Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

January 23, 2020

“I will be with you.” ~ Exodus 3:12
“I am with you always.” ~ Matthew 28:20
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (the Spirit) who will never leave you.” ~ John 14:18

Dear Friends:
If there is one promise that runs from the beginning to the end of scripture it is this: “I will be with you”.  Jesus walks with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day, and from then on, we see this promise fleshed out from person to person, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David, Mary, Paul, and more.

One of the biggest challenges of the Christian life is to open our hearts and lives more and more to the Lord’s presence; to become more aware of Jesus with us day by day. I think I miss out on some of that closeness because I don’t expect Him to really be there with me in the ordinary events of my day. Even as a pastor, my daily to-do list doesn’t look all that spiritual! So, when I don’t expect Him during my day, I miss out on that closeness to the One who is ALWAYS with us. And who is always at work in our lives.

John Ortberg writes: “Maybe every heartbeat is not just the mechanism of a sophisticated plumbing system but the echo of God’s voice, the murmur of God’s love.”

May we live into this new year with real expectancy, holding onto the promise that the Lord is always with us, and leaning into that voice, that murmur of love – day by day by day. Even at our most ordinary!

All Blessings,

January 9, 2020

“My steps have held fast to your paths….” ~Psalm 17:5

Dear Friends:


I hope that you are full of resolutions – however modest – and surviving the cold. I woke up on Sunday to a fleecy layer of snow covering the ground as far as the eye could see. That fresh dusting of snow reminded me that this new year is truly new – stretched out endlessly before us.

By the time we returned from worship, several pets and children had left happy tracks in the snow. What are the tracks you hope to leave this year? What footprint do you want to leave for others to follow? Paul in Ephesians 5:8 asks us – almost begs us – to walk as children of light. That’s seems like a pretty good New Year’s resolution to me. I would also add for me patience, more time in the Word, more time in service to those in need, and in the words of author Henry James whenever asked what is important in life: Kindness, kindness and kindness.

As a church, we’ve been leaving tracks in the snow for 210 years!

As we begin this new year at Liberty, I want us to keep in mind both where we have been and where God is calling us to forge a trail into the future. Do put March 22nd on your calendar. That’s the Sunday we will celebrate the Chapel’s 200th anniversary. In fact, we will be celebrating this anniversary all through the season of Lent.

Finally, I can’t begin this new year without saying thanks for this past year. In particular, John and I want to express our great gratitude for your faithfulness to the RENEW campaign. Just like our homes, this campus needs renewal and restoration, and you have made that possible, from the Barn to the Youth Room to the current work on what will be known as Fearing Hall. You responded to God’s great faithfulness to Liberty with your own response of faithfulness.

Your gifts have made all the difference.

So, with gratitude in our hearts, let us leave tracks of faith and love all over this new year!

All Blessings!

January 2, 2020

Dear Friends:

The Gospel of John is more than a moment-by-moment account of Jesus’ life. Instead, it is the result of a lifetime of reflection about who Jesus is and what Jesus means for our lives by someone who spent years following Jesus and spending every waking moment with him.

Imagine the stories John could tell!

As the concluding line of the Gospel, John writes,

“If all the things Jesus did were written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”

John is the home of some of the best loved lines of the Bible, some so common that we only need to say a few words and most everyone could complete them—“For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16)—and some of the most stirring scenes—Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). It shows Jesus at his most glorious and tells of some of the most intimate moments with his disciples, including a final breakfast cookout on the beach. John is full of truth, often wrapped in poetic puzzles that leaves us with plenty to chew on and with good news to spare.

John is truly a Gospel with something for everyone.

This year, the Adult Discipleship committee has chosen the Gospel of John as our All-Church Study. Our eight-week sermon series will begin this Sunday, January 5, and reflection guides will be available in this week’s bulletin and throughout the series.

We encourage you to follow along with us as together we study the Gospel of John.

