Pastor’s Corner 9/23/2018

Every Saturday I look forward to reading Bishop Karen Oliveto’s Facebook posts. This was her post 9/15 which spoke to me and speaks to our sermons this week. Enjoy. Pastor Patti
“Praying for the clergy and laity as we prepare to come together as the Body of Christ on Sunday. I write this from a retreat center south of Denver. Following the conclusion of a weeklong cabinet meeting, I stayed on to enter into a period of silence. I recognized within my soul a hunger to be in quiet communion with God as I ponder our life together as a new conference. My time has included periods of prayer, long walks, rest and reading. As I browsed the retreat center’s library, “Wisdom Distilled From the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today” by Sister Joan Chittister seemed to literally fall into my hands. It is an exploration of St. Benedict’s Rule, formulated in 5th century Rome. Chittister beautifully breaks it down into guidelines for our present age. Chittister wisely notes: “Spirituality is more than churchgoing. It is possible to go to church and never develop a spirituality at all. Spirituality is the way in which we express a living faith in a real world. Spirituality is the sum total of the attitudes and actions that define our faith.” I have been reflecting on that paragraph ever since reading it, as I consider that across our conference, Sunday Schools, Bible Studies, Prayer Circles, and Adult Classes are getting back into gear after a summer hiatus. As Sunday School teachers pull out curriculum for our young people, what do we hope will be transmitted to them? Are we simply happy to offer some familiar Bible stories or are we helping our young connect spiritually in ways that will assist them as they grow to adulthood? What spiritual practices do we teach that can help them in their daily lives? Are our Adult Ed and Bible Study classes places where we attend mainly to socialize or have a good debate, or are we helping one another wrestle with God, seek a deeper understanding of scripture, open ourselves up to a fuller prayer life, in order to help us connect what we learn in class together to the demands of 21st century life, where there never seems to be enough time, where health problems arise, where loved ones break our hearts, where we think we hunger for more but what we really hunger for is meaning in the midst of it all? If spirituality is the way we express a living faith in the real world, are we giving one another the tools to face a challenging world? How are you expressing a living faith in the real world? Our time of worship, too, ought to be a time of individual and corporate spiritual growth (because communities share a spirituality as well). Our worship should help us not just regain a spiritual balance so we can face the demands of the new week, but should challenge us to greater connection with God and one another. It is this connection that needs constant tending if our spirituality will be mature enough to help us navigate the complexities and crushing disappointments of life. May you find your spirituality stretched in new ways tomorrow and may you bring that newfound wisdom into all you do in the coming week. With love, Bishop Karen”


Pastor’s Corner 9/16/2018

Normally, Shane and I live in the world of recorded television and on-demand shows, but sometimes, we end up having to watch commercials (what a pain!). However, I am grateful for that because I have learned about some really interesting, creative ideas that companies have designed to sell their product. My favorite one is Domino’s Pizza. One might think, how can making and delivering cheap pizza become more interesting? How can this pretty old, pretty basic business style take a step past its competition? I believe Domino’s has done just this. The first thing I noticed was a few years ago. They began advertising transparency in their business. Blind taste tests, recipe improvement, and being honest were all the main message in their advertisements. Then, a while later, they compounded on that by advertising shop remodels, making the kitchen visible from the waiting area. Customers could now see their food being made and assembled. This added to the goal of transparency within the company itself. Then, more recently, they did even more. They added delivery places in public areas like beaches, parks, parking lots, and venues. It is advertised as getting people to order delivery pizza when they are out and having fun. But, the most interesting and creative idea Domino’s Pizza has going right now is pothole fixing. Pothole fixing! You call their special number if you find a pothole on your drive back home from your local store, and they will pay to have it paved. Their reason behind it is to save spilled pizza from bumps in the road. Far-fetched ideas right? Can you imagine the conversations in those boardrooms at Domino’s headquarters? Can you imagine the trust and risk that it has taken for the company to take these steps? Is it helping the company become more vital? Only time will tell. But, I believe this type of creative, innovative, possibly risky brainstorming is what the Church may need right now. What did that first meeting look like when St. Paul’s decided to rebuild the sanctuary? What opportunities has that decision brought to the city of Helena and our community? I encourage all of you to put on your thinking caps about how to “be a church” in this day and age. What are some far-fetched ideas that might actually work? Just the activity of brainstorming ideas can bring lots of creative opportunities. Your challenge: come up with 50 different ways to use a pizza box (only one pizza box) and 5 new ways to “be a church”. Your reward: a free Domino’s Pizza from me! Email lists to spack-toner@stpaulshelena.org Good luck! Pastor Sami


