Gratitude Day 108 – Gifts

Fri., Aug. 31, 2018

1 Peter 1:4 – And God has reserved for his children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

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This is a gift that I will treasure.

At this stage of my life, I don’t receive many gifts. And really, I’m OK with this. What do I NEED? Nothing. Seriously. Yes, there are things that I WANT but often, if it is something I REALLY want, I plan to get it myself.

I am really much more comfortable about giving gifts than receiving gifts. I look forward to being able to share a little something at the appropriate time in a person’s life.

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This gift arrived recently. From my sister, Debbie. A gift from her and my deceased Mom.

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Debbie is a quilter. She has made many, many quilts and given lots and lots of them away as quilts. My Mom did some quilting in her later years. S preferred more wall hangings or table runners than actual quilts. Yet, her Mom, my grandmother, was a huge quilter. She sewed lots of quilts and worked with a group of ladies who hand-quilted quilts at their church. She did this for years and loved it.

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Last fall, my Mom talked with my sister Debbie about making a quilt for all her children; my brother, my two sisters (including Debbie) and myself. If this project was going to happen, my Mom would need Debbie’s assistance.

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Unfortunately, Mom passed away in January before she and Debbie began the quilts. After Mom’s death, Debbie shared with me Mom’s wishes and her desire to fulfill Mom’s wish.

My Mom had lots of fabric. So, we went through it and pulled out pieces we thought might work for someone’s quilt. Debbie had some fabric she contributed to the project. I went through my much smaller stash and found a few pieces to add as well.

Then, Debbie began sewing. She started with my parent’s eldest child, my brother, and completed his first. Then, she made my sister Denise’s quilt. And then mine. Each quilt is different. The colors and design are picked to represent our personalities and preferences. As she completed the quilts, she had them machine quilted and then sent to each sibling.

 

My quilt arrived this summer. Debbie knows these colors are some of my favorite. In our current house, I have decorated with grey, green and some blue. She picked these specific fabrics because these are the colors in our bedroom.

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Isn’t the quilt beautiful? Didn’t she do a fantastic job?

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It’s a wonderful tribute to my Mom and will be a gift that I will treasure.

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As hard as it is for me to receive gifts, I pray there is one gift I will always willingly accept and treasure: the priceless gift of eternal life available to me because of Jesus Christ. It’s not something I can earn or achieve. It’s completely free, granted to you and me because of God’s deep and unconditional love for you and me. There are no strings attached, no hoops to jump through, no ladders to climb. It’s right there for each one of us if we simply accept it.

This is one gift I pray I am smart enough to know that I need, I want, and I desire. A gift that I will treasure every day of my life. A gift that is even more remarkable than this beautiful gift bestowed upon me by my sister and deceased mother.

A gift made possible because of a deceased son, Jesus Christ.

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For precious gifts in my life, I am grateful.

Lord God – how can we ever repay you for the BEST. GIFT. EVER. The opportunity for eternal life through your Son, Jesus? We can’t. Yet, I pray we will always appreciate this gift you have made available to us. May it be a gift we always treasure. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 107 – Community

Wed., Aug. 29, 2018

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to spur one another to love and to good works. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.

 walker+river+sandbags

When you see this sitting in the middle of a road, it isn’t a good sign.

A week ago, I shared how our former hometown, Mazomanie, WI was affected by recent rains and flooding.

Since then, it seems the water hose hasn’t been turned off in southern Wisconsin. Over the weekend, people worked non-stop in our capital city, Madison, WI, sand bagging.

Sunday night, we had more rain.

Monday night, we had more rain.

Tuesday night, we had more rain.

Some locations have had 15 inches within a 12-hour time period with additional rain almost daily.

The rivers are overflowing.

The lakes are drowning.

Bridges and roads are swallowing up vehicles.

Several sections of the interstate.

Figuring out how to get someplace takes a serious understanding of local roads.

Homes and businesses are one hot mess.

Lives have been disrupted.

Businesses closed for days.

Shelters set-up in schools.

