September 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; …” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

 

September is a time of change. The month begins with the warm summer like days, with the sun still having enough strength to make the temperatures still climb into the high seventies and low eighties. The nights begin to be a little cooler as the days slowly begin to be shorter. In the beginning of September, the fields of corn and beans are still a bright vibrant green with the leaves waving in the breeze. The wind still whispers through the bright green leaves on the trees, making the branches sway to the wind. But as September goes on, the nights begin to have a crisp coolness, that brings out the fall jackets. At the end of September the leaves on the trees begin to change, exhibiting colors of bright red, orange and yellow. The beans begin to lose their leaves and the lush green fields begin to be filled with brown stems holding the pods of beans. The corn begins to dry and the green begins to fade from its leaves and stalks.

 

September also brings changes to our daily lives. The free unscheduled days of summer are over for our kids in the community as now the school buses are picking up students in the morning and the school bells ring to begin a new day of learning. No more sleeping late in the mornings. The baseball and golf season gives way to the football season. Soon parents and grandparents will be sitting on bleachers in the cool fall nights cheering on the home football team. Cold lemonade gives way to hot chocolate. The college students have returned to college, sharing stories about summer jobs and fun had during the summer. Back-packs are filled with books as they too return to classes. September also brings change to our attire. Short sleeve shirts, shorts and sandals give way to jeans, long sleeve shirts and a light jacket.

 

Yes, September is a month about changes. The thing we don’t like about change, I think, is it makes us uncomfortable. As Christians, we do not like change.  Even changing a lightbulb can cause slight anxiety.  With tradition, we know what to expect. We are pretty sure what is expected of us and how we think the day is going to go. Change brings the unexpected, unfamiliarity. When things are unfamiliar, and we don’t know what is expected of us and we are not sure of the outcomes of the change, we become stressed.

 

For most of us, “familiar”, fits our comfort zones. Yet, there are those among us, who love September, because they thrive on change. The same old, same old routine becomes boring. They love the thrill of change. They enjoy discovering what the unknown might bring and the change and unknown brings joy instead of stress. September is a witness to the truth declared by the Preacher of Ecclesiastes. Change is constant. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” We live in a time when change is not only constant but seems to come quickly.

 

New technology keeps the change we experience at a rapid rate. I remember ten years ago people were unsure of using cell phones. Now we can hardly imagine going without them. Our cell phones have changed from being a phone, to being a small computer with a phone function. We can use our phones to shop on the internet, google all kinds of information, use as navigation tool to guide us to new addresses. Our cell phones can remote start our cars, turn down or up the temperatures in our homes, keep track of our spending, count our steps and record our heart beats. Plus, our phones can take amazing pictures, videos, even making movies. We also have smart watches, smart coffee makers, smart furnaces and air conditioners, smart cars with all kinds of safety features. With all the “smart” technology surrounding us, I am feeling not so smart. Most of the time the new technology changes help make life easier. At the same time all the new technologies contribute to our old habit of trying to get more and more things done in our day. If it only takes forty-five minutes to mow the lawn instead of an hour and a half, we add three more activities to our day. We don’t save time, we fill it. The more we fill our lives with more activities, the more we can become overwhelmed. We can be lost in all the change.

 

When that is the case, we can rest in the One that does not change. As the letter of Hebrews declares, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever”. Jesus is always present. Jesus is always seeking you out. Jesus’ love for you never wavers. Jesus declares to you, that the Father has given you into his hands and no one, no authority can ever take you out of his hands. Jesus revealed God’s grace and love that is constant never changing for you. When you turn to seek forgiveness, Jesus is ready to forgive. Jesus is still the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending. Jesus is always Lord, victor over sin and death. So when we feel lost in this ever fast-paced changing world, we can rest in the unchanging love and constant presence of Jesus. Even as the seasons change, even with change as a constant force in our lives, Jesus’ love for you is greater. Jesus’ love for you is a sure foundation, that never changes. Find shelter and rest in Jesus’ unchanging love for you.

 

In Christ’s Service

 

Pastor Lori



August 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

On July 20, 2019, the United States celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that landed on the moon.  Neal Armstrong spoke those memorable words, “That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”   The world watched in awe and amazement as the 2 American Astronauts staked the United States flag in the soil on the moon’s surface. That moment was the conclusion of an impossible dream.   Nearly eight years earlier, on September 12, 1961, at Rice University in Houston, Texas, President John F. Kennedy articulated an audacious dream during his speech to the large crowd. He said,  “We choose to go to the moon, in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard…because that is one challenge we are willing to accept…”   What a ridiculous, reckless, irresponsible statement the president declared when the nation had hardly a space program to speak of. History records JFK having second thoughts the day after speaking those crazy words.

 

Yet he had cast a vision of beyond. The dreams of a nation had been sparked to consider the stars. And in a few short years, reckless became a reality, even after he was gone.   2000 years ago, Jesus spoke some ridiculous words to some rather foolish followers.   He said….. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19-20

 

What a reckless statement to a group of disciples confused, arguably divided and certainly uncertain about their future. Yet the vision had been cast. The dreams of the disciples had been sparked to consider the world, and bring the message of salvation to all who would listen.   In the United States, we might think the message of Christ is diminishing. Fewer people are attending church and our culture has itching ears toward new and improved spirituality. But let’s not be misinformed. The message of Jesus Christ continues to spread across the globe. And in many areas, it’s spreading like an uncontrollable wildfire. According to the Joshua Project, currently there are roughly 2.3 BILLION Christians across the world.    New believers are accepting Christ in the thousands DAILY. Roughly 34,000 in South America, 30,000 in China, 25,000 in Africa and 16,000 Muslims are turning to Jesus DAILY.  Yes, it is sobering to hear that more and more people, especially young adults have left the church in the U.S. and find Jesus’ message antiquated. To be sure, affluence and the myriad of distractions have played a part in this. But also, the church has unfortunately also played its part, often offering a version of religion (focusing on many man made rules and efforts), rather than experiencing an authentic life giving relationship with our living God.   I hope you realize that…. at ALL Parish United Methodist Church, we have much to be hopeful and excited about. The Holy Spirit is leading us and building a deeper, stronger, faith filled congregation. WE anticipate the future of our vision of church.  We look forward to September when Bible Studies resume, Youth group begins again, Angel antics at Loup City and New Generations at Ansley.  We have represented Christ this summer in parades, VBS and community events.  Let us continue to carry Christ’s banner. Let us continue to….  “Go and make disciples  –  of all nations…”

 

We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

We do this because it is a challenge we are willing to accept.

We do this because we are caught up in Christ’s audacious dream.

Let our eyes be drawn heavenward and let our hearts be sparked by the Holy Spirit to chase after it with all the love, faith and perseverance we can muster. And in a few short years, we will all travel to the place that has always been called Home – to be with our Heavenly Father. 

 

In Christ’s service

 

Pastor Lori

 



July 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

I write this as I return from the Great Plains Annual Conference in LaVista, Nebraska.  So many thoughts and ideas are swirling in my head.  So first I will tell you, this will be a very different newsletter.  There is a lot of information that you as a member of the church need to be made aware of.  But before all that I really want to pass on the dynamic Annual conference wisdom, ideas and thoughts. 

One speaker was talking about the power of the Holy Spirit.  As churches we are called to develop discipleship pathways.  We are to think of this as a dandelion seed head, when you blow this the seeds go wherever they will.  In our Christian journeys the Holy Spirit blows the seeds and we have no idea where these seeds may fly, however we have to believe in the Power of the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and protect us in this chaotic world. 

The guest speakers presented on the 5 practices to refresh your discipleship.  They started with, what I thought was a profound statement, we are not called to be converts, but we are called to be disciples.  According to the text in Matthew, a disciple is an apprentice, learner and apprentice of Jesus.  The guest speaker asked if we have ever played Simon Says…of course most have played this game.  After a few examples of this game he said, “What if we played the Game God says?”  There was a hush over the 1300 plus people in the auditorium.  Are we hearing God?  Are we obeying God?  Matthew 18 Vs 2 tells us “Go and Make Disciples.” Knowledge with obedience Ž makes discipleship.

The 5 practices include:

  1. Prayer
    1. Luke 4:18-19 Jesus’ power came from Prayer.
    2. This was the key to Jesus’ ministry.
  2. Parties
    1. Matthew 9:9-13
    2. Relationship w/God
    3. Relationship w/others
      1. Giving people your time and space
    4. Parties are a sacrament—It is where God’s grace can be found.
  3. Person of peace
  4. Profound conversation
      1. 1 Peter 3:15 – 6 gears of conversation
        • Casual
        • Meaningful
        • Spiritual
        • Salvation
        • Maturity
        • Leadership

They presented this as like a stick shift; you start at one and go through 6.  You cannot start in 5 or 6 on the gear shift, nor can you in conversations.  Like a car, if you skip gears your conversation will stall out.

