Gratitude Day 53 – The Growth of Beauty

queen anne's laceWed., May 30, 2018

Isaiah 40:8 – The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

Look at these Bridal Wreath shrubs. Simply stunning. Even Hubby Rick thought so. We went for a bike ride on Monday and rode past them. (FYI – Rick fixed the back tire of my bike. The nubby, hard to ride tire has been replaced with the normal hybrid tire. Much better!) While Rick is not really a flower connoisseur, even he remarked how beautiful they are.

The last four days in Wisconsin have been hot. Blistering hot for us. Four days of 90+ weather. While this may be normal in other parts of the U.S., this is highly unusual for us in May. Like maybe the first time ever?

Winter ran very late this year.  We skipped spring completely and went right to summer. The flowers aren’t quite sure what season it is. So many have bloomed in the last few days. Just like this bank of Bridal Wreath.

This picture isn’t from our house. We took a little detour and rode past them because they were so stunning. Rick suggested we plant a hedge of these in our yard. He thought they would look great! Yes, he is right. I gently reminded him that this hedge took years to grow. Years.

Likewise, faith takes years to grow. Years. Yes, faith can accelerate and take off. However, the more contemplative, deep-rooted faith which does not get easily shaken takes more than a few full moons to develop.

If you feel like the depth of your faith is not where you would like it to be, do not become discouraged. The Bridal Wreath didn’t grow overnight. Neither may your faith.

Feel like you have years of faith under your belt and it still gets tested? Not to worry. We quickly find a whole bunch of people in the Bible who should have known better … and didn’t. David, Solomon, Elijah, Peter are just a few names that come quickly to mind. I left off a whole bunch more possibilities.

There are days when our faith may be at its peak and it is a beautiful display. Other days, our faith cannot seem to find a way to get up and make it out of bed. And this is OK.

No matter where your faith is today, it’s OK. God is with you right where you are. God will be with you. God’s word will endure today, tomorrow and the next day. Even after the beautiful flowers have faded away.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – may we be amazed at the beauty to grace our world with. May we strive to bring beauty through our actions to our little corner of the world. When our faith is not as stellar, may we simply be sustained by Your word, which never ends. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 53 – Remember

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Tues., May 29, 2018

Isaiah 46:9 – Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

On Monday, Americans celebrated Memorial Day. This is a day we remember those who have given their lives while in service for our country; those killed in active duty as part of our military.

Hubby Rick and I attended the local Memorial Day service, hosted by the local American-Legon Post.  The main speaker, a retired service person, shared with us the number of Americans killed while in active duty for our country. Afterwards, Rick and I commented how we had not heard this numbers previously.

When trying to find the numbers used at the service we attended, I discovered there are more than one version of these numbers. Some include vets not “in theater;” some do not. I know the numbers in the picture I share with this post are not the same numbers shared during the service. Rather than getting caught up in what is the “right” numbers, I pray we can simply get a glimpse of how many U.S. vets have lost their lives in American wars.

In adding up the numbers in the graphic, I come up with the number of 1,196,554 American service people killed in active war situations. Each person killed represents an entire family that was affected. Affected parents, spouses, children, siblings and extended family. Lives that were changed because of the loss of a loved one.

Memorial Day is about remembering. As staggering as the +1 million Americans that have been killed while serving their country, there are many other countries around the world which could display even more significant number of active duty deaths. These deaths also represent entire affected families.

We do not have to read very far into the Bible to discover killings, wars and affected families. These details make Scripture very difficult for some people to read, believe and understand. How can a gracious God allow such awful things to happen in this world? Even ordain such behavior, as is found in the Old Testament? I cannot begin to speak for God on this topic. I simply let this be a question to be asked when it can be addressed to the only One who can adequately answer it.

My role as a Christian is simply to remember. Just as God was with people thousands of years ago, God is with me today. Remember of all the crazy things in this world, the one constant thing is God’s presence with those who have come before me, during my lifetime as well as those who will come after me. Remember. Remember God. Remember God loves me.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – there are parts of the Bible that maybe difficult for us to understand. Like all the killing and fighting. I pray we can remember your presence with people years ago, just as you are present with us yet today. Help us to remember you daily.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 51 – Summer is Here!

 

Sun., May 27, 201

Kids at Mirror Lake
Hubby and our three youngest grandkids: Dylan, Ellie and Waylan

Proverbs 14:30 – A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life; jealousy rots it away.

While the calendar still says “May,” today in Wisconsin, it felt as if summer arrived. While in the car Saturday afternoon, the temperature registered at 92 degrees Fahrenheit. It is hard to image that a short six weeks ago, many inches of snow dotted our landscape.

Hubby Rick and I took full advantage of the beautiful weather. We had our youngest three grandchildren for the day. And we did everything summer. Jumping on the trampoline. Picnic in the park. (Yes, we cheated and picked up food at Culver’s, a local take-out restaurant.) Swam in the water. Played in the sand. Learned about various wild animal tracks. Stopped for ice cream. Basically, we checked off most of the items we would put on a “great summer day” list. Only downside? Because we have had lots of rain in May, the mosquitos are persistent. We kept sun screen and bug spray nearby all day.

