Who Is This Man?

Gratitude Day 241

Sat., Mar. 30, 2019

Matthew 16:13 – When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

The last few weeks, I’ve shared with you a few random thoughts on Saturday morning. These thoughts cover a wide range of ideas that have been floating around my brain. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

  1. I started taking a computer design class this week. A class that I should have taken years ago. I have a part-time marketing job where I design various promotional items for a small agricultural company. I happened upon this job rather accidentally … and now have been working there 5+ years. Unfortunately, my skills as a designer are out dated compared to what is used today. Through a local college, I signed up for a class and started attending it this week. My point? I wish that I would have done this YEARS ago. What is something that you have always wanted to learn a little more about? Photography? (I could use a course in this as well.) Baking bread? A basic accounting class? There are options out there for us to explore new things. The classes can be a one-and-done or a little longer. It could be a full semester or just a few weeks, like the class I am taking. Too often, we think we don’t have time or are comfortable with where we are. A little shove out the door can be helpful!
  2. I shared a few weeks ago about how I’m trying to not buy groceries during Lent. For the most part, I have followed through with this. Yes, we’ve bought milk and eggs. Soon, I will need to buy lettuce and fresh veggies, staples for us. This week, I needed two items from the grocery store. I kept putting off going to the store. Friday, I ran into Menard’s to get grout for the upstairs bathroom that we are putting in. To my amazement … I found both of the needed items! This being said, I have made a couple things that, well, were OK. Example – I was cooking chicken and suddenly, it turned into chicken chili. Thank goodness Hubby Rick will try anything!
  3. Sometimes, there are things beyond our control. Several months ago, I began offering a morning text devotional prayer. It’s very short; no more than 305 characters and is sent out a t 7 AM central time each day. A devoted follower of these devotional prayers sent me a personal text saying he missed the morning’s prayer. WHAT?? Come to find out, the server that sends out these texts had problems and the text didn’t go out as scheduled. Thanks to the person who let me know this happened. Unfortunately, everyone eventually received this prayer twice later in the day. If you are interested in receiving these short morning prayers/devotions, just text simplewordsoffaith (all one word) to 33222 and you will be enrolled. I hope those of you who receive these texts feel uplifted by them.
  4. Our taxes are done! This is a necessary job that I often put off. Personally, it takes me more time to get everything pulled together than actually complete the taxes online. There were significant changes in the tax laws this year. Hubby Rick and I have heard all kinds of responses to how people have been affected. This spurred me on to finally complete them. One thought I’ve been mulling about. With the standard deduction being much higher than previously, not as many people will be itemizing this year. Charitable organizations have often benefited from people making contributions for tax purposes. Will this change affect charitable contributions to organizations? Hopefully … not. In my heart-of-hearts, I want to believe that people donate to organizations because they believe in the mission and vision of the organization. But I would love to hear feedback from you on this.

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5. This book. I have been a John Ortberg fan for years. About 15 years ago, I heard him seek at a conference. Not only was he the best speaker of the conference, he was the best speaker I had heard in YEARS. A prolific writer, he is a pastor of a Presbyterian church in California. He wrote Who is This Man? in 2012 … but I’ve just gotten around to reading it. I’ll admit. I had a hard time getting into the first few chapters. But I have felt the last several chapters have been so interesting. Ortberg looks at Jesus, the Man and explores how he changed history. I have one more chapter to read and plan to finish it this weekend. Ortberg ends the look looking at the Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday. Reading these chapters has been a great exercise this Lent for me. Are you reading or doing something this Lent which is helping you grow in faith?

The days are feeling much more spring-like here in Wisconsin. In fact, the daffodils stems are popping up in the flower beds, which need to be cleaned out and room made for new growth! It’s a fun to see a new season with new possibilities. Have a great weekend! Enjoy worship and Sabbath this weekend.

For Jesus, the Man, who came and changed history, I am grateful.

Jesus – thanks for coming into this world that desperately needing redeeming. Thank you for completely reinterpreting so much of what was happening at the time and brought forth new opportunities through God’s kingdom. May we be inspired to discover who you, this man who came to earth, is all about. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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In Times of Trouble

Gratitude Day 240

Wed., Mar. 27, 2019

Job 35:9 – In times of trouble, everyone begs the mighty God to have mercy.

