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.
Our Lenten journeys are about to begin! But before we enter into this season of discernment, join me in the kitchen at Old Stone Well Farm where a little butter churning reminds me of how moments of change are not just found on the mountaintops, but often right in ordinariness of life. A little cream turns into delicious butter, and all it takes is perseverance and prayer.
Before you take you seat at the farm table and pour yourself a cup of coffee and begin watching today’s message, I want to extend a thank you to the Rev. Sarah Bigwood who invited me to guest preach this Sunday at Southampton Presbyterian Church via video. Sarah is a pastor with vision and passion, and thinking beyond traditional pulpit supply is just one example of how she embraces the new thing God is doing.
So today, you not only join me at the farm, but you have other friends from Southampton at the farm table.
No, I am not in Scotland, but the location for this week’s Old Stone Well Farm is breathtaking. Join me as I walk among the ruins of French and British forts in Crown Point, New York…and reflect on the trust of a widow whose life was seemingly in ruins, but with a little faith — and a little oil and flour to make bread — she discovered God was indeed with her.
If you like this time of worship, please let me know. Like it on YouTube, share with others and if you haven’t subscribed to the YouTube channel, please do so. Click on the window below for the video to begin.
This Memorial Day I invite you to join me in chilly Vermont (temps have been in the 40s…brrrr…brrr…) where I attempt to make paper poppies. I’ll explain why when you pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me at the farm. 😉
This weekend I find myself reflecting on poppies, prayer and how we live our lives knowing that the lives we have to live have been made possible by the sacrifices of others, mostly made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus.
I also share a story of Ike Jackson, my husband’s grandfather who served in World War II and who exemplified a life lived in humble awe and gratitude to the many blessings he was given. It is so great to join together to worship with all of you!
Enjoy, share, like, but most of all reflect and let God’s word shape, guide and inspire you!
Today’s Scripture Lesson: John 3:1-17
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”[b] 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born from above.’[e] 8 The wind[f] blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you[g] do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[h] 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[i]
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Pentecost has often been marked by high winds for me. This year, though, it’s been still…just subtle breezes every so often. In the stillness, though, I felt something powerful — a reminder that God’s Spirit is always among us no matter what we are feeling. So join me today at the farm as we celebrate Pentecost together, discovering what it means to be moved by the Spirit and how we can be more attuned to that Spirit. Perhaps a little forest bathing would help. (Intrigued? Click on the video below.)
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath[a] to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath[b] in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:[c] Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,[d] and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Today is one of my favorite days on the church calendar — the Ascension of the Lord! Yes, you read correctly! The ascension is so overlooked on our faith journeys, and yet there is so much that we can learn from it; there is so much that defines who we are to be. It is a reminder for us to prepare prayerfully for the coming of the Pentecost Spirit. It is also a reminder for us to never forget that we are called to be the Christ light to others. And so, join me here in Vermont as the season of Easter comes to close and a new season of incredible God moments begin. Blessings!
Luke 24:44-53 (The Message)
44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”
45-49 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”
50-51 He then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising his hands he blessed them, and while blessing them, made his exit, being carried up to heaven.
52-53 And they were on their knees, worshiping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes.
He is Risen! He is risen indeed! Welcome to Easter worship here at Old Stone Well Farm!
I invite you to join and watch the sunrise with me at Merck Farmland, just overlooking Frederick Buechner’s home. I then go to an 18th century cemetery nestled in the rolling hills of the Green Mountains to ponder the angel’s announcement to Mary, “He is not here.”
And, as promised, you will discover why this year I dyed some of my Easter eggs red.
It is a joy to worship with you. Share this special worship with others on this Resurrection Day — or any other day in Eastertide, those awe-inspiring 50 days leading us Pentecost, where God’s Spirit descends upon us!
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.[a]
It’s been awhile since I have sat down at my old farm table to reflect on all the beautiful God moments I stumble upon in my daily walk as an accidental country pastor.
It’s been awhile because since taking a giant leap of faith last fall to move back home to Vermont—without a job and no clear sense of what God was calling me to do—I have been on a spiritual rollercoaster of sorts, strapped in for a ride that would take me slowly up and up and up to dizzying views of what can be only to have that view blurred by the sickening descent down to the realities of how exactly will my life play out.
Up and down. Down and up. Left turn. Right turn. Stop. Wait. Proceed. Not now. Go.
God, what are you up to?
I found myself taking refuge in my garden, quilting (my husband is wondering just how many quilts we need!) and going on daily prayer walks. I found myself being put in a place of retreat, withdrawing from not only the world, but myself. I found myself not eager to write, for I didn’t want to hear what it was my heart and soul was saying. The words—harsh or honest or inspiring and comforting—it didn’t matter, I just wanted all noise to be silenced.
As for my prayers on those solitary walks on overgrown paths of wildflowers, cat tails and a rabbit or two, they were not eloquent nor were they poetically rich with meaning. They were simplicity at its best. The prayers were just one name I shouted in my heart repeatedly. A name of a friend I couldn’t find anymore; a friend I felt I had lost.
“God. God. God…”
Early morning August 1. I sat in the vintage Queen Anne wing chair (made vintage by the claws of my cats) feeling anxious. I had one more dentist appointment scheduled to finally put an end to the summer-long saga of my root canal. I wasn’t anxious, though, of the crown I was about to get. If anything, that would be a piece of cake. I was anxious because the first time since leaping in faith into the unknown, I had no work lined up for the month. No freelance stories due. No preaching gigs. I was feeling lost. I was scared.
God, what are you up to?
I was about to do what I do best. Jump into something out of fear without thinking it through. I was going to see what part-time retail jobs were available in the nearest town to our little fledgling farm.
My husband, though, talked me out of it throwing back words I have thrown at him many times.
“Wait. Be still. Trust God.”
And so, I did.
I continued my search for my friend only to discover—once again—that God was always right there with me. God was never lost in my life. I was lost from God. My anxiousness to know the future and my fear of it, stole me away from my faithful friend.
I’m back now. Back at my farm table writing. I’m still a wee bit hesitant as to what my heart and soul will say to me in the words that will be pieced together into sentences. But this I know.
The God moments—those filled with divine light and those shrouded in holy darkness—are just too beautiful not to embrace, celebrate and share.
I’m back. The calendar is full, praise God. But beyond the scheduled days is a lesson I hope never to forget. That is, never fear and be anxious when life seems empty. Just wait. Be still. Retreat a little if you must. And trust with all your might. God is at work.
On August 21, I was named the new interim editor of my denomination’s magazine, Presbyterians Today. Great is God’s faithfulness for my prayer since coming home to Vermont was to return to my editorial roots, while still serving God. And so, I am working in my 18th century home here in Vermont, sharing the amazing ways God is at work in our congregations and communities. I also continue to preach in the rural churches in the area. Thank you all for being on this journey with me.
The only sad news to report is that I might have to put getting goats on hold. Not enough time for now.