Epiphany Stories | John L.

Okay, here it is the sanitized and condensed version of my last 68 years.

I was born 1949 in Ames, Iowa. At the time, my Dad was an engineering student at Iowa State after returning from being a WW II fighter pilot in the South Pacific.

Dad’s family are Lutheran Norwegians that homesteaded in Story County, Iowa.

Mom’s family German and Scots Irish have a long history in the Christian Church.

Let me digress a little about the faith history of Mom’s family.

James and Sara Hanen, my grandparents 7 generations past, were Baptized in Buffalo Creek, Pennsylvania, June 1812, along with Alexander Campbell his wife and sister, Thomas Campbell and his wife.  This was very early in the foundation of the Disciples of Christ.

The Hanen’s grandson James H. Dodd, my grandfather 5 generations past, graduated from Bethany College and in the 1860’s and became a preacher in the Christian Church.

My grandfather and his brother Jim both attended Hiram College to become preachers in the Christian Church.  Grandpa, after WWI, changed professions and went back to school at Ohio State to become an engineering professor.

Back to my journey. When I was 1 year old, Dad graduated from College and we moved to Mexico, Missouri, and he began his career in the refractories industry.

At this time our family joined First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Mexico, Missouri.

I attended regularly as dictated by Mom, attending Church, Sunday School, Chi Rho and being a Jr. Deacon.

I was an average student and enrolled at the University of Missouri for my first year of college.

Our family moved after my first year of college to Youngstown, Ohio.

As myself, my brother, and sister were in college at the same time, we all went to Youngstown State University and lived at home to save money.

Moving away from my home town and all my friends required me to rely on my faith and increased my need for achievement.  Without the distraction of my old friends, I decided to get into my education.

One of the achievements I attribute to my faith was graduating first in my college class at Youngstown State and being inducted into the Academic Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi.

After graduation I accepted a job in a management training program with a manufacturer of hydraulic components, metal stampings, and forging in Youngstown.

Five years later, I took a new job with a larger German hydraulics manufacturing company that had a plant in Wooster, Ohio.  I pretty much immersed myself in my career and worked my way up the ladder.

The direction of my life changed significantly while working in Wooster, Ohio.

I met the love of my life, who was the Accounting Manager of our company. She was recently divorced and with sons Sam (4 years) and Lincoln (2 years).  We married, and at the age of 37 I became a husband and father of two with all the associated responsibilities.

As Phoebe grew up in the Lutheran Church, we joined Trinity Lutheran in Ashland, Ohio.  It was a very good experience, particularly our monthly prayer group with 3 other couples.  I really enjoyed our Christmas trips to Severance Hall in Cleveland.

When the boys were in high school, I took a new job for a Swedish hydraulic manufacturing company headquartered in Rockford, Illinois.  This was a good move career-wise and the family enjoyed a larger town and being near Chicago.  We attended the Lutheran Churches in Rockford but without the same fellowship we enjoyed in Ohio.

These were busy times. I was beginning a new job in a new town; the boys were attending new schools with new friends.  Phoebe began a new career with Woodward in Rockford.

We all worked hard. I was traveling a lot and the company sent me to an MBA program in Stockholm, Sweden.  This put a lot of pressure on Phoebe, but we persevered getting both the boys through college and launched in life.

I retired my position with the Swedish firm in 2009 and spent the last couple years of my career helping a large pump manufacturing company in Bangalore, India set up sales and marketing in North America.  The travel to India was interesting, and I met some very nice people there.  We were able to get significant business with John Deere in the US.

Phoebe continued to work at Woodward after my retirement and was lucky to be asked to move the new headquarters in Fort Collins. We were very fortunate for this opportunity.  The decision was easy as both our boys were living in Denver. We arrived here in January 2016.

Phoebe insisted we find a Disciples of Christ Church here as she knew of my Disciples background and how important is was to me.

We arrived at Heart of the Rockies on Youth Sunday March 2016 to the beat of drums and were warmly welcomed by David and Kay Hartley, joining a couple of months later.

Phoebe is looking forward to serving as a Steward, and I enjoy the Men’s Prayer Breakfast and helping the Property Team.

Being at Heart of the Rockies I’m sure was influenced as well by my parents and siblings. Both of my parents are Elders Emeritus at Boardman Christian Church in Ohio and my sister is an Elder.  My brother is active in the First Christian Church in Fort Myers, Florida and his daughter is a Youth Minister in Minneapolis.

I am happy to have new friends here to share my faith in God with, and hopefully I can contribute to the Heart of the Rockies.

 

The season of Epiphany reminds us to look for the places God reveals God’s self in the world. When we share our stories, we see how God is at work in and through us. Each week, we’ve seen God revealed through our storytellers.

Epiphany Stories | Deanne F.