It takes guts to air our dirty laundry. To admit when troubles consume us. To acknowledge that life is less than grand.

However, I believe this is exactly the reason why Brenda Statz decided to air her dirty laundry. She doesn’t want other families to endure the trouble she’s been living through.

Brenda and her husband, Leon, dairy farmed for years. For a good chunk of those years, Hubby Rick was their milk man. This means Rick arrived at their farm in a truck with a huge tank on the back. He loaded the milk into the tanker and drove it to a plant where it could be processed into dairy products.

After Rick and I became engaged, Rick took a different job. His son, Darran, took over the milk route. Darran hauled milk from the Statz Family Farm the last number of years they milked cows.

The dairy industry has been struggling the last several years. Imagine working at your job for hours and hours every day of the week … and not even covering your costs. This is the reality so many farms are going through right now. This is the reason why Leon and Brenda stopped milking cows.

Without the cows, Leon’s depression exasperated. While he tried various treatment options, eventually, he successfully took his own life.

For more of the story, please watch this video:

Brenda Statz has bravely aired her troubles so that others might find help and resources for family members who are struggling as Leon struggled. She’s trying to take the lemons that are part of her life and somehow make lemonade.

For those who are struggling with troubles in your life, take a look at the Book of Job. Job was a highly successful man. He had a great family, was wealthy and no cares in the world. He was also a devoted follower of God. Satan is granted permission to test Job with the limit of not laying a finger on Job himself. God is confident that Job will endure this test; that Job won’t give up on his faith.

Job looses absolutely everything: his animals and thus his source of income, his children, his home. In the midst of all these troubles, Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Wow. Every time I read this story, Job’s unshakable faith humbles me. Even after four of Job’s “good” friends come and try to convince him to forsake God, Job stays true in his faith. Yes, he would like to know why this has happened. But his faith in God never wavers.

Eventually, God comes and dramatically speaks to Job. After a long discourse from God, Job humbly admits to God and his friends, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

When I’m feeling like there are troubles in my life, I’m not so sure that I would quietly say to God and my “good” friends, “Oops. My mistake. I should have never questioned, ‘Why.’ It’s my bad.”

But Job does.

Brenda Statz

Brenda and anyone else enduring troubles today: it may not be possible to know why these troubles have happened. But I pray that Job will inspire you to keep on keeping with God. It’s easy to turn away from God when we feel like God has let us down. Or impossible to imagine why God intervenes sometimes and seemingly not others. I can’t explain any of these situations. But I do know, as Job knew, God desperately wants to journey with you through your troubles. May you not be or feel alone today.

For a God who never turns away from us, I am grateful.

Holy God – too often, we blame you for our troubles, rather than seeing there really is evil in this world. Too often, we make you the author of everything awful that happens our way. While it is so easy to ask the question, “Why?” may we instead see the “Who?” that journeys with us through our troubles. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Not-So-Perfect Christian

Gratitude Day 239

Tues., Mar. 26, 2019

Psalm 119:96 – To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

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Dear Friends –

For the record, I am not a perfect Christian.

In the last 48-hours, I have been lazy, checked my personal e-mail while at work, withheld information from Hubby Rick and thought about things that really, I should have run right out of town. I have spoken negatively about someone else, told white lies, gossiped and portrayed myself more highly than I ought. I have withheld forgiveness, wanted to draw attention to myself unnecessarily and avoided helping someone that I had the opportunity to assist.

And these are just a few of the things I’m willing to share. The things I’m not sure I want everyone to know? Now that’s some good stuff.

I am not a perfect Christian … even though I’d like to think I am.

It’s not fun and it’s certainly not easy to admit our failures and shortcomings. It’s really more exciting to try and convince other people that we know it all, have seen it all and have an inside track to Jesus and God’s will for our lives.

I’m sorry to disappoint myself. But I am not a perfect Christian.

