DEAR FAMILY- JUST KEEP SWIMMING

Dear Family,

Normally I would not be writing on Wednesday as it is one of the busier days in my week, but as yesterday was awash with work I did not have time to get to my posts for the day.

Yesterday was a constant pace through most of the daytime hours and by night my brain was mush and the rainy weather made me a candidate for Motrin therapy. I got a lot done for sure. The house got cleaned. Paperwork got done (well at least some of it…I am amazed at how much paperwork there is for a lead pastor to do and I am minimizing my paperwork compared to my predecessors). The weekly staff meeting was finished. Grocery shopping and library run was finished. I even had time to do my daily devotional for the church before I had to go off to a hospital visit.

I did not complete my prayer regimen yesterday, but today is another day and so I am getting off to a good start finishing up this work and a few other bits before my my senior staff meeting. I will also fit in at least 45 minutes of prayer before that meeting happens and then I have to go into the church to get a check signed for one of the two funerals I planned this week and then I need to get a court waiver filled out and sent for one of our widows who the church is helping with guardianship proceedings. All that will be accomplished before our prayer meeting tonight.

It is a season full of ministry. And I am learning that in all things…like Dory…I need to just keep swimming.

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DEAR FAMILY- PLUMBING AND PLANNING

Dear Family,

The contrasts in ministry life are sometimes rather jarring. Today is Monday. Monday is planning day. It is also the day when the plumber is coming to begin putting the new pipes into the Vicarage.

Pipe by Plains is licensed under CC-BY 3.0

So on this day. I am praying through and writing my schedule, my sermon, Wednesday night prayer meeting. I am pre-planning two funerals with a local undertaker. Putting together a men’s Bible study and I am thinking about when the new toilets might be operation al at the Vicarage.

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Well….It’s time for lunch.

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- MOVES AT THE END OF THE GAME

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Dear Family, When I first moved to The Vicarage there was a lot of work to do. I remember thinking to myself, “I will just do a little at a time and eventually it will all get done.”

A decade after moving there I finally gave into the fact that that strategy was not going to work. All my “nickel-and-diming” of jobs was getting us no closer to completion. Further the house was becoming more and more unlivable with each passing year.

Then the Lord came to me with a word. “You must get The Vicarage ready for use.”

He didn’t tell me what use, just that I had to get it ready.

So we have worked to get it ready. I discarded the little by slow method. It has still taken two years and we aren’t finished yet. But we do have a new roof, new gutters, new insulation, new siding, freshly repaired and painted trim, the asbestos is gone, we have cut down five large trees from the property, we will soon have new bathrooms, and a new entryway into the kitchen, eight new windows, a repaired stone porch, and some new varnish on at least some of the floors. We have also gotten rid of some very old rugs, some very broken furniture and a derelict wood stove. Before it is all said and done we will have removed an old derelict furnace as well.

I am also determined to get rid of a lot more stuff that is serving no other purpose than taking up space in our lives.

That said, I no longer think that changing the building is the primary thing that needed to change to “get the Vicarage ready for use.” There is something much deeper that has been shifting ever since we moved to the Annex.

The Vicarage has been draped for many years in a cloud of seclusion.

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I joked as we put our dishes away before the move that a family that never entertained did not need place settings for forty. One of the things that has changed since moving to the Annex is that I have been taking most of my meetings from home. For the first time in my ministry I am receiving guests regularly. And I am loving it! This is the breaking of a spiritual stronghold that has long held our family in stasis. And we are breathing the free air. I am growing in the gift of hospitality and The Vicarage is being prepared for use.

We are coming to the end of the Church Age and we are getting ready for the Day of the Lord and the Age of Christ’s reign. These are the days of the last moves in a very long game of chess. Our little corner of the world is getting ready to play its most decisive, most historical move. I believe that with all my heart. God is preparing us for that move. He is preparing the Vicarage for its role in that move.

I cannot wait to see what is about to play out.

Be Blessed and Be At Peace,

Oz

DEAR FAMILY SLOW AND STEADY

Dear Family,

I was reminded today in prayer about that old nursery rhyme “The Tortoise and the Hare”

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Life is not a sprint. It is a marathon. While there are always people shouting from the sidelines to “hurry up!”, God has impressed on me that I must not let those voices push me to go any faster than the pace that God has set for me.

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I hear the voices yelling, but I am determined to follow the rhythm He has set for me.

He reminded me yesterday that if I was going to live successfully then everything I do must flow out of the rhythm of prayer rather than prayer being allowed to flow out of the rhythm of my doing.

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Even with all the projects before me: The Vicarage, The Church carpeting project, The Covid Policy publication for the church, helping Mom, helping Grace, meeting with parishioners, I must not do except what flows out of prayer. When I spend the first part of my days in prayer I find that everything else falls into its proper place.

The trim is done now and the rest of the project is moving along nicely. A few more weeks and we will be ready to start washing the floors and walls and uncovering the furniture to get back in! Each day as I pray I am given my own little jobs to do to get The Vicarage ready for rehabilitation.

DEAR FAMILY- THE NEW IN THE OLD

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Dear Family,

It has been a busy two weeks. We are now 21 days in The Vicarage Annex. We have gotten used to this place. It is wonderful. It is comfortable. I am so thankful to God for this place. It is everything we need. Except it is not home.

I am Painting Pictures of Egypt.

I am quickly realizing that what we are going through is more than a temporary change. We are being launched by this renovation into a new season. I guess I didn’t anticipate that. I thought we would get the necessary job done and we would go back to our same old patterns.

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But I am now realizing that our old patterns will not fit into what we are going back too. We are changing. We will have changed and The Vicarage will be a new home for a new people.

DEAR FAMILY- SO MUCH MORE

Dear Family,

I went to The Vicarage this morning to do my morning chores. As I was feeding the dogs and the cat I really stopped to take a look around. I thought to myself about the magnitude of the work we have had done in the last year.

The Vicarage outside at the point of demolition last fall.
The Vicarage with new siding
Upstairs bathroom demo
Downstairs bathroom demo

Then I thought about the magnitude of the work that still lies before us after these particular renovations are finished: The washing of floors and walls and curtains itself will take weeks. The windows I have no doubt will be months in the doing. Then there is the fifty years of collected stuff which I am determined to go through and get rid of. This doesn’t;t even begin to mention the further renovations I hope to do to the kitchen, the basement, the back hall and the gardens. So much more to do!

Then there is the work of the church. We are a well established ministry in Winchendon and yet I feel like we are just beginning this work of ministry.

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In all this understanding I am not discouraged. I am excited about the days ahead and the work that goes with them! A new day is dawning. There is so much more to do and so much more to see. One day at a time I will see it!

OZ

DEAR FAMILY- ASBESTOS AND NIAGARA

Dear Family,

We are well into week three of our stay at The Vicarage Annex. So far everything is going to plan and I am very excited about the prospect of returning home soon. Well, by Memorial Day at any rate which is soon to me.

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Today marked two events on our calendar of work. The asbestos guys came, and Amanda headed off on her vacation to Niagara Falls.

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We are not quite halfway there, but somehow in my mind I have placed these events as the turning point…the hump day of our project. Get through this week, I reckon, and it’s all downhill from here!

Love, OZ

DEAR FAMILY- WATCHING THE LAUNDRY SPIN

Dear Family,

At this writing we are well into Day 16 of our time at The Vicarage Annex. We are also plunk in the middle of Easter Weekend. So no work is happening at The Vicarage today.

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Happy Easter everyone! I have been doing my cooking for tomorrow, today. Since Easter itself is such a busy day, I am keeping dinner simple….Ham (which will be cold sliced tomorrow), potato salad and fluff. I am thinking of cake for dessert with ice cream since it is someone’s birthday in a few days and she will not be around to celebrate.

This morning, since there was no work going on at The Vicarage. I decided I would start doing some of the laundry from there that will need to be done to get back in. It’s a start of what will be a very big project, but it is only day 16…. so no rush just yet.

Sitting at the laundromat, the day’s first cup of coffee in hand with only the sound of the dryer’s rhythmic thumping to keep me company helped me set my own internal timer: slow, constant and intentional. Just the way I like it.

We have a carpet to get rid of before the rain comes in and then I want to bake a cake and get my studying and practicing done for tomorrow’s service…slow, constant, and intentional. Just the way I like it.

Love,

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- Good Friday

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Dear Family,

Happy Good Friday! The high Holy Days are among some of my favorite times of the year. Not because of the activity but because of their depth of meaning. Sometimes I think our activity actually takes away from the meaning of the celebration…but then that is just me.

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I am content during the holidays to go to church and eat a nice quiet dinner with family. Of course I have grandkids now so Easter baskets are a part of that dinner.

This year I felt that the church should keep things low key. It was definitely a Spirit leading because one of our congregants is now on hospice…actually just passed this morning ( I just got word in the middle of this writing) and another is transitioning into a nursing home and I am heavily involved in that transition. In fact today I have to drive up to Keene to fill out paperwork.

So many new things are beginning…New house….new carpets in the sanctuary…Next steps for many of our congregants….new opportunities in town. I feel the kingdom of Heaven drawing closer everyday.

Looking Up and Looking Forward,

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- ADJUSTMENTS

Dear Family,

I am considering the two big building projects which are taking up my time for the next two months…the one at the Vicarage….and the sanctuary restructure at the church. What an incredible blessing it is that I get to do these two projects.

On the surface it would seem I am the wrong guy for this. If it were left to me to actually do the work it would be true. I possess none of the skills needed to replace plumbing or electrics, carpets or altars. But I am not called to any of that actual work. I am just having these things done on my watch. Aside from a little demolition, I am just the guy behind the curtain nodding my ahead to give approval or shaking it to say “I don’t think that works for me/us”.

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I do suppose it is a little more complicated than that. I have a job to do while the construction goes on. While the builders build, my job is to figure out how to do ministry around the construction.

The adjustments I have made in order to keep the work of ministry going are indeed some of the biggest blessings I have yet encountered in the work of ministry. Figuring out how to care for Mom’s needs and still meet the congregation’s needs: having meetings from home, having intentional coffee dates at set times everyday with Mom, finding people to sit with Mom while I go into the church.

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The conversations I have with my Mom at our coffee times can be very repetitious. Her anxiety about the house is still high. She is also not use to having people in her living space, but there have been some real blessings to it. Mom has not smoked a cigarette since we got here almost two weeks ago. It is nice to see her interact even if it is only a little with our church family. We have even had a few times where she has consented to listen to the Bible with me as I did my devotions.

Prayer time has been an interesting shift for me. My meeting load has actually increased during this season and I am really enjoying that, but I am finding that a lot more of my prayer time is spent in decompressing from the pastoral work. We are traveling in some deep pastoral waters now and that is very encouraging

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I have always thought of myself as someone who does not like change. But I am discovering that while these changes brought on by these projects are uncomfortable they are not bad…they just are. If I take it slow and easy and I don’t let the changes effect my inner peace then the adjustments are actually all blessings.

Be Blessed and Be At Peace,

OZ