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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.

This is the first year in 31 years I am not leading worship during Holy Week . Instead, I will express myself here.
On Holy Thursday, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
He embodied that love by kneeling taking the tired, cracked, dirty, smelly feet of his friends into his hands receiving their most vulnerable selves into his heart. He tenderly washed their feet as the mercy of heaven flowed from his heart into his hands into their soles of their feet and into every cell of their being. His friends knew in that moment they were loved not for what they can do or give in return. They were loved unconditionally. It is this love that changes everything.
I watched  a stranger’s blood flow drip by drip down into my wife’s arm infusing her with life. Jesus said on this night before he was arrested, “This is my blood given for you, poured out for you.” Giving blood to strangers to save their lives is really the opposite of all the cruelty and ugliness that surrounds us.
Giving blood... a smile to a stranger...unexpected forgiveness...the gift of time...nonjudgmental presence...giving food to the hungry, hope to the hopeless, acceptance to the rejected, giving tenderness and mercy - all of it seems like a way to remind us we came from love, we are made by love, and we are here to love. Jesus said, “Remember.” How easy we forget.
The bag of blood from a stranger flowing into my wife’s arm reminds me of Jesus’ simple words, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Carol Lynn Pearson wrote a poem called Giving -
“I love giving blood.
Sometimes I walk in off the street when no one has even asked and roll up my sleeve.
I love lying on the table watching my blood flow through the scarlet tube to fill the little bag that bears no address.
I love the mystery of its destination. It runs as easily to child or woman or man, black or white, Californian or Asian, Methodist, Mormon, Muslim or Jew.
Rain does that. Rivers do. I think  God does. We do not.
Our suspicious egos clot in the journey from ‘us’ to ‘them’.
So I give blood to practice flowing. Never knowing where it’s going.
And glad.”
This is the first year in 31 years I am not leading worship during Holy Week . Instead, I will express myself here. On Holy Thursday, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” He embodied that love by kneeling taking the tired, cracked, dirty, smelly feet of his friends into his hands receiving their most vulnerable selves into his heart. He tenderly washed their feet as the mercy of heaven flowed from his heart into his hands into their soles of their feet and into every cell of their being. His friends knew in that moment they were loved not for what they can do or give in return. They were loved unconditionally. It is this love that changes everything. I watched a stranger’s blood flow drip by drip down into my wife’s arm infusing her with life. Jesus said on this night before he was arrested, “This is my blood given for you, poured out for you.” Giving blood to strangers to save their lives is really the opposite of all the cruelty and ugliness that surrounds us. Giving blood... a smile to a stranger...unexpected forgiveness...the gift of time...nonjudgmental presence...giving food to the hungry, hope to the hopeless, acceptance to the rejected, giving tenderness and mercy - all of it seems like a way to remind us we came from love, we are made by love, and we are here to love. Jesus said, “Remember.” How easy we forget. The bag of blood from a stranger flowing into my wife’s arm reminds me of Jesus’ simple words, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Carol Lynn Pearson wrote a poem called Giving - “I love giving blood. Sometimes I walk in off the street when no one has even asked and roll up my sleeve. I love lying on the table watching my blood flow through the scarlet tube to fill the little bag that bears no address. I love the mystery of its destination. It runs as easily to child or woman or man, black or white, Californian or Asian, Methodist, Mormon, Muslim or Jew. Rain does that. Rivers do. I think God does. We do not. Our suspicious egos clot in the journey from ‘us’ to ‘them’. So I give blood to practice flowing. Never knowing where it’s going. And glad.”
“The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Resurrection is not resuscitation. Resurrection is new life.
Healing is not being restored to where you have been. Healing is being made into something new.
This is not a time of mere change. This is a time of transformation.
I am struck today by a line in Maya Spector’s beautiful Spring poem  called Jailbreak that says, “Lose your determination to remain unchanged. All the forces of nature want you to open.”
Mary Oliver wrote, “Books, bricks, grief - it’s not the weight but how you carry it.” What if the weight you carry was not a burden weighing you down but the one thing making you stronger in the broken places? Are you willing to loosen your grip on the life you assumed was yours to receive the new life that is waiting as a gift unopened?
Here’s the whole poem. May your soul be ready to receive its invitation:
“It’s time to break out - Jailbreak time.
