Rose Arbor Project Completed

JoAnne has always wanted a rose arbor
JoAnne has always wanted a rose arbor



When I was a boy there was a white rose arbor in our side lawn. Pictures were often taken there. It marked the entrance to one of the flower gardens on our rural farm property. When my wife was a girl, she often spent summers at her Grandparents’ house. The entrance to the sidewalk was a white rose arbor with a gate. She has always wanted a rose arbor.

The opportunity did not present itself in either of our previous pastorates. Neither property had a spot that was conducive. But when we moved to West Granby, there was a fenced in area with a broken-down gate which needed to be replaced. Being a gardener, I immediately thought, “What a great place for a small garden and a rose arbor!” I no longer want a big garden anyway. I just want to grow a few strawberries and some cucumbers so we can make pickles. And I needed to replace that gate with something that looked better. A rose arbor would be perfect here. A friend said it looks very “New-England.”

First I needed to knock down the poison ivy which you can see growing on the fence in picture two. Fortunately, I am only very mildly allergic, which helps as the ivy keeps coming back and I am not bothered as I fight it. They I began planting roses where I thought the rose arbor would be as I knew it would take a couple years for them to really become established. One was a a transplant from Keely and Mark’s as it was in a place they did not want it. Others I ordered. If you look closely, you can see that I timed it well because by this fall, I had one rose cane growing over the top of the arbor. There are several colors and one white.

I wanted to make the structure durable so it is all made of treated lumber. Some of it is donated re-purposed decking. Eventually I hope to stain it all white and add a gate. The design underwent a few changes as it was being built as JoAnne and I looked at it and decided what looked best. I have worked on it little by little for a couple years, collecting and buying materials and cutting pieces. Then this summer, I knew it needed to come together.

Already it has become a photo spot as you can see from the photo I included. This is us posing in the Victorian costumes we wore to celebrate Copper Hill Church’s 200th Anniversary.

Reflections on car shopping today

Thanksgiving for my Buick

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, today I am thankful first for the 7 years of good service that I have had from my 2005 Buick LeSabre.   If memory serves, I purchased it late in the year in 2006 when it was a year old and had thirty-some thousand miles on it.   Now it has 146,000 on it. I am thankful too for the safety we have enjoyed over all those miles.   I have put very little money in it either beyond routine maintenance.  It still purrs and eats up road well.  It had been a rental car.  But now it needs some work and its value has fallen far below the value of the work that needs to be done.  

Late twentieth century car shopping

So, I have been car shopping.  What a difference between car shopping today and car shopping even just fifteen years ago.    Before, I would have first checked newspaper ads, especially those big auto sections in the weekly Sunday papers.  Then I would have driven through the lots of dealers that I knew to see what I could find that I liked.   Third, I would have called a couple trusted dealers I knew to see what they had and suggest models I had been thinking about.   To check on values, I would have visited the bank and asked at the counter to see a copy of their little Kelley Blue book so I could look up the value of my trade-in and of the car I was considering.   Interest rates might have been six or seven percent.  

Internet car shopping is so different

But this time around, having recently moved, I did not even know where the dealers were.  I just started searching on the internet.  I just picked a price range and set a couple search engines going.   Soon I was looking at details on cars and trucks for sale in that price range within 75 miles of my house.  In the process, I learned where some of the major car and truck dealers are too.   I emailed for more info right from my chair or desk.  Once, I was called back within minutes.   Other times I was contacted by email.  I could then schedule a time to test drive the vehicle if I wanted to.    What a difference over how I would have done it just a decade ago.   And what is more, I’m so used to the new ways already that it just seemed like the intuitive way to do it.  That’s the really scary part.  Back in May when I found a new car for my wife, I had found the car on the internet also.  I reflected that my feeling of naturalness about this new internet way of car shopping was an even greater measure of how truly our culture has thoroughly changed in how it does business.

