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

Gratitude Day 430

Mon., Mar. 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like it or not.

It just feels a bit like the wilderness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings –

Dianne

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

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Two or Three Together

Gratitude Day 429

Fri., Mar. 26, 2020

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

This is the new normal.

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

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

Or Google Hangouts.

Or Facebook Live.

Or Messenger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A note.

Held up to the door so all can see.

Notice where the man’s hand is?

Over his heart.

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

What must we remember?

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

Two or three on ZOOM.

Two or three in Google Hangout.

Two or three in Messenger.

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

God is with them.

God is with you.

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

For new ways to find community, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

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We Need the Church. NOW.

Gratitude Day 428

Wed., Mar. 25, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Until now.

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

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

Until now.

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

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

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

Like right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all.

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

For new ways to experience church, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

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Do Something NORMAL!!

Gratitude Day 426

Mon., Mar. 23, 2020

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

Sometimes, we just need a huge dose of normal.

Nothing else, but just normal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For finding God in the normal, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

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

Getting Creative with Relationships

Gratitude Day 424

Fri., Mar. 20, 2020

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

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

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

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

Notice any resemblance?

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

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

Yep, sometimes we are just chopped liver.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For valued relationships, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

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When Spring Arrives

Gratitude Day 424

Thurs., Mar. 19, 2020

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

Soon it will officially be spring.

Time for warm rain and mud puddles.

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

Time for warm breezes and longer days of sunlight.

Time for coats and flip-flops.

Spring gives us hope.

Hope for new birth, new chances, new babies.

Opportunities for refreshing and cleaning and eliminating.

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

Spring seems a little more difficult these days.

But it is oh, so needed.

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

Spring into spring with anticipation. Hope. Promise.

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

Blessings –

Dianne

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

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Stocking Up on the Right Things

Gratitude Day 423

Wed., Mar. 18, 2020

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

Good Morning Friends –

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

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

Seemingly, overnight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings –

Dianne

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

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The Rush of Clicking “Submit”

Gratitude Day 422

Fri., Mar. 13, 2020

Hebrew 13:5: Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

There’s this little endorphin rush that comes over me right before I click “submit” on my laptop.

It doesn’t happen when I’m buying a plane ticket. Or completing an online survey.

It happens when I file our annual taxes.

It happened again this week. I must admit … it feels SO GOOD when I know they are off my desk and into that ambiguous black hole of the U.S. Treasury. A sense of accomplishment, as well as relief, makes me feel like I’ve lost at least 10 pounds.

If only the scale would read this.

Seriously, it is one job that I LOVE to complete. Probably because I know it will be another 12 months before I’ll have to tackle it again.

Truthfully, it’s not actually completing the taxes that takes the most time for me. It’s getting everything in order BEFORE I log into the online site where I file our taxes. And every year after I file, I promise myself to be more diligent about working on tracking things throughout the year and not waiting until its time to file our taxes.

Let’s see how well I do with this in 2020.

I know talking about finances may seem a little, well, crazy here. But why not? It seems most of us won’t be attending a sporting event, concert or gathering with any significant amount of people for the next couple of weeks. Think of all those hours you would have invested into watching basketball during March Madness. What will you do?

Maybe, just maybe, you might find a couple minutes or two to rethink how you and your family look at money. Finances. Resources.

Every time I review our finances, I quickly see that money and finances are just as much of my spiritual journey as prayer and worship. Yep, that’s right. Seriously. Sometimes, do we spend MORE time focusing on money than some of the other significant spiritual areas of our lives? As much as we would like to keep money and our spiritual lives separate, let’s be real. It’s impossible.

So today, I’m going to share just a few thoughts of how I embrace money, finances alongside of my faith. These principles have been developed over years but ones that Hubby Rick and I embrace as we ponder the resources available to us.

  • We believe everything we have is on loan to us from God. Seriously. Everything. I often say “my car” or “my house” or “my laptop” but here’s the deal. These, and everything else you put “my” in front of us is really God’s. All these things are simply on loan to you from God. Yep, this includes your children, your spouse, your relationships.

We hang onto “our” stuff so tightly sometimes. When I began to see that this “stuff” is really God’s and I’m entrusted to use it for the glory and honor of God’s kingdom, my mindset shifted. I began to ask myself, “How can I leverage what God has entrusted me with for the glory and honor of God’s kingdom … and not just for myself?”

