John Schmid Music

Month: September 2023

RANK STRANGERS – Song by Ralph Stanley

At a church picnic in mid August I was told that an old family friend was not healthy. This man and his family had farmed the land back our lane east of Moreland when I was a boy. The next Sunday I went to visit him. He was not home, but what I want to report is not about the health of my friend, but the state of my home town… uh… ‘home village’ of Moreland.

I drove east on County Road 77, now called Moreland Road, and I mentally named every family as I went past their farms and homes: Franklin School, Hoy, Ackerman, Schmid (us) Kaufman, Baker, Clark, White, Hoffman, Beegle, Bricker, Leeper…  In my mind I could see the people as I drove by. I was their paper boy and hired hand. I made hay on every field on that mile long road. I helped milk their cows and plow their fields. I could tell you what tractors they owned and what make (and year?) of pickup truck they drove.

About half way between Franklin School (my alma mater) and the Moreland Church, I started to realize: They’re all gone! Not one of the old neighbors in that mile stretch of “my” old road is still living! Only two of the farms are still in the same family: the Bakers and Whites. The second and third generations of Bakers and Whites are now living on those properties. All the other farms are owned by “newcomers.”

And wouldn’t you know? The next day my friend, Milt Helmuth (Illinois), sent a thought by a man named “Anon” that was exactly what I was muling over in my mind. Here it is:

In 100 years (2123 AD) we will all be buried with our relatives and friends. Strangers will live in the homes that we fought so hard to build and pay off. They will own everything we have today. All of our possessions will be gone: our homes, our land, our bank accounts, even our children. Our beautiful car will be scrap or in the museum of a collector.

Our descendants will hardly know who we were, nor will they remember us. (How many of us know our grandfather’s father?) After we die, we will be remembered for a few more years, then we are just a portrait on someone’s bookshelf, and a few years later our photos, deeds, activities and our stories will disappear in history’s oblivion. We won’t even be memories.

If we paused one day to analyze these thoughts, perhaps we would understand how ignorant and weak the dream to achieve it all was. If we could only think about this, surely our approaches and our thoughts would change, we would be different people. Are we always wanting more? Have we no time for what’s really valuable in this life…?

If I could, I would change all this to live and enjoy the walks I’ve never taken, the hugs I didn‘t give, those kisses for our children and our loved ones, the conversations we didn’t have time for. Those would certainly be the most beautiful moments to remember. After all, that’s what fills our lives with joy.  And here we are, wasting it day after day with busyness, worry, anxiousness, desire for more… We are missing what really matters.

This article from Milt sure hit home after the “Moreland Reminder” of how brief life is and how things change and what is really important in life.

Folks, life is short! Make every day count.

“What is your life? It is a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” -James 4:14         “Today is the day of salvation.” -2 Cor. 6:2
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever(!).”
Hebrews 13:8 

Only one life and soon ‘tis past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

BICYCLE TRIP

I left Washington D.C. on July 21 and started cycling on the C&O Towpath. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal starts in D.C. and goes to Cumberland, MD. It has been dufunct since 1924, but the towpath has been restored as a bicycle/hiking path from D.C. to Cumberland, MD. From Cumberland to Pittsburgh it’s the old P & LE RR (Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Rail Road). The old RR bed has been restored into a bicycle  trail.  333 miles total. I biked it in six days and then Lydia picked me up in Pittsburgh. A great time of refreshing, praying, clearing my head, exercise… and even some ministry along the way: a church service near Needmore, PA and several divine appointments along the trail. (See my FB for daily diary.)

After six days of almost 60 miles of biking a day, we took a trip out west to visit family and for six days I just sat around, eating and talking! :-/  Now I’m “back in the saddle again” in my office.