Pastor’s Corner 9/9/2018

When I was in 5th grade, we had confirmation class at my church. Over twenty squirmy 5th graders met weekly with the pastors eating dinner, playing games, and learning about the Christian faith together. At the conclusion of the class we had the opportunity to join the church. My friend decided not to join the church because she didn’t believe in Jesus. Which got me thinking. What did I believe? I pondered that for a few days and decided that I did believe in Jesus, so I joined the church. Little did I know how that would impact my life! How has following Jesus impacted your life? Jesus summed up all the commandments in these two: Love God with your whole self and Love your neighbor as yourself. We love God and neighbor in our personal lives and as a faith community. See the graphic. – Worship: Connecting with God in community through weekly worship, singing, sharing communion… – Devotion: Connecting with God personally through prayer, devotion, walking, singing… – Mercy: Loving others through acts of compassion. – Justice: Loving others by confronting injustice and engaging in ministry with those on the margins. Which area of discipleship comes most easily to you? Which is a growing edge?
Let’s grow in faith together as we continue on this adventure of discipleship!
Pastor Patti


Pastor’s Corner 9/2/2018

There have been many predictions throughout history about how fast technology would develop, thus changing our work week. In 1882, the first Labor Day celebration was observed in New York City. It was to honor workers who made contributions to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. As time went on, economists predicted technological advancements would soon lead to a 15-hour work week by the 1930s. Then, by the 1960s, congressional leaders predicted a two-day work week by the year 2000. Yet, here we are almost 20 years past the prediction, and we see people overworked and underpaid, unemployment, and battles for safe and fair work environments. Working more hours simply hasn’t translated to greater production or higher levels of satisfaction. And, unlike how the predictions of our past had hoped, less work and more rest just aren’t realities for today’s laborers. In my personal experience, we ignore our mental, emotional, and spiritual need for rest. The phrase “let your soul catch up” has spoken to me lately. We can often work so dutifully and fast that our poor soul can’t catch up. And then, we are surprised when we are exhausted, irritable, and have developed unhealthy habits. This weekend, I invite you to meditate on the idea of letting your soul catch up. What does that mean to you and your family? What does “catching up” look like? I also invite you to remember why we have Labor Day: to acknowledge the social and economic successes of American workers. And, a part of that is acknowledging that not everyone gets Labor Day as a day off, and the fight for fair monetary compensation is still being fought. Let your soul catch up and be re-energized for labor. Your labor, in whatever form it exists, is important.   Happy Labor Day,   Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner 8/26/2018

 

Going to School Hungry

More than 13 million kids in this country go to school hungry. One in five children in the United States live in food insecure households. According to the No Kid Hungry campaign, “food insecurity is a family that has enough money to buy groceries three out of four weeks; it’s a mom skipping dinner; it’s having to choose between buying groceries and paying rent.”

What experts are now, finally, realizing, that hunger has an enormous impact on a student’s ability to learn, pay attention, and socialize. Hungry kids are more likely to miss school because of illness, and more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and develop behavioral problems. There is a lot of potential being squandered because kids are going to school hungry.

A creative idea that has blossomed in our country is the idea of sending food home with kids for the weekend and evenings. In New Hampshire, it was discovered when Clair Bloom, a resident, went to her local school to “throw some money” at the hunger problem, and the school told her they didn’t need money. They needed a program to pack food and send home with kids on Fridays. Bloom took on the project, arranging volunteers, crunching numbers for affordable meals for hundreds.

This problem, as you can see from the statistics, is here in our community as well. We all probably  know a child who goes without the basic necessities on a regular basis. Helena Food Share actively tackles food insecurity from many angles, one of which is through Kid Packs. It is entering its 10th year and costs around $125,000 annually to run. However, Helena Food Share sends 1,100 children home with meals each week. Plus, there is story after story of children attending school more often, sick less often, in trouble less, and improved grades…all because of having enough to eat through programs like Kid Packs.

