Randy's Reflections
February 4, 2015, 1:00 PM

Pastor Randy's February Reflection

I don’t think it is any coincidence that February is the month during which we celebrate both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday this year. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. Lent is traditionally the six week period in which we prepare ourselves to celebrate Easter. Lent is a good time to ponder questions such as: Where do we spend most of our time? Does this indicate what or whom we love the most? Do we spend enough time with those we most care for? Where does God fit into all this?

Valentine’s Day is a great day to examine our priorities. It is the day we celebrate love. It can also be a precursor to Ash Wednesday when we assess our relationship to God and others. Are we following the greatest commandment? When Jesus was asked what this was, in Matthew 22, he instructed his followers to “love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Someone once said that if we truly follow the greatest commandment we will automatically do the second. Loving God first and foremost means we will follow his model of loving others to the point of sacrifice, like Jesus did in dying on the cross for us (see I John 4: 20-21).

Since we need to love God most, then we also need to spend time with God. Some people follow the Lenten tradition of giving something up during those six weeks. When we give up something it gives us an opportunity to add something. For example, if I give up watching a certain TV show, I can spend time that time with others or God instead. Or if I stop spending money on something, I can give that money to help someone, or to do God’s work. Sometimes, instead of giving up something, people will add something spiritual to their routine, like spending more time in prayer. Some people choose to spend time reading scripture daily. Others look for service projects to do.

During Lent this year, during the Adult education hour I will be teaching a Bible series about personal encounters with Jesus, as found in the gospel of John. I believe that Jesus didn’t always treat everyone the same when they came to him with questions or requests. I think Jesus dealt with each person on an individual basis. He accounted for individual differences when trying to help others.

Jesus met people from different background and different life circumstances, and they each had different needs. Each week we will look at the story surrounding this encounter, as recorded by John. We will look at the cultural background and try to define the personality of the individuals and to determine their need when they come to Jesus. As we uncover how Jesus met their circumstance, request, or need, we will see if there is something which he is offering to us as well, something which we can apply to our lives today.

Since we have a special fundraiser for the Mexico Trip on Palm Sunday, we will only meet five times, but each time it will be about a different Bible character and his or her encounter with Jesus. We will begin with Nicodemus. The second week we will examine Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. On week three we will see how Jesus deals with an unnamed blind man. The fourth week we will explore how Jesus deals with Mary and Martha at the funeral of their brother Lazarus. On the last week we will see how Jesus deals with Peter in the instance where Peter doesn’t want Jesus to wash his feet (I think they needed washing, both figuratively and literally).

Some of these people have encountered Jesus at other points in the gospels, but each situation is unique. We will see how Jesus dealt with each person regarding their individual circumstance at the time of the encounter. It will be as if they and Jesus are meeting for the very first time. In fact, the series will be called, “Meeting Jesus for the very first time.”

As Jesus reaches out to each of these individuals with the same kind of love he has for God, we will be reminded that Jesus saw the time spent with these individuals as a priority in His life. We will also be reminded that God sees each of us as a priority in His creation. Let’s make this Lenten season one where we put things in perspective. Let us spend a little more time with God during this six week period and seek to learn what it means to live out the greatest commandment of all: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” If we do this, I am confident that we will learn to love others more as well.

Seeking to meet Jesus with you, perhaps really meet him, for the very first time,

Pastor Randy


January 23, 2015, 3:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Letting Go"

So lately I have heard a lot of people talking about the constant tread mill running they are doing. I don’t mean actually running on a tread mill, though for some of us that would be a good daily exercise, I mean people feeling like their life is way too busy. All the obligations (to others outside the home), all the responsibilities (they have to their family), and all the demands (for their work), they have to meet.

    In fact the only time they seem to stop running is when they hit the sack, which usually isn’t early enough, or they get sick and have to stop all the running around they are doing. It is hard to keep up with all our commitments. This is compounded by the fact that we get asked to do new things all the time. It is not easy saying no, especially when we have so many people counting on us.

    So how many of us are overcommitted already? Raise your hands. It is hard to type this while I am raising my hand. Why do we keep committing ourselves to doing more and more? I think sometimes it is because we don’t think sitting and enjoying a simple conversation with someone or watching the birds at the hummingbird feeder or splashing in the bird bath is enough justification for our life. Yet when we get over committed it is not only detrimental to our selves it takes away an opportunity for others to do something, let alone mean that sometimes we don’t do a quality job.

