The electronic sign on the street boldly proclaims that we have Living Saints in our congregation. Let me explain. We say this because we have seen the sacrifice of upstanding men and women in our congregation in the service of others. Some have given up sleep to provide a safe place for homeless community members. Some have shouldered the responsibility of visitation to shut-ins and the sick. Some have dived in with dirty shoes and dirty kitchens and dirty closets to move a clean world into being. This month we honor these and many more ministries and friends with acknowledgments and pledges. Further, on All Saints Sunday we remember the Saints Above by lighting a candle in their memory. Recently passed family and friends are honored for the goodness of their life and faith in Jesus Christ. They become for us the Saints Above witnessing our work on earth. The candle we light inspires us to live righteous and sacrificial lives. Inspired by those who came before us and by those living among us, we are not just making disciples, we are making saints for God’s glorious kingdom. Join the heavenly throng each Sunday as we sing our praises in God’s holy, saint-a-fied church.
Autumn is my favorite season. The explosion of color brings me again to my knees. “How awesome You are, God. You give us this beauty, even though we don’t deserve it.” In years past I’ve likened the coloring of the trees as a resurrection experience. In dying their colors become bold and stunning. In falling to the ground they give up their life to make compost for the next generation of seeds to thrive. But now, as I approach my golden years, I’m not so happy about the analogy that pushes expectations to be glorious in my last decade of ministry. And the thought of becoming compost is less than inspirational. Who wants to resurrect if it means dying? I’d rather live eternally! It is good that God offers us both in Jesus Christ. This Sunday we’ll again sit at the feet of Jesus and learn why resurrection is the first step in living eternally.
Do you know how to take your life experience and transform it to a God story? Follow these simple steps and enjoy knowing that you are following God’s Word.
What is the story you find yourself telling?
As the parent of teenagers, what runs through my mind and mouth are the unusual situations my children have drawn me into. Like the time I had to find my daughter’s sunglasses so that she could lead the band in a parade. Did she think she would get lost and take the band with her? I didn’t ask, but ran to her locker, to her car and to catch up with the already moving procession. Exhausted I said, I’m a band parent. It’s okay to be crazy.
What do we learn from the stories we like to tell?
I realize these high school years will pass quickly. Soon the nest will be empty except for holidays and occasional weekends. I have decided to cherish this time, instead of complaining, no matter how much it makes me run or cover for them.
What do these life stories say about our life with God?
Bible references: There is a season for everything. Train up a child in the way they should go. If you, as a parent, know how to give good gifts to your kids, how much more does God know what to give you? Jesus was faithful all the way to the cross.
In every situation or story we tell, there is a faith lesson. Let’s not miss it. Tell the story, but also connect it back to something God has said in Scripture. In doing so, we will stay on course with God.
Watch out for complaints and fears. They are not reflections of God’s guiding Word. But do the work of the one who sent you into the world to love as God has loved you.
Now, Go. Tell the story of God’s unseen love and your experience of sharing that love.
Have you found yourself screaming this statement lately? I assure you, everyone comes to this conclusion at some point. We try to be nice about it. We try to swallow pride and selfish desires, but then injustice overwhelms us. And we cry out, "It's not fair!" I was a child when the anti-war protests were happening on college campuses. The war did end. In graduate school we stepped out against Apartheid in South Africa. The rights of blacks been upheld in that country. Today the injustice we feel are for workers.
On September 8 we have an opportunity to stand up for what is not fair labor practices. Across the US people will march with "A Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice." Locally our march is in Elwood Illinois, home to one of the largest transportation hubs in the US. Tons of freight and diesel trucks flow through the area - causing harmful pollution from diesel particulates and carbon and results in fatalities by trucks. These warehouse owned by Walmart, Amazon, Cargill, Stephan (and many others) offer temporary employment (no benefits, no sick days, no vacation, not a set schedule) even though they promised permanent jobs. Also, the cities have been funding these billionaire companies with tax payer money - so now many of the surrounding communities are in debt and are underfunding their schools.
If you feel the injustice for laborers, for the environment or for students in poverty, please consider protesting. There will be busses from the Joliet Metro station taking the majority of the protesters to this small town. I intend to travel by car praying for a parking spot at O'Conner Park or within walking distance. This event is sponsored by 350.org and riseforclimate.org.
