Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

Open the Doors

I love old doors. There’s just something about the warped wood, rusty hinges and black iron latches — that often fail to work — that captures my imagination. Maybe I love old doors because they remind me of the primitive houses I loved to explore as a child while on family vacations to historic 18th-century stomping grounds.

If I close my eyes, I can easily be transported to one such trip where, as a little girl so enthralled with the farmhouse that is known as the Wick Farm in Morristown, New Jersey — where General Washington and his troops encamped one harsh winter — I can hear the creaking as the door swings open. I can see the dust swirling in the streak of sun that breaks into a low-ceiling, windowless, timbered wall room, with a huge cooking hearth that perfumes every nook and cranny with a dense smoke from the dying embers that big black kettles hang over. I stand in the threshold of two worlds. The modern one I know and the ancient one I want to know better.

Today at the farm, we will take a look at one old door. A locked one that kept Jesus’ friends trapped in a world they knew — a world of fear, doubt and uncertainty. Yet beyond that door was light and love and new God possibilities. What can we learn from that first Resurrection evening? How many doors have we shut and locked all because fear overtook faith? What is the threshold you are standing in today? And where is God inviting you to step?

Let us begin our time of worship together. The video is ready for you to press play. Make sure to watch to the end as I have an announcement about next week and a challenge for you to participate in.

Blessings! Pastor Donna

John 20:19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Easter at Old Stone Well Farm

He is Risen! He is risen indeed! Welcome to Easter worship here at Old Stone Well Farm!

I invite you to join and watch the sunrise with me at Merck Farmland, just overlooking Frederick Buechner’s home. I then go to an 18th century cemetery nestled in the rolling hills of the Green Mountains to ponder the angel’s announcement to Mary, “He is not here.”

And, as promised, you will discover why this year I dyed some of my Easter eggs red.

It is a joy to worship with you. Share this special worship with others on this Resurrection Day — or any other day in Eastertide, those awe-inspiring 50 days leading us Pentecost, where God’s Spirit descends upon us!

Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.[a]

Holy Week Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Join me for a snowy Holy Week here at Old Stone Well Farm in Vermont. This time together is a simple gathering based on a Tenebrae service. There will be time to listen to Scripture, reflect and, as the story progresses, candles are removed, representing the growing darkness of betrayal and abandonment as the cross draws closer.

Before watching, create a sacred space for yourself. Find a comfy chair. Have a mug of soothing tea. Light your own candles and extinguish them along with the video. However you might watch, though, be ever mindful of the love God has for you — a love that went all the way to the cross, and a love that we will see never dies.

Yes, it’s Good Friday. But Easter is coming! If you enjoyed this time of worship, please share on YouTube and subscribe so that you never miss visiting Old Stone Well Farm!

Blessings, Pastor Donna

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Palm Sunday: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

There’s an old saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Yes, the month is a transitional one, where winter gives a mighty punch or two before the season of spring appears, bringing with it new life. No one really knows where the saying originated, but one of the earliest citations is found in Thomas Fuller’s 1732 compendium, “Gnomologia; Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British.” I like the saying. It is better than other sayings of old such as, “so many mists in March you see / so many frosts in May will be.”

The other day as March’s cold wind was chased away by warm sunshine, I thought of lions and lambs, transitional months, the dead of winter giving away to spring’s new life. And I thought about Holy Week, which this year ushers out the month of March and heralds in April. I thought of how Jesus came in like the lion of Judah, greeted by the roar of a starstruck crowd waving palms and shouting, “Hosanna! Save us!” By the end of that week, Jesus — our sacrificial lamb of God — is on the cross.

I stumbled upon this picture the other day and it captivated me. When thinking of Holy Week in light of March’s famous saying “in like a lion, out like a lamb” I couldn’t help but to think of Jesus as the lion of Judah and Jesus as our sacrificial lamb. Take a moment and reflect on the picture. Notice how the lion brushes up against the young woman with earnest, almost pleading eyes. And then notice how carefree and playful the little lamb is. What thoughts/feelings/insights come to you?

