Amos – The Prophet Who Wasn’t Very Popular

Gratitude Day 472

Mon., June 8, 2020

Amos 5:21-24 – “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans, and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

These words from the prophet Amos are not for the faint of heart.

Amos was a prophet in the Old Testament. Prophets were folks who were designated by God to speak on behalf of God to the Israelite people. While the prophets were specifically chosen by God, the Israelites were not always very fond of them. Seriously. Who wants to hear about what you are doing wrong in your spiritual life?

This was the role of the prophet.

Biblical prophets were charged with trying to keep religion honest, humble, and compassionate. They were to laser in where injustice within religious institutions existed. Often cloaked in religious garb, they had x-ray vision which allowed them to discover hypocrisy, abuse of power, and overbearing authority. They looked beyond the impressive numbers, the far-reaching numbers, and/or thin pictures of success. They purposefully chose to listen to God a whole lot more than what women and men would say to try to impress them.

These poor guys often didn’t have many friends and few dinner invitations.

Our buddy for today, Amos, probably received even fewer of these special invites because he defended the downtrodden relentlessly. Upper class folks tired of his accusations, in which he called out the rich for justifying their sins in God’s name.

I love how The Message translation of the Bible often takes challenging lines of scripture and puts the words into language that we can easily relate to. Today’s section does this artfully. The provided examples are specifically the types of religious bickering we find in churches today. It’s almost like Amos saying to his contemporaries, “Get over yourselves!” Seriously. Stop fighting about the silly stuff and focus on what I think is MOST. IMPORTANT.

Justice. God wants oceans of it.

Fairness. May it run as abundantly as the rivers.

That’s ALL God wants.

Reading this passage again recently, I suddenly felt very humbled. Too often, as a pastor, I focused on getting the right program organized, coupled with smart marketing that would entice folks to participate. I’ve spent a lot of time picking out music that I liked … more so than consulting with God whether the music was what God desired for the service.

Justice. Fairness.

I’m afraid, Lord God, too often, I have failed you.

Maybe I didn’t fully understand, this is true. But maybe, I wasn’t asking the right questions. To the right people. At the right time.

Our country has hopped from one major crisis into another crisis that has been brewing for decades. Centuries. An awfully long time.

I thought I understood how folks who look different from me felt.

I think I’ve been wrong.

I know that I’ve been assuming that I knew too much.

Please take a few minutes. Watch this video. I’d love to hear your feelings and reactions. Maybe it will help us all understand just a bit more of what is causing so much reaction today. I pray it does.  

For new ways of stretching myself and finding ways to grow, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Help me hear. Help me listen. Help me see from another’s perspective. Help me reflect upon my attitudes and opinions. Speak to me. Today. Amen.

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Summer 2020 is NOT Cancelled

Gratitude Day 471

Fri., June 5, 2020

Luke 21:30 – When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.

Anyone else feeling like Summer 2020 has been cancelled?

Here in Wisconsin, many hometown celebrations have been cancelled. Lots of county, local and even the Wisconsin State Fair have pushed the pause button for 2020. Concerts in the park, local music festivals, art fairs, entertainment venues … the list goes on and on and on of organizations that have carefully evaluated their situation and opted to delay their 2020 event, season and/or offering.

Summer camps, Vacation Bible Schools and summer school are limited at best, virtual for many, abbreviated for tons and if being held, definitely not “normal” at all. I’ve seen the family reunion cancellations on social media. Many baseball, softball, soccer and other youth and adult sporting events are opting out for the summer. Even the Major League Baseball is still in negotiations about if and what their 2020 season will look like.

Graduation parties, weddings, and confirmations = delayed. My only remaining aunt turns 90 in July. Many family members planned to spend 4th of July weekend in Denver honoring her life. Just this week, we received an e-mail from her children sharing the celebration has been canceled. Aunt Bev has not been able to leave or have visitors at her assisted living since. MARCH 8TH. We’re talking nearly 90 days of stay-in-your-little-room-while-you-get-your meals long. I’m not sure many of us have anything to complain about compared to Aunt Bev.

