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All Profiles > Rev. Dr. Steven Koski

About Rev. Dr. Steven Koski

I am at First Presbyterian because I am crazy blessed to get to serve an extraordinary, loving, compassionate, brave, creative, mission-hearted, curious, and fun community of faith. And for some reason they put up with me.

Before serving here, I was cheering loudly for the Chicago Blackhawks as Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of LaGrange, IL, a western suburb of Chicago.

I love being constantly reminded that I am one lucky guy to have married “up” to Laurie and to be blessed to be dad to two amazing young men, Jacob and Jonah. I love yoga. Although, the people next to me in yoga class look like pretzels while I look and move like a block of cement. I love walking the many beautiful trails of Bend. I love, love, love, love sports. My dream job would be a sports talk show host sharing my limitless sports wisdom with the rest of the world. I love Scrabble, a good book, U2, single malt scotch, theater, and ballet (not necessarily in that order).

You can reach Steven at [email protected], and follow him on Instagram: @stevenkoski.

Parker Palmer said winter in the upper Midwest is not winter but divine retribution. Palmer says winters in the Upper Midwest will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them where a daily walk into the winter world will fortify the spirit by taking you boldly to the very heart of the season you fear.
There’s wisdom in understanding that until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate our lives. When you walk directly into the face of the gale force wind of your fears you may discover a strength of soul you didn’t know you possessed.
As Mary Oliver said, “It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” There is a storm blowing winds of despair and division swirling around us. It’s kicking up dust leaving us unsure of where our center is and which direction to head. The temptation is to retreat  staying inside huddling fearfully by the fire complaining about the wind. What would it look like to step out and squarely face the wind today scattering seeds of goodness not worried where the wind might blow them?
A blessing for your day:
The world now is too dangerous and too beautiful for anything but love.
May your eyes be so blessed you see God in everyone.
May your ears be so blessed you hear the cries of those who are suffering.
May your hands be so blessed that everything you touch is a sacrament.
May your lips be so blessed that you speak truth to power with love.
May your feet be so blessed you run to those who need you.
May your spirit be so blessed that your fears recede and your courage leads.
May your heart be so opened, so set on fire, that your love, your love changes everything.
Parker Palmer said winter in the upper Midwest is not winter but divine retribution. Palmer says winters in the Upper Midwest will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them where a daily walk into the winter world will fortify the spirit by taking you boldly to the very heart of the season you fear. There’s wisdom in understanding that until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate our lives. When you walk directly into the face of the gale force wind of your fears you may discover a strength of soul you didn’t know you possessed. As Mary Oliver said, “It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” There is a storm blowing winds of despair and division swirling around us. It’s kicking up dust leaving us unsure of where our center is and which direction to head. The temptation is to retreat staying inside huddling fearfully by the fire complaining about the wind. What would it look like to step out and squarely face the wind today scattering seeds of goodness not worried where the wind might blow them? A blessing for your day: The world now is too dangerous and too beautiful for anything but love. May your eyes be so blessed you see God in everyone. May your ears be so blessed you hear the cries of those who are suffering. May your hands be so blessed that everything you touch is a sacrament. May your lips be so blessed that you speak truth to power with love. May your feet be so blessed you run to those who need you. May your spirit be so blessed that your fears recede and your courage leads. May your heart be so opened, so set on fire, that your love, your love changes everything.
“To behold beauty signifies your life; it heals you and calls you out beyond the smallness of your own self-limitations to experience new horizons. To experience beauty is to have your life enlarged.” -John O’Donohue.

My spirit feels under assault from several fronts today. When everything feels wrong it is a good time to look for and savor what’s right.
Negativity is Velcro. Positivity is Teflon.
Neuroscience has proven the mind attaches like Velcro to anything negative, fearful or traumatic. Fear and trauma makes itself at home filling every nook and cranny.
Anything positive, good, joyful and beautiful is like Teflon resistant to sticking.
Neuroscience has shown that if you have a moment of goodness and beauty, you have to pause, take in and savor this positive experience for a minimum of 15 seconds or it doesn’t imprint on the brain.  Like Velcro, negativity, fear and trauma make an imprint neurologically instantly.
