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LAUCC FRIDAY POSTS

 

September 16, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

Thank you all for your presence, kind words and the incredibly generous gifts at my installation on Sunday. It was a wonderful celebration and I’m thankful that God has led us to each other and I look forward to all that awaits on the journey.

Ken also offers his thanks for the warm welcome and the wonderful gift and how glad he is to be part of this church as well.

For those who didn’t see the communion set I received, here’s a better picture. It’s a beautiful set and I can’t wait to use it for communion the first Sunday in October!

Thank you again!

As the work continues – we have a lot going on and I invite you to spend some time reading through all of the different ways to support the vision and direction of our community, ways to serve as well as new things to learn.

With Christ’s peace,

Pastor Kyle

 

September 09, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

On September 18 following a brief Leadership Council Meeting after church, we will be having a retreat to envision, revision our mission statement.

I invite you to take some time with the words of our mission statement and reflect on what they mean to you as well as what they mean for us as a faith community at Los Altos UCC.

You can click on the following link and it will take you to the survey where you can write your responses directly into the text boxes. We will also have paper copies available in the sanctuary.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5C8F5PX

Also, please RSVP and let me know if you need childcare that afternoon so we can plan for it.

Thank you in advance for your participation in helping us listen for God’s still speaking voice as we discern who and where God is calling us.

With Christ’s Peace

Pastor Kyle 

 

September 2, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

On September 18 following a brief Leadership Council Meeting after church, we will be having a retreat to envision, revision our mission statement.

For those who may not be familiar, our mission statement currently says,
We are called to be the Church, a channel of God’s extravagant love for all of creation.
Our purpose is to nurture one another, our community and our world into wholeness, and to act with justice, serve others and walk humbly with God.

We are seeking help from you all, the congregation, to help us shape these words into something that reflects who we are and where God is calling us as a community.

I’m including the link to a survey for those who may not be able to attend, for those who would like to write down your thoughts ahead of time, or for those who prefer to share your thoughts in written form.

I invite you to take some time with the words of our mission statement and reflect on what they mean to you as well as what they mean for us as a faith community at Los Altos UCC.

You can click on the following link and it will take you to the survey where you can write your responses directly into the text boxes. We will also have paper copies available in the sanctuary.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5C8F5PX

Thank you in advance for your participation in helping us listen for God’s still speaking voice as we discern who and where God is calling us.
With Christ’s Peace
Pastor Kyle

August 26, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

I just finished up a book on church leadership for new church starts and church plants by Olu Brown – founding pastor of Impact Church. In this particular book he and his team offer a total of 80 “!mpact Ideas” and questions for reflection after each one.

I’ve been treating this book like a workbook with short answer prompts at the end of each idea. He offers some creative ways to think about the whats, the whys, the hows and the wheres of our ministry together.

“!mpact Idea 7” focuses on dreams and dreaming big. In order to think about this though, Brown invites to do some personal reflecting – he asks on page 34, and I quote:

–   “Who inspires you?

–   What places or environments inspire you?

–   Which people in your life give you more energy instead of more worry?

–   Who in your circle of family, friends and acquaintances has demonstrated that they believe with God nothing is impossible?”

Each of these questions could be its own time to journal, but together, Brown paints a picture that invites us to shift our focus to what motivates us and therefore what might motivate and inspire our ministries.

As summer starts winding down, and the year starts taking shape, I invite you to think about these questions; in the hopes that it may lead you to discover how your source/s of inspiration might guide you, and us to do something amazing for the kindom* of God.

With Christ’s Peace

Pastor Kyle

 

August 19, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

We have a lot going on these next couple of months – Here’s just a sampling:

  • We will be collecting school supplies and will have a Lemonade stand to help raise funds for even more supplies on August 28

  • Kick-Off Sunday is right around the corner on September 11.

  • We’ll be starting a new series that will run September-May in worship and in Sunday School called, “The Narrative Lectionary” – which will look at key stories, characters and moments in the overarching Biblical narrative.

  • Much like a dishwasher, I’ll be installed formally, on September 11 at 3pm.

  • THEN on Sunday, September 18th, we’ll begin a time of examining and reflecting on our mission statement during a retreat to which the whole congregation is invited to participate.

    • Does our mission statement reflect who we are and where we are now?

    • Who are we now as a congregation

    • Who does our community aspire to be for others as followers of Jesus?

    • How can our mission statement reflect a renewed sense of mission and vision to, with and for the world as followers of Jesus?

With all of this, we hope that you will join us on the journey and help us to discover who and where God is calling us,

With Christ’s Peace

Pastor Kyle

August 12, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

I invite you to get a piece of paper, a post-it and something to write with, or open a word document on your tablet or your phone and take a few minutes to reflect on these questions: Who (or what) inspires you? And why?

We all come across family members, friends, artists, musicians, change makers, prophets, Biblical and historical figures, fictional characters, pieces of art, poets and poetry, particular scenes or phenomena in nature and we are inspired.

But to what end? I wonder. What is it about these things that inspire us? Is it the good they make us feel? Is there a personal connection to a story or their story? Is it the good they do for the world or sacrifices that have been made in order to seek a greater good? Are there qualities that inspire us to aspire to?

When you reflected on that “why” question, did anything surprise you? Did you learn something about yourself and your own journey as to “why” these things are inspiring?

 We as a community come together on Sunday mornings for a number of different reasons. Some, with the hopes of being inspired, maybe by the music, the scripture, the prayers, or members of the community. Maybe we gather in the hopes that there might be something that inspires us that we can aspire to – be it living with more gratitude for the people in our lives and for creation, giving more of our time and talent in service of the world – however and where that inspiration leads us, I pray that this world keeps inspiring you.

With Christ’s Peace

Pastor Kyle

 

August 5, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

Tolkien once said, “Not all who wander are lost.”

Have you ever set off on a walk with no plan of where you’re going? Where you want to go? Or where you hoped to end up?

And on that walk, have you ever shifted focus from everything that’s going on in your life to the sounds of the birds, the choir of dogs barking, the visions of outdoor cats living their best lives, the ways the flowers of the jacarandas fall from their trees? Have you ever noticed the way the pavement feels beneath your feet; the broken, uneven sidewalks, side-stepping onto grass to allow fellow sojourners to get by?

It feels easy to get caught up in all of the stuff and we can lose sight of the world around us. And not to any fault or guilting, life just happens and sometimes it gets away from us. So we take some time to walk, or to watch out our windows and we wander or we let our minds wander wherever they will as we see, hear, envision, feel and experience all that is creation.

That to me is the stuff of God – it’s that call to remember all that’s there, all that’s here. All that has been and all that can be; all of the growth and change that is happening around us that reminds us that the world is still moving, living and breathing. And because sometimes we just can’t sit still and our minds are restless, we wander. Because sometimes that’s just what we need to do. And sometimes, that’s what God needs as well.

May the peace of Christ be with you in all your wanderings,

Pastor Kyle

 

July 29, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

Between the COVID-19 Response Team and the Leadership Council, we have been listening closely to any updates on guidelines or mandates regarding masking.

On Wednesday, July 27, the city of Long Beach released a statement that the city would “align with the California Department of Public Health…which strongly urges, but does not require, masking in most circumstances.”

You can read the full press release here: https://www.longbeach.gov/press-releases/official-statement-by-city-of-long-beach-health-and-human-services-department-regarding-rising-covid-19-cases-and-masking/

In our last update we stated that we would follow any mandates that the state, city and local health departments provided – what this means for LAUCC is that masks will remain optional.

We do ask that if you are experiencing symptoms or have tested positive for Covid-19, that you please refrain from attending in-person worship services and ask that you mask if you do.

If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact myself, members of the Covid-19 Response Team and/or the Leadership Council.

With Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Kyle

 

July 22, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

I’ve been described as a lot of things – but handy was never one of those adjectives; it’s never been my strong suit. I have plenty of family members that tinker, build and renovate, do electrical and repair work, I am not among them. That’s where this next story comes in.

 In my former church we would go on mission trips with the youth group every year. There was one probably 5 years ago, working with The Appalachia Service Project. We were told to bring whatever tools we had along with us. I brought what I thought was a standard sized hammer. It turns out, it was not.

 It was in fact much smaller than a standard sized hammer – one of the adult leaders was quick to point out that it was not in fact a standard sized hammer. His expertise – he was an architect by trade, so he knew what he was talking about.

 Although! In my defense, during that trip as we were replacing paneling, that tiny hammer came in quite handy; with it, we were able to tack the nails into the corners and thus the laminate panels were put in place.

