Last week I took time for a walk up into the woods. The woods that I normally walk is filled with beautiful stands of oak, but on this particular noontime walk I happen to notice that there were many smaller black birch trees scattered in the hilltop area where I had stopped to half sit, half lean against a loaded-pallet sized boulder to rest.
I was suddenly taken back in my mind to a walk that I had taken with my family as a boy. Occasionally we picnicked in a deep wide ravine which we called Tough Gully. One day as we were hiking back up out of the gully from our picnic, my father pointed out a large black birch tree with branches hanging over into the field where we were walking. He plucked some twigs and told us to chew them because they would taste like root beer. I did.
Now on this day, more than 50 years later, I suddenly remembered and I walked over to the nearest black birch and knocked down a twig from its 9 foot perch with my walking stick and began to chew it, and, sure enough, it tasted like root beer! Thanks, Dad for the memory and the lesson. I’m sure such demonstrations are one of the reasons I know what a black birch tree is today and how its twigs taste. I snapped a picture of my twig with the tender bark gnawed away.
On the way down the hill from my walk I saw a young man walking up and I thought he might think it strange to see me chewing on a twig. So I explained what was going on. He gave me the strangest look.
I wondered to myself. Who in my family will know this little piece of forest lore when I am gone? Not that it is an earthshaking or survival-crucial fact. But how many other tidbits like it will fall forgotten when my generation passes? And how much practical info must have already fallen forgotten when the generations before us have gone on?
I thought about how important it is to spend somewhat unstructured time with future generations. For as things come up in life experience or in conversation, it is then that we in the older generation have an opportunity to pass on something that we have learned or that was passed on to us. Some of it might be interesting trivia, like enjoying the root beer tastes of a black birch twig. But something else more weighty that we share might someday become crucial for the emotional or spiritual or even physical survival of someone we love. Chewing on the memory made me value all the more the time I get to spend with my daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren.
Contrary to some reports, a careful review of marriage statistics by a Harvard trained researcher, Shaunti Feldhahn, has good news about church marriages. It reports that the divorce rate for people who practice Christian faith together regularly may be as low as 15-20%. For those who also did not co-habit before marriage, the rate may be as low as 5-10%. It makes a huge difference if we practice our faith together by attending services regularly. Here’s the link.
Submitting ourselves weekly to God’s Word read and expounded and participation in personal and cooperate prayer gives the Holy Spirit opportunity to whisper in our minds and hearts the little corrections and admonitions that we need to help us to love one another well. Proper Christian worship combats pride, selfishness and materialism/greed/sensuality.
The group atmosphere and the teachings affirmed by Christian churches shape our personal values in the direction of solving our marital issues, valuing our spouse, learning to say ‘I’m sorry,’ and ‘I love you,’ and other such skills that strengthen relationships. In short, the Bible teaches us to love.
Relationships within the community provide friendships, often assist in life’s stressful crises and model marital success.
Often pastoral care and coaching from church staff or trained lay persons is valuable to individuals or couples going through hard times.
The marital success stats of Christian couples are more evidence that God lives in and among his people. God is with us! God is blessing his people with peace. The first fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence is love (Gal. 5:22).
These two articles talk about scientific investigations that have started to show that what happens in one generation can affect the genetic makeup of the next. Specifically, the first article showed that a specific gene was altered in the children of Jewish Holocaust victims compared to children of Jews who did not experience the Holocaust. If this kind of linkage proves out, it will be one huge reason why the Bible teaches that God is very interested that the home be preserved intact. Breaking up a home is traumatic for children. Our society does not think about how its actions and lifestyles affect its children. Then we expect the children to do better and better on tests regardless of what is happening at home. It doesn’t work that way. A stable, loving and supportive home environment is the beginning and continuing foundation of a good education. It may prove to also be related genetically to the mental health of the next generation.
Must be we made ourselves useful and didn’t cause too much trouble in 2014 because our daughter Keely and her husband Mark invited us to go with them on their annual spring Florida vacation again this year. Yeah! Of course, it is such a trial (wink, wink) for us to be with our two wonderful grandchildren, not to mention our daughter and son-in-law for a whole week!
We flew down and they rented a beach condo on the Gulf coast on Gasparillo Island in Southern Florida for a whole week (in the units behind my hat) (such severe hardships, I know). Thank you so much, Mark and Keely!
Annabelle and Sam love our attention (another tough break I know). Of course we thoroughly enjoy spoiling them a little too. Annabelle started learning to crawl on our vacation. We tried to allow Keely a little more rest as Annabelle is not much of a sleeper. JoAnne greatly enjoyed the pool, doing laps early every morning before others were awake. In the evening, she and I walked on the beach at sunset while Keely and Mark were putting the children to bed.
