Hoof Prints

Holy Week is here and I find myself walking more slowly and feeling more deeply. The world around me hasn’t acknowledged the significance of these trying days we are meant to go through before getting to the glorious promise of Easter.

No one has mentioned Maundy Thursday or even Good Friday. No one is speaking of the cross that Jesus faced for us. No one is stopping to reflect and ask a question I find myself asking: “Am I really living as someone who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ?”

Am I living a life of grace and thanks?

Am I living?

Period.

The world around me is acting as if this week is business as usual. Nothing is different. Nothing is changing. Nothing is gained. Nothing is lost.

Yet from where I sit, it seems all this nothingness mingles with a lot of empty busyness.

Work, life, petty annoyances, irksome worries, decisions as to what to have for dinner mixed with trips to the store for more jelly beans for Easter Sunday and then another load of laundry thrown into the washing machine—all create an alternate universe that fools us into thinking we are getting somewhere.

It fools us into thinking we are living.

I went for a walk tonight on the rail trail behind my old little house in the valley. I left my sweet Bernese Mountain dog, Sofie, behind for the warm weather here in Vermont has made the trail a hotbed for pesky ticks. Sofie’s thick black fur seems to be a magnet for them.

And so, I walked a lonely walk without my four-legged friend.

The night seemed so quiet without her. It’s funny how you get used to another presence with you on a well-worn path. Since I didn’t have a bumbling dog occupying my attention, I could notice little details on the path.

I noticed hoof prints in the dirt.

The impressions were deep and distinct. I took note of how far down the path they went and decided to follow them, being very careful not to step on them as I didn’t want to erase their presence from the path.

I walked alongside them and thought of the hoof prints the donkey left on the path as it carried Jesus into Jerusalem on the day we observe as Palm Sunday.

Jerusalem. The holy city. The place where Jesus’ triumphal entry would spiral downward quickly to death on cross in just a few short days. There would be an altercation in the temple. Some tables overthrown.

Then the Passover meal shared with friends in an upper room. Feet would be washed. A new mandate given to love one another.

Then a betrayal by a friend followed by an anguished, seemingly unanswered prayer for trouble to be averted, capped off with an arrest. A trial, a guilty as charged edict (guilty of what, being the King of Jews?) and then crucifixion. Tears and wailing by the faithful few, emphasis on few, who stayed with Jesus at Golgotha.

And then that horrible day after someone dies. You might know what I am talking about. That first day without your beloved when you don’t even feel your tears because you are just so numb with shock and grief. You can’t breathe. You can’t think. You can’t imagine life without…

Then something surprising happens.

Amidst unfathomable loss, hope breaks through with the first rays of dawn, revealing an empty tomb and, with it, the promise that death never has the last word. Never. Jesus stands there extending a nail scarred hand to the brokenhearted and offers life anew, life again.

I stooped down and gently traced the hoof print in the dirt. As I did, the birds ceased their singing. The peepers hushed their peeping. I traced it over and over and thought about this week. A week I walk more slowly and feel more deeply.

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We don’t get to the glory of Easter until we trod the lonely path with our Savior.

Hoof prints…

We don’t get to grace unless we dare to follow the hoof prints leading us into Jerusalem.

Hoof prints…

We don’t truly live as one who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ until we decide to replace all the nothingness filled with plenty of busyness with the commitment to stand at the foot of the cross.

Hoof prints…

We need to weep—really weep—for the darkness in ourselves that sought to extinguish a light so brilliant, we feared it.

Hoof prints…

We need to remember that we don’t get very far walking on paths we decide to walk on.

Hoof prints…

We must follow Jesus’ path. All the way.

Hoof prints…they were left in the dirt so many years ago by a humble animal who carried salvation on its back. Many probably didn’t even notice where the hoof prints led. And those who did? Did they follow?

Would I?

Would you?

The Journey Begins…

Lent begins with sooty smudges on our foreheads reminding us of who we really are, children in need of a savior.

Children who are indeed blessed beyond blessed in our brokenness. The smudged foreheads on Ash Wednesday remind us of who we really are and of the walk we have been called to walk in the season of Lent.

What a beautiful reminder.

What a beautiful walk.

This is a snippet from my sermon I am preparing for this Sunday, and as I prepare to invite those in the congregation to a deep and meaningful life-changing walk, I extend that invitation to you as well.

I know a thing or two about walks, journeys and wandering.

Last November, after three plus years of living away from the place God originally called me to serve–a little white church on the border of Upstate New York and Vermont–I returned home. I returned home with nothing more than faith and trust in God. No job, no health benefits, no “sure thing” for the future. I came home to an 18th century home which translates into “money pit.”

But home I came, because I know life is not fully experienced as God wants us to experience it until we take those leaps of faith. It’s so easy to say, “Well, I can’t do that because it just doesn’t make sense.”

When God calls us, it NEVER makes sense. In fact, rest assured that God always seems to lead us to do the impossible, to break open those closed doors so that those who are blinded by hate or jealousy or ignorance can see the light of Christ shining.