So as you take stock of what tools you have and what gifts God has given you, just wait, keep working, keep moving forward because you never know when that tiny hammer might just come in handy. Because sometimes we might have the right tools, and we just don’t know what the job is quite yet. And God will let us know where those tools for building, creating, renovating, and repairing can be used.

With Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Kyle

 

July 15, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

We’re halfway through the summer. Amazing how quickly it goes by and in some ways how long it feels it has dragged on. There’s been no shortage of news, controversy, uncertainty, and uneasiness as we head into the second half, and yet we have this time.

So we take vacations, we go to the beach a bit more, we get out and walk, watch sunsets, stare up at the cloudless night skies, go to the park, try and see as many of our friends and family as possible. We spend time living in hope that we can find ways to make sense of this chaotic world for ourselves, for our lives and for our spirits.

And a sort of spiritual rest is needed as well. We need time for sabbath – for soul rest. We need time to recenter and recalibrate so we don’t get lost in feelings of powerlessness when we do in fact have quite a bit we can do. Our spirits need time to recharge and experience the awe, wonder and hope that God is and does provide.

Our scripture for this Sunday is Psalm 150 – and it talks about God’s sanctuary – “the mighty firmament…with trumpet sound.” I invite you to spend some time in your sanctuary, the place or places where you meet God – whether that’s at church (which is super great by the way), or if it’s at the beach (which is also super great), or a park (again, great), or standing outside staring at the night sky (definitely great). Wherever it is, find it, relax in it, pray in it and be with God in it and allow your spirit to feel God’s presence as you face whatever lay ahead.

With Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Kyle

July 08, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

As a kid, my dad would take my brothers and I camping in our Jayco pop-up to any number of Jellystone Parks or KOA Campgrounds around the country.

I remember being entranced by the Yogi Bear and Boo Boo characters running around those parks; memories of fishing with my training fishing pole, it was light blue and white with a cartoon Mickey Mouse on it. Then there was the time we tried the fly fishing rod…sorry dad, but none of that stuck.

A few years into my first call, I remember visiting one Jellystone Park we often used to go to as kids. My best friend and I walked around the park that seemed so big when I was 5. We played mini-golf on what was the same course. We paddle-boated on that same Lake Yogi – which is a lot harder when you’re the one actually doing the paddling. I remembered the arcade that was still there, the pavilion attached to the general store, a hub for the campground.

There’s something special about those places that we can go back to; walking and re-walking along paths that brought and bring us peace of heart, mind, and spirit. Being in places where we were carefree, and just plain happy.

We remember these places for what they were and what they are – places where we feel joy, that divine, unabashed, unshy, uncomplicated joy. Places where when we revisit them in our memories or in person that that same joy floods back to us and we are revitalized, and reinvigorated for the journey.

In these complicated days, I pray that you have those places, and that you spend some time remembering them or you go and visit them in-person. If you don’t have those places, I invite you to explore, adventure, wonder and wander to find the places where your spirit finds its joy, and God’s.

With Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Kyle

July 01, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

“Then Gregory [the Great] reminded me of the greatness of souls, how their true strength can emerge in the worst of times, when the known world is collapsing. “My mind divided,” he said to himself, “torn to pieces by so many problems.” – Kathleen Norris, “The Cloister Walk”

Given the events of the past week– I paused as I read these words, felt my shoulders relax as I was able to take a breath and remember that God is present and working through us.

Inspired by a post from a friend of mine, Rev. Catherine Erwin, who took this quotation a step further and reminded us of our “responsibility to face…the troubles, the challenges, and to continue to work to insure that the poor are more than fed, [the] widow is provided a true life, and the sick are afforded healing, and that we set the captives free.”

Many are hurting these days and are seeking ways to do good and to help the most vulnerable in our midst and around the country. And there are ways to help. There are countless efforts out there facing the injustices of the world systemically and are seeking to do good through dismantling and pushing back against systems and tools of oppression. This is one example of the “greatness of souls” demonstrated by our ceaseless efforts to fulfill Christ’s call to love and care for even in the midst of “the worst times”.

If you need help finding ways to do good, let me know and I will do my best to help connect you with resources, efforts and ministries that are doing the work.

If you need space to vent, to cry, to be upset, I can be a listening ear, please don’t hesitate to connect, call or email.

May the peace of Christ be with you,
Pastor Kyle

 

June 24, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

In early June, I proposed a question to the Leadership Council about stories. This question coming out of Richard Giles’ book, “Re-Pitching the Tent: Re-ordering the Church Building for Mission and Worship” – I invited the council to walk around the exterior of the church building and reflect on what stories does our building and property tell others about who we are and what we believe as a community of faith.

In just a couple of weeks, the Leadership Council will meet in the Sanctuary (again) and I’ll invite them to reflect on what stories our sanctuary space tells others about who we are and what we believe.

Looking even further ahead, I’ll be inviting Leadership and even further, the ministry teams and you all to reflect on our mission statement and think about the ways we have, do/are and will live into those words we have committed to and covenanted to living into and living out.

I know that summer is a time to rest, take vacations, spend time with family and friends— I fully support and encourage you to do that! Enjoy this life, we’re supposed to!  But when you have a moment, when you have a breath, when you take a walk or sit on the beach, journey with us as we (re)discover the ways God is calling us to live out and into God’s story.

Prayers for a safe and healthy summer,
Pastor Kyle

 

June 17, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

We’re reading Peter Enns, “For the Bible Tells Me So…” and he talks about how God loves stories – so much so that we have multiple accounts of similar stories in the Bible. In our latest chapter, Enns hones in on 1 & 2 Samuel/Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels in the New Testament. He examines these stories as different accounts and interpretations of common events.

And yet the different experiences and expressions of these histories are compiled into one book; for us, it’s the Bible – which means (to me) that having multiple perspectives and experiences of histories, prayers, faith journeys, struggles is imperative for us to understand who we are and where we are in the present moment; and who we are and where we are on our faith journeys.

This has me thinking about history in general. I wonder, how many voices we haven’t heard in history? Who are the voices that have been living these histories and haven’t even been acknowledged as having a voice in history? What do the unheard, unacknowledged voices have to share with us about understanding our past that might shape a more beautiful future? What voices can we listen to that will illuminate and open the scriptures in holy and wholly ways?

I invite you to start looking for voices on scripture, on history, on life that you haven’t heard before or, rather, voices that you haven’t heard yet. Let us prayerfully read these holy histories with open hearts and eyes to so many who live them and yet remain unheard and unseen.

And if you need any suggestions, let me know and we’ll explore together.

Peace,
Pastor Kyle

 

June 10, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

Morning dog walks have become quite the experience.  Somedays he’s set on one path, his forward motion is both determined and intentional often (too often) pulling me along for the ride. And it never ceases to amaze me how much pull a 14lb. dog has.

There are other days where it seems like he literally has to stop at every tree, shrub, flower, succulent, fire hydrant, stop sign, spot of grass and smell it as though the most interesting thing in the world has just passed by. On those days, he tends to zigzag along the sidewalk as if distracted or overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells. It’s quite amazing how he’s able to keep the forward motion even as his mind goes a thousand miles a second jumping around like the bouncing ball on the lyrics in a sing-along.

I think we can all agree that it feels like our hearts, minds and spirits are being pulled in so many different directions; and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with which direction we’re going.  And yet we do just that, we keep moving forward.

Sometimes it’s with that same determination and intention and surprising pull that our life has and other times it’s just zigzagging through naming, noting, paying attention to all of the overwhelm we’re feeling and yet we keep moving forward.

As we figure out where we are in life, what kind of day it will be or what all we have to get done, I fully believe that that inner movement that propels us forward, that guides us, almost instinctively through all that’s going on is that Divine voice, that Holy Presence assuring us we are going in the right direction.

With Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Kyle

 

June 3, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

Happy Birthday Church! As we celebrate the call of the disciples and the apostles this Sunday, we begin with the scriptures and experiences of Jesus they shared.

As the Christian Education Team begins to shape Christian Education and Faith Formation across ages – we’re going to start with something that’s common to us all: the scriptures.

Here’s what I mean by that – at our last Christian Education meeting, the team selected Cokesbury’s “Celebrate: Wonder” curriculum for the summer; which has set scriptures for each week. Then on Sunday morning’s during worship, we will be reading, learning about and having conversations with the same scriptures that our young people will be in Sunday School.

That means that all ages from our youngest to our most respected senior members of the congregation will explore these stories together.

We’re hoping this will invite and welcome conversation across ages and across families about what the stories from the Bible mean to us, our community here at Los Altos and how we make sense of these stories in the world, together.

We hope you’re just as excited about this new adventure as we are!