Time to punch our way out of the dark winter prison.
Lilacs are doing it in sudden explosions of soft purple. And the jasmine vines, and ranunculus, too.
There’s no jailer powerful enough to hold Spring contained.
Let that be a lesson. Stop holding back the blossoming!
Quit shutting eyes and gritting teeth, curling fingers into fists, hunching shoulders.
Lose your determination to remain unchanged.
All the forces of nature want you to open, their gentle nudge carries behind it the force of a flash flood.
Why make a cell your home when the door is unlocked and the garden is waiting for you?”
“The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway Resurrection is not resuscitation. Resurrection is new life. Healing is not being restored to where you have been. Healing is being made into something new. This is not a time of mere change. This is a time of transformation. I am struck today by a line in Maya Spector’s beautiful Spring poem called Jailbreak that says, “Lose your determination to remain unchanged. All the forces of nature want you to open.” Mary Oliver wrote, “Books, bricks, grief - it’s not the weight but how you carry it.” What if the weight you carry was not a burden weighing you down but the one thing making you stronger in the broken places? Are you willing to loosen your grip on the life you assumed was yours to receive the new life that is waiting as a gift unopened? Here’s the whole poem. May your soul be ready to receive its invitation: “It’s time to break out - Jailbreak time. Time to punch our way out of the dark winter prison. Lilacs are doing it in sudden explosions of soft purple. And the jasmine vines, and ranunculus, too. There’s no jailer powerful enough to hold Spring contained. Let that be a lesson. Stop holding back the blossoming! Quit shutting eyes and gritting teeth, curling fingers into fists, hunching shoulders. Lose your determination to remain unchanged. All the forces of nature want you to open, their gentle nudge carries behind it the force of a flash flood. Why make a cell your home when the door is unlocked and the garden is waiting for you?”
Be patient. Healing is a journey that will look and feel different at every stage. Be patient with the journey. Be kind to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be gentle with your unique process of healing.
We live in an age of quick fixes, easy answers and instant gratification. Society’s prayer is, “God, grant me patience. Now!”
Wisdom is knowing healing takes a long time. There are no shortcuts. There is not 7 steps to wholeness.
Patience, gentleness and spaciousness are not the usual tools we keep in our spiritual toolkit. We are quick to judge ourselves if we are not getting the results we expect. Anne Sparrow wrote, “Do not be afraid to go slowly. Even the moon ( who carries time on silver shoulders ) knows she cannot be made whole in one minute.”
The path of healing - mind/body/spirit - is challenging enough without  the unrealistic expectations that it should happen at a certain pace and in a certain way or you are doing it wrong.
We are all on the path of healing. Give yourself permission to be where you are today and not where you think you should be.
I love these words by Teilhard de Chardin, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability - and that it may take a long time. Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”
Be patient. Healing is a journey that will look and feel different at every stage. Be patient with the journey. Be kind to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be gentle with your unique process of healing. We live in an age of quick fixes, easy answers and instant gratification. Society’s prayer is, “God, grant me patience. Now!” Wisdom is knowing healing takes a long time. There are no shortcuts. There is not 7 steps to wholeness. Patience, gentleness and spaciousness are not the usual tools we keep in our spiritual toolkit. We are quick to judge ourselves if we are not getting the results we expect. Anne Sparrow wrote, “Do not be afraid to go slowly. Even the moon ( who carries time on silver shoulders ) knows she cannot be made whole in one minute.” The path of healing - mind/body/spirit - is challenging enough without the unrealistic expectations that it should happen at a certain pace and in a certain way or you are doing it wrong. We are all on the path of healing. Give yourself permission to be where you are today and not where you think you should be. I love these words by Teilhard de Chardin, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability - and that it may take a long time. Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “ICU’s may seem like a funny place to practice gratitude but gratitude is medicine here. It’s so tempting to close your heart as a form of self-protection when you’re dealing with so much trauma. It’s silly to be grateful for every circumstance. It’s courageous to be grateful in every circumstance. The bravest thing you can do to keep healing energy flowing is to fight to keep an open, tender and grateful heart. Inhale the gift of every sunrise. Look for the joy hidden under every rock. Notice unexpected kindness. Savor goodness wherever it can be found. Say thank you. Say thank you a lot. Say thank you every opportunity you can. Thank you helps you see and receive the many gifts that come your way. Thank you connects your heart to the heart of your healers. Thank you not only shifts the energy in your heart but shifts the energy in whole room.”
