Waving away prayer souls tattered on the wind
we raise our faces, we reach,
we say nothing at all.
We take turns at brokenness,
bone upon bone,
one to the next hand given. (more…)
Waving away prayer souls tattered on the wind
we raise our faces, we reach,
we say nothing at all.
We take turns at brokenness,
bone upon bone,
one to the next hand given. (more…)
“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…)
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…)
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…)
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.
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
It’s September 30, and my to-do list for the day doesn’t match the early fall weather outside.
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…)
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…)
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…)
“Hi, when’s the Christmas Eve dress rehearsal done?” he asks, matching my steps, and I reply, “I think 10pm. I’ll double check and get back to you.” As I round the corner, she comes out from behind the pillar, saying, “Oh, good, you’re here! I heard Carol Sing starts at 7pm but I’m not off until 7:30pm. Do you think it will still be going and will they have hot chocolate?” I reply, “Absolutely!”
I reach the main office, and Carol, the receptionist, says, “You have a package from Peters,” and I say, “Great!” As I round the first desk, Allison in finance says, “You have the contracts for the orchestra yet?” and I reply, “Yep, have them to you this afternoon!” As I head past the first set of cubicles I hear Sarah, our admin in Music + Worship, say, “Hi, Ella just called, and the bassoonist just moved to Spokane,” so I mutter, “Oh, marvelous.” I unlock my office door as the phone rings. It’s a choir member, who wants to know if I got her email about the Christmas Eve dinner menu and if there are gluten-free choices. I can assure her confidently that yes, there are. Then my Outlook freezes trying to load the 132 emails I got since last evening.
Because it’s December. (more…)
The holiday season is a particularly challenging time for men who are experiencing homelessness. Festive lights, store windows promoting the perfect gift for loved ones, and the cheery hustle and bustle of people rushing in the brisk air en route to a holiday event—these are all stark reminders of what is missing in the lives of these displaced men. Instead of joy and the warmth of family, a sharp loneliness and despair often settle in. More than any other time of the year, the holiday season places all they have lost in clear contrast with a sense of belonging and stability that might have been.
If you are anything like me, you have struggled with understanding how to respond to the men on our streets who are experiencing homelessness. I am familiar with the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Do I give that man I see on the sidewalk some money? Should I buy a hot meal and hand it to the person I see standing at the corner? Maybe he will use the money for alcohol or drugs. One hot meal from a fast food restaurant feels like a pitiful, and even empty, response to this man’s obvious need for care and community. (more…)
You likely know the phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I recently learned how a group of people at BelPres did exactly that back in the early 1990s.
Tina Freed, a BelPres member, began coordinating with Heifer Project (now Heifer International and no longer a BelPres Mission partner) to bring live animals to the Fellowship Hall of the old church building. Soon she had a team of fellow members: Barney and Marge Reynolds, David and Julie Metz, and Clark Hoffman. I had a conversation with Julie Metz about how all this happened and was delighted to find out that the group embraced a spirit of rebelliousness. Bringing live farm animals into the church? It’s a little hard to imagine, but it actually happened. (more…)
Waiting. Something that can be difficult to do. As human beings, waiting can seem like a lifetime, depending on what we are waiting for. For some of us, it may be a phone call to update us on a job interview or something as simple as waiting for dinner. For others, the waiting may be more difficult: for justice, a verdict, a diagnosis, or for our marriage to turn around. Whatever it may be, waiting is something that we have grown unaccustomed to because here in the United States our society conditions us to move in the opposite direction. Everything we build and create is faster, more efficient, and more convenient. If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t like waiting, and to avoid the wait, we end up making poor decisions.
And on top of that, we are expected to wait and prepare for a coming King. How can we do so? Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news, we are not the only generation who is impatient; the bad news, it’s not a good excuse to be impatient. (more…)
Someone once told me to notice my God moments, because they’re happening.
Well, that someone happens to be our own Kris Bennett. She’s our Behind the Scenes volunteer this month and has a resume of good works to her name! A former elementary school teacher turned nearly full-time volunteer, she’s involved in the Bellevue Farmers Market and serves on the team for Community Outreach at BelPres. She’s taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. She’s been an elder, served as a deacon, hosted foreign exchange students, and is a youth leader on Sundays and Wednesdays—and I’m just getting started! (more…)
I think about going to church camp.
Starting in sixth grade my parents would throw a bag together and drop me off around 6am for an hours-long bus ride to some remote Bible camp with my friends.
I’ll be honest: My friends and I never went on these trips to experience revival…or really any awakening. We were far more interested in riding the banana boat, playing pranks on each other, and, most importantly, trying to predict who was going to get pied that year and how we could avoid that fate. (more…)
I watched the rain roll in sheets and the leaves tumble across the pavement blown sideways by the unrelenting wind of the Pineapple Express. Ah, November in the Northwest! It had been blustering for two days now. My husband and I stopped for a cup of coffee at Starbucks to ward off the chill before continuing our Saturday errands. Against our routine, we decided to order inside and take a respite from the weather. We bumped into a neighbor of 30 years with his grandchildren and chatted with others as we waited in line.
A father and his young girls opted to sit in front of us. We were taken aback by the way he was ordering them around in a rather loud voice and how much they scrambled to please him. We also took note of a still, slumped figure, hood down over his face, apparently sleeping in a remote chair by the drive-in window to escape the elements. I felt a “God nudge” to speak to him and offer to buy him a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Unbeknownst to me, the manager of the coffee shop had spoken to this young gentleman while I was in line, and asked him to leave if he wasn’t going to make a purchase. (more…)