tree with heartsHere’s a short and simple poem that reminds me that nothing new can grow between us when we speak to each other from “the place where we are right.”

The poem leads me to ask: How might things change if we began our political conversations not from our certainties, but from our “doubts and loves”?

Many of us who differ politically love the same things — our children and grandchildren, our country, the natural world. Many of us who differ politically harbor the same doubts — that what’s being done (or not done) to care for the things we love is the best or the right thing to do.

Yes, we differ on what ought to be done. But what if instead of starting by arguing over solutions — over “the place where we are right” — we began by sharing our loves and doubts? I suspect that our conversations would be much more productive because they would proceed from common ground.

Hey, it’s worth a try!

Yehuda Amichai is widely regarded as Israel’s greatest modern poet. If you read “The Place Where We Are Right” while remembering the political context in which it was written, the poem’s power multiplies.

The Place Where We Are Right

by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

Dear Ones,Fall-Thanksgiving-Maple-Leaf-sun-orange-300x235

One might expect that my vacation to Cartagena Colombia,  on the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean coast, would be a relaxing fairy-tale romantic experience. However, the truth was, it was a sad, complex, and meaningful experience of saying farewell to someone I love.

This Sunday, I want to invite us into a deeper conversation, an important conversation about the end of life. Not only for our aging parents and grandparents, but for ourselves.

As part of this conversation, I’d like to lift up these resources.  First, the outstanding  NY Times best seller, entitled, Being Mortal“, written by author and surgeon,  Dr Atul Gawande. The book explores the practice of caring for the dying, and shows how doctors — himself included — are often remarkably untrained, ill-suited and uncomfortable talking about chronic illness and death with their patients.

Second, in 2015, Frontline created a documentary, exploring the importance of having conversations about end of life decisions before facing a critical illness. Here’s a link:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/being-mortal/

Next,  attached is a link to the website, Family Caregiving Alliance, entitled, holding on and letting go, with helpful resources and questions:
https://www.caregiver.org/advanced-illness-holding-on-letting-go

Finally, I leave you with a beautiful poem about holding on and letting by Mary Oliver, entitled “Blackwater Woods”

I look forward to sharing in these conversations with you this Sunday.
Blessings,

Pastor Laurie
In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.

pink ladies lilly by David G 7-27-16By David G.

It’s summertime and the beautiful ladies are making an appearance.

Amaryllis belladonna (also known as pink lady, naked lady or beautiful lady) is a native of Africa which has naturalized well in the Bay Area.  In the rainy winter season and early spring, it produces vibrant green, strap-like leaves in large clumps dotting hills, gardens and parks.  By late spring the leaves yellow and by summer, a jumble of crispy remnants is all that’s left to indicate there was life.

Towards the end of July, I get a feeling of anticipation.  I check the dried remains of the plants in my yard, waiting for the miraculous.  Then I see it – a greenish-red spear like the head of a cobra rising from the center of the debris.  In a few days, it grows tall and the hood opens to reveal a handful of beautiful pink trumpet-shaped flowers.

By August, you’ll see them all over – masses of large pink blooms on tall stalks gently waving in the summer breeze –like a late Easter announcement.  Look for the pink ladies blooming near the bell tower at the church.  They will be in full bloom this Sunday.  It reminds me of the scripture from Matthew 6:28:

“Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.”

These lilies grow wild in the hills and fields.  They don’t need any gardener to tend them.  What they do depend upon, however, is the rain and sun provided by our Creator. They don’t work or weave or earn a living.  Yet they are cared for by God, and are very beautiful.

It reminds me that if God cares for these amazing flowers, how much more the Creator will care for us as his children. 

By David G.

My teenager is one of the 7.5 million people who have downloaded the app for the week-old “Pokemon Go” game and are wandering around landmarks, businesses, parks and city streets with their smartphones to find digital creatures and score points.  It blends real time maps through Google with digital magic to make little creatures pop up on the screen, as if they are actually at that spot.    

For the past two days, my teen has been like an eager prospector in search of gold.  At times, it reminds me more of chasing leprechauns and their pot of loot.   

They are everywhere — and I mean EVERYWHERE.  One was in my kitchen. In the car.  By a synagogue.  A fountain.  The Saxophone House.

Then my teen told me there were Pokemon at Lake Temescal, my favorite walking spot.

lake reflections trees from David GSo at sunrise this morning, I went for a jog around the lake.  I tried to imagine where these digital bogeymen were lurking.  I looked around as I listened to the pounding rhythm of my feet on the trail.  The first rays of morning sun lit the tops of the trees along the far bank.  It was a peaceful, quiet world; a sacred time.  

Instead of Growlithe, I found a green heron lurking along the waterline.  A fine mist glided silently across the surface of the lake like the Spirit moving on the waters, without a sign of Voltorb.  I heard the sweet trill of a Wilson’s warbler, the call of a night heron, and the complicated melody of a song sparrow.  There was no evidence of Nidoran, but I breathed in the tangled scents of moist earth, bay leaves and redwood.  On the physical and spiritual level, God’s handiwork was everywhere.  I saw it all.  

I didn’t need an app for that.   

