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.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on

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.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on

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.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

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.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on

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.

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on

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


Pictures on the Road to Grace

My calling (job) is an interesting combination of joys and sorrows.

The joy of: welcoming new born babes to the church in the arms of their mothers and fathers, baptizing new converts to the faith, welcoming those who have decided to join membership, celebrating the victory of healing with people who have overcome life challenging illness, the planning and execution of weekly celebration services, prayer services and small group Bible studies, mixes with the sorrow of walking with families struggling with domestic violence, or divorce, walking the long road to life’s end, comforting families of those who have passed on into eternity, and helping families struggle through the sorrow of wayward children.

The whole job is an honor and a challenge. The whole job requires the grace of God to manifest with each joy and each sorrow.

One of the joy/ sorrows I am walking through right now is with the oldest member of our congregation, Grace. Grace has been with us literally from the beginning of the church, from the very first service when there was no church building only a church living room. Grace is also a biblical widow. She has no family aside from an elderly sister living in assisted living over 12 hours away. Our church is her family.

Grace was also not prepared at all for end of life. So when she could no longer care for herself the state stepped in and placed her an hour and a half from us. I have now taken Grace on as my legal ward, but I have been unable to move her from the care center where she has been placed. At this point I am not sure I would want to put her through the trauma of moving again. So I call her several times a week. Yesterday I made the drive up to see her.

I start out on Rte. 12 from Winchendon MA up through Fitzwilliam, Troy and Keene NH. I pick up Rte 10 and follow the Ashuelot River through Gilsum and up into Marlowe. Driving past the Christmas Inn at Marlowe….

I travel by the wind mills in Lempster

I turn at the United Church across from the Lempster town library.

up into Unity,

until I see the skyline at Sullivan County Health Care. It’s a long way from my current home, but my family on both my mother and father’s side has been traipsing this same territory for more than two hundred years. Most of my original ancestors came through Newport NH on their journey from England. One of my relatives actually was born in Goshen only minutes from Lempster and preached in South Acworth only a few miles in the other direction from Lempster. Driving this road feels a little like walking through history to a deeper sense of home.

Since the last time I visited Grace she has had to move to a new unit within the care center so that she could receive the appropriate care for her weakening physical condition. The new unit, Stearns III, is a very beautiful ward with lots of plants and bright decorations. When I arrived Grace was just finishing up a music program and then an aid took us to the “Tower Room” where we could visit privately. Grace thought she had made this quilt. She went to some length to explain the neatness of the stitching and how it had been a group project. I didn’t let her think otherwise.

The view from the room was beautiful and cheery.

Grace is facing many challenges ahead with her health, but being able to walk this season with her as she prepares for her own journey into eternity is such a great privilege. I don’t know how much my visits are making a difference in Grace’s life. I truly hope they are a blessing to her. This one thing I know, they are deepening my faith and my own story greatly



Many of you know that my mother lives with me and my daughter, Amanda, at The Vicarage. We are her primary caregivers as she walks this phase of her life’s journey through dementia. 

Mom often says to us, “Don’t get old. It ain’t for sissys.” That and “I should just be dead.”

Last week we thought we were entering a whole new phase. Mom was becoming increasingly hard to wake up and even harder to keep awake. She pretty much stopped eating and complained of just feeling like “crap”. She used stronger language, but you get the idea.

At first I thought it was residual effects from her bout with COVID.

The issue I had with that first thought is that Mom had no symptoms of COVID even though she tested positive. As I was praying for her one night I heard in my spirit, “Her medications.”

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on

Just before mom got COVID, the doctor had doubled one of the meds she takes for dementia, in hopes that it would help a growing anxiety. It turns out the new dosage was too high and so we have weaned her back and Mom has woken up. Yesterday she was awake for most of the day and even ate two whole meals and a piece of another. 

While I was in church yesterday I got a text from my cousin saying that my Aunt Gloria, my mother’s oldest sister, had passed away. 

My mother is now the oldest surviving child. Just she and her sister Carol are left out of eight children.

One of the things I have learned about caregiving is that it is not a solo endeavor. It takes a village to do this. While Amanda and I carry the weight of the caregiving, our extended family all helps in different ways. My daughter Melanie comes to help us out when Amanda and I both have to be away for an extended time. We have also had volunteer help from the church come and sit with Mom during times of need. We have hired a longtime friend of the family to come and sit with Mom during church services. And my sister is Mom’s telephone buddy. Brenda calls Mom twice a week at least from The Netherlands and will talk for an hour or better each time.

Yesterday as I was considering whether or not to tell Mom about her sister I called Brenda to get her advice.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

You may think there is only one right decision . Of course I should tell my mother her sister died. But that revelation could spark hours of cyclical dialogue spiraling down into an increasing depression. The struggle is real.

