The Not-So-Perfect Christian

Gratitude Day 239

Tues., Mar. 26, 2019

Psalm 119:96 – To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

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Dear Friends –

For the record, I am not a perfect Christian.

In the last 48-hours, I have been lazy, checked my personal e-mail while at work, withheld information from Hubby Rick and thought about things that really, I should have run right out of town. I have spoken negatively about someone else, told white lies, gossiped and portrayed myself more highly than I ought. I have withheld forgiveness, wanted to draw attention to myself unnecessarily and avoided helping someone that I had the opportunity to assist.

And these are just a few of the things I’m willing to share. The things I’m not sure I want everyone to know? Now that’s some good stuff.

I am not a perfect Christian … even though I’d like to think I am.

It’s not fun and it’s certainly not easy to admit our failures and shortcomings. It’s really more exciting to try and convince other people that we know it all, have seen it all and have an inside track to Jesus and God’s will for our lives.

I’m sorry to disappoint myself. But I am not a perfect Christian.

Regularly, I hear some person declaring that they have a clear vision of God’s view for this world. They are convinced they know how to interpret God’s commands for today. They feel their interpretation of scripture is more accurate than someone else’s. They profess, in God’s name, that they have an inside track of knowing and understanding how God desires to interact and be a part of our world and our faith today.

The funny thing about all these voices? All these declarations? Often, they are competing messages. Exact opposite messages. Contradictory messages. Rather than truly listening to each other, voices just get louder and louder, praying their voice will come out on top.

Friends – can we all just hit the “pause” button? Can we come to see that we are all not-so-perfect Christians? Can we stop talking down and over and around each other and simply love our neighbor, even if that neighbor is someone we really do not care for? Have a different view about life, faith and everything in-between?

The noise level is deafening. It’s become so loud and so frequent and so furious that the message is no longer the focus. It’s outsmarting someone else. Or making sure your voice is heard above all other voices. It’s deflecting the hurt and the pain by accusing and hurting someone else … rather than simply being able to say, “I am not a perfect Christian.”

It saddens my soul to see how Christians are treating each other. It discourages me … and a whole bunch of other people … from engaging with other Christians. It’s like the girl who showed up at prom in a hideously ugly outfit with her underwear showing though and no one had the courage to tell her what they could see. Instead, everyone just snickered at her and made fun of her.

Folks – I’m tired of us making fun of each other. It’s embarrassing to see us tear each other down and apart. In fact, it’s very unattractive. I hate to imagine all the energy that gets fed into all the wrong places. Energy that could do so many wonderful things if only directed towards truly loving God and loving our neighbor.

So, can we just pause our not-so-Christian lives and accept each other, warts and all? Can we decide loving each other is more important than being right? Can we slow down the rhetoric just long enough to see others and ourselves as we truly are: not-so-perfect Christians?

For God loving me as a not-so-perfect Christian, I am grateful.

Lord God – I imagine you laughing and shaking your head at how we, self-proclaimed Christians, have been treating each other. Can your Spirit please intervene and encourage us to pause all the unhealthy behavior towards each other? Help us to hear Jesus’ commands to focus our energy on loving God and loving our neighbors. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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“Be Faithful in Marriage”

Gratitude Day 238

Mon., Mar. 25, 2019

Matthew 5:27 – You know the commandment which says, “Be faithful in marriage.”

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Let me introduce you to our dear friends, Howard and Rhoda. On Sunday, they celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. They have truly lived the commandment, “Be faithful in marriage.” And in doing so, they have set a wonderful example for their family, friends, Hubby Rick and I, and a whole bunch of other people.

I have known Howard and Rhoda for about 30 of those 63 years. Months after I graduated from college, I moved to Baraboo, WI. Eventually, I began attending Emmanuel UMC, where I became acquainted with a whole bunch of wonderful people. One of those couples? Howard and Rhoda.

Sometimes, we meet people with whom having a relationship feels very easy. For me, Howard and Rhoda are one of those couples. Maybe it’s because Howard looks a little like my Dad. It’s not just his looks, but also his personality, which reminds me of my Dad and drew me towards Howard. Maybe it’s because Rhoda loves to play piano. Rhoda and I have played together on many occasions. After I became a pastor, she often filled in when the regular pianist was not available at one of the churches where I served.

