The dogs and I got up at 4 A.M. this morning to begin the day. It is just before 6 now and they have had their morning outing and are now eating second breakfast. Well, Mercedes is pushing the breakfast bowl around inside the eating crate trying to bury second breakfast so she can eat it later for elevenses.

Jacopo and Mercedes

It has been a busy few days here at the Vicarage. Brenda has been working some long hours at the apple orchard in Harvard MA and Amanda has been working some long hours at the church.

I have been running between the Vicarage and visitations and what not. Yesterday I had a funeral over in Athol MA and then I had to mow the lawn up at the art gallery up the street after supper.

The art gallery gig is something I picked up early in the summer when I saw the President of our art association out mowing the lawn herself on a hot summer day. She is a lady who has had to have major heart surgery and is heading for knee surgery so the little voice that guides had me approach her and offer to take over the lawns.

I am not what you would call a great land scaper or anything. I own a lawn mower and I know how to start it. I think that qualifies me for what I am doing (though I am sure some would disagree).

Here’s the thing… I often remind my congregants they don’t have to be experts at the Bible in order to share Jesus. All they have to be is available to love, listen and share what they know. God will handle the rest. Further sharing the love of Christ is not so much about what you say. It is about what you do.

That conversation brings me back to our Wednesday night on-line Bible study and prayer session for this week. We talked about Rizpah Saul’s daughter-in-law. I guess I will sign off today by leaving you with a copy of that study. I hope it blesses you.

I am looking forward to tomorrow Dear Friends.

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 9-10-20

We are just returning from walking the dogs for their last time tonight. The night air is that sloppy mixture of fall moisture and late summer heat that makes the world a clammy box of night time slime. It isn’t raining exactly but the rolling fog leaves me feeling damp and somehow dirty.

We made it just around the first corner tonight when we noted a family walking three dogs: two little ones on leashes and a black lab off leash. Our two boys immediately started barking in the gathering dark. The lab looked up from his meander not taking much interest. Still, neither Brenda nor I were in much of a state to take on a wandering “big dog” should the need arise. We turned around and headed back to the Vicarage. The dogs did their business and are now off to bed.

I think Brenda will not be far behind. She started work at an apple orchard today. The orchard is owned by the nephew of one of our deacons at Cornerstone. His Aunt is doing the scheduling for the orchard. The Aunt has offered part time positions to several people in our church. It is an open door so Brenda has walked through. Who nows what wonders it will lead to?

Walking through open doors...God opens doors that no man can close. Believe  that! #opportunity | Greatful, Doors, Opportunity

While Brenda was off sorting apples, I taught a music lesson and then visited one of the members of our congregation. Amanda went in to the church to do some administration work and then went to do our grocery shopping.

Our lives are all moving in separate direction every day. Tomorrow Brenda will be back at the apple orchard, I will be conducting a funeral service and Amanda will be preaching an on-line children’s sermon. Yet somehow God keeps our schedules in some kind of synchronicity so we can do this thing called family. We meet in the middle around the meals I cook (not that anyone greatly admires my cooking but they all put on a brave face). Then we are off again on our tethers to do the work that God has given us to do. There is coming a time soon when this walk in the world’s evening will be done. A big dog, off leash, is coming and God is going to be turning us towards our true home. That truth makes me wonder how important all our doing right now really is. Maybe it is vastly important because these are the last works the church will do in the church age. Maybe it is all just obeying the leash holder on a walk through the park. Which ever it may be, I am going to obey the tug of the lead whichever way it goes and when we come to that final door. I will walk through.

Walking Through the Open Door | From the Desk of Keith Duncan

This Day At the Vicarage 9-8-20

I often write with music playing softly in the background. Somehow the rhythm and the sound help me to focus on what it is I need to say. It is like the sound draws the words out of me.

Maybe that has something to do with my years as a worship pastor. I remember one of my mentors teaching me that in order to lead worship effectively, I needed to be able to move beyond the place where I played music into the place where the music played me.

Yesterday I wrote to an Epic Celtic Album on Youtube. Tonight I am playing the Easters. Somehow their music fills me with hope and just a touch of melancholy. Those things might not seem to go together. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they are polar opposites like the yellow and purple on a color wheel.

Color Wheel Primer | HGTV

Maybe that tension is what I am looking for when I write or when I sing or when I do art. Maybe it is what I need. Maybe it is what is required for me to move into my muse. The muse would be God ,so I guess that makes sense. The tension….the inner conflict somehow drives me to seek the Lord and in that seeking I find my creative spark. And that creative spark is the pathway to the music playing me instead of me playing the music or in this case it is the pathway to the space where the Writer reveals to me my story rather than me striving to make it up.

There’s a whole book in there somewhere. The tension is rising within me and that means the story is about to arrive.

Now I am really looking forward to tomorrow dear friends.

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 9-7-20

Yesterday I was back at my usual job for a Sunday morning, as on-line pastor. I am really enjoying this new work. My job starts at about 9:15 A.M. I open my computer and start “inviting people to church”. Mostly that just involves a check in on Facebook Messenger.

