Pastor’s Musings

Excerpts from Chapel Chat

October 24, 2019  

I’ve chatted up this idea with a few people and everyone seems to like it…so…we’re going to have a “Left-Over Potluck” on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  This will be December 1st and it will be nice to get together over lunch just for fun.  No business meeting attached!

DID YOU KNOW…the genesis of today’s “instant replay” in sports comes from the 1960 Winter Olympics here in Squaw Valley?  It’s true!  When officials became unsure as to whether a skier had missed a gate in the men’s slalom they asked CBS-TV if they could review a videotape of the race.  This gave CBS the idea of inventing the now ubiquitous “instant replay”.

A TIMELY REFLECTION: This piece is written by an acquaintance of mine, Rev. Lillian Daniel.  She shares: “At least on my block, All Saints Day is overshadowed by Halloween.  That irritates some people, so they take it out on Halloween, calling it a “wicked holiday” that should be scorned by the church.      The anti-Halloween crowd would not like the Haunted Halls Halloween event we just had at church, but it was all about the kids.  By which I mean that the kids gave the adults the excuse to run screaming around the church in ridiculous costumes, to set up strobe lights and rubber snakes in the nursery, to put a scary mannequin and a dry ice machine in the toilet.  The adults did all this while the children calmly painted pumpkins, perhaps wondering if the grown-ups would ever grow up.      Maybe I just like candy and costumes too much, but I’ve never felt a disconnect between Halloween and All Saints Day.  Halloween was once All Hallow’s Eve—not a competing event, but the evening vigil that prepared the saints on earth to remember the saints who had gone ahead.      It’s natural to spend that night considering death and all that is scary.  It’s beautiful to spend the next day pondering the greater truth: One day God will wipe every tear from our grieving eyes, add us to the mighty cloud of witnesses, and wrap us in the love that knows no end.”

October 17, 2019

  If you were at the chapel last Sunday, you would have enjoyed a really good selection of tasty dishes for lunch and would certainly not have gone home hungry!  Thanks to everyone who contributed to the menu, setting up, and cleaning up afterward.

At the meeting after lunch we addressed a few business items and what I want to share with everyone in this week’s issue of Chapel Chat is the schedule for our usual 8-week hibernation this winter.  So here it is:

January 12, 2020: Last Sunday before hibernation with potluck lunch and quarterly congregational meeting.

March 15, 2020: First Sunday back from hibernation.

When we go to our later time this year, we’re going to try meeting at 11:00 instead of noon, so “stay tuned” for those dates.

A Prayer Just for This Week:  Our chapel is nestled among some of the most beautiful mountains in Northern California and Nevada.  This is not so much a prayer but a reflection on mountains – again by the talented writer named Ted Loder.  I hope it stirs your spirit!

We are surrounded by mountains, sacred mountains, which watch over us, beckon us, call us to approach and begin the journey. Mountaineering is a risky venture and exhausting, but our mountains are accessible. Every day we meet them and their magic tells us: just stop, just turn aside here for a few moments, let me lift you to the sacred place. There are no gates or barriers. These mountains don’t close after sunset. They just lie in wait, offering a quiet space, inviting us to a new view. Even with the greatest disabilities, the frailest limbs, the faintest heart, there is a place for us. No one is too big or small. No one is unworthy. Touch the mountain and we touch the earth, we touch the universe, we touch God. Just to say we are coming is more than half the journey. It is to say we belong, to enter the wide embrace of the mountainside, and to say, yes, to love. There is a mountain stream for the thirsty and its waters are there for cleansing. There is peace and forgiveness and renewal. The wind of the Spirit sometimes blows strongly, challenging us to stand firm, or gently touches us with memories of God’s goodness. Climb the mountain and you see a long way. People you have not noticed. Distant needs which want to say also: “I am here”. And in the silence of the sacred space are voices of hope, of joy, of pain, of possibility. Climb the mountain and you will see Jesus. But most roads run past the mountain and hurry away to noise and distraction. Mountains become incidental scenery to be forgotten or photo-shots for two dimensional living. The mountains come and go, hiding in the clouds, emerging to ask again, always patient and knowing, always there for you and me.

