Finding Serenity

Gratitude Day 262

Mon., Apr. 29, 2019

1 Corinthians 16:13 – Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.

Serenity Prayer

It’s the second most popular Christian prayer; right after the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the Serenity Prayer.

Written by psychologist-theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943, the original version was longer. Most often, it is used in it’s shortened version. Here’s the longer original version:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Niebuhr was a professor. He spoke against Nazism and the United States having a neutral position during World War 2. He also warned against communism.

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The Serenity Prayer maybe most known for its use in the Alcoholics Anonymous organization. Traditionally, it is used to close every AA meeting.

This prayer can be used in more situations than this. My Mom had this plaque in her kitchen for years as a reminder that things will happen today that you cannot control. It is best to recognize quickly what you can control … and what you cannot.

As you go through today and come across situations, determine whether you can or cannot affect them. And the wisdom to know the difference. Most importantly, may you find peace in the process.

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For daily wisdom from God, I am grateful.

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the Courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Today’s Season

Gratitude Day 261

Sat., Apr. 27, 2019

Ecclesiastes 3:1 – Everything on earth has its own time and its own season.

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It’s April 27 and I still have ice skates on my front porch.

And pine boughs that would take about 3.5 seconds to burn they are so dry.

If you look closely, there is a tipped over church/birdhouse thing that I didn’t even take time to upright. It’s been so windy this week that well, the church/birdhouse felt more comfortable on its side.

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Every time I go to the mailbox, I think, “Dianne, you really must get these winter decorations off the front porch.” And then another day goes by. And then a week. I’ve written “front porch” so many times on today’s to-do list that I think it automatically writes itself these days.

Yet, the ice skates and the dried-up pine boughs and the tipped over church/birdhouse live another day.

Snow is forecasted for tonight. Yep. Real snow. Like multiple inches. Maybe not enough for ice and ice skates but one more hint of what Christmas and the first snowfall of the winter could feel like.

Only the daffodils are blooming, the trees are budding out and lawnmowers have been humming for the first time of 2019 this week. Mother Nature just hasn’t decided exactly what season it is … yet.

The verse from Ecclesiasties 3:1 is well-known, whether you consider yourself a Christian or not. We use this saying in normal, every day life. “Everything has a season,” we say.

A season for school and education. A season for working.

A season for athletics and sports and a season for cheering from the sidelines.

A season for having fun and a season for being responsible.

A season for children and a season for empty-nesting.

A season for grandchildren and a season for sending them home.

A season for moving up the corporate ladder and a season for being OK with where you are.

A season for cleaning and getting rid of and a season for enjoying what you have.

A season for traveling and exploring and a season for sitting on the porch.

A season for ice skates and pine boughs and a season for fresh flowers and greenery.

A season for doing, doing, doing … and a season for being OK with less doing.

A season for being critical of ourselves and a season for accepting who you are, warts and all.

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I kept thinking that I would remove the winter decorations and find a way to make the porch look pretty before I plant gorgeous summer flowers with no concern about them freezing at night. The season of Lent came and went. The season of Easter arrived … and still ice skates.

Maybe, it’s a season of being OK with where things are today. Being OK with not crossing everything off today’s to-do list. Or writing a more realistic one. Being OK with grace and peace and whatever I need to make it through today. Being OK with enjoying the most important things in life and letting the rest go.

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What season are you in today? What might you just need to be OK with today?

For trying to see a little more grace in my life and being OK with today’s season, I am grateful.

Almighty God – there are so many seasons in our lives: seasons of the calendar; seasons of school and work; seasons of family and friends; seasons of activity and less activity; seasons of acceptance and seasons and grace. As we explore with you the current season of our lives, may you fill us with understanding and grace of today’s season. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Managing Our Stuff

Gratitude Day 259

Wed., Apr. 24, 2019

Matthew 6:21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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It’s just a few boxes of things. But it sure feels good to have them in the car and ready to be dropped off at a thrift shop.

During Lent this year, I challenged myself and others to participate in a “40 for 40 this Lent.” The idea was simple. Find 40 things to donate or give away during the 40 days of Lent.

With Lent over, these things are ready to donate. I didn’t count how many items there are. My approach was more about letting things go so these items can bring joy and happiness to someone else than a specific number.

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There’s a little more to the story. Would you like to hear? Good.

