An Abundance of Love

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. 

Advent Day 3:

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son,

so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Sofie, the bumbling Bernese Mountain dog, stopped snoring. Without budging from the little nest she made out of my hand-stitched quilt that was sprawled out on the bed, she opened her eyes and stared at me. She was perplexed. The old dog couldn’t quite understand why I was jumping out of bed so quickly with excitement—and so early.

She lifted her head a bit as if to inquire, “Is it Christmas morning?” I assured her it wasn’t and not to worry. I leaned over and kissed her head and whispered, “I’ll let you know when there is a doggie treat under the tree for you.” She seemed to understand and cuddled deeper into the quilt and went right back to her snoring.

I, on the other hand, washed up, got dressed and ran downstairs with the speed of a five-year old running to that Christmas morning tree surrounded by presents.

No today wasn’t Christmas. Today was just another Saturday early in the season of Advent. Still I couldn’t shake this feeling that this day was going to be one graced with God’s loving touch. This day was going to be one of those “life back in the country” days in which moments to treasure come with a friendly wave of a car passing by. Moments to remember are often as simple as a hug and a quick chat with a friend in the post office.

Today was going to be one filled with simple abundance and moments to treasure. And it was going to begin with a tradition I had longed to experience once again—the little white church cookie walk.

I first heard of the “cookie walk” as a new pastor serving the church. Admittedly, I had to ask if I had heard correctly. “A cookie what? Walk?” I had no idea what to expect.

Christmas cookies to me were ones that you bought in a store—and usually bought last minute—because who ever had time to cook? I know I didn’t. But there we were gathered at a table meeting in a chilly chapel planning “a walk with cookies?”… “no pastor, a cookie walk” to raise money for the many mission projects being done in and throughout the community.

Who is baking what? How many of chocolate chip cookies should be made? What if we have too many chocolate chips? Is there such a thing as too many? Should there be raisins in the oatmeal? What about molasses crinkles? Does anyone even eat molasses crinkles anymore?

I raised my hand. “I do.”

The conversation continued.

We can have Millie bake those. She bakes the best molasses crinkles.

The morning of the walk I came early to the church and couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked into the chapel. Tables were overflowing with the most amazing homemade creations from the traditional gingerbread men to the intricate date-nut pinwheels. In between there were varieties of cookies to please every palate imaginable. And just enough chocolate chip cookies.

The cookies were sold by the pound and my instructions were to simply walk around and pick and choose what I wanted and put it on my plate. I felt like a kid let loose in a candy store…no, make that a kid let loose in a cookie store.

I walked around and filled my plate. And filled it some more. And filled it even more.

I didn’t notice the eyes of those watching me growing wider. Nor did I hear the chuckling from those seated by the scale that would weigh my plate. After hemming and hawing whether that one last cookie with a bright red cherry in the middle would topple over the pile on plate, I made the decision to place it on top ever so gently. The cookie tower didn’t come crashing down. Whew!

I then carefully balanced the mountain of cookies as I walked to the table for them to be weighed. The scale moved higher and higher till finally it was announced. Um, pastor, that will be $20. I began laughing, assuring all those gathered around me that I would indeed eat every last one all myself.

The little white church cookie walk.

It was today. A day  I just knew was going to be touched with God’s grace. It had been years since I last found my plate overflowing with cookies. Now I was back home. Back to the traditions that had found their way into my heart and refused to let go. Christmas had come early.

I got my plate once again and turned to tackle those tables filled with cookies. But before digging in, I paused and stared at the beautiful sight of cookies I remembered and longed to taste again.

Those in the chapel probably thought I was just standing there deciding where to begin. I wasn’t though. I was in prayer. For what I was staring at in front of me was not just an abundance of cookies. I was in the presence of an abundance of love. Love that baked those cookies. Love that was represented in treasured recipes handed down from generation to generation. The love of wanting to share with others, to help others and to be gathered together.

I paused at the tables and thought of the season of Advent we are in. A season of anticipating the birth of the Christ child and all that that child’s birth will mean in our lives. I thought about the simple gift of a child that God gave to us, a gift that came with an abundance love. The same love that was in that room. And with a silent “Amen” my prayer was over.

With the eyes widening of those gathered around me, the accidental country pastor began to fill her plate once again…and fill it some more…and more…and more…

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An abundance of love found at the little white church’s cookie walk.

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?