When Plans Fail

Business-Plan

Tues., Feb. 27, 2018

Proverbs 16:3 – Commit to the Lord whatever you do and he will establish your plans.  

Recently, I had one of those really embarrassing moments. I showed up for an appointment an hour late. So late, I missed the opportunity to participate in the planned event.

I coordinate a local non-profit that provides food to school-aged students who might not have enough weekend food. A local business invited me to share information about the program to employees during a luncheon. I had it in my calendar for 1 PM. The lunch was at 12 PM.

Here I was, standing in at the business. Samples of the food bags in hand, ready to share why the company’s recent donation would make a difference to students in our local school district. I was mortified, embarrassed and disgusted with myself.

Continue reading “When Plans Fail”

Friday Thoughts …

feelings emojis

Fri., Feb. 23, 2018

Proverbs 29:11 – Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

Anyone else feel like their emotions have been on a huge roller coaster ride the last 10 days?

Parkland.jpgOn Ash Wednesday, an unbelievable event happened in Parkland, FL, where 17 people at a school were killed. What a range of emotions the students and staff that go to this school have experienced, as well as their families and the entire community. The wake of this and similar events emotional carnage is impossible to measure.

On the flipside, our household has enjoyed watching the Olympics. Need a little pick-me-up?

Google “USA Women’s Hockey Olympic shoot out” or “USA Women’s Cross-Country Team Finish” and your adrenaline will quickly be pumping! Did you catch any of Lindsay Vonn’s emotional interviews? It is impossible for those of us who have never been involved in preparing for the Olympics understand the depth of time, commitment, sacrifice, determination and breadth of emotion the athletes and their families endure.

 

Billy Graham.jpgMany hearts have been touched in the death of an American icon, Billy Graham. Often dubbed, “American’s Pastor,” Graham took seriously the gospel’s call to take the word of Jesus to the ends of the earth. Graham took this charge literally. And changed millions of lives as a result.

Our country, communities and individuals have gone through lots of these emotional roller coasters before. Personally, my emotions can go from joyful to hurt or embarrassed in 3.5 seconds.

It’s hard to imagine Jesus going through an emotional roller coaster. I’m confident he did. We see this captured in “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) upon the depth of his good friend Lazarus to compassion he expressed to the children (Luke 18:16) as he drew little people into his arms.

What can we learn from recent events? Billy Graham? Jesus? Just a few thoughts:

  • Allow yourself to experience emotions. It’s OK. Let’s give ourselves permission to do so.
  • Emotions can challenge us into action. When our hearts are deeply touched by something, may we be the ones who say, “Can something different be done?”
  • Keeping ourselves calm is not easy. When calmness is elusive, may faith in Christ bring us calmness and quiet our over-active souls.
  • Even when our bodies wear out and our roles on this earth changes, may we have enough good sense to allow Christ to continue to speak through us.

Making ourselves vulnerable is more than a little challenging for some stoic people. It’s easy for these same stoic people to wish those who wear their emotions on their sleeves would find a more appropriate way to show emotions. Maybe what we all need is just a little more understanding of emotions like Jesus seemingly had.

Lord Jesus – thank you for sharing with us how important it is to exhibit our emotions. Help us keep calm in your love and truly be agents of your grace to others.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

 

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More Than a Little Patience

computerSat., Feb. 17, 2018

Ecclesiastes 7:8 – The end of a matter is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride.

Some days, I have a little more patience than others.

A couple months ago, I ordered a new laptop. As I move into a different stage of life, a new laptop would be a symbolic way to lead the change. My previous laptop was over five years old. It had been used hard. Someday, it would stop working.

The new laptop arrived at Christmas. Because of other priorities, I didn’t get it up and running. Meanwhile, the screen on my old laptop stop working. I creatively figured out how to copy the files off the hard drive. I plugged the HDMI cable from our television into the computer and copied the files onto a flash drive.

