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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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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Spring Planting

Gratitude Day 458

Mon., May 18, 2020

Luke 13:19 – (Jesus said,) “It is like what happens when someone plants a mustard seed in a garden. The seed grows as big as a tree, and birds’ nest in its branches.”

On Saturday, Hubby Rick and I spent much of the day outside working in the yard and garden. We begin the day by walking downtown to the local farmer’s market and buying some vegetable plants: tomatoes, peppers, and Brussel sprouts. Once home, Rick went to work getting the plants into the ground. He planted other things in the garden as well. Later, he weed whacked and mowed the lawn.

I dedicated the afternoon to cleaning out the flower beds and moving a variety of plants. Sometimes, things just need to be adjusted and moved. Some plants do not take off as well as I would like. Or their size is different from what I anticipated. A couple plants didn’t winter well, and some perennials were spreading faster than I would like. Another bed is completely overgrown, so I wanted to thin out the day lilies. While this bed is not completely done, I moved many day lilies to a new little flowerbed next to our carriage house. By evening, both Rick and I were feeling like we had accomplished lots in our yard.  

Our timing was spot-on. We anticipated that it would rain Saturday night and most of Sunday. Yesterday, we had a wonderful and nice, all-day gentle rain that will jump-start our little garden and all the various flowers that were planted and moved on Saturday.

This is how plants begin: small seeds that are buried into the ground. With appropriate water and sunlight, soon the shoots poke out of the ground. Seeds become plants, which hopefully become beautiful veggies or fruits or lovely flowers. We are already tasting that first tomato and feeling the crunch of carrots in the fall, as well as anticipating the cucumber slices that will dazzle on salads or become perfectly crunchy pickles.

But with the plants also comes the weeds which can take over unless they are dealt with. Or sometimes, the plants reproduce quickly, and they begin to encroach on other flowers, and they take over a garden. There are also the plants who are stressed and do not make it through the winter. And yes, sometimes after a plant is moved to a more ideal spot, it thrives and grows and loves it new little piece of land.

Our faith journeys are no different. At times, we get just the right sunshine and water and our spirits feel rich and full. Other times, we’ve allowed the weeds of sin and evil to demand too much value property in our hearts and lives. Maybe we keep reproducing one area of our lives that prevents other areas of our lives from completely blooming and getting what they need. Hopefully, we are wise enough to cut back on this area and allow other areas the time and attention that they need.

Plants and flowers often start out as just tiny, little seeds. With the right environment and nurturing those seeds can grow into fantastic plants and flowers. The goal is for beautiful fruit and flower to be produced which become wonderful rewards as a result of the fruits of our labor.

As warm spring temperatures finally arrive and seeds become sprouts, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to contemplate how our faith is growing. Are there some spots that need some weeding or holes that need attention? Is the fruit and produce results that we’re proud of? Do we need to shift some things around so that we keep our highest priorities in mind?

Jesus is the master gardener; ready and willing to be a part of your growing cycle. He is the one that can help take a little seed of faith in your life and allow it to grow into something beautiful. Spring is a fantastic time to contemplate your spiritual journey: where you can make slight adjustments and how you can continue to grow in whys that will produce fantastic results.

And it all starts with just a tiny little seed. Nothing more. Nothing less. I pray this little seed is tuned towards Jesus, the master gardener, and ready to be nurtured for the glory of God’s kingdom.

For the seed of faith inside each one of us, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – there are so many life lessons around us. I pray that we pause, see these in our lives and reflect upon how we can embrace them in our lives. Amen.

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How ARE You Doing?

Gratitude Day 457

Thurs., May 15, 2020

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.”

It’s a question that we’ve asked a million times: “How are you doing?”

We ask that when we see someone we know. At the grocery store. On the phone (for those of us who still make phone calls.)

How are you doing?

When I’m asked this question, I often wonder, “Does this person REALLY want to know how I am? Or are they being nice? Or do the words just come out of their mouth automatically without really thinking about this?”

I know that when I’ve asked this question and my intentions could be all of these options and more.

I find it interesting how folks respond.

“Good.”

“OK.”

“Fine.”

I’ve used all of those answers … and other words that really never get to how I’m really feeling.

So, let me ask you: How ARE you REALLY doing?”

May is mental health month. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard a lot about it this year because, well, there are other things like a little pesky virus that have monopolized our news media.

