Pastor’s Corner


11/11/19

    A  couple of Saturday’s ago I took my sons trick or treating for Halloween. Each year their candy hunting prowess grows. This year it reached new heights. We ended up with enough candy to last our family months if not all year. We have a whole pumpkin bucket filled almost to the top with just Reeses cups. 

   All this candy has created a problematic situation for me. The problem is that there is now an abundance of candy available to me at all times. If I only have 3 pieces a day I feel like somebody should hand me a lifetime achievement award. Unfortunately when I eat all of this readily available stuff I don’t like what happens. While I’m eating it I feel good, but shortly thereafter, as I’m crashing down off the sugar high I feel terrible. 

    To make better decisions about my candy consumption I have to think about not just how I’ll feel as I’m inhaling it, but how it will make me feel in the future. I need to have these same thoughts in my faith. It is tempting to make decisions about how I interact with God based on what will give me a momentary high. While that is an okay thing to do intermittently it is no way to consistently behave. Doing so leads to a rollercoaster faith. A better way is seek spiritual nutrition that may be less exciting in the moment, but that provides us with the nutrition we need for a healthy faith. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S.  Thank-you to Minda Fowler for all she does.

11/5/19

Hello All, 

   On a recent morning I stepped out of my house onto the front porch. The night previous had been cold. Laying on the ground at the foot of my steps was a beautiful, but unfortunately dead butterfly. It was one more piece of evidence that one season is coming to an end as another begins in New England. The changing colors of the trees proclaim this same message. 

    Whether I am personally ready for the seasonal changes that are occurring all around matters little. Life marches on. I basically have two options, embrace the change, or live in the past. Living in the past does have some appeal, August and September are clearly the best months to live in New England. In the end I must come to terms with the fact that while what has already passed was enjoyable, I cannot truly live in the past. It is as over and done with as the butterfly on my front steps. 

    People are tempted to live in the past in many ways. We do this through thinking about high school, college, the first years of marriage, remembering when our children were young, or the period when our career was at an apex. Celebrating the past is not a problem, trying to live in it is. At some point we must realize we are holding onto something that no longer exists. When this happens we must turn our attention to making the present as good as possible. That may be harder, I’m not exactly excited about shoveling snow myself, but the present is the only place where life actually exists. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you Jon Rudolph, Chuck Davis, and Becky Murray for getting the Bridge youth program up and running. 

10/29/19

Hello All,

     I receive these updates from my power company, National Grid, fairly regularly informing me of my power usage relative to my neighbors. I find them consistently annoying. I guess the intent of the notifications is that I would be inspired to try harder. I’m supposed to realize the “Joneses” are doing better being energy efficient, and redouble my own efforts to keep up. 

   The thing is I don’t think the comparison being made between my neighbors and myself by National Grid is a valid one. There are 6 people living my house. In addition to my wife and myself there are our 4 sons between the ages of 4 and 11. My wife is a stay at home mom. Many of my neighbors only have two people in their homes, and they work outside the home. 

    While I find the comparisons that National Grid makes between me and my neighbors annoying I do a similar thing all the time to the people I run into. I am constantly comparing the people I run into with other people, and drawing faulty conclusions on how they need to behave differently based on them. My comparisons rarely take into account the varying situations of those individuals. Like the power company my thoughts are often a partial snapshot based on a host of assumptions. The snapshots I create of others have about as much value as the snapshot I receive from the power company which ends up where it belongs; in the trash.  

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Robin and Sonja for all the work they do with the children’s choir. 

10/21/19

Hello All,

     Last Wednesday evening as I drove through downtown Amesbury I was frustrated. There was a little bit of traffic. From my perspective the cars in front of me were not piloted by competent drivers. In fact, those drivers seemed set on doing whatever was going to aggravate me more than I already was. They seemed to have no regard for the fact that my gas gauge had been on empty for the past 20 miles. If they didn’t move out of the way I was going to run out of gas, and it would be there fault. 

    Except it wouldn’t be their fault. The drivers of the cars in front of me didn’t wait to get gas so that they could get the special frozen drink they like at their favorite gas station. They are not the ones that had passed multiple gas stations earlier in the day. They are not the ones that overestimated how much fuel their car had left. All those decisions were my decisions.  I was the one who had put myself in the bad situation I found myself in. 

      It is easier to blame others than to take responsibility for ourselves. Doing so is a waste of time. Casting blame rarely solves the current crises, it does nothing to prevent future crises. Other people have their own problems to focus on. Taking responsibility on the other hand helps us to determine solutions in the present and make better decisions in the future. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S.  Thank-you to Joe and Carolyn Grifoni for helping lead an awesome marriage retreat at Byfield last Saturday. 

10/15/19

Hello All, 

     Over the years I’ve had a lot of issues with my back. The past 4 years, since doing some intensive physical therapy, have been mostly problem free. The exception is a spot on the right side between my shoulder and spine. Despite working and stretching I always seem to have a small place of discomfort there. I know that if I go to my chiropractor he can take care of it pretty easily, but I prefer not to do so. My discomfort isn’t significant enough that the effort and and expense seem warranted. 

    Last week I did finally go to the chiropractor. A quick adjustment did away with the discomfort. I asked him if there was any way I could deal with the issue myself. He recommended a stretch using a foam roller that might help. I went home and ordered one off of Amazon. Within a couple of days I had my new foam roller. The stretch he recommended works like a charm. It pinpoints the tightness that was causing the discomfort. 

     My point in sharing this story is that without the proper tool all my efforts to rid myself of discomfort were fruitless. Everything I did came to nothing. The solution was simple. I needed a tool I did not have and a basic bit of knowledge on how to use that tool. Once I had it I was good to go. Often we have nagging spiritual discomfort in our lives. We expend a lot of energy trying to deal with it ourselves when what we really need is the right tool. Often that tool is God’s Word, the Bible. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work(2 Timothy 3:16-17).”

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. 

10/7/19

Hello All, 

     A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Last week when I was mountain biking I got to experience this truth firsthand. The chain on my bike broke, resulting in me having to walk my bike back to the car. On this walk I realized the cliche should have an addendum. The weakest link of a chain breaks when the pressure placed on it is the greatest.  This had been my experience when my chain broke a few minutes before. The failure didn’t happen when I was pedaling along a smooth flat piece of trail. It happened at the moment I was exerting the most possible force onto the pedals to get over a section of roots on a steep incline. 

    Metaphorical chain links have a tendency to fail when the challenges of life are the greatest as well. It tends to be the case that the areas of personal weakness become apparent at the moment when we are experiencing the most pressure. The worst time for a breakdown is when the pressure is the highest, but that is also the most likely time for a breakdown. 

     Avoiding areas of weakness in life only means that those areas will become obvious at the worst possible times. We should be making every effort to deal with the ‘weak links’ in our lives when the trail before us is flat and smooth. That way when obstacles inevitably arise the weaknesses that would exacerbate an already challenging situation will have been strengthened enough to bear the strain. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Robin Husdson for leading the Youth Choir.

9/30/19

Pastor’s Wife’s Corner

Hello All,

      I’ve had my share of gym mishaps over the years. I’ve tripped on treadmills, been shushed by a Pilates instructor (I deserved it), been paged during classes to change a baby’s diaper, gotten my spin shoes stuck in the clipless pedals, accidentally worn a pair of pants inside out for an entire class, had a confrontation with another swimmer in the lap pool, and experienced various other moments that I don’t feel are reflective of my best. The worst by far was at a class about a year ago. I was jumping up and down on a core board. My legs were very fatigued and I landed just slightly off balance. I felt myself falling as time slowed down in my mind. I passed from shock and denial (I can save this!!!)  to resignation (Nope- this is HAPPENING.RIGHT.NOW.) as I frantically windmilled both my arms like a cartoon character. There was no recovering it or playing it cool; I fell completely on my bottom directly onto the floor. And in case you think I’m being dramatic or egocentric to assume others notice, I’d like to offer this evidence: At the end of class, AND THE NEXT WEEK, multiple people asked if I was ok. It was super embarrassing. 

      The obvious reason people noticed I had fallen was because it’s hard to miss a women windmilling her arms and completely falling on her behind in a workout class. Another reason is because the entire front of this particular workout room is covered in mirrors. Although in this case it was super embarrassing that anyone looking up witnessed my awkward moment, other times the mirrors are super helpful. I frequently think I’m executing a motion correctly or doing the right move until I glance up at the mirror. Seeing the reflection of the whole class in unison while I’m going the wrong direction (is this because I’m a lefty or do I have a real problem?) shows me where I’ve gone wrong.

      The Bible is like this for Christians. It holds up a mirror to show us how we are meant to be living. The more we familiarize ourselves with God’s word, the more we can evaluate what is pleasing to God and what needs correction. Fortunately, God doesn’t laugh at us or shame us for our failures. We are free to get back up and try again with His help because ultimately God’s love for us is not contingent upon our efforts. 

Sincerely, 

Ann Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to everyone who serves in the nursery.

9/23/19

Hello All,

My wife, Ann, likes to do puzzles. This week she started working on a 2,000 piece one on our dining room table. It is the biggest she has ever attempted. Needless to say, it isn’t easy, it took us 45 minutes just to get all the pieces flipped over. I knew that unless I wanted our dining room table to be covered in a half finished puzzle I better help out. 

When working on a puzzle of this size and complexity every piece that connects has to be celebrated as a victory. If the only time Ann or I gained any satisfaction from doing the puzzle was when the final piece was put in place then the whole process of putting it together would be more of a burden than a source of enjoyment. To enjoy what is supposed to be a fun activity every victory, however small, has to be celebrated. Otherwise doing the puzzle becomes a burden rather than a source of enjoyment. 

