Gratitude Day 70 – World’s Best Pastor

Sun., July 1, 2018

1 Timothy 5:24a – Remember that some men, even pastors, lead sinful lives, and everyone knows it.

It was a gift, given out of love and admiration. It came with the warning that, “I may not want to wear it on Sunday mornings.”

best pastor

After opening the package in the privacy of our home and discovering this t-shirt, I knew why the comment was shared. The family wanted me to know how much they appreciated me. I love them for this. But the words intimidated me. Even putting the t-shirt in the drawer with a bunch of other t-shirts felt uncomfortable.

One Sunday evening home alone, I found the courage to try it on. And quietly put it back into the drawer. I wasn’t sure it would ever see the light of day again.

While packing for last week’s mission trip, the t-shirt became part of a pile I grabbed from the drawer. I held it in my hands. Should I take it? Should I not take it? What to do? With enough room in my suitcase, it found a small private corner for the journey.

I was slated to give the Tuesday night message during worship. As I changed out of my painting clothes, I handled the t-shirt again. Should I wear it? Should I not wear it? What to do? A female chaperone noticed the message and chuckled. With her encouragement, I bravely put it on.

When I walked into the room where everyone was eating dinner, I felt a spotlight shining on me. Was I confident enough to wear such a bold statement? My mind did a quick mental back-and-forth teeter-totter. I remember the evening’s intention and I decided to own it.

During the message, I correlated faith to an EKG line: sometimes the line goes up, sometimes the line goes down. A flat line isn’t good news.

Personal faith journeys are the same. Sometimes we feel closer to God. Sometimes God feels very far away. When our faith journey is flat, we are in big trouble.

As a pastor, I have had the awesome opportunity to witness people at the peak of their spiritual journeys. Unfortunately, I have observed people who feel God let them down. While I can hold hand of a person who feels abandoned by God, I can never be God.

My message to the teens: I am not the world’s best pastor. My sinful nature won’t allow this. Only Jesus can fill this role. As God’s perfect Son, this is a role only He can fill. My prayer is for these teens to discover Jesus as their best pastor.

It is important for us to have a community where we can go when our spiritual journeys are below the flat line. It is necessary for people to pray and encourage us when we struggle with faith. When this happens, I pray Jesus is our part back-up plan. Christ wants to be your best pastor. He yearns to have you crawl into his well-used arms and find comfort and peace. With you, Christ anticipates the day when your spiritual journey will grow again.

My role is to point people to the world’s best pastor. Jesus thanks for being the world’s best pastor. For this I am grateful.

Jesus – it’s the most difficult role in the world. And thank you, for accepting this daunting, difficult and demanding role. Please be patient with me when I struggle with faith and forget to seek you as my best pastor. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 69 – Humor

Fri., June 29, 2018

Proverbs 17:22 – A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.

Do you know someone who has the gift of humor? A person who brings a lightness to life and encourages people to not take life too seriously? Someone who quietly (or not so quietly) can change a tense situation into a more jovial atmosphere with one simple sentence?

Hubby Rick is one of those people. His goal is to get people to smile whether they want to or not. One of his favorite lines while encouraging kids to do something they may or may not want to do is, “No smiling allowed.”

He cracks me (and everyone else in these situations) up.

partly sunny

I apologize for the picture. It is not the best one of Rick. I am simply seizing the opportunity to reverse the humor tables. Recently, while on a walk, one of the lenses from his $1 sunglasses popped out. Last week while on mission trip, this also happened. His response to the work crew who witnessed this? (Hear this in a deadpan voice.)

“These are my partly-cloudy sunglasses.”

It was so corny, everyone laughed. Or groaned.

This is one of his most recent “lines” that rolls off of his tongue with the same effortlessness as, “How are you today?”

When Rick is in the company of people who haven’t heard some of his favorite one-liners, watch out. They are launched indiscriminately, one right after another.

His poor work crew last week.

His lucky work crew last week. They witnessed how Rick can lighten a situation in less than 10 seconds with one of his infamous one-liners. If the first one does not achieve the desired reaction, another one will gently slip into the conversation in the not-so-distant future.

