Plymouth Congregational Church

God for All


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You Get What You Get and You Don’t Throw a Fit!

How many of you have ever used those words with your children? I cannot tell you the number of times I have listened to myself utter that phrase. I’ve said them enough that a tape recording to save my vocal cords would be welcome. And I am sure enough that as the words slip from my lips the kids can only replay a Homer Simpson type monologue in their heads, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

This week is particularly challenging for me. I’ve had car issues, kid issues, financial issues, and just all around drama. And as I am facing each day with yet another stumbling block the words of a former friend resonate in my head, “An eye for an eye is how you live,” thus equating all of this to something I deserve instead of being a product of life’s journey.

It begs me to ask the question, “Did Mother Teresa never have a stumbling block in her pure and devoted life? Did her journey never get interrupted by drama?” Do not mistake me for Mother Teresa. I am far and way different from her. I am a normal human that has earned no such honor as to be compared to Mother Teresa. My comparison is just to ponder the complications of being human, of life, in the sense of does the most noble of people also suffer from the injustice of being human.

Per Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Teresa):

“She has been praised by many individuals, governments and organizations; however, she has also faced a diverse range of criticism. These include objections by various individuals and groups, including Christopher HitchensMichael ParentiAroup ChatterjeeVishva Hindu Parishad, against the proselytizing focus of her work including a strong stance against contraception and abortion, a belief in the spiritual goodness of poverty and alleged baptisms of the dying.”

Another source  (http://www.christiancinema.com/downloads/MotherTeresa_DiscussionGuide.pdf):

“The shocking news that Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity are accused of child trafficking is disheartening. As the old nun listens to the Archbishop and the official from the Indian government, she realizes that the orphanage, and all of God’s work under their direction, will be stopped if the missing child’s file is not found.”

I was shocked to learn how Mother Teresa had also found herself faced with struggles. In a manner it makes me feel better. That maybe instead of all this drama being something I deserve it is just a product of so many people, with different ideas, intermingling in my path. Maybe I don’t deserve all that has transpired in my 42 years. Maybe this is just the path I must walk to get to the glorified ending of my life. A life that I pray would take on a different path but not end soon as I have so much more to life to live.

As I venture down this path I wanted to learn more about the concept of “an eye for an eye”. In doing so I stumbled upon yet another internet resource:

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/eye_for_an_eye.html

Matthew 5: 38 – 47 states:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’

39 “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

40 “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.

41 “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

42 “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

I am not perfect. I do make my mistakes. I however do not seek an eye for an eye. Regardless of old or new testament, my pure desire is that of getting along, being accepted, and accepting others. I then must decide through my actions, not just my words, if I will live my life as God would ask or if I will allow myself to sink to a level that would shame Him. And with each step forward, and every mistake, how will I make those better.

When my neighbor’s house burned down we ran out offering assistance, support and love not because they were our friends but because they were our neighbors. We offered this support to those we were friendly with but to those we were not. We offered support without ever expecting something in return. We tried to walk this journey with both families in a manner that would be God driven, inspired. We also walked this journey with others who were impacted by shear force of living here. All of which has turned into something negative for my family in the end. Knowing where we are today if I were asked would I do it again I know, in my heart of hearts, we would make the same choices again without hesitation or fail.

I suppose that there are moments that most of us are an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” but to cast such a judgment on someone as a “whole person” would mean you have pondered all their actions, their life’s works, but to do it off only one instance, or even two, would be to say you are God and know all of the person’s heart and desire. So to judge them means you can walk away from them, friend, neighbor, and cast them aside with the trash. Is that honorable? Is that being an eye for an eye person yourself?

Pastor Bill mentioned the innocence of children in his sermon yesterday (which that blog will come shortly) and to cast a child aside because of a notion about the parent(s) that may or may not be true, does that make you a better person (despite being a Christian, Jew, or any other manner of religious person or not religious at all)? When is it that the majority of human’s will stop judging based on one act of person instead of looking at the whole intention and desire behind a person’s actions?

