Dear Family, I have started taking a class at Beals Memorial Library on Wednesday nights. It is called The Joy of Appreciative Living.
Every day I read a few pages in the text book and then I embark upon daily exercises geared to rewire my brain over the course of this month to help me think more appreciatively.
This morning I was reading and meditating on the idea of my brain being rewired and God began to speak to me about how this rewiring is necessary for me to enter into the next level of prayer effectiveness.
This class is about learning to appreciate the life I have. There is a lot to appreciate.
I have a great life. I am not finding it hard to find things to appreciate. The problem is like almost every one else on Earth I am hardwired to think about the negative rather than the positive in my immediate situations. That is holding back my leadership and my faith.
I know that God is using this season to begin another shift in me to move me to a place of possibility over problems rather than the position of problem over possibility. In the last two weeks I have begun to see the potential for a new level of faith, a new level of ministry, and a new level of personal possibility.
Dear Family, I apologize for not writing these last several days. If life was a river, then these last days have been in the high water. The project at The Vicarage is moving at high speed now. The bathroom tiles got finished late last week launching us into the next phase of the project which is plastering and floor revarnishing.
Abigail and I spent some time hanging out there.
On Sunday I preached on the transcendence of God and how that makes Him different from us. That knowledge has to frame any proper relationship with Him. As all the projects I am involved in are dove-tailing at the moment, I am keenly aware that I am firmly locked in time-space and the constraints of human weakness. It is only as I focus on the transcendence of God…His ability to rise above all that is and to move me, by His grace, into peace, that I keep myself from feeling constantly overwhelmed. The fact that I am surrounded by such a loving congregation is a sign to me that the transcendent God has my back.
Several church folks came and helped me to move furniture on Sunday after church. The floor project is underway.
Here is coat number one of five.
Not only that they have also opened the new entryway into the kitchen.
Another week is done. Sunday starts the sanctuary project at Cornerstone and then next week I have court to assume guardianship of our dear friend Grace and then the staff and some parishioners will help me finish closing down her apartment.
Last night I started a class on appreciative living at Beals Memorial library right here in Winchendon…. So much fun!
In one of our group discussions I was asked to appreciate something about a difficulty. I thought of the building projects at The Vicarage, at the church, and the moving project I am doing for Grace all rolled into one. It’s not that any of these things is very difficult in and of themselves. It’s not like I am doing any of the complicated work and the guys doing the work are really top notch. But each of these projects adds a level of complexity to my life. As they are all converging upon life at once there is a level of complexity and time management which is taking me beyond anything I have ever had to do before.
As I thought about it, I appreciate that!
In the moments when things get stressy….when I get stressy…. I am beginning to realize that I am being stretched out of my current comfort zone into a much larger one that will contain more peace, more joy, more “can do” attitude and more confidence. I am growing and so I appreciate these circumstances that are allowing that.
Dear Family, I went to bed about 10:30 P.M. last night and was up around 12:30 A.M. and couldn’t get back to sleep until nearly 2 A.M. I prayed a bit, and watched the clock some more. I watched a video on Youtube and then got up and went out on the front porch of The Annex where we have now been living for six weeks.
As I was standing there in the moonlight a gopher walked out from the bushes by the porch.
I said, “Hello!”
The gopher was startled and began to run.
Here’s the thing. Gophers don’t run really fast even when they are being very intentional in their running.
The poor little thing eventually made its way across the yard. If I had really desired I think I could have caught it. I think the gopher knew I could have caught it… but you know what? The knowledge of its own inability did not stop that gopher from running. It kept right on.
I think keeping on is a key to life. However futile the fight might seem, never giving up is a key to success. In fact I think a certain gopher-headedness is absolutely essential in the art of success that comes from innovation. A refusal to stop no matter the outcome is the first step to finding that one thing in your life that works.
Life’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. The marathon goes to the one who can keep pace over the long haul not the one whose the fastest out of the gate…. Gophers not jack rabbits.
After thinking on this a while I went back to bed and slept until four. The day starts early for us gophers, but it lasts long enough for us to get everything done.
It’s a windy day. That is keeping the temperature down outside. I had hoped to sit out in the sun for a while on this day off to defrag my brain, but that is not happening. By the end of the week we will be melting, but today it is still too cold. So I am sitting on the sunporch stealing a few moments of quiet to write and think and loving the sunshine in spite of the wind.
That wind reminds me of the upcoming three weeks which are going to see the ending of the Vicarage project (which is going to be a flurry of activity), the closing down of Grace’s house in Troy and the beginning of our Sanctuary project.
I am planning more warm porch moments in the next three weeks, just to keep me sane.
Dear Family, So I met with our contractor for The Vicarage project yesterday and we are back on track thanks to what seems to be a move of God. The plumbing took longer than originally calculated, so for a while it looked like we were going to be a week behind because of the time it would take to get our rough inspections done.
The contractor was fairly sure we would have to wait until next week to get the carpentry inspection done but praise God the building inspector just happened to have a few minutes free yesterday and so he came over the house and finished the inspector just as the tile guys arrived four days ahead of schedule!
So the tile job is now beginning. The Vicarage project is back on track!
A month ago one of the widows in our church went into the hospital and was deemed unfit to return home. Insurance has refused to pay for long term care and without anyone who can legally advocate for her she got stuck there. I began the process of filing for guardianship. Yesterday we heard that we are now far enough along the process that a nursing home has opened up a bed for her.
It’s not ideal. It’s an hour and a half away, but at least it takes us to our next step as I await the court date for guardianship so I can finish the new insurance paperwork which will open up more opportunities for housing for our sister in Christ. She was very frightened yesterday that moving meant she was going to be cast adrift and left to face what’s left of her life alone. Her church, though, is determined to track with her.