Why am I grateful for his little humor jingles? Because his disposition is so different from mine. He is oil, and I am water. He is hot, and I am cold. He is the crack-up. If saving my soul depended upon telling a good joke, I would be in a heap of trouble. Literally.

After nearly 18 years of marriage, he has almost figured out when not to interject humor in a situation that I may not find very funny. It took awhile for him to navigate this winding road. Maybe I am just more tolerant these days.

Shortly after we were married, Rick gave me a secret code. If we were in a situation where he had used humor inappropriately, I should casually pinch his elbow. He would know he had crossed a line.

How has this played out in real life? After delivering a line that could be a questionable landmine, he shares how he constantly had black-and-blue elbows the first several years of our marriage. If I make any movement towards his elbow, a loud “Ouch!” ensues before I have reached his limb.

One reason I was attracted to Rick was his ability to convey something in a completely unusual, and yet memorable, way. Most of the time, I celebrate his child-like attitude that never ages and can relate to anyone within the 2- and the 102-age bracket.

The most interesting part of this little tale? There is a 6-year-old Vielhuber who can spout back one-liners almost as quick as his Grandpa. His name is Dylan.

Rick & Dylan

For humor, Hubby Rick, Dylan and all those people who have the innate ability to lighten a day with one simple spoken thought, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for the gift of humor. It is especially necessary for those of us who struggle with light-heartedness and take life too seriously. May we experience Your gift of humor in your kingdom daily. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 69 – Serving

whole group

Wed., June 27, 2018

1 Samuel 25:41 – She bowed low to the ground and said, “I am your servant, ready to serve and wash the feet of my master’s helpers.”

The goal for the week was simple: discover ways to wash other’s feet.

Maya sawing

Hubby Rick, our eldest two grandsons and I were part of about 100 youth and adults who traveled two days via coach buses to just outside our country’s capital city of Washington D.C. During the next four days, we painted; reroofed part of a house; built fences; shored up a crumbling wall and poured new concrete; cleaned yards and used our bodies to serve as Christ’s hands and feet. We ate lots of sandwiches; worshiped nightly: played pool, ping-pong, cards and cribbage; slept on cots or inflatable mattresses; cleaned our dirty and tired bodies in portable shower trailers; and shared our lives while answering devotional questions with our crews over lunch. We tried not to get frustrated by the sheer level of daily traffic in the D.C. area, as most of us are from small Wisconsin communities. We were amazed by the grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial and impressed by the Smithsonian’s or reflective at the Holocaust Museum. We forged new friendships, reconnected with some we had met before and discovered people from different backgrounds can find threads of commonality.

wheelbarrow

It was like our own little oasis of work, worship and heaven all wrapped up in nine days.

roof

There were moments when we were quickly drawn back to reality. On Tuesday morning, a roofing crew started early to get a jump on the forecasted rain. Three teenaged girls were standing on a fiberglass lean-to attached to the roof when it detached from the main structure. The girls, as well as two adult males, tumbled into a concrete stairwell beneath them. Three ambulances each carried one of girls to nearby hospitals. Truly, it was a miracle the girls and adults sustained minor injuries. Accidents happen, even as we serve as God’s hands and feet. Thankfully, calm minds prevailed and excellent care from medical staff ensured everyone was going to be OK.

coolers

Living with 100 of your new best friends for the week can be daunting. Amazingly, a blanket of grace, compassion, patience and love kept us focused on teamwork and setting aside personal preferences for the good of the whole. As we discovered the treasures of faith, love and grace in evening worship, we put ourselves in opportunities to let Christ work in our lives and help us deal with our own individual situations.

mixing concrete 2

On Sunday, we returned to Wisconsin and back to our normal lives. After we disembarked from the bus, Rick loaded up the two grandsons to head home. I delivered the two girls we were also chaperoning to their parents. One of these girls spent Tuesday in the hospital after falling off the roof lean-to. This mishap has not dampened her enthusiasm to return next summer to another youth mission trip. In fact, both girls declared that youth mission trip is the highlight of their summer, even though they are required to leave their cell phones behind. Yep, you read that right. No cell phones for a week and these girls want the trip to be longer.