Regularly, I hear some person declaring that they have a clear vision of God’s view for this world. They are convinced they know how to interpret God’s commands for today. They feel their interpretation of scripture is more accurate than someone else’s. They profess, in God’s name, that they have an inside track of knowing and understanding how God desires to interact and be a part of our world and our faith today.

The funny thing about all these voices? All these declarations? Often, they are competing messages. Exact opposite messages. Contradictory messages. Rather than truly listening to each other, voices just get louder and louder, praying their voice will come out on top.

Friends – can we all just hit the “pause” button? Can we come to see that we are all not-so-perfect Christians? Can we stop talking down and over and around each other and simply love our neighbor, even if that neighbor is someone we really do not care for? Have a different view about life, faith and everything in-between?

The noise level is deafening. It’s become so loud and so frequent and so furious that the message is no longer the focus. It’s outsmarting someone else. Or making sure your voice is heard above all other voices. It’s deflecting the hurt and the pain by accusing and hurting someone else … rather than simply being able to say, “I am not a perfect Christian.”

It saddens my soul to see how Christians are treating each other. It discourages me … and a whole bunch of other people … from engaging with other Christians. It’s like the girl who showed up at prom in a hideously ugly outfit with her underwear showing though and no one had the courage to tell her what they could see. Instead, everyone just snickered at her and made fun of her.

Folks – I’m tired of us making fun of each other. It’s embarrassing to see us tear each other down and apart. In fact, it’s very unattractive. I hate to imagine all the energy that gets fed into all the wrong places. Energy that could do so many wonderful things if only directed towards truly loving God and loving our neighbor.

So, can we just pause our not-so-Christian lives and accept each other, warts and all? Can we decide loving each other is more important than being right? Can we slow down the rhetoric just long enough to see others and ourselves as we truly are: not-so-perfect Christians?

For God loving me as a not-so-perfect Christian, I am grateful.

Lord God – I imagine you laughing and shaking your head at how we, self-proclaimed Christians, have been treating each other. Can your Spirit please intervene and encourage us to pause all the unhealthy behavior towards each other? Help us to hear Jesus’ commands to focus our energy on loving God and loving our neighbors. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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“Be Faithful in Marriage”

Gratitude Day 238

Mon., Mar. 25, 2019

Matthew 5:27 – You know the commandment which says, “Be faithful in marriage.”

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Let me introduce you to our dear friends, Howard and Rhoda. On Sunday, they celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. They have truly lived the commandment, “Be faithful in marriage.” And in doing so, they have set a wonderful example for their family, friends, Hubby Rick and I, and a whole bunch of other people.

I have known Howard and Rhoda for about 30 of those 63 years. Months after I graduated from college, I moved to Baraboo, WI. Eventually, I began attending Emmanuel UMC, where I became acquainted with a whole bunch of wonderful people. One of those couples? Howard and Rhoda.

Sometimes, we meet people with whom having a relationship feels very easy. For me, Howard and Rhoda are one of those couples. Maybe it’s because Howard looks a little like my Dad. It’s not just his looks, but also his personality, which reminds me of my Dad and drew me towards Howard. Maybe it’s because Rhoda loves to play piano. Rhoda and I have played together on many occasions. After I became a pastor, she often filled in when the regular pianist was not available at one of the churches where I served.

Maybe it was because they modeled the type of relationship that I hope I would have if ever I was to marry. I am fortunate to have several couples in my life who understood what being faithful in marriage looked like. After I met the man who eventually became Hubby Rick, I slowly introduced him to some of the people who had become my friends. Howard and Rhoda were one of those couples.

Rick and I had been dating just a few months when his eldest son, Nate, was killed in a snowmobiling accident. I was the pastor for the church where Rick and Nate were members. Quickly, I found myself in a precarious position of not only watching my new boyfriend deal with loosing one of his children. I was also the pastor who would preside at the funeral.

It was January. I was in seminary and attending a short two-week class over winter break. Rhoda called and asked what they could do to help out. I felt I should attend class the day of the visitation. This would require driving two-plus hours to attend class for several hours and then driving back for the visitation. I had slept very little in the last 48-hours. If I could get to their house, Howard and Rhoda would drive me back and forth to school. It was the least they could do.

