Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

I believe in Christmas.

I believe that God continues to work in my life today through this story of Christ's birth so long ago.

I am a shepherd, startled to hear the good news of the angels, but eager to go and see for myself.

I am Mary, aware that somehow God is using me to accomplish things to big for me to imagine.

I am Joseph, not understanding fully that which God calls me to do, but following as fatihfully as I can.

I am the innkeeper, busy and frazzeld, but making some room, somehow, for God to be born.

I am the Wisemen, on a journey of discovery, bearing my gift to be given to glorify God.

And Yes, I am the angel, proclaiming in my own life, the glorious good news that God has come into the world and we shall never be the same.

I believe in Christmas and with my life, today and throughout the year to come, I will proclaim that Christ is born, that Chrismas is here, that God is with us!

(written by Peter K. Perry, Prescott United Methodist Church; Orescott, AZ)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

First Snow

After an unusually warm and balmy November and first week of December, we finally received our first snow of the season. I awoke to blue skies, 23 degrees, and a beautifully decorated snow covered world. These pics are from my morning walk in Shenentaha Park.
When I no longer thrill to the first snow of the season, I will know that I am growing old.-Lady Bird Johnson

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different and if this is not enchantment, where is it to be found?-John Boynton Priestley

A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together. -Anon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Days Old

Clara Rose...2 days old

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Week of Thanksliving!

Clara Rose
Clara Rose and PopPop

Big Brother Noah and his little sister just 25 hours old

8 grandchildren. EIGHT grandchildren. When Mary and I married, she 21 and I 22, we knew we would have children. Plural. Certainly two, maybe three, or more. Turned out to be more. Three wonderful daughters, then a son. Later, through adoption, another son. Blessings all. But grandchildren? You don't even think about the possibility. Then your children marry and you begin to think...hey, I could be a grandfather. Eight times! Clara Rose took her time coming into the world. 42 weeks in the womb. Then we got the call from Vermont...6 a.m....Wednesday morning, it looked like she would come into the world later that day. I was needed to watch her soon-to-be big brother, Noah. Had to make some quick decisions. Mary was needed to work at the store on Friday morning...5 a.m.
I didn't know how long I would be needed. So decision made, John and I to Vermont. We arrived just before noon. The call announcing Clara Rose's birth came at five p.m. (except she wasn't Clara Rose yet because they hadn't decided on a name). John, Noah, and I piled into the car and made the hour drive over the mountain from Waitsfield to Middlebury. We met this eighth grandchild, all 9lbs 8oz., with a beautiful head of dark curly hair. After a great visit, everyone except Mom and daughter went to McDonald's for a quick meal. Behind the restaurant was a supermarket. I had brought some food with me to cook for Thanksgiving but I didn't have a Turkey. In the market I was able to purchase an unfrozen 3 lb turkey breast. Joshua returned to his wife and daughter at the hospital and we headed back over the mountain.Clara Rose and her parents arrived home at 6:30 pm on Thanksgiving Day, just a little over 24 hours old. I served brussel sprouts, green beans, yams, and turkey for dinner. Mary hosted two of our daughters, Carla and Sarah, and Sarah's son, Sawyer (our 7th grandchild) and our dear friend, Linda, whose husband, Don, had gone into Hospice Care the day before. They had a fine dinner of turkey, green bean cassarole, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatos and gravy, scalloped corn, and pie for dessert.
John and I returned home on Friday. We met Sarah, Sawyer, and Mary in the evening at the Wilton Mall and went to the movies. We saw the film, Blind Side, a wonderful movie based on a true story. It was the perfect film for this holiday weekend as it celebrates the values of family, love, patience, forgiveness, and courage.
This morning I recieved the sad news that Don had died. We prayerfully give thanks for his life, his generosity, his sense of humor, and his friendship.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November Walking

West Coast Chuck, a fellow blogger, got me thinking about the joy of walking in November here in the great northeast. We have experienced an unusual run of sunny and warm weather this November, ideal for raking leaves, biking, walking and hiking. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote; I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.

These are photos I took while on a recent walk in Saratoga State Park.
I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape-the lonliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.
Andrew Wyeth

Friday, October 30, 2009


Grandson, Sawyer, is really "into" the whole pumpkin thing.
John is channeling Michael Jackson for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sand Artist

I have seen some videos of sand artists at work before but none of the presentations were as powerful as this one. She tells a powerful story in a very dramatic way. Click here.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Our own Piano Man

I am excited to be able to share this video on youtube of our son, John, performing this past January on a telethon for The Center for the Disabled. Click on this link and enjoy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Autumn Prelude

The calendar tells me that Autumn is still two days away yet the signs are all around me. The leaves are beginning to change and tonight will be in the 30's. The acorn squash and the green and red peppers hang heavy in the garden. I've started digging carrots. Orange and plump and sweet to the taste.
The seasonal change nudges me to change my approach to this blog. To write more often. Thank you to those who have said they've missed it. In the midst of a busy summer it has been low on my priorities.
I heard some fellas talking the other day about approaching retirement and their fear that they would be bored. I can honestly say that I haven't once experienced boredom since retirement. My life is rich with family and challenging experiences.
I am thankful for that. Worked at the Habitat Build this week. Will preach tomorrow. Renovating John's TV room upstairs. New carpet, new paint, new futon, and new TV. John calls it his "man cave". Celebrated John's 23rd birthday on Thursday. Family gathered at Friendly's for supper and ice cream. Earlier in the day we played mini-golf and bowled. John smiled all day. Have spent many hours searching on the Internet for a place to rent in Florida this winter as our earlier plans fell through. Late Thursday evening I found the perfect place for us. And it is available the month of March. It has a separate bedroom and bath for John that will be large enough to accommodate his keyboard. The house is in a region of Florida that we have not yet explored. We are looking forward to the adventure.
That's the key I think. Always have something to look forward to. Family times, challenging work, projects at the house, trips both large and small. Tomorrow we will pray a prayer I found; "Supreme Artist, we praise you for Autumn, a season of humbling and liberating beauty, the grand finale of the year."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

76 Trombones

Westcoast Chuck posted this on his face book and it gave me great joy to watch. Click here and I guarantee it will make you smile.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

being PopPop!

Sawyer Todd Mraz, our seventh grandchild was born yesterday, June 30, at 10:18 a.m. weighing 7 lb 6 oz and 21" tall. Our grandchildren now range in age from 0ne day to 16 years old. They all call me PopPop. Of all my titles; Reverend, Pastor, etc., this one carries the most responsibility and honor. I am silly with the young ones and funny with the teenagers. I visit museums with Kaylyn (16), play golf with Brendan (14), attend Morgan's (6) dance recitals and soccer games, go on hikes in the woods with Noah (5), mow the grass and work in the garden with Jacob (5), push Jena (2) in her stroller, and hold Sawyer in my arms. I read books outloud and make up stories, chase lightening bugs, prepare chocolate chip pancakes, have tea parties, and make the "tickle monster" come alive. Most of all.....I simply try to "be there". To be truly present in ways that I failed to do for my children. That is the gift of this season of life; to be free to choose how we spend our time more wisely. And so I am available to have lunch, pick someone up at school, take one to an appointment, go to a play or a movie, bowling, etc. You see, nothing very dramatic, not life changing or saving, certainly not memorable by themselves but the sum total of the activities together build the memories of growing up with PopPop. Morgan, Jena, and Jacob

Brendan and I


On Monday, Kaylyn and I spent a marvelous day together. We drove on route 2 over the mountain to North Adams, Mass. to visit Mass Moca, a huge museum of contemporary art.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Here is a link to an article in the New York Times regarding the Mad River Valley in Vermont where our son, Josh, and his family live. The above pic is in the article and Josh passes this farm every morning on the way to work. Josh's office is in the General Wait House which is mentioned in the article.

Friday, June 19, 2009

days, weeks, and months

Mary gave me a new calendar for Father's Day. It begins July 1, 2009 and ends December 31, 2010. Eighteen months, seventy eight weeks, five hundred and forty nine days.......all blank. It is a great gift. The gift of anticipation, yearning, dreaming, and planning. The gift of the future yet to unfold. I begin to fill in the blanks. The first week of July; the birth of Sarah and Todd's son is expected, grandchild number 7. I skip past the summer months to November and write in the anticipated birth of Josh and Elizabeth's daughter, grandchild number 8. This will mean that each of our four biological children have two children, a boy and a girl for each. How symmetrical and how wonderful for the grandparents.

Thinking of the family leads me to write in our family gathering at the end of August each year on the shores of Lake George. I then block off the winter weeks when we plan to be in Florida enjoying the warmth of the sunshine state as our house groans under the weight of the winter snow and ice. We are renting a house on a lake this year and I look forward to fishing for those big Florida bass.

There are opportunities for ministry to plan for also. A couple of weddings, the ordination of Jennifer Peters McCurry on August 29th. Jen has asked me to preach at the service. It is such an honor. Jen attended the congregation I served and I have known her since she was a young child. This will be the second young woman from our congregation whose ordination I am blessed to participate in.

