Sunday at Old Stone Well Farm

Welcome to the fourth week of Advent. So glad you are joining the Accidental Country Pastor at the Old Stone Well Farm a she shares with you a special Christmas tradition inspired by Mary’s “yes” to God.

And a special thank you as our online “church” continues to grow. So many of you are thankful for this time when it is hard to get to a traditional church building on a Sunday morning. Share this time together with friends.

Many blessings to you!

Scripture to Reflect On:

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,  to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 

 

 

Birch Trees in the Snow

An Accidental Country Pastor’s Advent Journey 

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 and unexpected ways. 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

The snow was the wet and heavy kind that made shoveling hard and trudging in it even harder. But trudge I did. I had resurrected an old habit of taking morning prayer walks, one that I had missed greatly in my time away from the home I loved. Oh I tried walking in other places, but I was no longer in the country and so the noise of traffic was always playing in the background.

Here, though, back home, there was nothing but silence mixed with the occasional moo of a distant cow. If you were really listening to the stillness, there were times you could hear the soft echo of the little village’s church bell chiming a melodious old hymn. And so I wasn’t going to let a little snow slow me down.

On went my boots and out the door I went. I passed by the old stone well as I made my way to the bottom of the steep hill. I decided to challenge myself to climb up in the deep snow, knowing my huffing and puffing would be rewarded by the most breathtaking view below me. I was not disappointed.

The valley below me looked like a jewelry box sprinkled with diamonds as the sun’s rays made the snow glisten and sparkle. I continued up and over to the rail trail behind the hill. That’s when the roadblocks hit.

Trees, many of them bowed down from the weight of the snow, blocked the path in front of me. I had a choice to turn back or to move forward. I was resolved in my mission to pray and walk. Onward it was.

I ducked under, hopped over and skirted around the white birch trees lying prostrate to the ground. I was growing tired and frustrated. My walk had become not only a physical obstacle but a spiritual one as well. I just couldn’t focus my thoughts on God when I had to focus on not getting whacked with an icy branch. I was about to turn back, until I had a thought.

As I stared at that sad fallen trees I wondered what would happen if I helped them up. Were they really down for the count? I decided to try.

I started with the smaller tree. With my fuzzy mittens on, I grabbed hold of the trunk and loosened the branches iced tightly to the ground. Swish. With great force and speed the tree sprung up. I moved on to the next tree. Then the next. I even tackled the larger trees, freeing them from their state of downtrodden-ness. Each one, with a little help, was soon back to standing tall.

My prayer walk had turn into a mission project. I was there to help the trees. And with each tree that bounced back up, I began to remembering the times in my life when someone noticed me down for the count and chose not to hop over me or skirt around me. Rather, with a compassionate hand they helped me to stand tall again. My walk was just about over.

I turned and looked back at the path now lined with graceful white birch, their limbs lifted high to the heavens in praise. It was a beautiful sight.

Christmas is almost near. And if you are wondering what is the perfect present to give loved ones—to give the world—I think a hand stretched out to help is perfect. For God gave us that exact gift on that holy night. And His hand has never stopped lifting us up.

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Sofie walks on the snow path, helping Pastor Donna lift up the bowed down birch trees.

 

Day 17—Mason Jar Gifts

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 17

I had just settled into my old colonial Saltbox and, in a few days, I would be celebrating my first Christmas Eve service at the little white church. I couldn’t wait to see the luminaries leading up to its wreathed-covered doors, to deliver the message of hope entering in to the world and to see the 18th century sanctuary washed in candlelight as I sang “Silent Night” with all those gathered.

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In just a few days, Christmas would be here.

For now, though, I had a rare night to myself and so I decided to turn on my little TV. That wasn’t as easy as it sounded because to get good reception (I just didn’t want pay for a satellite dish or cable), I had to position the TV in a certain angle in front of the window in the living room facing the east cornfield, and so on and so on.

After playing with the rabbit ears on the TV, I managed to get my one and only station. It seemed my rare night to myself would be spent watching the 1964 Christmas classic of my childhood, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

I settled into the pile of comforters on the wide plank floor that served as my only place to sit as I had yet to figure out what kind of couch to buy that would fit through the narrow front door of the old house. The sofa I moved with now called the garage home. I wrapped the comforters around me as if I was in a cocoon and began watching. I was half amused and half sentimental when the snowman a.k.a. Burl Ives, who was narrating the story of this special little reindeer, began singing “Silver and Gold.”

Silver and gold, silver and gold, everyone wishes for silver and gold…

All of a sudden I was transported back in time when I would have easily agreed with the singing snowman. Everyone wishes for silver and gold, don’t they? I know I did.

I was a young editor in Manhattan and for me there was no better place to be at Christmastime than in the city. The season was ushered in with grand style. There was the giant snowflake hanging above the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. There was the Christmas tree in Harry Winston strung with garland made of precious jewels. There was the big tree in Rockefeller Center, which I always thought looked smaller in person than it did on TV. There was the iconic red bow wrapped around Cartier’s façade, while just a few blocks up the avenue Tiffany’s famous window displays dazzled all those passing by.