PASTOR LAURIE: REFLECTIONS ON ORLANDO

Dear Beloved Community,

Many of us are still reeling from the heartbreaking tragedy in Orlando.

It is heartbreaking to consider the history of mass shootings in our country:  Sandy Hook, Charleston, San Bernardino, and now Orlando. Each act of terror, each act of hate, and every act of violence seeks to diminish us, to drive us to despair, to divide us into an “us and them.” But, this terror, this hate, this violence does not have the last word.

Love has the last word.

In such times, it is tempting to place blame to make sense of senseless violence. But we cannot succumb to divisions. This tragedy cuts across the lines of race, class, sexual orientation, and religion.

Let us resolve to unite together, across all lines and all communities, especially: LGBTQ, Latino/Latina, and Muslim communities. Let us unite together in peace and stand against any and every form of hate and violence.

Together, we can make this world a better place. Together, let us widen circle of love and empathy. Together, let us seek the good in people and call ourselves to our highest good.

As progressive Christians, the radical teachings of Jesus propel us forward, forging a path to greater love, equality,  grace, and peace.

With love,
Pastor Laurie

PS: Below is an (adapted) prayer from a UCC minister, and here are some ideas for talking with your children about this tragedy.

Prayer
God of music and light, of strobe and disco ball,
God of the pipe organ and the 303 bass machine,
God of Latin chant and Latin rhythm,
God who smiles over night club dance floors, 
we remember the wide stretch of Your love.
We remember how the hate of the small minded cost Jesus his life.

God, please draw close to the people of Orlando.
Please be sheltering, shimmering wings upon 
every blessed person touched by this tragedy.
Be a mighty fortress, built of Pride and courage.
Bless every person who goes out dancing tonight in defiance of hatred.
May every hip, every eyelash, every sequin burn like a star in defiance of hate.
Rev. Nancy Taylor, Old First Church Boston (adapted)

Somehow this morning I can’t help thinking about the fellow who didn’t want to get out of bed one Sunday morning.

“Come on George”, said his mother, “its time for church”.
“I don’t want to go”, said George, pulling up the covers.
Why not? Asked his mother.
“I don’t like church”, came the reply.
“What don’t you like?”
“Don’t like the hymns. I don’t like the sermons, they’re boring. And I don’t like the people; they’re not friendly. They don’t like me and I don’t like them”.
“Well George”, said the mother. “I can’t argue with you. Sometimes the hymns aren’t very good. The sermons are sometimes boring. And the people sometimes aren’t very friendly. And it’s clear – some of them don’t like you and you don’t like them. But you’re going to have to get up, get dressed and go to church anyway”.
“Oh why?”
Because you’re 40 years old, you’re their minister, they pay your salary and they expect you to be there!

This Sunday, I’d like for us to learn a bit more about what really gets us out of bed on a Sunday morning and more specifically, how you experience the sacred in your life!
Come and join us for a fun conversation!

SpringFling.5.2.16

This Sunday we are celebrating Pentecost! 

Early in the service, to honor the diversity of people from all over the world I will invite people to greet each other, speaking  in various “tongues” besides English.  Please, come and open us to new ways of saying, “Good morning!” “How are you?”

We are also celebrating what we love about our congregation… what it means to be a green congregation, an open and affirming congregation, a jubilee congregation, a congregation blessed to be located in such a beautiful setting, a love puddle, or whatever it is; we’ll invite audience members to come forward to express your gratitude during our thank offering. 

In anticipation of the power of this Sunday, I am reminded of the words of William Blake: 

 Unless the eye catch fire, God will not be seen.Heart and flames

 Unless the ear catch fire, God will not be heard.

 Unless the tongue catch fire, God will not be named.

 Unless the heart catch fire, God will not be loved.

 Unless the mind catch fire, God will not be known.

May we all be kindled in the fire of God’s love!

Blessings and see you this Sunday! With love, Pastor Laurie

Learn How Your Generosity Has Impacted Skyline This Year

Click here to see the 2015 narrative of accomplishments and activities.

4-17-16 Earth Circle in courtyard

Why pledge?

A Pledge is a spiritual commitment to giving of our time, talent and treasure, and it is based on our belief that we give because we receive. Pledging gives us a chance to assess our priorities in a planned and thoughtful way, and allows us to align our giving with our values.

A Pledge is a voluntary statement of your annual financial commitment upon which our church bases its expenditures, makes its plans and builds programs around our three fundamental priorities: (1) voice for progressive Christianity, (2) dedication to social justice and outreach and (3) deepening understanding and growing beloved community.

How much should I pledge?

Giving is a spiritual practice. The first step is to ask God in prayer: How much am I being called to give? How am I being asked to respond to spirit’s call in my life? Many pledgers begin with an estimated percentage of their incomes, which seems significant and responsible for the year, and later embark upon the spiritual discipline of gradually increasing that percentage over time.

How do I pledge?

In order to accept your pledge at  Skyline, we need to obtain or create a record of the pledge. There are a number of ways that you can do this:

Online:  Fill out a survey.

By Hand: Fill out a printed form of the survey – pick it up at church or download, print, and fill out Stewardship Survey 2016.

Stewardship Sunday is May 22nd. Please give generously.

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Skyline UCC
A United Church of Christ
12540 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 531-8212

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