October 3, 2019

It can be fatiguing to our spirits and bad for our mental health to over-consume the news these days.  It’s hard not to.  We have news coming at us 24/7 in the paper, on the radio, on TV, on the internet, on our cellphones and from countless other sources. 

      Did you know that there’s a place to go for good news?  (I’m not talking about the Good News of Jesus Christ we find in the Gospels, but that’s always a great place to start!)  The place I’m sharing with you is a website for the Good News Network (The Good News Network: Positive Stories 24/7 ).  The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by the news of the day, I encourage you to check out the news you’ll find here with headlines like, “On 95th Birthday, Jimmy Carter is Still Proving Age is No Obstacle as He Builds Homes for Humanity” and “Kroger Donates $500,000 Facility to Rival Grocery Store So Community Won’t Be Left Without a Supermarket.”  Amazing!
The Good News Network: Positive Stories 24/7Your daily source for only good news: Inspiring stories and images from around the world will make you feel upli…

A Prayer Just for This Week:  Last week we shared a new interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer.  This week we have a new rendition of the 23rd Psalm that you might enjoy.  It is written by Bill Gaultiere and Kristi Gaultiere.  Posted on Soul Shepherding.
Home – Soul Shepherding

The Lord Jesus is my Soul Shepherd who meets all my needs and makes me smile. He gets me to stop working and to relax with him in his Father’s loving arms. He takes me into a quiet place to be still and know that he is God and I am loved. He heals and rejuvenates my whole being with his grace from the inside out. He holds my hand at the crossroads and walks me onto the path of life. Even though I go through dark and difficult times, I don’t fear anything bad because you are with me. You discipline me in love and converse patiently with me to bring out the best in me. You prepare a celebration to bless and honor me right in front of my enemies. You anoint me with your Spirit to minister to others out of the overflow of your love to me. I can count on your generous favor and tender mercy coming to me wherever I go. I will live in the presence of Christ as his beloved in all things and at all times.

September 23, 2019

A Prayer Just for This Week:  It’s been a while since I’ve seen a new interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer.  Many of us are familiar with the New Zealand Prayer Book rendition (if not, click here: )  Today, however, I was pleased to find this new (to me) rendition from Christian Aid in England.  I hope you enjoy this one:

Our Father Who is in us here on earth Holy is your name In the hungry who share their bread and their song.

Your Kingdom come, A generous land where confidence and truth reign.

Let us do your will. Bring a cool breeze for those who sweat. You are giving us our daily bread When we manage to get back our lands Or to get a fairer wage.

Forgive us For keeping silent in the face of injustice And for burying our dreams.

Don’t let us fall into the temptation Of taking up the same arms as the enemy, But deliver us from evil which disunites us.

And we shall have believed in humanity and in life; And we shall have known your Kingdom Which is being built for ever and ever. Amen.

      An extra blessing in this is that you can share this good news with others!  (Just like you would about the Good News we hear every week at worship.  Everyone needs it!)

Worship Videos

Come sing with us. Rehearsal at 9:20 am Sunday before worship.

Worship Videos

November 24, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 23:5-6; King of Kings, Lord of Lords

Which King do you serve?  Pastor James tells a story with 3 different endings; which conclusion applies to Squaw Valley Chapel??

November 17, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading:Isaiah 5:1-7; 11:1-5; Vineyard Song.  

Pastor James talks about how we are like the vine our loving God planted in our hearts.

November 10, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25; This Temple.

Pastor James opens this talk with a summary of the Temple in Jerusalem, when it was built, sacked, rebuilt, and destroyed a final time. It is also a story of occupation and diaspora.

November 3, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 18:20-39; Sermon: Faith in Community

God is the gathering one who calls us into community with each other to love, to support and heal.

October 27, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9; Matthew 5:1-12; Sermon: All The Saints!

Looking forward to November 1, the traditional All Saints Day, when we celebrate those on whose shoulders we proudly stand.

