Of Irons and Fires, Of Pots and Burners and the Peace Of God

These last several weeks have been full of living. The Vicarage project has been delayed by permits and weather, but that is probably a good thing. I have been so busy with God’s work these last weeks I am not sure how I would have handled the pace if we had the house project in full swing.

God really does know what He is doing! I am coming to accept that His timing is perfect and waiting is a good thing

There are lots of irons in the fire…..lots of pots on burners….and yet the peace of God is what is controlling me these days. I guess I have come to the realization I am not supposed to put all the irons in the fire at once. I am not responsible for all the pots on all the burners. I am one guy. I am one part of the body of Christ here in little Winchendon MA. The body is responsible for the irons and the pots. I am responsible to equip the body to handle all those irons and pots (well maybe not all of them but the ones we are called to).

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This week as I was in prayer God told me He was going to show me many things that were to go on in the world but that I needed to be careful not to allow what He showed me to distract me from what He had told me to do……otherwise……

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He has called me to lead the church to Doing Life Together and to discover our gifts. He has promised that if we did those two things He would help us to reach the lost, send the found and change the world!

I have come to it over the last several weeks that there are several pots I have been trying to get on the burners….several irons I have been hoping to put in the fire that for the moment will just have to wait so that I can fulfill the current call of God.

My book is one of those irons or pots. I am realizing that I will not have the time to finish it and do the work set before me. So….for the moment I am putting this pot back in the fridge….this iron back beside the fireplace. Maybe someday, but not today.

I am also realizing that the delays in the Vicarage project are giving me a better pace. These projects have to happen, but the idea that I was going to get all the work done in these few short months….well that just doesn’t seem to be in the proverbial cards and maybe that is in keeping with the plans and purposes of God.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PLANS YOU HAVE THAT NEED TO BE TAKEN OFF THE BURNER AND PUT BACK IN THE FRIDGE FOR THE MOMENT?

It Begins

Well everything is in place!

The dumpster and port-a-potty hav arrived along with the new gutters and siding.

Now that the rain has stopped, the crew will be arriving today (or maybe tomorrow) to begin peeling off the old shingles. So take one last look.

I have been trying to get my part done for this project which is clearing the porch and the edges of the house so that the crew can get at the shingles.

I have set up a little seating area on the edge of the wood for prayer through the project.

Things Come, Things Go, Nothing Stays the Same.

I am in the middle of two very full, very wonderful weeks. Two weeks ago. I peached a message on the call to ministry and five people from our congregation were touched by the call.

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I have had the wonderful privilege of meeting with each of them personally and affirming the call and speaking with them about next steps.

I made reference last week to the fact that the Vicarage project had met its first snag. The outside budget was outstripping the inside project and it was looking like the inside project may not happen at all.

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So Brenda and I asked a few questions and our contractors, wonderful men of God, got back to us with the answers and a detailed budget with the cost overruns included. Brenda and I took a night to pray about it and then had a Zoom conversation about what we were sensing from the Lord.

To us it made no sense to tackle the inside if the outside of the building was just going to fall down around our ears. Here is what I wrote to our contractors…

Good Afternoon Gentlemen,

Brenda and I met this morning by Messenger Call. After a night of prayer we have come to 
some decisions.
* Honestly we cannot go above the $205,000.00 quotes at this time. That is our all in 
budget so the price of 234,000.00 is out of our reach.

* Getting a new kitchen and a new downstairs bathroom while not fixing the leaks in the 
upstairs bathroom is counterproductive (It would only destroy the new work).

* Redoing the inside of the house but not addressing the structural issues on the outside 
is also counterproductive.

* We realize that the pricing for the outside projects absolutely needs "Uh-Oh" 
money and that the  quoted $68,000.00 may not actually be enough.

* So we have agreed that while all of the issues need addressing eventually and sooner 
rather than later we need to prioritize now.

