Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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It was rainy week here at Old Stone Well Farm, and this country pastor got caught in a downpour while out running in the woods. But a beaver who scurried into its lodge got me thinking…when in a storm, where do I find save haven? That’s when I thought back to a childhood memento that used to remind me where my safety and hope were…in the Lord.

And so, enjoy a crisp fall autumn at the homestead as I light some candles to chase away the darkness and share with you how my Shepherd has always guided me.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

An Advent Message: Isaiah 2

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Here’s the Advent wreath I made, featuring greens collected on my early morning walk along the rail trail behind Sofie’s Hill. The first candle of “hope” shines brightly. 

 

 

Day 10—A Christmas Prayer For the Children

A Little White Church Advent

Come on an Advent journey and walk the rural roads and snow covered paths with Donna Frischknecht as she shares stories of God’s promises being fulfilled in the most amazing ways. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during her time serving as minister in a historic white clapboard church in upstate New York, right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.

December 10

The other day while scrounging around a beat up cardboard box filled with Christmas ornaments and other miscellaneous seasonal trinkets, I stumbled upon something I had long forgotten.

In the bottom corner, wrinkled up and wedged between a musical snow globe and an iron Advent wreath candleholder, was a piece of paper with my very own scribbles on it. Was it the missing Christmas list I had searched for years ago? Was it a grocery list for the Christmas cookies that never did get baked one year? Or was it simply my random thoughts for a future Christmas Eve sermon?

It was none of the above.

On the tattered paper was my prayer for the children at the little white church that I had written many years ago on what was one lonely Christmas night.

My parents and brother had just left to return to New Jersey and so it was just Sully, my big fat cat, and myself. (This was early in my ministry when I was still living in my 1700’s Saltbox as a single girl who was just getting used to her new role as country pastor.)

The snow was gently falling and I had lit all the candles on the colonial sconces that graced the walls of the old house. I pulled the rickety rocker left behind in the house when I bought it up to the window and sat down and gazed at the sun setting quickly over the rolling hills that once used to see buffalo grazing on them. Yes, locals, upon hearing where I lived would say, “Oh, you’re right where the buffalo farm was!” Soon that vacant farm next to me would have new tenants in the coming year—alpacas.

As I stared out the window I reached for a pen and a piece of scrap paper that was sitting on top of the just-as-rickety-as-the-rocker pedestal table also left behind in the house when I bought it. It was then I began to write this Christmas prayer:

Kids at the White Church,

We have only begun our journey together but I want you to know that I already love each one of you dearly and I pray that you will come to know what I have come to know.

Jesus, the gift we celebrate at Christmas, is a gift not to be packed away with the rest of the Christmas ornaments. Jesus is a gift of love sent by God to you, who God loves so much.

I pray you come to know Jesus as your best friend as I have come to know him as. The friend who will be there for you always to celebrate the accomplishments to come in your lives, to ease the heartache that will come, to wipe away the tears that will also come and to keep lifting you up higher and higher whenever you fall—because that’s the kind of friend Jesus is.

And so my Christmas prayer is you will be best friends with Jesus. I will be praying hard for that to happen. But know this, the friendship is up to you to receive and to nurture.

So be open to all that God will do in your life and most of all trust with all your heart that God knows what God is doing, because I speak from experience, life can get pretty confusing at times.

Keep your hearts opened and most of all never doubt for one moment that you are loved beyond love and accepted for just as you are—because that’s the kind of friend Jesus is. He accepts us and forgives us, but he also wants to see us strive to do our best to glorify him. Doing our best doesn’t mean being better than others or excelling at some talent we have or being perfect. Doing our best means simply offering our best in whatever we do for him.

One of my favorite songs is “Little Drummer Boy,” the story of a poor boy who realized he didn’t have any special gift to give Jesus. All he had was his love for playing his drum. And so he began to play for God’s son. As the song goes, he played his best for him. When the drummer boy was done playing, something wonderful happened that we should all want to happen in our lives.