So I have decided to take my words, my thoughts, and put them into action. Who am I to comment on other’s hurtful choices if I allow those choices to influence mine? Ever day I will embrace those that have caused wrong and hurt in a manner which would make God proud. I embrace them to show my children that I can still love my neighbor even though they have cast me, and therefore my children, aside. I do not expect any pleasantness in return. I do not expect kindness. I do not expect change. I will not trespass on their private space, nor is it to say I will welcome them across the threshold of my home (unless to offer emergency aid and care which would come without thought or hesitation), but I will do as God commands:

Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

I will leave it to say…

the next time you hear something negative about a person, hug them even if a total stranger, and mean the message!
the next time someone errs in judgment or action, forgive them even if a total stranger, and mean the message!
the next time someone is hurting, tell them they are cared for even if a total stranger, and mean the message!
the next time you have an opportunity to do something good for someone, stranger or not, step up and mean the message!

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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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Born Again?

On Sunday Pastor Bill mentioned being “born again” when referencing scripture. He said that some people are uncomfortable with that term and wanted to guide them to the belief that such a term is not bad but it is a part of God’s world, his teachings, and his blessings. I will admit that I am uncomfortable with the terminology “born again”, or more appropriately the label.

In the not so recent past there was a revelation of people that had strayed from God’s teachings but were returned through one man, one group, to the Christian faith and they were labeled “born again Christians”. In this labeling there was a zealousness to their coming home and they took to the streets with wings under their feet to spread all that they have learned, accepted, and were ready to change the face of the world one person at a time. They were, for lack of a better definition, Zealots. And many people came to dread this groups appearance in the media, in their homes, and in their lives.

So really it is not the label or term as related to scripture, and God’s teachings, that makes me get all blugh inside. It was how it applied to this particular group of people. And even the people were not so bad, but it was the hypocrisy with which they used to try to manipulate others to join them.

Everyone can be “born again”. It depends on what you consider to have been the “death”. Do you believe in reincarnation? If yes, than you are “born again” into this world, and you have chosen to follow a path of God. Maybe you followed in a previous life, and then you would be “born again” into a Christian/Jewish based religion. Maybe instead of being so literal with the meaning, maybe you strayed from God out of anger, hate, frustration and came to understand that God never left you so you welcomed him back into your home, you were “born again” unto Christ. Maybe you kept the values but disassociated with any particular religious group, Church or other home of God. Today maybe you found that home and were “born again” into God’s house with new family members.

Through all the changes, through all the possible scenarios of how you can be “born again”, it is a title not to dread but to accept and relish. At some point I am sure we can all say that we were “born again”. That does not mean we have to be a Zealot, nor should we label ourselves as such, but accept that for a time we were looking for God’s home and his welcoming arms. They never left. They were waiting in the same place only this time the walls were painted a different color.

I am “born again” but I am not going to run out the door and smack the next person I see in the head with my bible. Instead, I’ll cherish my home and relationship, in the way that suits my personality best. God understands. After all, he made me.

May your week be blessed with joy.


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What is a Blog??? And why do I care?

I have sat here all afternoon trying to come up with something clever, insightful, and profound regarding Pastor Bill’s sermon today. Though I’ve had a plethora of thoughts none of them really felt right. So I walked away and pondered. Every time I allowed my brain to come back to Plymouth Cafe I found myself not focusing on the word’s delivered in service today but on a conversation after service I had with Pastor and Lance. Our conversation was about this, the blog, and how to get people to actually read what is being posted. In the few moments we had to banter ideas, all of which are wonderful, I realized there was one thing missing. With the majority of the congregation being a bit older the whole concept of a blog may be as foreign as walking in Jerusalem, and as vast as dessert.

I am no spring chicken, I hate to admit, and didn’t actually venture into the world of blogging until 2007, but once there I cannot seem to turn my back on the concept. Blogs are created for a variety of reasons, but all of them share one common thread. The underlying current of blogs is to reach large amounts of people quickly. Well, don’t we have facebook, myspace, email for that? That would be true, but those methods of communication to the masses provide a different foundation, structure, and purpose. Facebook is really more about the quick check in on my life, your life, and their lives. Myspace tried to combine blogging with the quick check in and though it worked well, as that is where I found my start, it is also limiting because it requires people to be members to read what others are saying (same as facebook), and some people are just not comfortable registering for something they won’t actually ever use. And then you have email. It’s so cut and dry sometimes, plus once you send it finding what you sent can be tedious. So none of them offer what a blog offers.

