Birds and Such

One of the loves may grandmother passed on to me was bird-watching. I can remember that on Saturdays, especially in the winter when it was too cold to play outside, Gramma would set me at the kitchen window with her favorite bird book and she would tell me to identify as many of the birds that came to her feeders as I could. She had chickadees and sparrows, goldfinches (she bought special food for them), purple finches, woodpeckers, bluejays, titmice, mourning doves and in those days evening grosbeaks.

My feeders today have most of the same birds with a few extra. I have two nesting pairs of cardinals on The Vicarage property. They really love the Japanese knotweed for their nesting place. I also have cowbirds in the spring and redwings blackbirds.

In addition I have God’s own quantity of gray and red squirrels and a new addition within the last year (besides the rats which I am dealing with) …..rabbits.

This morning as I took the dogs for their morning walk their were two rabbits playing on the side lawn.

Photo by Pixabay on

Of course what I call the side lawn is actually a giant patch of frozen mud right now.

The work at The Vicarage is not done. As we move to the end of this season of fasting and into February the landscape planning is beginning. That pile of rocks…’s my new stone wall.


It Begins

Well everything is in place!

The dumpster and port-a-potty hav arrived along with the new gutters and siding.

Now that the rain has stopped, the crew will be arriving today (or maybe tomorrow) to begin peeling off the old shingles. So take one last look.

I have been trying to get my part done for this project which is clearing the porch and the edges of the house so that the crew can get at the shingles.

I have set up a little seating area on the edge of the wood for prayer through the project.

Things Come, Things Go, Nothing Stays the Same.

I am in the middle of two very full, very wonderful weeks. Two weeks ago. I peached a message on the call to ministry and five people from our congregation were touched by the call.

Photo by Vlad Cheu021ban on

I have had the wonderful privilege of meeting with each of them personally and affirming the call and speaking with them about next steps.

I made reference last week to the fact that the Vicarage project had met its first snag. The outside budget was outstripping the inside project and it was looking like the inside project may not happen at all.

Photo by John Guccione on

So Brenda and I asked a few questions and our contractors, wonderful men of God, got back to us with the answers and a detailed budget with the cost overruns included. Brenda and I took a night to pray about it and then had a Zoom conversation about what we were sensing from the Lord.

To us it made no sense to tackle the inside if the outside of the building was just going to fall down around our ears. Here is what I wrote to our contractors…

Good Afternoon Gentlemen,

Brenda and I met this morning by Messenger Call. After a night of prayer we have come to 
some decisions.
* Honestly we cannot go above the $205,000.00 quotes at this time. That is our all in 
budget so the price of 234,000.00 is out of our reach.

* Getting a new kitchen and a new downstairs bathroom while not fixing the leaks in the 
upstairs bathroom is counterproductive (It would only destroy the new work).

* Redoing the inside of the house but not addressing the structural issues on the outside 
is also counterproductive.

* We realize that the pricing for the outside projects absolutely needs "Uh-Oh" 
money and that the  quoted $68,000.00 may not actually be enough.

* So we have agreed that while all of the issues need addressing eventually and sooner 
rather than later we need to prioritize now.

* We feel we need to fix the outside to keep the house from falling down.  So we would 
like to do the structural repairs and siding at this point.

Since then things have moved pretty quickly. It looks like the outside project will start next week and be done within the month of October. The port-a-potty arrived today (for the work crew).LAte this afternoon I signed the application for the construction permit.

The bushes still need to get gone, but I am thinking they will be gone by Friday. Our plan now is to see what we have left after the outside project is finished and then use that money to start the inside projects. I am praying it is enough to at least tackle the bathrooms.
Photo by Flickr on

Memories Of a More Innocent Time

As I have considered this renovation project at The Vicarage I have had to ask myself why. We have had those offers that come from buy as is companies. We could sell and rent a condo or even buy a smaller house. So why do the renovation? I think a piece of it has to do with my past. I got thinking about that as I read fellow blogger


Dolly’s music always gets me nostalgic about what seems like simpler times . Cee asked us to create a photo post based around the song, and here is what the song made me think of.

