Gopher Gladness and Great Hawk Gasps

Today two things happened to me in prayer. As I sat for my afternoon devotions on the porch (which generally last at least an hour) I was listening to my meditation music, and around the corner of the steps came a gopher.

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He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

“Hello!” I said….and he was off like a shot.

It makes me happy that nature lives at my front door.

The second event happened around 6:30 P.M. as I was having my evening devotions. I was listening to the book of 1 Corinthians on my phone. The birds and the squirrels were gathered at the feeder eating supper.

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Eight or ten doves and several squirrels and a chipmunk were happily munching at the birdseed. Then, they were off like a shot. The rodents skittered into the underbrush and the doves took to the skies in different directions.

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The hawk was barely more than a shadow and an explosion of feathers as it grabbed the mourning dove from its flight. It was over leaving only a rain of dove down falling into the sumac below.

Life has been a mix of gopher gladness and great hawk gasps lately.

Brenda got the keys to her new apartment in Zaandam yesterday.

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She needed a new laptop. So we prayed and less than two hours later she was on her way to get a new laptop provided by one of her donors.

May be an image of screen and laptop

Then she got a call from her landlord saying that all her furniture had been destroyed by an air B-n-B customer (she had consented to leave her furniture in the apartment if her landlord would hold the apartment for her when she returned).

Gophers or great hawks, you never can tell what’s coming across the porch on any given day. The only assurance is that both will show up at one time or another. Sometimes they will even show up at the same time.

In my experience though God has this singular talent to turn our sorrows into dancing, our gasps into gladness and our great hawks into gophers.

How about you are living in the shadow of great hawks right now or are you playing with the gophers?

By Inches

It feels like I have used this title before…maybe I have but if so its worth repeating. I live my life by inches not by miles.

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The older I get the more I realize that life, to be truly tasted and enjoyed needs to be taken in small bites.

There is a temptation to lose the beauty of the single flower because I am trying to conquer the whole forest.

When I give into that temptation, and start to think about the miles I have to go before I sleep for the night, instead of the inch I have left to walk before I can rest for a minute, I find myself getting filled with stress and striving. In that negative mindspace I find myself constantly disappointed by my own inability to meet my self imposed demands and by the world which falls so short of my expectations.

Take the Vicarage project for instance.

When I look at the project as a whole, and think of all that needs to be done, and think of all the money its going to cost, and consider all the possible problems which are going to rise between now and the time I pay the final installment of the loan we are taking out to pay for it all well….

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But life isn’t meant to be lived in all those miles at once. It is meant to be lived in the inch we are on right now, because honestly that is all we can deal with…right now.

More than that it is meant to be a celebration of this inch. Not a worry about what the next inch will bring. What can I find to be thankful for in the moment….

I am thankful that all of our bank paperwork has now been received.

Something bad kept happening when I tried to send it, but our friendly neighborhood banker Deb took care of it for me this morning. Yay!

More than that though Brenda has found a new home base for her work in The Netherlands. She was told just over a month ago she would have to move from her current BOO (Base of operations) becacuse the owner is selling it.

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That news created a few tough inches. It is not easy finding an apartment when there is an ocean between you and a site visit. But thanks to some very dedicated ministry partners and a good recommendation from her old landlord, Brenda just signed paperwork on a new two bedroom house.

May be an image of brick wall and outdoors
May be an image of indoor
May be an image of furniture and kitchen
May be an image of tree and outdoors

Further she has sensed the leading of the Lord that she will be back in the Netherlands by the end of August or the first week of September!

Life is full and fast now, but living by inches is how I am keeping my peace.

How do you keep your peace?

In the Constant…I Am Full

I have to say, this has been an amazing summer! So much has begun! So much is happening! Life is a constant! And that means much is changing….because…..

Constant Change | Change quotes, Words quotes, Life quotes

We heard back from the bank. Brenda and I have more signing to do, but we are closer to the beginning of The Great Vicarage Project!

Meanwhile the gardens continue to mark the passing of this summer season.

As I sat to pray on the front porch this afternoon I heard the crickets for the first time, the sure sign that we are moving from Midsummer to late summer.

Midsummer brings a certain little girl’s birthday.

It is so nice having the kids living near us now. The birthday party this weekend will be at their new apartment which is five minutes away. One big change their nearness has brought is Sunday Dinners after church.

I haven’t tried anything fancy yet, but I am really enjoying the opportunity to do a traditional family dinner every week.

Meanwhile things at the church are moving forward as our DLT philosophy (Doing Life Together) becomes a DLT experience. People are joining groups and we are beginning to grow together in relationship.

As I said, a lot going on…that said, I am no longer using the word busy….busy means stress to me. I am not stressed. I am full…full of life!

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What does the word busy mean to you?

Day to Day and On the Way

Last week in my post IN THE WAITING, I said that I was waiting to hear back from the loan company about what they needed for paperwork from us beyond the application.

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I had most of the usual things put together in a packet just waiting for the right e-mail to send it all to. The info came on Friday night and I sent it off on Monday.

More waiting….

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But it’s not like there has been nothing to do in the mean time. This new job is very different from my other work in ministry as an assistant.

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There’s a lot more praying needed (and that’s saying something).

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There’s a lot more strategic planning.

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There are a lot more meetings (and that is saying something again).

Yesterday I started the day with a few hours of prayer

Then a voice lesson

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Then I had a meeting about elder care.

I began planning the next month worth of worship services.

I met with a couple to help them fill out conservatorship paperwork for a disabled parent.

Spent some time on the porch talking with Brenda before making supper

Then I finished up the night with a meeting on strategic staffing for the next 3-5 years.

And then…..

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I am loving this new work. It fits in a way I never expected it would.

