Pastor’s Corner Blog


8/13/18

Hello All,

      Last month it was time for my 2006 Toyota Sienna minivan to go for its annual state inspection. In the months prior this impending inspection had been a source of dread for my wife and I. We feared the van would not pass due to a chronic problem with the passenger side airbag. I had been told the issue was not the airbag itself but a sensor in the seat. The dealership stated that fixing the problem would likely cost $2000, and would malfunction again due to a design flaw. Everytime I drove the van the light blinked at me like a metronome reminding me that the time that I needed to get an inspection was soon coming. The vehicle was going to fail, and I would be forced to get a new car.

   In my desperation I was driven back to the internet again and again looking for some solution to the blinking light. In my search I came across a video on YouTube. The video mentioned that sometimes the problem is simply a corroded connection. If this is the issue some WD-40 sprayed into the connector will break up the build-up that is the source of the problem. It seemed unlikely this was the solution to my problem, but I decided to give it a shot. Afterall I had nothing to lose. Sure enough after using WD-40 in the connection the warning light turned off and the van passed inspection with flying colors.

    Often the problems that threaten to derail our lives are like the flashing airbag light in my van. They might be a significant stressor, but the solution to the problem is relatively simple. In fact, most of the big issues in our lives are probably the result of a bad connection with our spouse, children, friends, coworkers, or most commonly with God. Corrosion naturally builds up in these relationships from environmental factors. We must find the relational equivalent of WD-40. In all our relationships, whether with God or people, forgiveness is what restores the connection. This means if we want the problems that cause stress in our lives to be resolved we must be willing to extend and accept forgiveness.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to the whole congregation of Byfield Parish for the forgiveness that makes it possible for me to be their Pastor.

8/6/18

Hello All,

   Recently an animal has been coming out of the woods that surround my home to get into my trash. I tried a havahart trap to catch the critter to no avail. Then last week I heard my wife Ann calling me from the back porch where she had gone to spend some time in prayer one morning. She had heard scratching as she sat, when she looked to determine the source she saw the raccoon in the video above. Apparently he had fallen into the garbage can and was unable to get out.

As I observed the varmint I couldn’t help relating to him a bit. How many times in my life have I done something again and again that I knew I shouldn’t because I kept on getting away with it? When I don’t experience the consequences of my actions it can be hard to motivate myself to change a behavior that I know is problematic. This raccoon had been doing something that he probably knew was dangerous. Getting away with it repeatedly made him think he would always get away with it. I am frequently guilty of a similar way of thinking.

Eventually problematic behaviors catch up with raccoons and people. Waiting to change until the consequences are unavoidable is generally a bad way of doing things. It is much better to change before the full consequences of an action must be dealt with. Those of you who are animal lovers will be glad to know I let the raccoon off easily. I could have turned him into a hat, instead I did my best to scare him enough that he would think twice before returning to the same behavior. Hopefully that will be enough. I’m sure God thinks the same thing about me when he gives me a warning that my actions are not taking me in a good direction.

In Christ,
Brent

 

P.S.  Thank-you to the fantastic Deacons here at Byfield for their wisdom and commitment to serving with love.

7/30/18

Hello All,

  For the past 10 months or so I have been going mountain biking on the trails that are about 10 minutes from where I work. These trails have many obstacles including rocks, roots, mud, and hills. While any of these hazards may trip me up on any given day there is one particular one that has been particularly problematic of late; the bridge in the video above. At some point a few months back this bridge got into my head. I can’t even really remember what happened. What I know is that I used to be able to get across the bridge with minimal issues. Recently everytime I have tried to cross I rode my bike off it into the mud.

   After this happened about 10 times I realized that I was making the same mistake again and again. I was not looking ahead at where I wanted to go, I was looking down at where I currently was. When you look at where you currently are when riding a bike instead of where you want to be you tend to overcorrect. The overcorrection I was making due to my focus on where I was on the bridge were causing me to fail repeatedly.

   Obstacles are just as much part of life as they are part of a mountain biking trail. Often an obstacle in life will become a consistent impediment to progress. We get so caught up trying to overcome a barrier that we overly focus on where we are, instead of where we want to be. A focus on present problems leads to overcorrection. To effectively move forward we must keep our eyes on where we want to go, otherwise we’ll end up in the mud more often than not.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jaan Walton for her work as treasurer.

7/24/18

Hello All,

   On Sunday I went hiking with a friend up in New Hampshire. The hike we did involved a steep climb from Franconia Notch up to Little Haystack Mountain(https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/new-hampshire/mount-lafayette-and-franconia-ridge-trail-loop). Once there we followed the ridge line over Mt. Lincoln to Mt. Lafayette then back down. According to my friend’s Fitbit a trail that is 8.5 miles as the crow flies with an elevation gain of slightly over 3800 feet required us to take 14 miles worth of steps. You can see in the picture that conditions were not ideal either. It rained much of the way up. Once on the ridge line we could only see about 50-75 feet in front of us due to mist that was being blown by high winds.

     Needless to say by the time we began our descent from Mt. Lafayette we were tired. The trail dropped steeply from the summit through a field of boulders and scree. It would have been incredibly easy to lose our way even in good circumstances, and we were not in good circumstances. Thankfully hikers that had come before us had left markers to guide us in the form of blazes and cairns. Blazes are painted signs that show the trail. Cairns are pyramids of rock that serve the same purpose. (It is difficult to see the cairns in the picture above, they stand out more in real life.) Without these indicators I cannot imagine how we would have safely continued.

    The journey of life has blazes and cairns just like a hiking trail. You are not the first one to need guidance as you struggle through the ups and downs of existence. Instead of physical symbols that indicate where to go the blazes of life are timeless truths. I believe these timeless truths are contained in the pages of the Bible. It provides markers for for those that are dealing with adverse conditions, exhaustion, and those that just want to follow the best possible path.  

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Mrs. Miriam Boylan, Jon Rudolph, Terry Terry, and many others for their work on decorating for last week’s VBS program.

7/17/18

Hello All,

    A few weeks back I decided to take Pogo, my dog, mountain biking with me for the first time. Initially he was very excited to run beside the bikes of my friends and I. He had plenty of speed to keep up. Within a few minutes Pogo’s energy began to wane. He fell further and further behind. It became apparent Pogo could not keep up; he stopped even trying. Eventually, he started just laying down in the trail. I was forced to let my friends go on. Pogo and I walked slowly back to the car.

    The mistake I made in taking Pogo mountain biking was confusing excitement with endurance. Unfortunately this is not the first time or last time I will make this mistake. It is easy whenever we try something new to base our assessment of how likely it is to succeed on the initial excitement we feel. The truth is success is more dependent on endurance than excitement in almost every area of life.

    Developing endurance in any area requires patience and perseverance. It is not an emotion we feel, it is a character trait that requires work to develop. When we forget the importance of endurance we end up looking like Pogo in the picture above.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank you to all the VBS volunteers that are putting on camp for 80+ children this week.

7/10/18

https://youtu.be/T1J44LFXDvU

Hello All,

   The last couple of weeks I have been on vacation visiting family in Tennessee. One of the things we did while visiting was go to Dollywood Splash Country, a water park in Pigeon Forge, TN which is about 45 minutes from my parent’s home. Once we got there I was excited to get started as were my 6, 8, and 10 year old sons. We immediately set off for a water slide called “Slick Rock Racer” that seemed moderately scary. There wasn’t a line so before we knew it we were standing at the top of the slide.

   It was then that an experience that had seemed really fun a few seconds before became much less appealing to Micah, my six year old. Turns out the view from the top of the water slide was much different than what he had seen from the bottom. He began to say that he did not want to go down the slide; the fear in his voice was not difficult to pick up.

The way I saw it there two options. I could walk back down with him, or I could insist he go down the slide. I knew he was capable, and I knew the slide was safe. I decided he was going to have to go down. To his credit he responded well, he trusted that I would not have him do something that he was not capable of. When I caught up with Micah at the bottom of the slide he was exultant.

Like Micah we all sometimes find ourselves in paralyzed by an obstacle that appears to big or scary for us. I believe God allows us to be in those situations so that our faith in Him can grow. The question we all have to answer in these circumstances is whether we will trust God’s goodness and overcome or miss out.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Chuck Davis for helping lead music this Summer at Byfield.

P.P.S. The video above is not one I took. One of the great things about going to a waterpark is you can’t carry your phone around!

 

6/18/18

Hello All,

  Last Saturday a couple of friends and I decided to hike Mount Chocurua in New Hampshire. We left at Amesbury at 8 in the morning. Just before 10 we pulled off the state highway onto the dirt road that leads to the trail head. We began to see runners in the road. By the time we parked we had passed 50-60 people. Turns out about 150 people had signed up for a race that was taking place that day in which participants run up the mountain my friends and I were about to hike.

Some context is necessary here, the trail up Mount Chocurua is an 8.5 mile loop that gains slightly less than 3,000 feet in elevation. Just in case this wasn’t enough of a challenge the runners participating in the race had actually started 3 miles back from the trail head which is why I was passing them on the dirt road as I drove.  

In addition, to being impressed by the fitness level and commitment level of these runners I was also annoyed. I had been looking forward to a quiet day in the woods, I had no desire to share the trail with this many people. However, that wasn’t the the most significant source of my frustration. More than anything I resented how these people were making what I was setting out to accomplish seem lame by comparison.

If I am going to be honest I must admit that hiking is not the only area of my life where I find myself making comparisons. I am constantly judging my performance relative to others. Sometimes these comparisons make me feel better about myself, sometimes worse. Whether I win or lose in my own mind is inconsequential in the long run. In life every person is faces their own unique mountain. Our focus should not be on how we are performing relative to everyone else, but only on if we are overcoming our personal mountains.  

