The Piper - March 2014

Previous Editions: February 2014

March 2014

In This Issue...
 Ramblings in the Redwoods
 C.I.A. Youth Group News
 God's Story, Our Story, My Story - Shirley’s Story
 Eating on the Wild Side - a book review
 The Back Page... Confession - Next Exit

Ramblings in the Redwoods
Father Blaine Hammond

When I was younger, people of my generation talked a lot about spiritual experience. They talked about spiritual experience from drugs, and spiritual experience from transcendental meditation. Some were fond of Native American spiritual teachings, some of Zen teachings, some of other forms of Buddhism, and some of Yoga. People were involved in spiritualism, Tarot and Ouija Boards. Jesus People spoke in tongues or immersed themselves in communal prayer and Bible study. Many of us mixed together various traditions and teachings looking for some kind of syncretistic pathway to divine reality; many of the descendants of these kinds of practices formed the New Age movement.

Much of that kind of activity was born from a hunger that was not being satisfied by the Western religious traditions of the time, primarily Judaism, Christianity and its non-linear descendants, such as Unitarianism and Mormonism. People have always found ritual to be a satisfying experience at a very deep level, but a great many people were disappointed by the fact that so much of religion was cerebral, or tied up in arguments about proper positions on social issues, without much attention to an encounter with the Spirit of God; or any experience of supernatural reality.

Some parts of the Church paid attention in the decades following, and we went through spiritual renewal and revival in the form of the Charismatic Renewal, Cursillo and contemplative prayer. The experience of being born again started to dominate a lot of talk about Christianity, as Evangelical Christianity became more public. But all of these kinds of spirituality caused problems for some people who sensed elitism and judgmentalism, along with a kind of fear of mystical experiences that take us away from the pragmatic side of life.

In this age of the Church, a lot of the novelty of 20th-Century spiritual renewal is in the past. And while people all across denominational lines have been through one or another of them, they tend to be scattered across different congregations rather than concentrated in one or another of the areas and congregations that used to be famous for them. So many of us are, today, still hungering and still looking for places and methods for satisfying that hunger.

It helps to realize that the underlying key purpose of the Church’s traditions is to create a space – not just a physical space – where God can be encountered. This is true both in the Protestant free-church tradition, where that encounter is designed to be mainly through Scripture and preaching, and the liturgical tradition, where there is more of an emphasis on sacrament. In both kinds of tradition, prayer is a central element, whether it is spontaneous prayer or prayers from a prayer book.

The liturgical tradition also includes the church calendar, which some of the Protestants also use. Different seasons of the Church remind us of different parts of not only our historical faith, but our inner faith and our communal faith. Spiritual experience, after all, can be either positive or negative. By negative I am referring not to such things as demonic possession, which is the most negative kind of spiritual experience we hear about, but rather the direct knowledge of our own shortcomings and neediness before God. Still, even in the midst of that awareness, we are confronted with the experience of God’s determination to love, forgive and accept.

As I said, prayer is part of our Christian tradition of worship leading to our anticipated encounter with God. It is helpful to realize that prayer takes the form, not just of individual prayers, but of prayer in a larger sense. Our worship services are designed as prayer in a large sense. If we think about it that way, we should anticipate that we can be dismissed from each worship service having experienced Prayer in the large sense, which includes prayers in the singular sense. That Prayer is food for the soul, preparing us to take that experience of God into the world ready for whatever God and the world have for us in the time before the next communal worship.

I plan to spend my preaching times during Lent talking about the design of our sacramental worship, how and why it is put together the way it is. Having not done an instructed Eucharist since I have been here, this would be a kind of extended instructed Eucharist. The point is not just to anchor us in the history of our tradition but to see how it works to bring us now, in our present day, into the experience of God’s presence.

On Ash Wednesday (service at 6:00 p.m.) we are all invited into the practice of a holy Lent. I pray for each of us that experience of holiness. And remember to Fall Back on the first Sunday of Lent, March 9th!

Top

_______________________________________________

Youth Group News

There are two MOVIES coming out soon:
“Son of God” and “Noah” I don’t have times or dates or cost as yet but I will email you or phone you when I know. It would be fun to go together to see them both.

ST PATRICK’S PARTY Saturday March 22
We will meet at 10am to decorate cupcakes and set up the Parish Hall for the party. The party starts at 5pm. We need some of you to help serve, sell tickets and, of course, come and eat and have fun.

CAMPING PINNACLES
We will be camping at the Pinnacles on Thursday April 3rd and 4th. The cost will be $15.00 each, plus you will need to help out with food. We haven’t created the menu yet, but will let you know what to bring when we have. I’d be willing to bet that s’mores will be included. You will need to bring a sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries and clothing for two days. Be prepared for some hiking.

EASTER
We will need to hide Easter eggs and put on the Easter Egg Hunt for the younger children in the Parish. (I will have the younger group dye eggs)
We need one of you to be the Easter Bunny! This will be between the 9 & 11 am services. Easter is Sunday April 20; egg hiding should be done before the 9am service.

Top
_________________________________________________

God's Story, Our Story, My Story - Shirley Nason Greenwood

Some things were absolute when I was a child growing up in Southern California. Our family did not eat meat on Fridays and my mother, sisters and I attended mass on Sundays before we had breakfast. Another given was that my father did not attend with us. I never heard him mention God or a need to pray. I would look across the aisles at church and envy the families with both parents in attendance.

By the time I entered high school I was dreaming of life after graduation. I desperately wanted to be the first in my family to attend college. After that I wanted to have a career, marry and have children. I began to pray that God would help me achieve these goals. Oh, yes, there was another item often mentioned in my prayers. I hoped to raise a family that attended church together.

Time flew by. I was able to attend junior college and then graduated from UC Santa Barbara. My first teaching job brought me to Los Altos. So far God had been listening. Two of my goals had been achieved. At the end of my first month of teaching my roommate and I were penniless but we did have a tank of gas. My roommate suggested we drive to Sonoma County where her mother and boyfriend lived. We would be guaranteed good meals over the weekend before our first paycheck arrived. A blind date was arranged for me that weekend. I met my future husband, Jim Nason, a fellow teacher.

Six months later I called my parents to announce our engagement. I know my mother was disappointed. Jim was not a Catholic. Jim had been raised Episcopalian. We were married in my Catholic Church and Jim agreed that our children would be raised Catholic. I attended mass alone and our first two daughters were baptized Catholic. I began to see my family’s religious life being a copy of my own childhood. I wanted a whole church family. Reluctantly I offered to attend St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Santa Clara. The next Sunday our family of four was attending church together for the first time.

The following year we were expecting another child. I was hoping and praying for a boy this time. Yes, God answered that prayer but he also gifted us with another daughter. We suddenly had a wonderful, large family. Did God have a wicked sense of humor? The addition of two more children made our Santa Clara tract home suddenly appear very small. We decided to follow friends who had moved to the San Lorenzo Valley. We built a home in Ben Lomond in 1970 and began attending St. Andrew’s Church. I loved worshipping in a beautiful redwood church with my entire family. More and more I was finding the teachings of the Episcopal Church better matched my own beliefs.

Our children were healthy and growing. I thanked God for helping my teen dreams come true. Jim had by this time become a school administrator and was commuting “over the hill” to a district in San Jose. He often felt stressed by new laws and less funding for schools. Summer was Jim’s time to relax. His mother had purchased a tiny cabin in the Siskiyou Mountains when he was a little boy. Every July our family packed suitcases and together with four children, a dog and a cat we drove to the cabin. Jim loved to fly fish, a skill he taught his children. When he was casting a fly across the water of the Sacramento River he could forget his worries.

The summer of July, 1978 began like all the others before. We opened up the cabin and settled in for several weeks of leisurely days, swimming, sunbathing and fishing in the river. One morning near the end of July, Jim experienced nausea and pain down his left arm. He was resting on a couch when his cousin stopped by to visit. She convinced Jim his symptoms should not be ignored. Jim and I headed to the hospital over 20 miles away. I was experiencing absolute panic as Jim instructed me to drive faster and faster. As we drove up to emergency there were medical personnel waiting with a gurney. “Are you the 45 year old man experiencing chest pains?” they asked. Our oldest daughter had thought to call ahead. Jim did have a moderate heart attack and was hospitalized for many days. When he was released we packed up, with a lot of help from friends, and headed home where cardiologists at Kaiser took over his care. Jim was allowed to return to his job at a middle school after many weeks of recovery. He tried to reduce his stress level and brought his weight down to an acceptable level. We were all thankful for his progress.

The following summer we once again headed for the cabin, confident that Jim’s heart problem was under control. Almost to the day, at the end of July, Jim experienced chest pains and we made another frantic trip to the hospital. This attack was termed mild. Jim was allowed to return to work in September.

The evening of “Back to School Night” at the end of September he again felt symptoms. Staff members drove him to Kaiser where he was admitted for observation. Jim called me at home to tell me what had occurred but assured me he was feeling OK. I agreed to visit him the next day. When I walked into Jim’s room that morning I was shocked. Jim was an almost lifeless, grey figure attached to multiple machines. He had suffered a massive heart attack. He mumbled, “I’m not in good shape”. An understatement. I realized life as I loved it had just ended.

This time there was no talk of Jim returning to work, the hope was to stabilize him enough that he could return home. There had been slow progress for a week. I left Jim’s bedside one afternoon and stopped in the hall to cry and pray. He looked so weak and pale and was struggling to breathe. That evening there was a call from Kaiser. “Come back to the hospital immediately and don’t drive yourself”. A neighbor drove me to Santa Clara. I was praying the entire way. I found Jim in an intensive care room encased in huge machinery with doctors working to bring his heart rate down from over 200 beats per minute.

About midnight I was told the only possible hope was to transfer Jim to Stanford. I called friends who drove me to Stanford and spent the night with me. The following three days two compassionate interns at Stanford used their amazing skills to bring Jim back from certain death. I soon found my way to the Stanford hospital chapel. I made many daily visits there, thanking God that Jim was still alive and that he had talented doctors working to save his life. I was being allowed to illegally camp out in a waiting room. The staff would bring me a pillow and blanket at night. Friends brought me clothes, toothbrush and washcloth. Wonderful neighbors in Ben Lomond were providing my children with casseroles.

After several days of intensive medical care the interns announced they felt Jim was considered stabile enough to go on the heart transplant list. I remember my first words were, “Are you still doing that?” Indeed they were.
The month of October became a routine of days spent at Stanford and long drives home to our children who were holding up amazingly well. Towards the end of the month Jim was well enough to sit up in bed and talk. His doctors felt there was a short period of time they could help him maintain that level of stability.

The day of October 31, 1979, proceeded with much the same routine as the weeks before. But it was also the 10th birthday of our twins and Halloween. Our dear neighbor had baked cakes for the children so their birthday was not forgotten. I had returned from Stanford in time to pass out treats at the door while our children were Trick or Treating. The telephone rang. When I answered it my heart jumped as I listened to the message, “This is Stanford Hospital, we have a heart for your husband.” Thank you, God!

A neighbor drove me to Los Gatos where friends waited to take me to Stanford. We got there in time to pray with Jim before he was wheeled into surgery. It was the longest night of my life. We witnessed the new, healthy heart being brought down the hall in a little Igloo ice chest and taken into surgery. Somewhere a family in grief had chosen to donate their loved one’s heart. Our prayers went out to them. Jim’s surgery went smoothly and by dawn he was being wheeled into recovery. His talented cardiologists announced it was “just a plumbing job”. For us, it was a miracle from God. Jim was Stanford’s 176th heart transplant.

Jim made amazing progress. He was able to return home the week before Christmas. Our children were so thrilled. But not the family beagle, he did not recognize Jim and growled at him! Christmas 1979 was so joyous. There had been many days and nights I could not envision we would be celebrating the birth of the Christ child together. God allowed Jim six years following his surgery. He was able to return to work but chose to become principal of a less stressful elementary school. We were allowed six more summers to enjoy family time at our cabin. Jim thanked God for every evening he could spend casting flies across the Sacramento River.

