Yours in Christ, Pastor Johnice
That is a strange title for an article. It refers to a Valentine’s event at church that will result in several goats being sent to needy people in Africa. The Valentine’s party, sponsored by the Pohocco Men in Mission (PMM), will be held at Pohocco on February 10 (Sunday) at 6:00 PM, beginning with a meal prepared by the PMM, followed by a program of music provided by participants in a number of musical recitals held at Pastor Schmidt’s home the past year. The cost per couple will be $25; singles $12.50. Profits will be used to provide a needy family in Africa with several goals.
Providing animals is one form of the Good News being brought there by The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s World Hunger Agency. The gift of goals is described in this way:
“If there’s a superhero of the barnyard, it just might be the goat. Why? Because goats can go where other animals can’t, surviving in some of the world’s harshest environments - rocky terrain, drought-prone areas, small plots of land, you name it. Fresh milk from a goal provides daily nutrition for families. And offspring can transform a community when shared with other families in need”
We hope you will join us on February 10 in the church basement. Your presence will be a show of support for a needy family and for the mission projects carried out by the PMM. Thank You!
Valentine’s Day Dinner
Where: PLC Basement
When: Sunday, February 10th at 6:00 p.m.
Cost: $25/couple or $12.50/single
Come join us for a wonderful meal and an enjoyable evening of music and fellowship.
Proceeds will help purchase goats in Africa. Reserve your spot today!
Meal Choice _____ Chicken _____ Pork
(checks can be made to Pohocco Men in Mission)
January 20th Annual Voters’ Meeting - Election Results
Council Member - Scott Klawitter
Treasurer - Richie Winkelman iii
Educational Ministry Co-Directors - Kelsey Hagen & Karen Jordan
5 Mission Projects that we will support this year
Pohocco Lutheran Church Council Minutes
These minutes have not been approved
The council met on January 9, 2019 for their regular monthly meeting. All members except Dale were present. Pastor Orduna was also present. Mary called the meeting to order and Pastor said a prayer.
Vicki motioned to accept treasurer's report as presented. Tom seconded the motion. The motion passed.
Roxanne motioned to approve minutes from the previous meeting as presented. Vicki second the motion. The motion passed.
Gene Karstens will again audit the financial records of the church.
The council discussed the agenda for the annual meeting.
Tom motioned to adjourn the meeting. Vicki seconded the motion. The motion passed and the meeting was adjourned.
Tom Ondracek, PLC Council Secretary
FEBRUARY Birthdays & Anniversaries
2 - Pat Stienike
4 - Norah Hartman
6 - Andrew Ondracek
6 - Ella Ondracek
9 - Chuck & Mary Petersen
10 - Jeanie Hanson
11 - Rachele Petersen
13 - Duane & LaNelle Larson
14 - Terry & Lorie Hermanson
16 - June Vogel
17 - Phil Hanson
20 - Casey Carnahan
20 - George & Mary Romanelli
21 - Libby Gehrman
26 - Triston Clary
28 - Rod Bennett
It doesn’t seem possible that we are entering another new year. We enter this year with hope and joy and a deep gratitude to our Lord who has blessed us to enter yet another year in His service. We can look forward in hope that Pohocco will continue to stand as a beacon of light here in our rural location and that we look for ways to honor the grace that God has bestowed on each of us.
Our needs are not extreme although we are still searching for a permanent musician to replace our beloved Ila Nelson who has served us with such faithfulness these past 15 plus years. If any of you know of someone who might be interested in this position please contact me or one of the current council members. It is my prayer that God will send us the exact person to serve us in this capacity.
I also wish to offer my sincere gratitude to Mary Romanelli and Roxanne Hartman who have served this congregation and the church council with such distinction and spiritual commitment. I will truly miss their presence and their wisdom in my personal relationship with them, and on the council, but I know that these two will continue to seek out other ministries where they can continue to serve Pohocco. I also wish to thank Christy Reeson and Mary Robinson for the excellent way that they managed our Christian Education program. What Christy gave in time and service was exceptional. I could not have managed without her faithfulness and friendship. Mary Robinson was willing to offer her help even in the midst of some very challenging medical issues. We will sorely miss them both as we move forward into a new year and a new set of educational challenges.
One way that I have decided to participate in our furthering of the Christian education of our youth is to form a Sunday School class for our post-confirmation young people. This class will begin when Sunday School resumes in January. My prayer is that by adding this opportunity for learning, we can assist our teens in preparing themselves spiritually for the world that they will encounter after high school. I look forward to the challenge of teaching this class and hope that the young people will benefit from it.
Our annual meeting will take place on January 20th following the worship service where we will be electing new church officers and discussing the relevant issues concerning our church in the upcoming year. Please plan to attend and come prepared to offer your gifts and commitments to keep our church as God intended us to be, a place that serves Christ and His mission as best we can.
Happy New Year and may God bless you all.
I’m not sure how it happened but we find ourselves entering another Advent season. As I write this I am preparing for the Thanksgiving Eve service, rehearsing with the Sunday School, children for their presentation, and trying to recover from a long and tedious series of radiation treatments. My deepest gratitude to all of you for your prayers and support during my recent illness. One thing I know for sure is that we as a church family will be preparing for the celebration of the coming of our Savior. Advent invites us to get ready again for the miracle of Christ’s birth. It is a season of anticipation, preparation, and celebration. We should begin to gird our spiritual loins for the altercations that inevitably come when we as Christians must stand against the worldly approach to what we know to be a sacred event.
Our children will be immersed in Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph while we are trying to educate them about shepherds, angels and wise men. The struggle is real!! How do we keep this season relevant? We must be intentional with our message so that they and we can separate what is entertaining fiction from what we know to be spiritually accurate and true. Here are a few suggestions that might be helpful for you and your family.
- Celebrate Advent in your home. Have an advent wreath with candles and as a family activity light a candle each Sunday prior to your evening meal.
- Find a book of Advent meditations and share them as a family. There are several books available aimed toward family meditation time.
- Tell the Christmas story in segments and discuss it with the family. Luke 2 can be divided into verses each week and different family members invited to read the scriptures.
- Use an Advent calendar that has a Christian theme that focuses on the birth of Jesus rather than the coming of Santa Claus.
- Be intentional about coming to church. Make the Advent Sundays a priority and discuss the service content with your family. Make note of the changing colors of the church’s banners that denote this season of preparation.
- Seek out some of the musical presentations that will be available throughout the community. My favorite is Handel’s Messiah. If you don’t want to leave home to experience this anointed music, PBS usually broadcasts a performance of this work during the season.
We at Pohocco will be celebrating Advent with seasonal music and with a sermon series on the central participants in the Christmas story. Our children will present their Christmas program on December 9th at 10:00 AM and are hard at work getting it ready to share it with the congregation. Pastor Dwight has invited us to come and hear the Cantata at New Life Presbyterian on December 23rd at their 11:00 AM service. I usually sing with the choir there, and hope that my voice will be healed enough to do this again this year. Our own Christmas Eve Communion service will be a wonderful celebration of the coming of our Lord. I hope to see you all there.
May the Christ of Christmas bless you all during this Holy Season,
Love and Peace, Pastor Johnice
As we enter November we start our remembrances of all of the saints of our church family who have gone on to live in the nearer presence of our Lord. In church we will acknowledge each of them by the reading of their names and a prayer to celebrate what they meant to us and the loss we feel from their passing. We will also be remembering the Reformation that gave us a clearer understanding of God's grace.
We will be welcoming the greater community of Fremont and surrounding areas to our soup supper. Jesus commands us to feed His sheep, and on Soup Supper Sunday the PLL does a brilliant job of that. Please remind everyone that deliciousness will be happening at Pohocco on the first Sunday evening in November from 3:00 - 7:00 pm.
We will also be celebrating Thanksgiving Eve on Wednesday, November 21 with a light meal followed by a Communion Service at 7:00 pm. This is an excellent way to begin your Thanksgiving weekend. Let us rejoice and give thanks together for all of the blessings that God has bestowed on each and all of us.
A special thank you to Pastor Dwight Williams for filling in for me during the final weeks of my radiation treatments. Dwight has proven to be a faithful brother and friend to Pohocco and I am truly grateful for his help.
The nominating committee has been convened and will be hard at work finding candidates willing to take on the work of furthering the ministry of our church. If you are contacted by the committee, please consider serving your church and its ministries in some capacity.
Finally, thank you all for your love and support during this challenging time in my life. My final treatment will be November 5th and I hope to resume a normal work schedule shortly after that. This is my sincere prayer. I thank God for each one of you. Your prayers and words of encouragement have sustained me through this difficult time, and God has showered me with His love and grace. You are continually in my prayers and I look forward to being in full service to you very soon.
