Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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The corn is ripe and fall colors are beginning to appear here in Vermont. Join me today as I share some “kernels” on Jesus and the forgiveness he talks about in Matthew 18.

As we prepare for worship, take time to reflect quietly on the Scripture passage for today.

Matthew 18:21-35

1 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

If My Rhubarb Can Thrive

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By Donna Frischknecht Jackson

I didn’t think the rhubarb I planted would survive — let only thrive. But much to my surprise, thriving is what they’re doing. The plants have been through a lot. Season after season they have been ravaged by pesky beetles. There has been many summer mornings, as the fog hung low in the valley and my feet squished through the tall grass wet with dew, that I would tend to the rhubarb, pulling the insects off as they happily chomped lacelike patterns into the leaves.

The abundance of rhubarb that I cradled in my arms was more than just future pies — the stalks were God whispers, reassuring me that I, too, can thrive. — Donna Frischknecht Jackson (Rupert, Vermont)

As I did, I would gaze at the scenery around me, allowing a surge of gratitude to distract me from the squeamishness of touching the insects. In those moments, I couldn’t help but be in awe as to how God was guiding me, answering a childhood prayer to live on a farm in New England.

My husband reminds me that I can’t call our Vermont home a farm if we don’t have outbuildings or animals. In my mind, though, I see the vision. I see the possibilities of what can be. I see the goats. I see the chickens. I see the pond. I see the cherry tree. I see it.

I will admit, though, that lately that clear picture of a farm is fading with each passing day. Darn those passing days. They seem to be sprinting past me, eager to get to the year-end finish line. I’m not ready for the race to be over. I have a dream inside that has been waiting for far too long to become a reality.

But for the first time in my life I find myself wondering could it be that some dreams ought to remain just that: Dreams never to see the light of day? Dreams that I will never know how God intended for them to be born and bless the world?

I wonder what happened to “Donna the risktaker”? What happened to the girl who challenged naysayers and took all those “no’s” as a challenge to be proved wrong? What happened to the person who would say to all those impossibilities looming before me that all things were possible if I only believed?

My dreams seem to be withering, but my rhubarb is thriving.

This morning I harvested the last of it for the season. By the time I was done, I had two armfuls full of green and pinkish-red stalks, some averaging more than 16 inches long. My first thought was what was I going to do with all of this rhubarb? There are just so many pies one can eat. There is just so much rhubarb jam, relish, sauce that one can consume.

The decision to plant rhubarb wasn’t because of my love for it — nor my husband’s. He won’t eat anything with rhubarb in it, thus, why I worry about all those pies as I turn my attention to how my jeans are fitting.

I planted the rhubarb really for my dad. I remember the stories of how rhubarb pie was one of his favorites that his mom would make when he was growing up on a farm in the Swiss Alps. The picture this brings to mind is so bucolic. But I bet there were beetles to pluck off the leaves as well. I bet there were days of clouds. I bet there was a time or two when perhaps my grandmother wondered how to slow down those days sprinting by as she harvested her rhubarb.

As I walked back to the house, I found myself cradling the abundance of rhubarb in my arms. Cradling the stalks because in that moment they were more than just future pies. The stalks were stories of a Swiss grandmother making pies on farm surrounded by snowcapped mountains. They were that aching in my heart to see my parents again as COVID-19 has kept us apart for months — them in New Jersey and me in Vermont. They were a vision of a farm that I once saw so clearly that now seemed to be slipping away. The stalks I cradled were God whispers, assuring me that God was still nurturing me, plucking off all those pesky self-doubts and negative messages of the world that keep chomping away at my dreams.

My rhubarb is thriving. And so will my dreams.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

And we are uploaded! Enjoy this time of worship…as this country pastor will now head to the big city to get a new computer that has more juice. It seems my little laptop can handle all of the big plans God has for it. 🙂

Today’s Scripture is from the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 18-15-20

15 “If another member of the church[a] sins against you,[b] go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.[c] 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Well, it seems God is trying hard to get my attention. What are these delays trying to teach me? What are the glitches all about? As frustrating as the technical difficulties I have been having are — this is another Sunday where the system is very slow in loading the worship video — I have to try to search for the lesson. Could I reframe my situation and see these glitches as God glitches? What about you? How do you react when things just aren’t going smoothly? Or, worse yet, when everything seems to be broken or falling apart? I am realizing we have two options — we can crumble or we can rise above the trials, the problems, those oh-so frustrating moments in life.

