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World class Olympic athletes dedicate themselves to training before a major competition. In essence, training becomes their full-time job. For elite athletes, and even for folks like you and me who try to exercise regularly to stay healthy, cross-training is an important component for conditioning. Cross-training is any sport or exercise that supplements your main sport. For example, swimmers also lift weights to build muscle mass. Some football players take ballet lessons to improve their flexibility and agility. My son Will, who is a cross country runner for his high school, has a weekly training regime that includes long distance runs for endurance, sprints for cardio, ultimate Frisbee for making cardio training fun,  and Pilates to increase  core stability. I also try to exercise at least six days a week and trade off between dance aerobics classes, jogging, walking, biking and yoga. Cross-training helps balance your muscle groups, it builds up your cardiovascular fitness, it reduces your chance of injury, and most importantly for me, it avoids boredom by not doing the same workout over and over again.

In  1 Thessalonians 15: 16-18, the Apostle Paul  tells us, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” To me, this means that to grow deeper in our relationship with God and neighbor, we strive to dedicate ourselves to prayer each day, as much as we do our full-time jobs. Have you ever thought about what it might mean to cross-train in prayer? Have you ever wished that your prayer life was livelier and more spontaneous? We can avoid boredom in prayer by using varied forms of prayer, and like my son’s training program, we can even choose to pray in ways that are fun for us. In fact, everything can become a prayer if we focus on intention. Our activities can become prayers if we approach the activity with the intent of knowing God more fully and loving God more deeply. If you would like fresh and fun ideas to add “cross-training” into your prayer life, there are two books I recommend to get started:
–Praying with Body and Soul, by Jane E Vennard
50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times by Teresa A. Blythe.

I hope that through these resources your life of prayer gains strength, flexibility, and endurance.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer


Created Equal

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This  weekend in worship we are recognizing  Independence Day with the color guard bringing the American Flag into the sanctuary and singing patriotic songs to remind us of the freedom that we have as citizens of this country.  Not only do we have political freedom but also the freedom to gather together today and worship God without fear.

The Declaration of Independence also states that “all [people] are created equal.” It doesn’t say born equal — it says created equal. Creation requires a divine Creator, and as Christians we believe that “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

This weekend is the perfect time to look at ourselves as people created in the image of God, with tremendous intellectual, spiritual and relational gifts.  Essentially, we are brothers and sisters, created in the image of God. When we believe this, only then can we reach out to each other with love and compassion and understanding, accepting each other as the Lord accepts each one of us.

God of grace and glory, as we continue to celebrate the birth of our nation, it is with grateful hearts that we remember our ancestors. We give thanks for all the people who have fought for and defended our freedom throughout the years. We remember, as well, those whom we harmed as we built our country — the Native Americans and the Africans who were enslaved. We ask your guidance as we continue to learn how to live together as a country made up of people of many different ethnicities and faiths. Help us believe that we are truly sisters and brothers each created in your image.

 We are blessed with an amazing variety of geography across our land, the awesome redwoods, our coastlines, vast plains, majestic mountains and deserts. Help us protect each of these different environments so the generations to come can enjoy their beauty.

Help us not take our freedom for granted — remembering that there are still too many people throughout the world who don’t share the luxuries of freedom we consider basic rights, such as speech and religion. May we ever remember, though, our most precious freedom: “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” Thanks be to God. Amen.

Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

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