Clean-Up Day at the Farm

 

Worship at the farm today has been postponed because there is something important to do. Not that coming together and worshipping God isn’t important. It is. Heck, it’s vital. Our worship is what grounds us. It reminds us of what we all too easily forget.

God is good at being God. We aren’t.

Today, though, there is something that needs to get done that goes beyond a video devotion to be posted online. It’s something I can no longer put off.

Today is clean-up day at Old Stone Well Farm.

And as I pull on my mucks and throw on a much-needed ratty sweatshirt to chase away the early morning chill of this spring morning, I think about the overgrown weeds that have moved onto the farm these past three years that I have been gone.

They have laid down deep roots where, if my memory is correct, irises, daffodils, day lilies and lilies of the valley used to bloom around a huge stone imbedded in the ground.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Dressed and ready to battle, I look out at the weeds and overgrown grass as high as my knees. They look defiant standing there in the sun with just a hint of the stone’s head peeking out. I do believe they are mocking me and my weapon of choice—a rusty, old shovel that belonged to mom and her mom before.

I try not to show my doubt in my ability to battle with the weeds and the rest of the overgrowth containing flora I am unfamiliar with.

Please, Lord, let there be no snakes in the mix as well.

I have no idea what I am doing. Perhaps the weeds have heard through the grapevine (not that I have grapes!) that standing before them is no farmer or gardener.

Yet standing before them is a pastor and writer and wannabe farmer who is also armed with a steadfast belief if you put your heart to something and hang on to the truth that all things are possible with God, well, then all things will be possible.

For God knows we yearn to see those beaten down flowers under our weed-filled paths bloom again.

Yes, the weeds don’t look terrified that I am coming their way to relocate them to a nice pile in a gully beyond Sofie’s Hill. I march towards them nevertheless.

I dig in and begin pulling and tugging. I uproot and yank. I throw the shovel aside and engage in hand-to-hand combat. With both hands firmly grasped on a deceptively strong…I don’t even know what it is am grasping…I squat down to brace my body for this impromptu game of tug of war. The weed, or whatever it is, is winning. I dig my heels in more and refuse to give up. One more tug. I just need to hang on.

And the winner is? Not me. I sigh and decide that weed can stay put—for now.

I continue clearing out the area once full of beautiful flowers. As I work, I find the motions of weeding meditative. I begin sharing with God all the “weeds” I am allowing to overshadow the beauty in my life.

The weeds of worry about aging parents, an older disabled brother who will need looking after and a husband who is looking at career change just as I, too, am in the throes of vocational discernment, seeking to write and minister and not yet knowing how that is all going to play—or pay—out.

Fear of having our daily bread still exists even when God sends just enough manna for the day. No wonder God got frustrated with the Israelites who still wanted to hoard the divine provisions.

Please, Lord, don’t let me be the one to frustrate you, I whisper.

I plunge my mud-soaked glove into the thick of the weeds and grab with frustration at them. I feel for the bulbs that lie dormant all because they are being trampled upon. I feel for them because they—like me and like you—hold potential in making this world a beautiful place.

How many times have I felt my dreams being choked by weeds that have gotten out of control?

Weeds of bureaucracy, naysayers, those afraid of the new things God asks of us?

Create a new worshipping community at the farm?

Really?

Come back home to an area you once served?

Really?

Write and minister and raise cashmere goats and perhaps a sheep or two?

Really?

I begin a litany of naming the weeds in my life: “Can’t,” “Not allowed,” “Impossible,” “No,” “Financially not feasible,” “Crazy idea,” “Silly,” “Not our policy,” “Door closed,” “Not an option,” “No discussion.”

Sadly, I realize there are too many weeds to name. I realize, too, the names of my weeds are identical to the names of the weeds in Jesus’ time. Negative statements that keep bulbs from bringing forth potential. Weeds trying their best to choke the power of God.

And with each name I give the actual weeds in my garden, I prayerfully grab hold and spiritually rip them from the soil of my own heart. Soil in which God has mercifully and, at times, ruthlessly, tilled. Soil now primed for an incredible harvest.

Good bye “Can’t,” “Impossible,” “Not allowed,” “No discussion.”

And good riddance to you, “Door Closed” because, in case you have forgotten, Jesus, the Risen Savior, is an expert at walking through closed doors and startling all with his message, “Peace be with you.”

I take the last pile of weeds and hoist them into the wheelbarrow and turn back to the ground before me. I sit and pray.

God is good at being God.

There underneath where the weeds were I see fragile daffodils soak in the new-found warmth of sun finally hitting their limp leaves. Two sprigs of lily of the valley gasp for air. There are a few other non-weed looking green sprouts that I am not sure of, but this I know. They are filled with potential.

