Jun
2
2020

Keeping in Touch in These Challenging times

Daily Greetings to Beloved Community

Saturday 30 May

A rainy Saturday with the poss

ibility of thunder showers — that was the forecast last night and I got rather excited.  I’m kind of fond of thunder and lightning even though I’m a native Californian and haven’t got to experience them too much.  I remember summers in Delaware though when the lighting displays were phenomenal and the thunder so loud at times that windows shook. Even though it looks like the thunder storm may have passed us by, it was fun anticipating and remembering for a bit.  

This morning I want to share with you a lovely prayer of examen that I have had tucked away (with no idea where I found it or who wrote it).  I encourage you to try praying this prayer in the evening before retiring, letting your mind drift back over the day that has just passed and breathe in and out this prayer.   

I pause (breathe in and out) and thank you for this day. 

For the challenges, the emotions, the struggle. 

For in all this, I grow closer to you.

I pause (breathe in and out) and ask that in the darkness, 

I see your light and in my fear, I feel your strength.

I pause (breathe in and out) and remember that today, 

As in days before, I have survived. 

When I’ve wanted to run, I’ve stayed. 

When I wanted to hide, I’ve faced the day.

I pause (breathe in and out) and ask for forgiveness 

for the days I falter and the disease takes over. 

I ask for compassion and love when I’m unable to give those to myself.

I pause (breathe in and out) and resolve to love myself more tomorrow. 

And always feel your spirit surround me in safety.

I pause (breathe in and out) and rest.

I’m also sending you the invitation to worship tomorrow.  It’s Pentecost tomorrow so as Mark reminded us last week, wear redorange or yellow work too as colors of fire — and join us.  Remember your candle to light as a reminder that God’s Light shines even in the midst of the darkness of these times and your worry stones.  This week I’m also inviting you to bring another candle to light in response to the hearing of scripture and to symbolize what your heart is on fire for.  We’re also invited, along with communities of faith around our nation, to lift up, remember and grieve the loss of life to COVID-19 and then to join in honoring a Day of Mourning and Lament on Monday, June 1, with people across our nation. I encourage you to click on the link below and watch a video created for this remembrance.

Day of Mourning and Lament video:

https://sojo.net/media/national-day-mourning-and-lament

Scripture for tomorrow:  “On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says:  ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’””  ~John 7:37-38

Let us pray that rivers —  flowing, bursting, gushing, cascading — of living water will flow from our innermost hearts out into the world as the Spirit quenches our thirst and empowers us to be Christ’s church of love and grace, healing and welcome, in and for the world. 

Friday 29 May

This morning I sit in the peace and quiet of a new day and feel the weight of the world in my body and soul as I turn to God in prayer.  So much death, so much violence, so much racism and hatred that my heart aches and cries out.  A song by Carrie Newcomer speaks to me this day and encourages, and challenges, me to “be the change I want to see in the world.” If not now, then when O God?  And if not me, then who?  If not us, then who?   I share her song and pray it speaks to your heart as well. 

I also share this prayer by Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst

 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” ~Hebrews 11:1 and 3

Holy and generous God, blessed are you, who created the whole universe out of pure love and joy. We come before you again today with all that we are, both beautiful and frail. We are thankful for another day, for breath in our lungs and the warmth of sunshine in the air. We know all we have is blessing, and all we are is designed to witness to you. Still, we confess, after so many weeks sheltering at home, we are weary. We are tired of sitting in front of a computer; we miss hugs and handshakes; and we want to go back to what used to be normal. All that wanting tempts us to despair, anger and fear. We confess, knowing apart from you and your strength and grace, we are weak. So, we ask you to send your Spirit to us anew today. Pour out your peace on each of your children, all over your world. Fill us again with strength, and courage, and commitment. Burn away the fear, and replace it only with you. Because only in you do we find real hope and the real joy of your creation. We open ourselves again today to you, with trust and confidence. 

That is our prayer, and we offer it to you in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

May we be the change we want to see and that God created us to be in and for the world that God loves.

Susan

If Not Now ~Carrie Newcomer

Chorus: If not now, tell me when If not now, tell me when.

We may never see this moment

Or place in time again

If not now, if not now, tell me when.

I see sorrow and trouble in this land

I see sorrow and trouble in this land

Although there will be struggle we’ll make the change we can. If not now, tell me when.