Tired…bored…and stressed. High school students from across the country have weighed in on their emotional state in school — and overwhelmingly, they’re unhappy. Web MD surveyed a diverse sample of 22,000 students in 2015 asking them "How are you feeling?" Seventy-five percent of them responded with negative feelings. Why? Is it all about the loss of freedom? Or can it be that we have failed to teach them the skills they need to succeed in school. The basics are:
1. Attend school daily. 2. Be prepared. 3. Get enough rest. 4. Eat a healthy breakfast. 5. Take classes that interest you, and make all others work for you. 6. Participate in class.
If this is good for a student's education, could it be good for our religious education? First ask yourself, do you have negative feelings about church? If so, apply the basics:
1. Go to church regularly. 2. Be prepared by praying before you go. 3. Get enough rest on Saturday. 4. Eat a healthy breakfast. 5. Serve in areas that interest you. 6. Participate.
We cannot expect our children to be excited about school if we're not excited about following Jesus. As the kids get back to school, let us get back to church!
The church community is unlike other communities you know. There's the same sense of common mission and place. Some will say church is all about the people. Yet truthfully people come and go with life changes. In a church community the intimacy is real and the mission is shared not because we have common politics or upbringing, but because we have God in common. All other barriers to relationship breakdown when we say "we are one in Christ Jesus." At First UMC we have diverse ethnic backgrounds in our worshipping congregation. When voices are lifted for prayer there are several accents and always various ages and genders. We have a multicolored church held together by the hand of God. Our whole community is in God's hand. And that just feels good.
This summer you will see a beautiful sunrise and want to capture it. Get your cell phone out (if you have one) an snap that memory to your photo bank. If you have a place to jot down a few thoughts about it, what you're thinking or feeling in the moment, make that happen. The photo itself is not enough to help you recall what you are experiencing. I have lots of nature photos in my boxes of pictures. I cannot remember why I took any of them. Words on the backs of the pictures have helped identify when and where. When we have a moment with God in our life we may not need a picture or words to jog our memory. God moments stand out. Like the time I was driving the curves between two churches and I looked up the clouds and I heard God speaking. I don't need to go back to that God place. The photograph in my mind is enough for me to talk about that day Glory rose up in my heart for no real reason. Do you have a moment of Glory rise you'd like to share?
What is Being a Dad to you?
1. No more "me" time
2. Responsibility never ends, nor does their need for $$
3. Gender limitations/appreciating their mother
4. You are friends with your kids' friends' parents
5. Reinventing "cool" to keep relationships fresh
Happy Fathers Day to all who work hard at being a dad!
Why do we need so many editions of the Bible? she asked me. It's because each of us interprets the original words a little differently. Maybe we need to write our own translation. How, for example, would you translate the Ten Commandments? Here's my interpretation:
1. Be addicted to God alone
2. Only use names for God for adoration
3. Set aside a 24 hour day every week for God
4. Honor both your parents
5. Don’t kill or destroy any part of God’s creation including the joy that’s inside others.
6. Don’t adulterate your relationships
7. Don’t take from others what is not yours
8. Don’t say false things about others
9. Don’t break up another person’s family
10. Don’t wish you have it any better than you do
WHAT'S YOUR MOM STORY?
I heard this one about a mother duck. Kind people were installing a cell tower in field where a mother duck had chosen to make a nest. The workers tried to be careful, but they were sure the duck would be scared off with their heavy equipment. They carefully stepped around her, but really couldn't avoid making noise and confusion. The mother duck didn't move off the nest. She stayed to protect her younglings no matter what the humans were doing. Isn't that just like motherhood? It's all about protecting the kids.
My Mom Story
From Pastor Nancy Rethford
Recently I found a recording of an interview with my mother that we did in 2004. The subject was the church, how they started a new church in Homewood and how her faith took her through difficult times in the church and at Annual Conference. She believed that the church can be strong again if we reach out to others and be welcoming of those who come in our building. PADS, Meals on Wheels and an empty-nesters Sunday brunch were the tools she thought we needed to grow the church again. I praise her still for letting me record her thoughts about the church. Now I watch it with longing to be able to touch her again. And yet, she's still with me every time I walk into one of our churches. I'm so glad we had that time together!
