Friends, there will be no new episode of Old Stone Well Farm today. Feeling a bit under the weather after a week away in Louisville. Yes, the world has reopened for this country pastor and my traveling schedule for my work with the Presbyterian Mission Agency has begun.
But, as I was driving home from the airport at 1 a.m. I had a few God moments: I noticed how brilliant the stars were sparkling; I noticed how the abundance of deer on my path forced me to slow my anxious pace down and be in the moment; and, I noticed how my high beams announced that we had just had our first hard frost, as the the fields before me were a ghostly white. I was tired. I was eager to climb into bed.
Yet, I was once again reminded of the serene beauty of God’s creation that is always present to us if we open our eyes.
What beauty are you seeing today?
Let me know. And Old Stone Well Farm will be back!
I just came back from an opportunity to realize a dream.
I was in Florida speaking about and sharing with others Old Stone Well Farm Media & Ministry.
And so, this time together will be a short one as I need a day to hug my chickens, mow the lawn … and find time to be still with God and ponder what this recent trip means.
But during my travels I thought about what it means to “keep climbing.” (That was the tagline of the airline I flew…talk about a God moment!)
What does it mean to soar high? Am I really ready to realize a dream? Are you?
Come and join me today in seeking to climb and dream. Click the video below…and take time to comment. I love hearing from you. And share with others who might need to be inspired to realize a dream this day.
Are you ready to begin living…really living? I hope so, because I don’t want to do this alone. Join me in believing with God that all things are possible!
The death of the Queen, the anniversary of 9-11… along with so many other losses and stresses in my life … made me realize something important: I don’t want to anything to rob me of my joy — or peace.
Yet there seems to be so much, for lack of a better word, pure ugliness in the world. I have been especially heartbroken lately hearing colleagues (especially in ministry) saying that if someone doesn’t agree with them, they can leave. The games I see being played are so petty. The talk about love is just that: talk.
As I take my picnic blanket and enjoy time in the pasture, I think about how big I want my blanket to be, how I want to live my life welcoming others…listening to others…including others. So, come. Click the video on below and sit with me for a while.
And I would love to hear from you.
Better yet, send me a picture of your picnic that I encourage you to have.
Deer running through the pastures. Goldenrod casting a heavenly glow in the fields.
The seasons are changing here at Old Stone Well Farm…in many ways!
As I take some time to step back and breathe — and share with you a wonderful opportunity Old Stone Well Farm has been blessed with — I invite you to do the same: step back and breathe.
While not our regular time together, I pray for even a few short minutes you will find rest, peace and enter this new season with me here in Vermont with eyes open to the God moments all around. (Click the video below, and I will be back with more Old Stone Well Farm adventures!)
Dreams Require Baby Steps … And Listening to Your Life
After watching my stone mason “listen” to the stones in the creation of my 18th-century outdoor bake oven, I began realizing that for dreams inside our hearts to become true, we — as Frederick Buechner puts it — need to “listen to our lives.” Listening the leads to taking those important baby steps in making things happen. So I invite you to some to my Vermont farm as I pray about dreams, baby steps and listening. (You will also see my latest 18th-century hand-sewn creation!) So click on the video below. Stay awhile. Renew. Relax. Feel God’s Spirit! And I would love to hear what small baby step you might take this day in making your dreams come true!
Pastor, theologian and author, Frederick Buechner died on August 15, 2022. He was 96 years old. An ordained Presbyterian minister who never served a congregation has always been an inspiration to me. Rather, Buechner saw his writing as ministry.
Whether you are familiar with his writings or not, I invite you to visit with me at my 18th-century home here in Vermont as I share with you not only the words that have inspired my life — Buechner gave me the courage to say “yes” to serving a rural church. He also gave me the courage I needed to leave the church life to regain my identity as a writer! — but to take in all the beauty that inspired him.
And one of the God moments I share, is that I live, work, write, dream, right down the mountain road from this literary great. So, come and hear some of the nuggets of wisdom. Click the video below and ponder, pray, dream — and as Frederick Buechner once said, “Listen to your life.”
Lately, I am right in line with the psalmist, who once asked why, o, soul, are you downcast? I thought a week away from Old Stone Well Farm would improve my spirit.
So, I went into the wooded area on the farm, up the hill named after a beloved Bernese Mountain dog who used to greet my day. I went to Sofie’s Hill to revisit a long-desired dream of creating a prayer area…perhaps, even a mountaintop chapel.
As I explored, I came to realize the reason for my heavy heart. So if you are feeling out of sorts today, or even if you aren’t, come and join me as I find healing in dreaming, pondering, praying and spending time amid the trees. Click on the video below. And know, that where ever your heart might be this day, you have an accidental country pastor, praying for and with you.
Addicted to hurry is something I never thought I was until I began noticing how quickly I ran through my days, cramming in them more and more things to do.
So when I had a few days away from Old Stone Well Farm, I decided to use the time to reset my spirit — and my priorities. I didn’t pack books to read and I didn’t even jump on social media. Instead, I decided to savor the spiritual space I was in and listen to what author Kathleen Norris calls the “monk moments.”
Come and feel the sand between your toes with me, and find the courage to truly be still. (And discover a few old churches with me!) I would love to hear how you are resetting your life? Drop me a note or comment.
So, let’s begin. Click the video below and enjoy!!
I was getting ice cream the other day and noticed all the flavors that were available. I began thinking about how “the flavor of the day” changes with the season — early June it’s strawberries, the blueberries when they are ripe, then come early fall, pumpkin.
I then thought about “truth” and wondered: Has it become our flavor of the day, changing with societal seasons. I held this in my heart as I went on an adventure, attempting to make ice cream the 18th-century way, which meant no hand-crank machine and no fruity flavors!