Mom and me

These photos are all taken in houses that are within a mile of The Vicarage.

Me and Brenda at Gramma and Grampa’s house around the corner from The Vicarage.

It is so strange to think that such a huge portion of my life has circled around this block I am living on, have lived on in every season of my existence.

Mom, Dad and me at the house on Pearl St. across from the Duvarneys

This place is my memory, my coat of many colors.

Brenda at the house on 360 Front St.
Dad, Gramma, Brenda, Grampa and me at The Vicarage.

But it is not just about my past. This is the place where my past, my present and my future meet in their own dazzle of color. This is as much about me putting a stake in the ground for myself and declaring what my future is going to be, as it is about me tipping my hat to the choices of my ancestors.

The Vicarage is our generation’s Coat of Many Colors Project that we will leave for the next generation to display the love that we have come to know in this life.

Using My Tools

It’s fall. The summer is over and the seasons of work have begun….at least that is how I have always viewed fall and winter….seasons of work.

Photo by Zen Chung on

It’s back to school time and done with vacation time. It is also the time when people launch into their winter routines and the daily disciplines that help them make it through the darker seasons. I have a sense that this year the church is being called to some work which will call us all deeper into the presence of the Lord and into the spiritual harvest field that is our region.

The to do list for the ministers of the Vicarage is pretty big:

1. Facilitate the Execution of the mission God has given Cornerstone Church to…DO LIFE TOGETHER….TO REACH THE LOST….TO SEND THE FOUND….TO DISCOVER OUR GIFTS…..TO CHANGE THE WORLD.

2. Relaunch our children’s programming starting in September.

3. Launch the Bridge Artistic Network in Zaandam starting in September

4. The reconstruction project for the church altar begins in November.

5. And finally…The Vicarage reno project is heating up. This week we are choosing the tile and the countertops.

BBJ Tile – Professional Tile Installation in Raleigh NC Since 2005

As full as my plate looks to be over the next few months I am finding myself oddly at peace. God keeps telling me that I can do this if I will just use the tools He has given me. Over the last decade I have been practicing disciplines under the Lord’s direction which I now understand are going to help me through this very full season. These disciplines are like tools in my tool management tool belt. What I know about them is that if I can use these tools successfully to help keep myself organized and sane then anyone can use them.

The tools in my tool belt are:

SCHEDULING ACCORDING TO MY ROLES….When I first started scheduling myself I thought it an unspiritual necessity. Over the many years of keeping a daily schedule I have learned scheduling is perhaps one of the most spiritual and fruitful habits I have developed. But I don’t schedule according to my tasks anymore. I schedule according to my roles. I am: a child of God, a family man, a lead pastor, a writer and a friend. These are my roles and my schedule has to reflect these roles. The things I allow to populate my schedule have to reflect these roles. When a task that does not reflect one of my roles keeps showing up in my schedule I need to either accept a new role or get rid of the activity. That leads to the next tool.

Photo by cottonbro on

PRACTICE SAYING NO A LOT…. When something doesn’t fit in the schedule or when something gets in the way of me living out the roles God has given me I need to say no no matter who it disappoints, even if that someone is me. I also need to decide in advance the things I am not going to try and get done in this season. That requires me to…..

BE HUMBLE ENOUGH TO ADMIT I CANNOT DO EVERYTHING….I had forgotten how much work renovation projects were and I really am just doing prep work for this one. The heavy lifting is all going to be done by our contractors. That said there is a lot to do up front and during this project I am realizing Mom is going to need more help than I previously thought. Add the work being done at the church and I have to be realistic in saying that is about all I can handle. I think the book project I hoped to complete this fall before Christmas is going to have to wait.

Photo by Pixabay on

CALL IN FRESH EYES… I have learned there is wisdom in calling in someone who can look at my situation from the outside to help me keep a well rounded perspective. I have asked a certified life coach if he would walk with me through this season to help keep me on track. My first session with him is this Thursday and we will be talking about prioritization.

