What Brenda Saw In the Introduction Of It’s Never Too Late

Brenda was away at a conference in New York until Thursday. Friday was her preparation day for a full day of teaching at a woman’s conference in Framingham MA. Saturday was the women’s conference.

Today Brenda spent the morning repacking her car and getting ready for the next conference in Rhode Island. She is expected at hat venue by 3 P.M. She also took a few moments to send me her thoughts on the introduction to our artistic reboot.

Brenda says…I want us to share the excitement about what we are about to embark on. I see this as a journey of rediscovery…and releasing.

I underlined a lot in the introduction. There were many gems, but the three that stood out to me.

1. Artists don’t retire. It is so true. And a caviate is that every person has an artistic nature inside of them….I have been watching as Mom has been doing her intricate colorings in her adult coloring books. She is very careful about the colors she chooses for each section, and careful to stay in the lines. Her color choices are amazing. I have noted after coloring her brain is more alert and she is more interested in the life going on around her. So in the midst of the throws of Dementia…this part of her has not been stolen from her.

2. FAST is not what we are after. This was regarding hand writing our 3 pages daily.*** Part of the reboot requires that we handwrite three pages stream of thought as soon as we get up each morning***. This time of rediscovery, and releasing and raising the curtain on ACT 2 of our lives, must be done with care and leisure. RUSH AND HURRY which win the daily grind, will never help us raise the curtain on ACT 2. We must be willing to slow down, and see what is brought to us, and embrace the moment for all its fullness. and finally…

3. EVERY LIFE IS FASCINATING-HONOR THE LIFE YOU HAVE LED. Hearing someone downplay their life as uninteresting or of little import is disheartening. People and the lives they lead fascinate me. If I am honest it enfuriates me when people belittle the importance of their lives. In the end if we step back we see a glorious work of art called LIFE. In the end we must step back and be thankful for the lives we have led and the impact we have been able to make, and for the people who have left their indellible marks on our life…and move on to Act 2 with grateful grace-filled hearts.

For me I think this journey, will bring some sense of peace to the chaos, some sense of release and relief from the past, and will allow me to embrace and be fully present to take hold of the new things coming in Act 2.

After Brenda wrote these thoughts she finished packing. Amanda met her as soon as her responsibilities here at Cornerstone were finished. Now they are on the road to Rhode Island for the Southern New England Network Conference. I am staying home with Mom tonight and will meet them for a few hours tomorrow in the afternoon.

What J. Saw In the Introduction Of It’s Never Too Late

So this morning was my second day of writing my morning pages. Once again my hand was asleep by the end of page one, but stream of thought was so rich I pressed through to discover what was really in my brain.

Brenda sent me some thoughts on the introduction which I will share shortly. I wanted to share the things that jumped out at me as I read the introduction to my artistic reboot.

“I myself believe creativity is a spiritual path.” Julia cameron

“Most working artists never retire.” Julia Cameron

“No matter how old you get, if you can keep the desire to be creative, your keeping the man-child alive.” John Cassavetes

Basic Principles for creative recovery:

  1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy- pure creative energy.
  2. There is an underlying, indwelling creative force infusing all of life- including ourselves.
  3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the Creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
  4. We are ourselves creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves
  5. Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God
  6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.
  7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: Good Orderly Direction.
  8. As we open our creative channel to the Creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
  9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
  10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a Divine source.- Julia Cameron

Which of these stands out to you?

The Threads Of the Week

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We have been talking the last few days about the threads running through the Vicarage. I know when I say “The threads are a mess”… it offers little more than a metaphor for what is going on…so maybe just a glimpse into our world.

Sunday..Mother’s Day.Mom did not remember it was Mother’s Day and kept asking why we were having a special dinner. She also didn’t understand why we wouldn’t let her pay for her ice cream sundae from Murdock Farm. She enjoyed it anyway.

Monday… we were off to Lynn MA by 8:30 A.M. to visit Melanie, James and Daniella for Mother’s Day. Back to Winchendon by 1:30 P.M. (with a stop at Petsmart and then lunch at Longhorns mind you) so Brenda could hit the road for Syracuse.

