Light In The Darkness

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”  Matthew 25:23

The words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” are often repeated. Indeed,  it is  the wonderful acclamation any servant of Jesus Christ hopes to hear when his or her labors on this earth are completed.

It is something to strive toward and look forward to hearing. What could be better than to hear Jesus say those words to you?

Few things, indeed. However, as I have meditated upon the verse, I have come to think that the second part of his statement is even more precious.

It hinges upon our walk with him here, of course, but what could be better than to hear Him say, “Enter into the joy of your Lord”?

That joy is not found in isolation somewhere on the backside of the Kingdom. No, Psalm 16:11 tells us that this joy is found, “In His presence!”  It is the fullness of joy.”

To enter into His joy is to be with the one who is the author of joy unfathomable this side of Heaven. A little verse I read recently (author unknown to me) says it well.

“There, in your blissful presence, reigns immortal joy serene; No wintry storms are heard to roar, nor desolation seen. Around you flow unmixed delights, the rivers deep and wide;

While from the ocean of your love, proceeds an endless tide.”

Such reality ought to captivate our heart above all. It ought to fill us with desire for that day to arrive sooner rather than later.

It should cause us to say… no, not simply be able to say but rather to move our hearts to cry out with Paul,  “Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Phil 1:22-23)

Better by far. When we have passed through the valley of the shadow of death, and are done with all mortal care and grief, the Savior welcomes us home with this joyful invitation, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Thus begins our heavenly joy as we rest with Jesus forever. The joy of heaven is full, satisfying and eternal. It is an ecstatic joy. One writer said that, “It transports the ransomed soul with ineffable delights!”

If your spirit is not as deeply moved by these words as you might wish, do not be too surprised for the joy that awaits us is so far beyond what we can experience here as to sound foreign to our mortal ears.

It is the promise of something which, in this life, we have only the smallest taste. But, oh, what it will be then!

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

2 hockey players named Oswego High Athletes of the Month

FitzGibbons Insurance owner John FitzGibbons sponsors the “FitzGibbons Insurance Athletes of the Month” in cooperation with the Oswego Buc Boosters Club.

Oswego High School “Athletes of the Month” for January were hockey players Zach Zerrahn, senior, boys hockey and Allie Rodgers, freshman, girls hockey. Each received a $25 gift certificate for rivers end bookstore. 

State Senate Report

By state Sen. Patricia Ritchie

From sowing crops by hand and working the land with simple wooden plows to employing new and advanced technologies to grow better — and more — crops, agriculture has come a long way since it first took root in the United States.

Illustrating these changes is the newly-released U.S. Department of Agriculture  2012 “Census of Agriculture.”

The survey, taken every five years, not only indicates agriculture continues to be a strong and major driver of our state and local economies, it also shows there are tremendous opportunities for further growth in the industry.

According to the report, the market values of livestock, crops and total products grown and produced by those in the industry are at an all time high. Farms in the United States saw sales totaling $395 billion in 2012 — 33 percent higher than in 2007.

In New York state, farmers saw sales grow more than 25 percent since 2007.

While there has been significant growth in the agriculture industry, the report points to a number of sobering statistics.

According to the survey, during a period of five years we continued to lose three farms per week. This figure is due to a number of factors including consolidation, competition and lastly, aging farmers.

According to the survey, a third of farmers were older than 65 in 2012.  Although the farming population is aging, the number of young farmers has increased slightly.

Despite this small increase, we need to continue to add more young people to the ranks of our state’s farmers.

As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, encouraging growth of the industry is a top priority, and in the days to come, I plan to unveil an ambitious plan to put New York at the forefront of addressing the issue of our state’s aging farmer population.

I encourage you to visit my website www.ritchie.nysenate.gov, where you’ll soon be able to find details on the effort as well as a link to the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Responsible for generating more than $5 billion annually, agriculture is New York’s leading industry and it’s poised for explosive growth thanks to an increased consumer demand for food, drink and other products of high quality, fresh and local.

