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Archive for April 2015


We are reeling from the news that people as far away as Nepal and as close as Baltimore have been devastated by earthquakes:  earthquakes that result in fault lines that lie beneath the surface of the earth and fault lines that lie beneath the surface of our common lives.

In Nepal, we offer our prayers and turn our thoughts to way in which we can help.  Funds are being gathered and help of all kinds is being dispatched, as disaster crews go to the front lines to do what they do best: provide immediate, concrete assistance to victims of horrendous events.  For information on how you can be a part of that effort, see page 6.

What our brothers and sisters in Baltimore will require of us is much more complex, yet our response is as crucial in this disaster as in any other.  We must not distance ourselves from this earthquake, nor allow ourselves to be too quick in assigning blame to one group or another, for what is happening is a result of tensions and strains that go much deeper than any individual acts of violence.  We must hold all parties in the light of compassion and accountability, and call on communities of faith to continue to provide leadership in resolving the current crisis.  Did you know that following the rioting on Monday, 75 clergy members, from many faiths, met with gang leaders to discuss ways to de-escalate the violence?  Did you know that across the city, members of faith communities were coming out in droves to walk alongside youth and to witness to another way to protest – non-violently?  Did you know that in many neighborhood churches and synagogues and temples are opening for prayer and dialogue – opening their doors, instead of locking them?

These are acts of faith, and as we struggle to understand and respond to the rioting and the injustice that preceded it, and as we recognize that what is happening in Baltimore is a symptom of a dis-ease that affects us all, we can stand with all those who suffer, and claim the common ground of God’s love.  It is solid ground.  It will lead us back to one another.  And it will give us what we need to build new and stronger cities for everyone.



As we look across the country at our brothers and sisters in Baltimore, and grieve with them during this difficult time, we turn again to prayer.  The following prayer, adapted from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, 1979, expresses the broader hopes and concerns we have for all our cities, and especially now for Baltimore.

God of Hope, in your Word you have given us a vision

of that holy City to which the nations of the world

bring their glory: Behold and visit, we pray,

the cities of the earth. Renew the ties of

mutual regard which form our civic life.

Send us honest and able leaders.

Enable us to eliminate poverty, prejudice,

and oppression, that peace may prevail

with righteousness, and justice with order,

and that men and women, young and old,

from different cultures and with differing talents,

may find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity.

In Jesus’ name we pray.



Read Today’s Newsletter HERE

music head


Earth Day: A Spiritual Practice

Earth Day, 2015, is upon us.  This year, especially in California, many of us are very aware of the water crisis facing our state.  We will be getting new word on restrictions and rationing soon.  That will take a good bit of attention, and though I am not looking forward to it, perhaps this heightened awareness can become more than an obligation – perhaps we can use these new practices as spiritual practices.  Each time we make a choice to use water more conscientiously, we can also use it more prayerfully.  Each load of clothes, each shower, each careful watering of plants can incorporate in a blessing and a prayer, and an opening to the Spirit as we give thanks for what we have and ask for guidance in what we need.

A suggested blessing for water usage:  God, I thank you for this gift.  Help me to use it with care. 

If you want to root your practice in scripture, you could use Jesus’ words in John 14: “The water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The following quotes are taken from the website  They remind us that this great gift, life-giving water, is recognized and cherished by all traditions.  We join with others around the state and around the world in affirming that how we use our water and how we live on this earth are more than pragmatic issues, they are acts of faith and justice – and opportunities to grow with God.

Thanks be to God.



water heart


Penetrate the heart of just one drop of water, and you will be flooded by a hundred oceans. 

~ Mahmud Shabistari



water, rain

The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to.

~ Lao-Tzu 





water, mother nature


Oh! Mother Earth, who has the ocean as clothes and mountains and forests on her body, I bow to you. 

~ Hindu prayer










water, flow

Water flows from high in the

mountains; water runs deep in the Earth. Miraculously, water comes to us, & sustains all life. 

~Thich Nhat Han


water, precious

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water, so useful, lowly, precious and pure. 

