Being a Good Friend is Always in Style

Gratitude Day 325

Sat., Sept. 14, 2019

Luke 10:36-37: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Being a good friend never goes out of style.

Ever.

This story has been shared all across the U.S. And it’s a good one. It also happened within the school district where I graduated high school!

The first day of school can be daunting. It was for 4-year-old Axel. Nervous about his first day, his mom wanted to mark the occasion by taking a picture of him on the school bus. While Axel was super excited to go, when the bus door opened, he started crying.

The bus driver, Isabel Lane, had an opportunity to make a difference … and she did. She comforted Axel and showed him an open seat right behind the driver’s seat. Lane held out her hand, Axel grabbed it and they became friends. Lane knew Axel needed to be comforted and this was the best she could do at the time. Axel’s mom snapped this photo. She declares that Axel now gets on the bus every day, ready to go to school. Best part? He loves school.

While his teachers may be great and he gets to meet new friends, my guess is Axel’s bus driver has made all the difference. She embraced the opportunity to be his first new friend with his school experience. Thank you, Isabel, for being Axel’s Good Samaritan. Being a friend to every person who steps on your school bus is always in style.

This story is a bit of a follow-up from a blog that I did earlier this spring.

In 2018, Brenda Statz’s husband committed suicide. They farmed and milked cows. For years, Hubby Rick picked up their milk and delivered it to a processing facility. When Rick stopped hauling milk, his son Darran hauled the Statzs’ milk. While the Statz’s had stopped milking cows before Leon committed suicide, the stress of farming was an issue for him.

Earlier this summer, NBC came to the Loganville, WI area and captured information about this story, as well as how the current challenging dairy and agricultural industries are impacting farmers. Here’s the story aired on the NBC nightly news a few weeks ago. If you look closely, you will see Darran, Rick’s son, who has a cameo appearance. He’s the guy kneeling down by the milk tank. He’s at Randy Roeker’s farm, who is also featured during the story.

Loganville is a small, rural Wisconsin community. After Leon committed suicide, others came forward and shared the stress they are feeling because of the challenging state of agriculture. A group now meets regularly at one of the Lutheran churches in Loganville. It’s open to anyone struggling. Speakers share information. My guess is that knowing there are other people who have some of the same feelings that you are having is the most comforting aspect of this group. People have a place where they can share what’s going on in their lives. While some of these people may have been geographical neighbors for years, they are discovering and sharing a new way of being a friend.

Being a neighbor never goes out of style.

How might you be a good neighbor today?

Jesus tells the story of a man who is attached by robbers while traveling along a road. Two mean, one a priest and another a Levite, walk by the man and choose not to help him. These are religious leaders who should have known that helping their neighbor is the second most important commandment in God’s kingdom. But they chose not to.

Instead, it was the Samaritan who stopped and helped this man. Samaritans and Jewish people didn’t really get along during Jesus’ day. He took pity on the injured man and bandaged his wounds. It’s the Samaritan who found a safe place for the same to stay and even covered the expense of doing so. As the story ends, we discover it’s the person who extended mercy who is identified as a good neighbor.

Maybe you won’t see an injured person along the side of the road today. But you might see someone who is scared and anxious who just needs a helping hand. Or someone who is going through an awful time who needs a listening ear and a long hug.

Be a good neighbor. It’s always in style.

For the opportunity to be a good neighbor, I am grateful. 

Lord God – too often, we see an opportunity to do something and we justify inaction by saying, “Someone else will do this.” But maybe, just maybe, You put us in this situation so we could be a Good Samaritan. A good friend. May we embrace these opportunities before us today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Six for Saturday – A Few Life Lessons

Gratitude Day 319

Sat., Aug. 31, 2019

Matthew 16:25 –If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

Good Saturday Morning Friends –

I have missed you. I have missed being able to sit down and share a few thoughts about life, faith and how the two integrate the last few weeks. Today, I’m going to share Six Things for Saturday, which maybe really a few things I’ve explored and discovered the month of August. Grab a cup of your favorite coffee or a glass of peach iced tea. Let’s reconnect for a few minutes and kick off this holiday weekend together!

Sometimes, life happens. And we just need to let it be. Going into August, I knew it was going to be a busy month. I’ve been working on two significant projects: one affiliated with my part-time job (which is more like full-time during August) as well as a big job that I’ve personally been working towards. The work job is nearly completion. My personal job? I’m making significant progress.

