Oakland church

Archive for Love

Belonging, True Belonging

In her 2018 book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging & the Courage to Stand Alone, researcher and storyteller Dr Brene Brown invites us to consider a basic confusion that can arise when we show up in different places. She learned it from talking to middle school students who said simple but profound things to her like:  “Fitting in is when you want to be a part of something. Belonging is when others want you.” She learned from them that the most painful thing is when we feel like we don’t belong at home.  “Belonging,” Brown learned from these children, “Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” The house of God, in an ideal sense, invites us all to grow into the understanding of who we truly are, of who God made us to be, to be a community into which we can step deeper into those true selves.

As we celebrate the glorious diversity of human life, and of all creation, on this weekend of honoring St Francis and world communion, you are invited to join us in this house of belonging. I leave you with the words of poet David Whyte, The House of Belonging.

THE HOUSE OF BELONGING

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
day
like any other.

But
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and
I thought

it must have been the quiet
candlelight
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

And
I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close-grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

– David Whyte
©1996

Special thanks: to all of you who helped to make our celebration of Rhea Babbitt’s life so beautiful! Notes to Rhea’s nephew may be sent toSteve Estes and Sallie Suydam, 1181 East Ave, Chico, CA 95926-1018, b7sestes@aol.com

The Spirit of Kay & Rhea lives on – join us as we continue celebrating the Feast of St Francis at our Annual Blessing of the Animals, this Sunday at 3 pm. We will be giving away lots of Kay and Rhea’s books on caring for dogs, cats, and even goats.

Power of Love in the Midst of Destruction

The prophet Isaiah, thousands of years ago, described God’s creative power – bringing forth new life in the midst of destruction, within and all around us:

Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
Isaiah 43:16-21 

Join us this Sunday, as we awaken to this power of love within, and all around us. 

Photo by ardito-ryan-harrisna-1194309-unsplash

Our Calling and Vocation to Love

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


This week, our adventures continue as we explore our calling and vocation to love. Jesus calls his first disciples, who are fisherman, to cast their nets out into the deep where they will find abundance; and re-defines them as fishers of men. It reminds me of this beautiful quote by the French novelist, author of Le Petit Prince,  Antoine de Saint-Exupery: 
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
It helps to keep the big picture in mind.
  1. Notice where you have settled for a small life, for a life that is shallow, or wasted on trivial things.
  2. Plunge into the deep. Take up the practice of contemplative prayer, or selfless service, or whatever helps you to relinquish your small self and to discover again that the deep

    Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


    ground of your being is love –  Ephesians 3:17. When our consciousness is open to the divine Presence in which we are submerged, then we can return to our ordinary tasks with fresh energy and a new perspective.
  3.  And finally, listen for your call. God has a mission for you! When you know that you are loved; when you know that your deep self, your real self, is in God and that you are made for union with God; then God will send you back out into the world to speak and act fearlessly for peace,  healing, and reconciling and setting free. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says to Simon, and to us, as well. The outcome of our efforts is in the hands of God, and we trust that God will work through us, and that, in a way we cannot possibly  imagine, our lives will bear abundant fruit. God is whispering in our hearts, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”, and we dare to reply, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 )
Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 

“i carry your heart with me”

Welcoming Oakland ChurchMother’s day is coming up, and with it, a mountain of expectations about what our experience “should” be. But what’s the truth about motherhood? There is no perfect mother.

One of my favorite poems by ee cummings  is entitled “I carry your heart with me”. I like to think of it as God’s love poem to each one of us, filling that existential void within us all, to be carried forever in perfect  love. I also think of it as a poem that describes our calling individually and collectively, as people of faith, to love with all of our hearts as fully as we can, not just our immediate families and friends, but especially those Jesus described as “ the least of these”. I am sharing a few photos of us as a faith community, embodying this love in action. 

Join us this Sunday,  in honoring the life changing, life giving power of love.

              Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

 ee cummings..  [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

                                                      i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

 

Forgiveness and Mercy

© Pakhnyushchyy
ID 8336955 Dreamstime

Dear Beloved Community, 

This week we continue in the all so human themes of love manifest in our capacity to forgive ourselves and one another.

I’d like to share some beautiful quotes on these themes with you: 

Henri J.M. Nouwen, 20th century
“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

Anne Lamott, 21st century
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 20th century
“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 20th century
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
 
Abraham Lincoln, 19th century
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

Traveling mercies this week! See you on Sunday! 

