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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is my next ten minute letter. That is right I am trying to add an atomic habit to my life by writing these letters as a part of my daily devotional regimen. Mostly I want to have some record of how this project advances at The Vicarage…for posterity of course.
I never in a million years I would be in charge of building projects as a minister. But here I am doing a major renovation on The Vicarage and major renovations on the church. It amazes me how God has prepared me for this through all the house projects we did as a family when you kids were little. I didn’t really have anything to do with them as far as the real construction. We all know that was your mother, but I at least learned how to work around those projects and I am putting the skills learned then to good use now.
Deconstruction of the bathrooms started yesterday!
How much have your priorities changed over the past twenty years?
In answering that question I think I have to say the priorities haven’t really changed. The way I go about them has for sure. The main thing is still the main thing. But the way I live out the main thing…that has changed tremendously.
In the “old-timey” days an appropriate farewell as you sent loved ones on their way was “Godspeed” or “Godspeed your journey”. In the ears of a younger J that phrase actually sounded like “May God help you to get things done quickly. May God speed you along and help you get lots done.”
I am guessing that I am not alone in that inaccurate transliteration of the Victorian Good-bye. It actually means “May God prosper you along your way.”
The problem with my interpretation of the phrase is that God doesn’t speed. He’s not fast as some consider fastness and He is not slow as some consider slowness. Speed….for that matter time…. doesn’t really figure into His equations. It’s not that He is not conscious of time. It’s that He is in control of it and so it really doesn’t mean much to Him. What does mean something to Him is purpose. God’s speed is determined by what He needs to accomplish not by how much time He has to do something in.
Twenty years ago I was a young pastor. I had a lot of “ideas”. I was pretty sure that God wanted me to do all of them. It’s not that I actually asked Him about my ideas. It’s just that I was sure my ideas were good ideas and so they must assuredly be God ideas. So I set about serving Him out of my ideas and for good measure I even added in a bunch of ideas other people had (even though they really hadn’t talked to God about their ideas anymore than I had). I loved God so, I got busy. I got distracted. I got lost in the shuffle of good ideas and eventually life hit me with a giant pause button.
Twenty…plus years out from that young whippersnapper I am older and hopefully wiser. I have learned to wait in prayer over my “good ideas” realizing that most of them are not God ideas. I still love God. I am still busy just with fewer things. I have learned or am learning to clear my plate. I am learning to live by a rhythm of prayer, rest and work. I am learning I can’t do everything. And I am learning that God’s speed is about His purpose not about how fast something gets done.
I am learning that, like our project at The Vicarage: The delays in life are just as important as the forward momentum because in them, we delayed individuals learn how to be human beings rather than human doings; Everything is about seasons that bring change and completion; And that if I wait long enough beauty begins to emerge from the mess, not all at once but piece by piece.
I have also learned that sometimes serving God is as much about taking a small dog on a walk through the leaves as it is about building a house. God speed is about God’s plan not mine, about God’s pace changing mine.
We have walked through weather and permitting delays to get to this point. At last the project has begun! Here is one last look at The Vicarage.
Here it is as of today. I am very please by the state of the wood underneath the shingles. We got to it in time.
Most of it is solid like this wood here.
As of today the crew has finished stripping the front and the sides of the house.
The goal is to strip the back tomorrow and then begin reinsulating and weather proofing before beginning the siding. With luck they might be done but the end of next week. Then we can do the trim and the gutters and the stone porch!
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!
We were stuck waiting for a building permit for two weeks and then of course there was the rain.
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!
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.
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.
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
* 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.
Everyone has heard the phrase “divide and conquer”. I am not so sure I like when it comes to succeeding in life. I much prefer the phrase “multiply and prosper”. We did a lot of multiplying and prospering at The Vicarage this weekend.
On Friday Mom had as Drs. appointment and someone had to be in Wilmington MA at the Granite place to choose the countertops for our renovation project.
So Amanda and I multiplied our efforts. I took mom to the doctor and Amanda kept our appointment with Clarissa at The Granite Place. She only had five counters to choose from in our price point. I think she did a great job. I cannot wait to see it in our new kitchen.
On Friday night we had a gathering of current and prospective church leaders at one of the homes of our congregants. God is getting ready to multiply growth at the church and we need to begin preparing for that growth by multiplying our leadership team.
This was a great first step with many more to take.
Saturday a group of men gathered for breakfast at a local coffee shop. This is all part of our DLT (Doing life together) initiative.
On Sunday I led my first annual business meeting as lead pastor. I made it through without breaking too many of Robert’s Rules.
We are ready now for the next step. The journey of the Vicarage lies open before us.