These past articles by Female Christian Author Debbie Simler-Goff will inspire and uplift you.
Debbie Simler-Goff’s writing credits include, Marriage Partnership, Indeed Magazine, The Livingstone Corporation, Reflections Magazine, and others. Following is a sampling of her published works.
The following article first appeared in the Elmhurst Patch.
Elmhurst Pastors Respond to National Presbyterian Church Embracing Gay and Lesbian Clergy
Pastor at Yorkfield Presbyterian said the move causes him “genuine tension,” while Elmhurst Presbyterian Church pastor sees it as a “welcome change.”
Elmhurst clergy have expressed varied reactions to the Presbyterian Church (USA) removing its constitutional requirement that ministers live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”
The new language allows for people who are openly gay and non-celibate to be considered for ordination.
In an open letter to its members, the Presbyterian Church (USA) said trying to decide whether to allow sexually active gay and lesbian clergy was “a family struggle.”
“The debate about ordination standards has been a Presbyterian family struggle for much of the last three decades,” the letter says. “We have sought to find that place where every congregation and every member, deacon, elder, and minister of the Word and Sacrament can share their gifts in ministry while, at the same time, the integrity of every congregation, member, deacon, elder, and minister is respected.” (Read full letter here)
The letter went on to say official tallies indicate that 87 presbyteries, a majority required for approval, have signed off on the constitutional amendment, known as 10-A.
Elmhurst Presbyterian Church Pastor Cliff Lyda said the ordination of gays is nothing new.
“We’ve ordained gays forever,” Lyda said. “But we always insisted they were celibate.”
Lyda is a moderator for the Presbytery of Chicago, and was the preacher at the worship service at the December 2010 Presbytery Assembly in Chicago. He was in Minneapolis at a meeting of the church’s General Assembly when Amendment 10-A passed.
“This [decision] was a welcome change in my mind because it is more inclusive of a group who thought we hated them,” Lyda said.
But Pastor Michael Toburen of Elmhurst’s Yorkfield Presbyterian Church sees things somewhat differently.
“We are learning to keep an open dialogue despite our differences,” Toburen said. “I personally have a conservative view and feel the Bible is clear on the topic.”
The Biblical passage that Toburen referred to is I Corinthians 6: 9-10, which says: “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Toburen and Lyda said there are scholars who are closely examining the Apostle Paul’s intent when he wrote the passage in I Corinthians. And Lyda admits to having grappled with the Biblical view of homosexuality for the last 35 years.
Lyda used to be in the camp that opposed ordaining homosexuals, “but I have come to understand things differently,” he said.
Society has evolved, and being insistent on the literalness of the Bible is hypocritical, he said.
But Toburen said he is still evaluating and studying.
“It is a genuine tension for me,” he said.
And, other Elmhurst clergy may be feeling a similar tension, because several who were contacted by Elmhurst Patch did not want to go on record regarding the gay and lesbian clergy issue.
How will parishioners be affected?
A May 10 article on Huffington Post projects a decline in attendance.
“As with other denominations that have allowed gay clergy, most notably Episcopalians, disapproving congregations will likely leave the church,” the article says. “According to the Presbyterian News Service, around 100 congregations have defected in recent years, many of which leaned conservative.”
The Presbyterian Church (USA) Web site offers tools to help pastors and their congregation with the idea of homosexuality and the clergy, including video messages by leaders and a section with frequently asked questions.
But Pastor Toburen is taking a more proactive approach with his Yorkfield congregation by offering a Bible study called Homosexuality and the Bible.
The study is put out by a group called The Thoughtful Christian, which offers many culturally relevant studies.
“Our church is a microcosm of all churches in terms of thought and diversity of opinion,” Toburen said. “We have some who have no problem at all, others who are OK with gays but not as pastors, and still some who say it is against the Bible and is a sin.”
Toburen hopes that by studying and discussing the Biblical view of homosexuality they will all have a better understanding of how to proceed.
The approval of the 10-A amendment does not constitute a mandate. Each local presbytery can decide whether to allow gay and lesbian clergy or not.
