Notice when you say or someone near you says “Thank you.” Think of those two words as a signpost to the spiritual world.
~ Lewis Richmond in Work as a Spiritual Practice
For the past month I have enjoyed posts from various Facebook friends who decided to spend the 30 days before Thanksgiving actually giving thanks. Every night they post something about that day they are thankful for. One teacher friend has had “gratitude posts” ranging from “I’m thankful for the creative energy of my 5th graders!” to “I’m thankful for my husband who cooks dinner when I’m so tired I can barely walk through the front door.” (Oh, those 5th graders!) I love the idea of these daily posts, because it allows for an intentional, regular reflection about living gratefully.
Gratitude is a spiritual practice. It is a way of living and seeingthings that shapes our souls. Much like prayer, or alms giving, or devotional reading, gratitude practiced over a period of time can change the trajectory of our lives. This year, I invite you to participate in this practice with me. Starting on Thanksgiving Day and finishing up on Christmas Day, give some thought each day to something or someone you are grateful for. We have Gratitude Journals that I will give out at worship Sunday, November 24 (Thanksgiving Sunday). (Or you may call the Church Office at 650-369-0344 to request one.) They have spots for brief daily jottings of a word or a phrase, and some quotes and prayers to accompany us along the way. It doesn’t need to take much time, but done over a period of time, I hope this simple practice will open our hearts more fully to the incredible gifts God gives us, and help us to be more fully present to our own lives.
David Stendl-Rast writes:
“Gratitude is… more than a feeling, a virtue, or an experience; gratitude emerges as an attitude we can freely choose in order to create a better life for ourselves and for others.”
(Words of Gratitude)
With Thanksgiving as our springboard and Christmas as our goal, may this journey take us to new depths of grateful living, and may we reflect that to all we see and in all we do.
One of our most valued ministries here at FCC is the Hillcrest Bible Ministry. For the past 25+ years, a group of FCC folks has gone up to Hillcrest Juvenile Detention for bible study, discussion and prayer. About three years ago, we got the idea to update the bibles to a more contemporary, easy to read version (Eugene Peterson’s “The Message”) and found, much to our delight, that the teenagers we met with were beginning to ask to keep the bibles we brought. So we put out a call to the congregation. You responded so that we could buy a case of backpack size bibles to give to any boy (or staff person) who asked. As you know, we quickly ran out of that first shipment, and we have been re-ordering those little brown bibles ever since.
I have to admit: the enthusiasm for these bibles surprised me. It’s not particularly hip to read the bible, and Lord knows there are too many people who have used the bible to hurt rather than heal. In the hands of some, the “Good Book” becomes a weapon for judgment and fear and control, and its misuse makes it tempting to toss the whole thing out. A bunch of stuff written by a bunch of people thousands of years ago.
And yet. There we go, lugging our bags stuffed with bibles up the hill to Hillcrest, only to have the bags significantly lightened on our way home. Something about that book speaks beyond the cultural, societal mix in which we find ourselves. Something about that book continues to inspire, and comfort, and challenge in ways we can’t predict. When we read it together, we find the link to our past, as we share words that have shaped people for generation upon generation. When we read it together, we run into thoughts and feelings and teachings that we question and ponder, and that link us to our future. It is a book filled with the stories of women and men who thought they knew about God, found out they didn’t, and then found their way home. It’s a book that is filled with stories of imperfection, misunderstanding, and forgiveness. Perhaps that is why boys trying to make sense of lives already touched by trauma find this little book appealing. When they read the stories of other people who have messed up and then moved on to live fuller, happier lives, they can glimpse themselves – as loved, forgiven and whole.
Every time we give a bible away, it goes with a prayer: that each one be a gateway to a more loving relationship with God, and an invitation to live more openly, more questioningly, and with greater hope. Thank you to all who give to our bible fund. It makes a difference.
On October 14, 2013, the Medal of Honor was given to Captain William Swenson. The Medal honors the actions he took on Sept. 8, 2009, in the midst of a battle in Eastern Afghanistan. Because one of the medevac helicopter personnel had a video camera attached to his helmet, the world was able to catch a glimpse of what happened that day.
As part of a group made up of both U.S. soldiers and Afghan troops, Swenson was on his way through the Genjgal Valley to meet with Afghan elders at a nearby village. Unexpectedly they found themselves under fire from Taliban fighters on the ridge above them. The fighting was intense and the casualties grew. Capt. Swenson called for help, and the medical evacuation team was sent in by helicopter. From the medevac video taken as they neared the site of the battle, you can see a man stand up, in the line of fire, with a red blanket, signaling to the pilot. As the helicopter landed, the same man, William Swenson, picked up a wounded soldier, and with the help of another comrade, carried him to the waiting medical team. As he settled him in, and just before he went back into battle to continue his rescue efforts, Swenson did something else: he leaned in and kissed the wounded soldier on the forehead.