Sometimes one hour is not enough.
Last Sunday we had a delightful worship with Gerald Savage, Chief Ho-Chunk Ska Ga. He talked of his family and tribal traditions. His affection for the land and for children resonated with us. Then afterwards we went to lunch. There we heard stories of owls, his school board job and his upcoming graduation from Engineering School. When I brought him back to his car he showed me his chief's bonnet. He did not bring this into worship because as Christians we do not wear hats in the sanctuary. Lastly he offered to bless the parsonage with a smudging, much like he did with the worship leaders at 9:30 that morning. It was 1:30 before we said our goodbyes. We shared so much in those 5 hours together. Sometimes one hour on Sunday is just not enough to experience the grace of God in friendships.
There is a place of quiet rest at your church home.
If you find it on Sunday mornings in our worship space, you are blessed. If you see it in the eyes of compassion during the week, you are blessed. If you come during the week for meetings or study in the fellowship you are blessed. With what does God bless us? God blesses us with Grace. God's Grace. Our sermon series in May is all about that Grace. Bring your troubled friends. Bring your bleeding heart. Come, for all is prepared.
Grace Wins Everytime - Life Lesson Series for May 2018
1. Pursuing Grace; 2. Grace Over Rules; 3. Igniting Grace; 4. Discerning Grace
"When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All that sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life--a life that goes on and on and on, world without end." The Message, Romans 5:20-21
"Every day is earth day," He said. It seems we have narrowed our connections to the earth to one day out of the year. Prior to 1970 we didn't even have a day to say "I speak for the earth." Now at least we have a day. Maybe we need more. That's why I like hosting a Native American Sunday. Tomorrow we'll hear the thoughts of Ho Chunk native and friend Gerald Savage. He's love for Mother Earth is notable in his reclaiming of his tribal land and his passion for an every day earth day. Come. All are welcome.
Our prayers are being answered because we pray. Don't give up your prayer connection with us. Bring the prayers to worship. Write them on a connect card. Email them to Lana Runyan. Tie a thread on a prayer quilt. Call me (Pastor Nancy) if you want to meet me in the chapel for Prayer. Thursday mornings usually work. But text or call in advance at 630-360-0471.
All creation sings with the blessing of resurrection!
Are you enjoying the warm days? We've waited so long for them. Experience tells us that warmer days come in waves. We could get frost until May 15 or snow on Sunday! Enjoy what we have right now. And watch for the flowers; they're popping up all over.
There's room for two more at our Monday Bible Study, "Trusting the Covenant." Pick up your book at the Welcome Center. Scriptures will be sent via email each day. We meet at 7 pm at church.
The Saturday group will start on April 21 at 10 am in the Chapel. Find your own copy of "Lies We Believe About God" by Wm. Paul Young. We will also make a date to see the movie The Shack.
Reading with others magnifies the soul. Join a group; Learn to love the fellowship.
No one says "I wish I didn't come." Many say, "I wish I could go." The blessed say, "This helped me."
December arrives with less snow than I would like. There's no telling about a white Christmas yet. Every time a fresh, white layer of snow falls on us, the purity of the incarnation and the magic of Christmas Eve are again revealed. What are your thoughts this Christmas?
This week's best news is our newly carpeted worship space. This gift from our Congregational friends brings great joy to the room. Our last carpet was terribly stained and worn well beyond it's years. The new one isn't coffee proof, but we can lift out sections if a stain becomes uncleanable. Also the front entrance has a walk off carpet to catch dirt and salt. With this lift, our praises will go higher and higher. Or if looking down in prayer, you wont be distracted by the dirt.
In true form, we have opened our doors and first use of our carpet to our shelter guests. Saturday we open it up to the community for children and their families to have breakfast and meet Santa.
Sunday we worship on new ground, a beautiful foundation for praise. We are blessed. Not all Christian congregations are so blessed. Our friend Georges Cadet preaches for a congregation in Haiti who worship from 6 am to 10 pm on a dirt floor. At some point in the day he has to tell them to keep it down; the dust needs to settle.