I’m thankful to be getting an Equinox very soon

Now on to the news.  I am also thankful to have found a car that I believe will serve us well in the future.  We have chosen a 2012 Equinox LTZ AWD which I found on the internet. It is also a vehicle coming out of the rental fleets with thirty-some thousand miles.  The LTZ trim will be especially helpful to me as it supplies a higher grade front seat that is six-way adjustable, a helpful feature for my chronic lower back issues.   The crossover style, with its fold down rear seats will also give me room to put stuff into the car that I need to carry for projects.   (I told the salesman that I can’t remember all  the times I’ve had eight foot lumber inside my Buick.)   I test drove the Equinox twice, once by myself and once with JoAnne along.  It impressed.  It is white, one of my favorite car colors.  I hope to pick it up next week. 

Features I am enjoying about living in Connecticut

If you ask me the proverbial question, “Is the glass half empty or half-full?”  I’m the kind of guy who always answers, “Half-full of course!”  Count your blessings.  So, while I could talk about things we miss from New York, my mind tends to focus instead on what I am finding delightful about living in Connecticut.   Here’s a partial list. 

  1. Number one is spending so much more time with our daughter, son-in-law and wonderful little grandson Sam.   He loves holding my hand and walking around the house at this stage.  I better enjoy it while it lasts.  He is so huggable.   Now I see him about three times per week on the average.   JoAnne watches him two days per week and loves it.  She is a great Grandma, and a very creative care-giver for Sam.   
  2. The church God has given us to serve in our semi-retirement, Copper Hill UMC, is a joy.  I love country churches with history.  This one was organized in 1816 and we have already met many delightful new friends who are receiving our ministry with joy too. 
  3. I wear jeans and T shirts a lot more.  While I was working full-time, I only wore such relaxed apparel for an occasional gardening stint or when on vacation in the Adirondacks.  Now I get to wear it multiple times per week.  It feels good.
  4. There is more sunshine.   After all, Syracuse is tied with Portland, OR for most number of cloudy days so I should have expected it.  But this year, even the folks from CT are saying the weather has been great so I think it has been unusually nice.  We are loving it.  
  5. I am walking more.   The parsonage is about 15 minutes’ walk from a forest preserve with a great uphill trail that has been providing good exercise.  So far I’ve only lost about 5 pounds but I’m in much better shape.  We have lots of good conversations with people we meet along the way too.
  6. Since I am a history buff, I’m loving living where the timeline of local history commonly stretches back another 100 years to 150 years compared to Western NY.   This area of Connecticut began to be settled in the late 1600’s.   For a history buff, it’s like adding one-third more stuff to the pages.  Instead of 2 centuries of local history, there are three.   
  7. The area of CT where our parsonage is located is very rocky.  Our lawn has rock ledges and walls.  Our cellar is a rock foundation.   Walking in the forest preserve, we see huge rock outcroppings.  It reminds us some of the Adirondacks where we often vacationed when we lived in Syracuse.   I had a rock collection as a kid too.  
  8. God has blessed us with a parsonage that fits us very well.  JoAnne and I both have separate roomy offices in it, something we probably could not have afforded if we had purchased a home.  It has lawn and garden spots, a garage, and bedroom space for guests too.   It has also provided more than enough DIY projects to keep me happy. 

A Personal Testimony

While I usually file my sermons in the sermon section, I decided to include this one here for two reasons.  First, because it is my first sermon at Copper Hill UMC.   Second, because it is very informative about me personally and will be a great addition to the Who Am I section of my blog.

First sermon at Copper Hill UMC


As I thought about how to begin this morning, I decided that there was not a better way than to introduce myself by giving my testimony—the story of my own Christian journey.  

Telling the story of God’s action in our lives is a Biblically recommended practice anyway, isn’t it.   In the passage Judy read, the servant of Abraham tells of God’s activity in helping him to be successful in finding a wife for Isaac.   In a sense, much of Holy Scripture is the inspired testimony of God’s action among his people, recorded for us to read and profit from later.  In the book of Revelation, in the verses that I read, John tells us that one of the weapons of the Christian church – one of the means that it can use to overcome the enemy of our souls is testimony – reciting to one another the work of God in our lives.  Testimony has several benefits.  Telling others what God has done has a way of confirming it for us too.   Testimony encourages and inspires others as well.  When one person testifies, it helps us to understand how God works and what he can do in our own lives too.  

My prayer is that this abbreviated story of my Christian journey will not only help you get to know me but also inspire and encourage your own Christian walk. 

