Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

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.

Blessings,
Becky

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.

Blessings,
Becky

April 5, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF STEVE BANKS

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,
Steve

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,
Becky

March 22, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF PASTOR KYLE

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),
Kyle

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

March 8, 2018

Dear Friends:

There are times in life (and I believe Lent is one of them) when we need to slow down and look at our actions – our works.  How are we living? Is there any outward fruit from my faith? Would anyone recognize me as a Christian from how I’m living? Sister Helen Prejean got me thinking about this more deeply.  As you may remember, Sister Prejean is the Catholic nun who began a ministry to death row inmates and wrote about it in her book, Dead Man Walking.  In an essay I recently came across, Prejean’s observes:

I watch what I do to see what I really believe.
Belief and faith are not just words. It’s one thing for me to say I’m a Christian,
But I have to embody what it means; I have to live it.

Isn’t that a great phrase: I watch what I do to see what I really believe? What a great challenge. We live out of the center of our lives – out of our most deeply held core beliefs. And she’s right – how we live, how we spend our days, really captures what we believe.  Maybe, in these last weeks of Lent, you and I can do the same: we can watch how we are living to see what really lies at the center of our lives, and then work a little harder to truly live on the outside, the faith we hold so dear on the inside.

Journeying through Lent with you,
Becky

March 1, 2018

Dear Friends:

When I get tired along life’s journey, I inevitably turn to Psalm 36.  This Psalm fills me up when I find myself feeling stagnant or just plain overwhelmed.  The Psalmist capture the promises that at times I so badly need to hear:

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
 People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
~Psalm 36: 7-9
  • God is our refuge; that promise feels like the Lord wrapping His arms around me and holding me up.  He is our shelter amidst life’s storms.
  • God sustains us – so that when we feel empty inside we are can be filled by the river – the flowing fountain – of life that He alone provides.
  • And in the Lord’s light, we too can see the light, even amid darkness.

What touches me so deeply in these images is how they all speak to the profound nearness of God and the way He provides for us.  May we each experience the Lord as our refuge, our sustain-er, our life and true light these Lenten days.

Journeying through Lent with you,
Becky

February 22, 2018

Dear Friends,

There is so much out there, so much in each day’s news, that is heart-breaking. The greatest burden has been the news of another school shooting, on Ash Wednesday in Parkland, Florida. Time and time again I want to scream, “No, no, no!” in the face of yet another school shooting, another friend’s cancer diagnosis, the loss of a beloved teen in a car accident. Sometimes I just want to run away.

But in this season of Lent, I am forced to confront both the harshest realities and the best possible news. The reality is that even Jesus underwent great suffering, and suffering is  often a part of life on this broken earth. We walk in the way of the cross this season, alongside all who struggle, and it is not easy. But we also walk towards the greatest truth of all: Jesus has conquered all suffering, all pain, even death itself. Jesus lets those closest to Him in on the whole story: He would suffer greatly, be rejected, killed and then three days later rise again. (Mark 8: 31-38) Peter cries out: ” No, no, no!” 

Like Peter, I find myself saying, “No, no, no!”  It is all too difficult. But then I think again about this Lenten journey we began last Wednesday evening. We are dust and to dust we shall return, but we sing alleluia as we go to the grave because we know the One who walks beside us and who carries us from this life to the next, from the brokenness of this earth to the glory of His eternal kingdom.

Yes, yes, yes.

Journeying through Lent with you,
Becky

February 14, 2018

Dear Friends,

Today is the first day of Lent and yes, also Valentine’s Day! – or should I say vaLENTine’s Day?!  At first glance, these two holidays have nothing in common. One is deeply spiritual, the other not so much; one often involves fasting, the other feasting on chocolates; one is centered on the cross and the other makes a mint for Hallmark and your local florist.  So, it seems like a trick of the calendar to have these fall on the same day. And yet…and yet both center on that most amazing and transforming gift from God’s hand: the gift of love. “We love,” says the Apostle John, “because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  It’s really that simple.

God our Creator could have made us (his creation) in a million different ways – but He made us with hearts to love Him, and to love one another.  As Jesus reminds us:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your mind…. And your neighbor as yourself.”

~Matthew 22:37-38

Really loving the Lord is hard to do when I am busy focusing on everything else in my world. So, I try to slow down a little in Lent, and look at the One who calls us His beloved and who loved us to the cross and beyond.

Please join us this evening at 7:00 p.m. in the Barn Sanctuary as we celebrate Ash Wednesday and this unique cross-shaped Valentine that God has sent for each of us.

Journeying through Lent with you,
Becky

February 8, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF DAWN PARR

Dear Friends,

Each Sunday I have the wonderful privilege of teaching Sunday school. It is a joy to reveal God’s word to the children and watch them understand more about their relationship with Jesus. This month the grade school classes are hearing Jesus’ parables. They have been introduced to a Good Samaritan, some fruitful Mustard Seeds, a Lost Sheep, and a Sower. It is always interesting to teach a story within a story, especially when children experience life on a literal level. One is never sure how much is understood, but we are always confident that God’s word never returns void.

Recently while teaching about the Parable of the Sower, I had one Kindergartener explain to me her thoughts on the story. She said the Sower is working on her heart, to grow love so that she can give it to others. Wow! What an expression of faith from a six-year-old!

How many of us allow the Sower to work on our hearts? Jesus tells us to come to Him like a little child. Children are full of hope. We need to come to Jesus full of hope, casting out all the doubts the world gives. Changing our hearts is a process. We can allow Jesus to remove us from the path, the rocks and the thorns. However, we must be willing. Like a child, we should yearn to have a heart that seeks after God. We must fix our eyes on Him. Only then can He grow love in our hearts too!

Sowing seeds of love, hope and faith with you!
Dawn

February 1, 2018

Dear Friends,

When the late Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple computer, approached John Sculley, then the president of Pepsi-Cola, in late 1982 about becoming the pioneering company’s president, he issued his now famous challenge:  “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

As we journey through the Bible together, there are certain themes that keep emerging. One of those themes is choice – Do you want to follow the Lord, or are you going to chase after other gods, other goals, other things?  Everyone from Israel’s kings to the least significant member of each tribe seemed to struggle with this.  I think that great leader Joshua put the choice most starkly:

“Now therefore fear the Lord…put away the gods which your fathers served …And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ~Joshua 24:15

It seems odd timing when Joshua asks the Israelites this question; the people are finally settled in the promised land. They have gone through the wilderness wanderings; they survived battles with giants and warrior tribes and more adventures than Indiana Jones.   Now it is time to settle into a suburban lifestyle, build a patio, sign up for Netflix and settle into the Lazyboy.  Why is Joshua being so demanding now, of all times?

Joshua looks at these people that he has served so long, and he sees that of all times in their history together, this is by far the most dangerous.  When they had their backs to the wall they needed a miracle from the very hand of God to survive.  But now, the people were ready to rest on their laurels and settle into suburbia without a backwards glance.  And so, Joshua gathers them for this final charge.  This is the time for them to choose between sugar water and making a difference in the world.  This is the time to choose between a life built on the sand of passing thoughts and ideas or on the firm foundation of God’s love.  “Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”           

May that be our prayer.
Blessings,
Becky