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My name is Alec Sundberg. I like sports and I play football and basketball. I am in 7th grade at Westridge Middle School. I am 12 years old. I am in orchestra at school. I play the string bass.
In confirmation, I have learned that God is not just a man. In my reading of Luke, I have learned that Jesus was tempted in ways that were bad. He was tempted with things like if you are God’s son then you can throw yourself off the roof and you will not die. My mentor is my dad, Jeremy Sundberg. He is a good mentor, because he makes me think hard about the answers to find a deep and meaningful answer.
Hi! My name is Kyla Sybrandts and I am 13 years old and in the seventh grade at Westridge Middle School. My family includes my mom, dad, and three younger sisters: Kamry, Keely, and Katelyn. I am involved in volleyball, basketball, track, and show choir. I also enjoy playing golf and softball in the summer.
One thing that I have learned in Confirmation that has helped me to know God better, is learning that God can be anywhere and can be anything. I used to think that God was only a person, but after reading Luke I understood that God can be a flash of lightning or a gush of wind. One thing I hope to accomplish during my Confirmation journey is memorizing the books of the Bible. My mentor is Sebrina Bergemier and I have really enjoyed having her mentor me along my journey of getting confirmed. I feel safe when learning about God with Sebrina and my group, and that I can be open about what I am thinking.
My name is Madilynn John. I have four brothers and four sisters. I am 13 years old and am in 7th grade at Westridge Middle School. My favorite sports are volleyball, softball, basketball, track, and I am going to begin hunting. Other things I like to do are reading, painting, and math. I am in my school’s choir and orchestra along with playing sports.
My favorite lesson we have done so far was probably the lesson on God. I feel that when we did this lesson, I took more consideration to how my thoughts of God have changed over the years. I always had thought of God as an old guy with a beard, but when I walked out of class that day my perspective changed a bit. I realized that God could be anything. God could be a candle light, the wind, or any type of person. My mentor is my grandpa, Danny. I really enjoy getting to have him as my mentor, because he always has a positive attitude and is always open to learn and to help me. Having him as my mentor, I feel has really helped us learn and grow together.
My name is Grace Hill and I am a 7th grader at Walnut Middle School. I’m 12 years old and I enjoy sports and art. The sports I’m in are basketball, softball, volleyball, and track. The things in art I like are painting and drawing. The reason why I like art so much is because you can make your own story in your picture. Reading the Bible each week has helped me get to know God better. The retreat to Seward is something I’m looking forward to in my confirmation group this year.
In my Confirmation group, I have a lot of people I know and that makes it really exciting. When we do confirmation group, we play the drums. I really enjoy that because I play drums at school for band. My mentor is Sebrina Bergmeier and the thing I like about meeting with her is that I have two other girls in my group so more voices are heard. Sebrina is a good mentor, because it is easy to learn from her and she listens to you when it’s your time to speak.
My name is Jaylen Hansen. I am 13 years old and in 7th grade at Walnut Middle School. Outside of church and school, I play volleyball, basketball, and softball. I also plan to run track this Spring. Through my confirmation experience, I have been able to understand God better and what my relationship with Jesus means to me. In our classes, we have read verses from the Bible and discussed them with our mentors. One thing I hope to discover through confirmation is how the things I’m learning about God and the Bible can be applied in my own life. My mentor, Jeannie Graves, has been a great leader for me, because I can gain from her perspective on things we talk about. One thing I felt was interesting is understanding what the Holy Spirit means. One thing that I really like in confirmation is the friends that I have in class with me, and getting to talk about these things together. From confirmation, I hope that I will gain a better understanding of God and strengthen my relationship with God.
Hi, I’m Conner George. I like playing sports: basketball and football are my favorites. Two of my favorite things about our church is helping out with Loaves and Fishes and Vacation Bible School. During VBS, I enjoy helping out with the little kids in all the activities. I enjoy Loaves and Fishes, because I like meeting the people who come and helping them. If confirmation has taught me anything, it is that God is everywhere and He is always there for us.
Hi, my name is Trey Engberg and I’m thirteen years old. I love to play football and basketball.
In Confirmation, I have learned many things like how God is actually more of a spirit. He is just pictured in human form so that we can relate to him. Confirmation has also shown me that learning about the Holy Spirit can be fun. We always play drums at the beginning before we separate into groups with our mentors, mine being my grandma, Vicki McDermott. We also play them along with other music from the Greatest Showman.
