Dear Family, I apologize for not writing these last several days. If life was a river, then these last days have been in the high water. The project at The Vicarage is moving at high speed now. The bathroom tiles got finished late last week launching us into the next phase of the project which is plastering and floor revarnishing.
Abigail and I spent some time hanging out there.
On Sunday I preached on the transcendence of God and how that makes Him different from us. That knowledge has to frame any proper relationship with Him. As all the projects I am involved in are dove-tailing at the moment, I am keenly aware that I am firmly locked in time-space and the constraints of human weakness. It is only as I focus on the transcendence of God…His ability to rise above all that is and to move me, by His grace, into peace, that I keep myself from feeling constantly overwhelmed. The fact that I am surrounded by such a loving congregation is a sign to me that the transcendent God has my back.
Several church folks came and helped me to move furniture on Sunday after church. The floor project is underway.
Here is coat number one of five.
Not only that they have also opened the new entryway into the kitchen.
Another week is done. Sunday starts the sanctuary project at Cornerstone and then next week I have court to assume guardianship of our dear friend Grace and then the staff and some parishioners will help me finish closing down her apartment.
Last night I started a class on appreciative living at Beals Memorial library right here in Winchendon…. So much fun!
In one of our group discussions I was asked to appreciate something about a difficulty. I thought of the building projects at The Vicarage, at the church, and the moving project I am doing for Grace all rolled into one. It’s not that any of these things is very difficult in and of themselves. It’s not like I am doing any of the complicated work and the guys doing the work are really top notch. But each of these projects adds a level of complexity to my life. As they are all converging upon life at once there is a level of complexity and time management which is taking me beyond anything I have ever had to do before.
As I thought about it, I appreciate that!
In the moments when things get stressy….when I get stressy…. I am beginning to realize that I am being stretched out of my current comfort zone into a much larger one that will contain more peace, more joy, more “can do” attitude and more confidence. I am growing and so I appreciate these circumstances that are allowing that.
Dear Family, It strikes me that I have not spoken much about the incredible blessing that God has given us during this season of The Vicarage’s rehab. In the midst of all this work God has given us a miraculous provision of a house that meets absolutely every one of our needs. The Annex is a Victorian duplex located directly next door to The Vicarage! The only thing separating us from our house is the field which we own. I can literally see The Vicarage from there sun porch in my room which most of you will recognize as the place I am using to do my daily video devotion, Digging Deeper. The location was important to Mom who insisted she wasn’t going to leave the neighborhood. And it keeps me close to the project.
The place has four bedrooms and more importantly a comfortable couch because Mom will not sleep in a bed having not slept in one since my father died in 1990. It came completely furnished. We didn’t;t even need to bring dishes or a coffee maker!
The place has plenty of places to meet. Which is important because with Mom’s dementia being in an unfamiliar place means we are sticking at home. So I am working remotely as much as possible and we are staffing any amount of time longer than hour. The room below I use for those meetings which are more sensitive in nature.
It is right at the top of the blue stairs.
But I am also doing fellowship meeting in the kitchen.
And I am doing staff meetings at the conference/ dining table which seats 10.
Normally I would not be writing on Wednesday as it is one of the busier days in my week, but as yesterday was awash with work I did not have time to get to my posts for the day.
Yesterday was a constant pace through most of the daytime hours and by night my brain was mush and the rainy weather made me a candidate for Motrin therapy. I got a lot done for sure. The house got cleaned. Paperwork got done (well at least some of it…I am amazed at how much paperwork there is for a lead pastor to do and I am minimizing my paperwork compared to my predecessors). The weekly staff meeting was finished. Grocery shopping and library run was finished. I even had time to do my daily devotional for the church before I had to go off to a hospital visit.
I did not complete my prayer regimen yesterday, but today is another day and so I am getting off to a good start finishing up this work and a few other bits before my my senior staff meeting. I will also fit in at least 45 minutes of prayer before that meeting happens and then I have to go into the church to get a check signed for one of the two funerals I planned this week and then I need to get a court waiver filled out and sent for one of our widows who the church is helping with guardianship proceedings. All that will be accomplished before our prayer meeting tonight.
It is a season full of ministry. And I am learning that in all things…like Dory…I need to just keep swimming.
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 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The blue flooring we have been walking on since I was 10 is apparently asbestos. So the contractors have a bit more to remediate than I originally thought…or hoped. Bringing things back to the studs seems to be a theme for the adventure of life these last few years.
Wendy, our church secretary, has likened the events in our church to exactly that (taking everything back to the studs). Now what we have spent the last few years doing in the spiritual we are doing in the natural at the Vicarage. Themes repeating themselves continually…..
I have to admit I am feeling more stress about this move than I thought and truthfully I thought there would be a lot. It is different than I thought it would be though. I expected to feel constantly overwhelmed. I don’t feel that. I just feel tired.
The truth is there is so much going on not just with the house but with the church that I have little time to dwell on my anxieties. I am in a constant mode of response and each response seems to create a new set of realities with their own sets of responses which require more thought and more work.
In the last three years our church has been through a breaking down. Like our bathrooms we have been taken back to the studs.
It has been hard work and it has been good work. But the breaking down of our church….going from 350 to 120 has only caused me to realize how much more work there is underneath to do. The stress is not manifesting in feeling overwhelmed or like I don’t know what to do. I am just tired and I realize we are just at the beginning of a long journey. Here I am talking about bathrooms and churches like they are the same thing. Principles hold true for all forms of reconstruction I guess. The first step is the breaking down. The next step is the rebuild. It’s all good.
I am so looking forward to you and your parents moving here to Winchendon. I am hoping you make it for the fall. It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year here in New England.
I do often wonder what you will really find when you get here. I remind your father often that The United States is not the country he lived in six years ago. So much has shifted. So much has changed. It has been even longer since he lived in Winchendon or New England for that matter. I think it is 13 years since he has attended Cornerstone Church. And we have changed.
We are smaller now than when he left.
We are also more relational.
When you come Sevy you will find us a people of the Word.
A people of much prayer.
In this regard I am not even the man your father knew when he lived with me. I crave the prayer space now. I am often afraid people around me find my lifestyle boring. I hope you don’t find me so when you get to know me.
We are also learning hospitality as a community.
We are a people of deepening relationships.
Maybe it won’t matter what is happening in the big wide country so much. Maybe the real beauty here has nothing to do with our seasons or even our culture at large. Maybe the real beauty and what you and your parents will find attractive about this place is the love our community has for itself and the people around us.