Finding Your Shepherd?

My godson Zachary and his market lamb with the judge.
My godson Zachary and his market lamb with the judge.

 

Nephew Kevin, his grand champion market lamb and the judge.
Nephew Kevin, his grand champion market lamb and the judge.

 

Selecting the champion breeding ewe (female).
Selecting the champion breeding ewe (female).

July 28, 2013

Psalm 23:1

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Since young girls, my sisters and I raised sheep. One of our perennial 4-H projects, we raised them, bottle-fed lambs, helped shear them, feed them, treated them and learned how to be shepherds. Because of this experience, scripture passages that relate to sheep always have special meaning for me.

On two consecutive days, I attended two different 4-H fairs to watch the sheep shows. The first was the Columbia County Fair, where my godson Zachary and his sister Meghan showed sheep. This is their first year exhibiting sheep. Their mom, my college roommate, Barb, shared that she has become very attached to the sheep. This has also been a great experience for her.

The following day, Rick and I attended the Eau Claire County Fair to watch my nephew Kevin show. This is the county where my family exhibited in 4-H. The fair is in a different location, but it has special meaning because this is where I grew-up showing and where I sold lambs in the market auction.

Kevin had a tremendous sheep show. His market lamb was grand champion as well as best fitted. He was the top intermediate showman and his Hampshire ewe (female) was grand champion breeding stock. His ram (male) was reserve champion ram. His parents have every reason to be very proud of him because he works hard with his sheep.

Kevin is becoming a good shepherd. A couple weeks ago, his grand champion ewe got caught in the fence and cut her neck. Kevin wanted the vet to see her. His Mom, my sister Debbie, wasn’t able to immediately help. A problem solver, Kevin took his 4-wheeler and hooked up my Dad’s trailer. He took it to the sheep yard, loaded the ewe by himself and drove her to the vet clinic where she was treated. Not bad for a 12-year-old.

When we are hurting, our Shepherd, our Heavenly Father, desperately wants to care for us. We are all grand champions in God’s class, as well as best fitted. Sometimes our showmanship skills could use a little work and we wander away from our shepherd. But God’s grace forgives us when we do stupid moves. Now if we were only cognizant enough to ask for forgiveness and help. When we keep our Lord as our number one shepherd, I believe we truly lack nothing. The problem is that we keep trying to win rewards in this world rather securing our eternal reward.

Think about it. What or who is your number one shepherd? Who is always there to feed you, provide for you, shear you when our wings need clipping and treats us better than we treat ourselves?

Lord God – thank you for being our shepherd even when we did not think we needed you as a shepherd. Thank you for leading us to cool, quiet waters and quenching our thirst and hunger. Thank you for refreshing our souls. Thank you for being with us as evil comes our way and protecting us and comforting us. May we see your goodness, love and mercy all the days of our lives.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Amazing by Creation

Rick loading straw bales while Tony looks on.
Rick loading straw bales while Tony looks on.

 

 

Neighbor Fred baling the straw.
Neighbor Fred baling the straw.

 

It's a full load!
It’s a full load!

 

Maybe future wheat-growers, Waylan and Dylan.
Maybe future wheat-growers, Waylan and Dylan.

 

For the beauty of the earth.
For the beauty of the earth.

July 25, 2013

Colossians 1:16

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and in him.

My father-in-law has been consumed with the wheat harvest this past week. The end of last week, the wheat was combined and delivered to the co-op. This week, the focus has been baling straw and delivering it to the dairy farmer who will use it for his cows.

At 88, it is amazing Tony is as involved with farming as he is. Like raising a child, it takes a village to get Tony’s wheat harvested. Grandson Andy ran the combine and helped deliver the wheat and load bales. Grandson Darran helped fixed the brakes on the old truck used to deliver the straw as well as loaded many of the bales. His buddy Nick loaded and delivered a trailer of straw. Neighbor Fred ran the baler and moved many bales. Rick ran the skid steer to load bales, raked straw, got the wagons ready and did whatever else his Dad asked him to do. Tony supervised the operation. He also delivered wheat and straw, raked the straw and kept the rest doing their part.

