This Day At the Vicarage 8-31-20

Yesterday I preached at Cornerstone Church in WInchendon, A message called “A Message For the Moment.” After church one of our parishioniers came over to the Vicarage to look at the dormers atop the house to see if he might be able to fix them for me before winter. The meeting took all of 15 minutes making me right on time to fix lunch for Mom.

After lunch the sabbath slump hit me. It came as it always does, a sudden rush of weariness that left me able to do almost nothing but lay on the couch sliding in and out of sleep. At three I walked the dogs and then took a short ride with Amanda around the area to see sites. We stopped by the mountain to take a few pics.

When we got back I had just enough energy to make supper before my body crashed once again. The rest of the night was spent watching TV on the couch. I rested. I practiced sabbath.

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I have long had a love/hate relationship with this discipline called sabbath. I think I have struggled with it because of what sabbathing requires of me….because of what resting requires of me. Most of the people around me approach the Sabbath and the act of sabbathing as a day off, a day to have fun. They get to their day off. They go to the beach. They rake the lawn. They have friends over for a barbecue. They go and visit gramma. They go to Maine for the afternoon…..Meanwhile I crawl into bed and sleep for twelve hours. A really active sabbath for me is to lay on the couch and watch TV for eight hours after my nap, like I did yesterday.

Now there is a piece of me that is good with this. That piece of me knows I need this if I am to function the rest of the week like a normal human being. But there is a piece of me that really struggles to be like all the people around me. I want to be the guy who gets out of church and drives to Lynn to have lunch with my daughter and her family. I want to be like my sister who got done with her responsibilities at church yesterday and then drove to her friend’s house forty five minutes away and then painted canvas until after dark.

Here’s the thing. I can do all those things on Sunday. I can push off the Sabbath slump for a bit as long as I am prepared to slump on Monday. I cannot escape it. If I schedule myself so busy that I can’t Sabbath one day a week, I become this crabby Zombie monster who cannot function in any form of godliness. I revert to my old sinful self.

History of Zombies - HISTORY

I watch other people and think how weak I am because I can’t seem to do what everyone else does. Then I think maybe their not really doing it either. Maybe they really are just better at hiding their sinful zombie monster selves than I am.

Let me ask you dear friends….HOW DOES REST LOOK IN YOUR LIFE? WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T REST THE RIGHT WAY?

I am looking forward to tomorrow dear friends!

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 8-29-20

I awoke this morning with one of those leg cramps that make you scream yourself awake. You know the kind I mean, the kind where you are mindful enough to know that if you could just get to your feet the pain would stop, the kind which is so painful you cannot move out of the position you have contorted into.

What are Muscle Cramps and How Can They be Treated Naturally

After a minute of deep breathing through the worst of the pain, I swung my feet off the bed. I realized the day was dark and rainy, a reminder from God that I was in my current situation probably because I had let myself get dehydrated yesterday.

I pushed myself off of the bed. I thought back to yesterday and remembered that the Lord had changed up my sermon for Sunday on me. I was working in Psalm 84. Then, in my afternoon devotion the Lord had pushed me into Isaiah 8:11-20. When one sermon supplants another the sensation can be sort of like an emotional earthquake, especially when the supplanting comes on Friday afternoon. My new sermon prep got as far as reading the new verses to my sister after an evening ride around the area. Then I settled into an evening of wrestling internally with what I was to make out of the new passage given me. I went to bed with no more idea of what I was going to preach than when I first got the new verses in the afternoon.

This morning, as I paced about my bedroom trying to get my right calf muscle to release, the brain fog of sleep dissipated and I began to realize God had downloaded all the points of my new sermon while I was sleeping.

HAS ANYTHING LIKE THIS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?

MIND BLOWN - Imgur

Well you know I hobbled to my computer, and set the new outline down. I sent it off to my technical director so he could create the powerpoint. Then I heard the Lord say. “I have given you rain. Allow it to pace you. Allow it to slow you down to the place of prayer you need to be ready.”

So I have slowed down. I have hydrated. I have stretched. Most importantly, I have prayed and now I can say.

I am excited to see what tomorrow brings dear friends.

