Heretical History

lamp light on stone walkway

Have you ever wanted to learn about the interesting folks within Christian History who did things counter to the status quo? The people who challenged the existing beliefs, or even tried to buck the entire system?

Join Erik for a short history lesson and discussion on the 2nd Sunday of the month for 60 to 90 minutes of discussion at noon after church, until 1 pm on Zoom, and in the Fireside Room.

Zoom participation is encouraged at the following link:
Time:  12:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 867 4661 7915
Passcode: 123456
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Pub Theology Meet-up

coffee cup in front of zoom meeting

Pub Theology Meet-up

Time: First Friday of the Month from 7pm to 9pm 

Description: Join members of UCC Simi Valley and others for an online gathering at the Zoom link shown below. A prompt will be provided at the beginning of the meeting for us to think and chat about. Enjoy a sip of your favorite beverage (whatever that may be… beer, wine, coffee, tea, or a fine glass of tap water) while we discuss the prompt and/or chat about whatever comes up.

Zoom Link

Join Zoom Meeting

 

Embracing Life Together in Togo, West Africa

Newlove is a name that has come up in our announcements and prayers. 
This is some of his story:

Newlove Atiso was born in Ghana, West Africa, the second of three sons,
who were followed by two daughters, five children in all. Newlove
received his name from his father Bob, and he later took a middle name,
Bobson, to honor his father.  His mother came from a village in the
neighboring country to the east, Togo.

When Newlove visited Togo as a tourist, he felt at home.  He decided to
move there and work for the needs of the poor.  In 2008 he learned about
People to People International, which was founded by Pres. Dwight
Eisenhower to foster personal contacts around the world.  Newlove and
his friends founded the PTPI-Togo chapter in the capital city of Lomé. 
Soon after that, Newlove asked PTPI for a sister chapter in the U.S.,
and the Los Angeles chapter answered the invitation.  (I was president
of the chapter then, and Leslie Kearney is the president now.)

Our first project together was to repair a school roof that had
literally collapsed onto children in a country village.  Half of the
money came from LA, and PTPI-Togo volunteers did all of the labor.  (The
school’s neighbors would not work without pay.)

In 2014 our members Joan and John spent a week in Togo, enjoying overflowing
hospitality.  Among many adventures, they saw the school roof, built back
better than new.  Beyond that, a Swiss official had recognized the
volunteer work and had caused the construction of a sturdy new building
with two much-improved classrooms.  Then, a Turkish foundation learned
what was going on and contributed a well and a water pump so that the
children always have clean water to drink.  All of this happened because
Newlove’s big heart had responded to children in need.

In the years since then, another member of PTPI-LA, Natalie Besse,
visited Togo and Ghana and personally underwrote a library and a water
storage unit.  Also, we heard from a PTPI member in Delaware, Ed
Tucker.  Ed visited West Africa on a cruise and, having only one day in
Lomé, sought out the PTPI chapter and became a friend and supporter of
Newlove.  The Delaware chapter raised $2,300 to buy school supplies and
pay school fees for poor children in Togo.

Newlove stays in touch by emails and short phone calls, although both
are unreliable and expensive.  He is a passionate advocate for
poor children, hoping that they can bring about a better time.

The Mighty Power in Simple Breathwork [5 Minute Meditation]

silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime

When you’re beginning to practice meditation, often the biggest roadblock is “emptying” the mind. It is common to quit meditating all together, because no matter how hard you try, it seems impossible to stop random thoughts from popping into your head.

Often what happens is that someone will attempt to silence their thoughts, random thoughts come, and then that person will start to judge themselves for not being able to meditate “correctly.” Then, instead of freedom from attachment, they are fully attached to thoughts of “I just can’t do it!”

There is a cycle that happens here that we must find a way to break!

How do we break that cycle?

Breathing!

Instead of focusing on whether or not you’re “doing it right” shift your attention to your breath. The rhythmic pattern of inhaling and exhaling has an effect on your mind similar to the effect a lullaby might have on a fussy infant. We are simply calming everything down: our bodies, our thoughts, our worries, etc.

Scientists are now just beginning to understand some of the marvelous benefits of breath control. According to The New York Times:

“Studies have found…that breathing practices can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder.”

Breathe. Exhale. Repeat: The Benefits of Controlled Breathing, By Lesley Alderman, NY Times, Nov. 9, 2016

The “Just Breathe” Method

This 5 Minute Meditation Method allows us to practice using our breath to still our minds.

Meditation for beginners steps

Step By Step Instructions

  1. Find a quiet place
  2. Pick an object in the room
  3. Imagine a connected tube supplying oxygen, and inhale deeply
  4. Pause at the end of your inhale
  5. Let out the breath and send the air back through the imaginary tube toward the object
  6. Repeat until you feel like you’re in a rhythm
  7. Close your eyes and repeat the same breath pattern until you feel calm and relaxed

Instructional Video

During a recent webinar, Curtis Lee Rodgers walks attendees through the “Just Breathe” Method

Notes

  • Pretending that air is flowing through a tube allows you to blend the use of your imagination with the reality of the physical object in the room.
  • Your breath becomes the connection between the two realms of imagination and reality.
  • Imagination is what fuels or creative processes. When we need inspiration we can draw upon our creative mind.
  • Focusing on the physical objectgrounds” us in the natural world or “reality.”
  • The flow from imagination to physical reality can provide inspiration when we need a creative boost.
  • The flow from physical reality to our imagination can help us make peace with an obstacle or issue we face.

Summary

What appears, on the surface, as a simple exercise actually has deeper implications.

Mastering the “gap” between “what is” (or our reality) and “what can be” (or our imagination) allows us to participate in the natural flow of consciousness.

Too often we wait for things to happen and then merely have a reaction. A life of spiritual practice, even a simple one like the meditation method mentioned in this post, allows us to break the habit of reaction and live purposely.

Learning how to harness and direct our thoughts cleans up all the mental junk we accumulate and allows us to create more, love more and envision a better existence for ourselves and our world.


Related Articles

Meditation for Beginners [How to start in only five minutes!]

aged ancient asian buddhism

When first beginning to explore meditation, it can be very difficult to figure out how to get started. We often want to jump straight into becoming a meditation master!

Many of us lack the ability or the time to spend hours in deep states of consciousness. This series of posts seeks to explore beginning meditation methods. Some of the methods shared will only require 5 minutes!

aged ancient asian buddhism

The key is to allow yourself to try! No one will become a meditation expert overnight, but trying a simple 5 minute exercise can help to build important focus and relaxation skills. These small skills can lead to a more satisfying spiritual practice.

What are the benefits of this method?

This practice can help begin to clear the “clutter” from your mind. If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or burdened about something in your life, this meditation method helps to clear away other distractions and “make peace” with the concern you have.

Five Minute Meditation #1: The Paper Method

Quick Reference Slide

Instructions for Five Minute Meditation

  1. Find a quiet place
  2. Write down a concern, source of anxiety, goal or something else that is on your mind.
  3. Spend the next 1-2 minutes staring at the words on the paper.
  4. Close your eyes.
  5. Begin folding the paper over and over again until it won’t fold any longer. Some people have found it more satisfying to rip the piece of paper into smaller and smaller pieces instead of using the folding method. Feel free to use whichever method works best for you.

The physical act of folding or tearing the paper gives you a chance to “make peace” with the source of your anxiety or concern. We are tying a physical act to the thought. We are quite literally “pushing away” harmful thoughts.

You may notice a sense of relief right away or you may not notice anything at all. Like anything else, it takes time to develop an effective spiritual practice. The important thing is you’ve taken the first step!

Shredder, Crushed, Paper, Flakes, Paper Strip, Shredded

Things to note:

  • If you have a busy chaotic environment, do the best you can to get away. You may try sneaking off to the bathroom, garage or outside to a nearby park.
  • When staring at the word on the piece of paper, let thoughts come, but don’t obsess over them. Treat them as a stranger who just walked past you on the street, give a polite nod and then move on.
  • When you have finished fold or tearing your paper, give yourself a moment to collect yourself and take a deep breath before returning to the buzz of life.

Watch the Video!

