Just a Thought


All Kinds of Music for All Kinds of Lives

By Mark Fenstermacher
July 23, 2021

For three of my years in college, I lived in a dormitory (Wilkie South) in Bloomington. There are a lot of stories I could tell you from that time in my life but they’re not going to get told here. Now. Or later. (Honestly, I was a rather boring guy living a rather tame lif...

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Unplanned Moments

By Mark Fenstermacher
July 16, 2021

I was an hour early. You read that right: I was an hour early. I had agreed to meet a friend at a local coffee shop at 2 in the afternoon, but I was an hour early. So I read. I jotted down some things on my “to do” list. And then I heard a voice. One of the young ad...

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Giving Walls

By Mark Fenstermacher
July 09, 2021

God has an amazing way of using—or redeeming—even the rough chapters of life. Two people this afternoon told me how good had come out of the COVID-19 pandemic for them. I believe many of us discovered our relationship with God taking on new meaning and power during t...

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Freedom

By Mark Fenstermacher
July 02, 2021

Every time I leave the country, I’ve felt a sense of excitement at the adventure ahead. I’ve also felt a twinge of regret at leaving home behind. The Bible tells us that as children of the covenant we have another homeland, and we are sojourners on this earth. But ...

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Rebuilding the Foundation

By Mark Fenstermacher
June 25, 2021

Starting over can be exhausting. You know that if you have moved, started a new job, gone through a divorce, or lived through a disaster that destroyed your home. Starting over can be exhausting. But there is this one thing about rebuilding: you get to do things in a new and bet...

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Mid-June Update

By Mark Fenstermacher
June 18, 2021

Dear Friend, I don’t know what it is but it’s growing out of the bushes in the backyard of the parsonage. After eying it for a week or so, I finally went out and decided to do battle with the weed that threatened to become a redwood. One came out of the ground easily...

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Love Appeal

By Mark Fenstermacher
June 11, 2021

People in marketing (and everyday conversation) talk about sex appeal but I have been thinking about love appeal this week. It’s easy to demand from others what we think we have coming to us. I remember a summer evening in North Carolina when a friend and lay leader asked ...

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Lost and Found

By Mark Fenstermacher
June 04, 2021

(NOTE: We would like to hear what you have lost and what you have found during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. When you arrive at church this Sunday, please go to the front of the sanctuary. You will find “Post-It” notes, pens and an easel on both sides...

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After the COVID Exile

By Mark Fenstermacher
May 28, 2021

We had been in Estes Park, Colorado for a week. That area of the world is a special place in our lives. On the day we were leaving, heading back to Denver to catch a plane home, I remember driving out of the valley. The road wound around the mountains, climbing higher and higher,...

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Is It Safe?

By Mark Fenstermacher
May 21, 2021

I’ve seen the man around town. We’ve never talked. He always seems absorbed in what he is doing, and I am moving down the hallway at the Y.  I don’t stop. He doesn’t look up. We don’t speak. Little do I know that he is the man who called month...

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Stop It

By Mark Fenstermacher
May 14, 2021

It never made much sense to me. My Dad, a fairly reasonable and enlightened person, became inflexible on Sundays when I talked about doing homework. Doing homework on Sundays was not an option unless I had worked on it most of Saturday and not been able to finish. Sunday was sabb...

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Respect

By Mark Fenstermacher
May 07, 2021

One of the great singers of the last century was—in my opinion—Aretha Franklin. Hearing her 1968 Atlantic release Aretha in Paris was a pivotal moment in my young life. Aretha’s voice and the passion she brought to her music stunned me. She had a way with a song...

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The Patina of Real Freedom

By Mark Fenstermacher
April 30, 2021

Bronze and copper, after they are exposed to the elements long enough, take on a green film which is referred to as a “patina.” I used to think the presence of this patina indicated a need for cleaning or a sign that something was well past its prime. But I’ve c...

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What Will Change?

By Mark Fenstermacher
April 23, 2021

Will anything change? Will there be any movement in breaking free from the unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns of the past, for example, after our time in worship and our focus on the texts that tell us God wants to give us a new name? Will we “step out of our boots&rdq...

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Mid-April Update

By Mark Fenstermacher
April 16, 2021

.square { list-style-type: square; margin-left: 2em; } Dear Friends at First, This morning I began my day talking with a farmer about planting soybeans. He told me that some seeds are designed for a short growing season and some are intended for a longer ...

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Holy Week

March 31, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ, We wanted to invite you—again—to some wonderful worship opportunities at First United Methodist Church here in Auburn. Won't you invite a friend or two, and family members, to join you in worship this week?  (We continue to practice socia...

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The Parade into Jerusalem

By Mark Fenstermacher
March 26, 2021

There are all sorts of parades. My hometown manages to have a 4th of July parade with fire trucks, high school bands, classic cars and restored tractors. The parade is fun but it doesn’t last long. My Mom told me that when I was a child, in Brussels, I was in the crowd when...

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Real Church

By Mark Fenstermacher
March 19, 2021

Have you noticed those large serving trays of desserts that are on display in the front of some restaurants? Those tasty looking delights are almost always made out of rubber and for display purposes only. One Monday, when I was taking the church staff in another congregation ou...