  1. Presence of God
    1. Luke 9:1-2

We are called to make disciples from the Great Commission.  Sometimes we have to be reminded of all the ways in which we bring others to Christ.  We are not really called to do more things or to be more.  We are called to BE the Church and to rely on the Power of the Holy Spirit. 

In Christ’s service

Pastor Lori Stevens



June 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

“Summertime”, bring it on with the excitement and the fullness of God’s goodness and grace!

Summertime”, what comes to mind when you hear the word spoken or see it on your TV or computer screen? Longer days, warm balmy nights, and maybe even a slower lifestyle for a few months. I think of nights and weekends at the Baseball or softball fields.  While I know that we call them the lazy days of summer that include vacations, visiting family, taking hikes, going to the beach, picnics, or cookouts in the backyard.  In Lawrence Kansas they have a summer long “dog days of summer” which is a daily walking event that participants calculate a certain number of miles walked with a great big BBQ party at the end.  This is a community wide event. The trick is we need to bring together our summertime planned and spontaneous fun experiences with our faith journey.

The attendance of worship services drop-off significantly during the summer.  Giving in the offering plate goes down as well.  We must remember that the church does not take a vacation or the summer off.  Ministry continues in many areas.  We have community festivals to attend and participate in.  We have fundraising opportunities for the church.  We need to remember our responsibility to the church, ministry and mission. We must be beacons of God’s love, hope and mercy to the world.

We know that God’s beautiful creation is around all us and that God wants rest, refreshment, and renewal for us. So how can we experience it and share it with others so we don’t miss out on all that God has in store for us?  Here are a couple of simple suggestions that might begin our “summertime” faith and fun journey for June, July and August.

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims God’s handiwork”

So, Leave the electronics alone, grab a folding chair or blanket and sit in the dark to enjoy the stars. Share and talk about God’s incredible creation. During this summertime while harvesting items from your Garden remember God the creator.  As you are exploring the creek around your property or family property, remember the creator and sustainer God.  

And a charge for all of us this summertime from 1 Thessalonians 2:8 “We were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

So how are you going to share your life this summer.  Help with VBS-teach or provide a meal or a snack.  Plan a neighborhood gathering in your backyard or in the park. Help at the many festivals and celebrations our towns of ALL parish are having.  Just by attending these festivals you are supporting these events and being a beacon of God. 

No, it does not have to be overwhelming. It’s time to reconnect safely and faithfully outside. It is time to let your light of Christ shine.  In your family, in your neighborhood, in your community and most importantly in your church.

In Christ’s service

 

Pastor Lori



A Message for Our Graduates – 2022

Always wear sunscreen

(This is an excerpt from Lori’s Baccalaureate message at Ansley and Litchfield)

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’22:

Wear sunscreen.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.                        Sing.    Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.           Floss.   Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.        Stretch.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know, still don’t.
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.  Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.    Respect your elders.
But trust me on the sunscreen.

So, this was a column written by an editor in the Chicago Tribune, she wrote it as if she had been asked to give a commencement speech.  She wondered what advice she would give the graduates. 

So, I wonder What would Jesus say in a commencement speech.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Give to the poor, the Hungry, the thirsty, and the imprisoned…because when you give to someone in need you are giving to God.                      Pray                 Take time to foster a relationship with Jesus

Don’t call on me only when things are rough, I am with you always…           Remember there is a season for everything.         My Grace is sufficient and my Power is made perfect in Weakness.  Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Obey the two greatest commands (Mat. 22:37-40).      Jesus was clear that our aim should be simple: 

Love God and Love others.       Jesus would encourage you to live a life of faith.  

That God must come first in all things: Actions, attitude, and in our speech.

Worship the Lord your God, it is the Lord that will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.  Isn’t that great news…God’s got ya’ and you do not have to worry about the bullies and like…God will deliver you from them.

So, when you go out to the Lake or swimming pool or the track for sports or a walk around the campus…Be sure to wear sunscreen

But in life …every day make sure to take your son screen with you. 

Your life long Sonscreen will be with you no matter where you go…no matter what is going on…no matter where your heart, actions and attitude have been…so make sure to take your sonscreen with you.