Are you able to help? Are you able to build a little person through this?

 

The Kid Pack Food Drive is on September 8 from 10am to 4pm at Van’s Thriftway (306 Euclid Ave.)



Pastor’s Corner 8/19/2018

Rev. Lydia Sohn, a pastor at St. Mark’s UMC in San Diego, CA interviewed the ninety-year-old people in her congregation. She wrote about it in her blog titled “What It’s like to Be 90-Something: Aging Well, Living Happier.” It is an interesting article about what she expected and was surprised by in these conversations. The paragraph that stood out to me is this:

This radical relational orientation of all my subjects caught me by surprise. As someone who is entering the height of my career, I expend much more energy on my work than my relationships. And when I imagine my future, I envision what I will have accomplished rather than what my relationships will be like. These 90-something-year-olds emphasize the opposite when they look back on their lives. Their joys and regrets have nothing to do with their careers, but with their parents, children, spouses and friends. Put simply, when I asked one person, “Do you wish you accomplished more?” He responded, “No, I wished I loved more.” (www.revlydia.com/blog/2018/7/12/what-its-like-to-be-90-something, accessed August 14, 2018)

That is a significant statement, “I don’t wish I accomplished more, I wish I loved more.” No matter what season you are in, these are instructional words. As I sit at the bedside of people close to death, the conversations typically center on the people and shared experiences in their lives. They take comfort in the impact they have had in this world. And that impact is measured by relationships, not accomplishments.

Jesus taught that the 2 most important commandments, i.e. the heart of living as a faithful disciple of Jesus, is to love God with our whole selves, and to love others as we love ourselves. It’s all about relationships. Relationships with God, with others, and with our selves.

What will your relationships look like when you are 90 years old? What does that say to you about how you are living your live today?

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner 8/12/2018

Who doesn’t love a new pair of socks? Well, you will have an opportunity to share that love with someone this winter! Bombas is a sock company that began in 2013 with the mission and goal to make wearing a clean pair of socks more accessible for everyone, especially those in homeless shelters.

The socks are engineered with an antimicrobial treatment for less-frequent washing, reinforced seams and dark colors, giving them greater durability with less visible wear.

So…how do they do it?

The first way Bombas works to meet their goal and mission is through “one for one”, similar to TOMS Shoes. For every pair purchased, there is a pair donated. If you love to give socks as gifts, order from Bombas!

The second way is through their giving program. And, we are all going to have the opportunity to participate in this because HUMM recently became a partner in Bombas’ Giving Partner program! This month, we will be the recipients of 250 pairs of Bombas socks! They are ours to give to others as we serve.

Thus, Matt and I have come up with the Sock It to ‘Em Video Contest!

Your goal:

1.) to think of groups in need of socks in our community here in Helena. Think outside the box. There are many people in need at places one might not have thought about. 2.) Then, make a short video about why they need the socks. The staff will judge the videos, and they will be awarded as such:

1st place-150 medium pairs of socks

2nd place-75 medium pairs of socks

3rd place-25 medium pairs of socks

The top 3 videos will be shared in worship an on social media. The videos are due by November 1. If you need assistance with making your video, please email Pastor Sami at spack-toner@stpaulshelena.org. Good luck and good skill!



Pastor’s Corner 8/5/2018

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10-14 NIV)

My daughter, Amanda, is visiting for a month or so. Last week we took a day trip to Glacier National Park. (Ask her how my handstand on a rock turned out, she’d love to tell you!) We chose a hike to Florence Falls from the St. Mary Falls trailhead. I love waterfalls. The flowing water is so renewing, full of life, powerful.

The hike was beautiful. The new growth after a fire about 10 years ago has the forest floor all overgrown and green. All kinds of colorful wildflowers. We made it to the falls and enjoyed sitting at the bottom, feeling the spray of the water cooling us off. We ate our lunch and took pictures. Then we started our hike back to the trailhead.
That was when I realized how much my feet hurt. 6 or 7 miles into this hike I discovered it is time to get new hiking boots…the hard way. My feet were hot, sore, squished in my shoes with wet socks. And we still had a long way back to the trailhead. The trail came close to a river and Amanda casually said, “Should we dip our toes in?” We kept walking a few steps, then I said, “Yes!!” So we backtracked to the river, sat down, took our boots off, and put our feet in that ice cold glacial water. Ahhhhhhh. It felt so good. So refreshing. So renewing. Got the blood flowing. We were invigorated to finish our hike.