Grace and peace,

December 26, 2019

Dear Friends:
I ran across this poem by the late Howard Thurman, pastor, civil rights advocate, author, and active African American Quaker. We tend – okay, I tend – to collapse after Christmas and enjoy the quiet. Thurman’s poem calls us to a vital ministry after Christmas, and far beyond. As usual, he is the author of a wake-up call!  I hope you enjoy this as much as I have.

The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

May that be our prayer.

With Christmas Blessings,

December 19, 2019

Dear Friends:


That’s the word that comes to mind as I contemplate the coming of Christmas. Bittersweet – like certain kinds of chocolate that are both a bit bitter but also deliciously sweet at the same time. Webster’s defines bittersweet as anything “producing or expressing a mixture of pain and pleasure.”

I think that captures this season for some of us.

I love the sweet parts of Christmas – the house alight with candles and holly, that special gift you find for that special person, small children scampering around with wonder in their eyes, the dog festooned with a bright red bow. And of course, family gathered over all the traditional recipes: turkey, chestnut stuffing, sweet potato casserole with so much brown sugar it tastes like dessert! For years, Christmas was sweet at our house as long as we provided video games for our son, and something in the three P groups (pink, plastic or princess) for our girls. It was sweet even when the dog got into the chocolate from the children’s stockings and was ill under our dining room table, during the Christmas meal. Even then. Savor the sweetness.

But I know that this season has some bitter moments for those of you who have had a difficult year.

The Christmas spirit can be hard to come by. For some, this season is full of heartbreak, illness and loss. To you, I want to say don’t force the holiday merriment. Be gentle with yourselves. Jesus loves you so much, and this season was never about anything, but a long-awaited child born in a stable under the light of a star. And that child is the Emmanuel – God with us – even in the darkest and most bitter seasons.

So, hold onto the Emmanuel and forget everything else.

Say thank you for the sweet times and settle into Jesus’ (anything but bittersweet) love in the hard times. My prayer is that, for a few moments at least, what is pure and light and filled with the goodness of our Lord will outshine any darkness.

With all Christmas Blessings,

December 12, 2019

Dear Friends:

In a moving moment in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the characters, on their last evening in Narnia, enter a small, ancient stable to discover it is far larger than expected:

“It seems that the stable seen from within and the stable seen from without are two different places.”
“Yes, it’s inside is bigger than its outside.”
“Yes,” said Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

This reawakens my heart to the sheer wonder of the incarnation.

How did those stable walls not burst so many years ago? Jesus was bigger than all creation, bigger than the universe itself, and yet came to us as a vulnerable infant, born in a stable in the backwoods of Bethlehem. And He comes to us again this season – the Emmanuel, God with us, the very Savior of the world – wreathed in flesh and warm in our waiting arms.

May we take a few moments this Advent to ponder this great gift of love and open our hearts to welcome Him anew.

As Phillips Brooks writes in the familiar Christmas carol:

No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

With all Advent Blessings,

December 5, 2019

Dear Friends:

As Christmas grows ever closer, I find myself drawn to the prophecies in the Old Testament that give us a picture of the life-changing (world changing!) impact of the birth of Christ. The One whose birth split history in two still comes to us now – this day – to transform our lives. Listen to how Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, describes Jesus’ coming (Luke 1:67-80):

By the tender mercy of our God,
The dawn from on high will break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.

Christ is our dawn – He is our bright morning star (2 Peter 1:19).  Through all the busyness of these next Advent weeks, may we experience His dawn in a new, transforming way.