Don’t even get me started about vacations. I have an arm’s length long of folks I know, including ourselves, who have cancelled or delayed a trip. Many, indefinitely.

It might be easy to think that Summer 2020 might as well be cancelled.

Here’s my advice. Grieve. Be sad and disappointed.

But guess what? IT’S NOT. Summer has NOT, I repeat, NOT been cancelled.

Nearly every day, Hubby Rick says, “I love the summer!” We CAN have a great summer! Like so many other areas of our lives right now, we just need to think a little creatively. Open up our boxes and look at what IS possible … in a safe environment. Minimizing risk. Ways that we can celebrate some of those long-standing summer traditions as well as new ones that we establish this year. Yup, there is nothing wrong with some new traditions. And this certainly is the year to start them.

Following as a laundry list of ideas that you and your family, possibly neighbors and friends, can do to celebrate some of your favorite parts of summer. This list of ideas isn’t the end-all. I would love for this list to encourage you to come up with your own ideas of how you can have tons of fun this summer. It just takes a little more thought and creativity than going to your local fair or taking in a Brewers game this summer. Maybe, YOU just need to discover some unique and new ways to do things this summer!

June Dairy Month – normally, this time of the year, we’d be hosting a build-your-own Sunday for our neighbors. Well, this isn’t going to happen this year. Alternatives? Buy 1lb. packages of cheese curds from a local cheese plant, attach a cute little “Happy June Dairy Month” tag to them and deliver them to your neighbors.

Missing a June Dairy Month Breakfast? Invite friends to pick-up curbside breakfast from your favorite local diner. Then, gather socially distanced in your back yard and pretend you are eating at a local dairy farm. Or, offer curbside pick-up at your house for friends who love attending dairy breakfasts on a Saturday in June.

Missing seeing your friends? Set a bring-your-own park picnic with some of your besties. Have everyone bring their own lunch, whether pickup or from home, their own lawn chair and bug spray. Stake out a large enough area at a local park in a shady place for a couple hours. Have everyone sit in a circle with at least six feet between chairs. Eat lunch, chat, and catch you. Believe me – you’ll love it!

Hometown Celebration Withdrawls? On the day that normally would have been the parade, invite people from your neighborhood to simply walk down the street and greet each other from the sidewalk. Carry balloons, throw candy to the kids or even water balloons if it is hot! Live in the country? Drive to a few of your neighbors and throw candy at their garage.

Missing the concerts in your local park this summer? Invite a neighbor or friend who has a sound system to set it up on a particular evening. Invite friends and/or neighbors to bring their own lawn chairs and favorite beverage while the neighborhood “DJ” spins 60 minutes of tunes. Make sure there is a way for people to make requests such as writing songs on a white board. Ensure your neighbors are OK with this!

Enjoy nature! We’ve dusted off our kayaks and used them several times this spring. Our grandkids love getting to paddle around a lake or pond and have definitely figured out how to navigate them. Yesterday, we had a great day of kayaking, fishing, hiking, and swimming on a beautiful summer day. Rick and I regularly bike and walk and take in the thousands of green colors. Yes, the state parks are going to be busy this summer. Some of the smaller and/or private parks may not be as busy. Hints for using parks to avoid large crowds: go early or later in the day. Avoid holidays and weekends if possible. If a trail appears bumper-to-bumper with people, find a different trail. Bathrooms may or may not be open. Concessions stands probably are not. Plan ahead. We picnic in the parks and take our drinks, making sure we clean up after ourselves.

