I am getting the hang of gardening — slowly. And while my 18th-century kitchen garden is not quite yet the picture of the one in my dreams, the way it is thriving this year amazes me. It also makes me smile. But it’s not just the abundance of acorn squash or the pumpkins and corn that fills me with joy, it is the many God lessons I have learned through toiling in the soil.
I invite you join me for my morning walk through the garden as I share with you the flowers, herbs and vegetables that are growing. And I will tell you why I have kept a garden bed — or two — empty.
It’s been a cold and rainy summer here in Vermont, but I had a task to do: I wanted to inspect the chicken coop and begin getting it ready so that I can move my chickens into their new home. With the weather being on the damp and chilly side, though, I think that move will be delayed another week or so. I want to make sure the chickens are cozy.
But as I was in the coop, I couldn’t help but notice the peace and joy that began filling my heart. It had been a stressful week with writing deadlines, pending projects and, of course, the unexpected death of Fricassee. I am not sure what happened. A few chicken experts I spoke to didn’t seem too sure either. They concluded what a novice chicken farmer really doesn’t want to hear. That is, sometimes a young chicken will die for underlying health reasons we will never know.
The stress and sadness of the week, though, began fading away as I cleaned out the cobwebs and a hornet nest or two in the corners of the coop. I began thinking of the bright tomorrows God holds in His hands. As I sat inside the coop, I felt as if for a second I had escaped the pressures of the world. I felt a like a little girl in a playhouse, sneaking away from doing her chores and relishing in dreaming all the incredible possibilities of “when I grow up.” I also felt a stillness that was healing.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus invites his friends to come to a deserted place and rest. I found that rest in the coop. Where will you retreat to renew your Spirit? Will you accept Jesus’ invite?
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
While I might not have a huge open hearth to cook over in my 18th-century home, it hasn’t stopped me from dabbling in the art of primitive cooking. I’ve always been a believer that if you dream it — and begin living into the dream — that whatever you envision will come true.
And so, with the absence of an indoor hearth to cook over — and much to my husband’s chagrin — I have been purchasing the tools I need for that dream to materialize someday.
The Dutch ovens are piling up in the kitchen, as are the various sized copper pots to hang from an iron rod. I have the iron spoons, spatulas, forks and ladles, all with long arms to prevent me from getting too close to the flames, hanging near my non-operational fireplace. I’ve also added a slew of 18th-century cookbooks to my reading list. I’m enjoying learning just what a hoe cake is and how delicious it sounds to wash down a piece of cornbread with some cherry bounce or to serve some syllabub — a Colonial whipped cream concoction enhanced with a good amount of sherry — rather than pie for dessert.
For now, any primitive cooking is done outside over the fire pit. Perhaps that is a good thing, as a fire blazing amid centuries-old wood and crumbling mortar is probably not ideal.
For long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with cooking over a flame. There’s just something comforting about gathering around a hearth filled with the smells of food bubbling, broiling and baking over glowing embers. Two years ago, I stepped back in time, entering a village of 18th century homes to master the art of open-hearth cooking. For three nights, I lived without electricity and running water. I even slept on a rope bed that was topped with a mattress filled with straw.
Just a little bit of trivia here. The old saying, “sleep tight” comes from those rope beds as every night, before retiring, if you didn’t want to sleep on a sagging pile of blankets, you would have to tighten the ropes. “Sleep tight” was often followed with “and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Did I mention my “mattress” was filled with hay? Luckily, there were no bugs biting me.
So for three days I lived in another time. It was heaven on earth! There was another “early living skills” class going on in the printer’s shop the same time my cooking class was being held. Someone in that group had a fiddle. One night, I came out of the hot kitchen and sat on the cool stone step and listened to the sounds of music and laughter filling the air. Dusk descended and slowly the houses began coming to life with just the peaceful glow of candles and fires that were being lit within. I closed my eyes and smiled. This was how I wanted to live. I vowed when I came back to the 21st century, I would fill my days with more candlelight and homecooked meals over a fire.
That vow, though, quickly got broken as the demands of modern living tugged at me. Electric light filled my nights along with blue light from computers and handheld devices. And home cooked meals were replaced with grab and go cuisine.
Today, though, I have renewed my vow to live in the way that truly brings me joy. Today, I share with you my new Sabbath tradition. (They say sharing what you want to commit to is a good way of keeping that commitment as someone will hold you accountable…and so, who out there is going to hold me accountable?)