Now’s the Time to Celebrate Love and Unity

Last weekend a contingent of us from Skyline gathered glorious Sunday morning to celebrate Oakland Pride. It was my first year actually participating in the parade, and I’m very grateful to Teresa Jenkins for preaching last Sunday. Truth be told, I was especially grateful after returning from a family reunion, and the harrowing experience of my father almost dying the night we arrived. I returned exhausted, physically and emotionally, and that combined with the state of the world, I would have preached about the apocalypse. Consider it all:  the total eclipse over the US last month, last week’s powerful earthquake in Mexico, the unprecedented destruction of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the raging fires in the West, the heartless proposed DACA deportations, the ever present threat of nuclear strikes from North Korea, and the precarious state of our democracy. Does it ever seem as if God is sending us many signs from the heavens that the world is coming to an end?
 
I don’t believe that God brings forth the violence that we’re experiencing, but I do believe that God uses the violence to wake us up and to bring us together.  I was grateful to celebrate Pride, and to celebrate love and unity. Below you’ll find some photos from the parade.
 
Join us this Sunday as we celebrate our reunion together at Skyline! The choir returns, we will enjoy some festivities after worship, and above all, we will celebrate love.

Cultivate Peace this Memorial Day

holding-hands-heart-shaped-earthBlessings to you on this Memorial Day weekend!

When I was a child growing up in the small town of Barrington, RI in the 1960’s, it seemed like everyone in town would gather at the war memorial in the center of town for Memorial day ceremonies. We school children would always have a part, having rehearsed in school our lines of patriotic glorification often originating from the Bible. There would be patriotic and religious songs sung and prayers by the local minister and perhaps by a teacher or government official.

Memorial Day is an example of what sociologist Robert Bellah has called “civil religion”, where government adapts a kind of generic religiosity that often refers to God and Country as somehow connected to our government and secular political leaders and their actions, especially in wartime.

We could as easily call it the American mythology which we are always helping to shape and co-create, especially on Memorial Day and perhaps the Forth of July.  These two sacred, civil, religious, patriotic days always seem to blend religion and state in what I want to call a troublesome way; a way that I believe we must outgrow to become more of what Jesus taught us: to love one another, that we may all be one, in a more universal love.

Join us Sunday morning (10 AM) for a time of re-imagining what it means to transform our swords into plowshares and cultivate peace within the world, beginning within ourselves.

Art from https://peaceartsite.com  Peace Sign Graphics

Love’s Fullest Dimensions

 KingPhoto

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam”

This Sunday, Feb 14th is a time to honor love. And lest we forget, the ads are everywhere reminding us of many ways we can purchase special gifts for that special someone in our lives. 

But Feb 14th is also a chance to honor love in it’s fullest dimensions. Love in the form of courage, of the willingness to follow a dream; love kindled in the fire of God’s love for all of humanity despite the dangers of the wilderness. 

This month we celebrate Black History Month, and this Sunday we honor the ongoing march to freedom, inspired by this great cloud of witnesses. 

Love is Indiscriminate

altar flowers Sun 7-28-13This week we focus on the indiscriminate nature of love. I’d like to share two beautiful quotes with you.

One, about our purpose in life and as a faith community.

The other about the nature of God’s love.

Parker Palmer
[T]he mission of the church is not to enlarge its membership, not to bring outsiders to accept its terms, but simply to love the world in every possible way – to love the world as God did and does.…If we are able to love the world, that will be the best demonstration of the truth which the church has been given.”

Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books
“I experience religious dread whenever I find myself thinking that I know the limits of God’s grace, since I am utterly certain it exceeds any imagination a human being might have of it. God does, after all, so love the world.”

Blessings upon your week! 

God’s Love: Indiscriminate & Abundant

leaf and rainI had almost forgotten the sounds, fragrances, and touch of the rains and their power to transform the hills into a lush, verdant paradise.

The rains remind me of Shakespeare’s words, “the quality of mercy is unrestrained, it droppeth from the heavens like the gentle rains.”   The rains when they fall are indiscriminate and abundant, a reflection of God’s love.

This week as the rains continue to fall, let us consider the transformative power of love- much like the gentle rains- to bring forth new life.

Join us this Sunday as we explore and experience the transformative power of love.

Photo: ID: 95069 © Ryan Pike | Dreamstime Stock Photos