Grace to you, and peace from Jesus our Christ. I am honored to be the pastor of such a warm and loving congregation as Pohocco. It was my privilege to receive 4 new members in September. We welcome Ken and Janey Gaughen, and Karen and Kelsey Jordan to our church family. Sunday School is in full swing, and I am grateful to Clarence Devney and Pam Curry for leading the Adult Class in a study of the lectionary Epistles. Our church is alive with the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of our Lord. We are still searching for a musician but are so grateful for our beloved Ila’s willingness to remain as we complete our search. We are truly blessed to have her.
I have heard from many of you that you were not clear about my medical issues and so I am taking this opportunity to give you the details of my situation in order to avoid any misinformation. In 1972 I discovered a large lump in my neck. We were stationed in Germany and I was treated by military doctors for a “hot node” in my thyroid gland. I was given radioactive iodine in liquid form and was told that the problem was taken care of. The nodes returned several years later and I was told that they were not dangerous and should be ignored.
A few months ago I noticed that my voice was becoming scratchy and I was having difficulty swallowing. My doctor here in Fremont sent me immediately to the Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Center in Omaha where I was told that the Thyroid Gland needed to be removed but that the four nodules inside the gland were probably benign. As you know I had that surgery on August 6th. A few days later I was contacted by the hospital and told that the largest nodule contained a malignant tumor inside, but that it had been removed.
After the tumor was further examined it was discovered to be a rare and aggressive cancer. The nature of the cancer is such that even though the tumor was removed in tact, the doctors want to be sure that none of the cells or microbes are left lingering in my neck or chest where the gland was. For this reason I am being treated with a full 6 week round of radiation treatments. This is being done as a precaution because of the aggressive nature of the tumor that was removed. I appreciate your prayers and cards and hope that you know that I am trusting God for a complete cure and a whole lot more years as your Pastor. Because radiation can have some tough side effects, I am trying to work ahead in October so that if I get sidelined with the treatments it will not inconvenience our church activities too much.
I have planned most of the October activities for the first few weeks in the month, but will be available if you have any pastoral needs. I will be officiating the Winkelman wedding on October 6th. We will have our First Communion celebration on October 7th. As the month progresses I will keep you informed of my progress and will let you know if I need to take some time off. Our Halloween Party will go on as scheduled, and I am working on a Christmas Musical for the children. Please keep me in your prayers and I will keep you in mine.
Please excuse the tardiness of this month’s newsletter. As most of you know, my health has been a bit out of sorts lately and it has put me a bit behind schedule. I am so excited about the events coming this month. First of all, I trust that all of our students and faculty persons are beginning a stellar school year. I will be in continual prayer for each and every one of you as you embark upon this new school term. We are all teachers and learners and the most essential part of our human experience is to continue to learn from one another.
On September 9th we will begin our Sunday School. We are so pleased to have gifted teachers who have agreed to teach Pohocco’s children. We look forward to their classes and ask each parent to pray for and support those who will be responsible for leading our children into the learnings of our faith. Our awards Sunday has been moved forward to September 16th where we will be honoring last year’s teachers and promoting the children into their new classes.
On September 23rd we will be celebrating the reception of our new church members. Please come to welcome these wonderful people who will become members of our Pohocco family. After the service there will be cake so we look forward to seeing you there.
We are still searching diligently for a musician to replace our beloved Ila Nelson who has announced her retirement but has graciously agreed to remain active until we can find a new musician. We are especially thankful to Ila for her forbearance and patience with us during our search.
Finally, I want to thank you all for your prayers and concern during this difficult time regarding my health. I am in the process of receiving a treatment plan for the thyroid cancer that was unexpectedly discovered during a routine thyroidectomy. As of this writing I still don’t know to what degree I will be incapacitated by the upcoming treatments because I am not clear what they will be. I do know that God is in charge of my health and my entire dependence is on his will for my life and healing. I will continue to serve you as long as I am able, and I will lean on the Lord for the rest. May you be blessed to be a blessing as I hope that I will be also.
August got here so fast that I am still trying to shake off the heat and humidity of July. This month will begin for me with a long overdue surgery. My hope is that the recovery time will be brief and I will be back in our pulpit by the third Sunday of the month.
In the meantime plans are in the making for a new Sunday school curriculum, the next 1st communion class, a back to school bash, and the Adult Education class. The life of Christ’s church at Pohocco is taking off with energy and spirit. I hope that after your summer of vacations and relaxations, you are ready to lend your gifts and spirit to the life of our congregation with renewed energy and insight!
We have seen the wonderful blessings of new memberships. We welcome newly baptized member Sawyer Menousek, and reception by transfer members Ken and Janey Gaughan and Kelsey Jordan. Let’s work as their new church family to let them know how very joyful we are that they will joining us, and make them feel welcomed in every way. It is my hope to have a celebration of their memberships in the latter part of August when I return from my recuperation. Also, Kelsey comes with a horse that she needs to board, so if any of you have information that can help her please let me know so I can pass it along.
We are not yet into November, but as a church family we have much to be thankful for. Rich Winkleman is recovering wonderfully well from Aortic valve surgery and we are so grateful for his healing. Several of our youth were involved in spiritual enrichment experiences this summer and we are sure to see the growth that they will share with us as they return from these these programs. If you have an opportunity, ask Bryce Reeson, or Holly Robinson, or Noah Ondracek how they experienced a deeper knowledge of Christ’s love this summer. I’m sure they have wonderful stories to share.
We are still searching for a musician to replace our beloved Ila who has decided to retire this September. If you have any leads on a musician who might meet our needs please let me know. I believe that God will send us the exact person whose ministry will enhance our worship, but we haven’t found them yet. Prayers will be appreciated.
My prayers for a safe and relaxing end of the summer goes out to each family and member of Pohocco. If you have need for pastoral care during my absence Pastor Harold has agreed to be available. May our children be blessed with a safe return to their classrooms, and may we enter the fall with all the love and grace that God will shower upon us.
As July burns its way into our lives let me apologize for not getting this message out to you sooner. There are times when the day to day requirements of ministry pull me away from the scheduled tasks that need to be attended to. Let me begin by saying how grateful I am that our Lord is faithful to our needs and hears and answers our prayers. We at Pohocco have been challenged by some very serious circumstances and have needed to stretch out on our faith to reach for the care and healing the comes from God and from one another. We have been blessed by God’s presence through it all, and we must be careful to give God the glory and the praise for all He has done.
This month as America celebrates the anniversary of her independence, let us remember that our freedom is never really free. Every day it comes with a cost. We have been blessed that the cost has never been more than we could readily pay, but there are men and women who will be putting themselves in harm’s way daily so that we can celebrate with picnics and fireworks and family gatherings. Too often we take these things for granted, and when we do that, we are less mindful of the sacrifices that our service members daily make for us. So, say a special prayer of thanksgiving for them and their families this July 4th before you head for that barbecue and fireworks display. Our country, The United States of America, needs our prayers right now, and we need to remind ourselves constantly that we as a nation are stronger and better when we stand together as “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It is a practice we must continue to observe, or we will not thrive as the best we that we can be.
Although summer can mean fewer activities around the church, we have completed another successful Vacation Bible School. Special thank yous go to Mary Robinson and all of her helpers who made this a fun time of learning and fellowship for our children. Thank you also for all of you who brought supper for the kids each night. This month we will be baptizing a new member of our church family. On July 22nd we will welcome Sawyer Menousek into the family of God at Pohocco. Congratulations to Stephen and Jenelle and Parker for this new addition to their family and ours.
On a sadder note our beloved church musician Ila Nelson has announced her intention to retire at the end of the summer. Ila has faithfully served Pohocco for more than 15 years. Although we will miss her ministry with us, Ila and John will remain members of our congregation and I’m sure they will find other ways to share their gifts with the church. Thank you Ila for your faithfulness and dedication to Pohocco. We will surely miss seeing you in the musician’s corner. We are currently actively searching for a new person to take over Ila’s position and will be grateful if you as the congregation will assist us in getting the word out. If you know of someone who might be interested in sharing their gift of music with us, please contact a member of the council with their information. We believe that God will send us the person who will enhance our worship, and will be in fellowship with us as we minister the gospel to our congregation.
Finally, Let us remember to pray for one another as we travel and vacation. Be safe and remember that we look forward to seeing you in church when you get back home. Be blessed beloved and may God grant us all wisdom and peace as we move forward.
We enter the month of June rejoicing in the newness of life in our church. We celebrate our 5 new confirmands who have become members in full maturity in the Christian faith. Congratulations to Colby John Robinson, Matthew John Ondracek, Morgan Christine Ondracek, Grant Riley Hevlin, and Bryce John Reeson. These young people participated in an extensive two year program of studying the scriptures, the sacred documents of the faith, and how to be in community with other brothers and sisters in Christ. I am proud of each of them and the hard work, commitment, and faithfulness that they have shown.