Putting together a life is similar to putting together a puzzle. Too often we fall into the trap of thinking we will take time to celebrate when every aspect of our lives is in its proper place. Doing so tends to lead to despair. In this world we never gain the satisfaction of completing the puzzle of existence. If we want to be satisfied with the lives we lead we must remember to celebrate each small success that gets us one step closer to our ultimate goal. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Peter Grifoni for giving multiple Gordon College students a ride yesterday. 

9/16/19

Hello All,
 
I have lived in my current home for over 7 years. For the majority of that time, my guess would be 5 years, the drain in our downstairs tub has been malfunctioning. This is the tub that my kids most often take baths in. It would hold water just fine. The problem was when I would try to drain the water the piece of metal that you push down to allow the water to drain would not stay down. My solution was to put a wet rag over the metal switch to hold it in place.
Last week I replaced the mechanism to fix the problem. Doing so took me about 20 minutes. If I were more competent it would have been even less. When I was done I realized I had allowed a problem to linger in my life for several years that had an easy solution. The reason I hadn’t addressed it before was a combination of ignorance, apathy, and fear. I didn’t know how easy it would be to fix the problem, was to lazy to find out, and was scared of the cost of fixing the problem.
 
When I think about my life the majority of the chronic problems I face are a similar combination of the factors that kept me from fixing my tub. I do nothing about them because I lack knowledge, will, and confidence. If I would just put myself out there and make a little effort I could address most things in my life. By not doing this I am choosing to live with a problem. In the short-term this is easier, but in the long-term it is always a losing proposition.
 
In Christ,
Brent
 
P.S. Thank-you to Jake Murray for organizing the Taste and See yesterday.

9/10/19

Pastor’s Wife’s Corner

Hello All,

I used to love a good fight, Brent might say I still do! According to Ancestry DNA, I’m 35% Irish and Scottish, so maybe it’s in my blood  I’m the baby of an opinionated family of 8. I am loud, talkative and have opinions on almost everything. Lately, though, I’ve found I’m less and less interested in arguing. It seems there’s already so much noise.

      I wonder now, why do I get so worked up? What is it that makes me so angry? Why do I feel so compelled to get involved in these conversations? Sometimes I am experiencing righteous anger and can’t stand idly by while injustice is being done or while God’s name is being slandered. However, if I’m honest with myself, most often I’m angry because I feel personally attacked or wronged. Often there’s something I’m holding onto that I find my identity in and that I’ve made into an idol. I’ve really been struck lately by how not Biblical this is. This is in direct opposition to the words and life of Christ who commanded us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) and who told us “blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

As Christians, we need to be careful about what we enter the arena for. We bear the name of Christ and are his representatives. Of course, we are sinners and realize our brokenness- that’s why we are drawn to Christianity. However, we should be striving toward reconciliation and peace, not to be constantly affirming our own agendas. This is a time of amazing opportunity for us- in a world filled with Twitter wars, partisan politics, FB rants, dueling statistics, Christians have an incredible call to bring God’s peace and share his love. What a beautiful gift and a lofty vision for our society!

Sincerely,
Ann Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to all the ladies that are helping out with the women’s group that I am launching on Tuesday mornings beginning September 24th.

9/3/19

Hello All, 

    Yesterday afternoon I went on a bike ride on the greenway close to my house with my wife, Ann, and our 4 kids. About halfway into the ride I got a flat tire on my bike. Not wanting to ruin the rest of my family’s enjoyment of a beautiful day I sent them on without me. I got home before them. About 5 minutes later my two older sons busted in exclaiming that my 3rd son had fallen off his bike and that his hand might be broken. My oldest son also reported he had made an obnoxious joke at the expense of his injured younger brother. When I found Ann and our two younger kids it turned out everyone was fine, just a few scrapes. 

   Now normally a family bike ride playing out this way would put me in a pretty sour mood. Yesterday that was not the case. This was mostly because at the beginning of our ride we had crossed the path of some friends who have been dealing with some really serious health problems in their family. We had stopped to talk with them for a few minutes about how things were going. Letting a flat tire or skinned up hand upset me seemed pretty ridiculous in comparison. 

   If I am honest with myself most of the problems that arise in my life are not worth getting bent out of shape over. They are “first-world problems” that arise out of my privilege. I have a job, place to live, food on the table, and a healthy family. Recognizing that real challenges exist around the world and next door helps me to put my own frustrations in perspective. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Chrissy Rupp and Jane Spellman for helping out with the service Sunday.  

8/26/19

Hello All, 

      Recently my wife, Ann, and I went to the furniture store searching for a new couch. I was excited about making this purchase. Our current loveseat was purchased back in 2006. In the past few years it has become increasingly dirty and uncomfortable, frankly I find it a bit embarrassing. 

     Upon our arrival at the store I immediately felt overwhelmed. There were literally a million different options in addition to the fact that the designer of the store intentionally set it up as a maze. Thankfully Ann and I decided to do something that we normally don’t. We asked a salesman named Allen for help. He guided us through all the decisions we needed to make to end up with the couch we wanted. Without our salesman Ann and I probably would have eventually found a couch we wanted, but the whole process would have been much more difficult and time consuming. 

    In general, when making decisions about life it is helpful to have a knowledgeable guide, someone that can help show the way forward. Everyone should have a person or several people that provides mentoring in the major areas of life: family, career, and faith. A mentor’s job is not to make decisions for you, but to help you make the best decisions possible. The first step to finding such a person is being humble enough to admit your own knowledge deficits. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Sharon and John Trudel for being consistently amazing. 

8/19/19

Hello All,

     The other day I took my 4 sons on an afternoon canoeing adventure.  I brought Pogo, our family’s 4 year old mini Australian Shepherd, along with us. While he doesn’t seem to enjoy riding in the canoe he does prefer it to being left behind at home. Unfortunately the canoeing excursion didn’t go as planned. I won’t bore you with the details, but by the time we got back home everyone involved needed a bath to wash off the river’s muck, including the dog. 

    Pogo does not enjoy baths. As soon as he realizes I am turning on the hose to give him one he hides under the deck. For Pogo the only thing worse than a bath is what follows. I towel him off as much as I can then leave him on the back porch to finish drying. He cannot stand being left on the back porch. Pogo wants to be part of our family at all times, any separation seems like a punishment. What Pogo doesn’t understand is the different things I had him do, canoeing and getting bathed, were actually both efforts on my part to improve his life. It would have been a lot easier to just leave him at home. 

    When it comes to my own life I often share Pogo’s perspective on my experiences. I assume that the things I don’t enjoy are God’s effort to teach me some sort of lesson. I wonder how much of the time the experience I consider less than ideal are actually a result of God including me in something that is actually for my own good. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Bob and Linda Libbert for all their service over the decades in a variety of areas, you will both be missed. 

8/12/19

Hello All,

          Last week my wife, Ann, and I had some friends visit from Tennessee as part of their 2 week trip to New England. Like us they have 4 children under the age of 11. Needless to say, our house was full of life for the 3 nights they stayed with us. Incredibly, everyone had a great time, and nobody ended up in the Emergency Room. I did have to apologize for accidentally shooting a 9 year old in the face with a NERF bullet!  

To transport their family around our friends had rented a 2019 Chevy Suburban. Unbeknownst to them they had rented my dream car. Since I was a teenager I have always thought Suburbans were awesome. Now that I have 4 kids of my own and am living in New England a vehicle that can carry so many people and drive in the snow also seems practical. It is especially easy to think how great a pristine new Suburban would be when I compare it in my mind with my own 2006 Toyota Sienna minivan which has scratches on the side and enough Goldfish crackers crushed into the carpet to feed a small village. 

The day my friends were leaving the wife mentioned in passing that when they first picked up the Suburban they were impressed by how nice it was. Now, 2 weeks later, it looked basically the same as their car at home with wrappers on the floor and goldfish in every crevice. Changing the car didn’t change who they were as a family. 

My friend’s comment really struck me. So often in life we think that if we change some external factor our life will be better. Sometimes doing so does help a little, but usually not much. We are still the same people with the same ways of living. If I got a new Suburban for a short time it would look different from my, but before long it would look the same as my current van. 

For life to change in a lasting way the person living that life must change. Rarely is the solution a new car, house, job, or marriage. If we really want to change we must change ourselves, the way we think and make decisions. Otherwise we will just recreate the same problematic situation in a new environment. 

In Christ

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Shirley Harriman, Randi Fuller, Doug Dawes, Greg Downs, and Sharon Downs for doing a fantastic job creating a welcoming environment for families at Saturday’s Mission’s Dinner. 

8/5/19

Hello All,

      When I go to the store I normally choose self-checkout. Part of my motivation for this is that I want to get out of the store as quickly as possible. I tell myself that if I can just manage to get through the automated checkout process without any hiccups it will save me time. Of course this logic requires me to ignore my previous experiences that tell me self-checkout machines appear designed to malfunction, but that is a topic for another day. The other reason I choose to avoid a living cashier is more nefarious. Doing so means I can go about my day without talking to another human being. As an introvert this is appealing to me. 

      Moving through the world we have more and more options that make it possible for us to interact with a screen instead of a living person. We can now pay at the pump, do banking through ATM’s, and even get prescription medications delivered to our home. None of these things is bad, the convenience they offer is wonderful. However, they do contribute to one of the biggest problems in today’s world. Added together all our conveniences contribute to a society with record levels of loneliness. This loneliness is a primary reason for the epidemic of depression. 

     If we always opt for convenience our whole life will be lived through a screen. Such a life will be incredibly convenient, it will also be incredibly lonely. To counteract isolation we must make intentional decisions to invest the time for real face-to-face interactions with other people. The small decisions we make every day are brushstrokes with which we paint a picture that becomes our lives. To have a beautiful life we need to be intentional about these small decisions. 

In Christ,

Brent 

7/30/19

Hello All,
Recently I took my two older sons backpacking for the first time with my good friend Peter. We parked at the Willey House off route 302 in the White Mountains. From there we ascended the Kedron Flume Trail to the Ethan Pond Trail. We camped at a campsite next to Ethan Pond. The distance we hiked carrying all of our camping gear was relatively small, about 2.3 miles. The elevation we gained was not; over 2600 feet. Needless to say making the climb was not easy.
As we reached Ethan Pond the sun was setting over the lake. It was beautiful. In that moment I was struck by the grandeur of the world God created. The picture really doesn’t do it justice. Especially a picture taken on a cell phone I bought for $50.
My appreciation for the landscape was related to the amount of effort it had taken me to get to that point. I valued it more because of how much effort I put into getting to that place. It definitely would have been easier to just search for a picture of Ethan Pond on Google. There are an infinite array of easy options routinely offered to us with the click of a button. To truly experience the best things in this world effort is required. Beauty, love, or truth don’t come easily, but they are worth the effort.

In Christ,
Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Nathan Hunter for helping the church out of a pinch the past two weeks.

7/15/19

Hello All,

    Several weeks ago I wrote a Pastor’s Corner post about a tree in my yard that was dangerously large and dangerously close to the bedroom of my 4 and 7 year-old sons. We had a tree service come and take the tree down. What I didn’t report at the time is that the morning the tree service showed up with their massive crane did not go smoothly. When they pulled onto my driveway the weight of the truck cratered the asphalt. I knew my driveway was not in great condition. It turns out I didn’t realize how bad. The weight of the truck was simply to much for it. 

       The situation with my driveway is not really that unusual. When we deal with a problem it tends to reveal other problems that we either didn’t know existed or didn’t think were all that bad. Confronting some issue puts pressure on other areas of our life. In the process weakness are revealed. This is why people often avoid dealing with problems, they don’t want to deal with other issues that may arise. 

While I am certainly not happy about the state of my driveway I don’t regret getting the tree cut down. Accepting the risk that other areas of life will be affected when we deal with problems is necessary. It is better to proactively take that risk when we are at a point of sufficient stability then wait for problems to become manifest at a time not of our choosing. 

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to everyone that is volunteering to help out with VBS this week at Byfield. 

7/8/19

Hello All,

         When I first read a review for Marie Kondo’s 2014 book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was ambivalent. It didn’t sound particularly life changing to me, to be honest. I’m mostly neat and don’t have a hoarding problem in general (clothes being the obvious exception as they are the topic of this post). Curiosity over all of the buzz belatedly got the best of me, so I finally read Kondo’s book and watched an episode of her show on Netflix. I was intrigued by her concept of only keeping things that “sparked joy” in me. My overflowing clothes bin of spring/summer garments before me, I purposed to be ruthless in my quest to eliminate the excess. 

       Unfortunately, I hit the chink in Marie Kondo’s armor… It appears that she significantly underestimated the amount of garment joy I could possess. Pants that haven’t fit since baby number 4? I LOVE those pants! Another black shirt? This is the only one that has ¾ length sleeves and thus is seasonally versatile! A shirt with tiny holes in the bottom… Deemed unwearable, but I will keep the lace part of it to use to sew onto a different shirt as a fun embellishment! Considering last December I spent forever sewing 2 basic square pillowcases and it was roughly the equivalent effort of birthing a child, this seems optimistic at best. You get my drift.

       I can only be partially productive sorting through my things, because I lack both a realistic perspective and discipline in this area. This is where I need to call in reinforcements. In this case, due to limited options within my house, Brent was the unfortunate winner of this dubious honor. My husband has a much easier time getting rid of my clothes, mostly because they all look basically the same to him. Nuance in the realm of fashion is totally lost on him. Brent doesn’t have a problem with clothes hoarding, so he can easily make wiser decisions in this area (which I may or may not veto). 

    We all have problems in our lives that we either cannot see or that we are ill-equipped or simply disinclined to handle. We were never meant to battle alone. God has given us each other to guide and support us. Seek Godly community and let’s spur one another on to do good!

In Christ,

Ann Fugate

P.S.(from Brent) Thank-you to everyone at BPC who makes the church a welcoming place. 

6/17/19

Hello All,

   Since I moved into my house 7 years ago there has been an issue that has cast a shadow over the existence of my family in our home. This shadow is both literal and figurative. On a hillside about 20 feet back from the southwest corner of my house is a tree that is probably 100 feet tall. My two younger sons sleep in a bedroom located in that corner or the house. On windy nights when the trees creak it is not hard to visualize this tree crashing into our house.

    For seven years I always thought later would be a better time to deal with the problematic tree. I would tell myself that next month there would be more money in the budget. The fact is later never arrived, later was always in the future. I wasn’t motivated to spend a couple thousand dollars on something that wasn’t actually a problem. Until one day I decided I had spent enough windy nights imagining terrible things it was time to deal with the tree.

  Often the problems in our lives that drain much of our energy are the problems we can put off for another day. We don’t want to deal with these problems because we know there will be costs, whether they be relational, financial, or something else. The human tendency is to ignore our problems until it is no longer possible to do so. This procrastination is draining. Whatever our problems might be the time to deal with them is not later. Later the problem will be a catastrophe, whereas today we can make the choice to deal with a problem proactively on our own terms.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Robin Hudson for all her work with the Byfield Youth Choir! My boys have grown tremendously through it.

6/10/19

Hello All,

Recently I have been fighting an ongoing battle with ticks. At least once or twice a week when I am petting my dog Pogo I find one of these disgusting blood sucking arachnids attached to him. Whenever I find one I follow the same routine. I go grab a lighter and put the fire to the tick until it pops. I’ve been told fire is the only way to destroy a tick. I am not sure if that is an old wives tale or not, but I know it is effective.

When I destroy a tick I feel no guilt. Ticks are parasites, they drain life and spread disease. There is no bargaining with them. If I simply throw the tick back out in the woods it would not learn its lesson, or change its ways. No with ticks there is no compromise. I imagine even the most ardent environmentalist would have no issues with my wanton destruction of these little animals. I guess I’ll find out, posting something like this on Facebook is the best way to discover some hitherto unknown constituency exists that supports ticks.

Ticks sole ambition is to drain physical life from living things for their own survival. Every person has mental ‘ticks’ that survive the same way. Parasitic beliefs that drain energy and spread disease. They tell their hosts love must be earned, failure is inevitable, and a host of other lies. The best way to deal with these flawed convictions is to search them out then mercilessly destroy them. The best way to destroy them is expose them to God, like a tick exposed to fire they will cease to exist when we bring them into the presence of Truth personified.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Thane Cumming for transporting the grill back and forth for the picnic yesterday.

6/4/19

Pastor’s Wife’s Corner

Hello All,

I recently flew to Virginia. As I reached my aisle on the plane, I had to slide past my seatmate to secure my middle seat. She looked very put together and didn’t reciprocate my smile. I made what I thought was a funny comment as I settled into my seat and she clearly signaled that I was either not funny or that she simply wasn’t interested in having any further social contact in this scenario. Honestly, as a mother of 4 young children, I was pretty psyched to sit on a plane and read without anyone talking to me or interrupting me, so this deal suited me just fine. Nothing during the majority of the flight disabused me of my first impression. I kept to my book and the only comment my seatmate directed at me was to cordially request that I aim my air spigot away from her.

BLAM!!! The plane suddenly dropped like a malfunctioning roller coaster. People began screaming. An overhead luggage compartment lurched open. Water from a man’s cup flew through the air. Most surprisingly, the woman next to me screamed out loud and grabbed my hand urgently. As soon as we evened out, my seatmate quickly withdrew her manicured hand and muttered a humiliated, “I’m so sorry I grabbed your hand… that was really scary”. I tried to smile in a reassuringly nonchalant way, as if strangers gripping my hand like a life preserver was totally normal. My words didn’t assuage her embarrassment at all, so I returned to my book.

BLAM!!! The plane dropped precipitously again. Instinctively she reached out, grabbed my hand, and squeezed it desperately as we careened through the air for several long moments. Once again when the plane began to fly more smoothly, she turned to me and apologized profusely for grabbing my hand. As we began our descent and taxied into the terminal, our whole row talked about how crazy the flight was and how scary it had been.

It immediately struck me that we hadn’t sought a connection. Yet, the moment adversity and fear gripped her, this woman’s base instinct compelled her to reach out for the comfort of another human. This vulnerable move dismantled our barriers. Her mask had slipped and the humanity had forced its way out, and it paved the way to connection and relationship. It reminded me that we ultimately need and long for connection, sometimes even against our own will. We can only truly connect when we allow ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable with each other.

In Christ,

Ann

P.S. Thank-you to all the women who attended my Sunday school class this spring. You encouraged me greatly and spurred me on to study God’s Word way more than I would have without you. It was a pleasure and a joy!

5/27/19

Hello All,

    Yesterday I was teaching my oldest son to mow the yard for the first time. This is a momentous event in his life and mine. For him mowing is a new level of responsibility, a step towards manhood. It indicates that I think he is smart enough and strong enough to perform the task. For me him mowing is a big deal as well. If he can do it that means I don’t have to anymore. That’s why I had kids in the first place right? So they would do the things I don’t want to do.(Kidding of course…….kind of.)

     Well it turns out mowing is more difficult than it looks. As I was teaching him the basics of starting the lawn mower I realized there’s more to the task than I normally think about. Once the lawn mower gets going there is still a lot to consider. Frankly my son was not very good at mowing. I don’t know if anyone is a natural at it, but he certainly is not. As I watched him struggle with the mower I was tempted to intervene. I chose not to. For him to learn how to mow well the struggle is necessary.