Confirmation has also got me into reading the Bible. When we go with our mentors, sometimes we read chapters from Luke or other scriptures from the Bible. From the Bible I have learned that Jesus was tempted by the devil but still stayed loyal to God. This is what I have learned from confirmation.
My name is Makenna Garrels. I was born in Hastings, Nebraska and I am an only child.
I just turned 13 on January 10th and I am a 7th grader at Westridge Middle School. I am in dance, softball, and volleyball. I love to go hunting and fishing with my parents at our cabin, and I also enjoy spending time with our dog. I am going on my second year as being a volunteer at Stuhr Museum during special events, summer classes, and working in buildings. I am in choir and orchestra at school, and I am also on the dance team at school.
When we had a lesson on who God was a lot of us learned that God could be anyone or anything, but we don’t know. My mentor is my Grandpa. When we meet for classes, I feel that this is something that has brought us closer together.
This is what I posted on Facebook immediately following the close of our United Methodist General Conference 2019 in St. Louis.
“I copy the statement from St. Paul UMC, Lincoln. As Senior Pastor of Trinity UMC, Grand Island:
“While the actions of General Conference have been disappointing today, Trinity will continue to be a place where all people know All are beloved and sacred. We will continue to hope and pray that God’s love will prevail. And we will continue to work for acceptance and equality for all people.”
Here is a link to the interview that our local TV station News 4 did on Thursday:
I believe that we are all beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God; gay, straight, queer, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender etc. I also believe that there is a group that has been working to de-stabilize the influence of mainline Protestant churches in America ever since the end of the Vietnam War. In their eyes, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Baptists were too influential in ending that war. So, this group has been funding efforts to split the power of those churches ever since. So, the words that “Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” were added to our Book of Discipline in 1972. That same group was still at work at manipulating the political process of our United Methodist Special Session of General Conference 2019 in St. Louis. Back in the early 70’s they chose homosexuality as a strategic wedge to drive churches apart. I believe that if it wasn’t sexuality, it would have been abortion, or the ordination of women.
I have been United Methodist all my life. My Dad, two brothers and wife are also United Methodist clergy. Watching our world-wide meeting on St. Louis by live-streaming was like having the whole world witness a nasty family fight. The ugly underbelly of our church politics was exposed. No matter what side you were on, it was painful to watch. The damage we as a church have been inflicting on the LBGTQ community since 1972 was just exasperated. The Traditionalist Plan that was approved (55% for, 45% against), was deemed 40% unconstitutional coming into that meeting. The plan that was approved has been referred to the Judicial Council (our United Methodist Supreme Court) for further review as to its constitutionality. That will happen April 23rd. There is a strong possibility that what was approved in St. Louis will be deemed unconstitutional and we’ll be back where we started before the general conference. A lot of folks are hurting right now. Folks on both sides of the issue have threatened to quit. I’m hoping you will join me in choosing to still be the Trinity church we have been in sharing the love of God every chance we get; feeding the poor; training our young one’s up to be compassionate, humble servants who walk in the footsteps of Jesus. This is not over. I believe God is still perfecting us and our church. God’s not done with us. I invite conversation on this over a cup of coffee sometime in the near future. Let’s hang in there together.
Grace & Peace,
–Rev. Kelly Karges
In the fall of 2017, I went before the District Committee on Ministry, submitted paperwork, reports from a psychological evaluation and from my participation in a clergy mentor group, and was asked questions about my call to ministry in the United Methodist Church. The committee certified me as a Candidate for Ordination and approved me for licensing as a local pastor. As a Certified Candidate for Ordination, I am required to complete a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) degree.
In 2016, I began my studies toward an M.Div. at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Iliff is a pioneer in developing a seminary program for students at a distance. Because of accreditation standards, an M.Div. degree cannot be earned from just online studies. So, every quarter (October, February, and April), I head out to Denver for Gathering Days in which we have in-person interaction with fellow students and professors. While most of my course work is completed online, these gathering days are an incredible time of feeling like I am “coming home” with friends and colleagues as well as a time of refreshing and renewal.
Completing an M.Div. requires both academic rigor as well as personal introspective work—learning about yourself, learning about how you relate to God, and how you might relate to faith communities who are also learning about themselves and their relation to God and the world. Seminary not only changes your understanding of who you are, but it changes you.
