In times like those we are currently experiencing, we look for messages of comfort, leadership and hope.  Join us weekly for Rev. Emily Riley Campbell’s devotion, posted at 8:00am on Wednesday mornings, for that message of hope and inspiration in the midst of the chaos and fear during these uncertain times.


Wednesday, May 18, 2020

Dear FPCP Family and Friends,

Yesterday was our daughter’s last day of high school.  Sarah ends her 13 -year educational journey without a graduation or prom and without the opportunity to say goodbye to teachers or friends.  It is a bittersweet ending, but a safe one.

Like many other students of her age, Sarah’s future plans are unclear as she waits to hear if college campuses will be open for students this fall.  It is possible that she will be going away, but it is even more likely that she will be staying at home, studying remotely.

During these uncertain times, it is important for us as students, parents, teachers, and as members of Christ’s church to remember that which is certain:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11)

The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed the certainty of God’s plans for our lives in the 29th chapter of that book which bears his name.  The original recipients of this message were living through a time, like we are today, when everything was different, and they wondered how long their new normal would last.

Not only was God clear with them about the timing of their future, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise…” (vs. 10), God also provided clear instructions on how they should approach Him during this time of waiting:

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 
I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29: 12-14)

In this time of waiting, God invites us to call on Him, pray to Him, and seek Him with all our heart.  This call is not new, but in our new reality, it takes on a heightened  significance and meaning.

As a parent, and as a child of God, and as your minister, I am grateful for God’s plans for our future.  I am confident that these plans are unfolding even now.

Please know that you and your families remain in my thoughts and prayers,
Emily


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Dear FPCP Family and Friends,

Almost 40 years ago, as an elementary-aged student in summer camp, I learned a praise song, the lyrics of which have stayed with me:

“Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
And He shall lift you up.
Higher and higher.
And He shall lift you up.”

I find myself returning to the words of this song, which are the words found in 1 Peter 5:6  whenever I am at a crossroads, uncertain about the way forward.

Friends, it is always wise to “Humble ourselves” as we come into God’s Holy presence.

It is also wise to “Humble ourselves” before we follow the instruction of 1 Peter 5:7  which says  “Cast all your anxiety on Him (God), because He cares for you.”

This famous call to prayer is issued on the heels of the call to approach God with full humility.  The combined scriptures suggest that in order to practice humility, we must first recognize our need for God’s help.

Following on from this, we remember that the God whom we worship is entirely faithful and true.  We can therefore release our worries and concerns to Him.

This type of release happens through prayer.

Last Thursday, on the National Day of Prayer, I was delighted that in our Zoom prayer meeting, we had 30 people in attendance ranging in age from 15-90.  In  that virtual setting, we were the church worshiping together, and it was a great blessing to pray together.

I invite you to join us on Thursday nights over the next 5 weeks  (May 14-June 11) at 8pm for our weekly Zoom prayer meeting.  This meeting is open to all ages and is a great opportunity to share both our prayer requests and our praises.  You can come to just one of the meetings or come to all of the meetings; whatever your schedule permits.  In this meeting, as part of the body of the church, we will humbly approach God together asking for wisdom, strength, guidance, and healing for our church going forward and for all of God’s children in need.

You can join us through the following link:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82201558529

My prayers are with you,
Emily


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Dear FPCP Family and Friends,

Many of us have spent time over the last two months wondering what the future holds.

We can get ourselves worked up trying to predict the many possibilities.  After all, we like to be prepared.  We like to plan ahead.  Surprises are great for birthday parties, but they create unnecessary stress when it comes to the rest of our lives.

You are not alone in wanting to know when our lives, or work, or church, or any plans for 2020 will be able to return to some sense of normalcy.

Uncertainty certainly does not rest easily within us.  This is why I find myself returning often to the words of Matthew 6:34.

In The Message translation it says, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

“When the time comes”…. I like that phrase.

“When the time comes” God will lead us out of this “darkness into His light.” (Ps. 18:28)

“When the time comes” we will see God “working all things for the good of those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

But until “the times comes” we pray, asking God to provide us with dailyresources of comfort, strength, guidance, and peace.

Until “The time comes,” we pray every day for our world, and for our nation, for our state, and local communities, and for our church, asking for God’s Holy Spirit to direct our steps so that our present and future actions reflect the love and grace of God.

Friends, tomorrow, Thursday, May 7th is the National Day of Prayer.  I invite you on this day to join your prayers with those around the nation asking God for help in this time of crisis, even while we praise God for His faithful provision throughout the whole of history.

Our church will be hosting a time of prayer tomorrow night at 8 pm through Zoom conferencing.  If you wish to be part of this informal time of prayer and reflection, please click on this link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82201558529  right before our time of prayer begins.

Whether I see you tomorrow night or not, please be praying for our world, nation, state, and local communities.  Please be praying for our church, and know that our church is praying for you.