We ARE going to miss attending fairs this summer. When I asked our 13-year-old grandson how the coronavirus has affected him the most, he said having the county fair canceled. This is a kid who loves animals and loves exhibiting them. While many fairs have been canceled, there are some that are putting in tons of efforts to try and still have some portion of their youth exhibit. If you are missing the fair season, plan a night where your family eats all of your favorite fair foods: corn dogs, slushies, etc. Find a way to have them. Yes, I know it’s not exactly the same but recreate as you can. If you are like our grandson who really would love to exhibit at the fair and will not be able to, create your own “fair” experience at home. On the day that the show would have happened, have the youth “show” their animals, if only for your family. Award ribbons. Make comments. Create a place for them to still have the experience, if only in your own back yard.

What about all the graduation, birthday, anniversary, family reunions and other celebrations? This is where creativity can abound. A drive-by parade is great. A ZOOM party is very doable. Sending cards and small gifts is a no-brainer. One neighborhood gal’s mom announced a day or two in advanced about her daughter’s birthday on social media. Lots of families and her friends dropped by the day of her birthday and left little things in their lawn all day. I’m guessing it’s a birthday she won’t forget. Yes, it won’t be the same this year. However, doing something different and more creative can actually create fantastic memories. Video chatting is available on many smartphones. Become comfortable with technology so that you CAN be in contact with loved ones.

Cancelled summer vacations. Unfortunately, there are lots of cancelled trips. Just yesterday, one of our grandchildren and I had this conversation. So, what can you do? Plan safe and realistic day trips. Make it a driving trip where you stop at a variety of locations which will be outside and come in limited contact with other people. Take your own food and snacks with you or do curbside pick-up and have a picnic.

Create special evenings/days with your family at home. “Pretend” is a great game I played with my siblings growing up. Today, it’s too easy to spend time in front of a screen and not use our imaginations. Rick and I have created a dinner setting which reminds us of another favorite time and memory. We talk about what made this memory so special and recreate it is in our own little way … at home.

Use your yard, porch, and other open outdoor spaces. Last week, friends stopped by for awhile. I brought drinks out to our porch and we had a wonderful time chatting and sharing. We kept our distance from each other. We never touched. Yet, we connected. I hope we can do more of these very small drop-in visits this summer.

While things are slowing opening up, we’ve been intentional about who we add to our circle of contact. First, we added grandchildren. Even with them, we spend as much time outside as possible. Our closest contact is when we’re in the car together. Contact with other folks has been outside, at a safe distance and with no touching. There are ways we can connect with people, do fun things, and still have a great 2020 summer. Be cautious. Be smart. Be careful. Enjoy. Create some unique and fun memories this summer. Make it your best summer yet.

For the anticipation of a great summer, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Amen.

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Thursday Thought

Gratitude Day 470

Thurs., June 4, 2020

Blessings –

Dianne

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Lessons from COVID-19: In the Words of a Survivor

Gratitude Day 468

Wed., June 3, 2020

3 John 1:3 – Some of the brothers traveling by have made me very happy by telling me that your life stays clean and true and that you are living by the standards of the Gospel.

I love to tell stories. I cherish capturing a sliver from a person’s life and exploring how this snapshot speaks of something that can be inspirational and encouraging for others.

Today’s story, I pray, is such a chronicle. One that will speak to you, as well as be a storyline that maybe, just maybe, you will share with someone else.

This is Linda Johnson. She is a COVID-19 survivor.

And she is ready to share her story.

This 70-something-year-old woman lives in Fond du Lac, WI with her husband, Jerry, who is currently doubling as her nurse. Historically, Linda has been a healthy and highly active woman. She exercised regularly, had a calendar full of activities that included groups and causes she enjoyed, as well as warmed lots of bleachers while attending her grandchildren’s events.

Mid-March, all of this came to a screeching halt before much of the country went into stay-in-place mode. By then, Linda was in a hospital and just trying to breathe. Literally.

In early March, Jerry provided transportation for family members who had just returned from a cruise. Jerry and Linda spent a couple hours with these folks. They shared hugs and handshakes. Unbeknownst to them, these loved ones had come in contact with passengers from another cruise ship that had people who tested positive for COVD-19 onboard.