We left their house at 6 AM so I could get to class by 8:30 AM. As they were dropping me off, Rhoda asked if there was anything they could do while I was at class. I casually mentioned that Rick didn’t have a tie for the funeral. They found their way to the mall, bought a tie and had it sitting in the back seat of the car when they picked me up. Rick still has this tie. Every time he wears it, we recall how Howard and Rhoda bought it for him.

After we arrived back at Howard and Rhoda’s house, I changed clothes and prepared to attend Nate’s visitation. I was in my early 30’s, attending and soon presiding over the funeral for the eldest son of the man I had been dating just a couple months. I wasn’t sure that I was emotionally prepared to do this. I had never envisioned having to do these things. Rhoda simply told me to set aside whatever I was feeling for the next 24 hours and just do what I needed to do. Was it the best advice? It was the necessary advice I needed to hear so I could pull myself together and preside over the second funeral I would ever officiate.

Driving me back and forth the 120 miles each way that day was profound. Howard and Rhoda simply showed up on a day that was so very difficult. There were many things they could not do. But they could get me safely to and from school. They could give me a few hours where I could nap in the car if I wanted. Or talk if I wanted. Or just be with my thoughts. Maybe it didn’t feel like a big deal for them at the time. For me, it was a powerful witness of how they dropped whatever they could have been doing, loved me, and in turn loved Rick, through an awful day in our lives.

This is just how their marriage has been. Howard worked swing shift for years. Rhoda worked days. They raised two daughters and showed up in the lives of their grandchildren day after day. They’ve helped family members and traveled and served through their church. They have lived a wonderful life.

And then, about 15 years ago, Howard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Over time, his body has changed. He can no longer do the things he loved to do. The Friday golf outings ceased. No longer able to drive, his truck was sold. He went to morning coffee with his group of cronies for as long as possible.

Today, Howard and Rhoda’s life revolve around caring for Howard. A host of caregivers come into their home, morning and night, to care for Howard and assist Rhoda. This has kept Howard in their home, the highest priority. This little army love Rhoda and Howard in the simplest of ways. It’s very easy for them to love Howard and Rhoda, as they first model love to everyone they meet and know.

Yesterday, when asked how many years ago he married Rhoda, Howard knew it was 63. He spoke about what the day was like and recalled details that surprised Rhoda and me, all while sitting next to the love of his life, eating dinner. He smiled as he shared. This was the greatest gift he could have shared with the woman he has faithfully loved all these years.

When this couple said their marriage vows all those decades ago, I doubt they understood what “for better or worse” exactly meant. However, they have truly lived it. “In sickness and in health” aren’t just words for Howard and Rhoda. They live their commitment to each other, day in and day out. In doing so, they model beautifully an example for their family, their friends, their caregivers and yes, for Hubby Rick and I, of what being faithful in marriage looks like.

Rick and I know that celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary is not very realistic, as we started this marriage deal a little later in life. Sixty-three-years of marriage? Impossible. Yet, we feel very fortunate to have several wonderful examples of couples who took the command, “Be faithful in marriage” to heart and chose to live this command faithfully throughout their marriage. One such couple? Howard and Rhoda.

Thank you, Howard and Rhoda, for unconditionally modeling love towards each other, as well as towards Rick and me. We celebrate your marriage and commitment of being faithful in marriage. Hug each other today and think of us.

For the witness of being faithful in marriage, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for bringing such special people into my life. I thank you for powerful witness Howard and Rhoda exhibit of being faithful in marriage. Be with those couples who live daily with non-curable illness. May your grace be a part of today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Six for Saturday

Gratitude Day 237

Sat., Mar. 23, 2019

Hosea 6:3 – Let’s do our best to know the Lord. His coming is as certain as the morning sun; he will refresh us like rain renewing the earth in the springtime.

Just a few random thoughts as the weekend begins.