If you are slightly interested in knowing more about this project, I’ll share a bit today. Other times, I’ve mentioned about working on a book. My goal has been to have a rough draft completed by Sept. 1.  I have one more chapter to finish up today … and then, I’ll have a completed rough draft! Now, the entire book needs to go through several more revisions and editing and other steps. But achieving this first milestone has taken me awhile. I’m excited about being so close. Yes, there will be a lot more investment on my part in the next few weeks. But I am excited about the progress that I’ve made. Please stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more in the next couple of months.

In light of these big projects, unfortunately some other things had to get set aside, if only for a while. And yes, blogging was one of them. I’ve shared this previously and I am even more convinced of this: Trying to achieve balance in one’s life is impossible. At various periods in our lives, our time and attention will be draw towards some things more than others. This is OK. When this happens, it’s impossible to keep every life ball in the air. Instead of trying to do so and fail miserably at most of them, understand it’s just fine to let some things fall down the priority checking list, if only for a while. This doesn’t mean something is no longer important to us. It just says that it’s a lower priority for the minute. Extending ourselves grace in these situations is SO. IMPORTANT.

If you are in the middle of trying to juggle multiple hats or balls right now, be gracious with yourself. Look at your life and intentionally pick something to just be for a hot minute. You can come back to you later.

When life feels very full, self-care is terribly important. Some days, I make more this more of a priority than others. In some ways, I feel I attended to myself a bit better this past month than I have during other very busy times of my life. I exercised nearly every day. I had a quiet/devotion time about 75% of the time. I prioritized time with Hubby Rick on the weekends. Caring for ourselves, no matter what is going on in our lives, IS IMPORTANT. Why? It helps us keep perspective, understand why we do what we do and allows us to feel good about what we do and ourselves. When I’m run dry and have no more to give, I’m not very effective. Self-care says that we value ourselves and our ability to give back.

Sometimes, it’s easy to let the urgent take priority over our lives. Be intentional about these choices. As a pastor and a person in general, often, my day will be completely changed by a phone call, e-mail or some unexpected event in a day. Suddenly, I find myself letting go of everything I had planned for a particular day and allowing the urgent become the day’s focus.

There are some urgent requests that are truly urgent. In these instances, we need to drop everything else and focus purely on the situation at hand. But do this intentionally. Other times, we let the urgent sidetrack our priorities and goals.

Sometimes, a grandma duty request comes late the day before I am asked to help out. This is an urgent request that becomes an intentional request that I will fulfill. I am finding it a little easier to let some urgent requests wait for a minute until I have time to truly focus on them. It’s OK to let the urgent requests take priority. Just be intentional about this choice.

Looking for a great book to read at the end of summer? I highly recommend the historical fiction book, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Awhile back, I recommended another book by Kelly, Lost Roses. This book was set during World War I. Lilac Girls was set during World War II and was the first book Kelly wrote. The story is told from the perspective of three women: an American woman named Caroline Ferriday, Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor who was the only female doctor at the all-women Nazi camp called Ravensbruck and Kasia Kuzmericak, a Polish girl who spent several years at Ravensbruck. Caroline and Herta were actual people who lived during World War II. Kasia was one of Polish women who became known as the Rabbits; women on whom the Reich performed experimental treatments.

The story of the Rabbits was completely new to me and one that struck a chord with me. This is a story about forgiveness, redemption and secrets that were hidden for decades. I actually listened to the audio version of this book, which I enjoyed immensely. Each character has a different reader, which made the book so interesting. The story opened my understanding of World War II from a different perspective. It’s a very interesting book to read and one I feel is worth the time.

Life is full of choices. Every choice we say “Yes” to means we say “No” to something else. For years, I’ve tried to say “Yes” to everything. I’m realizing that this is not always the best choice. Just because I say “No” to something does not mean this is unimportant to me. We will often say “No” to very important things. Reality is that we can’t do everything. I find that I don’t have unlimited energy and focus, which means I have to carefully pick where to direct my energy and focus every day. Some days, I do a better job of this than others. What I do hope is that God becomes part of this conversation and choice. It’s still very hard for me to say, “No.” But I know this is what I need to do.