As I was talking with Brenda it was decided we should tell her, but first Brenda and she would have a conversation to try and center her a bit before I brought the hard news. She and Brenda bantered for about forty five minutes. It was nice to see mom awake enough to actually use her sharp wit. Then my phone gave the “Low Battery” signal. It often happens when they talk. They go on so long the computer or the phone just run out of juice. But Mom never remembers what the signal means and always comes out with some panicked question about what she did.

This time, though, Mom did not have her glasses on and exclaimed “Wait a minute, I am getting a message from Lake Pottery. I wonder what they want.”

We all got a good laugh out of that one. A few hours after the call I sat down with Mom and shared the news about her sister. She had a lot of questions. She was sad. But aside from some deep nostalgia about her family she doesn’t seem to be able to hold the information about Aunt Gloria, or maybe she just cannot express what is in her heart. 


I think in this season of life I am slowly learning the importance of teamwork and interdependence. I have a feeling that I will need to understand this much better before this season of my life is done.


Coaching and Grace

Last night I attended the last corporate prayer meeting of our 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer, hosted at The Worship Room. I am so thankful for all the hard work the staff of The Worship Room did to bring our church together for this season. Some very deep things were shifted in my heart.

Last night I heard the Lord say, “Your new rhythm is set and begins.”

Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA production on

I can really feel this new rhythm today as I walk through the motions and meetings of the day. Something has indeed shifted. I am feeling slow, constant and intentional which is not new, but it feels like I’ve gone deeper in the slowing, in the constancy and in the seeking for intentionality.

This morning our church hosted a leadership training on the subject of coaching.

About thirty of us gathered to open the discussion around “coaching the person not the problem”. Our goal is to complete this course in 6 months (meeting once a month). We finished 6 pages of 147 and got our text books, but the conversation was so rich as we began to grapple with the idea of changing out methods of Christian work and what that looks like for us as we move onto the next step of our church mission which is : WHILE DONG LIFE TOGETHER, WE WILL REACH THE LOST BY SENDING THE FOUND. WE WILL DISCOVER OUR GIFTS AND CHANGE THE WORLD.

If today was any indication there is much to grapple with. And that grappling is a wonderful and painful process.

God has been talking to us for three years about ‘THE NEW WINE SKIN”. It’s a biblical reference to a spiritual change in a person’s life that causes them to approach life from a different perspective using different methods. It’s not that the thing believed changes, at all. It is the way the thing believed is approached, that changes.

Photo by Alexas Fotos on

As a long time Christian I realize one of the tendencies I struggle with is becoming dogmatic about my methods. I have realized I begin thinking, the way I do faith is as sacred as the faith itself. When that is allowed to go on for too long traditions become as, or more important than the relationship I have with my Living God.

One thing I know about God is He does not like it when things that are not Him take precedence over Him. He tends to shake those things up, and for those of us caught in the shaking it can be very disconcerting.

After training I went home to do the other work I had scheduled. One bit of that work was to call my friend Grace. She is going through a host of changes that are far more difficult than the changes I am walking through with my “NEW WINE SKIN”. Over the course of the last month she has lost the ability to walk, and to even get herself in and out of bed. She has had to change units in the nursing home as her medical condition is now more severe. She also recognizes that her level of confusion has increased.

Today as we spoke on the phone she said, “I am not really concerned about my legs. It’s the confusion that is hard to deal with. But I am trying hard not to fuss about it.”

Photo by Kat Smith on

Grace is trying to practice living one day at a time. It’s a good lesson for me as I face the challenge of my “NEW WINESKIN”. I am realizing that taking the time I need to figure out each step of this change is necessary. I don’t need to have it all figured out today. I just have to take it one day at a time.


Flags, Crags and Bluebirds

The power came back in at the church yesterday around 3 P.M. So today the staff was back in doing staff things. Carrie was meeting with a couple of her Doing Life Together Leaders, Pastor Amanda was preparing for Kids Church and youth group and then this afternoon she headed out for a meeting with another youth leader and one of the youth. Natalia was finishing up formatting the announcement slides and sermon slides, David was vacuuming the sanctuary and I…..well I was climbing the ladder putting back the international flag display.

Our missions secretary Wendy was in to help and then she was going to make contact with a new US missionary who works with the foster/adoption field. Our staff generally tries to have lunch with a missionary once a month. We haven’t had anyone in since October because of the holidays and…fasting.

