Discernment by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

Sometimes it feels like life is an endless flood of choices. Whether they be large or small, these decisions over time define a lot about who we are and where we’re going. Even if we try to avoid choosing, that itself is just another kind of choice!

So this week’s passage from Paul, Philippians 1:3-11, is especially helpful. Reading this letter sent to the church in Philippi, it seems clear that Paul is unhappy with some of the choices made by the believers there. And yet, he doesn’t let that difference in opinion break their relationship or sever their common kindred in Christ -- on the contrary, Paul thanks God “constantly” for what they are doing, and fervently prays “that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best.”

We can be sure Paul had his own opinions about how things should be! He was a very opinionated person, and generally not hesitant to share his viewpoints. But he was also a humble servant of the Lord, and passages like this remind us that even he recognized his limits.

I hope that as we make decisions we do so from knowledge and insight rooted in overflowing love -- and I also hope that as we look at the decisions others make, perhaps including decisions we don’t agree with, we can still be grateful to God for the presence of those others in our lives. May our prayer for one another be the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi, that our decisions be guided to produce a “harvest of righteousness” through Christ-like compassion.

Blessings of clarity be with you all,


When Cats Herd Themselves by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

Have you ever tried to get a group of people to do something -- only to find that while everybody agrees that it’s a good idea, somehow nothing ever happens? It’s an experience most of us have had at one time or another, that frustrating feeling of “herding cats.”

What do you call the opposite of “herding cats”? What do you call it when, out of the blue, people decide to get together, to carry on with something, to make something great happen even when the original leaders aren’t there to push things forward? What do you say when cats herd themselves?

In this week’s epistle reading, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Paul is responding to exactly that sort of miracle. The church community that he was forced to abandon after being with them only a very few weeks has not only survived and continued to meet in the face of persecution, but it abounds, both in numbers and “in love for one another and for all.”

Paul’s words are filled with a sense of wonder and gratitude, overjoyed that God’s living Spirit has kept the church alive and together when they had every reason to fall apart. I feel some of that same wonder when I see God’s work being done in spontaneous ways. When I hear about these online fundraisers that raise millions to support the victims of tragedy, and when I see communities of faith that stay true to God’s love in the face of violence, I know that the hand of the Lord is there.

May we all be confronted this week by examples of God’s ongoing leadership both in our church and around the world.

Grace and peace,


Christ Outside the Church by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

Sometimes our walk with God can feel like a long, slow journey. Sometimes it can feel like our prayers are answered by silence. And then sometimes Christ comes walking right up to us, bold as brass, clear as day.

And Christ isn't limited to the church, or to those who call themselves Christian! To call Ari Mahler, a Jewish nurse who cared for the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooter, to call Ari a Christian would be false and wrong, an attempt to erase his Jewishness. But when he wrote about what he did and why, I met Christ in his words nonetheless; and I hope nobody would be offended if I said that I truly believe the same Spirit that resided in the heart of Jesus, a Jew from Nazareth, lives on today in the heart of Ari Mahler.

I cannot encourage you enough to read the whole of Ari's facebook post. I've copied the text below. I believe these words are inspired. Let Ari's prayer be ours as well this week, a message of love in a world where too many people take pride in their hate.

God's love be in you and with you,


Ari Mahler

November 3 at 2:38 PM

I am The Jewish Nurse.

Yes, that Jewish Nurse. The same one that people are talking about in the Pittsburgh shooting that left 11 dead. The trauma nurse in the ER that cared for Robert Bowers who yelled, "Death to all Jews," as he was wheeled into the hospital. The Jewish nurse who ran into a room to save his life.

To be honest, I’m nervous about sharing this. I just know I feel alone right now, and the irony of the world talking about me doesn’t seem fair without the chance to speak for myself.

When I was a kid, being labeled “The Jewish (anything)”, undoubtedly had derogatory connotations attached to it. That's why it feels so awkward to me that people suddenly look at it as an endearing term. As an adult, deflecting my religion by saying “I’m not that religious,” makes it easier for people to accept I’m Jewish – especially when I tell them my father is a rabbi. “I’m not that religious,” is like saying, “Don’t worry, I’m not that Jewish, therefore, I’m not so different than you,” and like clockwork, people don’t look at me as awkwardly as they did a few seconds beforehand.

