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c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Get Out the Vote”.

This Tuesday, November 4, is Election Day. People will turn out for all types of races, midterm elections for Congress, Governor, State Representative, County Council, City Commissioner, Sheriff, Board of Regents.  In Nebraska City, we even have a vote on a proposed pool. I’m sure you know about these already as long as you haven’t been living under a rock for the last few months.

Our town has been littered with signs of all sizes, every candidate imaginable tried to slap their support sticker on my children as they walked in the parades this summer, and you can’t even turn on your television or radio without hearing some kind of advertisement or promotion from one candidate or another. All the papers have endorsed their pick; there have been forums to discuss issues, photo ops, handshakes, and lots and lots of baby kissing.

Now, you’re probably wondering what a pastor from a small town in Nebraska is going to say about voting, you might even say he’s going from preaching to meddling, but here goes anyways.

I encourage you to do some praying, thinking, reading, contemplating, and learning about the issues and the candidates for the upcoming election. I encourage you to make an informed choice relying on your own intellect, understanding, and faith and go out to your local polling station and cast your vote.

That’s right, I said let your faith guide you in your voting process; don’t leave your faith outside the voting booth.

I read somewhere one time, “If your faith doesn’t impact your politics, you probably don’t take either of them as seriously as you should.” Because I take my faith seriously, I try to follow God’s leading as I step into that voting booth and cast my ballot.

The funny thing is we aren’t all going to be led to vote for the same people or in the same way. In the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution it says, “That “God alone is Lord of the conscience,” That means that you must listen to God and let God guide your conscience to where you feel led. Make your pick, cast your vote, and pray that our leaders will follow their conscience and their faith to lead our city, county, state, and country in a way that will honor God.

The question then becomes, what kind of decisions honor God?

That’s where your faith and God can guide your conscience. We are not a uniform group, but we can be unified and that starts here in Nebraska City and in Otoe County. Certainly, the governor’s race and the Congressional races are important but as for our day-to-day lives, those votes for County Council, City Commissioner, and the swimming pool are vital.

I know how I’m going to vote. I’m going to listen to God, my understanding of the issues, and my faith in those who are running and make a choice. I trust you will too.

The only hope we have to make a difference in our town and our country’s governance is to vote. As we seek to be in charge of our own future and in charge of the future’s of our children we must make our voice heard at the voters box.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The excitement my children have for Halloween and painting pumpkins with them.

Not Favorite: People who are willing to complain but not willing to contribute.

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “The Wind has Changed”.

Something’s different, something has changed, the air feels different, there’s a different wind blowing in Nebraska City, there’s a different feeling, can you see it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it?

I’m not talking about the cooler temperatures and the changing leaves. I’m not even talking about how the fields that surround us have gone from green to brown to barren during the harvest. I’m not even talking about the impending closure of a good portion of the town’s attractions for the season. I’m talking about a sense that I get that we are in an exciting and seminal moment in the life of Nebraska City.

I’m sure that these moments have come several times over our long history. There are moments like this in the lives of towns all over the country, but right now it’s our time. It’s our time to actually do some of the things that people in this town have been talking about for decades. You might ask yourself, how do I know, I’ve only lived here less than two years? I know because I’ve been listening to those of you who were born and raised here, those of you whose families helped charter this town, and have been here for generations. I’ve also listened to a new generation of people, a group of people who have devotion and excitement about this town, those who have chosen to move here to raise families, those who have chosen to return here to make a life when so many others moved away. They are here and they are ready to work, they want to be involved.

All it takes is a chance, a chance for new ideas to come to the forefront before they get squashed down with a chorus of, “We’ve never done it that way!” A chance to take our words and put them into action, a chance to, like a coal miner friend of mine would say, “Be who you say you are.”

