"Have you entered the treasury of snow,
Or have you seen the treasury of hail," (Job 38:22 New King James Version)
"A blizzard for April Fools Day?"
There's been a lot of talk by weather forecasters and others here in Massachusetts about an "April Fools Day blizzard" that happened "just a few years ago". Do you remember that storm? In fact, there was an unusual blizzard at this time of year. Indeed, it seems as though that storm just happened; maybe seven or eight years ago. In fact, that blizzard took place in 1997! The circumstances of that blizzard were unusual!
In 1997, March 30th fell on a Sunday; March 31st fell on a Monday; and April Fools Day fell on a Tuesday; exactly the same as this year. A difference is that Easter Sunday was March 30th that year. (This year, Easter is late, falling on April 20th.) The weather on Easter Sunday of 1997 was very nice. It was sunny and as I recall, by the afternoon, the temperatures were well into the sixties. It may surprise you that when I was pastoring I often did not preach on Easter Sunday. That's very unusual. Most pastors consider Easter Sunday their highlight day of preaching for the year. It's like a preacher's Super Bowl! Pastors work and work to prepare the finest and most exciting and intense Easter sermon imaginable. (Frankly, that's a lot of pressure!) I have five Easter sermons that I've used through the years; one from each of the four Gospels, and one from First Corinthians fifteen which is considered Paul's great Resurrection chapter. After I'd preached all five at First Assembly of God of Framingham, Massachusetts, I felt kind of sheepish about repeating them, although I think I repeated most of them at least once. I vastly preferred to bring in guest speakers for Easter. That way, I'd get to hear a fresh Easter sermon and get to relax and enjoy the day. In 1997, I brought in Harvey Meppelink as my Easter Sunday speaker. Harvey is well known and highly respected in the Assemblies of God, particularly in Southern New England. He gave a great sermon that morning. The attendance was good that day, but not great. I was always disappointed when attendance was less than "great" on Easter Sunday, but Harvey's truly great sermon helped take the sting off my disappointment about some empty seats.
My focus was not at all on the weather forecast that Easter Sunday morning. I was therefore very surprised when Stephen (not his real name), a lay leader at the church enthusiastically announced to me that a blizzard had been forecast for Monday. Stephen was unusually excited about the blizzard coming. I must admit that despite all he said about a blizzard, I was quite skeptical. It was Easter, sunny, and heading into the sixties. It seemed like maybe Stephen got Easter confused with Christmas, or something like that! I don't have enough time and space to write all there is to write about the matter of Stephen and weather, but trust me, it's a complicated enough subject that could be the topic for a future blog post. Stephen is an engineer and very well educated. He's a smart guy and he's the epitome of "a sensible guy". It may sound odd, then, when I tell you that he has some sort of (what I call) a "weather blessing" from God, but he does. Any time Stephen and his wife came to an outdoor church function or attended an outside wedding or party or anything of the kind, the weather would be outstandingly wonderful! Now, mind you, there could be intense storms and a tornado watch, but as soon as Stephen's car would pull up, the clouds would part, the sun would come out and great weather would reign for at least a quarter of a mile in any direction. (No kidding!!) I found out that the reason Stephen was so excited that Easter morning is that apparently his weather blessing also works (sort of) in reverse. At that time, Stephen was in some kind of boundary dispute with a neighbor. As I recall, the neighbor contended that Stephen's fence was actually on the neighbor's property and demanded that it be taken down. This had gone through legal channels, and Stephen had been given the date of March 31, 1997 by which the fence had to be taken down. Stephen had trusted God that as a sign from Heaven, there would be a catastrophic blizzard on March 31. He was ecstatic because the blizzard was indeed coming! (When the snowfall totals were tallied up a couple of days later, Milford, Massachusetts had the highest total snowfall. Stephen's house, as the crow flies, is about seven miles southeast of Milford, so he considered even that snowfall total figure as significant.)
Notice I'm talking about March 31 and not about April 1. It's much cooler to call the storm of 1997 the "April Fools Day blizzard" but in fact most of the snow fell on Monday, March 31. On Monday, March 31, there was a Special Business Meeting at the Assemblies of God district office located at the Charlton/Sturbridge line on Route 20. We were called upon to vote on some major proposals being considered to update our Bylaws. I remember picking up breakfast at McDonald's on Route 9 westbound in Framingham at about 8:15 a.m. At that time, it was raining and the temperature was about forty degrees Fahrenheit. It was hard to believe that on the previous afternoon people were out shooting hoops in the sunny sixty-five degree weather. Indeed snow was forecast. I wondered how I'd fare in the storm as I drove out to the district office.
I actually "spoke from the floor" a few times at that Special Business Meeting. In those days, I used to like to do that. I don't think I've spoken from the floor at any Assemblies of God meeting in well over twelve years. That sort of thing just isn't important to me anymore; frankly. I will say that around 10:30 it started snowing outside the district office. I don't remember if I stayed for the entire meeting or not. I think I may have slipped out a little early; maybe a bit after 12. My son was an 8th Grader in those days at First Assembly Christian Academy in Worcester. We carpooled with another family and I knew I had to pick the kids up after school. I remember that the drive was long and difficult. I think I stopped for fast food, but it's so long ago that I don't remember. I do remember stopping to mail a letter a couple of miles from Worcester's First Assembly and that there was indeed a total blizzard in progress!
The drive home to Framingham from Worcester was long and difficult that afternoon. As I recall, it took me about three hours! I was so glad to get home! (Yes, Stephen sure got his blizzard!!) The next morning, it was a white and snowy mess outdoors! I remember that a lot of tree branches and limbs were down. I did like that when I was pastoring a church, I did not have to get out to work or anything like that. Of course, schools were closed. I remember doing a lot of shoveling on April 1, 1997! As I recall, it only took about ten days for all the snow to melt, but there were trees and limbs and branches down all over the place in Massachusetts, and it was probably about six weeks before all of that stuff was truly cleaned up!
Today, it's wet and raw in the Boston suburbs, much as it was seventeen years ago, but I don't think it will change into a raging blizzard in another hour- and for that, I'm truly thankful!
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