worship

When we place ourselves in a situation where we come together with the joint mission of being God’s hands and feet through service, it is amazing how quickly a sense of community, common cause and cohesiveness develops. I really cannot explain it. It is nothing short of amazing to witness four teens each grabbing the corner of a tarp and mixing concrete for hours together, singing while they swing the tarp back and forth. The enthusiasm conveyed as a crew shares a card or note a homeowner wrote to express her appreciation for accomplished repairs. To witness teenaged boys, wrap arms around their neighbors and sway to the worship songs in perfect and not-so-perfect sync.

crew with homeowner

A group of Wisconsin teens and adults bowed down last week, ready to serve and wash other’s feet. For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – it is amazing what your Holy Spirit can allow to happen in just a few short days. Thank you for surrounding our group with lots of opportunities to serve and be served last week. I pray we continue to feel blessed and discover ways to be a blessing to others outside of mission trip week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 67 – Mission Trip

mission trip image

Mon., June 18, 2018

Ephesians 6:7-8 – Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

We have arrived in the Washington D.C. area

After two days of travel from Wisconsin, our group of almost 100 youth and adults is bunkered down at a church for the week. We’ll spend our days serving people by helping repair their homes and properties. Evenings will be times of worship and hanging out. Great friendships. New experiences. Lots of laughs. Opportunities to be God’s hands and feet. Hopefully lives that will be forever changed.

Hubby Rick and I are chaperones on this trip. We’re excited that our two oldest grandsons, as well as a couple girls, are part of our smaller group. Already, we see the kids discovering new friends. It warms our hearts to observe this.

My posting maybe a little less frequent this week. We’ll see how the week goes. Hanging out with the kids and other adults will be a priority. Yet, I expect to see many gratitude spottings this week. More than I’ll be able to record.

For this, I am grateful.

Thank you for this group of youth and adults who are willing to serve You and those around us this week. I pray for all who will be participating in a mission trip this summer. May we truly experience profound ways to serve You, Almighty God, and your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 66 – What I Learned from Dad

Deaton__Richard

Sat., June 16, 2018

Proverbs 1:8 – Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction; don’t neglect your mother’s teaching;

This Sunday is Father’s Day. The last couple of days, I have been thinking about what my Dad taught me. He’s been gone for 5+ years. Yet, his spoken and unspoken instructions to my siblings and I ring loudly in my life. Here’s just a few things I learned from my Dad.

  1. Work hard. According to my Dad, nothing was unobtainable. If you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything. Literally, anything. There were times when maybe he expected a lot of his children at a young or too early age. He was not afraid to let us try things. While letting us fail was harder, I discovered from my Dad not to set boundaries on what I could tackle.
  2. Be involved in your community. Rather than just talk about how things could be different, my Dad become involved and looked for ways he could be part of the change. My Dad was involved in a variety of local non-profit, volunteer causes. Every time I serve our local community, I pray it reflects what my Dad taught me by his example.
  3. Purchase locally. Often, my Dad spoke of this. If you could buy something locally (especially when we’re talking small town America), buy locally. Even if it means paying a little more. As a small business owner, i.e. – dairy farmer, he wanted local businesses to be available for our farm. This meant being a religious buyer of everything locally he could. Sometimes it really is a lot easier to purchase something online. But there are other times, I follow my Dad’s example and buy as much locally as I can.
  4. A Commitment is a Commitment. Backing away from something you agreed to do was not acceptable. Period. Honestly pairs with this as well.
  5. Laughing is OK. There were times when laughing wasn’t part of my Dad’s vocabulary. Times were tough in the 1980’s for my parents. Later in life, he was able to relax more, laugh more and enjoy being more. I pray I can discover this as well.
  6. It’s OK to show emotions. Again, this is learned-later-in-life trait. For years, my Dad was stoic. But things happened. Life moved on after some difficult times. I would never say my Dad was terribly comfortable giving a hug. He never became comfortable in wearing his emotions on his sleeve. There were times when he got choked up because something touched him deeply. I appreciated those moments and was proudest of my Dad in those precious times.
  7. Be Humble. Would I say my Dad changed the world in a dramatic way? No. His mission was to affect and influence the people’s lives he had contact with. This, he did. My Dad never sought attention. Recognition made him uncomfortable. He was more than happy to contribute, add value and lead, all from behind the scenes.

For some people, Father’s Day is a difficult day. If you are one of those people, I apologize for this post. I pray that in reflecting upon the values my Dad taught me, you can also think about the values others have modeled for you.

Thanks, Dad, for this and so much more.

For this, I am grateful.

As my heavenly Father, I appreciate you, Lord God. Thank you also for allowing me to have a man in my life who modeled so many important and wonderful values and traits. Be with those who are struggling this Father’s Day weekend. May they find peace in your arms. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 66 – Letting Go of Superwoman

superwoman

Fri., June 15, 2018

Matthew 19:26 – Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.”

The music builds. One second, she’s a seemingly “normal” woman, dressed in business casual and carrying a stylish handbag. A second later, a bright red cape flies behind her perfectly proportioned body, covered from head-to-toe in spandex. A huge “S” covers her torso. She calls into action her special super-power. In the bat of an eye, Superwoman is off to conquer her next big adventure or save a person’s life.

We feel a little flutter in our tummy. Maybe, we, too, can be a super-hero. Maybe we too, can change people’s lives.

Unfortunately, I have bought completely bought into the idea that being a Superwoman is possible. Average will no longer cut it. I must up my “A” game and develop my own skill set of super-powers. I, too, must be Superwoman, I convince myself.

What is a Superwoman or Superman? While your definition may vary from mine, here are a few thoughts.

Superwomen handle multiple jobs (paid or unpaid), are heavily involved in their local community and seldom miss a child or grandchild’s special event. The dishwasher cleans this morning’s breakfast dishes before anyone rushes out the door, ready for post-dinner dirty dishes. A meal sizzles on the stove or in the oven as he or she stands at the counter paying bills. The house is company-ready at all times. The fridge is stocked with items for an unplanned, last-minute meal to be delivered to the neighbor who has just gone through a family tragedy. Her children’s school notes are signed on time. A color-coded family calendar hangs visible. An extra $100 is tucked in her wallet “just in case.” She knows just when to contact a struggling friend, rarely allows for an accumulation of unanswered text and e-mail messages, and gathers her slew of great friends together for a memorable evening in a moment’s notice.

Anyone else feeling miserable, highly underqualified for the job and overwhelmed all at the same time?

Did you see my hand shoot up quicker than yours?

I have spent most of my life trying to be this Superwoman. And failing miserably. It may seem I have things together on the outside. But on the inside, I yearn for peace. Contentment. An afternoon to sit on the beautiful swings Hubby Rick recently built and installed in our backyard (I should post an update) … and not feel guilty.

Over and over, I have willed myself to get my life under control. To cut back on the great opportunities that are part of my life. Be more efficient with my time. Lose the 10 pounds my doctor really, really wants me to drop once and for all. Have the right thing to say. Keep the snarky comment to myself.

My will lasts about 30 minutes and I fall off the Superwoman bandwagon.

This week, I tried to be Superwoman and failed. Work things haven’t been accomplished. I missed a funeral because of another commitment. Why didn’t I reschedule this? These next few days will be overfull. I am not sure I am mentally, emotionally or spiritually in the right place.

My thoughts are clouded with, “Who have I let down this week?” Maybe what I should be pondering is, “Why have I let myself down again?”

Then, I see these words in my journal: God sees something in me that I don’t see in myself. I see all my fears and insecurities and worries and just general yuck. God looks at me and sees something entirely different. God sees something God can use for God’s plan and purpose.

The words are a paraphrase from Everyday Holy: Finding a Big God in the Little Moments by Melanie Shankle. I took Melanie’s words and personalized them. I tried to get this Superwoman to see that I don’t have to be super-human. What is impossible for me is possible for God. I don’t have to be all, do all and understand all. This is not my job. It’s God’s job.