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Doug Dawes and the Mission’s Committee for all they do to support our international partners.  

6/11/18

Everyone Needs Grooming

Hello All,

   This picture is of my Mini Australian Shepherd Pogo. The pile next to him is the hair that came off of him after a few minutes of brushing the other day. Like many dogs Pogo actually has two layers of fur. The outer layer is similar to hair, while the underlayer is more like wool. Throughout the colder months the woolly underlayer builds up to insulate him from adverse conditions.

Once warmer temperatures kick in this layer becomes problematic. Instead of protecting him it has a suffocating effect. As Pogo’s owner I brush him so that he can function better. He does not understand or enjoy this process, but I know he needs it so I do it anyway.

Like dogs people build up layers to protect us from adverse conditions. Unlike dogs our insulation is not fur to protect from the elements, but emotional insulation to protect us from the world. While it may be helpful in certain seasons of life the layers we build up for protection can become suffocating if not dealt with.

Everyone needs periodic emotional grooming. God uses His Word, the Bible, in the lives of those He cares for to sift through the layers of protection that we have developed. In doing so He pulls out what is not helpful for our optimal functioning. This spiritual grooming may not always make sense or be enjoyable for us, but if we will submit to His care the end result will be beneficial.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to the youth and children who led the worship on Sunday, your leadership is an inspiration to all.

6/5/18

Chicken Wings and People

Hello All,

    In 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York Teressa Bellissimo had an idea that has brought an infinite number of people(mostly men) happiness in the years since. She invented the chicken wing. On Saturday night after an awesome date with my wife Ann I got to enjoy 1.75 pounds of her creation. If this sounds like an excessive amount of chicken wings to you that probably means you have never had them. My only regret when I was finished was that I didn’t have more.

While eating the wings I was struck by the fact that prior to Teressa’s stroke of genius in ‘64 the part of chicken I was enjoying was probably thrown in the trash or turned into dog food. Where the world saw something useless she saw value.

God is the same way with people that Teressa was with chicken wings. Often the world looks at an individual and fails to see what that person could be. God on the other hand sees the unique possibility within every man, woman, and child. He knows what He created each person, including you to be. His desire is to take what the world has dismissed as useless and redeem it for a good purpose.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Paul and Jane Moskevitz for hosting the baptism on Sunday at their home. 7 people were baptized!

5/29/18

Hello All,

I recently purchase a new trampoline for my kids to replace the one someone had given us several years ago which was held together with duct tape. After unpacking all the pieces of the new trampoline I was faced with the dreaded directions that come with such a product. You may have never put together a trampoline, but you know what I’m talking about if you have ever tried to put together a piece of furniture that came to you in a box. I’m not sure why, but I inevitably miss a key step in the directions. I suspect this is because whoever wrote the directions has never actually assembled the product being described!

Normally my inability to follow the directions well is a nuisance. It leads to more work or less than ideal functioning of the thing I put together. In the case of a trampoline this second outcome was not a prospect I could accept. For me to be willing to allow my kids to use the trampoline I had to be confident it was safe(or at least safe for a trampoline).

The most challenging part of following the directions for assembling the trampoline up being the assembly of the initial framework that acted as a foundation. I was reminded as I worked that this is often true of life as well. For our lives to function as they ought, we need to be building on a solid foundation. Without such a foundation the end result will be dangerous and unreliable; with it we can confidently enjoy what we build. A relationship with God is the reliable foundation that allows us to flourish in life.

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to Nancy Cumming for her leadership at BPC in the area of prayer.

5/23/18

Pinterest Fail: (by Ann Fugate)

I have a history of being mildly delusional about my artistic talents. In college there was an ill-fated period where I believed I could cut hair. A beautiful friend with cascading hair naively let me try. I stopped after two chops, which still added up to exactly two chops too many. Once I attempted to paint Christmas gifts for some family members. I found one in someone’s drawer a year later. I’m pretty sure the others landed in the trash about a year earlier. I have great memories of my mom making me a delicious cake every year for my birthday and my dad decorating it with My Little Pony or whatever I wanted on it. I’ve carried on this tradition, so when my oldest son, Josiah, turned 10 last week, I got extra ambitious. He and I found a picture on pinterest of an amazing looking Nerf cake. Armed with a bevy of misguided confidence and a dream, I prepared to make the cake. Here’s what happened in real time (as I remember it):

 

8:30 I microwave the fondant for the amount of time the recipe indicated (45 seconds).

8:36 I finally get the marshmallows completely melted. Slightly longer than 45 seconds…

8:40 My counters and I are completely covered in powdered sugar. It looks like a bomb exploded.

8:47 The yellow food coloring looks pastel, better suited to a baby duck than a Nerf cake.

8:51 There is not a spatula in the world big enough to lift all of this fragile icing off of my counter.

8:54 Now Brent and I are both lifting it with our (clean) hands and it is TEARING APART.

8:55 I am making nasty comments to Brent under my breath because this is clearly his fault…

8:58 We are both slapping marshmallow fondant haphazardly over all of the torn parts. The whole point of fondant is to make it look smooth and professional, but friends, that ship has sailed.

9:07 We are now putting Nerf bullets all around the bottom of the cake while binding it with a ribbon (being held in place by a lone toothpick).

9:10 We are still putting Nerf bullets around the bottom of the cake.

9:12 Unwrapping more bullets for this ginormous cake

9:14 Why is this cake so big???

9:15 the ribbon comes loose. Some of the bullets fall over and I snap at Brent again. He is soooo glad he offered to help. (Insert heavy sarcasm here)

9:19 Brent retrieves duct tape to secure the ribbon because I had no end game.

9:25 I mix up more buttercream and finish up the decorating.

9:46 The cake is finally finished. #pinterestfail

 

After a thorough patch job, approximately 60 bullets, two pieces of ribbon, a toothpick, duct tape, candles, and a spackling of buttercream, the cake ended up looking fine. Without the picture to compare it to, the party goers didn’t even notice anything remiss with the cake. Sometimes I feel like that cake. Even if people think I look ok, I know it’s just a good patch job. Or maybe I have stuff pretty together, but something about me or my life still doesn’t measure up to the image I’m comparing it to in my mind. I am so encouraged that God doesn’t see me or you this way. In Philippians 1:6, Paul says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” We are works in progress, but God isn’t done with us yet. And in the meantime, our messy selves are dearly, dearly loved by our Heavenly Father.

Ann Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to the Sunday School teachers that work with the children at BPC each week.

5/15/18

Hello All,

  This is my 3 year old son Ezra learning to do a puzzle yesterday. He has done puzzles before, but always with my wife or myself helping him. This was one of Ezra’s first attempts putting together a puzzle on his own. As I watched him there were multiple times that I was tempted to intervene when he seemed to get stuck.

  I had to remind myself that developmentally the whole point of Ezra doing a puzzle in the first place is so that he can learn through being challenged. If I stepped in everytime the puzzle seemed hard or a piece failed to fit he would never learn. By doing the puzzle himself Ezra is developing his intellect but also his character. Perseverance, patience, and confidence in his own abilities all incrementally increase through his struggle. My intervention in this case would not have helped him long-term in fact it would have been detrimental to his growth.

I think God is often in a similar situation with us. He observes as we struggle with a puzzle in life that seems to difficult. God could step in, he could give us the solution, but he doesn’t. What can seem to us in our struggles as inaction on God’s part is actually a strategic decision by Him that allows us to develop in important ways.

In Christ,

Rev. Brent Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to Mark Scharlach for the work he does on the property.

5/8/18

Hello All,

   Last week I was driving through town to drop off some books at our local library. The weather was nice so I had the windows rolled all the way down. My dog, Pogo, was standing in the passenger seat with his paws supporting him on the edge of the window as he often does. I went through a roundabout going somewhere between 5 and 10 miles per hour. Next thing I knew Pogo was no longer in the car. Apparently he had lost his balance and fallen out. I could see him frantically running around in the road in my rearview mirror. I think he was just as surprised he had fallen out as I was. Thankfully the cars behind me stopped.  I was able to pull over and get him back in the car pretty quickly.

The people that had to stop for my ridiculous dog were not impressed. I imagine they thought I had either thrown Pogo out of the car or that I had put him in situation where his falling out of the car was not prevented. For them I appeared to be either a mean or negligent pet owner. What they did not know and could not know is that I take Pogo with me on car rides because he loves it, and that he has never come remotely close to falling out of the car. They were basing their appraisal of the type of pet owner I am on a single isolated incident.

The tendency to make judgements based on limited information is something that we all must be aware of as people. We naturally jump to conclusions based on preconceived notions. Sometimes this is not a big deal; random motorists assuming I am a bad pet owner doesn’t make a big difference in my life or theirs. Other times the conclusions we draw are really problematic in our interactions with others.

 

Assuming to know how a person or group of people thinks based on limited personal interaction results in divisiveness that usually grows over time. Our poorly informed conclusions become self-fulfilling prophecies that act as relational barriers between individuals and groups of people. Counteracting the tendency to form conclusions about others based on limited information requires us to make a concerted effort to understand the full context of why people find themselves in the situation they do. When we make the effort to move past our snap judgements we often find that the additional understanding we gain makes us more sympathetic to the situations others find themselves in.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank you to Carolyn grifoni, Tina Cochran, Alene Vienneau, Jenny Ford, Sarah Hunter, Joyce MacDonald, and Becky Murray of the Women’s Ministry Team for putting on a fantastic women’s brunch last Saturday.

5/1/18

Hello All,

Two weeks ago I went down to visit family and see the sights down in Washington D.C. with my wife and the kids. While there I went into a local 7-Eleven for a Coke. I grabbed a couple of the 16 ounce cans that convenience stores sell and went to the cash register. While waiting in line I noticed that I had one Coke, but the other can was something different. It was an energy drink called Spike. When I went back to the refrigerator where I had gotten the drinks I realized my mistake in grabbing the wrong thing was actually a product of intentional deception.

