Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

June 21, 2018


Dear Friends:
We had an amazing week in Detroit during the recent youth mission trip! But when it came time to leave, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to go. One of the hardest things about these week-long mission trips is leaving. Not only because of the great time we had and the friendships we made, but because we won’t always be able to see the results of the work that we started; we won’t see what happened to the seeds that we planted.

As I was sitting outside two muggy Sundays ago, listening to Pastor Becky’s sermon, I felt like she was speaking right to those of us who went to Detroit. We were able to plant some seeds last week. Not only in the lives of our kids, but also in the city of Detroit.

For example, one of our groups met and befriended a neighborhood boy named Malik. Malik has had a rough life. This became evident the day they met Malik, when he was walking home from school early because he had been suspended. The leaders and kids of this work crew started talking to Malik and automatically felt a bond with him. He began to work alongside our group doing the weed whacking, mowing, tree trimming, and other hard work that they were doing that day. Malik continued to work with our youth and build bonds with them. I was very touched to see the tears from our Youth as we left Saturday morning, not because they were leaving the mission trip, but because they were leaving Malik. Malik changed their lives; he helped them to see a side of the world that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen. And they were able to plant seeds in his life.

I think one of the hardest things about planting seeds is not always being able to see where they will land. Jesus tells us a story in Matthew 13:3-9.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’”

Our part in this is to not only plant the seeds, but then to trust God that the seeds we planted will take root and grow.

Please join me in praying for all the seeds that we planted in Detroit last week: that they will take root, grow, and spread seeds of their own!


P.S. The Youth will be sharing about the mission trip to Detroit in THIS Sunday’s service, June 24!

June 14, 2018


Dear Friends:

Our RENEW campaign is rolling along. Highlights so far include:

  • Installing new, energy-saving HVAC controls in the Barn. (We will recoup the cost of these in fuel/electric savings within two years.)
  • Surpassing $1 million in RENEW offerings received (through April 30).

Other Renew updates:

  1. The Barn re-siding project is scheduled to start in mid-July (this start date has been delayed due to a problem at the lumber mill out west). Our contractor, Orr Construction, estimates 8-12 weeks to complete the re-siding. Orr will start at the north edge of the east side of the Barn (overlooking the lower parking lot) and proceed clockwise around the Barn and Carriage House. The workers will do the entire installation on each section (e.g. remove old siding, installing the interior spacing material, putting up finished new siding), so that each section will be complete before they move on to the next section. Samples of the actual wood to be used (cut, treated with “shou sugi ban” hardening, and stained) can be viewed – contact Amy King in the Church Office. Orr will be bundling the old siding to sell to vendors, with the proceeds going to RENEW.
  2. I have good news to report regarding redoing internal driving lanes in response to the expansion of Home Road.
    • First, Delaware County has agreed to give us two access points onto the new Home Road (both access points being three lanes wide – one entrance lane and two exit lanes).
    • Second, the County has agreed to assume the entire cost of constructing these two new access points.
    The church still has $91,000 RENEW dollars budgeted for other necessary parking/lane improvements, but this is $47,000 less than what was originally budgeted.
  3. The Youth Room re-freshening project has been re-defined and re-decorating decisions made with input from our Youth. Orr Construction will also be doing this project; at the same time, we will be installing central HVAC in the Administration Building. Work should begin in the Fall.
  4. $65,000 in RENEW mission dollars will enable the complete renovation of the kitchen and dining hall for the His Place food ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Franklin (construction is already under way). Liberty has also pledged another $65,000 towards the construction of Delaware County’s Turning Point shelter.

Thank you for your generous support of RENEW and of God’s work in and through Liberty.

Serving Jesus with you,

June 7, 2018


Our Liberty Youth are hard at work through Camp Restore in Detroit! We have a great group of 70 kids, and they have been very eager to jump in and do whatever they are asked to do. A number of our groups are working on clearing out abandoned lots or lots around abandoned houses. This means we are cutting out over-grown bushes and trees and a large amount of weed-whacking and mowing. Most of these lots have weeds and grass almost waist high.

One neighbor we met was Miss Shirley Ann. Miss Shirley Ann came out to see what was going on yesterday and talked to two of our groups.  She was watching a group remove a group of trees that had taken over the front of an abandoned home. She told me that she had been “praying those trees down” for quite some time, “but didn’t know God was going to send a group from Ohio to do it!” She was very thankful for our hard-working groups.

During our lunch break back at the church, we had a community member drive by and yell out her window that we were doing a great job and thanked us. So, not only are these kids making a big difference in the way some of these houses look, they are making a big impact in the whole community.