Blogging started as an electronic diary or journal. You write your entry and then “post” it to the world wide web and wait. Ha! Wait for what? Well, your readers of course. See, the thing with blogging is that it not only provides you, the writer, a place to write your thoughts, but then you ask your friends, family, or whomever to read your blog. That’s the catch. It’s like writing a letter to everyone you care about sharing details of your life but instead of writing the same thing several times, stuffing it into several envelopes, pasting a stamp on each one, and then dropping it in the mailbox with the hope it will reach its destination, you type and post. The other thing is some people have every intention of writing back but life happens and that much anticipated letter never appears in your post box creating disappointment and sometimes a sense of isolation. Blogging eliminates that because your readers can post a quick comment, even anonymously, right on to your page. There in the moment so no waiting is necessary and no distraction by life’s typical business.

Blogging expanded over the years to go from such private journaling to actually be a source of valuable information and for some even a place to sell products thus another way of having an income. There are blogs on medical issues, blogs on crafts, home schooling, legal matters, blogs from crafty Dad’s, gay and lesbian rights, religion, and pets, kids, schools, the list is endless. I would love a survey on how many blogs exist out there today, but that number must be enormous. I myself write two blogs and have now ventured here for my third.

I used to be that person that would hand write a letter to each family member and friends. I found I would be saying the same thing to each and then adding a more personal note near the end. Though I loved the connection it was often I never heard back, and then there were times that I just got tired of writing and someone would notoriously get missed. Eventually I progressed to typing the main body of my letter and then on each one either typing or handwriting a more personal note. I hit “print” and saved myself so much time and effort. Then I became a Mom and my time became so strained as well as energy that my precious letter writing became a distant thought.

How did I discover blogging? In 2007 my husband received a job offer to move from Washington (state) to Illinois. Many of my friends and most of my family asked us to keep them posted on our journey east. I was pregnant with Zach, and we were driving for two weeks to our hotel room until our house was done being built. A lover of writing, and believer in journaling, I decided the best way to stay in touch was to start a blog. I wrote everyday. Sometimes I had a lot to say while other times it was just a quick, “we are alive”. My friends and family loved the stories, and my heart felt full. It was a match meant to be, and one that I have not nor will I divorce.

What will reading this blog do for you? Maybe nothing at all. Then again, maybe it will be a source to share something you were thinking, something you glean from a sermon or experience you had recently. It could be a way of communicating with people you don’t see often enough, ask for prayer, catch up on what you missed at Pastor’s sermon on Sunday, and so much more. This is not just about one person’s thoughts and insights, but about the congregation coming together as a family through another media. Blogging is about writing those letters to each other, or sometimes just reading and learning/growing, for the sake of sharing. This blog is not about one person, as is my private journaling meant for close friends and family. This blog IS about all of us and our journey at Plymouth Congregational Church. That is not to say that every post will have Jesus or God, or even be religiously based, but as a family in Christ, we will come together through this new found form and use the tool as intended – to lift spirits, share information, and invite those far and wide to share in our experiences.

Who knows, maybe our congregation will grow beyond West Chicagoland. Regardless, of where this goes, who reads it, we will walk this journey together and find the positive connection this affords us.

God bless you.


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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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The Lord is My Shepherd

“When I say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want,’ it’s more than just something to recite before eating.  It’s an affirmation that the Good Shepherd is watching over all the affairs of my life and is making sure I’m taken care of.  The next time you hear this verse, concentrate on the assurance that you can depend on him to watch over you, protect you, to provide for you, to comfort you, to chastise you when you need it, to bandage your wounds, to calm your fears, to care for your relationships, to communicate with you and to love you unconditionally.  You shall not be in want.”

Thelma Wells
God Always Has a Plan B


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How Much do You Know About Religion?

The results of a new survey are in!  Conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, the survey shows that Atheists, Agnostics, those of the Jewish faith and Mormons know the most about the basics of most world religions.

How much do you know about religion? And how do you compare with the average American? Take the religious knowledge quiz to find out.  And if you’d like to post your score, feel free to do so.  I’ll post my score soon …

Read the full article at:  Religious Knowledge in America