Unheralded

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — A Broken Trust

This is the second in a series of three blogs highlighting Paula Mehmel’s experience of clergy abuse by hierarchical structures. Although I had served my congregation faithfully for 20 years, as one of my very wise council members told me, “If you piss off 3 percent of the people a year, you are doing well. But if you stay for …


Unheralded

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Unchecked Power Can Be Silencing

This is the first in a series of three blogs highlighting Paula Mehmel’s experience of clergy abuse by hierarchical structures. In recent years, there have been a lot of blogs and articles about why so many pastors and other rostered leaders are leaving the ministry. As an ordained ELCA pastor for 34 years and the current pastor of a UCC …


PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — You Can’t Have It Both Ways

I’ve seen a lot on social media about the Neanderthal views of the Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker. I believe in his right to have and express his opinion, although I truly feel sorry for the Benedictine nuns who support the institution at which he made his remarks. Butker’s comments indicate the nuns’ choice to follow service to Lord …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 9

Our last day in Morocco began very early, before sunrise. We got up and walked out into the sand dunes and watched the magic as the sun peaked over the sand. I think the part that is the most indescribable is the different shades of color of sand. And how intensely and incredibly beautifully it reflects as the the rays …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 8

As an avid traveler, I’m not sure I have a “bucket list” per se because travel for me is about life not death. But I definitely have a list of travel dreams. To accomplish one in a few years is incredible. But to accomplish two in less than four months seems unfathomable. However, a mere months after reaching my seventh …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 7

And now for something completely different. I am not a birdwatcher. I feed the birds on my deck and I recognize a few of them, like the cardinal and the finch. But mostly if I see a bird that’s pretty, I point at  it and say, “Oh. There’s a pretty bird.”  But it has to be fairly obvious because my …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 6

A few people have asked about how I put this trip together and how it was organized, and I thought that this would be a good post to explain that as the past day has been about travel coordination. When Gretchen and I decided to go, we talked about the places we wanted to visit, knowing we would want to …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 5

Today was a deep dive into Morocco, its history and culture, as we took a walking tour of the old city portion of Fes. Today Fes has a modern city and the medieval Medina, which together have 1.5 million people. Fes was founded in 789 by Iraqis who sought to bring Islam to Morocco. Prior to that time, the country …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 4

The key to successful travel experiences, in my opinion, is pace. You can’t go, go, go all the time and really appreciate all that a country has to offer. At least I can’t. So some days you need to deliberately slow down to experience a country and not just see it. That’s what today was all about. We had a …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 3, Evening Iftar

Serendipity: “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” Serendipity — what we experienced this evening in Tangier. Last night, during dinner, we had the most delightful waiter, Reda, a high school senior. During the course of our conversation over the meal, he extended an invitation to us to join him and some of …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 3

Normally when I get up in the morning, I do not plan my wardrobe to coordinate with the city to which I am traveling. However, this wasn’t a normal day and Chefchauoen is not a normal city. We set out with our driver from the previous day and drove two hours up to the mountains to this famous blue city. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco, Day 2

I often tell people that I have adopted Rick Steves approach to travel, which focuses on being a backdoor traveler. Today I took that to a whole new level. We spent the first part of the day touring Morocco with a driver arranged through our lodging.  Our driver, Mohammed, spoken no English. However, we were able to communicate through Martha’s …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco, Day 1

What started with a loose screw ended with a magical encounter with a painting that has long been one of my favorite works of art. So goes the serendipity of travel as I embark on another segment of “Travels with Paula—Moroccan (and unexpectedly Madrid) edition.” (Time to silence my posts if you don’t like my travelogues.) After getting up at …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Taking God Hostage

Most people, in my opinion, misunderstand the commandment “Don’t take God’s name in vain.” It is often associated with using course and vulgar language, which while at times can be both crude and degrading, has absolutely NOTHING to do with what I believe this commandment is about. This commandment is about using God’s name to claim power for yourself. Claiming, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — It Takes A Village

