Why God, Why?

Do you ever ask yourself questions about God? I hope that this is not just a Pastor thing. Many times I ask God, "Why did you let this happen?" "If you are a loving God, how can so many people suffer in this world?"

These are difficult questions aren’t they? Most of the time suffering in the world is hidden. People are hungry (even in the St. Croix Valley). People are homeless (even in the St. Croix Valley). People struggle (even in the St. Croix Valley). As pastors in the local Ministerium group in the St. Croix Valley, we have been having conversations about the increase in youth homelessness and that there is not a youth shelter in east Washington County. My heart aches over hearing the plight "our" children who for many reasons are not able to remain in their homes of origin. I ask "Why God, why? How can you let this happen? Why don’t you do something about it!"

Could not God simply take care of this problem? Then the words from Luke 1:37 come to mind. "For nothing will be impossible with God." Did you hear it? "WITH GOD!" (Gulp.) Several years ago, I read a comic strip that has stuck with me. In the comic, two characters are talking. One character says to the other, "Sometimes I’d like to ask God why he allows poverty, famine and injustice when God could do something about it." The other character asks, "What’s stopping you?" The response, "I’m afraid God might ask me the same question." This passage from Luke 1 reaffirms for me that we as disciples are to be an active participant WITH GOD. I wonder where the continued conversation with the local pastors might lead us, but I also wonder where God will lead us, where God will open my heart and your hearts in the coming days. For I believe that God loves us and does care for us and has created a world of incredible abundance for us. Now we all together WITH GOD get to search for ways to focus on caring for all those who are hungry, homeless or struggle every day (even in the St. Croix Valley). Out of our love of God and neighbor, we simply cannot do nothing, for nothing is impossible with God.

Blessings,

Pastor Janel

Sending and New Beginnings….

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NRSV

I am approaching my last days as the Intern at St. Paul Lutheran. It is with much joy to express having been a part of this congregation for the past year. The hardest part about my sending is that I have to say goodbye to all of you. I have been doing that these past couple of weeks, and it has often left me tearful as I have gotten to know your stories, your glories and your struggles in life.

When I was thinking about all I have learned from you all this past year one theme kept returning to me was the fact that I would not have come here if the Holy Spirit had not intervened for me. I was inspired in the events that occurred to bring me here, and I truly have felt it was a divine appointment as it was everything I desired in an internship. It is always interesting when God gives you something exactly that you have asked for down to the letter! Funny thing about it, I thought I was going to just come into your midst, experience the internship, and walk away without any big revelations. Boy was I wrong! You see, when God sets a plan in motion he always has a purpose and you never walk away unchanged. I have journaled a lot this year and it is funny to look back upon some of my early entries and laughingly wonder what on earth I was thinking at the time when I wrote them!

I say that just to share that you have changed and transformed me this year, and I walk away with treasures from you. The treasure of who you are to me, the stories of your lives you shared, and the inspirations and expressions of your deep faith leave beautiful marks upon my heart and soul. I thank you for all of these gifts and the fact that you share these gifts with the church. Special thanks to Pastor Janel for all the hours she spent teaching me new things, and pushing me to try things differently. Many of you are not able to get to church regularly or anymore that will read this, but I want you to know sincerely that you have been blessings to me also. Each of you who invited me into your homes and lives are a part of inspiring and encouraging me along this journey of internship and I will never forget your special unique contributions to my formation as a pastor. THANK YOU!

I have seen this church really search its soul this past year over what it is doing in the community and within its walls. It has questioned whether it has gotten too comfortable with the familiar things it does. It is healthy to spend time wrestling with these things, and it does shake things up a bit. I would leave you now with a few thoughts about what I believe is important for you to hold onto going forward and what I believe you should let go of for the good of this community.

Hold onto the deep family roots in this community of believers; spend more time listening to the younger adults and families in this congregation, their ideas, and less time thinking about how to fix what seems wrong with the church. Hold onto some of your traditions, like Mgama, supporting valley outreach, meals form the heart. Let other things go that you have always done but have already seen their peak heyday time here; it is never good simply to keep doing it because others expect you to, it is ok to bow out for a season on an activity and see if anyone truly misses it beyond just asking about it. You might be surprised! Make room for new ideas, new life and mission—like Easter egg hunts, something to support young growing families, single mothers and dads. Hold onto your Pork Chop dinner and ice cream social as that brings the outer community to the church itself—it was the couple of things I saw in this church where there was so much joy in the prep and delivery; all who came in our doors were able to experience the spirit of community here!

