Thursday, June 22, 2017

Six Ways to Enhance your Spiritual Life this Summer!

“It is the unseen and the spiritual in people that determines the outside and the actual.” (Oswald Chambers)
         Even though we are super blessed to have wonderful weather year round in Sonoma County, summertime is a perfect time to slow down and focus on enhancing our spiritual lives. So let's use these next few months to intentionally enhance our relationship to God in creative ways. Here are six ways to enhance your spiritual life and lift up your soul:
1.   Try Tai Chi. We have a free class every Saturday morning at 10:30am in Bowen Hall. Tai Chi is good for your balance, and strengthens your body, mind, and spirit with a slow flowing martial art exercise regime. A study in Portland showed that elderly individuals who practiced Tai Chi showed significant improvement in all measures of functional balance, physical performance, and reduced fear of falling after practicing it twice a week for 6 months. 250 million people around the world (2.5 million in the U.S.) practice Tail Chi. Our instructor, David Chung, teaches a meditative form of Tai Chi to help the mind feel peaceful. Peaceful feelings improve health in body, mind, and spirit.
2.   Get outside. Nature is God's workshop. The sky is God’s resume. You want to know who God is? See what God has created. Nature is healing. Walk through the forest or around the lakes at Spring Lake and Howarth park. Go to Bodega and watch the waves crash onto the shore. Sit outside in the night air and listen to the crickets. Listen for God’s message to your soul through nature.
3.   Feed your soul with uplifting spirit enhancing books. Here are a few suggestions: The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth By M. Scott Peck 
“To proceed very far through the desert, you must be willing to meet existential suffering and work it through. In order to do this, the attitude toward pain has to change.….everything that happens to us has been designed for our spiritual growth.”                                     
The Art of Happiness, A Handbook for Living. Psychiatrist Howard Cutler interviews the Dalai Lama to ask him life’s deepest questions. Learn the answers to timeless questions such as: Why is there so much suffering in the world? “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive."
Another recommended book is: Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado. “There’s a lot of wisdom in the phrase: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” It’s when we try to do everything, that’s when we get overwhelmed. When we do nothing, that’s when we get bitter. But if we can find that one thing we do, that one unique assignment in our hometown or around the world, that’s the way we keep sanity in a difficult culture.” 
4.   Memorize to boost your spiritual brain! Many of us have favorite hymns we sing to ourselves or Psalms memorized that remind us of God’s presence. If you haven’t memorized Psalm 23 and Psalm 100, I recommend starting there. Psalm 139 also reminds us that God’s Holy Spirit will go with you wherever you may go. You can also memorize the words to favorite hymns like: How Great Thou Art!, Precious Lord, Take my Hand, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and Just a Closer Walk with Thee. Memorize these hymns to keep pondering their reassuring words. Your brain and soul will be uplifted!
5.   Take a fast from drama. Watching brain-draining gossipy shows on TV, feeding into the latest gossip at coffee hour, dwelling on the annoying things our family members do, all cause us to feel depressed and stressed. Get yourself away from negative people and negative critical comments. Find people and activities that uplift not drag you down. Marie Curie said, Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” Psalm 34:13 says: “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”
6.   Pray in a new way. The Presbytery of the Redwoods leadership cohorts are planning to pray in our meetings using the ancient form of prayer called Centering Prayer. Father Thomas Keating has promoted this form of prayer for many years. I taught Centering prayer in my resilience project for my Doctorate of Ministry in Science and Theology. Research proves that this contemplative form of prayer, if done on a regular basis, will enhance your resilience status. For training on how to do Centering prayer read: Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault. For a training video see: https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/category/category/centering-prayer
Receive this blessing as you enhance and uplift your soul this summer:
“May God bless you and keep you, May God smile on you and be gracious unto you, May God look you full in the face and help you prosper and be peaceful from this day on and forevermore.” (Numbers 6, 24-26, The Message)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Listening and Praying During Lent

Jesus said the first most important commandment is to: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” (Mark 12:30) So how do we do that? How do we love God without having a tangible God “thing” to hold onto and squeeze and hug?

You might say we have each other to hug and take care of as God would want us to do. Or, we have Nature to go out and appreciate and praise God for her beauty. Or, we can share our resources with those in need. God smiles about all these ways of loving God.