Coon Valley

This bull is confused as he stands in the middle of a bridge in Coon Valley, WI. Yep, this a real bull; not an imitation.

Lambeau

Lambeau Field, home of the NFL Green Bay Packers, is one big puddle.

ducks

The popular Wisconsin Dell’s ducks became part of the solution. These unique vehicles were built and used during WWII. They go from land to water with no disruption. Tuesday night, they weren’t hauling tourists through the spectacular scenery of the Wisconsin Dells area. They were rescue vehicles, getting people to safety.

Farmers who have been struggling with low commodity prices and barely hanging on have crops standing in ridiculous amounts of water.

And the list could go on.

Ontario bridge

A whole bunch of people are praying to God right now. How might their prayers sound?

“Hey, God. You can turn the fire hose off any time.”

“Thanks for the rain … but isn’t this a little over the top?”

“Why so much devastation? Why so many people are affected?

“Isn’t enough, enough?”

I cannot answer any of these questions on behalf of God. I would like to know a few of these answers as well.

What can I say about this ongoing devastation?

God is with you. The person who lost their house and basically everything in it. The business owners who are trying to find a temporary location. People who lost a vehicle. Emergency personal who stayed on the job while their personal property was affected. Nursing homes limited supplies.

And the list goes on and on.

How do I know God is with you? I see people volunteering and helping. I see unselfish giving. I hear and read of examples of people doing any little thing to help: wash laundry, bring food, provide items, and so many other ways so those affected can try and put one foot in front of another yet one more day.

This is called community. When Jesus walked the earth, he gave us a wonderful example of community: he called 12 guys to be part of his inner circle. He instructed them to depend upon each other, not just themselves. He taught example after example of how to love, respect and honor each other.

This is how God speaks to us through disaster: through others within our community. Whether someone declares themselves as a Christian or not, I believe God can use us to help and serve each other. When we become the hands and feet of God, then the community of God is already in action.

For some, this is not enough. “Why can’t God just speak to us? Why doesn’t God step in and answer my prayers?” we ask. Sometimes, this just isn’t God’s way. Read these words carefully:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

                                                -Romans 8:26-27

When we run out of words to say and pray to God, it’s OK. In these moments, the Holy Spirit steps in and prays for us.

The most ideal community is found within the Trinity of God. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit form a unique relationship and bond. This is our model for community. When we no longer have words, the Holy Spirit steps in and speaks for us to the rest of the Trinity.

How amazing is this?

Through all this wet and wickedness, I pray we see the benefits of community.

For community, I am grateful. For the Holy Spirit’s intervention when I run out of words, I am grateful.

Almighty God – maybe we’re out of words. Maybe we’re frustrated beyond belief. Maybe we just don’t know what to do. May we paused and seek you first. Bring us into a community where we are loved and accepted. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 106 – My Spouse

Mon., Aug. 27, 2018

Ecclesiastes 9:9 – Enjoy life with your dearly loved spouse all the days of your pointless life that God gives you under the sun—all the days of your pointless life—because that’s your part to play in this life and in your hard work under the sun.

Rick - car

Yesterday, Aug. 26, Hubby Rick and I celebrated our 18th anniversary. It was a rather low-key day, as Rick worked in the afternoon/evening. There have been years when we didn’t see each other on our anniversary. So, even having part of the day together is a win in my book.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating what a big decision it is when you choose your spouse. Seriously, I am convinced this one decision leaves a large stamp on a person’s life. During weddings that I perform as a pastor, I often say choosing your spouse is the second most important decision in your life. The first is choosing whether to include God in your live. I feel marriages combine these two decisions. As we add more anniversary years to our marriage, I am convinced this is truer than I can ever really emphasize.

Choosing your spouse influences so many other choices and decisions in your life. Who your spouse is will influence how you live, where you live, what priorities you focus on, what is considered “important” and what is considered “less important.” My spouse has affected how I view myself, our families, our friends and our marriage. I turn to my spouse for input, encouragement and a soft spot to land when things are difficult, hard and don’t go as planned.