~ St. Francis of Assisi





water, lakeGratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers; holding or releasing; streaming through all our bodies salty seas… 

~ Gary Snyder




Living springs shall give cool water; in the desert, streams shall flow. water, desert

~ Hebrew, traditional



Read this week’s Newsletter HERE


wate drop in forest






alive inside

The most Awarded Documentary

of 2014

This Saturday

May 2nd

7:30 pm

Here at First Church

  Come join us as we watch this

 ‘joyous cinematic exploration music’s capacity to reawaken our souls

and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity’.

This documentary chronicles the astonishing experiences of

individuals around the country who have been revitalized

through the simple experience of listening to music.

‘…reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music

and how its healing power can triumph

where prescription medication falls short.’

The film is a little over an hour and will be followed by a brief

discussion led by an Activities Director from a local elder care home

and Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, from SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors.


LinkAges TimeBank

Want to Get More Involved in our Community

but not sure where to start?


LinkAges TimeBank™


A community-based service exchange network where members earn hours by providing services,

and use those hours to receive services in return.


Give and receive help.


Learn new skills.


Share hobbies and interests.


Be a part of your neighborhood’s greatest resource.


LinkAges Time Bank™ is a neighborhood service-exchange network that matches you with the unique skills,

 talents and needs of those who live nearby. 

Connect with community members who share your interests and help one another.



First Church is sponsoring this one in the series of orientations.


Come here to First Church and learn more

Wednesday, April 22nd

6:00 pm


Community Dialogue

How does immigration change or create our perceptions of community?

This Sunday

April 19th

Worship at 5:00 pm

Dinner at 6:15 pm

Dialogues at 7:00 pm

Sponsored by Redwood City Together, a Welcoming Initiative of Redwood City 2020 for a healthy community partnership

Free, child care and translators available

Contact Maddy Kane to RSVP for the Dialogue

650.423.2000 x 3466 or

or the church Office (  at 650.369.0344

Training Wheels

Have you ever taught a little kid to ride a bike? In fact, it can be a pretty terrifying experience, for both parties. Uncertain balance, uneven braking, jerky starts and stops, lots of tears: it turns out to be the perfect preparation for that time a decade or so later when you will be teaching that same little kid to drive a car, only now she’s taller and has more attitude.


boy on bike with momAnyway.  I was watching a child on my block recently as he was learning to ride a bike.  He had his bike helmet securely fastened, his mom was right there by his side, and he was ready to take off.  His tiny bike looked sturdy enough, and there were training wheels on the back, but the little boy was still a bit apprehensive about leaving his three-wheeled trike behind in favor of the “big boy bike.” Of course, it didn’t take long for him to get the hang of it, and soon he was pedaling around the block in front of my house, with his mother trotting supportively beside him.

Before long, it was time for the training wheels to come off.  He obviously had the hang of it:  his balance was good, and he was really riding on just two wheels already.  But he didn’t want those training wheels off.  He cried.  He refused.  He was certain that he could not do what he was in fact already doing – riding his bike on his own.  Suddenly the distance from bike to ground seemed just too great, and a myriad of disasters loomed large in his mind.

I don’t know how his parents helped him through this, but they did, and the training wheels came off.  Eventually I was privy to the sight of him whipping by on his bike (he really is fast for a little kid!), with his mother sprinting full out behind him (she is pretty fast , too, but I think she realizes she’s now outmatched.)  And so it goes.

Training wheels.  Those little attachments that help us through a difficult learning time, but are never meant to be permanent.  Things we are absolutely sure we cannot do without, that we are convinced are essential, until one day we realize that they are no longer needed.

I think our lives are filled with “training wheels.” So also are our lives of faith. There are many helpful practices and traditions that lifted us up and shaped our lives, but are not in and of themselves the essence of our faith.  Do we have communion at the rail, in our seats, by intinction, or served individually?  Do we say “debts” or “trespasses”?  Do we need a chancel and a narthex or can we gather in a backyard?  Must we sing only the old hymns or can jazz be holy, too?