As summer approaches we at Pohocco will be challenged to prioritize our spiritual lives as we plan time away from school schedules, for taking vacations, and other activities. Our Sunday School will be out until fall, as well as the choir, and the adult Bible class. We will be having Vacation Bible School beginning June 18 and going through the 22nd. Mary Robinson will be leading the program and will be letting us know what she will need to be successful. Please be willing to volunteer your time and resources to assist Mary in whatever she needs.
Traditionally during the summer months church attendance seems to decline in numbers. I would like to challenge you each to make the effort to put worship on top of your summer calendars. It is easy enough to become relaxed in your church participation when the weather and summer fun can be so tempting. I would just like to remind you that on Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM Jesus, Ila and I will be at Pohocco waiting to greet you with a message of love and hope.
Finally, I will be offering lessons in vocal music again this summer. I will be making a schedule in the next two weeks. If you are interested in improving your singing or if you have never tried to sing but would like to learn, please let me know. The cost for these lessons is very expensive. It will require you to sing at one of our worship services. So come out to the church and sing with me. It will be fun, and a way of adding a new ministry to your gift package for the Lord.
As you travel this summer please be safe, as the children are out of school please be watchful, and as we move forward in our Christianity, please be diligent and faithful. God’s peace be with you all.
Love in Christ’s service, Pastor Johnice
May is upon us. The sun is finally shining and bringing warmth with it. The daffodils and tulips are opening up and showing off their colors, and the grays and browns of winter are trading places with the lush greens of spring. People are coming out of their homes and the smells of charcoal and barbecue are meeting us around every corner. It’s time to celebrate life without the outer layers. Whatever we remember of winter we can now file away. There is no better way to introduce what is coming for Pohocco this month. Graduations, Confirmations, Pentecost, and Memorial Day. We are blessed!
We will celebrate the graduation from Yutan High School of our beloved Elizabeth (Lizzie) Cernin on May 12th. Congratulations to her and her family on this milestone in her life. We look forward to blanketing Lizzie and surrounding her with our love and our prayers.
On May 20th we will be confirming 5 of our Christian family into the completion of their Baptismal vows. Congratulations to Grant Hevlin, Matthew Ondracek, Morgan Ondracek, Bryce Reeson, and Colby Robinson. These young people have worked extremely hard to complete not just the curriculum for confirmation, but also the meaning and spirituality that accompanies it. I am so very proud to have spent the last two years working with them and have been privileged to observe and oversee their growth in the faith. Please come and celebrate with them.
On a personal note I want to share with you how blessed I have felt to bring this second confirmation class to its completion. As these young people have grown, so too have I. I want to thank the parents and families of these young people. You have shown such support and grace as we have moved through some of the most challenging times facing each one of the families involved with these confirmands. Through it all you have been there for the youths and for me. There are not enough words to express my personal appreciation for the sacrifices you have made toward the successful completion of this portion of this journey of faith. I thank God for you for standing with us as silent supporters holding us up as we stood up to this work of faith and understanding.
It is fitting that the day of Pentecost will fall on the day of Confirmation. Traditionally we dress out in our red attire to welcome the arrival of the Holy Spirit. This year we will be adorned for so much more. May we raise our banners high for the blessings and the gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows on us this special season and on this very special day. “Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful people”. We will celebrate the coming of the Comforter and our Advocate. The One sent to us by Christ so that we will be forever empowered to be about the His work and the fulfillment of the will of God.
Blessings and Peace, Pastor Johnice
Dear Members of Pohocco,
It’s now been over 7 months since Ruth’s death. Life has been different for me since then, but angels of mercy all around have helped me make adjustments and meet new challenges. That has enabled me to continue to live life with meaning and purpose. And Pohocco has had a lot to do with that. I’d like you to know that, and I want to share a few Reflections with you on my “new life”.
An 8-day trip with son Mark in early March reaffirmed my feelings about the beauty, grandeur, and resourcefulness of our land and its people. Seeing the Grand Canyon, Desert Life Museums, and the Hoover Dam area reassured me of this, that despite losses, there is God-given beauty all around us to lift our spirit and remind us to count our blessings.
But there has to be more than the physical environment to help us through losses. And that something more is spiritual help, which has a greater power to help us retain hope and faith to see us through losses. I can’t imagine my “new life” being as good as it is without worship and friendship at Pohocco. Do you fully realize how fortunate we are to hear Scripture-based, life-related sermons Sunday after Sunday? Not only does Pastor Johnice bless us with excellent messages, but she graces our lives with compassionate love and pastoral care. My family and I are among the many who have experienced this in special ways upon the death of a loved one. What a priceless gift this is! We owe a debt of gratitude to Pastor Johnice for serving us in these ways the past 5 years, and we pray God’s gifts of health and well-being upon her to enable her to continue to bless us in future years.
In addition to reflecting about the above matters, I think often about my age. I turned 90 in January. My 20-year-old granddaughter Cara lived with me this past winter. She asked a lot of questions about life, including: “What is it like to be 90 years old? What’s good about it?” My answers would go something like this: “There are a number of challenges that come with getting old. But there are also some precious advantages and opportunities, like having more years to see how your grandchildren are doing with the gift of life… Growing old also means more time to become more fully the kind of persons God intends us to be, persons who are more patient with others, realizing that being patient allows others to reach their fullest potential in life… It also means more time to become less judgmental of others, realizing that we seldom know the whole story. And i we do find ourselves judging others, let’s not define their worth when they are at their lowest in life… Growing to a ripe old age also means more time to become more compassionate toward others. Compassion is a beautiful word. It means to try to feel what it’s like to walk in the shoes of another. And doing that is the giving of a precious gift… Growing old also means more time to experience God’s grace and the goodness of life itself, which have power to overshadow the troubles of life.”
All the above should be our response to what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments: LOVE GOD and LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. And everyone is our neighbor. And everyone needs our love, because life is hard for everyone!
In Christ, Harold Schmidt
Welcome to April.
THE LORD IS RISEN!!! HE IS RISEN INDEED!!!
Easter is how we begin this month. What we must remember is that our lives begin and end with this event. God our Creator, Who created us all in His image, made possible our salvation through the resurrection of Jesus our Savior and Redeemer.
Like the message of Christmas, this gift should not be limited to a single morning. We spent 40 days during Lent preparing ourselves to receive the gift Jesus bestows on us through his sacrifice. This is not a message for a single day. It is the announcement for a lifetime. We in the church tend to have a great big celebration on Resurrection Day and then return to our routine Sunday worship services the following weeks. As the Church it is for us to remind the world that Easter is not a day but a lifetime. It is the season that encompasses our reunion with God and explains our everlasting life.
It is at our baptisms we claim this new gift. It is at our confirmations that we secure it, and at Easter that we celebrate and rejoice in it. So, as we begin the celebration on the first day of the month of April, let us be determined throughout the month to continue the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection and victory over the grave. The tomb is empty so that our lives can be full. Full of the grace, love, forgiveness and blessings of our merciful Father in Heaven. It is God who gives this gift to us and God through Christ Jesus that we praise during this Eastertide.
May the joyous gift of the resurrection abide in you on this Holy Day and throughout the season of hope and victory that we celebrate.
Love and peace, Pastor Johnice
Greetings in the name of the Christ of our salvation. Please accept my apology for the delay in publishing this month’s newsletter. As most of you know I was diagnosed with Influenza A and was ordered to bed by my doctor. I would like to express my gratitude for your prayers and support during this illness. I especially want to thank you for being faithful to the ministry at Pohocco even if your pastor is quarantined. So thank you all for your cards and calls and texts.
As spring approaches we continue to pursue our Lenten activities. The Wednesday evening services are going well but you are encouraged to continue to attend. I have invited some of our ministry partners to come and share with us about their purpose and goals. These have been meaningful and informative sharings, and it helps us to be updated on the partnerships that we have chosen to invest with.These worship services offer an opportunity to engage with your spirituality in the middle of the week. Singing the Holden Evening Prayer service is a soothing, restful way to end your evening. Please consider joining us in these worship experiences.
The approaching preparation for Resurrection Day will include our Holy Week services. We will worship on Maundy Thursday with communion and foot washing. At the end of that service we will strip the altar in readiness for Good Friday. On Good Friday we will have a service of the Seven Last Words followed with a silent communion. I look forward to experiencing these worship times with you as we journey toward the day that celebrates our victory through Christ’s resurrection and the anniversary of our salvation.
