Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

Featured

Summer seems to be winding down. The nights are getting cooler here in Vermont and I returned back from vacation to a few leaves turning color on the trees as well as two round, orange pumpkins in my garden. Yes, summer is winding down, but there are still rays to soak in and God moments to be found on the beaches of North Carolina.

Today’s worship is from the Outer Banks, where a lesson in riptides gets me thinking about how important it is to surrender to God and to trust that when jostled around in life’s waves, all will be well if we remember that old saying, “let go and let God.”

Our Scripture to meditate on today is:

Psalm 138:3-8

When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.
May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great.
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.

Till next week, blessings to you all.

Pastor Donna

A Quick Thought for the Day

As I walked this morning on the rail trail, deep in my own thoughts about which way to go and how best to serve God, I was reminded that my thoughts needed to be on God and his guidance. After all, how many times has God’s loving words proven true when whispered in my heart: “I know the plans I have for you…”

So how was I reminded that my thoughts were misplaced?

Lost in my own darkness, I suddenly noticed a ray of light shining on my path. The sun had broken over the mountains. I stopped and smiled. I remembered a time long ago–so it seems–when the late February sun broke through the bleak of winter, making my heart fill with hope once again.

I was on a retreat just a week after my I buried my boyfriend. Still reeling from the shock of his accident and slowly coming to grips that he was gone, I heeded my friends’ advice to come on the retreat. I really just wanted to be alone. But I went, and spent time alone there in a crowd.

While others were gathered in prayer one afternoon, I snuck off to walk in the woods. The snow was still on the ground, although patches of brown peeked through here and there. I stopped to sit on a log. It was the perfect place to breakdown and weep. And so I broke and wept.

I felt alone, confused and so unsure of the future. What was next? What was I to do? My future looked so uncertain.

As my head hung low and the tears slowed their pace, I sat still and numb. My eyes were closed but suddenly I felt a strange warmth. It grew stronger. With my head still hanging low, I opened my eyes to see a ray of light streaming down upon the ground in front me. I looked up towards the sky and noticed the sun breaking through the clouds.

For I know the plans I have for you…I heard God whisper…

God is whispering the same promise still.IMG_4011.jpg

God’s light will always break through and shine. Always.

I continued to walk this time with thoughts on the goodness of God.

 

Morning Meditation

I sit here nursing my coffee which has grown cold. The old country kitchen has grown cold too. I noticed the reassuring humming of the furnace has gone off and for a moment I worry. Is is broken again? Do we have enough propane? A familiar fear seizes my body…what if we don’t have heat, what if the pipes freeze, what if…

The furnace begins humming again. Crisis averted. I am safe and secure. Again.

The morning sun is breaking over the mountains, sending warm rays across the old pine table I sit at. The light is brilliant and beautiful. And so I stop nursing my cold coffee and turn my face towards the window. I sit and mediate on God’s goodness.

img_7419

A time of morning meditation here at The Old Stone Well Farm. 

I have a roof over my head. Yes, it’s an old roof that will probably need repairs just as the old foundation will too, but it’s a place to call home nevertheless. I have cold coffee to nurse and the means of making another cup if I desire to do so. I have a furnace which is fickle at times and has cost me plenty in emergency calls lately, but it works and I am never without heat for long.

As I soak in the warmth of God’s blessings I begin to think about how I wish for the whole world to take time to turn their eyes towards the sun and soak in God’s warmth.

For we are living in crazy times when it seems no one is turning their eyes to God first. We are living in a time where arguments are plenty. The thing is I laugh because no one is ever going to win these arguments until the arguing stops and the compassionate listening begins.

I think about the fear of not having enough for one’s self which is behind these arguments. I, too, have had that fear. I think about how my husband and I work hard to make end’s meet and how, now having to pay for our own health care, is putting a huge strain on our budget. When my husband gets frustrated, I always chime in, “Yes, but we are managing. God is providing our daily bread.”

Daily bread.

There is indeed enough of it to go around. That is, if we decide to focus on God’s bountiful grace rather than our self-centered needs which only demands that the loaf gets bigger and bigger to satiate our appetites.

I have a lot of friends who voted for our current president back in the fall. They voted because they are tired of struggling to make ends meet. They want their country to be safe. They want a loaf of bread to put on their own table. I also have friends who have sizable loaves of bread for their table and they want to make sure it stays that way.

I understand. I want, need, adore and desire “bread” too.

But when I hear the the heated argument of how our tax dollars are going to help “others”immigrants, refugees and welfare recipients—I wonder how can we say we are followers of Christ? For aren’t we all the “other”?

Do we ever step back for a second and remember the many times God’s grace was shown to us by a stranger or a friend? Do we remember the times we were in need and a miracle of provision happened?

Christ. The son of God who came to serve, not be served. The one who put our well being in front of his own, taking his place on the cross for our sins. The suffering servant who showed us the way to greatness is the path of downward mobility.

Our Savior whose real miracle that day on the mountain was not multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish into food enough for thousands. The real miracle was that of one little boy in the presence of Jesus who looked down at his measly lunch and was moved enough to give what he had for others. That is what God smiled upon and blessed.

It is sometimes hard to feel compassion for others in need when we ourselves are struggling. When we begin to get territorial, though, when we begin to start every conversation with, “Well, what about my family?” then I fear we have forgotten why God sent his Son Jesus to us. For God so loved the world.

God still loves the world. God still loves us. And we are all in possession of two measly fish and one “seemingly not enough” loaf of bread. We have what we need and we always will. We need to let go of the fear and worry. We need to let go of the anger towards others who are asking for our grace and mercy and love.

We need to do so for when we stop loving the world as God so loves the world, we will always see our lives as lacking something rather than seeing our lives for how they really are: overflowing with blessings.

