Paul’s Message: HWJD (How Would Jesus Drive)? Less!

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

When meeting with people in the context of pastoral care and counseling, I often offer the counsel to breathe … When the stress is getting high, and you don’t know what to do, or what is going to happen, take a few deep breaths … breathe slowly … breathe deeply. It’s amazing what a few slow, deep, prayerful breaths can do when the burdens are heavy and the heart and spirit are racing.

In the bible, the Hebrew word used for God’s Spirit is ruah. Before the creation of the cosmos, “it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind (ruah) swept over the waters (Genesis 1:2 CEB). The same Hebrew word can be translated as ‘spirit’, ‘wind’, ‘breath’, ‘atmosphere’, or most simply, ‘air’. This ‘air’ or ‘breath’ or ‘Spirit’ brings life.

In Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry, lifeless bones (you know the song, “the head bone’s connected to the neck bone; the neck bone’s connected to the … etc.), the prophet proclaims the word of the Lord, “I am about to put breath (ruah) in you, and you will live again” (Ezekiel 37:5 CEB). Interestingly the breath ruah that breathes life into the dead bones comes from the four corners of the earth, the entire atmosphere. We draw breath (ruah) from God’s breath (ruah) from the breath of the entire atmosphere (ruah). How intimately and wonderfully related is the life-giving breath of God and the lifegiving breath of God’s creation. Do you get why breathing slowly and deeply can be so wonderfully healing?

The exception to this, of course, is when the air we breathe is toxic. There is no more graphic or direct illustration of the brokenness in our relationship with the creation as when we draw in breaths filled with dirty particulate matter. Instead of breathe deeply, we are counseled don’t breathe too deeply. It’s a spiritual problem as well as a scientific and behavioral one. I believe God’s ruah weeps when we choke.

But this is not the end of the story. God’s gift of science and reason gives us counsel, and our faith gives us encouragement and hope. In the context of our valley, if we want to feel the healing of ruah again, the solution is not to escape it (although sometimes that’s ok), but to change it. As a congregation, we want to pursue that goal.

One of the greatest contributions we make to the dirty air in this valley is when we drive. So, to heal our environment, we want to challenge our congregation to drive less.

February is a special month, and we have a special challenge for the congregation. We invite you to read this month’s “Creation Corner” and participate. Think about the difference we can begin to make when we change our living from the problem of hurting ruah to healing ruah. In so doing, may we breathe in, slowly and deeply, God’s life-giving Spirit. –Peace, Paul

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  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

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