“The new wording gave the constitution more integrity,” Lyda said. “It restored the local churches right to examine each candidate.”
“It is not an edict from the national church,” Toburen said. “Some churches will openly welcome gay clergy and some will not. So we’ll have like a patchwork quilt.”
The following article first appeared in the Elmhurst Patch.
Boy Scouts Clean Up Elm Lawn, Honor Veterans
After an Elmhurst Patch story on cemetery neglect, 1st Ward Alderman Paula Pezza and Boy Scout Troop 82 help Elm Lawn owner Scott Troost clean up veteran grave sites before Memorial Day.
By Debbie Simler-Goff (Open Post) June 6, 2011
Both sides of the controversy at Elm Lawn Cemetery met on Friday, and Elmhurst Boy Scouts Troop 82 helped to begin the reconciliation process.
A May 6 Elmhurst Patch story featured complaints by Vietnam Veteran Ken Lepla about severe neglect of graves sites at Elm Lawn Cemetery, which is run by owner Scott Troost.
Troost responded by ordering his groundskeepers to attend to overgrowth, as well as lift and reposition some headstones. First Ward Alderman Paula Pezza helped organize the clean-up event with Scoutmaster Walter Salek of Elmhurst Troop 82.
“I used to be a scout leader myself and thought it would make a great community volunteer project that would fit in well with the scouts,” Pezza said.
Seven members of Troop 82 scouts came with shovels, rakes and clippers to work alongside Troost, his head groundskeeper Jim McClellan, Pezza and others.
Focusing their attention on veteran section 17, the group edged and cleaned 165 veteran headstones, placed red and white carnations provided by Troost and posted American Flags.
“It’s a good opportunity to help the community,” scout Bradley Hanebuth, 11, said.
Fellow troop member, Peter Salek, 13, added, “It’s a great way to support veterans.”
Troost appeared visibly impressed by the scouts, and repeatedly expressed his gratitude to the scouts individually and as a group as he worked alongside them to edge and clean headstones.
Although Lepla was there to meet Troost, he did not help clean the headstones.
“It was very emotional for me,” Lepla says. “They didn’t even work on the worst areas. It would have been a better use of the scout’s time if they had worked on the more severe areas.”
Lepla and Troost spoke early on at the event, and Lepla says he told Troost about his being mistreated by the Elm Lawn office staff.
“Mr. Troost was disappointed to hear how his staff treated me,” Lepla says.
Troost was focused on the excitement and enthusiasm of the scouts coming out to help.
“This is just a great thing for our veterans who deserve so much honor,” Troost says. “This was a fantastic experience.”
Sharing that perspective was McClellan, who explained that burials take first priority, followed by cleaning and straightening headstones, at the cemetery.
“It’s kinda like doing chores,” McClellan said.
Community members also joined in to lend a hand at the event.
Terry Webb read about the situation on Patch and contacted Pezza.
“My dad is a veteran who is buried here, so I wanted to help,” Webb said, adding that her father, Chuck, served in the Navy during World War II.
Longtime Elmhurst resident Paul Goff came out to help because his first wife is buried in Elm Lawn and his son Jeremy served in the Iraqi war.
“It’s a great thing to do,” Goff offered. “It felt good to help out and make a difference.”
And what about the other areas of Elm Lawn that still need attention?
“I’ve talked to the scouts,” Pezza says. “And some are interested in coming back and working on other sections of the cemetery as part of their service project requirements.”
The following article first appeared in the Elmhurst Patch.
Elmhurst Man Tapped for His Physics Knowledge to Work on Manhattan Project
Murray Peshkin was one of 10 young physics students that secretly worked on creation of an atomic bomb for the U.S. government.
By Debbie Simler-Goff (Open Post) April 28, 2011
Elmhurst resident Murray Peshkin was only 19 when he was tapped by the U.S. government to work on the Manhattan Project.
He was studying mathematics and physics at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., when his professor approached him and nine others about the secret government project.
“The professor called it the mystery program,” Peshkin said.