A Christian beginning

Object: a family farm needlework or picture of my extended family

A Christian home

My journey began in on a family farm in rural Western NY.  I had the privilege of being born into a Christian family.  On Sundays, not only both my parents, but all four of my grandparents would be at our church.  I was told that I first accepted Jesus into my heart at age 6 kneeling in the living room next to my mom.  


Hospitality to God’s Word at six

Key verse:  “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Jn. 1:11-12 ESV

It was an important beginning of giving hospitality to God’s word, God’s work and God’s Spirit in my life.  The Bible teaches us that each of us has an opportunity to do that.  The bible is using a hospitality metaphor.   As when someone comes to the door of our home, we can either let them in our shut the door, so it is with God’s teaching in our lives.   The Bible teaches that God I as one standing at the door of our hearts and knocking.  If we will give Him entrance he will come in (Rev. 3:20).  

Growing in faith in a small church like this one

Object: Haskinville plate

Childhood Sunday school

The church I grew up in was a lot like this one.  Continue reading “A Personal Testimony”

Moving Day part two

Our new house in the country
Our new house in the country


Monday July 1 was long anticipated.  We arrived at our new parsonage at 7:50 am to await the moving truck’s arrival.   We had been told they would come between 8 and 10 am.   That was the same window we were given when they packed us out and they had arrived about 9:30 am.   But this time, we had no sooner gotten out of our car than the big orange cab of the Allied truck crept slowly into view.   We were just in time.  

Organizing helps

JoAnne’s organization proved extremely helpful.  She had made sure all packers labeled every box with a big letter and a number.  The letter designated the room of the new parsonage where the movers could deposit it.  The number was used to keep track of contents which were also written in brief on the box and on a list.   The rooms all had big letters posted to identify them.  This organization greatly speeded up the unloading process.  It has also enabled us to find things we needed without unpacking everything.  JoAnne also tried color-coding the boxes with markers but that proved not so useful.   JoAnne and I mostly served as traffic directors to guide the larger pieces to their intended spots.  We had made drawings ahead so we each knew what the plan was and we also had it posted on the wall. 

Humor and hospitality

Humor helps so much when packing and unpacking household goods.  We joked with both crews all day.   They are hard pressed to get things done this time of year and it is very hard and physical work.   We bought subs at Subway for the crew that unpacked us.  It took them until about 6 pm.    By then the rooms were piled with boxes and the garage door would hardly close.   

We have felt blessed by God

We have felt very blessed in this move.  God provided financially to help us move through gifts from both churches and the CNY Wesleyan district.  Very little was damaged in the move.  We have enjoyed the hospitality of our daughter and son-in-law for two weeks in the middle and played with our grandson everyday too.   Personally, God has impressed me with more than one special verse in the process of the move.  All this has helped us combat the emotional grief of leaving Kirkville after a 22 year stay.   Thank you all for your prayers. 

Moving Day

DSCF4248 (640x468)

Race to get it done

JoAnne and I have been so busy preparing for this moving day that I have not been able to chronicle it as I wanted.  Now it has come and gone so I have a little more time while we are between homes to think about it.  We have been driving ourselves for weeks to thin out our material possessions and pack up the remaining ones.   While we hired Fox Hollow Movers, the Syracuse affiliate of Allied Van Lines, to do the actual moving, we were to pack all the small stuff.   But when you have lived at one location for 22 years, you accumulate a lot.  Things come in a little at a time and very little goes out.   We scrambled to empty attics—we had things stored in the church attic and in the garage loft—and systematically attempted to reduce our hoard of books by at least one-third.  We gave away things privately, had a yard sale, donated to the Salvation Army, consigned things to antique dealers, and trashed and recycled mounds.   The closer moving day was, the easier it was to part with things.   The move helped bring the relative value of things into proper perspective.

