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ggbolt16:

This is why Rocky and I get along. We have similar philosophies of ministry.

Originally posted on YoRocko!:

I have a nagging critique that dogs a lot of my ministry work, especially work with youth: not Christian enough.

That our relationships with youth must issue in distinctively Christian expressions, like prayer or devotional lessons–and that interactions with youth that lack those expressions are fine but not really “ministry”–is a weight that I think a lot of us are bearing for no good reason. It’s the “They could get ‘relationships’ anywhere” dig.

The problem with that thinking is that trusting and reciprocal relationships with adults who aren’t their parents and aren’t paid to spend time with them can’t, for most youth, be had anywhere. We have multiplied the number of adults in relationship with teenagers to include coaches, teachers, tutors, scout leaders, college advisers, and so on. Yet all of those adults, in addition to being paid for their time with youth, have an agenda for them. It’s a good agenda…

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ggbolt16:

I think this articulates what I try to say about this particular platitude far better than I could.

Originally posted on john pavlovitz:

SadGirlwindow

That phrase.

We’ve all received it personally gift-wrapped by well-meaning friends, caring loved ones, and kind strangers. It usually comes delivered with the most beautiful of intentions; a buffer of hope raised in the face of the unimaginably painful things we sometimes experience in this life.

It’s a close, desperate lifeline thrown out to us when all other words fail:

Everything happens for a reason.

I’ve never had a tremendous amount of peace with the sentiment. I think it gives the terrible stuff too much power, too much poetry; as if there must be nobility and purpose within the brutal devastation we may find ourselves sitting in. In our profound distress, this idea forces us to run down dark, twisted rabbit trails, looking for the specific part of The Greater Plan that this suffering all fits into.

It serves as an emotional distraction, one that cheats us out of the full measure of our real-time grief and outrage. We stutter and…

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gift-coverSummer is upon us and we will be exploring the gift of imperfection in our lives using a book entitled “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by, author and researcher, Brené Brown.

Here’s a description of the book from Amazon.com:

“Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, What if I can’t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn’t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, PhD, a leading expert on shame, authenticity and belonging, shares what she’s learned from a decade of research on the power of Wholehearted Living–a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.

In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough, and to go to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”

Together we will talk about how through the power of God in Christ we can live Wholeheartedly and find worth and belonging.

Below is a tentative schedule for the series, we hope that you will be able to join us along this journey and to help us find our place of belonging.

June 7, 2015-          
Authenticity and Self Compassion 

(Letting Go of What People Think and Letting Go of Perfectionism)

June 14, 2015-
Resilient Spirit
(Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness)

June 21, 2015-
Gratitude and Joy
(Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark)

June 28, 2015-
Intuition, Trusting Faith, and Calm and Stillness 
(Letting Go of the Need for Certainty and Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle)

July 5, 2015-
Creativity 
(Letting Go of Comparison)

July 12, 2015-
Meaningful Work
(Letting Go of Self Doubt and Supposed To)

July 19, 2015-
Play and Rest and Laughter Dance and Song
(Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self Worth and Letting Go of Being Cool and Always in Control)

If you would like to purchase the book you can find it following this link at Amazon.com

Today, is my dad, John Bolt‘s 63rd birthday.

I was going to do the typical facebook status complete with embarrassing sweet photos, but instead I decided to write a little more about how I feel about my dad, and why I’m so glad that he is my dad.

My dad’s parents never told him that they loved him, that may be a generational thing (I don’t know), but my dad swore that he would never stop from telling his kids that he loved them and he hasn’t. I can never remember a time, even through my teenage years, which were no picnic for him (I’m sure), that I didn’t know deep down in my core know that my dad loved me. My dad always encouraged me to try stuff, to do what I loved, and to get back up when I fell down.