Snug has been a little nonplussed about all the comings and goings. He no longer knows when bed time or wake up time is as his Dutch schedule is decidedly different from our American schedule.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday work for me and Amanda was prayer meetings, Bible studies, worship rehersals, hospital visits and nursing home visits, throw in a couple of staff meetings, a track meet for Amanda and dinners made between appointments and our nightly Red Sox game with mom and you have life at the Vicarage…Meanwhile Brenda travels and meets and greets and promotes and fundraises.

Friday is paperwork day at the Cornerstone office and Vicarage alike. Although this week paperwork has to be put aside for Brenda who comes home needing to write two sermons for a woman’s conference in Framingham, MA which she booked while she was in New York ….

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Today I met with my artist’s community, a group called C.cada. I spent the day working on piano parts for upcoming choir rehersals and worship services while stealing time between arpeggios to catch up on blog work.

Amanda traveled with her cousin, Tyler, to Chicopee MA to have lunch with her other cousin, Ryan. Brenda of course is preaching at women’s conference.

Threads continue to converge and bunch in a giant mess. Somehow they still all come out to reveal God’s plan for the minister’s of the Vicarage. Now where are my car keys?

J. On Getting An Artistic Reboot

Many years ago God gave me a phrase I felt I was to live by: My life is to be built Slow, Constant and Intentional. I have never really struggled with the “Constant” part of that command. I am a pretty good plodder. I can keep going and going and going. I don’t have problems showing up early or staying late.

I feel like I have learned to be “Intentional”. That hasn’t come naturally. It has been a process learning to plan and live my life by a God rhythm. Even all these years into practicing the lifestyle I find there are moments where my intentionality misses a beat or six. In those moments, I have to replan and resubmit myself to the process of being intentioned or thought-out. Mostly I feel my failures in complying with God’s three-step plan have been founded in the trouble I have with slowing down.

Nothing in my life feels slow enough. I feel rushed everyday. Even when I am intentionally taking it slow I feel like the world around me is screaming “HURRY UP!” That external shout makes my insides fight against my attempts towards easing up on life’s gas pedal.

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I can be intentionally moving along at a proper God-set pace, then the world comes along with its myriad requirements and my intentions which are geared to a slower lifestyle fly out the window. I am left scrambling to try and figure out which intentions to keep and which ones to throw away so I can go once again live as fast and furious as the rest of the world.

I’ve noticed over the last year how much this kills my creativity. I run from one thing to the next and frankly sometimes I feel like I am just “phoning it in”. In those moments I sense most powerfully there is something inside of me that screaming for a return to excellence.

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I know this all just sounds like so much complaining about first world problems. Maybe that is part of it, but somewhere in the middle of that is a conviction from the Holy Spirit that things are supposed to be different.

When Brenda and I were discussing her return home I think we both knew that adding more complexity to our already complex lives was going to cause us to rush even more than we already were. I think we both also knew how much this would threaten our creative well-being. That is why even before she came home we had decided to do a study on rebooting creativity. The study by The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron is entitled It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again. It is a study created to help people facing life transitions to recapture their creative selves (It deals specifically with retirement as a transition but I am finding much in it for our particular transition at the Vicarage). I want to give thanks here to my blogging friends Cee Neuner and Chris Donner who put the book in my pathway.

Yesterday I spoke about the messy mental and spiritual threads I was encountering in the midst of this transition….

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To this pile we are now adding an artist’s study thread, but as I open the pages of this book I am seeing that perhaps this particular thread will bring together several others. Perhaps, this will begin to help us make sense of the mess.

If you want to join us on this study the Book is available on Amazon.com.We have just finished the introduction and I took my first stab at writing the “Morning Pages”. My arm fell asleep…imagine that a writer who can’t write three pages without his fingers cramping up….

The Many Threads At the Vicarage

I had this thought when I started “Notes From the Vicarage” that somehow we as a family were going to come to this year with all its craziness, all its transition, all its busyness and hullabaloo and still somehow we were going to be able to lay down all of that in an orderly and succinct fashion. I pictured our story at the Vicarage laying down in nice neat lines or perhaps even a beautifully woven tapestry, the design of which would be easily discernible by even the untrained eye. I saw it like this…

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Instead what has happened feels more like this…

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I am always talking to Pastor Dan (my lead pastor) about the prophetic threads flowing through our church. I somehow thought that “Notes From the Vicarage” would help me to see the order in the chaos of all the threads. I do believe it will still do that for me. Right now, though, all it is doing is showing me more threads. those threads have always been there, I just wasn’t seeing them before I started writing.

