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Thoughts for These Times

  • May 21 | Pastoral Reflections on the Prospect of Reopening
    Dear friends, When riding the London Underground for the first time, I smiled when hearing this announcement coming over the intercom at each station:  “Mind the gap, please, mind the gap.”  It struck my American ears as a very genteel way to remind riders to watch their step when exiting the train.  No matter how you phrase it, of course, the reminder is appropriate.  Gaps can be tricky. More broadly, times of transition in life require special care.  We know from experience that a sudden change in employment, health, family, etc. can throw off our equilibrium.  We may feel threatened…
  • May 14, 2020 | Pastoral Thoughts on Contentment
    Dear friends, When I was young, I remember seeing a poster of a person dunking a basketball. Philippians 4:13 was written underneath – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But that picture only captured one aspect of this verse. The picture could just as easily show someone getting his shot blocked instead. Jesus strengthens us to be content not only in success but also in trials. Consider the full context of Philippians 4:11-13: “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to…
  • May 7, 2020 | Pastoral Thoughts on God’s Plans for Us
    Dear friends, Since mid-March I’ve had many of my plans interrupted. Some of this has been quite disappointing. Among other changes, we had to cancel a family trip to Luray Caverns I was looking forward to. I know I’m not alone. Field trips, graduation ceremonies, weddings, vacations, and many things we were looking forward to have been canceled or postponed. A giant question mark, if not a big red X, has been stamped over our summer plans. How should we think about these changes? First, this is a vivid reminder that we should always say “If the Lord wills, we…
  • April 30, 2020 | Pastoral Thoughts: The Importance of Sharing Our Lives
    Dear church family, “Look out the window!”  I said this to Kelli the other day when I spotted a pileated woodpecker on the bird feeder.  (Here is Kelli’s photo.)  When we experience something remarkable, we like to share it with others – whether a beautiful bird or a funny video.  Somehow sharing it makes it more meaningful.  Whatever we admire, laugh about, or stew over – it feels undigested unless we tell somebody. Our urge to experience events in the company of others derives from God.  God is one, but he is not solitary.  The persons of the Trinity together…
  • April 23, 2020 | Pastoral Thoughts on What We’re Personally Learning in Month Two
    Dear church family, Marks on the walls really stand out when you start moving furniture.  Maybe you have noticed this when rearranging rooms as part of shutdown adjustments at home.  The scratches and smudges outlining the former position of a couch or desk may take us by surprise.  Suddenly the wall seems to beg for washing if not repainting.   What we thought would be a blank space turned out to be a dirty space. So it is with our lives generally:  the shutdown has brought many candidates for maintenance into view.  We may not have noticed these during the…
  • April 15, 2020 | Pastoral Thoughts on God’s Grace for Tired People
    Dear Friends, Some shakiness and weakness showed up in my right hand the other day.  Immediately I began to think of diseases that might be the cause. Then I remembered that earlier I had been doing yard work involving repetitive motion with my right hand (using clippers, I think).  With relief, I pegged the shakiness to an ordinary case of muscle fatigue. Once I understood the cause, I could smile at myself and carry on.  At this moment, most of us labor under some amount of fatigue.  The shutdown has scrambled our routines and preoccupied our minds.  The stress lodges…
  • April 8, 2020 | Pastoral Thoughts on Trouble’s Limits
    Dear Friends, What’s the horizon of this shutdown?  It seems to keep expanding – two weeks, a month, two months, three months.  We have tried to stay positive –as we should! – about how God is working, what we are learning, and how we can serve others.  But now we plod into week three (or is it four?).  The cumulative strain of missed opportunities, contracted lives, financial hardships, and maybe illness among loved ones weighs on us.  We wish we knew how long this will continue. We should remember, though, that God controls the duration of every difficulty.  He determines…
  • April 1, 2020 | Pastoral Note about Losing and Winning
    Dear Friends, Learning to lose gracefully is one of our earliest and hardest lessons.  As kids, when we lost at Sorry! or Chutes and Ladders, we may have wanted to flip the board in a rage.  Maybe sometimes we did!  Growing a little older, we had to learn to say “good game” to sports teams that beat us.  And as we have matured as Christians, we have grappled with what Paul said – “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound….I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” Phil. 4:12-13. We definitely need…
  • March 24, 2020 | A Message from Pastor Dan Clifford
    Dear Friends, Right now, in God’s providence, we have landed in a period of enforced isolation.  We no longer enjoy the face to face contact with friends in different spheres of our lives – particularly in church.  We miss meeting together as a body, shaking hands, hugging, singing together, taking the Lord’s Supper, and enjoying coffee and conversation in the fellowship hall.  This period of isolation comes with its challenges. (This video from me has some additional encouragement about our mindset during the shutdown.)  But here are some other encouragements to stay connected. Most importantly, stay connected to God.  During…