Chorus

I may never see the Promised Land. 

I may never see the Promised Land. 

And yet we’ll take the journey

And walk it hand in hand

If not now, tell me when.

Chorus

Bridge: So we‘ll work it ‘til it’s done

Every daughter every son,

Every soul that ever longed for something better, 

Something brighter.

It will take a change of heart for this to mend.

It will take a change of heart for this to mend.

But miracles do happen every shining now and then If not now, if not now, tell me when?

Chorus

And miracles do happen every shining now and then. If not now tell me when.

If not now, if not now, tell me when. 

If not now, if not now, tell me when. 

Thursday 28 May

I find myself turning more and more to poetry these days, yearning to find words that speak to my soul and break open my heart even when it feels like all around is fear, uncertainty and anxiety.  My heart aches at the pain and loss that so many are experiencing.  It’s hard to believe that over 100,000 people have died here in the United States because of COVID-19 and so many more around the world.  My heart aches as we hear and see how our black and brown brothers and sisters are targeted with violence, even by those charged with our protection.  I ache for Georgre Floyd and Ahmaud Amery’s families as they grieve senseless and violent deaths. And I grieve for our nation.   I miss too being in the physical presence of my companions on the way, my church family, and yearn for the time when we can gather together again. I miss our conversations around our tables in the fellowship hall as we shared coffee, and tea, cheese and crackers and the coffee cake that Ricardo always supplied us with.  I miss hanging out, and waking freely, and not worrying about getting “too close” to others.  My hands are getting so dry from repeated washing that even lotions aren’t working much these days.  I miss going to stores when I want and getting what I need, and often what I don’t, without standing in lines or worrying about there being too many people around me.  I miss so much!  And my heart aches and my mind worries and my soul longs and so I turn to poetry to inspire, console, bring meaning, challenge, and invite me to ponder the mystery that lies at the heart of all things.   

Yes, the life that is around us these days seems filled with heartache, anxiety, fear and death, and yet …and yet, there is beauty and there is joy and there is love.  There are loved ones, family and friends and companions on the ways — compañeros as our Latino brothers and sisters would say — to encourage, support, love and walk with us through these challenging times.  The poem that I’m sharing this morning invites me to stand still in the midst of what is and pay attention to the life that is around me and to remember that my work is to love the world, this beautiful and yet broken world with all that I am and have and do.  And to be grateful! 

Please know this:  I am grateful for all of you!  Grateful  for your presence in my life and ministry, for your encouragement and patience, for your laughter and your wisdom, for your faithfulness and generosity.  Thank you for sharing your life with me and with each other.  And you know what?  love knowing that my work is loving you!  

And please join us this afternoon at 1:00 as we ReConnect with one another on Zoom.  Invitation is below this morning’s poem.

Blessings and joy,

Susan    

Messenger

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird – 

equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

~Mary Olivier

Wednesday 28 May

Woke up this morning and discovered we were all out of coffee!   Oh no😟 — my head was pounding from allergies and much in need of my morning cup so off we headed to Peets.  What a blessing it turned out to be.  Beans and complimentary cups of coffee in hand, we headed out to Lands End to take in the view from something other than our apartment windows.  The air was fresh, the birds busy singing and cooing, pelicans flying by, beautiful sunshine and soft air — what a blessing our lack of coffee turned out to be!  I wonder how often the inconveniences of our lives, and sometimes even the larger challenges, turn out to be blessings?  Bruce and I spent some dear and precious time enjoying the peace and beauty of Land’s End all for want of coffee, and his great idea to take a little drive.  I pray we can use this time of more than just inconvenience for our world as an opportunity to explore new possibilities for a kinder and more just world.  I hope our congregation can begin to imagine new and different ways of being church because of the things we’ve experienced and learned during this time of physical distancing.  I pray that others may be blessed by the church we are becoming as we respond to the realities of our world and this pandemic. Our visioning committee meets weekly to explore the possibilities and the opportunities that lie before us.  Be on the lookout for an email from Ralph telling you a bit about our work.  

I hope you have the chance for a little outing, either literally with a little drive or in your imagination.  It’s remarkable how much better I feel after ours.  The cup of coffee didn’t hurt either😉

I’m sharing a poem that really speaks to me about the ways our days just sort of blend into each other and yet, and yet, what an opportunity we have to slow down and match our breathing to a new pace, listen to a different voice, and feel the Presence of the Holy One in our lives.