Sing to the Lord a New Song for He has done marvelous things… Psalm 96:1

This verse has spoken to me several times throughout the years.  As my life has taken unexpected twists and turns, I have found myself needing to sing a new song to God as I adjust.

I was born in Denver, the youngest of 5 siblings; one of which is my twin. We have a strong Dutch heritage and are rooted in the Christian Reformed Church.  We went to church twice on Sunday and again on Wednesday; Thursday was choir practice. Mom played the organ and Dad, an elder and Sunday School teacher.  Christian School rounded out our solid upbringing.  I earned a degree in my first semester at Calvin College.  My dad called it my M.R.S degree.

I married Mike when I was 20, and became a young executive at Public Service Company. All seemed to be going the way it was supposed to.

Until.  Mike confirmed by deepest fear.  He wanted to fulfill his dream to be a Missionary Pilot.  I didn’t take him seriously.  I thought he would get over it. But no.  His dream ran deep.

We were called by the Christian Reformed Church to go to Nigeria, where Mike would be a Missionary Pilot; my job was to be his wife.  This was the first time I was asked to “Sing to the Lord a New Song”.  I put away my suits, my brief case, and my high heal shoes, and away we went.

We thrived.  We both stayed busy; there was so much to do.  So many stories.  Our skin was a different color than everyone else, but there was never discrimination.  I got to assist with the birth of a Nigerian baby.  A little girl.  Her mother really just wanted boys.  I was saddened with the idea this little girl had one strike against her – just for being born a girl. And so goes the position of women in a male dominated third world country.

Two years into our term, Mike’s plane went down, and God took him home; we buried him there.  By the time I got home to the States, my mother had passed too.

It was time, once again, to Sing to the Lord a New Song.

I attended Colorado State University as, what we called ourselves, chronologically disadvantaged…okay, older.  I earned my degree in Landscape Architecture and quickly found my first job as a Land Planner in Urban Denver.  I married a man who could play the piano like I have never heard.  Jeff invited us to help launch a new church in Fort Collins, Heart of the Rockies Christian Church.  And all seemed to be going the way it was supposed to.

I wanted to be a mom, but I was told it may never happen; I feared it may not.  But miracles happen, and we had a son when my friends had teenagers.  Now he’s a teenager and my friends are grand-parents.

Our marriage wasn’t healthy though.  It wasn’t whole; it wasn’t true.  “I don’t love you anymore,”  were words that were spoken. We parted.

Sing to the Lord a New Song.

“Mom.  I don’t know my dad very well.  And I want to. I will live with him for High School. I will see you on the weekends.”

Sing to the Lord a New Song.

I moved to Greeley, and went to work for an Agricultural Consulting Firm.  A cultural transition for this City Slicker every bit as foreign as going to Nigeria.  I decided an industry that feeds the world, is an industry worth working for.  Besides the chewing tobacco and cowboy boots (I never quite got the hang of those) I quickly learned to respect this hearty, healthy way of life.  For my work, I learned it seems like there are more regulators regulating our farmers than there are farmers. There are regulators regulating our regulators who regulate farmers.   Our farmers just want to work the way they always have for generations.  I find my days are filled with conversations with regulators to prove “What you are asking for just doesn’t make sense.”

Today, my song is Mom to a bright, ambitious teenager, Senior Land Planner at AGProfessionals, Board Member of SKYhill, maker of banners.   I love my church family.  Thank you.

The season of Epiphany reminds us to look for the places God reveals God’s self in the world. When we share our stories, we see how God is at work in and through us. Each week, we’ve seen God revealed through our storytellers.

Communion Invitation | 11.26.17

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As the Thanksgiving holiday comes to a close, we reminisce on the things we are thankful for. I am thankful for the last week filled with family and friends. I have a house to live in, a car to go places, and a school where I can learn. But thankfulness does not mean contentment.

As I loved and laughed with family and ate way to much turkey, many were killed by ethnic violence in south Sudan. As I played card games, the genocide in Darfur continued. As I watched football, sectarian violence in the Central African Republic left many dead. On Black Friday, I shopped for Christmas presents and yellow fever reached epidemic status in Brazil. When I ate dinner with my grandparents, many in the same city did not eat.

Let us all be grateful but let us never be complacent. This table to me represents the community and love of Jesus and this congregation, and it is welcome to all.

Let us all take strength in the sacraments that we can use to fuel how we can affect change and help other people. Because that is the message of Jesus Christ.

Written by Ehret Nottingham, junior at Loveland High School.

October Stories | Generosity

For some who may remember – and for many who do not know – I have been a member here at Heart of the Rockies for almost 25 years.

I don’t really want to talk about it. It makes me feel old. (And one of my students called me “middle-aged” this week. Though accurate, I’m still reconciling this fact.)

My first Sunday School teacher here was a woman named Janice. We memorized Psalm 23 together: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… 

I remember getting picked up by Darlene after my 7th grade basketball practices to eat pizza and talk Jesus with a handful of other middle- and high-school youth in her living room.