When Hubby Rick and I moved to our current house, it was a hot and muggy August day. We pulled up in a U-Haul truck stuffed to the gills. People from one of the churches that I was serving were present, ready to help unload. As these people gracious hauled box after box, item after item, from the truck into the house that would soon be ours, I was appalled. I could not believe how much stuff I had. I was embarrassed and mortified these people were hauling all of my “stuff” on this very hot day.

I vowed to get rid of a lot of stuff before we moved again.

Fast forward to today. It’s been three-and-a-half years. We’ve hosted two church garage sales at our house … for the sole reason that I didn’t want to haul the things I wanted to donate to another location. I’ve purged and gone through things. I’ve thrown away, given to family members and made countless trips to thrift shops. Still, I keep finding things that I can let someone else enjoy. Items that I can let go and work towards my goal of having less things in our home.

What are a few lessons that I’ve learned along the way? Curious? Grab a cup of coffee or some peach iced tea. Here we go.

  1. When your stuff “owns” you, you have too much stuff. And your relationship with your stuff needs a do-over. As embarrassed as I was with all this stuff moved into our current house, I am just as embarrassed by how much time I have spent dealing with stuff since we moved. Some of this stuff wasn’t mine. It was my Mom’s and my grandmothers and other relatives. Nonetheless, someone needed to go through this stuff. My Mom placed a lot of value on her things. I have things that I really enjoy. However, I do not want “things” to become more important than relationships. “Stuff” is not more important than memories.
  2. The more stuff we have, the more time it takes to manage our stuff. As I go through my relative’s things, I remind myself that I don’t want someone to repeat this exercise with my stuff someday. I want to make it manageable now. And maintain this. I want to spend less time in the next period managing stuff. Instead, I want to enjoy other things. Yes, there will always be some level of managing our stuff. But I clearly want to move on.
  3. If we have lots of “stuff” in one area of our live, most often, we have more “stuff” in other areas of our lives. Why do we hang onto certain things? What is the root reason why keeping so much is necessary? Is there an underlying reason? When we can release ourselves of things, then we might find freedom in other areas of our lives as well.
  4. I want to keep perspective of “things” and “stuff.” I pray these things never become more important than relationships in my life. I pray that faith and witnessing to my faith are higher on the pecking order than what cool items I have in my house. While I enjoy having things that mean something to me and that I love, things should not have a higher priority than the true treasures in our lives.
  5. Resources are available with ideas about how to deal with our stuff. But it also has to make sense to us. I’ve read books about decluttering and eliminating stuff. Recently, I listened to Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Marie is known expert on this topic. Some of her tips were helpful, like, “Hold something in your hand. If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.” She suggests dealing emotionally easier items first. Marie says once a person goes through their house, they will never have to go through this process again. I’m not convinced of this. Over time, my tastes have changed. What I love has evolved. What brings me joy today is not the same as a number of years ago. Marie challenges people to go through their things as quickly as possible. This maybe helpful for some and overwhelming for others. There can be great joy in even cleaning out one drawer. Sometimes, I have been diligent in going through things. Other times, I’m not in the right mental place.
  6. Never underestimate how something you give away can benefit someone else. A number of years ago, a woman at the church I was serving shared how a friend’s mother had lost everything in a tornado. She only had the clothes on her back. This woman was a little heavier-set and knew finding clothes her size might be challenging. My Mom had recently lost weight. She had a closet full of clothes I suggested she donate to this woman. As we went through her closet, she found it difficult to let some things go. I encouraged her to think of how these items might benefit the woman who had nothing. We sent off two large boxes of clothing. About a week later, I received a touching note from the recipient. She could not believe how the clothes fit her so perfectly. How had we thought to send pj’s and coats? She was overwhelmed and extremely grateful for all the items.

Whether you pulled together 40 items during Lent or not, thing about your stuff. What is your relationship with your things? Do you hang onto things for the wrong reason? Can you bless someone else with items you no longer love or use? How would freeing up more time instead of managing your possessions feel?

In the end, it’s a stewardship question. Are we willing to let ourselves and our stuff be used for God’s kingdom? If we treasure our things more than we treasure witnessing to those around us, then our hearts may not be in the right spot.

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While I’m still working through some of the “stuff” I have, I feel like I’m getting to a more manageable state. What I haven’t tackled yet? Some more photos and all the electronic files. I try to celebrate the “wins” versus what still looms before me.