This is winter wheat, which means it was planted last fall and began to grow. During the winter, it goes dormant. The plants stop growing and dye off but do not completely die. When spring arrives, the plants shoot back to life and grow beautiful heads of golden wheat and shafts of gorgeous straw.

The whole growing process is quite amazing. A tiny, little seed is placed in the ground. It is watered, fertilized and a minuet plant pops out of the hard seed. Soon, it breaks through the soil and stretches towards the sun and warm air. More water and sun encourage the plant to multiply and become bigger, eventually maturing and reproducing seed so that it can replace itself and be used for feeding the world.

As I witness this process annually, it is impossible in my mind to imagine how this can happen without some ultimate designer orchestrating the process. Without a Creator, where did the first seed come from? How could we ever have the millions of variety of plants on this earth? How could there ever be enough food to feed this entire plant?

Two of the littlest Vielhuber boys, Waylan and Dylan, were here while Grandpa Rick loaded bales of Grandpa-Great’s truck and trailer. We took the yard cart down to the field and watched. Someday, these boys could be the fourth generation of Vielhubers to help with wheat harvest. As I watched four generations of my family be a part of God’s harvest today, I thanked God for our family, providing us with land on which to grow food, a bountiful harvest and God’s presence that makes this all possible.

Dear Lord: Thank you for the beauty of this earth. Thank you for designing it such that we can feed our families and others and physically sustain our bodies.  Thank you for providing a safe and abundant harvest. I pray that we all can see your presence in nature this day.   Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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When Anxiety Overcomes Us

After a couple distractions, Ellie gets a smile while on the balance beam. Gymnastics can be fun!
After a couple distractions, Ellie gets a smile while on the balance beam. Gymnastics can be fun!

July 23, 2013

Acts 16:5

So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Gymnastics have been a bit challenging the last couple of weeks. Ellie is signed-up for them. Quite often, I take her. One day last week, gymnastics were not much fun. Ellie can be shy and she decided gymnastics was not for her. It was a bawling mess.

When I picked her up today, we talked about being a big girl and how much fun gymnastics were. We were not yet in the school and the tears began to roll. We opted not to put on the leotard and headed straight for the gymnastics room.

Ellie relented and agreed to participate if I stayed by her side the entire time. We went to the mat and participated in the stretching exercises with the other 20 plus kids.  Everyone loved doing the bear crawl, the frog hog, standing like a flamingo … everyone that is, but Ellie. High school gymnasts run the class. As the kids split into small groups, each led by a high school student, Ellie’s anxiety level rose.

I noticed a new face today. It appeared this might be the high school gymnastics coach. She quickly saw Ellie was not having a good time. When she came over and asked Ellie if she would like to do a special project and get the chalk, Ellie took her hand and off they went. A few minutes later, I saw them putting chalk into the bin. Then the coach took Ellie to a small uneven bar and she practicing hanging before moving to the big uneven bars and joining her group.

Unfortunately, too many people feel like Ellie at gymnastics when they get close to a church. Anxiety level rises. They come up with various reasons why engaging is not possible. More than one person has told me that the roof will cave in if they were ever to enter a church building. I assure them this has not happened yet and will not happen to them. I’m not sure I have convinced anyone otherwise.

With a little distraction, Ellie decided participating in gymnastics was fun. A popsicle at the end sealed the deal. I think that with a little distraction, people can decide church can also be a fun, exciting and wonderful, safe place. Let’s make sure the place we worship is this way so that those who are deathly afraid of church will feel welcomed when they get near it.