Top

________________________________________________

Eating on the Wild Side - a book review - Donna Seelbach, St. Philip the Apostle Church, Scotts Valley

This book is an anthology of the history, food values, and preparations of food for optimum food value. It is clearly written and very informative. For example, in the chapter entitled Corn on the Cob, the author traces the origins of corn to a wild grass in Mexico called Teosinte. The Indians who harvested this corn had to really work at getting the kernels out, but the protein content was twice as high as our modern corn, and much less starchy. Today we have choices in regards to nutritional corn, and blue corn is one of them. Robinson goes on to talk about "Choosing the Most Nutritious Corn in the Supermarket," "Growing Corn," "How to Cook Corn on the Cob," and makes recommendations for purchasing seeds today.

She is an advocate of the farmer’s markets because of the unusual choices that are sold. She emphasized how the freshness of an item is key to nutrition. For added nutrition cook with red, blue, or purple whole grain cornmeal. Canning corn reduces its vitamin C content, but it doesn't destroy the phytonutrients. Freezing corn has a minimal effect on its nutritional profile. Frozen and canned super sweet corn, however, have a relatively high glycemic index.

Here is some of her advice on broccoli: Choose the freshest broccoli in the supermarket. Whole heads of broccoli have more nutrients than precut florets. Chill the vegetable as soon as you bring it home and eat it raw or cook it as soon as possible. To seal it, place in a sealable plastic bag in which you have pricked about twenty tiny holes. For even fresher broccoli, shop at a farmer's market or grow your own. Steaming broccoli for less than five minutes preserves the most nutrients. Boiling or cooking it in a microwave destroys a high percentage of its potential health benefits. Raw broccoli gives you the most sulforaphan, a potent cancer-fighting nutrient.

Did you know that cooking tomatoes for 30 minutes or more doubles its lycopene content? So when preparing tomatoes, think twice before removing the pulp. The juice is high in an amino acid called glutamate, which is part of the chemical flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG). The skin and seeds also provide about 50 percent of the tomato's vitamin C content, its overall antioxidant value, and lycopene, which is a phytochemical linked to reduced risk of heart disease, cancers, cataracts, Alzheimer's, dementia, and Type 2 diabetes. A good read and a beautifully crafted book, as well.

________________________________________________

Lent Soup Suppers are here again! Join us to hear the Lenten Journeys of others, and how their paths have been changed by Lent. Sunday evenings, Mar. 9 - Apr. 6, 6:00 - 8:00 pm, in the Parish Hall.

Top
________________________________________________

Bible Challenge

Come with us on a Pilgrimage of the heart!

Ever thought of taking a holy pilgrimage? Here’s one you can take from right here in the San Lorenzo Valley. Come on a journey through the Bible, a year-long reading adventure, with The Bible Challenge. Short meditations written by Anglican scholars from throughout the world accompany the daily readings. Our faith will be enlivened and expanded by a sustained encounter with God's Word. If you never thought you could read the whole Bible, The Bible Challenge is a wonderful way to embark on a holy pilgrimage joined by others from around the world! Recommended by Bishop Mary! We have a group meeting once a week at the church and a group meeting online through Google Groups.

Top
________________________________________________

Prayer Cards

Prayer cards, sometimes called holy cards, are small, devotional pictures produced for the use of the faithful. They typically depict a religious scene or a saint in an image about the size of a playing card. The reverse often contains a prayer associated with the pictured saint. The custom of distributing prayer cards is a centuries old tradition, practiced now primarily by the liturgical churches. The oldest surviving prayer card depicts St. Christopher and dates back to 1423.

They can be used to prompt prayer for any person or occasion, and often commemorate special moments, e.g., Confirmation or even a family reunion. Holy cards have an unlimited amount of use and may be creatively imprinted.
The prayer cards you have seen around St. Andrew’s lately have images intended to provoke a spiritual response – praise to God, a prayer for someone else or for ourselves, or simply being reminded of God’s grace towards us. Each contains a prayer or inspirational words. The back has information about St. Andrew’s, so they can be distributed in the community as invitations to join us for worship.

Fifteen different cards are now in circulation. It appears that colorful and striking images are the most popular. The bright red heart went like hotcakes! (see Bible Challenge article.) Also popular were the Circle Me prayer with Celtic knot design; the Rooted Tree; the Celtic Cross. It looks like safety, security, and belonging are themes that touch our souls in these uncertain days. Maybe your friends and neighbors would be blessed by one of these cards. You can find them at the back of the church. Help yourselves!

