The Messenger

Letter from the Editor

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

In February I had the opportunity to partake in a trip to Israel and Palestine with members of BelPres and members of Overlake Christian Church. I spent eight days with the group learning from our Israeli guide, Eldad, and from our Palestinian guide, Hussam. For many of the group, it was their first trip to the Holy Land. It might as well have been mine for all I realized I did not know or was blind to the last time I went.

Our trip was unique. We did not go to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, but rather to engage with the Israeli narrative and the Palestinian narrative on the ground level. As part of this experience, we had daily opportunities to meet with Israelis and Palestinians who take various positions on the land and the future of a state in the region. We shared lunch and dinner with people who opened their homes and hearts to us.

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Culture Shift

Meeting someone who is transformed from addiction is a humbling experience. It may be because, in our daily lives, we don’t recognize that we are all in recovery. I have never been in recovery from addiction, but I have a number of friends who are in the journey to sobriety, whether from alcohol or other stronger drugs. They have been kind enough to share their tales of depression, anger, suicidal thoughts, and helplessness, to name a few, with me. Although their stories are what some may perceive as extreme, it’s not really any different than my addiction to sin. The one thing that I know is common in addictive behavior is that we build a lifestyle or adopt a culture that perpetuates and justifies our behavior.

Recently Dr. Scott Dudley suggested the book The Celtic Way of Evangelism. Within the book, there is a section referring to studies done by William L. White. White refers to addiction as a culture we become a part of. We speak the language, we learn the rituals, we surround ourselves with other addicts and so on. Reading over White’s studies, I asked myself, “Is this cultural immersion much different than how we either hide or justify our sin? If going to the strip club with buddies at work is a normal occurrence, are we not going to protect that culture to continue the high? If overspending beyond our limits is filling a void, are we really going to surround ourselves with people who are trying to talk sense to us, or do we go where our money can be spent without question?” (more…)



God’s Rescue Mission

The news frequently shows people doing heroic things, and afterward the hero often claims he or she was only doing what anyone would do: they knew someone was in the burning house, they saw a person drowning and dove in, they stood up to the bully. They were on a rescue mission, and there was nothing that would stop them from doing what was right to save a fellow human being.

God wants to rescue humanity. God has started a rescue mission to the world. It began with Creation, continued with the covenants with Abraham and Moses, and was completed through Jesus Christ. But although the ultimate rescue has been accomplished, God wants us to participate in it. And that’s where grace comes in.

Grace is in the gap between what should be and what is. It is the thing that draws us across the chasm of our sinful nature and into the joy of being in the presence of the pure and holy God. It is that which allows us not only to have a relationship with God, face-to-face, but which builds us up when we are low. Grace is the thing that makes it possible for us to join God to rescue the world.  (more…)



A Grace That Conquers Grief

Modern discoveries in medical and nutritional science continue to offer my generation new strategies for living healthier and longer lives. “Anti-aging” and “longevity” are popular slogans. Statistics show that since 1985, the number of centenarians in the U.S. has increased by a staggering 65%. People are now living longer. That’s a trend we desire to embrace, yet sooner or later, our life as we know it on this earth will end. Each year, we mourn the loss of people we know and love whose time has come to depart. But when the one we’ve lost is our spouse, the impact of grief can be devastating.

For 30 years I was happily married to Steve, my best friend and husband. He was a handsome, athletic, and intelligent man with a great sense of humor. We lived a productive life full of happy memories. Our dream was to spend the latter years of our life working together. The plan was to make that happen on Steve’s sixtieth birthday. Unfortunately, that plan was abruptly interrupted. (more…)



Grief, Joy, and Cupcakes

About two years ago, someone mentioned to me that a fellow BelPres Preschool mom needed help baking birthday treats for students at Eastside Academy (EA). I love to bake and have always found it to be a relaxing outlet for stress, so I jumped at the chance to serve in this capacity. It was fun to receive the emails outlining the favorite treats of each birthday girl or boy; this got me baking outside my usual go-to recipes and gave me a chance to experiment. My kids were pretty excited to taste-test the treats too!

Six months into this adventure, late one Thursday night, I was working on frosting four-dozen bright and colorful Sour Patch Kid cupcakes. Suddenly my phone started ringing, and when I looked at the clock and saw it was after midnight, I quickly set down the icing bag and answered the call. It became one of those life-changing moments: I got the news that my father had passed away that evening. In shock, I called my husband downstairs to tell him the news, then I picked up the icing bag and with shaking hands continued to decorate the cupcakes. “What are you doing? You do not need to do that right now!” he exclaimed. “Yes, I do.” I completed the cupcakes, and the next morning after almost no sleep and in a daze, I dropped them off at EA. (more…)



Just So Happens

Pasha was one of the NICU nurses who cared for our baby boy, Noah, much of the time he was at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She may have known him better than we did. Day after day, we literally had to leave our fragile, precious, heart-of-our-heart baby boy in the hands of others, trusting they were caring for him the best ways they knew how. It was the most terrified I have ever been in my entire life times a billion.