We have found that each and every one of these things is a rich, but non-essential, issue.  Each one can be an aid in our on-going conversation about faith and God, but not one is the “thing” itself.  Relationship with God and others is the thing.  So any and all of these issues we cling to can either help us or impede us on that journey, but they are not the end in and of themselves.  Like training wheels, they are useful only so long as they keep us balanced and on our way forward.

What keeps you balanced and on your way forward?  For me, it is prayer and community and the opportunity to share my life authentically.  It is my family.  It is purposeful work. Yet the form of each of those things has changed as I have aged.  The family I grew up with is changed, and the one I have raised is in a new stage, as well.  My work is quite different than what I was prepared to do when I left college so many years ago.  Even my prayer life has changed along with me.  What was once a prayer practice of conversation and sharing now has a place for silence and stillness. God has provided me with new balancers through every age and every stage, in ways I could never have foreseen, replacing things I had outgrown before I even knew I was ready.

I identify with that little boy on my block who absolutely could not imagine the next step, who even fought against it, only to find that the future contained everything he needed — once he let go.  May we continue to trust God as we move ahead as people of faith, for through every change and every challenge, God has never let us go.  We may be wobbly, but God never is.  Thanks be to God.

boy with bike

Don’t fear, because I am with you; 
   don’t be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will surely help you;
    I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.  

(Isaiah 41:10)




Read Today’s Newsletter HERE

boy on bike no training wheels

Of Laundry Rooms and Locks

When I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my second child, my first child locked me in the laundry room.  Not on purpose, really.  She was playing and pretending to lock me in and then pushed a button somehow and – well, there I was:  on one side of the locked door, in a laundry room with no way to get out.  Oh, and my five year old was on the other side of the door, with the full run of the house and no clue about how to undo what she had done.  At first she thought it was funny.  Mommy can’t get out!  Then she thought it was scary –  Mommy can’t get out!  I tried to talk her through it, in my cheerful, reassuring voice, but as the knob was jiggled and poked and yanked to no avail, my voice became more — agitated.  I finally heard her scraping the kitchen chair across the floor.

“What are you doing?” I called.

“Nothing,” she answered.

This was getting worse.

It turns out she had pulled the chair up to the phone on the wall (remember those?) and had decided to call Grandpa, who lived a few blocks away.  She figured that he would be able to work it out, and sure enough, Grandpa came right over (!), opened the door, and set me free.  Although the whole event probably lasted no more than 15 minutes, I still remember the helpless feeling of being inches away from where I wanted to be, with no way to get there.  Trapped by an unwitting jailer, but trapped nonetheless.

I remembered that feeling recently, thinking about Jesus’ friends, who, after his death, were imprisoned behind their own locked door:  so scared and terrified by Good Friday that they almost missed out on Easter.  They were huddled in a room, nursing their wounds and turning inward in their grief.  And right outside their door – right outside! – was the news of Jesus’ resurrection, waiting to be heard.  How long they would’ve stayed hunkered down we’ll never know, because Jesus went to them, through the very door they had locked to keep the world at bay, and set them free.

We all get locked up sometimes – by our fears, by our cynicism, by our lack of vision.  Sometimes we lock ourselves in, like the disciples did, hoping to keep something away.  Other times, we feel trapped by circumstances beyond our control, locked into situations we do not want, unable to imagine a way out.  Either way, we can almost come to believe that there is no hope on the other side of the door, that the “stuck-ness” we feel now is the end of the story,  the way it will always be.

Then we remember Easter, and God’s love breaking through immovable barriers like stones in front of tombs and locks inside of doors.  Easter is the story of God’s love for the world , so great and so complete, that there is no locked door able to keep it out.  No illness, no disaster, no anxiety, no tragedy is able to keep God away from us.  Death itself is no longer a locked door – it is merely a passageway to the next step in our walk with the Divine.

If you are in a place you’ve locked yourself, don’t be afraid.  Open the door and step outside.  If you feel trapped by circumstances you cannot control, trust.  For Love is on its way.   And if you need to be reminded of that, look around you.  Let the lilacs and the jasmine and the ranunculus remind you that midst of it all, Life has the final word.  Or, as poet Maya Spector implores:


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 complete poem, “Jailbreak”,

can be found at