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.

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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

THIS DAY AT THE VICARAGE 9-20-20

The weekend is finally winding down and returning to a rhythm I can recognize and move with easily. The last two days have been wonderful and busy! But I am glad to be returning to something like slow, constant and intentional as the new week blossoms.

Yesterday’s pace picked up with coffee at Identity Coffee Shop in Rindge New Hampshire at 8:30 A.M.

Identity Coffee Lab - 32 Photos - Cafes - 1090 Nh Route 119, Rindge, NH -  Restaurant Reviews - Phone Number - Yelp

This is sort of my new go to place for meeting with congregants when I am not visiting in their homes. I met with one of my friends and we chatted about God and grandchildren. Then we both headed off to the rest of our day.

I do a lot of pastoral visitation now. Visitation has always been a part of my ministry, but now aside from prayer this is my ministry. I pray. I write and I meet with people on-line or in person. I am enjoying it even if sometimes I seem to have a hard time keeping it all straight in my head, where I need to be and when I need to be there.

My daughter, Amanda, and I talked about that on the way to pick up my grand-daughter in Lynn MA yesterday. Amanda has this amazing ability to organize and keep things in order. I have trouble wearing the same color socks on any given day (especially if they are colored which is why I usually wear white). Amanda always knows where she needs to be and when she needs to be there. She plans travel time and she plans cushion into all of her work. She reads and retains instructions from instruction manuals and can keep guidelines in her head. I usually end up losing the English directions to things and end up trying to build things from pictures using the Chinese directions five minutes before they have to be assembled. It was a nice ride, and I really got to affirm Amanda in her gifts. She doesn’t often consider what she does as being supernaturally gifted, but she really is.

We got to Lynn and picked up my grand-daughter Dani. I really thought getting her to come with us back to the Vicarage would be harder but she hopped right in the car, kissed her mother good bye and we were on our way with nary a tear.

We stopped at Wendy’s for a late lunch. After that, Dani colored with my mother for a bit. Then we went to pick some flowers and for a walk in the park. We ate pizza for supper and then Dani was pretty well done for the night.

Today was church. Melanie and James came to pick Dani up there and then we celebrated Amanda receiving her license to preach. She is now a fully licensed minister of the Assemblies of God! We had lunch and then the Franklin family got back on the road. A very busy and very wonderful day.

Well tomorrow starts a deep housecleaning because I sensed in prayer this afternoon that The Vicarage has visitors coming…..I have no idea what that means, but I know it is time to prepare.

I am looking forward to tomorrow dear friends!

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 9-18-20

I have come to call my position of prayer the Sage’s Cave. It is not so much a place or even a position but a state of mind.

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I started my prayer life (forty years ago now) like I imagine everyone does, with a list of things I hoped to get God to do. This kind of prayer is called petition/ intercession. Petitions are prayers for yourself (God heal my heart, God give me a new job). Intercession is prayer offered for others (God heal Sally’s heart, God give Sally a new job).

As I have grown into the Sage’s Cave I have found that the petition/intercession part of prayer has taken a very back seat in a rather large bus. It is not that there is anything wrong with petitions or intercessions. I still petition God for things. I still intercede for others. It is just that for me petitions and intercessions are the least relational prayers and I am very much more interested in knowing God and knowing what is on His mind than I am in getting stuff or things from Him.

I have somehow come to the position of seeking His face more than His hand as the song by Paul Wilbur says,

I do really struggle with this sometimes, because my prayer life is a lot of waiting and listening now. It feels like I am doing even less than I used to do in prayer and I know most people think prayer is useless unless it leads to an action of some kind.

I am learning to be content in the waiting. I am finding that is where the weight of God’s glory resides. Something inside of me tells me that waiting for His glory is my most important ministry now.

Sometimes as I am waiting. God gives me little things to do. Sometimes I see visions of things coming or of things already happening. Sometimes I get understanding of some Scriptural principle. Sometimes I get whole sermons. And then sometimes I just sit and hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing and the music or Scripture playing in the back ground.

Today I am moving towards three hours of waiting in a lot of sweet silence.

THIS DAY AT THE VICARAGE 9-12-20

The dogs and I got up at 4 A.M. this morning to begin the day. It is just before 6 now and they have had their morning outing and are now eating second breakfast. Well, Mercedes is pushing the breakfast bowl around inside the eating crate trying to bury second breakfast so she can eat it later for elevenses.