* We feel we need to fix the outside to keep the house from falling down.  So we would 
like to do the structural repairs and siding at this point.

Since then things have moved pretty quickly. It looks like the outside project will start next week and be done within the month of October. The port-a-potty arrived today (for the work crew).LAte this afternoon I signed the application for the construction permit.

The bushes still need to get gone, but I am thinking they will be gone by Friday. Our plan now is to see what we have left after the outside project is finished and then use that money to start the inside projects. I am praying it is enough to at least tackle the bathrooms.
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Cleaning Out Clearing My Head

I said yesterday that there was a lot of news to share about the Vicarage. To do that I am going take part in another challenge hosted by Cee. This is the CMMC CHALLENGE (CEE’S MIDWEEK MADNESS CHALLENGE). THIS PHOTO CHALLENGE REQUIRES ME TO POST PICTURES AROUND MY STORY THAT HAVE THE LETTER “O” IN THE MIDDLE.

THE BATHROOM CUPBOARD.

The project at the Vicarage has hit its first snag. The cost of supplies has driven the price of the project beyond our budget, and so we are looking at what we can cut out.

CLOSET

We know that while all the work is important, keeping the house from falling down is the first priority. So we are going to focus on the outside and then see what we have left to give to the inside projects. I don’t know if this closet will ever become the new doorway to the kitchen. I don’t know if we will have money to refinish the bathrooms. By faith though, I am preparing these spaces for the work. I am emptying and cleaning these space to get ready for…something to happen.

SUPPORT MAN

But the Vicarage is not the only place where projects are happening. We just had an annual church clean up day out at Cornerstone. Amanda, Jody, Joe (pictured here), Ken and I lugged logs from trees our maintenance man, John, cut down in front of the church. Meanwhile others tended the garden beds which had not really been tended since last year.

JODY SHOVELLING A ROOT.

We got a lot done in the three hours we had. But there is much more to do; So John is compiling a list of jobs and will farm that out to our DLT (Doing Life Together) groups to see if we can’t get some help with these jobs before winter sets in.

Tonight we have a ZOOM meeting to make some plans for the altar space repairs inside the church we are hoping to do in November.

Life is full! And I am finding that cleaning things out is clearing my head.

The End….Of the Beginning

Last night, Brenda and I headed to Logan airport. We parked in the parking garage so I could help her in with her bags.

She didn’t take much considering she is going to be gone for months. Still it was more than she could carry to the gate on her own.

Airports always remind me that there is a big wide world beyond the Vicarage’s front porch.

When I began “Notes…” I kind of thought that this day, of Brenda’s leaving, would be the end of the story. I am beginning to see that while Brenda returning to the Netherlands is an end of sorts, in God’s estimation it is only the end of the beginning. In some ways I think the story that is about to unfold about the denizens of The Vicarage is the story He always meant to be told.

So…On Sept. 1st 2021 Missionary, Brenda Lillie, boarded her plane at Logan to fly to her mission field in Zaandam, The Netherlands. Her brother, Pastor J got back in his car on Level 7MM in the parking gargage, and after doing his on line devotional with his Digging Deeper DLT group, he pushed out into the remnants of Hurricane Ida to make his way home to The Vicarage.

It was a long rainy drive home during which he took one pastoral call about someone whom someone else thought had died, but that turned out to be a Facebook mistake…. another marvel of modern technology gone wrong. Anyway, two bluetooth calls later, the mystery had been solved and not too many people had been panicked.

“I’m home!” J called out as he entered the Vicarage after his rainy drive.

“Are you an axe murderer?” Pastor Amanda called out the customary greeting (another gift of Mom’s sharp wit and the Hallmark Mystery channel combined)

“No! I’m a poisoner!” Pastor J hollered back his customary answer as he thumbed through the mail on the table.

“Where is your sister?” Mom asked.

J realized, sadly, that Mom did not recall that Brenda had left for her new home in The Netherlands and would need to hear the whole story about Brenda’s work and future plans again because to her mind it would be the first time she was hearing it.

