Autumn Trek Pt. 6: The Ren Fest

     When I asked my son what he wanted to do when I visited him in PA I really expected him to say “Let’s go to Philly” or “Let’s see a movie.”

     I wasn’t prepared for him to suggest a Renaissance Festival; But he had seen the ad for a family friendly fair down in Manheim. So we made the plan for Sunday after church.  I prayed in the morning because the sky was threatening rain. For a while I thought we actually might ditch our plans and head to the art museum in Philadelphia instead; But when we got out of service the sky was clear; So we set to the drive an hour across country.

    Joe slept most of the trip because he was skyping until four A.M., with a missionary from the other side of the international date line he’s planning to intern with next summer .

     Once in Manheim though there was no sleeping. Only picture-taking. 

and eating

and more eating!

This was followed by fire eating.

And of course Shakespeare in the park.

Now slow, constant, and intentional as it was, by the end of this day I was ready for a nap. So I learned slow, constant and intentional does not necessarily mean non-tiring.

Have you ever been to a Ren Fest? Did you like it?

Autumn Trek Pt.5: The Audubon Loop

     My son saved me hundreds of dollars in hotel costs by letting me sleep in his dorm room. He let me have the bed while he took the floor, because I’m old (according to him) and he’s going to be a missionary; So he needs to practice. I, of course, was entirely compliant not wanting to rob him of his missionary training. 🙂

     We slept well and by next morning we were both ready for action. After donuts and coffee we decided to head out to Mill Grove to walk the trails before Joe had to be back to work at 1 P.M. 

       When the kids were little Tina and I went camping at Lamb City in Phillipston MA. They had a loop trail there too! It was a beautiful trail around the lake, but poorly marked.

    Tina had gone shopping in town. Joe and Amanda were really needing something to do. So leaving Melanie with my brother and sister-in-law I headed out with my three and four-year olds for what was supposed to be a short jaunt around the lake. I knew we were in trouble when I wandered into an apple orchard an hour or so later some two miles from the camp ground. By the time a van loaded with strangers offered us a ride, two hours further into our walk, I really didn’t care if they were axe-murderers the kids and I needed rescuing.

      I share that little story because history has a way of repeating itself. At first Joe and I were only going to walk half the trail and turn back the way we came. Half way in we changed the plan and decided to do the whole loop which was a four and a half mile walk. I thought “I can do this. Let’s impress the whippersnapper!”

The forest trail was beautiful. We found the remnants of an old lead mine and stopped for pictures.

     Of course, being part of the Audubon estate the trail was dotted with bird houses and duck blinds like this one.

      It was all going so well until about here. Then we lost the trail. Oh, we were on a trail all right. We just didn’t know it was the wrong one until we came to a dog park where we asked some friendly dog owners where the Audubon Loop picked back up.

    To which they replied “You walked here from the Audubon loop? Bummer!”

    So…Yeah…Four miles turned into more like eight or ten. The biggest difference between getting lost with my son at four and getting lost with my son at twenty-two is that this time I didn’t have to carry him. Oh, and this time I had a camera. 

Long story short. We lived. We made it back. Joe was only a half hour late for work. But, I’m thinking  maybe that look he gave me when I first arrived was prophetic.

Autumn Trek Pt. 4: Let’s Get There Already!

Yesterday I left you all at the border of Pennsylvania.

I may have mentioned it took me ten hours to get there. Still, I am sure you are wondering how come I could make it in ten hours and it has taken you three days. Well you can only do so much in four hundred words. Besides we have to take some time for the sycamores.

I had to ask an artist on the street what kind of trees they were because I really liked them. He gave me an “Are you entirely stupid?” look. Followed by a “How dare you disturb the heir of Van Gough!” look.  Then an eye roll… a loud sigh…Then he shrugged and turned his back on me like I had disturbed his nap! I think I broke Mr. Crankypants’ concentration.

He was standing right outside of this shop painting the trees. So honestly I thought he would be the best one to ask! How wroooong I was. Still I liked the trees. I finally found out what they were from a shop keeper who didn’t have anger issues.

I shook it off and bought myself a pumpkin coffee at Dunkin Donuts for comfort and went back to the road.

 In a little over an hour I was close to finishing my drive. I still had plenty of daylight so I opted to stop at Mill Grove, the John J. Audubon estate, just ten minutes from my son’s home in Phoenixville.

It was a great little road trip, and only a tank away! I learned that when you are living the slow, constant, and intentional life it’s your moment. Most people aren’t living the experience with you. So when an artist (or a non-artist) gets cranky with you don’t sweat it. He’s just having a moment among the sycamores. So just keep slow. Keep constant. Keep intentional. Maybe someday the rest of the world will join your joy! 