Thomas Merton once wrote that no person who ignores the rights and deeds of others can hope to walk in the light of contemplation, because their way has turned aside from the truth, from compassion and therefore from God.

The furnace has stopped its reassuring humming again. That’s okay.

I sit at this old pine table with my face towards the morning sun, soaking in the warmth of God’s grace, God’s love and God’s provision. My prayer is to want for others what I want as well. A simple loaf of bread on the table. And nothing more.

May that be your prayer as well.

Day 19—Holy Silences

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 19

What did I love most about being an accidental country pastor?

Many things, but if I had to mention one it would be the holy silences I often found myself immersed in during the season of Advent and Christmas.

Silences?images

Holy?

In the season of Christmas?

I know, I know. You’re probably wondering what in heaven’s name am I talking about, especially now in this the final mad dash to the BIG DAY, when there are very few moments of silence to be had.

Christmas music plays nonstop in the background of malls and grocery stores, reminding you to hurry and shop for time is a wasting. Then there are the churches with their cantatas and choral societies with their concerts tugging at your time. Let’s not forget schools as well have their schedules of winter concerts to attend. On top of all the noise of musical offerings filling up the Christmas airwaves, there is the chatter of all the Christmas parties, both work and family, edging out any opportunity for a moment of holy silence.

And yet my time at the little white church there was always the beauty of the holy silences of Christmas all around me that I treasured.

There was the holy silence in the early morning walk to the chicken coop to say good morning to Drumstick, BBQ, Red, Chick, Sam and Fido. Don’t ask. The kids at the church named my chickens for me.

There was something so healing to my soul to greet my feathered friends and give them fresh water and then peek inside the coop to see what gifts they had waiting for me.

In that quiet moment, all anxious thoughts as to what to preach Christmas Eve melted away into a peaceful assurance that the words would indeed come.

While the coop was a ways from the house and not equipped with any electric, thus, my daily routine of chipping out the ice in their water dish and replenishing it with fresh water, I never minded the walk even in many feet of snow to trudge through.

When I was done tending to them, I would turn back towards the house only to notice how beautifully the sun was coming up over the field. Many times I would find myself standing there in the snow besides the coop not believing God had actually given me this life.

There I stood in holy silence, interrupted only by an occasional cluck, cluck from Drumstick—or Fido—they both sounded the same. There I stood allowing the holy silence to fill my heart with a song of never-ending praise that began my day in the most perfect way.

There was also the holy silence of the season of just sitting on the back porch in the late afternoon before dinner was ready and then heading out to my nighttime commitments at the church.

I would sit on the porch swing and look up at the tree line on the hills of the property. As the sun was setting its beams would peek through the bare trees in such a way that it always formed the image of a cross.

I tried as often as I could to make sure I was sitting on the porch swing at just the right time so I could be blessed by the sun’s gift of an illumined cross appearing, reminding me once again, the best gifts are not from a store. The best gifts are the ones God gives to us that are all around us.

I would swing gently back and forth. No Christmas music, no chatter, not even the sound of car going by…just a sweet stillness and a cross to mediate on.

And then there was my most favorite holy silence. The one that came on Christmas Eve when I would enter into the sanctuary of the little white church yet to be filled with holiday worshippers. With only the light of the setting sun coming through the multi-paned clear windows, I would stop and stare at the beauty of a heavenly warmth washing over the sanctuary’s colonial décor of cheerful yellow walls and wooden pews painted white.

The strong smell of evergreen wafted in the room as there was always a big tree given to the church by a local farm. The holy silence of an empty sanctuary before the doors would open for Christmas Eve worship was for me my time of worship. My time to be still before God and to receive the gift of His blessed presence.

Holy silences are important in our lives. They are especially important at Christmastime for it is in the quiet moments when we finally stop “doing” Christmas that we actual begin to experience Christ with us. And that’s what Christmas is really all about.

And yet we feel there is still have so much to do to make Christmas what we think it should be. Here’s a gentle reality check if your Christmas list still has many items yet to be crossed off.

Jesus came that Christmas so long ago into a world that was not quite ready for him. Mary and Joseph were making a road trip to Bethlehem, thinking they probably would have time to get that darn census taking care of before Mary gave birth. But the baby came before Mary and Joseph were ready. There was no room at the inn. There weren’t any baby clothes or blankets or crib waiting. It’s safe to say there were items left undone on Mary’s list at that first Christmas.

And besides a heavenly host of angels and some shepherds swinging by to see baby Jesus, the world didn’t really do anything extraordinary for our Savior’s birth. Jesus came into a world that was simply going about its business.

We need to remember the lesson in that. So often we look for God in the extraordinary moments of life when in fact God is right there in all the mundane routines—and unfinished tasks—of life. And sometimes the best realization of Emmanuel, God with us, happens when we simply stop running around and allow the holy silences to speak to us.

As the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” sings “how silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given” we are reminded the wondrous gift is still given in the silences we need to either seek or carve out in a busy, loud world.

So if you are looking to create a magical Christmas, start with the holy silences.

I am enjoying one right now as I sit here and type and listen to nothing but a soft snore coming from my bumbling Bernese Mountain dog, Sofie, who is sleeping in the glow of nothing but the Christmas tree lights on in my living room.

I know this holy silence will not last. I have things on my Christmas list still to check off, but I am not going to stress over it. For now I have been given the gift of God’s presence and in this, my holy silence, I whisper my thank you to God.

The countdown to Christmas has begun and with it comes a flurry of last minute items to attend to, but try to make it a priority to create or find some holy silences.

For while the wondrous gift is given in silence, it is also in the holy silences the wondrous gift is truly received.