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.”

Breakthrough movie pic

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.

Break Through praying

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.

Break Through in hospital

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.

Break Through family

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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Almost all are eggs.DSC07601

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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Real Ways to Remember the Last Days of Jesus’ Life

Gratitude Day 251

Mon., Apr. 15, 2019

John 13:34 – (Jesus said,) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  

Reality hit home on Saturday. For the first time in 20 years, I will not be leading a worship service during Holy Week. Yes, I will participate. I will provide music. But it’s been two decades since I have simply been a participant during Holy Week and not a “planner.”

Palm Sunday

I love Holy Week. I love the messages, the stories the symbolism and the agony. While some of these stories are difficult to read and understand, I simply can’t get enough of the Holy Week stories from the four gospels. Every time I read them, I discover something I missed or forgot or ignored in previous readings.

For these past two decades, I have loved trying to bring these stories into today. Re-enact them. Help understand some of the symbolism and meaning. Bring them into situations and contexts with verbiage that maybe makes a bit more sense for us today.

As I was lamenting with Hubby Rick about not leading a Holy Week worship service, he chimed in and said he was going to miss helping me lead Holy Week worship. For nearly all of those 20 years, Rick has taken an active role in helping with at least one worship service during Holy Week. He’s been Peter, Judas and even portrayed Jesus. He’s memorized lines and lines. For weeks after Easter, he would spontaneously break out into one of the lines in the middle of something maybe or maybe not related. He’d hold up a piece of bread and recite a line from a drama he helped with. Or in the car, use a line to emphasize some point he wanted me to hear.

This winter, we had some water in the basement and a few things got wet. Rick has this old pair of sandals that literally are glued together. He’s had them for years. They have outlasted their value. I wanted to throw them away. Rick calls them his “Jesus” sandals. He’s worn them for probably every Holy Week, Advent, Christmas Eve and random other drama he’s been in since we’ve been married. Just in case he might be recruited again, he wanted to keep his Jesus sandals. And so, they remain in the basement.

I think it is easy to skip from Palm Sunday right to Easter and miss some of the great messages and stories that happen in-between. I’ve been pondering how I want to celebrate and honor Holy Week this year. Maybe you’re interested in some of my thoughts? Maybe you might want to embrace some? Just in case, I’ll share a few thoughts below.

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  • Attend Holy Week worship services. Seriously, just get your butt in the pew. Or a chair. Often, lots of effort is put into designing these worship services. I know the messages are complicated and not always kid-friendly. But there are great opportunities to discover these stories again. Pick at least one service this week to attend. Enter the worship space ready to have your heart touch. And maybe, it just will be.
  • Read through at least one account of the Holy Week stories in one of the gospels. On Saturday, I encouraged folks to read through John’s Gospel. This Gospel has the most comprehensive recollection of Holy Week events. But honestly, just pick one of the gospels. For Holy Week narratives, look at these chapters of the various gospels: Matthew – chapters 21 – 28; Mark – chapters 11 – 16; Luke chapters 19 – 24; and John chapters 12-21. In some of the gospels, if you read a chapter a day this week, you would cover the narrative. Some more and some less. Take your time as you read the stories. Pause. Think about what you’ve read.
  • Watch a movie that draws you back into why faith is important. “The Passion of the Christ” recalls the last hours of Jesus’ life. Yes, it is graphic. But it’s a graphic story, quite honestly. The last couple Good Fridays, after worship, Rick and I have taken in a movie with a spiritual theme. Last year, we saw, “I Can Only Imagine.” The year before, we watched “The Shack.” There are lots of other options. It’s become a special way we relate to faith this week.

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  • Discover a Seder Meal. This is one of my all-time favorite traditions of Holy Week. Jewish people celebrate Passover this week. Jesus was celebrating the Seder or Passover meal with the disciples during the night we call the Last Supper. Jesus took this Jewish meal and reinterpreted it for us as Christians. If you are not able to participate in a Seder Meal, read a children’s book about the meal and see how Jesus used this meal to help explain who he was and what his purpose was to come to earth.

