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Archive for June 2014

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Praying Yourself Up

Hal Holly is new friend of this congregation.  He recently re-located from his long time home where he had been an active member of his church.  No longer able to get out and make the commute to his former church, he nonetheless remains a man of active faith.  Whenever I stop by for a visit, I enjoy conversations which flow easily through topics as varied as the bible, different religions, and naval aviation.

On one of my most recent visits, he shared with me a rather disconcerting experience he had had the night before.  He had fallen and found himself unable to get up.  What did you do? I asked.  Well, he said, I stayed there for awhile and then I prayed.  Eventually, I just prayed myself up.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase for awhile:  “I prayed myself up.”  I asked Hal if I could share his story because I think it touches on something we all experience, in one way or another.  For Hal, it was lying on a cold floor in the middle of a dark night, feeling too weak to get up by himself.  For me, it was finding my husband after he’d had a heart attack, and knowing we both needed help.  For you, maybe it was  when you were lost or sick or in deep grief.  But for all of us, there are times in our lives where we realize we simply do not have the strength on our own to face what it is we have in front of us – and yet we have to face it anyway.  And so we turn to God, and lean into the power of the Spirit, and we pray.  We pray ourselves up.

Richard Rohr writes about this profound powerlessness, saying that it is precisely in the moments when we recognize our own weakness that we are most fully open to God.  It is in getting beyond the need to see ourselves as invincible and omnipotent that we can actually see what is right in front of us all the time:


God’s hand reaching out to lift us up, no matter how we have fallen.  This understanding, he writes, “…is a spirituality of imperfection, in contrast in Western Christianity’s emphasis on perfection, performance, and willpower.” (Daily Meditations June 15, 2014)  In recognizing what is real, our own impermanence and eventual frailty, we are cracked open enough to receive the light, and to pray.

 

This prayer can take may forms.  Sometimes it consists of just one word:  ‘help’.  Other times it is the sudden wordless recognition that God is there, and we are not alone.  In those moments, in concert with our loving God, we reach out to the hand already extended, and indeed “pray ourselves up.”

Hal flew many combat missions in World War II.  He knows what it is to take control and be strong and call on every skill you have to make it through difficult times.  Yet he knows beyond doubt that when he could not do it on his own, God did not forsake him.  Thank you, Hal, for telling me and allowing me to share this story.  May it remind us that we can turn to God anywhere, anytime, and God will always lift us up.

Thanks be to God!

Kim

 

 

Annual Giving Party!

Annual Giving Party!

 

This Sunday,

June 22, 2014

4:00 pm

 

We will meet in the Fosgett’s Backyard

(2668 Washington Avenue, RWC)

for our annual Giving Party.

 

During our time together we will prayerfully and joyfully determine the gift amounts to be shared from our Faith, In Redwood City Fund, and learn more about how we can actively participate in much good work happening in Redwood City and the region.

The five Community organizations the Council has selected to partner with this year are:

The Redwood City Educational Foundation

SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors

SF Night Ministries

RWC Library Foundation

Rebuilding Together Peninsula

It is our hope that these groups will benefit from the funds shared and that First Church can participate in their work in various ways – through volunteering, supporting their events and activities, holding them in prayer, and forming deeper relationships with their communities of care.  We need your help to decide how to best share the joy!

Faith, In Redwood City is the heart of our ministry at First Church.  Over the past few years we have determined that our faith in God is best expressed by reaching out to others in love.

Our pledges and our fundraising have all gone to support this ministry focus, for we believe that to follow Jesus means to stretch out from our community into the world beyond.  We believe that in doing so, we become agents of change and we are changed ourselves.

Come, be a part of that change!

Sunday, June 22nd

4:00 pm

at the Fosgett’s

Please bring finger food to share for dinner

Dessert and Beverages will be provided

 

If we open our hearts, we will also find open hearts – it is always mutual.

~ Abbot Leo von Rudloff

In addition to the major partners listed above, First Church continues our relationships with Casa de Redwood, HillcrestJuvenile Detention Facility, Northern California Nevada Conference of the UCC and other UCC affiliates, Puente de la Costa Sur, Silicon Valley Progressive Community of Faith, The YMCA, Fisher House, Second Harvest, and many others.