I was in my 30’s and Hubby Rick was in his 40’s when we were married. Because this was Rick’s second marriage, I think he was more aware of what a big decision it was for us to get married. We didn’t have to get married. We chose to get married. We made this choice because we felt we would add more to our lives as a couple than we would individually. I believe we have exceeded this expectation.

Even though I was a little older and a pastor, I did not fully understand how the choice of a spouse would make such an impact on my life. Rick and I endured some challenges before we were married. His eldest son was killed in an accident seven months before we were married. Emotions tied to this were still very raw at the time of our wedding. Within the months before and after our actual wedding day, we both changed jobs, both moved a couple times and I was attending seminary. These significant events could have negatively affected our relationship long-term. Somehow, they didn’t.

Why? Because of the person whom I chose to be my spouse. When Rick and I said, “I do,” we were committed to this for the long-haul. We both knew this. Yes, there have been times when we each have had to address a difficult issue with the other. Rick and I believe God brought us together in our relationship. And we want to uphold our end of the deal.

Lately, I’ve asked a few friends whether they understood the importance of who they chose for a spouse before they were married.  Nearly everyone says they were not aware. For couples who married when they were young, it was nearly impossible to understand the magnitude of this decision. They look back and feel they were lucky or fortunate to be matched with the spouse they were.

At the time we were married, had someone asked me why I was marrying Rick, I probably would have said because I loved him. This is still true today. However, my emotions towards Rick have shifted. I still believe in love. Yet, I feel some other attributes and emotions I see and feel towards Rick are more important: respect, integrity, honesty, kindness, helpfulness and being supportive. When my heart swells in admiration towards Rick, it’s not only based on love. It’s based on these other attributes as well. He makes me proud every day. I feel supported, encouraged, appreciated and valued. Rick has allowed me to explore my life call and encouraged me to focus my days on the things that are most meaningful to me.

This is what a great spouse does. This is the kind of spouse I have. This is why I am grateful for my spouse.

Certainly, there are days he drives me a little crazy, as I am sure I do the same to him. Yet, I am fortunate. I’ve found a life partner who has exceeded my expectations and adds more value to my life than I can account for. I feel extremely grateful that God brought this man into my life. I may not have known what a big decision it was on our wedding day to marry this man. With each passing year, I am more aware and more appreciative for the man I call my husband.

For this man and the decision that we should be married, I am grateful.

Lord God – somehow you brought Rick and I together. Somehow, we have established a life together that has so much more value than if we were separate. Thank you for bringing Rick into my life. I pray our marriage honors you and points people back to you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 105 – A Simple Cover

Sat., Aug. 25, 2018

Acts 2:28 – You have shown me the paths of life; your presence will fill me with happiness.

Today, I am sharing about something relatively new in my life. Something that I didn’t expect to bring me so much happiness. Something so simple, it’s crazy.

I have a new cover for my cell phone. And I am in love.

A couple weeks ago, I shared how I had problems with my cell phone and ended up buying a new phone in the same day. Very unexpectedly with the goal not to lose the information I keep stored on my phone. With the new phone, I accomplished this.

Awhile back, I bought a wallet cover for my previous phone. After reading a blog written by a woman who LOVED her phone cover, I found one online and ordered it. It took just a little getting used to. This phone cover was bulkier and a little bigger than I would have preferred. But it worked.

When I purchased this new phone, I knew I wanted another phone cover. I feel the cover protects the phone a bit from when I occasionally and accidentally drop it. I went online and ordered this one.

cover front

Grey has been a favorite color for years; long before grey was hip and in style. Like all the way back to high school. I was not sure about the cognac leather-looking material with the grey. But the pretty stitching that matches the cognac material makes the cover look high-end, even though it was not very expensive.

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I ordered one and waited. A couple days later, it arrived. Anxious, I took it out of the mailer and my heart sank. It was not the right size. Apparently, I clicked on the wrong phone when I ordered it. A couple e-mails later, I had instructions to return the wrong size and reordered the correct size.