It is always a pleasure for me to watch birds in a different location. The only time while there that I took time away to specifically bird watch, I saw jungle but no birds. Yet, for example, while pushing Sam in the swing at the Community Center, I notched two new birds as they flew over. And as we walked on the beach, there were lots of shore birds to glass.
The attached gallery is a collection of pictures from vacation, some are taken with JoAnne’s camera and some with my phone.
Someone is way overdue for a Grandpa post. I am so much enjoying being a grandparent. And on November 17, 2014, our second grandchild was born, a little girl, Annabelle Jocelyn Stater, 6 lbs. 11 oz. One of the special moments over Christmas was being left in the Stater dining room holding Annabelle. I rocked her in my arm, looked at the tree and Sammie’s new oversize Melissa and Doug creation while listening to Christmas music playing from the iPhone on the table.
But back to the story. We were awakened in the wee hours on Nov. 17 by a call from Keely and Mark that they were going to the hospital. We left quickly. But Annabelle did not wait. She barely waited for the doctor to arrive. Mark accidentally dialed JoAnne as we were walking out of the hospital parking garage. JoAnne answered and heard the baby’s first cries. Keely and Annabelle were released from the hospital the next day.
JoAnne and I will also remember it for the very busy week that it was. I officiated at one funeral later that same day and met with two different families about funerals that I had yet to do. Besides that I ended up making at least three trips to the hospital in the first two days to visit and or pick up JoAnne. In addition, our choir was gearing up that week for a special presentation on the Sunday before Thanksgiving the next Sunday.
But we certainly had some very special blessing for which to give thanks the following week on Thanksgiving. The attached pictures are all from Annabelle’s first days.
November 20th, my Mom, Dorothy I. Jones, went to be with her Savior. She had turned 90 in August. Though she had been declining for months as a consequence of slow congestive heart failure, the end happened quite suddenly and unexpectedly. I’ve been working on this Thanksgiving tribute to Mom for a couple days. Also, here’s a link to her obituary.
When I think of my Mom, one of the first blessings that comes to mind is our phone conversations. The chain of them began when I was a freshman at the University of Rochester. Late at night I would sit at the hallway telephone and talk to Mom. Our conversations have never been short and that habit goes back to that year too. Recent years I would get on my cell phone while sitting in my big chair and converse. It was not unusual to be an hour on the phone. We covered a lot of subjects; family news, farm news, church news and upcoming schedules. But Mom also talked about Bible verses she was studying or teaching from, articles or books she had read, things from gardening in the summer and feeding birds in the winter, and even news items of note—she loved Paul Harvey especially. I will miss those conversations.
JoAnne and I took a couple days off to go to Connecticut this past week. It’s a combination of things. For one, we acknowledge that we are pretty taken with our new grandson. He is so loving. He cuddles right up to his Grandpa and Grandma J. Attached are some photos by doting grandparents for Sammy’s nine month mark.
We also go to help Keely and Mark as we can with the practical things of being homeowners. I am the family handyman, I guess. And I am blessed that my son-in-law asks me to mentor him in learning to take care of his home as he is a first time homeowner. This trip we worked with the extension ladder he bought, learning to set up and lower it properly. Hurricane Sandy did no damage to their house, thankfully, but it did reveal a couple serious east wind leaks that needed quick attention. So Mark and I spent Saturday morning on the sunroom roof fixing those. I trust we were successful.
I went to visit my Mom today. It takes about two and one-half hours one way going down through Gorham, Rushville, Naples, and Wayland. I enjoy the scenery, especially today as the fall colors were more and more prominent as I neared my boyhood home. I went to encourage Mom and took her some flowers from my garden in a basket that was my grandmother’s. Thankfully I have a good crop of zinnias this year that have made wonderful cut flowers to take to Mom. I read Scripture to her and sang to her as I usually do. Even though she is on medicine that makes it hard for her to remember or think well, she sang with me on the chorus of “God Will Take Care of You.” The most precious part was when she prayed for me. That encouraged me. These days I try to give back to her from the rich spiritual heritage that she and my Dad gave to us.
I finally had a little time to empty the cameras and go through the pictures with my laptop. So I could not resist making a gallery of Sammy pictures to share. JoAnne and I had the privilege of spending a few days with Mark and Keely and Sam on vacation a week ago in their newly purchased house. Since it is an older house with some additions over the years, so it has lots of room, and lots of character, but also a few bugs–things that need to be done. So I have been helping with repairs and repainting while JoAnne watches Sam so Keely can decorate and unpack. JoAnne has such a tough job, she can hardly stand it — snicker, snicker. The rest of us are doing minor remodeling while she goes for a walk with Sam and lounges with him in the bedroom so he is not in the way of the painting project. Of course, I’m not jealous… Anyway, here are some great pictures of my grandson and our family.