Mad At Computer Png - Guy Working On A Computer , Free Transparent Clipart  - ClipartKey

I sign onto the church livestream when it comes on, and then from my little perch in the church cafe I begin to engage with people attending the on-line service: I comment as the sermon goes along; I “like” and comment on what other people are saying; Sometimes I move to a private message format so I can go a little deeper with people who are popping up on my feed or sometimes even just in my head.

Who I don’t see walking through the church door in the morning or on-line is just as important as who does come to our service in physical form or through the internet. When someone is missing for a bit I use service time to try and find them virtually. Yesterday I missed several people so I sent messages to them during service.

Yesterday I also used the time to launch a remote fellowship campaign with our artist’s group. In two weeks time we will be starting an artist version of chopped.

Chopped | Food Network

One of our artists is donating boxes full of art supplies and so we will make up boxes for all the participating artists and each artist will have a month to create a work of art using all the implements in the box. At the end of the month we will do on-line reveals for the whole artistic community.

Church is definitely different now. People of God are having to find new and creative ways to connect around the Word of God, fellowship and prayer. I don’t know when or if it will go back to what it used to be. Honestly, I am having fun facing these new challenges. I am not sure I want it to go back.

Well, I have blathered on long enough. It is time to sign off for the night.

I am looking forward to tomorrow Dear Friends.

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 9-5-20

Brenda returned from her mini break away at Lake Winnepesaukee last night just as Amanda and I were heading out to have coffee at the home of parishioniers.

Here are some photos Brenda took while away…

She had a good time. While she got settled back in to the Vicarage,Amanda and I had a great time at the home of Ray and Deb Parker who made a wonderful cobbler to go with our coffee. We have been going over and spending time with this couple every few weeks. It is part of how the church has to adapt in these days.

We cannot rely on seeing or being able to converse with folks in church any longer. So, visiting in small groups while social distancing seems to be the new way of doing church life.

This week I visited with a number of people over coffee and prayer.

This is an old photo but I visited with these friends Stev and Pastor Donna Slocum early in the week
Our friend Norma
Our friends Ray and Deb

Living by the slow, constant , intentional schedule God has given me is becoming more and more of a routine ,and as it does my life becomes quieter and quieter, even in those moments where the activity is swirling around me.

The one thing I have noticed is that while the work is not as taxing, it is nothing like a normal schedule. The rest of my family works during the day and then sits down to relax in the evening. My day starts when I get up and ends when I go to bed. There are times of rest, times of relationship, times for work, times for exercise and times for fun built throughout it, but the times keep moving now. My life has become monastic. I live by the bells now (on my phone): Exercise, reading, writing, housework, family time, study, and prayer all move in synchronicity according to the bells. When the bells on my phone ring I am on to the next thing in order.

I suppose for most people this would be problematic. I am finding it a problem solver, even if it means I do not necessarily fit in with the rest of the world’s ebb and flow as well anymore.

Well it is time to move on to supper time chores everyone.

I look forward to tomorrow Dear Friends

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 9-2-20

It rained this morning. I left the laundry out last night. Go me!

Laundry on line in rain Stock Photo: 4551198 - Alamy

Oh well. Little foxes may try to spoil the vine, but I am not letting a few wet tee shirts ruin my victory over my schedule.

Back in January, God told me I was walking through a brand new door into a place I had never been before. He told me that I would be “entering” in January, February and March. He said I would be “Settling in” in April, May and June. He told me I would “begin accomplishing” in July August and September. Then He said I would “Be finishing” in October, November and December.

I naively thought this was all about my book. I think I may have alluded to that fact here on “Notes From the Vicarage”. I realize now it was bigger than that. It was about a radical change coming to my life. The first quarter was revealing the scope of that change. The second quarter saw me accepting and settling into that change. God used the pandemic to create my new life-rhythm, but by June I realized I had accepted the change and I was determined not to go back to the old rhythm of life, even if the rest of the world did. These last few months I have been learning how to become accomplished in the new rhythm of slow, constant, intentionality (the words aren’t new to me but the practice has taken on a much deeper meaning).

I have kept a schedule for years. I have modified it into my own secret shorthand.Here is what I have done this week. As I look at these tick marks and numbers I am realizing a huge difference in what I am accomplishing.Here is what my schedule looked like in January when I was just beginning.

You might not see much of a difference, but as I have been working with this schedule over these months I see a marked change in how I am utilizing my time. Just look at the first number on my agenda (that is the physical activity goal). Back in January I was lucky if I was doing thirty minutes of physical activity a day and that included walking the dogs. Today I am generally hitting the goal and going over my physical activity number.

Part of that success has to do with me being home more. As Mom’s need for me here at home grows, I am finding that I am actually gaining control of my schedule even as I become more housebound. I am not yet what I shall be, but I am surely more than I was.

Well I have blathered on long enough….

I am looking forward to tomorrow Dear Friends…

Pastor J