Blessings,

Susan

Counting Time

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days
I count my time in dog walks and cups of coffee.
I watch the plants,
Reaching toward the sun
Offering beauty …
Blooming, fading, dying away.

When life has slowed,
I count my interactions in phone calls and Zoom windows.
I imagine seeing you,
Our arms thrown around each other in love.
How long until that day?

When life has slowed,
And loss builds upon loss.
We grieve in isolation
Far from comforting rituals.
Wakes and potlucks,
Shared tears and handkerchiefs.
The quiet words of a familiar reading, a favorite song.
The gathering of the family from far and near. 

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days.
We count the time in sunrises and sunsets,
Breaths in and breaths out.

When life has slowed,
Breathe. Listen. Trust. Love.
We are not alone.

~Beth Richardson

Tuesday 26 May

Blessings on this new day, a day filled with so many possibilities and so many opportunities to love.  We are officially nearing the end of the Easter season — although I would argue that we are always in the season of new life, new hope, new possibilities — and so I thought I’d share one of my favorite authors with you this morning.  Wendell Berry is an American poet, novelist, farmer and environmentalist.  If you haven’t spent some time with him, I suggest you do.  

Some of my go to quotes of his: 

“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”   

and this one:  

“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”  

This one that speaks powerfully to me of this time in which we are living from his poem The Real Work (another favorite of mine:-): 

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, 

we have come to our real work 

and when we no longer know which way to go, 

we have begun our real journey. 

But the poem I really want to share with you this morning is one that challenges us to “practice resurrection” daily and with intention, to live in radically different ways that our society encourages, just like Easter!  In a sermon I preached a long time ago now, I said “Easter invites us to remove the grave clothes that bind us, to walk out of the tombs in which we live and from which we only see the way of death, and to begin to move into the world in new and profound ways.  Easter challenges us to walk in the way of resurrection that empowers us to walk through doors that had previously been locked and barred through fear and despair.  Easter invites us to start living, and living fully, and living fully for others rather than living for ourselves and our own security.”

Yes, Easter is past and the Easter season is drawing to a close, but the season of new life, new hope, and new possibilities continues, even as we stay sheltered in our homes and away, physically, from our beloved community.   Today, let’s practice resurrection and begin to imagine the world as God dreams it could be and I believe as God created it to be!  Let’s commit to living in the world today as if Christ is risen and alive with us, calling us to shape the world in the ways of love and grace — because it’s true. Thanks be to God, Christ is risen!  Alleluia! Amen

MANIFESTO: THE MAD FARMER LIBERATION FRONT

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

~Wendell Berry

Monday 25 May

Good morning Church and blessings on this Memorial Day

“Here then is my charge: First, supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings should be made on behalf of all men: for kings and rulers in positions of responsibility, so that our common life may be lived in peace and quiet, with a proper sense of God and of our responsibility to [God] for what we do with our lives.” 1 Timothy 2: 1-2 (Phillips)

And so we pray: 

Dear Gracious God,

On this day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy every day, we lift our prayers of gratitude and blessing. 

Please hold our servicemen and women and all who serve on our behalf around the world in your loving and strong arms.  Cover them with your sheltering grace and your presence as they stand in the gap for our security and protection.

We also remember the families of all who serve.  We ask for your blessings to fill their homes and hearts with your peace, provision, hope and strength.

May the members of our armed forces be supplied with the courage to face each day and may they trust in your power to accomplish each task. Let out military brothers and sisters feel our love and support.

Sovereign God and Lord of all nations, may we take time to reflect on the blessings we share as a nation and as a people.  Our blessing have come at a high cost to others. May we remember those sacrifices with deep gratitude.

We ask that you would grant wisdom to the leaders of all nations.  Guide and direct them in their decisions.  May they be led by your will and your heart as they pursue peace and justice for all of your children.  