We would spend hours in our driveway in Atlanta when I was in elementary school shooting hoops, throwing a baseball, playing football, or making up games with frisbees. (I’ll take this opportunity to say “I’m sorry” for pushing you off the side of driveway during a competitive football game and causing you to tear the ligaments in your ankle.) Even on your crutches you would zoom around not letting a little bump in the road stop you from pursuing your dreams and your love of journalism while making sure me and my sister could pursue ours.

I could write a book full of stories of why I love my dad or how he showed me how to be a good person, a good partner, and a good father. Stories of little league baseball coaching, high school baseball umpire arguing, watching him perform in community theater, hearing others praise him for his work and, more importantly, for his presence. Stories of challenging me in my screw ups and standing with me when I failed, stories filled with laughter and tears, joy and pain. Stories that all point to what a wonderful, inspiring, faithful, amazing role model my dad has been and continues to be.

Now for some sweet, embarrassing photos.

I love you, Dad!

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ggbolt16:

My friend Derrick is wise, thoughtful, and faithful.

Originally posted on derricklweston:

I’ve been in Baltimore for going on three months. It’s hardly any time at all. There’s a part of me that doesn’t feel entitled to what I am feeling tonight. I’ve fallen in love with this city pretty quickly. It has been a refuge for me, a place to start over. As a Steelers fan, I am predisposed to wanting to hate this city, but there is so much more to life than sportsball and the people of this city are pretty lovable. Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods. Baltimore is more so. I work in three neighborhoods separated by mere blocks. They each have a distinct flavor to them despite their proximity and overlapping concerns. Baltimore is about twice the size of Pittsburgh. It has all of the amenities you would want in a major metropolis while feeling interconnected enough that you could easily find yourself running into the…

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IMG_0182_2I 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 “Learning Together”.

This past week was parent teacher conferences for those of us with kids in the Nebraska City Public School system. For my child, that means her teacher, Mrs. Letti, came to our house to show us a little of what it looks like to be in class with her and give my wife and me an opportunity to ask questions. I was impressed that she visited the homes of each and every student in her care. As a pastor, I’m still trying to do that and I’ve been here for two years. I appreciate her dedication, it is obvious to me that she loves her job and that she is dedicated to providing the best atmosphere for learning possible.

I try my best, as a parent, to help my kids and their teachers to be in the best position for success. Subsequently that means I have a lot of conversations with different people. I’ve talked with principals, school board members, teachers, and parents. They all seem to be trying to create a positive educational environment for our kids.

Even with that, according to stats found at www.schooldigger.com, provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, and the Nebraska City Public School system ranks 188th/223 Nebraska School Districts. That is not good. It doesn’t mean that our kids are bad; it doesn’t mean that teachers are bad; it doesn’t mean that our administrators are bad. It means we have some work to do, together.

A wise friend of mine once said to me, “Education is critical to a healthy society.” I think our numbers show that, right now, we aren’t that healthy. In all my conversations there’s always blamed placed somewhere. Blame the teachers, blame the parents, blame the kids, blame the administration, blame the curriculum, and I think there is plenty of work that could be done in all of those areas. What I don’t hear talked about much is poverty. Yes, poverty, and to quote a recent blog from Dawn Meehan,

“I’m not talking about a family whose dad has been laid off from his job or a family going through divorce or sickness. I’m not talking about a sudden, temporary, or even long-term shortage of money. I’m talking about families who have lived in poverty for generations. Families who don’t know anything but poverty. Generational poverty is very different from families experiencing hard times  — mainly because they often view education as a stressor, and school a place they do not belong, making it extremely difficult to end the cycle.”

For kids that live that reality, school can be a salvation and it can be ruin. For many of those kids the meals they receive at school may be the only meals they receive at all, it also might be the only contact they have with other people. This isn’t necessarily because the parents are inattentive, many of them are working multiple jobs or jobs with odd hours just so they can keep clothes on their back and a roof over their heads.