Maybe that explains that when I receive 99 affirming emails they don’t register. Yet, the 1 that is critical sticks and I ruminate over it all night long. This explains why you can look at a beautiful work of art and not be changed if you don’t pause to savor the beauty. At the same time, you can hold on to trauma for years.
Trauma, ugliness and fear will occupy every room of the house of you let them. It is essential for the health of your soul to mindfully take in and savor love, beauty, goodness and those things that call forth joy.
Today, my soul feels diminished and defeated. For that reason, I am going to sit in the sun and count every beautiful thing I can see.  I am going to look for and savor beauty, goodness and kindness in unexpected places. I am going to bring to mind the simple things in each day I take for granted, like the gift of my next breath.
When fear and trauma are trying to occupy every room, our souls need a little bit of space carved out for joy. I am not going to savor beauty and goodness today to escape the realities assaulting my spirit. I will seek and embrace beauty today as a form of resistance.
“To behold beauty signifies your life; it heals you and calls you out beyond the smallness of your own self-limitations to experience new horizons. To experience beauty is to have your life enlarged.” -John O’Donohue. My spirit feels under assault from several fronts today. When everything feels wrong it is a good time to look for and savor what’s right. Negativity is Velcro. Positivity is Teflon. Neuroscience has proven the mind attaches like Velcro to anything negative, fearful or traumatic. Fear and trauma makes itself at home filling every nook and cranny. Anything positive, good, joyful and beautiful is like Teflon resistant to sticking. Neuroscience has shown that if you have a moment of goodness and beauty, you have to pause, take in and savor this positive experience for a minimum of 15 seconds or it doesn’t imprint on the brain. Like Velcro, negativity, fear and trauma make an imprint neurologically instantly. Maybe that explains that when I receive 99 affirming emails they don’t register. Yet, the 1 that is critical sticks and I ruminate over it all night long. This explains why you can look at a beautiful work of art and not be changed if you don’t pause to savor the beauty. At the same time, you can hold on to trauma for years. Trauma, ugliness and fear will occupy every room of the house of you let them. It is essential for the health of your soul to mindfully take in and savor love, beauty, goodness and those things that call forth joy. Today, my soul feels diminished and defeated. For that reason, I am going to sit in the sun and count every beautiful thing I can see. I am going to look for and savor beauty, goodness and kindness in unexpected places. I am going to bring to mind the simple things in each day I take for granted, like the gift of my next breath. When fear and trauma are trying to occupy every room, our souls need a little bit of space carved out for joy. I am not going to savor beauty and goodness today to escape the realities assaulting my spirit. I will seek and embrace beauty today as a form of resistance.
“The world can not ruffle the dignity of a soul that dwells in its own tranquility.” ~John O’Donohue  Noise. There is so much noise. Noise on the outside. Noise on the inside. Noise about the noise. I find myself battling the noise of my own thoughts by turning up the volume and thinking harder.
An elementary teacher asked her 2nd grade students to make as much noise as possible. She asked them to describe the noise.  She then asked them to be silent and still and then describe the silence. She noticed the students used cliches to describe the noise saying the noise sounded like thunder, the beating of drums and a herd of elephants. This teacher was amazed that the silence liberated their imaginations. These 2nd graders described silence as “A tree reaching its branches to the sun,” and “Me sleeping just before I wake,”
and “Silence reminds me to take my soul everywhere I go.”
Mary Oliver reminds us to always keep some room in the heart for the unimaginable. Noise fills that space leaving us bereft of imagination.  I was struck by the noise of the last Democratic Debate with the space occupied with yelling and attacks. Thinking harder, talking louder and filling the spaces between us with attacks tearing each other down will not lead us to the more beautiful world our hearts still imagine to be possible.
I offer into the noise of this day A Blessing In The Chaos by Jan Richardson:
“To all that is chaotic in you, let there come silence.
Let there be a calming of the clamoring, a stilling of the voices that have laid their claim on you, that have made their home in you,
that go with you even to the holy places but will not let you rest,
will not let you hear your life with wholeness or feel the grace that fashioned you.
 Let what distracts you cease.