And as we continue to shelter in place for our sake and for the sake of others, we ask for patience and a renewed commitment to be your church of grace, love and peace.  May your kingdom come on earth in us, O God, as it is in heaven.  Amen 

Sunday 24 May

Good morning Church,

Another gorgeous day filled with sunshine and possibilities!  I hope you can get out safely for a bit—remember your mask, snap a photo and send to me, please — and feel the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair. I hope also to see many of you this afternoon as we gather for worship on Zoom.  What a joy it has been to “meet” each week and share communion and prayer — don’t forget your “bread and wine” and your worry stones — music, scripture and conversation.  The invitation to worship is below.  If you’re having difficulties connecting on Zoom, please let us know so we can help you figure it out.

While we have no way of knowing as yet when it will be safe for our church buildings to open again, our President has been calling for churches to be reopened saying they are essential services.  We may agree that churches are essential but I know I for one disagree with his call to open up our buildings for gathering.  Here is one of the best responses I’ve read to Donald Trump’s urging that the Churches open “right away, this weekend” from the Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Missouri, Deon K. Johnson:

“The work of the church is essential. 

The work of caring for the lonely, the marginalized, and the oppressed is essential. 

The work of speaking truth to power and seeking justice is essential. 

The work of being a loving, liberating, and life giving presence in the world is essential. 

The work of welcoming the stranger, the refugee and the undocumented is essential. 

The work of reconciliation and healing and caring is essential. 

The church does not need to “open” because the church never “closed”. We who make up the Body of Christ, the church, love God and our neighbors and ourselves so much that we will stay away from our buildings until it is safe. We are the church.”

We are the church and we’re gathering this afternoon, despite our building being closed, for worship.  Join us at  12:30 PM 

Saturday May 23

Wow! It is surely a beautiful day.  Bruce, Javi and I enjoyed a little walk and the sun felt divine, birds were singing and the street traffic was non-existent.  There truly are some blessings to be found even in the midst of hard times.  I pray you will keep the eyes and ears of your hearts open to see and hear the marvels that God has created and with which we are truly blessed.  May we today “Devote [ourselves] to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

It’s important too for us to remember that even though our building is locked up the church is not closed.  I’m not sure I really understand why some congregations and their leaders are adamantly insisting that their people be allowed back into their buildings for worship, willing to risk the health and even the lives of their people, and consequently to risk the lives too of others they may come in contact with.  The church is not closed because we aren’t able to gather in the building, oh no!  The church is the people of God loving and serving, worshiping and praying, giving and sharing, zooming and calling, texting, writing letters and sending emails, smiling through masks to keep others safe, working from home or hardly working but keeping the faith, giving thanks for creation and caring about all of God’s beloved. . .  Church is happening all over the place and I pray it is touching your life in new and life-giving ways even while we are unable to gather physically in our sanctuary.  We can still gather in the sanctuary of our hearts and we can reach out to one another with prayers and gratitude!     

But we need your help to keep the ministries of our congregation going.  We ask you to remember your tithes and offerings and as you do so I offer this scripture from Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth:  

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

~2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) 

I encourage you to pray and ask God how much God wants you to give to your congregation. No amount is too small and we know God can work miracles through your faith and your faithfulness.

You can give online via PayPal here Forest Hill or you can mail a check to 250 Laguna Honda Blvd, San Francisco CA 94116. 

Thank you so much for being the church in these challenging times.

Blessings, 

Susan

And Zoom Worship is tomorrow at 12:30.  Hope you can join us!  Bring along your lunch, or at least elements to share for communion.  

May
16
2020

Keeping in Touch during these Challenging Times

Saturday 16 May 2020

Dear Church,
Bruce and I just returned from our bi-weekly trip to Trader Joes.  How strange it is, even after all these weeks, to stand in line 6 feet apart, wearing masks, waiting to enter the store.  Stranger still is trying to remember not to get too close to others — how challenging are these times and how I look forward to a return to “normal.”  But then I wonder what normal really is and was the old normal really all that great?  Yes, it was known and I always figured that I at least knew what to expect; it was a pretty comfortable routine that didn’t allow for too many surprises or upsets.  But it was always crazy busy and sometimes I must admit I felt like that hamster running in circles on a wheel with not much time left over.  I wonder. . .I wonder if this time of pandemic and physical distancing isn’t inviting me to reconsider what’s important  and how I spend my life.  Do I spend my time running in circles or giving away God’s Love? I wonder. . .
I’ve also been trying to honor these uncertain times by creating in my heart more space for mystery. I’ve been trying to be ok with not knowing and allow lots of space for pondering all the things I do not know.  And boy I do not know a lot!   You know what I’ve realized though?  That thanks be to God I’m not expected to know everything and especially not the future.  Even though life feels very uncertain these days, wasn’t it always?  Did I ever really know what the future held, or even this day for that matter?  The invitation of my faith life is to place my trust and to give my heart to something more than, bigger than, deeper than, more mysterious than anything I “know” or even can imagine.  And based on the evidence of my life, and the witness of holy scripture and most especially the life of the One I follow, I believe that Holy Mystery is loving, compassionate, merciful and completely trustworthy.  And so today, I’ve decided to give my heart to and place my trust in the abiding Presence of God.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is enough love, joy, hope and peacefor one like me, for all us, for all the world!  And my beloved companions on the way, that’s a lot of love, joy, hope and peace!!!  
Love and blessings, Susan