We say we are the best town in Nebraska, there’s a billboard that says, “A town so great they built a state around it.”  We say this is a great town to raise your kids in, a great town to start a business in, a great town to live in. If we REALLY believe those things, we should DO something about it. According to the Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce, Inc. we’ve had record sales and record numbers of people coming to Nebraska City to celebrate, to shop, to enjoy our festivals, and all the things we say we love about our town.

The way I see it, we are at a crossroads. We can do the same things we’ve done in the past, we can be led by the same people, we can make the same excuses for why things won’t work or why we can’t do it, we can continue to blame society, the younger generation, the economy, the president, our neighbor, and continue to not take responsibility for how we got here. If we follow this path, it will only lead to a slow, painful death of a town that we all love. We have seen this story played out all over the country as small towns continue a downward spiral to extinction.

There is another path. We can go a different way, we can let new leaders emerge, we can listen to them, we can support them, we can find our opportunities, and we can make a way.  We can decide our own future, a future with more community involvement, more job opportunities, more attractions for families, more things to be proud of, more things that allow us to walk tall and be proud of the fact that we are RED TO THE CORE! Offering for the future generations the chance to say they grew up in the best place in Nebraska, the Midwest, and the country.

I know it sounds like a big, bold move…it is! We won’t fix everything overnight, but there is something in the air, a new wind blowing in Nebraska City. I hope and pray that we can harness it before it floats away.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The new energy and determination I see here in Nebraska City.

Not Favorite: This was a pretty good week, so I don’t have a not favorite.

Are You All In?

ggbolt16:

There are some great questions here and I would agree with Rocky, as a Presbyterian minister, I am calling my congregation to be “all in”.

Originally posted on YoRocko!:

A person whose family worshiped at our church for a few years came by this morning to inform us that the family has been attending a different church for awhile and that we won’t be seeing them anymore. It didn’t come as a total surprise, since they have been absent most of the fall and since two members of the family actually peeled off for that other church a year ago. And I respect the heck out of the move to come and tell us face-to-face, as well as the move toward church participation as a shared family experience and not one that is divided.

Something this person said about the difference between our church and the new one really hit me, though. After describing worship as “Christian Rock” and the sermons as “a little more literal,” she added, “Here it’s more of an intellectual experience. There you’re all in.”

View original 149 more words

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”.

I just returned from a weeklong conference sponsored by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (the denomination of First Presbyterian Church in Nebraska City). According to its website a CREDO conference is designed “to help PC(USA) teaching elders [pastors] cultivate their spiritual, vocational, health, and financial well-being, as well as their leadership potential.”

CREDO is a Latin word that means “I believe” or, more specifically, “I give my life to”. There was a lot of that time away that was restorative and helped me to focus on being a better dad, husband, pastor, and community member. One of the things that we were asked to think about was a big dream that we had; they called it a “BHAG- Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” or “Mi Gran Sueno”. I wanted to share my BHAG with you because it will affect you in some way and you have an opportunity to be a part of this big goal if you want to be.

Here it is.

I want to create a scholarship fund that ensures that any senior graduating from Nebraska City High School receive full tuition and fees to a Nebraska state public school or its equivalent, for four years.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln website that amounts to $8,169.50 (http://admissions.unl.edu/cost-aid/tuition-fees.aspx) a year.  That’s a total of $32,678 per graduate from Nebraska City High School. Last year there were 89 graduating seniors, that’s $2,908,342 over their four years.

Now that you’ve gotten up from fainting looking at those figures let’s talk about why I think this is important.

From Indiana University Northwest Chancellor, William J. Lowe, “According to new data, based on an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute, Americans with four-year college degrees are not only equipped for a fulfilling adult and professional life but made 98 percent more an hour on average than those without a degree. And, the wage gap is only increasing, up from 89 percent five years ago, 85 percent a decade earlier, and 64 percent in the early 1980s.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-j-lowe/education-is-worth-the-in_b_5767518.html)

I know that college is not for everyone; I know that not everyone needs financial assistance, but I also know that education and access to education has always been valuable when increasing opportunities for all people.  According to the 2010 censes 17.8% of our population has a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the total for the state of Nebraska is 28.1%, the average for the United States is 30.4% (the first time in history that we’ve been over 30%).

