Guest Post! “The Core of a Denomination: Acceptance”

Guest Post! “The Core of a Denomination: Acceptance”

Today I’m featuring a guest post from my friend Melissa Yost.  She writes some thought-provoking comments on my blog posts, and kindly agreed to send one of her own.  Thanks, Melissa!

The Core of a Denomination: Acceptance

I grew up as a Congregationalist, (The UCC version), in Wisconsin and California, with Wisconsin being more conservative and California being more liberal. The amazing fact was that this did not affect the congregations or tone of the church’s philosophies at all. The core of the Congregational Church and the denomination’s philosophy, is based on the concept that the congregation is guided by the congregants. There is no Presbytery, no system of hierarchy, no Baptist Convention or governing body dictating or decreeing the tenets of the church. Of course there is a governing body, but its main purpose is administration, the processes of a pastor’s progression to lead a congregation of their own, as well as one’s ‘education’ and ordination.

One of the denomination’s core strongholds is in New England, and its roots go back to Scandinavia. I don’t know what the Scandinavians were thinking or had in mind, but I suspect the New Englanders had–and have–a strong sense of independence, a ‘stay out of my business’ attitude. The congregations I grew up with were accepting, open minded and non-judgmental. In fact, one of my Youth leaders was openly Gay and this was in the 70’s. The early services had a liberal dress code. Show up in P.J.s if you like-everyone is welcome. My first marriage was in a Congregational church and was overseen by a woman pastor. The church would marry any and all people of varying faiths.

Growing up, sermons were grounded in love and often addressed topics of the day in a loving, accepting manner and stressed acceptance even if you didn’t agree with anyone’s point of view. Everyone participated in the ceremonies if they were so inclined. These early experiences greatly influenced my religious views to this day.

Food for thought: Jesus loves all, this I know, because my church taught me so.

 Guest contributor: Melissa Yost. Melissa has lived all over the country and witnessed the inner workings of many denominations. She now lives in Chicago, IL with her husband, two guinea pigs and two dogs.


Bloom Where You’re Transplanted

Bloom Where You’re Transplanted

John Denver gained great popularity with his song “Country Roads” when I was just starting to pay a lot of attention to what got played on the AM stations.  Late in the summer nights, with the window sash raised to allow any stray breeze that might happen by to come through the screen, I would turn the volume really low on my little black plastic transistor radio, turning the dial on the side of the box up and down in search of a tune to help lull me to sleep.

“Country roads . . . . take me home . . . . to the place . . . . I belong . . . .”

Somehow, growing up in the suburbs, I was convinced that I was supposed to live in the country, on a farm.  Six of my cousins (two households, one from each side of my family) did just that, and my weekend and summertime visits in their homes are some of my fondest childhood memories.  “When I grow up,” I would think to myself, “I’m going to live on a farm.  Then I can be happy.”

As it turned out, that wish came true, and I’m still happy to be here, as you’ve maybe read here before.  It’s great to have goals and work toward achieving them, but what if things don’t fall into place within the timeline we’ve set in our heads?

Students tend to think:  “Oh, when I just get done with high school (or college, or finish my Master’s degree, etc.) then I’ll be content.”  But once they’ve done those things, and entered the workforce it’s “well, I just need one more promotion, then I can relax” or, “once I have met that special someone and settled down, then everything will be fine.”  We’re all looking for that Happily Ever After.  But life isn’t a Disney movie or a romance novel, and even with dedication and perseverance, we don’t always attain what we’ve set up as the ultimate goal.

Maybe some of your best work can be done right where you are today, rather than where you see yourself as having reached The Finish Line.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t dream.  Let’s keep the ideal existence as a potential for Someday, but in the meantime, how’s about we just slow down and enjoy the journey?  Sometimes, the view is breathtaking.

Williamson County, Tennessee

Williamson County, Tennessee

Feeling Lucky?

Feeling Lucky?

Do you believe in Luck?  Or Karma?  Divine Intervention and Blessings from Above?  Murphy’s Law?  Paying it Forward?  Hard work and clean living?  Or is everything predestined to happen as it will?

Think about how many clichés there are on this subject: beginner’s luck, luck of the draw, playing the hand we’re dealt, living a charmed life, wearing a bulls-eye on your back; sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug; the list could be endless.

Last year I read a novel by Wendell Berry titled Jayber Crow.  It’s a fictional memoir about life in small-town America, written from the viewpoint of the place’s barber.  Earlier in life Mr. Crow had been a theology student.  During his last conversation with one of his professors, though, he asked (and I’m paraphrasing here), why do we pray?  In the Lord’s Prayer, he explains, we quote “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done” . . . shouldn’t that be it, right there?  Who are we to go on and on afterward, telling the Good Lord what we think His will ought to include?  The paragraphs describing that conversation gave me a mental slap upside the head which still leaves me wondering.  Mr. Berry (in the voice of Jayber Crow) posed a very interesting question.

