Here I Am. Feeling Like I’m in the Wilderness.

Gratitude Day 430

Mon., Mar. 30, 2020

Exodus 16:10: So, Aaron called them together and suddenly, out toward the wilderness, from within the guiding cloud, there appeared the awesome glory of Jehovah.

Yesterday, it happened. I realized that I feel like I’m stuck in the wilderness.

For the last two weeks, I’ve felt scattered. Undirected. Spending too much time listening to news, scrolling on my phone and distracted by things WAY. OUT. OF. MY. CONTROL.

The hours melt away. The days disappear. A scene of priorities, a schedule and thinking beyond the next short period of time seems difficult.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been good things. More time with Hubby Rick. Grandsons at our house for a few days. More cooking, sending cards, checking in on neighbors. These are all good things.

Yet, it also is becoming clear this current situation isn’t going away. Any time soon. In fact, it seems like another month of staying home, keeping ourselves isolated and limiting physical contact are the best recommendations for all of us.

Like it or not.

It just feels a bit like the wilderness.

Interestingly, wilderness time is also an opportunity to expand what feels comfortable in our lives. Discovering what is possible when so much of our “regular” isn’t currently on reality’s radar screen. We can explore some new things kicking and screaming … or, we can say, “Let’s try them and see what happens.”

And this, my friends, is what is happening in my life. All while I feel like I’m in the wilderness.

Last week, I hosted a Facebook Life Video that I am now calling Devos with Dianne. I plan to host these on Wednesday nights at 8 PM. Each week, we’ll look at a topic that is relevant and meaningful for today. Let me know if you have a suggestion! Please join me again this Wednesday night for another Devo with Dianne.

Yesterday, I hosted a live worship service, also on Facebook Live. I filled in for a pastor who has been experiencing some non-COVID-19 health problems. There were a few glitches and yes, I have room to improve. But when we take our first tour through the dessert, there are going to be new things for us to learn. Discover. Explore. And this is OK.

Finally, there is one other new experience I’ve recently stumbled upon. A Wisconsin-based agricultural organization had contacted me awhile back. Would I be interested in potentially recording some podcasts for them? Why, of course! Well it’s happened! In this first podcast, I share some suggestions and ideas of how we can care for ourselves and each other during this COVID-19 pandemic. I invite you to click over to the hosting website and take a listen:

https://pdpw.org/podcast/Persevering-during-Covid-19/details

Once again, as I listen to this podcast, I hear opportunities to improve. I’m very thankful for a new opportunity to explore how to share information in a quickly changing time in society.

So, even when we feel like we’re stuck in the wilderness, there are still opportunities to learn more about ourselves, each other, how to connect with one another and new ways of doing things.

Most importantly as we explore how to do this? Follow the great Cloud – Our Almighty God – who yearns to guides us on our way. Sometimes, it feels challenging to know when it’s something of our own volition and when it’s something directed by God. Allow yourself to spend time these wilderness days to be directed by God. When you allow this to happen, God is pretty good about showing up and helping us see the direction.

When we are feeling like we’re in the middle of a wilderness time, keep focused. God CAN and WILL provide great opportunities to grow. Yes, these days may feel a bit too challenging. Yet, they provide great opportunities for us to redefine our relationship with God. There’s a cloud longing to guide you. Keep your eyes peeled on the cloud. See what amazing things can happen.

For God’s journey with me in these wilderness days, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Few of us are willing to ready look at change. We just want things the way they always have been. This isn’t our reality right now. May we allow ourselves to become clay that is molded and shaped by you. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Two or Three Together

Gratitude Day 429

Fri., Mar. 26, 2020

Matthew 18:20: For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

This is the new normal.

This is now how business meetings are being conducted. Families keeping in touch. Friends connecting.

ZOOM has become our new go-to meeting hang-out.

Or Google Hangouts.

Or Facebook Live.

Or Messenger.

I’ve been a ZOOM user for years. I’ve used it for coaching. And meetings.

This week? I used it to connect with my God Squad group.

The earlier plan was to spend some time weekend time together. COVID-19 changed all of this. Instead, we hung out in ZOOM for a while. Checked in on each other. Found out what is challenging us most these days. How we’re dealing with kids at home. Working from home. Still going to work. How our loved ones are doing.

