November 2015 | Vol. 38, No 11

Dear Friends,

Two weeks after my 58th birthday, I suffered a mild stroke. After I stopped denying that this ‘couldn’t happen to me’ (it could and it did), I struggled to accept this as my new normal. What skills I want back I must work to get back. Here are some tips that have helped me along (these are from George PH):

  1. Stop Chasing and Start Living – Many people feel they need something – more money, new clothes, better relationships – to make them happy. . .If you look hard enough, you’ll always find reasons to be miserable. So stop chasing; start living. Wanting more is fine, but don’t forget to relax and enjoy life for what it is – in the present.
  2. Assume Responsibility – We often blame other people, circumstances and even objects for our problems. . . Unless you assume responsibility for your life, you’ll always be at the mercy of those circumstances. Instead of blaming others for what’s wrong in your life, focus on what you can do to make things better. Never sulk and try not to feel sorry for yourself too often. It’s your responsibility to make yourself happy: nobody else’s.
  3. Stop Seeking Stimulation – We live in a world of endless stimulation. Between movies, video games and the internet, something exciting’s always going on. Sometimes, this makes us feel bored and restless when we run out of stuff to do. If you want to be happy, overcome this addiction. Develop the ability to enjoy life in its entirety – even when the stimulation stops. Appreciate the sky you see on your way to work each day. Cherish each moment you spend with the people you love. Savor every bite of food you get to eat. Enjoying every experience will give you many new reasons to be happy.
  4. Take Action – Taking action is the logical consequence of assuming responsibility for your life (Point #2). . . Get behind the steering wheel of your own life! . . . Educate yourself and commit to find happiness no matter what it takes. With enough hard work and dedication, you really can create the life you want.
  5. Expect Nothing – We expect others to treat us better than we treat them. . . The difference between what we feel entitled to and what we actually get is the source of much misery. Accept life in its entirety; stop thinking in terms of what should be and accept what is. When you live without entitlement, every good thing becomes a wonderful surprise. Even better, expecting nothing means never being disappointed.

So here’s to living in the present, making things better, and enjoying each moment. Join me this November.

Warmly,

Pastor Peter

Pastor Peter J. Blank

Click here for the Nov. 2015 newsletter:  Nov 2015 for web

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2015 | Vol. 38, No 10

Dear Friends,

I am graduating midlife shortly (the ages of 35-60). Here are some thoughts on midlife experiences that have shaped my Christian faith journey through this. Author Lynne Baab says, “In midlife we start to look back as well as ahead wondering if we have lived the first half of our life wisely and pondering what we want to do in the second half” (Refresh: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, 2009). She suggests that there are common midlife experiences though which we live: losses, discoveries, and questions. I will only cover these briefly here.

+Loss – When I was turning 50, I experienced a string of deaths (both my parents, my aunt, and colleague) in a brief amount of time. I had shoulder surgery and weeks of recovery. It’s common to experience losses. Job issues, family crises, health problems and deaths tend to challenge faith in midlife years.  And, it seems, faith can’t quite keep up with the demands.

+Discoveries – A second common midlife experience is that of new and enriching discoveries. Diana has recently completed her Bachelors degree in Nursing. She has found learning is fun.

+Questions – midlife is a time of questioning because of these losses and discoveries. Where is God? Why do I feel abandoned by my church? Why do I feel so discouraged?

Some suggest midlife is most likely whenever we start to look back wondering “did I live wisely?” and looking ahead pondering “how will this end?” Research shows that only about ten percent of people have a full-blown midlife crisis. But many more people experience the ‘messengers of midlife’: increased tears, sleeplessness, and a sense of loss that may be focused on work, family life and personal life. These messengers are a call to look deeper and to spend some time on nurturing our inner life of faith.

Now, on to what’s next – later life.

Warmly,

Pastor Peter

Pastor Peter J. Blank

October newsletter link: oct 2015 for website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2015 | Vol. 38, No 9

Dear Friends,

I need to tell you a story I recently lived. You may know that I like to work on cars and I’d like to think everything I touch, I can fix. I frequently invite our children to let me repair their cars as a way of saving them some money on costly repairs. Recently I tried to fix our daughter Hannah’s 2005 VW Golf.

We arrange the Saturday. She bought the replacement struts for the front end. Her boyfriend Cameron was going to help with the work. The day came.  Cameron and I spent the next eight hours disassembling parts of the car. Before our patience wore thin, we tried to reassemble the car, but failed. We didn’t have a few special tools. So, later that week and later the next week, after getting the special tools and after assembling and reassembling the front end five times, I took the car to the garage to have the car fixed by professionals. It now has new struts and runs great!