May you be blessed during this Holy season and may your Lenten journey be filled with the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Love and peace, Pastor Johnice
As I write this message, the sun has come forth and is melting away the crippling ice and snow that has paralysed our area for several days. It’s warmer and safer to step outside and to be about the community. We are once again free to move around and to get things accomplished that were limited by the severity of the weather. If we are cautious and take the proper steps we are not too damaged by the storms that pass through, but if we ignore the signs and warnings, we can find ourselves in truly dangerous situations brought on by these natural occurrences. The weather is not something that we can control, but our responses and actions to the weather are within our control. It is usually our judgement that determines how successfully we ride out the storms. Do we have enough supplies? Are our vehicles in good shape if we need to relocate? Are our homes equipped to shelter us properly if we need to stay inside for longer periods of time? Are our cell phones charged in case we lose power? Have we checked on our neighbors? These are the questions that need to be addressed if we are going to minimize the dangers that blow through with each storm. Checklists are an important key to our survival. Do we make these lists during the storms, or do we prepare them in anticipation of the possibility that storms may occur? In our lives the answers to these questions are necessary to help us survive and thrive.
This year our lenten season begins on Valentine’s Day February 14th. We will spiritually be transitioning from the season of light in Epiphany to the season of reflection in Lent. Many of us have faced some pretty intense spiritual storms already. Some that we were able to prepare for, and some that blew into our lives unexpectedly. We weathered these storms the best that we were able to, and survived them even if we are a bit battered and worn out. Lent affords us an opportunity to regroup and to replenish our depleted spiritual stores. It invites us to take some time to make checklists of our Christ-centered survival tools, in order to make sure that there is enough there to help us weather new storms whether sudden or expected. The tools available to us are plentiful. We can be intentional in availing them. Here are a few suggestions for your checklist. 1) Get your Bible out and find a good study guide or study group. Engage the scriptures as if your life depends on them because in truth it does. 2) Be intentional in your prayer life. Talk to God and listen for His voice. Pray for one another and pray for yourself. God hears and answers our prayers. Make time every day to be in communication with God. Make it a priority. 3) Do something for someone who is less fortunate than you are. Be somebody’s blessing. Don’t wait for the situation to come to you, go out and pursue it. There are always opportunities available to be of service, find one and get busy! 4) Create a new ministry opportunity for yourself. Give a children’s sermon, join the choir, teach Sunday School. If our church needs a ministry that we don’t have, create one. 5) Attend the Wednesday Lenten services as a discipline. These midweek services exist as a way to bolster the spiritual life of those who attend them. They enhance the Sunday to Sunday worship experience like a booster shot enhances an inoculation. Lent is a time for preparation and strengthening of our faith so that as we are confronted with the storms of life we can be assured that we have God’s tools to survive them and God’s promise that the storms will pass and we will see the sun and the Son again.Be blessed and make your checklists.
Yours in Christ, Pastor Johnice
Happy New Year to each of you and all of your loved ones. May God bless you with his grace in the coming year. I wish I had some explosive words of inspiration to begin 2018 with, but leaving 2017 has left many of us a bit tired and sad. Several of our spiritual family have gone on to be with our Lord and their passings have left us with a void that will require the healing comfort of the Holy Spirit and the continual love and support of one another. In those years when a church family has more funerals than baptisms, we must seek to hold each other up in prayer and to encourage each other in love.
Still we as a church stand firmly rooted in our faith. We accepted and surrendered to God’s will in all things. We prayed for our members who were ill and we stood with our families who are mourning. That doesn’t mean that we are passive in our intent to be obedient to our call to fulfill the gospel. We will still support our mission projects and re-examine those that we feel will best further Christ’s mission for His church. We will present a slate of candidates who will be voted on to be leaders to act as stewards of God’s ministry at Pohocco. Our annual meeting to be held later in the month of January will allow us to come together and discuss those issues that will assist the church in staying true to its mission.
I would like to encourage one change in how you as members of the church consider your commitment to Pohocco. This past year it became very difficult to get a yes from many of you when it came to serving as leaders of this congregation. Churches don’t survive without active members in leadership. If you love the church and want it to continue being here to meet your spiritual needs, you must be willing to be involved. We need an active adult Sunday school. We need people to give sermons to our children. We need youth leaders and Sunday school teachers. These ministries will not run themselves. They need caring committed creative people to step up and participate. Everyone has gifts! When was the last time you used yours to further the ministries of your church. Pohocco needs you, I as your pastor need you, and God who is the head of our church needs you. Please consider your YES so you can be BLESSED.
May you and your family be blessed with a happy and God-filled New Year, and I look forward to serving you in the name of our Lord in this coming year.
In Christ’s love, Pastor Johnice
It doesn’t seem possible that we are entering the month of December already. By now many of you have already started to fill your Amazon carts, address your Christmas cards, and decorate your homes for Christmas. There is always too much to do, and never enough time to get it all done. We at the church are facing a similar situation. Advent is upon us and we just finished up the last of the soup from the soup supper. It leaves us questioning whether we are making too much of this holiday, or have we lost perspective about its true meaning.
Normally in December I become the poster child for Fa La La and a very Merry Christmas, but as I am writing this article I am reminded of the families in our church who are dealing with some of the most difficult situations that life can present. It’s challenging to know that the people you love to serve are trying to remain strong in faith and body as they are forced to watch the suffering of those whom they love so dearly. Where does one find the Christmas in the frustration and sheer weariness that these beloved Christian friends are coping with right now? How do we not allow doubt to slip in and steal the joy right out of this season? Can we locate our peace in the midst of this kind of turmoil? The Christmas answer is ABSOLUTELY!!!
The God who hears our prayers is the same God who foresaw our human journey with its ups and downs and pitfalls. He is the God who chose the humblest of people to bear and care for him. He chose a young woman with a pure spirit and an unwavering faith to be his mother, and a hardworking honest carpenter to be her husband and protector. He is the Lord who chose to be born in the humblest of circumstances available, so we would know that He would always be able to reach us wherever we might find ourselves. He allowed Joseph and Mary to be forced away from their homes and families and all that was familiar to them so that we could know that there is no place that life can take us where God’s love will not reach us.
Christmas tells of a Savior who will willingly bear our burdens, who will be with us no matter where sickness, fear, loneliness, anger, frustration, confusion, or even death might try to lead us. The Christ of Christmas came to remind us that we have the victory. It is here in the praise of the Angels. “Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth, Peace, and Goodwill to All People.” Let us with the humility of the shepherds pray for one another believing that the God who gave us the gift of the Christmas season, loves us and hears and answers our prayers. Let us gather in His name throughout this Holy season and be steadfast in our faith. Let us reach out to one another with love and hope believing that Jesus came to all of us so that we can bear witness to His power, His compassion, and His grace.
May the joy and peace of Christmas be with us all, and may the Christ of Christmas be a gift that we willingly give to each other in this season and beyond.
In Christ’s Love, Pastor Johnice
As we approach the month of November it is good to note that this month begins with the Feast of All Saints. This Holy day is designated to remember all of those loved ones who have returned to the Lord and whose lives have borne witness to their faith. We call their names in remembrance of what they meant to the faith, and in our lives. We will be remembering those members of Pohocco who have left us this year and are now in the nearer presence of our Lord. If there are people you wish to have remembered please send their names to Chris Ondracek before November 1st as we will be celebrating All Saints on Sunday November 5th.
REMEMBER that the Annual Soup Supper is Sunday the 5th as well. Our Ladies’ group work very hard to sponsor this event, so be sure that you come out to support this wonderful event. I can’t tell you how often I hear comments from the community about how much people look forward to the delicious Pohocco soups. So don’t plan to cook that evening come out and have a bowl at the church!
REMEMBER on Sunday November 12th the PMM will be once again sponsoring the POHOCCO’S GOT TALENT Show. It is a fun night of astonishing presentations from members of our church family who demonstrate many diverse gifts and talents that they are willing to share. Please come out and be a part of this special evening, I know that Pastor Harold and the men’s group are working diligently to make this evening of talents and fellowship a success.
REMEMBER this is the month when we are intentional in offering our Thanksgiving to God for the many blessings bestowed on our lives. We will be celebrating as a community on Thanksgiving Eve with a meal followed by a service of Holy Communion. Before you carve up the turkey, eat entirely too much, and take that Black Friday shopping experience, how about coming to Pohocco and sharing this evening of praise and thanksgiving with your church family. I will also be placing several poster boards around the church so that you can share the things you are thankful for. This is not to pressure anyone into participation, but just a way for us to remind one another of our blessings, and how much God has loved us.
Finally, this November marks my 5th anniversary as the pastor of Pohocco. It also marks my 5th anniversary of being cancer free. I received the call to Pohocco and the diagnosis within days of each other, and I remember saying out loud in prayer “Well Lord, it’s going to either be one or the other because I’m not sure I can handle both at the same time.” The beauty of both of these anniversaries is that I knew in each case that God was in charge. The cancer has taught me to be compassionate and understanding with those who are battling this enemy, and to never take the gifts of health and life for granted. The gift of being allowed to serve Pohocco as pastor has humbled and blessed me in too many ways to number. You have taught me to love unconditionally, to preach with humility, and to share my faith courageously. Thank you all for allowing me the privilege of being your pastor, and for accepting me as a loving sister in Christ.