Friday, 15 May 2020

Dear Beloved Community,
The fog is gone and the air feels fresh and clear. I love mornings like this, even though I’m finding it more difficult to get out of bed.  (Notice how much later these greetings are coming to you? 😉) Tiredness feels a constant companion these days.  They (experts I assume:-) tell us that all these Zoom calls, stress, worry, social distancing, technology, the list goes on and on…are making us exhausted.  Boy do I buy that!  I pray you are finding ways to rest your weary souls and fill your flagging spirits, if that is the case for you.  I pray that you’ll share what’s working for you if that isn’t the case; I’m sure the rest of us could use some tips.  But however you’re feeling on this glorious morning, I hope you’ll remember to give thanks for this day:  the sun that shines even when it’s foggy, the taste of a good cup of coffee (or tea if that’s your preference  😉), the email from a friend just checking in and sending love, the body that feels a little slow and achy today, the quiet of car-less streets, the morning news that may fill you with dread or delight, the sound of your heartbeat. . .in other words, for everything.  
Yes, these are challenging and unprecedented times, but we are alive, we are here and still breathing and God has indeed blessed us with this day and with each other.  And God has good news for us to share and love to lavishly give away and important work for us to do.  Thanks be to God, this new day unfolds before us and we get to choose how we will live it.  I choose joy; I choose hope; I choose life! 
One of the things that helps me choose life even in these hard times is knowing that “God’s love is boundless in good times and sad. God’s love will carry us through times of tears until we reach a place of gratitude and praise for God’s goodness. Julian of Norwich (ca. 1342–1416), an English mystic, wrote, ‘The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.’ Everything—including our journey of grief. May it be so.” (~Nell E. Noonan, from A Widow’s Prayer: Finding God’s Grace in the Days Ahead).   God’s Love is present in all of life and will carry us through our tears of joy and our tears of sorrow. Now that’s truly good news!!!  Amen
Love and blessings to you all, Susan 

May
5
2011

The church is. . .

The church is a sink.

for the broken, for the broken-hearted

for people who have no other place, and no one else to talk to or be spoken to

for those that don’t get to hold hands or hug or kiss anyone at other places

for the sick, the terminal, the mentally-terminal to discover healing they didn’t know existed

for the homeless that just want some friends or some friendly chat, but they get a blessing instead

for the young who have lost their humanity and never learned the “common sense” of their ancestors

for the abused children and the abused children who became adults who still ask “why?”

because they all know there is a response for them there in a circle of friends who reach out to them

in the sink, where they go to attempt cleanliness. ~Brandon Shaw

Feb
28
2011

A wintry day at Forest Hill. . .

A few thoughts on a wintry cold day. . .
Vangie and I have been truly blessed this week with the delightful antics of our family of squirrels. Each day they come for their peanuts and they scurry around and make us laugh.  They put on quite a show with their acrobatics and their cheerful scoldng when we’re a bit late with their peanuts.  But this week we were surprised, and blessed, by a most unusual sight.  Our silly squirrels have discovered the humming bird feeder in the ginkgo tree just outside our windows and its cache of sweet nectar.  Imagine our surprise when they turned upside down from a branch to reach down and drink the honey flavored food that’s been set out for our little humming birds friends.

These silly squirrels have got me thinking.  How many other amazing, delightful and precious moments occur, each and every day, that I miss?  What joy and blessing do I fail to receive because I am just too busy or too distracted or simply not paying attention?  Jesus encourages his disciples repeatedly to “Stay Awake! Pay Attention!”  And yet, I catch myself sleepwalking through so many moments and I know I miss the very delights that God places before me.