But if ever there was a time, we need a time to ask folks how they are REALLY doing, it’s right now.

Seriously.

Unfortunately, the statistics are there. As people experience more isolation, the incidences of abuse, neglect, anger, and abuse increase. Chargeable offenses increase. As much as we have tried to protect the health of folks, there is the possibility that folks are struggling emotionally and mentally right now.

I have noticed that in myself, I question myself a lot more. It’s easy for my brain to go places where it would not previously go. I have to guard myself from letting “possibilities” influence “reality.”

So, how ARE you REALLY doing?

Too often, we are asked this question once. We give a quick answer. On to the next thing. But right now, I’m asking you this personal question directly to you.

Take a hot minute. Stop and think about this. Do you feel yourself supported and uplifted on a daily basis? Are you making sure there is joy and happiness in your life? Where do you find yourself challenged?

If you are missing regular conversation and interaction with folks, build some into your daily life. Ask someone else. Show concern when they share. Give a thoughtful answer. And hopefully, they will ask how you are doing as well. If they don’t? Go ahead and share any way.

In these days, we NEED community. Connection. Safe places to go. Know when it’s too much. Please, please, please remember that God IS right there as well. Ready to grab more than God’s share of the yoke. If we’ll allow God to grab it. God certainly knows our souls need rest. Do WE know this and practice it?

May we take care of each other and ourselves these days. And genuinely want to know how each other are doing.

For being OK to say how I’m truly feeling, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – It’s so easy to give a flat and quick answer when someone asks how we are doing. And yet, there are times when we need to allow ourselves to think about this a bit more. Hear how others really are doing. And may we come to You when our burden needs sharing. Amen.

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Let’s Have a Big Old Graduation Celebration!

Gratitude Day 454

Mon., May 11, 2020

Jeremiah 29:11 – I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.

Over the weekend, I was going through some boxes of things and ran across items from when I graduated: my diplomas and the tassels I received. Each time I participated in a graduation ceremony, high school, college bachelor’s degree and seminary master’s degree, it felt like a monumental event in my life. I had completed a benchmark moment in my life. I had hope for the next period of my life and felt I was moving towards the next major step in my life.

As I looked held the memories from my graduation days in my hands, the truth was not lost on me that so many graduates this spring will not have the same opportunity that I did. They won’t get to walk across a stage and hug and high-five their fellow classmates. Family won’t travel from afar to recognize this significant event in their lives. This spring’s graduation celebrations will be so different from my graduations.

I had awards banquets and parties and celebrations and pictures. I donned a robe and mortar board and ceremoniously moved the tassel from one side of the cap to the next after we received our diplomas. I attended classmates’ celebrations and said good-bye to favorite teachers with promises to keep in touch.

Graduating seniors are experiencing a completely different culture this spring. One day they were attending classes at school; the next day, they weren’t. Many missed spring sports and the hope of accomplishing a goal in the process. For this spring’s graduates, the end of the school year seems quite different because, well, it is.

I’ve been impressed with the creativity that various schools have embodied to honor their graduates: signs, banners and online recognitions. Principals making personal visits to graduates. Senior of the day postings in social media. Anything that could help this year’s graduates feel even a little bit special for a hot minute.

My guess is that we all know at least one person who will be graduating this spring. Whether is high school, college, a graduate degree, kindergarten, 8th grade or a tech school: they won’t be having a ceremony like we’ve historically experienced. There won’t be any hot gyms for families to sit in or caps that fall off a graduate’s head too easily. Senior skip day has turned into a couple months’ worth of missing school. Scholarship winners won’t get to shake hands with donors nor medals put around necks for those who achieved specific accomplishments. Families won’t spontaneously break out into applause after their loved one’s name is read and we won’t get sick of ham sandwiches and potato salad during the month of May.

Graduates have reason to feel cheated. Disappointed. Let down.

So, I want to do just a little something to help them feel special. Honored. Recognized.

This Wednesday night, I invite you to invite those people you know who are graduating this spring for a special edition of Devos with Dianne. We’re going to celebrate the heck out of their accomplishments and shower them with lots of love. No, it won’t be a graduation ceremony. Nor will Orpah drop in and give advice. But let’s take a few minutes and let this spring’s graduates have a hot minute of recognition.

