Category Archives: Article

Random Thoughts About Living in a Church Community

I live in a largely Christian world, and spend a lot of my life with other non-New Church Christians. We are active members of the United Church of Christ, a Methodist-Presbyterian mix that formed 50+ years ago when neither church could stand on its own (if you’re wondering what kind of doctrine comes from such a mix of conflicting dogmas, the answer is that we are the Christians who are neither Baptist, Lutheran, or Catholic, and we don’t sweat the small stuff.). 

Over the years Mark and I have become deeply connected to other members, especially older couples who have lived clean and meaningful lives without fanfare, who consistently serve as deacons, cooks, trustees, board members, choir members, tech support, and anything else that is needed, all in their volunteer church life. Churches are a wonderful avenue to community, even aside from any religiosity–a fact that is often missed in the mainstream media in its lament over the problems of loneliness and broken relationships and disease. Our tech guy, Jose, who films countless services and other events at the church, sometimes as a volunteer, recently announced that he will retire this summer. In his announcement he gruffly stated, “I don’t really consider myself a religious person” with a rueful laugh, adding, “The church family means a lot to me.” I suspect he will discover that he still wants to come to church, just because.  

What is it about coming to church every 7th day that is so powerful? It’s such an easy commandment to keep, compared to some of the others! Just a habit, do-able for those of us lucky enough to not be in 24-hour service shifts. While we have been through many phases with our church, I’m finding that once you put in enough time, the familiarity and comfort, coming from a thousand hymns and prayers chanted together and a thousand conversations over coffee fellowship builds, imperceptibly, until suddenly a child whom you watched grow up or an old person you watched grow old is confiding in you as a trusted friend.

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Laughing Earth

“People who have applied the teachings of the church from the Word directly to their lives are in the inmost heaven and more than anyone else are absorbed in the pleasures of wisdom. They see divine realities in particular objects. They actually do see the objects, but the corresponding divine realities flow directly into their minds and fill them with a sense of blessedness that affects all their sensory functions. As a result, everything they see seems to laugh and play and live.(Heaven and Hell 489.3, emphasis added)

I remember reading this passage as part of my Logopraxis study last year. That last line grabbed me, it’s captivating! “Everything they see seems to laugh and play and live.” How jovial! I want to see the world around me laugh and play and live!

When I walk with my dog in the woods, I relish the feeling of being engulfed in nature. I love it! I love being surrounded by the greens and browns and yellows of grasses, leaves, vines, mosses, trees and logs, the gray rocks, the blue and pink and purple and yellow and orange wildflowers, the dark earth….  It’s all beautiful to the eye, which is a blessing, to be sure! But it doesn’t really feel like it is joyful and laughing, to me. I hear many birds in the trees above my head: some of their sounds could certainly be interpreted as laughter! Colourful flowers, maybe I could pretend that they look cheerful; lush grasses and moist, verdant trees, maybe…. but rocks? Roots? Soil? Nope; I’m not seeing it.

Reflecting on this, straining to envision these inanimate, dead-looking objects as laughing, playful and living, it occurs to me: personifying nature may be my mistake. The natural world around us may be living, but it isn’t human, it isn’t a person. None of it has feelings or a higher consciousness (well, depending on who you ask, but that’s a deep-dive for another day!). Nature can’t laugh, play and live the way we laugh, play and live; I reckon that thinking of it as responding, reacting as we do, is misguided.

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A Word in Your Ear…from Wordle > Connections > Potts’ Concordance

There is a spiritual meaning throughout the Word and in all its details. “ (Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 9)

On each day of my working life as a proofreader I looked closely at words. Now that enjoyable task has re-entered my life, and in the past few months I’ve been pondering on the associations between three word-related things I do every day.

1. Each morning, my husband and I play Wordle on his iPad. At first it’s a total guess as to what that day’s 5-letter word will be. We usually figure it out well within the six tries that players are allowed.

2. Then we move on to Connections, where we must arrange 16 words into 4 groups of 4 associated words. This is trickier, and is heavily weighted to American thinking, culture, expressions etc. We’re getting better at it, even if we don’t really always ‘get’ the connections the game makes.

3. Finally, if time allows, I’ll spend a while proofreading an assigned part of the digitised version of Potts’ Concordance. (Early in 2024 I joined a growing team of people working on this particular aspect of the New Christian Bible Study project.) 

Like the game Connections, Potts’ Concordance has many closely associated words. It goes alphabetically through terms used in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings. I love this proofreading work! It gets me deep into what words / phrases used in the Bible mean on a correspondential level, and also shows where to find further references and explanations for words used in the Writings themselves. Even if I don’t always ‘get’ what is being said (which does happen quite often), surely my soul is learning!

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Super Bloom

Editor’s note – today’s post was written by Lori Odhner and published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. We like to share some of our favorites from past years.

Photo by Anita Halterman

The flowers in California are having a heyday. Several years of drought followed by buckets of rain are a combination for opulent fields of poppies. We went to see them, back when we lived there twenty years ago. It is a marvelous thing to be surrounded by color, as long as no witch is dropping a sleeping potion on you. 

I have had my own seasons of blooming, which coincidentally came after my own dearth. God seems hesitant to tip His hand about such outcomes, leaving us to wonder and wait. 

A blueberry farmer once told me that you cannot get fruit if there is no freeze. I don’t really know about such things but the notion has served me in my own periods of cold. Maybe this is the prelude to sweetness, rather than an obstacle to it. 

The day after the power went out is an occasion for increased appreciation for the flick of a light switch. Days after a bout of an aching back are fertile for gratitude in health. 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40