Following the visit, Linda developed every symptom of the coronavirus, except a sore throat. On March 13th, a long swab tested her for the virus. Before the results were officially confirmed, she was admitted to a hospital because of escalating symptoms. This hospital would be Linda’s home for the next 19 days; nine of which were spent on a ventilator.

Never able to physically enter the hospital throughout Linda’s hospital stay, Jerry also tested positive for the virus. He cared for himself while under quarantine in their home.  Other family members had symptoms and tested positive for the virus. In other like situations, family would gather together to encourage and support each other. With COVID-19, everyone remained quarantined in their own home.

“The most challenging aspect of this entire experience was looking at my husband’s face when he had to go home from the parking lot and leave me at the hospital,” Linda says. “I realized that I was going to have to do this without an advocate, which challenged me to never give up hope.”

Amazingly, the hospital staff provided not only physical care for Linda; they also cared for Linda’s and Jerry’s emotional needs as well. Hospital staff never complained about having to change personal protective equipment (PPE) each time they left her room, even if their only purpose for entering the room was to give Linda a glass of water. Staff sat with her, held her hand, read her cards and provided regular updates to Jerry and the rest of their family.

“They (health care providers) performed such courageous acts, in caring for me as well as the other COVID-19 patients,” Linda says. Hospital staff were learning about the virus on the fly because the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was also gathering information from early cases. With no established guidelines to follow, the staff constantly explored different regimes to bring comfort to Linda and other COVID-19 patients.

Going on the ventilator was a huge decision that the Johnson’s and their three adult daughters did not take lightly. Linda spoke with her entire immediate family before going on the vent. Just in case.

“Throughout my hospital stay, the only time I specifically asked God for something for me is when I went on the vent,” Linda explains. “I didn’t want to remember the days I was on the vent … and I don’t.”

Unlike many patients, Linda never felt anxious while on the vent. People often experience hallucinations from the sedation medication. Linda did experience hallucinations. Yet, her memory of these hallucinations is very relaxing. Calm. They were filled with music, vivid colors, stars, and swirls in the sky, which helped her remain calm while on the vent.

In fact, Linda says throughout her entire hospital stay, she remained uncharacteristically calm and non-anxious. She attributes this to the army of prayer warriors around the globe who were committed to lifting her up in prayer. Familiar with the “Footprints in the Sand” writing before her coronavirus journey, the words from this saying take on enhanced meaning these days. “I have discovered that during troubled times, Jesus literally carries us,” Linda shared.

Completely helpless in fixing her own situation, Linda placed her heart and soul in God’s hands, willing to accept whatever the result. Since the “bus didn’t come and pick me up, I’m confident that God has a plan for me,” Linda says. “Now at home, I’m doing a lot more listening these days. I’m paying more attention. We can’t just expect God to listen to us. We need to put ourselves in a place where our hearts and souls can listen to God.”

While on the vent, Jerry and Linda were not able to communicate. Throughout Linda’s hospital stint, Jerry kept a detailed log at home of her medical situation based on his many conversations with medical staff. “She never felt far away,” Jerry says, “as she was always in my heart.” Hospital staff kept Jerry and his daughters informed and spent extra time to help them fully understand the challenges of treating an unknown disease.

Linda clearly remembers the first time she spoke with Jerry after getting off the vent. While she couldn’t really “talk,” these high school sweethearts feel this whole experience has drawn them closer together.

They know this journey has changed them … for the good. “During the months of the safer at home order in a normal year, I would be doing spring cleaning,” says Linda. “This year, a physical spring cleaning didn’t happen. Instead, I had a spring cleaning of my life; one that cleaned my heart, my mind and my life in general.”  