I appreciate every single reader who reads these blogs. I appreciate every “share” and “like” someone gives. I love having a few people who follow along and use this as a daily devotion or way to quiet their soul. Thanks for being patient with me of late. I pray these simple words of faith bring just a bit of sunshine and reflection to your day.

For continued lessons about life, I am grateful.

Holy God – As we journey through these days, thanks for continuing to provide us opportunities to learn more about You, ourselves and our relationship with You and others. Thanks for always being there for us. I pray we find you in our little neck of the woods today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Water for the Soul

Gratitude Day 315

Fri., Aug. 9, 2019

Ezekiel 19:10 – Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard, planted beside the water. The vine had many branches and gave much fruit, because there was plenty of water.

I love summertime flowers.

I LOVE hydrangeas. I LOVE zinnias. I LOVE having flowers in the house and outside the house.

As much as I love flowers, I also LOVE having beautiful non-flowering summer plants as well. My favorites? Coleus and sweet potato vine.

Both plants have many fun and different colors and shapes. They are also stunning together. This is why I love to pair them together in pots on our beautiful front porch.

About a month ago, we had multiple days of very warm weather. You could almost watch the coleus and sweet potato vine grow daily. The plants went from cute little guys swallowed up by the larger pots to nearly taking over the porch. They are quite striking in their appearance right now.

However, with bigger plants means they require more water. While the pots are decent sized, the plants have gotten so big they drink up every bit of water given to them.

One great thing about coleus and sweet potato vine? When they are thirsty, they let you know. They simply curl up their leaves and not-so-quietly say, “I’m a little parched right now. Could you give me a drink?”

Our porch faces the west. Every afternoon by 3 PM, the leaves on the plants are speaking to us, longing for a wet drink of water. Literally within minutes of receiving the water, the leaves uncurl, spread back out and let their beauty sing all over again.

Every day, this happens. Literally. If I am not home for a day or two, I’ll ask Hubby Rick to water the plants. Recently he asked, “Every day? They have to be watered every day?”

Yep. Every day.

Likewise, our souls need watering every day. Well, at least my soul does. If I go more than 24 hours (well, really more like one hour) without connecting with God, I find myself drying up. The leaves of my patience, compassion and attitude begin to curl up and become more interested in protecting myself than looking for where God wants me to shine and show God’s beauty to someone else. But when I take a long drink of the trough of communication with God, I discover more peace. More acceptance. More joy.

Just because I reconnect with God and spend some time going back to the One who created me does not mean I expect God to be at my beck-and-call. I am humbled daily when I realize that God knows my limits and abilities so much better than I do. God understands my warts and vulnerable spots. God also is ready to help me work through them … especially when I refresh myself with just even a minute or two of prayer, re-centering myself and a word of God in my life.

If the plants need daily nourishment and water, why should my soul be any different?

It’s when I go through droughts of time without God in my life that I find myself becoming more self-centered, shallow and looking for ways that I have been wronged. Just like the plant leaves, I need a daily reminder of refreshment from something outside of myself that keeps me grounded in where my strength comes from.

As I watered the plants just yesterday, this little message became so terribly poignant to me. For another reminder to water my soul daily, I am grateful.

Gracious God – thank you for longing and yearning to water my soul regularly and consistently. I pray that I make this a consistent and important part of my daily living. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Love Fulfills the Law

Gratitude Day 309

Sat., July 26, 2019

Romans 13:10 – Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Nearly every day, people share with me how someone has hurt them.

Sometimes, it’s intentional. Sometimes, maybe not. Other times, it’s a situation where we want to be right. And so, we plow right through other’s feelings only concerned for our point of view and opinion.

It hurts to watch this happen.

It hurts when you are the one on the receiving end of a situation.

I disappoint myself when I know I probably affected someone else today.

Somewhere along the line, our culture has failed us. We’re spent so much effort and energy into making sure our voice is heard that we’ve sometimes stopped listening to voices other than our own. I’m an advocate for fairness and equality and justice. Unfortunately, in the process, we now throw around these words like Scobie snacks. When we feel the least bit offended, rather than truly listening to someone else, we go on the defense and begin to point out where we have been wronged.

Let me be clear. There are often times when people have been wronged … and should speak up. Yes, do bring to attention where there are inconsistences. Yet, when we spend our entire lives looking for where we have been wronged, I feel like we put a lot of energy into a negative starting point versus a positive starting place.

I so want to scream to the world, “Can we please just take a step back and remember to love one another?”