I have received an invitation to serve as the main speaker at a youth gathering of Senior High youth that will be held in Niagara Falls in mid-March. Another honor and surely a blessing to be able to share in the excitement and energy of that event. The planning for what I will say will never be far from my mind the next nine months. Later that same month I will turn 65 years old. What a sense of humor God must have to give me this opportunity in this season of my life. Conversely, this November, I will be speaking on "Faith and Aging" for a Senior group.

So it goes, as I fill in a date here and a date there but most of the days remain blank. This is when the excitement grows. What surprises await me on these monthly pages, what joys and sorrows are yet to be? I am reminded of Jesus' words as recorded in Matthew.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Therefore I choose to anticipate the next year and a half with hope, excitement, and gratefulness.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Good Morning!

I started my morning with the words, music, and images of "Morning has Broken" by Cat Stevens. Then I went to work in the garden. Click HERE and enjoy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

the hopeful gardener

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1)

I have been thinking about this image from the gospel of John as I have prepared my own garden for planting this Spring. For twenty five years I have attempted to coax a harvest out of the stubborn clay soil in our backyard. The compost and manure we added over the years helped to enrich the soil but the annual harvest was always disappointing. So this year I decided to dig, build, and create raised beds for our vegetable garden.

This has turned out to be a very labor intensive project. First step was to remove the sod from an area measuring four by twelve feet. This is accomplished by forcing a spade into the dry, resistant, and stubborn clay dirt and removing 12” by 12” squares. These forlorn looking chunks are placed beside what will become the planting bed. Step two is to use a garden fork to loosen the dirt and break up the clods that are in the 4’ by 12’ bed. Then I place around the bed the frame that I have constructed from 2” by 8” lumber. Now it is time to return the sod I had earlier dug out by placing them grass side down in the bed so that the grass and sod will decompose in the earth. This is followed by using the garden fork to break up the sod as much as possible. Then a 1” layer of compost is laid down and followed by a 4 to 5 inch layer of good top soil. Finally, the soil is ready for the seeds and seedlings to be planted in the three raised garden beds we built this week. Yes, I have repeated this process three times. This brings us back to the Apostle John’s image of God as the gardener. How persistent and patient God must be with us as he prepares us for the seed of his gracious and compassionate Word. I know that the soil of my heart and mind can be as dry and unyielding as the clay in our yard. Yet God continues to work in my life and yours….digging out that which prohibits us from growth, breaking down our resistance, adding those ingredients that nourish and sustain us through all the seasons of life. Gardening reminds me that spiritual growth is a process. A process that takes time and preparation and patience.
Now the seeds and seedlings have been placed lovingly and hopefully in their new beds; not to sleep but to awaken and grow. They are in a place where they will receive 10 to 12 hours of sun a day, when it is not to cloudy. So…if I remember to water every day…and the rabbits don’t eat everything….and the weeds don’t get ahead of me………..
Spirit of the Living God, be the Gardener of my soul. For so long I have been waiting, silent and still-experiencing a winter of the soul. But now, in the strong name of Jesus Christ, I dare to ask:
Clear away the dead growth of the past. Break up the hard clods of custom and routine. Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge. Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word. Cultivate and water and tend my heart. Until new life buds and opens and flowers. Amen!
(from Prayers of the Heart by Richard J. Foster)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring in Upstate New York

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

The above quotes from Mark Twain are a reminder that the season of Spring is a time of yearning and uncertainty. Nature’s awakening in this season stirs in us a yearning for change, newness, and rebirth. And Spring does not disappoint. Soon the tulips will be in bloom in Albany’s Washington Park, blossoms will adorn the fruit trees, leaves will cover the now bare limbs, and peas will be picked in the vegetable garden. Soon…but when? Like children on a journey we ask each Spring morning; “Are we there yet?” We are impatient after a long and cold winter and desire a rebirth NOW!
And that brings us to the uncertainty and fickleness of Spring reflected in Twain’s second quote. This season of hope does not come to us in a smooth and steady revelatory process with each day becoming progressively warmer and full of more and more promise. No, it is an on again/off again season with ups and downs, joys and disappointments. Today as I write, it is in the 50’s but tomorrow brings the promise of an 80 degree day.
Spring is a wonderful metaphor of what it means to be on a faith journey. The Holy Spirit stirs in us a yearning and desire to walk closer with God. To experience the Holy Presence in all that we do. We wish that we would make a steady progression in this most significant task. The truth is that it is on again/off again and filled with days of hope and days of disappointment. This is not because God is fickle or uncertain. The promises revealed to us through Jesus are certain and assured. It is our fears, anxieties, and impatience that create the uncertainty in our hearts.