Some more statistics, there are 1388 students in the four Nebraska City Public Schools, 636 of them are on free and reduced lunches, that’s a little under half of our students (45.8%) of our students come from families in need of food assistance. Currently, the Nebraska City Food Bank housed at the First United Methodist Church provides bags of food on Fridays for kids at Hayward Elementary (3rd-5th Grade) and starting next fall there will be a program that offers a bag of food to any student from the middle school who asks. That means, every Friday, at First Presbyterian Church we would distribute up to 151 (according to the statistics) bags of food that would provide nourishment for students on the weekend, because studies have shown you can’t study if you’re hungry.

Here’s how you can help. Saturday morning April 18th First Presbyterian Church is hosting the Stompin’ Out Hunger 5K Fun Run & Walk. All proceeds from this event will go toward Feeding our Future. This will launch a food grab bag program for the Nebraska City Middle School children. This program would provide a food grab bag at times when other resources are not available, such as during weekends and school breaks. 10934098_884236284932366_7440741227796783531_o

There is a non-refundable entry fee is $30. All participants will be registered for prize drawings. I would invite you to go to the First Presbyterian Church website (www.firstpresnc.org) click on the “Stompin’ Out 5K” picture and register online.

We are hoping to make this an annual event to ensure that our community is in the best possible position to provide challenging and effective education for all and our students have an opportunity to succeed.

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: I love watching the NCAA Tournament and I love that the grass is turning green and the flowers and trees are starting to bud.

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

IMG_0182_2I 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 “Expectations”.

A couple of weeks ago I was traveling so I loaded my phone up with podcasts I could listen to on the plane and while I drove. One of the podcasts I downloaded was from NPR called Invisiblia. It’s fascinating, here’s the description: “ Invisibilia (Latin for “all the invisible things”) explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”

The episode that caught my attention was on expectations. The episode was entitled, “How to become Batman”, here’s the description,“Alix and Lulu examine the surprising effect our expectations can have on the people around us. Plus, the story of a blind man who says expectations have helped him see. Yes, see.”

The idea of a blind man, without eyes, seeing is simply beyond all measure of rational thought. It told the story of  a man, blind from birth, who can , through the use of echolocation (think what bats do to see), live a perfectly normal life. Live on his own, without a caregiver and without any special accommodations. It was a fascinating story and I encourage you to check it out.

The show reminded me of something I have thought for a long time, “People will live up, or down, to your expectations.” If we expect that a child will need to be coddled and protected from any bump and bruise that might come, they will. If we expect that a child will, with appropriate support and supervision, be able to handle the things that come their way, they probably will. I know that’s a little oversimplified but I’ve found it to be true, throughout with my work with both kids and adults.

Every time I’ve expected a child, or an adult, to be difficult, they have been. Often when I’ve been told they were difficult but I expect them to be different and I tell them of my expectations they end up being no worse than the “good” people.

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

Our expectations for our kids, for ourselves, for our neighbors, for our town play a role in how we interact with life and the world around us. If we expect our job to suck, it’s going to suck, if we expect it to be pleasant, it might suck less. If we expect our kids to do the right thing, provided we model it for them, they will probably do the right thing most of the time. If we expect our town will always be the way it is, because it’s always been that way, then it will always be the same with no growth (spiritual, economic, population, or otherwise), no progress, and no vision.

If we expect our town, with proper support and engagement from the community, to do better it will. I know it’s not an overnight shift. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of shifting expectations, not only from the leaders in Nebraska City and Otoe County but also from its citizens to live into those higher expectations. The thing is, I expect that we can accomplish it. In the book of Ephesians it says that we can do more than we could ever ask or imagine through the power of God that is within us. I believe it is within us to use the gifts that God has given us in our community to expect better, to expect more, and to do more than others think is possible.

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 to lead Ash Wednesday worship with my wife, she is an excellent pastor and I am a better partner, father, and pastor because of her.

Not Favorite: Westboro Baptist Church

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