Pastor Kyle

 

May 27, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

I’ve been trying to find the words to say with regards to yet another school shooting and have had trouble articulating what has already been spoken as powerful prophetic calls to “end the cycle of violence” as well as words of comfort to the hurting and the grieving. As I offer this prayer from the national officers of the United Church of Christ, please know that we are here as a community to be present and to hold space.

“In utter and irrepressible grief we offer these words, giving collective voice to the anguish we all feel.
God, hear our prayer:
For the [nineteen] children now dead;
For the [two faculty] now dead;
For the parents, family, and friends who will spend the rest of their lives aching every night from the weight of this;
For a schoolhouse rendered trauma-laden and grief-stricken in a matter of minutes, whose students will suffer PTSD in the wake of this tragedy;
For the caregivers in Uvalde now burdened with the task of managing the shared and collective grief of a traumatized community who love their children;
For those who feel the new burden of useless guilt in the aftermath of this, wondering what else they could have done to prevent this;
For the nation, so in love with our weapons that we continue to tolerate these mass shootings and the grief they inflict without ever building the collective will needed to address it fully;
For the world, suffering a massive and collective grief of its own and witnessing acts of cruelty daily too numerous to fully process.
Heal our gaping wounds.
Restore our sense of compassion.
Quiet the restlessness within us.
Settle the building righteous anger.
Quicken the desire for peace.
Remove the chasm that sees race and religion and political persuasion as the marks of a person’s worth and value.
End the cycle of violence that begets more violence.
Silence the voices that broker in fear and division and create the hatred we see mounting everywhere between us.
Quiet the troubled soul thinking of grabbing the next gun and ending innocent lives.
Empower us all to act now, refusing to wait for the next horror show before we change the laws that make guns and their discharge so accessible.
Turn anguish to action; our rage to restoration; our hatred to love; our grief to hope.
Let it never happen again. Ever. How much more can we bear, O Lord? How much more can we endure.
Be our rock of refuge.
Be our light of inspiration.
Be our beacon of hope.
Be the arms of love that hold us until the pain recedes.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Amen.”

The National Officers of the United Church of Christ:
The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President

The Rev. Traci Blackmon
The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson
Associate General Ministers

Lifting you all in light and in prayer,

Pastor Kyle

 

May 20, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

I share with you the email sent out by our conference staff here in the Southern California-Nevada Conference of the UCC on Monday morning. Please take the time to read this and pray for the lives lost and let us reflect on these words, take them to heart and examine where we might turn our faith into action.

Ruth Whitfield: 86 years old. Matriarch and caretaker. Loved her family unconditionally.
Pearl “Pearly” Young: 77 years old. Killed while shopping for groceries. For 25 years she fed people in the park every single week.  
Katherine Massey: 73 years old. Known as a beautiful soul to all who knew her. 
Heyward Patterson: ​​Also known as Deacon Patterson. Tenny Boy. Boy Tenny. Tenny. Drove people who needed transportation to the store. One of the most consistent volunteers at the church soup kitchen. 
Celestine Chaney: Grandmother to six, great-grandmother to one. Cancer survivor. Was at the store to pick up strawberry shortcake—her favorite. 
Aaron Salter: Security guard at the store. It’s been reported that he put himself between others and the shooter.  
Andre Mackneil: 53 years old. Was picking up a surprise birthday cake for his grandson. 
Roberta Drury: 32 years old. Her sister shares that she was always willing to help and laugh. 
Margus Morrison: 52 years old. 
Geraldine Talley: 62 years old. 

Their lives matter. 

As we learn about more gun violence at Geneva Presbyterian Church during a fellowship gathering, we find ourselves issuing another statement with a list of God’s beloved children who were murdered in the name of racism and white supremacy. We are heartbroken and angry. The loss and trauma is immeasurable.

We are, once again, called by God to recognize and resist the pervasive and destructive impact of white supremacy on our world, in our churches, and in our own selves. As we read the news of a young white man who murdered 10 people in a predominantly Black area of Buffalo, New York, it is easy for us to distance ourselves from this radicalized extremist. However, we know the shooter was supported by a system that perpetuates racism. With every microaggression we ignore or tolerate, and with every prejudice we silently accept, we contribute to the system that enables these injustices to continue.

Let us reflect. How are we—and how are our churches—a part of the system of white supremacy that allows for this to continue to happen?

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. Thoughts and prayers, and statements of solidarity only go so far. Now, as we pray for the families of those whose loved ones have been murdered, let us also pray for the will to answer the call to reject white supremacy in our world and in ourselves, and that racial equity begins with us.

Rev. Kris Bergstrom, Acting Conference Minister
Edith Guffey, Project Manager for Administration
Rev. Sarah Averette-Phillips, SCNC-UCC Board Chair

May 13, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends!

The COVID Response Team met on Monday to discuss our current masking policy. We decided we need your help in understanding where we’re at as a community – so we have put together a survey for you to take with a few short questions. Your responses will be anonymous and they will help the COVID Response Team and Leadership Council discern our path forward.

All individuals and families are invited to fill out the survey by clicking the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TVF7DZP

The survey will be live through Sunday, May 22.

Please note that we will also have paper copies of the survey available in the sanctuary over the next two Sundays.

On May 23, the COVID Response Team and the Leadership Council will be meeting to discuss the results of the survey. The Leadership Council will then make a decision as to how we go forward and we will share the decision in the May 27 email.

On behalf of the COVID Response Team and the Leadership Council, I thank you in advance for your participation on this ever-evolving journey together.

With Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Kyle

 

May 6, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends!

Mothers’ Day is a joyful day of celebration and gratitude and for you we give thanks! It can also be a complicated day for mothers and for children. Relationships and family dynamics, life situations and circumstances between mothers and children can be challenging and even heartbreaking at times.

On this Mothers’ Day, I invite us to think about all of the mothers there are, and all of relationships we have with the mothers of our lives, and let us hold these relationships up as we lift one another up in prayer.

Let us pray,
For mothers that are and will be;
For mothers who loved so much they gave others the chance to love theirs;
For mothers who have lost before they even met;
For mothers who knew only for a short time and made a difficult choice;
For mothers who do their best,
For mothers who are absent and estranged,
For those who seek to become mothers and yet struggle,
For those who have become mothers to the children, step-children, family and friends in their lives.
Dear God, we hold all mothers in Your Light this day. Amen.

Know that whatever your story, you are loved by God and lifted up by this community. And I am here to listen and to pray.

Peace to you this Mothers’ Day,
Pastor Kyle

 

April 29, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

Summer is right around the corner which means graduations, outdoor concerts, cookouts, day trips to the beach, hiking in the mountains, and lots of adventures.

As we embark on these new adventures, we think about the journeys we’re on; the journeys we are ready to start by taking that first breath to push us forward. We think about the physical, emotional and spiritual miles we are about to log on our step counters this summer and we pray that we are able to be present for every one of those miles.

There’s a lot that is happening in our lives this time of year and there’s a lot that’s happening at Los Altos UCC as we gear up for the summer. You can find out more in this month’s newsletter or you can ask me about some of these exciting happenings.

We hope you’ll take some time and make part of our adventure, part of yours this summer.

With Christ’s peace,
Pastor Kyle

 

April 22, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

A couple of the college students in my former church and I spent about a week in Guatemala on a learning trip with one of their ministry partners: Growing Hope Globally. This organization works within communities to develop sustainable farming practices and growing techniques with crops that are indigenous and already widely used.

I remember one farmer specifically, we’ll call her Elena, who shared with us about what she was growing, showing us her small plot where she grew radishes mostly, with a few other kinds of produce in there as well, though radishes had become a particular favorite. Our guide asked in Spanish through an indigenous translator whether Elena liked to eat the fruit or the leaves best. Now, we were also touring around the community with several other local farmers and families who began laughing at the question; many of them not knowing that you can eat radish greens. Elena started teaching members in her community right then and there about what you can do with just a single radish.

I mentioned on Palm Sunday that Jesus showed us that it doesn’t take a lot to begin transforming the world by way of love, healing, relationship and community. What Elena did was take just a small, simple piece of knowledge about foods they were already growing and eating and was able to change or possibly even transform her community’s understanding of what they had.

We all have gifts that we can share with the world, we have knowledge, skills that others do not and sharing these gifts with others can be the first fruits of transformation. Identifying and naming what we already have and have learned and sharing that with someone else who then passes on this knowledge, this new perspective that then adds to their life and causes them to grow.

I pray that you discern, discover and share the first fruits of transformation as you start to transform the world.