I was led a decade ago to do the impossible in a little rural church. The church I fondly refer to as “the little white church.” Its structure is really not little, if anything, its New England clapboard frame is quite large. But in terms of numbers gathered, it would rate as small.

But I walked the crazy walk into that pulpit and learned a beautiful lesson. While small in numbers that congregation had hearts that were/are huge. Quick to argue; quicker to love. Quick to doubt; quicker to fall on their knees to pray.  Quick to accept a former New York City fashion editor as their pastor; quicker to embrace that accidental country pastor as one of their own.

I am walking the hard walk again. I am journeying again. I am haplessly wandering again…or so it seems. I have made it back home, but now I need to go all the way in trusting God in how it is God wants me to serve him.

I am so glad the season of Lent is here. I am glad because it reminds that Jesus made a hard journey as well. Yet Jesus never stumbled, never faltered, never doubted each step he took–even when there were naysayers on the path and those who tried to make him stumble or worst yet, sought his life. He kept his eyes fixed straight ahead to the painful yet beautiful cross that awaited him. He kept knowing that the journey would indeed be worth it.

I believe too that the journey is worth it.

So journey with me. Let us pray together. Let us keep one another from stumbling or giving up.

If you have a prayer I can lift up for you, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. The prayers will be confidential and I will add them to my prayer time every morning when I walk up to the top of Sofie’s Hill here at the Old Stone Well Farm. And know that as I am sitting on a fallen tree overlooking the valley and gazing at Vermont’s Green Mountains in the distance, I will be praying for this broken world, for all the little white churches who are such amazing witnesses of faith in their communities, for God’s provision for those struggling and I will be praying for you.

You can send your requests to accidentalcountrypastor@gmail.com.

Blessings and peace,

Pastor Donna 

 

I just love this picture of the path on the rail trail here behind my little old house in Vermont. I thought it was the perfect Lenten journey picture to share with you. Notice how there seems to be a “opened door” at the end of the path. With God, my friends, there is always an opened door waiting for us.

 

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Stumbling and Falling

January is in full swing and that means one thing. I feel I am coming down with the winter blahs. I know the symptoms well. No pep in my step, too many excuses to forego the salad for a big dish of macaroni and cheese and just an overall feeling of nothing going right. What exactly is the “right” I am talking about? Good question. Not sure. But that’s what happens when January is in full swing. Nothing seems “right.”

Yesterday I went for a walk on the farm in hopes of finding that “right.”  It was an aimless walk, one in which I couldn’t even feel the frozen ground beneath my feet. I didn’t even pay attention to the pockets of ice that were hidden beneath the leaves, leaves now revealed that the snow was gone. Sadly, the winter wonderland all around me had been replaced by shades of brown. I just wasn’t ready for what locals call the fifth season—mud season.

As I walked the stresses of my day joined me. They were not very good walking companions as they insisted on babbling, reminding me I was wasting my time on this walk. Get back to work. Get back to all the things you need to do. I finally gave and decided to head back to work. That’s when it happened. A patch of ice underneath the leaves sent me slipping and sliding. I couldn’t stay vertical any longer. Bang. Down I went. The fall was enough to get the tears flowing. No, I wasn’t hurt. I was just tired. I didn’t bother getting back up off the ground. Rather I allowed myself to remain crumbled on the ground…to sit, to cry, to just be. And it felt good.

I am not sure how long I stayed on the frozen ground with my tears, but sometime during what would have looked like a sad scene to a passerby something beautiful happened. My heart began to feel lighter. The babbling voices of my stresses began to silence themselves. I was no longer aimless. I knew exactly what the “right” was I wanted. I was getting “right” with God. I could feel the frozen ground beneath me and as my hand touched the brown leaves, I realized that hidden patch of ice was a blessing.

Richard Rohr once wrote that in the spiritual life we do not find something until we first lose it, ignore it and miss it. It is only in the search, in the falling, in the failing, do we realize how limited our plans are and how limitless God is. It is in those moments of defeat do we then truly see where our true victories await. In Christ alone.

It took a hard fall for me to feel again. It took stumbling to find my way back to God. It took falling first to be lifted back up.

May today you find the beauty in the stumbling and falling. May you know that with God finding ourselves on the ground is the exciting start to being lifted high.

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The beauty of the path we walk on often can be found when we stumble and fall on that path. A scene from my early morning walk on the rail trail behind The Old Stone Well Farm. 

Sundays at Old Stone Well Farm

Welcome to Old Stone Well Farm, the home of the Accidental Country Pastor. I am so glad you have come to join me for a word of hope.

Today, as I decorate the farm for Epiphany, I invite you to think about what it means to live with the wonder and awe of God at work in your life. What does it mean to really let the Christ light shine on your path, perhaps illuminating a new path for you to venture on?

So sit back and enjoy this time of worship…and share with others.

And as always, let me know how your journey is going or how we can join together and pray for one another.

Blessings!

Pastor Donna