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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 “Now What?”

On Tuesday, millions of people around the country cast their votes for local, state, and federal representatives. They voted on propositions, bills, laws, overtures, school boards, water districts, regents, and all manner of things were decided this week.

If you were to glance at my Facebook® timeline you would think either this was the great week or a terrible week. Some believe that we have reclaimed America; some believe we have returned to the Dark Ages. My guess is, it’s somewhere in between. Some of the people I voted for won, some of the people I voted for lost. Some are licking their wounds and some are rejoicing in their victories. Some of the things I was hoping for didn’t work out, some did. I was surprised by some results and some results worked out as I expected. I just don’t think there is a blanket statement you can make about this year’s election, although many pundits, talking heads, armchair politicians, and people on social media will try.

One of the beautiful things about our country is that, according to our Constitution, we, the people, have control of how we are governed and who will represent us. (This point is up for debate in our current political climate, but that’s somebody else’s column to write.) We made our wishes known by our votes, some won, some lost. That happened, the question is…Now what?

As a dad, we try to help our kids understand what they can control and what they can’t. We help them to respond to decisions they have made, live with the consequences, and move forward. We try not to fight old fights. We try to learn from our experiences, make decisions based on those experiences, and try new ways to respond. The thing is, I think we all need to work on that, I even find myself learning while my daughter is learning.

I think we in this country keep fighting old fights; some of those fights need to be fought because they are ongoing. Some of those fights have been decided and we need to move forward, together.

I’m not sure of what’s next, I’m not sure where we, as a town, state, or nation is going, but I do know that the only chance we have is to work together. That doesn’t mean together focusing on our own self-interest but together trying to work for the good of the people, all of them.

This Nebraskan did. Go vote #inNECity! #electionday2014

A photo posted by Greg Bolt (@ggbolt16) on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:20am PST

If you follow me on social media or talk to me for a little bit you probably know that I have some really strong opinions and am willing to share them. My highest value is being inclusive, that means everybody, even if we disagree. Too many times in our current climate, people who disagree are considered the enemy and that’s not helpful, because it’s going to take a myriad of ideas from many different perspectives and political, social, theological, and economic ideals to move us forward.

The votes have been casted, the ballots have been counted, what will you do to participate in making sure we continue to be a great nation.

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: Halloween with my children at the Ambassador.

Not Favorite: Social media posts that stoke the fires of division.

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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.

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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 “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.

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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 “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

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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 “What if it were my son?”

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what’s been going on in Ferguson, MO. The facts as we know them are that, 18 year old, Michael Brown was shot and killed in the middle of the street by police officer Darren Wilson. This incident has sparked outrage and protests by the local community, social media, and a strong response from the Ferguson and St. Louis County police, the National Guard has even been called in. 

This situation has sparked a lot of conversation on social media, in coffee shops, and on the news. 

I’ve read articles calling the victim a criminal, calling for the police officer’s head, talking about racial injustice, talking about looters and thugs. It almost seemed like it was happening on another planet. Here in Nebraska City we read about what goes on in Ferguson or Lincoln or Omaha and think, “I’m glad that’s not here.” It all seemed a little distant to me.

You see I have two children, they’re young (2 and 4 to be exact), but I tried to step back from the shouting about this unfortunate tragedy of the death of a young man and the life altering decisions of the police officer.

I started to think what I would do, if my son were shot by a police officer. What would be my response? What would the response of the community be? What response would I want from the police? What kind of support would I need?

On some level, I guess I’m glad it wasn’t my child, it wasn’t in my community, it wasn’t in my home.

I started to think about what would happen if one of our 89 recent high school graduates, many of whom you know, was shot and killed by one of the 14 sworn and dedicated police officers, most you probably know, in the middle of Central Avenue? 

I’m not asking about justifiable use of force, I’m not asking about right or wrong, I’m asking about your response to that tragedy.