Maybe it was because they modeled the type of relationship that I hope I would have if ever I was to marry. I am fortunate to have several couples in my life who understood what being faithful in marriage looked like. After I met the man who eventually became Hubby Rick, I slowly introduced him to some of the people who had become my friends. Howard and Rhoda were one of those couples.

Rick and I had been dating just a few months when his eldest son, Nate, was killed in a snowmobiling accident. I was the pastor for the church where Rick and Nate were members. Quickly, I found myself in a precarious position of not only watching my new boyfriend deal with loosing one of his children. I was also the pastor who would preside at the funeral.

It was January. I was in seminary and attending a short two-week class over winter break. Rhoda called and asked what they could do to help out. I felt I should attend class the day of the visitation. This would require driving two-plus hours to attend class for several hours and then driving back for the visitation. I had slept very little in the last 48-hours. If I could get to their house, Howard and Rhoda would drive me back and forth to school. It was the least they could do.

We left their house at 6 AM so I could get to class by 8:30 AM. As they were dropping me off, Rhoda asked if there was anything they could do while I was at class. I casually mentioned that Rick didn’t have a tie for the funeral. They found their way to the mall, bought a tie and had it sitting in the back seat of the car when they picked me up. Rick still has this tie. Every time he wears it, we recall how Howard and Rhoda bought it for him.

After we arrived back at Howard and Rhoda’s house, I changed clothes and prepared to attend Nate’s visitation. I was in my early 30’s, attending and soon presiding over the funeral for the eldest son of the man I had been dating just a couple months. I wasn’t sure that I was emotionally prepared to do this. I had never envisioned having to do these things. Rhoda simply told me to set aside whatever I was feeling for the next 24 hours and just do what I needed to do. Was it the best advice? It was the necessary advice I needed to hear so I could pull myself together and preside over the second funeral I would ever officiate.

Driving me back and forth the 120 miles each way that day was profound. Howard and Rhoda simply showed up on a day that was so very difficult. There were many things they could not do. But they could get me safely to and from school. They could give me a few hours where I could nap in the car if I wanted. Or talk if I wanted. Or just be with my thoughts. Maybe it didn’t feel like a big deal for them at the time. For me, it was a powerful witness of how they dropped whatever they could have been doing, loved me, and in turn loved Rick, through an awful day in our lives.

This is just how their marriage has been. Howard worked swing shift for years. Rhoda worked days. They raised two daughters and showed up in the lives of their grandchildren day after day. They’ve helped family members and traveled and served through their church. They have lived a wonderful life.

And then, about 15 years ago, Howard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Over time, his body has changed. He can no longer do the things he loved to do. The Friday golf outings ceased. No longer able to drive, his truck was sold. He went to morning coffee with his group of cronies for as long as possible.

Today, Howard and Rhoda’s life revolve around caring for Howard. A host of caregivers come into their home, morning and night, to care for Howard and assist Rhoda. This has kept Howard in their home, the highest priority. This little army love Rhoda and Howard in the simplest of ways. It’s very easy for them to love Howard and Rhoda, as they first model love to everyone they meet and know.

Yesterday, when asked how many years ago he married Rhoda, Howard knew it was 63. He spoke about what the day was like and recalled details that surprised Rhoda and me, all while sitting next to the love of his life, eating dinner. He smiled as he shared. This was the greatest gift he could have shared with the woman he has faithfully loved all these years.

When this couple said their marriage vows all those decades ago, I doubt they understood what “for better or worse” exactly meant. However, they have truly lived it. “In sickness and in health” aren’t just words for Howard and Rhoda. They live their commitment to each other, day in and day out. In doing so, they model beautifully an example for their family, their friends, their caregivers and yes, for Hubby Rick and I, of what being faithful in marriage looks like.

Rick and I know that celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary is not very realistic, as we started this marriage deal a little later in life. Sixty-three-years of marriage? Impossible. Yet, we feel very fortunate to have several wonderful examples of couples who took the command, “Be faithful in marriage” to heart and chose to live this command faithfully throughout their marriage. One such couple? Howard and Rhoda.