With our pastor Jeff’s patient guidance and belief in me, I gave my first sermon from this very spot as a freshman in high school.

I moved to Montana for college where I was a Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM) Fellow for the Disciples of Christ Church. I attended Grand Avenue Christian Church and was mentored, loved on and well fed by Tom and late Arty Parac.

When I returned to finish my degree at Colorado State University, our pastor Scott Hardin-Nieri met with me monthly over burritos and good conversation.

Maybe you are picking up on a theme here…

For 25 years, people have continuously stepped into my life through Heart of the Rockies to offer support, mentorship, and guidance. I hope that I have returned that through my time as a youth group leader, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, and volunteer.

As an educator, I know – and research shows – that the #1 factor to kids making it in this world (and holy wow, is this a world to “make it” in!) is that they feel connected to one caring adult. It’s the ticket, the IT.

Turns out, it’s everything Jesus was about… RELATIONSHIPS. Our finances at Heart of the Rockies reflect that. That relationships matter. It’s what we mean when we say we’re Loving God. Serving others. Changing lives.

It’s what we mean when we make sure our kids have a caring adult that they feel connected to. It matters. And that adult very likely could be the Associate Pastor we’re about to call to our congregation.

The people I mentioned? They matter too. They molded me and inspired me to be an active part in shaping others.

I give generously to this church because I was inspired by that.

And I hope that every awkward seven year-old who walks through these doors has the same experience that I did. Powerful, kind, and generous adults who say “yes” – and not just for them, but for the many who will follow.

Please consider how you can give generously as we plan our budget for the coming year. Love this family; let’s make this happen.

(This story was shared in worship on Sunday, October 8 by Cassie Poncelow, long-time Heart of the Rockies member, local high school guidance counselor, and empower-er of young world-changers.)

Mission Trip Sunday | At the Table

IMG_7239We set off to Texas knowing that we were going to be doing tornado relief work, but it was unclear as to what exactly we would be doing. We were told to go down with open hearts and willing hands in order to do whatever needed to be done. We were ready. However, the last thing I expected us to be doing was spending the better part of our first day taking down and redoing work that contractors – not volunteers – had done poorly and left incomplete.

Seeing the results of people being deceptive and taking advantage of the consequences of a natural disaster really struck a nerve in me. I wondered if that’s how Jesus felt on the night he was betrayed? In awe and shock that someone could do that to their fellow man, even though he knew it was to happen that way? I feel like he was, but rather than dwell on something he could not change, he instead did what he was commissioned to do — he died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

I realized it wouldn’t do any good to dwell on my frustrations for people I had never met, but that my time and energy would be better spent on doing what I was commissioned to do.  I focused my energy on the fact that we were there as servants in Jesus’ name just as the disciples were commissioned at the last supper to remember Him and be servants to all.

(Written by Kate Seaver, graduated senior and high school mission tripper.)

Youth Sunday 2017 | Closing Prayer

Dear Lord,
As we leave this church crafted by your loving hands, let us remember you shape the rocks and the land just as this church shapes us. Let these rocks we hold serve as constant reminders that through you, the church crafts us into Christians pleasing to your sight. Through our creation, we are all shaped differently, yet we all share the same jagged edges and sparkle. We are uniquely crafted, yet all the same at our core, both flawed and beautifully made. We thank you for allowing us to remember that the church, which you have created with love and care, is not just a building made of rock, but a call to go out and practice your great compassion and spread your good word. Let us remember this true meaning of church as we go out into the world with the opportunity to shape others in the same way church shapes us.

Written by Ally S.

Youth Sunday 2017 | Prayers of the People

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God,

In the United States and all around the world today, there are happenings and people around every corner that are in need of your help and of your love.

The refugees fleeing from the ever so apparent violence and brutality present there every day need our prayers to reach a better life and to someday get back to the lives they lived before the violence began, and we would like to pray for their safety, prosperity, and acceptance.

In this town and in bigger cities all around the world, you can see a person facing the harsh costs of poverty, living without homes, food, or opportunity. Give these people the opportunities to pull themselves out of poverty, to help their children escape the endless cycle of poverty, and to overall lead a better life.

Please allow the never-ending tension apparent in our country and world today to show a foreseeable end. We pray to you that it will not tear apart relationships at the seams and that we can come together as a big community once again.

On a global and local scale, discrimination against Muslims because of their religion has become a big problem. Let us all live in harmony without any hate someday.

Thank you, God, for all the beautiful beings and opportunities surrounding us, thank you for the trees, for the wind, and for the sky.

The relationships that hold us together make our lives better every day, so thank you Lord for providing them. Most of all, thank you Lord for providing us as a youth group the precious relationships, opportunities, and time together to learn more about you and act in your ways.

Written by Ella J., 9th grade.