Rather than having a traditional Sunday dinner, which has also fallen by the wayside for so many families, Mondays will be my 18th-century cooking day. This will be my day to turn off the computers, get the fires outside going and begin making a meal. That is one thing that struck me during my cooking class: The amount of time and energy it took just to prepare one meal. After breakfast was eaten, we didn’t have time to sit around. There was more wood needed to get the bread oven the right temperature if we would to have a meat pie for supper that night. And then there was one dinner in which we didn’t eat till 9 p.m. as the chicken in the metal reflector oven in front of the flames was taking longer than we had anticipated. And then there was the day we burnt the tops of all eight pies … but that is another story.
And so, it is still Monday morning on this the first day of my 18-century cooking Sabbath time. The chicken is roasting nicely. The fresh collard and mustard greens have been picked from the garden and are now simmering down with bacon drippings. Next on the list is to make the spoonbread sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg and to be cooked over the fire. The fire is being a bit finicky as some of my wood is damp from last night’s storm. But I will make it work. And if I am inspired, I might make a cobbler with the abundance of rhubarb I have.
Well, I would love to share more, but I have a fire to tend to. But I am curious to hear from you. How do you observe the much-needed Sabbath rest God invites us into? And, if not observed on Sunday, what day have you carved out to step back, rest and recharged your Spirit? (If your Sabbath involves cooking, send recipes my way!)
A special treat today. You get to meet Pot Pie here at the farm AND also have a chance to dip your toes in the ocean. Well, not actually dip your toes, but I bring you my special gull friend from North Carolina who reminded me of some important wisdom from above.
Yes, an interesting way to bring you today’s lectionary lesson on the beheading of John the Baptist. 🙂 I hope our time together is a blessing for you. If so, please share Accidental Country Pastor with others.
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
Filming for this time together didn’t pan out as I had hoped. It has been cold and rainy all weekend. Still, I was on a mission and traveled to Mount Defiance in Ticonderoga, New York, where in July 1777, British troops positioned their cannons overlooking Lake Champlain, pointing directly at Fort Ticonderoga, where the Continental Army was housed. I did manage to show you around for a little bit, until the wind began whipping and the rain poured down, sending me back indoors at Old Stone Well Farm. But as I drove back home, I began thinking.
In light of the scripture lessons we have for today, I found the name “Mount Defiance” butting up against what God really wants of us. We hear from Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10 who says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And then I was reading Luke’s Gospel where Jesus sends out the 12 to heal and preach. He tells them take nothing for the journey. Travel lightly and rely on the hospitality of others. Then we have Mark’s Gospel, where those who knew Jesus growing up, question who does he think he is to talk with such wisdom and authority. Isn’t he just a carpenter? Joseph’s son?
Weakness, relying on others, being judged because of where you come from…these are things Americans have fought hard to overcome. Yet, in weakness, God’s strength is great. By reaching out to others, relying on their grace and mercy, we get to see the Divine. And being judged by others, well, it’s time we begin looking beyond our limited vision.
And so, I like to wish you a “Happy Dependence Day,” dependence on God that is.
6 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Today’s my birthday —June 27! And I had such a wonderful gift when I visited a local lavender farm — Lavenlair Farm in Fort Ann, New York (www.lavenlairfarm.com). Not only was I treated to perfumed-filled fields of flowers, the owner and I had a conversation about life, faith, God and seeing the beauty all around.
She shared with me her struggle with the decision to open her farm to the public because her lavender fields weren’t the picture of perfection she envisioned. But as she looked around and smiled, she shared a bit of wisdom that I needed to be reminded of — perfection is overrated. I am so glad she opened her farm because my time in the fields was a time of healing and having hope restored. I will share more about my conversation with her that was filled with so many God moments in future blogs.
For now, come to the lavender fields as we delve into the healing story we have in Mark’s Gospel and ponder how we can all find healing if we only dare to reach for it.
Today’s Scripture Reading: Mark 5:21-34
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat[a] to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
I find myself moving a bit slowly this morning. Perhaps it is the wonderful afterglow of a much-needed vacation that has me not rushing around as I usually do. Or perhaps, just perhaps, the much-needed time away was my much-needed time to get back in sync with God, and my “moving slowly” is really me moving in step with the Holy Spirit. Whatever it is, this I know. I want this peacefulness to stick around.
What about you? How are you feeling this morning? Are you in step with God? Are you feeling the Spirit? Or has your list of things you have to do or want to get to nipping at your ankles like a yapping little dog?
