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Instagram: @stevenkoski
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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.

Sitting vigil in the ICU with my wife who was critically ill, I assumed strength was gritting my teeth, steeling my resolve to keep it together. A friend said, “Steven, if you don’t express all that you are feeling you are going to explode. Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and not what you think you are supposed to feel or what you think others expect you to feel. Feel what you are actually feeling and find a way to express it. Scream at me. I promise I won’t scream back.”
Emotions aren’t always understood but they long to be expressed. When we numb, ignore, repress or medicate our feelings they will find less than helpful ways to leak out. As Carl Jung said, “An untamed cat always becomes a ferocious tiger that will bite you.”
A healthy spirituality is a raw, honest and authentic spirituality. I think of the Psalmist in Psalm 22 who cried, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” That’s prayer. Jesus repeated that prayer in his moment of despair. Who hasn’t screamed that prayer silently or out loud? Our screams may be the most honest and helpful prayers we can pray.
I was afraid, sad, angry, confused. God seemed absent. I went to the meditation garden at OHSU and my meditation came out as a scream. I screamed again. I experienced those words from scripture that God hears our groans that are too deep even for words to express. I felt my rage and sorrow move through me like a storm moves across the summer sky. I returned to the ICU graced with renewed strength. This strength did not come from gritting my teeth pretending to be strong but from letting myself feel and express all that I was feeling. Expressing our emotions is a spiritual practice bringing into light that which we like to hide in shame or fear.
Our faith isn’t a magic pill that eliminates our pain and suffering. Our faith is the container of grace able to hold even the ugliest of emotions transforming them in love.
Richard Rohr said, “Pain that is not transmitted is transmitted.”
Express your feelings. Scream. Weep. Write. Paint. Run. Ask for help. All of this is prayer. The most honest kind of prayer. Scream at me. I promise I won’t scream back.
Sitting vigil in the ICU with my wife who was critically ill, I assumed strength was gritting my teeth, steeling my resolve to keep it together. A friend said, “Steven, if you don’t express all that you are feeling you are going to explode. Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and not what you think you are supposed to feel or what you think others expect you to feel. Feel what you are actually feeling and find a way to express it. Scream at me. I promise I won’t scream back.” Emotions aren’t always understood but they long to be expressed. When we numb, ignore, repress or medicate our feelings they will find less than helpful ways to leak out. As Carl Jung said, “An untamed cat always becomes a ferocious tiger that will bite you.” A healthy spirituality is a raw, honest and authentic spirituality. I think of the Psalmist in Psalm 22 who cried, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” That’s prayer. Jesus repeated that prayer in his moment of despair. Who hasn’t screamed that prayer silently or out loud? Our screams may be the most honest and helpful prayers we can pray. I was afraid, sad, angry, confused. God seemed absent. I went to the meditation garden at OHSU and my meditation came out as a scream. I screamed again. I experienced those words from scripture that God hears our groans that are too deep even for words to express. I felt my rage and sorrow move through me like a storm moves across the summer sky. I returned to the ICU graced with renewed strength. This strength did not come from gritting my teeth pretending to be strong but from letting myself feel and express all that I was feeling. Expressing our emotions is a spiritual practice bringing into light that which we like to hide in shame or fear. Our faith isn’t a magic pill that eliminates our pain and suffering. Our faith is the container of grace able to hold even the ugliest of emotions transforming them in love. Richard Rohr said, “Pain that is not transmitted is transmitted.” Express your feelings. Scream. Weep. Write. Paint. Run. Ask for help. All of this is prayer. The most honest kind of prayer. Scream at me. I promise I won’t scream back.
If I’ve learned anything in 30 years of ministry, it’s that behind the shiny surface we present to one another, everyone has a story. It is not our strength that unites us. It is our vulnerability.
Life is hard. Damn hard. If you feel like life is hard it is not because there’s something wrong with you or you are doing it wrong. The hard truth is that life is just hard.
The Psalmist said in Psalm 31, “I am a broken vessel.” Me too. We should all wear stickers on our foreheads that say - FRAGILE. HANDLE WITH CARE.
I hear often, “I’d come to church but I know I’d just cry. I will return when I can pull it together.” This makes me so sad because our church community should be the place you feel free to cry; the place you feel safe to be vulnerable; the place you don’t have to wear a mask or pretend everything’s OK when it’s not; the place where you can trust you won’t be shamed for simply being human.
Imagine belonging to a community where you don’t have to put on a brave face or put up walls. Imagine belonging to a community where you don’t have to feel ashamed or feel any expectations that you should have it all together. Imagine belonging to a community where you hear, “You? Me too.” Imagine belonging to a community where you are reminded you are made in the image of God’s goodness and you are loved beyond comprehension. Imagine belonging to a community where “where does it hurt?” is asked more often that “what do you think?” Imagine a community of healers where you can trust your fragility will be handled with care.
A starting point for such a community is to treat your own fragility with tenderness and care. Jean Vanier wrote, “We don’t know what to do with our own weakness except hide it or pretend it doesn’t exist. So how can we welcome fully the weakness of another if we haven’t welcomed our own weakness.” Sometimes the person who is in greatest need of our alms of kindness is ourselves. Handle yourself with care today.
