BY INCHES

Last weekend was incredible. Brenda, Amanda and I attended week two of our four week training in a leadership track called The Atomic Habits. The training its about changing small things to bring about atomic results.

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My biggest take away so far is that behavior is not changed primarily nor permanently by goal setting but by aligning our life systems with our chosen identity. In other words “live like who you want to be.”

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The class has been reaffirming so many things I heard over sabbatical about the man I need to be into the future, and about the church we need to be into the future.

One of the verses that has been echoing through my brain these last two months is 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!”

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I really look like as a new creation I am:

  1. To live according to Faith, hope and love.
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2. I am to live according to joy

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3. I am to live according to peace.

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4. I am to be mindful of building and advancing the Kingdom of Heaven through my life.

5. I am to be mindful of living according to the way and power of the Spirit.

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The knowledge, that the seeds of all these things have already been planted in me by Christ at my new creation, has really been challenging me. The knowledge that, like all things that grow my entrance into these things will be by inches, had been comforting me.

It all leads me to the question, WHAT ONE LITTLE THING CAN I CHANGE NOW THAT WILL HELP ME TAKE A STEP CLOSER TO WHO I REALLY AM?

THE ROAD AHEAD

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One of the purposes of sabbatical was to create for myself and my congregation a season of prayer in which we could discover the road ahead. I went into sabbatical asking God to give me and the rest of our congregation “words” that would direct our future.

As I have come back I have made it a point to meet with everyone of the DLT (Doing Life Together) groups around which are church is grounded. I have literally a whole room full of notes. The walls in our conference room are plastered with large post it sheets.

The staff and I have n’t had time to discern all of the common words that have been spoken but a few are very clear:

Fourteen people in our congregation heard the word “PREPARE”. Usually this word was coupled with the idea that there was trouble coming or something hard we needed to be ready to face. Over the course of the last week I have come to understand that this word needs to manifest in three ways. We must prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“LOVE” was another word prominent in every group I met with. Interestingly the emphasis was never on God loving us. The word “LOVE” as it was spoken to the congregation is a word of action and the action is ours to perform. Further we are being called not just to love people within the church but to love all people in our community, especially those who think and believe very differently than we do.

Our world, even our church world, is struggling with the road ahead. love and preparation are twin struggles which must be engaged and figured out if we are to move forward. My church seems ready to engage ion the struggle.

WELL THAT DIDN’T WORK

When I came off of sabbatical I thought I had changed my life rhythm enough that I would be able to handle writing once a week. My plan was to do that on Sundays directly after church.

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What I didn’t think about was that I had scheduled myself to hit the ground running as soon as I got back from sabbatical and so the old habits of rushing from one thing to another came rushing right back in on day one of my return to work.

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The last two weekends I have double booked myself after church with events that kept me running right through Sunday evenings. By the end of said events I was practically comatose all the way through. Monday, my sort of day off.

So I have to make another plan, because my original plan of writing a whole week of material on Sundays will not work.

Enter the Atomic Habits.

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This is a training I am having our church leadership work through over the next few weeks. The premise is that large change starts by making miniscule moves in the direction you want to go. So here I am working on plan B for this new writing journey. I am going to try starting with 5 or 10 minutes a day.

Let’s see if this works.

Is this what you do or do you have another method?

SINCE WE HAVE BEEN HOME AND SABBATICAL

Dear Friends and Family,

The transition home has been more difficult than I dreamed. It totally shifted my rhythm and left me in a place where writing was not even a possibility.

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The place of creativity got shut down for a while and for that short season I really thought I might never write again.

Then sabbatical arrived in August.

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Sabbatical is not vacation. It’s an extended season of shifting life rhythms, visioning and asking questions of the future you. I didn’t go anywhere during my sabbatical. I shut myself away in the Vicarage and prayed. It was wonderfully renewing.

So I am back writing about life and ministry. I will probably do one life post a week here at “Notes”. My schedule hasn’t changed all that much but some of my time wasting habits have, so I can make a few minutes each week now for things like this which will have long term benefits. who knows how it will grow?

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DEAR FAMILY-TRANSITIONAL ANXIETIES

Dear Family, We have successfully moved out of the Annex and back into The Vicarage.

