Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

Your Epitaph

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!

Proverbs 31:10-31

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.

Click on the YouTube video below to start playing.

Let the Apples Roll

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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.

My friends, let the apples roll.

The book I am currently reading. If you are interested in history, I recommend this.


Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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The Wrecked Acorn

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.

James 3:1-9

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. 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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 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. 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! 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] For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.

Click on the photo below to start playing the video.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

In Praise of Imperfect Pleats

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?

Chore Break: The Butter Churn

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!!!

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Wash Day

What do I do on my staycation? I write, pray and do the wash the old fashioned way. Come and join me. I promise you won’t have to tend to the fire to keep the water hot. But I will ask for you to get comfy, light a candle, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and hear the word of God speaking to you today. Blessings!

James 1:17-27
New Revised Standard Version
17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[a] 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
19 You must understand this, my beloved:[b] let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves[c] in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Tilting at Windmills

Well, I am packing up and getting ready to return to Vermont. And so, a short greeting to welcome you to this week’s time together as we ponder those imaginary giants that we battle with in our lives. Are you tilting at windmills? It’s time to turn our eyes away from the things that drag us down, and look at all the God possibilities that are in our lives. See you next week back at the farm!

Blessings, Pastor Donna

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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An Eye on Tomorrow: A Special Southampton, NY Edition

Toto we are not in Kansas anymore…or Vermont. This Accidental Country Pastor in Southampton, New York, guest preaching for the Rev. Sarah Bigwood of First Presbyterian Church in the village of Southampton.

While some come here for the beach, the high-end shopping and great restaurants I, of course, find myself exploring the area’s rich 17th-century history — and houses. Yes, I am in my glory to be surrounded by many houses built in the 1600s.

But exploring these old houses got me thinking about past generations and generations to come. More importantly, what are we building for tomorrow? Are our eyes on eternal things as 2 Corinthians talks about? Or do the actions we take and the decisions me make, based on material gain and comfort?

Come. Join me for a special edition of worship in Southampton. And make sure to watch the end, as I share a funny behind the scenes story.

Blessings,

Pastor Donna

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Breaking the Swiss Bread Together

Happy Swiss National Day! August 1 is a big celebration in my family. It was in 1291 that the Swiss Confederacy was formed. Here at Old Stone Well Farm, I invite you to join me for a traditional Swiss breakfast of bread, cheese and jam as we explore Jesus’ words when he said that he is the bread of life. (The chickens make an appearance as well!) As always, thank you for coming to the farm. Enjoy. Share. Be blessed!

Mark 6:25-31,35

 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.