It took about an hour and a half to settle Mom into the story and the information, to the point where she was ready to go to bed. Finally the time came for bed and some much needed sleep. Even though so much remained to be done J shuffled off to bed. The rest of the day’s work would have to wait for morning.

As the sun rose on the new day the word of the Lord came into that space that exists between sleep and conscious thought….“I have work for all of you…The day of planning is past…..The day of preparation is gone….I have set you all to your separate labors….prepare for the hard work of harvest.”

Realizing the new day was dawning in more than one way, J got up and set about the work: Dog walking with an additional dog, breakfast and pills and papers for Mom….exercise (time to get rid of this spare tire)….and some early morning writing joined by another household friend who always seemed to show up when the tapping of the computer keys started.

The new day passed. Meetings were had. Conversations were spoken. Decisions were made, and Brenda reached home safely.

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Mirjam,one of Brenda’s chief partners in ministry in The Netherlands picks her up from the airport.
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The new house

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The neighborhood.
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THE END…..OF THE BEGINNING.

The Nexus Of a New Day

I started “Notes From the Vicarage” over two years ago just as Brenda was coming home from her mission in The Netherlands for the regular furlough required by our fellowship. The blog was supposed to help her with connection and fundraising as well as giving our readers a glimpse into life at a vicarage full of ministers. In that endeavor I failed.

I wasn’t prepared for the fact that Brenda and Amanda were not really ready to launch into the world of regular blogging on the scale I was used to.

I wasn’t prepared for how difficult the transition back into American life would be for Brenda.

I wasn’t prepared for how my life was about to change professionally.

And none of us were prepared for a pandemic that would stall the world and missions fundraising efforts for more than a year.

We have come full circle. Brenda will be returning to The Netherlands tomorrow.

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So much has changed in two years:

May be an image of furniture and indoor
Brenda’s new dining room.

She is returning, not to her farm on the edge of the Jagersfeld, but to a new row house in the midst of a newly formed artistic district.

She is returning under the umbrella of a new missions agency….Artists for Community Transformation.

I am now lead pastor of Cornerstone Church.

Amanda holds the post of youth and children’s pastor.

The whole world is living under the cloud of what we are calling our new normal, which I think is not actually going to settle into any kind of normal from here on until the age changes.

And on top of that The Vicarage is about to undergo some necessary surgery.

The front gardens of The Vicarage at dusk last night

It is the end of one day.

the forest garden of The Vicarage by first light.

And the beginning of another.

Each new day is a nexus, a connector of past present and future. I am learning to celebrate what was. Hope for what is to come, and concentrate on what is.

The last two years have taught us God is able to bring the best out of even the worst circumstances. He is truly able to make beauty out of ashes.

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Pandemic gave Brenda time to further her calling and connect to her new missions organization which is built for artist/ missionaries.

Pandemic prepared me for the work of being a lead pastor, by helping me to discover what my real ministry gift was.

Pandemic prepared our church for the move of God which is now beginning to take place.

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As we approach this nexus of a new day I am looking forward to the story that is about to unfold before us. I realize that my role in this unfolding it to be the teller of the story. This time I am determined to make time to tell it.

WHAT STORY ARE YOU DETERMINED TO TELL JUST NOW?

Gopher Gladness and Great Hawk Gasps

Today two things happened to me in prayer. As I sat for my afternoon devotions on the porch (which generally last at least an hour) I was listening to my meditation music, and around the corner of the steps came a gopher.

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He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

“Hello!” I said….and he was off like a shot.

It makes me happy that nature lives at my front door.

The second event happened around 6:30 P.M. as I was having my evening devotions. I was listening to the book of 1 Corinthians on my phone. The birds and the squirrels were gathered at the feeder eating supper.

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Eight or ten doves and several squirrels and a chipmunk were happily munching at the birdseed. Then, they were off like a shot. The rodents skittered into the underbrush and the doves took to the skies in different directions.

