Signs of Faith

I can remember the number of times in my life when I felt called to an item. This happened the first time I saw the quilt “Full Bloom” by Fourth & Sixth Designs. It was October of 2019, I was in the mountains of Colorado on vacation. My husband and I went into a quilt shop. As I walked up the stairs, I looked over at the wall and gasped! It was beautiful. A long story short is that I walked out with the promise of a quilt block a month in the mail for 9 months. It is not lost on me that is the same length of time as pregnancy.

I went home, ended up moving, starting as the pastor of a new church, and buying our first home all before the year of 2019 ended. As I got each package in the mail, I put them together hoping that someday I would be able to work on it. Little did I know how soon that day would be.

March of 2020 came and with it a global pandemic. It had made it to Nebraska and with it, we were given stay-at-home orders. All church meetings went to zoom. We were able to have worship in person with 5 of us together. But a lot of my interactions were over zoom. So, I set up my computer in the sewing room and got to work. What started as 9 packages with fabric, glue, papers, and a pattern soon became a promise. What you see in the picture above is what I call my covid quilt.

It came to life in the midst of a global pandemic and if truth be told it helped me keep my sanity. From tracing, cutting, gluing, sewing, tearing away paper, and quilting I came up with creative solutions to church questions. It gave me space to figure out the steps as the church jumped forward in technology. I talked about racism. I learned about others cultures. I studied the Bible and talked about how current events and faith connect. I attended meetings. I even connected with friends and family on the computer. I lived the life that unfolded and this extreme extrovert kept going with a smile and a promise of hope.

My quilt is almost done. I have two more borders to do and then I will bind it. To most people it is just a really pretty quilt, to me, it is a sign of the resurrection of the Lord. It brought me hope and color in times of uncertainty and fear. The different colors of the thread reminded me of how God brings us together in all our differences. It helped me stay connected to the Lord. My mom saw it and said, “It was cheaper than therapy” because when she looked at it she knew it had kept me grounded.

As we prepare this year for Easter, I want to invite you to share your stories and your art. What kept you going in the middle of this global crisis? Do you have a gift you like to share with others during their hard times? What do you have that grounds you to the resurrection promise of the Lord? I would love to hear your stories. Thank you for taking the time to learn about mine. –Pastor TAZ

“Spiritual Forces of Evil”

If you asked me to explain the responsibilities of being a pastor, I am not sure I could list everything. Some of the material is confidential, some I don’t register that I do it, and some would make the conversation longer than it needs to be. Yet, there is one thing I am called to do with no doubt in my mind. I know I proclaim Christ. I proclaim Christ’s love and grace. And because of this, I join with all Christians in standing against the spiritual forces of evil. It is often my responsibility to lead and guide others to stand up against them as well.

So, what are these spiritual forces of evil? They are greed, abuse of power, having other gods besides Christ. What do they look like? They look like not having the same expectations of caring for each other for all people. They look like telling a person to “go back to where they came from.” They look like gossip about another person that damages relationships. They look like not being able to say I’m sorry. They look like thinking there is a hierarchy of good, better, and best for people. They look like pain on the face of people, they look like death of a person or experience of love and trust, they look like actions that are not in line with the teaching of Christ and with scriptures.

The thing is, they are not easy to see or understand. It takes a lot of listening and letting go of personal and systemic ideas of how the world works. Sometimes in our lives we get a chance to meet a person who helps us in seeing and understand this. I had such a privilege when I got to take a coaching class with Rev. Junius Dotson. He was the pastor of Saint Mark UMC in Wichita KS at the time.

After that time, Rev. Dotson went on to become the General Secretary of the UMC. This is the position in the UMC that guides others on how to live out their faith on a global level. Rev. Dotson wrote books such of “Soul Reset” and he was vital in leading the UMC in racial reconciliation and a visionary direction that was inspiring. The man I knew had a love of Christ, a love for his family, and a love to serve. You can learn more about him at

On Wednesday, the world lost a great man as Rev. Dotson died of pancreatic cancer. So, this week I will be remembering and honoring two great men. I will remember Rev. Dotson personally and Ronnie Powell on Saturday. This week my heart is heavy, but I am so honored to know both men. Two men who both stood against injustice as they could. One by his leadership in the church and the other by his true love of all people he met.

Yet, even as my heart is sad, I feel so honored to for having known them. I am honored by having had a chance to listen to their stories. Brothers in Christ who both stood against the spiritual forces of evil in their own ways. My hope? It is that I would keep standing for Christ. That I would keep doing what I feel called to do to serve, remembering I never do this alone. We serve and share together, imperfectly together.

I hope you will join me in standing for justice as Christ our Lord taught us. Listening to each other and praying for each other. One group I ask for prayers for are pastors. During this time the stress is real and it is hard. Pray for wisdom to take time off, for signs of grace and hope, for a reminder we are in this together, united by the Holy Spirit. And prayers that we would all listen more to hear each other’s stories and be changed by them. For we are all children of God, created in God’s image. May we see each other as God sees each of us, with grace and the most unconditional love imaginable.

In Christ’s love, Pastor Tessa

A Shepherd without a Flock

I have been a pastor since I was 23 years old. I thought about putting I have been serving as a pastor, but the reality is that being a pastor is part of who I am. I have been honored to serve in 11 churches in one form or another. At each of them I have loved the people who attended. In fact,it is the love I have for the people that makes me willing to step into the hard conversations. It is the reason I am willing to talk about my feelings on homosexuality. It is why I am willing to figure out budgets when my bigger gift is being creative. It is why I will do the hard work of visioning and goal setting, work that is not as unifying as one might think. It is not because I particularly like any of those things. I do it because of the people I serve who I love.

It is this reality that is making this time of quarantine during Covid-19 difficult. I am still setting budgets, visioning, goal setting, preaching sermons, leading worship, offering pastoral care over the phone, and leading Bible study online. I am still proclaiming a message of hope when some days I wonder about God’s plan. You see, lately I have been feeling like I am doing it without my flock.

There is a scripture passage in Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7 about a shepherd who has 100 sheep. One wonders off and the shepherd goes and looks for that one. I can imagine that shepherd goes looking, knowing he (shepherds were traditionally male in Jesus time) might have to go rock climbing. He might have to face down a wolf or other predator of sheep. He would take any and all risks needed to find that sheep and bring it home. He might have even known the name of the sheep. I understand that shepherd. Most people do not know how many tears are shed by a pastor when they lose a member of the church.

So, imagine how hard it is right now for pastors. Why? Because I am not sure how most of the sheep of my flock are doing. I see some at meetings but it is not the same. I am ready to go and search but I am just not even sure what direction to go. I kind of feel like a shepherd without a flock.

This does not mean I do not have people to serve and care for, this is more about the uncertainty of these times. I have not had worship inside the church since March 16th. I am not sure when we will be back inside. We are meeting outside and it helps,but it is not the same. We are meeting online and there are amazing blessings to that. But it is not the same. And now the question is when we can come back together, who will show up? Who went to the church that opened already? Who got frustrated with my choices and left and I do not even know yet. What is coming? Are there people who are lost that I need to be searching for?

I do not write this for anyone to fix it. (I admit that I would want to fix it.) I write this to help me understand why I have been feeling so down. Why I am constantly tired and sit in my office wondering what to do next. So, if you are attending a church you might just say an extra prayer for your pastor. Let them know you have not given up on them or the church. I know they are saying an extra prayer for you and have not given up on you, no matter how much they have not been in touch. Thanks for letting me share this. I know this time is hard for us all. If you want to respond with your journey, please do. But in doing so please remember to acknowledge we all matter, our feelings, emotions, and experiences on this crazy journey of life. By the way, I’m never to busy for your phone call.

I Did Not Know…

Lord, I did not know. I sit here today and I realize those are hard words to say.

They are words that can bring on feelings of shame. Yet, they are also words that can create a new way.

I didn’t know there are people who cannot buy a house anywhere they wanted, even if they can afford it.

I did not know the color of skin affected the interest rate on a mortgage.

I always wondered why communities were not more diverse.