Right now, so many yearn for community. The opportunity to be with others. To share our hearts and our souls. To know we love and support each other.

All in a time when the new phrase “social distancing” has become the standard for how we live our lives.

And when we aren’t comfortable with these newer ways of communicating, well, we go back to what we know.

A note.

Held up to the door so all can see.

Notice where the man’s hand is?

Over his heart.

Just one more way this gentleman is conveying the sincerity of his message.

What must we remember?

Wherever two or three are gathered, I (the Lord God) am with them.

Two or three on ZOOM.

Two or three in Google Hangout.

Two or three in Messenger.

Two or three who read a note held to a window.

God is with them.

God is with you.

ZOOM away, my friends. God. IS. WITH. YOU.

For new ways to find community, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – we don’t need large groups of people together to know You are with us. Nope, we just need two or three. In community. Together. Thank you for always being with us. For helping us find community. For being You. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

We Need the Church. NOW.

Gratitude Day 428

Wed., Mar. 25, 2020

Acts 16:5: The churches became stronger in their faith, and each day more people put their faith in the Lord.

We are in a time called Lent – the 40 days before Easter when we are called to draw closer to God. It’s the time of year when people are encouraged to set aside time and intentionally explore ways that they can journey closer with God.

It is not lost on me … and many others … that during one of the most important times of the church year, churches are shuttered and closed right now. Pastors are trying to figure out how to host online worship and connect with people through different and sometimes unfamiliar platforms. Churches contemplate having enough funds to cover expenses while offering plates remain safely sheltered on pulpit shelves; completely abiding by the now common “stay in place” orders that have been issued.

For decades, many churches have remained much the same with Sunday morning worship as their main event of the week. Yes, churches have experimented with alternative worship times and styles. Many churches have additional offerings like Wednesday night programming and small group ministry. Visitation teams strive to keep those unable to worship regularly connected to the church. The list goes on and on about various ways churches encourage people to find ways to deepen their faith and develop a personal relationship with God.

While not always, most ministries happen within a brick and mortar church building. Yes, there are exceptions. But by and large, most ministry events supported by local churches happen at their main facility.

Until now.

It’s a common struggle right now: how does the church continue to operate when business as usual has been completely disrupted?

For years, we, meaning “church” people, have said the church isn’t a building. It’s a people. The folks who walk in and out of the building are far more important than the physical building. While we have said this, it’s hard not to underestimate the importance of a central location.

Until now.

In times of challenge and even chaos, maybe, it’s an opportunity for us to rethink many things. Including church.

I’m not ready to throw the church building out with the bath water. But, if ever there was an opportunity for us to reflect, ponder and rethink about what church means, now IS that time.

What is church? It’s hearts and souls who long to find meaning in their lives by drawing upon strength from Someone – God – who is bigger than us all. It’s living two simple commandments as given to us by the incarnate version of God, known as Jesus, to love God and neighbor. It’s falling in love with knowing there is something beyond this earth that awaits us. It’s having hope that we don’t have to know it all, be it all and live it all because God has it all together; especially when we don’t.

Like right now.

And when life feels ridiculously out of control and filled with chaos, it’s a place for us to turn and find peace. Quiet. Hope. Love.

For the last two years, my role as a “pastor” has not included leading weekly worship. My “church” has included multiple sites and worship styles. Hubby Rick and I have struggled in knowing exactly what church building we call “home.”

We have also discovered that church isn’t really about a physical building. It’s about being with other folks who yearn to make sense of their everyday lives on a deeper spiritual level. Even while we may not be in the same physical building each week, we still see ourselves as part of God’s church.

People also turn to the church to give them hope and encouragement when their lives feel turned upside down. Recently, someone suggested that I should consider hosting an online devotion for folks who are looking for this. I took a couple of days to think about this and decided to offer a weekly online short devotional time. I hope people worship with an actual faith community on the weekends and so offer this devotional time as an alternative to regular worship.

Tonight, at 8 PM central, will be my initial Wednesday Night Devo with Dianne on Facebook Live. I would love for you and a friend to join me. I anticipate it to be 15 minutes long or so. I would love for you to share a prayer request that you have. I don’t expect this to be ridiculously profound or professional. This will be the first Facebook Live I have ever done.