Peace and Thanksgiving, Pastor Johnice
I greet you in the name of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. As September flows into October we as a Church family have been saddened by the sudden losses of two of our most faithful and lovely members. The passings of Ruth Schmidt and Mary Sweeney will surely leave a void in our hearts, but as a community of faith we are assured of their presence with our Lord. May the souls of these our departed find eternal rest. To their families we offer our support and our continual prayers. We also have members of our congregation who are dealing with some very serious medical issues. I am enlisting your prayers and your offerings of kindness on behalf of them and the families who support them. Please let those whose names appear on our prayer list know that they are loved and supported by their church family.
October brings us to the changing of the seasons and the beginning of the transition into the Holy days that we as a Christian community celebrate to remind us of our history and the struggle that has maintained our faith traditions, and remind us of the people who helped to form them. This year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. If you recall we have already enjoyed a visit from both Martin Luther and his wife this past summer. This month we will be recalling the history that has shaped the body of believers called Lutherans that we identify ourselves with. As a congregation we will be observing this important anniversary on October 29th, which is the 5th Sunday in the month. I would like to suggest some ways that you might enhance your knowledge of this historical occasion.
Pastor Harold has prepared some very interesting curriculum for this month and I encourage you to attend his Sunday morning Adult Education Class. I also challenge you to get out your old confirmation copy of Luther’s Small Catechism and re-read and study it. You might also download the 95 Theses document and read through it. I will be reviewing some of this with the Confirmation Class in preparation for their participation in the worship service on Reformation Sunday.
Martin Luther was as human as any of us, but his determination to stand against the policies of a flawed church has given us a much clearer understanding of how God’s grace works for us, and how we should be willing to extend that grace toward one another. He changed the way we understand the Ten Commandments, and has given us a clearer understanding of the courage and perseverance it sometimes requires to make God’s will known in a flawed world. We should be inspired by the story of his courage, and the example of his faithfulness.
Love, Grace and Peace, Pastor Johnice
We have had an eventful summer that encompassed everything from a visit from Martin Luther to the President of the Church Council playing in a bouncy house. Pohocco has been blessed with inspirational stories of God’s grace and healing, strong fellowship with one another, and the opportunity to see our youth take leadership roles in our worship services. We shared in the Blessing of a new home for Jim and Tammie Ondracek, and stood in hope with Ed Lindgren and Mary Robinson as they bravely confronted serious health issues. Please continue to keep each of them in your prayers, because in all of this we amplified our understanding of what it truly means to be the Church.
As we move into a new and busy Fall we have so very much to be grateful for. Our children are now back in school, and we will begin again to expand their Christian education with Sunday School and Confirmation year 2. The classes will begin on September 10th which is the Sunday following Labor Day. Our Adult Education classes led by Pastor Harold will resume as well. It is essential that we give our Christian Education the same priority we give to the other learnings in our lives.
We recently experienced a rare solar eclipse. I was honored to watch this event on our church parking lot with several other intrepid viewers. One couple had driven all the way from central Iowa but decided to stop at our church rather than risk missing the eclipse by traveling further south. We all enjoyed each other’s company and the discussions that automatically surround such a rare event. I decided to attempt to take some pictures of the eclipse even though I was warned that I might ruin my phone by trying. I was actually very successful in getting the shots but was absolutely blown away by the image that my phone camera showed. There was only light. A big bright circle of light. There is nothing darker than the shadow of an eclipse. That is why it fascinates us. The sun disappears for a time, and daylight becomes darkness. The shadow of all that darkness can damage our ability to see. Yet when we see what is reflected from that darkness through a different lens what we are allowed to see is light. It occurred to me that for Christians Jesus is the lens through which we view the world. No matter how dark things might seem to our eyes, looking through the Son of God will always show us the light. I am grateful to the solar eclipse for reminding me of this truth. Jesus has named us “The children of light”, may we never forget that this is who we are called to be.
Love and peace, Pastor Johnice
Where did the summer go? It’s already time for parents to be buying school supplies and arranging carpools for their children. The swimming pools will be closing for the season and the school buildings will be reopening. Families are arranging for that one final vacation trip before the structure of homework and packing lunches and early bedtimes replace the relaxing non-schedules that kids love so much.
Because school is beginning so early in the month, and because of my prolonged battle with pneumonia this summer, it is with deep regret that after much discussion and with the consent of the Council we will not be having Vacation Bible School this summer. We will however be having a “back to school” celebration on Sunday, August 20th following our worship service. Please mark your calendars and prepare for a fun-filled day with our children and youth!
As our children return to school let’s make sure that we are praying for their safety, and their successful experiences in the classrooms. Let us also pray for the teachers and administrators in our congregation and those who will interact with our children. Sunday School classes and Confirmation will not begin until after the Labor Day week-end. This will give the children an opportunity to get established in school before their formal Christian Education for the year begins.
Finally, there are several members of our congregation who are facing serious medical issues. I am asking each of you to take time to pray earnestly for all of those people who are listed on our prayer list in the bulletin. Take some time to be intentional in your prayer lives for these brothers and sisters and their families and caregivers who are courageously battling illnesses that have interrupted their lives and their families. God has promised to hear and answer our prayers, and God in Christ Jesus is faithful to His word.
I pray that you are all safely sheltered from the heat. I pray that you who are travelling will be travelling in grace and safety, and I pray that God will continue to bless Pohocco and the ministry and mission that we are committed to.
Faithfully yours in Christ, Pastor Johnice
Happy July! We have now entered the heart of summer. It is time for vacations and celebrating holidays and attending reunions. We seek cool places and activities to amuse our children, and in the midst of it all we might find a little time to consider our faithwalk. As you plan your summer please remember that we are still having Sunday worship and would love to be included in your Summer plans. Traditionally church attendance drops during the summer months. I would like to issue a challenge this year that our congregation at Pohocco try to defeat this trend. If you are in town please make coming to worship a priority for you and your family.
It’s time for camp! Please keep our youth who will be attending camps in your prayers, that they may be uplifted by their experiences and return safely home to share those experiences with us. Also, as the weather grows hot, please remember to check on our elder members of the congregation to make sure that they are safe and have all they need to endure these sweltering days. If your family is travelling for vacation, please carry our prayers with you and may God’s grace travel with you.
July also explodes with the enthusiastic celebrations of our country’s liberty. We have picnics and fireworks and barbecues and wish each other a Happy 4th of July. However, as we commemorate this holiday let us please remember that freedom has never been free. Our country’s liberty was purchased and preserved by generations of brave men and women who through their commitment to serve and protect, were willing to risk everything, even their very lives for all of us. The democracy that we hold so dear in these United States is something that deserves our gratitude and our vigilance. We are a nation that is truly enriched by her diversity and inclusivity, and we should be ever mindful of how blessed as a nation we are. “America, America, God shed His grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”
Even greater though than the freedom we celebrate as a country, is the grace we as Christians are blessed to have in our salvation purchased by the love of God in Christ Jesus and his sacrifice for us all. We have the knowledge and certainty that our freedom from sin was purchased on the cross, and secured in Christ’s resurrection. By His grace we are truly and forever the recipients of true and eternal freedom and liberty. May you be blessed by this precious gift.
Yours in Christ’s love. Pastor Johnice
As we leave the merry month of May and enter the sultry warmth of June, our church shifts its liturgical focus from the celebration of Easter to the revelation of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit arrives with the power of a mighty wind and the contagious movement of fire. It brings us the active presence of our Lord in our world and in our lives. We will welcome the Spirit on Pentecost Sunday June 4th by wearing red and by singing music that is dedicated to His coming. Come Holy Spirit fill our lives with your presence, and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Our plan for the first week of June was to have our Vacation Bible School, but due to the illness of our Christian Education co-leader Mary Robinson, we have decided to postpone this event as we want an opportunity to relieve her of the responsibility for this week and so that she can focus all of her energy on getting well and healed. Please keep Mary, Tim and the children Brody, Holly, Colby, and Shaylee in your prayers. May Christ through the Holy Spirit strengthen, comfort, empower, and heal Mary so that she can walk with the wholeness that we know is God’s will for her life. We will be announcing the new dates for VBS as soon as we can get the planning and staffing done. Thank you for your loving patience in this matter.
Beginning on Monday June 5th I will be offering vocal coaching for anyone who is interested in singing for the joy of it. These will be 30 minute sessions and will include vocal warm-ups, repertoire building using sacred music, and performance discipline. The cost of the lessons is the willingness to sing a solo during one of our worship services. I will be taking only about 12 people as students so you need to sign up as soon as possible for the time slots available. The sign-up sheets will be posted beginning Sunday May 21st.