When I close this chapter of my education, I will have completed over 35 courses that have included biblical studies, historical studies, theology, philosophy, sociology, pastoral studies, and ethics that will have cost around $70,000 in finances and over 3,000 hours in time. I will be graduating in 2020 just after I turn 40 years old. My family has been a part of this journey with me and I am incredibly grateful that they have shown me endless patience as I read yet another book, write more papers, and listen to more lectures. This may not have been the life that they have chosen, but it is a life that we are necessarily caught up in as God calls and leads.
—Rev. Dave Clark
I put God first.
Pray first—not last.
I know I can’t change people. I can’t even change myself. Oh, I tried to change without God helping me and that alone was a disaster. I spent a year trying to change people who didn’t want to change. It made me cry. God has taught me to pray with love. Let God.
When I quit trying to do it my way, God will step in and save it. I do what God tells me to do and let it go. Sometimes I think I am God and try to change things and people. It just doesn’t work. I was miserable, depressed, anxious, and in everybody’s business.
I was so busy trying to please everyone, I didn’t take time for me—co-dependent.
I have found I am selfish, too. I like to sit on my pity and I feel sorry for myself instead of moving forward.
I thought what God asked me to do seemed silly and ridiculous—I didn’t believe they would work. I did them anyway. I don’t have depression or anxiety anymore—one step at a time and one day at a time. A lot of little success over time.
Holy Spirit, God, working in me. I started to praise God. God has taught me to praise instead of complaining.
I find the more time I spend with God, the smoother my life seems. The more I set out, when I follow His lead, I learned to ask God for help in everything. His way is best. This is my experience. Take what you like—I leave the rest to God.
Jesus loves you! I love you, too!
This Thursday is Valentine’s Day. We’ve set aside one day a year for love.
When you fall in love you lose yourself. No, that’s not quite it. Love smacks you upside the head. Yeah, that’s closer.
There is something about loving another that’s outside your control; like you can’t help yourself. At the same time, you’ve made a choice to give yourself to it.
I will admit that I have been in love several times in my life. Sometimes I knew it. Sometimes I had no idea. Dad love is different than husband love. And folks tell me Grandpa love is unlike anything you’ve known before.
The father side of me, trying to explain this love thing to my pre-teen kids has said that it’s like all of a sudden, that another person’s happiness becomes as important or more important than your own. Seeing them smile brings a joy that’s bigger than the stars! And the best is when it is mutual; when they love you and you love them. That’s not to say that their love is equal to yours. Cause’ love cannot be measured. It is as individual and unique as a snow flake.
My three kids have been in multiple relationships. And each time they’d fall for another, I’d start fearing “the break-up.” But a part of me wants them to fall hard and deeply in love; no half-way in the things of the heart. The other part of me wants to protect them from getting scars and callouses on their souls.
One side of love is like being knocked over by a huge wave. The other is a clear conscious decision; the will to give yourself away, to serve, no matter what their response. Their reception of your love does not matter as much as your desire to give it.
I have told couples at their weddings that from now on, every day you will wake up and choose to be married. And that wedding ceremony is the beginning of you publicly telling the world that you choose to love this other person like you love no other person in this world. And I say that knowing full well that I could not talk them out of it if I wanted to. Cause’ love has smacked them upside the head and they’re out of their minds, head over heels, gaga over each other. And it’s just fun to be in the same room with the power and depth of that kind of love.
What is your Valentine’s Day expression of love going to look like this year?
Grace & Peace,
–Rev. Kelly Karges
When I’m facilitating drumming circles, I often talk about how our hearts synchronize when we’re losing ourselves in the beat of the circle. When you’re in it, you can feel it resonate deep in your chest when you’re together as a group; lost in the music.
Here recently, in about a one week span I did two funerals. One for a three-year-old. One for a miscarriage (about 20 weeks along). One with around 400 people. One with a family of 25 or so. In both, our hearts were synchronized in their brokenness. You could feel it in the room. We were together in our heartbroken-ness over the loss of those babies. Everyone there was lost in the sadness that resonated deep in our chests. Some cried outwardly. Some sobbed inwardly. We were sharing our heartbroken-ness with those families whose grief had shattered the puzzles of their lives into a pile of disconnected pieces on the floor. They had to help each other to stand and walk. The brokenness of their hearts invaded their limbs and wobbly knees ceased to function. We all literally and spiritually held each other up just to get out of the room.