What it will be is an opportunity for us to be church together: to come before God and find guidance and inspiration from the One who is greater and bigger than all of us. To know that God is still speaking, even if God feels rather quiet right now. To gather as folks who love God and yearn to know God more.

That’s all.

Please join me tonight. I’ll see you there.

For new ways to experience church, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Lord God – what an amazing time to explore new and creative things in our lives, including what church means to us. I pray we find wonderful ways to connect with You and each other in these days often cloaked with stay in place encouragements. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

It’s Time for Lemonade and Clay

Gratitude Day 427

Tues., Mar. 24, 2020

Isaiah 64:8: You, Lord, are our Father. We are nothing but clay, but you are the potter who molded us.

How well do you deal with change?

Do you thrive in change? Dread change? Resist it at all costs?

No matter your perspective about change, we’re sure experiencing a lot of it these days. Seemingly every day, there is another change in how daily life exists around us.

Today, the state I live in, Wisconsin, announced that tomorrow begins a stay-in-place order. Thousands of small businesses closed their doors yesterday for now. Will all those doors reopen at some point?

It remains to be seen.

It’s a tough call. Shut down much of the economic engine our country thrives on, which is having devastating impacts on our economy, OR limit the potential spread of COVID-19 by ordering people to stay home and potentially save more lives.

It’s a terribly unfortunate decision many governors, mayors and other elected officials are having to make. I’m confident no one relishes making these kinds of changes; ones that dramatically affect people’s lives. It’s impossible to think there will any winners.

It is such a strange time for all of us. Having never experienced something quite like this, my mind wanders. For most of us, this situation is hopefully a once-in-a life-time deal. Yet, I wonder back to World War II and how folks lived with limited rations. I remember the gas rations in the mid 1970’s and the long lines of people wanting to buy gas. I remember the somberness after 9/11.

In most every previous situation, physically, people came together and shared their feelings and emotions. This time around? We’re told to stay home. Isolate. Limit contact.

I am a person who normally looks at a situation and begins figuring out how to make lemonade from whatever lemons were dropped into our lives. My brain has already shifted and is pondering how this situation will change my worldview, my priorities and where Hubby Rick and I dedicate our resources of time, energy, talent and financial means.

Honestly, I’m still sorting this out. But I pray that when we are beyond this initial scare, I WILL look at life differently. I WILL adjust my schedule and focus on what is most important as the main priorities of my life. I WILL know that the sour lemons that have upset our lives have been turned into lemonade.

Do I know exactly what this will look like in my future? Absolutely not. What I do know is that I want to be intentional about looking at the various things I do and how I dedicate my resources towards God’s kingdom. As I continue to sort through this, I do know a few things:

  • The constant “doing” will be tempered. I will thoughtfully and intentionally choose which areas of my life will continue. Some things will stay behind.
  • I will build more down time into my life; time which will allow for me to draw close to God and be guided by God’s love and mercy.

Isn’t it AMAZING … that we CAN live without non-stop sports? Shopping at the mall? Schedules jam-packed full?

This truly is a time to contemplate the tension between DOING and BEING. Figuring out what God calls us to do and what we call ourselves to pursue. To be clear about what is most important and how do we embody this into our lives.

These are some of the topics I review in my book, “The Mary Experiment: When DOING and BEING Collide.” To encourage folks to pick up a copy who may not have one. For the next several days, the Kindle version will be available for $.99. If you are aware of someone who is struggling with making sense of how God is speaking to them, encourage them to get a copy of the book. It’s a great Lenten read, as well as in light of what we’re all experiencing right now.

Here’s the link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Experiment-Where-DOING-Collide-ebook/dp/B08173NBBZ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2LUZH78HBKNN3&keywords=the+mary+experiment&qid=1585029278&sprefix=the+mary+exper%2Caps%2C185&sr=8-1

I also am feeling called to try something completely new for me: sharing a Lenten devotion time. It will be open to anyone! On Wed., Mar., 25, at 8 PM Central Time, please join me for a 15-minute devotion on Facebook Live. My intention is to make this a weekly devo time, where we can gather on Facebook and just share a few minutes together. I will be hosting it under my personal Facebook name, Dianne Deaton Vielhuber. Invite a friend to join us as well! And please bring your prayer requests along.