As you can see in the picture, the Spike cans are placed in between the two rows of Coke cans. Someone is counting on the inattentiveness of customers like myself resulting in the purchase of drinks they don’t want that are then to much trouble to return. While the makers of Spike are using this strategy in a particularly blatant way it is by no means an unusual strategy. The world we live in is constantly bombarding us with options that are inferior knockoffs of what we actually seek. To have a good life we must weed out the imitations that deceptively promise to provide what we are looking for. It is easy to be deceived by the way things are packaged.

Sometimes these substitutes are just sub-par, other times they are downright unhealthy. That is certainly true of Spike which contains 10 times the caffeine that Coke does. Identifying imitations is dependent on being able to identify the the authentic thing that you truly long for. When it comes to picking carbonated beverages that is pretty easy, more important areas are more challenging. If you don’t want to settle for the unhealthy imitations the world will try to sell you in every area of life, then you better make an effort to know what the real thing is that you are looking for.

In Christ,
Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Mary Clark for doing a fantastic job as the clerk of BPC.

4/25/18

Hello All,

 It happens every time we are on a road trip. We face off against our estimated driving time on the GPS and we fail. We dehydrate ourselves to draw out the bathroom breaks, eat lunch in the car, and go a little above the speed limit for miles, even hours, at a time. There was even one unfortunate incident involving a diaper that you don’t even want to know about. If this sounds crazy to you, then you’ve never taken a very long road trip with children. We go to great lengths to shave off minutes and are rewarded with a 3 minute gain. Take that, GPS! We rejoice in the small victory for about 5 minutes before we hit the inevitable patch of traffic or construction. Suddenly we watch all the minutes we’ve painstakingly gained, plus more, calculate back into our time of arrival.

This seems to be a common phenomenon. It’s so much easier to lose things you’ve worked for than it is to gain them. You work hard at your job day in and day out, but then you miss one important meeting. You are patient with your children all day, but then you lose it on them at bedtime. You watch your calories all day long, but then you indulge in that treat. You nurture a friendship for years and then you say a careless word in the heat of the moment. Life is really hard work. Sometimes it’s tempting to just give up on the parts you struggle with the most, especially when you feel yourself continually failing when you’re trying so hard to succeed.

This universal struggle is by no means new. The author of Hebrews, inspired by God, says this, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1&2) I don’t know what challenge you’re facing today (although I’m sure it’s more important than your GPS), but I hope this encourages you. Whatever you’re dealing with, remember to run your race with endurance. We have Jesus as our model and heaven as our goal. Don’t give up!

Ann

4/16/18

Hello All,

    Yesterday after church I went to lunch with some guys at The Rusty Can in Byfield. Walking in I passed the pay phone pictured above. Its existence made me wonder whether or not it was ever used anymore. In what circumstances would someone use it? I can’t even imagine.

    The fact that something that used to be a ubiquitous part of American life is now an oddity is not particularly surprising. Technological change has had a similar impact on many similar things in recent years. Some of these changes, like the demise of pay phones are never missed. When was the last time you heard someone say, “How great was it when you used to have carry change and find a pay phone when you needed to make a call?” Never, nobody says that because nobody thinks it.

     However, you will often here people pine for different aspects of ‘the good ole days’. These people don’t really want life as it was in 1997 or 1957, they don’t want payphones, they want some part of what life was then. These feelings are certainly understandable, they also don’t represent the real world.

     Any desire to return to the past that only focuses on the positive is just a fairy tale. It may be nice to think about just don’t get to carried away. The past may have been better in some ways, but it was worse in others. It doesn’t really matter anyway the past is as likely to return as payphones are to make comeback.

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank you to Minda Fowler for being a great source of knowledge on Byfield’s history and routines.

4/10/18

Hello All,

   Yesterday my wife Ann spent the day Spring-cleaning our kitchen. By the end of the day there were bags of stuff to give away and other bags that were headed for the trash. The organization of the kitchen itself was significantly improved.

Despite this improvement the kitchen was still not perfect. The fact is it never will be. For our family the kitchen is the hub of the house. Its status reflects what is going on with our family. A certain degree of chaos will always be present in our kitchen because it will always be present in our family. That is part of the life Ann and I have chosen that we must accept.

Does the fact that a degree of chaos will always be present in the kitchen of my home mean Ann’s efforts were wasted? Absolutely not, accepting chaos does not mean wallowing it.

The structure her organization created is what creates boundaries for the chaos. Without those boundaries the necessary balance between chaos and structure would eventually tip towards chaos. A healthy life is not one where chaos has ceased to exist, that is a sterile life. A healthy life is one in which chaos exists in tension with structure.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jon Rudolph for all he does in a variety of ministries.

4/2/18

Hello All,

   The pile of snow pictured above sits at the end of my driveway. It is the remaining evidence of a winter that started off easy, got bitterly cold around New Years, turned strangely warm in the middle of February, then ended with a challenging March. Many of the people I have been speaking with recently have been saying how they feel down, depressed, or anxious due to the season. While I have no way of quantifying the feelings that are being expressed this year compared with other years it seems to me that people are more in need of sunlight and warm temperatures than is typically the case in early April. Of course, I may just be reading into everyone else’s statements due to my own cabin fever.

    For me the shrinking pile of snow is a cause for celebration. I want to take a moment to dwell on it, because I so often move on to the next problem without taking the time to recognize what I have overcome in my life. This is true whether the thing worth celebrating is a child no longer in diapers, a loan paid off, a relationship restored, or another New England Winter in the rear view. My tendency is to see my life through the lens of the next problem. Such an approach is a recipe for dissatisfaction; there will always be a next problem.

    Some who read this will be tempted to point out that in 1987 a May snow storm dropped 8 inches of snow, that it is currently snowing outside, or that as the snow disappears you are more able to see the downed trees and other destruction left in Winter’s wake. While these rebuttals may be accurate they do not change the essential fact that Winter is all but finished. Before my focus shifts to the next problem I want to take some time today to celebrate that fact. I encourage you to do the same, before your focus shifts to the next problem.

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to Paul Moskevitz, Mike Durkee, Mike Sylvester, Noah Merrow, Jacob Joseph, Scott Daigle, and Chuck Stuckey for making an amazing breakfast after the Easter Sunrise Service yesterday.

3/27/18

Hello All,
Like many people I have not worn a watch for the past 5 years. My lack of watch wearing was not some big decision; my watch battery died and I never got a new one. I began using my cell phone to tell me what time it is. Two weeks ago I decided to start wearing the old watch in the picture above as part of an effort to decrease my smartphone use.
 
When I look at my phone to see what time it is I often end up using it to check the weather, visit a website, or some other non-essential activity. Apple, Samsung, and the app makers that rely on these hardware platforms are aware of this tendency. They design these computers we carry around in our pockets to grab our attention and hold it by capitalizing on our momentary glances. There are engineers sitting behind computers in Silicon Valley engineering experiences that are as addictive as possible.
 
Recently I have had multiple conversations with individuals where the destructiveness of technology has been highlighted. I have seen the negative effects in my own life. I am not saying technology is inherently bad or that we should all move to Amish country. What I am saying is that we have to be aware of our own tendencies and manage them when it comes to tech.
 
For me wearing a watch is a small strategic act that will hopefully help me look at my phone a few minutes less a day. Other things I have done include erasing particularly addictive apps, turning off the notifications on others, and setting a do not disturb from 10PM to 7AM. None of these changes are complete solutions, but each small change helps me to draw boundaries for myself that result in a healthier life.
 
In Christ,
Brent
 
P.S. Thank-you to Doug Dawes and the rest of the Mission’s Committee for all the do to help the missionaries Byfield Parish Church supports.

3/20/18

Hello All,

  Last Thursday another one of my brother-in-laws, Ty Jennings, came into town with his two sons, Baker and Hylton. On Friday and Monday Ty and I took his two sons and my two older boys skiing at Mount Sunapee. The video above is of my 8 year old son Levi on the second day.

What surprised me as I skied was how much fun I was having. You see the previous couple of Winters anytime I went skiing I was teaching my kids how to ski. Teaching a kid to ski is not very much fun, or at least I don’t think so. They fall over a lot, don’t listen to coaching, and go incredibly slow. Overall it is often a frustrating and usually a boring experience. This weekend was the first time where I have gone skiing with my kids that all the effort of teaching them to ski had clearly paid off. They were flying down the mountain, taking on moguls, and getting on and off the lifts without many problems.

For me my experiences skiing with my kids the past few days were a reminder that anything worth doing takes patience. We live in a world that demands immediate results. This impatience has a tendency to invade every area of our lives. When we let it rule our careers, relationships, and faith we are left chasing short-term highs at the expense of more deeply satisfying long-term results. Patience pays off in the long run whether you are teaching a kid to ski, working towards a career goal, or growing in your faith.

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you Laura Backman, Bea Boucher, Lana Foglietta, Rupert Foglietta, Leisa Mingo, and Neff Casaburri for all their work on the Senior Lunch.

3/13/18

Hello All,

  Sunday Night I went to the Celtics game with my brother-in-law Matt and his son Jace. At the start of the game 2 of the Celtics best 3 players were sitting out. By halfway through the second quarter Kyrie Irving, the best player on the team, had also been taken out for the remainder of the game with knee soreness. Throughout the course of the third quarter the Celtics halftime lead evaporated and was replaced with a double digit deficit. It seemed to everyone in the arena that the game was all but lost. The coach of the Celtics seemed to admit defeat was inevitable by putting players on the court that rarely get playing time.

