Rain, Covid Exposure and the SimplifyingWork of God

If you have been following along, you know that we have been planning a big home renovation project for the Vicarage for the last several months.

The supplies for the shingle project, the gutter project and the painting project all arrived a few weeks ago.

The windows are 4-5 weeks out…I imagine they are stuck on some boat off the Pacific coast right about now along with so many other folks stuff. Supply chain problems…Yay!

Photo by Sascha Hormel on Pexels.com

We were stuck waiting for a building permit for two weeks and then of course there was the rain.

Photo by Genaro Servu00edn on Pexels.com

Things were supposed to start on Monday, and then Tuesday and then Wednesday…but RAIN! The rain stopped yesterday and so the construction team was finally ready to go for today and of course this was my day of big meetings. Then I got a call from a pastor I went to dinner with on Monday and found out…yep I have been exposed to COVID….No symptoms, but my doctor suggested that because of the closeness of the contact I self quarantine until I can get a test. That cannot happen until Friday afternoon

Here’s the thing God knew in advance that all this would happen. The product delivery….the permit delays….the rain delays…and the COVID exposure. As I look at it these next two to three days are perfect days for me to be forcibly stuck inside to help Mom as the construction crew tears the outside of our house off.

THIS WHOLE THING is God simplifying my choices.

Here’s the question I have to ask myself. Why does God not trust me to simplify things for myself? OUCH!

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).

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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……

Photo by Titus Pop on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Vlad Cheu021ban on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by John Guccione http://www.advergroup.com on Pexels.com

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.
Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

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.

Memories Of a More Innocent Time

As I have considered this renovation project at The Vicarage I have had to ask myself why. We have had those offers that come from buy as is companies. We could sell and rent a condo or even buy a smaller house. So why do the renovation? I think a piece of it has to do with my past. I got thinking about that as I read fellow blogger

CEE NEUNER’S FUNFOTO CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK, COAT OF MANY COLORS.

Dolly’s music always gets me nostalgic about what seems like simpler times . Cee asked us to create a photo post based around the song, and here is what the song made me think of.

Mom and me

These photos are all taken in houses that are within a mile of The Vicarage.

Me and Brenda at Gramma and Grampa’s house around the corner from The Vicarage.

It is so strange to think that such a huge portion of my life has circled around this block I am living on, have lived on in every season of my existence.

Mom, Dad and me at the house on Pearl St. across from the Duvarneys

This place is my memory, my coat of many colors.

Brenda at the house on 360 Front St.
Dad, Gramma, Brenda, Grampa and me at The Vicarage.

But it is not just about my past. This is the place where my past, my present and my future meet in their own dazzle of color. This is as much about me putting a stake in the ground for myself and declaring what my future is going to be, as it is about me tipping my hat to the choices of my ancestors.

The Vicarage is our generation’s Coat of Many Colors Project that we will leave for the next generation to display the love that we have come to know in this life.

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.

No description available.
Mirjam,one of Brenda’s chief partners in ministry in The Netherlands picks her up from the airport.
No description available.

The new house

No description available.
The neighborhood.
No description available.
No description available.

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.

Photo by Ivu00e1n Rivero on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

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?

Nitty Gritty Reality Faith

5:20 A.M. get up walk dogs.

6:20 A.M. Pray and prepare for the big day

7:20 A.M. Get mom her breakfast and medications/ Make coffee for household/ Vacuum/ move clothes drying racks/ make beds/ sweep kitchen/ clean bathrooms/ move broken pallets from stone porch to burning pile/ Gather trash for dump run/ light candles to fragrance house (I love fragrance)

9:30 A.M. Meet with contractors and sub contractors to begin getting Nitty Gritty Reality framework into place. Here is where the dream begins to take on earthly shape and all the warts and pimples begin to show. I think this stage of a project is the part that needs the most faith.

Photo by NEOSiAM 2021 on Pexels.com

DREAMS ARE GREAT

Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

AND WHILE JOURNEYS CAN BE BOTH DAUNTING AND EXHAUSTING THE ACTUAL GOING BUILDS MOMENTUM.

Photo by Adi Perets on Pexels.com

BUT THIS SPACE BETWEEN THE DREAMING AND THE JOURNEY IS THE PLACE WHERE MOST OF MY PLANS COME TO NOTHING. THE “WE’LL SEES” AND “WHAT IFS” BEGIN TO TAKE THEIR TOLL AS MAYBES BECOME NITTY GRITTY REALITIES.

For instance we discovered….Not just new shingles. We will need new windows.

And…Yep…. This old house will need some new electrics.

And before we can even think of beginning the trees must go.

We will have appointments this week with the plumber and the gutter people and get their thoughts on the job.

For me faith in this part of the project is the part that just keeps going, just keeps organizing. This is the part where I just keep telling myself it will be all right and we will handle whatever comes our way and make whatever modifications we have to to get the project done. This is the part where I guard my prayer time. It is in this season I most appreciate the place of quieting the soul.

NITTY GRITTY REALITY FAITH LOOKS LIKE…

11:00 A.M. Dump run and then reviewing the appraisal for the house. Send it off marked “done” to the bank

12:00 P.M. Lunch for me and Mom. Brenda is off to deal with the fact that her furniture in The Netherlands is all gone. Her old landlord decided to remodel and just chucked all her stuff!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

1:00 P.M. Contact one of my old students about the trees (he runs a landscaping and tree service)/ Contact our insurance company to get information the bank needs sent off/ cancel haircut …it just ain’t happening/ send e-mail to personal assistant about a ministry event coming up that we need to coordinate/ field phone calls and messages from church members.

2:00 P.M. Prayer break…I really need to center down

Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

3:00 P.M. Walk dogs/ Brenda goes to have tire fixed before she heads out for weekend of ministry in Buffalo.

4:00 P.M. Amanda starts supper/ I do daily devotional and start writing.

5:00 P.M. Supper!

And now I am heading back into prayer…

Nitty Gritty Reality Faith is the faith that keeps pace and keeps peace and keeps hope and just keeps going.

DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER NAME FOR NITTY GRITTY REALITY FAITH? WHAT IS IT?

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.

Photo by Katie Burandt on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Rajukhan Pathan on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

No photo description available.

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.

May be an image of screen and laptop

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?