DEAR FAMILY SLOW AND STEADY

Dear Family,

I was reminded today in prayer about that old nursery rhyme “The Tortoise and the Hare”

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Life is not a sprint. It is a marathon. While there are always people shouting from the sidelines to “hurry up!”, God has impressed on me that I must not let those voices push me to go any faster than the pace that God has set for me.

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I hear the voices yelling, but I am determined to follow the rhythm He has set for me.

He reminded me yesterday that if I was going to live successfully then everything I do must flow out of the rhythm of prayer rather than prayer being allowed to flow out of the rhythm of my doing.

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Even with all the projects before me: The Vicarage, The Church carpeting project, The Covid Policy publication for the church, helping Mom, helping Grace, meeting with parishioners, I must not do except what flows out of prayer. When I spend the first part of my days in prayer I find that everything else falls into its proper place.

The trim is done now and the rest of the project is moving along nicely. A few more weeks and we will be ready to start washing the floors and walls and uncovering the furniture to get back in! Each day as I pray I am given my own little jobs to do to get The Vicarage ready for rehabilitation.

DEAR FAMILY- THE NEW IN THE OLD

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Dear Family,

It has been a busy two weeks. We are now 21 days in The Vicarage Annex. We have gotten used to this place. It is wonderful. It is comfortable. I am so thankful to God for this place. It is everything we need. Except it is not home.

I am Painting Pictures of Egypt.

I am quickly realizing that what we are going through is more than a temporary change. We are being launched by this renovation into a new season. I guess I didn’t anticipate that. I thought we would get the necessary job done and we would go back to our same old patterns.

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But I am now realizing that our old patterns will not fit into what we are going back too. We are changing. We will have changed and The Vicarage will be a new home for a new people.

DEAR FAMILY- SO MUCH MORE

Dear Family,

I went to The Vicarage this morning to do my morning chores. As I was feeding the dogs and the cat I really stopped to take a look around. I thought to myself about the magnitude of the work we have had done in the last year.

The Vicarage outside at the point of demolition last fall.
The Vicarage with new siding
Upstairs bathroom demo
Downstairs bathroom demo

Then I thought about the magnitude of the work that still lies before us after these particular renovations are finished: The washing of floors and walls and curtains itself will take weeks. The windows I have no doubt will be months in the doing. Then there is the fifty years of collected stuff which I am determined to go through and get rid of. This doesn’t;t even begin to mention the further renovations I hope to do to the kitchen, the basement, the back hall and the gardens. So much more to do!

Then there is the work of the church. We are a well established ministry in Winchendon and yet I feel like we are just beginning this work of ministry.

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In all this understanding I am not discouraged. I am excited about the days ahead and the work that goes with them! A new day is dawning. There is so much more to do and so much more to see. One day at a time I will see it!

OZ

DEAR FAMILY- ASBESTOS AND NIAGARA

Dear Family,

We are well into week three of our stay at The Vicarage Annex. So far everything is going to plan and I am very excited about the prospect of returning home soon. Well, by Memorial Day at any rate which is soon to me.

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Today marked two events on our calendar of work. The asbestos guys came, and Amanda headed off on her vacation to Niagara Falls.

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We are not quite halfway there, but somehow in my mind I have placed these events as the turning point…the hump day of our project. Get through this week, I reckon, and it’s all downhill from here!

Love, OZ

DEAR FAMILY- WATCHING THE LAUNDRY SPIN

Dear Family,

At this writing we are well into Day 16 of our time at The Vicarage Annex. We are also plunk in the middle of Easter Weekend. So no work is happening at The Vicarage today.

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Happy Easter everyone! I have been doing my cooking for tomorrow, today. Since Easter itself is such a busy day, I am keeping dinner simple….Ham (which will be cold sliced tomorrow), potato salad and fluff. I am thinking of cake for dessert with ice cream since it is someone’s birthday in a few days and she will not be around to celebrate.

This morning, since there was no work going on at The Vicarage. I decided I would start doing some of the laundry from there that will need to be done to get back in. It’s a start of what will be a very big project, but it is only day 16…. so no rush just yet.

Sitting at the laundromat, the day’s first cup of coffee in hand with only the sound of the dryer’s rhythmic thumping to keep me company helped me set my own internal timer: slow, constant and intentional. Just the way I like it.