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  1. The calendar says its spring … and we have finally had a couple days where we did not have to wear a winter coat that were filled with sunshine. When Hubby Rick and I are in the car together, it is our tradition to read a devotion together. We just use a little book called The Upper Room and read the day’s devotion. We always close with a prayer. On Friday, we were on our way to have lunch with some dear friends. As we were praying, Rick admitted out loud that his attitude is affected by the weather. He is so right. I just wasn’t as quick to admit it out loud. The sunshine, even if chilly, does affect my attitude as well. I dug out some peach iced tea and have been drinking this all week. For me, this is a sure sign of warmer weather, as I love peach iced tea in the summer.

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2. My heart has also been yearning for color. Yes, I love black and white. I wear a lot of black and grey. My house has a lot of grey walls. But I am SO READY for COLOR! Something light, something fun and something that looks a little Easterish. A couple weeks ago, I bought some eucalyptus just because it smelled good.

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A few days later, I put it into this container with a few candles and some sprigs of artificial lavender that I had. These pillows are almost the same color teal. I put them in our front parlor, moved a couple things around and WOW! It feels much more like spring. This should really have been a 20-minute makeover because I did this in less than 20-minutes. And yet, has it made my heart sing.

 

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3. We love college basketball at our house. And we watched the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badger’s men team loose in the first round of the NCAA tournament. We will continue to root for the Big 10 teams. Plus, I always like to root for Tony Bennett and Virginia. I just think he’s a class act. Who are YOU rooting for?

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4. I have nearly filled up the 40 for 40 Box for Lent this year. And have started box #2. Rick brought a few things to me and asked if I have a donation box going. (I often do.) And so, his items are now in the 40 by 40 box as well. Are you working on a 40 by 40 box this Lent? How does it feel? It’s not too late to join in the fun!!

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5. We love Mexican food! Yesterday, we had lunch at a favorite Mexican place. It’s Jose’s in Baraboo, WI. I didn’t take a picture of the wonderful fajita taco salad that I had. Let me just say; it was great!

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6. Maybe by now, you have seen this video. It’s a basketball team of maybe 5th Watch #50 as he helps one of his teammates make a basket. The best part? The response of the boy who makes the basket.

https://www.facebook.com/learningexpresslakezurich/videos/845220942501420/

I saw this video with this caption: “We need more #50’s in life.” Amen.

This weekend, who can you be a #50 to? GO AND DO IT!!

For the witness of a little guy teaching us how to serve one another, I am grateful.

Thank you for the hope of new life this spring, Lord God. Sometimes, yes, these little differences do affect our attitude. May we see opportunities to be a breath of fresh air and help someone this weekend. Inspire us to do all the good we can do. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Who is God for you?

Gratitude Day 236

Fri., Mar. 22, 2019

Mark 5:36 – Jesus heard what they said, and he said to Jairus, “Don’t worry. Just have faith!”

“Who is God for you?” she asked.

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Recently, I had a conversation with a woman. She is trying to figure out who God is. When I asked her, “Who is God for you?” she gave me some of her thoughts. Then, she turned the question back to me and asked, “Who is God for you, Dianne?”

This is a good question. A powerful question. A question a pastor/Christian/believer should be able to answer, right?

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As we talked about this, I began to realize some things I believe about God. Would you like to hear them? Good. I’m ready to share.

God for me today is not the same God that I believed in when I was growing up. While I was raised going to church, confirmed my faith as a teenager and have been active in church for decades, who God is for me today has evolved over many, many years. It’s not that suddenly God showed up one day completely different from what I had previously understood God to be. Rather, I feel my experience, knowledge and tradition of God has matured. It’s not God who changed. I have changed. My understanding and experiences have allowed me to see God from a broader perspective.

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While my perspective of God has grown, I would not say I am “smarter” about who God is. Quite the opposite. I actually feel there is so much more about God than my little mind will ever understand. And I’m OK with this. My goal isn’t to discover all of who God is. My mission is to continue to discover new things about God on a regular basis.

This brings up another important point. I want to have a relationship with God; not just knowledge about God. Yes, I can rattle off some big theological words about God. But at the end of the day, this doesn’t impress God. God just wants me to know God on a very individual, daily way. Just like any other relationship, I must nurture my connection with God. Some days, I feel closer to God than others; just like some days I feel the connection between Hubby Rick and I is more solid than others. When I don’t feel as close to God, I try not to become frustrated with God. God hasn’t moved. I’m the one who moved. And I’m the one who will determine if I want to move back in closer contact with God.