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Variations in our Walk

By Mark Fenstermacher
March 12, 2021

As we walk through Lent with God, I’d like you to think about your soul life as music. Sometimes planned and structured works...it is what we need. And sometimes what we need is more spontaneous, extemporaneous and free-flowing. This afternoon, in my office, I had Bach&rsq...

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The Mystery & Power of Prayer

By Mark Fenstermacher
March 05, 2021

Dear Friends, Prayer is one of the keys to being fully alive, I believe.  Scripture shows us that prayer was something Jesus did often even though (John 1 and Philippians 2) we're told the Carpenter was God in the flesh. If Jesus slipped away to pray, then surely there mus...

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The First Week of Lent

By Nikki Brown Rice
February 26, 2021

Mark 1:12-15 reads, “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the goo...

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The Starting Point

By Mark Fenstermacher
February 19, 2021

When I ask the navigation app on my phone to help me get from here to there, it often asks me what the starting point is going to be. As we enter into this season Christians call “Lent” what is our starting point for our walk with God? In Polish households in South B...

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Hinkle's Hamburgers and Jesus

By Mark Fenstermacher
February 05, 2021

One of my friends teaches at the Kelley School of Business at IU. He was gracious enough to listen to my sermons, week after week, and we talked about getting together for lunch or coffee. Keith and I shared a love for Jesus, a passion for IU basketball and a deep commitment to m...

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"'Tis a Gift to be Simple"

By Mark Fenstermacher
January 29, 2021

Life seem too complicated? Yep, I think so, too. When I moved to Auburn, I needed help setting up my tv. (I remember a black and white tv with four channels and metal rabbit ears)  I'm making the transition from a PC to an Apple computer: nice machine but the progress is ...

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To Heal We Must Remember

By Mark Fenstermacher
January 22, 2021

It caught me. When the lights went on around the Reflecting Pool, a feeling of overwhelming grief rolled over me. Like so many of us, I was watching the simple ceremony on the Washington Mall on the evening of the 19th to honor the coronavirus victims. Four hundred lights were s...

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When (We're) the Crowd Gets that Gets It Wrong

By Mark Fenstermacher
January 15, 2021

Sometimes the good guys (and good women) turn out to be the bad guys (and bad women). Acts 7 tells us about a gathering of learned, scripturally literate, faithful-in-worship folks who are outraged by the passionate preaching and powerful miracles of a young, first-generation Ch...

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The Auburn Open

January 08, 2021
Earlier this winter I was walking down a street where a row of shops were flying red, white and blue flags that said "OPEN." I walked up to each store, on that cold day, and found a smaller sign on each door that said "Closed." They said they were open but the lights were out and...

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New Surprises

By Mark Fenstermacher
January 01, 2021

On Christmas morning, I was down on the floor playing with a 4-year old grandson when I noticed several books nearby. One of them was the children's book, "The Little Island."  I've read a relatively large number of children's books to children, grandchildren and pre-sch...

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The Speechless Preacher

By Mark Fenstermacher
December 24, 2020

What do you do at Christmas when you're a preacher and you can't speak? I faced that challenge for three or four of the eight years we were at New Haven United Methodist. About the time the Christmas trees arrived in a semi-trailer, for the annual United Methodist Men's Christma...

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An Act of Resistance

By Mark Fenstermacher
December 18, 2020

It was as she drove cross-country at night, through eastern Ohio, that Heidi Haverkamp fell in love with the idea of putting a light in the window as an act of resistance. She writes (Christian Century, 12-16-2020) that the tradition of putting a candle in the window is traced ba...

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You Never Know Who May be on an Ice Flow

By Mark Fenstermacher
December 11, 2020

The hunters had been on the pack ice south of the coastal village where we lived in Northwest Alaska the day before, looking for walrus and seal. Pack ice is a strange thing: one day people can be driving their cars around on it, people by the hundreds can be out on it ice fishin...

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Through the Branches

By Mark Fenstermacher
December 04, 2020

I'm a seasonal guy: that doesn't mean I am here today and gone tomorrow, but it means I savor the seasons of the year.  A friend posted something on Facebook after a long walk on a cold morning, and she said, "I love Winter!" Not everyone feels that way, I know. And I know...

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Thanksgiving in a Minor Key

By Mark Fenstermacher
November 26, 2020

These are strange days. I'll not dance around that in an attempt to put a positive spin on things: these are strange days. Many people are feeling a sense of loss since they cannot be with the family and friends they love, and our hearts ache to be around a table we can't joi...

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A Perfect Time to be the Light

By Mark Fenstermacher
November 19, 2020

We had lost everything. Well, not quite everything. Each of us had been allowed to take 5 pounds of personal possessions when we were loaded onto the small twin-engine C-47 and flown out of the jungle in the war-torn Congo.  For a brief period of three months, we were welco...

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The Narrow Way

By Mark Fenstermacher
November 11, 2020

One of my favorite verses in one of my favorite hymns says "There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea." The lyrics by Frederick William Faber are a comfort to me because I'm pretty sure that I am one of those EGR people (Extra Grace Required)–even in t...

