Reverend Dawn M. Conti

 

From The Pastor:

The summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school, my family moved from Ohio to Florida. My friends gave me a surprise going away party. Other than being very surprised, the only thing that really stands out about the party is the gift from my track buddy, Denise. It was a poem called, “Don’t Quit”; perhaps you’ve heard it before:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
-Author Unknown

This poem speaks of the challenges that come in every life: the disappoint-ments, the set-backs, the losses and sometimes, yes, the sufferings. But more than that, it speaks of hanging in there and persevering through difficult times. Track taught Denise and me a lot about hanging in there and giving all you’ve got especially when the going gets tough. This lesson is ever so transferable to life of faith.


Writing to people whose suffering was so intense that they were in danger of losing confidence in God, the author of the book of Hebrews recalled the ad-ventures of the great Biblical heroes—the men and women of un-shakable faith: the first resilient ones. Visualizing those champions as spectators at the games, he called his readers to the starting line of a great race writing, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2). In order to succeed in track, we had to endure long practices that were much more time consuming and grueling than the actual track meets. But if we hadn’t put in the time and effort, if we had quit when the going got tough, or gave less than our best, we would most likely would have never won a race, been awarded a ribbon, trophy, or letter. Sometimes the circumstances of our lives can be like those track practices: long, difficult, painful.

As a church family we have endured much loss in a short period of time. But what is remarkable to me is how we have pulled together and cheered one another along, helping each other, much like the spiritual cloud of witnesses the writer of Hebrews mentions. We are a church who, in word and action, share each other’s joys and carry one another’s burdens.


And while we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers, we are also individually responsible for nurturing our spiritual roots through regular worship and study of God’s Word and being active in the family of faith. In order for our faith to survive the times of testing that will come, if they haven’t already, we need to be putting down spiritual roots daily. Just like a plant can’t grow and blossom without water or sun-shine or fertilizer, in order to be strong in our faith, we need to invest our time and effort in the daily practice of our faith.


In the great race of life, there are some Christ-followers who stand out from all the rest. The writer of He-brews mentions many of them in the 11th chapter. The further they run, the stronger they get. They are the resilient ones and the ones I want to be like. But it takes intentionality, planning, effort and preparation.

We stand at the beginning of a new year; a starting line of sorts. Did you make any new year’s resolutions this year? Here’s one that I think is more important than all the others: put God first and intentionally nurture your faith. Worship regularly, make time for daily private reading and study of scripture, make a commitment to one of the three Bible stud-ies offered through the church. Then stick with it; no matter what. When the storms in life come, your spiritual roots will keep you nourished and anchored.

 

In the bond of faith,


Pastor Dawn