A new day has begun here at my fledgling farm.

I take the weeds overflowing the wheelbarrow and dump them in the gully behind the hill named after my bumbling Bernese Mountain dog, Sofie. I feel I need to say a final blessing to them as if I officiating a graveside service.

Blessing the weeds?

While not quite my friends, they have taught me a lesson. They have taught me to persevere and do the hard work of living to my full potential. They  have reminded me that while there will always be weeds threatening to suffocate dreams, you must never give up. Yanking, tugging and uprooting are all part of living and are necessary to get to the beauty beneath the ugliness.

With a silent blessing said over the weeds, I turn back to the garden. The sky is blue, the hills and valley are finally turning green, and the weeds are gone—for now.

It’s clean-up day at Old Stone Well Farm.

A day of sweat and hard work and wonderful worship.

May this day become your own spiritual clean-up day. A day to remove all that is choking the God potential within and keeping you from growing into the beautiful creation God has created you to be.

 

 

IMG_4362.jpg

Clean-up day at Old Stone Well Farm reveals new life waiting to burst forth now that the weeds are gone. 

 

We Wait

Today we wait…

in stillness, deep thought, somber reflection.

We wait for the promise of new life.

We wait for God to pierce our lives with an “all-things-are-possible” attitude. New beginnings in the face of failure, rejection—and even death—can, and do, happen with God.

The Easter morning tomb waits…

to surprise us,

to fill us with awe,

and, hopefully, to change us.

May today, as you find yourself running around in last-minute Easter preparations, you take time to grieve your losses, let go of dashed dreams and acknowledge your brokenness. Then give it all to God.

For tomorrow is a new day.

It really is.

A blessed Holy Saturday from Old Stone Well Farm

candle_in_dark_by_jaro2.jpg.

 

 

Stay Out of It

Stay out of it…

That was the advice from my mom the other night as we talked politics.

Just stay out of it. Don’t get involved, etc., etc., etc. Let the women march. Let others say what they want on social media. Let folks in the backwoods of Vermont fire off their guns in celebration of the recent inauguration.

Now my mom is not one to step aside from righting a wrong. Growing up she was always the one supporting me to write a letter to the school board if I, as a student, saw something wrong. Speak up and act to change things, rather than complain about things. That was her motto.

No, my mom doesn’t step aside from righting a wrong easily. So, her advice to me the other night I realized was one of motherly concern for her daughter. Her daughter whose first career was that of journalist and whose second incarnation in life is that of pastor.

Journalist plus pastor equals trouble at times for both callings are spurred on by a passion for truth telling and for a desire for advocating for the underdog.

“But mom, I can’t just stay out of it,” I said quietly. “To do so would be going against everything I am.”

More importantly, to stay out of things, to keep silent, to turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, whatever body part you want to use as a metaphor, to do any such thing is going against all Jesus is. Jesus whose inauguration speech in Luke’s gospel, echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, outlined his policies: proclaim freedom for the prisoners, restore sight to the blind, set the oppressed free. There was no mention of building walls, but rather building bridges of love so that all could cross over each other’s “side” and finally understand one another and begin working together to make a better life for all.

Frederick Buechner, a writer and theologian who lives just up the windy mountain road from me here in Vermont, once said when Jesus told us to love our neighbors, he wasn’t telling us to love them in a “cozy, emotional” way. On the contrary, Jesus, said Buechner, is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our well-being to that end.

Do I want more job opportunities for those I love here in rural America? Yes. Do I want relief from the burgeoning medical insurance my husband and I pay each month, a payment that is so high, provides so little in return and means we must dip into our savings to help pay for it? Yes. Do I want a better country, a better world, a better future? Yes, yes and yes. But not at the expense of others.

For if I forget there are indeed “others” also trying to live and build a good life, then what kind of person am I?

To stay out of what is happening nowadays is to be like all those in the crowds who followed Jesus but didn’t go all the way to the cross with him for fear of jeopardizing their comfortable lives by upsetting the powers to be or even worse, upsetting friends and loved ones.

I sit here in the home that I have cried to God to return to. God turned to me and heard my cry. And for that I will be forever grateful. I sit here in my 18th century home with the wide plank floors that slope and stare out the window at the snow covered Green Mountains of Vermont so thankful to be brought back to an area in which fills my heart and connects me ever more closely to the divine.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be a reporter once again and for the opportunities to continue being an accidental country pastor as well.

My heart is full, but heavy as well. It is concerned. I can’t pretend all is well with the world, just because all is well here on my little fledgling farm.

There is work to be done. There is good news to proclaim. And that good news is not going to be easy to proclaim.

Then again, it never was.