Oh by the way here’s the reason for my trip!

I know, I know he kind of looks like he’s been hanging out with my tree-artist friend. But I was embarrassing him in front of his boss, going all paparazzi on him…sorry Joe! 🙂 

Irene and the Seven-Fold Hedge

     Let me start by thanking all of you who prayed: for me, my family, and the church here in New England through Hurricane Irene. God was merciful to us! 

    Y’know, I believe that when we pray, our starting place is not requesting but abiding. For Jesus said,  “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.John 15:7

    For this reason I seldom ask God for something, until I have what I sense is His mind on the situation. I must first spend time in His presence and get His command for the particular situation that concerns me. Then and only then can I pray in faith believing.

    When I knew Irene was coming up the East Coast I was mindful of the fact that perhaps our turn had come to experience the wrath of God. I don’t mean to sound bleak but I do believe our nation, as disobedient as it has been, is beginning to experience God’s judgment.  Massachusetts certainly has no ground to stand on to say we should be exempt from what the rest of the country is experiencing. So as the storm approached I knew we could really be in for it.

     I began by asking God what He wanted for me out of this situation. Was He saying this was it? Was He saying to me “Head for the hills?”

     I didn’t get the sense that this was going to bring about destruction for me or my household. I felt the Spirit telling me to pray around the borders of my house seven times in the Spirit, a seven-fold hedge. On Friday I did just that. I started by the blackberry hedge and began to sing around my mother’s property in tongues. The first time around I sensed I was praying for the trees to stand. The second, I was praying for the ground to drink deeply of the rising waters. I prayed over a dead tree that if it fell it would fall straight down and not come near the house. I prayed that no flood would come to destroy. I asked that the gardens would be spared. I prayed over the transformer at the corner of our property. I prayed a shield of Holy Ghost protection over the walls of the house and the vehicles. I asked God to use the storm to cleanse the land of pestilence. I asked God to prosper us. On Saturday a group of us prayed over the church.

      Early Sunday morning the storm arrived. The rains fell thick and heavy as I walked the dogs at 6 A.M.. We were soaked to the skin in under a minute. The vernal brook that wraps around our house quickly swelled . Debris washed down from the upper pond. By 7 A.M. the brook had swollen to the top of its banks.  By 8 it had risen out of its borders and had taken command of the woods and back yard. It poured over the culvert below our house and into the street flooding our basement and those of our neighbors around the corner. By 9 we had eight inches of water in our cellar and could swim in our backyard. My mother, my sister and I headed to the cellar and began to bail in order to keep the furnace from being submerged. We bailed for a while and then called the town barn to ask them to come clean the culvert.

       A  beech tree loosened by the swelling waters fell over directly between the apple and plum-tree and didn’t break either! 

    The storm winds blew through the night and knocked over one more tree by the brook. The waters receded quickly once the town came and cleared the debris out of the culvert.

    As I watched the news this morning, I realized how blessed we truly were here in Winchendon. God chose to spare us and answer our prayers. Not one of our fruit trees was damaged. The waters are gone and left no sign of the flood.  We now have wood down for next winter and all we have to do is cut it up! And my mother has decided after a decade of haggling with her it is time to get a sump pump! As I see the footage of New York, New Jersey, and Carolina I realize His answer to me when I sought Him could have been far different. The pathway of protection was mine to walk in this instance. For that I am grateful. But I am also mindful that should my pathway have been different God would still have been with me and He would still have provided even if it had been through loss.

Nothing To Be Happy About

    

     The river of life runs through some interesting places…don’t it?

     I recently helped a female version of Puddleglum move to a new apartment in the city.

    Now,  I am decidedly not an oppressively happy person; My life is a bit to ironic for that. I do however try to keep an upbeat attitude, even if it is seasoned with a bit of sarcasm coming from a congenital defect in my left foot (see my post on the sarcasm bone)!

     Sweet Puddle, however, was enough to make even Pollyanna commit hara kiri.  Nothing we did was good enough. We weren’t working fast enough. We couldn’t give enough. She didn’t have enough this…that..or the other and a few days later the whole move was a stupid idea forced on her by people who were just plain mean. Needless to say I barely escaped with my life or my sanctification.

   In a conversation with her I tried to be encouraging. “At least you’re in. It’s a new place. Tell me one thing that has been good about this move.”

