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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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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