Maybe we are the ones afraid of a church or we know someone who just will not let themselves discover how wonderful a healthy church community can be. Lord God, help those of us involved in a church make it as inviting and non-threatening as possible and remain true to Your gospel. Quite the anxiety of those scared by church. Help them to see how being a part of Your family can be truly fun, meaningful and life changing.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

The Mundane Tasks of Life

car washing 2 washing dishes basket of laundryJuly 22, 2013

James 1:4

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The days I am at my in-laws the last few weeks look like this: make meals, do laundry, clean the house, vacuum, assist my mother-in-law with personal needs as well as exercises, water and weed the flowers, etc. I exercise once or twice a day, do some reading, keep in touch with folks, take Ellie to gymnastics and try to have a day with the grandkids a week.  My father-in-law calls me the “maid.” I officially know what it is like to be a stay-at-home person.

Rick and I had a conversation about our routine at his folks. He gets to their house early in the morning after work and sleeps until late morning. He does a few tasks around the farm before lunch and then assists his dad with projects after lunch. Sometimes it is fixing a piece of equipment, spraying weeds, mowing the lawn, fixing fence, etc.

How important are the various things that we do? This is an interesting question. Some things are important, like preparing meals, laundry and Ersel’s exercises. I’ve wiped away some dust and cleaned out drawers and such the last few weeks. In the end, how important is it to have a clean junk drawer or two?

I am having the same thoughts that thousands and millions of stay-at-home people have had over the years. At the end of the day, a clean house is simply that: a clean house. I do believe it makes it more enjoyable to live within and certainly easier to find things. But how important is it?

Last week, Rick washed one of the tractors.  He said it was time to get the layers off and start fresh. Washing a car, a tractor or cleaning a house is not all that different. Sometimes it is time to get rid of the layers and start fresh.

There are parts of our lives that are certainly less sexy than others. Sometimes, I envision God watching over us and shaking God’s head: in disbelief of how we live our lives and spend our time. Other times, I think God shakes God’s head in agreement for persevering through the mundane parts of life. There are lessons we can learn from the mundane. I think perseverance is noteworthy. Thank God we have a Heavenly Father who sticks with us in the mundane and perseveres with us when we lose sight of God. I pray we can be as mature and wise in our choices.

As we wash dishes, fold laundry, scrub the toilet or mow the lawn, I pray that we can make these mundane tasks meaningful. Help us to use this time to pray for those who need our prayers; to remember notes to send or calls to make; to explore how we can respond and help those around us. May the tasks not overwhelm us but be an opportunity to develop perseverance and maturity.  Amen.

Blessings –

 

Dianne

Is it the Journey or the Destination?

jd tractorJuly 21, 2013

John 3:31

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.

Which is more important: the journey or the destination?

Rick was doing some work with the tractor one afternoon up at the farm. Our daughter-in-law, Courtney, and the kids were outside in the yard. Rick stopped over by them when he finished. Waylan and Ellie went running to the tractor, wanting to go for a ride. As Ellie sat on Rick’s lap, she grabbed the steering wheel. With her little hands turning the wheel, she said to Grandpa, “Let’s go to McDonald’s!”

Of course, Ellie has no concept of how far McDonald’s is or what it means to drive there on the tractor. The kids had to settle for a drive closer to home, as Grandpa soon had to leave for work.

Which was more important? That Ellie got a ride? Or was going to McDonald’s what was most important? In the end, I’m sure it was a ride. Maybe she was just offering a suggestion of where they could go in case Grandpa needed a suggestion.

As a Christian, which is more important: the journey or the destination? Some would say the destination. The peace and promise of heaven is important. This is the comfort we depend upon when loved ones die. It’s the eternal reward we strive for.

Strive for: that’s where the journey becomes important. I think we are accountable for the lives that we live while here on this earth. Being a Christian should influence the choices we make, the decisions we heed, the way we live our lives. So, the destination becomes contingent upon the journey.

Let’s not forget that eternal life comes with the cost: the cost of the life of Jesus Christ. Heaven is something we should all strive for and deeply desire. Yet, let us not discount what it cost Jesus to make heaven so available. Because heaven comes with a cost, let us make the journey meaningful and important. Let us choose to engage in appropriate and grace-filled lives. Let’s not take either for granted because in the end, the two are very much tied together. As much as Ellie and other kids love McDonald’s, isn’t heaven really the more important destination?