And as I did, I discovered a very unique flavor of the day: parmesan cheese ice cream. Yes, cheese!
So join me at Old Stone Well Farm (click the video below) for a time of reflection and some amazing homemade ice cream! I would love hear your comments.
And please share this with your friends, like, comment, subscribe to my YouTube channel as well.
Writing deadlines are tight and I know I need to take time to breathe, to be in the God moment. But since I can’t fully do that right now, I took a few minutes to take note of the gifts all around me. I called it my “summer sabbatical” and while it wasn’t very long, it was just what my soul needed.
I share with you this day the importance of finding a pace that restores you, not wears you out. So take time to give thanks for this very moment…for it is a moment filled with beauty. (Click the video below to begins!)
Like, share, comment…and if you haven’t, subscribe and tell your friends about Old Stone Well Farm either here at Accidental Country Pastor or on YouTube — type in “Old Stone Well Farm” — and you will discover more than 100 videos there to enjoy!
I love hearing from so many of you who come, and I love seeing where in the country you are visiting from! So drop me a note!
This Accidental Country Pastor is getting ready to preach in Ballston Spa, New York, but before I go, I share with you how I have recently realized that I often make life harder than it has to be. Why do I do that?
Some interesting insights I discovered when I decided to explore this. We have to stop making things harder than they are. And we have to take comfort and courage and embrace the great hope we have knowing the God is near. God’s word is near — always speaking to us in so many ways.
I share these ways with you today here at Old Stone Well Farm! Just click the video below and enjoy your time in Vermont with me!
Kitchen Treats from the Farm (Or My Amish ‘Salad’ Saga)
I’m in the kitchen sharing with you how my Indian Strawberry Cornbread turned out, as well as sharing my adventure with an Amish recipe. It’s a fun time here at the farm. So join me…and make sure to leave a comment telling me what you think of these recipes — and if you are tempted to make them yourself. Speaking of recipes. Here they are:
Indian Strawberry Bread
2 Cups of Corn Meal
1 Egg (I forgot the egg when I made mine…so maybe the egg helps!)
½ tsp of Salt
2 tbsp Shortening
Just strawberries and their juice Enough to moisten mixture to cornbread consistency, sort of soft, but not too stiff.
Use white fine corn meal, add salt and melted shortening (butter or crisco) Beat egg a little, and add moistening your mixture with strawberries and their juice (If using frozen strawberries melt them first and they have a little juice with them. If using fresh strawberries, sugar them and let them set awhile until there is juice.) Use a 9 inch pan, bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until it seems done and golden on top.
Creamsicle Salad (This is enough for a Barn Raising!! So if you have small gathering, cut the amounts in half.)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
20-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
16-oz. tub whipped topping (like Cool Whip)
2 cups mini marshmallows, fruit-flavored or regular
6-oz. pkg. orange gelatin
1 to 2 15-oz. cans mandarin oranges
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and pineapple. Fold in marshmallows, whipped topping, and orange gelatin. Lastly, stir in mandarin oranges. Spoon into a large glass bowl for best presentation and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving. Can sit out for at least an hour without getting watery.
I got this recipe from Amish365.com, a great resource for Amish living.
It’s Fourth of July weekend and the red, white and blue is painting the rural landscape. While I add to the patriotic scene, hanging my Betsy Ross flag on my 18th-century house, I am thinking more of having a Strawberry Thanksgiving celebration.
Native Americans would use this time to gather the berries and give thanks for the fruit. It was also a time to make peace and forgive. I think our country needs a lot of that — peace and forgiveness.
So come, join me at Old Stone Well Farm. Pull up a chair and press play on the video below, and think about how we can only be truly free through forgiveness. And please take a moment to like, comment, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and most of all, tell your friends and invite them to the farm! Lots of changes are in the wind for this accidental country pastor and I would love to see where the Spirit wind takes this media ministry.
This morning there was a raccoon at the chicken coop trying to get its paws inside, reaching for them. Luckily, I chased it away.
But once a raccoon has found its rural vending machine, it will come back eager to select a treat — or two or even five (the number of chickens I have). There’s not much you can do to safeguard your chickens.
The more I read about raccoons, they are smart little bastards — able to open doors, unlatch latches, reach in through wire fences and gnaw and chew on a wing or leg of a still alive chicken. The latter is actually a gruesome tale I read on one of the many chicken chat groups I frequent. Ugh. That is definitely a sight I do not want to see.
My neighbor lost all 10 of his young chickens last week. Bits and pieces were left behind, as well as the hearts, which were eerily placed in a ritualistic-looking circle. “Raccoon,” was all he could mutter to me without breaking down in tears.
My writer’s mind began narrating this spooky little story into the pages of a still unwritten manuscript I have been toying with about a young pastor stumbling upon an 18th-century homestead — that seemed to be calling for her — only to discover ghost children roaming its rooms, calling out, “Pastor, welcome home.”
The story is actually inspired by an old 18th-century saltbox house I had purchased as a new pastor moving into a rural community. The day I closed on the property and officially received the keys, I discovered in an overgrown corner of a pasture headstones from the early 1700s. There was also a shuttered window banging on the upper level of the garage one day soon after I moved in. The noise was so annoying that I ventured in the wind and the rain and climbed the rickety ladder to the loft to secure the window. It was then I noticed a child’s tea set laid out in front of the window. The hair stood on my neck. I felt like an intruder. Or maybe I wasn’t? Maybe I was supposed to be at this poltergeist playdate. “Pastor, welcome home…” (Cue spooky music now.)
Turns out, the previous owner of the saltbox had a side gig as an antique dealer. Thus, the old children’s tea set in the loft.
But I digress. Back to the raccoon.