I love the image God gives us: God is the potter; we are the clay. God will mold us and shape us if we allow ourselves to let God do this. Maybe it’s not making lemonade right now. Maybe it’s being clay that can we shaped. I pray we allow God to shape us into something more spectacular than we already are!

First step for this to happen? Allow ourselves to live within the tension of DOING and BEING to collide in our lives.

For God’s desire to mold me like clay, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Few of us are willing to ready look at change. We just want things the way they always have been. This isn’t our reality right now. May we allow ourselves to become clay that is molded and shaped by you. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Do Something NORMAL!!

Gratitude Day 426

Mon., Mar. 23, 2020

Psalm 37:5: Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:

Sometimes, we just need a huge dose of normal.

Nothing else, but just normal.

Our days often feel anything but normal right now. We await for news: good news, bad news, any news that will help us understand how and why COVID-19 has upended our world. While news and facts and information are helpful, it is also so very difficult to keep perspective. Sort through what is accurate and what isn’t. What is being said versus the political spin which often accompanies the information.

Hubby Rick and I are careful about how much “news” we watch and read. Yes, we do get information. But we don’t want our lives reduced to seeing what the latest report is. We’ve prioritized some very “normal” parts of our daily lives. We exercise daily. We read devotions; sometimes together and other times independently. We make meals and keep in touch with family and friends.

On Saturday, Rick announced that we were going to move Earth Day up to March and observe it on Sunday. Rick often carries a bag when he goes walking to pick up garbage. One particular rural roadside area had a higher than normal amount of garbage. This was Rick’s designated area that we would clean-up on Sunday. This would also be part of our way to worship God: by caring for creation.

We covered less than one mile and yet picked up four large bags of garbage. In trying to make it fun, we each tried to find the most unique item. I thought the car pieces left over from a car accident would win the title. But then, Rick found a board in the ditch; one he is going to use to repair the stairs in our carriage house.

For a period of time, life felt very normal. The birds chirped away. We walked outside and drank in fresh air. It could have been any other day.

Later, we had lunch together and Rick left for work. He delivers petroleum to a convenience story chain, so he continues to work. Later, I baked French bread for the very first time.

Today, commit your way to the Lord. Find a very normal thing to do; something that would be just like any other day. Something that allows you to celebrate the gift of the present. Yes, we are very much aware of what is going on around us. Yet, our bodies and brains yearn for normal, regular things to help us keep perspective and maintain hope and a sense of reality.

Please embrace something very normal today. Just make sure it follows the recommended COVID-19 guidelines! Limiting social interactions is A MUST!

One last thing: here is a group of folks at a residential facility honoring social distancing while doing their normal activity of playing bingo. How cool is this!

For finding God in the normal, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

When life feels a bit off kilter, Almighty God, remind us of the need to do something ordinary. Normal. And find You in those regular activities of life. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Refresh this Weekend

Gratitude Day 425

Sat., Mar. 21, 2020

Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord your God wins victory after victory and is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with his love.”

Today, I’m a little sad. Hubby Rick and I were planning on attending a wedding. But of course, the whole deal has been changed. Who is getting married? Rachel and John.

Rachel’s parents are our dear friends, Lisa and Bob. Lisa and I were roommates in college. As little as a week ago, they were still giving the green light for the wedding. But as things have changed throughout the week, so have their wedding plans. The couple is getting married today; in a social distancing environment, abiding by the no-more-than 10 rule enforced. Yes, we are disappointed that we won’t be able to attend. Yet, I know our disappoint pales in comparison with the adjustments and multiple change of plans the couple and their families have made all week long. So, a big shout-out to John and Rachel. Have a wonderful wedding day!

As Rick and I talked about these disrupted wedding plans, we thought about other times when people’s wedding plans were adjusted. How many couples found themselves quickly getting married during World War II? My Dad flew back to the States from Germany during the conflict the Korean Conflict on a two or three-week pass to marry my Mom. I know these stories are not intended to make John, Rachel and any other couple’s with wedding plans right now feel better. A marriage is not based solely on the wedding day. It’s based on far other more important things: commitment, love, perseverance, hope, joy, and a bunch more. No matter the situation of when a couple gets married, the people in the marriage will determine what they focus on throughout their marriage.