This helps keeps things in perspective for me. Think of something you are entrusted with that you truly value. It’s something you treat and handle very carefully. In reality, everything you have is this special and important to God because God has made them available for you to use. When I see what I have as God’s, then it’s not just important to me; it’s important to God. I’m invited to be a good steward with all that God has entrusted me with: things, money, people and time. It is my responsibility to treat everything within my grasp well because it’s all part of what God has created.

Shifting perspective has allowed me to hold a little less tightly to “things.” If I have something that would benefit another member of God’s family, then I pray I let it go and allow it to bless someone else.

  • My role with all of the money, finances, possessions and resources God has entrusted me with is to be a great steward. My job is to treat these resources well. Honor God in how I use them.

Sometimes, we feel that God hasn’t entrusted us with as much as we need or deserve. I encourage us to shift our focus from what we feel we should have to making sure we do a great job of managing what we have!

  • Share a portion of your loan from God back into God’s kingdom. REGULARLY. Contrary to popular belief, I discovered it was easier to begin doing this when my resources were MORE limited than waiting until I felt I could “afford” it. Choose what your portion will be and make it consistent. What should that portion be? I think this is something you take up and work out with God. Yes, the biblical recommendation is 10%. For some people, 10% may feel like it’s too much. For others, 10% is not near enough.
  • Be clear with yourself and your family about what you “need” versus what you “want.” We often identify something as a “need” when truthfully, it’s more of a want. Yes, we need certain things. But sometimes the amount of what we think we “need” crosses over into the “want” category.

Hubby Rick and I are blessed in that we can fulfill many of our “wants.” Do we fill a “want” as soon as we dream it up? Part of the journey is discovering how to accomplish a “want” while still honoring the previously mentioned points. When we wait, sometimes these “wants” disappear. More than once, we’ve been thankful we waited before acting upon an apparent “want” at the time.

  • Track your financial status monthly. While I’m not always good at doing the detail work monthly, I do keep a running Excel spreadsheet that tracks a big-picture outlook of our finances. This includes our available cash, savings, retirement, and other income sources. For an honest picture of resources, it must also include outstanding debt.

I have kept this information in an Excel spreadsheet for years. This helps us see other times when the investments we are entrusted with took a hit, just like what happened this week. A long-term snapshot reminds us that markets go up and down … and will continue to do this in the future.

We set a goal to be debt free by a certain time which was a great motivator in how we viewed resources. As our resource picture changes, it gives us an opportunity to be creative and reprioritize what is most important to us.  

  • Be satisfied with what you have. Hubby Rick and I know we aren’t rich. We are also acutely aware that we have been entrusted with more resources than about 90% of the world’s population. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, encouraged people to embrace resources and money this way: earn all you can, save all you can and give away all you can. His words have encouraged us to not focus on just one of these three areas but to challenge ourselves to be good stewards in all three areas.  

So, pause for a minute or two. What principles or priorities do you and your family embrace when it comes to resources, finances and money? How does your attitude in these areas coincide with your spiritual journey? Are the two compatible?

Honestly, clicking “submit” when filing our taxes isn’t the only moment I get an endorphin rush when dealing with our finances. Those times when I feel we got it right? This is just as exhilarating for me. I pray you experience this as well in how you manage the resources entrusted with you along your spiritual journey.

For finding gratitude daily, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – It really is a privilege to be entrusted with resources within Your kingdom. Help me develop an understanding of how these resources fit into Your kingdom and how I can be a great steward of them. May I be inspired to earn well, save well and give well. Amen.

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The Most Profound 90 Seconds of Every Day

Gratitude Day 421

Thurs., Mar. 12, 2020

2 Corinthians 4:15: All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.

One of the most profound things I do nearly every day takes about 1.5 minutes to complete.

Yep. That’s right. Nearly no time at all.

Yet, it’s one of those things that is SO. IMPORTANT.

It’s more important than eating, answering e-mail or exercising. I value those 90 seconds it takes to complete more than my beautiful house or reliable car or shelves of books. While I often do it in a notebook, contemplating this one thing requires absolutely nothing.

I LOVE to spend a few moments everyday accounting for three things that I am grateful for. Just three things. But EVERY DAY.

It goes like this. I like to spend time in the morning preparing my heart and soul and mind for the day. As I wrap this time up, I close by writing down three things I am grateful for and then writing out a short prayer.