     I wonder how often God looks down on us, His children, trying to complete some task and makes a similar decision. We learn by doing.  It would be easy for God to intervene as we zig and zag through life cutting a chaotic path. I have no doubt our wrestling with challenges that face us does not appear particularly coordinated. There are times that God does not intervene because He knows the struggle is necessary for us to learn and grow.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Nathan Hunter and Bill Terry for their efforts to maintain a safe environment at BPC.

5/21/19

Hello All,

The other morning I was cutting a bagel for breakfast. Despite the fact I’ve done this many times, or maybe because I have done it so many times my finger got in the way of the knife. The resulting cut was not particularly significant. It barely required a band-aid, nonetheless it was nuisance.

After the bleeding stopped and I got over my annoyance with myself for cutting my own finger I went back to my normal routine. Except it turned out my normal routine was more of a challenge. Turns out I use my ring finger way more that I realize. It may be the 4th most important finger, but it is still pretty important. Not only am I worse at accomplishing basic tasks, I have to figure out ways for my other fingers to compensate.

Many communities, whether they be families, businesses, or churches, operate in a similar fashion to my hand with a cut finger. One person being limited in some way impacts everyone else. It is in everyone’s interest that is in a community to see that the person who is hurting within it heals. Whoever is at fault for the injuries that limit those we are in community with all benefit from helping them heal.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Byfield’s organist Holly Nowak for being consistently excellent at what she does.

5/13/19

Hello All,

   On Saturday evening I went with my wife and kids on a tour of the New England Reptile Distributors in Plaistow, NH. In addition to a pet store this business is a breeding facility for all sorts of reptiles. For a nominal fee those who want to can go on a tour can see where Caiman Crocodiles, Reticulated Pythons, Ball Pythons, Gila Monsters and other creatures are bred. I didn’t ask why anyone would want any of these species as a pet. Owning an animal that only moves when it is ingesting thawed out rodents is not appealing to me, but apparently there is a demand.

   One of the most interesting creatures my family saw was an Alligator Snapping Turtle. The one that they had on site weighed over 100 pounds and was probably close to 150 years old. In the wild these turtles sit in murky water waiting for something, preferably a fish, to enter its mouth. When that happens the jaws of the animal snap shut with a powerful bite.

   As our tour watched the turtle sitting on the floor I wondered why anything would come within 10 feet of the gaping mouth. Our knowledgeable tour guide answered that question before I could verbalize it. Turns out the turtles have a small organ in their mouth similar to a tongue that looks like a worm. Fish see the tongue, think it is a worm, and swim right into the mouth where they meet an abrupt end.

   Sin operates in a very similar way to an Alligator Snapping Turtle. There is something appealing, something we want that draws us in. We think that we have to have it. Like a fish searching for a worm we think the thing we hunger for will give us life. We go to the thing we desire not recognizing we are being lured into a trap from which we cannot easily escape. In the end our search for gratification in the wrong place leads to an outcome we would rather avoid.  

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jim MacDonald for leading the first portion of Byfield’s worship service most weeks.

5/7/19

Hello All,

   I moved into my current home about 7 years ago. At that time everything was fresh and new, the previous owners had made sure everything was in the best possible condition. Their efforts included a fresh coat of white paint on all the trim. In the past 7 years that nice white paint was nicked and stained. My wife decided it was time I do something about it. So I took a couple of days off work to paint all the trim in the house.

   Perhaps painting is not actually the right word to describe how I spent my time. You see painting implies that I was dipping a brush into paint and applying it to the trim. That is not what I was doing most of the time. I think a better verb would be prepping, because the vast majority of my time was spent doing just that. Moving furniture, wiping the area clean, filling in holes with putty, sanding, and finally taping. The actual painting was less than 25% of my effort.

    What is true of painting is true of most things. We spend most of our life in preparing for one thing or another. We prepare kids for 18 years for adulthood. Eating only happens after shopping and cooking. The more worthwhile a particular thing is the more time it will require for preparation. For Christians all of life is preparation. Thankfully the effort we put in now is worth the results.

In Christ,

Brent

4/29/19

Hello All,

   March this year felt like an insane whirlwind, so when April vacation rolled around this year, my family decided to do a staycation rather than trying to muster up the energy for a trip. In an effort to make it fun, we looked up ideas on Groupon. We were able to purchase inexpensive tickets to the Garden Bros Circus at the Tsongas Center in Lowell. As soon as I got inside the arena I understood why. The circus apparently makes most of its money off of the stuff they sell once they have a captive audience; cheap, obnoxious toys and food that’s terrible for you. My kids, of course, wanted as much as they could get from both of those categories.

     One of the things our family splurged on was a huge bag of cotton candy that cost an outrageous $13 and was the height of my 4 year old. Throughout the show I doled it out to my kiddos in an attempt to manage the upcoming sugar crash. At the end of the show I still had half a bag left. I wanted to throw it away, but felt wasteful throwing over $6 of cotton candy in the trash so I took it home.

     For the next several days it sat on top of the refrigerator. Finally I decided to just get rid of it by washing it down the sink. When water hit the cotton candy I was astonished at how it instantaneously dissolved into nothingness. I knew it was insubstantial, but I failed to realize the full extent of it’s immateriality.

    Our world is filled with offerings that are very similar to cotton candy. Expensive things that we hunger for, and don’t want to let go of once we have them: cars, homes, technology, etc. These things promise satisfaction, and sometimes they even provide it temporarily. Eventually all these things will dissolve like cotton candy swirling down the drain. They are ephemeral and therefore will not last or ultimate satisfy. We should keep that in mind as we determine how to use the time and money God has blessed us with.

In Christ,
Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Alene Vienneau, Becky Murray, Carolyn Grifoni, Jenny Ford, Joyce MacDonald, Sarah Hunter and TIna Cochran from the Women’s Team for putting on another great event with Saturday’s Women’s Luncheon.

4/16/19

Hello All,
Each April my wife, Ann, makes our bedroom temporarily look like a tornado has swept through. She or I pull the bins that contain clothes for our 4 sons out of the attic. She spends many hours over a period of multiple days going through them. Finding out what we have, what we need, and what we can get rid of. Ann then takes the clothes in the boys’ closets from the colder months and packs them away in those same bins which are returned to the attic. In the Fall the same process will repeat itself in reverse.
The growth of our boys and the change of seasons results in regular times of chaotic adjustment. While I don’t enjoy these times, or look forward to them, I realize they are unavoidable. Change and the chaos it brings are part of living in a world that is always in flux. Ann and I have no control over the growth of our sons or the seasons. If we did Spring in New England would look a lot more like Spring in Tennessee where we are from.
What we do have control over, what everyone has control over is how we respond to the changes in the world and the chaos that results. Everyone has a choice between being proactive and reactive. A reactive approach tries to avoid change as long as possible, when forced to deal with change, the reactive person sees themselves as a victim of it. A proactive approach recognizes change will happen and responds with agency. The person who takes this approach isn’t victimized by change, they are challenged by it to conquer something new. Change, good and bad, is inevitable. How we respond, as victims or conquerors, is up to us.
 
In Christ,
Brent
 
P.S. Thank-you to Jenneth Scharlach for always keeping the kids organized.

4/8/19

Hello All,
Since moving into my house in August of 2012 I have had a problematic relationship with the hydrangeas in my garden. Initially things were good, the first year we were there they bloomed beautifully. The second year, the honeymoon ended, they hardly bloomed at all. I thought they needed to be trimmed down some. The result of my labors in the third year was that the hydrangeas didn’t flower at all. My wife, Ann, was insistent I had killed them. In years 4 and 5 they proved they were still alive but still refused to blossom. I tried to fertilize them with no noticeable effect. Finally last year Ann talked to our neighbor who loves to garden. She taught Ann to pull out the dead branches. At the end of last growing season we finally got to see a few flowers.
Yesterday Ann and I spent some time pulling out dead branches in the hopes the bushes would truly flourish this year. The challenge is that it is not obvious which branches are dead and which are living in the Spring. You just have to give each one a tug. The ones that pull away easily are dead. All the dead wood is what keeps the hydrangeas from thriving as they should, but removing it is not easy.
People have dead wood in our lives as well. Detritus that builds up and keeps us from thriving as God intends. It blocks God’s grace that acts as the fertilizer in our lives. The only way to deal with this ‘dead wood’ is to put in the unpleasant work of removing it. It is no fun and it takes time, but the end result is worth it. If your life is not flowering take the time to remove the dead wood.
 
In Christ,
Brent
 
P.S. Thank-you to Bill Ferguson for preaching yesterday, it was awesome for me to hear God’s Word expounded with passion.

4/3/19

Hello All,

     I don’t enjoy feeling foolish. I am quite confident that I am not alone in this; I’m pretty sure nobody does. I guess that’s actually not totally true, I do still remember being a teenage boy. Stupidity seemed more fun when I was 17 driving around with my friends. Nevertheless, foolishness is something I’d prefer to steer clear of in the present. Today I felt foolish multiple times.

    The reason I felt the way I did was that I tried multiple new things for my job including some editing on the church website, and figuring out how to work with the Post Office on another project. There is no quicker way to gain an awareness of your own incompetence than to try something new. When I haven’t done something before I am generally pretty bad at it.

      I could avoid feeling foolish by not trying new things. I could stick to what I am comfortable with, and my comfort zone. Doing so would insulate me from the feeling of ineptitude I abhor. It wouldn’t mean I wasn’t a fool though, it would only mean I wasn’t aware of my foolishness. Ironically the only way to not be fool is to not care about feelings of foolishness that are part of doing things we are not used to.

In Christ,

Brent Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to Paul Moskevitz for leading the Iron Sharpens Iron effort.  

3/25/19

Hello All,

   Recently life at my house has been really busy. In addition to school, church, and other routine weekly commitments there has been a lot else going on. Two of my sons have birthdays in March. Another has a birthday next week. This means we have had a lot of celebrations as well as family coming into visit. My father-in-law and a nephew came in from Tennessee last weekend and my Mom and another nephew come this weekend. There have also been unusual church, school, and family activities.