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I do not believe God is at my beck-and-call, just as I am not at God’s. I make lots of choices each day. While there may be some are choices God would highly prefer me to make, I’m still the one who makes the decision. Clearly, there are times when I know without a doubt that my opinion is right … and God somehow forgot to consult me. I am not God’s puppet, and neither is God just waiting for my opinion.

Even when I feel let down or disappointed, God is not to blame for every bad thing that happens in my life, household, this country and or this world. Evil exits. While God can conquer evil, there are times God chooses not to. Why? Well, this truly is a billion-dollar question.

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God can surprise me every day, if I just slow down or am wise enough to see it. God has an amazing sense of humor … if we only see it!

 

While we may think it is easier to relate to Jesus because he came to earth as a human being, relating to Jesus is relating to God. They are one in the same. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is God’s presence with me right now. I can’t fully explain how the three persons of the Trinity are separate yet one in the same. This is one of those times people either believe it … or they don’t.

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Right after I post this, I will think of a whole bunch of other things I believe about God. Maybe I’ll try and keep a list of these things for another day. In the meantime, let me ask you, “Who is God for you? How would you answer this question if some nice lady or man asked you some day?”

Begin each day

For the opportunity to have faith in God as a core of who I am, I am grateful.

Holy God – You really are more magnificent that I will ever know. Thank you for calling me as Your child. Thank you for knowing my name and loving me unconditionally. Help me to love you as a deep expression of my faith. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Finally, … the First Day of Spring!!

Gratitude Day 235

Wed., Mar. 20, 2019

Job 29:23 – My words were eagerly accepted like the showers of spring

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Today feels like a seismic shift as spring officially begins! And as spring begins, I often think of these words from the song, Hymn of Promise:

In the bulb there is a flower;

In the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God along can see.

Take a walk. Breathe deeply. Love the optimism of longer days and warmer temps.

For the beginning of spring, I am grateful.

Whenever there is doubt of Your place in our world, I pray that we simply look at the changing of the seasons and am once again amazed. Thank you for the optimism of a new season. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Borrowed Quote  

Gratitude Day 234

Tues., Mar. 19, 2019

Hebrew 4:16 – So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.

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I so want this book and this verse to be something I came up with. But they aren’t.

No, I simply saw this photo and decided that I like this saying enough, I’m going to borrow it.

May I never forget on my best day, that I still need God as desperately as I did on my worst.

How easy it is to forget that we need God EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Good days. Bad days. In-between days. Cold days. Hot days. Dark days. Sunny days. Quiet days. Loud days. Difficult days. Celebratory days.

We need God every single day.

No less than yesterday. No more than tomorrow.

When we only turn to God on the days that are challenging, we often think God isn’t there for us. I don’t think this is the case. I think it’s just a lot easier to see God on those awful days when we know what it’s like to see God on a good day. A happy day. A regular day.

If we only expect God to show up when WE need God, then we’re missing out on the fullness of God. We fail to allow God to be with us through the wide-range of life experiences. We keep God in a box which limits OUR ability to experience the full joy of God being a part of our lives.

When we celebrate God-in-our-lives on good days, then we can spot God on my difficult days. We already know God’s voice in our lives. We put ourselves in a position where we can experience so much more of God.

I want God with me on the great days. I want God with me when something spectacular happens. I want God with me when there is a big or little reason to celebrate.

I also want God with me when I’m struggling. I want God with me when I’m distraught. And I certainly want God with me when I’m upset, disappointed and angry.

The great thing? God is there every single one of those days … and more. It’s me who sometimes moves God. God doesn’t move. Thanks be to God.

May I never forget on my best day, that I still need God as desperately as I did on my worst.

And if you like this saying, you can borrow it as well.

For God showing up every day, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for showing up in my life today. Thanks for being there yesterday. And yep, I know you’ll be there tomorrow. May I not forget to look for you, expect you and acknowledge you in my life every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Little Boy Who Stole My Heart

Gratitude Day 233

Mon., Mar. 18, 2019

John 19:19 – Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

A little boy stole my heart yesterday. His name is Daniel. This is his story.