Peace,
Pastor Kyle

April 15, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

As I’m sitting at my desk in my office – it’s about 1:30 on Wednesday afternoon. In between morning and evening sessions of the book study, the document for my Easter Sunday sermon open, the sun is shining outside, and I have a chrysalis on my desk from Roberta Boyd – waiting for the monarch butterfly to emerge.

I pull a piece of paper from my printer and grab the few pens, markers, highlighters I have here at my desk and I begin to pray. I think through a few names and words for God – Holy, Comfort, Breath, YHWH, in preparing for Easter I settle on one: life. And I start focusing on a doodle around that word – letting the freedom of the pencil, markers and paper carry me into this place of thinking about all the ways that God is life – renewed, enduring, persevering, fulfillment, hopeful, community, all of these integral to the meaning of life.

The doodle, resembling a flower – I begin to do things a little out of order and start making branches out to my prayers.  Remembering that each one of these prayers is tied to life, and most of all to God.

Please take some time and doodle your prayers and then sit with your drawing for a while. When your drawing is complete offer a simple, “Amen.”

Prayers for a blessed holy week and a Happy Easter!

Pastor Kyle

 

April 8, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

I remember having a conversation with my grandma right around the time she turned 80 about how her meatloaf was one of my comfort foods and I needed to learn how to make it. We found an afternoon and she had set up two mixing bowls – we would each make our own; the ingredients in quantities she figured that came with a disclaimer – “I haven’t used a recipe in 30+ years, so this is about what I could figure out.”

Her recipe went something like: a mix of beef and pork, coarse chopped onion, Italian style breadcrumbs, seasoned salt, an egg or two, mix it all together, form it into a loaf in a pan and cover the entire loaf with tomato paste then bake.

When the meatloaves were ready I asked if she wanted to try mine, she politely said, “We’ll eat mine, you can take yours home to have.” “Are you sure?” I replied. “No, that’s okay, we’ll eat mine” and she just smiled.

I’ve made variations, I’ve tried different ways of making her meatloaf, each time it’s different but this story remains. It’s a story that I will tell to anyone who wants to hear it for the first time or anyone willing to hear it again and again. That time was sacred, and holy, we were in the presence of beloved community.

As you reflect on the story of the loaves and fishes and as we approach Maundy Thursday, remembering the last supper, remember the meals that were sacred, and holy and when you were in the presence of beloved community.

May you enjoy, cherish and be nourished by the memory of those meals,

Pastor Kyle

 

April 1, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

As I reflect my own knots – I mentioned feeling unable to act in the midst of all that is going on around us. What I can do, is I can listen to stories, and histories and experiences to help broaden my understanding of the world and how we are where we are. To start untying this knot, I am putting together a reading list on topics ranging from world histories, to histories of this land – both pre- and post European colonization, to the stories and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community and our families.

It seems a little ambitious perhaps and I recognize that getting to everything on the reading list will take time, but at least this gives me somewhere to begin untying this knot in order to help understanding move to informed, faithful action.

As I reflect on my knot about environmental impact – I’m researching compost bins in order that I might start intentionally thinking about what I throw away, how I can reduce waste or intentionally choose ways to make something enriching and meaningful out of food scraps.

I’ve invited you to revisit those knots that you tied last week – are there any that you have untied or are starting to? What was that experience like? What steps did you take to undo some of those knots? What have you learned about yourself, the world, and your relationship with God?

Peace,

Pastor Kyle

 

March 25, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

This past week I invited you to take a piece of string, an old shoelace, a string of yarn and tie some knots into it – knots of things you are wrestling with; emotional knots, spiritual knots, physical knots. And then to prayerfully consider what it might take to undo those knots.

And I think about my own knots – I tie a knot for what feels paralyzing due to the overwhelming global situation. I tie a knot for my role in caring for our environment and a sustainable future – especially now living in a state that deals with drought regularly. I tie a knot for the ways I feel like I can live with more gratitude for God, and for those who love, care for and continue to support me no matter when and no matter where on life’s journey we are.

As I’m sitting with these knots, I haven’t moved into trying to find ways to undo them. I’m praying about them, sitting in some of the discomfort and worry; trying to hone in on some specific features of the knots like: what about my inactions or hesitations to act are knots, what about the environment, climate and sustainability is causing a knot? What is it about gratitude that feels like a knot worth tying and a knot worth undoing?

As I continue to sit with these knots, I keep in mind the first icon I painted was a drawing provided by my instructor, Peter Pearson – and over the course of a week, we painted, “Mary, Undoer of Knots” – I’ve included a picture of the icon here. I’ve held onto this icon since 2018 and it’s always been in a visible place, watching over and ready to assist when the time comes to work with God to undo some knots.

 

March 18, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

Last Sunday I invited you to think about making promises, either to yourself, to those around you or even, to God. As I reflected on this spiritual practice for myself, I thought about the dog we adopted last weekend.

This 13 lb., chihuahua, dachshund, beagle mix has brought a new sense of gratitude and awe for the smiles for the joys he brings to life. So, herein lies the promise I made this week – to do the best I could to care for him. Seems simple enough, but it’s a promise I know I can keep.

We’ve taken him to the vet for his initial check-up, we’re going for walks daily, making sure he’s well-fed and learning his personality quirks; little steps to ensure that I am doing my part to fulfill my promises to him. Hoping that these little things help me understand other promises to those I love and care about in my life.

As we get ready to start week 3 of our Lenten journey, how is your Lenten journey going? What promise or promises have you decided to make and how have you taken steps towards keeping those promises?

Peace,
Pastor Kyle

 

March 11, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

Where have you all been finding awe this past week? What has the experience felt like to take some time to pause and be in the presence of God and to let your mind wander in wonder about all that creation is? I’d be curious to know what that experience has been like.

Or, are you struggling with trying to find awe in the midst of the ongoing conflicts around the world? If so, know you’re in good company.

There’s this odd tension that exists especially during this time of Lent – which is intended to be about walking with Jesus to the cross and seeing him through to the joy of resurrection on Easter.  Joy is there and will be there, but there’s still the road ahead to get us to Easter.  There were a couple days between the Cross and resurrection; symbolic of how change and transformation take time and need time.

If we can recognize and name the fact that the change and transformation take time we begin to receive a bit of the gift of holy patience; that holy patience something that God has demonstrated with humankind for quite some time now.  God is holding out hope for the transformation that we, our communities and our world are capable of, we just need to take our time because we need that time.

Continued prayers for your Lenten journey,

Pastor Kyle

March 4, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

I can’t believe it’s already been 6 weeks since we arrived in Long Beach! And in that month we’ve celebrated communion, re-opening, Ash Wednesday and I’ve been able to meet with or talk to a number of you all and learn so much more about what makes Los Altos UCC so special.

As we’re learning more about each other and discerning our path forward together, I thought I’d share with you some of the goals I have for the rest of my first hundred days and into the first quarter of this year –

I’m in the process of trying to meet with every family unit of Los Altos – whether that’s by phone, zoom or in-person. My hope is to get a chance to meet everyone and for you all to meet me and have some time to hear your stories, how your connected to Los Altos and what your dreams are for this community.

I’ve also been looking at ways to support both the Discovery Preschool and the Montessori school here on our campus.

My hope is to work with David and the worship team to create a meaningful Lenten journey as well as to help us vision what lifelong faith formation/Christian Education looks like for us in our church. Maybe there’s some opportunities and possibilities for intergenerational studies, worship services and more participation?

In these anxious times and uncertain times, if there are any prayer requests, surgeries, health concerns, life events and you are in need of pastoral care or support, please call or email me.

With Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Kyle

 

February 25, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

I recognize the events of the past few days have left us all and the world rattled with anxiety and uncertainty. And yet, while we can turn off the news on our TVs or radios or devices, we must not become numb to the physical, emotional, spiritual and human costs that war takes.

We must also recognize that there will be displaced people from Ukraine as well as already displaced peoples from around the world because of violence, oppression, hunger, social and political upheaval. It is overwhelming and we feel powerless to act, but we must hold fast and find ways to hear and respond to the cries of those calling out for peace.

As I offer this prayer written by the officers of the United Church of Christ, I invite you to reach out if you are in need of prayer and support through this time. You can reach me via email or at the church 562-596-6718.

Holy God,

Hear our prayers for all those who will die today because of war in Ukraine and other war-torn countries all over this world. Grant them an end to the suffering of this world and eternal peace that is only found in You.

We pray for the people of Ukraine, Russia, and all nations — that war and bloodshed can be avoided and a new, just peace can be forged out of this crisis. We ask God grant wisdom to the leaders of nations, calling them to end provocation on all sides and invest instead in “the things that make for peace” as called for in all our faith traditions (Luke 19:41-2).

