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!
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.
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 email@example.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.
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.
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.
(Video is back online for those who wanted to share it or watch it again!)
Our Lenten Journeys Begin!
Thank you all for your patience in uploading today’s worship video. Rural internet is indeed my Lenten wilderness to deal with. Vowing to find the God moments amid the frustrations. What can I learn from this? Hmmm…perhaps to trust in God’s timing?
I will search and grapple to find a solution to high speed internet, but for now, that can wait. What deserves my attention (not just now, but always) is praising God. So join me here at the farm on this the first Sunday in Lent.
Scripture Lesson: Mark 1:9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Today’s worship, Feb. 21, will be delayed. I am experiencing internet glitches here at Old Stone Well Farm (ah, life in rural America). But that is not going to stop us from worshiping!
Let us embrace this time of waiting as a Lenten spiritual practice. Light a candle and meditate on the words from Psalm 25:4, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.”
Then turn to Mark 1:9-15, our Scripture for today, and think about the wild beasts you confront in the wilderness and how reassuring it is that there are angels in the wilderness to wait on us. Spend some time reflecting on this picture below which is an outtake from the worshi that is still only 45% loaded even though it’s been loading from more than 13 hours. 🙂 Who have been the angels by your side?
(On a side note, while frustrated that the video loading process is slower than molasses, I do have to admit that this could be a God moment about trust, patience and slowing down. Stay tuned.)
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;with you I am well pleased.”And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Today is Ash Wednesday. Our Lenten journey begins. I invite you to find some quiet time today to join me from my 18th century farm in Vermont and reflect on this day.
Reflect on our need for forgiveness. Reflect on just how fleeting this life is and how much time we spend wasting the precious time we have been given.
Reflect on God’s great love for you. There is a time to impose the ashes as well. If you don’t have ashes, find some dirt (that is, if you aren’t in an area covered with snow or ice!). Or even get a little bowl of water or oil to make the sign of the cross on your hand. If you don’t have anything, simply tracing the sign of the cross on your hand is powerful in itself.
Share with others as it is my hope that many will truly enter into this Lenten season, searching more deeply for God and drawing every closer to Him. Blessings!
Scripture Reading: Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right[b] spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing[c] spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
It’s Valentine’s Day at here at Old Stone Well Farm in Vermont, and in a world lacking in love and lacking in hope, we find our hearts renewed by remembering God is always giving us something to hold on to as we see in the Scripture lesson of Jesus’ transfiguration — a divine spectacle that confused and dazzled his friends. Little did they know it was the very thing they would need to keep the faith when walking the valley of life’s challenges and strife.
So, pour yourself a cup of coffee or brew some tea and spend this special day with me. And for those who like trivia, we begin with how Valentine’s Day came to be. And keep on the lookout because Rev. (my cat) also makes an appearance.
Blessings, Pastor Donna
Mark 9:2-9 NRSV
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,[b] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
The season of Lent has traditionally been a time to give up something, to deny ourselves that which gives us pleasure, such as chocolate or binging watching TV. In my time in ministry, I have seen the 40-day penitential season, that invites us to walk with Jesus to the Good Friday cross, focus less on denying and more on “giving” of our time, treasures and talents to others.
This year, though, as the season I have so often embraced approaches — it has always been a time for me to go deeper into my soul searching and listen more attentively to the Holy Spirit’s hopeful whispers in my ear — I find myself just wanting to give up. Not chocolate. Not binge-watching TV. Not on anything that can be labeled a gluttonous sin. Just GIVE UP. Period. I don’t even want to do the painful soul searching that has always led to new life come Easter morning.
Before anyone suggests that I call a suicide hotline, I am not talking about giving up on life. Well, maybe I am — in a way. I am ready to give up on the life that I see so many being sucked into — including me. It is a life that has me concerned. It is a life where even brothers and sisters in Christ are so quick to spew forth their opinions without concern if they are valid or not. It is a life where we seem to take pleasure in accusing others of cheap grace while all the while throwing around unmerited condemnation.
If someone disagrees with someone there seems to be no space for grace for that differing viewpoint. If someone is deemed as not doing enough to dismantle racism or address system poverty or dares to remain silent when it comes to a controversial issue, they are all too quickly labeled as part of the problem in society.
I am not saying that there isn’t any work that needs to be done. There is a ton of work to do when it comes to building a beloved community where there is a place at the table for all and where everyone has a chance to speak and be listened to. But in working towards that beautiful never-ending banquet table, something is going awry. And I wonder?
Does anyone else see what I am seeing? Am I the only who is noticing that the never-ending banquet table where all are invited to pull up a chair is becoming the very table that we say we are trying to dismantle? Don’t sit near me if you disagree with me or worst yet take your chair and go create another table of like-minded people.