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  • Take a piece of wood and pound a nail into it. As you pound the nail into the wood, think of Jesus being nailed to a cross for your benefit. Put this piece of wood in a place where you can see it all week.
  • Another story I love is when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. I know … washing someone else’s feet seems a little weird. The first time someone washed mine on a Maundy Thursday, it changed my view of the Last Supper. I was living overseas at the time. The other American woman I was living with and I gathered with a family of five and we washed each other’s feet. It was powerful. I know this may not be for everyone. But see if you have one friend who might do this with you. If you do this, read the account from John 13 before you wash each other’s feet.
  • Fast a meal or two this week. Then, take the funds or food that you would have normally used for these meal(s) and donate to a local food pantry.
  • Wear a symbolic item all week. I have a couple different items that I have used. Sometimes, I wear a favorite cross. I also have a ring that I bought in Israel that looks like a crown of thorns. The only rings I usually wear are my wedding rings. So, wearing this ring all week makes it special.
  • Put yourself in a special place and spend some quiet time with God. About 10 years ago, I traveled in the Holy Lands. The only “free” time we had was our last afternoon in Jerusalem. We could do what we wanted. I wanted to spend the afternoon in the Garden of Gethsemane. My friend Mary Ann and I walked to the garden and spent a couple hours independently there and in the Mount of Olives. I will always consider this one of my most special times with God. It happened because we planned for it and made it happen. It doesn’t have to be all afternoon. Just create space.
  • Pick a verse or two of scripture and make it your special verse of the week. One example? The scripture at the beginning of this blog. Jesus speaks these words at the Last Supper in John’s gospel. Recite your verse every day. Write it on a card and keep it in a spot where you will see it at various times throughout the day. Make it a verse or two that speaks of why there is a Holy Week.

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While Holy Week will be different for me this year, I have every intention of making it a great week. I pray you will as well.

For special ways to recall the last days of Jesus’ earthly life, I am grateful.

Holy God – The gospel writers certainly wanted us to know how special the last days of Jesus’ life were. This is why they dedicate so much space to these events. May we embrace these special stories this week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Holy Week is Here!

Gratitude Day 250

Sat., Apr. 13, 2019

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John 12:13 – They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

 

Here’s a just a few things I’ve been pondering as we come into this weekend.

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Spring, Please Come Back

You were here for a hot minute. And then, you disappeared. The snow is mostly gone. But the wind and cold? Bone-chilling. Can you please make a guest appearance again? And stay longer this time?

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Be Inspired by a Young Person

My nephew Kevin spent several days in Washington D.C. this week as part of a 4-H trip he was selected for. (He’s the guy in the front row with the bow tie.)

I picked him up from the Milwaukee airport and was part of his taxi ride home from the airport.

While in D.C., the youth were divided into small roundtable groups. In these groups, they developed potential legislative ideas which they presented to members of Congress or their staff people if the Congress members were not available.

It was so refreshing to hear a young person’s perspective on some of this. It’s easy for people to feel like the U.S. government is struggling right now. As I talked with Kevin, I was impressed. He’s insightful and articulate. He drew conclusions and ideas without my prompting.

The lesson for some of the rest of us? We can use our voices. We can be inspired to share ideas with our legislators. Will there be automatic change? No. Rather than being discouraged and only talk about the problems, we can be part of the change. Amen.

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It’s Holy Week

Tomorrow, we celebrate Palm Sunday which leads us into the last week of Christ’s life. For years, this week has been my favorite week of the Christian year. We begin the week waving palms and just a few days later, are faced with the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life. I love going to the Last Supper and hearing Jesus’ last words to his closest group of friends. Yes, it’s agonizing to imagine those last six hours of Jesus’ life as he hung on the cross. But it’s because of this event, Christians can have hope. Hope for more. Hope that death doesn’t have the last word. Hope that Jesus conquers death and so much more.

Please, please take in the special worship services that surround this week. They can be very moving and highly symbolic. When we jump from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, we miss out on so much. Journey through the muck and arrive at Easter Sunday amazed again by this rich and deep story.

Holy Week

Speaking of Easter …

I don’t have a single Easter decoration out yet. For the many years I served as a pastor, I always made sure and had them out before Holy Week began. My timing is just off these days, as my schedule doesn’t completely revolve around Sunday worship as it did for YEARS. Maybe it’s OK those Easter decorations are still in a closet. I’m going to treasure bringing them out and thinking about Holy Week as I do.

If I can inspire you a bit today … truly think about Holy Week and what it means to you. A great exercise this week would be to read the last half of John’s Gospel. Amazingly, the last half of this Gospel is dedicated to the last week of Jesus’ life. Start with John 12 and read through the end of the Gospel, which is John 21. If you start today, this is 10 chapters to read in 9 days if you read every day between today and Easter Sunday. You only have to read two chapters on one of those days to complete all 10 before Easter! Give yourself an Easter gift and read through them. These chapters are rich with Jesus’ teachings, words and insights. Read the chapters slowly. Please don’t rush. See what is something new you can discover as you read them. And come into Easter morning excited to go to the tomb!

Let’s make this a great Holy Week!

For the opportunity of a deeply rich Holy Week, I am grateful.