Not only are our kids making an impact already, they are also being impacted themselves! They are being able to see that they have privileges that not everyone else has. A lot of the jobs being done are in areas where they do not have access to electricity, and therefore are having to use “old fashioned” hand tools and a great deal more physical strength than they are used to using. (This makes them tired, which is quite alright with all of us chaperones!)

I want to thank you all for the wonderful support you are providing to these eager, willing, hard-working kids! Your prayers are keeping us moving and allowing us to make a difference.

From Camp Restore,

May 31, 2018

Dear Friends:
Author Anne Lamott lists her two favorite prayers as follows:
  1.  Help me! Help me! Help me!
  2.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
We can read through the Psalms for longer prayers or more eloquent prayers, but I have to say that these two prayers really capture the heart of what we say to God, often several times a day. Coming to the Lord in our need, and in great gratitude, are fundamental to our lives as Christians. We have a God we can lean on, to whom we can come in our sorrow and confusion and pain.  We also have a God who hears and answers our prayers – a Lord we need to remember to thank for his goodness. Praise God from whom all blessings flow is often the only response we can make to what God has done for us.

Today is a Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! day for me.  There is so much to celebrate – watching our amazing young Liberty men and women graduate, seeing all the preparations for 73 youth (and more than 20 adults!) going on a mission trip to the aptly named Camp Restore in Detroit, watching folks step up to be a part of Be the Church and volunteering to paint rooms or garden or other projects for those in need in our community, and so much more!  A good friend received great news from her latest cancer scans and my heart is full of joy for her, and thanksgiving to God.

May our hearts overflow with prayers and praise every day.


May 24, 2018

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God. Why? For God is love.”
~ I John 4
Dear Friends:I can’t resist commenting on the unexpected individual who has dominated the internet this past week – no, not Megan Markle and Prince Harry – but the surprising preacher at their wedding, the Bishop Michael Curry. When we lived in England we attended more than a few Anglican churches, and trust me, the preaching was nothing like this!  This was a stunner. This African American preacher did not let the pomp & circumstance of the occasion keep him from sharing the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. Curry zeroed in on the heart of the gospel – love.  He talked about love, not only for those close to us, but the power of love to heal a broken world.  He quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love  love is the only way.”  

And as Curry reminded us:
“Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: the source of all of our lives. 
There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.
There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.
There’s power in love to show us the way to live.

When we live our lives grounded in the love of God, we treat people differently – from those down the street to those across the globe.  Christ’s love can redeem even the most desperate situation, the most fractured relationship, the most broken heart.

In a time when the news is often painful or painfully disrespectful of others, what a wonderful word for millions of people listening to a sermon about the life-giving, world-changing power of God’s love. I don’t care if some of the royals un-royally smirked – it was a standing O in my home!

May God hold us all in His almighty hands of love,

May 17, 2018

Let us look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
~Hebrews 12

Dear Friends:

It is Pioneer Days again here at Liberty. Girls in braids and bonnets wearing long gingham dresses and boys in straw hats with dark pants and suspenders grace the Liberty Campus, doing the kinds of activities they might have done 100 years ago: making lemonade, playing tug of war, scrubbing things over a wash board, punching tin with nails to create a design, square dancing and even joining in a camping reenactment.

The children are absorbed. I am used to bored kids; kids who surf television with their remotes while lying on the sofa (anyone remember actually getting up to manually turn off the television?)  From years of volunteering at my kids’ schools, I am used to keeping an eye out for this or that child, for kids not participating, for the “this is stupid” routine. But no one seems to be doing that. These kids are curious about how things were done back then. They are eager and engaged. They like using their hands to learn, they like their outfits, they like being outside with the sun on their faces. The air is full of their laughter and learning. They are pioneers in their own way – exploring a day without all of the trappings of our times.

I want faith to be a little like that for them. I want them to be curious about how Christians think and pray and live.  I want them to be pioneers who come here on Sundays to learn about what faith is really about – not just the “be nice and share version of faith we sometimes peddle, but the real deal.  Webster’s defines pioneer as one who ventures into unknown or unclaimed territory to settle. I want them to venture into this new territory of faith & discipleship and set up camp there.

Actually, that’s my prayer for all of us.

With Pioneer Blessings on us all!

May 10, 2018

Dear Friends:

This Mother’s Day, I am co-opting one of the Jaguar automobile slogans: Grace, space, and pace. (And sadly, apparently John is not co-opting a Jag for me – but what a Mother’s Day present that would make!)

Grace, space and pace.

Beginning the day in prayer – praying throughout the day – to me is like a drinking from a deep well.  I may be running all the way to the well, but when I get there, there is that gift of peace that passes all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).  It is in prayer – and not on the clogged arteries of I-270, or keeping up with my Daytimer and May’s overload of events – where I most experience grace, space and pace.