Linda challenges herself to maintain the peace and calmness she experienced while in the hospital in her current daily life. As she feels better and becomes more able to do things, distractions creep in. Early on, she struggled with survivor’s guilt. While hospitalized, Linda didn’t watch the news. Once home, she became aware of COVID-19 patients who didn’t make it, including people with young children. Linda questioned why she was spared … and these people were not. Her purpose now is to wait for God to reveal what God has in mind for her life as a coronavirus survivor. “I need to be gracious and accept the grace that I survived this pandemic. Now, I wait and see what is in store for my future,” Linda says.

These days, the Johnson’s appreciate their marriage, family, and neighborhood a lot more. For weeks, their friends and neighbors provided meals for Jerry and eventually for both of them. A natural hugger, Linda wanted to assure her grandchildren that she was okay. Once home, she drew herself on butcher block paper and mailed a copy to each of her grandchildren to symbolically hug them. Unsure when she will be able to physically hug loved ones, these days, she uses the COVID kiss; bumping elbows.

Aware that some people downplay the severity of COVID-19, Linda hopes that sharing her story changes this. “First, I needed to let my body physically heal. As my body gets stronger, I know that it is now time for me to deal with the emotional side of being a coronavirus survivor. This includes sharing my story,” says Linda.

In 2019, her spring calendar was packed full of sporting events, concerts, exercise class and volunteering. May 2020 only included two priorities: visits to the COVID clinic and donating plasma. Jerry has donated plasma four times. Just last week, Linda cleared the many necessary tests which allowed her to donate. They are optimistic that their plasma will help other COVID-19 patients.

Committed to making sure this “spring cleaning” is purposeful and significant, Linda relies on God to help her achieve the right teeter-totter balance point between listening and serving God versus the world’s distractions. She yearns for a clean heart that seeks the Lord in all that she says, does and lives. “My work is not done,” Linda concludes. “I pray that I will be enlightened with how I can do God’s work after coronavirus.”

For Linda’s lessons from COVID-19, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Healing God – thank you for the physical healing that Linda and so many other COVID-19 patients have experienced. Hold those families who have lost loved ones tightly in your palm. May they know Your healing presence in a different way.  Bath us with emotional healing as well, drawing us closer to You so we can have a spring cleaning of our hearts and souls. Amen.

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The Time Two People Shared a Wading Pool

Gratitude Day 468

Wed., June 3, 2020

Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

“I know how you feel.”

Too many times, I said these words. Then, a situation happened when suddenly, I realized that saying these words was simply wrong. As much as I would like to think I know how someone feels, the only person whose feelings I can ever really know are my own.

No one else.

And so, I tried to banish this sentence from my vocabulary.

Too often, I have heard people who look like me say these words to people who look vastly different from me. Honestly, I cringe every time I hear this because, seriously, there is NO. WAY. POSSIBLE. I cannot ever know how people who are hugely different from me feel.

There is no way I can know how a black person feels.

I cannot know what a person who has lived in multiple generations of poverty has experienced.  

It would be impossible for me to understand what it feels like to be judged day after day based on an ethic heritage in which your skin is brown, black or something other than European white.

It is unfathomable for me to anticipate why others would respond or question me differently than what currently happens because they think they might not be safe in my presence.

I do not know how these people feel.

I do not know the struggles they have lived.

I do not know the lens through which every potential interaction of their lives must be viewed.

I simply do not know.

So, what do I know?

EVERY. SINGLE. HUMAN. BEING. HAS. WORTH. Period.

God created all of us differently on purpose. And because God created us all, God loves us all. Period.

No one, I repeat, no one, should be valued any less than how I value myself. Period.

When any of this happens, we have a problem.

When I do this, I have a problem. And it is so very necessary for my attitude be adjusted.

I can point fingers at all the things that have happened in the last number of days and make a long laundry list of wrongs. I might even get someone to agree with me on one or two of those points.

But until I take a long, hard look at my heart and soul, well, it’s pretty useless for me to focus on what everyone else is doing wrong.

When my heart needs fixing.

When my soul is too judgmental.

When my life is far from perfect.