Wishing you Christ’s strength and peace today and always,
Emily


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Dear FPCP Family and Friends,                                                    

Several years ago, a wise member of our church posted words on her Facebook account that have stayed with me.

“Worry is worshiping your problem.  Prayer is surrendering your problem.”

In the past couple of months, I am certain that we have all struggled with worry.
We ponder:

What if I get the virus? 
What if someone whom I love, with a compromised immune system, gets sick? 
Will I be able to handle all the added demands of my job?
What if I lose my job?  What then? Financially, how will I manage?
Will the stay at home order be extended?  Will the stay at home order be lifted?
Will our lives ever return to normal?

Remember, worry is WORSHIPPING your problem.
Prayer is SURRENDERING your problem.

Philippians 4: 6-7 encourages us to live like this. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Obviously, these words are easier to read than they are to live but at its heart, this is a call to release our fears and worries to God, and allow God to be our focus.

By doing this, we are inviting God to appoint a guard around our hearts and minds to ensure our peace.  The original Greek translation of this passage supports this interpretation because the verb “to guard” used in this passage is only ever used to refer to the work of a sentry guard.

In these trying times, God offers to post a guard around our hearts and minds.  I think we could all use this additional layer of protection beyond the face masks, shields, and gloves we are already wearing.

Jesus said, “Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Receive God’s gift of peace today.  Let it calm you.  Let it guard you.  Let it motivate you to a deeper faith.

Wishing you that peace which passes all understanding today and always,
Emily


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Dear FPCP Family and Friends,

The nature of our lives in social isolation is that we will have good days and bad days. There will be days when we impress ourselves with how much we get done at home or in our work. There will be other days when we will wonder if we should have stayed in bed and saved ourselves the disappointment. In the midst of these fluctuations in our frustration level, we need to listen deeply for God and recognize that God does indeed speak into our situation.

The Psalmist writes, “My God turns my darkness into light.”  (Psalm 18:28)

Today, God’s light is visible in the beauty of the rising sun and in all trees and flowers about to burst forth in bloom. God’s light is visible in the stories we hear daily of recovery and kindness, perseverance, imagination, and grace.

I was grateful this week to stumble across someone else’s words that point to God’s ability to transform our darkness. These words were written by Amanda Gorman, who at 22, is America’s inaugural Youth Poet Laureate. These words of hope were written about Covid-19:

I thought I’d awaken to a world in mourning.
Heavy clouds crowding, a society storming.
But there’s something different on this golden morning.
Something magical in the sunlight, wide and warming.

I see a dad with a stroller taking a jog.
Across the street, a bright-eyed girl chases her dog.
A grandma on a porch fingers her rosaries.
She grins as her young neighbor brings her groceries.

While we might feel small, separate, and all alone,
Our people have never been more closely tethered.
The question isn’t if we will weather this unknown,
But how we will weather this unknown together.

So, on this meaningful morn, we mourn and we mend.
Like light, we can’t be broken, even when we bend.

As one, we will defeat both despair and disease.
We stand with healthcare heroes and all employees;
With families, libraries, schools, waiters, artists;
Businesses, restaurants, and hospitals hit hardest.

We ignite not in the light, but in lack thereof,
For it is in loss that we truly learn to love.
In this chaos, we will discover clarity.
In suffering, we must find solidarity.

For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,
Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.
So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain:
Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.

Read children’s books, dance alone to DJ music.
Know that this distance will make our hearts grow fonder.
From a wave of woes our world will emerge stronger.

We’ll observe how the burdens braved by humankind
Are also the moments that make us humans kind;
Let every dawn find us courageous, brought closer;
Heeding the light before the fight is over.
When this ends, we’ll smile sweetly, finally seeing
In testing times, we became the best of beings.

May God’s light continually shine on you and through you in these trying days.

You remain in my heart and prayers,

Emily


Wednesday April 15, 2020

Dear FPCP Family and Friends,

Are you feeling tired?  Low in Spirit?  Are you having trouble sleeping?

Our worry and frustration often comes out in unexpected ways.  As of today, we’re almost five weeks into our time of isolation, and I know that I am not alone in wondering, when will this end?

I crave being with people—people outside of my family members.  Let me be clear, I love my family, but I also crave outside stimulation, freedom of movement, sunshine and warmth.  I crave life without masks, conversations without Zoom, and shopping without gloves and masks.  I desire freedom from the fear of illness and death.

But rather than simply complaining when we are shaken out of our comfortable routines, we also have an opportunity to grasp God’s hand and look for growth opportunities.  In her popular book Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes, “Instead of bemoaning the loss of our comfort, accept the challenge of something new.”

I believe the apostle Paul affirms this challenge in the New Testament book of Colossians.  He writes, “Since then, you have been raised with Christ…set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  (Col. 3:1-2)

Practically speaking this means, “Put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature… anger, rage, malice, filthy language.”  The list found in Colossians chapter 3 is long.  Instead, we are called to “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  We are called to “bear with each other and forgive one another” as the Lord forgave us.  And “over all these virtues, we should put on love.”  (Col. 3: 5, 8, 12-14)

So, Friends, if you were planning on getting dressed tomorrow and fighting another day of isolation,  remember to first clothe yourself in Christ’s love.  Let us also pray that God might use this time of isolation as a classroom to help us grow spiritually and emotionally as we live out our faith day by day.