May 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

Easter is a long season and believe it or not we do spend a larger portion of May still in the season. I do believe there is a song that maybe some of you have sung at one time or another called “Every Morning is Easter Morning.” The chorus of the song begins with these words, “Every morning is Easter morning from now on” and do these words ever ring true.

 

But honestly do we ever grow tired of hearing the Easter story or does it leave with the celebration of Easter morning? I would answer this hopefully not. So how do we continue celebrating Easter every morning?  Well, it is through abiding in the presence of Christ.

Abiding is defined as “remain, wait, delay, remain behind.” It’s a word that’s typically used to describe a feeling or memory that remains behind or lingers in your mind a while. You can have an abiding faith in God, or an abiding respect for war veterans or an abiding passion. So how do we do this in ourselves?  How do we encourage abiding behavior in a congregation? This month I ask that you look at these three ways of abiding to help with your ability and your tendency and desire to abide in Christ.

 

First is Silence.  Believe it or not, silence is a good practice, and for some, it is difficult to achieve. But silence is a space where we can let God take control. It allows us to surrender ourselves to the working of the Spirit and the voice of God. If you have a difficult time with being silent, you should find a place to sit where you are comfortable, take deep breaths, and say a simple prayer such as this, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”, and then let your mind drift. The truth is, if you can experience silence on a regular basis, we can learn to abide, but it does take some practice. So take some time for silence.

 

The second might sound the opposite but it is another good way to abide in Christ and that is through music. Music fills us with sound instead of silence. And sometimes sounds, like a direct sound can lead us into deeper communion with Christ and with one another. I do stress that the challenge is not to get through the music as quickly as you can but listen to the words, feel the melody, dwell in it, and let it wash over you. You can get lost in the sound and words. So, listen deeply to the words, feel the rhythm, and lean into the moment and be alive to what happens inside of you as you hear and feel.

 

The third one is a bit different but allows a heightening of your focus, it is paying attention to the Word.  Listen to the Word as if it is the very word coming from the mouth of Jesus. And if you take the time to read it, do it with intensity and with passion. I am not saying as you sit in your comfortable place to read them loudly or with certain emphasis or movement, but rather as important words that you need to hear, or instructions on how to live fully and deeply in a complicated and threatening world. Do not let them be words that you have read over and over again but allow them to be words that encourage life today and then lean on them. Take time, pause often, and repeat the phrases that touch your heart and ring in your ears before moving to the next thought.

 

People of Christ, these are just a few of the things that I do to abide in Christ. Yes, they do take practice and dedication, but it also allows hope in the future. It allows my heart to be open for an opportunity for Christ to come into my heart over and over again. And that is what abiding means to me, being able to listen and connect with Christ every day.

Do not be afraid to find new ways of abiding because every morning is Easter morning from now on.

 

Blessing on the month ahead,

 

Pastor Lori



April 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen INDEED!!!

The celebration of Easter is absolutely central to the life of the church and to faithful Chris-tians. Why? Without the new life of Christ touch every aspect of who we are and what we do, we are simply going through religious motions, playing religious games, and puffing a religious veneer over lives that are just like anyone else’s.

 

To live lives touched by the Resurrection means many things, but I’d like you to think about these two:

 It means that we live unafraid of death and all that it brings with it. Many live in such a way that they will do ANYTHING to avoid pain, aging, illness and death. They go to extraordinary lengths to deny the inevitability of it, fooling only themselves and a few select others who are in on the game. We are simply paralyzed by fear into a kind of stupor that keeps us from doing or being anything.

 

 It also means that we live free from sin’s power. Has someone done something to you that still controls your heart and mind? Have you done something that has clouded or affected your whole life? Have you taken a road of temptation that leads only to damage to you and others? Have you allowed prejudice or fear to warp your heart so that you cannot love and forgive?

 

Easter isn’t just about eggs, bunnies, jelly beans and hollow chocolate Easter bunnies, and dressing up. It’s about the new life we have in Christ, in which we are set free to love, forgive and serve, and thereby find a sense of peace and joy in all that we do. By grabbing hold of the cross, we share in Jesus’ victory over sin, death and all that would destroy us.  Through the journey of Marjorie Thompson’s book we have become very aware of all the areas of forgiveness we are asked to seek out and wrestle with.  Only through forgiveness can we truly be set free.  Set-free from those that have harmed us and those we have harmed.  

