Unheralded

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 …


Unheralded

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 …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 5

After doing a photo essay yesterday on Facebook, it is back to blogging today, to sort out what was a day of intense emotion. As it is Sunday, and we are a group from the New England Synod visiting our Companion Synod, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, we set off early for worship. Our group …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 3

Although over the years I have read articles and books about the situation in Palestine and Israel, today as we drove through the West Bank and East Jerusalem on a tour led by Jeff Halper, the founder of the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions, a nonprofit, direct action group dedicated to opposing and resisting the demolition of Palestinian homes, it …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 2

Our group is staying at the Lutheran World Federation Guesthouse, which is located at the top of the Mount of Olives. The land was given to Kaiser Wilhelm when he visited Jerusalem in 1898, and the compound was named for his wife, Augusta Victoria. Since my grandfather fought in the Boxer Rebellion for the Kaiser’s army and my middle name …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Holy Land, Day 1

After a typical Middle Eastern breakfast of pita, cheese, vegetables, an egg and hummus, our group, a mixture laypeople and clergy from the New England Synod on a Companion Synod Pilgrimage to visit the places and people connected with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, went off for our first stop. We arrived at the Dome …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Don’t Let Tribalism Tongue-Tie You

I am no longer tongue-tied. People who know me well most likely are stunned to hear I was ever tongue-tied. After all, my nickname as a child was “talk talk.” However, I have, until this week, been tongue-tied my entire life. I just didn’t find out I was until I was in my late 40s. I have a congenital, hereditary …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Truth About Dreamers

Given all of the things I have seen and heard about DACA in the past few days, I thought it might be helpful to lay out a few facts in the midst of so much misinformation. We are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. For the record … DACA recipients are ineligible for Medicaid. Food stamps. SSI. Welfare. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Blame Humans, Not God

I​ ​hate​ ​the​ ​phrase​ ​“act​ ​of​ ​God.” ​In​ ​legal​ ​usage​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​English–speaking​ ​world,​ ​an​ ​act​ ​of​ ​God​ ​is​ ​a​ ​natural​ ​disaster outside​ ​human​ ​control,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​an​ ​earthquake,​ ​hurricane,​ ​flood​ ​or​ ​tsunami,​ ​for​ ​which​ ​no​ ​person can​ ​be​ ​held​ ​responsible. As​ ​a​ ​pastor,​ ​I​ ​have​ ​always​ ​found​ ​it​ ​interesting​ ​that​ ​the​ ​only​ ​time​ ​God​ ​ever​ ​makes​ ​it​ ​into​ ​the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — There Is More To Activism Than Sheet Cakes

I love Tina Fey, and I laughed out loud when she poured her sorrows over the events at the alma mater, the University of Virginia, into stress eating a sheet cake on “Weekend Update” this past week. It was a brilliant segment. However, my fear is that her satire of feigned helpless is all too easily embraced. We laugh with …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — When Hate Goes Unchecked

In January, I spent two weeks in Uganda, working in refugee camps, doing trauma healing. There I came face to face with the victims of a brutal civil war in South Sudan. I heard stories of rape, murder and torture committed in the name of genocidal, tribal hatred. In April, I visited the Killing Fields of Cambodia. I saw the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Without Reservations

Something happened to me today that has I’ve never done before while traveling. I made my reservation for the wrong day. In a European calendar, the days begins with Monday not Sunday. When making reservations I have always caught this fact but must have been tired when booking the Pension Gina in Gorlitz, Germany, because I made it one day later …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Iceland And Norway: Rental Cars, Planes And Ferries

One of the things about travel is that you really have to learn to “go with the flow,” and for me, some of those parts are easier than others. For example, a snafu with weather, a travel delay or an unexpected glitch in my plans usually doesn’t get under my skin. Being late for flights, however, not so much. Unfortunately, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — What Would Have Been My Silver Anniversary

I was married 25 years ago today. And I’m not sure how to think about it. My marriage ended 11 years ago, and Steve died seven years later. I was holding his hand as he took his last breath, providing a lasting legacy of grace for our children, a reminder of the power of love and the transformative nature of forgiveness. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Chance Of Life