For all of us, the week has not turned out how any of us would have anticipated. Honestly, one would think I’d be caught up on a lot more things than I am. If you are feeling like your to-do list didn’t shrink much this week, IT’S OK. We need time to process, gather information and work through what’s going on. Some of us also yearn for opportunities to do something towards helping those who are struggling.

The highlights of my week revolve around being able to put together a bunch of extra food bags for school kids as well as responding to needs at our local food pantry. We’ve put together a group of people that are involved in the local food pantry and/or our student weekend food program to coordinate efforts in meeting food needs within our community. We’ve already seen increase usage in both programs, so we want to be ready to serve. We’ve had great response from volunteers and other organizations to partner with us.

Now, not everyone can and should be helping with community response efforts. Be realistic about our situation. Sometimes, your best help is keeping yourself safe and healthy.

Today, I also want to share a few resources for you and your family. If you are looking for some things to do while staying at home, here are a few suggestions.

Watch the movie Hamilton. A little over a year ago, Hubby Rick and I went to Chicago and watched it. We LOVED it, which says a lot, because quite honestly, Rick isn’t a Broadway kind-of-guy. Whether you have seen it before or not, here is a LINK to the full Broadway version.

If you are looking for a book to read, use THIS LIBRARY APP. It’s a free and easy way to get books without leaving home! Need suggestions? Recently, I “read”, i.e. – listened to two of Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone and The Nightingale. I am looking forward to checking out more of her books! Cilka’s Journey is sitting on my desk, ready to be listened to as well. I LOVED Heather Morris’ first book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Bake something. During Lent, I give up sugar. So, I’m being a bit more creative with this one. Honestly, there it is so rewarding to pull something piping hot out of the oven and anticipate that first bite! I made JoJo’s Biscuits from Magnolia Table recently. I am only allowing myself one a day!

Sit with a cup of steaming hot peach tea and just be. Here’s one brand I enjoy. Honestly, I plan to do this for a bit today.

And if you need a song to pick you up, listen to this. Right now. Seriously.

All this stuff going on right now can be a bit overwhelming. Let’s not forget that God has this. God is with us. God can breathe new life into your soul … if you simply ask God to do so.

For God’s breathe in my life today, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – help me to pause today. Seek You. Find You. Spend time just with You. Breathe life into me. Grant me Your peace. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Getting Creative with Relationships

Gratitude Day 424

Fri., Mar. 20, 2020

2 Corinthians 5:18: All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. 

Last week, Hubby Rick was going through an album with some old family photos. A cousin had loaned it to us, and he was enjoying a trip down memory lane.

When it came time for lunch, Rick showed me this photo. It is from when he was a young boy. And then, he asked me who it looks like.

Let me help you with this riddle. Here is a picture of our grandson Dylan.

Notice any resemblance?

For years, I have reiterated how much Dylan looks like Hubby Rick. What makes it even more interesting? It’s not just his physical looks and cheeky grin that resemble his grandfather. It’s his personality, his mannerisms and his quick-witted comebacks.

This is the same grandchild that burst into his house one day after school, looking for his Grandpa. He saw our car in the driveway and was so optimistic that Grandpa Rick was the one who would be there when he and his siblings got off the bus. His big smile changed when he saw me. Immediately he said, “Why can’t Grandpa Rick be here when we get off the bus? Why does it have to be YOU?”

Yep, sometimes we are just chopped liver.

Among all of the aspects of life that has recently changed … and changed quickly … is community. Relationships. Our ability to interact, encourage, support and be there for other people. As we are encouraged to keep safe distances from other people and limit our time in public, the amount of daily interaction with people we love and care about has changed. Dramatically.

Think of the older person who hasn’t gotten out of their living situation … for DAYS.

Think of the family who has a person with a compromised immune system. They are limited their social interactions to keep their loved one SAFE.

Think of those couples getting ready to have a baby. Many hospitals are instituting a one-person only rule while the expectant mama is at the hospital. And if that one person, say the expectant mom’s partner, is sick, well, they are escorted to the door and sent home. It may seem harsh, but this is the REALITY we live in.

Then, there are the parents who are able to work from home and have become the defacto part-time teacher, part-time lunch person, part-time PE instructor, part-time parent who is trying to creatively engage kids who are missing their friends and their normal routine.

Even if that person looks a lot like you or another family member, let’s be real. Our patience can sometimes get thin … even with the people we love the most and who are most precious in our sight.