 

img_2107

The old stone well covered in snow is a beautiful sight here on the farm. But as the accidental country pastor reflects today’s news headlines, there is the realization that there is work to be done beyond the farm. 

Sunday at Old Stone Well Farm

Welcome to the third week of Advent. So glad you are joining the Accidental Country Pastor at the Old Stone Well Farm a she reflects on what the pink candle around the Advent wreath, the candle of joy, means. Our online worshipping community continues to grow. Share this time together with friends. Blessings!

Scripture to Reflect On:

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Isaiah 35:10

Day 9—Making Room for Christ

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 9

On one blustery afternoon as the sun began setting in the sky casting a dusky pink across the fields where the corn stalks had been cut down, I came home to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back to the little white church for our evening Advent Bible study.

Unknown

Pastor Donna discovers the beauty of a tree with no decorations and, in the process, realizes what it means to make room for Christ during Christmas.

I decided to have a supper of crackers and peanut butter so that I could use my limited time at home to set up the Christmas tree that had been waiting for far too long outside, propped patiently against the old stone well of the antique Vermont house my husband and I were now making our home in as newlyweds.

On went my Mucks and out into the snow I trekked to bring in the tree. Once in, off came the Mucks and on went my sneakers as I gingerly made my way down the steep ladder that served as the “stairs” leading into the old root cellar. Down in the cellar, in the dark corners only illuminated by my flashlight, I searched for the tree stand, praying I would not find a critter—fuzzy or slithering—instead.

Once I had everything I needed, I went to work, carefully balancing the tree with one hand as I tightened the screws that would hold the trunk of the tree securely in its place in the tree stand. This would have been a lot easier if I had waited for my husband, but patience admittedly is not one of my virtues. And time was ticking by. I had a lot of other things to get done. In the darkening living room I worked quickly to put the white lights on the tree. Quickly is an understatement as really I threw the lights on with many tangles and knots still tangled and knotted. Then I plugged them in hoping the lights worked as I had forgotten to test them before stringing them on the tree. Never a good idea, but luckily, all the lights shone.

I stepped back and I looked at the tree. It was absolutely beautiful. The lights cast a warm glow against the rustic barn wood of the living room walls and the simplicity of evergreen and white lights, without any ornaments, was dazzling.

Next to the tree was an old wood storage box a woman from the congregation gave me that summer, along with a dry sink she had in her family that she thought would be perfect for our little Vermont home. She was right. It was perfect. The dry sink was now home in our kitchen while the wood storage box now served as a coffee table in our living room. On top of it I placed the wooden stable my father made for me years ago when I was still living in Manhattan.

The stable was a smaller replica of the one he made that I remembered from my childhood. Both the original and my replica were made from the wood of orange crates, which were then stained a deep rich brown. The stable was still empty, as the nativity figures were not placed in it yet. Next to the stable was an angel standing with arms stretched out. I couldn’t decide if the angel’s arms were stretched out to receive the Christ Child or to proclaim the great news of the Christ Child. Perhaps it was both, I mused.

The lights of the tree shone through the clapboards of the stable, casting much needed light into its darkened corners that awaited the gift of hope—the babe, God’s son. All of a sudden, as I stared into that empty manger aglow with light, the busyness of my day was calmed and my racing thoughts of what I had to do next faded away.

There I stood with the smell of evergreen, the white lights shining and a stable waiting to be filled with the joy of little baby. No tinsel. No ornaments. Not even a star on top of the tree. I stood in the midst of the simplicity of the season experiencing something I very rarely experience this busy time of year. I was experiencing peace.

It was then I realized the peace of Christmas is something we must not wait to come to us. It is something we have to actively seek out and create. It is something we have to choose to bring into our lives by slowing down, saying “no” to too many commitments, and even allowing ourselves the permission, if we want, to simply leave white lights on a tree without the decorations.

For when we embrace the beauty found in the simplicity of undecorated tree, when we pare down all the busyness that we think heralds in the holidays, we discover what “doing” Christmas is really all about: It’s about keeping things simple in our complicated lives so that finally there is room for Christ in our hearts.

Just then my thoughts were interrupted as I heard the dog barking at the back door, greeting my husband home from work. My husband peeked his head in from the kitchen and smiled.

“The tree looks wonderful,” he said, not even noticing there were no decorations on it.

“It does look wonderful. I don’t think we need to do anything else to it, do you?” I said.

“Nope,” he said, not even giving the tree a second look.

I looked at my watch. It was time for me to go. On went my snow boots and off I went to our Advent Bible study at the little white church. I couldn’t wait to get there because I just couldn’t wait to share with those gathered there that night the powerful gift I had received—the gift of peace that came wrapped in simplicity.

In our little Vermont home, Christmas was indeed happening. Room was being made in our lives for Christ.