The carnage the raccoon left behind was horrific, my neighbor said. We then just stared at the now-empty coop, both of us offering a holy, silent blessing to life — and its fragility.
I then heard him speak softly, sadly: “Watch out for your flock.”
Today, a raccoon showed up at my coop. My girls won’t be running freely today chasing bugs or inhaling worms. Sorry, ladies.
It will be a miracle if my chickens survive the summer. Luckily, I do believe in miracles. I also believe in God’s strength to help me face whatever I will need to face if said miracle turns into a massacre.
(And no, I didn’t take this picture. I was not lucky enough to capture such a funny photo.)
Friends, there won’t be a Sunday video this weekend as I am taking some time to catch up on projects, tend to the garden and chickens and — after the latest news coming from our government — I am taking time to be still and soak in all of God’s healing grace that I find in the chirping of the birds, the cackling of the chickens and the robust bellowing of the cows (watch the video for the backstory on this!).
It’s also my birthday weekend…well, my birthday is June 27. Still, my husband knows how I like to milk my special day. It is special. And as I get older I realize this more and more. I also realize how meaningful it is to remember someone’s birthday (more on this, too, in the video).
To be remembered … to know we are loved … to feel our gifts are seen … our voice is heard … isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that what makes this world a better place? So, thank you all for remembering my birthday. I know I am not the greatest at returning the favor, but this year as I blow out the candles on the cake, I will vow to become better at remembering.
Many of you know that I love all things 18th century — food, music, architecture and clothing. In fact, for two years I have been working on sewing by hand an English round gown that would have been worn in the Colonies between 1760’s-1770’s.
I found a period-correct pattern and researched the correct material, including a cream colored under skirt with a quilted pattern. Of course, any authentic dress would only fit right with the right underpinnings. And so, I found a wonderful 18th-century reproduction company and ordered a shift and stays. Stays were a corset that laced up tightly to flatten the bosom and narrow the waist. The look of that time was a conical shape for a woman’ torso, with emphasis being on big hips and butt. So I had to order a bum roll, too. Then came the shoes, buckles, stockings, garters, cap and ribbon.
I began this dress right as the pandemic hit in the early spring 2020. And today I finished it. Not bad for someone who doesn’t follow directions well and is not a seamstress. It was a lot of fun learning about how dresses were made. For example, the pleating in the back was often fodder for petty gossip among women because if your pleats weren’t perfect, word would get around. I also had to figure out the inset of the sleeves. I kept wanting the shoulder to hit on top as our modern-day shirts do, but these 18th-century sleeves were not aligning to what looked correct to my 21st-century eyes. Then I realized, after some research, that 18th-century sleeves were set further back to pull a women’s shoulders back to give her better posture. Who knew?
As I was filming to show you the finished product, something terrible happened — so I thought. I was in the yard calling the chickens. All of sudden they were clucking like crazy. A big commotion. I was confused. Two hid in the deep thicket beyond the fence. One froze in place screaming. It all happened so quickly. I didn’t see any predator, but clearly there was one among us. When things settled down, three chickens hid, clearly frightened. One made a mad dash back to her coop. I looked around and realized PotPie was missing.
I looked at the video as the camera was still rolling when this happened, and the last I saw of PotPie she was running from the lilac bush toward the overgrown raspberries up a ways.
It was so sad. It happened so quickly. All afternoon, I kept looking out the window for her. Nothing. I had accepted that she was gone. But then my husband came home from work and the first thing he asks when he came into the house was why was there one chicken outside of the coop running around it in circles? What? I had securely locked them in the safety of their run in the coop. I ran outside (in my petticoats!) and saw that PotPie had come home! I was so relieved — and stunned.
What a day it has been here at Old Stone Well Farm! Of course all this commotion had to happen when I was dressed head to toe in 18th-century garb. I wonder what those passing by in their cars thought as they watched me running around, searching for my chickens.
Well, here’s my finished dress…and a look at the excitement as a day in the life of an accidental country pastor.
The wild roses all around Old Stone Well Farm are beautiful, reminding me of bridal bouquets. Yes, June is a month of weddings — and anniversaries — and I can’t help but to remember how God answered my prayer for love in my life. But beyond that, I can’t help but to be awed as to how great God’s love toward us is. I invite you to take time, pull up a chair, sit back, have some sweet tea, lemonade or an iced coffee, and spend some time with me here in Vermont. And please take some time to like, comment — even subscribe to Old Stone Well Farm’s YouTube channel (that is, if you feel so moved.) 😉
Old Stone Well Farm is a fledgling ministry, one in which I do not know where God is taking, but this I know: I love sharing this life of faith with you, I am comforted to know I do not journey alone, and I look forward to sharing with you my little piece of God’s beautiful creation.
Ever wonder where you truly belong? I have, and I have always been in awe of those who followed their hearts and chose to be in the world but not of it. My recent trip to Amish country in Pennsylvania reminded me of people like this, as did my time exploring the Ephrata Cloister in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.
So come and join me here at my Vermont farm as I ponder some more — and share with you some of the music composed by the Ephrata Cloister.
(Sorry for a shortened time together … and my brief words to you today … I am sadly dealing with a sick chicken and my heart is just breaking. Trying hard to keep it together and focus on all the editing, writing, gardening, sewing, baking bread, etc. that I have on my plate.)
The winds were blowing here in Vermont, making Pentecost even more of a reality for me. As I watched the tall grass sway in my back pasture and laughed wondering if my chickens would take flight, I thought about the power of the Holy Spirit that God sent to his followers. It, too, came like a rush of mighty wind.
But as I think about how the Spirit empowers us to do incredible things, this year, I think the most incredible thing we can do is to speak more words of kindness. And, yes, that will indeed take help from God’s Spirit.