 

Please join us as we prepare for and celebrate Easter. Palm Sunday is April 10th, and Confirmation Sunday at all three churches.  There will be a Good Friday service at 7 pm at Loup City and Ansley . Easter Sunday begins with a sunrise service at 6:45 am at Loup City (Sherman County Lake) followed by a breakfast at the Loup City UMC around 8 am.  Loup city will then have their traditional worship service at 11 am.  Ansley will begin their Easter morning with a potluck breakfast at 8 AM, followed by worship at 9:30 am.  Everyone at Litchfield is invited to join the other two churches of the Parish for the Easter celebrations.

 

Come celebrate the risen savior, together with others on this journey of life, faith, hope and love.

 

In Christ’s service

 

 

Pastor Lori Stevens



March 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

Forgiveness is the healing stream flowing out from the crucified Christ over a world that does not know how desperately it needs the healing (From the introduction of the book Forgiveness-A Lenten Study by Marjorie J. Thompson)

We focus on people’s feelings when we talk about forgiveness. And I admit that our emotions are often involved whenever we go through a situation in which we are asked to forgive someone. We know that remorse is not repentance; repentance requires a change in behavior. But what is forgiveness? And where does reconciliation come in?

Forgiveness is not the absence of anger at being injured. I think it is normal for someone to be angry when they have been injured in some way. Nor is forgiveness the willingness to release someone from experiencing the consequences of their actions. Our God is just, and justice requires that offenders experience the consequences of their choices. What, then, does it mean to forgive?

Forgiving others and humbly asking for forgiveness are central disciplines for all Christian believers.  During Lent, Pastor Lori and Dean will be preaching a sermon series on Forgiveness.  Asking the age-old questions,

  1. Is forgiveness a Christian duty under all circumstances?
  2. Are there situations when Christians do not need to forgive?
  3. Is forgiveness a matter between individuals or is it meaningful only in the context of communities?
  4. Is forgiving the best route to healing for the injured?
  5. How do we get past emotional barriers to real forgiveness?

By using biblical examples and real-life situations, Thompson illustrates each chapter’s theme in an informative and engaging way. I pray this sermon series provides clarity, insight and in an engaging way assists you in your forgiveness journey. 

Let’s go back to Matthew 18. After Jesus gives the disciples a process for resolving differences, including an outcome in which a member of the community is ejected from the community, he goes on to talk about the power of community.

It is here where Jesus says to his community of followers, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

I hear the last sentence quoted most often when a small group of people gather to worship. But Jesus is not talking about worship; he is talking about making decisions about forgiveness within the community of believers. He is promising that God will open their eyes and hearts to what God wants them to do and give them the power to do it. He is also promising that God will hold them accountable for their decisions.

This passage is followed by the parable of the unforgiving servant. Jesus makes his meaning crystal clear: you have been forgiven everything and so you are to forgive everything. But Jesus does not expect an emotional shift; he expects an action.

Forgiveness is neither focused on the victim, nor on the perpetrator. Forgiveness is focused on God’s grace freely given to us through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

We have been forgiven. Completely. Forever. And in joyful recognition of that realization, we are committed to living the way Jesus wants us to live – willing to love others enough to give them another chance every time. And that means we will lift our anger and hurt up to the Lord 10,000 times a day, and ask for him to carry us through. Forgiveness offers the offender a chance to receive God’s grace through us.

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Lori Stevens



February 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. –1 Corinthians 10:4-7

 

     It’s February, the month of Valentines and heart-shaped boxes of candy…so what else is a pastor to write about in the newsletter but love? Thanks to the mass commercialization of Valentine’s Day, love is everywhere. Love is all around us! Is it really, though? I mean, sure, our culture is highly proficient in and dedicated to promoting romance. I’ve lost count of the number of jewelry commercials on TV today, and I tip my cap to the advertising folks.

      But while romance is as abundant as ever, it seems that love is a different story at the moment. It seems that love is harder to come by in the public sphere. Violence always leads off the news broadcasts. And public discourse has become hostile to the extent that political differences have even driven wedges between close friends.  The Pandemic is also driving wedges between political parties, friends and families. 

     But as people united in Christ, we are called by God to love others even if it’s not the most popular thing to do. Fortunately, the Bible is a great resource to help us do this! One of the best descriptions of love in the Bible is the passage I quoted above, written by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church. These words to the Corinthians are some of the most enduring words in the Bible, and are familiar to many people because they are often read at weddings.

