Well the third of our big projects for the month of May and June has begun. We commenced the sanctuary remodel yesterday!
Well the third of our big projects for the month of May and June has begun. We commenced the sanctuary remodel yesterday!
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.
Did I mention how much I love this congregation?
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, 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.
I praise God for His amazing provision!
This morning I got showered and dressed at the Vicarage Annex, then went next door to the Vicarage to walk and feed the dogs. After that I headed off to get rid of the trash, clean my car, and get Mom’s morning papers and scratch tickets. Mom still loves here scratchies, but you know what she hasn’t smoked a cigarette since we arrived at The Annex. I am not sure she remembers she ever smoked….And I am not bringing it up.
The staff all came to the Annex for staff meeting and to celebrate Amanda’s birthday. I have the best people on staff with me! What a privilege to work alongside these folks in the work of ministry. We had our meeting and cake, went over business and then off to our various jobs: Carrie to prep more meetings for me, and to continue the practical building of our DLT work in the region; Amanda to prep for youth group; Wendy to visit a sick congregant; Nancy to pay the bills; John to the hardware store to purchase some building supplies; And me…well I have a boatload of paperwork and writing and planning to catch up on. I am never lacking for things to do.
Together we are preparing the church for the days ahead. We all sense the enormity of the task and the incredible challenges that wait for us in the future.
My all church devotional for today was about how as people of God we are not to focus on the hardship we are in, nor are we to concentrate on the hardships that are in front of us. Instead we are to look beyond these things to the joy which is our eternal destiny.
I am choosing joy in many things. I am looking forward to the fruits of the work of ministry: The beauty of the new sanctuary once we have the carpets in and the altar/stage rebuilt; The beauty of the Vicarage when all the plumbing and electrics and bathrooms are new and the dust and debris is cleared away;
The salvation of all the souls that will be saved through the faithful work our congregation does in Doing Life Together with our community; The release of miracles and healings in our region; And finally the trip to the Far Off Country which is the hope of all Christians.
There is much to be joyful about!
I have heard from many of you since yesterday asking me how I am doing with the whole “asbestos thing”. Really I am fine. The asbestos in the upstairs bathroom is not even really dangerous to remove. It just can’t be torn up like normal linoleum, and it must be disposed of properly. It is just another delay. One thing I know is my times are in God’s hands. One thing I am learning is that I need to relax into that.
The Vicarage project is going to be perfectly in keeping with God’s timing and plan. While we are waiting on it life keeps on with ministry. Most of my meetings now are at The Vicarage Annex and I am finding that I am able to keep a pretty full schedule thanks to my assistant Carrie who is organizing my schedule so well.
Mom has not smoked a single cigarette since we moved to The Annex. So any lengthening of time here I realize might just be to cement this new habit. It all has a purpose and I am learning the joy in finding that purpose.
Dear James and Melanie,
It strikes me that it is time to have some new family portraits done. I am scouring my database for a picture of the four Franklins and I am having trouble finding one.
and finding one. of the current James is nigh on impossible. We have to get us some pictures of the whole fam in its currency.
I am so glad that you are here in Winchendon with us now. While it certainly puts you folks farther from your work, seeing your faces in church every week and being able to be together for family events is doing my heart so much good.
I know too Gramma is enjoying having herm great granddaughters around. I know she will probably never admit it but they are one of her few joys remaining.
Honestly I don’t think Gramma would have allowed anyone else to touch her adult coloring pages never mind turn them into a carpet into the kitchen. I am so glad you have chosen this place to live. Thank you for making and old man’s heart so glad.
Dear Joe and Kristine,
You two really amaze me! You have accomplished so much in your very brief time as husband and wife. I am so proud of you! I am also so glad that you are looking into the possibility of moving to the U.S.
God had spoken to me in one of my prayer times last year and told me to start preparing the Vicarage. I am not surer exactly why, but I do think your return is one of the reasons for the preparation.
So I have started to prepare.
The project continues in April with new gutters and the stone porch repairs. We are also going to redo the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.
I bought a new mailbox yesterday. I am trying to do little steps everyday to make the house ready for your coming.
I am getting Gramma ready for the move to the next door neighbor’s house. We are so blessed that the neighbor has agreed to rent to us for the eight weeks we have to be out. By the time you get here it will be a whole new house.
My Dear Little Yve,
I know almost no one calls you that little one. Most people know you as Abigail.
But that has never stopped our family from coming up with our own names for each other. Most people will probably always call you Abigail. Most people call me Pastor J. Most people call your Aunt Pastor Amanda. But you ‘Lella and Sevy call me “Oz” and you all call your Aunt “Francine” instead of Auntie. So I will call you “Yve”.
I think having secret names for each other is very biblical…..Revelation 2 does say, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”
Who knows maybe “Yve” is your secret name from Jesus….probably not….but I could be being prophetic again. It has been known to happen.
I am so glad that your parents have chosen this point of life for you to move here so that I can see you grow, so that I can be part of your lives from such an early time in your growth.
I am so glad you will know me and Francine and Great Gramma. I am so glad you will grow up knowing Winchendon and the Vicarage and especially Cornerstone Church! There is so much living to do yet and we get to do it together.
In answering that question I think I have to say the priorities haven’t really changed. The way I go about them has for sure. The main thing is still the main thing. But the way I live out the main thing…that has changed tremendously.
In the “old-timey” days an appropriate farewell as you sent loved ones on their way was “Godspeed” or “Godspeed your journey”. In the ears of a younger J that phrase actually sounded like “May God help you to get things done quickly. May God speed you along and help you get lots done.”
I am guessing that I am not alone in that inaccurate transliteration of the Victorian Good-bye. It actually means “May God prosper you along your way.”
The problem with my interpretation of the phrase is that God doesn’t speed. He’s not fast as some consider fastness and He is not slow as some consider slowness. Speed….for that matter time…. doesn’t really figure into His equations. It’s not that He is not conscious of time. It’s that He is in control of it and so it really doesn’t mean much to Him. What does mean something to Him is purpose. God’s speed is determined by what He needs to accomplish not by how much time He has to do something in.
Twenty years ago I was a young pastor. I had a lot of “ideas”. I was pretty sure that God wanted me to do all of them. It’s not that I actually asked Him about my ideas. It’s just that I was sure my ideas were good ideas and so they must assuredly be God ideas. So I set about serving Him out of my ideas and for good measure I even added in a bunch of ideas other people had (even though they really hadn’t talked to God about their ideas anymore than I had). I loved God so, I got busy. I got distracted. I got lost in the shuffle of good ideas and eventually life hit me with a giant pause button.
Twenty…plus years out from that young whippersnapper I am older and hopefully wiser. I have learned to wait in prayer over my “good ideas” realizing that most of them are not God ideas. I still love God. I am still busy just with fewer things. I have learned or am learning to clear my plate. I am learning to live by a rhythm of prayer, rest and work. I am learning I can’t do everything. And I am learning that God’s speed is about His purpose not about how fast something gets done.
I am learning that, like our project at The Vicarage: The delays in life are just as important as the forward momentum because in them, we delayed individuals learn how to be human beings rather than human doings; Everything is about seasons that bring change and completion; And that if I wait long enough beauty begins to emerge from the mess, not all at once but piece by piece.
I have also learned that sometimes serving God is as much about taking a small dog on a walk through the leaves as it is about building a house. God speed is about God’s plan not mine, about God’s pace changing mine.