Thank you, Howard and Rhoda, for unconditionally modeling love towards each other, as well as towards Rick and me. We celebrate your marriage and commitment of being faithful in marriage. Hug each other today and think of us.

For the witness of being faithful in marriage, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for bringing such special people into my life. I thank you for powerful witness Howard and Rhoda exhibit of being faithful in marriage. Be with those couples who live daily with non-curable illness. May your grace be a part of today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Six for Saturday

Gratitude Day 237

Sat., Mar. 23, 2019

Hosea 6:3 – Let’s do our best to know the Lord. His coming is as certain as the morning sun; he will refresh us like rain renewing the earth in the springtime.

Just a few random thoughts as the weekend begins.

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  1. The calendar says its spring … and we have finally had a couple days where we did not have to wear a winter coat that were filled with sunshine. When Hubby Rick and I are in the car together, it is our tradition to read a devotion together. We just use a little book called The Upper Room and read the day’s devotion. We always close with a prayer. On Friday, we were on our way to have lunch with some dear friends. As we were praying, Rick admitted out loud that his attitude is affected by the weather. He is so right. I just wasn’t as quick to admit it out loud. The sunshine, even if chilly, does affect my attitude as well. I dug out some peach iced tea and have been drinking this all week. For me, this is a sure sign of warmer weather, as I love peach iced tea in the summer.

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2. My heart has also been yearning for color. Yes, I love black and white. I wear a lot of black and grey. My house has a lot of grey walls. But I am SO READY for COLOR! Something light, something fun and something that looks a little Easterish. A couple weeks ago, I bought some eucalyptus just because it smelled good.

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A few days later, I put it into this container with a few candles and some sprigs of artificial lavender that I had. These pillows are almost the same color teal. I put them in our front parlor, moved a couple things around and WOW! It feels much more like spring. This should really have been a 20-minute makeover because I did this in less than 20-minutes. And yet, has it made my heart sing.

 

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3. We love college basketball at our house. And we watched the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badger’s men team loose in the first round of the NCAA tournament. We will continue to root for the Big 10 teams. Plus, I always like to root for Tony Bennett and Virginia. I just think he’s a class act. Who are YOU rooting for?

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4. I have nearly filled up the 40 for 40 Box for Lent this year. And have started box #2. Rick brought a few things to me and asked if I have a donation box going. (I often do.) And so, his items are now in the 40 by 40 box as well. Are you working on a 40 by 40 box this Lent? How does it feel? It’s not too late to join in the fun!!

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5. We love Mexican food! Yesterday, we had lunch at a favorite Mexican place. It’s Jose’s in Baraboo, WI. I didn’t take a picture of the wonderful fajita taco salad that I had. Let me just say; it was great!

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6. Maybe by now, you have seen this video. It’s a basketball team of maybe 5th Watch #50 as he helps one of his teammates make a basket. The best part? The response of the boy who makes the basket.

https://www.facebook.com/learningexpresslakezurich/videos/845220942501420/

I saw this video with this caption: “We need more #50’s in life.” Amen.

This weekend, who can you be a #50 to? GO AND DO IT!!

For the witness of a little guy teaching us how to serve one another, I am grateful.

Thank you for the hope of new life this spring, Lord God. Sometimes, yes, these little differences do affect our attitude. May we see opportunities to be a breath of fresh air and help someone this weekend. Inspire us to do all the good we can do. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Who is God for you?

Gratitude Day 236

Fri., Mar. 22, 2019

Mark 5:36 – Jesus heard what they said, and he said to Jairus, “Don’t worry. Just have faith!”

“Who is God for you?” she asked.

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Recently, I had a conversation with a woman. She is trying to figure out who God is. When I asked her, “Who is God for you?” she gave me some of her thoughts. Then, she turned the question back to me and asked, “Who is God for you, Dianne?”

This is a good question. A powerful question. A question a pastor/Christian/believer should be able to answer, right?

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As we talked about this, I began to realize some things I believe about God. Would you like to hear them? Good. I’m ready to share.

God for me today is not the same God that I believed in when I was growing up. While I was raised going to church, confirmed my faith as a teenager and have been active in church for decades, who God is for me today has evolved over many, many years. It’s not that suddenly God showed up one day completely different from what I had previously understood God to be. Rather, I feel my experience, knowledge and tradition of God has matured. It’s not God who changed. I have changed. My understanding and experiences have allowed me to see God from a broader perspective.