Thank you to our friends

We could not have completed the task without much help from friends.   Kim O’s neighbors, Steve and Sandy, adopted our cat.  Ben Mackey brought us lots of boxes.  John and Josiah Durfee came twice to help dig daylilies among other tasks.   Jerry, Brad, John and Josiah helped me pack the garage on the day before the truck came.   Shaun and Mark hauled junk away.   And JoAnne had many helpers too, but especially Cindy, Donna, Kathy and Kim O.   Eva sent food and Cindy sent food.  Kim gave us a place to sleep and a great breakfast the last night.   I’m sure I have forgotten someone, but my point is; we had so much great help and we are very thankful.  We felt loved by the family of God through all the help that came.

God’s sustaining promises

 It has been difficult to leave.  It brought tears when I closed the door of the house for the last time, a symbol of the deeper stresses of the move.  One day as I was running one of the many errands, I stopped at Sacred Melody (Parable) bookstore for something and as I looked up at the display above and in back of the counter, there was a plaque with this verse.   “You will go out with joy and be led forth with peace (Isa. 55:12 NASB).   I knew the message was meant for me and it was an elevator for my spirit that day.   Indeed it has proven very true in so many ways.   Even the peace lily in the kitchen bloomed on the last day we were there. 

Moving Day long but successful

The truck and burly crew of four pulled in about 9:30 AM.   They set to work on the garage and then the office.  The leader cataloged everything and helped lift only when he was needed as he was busy writing and directing.   The other three packed the truck steadily.  JoAnne and I joked with them and prayed for them as the day progressed.   JoAnne was on the phone with Joyce as the crew was having trouble getting the piano out.  JoAnne and Joyce prayed and JoAnne let the crew know they had done so; just then the piano cleared the obstacle.  We ordered pizza for lunch and had grace with the crew before eating all together.  For supper, Cindy brought hot beef stew and I picked up subs so we said grace again and had supper together also.   The office told the crew to finish it all in one day even though it was estimated at a day and one half work for a crew.   One extra man came to help in mid-afternoon.   The whole job didn’t wrap up until nearly 9 PM.    It was an exhausting day, but all our goods were on that truck.    The house looked so different.   We had planned and worked to make it happen and now the first big step had been taken.  

Off to CT

The next morning, after a great breakfast at Kim’s, it was back to the house to pack the two cars.  The moving company could not take my daylilies on the truck because of NYS rules, so I had to make other plans.  I chopped them into smaller sections and took a sample of most of them in the trunk of the Buick to plant later. Then I planted three more at Kim’s house and gave lots of samples away too.  The plan worked but it took up much of the Buick trunk space.  This meant I had to really be a good packer with the remaining space.  But everything fit in.   Kim helped me label all the keys.  After prayer with Kim and greetings to Sue next door, we were off, JoAnne followed me in her new-to-us 2010 Honda Civic while I led the way in my Buick road-eater, as I call it.  All went very smooth except for one scary merge into the halfway point rest stop outside Albany.    JoAnne had a hard time getting across traffic but she made it.  The rest of the way went well.  Nearing West Hartford, I found the short-cut to Mark and Keely’s that I had been looking for too, cutting off 5 minutes more from the expected Grandma commute.  Thank you for your prayers for the journey.   Mark and Keely and Sam welcomed us with hugs and kisses and JoAnne checked in with Kim.   We were soon tucked in bed in Connecticut.    One half of the move was complete. 


So thankful for everyone’s kindness

JoAnne and I are so thankful for all the kindness and generosity that has been expressed to us over the last few days.    For our moving time yard sale that JoAnne organized, all kinds of people volunteered in one way or another to help move things in and out of the house or office or to tend the sale itself.  While we didn’t make a fortune, we moved some items and more importantly we had great conversations with many folks.  Turns out it’s a great way to meet people.   But most impressive to me were all the friends who helped us, in spite of the 90 degree days we had.  And some of them were the best customers too.   Thank you so much everyone.

We also received a gift from our new church at Copper Hill to help with our move, a gift they were not required to give but chose to give out of kindness and generosity.   We feel blessed indeed.   Thanks to the folks at Copper Hill too.