Grace: We are not what we do, or fail to do. We are not what we achieve outwardly – thank goodness.  By His grace, we are God’s beloved children.

Space: There is always space in God’s heart for us. Our challenge is to carve time out of our day (in prayer, reading, meditation, service for time with the Lord.

Pace:  When I let God set the agenda for my day – or at least help to set it! – I find the pace of my day changes.  It doesn’t necessarily get any slower – it just focuses more on the big things in life and less on the small nagging details. And I have that wonderful feeling of the Lord running alongside me, which brings real joy on even the craziest of days.

So, let’s start our own prayer campaign:  Start your day with Jesus for a day of grace, space and pace. 

And a very happy Mother’s Day!


May 3, 2018

Dear Friends:

Each of us has a mission in life. Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18). Talk about large shoes to fill!

The reality is that we have a hard time seeing ourselves as missionaries.  We see those who go to Honduras on our behalf as missionaries, we see the Order that continues in Mother Theresa’s name in Calcutta as missionaries, or any of the outside causes Liberty supports across the globe.  But right here in our daily, Delaware, Powell, smack-in-the-middle-of-Ohio lives – How can we be missionaries? 

Jesus says that we have been sent to be His missionaries, to be vessels of his love, his compassion, his truth, his grace, wherever we are planted.  We may be planted at a school, or in an office, or at home with children who don’t allow us time to think, or in a community of neighbors we have known for years.  For about a five-year period of my life, I was planted in my Mom van, and my mission field was conversations with kids in which I overheard a lot and occasionally got to throw in an idea…!  Our mission field looks a lot like our daily lives but with a higher purpose – and that is to share Jesus’ presence wherever we are.

We are also holding a weekend of mini-mission work here at Liberty June 8 – 10; our Be the Church weekend.  You will be able to sign up this Sunday for everything from opportunities to serve at the local Furniture Bank (basic repairs and painting) to working at St. John’s in Franklinton to baking cookies to making blankets to assembling care packages for those serving overseas.

The hard-to-wrap-our–minds- around truth is that we are sent into this world, just as Jesus was.  May we make a difference.


April 26, 2018

April 19, 2018

Dear Friends:

This will be historic Sunday here at Liberty – we will confirm 32 students in faith and membership.  That is the largest class of Confirmands ever at Liberty!  For those baptized as infants, the parents and congregation made vows to lovingly raise that child in the faith. But at a certain age (in our church, it is 8th grade), our youth are given the opportunity in confirmation to claim that faith as their own.

Over the past year, our students have had the opportunity to explore their faith, learn about the Christian and Presbyterian traditions, and to grow in fellowship with one another.  They have had wonderful teachers and mentors (thank you to Tanya & R.H. Karn, Phil Haase and Marty Johnson and to all our mentors!), retreats, and mission projects.  It all has culminated in their faith expression projects, which ranged from composing a song based on a psalm to a comparison of faith to baseball (Pastor John is extremely excited about this one!)  Those projects will be on display this Sunday at Fellowship following worship.

There are so many things I want to say to our confirmands about the journey ahead.  I suppose what I want to say to not only our confirmands, but all of us as we walk forward in faith is: Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, keep watching for signs of his care everywhere, and keep trusting and rejoicing in the God who loves you and journeys with you.


April 12, 2018

Dear Friends:

It is hard to keep up with the news these days – from the sheer fun of all the preparations for the British royal wedding (can’t wait to see those hats!) to the heartbreak of record numbers of refugees searching for somewhere to live – to both good and challenging news out of the White House – we are on a roller coaster of events and emotions.  Each day seems to bring something radically new.  And it is the same in our own lives also – in these crazy things called families we have days of sheer joy and bubbling laughter, days of same old/ same old, and days when the news is more than the heart can bear.

And in times like these, when I wonder whether to laugh or cry (or both!)  it is good to know that God goes before us and beside us.  As we sing in worship:

From the ends of the earth
From the depths of the sea
From the heights of the heavens
Your name be praised

From the hearts of the weak
From the shouts of the strong
From the lips of all people
This song we raise, Lord

Throughout the endless ages
Lord most high, be magnified….

It’s good to know when life is a roller coaster, there is no height or depth that our Lord has not already been before us, and that He will walk beside us every step of the way.


April 5, 2018


Dear Friends:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”.
John 14:1-3

As this scripture passage was read at the recent memorial service on March 30, for Liberty Member, Stephen Wolfe, I was reminded of the song based on John 14, That Where I Am, There You May Also Be”, written by Christian music artist, Rich Mullins.  At the time the scripture was read in the service, I was sitting next to Kara Markley-Stirling, who was the guest vocalist that day.  I leaned over and mentioned to her that this song would be a great one for her to sing sometime.