Continue to seek the Holy Spirit to lead you in this discernment and know it is sometimes painful to bid farewells to prized pet projects that maybe you had a hand in perpetuating. Know that God’s mission for the church body is continually changing, growing, and evolving so if the church does not continue to change, grow, and evolve something intentionally needs discernment. It is a new world out there these days, and you have great wisdom to share. A vessel that is contained without emptying and replenishing its source becomes stagnant and its contents become repugnant to anyone who encounters its stench. However, a vessel that eagerly pours itself out in any way it may be used is continually renewed and refilled from God’s never ending wellspring of grace. I believe this community wants to be a vessel continually renewed as it has been for the past century and a half. Hold onto those things that were the bedrocks of the early community, connectedness, and willingness to try new things, purposefulness in building up the church, and not comparing itself to other church communities but having a confidence that with God at the helm nothing was impossible. Tap into those who want to do things that seem well a little strange at times, give it a go and see what happens. Think of creative new ways to use these spaces in the church more hours of every day and evenings to bring new families into this place. If you embrace those discernments you will continue to progress along the continuum of change and growth, it will become less difficult as you become less entrenched in the familiar and more excited about the possibilities which are endless. It is time to stop talking start listening, intently hearing, begin to take action, and get back into the game! Its fourth quarter now, time is ticking off the clock, and it is your play. I believe in you! Seize this moment in time to let God’s Spirit take control!

Embrace now the hope and power of God’s Holy Spirit made new for you every day as we are given grace upon grace. I embark in launching my canoe into new waters and I thank you for letting me be a part of your lives, for all you have shared and given to me, and for your blessings and continued prayers as I begin the next steps toward ordination. It’s not goodbye, it is I will see you again someday soon!

Love you all,

Pastor Suzy

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August Health Minute!

THE OPIOID PROBLEM

What are opioids? The use of opioids to manage pain has an extensive history. Morphine has long been used to deal with severe pain. Codeine is often prescribed for milder pain. Other drugs in this class include hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxycontin and methadone. The drugs work by reducing the pain signals from reaching the brain and also affect brain areas that control reactions to painful stimuli.

One thing that we have long known about opioids and their pharmacological cousin, heroin, is that these drugs have significant side effects and risks. Among those risks are drug tolerance, physical dependence, addiction, and overdose. The growing use of opioids for dealing with chronic pain is now significant enough to spawn a lucrative companion industry to deal with side effects like "opiate induced constipation".

The CDC has issued new guidelines for prescription of opioids, which recommend that doctors initially prescribe ibuprofen or aspirin for pain and limit opioid treatment for short-term pain to three days.

Americans make up only about five percent of the world’s population, yet we consume 80 percent of the world’s opioids. The current practice has made opioids the most prescribed drugs in the nation and has created a $2 billion industry to provide them.

If you are facing surgery, have a frank discussion with your doctor before surgery about what he or she is giving you for pain control afterward and how long you should expect to be on it. Research now shows physicians have too freely prescribed opioid painkillers over the last decade. Physicians were not aware of how high the addiction risks were with opiate medications. You had this unfortunate combination of too aggressive marketing and bad information for physicians and that led to current problems. Taking opioids may not be necessary, and it’s important to ask your health care provider if you really need them, especially if you have a history of addiction or mental health problems.

Old or unused medicines in your home pose a risk for poisoning, theft and drug abuse. Do not put in trash or flush down the toilet. Take it to the drop box at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, main lobby. Keep in original container, black off your name for privacy if desired.

How do you know if you’re beginning to have dependency problems with medication? If you’re taking it for longer than is recommended, or if you’re taking time to seek out more medication, dropping important obligations because of it, or skipping school or work well past the timetable your doctor said you’d be recovered. Of heroin users, 75 percent reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug. Heroin is cheaper than prescription opioids, so once addicted it’s not hard to transition from prescriptions to street drugs. Concerns now are that street drugs are being laced with dangerous products like animal tranquilizers and the high potency black market fentanyl as witnessed by the death of Minnesota’s musician Prince. Largely smuggled from labs in China and Mexico, fentanyl is significantly more  potent than other opioids — as much as 50 times stronger than heroin. But it’s cheaper to produce, so it’s often disguised as more expensive prescription pain pills.

No experts believe people in pain after surgery, or dealing with pain from another serious medical condition, should go without prescription pain medicines. Opioids are not evil. Pain needs to be treated, but thoughtful prescribing, patient education, and alternative pain control methods are key to reducing risks.

If you are concerned that you or someone you love is having problems with opiate use, speak with your family doctor or contact NATIONAL DRUG ABUSE HOTLINE 1.800.622.HELP (1.800.622.4357)

"Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." ~ Hebrews 2:18 (NIV)

Linda Peterson, Parish Nurse Church • Office hours; Tuesdays 9am -2pm
Church phone 651.439.5970; leave voice mail or staff can relay a message immediately
Email: linda.k.peterson@lakeview.org

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