 

Click 6-18-14 for today’s Newsletter

 

Cherry Blossoms in Brooklyn

 

I was a little disappointed in the cherry blossoms, actually.  We had made it to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden just in time to see the final blossoms of the season.  As we walked along the winding pathways beneath the branches, I looked up and couldn’t help wishing that we’d come just a couple of weeks earlier.  The flowers were lovely but fading, and there was the feel of having just missed something – as if we were getting second best.  Still, it was a beautiful day and children were playing and the sun was shining (finally) through the boughs of the trees, and I made the best of our stroll, promising myself that next time I would get there in time to see the real show.

Two weeks later, I received some pictures from my brother-in-law, Dennis, who had taken photographs of the gardens that day.  As I opened them up on my computer, I was stunned.  There, on my screen, was a deep pink carpet of cherry blossoms, as far as the eye could see.  Blossoms covered walkways and grassy lawns; they floated in mid-air, light filtering through flowers as they fell from tree to earth.  It was a veritable

fairyland in front of my eyes, a wondrous, soft expanse of color and texture.   And I, who’d been so focused on the fading branches above my head, had barely noticed the landscape spreading out at my feet.

So it is with so much of what we see – and what we don’t.  Our expectations become the lens through which we view the world, and what we already believe becomes what we see.  And yet –could it be that the grumpy neighbor, who frowns so disapprovingly every time you park in front of her house, is also a woman who loves her grandchildren more than her own life and would love to tell you about them?  Could it be that the ultra-Conservative/Liberal (circle one) uncle who is so annoying at Thanksgiving is also a volunteer who finds meaning in something you haven’t yet heard about?  Or what about the teenager who looks at you with eyes barely open, seemingly bored nearly to death – is it possible to see him as a kid whose questions and critiques of the world will one day change it for the better?

And what about the institutions that define, and often divide, us?   We are told that faith communities need to look a certain way: structured, liturgical, bible-based, “brand-able”.  Could it be that there is a whole new landscape spreading out before us, in which people share their questions and their stories and their strength across  “party lines”—Christians talking to Muslims, Buddhists studying with non-believers, Jews sharing the poetry of their faith with seekers of many backgrounds?  Is it possible that what looks like the fading of the institutions is really the blossoming of a whole new way of being together, if we only have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the courage to follow the Spirit where it is leading?

I was a little disappointed the day I visited the gardens.  Thank you, Dennis, for giving me another chance to experience what I missed.  What incredible beauty lies before us if we are willing to see with new eyes.

Amen.

Kim

 

photos by Dennis Brandt, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Click 6-11-14 for this week’s Newsletter.

The Witness of Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a poet, a dancer, a teacher, a civil rights activist – and a Christian.  When she died last week at 86, many wonderful things were written about her and she was honored around the world.  I will not attempt to re-tell her life story or re-cap her accomplishments, as they are well known.  However, it is  powerful to remember that the context for all of those accomplishments – the soil out of which they grew—was her faith.  She made no attempt to hide it, nor did she seek to force it on others.  She simply lived it and prayed it and let it guide everything she did.

I am deeply inspired by the witness of this woman who overcame much adversity and received many public accolades, and yet never claimed that she did it all by herself.  She always pointed to God as her constant companion and the Source of all she accomplished.  Below are some quotes on faith from Maya Angelou, and at the end one of her poems submitted  by Patti Bury.  May her personal humility and spiritual strength inspire us all.

 

Amen, Kim

 

“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”

“I believed that there was a God because I was told it by my grandmother and later by other adults. But when I found that I knew not only that there was God but that I was a child of God, when I understood that, when I comprehended that, more than that, when I internalized that, ingested that, I became courageous.”

“Yes. I have always tried to find myself a church. I have studied everything. I spent some time with Zen Buddhism and Judaism and I spent some time with Islam. I am a religious person. It is my spirit, but I found that I really want to be a Christian. That is what my spirit seems to be built on. I just know that I find the teachings of Christ so accessible. I really believe that Christ made a sacrifice and for those reasons I want to be a Christian. But what kind, I don’t know. I don’t know what time of day I am at.”

 

When I say… “I am a Christian” by Maya Angelou

 

“When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin’.”

I’m whispering “I was lost,

Now I’m found and forgiven.”

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I don’t speak of this with pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble

and need Christ to be my guide.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not trying to be strong.

I’m professing that I’m weak

And need His strength to carry on.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not bragging of success.

I’m admitting I have failed

And need God to clean my mess.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not claiming to be perfect,

My flaws are far too visible

But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I still feel the sting of pain.

I have my share of heartaches

So I call upon His name.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not holier than thou,

I’m just a simple sinner

Who received God’s good grace, somehow.”

 

― Maya Angelou

 

Click here for today’s June 4th Newsletter