In the peace & light of the Emmanuel,

November 28, 2019

Dear Friends:
On this Thanksgiving Day, I’d like to offer an alphabet of thanks…

A is for the Amazing Grace of our great God
B is the Buckeyes (What else could it be?!)
C is for Counting our blessings, great and small
D is for Deacons, who greet us every Sunday with a smile
E is for Elders who lead us with energy and grace
F is for fellowship around the table
G is for Gift – the gift of God’s only Son
H is for His Place, and sharing a warm meal
I is for Integrity, living as the persons we are called to be
J is for Jesus, who walks with us each day
K is for Kingdom – May God establish His here on earth
L is for Liberty and the Love that we find here
M is for Mary & Martha – who remind us to stop and listen to Jesus even in all our busyness
N is for Neighbor – the person we hope you’ll invite to worship
O is for the Open Arms church we partner with in El Olvido!
P is for Pickle Jar – making a difference to those in need
Q is for Quotidian* – the everyday moments for which we stop and give thanks
R is for Rotation Workshop – Our great Sunday children’s program
S is for Stephen Ministers – Ready to be a caring friend
T is for Thanksgiving – John & I give thanks for you each day
U is for that great promise: “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Dt. 33:27)
V is for Vision to lead our church ever forward
W is for Wholehearted – giving 100% to the Lord
X is for Christ, the first Greek letter of His Name
Y is for the Youth that spill out of every corner of our building
Z is for zeal- Never be lacking in zeal says Paul! (Romans 12:11)

(* – Okay, you come up with a better Q word!)

This is my alphabet of thanks – you may want to write your own!

This Thanksgiving, John and I give thanks for each of you and the blessing that Liberty is in our lives. Traveling mercies on those who journey this holiday, and may we remember that Jesus joins us at every meal.


November 21, 2019

November 14, 2019

“Do good, be rich in good works, be generous and ready to share….” ~1 Timothy 6:18

Dear Friends:
Our youngest child did a semester studying abroad in Italy (okay, studying may be a stretch). She traveled with friends on the weekends to all sorts of amazing places all over Europe. She took every train and flew every discount airline (which made my mother’s heart pound) and stayed in hostels that were an adventure in themselves. One was even called The Funny Farm. I guess for 20 bucks a night you can’t be picky! She kept a blog of all these adventures, full of stories from her travels and photographs of the highlights (Emily and friends in the tree that the Sound of Music children swung from…Emily and friends eating gelato…you get the idea!)

I still love reading the blog of her adventures, except for one thing: There is always a mom reference that is guilt- inducing. She’ll show a photo of everyone eating pizza and say, Yes, Mom, we are making sure to get protein, too. Or she’ll show the hostel and note: Yes Mom, we always lock the doors. Or: No, Mom, we don’t talk to strangers! There is barely an entry without my name on it – and not in a good way!

It is stewardship time at Liberty, and I realize that for some of us, that feels a bit guilt-inducing. Hearing about giving makes us all squirm a little…. Sex and politics are no longer verboten topics in everyday discourse, but how we give our money remains a private topic. And we think we know what everyone else is thinking about us! So, in the privacy of reading this Link here are two things to consider:

  1. Pray about your giving. It’s okay not to want to talk about it with others but do discuss it with God!
  2. Remember that as we talk about stewardship, we are always referring to both our treasure and our talents, to both how we give funds and how we give of our time.
    Please know that we are deeply appreciative of your gift of time. And the good news is that it doesn’t cost a thing!

Friends, stewardship is everything we give to the Lord – and that includes our time, our talents, and our money. Know that as you give in any way that you can, it will be a blessing not only to you, but to others.

Digging into Liberty with you,

November 7, 2019

“Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” ~2 Corinthians 5:17

Dear Friends:

I have been thinking a lot about front porches lately. In a divided world, and in the midst of such divisive politics, I miss the front porch community my grandparents had. Every evening after supper, we would sit out on the front porch swing and greet neighbors as they walked up and down the street. Sometimes they would come up and “sit awhile”, other times they would wave and call out a greeting and keep on strolling. Sometimes there were even jars of jam or green beans or other fresh veggies exchanged from the back garden. But there was always community – always folks greeting one another. And yes, it wasn’t Hallmark perfect – my oh-so Presbyterian grandmother would occasionally whisper, “She’s Catholic!” in my ear as someone passed (I suppose as we whisper our political party these days). But there was still conversation and a sense that folks were together.

So now is the time to do the work of faith: to build community, to share grace and love and even forgiveness. Now is the time to listen and to reach across the chasm to build bridges with one another – particularly those who are different than us – in political views, in race, ethnicity, abilities, or background. Which doesn’t mean that we abandon our philosophical differences; it just means we focus on all we hold in common. And make sure that everyone knows that they, too, are a part of the neighborhood.

Walking this path with you,