October 20, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: 2Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5; Sermon: King David

How the joy of processing the Ark of the Covenant is relevant to us today.

October 13, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:1-22; Sermon: Ruth

A fresh approach to a familiar story; we learn a new word.

October 6, 2019; Rev James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9; Sermon:  Hear, O Israel.

Have you ever wondered what the Ten Commandments would sound like if they were phrased as guidelines for a good life, instead of the traditional ‘Thou Shalt Nots?

September 29, 2019; Rev James Kosko; Scripture Reading: James 5:7-12; Sermon: Creeds, Confessions and Christianity

Today was a Fifth Sunday Learning Sermon. Every fifth Sunday we explore a subject of interest to the congregation. We hope you find it interesting, too. If there is something you would like to have Pastor James address, please send him an email at

September 22, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Genesis 32:9-13; 22-30; Sermon:  Jacob VS God

September 15, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7; Sermon:  Abraham Loves Sarah

Today we looked at sowing the seeds of Faith, Hope and Love, even when you may not see the harvest.

September 8,  2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:4b-25; Sermon:  Garden of Eden

Today we began our ‘New Year’ in the Narrative Lectionary. So, we begin at the beginning, with Genesis. This Creation story may not be as familiar as the Creation story in Genesis 1 (“In the beginning…”).

September 1, 2019; Rev. James Kosko; Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:19-22; Sermon: How Did We Get Here?

In June and July, we used our Sermon time to have a Retreat in Small Bites To follow the ‘Retreat in Small Bites’ journey, click here.

A Retreat in Small Bites – Learning

In this third part of our virtual retreat, let’s review the model of faith we have constructed. Faith consists of our relationship with God through worship, service, and learning.

If we are to engage in learning together, what would we like to learn more about?  And when would we like to do this?

We know we are all busy. The last time we scheduled a learning program, it was during Hibernation, and we settled on Sundays at 11 am, and the gathering included a meal. If we want to have learning as a continuing part of our faith journey together, we need to give it more than 6 weeks during Hibernation. So…we agreed that the 5th Sundays of the month, as they occur, would be a great time to try something different.

We started a list of topics which interest us. This list is a beginning, and we will add and refine it as we go. One topic might generate interest in another. So, this is a start:

  • Diversity – speakers from other faith traditions
  • History – of the Bible, of the Church, of this Church, the Historical Jesus
  • How doubt is a strength of faith, more useful than creeds
  • Nuts and Bolts of Squaw Valley Chapel:  how do we keep things going? Where are the switches and who cuts the grass?
  • Early Church to now – how did we become who we are, in broad strokes?  How does the Catholic Church relate to us?  How is the Orthodox Church different? Where do traditions like Friends (Quakers) and Puritans fit in?
  • How were early festivals and sacred traditions folded into the early church?  Why is Christmas on December 25, for example?
  • Sharing our church experiences –We have a lot of traditions embodied in our congregation; what is our personal faith journey?  When we go on Hibernation or vacation and visit other churches, what do we learn?  What do they offer that we could adopt?
  • Spiritual Practices – what are Spiritual Practices?  How do they enrich our faith experience?  From practicing the Lectio Divina to walking a Labyrinth, what might we explore?

A Retreat in Small Bites: Service

Service Windowpane

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

City Church Tallahassee discovered that the most effective things a church can do for the community are not big events or ‘service days;’ rather, they are relationships that take time to establish and commitment over a long term to flourish.

Encouraging members to join life in the city, village or town where things are happening is where they can most effectively invest long term in areas of need that fit members’ passions. This meets a goal of ‘decentralizing’ the church, and takes the ministry to the people, instead of expecting the people to come to the church.

According to City Church, and those who work on church vitality, a healthy church is not where members ask, “What can we do for the community?” because they are already on mission in the community. People who call City Church their home are serving frequently. The relational trust this service builds leads to gospel conversations.

