Friday, December 1, 2023

Serving our Country, State, and County

Bill Shine and his wife Kathy have lived in Gladstone since 1974. After serving as a Corpsman in the Navy for three years, Bill started out with various jobs. He eventually landed with the State Police, which took the Shine Family from Cheboygan, Michigan, back to the Upper Peninsula.  

Bill and Kathy joined the Lutheran Church because they had been members of a Lutheran Church downstate, and it made sense to do the same here. On the weekends, Bill was often working or coaching little league, American Legion Ball, fast and slow pitches, and even hockey!  You wouldn’t see him in the pews every Sunday. There was hunting too, of course! 

What you can know about Bill and his faith life is that it happens in nature. Proof can be found in the menagerie of animals waiting for handouts at the Shine residence each morning: deer, squirrels, turkeys, and other birds wait impatiently for snacks. The sacredness of being with animals and creation alike connects with both the Shines. 

Bill and Kathy found friends for life at First Lutheran Church. From hunting buddies, anniversary/birthday buddies, and neighbors to the breakfast club and dinner companions, there was even a Super Bowl Party group and work friends as well. Bill has a community, and what that community often has in common with one another is the First Lutheran Church.

In the good times and the bad, and in sickness and health, we need one another. After being a Magistrate in Delta County for fourteen years and presiding at over 1,000 weddings, Bill knows something about that kind of union! How wonderful is it that church can be a place where we make friends that we can worship with and head out to deer camp with too?!?

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

One Holy Place


        Violet R. is one of our Confirmation students. She is a dancer taking both ballet and jazz classes. Violet is nearly fluent in Thai and traveled to Thailand last year to visit her aunt’s family. She is technically studying as an 8th-grader, but most of her classes are at a 10th-grade level! Violet loves kids, volunteering, and her six cats, four dogs, three goats, and 15 chickens!

Violet’s Seawright cousins brought her and her family closer at First Lutheran. While Violet has vague memories of being baptized in the lake, she has not always felt so connected to her faith life. There was a time when she thought of church as more of a chore. Violet has come to love church and says, “I love having faith; a lot of my life is about God, and I read my bible to be more into my faith, more devoted… to have more prayer.” She loves it when holy places feel homey and abides in that. 

One holy place that helped Violet find that connection is Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp. Violet says that she “felt the energy… the presence of God at camp.” That experience helped her get more deeply into her faith. She described it as a “whoa feeling” of the presence of God at camp and in the other people gathered who also believe in God. That they, too, are devoted changed her. She feels that energy at First Lutheran. 

Violet said, “It’s nice seeing people have the same faith as you.” Then she continued, “I love the church people.” One scripture passage that speaks to Violet is John 6:16-21. She said, “When life gets hard, and you are sad, depressed, or mad, thinking of Jesus calming the storm helps.” Jesus calms the storms in our lives and allows us to be still in Christ’s peace. 

Friends and Social Media often feel like places of doubt and judgment. This claim is out there that your faith isn’t genuine or valid. Violet is thankful for the shared experience of the faithful at First Lutheran and Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp. Seeing others devoting their lives and time to God is what brings Violet in closer. Amen

Sunday, October 1, 2023

"I will be Coming Home..."

Jim Olsick is a storyteller who joined our congregation in 2016 after moving to Gladstone in 2012. Jim is originally from Chicago and met his future bride, Tiffany while attending Southern Illinois University. Together, they have three nearly grown boys. The Olsicks recently moved to a property outside of Rapid River with room for hunting and chickens!

After the Olsicks moved to Gladstone, they tried out several churches, looking for a place they fit. They craved connectivity. It was with Pastor Otis and the people of First that they found the connection that they needed and a place to come home to as transplants. First Lutheran Church welcomed them in. Being a part of a welcoming community continues to be integral to Jim’s faith life. 

As an artist who paints and has recently enjoyed performing musically, Jim used his artistic talents to create a piece for the church on barn wood donated by the Durbin Family. It is a haunting and beautiful painting of Christ crucified. Each Lent, at First, we place the painting under the fernery spotlights in the sanctuary to help us meditate during that very contemplative season. 

