Grace for Today


I loved being in worship with my congregation at Japanese Presbyterian this morning. The songs and spoken word resonated with themes of being loved and held in the midst of difficult things. It was an encouraging way to transition from work to medical leave and a time of healing.

The next few weeks are full, but also intentionally planned to be restful and peaceful. Ocean and mountains. People and solitude. Movement and stillness. With a few pre-op appointments thrown in for good measure.

Thank you for wanting to follow along and stand with me in hope as we navigate this next step of surgeries, treatment, and intervention. I’m grateful to have you by my side.

Hope With Me:

  • For deep rest, lots of laughter, and thoughtful conversations over the next few weeks.
  • For the first surgery (lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy) to be successful in removing all the breast cancer with clear margins. (I am hoping for cancer-free lymph nodes as well!)
  • For peace during the waiting times—waiting for surgery, waiting for pathology reports, waiting for follow up appointments.

Grace for Today

A New Start

Welcome to the new place to find updates about Heather’s cancer treatment and recovery. 

First, a couple notes: The previous platform ( was permanently shut down. Those updates are lost to cyberspace, but I believe all the donations made through the site were deposited into my account prior to the closure. If you have questions about this, please email me for clarification. 

Many of you have asked how to support Hana and I during this time. I’ve created a short list of links under the heading “Ways You Can Help” and hope that gives you some tangible ideas. 

If you want to subscribe and receive an email when I post an update, sign up for the personal update mailing list

I will also end each post with a “Hope with Me” list. I am so grateful to be surrounded by a diverse and thoughtful community. Some of us pray, some send good mojo, some hold others in light, others know just the right words, or can offer a good laugh. One of the best ways to support us right now is to hold onto hope with us – in whatever way is authentic for you. I’m deeply grateful you are here, and walking with us. 

Finally, a quick re-cap and health update: 

On May 10th, I was diagnosed with ER/PR+, HER2- breast cancer. There’s a longer story to the cancer’s discovery that I will save for another post. In the days following the diagnosis, I received a myriad of scans and tests to figure out the nature of the tumor and the effect on my body’s wellbeing. In that process, they discovered three unfriendly masses in my thyroid. Two of them were biopsied, and one was determined to be highly suspicious. 

The current treatment plan is for a lumpectomy with lymph node removal in July, reconstructive surgery in August, to be followed by thyroid surgery in late August or early September. The pathology of the tumor and lymph nodes will determine whether the next steps will involve both chemo and radiation. The oncologist will be designing treatment based on both the breast cancer and the final thyroid pathology.

Hope with Me: 

• This health challenge is renovating my life in some significant ways, starting with the need to slow down, rest, and learn to heal. Hope with me for an open heart to receive these lessons and let slower days be enough. 

• That Hana and I would find ways to connect and play.

• For this final week of work at my church before I begin medical leave – for good connections, and the wisdom to finish what needs to be done and let the rest go.

Blog Reflections


I have been in and out a bit the past few weeks with opportunities to watch the waves roll in and out on the Northwest coast, and spending (socially distanced) time with family and friends. These moments make me realize how this season holds a unique weight and impact on our lives. Whether it is world concerns, the upcoming election, or simply household management, I feel a different kind of tiredness. Sitting on the coast, I didn’t even pick up a book. It seemed more important to watch the water ebb and flow.

As I began that trip to the ocean, I was listening to a podcast episode where the interviewer (Mark Labberton) asked the guest (Jennifer Wiseman, Astrophysicist and Astronomer) to reflect on the state of the universe. Mark set up his question by commenting on how the state of our earth, and the state of our country, are occupying so much of our thought right now, and asked “What is the state of the universe these days?” And her response struck a chord for me.

“I would say the state of the universe is that it is beautiful.”

Jennifer Wiseman on Conversing with Mark Labberton

There is so much more going on all around us than we can imagine—an active and beautiful universe, people faithfully caring for their neighbors, teachers preparing to care for their students in whatever way they can, friends sharing zucchini and broccoli from their garden. There is much to celebrate, even in the midst of a time of loss. There is an invitation to raise our eyes, receive inspiration from the beauty of our world, and continue to work for healing and hope.

So today, I offer you a couple resources of inspiration. These are the voices I’m listening to as I choose to make August a time of slow and peaceful renewal. Enjoy!

Jennifer Wiseman on Conversing with Mark Labberton
Listen to the full interview here.

StoryArc – Issue 001 – Cosmic Peace
A Christian collaborative of artists, writers, musicians, and spoken word artists assembled reflection on peace and peacemaking.

The Generosity by Luci Shaw
This new compilation of poems was released this week. Here is one for this moment. There is an invitation to read others in the excerpt at the above link.

An excerpted poem from The Generosity - a book of poems by Luci Shaw.
Shaw, Luci. The Generosity: Poems. Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2020.
Blog Congregational Life


This spring, I have been in my garden like never before. Pruning, pulling, tilling, resting. As I was pulling out some dandelions a few weeks ago, my neighbor called out over the fence and said “You know they’ll grow back again, right?”

Oh, I know. I know because this spring, the weeding has been a constant. The weeds are abundant. Large heads of morning-glory rising up over the rhododendrons. Tall reedy grass coming up through the iris. Mushrooms popping up in the lawn. It is never ending.