The song goes on to say that the world will show you hatred, but the Spirit will show you truth.

I am the way and the truth and the life.” 
John 14:6

Two days after the memorial service, we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  How amazing it is to me that not only did Christ die for our sins to give us new life, He was resurrected and is preparing a place for us to join Him for eternity!

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”  John 11:25-26

Many Blessings,

March 29, 2018

Dear Friends:

Easter is almost upon us! The lilies have arrived, there are rumors of breakfast food in the Barn Lower Level, and voices are warming up in song!

Tonight we gather at 7:00 in the Barn Sanctuary to celebrate a combined Maundy Thursday-Good Friday service, with readings of Jesus’ words from his last day on earth, and the sacrament of communion, in remembrance of Jesus’ last supper. Sarah Whited and Steve Banks will provide special music.  This candlelight service of remembrance will prepare us for the joy of Easter morning by leading us through the last days of Jesus’ life on earth.

Then on Sunday we celebrate the joy of Easter – the day of Resurrection!

Join us for the Sonrise Service at 7:00 a.m. in the Pathway to the Son with Pastor Kyle and the Second Stringers.  This will be followed by a delicious Easter Breakfast in the Barn Lower Level for all our Sonrisers!

Then join us for Easter worship in the Sanctuary at 9 or 11, with Pastor John preaching, and special music.  Please remember to bring your fresh cut flowers for the living cross. (Simply bring them up front as you enter!)

On Easter Sunday, the nursery and toddler rooms will be open for both services, and Church school will be offered for children through second grade.  There will be Easter activity packets & crayons for the children by age for those who remain in worship. Please pick these up when you enter the church in the Entry area.

On these holiest of all days of the year: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I invite you to pause for a moment and join me in prayer:

Jesus, the Savior of humankind,
who was fastened to the cross with three nails,
fasten my heart to the same cross
with the three nails of faith, hope and charity.
~St. Adrian Parviliers
In the light of the cross,

March 22, 2018


Dear Friends:
As soon as the words left the doctor’s mouth, I could see the confused looks and nervous giggles bounce around the room. “We’re going to sew the peel back on this banana.”

Trust me—it sounds just as strange in Spanish as it does in English. But how else are you going to teach a few volunteer health committee members in a remote coffee-growing village in Honduras how to suture wounds? Fortunately, wounded patients were in short supply during our visit to Lomas del Águila, Honduras. Just as fortunately, bananas are all around and make for an excellent way to practice making stitches. You use what you have.

They eagerly watched as one of the physicians on Liberty’s medical mission trip, Dr. Mark Hickman, demonstrated how to tie the sutures. Now, it was their turn. After a few tries, one by one, I saw the smiles on their faces. They could do it.

Lomas del Águila is a community that is working hard to ensure that they can provide sustainable medical care for their residents out of their own resources on their own initiative. When our teams visit a community, we can provide 90 days of medication. So often when we leave, we wonder what will happen when our medicine runs out. This community is working hard to provide an answer to the question, “What happens on day 91?” Community members volunteer their time and receive training to dispense and dose basic medications; manage chronic conditions, such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes; and provide basic first aid. Someone is on call day and night to attend to emergencies. They keep detailed records to monitor trends. It’s a beautiful thing to watch people use the gifts God has given to them and take ownership of their community’s development, to begin the journey towards a healthier community.

These are the stories our Honduras mission teams have the privilege of witnessing—God at work, inspiring people to do the hard work of transformation, God’s grace empowering people day by day to take one more step towards health and flourishing. It is humbling to witness the faith this work requires.

And sometimes it all starts with a banana.

Gracia y paz (grace and peace),

March 15, 2018

Dear Friends:

We have been blessed for the past three years with a wonderful Parish Visitor in Linda Johnson.  Linda is now retiring from this position, although she will continue to be active at Liberty and as a leader in our Stephen Ministry program.  It is hard to express in words our deep gratitude to Linda – for her compassion, her servant leadership, her willingness to go far beyond the extra mile in caring for others.  Whether visiting a home-bound member, a widow or widower, someone in the hospital, or someone who simply needs a listening ear, she always brings great warmth, caring and dedicated concern.  I keep favorite sayings on my desk at work – and this one captures Linda for us:

“Kind hearts, like garden flowers, bring grace and beauty to our world.”

Linda has brought so many gifts and graces to Liberty.  As she wraps up her ministry at the end of this month, please let her know your gratitude.
Lenten Blessings,
Becky & John