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 8-27-20

My sister read something on the internet that said there would be two moons tonight, or that Mars would be as big as the moon, or some such nonsense. For just a moment I got really excited. I thought perhaps we would see something no other mortal had experienced for hundreds of years.

I grabbed my phone, as she put on her shoes, and out we went, two amateur astronomers ready to view history.

Sadly there was, as usual, just one moon. We had been hoaxed.

“Hoax” is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days. One would think by the amount of hoaxing being reported that the whole world is under the influence of a powerful hoax or something…..Wait a minute! It seems I’ve read something about that somewhere…… Yes this is it…

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. 2 Thess 2:5-11

In today’s polarized society I do not think there are many people bringing us news, who are being totally honest about anything. I am taking everything that comes to me with just a little more than a grain of salt.

mountains of salt - Picture of Salinas d'Es Trenc, Campos - Tripadvisor

I have to admit I like to listen to certain storytellers (aka liars) more than others. With me it is more about form than substance. I like my news to sound like a news report, not like an episode of Jerry Springer. And I also like to listen to a new-person who sounds like a news person rather than someone who trained under Steve Erkel.

Image tagged in steve urkel - Imgflip

All this to say, there is precious little in the world I am trusting right now and that even seems to include the Constitutional Republic I grew up in. BUT each day I become more certain than ever that there is ONE I can trust in. The promises of JESUS CHRIST are sure and immovable.

While the powerful delusion seems to be breaking our society apart, while it seems to be causing certain people a great deal of consternation, it is driving me deeper into the ONE I can trust. Further, what is going on in the world is driving me further into a place of peace, a place of abiding in Christ. It turns out, that is where I was supposed to be all along.

If you are finding yourself anxious about what is going on in the world try pulling back a little. Try forgetting about the world and its promises and problems for a moment and just press into Jesus. He is the only one who can save us now. In His presence alone is fullness of joy and only at His right hand are pleasures evermore. I’m sorry….If you thought you could find peace, joy, or pleasure in someone else, you’ve been hoaxed.

OK that wasn’t exactly what I planned to say tonight, but it will have to do for now.

I am looking forward to tomorrow, my Dear Friends!

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 8-25-20

Since the pandemic started I have found myself rising later than usual. My old pattern was to be up and going by 4:30 or 5 in the morning. I would have half a day’s work done by the time every one else was up. That was a necessary thing because by 2 in the afternoon I would start to crash. Back then I would nap briefly and get ready for my night time work (usually a service or some kind of meeting).

Jacopo is still up every morning at 4:30 A.M. like clock work (literally you can set your watch by him). Now, though, he only wants to jump off the bed and settle in his carry cage to catch some more Z’s. Mercedes always sleeps right up by head on the pillow to my right. They are good until 6:30 or 7 A.M. now. At least three or four mornings a week it is this way.

The strangest thing is this new schedule which includes more rest seems to make me more productive. I am writing far more than I ever did before. I am getting more done around the house than I have done in all my time living here… and while I am no longer doing meetings upon meetings and services upon services, the ministry I am doing now feels somehow deeper and more ministerial.

I think that has something to do with how the nature of the work has changed. I have moved from being primarily an administrator and preacher (or singer as the case were) to being a pastor and contemplative monastic prophet. Somehow this fits better with my gifts.

But while this is true of me, my daughter has shifted to a lot of administration within the church. She is thriving in this new role.

It is interesting how the pandemic is being used to push us into the areas of our actual giftings. It feels like God is setting something big up behind the scenes. I am keeping watch to see what He is doing.

These are my thoughts today in a nutshell. We are now at the time where I must sign off and say…

I am looking forward to tomorrow Dear Friends!

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 8-24-20

In order to tell you about this day, I have to go back about 36 hours to Sunday morning. It’s where the thread of this story began.

I got up at about 6, walked the dogs as usual and then started the morning out with prayer and some house work. Mom and Amanda got up, so I made the coffee and sat down to breakfast with them.

“What are you guys doing today?” Mom asked

“It’s Sunday. So we are goin to church.” Amanda returned.

Without missing a beat Mom replied, “Oh I meant to tell you, I got a call. Church is cancelled.”