Most importantly, I pray that my heart is in the right place. I want my treasures to be more than “stuff.” I pray my legacy isn’t a house full of things that couldn’t go to the cemetery with me.

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For learning to let go of things and focus on the true treasures in my life, I am grateful.

Lord God – we live in a country with so much abundance. Isn’t it a little crazy how so many have all this stuff to deal with and others who have so little? May we find joy in releasing things to those who can benefit from things that no longer bring us joy and happiness. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Why Jesus?

Gratitude Day 258

Mon., Apr. 22, 2019

John 11:25-26 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

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Hubby Rick and I had been to church on Easter Sunday. We were in the car driving after worship when Rick asked me, “So, how was it to not give a message on Easter Sunday? In fact, how was it being just the piano player during Holy Week and not preparing for worship?”

I shared with Rick how I had mentioned this earlier in the week on this blog. (Full disclosure – Hubby Rick doesn’t read my blogs. Ever.) I shared how Holy Week felt different this year. I LOVE preparing and planning the Holy Week and Easter services. They are my favorite services of the year. Rick admitted not being a part of Holy Week worship this year was also different for him.

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I must admit. During worship, my mind drifted to Easter Sunday last year and what I shared in the message. I thought of my favorite Easter songs and how I love singing them during worship. When the kids came up for Children’s time, I recalled the crazy ways I’ve tried to engage the kids with the Easter story over the years.

I know it’s my choice not to be leading worship right now. And I’m still good with this choice. Maybe, I just missed sharing why I choose Jesus to be a part of my life.

So, had I shared a message on Easter Sunday, here’s what I would have shared. Why is Jesus in my life? Why do I choose to center my life around someone that I’ve never actually met? How do I know there is or was a Jesus and that he is God’s Son? And what does this mean to me?

I realize whole books have been written on these topics. I’ll try to give you a shortened cliff notes version.

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Why Jesus? While I may have never actually seen Jesus, I’ve felt Jesus in my life. I know that Jesus has helped me through some challenging decisions, times and opportunities in my life. I choose to believe this book called the Bible that shares at least four accounts of Jesus’ life, written by people who chose to share what they knew about Jesus. Even though these four accounts may not always be in exact agreement, I’m OK with this and believe the underlying message of Jesus as God’s Son is strong in all four accounts.

Why is knowing Jesus important to me? It gives me hope. Hope that even when I make poor choices or do not live up to my potential, it’s really OK. I don’t have to redeem myself because Jesus has already accomplished this for me. I just get to be me and make mistakes and try to let Jesus’ love shine through me in what I do, say and how I choose to live. Knowing Jesus gives me hope that I don’t have to be perfect. God loves me anyways. Having Jesus in my life gives me hope that there is something beyond this earthly life; something far more exciting than I can ever imagine. I look forward to knowing more about this someday.

Relationships were important to Jesus. In fact, his life and ministry centered around relationships. My relationship with Jesus is important to Jesus and to me. I invest in this relationship so I can become clearer about how I can manifest God’s love into this world; a world that is terribly broken and I feel needs hope, love and peace. Through prayer, I feel I can listen and share with God and Jesus.

I’ve become comfortable in knowing that I will never fully know or understand Jesus or God in this life. And I’m OK with this. This doesn’t mean I stop learning or exploring them. I rely on faith in them as being something that gives me peace. While it can be easy to feel your questions about faith never fully get answered, I choose to appreciate how much of faith I feel is made available to me.

We can worship and praise God in many, many different ways. Your way many not be my way … and that’s OK. Your relationship with God is not my relationship. Your experience is not my experience. I pray that we can appreciate and celebrate these differences rather than choosing to let differences become more important than faith and why we choose Jesus and God in our lives.

Later in the day, my sister-in-law Linda shared these words on Facebook. I thought they captured much of why I feel Easter is so important. The woman she is speaking about would be my mother-in-law, Ersel:

Sorting through some of my mom’s papers, I came across this Easter memory. She was sitting next to her grandma on Easter Sunday, she noticed tears rolling down her grandma’s face while singing “The Old Rugged Cross and again when singing “He Arose”. She thought to herself, what is wrong with this old woman? Why all the tears? Her grandma looked at her and told her someday she would understand. Today my mom is singing with the angels. I am the old woman sitting in the pew with tears in my eyes. I understand. Do you? Happy Easter.