I knew setting up the new laptop would take a few hours. When I finally made it a priority, it became clear the laptop was not running as it should. The internet connection didn’t work. Not a computer guru, my limited computer wisdom was exhausted and the laptop was still not working right. It was time to call the manufacture for assistance.

Why is it whenever I call a company for technical support or assistance, my patience meter bottoms out? I lose all ability to keep a calm and steady voice and quickly become frustrated. This instance was no acceptation. I deserve a demerit for lack of patience with the tech who tried to help me out.

The solution involved rebooting the entire system which would take hours. We set-up a time for a call-back the next day to see if the laptop was working. The internet connection was now operational but there were still some bugs. During this session, I was a bit more patient and less sharp with the tech. A couple more hours on the phone and whew, the laptop seems to be operational.

I am embarrassed at my lack of patience through this process. The techs were doing their jobs and trying to help me. I was not gracious. I could only focus on the time this was taking me. I was not a very gracious customer.

I cannot begin to imagine the number of times God has wanted to overhaul me and I ignored God. Maybe just some tweaking and I was not patient enough with God to hear and see what God laid out before me. Did God give up on me when I needed an overnight timeout to get a different perspective? Thanks goodness, no! When God checked in with me the next day or week or month, was I able to reflect upon the situation from a different view? Could I step back and appreciate the wisdom and help coming my way, even if I wasn’t completely onboard?

Thank goodness God is far more patient with me than I deserve. Thanks be to God.

Lord God – thank you, thank you, thank you for being patient with me!  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Beginning of Lent

Lent 2018 image AW-page-001Wed., Feb. 14, 2018

While most people will see today as Valentine’s Day, I pray many will also acknowledge today as the beginning of Lent: Ash Wednesday.

It’s the day Christians begin a 40-day pilgrimage towards Easter. It’s a time for us to contemplate our relationship with God: who God is in our lives and what God means to us.

I love this quote by Alicia Britt Chole: Lent is about thinning our lives in order to thicken our communion with God.

Often, Lent is thought of as a time we deprive ourselves of something. I have abstained from sweets during Lent for years. While this is OK, if Lent is only eliminating a food we love, then maybe we are missing some of the intention of Lent. Ultimately, Lent is about providing opportunities for us to feel closer to God.

I’m attaching a link to a “Daily Lent Activity List.” 2018LentList

Provided by Portico Collective, this is a nice list of ways we can maybe think about how God is part of our daily lives in a very practical and real way. I encourage you to print off the list and check off a box each day. This is one of my Lenten priorities.

Father God – thank you for this long-standing tradition of re-examining ourselves during Lent. Teach me something new about You and myself this next 40 days. May you amaze and surprise me daily.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Loving Your Valentine Every Day

Rick's JournalTues., Feb. 13, 2018

John 13:34 – Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  

Years ago, I remember someone saying Hallmark “created”  a whole bunch of holidays to sell more cards. Tomorrow maybe the grandest of Hallmark holiday of them all: Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is more than just cards. It’s flowers, chocolates, candies, balloons, jewelry  and a bunch of ways we express love to someone we care for. My tradition with our grandkids: Subway gift cards!

My sister, Debbie, is a florist. It’s no secret. Valentine’s is one of her busiest days of the year. Right next to Mother’s Day.

Why? People like to acknowledge special people in their lives. Many of us will finish addressing Valentine’s Day cards today. Lots of heart-shaped cookies will be baked tonight, as well as yummy cupcakes, later adorned with lots of red and pink sprinkles. Whether Hallmark started the tradition of sending Valentine’s Day cards out or not, haven’t we all participated in the holiday?

For my husband Rick and I, we often approach holidays a bit non-traditionally. We may get each other a card, but with Rick, there is usually some little twist. Last year, I shared how Rick gave me a homemade birdhouse and a birthday card for Valentine’s Day! The birthday card was only over a month late, but who is counting? Several years ago, Rick showed up with a dozen roses a week earlier than Valentine’s Day. He couldn’t justify spending a ridiculous amount of money for roses on Valentine’s Day. He took advantage of the pre-Valentine Day prices and brought them home a bit early.