Here are my take aways: 1) Be humble and realistic. I can’t fix everything and it’s okay to admit it. 2) Ask for help. Recognize when things are un-fixable by Shade Tree Mechanic (that’s me). 3) Share the lesson. I am talking about this to you so you know what I know – and that is, I don’t know enough. 4) Learn to laugh. This lesson in mis-directed mechanics is now becoming legend at my house. The re-telling of this misadventure is taking on mythic proportions. The key question is: will I ever live this one down?

Well, I have had my slice of humble pie. That’s all for now!

Warmly,

Pastor Peter (aka “Shade Tree”)

Pastor Peter J. Blank

P.S. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” James 4:6. Stay humble my friends.

 

Complete September Newsletter: sept 2015

 

August 2015 | Vol. 38, No 8

Dear Friends,

I was chosen as your pastor just about six months ago. Here’s what I love about FPC and Woodburn. You have chosen a great team for me to work with on Session. There is Johanna with her love of Jesus that started as a young girl; Nancy with her love of the Captain of land and sea. Julie who keeps us on track as Clerk, and who makes the city budget add up; there is kind-hearted Bill, who is quick with an encouraging word; Marcy who makes sure we remember the kids of the community with school supplies; Joanne who’s studies the prayer life of Hildegarde; Sally guides me in things that are worship and more; Mark and Walt, you are my go-to-guys when it comes to questions about the grounds or equipment. I cherish each one.

In the office, I have Laura, as secretary, who is my right hand. I learn each week from her wisdom and skill.  My Wednesday is a high point in the week when I get to see Fran and Roberta in the office. It’s great to check in with them on what’s going on. Music Director Debi brings such expertise in liturgy, or playing piano and organ. The gorgeous sound of a pipe played well takes my breath away. The choir, giving of their time and expressing their love of God in music, adds such a beautiful touch to every worship service. I look forward to the fall when they will be back. In the meantime, the summer singers, with such a wide variety of talent and taste in music, are blessing us. We have it all. Our sound tech Gene keeps us in listening range. In recording sermons each Sunday, he helps me get the message to those who cannot get to church. Thank you for driving our bus also. I have such great people with which to work.

You, members of the congregation, are trusted friends. Sisters, Christine and Evelyn, I have chided you too many times about not sitting with each other in worship. Betty, I use you to make sure our sound equipment is working well enough (“Can you hear me now”). I get my first greeting of each Sunday from Charlie. (Some say, “He can’t hear.” But I don’t believe it.) Ruby, you have introduced me to your entire family in picture. Phila, I want to thank you for keeping our library in perfect order. Hope, you are well named. Precious Lois, it is so gooood to have you back in church! Evelyn and Irene, thank you for noticing that I smile a lot. It is because I’m happy! David, you have dry sense of humor that is such fun. Mark, I need to thank you for your many encouraging words and strong handshakes. Harley and Marian, I’m glad this is your church and that I am your pastor. Traudel, you are a treasure and you remind me of my German heritage. Kelvin and Sarah, I will try to make every message worth living. For our younger generation, Hillary, Hannah, April, McKenzie and Zach, you stretch me to be relevant. Thank you for your warm welcome.

I’m sure I have unintentionally forgotten some. It is so good for Diana and me to be here with you in beautiful Woodburn.

Warmly,

Pastor Peter

Pastor Peter J. Blank

August newsletter: aug 2015 pdf

 

July 2015 | Vol. 38, No 7

Dear Friends,

Independence Day is upon us: The Fourth of July. It’s a day you probably know well and one that you anticipate with pleasure. Here are some interesting facts about the nation’s birthday you may not know about. FACT ONE: Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, but Congress didn’t make it official until 1870, when a billed was passed to establish major state holidays like Christmas, New Year’s and Independence Day. FACT TWO: It is the biggest hot dog holiday of the year (around 155 million will be consumed) though the origin of the hot dog is unknown. FACT THREE: Our Founding Fathers celebrated with a meal of turtle soup, New England poached salmon with egg sauce, green peas and boiled new potatoes, followed by Indian pudding or Apple Pandowdy. FACT FOUR: The Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1864, due to worries about it cracking; instead the bell is tapped 13 times signaling for bells across the country to start ringing. FACT FIVE: Two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on Independence Day, July 4, 1826.