I did not know what hurdles there are for equality for all people. I did not know the impossible situation so many people experience.

I know fear can make humans do irrational things. I just did not know how mean we could be.

Now, I sit here and I do not know what to do. How do I make it better? What difference can I make?

You see Lord, I grew up learning about how you love us all. You even love those who hung you on a cross. I do not know how. Can you teach me? Can you guide me to share your lessons with others?

You see Lord, I did not know how much hearts hurt and how invisible people feel. I did not know what it truly means to have nothing to lose. I did not know how powerless so many feel.

How could I not know? I did not know because of you. Because you love us all. You see us all as your children. You created each one of us. And I believed we all strive to be like you. Lord, I did not know…now that I do know, please help and guide me in what to do next. I believe your way is possible. Help me see how, help us all see how to change so we can all love as you do. Amen.

Grace through Separation

I have been a member of the United Methodist Church my entire life. I am not one who started in Methodist Episcopal or United Brethren and then became UMC. Being born in 1979, I have been in the UMC for my whole life. And now that I am a pastor of this denomination, there is talk of splitting instead of uniting. How do I feel about that?

In all honesty, I am for offering grace through separation. I have to admit that I knew there were problems in the church when I learned General Conference of the UMC, the group who votes on what happens in the UMC, met and had such an argument over the topic of homosexuality a vote was called for to remind all of Romans 8:38-39, that “..nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I cannot remember the year or the exact vote results but I do remember it was not 100%. That is a problem.

What is a group to do when agreement cannot be reached? I do not see any other answer but to separate. Sometimes it is important to break apart to be healthier. I know I have had to do this in my relationships. When trust has been broken, when pain has been caused, when agreement cannot be reached, we often need to separate for a time.

But what about being united in Christ? Here is the reality. Each group that comes of this still loves Christ. Each group is still unconditionally loved by God. And each group will still be human. All will still make mistakes and still get the focus wrong. While, at the same time, we will also get the focus right. That is what it is to be human.

So, as the UMC moves towards General Conference 2020, my hope is that we can all prayerfully consider what it means to be in relationship together, even if we are apart.

My hope is that we can talk and share in a healthy way so we can each stand for what is important to each of us. Then I hope we can start to restore relationships that have been broken. Broken between the two. three, or four groups who will separate. Broken between the church and the world, because the church has been to inward focused to provide the guidance and hope the world so desperately needs. After all, we have a world who needs to know that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ.

And my biggest hope is that by separating, yet again, people who felt excluded and unloved will find a place to connect with God. After all, God isn’t just in one specific church or behind one particular view. God is in all places, at all times, in all ways. Yet, as people we often have trouble believing. We make God like us. But, God is not like us. God is bigger and sees more. God offers love more unconditionally. God is for all and for those things that we believe and God does not? I hope and pray God offers forgiveness. Why? Because I know I need it. How do I know? I am a human being who is doing my best, but I’m still imperfect. Thank you God, for your grace that guides us in the most unexpected ways. Amen.

Happy New Year!

So, that is not the most creative title in the world. In fact, it is probably the most common words said today, January 1. But, I think it sums up nicely what I am feeling today. Happy New Year. Today is a day for new possibilities and new hope. The reality is it isn’t any more a day for new hope than yesterday was or the day before. However, it is a day to sit and reflect on the past year and look to what the coming year might bring.

Today, I realize I have a lot to reflect on. The year of 2019 was not an easy year for me. Sometimes personal and professional life collide. That happened for me last January. None of my family were sure if my Uncle Dennis would make it to January of 2019. He did. But it all came to a halt on January 14, 2019. That was the day he said he was done and he told us all goodbye. I was not ready. I’m still not ready.

Then, that same week on Friday I woke up to the news that a family in the church had lost their three year old son. The funeral was in my church and the previous pastor came back. It was all crazy and it was the hardest thing I had ever been through. I then started counseling the next week. That was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. Turns out tragedy comes in all shapes and sizes. I have never felt that sad and lost in all of my life.