So today I am going to take the drive up to the new nursing home to help her get settled in.
We also got the plan set for closing down her apartment yesterday. So things are coming together for this. We are on track.
Then there is the Sanctuary project which begins on the 15th of May. The congregation is getting ready to help pull out the rug and break down the old altar so the new altar can be built by our contractors.
By the end of the month. The Vicarage project will be done to a place where we can move back in. Our dear sister will be settled in her new temporary residence and I will have guardianship. Her apartment will be closed down and her new insurance paperwork will be well on its way to finalization. And our sanctuary project will be almost completed.
Now is a busy season, but we are getting A LOT done.
Dear Family, I was praying and thinking this morning and had a revelation. Tuesday is really day 1 of my week. I don’t know when this switch took place but as I think about it must have been quite some time ago.
I am aware that Day 1 is actually Sunday. I am also aware that most people think of Monday as Day 1 (we don’t call Saturday and Sunday the weekend for no reason after all). I think that this culture has taught me that the week begins with work and ends with recreation.
For most people then it makes sense that they would count. Monday as Day 1. As I thought about it this morning it also made sense that Tuesday would be my Day 1 and Monday would be my Day 7 because Sunday is the major work day for me (not that they are not all busy but Sunday is the day that requires the most focus and concentration). It also makes sense that Monday being Day 7 would need to be a recuperation day.
But in my scheduling I have not allowed for this. I have made Monday a major work and planning day. I write my sermon, Wednesday night prayer meeting, do all my meeting schedules and run a Bible study in the evening.
I have been praying about how to get around the fatigue I feel on Mondays. This morning I realized maybe I am not supposed to. Maybe I am to look at Sunday afternoon through Monday afternoons as my Day 7 and do what I am supposed to do on day 7….rest.
Dear Family, It was a busy weekend. Friday night I attended “The Kingdom Of Priests” conference being held by our local House of Prayer here in Winchendon. What an incredible privilege to have such a ministry in our hometown!
Saturday I went to do hospital visitation with one of our widows and then I did follow up with several of our people who have either been ill or have had surgery this week.
Sunday of course was church and what a time in God’s presence we had!
This morning I started the day in prayer, walked and fed the dogs, got Mom’s papers and then called my sister in the Netherlands before Abigail and Daniella came for a visit.
Now the girls have gone home, and after a brief recuperative nap, I am launching into the day of writing and studying. Time to think about sermons!
Dear Family, Yesterday I pulled another muscle. This time in my neck. I am not sure quite how I did it, but let’s just say when I went to bed my left shoulder was throbbing. When I woke up I had a hard time rolling over to get out of bed because my shoulder was so knotted up.
The Motrin bottle and the tiger balm were my first stop on the way to feed and walk the dogs.
It seems like the last few months have been a constant string of injuries: First my hip went out, and then my knee, now my shoulder. Since that first injury, it seems like I have lost some strength in my body. Everything feels tight and ready to snap at any moment. I find myself reaching for the walking stick more and more “just in case”.
I am seeking God about this. I thought at first it was just going to be like other times when I had gotten injured. I would rest the injured part for a few days and voila! It would be all better. It doesn’t seem to be working that way this time around. I am praying for healing and realizing that this might be a tool to help me come to a new pace that allows me to see the things I need to see without rushing right past them. I do, still, after all these years tend to rush from one thing to another. In the rushing I miss many important things God wants me to understand and know. My time here at the Annex is teaching me a lot about a new pace, a deeper pace, God wants me to learn, A rhythm God is desirous for me to begin walking and maybe even to teach to others.
I keep going back to a prophetic word God gave me almost twenty years ago now about living within my brick.
It was based off of the passage where Peter talks about the church being made up of us and that we were like living stones.
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house a to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says:
In the prophetic word which God gave to me He said each of us were like bricks in a building. Each brick was meant to support and stabilize the bricks around it. God pointed out to me that bricks did not move they learned to do their job by living within the boundaries that God had made for them. He told me I had to stop trying to run around being something I was not. I had to learn to “live within my brick.”
I think from that point to this life has been about me coming to understand my boundaries, and part of that is the pace I keep.
This is not the first time I have been injured for an extended period of time, as I think about it. Other times the purpose was to slow me down, help me get back in my bounds. I suppose even more than healing, the boundarY God is trying to establish me in is what I should be seeking out.
Dear Family, It strikes me that I have not spoken much about the incredible blessing that God has given us during this season of The Vicarage’s rehab. In the midst of all this work God has given us a miraculous provision of a house that meets absolutely every one of our needs. The Annex is a Victorian duplex located directly next door to The Vicarage! The only thing separating us from our house is the field which we own. I can literally see The Vicarage from there sun porch in my room which most of you will recognize as the place I am using to do my daily video devotion, Digging Deeper. The location was important to Mom who insisted she wasn’t going to leave the neighborhood. And it keeps me close to the project.
The place has four bedrooms and more importantly a comfortable couch because Mom will not sleep in a bed having not slept in one since my father died in 1990. It came completely furnished. We didn’t;t even need to bring dishes or a coffee maker!
The place has plenty of places to meet. Which is important because with Mom’s dementia being in an unfamiliar place means we are sticking at home. So I am working remotely as much as possible and we are staffing any amount of time longer than hour. The room below I use for those meetings which are more sensitive in nature.
It is right at the top of the blue stairs.
But I am also doing fellowship meeting in the kitchen.
And I am doing staff meetings at the conference/ dining table which seats 10.