Yes, we have technology which allows us to Facetime and Skype and Zoom with other people. We can sit outside a window and wave and hold our hands to opposite sides of the same window. We can send cards and letters and texts and e-mails. But it’s not quite the same, is it?

I pray we take extra time and steps to engage and be “present” with other people who are struggling with increase isolation and social distancing. I pray we develop extreme levels of patience and understanding with each other. I pray that we allow ourselves to be more positive and implement more slowness to anger than quickness to anger.

Yesterday, I baked a big batch of biscuits. Yes, I could have whipped up half a batch rather than a full batch. But these biscuits? I hope they will spur me to put a few on a couple plates and encourage me to check in on some of my neighbors. Yes, they are only biscuits … but they are a lifeline to checking in with those who live in our neighborhood who may be feeling a bit lonely, isolated and on an island right now.

It’s time for us to be creative with relationship. Find new ways of connecting with those around us, near and far, that are special to us. Commit to reaching out to just one person each day and checking in on them. You may be pleasantly surprised how much joy this little random act of kindness will bring into your life.

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we all need COMMUNITY. Community is created with interactions with other folks. Maybe our tried-and-true go-to methods aren’t as easy right now. But certainly, we have opportunities to creatively touch base with those we love and care for. They don’t have to be blood. They don’t have to look anything like you. Their personality may be completely different from yours.

You just have to love them. Nothing more. It’s really that simple. Now, go and create some community and re-enforce your relationship with them. TODAY.

For valued relationships, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – thank you for so many special people in my life. Thank you for bringing in so many different and unique people who enhance and make my life special. I pray that we embrace creative and unique ways to connect and encourage and support those around us right now. May we maintain and grow strong relationships and community in our lives. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

When Spring Arrives

Gratitude Day 424

Thurs., Mar. 19, 2020

Song of Songs 2:12: Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

Soon it will officially be spring.

Time for warm rain and mud puddles.

Time for trees budding and shoots sprouting out of the ground.

Time for warm breezes and longer days of sunlight.

Time for coats and flip-flops.

Spring gives us hope.

Hope for new birth, new chances, new babies.

Opportunities for refreshing and cleaning and eliminating.

Anticipation of leaving the dark and dreary behind and focusing on what is yet to come.

Spring seems a little more difficult these days.

But it is oh, so needed.

No matter what is going on right now in your life, your country, your world, keep hope. Anticipate a bright day. Smile to everyone. Be the one who everyone wants to see and chat with.

Spring into spring with anticipation. Hope. Promise.

For the gift of a new season, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – Thank You for the gift of hope in spring. Teach us to value and appreciation the changing of the seasons and the anticipation of new things. Be with those struggling today. May they find hope in the promise of something new. Amen.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

Stocking Up on the Right Things

Gratitude Day 423

Wed., Mar. 18, 2020

2 Corinthians 4:14: We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.

Good Morning Friends –

Is anyone else in a little shock over how much our world has changed in the last few days?

If anyone else is finding it hard to have words to describe their feelings, it’s OK. I’m struggling as well. Most of us are challenged in trying to make sense of how a little, well, obviously NOT a little, virus has changed EVERY. SINGLE.THING. about our lives and world.

Seemingly, overnight.

What was unimaginable just a few days ago is happening. Quickly. Rapidly. Beyond belief.

I begin with just a few thoughts. Some may see overly obvious to you … but please hang on with me for just a bit.

COVID-19 is real. If it hasn’t happened already, there will be a day when someone you know tests positive. It happened for me yesterday. The person I know is in the hospital and has been for several days. This person’s immediate family, with whom he/she had contact with, are being quarantined. This person is doing OK and family expects the person to get better.

Here’s my point. COVID-19 is real. It’s happening. I know it is very difficult and hard to discern what information is accurate and what is fake. The folks who are trying to figure out how seriously to take COVID-19 are constructing a model and rule book as they go along because there is so much uncertainty. Is there uniform understanding and agreement amongst scientists? No. Should we be vigilant and heed their warnings? Absolutely. It is time for folks to stop thinking of this as a conspiracy or some crisis dreamed up for wrong reasons. It’s real. And some day soon, if not already, you will become aware of someone who tests positive.