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The hawk was barely more than a shadow and an explosion of feathers as it grabbed the mourning dove from its flight. It was over leaving only a rain of dove down falling into the sumac below.

Life has been a mix of gopher gladness and great hawk gasps lately.

Brenda got the keys to her new apartment in Zaandam yesterday.

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She needed a new laptop. So we prayed and less than two hours later she was on her way to get a new laptop provided by one of her donors.

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Then she got a call from her landlord saying that all her furniture had been destroyed by an air B-n-B customer (she had consented to leave her furniture in the apartment if her landlord would hold the apartment for her when she returned).

Gophers or great hawks, you never can tell what’s coming across the porch on any given day. The only assurance is that both will show up at one time or another. Sometimes they will even show up at the same time.

In my experience though God has this singular talent to turn our sorrows into dancing, our gasps into gladness and our great hawks into gophers.

How about you are living in the shadow of great hawks right now or are you playing with the gophers?

This Day At The Vicarage 11-12-20

I had one of those writer’s horrors happen yesterday. I was saving my “Bits Folder”, the folder where I keep all the work I have deleted from my novel but which I think is good enough to use elsewhere. I did something wrong and suddenly the “Bits Folder” was nowhere on my thumb drive. As near as I can figure I hit the wrong save and saved the form as a template which converted it from English to computer code.

For a moment I panicked. Then I remembered that I had built in redundancies just for this occasion. The Folder was saved to my hard drive and should that fail I also have a private cloud filter containing the work in raw form ( Should I need to resort to that it would be a lot of work to do over but at least it is there). So crisis averted. Still, the thought of losing all those words made me so emotional I had to step away from the writing world for the rest of the day.

This morning as I return to the editing process (which involves removing the word “suddenly” which I have used entirely too much in this book), I am thinking about the many people throughout our world who have watched their world’s go up in smoke over the last year. My little glitch sent me reeling and it wasn’t even really a problem. What is it like to be a that person who has lost their life’s dream to the year 2020?

It really hits home the fact that this is a season requiring massive amounts of grace. What are you going to do today to show the people around you grace?

This Day At the Vicarage 11-10-20

As usual the dogs and I were up at 4 and out for a walk by 5. Even with the turn back of the clocks it is still pitch black at that hour…and quiet, which I really love.

I find myself slipping easily into the prayer cave at this hour of the morning and these are moments of deep revelation. I feel sad for people who cannot make the connection with the Divine. God’s Spirit is so marvelous and mysterious to me I want to weep for anyone who cannot touch it. I find it even sadder that so many of my brothers and sisters have no desire for this place of prayer and communion. I do not know what I would do without it.

Today is hair cut day. 8 A.M. I really need it.

This rhythm of this day is already well established and so I am hoping it will continue on at its even easy pace so that I can have more time in the Preseence, more time to write, more time to read and more time to clean my office…..Oh yeah Mercedes is also in bad need of a bath.

Well on to the next thing!

PJ

This Day At the Vicarage 11-8-20

The sky has been really stunning the last few days. Sunrises and sunsets come seemingly to remind me that there is a large part of life that simply transcends the everyday trials of this world.

No matter how crazy things get there is always the sky to look to.

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:25-28

Today was church day. So I had to make sure most of my extra work was done before I left the house for the morning. Sundays can end up being mostly a wash once church time comes so I try to make sure I have a jump on things before I head out for the day. To that end I spent an hour this morning writing. I exercised. I got a little housework done and then it was off to the races.

Pastor Dan and Pastor Jen preached a great message today on celebrating in every season of life. And then we practiced celebrating as a church at the end (socially distanced of course and with masks). This is a lesson then church needs to take to heart. It is a message I need to take to heart. We are the people of God. Of all people on the planet we have a reason to celebrate which trumps every difficulty.

If nothing else there is always the sky to look to…so let’s celebrate!

PJ