      Y’know I thought she would at least mention the team of people who had come to help her. What I got was, “Nothing…There is nothing to be happy about!”

      Like I said… interesting places.

      Through the years I have met many Puddleglums and wondered what it is that inspires them to see that there is nothing to be happy about. Recently I’ve been tempted to become one myself. In the process I’ve learned something: It’s not that there is nothing to be happy about; It’s that something  used to define happiness  has turned to nothing.

     In this lady who was forced to move, what blinded her to happiness was the removal of her familiar surroundings. The river was taking her somewhere she didn’t want to go. The river takes us all to places we would rather not go.

     We can choose to lose our joy.

     We can choose to say “There’s nothing to be happy about.”   

      We can also choose to realize, that statement is a lie and that nothing really has something inside of it if we just look deep enough…something we can be happy about. If nothing else being left with nothing gives us a chance to start a new adventure.

What new adventures are you on?

Moxie Day!

      I have learned that people like to celebrate, you know, take time off from the normal hum of life. Even if we really like our work, there is nothing quite like departing from the day-to-day for a break away.

     The people of “Vacationland”, Maine have come up with another reason to celebrate and relax: “MOXIE DAY!

     Never heard of Moxie? I’m not surprised it’s a New England thing sort of like fat back or fried okra for you southerners or poi for you Pacific oceaneers.

     Moxie is a soda you will only find in New England and it’s one of those things you either love or hate…there is no middle ground. I grew up drinking Moxie so over time I acquired a love for the curiously strong beverage. When asked about the flavor I usually remark “It tastes sort of like sweetened pennies!”

     Anyway the people in Maine have dedicated a whole day to the celebration of moxie. if you google Moxie Day you will find out that they are calling the soda “Maine in a bottle”.

     In Waldosboro they are celebrating by having free give aways off the “moxiemobile” that will travel through town. Lisbon Falls has a whole day of bands and dance troupes planned, finishing up with fireworks! It’s a big deal! I was a week early for the festivities…too bad I love Moxie!

     Last weekend I learned celebration is a necessity not an option. If people can’t find a reason to kick back and enjoy they will make one up!

     What crazy things does your part of the world celebrate?

Mainiac For A Weekend!

  I am always surprised by how God grants me exactly what I need, when I need it. Recently I needed inspiration. Here’s my story:   

  On the 3rd of July I left Massachusetts to go Down East. For those of you not from New England, that means I went to Maine. How that ends up being down and East to anybody other than Canadians I have no idea… but there you have it.

     I began feeling a push in my spirit to visit my northern brothers a few months ago. So when my brother-in-law invited me up, I decided it was time to go. I wasn’t really sure about the why. But I did plenty of praying about it on my journey up, and as usual the Spirit answered full measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing!

     My Brother-in-law Cliff and his wife Andrea live on a tree farm in the little town of Waldosboro.

     As you travel north along the coast, the sandy beaches of York and Ogunquit give way to the rocky ocean outcrops Maine is so famous for. Here in the bays of Camden, Waldosboro, and Wiscasset the great ship building industry of Maine was born early in our nation’s history. This is where I travelled too…though when I started I didn’t really know why.

     Holy Spirit began to show me almost as soon as I left that this was going to be a weekend of refreshing for my heart and a time of inspiration for my mind. 

     As I started out, God told me to take my time. Then He proceeded to make sure I would obey His command by sticking me in a traffic jam for three hours! 😎 When my arrival time came and went and I hadn’t even reached the Maine border I called Cliff and told him I would be along as soon as I could leave the NH parking lot.

     Through it all I felt so much peace. I prayed and God was my driving companion. He shared His thoughts and I descended deeper  into His presence even as He and I had a heart to heart that evidently was long overdue.

        I’m so thankful that God always knows what we need and when we need it. As a Maniac for a weekend I learned so much and I have much to share with you all!

     See you tomorrow!

Two Roads To Beavers

A hundred years ago Morton Converse ran a toy factory in our town that supplied most of the country with wooden rocking horses. The toy business  gave Winchendon its nickname, “Toy Town”, and made Converse a wealthy man.

     He built a mansion in the center of town on a steep hill that overlooked the Miller’s River. His home and garden terraces ran all the way to the river’s edge and spread across to several islands on the waterway. 

    The factory burned down when I was a kid. All that is left of the mansion is a few stray concrete walls which have withstood the encroaching forest and the tides of the River.

     A few well-meaning souls have tried to push back the undergrowth and plant a garden along the edge of the road where part of the foundation still remains.  I cannot say they have met with success. But where men have failed to tame the hillside beavers have commanded the water’s edge to bow to their will.

