Challenging Choices

good.evil treeOct. 30, 2013

Proverbs 16:16-18

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement had a well-known saying that I am paraphrasing: do all the good that you can, avoid all the evil that you can and attend to the ordinances of God, which means to practice our faith.

When it comes to caring for our physical temples, it is important to do all the good that we can. It is just as important to avoid the things that are evil for our bodies. Anything to excess is probably not good for our bodies: over-eating, under-eating, over-exhausting, not doing anything, putting things into our bodies that alter our states. The list goes on and on.

Our bodies are not indestructible, as much as our 20 something-year-old selves wanted to think. Middle age is a huge reality check in terms of this! This is where wisdom and insight becomes more valuable than gold or silver.

When I think of someone I know that treated their temples well, I think of my Grandpa and Grandma Deaton. They walked for exercise long before exercising was vogue. While they enjoyed food and desserts, they ate lots of vegetables and fruit. When visiting their house, a huge treat was strawberry and root beer in glass bottles … but this was a treat. They worked hard but also took time to play and enjoy life. My Grandpa was very healthy until he had an imminent aneurysm at 89. My Grandma lived two months shy of 103. Something worked for them.

At this stage of my life, what I do is important modeling for those whom I love. One day, Rick’s son Darran and his oldest son, Waylan, brought over a load of green chop for the heifers on pasture near Rick’s folks. I heard them coming behind me as I went for a run. A couple days later, Waylan said to me, “Dianne, we saw you running.” I’m not a very fast runner or a very good runner. But I pray that Waylan and his siblings see me making more good choices than evil choices. On the days I bring Ellie and Dylan to my in-laws, they know the routine. This includes me assisting my mother-in-law with exercises and physical therapy. Ersel and I chuckle as we watch 23-month-old Dylan imitate us. Ersel thinks Dylan could help her with exercises when I’m not at the farm.

I know I’m not always going to make every possible good choice each day. But I pray that I limit the evil choices. I want my good choices to be what people recognize of me rather than my evil choices.

Wisdom and insight: lofty ambitions but certainly worth the effort. Lord God, may my daily choices model a desire for me to make as few evil choices as possible. Steer me towards good choices and away from evil ones. As I practice my faith, may this inspire me to see more clearly and often the choices which are evil. Help me avoid them. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Chasing the Right Crown

greekolympicsOct. 29, 2013

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

For the majority of my life, I have exercised. There have been seasons when I have exercised more than others or more consistently. I have used a variety of workout methods: running, walking, classes, DVD’s, etc. I exercise because I know it is good for my body. It’s a way to care for my temple. Honestly, exercise is often a struggle for me. Too often, I procrastinate and exercise ends up at the day’s end. When I’m tired, the last thing I want to do is lace up my running shoes.

When Rick was able to run, he loved it. He got a “runner’s high,” a release of endorphins that often accompanies exercise. He felt energized for the rest of the day and said running gave energy. For me, not so much. Most often, it is grueling to get through a run. While exercising, I question why I’m doing this.

When Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth, he knew they were very familiar with the Greek Olympic Games. This was a huge annual sporting event. Winning athletes were superstars. For their accomplishments, winners received wreaths of olive leaves and jars of olive oil.

Paul wants Christians to remember the olive leaves these athletes received lived just for a little while. They wilted and died. When people run the race as a disciple of Christ, we too receive a crown. This crown is one that lasts for all of eternity. Which crown do you prefer?

Christians do not have to be superstar athletes. We don’t have to be super athletes. One way we care for our temples is to keep active through exercise.

While I seldom get an endorphin rush when I exercise, I often experience a clearing of the mind. I can stop all the business in my brain. When I exercise outside, I often connect my spiritual and physical lives by praying. I often will go for a run when I need to sort through a decision or brainstorm. Becoming clearer about a situation gives me energy.

I admire great athletes because I will never be one. This is not given me permission to stop caring for my body. Even if you feel limited physically, you can do things to care for your body. The last few months, my mother-in-law has committed to a regular physical therapy program. I have watched her get stronger and more able to do things. In turn, this has raised her spirits. Her improvements may seem marginal but for her they are significant. It inspires me to keep active and run after the eternal crown waiting for me.

We chase many things in this world. Lord God, inspire us to chase the right thing: your eternal crown. As a way of showing respect for the body you have given me, may I treat it well. Inspire me to care for my body, no matter what my physical level may be. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Feeding My Temple

foodOct. 28, 2013

John 4:32

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.