Gratitude is not soft or sentimental. Gratitude is fierce. There’s something magnificently defiant and profoundly hopeful about gratitude, especially in adversity. Fierce gratitude brings us into the gift of the present moment and challenges us to notice what is, right now, not what we wish for or regret. Gratitude changes the way you see everything. Gratitude doesn’t alleviate suffering but puts a light around the darkness. Fierce gratitude is tenacious saying, “The barn burned down last night. Now I can see the moon.”
A grateful heart is a peaceful heart is a loving heart.
#spaciouschristianity #ohsu
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “ICU’s may seem like a funny place to practice gratitude but gratitude is medicine here. It’s so tempting to close your heart as a form of self-protection when you’re dealing with so much trauma. It’s silly to be grateful for every circumstance. It’s courageous to be grateful in every circumstance. The bravest thing you can do to keep healing energy flowing is to fight to keep an open, tender and grateful heart. Inhale the gift of every sunrise. Look for the joy hidden under every rock. Notice unexpected kindness. Savor goodness wherever it can be found. Say thank you. Say thank you a lot. Say thank you every opportunity you can. Thank you helps you see and receive the many gifts that come your way. Thank you connects your heart to the heart of your healers. Thank you not only shifts the energy in your heart but shifts the energy in whole room.” Gratitude is not soft or sentimental. Gratitude is fierce. There’s something magnificently defiant and profoundly hopeful about gratitude, especially in adversity. Fierce gratitude brings us into the gift of the present moment and challenges us to notice what is, right now, not what we wish for or regret. Gratitude changes the way you see everything. Gratitude doesn’t alleviate suffering but puts a light around the darkness. Fierce gratitude is tenacious saying, “The barn burned down last night. Now I can see the moon.” A grateful heart is a peaceful heart is a loving heart. #spaciouschristianity #ohsu
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “Hope is a beautiful thing. Don’t underestimate the power of hope. Optimism is based on the evidence. Hope is based in the spirit. I will place my bets on the strength of the human spirit over the evidence any day. I can give your loved one medicine for their body. You can give them medicine for their spirit which is hope. By showing up with hope yourself you guarantee hope is present in the room and when hope is present anything happens. The miracle of modern medicine and the tenacity of hope working in tandem can boggle the mind, in the best way possible. Hope heals.”
Practitioners will inform you what medicine they are putting in your body. I have noticed healers remind you why it matters by asking what you love most about your life and what you are most looking forward to when you are out of the hospital. A person who has a clear ‘why’ can summon strength they didn’t know they had.
St. Exupery wrote, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the immensity of the sea.”
Hope isn’t a feeling. Hope is a decision.
A teacher tutored patients in a children’s hospital. She was asked to tutor a boy on nouns and adverbs so he didn’t fall too far behind. He was in the burn unit. She had to wear a mask and gown. The boy was horribly burned and in obvious pain. The teacher stumbled through the lesson and didn’t think it went well.
The next morning, a nurse asked the teacher, “What did you do with that boy? We were so worried about him fearing he would give up. After your session, everything’s changed. He’s fighting back. He’s responding to treatment...it’s as though he’s decided to live.”
The boy later explained he had given up hope fearing he was going to die, until he saw the teacher. He realized they wouldn’t send a tutor to work on nouns and adverbs if he was a hopeless case.
Hope is a beautiful thing.
The poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote, “You can cut all the flowers, but you can not keep Spring from coming.”