Pasha “just happened” to be on shift the day we found out Noah did indeed have an incurable, fatal condition called ACD (Alveolar Capillary Dysplasia) that we had feared all along. I remember the doctor ushering my husband, John, and me into a little room that morning with another doctor and Nurse Pasha where he gently and straight-forwardly told us the news:

“Noah will not survive. It’s time to say good-bye.” (more…)



The Lifer Volunteer

My husband and I are one lucky couple. We are expecting our eleventh grandchild in April, and the oldest is just six. You can imagine how our calendar is filling up. We had the pleasure this past Christmas of attending one of our grandson’s pre-school events, and it did not disappoint. There were the wavers, the sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs little ladies, and my personal favorite, the “I forgot my line” guy.

But surprisingly, the star of the show was not on the stage, but three rows up from my vantage point. He wasn’t hard to miss. I’m guessing that he was about 30, but he may as well have been three. He was wearing oversized bold yellow headphones. I’m not sure why. Maybe he had troubling outbursts, and the noise was a bother. Maybe there was soothing music playing in his ears. A graying, older mother was on his right, along with a man who was certainly his father, a man leaning in with his arm lovingly draped around him. You could make up whatever story you wanted. Mine went something like this: (more…)



Letter from the Editor

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:16)

This verse from Luke stands out to me as a defining moment of Jesus’ ministry on earth, and I try to use it as the lens through which I view how Jesus would want me to treat others, along with Micah 6:8: “[God] has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.”

A spiritually-driven social justice mandate reaches beyond the capitalist and consumer society, beyond the contentment of those who have comfortable lives. A spiritually-driven social justice movement is concerned with the good of all, and it is not exclusive to race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, ability, religion, or other discriminatory factors. (more…)



Making Things Right

The Reformed tradition, in which we participate as Presbyterians, has always placed an acute emphasis on the role and importance of Sacrament in the life of the church. In Baptism we affirm the importance of community involvement in the life and ongoing conversion of each new believer. In the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we confirm God’s call to relational love in our lives as both individuals and in community. Despite these lasting emphases, we often find it difficult to comprehend just how our lives and practices embody the Sacraments we attest to in our worship.

The Christian priorities of justice and reconciliation are at the forefront of some important ongoing discussions of who we are as a church, and how we incorporate specific practices like prayer, hospitality, and forgiveness into our thoughts and behaviors. But is there a connection between our most foundational worship rituals and these defining priorities? (more…)



Making Things Right

The best gifts I ever received were the ones my kids made in elementary school. Kilned clay creations, picture frames decorated with beads and sparkles, each of them carefully crafted, wrapped and presented with an “I love you dad” hug. That’s the best stuff, some of my greatest treasures.

There was one gift I never received. It was a Father’s Day present one of my daughters made for me. It fell out of her backpack on the way home from school. A neighborhood boy picked it up and teased her while she pleaded for him to give it back. Then he tore it up and threw it in a nearby pond. She came home sobbing. Her world was suddenly unfair and not as it was designed to be. He’d robbed her of her gift and the special moment she would have had giving it to me. (more…)



Forward In Justice

Growing up, whenever my siblings and I did things we weren’t supposed to, my mom always asked us the same questions: “Is that kind? Is that helpful? Is that necessary?” It used to drive us crazy. I can still hear her saying it now with that perfect, “I’m disappointed, but I still love you” tone. Those words have stuck with me, and from time to time I find myself saying those exact words to the children I nanny (thanks, mom). These questions helped foster my understanding of justice, and specifically social justice. If I can answer yes to these questions when thinking about my past or future actions, then I think I might be that much closer to living a life marked by justice.


Love is God’s justice and mercy as it is lived out through God’s people day in and day out.


During his time on earth, Jesus continually sought to bring justice to the world. He believed in the moral imperative that discrimination based on sex, age, religion, political affiliations, disability, or social status is wrong. From the woman at the well (John 4) to the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), he carefully balanced justice and mercy as he encountered inequality. Jesus walked this earth humbly and more openly than any other person ever has. (more…)



Stepping Out: A Journey on El Camino del Inmigrante

I heard about a walk from Tijuana to Los Angeles. It would be 150 miles over eleven days. I was hooked immediately. Not because I thought I could do it, but because I felt I had to do it.

I was raised in a Christian home surrounded by the “great cloud of witnesses” that Apostle Paul speaks of in Hebrews 12. My parents, Dick and Phyllis Blomquist, spent their entire life together serving the Lord through missions. They were not overseas missionaries, but they were church planters. They, along with a few others, ventured across Lake Washington to begin a new church, known today as BelPres.

During their lifetime they supported and hosted in their home dozens of missionaries from around the globe: missionaries from the Sudan and Ethiopia, outreach programs to Native Americans in Canada, the work of John Perkins in Jackson, Mississippi, to local ministries in Seattle’s Central District. These missionary faces looked back at me daily from the bulletin board in our kitchen where just a few feet away we made phone calls and ate meals. I knew from a very early age that God cared for a world far beyond Bellevue. (more…)



Where Is God When Bad Stuff Happens?