I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of interdependence and relying on others to help you. We are so often tied into the myth that we need to be self-reliant, which totally misses the greatest joy of life — giving and receiving help because we don’t need to be able to do everything for ohurselves. On Thursday, I did a …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — A Leap Of Faith

My appreciation for Leap Day changed dramatically eight years ago when my mother’s earthly journey ended on Feb 29. The last years of her life were at times a living hell for her, as she battled the most horrific form of Alzheimer’s I’ve ever seen, robbing her of the dignity that defined her life, even as she was still aware …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 12

I write this final post having just awakened from a three-hour nap  after completing a 28-hour journey from leaving the ship to arriving home. We needed to be out of our rooms by 8 a.m. and on the bus by 8:40 a.m. So we had a last breakfast and a chance to say goodbye to some of the friends we …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 11

Our last full day on the ship started early. Very early. Around 4 a.m., both Janel and I woke up when a series of swells and waves covered our window on the fourth floor of the ship. Later, I heard that it did the same for people on the fifth floor. This is a huge ship. That was a huge …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 10

Our time on the continent was over, so we set out to once again to  cross the Drake Passage, which takes two days. We had been forewarned that our trip across was average, but the return trip would be the Drake shake. I spent most of the morning birdwatching. I was particularly interested in the albatross species that were flying …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 9

Today was the day that I had been thinking about and debating over since I first decided to take this cruise to Antarctica: the day of the polar plunge. When thinking about jumping into the water, I knew I could not do it, not out of fear but out of solid sense of safety. The form of asthma I have …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 8

Sometimes the best laid  plans don’t pan out and even better plans take their place. That is what transpired today. The intent had been to land at a site and do quite a steep walk to the top of a vista where there would’ve been many many Chinstrap penguins and had yet another chance to get a good workout in …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, The Campout

When I first begin to explore going on a cruise to Antarctica, I read about the opportunity to go camping on the continent. Of course, every fiber of my outdoor being hoped and prayed that I would be able to take advantage of such a unique and incredible opportunity. However I was fully aware that because of conditions and limited …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 6

After a superb sleep, which I can’t help but think was the result of a nice hot tub and sauna before bed in Antarctic temperatures, we woke up a bit more leisurely than we had in the past few days because our cruise around Port Lockroy wasn’t until the second grouping. I’ve had a few questions about clothing and temperature, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 5

I woke up early in the morning and looked outside and immediately thought of the end of the movie “Fifty First Dates,” when Drew Barrymore comes out from the ship and sees herself surrounded by icebergs. Although I was more prepared for it than the character in the movie, it was nonetheless just as shockingly stunning. Completely surrounded by such …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 4: Drake Passage

Today we continued our journey through the Drake Passage. To be completely honest, I had one of my better sleeps in a long time, and a large part is because of the rocking of the boat. It kind of reminded me of the days when I had a waterbed. Organizers tell us that the waves are not as big as …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 3: Drake Passage

Today was all about the Drake Passage and acclimatizing to the ship and sea travel. The Drake Passage is the body of water between South America’s Cape Horn, Chile, Argentina and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean. According to Wikipedia, “The Drake Passage …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 2.5: How I Chose Hurtigruten Expeditions

I thought it might be nice to explain a bit of why we chose to take a cruise with Hurtigruten Expeditions. Priorities for me, and I believe I also speak for Janel, a fellow pastor and my traveling companion, were: Sustainability and eco-friendliness. Size of cruise. Ability to do landings on the continent. Cost. Reputation. Ability to learn about climate …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 2: Ushuaia And Tierra Del Fuego National Park

Our flight from Buenos Aires took us to Ushuaia, a city known as the “End of the World,”  since the town is located at the southernmost tip of South America and therefore is the  southernmost city in the world. The cruise arranged for a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park (The Land of Fire), at the base of the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 1: Buenos Aires

Sometimes good energy pays off and the beginning of my journey to Antarctica illustrates that. I’m a pastor and my trip to Antarctica was originally part of a Lily Sabbatical grant that I lost after leaving the congregation I was serving. I was called to move the church from a charity model to one focused on systemic racism. However, the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — How Bad Does It Have To Get?