We at Squaw Valley Chapel, as many other churches, may be uncomfortable with the word ‘evangelism,’ the same way we may not be comfortable with the word ‘mission.’ But what do we really mean when we use these terms? We are talking about the work we are inspired to do in the community, with our neighbors and friends, because we want to share the love we know comes from God. We love, because God loved us first.

And when we serve, we serve the living, Still-Speaking God as we serve ‘the least of these.’

How do we at the Chapel serve? We serve…

  • As Individuals who serve the Community
  • As Individuals who serve the Church
  • As the Group of Us who together serve the Community
  • As the Group of Us who serve the Church

A copy of the document is available here.

A Retreat in Small Bites

I’d love for us to all go off for a few days for a visioning retreat to discuss and plan our future here at SVC.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem very feasible, so I’d like us to celebrate the season of Pentecost – when we celebrate the Church – by looking forward rather than backward.  To begin, I invite you to complete the following for yourself: Faith is…..

We covered 3 topics in our exploration of Faith. Here are the results of our exploration:

We started with worship.  We talked about what we like…what we might do differently…how it impacts our lives…and how it transforms our faith. 

For Community Outreach, we explored the different ways we serve, both individually, and as a congregation.

For Learning, first we agreed that we could use our 5th Sundays to do something different; to explore areas we didn’t usually have the time to cover. We listed topics we would like to explore on our 5th Sundays.

Any other ideas are welcome and my hope is that this will be a continuing positive and growthful time for us all!

A Retreat in Small Bites: Worship

From Dr. Robert Webber, founder of the Institute for Worship Studies:

….worship stands at the center of the church’s life and mission. It’s the summit toward which the church moves and the source from which all of its ministries flow. It’s the most important action the church is about. Worship informs the church’s teaching, gives shape to it’s evangelistic mission to the world, and compels the church toward social action. Worship is the context in which the true fellowship of Christ’s body is realized and where those who participate can find real healing. The single most important thing a church can do is worship. A vibrant worship life will glorify God, edify the faithful, and engage the seeker.

To explore the dimensions of our present worship experience and engage in imagining our future worship experience, Pastor James introduced us to a matrix of spiritual experiences, modified from the concept of Jenis Spiritualis, also called the Circle of Sensibility; Urban Holmes: 1980.

In this model, the horizontal axis represents a continuum from God as Spirit (Mystery) to God as Revealed (Imagining). Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise, is an example of a hymn that is more on the Spirit/Mystery end, and What a Friend We Have in Jesus, a hymn on the Revealed/Imagining end.

The vertical axis represents the continuum from a Thinking/Intellectual experience to a Heartfelt/Feeling experience. Representative hymns on this continum would be Joy to the World, for the Thinking end, and Silent Night, Holy Night on the Heartfelt/Feeling end.

Pastor James asked the question, Where is your experience of worship in this church located? Where do you think we sit on each of these axis?’

Covering them one at a time, we described the current state of worship as shown by the dotted blue lines on the chart. Then we described where we would like our worship to be. described by the green lines. The result is roughly a balanced circle, encompassing all 4 dimensions in an equal and generous amount, without going to an extreme on any measure.

Pastor James then added a third dimension, described in black on the lower left of the diagram. This continuum was from no participation, or agency, to constant participation by our worship attendees. Examples of each: low agency would be treating worship as a performance, an opportunity to be spoon fed. High participation/agency would be illustrated by a worship experience that had many stations and different opportunities to co-create a worship experience. One example from the history of the Chapel was with a former pastor who included congregant dancing and movement as an integral part of the service.

The discussion included rich, thoughtful contributions on visioning worship in the future. It helped us be aware of how we arrive at worship as individuals, and that our emotional, spiritual, and intellectual needs determine where we are on the graph when we enter, and how worship transforms us as we are together, so we leave enriched in our life and faith. There was also a recognition of the ‘native’ quadrant we inhabit (informed by social norms and personal preferences), and how participation in worship that draws on the other three is both challenging and satisfying. We recognized the wisdom of having our ‘easy preferences’ and the comfort of our ‘native quadrant’, challenged by experiences in the others.