I pray that you had a wonderful Easter.

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For the opportunity to think about why Jesus is such an important part of my life, I am grateful.

Alleluia! He is risen! Have more powerful words been spoken? I pray we celebrate these words and Jesus in our lives today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Breakthrough

Gratitude Day 257

Sat., Apr. 20, 2019

Acts 1:14 – They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

I shared earlier in the week how sometimes, Hubby Rick and I go to a faith-based movie on Good Friday.

Well, we did it again!

I know it sounds weird. A movie on Good Friday? Mind you, we are not regular movie-goers. We pay to go to a movie theater like once or twice a year. It may be a whole another year before we sit in those nice, reclining seats again …

Friday morning, Rick asked what I wanted to do. Mentally, I had a long list of things on my to-do list. But when he asks this? It’s his key words for “how about a date?” Or “how about some time for just the two of us.”

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I grabbed the opportunity and suggested going to the movie “Breakthrough.” I found the trailer online and we watched it. Soon, I was checking possible local movie times. While we usually have gone to church first and then a movie, we were attending an evening worship service. So, we went to the movie in the afternoon instead.

Based on a true story, in January 2015, John Smith fell through the ice in a pond. He was underwater for about 15 minutes and then rushed to a hospital where doctors could not get a pulse. The attending ER doctor was ready to proclaim his time of death. John’s mother, Joyce, walked into the room where John was. She prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to come and be with her son. Before long, John had a pulse.

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He was transferred to another hospital. A doctor with expertise in dealing with people who have been submerged in water was frank with John’s parents and said he didn’t expect the 14-year-old boy to make it through the night.

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John did. Joyce loved her son through impossible odds. People prayed for John’s recovery. Miraculously, John walked out of the hospital just a few weeks after the accident and returned to normal teenager life.

It’s a story of love, faith and never giving up. It shows the dynamics of a pastor and a family from the church he serves. We see how difficult it is for people to journey through crisis. We watch a community surrounds the Smith family with prayer, love and support.

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The movie also tries to deal with the difficult question of, “Why?” Why does it seem that God heals some people and not others? How does God choose who is healed and who isn’t? The harsh reality of life not always being fair is part of the story line. If you are looking for an exact answer to this question, I’m sorry. You will be disappointed.

Sometimes, people say, “I prayed, and God didn’t answer my prayer. I’m done praying.” Yep, this has happened. To thousands of people. Yet, there are John Smith examples when the unimaginable happens.

When Jesus died on Good Friday, nobody ever expected to see him alive again. Yet, miraculously, on Sunday morning, the tomb was empty. All those times he told his disciples that he was going to die and come back to life and no one seemed to listen or hear? Jesus proved that he lives up to his words. What he said would happen actually did.

If you feel God has not answered a prayer that you really, really wanted answered, I am sorry. It’s not that your faith isn’t strong enough or deep enough. I can’t answer the “Why?” question either. What I can say? Prayer makes a difference. Prayer can change you. Prayer helps us accept help and not journey alone through difficult and challenging times.

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If you are looking for a movie of hope, prayer and faith, then Breakthrough maybe a movie for you to see.

For gratefulness of stories of hope and love and prayer, I am grateful.

Tomorrow, we can witness a miracle. It’s a miracle that is sometimes hard to believe and imagine. Whether we fully understand or accept this miracle, may we know that you love us right where we are at. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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One Story

Gratitude Day 256

Fri., Apr. 19, 2019

John 19:30 – When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

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Can one story really change all of history?

I believe so.

Is it possible for one story to affect everything that happens after it?

Yes, it’s true.

We can read the story or watch the re-creation in a movie. We can hear the seven last statements Jesus says and try to understand who he is speaking to.

All noble, important and significant choices.

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But unless we see this story as part of our story, we miss the point.

We gloss over the deep-seeded, never-ending love story.

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I know. The details are difficult. The order doesn’t make sense. The timeframe gets blurry when reading all four accounts.

But it’s really this simple: either you believe this story changed history … or you don’t.

Period.

Either you see this story as a life-changing event in your story. Or not.

And when you see this story as an important part of your story, then you see the significance of today, Good Friday.

Was it really “good,” the day the Messiah died?