Father’s Day will be on June 18th. May all the fathers in our church family be blessed with the joy of your family and the love of our heavenly Father. As with Mother’s day we will be singing some favorite hymns dedicated to the men who have given us such loving care.
Finally, I am asking for special prayers for all of our children as they leave the routine of school and begin the activities of summer. May our Lord Jesus keep them all safe and protected as they move to camps, swimming activities, and just everyday playtime. We pray for those traveling for vacations, those visiting family members, and those relaxing at home. May you be blessed this summer and PLEASE remember to come and worship and fellowship with us at Pohocco. In the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit may God’s peace be with you all.
Love, Pastor Johnice
It feels odd thinking of May flowers when as I write this it is 39 degrees and drizzly outside. Easter Morning was beautiful and amazing. Resurrection celebrations and Springtime coming together as though God was gifting us with the weather to match our joy. Today I was so chilly that I forgot what warm felt like. It is a humbling reminder that we can never control what happens when we come down from the mountaintop. Still, I am excited about May because it ushers in so many wonderful events.
We will be celebrating two high school graduates this year with the blanketing service on May 21st. If there are others who will be graduating either high school or college please let me know as soon as possible so that we can include them in our prayers and our celebration.
We will also be heading toward the end of the school year and the coming of Summer. It reminds us to prepare for the extra time we will have with our children, and how we should be preparing to use it. My hope is that we will be able to implement several summer projects that will keep our youth engaged. I will be placing sign-up sheets on the board downstairs for anyone interested in having vocal coaching during the Summer. Your only payment required will be to sing during worship.
Let’s also remember that the second Sunday in May is dedicated to all the Mothers in our church family. Bring Mom to church on Mother’s Day and let us help you celebrate with her. We will also be celebrating Memorial Day. I will be offering special prayers for all of those who have given of themselves so that we might live in a free nation.
In the church calendar we will be celebrating Pentecost. So be prepared to sport your red outfit and welcome the arrival of the Holy Spirit. This is our Comforter the Lord and giver of life. He is sent as a mighty wind to blow over us, around us, and through us with the presence of our Christ. The Holy Spirit is the part of the Trinity that is alive within us every day all the time. As we await the arrival of the Holy Spirit we must be sure to be ready to receive Him with open hearts and minds.
I pray that May will be full of all things good for you, and that you be filled with the grace and the joy that comes from knowing that we are God’s children, and joint heirs with the risen Lord Jesus. May his peace be with you all.
Love and Peace, Pastor Johnice
April showers bring May flowers. This is a saying that we learned as children. It reminds us that there is more to the gloomy atmosphere of gray clouds and drizzle, and the cold water running down our necks and making us uncomfortable then at first it appears. It tells us that even in the midst of the storm there is hope for what follows. This is a wonderful message for the church as well. The month of April in the church calendar this year allows us the opportunity to complete our Lenten journey, and to step into the gift of Easter. We are covered with the showers of focus and discipline as we anticipate the reliving of our spiritual story. Once again we will relive Christ’s sacrifice for us and are showered with his grace for the gift of redemption that He gave us.
There will be a full Holy Week observance here at Pohocco. We will begin with the reading of the passion story on Palm Sunday. There will be a footwashing and communion service on Maundy Thursday followed by the stripping of the altar. We will have a quiet communion on Good Friday . This week of reflection is our chance to get a deeper connection with our Savior’s Passion and sacrifice, and how it impacts our spiritual lives. I encourage you all to take time during Holy week to reflect of God’s love and Grace. As your pastor, I will be available on Holy Saturday to do spiritual counselling and provide time for personal prayer and reflection for anyone who might desire it.
The showers of April are the signal that the harvest will come. We can take heart that the resurrection will follow. New life in Christ is the future for each and all of us. We are awash with anticipation for the future of our church. Our Easter celebration will begin with an Easter egg hunt for our children. We will enjoy a pre-service breakfast together and then a joyful Easter worship. After Easter we will be planning a Sunday service conducted by our confirmation class I hope you will come and support their efforts as this is a necessary step in their learning process. As April continues it is my hope that you will make attending worship a priority. We draw strength and joy from our fellowship with one another.
We at Pohocco are blessed with a clearer understanding of the showers of April because so many of us depend on the rain to assist the crops and to nurture the animals in our care. So we welcome the outpouring of the showers of April because it brings forth new blossoms. Along with water we are also showered with the gift of the spirit. The Holy Spirit that gives us life and prepares us for the life to come. May you be blessed during this Holy season with the true gifts of the resurrection, a deeper relationship with our risen Christ and with one another.
Love and Peace, Pastor Johnice
The month of March is upon us and bringing with it the season of Lent. Lent is a time set aside by the Church to prepare ourselves for the gift of the resurrection. We as brothers and sisters in Christ are called to discipleship. In our everyday lives it is easy to become distracted from this call. Lent allows us to be intentional in our preparations to receive the gift of redemption purchased for us by Jesus our Savior in his death and resurrection. Lent reminds us of the sacrifices made for us by God in Christ Jesus so that we might have the truest gift of all ETERNAL LIFE.
March 1st begins this season with Ash Wednesday worship when we will receive the sign of the cross made from ashes. The ashes remind us that we are mortal and can only become immortal when we are saved by the grace and sacrifice of Jesus. This is why we should take on a discipline to grow us in our faith, and strengthen us to be about the will of God our Father in Christ Jesus. We are then encouraged to partake of a 40 day commitment that will remind us of that great love given for us.
Whatever your Lenten discipline is this year, please examine how it will assist you in maturing you in your faith walk. Sacrifice for its own sake can feel weighed down and cumbersome, but a discipline that is rooted in the building up of the spirit will bring joy along with it. So I ask you this season of Lent to seek joy in your sacrifice and love in your offerings.
We will be observing the Lenten season with a midweek evening service which I encourage you to attend. The music and depth of the Holden Evening Prayer Service is a wonderful way to replenish your faith during the week. I will also be asking several of you to share a few hopeful words about your walk with Christ. In this way we can draw strength from one another as we bear witness to the love entrusted to us by the Lord whom we all love and serve.
If you haven’t yet decided or been led to a Lenten Discipline, I have a few suggestions. One) in this 500th anniversary of the reformation, read some of the writings of Martin Luther. Two) Set aside some time every day to practice intercessory prayer. Three) do some volunteer work that will benefit someone less fortunate than yourself. Find a way to stretch yourselves in faith in study, and in deeds.
I wish you peace and joy during this Season of discovery and growth, and may you walk humbly with our God.
Yours in Christ Jesus, Pastor Johnice
As we approach the month of February, we as a church family begin a new cycle in our congregational life. We begin the month with the transitioning of council members and Christian Education leadership. It has been a true honor and blessing to experience the willingness of our members to step forth and be a part of sustaining the life of the church. I would like to offer a deep and abiding “thank you” to Charles Petersen and Dawn Clary for the faithful and gracious way that they have served Pohocco these past years. The diligence and steadfast love they have shown to this congregation, and to me personally has been inspirational. As we release them to some well deserved rest from their labors, we are honored to welcome Vicki Wollen to a new seat on the council, and Dale Clary to the office of Council President. We will also be privileged to have Christy Reeson and Mary Robinson as joint heads of our Christian Education program.
We will be formally installing the new church officers on the first Sunday in February. It seems appropriate that we make these transitions during the season of Epiphany as it demonstrates the passing of the light of Christ from one capable set of hands to the next as the light continues to shine throughout this congregation and out into the world.
Our other February activities will include a special program sponsored by the Men’s Group of Pohocco. It will be an evening filled with great food and wonderful fellowship. The date will be Sunday evening February 26th, but the other details for the evening are still in the planning stages. I promise it will be a memorable event.
Finally, I would like to express the continual need we have to be lifting one another up in prayer. I encourage each and everyone in our church family to be active in your prayer life. We need to be praying for each other in our different and varied situations. We need to be praying for our church and the Church around the world. We need to be praying for our nation and her leaders. We need to be praying for ourselves and the needs in our own families and lives. Prayer connects us with God, and opens the way for God to assist us in our life’s journey. Mark 11:24 says “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that. If we pray and believe, God hears and answers our prayers. I will be praying for you, and I ask that you pray for our church family that God continues to bless us as we strive to do his will in Christ Jesus. Oh, and please don’t forget to pray for me. In the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I send you peace.
It seems odd to be writing about events in the new year when there is still so much of the old year to resolve. However, we move forward in faith believing that as the wise men followed the star to Bethlehem we can follow the leadership of Christ into this 2017 spiritual adventure.
As a church family we begin the year by having an appreciation Sunday on January 8th to say “Thank you” to all those who have volunteered their gifts of time and activity to help Pohocco be the loving place of worship that we all attend. Since so many of you do this loving work in silence, we will be giving a corporate thanksgiving prayer for you on this Sunday. Please try to be with us.