    While my kids have held up well, there is evidence they need a break. The video above indicates my youngest is exhausted. His next older brother has decided yelling is the most effective way to communicate. My other boys are more sensitive and easily angered. You can tell everybody is doing there best to hold it together, but what they all really need is a bit of recuperation.(Don’t feel to sorry for them, they are mostly exhausted by all the fun they are having!)

    Everyone has limits. These limits are more obvious with children, but adults have them as well. We can push ourselves for awhile, but eventually we will reap the consequences physically, mentally, and/or spiritually. I know I need a break when the muscle in my right eyelid starts twitching. We need to know ourselves well enough to know our limits. This sort of knowledge can feel like admitting weakness, but recognizing our limitations helps us to make decisions about how we want to invest that energy in a world with so many options.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jon Rudolph and Chuck Davis, two leaders who consistently invest their energy in serving others.

3/18/19

Hello All,

  Recently Pogo, my dog, has been a bit discontent. I guess this is not surprising between daily walks, laying on the couch, barking at delivery men, eating, and going to doggie daycare, he has so much to juggle(sarcasm intended). The real reason for Pogo’s dissatisfaction with his life is I had to place him on a diet. It turns out in the two years he has been with our family he has gotten a bit hefty. I didn’t realize this was the case until I took him to the vet for a check-up. The vet encouraged me to feed him about 10-20% less daily.

   There is just one problem. Pogo is not on board with this lowered calorie count. He has started getting into the trash outside to supplement the meager rations he receives within the house. In his mind he is suffering unnecessarily. Pogo resists the limitations I try to place around him. His accusing eyes imply he thinks they are mean spirited on my part. What he doesn’t know is that I am actually trying to help him live a longer and healthier life.

   People often resist God’s boundaries the same way Pogo resists the diet I have placed him on. All we can see is what we think will make our life better in the short-term. The problem is we don’t see how unhealthy many of our desires are. God doesn’t place limits on us out of grouchiness or to ruin our fun. The limits God initiates are based on the knowledge He has of what will lead to a better life. When we ignore those limits and do our own thing we may think we are getting what we want, but we are really just filling up on trash.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jayce Mojica, Bob Libbert, Sedric Miner, John Horne, Peter Grifoni, nathan Hunter, and Chris Ford for running the audio-visual equipment every Sunday.

3/12/19

Hello All,

   Anytime I am returning home in the midst of a snow storm I have a decision to make. My house is located on a hill in Amesbury. There are two possible streets I can take to get home, both involve going uphill. One of the hills is long and reasonably steep, the other is short and very steep. My car has gotten stuck on each street at different times. Which option is better depends on a variety of factors including the type of snow, the rate it is falling, and how many plow truck drivers the town is willing to pay that particular day.

    Sunday afternoon returning from church I was faced with a decision regarding which way to go. It felt like a 6 one way half-dozen the other proposition on which way to go. I chose the shorter steeper hill. Once the decision is made the worst thing to do is question it. To make it up either hill I have to drive as if the decision I’ve made was the right one. Tentativeness rooted in questioning the decision I have made only increases the chances that I will fail.  

  There are many decision where the right answer is not clear. Sometimes it’s a choice between two options that seem equally bad, other times between two options that seem equally good. Either way once the decision has been made there isn’t much value in continuing to question whether the right choice was made. The best thing to move forward as if the path that has been committed to was the only one available.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to the Mission’s Committee(Doug, Sharon, Greg, Nicole, Shirley, Sharon, and Randy) for all they are doing this month.

3/5/19

Hello All,

     Yesterday my kids spent the morning playing in the fresh snow.  They built snow forts, threw snowballs at each other, and tried to sled. For a while everything was going well. Then the plow guy came and cleared my driveway. He pushed up a large pile of snow at the end of the driveway. This mound became a hill worth dying on within a few minutes. They began to argue about who the pile of snow belonged to. I eventually stuck my head out the window and reminded them that the snow belonged to me, after all I’m the one that paid the plow guy.

     I imagine God looks down at human beings and has a similar reaction to the territorial arguments we have over things, other people, and positions of power. We are constantly striving to have more in all areas of our life. This striving leads to relational division.  

     And for what? The things we as people can gain control of in this world are always temporary. All the things we strive and compete with others for will pass away. Within weeks the snow pile at the end of my driveway will melt away, there will be nothing left. It may take a bit longer, but eventually this world will also melt away. The things worth fighting for are the things that will outlast this present world; truth and love. Everything else is here today, and gone tomorrow.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S.  Thank-you to the Women’s Ministry Team for another great event last Saturday night.

2/26/19

Hello All,

  Thursday evening I sat on the patio of a restaurant in Havana, Cuba with two men. One of the men was an American I had traveled down with. The other a Cuban pastor I had never met before my trip. In the course of our conversation the Cuban pastor asked where I had gone to college. When I answered he replied he had once visited a friend in the city where my alma mater was located. I asked the friend’s name. It turned out his friend was my church youth leader when I was 16, a man who had a significant impact on my life.

   I was shocked by the connection. I’m not sure what the statistical probabilities of this happening are, but one in a million seems low. Here I was sitting in country where I had no prior experience talking to a man I had never met 6 days before. His world and my world are divided by geography and politics. Despite these divisions we both had a connection to another man.

   No man is an island. All people are connected to others in ways that boggle the mind. Microsoft states every person in the world is connected to every other by only 6.6 degrees of separation. The way we live impacts others. Our everyday actions affect those closest to us, spreading from there into the lives of other people we are not even conscious of. There is really no such thing as a victimless crime, just as there is no such thing as a meaningless good. It turns out the world is actually a very small place.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to the Cuba Team(Jay, Janet, Judith, and Jon) for their patience, hard-work, and love.

2/12/19

Hello All,

  Last Thursday I took my 3 older sons skiing up at Pat’s Peak in Henniker, NH with my friend Pete. It was our first time skiing there. Upon arrival we discovered that the resort had a really fun and easy terrain park consisting of small obstacles. The trick for being able to do most of them was momentum. You have to be going fast enough that when you reach a particular obstacle that your speed will carry you over it.

    Maintaining momentum when skiing requires the skier to look ahead to where they want to be. This is difficult to do when trying to overcome an unfamiliar obstacle that’s close. Everyone’s tendency is to focus on the thing they fear in their immediate path. While these barriers must be taken into account if they become the sole focus the skier will lose the speed needed to overcome the obstacle.  

   Life has obstacles as well. When we focus on them to much we lose our forward momentum. As with skiing the trick in life is to take into account whatever problem is immediately in our path while maintaining focus on where we would like to be. When we can do this we often find that problems that seem insurmountable when we focus on them are actually manageable bumps in the road when we keep an eye on where we want to be.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Terry and Bill Terry for the work they did to make last Saturday evening’s square dance possible.

2/5/19

https://www.patriots.com/video/gilmore-plucks-goff-s-deep-ball-out-of-the-air-for-red-zone-int

Hello All,

   On Sunday night the New England Patriots won their 6th Super Bowl. Tom Brady’s legacy as the G.O.A.T. was affirmed, not that further affirmation was needed. Julian Edelman won the award for the games Most Valuable Player after snagging 10 catches for 141 yards. While nobody can deny the importance of Brady or Edelman anyone who watched the game can tell you that the the Patriots’ defense won the game.

      No team has ever won a Super Bowl scoring as few points as the Patriots did. The defensive domination of the Patriots was not the result of any one player’s spectacular performance. Even the 4th quarter interception that effectively sealed the game was an easy catch by cornerback Stephon Gilmore made possible by the other 10 men on the field all doing their job.

     In life as in football individual excellence, the Tom Brady’s and Julian Edelman’s, are celebrated. The fact is most great things are not accomplished by one person that is head and shoulders above the rest, but by a group of people that have to come together for a common purpose. Being part of such a group requires a willingness to be selfless. Football teams, families, companies, and churches that have a culture of selflessness will accomplish more than any person could hope to accomplish individually. As Jesus said in Luke 14:11, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In Christ,

Brent Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to Rich and Leisa Baker for going to Panera every week for the food used on Sunday mornings.

1/29/19

Hello All,

  For the past week my teeth have been sensitive. This increased sensitivity was the result of a dentist appointment from last Monday. Apparently I had been doing a poor job flossing and brushing around my gumline, plaque had built up. The dental hygienist who was cleaning my teeth could generously be described as a “deep cleaner”. She aggressively used her instruments to restore my teeth to the most pristine possible condition.

   While my experience at the dentist office was not a pleasant one I realize that it was necessary. The build-up that the hygienist scraped off would cause problems later if left alone.  In the short-term my newly clean teeth are actually less comfortable though. I am used to having the protection that the plaque provided, without it I have to deal with increased teeth sensitivity. While the plaque was problematic it was also protective.

  The same phenomenon plays out with sin. Over time people develop  unhealthy patterns of interacting with the world, a type of spiritual plaque build-up. They are a natural product of living in the world. Long-term these patterns will cause problems, but in the short-term they cover areas where we are sensitive. For God to address the plaques in our personality we must be willing to deal with the short-term sensitivity that will certainly come along with their removal. The only alternative is to let sin fester. This option may be more comfortable in the present, but in the long run we are much better off letting God deal with the sin that will inevitably cause much worse future problems.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Terry and Bill Terry for helping out with lunch for the Teen Challenge guys on Sunday.