    One thing I want to work on the next couple of months is creating margins in my life. They say that more and more textbooks are using larger amounts of white space, you know the place on the page where there is not writing or pictures, so the printed word, which is the most important thing on the page, is easier to digest.

    So it is with our lives. The more margins the more we can focus on what we really should be doing. And also it gives us room to, every once in a while, that is now and then not every day or every week, have time to commit to a special opportunity which just happens to come along.

    Life will go on with or without us! A scary thought to have, but even though God created each of us for a reason the world is populated with enough people to cover all those jobs which need to be done.

    So I hope you, and I, can try to have more margins in your schedule. I hope that you, and I, can focus on what is most important for us to do. How do we know what is most important? I think if we take some time in prayer, talk to our friends, and think about how important is what we are doing we can figure it out.

    So, here is to a new beginning where we find the balance between doing and resting, between committing and letting go, between answering God’s call and letting someone else answer it. May you continue to grow in God as you grow in living a life that speaks boldly about doing what you do well.




    Pastor Randy

January 6, 2015, 2:00 PM

Randy's Reflection January 2015

"There is one body and one Spirit ­ just as you were called to one hope when you were called ­ one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”Ephesians 4:4­-5.

Change is not easy. Over the years we learn to deal with change, because it is a natural phenomenon in our lives. Moving to the East Bay six years ago was a big change for us. Our youngest daughter, Alyssa, came with us because she still had two years of high school to finish. Our son, Ian, was married and living in Spokane, Washington, and daughter, Emily, was also in Spokane with two more years of college to finish at Whitworth University.

It was nice that the two kids who were away from home were in the same location, but that for only another two years. While Ian stayed in Spokane, Emily accepted a job in Houston, Texas, and Alyssa decided Orange, California, had the perfect weather and location for her to begin college at Chapman University. That is close to where the kids are now, except Emily has moved to Austin with her husband, and Alyssa is working near LA while living in Culver City. Ian is still in Spokane, but he is learning what it means to be not just a husband, but also a father.

So having our children scattered across the country is not easy. Yet when we lived together for eight years in Iowa, before Ian left for college, we explored the headwaters of the Mississippi together at Lake Itasca. We visited the Olympic Village in Calgary on a trip across Canada. We also lived in the same house for those eight years, and another six after Ian left. That was the longest time I have lived in any one place. So we have a lot of history that we shared that has helped us build a family connection.

This last Thanksgiving we all met in Austin, or actually Buda, Texas. It was great to have everyone under the same roof; my mom, who lives in San Ramon, was also there. We found that even with our different lives in four different places there are some things that never change. We not only love each other, but, for the most part, we get along with each other. We all have the same central belief about God and though the churches we attend may differ in some of their theology, we still pray at meals, read the same Bible, and even ask each other to pray for our concerns and to offer prayers of thanksgiving for blessings we have received.

This makes me think of our church family. Even though, since I arrived six and half years ago, we have added over seventy new members, we also have shared some special events that bond us together. We celebrated our fiftieth anniversary as a church about 18 months ago. We have shared a couple of Seder Meals which we made kid­friendly and even had some folks from our congregation chant the prayers in Hebrew. We have also changed our Children’s Christmas Pageant to take place during a Sunday morning service during Advent. These are things that we share and that have brought us closer together. I think this year the people in our church have come to realize that we don’t all believe exactly the same way. We still pray together, we still read the same Bible, and we worship the same God -- we just emphasize different parts of the Bible and we may interpret some of the passages a bit differently.

This year we are recognizing that we can still be a church family even though there may be some differences in opinion. That is a hard thing to learn in our own biological family as well as in a church family. So this New Year I want to remind us of those non­negotiables of our faith – those beliefs that unite us. I will be preaching a series on the three different persons in the Trinity. I will begin with God, the Creator and Father of us all. Next, I will preach on Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Finally, I will look at the Holy Spirit as the one who dwells in us and transforms us.

We all believe that Jesus is the one who God sent to provide us with salvation. We all believe that the Bible is our primary resource for our faith. We all believe that it is by grace we are saved, not by our works. So, come with me and let us enter this New Year full of expectation of what we can learn about ourselves, each other, and most importantly about God. Let us be willing to embrace the change that God will bring us, a change that will make us even better than we are now and we will give God the Glory for it all.

Embracing change with you, Pastor Randy

P.S. This sign in on the way to Emily and Zach's house in Texas.