I found myself explaining to the siblings of those babies that from the minute their parents knew they were pregnant they had begun to wonder about their babies’ future. They dreamed about the possibilities of those new lives. What would they be like? Boy? Or Girl? What kind of things would they enjoy? Would they like to jump into puddles? Would they be into climbing trees? What would they grow to be passionate about? And the parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins began to love those baby’s way before they were ever born. So, the depth of their grief now came from the depth of that love for those babies and the loss of the possibilities of their futures.
The music therapy experts talk about being in the flow of the energy of the music. Our minds and souls get carried along the fast-flowing stream of the sounds we’re floating in. I believe that same thing can happen with grief. In those two babies’ funerals the river was sadness. And it carried us out of control down those fast-moving rapids.
See, I believe that a part of the function of those funerals was to be broken-hearted together. It helped somehow to do this grief thing together. And ultimately, to be reminded that we are not alone. That God is with us no matter what. When our hearts are broken, so is God’s. That God cries with us when we cry, and laughs with us when we laugh. And the mystery here is not that God takes the grief away, but that God chose to share that grief. So, no one person bears this grief alone. It is shared by family, church, and community. Only then can we keep our heads above the water and begin to move on to tomorrow . . . together.
Grace & Peace,
Rev. Kelly Karges
Confirmation 2019 has begun. We meet 13 Wednesday nights from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m.
We gather in Gollaher Chapel and I introduce the topic for 15 minutes (along with a little drumming circle action). Then the 10 seventh-grade confirmands and their mentors scatter to the corners of the church to discuss the questions in their books, read a chapter from the Gospel of Luke and/or work on memorizing the books of the Bible, the Apostles’ Creed, or the 23rd Psalm.
We gather back together again for the last 15 minutes of questions with me before circling up to share joys and concerns and praying together before going home.
We’ll do road trips to a mortuary, Confirmation Day at Nebraska Wesleyan with Bishop Saenz in March, and the “Living Last Supper” in Seward in April. The confirmands are encouraged to participate in as many aspects of the church as possible in these 13 weeks (worship/service projects etc.).
In the coming weeks the confirmands will be given the opportunity to write a Journeys piece (the article on the back of the bulletin) about what this church means to them or their favorite thing about the church. If the confirmands choose to become full members of the church, they will be confirmed on Sunday, May 5th.
Please keep these Confirmands and their Mentors in your prayers during this important discernment time in their lives:
Confirmands: Trey Engberg, Gabe Gonzalez, McKenna Garrels, Conner George, Jaylen Hansen, Grace Hill, Madilynn John, Alec Sundberg, Kyla Sybrandts, and Madyson Schuler.
Mentors: Vicki McDermott, Sebrina Bergmeier, Jeremy Sundberg, Danny John, and Ron George.
Grace & Peace,
Rev. Kelly Karges
On my journey, I have found, felt, and learned:
• Put God first—God is in control! Not me.
• God—Jesus loves me—unconditionally
• God is love—I have a personal relationship with God
• God is not a terrorist—God is not dead
• God will help me if I ask him. I am willing
• I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength
• God has given me tears of joy instead of pain
• God has taught me I can have pain and not suffer
• God has taught me to count my blessings everyday
• Now that God is in my life—I love my life
• God has given me the fruits of the Spirit
• Serenity, peace, faith, love, joy, laughter, bold obedience
• God has given me the gifts of washing dishes, making perfect cookies, and singing praises—God has taught me I can have peace and laughter
• Someone loved me first before I could feel God’s love. I had to learn to love myself before I could love others
• God has given me the desire of my heart, my husband, my son, Michael, coming home
• Volunteer at the Salvation Army, Hope Harbor and Goodwill
• Pay it forward. I always want to help the poor and hurting people—now I AM with God’s help
Why wouldn’t I want to serve this God—Jesus?
I am very happy
• God has shown me people to show love—words and acts of kindness, affirmative gifts, and spending time
• God has lifted my anxiety, depression, allergies, over active bladder, and lowered my high blood pressure
• My job is to love people—God sees them
• The Holy Spirit is in me—Guide me
• God has taught me it is the little things that matter
• God has taught me that I am good enough and that I am loved
• I have learned to surrender to God’s will—not mine
I praise God. I thank God. I trust God. I need God! Everyday!