1/22/19

Hello All,

   On Friday morning I pulled out of my driveway with my 3 older sons for a 2 day ski excursion at Smuggler’s Notch Resort in Vermont. You can probably imagine that getting myself and 3 kids out the door with all our ski gear is no easy task. I was feeling time pressure due to the fact that my youngest had a ski lesson beginning at 10 AM. I quickly grabbed my phone, opened Google Maps, plugged in Smugglers Notch, and set off. 3 hours later I pulled up at Smuggler’s Notch, unfortunately it was not the correct destination. I needed to be at Smuggler’s Notch Resort, but instead I was at Smuggler’s Notch State Park. While the two locations are only about 5 miles away from one another as the crow flies there is no way to travel that 5 miles from the park to the resort in the winter. The road between the two is impassable. I was forced to drive an additional hour to get to the resort the only way possible, because I had not been paying enough attention when I plugged in my destination.

  You will sometimes hear people say that God is like a mountain in that there are many paths to the summit. Which one you take is a matter of preference. The problem with this belief is the same problem I ran into on Friday. Not all paths can actually take us where we need to go. What we are aiming for, and the directions we follow to get there matters. While I was very close to Smuggler’s Notch Resort when I pulled up at the state park this proximity didn’t accomplish anything. I was forced to put the correct final destination into my GPS, and follow the steps to correct my mistake. Jesus said, “I am the way”. If we want to arrive at God he is path we must take.

In Christ,
Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Joan Walton and Lynda Gott for the work they do on BPC’s finances.

1/15/19

Hello All,

    Recently my trip to the lap pool took an unfortunate turn when I dug into my gym bag and discovered I had packed exactly ? of my goggles. Now, I’m no math whiz, but I did recognize that added up to a problem. I had just returned from a trip during which I used my gym bag for shoes (because, you know…priorities) and evidently had left one side of my goggle strap wadded up somewhere in my closet.

    I’d like to think that although clearly an inept packer with a cavalier attitude towards thoroughness, I am no quitter. My perseverance paid off when I managed to wrangle a pair of goggles from the lost and found. Undaunted by the size and pattern which clearly characterized them as intended for a young girl rather than a 37 year old woman, I loosened those straps and stretched them mercilessly around my giant melon head.

      Everything was just fine until my goggles hit the water. The right eye flooded EVERY SINGLE TIME I plunged my head underwater over the course of my workout no matter what I did. Resigned to my fate, I eventually kept my right eye scrunched tightly for the duration of the swim.

      The swim was miserable and fraught with challenges. Every kick turn felt like a game of chicken with an unforgiving concrete wall. I careened erratically between the ropes instead of cutting a straight line through the water. My head ached from my cycloptic vision. Also, I looked idiotic the entire time, which isn’t relevant, but wasn’t great for my morale 🙂 I wanted to do the right thing- to be healthy and active, but I didn’t have the right equipment and was too lazy to prepare adequately. It turns out that matters!

   Often we think we’re prepared until life hits us in the face like that water on my super adorable mini goggles. Only then do we realize how important it is to be thoroughly equipped. Part of why Christians read the Bible and study and memorize it is for this reason. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I’m so grateful God gave us His word so I don’t have to try to scrounge up some ill-fitting equipment to face life. Instead, I can simply go to the Bible, which is pretty much the only thing in the world that is truly one size fits all.

Sincerely,

Ann

P.S. Thank-you Becky Murray and Alene Vienneau for coordinating the nursery worker schedule, and to all those that are on the rotation.

1/8/19

Hello All,

     The picture above is of the glove I use when I play racquetball each Friday. It probably goes without saying that it has seen better days. I’ve known for awhile that I need to invest in a new one. The reason I haven’t done so to this point is that I only think about it when I am about to begin a game. The rest of the time my mind is focused on other things.

     The fact that I haven’t spent the necessary time to address my need of a glove isn’t much of a problem until the next time I play racquetball. Then the lack of effort I have put in becomes a more obvious issue. I am stuck playing with a glove that is barely able to do what I require of it. My inattention is actually a problem, I just don’t realize it is a problem until my need exposes that problem.

     Sometimes my faith shares more in common with this racquetball glove than I would like to admit. My inattentiveness to my relationship with God doesn’t seem like a big deal until I have a need. Then I realize that my faith isn’t in great condition, it is hanging by a few stitches. If I or anyone else wants our faith to be able to meet the challenges that come with life we must pay attention to it not only in our times of need. Unlike a glove that can be purchased once every few years a ready faith requires ongoing effort. Everyday I have to decide if I will make that effort or if I will instead ignore my faith until my need exposes how ill-prepared I am.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Chris Ford, Peter Grifoni, and Bob Libert for their work in the sound booth every Sunday.

1/2/19

Hello All,

   This Christmas my wife, 4 kids, and I piled into our minivan as we have each year since moving to Massachusetts for our pilgrimage back to Tennessee. If everything goes well we make the drive down in 2 eight hour days, stopping overnight in Maryland or Virginia. This year the drive down did not go well. The radiator in our van “cracked in half” somewhere in southern New Jersey. We ended up spending an unplanned night in hotel there. The next day a local mechanic was able to get the radiator replaced relatively quickly. While this was great news it still meant that we when we started driving that day at 1 PM we had 10 hours of driving ahead of us.

   The longest stretch of road we had to travel was I-81 which runs diagonally across the length of Virginia. The picture above is a screenshot I took of my phone’s GPS when we had just gotten onto that road; it shows 390 miles to get to the next turn. Seeing these directions as I drove was more than a little bit depressing. The more I focused on how far we were from our goal the more I wanted to quit.

    Each new year many people set goals. One of the things that keeps people from reaching these goals is focusing on the distance between their present reality and where they want to be. It is hard to stay motivated when you focus on this difference. To achieve goals we need to focus less on how far we have to travel and more on what we need to do to make incremental progress toward that goal. The question we should be asking ourselves is not ‘How far do I have to go?’, but ‘What do I need to do right now to make progress?’ While the distance between where we are and where we want to be may be great if we keep our foot on the gas we will get there eventually.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Rev. Bill Boylon for his support and friendship.

12/11/18

Hello All,

   On Saturday I went outside to start my van. When I stuck the key in the ignition nothing happened, not a single light came on, the engine didn’t even pretend to start. My battery was dead. In the grand scheme of things this wasn’t that big a deal. Instead of meeting Ann, my wife, where I was supposed to she had to come home so that I could use my other car to jump off my van.

   After hooking the two vehicles together for a few minutes I was able to get my van to start. This is when I made a decision that turned the minor annoyance of a dead battery into a much more significant problem. I unhooked the two vehicles and pulled my van into my garage. I thought it would be better for it to be in a warmer space. Unfortunately my keys were still in the van and I needed to take the other car to go out. I thought the van had been running for long enough for me to switch out my keys with my wife’s. It turned out I was wrong. The van would not restart, I underestimated the amount of time needed for the battery to recharge.

     I think this is a common mistake people make when it comes to the amount of time we need to recharge from the draining challenges of life. Eventually the consequences of rushing recuperation will catch up to us. One of the best things an individual can do for their life is to schedule breaks away from all the phone calls, emails, text messages, and other energy drains. Such a routine is commanded by God for our own good throughout the Bible. We would do well to listen, after all He is our Creator, He knows what happens when we deny ourselves opportunities to recuperate physically, emotionally, and spiritually. .

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to everyone that was involved in the awesome concerts that took place at Byfield this weekend.  

12/4/18

Hello All,

    You may have noticed that it has been raining a lot recently. The video above is of my yard on Sunday afternoon. The water is flowing over it like a creek. I still haven’t managed to get all my leaves up due to the incessant rain. Every time that I have a space in my schedule to do so it is raining. Between the excitement of the holidays and the never ending rain my kids are bouncing off the walls.

   It is pretty clear that I am not a fan of the rain we have been experiencing. That being said I recognize that rain is good and necessary. The problem with anything, even good things, is that when we get more of something than we need the effects are not positive. There is simply a limit to how much of a good thing a person can handle, just as there is a limit to how much rain the ground can use.

   The holiday season is a time of excess good. We often have more social commitments, food, and shopping than we can handle. Despite this most people don’t realize how problematic this excess is. Unlike the rain we have some control over the excesses that come with the holidays. If you feel a bit like your drowning this holiday season the solution might be as simple as exercising control over the excess that comes with the holidays instead of simply being swept away by it.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to the choir at BPC for all their hard work preparing for this week’s cantata.

11/27/18

Hello All,

    Years ago when my wife and I got married I was a bit of a scrooge. I didn’t celebrate holidays so much as I tried to get through them. Ann, on the other hand, loves celebrating the holidays. This may or may not have been a source of conflict at one point in our first year of marriage. I seem to remember an argument in which I took the position that it was silly for us to spend money on a Christmas tree. Over the years Ann has converted me to her way of thinking with an infectious joy. Our 4 sons love the holiday season as well. They have spent the past month strategizing what gifts they will buy for each other and us using their allowance. The picture above is of a gift that they purchased and wrapped by themselves for their littlest brother.

     The love that developed in my family for celebrating the holidays was brought about through Ann. She consistently showed that the holidays are not a burdensome obligation to be survived, they are a time of happiness, community, and celebration. My boys and I were brought over to her view of things by witnessing her happiness first hand.

      We live in a world full of people trying to prove their perspective through making the best logical argument. If you really want to change the way another person thinks about anything the best way to do it is by how you live out the point you are trying to make. Ann’s perspective was victorious because her love for the holidays was so obvious and compelling our family couldn’t help but be won over to her way of thinking.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jerry McNatt, Chuck Davis, and Jake Murray for leading Sunday School classes at BPC.

11/19/18

Hello All,

   Once every couple of weeks or so I almost get in a car wreck. This seems to happen most frequently merging from on-ramp onto the interstate when I am coming home from work. I think this is because I am both tired from a day of work, and a bit distracted by continuing thoughts on work. What happens in my almost wrecks is that I don’t see a car in my blind spot until I look back just as I start to change lanes. It is not really a near-miss, but inevitably when I consider what could of been if I had not looked back just before changing lanes my pulse rises. The small habitual act of looking back for 1/10th of a second before changing lanes prevents physical and financial pain for me and others on the road.