This past week, as I sat on the beach listening to the waves, watching the sunrise and the sunset and chatting with my seagull friend, I realized how much we need to reconnect with the Divine and allow a heavenly timetable to direct our days. We really can do so much more when we hand it all over to God.
And so, I handed over my worries, my stresses, the looming deadlines awaiting me, the conversations with the insurance agent as my husband and I still deal with the aftermath left behind by a careless drunk driver who totaled our cars that sat in the driveway of our fledgling little farm — I handed all over to God, admitting that I can do nothing without Him.
The English mystic Julian of Norwich, who wrote “Revelations of Divine Love” in 1395, used to say, “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Yes. When troubles come. When rain falls. When our skies darken. When things don’t go smoothly — all shall be well. Why is this a truth we can hold on to? Because, God’s faithfulness is great. And yes, morning my morning new mercies we will indeed see.
As I pour another cup of coffee slowly and not rush to hit the rail trail for my morning run, but rather enjoy the chirping of the birds and really take notice of my flourishing garden, I invite you to this special vacation edition of our time together. Move slowly with me. Sit with me. And together, let us reflect on Lamentations 3 and think about the new mercies God is presenting to us this day.
Blessings! Pastor Donna
Lamentations 3:22-23 (New Revised Standard Version)
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom, fear and anger were the reasons that a gull’s life was so short, and with this gone from his thought, he lived a long life indeed. — Richard Bach, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”
I’ve been spending my week meeting up with a little seagull on my morning beach run here in North Carolina. It reminded me of a favorite book of my mom’s when I was a child — “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”
Whenever we went to the beach and a seagull would swoop in trying to snatch anything that would drop from our lunch — a piece of bread, a potato chip, a piece of crumbled cookie — my mom would wistfully say, “I wonder if that one is Jonathan Livingston Seagull?” Of course, the gull trying to steal our lunch wasn’t.
Anyone who has read the book, which was published in 1970, would remember that Jonathan was the gull not interested in his next meal. He knew there was more in life than chomping on chum from a fisherman’s boat. Jonathan wanted to fly higher than gulls thought possible. He dared to dream the dream he heard about from the mythical “Great Seagull,” who even to my young ears, I always heard as “God” instead. After all, didn’t God want me to soar to greater things?
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they see is limitation,” Bach writes in the book that sold over a million copies.
This week, as I find rest and healing at the ocean I find myself revisiting the wisdom and the lessons of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. What are my eyes really telling me?
Stay tuned as you will meet my seagull friend in a future “Worship at Old Stone Well Farm” video. (I am now turning off the computer and resuming my vacation!)
My friends, I usually write a preamble to our time at the farm, but I am not feeling very verbose. My husband and I had hardly any sleep last night. Our neighbors here in our once quiet safe haven have wreaked havoc on our property. Yes, the same neighbors I mentioned in last week’s video.
Well, after a full day of partying and heavy drinking, my husband and I were woken up to a crash. Turns out two friends/relatives of our neighbors were hammered and flew down our embankment and into my car, which rammed into PJ’s truck, which rammed into our house. Our lawn is torn up, our cars totaled. Both cars. I am a pastor whose church is an hour away. No rental company will come all the way to us with a car for us nor are any opened on a Sunday. So I miss out on work. And we were set to leave on a much-needed vacation after church today — a vacation to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary this week.
As of now, I am not sure what we will do. All I know is I am numb. I am sad. And so, prayers ascending. We will get through this.
I think about today’s Scripture, how Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…something so tiny that holds into a mighty shrub that produces branches for the birds. I talk about the little things that matter in life, how the little things we do make a difference. I wonder, though, why there are still so many people who live their life with no regard for anyone else? A drunk driver, who tried getting away last night, didn’t care what destruction he caused for another.
It was a long night. Complete with a 40-minute wait for the nearest State Trooper to come. Yes, in moments like this, rural living is not a joy. It was a bit alarming that there were no sheriffs around and that the nearest State Trooper was that far away from us. A helicopter was also brought in for the other passenger.
The little things make a difference in this life. I believe that. But now, I am finding it hard to plant a little seed of forgiveness for those who didn’t think about a pastor who needed to get to work today, a couple who were set to go on vacation, children of God who seek to live our life loving others…yes, I am struggling.
So I ask this day, you join me at the farm. Enjoy my 18th century bird bottles and how I have tried to make Old Stone Well Farm a place where the little seeds of faith will take root. I also ask that you hug your loved ones.