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Beyond a City Divided

By Mark Fenstermacher
November 05, 2020

*(This article is being written on the afternoon of November 4th, when ballots are still being cast and the winner of the Presidential election has not yet been announced. It is important for you to know that so you understand this call to unity is not written in response to the ...

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The Set Free Season

By Mark Fenstermacher
October 29, 2020

A few months ago I was walking through a park in suburban Virginia with my grandson, Grant. We came to several wooden cages in the forest preserve, just a few yards from the nature center. Each wooden enclosure was about six feet tall and four feet wide. Inside each there was a ...

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When the Earth Moves

By Mark Fenstermacher
October 23, 2020

We were lying on the beach at Warren Dunes State Park on a perfect summer day. Suddenly, the beach began to shake and move. I looked up to see if a large truck was driving across a parking lot about two hundred yards to the east, but there were no large trucks going by. I asked, ...

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How Not to Give Up

By Mark Fenstermacher
October 15, 2020

One night on Mackinac Island, I had the opportunity to talk with a young sailor who was standing watch on a small Great Lakes cruise ship. A ex-Navy man, he had served on an aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic. Sailing on the Great Lakes was more challenging than deep blue oce...

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Unplanned Miracles

By Mark Fenstermacher
October 08, 2020

Have you ever heard someone mention "the law of unintended consequences?" Recently, I began reading through the sermons of John Wesley. John was a short, Church of England priest and first-rate scholar who—with others— set the renewal movement known as Methodism in m...

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Letting Go

By Mark Fenstermacher
October 01, 2020

I like the seasons. I like living in a place where the heat of summer suddenly cools. I like living in a place where the world turns white as snow falls, where the grip of winter is broken by an unexpected gust of warm wind and the appearance of the spring sun, and where trees an...

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A Chapel Unlike Any Other

By Mark Fenstermacher
September 24, 2020

When I think of chapel time, I think of quiet prayers, lighted candles, readings from scripture, light coming through stained glass, a choir loft with choir, antiphonal singing, hymns and a sermon. When I was asked if I would lead "chapel time" in our Early Learning Center, I kn...

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"Is Help on the Way?"

September 17, 2020
Driving up the interstate late in the evening, my phone lit up and I realized I needed to send a text. So I pulled off at the next exit, drove onto the shoulder, put the transmission in Park, and bent over my bright phone to send a note. My emergency flashers were blinking even t...

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Gracious Words

By Mark Fenstermacher
September 10, 2020

As the November election approaches and as the United Methodist General Conference looms on the horizon, the wildfires of California seem to reflect the increasingly hot rhetoric of this season. The fires, in the superheated air and in this dry season, burn up hills and down int...

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Blue Moon and the Bible

By Mark Fenstermacher
September 03, 2020

I can't tell you who was singing the song "Blue Moon" when I first heard it but I suspect it was by Bobby Vinton. It was a nice enough song with lyrics that spoke to an adolescent's heart: "Blue moon, You saw me standing alone, Without a dream in my heart, Without a love of my o...

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A Sunday Afternoon Picnic and Learning to See God in the Bible

By Mark Fenstermacher
August 27, 2020

If you want to find meaning and truth in the Bible, it may be helpful to use the very same strategies a visitor to the Art Institute in Chicago uses in viewing Georges Seurat's magnificent (and large!) painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Using a ver...

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Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone

By Mark Fenstermacher
August 20, 2020

Stones can get in our way and cause us to stumble. Or stones can be a stepping stone that allows us to stand where we want to stand and see what we want to see. It's the same thing with the Bible: read one way it can be a stumbling block and read another way it can be a steppi...

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When Things Aren't Where They're Supposed to Be

By Mark Fenstermacher
August 06, 2020

Moving is a strange experience. You pick up your things, pack them away, carry them a distance, and then start opening boxes. I find moving exhausting and -literally- unsettling. Developing a new normal during times of transition and change requires thought and intentionalit...

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Somewhere Between Corn and Tobacco

By Mark Fenstermacher
July 30, 2020

We were young. A secure job with a recent promotion had been left behind. I was driving a U-Haul truck, headed east on I-40 out of Knoxville, Tennessee, and my wife was following along behind in our car with our 9-month old son. The clouds were low and dark as evening approached...

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The Chocolate Cheesecake Lesson

By Mark Fenstermacher
July 23, 2020

One of the first things I’ve been doing is meeting small groups for “meet and greet” sessions. These have been wonderful and down the road I’ll share some general observations about what I have heard...what people are thinking. People are working to ...

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A Different Destination

By Mark Fenstermacher
July 16, 2020

Sometimes life sends you off in an unexpected direction. The Bible is full of those sorts of stories, and I hunch your life is as well. When our family was quite young, we had returned from Africa to Indiana unexpectedly. We assumed we would be heading back to the Congo. To prep...

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Getting Started

By Mark Fenstermacher
July 09, 2020

There is a curious mixture of excitement, anxiety, and raggedness when we are about to begin something new.  Over the last two months or so I have been "stepping into" the life and ministry of Auburn First in small ways (with the knowledge and blessing of your previous ou...

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