Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Looking Back and Ahead

A new year is almost upon us. The holiday affords time to reflect on the past year and contemplate what lies ahead. For me, I suspect like most, 2021 had both high and low points.

My freelance writing business saw an increase in clients during the year, which was a blessing as I’d lost several that shut down due to Covid in 2020. In addition to Nexgen Outfitters, Benelli, Stoeger, Franchi, Uberti and Kent Cartridges, I added Scent Blocker and the BeAlive ad agency.

This helped me supplement my church income to make ends meet.

Speaking of church, in November I began my fourth year as an interim co-pastor at United Church of the Plains in Dalton and Immanuel Lutheran Church Weyerts in rural Cheyenne County east of Gurley.

I shared pastoral duties with Bud Gillespie, who’d been handling both churches himself. What I’d originally thought might be a few weeks of helping a couple of churches out has lasted far longer than I think everyone involved thought, an outcome to which I have no objection as it allowed Karen and me to develop new friendships with wonderful people.

This year saw my son turn 21, thereby officially making Karen and me empty nesters, though her mother lives with us. Readers who’ve had the last of their children become adults know the mixed feelings the experience brings, especially when they decide to live far away – in our case, Virginia Beach. Ours were missed this Christmas.

One challenge in 2021 was when a handful of people attempted to get this column removed from the paper. Reader support crushed that effort, for which I’m grateful. But the attempt did leave me with a sense of pity for those whose positions on matters are so tenuous and insecure that, rather than debate in the arena of ideas to see if they have merit, they view the only option as being to shut down opposing views.

The biggest challenge I had in 2021 was diagnosis in March of a particularly painful form of osteoarthritis. It had already done considerable, irreversible damage, and there’s no treatment available other than to attempt to manage pain.

This will progressively take my mobility, but at least it won’t kill me. I’m sure some readers understand what it’s like to live with chronic pain. There are no pain-free days, only bad days and better days. The hard part is trying to hide it and not let it affect my mood.

There’s never been a temptation to ask God, “Why me?” in dealing with this condition. In fact, I’m grateful it is what it is because I know several who’ve had much more serious and deadly conditions diagnosed recently. All Christians will have their faith tested. The Bible promises that. And if, by God’s grace, I can endure in a way that glorifies Him and helps others, I’ll accept that.

In all, I’ve much to be grateful for this year. God has richly blessed me with a wonderful, beautiful wife, two great grown kids, friends, a home, a truck that runs, clothing, food and, though there’s not much left after our bills are paid, the bills ARE paid.

So I’m thankful for such blessings heading into a New Year, and close sharing one of my favorite New Year quotes from Benjamin Franklin.

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”


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