Pastor Nancy Rethford
INTEGRATE – to combine one thing with another so that they become a whole.
In baking bread, integrate the yeast and let it sit in a warm environment for a time. In joining a new social group, integrating will take much longer than yeast. Integrating a new idea into an old social order does not need time as much as understanding. This Sunday at the end of worship we can integrate your voice with others as we are talk about what we can do with our facilities.
Some guidelines for integration. Let others speak without interruption. Be careful not to kill seed thoughts before they have an opportunity to live for Christ. Most of all let us listen for the Holy Spirit to move us into action.
"God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled." 2 Timothy 1:7
The children and youth will again have their own lessons in the Education Wing during our study time. We are blessed to have teachers. Pray for God to send us young families. Pray that they come tomorrow 1 pm – 3 pm to make candy cottages and December 9 for Breakfast with Santa. Ask any stressed out parent about needing a kid free shopping day. Our youth are offering childcare to earn money for their winter retreat. Help others take advantage of our resources for children! This is how we grow the church.
Prayers Today: Once again we have a number of people managing cancer treatments. A little Christmas cheer may give them the boost they need to get through the day. Also let’s keep believing that God is acting. Stories about breakthroughs in science and remission diagnosis are always hope filled for our weary prayers.
December 1 is HIV/AIDS awareness day. So today I pause to think of the many who suffered (and still suffer) from this indiscriminate disease. I ask for protection for medical staff who make sacrifices to minister to the sick. I uplift the caregivers who dedicate their lives to the patient and then suffer the grief of their loss. We cannot ask “Why God?” Our calling is not to question our ministry. Our calling is to do in Jesus name.
Ruminations: Let's think about the servant who mucked out the stall where Jesus was born. Did he know he was serving the king of kings? Could he feel the awesome power of being so close to God? Could our service to God be any different? Wherever we serve God in the church it shouldn't be considered a burden or beneath us. Like a stable hand cleaning up a mess for Jesus, be in awe of the opportunity to muck out the stable. This is holy ground.
Thank you for serving God's mission with us at First Church.
Pastor Nancy Rethford
If you heard some buzz about worship last Sunday, you might be wondering what’s going on? This Advent season we are exploring interactive worship. During interactive worship it’s okay to move around, a beverage at your seat is okay.
Last week we tried the mini discussion version of an interactive message. Next week we will stay in our seats, but keep the casual feel of sharing our faith in a safe place.
A few people have shared with me that our Advent material, “Finding Bethlehem in the Midst of Bedlam,” doesn’t meet their needs. While it is true that some Christians have little trouble focusing on the meaning of the season in the bustle of holiday activities, many struggle to find a moment of peace. Some listen to the daily news and struggle to believe that there will ever be peace on earth.
Jesus calls us to reach people where they are. He calls us to have compassion for those who haven’t yet figured it all out. Church is not for perfect people, it is for the hurt, broken and searching.
During our planning retreats, we have consistently identified families with small children as our chosen mission field. There are youth and young adults in our congregation. If we don’t talk about the struggle of being authentically Christian in this increasingly atheist society, who will?
Please come and discuss your thoughts and concerns with me! My door is always open for discussion. Specifically I’m available this Wednesday Morning at 10 am. After prayer in the chapel, my next agenda is fixing the wreaths and other decorations for the worship space. Please bring your open mind and a willingness to share your concerns and while we work, we can talk.
astor Nancy Rethford
Amazing Grace and Righteous Joy! Happy Thanksgiving, Church! Our national holiday reminds us of how important the precious the gifts of God are to us.
Be happy and give thanks for the blessings of sisters and brothers in the faith. The week started with a climactic end to our Live Simply Stewardship Campaign. Our pledges for 2018 have increased dramatically. We confirmed even higher numbers at our Church Conference Tuesday night. Praises and joy for whom we are becoming through your faith in the body of Christ!
Wednesday night we celebrated the holiday with a simple soup and bread meal together. Twenty-two of us held a friend-giving to spiritually connect to bread of life and found the company of each other very filling. Did you know that bread and stones were the same shape, color and texture in biblical times? When Jesus said, “I can make this stones sing praises,” was he talking about us?