Life as we know it has changed. When all sporting, entertainment and “normal” activities like school and eating out are canceled, it’s a big deal. A huge deal. Something that I, nor most everyone else, could not have imagined 10 days ago.

The pleas are real and serious: please stop going into public places unless necessary. When people say this, I pray we listen. It’s not just about whether or not we might get the virus. It’s about all the people we might come into contact with that might be compromised because we were with a carrier. Or are a carrier ourselves.

Have I been in public? Honestly, yes. Trying to make sure the kids in our community who struggle with food security, yes, I went food shopping this week so we could pack triple our normal number of Blessings in a Backpack bags.

Normally, we shop locally at our local grocery story. Needing food quickly, I found myself at big-box stores. One store was very organized and had things readily available. Yes, there were limits on certain products. The larger grocery store seemed overwhelmed with all of the shoppers. A guy who normally works in the tire department was unpacking food. Bless his heart, he tried to help this non-regular shopper at this store find what she was looking for.

I was at these stores when things might have been less chaotic. I witnessed people who were patient. Calm. Going about their business. It was just another shopping day.

Did people stare at my carts that were overflowing with large quantities of pre-packed food? You bet. More than once, I heard others comment about how much chocolate milk I was buying. When I saw the same woman at more than one store, she wanted to know how many kids I was feeding. When I explained why I was shopping, she offered to help. Right there in a large grocery store.

How we go about “normal” life must change. More than one person has commented to me that maybe this will be an opportunity for people to realign how we look at life. What is most important? Where are we committed to spending our resources of time, finances and other things? Will this finally be the kick in the pants that will help us see how short our earthly lives truly are?

None of us should be immune to these changes. We ALL must look at how we conduct regular, normal things a bit differently. When weddings and funerals are delayed and changed, it’s real stuff, folks. When school is being conducted at some level by parents who never had any intention of home schooling, the rubber has hit the road. As our local Blessings program and food pantry leaders sat down yesterday and tried to make plans to make sure the most vulnerable in our community still have resources, it’s no joke.

Let’s be very careful about predictions and how we use scripture. Yes, our normal must change. But I pray we remember WHO is in control and we do not speak for that Who.

This is a time for us to be CREATIVE. Step outside of our self-imposed comfort zones and move beyond what is most comfortable to make sure we are affecting change that will keep people safe, healthy and connected with each other. There is a whole slice of society that is and will feel very cut off these days because they can’t engage with others because they are at risk.

The picture a guy calling his dad while sitting outside of his window is precious. My sister, Debbie, reminded me of a time many years ago when the nursing home where my grandmother lived was on lockdown. My grandmother became very depressed. Debbie stood outside Grandma’s window and called her. She brought in their baby lambs and let Grandma see them through the window. “Visits” changed and were adapted. Likewise, we all can be a bit more creative in how we reach out to people. Encourage each other. Support those who literally feel cut-off.

We have the advantage of technology today. We have lots of tools that can help us be creative in how we connect with each other. I pray we embrace them and discover how to use these tools in a healthy and helpful way.

Let’s stock up on what is most important. I do not believe the popular saying that says “everything happens for a reason.” I do believe that out of challenging times, we have immense opportunity to grow, learn and be drawn closer to God.  

Rather than stocking up on disinfectant and toilet paper and wipes, let’s stock up on what is far more important: Kindness. Patience. Love. Compassion. There are a ton of people who are experiencing real affects of this. In the not too distant future, we WILL hear trained professionals address how some people will exhibit longer term impacts of what is going on right now. Rather than judging if these situations are real, let’s be folks who choose to blanket others with the attributes Christians are CALLED to display every day. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Goodness. Self-control.

What would be helpful for you to stock up in this season spiritually? The past few days, I have been contemplating what I can do through this platform to support and encourage others. The reason I write these blogs and share resources is so that I can help bring joy, peace and contentment into other people’s lives. My question to you is this: how can I help do this for you?

What means would be most helpful for you today? This week? Would daily uplifting blogs be helpful? Would a daily study guide based on scripture that you could download and do daily help you find focus? Would a weekly on-line prayer group that meets via Zoom or Facebook bring you peace? Would an on-line book study bring joy into your life? Would a 15- or 30-minute Sunday worship time be something that you would participate in?

How might we connect and encourage and support each other these days?