So, come. Join me. Feel the Pentecost winds and then have a seat as I share one of my many finds from last week’s trip to the Ephrata Cloister in Pennsylvania.
A slight delay with this morning’s video. Wifi isn’t great out here among the Amish. But I share with you some thoughts this day as I invite you to come and join me at an 18th-century cloister where I found some peace for my rattled soul. Enjoy! I am now off to get some scrapple for breakfast! Blessings!
Yes, only I would go foraging in Vermont for fiddleheads and ramps on one of the hottest days in May. But I have been feeling out of sorts lately and so what better place to lighten a heavy heart than in nature? Well, as wonderful as God is, I didn’t get fiddleheads and ramps. Rather, I got a basket full of God’s surprises, and a reminder how I need to “forage” for more of God when I am feeling low. What about you? What are you in need of this day? Let me know and let’s be prayer warriors for one another. Now, grab your basket and let’s forage!
Woke up feeling…not sure how to describe what it is that I am feeling. Tired? Sick? Depleted? Heartbroken? Anxious?
I look at the grass glistening with dew. The birds are singing. The humidity captures and accentuates the smell of lilacs. The scent is almost suffocating. I don’t recall the lilacs ever smelling that strongly.
How is it that I am surrounded by such peace and beauty and yet I still feel…Tired? Sick? Depleted? Heartbroken? Anxious? (Perhaps I am feeling all of these things?)
Two horrific shootings in our country over the weekend — yet again. Two acts of violence that capture how sick we as a people are. My prayers for those grocery shopping in Buffalo and those attending church in California feel hollow. I am numb. And yet, I need to focus. I have stories to write. I have stories to edit. There are magazine deadlines that cannot be missed.
But it is hard to get to work today. Hard because all that I do today seems trivial and silly compared to the great pain, the endless tears and the broken hearts of those grieving today.
I cannot believe we are living in a world where we risk our lives going to get groceries, going to school, going to church, going to…wherever.
I want to retreat further into the woods. Go off the grid. But that is not the solution to the world’s pain and suffering.
And so I find myself sipping my coffee with tears streaming down my face. I have deadlines to meet. I have stories to write. The world’s love of productivity prods me to get on with my day.
My reply to the world, “Really? Get on on with the day?” Is “getting on with our day” the way we heal a broken world?
When do our hearts ever have a chance to heal anymore?
There seems to be no reprieve from horrific news. And each headline, each senseless death, each act of hate, rips off the tender scab that began forming on our tender hearts.
All I have left inside of me is a tired, broken whisper: Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
May God’s mercy wash over us this day and may our bitter tears flow into deep streams of grace.
It’s been a busy time for me and, as many know, I struggle with taking time off. But I have, and I didn’t realize how much I needed it.
What about you? When was the last time you tossed your “to-do” list aside and took time to marvel at God’s beauty all around? The sunning shining, the birds singing, the heavenly scent of lilacs blooming…take that time today. Make that time now.
Spend some time today with me as I share with you one of my favorite places from my childhood — the Wick Farm in Morristown, NJ. On a cold, rainy May day I get to explore, pray and ponder — and enjoy a few God moments, like meeting the friendly park ranger who welcomed me into the old 1750 house and shared a tale about a horse. As a Presbyterian pastor, I also learned the Wick family had Presbyterian roots! What God moments will you have today? They all begin by listening to our Good Shepherd and following where he leads.
On this third Sunday in the Easter season, I’ve been thinking a lot about new life and the resurrection of dreams. If God makes all things news, then why do we hesitate to embrace that newness?
A question for today: Are we grabbing our nets and returning to waters we know or are we going to listen to Jesus calling out to us to cast those nets into new waters.
So come, join me here in Vermont for a time that I pray will inspire, comfort and fill your heart with Easter faith!
And if you would like to join me for some traditional in-person worship, I will be in the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church in Broadalbin, NY, this morning at 10 a.m. Live stream on the church’s FB page@Broadalbinfirstpresbyterian.
I invite you to join me for live worship on April 24 at 10 a.m. ET as I lead worship in person at First Presbyterian Church in Broadalbin, New York. It’s a wonderful little church, great hearts and people eager to serve God in so many ways.
You can join the worship at First Presbyterian’s Facebook page (Facebook@broadalbinfirstpresbyterian)
We will still also have time together at Old Stone Well Farm. The video will be up and running Sunday morning. And so, click below for your invite.
Easter Sunday was quiet this year. Being a “free-range” pastor (I have been inspired by my chickens to dub myself that) I didn’t have the Holy Week and Easter Sunday responsibilities my friends had. There were no multiple services to plan, sanctuaries to decorate with flowers and plastic eggs to fill with candy for the children.
It was quiet, and that can be a good thing — especially when your soul is thirsting for peace in a world filled with noise, strife and sadly, violence and hate. It is in the quiet where you can do nothing but listen to your heart speak its deepest desires. It is in the quiet you can hear Spirit’s wisdom softly howling in the wind that blows through the gaping windowsills of my 18th century house. It is in the quiet I feel the presence of the Risen Lord speaking his beautiful post-resurrection words, “Peace be with you.”
Yes, peace be with you. With me. With the world. Yet there can be no peace if we do not put healthy boundaries around all the ceaseless activities and demands filling our lives. There has been much talk lately about work-life balance, but what about work-life AND faith balance? What are we doing to nurture our relationship with the Divine?
I think that is why I welcomed a quiet Easter Sunday — even when its celebratory dinner was a bag of stale chips and a wilted salad because I didn’t expect I would have a problem getting a last-minute restaurant reservation.