#spaciouschristianity #ohsu
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “Hope is a beautiful thing. Don’t underestimate the power of hope. Optimism is based on the evidence. Hope is based in the spirit. I will place my bets on the strength of the human spirit over the evidence any day. I can give your loved one medicine for their body. You can give them medicine for their spirit which is hope. By showing up with hope yourself you guarantee hope is present in the room and when hope is present anything happens. The miracle of modern medicine and the tenacity of hope working in tandem can boggle the mind, in the best way possible. Hope heals.” Practitioners will inform you what medicine they are putting in your body. I have noticed healers remind you why it matters by asking what you love most about your life and what you are most looking forward to when you are out of the hospital. A person who has a clear ‘why’ can summon strength they didn’t know they had. St. Exupery wrote, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the immensity of the sea.” Hope isn’t a feeling. Hope is a decision. A teacher tutored patients in a children’s hospital. She was asked to tutor a boy on nouns and adverbs so he didn’t fall too far behind. He was in the burn unit. She had to wear a mask and gown. The boy was horribly burned and in obvious pain. The teacher stumbled through the lesson and didn’t think it went well. The next morning, a nurse asked the teacher, “What did you do with that boy? We were so worried about him fearing he would give up. After your session, everything’s changed. He’s fighting back. He’s responding to treatment...it’s as though he’s decided to live.” The boy later explained he had given up hope fearing he was going to die, until he saw the teacher. He realized they wouldn’t send a tutor to work on nouns and adverbs if he was a hopeless case. Hope is a beautiful thing. The poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote, “You can cut all the flowers, but you can not keep Spring from coming.” #spaciouschristianity #ohsu
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “Steven, you have to stop reacting to every alarm, every beep, every number and every test. Try your best not to judge and evaluate every moment. Take the long view. Hold everything lightly. Healing doesn’t happen moment by moment. It’s a journey. Healing looks and feels different at every stage. Try to be patient. Instead of the beeps and alarms causing you distress, let them be an invitation to return to your heart, your center. Express gratitude remembering the beeps are part of the amazing medical technology helping your loved one to heal.”
How might today be different if I chose  not to label everything as good or bad and just let it be? How might my energy shift today if I chose to work with this day instead of against it?
An ancient story - Long ago a farmer had only one horse. One day his horse ran away. His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”
The farmer just said, “We’ll see.”
A few days later. His horse came back with twenty wild horses following. His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news! You must be so happy!”
The farmer said, “We’ll see.”
One of the wild horses kicked the farmers only son breaking both his legs. His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”
The farmer said, “We’ll see.”
The country went to war and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted. His neighbor’s said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy.”
The farmer simply said, “We’ll see.” And, on it went.
Today, I am going to resist reacting to every bell, alarm and number. I will practice the WHATEVER PRAYER today-
“Whatever I have to see,
Whatever I have to feel,
Whatever I have to remember,
Whatever I have to go through,
If it is for my well-being, and in the highest good of all beings,
I agree to it.”
#spaciouschristianity #spirituality #ohsu #nursewisdom
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “Steven, you have to stop reacting to every alarm, every beep, every number and every test. Try your best not to judge and evaluate every moment. Take the long view. Hold everything lightly. Healing doesn’t happen moment by moment. It’s a journey. Healing looks and feels different at every stage. Try to be patient. Instead of the beeps and alarms causing you distress, let them be an invitation to return to your heart, your center. Express gratitude remembering the beeps are part of the amazing medical technology helping your loved one to heal.” How might today be different if I chose not to label everything as good or bad and just let it be? How might my energy shift today if I chose to work with this day instead of against it? An ancient story - Long ago a farmer had only one horse. One day his horse ran away. His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The farmer just said, “We’ll see.” A few days later. His horse came back with twenty wild horses following. His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news! You must be so happy!” The farmer said, “We’ll see.” One of the wild horses kicked the farmers only son breaking both his legs. His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The farmer said, “We’ll see.” The country went to war and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted. His neighbor’s said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy.” The farmer simply said, “We’ll see.” And, on it went. Today, I am going to resist reacting to every bell, alarm and number. I will practice the WHATEVER PRAYER today- “Whatever I have to see, Whatever I have to feel, Whatever I have to remember, Whatever I have to go through, If it is for my well-being, and in the highest good of all beings, I agree to it.” #spaciouschristianity #spirituality #ohsu #nursewisdom
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “Dude, you’ve been holding your breath for 23 days. Exhale. Breathe. You have to breathe. Breathing doesn’t make the storm go away. Slow, deep breaths are the anchor in the storm until the storm passes. Holding your breath creates a tightness in your chest and shoulders and keeps you trapped in your anxiety and fear. Put your hand on your heart. Take three deep, slow breaths. Come back to your heart. Your body. Your breath. Your power. Come back to you. Your loved one needs you to be grounded so that in the midst of machines, alarms, pokes, procedures, they see peace in your eyes and feel the calmness of your heart.”