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While my perspective of God has grown, I would not say I am “smarter” about who God is. Quite the opposite. I actually feel there is so much more about God than my little mind will ever understand. And I’m OK with this. My goal isn’t to discover all of who God is. My mission is to continue to discover new things about God on a regular basis.

This brings up another important point. I want to have a relationship with God; not just knowledge about God. Yes, I can rattle off some big theological words about God. But at the end of the day, this doesn’t impress God. God just wants me to know God on a very individual, daily way. Just like any other relationship, I must nurture my connection with God. Some days, I feel closer to God than others; just like some days I feel the connection between Hubby Rick and I is more solid than others. When I don’t feel as close to God, I try not to become frustrated with God. God hasn’t moved. I’m the one who moved. And I’m the one who will determine if I want to move back in closer contact with God.

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I do not believe God is at my beck-and-call, just as I am not at God’s. I make lots of choices each day. While there may be some are choices God would highly prefer me to make, I’m still the one who makes the decision. Clearly, there are times when I know without a doubt that my opinion is right … and God somehow forgot to consult me. I am not God’s puppet, and neither is God just waiting for my opinion.

Even when I feel let down or disappointed, God is not to blame for every bad thing that happens in my life, household, this country and or this world. Evil exits. While God can conquer evil, there are times God chooses not to. Why? Well, this truly is a billion-dollar question.

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God can surprise me every day, if I just slow down or am wise enough to see it. God has an amazing sense of humor … if we only see it!

 

While we may think it is easier to relate to Jesus because he came to earth as a human being, relating to Jesus is relating to God. They are one in the same. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is God’s presence with me right now. I can’t fully explain how the three persons of the Trinity are separate yet one in the same. This is one of those times people either believe it … or they don’t.

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Right after I post this, I will think of a whole bunch of other things I believe about God. Maybe I’ll try and keep a list of these things for another day. In the meantime, let me ask you, “Who is God for you? How would you answer this question if some nice lady or man asked you some day?”

Begin each day

For the opportunity to have faith in God as a core of who I am, I am grateful.

Holy God – You really are more magnificent that I will ever know. Thank you for calling me as Your child. Thank you for knowing my name and loving me unconditionally. Help me to love you as a deep expression of my faith. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Finally, … the First Day of Spring!!

Gratitude Day 235

Wed., Mar. 20, 2019

Job 29:23 – My words were eagerly accepted like the showers of spring

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Today feels like a seismic shift as spring officially begins! And as spring begins, I often think of these words from the song, Hymn of Promise:

In the bulb there is a flower;

In the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God along can see.

Take a walk. Breathe deeply. Love the optimism of longer days and warmer temps.

For the beginning of spring, I am grateful.

Whenever there is doubt of Your place in our world, I pray that we simply look at the changing of the seasons and am once again amazed. Thank you for the optimism of a new season. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Borrowed Quote  

Gratitude Day 234

Tues., Mar. 19, 2019

Hebrew 4:16 – So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.

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I so want this book and this verse to be something I came up with. But they aren’t.

No, I simply saw this photo and decided that I like this saying enough, I’m going to borrow it.

May I never forget on my best day, that I still need God as desperately as I did on my worst.

How easy it is to forget that we need God EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Good days. Bad days. In-between days. Cold days. Hot days. Dark days. Sunny days. Quiet days. Loud days. Difficult days. Celebratory days.

We need God every single day.

No less than yesterday. No more than tomorrow.

When we only turn to God on the days that are challenging, we often think God isn’t there for us. I don’t think this is the case. I think it’s just a lot easier to see God on those awful days when we know what it’s like to see God on a good day. A happy day. A regular day.

If we only expect God to show up when WE need God, then we’re missing out on the fullness of God. We fail to allow God to be with us through the wide-range of life experiences. We keep God in a box which limits OUR ability to experience the full joy of God being a part of our lives.

When we celebrate God-in-our-lives on good days, then we can spot God on my difficult days. We already know God’s voice in our lives. We put ourselves in a position where we can experience so much more of God.