Lord God, life is a journey. We thank you for taking this journey with us and being a soft place for us to land when the journey is overwhelming or more challenging than we expect. Yet, we also thank you for the final destination that lies ahead of us. May the promise of heaven and eternal life encourage us to make appropriate choices while living our journeying. We thank you for the life of Jesus which makes all of this available to us.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Where Do You Sleep?

lord's prayerJuly 19, 2013

Matthew 6:8

You shouldn’t be like the, because your Father knows what you need before you ask.

“Dianne, where do you sleep?” our six-year-old grandson, Waylan asked me.

This is week three of my year of family leave. Several days each week, I stay at my in-laws, helping keep them in their home. This has allowed me more time with the three grandchildren that live just over the hill from my in-laws. The eldest, Waylan, was inquiring where I sleep. His younger brother, Dylan, had gone down for a nap. I put him in the bedroom where I sleep at my in-laws. This had to be confusing for Waylan, since he has stayed overnight at our house and slept in our bedroom there.

Waylan had a good question. In the last two weeks, Rick and I have been home to our house exactly two nights and slept in our own bed. The other 12 nights, we’ve slept at my in-laws, my Mom’s house and at a cabin last weekend.

Many years ago, I spent a year overseas as a missionary. As I was preparing to leave, I had a conversation with my Grandma Deaton. Since my Grandpa Deaton had died, we had this pack. We prayed the Lord’s Prayer every night when we went to bed, knowing the other person also prayed this prayer. My Grandma reminded me that we would be connected daily, through praying the Lord’s Prayer. It didn’t matter that we were in different time zones. God knows where we are and our connection is always through God.

She was right. It doesn’t matter where we sleep. God knows where we are, even when we switch beds. As I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I think of reconnecting with God and how these words help me offer myself back to God in the simplest of ways.

When my Grandma died, a woman from church said she wanted to become my nightly Lord’s Prayer partner. This was a very touching and special offer. When I started this year of family leave, she again said we would still be connected daily, through our nightly Lord’s Prayer. Once again, it doesn’t matter what bed she or I are praying from. What matters is the time in prayer, our connection through God and the sense of support and community this offers both of us.

Thank goodness God doesn’t have to search for us when we are sleeping in a different bed. What we can do, no matter where we sleep, is take a few minutes at the close of the day and pray the Lord’s Prayer. Even when I have a fitful night of sleep, doing this brings me comfort. It’s my way to saying, “Here I am, God. Just checking in.” You can join Marilyn and me in our nightly prayer time with God. I pray this becomes a comforting way to end your day also.

Thank you for always knowing just where we are and which bed we fall into at the end of the day. May the words of Jesus’ prayer become a nightly response from us to you in thanksgiving for your presence in our lives. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Angels or Ministering Spirits?

angelJuly 17, 2013

Hebrews 1:14

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Angels are quite popular in secular society today. The purpose of angels and how they interact with us is a bit challenging.

I do believe in angels. I do believe that we can be guided by a holy power to make choices that appropriately reflects God’s wishes.

I also think angels can be real, live people. People who are placed before us to minister to us. If we really believe this concept, then we would acknowledge that sometimes “angels” come to us. And other times, we are sent as angels to other people.

Sometimes people call situations “coincidences.” Personally, I think there are few coincidences in our world. There are ministering spirits who have been sent to serve us. It’s the appropriately timed phone call or the check that comes just at the right time. How many times have you worried about something, which in the end really wasn’t so worrisome at all?

As wonderful as it is to receive a ministering spirit into our lives, let’s not ignore the opportunities we have to be a ministering spirit to someone else. Offering to give the necessary ride. Actually making the phone call or sharing some of our financial blessings with someone else … and not expecting something in return. May you find great joy this day in having an opportunity to be someone else’s special angel or ministering spirit.