He was told that should he decide to accept the offer, he would be in the U.S. the entire length of his service, that he would not see his family until the war was over and that he would contribute technically to the war effort.
Peshkin and two others from his class agreed to participate.
“There were guys my age dying in trenches all the time,” Peshkin said. “The offer seemed like a dream, and was made to us by a person we respected.”
Peshkin was told to tell no one about the mystery program, to enlist in the Army like any other new recruit and that someone would contact him.
He did, and a few months later, he was pulled out of basic training and sent on a train with sealed orders to a secret laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.
“I was too naive to be afraid,” Peshkin said.
He was initially assigned to the theory division, led by Hans Bethe, who later won a Nobel Prize for his discovery of how stars generate their energy; but Peshkin was later selected to assist renowned physicist Richard Feynman.
“I was a young student and they were the educators,” Peshkin said.
A couple of months into the project, Peshkin realized they were working on the development of the atomic bomb.
“In all the time I was there, I never heard an inkling that we shouldn’t be doing it,” Peshkin said. “We were building the bomb to get ahead of the Germans.”
Peshkin and his fellow project mates celebrated the success of their mission when the bomb, dubbed Little Boy, was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at 8:15 a.m. Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, Fat Man, a second bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki.
“It may have been the worst decision made by a well meaning president,” Peshkin said in a 2005 article he wrote for the Chicago Tribune titled, To Be Young, Gifted and Building the Bomb.
After the war, Peshkin completed his education by earning a doctorate in physics from Cornell University.
“A doctorate is a visa into the scientific community,” Peshkin said.
He taught physics at Northwestern University, where he met and eventually married Frances, one of his former students, and in 1959 he went to work as a physicist for Argonne National Laboratory near Darien.
An educator in her own right, Frances taught in Hebrew school until their first child was born.
The Peshkins chose to settle in Elmhurst because of the library and the schools.
“Our three children had almost all their school years here, and received an excellent education at York High School,” Murray said.
“York gave our children a good launch,” Frances added.
And, indeed, the Peshkin children and grandchildren have followed in their parents’ footsteps.
Their son Michael is a physics professor at Northwestern. His office is only 100 feet from where the senior Peshkin’s office was. His daughter, Sharon, teaches journalism at Columbia College in Chicago. His son Joel is an electrical engineer, and his granddaughter, Ariana, was just accepted into a biophysics graduate program at Princeton.
The Peshkins seldom spoke to their children or grandchildren about Murray’s involvement with the Manhattan Project.
“It was just a casual point of life,” Frances said.
But now that Murray is almost 86 years old, his thoughts are turning towards his legacy, his mark not only on his family, but on others who are interested in his life’s work and in science in general.
Peshkin has given some talks about his experience at Los Alamos to other physicists and physics students, but his real passion is speaking to churches and community groups about the conflict over the teaching of evolution in public school biology classes. (More information on Peshkin’s talks can be found by clicking here.)
Peschkin and his wife belong to a local synagogue, but they say they are not religious.
“A Jew is defined by membership in a Jewish community, not by faith in a deity,” he said. “I am a secular Jew.” “Science and religion in the U.S. are approaching a collision that will severely damage our country’s future scientific and technological excellence if we don’t avert it,” Peschkin said.
The following article first appeared in the Elmhurst Patch.
Meet the Man Behind Elmhurst’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Jim O’Connor is keeping it green in Elmhurst; the parade steps off at noon Saturday at Spring and Wilson.
By Debbie Simler-Goff (Open Post) March 10, 2011
Every year, for the past six years, Jim O’Connor has been sprinkling a little luck o’ the Irish over Elmhurst’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
That’s how long he’s been parade chairman, but he’s been involved with the parade much longer than that—ever since Doug Kuester, Scott and Charity Ahlgrim, Frank Catalano Sr., former Mayor Tom Marcucci and Silverado owner Jack Island launched the parade in 1996.
“So, in actuality, a German started the parade,” O’Connor said, referring to Kuester, who passed away in 2003.
O’Connor said he took over the parade by default because he was the only one in the group with a business (Elmhurst Garage Door Service) that could handle all the parade calls.