After finishing with the flags I put up a few new pictures in my office and then went home to work on the paperwork for the Medicaid meeting I have next Wednesday for a lady from our church. I am a bit nervous about it because she has already been rejected once and the application is quite complicated. I parked on the street as I got home. I am trying to avoid my driveway as much as possible. The sidewalk plow and the lack of truly frozen ground has made it….well….craggy.

All the torn up tar is encased in blocks of ice in the bankings along the street; So I have been going around chopping up ice chunks and throwing the gravel bits in the center of them back into my driveway.

In the midst of battling with the mundane, the stressful and the aggravating, four of these little fellas showed up at my birdfeeder the other day. I’ve never had bluebirds at my feeder and it seems a bit early for them, but there they were. I have to say when I am feeling a little overwhelmed a bluebird or two is a great stress reliever.



Photo by Sveta K on

The back wall of our church was decorated with the flags of every nation where the church supports a missionary, until our sanctuary renovation earlier this year. We took the flags down and we have just never gotten them back up. Today was supposed to be the day we returned them to their posts. But we walked into the church this morning to the sound of two warning alarms:One from our fire system, and the other from the sump pump off of the fellowship hall. We soon discovered that the church was completely without power. A branch in the night took down some lines and the whole highway was out.

Photo by Balazs Simon on

So without lights in the sanctuary or enough light from the windows to safely use the ladder we cancelled the flag project and rescheduled it for tomorrow.

The day itself has felt very discombobulated. I got up a little later than usual and threw off my morning schedule. All day long I have been dealing with a distracted mind. I am constantly having to call myself back to focus. I am leaving jobs half done all around me.

Photo by lil artsy on

Maybe I will just go back to bed for a bit and start over after lunch. I do have some jobs to do that I really need to concentrate for!

The Heaviness

A heavy snow has fallen in Winchendon Massachusetts. We got about 8 more inches of heavy wet snow along with a mix of ice.

The snow has painted everything white and crystal. It is absolutely beautiful…. and dangerous.

The branches are weighted down with the heavy white stuff. Many areas of our community lost power for almost twenty four hours and some areas just to our north have been without power now for two days.

There is a word in Hebrew for glory, “chabod”. It means “the weightiness of God’s presence”….”the heaviness of God’s presence”.

As I am walking through this first season of fasting and prayer in 2023 one of the truths I have begun to see very clearly is that the work ahead of us is filled with “chabod”. It is heavy lifting. It is work that is beyond me or us. It is breakthrough in a region that currently walks with the burden of massive addiction, abuse and mental illness. I am feeling in my spirit that the time has come for the church to step up and out of its comfort zone into the place of joining with the rest of our community to address the deep needs of our region. We bring to the table the power of our God. If we do not step up or if we fail at this endeavor I sense that our community may well break, like so many of our grand trees, under the weight of these heavy burdens.

Everything in me cries for comfort from the weight of the work I see ahead and yet there is this space in my heart that is filled with an incredible sense of anticipation for the answers to so many of the prayers we have prayed over the years.

Still Life Broken and Repaired

The season has changed again. We are right back to winter overnight. This is one of the warmest winters I remember. I have only worn a coat one or two days this year. Maybe it’s just my thick northern blood, but something is changing. All season we have been going back and forth between freeze and melt. Today the ground is covered with snow. Tomorrow we could be back to the mud. It’s a change.

I am currently taking part as a reader in a book launch for a friend. Poet and story teller Tracy Rittmueller has written a book of poetry entitled, Still Life, Broken and Repaired. The book is about life changes, especially those changes between life partners as aging happens. The effects of dementia on relationships is a key theme in her poetry. Right now this book is speaking to me about the plethora of changes I am walking through with my own Mom and with my life long friend Grace.

In her poem, “Healing Is a Never Ending Departure”, Tracy writes

“Life calls us
to our never ending story.
All is still well.
Take heart, dear heart.
Release, that you may heal.”

Excerpt From: Tracy Rittmueller. “Still Life, Broken and Repaired.” Apple Books.

Right now life is requiring a constant releasing. My mom’s life, Grace’s life are like this winter. Some days you get warm sunshine and all is well. Other days are filled with mud and confusion. And then there are the days where the cold chill of the future just sort of sweeps over you. Each day requires a releasing of what was and an acceptance of what is now. My world is busy and grand in its smallness. On that note I leave you with these thoughts from Tracy’s poem, “In A Cove In The Yorks, Maine, I Dare To Hope Again.”

“And so I sit here for hours intent to hear the healing
beginning of another pilgrimage, any conscious progress
to inspire our next, necessary transformation.”

Excerpt From: Tracy Rittmueller. “Still Life, Broken and Repaired final.” Apple Books.

I am embracing the change whatever it may be. I know God has us in the midst of it.

If you would like to read more of Tracy’s work you can find it at