I have a love/hate relationship with food. I love to eat. My body also loves to receive food; a bit too much. All I have to do is look at something scrumptious and before I even put it into my mouth, my hips have found a secure location for the fat and sugar.

I have no clue how many magazine articles, books, things on the internet I have read that relate to feeding our bodies and losing weight. Still, I struggle with eating properly to keep my temple in tip-top shape. As I get older, my zero metabolism rate somehow becomes even slower if even possible. How I would love to have a normal metabolism for one week. Problem is, I would have a difficult time letting it go. Yes, this is something I covet.

For me, there is no easy, sure-fire way to hit my ideal weight on those charts. I can lose a little but I fall off the wagon. As an emotional eater, I eat when I’m happy, when I’m sad, to celebrate something or when I feel down. It is embarrassing to admit that sometimes food is my best friend.

Food was as much a part of social gatherings during Jesus’ day as today. But until the last number years, most people literally “worked” off what they ate. Yet most people eat the same (or larger) portion sizes.

If you are one of those people who can eat anything and look forward to hopping on the scale at the doctor’s office, kudos to you. For the rest of us, here are a few thoughts about caring for our temples with what and how we eat.

  • While many diets advise us on what we should or should not eat, it still comes down to quantity.  The best way to not eat so much is to push the plate away quicker or close the container/bag earlier.
  • Denying certain foods just does not work for me.
  • The best way to know what you eat is to track it. This is time consuming and not fun. There are lots of apps and online websites that are free.
  • The best way to avoid certain foods is not to have them available. We usually do not have ice cream in the house. Otherwise, I eat it. Rick has never met a chip that he didn’t like.
  • If overeating is a significant problem, work with someone to help, support or educate you.

As I overindulge, rarely do I think about how poorly I am treating my temple. But I am. In a country like ours that has a cheap food policy, few of us have struggled with knowing where our next meal was coming. For this, we should be grateful.

Jesus told the disciples that he can feed us in a way that food never can. That’s pretty amazing. The problem is most of us only think of getting fed by putting something on our plate. What about feeding ourselves the way Jesus wants to feed us? This is the way for us to be nourished forever.

We are so fortunate that seldom do we have to worry if we have food to eat, unlike many people in this world. Challenge us, Lord God, to cut back what we eat this next week and give the difference to a food pantry or a needy family. Challenge us to seek Jesus as eternal nourishment, rather than our favorite dish. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Your Sacred Temple

bodyOct. 27, 2013

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred – and you, remember, are the temple.

For the last three weeks, I’ve shared thoughts on our spiritual, emotional and mental lives. This week, we’ll ponder our physical lives.

Several years ago, I ran across these verses from 1 Corinthians. Read them again carefully. Here is how I interpret them: our bodies, created by God, are very special. In fact, we should think of our bodies as God’s holy temples, as sacred as a sanctuary in which people worship God. It is our responsibility to treat our temple carefully, not hurting it or caring poorly for it. When we treat our temples, our bodies poorly, we say to God that God’s creation is worthless and not sacred.

Whew. My body is God’s holy temple. We often think of a church as God’s temple. Here, it says our bodies are just as sacred as any old church building. The question becomes: how well do you care for your temple? Do you treat it like a sacred structure of God?

Most often, we tend to abuse our temples than treat them holy. We expect our bodies to run on little sleep, without proper nutrition and certainly with not enough exercise.  Let me be clear. In many ways, American culture puts a lot of ridiculous expectations on how we look. Young people feel pressure to be rail thin. We over admire outstanding athletes while downplaying a person’s intellect. Some people in wanting to have a model-thin body or achieve outstanding excellence in sports do damage to their temples.

Most of us will not be paid because of our physical appearance or abilities. Whether we are or not, we must respect our bodies as God’s holy and sacred creations. Before we can respect and achieve a properly balanced physical live, we need this understanding and respect. For the next few days, I’ll share a few thoughts about how we should treat our bodies. The things we’ll look at are things I struggle with. I pray we can remember how we treat our temples must come from seeing our bodies as a valued creation by God, designed for us to treat and properly care.

Thank you for creating my special body, my holy temple. Forgive me for when I have not treated it as a sacred part of your creation. Inspire me to treat my temple sacredly, with respect and honor to your name. Encourage me to ponder these next few days how I might honor my body more for the glory of your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Business Badge of Honor

800px-Stack_of_firewoodOct. 24, 2013

John 6:14-15

When the people realized what a great miracle had happened, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” Jesus saw that they were ready to take him by force and make him their king, so he went higher into the mountains alone.