In order for this to work, I need your help. First, contact those people you know who are graduating and invite them to Devos with Dianne on Wed. night, May 13, at 8 PM on Facebook Live. Tag them with this post or forward it to them and ask them to join you. Send me a digital photo of the graduate(s). We’ll show them during Devos with Dianne and I’ll invite everyone to virtually applaud.

Then, on Wednesday night, encourage them to hop online with us, wearing their cap and grown. I’d love for people to share photos of their graduate while we’re online watching Devos, decked out in their cap and gown. Make the time special by having a cupcake or something else ready to celebrate. Bring a candle and we’ll light them together to honor these grads.

What if you don’t know a graduate? Show up anyways!! We need the rest of YOU to be the audience and celebrate their accomplishment! We need folks to virtually high-five them and clap as their name is read and show them so serious love.

Each time I graduated; I was very aware that God had a plan for the next phase of my life. Maybe I knew what it would look like. Sometimes, I didn’t. What I did know is that I wanted God to be a part of my journey and my plan. This year’s graduates need this encouragement, just as much as I did, when I received my diploma. Let’s join together in praying for their journeys. Celebrating their accomplishments. Blessing the next step of their journey.

I pray that together, we have a FANTASTIC time Wednesday night honoring our graduates. But I need YOUR help to make this work. Send me photos of the graduates you know. Invite them to participate Wednesday night. Show up so together, we can honor and bless them.

For God’s involvement with this year’s graduates, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – We know you didn’t cause all of these graduation celebrations to be delayed or canceled. We know you love every single graduate and have a special plan for their lives. Inspire us to creatively honor and bless them this week. May we show up and applaud all of their hard work. We know you’ll be at our virtual graduation celebration, ready to bless these graduates. I pray we invite those who are ready to be blessed by You. Amen.

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Welcome Weekend!

Gratitude Day 453

Sat., May 9, 2020

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’”

Good Saturday morning! This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Sometimes on Saturday’s, I share just a few random things that have been floating around in my life. Just little pieces of inspiration that I pray bring some joy into your weekend/week. Let’s get started!

The local farmer’s market in our community is opening this weekend. We plan to go down this morning and support it. I love to support local. And this is one way we can do this. I encourage you to do the same if the opportunity is available to you.

On Wednesday nights, I’ve been sharing Devos with Dianne on Facebook Live. It’s a time where I do a 20-minuteish devotion. This week, the weather was so nice I sat out on our beautiful screened-in porch. The topic? Where have you seen someone extend joy and kindness to someone else lately. If you miss Devos with Dianne on Wednesday nights, you can also go back and watch it later.

Have you seen the movie Five Feet Apart? We had not until recently. In these days of social distancing, it’s a fascinating movie to watch, although it was released over a year ago. The movie is about 17-year-old Stella who basically lives at a hospital as a cystic fibrosis patient. Her life is filled with routines and boundaries, which give her a sense of control. This is, until she meets Will, a charming teen with the same illness. While there is an attraction between the two CF teens, restrictions dictate that they must maintain a safe distance between them.

Living at a care facility right now is challenging. My nearly 90-year-old aunt has been on lockdown for two months. While she is an incredibly positive person, it is becoming wearing. Click on this little story that shares how one community reached out to the folks at the local nursing home and assisted living to brighten their days during this extended time of isolation. The person who organized this and owns Creative Touch Floral? She just happens to be my sister, Debbie.

When I think of Mother’s Day, I immediately think of trillium. It’s a wildflower that usually blooms this time of year. Growing up, we used to pick buckets full of trillium on Mother’s Day. We have a small patch in our yard that is blooming right now. My attentive Hubby Rick covered them for me last night because he knows how much I love trillium and the memories these flowers well up inside of me.

Speaking of Mother’s Day, here’s a shout out to all of you Moms, grandmas, daughters, and women who are influential in someone else’s life. I pray that you have a wonderful weekend, knowing that how we remember the special women in our lives will be quite different this year. Nonetheless it’s a wonderful time to reach out to those women who are important to us. My Mom is gone. But I have plans to let another woman who means a lot to me know this. If your Mom is gone, I encourage you to do the same.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends. And thanks for following along with Simple Words of Faith. You mean the world to me!