Yet, I also imagine that our loving parent God would want us to love him/her by communicating. That is really all I want from my adult grown children. I LOVE it when they communicate how they are doing and what they care about and how their lives are going. As their mother, I feel blessed whenever they initiate or answer a call and talk. So I imagine God is very grateful for that as well and whenever we pray and tell God how we are doing and thank God for our blessings and lift up to God what we are concerned about in prayer, then God knows we love him. That is one great way to obey the first commandment from Jesus. Pray, pray, pray.

Listening for a word from God in prayer is another way to show your love of God. To accomplish the deep listening you must carve out time to be silent and truly listen. So – for the Lenten Season 2017, I suggest we all show God our love by praying unceasingly and by listening in prayer to the message God has for us these 40 days leading up to Easter. Remember:  “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” (from the hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus.)

I Happened to be Standing
by Mary Oliver
I don't know where prayers go, or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance, in full self-attendance. A condition I can't really call being alive
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition, or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that's their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open, which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,

I don't know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don't. That's your business.
But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be if it isn't a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

UNITY!

Behold how good and pleasant it is when our brothers and sisters dwell in unity! (Psalm 133: 1)
         Like a parent who is troubled about their children’s quarrels, God is troubled when her children do not get along and fail to promote peace and unity in the church. Our God is great and wants us all to work for unity and peace while appreciating and loving the wonderful diversity of his creation.
         I am proud of our church for having a rainbow flag up in front of our building to show we don’t just say in our church vision statement that we are “reaching out with nurturing love to all…” but we practice hospitality and inclusivity as well.

         Since I have Scottish heritage and my clan comes from the region of Alloway, Scotland, I was truly joyful when I read that in May of 2015, our ancestral Church of Scotland joined the PCUSA in allowing the ordination of people who are gay. The outgoing Moderator Very Rev John Chalmers said: "We cannot go on suffering the pain of internal attacks which are designed to undermine the work or the place of others. It's time to play for the team.” He added: "It is time to stop calling each other names, time to shun the idea that we should define ourselves by our differences and instead define ourselves by what we hold in common - our baptism into Christ, our dependence on God's grace, our will to serve the poor and so on."
         According to BBC news, “The vote followed a church-wide debate and consultations with all 45 presbyteries, which voted 31 to 14 in favor of change. Supporters said it was time for the church to be inclusive and recognize the "mixed economy" of modern Scotland.”
         Baptist minister, Reverend Daryl Evans wrote a blog for a website called “What Christians Want to Know” and he listed many scripture passages on “unity.”  Reverend Evans said: “Throughout the centuries the church has  had a difficult time in agreeing with each other.  There are obviously numerous denominations and even many differences even within denominations.  There are many reasons for this dynamic. Sometimes church traditions and differing biblical interpretations get in the way of unity.  But what does the Bible say about unity?  There are many biblical passages that explain what Christian unity should be.”
         The following list is a sampling of the many scriptures on “unity:”  
1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
John 13:35  “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 17:23 “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly One, so the world may know that you sent me and loved them as you loved me.”
Acts 4:32  “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to them was  their own, but they had everything in common”.
Philippians 2:1-3 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”.
Colossians 3:14 “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
1 John 4:12  …. if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
Romans 12:10 “Love one another with affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Ephesians 4:3 “...be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
1 Corinthians 12:12  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:26 “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all One in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 4:11-13 “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith…” 
Romans 12:16 “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
1 Corinthians 1:10  “I appeal to you, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

God’s word shows the importance of unity. Today, you may be holding a grudge or ill feelings towards another.  My prayer for you is that you give that up to God.  Show the love and forgiveness that comes from the Holy Spirit and be at peace with all. Amen

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Springtime is a time for LOVE!

