Plymouth Congregational Church

God for All


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I’m In Love

I am incredibly thrilled to have captured yesterday’s sermon on video. Truly one of Pastor Bill’s best sermons that I have born witness. Scott too was moved yesterday. Sam, whom is now sitting with us, said he was just confused, but than again he is 11.

Love? Such a fickle little thing yet profound. One small word and your world can turn upside down.

Does coveting love violate Exodus 20:17? I guess it depends on which side of the fence you stand with regard to coveting. If you believe coveting anything and everything is wrong, than yes, even coveting something non-physical would be a violation. If you believe in a more literal interpretation of Exodus 20:17 than coveting love could be acceptable. It would be a violation if you coveted the love of your neighbor, but okay to covet the love of people in general, as long as it was not an obsession.

I suppose it does become complicated this coveting idea, but this conversation is far off the beaten path. I’m really here to process Pastor Bill’s sermon on love.

My good Catholic Mom would be so proud at how much I am recalling from her words in these blog postings. We did not have a very close relationship for much of my life, but I suppose in every relationship there are elements we can use as tools for growth. I was starving for love, affection, and attention… maybe it was acceptance more than the rest. I used to find it in the company of men, and I would crone over every one of them that, “I was in love and this time it was real!” She would laugh at me, my Mother, and tell me, “The word is worn out on you. You use it on everything and everyone. It has no meaning.”

I suppose, now that I am older and mature, I can hear her point. Add the biblical definition of love, and what God is giving as well as asking a person to seek tells me she was right. Love is so beyond a human understanding and misused as is the word hate.

We are so dramatic. We love french toast, chocolate, wine and cars. We hate standing in line, poor customer service, or a bad meal at a restaurant. Where do we, as regular people, draw the line and pay God the respect of allowing his love to wash our feet while we wash the feet of our friends, neighbors, and family? When do we release the anger and hatred to carry with us the burden of love that God has given?

Right now many of Pastor Bill’s daily devotionals are reaching home for me, as did his sermon. Here is a quote from Bill that really hit a bullseye:

The Message Galatians 5:13-16 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that youdon’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.

I heard this passage and nearly fell from the pew. It not only fits within my life, and a venture I had embarked upon just days before his sermon, but also that for my eldest son (in-particular). I have found the following quote from Ghandi that I think helps to enforce what Pastor Bill is trying to say, as well as helps me to see my choices were truly the acts of Love that would make God proud.

A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.
Mohandas Gandhi

Read more:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mohandas_gandhi.html#ixzz1IdXFJiJH

Where I live I have found that to serve my children I’ve had to eat a whole humble pie. I have owned acts I know I have not committed, as well as acts that I know I have. I have accepted and acknowledge blame for things that are unknown to me. I have accepted unjust actions against my family, and me, without seeking an apology which means I have accepted the acts of others that have caused hurt, discomfort, and ruined aspects of our lives that are irreplaceable. I have washed their feet and am trying to wash my own.

Though set in motion weeks, months, years ago, on Sunday I took the first step of prayerful resolution with a very difficult phone call. And I sincerely meant every word I shared with the recipient. I’d do it again, only sooner, if in my children’s worlds their lives are better, fuller, and never had to suffer the great losses of the past year.

I believe this is the type of Love that Pastor Bill and Gandhi were speaking. It is the Love that God himself gave to others. No I am not comparing myself, nor my actions, as a God (or even God-like) enterprise. What I am trying, and rather poorly to say, is that sometimes to really grasp the true meaning of Love we must sacrifice ourselves without prejudice, question, or doubt, and with great humility. I never thought I had the ability to take such action, nor the strength, but truly believe this was God’s message (through his portholes of delivery – mainly Pastor Bill) working through my heart. God’s Love, and Bill brought it home for me on Sunday. I needed these words, this comfort.

The talk of Love and Freedom. The appreciation and sacrifices made for me, my family. What we have lost and what we can gain. It’s so simple yet so complicated. It’s easy to obtain yet it requires effort and some discomfort. Most of all it requires honesty. Freedom and Love are built on honesty, true nature of intentions, respecting differences and allowing mistakes without lingering consequences, false rumors, or hatred. It is being human in a human form and allowing God to be the judge of our actions. Being responsible for our choices, our freedom, owning the poor choices and walking through to resolution, change.

Message received. And highly appreciated.

Excerpt from Pastor Bill’s sermon:

“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation— is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on Earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisurea ctivities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted,and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you, would you, are you satisfied with heaven? (JohnPiper).

My next question is: Would you please describe what your Heaven looks like?

Now let’s ask this question; whom Or what do you love?

These scriptures declare God’s love for us: (Gal 4:4) (Jn1:1-5,9-14) (Mt 5:17) (Jn 8:32) (Rom 13:8) (Jn 3:17, Jn12:47). (Mt 9:10-13, 11:19, 21:31; Mk 2:15-17; Lk 5:30,7:34). (Lk 15). (1 Cor 1:23) (1 Jn 4:9-10) (1 Jn 3:16).(Jn 10:18) (Mt 16:45-46). (1 Cor 15:14). (Jn 16:33), (Mt28:5,10).