A year ago, I helped fill in at an ECLA Lutheran church while they were between pastors. For several months, I lead worship at this church a few times a month. I started filling in right about the time Lent began. During the children’s message one week, I shared with the kids some little wooden crosses made out of olive wood. We talked about how Jesus died on a cross because Jesus loves each one of us so very, very much.

wooden cross

We also talked about how these crosses were extra-special. They came from Bethlehem, the village where Jesus was born. In this one little piece of wood, we have something that connects the beginning of Jesus’ life in Bethlehem, with the last day of his life when he died. I hoped these little crosses would help the kids remember just how much Jesus loved them.

Fast forward to yesterday. Now, I fill in as a musician at this church a couple times a month. Yesterday happened to be one of those Sundays I played. After worship, Daniel and his Dad, Robert, came over by me. Right away, I noticed that Daniel was wearing the little wooden cross from a year ago. He was SO PROUD to show me his cross. While cleaning his room this week, Daniel found the cross. He remembered where it came from and that he had received it from me. With a little help, Daniel had strung a piece of thread through the tiny hole in the cross and wore it to church yesterday. Daniel thought I would like to see his cross.

Did I want to see his cross? YOU BET!! Even more impressive? Daniel remembered that the cross had come from the town of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. And that he received it about a year ago.

Folks … can I just be honest for a minute? Little people like Daniel? They remind me the value of sharing Christ’s story. Daniel took a story that we explored over a year ago, connected it to and came back so we could relive the moment. And in the process, this little guy, wearing his little wooden cross hung around his neck with a thin strand of black thread, ministered to the pastor/musician.

I know Daniel is young, maybe 6-years-old or so. I know Daniel is an exceptional kid who soaks up everything and sees the meaning of things well beyond his years. He knows how and loves to have real conversations with people way outside of his age level.

He is also a reason why I have hope. When I see a little person like this grasp onto something faith-based and make it all their own, I know this seed has been planted into this little person’s heart and soul. It’s a seed that can be water and nurtured. In years to come, this seed can blossom and do amazing things. Little people like Daniel who have seeds of faith inside of them will take those seeds and turn them into acts of kindness where they bless other people. They will make decisions that affect people in a positive way. They will decide to be the hands and feet of Christ, just like he was the voice of Christ to me yesterday.

If you are a parent, Christian, a Christian Education teacher, a school teacher, a grandparent, a pastor … are there times when you wonder, “Why am I doing this? Does what I do make any difference?” Let me reiterate yes, what you do makes a difference. Every once in a while, a little person like Daniel will surprise you. He or she will acknowledge some little thing you helped them with made a difference in their live. In the process of sharing this back to you, they make a difference in your life.

I know there will be future days when Daniel will be less innocent about his faith and even struggle with who God is. I know that Daniel is a little boy and sometimes, yes, even he, drives his parents a little crazy. I know there will be choices that Daniel will make that someday, he wishes he would have chosen differently.

But for today, he sees that cross and know that Jesus loves him. And for today, this is enough.

Just to seal the deal on stealing my heart yesterday, Daniel did one more thing. Daniel wants to learn to play guitar. He brought his Dad’s old guitar to church yesterday. One of the other musicians, Mike, started showing him a few things about playing his guitar.

I also play guitar, well, kind of. Years ago, I took about four guitar lessons so I could learn just enough chords to play in church. Daniel looked so handsome with his Dad’s red guitar strapped around his neck. He stood there, pick in hand, and his little wooden cross hanging around his neck, just waiting for Mike to show him what to do next. I wished that I had taken a picture of this precious sight. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Instead, I snapped this photo of a similar wooden cross that Hubby Rick has hanging on his desk, a cross also from Bethlehem.

It’s Lent. It’s the time of year when we are encouraged to take extra time and reflect upon who Jesus is, why he came to this earth and what difference this makes in our lives today. Yesterday, little Daniel had it figured out. And his actions and enthusiasm stole my heart.

I pray the rest of us can somehow live up to his example.