I want to please those muddled in conflict to remember, “The person you are speaking with is a beloved child of God … just as you are.”

I desperately want us to say to our kids and grandkids, “Even if you didn’t achieve what you would have liked, I pray you learned something from this, had fun and know there are opportunities for growth.” Instead, too often, I hear parents pointing out where someone else received preferential treatment and didn’t “earn” something they felt their kid deserved.

For the love of God, can we just listen to ourselves and our words?

I’ve been reading through the book of Romans lately. IT. IS SO. GOOD. Give yourself a gift and for the next 16 or so days, read one chapter of the book each day. Really read the words. Paul wrote these words to a church in Rome that he had never been to. He knew this church was struggling with how to fit into their modern-day, changing society and culture. (Sound a little familiar?) I’m convinced Paul’s words speak to us today … if we allow them.

Listen to these profound words from Romans 12:8 – Let no debt remain outstanding, except for the continuing dept to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Paul wants to help the baby-Christians in Rome understand how to interpret the endless and often confusing law found in our Old Testament with the new covenant of Jesus Christ. Where do you choose the ancient Jewish law? When does Jesus words, the Son of God’s words, take precedence over these sometimes seemingly crazy laws?

Here’s Paul’s answer: the only debt we have to society is the continuing debt to love one another. Period. That’s it. When we love other people, we are already fulfilling the law.

Please, oh, please can we stop trying to figure out what is more important than loving other people? It’s pretty clear to me there is only one thing great than this. This is to love God. After this, let’s simply love everyone.

Humans with warts and all.

People who are sinful and shameful.

Those who might drive us crazy and irritate us to no end.

Just love them.

They don’t have to be our best friends.

We don’t have to agree with them.

We just have to love them.

We’ve spent so much time making sure we love ourselves that at times, we have totally forgotten to love the other. The other person who desperately wants love, just as we do.

So, for today, can we just take a break and not speak ill of anyone else? Can we listen when someone wants to speak and not make sure our voice is not louder? Please, can we try to not hurt someone with our thoughts and wishes and simply accept them for who they are?

Yes, I want us to help develop folks who are passionate about things they care for. But I also feel that we can put some much emphasis on ourselves and our position that we’ve forgotten to see beyond our own noses.

Try to love that person who is almost unlovable today. As you try to love that person, maybe someone else who struggles with you is trying to love you unconditionally today. And yes, maybe they to, are struggling.

Today is a good day. God is with us. God loves us. Let’s be the ones who break down the law into simply loving others. Nothing more. Nothing less. Let’s make it not just a good day but a great day.

For God’s unconditional love that is so hard to explain and live myself, I am grateful.

Almighty God – It’s sometimes so difficult to imagine how You continue to love us, even when we make it difficult to be loved. Yet, you never stop loving and caring for us. May we deeply desire to be true agents of love rather than hurt, disappointment and self-centeredness. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Perspective During Very Warm Days

Gratitude Day 305

Sat., July 20, 2019

Jonah 4:8 – As the sun rose higher in the sky, God sent a very hot east wind to blow, and the sun became so hot on Jonah’s head that he became very weak and wished he were dead. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

It’s been a HOT week in Wisconsin!! I saw an image on Friday that the temperature was like 150 degrees warmer than exactly 6 months ago. Heat index on Friday? Like 105. Six months ago? Wind chill factor was at least -45.

Hubby Rick was one of those complaining six months ago about the cold. Well, in reality, everyone was. When coming home from work early one morning, the temperature gage on the car registered -38. Without the windchill factor. This was the lowest temperature he had EVER seen in his (cough) 65-years.

I don’t like the cold … but I’m not sure +105 heat index is my cup of tea either. We have a beautiful old house … with hot water heat. This means our house lacks duck work for traditional central air. Yes, I know there are alternatives. I just haven’t convinced my heat-loving husband that it’s worth the investment. He’d rather hone-up the heating system.

And so, our only air conditioner is a window unit that we have in the dining room on the main floor. Our bedroom and my office are on the second floor. It’s been a tad bit warm there this week. I have fans going. I kept the windows closed during the day and open only when it has cooled off at night to let in some cooler, fresh air. But it’s still HOT. Friday afternoon, I brought my laptop and work downstairs and set-up shop on the dining room table. Right in front of the window air conditioner.