If I’ve learned anything in 30 years of ministry, it’s that behind the shiny surface we present to one another, everyone has a story. It is not our strength that unites us. It is our vulnerability. Life is hard. Damn hard. If you feel like life is hard it is not because there’s something wrong with you or you are doing it wrong. The hard truth is that life is just hard. The Psalmist said in Psalm 31, “I am a broken vessel.” Me too. We should all wear stickers on our foreheads that say - FRAGILE. HANDLE WITH CARE. I hear often, “I’d come to church but I know I’d just cry. I will return when I can pull it together.” This makes me so sad because our church community should be the place you feel free to cry; the place you feel safe to be vulnerable; the place you don’t have to wear a mask or pretend everything’s OK when it’s not; the place where you can trust you won’t be shamed for simply being human. Imagine belonging to a community where you don’t have to put on a brave face or put up walls. Imagine belonging to a community where you don’t have to feel ashamed or feel any expectations that you should have it all together. Imagine belonging to a community where you hear, “You? Me too.” Imagine belonging to a community where you are reminded you are made in the image of God’s goodness and you are loved beyond comprehension. Imagine belonging to a community where “where does it hurt?” is asked more often that “what do you think?” Imagine a community of healers where you can trust your fragility will be handled with care. A starting point for such a community is to treat your own fragility with tenderness and care. Jean Vanier wrote, “We don’t know what to do with our own weakness except hide it or pretend it doesn’t exist. So how can we welcome fully the weakness of another if we haven’t welcomed our own weakness.” Sometimes the person who is in greatest need of our alms of kindness is ourselves. Handle yourself with care today.
Thoughts on suicide and depression on #worldsuicidepreventionday: It is not our strength that unites us. It’s our vulnerability. What we share most in common are tears and the fact sometimes life hurts in unbearable ways.
Psalm 31 says, “I am a broken vessel.” We wear invisible stickers on our foreheads that says: FRAGILE -HANDLE WITH CARE. We need to talk openly and frequently about mental health. Depression is different from being sad or having the blues. Depression is an illness. It can be like a heavy blanket covering you in darkness and the weight feels unbearable.
Talking about suicide is important. HOW we talk about suicide is even more important. People don’t “commit suicide”. People commit crimes. To say one committed suicide  can be hurtful carrying with it a sense of shame. We don’t talk about suicide because we attach shame to it. You don’t commit suicide. You die by suicide.
Suicide is tragic on every level but it is NOT shameful. It is born of a despair and hopelessness that can’t imagine any other way. It’s a thick, pitch black haze that prevents  you from thinking rationally or seeing any light.
Depression is not only a thief but a skilled liar. It convinces you that those you love and the causes you care about would be better off without you. You believe the way things are will be the way things will always be.
When someone dies by suicide it’s a profound tragedy for their loved ones; it’s a reason to mourn the loss of a precious, beautiful life. We can be really angry at the senselessness of the loss. But, there should NEVER be judgment or shame.
We are all, in one way or another, broken vessels. There are scars that don’t show, hidden wounds that aren’t healed, silent screams that aren’t heard, tears that aren’t seen.
Be kind. Handle one another with care.
If you are suffering from depression, desire to self-harm, or having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone. You matter. Your life matters.
For the rest of us, be a soft place for a fellow broken vessel to land.
We think strength is thinking we can do this thing called life on our own. That is actually our weakness.Our strength is in each other. We need each other.We belong to each other.
Thoughts on suicide and depression on #worldsuicidepreventionday: It is not our strength that unites us. It’s our vulnerability. What we share most in common are tears and the fact sometimes life hurts in unbearable ways. Psalm 31 says, “I am a broken vessel.” We wear invisible stickers on our foreheads that says: FRAGILE -HANDLE WITH CARE. We need to talk openly and frequently about mental health. Depression is different from being sad or having the blues. Depression is an illness. It can be like a heavy blanket covering you in darkness and the weight feels unbearable. Talking about suicide is important. HOW we talk about suicide is even more important. People don’t “commit suicide”. People commit crimes. To say one committed suicide can be hurtful carrying with it a sense of shame. We don’t talk about suicide because we attach shame to it. You don’t commit suicide. You die by suicide. Suicide is tragic on every level but it is NOT shameful. It is born of a despair and hopelessness that can’t imagine any other way. It’s a thick, pitch black haze that prevents you from thinking rationally or seeing any light. Depression is not only a thief but a skilled liar. It convinces you that those you love and the causes you care about would be better off without you. You believe the way things are will be the way things will always be. When someone dies by suicide it’s a profound tragedy for their loved ones; it’s a reason to mourn the loss of a precious, beautiful life. We can be really angry at the senselessness of the loss. But, there should NEVER be judgment or shame. We are all, in one way or another, broken vessels. There are scars that don’t show, hidden wounds that aren’t healed, silent screams that aren’t heard, tears that aren’t seen. Be kind. Handle one another with care. If you are suffering from depression, desire to self-harm, or having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone. You matter. Your life matters. For the rest of us, be a soft place for a fellow broken vessel to land. We think strength is thinking we can do this thing called life on our own. That is actually our weakness.Our strength is in each other. We need each other.We belong to each other.
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