  Just as every car has a blind spot that drivers need to be aware of, so we all have blind spots in our lives. Areas that trouble tends to sneak up on us unnoticed. Awareness of these areas is incredibly important. Getting in the habit of checking these the blind spots in our lives for trouble is important as well.

  Different people have different blind spots, problematic areas that we don’t tend to notice trouble in until it has already wrecked our lives. Part of the reason that prayer and reading the Bible are important activities is that they show each of us the blind spots we wouldn’t notice otherwise and force us to examine what is happening there. God’s revelation acts as a mirror that helps us see what is going on in areas we can’t see.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Les Harriman and Noah Merrow for helping clear out trees that had fallen around the BPC property.

11/12/18

Hello All,

  Last week the smoke alarms in my house begin to flash a red light repeatedly. Turns out you have to change out those things every 10 years or so even when they are hard wired into an alarm system. In the process of changing out each of the detectors the central alarm began beeping repeatedly. My dog, Pogo(in the video above), does not like beeping in any form. He associates it with the collar he wears to let him know where the underground dog fence is in our yard. Even when a beeping sound has nothing to do with him, he responds as if it does. Pogo assumes every beep is directed at him.

   A lot of people I run into base their reactions to the world on a similar belief. They assume others people’s actions are always directed at them. Now sometimes this is certainly true, Pogo is not always wrong when he responds to a beep, and the people are often correct that other’s actions are directed at them. Problems arise when this belief becomes the prevailing assumption all the time. The result is faulty conclusions that lead to unnecessary stress which have a negative impact on life.

    What everyone would do well to remember is that the vast majority of the time other people are not thinking about you and I as they act. They are thinking about their grocery list, the argument they had with their child that morning, or an upcoming vacation. The only person that is basing the way they behave on how I will respond the majority of the time is myself. Remembering other people’s actions are not about us most of the time helps us to interact with the world in a less fearful way.  If only I could communicate to Pogo the same truth about beeping noises.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jake Murray for his leadership in the area of Small Groups at BPC.

P.P.S. For those of you that were worried about Pogo’s response to the beeping I was able to get the alarm to stop beeping shortly after this video.

11/7/18

Hello All,

Furtively crouched between a shelf of Fruity Pebbles and Lucky Charms, pretending to be deeply engrossed in their nutritional facts, it dawned on me that I had a problem. You don’t have to be a genius to realize hiding from people in Market Basket can commonly be classified as a low point. Once again I had over-scheduled my morning and had left myself absolutely no margin. With a cart brimming with groceries and only fifteen minutes to get to a school pick up, I had glimpsed a familiar face. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to extricate myself from an inevitable conversation, I darted for the safety of sugary cereals, hoping Toucan Sam could provide me some much needed camouflage.

I often find myself over-scheduled and stressed out. There is a robust body of formal research about busyness in America emerging as a modern status symbol. Although, honestly, I don’t think any of us need to do a google search to recognize the pervasiveness of this condition. Most of us are dealing with constant busyness in our own lives. I’ve thought deeply about why I’m so busy. Here are some of the things I’ve come up with for me personally:

    1. Validation- I feel the need to validate that I’m doing important work. Perhaps especially as a stay at home mom, I feel that I need to prove my worth without the aid of a paycheck.
    1. Savior complex- For some reason, I sometimes try to be God. If someone needs anything, I try to fill that need on my own strength and abilities. I always end up running on fumes. Also, it turns out I’m awful at that job.
    1. Inability to say no- It can be so awkward to refuse a request. Setting boundaries can make other people angry or disappointed, and it’s very uncomfortable to do in the moment.
    1. Comparison trap- “(Fill in the blank with a high achieving person) is working, volunteering, running a marathon, raising kids and never forgets a parent teacher conference or accidentally brings dirty yoga pants instead of a cardigan to church.” (Yep, I did BOTH of those last year- long story).
  1. Fear of quiet, solitude- We want to be surrounded by flurry, noise so we don’t have to deal with our own issues or because we’ve become unable to just be without distraction. Honestly, sometimes it’s simply a case of FOMO.

This penchant for stuffing my life to overflowing is particularly problematic because it reveals that I find my value in doing. One of my favorite things about being a follower of Christ is all of the freedom it brings. I am free to not need constant validation, to say no, to fully enjoy free time, to not compare myself to others, because I am looking to Christ to give me my identity. I am a child of God, beloved by him.

Reflecting on this for the past year particularly has encouraged me to intentionally create more margin in my life. As I do so, I am freed up to sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting in my life. Sometimes it’s a sweet time with my family, an unexpected conversation with a neighbor, a meal for someone, time for an actual phone call, not just a text, prayer or maybe absolutely nothing. I’m finding, in the margin, that I’m experiencing some of what I think Jesus meant when he said, “I have come to give you life, and to give it to you abundantly.” And it’s a million times better than hiding in the cereal aisle.

In Christ,

Ann Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to Carolyn Grifoni, Becky Murray, Sue Daigle, Jan Nason, and Mrs. Miriam Boylan for putting on a fantastic women’s retreat last weekend.

10/30/18

Hello All,

   On Sunday night the Boston Red Sox won the world series with a dominant 5th game. In an interview later that evening, David Price, the starting pitcher for games 2 and 5 said, “I hold all the cards now.” He was responding to a reporter’s question about how he felt after his performance in the Red Sox victory. Prior to the the 2018 playoffs Price had experienced years of failure in the biggest moments. The media and fans consistently goaded him for his inability to come through when it mattered most.  In this moment Price was feeling a tremendous sense of relief that he would no longer have to answer questions about his ability to come through in the clutch. In his mind he had proven himself beyond all doubt.

    Price couldn’t be more wrong. While it is true that in that moment nobody could say anything to him, that will only be true till the next time he steps on the mound in a big game. If he comes up short all the old familiar questions will be dredged up again.  Honestly Price’s statement made me feel sorry for him. (I recognize it is weird to feel sorry for someone that gets paid $30,000,000 a year to throw a ball well.) Satisfaction in life that is based on the approval of others will always be fleeting. People are fickle.

    We all have at least some David Price in us. We all somewhat base the contentment we feel on the fleeting approval of others. Pursuing it leads to stress and frustration. True contentment comes through knowing God’s love; which is not contingent on our performance. When you can rest in this love it gives you the freedom to excel without a nagging fear of failure. God doesn’t love you for what you do, He loves you because that is who He is.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jerry McNatt and Chuck Davis for doing a great job teaching adult Sunday School classes.  

10/23/18

Hello All,

Last Saturday afternoon my wife Ann and I took our 4 boys ages 3, 6, 8, and 10 to Marini Farm in Ipswich. The farm has a small fair set-up with food, inflatable slides, and other activities that kids get excited about. While on the hayride there are high school kids dressed up like characters from various movies and T.V. shows handing out candy. The main attraction that we were at the farm to experience was an 8-acre corn maze.

My sons had never been in a corn maze anywhere close to this size before. They were very excited, and wanted to get through as quickly as possible. They thought the best way to accomplish this goal was to run. The problem with running in a maze is that you quickly lose your bearings. Hurry gives the illusion of progress, but all that energy doesn’t result in progress.

     To progress through a maze maintaining a sense of where you are is more important than speed. If you know where you are in a maze you have a sense of where you have already been, and some idea where you should go when faced with a decision. To know where you are you need a point of reference. At the Marini Farm Maze it was fairly easy to maintain this point of reference due to the road noise from Linebrook Road. By using the road noise like north on compass my family was able to maintain our bearings and get through the maze.  

    Getting through the maze of life requires a fixed point of reference. Otherwise the energy we expend is largely wasted no matter how good our intentions. God serves as the one fixed reference point that allows us to navigate. When we trust in Him it gives us a sense of where we have been and where we should turn next when faced with life’s decisions.

In Christ,
Brent Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to the Mission’s Committee(Shirley, Colie, Greg, Sharon, and Doug) for an awesome Harvest Dinner on Saturday evening!

10/16/18

Hello All,

  Nobody wants to serve jury duty. That’s what I’m doing today, serving jury duty at the Salem Trial Court. There are many reasons jury duty is something people seek to avoid. It is a pain to drive to a courthouse you are not comfortable with, sit with people you don’t know, and possibly send someone to prison. For me being on a jury will also affect my whole week negatively because I will be behind on my work.

    While serving jury duty is not the way I would prefer to spend my day I recognize that I would rather do have to do it than not. In life there are many responsibilities that are inseparable from the privileges of a particular situation. I may not enjoy the responsibility of mowing my yard, changing my youngest son’s diaper, or having a difficult conversation at work but I know these obligations go along with having a house, raising kids, and having a job which are all things I want to have in my life.

    We do ourselves no favors when we separate the obligations of life from the privileges of life. They go together. When we focus on the connection between an undesired obligation and a privilege we enjoy it makes the whole experience a lot more bearable. As I sit waiting a jury waiting room I am trying to remind myself that  jury duty is a very small price to pay for all the good that goes hand in hand with being a United States citizen.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank you to Joe, Jake, Art, Jim, Lee, John, and Larry for being awesome elders at Byfield Parish Church.

10/9/18

Hello All,

Last Thursday evening my wife and I took our 4 sons to the Topsfield Fair. It was a great night to go. Due to the Patriots game the crowds were much less than they would normally be. While at the fair we did all the normal things. We checked out the exhibits, went to a show, paid 3x as much for food, rode on rides that don’t seem safe, and had multiple panic attacks resulting from losing one of our children for a few seconds. The activity I enjoyed most was looking at the different farm animals. The chicks, piglets, and calves were all very sweet and cute. The chickens, pigs, and cows were all a bit gross and intimidating.