Almighty God – we’ll wave palm branches this weekend and shout, “Hosanna!” But like the people of Jesus’ day, will we decide to turn away from you this week? Inspire us to dig a little deeper and be refreshed by the difficult stories of the last days of Jesus’ life. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A More Realistic View of Grief

Gratitude Day 249

Fri., Apr. 12, 2019

Psalm 119:28 – My spirit sags because of grief. Now raise me up according to your promise!

Much of what we discover, we already know. We just need to remember it.

stages of griefWhen I recently saw this picture of grief, this is exactly how my soul felt. I’ve seen this diagram multiple times before. But maybe, I just needed to see it again today. And remember that grief is rarely linear, logical or predictable. No, most often, grief feels like one hot mess. Our hot mess.

When we think of grief, we most often associate grief with the death of a loved one. This is a very real grief situation. But grief can happen a million other ways. Just a few of those possibilities:

  • Loss or change of a job
  • Significant other’s job situation changes
  • Geographical move
  • Moving into a different living situation
  • A significant health issue for you
  • A significant health issue for a loved one
  • An addition to the family
  • When someone moves out of your house
  • Death of a pet
  • The seasons
  • Change in financial situation
  • Change in status with a person who is important to you
  • Addiction
  • Depression
  • Change in weight
  • Feeling let down by someone
  • Loosing or letting go of an item of value to you

And yes, about a million more.

While we may promote a change in our lives and even think it’s a great idea, grief can still be part of the process. Any time there is a “change” in our lives, the real possibility of letting go of something can put us into a tailspin of grief.

Grief is tricky. Some days, we think we can handle it. The next day? Not so much. Even the anticipation of a significant change in our lives can begin the grief process. (Think – knowing a child will be moving away, going to college, etc.)

While most people like to think we are strong and can handle grief, sometimes, we can’t. Sometimes, grief is simply overwhelming. And then, the line goes crazy in every direction, except a seemingly helpful direction.

If you are experiencing grief about something big or small right now, what are you to do? I don’t have all the answers to grief, but I just share a few things to ponder.

  1. Recognize and realize that you are grieving. Let yourself be sad. Disappointed. Let down. If you don’t acknowledge there is grief, you won’t be able to deal with it in a helpful or constructive way.
  2. Grief affects people differently, even if you are going through the grief situation. Spouses, family members, siblings will respond to how they feel in very different ways. Some ways maybe more constructive than others. It’s difficult to watch a loved one turn to unhealthy modes of dealing with grief. Sometimes you can help them; sometimes you can’t.
  3. Give yourself a break. Allow for more self-care. Cut back on expectations of yourself and others. Grieving people need space to process, be sad and decompress. It can be easy to add things into your life to mask and hide the pain. Or bury it. Instead, choose to establish ways for you to experience and journey through the grief.
  4. Be OK with doing things differently. At times, we have such high expectations of ourselves and others. We “expect” ourselves to do something because “this is what we do.” It maybe difficult and painful to continue these things. It’s OK to switch it up and do something different. Create new memories and ways to look at life.
  5. Find a way to express your disappointment. Some people journal. (I know this isn’t for everyone.) Some find a dependable and non-judgmental friend. A trained professional can be very helpful. People need a safe place to let their thoughts and ideas get outside of their minds and bodies. Find a place to do this. Moving through grief takes time. Lots of time. There will be a step forward and lots of steps backwards. There will be moments of joy and hours of confusion.
  6. Lean upon grace. One reason why I believe Jesus died on the cross? So, we would know that God has experienced the ultimate grief of loosing a child. In this event, God has experienced every feeling of grief that we have. This can give us hope that we know a God who struggles with grief and disappointment and sadness as well.

Let your grief be messy. Let your grief be complicated. Let your grief help define who you are. And let hope guide you through it as well.

For understanding that grief can be messy, I am grateful.

Holy God – when we feel overwhelmed or confused or sad about something happening in our lives, may we remember that it’s OK. You are with us. You walk with us. You actually know how grief feels. Help us turn towards you in our struggles and disapointments. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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God’s Sense of Humor

Gratitude Day 248

Thurs., Apr. 11, 2019

Genesis 21:6 – Sarah said, “God has given me laughter. Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.”

God certainly has a great sense of humor.

We experienced all four seasons in Wisconsin in less than 72 hours. Monday was in the 70’s; the first day we’ve experienced lovely temperatures like this in about six months. A wee bit of summer.

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On Tuesday, it was in the low 60’s. A beautiful spring day. We’ve been waiting for these tiny purple flowers that carpet our backyard to grace our presence once again. They burst forth on Tuesday and they were simply beautiful!

