security, was co-opted …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Remembering The Dead

If I were at home, I would probably take the day off. I woke up achy and miserable, after hacking all night with a cold our group seems to be sharing. At first, I was feeling sorry for myself knowing I couldn’t take a bread. I needed to charge through. But then I thought of all of the people we …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — When I Was A Stranger, You Welcomed Me

What would you do if, all of a sudden,  your city was overwhelmed with desperate people? They gave everything they had to get to your city  to legally claim asylum, fleeing violence and government oppression and starvation due to climate change. But after claiming asylum and being held in the “ice box” detention center for up to to 30 days …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Truth About What Happens At The Border

What really happens when someone comes across the border and asks for asylum? That is a question many ask, hearing so many proclaim the stories of abuse as fake news. Pastor Rose Mary Sanchez, an ELCA pastor serving at Iglesia Luterano Cristo Rey in El Paso, Texas, knows. She serves a small congregation where only eight of the families that …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — In Memory Of Joshua Birchem

This is different from my usual blogs. This is the sermon I preached at the funeral for my nephew, Joshua, who lost his battle with depression on Sept 30, 2019. He was 20 years old and a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus. He was a beloved son, brother, cousin, nephew and friend. His loss left a hole and I am sharing …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Discordant Melody That Refuses To Be Silenced

Today we crossed the border and entered into the reality of the struggles of those who live in Juarez, Mexico, and those who are forced to wait there as they seek asylum. It was a short trip across the river and a long journey into the depths of human pain. It was hard to comprehend that the squalor in Juarez …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — What Are You Doing?

“Don’t come here asking what you can do at the border to help. The work that must be done is where you came from.” So began Ruben Garcia, advocate for asylum seekers and the founder of Annunciation House, a place of refuge that houses those who have come to the El Paso, Texas, border seeking asylum. He told our delegation, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Broken Immigration System

Nothing about the current immigration crisis in our country is simple or easy. After one day as part of the Abriendo Fronteras/Opening Borders delegation, spending six days in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, exploring issues related to immigration, that is my greatest take away. Our morning began early, at 6 am. The group of 16 — which includes our two …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Beneath Human Dignity

I cannot show you any photos of the women whose stories we heard today because their lives are at risk. But it broke me. We heard from five of the six women living in a safe house in Juarez, Mexico. They all fled their native Central American countries with their children  because they were facing death threats from the police …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Democracy At Risk

“You people with this phony Emoluments Clause.” — Donald Trump, Oct. 21, 2019 “No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” — U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 You …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — In Memory Of A Giant … And A Challenge

“As a country, we are so much better than this, When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?” — Elijah Cummings Elijah Cummings was the moral voice and conscience of the U.S. House of Representatives. The son of sharecroppers, he rose to the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — We Deserve Better

On Monday the U.S. withdrew approximately 1,000 troops from the Syrian border, allowing Turkey to slaughter our faithful allies, the Kurds, and leaving no one to guard the ISIS soldiers, allowing them to escape. On Friday the Turks dropped bombs so close to the U.S. troops that they almost returned fire. As fellow NATO members, the Turkish Army knows where …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — This Is Who We Have Become

Sometimes, things can be just too painful to read. I had that feeling as I was reading “Lilac Girls,” the work of historical fiction by Martha Hall Kelly that tells the real life story of New York sociality Caroline Ferriday, who championed a group of women known as “The Rabbits” who survived the horrors of Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp …