Life beyond privilege

During a couple of Sundays this past summer Pastor Bernt and I offered families at church the opportunity to reflect and share their hopes and ideas for family life at church. There was good energy and many ideas that came from these discussions. One common theme/interest/need that came out of the conversation was that of providing opportunities for our children (and grown ups) to be involved in serving and helping those in the communities around us. The chance to connect with others and help make a difference in someone else’s life is a privilege and an honor.

It has been interesting to hear the same interest coming from some neighborhood parents at Addison Elementary School, just down the block. There is a real concern among some parents that many kids in our neighborhood around the church do not know or understand how privileged they are living in this part of Palo Alto. I have been asked on more then one occasion by folks outside the church (who know I am a pastor) whether I knew of opportunities where they and their children would be able to connect with and help make a difference in the lives of others. 

It is telling but not surprising that we have folks inside the church community as well as in the community around us who are looking for and needing ways to help others who are not as fortunate.

Pastor Bernt and I share this concern out of our own privileged experience raising our five children. We have also witnessed–as pastors and as parents– how much kids really like to get involved in helping others and making a difference in the world.

We have seen this at First Lutheran. Whether it’s been making sack lunches for the homeless in San Francisco, gathering towels and shampoo so homeless people can shower, or helping serve meals with the Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP). There is a rich mix of enthusiasm and learning and a sense of making a difference that comes with these opportunities.

Responding to this observed interest and enthusiasm, Pastor Bernt and I have found a new opportunity to help, support, and serve the community around us! This is a program in East Palo Alto called New Creations Ministries (

New Creations Ministries is set up to help homeless teenage moms survive. New Creations has two homes where these young mothers and their young children live with each other. The goal is to help get them on their feet by providing the basics: food, shelter, and support. The staff teach the moms how to parent, how to prepare for and find jobs, and, of course, how to continue their education. 

Pastor Bernt and I spent a couple of hours talking with one of their staff members , Lisa Moody and touring the homes, and we even met a couple moms and their adorable babies. It was a moving experience in many ways. We wanted to check New Creations out as a possible opportunity for our family as well as a possible new experience for First Lutheran.

There are many ways to help. There is an ongoing need for childcare while the moms take parenting classes and receive mentoring, Volunteers can provide transportation, provide meals for a parenting class, sponsor a holiday, and forever, donate baby clothes and supplies.

Pastor Bernt and I are planning to take some of our kids to help play with little kids while their moms (and, thankfully, some dads) are in their parenting class on a Tuesday evening. I look forward to reporting back.

There are so many opportunities to live out the Gospel in the neighborhoods around us. Perhaps you know of other opportunities. Perhaps you know of others—inside or outside the FLPA community–who want to help. Please join us!


Pastor Kate

On Advent

I’d seen this image from “Cat in the Hat” many times before, no rx but in our latest reading it made me think of Advent: a word that means “arrival,” a season, a spirituality of watching and waiting for God.  What seems weird is that the kids aren’t lined up before a large glowing screen or individual iPads.  I suppose that’s not what kids did in 1957.  They want to get outside, so they’re watching for a break in the rain, or for whatever else might happen …

I wonder, when is the last time I just watched rain fall?  My email itself can be so absorbing, and then there’s the news, which has many of us feeling very anxious.  We can’t look away, and in one sense, we shouldn’t when such dramatic changes are underway and when we are involved.  Then again, maybe our field of vision can get to be too narrow?  In our stress, maybe we pack our December schedule to be water-tight and just hope that God will help us pull it off without complications.  What if we stop for a while and turn our faces in some new direction?  I think of how rain can remind us of the steady and truly amazing provision of God, falling alike on the “good and the bad.”(Matthew 6)  Even those Californians who have to drive through it can appreciate rainfall as a truly important event, a gift.

cathat2My other image here is of people in pews watching for Christ, which is not to take a break from reality but seek to understand it more deeply.  I’ve always been intrigued by words from the German martyr and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer: the gospel of Jesus Christ is the one place where we can “fix one’s eyes on God and the world together at the same time.” Sin is fully exposed together with grace and great promise.  During Advent, we hear about swords beaten into plows, wolves lying down the lambs, good news for the poor, the Spirit descending like a dove, and Emmanuel: “God-with-us.”  I can’t imagine how God can do all this, which is I suppose why I need to stay attentive, willing to be surprised and to follow.

Magnificat Vespers 2016