I found a secret letter this week, and after reading it closely, I wondered if it might have been written about me … or perhaps, you. 

See what you think. After some formal salutations at the beginning of the letter, this is what it says:

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“ … I gather that Our Lord has given you a great deal of grace, and now is dealing with you in the usual way. You have felt, in the past, that you were making progress and improving, and that God had led you into a new way.

But after some time it always happens that one seems to return to the rut of common life. Provided you have the same desire to be all for God, what does it matter how you feel? Except that this sort of feeling of dryness or dissipation is founding humility in you – We have to accept from God with absolute submission (and with what joy we can) not merely our sufferings, but: — Also ourselves, all our inborn and ingrained weakness and selfishness and incapacity.

And also the poor amount of sanctity we see in ourselves.

If we were always sailing along in a fair wind, we should have very little to suffer, and very little to make us humble. It is when we can’t pray, and can’t feel we want only God’s will, and can’t even feel humble (and so forth), that we are being purged and molded and made into what God wants us to be. We are like little children being washed and having their hair brushed by a nurse; they don’t like it at all, and think the nurse is very unkind.

… (L)earn to accept exactly the prayer that God gives you here and now. It is quite right to wish for higher union with God, and to envy those who have attained it: — but, here and now, I must wish for exactly the state God wishes me to be in, whether it means distractions, or discouragements, or sleepiness, or merely emptiness. Nothing matters but God’s Will; and we do not want simply God’s Will, if we are really dissatisfied with what we get from Him.

It is the habit of referring everything to God’s Will that we must acquire. And we should always be at peace, if we had really acquired it. As far as I gather from (you), there is nothing going wrong. You feel sometimes, I expect, like a watch which has run down, — you want winding up! You do try, I know, to care only for God’s Will. But you do not always realize, perhaps, that He loves you just as you are, for your good. And yet, of course, you do know it. In fact, you know already all I can say to you, only it is sometimes useful to be assured of it by someone else.

… One is inclined to say ‘I am so weak, I can’t go on like this! I must have some consolation, or I shall merely fall, and grow worldly.’ But God knows best. Absolute and complete confidence, trust, abandon, is what we need.

I apologize for writing such obvious truths! Please pray for me and I will pray for you.”

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So, what do you think? Could that letter have been intended for you? I feel like it could have been written for me. This letter was written on March 22, 1922, by Dom John Chapman, the fourth Abbot of the Downside Abbey in Great Britain. It was NOT written to me … or to you. It was actually written to a lay woman who sought spiritual counsel from the Abbot … but it sure sounds like it could have been written to me. Don’t you agree? 

I guess we all get feelings of emptiness and dryness … like our little light has gone out and God is not around to re-light it! But, those episodes occur in the lives of all Jesus’s followers. Some of the most famous Saints in history, and some of the most faithful servants of God in our times, have felt the darkness, the separation from God, or the heavy burden of life so much that we think we can’t go on. Or maybe, we just pray that it’s got to  get better than this! 

Here is the HOPEFUL news in all this:

1) God is getting us through everything, even to the end;

2) We are getting stronger in faith each and every day that we rely on God to lead us through the tough times and the dry spells; and, 

3) We always, always, always have HOPE, because we always have God … our Lord and savior Jesus Christ … and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Somebody say AMEN!                                                                                                                     Pastor Bob <><

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Yes, that is my headline for Thanksgiving this year and I’m sticking to it! We have a whole lot more to be grateful for this year than we can even imagine! Sure, it  may look dark and dismal right now, and it has been a gut-wrenching, even tragic, year in  our land. You may be sick and tired of being confined and masked for a good portion of your  day. You are probably fed up with the lack of political civility. And you should be concerned  about the state of our democracy and the struggle to extend the promises of our Founders  to all people in our land.  

But then consider what the Apostle Paul was going through when he wrote these words:  “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thes. 5:16- 18)  

Paul wrote those words while he was sitting in a dark, dank prison, chained in place and not  knowing if there was any hope for him to survive. His life’s calling, to plant churches of Jesus  followers throughout the known world, may be coming to an end, falling miserably short!  But still, he urges those he loves to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks. As my friend Bruce  Condill likes to translate these words of Paul: “Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t get any better  than this!”

You see, Paul knew the secret between being a person thankful for just the good things in  life, and being a person grateful for life itself – including everything that goes with it. You  don’t have to be a person of faith to be thankful for the good stuff in your life. But, as Paul  says, to be “thankful in ALL circumstances,” that’s quite a different thing. That takes a  person of great faith.  