I think there is a huge misconception within our society today: that the busiest person always wins. I’m not sure what we think he/she wins. It is almost a badge of honor to be so busy.

Think about it. When someone asks you, “How are you doing?” what is a common response? “Busy.” Someone asks, “Can you help with ____.” Our response, “Sorry, I’m too busy.”

I fall into this trap. I am amazed at how full my life is these days even though I do not have a regular paying job! This is not what I anticipated. Rick and I have decided that we have to ensure we make time to be. One beautiful September day, we took out the boat and buzzed around Lake Redstone for a couple hours. Being a weekday morning, there were few boats on the lake. We talked, soaked in the sun, could just be.

When was the last time you could just be? We need time to be … to be with ourselves … to be with God … to stop chasing the business badge of honor.

Today, Rick and I took a load of wood to his sister’s house. Rick threw it into the basement while I stacked it. It’s been years since I’ve stacked firewood. Growing up, we cut wood many Saturdays. It was not my favorite job. I did not think of cutting wood as quality family time but it was time together. Today, who has time to cut wood? Throw it down or stack it? It is much easier to pay for fuel online.

I do not want to start a discussion about whether to burn wood or not. I simply use burning wood as an example of how society has changed. With all of today’s gadgets and technology, our lives have not slowed down. No, they have only sped up.

Some days are truly busy. When I book too many of these in a row, my mental ability slows down. It diminishes. I get less sleep, which means my body does not get time to recoup. I exercise less. I do silly things that waste time because my mind cannot take in one more thing.

Somehow, Jesus kept himself refreshed, renewed and regenerated. I’m sure he neared mental exhaustion at times. In John 6, he has just finished feeding 5,000 people. How could he not be exhausted? My guess is he went up to the mountains not so much to avoid the people but because he understood the need to refresh himself by connecting his mental needs with spiritual renewal. Oh, if only I could be so disciplined.

Almighty God: help me see how business is not the same as holiness. Yes, you desire for me to work for your kingdom … but to make sure this work is fruitful and not just business. Help release me from pursuing the badge of business honor and rather to seek the things you most desire for me to do. When I get mentally exhausted, help me see the great need for me to just be with you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Realistic Expectations

shutterstock_Vector_Calendar_2013_110424602-300x300Oct. 23, 2013

Exodus 20:9-10a

Six days you shall labor and do all you work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work … For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in the, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 

I am a list maker. I love to make them. While I make lists for different reasons, my favorite is my daily “to do” list.  Most days, I have a list of things I want to accomplish. The only problem: I probably need 30 hours to get everything done.

The undone part of yesterday’s list now becomes part of today’s list. Of course, today’s list also has 30+ hours of items. By day’s end, I now have two uncompleted partial lists. And another full list for tomorrow!

Years ago, I took those classes which taught people to prioritize lists: classify them as A or B or C and then number within each category. Sometimes I color-code the lists. Until recent, I had two lists on a page: one for work and one for home. Over the years, I have made template pages for days of the week, weeks of month and months of the year to keep me organized. Unfortunately, next month’s items get out of whack because I never get everything done for this month. You see a pattern? It’s not a healthy one.

Lists are a way to capture things I do not want to forget. My problem is creating realistic lists. Honestly, there have been things I have carried forward for weeks that never get done. At some point, I stop putting it on the list. Sometimes things need to fall off the list. The things we don’t do can be a peak into our character. We can’t do everything. Mentally, we are to choose the things that fall into the areas we are best at. We must all do things we are not crazy about. But I also want to be doing the things I am the best at.

We are created to work and do good things for God’s kingdom. We are also created to simply be with God: to worship God, to take Sabbath, to enjoy our families and friends. Mentally, we need down time to re-energize ourselves for the next period of time. Down time is biblical, modeled for us by God.

The question often arises: “What constitutes Sabbath?” What is Sabbath for me may not be the same for another person. Personally, I think Sabbath should include specific time with God and worshiping God. Ideally, this is a way to rejuvenate ourselves and fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit.

Will I ever become more realistic about what can be done in a particular period of time as I make another list? Probably not in the near future. What I do pray is that the list never becomes more important than making time for Sabbath and worshiping God.

Thank you, Lord God, for a never-ending list of things we could do. Help us be discerning on what the most important things to do are and challenge us to complete them. Remind us again of the significance of creating Sabbath, time with you, our friends and family. May we make Sabbath something that does not fall off the list. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Few of My Favorite Things

Oct. 22, 2013

Psalm 84:11

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those walk is blameless.