I was just in Washington, DC and I’m a musician, so allow me to share this unrelated true story:

In Washington DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After about four minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule. At about eight minutes, the violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and without stopping, continued to walk. At six minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again. At ten minutes, a three-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.  For forty-five minutes the musician played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About twenty gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected $32. After one hour he finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all. He put his violin in the case.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played some of the most intricate pieces ever written while playing a 300 year old Stradivarius violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell played to a sold-out a theater in Boston where people paid $100 a seat to hear him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions: In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? If so, do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made… How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

                                     “What I to you, I say to everyone: Watch!” -Jesus

MEMORY LANE

“I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory… I will make every effort to see… that you remember these things.”I Peter 1:12f

Memory. Most of my life I have been blessed with a good memory. And most of my memories are good. I grew up in the ‘50’s when America was the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Almost every friend my age grew up in a two parent home. Close to half of my class were from farm families. There were chores before and after school.

In my grade school of about 200 students, I can remember only one student in all eight grades who was from a divorced home. He was an anomaly in our community and in our era.

We had Bible reading and prayer every morning. In a public school!

I walked a quarter mile to the school. We lived half way back a half mile long lane just west of the school. It was a quarter mile to the road to catch the bus or a quarter mile through the fields to the school. Everyone of our teachers was from the community. Our fifth grade teacher, Virgil Yoder, lived the fartherest from the school: 5 miles! They all knew my family and we knew the teachers’ families. My eighth grade teacher taught my dad AND my grandfather! I was a third generation student for her.

Franklin Twp. School was closed by the Triway district two years ago and is now called Willing Hearts Workshop, a school for Amish Handicapped children. I went to their fund raiser on June 3, mainly to visit my old school. About 1000 people were there scattered among the four big tents with goods and auctioneers to raise funds. I wandered through the old schoolhouse where every room had a memory. The huge new gym is no longer huge and no is longer new. In fact, the whole school house seems to have shrunk.

I left the school auction and drove back the lane to visit my birthplace. No one was home, so I drove on back another quarter mile to the old stone house and the pond where I used to fish and where I learned to swim. No one was there, so I stood there and basked in the memories of my idyllic childhood. The picnics back here; the bass and bluegill we caught in the pond and cooked right there on the bank, or at home; the sled riding, the swimming, the hunting… the time our dog kept barking and running back and forth like Lassie on TV, so we finally followed her and discovered that little brother Steve had wandered off and was stuck in the freezing swamp. Our dog saved Steve’s life! 

We have been off the “farm” (it wasn’t really a farm) for over 50 years, but it is still my “home place.” The first eleven years of my life were there. I reminisced over how God has led me from the little boy who thought that “Bah, Bah Blacksheep” was written about him (“…one for the little boy who lived back the lane.”) to a prison minister/singer who has been to all 50 states and 45 countries and has met some very significant people and friends.

My Saturday jaunt to Franklin Twp. School and then back the lane where I started out was a reminder of how God has blessed me. I have visited countries where the people don’t seem to have a chance. What if I had been born there? Or what if I had been born in the inner city just 60 miles away? Or what if my parents had not been loving and encouraging…?

I thank God for my family, my heritage, my abilities… and that somewhere along the line I had enough sense to quit trying to make it on my own and look to God through Jesus to guide me. He has lead me to the right woman, the right “job” (if you can call it a job), He has given Lydia and me good children… I am blessed!

Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.  I remember my youth and thank my Creator!

A MONTH IN THE LIFE OF COMMON GROUNDS MINISTRIES

When I can’t think of a good story, I tend to regress to the mundane act of sharing our schedule. (Truth is, I can always think of a good story, but in this letter, it should be true.)

MAY REPORT

The month of May started out with a Gospel Echoes banquet. Their three week banquet tour came through Holmes County (twice), so I joined them in Walnut Creek for a song, a good testimony, fellowship and some good Dutchman cooking.

The rest of that week I was in a studio recording my book, The Power of a Song, to be an Audio Book. If it’s recorded professionally well, it can be heard on Audible.com. If it doesn’t meet their standards, it can be obtained on our website or local bookstores.