I want God with me on the great days. I want God with me when something spectacular happens. I want God with me when there is a big or little reason to celebrate.

I also want God with me when I’m struggling. I want God with me when I’m distraught. And I certainly want God with me when I’m upset, disappointed and angry.

The great thing? God is there every single one of those days … and more. It’s me who sometimes moves God. God doesn’t move. Thanks be to God.

May I never forget on my best day, that I still need God as desperately as I did on my worst.

And if you like this saying, you can borrow it as well.

For God showing up every day, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for showing up in my life today. Thanks for being there yesterday. And yep, I know you’ll be there tomorrow. May I not forget to look for you, expect you and acknowledge you in my life every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Little Boy Who Stole My Heart

Gratitude Day 233

Mon., Mar. 18, 2019

John 19:19 – Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

A little boy stole my heart yesterday. His name is Daniel. This is his story.

A year ago, I helped fill in at an ECLA Lutheran church while they were between pastors. For several months, I lead worship at this church a few times a month. I started filling in right about the time Lent began. During the children’s message one week, I shared with the kids some little wooden crosses made out of olive wood. We talked about how Jesus died on a cross because Jesus loves each one of us so very, very much.

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We also talked about how these crosses were extra-special. They came from Bethlehem, the village where Jesus was born. In this one little piece of wood, we have something that connects the beginning of Jesus’ life in Bethlehem, with the last day of his life when he died. I hoped these little crosses would help the kids remember just how much Jesus loved them.

Fast forward to yesterday. Now, I fill in as a musician at this church a couple times a month. Yesterday happened to be one of those Sundays I played. After worship, Daniel and his Dad, Robert, came over by me. Right away, I noticed that Daniel was wearing the little wooden cross from a year ago. He was SO PROUD to show me his cross. While cleaning his room this week, Daniel found the cross. He remembered where it came from and that he had received it from me. With a little help, Daniel had strung a piece of thread through the tiny hole in the cross and wore it to church yesterday. Daniel thought I would like to see his cross.

Did I want to see his cross? YOU BET!! Even more impressive? Daniel remembered that the cross had come from the town of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. And that he received it about a year ago.

Folks … can I just be honest for a minute? Little people like Daniel? They remind me the value of sharing Christ’s story. Daniel took a story that we explored over a year ago, connected it to and came back so we could relive the moment. And in the process, this little guy, wearing his little wooden cross hung around his neck with a thin strand of black thread, ministered to the pastor/musician.

I know Daniel is young, maybe 6-years-old or so. I know Daniel is an exceptional kid who soaks up everything and sees the meaning of things well beyond his years. He knows how and loves to have real conversations with people way outside of his age level.

He is also a reason why I have hope. When I see a little person like this grasp onto something faith-based and make it all their own, I know this seed has been planted into this little person’s heart and soul. It’s a seed that can be water and nurtured. In years to come, this seed can blossom and do amazing things. Little people like Daniel who have seeds of faith inside of them will take those seeds and turn them into acts of kindness where they bless other people. They will make decisions that affect people in a positive way. They will decide to be the hands and feet of Christ, just like he was the voice of Christ to me yesterday.

If you are a parent, Christian, a Christian Education teacher, a school teacher, a grandparent, a pastor … are there times when you wonder, “Why am I doing this? Does what I do make any difference?” Let me reiterate yes, what you do makes a difference. Every once in a while, a little person like Daniel will surprise you. He or she will acknowledge some little thing you helped them with made a difference in their live. In the process of sharing this back to you, they make a difference in your life.

I know there will be future days when Daniel will be less innocent about his faith and even struggle with who God is. I know that Daniel is a little boy and sometimes, yes, even he, drives his parents a little crazy. I know there will be choices that Daniel will make that someday, he wishes he would have chosen differently.

But for today, he sees that cross and know that Jesus loves him. And for today, this is enough.

Just to seal the deal on stealing my heart yesterday, Daniel did one more thing. Daniel wants to learn to play guitar. He brought his Dad’s old guitar to church yesterday. One of the other musicians, Mike, started showing him a few things about playing his guitar.