My ideas to honor my sweetie have often fallen short. After last year’s birdhouse, I was inspired to come up with a better idea for this year. I decided to create a year-long, daily reminder of some way Rick expressed his love and devotion to me every day.

It was actually very simple. I bought a generic date book at an office supply store. The particular one I purchased had two days on a page, with several lines for each day. Each day, I took a couple minutes and wrote down something meaningful Rick did for me the previous day. Some days were a little challenging. Until very recently, we did not see each other every day of the week. For years, in-between his work shifts, Rick stayed at his parent’s farm. This recently changed. Usually once a week, I would see him at the farm. This still left a couple days a week we didn’t see each other. On these days, I would be more creative: thankful for the text he sent, appreciate the way he provides for our family, admiration for how he is so dedicated to his job.

Feb. 14What was the purpose of doing this daily appreciation? It reminded me of 365 ways I love, value and appreciate my Sweetie Pea. Some days, my comments are very simple. Other days, there may be a bit more depth. None of my comments took more than a couple minutes to write. Each day, I chose to recall a personality trait, act of kindness or way Rick has made my life special and more meaningful.

This little exercise has taught me how to love and value my Valentine every day of the year; not just on a Hallmark holiday.

Whoever your Valentine might be (spouse, child, parent, special someone), how might you take just a couple minutes and express your love, gratitude and appreciation for them these next 365 days?

Feb. 13
One last day to fill in Rick’s journal before Valentine’s Day tomorrow!

 

Rick isn’t aware that tomorrow, he will receive this date book filled with my affirmations. Can you please help me keep the secret one more day? He doesn’t read my blog. Often, someone will mention something to him that I’ve shared in this blog. Please feel free to recall this to him … but just after Feb. 15. Thanks so much in advance!

Lord God – thank you for teaching us how to love each other unconditionally. May the way we love and express our love to those who mean the most to us always be rooted and reflect the great love we receive and acknowledge from you.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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White as Snow

Mon., Feb. 12, 2018

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  

For the last week, our Wisconsin neighborhood has had a pristine, beautiful new blanket of snow. When the sun is sparkling on the snow, it is simply breath-taking.

Our neighbors, the Hahn’s, are gone for several weeks this winter. They smartly head south and spend time in a warmer climate, avoiding the snow, wind and cold of a normal Wisconsin winter. A couple days ago, I looked out my kitchen window towards the Hahn’s. What I saw was magnifico: an untouched sheet of beautiful winter white snow in the lawn between our houses. Their driveway was completely untouched. There is no need for the snow to be moved while they are absent from the neighborhood. It was late afternoon. The angle of the low sun heightened the gorgeous twinkling of the miniture ice crystals. Literally, my expression was caught in my throat, overwhelmed with the raw beauty.

When I looked down the side of the house, I noticed some filled-in tracks close to the house. I’m not exactly sure what created these small divets in the snow. I didn’t want to disturb this beautiful sight by tromping through the snow to see if I could determine who made the tracks. The pictures I took completely do not serve the sight justice. Yet, I simply did not want to ruin this lovely scene in our yard.

One of my first thoughts after observing this unique scene in our yard: how the snow can be a metaphor for God’s desire to remove sin and shortcoming from our life. One of the mysteries of God is God’s decision to remove sins from our lives simply for the asking. Yes, the sins are bought with a cost: the life of Jesus. Yet, God willingly does this simply for our benefit. No questions asked. The sin is simply gone.

It’s hard to justify walking through the snow and disturbing the lovely scene currently there. It maybe hard for us to envision God giving up his only biological son’s life for our benefit. But God did. My sin life is far less pristine than the narrow strip of land between our and the Hahn’s house. In all of God’s glory, God overlooks all of my shortcomings and loves me anyone. God does the same for you. Thanks be to God.

