Unheralded

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 …


Unheralded

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 …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — God Or Mammon?

To whom or what are you loyal? That really is the core question we are grappling with as a nation. Where do your core loyalties lie? Are you more concerned with power or loyalty to a person or are you loyal to a higher ideal? As a person of faith, I know my first loyalty is always to God, and …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — How Do We Honor The Dead?

As I walked my dog by the Catholic cemetery that borders my condo Monday morning, I heard echoes of Taps ring through the air and reflected on the dead who were being honored this past Memorial Day Weekend — men and women who gave their lives in service to our country and its highest ideals. How do we honor the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Democracy At Crossroads

I know. I know. It is hard to stay actively engaged with what is happening in our country. It would be so much easier to just tune things out. It’s just so overwhelming. So exhausting. The truth is, if I stayed as outraged as the situation warranted every time a norm was obliterated, an egregious lie was told or the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Lenten Discipline

Seven years ago I gave up plastic bags for Lent. Every year it seemed that when I did my Lenten Disciplines, they were self-serving. Changing a dietary pattern, improving my prayer life or decluttering. Things that would make MY life better. So in 2012, I decided to do something that would make the planet better. I gave up using plastic …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Smirk Seen ‘Round The World

It is the smirk that haunts me. That self-satisfied, smug, arrogant look of condescension and feeling of superiority, for no reason other than the fact that he is privileged white boy wearing a red hat that claims that he wants to “Make America Great Again.” The story of Nathan Phillips, the Vietnam veteran and Omaha elder who chose to stand …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Word For The Wise

I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I think that’s because they set me up for failure. All too often they are big and broad and take an incredible amount of discipline to be successful for a whole year. I suspect it is the same reason I really like Lenten disciplines. They are time-limited to 40 days, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Truth Will Set You Free

Last night, I went to the new play “Lifespan of a Fact,” starring Daniel Radcliffe. It was brilliant and debated what happens when we lose track of facts and truth. That is probably one of the things that bothers me most about what is transpiring in this country (besides, you know, kids in cages, the destruction of the environment and …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Oh, Lord It’s Hard To Be Humble

When I interviewed with the Emanuel Call Committee, I was completely honest with them. I told them if the wanted a perfect pastor, who was always put together, they should not call me. However, if they wanted someone who was flawed and broken, limping through life, relying on the grace of God, then I might be the right choice. Today …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — We Are Tough, We Are Survivors, Kevin Cramer

I am a survivor. That is what I always call myself. I am not a victim of sexual assault. I am a survivor. One of the titles for the many talks I’ve given over the years about my sexual assault is “From Victim to Victor: Finding Healing and Strength in the Face of Violence.” In it, I address the so called …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — As A Survivor, I Stand With Her

This has been a tough week for survivors of sexual assault. And today, it just got worse. Donald Trump, who prior to this morning had used uncharacteristic restraint, tweeted, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Finding Freedom From Shame

I began blogging a couple of years ago, in the aftermath of the Brock Turner sentence. Turner was the 19-year-old Stanford student who drunkenly raped a fellow student and received a ridiculously short jail sentence. I wrote about my own experience as a rape survivor and talked about how there is not a “type” of victim, but there is only …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Welcome To Adulthood

I had the unique and wonderful opportunity to attend a “Welcome to Adulthood” Celebration for a young man in my congregation who turned 18, an event I think more people should celebrate. His parents invited adults who were a part of his life to take part in the ceremony. It began with a reflection of what it means to turn …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids —Finding A Balance

I took a week to be quiet. I realize how privileged I am to have this opportunity — to get away and turn off the noise of the world. For far too many, the realities of everyday survival preclude such luxuries, and for a chance such as this, I am deeply grateful. I’ve done this for years.  I return to …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Survival In Turbulent Times

It’s hard not to be depressed these days. Images of babies screaming as they are ripped away from their mothers breasts and 3-year-olds brought into court alone to face charges haunt my dreams, along with the cries of children who are lost, confused and alone. Social media posts from young men I knew in a kinder, gentler time, whose worst …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Rules Of Engagement