When the second cover and right size arrived, my heart was filled with happiness. The phone fit just right. I moved the couple cards I carried in the previous case into the new one. I was off and running.

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Is it crazy when a silly phone case makes my day? Yes. It’s kind of like the parchment paper.

Recently, a couple people asked me how I like my new phone. Honestly, I am more in love with the cell phone cover than the phone. A $10 cell phone cover.

standing up

The past few months, I have chosen to focus on a few small things that bring me joy and happiness in my life rather than looking for some big event that will “change” my world. I am convinced that the world becomes a brighter and happier place when we celebrate little wins in our lives. When we find one, small opportunity that makes our heart sing this day, it is a good day.

Too often, we put a lot of energy into finding some “right” thing that we think will make life “better.” I tend to think it’s the small, daily choices we make day in and

Choosing to spend a little time with a dear friend.

Reading a book for even a few minutes.

Taking a 20-minute walk to clear your head.

Looking at a new cell phone cover and feeling happiness.

What is one small way you can find happiness in today? Celebrate something that brings you joy? Remember that life is really more about a whole bunch of small, little choices that add value to our lives than big events that may or may not reach our expectations?

For little things in life that bring us joy and happiness, I am grateful.

Almighty God – it is so easy to think that a huge change will make everything better. Yes, we read stories of people whose lives were dramatically changed by a single event. But we can also see joy and happiness daily in little choices and opportunities in our lives. I pray we celebrate these as small, daily wins; ways we see your presence in our ordinary lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 104 – New Life

Fri., Aug. 24, 2018geranium

John 3:8 – Only God’s Spirit gives new life. The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.

We have had a warm summer in Wisconsin this year. Because of this, the flowers on our front porch have literally exploded. The coleus, the angel-winged begonias, the sweet potato vines; they have all flourished extremely well and have looked beautiful these last number of weeks.

They are located such that when it rains, they are protected. This has kept them looking lovely but requires they be watered. Nearly every day, I take a few minutes and bring these flowers the gift of water. These minutes are like a little oasis in my day. I stop what I am doing, fill a pitcher several times and douse the flowers with life-giving water.

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If I miss a day or it has been warm and humid throughout the day and I didn’t water them first thing in the morning, the leaves wilt and show a little distress. Most often, just a little water and they are quickly revived.

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Yet, nearly every day, there are leaves that no longer look beautiful. Especially on the vines, the leaves wither and die. Or yellow and age. As I water, I remove these less-than-ideal leaves. No amount of water will bring these leaves back to their glory. For the flowering plants, eventually the flowers run their life cycle and no longer look as gorgeous as new little flowers bursting to life.

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This is part of the life cycle of these plants. Old leaves and flowers die so new ones can come to life. During the daily watering, I also end up with a handful or two of leaves and/or flowers that are removed to make room for new shoots of life.

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Are not our spiritual lives much the same? Sometimes, parts of our souls feel thirsty, maybe even parched. When this happens, do we find ways to water our souls? Do we find moments to be with God, replenish our struggling soul and find new life? Or do we simply wither away, not asking the Spirit to blow into us with a wind that gives us hope and new life?

dying flowers

Our failing leaves and flowers maybe some struggle we are going through. Or disappointment with God or other people. Or some hidden sin our lives that we haven’t truly dealt with. Maybe we even try to keep up an external façade in which we look just the same on the outside. Yet, there is something that slowly sucks life out of us and discolors our view of God and ourselves.

purple vine

Recently, I was speaking with a woman who is feeling a little overwhelmed with life. This spring, she lost an adult child. This, along with other events in her life, lead her to admit that she feels God has given her almost more than she can handle these days. She’d prefer a little less withering in her life these. She’s ready for some new life.

In the moments we were speaking, I felt totally inadequate with a proper response. Basically, all I could do was listen and agree that often, life isn’t fair. One of the more challenging aspects of Christian faith is “why.” Why doesn’t God prevent some things from happening? Why do we feel pruned in our lives and some other person, who may not feel connected with God, slides by with seemingly little pruning? Identifying ourselves as Christian does not mean a shroud of “no bad things will happen to me” will cover our lives. Faith in Christ does not work this way.