Connecting on Thanksgiving has meant Facebook posts and texts messages for a number of years, but truly it’s the visits and phone calls which bring great joy. Praise God for the multiple ways we can connect today!
Today & Tomorrow: recovery and refocus. What can we do to be ready for the Christmas season? Can you give me an hour on Saturday to decorate our Worship Space? Meet me at 9 am tomorrow for the set up. Some will climb on ladders, some will decorate the Christmas Tree. But there’s more…
We also need old casement windows with small panes of glass. Do you know where I can find a few windows for our big prop this Christmas?
Sunday, we begin our ADVENT SEASON. Yes, this is a week early due to Christmas Eve landing on Advent 4. Being liturgically accurate does not matter as much as being with each other and talking about the deeper things in our lives. So to simplify Christmas Eve – we’re starting on November 26 with our Advent Series – Finding Bethlehem in the Midst of Bedlem.
We’re collecting with noisy cans this Sunday in an OFFERING for Georges Cadet, who has worshiped with us. I have a few pictures from his mission in Haiti. You’ll meet his wife, assistant pastor and congregation at Eglise Des Freres de Bohoc.
Also Sunday, we will celebrate the BAPTISM of Beckett Lawrence, great-grandson of Bob and Joan Howard. This is great
My joy this Thanksgiving is you. Possibly, you will bring the next spirit filled idea into our church community and I am already grateful for your commitment to Christ. Amen! Amen!
with abundant joy,
Pastor Nancy Rethford
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
If you’ve made big sacrifices, you know what I’m talking about. Every time I’ve received abundant blessings, it’s after I’ve focused on doing what is right and good. I’ve made the sacrifice, now l pray that God sends that blessing forward. Sometimes sing praise because my efforts became grace for another, but my favorite praise is about how blessings are falling into place to create one big celebration of thanks!
Interpretations on the meaning of the Thanksgiving Holiday can be historic, food based or praise driven. I choose to interpret our Thanks Giving as praise to God for sending friends and food and personal accomplishments. We have a cornucopia of blessings! And more than enough to share.
We are in our third week of the Stewardship Series, Live Simply. The music this week is both familiar and powerful. It lures us closer to the Thanksgiving Holiday and reminds us of how important our faith is to us. In one week, at the Annual Stewardship Dinner we turn in our pledge cards and estimate our budget for 2018. Prayerfully consider what you can add to our ministry.
Last Sunday we handed out Ministry Worksheets. This self-review can be your way of saying “don’t forget to include me when you do this.” It’s also the first step in getting a great communication network going in the church also. Bring your sheet back and leave it in the basket on the Connect Center to be included.
The Ministry Worksheet is not about committees. However, Full Disclosure, we have openings on the Trustees Board and Worship Hospitality Committee. If you like going to meetings and plan things, please let us know. The 2018 Nominations and Personnel Report is due this week.
Our United Methodist Local Church Conference will be held on November 21 at 7 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend. At this annual meeting we celebrate our ministry of the past year and we hear a message from the Bishop's Cabinet. This year Rev. Esther Lee will convene the meeting in place of the District Superintendent. Let's enjoy our evening of holy conferencing. But first, put the November 21 Church Conference on your calendar. Second, key leaders submit forms on line by this Thursday.
LET’S TALK about Facilities this Sunday – We need to look further down the road. What decorative or structural changes need to be done after a decade in our building? Stay after worship with us and talk about it.
I thank God for you, every time I pray. The congregation and friends of First UMC of West Chicago continue to be a channel of God’s abundant blessing for me and my family. If you don’t have a place for Thanksgiving Dinner, consider joining my family.
Let everyone have a place to be happy this Thanksgiving.
Pastor Nancy Rethford
Let Freedom Ring!
Brainstorming with a group of freethinkers can be dangerous, but I was ready for anything. In theory we go from a traditional concept to something more real and personal to the group. I started with the birth of Jesus and the group landed on freedom.
Hmm. Freedom. Is this the underlying expectation for our Christmas? Or is this the underlying longing for everyone today? I’m not ready to write liturgy on this brainstorm, so I’m taking it to you.