I’ll admit it. Upon first seeing Tiffany’s windows, I had an Audrey Hepburn moment, finding myself gazing longingly at the windows just as her Holly Golightly character did in the opening of the movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Not only were there silver and gold displays on the avenues of the city. There were many a silver and gold trinket making their way across my desk. As an editor of a jewelry magazine this was a time of year when the public relations departments of top designers, jewelry associations and major retailers, made sure we editors were on their gift giving list.

The typically annoying squeak of the mail cart coming down the hall to my office became music to my ears as I wondered what would be dropped on desk today.

Silver and gold, silver and gold, everyone wishes for silver and gold.

Ooh, what beautiful little gold star earrings. They are going to be perfect to wear on Christmas Day.

Silver and gold, silver and gold…

This silver pendant is going to look so cute with that dress I just bought.

Silver and gold, silver and gold…

And so went my Christmas season as I rushed home with my packages and placed them underneath the pathetic little tree in my apartment that I had pay way too much for.

Burl Ives continued singing to me from the TV positioned in such a way by the window facing the east cornfield. I looked over at my not so pathetic Christmas tree that did not come with an outrageous Manhattan price. Trees were definitely more reasonably priced here in “the country.”

Underneath the tree I realized I had something better than the silver and gold trinkets once given to me in another lifetime. There under the tree placed on top of an old quilt I used as a tree skirt, were precious gifts, shining and sparkling with love, all homemade from the hearts of those who wanted to say they were glad I was with them as their pastor.

There were mason jar gifts of a wide variety of homemade jams and pickles and chutneys. There were homemade chocolates wrapped in simple paper decorated with a jingle bell tied onto a string. There was homemade goat’s milk soap wrapped in burlap.

And, there was a decorative wooden plate hand painted by a member of the little white church with a Christmas scene that would come to life for me in just a few days. It was of the little white church nestled in snow with warm glowing light coming from its windows and opened doors as people made their way inside to worship Christ the newborn king.

I unwrapped myself out of my comforter cocoon and turned off the TV. Sorry, Burl Ives, but not everyone wishes for silver and gold. I have come to realize the thing we all wish for, whether we say it out loud or long for it quietly in our hearts, is to have the gift of love in our lives—a gift that comes wrapped in the most unassuming way, like burlap, paper, string…and, yes, even mason jars.

Come to think to of it, the greatest gift of love I have ever received came wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Didn’t it come to you that way, too?

 

 

 

 

 

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 4—The Index Card

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 4

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit. Matthew 25:35-37

On my desk sits an index card with the initial “R” written on it in blue marker. I have thrown this index card into the garbage at least three times so far and, so far, I have reached three times into the waste paper basket to retrieve it. I am struggling with this index card with the initial “R” on it. I don’t want to see it for I don’t like how it makes me feel for it reminds of something that I don’t want reminding of. And yet I can’t seem to free myself of it and just throw it out. How can an innocent white index card with “R” written on it cause such turmoil in my heart?

It was at the youth group breakfast at the little white church, where every Wednesday morning teens would gather before school in what was known as Mackenzie Chapel—a chapel/fellowship hall built in faith during the depression years, reminding the congregation that with God all things are indeed possible—that they were invited to write an initial of someone they knew who needed a friend to stand up for them, a confidant to confide in, a brother or sister in Christ to rely on, a fellow human to let them know they are loved and not journey alone in this world.

They were invited to write the initial of someone in which they can show the love of Christ to this Christmas.

As the teens scribbled the initials of those they had in mind, I sat there staring off into space not wanting to write out the initial I had in my heart for I didn’t want it to materialize onto the index card for me to see. The war waged inside of me. I fought back the tears that began to sneak up behind my eyes, forcing them away with every stinging blink I took. “I am not going to cry,” I kept saying. No, I am not going to cry. Hesitantly my hand began to write “R.”

The youth leaders finished up their lesson, closing prayers were said and the kids were invited to hang on to their cards as a reminder of the task they have before them as they went about their day: be Christ to the one in need, be a friend to the one who is friendless, be a light of hope to the one walking in darkness.

I threw “R” into my bag and went on with my day. When I got home and emptied out the contents within, out came “R.” And that is when the waste paper basket game of throwing out and retrieving began.  Unknown

I have decided to stop the game. I have decided to keep the index card. I have decided to let it remind me of what I really rather not remember. That is, there is someone in my life who needs my love. There is someone in my life who walks in darkness and needs the light of Christ. There is someone very close to me who needs to know he is worthy; he is special; he is cared about greatly. There is someone who needs more of my time that I have claimed I do not have.

There is someone I can be Christ to this Christmas. “R” is my older brother with special needs. “R” is my brother who has given me the greatest gift ever without even knowing he gave it. He gave me eyes to see the least in this world. Now I just need to find the strength and guidance to give the gift of my time to him.

What initial do you need to write down on an index card this Christmas?