On the following Sunday, we will be convening to look at the business of how we want the future of the church to progress. Our annual congregational meeting will be held on Sunday January 15th directly following the worship. We will be electing a new council person, and also welcoming new Christian education leadership. A special “Thank you” to Dawn Clary for her leadership with Christian education, and to Charles Petersen who has so unselfishly given time and service as a councilman and as President this past year. I will personally miss being able to speed dial Dawn and Chuck whenever there was a question that I needed to find an immediate answer for. In addition, we will be asking you to consider the new worship bulletin format. We have been experimenting with a monthly all inclusive bulletin for several months and would like to have your feedback. You will have a wonderful opportunity to be a part of how the church will grow and develop. We look forward to seeing you there. After the meeting comes the eating as we will share a meal to celebrate our new beginning one more year again.
Finally, we will be entering the season of Epiphany. The light of Christ has come into our world. I pray that his light will be a guiding light for you, a healing light for you, and a loving light that will glow through you and into a dark and lonely world. May the light of Christ be yours in the coming year and may you and your loved ones be richly and divinely blessed.
Yours in Christ’s Light, Pastor Johnice
As I write this article I am preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday first, with a celebration with our Pohocco church family, soup and fellowship and Thanksgiving Communion and Worship, and secondly, with a time of celebration with my own family (too much turkey and trimmings I hope). The calendar this year doesn’t afford us much of a respite between activities. Advent comes directly on the end of the Thanksgiving weekend. How then does one prepare for the coming of the baby Jesus with leftover turkey still hanging out in the fridge? The very idea can be pretty overwhelming. We need to remind each other to relax and breathe. To take this time of the year in small bites. To take care of each other as we travel this journey together.
I hope that you are keeping a calendar to remind you of the days leading up to the coming of our Lord. Love. Hope. Joy. Peace. These four candles that we light during Advent are given meaningful themes for humanity. The gift of a Love from a heavenly Father who came in the humblest form in order to redeem us. The gift of Hope shining in the night as a star leading us to salvation. The gift of Joy that we need never be lost or separated from God again. The gift of Peace that will be our companion throughout our lives. These are the gifts of Advent that are given to us in preparation to fully understand the greatest gift of all. The birth of Jesus our Savior.
We tend to lump them into a group around the wreath instead of seeing them as individual spiritual gifts that we are blessed with to help us make it through life’s challenges. If we operate our lives focused on these gifts, we will be experiencing the full measure of God’s grace. Advent does indeed prepare the way for Christ to come to us, but it also shines a light on the pathway for us to come to Christ again and again and again.
The church offers some opportunities for us to gather in fellowship as we prepare to receive the Christ-child. We will gather for our annual Christmas meal and some fun and games on December 7 at 6:00pm. The Sunday School will be presenting their Christmas Program on December 11th at 10:00am with a lunch to follow. We will have our traditional Christmas Eve Communion Service on the evening of the 24th, and we will have a service of Lessons and Carols at the church on Sunday Christmas morning. Please come and celebrate this holy time with us.
May the Christ who comes for us at Christmas be with you all throughout this holy season and into the New Year.
Love and Peace, Pastor Johnice
November brings a change in the weather, a shift in time, and a very busy church season. It starts with Reformation and All Saints’ Day and finishes with the beginning of Advent. In between there will be the soup supper, the church talent show, and Thanksgiving. In the wake of all this activity it is easy to let the hustle and bustle overshadow the spiritual nature of each individual event.
With the historical observances of The Reformation and the feast of All Saints we are reminded that we have been handed a faith that is rooted in history, sacrifice and tradition. A faith that was preserved by the wisdom of saints who are now with the Lord. We should be mindful of those who believed so strongly in the free gift of grace and the integrity of the spirit that they were willing to sacrifice their personal freedom to preach the truth of the gospel for all of God’s children. We remember this cloud of witnesses who guarded the faith so it would be here for all of us. We also celebrate and remember those precious members of our congregation who have now gone on into the nearer presence of God.
We especially look forward to the annual soup supper and quilt raffle that has become such a wonderful community activity. It is a powerful outreach tool and a tradition that is well-known to our neighbors and friends. I can’t begin to say how many times I’ve been asked if I am at the church where they have that wonderful soup supper. I proudly say “yes, and I hope you will join us”. The “Pohocco’s Got Talent” night will be next, and I can’t wait to see some of the gifts and talents that will be shared by members of our church family. By the way, if you haven’t got plans for Friday night the 18th of November, please consider coming to First United Methodist Church and sharing an evening of music with Diva 3 which is the name of my family’s 4 generations of musicians. We would love to see you there.
On Wednesday the 23rd we will share a meal followed by our Thanksgiving worship. If ever there was a time when we need to remember to tell God thank you, this is the time. Let’s come together as a church community to give our Lord thanks for how richly we’ve been blessed this year. Within our thankfulness we can begin to prepare the way for the coming of Christ during the advent season. Advent will allow us a period of time to reflect on the coming of our salvation and how we can prepare ourselves to receive him.
I look forward to seeing you all at these events and offer thanks for an active and dedicated church family.
May you be richly blessed in the love of our savior Jesus Christ.
Fall is in the air. Trees are shedding their leaves, and the landscape is transforming from bright green to the rustic colors of Autumn. It is almost as though God has reached for a paint set and decided to make art of the earth. It’s not too hot or cold. The fields are yielding the harvest and on chilly mornings there is a light shimmer of frost on the pumpkins. This is my favorite time of the year. I love to decorate with pumpkins and cornstalks, scarecrows and sunflowers, and like Linus I still hope to catch a glimpse of the Great Pumpkin.
It is also when the liturgical calendar begins to prepare the church for our spiritual transformation, and reformation. This year we at Pohocco will be supporting five of our young people as they begin the confirmation process. I ask your prayers and support for Morgan, Colby, Grant, Matthew, and Bryce as they embark on this spiritual journey. Please offer them your encouragement and best wishes when you see them at church. They will be the ones carrying their Bibles with the dazed look on their faces. I look forward to all that they will teach me in the next two years. We will also be celebrating two weddings this month. Please remember to keep these wonderful young couples in your prayers as they begin their new lives together.
As we look into the future health of our congregation, it is important that we all search for ways to enhance the life of our church. Have you become an inactive pew sitter? How about stepping out on faith and taking a more active role in your church’s spiritual life. We need readers for the scriptures during worship. If you can read the Sunday newspaper you are qualified to do this service for the church. We need people to do the Children’s Sermons, and if you’ve ever told your kids or grandkids a bedtime story you are qualified for this activity. If you sing in the shower or the car we have a place for you in our choir. My point is that there are ministry opportunities in abundance for each and every one of you. Please consider opening yourselves up to these and other church activities.
The life of any congregation depends on its people’s willingness to be involved. We need you and whatever gifts you are willing to share. Please pray about where God might use you at Pohocco and step out on faith to get involved. May you be blessed during this harvest season.
Yours in Christ, Pastor Johnice
The swimming pools have closed and the doors of the school buildings have been opened. We bid Summer farewell and re-enter the structure and calendars of Fall. Labor Day is usually the last opportunity for getting out the grill and wearing those shorts and sandals. The fishing rods get packed away, and Football and the Huskers become the new topics of discussion. Now we are on the weekly school schedules that bind us to our early nights and even earlier mornings.
We in the church are restarting our calendar as well. We will have our Sunday School kick-off beginning the second Sunday in September and we will also be reconvening the choir after their Summer hiatus. In the spirit of a new season I would like to encourage each one of you to seek out a ministry at Pohocco and get involved. We need readers for worship, and singers in the choir. As we minister to our children we will need people to assist with Sunday School and the youth group. The Adult Bible class will be meeting on Sunday after worship. Pastor Harold will be teaching and sharing his wisdom and insights. Please consider joining the class.
A new confirmation class will be starting as well. This is a two year process and it is important that all the young people in the middle school age group are available to begin this spiritual journey that will assist them in preparing to confirm their Baptismal vows. I ask your prayers and support for this class as we embark on this wonderful and exciting endeavor. I will be sending out an information letter in the next week. If you have a child in this age group and you are not contacted by me, please get in touch with me after Labor Day so I can make sure that there are materials for them.
Finally, I realize how full and harrowing this time of the year can become. Families are asked to juggle school activities with after-school activities, homework, sports teams, scouts, and all of the many commitments that come with raising families. Often the church begins to slip further and further down the list of priorities. I am asking you to be intentional about your family’s church attendance. We are here to strengthen you for the tasks ahead. Come and be uplifted by the Gospel of Christ, and the fellowship of the loving Christian community desiring to support you and one another.