It was at that moment when all seemed lost that Marcus Smart took over the game. Smart is a consistent object of frustration and fascination for fans of the team. He is objectively bad at the single most important skill any basketball player is supposed to have; he is not good at shooting the ball into the basket. Despite this the Celtics are better when Smart is playing. His lack of shooting is offset by how good he is at every other area of the game. When Smart is in the team as a whole plays better, because his skill set allows the team as a whole to function at a higher level. The Celtics still ended up losing Sunday night’s game in the final seconds, but they were competitive because of Smart.

Every organization, whether it be a team, business, or church needs a Marcus Smart. Someone whose hustle and willingness to do the little things acts as glue. These people may not be as obviously important as those who receive the accolades when things are going well, but when they are not present the whole enterprise suffers.

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to Sharon and John Trudell for being Marcus Smart type contributors at Byfield Parish.

3/6/18

Hello All,

  The picture above is of my 2006 Toyota Sienna minivan.(Don’t worry it’s normal to be jealous when you see such a sweet ride.) Anyway the Fugate family has been rolling around in this thing for the past six years. We have put 87,000 miles on it to go with the 80,000 it already had when we bought it. Needless to say it doesn’t exactly ride like a Cadillac, but it is paid off and it gets us where we are going. Any motivation I might feel to get something new quickly subsides whenever I see my kids get in the car holding a cup of Goldfish crackers.

Last week the van started to sound different. I would describe the sound as something close to what I imagine an Abrams tank sounds like. I decided a trip to the mechanic was in order. Once there my mechanic informed me that a hole had rusted in part of my exhaust which was causing the sound. Fixing this problem would be relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately that was not the only problem. Turns out all 4 of my tires needed to be replaced. One or two of them looked ready to blow at any time. Hearing about the state of my tires made me grateful that I had acted on the noise coming from the exhaust which I had suspected was a minor problem from the beginning. I had seriously considered just ignoring it.

We all have problems in our life that make a racket. It is tempting to ignore these problems based on the belief that they will not dramatically impact our lives; often this is true. We must be careful that in ignoring the minor issues that serve as the background static of our lives we are not missing a more substantial issue that will inevitably lead to much more significant problems.   

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to the guys at Byfield Auto for being trustworthy mechanics and thank-you to Bea Boucher, Greg Downs, Sharon Downs, Rosemary Minor, Chuck Davis and Jon Rudolph who bravely went to serve at the Bowery Mission in NYC from Byfield Parish last weekend.

2/27/18

Hello All,

   On Saturday night I went bowling with friends at Riverwalk Lanes in Amesbury. For the most part I was happy with my performance in each of the 3 games I played; each time I got second. Unfortunately the night ended on a sour note when I choked away my chance at victory when I only knocked down 4 pins on my final turn.

Part of the reason I failed to knock down more pins in that final frame is that I was to focused on the results. Don’t get me wrong the point of playing the game is to win. What I mean when I say that I was focused on results is that I let my desire to get a certain score affect what needed to happen for me achieve that outcome. As I went through the motions of rolling the bowling ball I was thinking more about the pins that needed to fall instead of how my body needed to be lined up, when to release the ball, and what I was aiming for. Not surprisingly my lack of focus on the task at hand meant I did not achieve my goal.

In life we are constantly tempted to focus on results over process. This is understandable, sometimes when you do everything right you still don’t get the results you are looking for. We should not let the randomness of results distract us. To advance in any area the key is not to focus on outcomes, but to concentrate on improving the quality and consistency of our efforts. This is true whether your goal is to be a better parent, employee, or friend.

In Christ,

Brent Fugate

Thank-you to John Horne for working the Powerpoint each week.

2/20/18

Hello All,

  Yesterday my wife Ann and I went sledding with our 4 sons at Woodson Farm in Amesbury. It was a perfect day for sledding. The snow from Sunday night still covered the ground. The temperature was in the low 40’s and the sun was shining. All four of our boys were in good moods and excited to go sledding. Overall a perfect New England winter day.

 

For me sledding runs all start out with the same goal, to get as far down the hill as possible. However, most of my attempts don’t end with me successfully at the bottom of the hill. They end with me turned backward in the middle of the hill, stuck in snow off to the side, or flipped over somewhere in between. Each of these outcomes is the result of getting a little off course at some point during the run. A small degree of error gets rapidly exacerbated as you fly down the hill on a piece of plastic.

 

The same phenomenon plays out in life on a daily basis. Small errors get exacerbated as you hurtle forward. You can start some endeavor with the best intentions only to find yourself in a totally unexpected position before you have reached your goal. Compensating for these errors begins with a recognition that the trajectory you are on is taking you somewhere you don’t want to go. Often times this is the most difficult part of solving problems in life, admitting that you are no longer headed toward your goal

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to Jane Spellman and all those who help out with the Welcome Team.

 

2/13/18

Hello All,
Yesterday I was doing something in the kitchen when I heard a rumbling sound and a crash followed by the cries of a child crying. This is not exactly an unusual occurrence in the Fugate house so I was not particularly concerned. I went over to the base of the steps in my house. Laying there was my two-year-old son Ezra and a laundry basket. Apparently, he had found the laundry basket at the top of the stairs and decided it looked like a fun thing to ride in. While the ride itself was no doubt enjoyable, the outcome he met when the stairs ended left something to be desired.
 
It is easy to laugh at the things kids do, the consequences for their poor decision are negligible, mostly bruises and broken toys. Children are known for making bad decisions based on an impulsive understanding of what seems fun at that moment. A disturbing trend in our society is that adults are being encouraged to think in the same way. What feels good in the moment is the guiding directive for many people’s lives. For a time this may work, but the life that results will leave something to be desired. If we want a good life we must base our decisions on something more substantial than our own impulses.
 
In Christ,
Brent
 
P.S. Thank-you to Gary Fowler for all he does as the custodian at BPC.

2/6/18

Hello All,

On Sunday night Tom Brady completed 28 out of the 48 passes for 505 yards and 3 touchdowns. He played a nearly perfect game. On Monday morning I overhead a Patriots fan saying that they were angry with Brady. According to this individual, Brady’s fumble with about 2 minutes remaining in the game had cost the Patriots the game. While this is true it ignores the fact that the Patriots would not have been competitive apart from Brady’s brilliance up to that point. The defense was horrible, special teams were inept, and the coaching was questionable. Only the most die-hard “In Bill We Trust” Pats fan could hope to defend Belichick’s benching of Malcolm Butler, an act that seemed more stubborn than strategic with every Eagle’s first down.

The fact that some will blame Brady is not surprising, he is the leader of the team. Part of being a leader is being held responsible for outcomes that are beyond your control. The more leadership an individual takes on the more blame will be placed on their shoulders when the team or organization they lead falls short. This is the flipside of the credit a leader gets when things go well.

There are many people that claim they want to be leaders in their families, communities, and churches that are unwilling to accept this tradeoff. Leaders must sometimes take the bad with the good even when it is unfair. That’s just what Brady did after the game stating, “We battled, it was competitive, but we didn’t get the job done.”  Leaders don’t make excuses, they accept responsibility and move forward, it’s a part of the job.

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to the Elders about Byfield for your wisdom and support.

1/30/18

Hello All,

  In churches, you will often hear people say that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. In my personal experience, this is often true. Conversations amongst those involved in church leadership often center on how to get more of the 80% of the people who do 20% of the work involved at a higher level. Increasing involvement is certainly a worthwhile pursuit. There are many people who could do more but don’t. However, in that 80% category, there are also many people that are some other organizations 20%. The people that may not be very involved in a church setting are often incredibly active in the work other organizations are doing.

I am reminded of this fact every time I do anything with my two older sons related to their involvement in Boy Scouts. I often feel guilty because in the Scouts setting I am part of the 80% that is not as involved as the parents that are leading the charge. (This is a good opportunity to say thank-you to Matt Welch, MaryAnn Welch, James Hart, Kathleen Aitken, Shannon Asselin, and Curtis Eckelkamp for all they do with Boy Scouts.)

We cannot be part of the 20% in every organization we are involved with. Trying to do so will end in exhaustion. Anyone who is capable should be part of the 20% in some organization. Through the interconnected efforts of individuals, networked communities come together that benefit everyone.

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to Chuck Davis, Thane Cumming, Nancy Cumming, and Peter Grifoni for leading the Praise and Prayer Night at BPC on Sunday evening. It was awesome.

 

1/23/18


Hello All,

  In 2009 I moved from Tennessee to Massachusetts. Each winter since then I get asked by people I run into at church, the gym, and around town if I miss being in Tennessee during the winter. The answer I give surprises most people. I tell them that actually prefer December, January, and February in Massachusetts. These months in Tennessee are often gray and rainy. If you want to know what they are like picture a day like today without the ice and you pretty much have it. My preference is surprising to those who have never experienced anything but New England winters. They assume that the farther south you go the more pleasant winter should be.

People have a habit of assuming that things are better for other people than they actually are. This belief applies to finances, work, and family just as much as it applies to weather. We all have a tendency to think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Not only is this belief common it is counter-productive when it comes to individual happiness.

Assuming others are better off keeps us from taking responsibility for our own reactions to the circumstances we find ourselves in. If my problem is due to my situation that means my attitude is not the problem. Don’t get me wrong the circumstances we find ourselves in can be very difficult, but that shouldn’t be surprising, life is difficult. What matters more than anything when it comes to personal satisfaction is the attitude with which we approach our struggles.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Mark Scharlach for all the bookkeeping work he does for the church.

Hello All,

  Yesterday I was using a Sawzall to cut through a pallet that I was modifying to hold tools in my garage. As the blade went through the wood I was aware of the fact that this piece of equipment could cut through me quite easily. For me to continue my existence as a whole person with arms, legs, fingers, and toes I needed to maintain an awareness of the power that I held in my hands. A good rule of thumb when using any tool is that the more powerful the tool is the more careful you should be when using it.