Are you hot and tired? Do your feet hurt from your daily walking? What are you thirsty for?
In John 4, Jesus says he is the living water. Still water can be stale and stagnant. Living water is renewing, refreshing, enlivening. He is like that ice-cold glacial water. Life-giving water.

I’m not sure what the parallel is in your life for taking off your hiking boots and dipping your hot, tired, sore feet into the living water of Jesus, but I encourage you to reflect on that and do it!

Walking on the path of grace,
Pastor Patti


Pastor’s Corner July 29, 2018

The Taste of Liberation

In a world that tells black women, their lives don’t matter, cooking nutritious food can be a quiet act of resistance. I recently read an article by Taylor Nichole Johnson titled The Taste of Liberation, featured in a Sojourners Magazine issue from 2016. Over the past month or so, I have been leading a class focused on food and faith. We have discussed the ethical implications of our current food system, our human connection to God and food, and the theology of Holy Communion. My view and relationship with food have changed even in this short amount of time, and Johnson’s article resonated with me because food is more than just food. It is nourishment.

Johnson shares of her childhood filled with home cooking and family in the kitchen, teaching her hands the muscle memory of preparing and baking. Then, she shares how that wholesome relationship with food switched gears into an addiction to “non-food”. With a toxic combination of racial tension in college and body image struggles, Johnson found herself not well in her spirit or her body. Non-food became her self-medication.

The story of the woman outwardly keeping their entire world spinning while privately suffering in silence is many women’s story, especially women of color.

Johnson’s journey to healing through food did not begin with food options, but with theology and spirituality. Going to seminary, she began to wrestle with the meaning of hope and evil, suffering and invisibility. She began to ask herself if she truly believed she was created in the image of God. “Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I was being converted. The seeds my mother and I planted 15 years earlier in the kitchen burst forth with vitality”

Now, food fuels Johnson’s activism, her theology, and her work with nutrition, food sovereignty, and black girls. She describes nutritional violence against black bodies and poor bodies. Cooking and eating became ways of resistance to Johnson. It was a radical self-love. We cannot fight injustice if we are unwell.

What do you think? How can you use food and cooking to break chains of unhealthy self-care? How can you teach others?

Read the whole article at https://sojo.net/magazine/august-2016/taste-liberation

Peace,

Sami



Pastor’s Corner July 22, 2018

Virtues of Patience

“The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

For the first time I planted a vegetable garden this year. It’s been an experience. To begin with, I was grateful for the raised bed and good soil. I enjoyed the process of going to the nursery and choosing what I wanted to grow. It was satisfying planting the pepper, tomato, and zucchini plants. I’ve been watering the garden and watching it. I was surprised, after being away for a week, how big all the plants and the weeds (!) had gotten. However, there are still no veggies to eat. I expected to have peppers and tomatoes and zucchini by now. Instead, I water, weed, and watch, and wait.

Waiting is hard. As we have access to most everything at our fingertips on our phones, waiting is not a virtue we practice much. Patience seems counter-cultural in our increasingly speedy society. The dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. That makes it sound very hard; acceptance, tolerance, no anger. Opportunities to exercise patience come in many forms; from little things like road construction to more significant things like waiting for healing after a surgery. The virtue of patience is challenging.

In my devotion this week the author writes, “though patience may appear passive, it is actually a form of concentrated strength. Patience needs to respect the reality of process.” Things take time. Sometimes we just need to sit back and wait. Which requires concentrated strength. I appreciate the reminder that patience isn’t passive, it’s an active discipline. Actively exercising faith and actively trusting the process.

Psalm 40:1-3 says

“I waited patiently for the Lord;

He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, and out of the mud and mire;

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

As I read that again, I saw it in a new way. In between waiting patiently and standing on a firm place, the poet was in the slimy pit. Patience is not a pretty process. Usually there is mud and mire involved. If you are in a slimy pit right now, hold on to hope. Trust in the process. Exercise that concentrated strength. And most of all, rely on the Holy Spirit. For Paul reminds us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us strength more than we can muster in our own power. One day you will be standing on a solid rock again. A little more patience and I will be eating my garden vegetables!

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti