Thursday Thoughts
     Phillips Memorial Baptist Church

Phillips Memorial Baptist Church
565 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, Rhode Island  02910


Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton:

  Pastor Amy's Thursday Thoughts

Thursday Thoughts

Ever Changing, Always the Same

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 09/28/23

According to Merriam-Webster, the word “folx” was first used in 1833. The Cambridge dictionary claims it was first used in the 1990s. In either case, this word follows the practice of using an “x” to indicate all genders, such as in Spanish. Example: “latinx” takes the place of the male gendered “latino” or the male/female/super/awkward “latino/a.” This way of using “x” (which totally preceded Elon Musk) was then incorporated into “folx” in order to purposefully mean “all people” with the extra of it meaning “all people, of all genders, and all sexualities.”


“Folx” kind of goes well with our new ministry statement. And it has the added surprise of taking folx by surprise!


Folx, all really does mean all here!


Language is funny. Once we think we have it settled, it moves right along and surprises us with new little gems. Languages are always on the move. The English we know today is little like its forerunner in the 5th century. Have you ever tried to read an Old English document from back then? It’s enough to make you cry.


Is this talk on the shifting form of language making you want to cry? Good thing you didn’t sit through the adult Sunday Morning Bible Study where we talked about the addition of vowels to the Hebrew language and the complexity of reading God’s name, YWHW, when the vowels added to it are from another word and are added to make it unpronounceable!


Head spinning?


It gets a bit tricky, then, when we think that we use ever changing human language to talk about God who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Malachi also has the Lord speaking and saying, “I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O Children of Jacob, have not perished” (3:6). God is the same, yes, but God is the same in that God is consistently the God who is love. God is consistently the God who takes joy in us like God took joy in our creation (Psalm 18:19). God is not static because love is not static. And those of you who have loved know that to love means to always find ways to be loving and present to the one you love. And that does involve growth, change, and dynamism.


So, what about language? Language is part of this created world, ever growing and changing as we grow and change. There are words folx used 100 years ago that we wouldn’t use now - because they are antiquated or because they are harmful. And there are new words that will cycle into our lingo because we are creative people, always reaching for the infinite with what we have: language.


So, what words will you use this week to bring God’s love to those around you? What words might you let go because they no longer serve that purpose well?


Folx, whatever words you use, I pray that they will reflect brightly the God who is love to a creation that sits in waiting to know this good news.




Pastor Amy 

Seeing Anew

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 09/21/23

The past few days in Cranston have been perfect weatherwise. So, needing to clear my head this morning and needing to help the dog work out some wiggles, we walked to the church building. The air was slightly crisp, the trees are still green, and the sky was a brilliant blue. I appreciated the change of perspective I had on same route I take most days. I could see flowers up close that I can’t while driving - including a hefty milkweed that is growing out of a sidewalk crack. Daisy, meanwhile, got to smell all the things.

Think about the things you have done that have given you a new perspective on an old sight. Being out on the water makes the shore look a whole lot different than being on the beach. Boating from Providence to Newport seems much more direct than driving between the two. Seeing your city from an airplane makes it look a bit different than seeing it from your car or house windows. Perhaps the new view makes things look smaller or even makes things look closer together than when you experience them “on the ground.” The time and effort it takes to knit a sweater might give you a new perspective on the justice problems of fast fashion and worker’s rights.

In Ezekial God promised the exiled Israelites to give them a new perspective when they return home from exile. God had promised they were going to come home - but the cherry on top was that they would see and understand things in a new way!

“For I will bring you back from the nations, and gather you from every land, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle pure water over you, and you will be purified from everything that defiles you. I will purify you from the taint of all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:24-26, The Inclusive Bible).

What is fascinating about this text is that it is set in the middle of a lengthy discussion on how their perspective on God and the world had to change and how their time in exile was going to be when that happened. New perspectives can be hard hard won - in this case, while God is promising a new perspective on faithfulness, God is also telling them this new perspective is going to come about through some rather challenging life experiences.

Israel didn’t exactly choose to be colonized and trafficked into exile - but by the grace of God good was able to come from even that. By God’s same grace, good and new perspectives are able to come from difficult life realities we also did not nor would not have chosen. God’s love can be victorious over pain, trauma, and hate - and one of the ways it can win is by us learning anew how to love and be faithful despite our life circumstances. If we can emerge from pain with love instead of hate, God’s grace has won. If we can emerge from being the victims of injustice with compassion and advocacy for other victims, God’s grace has won.

But, new perspectives can also come about through changes we choose - such as choosing to walk instead of drive, or choosing to start a new spiritual practice or hobby. While I would never encourage you to have difficult life situations in order to learn something new, I do pray that you might try something new and be present in those moments to how you might see God and the world differently. Perhaps you might start a daily journaling or prayer practice, perhaps you might read a new genre or book of the Bible you aren’t familiar with, or perhaps you might find a new way to befriend your neighbors. These purposeful ways of seeking new perspectives on God’s presence in this world might just open you to God’s grace in new ways.

So, this week as you go about your days, be open to God finding you in new ways, because God’s love is always ready to spring forth anew.


Pastor Amy

The Power of the Tongue

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 09/14/23

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which He looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are His body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

~ Teresa of Avila


A few times lately I’ve found myself saying something like, “my ears heard something come out of my mouth before I realized I’d said it.” Usually it is something funny. Because I’m always funny. Ok, not always. But, a woman can dream! I am sure I’m not the only one who sometimes speaks before I think!


Do you know that there are 8 muscles in the human tongue? Whether or not the tongue is the strongest set of muscles in the human body is debatable, but we do know that the strength of the tongue is its ability to offer healing or harm, to give praise or to cut down.


We can use our tongues to offer praise to God - which seems the height of what it can do! In Psalm 119:172, the Psalmist promises, “my tongue will sing of your promise, for all your commandments are right.” Our tongues can also offer healing, welcome, and grace to fellow persons on the journey of life and faith. Proverbs 15 puts this possibility in poetic form: “the tongue of the wise dispenses wisdom” (v. 2), “a gentle tongue is the tree of life” (v. 4).


The words we say to others can bring life, can be a means by which God’s grace moves in this world. Simple words to a stranger who walks through our sanctuary doors might offer healing in place of past harm: “you are welcome here,” “God’s love is for everyone.” Think about how those words might offer healing to folks who have been marginalized or harmed previously by the church.


But, the tongue can do harm as well, which is its flip-side. The teacher in Proverbs alternates each of the beautiful lines above with the truth of the tongue's ambivalent power: “perverseness in [the tongue] breaks the spirit” (15:4). Power in the tongue? Indeed! The teacher proclaims a few chapters later that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (18:21).


I suspect that you can pull up old memories of times a person spoke harshly or hatefully to you - and perhaps these memories still bring up the hot shame or anger you might have felt at the time the words were uttered. So, you can easily imagine how destructive it is to hear someone say something along the lines of, “all are welcome here, except [whatever you are],” or “how dare you do [whatever you did],” or “[insert any number of dismissive, unkind, or unhelpful statements].” For its small size, the tongue can cut to our very center.


Here is what I pray - that each of us would be aware of the power we have to heal or harm others with our words, our tones, and our body language. Our tongues are powerful - and folks carry with them for a very long time the healing or harm that our tongues have done. So, speak kindly to each other and be humble and ready to extend an apology to those you have hurt (and I am definitely including myself in this “you”!).


In the words of Paul, “be ready to do whatever is good. …not to speak evil of anyone or to be quarrelsome….be forbearing, and display perfect courtesy to all” (Titus 2:1b-2). You are the mouth of Christ in this world, sometimes the only mouth from folks will hear the good spoken!




Pastor Amy


Learning Grace

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 09/13/23

The preschool children are back in the building at Little Shepherd and the Associate Pawster is very excited that recess is back in session! She’s not so excited that she has to give the new littles time to acclimate to her size and energy. All people are Pawster Daisy’s friends - and doubly so if they have treats! But, she and they have to learn to co-exist, and then to enjoy each other. It will happen, of that I’m sure.