It seems to me that “gratefulness” is the spiritual condition of a heart given over to the Lord.  Otherwise, we end up being thankful for only the things that help us and that we prefer …  and that’s not a spiritual trait at all. That’s just plain old self-centeredness, which Jesus  warns us about over and over in His gospels.  

So, this year for Thanksgiving, I propose that we become “Grateful Pilgrims”; People of faith  who are thankful in ALL circumstances — even the circumstances we’re in today.  Gratefulness is the gift that gets us through the tough times, and that leaves us being better  people for having gone through the hardships.  

People of faith understand that enduring tough times is not only part of living life on life’s  terms, but it actually strengthens our faith and instills in us the hope that we can get  through anything … with God. Indeed, when we look at it that way, the tough times are the  things we should be most grateful for. Not thankful for … but grateful for.  

As you look back on the journey you have walked in your life, can you see that the tough  times were really the defining moments in your faith life, and that you wouldn’t be the  person you are today, or even have the life that you have today, if you hadn’t endured  through the hardships? And can you also see how that perseverance has molded and  solidified your relationship with God over the years? That shouldn’t make you thankful for  the hardships, but it should make you grateful for having gone through them.  

So, as you gather around the table, or around the Zoom screen, on this Thanksgiving, and  you ponder what possibly you could be thankful for this year – think about these tough  times as opportunities to grow closer to God, to strengthen your faith and trust in Jesus, and  to move from being a person who is thankful for only the good things in life, to one who is  grateful for life itself, with everything included; Or, as Paul puts it, “to be thankful in all  circumstances.” 

Friends and neighbors, take a look around. Think of the people who have come and gone  that mean everything to you. Think of all the great memories, and the ones you’re making  today. Think of the blessings of food and shelter … and of good friends. Think of the freedom  we enjoy and the beauty of all creation. And then look into your heart, and see your Lord  and savior always there with you … in ALL circumstances. So yes, I do think it’s fair to say: It  doesn’t get any better than this … so let’s make the most of it!  

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Grateful to be Your Pastor,  

Pastor Bob

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It’s that time of the year again when we take time to honor the farmers in our midst. How grateful we are to them for keeping the agri-CULTURE way of life alive and well in and around our community. 

Vine Street Christian Church is especially blessed to have so many “farm families” as part of our “faith family.” The lessons we learn every day throughout the year from our farmers are treasures that keep us rooted in the natural harmony of God’s time. 

Our farmers are there each day when the sun comes up … and long after the sun goes down. The rhythm of their lives is in sync with the seasons that God bestowed upon us. The day’s weather is a dominant presence in their lives, ever dependent on the will of God to provide the proper amount of sun and rain to get through another year. 

The culture of agriculture is one of the greatest gifts we have in our American culture today. It teaches us that all things work for good … and all things work best in God’s time. It slows us down to a human pace and shows us the miracles that can occur – like a seed into a soybean – when we put our trust in God and partner with God for our life’s work. 

Those of us who aren’t farmers can learn a lot from a farmer. Most important, we can learn a lot about how God works and the blessings that fill our lives the more we live in harmony with God’s will. 

God bless our farmers! YOU are the salt of the earth and the light of the world! 

Here is a poem dedicated to our farmers, recommended by Lois Silvanik. 


by Thomas Alan Orr

The October air was warm and musky, blowing

Over brown fields, heavy with the fragrance

Of freshly combined beans, the breath of harvest.

He was pulling a truckload onto the scales

At the elevator near the rail siding north of town.

When a big Cadillac drove up. A man stepped out,

Wearing a three-piece suit and a gold pinky ring.

The man said he had just invested a hundred grand

In soybeans and wanted to see what they looked like.

The farmer stared at the man and was quiet, reaching

For the tobacco in the rear pocket of his jeans,

Where he wore his only ring, a threadbare circle rubbed

By working cans of dip and long hours on the backside

Of a hundred acre run. He scooped up a handful

Of small white beans, the pearls of the prairie, saying:

Soybeans look like a foot of water on the field in April

When you’re ready to plant and can’t get in;

Like three kids at the kitchen table

Eating macaroni and cheese five nights in a row;

Or like a broken part on the combine when

Your credit with the implement dealer is nearly tapped.

Soybeans look like prayers bouncing off the ceiling

When prices on the Chicago grain market start to drop;

Or like your old man’s tears when you tell him

How much the land might bring for subdivisions.

Soybeans look like the first good night of sleep in weeks.

When you unload at the elevator and the kids get Christmas.

He spat a little juice on the tire of the Cadillac,

Laughing despite himself and saying to the man:

Now maybe you can tell me what a hundred grand looks like.

Peace on a tractor … 

Pastor Bob <><

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