For those women who have inspired us, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – thank you for bringing important role models and mentors into my life. Sometimes, this is our Mom. Sometimes, it’s another woman. It’s not just one woman who has touched us, but often a group of different women. Thank you for the role these women have played in my life. Amen.

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Emptying Out the Kitchen

Gratitude Day 452

Fri., May 8, 2020

Mark 8:4 – His disciples responded, “What do you expect us to do about it? Buy food out here in the desert?”

It’s become my newest coronavirus distraction: how long can I wait before going to the grocery store?

A few weeks back, I decided that this was a great time to really clean out the food in the fridge, the pantry, and the freezer. The fridge needs a good cleaning. Wouldn’t it be easier if it were nearly empty? There are things in the pantry that, well, either need to be used or thrown out. And the freezer? I always like to see the bottom of our chest freezer at least once a year.

Most years, as Lent rolls around, I promise myself that this year, I’m really going to use up a lot of the food that we have. This lasts until my first trip to the grocery store. Soon, the pantry is as full as it has ever been.

But this time? I’m telling myself that I’m committed. Now that I’m telling you this as well, the pressure is on; right?

I am allowing for two caveats: milk and eggs. But that’s it.  

Slowly, I’ve been finding ways to use those things that should have been used up awhile ago. But weren’t. About a week, I ran out of white sugar. Now, I’m being creative with substitutions.

I am a self-proclaimed salad-aholic. Seriously, if the lettuce is fresh and crisp, I could eat one EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I chopped up the last Romaine lettuce on Monday. Hubby Rick had tacos and I had a taco salad. How long can I go without a salad? We shall see.

As time goes on, I’m becoming more creative. The only fresh vegetable that remains is a bag of carrots and a few slices of cucumber. We had an appetizer bar for lunch today: artichoke dip with toast squares, cocktail wieners, and dip with cucumbers. I know. It’s not completely carb friendly … but was really fun to see how many appetizers I could come up with!

Thankfully, there are veggies and fruit in the freezer. We have plenty of meat as well. I kept thinking that I would delay going to the story until later this week. After another evaluation of the reserves on hand, I’m going to see if I can stretch it another week or so. There are still plenty of condiments in the fridge yet … so we’re good to go.

So, what’s the big deal about seeing how much food I can use up before going to the grocery store? Turning this into some theological lesson might be a stretch … right?

As we go through this pandemic, I keep thinking that things really could be SO. MUCH. WORSE. I think back to World War II and how so many things were rationed. I have a couple of my grandparent’s ration cards yet. Sugar, tires, coffee. While some items have had limits on them at various times and this may happen again, generally speaking, we CAN buy what we need as well as what we want. I’m not sure that we have truly experienced a desert-like situation of not being able to get what we want at the grocery store.

I think of the thousands of people who have made much more significant sacrifices than I have in these last weeks. My sacrifice seems meager. Not enough. Too easy.

Another part of this little lesson and exercise is gaining a deeper appreciation for the large quantity of cheap food we have here in the United States. The average percentage of disposable income we spend on food is much less than other countries in this world. We have access to basically anything we want at any time of the year. I remember paying over $1 for a single orange when I lived in Kazakstan one winter. My monthly salary was supposed to be $150/month … when I got paid. The 69 cents I paid for an orange several weeks ago feels like a steal.

As we sit down to eat lunch together these days, Hubby Rick often says, “What concoction do we have today?” I’m not sure it’s a good sign when I have to explain what is before us.

Am I just trying to “trick” my brain into thinking this tiny, little sacrifice is, well, at least something? Of course, I am! But then again, I’m not trying to feed teenagers or kids. Or a picky eater.

Call it a COVID-19 coping mechanism. Call it reducing inventory. Call it what I should be doing on a more regular basis. Maybe it’s a little way to let my creative side come out these days as I figure out what’s for dinner … based solely on what’s in the house. We’re still a long way away from a desert-like kitchen. I squirrled away the ingredients for Rick’s favorite salad a couple weeks ago. He will be so surprised!

For trying to fully appreciate all the high-quality food we have available to us, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – for most of us, a reliable quantity of food is just a given. Having to wait for a cut of meat is truly a first-world problem. I pray that we can develop a deeper appreciation for the cheap, high-quality food source available to us.  Amen.

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Wednesday Prayer Day – Praying Together

Gratitude Day 451

Wed., May 6, 2020

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

It’s Wednesday … and this means its prayer day.