It’s been an interesting week. It started last Thursday, when Ian and I were driving to work. I had just passed the Veteran’s Boulevard underpass when I saw what looked to me like a mushroom cloud of dust in my rear-view mirror. I immediately told Ian, and he turned around and saw it as well, and we both commented that …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — The Lure Of Angor Wat

When discussing with Jen what I wanted to do in Cambodia, I made it clear that my first priority was to be of service to the Young Adult in Global Mission program and to her in any way possible and that I had no reconceived expectations. That said, I added, if it worked out, I would really love to see …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Trip Into The Heart Of Cambodia

We took a tuk tuk to Takeo. Takeo, a province south of Phnom Penh, is not only the location of a spot Jen was scouting as a possible end of the year retreat for the YAGM volunteers, it was also the home province of our friend and tuk tuk driver, Me-an’s wife’s family. So when Jen arranged with him to …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Communion And More

Today was all about Communion. Our morning began very early, before the sun had even considered rising, as we needed to take a journey back to Phnom Penh following the wedding the previous night. The journey had been about four hours in our minibus, but the return trip in our taxi was slightly under three, getting us to Phnom Penh about 8 …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — ‘One Night In Cambodia’

I never went to prom. However, at the age of 53, I did attend a Cambodian wedding celebration, which I believe goes one step better. In order to attend the wedding, and be properly respectful, the first order of business was getting a Cambodian dress. That was easier said than done, however, because the Cambodian people are small and I …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Easy And Right Aren’t the Same Thing

It’s easy, in the face of atrocities, to want to look the other way. That’s what went through my mind today as I stared at skull upon skull stacked 18 levels high at the Killing Fields Memorial Site, or as I listened to the audio descriptions of torture as I walked through Tuol Sleng Prison, the Genocide Museum. It would …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Navigating The College Admissions Process

It’s the last week of March. This year, for me, that means that I begin the process of relieving my yard of the detritus that gathered over the winter and recycling all of the items that have been stored in my garage, waiting for a day that was nice enough to haul them to the city recycling bins. But I …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — I Want To Be The Face Of Medicaid Expansion!

I was on Medicaid. There, I admitted it.  It’s not an easy thing to do for me. Even when I was on it, and I would go to the doctor, I handed the card to the person at the admittance desk with a furtive glance around to see if anyone saw me. And every time, I wanted to blurt out my …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Shedding Fear, Despair And Outrage

My senior year of seminary I gave up cynicism for Lent. My life, at that point, was literally out of my control. Approved for ordination, my placement was in the hands of the Conference of Bishops, which held a draft of all the eligible candidates to decide where we would end up going, geographically. It would have been easy to …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Uganda Journal, Day 11

Travel in Uganda is all part of the experience. And our journey from Adjumani back to Entebbe was indeed quite the experience. Our original plan was to take the bus — it would have been far cheaper, albeit less comfortable, and we wanted to be good stewards of our funds. Unfortunately, we went to book it too late in the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Uganda Journal, Day 10

I awoke in the morning feeling as though a 50,000-pound weight was suspended over my body, held up by a thread and giving me scant room with which to maneuver. I literally crawled out of bed feeling as though I had to avoid this weight that was hanging over me. The reality is, the weight of the emotion with which …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Uganda Journal, Day 9

I will be honest. When Denise and John suggested that I join them on this trip — OK, it also may have been me inviting myself — I was a bit concerned that the focus would be pastoral. Yes, I am a pastor, but to be honest, I am aware of the heavy burden Africa bears because of colonial missionary work …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Uganda Journal, Day 8

Connections and relationships are vital when engaged in meaningful community development. Sudanese  Lutheran Community Development, the organization with which I am volunteering, began when my friend Denise’s bishop approached her about building a relationship with some Sudanese Lost Boys about 15 years ago. When Denise and her husband John go into something, they go big or go home.  Or in this …