   Most of you that are still reading at this point are probably asking yourselves why you are wasting time reading anything that states such obvious truths. The thing that I would encourage you to think about today is how you fail to apply this common sense rule to the most powerful tool you regularly use. The majority of people reading this post are doing so on a smartphone. With this power in your hands, you have the power in your hand to do things that our ancestors would have considered magical. You can order food, manage finances, control the temperature in your home, communicate across the world, and complete innumerable other actions.

  Despite the power of smartphones we don’t tend to put a lot of thought into how we use them. This lack of thought leads to injuries that are becoming increasingly apparent in our society. The injuries we sustain are not so much physical; they are intellectual, spiritual, and psychological. Instead of engaging deeply we read headlines, in place of community we skim Facebook, and silent moments for reflection are consumed with shopping on Amazon. We need to think about how we use these tools. They have been designed by Apple, Google, and innumerable app developers to change the fundamental ways we approach the world. We need to take that power seriously if we want to remain in one piece.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to the Hospitality Committee for all the work they do every week.

P.P.S. I am aware of how ironic/hypocritical it is to post anything remotely anti-technology on Facebook.

Hello All,

  Three Summers ago I threw out my back. There was no one cause for this event. Just a steady worsening of what had been an ongoing health concern until one day I could not get out of bed without extreme pain. At the time Ann and I had just had our fourth son Ezra. There would times that I would just lay there and ask God if this was going to be my life moving forward. If my back would be a disability I had to live with for the rest of my life. Thankfully that was not the case. I got connected with a local physical therapist that helped me to deal with the underlying issues. This process took months, but at the end of it, I felt better than I had felt in years.

  Since that time my back issues have been well-controlled. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I could feel that my back just didn’t feel quite right. Those of you who have had back issues may resonate with my symptoms. My back just felt weak in a particular spot that was hard to describe. I realized that I had slacked off doing the exercises and stretches that had restored my back to health in the first place. Since New Years I have redoubled my efforts to do what I know I need to do. The results have been encouraging, my back is no longer a concern. The issue I have with my back is similar to the issues I have in many other areas of my life. I know the right thing to do, I just don’t do it consistently.

 Forward progress in life is rarely the result of a grand gesture or genius idea. Instead, it is normally the result of doing what we know we should do consistently. Your New Year’s Resolution this year might be to lose weight, get your finances in order, or to grow in your relationship with God. Whatever the case may be, consistency will determine what your life looks like.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Art Gott for his many years of leading a Sunday School class at BPC.

1/3/18

Hello All,
Last week my family and I were visiting family in Tennessee. On our way back we stayed with Ann’s aunt just outside of Washington D.C. While there my 3 older sons were wrestling in the basement. For a while all I heard was laughter, but eventually, that laughter turned to crying. When I went to see what was going on I found my 5-year-old Micah(pictured above) crying. Through his tears, he angrily explained how Josiah, his 9-year-old brother, had hurt him. It was then I saw that Micah’s right eye was rapidly swelling. When I turned the corner to ask Josiah what had happened I saw Josiah sitting on the floor holding the top of his head.
It was rapidly apparent that both boys had gotten frustrated with each other and responded poorly. What had been a fun time transitioned into a battle between brothers. The result was not surprising, Josiah ended up with a headache and Micah looked like Sylvester Stallone in the 8th round of his fight with Apollo Creed in Rocky II.
Anyone that has ever been around young boys has seen this sort of situation before. We collectively roll our eyes at how children allow situations to escalate. Unfortunately, adults are often guilty of the same approach. When things start to go south in a relationship we don’t step back to think about the outcome. Instead, we keep our focus on how the other person has hurt us. We respond to pain with recriminations and retribution. More often than not the person we blame feels equally hurt by us, and they respond likewise. The situation escalates until both parties end up in pain.
Most relational breakdowns are not one-sided. One option when someone has hurt you is to hurt them back. The Christian option is to try to understand if you contributed to the situation, change your approach if you have, and forgive. This is not easy, but the alternative of hurting the person like they hurt you will generally result in you getting a black eye of some sort.
 
In Christ,
Brent
 
P.S. Thank-you to Pastor Boylan for preaching last Sunday so I could enjoy a week off with family.
12/12/17

Hello All,

 On Sunday morning I arrived at Byfield Parish Church a little later than normal due to the snow. When I pulled up it was 7:30 AM. I was surprised to see that I wasn’t the first one there. At first, I was confused, why would anybody else be at the church this early on a snowy winter morning. When I got out of my car I quickly understood. I could hear the telltale scrape of a snow shovel on concrete; two men from the church were removing snow from the sidewalks.

Later that morning I preached on how the Holy Spirit has uniquely gifted every Christian to perform tasks that build up other people and the church. These two guys that were out shoveling in the early morning are a great example of how God uses individuals with the gift of service. The men would no doubt say that anyone could do what they did. In one respect that is true, most people can shovel snow, but in another respect, it is not. Service is a gift not everyone has. Just as hospitality, teaching, or administration aren’t gifts God has given to everyone. If they hadn’t used their gift everyone else would have suffered just as everyone loses out when you don’t use the capacity God has given you.

Oftentimes using the gifts we have result in no obvious reward. Most of the people who attended Byfield on Sunday probably didn’t even think about how the snow got moved. Those acting out their gifts have to trust that God sees what we do and rewards those who work in His name.

12/5/17

Hello All,   Last Saturday I had the opportunity to go watch the Boston Celtics play the Phoenix Suns. The seat I was in for the first 3.5 quarters of the game were amazing, 12 rows up at half court. With a few minutes remaining in the game a guy that was leaving early offered me his tickets that were only three rows off the court. The next thing I knew I was closer than I’ve ever been to the action. This was both thrilling and disappointing. I could reach out and touch the players, but my close proximity made it difficult to tell what was going on in the game. Eventually, the Celtics won and I was able to walk away happy.

Since Saturday I have been thinking about the impact that perspective has on us as people. Sometimes we get so close to a situation that we can hardly tell what’s going on. All we are able to do is respond to what is taking place right in front of us. At other times distance makes us think that we see the whole picture when we are actually missing important details that determine the outcome. Distance gives the illusion of understanding without all the facts.

God has the best of both perspectives. He sees the big picture of what is going on in our lives and history from a distance. He is also with us in the daily grind. God’s perspective is not limited by his nature as ours is. The next time you realize that you are too close to a situation to really understand what is going on or to distant to take in all the details that determine the outcome remember that God is not limited. His perspective is the only reliable one. The more we see through His eyes the more we will see the world as it truly is.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to all those who teach Sunday School for adults, youth, and children.

11/28/17

Hello All,

 I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Ann, the kids, and I spent Thanksgiving Day in Rutland, MA celebrating the holiday for the ninth consecutive year with two other couples we developed friendships with in grad school. Each couple now has 4 kids which means there were 12 children 9 years of age and under. There was a surprising lack of chaos. We had an amazing time eating wonderful food and hearing what has been going on in our friend’s lives recently.

 The affection I feel for the two other couples and their children we celebrated with is not something that developed overnight. When we first met each of us was coming from very different places. One couple was fresh out of college in Wisconsin, Ann and I were transitioning from careers in the South, and the other couple had recently returned from a couple of years living in China. Each individual was also unique, with different family backgrounds and interests. When circumstances brought us together we did not hit it off immediately. The relationships we now enjoy is a product of years of intentional investment.

True community is not something that develops apart from effort. Prior to college graduation, it is relatively easy for most people to make friends. They consistently find themselves in circumstances where there are other people that enjoy the same things. In adulthood this is less the case, many people find themselves alone and isolated. If you want strong friendships as you age you must make effort. You must build community. This is not something that happens quickly. Time, vulnerability, and intentionality are all required. The payoff of investing in community is worth the effort.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to those who decorated the church for Christmas: Minda, Gary, Joe, Miriam, the Trustees, and others I am not even aware of.

11/21/17

Hello All,

   Each year my yard gets inundated with falling leaves. This year I have not done a great job staying ahead of them. A few weeks back I created a few large piles. The next day it rained hard then the temperature dropped. The leaf piles became frozen masses that would have required a pickaxe to move. This weekend I finally got around to addressing the piles. Moving them was twice as difficult as it would have been if I had dealt with them when I created them. The leaves were wet, filled with worms, and half decomposed.

When I set out to write this week’s Pastor’s Corner I was looking for an analogy to illustrate a challenge that comes with the holidays. The rotten pile of leaves I reference above seemed like an apt comparison for the bitterness that sits decomposing in the midst of many families. This relational debris suppresses new growth just as leaves left to sit kill grass.

 There is no easy way to deal with bitterness or a soggy pile of leaves, but ignoring either has negative consequences.  Don’t let another holiday season pass refusing to address the obvious. Ignoring bitterness is not an option if you ever want something healthy to grow.

For those needing practical advice on how to move forward, this is a helpful blog post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithonthecouch/2013/11/overcoming-bitterness-5-steps-for-healing-the-hurt-that-wont-go-away/

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to the Laura and Stephanie Backman for being excellent Sunday School teachers for the children under 4 years old.

11/14/17
Hello All,
Late last Wednesday night my parents flew in from Tennessee to spend the weekend with my family. As I pulled up to the house with them at around 1 AM my car’s headlights gave me an answer to a question I had been asking for months: What has been getting into my trash? The answer was the most obese raccoon you have ever seen. (I found the picture above online, I couldn’t get a picture of the culprit at my house.) I was truly shocked by its size. It reminded me of one of those house cats you sometimes see that can’t walk around without their belly dragging on the floor.
 
In addition to being a nuisance, this raccoon is a great example of what happens when natural instincts collide with the modern world. He is programmed by nature to eat as much as he can scavenge. The world he now finds himself in offers limitless opportunities to gorge on trash. The result of this conflict is not surprising. He has become a warped version of what a raccoon is supposed to be.
 
