I took a muddy drive up Two Top Mountain the other day to prepare for the season of Lent with the monks of New Skete in Cambridge, New York. I did this because I realized we often focus our Lenten journeys on preparing ourselves for Easter, but what if we spent a little bit of time preparing our hearts for the actual 40 days. So that is what I am going to do as I seek some quiet prayer time and ponder two questions we should ask ourselves before embarking on our Lenten adventure.
P.S. I also share with you my one Fat Tuesday indulgence that the nuns here are famous for!
It’s April’s Fools Day at Old Stone Well Farm and my chickens played a joked on me that involves one of their eggs!
So I invite you this day, to take a few minutes, press play and listen to how after I got done laughing, their joke got me thinking about the season of sadness I’ve been in and the need for self care. And let me know if you have ever had the experience I have had. I’m learning so much about chickens.
(And a reminder, I will be off this Sunday and so no worship video, but please go to YouTube and make your Sunday an Old Stone Well Farm rerun day…or marathon!
Go to YouTube and type in “Donna Frischknecht” in the search and you will see in the library 156 videos! I will be honest, there are some I really should take down. Wow. Old Stone Well Farm has and is always evolving!)
Need a smile? Need encouragement? Need to feel the love and grace in your lives again? Then let’s “run” back to where we will find wholeness again. On this fourth Sunday in Lent we ponder the parable of the Prodigal Son with a little help from Rembrandt, Henri Nouwen — and some cute little piglets! Enjoy your time in Vermont at Old Stone Well Farm. Comment, share…and let me know your answer to what brings a smile to your face.
Take a midweek break here at Old Stone Well Farm Vermont as we awaken our senses to God’s beauty all around us. I spent some time practicing centering prayer the other day and discovered things I would have missed if I was not fully present to the divine. Like an interesting critter in a tree and a beautiful tiny feather on my path. Can you spare a minute or two to center your prayers on God and God alone? Imagine what you will see.
The second week in Lent begins at Old Stone Well Farm and I find comfort on a cold, snowy day wrapped in a prayer shawl and thinking about chicks, mother hens and how comforting it is to think of God as a protective hen that I can run to when feeling down or lost. Who do you turn to when feeling down or lost? And I am curious, what’s your favorite image of God? Come, join me at the farm. Like, comment, share! Blessings!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. — Isaiah 55:8–9
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that when we feed the hungry, we are indeed feeding him. Yet, how do we define “feed”? Is feeding a free church meal? Is it a food pantry in the church basement? Is feeding one of those micro pantries set up on the church property that allows 24/7 access for those who are hungry?
At the heart of all these questions is the most important one: How do we get to the point where free meals, food pantries and micro pantries are obsolete? How do we eradicate hunger? Perhaps we begin by looking at the systems in place that keep folks hungry. What if national grocery chains didn’t pick locations for stores based on profitability, but real need? For example, many rural areas are labeled as food deserts — places where healthy, affordable food cannot be found. What if lobbyists didn’t advocate for corporations that perpetuated food waste? What if, after cleaning up a free church dinner, the faithful sat down and asked, “Is there more that can be done?”
A young college graduate asked just that when returning to his rural community. After noticing perfectly fine vegetables and fruits left in the fields, he asked for permission from the farmers to glean the fields and take what was collected to area food pantries. When we began noticing those who really needed the fresh produce were not showing up — the elderly who could no longer drive to the pantry — he asked, “What more can be done?” He secured a generous grant to buy a van and began driving into the area food deserts. His veggie van became a healthy version of an ice cream truck. And while no ditty or catchy tune played announcing its arrival, the van nevertheless put a smile on the faces of those it would bless. One young man was eradicating hunger, and it all began by asking, “Is there more that can be done?”
Creative God, your ways are so much better than what we can ever imagine. As we seek to live the vision of Matthew 25, help us to let go of all our preconceived ideas of what serving you entails. Open us up to new ideas. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
In what creative ways is God asking us to feed the hungry? As Isaiah notes, our ways are not God’s ways. This day, think beyond the ways the hungry are traditionally fed. Is there a veggie van in your future? Or is there a gleaning ministry waiting to be born?