Just a kiss. In the midst of the chaos and terror, it was a small gesture. Beside the dramatic acts of heroism, it could even go unnoticed. But it spoke to a profound humanity that could not be undone even when everything else was falling apart.
Most of us will never find ourselves in situations that call on the kind of physical bravery Capt. Swenson embodied that day. Many of us will never have to decide what to do in the heat of battle, or test our courage when our own lives are at risk. Yet as I watched the video of that brief kiss, I thought about how everyone of us has opportunities to seek out and embrace the humanity of the people we encounter, day to day. In ways large and small, we can recognize people as the precious gifts they are, and refuse to be distracted from that, no matter what is going on around us. It’s how Jesus treated the people he encountered throughout his life. It’s what gives meaning to even the most difficult times.
This Veterans Day, let’s remember the humanity of the men and women who give their service and sometimes their lives for our safety and security. Let’s pray for them. Let’s thank them. And let’s advocate for them, as well, by demanding that our nation provide the full benefits veterans need to heal and re-enter civilian life. If you have other suggestions, please pass them along. As Captain Swenson showed us, even the simplest of gestures can be most welcome.
Thanks be to God.
all started with the birds. At first it just seemed like there were a lot – more than the usual number swooping and gliding over the Santa Cruz shoreline. Wow, I thought to myself, I don’t remember this many pelicans here.
By late Tuesday afternoon, people were talking about it: what’s up with the birds? The shoreline was crowded with various feathered creatures, landing in groups, then taking to the skies again, like fliers from an aircraft carrier. By early the next morning, people were lining up on the beaches to watch, and the hundreds of birds had become thousands, and the skies were absolutely filled with them.
Then we noticed the whales. Not just one, way out on the horizon, but several, with flukes and spouts in full display, easily seen from the shore. On Wednesday, 30 to 40 were spotted just off the Santa Cruz shore, and I think I saw most of them.
But the whales weren’t alone. The dolphins were there, too, of course, and within about a 36 hour period, the waves that usually host surfers were pretty exclusively inhabited by an explosion of marine life, unlike anything most of us had ever seen.
What we couldn’t see with the naked eye was the “Why” of it all. What brought about this dramatic shift in the ecosystem? What had created this “nature on steroids” event? A tsunami someplace—an earthquake underneath the sea?
Nothing quite so big, it turns out. A very little fish (a whole lot of them actually) had congregated in the bay because the water temperature was unusually warm andappealing for a brief time. The anchovies, who hadn’t been in that area in such large quantities for quite awhile, were now there in huge numbers, and the rest of the marine life was responding. The whales and dolphins stirred the water to find the fish, and the birds had their fill of what was brought up to the surface. It had some elements of a flash mob: a sudden coming together for a well- choreographed dance, and then an equally sudden dispersal.
By Thursday, it was all back to normal.
Sometimes the world is so amazing you can’t help but notice. Sometimes the world is so unusually charged with God’s grandeur, as Gerard Manley Hopkins would say, that even our tendency to overlook it is overcome, and we just stand on the shore in awe.
But the rest of the time, we can forget. So go outside or look out your window today. What do you see – really see? For me, it started with the birds. What will open your eyes today to the surprising beauty God has waiting for you?
Earth’s crammed with heaven
and every common bush
afire with God;
but only he who sees takes off his shoes;
the rest sit round it
and pluck blackberries.
~ Elizabeth Barret Browning
Learn about environmental concerns relating to water usage and the
Bay Delta Conservation Plan
Our presenter is Tim Stroshane
(son of Ruth Stroshane)
We are delighted to have Tim with us because he grew up in this church and because his expertise can help us understand better how to be better stewards of our environment.
Please join us for worship at 4:00, as we reconnect with old friends and learn new things.
Bring your Questions
Bring your Friends
At the headwaters of the Sacramento River is a small but lovely park. It sits just inside the town limits of Mt. Shasta City, and is close to the towering peak of Mt. Shasta itself. I found myself there this past week, on a perfect autumn day, savoring the crisp air and ancient trees, and listening to the water rush out of its natural underground passageway. Just at the base of the pooling water is a small monument with these words, written a century ago by John Muir:“…It is lined with emerald algae and mosses, and shaded with alder, willow and thorn bushes, which give it a fine setting. Its waters, apparently unaffected by flood or drought, heat or cold, fall at once into white rapids with a rush and dash, as if glad to escape from the darkness to begin their wild course down the canyon to the plain.”
Water. Rushing, dashing, coursing. Vital, life-giving, necessary. It is an element of such profound significance that Jesus compared himself to it: living water. It is so fundamental to our lives that people have prayed for it, danced for it, and engineered for it. And yet we often take it for granted, at least those of us who live in parts of the world where we are never thirsty.