While I was in the studio, I also read the story of The Hochstetler Massacre from The Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler by Harvey Hochstetler. This audio reading will be included on a CD to accompany the song, The Ballad of Jacob Hochstetler. It will be available at the Quinquennial Hochstetler Reunion in Arthur, IL, July 28 & 29.  If you don’t know what “quinquennial” means, join the club I use to belong to. It means, “every five years.”

I had three funerals, eight Bible studies, an auction, a 50th wedding anniversary celebration (Phil & Diane Sarlo), an Amish School year-end concert and an Amish School end-of-year picnic (Flat Ridge), many morning coffee meetings, two concerts, a Memorial Day service at the Butler-Morgan Cemetery, south of Moreland (where 3 revolutionary soldiers and Shawnee Chief Cornstalk’s daughter are buried) and one prison!

Speaking of prison: prisons are opening up, but our problem (that is, Common Ground Ministry’s problem) is a shortage of staff to answer the phone or our emails. Gospel Echoes president, Glendon Bender, reported that prisons are at 50% staffing, which means much overtime, tired officers, more danger, more attacks, more suicides among inmates… and who wants to apply for a job where safety is compromised?! There have been several riots because of staff shortage. It’s a dangerous spiral that is going down. The fewer staff there is, the more dangerous; the more dangerous, the harder it is to hire new staff. Pray for our prison system and prison workers; our prison ministry; our crime plagued nation.

Also: Over half of the chaplains that I knew, and had a long relationship with, retired during the stressful two years of COVID, with shut downs, isolation, no visitors, mask and testing mandates, sickness and death. Yesterday I finally got a return call from the new chaplain of a prison where we have ministered for over 30 years. “Now, who are you? And what is the name of your organization? And what do you do?” After 33 years, we are starting over in that institution.

It’s not that we have nothing to do. We still have chaplains who know us and welcome us to their facilities. Our schedule is full and useful with churches, concerts, banquets,, etc.  But our calling is to prisons. So, until we can get back on track with prisons, we will “occupy until He comes.” The fields are ripe for harvest.

We look forward to a busy, happy summer. We have trips planned to Maine, Illinois, Pa., Germany and…? We will sing and share wherever we can.

Have a great summer! Occupy until He comes! (Luke 19:13)

HOW CLOSE CAN YOU BE?

This devotional by former Asbury College president, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, was extra interesting to me after being in Jerusalem two months ago:

One of the criminals who hung there blasphemed Him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)

The cross is the central fact of our faith. It is no accident that our thoughts continually bring us back to Golgotha. But the cross of Christ, though central, does not stand alone. That day there were two other crosses on that hill. The God of providence, who ordered all time and history to point to this scene, would never have allowed an accident here. Those two theives’ crosses each carry their messages for us, too.

On one of these crosses was a poor soul who tried to find some relief by cursing Jesus. He added his voice to those of others as they taunted and mocked the Lord. This man whom Jesus was dying to save poured out his bitter imprecations upon the One who was loving him until the death.

The striking lesson for us to learn here is how close a person can be to Jesus and still miss Him! This thief could not have been more than a few feet away from Him. He undoubtedly heard every whisper that came from the lips of Jesus. God had brought the thief this close to Jesus so that he might make peace with Him, yet the thief cursed.

It is possible to be this close to Christ and still miss Him! One of His apostles did. One can be in the church and miss Him. John Wesley did until he was thirty five years of age. You can even be in the ministry and miss Him. It was the chief priest who plotted His crucifixion. The supreme tragedy of human history is that many who are closest to Christ miss Him!

HOW LATE CAN YOU WAIT?

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

The thief on the other side of Jesus joined his voice to those of the crowd and his fellow thief as they cursed Jesus. His bitterness matched theirs. As the hours passed, though, he sensed a difference between Jesus and the others. He heard Jesus ask the Father to forgive those who were killing Him. That produced thoughts that were unthinkable to him. Forgiveness?! Could there be such for him?! As he listened to Christ and sensed the Spirit that moved within Him, he made a decision. He decided that if forgiveness was possible, he wanted it, and if anyone could give it, this strange One could. What did he have to lose? So he prayed to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The lessons here flood one on top of another. How far can you go in sin and still find forgiveness? How far from the church and its normal ministries can one be and still become a recipient of grace? How late can you wait before the hope of Christ’s pardon is gone? This story makes it clear that no one, no matter how far from God, is beyond the reach of the love of Christ as long as breath remains. Thank God for that thief’s cross as well as for the one in the middle, the cross of Christ; the cross of salvation.