Library thinned

Books to give away to mentees
Books to give away to mentees

I’ve completed thinning out my library according to the guidelines I published earlier.  Several associates, teachers and mentees have perused the boxes.   Some books were displayed on our yard sale as well.  However, few lookers took more than a small handful.   Seems like I remember coming away from such opportunities 20 years ago with armloads.  But the internet, the availability of cheap books and the busyness of contemporary life has created a different day.  So far JoAnne and I are finding that the demand for used books is very small.   A few classic authors were still desired.  But most who looked at the books said they already had too many books and didn’t have room for more.  There will still be opportunity to look over some of my books of books for a couple days.  I will probably start disposing of them early this next week so I can start packing the shelved ones to go to CT.

Downsizing a library


Books to give away to mentees
Books to give away to mentees


At this time in my life, as I get ready to move, and try to sort through the accumulations of 22 years living in one house, I’m reminded of the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4-6 (NIV)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: …

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…

This has been particularly obvious as the time has come for my wife and me to sort through our libraries.   While the parsonage that we are moving into may have more square footage than the current one, the amount of book space and office space may be less.  That is because my office will now be in the parsonage as opposed to having a separate office in the church.   In addition, there is the simple issue of weight. Movers charge by the weight of the shipment and books are heavy; so it is best to take only what you will need.  Furthermore, there is the whole issue of what is happening in our culture with regard to books; books you hold are slowly losing ground to electronic ones.   A few weeks ago we sorted out four or five boxes of used books from our home and took them to two used-book stores.  One bookstore owner sorted out a few and paid us about enough to buy one new paperback; the other did not want any.   So we donated the rest to the Salvation Army.   A great deal of this is due to the rise of electronic books.  As a result of these facts, my wife and I have set a goal to downsize our libraries by at least one third.    

How are we doing it?  Here are some guidelines we’ve used to achieve the goal.

  1. If I haven’t read it in all these years, is it going to make it to the top of my list anytime soon?  I’m giving away some brand new books because I felt the answer to that question was “no.”
  2. Is this a reference book that I do not need to use any more because I have access to the material in a program or on-line?   My Bible program has replaced several of my books, including at least one set.
  3. Will this book help one of those I have been mentoring more than it will help me?  If so, let it go. 
  4. Is this a book I do not need because by a combination of experience and material I have read, I have covered the material?  If so, I should let the book help someone else, even if it is one I have valued in the past. 
  5. Is this a book I have quoted often and will probably continue to cite?  If so I should keep it.
  6. Everyone has favorite authors.  I’m keeping almost all the books by my three or four favorite authors – John Maxwell, Jim Cymbala, E. Stanley Jones, Bruce Wilkinson.
  7. Is the book outdated?  Unless an older book is by a famous person, it will not be that useful to quote.   A few may be useful to read anyway.  They might be by someone else’s favorite author.
  8. Is the book a classic I wish to pass down in my family?    We don’t have many of these, but there are a few.

With these guidelines, I am getting it done, as the picture shows.  My mentees and church teachers will be able to choose from the sorted books before we figure out what to do with the rest.

A new assignment

My new assignment
My new assignment


Today it was announced at both churches that I have a new part-time pastorate in Connecticut starting in July after my retirement from full-time ministry here in Kirkville.   I will begin serving as the pastor at a very old and historic United Methodist Church at Copper Hill, Connecticut.   There is a very roomy parsonage that comes with the assignment where JoAnne and I will reside.   The parsonage is 10 or 12 minutes from the church and both are about 30 minutes from Keely and Mark and Sam.   

The sanctuary of the church is well preserved and was built in 1839—that’s four years before the Wesleyan Church was founded.   It was near the site of a famous camp-meeting grounds.   Like my home church in Haskinville, NY, it was built at a country crossroads.   However, today the hills and vales are thick with modern houses so there is a great opportunity for expanded ministry.   There is also a golf course across the street and a rails-to-trails trail a few hundred yards away as well. 

The best part was the warmth and genuine sense of ministry anticipation that we saw in the staff parish committee with whom we interviewed.    They made us feel very welcome and appreciated from the start.   I could sense the faithful perseverance in the Christian faith that has enabled the church to survive all these years.   I think they will be very receptive to our ministry there.   

This position for us is an answer to prayer.   We were looking for the good works prepared in advance for us to do after retirement.   This will be very meaningful without being too draining.   The economic boost will  help us to handle Connecticut costs as well.   So we are very thankful for this provision and looking forward to serving God together with the folks at Copper Hill.