Every once in a while, there is someone who embodies the ability to speak loudly while using very few words.

Mr. Rodgers was one of those people.

On May 9, 1969, Mr. Rodgers invited a black police officer, Office Clemmons, to join him. Together, they rolled up their pants and dipped their feet into a small plastic wading pool filled with water.

In doing so, Rodgers broke through a well-known color barrier. Even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended sanctioned separation of races in public places, many white people were opposed to desegregation. For the next five years, public pools remained a place where blacks were often not allowed to integrate with white people.

Then, there was the time Mr. Rogers invited Officer Clemmons to his pool. The Officer said that he didn’t have a towel to wipe off his feet with. Rodgers shared his towel with his friend and wiped his feet with the same towel after Office Clemmons. No words spoke of why some might have a problem with this. They just both used the towel.  

This was such an important event that Mr. Rodgers and Officer Clemmons recreated the scene in 1993 before Mr. Rodgers retired. While Rodgers could not know how Officer Clemmons felt in all of his life, he could soak his feet with him in the same pool.

And he did.

Here’s one man who examined his heart and changed his ways so that he might allow himself an opportunity to learn from someone else.

In a wading pool.

Maybe it’s time that we invited someone who looks quite different from ourselves to soak their feet with us in a wading pool. We cannot know how the other person feels. But we can listen. Share. Observe.

And then, we can share the towel.

For God’s grace in my life to see where I have opportunities to change my heart, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.  Amen.

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A Small Sliver of the Big Picture

Gratitude Day 465

Thurs., May 28, 2020

Ecclesiastes 3:10 –I have thought about this in connection with all the various kinds of work God has given to mankind.

When the envelope arrived in the mail, my name as the recipient was hand-written on the front. This was enough to intrigue me and encourage me to rip it open right away.

Inside, I found this simply delightful little gift.

It was from a friend. Someone I met a few years ago. A person with whom I instantly connected in the first time that we met. She has a beautiful soul that bubbles with laughter and tears and smiles and hugs all in the very same sentence.

For over two months, she has not been working. I’ve ran into her a couple times at the post office and we pretend to hug and share a few words. I’m optimistic that there will soon be a day when we can have a real conversation and giggle and share those things that often are left unspoken.

It was after one of those chance meetings at the post office that the envelope showed up at my house. With this bookmark and a little hand-written message inside. Here’s what it says:

Please accept this small gift as a gentle reminder that we are all connected. By creating a large picture and cutting it into bookmarks, I am reminded of the bigger picture – connection. By the separation and decoration, I am reminded we each have our own beauty to share. When we are all pieced together, we participate in the bigger picture.

All I can say is this: Amen.

Amen, sister.

What a beautiful, beautiful story. My friend paints a picture. Then, she cuts the picture into bookmarks and sends them to folks with a little message that says your bookmark is part of a larger picture. Likewise, your soul, your heart is part of a larger picture as well.

In these days of social distancing and continued limited contact, do we not need to hear that we ARE connected? Part of the large picture? Have our own beauty to share?

God’s picture is SO. MUCH. BIGGER. Then our picture. How God sees us fitting into this picture may be different from what we see. God gifts us with incredibly unique and special gifts. Our role is to discover those gifts and then leverage them for the glory and honor of God’s kingdom.

Just like my friend did. When she put her pictures into bookmarks for others to enjoy.

How I would love to know what the rest of the photo looked like. But I don’t. Instead, I relish the details, the colors and unique character of the little piece I have been entrusted with. Thanks be to God.

For connections beyond ourselves, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – Thank you for helping orchestrate special connections with other people in my life. When I struggle to see exactly how I fit in, give me glimpses of the large photo so I can be comfortable in knowing that my sliver is part of a much bigger and totally beautiful painting, crafter by You. Amen.

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

J.S.T.

Gratitude Day 464

Wed., May 27, 2020

Mark 1:35 – Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.