Only if we wait and see what happens on Sunday morning. If we stay stuck on Friday’s events, then it wasn’t really good at all. It was only awful.

For those who like hope, they wait. They keep silent. They anticipate. They know the story doesn’t end on Friday.

But they also know that Friday changes everything.

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“It is finished.”

Thanks be to God.

For simple symbols that help us recall the events of Holy Week and Easter Sunday, I am grateful.

Lord God – sometimes, we don’t really want to look at what happened on that Friday about 2,000 years ago. We want to skip the parts of the story we don’t really like. May we see this story as part of our story. May we let the love found at the cross change how we view our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Why Eggs and Easter?

Gratitude Day 255

Thurs., Apr. 18, 2019

2 Corinthians 5:17 – So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Nearly all of my Easter decorations all into one category.

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So why eggs at Easter? Why are they such a strong Easter tradition?

While the history of eggs and Easter is a little vague, we do know this is a long-standing tradition. The dating of Easter varies from year to year and is tied to Passover. Jewish Passover is always celebrated in the spring; thus, the reason Easter is celebrated this time of the year.

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Eggs are a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth. In the spring, we experience lots of new life: new baby chicks, new grass and new babies of all sizes, shapes and various species. Who doesn’t think a baby lamb, rabbit or bird is absolutely precious?

 

Sometimes called Paschal eggs rather than Easter eggs, these eggs remind us of Jesus’ resurrection. The hard-outer shell of the egg symbolizes the sealed tomb. When this shell is cracked, Christians are reminded how Jesus was raised from the death. Orthodox churches often dye Easter eggs red to signify Jesus’ blood.

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Americans have a long-standing tradition of dying eggs, hiding them and hunting for them. Maybe we don’t know the exact reason why all of these traditions began. What we do know is they are very much connected to the biblical reason for Easter: Christ’s resurrection.

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Whether you dye eggs this week or not; whether you will be involved in hunting for them; whether you can’t wait for deviled eggs (one of Hubby Rick’s favorites), eggs are an important part of our Easter tradition. May these eggs not just reflect a fuzzy baby duck, or some other new baby animal born this time of year. May we see how a simple egg helps tell the story of Jesus’ resurrection.

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For simple symbols that help us recall the events of Holy Week and Easter Sunday, I am grateful.

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New birth. New life. A resurrected Christ. May a simple egg point us back to the empty tomb and how Jesus’ cracked open humanity with the resurrection. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Lessons of Death, Hope and Resurrection

Gratitude Day 253

Wed., Apr. 17, 2019

1 Peter 1:3 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

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Nearly 21 years ago, I visited the Notre Dame Cathedral. When I heard that it was on fire on Monday, like many others, I recalled the time I had visited this beautiful church in Paris.

I was traveling with my friend Kristin. We spent 40 days traveling in Europe. The last several days, we toured Paris. Of course, we spent time at the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Throughout this trip, we visited some magnificent churches. We were amazed by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In Florence, I was awestruck by the Duomo. The unfinished La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona was so different. We took in St. Paul’s in London. With so many churches to visit and see in Europe, we quickly made a rule: no more than three churches a day. Otherwise, we lost some of the amazing features of the churches we visited.

What do I remember about Notre Dame? The stain-glassed windows. Hands down, the most beautiful stained glass I have ever seen. The beauty of the rose window is most difficult to describe and impossible to capture in a photograph.

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Construction of Notre Dame took nearly 200 years and was completed in the 1300’s. As Kristin and I walked about the cathedral, the light and windows were overwhelmingly beautiful. How the cathedral was designed, built and structured to capture light and enhance the stained-glass windows without the tools of our modern-day era were beyond our capacity to comprehend.

The interesting timing of the cathedral’s fire at the beginning of Holy Week is not lost on people. During the most difficult week of the Christian calendar, Parisians lost one of their most beautiful buildings in the city. Something like 30,000 people visit the cathedral every day.

What might be something we can take away from this event? How might we look at our faith from a slightly different perspective this Holy Week?

Holy Week will go on whether there is this cathedral or not. Services won’t officially be held at Notre Dame. However, I anticipate thousands and thousands of people will visit. The commitment to rebuild is there. Someday, hopefully, there will be worship services conducted in this building again. It is a powerful message that good can come out of an awful event.