The last two days, Rick and I have spent working and playing together. It has been great! Maybe what I needed to appreciate all that I have in my life.

We all need space in which we step back from our daily lives and rediscover what makes us tick and what is so important to us. I have been able to do this the last two days.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thanks for a couple days of relaxation in which I have uncovered just a bit of my mojo again. I pray that my relaxed attitude of today can sustain me for days ahead. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 49 – The Present

 Fri., May 25, 2018

Colossians 3:15 – Let the peace of heart that comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives, for this is your responsibility and privilege as members of his body. And always be thankful.

Today, I looked at the calendar and realized it is almost the end of May. It will soon be six months since I stepped back from serving two churches. I did this to focus on writing and other things I feel God calling me towards. Six months. I had so many great hopes for this last six months. While some things have happened, some have not.

An earlier version of this post included some things I have accomplished in the last six months as well as things I haven’t done. In the end, I deleted it all. I’m not sure you all needed to read what I wrote. Maybe, I just needed to type it.

So, let me just try to summarize a bit of what I am feeling today:

  • Life happens. As much as we can plan, make lists and will ourselves to do things that seem important to us, it may or may not happen.
  • Each day is a gift from God. I pray that I never forget this. I pray I treasure each day, whether I cross anything off my to-do list or not.
  • I will spend my entire life trying to perfect myself. It will never happen. God is OK with this. I pray I can be as well.

When I got home from work last night, there was an envelope in the mail. Upon opening it, I found this sweet, sweet card from a little person in my life. The card says this:

“I can always look up to you … thank you for being someone we can look up to!”

There are days in which I struggle with marking my little mark in this world. If blood is pulsing through your body, you will struggle with this at some point. Whether I really am someone who this little person looks up to, it sure feels good to hear it. Amen?

20180524_181138In my office, this old window hangs on the wall. On it, I have attached important things in my life. There are a bunch of other important things not represented on this window. Recently, I find myself using this window as a gratitude board.

I put this card on the window. Why? It represents a family that is important to me. It’s a great reminder that while my to-do list may not have gotten much shorter this week, life is about more than this list. It’s about many intangible things.

My reality today is being comfortable with my relationship with God, those important to me and letting God help me with the rest.

I embarked on these observances of gratitude in my daily life for a simple reason. Gratitude keeps us focused on the present. I pray that as I share a little gratitude lesson from my life, you maybe inspired to discover daily gratitude. In doing so, may it keep you focused on the gift of today. The gift of the present.

Thank you, God, for today. The present. It is a gift.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – some days we find ourselves questioning so many things. Certainly, this can be a helpful exercise. I pray we find islands of gratitude in our daily lives to keep us connected to today, the present. Thank you for being a part of our lives today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 48 – A Fixed Bike Tire

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Wed., May 23, 2018

Luke 3:5 – (Jesus said,) “Fill up every valley and level every mountain and hill. Straighten the crooked paths and smooth out the rough roads.”

It’s spring … time to get my bike out!

Several days ago, I took my bike for an evening bike ride. This bike has seen a lot of miles. When our grandsons come to visit, they love to take our bikes for rides around town. It was easy to see they had ridden it more recently than I had. The seat was too high, the brakes were squeaky, the rear tire didn’t track straight. I mean, it really did not track straight.

The next day, I asked Hubby Rick to look at the rear tire. It was now completely flat. I had put air in the tire the previous day. Clearly, something else was going on.

Later, Rick asked if I wanted to go for a bike ride/walk. Yep, I did. As I pulled my bike out of the garage, I realized his “fix” was not exactly what I had hoped for. Maybe I needed to be more specific. My bike is a hybrid. This means the tires are more narrow and smooth. The “repaired” tire was a nubby, mountain bike tire. Rick simply took a tire he had in the garage and put it on my bike.

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Technically, he had “fixed” the tire. Just maybe not how I had anticipated. Rick quickly reminded me that we were out to exercise. This tire ensured I would have a good workout!

Don’t the tires look a little like life? There are phases of life that are more smooth-sailing: flat, predictable and gentle. Then, there are the hilly, unpredictable and rough times. The path between the two is often very narrow and can change so quickly. Sometimes, we may feel stuck in the unpredictable stage and are unsure how to get back to smoother ground. Finding the transition between the two can be challenging at best.

In the bible verse shared above, Jesus is quoting scripture from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. He is the voice crying out of the wilderness, encouraging people to prepare for the Lord. For this Lord will fill difficult valleys, make mountains and valleys become low, straighten crooked paths and smooth out rough ways. Most importantly: in this voice, people will see the salvation of God.

20180517_192021When rough patches come into your life and your life is feeling a bit like the repaired back tire of my bike, remember Jesus’ words. The Lord is with you: on wide and narrow paths, through hills and valleys; as well as rough patches that need smoothing. There is no need to go through these challenging times alone. See the salvation of God in Jesus Christ and know you have an advocate that is pulling your bike when you need pulling and pushing from the rear when you need pushing.