We have a carpet to get rid of before the rain comes in and then I want to bake a cake and get my studying and practicing done for tomorrow’s service…slow, constant, and intentional. Just the way I like it.

Love,

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- Good Friday

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Dear Family,

Happy Good Friday! The high Holy Days are among some of my favorite times of the year. Not because of the activity but because of their depth of meaning. Sometimes I think our activity actually takes away from the meaning of the celebration…but then that is just me.

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I am content during the holidays to go to church and eat a nice quiet dinner with family. Of course I have grandkids now so Easter baskets are a part of that dinner.

This year I felt that the church should keep things low key. It was definitely a Spirit leading because one of our congregants is now on hospice…actually just passed this morning ( I just got word in the middle of this writing) and another is transitioning into a nursing home and I am heavily involved in that transition. In fact today I have to drive up to Keene to fill out paperwork.

So many new things are beginning…New house….new carpets in the sanctuary…Next steps for many of our congregants….new opportunities in town. I feel the kingdom of Heaven drawing closer everyday.

Looking Up and Looking Forward,

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- ADJUSTMENTS

Dear Family,

I am considering the two big building projects which are taking up my time for the next two months…the one at the Vicarage….and the sanctuary restructure at the church. What an incredible blessing it is that I get to do these two projects.

On the surface it would seem I am the wrong guy for this. If it were left to me to actually do the work it would be true. I possess none of the skills needed to replace plumbing or electrics, carpets or altars. But I am not called to any of that actual work. I am just having these things done on my watch. Aside from a little demolition, I am just the guy behind the curtain nodding my ahead to give approval or shaking it to say “I don’t think that works for me/us”.

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I do suppose it is a little more complicated than that. I have a job to do while the construction goes on. While the builders build, my job is to figure out how to do ministry around the construction.

The adjustments I have made in order to keep the work of ministry going are indeed some of the biggest blessings I have yet encountered in the work of ministry. Figuring out how to care for Mom’s needs and still meet the congregation’s needs: having meetings from home, having intentional coffee dates at set times everyday with Mom, finding people to sit with Mom while I go into the church.

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The conversations I have with my Mom at our coffee times can be very repetitious. Her anxiety about the house is still high. She is also not use to having people in her living space, but there have been some real blessings to it. Mom has not smoked a cigarette since we got here almost two weeks ago. It is nice to see her interact even if it is only a little with our church family. We have even had a few times where she has consented to listen to the Bible with me as I did my devotions.

Prayer time has been an interesting shift for me. My meeting load has actually increased during this season and I am really enjoying that, but I am finding that a lot more of my prayer time is spent in decompressing from the pastoral work. We are traveling in some deep pastoral waters now and that is very encouraging

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I have always thought of myself as someone who does not like change. But I am discovering that while these changes brought on by these projects are uncomfortable they are not bad…they just are. If I take it slow and easy and I don’t let the changes effect my inner peace then the adjustments are actually all blessings.

Be Blessed and Be At Peace,

OZ

DEAR FAMILY- CHOOSING JOY

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Dear Family,

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.

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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.

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There is much to be joyful about!

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- MOM

Dear Family,

When we moved to the annex I was prepared for Mom to have a level of disorientation. I was prepared for her to be anxious about this new place, to get lost in it, to forget where the bathroom was. I was prepared for her anger and sarcasm to come out. I was even to some degree prepared for the perseveration on the question as to what was happening ( although I do have to admit that answering the question “How long are we going to be here?” almost non-stop for the last two weeks on a never-ending loop is getting a little wearing).

What I was not prepared for and suddenly came to a realization of last night was that over the course of the next eight weeks Mom may, at some point, come to think of the Annex as her home and when we move back, we may go through the same confusion there as we are experiencing here.

We were talking for the one hundredth time for the day about the work being done at the Vicarage and how long it is going to take when Mom interjected a new question.

“Well do we actually own that house?”

It stopped me in my tracks and for a moment I couldn’t answer. Then the cold realization that we have seven more weeks for Mom to forget her home of the last fifty years settled in.

The tornado of a new reality commences.

We May Not be In Kansas Anymore Toto,

OZ

DEAR FAMILY- LIFE GOES ON

Dear Family,

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.

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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.