Listening On the Inside

I began the weekend thinking it would be a leisurely float down a lazy river.

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Saturday I woke up very tired and feeling like I should not move myself too much. It was a day given to waiting for our new washing machine anyway so hanging out and lying low seemed to be a rare possibility presenting itself.

The washer was delivered and installed by 9:30 A.M. and the first run through was finished by 10:30 A.M. Then the maiden voyage of the washer was set in by noon.

I was tempted to do a hundred other things. I even had written some of those on my list to do, but something inside me kept telling me to take my leisure while I could….so I did.

Then I got a call at 3:30 P.M. that I was needed at a bedside in Leominster. A dear relative had just been told she had terminal cancer. On my drive in to the hospital, the Lord affirmed to me how much I need to listen to that little voice inside my spirit if I am to be effective in the role He is placing upon me. If I had given myself to the busyness on my agenda I would not have been able to bear the weight of the evening ministry God called me to.

I am learning not to second guess what is in my heart. I am learning to trust myself, through prayer, to do what I hear the Lord telling me to do on the inside even when there seem to be more logical, even more responsible ways of doing things.

On Sunday I heard the Lord telling me I should spend some time in quiet in my office before service.

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I sensed that I was going to need to be extra focused at the altar call.

We had an amazing service and a powerful time of prayer around the altars afterwards, but it was “heavy lifting” in prayer. There are many difficult and complex needs in our congregation at the moment and I sensed that many of our people needed prayer to move forward into new territory and that they would need great grace because the way forward was going to be difficult.

Learning to listen to what the Lord is doing around me by listening to what is going on inside me is a skill I sense sharpening in my heart. I think in the days ahead this is a skill I will need.



Washing Machine Goodness

This week’s big project at the vicarage was to buy a new washing machine. After the renovation we got rid of the old washing machine, which was total junk. We have been waiting for a new spigot for the washing machine hook up to be put in. It’s such a small job that it was hard to get a plumber to actually come out and do the work. Here in the boondocks getting a tradesman to come out for a simple repair is nigh unto impossible.But our contractor finally found someone who had a free day, that in itself is a minor miracle in these parts.

Anyway, the spigot was installed two weeks ago and this week I ordered the new washing machine. It is now running through its first cycle, and then I will be able to do our first load of laundry in the house since last April.


By Living Somewhere In Between

The Shepherd’s Pie is put together and in the oven; So I have a few minutes before the oven timer goes off to write this blog. It’s not multi-tasking really. At least I don’t seem to be able to think about it like that. I can’t concentrate on more than one thing at a time. The casserole is in the oven on a timer and I don’t have to think about it again until the bell goes off. Timers on things is the only way I seem to be able to manage more than one thing at a time and… I really?

I was at the laundromat waiting for my laundry to finish drying yesterday. I got lost in the book I was reading and missed the dryer timer. When I looked up the dryer had stopped and when I opened the door the laundry had already started to cool. The series I am in is a good series, but I think more than anything the reason I missed the buzzer on the dryer was because I got so focused on the story I couldn’t maintain even memory that I was doing anything else.

Honestly, it happens all the time if I am not careful. I get lost in a thing I really like and all the other stuff which is not as fun just gets washed away from my thought life.

….And so the bells.

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I live my life by the bells…and by constantly returning to the prayer place throughout the day.

There is too much to do to get lost in one thing.

As I was sitting on the porch meditating yesterday afternoon I realized there were six projects sitting there before me. That’s just on the porch!

Maybe that is too many projects.

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Sometimes it feels like I am being buried alive in all the projects, and then other times I don’t see it as I have to do all these things, but I get to do all these things.

One thing I have learned is that I have to allow myself to flow into everything I do, from the place of prayer. The more I pray, the more I seem to be able to do. The less I pray the less I seem to be able to do. Prayer has become the space between all the things I do, between: The supper’s I make, the people I visit and pray for, the sermons and devotions I write, the laundry I do, the dogs I walk, the calls I make, the plans I lay.

As long as I go to these places from the place of prayer and return to the place of prayer after I do them, I seem to be able to maintain the rhythm.

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When I don’t come from and return to the space of prayer in between all of the things I do they seem to come crashing down pretty quickly.

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The bells are my reminder to return once again to that Divine Center.



Somewhere along the way I became a man much more invested in the journey than I am in the destination.

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Don’t get me wrong, destinations are great. Disney, Europe, Heaven….all destinations…all progressively awesome. But at some point I began to dwell more on the journey to the awesome destinations than on the destinations themselves.

Someday I will get to Heaven. I know it will be awesome, but the journey towards Heaven is pretty awesome too! In it I am learning so much, experiencing such incredible adventures and changing in some pretty amazing ways. I am learning that the kingdom of Heaven is not only out there somewhere, but within me.

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Truly speaking, I am not so sure that once I reach Heaven my journeying will be done. I am not sure the discovering will be finished. I am not sure the desination is as destinationish as we think it is. What if Heaven is as CS Lewis says just an opportunity to “go further in and deeper back”. What if eternity is just a much longer more incredible journey?

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A year ago I decided it was time to start going to the doctor for regular check ups. Prior to that decision it had been better than a decade since my last visit. My previous physician retired from practice and I never picked a new one.

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I made excuses about why I was refusing to go: Too busy, Copay was ridiculous, Too much work to find a new physician, I’m basically healthy and don’t need to go, etc.

But finally I called, got a new physician and went for the physical.

The physical itself was fine, but the NP (nurse practitioner) who conducted the physical set me up for other tests. Among those tests was a colonoscopy.

I set up the colonoscopy twice and failed twice to go.

Today was my second yearly physical and wouldn’t you know my NP brought up my two “FIRST ATTEMPTS AT LEARNING.”

What I have learned from these two attempts is that I am afraid of colonoscopies. I do not know why, but I know I am afraid to the point where I cannot make myself go.

The NP was very kind about it and tried to assure me how simple the procedure is, but even as she was trying to convince me, I could feel my blood pressure rising and my hands getting jittery. She saw it too and so she found me a work around.

I have never experienced fear in this way before. It’s not a sudden shock. It’s not a dread. It really doesn’t even feel like an emotion. It feels like a decision a very firm decision that I never decided. It just exists within me. It’s like I made an unbreakable vow at some point to not have a colonoscopy and now everything in me is working to make sure that it never happens. Weird I know but there you have it.



My daughter was babysitting the daughters of one of our deacons last week. She brought them over to the Vicarage. After the girls helped us put groceries away one of them wandered up the stairs to the birdwatching landing.

From this perch I can watch over the birdfeeding station on the North side of the Vicarage property. It was full of birds on that particular day.

Another thing I noticed was that the property was surrounded by crows stationed at various points in the tops of the trees.

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“Crows are the watchmen of the bird world. “I explained.

“Their presence around the property means that there is a bird of prey somewhere in the area. If that hawk or owl or falcon comes near the crows will sound a warning that will send the other birds into the bushes to hide from the danger and then the crows will gang up on the bird of prey and chase it away.”

I have known unkindnesses to bring down owls. We actually had an owl at the church a while back whose wing was broken by such a gathering. My daughter had to chase the crows away from the owl and call animal rescue to come and get the poor thing.

The event reminded me a bit of a passage from Isaiah 62

I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
    they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord,
    give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
    and makes her the praise of the earth.

The Lord has sworn by his right hand
    and by his mighty arm:
“Never again will I give your grain
    as food for your enemies,
and never again will foreigners drink the new wine
    for which you have toiled;
but those who harvest it will eat it
    and praise the Lord,
and those who gather the grapes will drink it
    in the courts of my sanctuary.”

10 Pass through, pass through the gates!
    Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
    Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations.

11 The Lord has made proclamation
    to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.’”
12 They will be called the Holy People,
    the Redeemed of the Lord;
and you will be called Sought After,
    the City No Longer Deserted.

We who know Jesus in this age are the crows in the trees. We are to be the watchmen revealing the way and guarding the way to the Father.

We are the ones called to this generation to love, pray and protect the hearts of this generation from the actual wiles and wings of the devil.




Back in August I took the first sabbatical of my ministerial life. During that time I asked the congregation to pray and ask God to give us “words” that would direct our future as a congregation. One of the most common “words” the congregation shared from that time was “Prepare!” “Get Ready!”

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We have known for the last couple of years that we were heading into something or some form of ministry we have never experienced before; So getting ready,… preparing just makes sense.

I feel like I am being challenged in this area of being prepared, being ready. In some ways I feel like the 21 days of fasting and prayer, we just went through, was the beginning of a new level of preparation…a level I feel like I have been failing to obtain since the fast ended.

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From prayer time to meal planning I feel like I have a lot of ground to cover to be prepared for what is to come. There is a piece of me that does not want to embrace this next level of change. I find myself storm eating sweets I should be easing up on sugar and watching television when I should be praying. In the midst of the wasted time and return of water retention,I am trying to be gentle with myself and celebrate every small victory as I move forward…. Even though there have been failures this week, there have also been successes. Even small forward movement is forward movement.

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Change will come. I need to realize and celebrate the changes I have already made and keep moving forward to the change that is yet to come. I do wish it was a faster process.



I received a note from the post office the other day that a package was waiting for me.

I was pretty sure I knew what it was but I had no opportunity to stop and get it. It has been a week spent on the phone with different agencies trying to get information for my friend Grace’s Medicaid application.

Yesterday I had a pretty full morning writing and cleaning and gathering forms.

At noon I went with a parishioner to do a hospital visit about an hour away, after which we went grocery shopping. My friend picked me up some dry gas for our cars as a gift while I bought food for the weekend.

Even as we were driving home from Leominster MA, the wind was picking up and the temperature was beginning to drop as the arctic wind storm predicted for Massachusetts began.

By the time I got back to the Vicarage, the wind was whistling through the downspouts of our gutters like the trumpets of the second coming.The temps last night fell to -45 or -50 Fahrenheit with the windchill factor, but we managed to seal ourselves in pretty well and turn the heat up to keep ourselves warm.

I heard from my daughter, Melanie, this morning. Her living room got down to 52 degrees last night and the outside security doors of her building both got blown open during the night, one of them blowing right off the apartment building. We lost a few branches here at The Vicarage, but nothing quite as serious as that.

We are staying inside today, reading, writing, practicing sermons for tomorrow, eating and just generally staying warm.

Oh yes! I did get to stop at the post office before the storm started in earnest. The package was, as I anticipated, my sister’s Christmas present returned by customs from The Netherlands. Apparently Kool Aid is now a safety issue, or maybe it was the instant coffee.


For the last year I have been dealing with a leg injury I got by getting up from my desk at the church. That may sound ridiculous, but I got up from my desk chair and turned too fast pulling my hip out of joint and straining the muscles and ligaments all the way down to my ankle.

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Throughout the year I have gone between feeling pretty good and barely being able to walk. There have been many days where I have needed my cane to get around. Just before Thanksgiving I reinjured myself while walking down the stairs at The Vicarage. after Thanksgiving my knee swelled up and stayed swelled pretty much through the New Year.

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I have known since the first injury that my ballooning weight is part of the problem. It just took me a year to really admit it consciously and to begin doing something about it. 

The first step to addressing the problem was getting batteries for my scale. It may seem a silly thing to you, but by not buying batteries I was able to keep the weight issue from becoming real. As long as I didn’t see my weight in numbers it wasn’t a thing….you get the picture.


The pain in my legs finally got to the point where I bought batteries for the scale.

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290 pounds it read.

I started trying to “diet” just after Thanksgiving. I lost and regained the same five pounds twice before Christmas and then decided to join NOOM. It’s an ap on my phone. It has: daily motivational reading, daily weight tracking, a step counter, and a place to log calories and water intake. It also has a coaching feature and on line accountability.

I have now lost my first twenty pounds.The swelling in my knee is almost gone and the joint pain has been almost non existent during the fast, even after I slipped on ice and repulled the muscles in my weak leg.

It has ups and downs, but I am learning to manage expectations of perfection. Somehow that expectation management is bringing me greater success than just expecting perfection from myself. Last night I ate a whole bag of gumdrops, but you know that’s Ok. I just got back on the oatmeal wagon this morning.



Last night was a tough night. The dogs did not sleep well at all. Mercedes the 13 year old has had a very sensitive stomach the last two nights. We were up at three A.M. and then again at four thirty A.M. I collapsed back into sleep and then ended up oversleeping.

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I got up an hour before my phone appointment with the Department of Health and Human Services out of Concord NH. I have been gathering documents for Grace’s Medicaid application for the last several weeks. The meeting went pretty well. Most of the documents have been obtained.

One of the documents I have been having trouble with is Grace’s life insurance policy. I have a hard copy of the policy but what I really needed was something called a value letter. The problem is that the Insurance company had not approved my Guardianship papers, so no one at the company was allowed to talk to me.

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But today was the day! My paperwork was finally approved and downloaded!

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In the two hour call I had with the life insurance company what I discovered is that Grace actually has two life insurance policies. I have only been paying for one. The other has been in a state of self payment since 2021. The company is using the cash value of the policy to pay off the recurring bills lowering the cash value a little every month.In order to begin paying on this bill again I have to get the policy reinstated. All that said, I got a lot done today. The value letters are on their way. New beneficiary forms are on their way, and the reinstatement form is on its way.

I still have other forms to fill out but the work for this day is done. The three hours I invested in paperwork today knocked me out of prayer for the morning. So tonight I went off to the prayer room for an hour of centering prayer before I have to lead our church prayer meeting at 7 tonight.

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I am feeling much refreshed now and ready for the next steps of my day.