PRIORITIZE SELF CARE…. For me this means a couple of things. Prayer. Exercise. Eating right. and immersing myself in nature. I love my wild forest gardens at the Vicarage. As the flowers fade I am already planning my winter of birdwatching and how I am going to set myself up for that.


#WeekendCoffeeShare: The Quick March

If we were having coffee or tea or whatever today, I would tell you that this week feels like fall is rushing towards us.

Even as the garden remains in full bloom I am watching as the trees in the neighborhood take on the faintest tint of their autumn colors. But this year fall is about more than the shift of seasons, it is the changing of a host of things here at The Vicarage.

Brenda is packed and ready to leave on Wednesday for her new home in Zaandam. Her team brought in her dining set today.

No description available.

Those of you who have been following “Notes From the Vicarage” know that Brenda’s old landlord had gotten rid of almost all of her furniture from her old apartment without telling her. He has made amends and God has given Brenda almost a whole new House of furniture (new to her anyway) for a total cost of less than $100.00 Euro. She still needs to buy new mattresses, linens, curtains and towels but her furniture is all set.

She is still dealing with a heavy heart over the knowledge that her dog Snug will not be able to join her on this trip. COVID has made the veterinarians who deal with oversea pet travel very busy and she could not get an appointment before October. So the Vicarage is becoming a 3 dog, 1 cat household.

No photo description available.

Snug being dubious.

If we were having coffee I would tell you that the renovation for the Vicarage is moving forward quickly now. The floor guys came forward this morning and said that our floors can be refinished rather than replaced! That is good because apparently our floors are made of red birch which is super pricy if not impossible to replace.

Red Birch Hardwood Flooring

I would also tell you that this week we picked out our new bathroom fixtures and cabinets. This week I have to make appointments to decide on countertops and bathroom tiles.

Finally, if we were having coffee I would tell you that tomorrow I am hosting the second children’s dedication of my lead pastorate at Cornerstone Church. I have the privilege of dedicating my grand daughters!

May be an image of 1 person, baby and indoor

Signing On the Dotted Line

The summer has passed so quickly. Like the seasons everything is changing.

Brenda spent the week packing and doing last minute tasks that have to get done before she heads to her new home in The Netherlands.

May be an image of outdoors

Things like signing the loan paperwork this week so the Vicarage project can move forward. Yay! We have the money to fix this old house.

AfterI finished signing yesterday, one of my friends from church, came over to help me move some more brush.

Joe has come twice to take brush. I figure he has saved me about two days of brush burning. He was even able to fit a few of the pallets from the pile.

I am pretty excited about where we are going with the Vicarage project. I am also reminded that I have a whole life outside of the project. After moving brush I got ready for my evening meeting, a meet-n-greet for a town project called Heal Winchendon.

Having been through many other building projects in my life I am aware how all consuming they can be especially when they are this big. Balancing ministry and living the building project is going to be tricky. God keeps reminding me that prayer is the key.


Back To Busy

A few weeks ago I said I was no longer using the word “busy” because busy carried the connotation of stress. Instead I had determined to use the word “full” for the life I was living because full speaks of abundance and prosperity…..Yeah…..I got back to busy today.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Today is writing day. The normal course of writing day is full….prayer-pastoral reading- Digging Deeper Devo- sermon- Prayer meeting planning- scheduling the week- prepping for staff meeting and other meetings- 5 Star Man Group. Adding to that just pushed the day from “full” to “busy” for me.

When the e-mails started rolling from the insurance company and the bank doing the HELOC for us about missing paperwork that was scanned to them last week I got just a little edgy.

Photo by Inzmam Khan on

A thirty minute call to our insurers…most of which I spent on hold…got the issue resolved and then a quick trip to the bank with some more necessary paperwork for the signing finished that part, and I thought the stress was over…..I was wrong.

As I got back to The Vicarage, I noted Brenda was working in the yard with the clippers. She was clipping down the Japapnese knot weed that was overhanging the sidewalk. I thought about helping, but I had a sermon to write. I had almost hit my rhythm when Brenda called m,y cell and asked me to come and help her. Did I mention I was wrong about being over my stress?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Stress is not about what is going on outside of us anymore than busy is. Busy and stress are all about what is going on inside. Shifting the interior world is what shifts busyness to fullness.

