Praying with the People

Our Joys and Concerns for this week include:

For the presence of Alex Spiridon, Thelma and Skip Parodi, Kitsy Bocook, Ron Fredlund and Mary Martin in worship Sunday

Carolyn Shepard with gratitude for all shared in the EHP Adopt-a-Family gift-giving; greetings from our sister church in Corinto and thanks for our gift to them; for Laura Garcia and Charlotte Jackson as they travel over the holidays

Lynn Hunwick with greetings from the Balasore Technical School and Ramesh Kumar

Thelma Parodi for the joy of being in church, for the love and care she has received and with love for her church family

Elizabeth Ramirez for the joy of having Thelma present

Ron Fredlund with appreciation for the FBCPA carolers who came to the Terraces

Continue reading Praying with the People

Joys and Concerns

Our Joys and Concerns for this week include:

Birthday joys for Paul Tuan (December 15)

Melanie Ramirez for Salvador who traveled to Mexico this week to be with his family; for the good news that there was no biting in her kindergarten class this week; for Dona’s report on the wonderful women’s brunch at Nana Spiridon’s last week

Carolyn Shepard for Laura Garcia and Charlotte Jackson as they travel over the holidays.

For Lucille and the family and friends of Bob Towner as they continue to mourn his death

Pastor Rick for his sister, Charlotte Lanier, in Boise, ID, who is recovering from successful surgery to remove a large, benign tumor from her brain; Thelma Parodi who returned home on Tuesday under hospice care

For all those affected by the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland and for the well-being of artists and arts communities everywhere

For justice for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

For all those affected by the genocidal tragedy in Aleppo, Syria

For the USA in a time of political transition

Prayers With The People

Our Joys and Concerns for this week include:

Chip Clark for the fundraising activity for the Movember Foundation several of our men are participating in this November for men’s health

Doug Lee with thanks for the peaceful demonstration of over a million people on Korea last week concerned with scandal and corruption within their government and for the movement in Korea toward more democracy; for the success of his meeting of 100 socially responsible investors in Korea

Lynn Hunwick with thanks to the pastor for speaking up concerning the election; sharing concern with friends from abroad; and for the new head of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, Amanda R. Tyler

Sachiko Berry with thanks for the prayers for election workers (15 hours at the polls!)

Susan Bradley for a peaceful Women’s March on Washington, January 21, 2017, which she is attending with her daughter

Pastor Rick for Thelma Parodi who is on hospice care at the Terraces; for Pastor Gregory who was in Florida performing a wedding.

For Charlotte (Rick’s Sister) who is being evaluated for a tumor on her brain.

For the USA in the aftermath of the recent election

Praying With the People

Our Joys and Concerns for this week include:

  • Chip Clark for the fundraising activity for the Movember Foundation several of our men are participating in this November for men’s health
  • Lynn Hunwick for Pope Francis’s visit this past week with the leaders of the Lutheran Church in Sweden; for the wtiness of Harry Rathbun who “tried to live a meaningful life;” and for the new head of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, Amanda R. Tyler
  • Thelma Parodi for the joy of being part of this church family, for our ards, calls and visits; for the upcoming visit from her daughter, Lee
  • Elizabeth Ramirez for Thelma’s return to worship
  • Pastor Gregory for an awesome Halloween celebration; for the excitement of his PhD work , which includes elements of Baptist identity
  • Sachiko Berry for a smooth election; and for all poll workers
  • Dan Cudworth for healing of the divide in our nation
  • Laurie who is being treated for a staph infection
  • Pastor Rick for Thelma Parodi who is back in El Camino Hospital; for Hugh Satterlee recovering from a mild heart attack; for Eleanor Satterlee recovering from a broken hip; for Laura Garcia who is recovering from heart problems; for Sachiko Berry who fell and broke her clavicle, recovering at home after surgery
  • For the USA in the aftermath of the recent election

Prayers With the People

Our Joys and Concerns for this week include:

Carolyn Shepard for the joy of having both Satterlees in worship; for the Hings as they travel – Barb to the Phillipines, Ray to Cleveland

Chip Clark for a fundraising activity for the Movember Foundation he will participating in this November for men’s health

Lynn Hunwick for Pope Francis’s visit this week with the leaders of the Lutheran Church in Sweden

Dan Cudworth for Laurie who is being treated for a staph infection

Pastor Rick for Hugh Satterlee recovering from a mild heart attack; for Laura Garcia who was hospitalized Friday with heart problems; for  Thelma Parodi who is now recovering at home; for Sachiko Berry who fell and broke her clavicle, recovering at home after surgery; for the family and friends of Nedra Hathaway (mother of Karen Hopkins and mother-in-law of Jim) who died this week in Oakland

For wisdom and civility in this election cycle in the USA

Each Tuesday through November 8, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (see communications@abhms.org) is inviting us please to pray regarding the following themes:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 — “courage,” or the ability to see things in a new way, consequently considering a choice or action different from one previously decided.

Prayers With The People

Our Joys and Concerns for this week include:

  • Carolyn Shepard for a trip that she and Steven made this week to Point Reyes to celebrate the historical recognition of Drake’s landing in 1569; the coming of the Spaniards in 1700s; and the life and culture of the Miwok natives
  • Doug Lee for the visit of a friend from China who worshiped with us
  • Melanie Ramirez for dinner with her mother and brother; for an upcoming visit with her dad when Daniel plays his last band competition this Saturday
  • Chip Clark for a fundraising activity for the Movember Foundation he will participating in this November for men’s health
  • Laurie Cudworth for her niece, Debbie, who is having surgery; for father, Jack, recovering from surgery and for her mother who is living with cancer
  • Pastor Rick for Hugh Satterlee who has been hospitalized at Kaiser in Redwood City; for  Thelma Parodi who is in the health unit at the Terraces; for the family and friends of Nedra Hathaway (mother of Karen Hopkins and mother-in-law of Jim) who died this week in Oakland
  • For wisdom and civility in this election cycle in the USA

Each Tuesday through November 8, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (see communications@abhms.org) is inviting us please to pray regarding the following themes:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 4 — “decency,” or polite, moral and honest behavior and attitudes that show respect for other people.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 11 — “understanding,” or the knowledge and ability required to make reasoned judgements about particular situations or subjects.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 18“wisdom,” or the insight necessary to consider candidates’ rhetoric and positions and make sense of comparing them.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 25 — “prudence,” or the application of careful good judgement when considering candidates’ platforms, positions and behavior.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 1 — “discernment,” or the ability to look at different perspectives with clear-minded objectivity to determine solutions focused on fairness and justice.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 — “courage,” or the ability to see things in a new way, consequently considering a choice or action different from one previously decided.

Prayer for Memorial Day

Maren C. Tirabassi

God, we come with Taps in our hearts
remembering those who have died for others,
soldiers, sailors, air corps, in this country and others,
remembering those who risk life for others,
coast guard, firefighter, law enforcement,
both near and far away,
remembering those who go forth
in emergency response, disaster relief,
and aid to victims of war,
remembering those who witness for justice
in the face of opposition,
and remembering our own losses –
some, fresh wounds,
some, long-familiar sadnesses.

Read more…

How Can We Turn Information into Transformation?

Greg StevensEach month in this section of the Spire I will be asking, “How can we turn information into transformation?” In searching for a response to this question, I’d like us to look to the margins of our own tradition and to the rich variety of other spiritual traditions. I hope this diversity in spiritualties, theologies, and practices help illuminate the Christ within your own heart. This month we will look to the oldest form of Christian spiritual practice.

Theologian Phyllis Tickle re-introduced fixed-hour prayer into the Church as her major project before passing away last year. Below is Tickle’s reflection on this ancient practice:

Fixed-hour prayer is the oldest form of Christian spiritual discipline and has its roots in the Judaism out of which Christianity came. When the Psalmist says, “Seven times a day do I praise You,” he is referring to fixed-hour prayer as it existed in ancient Judaism. We do not know the hours that were appointed in the Psalmist’s time for those prayers. By the turn of the era, however, the devout had come to punctuate their work day with prayers on a regimen that followed the flow of Roman commercial life. Forum bells began the work day at six in the morning (prime, or first hour), sounded mid-morning break at nine (terce, or third hour), the noon meal and siesta or break at twelve (sext, or sixth hour), the re-commencing of trade at three (none, or ninth hour), and the close of business at six (vespers). With the addition of evening prayers and early prayers upon arising, the structure of fixed-hour prayer was established in a form that is very close to that which Christians still use today.

Try watching the clock and creating specific times of the day where you pause and reflect on the goodness of God. Begin to structure your days around these playful moments, rather than planning prayer around your busy schedule.

Pastor Gregory

When You Pray (March 8, 2015)

meditation_table.fwA sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, March 8, 2015

Text: Matthew 6:1-18 (The Message)

“Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like these heathen. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income. Thank you, God, for making me so special. Oh, and by the way, I hope everyone is getting video of this on their cell phones. Amen.”

“God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner. Save me by your grace for I have no other hope.”

Now who do you suppose went home right with God? I’ll tell you, “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself” (Luke 18:9-14, The Message).

This parable from Luke’s gospel is his version of Matthew’s story that Melanie read for us this morning. Both link the practice of prayer with humility.

When I was in seminary, there was a kind of prank going around. We would drop a reference to Hezekiah 6:4 into the conversation as if anyone worth their salt would be familiar. The more honest folks would not pretend to know the verse but would grab their Bibles to look it up. Can anyone here this morning quote that verse?

Of course you can’t, because there is no book of “Hezekiah” in the Bible. It just sounds as if there should be. One variant on the prank was for you to quote the verse before people scrambled to find it. As I recall, the quoted verse was, “He who tooteth his own horn tooteth loudly.” Silly as it may seem, I think this made up quote actually follows Jesus’ teaching in bringing us to a place where we can turn round right. He who tooteth his own horn not only tooteth loudly but also with little or no substance. It is a loud, empty braying as with the one who speaks with all the eloquence of mortals and angels, but having no love at the center, rings like a noisy gong or a lonely, clanging cymbal.

We talked Tuesday in Bible study about how hard are these passages from the Sermon on the Mount. They challenge us to live more fully not only into the righteousness of God’s Beloved Community but also ever nearer the very heart of God. Jesus’ teaching is not just to give us a set of standards by which to live our lives. It is, more importantly, to bring us into right relationship with God. Of course, one of the principal practices of establishing right relationship is prayer.

When you pray…what? How would you finish that sentence? When you pray…

I think your responses indicate what a challenge, as well as a satisfaction, prayer might be. In many ways, prayer is a conundrum. Volumes have been written on it, sermons preached, lessons taught. It’s clear in Jesus’ teaching that it is not self-aggrandizement. You’re probably better off communing with God in the privacy of your own room than strutting your stuff in public. When you toot your own horn in the midst of the assembly, you’re more likely to drive a wedge between you and God than you are to draw closer.

I suggested in the Midweek Message this week that “though there are numerous paths to prayer…we might agree that prayer is that which brings us closer to God, which supports and enlarges [our] sacred relationship” with the Holy One. I wonder if there is agreement. Is there some sort of bottom line for us in that suggestion? At the same time that routine ritual may not bring us very close, moments of complete surprise may lift the veil to sacred.” As I do so often, I come back around to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetic affirmation that “earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God…only those who see take off their shoes.”

What moves us to take off our shoes? What do we see in the world around us that draws us nearer the heart of God? Where do we encounter God in our daily lives? These revealing times and places are the substance of prayer. They may be contained and expressed in sacred ritual and they may burst on us without expectation or warning.

In preparing for this sermon I came across an excellent essay by Jane Vennard, who teaches spirituality at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. While I am reserving the essay for future contemplation in Adult Spiritual Formation, let me share a few things she writes about in exploring a life of prayer. One thing she says in the beginning of her essay about her course, which is entitled, “Life of Prayer”: it “is…an invitation to integrate prayer with life. Life with only a small section devoted to exploring prayer is quite different from putting prayer at the center of life” (Jane E. Vennard, “Exploring a Life of Prayer,” http://www.religion-online.org).  How would our lives – yours and mine – be different if we put prayer at the center?

In our Words of Preparation today, Brian McLaren declares that “The world won’t change unless we change, and we won’t change unless we pull away from the world’s games and pressures. In secrecy, in solitude, in God’s presence, a new aliveness can, like a seed, begin to take root. And if that life takes root in us, we can be sure it will bear fruit through us…fruit that can change the world” (Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking, p. 139). Is this what Vennard believes would be a result of a life of prayer? Surely it would be counted among the possible outcomes. We turn inward so that we may eventually turn outward with integrity and power born of our sacred relationship with God who moves in and through us toward the fulfillment of creation.

Some other key things that Vennard asserts about prayer are these. Prayer may grow from a sense of “pain, agony or despair when a prayer [is] pulled out of us with surprising strength” or it may blossom from “times of great wonder.” As with Browning, she insists that “God speaks to us in many ways if we are open and willing to see and to listen” and she concludes that “although…holy people have much to teach us about prayer…a life of prayer is available to all of us — young and old; alone and in the midst of family; working, retired, and unemployed. God calls all of us into relationship.”

Here is a quick review of the forms she suggests that prayer might take. First there is prayer as action. She tells the tale of student bemoaning the loss of her ability to pray. When asked to recall her “first spiritual experience,” the woman tells a story about being on the playground with her peers when she notices another little girl sitting under a tree alone and weeping, obviously excluded from the group. She chooses to go sit with this other child. “We did not speak,” she says, “we just sat together for the rest of the playtime.” The instructor’s tender response was to tell her that her “compassionate response to a person in need was a spiritual experience. Action can be a form of prayer.”

Vennard continues, prayer is “any activity that nurtures our relationship with God. If reading Scripture brings you closer to God, that is prayer. If having tea with a friend nurtures your relationship with God, that is prayer. If sitting still in a summer garden feeds your soul, that is prayer. Listening to music, teaching Sunday School, serving in a soup kitchen – all can become prayer.”

Prayer can take on forms like praise and thanksgiving; sorrow and anger when we lament and cry out, even shaking our fist at God as in some Psalms; or intercessory prayer when we respond in compassion to and for others. There are prayers of the heart in which we take on a mantra, a simple phrase or word that keeps linking us back to God, such as “God have mercy on me, a sinner” or “Help! Thanks! Wow!” Centering prayer is the discipline of committing ourselves to 15 or 20 minutes, twice a day of silent contemplation of God’s presence. Lectio divina is an ancient Ignatian practice of reading, reflection, response and rest, working with a sacred text. Prayer can be spoken, silent or embodied.

It is easy to see then how a life of prayer involves the discipline of finding and cultivating forms that work for you. Vennard teaches that “The practice of prayer can be comfortable, challenging, easy or difficult. Like human relationships, our relationships with God will go through many stages as we become more intimate. Sometimes the relationship will fill us with great joy, other times it will seem boring and stale. Sometimes the relationship will be as natural as breathing. Sometimes it will demand hard work and require a lot of time and energy. We may even have times when we break our relationship with God, going our own way, paying no attention to God or to prayer. But God does not turn away. God keeps calling. And after a time, a longing wells up in us to return to God. This longing is a sign of faithfulness, for our hearts have been touched; we have heard God’s call.”

What is it that draws you closer to the heart of God, that brings you into right relationship with Holy One, that helps you see the sacred in every common bush as well as in the challenges and struggles of living for you and others? When you pray…fill in the blank. I imagine it involves all of the above and more. Still, God calls and our hearts are restless until they find a way to rest in God. Amen.       

Prayer call for Nicaragua Missionaries

Bonilla family
Carlos and Mayra Bonilla and family, trainers in Nicaragua

Prayer Call by Bob Santilli (BIM ABC-USA) September 25, 2013 for Carlos Bonilla and Mayra Giovanetti, helping train leaders and showing the reality of God’s love and mercy in Nicaragua.

Carlos and Mayra are working with the Baptist Theological Seminary in Nicaragua, accompanying them in the program of informal theological education in the churches of the Baptist Convention of Nicaragua and as writers of curriculum material for the Seminary. They seek each day to show others God’s love and mercy, as a reality.

Please pray for:

•  Wisdom and discernment as we sit to write the curriculum materials for the Seminary.

•  Continued health as we continue our ministry in Nicaragua.
•  Our itinerary this second semester, combination of Seminary and visits to the churches for  workshops and sharing the Word.