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us...." 1 John 4:10 
May seems to be a good month to talk about love. There are so many reasons to feel love from God in the Spring. When we look at the blooming roses, feel the heat, smell the Eucalyptus tree leaves and watch the grapes around us grow, spend time with our friends, God’s love is communicated.
         An Upper Room devotional by Dan Johnson, discussed the different definitions of love and how God’s love is distinctive. Johnson said, “Love has been defined in many different ways. One of those ways is that love is something we do. We love. We do. We make a difference. Yet, the apostle John saw it differently. Love, he says, is not primarily something we do but something God does — something God is.
         Our love for others and ourselves is a response to God’s love. We can let go of the notion that love — or anything else — starts with us. It begins with God, who is the alpha and omega, the beginning and end, the first and last.”
         Johnson calls God’s love “great news,” Because: “We can relax, knowing that love doesn’t originate with us, but comes from an endless, abounding, overflowing, and incredible supply. We can draw on God’s love and let it overflow to and through us. God’s love may lead us to some surprising places and circumstances, but God will already be there. God sets an example of sacrificial love for us. Because God’s love is sacrificial, we often need to make some sacrifice to love others well. We love because God first loved us.”
         So in the spirit of God’s love, let’s sacrifice some time and energy to help our church’s mission and activities grow and flourish to show God’s love in our community and beyond. Here are some ways:
1. Attend worship services and show your love of God in worship.     
2. Participate in our garden maintenance and care of the earth.
3. Come to the Boy Scouts BBQ on May 7th to help our Troop 135.
4. Bring lots of friends and neighbors to our Spring Fling May 21st.
5. Embrace our new members with your love by getting to know them and invite them to church programs you are a part of.
6. Pray for our church and help it grow by wearing your t-shirt, talking to your friends about coming along with you to worship, and inviting your children and grandchildren to join you on Mother’s day to celebrate your Mom and their Mom.
         God is good all the time and God is love ALL the TIME! I’m sure you can think of even more ways you can show love by loving and giving and caring for your church and our mission in the world. I would LOVE to hear your ideas and plans.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Happy Blooming Church of the Roses!

“A happy heart makes a face cheerful.”  Proverbs 15:13
         One of the things people look for in a church is a positive happy atmosphere. Going to a church full of dour looking solemn people is not very attractive. I think that is one of the reasons our church is growing. New visitors have been attending worship and deciding to join us in part because they look around and see happiness! With the next new members class we will have 51 new members in the last two and ½ years.
         It makes sense that we are happy because we have so so much to be grateful for, thanks be to God! But happiness is also a choice.

         Groucho Marx once said:
Groucho’s quote reminds me of this passage in Matthew 6:25-27 that encourages us not to worry, (which inspires happiness):
         “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (NRSV)

There are other reasons besides a happy atmosphere that helps a church grow. Here is a list I shared with our session at our March meeting. YOU can help us accomplish these ten goals:
  • 1. MAKE SUNDAY SPECIAL Put creative energy into every worship service. You may only get one chance to connect Christ to a visitor.
  • 2.ADD AN EXTRA SERVICE (and maybe even an extra venue)
  • The Session and worship committee are considering adding a new worship service on Friday evenings that may attract new members who like to listen to instrumentalists accompany our hymns.
  • 3. WORK ON YOUR WELCOME Making new attendees feel at home from the moment they drive into the parking lot will significantly increase the chances of them returning. We need greeters at Bowen Hall doors helping people find their way into our church.
  • 4. ENCOURAGE BELONGING AND BELIEVING
  • Belonging will often precede believing, and forming friendships is essential. Invite new comers to our activities. Consider starting a small group study.
  • 5. INVEST IN YOUNG PEOPLE Young people need to be purposefully placed into visible leadership roles and given excellent Christian mentoring.
  • 6. ENGAGE YOUR COMMUNITY Churches need to place community engagement high on the priority list. One church started: Christians Against Poverty and gave financial advice and aid to those struggling in their local community. In one year that church added 100 members.
  • 7. MARKET YOURSELF The best marketing is the kind that comes from positive interactions with the local community. Giving people a reason to enter the church is half the battle. So make the most of Christmas, Easter and any events that give you an excuse to invite people in. Don’t be shy.
  • 8.GIVE SUPPORT TO CONGREGATIONAL CARE Churches that grow have been able to develop pastoral support networks that allow everyone in the church to be ministered to without the pastor having to do it all.
  • 9. RUN AN EVANGELISTIC COURSE (AND CHURCH)
  • Strategically, the church needs to be missionary-minded so that every member knows they have a role in sharing their faith, inviting friends and ensuring that visitors feel at home. Have a constant introductory course such as Alpha or Christianity Explored to teach the basics.
  • 10. PRAY Praying for growth. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul says: ‘I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.’ 
  • In our efforts to see church growth, we need to acknowledge we can achieve nothing without God’s blessing, which brings forth the fruit. When churches become inward-looking they forget the power of the gospel and what it feels like to grow. Pray daily for our church to grow so we can meet the spiritual needs of the people in our congregation and community. All of us can pray.