Modern people have a tendency to be like this raccoon. Instinct compels us to pursue satisfaction in a world where natural barriers have all been removed. We can gorge on all the food we crave, access unlimited entertainment options, seek positive social feedback 24/7 through electronic communication, and work without ceasing to create the illusion of security. Left unchecked instinct does not lead to a healthy well-balanced life in our modern world, it leads to a warped version of what we were intended to be.
 
If we cannot trust our own desires to guide us what can we trust? The answer is to look to God who created us. He is the ultimate source of self-knowledge. Through God, we can understand what we were created for. With this information, we can rise above the instincts that so often mislead in a world without barriers.
 
In Christ,
Brent Fugate

11/6/17

Hello All,

 

This is Ezra Fugate, my youngest son. Sitting in front of him is a plate of pasta with ham and feta cheese. It is delicious. Ezra doesn’t know it is delicious because he refuses to try a bite. Strangely his refusal does not keep him from pleading for help in the plaintive voice only a 2.5-year-old can manage. When I try to help him he closes his mouth and scrunches up his face in the same way I would if I was offered rancid meatloaf. I would like to say this event is an unusual occurrence in the Fugate house. That would be a lie.

 

What Ezra really wants is to wear me down to the point that I give in to his real desire; a piece of Halloween candy. He is not interested in my help, he is interested in getting me to do what he wants. I cannot help Ezra because he does not actually want to be helped in the way he claims.

 

In life, we frequently run into people that want some sort of help. We should certainly be ready and willing to assist those in need. However, we must remember that those who ask for help may not actually want to be helped if it requires effort on their part. There are few situations in which a person can be meaningfully helped if they are not willing to contribute to the solution. If you are dealing with a situation where someone is seeking help but refuses to make a personal effort the best thing to do is love them by setting clear expectations. Otherwise, you are just enabling whatever pattern created their need in the first place.

 

In Christ,

Brent

10/31/17

This week’s Pastor’s Corner was written by my wife, Ann Fugate, on October 30th.

Hello All,

 

I awoke very early Monday morning to the sounds of heavy winds and the eerie quiet of a power outage. Slightly annoyed, but mostly thinking it was nothing other than a brief, minor inconvenience, Brent and I checked on the kids and fell back asleep. Without an alarm clock to wake me up and too lazy to retrieve my phone from downstairs, my children woke me up around 7:30 to announce the school cancellation alert my oldest son had seen on my cell phone. I spent the first half of the day pretty excited about this turn of events. I had been able to sleep in, hadn’t worked out because my gym was closed, had a great excuse to not go to Market Basket since my fridge wouldn’t keep my food cool, and couldn’t do the first of eight million loads of laundry I had piled up in my basement. We were all home just hanging out together in pajamas surrounded by a sea of Legos. It was relaxing and a nice change of pace.

 

About halfway through the day, my attitude started to change. I really wanted tea and almost gas poisoned my family by trying to use Brent’s camping stove to boil water. (Helpful hint: turning the gas up doesn’t light it like a gas stove. It just pumps a lot of toxic gas into your kitchen.) A shower would be nice, I thought, since I looked like a troll doll. My Chobani yogurt was not as cold as I would like. If I am sounding like a spoiled brat, you are picking up on the point exactly.

 

I tell you this not because I’m proud of my attitude or because my normal Monday morning plans are fascinating to read about. I had been reading about Puerto Rico’s plight since Hurricane Maria hit about 6 weeks ago. I knew about 70% of the island was still out of power and had thought in a passing manner how inconvenient that sounded and was sorry to hear of the people who had died. However, it’s so easy to hear things like that and move on promptly because it doesn’t feel personal or real. Even just one day without power changed my perspective. I in no way claim to understand how it feels to be without resources such as electricity for weeks on end. I am writing this from a warm, well lit location that was available to me. Our bellies are full and we have many places we can safely go to have our needs met until the power comes back on. I’m only pointing out that I usually only gain perspective, empathy, compassion as I go through some form, however mild, of suffering myself. I pray that as my power comes back on and I move through this week unscathed by this inconvenience, that my heart and attitude can remain changed. That I will pray for people all over the world who are legitimately suffering. That I will offer my resources to people in need. That I will be grateful, and teach my children to be grateful, for the many, many blessings I live blissfully unaware of and take for granted each day. That the world will know we are Christians by our love for hurting, needy people. After all, that’s where God meets us: in the midst of our brokenness and suffering. And I am so very grateful.

 

In Christ,

Ann

P.S. Thank you to the ladies of the Women’s Ministry Team for organizing the Pie Day coming up on Saturday and the other events they organize throughout the year.

10/25/17

Hello All,
Most Wednesdays and Fridays I take my dog Pogo for playtime with other dogs at Seacoast Canine’s farm in Byfield. To say this is the highlight of his week is an understatement. Pretty much every morning when I try to leave the house he wants to go with me. On days when Pogo suspects that he is heading to playtime he grows crazy-eyed. Interacting with other dogs is more than a fun outing for him, it is a deeply ingrained need. As we drive closer to the farm Pogo’s excitement grows. By the time we pull up he can barely contain himself.
 
Pogo has a need for community that I cannot fill. He is restored by being in the presence of other dogs like himself. When he doesn’t get this opportunity he grows tepid and morose. This is not to say that everything is perfect when Pogo hangs out with other dogs. Sometimes there are arguments. I don’t speak dog, but I imagine if I did I’d hear the other dogs telling Pogo to chill out a bit. He gets a bit overzealous at times. Despite these issues by the end of the day when I pick him up, he is content.
 
Like Pogo I need to regularly spend time in community with other Christians that see the world in a similar way. For Christians, community is a necessary habit. It is a source of restoration that God has set up. Without this regular practice, our spiritual life will be inhibited. This doesn’t mean community is always easy. There are going to be issues. What it does mean is that participating in Christian community is a worthwhile practice for our own well-being. The upsides of community far outweigh the downsides whether you are a dog or a follower of Christ.
 
 
In Christ,
Brent Fugate
 
P.S. Thank-you to the choir and praise band for the fantastic job you all do leading worship.

10/17/17

Hello All,

Yesterday morning(Monday) I woke up feeling terrible. Overnight a minor sore throat had turned into a sore throat with fever, chills, and exhaustion. I went back to bed hoping to sleep it off. By 3 PM none of the symptoms had abated and the fever was worse. After some encouragement from my wife, Ann, I decided to head over to the Minute Clinic at the CVS in Amesbury. Once there I waited for 1.5 hours to see a competent and kind nurse practitioner. She took a health history, assessed me, and swabbed my throat to check for Strep. Unfortunately, the conclusion the nurse practitioner arrived at was not what I wanted to hear. She informed me that I probably had a severe cold virus that is making the rounds.

I was disappointed. I wanted an antibiotic that I would take daily for the next week.I wanted an easy answer. Instead, I continue to struggle with symptoms as my immune system makes slow progress.

Often we treat spiritual problems like physical disease, searching for a sort of spiritual antibiotic. Just as the only cure to my cold is allowing my immune system to work, so the only cure to my spiritual disease is giving God’s Spirit time to bring about healing. There are things I can do to manage spiritual symptoms, but for ultimate healing, I am reliant on God working in my life.

In Christ,

Brent

10/10/17

Hello All,

Last weekend I led a 4-day canoe excursion in northwest Maine. Those who went were challenged spiritually and physically in a wilderness environment. Over the course of the trip, we paddled approximately 35 miles and carried our canoes and gear another 8 miles over portage trails. There were waterfalls that had to be avoided and rain storms that could not be.

The most dangerous part of the trip was not due to any of the obvious challenges. The rapids, weather, and portage trails were all problematic but they were also obvious. Between the map and my own eyes, I could see these challenges coming. Sometimes I pushed through them other times I avoided them altogether. The more dangerous obstacles were just below the surface of the river.

While we paddled there would often be an obscured rock under the moving water. Sometimes hours would pass with no threats followed by one of these rocks suddenly scraping along the bottom of the canoe threatening to tip us, our food, clothing, and gear into the current. The best way to overcome these challenges was to avoid them all together. To do so required vigilance. More often than not there was some indication the danger existed: Other rocks sticking above the water, a ripple in the current, or a slight change in the color of the water.

Our life also contains obstacles that are not obvious as we move through it. Their existence should not be a surprise to us. They are part of the journey. We would do well to keep an eye out for any signs. While barriers lurk out of sight they are not invisible. Part of maturing in our Christian journey is growing in awareness of these obstacles and avoiding them.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Paul Moskevitz for proactively helping people who need jobs find them.

10/4/17

Hello All,

   I went to the chiropractor today for the first time in a couple of years. My back which had been a significant problem in the past was not doing awful, but it isn’t 100% either. The problem area was in between my shoulder blades. No matter what I did I just couldn’t seem to get the muscles stretched and the vertebrae properly aligned. A visit to my chiropractor had me properly adjusted and feeling good within minutes.

  In the same way, a chiropractor is necessary for fixing faulty physical alignment so God is necessary when our spiritual alignment is faulty. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can fix ourselves as our condition worsens, eventually it becomes obvious we cannot. We need God to make an adjustment.

   Proactive treatment of back problems prevents them from growing worse. Proactive treatment of spiritual problems does the same. If you sense today that your spiritual status is problematic there is no better time to turn to God. Sometimes you cannot fix yourself.

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to Mark Scharlach for the work he does on the front lawn area.

9/27/17

Hello All,

I recently purchased a new mountain bike that I ride a couple times a week on the singletrack trails that wind through Willowdale State Park. Every time I go I experience success and failure. The failures are normally the result of two factors: lack of skill and lack of faith. Today I want to focus on the latter.