     I have known about the beavers for a few years and have wanted to spend some time watching them. But the opportunity never presented itself , that is until my daughter Melanie’s last  visit home. She suggested that we should take some time and visit the Converse beavers. So last Thursday we did just that.

     The rain let up for a few hours in the morning. So we put on long pants to guard against the tics and the cold and set out.  We hopped the fence and headed down through the foundation garden. The grass had grown in along the side walls all but obscuring the foundation stones as we set out down the steep hill. We quickly lost the rock pathway  in the foot deep grass. Grasping onto limbs to guide us down the steep hill Melanie and I quickly realized we were not dressed for the task. The hill was  nothing but mud and grass, wet with three day’s rain.

     By the time we reached the chapel wall we had slipped several times and our jeans were soaked up to the knees.  But we had a good view of the little critters who maintained the river. We watched for quite a while despite our chilly discomfort, mostly because we dreaded the thought of climbing  back up the way we had come. That’s about when we realized we were actually standing on a muddy trail that seemed to lead further up towards town. We decided we had little to lose; So when we were finished watching the beavers build a new island we took the pathway to its end which by golly was a set of stairs that led directly to the street.  Apparently someone a hundred years ago had been bright enough to figure out that people would want to go down to the river and that perhaps there should be a better method of getting there than to repel from the back-end of the mansion.

     Of course I, being a modern guy and all, never thought once to look for a set of stairs. Oh no… if it had been my mansion I would have strung a rope from the bathroom window and said to my guests “don’t forget to flush before you climb down to the gardens!”

     Makes me wonder how many other things in life I am doing the hard way.  I hope one day I will learn the lesson” work smarter not harder.”

What lesson is life teaching you these days?

Which I Gather In a Song

The Apology

Think me not unkind and rude,
That I walk alone in grove and glen;
I go to the god of the wood
To fetch his word to men.

Tax not my sloth that I
Fold my arms beside the brook;
Each cloud that floated in the sky
Writes a letter in my book.

Chide me not, laborious band,
For the idle flowers I brought;
Every aster in my hand
Goes home loaded with a thought.

There was never mystery,
But ’tis figured in the flowers,
Was never secret history,
But birds tell it in the bowers.

One harvest from thy field
Homeward brought the oxen strong;
A second crop thine acres yield,
Which I gather in a song.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

      I am learning that my peace in the storm of life is determined in large part by the voice I choose to listen too.

     In this storm God has been singing a sweet song in my ear almost continually. He sings against the darkness of my soul. He takes my breath away with beauty that reminds me that all of life is not dark.

He has made my feet to tread in pleasant places.  But I must step out my front door to hear His song. He sings in the key of green, and red, and pink. His voice smells like roses and lilacs.

I hear Him singing from the high heavens and even from the dark dirt of the forest floor. His voice emanates from the grasses and swells from the branches of the trees.

     So many have wondered how I can hold myself at peace in the storm. It’s because most times I don’t hear the rain. I hear Him and He tells me it will be all right.

He tells me like this

And like this:

And this:

     When I hear the beauty of his song with my eyes, the dark voices that ravage my mind slip for at least a season into the abyss which spawned them.

How do you hear the song of God?

The Twisted Thornbirds

My family is a little like the thornbirds minus the lecherous old woman, the fornicating priest, or his femme fatale…. OK, so we are nothing like the thornbirds except for the fact that my sister decided to become an actress and I became a minister. It did seem for a while we were following in the foot steps of Meggy’s children, Justine and Dane. For that reason alone I never go swimming in the ocean.

      Anyway our life imitates art scenario was going along very well until my sister got saved and then received a call to the mission field. Soon she will be Rev. Brenda Lillie and will be headed to the Netherlands to work with missionary Judy Mensch, who runs a children’s evangelism program called KIDZARK. Hallelujah! Praise God for great changes!

     Recently Brenda went for an exploratory of the area in which she will be ministering and building the KIDZARK & Co family theater program.

      Her trip went well. She visited Lisse and saw the tulip fields.

     She also walked the canals of Zaanse Schans.

     She walked past this  famous hotel in Zaandam.

     Most exciting though, she got to help Judy put together an outreach in which three people gave their hearts to Jesus!

     So my sister is becoming a pastor! Wouldn’t it be an odd twist of thornbird fate if I suddenly got approached to go to Hollywood?! Oyve!

     If you are interested in finding out more about Brenda’s adventures or how you can help her, go to : http://www.gonetherlandsag.com/