Would you be in the streets asking questions? Would you stand up to people who told you your son probably deserved it? Would you stand up and defend the officer knowing they were a good person?

For me, if it were my son, or one of our students, I’d go knocking on doors for answers. I’d go wherever and whenever to demand that someone tell me what happened. That someone explain to me how a young person can be dead in the middle of the street. If I felt like someone was trying to intimidate me, I’d dig in my heels.

My father has a mantra, that I’ve taken on as well, “No one messes with my family.” and I guess I might define family a little more broadly than some. Mike Brown is my family, Darren Wilson is my family, the protestors are my family, the police are my family, we are family.

I think we do a good job of separating “our” kids from “their” kids or “our” response from “their” response. Ultimately, I believe that we are inextricably tied to each other. We are tied to the people grieving in Missouri, we are tied to those in North Omaha, in Lincoln, in Falls City, and to those here in our own city. 

I don’t know all the facts about the tragedy that is the death of Mike Brown. I don’t know if we will ever know, but what I do know is that I hope when tragedy strikes here in Nebraska City, I can count on my neighbors to stand with me to seek justice and reconciliation for our community.

I’ll close with a quote from one of my favorite pastors, Mr. Rogers:

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

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”. I hope to share with you some of my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: Taking my kids to see a movie and dreaming about new events coming to Nebraska City.

Not Favorite: The continued unrest in Ferguson and the vitriol in which people speak to one another about it, especially on social media.

Speaking of social media, I love to connect there. You can see more of my writing and thoughts on my wife and my blog (nebraskabolt.wordpress.com) or follow me on twitter. (@ggbolt16)

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I 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 my second column, it’s called “We Are Family”.

As I stood on my porch waving goodbye to the eight other people who had shared my home for the last few days I realized how grateful I am to have a wonderful family.
 
My wife’s family was in town to celebrate a wedding in Omaha and decided to come down to Nebraska City to spend some time with us. All told my wife’s mother, father, aunt, grandmother, sister, brother in law, and our two nieces descended upon our little town to see what “The Good Life” was all about. The visit wasn’t perfect, there were spats between cousins and brothers and sisters, but I wouldn’t change a thing, because it was family time.

We visited Arbor Lodge, Mayhew Cabin, Tree Adventure, the Lewis and Clark Center, our churches, ate at Runza, my wife’s grandmother and aunt even stayed at Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast. They got the full “Red to the Core” experience. It was such a blessing to have them here with us, even for a short time.

You see, the majority of my wife’s family lives in Oregon, the majority of my family lives in West Virginia. We only get a couple of short visits a year, if we’re lucky, for “Granny and Opa” time or “Grandma and Grandpa” time. What that means is my kids make due with Skype and phone calls from their grandparents and other relatives. 

My wife and I moved here in part so our schedules would allow for more time as a family and we have achieved that, but what we miss out on is the time with our parents and brothers and sisters and that can be hard. We know that there many in Nebraska City who are lucky enough to have several generations nearby, with aunts and uncles and cousins that can be seen regularly, if not daily. 

For those who are blessed to have that close proximity with your family, for those that are estranged from their family for whatever reason, or for those where proximity is a problem, you are not alone. We as a community can be the surrogate family that people of all ages need. 

Studies have shown that having intergenerational relationships is vital to growth of children. Right now, my children are lucky to have surrogate cousins, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and grandmas and grandpas in town to love them, teach them, and help them grow.

One of the things that is always celebrated about our little town is its sense of community. Yet, there are still people here in need of those kinds of familial relationships that have nurtured so many of us. 

There are grandmas and grandpas in need of adopted grandkids, aunts and uncles in need of adopted nieces and nephews, parents in need of adopted parents, cousins in need of adopted cousins, brother and sisters in need of adopted brothers and sisters, basically we need each other.