 

The bike I purchased is a nice entry level mountain bike. It was specifically designed to overcome the type of obstacles that are found on the trails I ride. Oftentimes when confronted with one of these obstacles I’m tentative in my approach, I lack faith in the bike. This leads to a tenuous approach that results in failure. My doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Similar failures abound in my personal life. My doubt in God leads to failure. The problem is not that the obstacles I face are too big for God. The problem is my own half-hearted approach. To overcome the obstacles that arise I need to trust God is sufficient for the task at hand.

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. Thank-you to Doug Dawes for all the work he does on the Mission’s Committee at BPC.

9/19/17

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Hello All,
A few weeks back I was playing racquetball at Latitude Sports Club in Salisbury. My opponent hit a shot that arced high towards the back wall. I jumped to hit it. When I came down my foot and ankle twisted under me at an awkward angle. After collapsing to the floor I laid there hoping my ankle was only sprained. Within a few minutes, I was able to hobble around. By that evening my ankle was incredibly swollen, but not in need of serious medical intervention. A couple of days later it was black and blue. It is now mostly healed.

The shot I sprained my ankle returning was unexceptional. I have returned similar volleys a thousand times. The difference this time was the way I jumped placed all my weight and momentum on my ankle at an awkward angle. My injury resulted because my whole body was dependent on one part that was put in a vulnerable position.

In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul describes the church as a body, with each person in the church filling a unique and important role. Oftentimes churches depend too heavily on a particular person or group of people. This dependence results in injuries. Sometimes these injuries are acute like my sprained ankle, other times they are chronic.

To prevent injuries churches need everyone to fill their role so that no single person carries too much of the burden. The solution is not for the church to sit around and take it easy. God has given the church a job today. Avoiding that task altogether only results in a spiritual obesity within churches. If the individuals that make up the church as a whole each perform their role, the overall community will be healthy.

Here at Byfield, we have many people serving in a variety of roles. We also have opportunities to help out with missions, media, and other areas. If you are looking to be a more active participant in church, the body of Christ, send me an email at brent.fugate@gmail.com.

In Christ,
Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Robin Hudson for leading the Children’s Choir. I know my kids really enjoy it.

9/13/17

Hello All,
Early next month I am leading a multi-day canoe trip on the Moose River in Maine for the purpose of discipling men under 30.(If you know any guys that would like to go have them contact me.) The trip begins with a paddle across Attean Pond followed by a 1.25 mile portage up to Holeb Pond. From there we will follow the Moose River back down to Attean Pond. In total, we will paddle over 30 miles. The most challenging part of the trip will probably be the 1.25 mile portage. For those of you that don’t know a portage is when you carry all your supplies and canoe overland to another body of water. On this particular trip, doing so will probably require multiple trips carrying heavy loads.
To make the portage easier I wanted to make a canoe cart to carry the canoe. After thinking about it for a couple of weeks I realized the old bike trailer that I use to tow my kids around was the perfect thing to modify for this purpose. Last Friday, I stripped the trailer down, leaving only a basic frame that the canoe could be carried on.
 
Halfway through the stripping down process, I realized something scary. The bolt that holds on the left wheel of the trailer had fallen off at some point! I had been pulling my children around on a trailer that lacked a secure wheel for who knows how long. I would never have realized this if I hadn’t repurposed the trailer to meet the challenge of towing a canoe.
 
Life is often this way. We don’t realize a particular problem exists in us until we face a new challenge that highlights it. If you are ever wondering why God allowed a trial to arise in your life consider the possibility that God is using the obstacle to reveal an issue that needs to be dealt with. Otherwise, you’ll continue to rely on a false sense of security that hides a deep flaw. New trials are often a means God uses to show us how we need to change for our own good.
 
In Christ,
Brent
 
P.S. Thank-you to Don Hudson for leading the Council meeting last night, and acting as Clerk leading up to the meeting. If you have administrative skills and are not presently serving BPC could use a volunteer in this role.
 

9/5/17

Hello All,
On Monday Ann and I took our kids to the beach at Salisbury Reservation. It felt like a perfect beach day. The weather was warm with a slight breeze. The waves were higher than normal, breaking in a regular pattern. Since Monday was Labor Day the crowds were more than usual but less than what we had expected. Upon arrival, Ann and I got comfortable in our beach chairs as the 3 older boys built a series of sand battlements intended to resist the rising tide.
    Ezra, our 2.5-year-old son, played in the area where the waves break up onto the beach(the picture above is actually from earlier this Summer). When the waves receded he would get down close to the water. As soon as the next wave came in he would race up the beach as fast as his toddler legs would carry him in an attempt to outrun the water. For the most part, the water never came above his knees. After this went on for a bit he became bolder. I was forced to go stand closer to the water to ensure he didn’t get swept away. My presence did not make him more careful. In fact, he grew even more adventurous. Ezra realized that I would be there to protect him if the water got too high for him.
Sometimes Christians wonder where God is. Often the answer is that we have not exhibited enough boldness to make his presence felt. God is most noticeable when we enter the turbulent waters of our world on a mission to glorify God. If we want to experience God we should live boldly for Christ. What would this look like for you?

In Christ,
Brent

P.S. Thank-you to all the members and attendees of BPC that regularly support the church through giving their time and finances.

8/30/17

Hello All,
This week the Houston area has been pummeled with feet of rain from Hurricane Harvey. Our hearts and prayers truly go out to those who have lost life and property in this storm. It has been fantastic to see Christian churches in the Houston area work to help victims. A tragedy like this is never desirable, but they often do draw neighbors communities and whole countries together. I would love to see if there is any way Byfield could help with the year’s long recovery effort from Harvey.
While I was looking at news coverage of the storm on Tuesday I began to consider the failures of the prosperity gospel in the face of this sort of tragedy. Ironically Houston has the largest church in the United States, a church built on teaching prosperity theology. For those of you that don’t know, the prosperity gospel teaches that God wants you to be happy, healthy, and wealthy. The implication is that if you are not those things this reflects some lack of faith on your part. This sort of teaching capitalizes on a christianized version of the American Dream. It preys on the worldly hopes and biblical illiteracy of its hearers. The prosperity gospel is always a paper thin theological deception, but it’s not every day that a hurricane comes along to prove how ridiculous it is.
Bad theology is wrong not just because it is not biblical, but because it doesn’t reflect reality. Given time the failures of bad theology will come to light through the circumstances of this world. The reason it matters what we believe is that eventually those beliefs will be tested. We should care what others believe as well. The reason for caring about other’s beliefs is not so we can be right, that is itself bad theology. Instead, our caring should be the result of a Christlike desire to speak truth into their life. For me, the ongoing tragedy of Harvey highlights that theology matters. This is true all the time but becomes particularly apparent when the rain falls. For Christian’s the loving thing to do is not to celebrate other’s downfall, but to lovingly build them up through our speech and actions.

In Christ,
Brent

P. S. Thank-you to Nancy Cumming for being our first “Frontline Testimony” and for her leadership in other areas.

8/23/17

 

 

Hello All,

   On Tuesday night the Boston Celtics traded players and draft picks for Kyrie Irving, a player on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Many of you are already thinking that you don’t care. Stick with me for a minute. A basketball team’s success is certainly dependent on players and strategy, but you can’t overstate the importance of a team’s culture. Over the past couple of years, the Celtics have had a strong culture with success as a result. Adding an All-Star player like Kyrie changes the existing culture. It will be interesting to watch the Celtics this year to observe the culture that develops over the course of the season.

You may not care about basketball, but you should care about culture. Families have a culture, as do workplaces and churches. Like the Celtics Byfield Parish is in the midst of a period of cultural change related to Pastor Boylan stepping into a different role and me taking over as Senior Pastor(although I am no Kyrie and Pastor Boylan doesn’t resemble Isaiah Thomas). Even if I tried to mimic Pastor Boylan in every way, it would still feel different to the individuals that make up Byfield Parish. At times like this congregants feel a mix of excitement for the future, longing for the past, and uncertainty about the present. As BPC goes through this period of cultural change we should do two things as a church: 1) Look to God in prayer as the ultimate source of the culture we want to have as a church. 2) Be patient with each other.

My hope is that both Byfield and the Celtics will build on a winning past by developing a culture in the present that leads to victory in the future. For the Celtics that means an NBA championship in 2018, for us that means standing before God and hearing, “well done my good and faithful servant.”(Matthew 25:23)

 

In Christ,

Brent Fugate

 

P.S. Thank-you to all those that lead small groups at BPC. These settings are incredibly important for ongoing discipleship and community building.  

8/16/17

Hello All,

   Last week I shared an article in Byfield’s Facebook Group from The Atlantic about the impact technology is having on young people in our culture. As a parent of 4 young boys, I think a lot about the role technology will play in their lives. Daily life in 2017 highlights the tremendous benefits and terrifying downsides of technology. It saves lives but also ruins marriages. We can talk to friends across the world for free on video but rarely interact with our neighbors.

      Christians must recognize that modern technologies are not neutral tools. Tremendous good and bad can be accomplished with any tool; smartphones, social media, apps and other technologies are no exception. As with any tool, you must be wise in your use. This is no less true of a smartphone than it is of a chainsaw.

     Most people still reading this are probably adults. In the back of your mind you’re probably thinking, ‘Yep, these kids really need to get off their phones.’ While that is certainly true, I find adults are often just as bad if not worse. We need to think about how we use these incredibly powerful tools that we walk around with in our pockets. If you do not you will end up hurting yourself and others.

