Unheralded

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — What Really Matters

I received a letter from my 22-year-old self this week. Well, sort of. It was a letter that I sent to the woman who was my camp counselor when I was 14, thanking her for the influence she had on my life. I sent it the week before I left for seminary, Aug. 31, 1986. She found it this week, …


Unheralded

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Wanted, Critical Thinkers

I never received the smallpox vaccine. But I thank God for everyone who did. My parents were not anti-vax. But back when everyone my age lined up to get the vaccine that would leave a unique scar on their upper arm, I couldn’t join them. I had severe eczema as a child and due to a reaction that the vaccine …


PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Addressing The Color Divide

From time to time, I see Facebook friends who I know to be decent people post things about “cancel culture,” decrying what they see as an “attack” because someone found something offensive. It always makes me sad because I believe that a lot of this “forced” divide in our nation could be addressed if we opened our minds, heard the …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Separating The Wheat From The Chaff

The faux rage about “canceling” Dr. Seuss because the corporation that preserves his legacy removed a small handful of his countless books because of content that clearly is not appropriate and is hurtful in 2021 is so off point. Much of what Theodor Geisel wrote was lovely or fun. That is not going anywhere. It is the process of separating …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — My Lenten Discipline

This year, as my Lenten Discipline, I decided to devote 30 minutes a day to deep and intentional anti-racism reading and reflection. I selected a few books that have been on my “meaning to read” list and put them next to my recliner.  Every evening after dinner, if I have time before a meeting, or before bed if I don’t, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Taking Something Up For Lent

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, which is a time when many faithful Christians begin the process of their Lenten Discipline, or what is often referred to as “giving up something for Lent.” This year, though, I suspect I am not alone in my reaction to the thought of “giving up” something after a year of giving up a whole lot of …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Beyond Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day, the day when Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow to see if he sees his shadow to determine whether there are six more weeks of winter. Today also feels like Groundhog Day, as portrayed in the 1993 comedy classic starring Bill Murray. The premise of “Groundhog Day” is that a TV weatherman finds himself reliving …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Thank God For Bernie

If you are on social media anywhere these days, it is impossible to miss. A photo of a single man, his face covered by a mask, but still clearly glowering underneath, sitting in a fold-up chair, bundled up in a warm coat and wearing glorious mittens, photoshopped into a myriad of odd locations. The Bernie meme. This picture of Vermont …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — The Two Kingdoms

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. The events of the past week have left me at once glued to my television and also feeling a soul-crushing desire to just go upstairs, pull the covers over my head and pretend that this is not happening in our country. So I have been praying a lot about how to deal …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids —Democracy Depends On Unity

This morning, I watched with horror more videos of the violent insurrection, which was minutes away from a massacre. As awful as it was, it could have been so much worse had the rioters fulfilled their intent to kill the vice president and members of Congress. Many of the rank-and-file members of the Capitol Police, whose leadership was horrible, fulfilled …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — The Truth Will Set Us Free

My social media presence is fairly deliberate and intentional. I try to vary it between vignettes from my day to day life, spiritual reflections and my commentary on what is transpiring in the world around me. I have worked hard to not be the person who only rants about politics, although depending on what is going on, I will occasionally …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Out With The Old, In With The New

A few years back, I decided to toss away the idea of New Year’s resolutions and instead embrace the idea of a “Word of the Year by Which to Live.” The idea is to have one word for the year that you focus on and each day you work on that word. It becomes a centering principle by which you …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Uphold The Constitution

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and that is what I will do Jan. 6 — just as I strive to do every day as I serve the people of Alaska. I will vote to affirm the 2020 presidential election.” Joe Biden won the presidential election over President …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — God’s Name Is Not A Tool For Our Benefit

I must admit to being bemused by the hypocrisy of people who claim the name of Christ who have looked the other way the past four years but are horrified over the use of a vulgar word by a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s staff. I don’t condone calling anyone names. It is wrong, and I don’t think it is …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Coronavirus Can’t Darken The Miracle Of The Christmas Story

Shortly after getting married, my late ex-husband, Steve,  and I knew our Christmas traditions were going to have to change. Growing up, I had always gone to Winnipeg for a large family gathering on Christmas Eve. In my first parish, we went to Steve’s  family farm on Christmas Eve, since it was only a few miles from the church I …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — COVID Is Real

I have COVID. You can take all the right precautions, wear a mask at all times, socially distance, wash your hands, etc.,  and still get it. As luck would have it, I hadn’t left my house for more than 72 hours before showing symptoms, so no one else was exposed. That made contact testing much easier! I got tested after …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Christmas Worship 2.0

Christmas is going to look different this year. That is pretty much a universal truth for so many people. We won’t be traveling to spend time with loved ones, we won’t be having large family gatherings in festive outfits as we exchange gifts, share food and drink and celebrate the joy of being together. And perhaps for many of us, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Wanted: Responsible Leaders

Joe Biden won the popular vote for president by nearly 6 million votes and his electoral college total of 306 is identical to President Trump’s in 2016, though his winning margins in close states is significantly higher. The election was considered the most secure in history, as stated by Trump appointee Chris Krebs, who was fired for doing his job …

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

I decided to fast from all media this past weekend. It was a good choice. My spirit needed it. But when I listened to NPR’s “Up First” on Monday morning, I was overwhelmed all over again with the heavy weight of the world falling down all around me. The simple truth is, just like the reduction in light we receive …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Building Bridges, Not Walls