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Jesus smiled at the drummer boy.

And so as I sit here Christmas night I lift a prayer for you, the children who have come into my life at the little white church. I pray that you will someday experience the beauty of Jesus smiling at you just because you simply offered your best to him.

Blessings,

Pastor Donna

I am glad I found that long-forgotten Christmas prayer for the children, for it is a prayer that needs to be prayed for all our children—of all ages—this Christmastime.

Then he smiled at me.  Pa rum pum pum pum. 

May we give Christ our best for who doesn’t want to see a friend smiling back at us?

 

 

 

Day 8—Who’s Lighting the Advent Wreath?

A Little White Church Advent

Come on an Advent journey and walk the rural roads and snow covered paths with Donna Frischknecht as she shares stories of God’s promises being fulfilled in the most amazing ways. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during her time serving as minister in a historic white clapboard church in upstate New York, right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.

imagesDecember 8

Perhaps the lighting of the Advent wreath is a sensitive subject for me or maybe, just maybe, life’s circumstances have made me ultra aware of the “others” in our midst who we often overlook for one reason or another, especially in the season in which we prepare for Christ’s birth.

As a child sitting in the pew of the Congregational church my mom and dad took us kids to, I had to watch my church school nemesis be the star of the candle lighting liturgy every year, all the time wondering why I wasn’t up there doing it with my family? I never really did get an acceptable answer from my mom as to why and so I continued to wonder? Was it me? Was I not to be trusted with fire? Was it because my older brother had a disability and didn’t fit the picture of a family who should light the Advent wreath? Why weren’t we up there?

So when the time came for me as a pastor to help line up families to light the candles on the wreath I made sure I wasn’t going to fall into the trap many of our churches fall into. I wasn’t going to go for the ooh and ah factor of having the family with the cute little tots up there around the wreath. I wasn’t going to reinforce what the church thinks is hope in the future—young families with adorable token children in tow.

Christmas is a wonderful season for children. And, of course, it is a blessing to see families bringing up their children in the faith. But the message of Christmas is one that should remind us why God had to send His Son Jesus to us—because we are far from perfect.

We are broken. Families are fractured. Divisions are the norm and heartache seems to come more so than joy at times. Jesus had his own Christmas list of what to bless us with. That was to bring hope to the hopeless; to feed the hungry; clothe the naked; visit the lonely; comfort the grieving; welcome the stranger; etc.

So what better way to tell the beautiful story of Christmas than by inviting those who Jesus came to save and comfort to light the candles around the wreath?

And so as Advent approached I decided to present to the congregation what God’s picture perfect family of faith really looked like.

One year I asked those who are often forgotten at Christmastime to light the candles—men and women who were single and trying their best to smile even though the holidays accentuated the ache in their lonely hearts all the more.

I made sure the woman who was in her 40s and aching for a child of her own lit the candle of hope. I knew her struggle and so when the light of one flame shone on her face, I could swear it was God’s light kissing her tears away.

I made sure the one who was recently divorced had the chance to light the candle of peace, letting that promise of Advent enter into her heart and ease the discourse that had been in her life.

For the matriarch of the church whose feeble body made her feel as if she was no longer of use to anyone, she was the one who slowly walked up to light the candle of joy, a reminder to her and to all who watched that God was not yet done with any of us. And so the Advent line up of less than picture perfect families made their way to the Advent wreath each week to light the candles.

But perhaps the most powerful of all Advents was the year those who had recently lost loved ones were invited to the Advent wreath. Candle after candle was lit and the light of Christ’s Advent promises mingled with another promise—we are never alone. We have God and we have one another, a mish mosh of folks called together to be “family” to one another and who, in the sharing of our weaknesses, our struggles, our doubts and our insecurities, we find strength.

Who’s lighting the Advent wreath? The children of God who are telling the story beautifully as to why God sent his Son to us, that’s who.