For us, Easter has always been a great time to affirm family ties. I guess there is something about focusing on the center of our faith together that brings us closer to those we love too.
A week or so ago we made a pre-Easter visit to Bath, NY, and had lunch with JoAnne’s Dad and his wife Lucille and her brothers Joe and Mark. This weekend we really enjoyed having our son-in-law Mark and our daughter, Keely, visiting us from Hartford, Connecticut. It was also son-in-law Mark’s birthday weekend so we took time to celebrate even amid the busyness of a parish at Easter time–such good food – JoAnne’s turkey dinner on Friday; Mark’s favorite Syracuse restaurant, Dominick’s, on Saturday; and ham and scalloped potatoes with lemon pie for Easter dinner. Then Easter evening I talked with my Mom for over an hour on the phone. My occasional long phone conversations with Mom have an extended history going back to late night conversations on the hall phone when I was a frosh at U of R decades ago. Today it is encouraging to chat with her as she is a great fan of my ministry. Also, as we talk, I can catch up on all the family news. Her memory for extended family details is better than mine. Also Easter evening, Kim O. stopped over to watch a movie with JoAnne, while I took a walk in the neighborhood and read the paper, and talked with Mom.
The smell of spring, the inspiration of beautiful landscaping, the lure of finding just the plant you are looking for in your own project; all these combine to make CNY Blooms a nearly irresistable stop for me in March. I am an amateur flower gardener from way back. I inherited it from my maternal grandmother who grew so many flowers, that her displays sometimes stopped traffic.
Anyway, just when we all need a reminder that spring is coming, the landscapers and nurserymen pull out all the stops, forcing plants into peak bloom that you find hard to persuade to bloom at all in your garden. The old brush-painted smoking flower-power VW bus was parked in the biggest bed of multi-hued flowers. I especially admired the weeping cherry in full bloom, the copper-cup rain cascade, and the well-integrated mixing of vegetable raised beds and flower beds in one professional garden. Of course, I found a few plants to buy too; an African violet for my collection, two ivies for my indoor gardening and a promising heuchera (Coral Bells) from my friends, Chuck and Cindy Centner. It’s one of my favorite ways to move the season ahead for a few very pleasant hours.
Sometimes people at church wonder why I’m not available on Monday nights. The short answer is that on Monday nights I play third trombone in Liverpool Community Band. It is very relaxing to be involved in a totally different kind of activity where I am not in charge of anything. It helps me keep up my ability to play trombone and to read music. I originally joined the band a year or so after Keely went off to college. It practices about three weeks and then plays a concert at a nursing home. Once in a while we get to play a public concert at Johnson Park if the weather allows. We play marches, Broadway collections, movie collections, and big band stuff. My favorite composer is Karl King as he wrote for trombone. Tonight we played his piece, Trombone King. Fun, fun—especially when our director, Cathy Stickler, repeated it at a faster tempo. In the fall, I enjoy playing the German music for our Oktoberfest concert—I frequently have the oomph-pah parts. I took lessons in grade school and high school. I really didn’t like playing much until I was about a junior in high school. By then I could play easy grade six stuff and I really began to enjoy playing. I took lessons at Eastman for all four years while I was at University of Rochester as an undergraduate. Then later, when JoAnne and I were at Houghton, I played bass trombone in the Houghton wind ensemble. I have not said much at band about being a pastor, but it is known and over the years, I have had the privilege of praying with several band members in the hospital or on the phone. I find it very enriching to have this added dimension to my life. Usually while I have been at band JoAnne has used the night to lead a ladies study, enjoy a movie with a friend, or go to art classes.
It was a pleasure once again for JoAnne and me to visit Houghton College for the February meeting of the Board of Trustees there, of which I have been a member for about 3 yrs. It is JoAnne’s and Keely’s college Alma Mater and I am considered an alum too since I attended for 2 yrs. Jed Boswell, Alyssa Pocock and one of my nieces are currently students there. JoAnne and I have a great affection for Houghton because of our many connections and because of the great experiences Keely and others we know have enjoyed there. We saw both Jed and Alyssa and they are doing great too. Jed has organized a seven member Christian rock band. With native stone architecture, Houghton’s campus is beautiful, even in the winter. Though the work sessions are long, I enjoy the camaraderie with other leaders and have been uniquely suited for this volunteer position by my own educational experiences. President Shirley Mullen is a delight to work for and with. She is an exciting and visionary leader. The latest facilities news is that we approved an extensive renovation of the science building that will begin this summer. The renovation also paves the way for an awesome future addition that we saw designs for.
I’m adding the Houghton link to my website links. If anyone has questions about Houghton, I may be able to help at least point you in the right direction. I also love to chat with other alums.
I think of 2 Cor. 9:8 as my life verse. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” A few years ago Mark and Eva Boswell gave me a notepad which I really like. On its cover Eva had painted, “And God is able…” It’s my favorite notepad to have with me when leading a meeting. I try to think why I memorized the verse with the ‘and.’ For one thing, that is how we did it when I was young— no simplifying or leaving off beginning conjunctions was allowed then so it is a habit. But sometimes I do not follow that unnecessary habit. Why did I with this verse? I think it reminds me that whenever I need the verse there is usually a challenge presenting ‘and’ I can add the verse to the equation of life at that moment. The problem does not stand alone in my life, but it is connected in my mind and heart and in spiritual reality with the abounding and sufficient grace of my Savior. The ‘and’ reminds me to make that association. That is one key reason it is my life verse. The other reason is the way it uses the word all – ‘all grace’ is first. The verse begins with a focus on God’s help. Then it reminds me that I have that assistance in ‘all things,’ that is in all circumstances and at ‘all times.’ Whatever the problem or potential, God has made available all the grace I need.
Lord Jesus, please help me to claim this promise again for the challenges of today and every day , AMEN