One of the most powerful ways that we can pray is when we literally pray together with another person.

Like – we actually stop what we are doing with another person … and pray.

Loving couple holding hands close-up on wooden background

Now, as a pastor, I realize that this maybe more expected for me to do than for other people. I’ve had thousands, and I truly mean thousands, of opportunities to pray with and for other people.

In a hospital room.

While serving someone communion.

Before and/or after a meeting.

While visiting someone in their home.

As someone shares with me a challenging situation in their life.

During worship.

Over the phone.

A typed prayer as part of an e-mail.

With kids.

With teens.

With adults.

With seniors.

Yes, I am extremely comfortable praying with other people. But there was a time when this wasn’t the situation.

Early on as a pastor, I remember making those first pastoral calls. Someone was sick and I should visit them, like right away. I remember going to someone’s house and stopping to see them. I didn’t know them, other than their name. I spent time with them finding out what their situation was. And as it drew time for me to leave, I knew that I should pray for them. But how was I to do this?

I began by asking if I could pray for them. Never did someone say that I could not pray for them. Often, I would lay my hands-on top of their hands. (Yes, these were the days when we could still touch another person outside of our home.) And I prayed with them.

It wasn’t necessarily a long prayer. Actually, if it got too long, people became uncomfortable. Yet, I asked God to be with them, heal them in whatever ways was best, and comfort them. Most often, I closed with the Lord’s Prayer.

And that was it.

Simple.

Easy.

Just a minute or possibly two.

Helen was confined to her home. She didn’t get out very often and usually only to go to the doctor. Her husband had died years earlier and she didn’t have any children. A retired farmer, Helen and I had lots of things to chat about. We’d end our visit by joining in communion together, followed by me praying.

But then, the most wonderful thing always would happen. Helen would pray for me. Rick. Our family. My ministry. The church.

It was incredibly powerful to listen to this white-haired lady simply intervene for me. This was an important lesson when the pastor was ministered to.

Somewhere along the line, Helen had discovered the power of praying for and over other people. And I was a wonderful recipient of her prayers.

It made such an impression upon me that here, 10 years later, I’m still talking about Helen praying for me.

Folks – we often say, “I’m praying for you,” which is really nice of us to say. But can we take it one step further and actually pray with that person? Pause life for one or two minutes … and pray together with them? It is so powerful when you are prayed for and over. Please give this gift to another person.

It was near the end of Helen’s life. She was in a nursing home and hadn’t been out of bed in days. On an oxygen machine, Helen found it exceedingly difficult to speak more than a couple words at a time. Yet even in our last visit together, here’s Helen praying for me after I prayed for her.

I have experienced many touching moments while serving other people. But this is truly one of the most memorable moments that I have personally experienced: when a woman ready to achieve her eternal reward prayed for me.

May I encourage you to pray with and for someone else this week. You might be amazed how this feels for both you and the other person. Not quite sure what to pray with someone else? Simply pray the Lord’s Prayer together. It need not be any more complicated than this, folks.

For the gift of praying with and for another person, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – thank you for the wonderful gift of prayer. Thank you for Jesus’ gift of teaching and witnessing prayer over and over. May I embrace prayer as a gift that I receive and one that I share. Amen.

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39 Years Ago, a Thing Happened

Gratitude Day 450

Mon., May 4, 2020

Joshua 1:9: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Thirty-nine years ago, on May 3rd, a thing happened.

No, I didn’t get my driver’s license. (It would be a few more years before this happened.) Nor did I discover my first boyfriend.

Actually, it was something that happened within my spiritual life.

I confirmed my faith at the Augusta United Methodist Church.

I was in 8th grade and had completed two years of instruction to prepare me for the day when I would assume responsibility for my own spiritual journey. In the tradition I am involved, confirmation is when a person “confirms” the promises their parents made on their behalf at baptism. Promises in which the person declares their faith in God and the Holy Trinity. Their believe in sin in this world and their ability to sin. How we will support the church.

It felt like a big day, which it was. Three other classmates and I had met with Rev. Barnes weekly during the school year. Now, it was time for us to publicly share our desire to declare our belief in God and commit to making God part of our spiritual lives forever.