As you can see we are way behind the average and we can do better.

I believe if we can offer great public schools and then guarantee everyone, regardless of merit or need, a chance at a four year degree not only will we attract residents to our town who are interested in better education, better opportunities, and better jobs, we will also offer an opportunity to students to break the cycle of poverty that can lead to poor health, poor decisions, and little, if no, hope.

Like the GI Bill before it, this Big Hairy Audacious Goal gives us an opportunity to invest in our young people and provide a model for how our neighbors around us can get back on their feet and be a part of the next great wave of US History, witnessing to the power of a small town of dedicated people.

“American history has proven that personal and public investment in college and knowledge yields huge dividends. During the past 150 years, the United States emerged as an industrial and economic giant, democratized education through the land-grant and public university system, and became a global leader in science. During this time, continued growth transformed American society and kept the nation strong. It produced a new class of wealthy industrialists, a prosperous middle class, and provided opportunity for all Americans, including generations of immigrants. It also created the world’s first sustained upwardly mobile labor force.” Vartan Gregorian (the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-convener of the June 25 conference at the Library of Congress celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act and the National Academy of Sciences.) (http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/07/02/investing-in-education-is-key-to-americas-future-success)

It’s going to take a lot of time, energy, passion, and most of all money, but I believe this big dream is one that can be made a reality.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The King of the Hill Basketball League, it is the most fun recreational league I have ever been a part of even though I am terrible at basketball.

Not Favorite: The lack of housing options for people in transition and in need of help in Nebraska City.

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Nebraska City Helpers”.

I go to a lot of meetings. Sometimes I think my main role, as pastor, is to go to meetings.

Lucky for me I like meetings.

I go to meetings of other Presbyterians, I go to meetings of other pastors, I go to meetings of community leaders, I go to meetings of people just trying to respond to issues, I go to board meetings, I go to one on one meetings, group meetings, and conventions. I go to informal meetings, I go to meetings planned months in advance, I go to meetings that happen on the street, I fly, walk, and drive to meetings, I meet with principals, parents, executive directors, parents, and concerned citizens. Like I said, I go to a lot of meetings.

What I’ve found in almost all of those meetings is that people in this town, in this state, across the country, and across the globe, for the most part, want to help make their situation and the situation of those around them better. Whether that’s better schools, churches, roads, towns, neighborhoods, etc. people are trying to make the world a better place, and I think that’s an admirable goal.

Here’s the problem.

A lot of the meetings I go to, especially here in Nebraska City are just like the silos that surround us, except for the grains of ideas held in them never get spread around to do their job or passed on to the next silo, or used in any way.

That’s a weird metaphor, but here’s what I’m trying to say. We do a great job of working to make our town the best it can be, we just don’t do a good job of working together.

Which means, that effectively we aren’t making our town the best it can be.

Here’s what I am hoping for: if you are on a board, a foundation, a panel, a council, or any other kind of organization that seeks to do good in the world or make a positive impact in Nebraska City, Otoe County, or anywhere else I want you to do a little research to see what other organizations are doing the exact same thing or have very similar goals. This shouldn’t take a long time. Talk to the people on your board, my guess is that they are aware of groups doing other things in town, or even are on other boards seeking to help out. Even better send me an email at (nebraskacityhelpers@gmail.com) about your organization and it’s goals and, if I get a good response I will profile your organization on my column and then we can start to not only work to make Nebraska City the best it can be, but also work together to be successful.

I’ve heard it said, “Many hands, make light work.” So let’s lighten the load and spread the wealth and achieve some of those goals we’ve been talking about.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: There are so many people in Nebraska City willing to give their time and energy to help out. The Royals making the playoffs for the first time since 1985.

Not Favorite: Mosquitos

ggbolt16:

More hope and help for diabetics!