Faith is more than a building. One of the more touching moments I saw in coverage of the fire was the spontaneous group of people who stood near the cathedral singing. People can and will continue to worship whether this building is useable or not. Thanks be to God.

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With God, there is always hope. In the grand scheme, the fire could have been even more devastating. Stories of fire fighters forming a human chain to remove pieces of art and treasured items from the building is inspiring. An unburnt cross hanging amongst the rubble sends a strong message. Christian faith is unique in that we have hope of something more to come. Death doesn’t have the last word; hope does.

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As we recall the difficult events that happened during the last hours of Jesus’ life, may we remember that he always had hope. He knew how the story would end. He knew that death would not have the last word. Jesus knew hope is a powerful emotion … when we embody its powerful nature.

I pray the people of France have hope this Holy Week. I pray we see this fire as one more opportunity to embrace the hope of our faith.

For hope in our Christian journey, I am grateful.

Holy God – may we see the fire of such a beautiful cathedral as not something You chose to happen but simply one of those things that happens. I pray we find hope in You this day and week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Just One Image

Gratitude Day 252

Tues., Apr. 16, 2019

John 1:29 – The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

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This painting always draws me in; especially during Holy Week.

In reality, it’s a rather simple painting. However, the meaning is anything but simple or easy.

It’s a lamb, tied and laying on a table. Ready to be sacrificed.

This painting is called Agnus Dei, which translated from Latin means, “Lamb of God.” It was painted by Francisco de Zurbaran and it housed at the Prado Museum in Madrid.  After visiting the Prado and seeing this painting, I knew that I wanted a copy for myself. I’ve had a copy of this painting in my office for years.

Why is it so special? For me, it captures much of the Holy Week story in one image. To understand what this picture represents, we must go back to the Old Testament and the story of Abraham and his son Isaac.

Abraham is instructed by God to sacrifice his long-awaited son to demonstrate his love for God. He takes Isaac away to do this. Just before he is ready to put Isaac on the alter, God tells Abraham to not sacrifice his son. Instead, a lamb appears and becomes the sacrificial lamb that takes Isaac’s spot.

Go ahead a few hundred years to when Moses is pleading with Pharaoh to let the Israelites return to their Promised Land. God has inflicted multiple plagues onto the non-Jewish people. These plagues do not convince Pharaoh to let the Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh needs the Jewish people as slaves and laborers. Who will build his building projects if the Israelites are not present?

In the 10th and final plague, God instructs the Israelites to kill a lamb. The Jews take blood from the lamb and paint it around their doorposts. When the Angel of Death comes, the Angel will see the blood and pass-over the Jewish people’s homes. Those without lamb’s blood around the door? Their eldest child will die. The lamb becomes the sacrificial lamb that takes the place of the eldest child in the Jewish households and preserves the eldest child.

Fast forward to the New Testament. Almost immediately in John’s Gospel. John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God; the person who will once and for all absolve all of humanity’s sins. This is why Holy Week coincides with Jewish Passover. Jesus becomes the One who connects the two events.

Some people may look at this painting and think, “How can an innocent lamb help us understand God?” We don’t want a seemingly innocent lamb to become a symbol of the awful events of Holy Week, However, often, God uses very surprising and unexpected means to help people see and believe Jesus’ story.

Maybe the painting is significant for me because my sister’s and I raised sheep while growing up. Maybe the innocent lamb contrasts greatly with my sinful nature. Whatever the reason, this painting speaks volumes to me during this week.

I know … some of you maybe thinking, “Wouldn’t an image of the crosses be more fitting?” For some people, the crosses are an image that speaks to them. For me, I choose this other image. It helps me remember the root of why the whole story happened; why Jesus came to earth.

If you could choose an image or a symbol that captures Holy Week for you, what would it be? Why did you choose this versus something else? Why is this item so meaningful for you?

When we find something in today’s world that helps us see Holy Week’s events, we connect to the story in today’s terms. I think this is terribly important. The challenge is to take this awful story and make it speak to us today without loosing the intent and purpose of the story.

Take a few minutes today and determine what image or story or item speaks “Holy Week” to you. Discover a way that you can embrace seeing this item the rest of the week. Celebrate how this item speaks to you.

For images that help draw us into the biblical stories of Holy Week, I am grateful.

Lord God – it’s amazing how the stories throughout the Bible weave together and help explain Your deep love for us. May we find an image that speaks this to us this week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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