Have you met Bob Blough? Bob started coming around CGS this year when he was referred from a friend of CGS. Even if you have not met him, you’ve probably heard him read in worship. He’s a gifted orator. Bob is a beautiful new part of our community and I’ve had the pleasure to get to know a little about him. One of the things he shared with me is his calling to spiritual direction. I got his permission to share that gift with the rest of the CGS community.
Pastor Manda: What is Spiritual Direction?
Bob: It is not a difficult thing to experience but it is a difficult thing to express. I think of it as two people sitting down with God in their midst. One is talking and the “Director” is listening. The Director when prompted by the Spirit will ask for clarification or will feel a strong impulse to follow a certain statement made by the talker. So the person talking is choosing what will be discussed but the person listening with the help of the Holy Spirit will guide the discussion into different insights or ways of seeing a problem in order to help the other to see something new in the situation being discussed. Both sit in God’s presence and pray for insight to descend.
Pastor Manda: What happens when you meet with someone for spiritual direction?
Bob: I am not a therapist, pastoral counselor or life training coach. I just try to be the ear of God as much as I possibly can. We would meet for one hour each month and discuss the joys, hurts or confusions on your mind. Anything that you feel is important to discuss at this particular time of your life. I will not tell you what to do but will wait in silence and/or ask questions for you to get some clarity through the fog of uncertainty or fear or anger or whatever is the crux of the matter. All of this is completely classified and will be told to no one unless there is the possibility of self-harm or harm coming to others.
If you would like to meet with Bob for spiritual direction, the fee is $30.00 per hour. But if that is a burden he is willing to work out something else. If you are willing to loop in Pastor Manda, CGS has funds available to supplement or cover your cost of spiritual direction with Bob. If this strikes a chord in your heart and/or spirit, you can set up a time to meet with Bob by emailing him.
If you are not interested in spiritual direction, I hope that you will invite Bob to share a meal with you, sit with him in worship, get to know him at game night or coffee hour, and introduce yourself. Bob has a wide berth of experiences and interests and is a blessing to our community.
By Pr. Manda
On July 16th I received an emergency request from some of the ELCA congregations in the southwest of the country. The request was in response to a notice from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that they were releasing and attempting to reunify over 1,500 children in the last two weeks of July.
All refugees who had been detained and separated from their children/parents will be released to 1 of 4 NGO’s in the southwest US. There are a number of ELCA ministries in this area (Border Servant Corps; Peace Lutheran Church of Las Cruces, NM; Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey of El Paso, TX; Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest) who are involved in providing hospitality and assistance to refugee families. They do this through a partnership with Annunciation House.
Through this ministry, Annunciation House usually serves more than 500 people every week. In the various locations and organizations, they provide for basic human needs upon release from detention (including temporary shelter, medical care, clothing, food), legal aid, airfare and bus fare, and travel expenses like food. Now Annunciation House and their partners will receive an additional 400-500 people per week as families affected by the zero-tolerance border policy are reunited.
When you wonder what is happening to the children and parents you hear about in the news – this is it. They are being sent to the places served by Annunciation House and similar organizations in the southwest. And they’re asking for our help. Volunteers (who speak Spanish) and some materials are needed, but still, the greatest need is money to fund the assistance described above.
If you would like to donate to this ministry of hospitality and relief, you can make a donation to CGS with the memo “Refugee Assistance”. Or you can donate directly to Annunciation House by clicking here to go to their website. On August 1st, we will send the collected funds to Annunciation House to be used by the various ministries involved. If you have questions or need assistance, you can speak with myself, Pastor Manda, or you can speak with our financial secretary Janet Keeley, treasurer Kevin Visscher, or council president Theo Olson.
by Laurie Gaumer, CGS Council member
There is so much happening all around us these days! And so much of what I hear seems so negative, with very little positive spin on the horizon… or so it seems. Then, recently, I hear about twelve Thai kids, ages 11 to 17 years, a youth soccer team and their coach, who go for a hike and end up stuck in a dark, underground cave, 2.5 miles from the entrance. Yikes!
Frankly, I didn’t hold out much hope for this team when I heard that there was a search going on. And, in truth, at that point, it had already been a week! So I said a prayer, hoping that this would turn out well, but figuring their safe return was unlikely, trusting that my prayers would be passed along to surviving family and friends. Then, OMGosh, nine days into the search, people are found -- deep in this dark, soggy, underground cave – “How many? Thirteen? Brilliant!!” Who would have thought?
Clearly, not I!
Then, last week, as I am headed across the Bay Bridge, I’m listening to the car radio and there is talk of just how those outside the Thailand caves are going to successfully extract this team of thirteen to safety. What I hear is that it is not going to be easy. None of the thirteen are scuba divers; some don’t even swim. And the caves are treacherous!