When we popped in today to greet the cutest line of preschoolers, one little guy whom I had just met made sure to tell me that “she hit” him. I’m not entirely sure if the “she” was the little girl in line in front of him or if “she” was Daisy’s swishing tail. Certainly I hadn’t witnessed anything, but he was quite serious.

Think back to your own younger years - I’m sure you remember having to learn to forgive or to say you were hurt. Probably not so hard to remember since most of us are still working on these things today!

As our children spend their days learning grace, resilience, and courage, let them remind all of us that we are all still on this journey - even if we don’t all get new lunchboxes and sparkly shoes to help us along this journey! 

As we go about our days, I pray that the Spirit will continually guide us in learning grace: learning to give grace, learning to accept grace, and learning to be grace. Then we might say with Paul, “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14). 


Pastor Amy

Blessed are we, the graced.

We who don’t deserve it.

Whose failures haunt us.

The things we said.

The things we left unsaid.

The decisions and addictions and broken relationships

that have ripple effects we still feel today.

Somehow, we are the recipients of this mysterious gift.

Grace doesn’t erase the pain or harm we’ve caused.

But grace, still.

For us, the redeemable.

And if we are . . . that means they are too.

Yes–even them:

The rude neighbor.

The estranged father.

The unforgiving ex.

The boss who screwed you over.

The doctor who messed up.

The selfish pastor.

The family member who did the unthinkable.

Despite what we all have left done and left undone. We are graced.

Blessed are all of us who wrestle with unforgiveness and ungrace.

You who make amends.

You who reach for forgiveness.

You who say you’re sorry even when sorry will never be enough.

You who find the bridge to forgive the wrong done to you.

Even when you cannot forget. Or can’t go back.

Or they aren’t nearly sorry enough.

Blessed are we who live here. In this mystery, this scandal, of grace.

~ Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie. “finding grace for others (and ourselves).” In The Lives we Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days: pp. 114-15.

The River of Time

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 08/31/23

This morning when I stepped outside to walk the dog, one of the neighbor girls was walking to her first day of kindergarten - with grandparents, dad, and older sister escorting her. Tomorrow my daughter starts her senior year in high school. How is it possible that she is no longer the 5-year-old going to her first day of kindergarten in the momma-made sundress?


Time can be cruel sometimes - stretching out until our fatigued bodies stage protest while simultaneously rushing past so fast we can’t catch our breath. Other times it can be a balm - after all, it supposedly heals our wounds. It’s hard to know how to respond to the passing or stalling of time - should I be happy that my child is taking this next step or sad that all the previous steps are done?


Being present in the moment takes wisdom in responding to the uneven passage of time - or perhaps it is the key to smoothing those different speeds out!


In the Hebrew Scripture book of Ecclesiastes, the “teacher” reminds us that time encompasses the whole breadth of the human experience:


There is a time for everything,

a season for every purpose under heaven:

a season to be born and a season to die;

a season to plant and a season to harvest;

a season to hurt and a season to heal;

a season to tear down and a season to build up;

a season to cry and a season to laugh;

a season to mourn and a season to dance;

a season to scatter stones and a season to gather them;

a season for holding close and a season for holding back;

a season to seek and a season to lose;

a season to keep and a season to throw away;

a season to tear and a season to mend;

a season to be silent and a season to speak;

a season to love and a season to hate;

a season for hostilities and a season for peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, The Inclusive Bible)


The teacher goes on to remind their readers that God is present in all of those times. God is present when we begin and when we reach the end of our lives. God is present when we live through war and when we live through peace. God is present when our loved ones are near and when we have to let them go. Simply put: God is present through all the times, however they meet us.


So, this year, whatever time brings to you, I pray that you find your quiet center and whether time is racing or crawling, you know you are held in God’s heart. In that space, time doesn’t damage or harm.


For all of our new seasons and all of the seasons we see only behind us, God grant us the courage and grace to be present to where you are leading us today.




Pastor Amy