Celebrate your uniqueness by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church Rockford I lug my sticky assortment of cans and bottles to the return center in the grocery store. I’m impatient enough that I look for two return machines side by side. Then I can feed both simultaneously with my 10 cent empties. Things proceed smoothly until I slide an older can into the can canal. The bar code is faded. After a few spins, the machine spits it back at me: “Cannot read barcode,” the message scolds me. I’ve learned to try it in the other machine. Sure enough, the other machine seems more sensitive. It recognizes the faded barcode as being worthy of a dime’s worth of reimbursement. Cha-ching! Sometimes a can is rejected with the message, “Store does not accept this brand.” That can is slipped back into my sticky bag, to be added to my recyclables. No value left for that one. With a couple of bucks worth of vouchers and a few straggler empties, I head to the checkout. Ever felt like your barcode wasn’t recognized by somebody else? Have you been rejected from some social gathering or spit out of some crowd with looks that told you that you didn’t measure up? Have you walked into a church or office or party and sensed that your “type” wasn’t accepted there? All of us have had moments when we knew that we simply didn’t belong. Long ago Mary and Joseph were told there was no room for them at the inn. The shepherds, who were the first to be told the news of Jesus’ birth, never received invitations to parties because they smelled like their sheep! Some wisemen must have been laughed out of their town as they set off to follow a star, insisting that it would lead to a newborn King. An odd cast of characters who didn’t fit well into their world found that their lives had new meaning when they met the baby Jesus. That’s still good news for us today. In Jesus, God affirms the worth of each one of us. God celebrates our uniqueness. When we are “faded,” God still can “read” us and respond to our needs. When others might judge us cruelly, God […]
First Congregational Church of Rockford
The gift of here and now by LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church of Rockford I like to think of myself as an optimistic, carefree person. But I have this uncanny predisposition to see potentially dire mishaps in the simplest and safest of settings. For example, I might be watching a play in a beautiful, old Chicago theatre. I admire the chandelier gracing gilded ceilings. All of a sudden I’m thinking, “What if I were hanging off that chandelier? How long could I hang on? Would it hold my weight? What would the people below do to help me?” Or I’m driving behind a truck loaded with logs. Couldn’t one of those work itself loose and come right through my windshield? Before I can send out an S.O.S. I’m breathing into a bag and trying to snap my mind back to my very safe reality. Fortunately for me these are just ridiculous daydreams. My husband knows this about me and, when he sees a potentially hazardous situation, he will ask me with a grin, “Are you hanging from a chandelier?” Then we both laugh and get on with reality. Our imaginations can do a number on us. Jesus’ ministry was one of acting mercifully in the present moment even as danger lurked nearby. While the religious hotshots breathed threats against Him, He focused on the very real needs around Him: illness, loss and poverty. He didn’t waste His energies musing, “What if?” He took the 24 hours of each day He was granted in His short ministry to model a life of active, hands-on faith. So, whenever my mind drifts down some perilous rabbit hole, I pull myself right back out with a laugh. Then I focus on who God has placed before me that day so that I can make a difference for good. Thanks be to God for the very real opportunities placed before us each day. These keep us grounded in faith and focused on the gift of the here and now!
God wants to hear from us by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church of Rockford “Dear God, for my birthday I would really like a shiny red wagon and especially a puppy. Thanks for my good life! Amen.” So reads, we imagine, the prayer of a young child: simple requests for things they would like which may come to fulfillment, but may not. Well, I offered a prayer not unlike the one of that child recently. It went something like this: “Dear God, my whole family is yearning for a new dog. They have honored my hesitancy, given that we have a new house and new furniture and have only been without a pet for one year (out of the past 25). I’m anxious about giving up my freedom, God, and introducing the demands of a pet into our new home. But it’s time, God, so I ask for your guidance and place the possibility of this new dog in your loving hands. Amen.” Does God really take time for requests as seemingly trivial as this? When soldiers are risking their lives, and environmental issues clamor for our attention, do I dare bog God down with my little plea for a good family dog? All I can say is that I offered that prayer humbly and earnestly, with a no-strings-attached expectation of response, and, I can assure you, my prayer was answered! As far as I’m concerned, we just won the “Animal Shelter Lottery,” because my daughter and I found the best dog for our family that any of us can imagine. He was listed as a stray, but was clearly somebody’s dog because he can sit, shake, fetch and is house-trained. He is approximately 2 years old, which means he doesn’t chew much anymore and is past the age of continuous wayward straying. He’s housebroken and so trusting that he lets my daughters hold him like you would a baby—totally relaxed. Wow! How could a transition into having a new pet be as easy as this? I told my husband, who was shocked that I got past my new-house control issues to bring home a dog, that I was thankful—thankful to God. I considered my prayers answered. In the Bible, Jesus is recorded as […]