On the other hand, Rick is LOVING every minute of these days. Yes, he loves HOT. He loves HUMIDITY. Yes, he’s not completely sane. He doesn’t mind showering four times a day. I prefer life when I feel dry after toweling post shower. These days, I don’t.

And yet, I’m reminded that life really could be SO. MUCH. WORSE. What about the people who are feeding farm animals in the awful heat? Been there, done that. Not fun. Or the days when we baled hay on a terribly hot day like we’ve had this week? Almost suffocating trying to stack those little square hay bales in a very warm barn with little or no breeze.

Anyone who has worked an outdoor job this week needs the weekend off. Seriously. But I know that not everyone who works these types of jobs will have this luxury.

We weren’t one of the 12,000 people who live in downtown Madison who lost all electricity on Friday when two transmitters for the local gas and electric company started on fire. Those folks didn’t have electricity all day yesterday, including many businesses. Imagine having to move all the refrigerated food in a grocery store really quick.

I know I’m dating myself … but there was no AC in the old farmhouse where we grew up. Car air conditioning was rolling down the windows (with an actual knob that cranked) and driving 60 miles/hour down the road.

Rick and I had a conversation about what it must be like to live in Bagdad or some dessert place where it’s over 100 all summer long. Yes, there isn’t the humidity like we have. But do the people ever tire of the heat, day after day? Rick wants to move there and find out. For like six months. Seriously.

I’m not convinced I want to tag long for more than a week or two.

I know we aren’t the only part of the U.S. that has experienced heat in the summer. I’m not ready to move to Kansas or Texas or Atlanta and live there in June, July and August. Rick would love to do so; right after Bagdad.

The heat is to break today, which is Saturday. And for the next 10 days, we’ll all have to find something else to talk about other than the heat. We’ll open our windows and go for walks outside and drink peach iced tea on our porches. And we’ll recall those dog days of summer from last week.

It’s summer. It’s supposed to be hot. It’s supposed to be humid. And I just thank God that we have days like these so when 80 degrees rolls around, we think about getting a jacket out after the sun goes down.

For warm days that help me keep perspective, I am grateful.

Lord God – please be with those who are experiencing hot, humid and not dealing so well with it. Please be with those who may not have a cool place to cool down. Please with those who work outside and can’t escape the elements as easily as some others. Please help us keep perspective. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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God In the Simple

Gratitude Day 279

Sat., June 1, 2019

Hebrew 5:12 – By now you should have been teachers, but once again you need to be taught the simplest things about what God has said. You need milk instead of solid food.

Just a few thoughts as the weekend officially begins. Thoughts that encourage me to realize that simple is never overrated. In fact, we need regular doses of simple milk in our lives to help restore our souls.

  • Hubby Rick and I have observed several rites of passages these last several days. Earlier this week, I shared about our nephew Kevin, and his most recent rite of passage with high school graduation. We also met our newest granddaughter, Jensyn. Birth and graduation. Two pretty big rites of passages. Yet, also events that simply bring us back to simple beginnings. Events we know we simply use to mark time once again in our lives.
  • Another huge rite of passage? Leaving this world. About a month ago, I shared the story of our dear friends, Howard and Rhoda. Over a week ago, Howard began a journey towards the last moments of his life. It’s been a special time in which I had the honor to help care for Howard in his last days. Being a part of this type of journey is terribly humbling and powerful. It’s also a huge reminder that there are some things we have absolutely no control over. Thanks, Rhoda, for letting me walk this path with Howard and your family.
  • For the last two school years, I have participated in our local school district’s buddy program. Wednesday mornings, I’m at the school, hanging out with my buddy, Isaac. This week was our last session, as well as the end-of-the-year ice cream social to celebrate all the buddies and their mentors. During the ice cream social, school counselor Mrs. Sukowski took a few minutes and chatted with Isaac and me. She asked what types of things we did together. Isaac is finishing 5th grade. Normally, students “graduate” out of the buddy program after 5th grade. Isaac asked Mrs. Sukowski if I could be his buddy next year, even though he is going into 6th grade. The counselor asked Isaac why he wanted to continue to meet with me. Here’s his answer: “She’s fun, funny and smart. Besides that, she’s my best friend.” Folks – there have been times when I have wondered if the one-hour I spend each week with Isaac is important. I’m not sure that I really am his best friend. What his comments say to me is that if I brought a little stability into his life, every hour that I spent with him is simply important.
  • Finally, spring arrived. The last two days, Rick and I have spent some time freshening up the yard and flower beds. It’s the best therapy for me. And having lily of the valley blooming right now makes doing these tasks simply a complete pleasure.
  • One last picture for the road – Grandpa and 7-year-old Dylan after his baseball game on Friday night. Little people baseball is simply the best.