It began with a glass of my favorite iced tea. On our gorgeous porch.

Just me and some iced tea. Add in an optional notebook and a writing utensil.

Oh, and one more thing: the letters: J.S.T.

Hmm … what is J.S.T.

My new slogan: Just Sit There.

Truth? The last number of days have been, well, interesting. A variety of things, good and challenging, that have taken up rent in my brain. Some of it is good. And could be exceptionally good.

Other rental space? Not so much.

And so, I sat. No agenda. No computer. I did set the alarm on my phone for 30 minutes. I had promised myself to only include the phone for the timer. No other reason.

It was amazing how much life I observed while simply sitting. A whole bunch of different birds, out chirping and singing away. It had rained earlier in the afternoon. Now, the birds were out getting dinner and sending little love notes to each other.

Clouds rolled by and new formations were formed. The wind picked up and slowed down again.

All while I simply sat. Watched. Listened. Observed.

Most days, I begin the day with a time of reading and prayer. But honestly, most often, I’m trying to get through this so I can cross it off of my to-do list. Yes, there is contemplation. But it’s not the same. It’s planned. Expected.

The J.S.T time? No schedule. No agenda. Nothing. Just me and my thoughts when they come about.

I never get tired of reading how Jesus often went away by himself. To pray. To listen. To J.S.T. Did he always receive a profound, life-changing thought or inspiration in these moments? I don’t know. What I do know is that he could just be and that was enough.

Maybe there is something going on in your or a loved one(s) life that is distracting you. Or maybe you’re trying to juggle working from home with homeschooling and other things. I think we’re all getting a little stir-crazy from being cooped up for weeks on end. It’s easy for our thoughts to venture in an unhealthy place.

Sometimes, we just need space to sit. Be still. Be. And listen. If you want to write a thought down, do so in your notebook. If not, just be. Listen to your soul. Know that this might be the most valuable 30 minutes of your day.

If you feel like you are struggling right now, hop on over to a podcast that I recently recorded about mental health. You can find it here:

And pour yourself a glass of your favorite summertime drink and join me on the porch for Devos with Dianne at 8 PM central time on Facebook Live. I’ll have my peach iced tea. And we’ll think about how J.S.T. can make a difference in our lives.

I wish you could join my on my porch. Have included just a few photos so you feel like you have.

For moments of just sitting still with God, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Why do we make things so complicated, God, when maybe all we really need to do is sit with You? Encourage me to find J.S.T. time for just You and me. Amen.

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It’s Wednesday Prayer Day!

Gratitude Day 460

Wed., May 20, 2020

Numbers 6:23-26 –Now the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons that they are to give this special blessing to the people of Israel: ‘May the Lord bless and protect you; may the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; may he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace.’”

On Wednesdays, I love to focus on prayer and share some of the insights I try to embrace in my personal prayer life.

Recently, I ran across a musical video that takes a blessing and turns it into a totally beautiful musical setting.

Here’s the setting for the scripture the song is based on: Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt. It took ten plagues for Pharaoh to release his main work force and it only happened after the plague in which the eldest son was killed. Moses and the Israelites left hastily. After the were gone, Pharaoh had releaser-remorse and wanted his skilled workers back. He sends his army after the Israelites and they are swallowed up in the Red Sea.

Now Moses and the Israelites are wandering through the dessert. The early chapters of Numbers give instructions for taking a census, how to set-up their camp and variety of other things. But right in the middle of these instructions, God comes to Moses and tells him to have his relative Aaron and Aaron’s sons shower the people with an incredibly special blessing. It’s a blessing that might have been used in worship. It’s a prayer that pours out God’s special blessing upon God’s people.

I encourage you to relax for a few minutes. Listen to this music video. Pray the same words that Moses prayed over the Israelites. May this prayer richly bless you today.

For God’s blessing upon us today, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – thank you for these special words: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon and give you peace. Amen.

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Lessons from COVID-19: Should Busy Be a Four-Letter Word?