God does not leave any of us alone.  He is our strength, our help, and our peace.

I wish you the deep peace and strength of Christ as we shelter apart yet together as one family of faith,

Emily


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Dear FPCP Family and Friends,

This doesn’t feel like Holy Week.

Holy Week is usually filled with rich church and family traditions many of which are not possible this year in the way they have been in the past.  How can we worship when we cannot gather at church?  How can we keep our focus on the love and grace of God when we are struggling daily to keep our own anxiety in check?

It’s true.  This Holy Week is different.

On Palm Sunday, we did not receive palms in worship but our palms went to members of our Earth Care team to be composted for the healing of the earth. On Maundy Thursday, we will not be able to gift you with Christ’s gifts of bread and cup in worship, but instead you will be asked to find these communion elements in our own homes. The darkness of Good Friday cannot be experienced collectively this year yet is increasingly present to us now as we listen to the news.  Our Easter celebration will not be marked by a large gathering of God’s disciples, but we will instead remain quarantined in our homes for safety.

This year, we let go of what is familiar and trust God to lead us into the unknown.   That is God’s specialty after all.

God creates a way forward whenever we think there is no way forward.  In the past, God lead his people forward through the Red Sea, through the wilderness, through the exile, through the “valley of the shadow of death.”

We will fear no evil today, and no evil in this time of isolation, for God is with us.

Isaiah 41:13 proclaims, “For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear.  I will help you.” 

This Easter, God’s gift of salvation is still on offer.  That never changes.  It is hope to all who grieve;  peace to those who feel afraid; it is joy for those who feel isolated; rest for the weary and grace for all who live in these challenging days.

Let us all lean into Easter this week trusting that God will lead us along new paths of worship.

I am praying for you,
Emily


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dear FPCP Family and Friends,

In this season of isolation, we wait:

We wait on God’s healing for the sick.  We wait on God’s comfort for those who mourn.  We wait on God’s protection from the virus.  We wait on God’s strength for those who must serve on the front lines: doctors, nurses, hospital aids, cleaners, grocery store employees, police, fire fighters, paramedics.

We wait to see how our families will fare without school, without work, with so much time together.  We wait to see how long this season of social distancing will last. We wait to see how our lives and how our world will change.

We wait on God.

But we are not the first to wait:

Moses waited on God in the wilderness.
Daniel waited on God while in a foreign land and later inside a lion’s den.
Mary and Joseph waited on God for 9 months, as did Elizabeth and Zechariah.
Saul, who would become the Apostle Paul, waited on God to have his sight restored and his life transformed.

Friends, we wait today not knowing what lies ahead but knowing who goes before us, who goes behind us, who is above us and below us. God has proven that He is faithful time and time again.

Lamentations 3: 25 proclaims, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, for the soul who seeks him.”

While we wait, let us seek God every day.  Let us pray:
(The opening of this prayer was adapted from a prayer by St. Patrick).

“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in me.” Loving Lord, in you may we find the strength and peace to wait, trusting in your goodness, love, and grace.  Please pour out your blessing on those most in need this day, in Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Dear FPCP Friends and Family,

As we hear of the increasing presence and rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus, it is understandable that our anxiety level raises to near boiling point.  Most days, we can keep our fear in check, but when our worry and concern shifts directly to the health and well-being of our loved ones or even to ourselves, it’s easy to have the lid of that pot of fear fly right off.

This is when we turn to God’s Word, remembering that it is a gift given to us by God which speaks directly to our need.   The Bible is chock-full of what Christian author Max Lucado once referred to as “white knuckle scriptures.”  We hold on to these scriptures for dear life while we remember who it is that is holding on to us.

In this crisis, remember God has said:

  1. “Be strong and courageous.Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6
  2. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.For you are with me.Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” -Psalm 23:4
  3. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” -Psalm 46: 1
  4. “I will sing of your strength.In the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” -Psalm 59:16
  5. “Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”  -Psalm 103: 2-3
  6. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles.They will run and not grow weary.They will walk and not faint.”  -Isaiah 40:31
  7. “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10
  8. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” -John 14: 27
  9. “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” -Hebrews 13:6
  10. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7

In a crisis, you can also pray this prayer:

Holy God, our Creator and Redeemer.  You are our comfort and strength.  Uphold us, we pray in these challenging times.  Remind us of your faithfulness and grace.  We pray for your help and protection today.  Heal your world from this virus, we pray.  Heal all who are sick and strengthen all those who care for the sick.  We pray for all those who are without work or are alone in these days of isolation. We pray for your comfort and peace for all who mourn.  In this time of sheltering at home, may we find our shelter, strength, and salvation in you.  This we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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