I didn’t mind, though, because Easter is not a day. It’s not even a season leading us to Pentecost’s mighty rush of Holy Spirit wind. Easter is an invitation to a new life and a new way of living that life. To live with hope — always, and in all things. Hope amid failed plans. Hope amid missed opportunities. Hope amid betrayals and heartache. Hope in the promise of seeing those we love again in the great by and by.
Easter Sunday gives way to Easter Monday and then Easter Tuesday and Easter Wednesday, etc. For those who are not of the Catholic faith, there is officially the eight days of Easter. This time is called the Octave of Easter, and each day a mass is held and the Glorias are sung and the Alleluias are shouted. Scripture readings focus on the various appearances of the Risen Lord, reminding us that he is alive and, as one of my friends likes to say, “Jesus is on the loose!”
The Octave of Easter is rooted in the great feasts found in Hebrew scripture, where many Jewish celebrations lasted for eight days. The Octave of Easter ends on the second Sunday of Easter which in the Catholic Church is known as the Sunday of Divine Mercy.
My Protestant Reformed upbringing has never included the Octave of Easter in any liturgy or even conversations. The closest I ever came to celebrating the Octave of Easter was honoring Easter Monday. My father is Swiss, and I remember growing up hearing how in Europe, Easter Monday was observed with a day off. That intrigued me, especially as I wondered why we here in the states returned to work the day after Easter Sunday. It seemed that we celebrated the Risen Lord and then the next day forgot all about the life-changing opportunity we have been given in his resurrection. It just seemed wrong. Even now, this focus on a one-day Easter Sunday celebration seems “off.”
In my own work circles, more emphasis is placed on extended time-off during Christmas, with Easter getting just a nod. This year, on Easter Monday, friends I knew arrived at airports as the crack of dawn so that they could gather for weeklong church meetings. Other meetings, like a weekly 8:30 a.m. Monday meeting, went on as usual. Easter seemed quickly forgotten. I, though, chose to embrace the profound holiness of Easter Monday that I have discovered exists when you choose to live — not just observe — Easter.
I lit a candle, poured a cup of coffee, spent time in prayer and then went for a walk in the woods. During my walk, story ideas to write came. Ideas for future Old Stone Well Farm videos filled my mind. I felt my steps quickening. I felt lighter. Joyful. Hopeful. I was excited about this day and the ones to come. I also pondered what a friend wrote on Facebook that I found so beautiful. She said that “Easter Monday was like breathing in a deep breath of Resurrection power.” I paused on the muddy trail and drank in a deep breath of that power. It felt good.
It was then I realized something: Could all this busyness after Easter be because we really are afraid — or hesitant — to accept Easter’s invitation to a new life because that would mean doing things differently, thinking differently, acting differently…and “differently” is not what many people want, is it?
As for the pushback I receive from valued friends when I bring up a more monastic way of doing business, with their insistence that there is so much work to be done, I ask gently, “Who then are you truly seeking to glorify with all the busyness and Zoom meetings? Self? Others? Or God?” (In the corporate world, I know my views will probably have me crucified.)
I’m sorry, we have no availability for Easter dinner for two. We are booked.
I thanked the hostess on the other end of the phone and turned to my husband and smiled, “Oh well. We will have our Easter dinner another time.”
He smiled back. He understood.
Easter is every day if we only dare to say “yes” to a new and risen life. Now take that deep breath of Resurrection power — and live.
Happy Easter to all from Old Stone Well Farm! It’s a special day, one where I find hope amid despair, life in the face of death, and remember that God is holding each one of us. I also invite you to join me on Sofie’s Hill on this Resurrection Day for a beautiful sendoff for Rev the cat. (More on the timing of his farewell in the video! Talk about a God moment!) It is a joy to have you with me on this day!!! I would love to hear about your Easter God moments. Email me at accidentalcountrypastor@gmail or watch the video on YouTube and leave a message.
The holiest days leading us to Easter are here and I spend the day making a Swiss German soup known as Seven Greens Soup. Traditionally served on Maundy Thursday, the soup features seven greens, which got me thinking about Jesus’ seven last words spoken to us from the cross. Come and ponder with me these words as well as Jesus’ mandate to love one another. Let us journey toward Easter together — and bring a friend as well!!
What better way to spend Palm Sunday than at the church where I hear God speak the most powerfully to me — nature. It’s on a cold, rainy trail where thoughts of legacies, palms and my redeemer, got me wondering: What do I really need in life? So let’s usher in Holy Week together. Join me. I promise you won’t get wet like I did. I pray our time together will be a blessed time. (Oh, and there was a little surprise during filming. Something that I wonder if Rev, the cat, had something to do with? A little smile from heaven?
Getting ready for Palm Sunday at Old Stone Well Farm and realized just how not ready I am. Ever find yourself in a season where all your best laid plans got changed? Perhaps, when this happens, it is God’s invite to us to really be open to something new. Or perhaps it’s just an invite to stop “doing” and just be. So, won’t you join in this short time together to just “be”?
It’s April’s Fools Day at Old Stone Well Farm and my chickens played a joked on me that involves one of their eggs!
So I invite you this day, to take a few minutes, press play and listen to how after I got done laughing, their joke got me thinking about the season of sadness I’ve been in and the need for self care. And let me know if you have ever had the experience I have had. I’m learning so much about chickens.
(And a reminder, I will be off this Sunday and so no worship video, but please go to YouTube and make your Sunday an Old Stone Well Farm rerun day…or marathon!
Go to YouTube and type in “Donna Frischknecht” in the search and you will see in the library 156 videos! I will be honest, there are some I really should take down. Wow. Old Stone Well Farm has and is always evolving!)
Need a smile? Need encouragement? Need to feel the love and grace in your lives again? Then let’s “run” back to where we will find wholeness again. On this fourth Sunday in Lent we ponder the parable of the Prodigal Son with a little help from Rembrandt, Henri Nouwen — and some cute little piglets! Enjoy your time in Vermont at Old Stone Well Farm. Comment, share…and let me know your answer to what brings a smile to your face.