Originally posted on Scott, Dana, and #DIYPS:

On Wednesday, October 8, 2014, I accompanied several other individuals active within the CGM in the Cloud community (John Costik, Ben West, Bennet Dunlap, and Ping Fang), and an invited guest observer (Mark O’Donnell from Medtronic) to meet with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss the Nightscout project. Our goal was to begin a dialog with the FDA, in which we hope to educate the FDA on the Nightscout system and the open source development methodology behind it, to learn what concerns the FDA might have about the project, and to determine which efforts need to be prioritized to address those concerns and ensure the safety of everyone using the Nightscout system.

As most of you are aware (and as outlined so well in the recent front-page WSJ article), the Nightscout project started with John Costik’s early efforts to improve safety…

View original 881 more words

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Being a Daddy”.

I love being a dad.

Since I graduated college I’ve wanted to be a dad. I couldn’t wait to find a partner, create a life with them, and share it with a child. I have a great dad; he showed me what it means to be a role model, teacher, protector, provider, and disciplinarian, what it means to be a father. I was so excited to hold that little child and watch them grow into a little person with their own desires and dreams. I always saw myself as helping them to guide them, being with them through thick and thin, through laughter and tears, through smiles and screams.

It took me a while, but I finally found someone to share my life with and we have been blessed with two amazing kids. They aren’t perfect but they are amazing. As we were preparing for our first child, going to doctor’s appointments, reading parenting books, scouring the Internet for information, I was reminded of a cross-stitched sign that hung in my parent’s bathroom when I was growing up. It said,

“Any one can be a father, it takes someone special to be a ‘Daddy’!”

Which got me to thinking, was I going to be a father or a daddy?

I had always dreamed of little kids running into my arms shouting, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” So I decided I want to try to be the best Daddy, I could be. I’m certainly not perfect but I wanted to do my best.

For me, that means being there, always. I missed a total of two doctor’s appointments during my wife’s pregnancies; I’ve been at almost all of the doctor’s appointments since they were born. I’ve taken my kids to library reading times; I’ve picked them up from school, taken them to school; I’ve turned off my beloved West Virginia University games to play with them (that only happens when I can record the games, if I’m being honest); the other day I took my daughter out to lunch. I also, change diapers, wipe noses, cook dinner, give baths, wipe tears, wrestle with them on the floor, play trucks, play dolls, and put them in timeout. I try to be there for everything because I think it’s an important way for me to be the best daddy I can be.

Here’s the thing, I’m not alone, I’m not special.

I know dads who are stay at home dads while their wife or partner work. I know dads who are single dads doing the work of both parents. I know a ton of dads who are just as or more involved with their child’s everyday life than I am. There are certainly fathers out there that in my opinion are living up to the title daddy, but by and large we, dads, are doing the best we can. Trying to be there for our kids, trying to provide, trying to model what it means to make a positive impact on society, and hopefully passing on love and devotion to their kids.

946483_10154677188165444_2439208614738857045_nLast week, I was gone for a week on a business trip. When I flew back into Omaha I was expecting to get my bags, get my car, and drive home, but instead I came around the corner and heard my daughter screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” Then I saw her. Her brother was right behind me. I squatted down and gave her a hug, while my son ran full speed into me knocking us all over in the middle of the airport. It was the best dog pile I’ve ever been a part of. It reminded me that I must be doing something right, and how thankful I am to have had a good model in my dad.

If you are a father, and don’t feel like a daddy I encourage you to find other dads and talk to them about how they do what they do, I’ve found talking to others about my frustrations and my joys about being a parent helps me to be the best dad I can be. Someone once said, “It takes a village.” I believe it; we need to stick together so we can help our kids become the people that God has called them to be.

If you want to talk to me connect with me on social media or call First Presbyterian Church.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: Getting surprised by my wife and kids at the airport.

Not Favorite: This was a pretty good week. I don’t have a not favorite.

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