Let there come an end to what diminishes and demeans, and let depart all that keeps you in its cage.
Let there be an opening into the quiet that lies beneath the chaos, where you find the peace you did not think possible and see what shimmers within the storm.”
“The world can not ruffle the dignity of a soul that dwells in its own tranquility.” ~John O’Donohue Noise. There is so much noise. Noise on the outside. Noise on the inside. Noise about the noise. I find myself battling the noise of my own thoughts by turning up the volume and thinking harder. An elementary teacher asked her 2nd grade students to make as much noise as possible. She asked them to describe the noise. She then asked them to be silent and still and then describe the silence. She noticed the students used cliches to describe the noise saying the noise sounded like thunder, the beating of drums and a herd of elephants. This teacher was amazed that the silence liberated their imaginations. These 2nd graders described silence as “A tree reaching its branches to the sun,” and “Me sleeping just before I wake,” and “Silence reminds me to take my soul everywhere I go.” Mary Oliver reminds us to always keep some room in the heart for the unimaginable. Noise fills that space leaving us bereft of imagination. I was struck by the noise of the last Democratic Debate with the space occupied with yelling and attacks. Thinking harder, talking louder and filling the spaces between us with attacks tearing each other down will not lead us to the more beautiful world our hearts still imagine to be possible. I offer into the noise of this day A Blessing In The Chaos by Jan Richardson: “To all that is chaotic in you, let there come silence. Let there be a calming of the clamoring, a stilling of the voices that have laid their claim on you, that have made their home in you, that go with you even to the holy places but will not let you rest, will not let you hear your life with wholeness or feel the grace that fashioned you. Let what distracts you cease. Let there come an end to what diminishes and demeans, and let depart all that keeps you in its cage. Let there be an opening into the quiet that lies beneath the chaos, where you find the peace you did not think possible and see what shimmers within the storm.”
“We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have answers.” ~Abraham Heschel  Answers are conclusions. Questions are invitations into the field of possibilities.
Jesus asked 307 questions and he only answered 3. Spiritual wisdom is less about having the right answers and more wrestling with the questions that awaken our souls.
Here are some questions that, in the words of Mary Oliver, will keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable:
What makes for a really good day?
What captures your life so fully you lose track of time?
How would your life be different if you had no fear of embarrassing yourself?
What is the one thing you’d like to change about the world? How are you using your gifts to change it?
When is the last time you did something for the first time?
When is the last time you laughed so hard you thought you would pee your pants?
What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
What would you do differently if you didn’t care what others think?
What are you holding on to that you long to release?
Are you doing what you believe in or settling for what you are doing?
Are you the kind of friend you need as a friend?
Are you spending your energy on the things that matter most or the things that matter least?
Do people feel important in your presence?
What title would you give this chapter in your life? What title do you hope the next chapter will be?
Are you living the life that desires to be lived in and through you?
What is the one thing you would do if you were graced with 20 seconds of insane courage?
I am hoping creating space to be present to these questions will both unsettle and inspire. Howard Thurman suggests, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
“We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have answers.” ~Abraham Heschel Answers are conclusions. Questions are invitations into the field of possibilities. Jesus asked 307 questions and he only answered 3. Spiritual wisdom is less about having the right answers and more wrestling with the questions that awaken our souls. Here are some questions that, in the words of Mary Oliver, will keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable: What makes for a really good day? What captures your life so fully you lose track of time? How would your life be different if you had no fear of embarrassing yourself? What is the one thing you’d like to change about the world? How are you using your gifts to change it? When is the last time you did something for the first time? When is the last time you laughed so hard you thought you would pee your pants? What is the difference between being alive and truly living? What would you do differently if you didn’t care what others think? What are you holding on to that you long to release? Are you doing what you believe in or settling for what you are doing? Are you the kind of friend you need as a friend? Are you spending your energy on the things that matter most or the things that matter least? Do people feel important in your presence? What title would you give this chapter in your life? What title do you hope the next chapter will be? Are you living the life that desires to be lived in and through you? What is the one thing you would do if you were graced with 20 seconds of insane courage? I am hoping creating space to be present to these questions will both unsettle and inspire. Howard Thurman suggests, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Thinking of these words on Valentine’s Day - “Love is patient, kind and does not insist on its own way.” ( 1 Cor.13 )
People do not want to be solved, fixed, figured out or saved. People long to be loved for who they are and know they are worthy of love.