Palm Sunday has arrived. We are at the beginning of a week called holy which, if we fully enter into it, will have has walking more slowly, thinking more deeply, feeling more intently, praying more feverishly. As we walk this week with Jesus ask yourself, “Who is this lamb of God for you? Has the depth of his sacrifice changed your life? Could we, who have been invited to die to self all Lent, make such a sacrifice for others?”

May you find not only courage and strength on your Holy Week journey, but may your eyes be opened to all the God moments. Blessings!

Scripture Reading: John 12:12-16

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Waking Up

On a chilly first day of spring, I spent my morning collecting pussy willow branches and putting them in water so that by next week, Palm Sunday, they will have fully bloomed.

Why am I doing this?

I invite you to click on the video and join me at Old Stone Well Farm in Vermont on this fifth Sunday in Lent to discover the pussy willow tradition along with the folklores that have been shared over the centuries about this tree.

But beyond folklores and traditions, this tree, which is the first tree to bud in the spring, is our invitation to wake up, to see the divine all around — to see Jesus, as we hear in John’s Gospel. And friends, pass the blessing along to others.

Share the link so that more will be invited to see the God moments all around!

Blessings!

John 12:20-26
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus. “Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Little Things Matter

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It’s the little things that matter the most. We have heard this saying before, but how often do we do those little things for others? Better yet, when was the last time you were the recipient of a “little thing”?

I didn’t realize how long it has been since I have been the recipient of one of those meaningful little things, until today. Before I share with you, a little background here.

It’s been a long, hard winter for me. I’m not just talking about how the ice, snow and cold have been holding my dear little community in Vermont hostage. It’s been long, hard winter in many ways beyond seasonal weather patterns.

The upheaval and uncertainties of a yearlong pandemic have been tiring and unsettling. Is it just me or have you also missed being able to see the smile of a stranger that you pass by on the street? I have always been one to nod and smile, but with mask wearing those smiles are gone. I miss them. I miss how a simple exchange of smiles could be a healing balm for your soul.

If the pandemic wasn’t enough, I have found all of the political banter and political correctness tiresome. I pray that my liberal friends won’t attack me for that sentence. But I can’t be alone in feeling this way, can I? I can’t be alone in feeling that whatever I say or do, it just isn’t right. I can’t be alone in my hesitancy to share how I feel for fear I will be labeled, misunderstood or unfriended. I find myself wondering if in the conversations for justice, if anyone will ever acknowledge that there is the danger of exhaustion and in that exhaustion comes exasperation and in that exasperation comes the very real desire of just giving up and walking away from trying to make the world a better place.

I know I have reached my limit — and broken down in tears out of sheer exhaustion and exasperation — when the Scottish bakery I have ordered from to receive scones and meat pies announced that its hot cross buns would no longer feature a cross made of icing on top of them. Out of respect for those who are not Christian, the cross has been removed from the bun. If you do want a cross, the company is more than happy to include a recipe card with your order as to how to make the icing and put the cross on the bun yourself. I have no words. I am dumbfounded. I am tired. Who would have thought a hot cross bun would push me to the point of enough?

It’s the little things …

I sit here pondering when I should be working. I don’t have the luxury for this. I need to be productive. But here I am pondering how I have chosen two careers/callings in life where I risk criticism for the things I say, do and write. I have chosen livelihoods that bring me to the frontlines of having to deal with navigating pandemics, talking justice and discerning the effects of a bakery’s decision to remove an icing cross from its seasonal buns that have been a tradition in many households, like mine, during Lent.

As a writer, the inner most parts of my heart find their way into words and are then sent out into the universe to be read, embraced, misunderstood, challenged, etc. It is an extremely vulnerable position to put yourself in, especially when lamenting about hot cross buns.