For little people reteaching me valuable lessons, I am grateful.

Lord Jesus – sometimes, we make faith so complicated and difficult. We spend too much time looking for ways faith separates us rather than coming back to the very core of the gospel: that God loves us enough to send Jesus to this earth for our benefit. I pay we never completely loose our child-like approach to faith. May we be inspired by little people like Daniel who know showing up with an open heart is all it takes. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Six for Saturday

Gratitude Day 232

Sat., Mar. 16, 2019

Luke 12:26 – And if worry can’t even do such little things as that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

Interested in a few thoughts I’ve been pondering this week? Good! Here we go!!

Corned-Beef-and-Cabbage-2-Pressure-Cooking-Today

  1. 40 days is a long time. This week, I wrote about shopping my freezer and pantry for food during Lent. And in less than two weeks into this, I broke. I stopped at the grocery store and bought corned beef, cabbage, carrots and red potatoes to make corn beef and cabbage today. Hubby Rick starts works on Sundays, so I thought it would be easier to make it today. While Rick likes corned beef, he LOVES the cooked cabbage with corned beef. I think he earned the cooked cabbage after attending Hamilton with me this week. Will you be cooking corned beef and cabbage this weekend or going someplace for a meal? And yes, I will be back to using up that freezer and pantry …

Mil. Park Chicago

2. While in Chicago, we went to Millennium Park and saw the bean-shaped thing that is all the rage. FYI – I am a terrible selfie picture-taker. Rick would be even worse. I cheated and took our reflection in the bean. I know it’s a rather terrible picture. We snapped it in-between rain drops. Please, look at the bean more than us. But if you must figure out who we are, yep, that’s Rick in the red Wisconsin sweatshirt holding the umbrella. And yes, that’s me next to him. We enjoyed the park but decided it would be more enjoyable in the summer. Where has been a fun place you have visited recently?

Brenda Statz

3. The dairy industry crisis is real, especially in Wisconsin. Here’s an article that explains the stress and emotional roller coaster for those struggling with farming right now: https://www.agupdate.com/agriview/news/business/efforts-aim-to-prevent-suicide/article_f1897cba-0a71-5545-a744-355202b17798.html

Brenda Statz shares her heart-breaking story of loosing her husband. Rick has known the Statz’s for years. He hauled their milk for many years and later, his son Darran, did. Darran hauled the last load of milk off their farm before they stopped milking cows. I know Brenda told this story purely to encourage other people who might be in the same situation as her husband, Leon. Do you know someone who struggles with depression? Share with them some of the resources available out there.

4. And the difficulties for farmers and ranchers continues. The last two weeks have been challenging for some farmers. We’ve had a lot of snow the past six months. Now, some roofs of buildings can no longer hold up the room and have come crashing down. Personally, I am aware of a few farms that have been affected by this. Pray for people who are feeling so much stress as they produce food for American and the world right now.

5. As all of this snow melts, many communities are now experiencing flooding. Yep, about all we’re talking about these days in Wisconsin is the weather. Some of these communities are the same ones affected by flooding the end of last summer. Some are new. All are dealing with lots of potential losses. Let’s hope the water evaporates with limited additional damage. Let’s have compassion for those who maybe going through another round of displacement in their lives.

6. I’ve been reading about simplicity lately. And discovering there are lots of different ways to interpret and embody simplicity in a person’s life. While I feel there are areas in which Rick and I intentionally choose simplicity, there are other areas where we can make improvements. One of the keys to simplicity? Finding your own way. Some people are more rigid about some things than others. Personally, I feel simplicity for me helps remove some of the things that pull me away from fulling the things that I feel are important. How do you view simplicity? Where do you long to have a bit more simplicity in your life?

Have a great weekend. One thing we’re doing today? Catching some Big 10 men’s basketball! Go Badgers!

For appreciation for the little things in life, I am grateful.

Jesus – we see the families and people who are affected by things going on in their lives and we simply turn them over to you. I pray that those who are struggling will find assistance. Be with those affected by flooding, snow damage … anything that affects their daily living, just be with them. May we be willing to help in ways that we can.   Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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