Today, I’m trying to extend myself a bit more grace. A bit more acceptance. A bit less Superwoman and a bit more Dianne. If only for today.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God forgive me for the times I think I must be Superwoman. Help me let go of when I want to be all and do all rather than resting in your loving arms. May Your peace and contentment rain over my day and bring me joy, happiness and gratitude. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 65 – Words

booksWed., June 13, 2018

Mark 13:31 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

Recently, I read two autobiographies written by two people who grew up very different from my upbringing.

J.D. Vance wrote Hillbilly Elegy. He grew up poor in the Ohio Rust Belt in a town that was hemorrhaging jobs and hope. His parents struggled with addiction nearly all of his life. Mostly raised by his grandparents who never completed high school, J.D. writes an almost unbelievable story of how a boy who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks eventually graduated from Yale Law School. Even as he has tried to achieve the American dream, he struggled with his socioeconomic background. It is a very interesting story of the brokenness and strengths of the white working class.

Educated is written by Tara Westover. It is her story of surviving a unique family. Born in 1986 to Idaho survivalists, she was 17 when she set foot for the first time in a classroom. Eventually, she saw there was more beyond the mountains where she lived and taught herself enough to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. Only then did she begin to discover the world in which she lived and had left, only to question if there was still a way home.

As I have read these books, I have reflected upon my story: the assumptions I made about life based on where and how I was raised, the influence my parents had in my life and how I viewed opportunities around me. Yes, I grew up very different from J.D. and Tara. Yet, their memoirs have allowed for some self-reflection on my part.

Maybe, their stories have encouraged some reflection about Jesus’ story. His memoirs are captured not by himself, but by others. We hear four different accounts of his life, written by four different authors in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each story reflects upon Jesus’ life from a different perspective and written for a different audience. Yet, each story allows us to discover the time in which he walked the earth, how others reacted to him and what his purpose in coming to earth influenced his life.

Of course, his life is so different because, well, Jesus was God’s son. Jesus gave us a promise. Even if he was not here on earth, his words would not pass away. They would always be here. We have his words captured so we can read and re-read them in the gospel stories.

J.D. and Tara’s words are now also captured in such a way that they will never pass away. One reason I write is because sometimes it is easier for me to capture my thoughts through writing them. We each have a backstory. We each have a story of what is happening in our lives today. We each can be part of Jesus’ story and see how his words can influence our life today. And tomorrow.

For this, I am grateful.

How can we every thank you for inspiring people to write down the words and stories we find in scripture: words that hopefully encourage and comfort us. Some of these words may also confuse us. Yet, they show us how important words are and how we learn through stories. Use our lives, our stories and words, to continue to learn and deepen our understanding of You, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 63 – Attitude  

 

attitude of gratitude

Mon., June 11, 2018

Acts 24:3 – Always and everywhere, most honorable Felix, we acknowledge this with deep gratitude.

For the last two-plus months, I have reflected with gratitude upon some simple aspect of my life through words. Something that happened in my day, a little aspect of Hubby Rick and mine’s life or something that I have observed.

I have a very blessed life. A very blessed life. I have everything I need and a whole lot of stuff that I want. I have some “stuff” that I’m not sure I need or want. Life is so much more than possessions. It is relationships, opportunities, challenges and every-day life realities.

Today, we will begin this day and we will determine what our attitude is about this day. Only I will decide what my attitude for today will be. Yes, others can influence it. People I know and may not know will test it. At the end of the day, when I crawl into bed, I alone will determine if I represented the attitude God longs for me to represent. Have I embodied an attitude of deep gratitude, even for challenges? Or was my attitude adversely affected and portrayed to others?

And then, I will repeat this tomorrow and the next day and the next day. The next week, the next month, the next year (God willing.)

When I think about possible challenges in my life, it takes me about .5 seconds to think of someone else who has way more significant challenges than I do. People will real challenges. I pray that I never loose sight of this. Even on my worse days, these days are still better than so many other situations people endure day in and day out.

I pray my attitude of gratitude is honest, consistent and God-directing. Only I will choose my attitude today. I pray it is a good one.

Almighty God – I pray that my attitude reflects your love and grace in my life this day. May my attitude be grounded in your place in my life. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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