As NPR begins the story of what is likely to happen during the rescue, they talk of teaching each soccer player to use a breathing mask and other essential scuba gear, and then, with two professional divers, one on each side of the cave dwellers, they will make their way slowly and carefully out. And, this is when I have that overwhelming sense that tears are near. I begin to weep -- I am not only hopeful for this group, but I am suddenly, absolutely, and acutely aware of the presence of a truly loving, unconditionally caring God that does this for me, (and for you too!) each time we encounter that really hard stuff in our lives. God, the ultimate ‘Professional Diver’ is right along-side us as we make our way out of that dark, dank, underground cave that threatens. I am reminded (once again) that we are not alone… and I am grateful.
I also begin to think about how we, in turn, can be ‘professional divers,’ emissaries of our Loving God for others in our lives, in our communities, and in the world around us. We CGSers have done this in so very many ways over the years. I recall a collection of underwear for those in need, dubbed ‘Undie Sunday.’ We’ve had Giving Trees, collected backpacks, as well as toothbrush/toothpaste kits for some of our ‘most in need’ friends of the streets. We make quilts that are donated. Our youth have collected funds for that cute little pink piglet line-up that hung over the altar – with monies sent to support ELCA Good Gifts. We participate in God’s Work, Our Hands. We collected books and school supplies earlier this year for our neighborhood elementary school. And, last year’s Budgeted Benevolence dollars ($4500 in total) went to Sunday Friends, Veggielution Farm, the LGBTQ Youth Space, and Lutheran World Relief.
We are generous. We have been a pool of ‘professional divers’ on God’s scuba team, helping folks out of the caves… and for this, I feel honored and grateful to be associated with CGS. We are good people, with good hearts, doing God’s good work.
And yet, to whom much has been given, much is expected. We are not done!
We now have an opportunity to support PLTS Seminary students. As you have likely heard, Seminary (and all higher education) costs have skyrocketed over the years and PLTS now has a pantry at the Seminary to help students in need with food supplies. That pantry needs our support in filling it up. So, we have a list of ‘expressed needs’ from PLTS, please take a look at the list here or on the display in the narthex.
We will collect until mid-August (we’ll plant a large container in the Narthex/entry area of the church), and then we’ll deliver our pantry donations just before classes begin in September, at a time that works for the Seminary.
So, my CGS ‘professional diver’ buddies, I thank you in advance for all the help that I know you will provide to Seminary students that need our support!
-Laurie Gaumer, an honored and grateful CGS member!
Dear Friend of ReconcilingWorks,
We are just one week back from the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, TX and my heart and mind are still processing the impact you made possible through your financial gifts, the “God Adores You” card you filled out, and all your prayers.
The 30 x 45 foot ReconcilingWorks booth at the Gathering was some of the most sacred ground I have stood on in a while. The space was decorated with a dozen PRIDE flags for different identities in the LGBTQIA+ community, a photo booth area with a teen Jesus carboard cutout, free resources, temporary tattoos, and of course the “God Adores You” cards. Over the three days in the interactive learning center we had kiddos come up and start crying as they saw their PRIDE flag hanging at a church event. One young person walked their mom over to the Bisexual flag and came out to her and then they stood there crying and hugging each other filled with love. There were young people teaching their peers about all the different meanings of the flags surrounding the booth. We had adults come up to us with relief, gratitude, and tears in their eye for affirming their LGBTQIA+ youth group members.
"As I think back to my time in Houston, the first image that comes to mind is a kiddo walking into our booth, face gleaming, as they run straight towards me; without hesitation, they run into my arms embracing me with the most life giving hug as tears stream down their face. Before they do anything else they look at me and exclaim how thankful they are that ReconcilingWorks is there. This youth shared that they had no idea that there was such an organization that loved them and supported them in their identity as an LGBTQ+ Christian, and it wasn't until walking into our booth that they felt like they were at home and could be their full self as a beloved child of God! This happened time and time again as youth after youth walked into our booth, found their flag, and used our space as a means of educating themselves, their friends, and sharing who they were to others. I am grateful to have shared that space as Holy moments like that happened for LGBTQ+ youth and allies from across the country. Beautiful things happened in Houston, and words cannot even begin to express the experience I had at our ReconcilingWorks booth." – Ashlei Buhrow, Reconciling in Christ Program Assistant
While my mind is still struggling to find words to describe the profound way the Holy Spirit used the space to stir up a sense of wholeness for so many, my checks have finally stopped hurting after smiling from ear to ear for three days straight.
THANK YOU for ALL you do to make a difference in the life of the church. After this Youth Gathering I am reminded just how desperate people are to be seen, named, and celebrated in the Lutheran Church for the true gifts we as LGBTQIA+ people bring.