Honestly, I didn’t understand all of this when I was confirmed. I don’t blame Rev. Barnes for my lack of understanding. It had much more to do with me not listening or comprehending. At the time, confirmation felt more like a rite of passage: an important life event that was what teens my age did. My elder siblings were confirmed. Now, it simply was my turn.

Because of a family death, Rev. Barnes was not able to be in worship on Confirmation Sunday. A retired pastor, Rev. Walker, lived in the community. He led worship this day. Actually, Rev. Walker was the pastor when I was baptized, so it was kind of neat he was leading worship the day I was confirmed.

I think I expected something “special” to happen that day. Like, I would suddenly feel closer to God and understand just who God was. Maybe this happens for some people on their confirmation day. Honestly, it didn’t happen for me. In my memory, it seemed like a nice worship service. But I’m not sure that I felt any differently spiritually on May 4th than I did on May 2nd.

I did take seriously my commitment to be involved in the local church. As a teen, I participated in a variety of activities and leadership roles at this church. My first “official” public speaking role (outside of 4-H) happened at this church. I served because, well, that was the commitment I had made. I watched my parents serve in a variety of roles, inside and outside of the church, and this is what I was going to do.

It took years, and I literally mean YEARS before I began to understand what a personal relationship with Jesus looked like. When I left for college, I drug the Bible that my parents gave to me on Confirmation Sunday with me. But let’s be honest. It basically collected a lot of dust. After college, I became involved in a church and volunteered for a variety of roles. I dated a guy for awhile who questioned why I was so involved at my church. My response spoke more about “this is what I am supposed do” than understanding that living one’s faith means loving God and your neighbor as an expression of your faith … and this involves service within a faith community.

I was near 30 when I signed up for a Bible study where I begin to see what confirming one’s faith really means. This time around, I read a significant part of the Bible. I began to hear God’s promises over and over. I saw God’s presence as a major thread through humanity for thousands of years, as well as my own life. Faith was no longer something I understood just in my head; faith now became much more personal and something in my heart.

Finally, I began to understand faith differently in my life. I felt different, allowed faith to affect choices that I made and wanted to let God into all the areas of my life. For years, I was what I would call a really good pew Christian: someone who sat in the pew week after week. I gave, I served, I shared my gifts. But now? I let God into my daily decision making. I prayed earnestly for others and myself. I realized that if God was going to be a part of my life, then God needed to be involved in all areas of my life. Period.

This is the time of year when many teens “confirm” their faith. They reaffirm the baptismal vows that their parents made for them earlier in their life. They make promises to assume responsibility for their own spiritual journey. Many of these confirmation celebrations have been postponed and delayed until they can happen within a faith community worshiping physically together.

Whether you are a student who is disappointed in having to wait for their confirmation Sunday; or someone who isn’t really sure what faith is; or confirmed at some point but still not sure what this really means: here’s my message is you: No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, you don’t have to know everything there is to know about God. It ain’t going to happen. And this is OK.

Simply, give yourself some space and opportunity to know God on a personal level. As a friend. As one of those people you turn to when you’re having a rotten day and you need a shoulder to cry on as well, as well as on those great days that you really want someone to celebrate something super cool that happened in your life. Let God be one of these people who you turn to.

God doesn’t promise easy lives if we profess our faith in God. God doesn’t remove every hardship or challenge that comes our way. What God does assure of us is that we don’t ever have to be alone. And this, my friends, is Good News.

Today, we all have an opportunity to confirm our faith in God. We can do this anywhere. I invite you to speak with God for a bit today. Share your heart. Let go of your fears and disappointments. Will you feel closer to God if you do? I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that if you do this day after day after day, maybe something inside of you will begin to slowly change.  As you allow God to see more of your life, you will discover opportunities to include God in more of your life.

Spiritual journeys aren’t always about earthquake events. Yes, they can be. More often, spiritual journeys are taking a few small steps forward, followed by a leap back, more small steps forward followed by something that causes backslide. Our spiritual lives are not a spring. They are a marathon.

I pray you “confirm” your faith in God this day, even if you aren’t fully sure what this means. Confirm to love God and neighbor with every thread of your being. Agree to share some of your special gifts with the rest of God’s kingdom. And commit to seeking God out more in your daily life.

For the opportunity to discover God and confirm my faith, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – thank you for being patient with us as we explore faith and what it means to us. May we explore this journey together. Amen.

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