      Despite that common use, though, the implications of the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 are wide-ranging. Loving with this sort of patience and gentleness invites others into our lives, providing fertile ground for relationships to grow. Strangers we may at first lump into a category become individual people we truly see, know, and appreciate. Love like Paul describes is able to topple the walls of fear and discord that seem to be so effectively separating people right now.

​     There are many campaigns about being nice to each other.  T-shirts that say be Kind and another group whose campaign is to be kind to everyone.  Both groups have loved ones with Autism.  But this is a reminder us to be kind and loving to all people.  Even though they are very different than ourselves.  It is very heart-warming to read stories of people loving and being kind to those that are ostracized by society. 

     This is the kind of love God calls us to offer to the world this February. Let this love be our Valentine to everyone, showing the love God has for us in Jesus Christ by offering that same love to others.

 

In Christ’s service

Pastor Lori Stevens



January 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

The following is an article I wrote for the Sherman County newspaper to be published before Christmas.  So why am I including it in the newsletter for January.   The reason is it is a lot about traditions.   We have just celebrated Christmas, the birth of our savior.  We traditionally have been with family or maybe your tradition is different in your family.  Our family tradition has changed with mom and dad moving to Nebraska and selling the family home. 

     Growing up in Ottawa, KS the town had their own traditions that continue this holiday season.  There is always a Christmas parade the first weekend in December.  Santa is always on a fire truck at the end of the parade.  Then Santa always goes to the oldest working theater in America.  Santa sits for a few hours listening to desires of kids.

     Another tradition is the First Baptist church’s display of Nativities.  Last time I went a few years ago, the number had surpassed 500 nativities.  One of the main contributors, passed away this year so not sure if her family continued the tradition.

     Another tradition is the local hospital, Ransom Memorial Auxiliary, have a home tour of 4 or 5 vintage homes decked out in all their glory.  It was always fun to look at people’s designs and collections.  One year a lady, like a second mom to me, Dorothy Anderson, better known as Mom Irma.  She had a grand Victorian home and her living room was filled with a Christmas village in a display case my father built.  It was grand with lights, snow, buildings and accessories. 

    At our house, in the formal living room there was always a manger scene.  It had the creche, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  Shepherds, wisemen, and animals rounded out the nativity scene.  There was also a Nativity village display on the fireplace hearth.  This now adorns a cabinet in the parsonage.  The nativity set is simple, yet elegant in its own right.   Twenty-five plus years ago when my niece was four or five, after a visit, we noticed everyone in the nativity had been turned to look at baby Jesus.  So instead of seeing their faces, all you saw was backs and tails of animals.  So, my mom turned it around and the next visit they were turned back to tails and back.  I then asked her, why did she keep turning the pieces in the Nativity, and her reply was “Because Jesus is the most important person in the nativity, everyone should be looking at Jesus. 

     Thirteen years later she had a brother and when he was about the same age, we went through the same turning of the animals and people in the nativity.   He said the exact same thing that Jesus should be our focus.  This year the tradition continues, my niece has 4-year-old twins and their family had inherited the nativity set, after my parents moved in with me from Kansas.   My niece called to tell my mom that her 4-year-old son put the Nativity the same way.  His reply after his dad asked him why they were looking in and the tradition continues, “Jesus is the most important.”

     Traditions are not always passed down, but assumed through families.  I am so glad that the figures and the animals are still focusing on baby Jesus this year in Grandma’s manger.  Christmas is that tradition in the church and community, to love one another and keep baby Jesus the focus. We need to take the direction of four-year-old in my life, that we should put our focus on Jesus

     So again, why a letter on traditions in January.  I am currently in the process of going provisional elder leading to a full elder in the UMC.  I recently had an interview and was asked many questions about the UMC.  Some I knew and others I was not 100% clear about.  What I would classify as trivial differences, were very important traditions to the interview committee. What it means to be a Christian, a United Methodist, a Nebraskan, or whatever title you claim as your own, it is important to know the ins and outs of the tradition.  It is important to start off the year 2022 knowing who you are and the traditions that define you or that you associate with. 

    Here is to old traditions that we hold fast to.  Here is for new opportunities and new traditions being forged.  Here is to old traditions getting a “faith-lift” to a new tradition or a modified tradition. 

    Praying for a new year that is filled with tradition and possibilities.  A New year that brings personal and communal growth and change.  Here is to a new year of fellowship and worship in the Spirit of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Pastor Lori Stevens