As you plan to celebrate this Independence Day, gather with family and friends; set off a few fireworks; remember those who have shaped our country and our lives; thank God for being alive to celebrate. It was President Ronald Reagan who said so well, “Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that humankind is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.” Let us be a beacon of hope to the world!

Have a safe 4th and a happy July!

Warmly,

Pastor Peter

Pastor Peter J. Blank

July Newsletter: July 2015

June 2015 | Vol. 38, No 6

Dear Friends,

As I drive through Woodburn, I notice all the construction work going on. (Is there any missing it?) We must turn left to get on northbound I-5. Surveyors have marked where new sidewalks would go on Newberg Highway. Now those sidewalks and gutters are in place. They are paving the highway at night to reduce the impact it will have on daily traffic. Woodburn is under construction. Change is coming. No, change is here. I have noticed the comments many have made (as well as my own thoughts on the subject) that these improvements are inconvenient. None of us have escaped the transformation to the city. We are under construction.

Now that the improvements are here, I notice I dread them. Change is uncomfortable. It affects every aspect of life. I’ve noticed that when I think of new things, I must think of the cost. There is a price that is paid for transformation. We sacrifice our comfort zone; our schedule and routine must be set aside. But this is the price we pay for the life we desire.

It’s one thing when it’s road construction, but quite another when it’s the unrepaired places in our lives; those places where God loves us as we are but is not willing to leave us there. Many people think that all they need to do is warn others. “I have trouble getting along with people.” “I have a problem with my temper.” “That’s just the way I am, and people will have to take me that way.”

Whatever statements we make, we actually mean, “We take no responsibility for this condition and feel no obligation to do anything about it.” We admit a shortcoming, and announce that we’re going to leave things the way they were.

The Apostle Paul says we’re under construction. “…in Christ, you are a new creation. The old is done away, behold the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Thinking of this reminds me of some of the characters of the Bible, they were transformed into better people. Jacob was a rascal as a young man, but he changed. David, shepherd boy turned king, failed God many times but always turned back to God again. Young Joseph, his father’s favorite son, was a smart aleck and conceited. After his imprisonment and rise to rule alongside Pharaoh, we see a different Joseph. He now shows compassion and tenderness. Paul says we are in the process of growing/changing. God never intended that we remain the same. We cannot say “That’s the way I am” as a statement of excuse. Rather, it’s the beginning of change. God is making a new person in us. With pride we can say, we are under construction.

Warmly,

Pastor Peter

Pastor Peter J. Blank

Newsletter PDF June 2014 web

 

May 2015 | Vol. 38, No 5

Dear Friends,

I am continuing on the subject of resiliency that I introduced last month. We live in the time in-between or the now but not yet. What I mean by that is that we live after Jesus physically lived on this earth and before he physically returns again. Bible scholars have called this the in-between time when God’s kingdom is both now and not yet. Remember Jesus’ words when he said “The Kingdom of God is near” and “the Kingdom is at hand.” He is speaking of the now-ness of God’s kingdom. Remember Jesus also said, “when you come into the kingdom.”

The first way to cultivate resilience is to recalibrate our imaginations that profound difficulty is a natural part of life.  All of us face troubles. We are better when we face our troubles. As the singer/songwriter Randy Stonehill penned:

“Troubles, troubles – everyone has them, you know,

Troubles, troubles – don’t they come falling like snow?

Now, don’t you lose hope in the harder times, never lose sight of your dreams,

Troubles are shadows, they’re never as large as they seem.”

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “tribulation brings about perseverance…proven character, hope” (Rom. 5:4).

The second way to cultivate resilience is to form sites of hopefulness in the midst of despair. This is the “now” of Christian knowledge of the world. We are told that the present things face will pass away, giving way to a better day. “In Christ, you are a new creation, the old has passed away. Behold, new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). This is the hope we cling to, the promise in which we remind each other. In Alcoholics Anonymous each day is participants’ “first day.” In Bible studies and prayer groups, we plant, water and cultivate seeds of hope.

The third way to cultivate resilience is to understand we do it together. As Americans we often think in terms of “going it alone” or “doing things on our own”. The Christian community is founded on hope. It’s very existence testifies to the fact of getting back up again is written in its DNA. And this hope we extend to each other whenever we are together (“Wherever two or more are gathered…there I am in the midst of them” Matt. 18:20). “For all of our troubles, we’re older and wiser today” (Randy Stonehill). Be resilient, my friend.

Warmly,

Pastor Peter

Pastor Peter J. Blank

May Newsletter: May 2015 for web