First, a specific. Looking over our prayer concerns from this week I am moved to a longer time for cancer patients again. We enjoyed Erlaine’s lesson at puppet time last Sunday. She pointed to pink and said it was for breast cancer awareness month. Seeing pink everywhere in October calls us to action not only in prayer but in visits/cards to victims and families. It’s a good thing. Thanks, for helping us stay on track, Church!
Now, an application. If we take each of our prayers, for friend, for disaster zones, for country, for church – and we apply the message of freedom - we ask, What freedom does God want for our people of concern? What would happen if, after each intercessory prayer, we added quietly, “May they find freedom in you, God.”
This is our seed thought: How will we find freedom in Christ Jesus? I’ll follow up on this with you in a few weeks when I have new channels of communication opened up.
Right now we are starting a new Worship Series, titled “Live Simply.” Because it is our annual stewardship series we’ll be hearing laity talks and general encouragement on finances. The overall theme is the practice of the Christian lifestyle. We have wonderful friends in the church who do this well. Let’s take advantage of these gifts and learn.
The newsletter is being published this weekend. Check out the article on composting. Consider taking this step towards a family commitment. Bring your old pumpkins to the church on November 4 for our pumpkin smash. Also plan to stay for lunch. The UMCW is hosting their Holiday lunch and bazaar one week from tomorrow! Yahoo!
With Halloween on Tuesday – join me in prayer for everyone’s safety. Like many we receive few trick or treaters. I’m ready for anything. We’re also opening our home from 6 pm – 10 pm for youth and adults needing a place to be. It’s a party to mock the devil, aka All Hallows Eve. Dress or not. There’ll be food, but you can share.
From the fun we’ll turn to the sober reality of All Saints Day. We are always in grief, but we don’t let our grief paralyze. As Christians we are called to LIFE! Jesus is our life. Our November 5 celebration of the Saints will be even more joyous than our Halloween fun. God is so good. We just have to party!
Blessing and Jo,
astor Nancy Rethford
A docile camel from Illinois had such bad breath that the owner solicited help. I was nearby passing out Lions' Candy mints and collecting funds for vision and hearing aids last Sunday. The owner, Mary, chatted with us for a while and then asked to try our candy on her animals. The mints worked! And I was invited to meet the camel where I was nuzzled in gratitude. In worship we had looked at Jesus' saying that we filter out the ants, but eat the camel whole. I was more worried about the camel consuming me! and aren't ants protein?
Last Sunday was fun from beginning to end. Are you ready for another Sunday of the Lord's joy? There's a few details you may want to prepare before you leave for worship Sunday morning. Top on the list is our October collection of hats, mittens and gloves. This collection is for our needy clients at PADS. We want to finish this collection in three weeks.
Second, are you planning to be at the October 21 Oktoberfest and/or the November 4 Holiday Bazaar? We sell tickets for both those meals at the church on Sunday. Come to worship knowing if Oct 21 and Nov 4 fit into your schedule. We'd love to draw you and your family into our wonderful ministry of festival foods.
Thank you for the gift for Pastor Appreciation Sunday. The gift is a gift certificate for artwork! What a surprise! There is a lot of simple wisdom in this gift. Much like the oil on Jesus' feet, the gift of art is a sacred symbol of our relationship. We will take our time choosing the piece, and then you can see it at our next open house. Thank you!
Church World Service/CROP has not reached their goal of ending global hunger. Can you help? We are walking this Sunday, Oct 15 in the CROP Walk because in many parts of the world they have to walk for everything. CROP relief efforts are well published online. When you're looking up the info, go ahead and donate to my walk efforts at crophungerwalk.org/northwestdupageil . We're happy to have you walk the three miles with us. We start at St. Andrew Lutheran at 1:30. Overflow parking is at our church on the west side.
Our Church Band, Unity, is leading some of the songs on Sunday. It's so much fun to praise God with our friends in Unity. They are doing one of their old favorites, "And All the People Said Amen," which I heard on the radio today. Also, we will have a song from the choir about being a welcoming church. Has that been your prayer? We could use your hand in friendship at the door. If there is a classier way to say "greeter" you can correct me, but I'll still ask for your help on the 5th Sundays.
Wherever you are in your walk of faith, walk with us. We know the Way. We follow in Jesus' footsteps. And we have a lot of fun doing it.
Pastor Nancy Rethford