The greatest gift we might give on this Valentine’s Day is the gift of our nonjudgmental, attentive, agenda-free presence. When life hurts, and it hurts often, we don’t need problem-solvers, protectors, fixers or saviors. Healing comes in the form of those willing to sit patiently, quietly, silently and hold sacred space.
Research in Neuroscience has revealed that the part of the brain damaged by trauma begins to heal when we have a soft place to land and a safe place to tell our stories and feel heard, validated and understood.
Here are some ways to say I LOVE YOU on this Valentine’s Day, and every day - “I’m not going anywhere.” “What do you need?” “How can I best love you right now?” “You are important to me. What you have to say is important to me.” “Your needs are valid.” “I believe you.” “If you want to talk I will listen. If you don’t want to talk I am grateful just to be with you.” “You don’t have to prove anything to me.” “It’s okay if you want to be alone but I’m here if you need me.” “We’ll get through this together.” “I see you.” - What would you add? Of course, a loving silence has more power to heal than even the most well-intentioned words.
It is a harsh and hostile world.  People within an arms length of you are silently suffering. We all store trauma.
Imagine if we celebrated Valentine’s Day by intentionally bringing more love into the world that is patient, kind and doesn’t insist on its own way.
What would it look like to be a sacred space of grace, a healing refuge and a soft place for someone to land today? You might just unexpectedly find you are the one healed of wounds you have long ignored.
Thinking of these words on Valentine’s Day - “Love is patient, kind and does not insist on its own way.” ( 1 Cor.13 ) People do not want to be solved, fixed, figured out or saved. People long to be loved for who they are and know they are worthy of love. The greatest gift we might give on this Valentine’s Day is the gift of our nonjudgmental, attentive, agenda-free presence. When life hurts, and it hurts often, we don’t need problem-solvers, protectors, fixers or saviors. Healing comes in the form of those willing to sit patiently, quietly, silently and hold sacred space. Research in Neuroscience has revealed that the part of the brain damaged by trauma begins to heal when we have a soft place to land and a safe place to tell our stories and feel heard, validated and understood. Here are some ways to say I LOVE YOU on this Valentine’s Day, and every day - “I’m not going anywhere.” “What do you need?” “How can I best love you right now?” “You are important to me. What you have to say is important to me.” “Your needs are valid.” “I believe you.” “If you want to talk I will listen. If you don’t want to talk I am grateful just to be with you.” “You don’t have to prove anything to me.” “It’s okay if you want to be alone but I’m here if you need me.” “We’ll get through this together.” “I see you.” - What would you add? Of course, a loving silence has more power to heal than even the most well-intentioned words. It is a harsh and hostile world. People within an arms length of you are silently suffering. We all store trauma. Imagine if we celebrated Valentine’s Day by intentionally bringing more love into the world that is patient, kind and doesn’t insist on its own way. What would it look like to be a sacred space of grace, a healing refuge and a soft place for someone to land today? You might just unexpectedly find you are the one healed of wounds you have long ignored.
A tragedy or a crisis has a way of reminding us that all the stupid stuff we spend so much time stressing over doesn’t really matter at all. A tragedy steps into the role of an editor removing all of the extra words from a sentence leaving you with only the essence. For a time we stop wasting our energy on all those things that aren’t worth our energy - The grudge. What others think about you. Ambition. Jealousy. That extra 10 lbs. unattainable perfection.
It’s so very true that the things that matter most in life are always at the mercy of the things that matter the least.
The tragic death of Kobe, his daughter and seven other cherished and beloved children of God remind us once again that life is as short as a half taken breath.
