I recently officiated a beautiful wedding of a beautiful young woman who I knew as a young girl at a church I served. (Boy, do I feel old.)
The setting on top of the hills in Vermont was magical. The weather was perfect. But it got me mulling something over.
There’s a growing trend for non-church weddings — or even ordained clergy officiating. Rather friends getting online approval to officiate a couples’ big day is the “in” thing.
I wonder what impact if any will this non-church wedding trend have on our commitment to one another, and our commitment to God.
We are called to prayer for one another, in good times and bad, in “sickness and in health.” Here at the farm, I hold each of you who visit me in prayer — even though we hav not met one another physically. You are family. Remember that. And if you ever find yourself standing in the need of prayer, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Come to the farm and spend some time with me as I tackle Proverbs 31…yes, the one about a capable wife. But really, this isn’t about wives — or women — but about all of us. How do we live our lives? Do our daily tasks give God glory?
I’ve been reading about the lives of Colonial women and found it interesting what was written on their headstones when they passed. It got me thinking, with Proverbs 31 in mind, what would be my epitaph? What would be yours? How are we living for Jesus this and everyday?
On a personal note, I have been praying and discerning life here at the farm. No, I am not going anywhere, but I have been thinking of new ways for us to meet and support one another. So if you are blessed by this fledgling ministry, drop me a note. What do you enjoy the most? What do you need to bolster your walk of faith? I would love to know.
Till then, blessings and peace!
A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. 15 She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. 22 She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.
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I’m currently reading, “The Unknown American Revolution” by Gary B. Nash. Lately, my passion for all things 18th-century has spilled over to hearing the stories from those often overlooked in history: the housewife, the enslaved, the Indigenous, etc. I am only a few pages in and already I have had the experience of underlining many sections and saying out loud as I read, “yes…oh my gosh…so true.”
The tagline of the book calls the birth of democracy “unruly” and a “struggle” to create America. I can’t help but feel we are recreating America and the struggle is real — and unruly. I had such an unruly moment in the rural church that I serve part time. Yes, you read correctly. Unruly and church in the same sentence.
Some context here before I talk about this unruly moment. The church I serve doesn’t not reflect the community it is in. The congregation is white, retired and mostly wealthy. Many are summer members who come to enjoy their lake homes in the Adirondacks. When I first came there as pastor I began opening my eyes to see what mission we had as a body of Christ. After church one day, I made a trip to a Walmart in a neighboring town. It was then I realized something startling. There were people in the store that didn’t look anything like those who sat in the pews that morning. I turned to my husband and said I had my work cut out for me. Here is where the church needs to be, I said, with my arms outstretched in the Walmart parking lot. My husband looked at me and replied that if I began getting the real community coming to the church, I would no longer have a job as pastor. “They don’t want to be a church. They are happy with their club,” he observed. I refused to believe him. But a few years later, with many a sermon preached on feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, welcoming the stranger — even daring to say the “p” word (privilege) and dipping my toes into the race issue — I am tired, frustrated and sad. Do I continue to preach to what seems to be deaf ears? Am I wasting my time there?
Then yesterday happened. The unruly moment in the brewing revolution of trying to recreate a little rural church. I had just finished preaching on James’ words of how our tongues can be a horrible weapon. I talked about the words we use and how the phrases we have grown up with can be hurtful as many of them stem from slavery. I have even caught myself a few times, now realizing that saying “low man on the totem pole” was not the right appropriate. I found it fascinating to learn of the genesis of the words we use and, if it was changing my heart, well, maybe another heart would change.
Our worship had moved to the prayers of the people. It was then a member raised his hand and stated he wanted to ask a question of me. “Why are they trying to erase my history?”
“They” who? “Erase” what history? What is really going on with this member?
These were the questions swirling in my head as I began formulating an answer that would be pastoral. But when I didn’t answer quick enough for this member, a surly smile came across his face and he said, “It’s okay. You don’t know.”
Oh, but I do know. I do know the condescending male attitude towards a woman in power. I do know that insecurity and fear behind that question. And I knew that I wasn’t going to stand on that chancel of a church and use my position of power to tout “answers” or boast of “what I know” because I know too many people like that, and it is not glorifying to God. Rather, we are to seek wisdom from above.
I am not sure all that I said, but I said a lot. I went into “our” (white) history and how it is not being erased but that it is time for the other voices that have been silenced and silent to be heard. For me, it’s all about enriching our histories. I then said something I never thought I would say behind the lectern: “God sent his Son Jesus to this messed up society to challenge the status quo…to upset the apple cart. And it seems to me too many Presbyterians are fighting to upright that cart and get the apples back in. Well, my friends, the apples need to roll.”
In that moment, I didn’t see a member of church being unruly. I that moment I saw the depravity of the world we are living in now. I saw the depravity of our churches. I heard my husband’s prophetic words, “You can’t change a church culture that doesn’t want to change.” I realized, too, it wasn’t just church culture spending so much of its time putting apples back into the cart. It was everywhere.
It was an unruly day in the pulpit. But there was a moment of grace I had to chuckle over later as I went on my prayer walk and listened to the choir of crickets praising God, inviting me to join their praises. Thank goodness, I thought, that this little church had not been quick to embrace live streaming, because my rebuttal to this member probably would have gone viral.
With lots of acorns on my running path, one caught my eye. It was a “wrecked” acorn. As I picked it up, I remember what Hannah Whithall Smith, an 19th century evangelist and author once said: A mighty oak can only grow from a wrecked acorn.
As the 20th anniversary of 9-11 had me retreating from the world, I held that acorn and wondered what mighty and beautiful things can grow out of the wreckage in our lives? I wondered, too, what do we really need to remember from that fateful day two decades ago.
Perhaps, we need to remember the love and the compassion that we showed one another — a love and compassion that seems to be missing today.
May your time at Old Stone Well Farm be a blessing to you and to all you share this video with.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters,[a] for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature,[b] and is itself set on fire by hell.[c]7 For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8 but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
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I learned something funny as I attempt making an 18th-century English round gown by hand. Women were often judged by how perfect the pleating was on the back panel of the gown. Well, if you look closely at my back pleats, they are far from perfect. So, in praise of imperfect pleats, I invite you to Old Stone Well Farm as I ponder James Scripture lesson about how we are so quick to welcome those dressed well or displaying wealth (did anyone say perfect pleats??!). How can we really see beyond what we see? How can we really reach out to all?
James 2:1-4; 14-16
2:1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?
2:2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in,
2:3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,”
2:4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
2:14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?
2:15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,
2:16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?
A new season is upon us. I’m not just talking about fall (I know, I know it isn’t fall yet…still I have picked my pumpkins and the apple tree is heavy with fruit)! It’s a new season at Old Stone Well Farm Media & Ministry as today I launch midweek meditations called “Chore Break at Old Stone Well Farm.” This time together is a time to slow the rush of the week and find a space to recenter, reconnect and turn our eyes back toward Christ. And so, enjoy!!!