A dear friend gave me a lovely bracelet for Christmas that has the word FAITH on it. This gift has caused me to contemplate my faith.
Where did it come from? How has it grown? How do I want it to continue to grow?
I have faith in things in life that happen over and over. I have faith the sun will come up in the east every single day. I have faith that Mathetes members will pray for me when I ask. I have proof of these.
But what about my faith in God’s constant presence in my life?
I can’t see the wind, but I know it’s there because I can feel it. I can’t see God, but I have faith He is present in the incredible sunrises that are like my own personal gift-wrapped day; present in the hopeful birdsong of spring; present in the glee of a child’s laughter; present in a lingering hug from someone I love; present in the fresh smell of rain; present in the silence of softly falling snow. There are many things that help my faith to grow; the constant volunteering of you, my church family, each month at Loaves and Fishes no matter if it’s steamy hot or frigid cold; the joy of praise songs and beautiful stained-glass windows in worship; the kind word of support I receive when needed; the hug of a grandchild; safety when driving down I80 at 75 mph.
When I am totally aware of what is happening around me in any moment, I find my faith grows. Sometimes what’s happening wouldn’t be my choice, but I have faith that God is in it and good things will come from it. And for me that is the future, paying attention to life right now and having faith that God is with me each and every moment.
This is God’s gift to me whether I deserve it or not. All I have to do is have faith as I accept this gift, the gift of being forgiven and loved no matter what. After all God sent his son to earth to live and die for me.
So, when does the new year officially begin? Is it the minute that ball drops in Times Square? Or is it when the first baby of 2019 is born?
In our house, the holiday season ends when the left-overs are gone, the Christmas tree is taken down, and the last college football bowl game is played. Even though the relatives have gone home and both high school and college have cranked up, it doesn’t feel like a new year until that 41st and final bowl game was completed. Now we can turn and face the new year. Cause we just can’t wait for the Super Bowl to get closure in 2018.
So, this year the new year starts on January 7th. Then, the dust from the collapse of 2018 will have mostly cleared. Now, we squint toward the far horizon of 2019 and start to fill in important dates we already know are coming down the pike.
Then, we can get serious about 2019. We can avoid it until about half-time of the National Championship College Football game tomorrow. Then, the mixing and matching of one season over two calendar years is over and we can focus on the future without the past weighing us down.
As our Zen Buddhist masters teach us, “The past is perfect.” It cannot be altered or perfected any more. It just is. Though 2018 can still affect us, we can no longer effect it. So, it is time to put the past behind us and move on. We cannot grab hold of the future until we let go of the past. I don’t know about you, but I always need God’s help with that one.
“God, please help us let go of 2018 so we can live fully in the present in 2019.”
Grace & Peace,
As 2018 comes to an end we are drawn into a rhythm of reflection and commitment. How did your life change this past year? What wounds will you bear? What joys have brought new vitality? Where have you seen God? Has your journey this past year been led by God?
Some of these answers we may like and others we wish to have made different choices. We begin looking at January 1 as a day of hope. A day in which we can renew commitments, try out new practices—re-create ourselves.
Our discipleship is a journey of re-creation. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
In these closing hours of this year, I encourage you to consider how you might live into the reality that you are a new creation and allow Christ to re-create you. Consider the following practices that will help to create space for Christ and for transformation.
Contemplative Practices: Connecting with God through practices of prayer, liturgy, sacred reading, and experiences of awe and wonder.
Participating in worship services
Lectio Divina—listening to the words of Scripture
Daily private prayer
Times of silence and solitude
Communal Practices: Connecting with others through practices of hospitality, learning, generosity, and experiences of vulnerability and interdependency.
Inviting others to join you for coffee after Sunday service
Participating in small groups and book studies
Ministering with children and youth on Sunday mornings and/or Wednesday evenings
Sharing in meals with one another
Missional Practices: Connecting others with God through practices of service, justice, humility, and experiences of engagement and solidarity.
Serving with Loaves & Fishes, JFON Clinics, Volunteers in Mission, or the UMW
Discerning how God is uniquely calling you to service and ministry
Practicing acts of kindness and compassion with those that look, speak, and believe differently than you