The Messenger

Letter from the Editor

When I think about diversity making an appearance in my life, the first place I think of is my very own Kirkland Costco. When I walk through the aisles, I am always amazed by the vast selection of food that was not available there ten years ago. Better yet, go out to the Southcenter Costco, where the selection puts Kirkland’s to shame. Growing up and walking through these same aisles, I do not recall having a variety of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, etc. foods available to me.

Okay, this is a pretty shallow example of seeing diversity in my life, but it points to the makeup of the greater Seattle area. Thanks to companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, our region brings in the brightest minds from around the world. (more…)

Go & Make Disciples

VBA – Vacation Bible “Adventure” – because isn’t all of life an adventure, especially when you are walking with the Lord? For just one short week out of the summer, July 10-14, my three children, Sophia (13), Owen (9) and Della (7) will be exploring and experiencing that we all are created by God and built for a purpose.

VBA week is one that we look forward to because we get to participate in it together, whether volunteering or in a class with friends. I’ve had several different responsibilities over the years, but two of them have had the most impact on me. (more…)

Diversity and Identity

A Small Texas Diner

In college, my closest friend and I were heading back to school from a church retreat. Driving through rural Texas, we got hungry and stopped in a small diner in a city of about 800 people. We were famished and looking forward to a great home-cooked meal. We walked in and found a table. As we were seating ourselves, we were so wrapped up in our conversation we almost didn’t realize that the nearly full diner had gone completely quiet and that everyone in the place had stopped what they were doing and were staring unabashedly in our direction. I looked around, thinking there was an accident outside that everyone was looking at, but quickly realized they were looking at us. I instinctively wondered, “Is it me everyone is looking at, or my black friend?” I smiled at everyone, looked to my friend and whispered, “I think we might be the only black and Asian people that have eaten here before.” (more…)

Carefully Taught

The other day I went to the park with two of my daughters and their neighborhood friends. It’s such a fun and rowdy crew. Despite varying in gender, age, and ethnicity, they care little of each other’s differences. Typically, the biggest concern is whose house or yard they are going to play in. One has a trampoline, but the other has video games…and yet another has great trees to climb! Usually, a small meeting is held, and an average of 3.7 seconds later they’re off!

On this particular day, they decided to take a bike ride to the nearby park to play. After some time on the play structure, it was time for a game of tag. The rules: one person is “it,” the play structure is base, and you could only be on base for 30 seconds. And, oh yeah, the two dads had to play. I’ll tell you, running around with a bunch of elementary age kids is some serious calorie burning, and, of course, everyone wants the dads to be it all the time.

After we had played this game of tag for 15 minutes or so, another family showed up with their two boys. The two boys approached respectfully and asked if they could join the game. This motley crew of kids answered with a resounding yes! (more…)

Choose Love

Today, the Prince of Peace surprised me at the front door, dressed as three lovely teachers from the school next door who brought a gift and big card made by their preschoolers.

I live in a “little Jerusalem” in the Crossroads area of Bellevue. On one block are a Jewish synagogue, Muslim school, Mormon church, and Presbyterian church. It’s an opportunity for understanding and friendship. Fear and hatred live here, too.

Many months ago, hearing horrific world news and my neighbor’s comments about “the little terrorists” at the Muslim school nearby, I resolved to be friendly. I walked over to the school, introduced myself, and told teachers how happy I was the school was here. They looked at me quizzically, quickly apologizing for how noisy the children were. I told them, “No, no, I was a teacher, and love the happy sounds of children playing.” Their faces lit up. The preschool teacher invited me to please read a story to her children sometime, which surprised and delighted me.

At the end of the school year, I left a note for the teachers, wishing them a restful summer. I signed the note, “From your neighbor in the corner house.” I didn’t hear anything back, so I wondered if they’d gotten the note, or if I’d overstepped. (more…)

New World

It was the longest trip of my life. I was five years old, and we were flying from Seoul, Korea to the United States, the Land of Opportunity. In America, I was told there is more food than you can imagine and everyone gets a good education. I thought I was going to heaven on earth!

The best part was that I would see my dad again. He moved to the United States a couple of years before us so he could find the right place for our family to live. He first landed in Los Angeles where there was a growing Korean community, and found Seattle unintentionally when his friend asked him to help on the long drive up. Once my dad arrived in Seattle, he knew this was where he wanted to live. The majestic mountains all around and bodies of water everywhere enamored him.

Coming off the plane at SeaTac, I ran to my dad’s arms. He looked just as I remembered, but his voice sounded funny. He picked out “American” names for us: Elizabeth, Abraham, Mary and John. He chose biblical names, hoping that we would follow the legacy of each name. He wanted to change our last name to “Usa” to show his devotion to his new country and told us to only speak English to each other so that we would pick up the language quickly and lose our accents. (more…)

The Land Between

The Global Leadership Summit has changed my life, and the lives of 78 inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex were changed this year as well. Reading the inmates’ reflections, I was reminded of my first Summit experience.

I was in the Land Between, a transition folks often define as having an “empty nest.” Pouring my time and heart into the lives of my three children and the activities they were involved with had come to an end. The end of significant leadership roles with these organizations and the end of meetings, planning, events and personal connections amplified the emptiness. My life as it had been for 20 years was drastically changed. It felt less like a few birds had flown away and more like the wasteland Jeff Manion described in his Summit talk seven years ago. Although it was seven summits ago, I especially remember Jeff Manion and his session highlighting key insights from his book, The Land Between. The premise of his talk and book were that faith transformation and growth happen in times of great transition, the Land Between. He reminded us of those led by Moses to the Promised Land and the years spent in barren wasteland on their way. Difficult transitions can be due to a death of a family member, financial lows, marriage erosion, teenagers drifting, aging and certainly those experiencing time in prison.


Behind the Scenes with Lynne and Hank Geib

It’s no secret there’s a mature demographic at BelPres. Do you know how fortunate we are to have these people among us? Many are retired from their careers, but by no means are they retired from life. They spend much of their time serving our congregation. It is through the faithful and consistent efforts of people like Hank and Lynne Geib that our church runs like a Holy Machine for God’s glory.

I’d like to enlighten you a bit about them. When I asked Hank and Lynne if they were possibly approaching their eighties, Lynne in her witty humor replied, “Eighty’s in the rearview mirror!” After meeting on a blind date, they’ve now been married for 61 years. Maybe that’s why they have a deep admiration for one another, something you can sense right off the bat. Lynne met Jesus as a young girl. Someone knocked on her family’s front door and invited her to church. Hank, on the other hand, met Jesus through Vacation Bible School. Both are originally from California. Hank worked in Computer Operations for the Telephone Company while Lynne worked as a CPA and a school teacher. They have three children, one who works here on staff at BelPres, and five grown grandchildren. For fun, they enjoy a good game of bridge, staying active on the computer, and working out together. They have been attending BelPres since 2003 and participate in a myriad of volunteer positions here at the church. (more…)

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.


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…)