Good bye Annex! You were a wonderful place to rest our heads for the nine weeks we could not be at home! Thank you Webster and Li for opening your home to us!

Thank you Brothers Remodeling for getting is back into our home!

It’s funny. I thought we would just walk back in and settle right into our old routines. I don’t know what made me think that, but it is definitely not a truth.

Mom has gone through transition anxiety in a big way. The house is not the same and she knows it. Lots of confusion. Little sleeping and lots of psychosomatic pains. While she did not need anxiety meds when we left The Vicarage and moved to the Annex, she has definitely needed them on the return from the Annex to The Vicarage. Sometimes she is not even sure where we are.

Then of course we are also not done the project. There are still little things inside that need to be done: a shower nozzle to be installed, a glass surround still on order, window locks that never got put back on after painting and a few outlets that still need to be replaced and turned on.

And then there is the last big job of the moment.

It was a bit noisy on Saturday and will be for the next four days I am afraid. But at least we are back in and working through our transition anxieties. We are home.

OZ

DEAR FAMILY- GETTING IN

Dear Family, Since completing the class on Appreciative Living at Beals Memorial Library here in Winchendon. I have been fascinated by the concept of “journey living” versus “destination living”. Journey living is the idea that we have a destination in mind but we really live for the journey because we realize that each destination is just a temporary stopping point on a much larger journey.

This week the Vicarage project wrapped up and so we reached a destination of sorts and found ourselves ready to go home.

We packed our bags…literally our bags.

and started cleaning. It was at this point we realized our destination was not a completion but just the beginning of some new journey I think we will call the continual road to home improvement.

As we got back in and got set up…Thanks to Ray and Barry Parker for helping move the necessary furniture into place and The Bag End Beam DLT group for coming in to wash all the woodwork….we realized that there is much more to do. So first we sat and just enjoyed the newness of our home. Then, as I walked through our home I began to realize that much of our old stuff is going to need a new home. It does not fit with the new Vicarage.

I started unpacking our bags…again they are literally bags…. so as I went through it I began deciding that some of what was in those bags should just stay there and go directly to the dumpster. Other bags I began to empty. Those bags will be used for laundry and for filling with other stuff from other rooms that never made it into bags to go to The Annex with us.

The journey ahead promises to be just as long as the journey behind and I believe that the results will be just as fulfilling.

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- A WEEK OF GRACE

Dear Family,

This week has gone by like a whirlwind.

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As I sit writing I am mindful of the literal heaps of paperwork sitting around me and the many messages I have yet to return. But I have the afternoon to get a lot of this done.

Monday was our 5-Star Men’s group. We had a great study in the book of Mark as we wandered through the calling of the first disciples and I called some of the guys to come help us set up chairs on Saturday as the project at Cornerstone has us breaking down and resetting the sanctuary for every service for the next month or so.

Tuesday began the real busyness though: Staff meeting in the morning and then after a quick walking of the dogs I was off to court for guardianship of one of our elder congregants. The judge was very helpful and I am now beginning the work of guardianship for dear Grace. Hence one of the heaps of paperwork on my conference table.

Wednesday the cleaning company came to take what was left of Grace’s furniture and belongings and today the staff went in and did the final cleaning for inspection. Another job done. I think tomorrow I will take the drive up to Claremont to visit with Grace and see how she is settling into her new home. So it has been a week of Grace and it feels good to get so many of these large projects she needed done…done.

In between I have been trying to keep up with my household bills, church business and start cleaning out The Vicarage. This is a great opportunity to get rid of some stuff. And I am feeling the push to simplify in order to manage the future with all that is on my plate.

As Neil Kennedy often says…” If you are feeling overwhelmed clean your garage. Putting things back in order creates peace.”

Well it is time to sign off from this week of Grace,

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- APPRECIATION

Dear Family,

Last night I started a class on appreciative living at Beals Memorial library right here in Winchendon…. So much fun!

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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!

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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.

The bathroom upstairs in mid tile.

DEAR FAMILY- FEELING WEAK

Dear Family, Yesterday I pulled another muscle. This time in my neck. I am not sure quite how I did it, but let’s just say when I went to bed my left shoulder was throbbing. When I woke up I had a hard time rolling over to get out of bed because my shoulder was so knotted up.