I realized it was time for more prayer.

Photo by Flickr on

Silencing the inner turmoil with centering prayer is an effective way to shift me from busy to full, from negative to positive.

The second step for me to shift from busy to full is to realize all that has gotten done this week…to count my many blessings so to speak.

We got the trees down around the Vicarage so the project can begin.

The paperwork is now complete for the HELOC.

Brenda’s team in the Netherlands continues to replace her furniture with deals they are finding with God’s help, and one of her Bridge M.A. Team has started a Gofund me page to help with the costs.

No description available.
Her new bookcase
No description available.
The dining set she will be bale to pick up upon arrival in The Netherlands…a second hand deal.
No description available.
Her new couch… another second hand deal found by her team.
No description available.
A new bedframe.

And I just found out that my friend Joe is coming to take another load of brush away for us on Thursday!!!!

And the final step toward shifting my mindset is to envision the possibilities before me.

Updates From Among the Trees

I really love the forest garden at The Vicarage.

But the forest has encroached on the house over the years.

As we look at our big renovation project, the first thing we have to address is the trees that are rooting at the foundations and branching into the Shingles of the house.

On windy nights the branches of one of the maples actually scratch against my window like the scritching of nails in a horror film.

Today is the day! The tree guys are coming!

The work started around 7:30 A.M.

Mom needed lots of reassurance as the men worked outside her window. It sort of let me know what we will be looking at as we head into the house construction.

It seems strange being able to see every corner of the house.

Now to the trimming and cleaning work! The yard around the house will look a lot better when the contractors come to set up their staging for the siding work.

Nitty Gritty Reality Faith

5:20 A.M. get up walk dogs.

6:20 A.M. Pray and prepare for the big day

7:20 A.M. Get mom her breakfast and medications/ Make coffee for household/ Vacuum/ move clothes drying racks/ make beds/ sweep kitchen/ clean bathrooms/ move broken pallets from stone porch to burning pile/ Gather trash for dump run/ light candles to fragrance house (I love fragrance)

9:30 A.M. Meet with contractors and sub contractors to begin getting Nitty Gritty Reality framework into place. Here is where the dream begins to take on earthly shape and all the warts and pimples begin to show. I think this stage of a project is the part that needs the most faith.

Photo by NEOSiAM 2021 on


Photo by Krivec Ales on


Photo by Adi Perets on


For instance we discovered….Not just new shingles. We will need new windows.

And…Yep…. This old house will need some new electrics.

And before we can even think of beginning the trees must go.

We will have appointments this week with the plumber and the gutter people and get their thoughts on the job.

For me faith in this part of the project is the part that just keeps going, just keeps organizing. This is the part where I just keep telling myself it will be all right and we will handle whatever comes our way and make whatever modifications we have to to get the project done. This is the part where I guard my prayer time. It is in this season I most appreciate the place of quieting the soul.


11:00 A.M. Dump run and then reviewing the appraisal for the house. Send it off marked “done” to the bank

12:00 P.M. Lunch for me and Mom. Brenda is off to deal with the fact that her furniture in The Netherlands is all gone. Her old landlord decided to remodel and just chucked all her stuff!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

1:00 P.M. Contact one of my old students about the trees (he runs a landscaping and tree service)/ Contact our insurance company to get information the bank needs sent off/ cancel haircut …it just ain’t happening/ send e-mail to personal assistant about a ministry event coming up that we need to coordinate/ field phone calls and messages from church members.

2:00 P.M. Prayer break…I really need to center down

Photo by Flickr on

3:00 P.M. Walk dogs/ Brenda goes to have tire fixed before she heads out for weekend of ministry in Buffalo.

4:00 P.M. Amanda starts supper/ I do daily devotional and start writing.

5:00 P.M. Supper!

And now I am heading back into prayer…

Nitty Gritty Reality Faith is the faith that keeps pace and keeps peace and keeps hope and just keeps going.