Sometimes when people get good news about something that has had them considerably worried and stressed, they’ll exclaim on their great emotional relief that “God answered our prayers!”  But what if the result wasn’t as they’d wished?  Does that mean they think God didn’t answer?  That’s not how I understand it.  Mother always told me (and remember Rule #1:  Mother’s Always Right!)  that God has three answers:  Yes, No, and Wait a while.

My late brother-in-law Ben was fond of the phrase:  “God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.”  This was his mantra even through the year and a half he fought against the cancer that took him.  No matter what the test results said, whether he could eat or not, even knowing another grandchild was on the way who he’d likely not get to meet on this earth, Ben’s faith was unwavering.  “God is good, all the time.”

So, a few weeks ago when I spotted the four-leaf clover in the lawn that you see in the photo above, I didn’t pick it.  Instead, I looked up at toward the sky.  And I smiled.



Change Your Filter

Change Your Filter

“Change Furnace Filter” said the reminder on the calendar feature of my iPhone.  I had purposefully set the reminder for 6pm, when it was likely I’d no longer be at work, thereby giving me no excuse to ignore the alert and fail to get the job done.  Oh, OK.  It’s not that much trouble, after all, and I needed to go to the basement and scoop the cat boxes anyway.  My method is this:  as soon as the filter is replaced, I write the size on my grocery list to get a new one the next time I’m at the store, so it’ll be there when I need it three months later. I also add the reminder to my phone again, so the task is actually done on a timely basis.  So just now I unwrapped the bright clean filter from its plastic, removed the used filter from the furnace, and . . . yecchh!  Was all that dirt and hair and gunk from only a quarter of a year?  Holy Cow!  I took a picture with my phone, knowing this was something to write about.

Back upstairs in the kitchen, I checked the calendar on the wall, where I write down the confirmation of the filter change getting done:  yep.  February 6.  Technically, less than the three months recommended on the package.  And this was during cold months when the windows and doors were almost always closed, Mr. Roomba was on sweep duty every morning at 6:30, and mostly it’s just been me and the critters in and out.  Wow.  It’s amazing what a filter can catch.

Heat and air systems aren’t the only things that need filters, though.  Sometimes, our minds and bodies can benefit from similar treatment. Find yourself being too grouchy and negative?  Hang around with positive people as much as you can.  Catch yourself telling jokes that are just a little too blue?  Cut back on the comedy channel viewing, maybe.  Read a few of the funnies from Reader’s Digest instead (they’re always clean).  Drinking more Pepsi or Starbucks coffee than is good for you?  Don’t keep it in the house.  One of my personal weaknesses is Double-Stuf Oreos.  A package of those along with the fresh milk I get from an Amish farm nearby is a dangerous combination, so I only buy them about as often as I get those replacement furnace filters.

The other great thing about the iPhone is the music, because it will hold a ton of songs, and you can make playlists of different combinations.  But when the memories evoked by some of the oldies-but-goodies start weighing me down emotionally, I know it’s time to change the filter, and select the list of Contemporary Christian songs that will help rebuild my equilibrium.  Don’t get me wrong, please, I don’t mean this as a lecture or sermon, but rather as a suggestion to know yourself.  Take a look under the hood and think about what you might need to filter out of your life to feel better.

On that note, I’d better go write “Furnace Filter 16 x 20” on the grocery list.  Right under “Double-Stuf Oreos”.

Pardon Me, Roy . . .

Pardon Me, Roy . . .

My brother D. has a great sense of humor.  Clean stories with a clever twist on words are one of his specialties.  Sometime prior to 1979 (I think) he came home with a story about Roy Rogers, a dead mountain lion, and a mangled pair of western foot apparel.  The punch line was “Pardon me Roy:  Is that the cat that chewed your new boots?” and was sung to the tune of the first lines of  The Chattanooga Choo-Choo.   (OK, so I can hear you groaning from here!)  It’s possible the last word was “shoes”, not “boots”, but you get the idea.  And now the song’s going to be in my head all evening.

What brought this up was a recent phone conversation when I told him about buying the boots in the photo.  The brand name is Double H (no, I’m not getting a commission on this, but I wouldn’t mind . . .), and they’re made in Pennsylvania.  The leather is sturdy, I like the wood-stack heels, the non-skid soles, and the fabric-covered inside seams on the uppers. What I really like a lot is that they’re manufactured right here in the good ol’ USA.

The surprising thing to me was just how many of the boots in the western-wear store I went to were not Made in America.  In fact, the clerk there told me that most of them aren’t.  Many brands have moved production to Mexico to save on costs.  This is understandable.  And after all, Mexico had vaqueros before we ever had buckaroos.  I can handle that.  But when she informed me that many of today’s cowboy boots are made in China?  I’m sorry–no offense to the Chinese, I’m sure they’ve got a lot of nice folks over there–but there’s just something wrong with that picture, at least in my mind.

Just about everyone I know is on a budget, or oughta be.  I am, and thanks to Financial Peace lessons from Dave Ramsey (see, I was able to save enough to buy Double H boots and pay cash.  I’m not trying to preach, here, because there are plenty of imported items in my inventory.  But so many people around us are looking for work these days.  If and when you can, check the labels before you buy.  Look for that USA tag. Let’s keep America on the job!