It is also partly my fault. For the last several years, gardening has not been high on my list of priorities. The weeds I’ve been pulling today have been growing in place for a few years—left to their own will and way. Blackberry vines rising up from under the groundcloth, and a whole volunteer birch tree that is now too rooted to move.

As I’ve been working to renew parts of my yard, I’ve been thinking about the other things this season is unearthing. We are having a national conversation right now about the structures in our country that provide space for racism and hatred to grow unchecked. The pandemic is particularly exploiting underlying conditions that make us vulnerable to its infection. Organizations are exhausted from constant change when we are generally tooled for steady familiarity.

Like a landscape design, we need a strategic plan—having a vision for a society that cares for one another well, can work together to solve problems, and prioritizes the well-being of all. There is enough soil, water, and oxygen for the whole system to thrive.

But for that to happen, we also need to pull the weeds. Taking time every day to keep up with the reality that old attitudes and habits grow back if unchecked. Being willing to get our hands and knees dirty as we renew spaces that have been left overgrown for way too long. Knowing that we can each make a difference that allows goodness to grow in both our hearts and in the world.

It is possible to change the world. I’m consulting with organizations and walking alongside leaders who are doing the strategic work of leading change to meet this historical moment. It is a joy to see their creativity and vision at play. To watch their communities serve and engage with their neighbors in life-giving and life-transforming ways. I have hope. Working together, we can make space for new things to bloom.

Blog Congregational Life

We’re In This Together

Loving God and loving neighbor are
two woven threads, bound together into
one Jesus-following life. 

Heather James

I wonder what it means to have an active theology of community. To center our Biblical understanding that we were created to live in relationship with one another in ways that serve and nourish the common good. 

I wonder what our neighborhoods would look like if we understood that the two greatest commandments were not two different tasks, but call us into one way of life. Loving God and loving neighbor are two woven threads, bound together into one Jesus-following life. 

I wonder what our cities would look like if we took seriously the call from Jeremiah to seek the peace of the city, and in its thriving to find our own well being. Is it true that if we serve the common good, we will find our own needs met and find that there is enough for all to be healthy and whole?

I wonder what the church would look like if we were to take on the struggle to center community and die to self. Maybe we would wrestle less with form, and more with function, allowing our energy, our resources, our heart, and our hope inform how we bear love into the world.

When we worship, we are tasting from the abundance of God’s table in the light of God’s presence. How can we not allow that joy, that love, to inform who we are to those around us?

I wonder what it would look like for us to work on our understanding of community.

Would we be willing to learn?

Would we be willing to find some new ways forward?

Would we joyfully put on our masks and get to work?

Want to dive deeper into a conversation about how we live life together?

Here are a few voices I’m learning from this week:

Mia Birdsong on Community as a Verb. Everything Happens Podcast with Kate Bowler.

Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity. (David W. Swanson, IVP, 2020)

Or reach out and let’s start a conversation. I’m working with pastors and churches to strategically meet this historical moment with meaningful engagement, learning, and compassion. Want to explore the possibility of working together?

Blog Shepherd of the Hill

Thank you SOTH
Blog Monday Music Drop Shepherd of the Hill

Music Mondays

Now for something completely different. Enjoy!!

Thanks to the Shoemaker family for the great Monday music drop.
Blog Shepherd of the Hill

Sunday Worship

Here is a video guide for your worship this morning. If you want to sing along, there is a lyric sheet posted below. Come, let us worship the Lord.
Blog Worship Invitations

Worship Invitations

Welcome to this week’s edition of the weekly Worship Invitation email!    Each week, during this time when we aren’t meeting together in person, we will be emailing you some ideas about how you can worship this weekend and live out our call to Love God and Love our Neighbors.   These are things you can do with all ages, in solitude or with others. 

Let us worship the Lord together in this Easter season!

The Word: This week, we will be reading together John 20:19-23.  On Sunday morning, a recorded service of worship will be available to you on the SOTH Connections FaceBook page, or by checking back on the blog.   Following the service, at 10:30am, you can join the congregation for a virtual fellowship hour on Zoom.   The access links are in your Thursday announcements email.

Action: Consider the number of hours you usually spent in the church building each week or each month, pre-pandemic. How much time did you spend in the building in worship, fellowship, volunteering, and meetings? Create a plan to experiment with spending those hours this week (or month) in worship and service in other ways. What does it look like to be sent beyond the building?

Something for our Younger Ones:  Help your kids think about what it means to be sent by God into the world.   Consider this list of ways kids can make a difference and help others: World Citizen.  

Service: See “Something for our Younger Ones” and follow the link to get some ideas!

Song:   Thank you, Emme Southwell, for providing us with some special music this week!   Check out the video below. ??

Prayer:  You are invited to join the SOTH community for a time of prayer – pausing at 6:00pm on Sunday nights, and know that others are praying with you as well.  This week, spend five minutes praying for the people of Puyallup (or the city you live in).  Then close with offering God your gratitude and praise.  

Gracious God, you have called us to be the body of Christ alive in the world.  Keep us one in faith and service, breaking bread together, and living as good news in the world, that others would see your grace, receive the gift of your love, and live with us to give you glory.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Go in peace and serve the Lord with joy.

Pastor Heather
Blog Shepherd of the Hill

Easter 2020

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

My apologies for the delay in getting this video posted. I hope you enjoy the opportunity to worship with the Shepherd of the Hill community.

Here is a lyrics sheet if you want to sing along.