Be attentive by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford As summer draws to a close, we reluctantly step on the treadmill of fall programming. We leave behind the quiet of the lake, the watery mist of a boat ride, and the relaxed conversations at sunset from back decks. As I entered the high school with my daughter to accomplish registration for a new year, the noise seemed deafening. So much energy goes into launching a new initiative. How do we hold on to the replenishment of the summer? The Lakota Indians say to one another, “Be attentive.” They exhort one another to be so attuned to their world that, even when a trail of tiny ants walks by, it will sound like drums. A gift of the Native Americans is their awareness of their life-giving connectedness to all of creation. They balance community life and celebrations with solitary immersion in God’s world. As we step back into busy schedules, clutching our day planners lest we miss an appointment, let us be attentive to God’s grace. We must become aware of our own biases that obscure an honest appraisal of our surroundings and look for God in the faces around us. Let’s listen for voices of need that count on our response. If we are humble, we will find God’s blessing from people and circumstances we might have considered beneath us. As the noise amps up in dance studios, school cafeterias, football stadiums and boardroom discussions, we are challenged to BE ATTENTIVE to the still, small voice of God. The prophet Elijah was unable to hear God in the storm that swirled around him. It was in the hush that followed, with his senses heightened, that he knew God’s presence. God grants us energy for all that is required of us. God gives us meaning so that our activities are carried out with holy purpose. Without God, we simply slog through each day, weary and emptied. Let us BE ATTENTIVE as we register for autumn opportunities so that we will be able to hear God always!
Rev. Laurie Tenhave-Chapman
God’s grace evident in a stranger by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford “Whad’ya think?” I asked my husband after we read an article in the paper. It gave a brief bio on a couple of exchange students who still needed host families to make their dream of studying in America come true. We had both talked about serving as a host family before, but weren’t actively looking at the time. Somehow I had been drawn to read the article in which young people from far away vulnerably described their gifts and their hopes. One jumped off the page at me and, as my husband read about her, seemed like the right fit to him, too. We called the number listed to make a preliminary inquiry. We checked with each of our kids to see how they felt about opening our home to a stranger. They each gave their blessing and we had signed on the dotted line within two weeks of casually perusing that newspaper! Somehow we knew that this decision was not simply our own, but that God was at work. We made the necessary preparations and welcomed her at the airport last August. What a wonderful year it has been! How can you grow to love a complete stranger who moves into your home? The starting point is prayer: channeling God’s love to this new family member. Being open-minded and flexible are critical qualities when sharing space with a newcomer. Expecting to learn from them even as they learn from you will bring untold gifts your way. Berenice has broadened the world of my children. We have been reminded that we are pretty much the same around the world. We are all God’s children! The State Department underwrites the Foreign Exchange Student Program as they believe this is one of the great ways to bring peace to our world. This national priority shows great insight! The Hebrew people are reminded in Deuteronomy 10:19, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Jesus praised the righteous believers by saying, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” We have learned that in a beautiful way this year in our own family. We will mourn […]
God holds the future by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford As I walked my dog around the lake in temperatures nearing 50 degrees, I thought back to the headliner forecasts in November. “Harsh Winter Ahead” the meteorologists warned from the newspaper, broadcast studio and Internet news. I remember thinking, “How do they know?” If the 10-day prediction is a guess and the next-day forecast is seldom right, then how can they offer a broad brushstroke prediction for a whole season? “What do they know indeed?” I snorted as I walked on soft soil in early January. (But I knocked on the wood of a nearby tree to make sure!) People like to make predictions and are heralded as true seers when they get it right. Particularly as a new year looms before us, prophets of all stripes are apt to cast their verdict for how reality will shape up the next 12 months. Most of us do not hasten to read the predictions of Jean Dixon or those who have taken over for her in recent years. We’ve learned that envisioning the future is of limited value. What we hopefully have learned is that God alone holds the future. Our best investment of time and energy is in a spiritual life that helps us to know and trust more and more deeply the God who created this Earth in which the snow falls, the storms squall and the sun shines. What we know for sure is that we will have moments of great joy in 2012, surprising beginnings and unexpected endings. There will be losses both great and small, some emotional, some financial, others relational. Through all this we have to know what remains constant. Trust in anyone or anything other than the God who knows and loves us would be misplaced. The Bible describes God as an anchor, a rock, a redeemer, a refuge, a fortress that protects us from enemies. The Bible also says that God is love. So take that walk around the lake as long as you can. Snap on your cross-country skis when snow blankets the ground. When the storms force you to hibernate and your kids get their long-awaited snow day, reflect on the One who provides […]
‘Tis the season to give by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford Recently I had time to kill between meetings so I went to a small, upscale mall to bide my time. I thought I would be joining throngs of shoppers, bustling around with packages. I was wrong. It appeared that I had missed a PR campaign that unveiled a new purpose for this public space: Geriatric Walking Center! Older couples with varied degrees of mobility looped around me as I tried to get some work done. Every now and then I’m struck with the reality of our depressed economy. As sneaker-clad septuagenarians circled me in this once-vibrant mall, entering nary a store, I was reminded that it’s not business as usual. When we start to write “November” on our checks, we begin to move mentally toward Thanksgiving. With whom shall we share this special holiday? Who will host? What foods do we wish to have on the table? Are there travel arrangements to be made, a dog to be boarded, table linens to buy? In the past few years, perhaps financial restraint has led us to answer those questions somewhat differently. Much that we used to take for granted now feels like a gift. There is a tremendous opportunity for us in these financially lean times to embrace all that is good about our lives. Affluence has seldom led to a more grateful people. Hard times call us to greater creativity about how to use our gifts. A resilient resourcefulness, that has perhaps lain dormant, brings us into new places with new people that we wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. We are also discovering that our lives are more than our work. If we are having to “settle” for underemployment, unemployment or less-than-optimal jobs, we need to recognize that the greatest blessings have to do with human relationships. Family, friends, a warm house and grateful hearts gathered around a Thanksgiving table are what matter most. Whatever your circumstances I invite you to give thanks to God for the bounty in your own life. Look for ways you can be of service to others, even if your own means are limited. Items may be “repurposed”; spaces may be used for different functions. But giving God […]
God is with you in every moment by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford The ashen remains of our house stood for three months after the fire. Often I had to meet the insurance agent there to further process our claim. It was always difficult to go “home.” Though the shell of the home still stood, the life we had lived within its walls seemed long past. Every now and then, beneath the layers of soot, I found an item that could be salvaged. There was a bronze cross my parents had given to me that hung by the back door. Underneath the charred remains of our lives, I found it. Now it hangs in our new home, a reassuring link from the lost past to the joy of the present moment. Those of you who have loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s know what it is like to lose the past. Your mother looks the same but her eyes are vacant. As the disease progresses, your husband no longer recognizes you. How difficult it is to make a trip to see them. Everything about the loved one’s “shell” reminds you of a wonderful past you shared with them. But there seems to be no connection in the present. Your love leads you to continue to visit them in spite of the heartache. Every now and then there is a treasure to be found in that present moment. She knows you are her daughter. He says your name. He refers to a moment you share from the past. You carry that moment away with you as a gift. Sometimes we are reminded that all we have is the present moment. We try to pin down our future, drawing on events from the past. But what we have is the present, and it may just hold a surprise for you—a treasure you carry forward. No matter what you have lost, trust that God is with you. Even when the future looks uncertain, trust that God will bless you in the gift of each moment. And that is enough!