February 2021 Newsletter

A Word from the Pastor: The Little Things

In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven, a former US Navy SEAL, gave a memorable commencement address to the graduates of the University of Texas at Austin, his alma mater. He started off by making an odd challenge to the class of 2014: “If you want to change the world,” he intoned, “start off by making your bed.” The crowd chuckled at his suggestion, and I understand why. His advice seemed so small and seemingly beneath the stature of a successful military career man. Plus, his advice—to make one’s bed—seemed so insignificant. What possible connection is there between success—changing the world!—and tucking in your sheets every morning?!

But he explained himself, and the cogs started to move together: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task. And another, and another. And by the end of the day, that task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.” And at this point, I must say that I’m intrigued. Doing that simple thing, he goes on to say, will “reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.” And now I’m hooked.

On February 17, many Christians in the West will begin Lent with the somber observance of Ash Wednesday. Lent is a season of spiritual discipline and preparation for the joy of Easter, but which first goes through the darkness of the Gethsemane and Golgotha. Christians in certain traditions are encouraged to enrich their prayer lives and to pursue repentance: that is, actually turning away from sin and seeking a holier life. Many Christians also embrace the discipline of fasting—that is, abstaining from all food or certain kinds of food for a period of time (say, Wednesdays and Fridays).

Now, Protestants, including Baptists, are unique in their spiritual disciplines: unlike nearly all other forms of human religion in the world and throughout history, Protestants (and Baptists) don’t fast. They just don’t. Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Jains, Hindus, and Buddhists all fast from food at various times. But Protestants don’t. I think it comes from our rebellious attitude toward organized religion, stemming from the Reformation of the 16th century. But I contend there is spiritual value in fasting. It’s a little like making your bed in the morning.

When we abstain from certain foods or abstain from food altogether (for an entire day, for instance), it’s not works righteousness. It’s not earning salvation. It’s not a badge of honor either. It’s a discipline. And in that respect, fasting is like making your bed each morning. When we make our bed (or some other small task), we focus ourselves and our wills on doing a particular thing. And when we fast, we likewise take control of one aspect of our lives—eating—and we reinforce the idea that the little things in life matter. Because if we can’t get the little things right, we won’t get the big things right either, whether it’s our careers or our spiritual lives.

I have observed that being disciplined in one area (food) leads to being disciplined in other areas of my life. It’s like exercising a muscle or practicing a skill. We become stronger and more efficient at a spiritual discipline when we practice it. So, when we abstain from food, we experience hunger, and we are confronted with our desires, which are often exaggerated and addicted. But we can take that physical hunger and direct it toward Jesus Christ, who is the true Bread from heaven.

This Lent don’t be afraid to experiment with spiritual disciplines a bit. Try fasting. Eliminate some bad habit or a kind of junk food from your diet. Pray instead of eating lunch one day a week. Read Scripture more slowly and diligently. Give more generously to God’s work in the world. Direct your hunger and thirst toward Jesus Christ, who alone satisfies. During Lent, “return to the LORD your God. For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in faithful love.” (Joel 2:13)

Pastor Ray

The Life of Our Church

Online or In-Person Services

We are open in a “new normal”! Feel free to worship in-person, with common-sense precautions (e.g., masks and keeping social distance). But if you are uncomfortable coming to worship, you may worship virtually through our YouTube channel. We will stream the service live, and the service will be archived after that.

Please visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel to discover our videos:


Sunday School

“Socially Distanced Sunday School.” Bring your Bible and a friend. Every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. We will soon be finishing Hebrews and be moving into James (and beyond). So this is a great time to get involved!

American Baptist Women’s Ministries

ABWM will meet on Wednesday, February 17, at 1:30 p.m.

Ladies’ Day Out

Calling all women! Come and share in an afternoon of fellowship and fun. Thursday, February 11, at 1:30 p.m. Please bring your mask, a drink for yourself, and any clothes you may want to swap with others.

Atlantic Ministerial Association

Our church will be hosting the local ministerial on Wednesday, February 10, at 11:00 a.m.

Diaconate Meeting

Our deacons will gather after worship on February 14.

Ash Wednesday

First United Presbyterian Church will be observing an Ash Wednesday service on Wednesday, February 17, at 5:30 p.m. in their sanctuary. Join them for a time of spiritual renewal.

Atlantic Food Pantry

The Atlantic Food Pantry has seen dramatically heavier usage this winter! They always need food and monetary donations. Please consider supporting the food pantry, either directly or by dropping off goods here at our sanctuary. Also, they don’t need any more empty egg cartons.

Ray’s Office Hours

Ray will keep office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment. You can always call, text, Facebook video chat, Zoom, etc.!

Communion in February

We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Sunday, February 7. And if you are watching worship on YouTube, you are certainly encouraged to participate at home with your own elements.

From Our Mission Workers

“The Christmas season may look a little different, as we face uncertainties and difficulties that we haven’t faced before. With you, we know the burden of having loved ones who are ill, or being separated from people we care about, of learning new ways of doing everyday life. But our prayer is that you and your loved ones will know the gracious peace given through the gift of Emmanuel, our ever-present loving Savior. For now, we remain in Indiana and await a return to full-time ministry in Thailand in God’s will and timing. But we thank God for the way He has cared for us throughout the last year, for giving us a home in which to live with our children while we wait, even providing a way for Kyle to continue teaching his students in Thailand thanks to the Internet. We pray that you, too, can count the blessings of God’s love and care for you. Thank you so much for blessings us with your support this year. May ever joy of Jesus be yours.”

Kyle and Debby Witmer

Hannah, Brennan, Julia, and Emma

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