We pray for an end to the deep insecurity and mistrust on all sides, and call on leaders to build trust, based not on military might or alliances, but on the basis of our shared future and common humanity.  Now is a time in which past harm should be acknowledged and addressed, and new partnerships can be envisioned.

We pray for and call on our leaders to have the courage to take small, verifiable, and independent steps toward peace, inviting others to reciprocate.  Now is time to invest in conflict resolution, diplomacy and international cooperation — not more weapons which only escalate tension in the region.

Be with those suffering in ways that we cannot.

Protect them from devastation in ways those positioned in authority will not. Shield and comfort them as they confront the terror of violence that surrounds them. Hold them close to your heart and stay the hand of the enemies against them. Give us the courage and the strength to cry aloud against wickedness in high places that dare to harm others made in your image.

Comfort the children and heed their cries to be saved from harm in this world.

Make us a people who love our children, all of our children, more than we love greed, power, and control. Overturn governments of tyranny wherever they are found. Disrupt the intentions of evil and give us power to stand against demonic forces of greed and control. Grant that peace and justice come to warring nations by the hands of those courageous enough to stand and study war no more. Let Thy kin-dom come on earth as it is in heaven, we pray.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The National Officers of the United Church of Christ
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer — General Minister and President
The Rev. Traci A. Blackmon — Associate General Minister
The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson — Associate General Minister

 

February 18, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

This Lent Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark will serve as our guide through this Lenten Season. The scriptures selected for this season come from her thoughts on the different things that happen at night, in the wilderness, in the storm clouds.

Wednesday, March 2nd at 7pm (in-person and online) will begin our Lenten journey with an Ash Wednesday service. As we begin to explore our relationships with God, each Sunday will have a particular theme we’ll focus on for that week and I’ll invite you into a spiritual practice reflecting on that theme.

March 2 – Ash Wednesday – Penitence
March 6 – Awe
March 13 – Promise
March 20 – Struggle
March 27 – Freedom
April 3 – Nourishment
April 10 – Palm Sunday – Chaos
April 14 – Maundy Thursday, Friendship
*April 17 – Easter Sunday! Resurrection! 2 Services!

*A note about Easter Sunday, 2 services – 
6:10am @ Belmont Shore Beach “BYOC” – Bring Your Own Communion Sunrise Service.
10am @ Los Altos UCC – online and in-person

I look forward to a rich and meaningful Lent this year as we journey together.

Here is also a link to a PDF with the full Lenten schedule so you can print out and have a reminder of what’s happening this season.
https://losaltosucc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Lent-2022.pdf

With Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Kyle

 

February 11, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

The COVID Response Team and the Leadership Council have met and here is the plan that we have decided on for re-opening:

We are re-opening for worship THIS SUNDAY, February 13 at 10am – Super Bowl Sunday!

First and foremost – If you are feeling ill or are experiencing symptoms (COVID, cold/flu or any other reason) please stay home, rest and join us for worship on Facebook Live.  This is for your wellbeing, your friends and family, and for our community.

If you are coming to worship –
–       We will ask if you are experiencing or experienced any symptoms in the last 24 hours, if yes, we will ask that you please return home and rest.
–       If you do enter the sanctuary, masks and social distancing are required.
–       We will be contact tracing, greeters/ushers will be checking you in, and if you are visiting us for the first time, we ask for at least an email address or phone number in the event of an exposure.
–       We will be taking a photo of the congregation to aid in contact tracing – this will not be published anywhere and will only be used to help us contact folks in the event of an exposure.
–       Nursery Care & Sunday School will be available.
–       Soloists and worship leaders will remove their masks only when they are performing or leading worship and will be spaced away from the congregation.

You’ll also notice that the sanctuary looks a bit different as you can see from the photo. We’ve done our best to create as much distance as possible for your and everyone’s safety.

These are a lot of details, and we thank you for your patience and flexibility and as we look forward to returning to in-person worship! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or anyone on the Leadership Council.

With Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Kyle
Ginger Joseph – Moderator
Judy Ekmalian – Vice-Moderator
& The Leadership Council

 

February 4, 2022

Greetings Los Altos Friends,

The COVID Response Team and the Leadership Council have met and here is the plan that we have decided on for re-opening:

We are re-opening for worship on February 13 at 10am – Super Bowl Sunday!

First and foremost – If you are feeling ill or are experiencing symptoms (COVID, cold/flu or any other reason) please stay home, rest and join us for worship on Facebook Live.  This is for your wellbeing, your friends and family, and for our community.

If you are coming to worship –
–       We will ask if you are experiencing or experienced any symptoms in the last 24 hours, if yes, we will ask that you please return home and rest.
–       If you do enter the sanctuary, masks and social distancing are required.
–       We will be contact tracing, greeters/ushers will be checking you in, and if you are visiting us for the first time, we ask for at least an email address or phone number in the event of an exposure.
–       We will be taking a photo of the congregation to aid in contact tracing – this will not be published anywhere and will only be used to help us contact folks in the event of an exposure.
–       Nursery Care & Sunday School will be available.
–       Soloists and worship leaders will remove their masks only when they are performing or leading worship and will be spaced away from the congregation.

These are a lot of details, and we thank you for your patience and flexibility and as we look forward to returning to in-person worship! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or anyone on the Leadership Council.

With Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Kyle
Ginger Joseph – Moderator
Judy Ekmalian – Vice-Moderator
& The Leadership Council

 

January 28, 2022

Even though we are still worshiping digitally, we are still the body of Christ grounded and gathered in our call to be community, to, with and for the world.

I witnessed that last Sunday during the annual meeting. A great opportunity to be together and see you all (even if in our own little squares). I was able to see just how much you have cared about this church, the grounds, the preschool throughout the course of the pandemic and how you all are looking ahead. This is a powerful testimony that even after and in the midst of these strange days you have found the resilience and dedication to discovering and discerning new ways to be the body of Christ. This is the hope that we need and the world needs right now.

While I don’t have much to report, now that boxes are unpacked, I will say that I am starting to make calls and appointments with folks and as I learn about who you are, what your passions are and maybe where God is calling and leading you? And how and where we are being called together.

With Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Kyle

 

 

January 21, 2022

What a joy it is to FINALLY! be worshiping with you all. Ken and I have made it all the way from the cold, snowy weather of the Midwest to the beautiful sunny, and warm winter days of Long Beach. We’re both incredibly grateful for the warm welcome we have received and cannot thank you all and the search team enough for trusting the Spirit that has allowed our paths to meet. Also – it’ll take a minute for the Midwest to run its course, so please forgive the sandals and the occasional pair of shorts – because this weather right now is like spring to us.

And so we begin our journey together. It is a new chapter in the life and story of Los Altos UCC, one on which we embark (still) in the midst of a pandemic; a journey where we are called to be the creative body of Christ learning what exactly it means to be the church in the digital age, in the 21st century and in this ever-changing world.

As we begin our walk together, it is my hope to connect with every family at Los Altos in the first hundred days – via zoom, phone call, or in-person at a safe distance and masked as comfort levels allow. I want to get to know you, your hopes and dreams for your lives and for the church, I want to learn about what your passions are and how you see yourself living out your faith in life so that we as a community might in-turn work together to build, strengthen and sustain a visible example of the Body of Christ.

I also ask for your grace and your patience as I learn your names, how your families are connected and the rituals, traditions and the stories of the life of this congregation as we discern how and where God is leading us.

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out for prayer, conversation, to share a joy, or just to say hello. You can reach me at the church – 562-596-6718 or via email pastor.los.altos@gmail.com

With Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Kyle

 

January 14, 2022

Beloved…

The time has come to part.  Of course this brings mixed emotions!  You are transitioning into an exciting new chapter in your life as a congregation.  I thank you for the privilege of being your pastor these past two years.  These are relationships I will cherish for a long time to come.  However, as you know, as a pastor moves on the relationship to the congregation changes.  I will no longer be available to you for pastoral care, memorial services, etc..  And as I warned you at the very beginning, I will be “unfriending” you on Facebook.  Sounds harsh, but it is not only in my ethical commitment, but it assures that you will focus your attention on your new pastor.

This Sunday in worship we will share in a liturgy of departure.  Following worship there will be a time of fellowship on ZOOM.  The link is in this email.  You remember ZOOM, that platform we used for 15 months to keep in contact.  I hope you will sign on, if only for a brief time.  Then in the afternoon I understand there is a little luncheon planned.  I look forward to that!

You are a beloved community of faith, and if I have done my job, you will soar.  And soar you will!
Dr. Seuss reminds us:
Out there, things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along,
You’ll start happening too.”
(“Oh, the Places you’ll Go!”)