And then, on top of that, I said “yes” to the call of being a minister. I don’t even know where to begin describing what leading God’s children is often like. Think unruly sheep, Moses in the wilderness (worship around a golden calf, whining about the dinner menu that features only manna), etc. There are blessings, too. But they are far and few between. Rather, you hear more about how you have failed as a pastor because you didn’t offer a Zoom Bible story time for children, even though your congregation has no children at all. Not to mention, even if we did, children, I believe are overloaded with Zoom offerings and should really be outside in nature rather than in front of a screen.

Don’t misunderstand. I love what God has called me to. I am in awe that I have been tapped to use my love for writing to point us to the divine, to give God the glory, to tell the stories of Jesus’ redemption in our lives. It’s just many days your vulnerability is abused. Many days the sheep bite. Many days it seems the only letters people take time to write are the ones highlighting what they disliked or disagree with. And then there comes the day when the confectionary cross is removed from your hot cross bun.

So when I get a picture of a Presbyterians Today reader so excited to get the magazine that I edit, well, it is like a God hug. It is a thoughtful act that brings with it the warmth needed to begin melting my long, hard winter. It might seem insignificant, but it’s not.

Keris Dahlkamp, a youth director in a Presbyterian church in California, and Amy Young, hold up the magazine I edit. They were excited to get the issue and shared that excitement with me.

Yes, it’s the little things that matter the most. What little thing have you done today that might just mean the world to someone? Let me know. I will enjoy hearing from you as I nibble on a bun that can still be called a hot cross bun.

I still prefer my hot cross buns with an icing cross on top of them.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Crocus Hunt

The snow is melting at Old Stone Well Farm and signs of spring are slowly emerging. Yet my Lenten journey has not been what I had wanted it to be. As I share with you today, it has been one of busyness that has crowded out quiet prayer time.

This past week, though, I had a few God moments that came on all days — March 11 — the year anniversary of the start of the nation’s pandemic lockdown. I was searching for signs of hope and on that day, God did not disappoint. I won’t give it all way, but I will give you a hint: It involves crocuses.

And so, let us join together in a time of worship. And may you find yourself always hunting for crocuses. Blessings!

Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous[c] serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

John 3:14-21
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

Third Week in Lent: A Change in Perspective

We are half-way through our Lenten journeys and the question I have for you is, “How are you doing?”

My Lenten walk has been a bit challenging — struggles, realizations, ah-ha moments, and dare I admit, some deep soul searching. It has been a bit overwhelming. Good, but overwhelming. The other day, in fact, I felt as if I needed a fresh perspective. I needed to change things up in order to get my creativity back.

So I rearranged my office. Not an easy task as you will hear in our time of worship together. But it got me wondering, “What if a change in perspective is needed when it comes to our faith journeys?” What if we become deadened to the God moments all because of the same path we take, the same view of Scripture we embrace that we were taught as children, the faith things we do by rote. What if, in order to truly see what God is inviting us to, we need to change our perspective?

And so, join me at Old Stone Well Farm (and in an office that is in disarray) as I ponder this with you. As for that question, “How are you doing on your Lenten journey?” I would love to hear. Reply here or send me a message at accidentalcountrypastor@gmail.com.

Today’s Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

A Lenten Cross

There’s a special place there on my fledgling farm. It’s called “Sofie’s Hill.” The hill is named after my Bernese mountain dog who died two years ago in March during the season of Lent. It is a place where we used to climb together and sit gazing at the view below. It is here I sprinkled her ashes when the first snow of the season fell. She always loved the snow. And it is here I continue to make the climb, although a lonely one now, to sit and ponder life. I invite you today to join me on Sofie’s Hill as I especially reflect on the words of Jesus when he said to his friends that to truly follow him you must take up the cross. What does taking up the cross look like in our lives today? How do these words have the power to change who I am and how I live?

May your “climb” today bring a new view on your Lenten journey.

Blessings,

Pastor Donna

Mark 8:31-35
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.