I am entering into the Lenten wilderness today with some trepidation, sadness and joy. The world is broken. Rev, the cat, is showing signs of decline. A dear friend’s father is in critical condition having suffered a stroke. Writer’s block stresses the already-stressful deadlines on my calendar. The list goes on. Yet amid it all, I hear the birds singing. And don’t laugh, but I know spring will burst with new life soon as last night there was that pungent smell of skunk in the air! The little critters are out and about as the weather begins to warm up ever so slightly.
This Lent is beginning with a strong sense of change on the horizon. I don’t know what that change is, but I’m standing here knowing I need to put just one foot forward in complete faith in God who leads me.
So today I decided to be kind to myself — to be gentle and reevaluate my to-do list. Today I decided to begin this season with a new Lent tradition that centers my spirit and helps me to set my eyes to the hills where the psalmist proclaims our help will come. And I share it with you.
How is your Lenten journey going to begin? Pull up a chair and join me here at the farm.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. — John 13:34
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”— Matthew 28:19–20
I worked in a church that had a stunning stained-glass window of “The Great Commission,” where Jesus, before ascending into heaven, tells his disciples to go out into the world and make more disciples. Next to it was a window depicting another one of Jesus’ marching orders before leaving this world: Love one another, as I have loved you.
I never thought much about how the “command” and “commission” windows were side by side. That is until the day the rural congregation I served became a Matthew 25 church. (Matthew 25 is an invitation to the churches in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., to serve and love boldly as Jesus did.) The educated and well-off session members reviewed the three ministry focuses of the Matthew 25 invitation: building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty. Like many congregations who have seen numbers dwindle dangerously low to the “closing-the-doors” level, they zeroed in on vitality over eradicating poverty and dismantling racism.
All too quickly, building vitality began looking like programming to get people into the pews. My heart broke. I reminded them that Matthew 25 was not a program to save a church. Rather, it’s an invitation to die to self to save others. It’s about boldly living as the body of Christ, and that living begins with loving as Christ loves. “That means loving all the shoppers in the local Walmart that I have heard this congregation talk disparagingly about,” I dared to say.
When Jesus said, “Love one another,” he didn’t want lip service. He wanted love to be shown in our actions that would transform a community — and, thus, the world. We are at the beginning of our Lenten journey. There are still more weeks to tread all the rough and undesirable places Jesus has already gone. But it’s here that we take a spiritual stop to examine our hearts before venturing further. We must be honest and question our commitment to Jesus’ command and commission. “Lord, when did we see you?” we ask. And he will answer, “When you began loving as I have loved, you have seen — truly seen. Now go with that love in your heart and make disciples.”
All-knowing God, you see how often we speak about love and how rarely we show it. In this season of Lent, help us go beyond words. May the world see your love through our actions. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
What are the ways in which love can become a verb as you go about living this day?
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. — Matthew 5:5
I recently came across a study from 2019 that showed the average inheritance for the middle class in the U.S. was about $110,000. I don’t count on such money coming my way anytime soon — or ever. But sometimes I wonder: What if? What would I do with that money?
It doesn’t take long for my daydream windfall to become a greed-ridden nightmare, as I discover my imaginary money isn’t enough for all the wants lurking within. I shudder to think what a real inheritance would bring out in me.
Matthew 25 speaks about inheriting the kingdom. This kingdom, though, is not one that comes in the way of a big check. In fact, there are many congregations with small budgets in the PC(USA) who have said “yes” to becoming Matthew 25 churches. They’re saying “yes” to inheriting a kingdom that will not bolster their wealth, but rather asks them to serve, care and love others selflessly.
Early in his ministry, Jesus spoke to a hungering crowd gathered on a hillside. They were eager to hear a message of hope, and Jesus didn’t let them down by telling them what it really means to be blessed. But his definitions of blessed might have surprised them for there was no mention of material comforts or elevations of status. Among the blessed, Jesus tells them, are the meek. For they will inherit the earth.
Meek isn’t a very flattering adjective to our ears, but in the biblical context it is a compliment. It means that we are willing to surrender all to Jesus and say “yes” to God’s plans. If we are to inherit God’s kingdom, we must see that this kingdom has nothing to do with what money can buy. This kingdom is about what love can build through the work of our hands.
God of great provision, forgive us for letting the amount of money we have dictate the ministries we can do in your name. The kingdom we inherit from you is in fact this world, with all its challenges and brokenness. This is the kingdom you entrust to us. Give us the wisdom and strength this day to glorify you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
When the word “meek” is used to describe you, how does that make you feel? Now think about how Jesus uses that word. How might it change the way you live this day?