“We’ll get about 70 calls the week before the parade,” O’Connor said. “People asking where to park or if they can still submit an entry.”
The parade has grown significantly since those early days and is now among the largest in the Chicago area.
“Initially the idea was to make it last an hour,” O’Connor said. “So we had three garbage trucks in the parade that first year.”
Nowadays, planning for the next year’s parade begins the moment the last entry has crossed the finish line. O’Connor said the one vital component of preparing for the next year is the post-parade meeting to discuss what went wrong and what can be improved upon. They like to do this while the experience is still fresh in everyone’s head.
His Blood Runs Green
O’Connor is a second-generation Irishman; all four of his grandparents came from Ireland to America seeking a better life.
“My dad used to say ‘we’re Americans, not Irishman,’ ” O’Connor said.
The stockily built O’Connor grew up on Kearsage Avenue, along with his six siblings, and attended Immaculate Conception grade school and high school. He forged lifelong friendships during his time at IC, including with his good friend Paul Koch.
“Paul and I were in first grade together,” O’Connor said. “We’ve been friends ever since.”
Koch, who is part-owner of Elmhurst-based Larry Roesch Chrysler Jeep Dodge, offers a rare glimpse of the reticent O’Connor.
“I think going to IC helped us become good guys; it was part of our ‘Leave it to Beaver’ upbringing,” Koch said.
“Jim is seen by some, at first glance, as being cantankerous, but one quickly realizes he has a heart of gold. That’s why he organizes the St. Pat’s parade. He loves Elmhurst and wants everyone to have fun together, although he’d never admit it.”
O’Connor is quick to credit others for the parade’s success and offers a litany of names of people who work hard to make the parade special. From the Elmhurst College football players, who will be parade marshals, to those who make sure everything is cleaned up after the parade’s 20,000 visitors leave.
“It’s a team effort,” O’Connor said.
The feeling is reciprocal among his many friends.
“Jim loves Elmhurst,” said Elmhurst resident Mike Carson. “His upbeat attitude is contagious.”
They Look Out for Each Other
O’Connor married Mary Doolan in 1993. They have four children; 23-year-old Kimberly, who is the mother of their grandson, Dylan, and Tim, Molly and Billy, who attend Sandburg Middle School.
“My wife is mother-of-the-year,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor and his wife spend a lot of time with their grandson, and when asked about Dylan’s personality, he responds in a typical short, quip.
“He’s 4 years old and all boy.”
O’Connor’s parents, Bill and Rosaleen, still live in the house where they raised their seven children. He credits them with his strong sense of faith and family.
“My parents raised a great family,” O’Connor said. “All of us kids love and respect them very much.”
The senior O’Connors will attend this year’s parade and sit in VIP seats, in what has been unofficially dubbed “O’Connors Row.”
On March 22, O’Connor will celebrate his 50th birthday. He appreciates his Irish heritage and the strength he draws from friends, family and community.
“People look out for each other here,” he said.
Hearing Christ at Work
The next time you’re at work, pay attention to the sounds around you. Listen—intently. Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Take for example the cacophony of mobile phones sounding off, the music-crazed cubicle-dweller that sits across the way, the hum of the water cooler, the overhead announcements, the ringing of the telephone, the cross-talkers who’d rather yell than leave their chairs. Not to mention the annoying coworker who talks so loud you’ve considered purchasing noise cancelling earphones. And then there are the drummers, clickers, and thumpers. These are the individuals who incessantly click a pen, drum on the desk top, or thump their foot against the desk. <<Read Full Article Here>>
Professional Persona vs. Christian Character
by Debbie Simler-Goff
Jonathan, a family physician, rarely discusses his faith while at work. Instead, he spends his lunch hour reading his Bible in the seclusion of his office. Yet his staff considers him the most Christian man they know.
Maria, a Call Center Supervisor, has religious symbols and scriptures plastered all over her very visible, glass walled office. She makes it a point to tell everyone from the janitor to the Vice President that she serves Jesus Christ. Many in her office find her tactics offensive. <<Read Full Article Here>>