If you see someone in need, a parent whose kids seem out of control at the store or a child who seems lost, instead of sitting back worrying about “kids these days”, go and ask them if they need some help. If you’re a parent who knows there are older people in our community who feel abandoned and alone, take your kids to visit them. 

Family is important, it has been a thread that has held the fabric of our nation together. The definition of family has expanded as families have been spread across the country and world. The need for loving relationships that cross blood lines and span generations hasn’t changed, I believe it has become more important. Together when we realize that there is no “them” but only “us”, we can truly live “The Good Life”.

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”. I hope to share with you some of my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite– Laughing as a family at a puppet theater performance of Cinderella by Granny and Opa, in my living room.

Not Favorite– News of the deaths of Michael Davis in Ferguson, MO and Robin Williams.

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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 my first column, it’s called “Two Little Words”.

My wife and I have two young children. We like to go on family bike rides around town, we run simple errands, go to the gym, ride to lunch, or whatever strikes us. When we ride, I tow the children in a trailer (with both of them plus the trailer, it’s an extra 75 lbs or so), all four of us wear our helmets, and we normally have a great time.

Last Saturday, we did not have a great time, to the say the least.

I was traveling south down 10 St, when I had to slam on my brakes, back tire fish tailing, while attached to a trailer hauling my kids. As a car turned right in front of me and another car started to turn left into me. Somehow, through the grace of God I was able to stay straight. I yelled “[expletive deleted] WATCH OUT” at the car turning left, as the car that pulled out in front of me drove off. It was a close call.

Later as my wife and I were traveling west on 1st Corso between 16th and 18th, a route we decided to take because it would be “safer” than riding down Central Avenue. I heard a yell and a screech behind me. I turned around and saw my wife on the ground; an SUV had backed out 3/4 of the way onto the street in front of her. The woman driving said, “Are you ok?” and drove off without an apology.

When we got home I was furious at those drivers for being unaware, inconsiderate, and dangerous to others on the road. I wanted to remind them that bike riders have a right to the road, just like any other vehicle. I wished that there were a safe place for my family to bike together that was easily accessible. I was frustrated, scared, and angry.

Then I took a moment to breathe, thank God that while we had a couple of close calls, nothing REALLY bad happened. It got me thinking about how I react when I am angry, scared, and frustrated.

The woman who almost turned into me, saw me I know she did, but as I passed her she didn’t even make eye contact, she stoically stared straight ahead. I wish she had just looked at me and mouthed those two little words, “I’m sorry”. It would have made all the difference. If the woman, who almost backed over my wife, had said, “I’m sorry. Are you ok?” I think it would have helped a lot. I’m sure I’d still be scared and mad, but I believe it would have helped me a lot not be less resentful of those people.

Those two little words, “I’m sorry”, are so powerful. In this day and age we rarely hear them or say them, we’re afraid we’ll be seen as weak or, worse, liable. The truth is we all make mistakes, sometimes cause accidents, sometimes we do or say something we shouldn’t have to our neighbors, to our coworkers, or to our kids. We all make mistakes but when we are able to stop, take a breath, and say, “I’m sorry” it can go a long way to repair the damage done.

I try to admit when I’m wrong, I try to say, “I’m sorry” if I mess up (which happens far more often than I care to admit). I try to say it to my wife, to my kids, to my congregation members, to my friends, and anyone I’ve wronged. My hope is that by saying, “I’m sorry” that people will forgive my sins, as I hope to forgive those who have sinned against me.

I’m still mad about almost getting hit last weekend, I still wish there were a safe and easily accessible bike trail around town, and I still wish more people said, “I’m sorry”.

Gandhi said, “Be the change, you hope to see in the world.”

So, I guess it starts with me. Where can you start?

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” I hope to share with you some of my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite– “Guardians of the Galaxy”- I saw the movie Sunday night and I loved every minute of it, even down to the scene after the credits (you should stay for it.) I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a superhero movie as much as this one.

Not Favorite- Almost getting run over while riding my bike. (see above for details.)

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