Gratitude Day 459

Tues., May 19, 2020

James 1:10-11 – But a rich man should be glad that his riches mean nothing to the Lord, for he will soon be gone, like a flower that has lost its beauty and fades away, withered—killed by the scorching summer sun. So, it is with rich men. They will soon die and leave behind all their busy activities.

Things are feeling a bit different these days. Hubby Rick and I drove on the interstate a few days ago. While Rick drives this same patch of highway every day he goes to work, I had not been on it for WEEKS. Literally, weeks.

The first thing I noticed?

The traffic. The last time I had been on this stretch of road, it was a few semis and us. Seriously. Not much else. But this more recent day? Lots more regular car and truck traffic. People like us, driving somewhere, that we had not been in a long, long, time.

In our area, some stores are beginning to open; most with capacity limits. In fact, our beautician contacted me recently and wanted to know if Rick and I wanted haircuts. My reply looked like this:

“YES!!! HOW SOON???”

The salon has multiple safety measures in place, which we will gladly abide by. I know a haircut sounds rather silly right now. Yet, all of our neighbor ladies are feeling very much like I do these days. A haircut cannot come soon enough.

Make no mistake. We’re a long way from “normal.” I still avoid shopping any more than I have to. When it is necessary, I purposely choose times that I think will be less busy than another time. Soon and very soon, I will have to go to the grocery store. We can’t live on condiments alone.

I’ve been having this running conversation in my head these last number of weeks: Do I really want things to return to “normal.” Is “normal” what we really want? What we should want?

Do we want to be constantly –

  • Overscheduled?
  • Overcommitted beyond belief?
  • Unable to have meals with our family?
  • No longer appreciating finding ways to entertain ourselves with our own devices?

There are so many great things that have happened. Actual book sales have soared. We’re having real phone conversations with people and being creative about how we celebrate and honor life events for those we love. We’re planting gardens and sourcing food locally and baking; my, how we are baking. We are walking and biking and playing games outdoors.

Yes, I know there is significant stress around work and jobs and homeschooling and finances and a whole host of other things. Depression and anxiety and stress are very real and not to be glossed over.

How we greet each other may not change for, well, quite a while. Being with a large group of people outside of a grocery store or big box store may not happen for a hot minute. Curbside and delivery and mail order will continue to be more of the norm. Thinking of how our actions affect someone else must be more than a fleeting thought because, well, it’s not just about ourselves anymore. It wasn’t before, but somewhere along the line, we kind of forgot this.

I pray that we use the word “busy” less … and “blessed” or “appreciative” more.  May we focus less on having a “perfect” life and prioritize our most valuable players (MVP’s) of our lives as being far more significant than having just the right accessory for our bathroom.

I read these words from my book, The Mary Experiment: When DOING and BEING Collide recently. They hit me hard because, well, am I living my own words? Not. So. Much. This is the passage:

Rather than trying to achieve a perfect life, let’s put our time, energy, and resources into having a meaningful life. We can be so busy that we don’t have time to live. Let’s choose life over busyness. Can we adjust the size of our life gardens, so they are more manageable? Will you let your list of person MVP’s guide your choices? Will you intentionally develop a personal relationship with God, center it around listening, and allow it to undergird your very being?”

The Mary Experiment, p. 101

Before we rush back to our crazy, over-flowing lives, may we intentionally decide to ease back into life. Put back into place only those things that we absolutely love and bring us joy. Let’s choose life over busy and see how that works for awhile longer.

For silver linings from challenging times, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Thank you for being with us these last number of weeks. As we have tried to discover and reflect upon what truly is most important to us, I pray we continue to focus our daily living on these choices. Thanks for being along with us in this journey. Amen.

On Devos with Dianne this week, I’ll be addressing YOUR faith questions! If you have a question that You would like me to answer, please let me know ASAP! Love to have you join me on Wednesday night a 8 PM CT on Facebook Live.

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