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Leslie’s Logos – June 2019

Gratitude is one of the things that I am ending this year within my heart. The gratitude has other companions there, including joy at all that this community has accomplished this year and sorrow at the divisions that remain among us as we end this year.

The gratitude is there, gratitude for all the people who give so much to make this place what it is. Many continue to serve even though they didn’t like everything that was happening in the community. So many people give so much to make the community that we create together happen.\

I am also grateful for those who were willing to take the risks of truth-telling and of learning this year. So many of us were raised in cultures that equate conflict with danger so this is no small gift and I’m very grateful for those who are willing to give it. Each person who is taking the time to tell their truth, especially as an actual exploration of their feelings and concerns have allowed me a window into perspectives I otherwise would have no way of knowing. And those perspectives have changed my work and ministry this year.

I am grateful for those who were willing to engage in the difficult work of looking at what is and after learning that these times require reading and learning.
I know that I am taking on and wrestling with new ideas at a faster pace than I ever have before because that is what it seems these times require. I don’t always find it fun, in fact, this year it’s felt as if I rarely do but I know it is part of the commitments that we make to one another.

So grateful to all of you who have given, who have spoken the truth of how you are feeling in these times as an invitation to conversation and to have trusted to step into that faithful journey who is next destination may be just out of sight around the next corner.

In faith, Leslie
Rev. Leslie Takahashi serves as the Lead Minister of the Congregation. She can be reached at leslie@mduuc.net.

Friday, May 17, 2019

This week I share some meditative thoughts from this week’s vespers service:

Renewal is a journey taken breath by breath, moment by moment and again and again. Tonight may gratitude guide our inhalations and our exhalations as we breath ourself into new spaces of acceptance and healing. Breath by breath we connect with our hearts. Breath by breath we recall our aspirations and breathe ourselves into that first beginning. Breath by breath we reclaim the truth of our bodies and allow ourselves to be touched by the world around us. Breath by breath. Moment by moment.

Breath by breath, moment by moment, I remember that I renew my life with the dawning of every day. Breath by breath, moment by moment, I affirm the new chances for connection from those I love. Breath by breath, moment by moment, I remember that together we are more. Breath by breath, moment by moment, I remember that to be renewed is to be recalled to the wholeness that is our birthright.

Breath by breath

What relationships do I need to renew?

What connections do I need to deepen?

What aspirations do I need to reimagine?

Breath by breath, I commit to renewing my spirit.

Breath by breath, I envision myself renewing my body.

Breath by breath, I see myself opening my mind to that larger imagination which is the source of renewal.

With each breath, I am grateful for the opportunities for renewal.

With each breath, I am resolved to be renewed.

Leslie’s Logos

The week before Easter we had our own small renewal. Three new banners were mounted on the end wall of the Bortin Hall and three much smaller versions were strung over our sign on Eckley Lane. A number of you remarked on the banners—a number of visitors that day said they made them feel at home and welcomed. One visitor shared that she has had a fear of churches from her younger days and yet seeing the banners as she drove onto the campus gave her an immediate sense of comfort and made it feel as if she need not be so uneasy.

What I like about the banners and why I am grateful to the Board and to Doug Tamo who executed the Board’s decision with such prowess, is that they are the result of our committed dialogue as a community. The original decision to hang the banner grew out of the use of our public witness process which involved the collection of signatures and two congregational conversations as well as a vote. And the concerns about the banners were revealed as part of the listening sessions held over the winter and spring. Some wanted them more prominent and others felt our church sign was overwhelmed by them. Our elected leaders, me as the called minister and our appointed leaders such as those who serve our facilities so well were all involved. For me, that is the beauty of the banners which reflect the best of our open and engaged decision process.

I do understand that some may still not like banners or the idea of banners or the idea of any kind of witness.  This has been true when many people of faith have been called out by their times to be more vocal and make their values a sanctuary.  I am sure that individuals have ideas about how to do it better.

Please hear me, I do understand that some people still have not engaged in direct conversation and I welcome that for the spreading of indirect information results in distortions and exaggerations which drive us further apart.

The banners now hang on what was a somewhat drab side of the building offering a cheerful and colorful path of entry into our hall.  Before them lies a planter box which has been long neglected.  As Doug Tamo proposed it would be a great space for a rainbow garden.  Anyone interested in making that so?

With gratitude, Leslie

Rev. Leslie Takahashi serves as the Lead Minister of the Congregation.  She can be reached at leslie@mduuc.net.

Friday, April 19, 2019

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of sitting with a woman who I will call Cheryl who shared her story of traveling as a transgender woman from her home in Honduras. She spoke about how the drug gangs target trans people because they know they often do not have the support or protection of friends or family. She spoke about her attempts to refuse to carry drugs and about how that resulted in an ultimatum that she would do it or die within 24 hours. She spoke about traveling for months and thousands of months with the caravan, not only enduring the dangers of that travel—also the harassment and targeting of her fellow travelers. She spoke about being incarcerated after declaring herself at our borders, about her friend who was very ill and denied medical treatment, about how if they asked for the essential medicines, they were subject to having the temperatures lowered to unbearable cold. She talked about how her friend died. She talked about how she is now living with other transgender migrants. She talked about the churches and leaders who helped her.

These were all facts I had heard before and yet to hear them from a beautiful human being only a few feet away from me gripped my heart. On a week when I have experienced more fear than usual, I was inspired by this woman who never chose to be brave and yet was, who never chose to be strong and yet was, who never chose to be so heroic and yet was. She may never know the inspiration she offered me.

Last night I took a longer walk with my dogs for the first time in a while. As we walked, I thought of Cheryl and all the strength of the human spirit. Our ancestors believed that we, as human beings, had more resilience and strength and did not need an all-powerful God to lead our lives, though inspiration is essential.

No one should go through what Cheryl and the other migrants have been through and yet I am grateful that she shared her story and offered me some hope and peace.

The spirit of Good Friday and Passover both invite us to find renewal in the midst of challenge.

Last Sunday I took time to engage my curious mind

Out in the Briones Open Space, Crystal the American Bully Breed pup and I went exploring. It was a path neither of us had been on before.  For me, it reminded me of the importance of engagement with the natural world which I too often miss. For Crystal, it was her first encounter with cows which she was fascinated by—and which she did not let out of her sites. Later that night, we both slept well, engaged in the contemplation of new spaces and views.

So often we need that engagement in this world in which we are looking to fit our old ways of knowing into a new world filled with uncertainty and change. I wish that I could more often bring the spirit of curiosity to these large questions in my life, rather than the feeling that if I do not know the answer, I am somehow inadequate.  Living the questions truly is the challenge of our time and it takes a whole new set of skills.

I would like to be more like Crystal, quiet and intent, trying to figure out what these larger-than-the-average dog creatures were. I wish I could be more in the spirit I had myself that night—open to possibility and intrigued with the mystery of the unimaginable greenness of the hills and the promise of paths unexplored.  This is the spirit of inquiry into which we are invited by these times to enter.

Curious. Questioning, Contemplative. May our days hold more of this.

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