Growing up in York, Pennsylvania, Ron has early memories of his family’s large vegetable garden. When he was 8 or 9, he would put the excess produce in his red wagon and pull it down the streets to sell to his neighbors. “I don’t know how much we charged them - probably a couple pennies, maybe a nickel,” Ron recalls. They appreciated the fresh food during World War II when food was being rationed.
Ron studied as a machinist in high school, went into the Army, and then went to college at the Indiana Institute of Technology in Fort Wayne. This is where he met Eunice, and they got married after he graduated.
Eunice always sang in her church choir in Fort Wayne and after they met, she got Ron to sing in choir, too. Their commitment to church activities went with them as job changes moved them around the country.
One of Eunice’s favorite jobs was working for Power Wheels. “It was like Christmas every day there. People flew in from Australia and all over the world just to get one for their kids … and we didn’t have them!” They would even ride the Jeep Power Wheels from one end of the business campus to the other. Eunice also worked as a florist and in customer service, depending on where Ron’s jobs took them.
A Lasting Impact
Ron and Eunice landed at Lord of Life in 2003 – two years after he had retired from an engineering job in Athens, GA. They put their skills to work quickly in the choir and ringing hand bells. Soon, Eunice had joined the quilters, and she found the familiar Christmas-like joy of creating blankets for children at Haven House, the shelter in Hamilton. She remembers the first year they managed to make 120 quilts – she and Barb Schimming took a bunch of them to Haven House. There was a young mother who had a little boy and a new baby. She picked out quilts for all three of them – she picked green ones for both her and the baby. Eunice and Barb both loved that she was looking ahead to having a home: she chose the green ones so that after the baby outgrew the blanket, she could use them as wall hangings.
During another delivery, there was a 5-year-old boy. He was excited to see them carry all the quilts in and when they told him, “you can pick out one for your own and then it’s your special blanket,” his eyes got as big as an elephant and tears were running down his face. He found the one that had fire trucks on it. Eunice admits he wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes that day …
Ron didn’t waste much time before he dug up a plot of land to create the community garden at Lord of Life. During the summer months, it can practically be full time work, but he had honed his skills from the time he was a child, always having a garden wherever they moved. While Ron is a man of few words, he is a great record-keeper and we know that he has taken thousands of pounds of food each year to the food bank at Faith United Methodist and to Haven House. Just this month, folks from Stepping Forward and around the community came to harvest from the abundance of vegetables. He feels like he is really helping people who are in need, and they are glad to have it.
We will miss Ron and Eunice as they move closer to family in Georgia. Join us as we celebrate our time with them on August 26 following 8 am worship.
A few years ago I took over as director of a choir, stepped into my first rehearsal with them, and after some introductions, got to work. We learned notes, rhythms, and words; and I took extra time to work on technique and help them understand my particular quirks and how I like to direct. By the end of the evening we were making beautiful music and felt pretty good about what we could do together.
When we were finished, someone raised their hand and said, “we haven’t sounded this good in years, and you didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know – what did you do that brought our sound together?”
The answer was fairly simple. There are certain things in music that are spelled out – notes and rhythms are marked clearly on the page and leave very little room for interpretation. The words are there, too, but this is where it gets muddy. In most adult choirs there are people from all over the country, and they pronounce words differently. The difference I had made in rehearsal was getting people to work toward pronouncing their vowels the same way.
What if all of our interactions could be as simple as agreeing on a vowel? What if there were just one thing we could agree on to make everything in the world a little more beautiful?
When we look at our social media or the news it is easy to get discouraged. There is so much bad news and it is hard to believe we have friends or family members who think and feel so differently from us. We might feel like we’ve lost people who were close to us.
In John 6:37-40, Jesus says, “anyone who comes to me, I will never drive away” and “I should lose nothing of all [God] has given me.” Jesus has been given all the world to care for, and he will not be separated from anyone.
What is the one thing Jesus brought us that keeps us from being separated God?
And yes, it is really hard to love everyone. But just like the vowels in our singing, we can see our interactions through the lens of Jesus’ love and we can work toward asking ourselves, “if I love this person, how should I treat them?” What should a disagreement look like when we know that we love someone as a fellow human being and not just as a faceless avatar on a web site? How do we treat a stranger we pass on the street if we look at them with love instead of fear? What does it look like when people who are different from us, whose culture or language we don't understand and whose motives we can only speculate or imagine, are just fellow children of God?
We might not agree on everything. But we can work toward a way of loving each other so that disagreements, culture, and fear don't have to divide us.
"Measure twice, cut thrice!" That's the motto in my house. If you've ever asked me what I've been up to outside of work, I've probably said something like, "oh, just working on my bathroom." It has been a home improvement project that has lasted three years this Summer. I have an entire Facebook photo album devoted to it called "who needs a bathroom anyway?" which I haven't even updated in a year because if I add more photos, it will just remind people that I haven't finished yet.
The truth is, I have no idea what I'm doing. I know what I want it to look like and what materials I want to use, but I'm learning all the skills as I go by watching Youtube videos and reading the instructions that come with the parts. One of the reasons it has taken so long is that as I move on to another part of the project, I realize I need yet another tool. Or I get to a corner and realize I need to so something different to make the edges line up nicely. But the worst thing I do is get in a hurry and measure wrong. Sometimes that even leads to tearing out an entire ceiling that I had just recently installed ... but that is a whole story of its own. The bottom line is, I wasted time and resources on a do-over.