For several years now, I’ve been walking with a close friend through a profound experience of injustice and suffering. It has certainly driven me to prayer and scripture, as well as drawn me closer to my friend and others experiencing injustice. Often I’ve joined the psalmist and other biblical saints in crying out, “How long, O Lord?” and “Why?” and “What should I do?”

The Bible reassures us that asking these kinds of questions is not bad as we all try to make sense of life and especially suffering. But what makes me sad and angry is the bad theology in some of the answers people are given. I’ve seen bad theology ruin people’s relationship with God, others, creation, and themselves. So despite the risks of oversimplifying very complex and heartfelt issues, I’ll share some of my reflections on scriptural truths that people in our congregation have found helpful. (more…)



Teaching Justice

We all teach our children about God’s love. But did you know that teaching about God’s passion for justice is just as important? Love and justice are two sides of the same coin. When we teach children to “act justly and love mercy” (Micah 6:8), we are giving them a deeper understanding of the Gospel and tools to live out their faith. They learn that God is just AND loving. He gives us the opportunity to be forgiven through Jesus Christ. In response, we work to achieve justice in the world.

1. Teach children about God’s love for all people

Sarah and Irving De la Cruz have two young sons. “We represent different skin colors within our family, so it is natural for us to have a conversation about how we each look different, but also to think of the ways in which we are similar. In addition to conversations (which come up frequently), we seek out books that show diversity in their characters and different areas of the world. And we try to seek out friends who might look different than us.” The family attends multicultural events like foreign-language story times, or they eat at family-owned ethnic restaurants to learn about other cultures and traditions. (more…)



Book Review: I Shall Not Hate

Gaza is a horrific place. A little sliver of land located on the south-western coast of Israel and the border of Egypt, it has known at least 60 years of violence. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Muslim, and his family grew up in this environment, but it was home for them. He could have adopted the attitude of many of his neighbors – one of hatred and revenge. Despite their lack of almost all goods and services, one thing that couldn’t be taken away was an education, so he studied hard both day and night to build a better life for himself. As the eldest male of the family, he was also expected to work to bring in money to support his family. Being successful in school and through a series of fortunate opportunities, he was accepted into medical school in Egypt, where he specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. (more…)



Behind the Scenes with Patricia Moorhead and the Pastoral Support Team

There are between 75 and 120 pastors and staff at any given time here at BelPres. They tirelessly prepare sermons, give counsel, pray, plan—and sometimes put up with us! Have you ever wondered who takes care of those who take care of us?

Well, I’m here to let the secret out. It’s quite a wonderful bunch of women, led by Patricia Moorhead. There’s Nancy Burritt, Sun O’Donnell, Joanne Burwell, Sherry Christiansen, Elizabeth Bell, Kim Dreiblatt, and Judy Sumner. These ladies serve on the Pastor and Staff Support Team. Together, this group loves on those who love on us! They remember their birthdays, host a soup and bread event, and wow them with cheese and chocolate buffets. They’ve even been caught washing their cars and crafting handmade gifts. (more…)



Letter from the Editor

It’s September 30, and my to-do list for the day doesn’t match the early fall weather outside.

  • Create Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day web events
  • Reach out to M+W about slide backgrounds for Christmas and New Year’s
  • Begin scheduling for Christmas Eve shows

And on the list goes.

When people ask me about my job here at BelPres I often say that I live at least a week in the future, but more often it’s at least a month or two in the future. And at no time is this truer than during Advent and Christmas. (more…)



God Is with Us

2016 HAS BEEN A TOUGH YEAR, FULL OF BAD NEWS AND WORSE NEWS.

In my family, it’s been a year of scary diagnoses, job loss, and transition. I’ve spent much of the year walking alongside dear friends who have lost spouses, parents, and children. Our country has undergone one of the most divisive and antagonistic elections in modern times, all while murders and violence are rising. We are entering another era of Civil Rights as the ugly underbelly of race relations is exposed. People around the world are consistently terrorized–murdered, kidnapped, and raped–by extremist militias determined to destroy democracy. People are fleeing terror in their homelands and engorging the refugee systems of countries all over the world. People are angry, bitter, frustrated–and it spills out on social media and in the news on a daily basis. (more…)



The Joy of Not Having

I’m glad God doesn’t always give me what I want. Many of the greatest blessings in my life are things that did not seem like blessings at the time.

For instance, I am thankful that I was raised in a family where we didn’t have a lot of money. A family where we had to have conversations such as “who gets a bike this year” or “who most needs braces,” because we could not afford those things for everyone. (And because of that I never had to have braces–surely a blessing in disguise!) At times it was disappointing not to have many of the things other families had, but because we didn’t have a lot, I have always appreciated even a little.  New clothes, a cheap chemistry set, a second-hand bike made me feel like the richest kid alive, and that sense of wonder at even small things has stuck with me into adulthood. We never got to travel much when I was growing up. Because of that, even to this day traveling just about anywhere is exciting to me. I could be going on a business trip to Nebraska and feel a sense of adventure in it.  (more…)