I look forward to being with you on Sunday morning at 10 am, even if it is on-line.

Blessings,
Stan

January 7, 2022

Beloved…

As I write this, it is the first day of Epiphany.  We celebrate Epiphany on January 6.  Easter, Pentecost, and Epiphany were the important holy days for the early church.  Christmas came along later.  The word epiphany means appearance or manifestation, and Epiphany marks the first manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles.  Although, at our Christmas pageants, we usually group the shepherds and wise men together around the manger, the shepherds came from nearby and the wise men from afar.  The wise men’s visit probably took place long after the shepherds had departed.  Mary and Joseph remained in the vicinity of Bethlehem and Jerusalem until Jesus had been circumcised and presented in the temple.  Presumably the wise men visited during the latter part of Mary and Joseph’s visit to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Scriptures:    Isaiah 60:1-6; MATTHEW 2:1-12

We invite you to come and worship, even if on FB Live, sing and enjoy the friendship of this loving congregation.

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

December 24,2021

 Beloved…

Tonight is Christmas Eve, and once again we will have to rely upon our technology to get us through the time of worship.  I wish it weren’t so, but out of an overwhelming concern for your health and well being, we have decided (after much anguish and debate) to limit our Christmas Eve Service to FB Live streaming.  I hope that you will tune in, and join the worship team as they provide a time of carols and candlelight.  There will only be 5 people in the Sanctuary, well distanced from each other… Pulpit, Lectern, Piano, soloist, and AV Tech table.  You may wish to print the bulletin so that you can sing along with the carols.

See you online!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

December 19,2021

Beloved…

We hear the Christmas story every year. There is nothing new about the manger, the angels, the shepherds, or the magi.  We know this story so well that perhaps we’ve never noticed that it lacks one important detail:  we never hear about the actual birth of Jesus.

Was Jesus born as a human child?  Certainly he was.  But we are never told the length of Mary’s labor, the time and date of birth, or the size and weight of the newborn.  What’s more, we do not know if he was born in a cave (perhaps), a barn (doubtful), or at the home of one of

Joseph’s relatives (probable, since that’s where peasants placed their mangers).  The story tells us very little about the physical birth of Jesus.

And maybe it is presumptuous to want to see such a sight.  Strangers are rarely allowed to enter a maternity ward.  So we have no right to intrude on Joseph and Mary; let them have their quiet moment as new parents.  The storyteller knows the birth of Jesus is an event that is too magnificent and too intimate for casual onlookers to see.  Luke doesn’t show us much about the birth.  Neither does Matthew.  Mark – nothing.  John – nothing.

What Luke does show us, however, is the way that the Light of the World reflects from the faces of people who gathered around the manger.  Dirty shepherds came to Bethlehem, smelling like animals, transformed from terror to praise.  Onlookers dropped their jaws when they heard what God’s angels had to say about this birth.  Mary of course  treasured the shepherds’ message and “pondered it,” becoming the first Christian theologian.

The Light still shines, thank goodness, even with all the artificial light of the season.  If we stand near the manger, it will also shine onto our faces.  Sooner or later God’s Light will overcome every dark corner of our lives and the world.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas!

See you in church,
and on Christmas Eve!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

BTW, if you have contributed a poinsettia for our sanctuary, be sure and let us know the name of the person or persons you are honoring or memorializing.  You can leave a message at the church office.

 

December 12,2021

 Beloved…

I have never really been fond of the name Stanley. It’s what my mother called me when I was in trouble.  “Stan” seems fine. And I I have always thought that “Stanley” would fade into history.  So I was pleasantly surprised when one of our new LAUCC families have named their youngest Stanley!  After me, I thought.  But no.  His mother told me that they just like the name.  How sweet.  I now need to rethink my lack of fondness!

Names are important.  My family is from New England, and believe it or not, the Puritans of the 17th century gave their children names that reflected their faith.  The names they gave their kids were so unusual that they leave us to wonder if, after all, the Puritans were just kidding.  One couple named their new baby boy “Kill Sin.”  So Mr. Kill Sin Pimple shows up in a marriage list of official county records.  I wonder if he had any nick-names? Did they call him “Kill,” or “Sin,” or maybe just “Bubba!”  Then there was Mr. and Mrs. Fowler, who named their child “More Fruit.”  He appears in court records as a juror in a trial in 1607.  Mr. More Fruit Fowler!

And one family named their son, from Paul’s letter to Timothy, “Fight the Good Fight of Faith.” It’s like being tagged with a bumper sticker!

But even today some people feel burdened by their names.  So nick-names come to the surface, and it gets tricky when doing hospital calling, because sometimes the person you have known for years as Mary is really named Ethel, and Dick is really named Jonathan.  “I’m sorry Rev. Smith, but we don’t have any record of that person here in the hospital.”  How was I to know!

But the one I like best is the one for Jesus, from Isaiah 9, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  

Even the Puritans would have been proud!

See you in church,

and on Christmas Eve!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

December 5, 2021

Beloved,

I suppose that this year you may be sending more hopeful Christmas Cards to family and friends.  More hopeful because we are coming out of this pandemic that has altered our lives so dramatically.  While there are still concerns, the science is in our favor.  And I do trust the science!

It reminded me that several years ago, scientists in the United States sent a unique message to unknown recipients.  The message was from Earth to whoever-might-be-out-there. Edward Hays writes: “The communication was brief: a three-minute transmission in a mathematical code, describing the make-up of our solar system, the inhabitants of Earth and the present population of this world. The target of this signal was a cluster of some 300,000 stars located on the remote fringe of the Milky Way, a cluster called Messier 13. The message was addressed simply to ‘Occupants.’

“Earth’s Christmas signal, traveling at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, will not reach the star cluster for 25,000 Earth years!  If anyone is listening and cares to answer it, it will take at least as long to reply!  But nonetheless, a response to our greeting is requested by Christmas of the year 51974 A.D.” 

I can hardly wait!

Hays goes on to note that Christmas is a celebration when God sent us a message. “The Word was made flesh.  Unlike our message sent to the outer limits of the Milky Way, God’s message was not mathematically coded, but made clear and understandable.  We are not alone; Emmanuel, God is with us!”

See you around the Advent Wreath,
Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

November 26, 2021

Beloved…

The holidays seem to be coming faster this year.  Maybe it’s because we have not been able to celebrate for so long.  Now here we are at Thanksgiving, and Sunday is Advent!  It feels so overwhelming!

So what do we do?  The next best thing…  Wait!  And that is so appropriate for Advent.  It is precious and rich and steady waiting.  Waiting for the BIG EVENT, the crashing in of God’s love upon our spirits once again.  Some are waiting to be born.  Some of us feel we are born to wait.

But to too many of us holidays that began as a gift from God have become holidays more of gift giving than thanks giving.  We forget that the holidays themselves are a gift.  A gift of time.  A time to be with people we love.  A time to miss the people we loved.  A time to review why one’s life is going down hill.  A time to look at mountains we will yet climb.  A time to light a candle against the darkness.  A time to reflect on what star we follow.  And for all of these gifts, it is worth the wait.

What else is there to remember except love?  Life can be a series of great victories, or cunning triumphs or sensational good fortune, but the memories of love overshadow everything.  That is what Christmas really means – the gifts express it, the tree expresses it, the food and fun express it.  Christmas is when God loves the world more than ever before, and so a baby was born in Bethlehem.

I hope that no one misses Christmas.  You don’t need money or gifts or much of anything.  All you need is love and the willingness to give a little of it to those around you. You don’t even need friends when you start loving – you will have more than you can count before you know it.

This gentle Advent season, when the Christ child comes breaking afresh into your life, may you be blessed and may your love be overflowing!  Walk slowly.  Wait.  Don’t miss anything.  And I will see you here at church!

Blessings,
Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

November 19, 2021

Beloved…

   Thanksgiving does not really come naturally.  In fact most children will not say “thank you” unless they are told to do so and then they will do it only without much thankfulness.  For many people saying “Thank you” is common, but it can also be just a throw away line.  It means nothing if it is said without any feeling.  It is just something to say like saying “How are you?” to people we see in passing when we have no intention of their actually telling us.
But maybe that is a little too cynical.  There are times when we do feel thankful and say it meaning something.  I have heard many people when they get a good report after surgery or medical testing say “Thank you” to God for the good report.  When someone does something really nice for us don’t we say thank you usually?
What is really hard I guess is being thankful when we don’t feel very good or things are not going as well as we like.  It is hard to be thankful when we are worrying about things.
Worrying has become a national pastime.    One of the reasons we have occasional major stock drops is that panic snowballs.  Once some folks panic about a price, the panic spreads to others and soon the stock market has a major setback.  But of course the stock market is only one of many arenas of life in which people worry.
I think maybe the antidote to worry is thanksgiving.  So here is a little help…

A THANKSGIVING HAIKU:
I am thankful for
Love, Friends, Breathing, and Food
The rest is gravy

Blessings,
Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

November 12, 2021

Beloved…

Pledge cards for the year 2022 have been mailed out this past week. Let us know what you believe you can contribute financially to ministry here at Los Altos United Church of Christ by completing this voluntary faith commitment.  As circumstances change, you may change this pledge simply by contacting the church office. Please return your pledge cards to us by Sunday, Nov. 14th.