The best part for me was that I never lost my faith in God. It might have been because I had to preach each week and dig into scripture. It might also have been how doors opened and help was offered when I needed it most. Yet, sometimes people are not offered this help. Instead of receiving help, they feel judged. I know, I have walked with them. I have worked to offer the hope of Christ and the healing help given by the Lord.

The good news is I have now turned a new page in the book of my life. By the grace of God I made it through to live and see a new year. I stood up for what I needed, with the help of my counselor, husband, and amazing friends and family. I am now in a new church where we are all starting again and we all have been through stuff. What I know is that life will not be prefect, but God will be. The question is, will we be able to trust in the grace and goodness of the Lord? Will we be able to live in hope instead of judgement? Will we be able to embrace each day as the gift it is?

I like to say that life happens. Sometimes it is glorious and sometimes it is harder than we can imagine. Yet, it happens. How we respond to the ups and downs of life is what makes us who we are and shapes how we live. My hope is that you find people in your life who hold you up when you need it. You find the places of healing that you need. If you feel judged, walk about and find someone else to talk to. Then go back when you are better and talk about it. No ones journey is better or worse than another. It just is. My prayer is that you find the grace, peace, and love of God in the middle of it and it helps you experience life. True life! Happy New Year! Pastor TAZ! Tessa Ann Zehring

What is Church Even For?

                On Tuesday evening, Doniphan and Rosedale United Methodist Churches will have an all church meeting. At this meeting we will talk about the successes in the church in the past year. We will mourn those who we have lost and give thanks for them again. Mainly, we will hopefully be reminded what it means to be the church.

                This led me to ask myself the question, “What is Church even for?”  Is it to provide a community?  Yes. Is it to be a safe place to land in uncertain times?  Yes. But what makes church special?  What makes it different then gathering at a soccer game or at Rotary?  After all, both are places that provide community and offer a safety in uncertain times. In fact, many places offer these gifts, some even better than the church does right now. So why Church?

                I believe Church is about having a relationship with God. And God is not easy to get to know. God is not easy to hear or even understand. I am reminded of a scripture in 1 Kings chapter 19 about Elijah. Elijah was a prophet who had upset Queen Jezebel. In fact, she wanted to kill him. So, he ran away to safety. He ended up in a cave, trying to hear what God was telling him. Here is the part that is amazing to me. It said that Elijah stood in the strong wind, the earthquake, and the fire and yet God’s voice was not in any of them. Instead the voice of God came in a still small voice.

                So, what is church even for?  I believe it is a place to remind us to stop and listen for that still small voice. It is a voice of hope and love. It is a voice that can convict us to change our ways or stand up for what we believe in. It is a voice that accepts us where we are and encourages us forward. Hopefully, it also reminds us to be the still small voice for others.

                What I realize is it isn’t flashy or exciting. It is steady and true. It won’t entertain but it will touch your heart. You can come angry with God, scared of what is happening, content with how things are, or even wanting a change; and you will be accepted. Welcome even. Why?  For me, it is because each time I sit and listen to the still small voice of God, I am reminded that everything will be well. Life will still happen, but all shall be well because God is here. So, why Church?  To remind us of the promises, love, and peace God gives when we listen and believe. Blessings, Pastor Tessa

What Are You Known For? New Life with Christ

                This past week in church we talked about Zacchaeus.  This meant that all week I had the song from Sunday School in my head.  The one about how Zacchaeus was a wee little man.  It got me thinking about what people think about when they think about Zacchaeus.  Most of us probably think of him as being short and as someone who Jesus went and ate with.  At least, that is the case if we remember the song about him.

                Yet, Zacchaeus is a wonderful example of the life changing power of Christ’s love.  See, Zacchaeus was also a tax collector who was known for cheating others.  All tax collectors in this time cheated others.  No one regulated how much they took, so often they became greedy and took more than they should have.  This is probably why Zacchaeus was a rich man.

                Yet, on the day Jesus came through his town, Zacchaeus experienced the live changing power of being loved and accepted.  Scripture shares how but no one was willing to help Zacchaeus see Jesus. No one liked him enough to do that.  So, Zacchaeus climbed a tree. This caught Jesus attention and helped him know who needed his love and acceptance.  As they ate, Zacchaeus was so moved by Jesus actions and love that he change his ways.  He vowed to pay everything back and not steal any longer.