I don't think I'm alone in saying the same kinds of mistakes happen in other aspects of my life, too. Sometimes I rush to speak and end up saying something wrong or hurtful. Sometimes I don't live up to a promise I've made. Often I get angry about something that really isn't in my control or isn't nearly as bad as I've allowed it to be in my head. Like the bathroom, I end up using time and emotional resources trying to make up for thoughtless mistakes.
Luckily, the unlimited resource we have available to us is God's grace and forgiveness. In the Gospels we read about the disciple, Peter, who promises to stay with Jesus and then goes on to deny him three times. As you read the story in John 18:15-27, you might feel like Peter has made the mistake of a lifetime. How could Jesus possibly forgive him for this?
Instead of casting Peter out, in John 21:15-17 Jesus builds Peter's confidence and prepares him to go out into the world and be the new church. This is what God does for us every Sunday in worship and what we are called to do for each other as we go out into the world, being God's hands and feet.
I've made a lot of mistakes working on my house, but each time I do, I learn something new, develop another skill, and move on to be better at it. Maybe the next project won't take as long.
When we make mistakes in our lives, we can take those opportunities to learn, to be more mindful, to get better at thinking before we speak or act. Maybe in our next difficult situation, our response will be better. Our do-overs might still take extra time and emotional resources, but we never have to worry about running out of God's grace.
If only I had an unlimited supply of drywall ...
How would you tell your story on two sides of a piece of cardboard? How has God changed your life?
Watch this slide show that gives a snapshot of all the great things our community does together. There are so many ministries we couldn't keep the video shorter than four minutes!
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I grew up in the Roman Catholic church and every year during the season of Lent, conversation would swirl about what we were giving up. A lot of people gave up food items – chocolate, meat, soda. Adults might have given up things like alcohol or swearing.
As I grew in my faith education, I learned about giving up things that would help me make roomfor Christ in my life. I could give up an hour of television to study scripture or a book on a Christian topic. I could give up complaining and be a more positive person to be a better example of Christian love. These are still great ideas!
Now that I’ve been a church “professional” for several years, I’ve learned some history about our calendar and how the traditions of seasons like Lent and Advent came to be. Both Lent and Advent were seasons of fastingbefore major holidays. Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter, and Advent is the 40 days before - you guessed it - Epiphany. If someone reminds me in December, I’ll write another whole post about why it isn’t Christmas. Historically speaking, these 40 day fasts were meant to temper our “worldly desires.”
But we treat the seasons of Advent and Lent very differently. During Advent, we mark off our calendars; in some traditions we go as far as opening little doors to reveal daily treats. What a contrast to the idea of fasting we think of for Lent. We spend the season of Advent anticipating the joy of Christmas. The tradition of fasting, while it gives us opportunities to open ourselves to Christ, can sometimes have the unintended consequence of drawing our focus to our own suffering.
So what if we thought of Lent more like Advent? The eager anticipation. The joy of preparing ourselves, not for new birth, but new life in the resurrection. As we watch the flowers coming back to life, we can be grateful that Christ’s resurrection means we can stand before God, free of our sin. Yes, we can still make room for God in our lives, and we can do it out of the joy gratitude that we have already been saved through Grace, not by our own deeds and suffering.
Our Ministry Strategist from Horizon Stewardship, Craig Miller, surveyed the congregation to explore the possibilities of furthering our worship, hospitality, and outreach ministries. 88 households shared hopes and dreams about where we are heading. The report is visible below.
If you have questions, or would like to be part of leadership for this campaign, please don’t hesitate to connect with me, Lucas, or a council member. This is an exciting time to be in ministry together!
Thank you for your work and continuing prayers on behalf of your church.
To most who meet him now, Davis Conrad is a typical 95-year-old man living at Bethany Lutheran Village in Dayton. For hundreds of people who worshiped with him, attended a concert at his church, or sang under his direction, he is a master of his trade; a member of an almost-lost generation of musicians who produced legendary music programs during a golden era of corporate worship. At Hope Lutheran Church, his retirement after decades of faithful service - coupled with changes to the surrounding neighborhood - led to the end of a once-storied music tradition.
It has been more than twenty years since he left. Through some Dayton friends I discovered that Hope was ready to part with its music library – hundreds of pieces of music that were sung joyfully on Sundays, Christmas, Easter, feast days, clergy installations, and bishop celebrations, including several that were commissioned especially for their esteemed choir. A gift to Lord of Life, if we would take it.
As I shared the news with some of our own choir members, I discovered connections to Hope Church that I never would have expected – Pastor Ed Williams spent a great deal of time at Hope when he was on the Synod staff; Pastor Bill Funk, who has been singing with us for two years, was an associate pastor at Hope for three years.
When I arrived to pick up the music, the secretary looked at my car and said, “you might have to make a few trips in that.” She wasn’t kidding. Seven filing cabinets, each with four drawers, full from front to back and a desk filled with music. What an amazing gift. Mr. Conrad’s notes on his copy of each piece – a lifetime of study, planning, practice, and teaching; a legacy from which to build.
I managed to empty six of the filing cabinets and the desk in one trip. I was so excited to bring it all home; I filled every nook and cranny. As I’ve gone through it all, I’m humbled to piece together the rich history contained among the pages. I’m sad there are so few people at Hope to share in that history, but it will live on through our own worship and offerings.
It will take me many weeks to sort through all of our new music. Once I have, I’ll invite anyone who would like to join us for a “sing through” – I’ll pick out some of my favorites and we’ll sing through them just to hear them for ourselves. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, April 10 at 7 pm!