As a blogger and Facebook presence, I use my forum to give my opinions but have always steered away from engaging in debate with others online, especially people I don’t know … until now. Perhaps it is because my posts and blogs are shared a lot and I get tagged in them, but in the past week, I have been …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — There Is No Moral Defense Of Evil Acts

I will never forget the first time I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., because by the time it was over, I wanted to crawl out of it in shame. I was a young pastor, serving as the keynote speaker and Bible study leader at a continuing ed event for people who worked with youth, and part of our …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Be A Voice Of Hope

On Monday, I read their names. The names of some of the men, women and children who were among the 6 million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. As part of Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Day, Voices of Hope and the Mandelll Jewish Community Center in West Hartford, Conn., sponsor a Community Wide Reading of the Names. A member …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Single But Not Broken

I am a single parent. It wasn’t what I set out to do. When Steve and I had Duncan and Ian, I had all the hopes and dreams of a young married mother, raising my children in a loving, intact family. However, that was not to be. Steve and I separated the weekend Ian began kindergarten and Duncan started second …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A False Idol

There is a meme that makes the rounds on my Facebook feed after every school shooting that makes my blood boil. It takes the form of two letters. The first says “Dear God, Why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, a concerned student.” The response reads “Dear Concerned Student, I’m not allowed in schools. God” I find …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Power Of Forgiveness

Steve died five years ago today. I decided to take some time this morning to reflect and pray. So I headed out to what I thought was a dog park, with the hopes that there wouldn’t be many people there on a dreary crisp morning. As luck would have it, the place that Google told me was a dog park …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — ‘Christian Evangelicals’ Have It All Wrong

I’ve been wavering for weeks as to whether to weigh in to the recent #MeToo movement. On the one hand, as a survivor of rape as well as sexual harassment who has experienced sexual discrimination, I have some pretty strong opinions on the matter. On the other hand, I am fully aware of subtleties in every case and worry about …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 12

“Very early in the morning, before the sun had risen, Jesus got up and went to a quiet place to pray.” This verse has ordered my life for years, serving as a reminder for me that Jesus, whose mission it was to save the world, literally, still found it vital to pray and made room for it in his busy …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 11

I am writing this blog with my headphones on and classical music ringing in my ears. We are staying at a Youth Hostel on the Sea of Galilee, where a lot of families come, and near as I can tell, let their children run wild. Last night, there were shouts in the hallway echoing loudly in my room until midnight …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 10

It’s loud at our lodging tonight as I write this. Children are running around, yelling joyfully, riding on scooters and playing with each other as parents mill about, sipping on wine. Toto, we aren’t in Palestine anymore. Tonight is our first evening in Israel, as we are staying in Galilee to see the places where Jesus grew up and where …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 9

A story in four acts. The first act involves the land and nature. We visited the Environmental Education Center, a ministry of the Lutheran Church, on the campus of the Talitha Kumi Lutheran School. Michael, the very knowledgeable and passionate ornithologist on staff, showed us around their wonderful center. There we saw the botanical garden with only indigenous plants, tasted …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 8, Old Hebron

I have traveled the world and been in all sorts of situations. But I never experienced what I did today in Hebron. I walked through what felt like a war zone on a tense truce as I saw a town gasping for its own survival. This story, which is the story of Old Hebron, began in 1979 when a group …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 8, Hebron

In February 1994, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Fargo Forum. I wrote it on a Saturday morning. The day before two events occurred. In one, Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding faced off in the Ladies Short Program of the 1994 Winter Olympics. In the other, 29 Muslims, including women and children who had come to pray …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 7

Today we journeyed to Bethlehem (pictured above). No star to guide us, but walls to divide us, and to divide the Palestinian people. Once we passed through the wall, we headed to the Shepherd’s Field, where shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night. This was without a doubt my favorite place we have visited so far in terms …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 6

Our day began venturing into the West Bank. I am slowly beginning to understand the wall in the West Bank. It is not like the Berlin Wall or the wall some people think is a good idea on our borders, but rather a wall that separates Palestinian from Palestinian. It was created because each of the areas in the West …