Lord God: how often people are probably brought into our lives at just the right moment and we fail to see this as a ministering spirit. Thank you for all those many, many times, even if we failed to see it in the moment. May we be encouraged to be a ministering spirit this day, whether in a big way or a tiny way. Thank you for making this an active part of God’s kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Driving the Ducks

Ellie's smile while "driving" the duck
Ellie’s smile while “driving” the duck

 

Waylan steering the Duck
Waylan steering the Duck

 

Our outing to the Wisconsin Ducks with Tatev from Armenia
Our outing to the Wisconsin Ducks with Tatev from Armenia

July 16, 2013

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

“I want to drive the Ducks!” said Waylan.

“Me too!” echoed Ellie.

We were on an outing to the Wisconsin Ducks Boat Ride in Wisconsin Dells. The Ducks are World War II amphibious vehicles that can drive on land and water. Built for the Army, these beasts can be found at a variety of tourist spots. In the Dells, they travel through woods, into the Wisconsin River as well as Lake Delton.

After bounding over pot-filled roads and getting caught up in the current of the Wisconsin River, the water was quiet on Lake Delton. Our driver, a 20-something-year-old college student, asked if anyone in our duck was interested in driving. Since half of the people on our duck were under 12, all of their hands shot up. Our driver allowed each child a few minutes to steer the huge wheel and take us around Lake Delton.

During Waylan’s turn, he peaked over the wheel so he could see where he was going. The very last driver was three-year-old Ellie. She was also the youngest driver. When it was her turn, suddenly, she wasn’t so sure. With a little coaxing and me staying close at hand, she soon had a huge smile on her little face as she guided us through the calm waters. It was impossible for her to see over the giant steering wheel in her hands. It really didn’t matter that she looked everywhere else but the direction the Duck was headed.

Many years ago, I was in a small group and we were asked to illustrate our spiritual journey on a piece of tag board. Some people wrote words. My illustration was a picture. There is a reason I am not an artist. With elementary drawing skills, I drew a cliff on one side of a road and a lush field on the other side, filled with trees, flowers and a big sun. On the road, I placed a car, with me in the back seat. My explanation included this: life is often like this road. There is a cliff on one side and a beautiful valley on the other side. My life works best when I sit in the backseat of the car and allow God to drive. My natural tendency is to want to hop in the front seat and take over God’s job. Yes, I am to use my brain, skills and wisdom to keep the car from going over the cliff. But when I allow God to steer the vehicle, I stay farther away from the cliff.

Who is driving your car? How close are you to the edge of the cliff? When things do not go as you desire, do you want to hop into the front seat and take over God’s job? What would an illustration of your spiritual journey look like? Are your eyes fixed on Jesus or are you looking at everything else instead of God’s direction?

It is our natural tendency to want to drive, Lord God. Sometimes we do and things go OK. Other times when we drive, we get too close to the cliff. Almighty God, please help us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as the guide of our spiritual lives. Encourage us to simply enjoy the ride you desire to take us on! Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Sand vs. Good Soil

July 15DSC01005, 2013

Matthew 13:4-6

As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 

One spring day, I dropped the youngest grandkids off at their house. Their Mom was planting annual flowers while their Dad was planting field soybeans. The front yard was littered with black plastic annual containers. I saw lots of soybean seeds in the driveway where Darran had loaded the planter.

Six-year-old Waylan told me he was going to make money this summer. I asked him how. He showed me some annual containers, which he had filled with sandbox sand and planted soybean seeds. He planned to sell these containers and make money. “You, Dianne, are my first customer,” he told me.

Not wanting to squash his enthusiasm, I asked him, “How much?” “Two for $2,” he told me. I dug through my wallet. It was slim pickings. I only had $1. I gave him the dollar and he said I could get him the other buck later.

Not to be outdone by her older brother, Ellie quipped that she too was going make money. To prove her point, she filled a bucket with the soybean seeds, walked up the bank to the sandbox and quickly planted the seeds.