Do we recognize God’s love for man . . . In the creation? In the fact that He has given us His word? In His standard of morality? In His plan for man’s salvation? In the promises that He has given to us? All of this is just an exercise for me to ask you this question:

“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation— is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you, would you, are you satisfied with heaven, EVEN IF CHRIST WERE NOT THERE? ” (John Piper)

Who (or what) are you in LOVE with? Deuteronomy 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. Matthew 22:37-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him,Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.)

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Coveting the ickies

So we missed church for the first time in a long time last Sunday. I was sorry about that too. Consequently that means I am unable to paint my verbal portrait of Pastor Bill this week. In truth, my post is so long overdue because the ickies have attached themselves to me like a babysitter to a precocious 2 year old. Multiply that by the three children and you have one household that is on quarantine. Alas, things are looking up as I am off the couch and trying to be productive this week. Too much play time on the computer is my weakness, thus creating a distraction. Would that be considered coveting?

Well, in truth, yes it would. I play for fun, these silly little one minute games, but also to compete (friendly but still with the desire to hold first place) against friends. So I covet despite what is written in Exodus 20:17 (“You shall not covet.”).

Before I continue on with the idea of coveting let me give you my reference point. I started reading a fascinating book (and yes, Bill, expect it as a gift on Sunday!) “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs. This man decided he needed to understand religion, especially since he was agnostic, so he recounts his year of trying to follow the bible literally. On page 25 he begins to look at the idea of coveting, and that sparked my own insight.

A.J. covets all kinds of wonderful things, other’s salaries, front yards, screenplays. I covet friendships, popularity, financial freedom, those perfect 10 bodies on beach blonde babes, I am being honest here. What do you covet? Is it small things? Big things? Does it really make a difference?

Back to Exodus 20:17. The full passage reads, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” I suppose that when this was written into the bible there was a lot of promiscuous coveting happening since so much revolves around relations with another person. The ox and ass raise an eyebrow to how that came to pass. Maybe the lacking of fences had something to do with this portion. All in all, it is summed up with the one words “anything”.

A.J. gave a brief lesson on the word “covet”. It is a translation of the Hebrew root “hamad”, which roughly means to “desire” or “want”.  With this understanding he went on to explain that there are two groups of opinions on how this applies to our present day society. One group is of the opinion that to desire things is fine as long as they are not your neighbor’s. A more literal approach that grants permission to your desire to want that mansion on the hill regardless of your ability to actually have that item of desire; with the understanding that if your neighbor already has a mansion on the hill you are forbidden from wanting it.

The other group, which is more a bit more cut and dry, states that you cannot desire anything regardless if your neighbor has it or not. A moderate interest in a particular item is acceptable but you cannot exert ample amounts of energy seeking the said item. Your time should not be spent in ample quantity focused on the item. For example, my nearly 12 year old, is obsessed with owning a Lamborghini. He even knows the model and color. You say car and he says Lamborghini. He would be considered in violation of the Bible’s law/rule about coveting.

What is the problem with coveting? Coveting creates a lack of respect and appreciation for what God has given you, the life you have, tossing it to the side to find something better. Why would that be a problem? Aren’t we suppose to strive to be better? Of course we are all asked to be better and carry God’s words with us. This is not about spiritual growth or coveting but materialistic. It is in our societies competitive nature against each other to have something bigger, better, newer that we find ourselves in heaps of debt as well as disappointed with that new DSi SXL that is only 2 months old because there is a new 3DSi available. So regardless of functionality, and the fact that the other “toy” is nearly new, the focus to have the newest is where we forget to appreciate what we already have, and that is where you will have problems biblically.

Coveting can also create jealousy. Growing up my Mom used to tell me that jealousy would get you nowhere. It is an evil little monster that sits on my shoulder and creates dissension. This from my good Catholic mother. As I matured I finally understood what she was trying to say. If I was coveting my friend’s boyfriend, body, clothes I acted like a silly jealous girl, and through this walls were built and friendships lost. I didn’t appreciate what I had, so I lost on many levels. Once I understood that it was me who was the problem based on my jealousy I decided to change.

I like the way A.J. talks about jealousy in his book, “Jealousy is useless, time-wasting emotion that’s eating me alive. I should focus on my family and, nowadays, God.” Jealousy and coveting are both useless. Appreciating what we have, and keeping what we have in perspective is a way to honor the bible and our relationship with God. I think if society had kept this humbleness in mind we may have been able to avoid some of the economic nightmares we are facing, and this would include my own family (I shamefully admit).

So can my family change? I intend to make it a fruitful effort. But I think we will have to take a pass on the Genesis 14:20, at least for several more years.