I want to hear from you. How might we use this platform to discover and explore faith in a whole new way? Please comment to this blog. Send me a PM. Text or e-mail or call me. Seriously.

It doesn’t matter where you are located. This is the great thing about technology! We can create opportunities for everyone, anywhere. I pray that together, we come up with a way to encourage each other through this strange time in our lives.

If you haven’t signed up for the free daily prayer text message that I send out daily, please do so now. Simply text simplewordsoffaith to 33222.

As we are reminded in the opening scripture, God is TOGETHER WITH US.

For God’s presence with us today, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – thanks for being together with us during these times which feel so different. If we are unsettled, I pray we find peace in You. If we are challenged, I urge You to bring peace into our lives. I pray that together, we can embrace ways to remain connected to You and each other. Amen.

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Checking Off the Things You CAN Do Today …

Gratitude Day 423

Sat., Mar. 14, 2020

Galatians 6:2: Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

TRUTH: I don’t watch the news daily. In fact, I kind of avoid it.

But last night, I watched the news. The national news and the local news.

TRUTH: Watching the news, especially the national news, was a bit unsettling. The entire broadcast was about the coronavirus. There’s a lot to take in and evaluate. In my state of Wisconsin, the Governor has said ALL schools will be closed Mar. 19-Apr. 5.

While many of us are focusing on what feels unsettling, maybe even a bit scary right now, I encourage us to focus on how we can share each other’s burdens. As followers of Christ, what CAN we do when things feel so off-kilter? I’ve put together a little checklist for us to use:

_____   Offer to help those who might be a bit more compromised around you. Get their groceries, pick up a prescription or run an errand for someone who might not feel comfortable going out into public right now. Whether this is an elderly neighbor, a friend who has anxiety or the mom who doesn’t want to take their child into a public setting, reach out to them and see how you can fill the gap.

_____   Contact a local service organization and see where they need help. Deliver meals on wheels. Help at the food pantry. Serve food at a homeless shelter. These folks still need services. Let’s make sure there isn’t a gap.

_____   Pick up some gas or grocery gift cards and give them to those people whose jobs maybe compromised right now. You know – those people who work at places that have closed right now. Waiters and waitresses at restaurants that will not have as many customers. Janitors who don’t have buildings to clean. They still have needs. You can fill a small gap.

_____   Drop off a treat at the local clinic or hospital. These folks are working overtime right now trying to keep the rest of us healthy and safe. Call in advance to find out what kinds of treats they will accept before you make your famous chocolate chip cookies, only to find out the workers won’t be able to eat them.

_____   Say thank you to public officials (EMT’s, fire, police officers) when you see them. Or go out of your way to extend your appreciation for taking extra precautions at this time.

_____   Drop off a bag of groceries to a family whose children are home for the next few weeks unexpectedly. Extend a hand to those who struggle with food insecurity. Or offer to babysit young children so parents can go to work.

_____   Find ways to manage your feelings and anxiety. Be careful not to add additional fear in how you conduct yourself right now. Spend extra time meditating and praying. Go to YouTube and listen to uplifting and inspirational music.

_____   Maintain community with those who may feel isolated and alone right now. As we spend more time at home and have less opportunities to be with groups of people, we can easily feel disconnected from others. Contact those who are alone and may not have as much opportunity to be with others. Even if you physically cannot be with a person, you can still be in touch.  

_____   Continue to support the economy. As we hunker down more in this next period of time, businesses will feel the affect. Try to support them as you can. If you order online, leave treat as the door for delivery people.

_____   Pray and pray and pray. We are not in this alone. God is definitely with us. Pray that those influential in making decisions that affect millions will be guided by God. Pray for those who have been and maybe affected by the virus. Pray that a vaccine will be forthcoming. Pray that people react appropriately. Every time you wash your hands, PRAY.

For many people, this is truly the first time we have experienced something of this magnitude affecting so many people in so many different ways. No, it’s not the first time a pandemic has happened. But there are generations of people living today who have not lived through a situation quite like this.

What can we take away from this all? GOD. IS. WITH. US. TODAY. TOMORROW. ALWAYS. Amen.

For knowing that God is always with us, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – remind us again and again and again that YOU. ARE. WITH. US. As we struggle to make sense of the world health situation right now, may we clearly see engage with you, each other and create a sense of community that we desperately need. Amen.

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