The year's at the spring

And day's at the morn;

Morning's at seven;

The hillside's dew-pearled;

The lark's on the wing;

The snail's on the thorn;

God's in His heaven -All's right with the world!

~Robert Browning

Hope springs eternal when “God’s in His heaven-All’s right with the world”!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Eve

With hours to go before this most significant dawn.....I am pondering this statement by Richard W. Swanson...
The task on Easter (which is every Sunday for an Easter-based faith) is to tell stories about resurrection in a world where everyone dies.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” (E. B. White)

The desire to enjoy the world has certainly won out these past four weeks in Florida. It has been a whirlwind of visiting friends, activities, and enjoying the beauty of the Sunshine State. I can't believe that our time here is almost over, it certainly proves the old adage that "time flies when you're having fun".

As soon as we arrived we made arrangements to meet fellow blogger, Poker Bluegill and his lovely wife, Elizabeth at Rainbow Springs State Park. Following a picnic lunch and hike we traveled to The Villages for their Mardi Gras celebration.
The next day, Ruth arrived from Zephyr Hills to spend a lovely day with us that concluded with dinner at Sonny's BBQ. Then we were pleasantly surprised with a visit from Richard and Zoe who were making their first post-retirement visit to the Sunshine State. They especially enjoyed dinner at Gator Joe's and dancing at Spanish Square.We have also had the opportunity to visit a county fair and witness a demolition derby, taken a train ride to a reenactment of the gunfight at the OK corral, visited New Smyrna Beach, attended the local stock car races, shop at the huge Flea Markets, picnicing at various parks, attend two concerts; Mel Tillis and Asleep at the Wheel, and attended a Mets spring training game in Kissimmee.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Different Kind of CEO!

While listening to the car radio today I heard this refreshing story about a CEO who is not driven by greed but by a generous and caring heart. His name is Hal Taussig and he is founder of Untours, a company that arranges trips to Europe where one can truly experience what it is like to live in a particular setting.

"In a world gone mad with greed, he really believes in the common good," says Bob Fishman, executive director of the nonprofit social service agency Resources for Human Development, who has worked with Taussig on several projects. "He doesn't do it to say 'I'm right and you're wrong,' but rather to show, in his own sweet way, that there's another path. By his example, he gets all of us to think, 'can't I do more?' "
Taussig does not consider himself heroic or saintly. "This is my way of finding meaning," he says. "This is how I get joy out of life. The widening gap between the rich and poor is not sustainable. I fear there will be a violent revolution if we don't find a solution to poverty in the world."

MEDIA, Pa. (AP) — Travel company operator Hal Taussig buys his clothes from thrift shops, resoles his shoes and reads magazines for free at the public library.
The 83-year-old founder of Untours also gives away all of his company’s profits to help the poor — more than $5 million since 1999. He is content to live on Social Security.
Taussig takes a salary of $6,000 a year from his firm, but doesn’t keep it. It goes to a foundation that channels his company’s profits to worthy causes in the form of low-interest loans. (About seven years ago, the IRS forced him to take a paycheck, he said, because they thought he was trying to avoid paying taxes by working for free.)
If he has money left at the end of the month in his personal bank account, he donates it.
At a time of the year when many people are asked to give to the poor, Taussig provides a model for year-round giving.
“I could live a very rich life on very little money. My life is richer than most rich people’s lives,” said Taussig. “I can really do something for humanity.”
His decision to give away his wealth stems from a moment of clarity and freedom he felt when he wrote a $20,000 check — all of his money back in the 1980s — to a former landlord to buy the house they were renting. It didn’t work out, but the exhilaration of not being encumbered by money stuck with him.
“It was kind of an epiphany,” he said. “This is where my destiny is. This is what I was meant to be.”
He and his wife, Norma, live simply, in a country house in suburban Philadelphia that’s nearly a century old, with two bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. It is neither luxurious nor sparse, but a comfortable home filled with photos and knickknacks with wraparound views of trees and clothes drying on a clothes line. To cut energy use and help the environment, they don’t own a dryer.
Norma Taussig uses a wheelchair after suffering a stroke years ago. They have been married for 61 years and have three children, five grandkids and five great-grandchildren.
Taussig said his marriage improved when he and his wife decided in the 1970s to keep separate bank accounts. His wife lives on Social Security and savings from her job as a school district secretary and later as an employee of Untours travel. Her salary never went above $30,000 a year.
Taussig said the house — purchased for $41,000 in 1986 and owned by his wife — is paid for and so is her 12-year-old Toyota Corolla. Taussig has his bike for transportation, which he faithfully rides to and from work every day, three miles round trip.
He calls consumerism a “social evil” and “corrupting to our humanity” because of what he said is the false notion that having more things leads to a richer life.
“Quality of life is not the same as standard of living,” he said. “I couldn’t afford (to buy) a car but I learned it’s more fun and better for your health to ride a bike. I felt I was raising my quality of life while lowering my standard of living.”
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, met Taussig through a network of social-minded businesses and describes him as “a humble guy — not your typical CEO.”
While big corporations give away more money than Taussig, Cohen said, the donation could be “one-half of 1 percent of profits while Hal gave away $5 million and that’s 100 percent of his profits.”
In 1999, Untours won the $250,000 Newman’s Own/George Award for corporate philanthropy, given by actor Paul Newman and the late John F. Kennedy Jr., publisher of the now-defunct George magazine. The awards event was held in New York City but Taussig balked at paying the city’s high hotel prices. He stayed at a youth hostel while he donated the quarter-million-dollar award to his foundation.
Kennedy’s reaction to his hostel stay? “He stared at me blankly,” Taussig said.
The Untours Foundation loans money to groups or businesses at around the inflation rate. The current loan rate is 3.7 percent. The foundation’s tax filing shows total assets of $1.8 million in 2005, the latest record available, of which $1.6 million went to 38 groups or firms. Hal Taussig is the president, and his wife is the vice president. They don’t get salaries.
“I try to make the poor into capitalists,” Taussig said. “They should be self-sustaining. You give them money and they run out and you have to give more. But if you give them a way to make a living, it’s like teaching them how to fish rather than giving them fish.”
—AP story by Deborah Yao 11/27/07