While in the car today, three-year-old Ellie asked me, “Is the sun following us?” It kept getting into her eyes as we traveled down curvy roads. Earlier, in the TV room at my in-laws, she asked for sunglasses “because the sun was in my eyes.” Even Dylan struggled with the sun until I convinced him to move out of the direct sun.

After a few cloudy days, who doesn’t love a sunny day, even with a wind? Sun is a favorite of mine. I am not sure that I could live where it rains half the year.

When I need a mental break, I think (or indulge) in my favorite things:

  • Good lotion. My skin loves lotion. I choose to give it lotion it loves.
  • 8 o’clock coffee, introduced to me by my deceased Uncle Morrie.
  • Good napkins. His wife, Aunt Beverly, told me she no longer buys the cheapies. I took her advice and now spend a few cents more for nice ones.
  • My favorite running shoes. I think I am on my 10th pair of Asics Gel Kayano’s. I’ve tried others. I always go back.
  • Walking into a clean house after being gone. Before our first trip as a married couple, I stayed up most of the night taking down Christmas decorations and making sure the kitchen floor was clean. Rick thought I was crazy. It just makes me breathe better when I The_Sunopen the door.
  • Good-smelling bubble bath. Why bother with anything else?

There’s a song in my favorite musical that goes like this: “Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things.” You probably know it, “My Favorite Things.”

When my brain needs a pick-me-up, I remember my favorite things. I smell the lotion on my hands. I indulge in a cup of coffee. For Rick, it’s a beautiful sunrise or an awesome sunset.

How easy it is to stop relishing the little things that make life special. When we stop valuing these things, life only gets crazier. Remember the song’s ending: “When the dog bites, when the bee sting, when I’m feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”

Another favorite thing from today: just a couple minutes after Ellie asked if the sun was following us, she asked another question. She asked, “Is God following us?” My response: “Most definitely, Ellie. God follows us everywhere. Aren’t we lucky?” 

Lord God, help keep us humble. Help us realize that our days of growing and learning still abound. Make known to us specific ways you want us to grow and learn in the next few months. Help us see how we can find the time, the resources and the desire to keep our brains fit to serve you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Learning Doesn’t Stop at Graduation

child_learnOct. 21, 2013

Proverbs 9:9

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

Try to remember: how did graduation feel? There can be lots of answers: relief, anticipation, sense of accomplishment, joy, excitement, plus a bunch of others.

Each time I graduated, it was all the things listed above. But I also quickly realized after each graduation, the real learning had just begun. While I appreciate and value education significantly, formal education has never given me all the skills needed to properly do a job. There has always been on-the-job-training.

While in seminary, one professor cautioned us not to stop learning after graduation. He said it disappoints him to look at someone’s personal library and not see any new books since seminary. There continue to be lots of new ideas after formal education. There should be sifting and winnowing. His main message was to keep our minds active, to not stop challenging yourself, to explore new areas and ideas.

I took him too literally. I have more books about ministry than I can read. I’d have to read one book a week for multiple years to exhaust my unread stack.

Continuing education is an important want to challenge ourselves mentally. If you do not feel the need to continue to grow within your job, then learn how to grow spiritually, physically or in relationships. Identify an area of your life (fitness, finances, how to do something, etc.) that you would like to improve. Find three books in this area to buy, borrow or loan from the library and read them in the next two months. Reflect back about what you learned from this. If reading is not your best way of learning, attend a conference, join a group or do research on the internet. There are countless ways to easily expand knowledge.

Continued learning is not to become a smarty-pants. It is to keep ourselves intellectually motivated and challenged. Our brains need exercise, just like our bodies. Please, do not let learning stop at graduation. Decide you are going to grow in an exciting area this next year. And then do it.

Lord God, help keep us humble. Help us realize that our days of growing and learning still abound. Make known to us specific ways you want us to grow and learn in the next few months. Help us see how we can find the time, the resources and the desire to keep our brains fit to serve you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Taking a Mini-Vacation

At the top of Denzer Hill
At the top of Denzer Hill

 

It truly is rustic!
It truly is rustic!

 

DSC01349Oct. 17, 2013

Psalm 80:10

The mountains were covered with its shade, the might cedars with its branches.

Do you ever feel like you need a vacation? And there is not one in sight? Or if is one booked, it seems like a long ways away?

Create for yourself a mini-vacation.

