This is the 96th letter I have written to all of you to be published in the monthly newsletter. For eight years I have been your pastor. (Some of you faithfully remind me it has been eight LONG years).
I have no idea what I wrote in my first letter to you but I’m sure it was brilliant, full of wisdom and challenging to all of you in such a way that even now, the words resonant within your mind. Or maybe not. Honestly, there probably is not much I’ve written that sticks with anyone, but that’s okay. I don’t really remember much from my pastors either.
If there is one thing I want you to know and remember from this pastor, it is this: I love being your pastor! Eight years ago, I really didn’t know that much about what it means to be a lead pastor. Today, I know a little bit more but only a little bit more. I still have much to learn but I do know I love being here with all of you. On Sunday mornings when I head down to church, I’m excited to see you. We greet each other with hugs, snarky comments, laughter, sarcasm, more laughter, and joy. Lots of joy.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve had several churches contact me, asking me to apply to be their pastor. Not one of them has appealed to me. Some have been in beautiful locations. Some have mentioned a larger congregation with a higher salary. But not one of them has you. On the eve of my eighth anniversary with you, I want you to know I’m glad I’m with you.
I don’t know what God has planned for the next eight years but I can’t wait to find out. It’s been a fun ride so far and I’m still committed to the long haul. Here’s to the next 96 months of serving God with you!
I love you all!
October is here, and while fall officially started on September 23, it really feels like October is the true start. The days leading up to October seemed to be clinging to summer, but maybe fall is actually here now and the 90’s are gone until May 2024 (or later???). School has started, football has started, a few hunting seasons have started, and I believe it is time to start lighting those evening firepits. For me, October also starts the thoughts of the upcoming holidays. No, not Halloween. And I am sorry, but Pumpkin Spice is neither a holiday nor a season. What I am talking about is Thanksgiving and Christmas. While there are a few weeks between now and Thanksgiving, and even more until Christmas, the beginning of October starts me thinking about them. The celebration of these holidays has changed for me over the past couple of years, especially Thanksgiving. Christmas has always been sort of strained within my immediate family since I moved out at 18. Since Christmas is usually a time spent with close family, this has been difficult for a long time. Thanksgiving, however, was generally a time to connect with the extended family and friends. It was a much more joyous time for me personally. I have many fond memories spent around tables of food, board games, card games and football. There were large gatherings of extended family and friends that had become more like family than friends. Lots of laughing, story telling and many times, group sports outside when the weather allowed. Those memories really gave me a spirit of thankfulness. Almost all of these memories were at my Aunt Carol and Uncle Jim’s house in Hebron, NE. However, with both of them passing away in the same year (6 months apart), last Thanksgiving was a sad affair. As I start to look forward to another Thanksgiving without Carol and Jim (as well as my grandmother, Virginia) who all passed away within an 18 month period, it is not with the joyous thoughts I used to have. I am finding it a bit harder to look forward to Thanksgiving with thankfulness in my heart. While I still have many great things to be thankful for, there is loss and grief that I’m dealing with still. The holidays are a trigger for many with these feelings. I know I am also not the only one who is dealing with this, in fact, there are many who have been working through this for many years. I would encourage all of you to be sensitive to those in the church family who might be dealing with grief and loss around the holidays. Maybe start thinking now about involving others in your celebrations and making some of those friends in your lives part of your family. Use the upcoming firepit season to start building those connections and friendships and invite them to join your family. If one thing became evident during covid, it is that none of us do well in isolation and that we are not as connected as may have believed. Yes, you can log on to social media and learn what has been going on in the lives of friends, family, and neighbors, but this does not make for a deep connection. Take the time, extend the personal invitation, and connect with someone face to face. Spend some quality time and talk, not just text, message, IM, or whatever other electronic version of communication you might currently prefer. A smile, hug, and handshake will mean so much more than a multitude of messages. Be the neighbor you really wish you had and be the hands and feet of Christ in the lives of others.