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Vermont Valentine

Mary, John, and I arrived in Waitsfield, Vermont on Friday evening to visit with son, Josh, his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Noah. We enjoyed a marvelous Valentine's Day that included a trip to Montpelier surrounded by the signs that the mysterious Valentine Bandit had struck yet again. Every year on February 14th the residents of this, the capitol city, wake to find 100's of paper valentines taped to storefronts, light posts, and any available surfaces. It is a sight that brings a warm smile to all in this cold and wintery part of the country,

In the afternoon we attended a Vermont Frostheaves basketball game. The Frostheaves are part of the Continental Basketball League and they play some of their home games in Barre, VT. We shared a Valentine's dinner of fish tacos at Josh and Elizabeth's home surrounded by construction paper red hearts crafted by Noah. Over dinner we all shared things that we love about life. The list included family, laughter, playing games together, traveling, music, and sharing.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Orphan Train

In the early 1850's there were thousands of children wandering the streets and back alleys of New York city. They were penniless, homeless, and hungry. The newspapers referred to them as "street Arabs" because of their wandering ways. In 1853, Charles Loring Brace, a minister, founded The Children's Aid Society. The organization's purpose was to gather up these children and take them by train to the mid-west where it was hoped, they would be taken into homes and treated as family. Over 100,000 children were sent between 1854 and 1930 to rural homes where many were simply seen as a source of cheap labor. Others, however, were taken in by loving and caring couples who raised the children as their own. My wife Mary's grandfather and uncle were two of the fortunate "orphan train" children who found new homes in Eastern Iowa.

Yesterday, Mary and I and our granddaughter, Kaylyn, 16, went to a performance of "Orphan Train" that has been created by composer Doug Katsaros, librettist L.E. McCullough, and lyricist Michael Barry Greer. This poignant piece of musical theatre is being performed by the New York State Theatre Institute under the direction of Patricia Birch. The cast was a fine mixture of young and old with wonderful singing voices. The cast moves on and off a stage through images projected on a screen behind them that depicts trains, farms, and other settings. It all works quite well together, the music, lyrics, set, and costumes but it is the power of the story itself that makes this an unforgettable afternoon at the theatre. Five "orphans" are followed in their journey from boarding the train in New York to being "placed" in their new homes and the consequences of that placement. The play honestly depicts the sorrow and even horror that some of the children experienced as well as those for whom this journey was the beginning of healthy and fruitful lives.

There is a scene, based on fact, when the children disembark from the train in a small mid-western town. They each are presented to a small gathering of town folk and then the children simply stand waiting to see if they will be chosen or left behind. The director allows the silence to build as the intensity and awkwardness of the situation is felt by the audience. It is a powerful moment that allowed me to truly enter into the emotion of the story. The play ends with a stark reminder that thousands of "surplus" and "unwanted" children still exist. A photographic display of some of these children filled the lobby and information was available regarding foster care and adoption.

As I sat in the theatre I thought about how Mary and Kaylyn were experiencing a part of their family history in such a vivid way. And I wondered, were there others in the audience for this production who are related to the original orphan train children?