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Wednesday, it snowed. Really snowed. Heavy globs of snow came down in clumps. In 30 minutes, those precious little purple flowers were shivering and looking for coats and wondering who screwed up the seasons.

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As we trudged through the wet and shivered because we probably didn’t wear a warm enough jacket (in spite of the forecaster’s predictions), we silently cursed.

Meanwhile, God laughed. A big belly laugh that thundered through the skies as we wondered who forgot to look at the calendar and see that spring officially began a few weeks back.

Baseball games and softball games and track meets will be canceled this week. Tractors stationed at the edge of sheds, just waiting to be driven to the field, will patiently wait. Bags of rubbish raked last weekend are now one cold, soggy mess.

And God continues to chuckle as we wave fists towards heaven and question God’s sanity.

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Haven’t we had enough winter? Can’t we catch a break? The words “global warming” are tossed around again this week for the millionth time; words we’re growing leery of hearing as well as speaking.

By now, God must be laughing so hard at us, tears are clearly rolling down God’s checks.

Meanwhile, we are dumbfounded. I hear a branch crack and fall to the ground from the pine tree just outside my window. The weight of the snow affects one more thing this winter. A picture of social media showed snow hanging on the clothes line, as of it were real clothes. We’ve run out of words, expressions and adages.

Once again, I imagine God taking a Kleenex and wiping away the tears, as God looks at us and laughs.

Is this how Sarah felt? She was an old lady. She should have been a grandma by this stage of her life. Instead, she’s resigned to the fact that a child is out of the question. Daily, she lives with other Jewish woman whose lives revolve around their children and their children’s children. Sarah has no explanation why she was denied offspring. As Husband Abraham was no spring chicken either, they can’t imagine a baby coming into their lives now. When God shares with Abraham that soon, his wife Sarah will have a baby, he can’t wrap his head around it.

Sarah overhears the conversation and just laughs. What else can this grey-haired woman do? She? Have a baby? Right.

In the end, it’s God who has the last laugh. It’s God how oversees a complex plan in which Sarah actually bears a child, much to her and Abraham’s amazement. And yes, Abraham’s offspring eventually outnumber the stars in the sky.

God’s sense of humor is not often the first attribute we think of when we think of God. Just in case we needed a reminder, it came down in sheets of snow today.

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And who says, “God doesn’t have a sense of humor?”

For humor that should never cease to amaze us, I am grateful.

Lord God – in case we needed a reminder of Your sense of humor, I think we got the message today. Once again, may we be amazed with how unique and different Your perspective is. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Why Gratitude Matters

Gratitude Day 247

Wed., Apr. 10, 2019

Colossians 2:7 – Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.

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Awhile back, I began this quest to add more gratitude to my life.

I’ve read a few books about it.

I’ve written down lists of what I’m grateful for.

I’ve blogged about gratitude.

And here’s what I’ve learned.

We choose everyday whether or not we celebrate gratitude in our lives.

We have rotten days. We have good days. We have somewhere-in-between days. In all of these and more situations, we decide whether gratitude will be a part of our day. Yes, somedays it IS easier to find reasons to be grateful. Maybe I’m an eternal optimist, but I do believe every day, no matter how rotten the day may be, there is a reason to feel gratitude. Just when I think that I’m having a rotten day, I experience or hear of someone else going through a more challenging time than I am.

It’s easy to let life overwhelm us. It’s easy to assume we have it worse than everyone else we know. Whether this is true or not, we will determine if we still find something to express gratitude towards today.

Gratitude is best recognized in the small, everyday parts of life.

Recently, I was talking with a person about finding gratitude in her daily life. I encouraged her to find three things for which she is grateful every day. She came back and told me that she wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Then, I realized the situation. She was looking for gratitude beyond herself, rather than within the confines of her daily life. How do you find gratitude today? In the small, everyday ways you live your life. Don’t make it too complicated!!

The more gratitude we find, the more we see our attitudes and outlooks shift.

Let it start small. Let it grow organically. Let it be true to you. Your gratitude cannot be someone else’s. Make it your own. Be aware how you might have mission it.

May gratitude pull you back to faith in God.

Ultimately, for me, gratitude always comes back to appreciating the love I feel from God. The forgiveness. The grace. The freedom. For me, gratitude is very strongly connected to my faith. As my propensity for gratitude grows, so does my faith.

How do you feel gratitude in your life? Is it connected to faith? Can you respond with gratitude when you feel you are having a bad day? Where can you express gratitude for the normal, everyday aspects of your world today?

For gratitude beyond measure, I am grateful.

Almighty God – may I constantly look for ways that I can express my gratitude. May I never underestimate your connection to daily gratitude. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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