Over the past week, I have learned far more about the names of counties in Arizona, Georgia , Nevada and Pennsylvania than I ever possibly imagined. As election returns poured, or more like dripped in, I found myself transfixed, looking at returns, percentages and vote totals with what I’m afraid  became an obsession, until the race was called Saturday morning. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids —Speaking To The Lord

I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I suspect I am not alone. In fact, in conversations with parishioners and friends, I’ve been hearing a lot of people are struggling to sleep at night. Whether it is falling asleep, or like me, waking up in the middle of the night and then struggling to get back to sleep, many of us are restless. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Mister Roger’s Neighborhood Would Be Such A Welcome Place Right Now

“Well @JoeBiden @ABCPolitics town hall feels like I am watching an episode of “Mister Rodgers Neighborhood” Tweet by Mercedes Schlapp, Senior adviser to the Trump/Pence Campaign. I like Fred Rogers. His show debuted when I was in kindergarten, and I grew up adoring his slow-paced, intentional focus on accepting who we are, being kind to others and showing empathy. As a …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Attitude Of Gratitude

Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving. One of the joys of being a dual citizen is that I get two days set aside to focus on Thanksgiving. This weekend, I had a chance to celebrate it with my sons and their girlfriends, which was a source of thanksgiving in and of itself, and in November, we will do the same. However, I …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Let The Lord Be Your Rock

We live in uncertain times, times where there seems to be no strong foothold, where we are trying to balance on shifting sands. With all the unpredictability created by COVID-19 and exacerbated by what is unfolding in our national affairs, it is easy to feel unsteady, unsure and exhausted. Many of us wake up in the middle of the night …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — What Are Angels?

Angels aren’t what you think they are. At least if you accept the way that they have been co-opted by humans to provide fodder for Hallmark figurines and provide solace during times of grief. They aren’t, at least according to the Scripture, quaint and cute winged cherubs playing stringed instruments and flying around shooting arrows of love into people’s souls. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — We Must Work Together

To my Trump supporting friends: I am not your enemy. You know me, you know who I am and what I represent. Sure, I’ve been a political creature since about the time I could talk. I did, after all, write a letter to Richard Nixon in 1970, at the age of 5, questioning the morality of the war in VIetnam. …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Walking In The Light Of God

I hate 2020. That was my visceral Facebook post after hearing of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, shortly followed by the announcement that 200,000 people in this county have died from COVID-19. Almost immediately, someone who doesn’t share my political views chimed in, “You should not hate.” A bit later, it was followed by a far more well-meaning parishioner …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Red Or Blue, All Lives Matter

On Wednesday, President Trump said, regarding COVID-19 deaths, “So we’re down in this territory, and that’s despite the fact that the Blue states had had tremendous death rates. If you take the Blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level. But some of …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — A Glimpse Of Hope In The Face Of Death

Marti was a rescue dog. We found her through “Petfinder.com.” My youngest son, Ian, was a huge Peanuts fan, and he really wanted a Beagle, and I found a Beagle/Terrier cross at the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in my hometown of Willmar, Minn. It felt like serendipity. I had grown up in WIllmar with a Beagle/(we are pretty sure) Terrier cross, …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — In God We Trust

I hate playing God. Lately, I’ve been struggling with that as I deal with my dog Marti’s health. Marti began losing weight sometime during my surgery and recovery and when we took her in, they diagnosed her with Lyme disease, with a principal attack on her kidney functions. Since we found this out, we have been working with the vet …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Give Peace A Chance

I repudiate violence. I believe vigilante groups brandishing weapons and coming into cities as “militia” to “defend” territory that is not theirs is repugnant. I believe destruction of property and looting is wrong and is not the work of peaceful protesters or at all the agenda of Black Lives Matter. It is being stoked by those who wish to tarnish …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Isolated But Never Alone

The fast is over. On Sunday, for the first time since March 8, the community of I serve, Emanuel Lutheran in Hartford, Conn., shared in the Sacrament of the Table. Or more precisely, tables. I presided at the card table (above photo) so that I could be close to my Wi-Fi router as I shared our Wired Worship over Zoom …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Deliver Us From Evil

This whole situation with the U.S. Postal Service baffles me. We have a U.S. Postal Service for the same reason we have a National Defense, an Interstate Highway System or the TSA. It is part of the mechanics of running a country. There is a charge for the services we receive when we mail packages or post a letter, but …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Patience Is Truly A Virtue

I walked  in my own shoes today for the first time in 10 weeks. I have to admit, I was surprised it took so long. My foot surgery was the first time I have had an operation on a bone or joint, other than a rather minor medial meniscus repair on my knee. So I either wasn’t listening carefully enough …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Above The Fray Of Political Partisanship

“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Open Hearts And Open Minds

I was ordained July 28, 1990, which means that this year I am marking the 30th anniversary of my ordination. A couple of weeks ago, on the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women, I shared my call story, so as I commemorate this important anniversary, I thought I would share a story of how God reassured me that I …

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — In The End, God Wins

Doomsdayscrolling. The second I heard the word I knew what it was. The process of looking at your phone and scrolling through Twitter, or Facebook, or a newsfeed, moving from depressing story from depressing story — the rate of infections increasing, the economic impact of the pandemic, the threat of climate change, the possible consequences of the dire things that …

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 …

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 …