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The Motrin bottle and the tiger balm were my first stop on the way to feed and walk the dogs.

It seems like the last few months have been a constant string of injuries: First my hip went out, and then my knee, now my shoulder. Since that first injury, it seems like I have lost some strength in my body. Everything feels tight and ready to snap at any moment. I find myself reaching for the walking stick more and more “just in case”.

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I am seeking God about this. I thought at first it was just going to be like other times when I had gotten injured. I would rest the injured part for a few days and voila! It would be all better. It doesn’t seem to be working that way this time around. I am praying for healing and realizing that this might be a tool to help me come to a new pace that allows me to see the things I need to see without rushing right past them.
I do, still, after all these years tend to rush from one thing to another. In the rushing I miss many important things God wants me to understand and know. My time here at the Annex is teaching me a lot about a new pace, a deeper pace, God wants me to learn, A rhythm God is desirous for me to begin walking and maybe even to teach to others.

I keep going back to a prophetic word God gave me almost twenty years ago now about living within my brick.

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It was based off of the passage where Peter talks about the church being made up of us and that we were like living stones.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house a to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,

a chosen and precious cornerstone,

and the one who trusts in him

will never be put to shame.” b

7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected

8and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble

and a rock that makes them fall.” d

1 Peter 2:4-8

In the prophetic word which God gave to me He said each of us were like bricks in a building. Each brick was meant to support and stabilize the bricks around it. God pointed out to me that bricks did not move they learned to do their job by living within the boundaries that God had made for them. He told me I had to stop trying to run around being something I was not. I had to learn to “live within my brick.”

I think from that point to this life has been about me coming to understand my boundaries, and part of that is the pace I keep.

This is not the first time I have been injured for an extended period of time, as I think about it. Other times the purpose was to slow me down, help me get back in my bounds. I suppose even more than healing, the boundarY God is trying to establish me in is what I should be seeking out.

Revelation Received Father!

Oz

DEAR FAMILY- MOVES AT THE END OF THE GAME

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Dear Family, When I first moved to The Vicarage there was a lot of work to do. I remember thinking to myself, “I will just do a little at a time and eventually it will all get done.”

A decade after moving there I finally gave into the fact that that strategy was not going to work. All my “nickel-and-diming” of jobs was getting us no closer to completion. Further the house was becoming more and more unlivable with each passing year.

Then the Lord came to me with a word. “You must get The Vicarage ready for use.”

He didn’t tell me what use, just that I had to get it ready.

So we have worked to get it ready. I discarded the little by slow method. It has still taken two years and we aren’t finished yet. But we do have a new roof, new gutters, new insulation, new siding, freshly repaired and painted trim, the asbestos is gone, we have cut down five large trees from the property, we will soon have new bathrooms, and a new entryway into the kitchen, eight new windows, a repaired stone porch, and some new varnish on at least some of the floors. We have also gotten rid of some very old rugs, some very broken furniture and a derelict wood stove. Before it is all said and done we will have removed an old derelict furnace as well.

I am also determined to get rid of a lot more stuff that is serving no other purpose than taking up space in our lives.

That said, I no longer think that changing the building is the primary thing that needed to change to “get the Vicarage ready for use.” There is something much deeper that has been shifting ever since we moved to the Annex.

The Vicarage has been draped for many years in a cloud of seclusion.

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I joked as we put our dishes away before the move that a family that never entertained did not need place settings for forty. One of the things that has changed since moving to the Annex is that I have been taking most of my meetings from home. For the first time in my ministry I am receiving guests regularly. And I am loving it! This is the breaking of a spiritual stronghold that has long held our family in stasis. And we are breathing the free air. I am growing in the gift of hospitality and The Vicarage is being prepared for use.

We are coming to the end of the Church Age and we are getting ready for the Day of the Lord and the Age of Christ’s reign. These are the days of the last moves in a very long game of chess. Our little corner of the world is getting ready to play its most decisive, most historical move. I believe that with all my heart. God is preparing us for that move. He is preparing the Vicarage for its role in that move.

I cannot wait to see what is about to play out.

Be Blessed and Be At Peace,

Oz