 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Sharon Trudell for all she does.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTEy-bWaamY

8/8/17

 

Hello All,

   Last Sunday I was spending some vacation time in Tennessee with my family. After attending the early church service my family headed for a local lake with four of Ann’s brothers and 11 of our nieces and nephews! After spending some time tubing and knee boarding we went cliff jumping. My second son, Levi, bravely jumped off the 20+ foot cliff. Unfortunately his form wasn’t great. When he hit the water he was looking down with his arms and legs were splayed out. For those of you who have never been cliff jumping this is not the ideal way to hit the water.

   I share this story because it struck me as a good analogy for how Christians often live out their  faith. Even when we take a leap of faith in our life we are often like Levi. We may jump, but we don’t trust. We feel the need to protect ourselves. Not fully trusting is counterproductive. The result or our lack of faith are worse outcomes. You can’t live the Christian life halfway. If you’re going to make the leap you better be all in.

  On a different note I am really excited about Byfield Parish Church right now. As I have enjoyed time with family I have found myself thinking a lot about the opportunities we have as a community to reach our neighbors. One of the ways we can impact our area is by creating a welcoming environment on Sunday mornings. With this in mind a Welcome Team is forming this Summer that will be led by Jane Spellman. I look forward to seeing how this team makes us more effective in our efforts to love everyone that comes through our doors beginning in September. If you would like to participate reach out to Jane for more info.

 

In Christ,

Brent

 

P.S. THank-you to the Deacons at Byfield for all the do.

8/3/17

Hey All,

Last week was the final Summer barbeque at the YMCA camp in Rowley. Ann, the kids, and I had a great time as usual. When we got back in the car Ann shared a funny story. While she was getting food a woman from the church came up to her and introduced herself.  After exchanging pleasantries the woman asked who Ann had come with. While the woman had seen Ann on Sundays she didn’t recognize her in a non-Sunday environment. Ann awkwardly said that she came with her husband, the pastor. Both the woman and Ann had a good laugh.

I share this story to highlight the behavior of the lady. This is exactly what we should all be doing. We are often so worried about looking silly or not knowing what to say that we do nothing. The woman who initiated a conversation with Ann deserves credit for going out on a limb. We all need to be a little more willing to go out on a limb sometime to build the church.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank you to the finance committee. The work you do is behind the scenes, but without it the BPC wouldn’t exist.

 

 

7/26/17

Hello All,

THis Summer my wife, Ann, and I have been on a bit of a puzzle kick. Over the weekend she pulled out a puzzle she had recently purchased from Amazon. It was 500 pieces. The image it portrayed was of an old town sitting on a canal. We enjoyed working on it for about the first 376 pieces. At that point, we had filled in all the buildings and water. What remained of the puzzle was the sky. The sky seemed impossible to piece together. There was no rhyme or reason to it;  just a blue and white mess. For a couple of days, the puzzle sat on our table. We would pass by intermittently and try to fit a piece here or there. Periodically we would get lucky and find a match. The puzzle became the bane of our existence, a problem that we had no desire to deal with.

Eventually, we came up with a plan. We divided the pieces on the basis of shape. We then went through and tried each piece of a particular shape in a single spot where that shape might fit. By systematically approaching the problem we were able to finish the puzzle.

This story could be an analogy for many things in our life: Work, family, friendships, etc. For me, it is an analogy for faith. There are times when faith goes from being an enjoyable exercise that feels like it is getting somewhere to a confused mess with no apparent direction forward.  At times like this, the conviction that carries us forward is the belief that our Creator has an ultimate picture in mind that we cannot see in the midst of the struggle. To complete that image we must continue to be faithful in spite of the progress that seems elusive.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. THank-you to Bob Libert, Nathan Hunter, John Horne, Cedric Miner, and Peter Grifoni for their work on Sunday mornings with the media team. You guys do incredibly important work.

 

 

7/19/17

Hello All,
Some weeks are crazier than others. For me, this week is a crazy one. Family responsibilities, work, and Summer fun all add up to a pretty hectic life. These all sound a bit like first-world problems I know. During these chaotic times, it is easy to quit the routines that keep us grounded. Working out, cleaning the house, reading to the kids, and spending quiet time with God all take a back seat to the demands of the moment.
The first thing that falls off is often time with God. Unlike our homes, nobody can see the spiritual junk that builds up. There is not a Summer reading program managed by the local library that keeps us on schedule in our faith. We don’t notice the lack of spiritual endurance that ensues in the same way we do when we quit working out. The challenge for me this week is prioritizing time with God in the midst of the mess. It may sound like one more thing to do, but spending time with God is actually a routine that thrive instead of just survive.
I want to thank all the volunteers for Vacation Bible School at Byfield this week. I think we have around 70 kids which is awesome. It is great to see the joy and excitement these little ones bring to everything they do.

In Christ,
Brent

 

 

7/11/17

Hello All,
Last Saturday I hiked Mt. Tripyramid in the White Mountains with two friends and my dog Pogo. It was a fantastic day for hiking. The route up was interesting, to say the least. After a relatively gentle incline for the first few miles, the trail hits a rockslide that rises over 1200 hundred feet in a ½ mile. Climbing this was not easy for me, but I knew it would end. Pogo, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. He didn’t know how long it would last or why we were climbing in the first place. About 100 feet shy of the top he tried to give up. I had to use the leash he was on to encourage him through the last bit.
The trials we face in our lives are similar to the situation Pogo found himself in. We don’t know how long they will last or why we are going through them. Sometimes God’s prompting is enough to get us through, others times we need a bit more of a yank. God is not arbitrary in the trials he allows us to face. He has a purpose in mind.
This week at BPC we start a sermon series that will carry us through the Summer called “Summer Stories.” We are going to look at some of the lesser known narratives of the Old Testament. I am really pumped to see how God works in my life and the church through these stories. Millenia separates us from the characters in these stories and yet the trials we face are remarkably similar to the trials they faced.
 
In Christ,
Pastor Brent
 
P.S. Thank-you for the hard work all the VBS volunteers are putting in. This is a tremendous opportunity for our church to impact the lives of children.

 

7/6/17

Hello All,
I hope everyone had a fantastic July 4th. If you are anything like me celebrating a holiday on a Tuesday threw off your whole week. Minda Fowler, the secretary here at Byfield, just walked into my office to ask if I had the Pastor’s Corner for this week’s email. I had totally forgotten. I am reminded that while it is nice to have break-up the routine of a normal week it is also disruptive in problematic ways.
Here in New England, the whole Summer feels a bit disruptive. As I enjoy the beautiful days and nights it is easy to let the routines that benefit my life slip. I find this to be especially true of my relationship with God. Daily time with God can easily be forgotten about amidst all the fun. The challenge for myself and each of you is for this to be a time where the joys of Summer provide fertile ground for our daily pursuit of God to flourish. If you are reading this on Facebook comment below on what resources you use in your devotional life.

In Christ,
Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Chuck Davis for working the grill at last night’s Summer bar-b-que.

 

6/28/17

Hello All,
One of the great things about being a pastor is getting to meet with people. Over the past couple of months, I have gotten to know many of you better. I look forward to deepening those relationships and getting to know others that I have only had limited interactions with so far. When I hear about the lives of the people that attend this church I am consistently surprised to hear how God has worked. Oftentimes when you walk into a church it seems like everybody is pretty much the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each person has had their unique joys and tragedies. For me, there’s comfort in knowing that we are all different yet all the same in Christ whatever our stories might be.
This week is the second Dessert at the Fugate’s. Sign-ups have been great. We are now full through August. It is also the second to last week of our “Journey to Joy” sermon series through Philippians. For me this book has flown by, hopefully, you feel the same. This Summer we will be moving through some of the less well-known stories of the Old Testament. Sometimes these narratives feel more like a rated R movie than anything that should be in the Bible. It is awesome to see that just as God was at work in the joys and tragedies that occurred 3,000 years ago he is at work in our own lives.

In Christ,
Brent

 

6/21/17

Hello All,
I am reminded this week that there are many things that other people are better at than me. I say this not with sadness but joy. A few weeks back I asked Nathan Hunter to film a series of short testimonies for the church that will be shown during the offertory once a month called “Frontline Testimonies”. In my mind it was a pretty simple request; a quick 5-minute interview that Nathan would film and edit slightly. On Sunday after church, the first testimonies were recorded. Nathan had set up lights, multiple cameras, and sound. It was way beyond my vision. You know what? His videos will be better, much better than mine would have been.
Creating video content is a way Nathan has been gifted that I have not. He has no desire(I don’t think) to preach a sermon and I have no desire to edit a video. We both have roles to play. The reason this is a cause for joy is that it reflect how the church, Christ’s body, is supposed to work. Every person is uniquely gifted is some way. God doesn’t make junk. For some, this means creating a welcoming environment at the Senior Luncheon. Others are gifted to organize or sing. The Byfield church community will thrive in proportion to the level of engagement of those who attend. The question for you to ask yourself is how you can serve the bride of Christ.
 In Christ,
Brent
P.S. Thank-you to Bob Libert for all his work with sound and media. Thank-you to all those that make the Senior Luncheon happen, this is a great ministry of Byfield Parish Church.

 

6/15/17

Hello All,

    The shooting in Washington D.C. earlier this week and my own sermon prep remind me to consider a biblical truth: Words Matter. God spoke the world into existence through words, John describes Jesus as the Word. Each day we are all exposed to thousands of spoken and written words. The words we listen to shape us. They affect the way we live our lives. Much of what we hear on commercials, talk radio, from our friends, and elsewhere contradicts God’s words spoken through Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

Just as we are shaped through what we hear the words we speak shape others. They also shape us. We need to be aware of the impact our words are having. Not just what we mean, but how those words are understood by others. The person you speak to more than any other is yourself, you are constantly talking to yourself. What you say affects how you live.  Your words should be salt and light to others and to yourself.

In Christ,

Pastor Brent

P.S. Thank-you to all those that work with the Byfield’s youth and children. It was great to see God at work last Sunday.

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