Almighty God – how you can simply overlook our sin and forgive it is beyond me. But thank you for doing this … purely for my benefit. May I see your desire to wipe my slate clear as something deeply meaningful for me.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Season of Change

changeThurs., Feb. 8, 2018

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  

There are times when we have more change in our lives than others. For the past 60 days, I have been in an accelerated phases of change.

After 18 years of pastoral ministry, I stepped away from the two churches I had been serving on Nov. 30, 2017. Initiated by myself, my heart felt it was time to explore another calling in my life: writing. For years, I have privately wanted to focus more on writing. Serving two churches, having another part-time job, helping with family, remodeling a 100+-year-old house, community volunteer work — it all took priority. There have been times I’ve blogged and written regularly. Other times, not so much.

Armed with several ideas of what I could write about, I determined writing was not going to happen unless I reorganized my life. I needed to step back and be more mindful of choices I make.

So, I began a new chapter of my life on Dec. 1, 2017. It has been over 60 days and I’m still figuring out this new phase. The first week, I worked additional time at my part-time job. Then, I embraced a slower pace of preparing for Christmas. I enjoyed baking, preparing our special Deaton Christmas presents (more here: https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2017/12/24/the-winnebago-camper/) and organizing family gatherings.

While my family knew my Mom’s health would change overnight, we were still a bit taken off-guard how quickly it happened. Apparent daily changes began a couple days before Christmas. A couple days later, she was enrolled on Hospice.

Because I had stepped away from pastoral ministry, I had the flexibility to spend more time with Mom the last weeks of her life. For this, I am very grateful as it gave me time to reflect and think. (More here: https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2018/01/15/lessons-on-living-and-dying/)

Yet, real life continued. Less than 48 hours before Mom’s service, I came down with an infection which involved an early morning trip to urgent care. The night after we celebrated Mom’s life, Rick and I got home late. It had been a cold, windy and snowy day. Once inside, our house was cold. The thermostat confirmed this as it read 47 degrees. In the morning, Rick initiated a service call. It took a little convincing to ensure a repair person would visit our house that day and not two days later.

This was over two weeks ago. I still feel like I’m trying to get my feet underneath me. When someone asks how my “retirement” is going, it’s hard to put into words. I don’t think of myself as retired; just not earning a regular paycheck. I anticipated prioritizing writing several hours a day a priority, creating this discipline has been more challenging. It’s easy to fill up time with volunteer opportunities. Rick warned that it would be very easy for me to take on commitments that would distract me from writing. His advice is proving every accurate.

Rick’s work shift has also changed. For the first time in our 17+ years of marriage, we see each other EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. Previously, this only happened during the six-month period when I took care of Rick’s Mom at the end of her life. Rick works 12-hour night shifts. Therefore, mornings must be quiet. If I am home, we lunch together. I miss going to what was his parent’s farm and having lunch together on the days I work my part-time job. We’d sit at the table where we often sat with Rick’s parents.

What else has changed? Sunday mornings are different. A couple weeks into December, Rick admitted I have screwed up his Sunday routine. I no longer leave for the early church service at 7 AM. Rick enjoyed a couple hours on his own before walking to the 10 AM service. We are still sorting through Sunday worship.

The biggest change for me: figuring out a schedule that keeps me accountable, focused on what is important and flexible. There are so many things I want to do. Prioritizing them has been evasive. I am trying to build more quiet and reflective time into my life and not running a million miles an hour. I keep making lists. Sometimes, it takes a day or two to get things crossed off.

What hasn’t changed? Christ’s presence in my life. How I reflect and practice faith has changed. Jesus isn’t changing. I’m changing. I am trying to simply be along on this journey with Jesus. This is outside my normal wheelhouse. Yet, I believe I can learn more about Jesus, God and myself if I let my life evolve. I pray I listen to God closely enough to hear hints that get dropped along the way, pick up the most important ones and allow this period of change to become my more authentic self in God.

Lord God – thanks for being so consistent in my life. As I evolve, may I be guided by you to become more the person you desire for me to be. Thank you for always being patient with me. Mold me and make me this day.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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