Commitment Sunday is November 14!

Blessings,
Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

November 5, 2021

Beloved… From my Stewardship Thoughts!

“A Buck in the Basket Isn’t Tithing”
Tithing… the biblical exhortation to return to God 10% of God’s gifts… may be common in some denominations, but remains rare in most American churches.

Researchers have found that although about 80% of Americans profess to be Christians, and many say they believe in tithing, about 3% of adults are consistent tithers. Why? One reason—say researchers, clergy and parishioners—is that some simply don’t have a tradition of tithing and annual pledging.

Many continue to drop $1 in the offering basket, as they did 30 years ago.

A senior cleric described the state of giving as: “If you have $50, you go out to dinner. If you have $20, you go to a movie. If you have $10, you get fast food. But if you have $1, you go to church.”

Unlike governments that can raise taxes and companies that can raise prices to offset inflation, LAUCC has no such ability. It is up to us, as members.

Understandably, some cannot give more than they do. But, if you have given the same amount for many years or made only small increases, consider that the costs of LAUCC budgeted items have increased significantly.  Perhaps, you may be able to raise your level of giving—and commit to doing so periodically.

Commitment Sunday is November 14!

Blessings,
Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

October 29, 2021

I hope to see you in worship this Sunday, dressed in your Halloween costume.  The children will parade down the aisle.  It should be fun.

Traditionally, Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve (October 31) is the day of Reformation.  We remember the good work of those who sought a more faithful church.  All Saints’ Day (November 1) celebrates those who have received their heavenly reward.  All Souls’ Day (November 2) remembers those who are still in process, once described in terms of the purgatorial journey.  All three are joined together this Sunday which we simply call All Saints. It is an important day.

This Sunday we will celebrate the Saints in our lives. I ask you:  Who has been that person in your life?  Whose words and actions have shaped your faith?  Is it a parent, a friend, a towering historical figure?  Is it a person unrecorded in history books due to their unlikely status?   If you would please email, text, or call me TODAY with your names and stories.  If not, you can bring them with you to worship.  We will take time in worship to name the saints in our lives, and I hope we have a long list of living, unlikely, and faithful people to help us better understand God’s call to love this world.

Blessings,
Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

October 22, 2021

Two Things…

First, as I indicated last week, on October 31 we will celebrate the Saints in our lives. I ask you:  Who has been that person in your life?  Whose words and actions have shaped your faith?  Is it a parent, a friend, a towering historical figure?  Is it a person unrecorded in history books due to their unlikely status?   If you would email, text, or call me with your names and stories.  We will take time in worship to name the saints in our lives, and I hope we have a long list of living, unlikely, and faithful people to help us better understand God’s call to love this world.

Second, it is THAT time of year! Again!  Yes, this Sunday we will begin our annual stewardship campaign.  The theme is Rooted In Love. Commitment Sunday will be November 14.  You will be mailed an invitation and commitment card for you to indicate your pledge to support the ministries of Los Altos United Church of Christ in the 2022 year.  Think about what you are grateful for… and consider how you can continue to live a life of service toward others.  And may you feel God’s encouragement to live a life of compassion and love!

Blessings,
Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

October 15,2021

Dearly Beloved…

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  We find ourselves in the beauty of a variety of colors.  A mixture of orange, red, yellow and purple appears in the trees as seasons change (yes, even in So. California, although we will never have what New England has) from summer to winter.  We owe this of course to the process of photo-synthesis — and those little chlorophyll molecules that are present in leaf cells.  So as the length of days and average temperature begin to drop, then the trees “know” it is time to get ready for winter, their sleep time, and the leaves stop making food.

But trees can be fooled.  I remember the birch trees behind the sign of my first church… as the spotlights in front of the sign kept shining through the night, the upper portion of the trees that were illuminated kept their leaves.  Green on top, multi-colored in the lower portions where no light seeped. Evidently the various branches did not communicate with each other.  In midwinter it was an odd sight.
The other reason I like the season of Autumn is the succession of special days, the lengthening of the nights, the evening wind blowing leaves at my feet, and the darkness coming earlier each day.  It is almost as if nature is telling us to pay attention, that all things change, whether we want it or like it.
The holidays begin with Halloween, and this year it falls on a Sunday.  So we will celebrate All Saints Day on October 31.  And Saints are not to be forgotten.  Sometimes we happen to be in the presence of something or someone great. Our lives feel changed, renewed, alive!  My friend Dick Wing told me about a Jewish legend called “Lamed vav Tsaddikim” (pronounced any way you like!).  The legend says that there are 36 truly righteous people on the entire earth called Tzaddiks.  They do not know who they are, but God does.  And if it were not for them, so the legend goes, God would give up on the human race.  A Tzaddik goes about their life with great integrity.  They are humble, unselfish, and wise. They love truth and justice and mercy above all things.  And a Tzaddik would be the last to think of themselves as a Tzaddik.
The author Robert Fulghum knew a Tzaddik named Stuart.  When diagnosed with cancer, he didn’t miss a beat, but went down to the church to voluntarily clean the restrooms as usual. Fulghum found him scrubbing the toilet with his dignity intact. “Pastor, good sermon — you’re a good minister.”  Fulghum blurted out that he could not be half the minister of Stuart even if he lived 100 years.  Like all Tzaddiks, Stuart didn’t know how to handle a compliment.

But then again, they are the ones who give their gifts so freely and generously.  We are the ones who get to say “Thank you, that makes me feel good!”  And we wonder if we have been touched by a Tzaddik!

So on October 31, we will celebrate the Saints in our lives.  Who has been that person in your life?  Whose words and actions have shaped your faith?  Is it a parent, a friend, a towering historical figure?  Is it a person unrecorded in history books due to their unlikely status?   Please  email, text, or call me with your names and stories.  We will take time in worship to name the saints in our lives, and I hope we have a long list of living, unlikely, and faithful people to help us better understand God’s call to love this world.

Blessings,

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

 

June 25, 2021

Dear Beloved…

This  week we go back to in-person church!  We’ve longed to return for over fifteen months. This coming Sunday, our wishes will be realized.  On June 27, we return to in-person worship.  Hallelujah!!!

When churches closed, everyone thought it would be for just a month or two. But the pandemic extended month after month.  As 2021 arrived, few Protestant churches were meeting and if so, at a significantly reduced capacity.

Thanks to vaccines and falling infection rates, things are changing.  Now, we get to return to in-person worship.

As our church opens, there will still be precautions. If you are fully vaccinated, and feel comfortable, you can worship without a mask.  If you are not vaccinated, we ask that you wear a mask and socially distant.  If you are bringing children, you will need to make an RSVP with Sumer Lesser, our Youth Director (sumerlesser@yahoo.com).  There will be nursery care and children/youth classes.  On Communion Sundays individual communion kits will be offered as you enter.

Worship won’t be the same as it was before closing.  We will face mixed emotions. Returning to the rhythms of worship prompts us to remember the Sundays and holidays we missed.  Part of celebrating finally being together is grieving the time spent apart.  Empty seats will remind us of the members who haven’t yet returned, or who left the church or moved away during the pandemic. Some will be missing.

With great anticipation, I look forward to worshipping with you, in person.

Don’t worry, if you can’t make it, we will be live streaming it on Facebook for you and you’ll be able to access it there throughout the week. This week the service can be viewed through  LIVESTREAM ON FACEBOOK at  https://www.facebook.com/losaltosucc  You do not have to be a Facebook subscriber!   We will NOT be streaming on Zoom.  

Blessings,

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

5-23-21

KEEPING IN TOUCH…

Dear Beloved:

Today, Friday, is the 49th anniversary of my ordination.  Back in 1972 it was a Sunday – Pentecost!  I had chosen that day for obvious reasons.  What could be better than beginning my ordained ministry on the birthday of the church?  Of course things were different back then.  There were only a few women in ministry in the Disciples of Christ  or UCC.  Inclusive language had not yet caught on.  The war in Viet Nam was ending, thankfully.  Computers hadn’t been invented.  In fact there were no Xerox machines.  I still had a manual typewriter.  Gas was 23 cents a gallon.  And I had no idea what I would do for a job.