The image of a frog in boiling water shows us how things can heat up incrementally so that you don’t realize how bad it is until it is too late. This past week, the former president claimed that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, committed treason and that such action in the last called for DEATH …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — It’s About Democracy

It is intellectually dishonest to say that the indictment of former President Donald Trump that happened Thursday was unfair without reading the indictment itself.  And anyone, upon reading it, who is not deeply disturbed by the allegations to subvert our democracy and actively work to discount a free and fair election can’t say that they are committed to democracy or …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, A Reflection

Except for an unexpected overnight in the Cairo airport, my return to the U.S. was otherwise seamless. As I settle back into my routine, with no other big adventures imminent, I thought I would do one final reflection on travel to Egypt in general, in the event others are thinking of a similar pilgrimage.    One of the most common …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 11

We departed the ship at 6:45 a.m. to catch our flight to Cairo, which was seamless until the tarmac bus took us to the wrong place and we had airport officials screaming at us about being in the wrong place. Or at least that’s what it sounded like. Most folks don’t speak English, which is fine,  but when being yelled …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 10

After waking up at 3:30 a.m. to watch UConn win, the last full day on the cruise began with a visit to a place called the Unfinished Obelisk, and I have to admit, I wondered why anyone would want to see an unfinished work when there are so many finished obelisks around. I was wrong in questioning it. It actually …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 9

I woke up early after a very good night’s sleep and had a chance to watch the sun rise over the Nile as we cruised down the river, one of those surreal experiences I will never forget. Our first stop of the day was Edfu Temple, but to get there we took horse carriages, which was an unexpected treat. Because …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 8

After beginning the day, predawn, with the balloon ride that was truly spectacular, we headed out to see the places that we saw from the air on the ground. I have to say it was quite nice to have a perspective of what we were seeing and their mass of nature before we toured them. Our first very brief stop …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — A Fall Into Authoritarianism

If you want to understand what a fall into authoritarianism looks like, a case in point is the vote to expel two representatives from the Tennessee state house who peacefully protested the Legislature’s failure to address gun violence after a school shooting that took six lives. Rather than tackle one of the most challenging issues we face as a society …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 7

We finished our time in Cairo today and flew to Luxor to begin our four-night cruise down the Nile River. Well, the cruise officially starts tomorrow as we are still docked in Luxor, but the boat is at least in the Nile. We are on a small boat with maybe 100 people or so on board. I’m not sure exactly …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 6

Our last full day in Cairo promised to be full, with much on our agenda,  but it began with a surprise. Since the start of this trip, I had been in search of a very unique Egyptian dish called Koshary, a mix of pasta, Egyptian fried rice, vermicelli and brown lentils, topped with a zesty tomato sauce, garlic vinegar and …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 5

Today was one for the bucket list, but I am going to divide my posts up a bit because I think a picture is worth more than 1000 words.  In the morning we were joined by Cindy’s friend, Ellen, who flew in from Los Angeles to join us for the last part of our time in Cairo and our cruise. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 4

Today we took a break from sightseeing. In the morning, Cindy caught up on some work and I traveled to visit the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo. My good friends Karla and David Grafton, who helped profoundly with planning this trip, worked at the seminary when they lived here and it was an incredible chance for me to learn about …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 3

We got to sleep in a little later this morning, heading out at 8:20 a.m. to our first site, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan. We try to get out a bit earlier because traffic in Cairo is absolutely insane and I’ve never heard so much beeping. So many cars, so many people. On our way to the mosque we passed …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 2

Today began very early, as we met our guide and driver at 6 a.m. to begin the journey to Alexandria. It was a 2½ hour drive on what it’s called the Desert Road between the lush oasis that is Cairo, which is fed by the Nile River, to Alexandria, located on the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandria was the capital of Egypt …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 1

Every so often in life, you are dealt unexpected curveballs that seem unfair and moments of true serendipitous grace. For me, in the past year, I’ve had both. When I left my call at Emanuel, I lost a Lily Sabbatical Grant that would have provided an amazing experience for my family and me. And now I have begun a truly astonishing …