May God bless all of you and give a special blessing for all of our children as they enter this new school year.
Love and Peace, Pastor Johnice
Where does the summertime go? We were just beginning to prepare for swimming outside, packing for camp, and finding daytime activities for the children, and now we are buying school supplies, enforcing bedtime schedules, and sorting through last year's school clothes to see what still fits.
We in the church are into a preparation mode as well. It is time to begin looking at curricula for both Sunday School and confirmation classes. As we get our children ready for their secular education, we must begin to get things in order for their Christian education as well. We are blessed to have so many children in our church seeking to know and experience Christ through the ministries at Pohocco. Please keep our teachers, leaders, and students in your prayers.
On the first Sunday in August, we will be blessed to be receiving a new member to our church family. Andrew Kuehl will be accepted into Pohocco formally on that day. We are so thankful that Andrew has chosen us to be his companions and friends at this stage of his spiritual journey. Please take some time in the next few weeks to get to know Andrew and to welcome him into our midst.
As you finish out the summer it is our prayer that you will refresh and strengthen yourselves for the upcoming church season. As a congregation we have been highly favored by the same Heavenly Father who first created us and loved us. He continually calls us into service and mission toward the world, the church and one another.
The peace of Christ be with you all, Pastor Johnice
This is the month in which we as a country celebrate our liberty. The meaning of liberty in the United States has to do with democracy and the pursuit of happiness. We celebrate by barbecuing in the backyard, gathering with family and friends, and watching fireworks after dark.
America is a country whose founding fathers stated in our documents of origin that we are endowed by our creator with "certain inalienable rights." We have been constitutionally guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is a beautiful philosophy to live by. It reminds us not only of the cost of the struggle for freedom, but also the high ideals that fueled it.
We as followers of Christ are pressed to the course of a higher calling. Jesus reminds us that we are in the world, but not of the world. Our life is a gift from a benevolent creator who made us in that creator's image. Our liberty was purchased by the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and our pursuit of happiness is only legitimate if the happiness of our neighbor is secured as well.
We are truly blessed to live in this country, but our blessings are bestowed on us by a Heavenly Father who has given us a mission to be faithful stewards of those blessings. We are, and should always remain, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. We do this because it will please God. We do it because Christ commands it, and we should do it because it is the best way to secure the health of the human family.
May God continue to bless us, and may we continue to live in a way that honors and pleases God.
Happy Fourth of July and blessings for the remainder of the month.
Love and peace, Pastor Johnice
Summer is here. For the church family this means we will be suspending Sunday School classes, giving the choir the summer off, and in general taking a more relaxed attitude toward church and worship. This is not unusual. It happens every year in most congregations. Our lives become differently structured when there is no school schedule to lock us into our routines. We will be planning vacations and family reunions to make use of this more fluid time.
What happens to our church attendance during the summer? It has to feel easier to sleep in and enjoy a relaxing weekend with your family and friends then to make everyone in the household get dressed and come to church. During worship we often feel this change when we call the children forward for the children’s sermon and there may only be one child at church. Traveling plans and family vacations are an expected part of summer, but we in the church are also finding ourselves in competition with sports leagues, and other secular activities designed to occupy the children during their summer vacations.
The relaxing of our church attendance should not encourage a relaxing of our spiritual disciplines. Make sure that you keep your relationship with Christ active and energized. On those Sundays when church attendance is not possible, try having prayer and scripture time at home. This can be a very special opportunity for your family to bond in Christ, and it will only take a few moments out of your day. Try playing Christian music in the car during your family travel time. This will put your spirit in a different place as you approach your summer activities.
We at the church will be trying some new things to enhance our worship experience. We will be using an all inclusive bulletin on the first Sunday of each month. This will enable us to use music and liturgy from several different sources without needing to fumble with many books during worship. This is experimental and we will welcome your comments in the fall as we look at this option for worship. I will once again be offering vocal coaching for anyone who would like to participate this summer. The only requirement for receiving these lessons is that you agree to share a song during worship. There is no age limit nor skill limitation for these lessons, it’s just an opportunity to enjoy singing in a more structured way.
I wish you all a safe and happy summer. May you carry Christ in your hearts, as he carries you in the palm of his hands.
Yours in Christ, Pastor Johnice
The wonderfully exciting thing about the month of May is that it is a time of transition. The weather is now more conducive with getting outside and reacquainting yourselves with your gardens and your neighbors. As the flowers begin to blossom we start getting some dirt under our fingernails. We all become sky watchers. Will it be stormy or stay dry enough to plant? And OH the mowing and weeding! Summer is on the horizon and we find ourselves thinking longingly of those vacations that we so desperately need.
Children will be promoted from one school grade to the next. Those precious 4 year old toddlers coming from pre-school everyday will become independent kindergartners.That sweet 5th grader will suddenly become a mature middle-schooler; and those hard to get along with teenagers will become high school graduates preparing to enter the adult world. We ponder whether we have given our children all the necessary tools they will need to progress to these next phases of their lives and as parents and grandparents those realities keep us seeking through prayer a direct line to God. In this environment we will be celebrating Mother’s Day, Graduations, and Memorial Day. It’s certainly a lot to take in. We pray that all these transitions will be smooth safe, and full of blessings.
In addition to all of these events, we in the Church have our own major events to celebrate. We will be observing Ascension and Pentecost. These two Holy days mark the last two major events in the life of our Christ. Ascension brings us to the mountain top with Christ as He returns to His Father. Pentecost brings us to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate for our lives. It is this same Spirit which will help put into context all of the other transitions in our lives. The Spirit will calm us in our turmoils and free us to experience all the joys of life even through major changes. With all the other activities happening this month, please take some time out to appreciate and rejoice in the gift of the Holy Spirit. “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place, and I know that It’s the Spirit of the Lord!”
Love and Peace, Pastor Johnice
Greetings in the name of the Lord our Christ, who was raised for our sins and sits at the right hand of God our Father. There is an interesting phenomenon that happens when Easter comes early in the year. The weather can be unpredictable, the signs of Spring are delayed, and the church calendar feels a bit empty of events. The post Easter letdown is not usually as severe as after Christmas, but we can find ourselves less committed to our spiritual life once the sparkle of the Easter celebration begins to dim.
It actually happens without our noticing it. Sleeping in on Sunday mornings may feel more exciting than getting dressed and coming to church. This is a common problem for churches everywhere and shows itself in the attendance numbers and in the general life of the congregation. The sign-up sheets have fewer names on them. The Sunday School has fewer attendees, and harassed pastors everywhere struggle to make sermons interesting enough to entice their members to give worship a bigger priority in their lives.
All that being said, I feel very hopeful for Pohocco Lutheran Church because we will be accepting several new members on the second Sunday in April. We have been blessed to see our church family growing. We will be making a new updated pictorial directory so that we can have visual images of the growth of our church family. It is an exciting time for all of us, and we should be careful to thank God for how very blessed we are. We should remember that as Spring blossoms all around us, our growth and promise as a church is blossoming as well. We are gifted by our loving God to be able to come together in worship with thankful hearts and joyful spirits and with the freshness and hopefulness that comes to us with every Easter. May the joy of the Resurrection blossom in each of us throughout this coming season and beyond.
Yours in Christ, Pastor Johnice
The saying goes “March comes in like a lion but goes out like a lamb”. This will indeed be true this year as we enter the month of March walking the journey of the Lion of Judah, and end it celebrating the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We in the church are in the middle of our Lenten journey. We are seeking guidance and striving for new learnings as we approach the celebration of our redemption. The journey to Easter can be challenging and unpredictable. It requires that we remain faithful and diligent as we approach Holy Week and the day of Resurrection.
We will continue our Wednesday evening Lenten services and hope that our church family will continue to support them. We will be hearing from some of our mission partners about the projects our church is supporting. On March 9th Dr. Gregory Haskins will be with us to share information about the missions he serves in Guatemala. I hope we will have many of our church family in attendance.We will also be hearing from a member of the Mosaic staff which we have partnered with for many years.
Holy week will commence with the Palm Sunday procession and the reading of the Passion Gospel. I will continue the series of meditations on the Apostle’s Creed throughout the Lenten season and will be concluding this series at the Maundy Thursday service during Holy Week. It is my prayer that each of you finds a new revelation to enhance your relationship to our Christ and the gifts of love he brings us during this holy season. We will be having a service of reflection of Good Friday with the stripping of the Altar and silent departure.
I will be in my office on Easter Saturday from 10 AM until 2 PM to provide spiritual direction and offer any pastoral care that might be needed. I am making this time available for prayer requests or just conversations with your pastor.
Easter morning will begin with a community breakfast and a celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord with glorious music and celebrations.
May the God of Easter walk beside you during your Lenten journey and meet you each day as you travel toward your own revelation of Christ’s love.