We are breathed into life. Breathing deeply is aligning ourselves with the creative, healing force that lies within and flows through and between us.
I hadn’t even realized I had been holding my breath for three weeks. Today I exhale and take a deep breath. I breathe deeply and slowly today not because the storm has passed but as an anchor in the storm until it passes. I breathe deeply today to align myself with the One who breathed and continues to breathe us into life. I breathe deeply today that Love might have room to breathe. In this room where fear desires to reign,  I breathe deeply today for all of us filling the room with the Love that leaves no room for fear.
Jan Richardson wrote, “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.”
#spaciouschristianity #spirituality #ohsu
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “Dude, you’ve been holding your breath for 23 days. Exhale. Breathe. You have to breathe. Breathing doesn’t make the storm go away. Slow, deep breaths are the anchor in the storm until the storm passes. Holding your breath creates a tightness in your chest and shoulders and keeps you trapped in your anxiety and fear. Put your hand on your heart. Take three deep, slow breaths. Come back to your heart. Your body. Your breath. Your power. Come back to you. Your loved one needs you to be grounded so that in the midst of machines, alarms, pokes, procedures, they see peace in your eyes and feel the calmness of your heart.” We are breathed into life. Breathing deeply is aligning ourselves with the creative, healing force that lies within and flows through and between us. I hadn’t even realized I had been holding my breath for three weeks. Today I exhale and take a deep breath. I breathe deeply and slowly today not because the storm has passed but as an anchor in the storm until it passes. I breathe deeply today to align myself with the One who breathed and continues to breathe us into life. I breathe deeply today that Love might have room to breathe. In this room where fear desires to reign, I breathe deeply today for all of us filling the room with the Love that leaves no room for fear. Jan Richardson wrote, “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.” #spaciouschristianity #spirituality #ohsu
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “You need to meet each day as it is and not as you think it should be. Life in the ICU rarely goes as planned. Holding tightly to the picture in your head of the way you think things should be will stress you out. You can bring a positive and healing energy if you are willing to accept that what is, is. Play the cards in your hand the best you can and with as much grace and courage as you can instead of wasting your energy complaining you didn’t get the cards you wanted. The ICU has a way of slapping you in the face with a neon sign that says ‘You are not in control.’ What you can control are your thoughts, attitude and how you choose to respond to what you can’t control, which is pretty much everything.”
Life isn’t fair. Life is rarely the way we think it should be. Life just is. It is the way we choose to respond to life that makes all the difference. Today, I choose to stop fighting reality and accept what is, is. As I surrender, I pray that I might join my heart with God’s heart participating in a ceaseless flow unconditional love.
Scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew translated as “Be still” can be understood as “cease grasping and trying to control”. The Hebrew word we translate as “know” means intimacy and union. So, cease trying to control what you can’t control and experience a deep union with the Divine Love that is always present to you.
#spaciouschristianity #ohsu #nursewisdom
Nurse Wisdom from the ICU at OHSU: “You need to meet each day as it is and not as you think it should be. Life in the ICU rarely goes as planned. Holding tightly to the picture in your head of the way you think things should be will stress you out. You can bring a positive and healing energy if you are willing to accept that what is, is. Play the cards in your hand the best you can and with as much grace and courage as you can instead of wasting your energy complaining you didn’t get the cards you wanted. The ICU has a way of slapping you in the face with a neon sign that says ‘You are not in control.’ What you can control are your thoughts, attitude and how you choose to respond to what you can’t control, which is pretty much everything.” Life isn’t fair. Life is rarely the way we think it should be. Life just is. It is the way we choose to respond to life that makes all the difference. Today, I choose to stop fighting reality and accept what is, is. As I surrender, I pray that I might join my heart with God’s heart participating in a ceaseless flow unconditional love. Scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew translated as “Be still” can be understood as “cease grasping and trying to control”. The Hebrew word we translate as “know” means intimacy and union. So, cease trying to control what you can’t control and experience a deep union with the Divine Love that is always present to you. #spaciouschristianity #ohsu #nursewisdom

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