I know it’s easy to get frustrated when God’s “repair” may not look exactly like we would like. The promise isn’t for the tire to be repaired just how we would like. The promise is to always be with us. No matter what. Whether we want the assistance or not.

Wow. Isn’t this amazing?

For this, I am grateful.

Thank you, Lord God, for being on this journey of life with us. May we see salvation in you as a precious gift. Thanks for helping us find paths that are more comfortable. And when the road is rough and bumpy, thanks for always tagging along. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 47 – Just a Phone Call Away

call to God

Tues., May 22, 2018

Psalm 18:6 – I was in terrible trouble when I called out to you, but from your temple you heard me and answered my prayer.

Explaining prayer can be difficult; especially to kids. To help them understand prayer, I often say prayer is like making a phone call to God. I encourage them to talk to God as if they were talking to a friend on the phone.

In Melanie Shankle’s book Everyday Holy, she writes about watching Barbara Walters interviewing Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen spoke of the ups and downs of her career and life. During the interview, a clip of Ellen’s first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was shown. In the clip, Ellen talks about wondering if fleas are necessary and calling God on the phone to ask.

After the clip, Barbara asked Ellen what she would say to God if she could really call God on the phone. In complete sincerity, Ellen said, “I’d say thank you. I’ve got nothing but gratitude. My whole life. I’m so blessed. I’m so lucky and I feel it every day.”

Gratitude. Blessings. Thank you.

Prayer really is like a phone call with God. Think about your last prayers with God. How much time did you spend thanking God for what God has already done in your life? Are you quick to express gratitude for what we have as a priority over our personal check-list of what we want God to do for us today?

Yes, God answers our prayers. We find confirmation of this in scripture. Maybe our prayers aren’t answered how we would prefer. Yet, I pray we take opportunities to thank God for answering prayer, for daily provisions, gratitude for what we have. In your next phone call with God, please make this the first part of your phone call.

Just in case you are listening in God, I know you answer prayer.

For this, I am grateful.

Thank you, God, for all the times you have answered our prayers. Thank you for providing what we need and more in our lives. Thank you for guiding us daily. Thank you for calling us as your children. Amen

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 46 – Stand By Me

Mon., May 21, 2018

Kingdom choir

1 Kings 19:11-13 – “Go out and stand on the mountain,” the Lord replied. “I want you to see me when I pass by.” All at once, a strong wind shook the mountain and shattered the rocks. But the Lord was not in the wind. Next, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Finally, there was a gentle breeze, and when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat. He went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. The Lord asked, “Elijah, why are you here?”

When the familiar chords to the beginning of the song began, a little smile crept on the bride and groom’s face. A little surprise. Maybe, even a bit of a gift to their guests.

Watching the royal weddings has become a bit of a tradition for me. I remember waking up before the crack of dawn with my younger sister, Debbie, and watching Princess Diana wed Prince Charles. Yes, I watched William and Kate’s ceremony. I had given very little thought into watching Henry and Megan’s wedding. Up at 6 AM on Saturday, I quickly turned on the television and caught the beautifully decorated chapel, the variety of clergy who participate in the service and the gorgeous 16-foot train.

The part of the service that caught my attention the most? When the Kingdom’s Chorus sang the spiritual, “Stand By Me.”

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, No I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh, stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me,
Stand by me

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh, stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me,
Stand by me

This 20-member choir gave the rest of the world their gift: a spiritually inspired version of this song that has come to symbolize strength when we need it the most.

As I listened to the choir sing this song, feelings welled up inside of me. I’m drawn to the feeling that God stands by me and everyone else. When I hear this song, I almost feel as if God is saying to me, “My darling Dianne, stand by me. Just stand by me.”

Recognizing God in our daily lives can sometimes be challenging. Where is God during those awful days of our lives? The ones we yearn to be over and want to forget?

Elijah had been through an excruciating time in his life. When everyone else turned away from God, he remained faithful. But it cost him dearly. Fearing for his life, he ran away. He prayed for God to take his life. Death seemed more comforting than life. After being guided by God’s angel for 40 days and nights, he spent a night in a cave. God visited him and questioned why Elijah was hiding out in a cave. Elijah’s reply: I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me, God, and here I am, all alone.

God guided Elijah to stand on the mountain and watch. First, there was a mighty wind, then an earthquake, followed up by a fire. God was not in any of these potential disasters. God arrived last, in the soft whisper of a voice. A breath. As quiet as can be.

If you have experienced your own disasters, take peace. God stands with you. When you tumble and fall, God is ready to pick you up. In the dark days of life, be not afraid. God stands by you.

I do not know why Harry and Megan chose this song for their wedding. I pray they remember Who stands with them in the days ahead. God was with Elijah. God will be with the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. God stands with you. God stands with me.

For this, I am grateful.

You are truly amazing, Lord God. As much as we may feel alone, I pray we do not forget that you, Lord God, always stand with us. Thank you for this. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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