Take a midweek break here at Old Stone Well Farm Vermont as we awaken our senses to God’s beauty all around us. I spent some time practicing centering prayer the other day and discovered things I would have missed if I was not fully present to the divine. Like an interesting critter in a tree and a beautiful tiny feather on my path. Can you spare a minute or two to center your prayers on God and God alone? Imagine what you will see.
The second week in Lent begins at Old Stone Well Farm and I find comfort on a cold, snowy day wrapped in a prayer shawl and thinking about chicks, mother hens and how comforting it is to think of God as a protective hen that I can run to when feeling down or lost. Who do you turn to when feeling down or lost? And I am curious, what’s your favorite image of God? Come, join me at the farm. Like, comment, share! Blessings!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. — Isaiah 55:8–9
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that when we feed the hungry, we are indeed feeding him. Yet, how do we define “feed”? Is feeding a free church meal? Is it a food pantry in the church basement? Is feeding one of those micro pantries set up on the church property that allows 24/7 access for those who are hungry?
At the heart of all these questions is the most important one: How do we get to the point where free meals, food pantries and micro pantries are obsolete? How do we eradicate hunger? Perhaps we begin by looking at the systems in place that keep folks hungry. What if national grocery chains didn’t pick locations for stores based on profitability, but real need? For example, many rural areas are labeled as food deserts — places where healthy, affordable food cannot be found. What if lobbyists didn’t advocate for corporations that perpetuated food waste? What if, after cleaning up a free church dinner, the faithful sat down and asked, “Is there more that can be done?”
A young college graduate asked just that when returning to his rural community. After noticing perfectly fine vegetables and fruits left in the fields, he asked for permission from the farmers to glean the fields and take what was collected to area food pantries. When we began noticing those who really needed the fresh produce were not showing up — the elderly who could no longer drive to the pantry — he asked, “What more can be done?” He secured a generous grant to buy a van and began driving into the area food deserts. His veggie van became a healthy version of an ice cream truck. And while no ditty or catchy tune played announcing its arrival, the van nevertheless put a smile on the faces of those it would bless. One young man was eradicating hunger, and it all began by asking, “Is there more that can be done?”
Creative God, your ways are so much better than what we can ever imagine. As we seek to live the vision of Matthew 25, help us to let go of all our preconceived ideas of what serving you entails. Open us up to new ideas. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
In what creative ways is God asking us to feed the hungry? As Isaiah notes, our ways are not God’s ways. This day, think beyond the ways the hungry are traditionally fed. Is there a veggie van in your future? Or is there a gleaning ministry waiting to be born?
When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled. — Matthew 14:14–20
The little community I served as pastor had a tradition of an ecumenical Lenten lunch. Each week, a church would open its doors to others, welcoming all to a big pot of soup, accompanied with a midweek prayer and reflection.
I walked into the kitchen the day my church was hosting the lunch. The air wafted with the comforting smell of stock simmering with vegetables. I peeked into the pot, wondering what kind of soup it was. I was told it was “Stone Soup.” The kitchen crew laughed as I looked to spot the stones. Stone Soup, I was told, is from a European folk story in which hungry strangers convince the people of a town to each share a small amount of their food to make a meal that everyone enjoys. By each person sharing what they had, what individually seemed meager soon became a substantial, filling meal.
As I poured ladles of soup into bowls, I gazed at the items floating in the broth. There were potatoes from one person’s farm, carrots from another’s garden and onions from the family with seven children who had begun attending church. There were big chunks of chicken from the guy who lived on a lonely dirt road who would butcher the chickens of those who just didn’t have the heart to do it themselves. It was then I realized that together we can all truly be fed. Together, no one would go hungry if we willingly shared what little we have with one another.
God, open our eyes to see what little we think we have is just a piece of a grand, blessed banquet — that is, if we are willing to trust you and let go and share. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Make Stone Soup
Here’s a recipe to get your Stone Soup started. Consider asking friends to contribute to the soup. Make a larger batch and pour it into Mason jars, attach a Scripture verse or prayer and then share them with others.
4 cans (12 ounces each) chicken broth
4 medium red potatoes, cut into eighths
1 yellow summer squash, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup frozen cut green beans
1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
1 can (12 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups salad croutons
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
In a Dutch oven, combine the first eight ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10–15 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
Stir in the chicken, beans and barley. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10–12 minutes or until the vegetables and barley are tender. Add tomatoes, heat through. Serve with croutons and cheese.
Thursday | March 10
The hunger of those who feed us
It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops.
— 2 Timothy 2:6
I never thought much about where my food came from. I never thought about those toiling to break ground for seeds to be planted. I didn’t pay much heed to how field workers spent hours hunched over in the searing sun and whipping winds, picking the berries that I would get to enjoy bouncing in the milk with my cereal flakes. I never thought about it until answering a call to serve a rural community. It was amid the stories of centuries-old dairy farms struggling to survive, the contentious discussions on fair milk prices, and the hushed whispers about the many more migrant workers seen in a dollar discount store that I began seeing the bowl of berries bounding in milk differently. The more I heard, the less idyllic rural living became.
Hunger in the very places where food is produced is a reality that is hard to fathom. And yet, it is a reality that has become ever more acute. According to the hunger advocacy group, Feeding America, Covid has exacerbated hunger, especially in rural areas known for producing food for the masses.
In Vermont, where I call home, it is startling to discover the food inequities. Teresa M. Mares writes in a book released last year, “Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont,” that the Green Mountain state is “a place where migrant workers produce dairy products bearing the wholesome Vermont brand, even as they are often sustained by foods with little nutritional value.” She adds, “Where food is harvested, cooked, [and] served, there is someone working for too little and for too long.”