I was sitting with someone near their transition from this life to MORE life. With eyes moist from tears, he said, “Steven, don’t get to the end of your life to realize too many of the ladders you climbed were leaning against the wrong wall;  too many of your possessions actually possessed you; you held too many grudges that proved to be petty; you worried too much about what others thought about you only to find they didn’t think about you at all; you let fear drive the car and fear refused to leave the driveway meaning you missed out on too many adventures;  you tried to control what wasn’t yours to control; and you watched too much damn television. And now that I have only a few breaths left, I realize  it’s all about love. If I have regrets, it’s that I didn’t forgive easily enough and I didn’t love generously enough.”
Dryers across the world are in cahoots to eat as many socks as they can leaving a world full of single socks. Why do we keep that sock and put it in the top drawer? Life is too much like that top drawer of single socks - full of things you think have value but all they do is clutter your life. Don’t wait for a tragedy to remember the things  that matter most need protecting because they are always at the mercy of what matters least.
Place your hand on your heart. Say, “YES!” today to those things that make life worth living.
A tragedy or a crisis has a way of reminding us that all the stupid stuff we spend so much time stressing over doesn’t really matter at all. A tragedy steps into the role of an editor removing all of the extra words from a sentence leaving you with only the essence. For a time we stop wasting our energy on all those things that aren’t worth our energy - The grudge. What others think about you. Ambition. Jealousy. That extra 10 lbs. unattainable perfection. It’s so very true that the things that matter most in life are always at the mercy of the things that matter the least. The tragic death of Kobe, his daughter and seven other cherished and beloved children of God remind us once again that life is as short as a half taken breath. I was sitting with someone near their transition from this life to MORE life. With eyes moist from tears, he said, “Steven, don’t get to the end of your life to realize too many of the ladders you climbed were leaning against the wrong wall; too many of your possessions actually possessed you; you held too many grudges that proved to be petty; you worried too much about what others thought about you only to find they didn’t think about you at all; you let fear drive the car and fear refused to leave the driveway meaning you missed out on too many adventures; you tried to control what wasn’t yours to control; and you watched too much damn television. And now that I have only a few breaths left, I realize it’s all about love. If I have regrets, it’s that I didn’t forgive easily enough and I didn’t love generously enough.” Dryers across the world are in cahoots to eat as many socks as they can leaving a world full of single socks. Why do we keep that sock and put it in the top drawer? Life is too much like that top drawer of single socks - full of things you think have value but all they do is clutter your life. Don’t wait for a tragedy to remember the things that matter most need protecting because they are always at the mercy of what matters least. Place your hand on your heart. Say, “YES!” today to those things that make life worth living.
  • Our faith should inform our politics. All too often our politics inform our faith.
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    Our faith should inform our politics. All too often our politics inform our faith. Yesterday was the 68th National Prayer Breakfast. Historically, those with differing political views humbly set them…
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  • Breathe
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh Thich Nhat Hanh said smiling is spiritual…
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  • Life is not a lesson to be learned but a gift to be unwrapped
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    Life is not a lesson to be learned but a gift to be unwrapped layer upon layer trusting there are hidden jewels waiting to be discovered. I don’t believe things…
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  • Happy Pride Month!
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    “The wrong idea has taken root in the world. And that idea is there are lives that matter less than other lives.” ~Fr. Greg Boyle God’s love revealed in Jesus…
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  • We need each other. We don’t need who we pretend to be.
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    “How are you?” “Im ok.” “No.Really? How are you?” And just like that my impenetrable walls of defense crumbled. I felt seen and loved. Some people possess a superpower. They…
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  • Let the Beauty of the World Heal You
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    “I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” ~Anne Frank Let the beauty of the world heal you because the world is crying out…
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  • How can I best love you?
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    “What would love look like for you today? How can I best love you?” Those questions asked of me yesterday left me stunned. I was used to being asked is…
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  • Life happens.
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    The definition of stress is when the demands of life exceed your “perceived” resources to meet those demands. We focus on the demands of life and like a magnifying glass…
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  • Your thoughts are a useful servant if they are serving a greater Wisdom.
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    Your thoughts are a useful servant if they are serving a greater Wisdom. Your thoughts can be a relentless tyrant imprisoning you behind the bars of anxiety. The key to…
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  • I don’t know.
    Posted: Mon, Feb 24, 2020
    The more I know the more I realize how little I know. The more I know the more I realize how easy it is to settle for easy answers and…
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