I took Waylan’s containers home, put them on an outside deck inside a decorative garden box and forgot about them. A couple weeks later, I noticed something peaking over the box’s top. It was a soybean plant! With enough rain to sprout the seed, it was about eight inches tall. I proudly showed the plant to Rick. I also knew its live was short-lived unless I replanted it, which I did not do. When I looked couple weeks later, the plant was brown.

One day, Jesus taught a large crowd near a lake. The crowd was so big that he got into a boat, pushed off from shore and let the water be a natural amplifier. He told the parable of the sower. Many in the crowd could have been farmers. They would have been familiar with needing proper soil for good plant growth. Maybe they had watched seed they planted wither up and die because it was not sowed in rich soil.

The disciples were confused why Jesus talked in parables, little stories to demonstrate a point, rather than just saying what he wanted the people to learn. Jesus reminded the disciples when people have more information and understanding, more is expected. I did not expect Waylan to understanding the soybean seeds he planted in sand would ever amount to anything. But I know better. If I wanted to see the soybean grow, I should have transferred it. When I did not do this, the plant sprouted but never had a long-term chance.

What kind of soil is your faith rooted in? Is your faith on rocky soil, where you respond to God only in dire straits? Or is your faith in shallow soil, where it sprouts quickly but is easily scorched out? Is your faith more like a blackberry thicket, which so many thorns that it easily gets choked out? Or is your faith rooted in good soil, which produces an abundant crop?

I can identify various times in my life when I have had different soil types for my faith. I need more good soil right now and am confident I will rediscover rich, black soil needed for deep seeded faith. Good soil takes time to develop. It needs a silt-loam base, natural fertilizer (i.e. – manure) and humus (i.e. – decomposed old plants. Good soil for faith needs the base of digging into God’s word, lots of knee time (prayer) and an actively lived faith (service). Without one of these factors, our faith often becomes rocky soil, sinking sand or a thorny thicket.

Thank you for being patient with us when we do not put all the effort into nurturing our faith as we should, when we do not dedicate the time and effort necessary to develop good soil for solid faith. Encourage us to take one small step this day to move away from sinking sand and rich soil faith.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

A Little Deflated

It had been a good ride ...
It had been a good ride …

July 11, 2013

Psalm 38:21-22

Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.

It was after 8 PM on a July night when I went for a bike ride. Knowing that it would be dark within the hour, I planned a short 30 minute ride. It was an in-and-out ride, meaning, I ride to a particular destination, turn around and go back to the point of origin.

I had turned around and was about 75% done with the ride. As I pedaled up a hill, it seemed more difficult than normal. I realized why. My back tire was flat. I didn’t know how or why but it was flat. I had three or four miles back to my in-laws. It was after 8:30. Walking would get me there after 9 PM and darkness would be certain. I had an inner tube in a little case under the seat. But just the tube. No tools, no pump.

This bike is a road bike, with narrower tires designed for speed. It’s not top-of-the-line, but a nice road bike I have used for various bike charity events. These tires have more miles than generally suggested. Is it any surprise the back one is flat?

I just keep pedaling. I wonder if I will hurt the rim. But what is the alternative? I have no cell phone with. My father-in-law is in playing cards in Rock Springs, which I will bike through. Then it’s a little over a mile at to their house. What difference does it make at this point?

I can still pedal. The inclines are just more difficult. The whole concept of a flat tire is not lost on me. The last few months, my heart has not been in the best place with God. I still have faith and still believe. I’m just not feeling as close to God as I would like. My spiritual life, my inner tube, is just a bit deflated. But I keep spinning. I keep going, knowing God still loves me, confident I will regain the closeness I long for. I also know it is I who has moved and not God. As long as my inner being, my rim, stays strong in the Lord, I know the Lord will be patient with me. Thank goodness.

Unfortunately, Lord God, it is easy to have periods when we just don’t feel quite as close to you. Let us be thankful that you never remove yourself from our lives. Please be patient with us when we are not as close to you. Reflate our lives with your spirit, love and mercy. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne