Love In the Darkest Places

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My cousin Kathy passed from this life into glory yesterday afternoon. She was the primary caregiver for her mother, my Aunt Gloria, for the last several years. Aunt Gloria passed about two weeks ago.

No one knew that Kathy was battling lung cancer, which had metastasized to her brain and bones, all during the last years of her mother’s life. Even Kathy was unaware of the truth. Instead she had been in treatment for a bleeding ulcer, which apparently masked the symptoms of her true disease.

When Kathy was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia a few days after Aunt Gloria’s death, we all just thought she needed rest because of her work with her mother through hospice. That Kathy’s body was only holding out for Aunt Gloria’s passing never crossed any of our minds. The news was a gut punch to her husband, her brother, her sons and to those of us who watched her life from a more removed distance. Most of all it was a gut punch to Kathy.

I got to sit with Kathy last Saturday for about an hour. We talked about faith. We talked about family. We talked about anger and the deep struggle with how unfair life is. We talked about healing and miracles. We talked about being ready for the walk into eternity. We prayed. Tears were shed ,and then the hospital chaplain, who is also a relative, came to bring Kathy a word of comfort.

I spoke with Kathy’s brother, my cousin John two days later by Facebook video. I got a chance to speak with Kathy again in that video. By that point the doctors had spoken with the family about doing hospice in hospital, as Kathy was no longer strong enough to be moved. It was another blow to Kathy who wanted to pass at home as her mother had.

I brought supper to Kathy’s husband, Jaque,s and her son, Todd, last night. As Kathy was passing, Jaques’ brother also passed away. This family now has to face three funerals at the same time. They are reeling. Decisions are piled up on top of each other and are being triaged into “what has to be done now” and. “what can I do after I have slept a bit”.

My cousin Nada is bringing supper tonight, and Beth a dear friend of Kathy’s from high school, who now owns a local grocery, is bringing supper on Saturday. I am preparing the church for a double funeral or for perhaps two back to back funerals.

In all this I recognize a shift in me and in church ministry. As a pastor in town I am connecting with the town to bring ministry to my cousin’s family. The family is being ministered to by the community, by the family, by friends and even friends of friends. The church is part of that not the center of it.

I was sitting with my mother yesterday watching an episode of CALL THE MIDWIFE. In the show I caught a glimpse of what I think God is doing in our church and town. He is not a God a who dwells in buildings. The richness of His love cannot be contained in even the most sacred of spaces. He is love. He is relationship. He is moving in our church as He moved through the sisters of Nannotus House in East London. We are coming to see we are His love flowing in and through the very center of our community.

What does the move of God look like in the days ahead? It is sitting beside the bedside of a dying loved one praying with them, crying with them. It looks like spaghetti and meatballs ordered from the local pizza place and delivered to a family that is too overwhelmed to cook. It is engaging people who don’t even see how close they are to God, in the work of God they long to be involved in without even knowing it. It is watching Murder She Wrote or Call the Midwife with people who have no one to watch it with them.It is love being recognized and brought to the surface of our everyday lives and showing the redemptive love of Christ in the darkest places.


Listening On the Inside

I began the weekend thinking it would be a leisurely float down a lazy river.

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Saturday I woke up very tired and feeling like I should not move myself too much. It was a day given to waiting for our new washing machine anyway so hanging out and lying low seemed to be a rare possibility presenting itself.

The washer was delivered and installed by 9:30 A.M. and the first run through was finished by 10:30 A.M. Then the maiden voyage of the washer was set in by noon.

I was tempted to do a hundred other things. I even had written some of those on my list to do, but something inside me kept telling me to take my leisure while I could….so I did.

Then I got a call at 3:30 P.M. that I was needed at a bedside in Leominster. A dear relative had just been told she had terminal cancer. On my drive in to the hospital, the Lord affirmed to me how much I need to listen to that little voice inside my spirit if I am to be effective in the role He is placing upon me. If I had given myself to the busyness on my agenda I would not have been able to bear the weight of the evening ministry God called me to.

I am learning not to second guess what is in my heart. I am learning to trust myself, through prayer, to do what I hear the Lord telling me to do on the inside even when there seem to be more logical, even more responsible ways of doing things.

On Sunday I heard the Lord telling me I should spend some time in quiet in my office before service.

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I sensed that I was going to need to be extra focused at the altar call.

We had an amazing service and a powerful time of prayer around the altars afterwards, but it was “heavy lifting” in prayer. There are many difficult and complex needs in our congregation at the moment and I sensed that many of our people needed prayer to move forward into new territory and that they would need great grace because the way forward was going to be difficult.

Learning to listen to what the Lord is doing around me by listening to what is going on inside me is a skill I sense sharpening in my heart. I think in the days ahead this is a skill I will need.


By Living Somewhere In Between

The Shepherd’s Pie is put together and in the oven; So I have a few minutes before the oven timer goes off to write this blog. It’s not multi-tasking really. At least I don’t seem to be able to think about it like that. I can’t concentrate on more than one thing at a time. The casserole is in the oven on a timer and I don’t have to think about it again until the bell goes off. Timers on things is the only way I seem to be able to manage more than one thing at a time and… I really?

I was at the laundromat waiting for my laundry to finish drying yesterday. I got lost in the book I was reading and missed the dryer timer. When I looked up the dryer had stopped and when I opened the door the laundry had already started to cool. The series I am in is a good series, but I think more than anything the reason I missed the buzzer on the dryer was because I got so focused on the story I couldn’t maintain even memory that I was doing anything else.

Honestly, it happens all the time if I am not careful. I get lost in a thing I really like and all the other stuff which is not as fun just gets washed away from my thought life.

….And so the bells.

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I live my life by the bells…and by constantly returning to the prayer place throughout the day.

There is too much to do to get lost in one thing.

As I was sitting on the porch meditating yesterday afternoon I realized there were six projects sitting there before me. That’s just on the porch!

Maybe that is too many projects.

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Sometimes it feels like I am being buried alive in all the projects, and then other times I don’t see it as I have to do all these things, but I get to do all these things.

One thing I have learned is that I have to allow myself to flow into everything I do, from the place of prayer. The more I pray, the more I seem to be able to do. The less I pray the less I seem to be able to do. Prayer has become the space between all the things I do, between: The supper’s I make, the people I visit and pray for, the sermons and devotions I write, the laundry I do, the dogs I walk, the calls I make, the plans I lay.

As long as I go to these places from the place of prayer and return to the place of prayer after I do them, I seem to be able to maintain the rhythm.

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When I don’t come from and return to the space of prayer in between all of the things I do they seem to come crashing down pretty quickly.

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The bells are my reminder to return once again to that Divine Center.



Somewhere along the way I became a man much more invested in the journey than I am in the destination.

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Don’t get me wrong, destinations are great. Disney, Europe, Heaven….all destinations…all progressively awesome. But at some point I began to dwell more on the journey to the awesome destinations than on the destinations themselves.

Someday I will get to Heaven. I know it will be awesome, but the journey towards Heaven is pretty awesome too! In it I am learning so much, experiencing such incredible adventures and changing in some pretty amazing ways. I am learning that the kingdom of Heaven is not only out there somewhere, but within me.

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Truly speaking, I am not so sure that once I reach Heaven my journeying will be done. I am not sure the discovering will be finished. I am not sure the desination is as destinationish as we think it is. What if Heaven is as CS Lewis says just an opportunity to “go further in and deeper back”. What if eternity is just a much longer more incredible journey?

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A year ago I decided it was time to start going to the doctor for regular check ups. Prior to that decision it had been better than a decade since my last visit. My previous physician retired from practice and I never picked a new one.

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I made excuses about why I was refusing to go: Too busy, Copay was ridiculous, Too much work to find a new physician, I’m basically healthy and don’t need to go, etc.

But finally I called, got a new physician and went for the physical.

The physical itself was fine, but the NP (nurse practitioner) who conducted the physical set me up for other tests. Among those tests was a colonoscopy.

I set up the colonoscopy twice and failed twice to go.

Today was my second yearly physical and wouldn’t you know my NP brought up my two “FIRST ATTEMPTS AT LEARNING.”

What I have learned from these two attempts is that I am afraid of colonoscopies. I do not know why, but I know I am afraid to the point where I cannot make myself go.

The NP was very kind about it and tried to assure me how simple the procedure is, but even as she was trying to convince me, I could feel my blood pressure rising and my hands getting jittery. She saw it too and so she found me a work around.

I have never experienced fear in this way before. It’s not a sudden shock. It’s not a dread. It really doesn’t even feel like an emotion. It feels like a decision a very firm decision that I never decided. It just exists within me. It’s like I made an unbreakable vow at some point to not have a colonoscopy and now everything in me is working to make sure that it never happens. Weird I know but there you have it.



Back in August I took the first sabbatical of my ministerial life. During that time I asked the congregation to pray and ask God to give us “words” that would direct our future as a congregation. One of the most common “words” the congregation shared from that time was “Prepare!” “Get Ready!”

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We have known for the last couple of years that we were heading into something or some form of ministry we have never experienced before; So getting ready,… preparing just makes sense.

I feel like I am being challenged in this area of being prepared, being ready. In some ways I feel like the 21 days of fasting and prayer, we just went through, was the beginning of a new level of preparation…a level I feel like I have been failing to obtain since the fast ended.

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From prayer time to meal planning I feel like I have a lot of ground to cover to be prepared for what is to come. There is a piece of me that does not want to embrace this next level of change. I find myself storm eating sweets I should be easing up on sugar and watching television when I should be praying. In the midst of the wasted time and return of water retention,I am trying to be gentle with myself and celebrate every small victory as I move forward…. Even though there have been failures this week, there have also been successes. Even small forward movement is forward movement.

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Change will come. I need to realize and celebrate the changes I have already made and keep moving forward to the change that is yet to come. I do wish it was a faster process.



For the last year I have been dealing with a leg injury I got by getting up from my desk at the church. That may sound ridiculous, but I got up from my desk chair and turned too fast pulling my hip out of joint and straining the muscles and ligaments all the way down to my ankle.

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Throughout the year I have gone between feeling pretty good and barely being able to walk. There have been many days where I have needed my cane to get around. Just before Thanksgiving I reinjured myself while walking down the stairs at The Vicarage. after Thanksgiving my knee swelled up and stayed swelled pretty much through the New Year.

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I have known since the first injury that my ballooning weight is part of the problem. It just took me a year to really admit it consciously and to begin doing something about it. 

The first step to addressing the problem was getting batteries for my scale. It may seem a silly thing to you, but by not buying batteries I was able to keep the weight issue from becoming real. As long as I didn’t see my weight in numbers it wasn’t a thing….you get the picture.


The pain in my legs finally got to the point where I bought batteries for the scale.

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290 pounds it read.

I started trying to “diet” just after Thanksgiving. I lost and regained the same five pounds twice before Christmas and then decided to join NOOM. It’s an ap on my phone. It has: daily motivational reading, daily weight tracking, a step counter, and a place to log calories and water intake. It also has a coaching feature and on line accountability.

I have now lost my first twenty pounds.The swelling in my knee is almost gone and the joint pain has been almost non existent during the fast, even after I slipped on ice and repulled the muscles in my weak leg.

It has ups and downs, but I am learning to manage expectations of perfection. Somehow that expectation management is bringing me greater success than just expecting perfection from myself. Last night I ate a whole bag of gumdrops, but you know that’s Ok. I just got back on the oatmeal wagon this morning.



Last night was a tough night. The dogs did not sleep well at all. Mercedes the 13 year old has had a very sensitive stomach the last two nights. We were up at three A.M. and then again at four thirty A.M. I collapsed back into sleep and then ended up oversleeping.

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I got up an hour before my phone appointment with the Department of Health and Human Services out of Concord NH. I have been gathering documents for Grace’s Medicaid application for the last several weeks. The meeting went pretty well. Most of the documents have been obtained.

One of the documents I have been having trouble with is Grace’s life insurance policy. I have a hard copy of the policy but what I really needed was something called a value letter. The problem is that the Insurance company had not approved my Guardianship papers, so no one at the company was allowed to talk to me.

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But today was the day! My paperwork was finally approved and downloaded!

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In the two hour call I had with the life insurance company what I discovered is that Grace actually has two life insurance policies. I have only been paying for one. The other has been in a state of self payment since 2021. The company is using the cash value of the policy to pay off the recurring bills lowering the cash value a little every month.In order to begin paying on this bill again I have to get the policy reinstated. All that said, I got a lot done today. The value letters are on their way. New beneficiary forms are on their way, and the reinstatement form is on its way.

I still have other forms to fill out but the work for this day is done. The three hours I invested in paperwork today knocked me out of prayer for the morning. So tonight I went off to the prayer room for an hour of centering prayer before I have to lead our church prayer meeting at 7 tonight.

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I am feeling much refreshed now and ready for the next steps of my day.


Pictures on the Road to Grace

My calling (job) is an interesting combination of joys and sorrows.

The joy of: welcoming new born babes to the church in the arms of their mothers and fathers, baptizing new converts to the faith, welcoming those who have decided to join membership, celebrating the victory of healing with people who have overcome life challenging illness, the planning and execution of weekly celebration services, prayer services and small group Bible studies, mixes with the sorrow of walking with families struggling with domestic violence, or divorce, walking the long road to life’s end, comforting families of those who have passed on into eternity, and helping families struggle through the sorrow of wayward children.

The whole job is an honor and a challenge. The whole job requires the grace of God to manifest with each joy and each sorrow.

One of the joy/ sorrows I am walking through right now is with the oldest member of our congregation, Grace. Grace has been with us literally from the beginning of the church, from the very first service when there was no church building only a church living room. Grace is also a biblical widow. She has no family aside from an elderly sister living in assisted living over 12 hours away. Our church is her family.

Grace was also not prepared at all for end of life. So when she could no longer care for herself the state stepped in and placed her an hour and a half from us. I have now taken Grace on as my legal ward, but I have been unable to move her from the care center where she has been placed. At this point I am not sure I would want to put her through the trauma of moving again. So I call her several times a week. Yesterday I made the drive up to see her.

I start out on Rte. 12 from Winchendon MA up through Fitzwilliam, Troy and Keene NH. I pick up Rte 10 and follow the Ashuelot River through Gilsum and up into Marlowe. Driving past the Christmas Inn at Marlowe….

I travel by the wind mills in Lempster

I turn at the United Church across from the Lempster town library.

up into Unity,

until I see the skyline at Sullivan County Health Care. It’s a long way from my current home, but my family on both my mother and father’s side has been traipsing this same territory for more than two hundred years. Most of my original ancestors came through Newport NH on their journey from England. One of my relatives actually was born in Goshen only minutes from Lempster and preached in South Acworth only a few miles in the other direction from Lempster. Driving this road feels a little like walking through history to a deeper sense of home.

Since the last time I visited Grace she has had to move to a new unit within the care center so that she could receive the appropriate care for her weakening physical condition. The new unit, Stearns III, is a very beautiful ward with lots of plants and bright decorations. When I arrived Grace was just finishing up a music program and then an aid took us to the “Tower Room” where we could visit privately. Grace thought she had made this quilt. She went to some length to explain the neatness of the stitching and how it had been a group project. I didn’t let her think otherwise.

The view from the room was beautiful and cheery.

Grace is facing many challenges ahead with her health, but being able to walk this season with her as she prepares for her own journey into eternity is such a great privilege. I don’t know how much my visits are making a difference in Grace’s life. I truly hope they are a blessing to her. This one thing I know, they are deepening my faith and my own story greatly



Many of you know that my mother lives with me and my daughter, Amanda, at The Vicarage. We are her primary caregivers as she walks this phase of her life’s journey through dementia. 

Mom often says to us, “Don’t get old. It ain’t for sissys.” That and “I should just be dead.”

Last week we thought we were entering a whole new phase. Mom was becoming increasingly hard to wake up and even harder to keep awake. She pretty much stopped eating and complained of just feeling like “crap”. She used stronger language, but you get the idea.

At first I thought it was residual effects from her bout with COVID.

The issue I had with that first thought is that Mom had no symptoms of COVID even though she tested positive. As I was praying for her one night I heard in my spirit, “Her medications.”

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Just before mom got COVID, the doctor had doubled one of the meds she takes for dementia, in hopes that it would help a growing anxiety. It turns out the new dosage was too high and so we have weaned her back and Mom has woken up. Yesterday she was awake for most of the day and even ate two whole meals and a piece of another. 

While I was in church yesterday I got a text from my cousin saying that my Aunt Gloria, my mother’s oldest sister, had passed away. 

My mother is now the oldest surviving child. Just she and her sister Carol are left out of eight children.

One of the things I have learned about caregiving is that it is not a solo endeavor. It takes a village to do this. While Amanda and I carry the weight of the caregiving, our extended family all helps in different ways. My daughter Melanie comes to help us out when Amanda and I both have to be away for an extended time. We have also had volunteer help from the church come and sit with Mom during times of need. We have hired a longtime friend of the family to come and sit with Mom during church services. And my sister is Mom’s telephone buddy. Brenda calls Mom twice a week at least from The Netherlands and will talk for an hour or better each time.

Yesterday as I was considering whether or not to tell Mom about her sister I called Brenda to get her advice.

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You may think there is only one right decision . Of course I should tell my mother her sister died. But that revelation could spark hours of cyclical dialogue spiraling down into an increasing depression. The struggle is real.

As I was talking with Brenda it was decided we should tell her, but first Brenda and she would have a conversation to try and center her a bit before I brought the hard news. She and Brenda bantered for about forty five minutes. It was nice to see mom awake enough to actually use her sharp wit. Then my phone gave the “Low Battery” signal. It often happens when they talk. They go on so long the computer or the phone just run out of juice. But Mom never remembers what the signal means and always comes out with some panicked question about what she did.

This time, though, Mom did not have her glasses on and exclaimed “Wait a minute, I am getting a message from Lake Pottery. I wonder what they want.”

We all got a good laugh out of that one. A few hours after the call I sat down with Mom and shared the news about her sister. She had a lot of questions. She was sad. But aside from some deep nostalgia about her family she doesn’t seem to be able to hold the information about Aunt Gloria, or maybe she just cannot express what is in her heart. 


I think in this season of life I am slowly learning the importance of teamwork and interdependence. I have a feeling that I will need to understand this much better before this season of my life is done.