As state senator, I’m looking forward to working alongside our state’s farmers to seize opportunities for expansion in an effort to keep New York’s number one industry vibrant and growing.

View from the Assembly

By Assemblyman Will Barclay

This year marks the 50th anniversary  of the first Surgeon General’s report on Smoking and Health.

That report, issued in 1964, was the first federal government report linking smoking to ill health, including lung cancer and heart disease.

The news was a wake-up call to America.

Following the landmark report, government began its tobacco control efforts. Since 1964,  the smoking rate in the nation has been reduced by 58 percent. Fifty years ago, about 42 percent of adults smoked. Today’s rate is 18 percent.

The lower smoking rate has saved numerous lives. According to a report issued by the Journal of the American Medical Association last month, researchers estimate 8 million lives have been saved since 1964 when the public became more aware of the dangers of smoking.

Our state rate — 17 percent — is still a high rate when you consider the known health costs associated with smoking. Unfortunately,  our regional smoking rate is estimated to be even higher.

A state report indicates Oswego County’s smoking rate is 27.4 percent, based on data from the state Health Department from 2010.

Local health officials more recently estimate the rate to be as high as 32 percent. In Jefferson County, the smoking rate is 23.7 percent and in Onondaga County, the smoking rate is 20 percent.

I recently met with local health officials to discuss some of the health care challenges unique to our region. Presentations on tobacco use, among other health issues, were given at the local Rural Health Network’s meeting.

Data presented there showed as many as 26 percent of pregnant women smoked during their pregnancy in Oswego County in 2011. Health officials also reported Oswego County has a high death rate from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases.

Research shows obesity and smoking contribute to all of the above.

Local data also indicates smoking rates of pregnant women on Medicaid was as high as 42 percent compared to 8 percent of pregnant women with private insurance. While the numbers are alarming, it’s beneficial to have this data so we can work to reduce these rates, specifically in Oswego County.

The good news, health officials say, is the physician to population ratio will hopefully help our region reduce these rates and prevent premature death and illness.

At the state level, I’m pushing for reforms that would make those on cash assistance unable to purchase cigarettes using EBT cards. In fact, the state is in jeopardy of losing federal dollars if it does not reform its policies as well, so I’m hopeful this will change soon.

Though incidents of tobacco use may be higher regionally, tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death in New York, and lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the state.

Other health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke and other ailments are also caused by smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that those who smoke are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease and two to four times more likely to have a stroke. Men and women who smoke are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

Tobacco use is also responsible for diminished health, increased absenteeism from work and increased health care costs. The CDC also reports that tobacco use costs at least $133 billion in direct medical care of adults and more than $156 billion lost in productivity.

Secondhand smoke is also estimated to cost the country $5.6 billion in lost productivity each year, according to the CDC. Last year the state Assembly unanimously passed a bill that banned smoking at on the grounds of 100 hospitals. I was pleased to support this in the Assembly.

To access cessation resources, visit http://www.nysmokefree.com/ or call NY Quits at 1-866-NY-QUITS.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St.,Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling  598-5185.

Conservatives endorse Katko

The Conservative Party committees that constitute the 24th Congressional District (Onondaga, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego) have endorsed former U.S. Attorney John Katko to challenge Dan Maffei fr Congress in November.

Katko, of Camillus, beat several other candidates for the endorsement.

“While emphasis on the economy has to be our primary goal for this election”, state Ron Greenleaf from Oswego County Chairman, “it cannot be our only focus.

“Mr. Katko has shown an ability to grasp issues that face us locally and nationally. It’s great to have such strong candidate as John representing the Conservative Party and the 24th district,” Greenleaf said.

“Mr. Katko aligns with our Conservative principles philosophically and understands the significance of this election,” said Chuck Mancabelli, chairman of Onondaga County’s Conservative Party. “Mr. Katko has a strong command of the issues and more importantly, an ability to connect with the voters.”

“For me, John Katko has the right mix of strengths to prevail in this election and help restore common sense to the NYS Congressional delegation,” said Jim Quinn, chairman in Wayne County.