Later, I saw a sign in our house that was given to me a few years ago. I wished I would have been able to say these words to this struggling woman:

God with us

God doesn’t give us what we can handle. He helps us handle what we have been given.

Disappointment and feeling let down are part of the Christian journey. When this happens, we may be like those dying and discolored leaves and flowers I pluck off my beautiful plants each day. There are still plenty of beautiful and vibrant leaves. I remove the challenged leaves so water and light can concentrate on the best leaves of the plants. This brings forth new life.

No one looks relishes the discoloration in our lives that can pull us away from God and other relationships. Not enough water for our souls is not long-term sustainable. I pray that we can see these dying leaves in our lives as also opportunities for new life. New life that would not happen without some disappointment and heartache. New life that requires something else dying in our lives, as difficult as this may be. New life that comes from the Spirit if we let the Spirit blow into our lives.

As a new day dawns, soon I will fill a water pitcher and begin the daily ritual of bringing water to the plants on our porch. Along with watering, I will also find a handful or two of leaves and flowers past their prime. I will celebrate what they were and be encouraged. New life is sprouting.

For new life, I am grateful.

Holy Spirit – please blow some new life into our lives today. Remind us that even when pruning and discoloration happens in our lives, we aren’t alone. You are with us and ready to help us handle what we have been given. May we find new life in our Spirit today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 103 – Rest & Sabbath

Thurs., Aug. 23, 2018

Ezekiel 20:20 – I told them to respect my Sabbath to show that they were my people and that I was the Lord their God.

Does your soul ever need a little rest? A break from the daily activities of life? Just a little space to breath?

This past weekend, Hubby Rick and I took a little Sabbath. Our eldest grandson, Braeden, joined us. We spent time at my sister’s camper which is near Lake Eau Claire.

inner tube

Rick and Braeden’s main goal for the weekend: spend time on the water. My nephew Kevin was their tour guide. They fished, kayaked and rode the tube behind the boat. And they fished some more. (I wasn’t along for the fishing; thus, no fish pictures.)

Braeden's splashRick and Braeden paddled the kayaks to a little island in the lake. Other people were jumping into the water with this swing rope. Of course, the guys had to do this as well.

Rick and rope swing

Rick got extra points as a cool grandpa when he did this. Amazingly, his sandals stayed on into the water.

Towing kayas

After this adventure, it was time for me to ride on the tube. Knowing it would take awhile for the guys to paddle back to shore where the tube was, they got creative and let the boat tug them back to shore. Only a couple mishaps along the way.

Towing kayaks 2While the guys went fishing, I had some work to catch up on. And took time to just be with God and my journal.

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Have you had moments of rest and Sabbath this summer? How did you feel with even just a little down time? What are the ways you celebrate Sabbath in your life?

The time went quickly. Everyone would have enjoyed a bit more time on the water. But we celebrated the rest, time away and Sabbath we had.

For rest and Sabbath, I am grateful.

Almighty God – You know better than we do of our need to let our souls rest and catch a breath. Even short Sabbaths allow us time to breathe, be and restore ourselves. I pray we seize the small opportunities in our lives to rest in Your grace and refresh our souls. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 103 – Safety

Wed., Aug. 22, 2018

Psalm 4:8 – In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Aerial view

This is what our previous hometown looked like yesterday.

For 10 years, Hubby Rick and I lived in Mazomanie, WI. We have wonderful memories of when we lived there. On Monday night into Tuesday morning, records rain poured down in western Dane County in Wisconsin. Amounts vary but at minimum 11 inches came quickly, with some areas reporting 15 inches. The largest single rainfall in Wisconsin. Ever. The serene Black Earth Creek meanders through the little communities of Mazomanie, Black Earth and Cross Plains. Each community has been devastated by flooding as one of the premier trout streams of the state quickly moved beyond its banks and into homes, businesses and fields.

flooding mazoToday, roads remain closed. Electricity is off in affected areas. And people begin the process of mucking out homes and businesses. Everyone is praying for no more rain which is in the forecast for Friday.