I look at the berries in my bowl. They are more than just breakfast. They are a gift given to me by someone has worked for too little and for too long. Now what can I do to give back to those hands that have gifted me with sustenance?
Provider God, help us to look beyond our full pantries and see the faces of those who work so hard for so little, so that we will not go hungry. May we remember that hunger in the very places where our food comes from is a growing problem. Open our hearts and show us how we can walk alongside the farmer, the migrant worker, the truck driver — all who are part of our food systems. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Think about the food you ate or will eat this day. Where did it come from? Who harvested, prepared and packaged it?
I have often found my energy — and faith — lagging midweek. So if you are having one of those weeks, or simply need a quick retreat into the Vermont woods with me (and Robert Frost!), then allow yourself a few minutes to step away from the news, from deadlines, from stress and worries. Renew your souls. Take a coffee break and escape to a quieter place and reflect on where God is leading you in this the first week in Lent.
If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. — Isaiah 58:10
“May I make you plate?” is a question I’ve heard in my life when I’ve been too busy to eat, too tired to cook, or even too low on cash for groceries, as it was early in my career as a magazine editor. Most of my entry-level paycheck went towards the rent of my studio apartment in Manhattan’s historic Murray Hill neighborhood.
“May I make you a plate?” always made me feel cared for. More importantly, though, it made me feel seen. Someone noticed my plight. Someone thought enough to reach out with a plate of food that would fill much more than a hollow stomach. Plates of food can be plates of love. They can also be cautionary tales of how we are misusing our abundance.
There was a church I knew that prided itself on the lavish banquet that they called “Coffee Hour.” Every week after worship, they would rush to fill their plates with hot casseroles and an endless array of cheeses and sweets. After a few months of watching this Sunday feasting, I realized this congregation’s love for food could become an opening for mission beyond the fellowship hall.
I began asking: How could they share this abundance with others? Could plates be made for the family whose children couldn’t wait to get back to school on Monday because then their weekend fast would come to end? Could a plate be made for the elderly widow who had to choose between paying a heating bill or buying groceries? Could plates be made for hospital workers working tirelessly due to a health system burdened by a pandemic?
The questions have yet to be answered. Their feasting continues. And so, I turn to you and ask, “Who can you make a plate for this day?” Who will be touched that you have seen them too tired to cook, too busy to eat or too financially strapped to fill their kitchen cupboards?
God, we thank you for the food that graces our tables this day. We thank you for all the times you have satiated our hungers. Open our eyes now to whom we might be able to “make a plate” for. Lead us this day to the one you want us to help. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
The hunger statistics are alarming as the global pandemic has put more pressure on food systems. Remember, those who are hungry might look like you and me.
How can we become more aware of those who are hungry among us? Who in your community can help you identify the hunger needs: school officials, social workers, or town officials?
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. — Matthew 4:1–2
Lent, the 40-day season to turn back to God and prepare for the miracle of Easter’s empty tomb, is the perfect time to explore a spiritual practice. As the first week in Lent begins, we will look at the traditional Lenten practice of fasting.
As we see in Matthew 4, fasting is a practice that helps strengthen our reliance on God. The grumbling of our stomachs reminds us of our prayer for — and provision of — daily bread. It also helps us connect to those for which hunger is not a privileged, practiced and temporary discomfort, but a harsh reality brought about by the many food injustices in this world. Fasting is not a “Christian diet” nor is it a way to be holier than others. Fasting is about creating a “hungering space” for Jesus to enter your lives.
As this week’s focus is on seeing the Lord in those who hunger, commit to a time of fasting. There are many ways to fast — not just from food. Here are some ideas:
• Make time this week for a partial fast. Choose a morning to refrain from food and use the time you would have spent on making breakfast to pray. Break the fast at noon. Or perhaps, make your fast be one that foregoes dinner.
• Fasting can be refraining from a certain food or drink that you feel you can’t live without. Did someone mention coffee? Chocolate?
• Fasting doesn’t have to be food centric. Try a social media fast or a fast from checking emails constantly. Perhaps use one day as a “No Electronics Day.”
Whatever you choose to fast from, and decide the duration of the fast, reflect on these questions:
• What cravings/addictions have a hold on you?
• What do you find the most uncomfortable about the fast you have chosen?
• What physical discomfort have you experienced? How does this connect you with others who are suffering?
• What have been some insights or realizations that have come to you from fasting?
No matter how you decide to explore the spiritual practice of fasting this week, remember you are not striving for perfection. If you give in and eat or drink something sooner than you had wanted, or checked an email after promising to log off, that is OK. Fasting is about making us more aware of creating a space in our lives to have more room for God to enter in. Fasting opens us up to our need for more reliance on Christ in our lives.
God of daily bread, this week in Lent, help us to enter the hunger of the world around us so that we become more aware of those who are standing in need of our help. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
I am entering into the Lenten wilderness today with some trepidation, sadness and joy. The world is broken. Rev, the cat, is showing signs of decline. A dear friend’s father is in critical condition having suffered a stroke. Writer’s block stresses the already-stressful deadlines on my calendar. The list goes on. Yet amid it all, I hear the birds singing. And don’t laugh, but I know spring will burst with new life soon as last night there was that pungent smell of skunk in the air! The little critters are out and about as the weather begins to warm up ever so slightly.
This Lent is beginning with a strong sense of change on the horizon. I don’t know what that change is, but I’m standing here knowing I need to put just one foot forward in complete faith in God who leads me.