Lent is coming soon, our holy season of spring cleaning of the soul. I pray that we will       each use this season to truly wake up to the Presence of God in our lives and in this amazingly beautiful and varied world in which we live. Let’s not let the precious moments of life pass us by unaware.  God yearns to bless us with life rich and full and abundant.  Our invitation is to reach out with open hearts to receive it and then to pass it along to others.

A prayer that sings itself in my heart every morning as I begin my day:
God be in my head and in my thinking.
God be in my eyes and in my looking.
God be in my ears and in my listening.
God be in my mouth and in my speaking.
God be in my hands and in my embracing.
God be in my feet and in my walking.
God be in my heart and in my understanding.
God be in my life and in my loving.
God be in every thing, every thing, every thing.
God be in every thing and in my departing.

Thanks be to God, for silly squirrels and for companions like you to accompany me along this wonderful adventure that is our life in God.  God truly is in every thing, and for me, most especially in this wonderful community of faith.  Blessings, Susan

Feb
8
2011

Salt & Light Log

“You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.”  ~Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.

This last Sunday, at the suggestion of David Lose at Working Preacher.org, I encouraged our congregation to start a Salt & Light Log – keeping track of all the wonderful and amazing ways that God is at work in our lives and in the world; taking note, affirming and celebrating the ways that we are salt and light to one another and to the community beyond the four walls of our sanctuary.

I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message:   “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. . . Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill!  If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light
stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

And so, this is the start of our Salt & Light Log. I invite you to email me your “Noticings” of salt and light around Forest Hill, in your family, your neighborhood, and out in the world.  Let’s start paying attention to the ways that God is working in and through us to add zest, flavor, light and radiance to the world. It’s time to Shine!

Another way to think of it might be as “Our Wild Goose Chase.”  Let me explain what I have in mind.  Ancient Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit – An Geadh-Glas – the wild goose:  untamable, unpredictable, noisy, pesky, strong, graceful, able to fly much faster and farther in formation than alone.  A little different image than a turtle dove, but how apt!  You see, they realized that no matter much we might want to contain or control God, God cannot be placed in a box, defined or tamed.  And so off they went, on wild goose chases – entering the spaces, towns, hamlets, and villages of 7th century England in the conviction that the wild goose was out there ahead of them. They were open to being surprised by the wild goose, prayerfully asking what God was doing and joining the Spirit there by naming the name of Jesus, dwelling among people and opening the great story of God’s love and grace.

And so, let’s head off on some wild goose chases of our own.  Let’s enter the world with the eyes of our hearts wide open.  Let’s be willing to be surprised by what God is doing in the world.  Let’s look for and celebrate the myriad ways that our God is working in and through the lives of people, even us, to salt and light the world. You know, it’s a beautiful day for a Wild Goose Chase! Want to join me?

PS Our Salt & Light Log, aka Our Wild Goose Chase, will be on our website at www.foresthillchristianchurch.org  just as soon as you start paying attention and sharing your discoveries.

Dec
25
2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year.  It is.  And it isn’t, not for many who are alone, those living in poverty, prisoners.  The children who see the expensive toys on TV, but know they are not going to receive anything.  It has always seemed odd to me that we celebrate the birth of Christ by going into great debt.  Yet, I still love Christmas time, the generosity of  many, the good cheer, the anticipation of Christmas day.  As Christians, however, I think we should be celebrating the birth of Christ everyday, we need to have the spirit of Christmas with us always.  We should always be generous, always visit the sick and those in prison, always sharing the good news.  What is the good news?  I think this poem by John Shelby Spong says it most beautifully.  May all be blessed this Christmas time and every day.

Christpower by Bishop John Shelby Spong

Far back beyond the beginning,
stretching out into the unknowable,
incomprehensible,
unfathomable depths, dark and void,
of infinite eternity behind all history,
the Christpower was alive.
This was the
Living
bursting, pulsing
generating, creating
smoldering, exploding
fusing, multiplying
emerging, erupting
pollenizing, inseminating
heating, cooling
power of life itself: Christpower.
And it was good!
Here
all things that we know
began their journey into being.
Here
light separated from darkness.
Here
Christpower began to take form.
Here
life became real,
and that life spread into
emerging new creatures
evolving
into ever higher intelligence.
There was a sacrifice here
and
a mutation there.
There was grace and resurrection appearing
in their natural order,
occurring, recurring,
and always driven by the restless,
creating,
energizing
life force of God, called the Christpower,
which flowed in the veins of every living thing
for ever
and ever
and ever
and ever.
And it was good!
In time, in this universe,
there emerged creatures who were called human,
and the uniqueness of these creatures
lay in that they could
perceive
this life-giving power.
They could name it
and embrace it
and grow with it
and yearn for it.
Thus human life was born,
but individual expressions of that human life
were marked with a sense of
incompleteness,
inadequacy,
and a hunger
that drove them ever beyond the self
to search for life’s secret
and
to seek the source of life’s power.
This was a humanity that could not be content with
anything less.
And once again
in that process
there was
sacrifice and mutation,
grace and resurrection
now in the human order,
occurring, recurring
And it was good!
Finally, in the fullness of time,
within that human family,
one
unique and special human life appeared:
whole
complete
free
loving
living
being
at one
at peace
at rest.
In that life was seen with new intensity
that primal power of the universe,
Christpower.
And it was good!
Of that life people said: Jesus,
you are the Christ,
for in you we see
and feel
and experience
the living force of life
and love
and being
of God.
He was hated,
rejected,
betrayed,
killed,
but
he was never distorted.
For here was a life in which
the goal, the dream, the hope
of all life
is achieved.
A single life among many lives.
Here
among us, out from us,
and yet this power, this essence,
was not from us at all,
for the Christpower that was seen in Jesus
is finally of God.
And even when the darkness of death
overwhelmed him,
the power of life resurrected him;
for Christpower is life
eternal,
without beginning,
without ending.
It is the secret of creation.
It is the goal of humanity.
Here in this life we glimpse
that immortal
invisible
most blessed
most glorious
almighty life-giving force
of this universe
in startling completeness
in a single person.
Men and women tasted the power that was in him
and they were made whole by it.
They entered a new freedom,
a new being.
They knew resurrection and what it means to live
in the Eternal Now.
So they became agents of that power,
sharing those gifts from generation to generation,
creating and re-creating,
transforming, redeeming,
making all things new.
And as this power moved among human beings,
light
once more separated from darkness.
And it was good!
They searched for the words to describe
the moment that recognized the fullness of this power
living in history,
living in the life of this person.
But words failed them.
So they lapsed into poetry:
When this life was born,
they said,
a great light split the dark sky.
Angelic choruses peopled the heavens
to sing of peace on earth.
They told of a virgin mother,
of shepherds compelled to worship,
of a rejecting world that had no room in the inn.
They told of stars and oriental kings,
of gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
For when this life was born
that power that was
and is
with God,
inseparable,
the endless beginning,
was seen
even in a baby
in swaddling clothes
lying in a manger.
Christpower.
Jesus, you are the Christ.
To know you is to live,
to love,
to be.
O come, then, let us adore him!
May
11
2010

What is Worship?

What is worship?  Why do we come to church? Pastor Susan posed these questions while I was visiting last month.  Yesterday I attended a clergy gathering here in Iowa.  One of the ministers shared about the Wednesday evening meal that is served at her church in Council Bluffs.  A few members of her congregation started the meal program a few years ago as a way to serve the homeless.  Most of the people who come, however, are not homeless.  Many of those that come for the meals are from group homes in the area, people with special needs.  People who are not welcome in most public places because they are different; this dinner offers them an opportunity for a night out. Others have jobs, but are struggling in the current economy.  Still others come just to have a place to be, to be with others so they aren’t alone.  The numbers have grown so that now there are usually over 100 people who come for dinner each Wednesday evening.  The atmosphere seems like that of a coffee shop where friends gather to share the events of the week.  People come early just to get a cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade and visit with friends.  Often the coffee is gone before the dinner begins.  There is usually a big mess to clean up after people leave since many of the diners have poor motor skills.  There is a joy, however,  that seems to permeate the fellowship hall which lingers long after dinner.  A member of the congregation thought they should start a regular worship service after dinner.  Pastor Jann, however, thinks there is more worship on Wednesday evening with coffee and dinner than what happens on Sunday morning.  So I thought of Susan’s question again.  What is worship?