I remember a devotional from years ago that had a huge impact on me. It was talking about the hard work of waiting for God to work in our lives. It said that if only we could see that a delay in life was not a denial of a treasured prayer. Rather, the “delay” was God’s way of working things out most beautifully — beyond our wildest imaginations.

So what is this delay once again in Worship at Old Stone Well Farm teaching me? Not sure. But I will try to learn. I will see what God is trying to say to me. I will search for what on this path of ministry I might be missing in which God is saying, “Look. See.”

And so, as I get ready for traditional in-person worship this morning, I ask for your prayers. But I also invite you to reflect on all those times in your life where the delays weren’t denials at all. They were all part of God’s ultimate plan for us.

Stay tuned. (And here’s a teaser…today’s worship focuses on Matthew 18:15-20.

Blessings,

Pastor Donna

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Well, we are finally here together to worship! Apologies for the technical glitches this morning. While my nerves are frazzled, I am seeking the God lesson is this delay. And what I have come to realize is that perhaps this delay is opening us to a new spiritual discipline — that is, breaking out of the habit of thinking that worship to God is on a Sunday morning only. Perhaps this is making us carve out another time to take a moment to hear God’s word and praise Him outside of Sunday? Just some musings I have as I regroup from this technical nightmare. (Did I mention my nerves are frazzled? Darn thunderstorms in rural Vermont…or perhaps, those darn chipmunks chewing on wires!)

But enough about that. We are here together virtually and even amid delays and glitches, God is at work, God is with us, God is guiding us. And so let us praise God together!

Today’s Scripture is from Romans 12:9-21:

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;[b] do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[c] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

As you read the Scripture, think about what it means to show “genuine” love to all. Where is God asking you to be more loving?

Blessings and peace!

Pastor Donna

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Summer seems to be winding down. The nights are getting cooler here in Vermont and I returned back from vacation to a few leaves turning color on the trees as well as two round, orange pumpkins in my garden. Yes, summer is winding down, but there are still rays to soak in and God moments to be found on the beaches of North Carolina.

Today’s worship is from the Outer Banks, where a lesson in riptides gets me thinking about how important it is to surrender to God and to trust that when jostled around in life’s waves, all will be well if we remember that old saying, “let go and let God.”

Our Scripture to meditate on today is:

Psalm 138:3-8

When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.
May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great.
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.

Till next week, blessings to you all.

Pastor Donna

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Today’s worship will not be at Old Stone Well Farm in Vermont. Why? Because I have finally done it. I have forced myself to step back and take a real break that involves (after this morning’s note to you) a time to turn off social media and toss the to-do list.

I will be trading the crisp New England mornings running on the trail behind my 18th century home for North Carolina’s soft white beaches and humid mornings. I will finally be making a dent in my tower of books, vowing to finish at least four by the time my break is over. And I will be taking prayer walks — many. I will be allowing my heart to listen to the pounding of the waves and ponder God’s power and majesty. I will observe the gracefulness of the seagulls as they swoop in for their breakfast of fish. I will once again allow my breath to be taking away by the Creator’s artistry as God paints for me sunrises and sunsets.

And so I invite you to join me where ever you are. Join me in reconnecting with God and practicing this day a spiritual discipline — those ancient and holy rituals that our desert mother and fathers, the great mystics and countless ordinary folks like me and you to slow our racing minds, ease our frantic steps, sooth our worried hearts, and reconnect with the One who matters most in our lives — God.

I invite you to go on a prayer walk. Pick a piece of scripture or even a word, and as you walk, pray on it. I invite you to practice the discipline of lectio divina (divine reading). Choose a Scripture read it through first. Then read it again more slowly. Then read it, taking note of what words or sentences draw you in. Then reflect on them. Pray on them. If you are visual, then I invite you to practice praying with art. Find a picture or a landscape that mesmerizes you and gaze with eyes seeking the holy. What do you see? Or join me on the beach. Yes, join me.

Here is a picture just steps from my hotel room. Imagine your feet in the sand with me. Imagine hearing the waves. Imaging standing with me in prayer. Imagine lifting our voices as we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” … Lord God, almighty; early in the morning, our song shall rise to thee…

As I worship today, please know I will hold you each in my prayers, praising God for this community He has brought together. Until next Sunday. Blessings and peace to you!