 (List above adapted from: Justin Brierley’s article at: https://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/January-2015/Ten-ways-to-grow-your-church-in-2015)
        I am so thankful for the willingness of our Church of the Roses leaders to work on these ten things that will help our church have a healthy future. May God continue to bless us and keep us as we carry on in faith. Remember, there are seven Sundays in the Easter season. YOU can help us make each Easter Season Sunday special by worshipping and participating in the future of our church.  Happy Easter Season!    Love,   Pastor Cindy




Jesus changes his status to 'Risen' for &
      

Friday, January 22, 2016

For the Year 2016,  I resolve to pray this prayer as often as I can remember. And to fill a gratitude jar as the year progresses with little notes of things I am grateful for. 
 It is a time of new beginnings. Set aside some time to think about what your hopes and dreams for 2016 may be and lift them up to God. 

A Prayer
by Max Ehrmann
Let me do my work each day;

and if the darkened hours
of despair overcome me,
may I not forget the strength
that comforted me in the
desolation of other times.

May I still remember the bright hours 

that found me walking
over the silent hills of my childhood,
or dreaming on the margin of a quiet river,
when a light glowed within me,
and I promised my early God
to have courage amid the tempests
of the changing years.

Spare me from bitterness and

from the sharp passions of unguarded moments.
May I not forget that poverty and riches
are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not,
may my thoughts and actions be such
as shall keep me friendly with myself.

Lift up my eyes from the earth,

and let me not forget the uses of the stars.
Forbid that I should judge others lest I condemn myself.
Let me not follow the clamor of the world,
but walk calmly in my path.

Give me a few friends who will love me 

for what I am;
and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps
the kindly light of hope.

And though age and infirmity overtake me,

and I come not within sight of the castle 
of my dreams,
teach me still to be thankful for life,
and for time’s olden memories 
that are good and sweet;
and may the evening’s twilight find me gentle still.


            In this New Year, in the midst of the chaos around the world, let us remember and resolve not to respond with hate and not to be afraid—but what should we do?
            A rabbi wrote to his congregation in New York just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In response to the question, what is the remedy to wanton hatred? he wrote, 
“Wanton love. Raw, cold-blooded, fanatical, baseless, relentless hatred can be matched and combated only with pure, undiscriminating, uninhibited, unyielding, baseless, unsolicited love and acts of kindness. But we need not just plain love. We need love that costs us. Love that we get nothing back for...And when we do our part God will surely do His part to protect us and transform our world to the one we all hope and yearn for, one that will be filled with His glory, like the 
waters fill the ocean.”
Let us also together meditate and pray the words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Jesus told us how to deal with uncertainty and hate in his eloquent sermon. Prayer is a powerful force that can and will transform our world and our personal lives. Let us use our “force” daily to pray for healing and wholeness for our church, our families, our nation, and our world. 
Happy New Year and enjoy the rains!

   Pastor Cindy



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lent is a Time for Healthy Humility


The Lenten Season is a time for renewing our willing spirits and restoring our joy in our salvation through the love of God. I LOVE Lenten season worship services when we are inspired to evaluate our “dark forces” and the burdens we carry. And then to lift them up to the light of God for healing and wholeness. To be aware of our sinfulness and the burdens we carry, to be aware of God’s forgiveness, to be contrite in heart and mind, are all good and healthy attitudes for the soul!  
When we are introspective and humble we are better able to be compassionate and show empathy for others. C.S. Lewis said, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."


Leadership research shows that those who admit and discuss their mistakes and failures with others learn from them and are more likely to succeed in the future.  When we humble ourselves and share our humility in our interactions with others, we receive many blessings.
Psalm 51 is a wonderful Psalm for reading and contemplating this Lenten Season. It begins with: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” And closes with: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”