Bridge out

Hwy 14 is the main tributary through these communities and runs into Middleton and Madison, WI. Thousands, and I mean thousands, of people commute along Hwy 14 each day. In Black Earth, the power of the creek caused a bridge and road to give way. A milk truck was crossing the bridge at the time. Thankfully, the severely shaken up driver and his young daughter were not hurt.

Mao floodingBecause the water raised so quickly, evacuation before floodwaters rushed into homes was not possible. Yesterday, local responders attended to families and individuals stranded in their homes.

Y and Meadow

I can only imagine how scary it would be to wait for someone to retrieve you and your loved ones, including pets.

Bridge Street

What has been shared over and over about this significant flooding event in our former hometown?

  • Amazingly, there were no fatalities in Mazomanie, Black Earth and Cross Plains. One man died in Madison while leaving his sinking car. While people tried to hang onto him, he was swept away in the strong current. The people who couldn’t hang on are deeply affected. Please pray for them as well as the family that lost their loved one.
  • The whole event happened very quickly. Many people were still going home after work when the flooding began. People were stuck for hours where they were. Reports say many people were in a Costco for up to 18 hours. Things could have been so much worse. It is hard to contemplate replacing homes, possessions, vehicles and so much more. When awful things like this happen, suddenly we are forced to remember what is important.
  • Local responders have gone above and beyond in assisting people. They truly are local heroes, sometimes working non-stop for 24 hours. In small communities, these people are volunteers. They have real jobs outside of being an EMT or a fire fighter. They take their commitment to serving the community very seriously. Sometimes, this means stepping away from their house or property that is flooding to assist other people.
  • When disasters happen, it is always more real when your hometown, your loved ones and your friends are affected. Truthfully, I have not contemplated about all the families that have been affected by the California wildfires this summer. When our former hometown was hit, I took notice. When we see and hear about these disasters, may we pause and remember real people are affected. Pray for them, emergency personal and those involved in next steps.
  • Clean-up begins today but will take time. In Mazomanie, volunteers are encouraged to report to the village office, which has also sustained flooding. Through social media, I see local people helping. Local businesses are accepting donations. One woman today posted that she has a truck and isn’t working. She simply asked for anyone who needs assistance to contact her. Overwhelmed people need help. It is so important to see people truly being the hands and feet of Jesus.

trail mazo

It is very humbling to see pictures and videos of places where you have driven a thousand times, streets I’ve ran hundreds of miles on and neighborhoods where I know who lives in this house and that house. I pray for strength for these communities, families and local personal as they navigate recovery. I pray they feel God’s peace and safety when they lie down tonight, exhausted and spent. I pray they have seen the face of Christ in those who have responded in a time of need. I pray these small communities will band together and rise above the scary strong currents that quickly changed so many things.

May we all remember God’s provision of safety in our daily lives; on days of disasters, on days of recovery and on normal days of living.

For God’s safety, I am grateful.

Lord God – safety many not be the first word that comes to mind when we think of You. Some people may feel You have not adequately protected them. For them, I pray for grace and patience. Thank you for the many, many people who are caring for those affected and in need. Surround those who have lost much with tribes of people to help care for them. May Your peace and web of safety surround all affected and those who are part of recovery. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Photos were retrieved off of social media. Thank you to those who have posted them. 

Gratitude Day 102 – Psalm 23 

Psalm-23-the-contented-life

Fri., Aug. 17, 2018

Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Here is a version of the 23rd Psalm from Japan:

The Lord is my pace setter … I shall not rush

He makes me stop for quiet intervals

He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity

He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace

Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here

His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balance

He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility

My cup of joyous energy overflows

Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours for I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord and dwell in his house forever.

These words are hard for me right now. They feel more like a “someday” desire than today.

But for now, I want these words to inspire me. May they encourage us all in our journey with God.

For words of scripture in a little different way: I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for another way to pray biblical words that are so familiar to us. May they inspire us in our journey with you.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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