I also play guitar, well, kind of. Years ago, I took about four guitar lessons so I could learn just enough chords to play in church. Daniel looked so handsome with his Dad’s red guitar strapped around his neck. He stood there, pick in hand, and his little wooden cross hanging around his neck, just waiting for Mike to show him what to do next. I wished that I had taken a picture of this precious sight. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Instead, I snapped this photo of a similar wooden cross that Hubby Rick has hanging on his desk, a cross also from Bethlehem.

It’s Lent. It’s the time of year when we are encouraged to take extra time and reflect upon who Jesus is, why he came to this earth and what difference this makes in our lives today. Yesterday, little Daniel had it figured out. And his actions and enthusiasm stole my heart.

I pray the rest of us can somehow live up to his example.

For little people reteaching me valuable lessons, I am grateful.

Lord Jesus – sometimes, we make faith so complicated and difficult. We spend too much time looking for ways faith separates us rather than coming back to the very core of the gospel: that God loves us enough to send Jesus to this earth for our benefit. I pay we never completely loose our child-like approach to faith. May we be inspired by little people like Daniel who know showing up with an open heart is all it takes. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Six for Saturday

Gratitude Day 232

Sat., Mar. 16, 2019

Luke 12:26 – And if worry can’t even do such little things as that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

Interested in a few thoughts I’ve been pondering this week? Good! Here we go!!

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  1. 40 days is a long time. This week, I wrote about shopping my freezer and pantry for food during Lent. And in less than two weeks into this, I broke. I stopped at the grocery store and bought corned beef, cabbage, carrots and red potatoes to make corn beef and cabbage today. Hubby Rick starts works on Sundays, so I thought it would be easier to make it today. While Rick likes corned beef, he LOVES the cooked cabbage with corned beef. I think he earned the cooked cabbage after attending Hamilton with me this week. Will you be cooking corned beef and cabbage this weekend or going someplace for a meal? And yes, I will be back to using up that freezer and pantry …

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2. While in Chicago, we went to Millennium Park and saw the bean-shaped thing that is all the rage. FYI – I am a terrible selfie picture-taker. Rick would be even worse. I cheated and took our reflection in the bean. I know it’s a rather terrible picture. We snapped it in-between rain drops. Please, look at the bean more than us. But if you must figure out who we are, yep, that’s Rick in the red Wisconsin sweatshirt holding the umbrella. And yes, that’s me next to him. We enjoyed the park but decided it would be more enjoyable in the summer. Where has been a fun place you have visited recently?

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3. The dairy industry crisis is real, especially in Wisconsin. Here’s an article that explains the stress and emotional roller coaster for those struggling with farming right now: https://www.agupdate.com/agriview/news/business/efforts-aim-to-prevent-suicide/article_f1897cba-0a71-5545-a744-355202b17798.html

Brenda Statz shares her heart-breaking story of loosing her husband. Rick has known the Statz’s for years. He hauled their milk for many years and later, his son Darran, did. Darran hauled the last load of milk off their farm before they stopped milking cows. I know Brenda told this story purely to encourage other people who might be in the same situation as her husband, Leon. Do you know someone who struggles with depression? Share with them some of the resources available out there.

4. And the difficulties for farmers and ranchers continues. The last two weeks have been challenging for some farmers. We’ve had a lot of snow the past six months. Now, some roofs of buildings can no longer hold up the room and have come crashing down. Personally, I am aware of a few farms that have been affected by this. Pray for people who are feeling so much stress as they produce food for American and the world right now.

5. As all of this snow melts, many communities are now experiencing flooding. Yep, about all we’re talking about these days in Wisconsin is the weather. Some of these communities are the same ones affected by flooding the end of last summer. Some are new. All are dealing with lots of potential losses. Let’s hope the water evaporates with limited additional damage. Let’s have compassion for those who maybe going through another round of displacement in their lives.

6. I’ve been reading about simplicity lately. And discovering there are lots of different ways to interpret and embody simplicity in a person’s life. While I feel there are areas in which Rick and I intentionally choose simplicity, there are other areas where we can make improvements. One of the keys to simplicity? Finding your own way. Some people are more rigid about some things than others. Personally, I feel simplicity for me helps remove some of the things that pull me away from fulling the things that I feel are important. How do you view simplicity? Where do you long to have a bit more simplicity in your life?