Rey Lambatin, CGS Choir Director
Singing in choir is not all business. Our CGS choirs’ rehearsals always include a lot of fun moments and laughter, with sharing of stories and jokes, mostly about the unspoken friendly competition between each voice section. Here are some favorites that I think everyone will enjoy:
How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one. She holds the bulb and the world revolves around her.
How many altos does it take to change a light bulb?
None. They can't get up that high.
How many tenors does it take to change a light bulb?
Five. One to do it, and four to say, "It's too high for him."
How many basses does it take to change a light bulb?
None. They're so macho they prefer to walk in the dark and bang their shins.
How long does it take for a conductor to screw in a light bulb?
Nobody knows because no one was watching. (emphasis by Rey)
How do you tell if the lead singer is at the door?
He can't find the key and he doesn't know when to come in.
Why were the singers locked out of their rehearsal room?
They missed the key change.
How are sopranos like pirates?
They're all a terror on the high C's.
What is the difference between a choral director and a chimpanzee?
It's scientifically proven that chimpanzees are able to communicate with humans.
What's the definition of a mezzo soprano?
Just an alto with a soprano’s attitude.
What's the definition of an alto?
A soprano who can sight read.
Four tenors and a baritone are hiking in the Alps, all roped together in a line. Suddenly, they fall into a crevasse. The baritone realizes the rope can't hold all five of them, so he yells down at the group, "There's so many baritones in the world and so few tenors. So, I'll sacrifice myself to save all of your lives."
All of the tenors started clapping and fell to their deaths.
A minister was completing a Temperance sermon. With great emphasis he said, "If I had all the beer in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river." Then with even greater emphasis he said, "And if I had all the wine in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river." And then finally, shaking his fist in the air, he shouted, "And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river." With the sermon complete, he sat down. Then the song leader stood up and announced, "For our closing song, let us sing Hymn number 365, "Shall We Gather at the River."
Linda Lownes, Treasurer, Sierra Pacific Synod
Your congregation's faithful contributions to support the Synod's and Churchwide's mission and ministry reflect an understanding of the interdependence of the three expressions of the ELCA - congregation, synod, and churchwide-where offerings are generally taken only within congregations to support the work of our church. (One hundred percent of the offering collected at the Synod Assembly each year are forwarded to the organization identified by the Assembly Planning Committee.) Your congregation's Mission Support and designated gifts support not only the Sierra Pacific Synod and its work through the Sacramento, Fresno, and Bay Area offices of the Bishop, but also Lutheran Social Services, the Lutheran Office of Public Policy, Mt. Cross, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, California Lutheran University, and new and renewing congregations within our Synod. Thirty-seven percent of the Mission Support you send to the Synod is forwarded to Chicago for the work of our church throughout the United States and the world. Your congregation, in combination with all congregations in our Synod, makes a difference in northern California and northern Nevada, the United States, our sister synods, and all the places where the ELCA ministers to God's people.
Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow ... (Jeremiah 22:3).
I am dismayed by the Supreme Court's recent decision concerning the president's authority to restrict travel into the United States. It applies to travelers from certain countries based on those countries' inability to provide information necessary for immigration vetting. Strong vetting procedures have already been authorized by Congress and reviews of applications for possible links to terrorism are also in place. Therefore, restricting all travelers from certain countries simply because they are citizens of those countries is deeply troubling. In the past, we have seen the sometimes horrific effects of excluding and marginalizing (or worse) whole classes of people based on their ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender identity or other characteristics.
Our social statement, "For Peace in God's World," provides theological guidance for the church to respond by offering wise words of caution:
Citizens need to give careful attention to how we in the United States perceive our national interest and interpret our national identity, since what states do depends in large measure on their views of their own interests and identity. Sin's power often makes itself felt in arrogant and self-righteous views of national identity, and in narrow, short-term, and absolute views of national interest.
With this court decision, we are again reaching a point where the assertion of "national security" by the executive branch of government results in the rejection of all other considerations in national policy discussions. Our social statement also reminds us: "In bondage to sin, we fall captive to fear." Jesus taught us to love one another. The social statement calls us to "a dynamic vision of difference in unity."
In a time ... when an idolatrous allegiance to one's own community endangers our oneness, we must voice with clarity the powerful vision of difference in unity. This vision calls us to engage differences, not to ignore or fear them. The hope for earthly peace challenges people to strengthen their own particular communities in ways that promote respect and appreciation for people in other communities, for all share a common humanity.
Let us recall that all people are created in God's image and, therefore, rather than have suspicion be our assumption, let us attribute to them honor and respect as God does.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America