Katko recently received the four counties GOP endorsements. Republican and Conservative Party unity are critical for Katko’s success.

Phoenix track boasts 2 Section 3 champs

By Rob Tetro

Phoenix boys’ varsity indoor track coach Keith Walberger considers this past season to be quite successful.

Phoenix placed highly in nearly every small school meet they took part in. Walberger and his team had smaller expectations going into the season while anticipating struggles with depth issues. However, Walberger’s team proved him wrong.

His seniors displayed fantastic leadership abilities and solid performances throughout the season. Walberger also said his younger players can learn from the effort and performances his seniors displayed this season.

Phoenix earned many team awards throughout the season. They came in seventh place out of 11 teams in the Onondaga High School League 1 Meet. The Firebirds earned a fourth place finish out of 10 teams in the Class B, Section 3 Meet.

The remaining events were meets that featured small schools from Class B, C and D. Phoenix tied for third in the Arcaro Memorial Meet.

They earned second at the Jensen Holiday Relays, came in fourth at the Grieve Memorial Meet, earned a second-place finish at the Kirschenheiter Memorial Meet and got a first place at the Last Chance Meet.

A few Phoenix athletes came away with individual honors this season.

Mike Leach, Anthony Brienza, Dylan Switzer and Sean Madden were named 2nd Team All-League 4×400 meter relay. Andy Padula was named 2nd Team All-League in the pole vault. Eric Hillpot was named 2nd Team All-League in the high jump.

Andy Padula won the Class B Sectional Championship in the triple jump. While Eric Hillpot won the Class B Sectional Championship in the high jump.

Along with the already mentioned team and Individual accolades, both Andy Padula (pole vault and triple jump) and Eric Hillpot (high jump) qualified to compete in the Section 3 State Qualifier Meet with the opportunity to earn the right to compete in the State Championship Meet.

At the Section 3 meet, both athletes came up short in their attempts to qualify for the State Championship events.

However, Walberger feels the progress his team made over the winter will bode well for them during the spring.

“We are all looking to build on this momentum during the upcoming outdoor (track) season!”, he said.

Raceway proposal obtains state grant

The plan to develop a racetrack outside Central Square has received a boost from the state.

Central NY Raceway Park, Inc., which was formed in 2012 to develop a 145-acre site in the town of Hastings, into the CNY Raceway Park, will use a grant of up to $1 million for a portion of pre-development costs, including planning, design, engineering, investigation, legal and accounting for its proposed $38 million development.

This is the third state grant the project has received, officials said.

Mark Bombardo, director of code enforcement and community planning and development in Hastings, said the town still is waiting for the project developers to come back to he town with more information on its project.

“We had a scoping session in January 2013 and then had a public hearing in January 2014 on some of the information,” Bombardo said. “We found some things to be deficient, so we asked for more information.”

Some of the issues town fathers wanted more information on included traffic and noise.

Bombardo said the entrance to the raceway would be off of U.S. 11, an already busy highway. There also are a number of houses near the proposed site.

Bombardo said the town of Hastings is coordinating the review of the proposal with the state Department of Transportation, state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are waiting on them now,” he said of the developers.

Oswego County is a motorsports destination that includes several race tracks, including the Oswego, Fulton and Brewerton Speedways. The availability of different types of racing is considered beneficial to the industry, building opportunity and interest in the sport.

The CNY Raceway Park will schedule events to complement the schedules of the existing facilities and will distinguish itself by offering opportunities for a wide array of racing and a year-round venue not available elsewhere.

Additionally, the Park will be strategically positioned at major crossroads in New York state, making it convenient and accessible for race participants and the public.

It will be located minutes from Syracuse and the state Thruway, adjacent to I-81 and Route 11, and 80 miles from Canada.

The completed project will transform the site into a premier multi-use destination facility for motor sports, trade shows, concerts and other events, and attendance is expected to be 5,000 to 7,000 spectators per event.

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