Have a great weekend. One thing we’re doing today? Catching some Big 10 men’s basketball! Go Badgers!

For appreciation for the little things in life, I am grateful.

Jesus – we see the families and people who are affected by things going on in their lives and we simply turn them over to you. I pray that those who are struggling will find assistance. Be with those affected by flooding, snow damage … anything that affects their daily living, just be with them. May we be willing to help in ways that we can.   Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Who Tells Your Story?

Gratitude Day 231

Fri., Mar. 15, 2019

Psalm 107:2 – Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,

“Who tells your story?”

Hamilton

This is the closing line from the musical, Hamilton, sung by his wife, Eliza Hamilton. Hamilton has been killed. Eliza asks the question, “Who tells your story?” As I listened to them sung over and over, they struck a chord with me.

 

This week, Hubby Rick and I took the train to Chicago and went to a production of Hamilton. I’ve been yearning to see Hamilton, based on the excellent reviews people had shared. While attending Hamilton felt like an extravagance, we planned a 24-hour get-away to do so.

Attending musicals is NOT Rick’s first choice. But he humored me and was willing to make a deposit into my love bank by going to the show. As we walked back to the hotel after the show, he admitted this was the best musical he has ever seen.

Hamilton is based on the life of Adam Hamilton. I must have missed the day is U.S. history class that we covered Adam Hamilton, because honestly, I do not remember much of the storyline the show portrayed. Adam is portrayed as not always being politically correct in what he said and how he said it. He felt like he was often undervalued and appreciated and struggled with what his legacy would be. During the Revolutionary War, Adam was part of George Washington’s staff but not part of the action until the end. He became instrumental in establishing the design of the U.S. government. The musical says he brokered a deal with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to get the major players on the same page.

In the end, one of Adam’s early friends, Aaron Burr, betrayed Adam. At a dual, Aaron kills Adam. This event is even more significant, in that Adam’s son was earlier killed in a dual.

As the show is finishing, the cast sing, “Who tells your story?” Caught up in wanting to have a legacy in which he would be remembered, Adam questioned his ability to write his story. Now, this same theme is projected back unto those of us who watched the highly choreographed production.

Who tells your story? It is core question for each of us. How we answer this question is influenced by our theology about life and choice. Personally, I feel that God provides an interpretation of our lives. But I also feel that we have lots of choice in how we live out the decisions that we make every day. Maybe another way to view how I see this? God paints the broad-brush strokes. We paint the details.

During this journey of life, we often get caught up in plodding along, doing the same things day after day. Sometimes, we connect these events to the greater scope of our lives. Sometimes, we get so caught up in day-to-day things that we forget how our daily decisions tie into our grandeur lives.

We have but one life. We only go around this horn once. Yes, there are certain events that have great influence in our lives. I can’t control that I grew up in the Midwest on a small dairy farm which instilled in me traditional Midwest values. What I can control is how I live these today. I choose how I live faith in my daily life. I choose what excites me and what drags me down. I choose the values that are most important to me and how I incorporate them into my daily living.

I’m not sure if the writer of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, intended for all of this to be part of the take-aways from Hamilton. But it was my takeaway. As Rick and I walked back to our hotel, we passed many people who are living a very different lifestyle than I am. I wondered to myself who is telling their story. Are we willing to look inside of ourselves and answer the difficult questions … or do we just keep plodding along day after day?

Our return train was delayed 5+ hours because of mechanical issues. As we sat at the train station waiting for the train to be repaired, I asked Rick, “What is our take-away from having to wait for so many hours?” His response: “Plan extra time when taking Amtrak.” (Unfortunately, our train into Chicago was also two hours late.)

Who tells your story? When things happen outside of our control, i.e. – mechanical issues on the train, how do we respond? Do we become frustrated and angry or do we take things in stride? I’m not sure God intended for the train to have issues. I think this is more a situation of sometimes challenging things just happening.

What I do know is that I want to make sure God is a part of my journey. I pray that I include God on the important decisions and am guided by God’s Spirit and wisdom daily. I want God to be as much of an author of my story as I am myself. I pray that sometimes, I hear God’s leadings in my life and actually follow them. When the opportunity arises for me to help tell someone else’s story, I pray that I grasp this opportunity.