                This is that is all great, but how long did it take him to be known for something besides being short and a thief?  Did the people ever believe he was a different person?  Were they willing to let him change?  Sometimes that is the hardest part of change, others perception of us.

                So, what are you known for?  Do you like your reputation?  Do you wish it was different?  Do you want another chance to make a name for yourself?  So often we want to try again, but we need help.  To me, that help comes from the Lord and the bride of Christ, the church.  Yet, we are still talking about Zacchaeus being a wee little man.  How long will it take us to have faith in each other enough that we let what we are known for change to be who we have become?  Isn’t that what a new life in Christ is all about?  Let’s help each other do just that.  Blessings, Pastor Tessa

United in Heart and Mind. What does it mean?

The book of Acts has a passage of scripture that caught my eye the other day. It was Acts 4:32, ” The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. ”  I must admit, I only read the first portion of this scripture. The community of believers was one in heart and mind… What does that really mean?

I have often found that what I think should happen is not what takes place. In fact, just this past week in worship I asked the question, “How do we love another when they do not act like we think they should?”  So, how were the community of believers united in heart and mind?

In reading more of Acts 4, I learned that those united were the people who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Their unity in heart and mind was in Christ. Two people who they cared about, Peter and John, had been arrested. The people prayed for the two men to be released. They then also prayed to know how to share the message of the risen Christ with others.

See, it was not that they all acted in the same way. It was not that they had the same passions or even the same way of doing things. They were united in their faith in God. It was that faith that then brought them together when life did not look so good. It was faith that helped them trust the gifts that would be needed would be provided by God through each of them. It was faith that helped them connect.

As we continue to come together as a community, I hope we too can be united in heart and mind. We will not all agree. We will not have the same ideas of how life should look or even what is important. But, I believe God put us here in Doniphan, Giltner, Trumbull, and the surrounding areas for a reason. I believe with all our different abilities and gifts we can accomplish glorious things. Maybe one of those glorious things will be uniting in heart and mind to work together and share love and acceptance for one and all. Maybe that was why that scripture stuck in my head, who knows. Blessings, Pastor TAZ

Welcoming All is not so Easy

I drove into a town one day that had a well at the town limit. The well had a sign that said, “Well Come to ….” I cannot remember the name of the town but I thought it was fun play on the word welcome.

What is the word welcome all about anyway? I looked up that information and learned it is two words joined together. The first word half, “wel” comes from Old English “wil” which means desire or pleasure. The word “come” is also from an old English word. This time “cuma” which means guest and “cuman” means to go or come. So, the word was set up share please at a person (guest) coming to a place.

I noticed how a simple word got very complicated very quickly. What I have realized is that as people, we can make welcoming someone very complicated. How? Well, the best example I have found is in Acts 4 and 5. The start of the church gathering together. As they welcomed each other they had a very specific expectation. All people would share all they had so everyone would have what they needed. However, a husband and wife were not happy about this and so they said they shared but they lied. As each lied, they then died, after being told they had lied to God.

I am not sure they felt welcome to do what they felt they needed to do for their own well being. I read this scripture and realized it was not good that the two people lied. But, my question was what made them feel like they had to lie.

This leads me to ask, how do we help people feel welcome? It is not easy, because as humans, we have expectations and a moral value of right and wrong. But, those expectations and moral values are not always agreed upon. So, how do we help each other feel welcome?

I do not have the answer. All I can say is it is not easy. Maybe we do it by looking at other people’s perspectives. Maybe we own who we are and know it will be through conversations and building relationships that true acceptance and understanding can be found. Maybe, we realize that we start from the place of being glad another human being as come to be with us.

Last week, as the people came in for our time of worship at Prairie Winds, I celebrated each person there. I shared my joy at being with them. How often do we share joy at being together? How often do we believe God experiences joy at being with us? I hope you know I mean it when I say you are always welcome with me! Blessings, Pastor Tessa