Voices are being silenced out of fear of retribution or out of fear of being misunderstood or out of fear of being mislabeled. I hesitate to name some of those labels for fear of the very thing I write — fear of being slammed or shunned. Is this fear healthy? No. It isn’t. It makes me wonder how many people with good hearts are deciding to opt out of the fight for justice all because the lack of grace and mercy we are seeing at that very table of grace and mercy we say we want?
As Lent approaches I find myself feeling like I just want to give up. And Sunday’s Super Bowl’s almost made me do just that. I will admit, I didn’t watch it. It’s just not the thing in my household. But the next morning, when I saw on social media outlets of those who are Christian leaders slamming Bruce Springsteen and the Jeep commercial as an example of white supremacy, I thought more seriously about a cabin in the woods and off the grid. I am not defending the commercial. Not at all. After watching it, there was many things that could have been done differently and many things that should have been edited out, like the cross and flag mingling together. (Don’t get me going with why the American flag has no place in our sanctuaries. I will be more than happy to engage in a healthy conversation about that another time.)
What rattled me the most, though, were not the creative decisions from some ad agency trying to sell more Jeeps. What rattled me were that the critiques from Christians on social media had an edge to them. The critiques seemed laced with judgment. One such writer mentioned how the very use of the phrases “common ground” and “meeting in the middle” were white supremist codes.
Really? Because I still believe in trying to find our commonality. I still have hope of not exactly meeting in the middle, but in at least trying to walk towards one another so that we find that point of connection. What I read didn’t lead us in walking toward the other. Rather it made the distance between us even greater.
Social media critiques have become dangerously toxic, doing the very thing we say we don’t want done: Keeping us divided. As one openly evangelical blogger who weighed in on the Jeep Super Bowl debacle said: The commercial revealed the most disturbing thing, that is even our divisiveness is divisive.
I guess what bothered me was that there wasn’t anything constructive in the criticisms flooding social media outlets. It was simply bringing up all that was wrong with the commercial and how Jeep failed and how Springsteen needed to repent, etc. (By the way, the need for repentance is constructive, but not when it is done with a finger pointing at someone.)
This Lent was beginning to look like one in which I just wanted to give up. I was ready to tell my husband when he came home from work that we would be moving into the woods and off the grid because civilization has lost its civility. It was Diana Butler Bass, a writer on American religion and society, though, who saved my husband from a life without Netflix.
It was Bass who restored my faltering heart. And she did so with a thoughtful and constructive critique on the Jeep ad. It didn’t condone the choices Jeep made, but it didn’t attack the company either. It brought up the many marks the company missed and did so in a way that wasn’t laced with venom. It was edifying. It is an example of how to dialog — and disagree — with grace and mercy.
Grace and mercy. Hmmm. Perhaps grace and mercy are the very things we have lost, the very things we have chosen to give up somewhere along the way on our faith journeys? Perhaps they are what we need to restore in our lives this Lenten season. Grace, yes. And especially mercy.
Ann Lamott defines mercy in her book, “Hallelujah Anyway” as compassion, empathy, a heart for someone’s troubles. She also writes that mercy is something we find in the most unlikely places, “never where we first look.” If we keep looking for mercy among those in the church, I am afraid, by the things I see on social media, that we might not find it right now. We might have to look elsewhere.
For those who are interested, here is the link to Diana Butler Bass’ Jeep ad rebuttal.
I’ve started to plan my garden here at Old Stone Well Farm. It gives me hope to think about new life bursting forth from the ground while my garden beds are still covered with snow.
But as I was planning, I thought about Paul’s words to the church in Corinth and began thinking about a thing call “companion planting” where some plants grouped together actually help one another thrive. What would happen if we really were companions to one another, really helping to bolster each other rather than tear down? What was Paul really saying when he said he can be all things to all people? And why does it matter to hear his words today? After the week I have had (many weeks in fact) I found Paul’s words so revealing.
Today’s message is straight from the heart and I share some of the struggles I have been going through. I share some thoughts about how we treat one another, especially on social media, and how we can move forward in this world being companions to one another so that we can flourish rather than wilt and wither away.
Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
Today we observe the church celebration known as Candlemas. Candlemas, observed on Feb. 2, was traditionally the end of the Christmas season. It marks the 40 days after Jesus’ birth, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be presented as according to Jewish customs. Thus, this day is also known as the Presentation of the Lord.
Since Candlemas was also a time when folks would bring their candles to the pastor to be blessed, I spend the day here at Old Stone Well Farm trying my hand at making candles. It’s not easy — and it takes a lot of patience. As I made the candles, I thought about the patience of Simeon and Anna who waited in the temple patiently for many, many years, praying and praising God, hoping to see for themselves, with their own eyes, God’s salvation.
How patient are you? Especially when waiting for God to reveal the hope and the light you are seeking? Let us worship together!
Our Scripture lesson for today is from:
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.