For simple things that remind me what truly is important even when life can be very full, I am grateful.

Gracious God – You are the master of simply. Too often, we are the ones who muck things up and make them too difficult. May we find You in the simply places of life this weekend. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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A Gospel Lived by Action

Gratitude Day 273

Sat., May 18, 2019

Deuteronomy 4:9 – You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves and tell your children and grandchildren as well.

It’s Saturday morning! And here are just a few random thoughts on this cool Wisconsin weekend.

  1. It’s baseball season. Our house is clearly Milwaukee Brewers fans. Well, one is especially in love with the Brewers which means we’re all in love with the Brewers. Therefore, I receive updates about the Brewers at all hours of the day; most notably when Hubby Rick gets home from work as the sun is coming up and he is crawling into bed.

As much as we love and follow the Brewers, they aren’t our #1 teams. Sorry, Brewers. Whatever team our grandchildren are playing on outranks you.

We’re taking in as many of the grandkid’s games as we can. Friday night, we went to little Dylan’s game, which was his second game of the season. If you want to be entertained, take in a baseball game played by 7-year-olds. The rules are a little different. There are only four innings. Everyone gets to bat every inning. The coaches take turns pitching. Little bodies speckle the infield and the outfield. It’s not uncommon to see two little boys bust a move randomly in the outfield when they have lost interest in watching who is batting. There was one little girl on the opposing team. She barely hit the ball into play but started running towards first base after the coach encouraged her to do so. The catcher took his face mask off, just like the big boys do, grabbed the ball and threw it towards first base. He was right on the money and the ball bonked the little girl in the back of the helmet. At the end of the inning, she came running over to the sidelines and asked her grandma, “Did you see me get hit in the back of the head?”

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Here’s our little Dylan up to bat. Keep swinging, Dylan. We hope you, and your brother Waylan, have fun baseball seasons.

garage sale

  1. It’s garage sale weekend in our hometown. I’m not much of a garage-saler. Certainly, I don’t need more stuff. But … garage sale weekend is a good reason to visit the neighbors who are having a garage sale. And support the local Presbyterian church that has a food stand. I might have brought home a couple items to use when I host a bridal shower this summer. Shhh … don’t tell the Brewer fan in our household.

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  1. If sometimes you procrastinate, then this might be a book for you to read. I’ll be honest. It’s difficult to admit that yes, sometimes, I procrastinate. I do the “easy” things, wanting to quickly cross something off my to-do list, rather than focusing on the “important” things. Why do I do this? A project feels a bit overwhelming and so I delay starting it. Or I think it’s going to take a lot of time and I’m not in the right spot to mentally take it on. Too often, I am a perfectionist and I know this project maybe stretching my skill set. Or a whole host of other reasons.

This book is challenging me to rethink how I prioritize what I do, how I do it and delay putting off those things I say are important but don’t ever get around to. If you struggle with similar patterns, run to your library and get this book.

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  1. Love captured all in one photo. That’s the second-baser from last night’s game with Grandpa. Sometimes, this is how a sleepover looks in our house. Boys downstairs. Girls upstairs. Softly snoring as the sun just tips over the horizon. And I couldn’t love it more. These next generation Vielhuber’s who we pray see that faith is an important part of our lives. Not so much because we say it … but because we live it in the choices we make every day. We try to embody a quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel daily. Use words only when necessary.”

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For special times with special little people in our lives, I am grateful.

Holy God – in this game of life, I pray the actions I make every day reflect my desire to reflect Your place in my life. May I always remember the best lessons are modeled in how I conduct myself every minute of the day, especially to those little people who we call our own. 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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Holy Week is Here!

Gratitude Day 250

Sat., Apr. 13, 2019

Palm-Sunday.-Credit-Spread-Worship

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?

Kevin - 4-H Trip

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.

Holy Week 2

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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Who Is This Man?

Gratitude Day 241

Sat., Mar. 30, 2019

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

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

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

this man

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

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

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

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

Blessings –

Dianne

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