In my journal, I simply write “Gratitude” and on the next three lines, I write what I am grateful for in that moment. I jot down the first three things that come to mind. No filter. No contemplation. Just the three things my body and sould and mind fully appreciate in that moment.

Often, it’s not the big stuff that makes the list. It’s the little stuff that I love to write down:

Lunch with a friend

A beautiful sunrise or sunset

A special phone call

Having a flexible schedule

Reading something that touched my heart

Time with one of our grandkids at the Dollar Store

Or getting ice cream with them

A bike ride with Rick

Or a meaning conversation while in the car … together

A wonderful first cup of coffee

Running water to fill the coffee carafe

Internet service at home

A good book from the library

Vacation time

Or a quiet day at home

Clean laundry and fresh sheets

Connection with a person who I haven’t had contact with for awhile

A positive response to The Mary Experiment

Fresh flowers in a vase

A wonderfully scented candle

The list could go on and on … but you get the drill. Ninety seconds to recall something from the last 24 hours that touched my heart, spoke to me and makes me appreciate all that I have rather than contemplating what I only think I need and is missing from my life.

There’s a constant lesson in beginning the day by thinking about positive things in our lives … before we rush off and get caught up in with a to-do list or things that distract us or trying to figure out how we will accomplish the laundry list of things before us. It helps with perspective, mindset and seeing the joy in our lives.

It never takes me long to find just three things that I am grateful for on a particular day. Rather, I try to find the three things that truly made a different in my life most recently. Finding gratitude should be easy and spontaneous because, well, there must be something we value and appreciate in the moment.

I find it so interesting that Paul connects grace with gratitude in the scripture verse at the beginning of the post. But doesn’t it make sense? Grace … gratitude … glory. Three things that depend upon each other, that go together, just like peanut butter and jelly. Impossible to tell where one starts and another ends when we discover the true depth of what these attributes can mean in our lives.

Pause for a minute. What three things are YOU grateful for today? Can you make this a part of your daily activities? Just 90 seconds that allow you to recall the simple ways you see God’s grace and glory by expressing gratitude? Start a gratitude journal where you write those things down every day.

See where your soul is after doing this for 30 days and 60 days. Six months. Explore how daily gratitude changes YOU.

For finding gratitude daily, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Before I speed off to the next thing to do, help me to pause. Reflect. Think of three things I am grateful for today. May this become an important part of my daily living. Amen.

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Words Are Important

Gratitude Day 419

Tues., Mar. 10, 2020

Colossians 3:16: Remember what Christ taught, and let his words enrich your lives and make you wise; teach them to each other and sing them out in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing to the Lord with thankful hearts.

Whether we realize it or not, our words often influence others. Sometimes this influence is positive. Our words can just as easily have a negative affect on someone else.

This is a short expert from The Mary Experiment: When DOING and BEING Collide which speaks to how important our words are:

Sometimes, inappropriate words contain more than four letters.

When leading worship, I enjoy gathering the littlest people together for a few minutes in what I call “Kid’s Korner.” One particular Sunday, we were exploring how sometimes yucky things happen to us. Rather than use the word “yucky,” I chose to use a more profound word: Crappy. I should have taken the hint when a few of the kid’s eyebrows raised at the first utterance. I didn’t stop there though… No, I used it two more times with the kids. After Kid’s Korner, the little people left worship for their specific Christian education time. Truth be known, I used the word “crappy” in the main message as well.

After worship, a 6-year-old girl marched right up to me. I knelt down so we were eye-to-eye. Her words stung as she said, “Pastor Dianne, you said a naughty word in church today. Not once. But three times. My parents don’t let me use that word.”

Immediately, I knew which word she was talking about. In her little world, this six-letter word was no different than the four-letter words we instruct our kids and grandchildren not to repeat in public and not-so-public places.

Suddenly, this esteemed pastor learned a lesson. As I apologized to this very aware girl and her parents, I became astutely conscious that what I say, the words I choose, and the context in which the words are spoken, influence people.

Today, let’s choose our words carefully. Thoughtfully. Intentionally. So often, our mouths get engaged without contemplating the words that we use. May my lesson of using wrong words encourage us all to be just a bit more careful with our words!

For words that speak volumes, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – too often, we fail to see just how important the words that we use are. Help us to carefully choose the right words today. Tomorrow. Every day. May our words encourage others. Amen.

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