Our first daughter was born during the drought of the 1980’s. During those days we watered our lawns with our bath water, saved our shower water in plastic pitchers for house plants, and learned to turn off the tap unless it was absolutely necessary. Likewise, we became more interested and aware of weather patterns and climate change, as well as water sharing and usage. As the rains returned, we gradually loosened up and our awareness dimmed. While we are still careful with water, we rarely see it and appreciate it in the same way.
So it was good to stop at the headwaters. It was good to feel and taste the water, and to remember that we are indebted to those conservationists, like John Muir, who remind us of our sacred duty: to care for the waters that bring life to our earth.
On Sunday, October 20, we will hear from Tim Stroshane about environmental concerns relating to water usage and the Bay Delta Conservation plan here in California. We are delighted to have Tim with us because he grew up in this church and because his expertise can help us understand better how to be stewards of our environment. Tim has spoken with the Sierra Club and other organizations, and we are grateful he is willing to bring us this conversation. Please join us for worship at 4:00, as we reconnect with old friends and learn new things. Bring your questions and your good will – and drink from the deep well of faith that sustains us all.
WE WILL BE CHOOSING OUR FIRST
FOR the 2013-2014 year
ENJOY AN AFTERNOON OF
FUN AND CELEBRATION
2668 WASHINGTON Avenue, RWC
FAITH, IN Action
Don’t miss out on this
We’ve been growing our Faith, In Ministry Fund for nearly a year and those contributions are being matched by the Besse Cook Fund. Combining these two sources with the generous benefit of not having to pay investment fees thanks to Johnson-Lyman Wealth Management), gives us $14,263 to work with.
We’ve solicited our current Community Partners plus those you suggested at our Annual Meeting for a list of their needs and desires for the upcoming year and have chosen a few who would most benefit from our immediate help.
When you attend on Sunday afternoon, you will help decide exactly how much goes to each of the Community Partners we are helping the first half of this year. (Don’t worry, the remaining Partners you selected at the Annual Meeting will receive something in the spring.)We are so very blessed to be able to focus on a ministry that meets some of the needs of the Redwood City community!
When I was a little girl, I heard the expression: “It is better to give than to receive.” Hmm, I thought. Not really.
As I got older, I discovered that the old saying was, of course, true. Not because it is “nicer” to give than to receive, or because we are “supposed” to give rather than get. It is better because giving — of money, of talent, of self – is what we were created to do. It is deeply satisfying to find the perfect gift for someone you love. It is incredibly fun to watch a preschooler tear into a wrapped package, paper flying everywhere, bows sticking wildly to various body parts. Most of us remember the best present of our lives – and much of the time, that best present is one we gave to someone else, with love.
So, on October 6th, we are having a Giving Party. We are gathering in the Fosgett’s backyard, in the beauty of the autumn afternoon, to decide how and where to share the gifts from our Faith, In Redwood City ministry. We have several thousand dollars to share for this first half of the year, and each of us will have an opportunity to prayerfully, and playfully, discern where that money goes. We are in the blessed position of having gifts to offer our larger community that can make a real difference to many people. And so we gather, and we celebrate – and we give from our hearts.
Come and have fun, doing what we are called to do, and what we are privileged to be able to do. Come to the Giving Party. And be open to receiving the best gift of all – the gift of giving.
In God’s love,
Kim“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ― Charles Dickens “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston Churchill “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” ― Kahlil Gibran
This Saturday, September 21, people from around the world, from various religious traditions and nationalities, will join in a common purpose: peace. In 1981, the United Nations passed a resolution creating an International Day of Peace, and invited people everywhere to put aside their hostilities and work, at least for one day, toward peace. According to Peace Day 2013, “ September 21 is held as a day on which armed conflict is meant to be stilled, a day for combatants to observe ceasefires, a day on which all people are invited to commit or reaffirm their commitment to non-violence and the peaceful resolution of disputes.” In 2004,the World Council of Churches recognized that same date as an International Day of Prayer. And thus, two worldwide organizations, one representing governments and one speaking for faith communities, found a way to work together to promote world peace.
The theme this year for Peace Day 2013 is “With whom will you make peace?” On Saturday, we are invited to take some time to ask ourselves that question—and then take concrete steps to reach out in reconciliation.
Perhaps there is someone in your life, at home or at work, from whom you are estranged, a neighbor or co-worker or family member with whom you have had conflict. On Saturday, find a way to reach out to make it better. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, because even small movements can heal.
Will you set aside some time this weekend to pray for your community, your country, and a world that is torn by violence? Will you pray for saner gun laws and safer homes? You won’t be alone – millions of people will be joining their prayers with yours.
With whom will you make peace?
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