There are: threads of ministry, threads of personal health, threads of artistry, threads of aging, threads of family and family change, threads of mid life, threads of friendships growing and waning, threads of goodness, threads of evil and so many others which I have barely even touched on yet. This blog has helped me to see all those threads from new angles. I still cannot see that pattern they make, maybe I never will, maybe I am not supposed to.

I was talking to God about all these threads the other day and asking Him to help me understand them. I was striving so hard for understanding and then God came and told me to stop looking at the threads and to start looking at Him.

He said, “Son the nature of prophecy is not in looking at the world and trying to understand it. The nature of prophecy is in looking at God and allowing Him to explain what He wants you to know of the world.”

I still see all those threads. I’m just not looking at them as much anymore. At least that is what I am working at.


It strikes me that I never explained why the Vicarage now has three ministers living in it. Perhaps some of you have asked the obvious question, “If Brenda J. Lillie is a missionary to The Netherlands why is she living at The Vicarage in the good Ole U.S. of A.?”

Brenda is a faith missionary. Which means she is a missionary who is responsible to raise her own funds from individuals and churches to help her do her work of missions. The process of gathering partners is called “itineration”.

In our denomination…

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…missionaries serve in four year terms. That is three or four years on the field (depending on the stage of their work)and then 1 year back in the U.S. to meet with their partnering churches to raise funds for new missions projects, or to make up for money lost due to attrition (churches or individuals not being able to continue their commitments) and cost of living increase.

Brenda spent the last three years in Zaandam, North Holland, The Netherlands building Stagelife Theater in partnership with Icthus Church in that city.

Downtown Zaandam

Now she is home connecting with partners and forging new alliances to help her plant the next phase of the ministry which is The Bridge Artist’s community.

She has been home a month. If you have been following us you know it has been a busy time. She is currently in a season we are calling the “May gauntlet.”

May is the month in our denominations when many of our regions host their Network Conferences. A conference is like a combination church service-pep- rally and stockholder’s business meeting. Brenda is traveling to several conferences this month to connect with potential partners. At each conference she sets up a table, and ministers from that region are encouraged to stop by and see what she is doing. The hope is that those ministers will set up services with Brenda and then consider supporting her. Each conference is on Brenda’s dime. She pays for travel, lodging and set up cost, but the idea is you invest to reap a benefit.

Last week she preached in Worcester MA and then drove to the Appalachian Network Conference in West Virginia. You can read about that HERE.

This week she is in Syracuse, New York attending the New York District Conference.

She is also selling photos from her home on the farm in The Netherlands as a way to raise money for the project.

Booths in the convention hall

If you would like to help Brenda in her ministry you can do that by going to gonetherlandsag.com

Brenda’s Observations From Week 1 Of the Gauntlet

So here is what I noticed on my sojourn to West Virginia this week.
1. America, your roads SUCK! Seriously car eating potholes.
2. Almost every town in Pennsylvania ends with a “burg” or a “ville”. And they all sound quaint.
3. American Road signs are quite funny at 1am. And I kept thinking…thank you captain helpful and oh stater of the obvious! “STAY ALERT!” “BE SAFE-TAKE A BREAK!” “Keep a safe distance between vehicles”
4. My favorite part of the whole drive was when I was warned miles ahead of time that the right lane was closed…only to immediately get halted because the first 10 miles of the road work had the LEFT LANE CLOSED….then the right….SIGNAGE FAIL !
5. What is the deal with mushy green beans in the South? Seriously…do people actually like this?
6. Nothing beats listening to a true southern accent. Something about it, always makes me feel like moving Down South. Then the sun comes out and it’s 85 degrees and I think…YEAH…No thanks. But the accent sure is pretty.
#itinerationtrail #lifeontheroad

A Mother’s Day Recap

As I said before. Mother’s Day at the Vicarage was pretty low key. Mom doesn’t leave the house so we ordered in. We had our first Ice Cream Sundaes of the season.

Monday Amanda, Brenda and I went to visit Melanie, James and Daniella. We brought Donuts and Mother’s Day cards for Melanie’s first Mother’s Day.

Going back to Sunday. I have to say, God really visited us with grace and peace for Mother’s Day. Here is a recap of the sermon.