Top
_____________________________________________

Gary Smith (March 2)
Gina Carling (Mar 4)
John Brough (Mar 5)
Clark McPherson (Mar 7)
Elizabeth Forbes (Mar 9)
Celestine Glover (Mar 13)
Jerry Fishel (Mar 16)
Claire Cunningham (Mar 16)
Nia Wooliscroft (Mar 16)
Tom Spring (Mar 24)
Gary McCormick (Mar 27)
Ed Butler (Apr 2)
Henry ValldeRuten (Apr 5)
Sharon Fishel (Apr 6)
Maryelise Balch (Apr 8)
Donna Brough (Apr 11)
Barbara Banke (Apr 14)
Pauline Syres (Apr 16)
Sheryl Mello (Apr 18)
Susan ValldeRuten (Apr 22)
Tom Fogarty (Apr 27)
Joan McVay (Apr 27)
Tillie Cunningham (Apr 28)

Top

________________________________________________

The Back Page...

Confession - Next Exit - Elizabeth Forbes

We were given the first commandment (... no other gods…) not because God is egotistical, but in part because a loving relationship with us is what God wants more than anything. A 5-minute review of Scripture finds this theme: “I will be their God and they will be my people . It’s in Leviticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hebrews, 2 Corinthians, and Revelation, just for starters. God’s heart longs for intimacy with us.

That God’s love is unconditional is found throughout the Bible and is a given of Christian belief. It is the Good News we like to talk about. So why do we often feel unloved? Why do we separate ourselves from God? Sin lies to us, telling us that there are conditions to being loved and that we, ourselves, have to overcome them. So we center our lives on false values that we hope will make us loveable — wealth, being responsible, etc. And we live in terror that someone will see under the façade and reject us. We think we’re the crown of creation, the smartest creatures on Earth, yet we believe this pitiful lie and allow ourselves to be debilitated by it. (Our dogs know better.)

One of those things I can’t explain is the power of sin. My experience, confirmed by that of others, is that one reason we hide from God is because we feel guilty about something. We think we’re in trouble with God. There is some evidence for this in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. But there is plenty more - in both Old & New - attesting to God’s forgiveness and willingness to love us in spite of what we’ve done or not done. God has made provision for erasing our wrongdoings in the Hebrew ritual sacrifices and by coming here in the flesh to make the ultimate sacrifice.

In spite of our claim to understand the concepts of forgiveness, atonement, and reconciliation, we continue to keep those fig leaves plastered all over ourselves. God has done all that needs to be done to make us whole and without sin. God already sees us as wholly loveable, and does indeed, love us unconditionally. That means God loves us even before we’ve repented and asked forgiveness.

But to receive that love means opening the door to our innermost selves, and therein lies the rub. Sin has another lie it tells. This one says that we are rotten to the core, that we must be ashamed of our very being. This is what keeps us from standing naked before God. Yes, God already knows who we are and what is inside us. Still we present a false self to God and the false self is incapable of receiving the fullness of God’s love.

There is no upfront disclosure, we can’t know the end from the beginning, we have to open up in faith. We have to become wholly vulnerable to God in order to know the fullness of God within. How do we do that? One way is to lay it all out in prayer, fearlessly saying to God what we most fear in ourselves, and see if lightning strikes. It won’t, but I, myself, never know for sure until I do it. And that’s the essence of it - experiencing it firsthand. We can understand with our intellects, but when we experience it we know it in a whole different way - a way that is life changing.

Another way to open ourselves wholly to God is to talk about our guilt and shame with another person. This method helps to counter our marvelous capacity for denial. Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, his classic on what it means to be the body of Christ, recommends that we confess to a trusted brother or sister in Christ on a regular basis. This is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is about. (See p. 446 in the BCP.) There are two forms and it might surprise you that either can be used with a lay or ordained listener. In it we are invited to drop our masks, our defenses, and just let go of whatever has that sense of shame locked up inside. Once it’s out, it begins to lose its power over us. The lie is no longer so convincing.

The introspective season of Lent is an ideal time for this rite, whether it is with a priest or another trusted individual. What an incredible experience it is to look at our truth and find that the Truth has set us free.

Top

If you are interested in submitting an article in next month's newsletter, contact Elizabeth Forbes or Paula Jansen.