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New Blogger Introduction

Well, hi all! I am a new member to Plymouth Congregational Church and very excited about helping to maintain and organizing of this blog. I may not always get things right, but will err without malice, only due to human shortcomings. That said I trust in my fellow family members to help guide, teach, and grow with me through the words of God, our Pasture, and our congregation. 

On a personal note, I am a 42-year-old Mom to three amazing boys (Sam, 11; Eli, 7; and Zach 3), as well as a wife of nearly 13 years to my wonderful husband, Scott. We have lived in Oswego, Illinois since August of 2007. I grew up in Huntington Beach, California with three older brothers. From there I moved to Berkeley, California where I meet Scott. After having our eldest son we relocated to Battle Ground, Washington. Though we missed the diversity of northern California, we felt that our move would provide a more wholesome lifestyle for our son both by environment and education. Our move to Oswego came with a job transfer, and has been the biggest change of all our lives (thus far). 

As far as religion in my life, my Mom was raised an Orthodox Catholic attending all girl’s schools until she went to Purdue University where she meet my father. My Dad was raised by the traditional Sunday Christian family from Pasadena, California. In his later years he became an atheist (he was only willing to believe what he could see). However, he allowed us to attend church for Christmas Eve and Easter as a family. From there I branched out on on my own at the age of 10 attending privately taught bible study groups and ultimately becoming a member of Calvary Christian Church. Though it has been several years since I have had a home church, I have never lost the values I learned at a young age. During my tenure away from a home church I found my religion through daily life and most often in the garden tending to God’s soil. Now that we have found Plymouth I feel I have returned home and this time bringing my wonderful family with me.


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Playacting to become who you want to be

From “On this day, God wants you to know:”

“that the surest way to become is to playact. Whenever you wish to change yourself, but find it difficult, start as children do by pretending that you already are. As you play at being who you wish to become, the playact itself will surely transform you.”

What do you think about this statement?


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Plymouth’s New Year

This Sunday at Plymouth will be our Annual Meeting.  This is the time of year when we assess the events of the previous year and propose new leaders and ideas for the coming year.  And I know in this upcoming year, the idea behind our covenant will be an important theme with Pastor Bill.

      “We covenant with the Lord and with one another and do bind ourselves
              in the presence of God, to walk together in all his ways, according
             as he is pleased to reveal himself to us in his blessed word of truth.”
                                                        Salem Church Covenant 

 Working together … with each other, with and for God.  As Pastor Bill said last Sunday, it’s “no longer me, but thee!”  We may all have to change our methods – change what’s been done in the past – to get where we need to be and where God wants us to be.

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body.  We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do.  And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.  Romans 12:4-5

We have much to accomplish this year – a lot of “saying YES! to God …
True, like many churches, we have a financial deficit to overcome.  But I hope our vision for the new year includes inviting new friends to join us, throwing our support behind our youth program and our mission projects and serving our community.

Romans 12:6 tells us that “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” Romans 12:4-6  Well, we certainly have an amazing collection of talent within our church family!  But that chapter goes on to say that while we have been given those abilities, “we should do them well.”

Here’s to … being one body in Christ, belonging to each other, needing each other and using our abilities well in 2011.


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Ok … let’s discuss those New Year’s Resolutions


It’s the time of year when everyone writes or talks about their New Years’ resolutions.  Pastor Bill mentioned on Sunday that he doesn’t make them as he always breaks them.  Me, too.  Today is January 5th, and already I’ve broken two of mine!  Not too encouraging …

According to the Newsletternewsletter, psychologist Cliff Arnall calculated that the Monday in the last full week of January is the most depressing day of the year based on a combination of bad weather, Christmas debts, broken New Year’s resolutions and the end of the holiday break.

Wikipedia gave the definition of a New Year’s resolution as this:  “a commitment to a personal goal that an individual makes to a project or the reforming of a habit.”  It goes on to say that “recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set, such as, a pound a week, instead of saying “lose weight”), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.” 

Only 12% actually achieved their goals.  Again, not too encouraging.  Kind of makes you feel like not even trying. 

However, one of the first messages I received in the new year from “On this day, God wants you to know” was …

“ …each day is a day in the making.  At any moment, you can make|
a different choice about what you are doing, how you are feeling
and what you are focusing on. 
It is never too late to start over again and make new choices.”

And the first few lines from a poem I ran across, author unknown, read …

I am the new year.
I am an unspoiled page in your book of time.
I am your next chance at the art of living.
I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned
about life during the last 12 months.

Now that sounds encouraging!!

Maybe the reason I’ve failed to keep my resolutions in the past is because I’ve chosen the wrong things to work on.  Does it really matter if I am more organized when I should really keep the goal of bringing my Bible to church every Sunday? Does it really matter if I am a better housekeeper when I really should strive to love and forgive more?

To make resolutions or not … did you, and what were they?

And in the long run, aren’t we blessed with the knowledge that God knows we are going to fail, and loves us anyway!  In his eyes, we are … forgiven … redeemed … loved.