Jim found a way to share his gifts creatively and the painting connects with so many of us. Having a church family member willing to be vulnerable in sharing his art has connected with the spirit of First. It has and continues to help many people here feel more connected to Christ’s story and to Jim and his story. Jim’s motto is, “Be kind…” ”Be kind because the world has enough cruelty.” Wise words… Connect with Jim: “Let your soul and spirit fly…”

Friday, September 1, 2023

Lights On

Carolyn Nelson is a lifelong Lutheran. She grew up at Calvary Lutheran Church in Rapid River, Michigan, the fourth of six children to Hjalmar and Edna Nelson.  

Carolyn’s career was as a nurse and many of her working years were spent in Kalamazoo, Michigan working in the PICU, and occasionally the NICU, then going all the way up to Geriatric Care in a Special Care/Step Down unit towards the end of her career. Carolyn is a nature lover at heart who finds a strong genetic connection and memory for plants and birds. Sometimes more so than for people! She is proudly retired these days.

When Carolyn moved back to the family home, she found herself nearly coerced into community at First Lutheran Church. Family connections, even old camp friends from her days at Fortune Lake Lutheran Bible Camp continuously drew her in. Before she knew it, she was in the choir wearing a robe and a new member corsage. In particular, the lights always being on at First inspired her. Something was always happening even if it wasn’t a church event, there was life. First continues to be a place where people gather: scouts, Kiwanis, sewers, singers… The building is not a lonely place.

For Carolyn, community is important. She needed a place where she could be with people she knew and cared about, and she needed to know that they knew her and cared about her too. First, became that place. In Carolyn’s vocation she worked with people from cradle to grave. From hearing the first cries of babies, to the last breath of elders, she understands that there is a reason we are meant to be together. That might be why the hymn, “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry” is one of her favorites and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 speaks to her.  Spring being her favorite season even makes sense for that is the time when our created world is “on the cusp of possibility.”

Carolyn sees the church changing. We are on the cusp of possibility. What exact season we as church are in isn’t clear, but Carolyn is an example for us. She doesn’t call herself an evangelist in words, but her actions speak louder.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

It Just Makes Sense

Dirk Manson spent his career caring for young people in schools and school administration. It was through 30+ years of that work, mostly in the Chicago suburbs, that this Yooper thrived as a Bears fan! 

In Illinois, Dirk and his wife Sue (Ebbesen) Manson became active members of All Saints Lutheran Church, an (eventually) independent Lutheran Congregation. Dirk was very active in congregation life there and served until his retirement in 1995 when he and Sue moved to be closer to family here in Gladstone. Back in their old Yooper stomping ground, Dirk and Sue joined Sue’s family church, First Lutheran Church, the one they were married in in 1962. First Lutheran seemed like a natural fit and both Dirk and Sue jumped into congregational life with a quickness.  

First Lutheran offered Dirk the opportunity to study scripture more deeply. Through Bible Study and Lay School, (now Lifelong Faith Formation), he was able to better understand what God expects of us. Course by course, Dirk’s faith deepened. Serving on the Candidacy committee was one of his biggest eye openers for how the church works. The wide and varied backgrounds of the candidates were interesting and watching them grow through the process had an impact on Dirk. 

Dirk stated that, “Before I came here I wouldn’t have had any way to describe what it means to be a Lutheran. Now I can, especially the grace part and the response to God’s love. There had always been this feeling that there needs to be good deeds and service. I’m more comfortable knowing the grace is right there meeting us. You cannot earn it. Our good stewardship is a response to God’s love. It just makes sense and when it fails to make sense, we look to our faith knowing that’s what it is all about.” Dirk’s ability to clearly articulate his faith came from working within First Lutheran Church and our Northern Great Lakes Synod.

Dirk has given his time to First Lutheran through serving in the Choir, the Stewardship Committee, Personnel Committee, Internship Committee, Congregational Council, Welcome and Outreach Committee among others, and he has worked with several synod committees. Dirk argues that he has gotten more out of it than he contributes and is so thankful for his church family which he and Sue thank God for every morning during their morning prayers. First Lutheran Church is thankful for Dirk.

Serving our Country, State, and County

Bill Shine and his wife Kathy have lived in Gladstone since 1974. After serving as a Corpsman in the Navy for three years, Bill started out ...