You might notice that for me the baby animals were enjoyable while the older animals were disturbing. When it comes to animals what seems good when it is young, fresh, and small does not seem as good when it has matured into its final form. Most people have had this experience with a family pet at some point.

The same thing could be said about decisions. Often when we first make a decision to do something it seems harmless. A new decision brings us joy like a baby animal. As that decision matures and grows it becomes more threatening and harder to work with. Eventually we are stuck with a reality that is not pleasant at all. Decisions that are made based solely on the initial enjoyment become unmanageable messes. We must be conscious of the end result of our decisions. A harmless decision grows into an unmanageable mess just as surely as a piglet grows into a 500 pound pig.

In Christ,

Brent Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to Rosemary Miner for her work with the pre-K Sunday School class.

10/2/18

Hello All,

      At the moment I took the picture above my dog, Pogo, was depressed. You can tell by the look in his eyes that he thinks the world is an unfair place. You can also tell who he thinks is responsible for the world’s ills. Pogo thinks that it is my fault he is unhappy. He knows that I could fix everything. I could give him a piece of cheese, take him for a walk, or best of all take him to play with his friends at Seacoast Canine. Pogo doesn’t understand why I would withhold the things he desires.

     What Pogo forgets is that we have already done all of those things on this particular day. He forgets this because he is a dog, and his perspective on time is inherently limited. All Pogo knows is how he feels in a given moment. If it has been a couple of hours since he has gotten to do something he enjoys he thinks he is a victim of some grave injustice. Whatever occurred before Pogo’s most recent nap may as well have happened 6 months ago.

    I relate to Pogo’s faulty perspective. I think about all the times I have looked at God with the same sad accusing eyes Pogo has towards me. I ask myself why God will not give me the things I want or need to be happy in the moment, forgetting all the good God has done for me. I ignore the fact that I make my accusations from a place of extreme comfort. It is worthwhile to consider the possibility, when I feel this way, that my dissatisfaction is mostly a product of my own limited perspective and faulty memory. I would do well to focus less on how I feel in the moment and focus more on how God has blessed me over the course of my life.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to all those from the congregation that came out to support an awesome performance by the Byfield Praise Band at the park in Georgetown on Sunday.

9/25/18

https://youtu.be/p8qHIX8Rgy8

Hello All,

  Yesterday as I progressed through the day’s news I came across an article with the following video. A homeowner in Virginia discovered this two headed copperhead in their backyard. The snake was captured and eventually made its way into the hands of scientists that studied it. These scientists determined that each head of the snake operates independently of the other. One head seems to determine the body’s direction while the other head tends to eat more. This creature is not one snake with two heads, it is two snakes with one body.

  For this reason I found the snake both pitiful and relatable. The pitiful part is easy to see. There is something revolting about anything so unnatural. The relatable part is what I will take a moment to explain. Like the snake I have two sets of competing desires at war within myself. The desire to do good and be selfish, eat right or have another donut, work hard or be lazy. These drives work in opposition to one another. The Apostle Paul highlights the internal tug-of-war that exists in all people in Romans when he says, “ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

As long as my desires are at war with one another I will always be caught in the middle. My life will show evidence of the battle gong in my heart and mind. The only way to find peace and wholeness in life is to get rid of the desires that lead me astray. Like with the snake this cannot be done in one decisive act. If you just cut off one of the snake’s heads it would die. Eradication of bad tendencies takes time and perseverance. Ultimately I cannot do it on my own, I need God like a divine surgeon to disentangle the good from the bad so that I can move forward with a single purpose.

In Christ,
Brent

P.S. Thank-you      

9/18/18

Hello All,

  Yesterday(Monday) my wife and I went to the beach. We had no kids with us, they were all in school. It was a glorious beach day, the weather was perfect. At one point my enjoyment of the beach was interrupted when a couple came by with a large lab not on a leash. Now this dog seemed very happy, he was not a threat to anyone, but he was still wreaking a bit of havoc. His owners didn’t seem to have a lot of control over where he went or what he did. This dog’s presence was problematic because he used his freedom poorly. Several people on the beach complained and eventually the lab’s owners put him back on a leash.

     A few minutes later another unleashed dog came by(pictured above).  Nobody cared. This dog walked within a few feet of his owners and didn’t bother anyone. Because he used his freedom well no action to limit that freedom was necessary.

     Like these dogs the amount of freedom a person enjoys will normally be proportional to how well that freedom is used. When freedom is used selfishly in relationships, work, or society with no regard for how that use impacts others moves will be made to limit that freedom. When freedom is used well freedom grows. I think this applies to our relationship with God as well. The more mature we are in using the freedom He gives, the more free we will be. The more selfish we are the more limited our freedom will be.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Jeneth Scharlach for thinking ahead and taking initiative with the sign she made for the first day of Sunday School.

9/10/18

Hello All,

A few weeks back I wrote a post about how forgiveness is similar to applying WD-40 to a problematic connection in my van that was causing the air bag warning light on my dash to flash continuously. For over a month after the WD-40 application the warning light went off and I got to drive my van in peace. Then a few days ago the warning light came back on. I applied the same solution that had worked previously and sure enough the light went off again.

     This is the way forgiveness is as well. Forgiveness is rarely a solution that can be applied to a faulty relationship a single time. Normally when forgiveness is necessary the issue that required forgiveness in the first place will flare up again at some point.

    The connections that make relationships between human beings possible are inherently flawed. Forgiveness needs to be applied regularly to overcome these flaws. The more forgiving is a regular part of our relational expectations, the more our relationships will thrive.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Minda for her role in the Monday morning Women’s Small Group.   

9/4/18

Pastor’s Corner

Hello All,

  Last Friday I decided to clear out an overgrown herb garden in my front yard. When my wife and I first moved into our house 6 years ago our older sons had used this space to dig and play in. In recent years nobody has taken much interest in it. This Summer it filled with weeds of various kinds. I had been dreading expending the time and effort it was going to take to clear it for weeks.

   When I actually started pulling up the plants that had grown I found it was shockingly easy. The whole garden was clear in about 10 minutes. Turns out that the weeds had put all their effort into growing as quickly as possible instead of developing a root system. We live in a world that encourages a similar type of development in every area of life. Whether it is career, family, or spiritual development the focus is on having something to show. We lack the patience to put down solid roots.

    The problem with things that develop quickly is that these things are easily destroyed by adverse conditions. If we want lives that withstand the challenges that arise we have to invest the effort required. While developing a foundation, laying down roots, may slow progress in the end it will be worthwhile when challenges inevitably arise.

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Chuck Davis and Nancy Cumming for helping to organize and lead service of prayer and praise last Sunday at Byfield.

8/27/18

Hello All,

   For the past several winters I have had a leaking pipe in my basement where the main water line comes into the house from the street. The rest of the year the pipe is fine, but when the temperature drops below zero the drip begins. My solution to this problem has been a bucket. Every 2 to 3 days the bucket fills with water and I dump it out. One problem with this cheap solution is that I sometimes forget to empty the bucket. When this happens I end up sopping up water with towels. Another issue is when I go out of town with my family I have to ask one of my neighbors to be keep tabs on the bucket for me.

Part of the reason I have never gotten the leaky pipe fixed is that, for a variety of reasons, the work has to be done when temperatures are warmer. When it’s warmer the pipe stops leaking which leads me to think it isn’t that big a deal. The following winter I inevitably regret my short sightedness. This Summer I finally decided enough was enough. The cost of getting the plumber to fix this small leak ended up being exorbitantly high. You know what, it was still worth it. I now have one less problem I have to deal with.

Many of the problems we face in life are like the leaky pipe. They are not that big a deal, but they are always just there nagging us. These problems don’t get dealt with because doing so would require big effort or expense for a problem that doesn’t seem that significant. The thing is the cumulative effect of all these small problems that don’t get dealt with is significant. Procrastination results in a life filled with little problems that become a crushing burden. There is no easy solution to such issues. Effort and expense are required. Dealing with small problems proactively frees up space to focus on improving life instead of just maintaining a status quo filled with small problems. My only regret is not dealing with the leaky pipe 3 years ago.

In Christ,

Brent Fugate

P.S. Thank-you to Joe Knapp for all the volunteer hours he has put in at BPC over the years working on the CD ministry.

8/21/18

Hello All,

   Earlier in the Summer my family and I went to Tennessee on vacation. While there my parents took me, my 3 older sons, and 2 of my nephews to race go-karts. I’m not trying to brag about beating pre-teenage children and my parents who are looking forward to Social Security kicking in, but it is necessary for the point I’m trying to make that I let you know I dominated at go-karts. I was lapping people like Dale Earnhardt Sr., it wasn’t even close.

   When we got done with the third race my Mom mentioned that she could not get her go-kart to go any faster than it did despite having the pedal to the floor. It was then I told her the secret for making the go-karts we were using go faster that I had accidentally discovered in the midst of the first race. To go as fast as possible you actually had to let your foot off the gas for a minute then slam it down to the floor again. Something about the break allowed the engine to rev even higher leading to increased speed.

  Often the world we live in communicates that the best way to succeed in life is to keep the pedal pressed to the floor at all times. We would all do well to take a lesson from my go-kart experience. If you actually want to be more effective you need to lay off the gas every once in a while. In many religious communities this rhythm of rest is called keeping the Sabbath. In addition to the spiritual benefits that come from regular rest such a routine allows us to run the race well that is life. If you feel that can’t keep up with the demands of life the answer might be to make a regular habit of taking a break each week.   

In Christ,

Brent

P.S. Thank-you to Sharon Trudel, Bill Ferguson, Dick Boucher, and Paul Moskevitz for giving me some much needed encouragement this week.

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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