Three crosses. Each one has a message. How close can you be and still miss Him? How far away can you be and still get in? How late can you wait? The middle cross: Salvation!

            “Now is the time of God’s favor; today is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor. 6:2

            “This very night your life [may] be demanded from you” Luke 12:20

            “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6

ISRAEL

I left Benton March 3rd and headed for Harrisonburg, Va. to stay overnight with daughter, Katie. She and I joined Steve Wingfield and 31 other “pilgrims” to tour the Holy Land for ten days; to walk where Jesus walked (to run where Jesus walked?).

The reason I drove to Harrisonburg rather than fly from Akron/Canton to Dulles International Airport is because I had flown to Sarasota in January for a three day meeting and spent 3 days in airports. Every flight was delayed or cancelled! I almost had to schedule a psychiatrist to get over the stress and frustration of that fiasco. I decided that I would rather drive six hours to Katie’s house and then ride for 2 hours with the Wingfield van than to fly from Canton to DC. I’d rather be tired from driving than stressed out at airports.

We landed in Amman, Jordan late afternoon on Sunday, March 5 and were able to chill at the hotel until supper and bed tme.

I could go through our whole trip and bore you with details, but I will try to give a few highlights and insights of this amazing trip. Even though I have been to Israel several times, it never gets old, and I always learn something new.

The Dead Sea– We “swam” in the Dead Sea on Monday. “Swim” is in quotes because with water of 34 percent salt, it is impossible to sink. We floated. We were warned to guard our eyes because there are so many minerals in the water that your eyes would burn for two weeks (or more)! The minerals in the Dead Sea are magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium and a concentration of the electrolytes chloride and bromide. Keep you head above water!

The Tabernacle– On Wednesday we visited a full sized model of The Tabernacle at the Israeli village of Timna. We saw the Laver, The Table of Showbread, The Lampstand, The Altar of Incense, The Ark of the Covenant, The Mercy Seat, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The guide showed us all these items and explained the purpose and practice and the symbolic meaning of each of them. I think what impacted me the most was his explanation of the torn curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. When Jesus died “…the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mk. 15:37) The torn curtain convinced many Jews that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

How?

When a Jewish man loses a daughter, it is tragic. But when he loses a son, he is so grieved that he will grab his robe near the neck and rip (rend) his garment from top to bottom… Just like God did when His Son died! “Truly He was the Son of God!” Jesus’s Father did what every Jewish father would do. He tore his garment. That proved that Jesus was His Son!

Katie– It was special to be able to be there with daughter Katie. I had gone with Adam and Amelia, but Katie had not been there. And even though it did not suit me to go at this time because of a busy schedule, it turned out to be a wonderful father/daughter time. AND- “Father/child” time (ahem… ‘Heavenly Father/and Us time).

A quick summary of what we saw:

Mt. Nebo, Church of St. George in Madaba, The Dead Sea, Petra, Agaba, Arava border, Timna Park, The Tabernacle, The Dead Sea (again- on the Israel side), Masada, En Gedi, Qumran, Jesus’ Baptism site, Jordan River, Tiberias, Nazareth Village, Sea of Galilee, 2000 year old boat, Magdala, Mt. of Beatitudes, Caesarea Philippi, Dan, Megiddo (Armageddon), Caesarea by the Sea, Roman Aqueduct, Mt. of Olives, The Garden of Gethemane, The Wailing Wall, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, The Western Wall Tunnel, St. Anne’s Church, Caiaphas’ House, Pool of Bethesda, Galli Cantu (where Peter denied Jesus), Holocaust Museum, Old Jerusalem, Shepherd’s Field, The Garden Tomb, … Benton!!