So today I decided to be kind to myself — to be gentle and reevaluate my to-do list. Today I decided to begin this season with a new Lent tradition that centers my spirit and helps me to set my eyes to the hills where the psalmist proclaims our help will come. And I share it with you.
How is your Lenten journey going to begin? Pull up a chair and join me here at the farm.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. — John 13:34
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”— Matthew 28:19–20
I worked in a church that had a stunning stained-glass window of “The Great Commission,” where Jesus, before ascending into heaven, tells his disciples to go out into the world and make more disciples. Next to it was a window depicting another one of Jesus’ marching orders before leaving this world: Love one another, as I have loved you.
I never thought much about how the “command” and “commission” windows were side by side. That is until the day the rural congregation I served became a Matthew 25 church. (Matthew 25 is an invitation to the churches in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., to serve and love boldly as Jesus did.) The educated and well-off session members reviewed the three ministry focuses of the Matthew 25 invitation: building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty. Like many congregations who have seen numbers dwindle dangerously low to the “closing-the-doors” level, they zeroed in on vitality over eradicating poverty and dismantling racism.
All too quickly, building vitality began looking like programming to get people into the pews. My heart broke. I reminded them that Matthew 25 was not a program to save a church. Rather, it’s an invitation to die to self to save others. It’s about boldly living as the body of Christ, and that living begins with loving as Christ loves. “That means loving all the shoppers in the local Walmart that I have heard this congregation talk disparagingly about,” I dared to say.
When Jesus said, “Love one another,” he didn’t want lip service. He wanted love to be shown in our actions that would transform a community — and, thus, the world. We are at the beginning of our Lenten journey. There are still more weeks to tread all the rough and undesirable places Jesus has already gone. But it’s here that we take a spiritual stop to examine our hearts before venturing further. We must be honest and question our commitment to Jesus’ command and commission. “Lord, when did we see you?” we ask. And he will answer, “When you began loving as I have loved, you have seen — truly seen. Now go with that love in your heart and make disciples.”
All-knowing God, you see how often we speak about love and how rarely we show it. In this season of Lent, help us go beyond words. May the world see your love through our actions. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
What are the ways in which love can become a verb as you go about living this day?
I plan to post entries here on this page from the Lenten devotional I wrote for Presbyterians Today magazine. May these reflections enrich your journey!
Inheriting the Kingdom
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Ash Wednesday | March 2
Repent and believe
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return. — Genesis 3:19
Growing up, having foreheads smudged with burnt palm ashes was something my Catholic and Anglican friends did. We didn’t do it in the Congregational church of my childhood nor in the Presbyterian church I attended as a teen. Yet I was intrigued by the practice, mostly by how my friends seemed different once they sported smudges that looked more like abstract art rather than the crisp crosses they were meant to be. The brazen was subdued. The bully was quieted. The confident turned uncharacteristically awkward. It was as if suddenly the world could see their frailty. It made me relieved that I didn’t get ashes. I outgrew that relief, and now embrace Ash Wednesday’s somber reminder, echoed in the words from Genesis that accompany the ash crosses: Remember, from dust you come and to dust you return. Remember. We are not our own. We belong to God, and one day we will return to God.
There’s an alternate phrase that can be said when imposing ashes: Repent and believe in the Gospel. I prefer that to the mention of dust, for the “repent” spurs me to reorient my life and take seriously the Gospel’s message of love. And each year, as I feel the grit of the ash against my skin, I think of another cross once placed on our foreheads. The one that made us squirm and squeal as infants: the watery baptismal cross marking us as God’s beloveds. One day, our baptisms will be made complete at the time of our death. Till then, Ash Wednesday comes, reminding us time is slipping by. Inwardly we squirm. Silently we squeal. The smudge is made. The question is asked: When life is over, have I done my best to love as Christ loved?
Redeeming God, we remember this day the fragility of our lives. We remember that through all our days, we belong to you. May we return to you and learn this Lent to truly love the world you created. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
What would others say about how you have lived your life for Christ? How do you currently show the love of Christ to others? Where can you do better?
What do you need to let go of this Lent? How will you prepare your heart for all that God wants for you? Come to Sofie’s Hill in Vermont and join me as we remember that God is bigger than our little selves — and more forgiving, loving and kind. May we, who have been created in the image of God, reflect that to the world.
Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which ushers in the season of Lent, has traditionally been a day of preparation for the 40-day journey to the Easter. That preparation has included presenting one’s self to a priest to confess sins, also known as shriving, thus, the name for the day — Shrove Tuesday. It was also a time to clean out the pantry of flour, eggs, butter and sugar. And what better way to use all these items up than to make pancakes? Join me here at Old Stone Well Farm as we get ready for Lent together. And, yes, it involves pancakes!
Our Lenten journeys are about to begin! But before we enter into this season of discernment, join me in the kitchen at Old Stone Well Farm where a little butter churning reminds me of how moments of change are not just found on the mountaintops, but often right in ordinariness of life. A little cream turns into delicious butter, and all it takes is perseverance and prayer.
Before you take you seat at the farm table and pour yourself a cup of coffee and begin watching today’s message, I want to extend a thank you to the Rev. Sarah Bigwood who invited me to guest preach this Sunday at Southampton Presbyterian Church via video. Sarah is a pastor with vision and passion, and thinking beyond traditional pulpit supply is just one example of how she embraces the new thing God is doing.
So today, you not only join me at the farm, but you have other friends from Southampton at the farm table.
I am making hay while the sun shines. Well, more like burning last year’s palm branches outdoors to make ashes for Ash Wednesday, March 2, before a foot of snow falls down on me here at Old Stone Well Farm as the weather forecasters are predicting. So I am enjoying the sun and preparing for next week as we enter into Lent. As I do, I invite you to join me in not just burning the palms, but thinking more deeply how you will enter into this holy season.