Pastor Donna, the Accidental Country Pastor

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Only believe…all things are possible, if you only believe…

Who’s ready to get out of the boat and dare to believe that you can do all things in Christ — and with Christ?

Today’s worship is by the water…not an easy task to find a spot not filled with people on a sunny summer Vermont day, but I did. Before we worship, though, let us take a look at the Scripture lesson for this Sunday.

Matthew 14:22-33

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,[a] for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind,[b] he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Now think about where you are right now in your walk of faith. Are you eager like Peter to meet Jesus out on water? This would mean, though, that you have to get out of that boat. Or are you afraid and hesitant to take a risk? Let me know. I would love to hear from you and hold you in my prayers.

Blessings, Donna

The Pumpkin and the Bee

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By Ken Rummer

Ken Rummer captures beautifully the connectedness of Presbyterians in his blog. After seeing the picture I posted of a pumpkin in my garden that surprised me (I have a brown thumb and really had no hope for anything to grow), he was inspired to share this beautiful story with me on how often we fail to see (or realize) the grace in the seemingly mundane work we do right in front of us. And now he shares it with you. Thank you, Ken, for your guest blog on Accidental Country Pastor. I am blessed to be in the ministry of writing with you!! — Donna

The pumpkin is bigger than a softball now, in dark green with a few warty bumps. It’s something of an accident.

Last fall, when our porch pumpkin sagged into mushy flatness, I carried it out back on a shovel, and deposited it, without eulogy or ceremony, behind the garage. Mowing near the place this spring, I was surprised to find four or five leafy stems sprouting from a pile of pumpkin seeds.

Note: Credit for the pumpkin picture goes to Presbyterians Today editor, Donna Frischknecht Jackson. Seeing this photo in her Accidental Country Pastor post (FB@DonnaFrischknecht/AccidentalCountryPastor), I flashed back to a story I wrote for the Adams County Free Press in 1997. Here is that story, tweaked, trimmed and fully refurbished. Enjoy. — Ken Rummer
Note: Credit for the pumpkin picture goes to Presbyterians Today editor, Donna Frischknecht Jackson. Seeing this photo in her Accidental Country Pastor Facebook post, I flashed back to a story I wrote for the Adams County Free Press in 1997. Here is that story, tweaked, trimmed and fully refurbished.
Enjoy. — Ken Rummer

I figured I should pull out all but one to get a stronger vine, but I didnʼt have the heart. So they all kept growing. Across the yard. Out toward the alley. One even grew up into the forsythia bush, clear to the top.

Large green leaves and striking orange flowers grace the vines, and on one I recently discovered a growing pumpkin, the green one I mentioned earlier. I’m hoping it makes it all the way to big and orange.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and frost, some of it bad for pumpkins. But it would be nice to see the offspring of last yearʼs porch pumpkin promoted to this year’s jack o’ lantern.

I keep looking for other pumpkins-in-progress. Turning back the leaves with my foot. Checking the places the flowers have been. So far, I havenʼt seen any.

I did notice, in one of the large Victrola-horn flowers, a bee. It was busily doing its bee thing, climbing around inside the flower, slurping up flower juice, and buzzing in an important-business-being-done-here-leave-me-alone sort of way.

I imagine if you were to ask the bee, “What are you doing?” the bee would say, ”Making honey.” At the top of that beeʼs to-do list you would most likely find, “Make Honey,” and at the end of the day, the bee could check it off. “Made honey.”

But for a few minutes in our impromptu patch behind the garage, that bee was also making pumpkins. Leg hairs loaded with pollen, dropping a little off at each flower along the way, that bee was making pumpkins.

Now I donʼt want to get into an argument about which is the more important work, making honey or making pumpkins. That depends to a certain extent on whether you have a hankering at the time for pie or for biscuits. But I am thinking about that bee, working hard to make honey and along the way making pumpkins, too.

I wonder what important things God might be doing along the way while weʼre busy doing something else. I’m thinking about the interruptions, the chance encounters, the strangers, the people who watch from a distance, the folk who are around us all the time.

You and I, in Godʼs scheme of things, may be doing some important things in this world while weʼre busy with what we think of as our main work. And we may not even know weʼre doing them.

Itʼs a grace and a wonder, the way I see it. Like the pumpkin and the bee.


Ken Rummer, a retired Presbyterian pastor, writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. His other posts are available at http://presbyterianmission.org/today/author/krummer