In the middle of all that, a message came that an appraiser will be at our house on Monday to take pictures and walk the property.

The next step has arrived. And so now I must clean!

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Pathways At the Vicarage

Today was mowing day at the Vicarage. I love the smell of the forest garden when it is freshly mowed. There is one place where the mix of Bishops weed, wild carrot and goldenrod mixes to smell like cilantro. In one corner of the yard, the mown clover smells a little bit like what I imagine Heaven must smell like. When I mow the catywhompus garden the chives and oregano start to smell a little bit like the North End in Boston. Fragrance in a garden is probably more important to me than the look of it.

If I am being authentic, transparent and vulnerable, I have to admit that I enjoy sitting and gazing out at the forest garden almost more than anything else in the world. I love to breathe in the fragrance and listen to the animals chirp and twitter. I especially love in that symphony of nature, to listen for the deeper and quieter voice of God.

One of my side dreams is that the Vicarage would become a destination for people desiring to seek the voice of God for their lives. I can envision holding small prayer and meditation retreats or even hosting individuals who just desire to sit in the gardens to pray.

The Vicarage is not a very big piece of property but pieces of the forest garden are thick enough that a person can go into it and be completely sealed away from the sight of others.

Right now. I have two prayer spots on the property and a bunch of paths that go nowhere. But this renovation has me thinking that

these paths could be cultivated to twist and turn deep into the forest garden, leading listeners to sacred spaces that could open the very heart of God to them. I think that beginning this renovation process has awakened some dreams in me that must become part of the purpose and vision for the Vicarage.

The Pruning Begins

Everyone who knows me knows I love my little forest garden in the center of town. I love the wild look and as we do this renovation to house and property I want to keep it. But even I realize the yard has gotten severely out of control. Our prospective contractors, some of my congregants and even a few of my dear blogging friends have encouraged me to get the forest away from the house.

Most of the work that has to be done at the Vicarage I can’t do….but this I can. So the pruning begins here.

And here

And here.

And here.

had to do this pruning in three stages. The bush honey suckle was easy enough to tackle but the heat of the afternoon sun chased me indoors.

Once the sun was a little lower on the horizon I got back at it. This Barbary thorn bush was mixed in with a bridal wreath and a tiny juniper bush.

The Barbary thorn bush was so thorny I couldn’t drag it like I did the honey suckle. A tarp and a garden rake made the job doable.

Evidently I have some burning to do.

I have some roots to dig, but at least I can get at them now.

My Interdependence Day

Today, July 4th, our church launched its new DLT (doing life together) initiative. We turned Independence Day into Interdependence Day.

We are learning by steps to share our lives intentionally.

Look who came to dinner after.

Lella and Mom spent some time playing together

Then we went picking flowers in our forest garden

Moving In

So much is changing in Vicarage life.There’s: my new role as lead pastor, Amanda’s new role as youth and next generation pastor, Brenda’s work with this new missions sending agency A.C.T., The vicarage facelift….and my son-in-law, daughter and granddaughters are moving back to WInchendon!

Melanie and Abigail in the new apartment.

Yesterday a team of us braved the July 4th traffic to pack up the apartment in Lynn and drive all their furniture back to WInchendon. We finished up about 10 P.M. last night…..

Map from Lynn, Massachusetts to Winchendon, Massachusetts

And restarted at about 9 A.M. this morning.

Breakfast and a move
Jody
The moving crew

Thank you to everyone from our Cornerstone family who made this move happen! Amanda, Art, Kaden, Ray, Christian,Dan, Jim, Toni (James’ parents from CT) Juan James, Melanie (so nice to have you and the girls in Winchendon). Curt, Tyler, Ken, Betty, Brenda, Jody,Ezra and Josh (our visiting missionaries from Rotterdam) and Pastor David and Emily (pastors from East Coast International who helped us in Lynn.

This is what doing life together means!

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.

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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.

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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….

PJ

This Day At the Vicarage 11-3-20

My cousin, Karen, posted this last night:

You know what I’m going to do the day after tomorrow if my candidate loses?Get up.Do my normal routineStrive to do my best and be my best. Find the positives.Appreciate my family and friends.Be happy. Create happiness for others. Be grateful.Love my country. Be kind to others.Yes…. Be kind to others – regardless of how they voted, whether they voted, their skin color, their eye color, their income, their education, their favorite color, their gender, their age, their sexual preferences, their name, their favorite ice cream flavor, their religion.You know what I’m going to do the day after tomorrow if my candidate wins?The same. The exact same.

Everyone who reads my blogs regularly knows that one thing I am after in this life is to live a constant rhythm,…slow, constant, intentional.

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This morning I got up and began my normal routine: Pray, Read my Bible, Read the book I am studying, Eat and chat with my loved ones for a few minutes, Get ready for the day, walk the dogs, feed the dogs, do the laundry, check the furnace ( a seasonal chore), feed the birds, go to the store for Mom’s morning necessities and then write and get ready for daily ministry (which today consists of writing thank you notes, continuing a few on-line pastoral conversations, calling a pastor in the region who has some questions for me about the office of a prophet and a staff meeting).

The time has come for us as Christians to stop living for the world and its ways and that includes paying undue attention to the election. I am not saying we should not take our responsibility to vote seriously. I voted a week ago so I could avoid wasting hours waiting in line (for me time is a precious commodity I need to stop wasting). The time has come for us to realize that we live for and in a much larger Kingdom than America or England or India or…. You get the picture.

The Kingdom of Heaven is calling us to its work and we cannot let anything distract us from it! So today I am going to my work, the work I feel God gave me to do. Tomorrow I will go to my work, the work I feel God is giving me to do. I will keep the rhythm God has given me even if the world around me plays something entirely different. And I will play my God-given song with joy. How about you?

PJ