Led by the Light

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 2:

The other night I asked my husband what his favorite Christmas song was. I did put a disclaimer stating it couldn’t have the words “snowman” or “reindeer” in it. He thought for a bit and smiled and said he wasn’t going to tell me because I wouldn’t put it in the category of Christmas, but rather in the season of Epiphany. I insisted he tell me.

Okay. I did bite my tongue and refrained from saying “We Three Kings” didn’t count as a Christmas song. He knew, though, what I was thinking and we both started laughing. He then asked me what my favorite song was. I really couldn’t tell him because I tend to like them all and what usually happens is each year one specific song will tug at my heart more than others, depending on where my heart is at that particular moment.

The song tugging at my heart this year? “O Holy Night.”

I had it playing in my car the other day as I made my way to the store. Now mind you, running to the store here in God’s country is not a quick trip. It’s over the river and through the woods and involves many curves and bends through valleys and hills. I was on my way to the store early in the morning as I had a full day of writing and ministry. I had just moved back home to the area and I was thinking about all the amazing God moments that had already happened in such a short time. How I ran into a pastor colleague of mine in the coffee shop and the warm hug he gave me was just what I needed. How another pastor friend I used to see at the gym years ago, spotted me in the store and told me of several ministries happening that I might get involved with. As we parted he said, “It’s good to have you back. This is definitely God’s mission field and God needs you here.”

And then there was this elderly couple who kept staring at me while in the post office finally came up to me to ask, “Weren’t you the pastor who visited our bee farm years ago?” I was. And I hugged the white-haired, grandmotherly woman with the most amazing blue eyes, tightly, as my way of thanking her for remembering me. As we hugged she said, “It’s good to have you home.”

A short visit to a bee farm so many years ago with people I only saw that one time…who would have thought they would remember?

“O Holy Night” was playing in my car as thought about all these connections being made. I drove. I thought. I listened. I watched. I watched the early morning sun rise up over the mountains, casting a heavenly glow on the frosted ground before. It was then the line that tugged at my heart came.

Led by the light of faith supremely beaming.

Led by the light. I was indeed led by the light so many years ago to come to rural America and make this place my home. It was a light that no one else could see, but I could. And I trusted enough to follow. And once again God’s light led me back home. The light of faith supremely beaming.

The sun rising over the mountains got brighter and as it did my joy grew greater. Yes, I know there will be challenges. There will be uncertainties. There will be struggles, grief, sickness in life. It will not always be rays of light shining of my path. But this I know. When you are led by the light, a light that no one else can see, you know all will be well. For you will find yourself exactly in the place you are supposed to be.

What hymn of faith is tugging at your heart this year?

 

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Led by the light…a country pastor finds her way back home, thanks to the light of faith beaming supremely. May this Advent season you trust God and be led by His light. 

Day 22—Truly He Taught Us

A Little White Church Christmas

As we approach Christmas Eve, hear the stories of God incarnate working in and among the people of the little white church nestled in a village in Upstate New York. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during Donna Frischknecht’s time serving as minister of a historic white clapboard church right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.

December 22

We love because God first loved us.  1 John 4:19

 The lights had just been dimmed a bit more in the sanctuary of the little white church. With my sermon now over, we were making our way through the order of worship, getting ever so closer to the candlelight singing of “Silent Night.” Before that moment, though, there was the soloist who would sing “O Holy Night.”images

I had asked our pianist’s son to be present with us on Christmas Eve to sing this beloved song. I was so happy when he agreed for while he was just out of high school he had a voice that I would place in the same category of Pavarotti. Yes, his voice was that good.

In a way his singing would be a gift to me as it provided what I would call more breathing room in the order of worship for the Holy Spirit to move among us. It was a space for grace in which I as a pastor could sit back and reflect on the words I had just preached. And, hopefully, it would be a space for grace for those in the pews to also reflect on God’s word proclaimed.

And so the last word of my sermon was spoken and I sat back down in the official looking “pastor’s chair” with its ornately carved wooden legs and armrests complete with a regal velvet seat.

The anticipation of the night heightened. Our pianist struck the first ivory key and her son hit the first perfect note.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.

Within seconds I felt as if I was being transported to that actual night when something so indescribable and so life changing happened. I could imagine the awe, the beauty, the joy…

Indescribable. Life changing. Wait. I didn’t have to imagine. That was happening right here, right now, I realized.

In the past year of ministry together I had many indescribable moments of lives being changed not by the latest church fads or prepackage programs on how to grow your church or lead a successful stewardship campaign. I could tell of many indescribable moments of lives being changed through times of more praying, times of more trusting and times of keeping our eyes on Jesus rather than the stormy waves all around us. No, I didn’t have to imagine something indescribable as God awakening His children. I could see it.

The young Pavarotti from rural America continued hitting perfect note after perfect note.

In all our trials, born to be our friend.

Ah, those pesky trials. There were those as well. Every church has them but just recently I had begun to see the blessings born out of trials. God does do His best work in dark times, I mused, as I thought about how God protected this little white church through showers, squalls and storms. And the storms were weathered due to the fact that deeper friendships were being forged with Jesus through coming together for more prayer, study and times of serving.

The singing continued to gift us all…

Truly He taught us to love one another.

Love. Just the other day a woman from the congregation gave me a Christmas card. It was an adorable bear dressed as an angel smiling and bringing good tidings of joy with the scripture message written beneath, “We love because God first loved us.”

I took notice of that card more than I usually would take notice because I found it interesting the scripture was from 1 John. I had never seen that before on a Christmas card. Usually Isaiah’s words of a “son has been given unto us…and his name shall be…” or the angels’ song of “glory to God in the highest” find their way onto a greeting card. Not this card. This was reminding us of why we love—because God first loved us.

Truly He taught us to love one another.

Love. That’s what it comes down to, I said to myself silently. Jesus had taught us how to love one another and while it seems hard at times or perhaps many times, love really is the glue that holds all things together.

I remember as I was moving up to serve this little village I was given words of advice. First, everyone was related in some way or another, so be careful about what you say about anyone.

I looked down at my engagement ring and wedding band and swirled the white gold and diamonds around my finger. I was now part of the being related to someone in the little village I served as pastor. It was just six months before on a beautiful June morning the “pastor from the city” married the “local boy.” It was a community-wide celebration of answered prayers—and 17 flower girls, all from the village, who were excited that Pastor Donna was finally getting married.

Secondly, I was told the good news about life in a little village was everyone knew you. The bad news was everyone knew you.

Good and bad, people knew what was going on in your life, which at times I had learned could get complicated, tricky or just plain contentious. And yet I had also learned that no matter what differences people had or what long-time grudges were held, when a person was in need, differences and grudges were put aside and love, no matter how difficult to show, was shown.

That was new to me. Growing up in a more congested area, people were quicker to forget you or less likely to help you. But in a little village, there was this overriding sense that no matter what, we were all in this life together.

Truly, the people of the little white church taught me what it meant to love one another. For it was these people I was brought to shepherd who instead shepherd me in the way of forgiveness and by doing so helped me to experience the healing grace it brings.

Churches, I realized, are like families. There will be squabbles and downright disagreements. Sides might be taken and the ties that bind might fray, but in a rural village and church, the frays very rarely snap completely apart.

That night, as the young Pavarotti sang, the lesson of love continued as the Spirit worked among all, opening hearts ever more wider to one another.

I looked out at the congregation and it seemed to me they, too, were being transported to their own indescribable life changing moments God has blessed them with.

It was indeed a holy night.