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?


As the holidays approach this year our state, Massachusetts, is preparing to face what may be its greatest days of challenge since the pandemic began.We received new protocols last week which include mask wearing in all public spaces including outdoors and even when you can socially distance, a 9:30 P.M. curfew, and a suggestion that families should not unite over the holidays and that no gathering over 10 people may be had in private homes. The buzz today is that governor is getting ready to reactivate the field hospitals in MA as our hospitals in the state are reaching capacity.

The gathering thing is not a hardship for us at the Vicarage our whole family together is 7 people, but I know many families for whom the gathering rule is going to be massively difficult come the holidays. I have now been wearing a mask so long in public the idea of not wearing one is almost uncomfortable…and please the idea of having to be in by 9:30 is a super-blessing for our family.

That said a pall has been laid over the holidays and everyone is feeling it. Everything is changing, including the way we are used to celebrating. We have to find new ways, new methods, new opportunities and we have to try them.

We were at Hobby Lobby the other day and my sister bought this urn. Now all four of us are dropping in a note about something we are thankful for every day. We will empty it and read our thanksgivings on Nov. 26th. As we eat our turkey pot pie…. I think the idea is that we have to figure out how to be thankful even when we cannot be traditional.

What creative thing are you doing to face the challenge of this year’s holiday season?


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!


This Day At the Vicarage 11-7-20

The dogs woke me up at four A.M. The morning coffee was brewing by 5 and I was already deeply engrossed in my morning reading and writing by 6 A.M.

I like the early mornings. Once I get that first cuppa in me I feel like I can take on the world….at least for a few hours.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I had coffee with a friends and mentor at 8 and then I was back home by 9:30 and back into the prayer space.

Photo by Brady Knoll on

There is so much to pray about just now not the least of which prayers is just about me keeping my nose out of places it doesn’t belong. Have you noticed the world is full of opinions? Have you noticed that the world is constantly trying to prod you into giving your opinion just so it has something to disagree with?

One of my biggest requests is an echo of the prayer of St. Francis.

The world needs channels through which God can flow, and to my mind that is the church’s job. We have such a high calling and one of my greatest fears is that by my opinion of things in the world I will somehow be distracted by those very opinions and thereby disqualify myself from that true calling. Even worse I am afraid that by inserting my opinion where it does not belong I will distract someone else and they will miss out on the flow of God they could have otherwise brought into the world.

I know we say everyone is entitled to their opinion I am just really struggling with whether that is true or not.

Anyway, thanks for listening….


This Day At the Vicarage 11-6-20

The fall birds have come to the feeders. The juncos are back from their northern summer retreat and the sparrows have gathered enmasse. The cardinals are always about and the bluejays are prolific this year.

I have been working around the yard this week getting it ready for a long winter’s nap. The other day as I was working out by the crab apple tree I noticed one lone starling sitting on a branch there.

Photo by Flickr on

As the bird sat there staring back at me, I realized I had missed the flocking of these little birds which happens in the fall. I never miss the flocking of the starlings. Truth be told, it is kind of hard to miss. Usually hundreds gather in flocks all over the neighborhood. They hang from the tops of the trees and make a terrible amount of noise. They land in large groups and jump from the ground into the sky all together, great clouds of birds moving across the neighborhood.

Why (And How) Starlings Fly In Huge Flocks

I don’t think it happened this year. The crows have gone missing too. We usually have a small murder that sits in the maple trees across the street. They squawk so loudly being outside can be really annoying during their performances.

Thousands of crows have descended on Hartford for a spooky, noisy and  mysterious 'winter roost;' here's why - Hartford Courant

We have a few crows over at the Catholic church but the murder is conspicuously absent.

These are only small happenings which indicate that the world knows something is changing. We know something is changing. Our hearts are beating in synchronicity with the change even as we are desperately trying to keep it from coming. I think of a poem by Yeats as I think about our world right now and I wonder if somehow his words were not just a bit prophetic.

The days ahead are important days. What we do in them is equally important. I am preparing my heart for the battle of love that must be fought. Are you?


This Day At the Vicarage 11-4-20

I need a hair cut.

These days you can’t just walk into your barber and sit down in the chair. You have to make an appointment. Apparently I keep calling at the wrong time. I tried again last night and no answer. Today she is closed. So I wait and of course slather back my hair with lots of product before I go out the door.

Of one thing I am sure. Some day soon I will get a hair cut. I just have to keep trying and stay patient.

I suppose some people would chide my lack of persistence or tell me to just go to another barber. But you know in the grand scheme of things how important is a hair cut?

I guess that is a question I am asking about a lot of things in this world right now. Getting the yard set for the winter seems more important than a hair cut right now. Getting my book finished seems more important than a hair cut right now. And spending the appropriate amount of time in prayer ( what I call the Sage’s Cave) is more important than all of it right now.

Photo by Brady Knoll on

I know that other people think the amount of time I spend in prayer is foolish even wasteful. I am pretty much OK with that. This is my call not theirs and I am learning that others not called to carry this ministry really don’t understand it. Their lack of understanding does not release me from God’s command…..So I move forward in prayer and wait for everything else to come at its proper time. Even my hair cut.

See you all tomorrow!


This Day At the Vicarage 11-1-20

It snowed the day before Halloween. Even though snow at this time of year generally doesn’t last, just having snow that sticks to the ground and the cold that comes with it, makes for a long winter.

It is not unexpected though. My prayer times in the Spring were full of warnings to prepare for a long hard winter and here we are at the beginning of many forms of winter all at once.

We had several families cancel their reservations for church today, citing this second wave of the virus. One of the nurses brought an extra forehead thermometer to church so we could begin checking everyone’s temp as they came through the door and not just the leadership team.

 It is really nice to be in a church that is taking the protocols seriously. We have a sister church nearby who was not quite so stringent and they had an outbreak of 38 cases stemming back to a weekend of revival services.

We have modified so much of our church life now. I miss some of what we have had to leave behind, but I am also greatly challenged and excited about the road that lies ahead of the church as we embrace this cultural change which is cutting deep into our methods, but never the foundations of our faith….God is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Just like the winter storm is showing us the beginning of a new and cold season, this pandemic is showing us the beginning of a new cultural normal. We cannot act like nothing is changing anymore than we can wear our Bahama shorts and flip flops out in the snow.

What lies ahead might not be easy, but we’ve weathered winters before, even long ones. There is beauty to be found in every season. We just have to look for it.

Well folks. I have to go make supper. I will chat with you tomorrow!

This Day At the Vicarage 10-31-20

It has been weeks since I wrote one of these “life-journal” posts. I miss them. Every day I’ve had intention to write one, but the shift of life has enabled me to make excuses about why not to do it. I really have to be done with the spirit of procrastination and launch into the space of accomplishment concerning my writing life.

There are so many things I really want to pay attention too and I still allow myself to get distracted by things I should not be doing… things that are not my work or things that are frankly just a waste of time.

So the spirit of procrastiniation is definitely a thing I am calling out here. That and my body has been really tired lately. It happens every year in the autumn as the days start getting shorter and the nights start getting longer. Add a pandemic into the mix and I end up just wanting to go inside and sleep through until Spring.

But I am not going to just give up in the face of these challenges. I am seeing improvement and it is not in fits and starts like usual in my life. I am seeing a slow and steady increase in my effectiveness and this is built around the slow, constant and intentional schedule I have built myself over the last several months. I am succeeding at living this pattern just about every day and the method of slow, constant, intentionality is actually paying off and is even helping me to begin overcoming the failures to reach my goals. It’s how I managed to write today.

Well I suppose I should end here with saying I am going to begin practicing this intention of writing a “life-post” here on The Vicarage page every day. I think I have it figured out…..So I will see you all tomorrow.


This Day At the Vicarage 10-5-20

It would seem I have lost ten days of events to the pace of life…or at least I’ve lost the telling about those ten days worth of events . The pace has not been unmanageable, but I have not learned fully how to work with slow, constant, intentionality and still get everything on my bloated list done. Maybe that’s the point, eh?

Tonight I sit listening to an Epic Playlist On Youtube.

I am contemplating several words I have received from the Lord recently, and one I received at the beginning of the year when I was attending my son’s wedding in The Philippines.

At that time God told me that I had entered a new season of life. He told me the year would be divided into four parts. The first quarter would be about me entering the new phase of life. The second quarter was about settling into the new rhythm of life. The third would be about accomplishing the new phase, and the final quarter would be about finishing the work of the new phase.

This has been a unique year for all of the obvious reasons. It would have been a new season simply because the whole world has changed. In that respect, 2020 is a whole new ball game for everyone. In addition, the Lord told me I was to embrace a lifestyle of living by faith financially for this year. It has been an amazing journey. While I know no one can do this without God’s command behind them, I wish everyone had the opportunity. I have been so liberated by God being my paycheck for the last ten months.

Beyond that I thought the new was going to be about me finishing my book and becoming a full time writer. As it turns out I will finish my book by year’s end and I may just end up becoming a full time writer, but the change has not been primarily about that either. Writing, living by faith financially these are all just parts of the season which I expect will fade as seasons do. The permanent change has been to this rhythm of slow, constant, intentionality. It is something I have been working on for twenty years, and God has used this year to complete the work of transitioning to this rhythm even as the world continues to increase its speed of living..

We are in October now. The beginning of the finishing of this permanent change. I do believe I am carrying this with me into eternity….slow, constant, intentional. I have entered it. I have settled into nicely. I have spent the last three months practicing the form. Now these three months are about perfecting the skills I have learned and applying them to every area of my life. Here we go!

This Day At the Vicarage 9-25-20

In July and August I participated in a two month experiment called “The Celtic Spiritual Journey” with a group of people from several different churches through the region. The goal was to experiment with the lifestyle many Celtic monks used in ages past. The disciplines we attempted were three times of daily Scripture reading and prayer as well intentional commitment to one of seven daily disciplines.Sunday: Sabbath Monday: Study/learn something new; Tuesday: Work; Wednesday: Silence/Solitude; Thursday: hospitality; Friday: Pilgrimage; Saturday: Artistic expression.

Photo by Brady Knoll on

I found the actual devotional aspect of the journey easy to incorporate into my lifestyle. I have lived by bells on my phone for several years. In fact I am doing it right now. As I write this piece I have my timer going for a thirty minute writing session. My day is divided into: Prayer, exercise, rest, work, writing, studying and relationship.All of those things are ordered according to the ringing of bells set into my phone.

The journey simply helped me to orchestrate my day into three blocks, starting with morning prayer I would follow the pathway through trying to divide the morning up into blocks so that I would have time to spend in each of the seven goals up until lunch. Then after lunch would come Mid Afternoon prayer and that would lead into an afternoon session of the goals until supper and then evening prayer and so on.

What I discovered is that the final time of devotion in the evenings and the final turn around the seven goals was very hard to bring myself to because I really just wanted my evening to myself to watch TV.

Photo by Ian Panelo on Pexels.comI

I also discovered that if I was to do the daily disciplines outside of the prayer and Scripture reading, they almost always called me away from the life of devotion I have come to call slow, constant and intentional living.

I write all this to say, this week has been busy. Finally today I got to simply pull back from all the doings outside the Vicarage and have a day that did not fight the bells. I have been able to get a lot of prayind and writing and studying done. It has felt good to be able to spend the time at my desk I need to in order to accomplish my writing and studying and praying tasks. It has been nice to be able to take breaks to do some household chores but to know I didn’t have to rush in order to get them and my writing done before having to run out of the house.

I really do think I would have made a good monk. Well except for the TV thing. and wanting my evenings to myself….Yeah I think I would have struggled with that…..

Well I am looking forward to tomorrow Dear Friends.

Pastor J