Amanda and I smiled at each other and then I asked, “Oh? Who called?”

“God.” Mom returned with a dry smile.

Amanda and I laughed as I said, “Well I guess He would know.”

Mom has always had a sharp wit. It is sometimes even more spectacular now as her filters are going away. Church time came. We went to church without heeding God’s call. That always spells trouble. Trouble this day came at 5:30. My phone rang. It was one of our elderly ladies from church,

“It’s your bad penney.” she said. Then she went into a rambling explanation of how she was somewhere ,and her car wouldn’t work, and they said it was fixed now, and she supposed she could find her way home.

“Where are you________?” I asked her.

She handed the phone to a lady who explained that she was at a market in Pennacook NH, about an hour and a half from us.

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Needless to say we were on the road in a matter of minutes. Our lady had gotten herself really lost. My GPS took us through deep woods and onto dirt roads until we found the little market where our friend was stranded.

When we arrived the sun was setting. Our friend was tired, scared and very confused. Her car was no longer driveable as she had hit either a really tall curve or a very deep pothole with it. The tow truck driver was pretty sure she had bent the rim and maybe even the frame of her car.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

We got the car towed and drove our friend home. It turned out we had arrived just in time as our ride home was overshadowed by beautiful but rather frightening thunder storms, with lots of lightning and even more rain. I shudder to think about this dear lady caught outside in that!

Anyway we got her settled in for the night and then went home to close up The Vicarage.

This morning I set about making some calls to social services in my friend’s town. She is a widow without family and so we are going to build a safety net around her now to help her at home with quality of life.

At noon I took Mom to a Drs. appointment. The Dr. wants Mom to have lots of tests. Mom wants to have none. The Dr. wants to prolong Mom’s life. Mom thinks that the Dr. is barking mad. For me once again this is all about quality not quantity of life.

Both of these ladies are in their mid eighties. Both of them are in failing health. Both are looking forward to their home going. Neither wants to do anything to lengthen their days. For myself I think now is a season of ministry to both of them. It’s not about the number of days. It’s about the quality of those days. I hope I can make the time they have left here on Earth a little more comfortable and a little more pleasant.

This Day At the Vicarage 8-22-20

Well, my migraine left after a good night’s sleep. Thank goodness!

Photo by Marcin Dampc on Pexels.com

It left a lot to clean up today. Taking almost a full day off yesterday put me a bit behind on the plans I had for housework and volunteer work today. I take comfort in the fact that God wasn’t surprised by it at all. He knew it was coming. He planned for it, even if I did not.

This morning as I woke up He reminded me that in spite of the rather large to do list screaming inside my head I needed to remain slow, constant and intentional. The day had to start in the Sage’s Cave.

Photo by Brady Knoll on Pexels.com

During that first hour of prayer He settled me into my daily rhythm and warned me not to rush or depart from it. He reminded me that I had to walk the day’s cycle and keep coming back to prayer if the day was going to be a success. So I have done that: pray, exercise, write, read, chores, family time, study and then back to prayer time.

I got a call at around 7:30 A.M. from one of our elderly parishioners who was being transported by the ambulance to the hospital in Keene NH. I hung up and clocked the fact that I was at perfect peace even though I knew I was going to have to take the hour and a half drive to be my dear friend’s ride home in a few hours (she is often transported and after getting a good dose of medicine is almost always discharged within a few hours). I felt the Spirit urge me to just keep moving on with my schedule.

So I did. My study today was the second half of a video by artist Makoto Fujimura on the love of God.

After study and prayer, I felt like I needed to get ready to go. Just as I was finishing brushing my teeth the call came in to take my ride to Keene.

Parking Services | City of Keene

When I finished helping my friend I came home and after lunch I took a walk with Brenda around the D.A.R. Park.

The rhythm has repeated all day: Prayer, exercise, writing, reading, chores, family time, study and back to prayer…

Tonight, I feel very peaceful and fairly accomplished. I think I am going to go sit with Mom for a bit now. Maybe we will watch some more of the History Channel tonight. She seemed to like that the other night and it is a welcome break from Hallmark.

It is time now to sign off here and to say…

I am looking forward to tomorrow Dear Friends!

Pastor J