For a meaningful opportunity to re-examine who tells my story, I am grateful.

Almighty God – Thank you for being such an important part of my life story. I pray our daily interactions provide the broad brush-strokes that you desire for me to see. And as I fill in with the details, may they be influenced by your Spirit.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Refresh Wednesday – Lenten Edition

Gratitude Day 230

Wed., Mar. 13, 2019

Matthew 6:25 – (Jesus said,) “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes?

It all started because I was looking for a package of sausage in the chest freezer. And became side-tracked.

Our chest freezer isn’t huge. It doesn’t need to be for two people. We knew our three youngest grandkids would be staying overnight this past weekend. I wanted to see if there was a package of sausage in the freezer for breakfast.

There wasn’t one.

What did I find?  At least 18 packages of boneless chicken breast, two large packages of hamburger, several packages of pork loin or chops, three pork roasts two small lamb roasts and a package of heart and liver. (Why? Why do we have these?) This was just the meat. There were multiple containers of our favorite sweet corn recipe, an ice cream bucket of rhubarb, a few containers from frozen beans as well as tomatoes, a bucket of ice cream, four loaves of bread and two large packages of ice. There were two packages of pork shanks that I kept out to make soup. I found a couple packages of bacon but no sausage. And, some other things I have already forgotten.

All for two people. And this didn’t include the fridge freezer.

Now with an empty freezer, I reorganized everything. I also made a pact: no more buying meat until we had eliminated what was in the freezer. Period.

I know. There could have been a lot more. There has been much, much more. But how did we go from a nearly empty freezer after the holidays to this? Rather easily, I must say.

pantry

Back in the kitchen, I opened the pantry. It’s pleasantly-plump full. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of kitchen pantry space. Our kitchen is moderate-sized. Having limited cabinet space encourages me to be thoughtful about what food I keep on hand. While I want to be prepared, I don’t want the kitchen cupboards look like they could run the local food pantry.

 

Standing by the pantry door open, I also decided to not buy any unnecessary food during Lent. I will shop the freezer and pantry when preparing meals. I will intentionally use up what I have before buying a more food, as much as I can. I will simplify the pantry and my life during Lent by choosing to eat what we have rather than simply buying more.

Yes, I know that we’ll need to buy eggs, milk and other basic necessities. I’m OK with this. What I’m not OK with? Simply buying more because it is on sale or it looks good or I could try a new recipe. I will intentionally choose to shop less and use more of what we already have.

Why is this a good thing to do during Lent? It’s a fasting of sorts; fasting from shopping and buying. Fasting from running to the store for a couple items. Fasting from adding more to the mix rather than trying to have less. It’s making a small sacrifice to symbolically acknowledge all that Jesus gave up for my sake.

Immediately, cooking from what we have officially began. I discovered that I had all of the ingredients to Hubby Rick’s favorite cherry fluff salad. And I made it. Those pork shanks? They became a great base for a pot of soup. We had enough ingredients to make a homemade fruit pizza while the grandkids were at our house over the weekend, which granddaughter Ellie proclaimed as, “So good. Really, seriously, so, so, so good.”

And I sent the leftovers with them.

I find myself drawn to a higher degree of simplicity this Lent. I want to be serious about eliminating some of the stuff in my life and enjoying less. I don’t expect to reduce my life to a couple suitcases of goods by the end of Lent. However, I am determined to live with what I have and be content.

It is so easy for us to worry. We worry about money, our health, our families, our jobs. Can you imagine what we could do in this world if we took all of our unnecessary worry and turned it into positive energy to advance helpful change?

Will we run out of food before this experiment is over? I highly doubt it. If so, we’ll deal with it then. What am I not going to do? Worry about it. Rather, I plant to put that energy into finding creative ways to creative fun dishes with what we have.

We can refurbish little parts of our lives when we make intentional choices to do with less. Use what we have. Bless others with what we no longer want or use. I’m confident that God will continue to speak to me this Lent. I can’t wait to discover what else I will learn about myself.

For the inspiration to shop the freezer and pantry first, I am grateful.

Lord God – forgive me for the many times I have mindlessly acquired and bought. May I see this Lent as an opportunity to live with less and worry less. I pray you will continue to inspire us daily.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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