Other Meditation Resources

Guided Meditations Group

Each Thursday evening for 20 to 30 minutes Rev. Susan Brecht leads a guided meditation, followed by a short time of sharing. The meditations draw from Christian, Buddhist, and Inter-spiritual traditions i.e. Loving Kindness Meditations, Tonglen, Relaxation Meditation, Examen, Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer and meditations focused on themes of Gratitude, Peace and Love. 

All are welcome to join us on ZOOM. 


Embrace Life Project

Former Pastor, Curtis Lee Rodgers lead a 4 week webinar series all about learning how to use spiritual practice in order to live a more fulfilling life. Webinar #2, in particular, deals with the three main types of spiritual practice and gives practical examples and tips.
Watch the entire webinar below, just click play!

Searching for Normal

“Searching for Normal” is a poem by Rev. Susan Brecht
Rev. Susan reads her poem during Sunday Worship

A day in the park.
Masked man greets me.
Smiling eyes.
“Isn’t it wonderful,
all these people in the park!”
Just what I was thinking.
“It almost feels normal.”
I agree.



We’re searching for normal,
not the old normal.

We can’t go back.
A new normal?
What does that look like?

Hand shakes instead of fist bumps?
Hugs all around.
Time with family and friends –
no longer six feet apart.
New signs on empty store fronts.
But that is the old normal.

We’re searching for a new normal –
where oceans are clear of plastic,
solar panels and windmills dot the horizon,
electric stations replace gas pumps,
glaciers have stopped melting,
polar bears still have a home,
air is clear to breathe and water safe to drink.

We’re searching for a new normal –
where children no longer go hungry,
where no one lives on the street,
medical care is available to all,
and college students graduate debt free.

We’re searching for a new normal –
where guns are only used for hunting,
prisons rehabilitate,
restorative justice reduces prison population,
where wars are a distant memory.

We’re searching for a new normal –
where truth is the standard bearer,
fake news a relic of the past,
where honesty is worn as a badge of honor,
where all people are treated with dignity and respect,
where we see each other,
even those we disagree with,
with the eyes of God,

We’re searching for a new normal –
where acts of kindness are a daily occurrence,
positive stories out number negative ones
on the daily news cycle.
where walls have morphed into bridges,
not only on the border,
but in our daily lives,
where government officials reach across the aisle,
egos set aside,
to work for the betterment of all,

We’re searching for a new normal –
where churches are filled on Sunday mornings,
and throughout the week,
their work and message spilling out into the streets,
a renaissance of spirituality,
no matter your tradition.

A new normal, you say?
But how?
It’s up to each one of us,
who keep dreaming,
who have faith that a new normal is possible,
who keep hope alive,
who ground ourselves in love,
and each day, each one of us,
take steps to make it a reality,
for that is the only way
to a new normal.

FFLUID Support Group

Families & Friends Living United In Diversity (FFLUID) is dedicated to offering “streams” of unconditional love, heartfelt support and quality resources to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, their families and friends. Our monthly support meetings give our members a safe space to discuss the unique challenges LGBTQIA+ persons face when forming friendships, seeking housing and employment, finding healthcare and navigating complicated family relationships.

Covid-19 Update

FFLUID will resume in-person support meetings in August. We are examining how to include our online guests while maintaining the confidentiality of our participants. Please see contact info below if would like to participate online.


Meetings are held from 7:00 until 8:30 pm on the 3rd Thursday of every month.

For directions to our facility, see the map HERE.

For information on attending the Support Group (online) please reach out to FFLUID on Facebook or you can sign up via Eventbrite.

For more information about FFLUID please visit ffluid.org.

Prayer Shawl Ministry

Do you enjoy knitting or crocheting? Would you like to use your skills to create prayer shawls to bring peace, comfort, and warmth to sustain those in our community who need a mantle of safe haven in times of challenge? During this time of lock-down and isolation, your talents are especially desired. Completed shawls will be blessed by our faith community during Worship Gatherings and taken by one of our Deacons to anyone who requests them.

If you are interested in serving the community in this way please contact us here.

Communion

Join us for our Communion Service the first Sunday of every month. All are welcome. Juice and wine are provided and the bread portion offered is gluten-free.

We welcome visitors online or in person.

Please visit our Visitors Guide: HERE for more information.