Jacopo and Mercedes

It has been a busy few days here at the Vicarage. Brenda has been working some long hours at the apple orchard in Harvard MA and Amanda has been working some long hours at the church.

I have been running between the Vicarage and visitations and what not. Yesterday I had a funeral over in Athol MA and then I had to mow the lawn up at the art gallery up the street after supper.

The art gallery gig is something I picked up early in the summer when I saw the President of our art association out mowing the lawn herself on a hot summer day. She is a lady who has had to have major heart surgery and is heading for knee surgery so the little voice that guides had me approach her and offer to take over the lawns.

I am not what you would call a great land scaper or anything. I own a lawn mower and I know how to start it. I think that qualifies me for what I am doing (though I am sure some would disagree).

Here’s the thing… I often remind my congregants they don’t have to be experts at the Bible in order to share Jesus. All they have to be is available to love, listen and share what they know. God will handle the rest. Further sharing the love of Christ is not so much about what you say. It is about what you do.

That conversation brings me back to our Wednesday night on-line Bible study and prayer session for this week. We talked about Rizpah Saul’s daughter-in-law. I guess I will sign off today by leaving you with a copy of that study. I hope it blesses you.

I am looking forward to tomorrow Dear Friends.

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 9-7-20

Yesterday I was back at my usual job for a Sunday morning, as on-line pastor. I am really enjoying this new work. My job starts at about 9:15 A.M. I open my computer and start “inviting people to church”. Mostly that just involves a check in on Facebook Messenger.

Mad At Computer Png - Guy Working On A Computer , Free Transparent Clipart  - ClipartKey

I sign onto the church livestream when it comes on, and then from my little perch in the church cafe I begin to engage with people attending the on-line service: I comment as the sermon goes along; I “like” and comment on what other people are saying; Sometimes I move to a private message format so I can go a little deeper with people who are popping up on my feed or sometimes even just in my head.

Who I don’t see walking through the church door in the morning or on-line is just as important as who does come to our service in physical form or through the internet. When someone is missing for a bit I use service time to try and find them virtually. Yesterday I missed several people so I sent messages to them during service.

Yesterday I also used the time to launch a remote fellowship campaign with our artist’s group. In two weeks time we will be starting an artist version of chopped.

Chopped | Food Network

One of our artists is donating boxes full of art supplies and so we will make up boxes for all the participating artists and each artist will have a month to create a work of art using all the implements in the box. At the end of the month we will do on-line reveals for the whole artistic community.

Church is definitely different now. People of God are having to find new and creative ways to connect around the Word of God, fellowship and prayer. I don’t know when or if it will go back to what it used to be. Honestly, I am having fun facing these new challenges. I am not sure I want it to go back.

Well, I have blathered on long enough. It is time to sign off for the night.

I am looking forward to tomorrow Dear Friends.

Pastor J

This Day At the Vicarage 9-5-20

Brenda returned from her mini break away at Lake Winnepesaukee last night just as Amanda and I were heading out to have coffee at the home of parishioniers.

Here are some photos Brenda took while away…

She had a good time. While she got settled back in to the Vicarage,Amanda and I had a great time at the home of Ray and Deb Parker who made a wonderful cobbler to go with our coffee. We have been going over and spending time with this couple every few weeks. It is part of how the church has to adapt in these days.

We cannot rely on seeing or being able to converse with folks in church any longer. So, visiting in small groups while social distancing seems to be the new way of doing church life.

This week I visited with a number of people over coffee and prayer.

This is an old photo but I visited with these friends Stev and Pastor Donna Slocum early in the week
Our friend Norma
Our friends Ray and Deb

Living by the slow, constant , intentional schedule God has given me is becoming more and more of a routine ,and as it does my life becomes quieter and quieter, even in those moments where the activity is swirling around me.

The one thing I have noticed is that while the work is not as taxing, it is nothing like a normal schedule. The rest of my family works during the day and then sits down to relax in the evening. My day starts when I get up and ends when I go to bed. There are times of rest, times of relationship, times for work, times for exercise and times for fun built throughout it, but the times keep moving now. My life has become monastic. I live by the bells now (on my phone): Exercise, reading, writing, housework, family time, study, and prayer all move in synchronicity according to the bells. When the bells on my phone ring I am on to the next thing in order.

I suppose for most people this would be problematic. I am finding it a problem solver, even if it means I do not necessarily fit in with the rest of the world’s ebb and flow as well anymore.

Well it is time to move on to supper time chores everyone.

I look forward to tomorrow Dear Friends

Pastor J