I had one for some brief minutes this afternoon. I drove home via a different route than normal. It’s a route I used to drive and know well, through a rustic area of the Baraboo Bluffs. The leaves are maybe just past their peak. Yet, as I drove down Denzer Road, I felt like they were wearing their wedding clothes for me. The golden hour was nearing; the last couple hours of daylight. This is a golden time for photographers. While the shadows are long, the natural light is softer. It is diffused differently. It is a favorite time to capture nature’s beauty.

I stopped and shot a few quick pictures. The shots aren’t artistically staged. I took them in less than five minutes. As I stood in the middle of the road, I felt like on a mini-vacation. The air was crisp and quiet. I breathed in the beauty of the vibrant yellows, the copper reds and the brilliant oranges. A couple vehicles temporarily interrupted my mini-vacation but not enough to bother me.

A wonderful way to restore mental health is to create a little mini-vacation. Interestingly, I had no clue I would encounter one while driving home. It just happened! Maybe it was because of the leaves. Maybe it was because I was in the car by myself today (a rarity these days). Maybe it was because I was excited that I got a closet and bedroom cleaned at my in-laws. The reason is insignificant. Driving through the goergeous Baraboo bluffs, my heart felt lighter. I felt I was away, if only for a little while.

Our brains need breaks. Whether planned or completely by accident, when one comes along, capture it. They can be as simple as having coffee at your favorite spot, walking your favorite route, re-reading a favorite book. Something neat can happen with little mini-vacations. The right endorphins get released, a calmness creeps over us and we feel right.  We will re-enter the world soon enough. Relish the moments of a mini-vacation. Let your heart, mind and soul simply say, “Ahhhh…”

Lord God, thank you for giving me this special mini-vacation today. It was so completely unexpected and yet a great mental break. Thank you for orchestrating such brilliant colors along my route home today and the fortitude to stop and appreciate them. Forgive me when you wanted to give me a little mini-vacation and I was not savvy enough to recognize its disguise. I pray for those who desperately need a mini-vacation. May something come along in their lives to give them the needed mental break. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Half-Full Glasses, Silver Linings and Great Lemonade

lemonadeOct. 16, 2013

1 Timothy 1:16

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

After a crash course looking at spiritual and emotional health, let’s ponder mental health for a few days. Like spiritual and emotional health, our mental health varies greatly, within a day as well as day to day.

A couple years ago, I read a book called “The Happiness Project.” The basic concept is that if I focus on 12 areas of my life for one month at a time, I could create more happiness. I put together monthly goals, gave myself achievable weekly steps and developed a chart.

Then life happened. I cannot identify just what happened but confident it was a serious of events. As much as I want happiness in my life, all the world’s nifty charts would not bring happiness. Only I determine this for myself.

I think of happiness on a scale with the best possible score a 10. Some days I am a 3 and it’s OK. Of course, I desire to be an 8 or 9 but sometimes it isn’t possible. I don’t want to be negative very long, which happens when we are mentally overdrawn. I also know I cannot go from a -5 to an 8 overnight. Maybe the next day’s goal is to be -3.

I want to be a half-full glass kind of gal. I want silver linings in tough situations. I want to make lemonade out of lemons. Yet, there is a realistic side of me. Several years ago, I came to grips that my life has turned out completely different than I expected. But it still is my life. I determine whether I am will be joyful with these differences or not.

When someone asks you, “How are you today,” how do you answer? Years ago, I gave a sermon in which I identified my personal scale, three different answers, based on the day’s events. Afterwards, it was interesting how people reacted. Sometimes we can share too much of ourselves. I think it offered an example of how we mentally portray ourselves when we may not be having the best of days. Sometimes this is OK. Sometimes, we need safe places to fall when our mental health is challenged. Timothy believed in Christ’s patience with him. I pray we feel it also.

On a mission trip, the person in charge said to me, “Do you have to be so dang Pollyannaish all the time?” In the end, I’d rather be Pollyannaish more often than a grump. Jesus had a human side. I imagine him getting short with people who drove him crazy or took too long or constantly whined. But he also had the hope of tomorrow being a full glass day, extends us silver linings and thank goodness made lemonade out of his death. What a wonderful example of mental health he provides for us.

How much easier it is to blame you, Lord God, when we have a bad day than to give you thanks and blessings on our good days. Thank you for being patient with me when I did not present myself as a loving child of your family. Thank you for not giving up on me. May Christ’s witness of keeping himself a half-glass full kind of guy, a person who extended silver linings and a professional lemonade maker inspire me. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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