Fortunately I discovered a small church in Northern California that took a chance on me, and the rest is history!  Now I am beginning my 50th year.  And here we are about to celebrate Pentecost once again.  Pentecost was originally a Jewish feast day. It started with the Festival of Weeks, when Jews from all over the Mediterranean basin came to Jerusalem on pilgrimage bringing the first fruits of the wheat harvest.

Now, as the third great feast day of the Christian year, Pentecost is our annual reminder of who we are, what great gifts God has given us, and what we are called to do with them.  We read the story in Acts 2 every year.

However, what is happening in that sacred land today bears no resemblance to a feast day.  There are no “first fruits” being offered.  Only relentless violence and no peace in sight.  What are we, as Christians, to do?  What are we, as faithful people, to do?

And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!”  (Genesis 4:10)

I pray for all the people of Palestine and Israel.  Hate does not lead to love.  Hate only leads to more hate.  I pray for all the people of Palestine and Israel.  May there be peace!  Lasting peace!

Blessings,  Stan

Supply Pastor, LAUCC

5-16-21

KEEPING IN TOUCH…

Dear Beloved:

A friend of a friend told me this story about a physician and her daughter.  It seems the doctor was driving her daughter to pre-school one morning.  The mom had her stethoscope sitting on the seat next to her and the daughter began playing with it. “Be still my heart,” thought the mom, “my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps.” Then the child began to speak into the instrument: “Welcome to McDonald’s.  May I take your order?”

The plans we have for ourselves and for our children are not necessarily the way life unfolds.  While planning is important, it is no less important to plan on having our plans broken.  And our heart too, to the extent we have our heart set on our plans.  Be patient. Our plans have plans for us.

We are now in the “Yellow Tier,” and as children go back to school, and we get to go back to routines, be open to what may be before you.  Our leadership has put together a plan for returning to a sense of “normal,” whatever that may be.  But plans change.  This is why we need to be patient.
And faithful.
Faith is a way we hold on by letting go.
Faith is letting go of what we thought we needed and discovering what is in our heart’s reach!
So reach a little these coming weeks, and join us in the journey, wherever it may lead!

Blessings, Stan
Supply Pastor, LAUCC

5-1-20

KEEPING IN TOUCH…

Dear Church,

Thank you for your gracious acceptance of worshiping at home. All of you have been kind with your comments regarding our worship streams and patient with us as we work through our learning curve. Many of us are new to this, which makes us appreciate the collective talents of our Staff. Thanks to Cindy Dufford, our office “overlord” who keeps things running smoothly; thanks to David and Michelle Joseph for their musical contributions to our worship; thanks to Sumer who continues to keep in contact with our youth; and thanks to Roxy as she navigates the difficult waters of our closed pre-school!

We have been overwhelmed by the response to our streamed services during this time that has thrown us all for a loop. So many messages of support, love, kindness and hope, and those who have chosen to contribute to our church financially too. Your help is needed and appreciated, and we continue to be the church. There is no separation when hearts and minds listen to God and the prayers made for each other bind us together. We long and hope for the day we reunite in our beautiful sanctuary and share fellowship together. Until then, know that you are loved and cared about.

I am also grateful for those of you who have supported us behind the scenes… Steve Delaney and his financial wizardry; Judy Ekmalian and her good work with worship; Bill Berry who takes care of our closed campus; Lori Delaney who has helped with our personnel… and so many more of you who just show up (figuratively speaking!).

We will get through this! We are a faith-filled people, and we trust in the One who has given us life. Let us prayerfully continue to be attentive and kind…

Pray this…
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those who are most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home respect and support those who must choose between preserving their health or paying their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who are losing our investments, remember those who have no home.
During this time, when we can not physically wrap our arms around each other, let us each find ways to be the loving embrace of humanity to our neighbors.
Be aware. Be accepting. Be supportive. Be kind.
Amen.
–Anonymous

Blessings,
Stan

4-24-20

Keeping in Touch…

Hello Friends…

The weather has finally turned, and the warmth is a welcome change after so many cold and rainy days. Spring seems to be everywhere, although at 94 degrees today it feels more like summer!

One of my favorite movies is “O God” with John Denver and George Burns. The by-line goes like this… “When God appears to an assistant grocery manager as a good-natured old man, the Almighty selects him as his messenger for the modern world.”

But my greatest learning from the movie was when George Burns (AKA God) surprises John Denver in his bathroom one morning, and the obviously traumatized Denver is reassured by Burns that when you are really shaken, do something that is familiar, like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. In other words, calm comes from doing things we find most natural. I like that.

I have long believed that the sacred lurks in the ordinary. Most of the time we don’t notice it. But by slowing down (even if we are forced to) we may be able to experience a calm that reveals the sacred. This is the heart of meditation… to see even the simplest of tasks as spiritual.

So I am off to make my bed, and do a load of wash. Lord, help me to pay attention!

I hope to see you on Sunday morning at 10 am.
Blessings,
Stan

4-17-20

Keeping in Touch…

Dearly Beloved…
The love and support you have offered each other is amazing. In this time of “social distancing,” care and comfort are all the more important. Many of you have shared the ways you are communicating with each other, especially the most vulnerable members and friends. As the pandemic continues to evolve, we are staying in careful contact as staff and church leadership.

We are grateful for your willingness to support our ongoing ministries. Your generosity helps us maintain the incredible congregation that is Los Altos UCC.

Please continue to find a place to pray, offering thanks for your friends and loved ones, for all health care workers; EMS, police, fire and first responders; and grocery and restaurant workers and preparers who make essential medical and nutritional services available in this time of the Covid -19 crisis. And remember Jesus’ words to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

I hope you will join us on Sunday mornings, via ZOOM or Facebook Live. Below are the links you can use.

Blessings to you all.
Stan

FACEBOOK
https://www.facebook.com/losaltosucc

MIDWEEK EMAIL Tuesday, March 24

Good Morning Los Altos UCC Members and Friends…

I hope that you are all healthy and well.  As this new week begins we are still bombarded with continual coverage of this Covid-19 crisis, and it seems that each day this is something critical that we need to consider.  And we are adjusting to church “technology style.”   I hope that most of you were able to tune in last Sunday on ZOOM for our morning worship.  If not, it has been posted on the “Los Altos United Church of Christ” Facebook page.  While it wasn’t perfect, it was a good start.

While our campus is closed, be assured that the staff and others are working from home or in other ways to keep our community of faith in communication.  Please check your email daily, and watch for invitations to participate in Sunday worship either on FaceBook or through ZOOM.

We are also working on a link in our web page (losaltosucc.org) where you will be able to continue your financial support of the church.  This will probably be through PayPal, but all you will need to do is click on the link, and it will instruct you what to do.  Of course you can use the USPS.  We encourage you to continue to support the ministry of LAUCC, especially in light of the loss of income from our renters.

However, we also want to caution you about scammers during this crisis.  The FCC Long Beach put our a few helpful suggestions which I have adapted for you.
An Important Alert: Scammers are trying to take advantage of church members by creating fake Gmail addresses and emailing requests for gift card donations. This is not real, do not respond. In addition, a few practices to keep in mind:
Pastors and Church Staff do not ask for gift card donations. By policy and practice, the solicitation of donations by the church is carefully monitored by the Finance team at LAUCC, to prevent inconvenient or irresponsible asks. Because we care about being generous and have carefully set our giving goals, we don’t just “pop-up” with requests, as a matter of respect to our donors.
If you get an email asking for gift cards or donations from an unusual email address, ignore it or report it to your local authorities. It is a scam, and a form of fraud.

This coming Sunday we will again live-stream our morning worship via ZOOM and on Facebook.  You will receive an invitation in the mail on Saturday, and you can join the ZOOM meeting around 10 am on Sunday.  If you have a FACEBOOK account, you can go to Los Altos United Church of Christ FB page and follow the service there.

As you are aware, many events are being postponed (as of this morning even the July Olympics until 2021), and no doubt you will learn of these as the days go by.  You can go to www.scnucc.org for Conference information, or to www.ucc.org/coronavirus  for national information.   We want to keep in touch with each of you as the days go by.  Please feel free to email the church office (office@losaltosucc.org) or me (drstanleydsmith@gmail.com) with any pastoral concerns.

I wish for each of you health and safety.  May God’s blessings be abundant in our lives, today and into the future.

Assorted Blessings,
Stan Smith, LAUCC Supply Pastor