I experienced anti-Semitism a lot as a kid. It’s hard for me to say if it was always a product of genuine hatred, or if kids with their own problems found a reason to single me out from others. Sure, there were a few Jewish kids at my school, but no one else had a father who was a Rabbi. I found drawings on desks of my family being marched into gas chambers, swastikas drawn on my locker, and notes shoved inside of it saying, “Die Jew. Love, Hitler.” It was a different time back then, where bullying was not monitored like it is now. I was weak, too. Rather than tell anyone, I hid behind fear. Telling on the people who did this would only lead to consequences far worse.

Regardless, the fact that this shooting took place doesn’t shock me. To be honest, it’s only a matter of time before the next one happens. History refutes hope that things will change. My heart yearns for change, but today's climate doesn't foster nurturing, tolerance, or civility. Even before this shooting took place, there’s no real evidence supporting otherwise. The FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center note that Jews only account for two percent of the U.S. population, yet 60% of all religious hate crimes are committed against them. I don’t know why people hate us so much, but the underbelly of anti-Semitism seems to be thriving.

So now, here I am, The Jewish Nurse that cared for Robert Bowers. I’ve watched them talk about me on CNN, Fox News, Anderson Cooper, PBS, and the local news stations. I’ve read articles mentioning me in the NY Times and the Washington Post. The fact that I did my job, a job which requires compassion and empathy over everything, is newsworthy to people because I’m Jewish. Even more so because my dad’s a Rabbi.

To be honest, I didn't see evil when I looked into Robert Bower's eyes. I saw something else. I can’t go into details of our interactions because of HIPAA. I can tell you that as his nurse, or anyone's nurse, my care is given through kindness, my actions are measured with empathy, and regardless of the person you may be when you're not in my care, each breath you take is more beautiful than the last when you're lying on my stretcher. This was the same Robert Bowers that just committed mass homicide. The Robert Bowers who instilled panic in my heart worrying my parents were two of his 11 victims less than an hour before his arrival.

I’m sure he had no idea I was Jewish. Why thank a Jewish nurse, when 15 minutes beforehand, you’d shoot me in the head with no remorse? I didn’t say a word to him about my religion. I chose not to say anything to him the entire time. I wanted him to feel compassion. I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong. Besides, if he finds out I’m Jewish, does it really matter? The better question is, what does it mean to you?

Love. That’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. It reaffirms why we’re all here. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings. I could care less what Robert Bowers thinks, but you, the person reading this, love is the only message I wish instill in you. If my actions mean anything, love means everything.


Ari Mahler, RN.

All Saints by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

Today is All Saints' Day. For many of us, it's a time to look back on not just the saints of history and the Bible, but also the people in our own stories who led us to where we are in our faith. Perhaps it was a parent you've known all your life, or perhaps it was a passerby you only met for a moment. Perhaps a friend, a coworker, or even someone you never met-- the writer of a book or a song. None of these people were perfect, but in the moments that they led you closer to God and the love of Christ, in those moments they were saints.

And if you find yourself thinking of times when you felt the presence of God without the help of anyone else, times when you watched the leaves blowing or looked with love on a stranger, then I have a word for you: Saint. You may not be perfect, either, but in those moments, through those moments, you are claimed by God. The apostle Paul recognizes this, addressing his letters "to the saints" in Rome, in Corinth, in Phillipi... and, I believe, in Christiansburg.

Today we remember how we came to where we are... and we also remember that we are claimed, held, loved. As my grandmother used to say, we "remember who we are and whose we are." It's good to take a day just for that.

God's love be with us all,


God's Tears by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

Today has been one long, slow rain since before sunup. And to me it seems like a sign of God's grief, tears falling steadily, the sun hidden.

I'm feeling this way today because of the news from Jeffersontown, Kentucky, where a shooter killed two people at a Kroger this past Wednesday. Today it came out that the attacker had no particular connection to the victims, but rather the attack was likely racially motivated; he had tried entering the historic black First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown just before going to the Kroger. There is a report that when a bystander drew a concealed handgun to confront the shooter, the shooter yelled "Don't shoot me. I won't shoot you. Whites don't shoot whites."

Vicki Lee Jones is remembered as warm and open-hearted, "a good Christian woman who wouldn't hurt a fly." Maurice Stallard was a pillar of the community, and at the time was going shopping with his 12-year-old grandson. These precious people, our brother and sister in the Lord, have been devoured by the ravening beast that is racial hatred in this country. How can this keep happening? 

And yet "I know that my redeemer lives." I know that God suffers with us, and God is crying with us. And I know that vindication is coming, that Vicki and Maurice, I pray, will be raised up by God, an everlasting part of the Kingdom. Not a hair on their heads will be forgotten by the One who loved them, and loves them still. Our grief is heard in heaven.

God's never-ending love and grace be with each of you,