Lessons from the Serenity Prayer

Gratitude Day 506

Sat., Sept. 5, 2020

Proverbs 20:24 – A person’s steps are from the Lord; how then can people understand their path?

There is SO. MUCH. we CANNOT CONTROL.

Yep.

So much.

This has been highly re-enforced in our lives the last six months.

While we’d like to control many, many things, there are some things hugely out of our control. It’s so easy to spend lots of time of things we can’t control vs. what we can control.

I get it. We want to change people’s minds. We want to advocate for our position. We want to place our fingerprint on things we are passionate about.

I also try to do these things.

It’s OK to advocation. Encourage. Petition.

As hard as it is, sometimes, we need to let go. Know when to let be. Accept something as out of our domain.

The Serenity Prayer is a short little prayer that reminds us of this. Theologian Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr is often attributed as it’s author. Its source might have come from one of Niebuhr’s students and collaborators, Winnifred Crane Wygal. Wygal included the prayer in a newspaper article in the 1930’s. Later, it was included in a 1940’s book of worship in an altered form.

The most popular version of the prayer is a shortened prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Knowing the difference. Not always easy.

May I encourage you to take a few minutes and listen to a great reminder of this? It’s performed by The Skit Guys. Generally, their little ditties are fun and make you laugh. This one is a bit more serious. And a way for us to ponder what we can and cannot change.

For wisdom to discern what I can change and what I cannot change, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – in a time and place where there are many things we cannot change, gently encourage us to keep perspective. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Amen.  

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A Prayer for September

Gratitude Day 505

Wed., Sept. 2, 2020

Holy God –

The mornings are a bit chillier and the sun sets earlier.

The crunch of the leaves under our feet and the drying of the crops are clearly signs that another season is closing and a new one approaching.

It’s a season in which so many things discover hibernation while others simply die.

While these signs of the closing in of fall help us think of warm fall scents and smells and tastes, we are also acutely aware of the challenges that are such a part of our daily lives. Whether we have been directly affected by the shifts and changes in our society, we know these times may change what we consider “normal” for good.

And this can scare us.

Breed fear into us.

Make us yearn for more normal times all the more.

And yet, this is also where we can discover fully what it means to have faith in You.

For when we come to You with our heavy hearts, they become lighter. Easier. More manageable.

May this be our first line of reaction … rather than our last. May we embrace You in ways that surprise and amaze us. May we discover new ways to look at old situations and discover hope.

Hope for today. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for situations that seem too big to fix.

You are the one who can orchestrate this and so much more. Thank you, almighty God. Amen.

For the blessing of a prayer, I am thankful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Accept my prayer. Help me make it mine. Amen.  

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Lessons from COVID-19: As School Starts

Gratitude Day 504

Tues., Sept. 1, 2020

Proverbs 9:9 – Teach the wise, and they will become wiser; inform the righteous, and their learning will increase.

Traffic will be considerably busier past our house today. School buses will rumble by. The car and foot and bike traffic will pick up, the first time in nearly six months?

Why?

Today is officially the first day of school in Wisconsin. My social media feeds will be filled with “first day of school photos.” So fun to see!

Maybe in your area, school has already started. Some colleges and universities have been holding classes. Others start this week. Building and facilities and campuses that have had virtually zero census the past six months may jump up considerably this week.

For many students, teachers and staff, there’s often the first day-of-school jitters. But let’s be honest. There are a lot more of those jitters this year. And for a lot more folks.

Several of our grandkids will be attending new buildings and school districts this week. Even for those who are returning to a same building, they have voiced feelings about experiencing new things this school year. Let’s be honest. Anyone remotely connected to a school system know things will be vastly different at the beginning of the school year. Even for those not directly affected, there is awareness this WILL be a different school year.

Some schools are only offering virtual learning. Others have a hybrid system with some in-person and some virtual. A more limited number are giving complete in-person teaching a whirl. I cannot imagine a school without a minimum of three options/plans at the onset of school with contingency plans ready to be enacted at any time, knowing that eventually, new options/plans may also need to be explored. Certainly, the desire for students to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities is also a major dilemma.

What is the right thing to do? Ask any number of people and you will receive equally the same number of opinions. Keeping students and staff safe are high priorities. Understanding that parents who have been assisting students with education needs for going on six months while often balancing a job are feeling very stretched but also concerned about quality of education. Teaching groups, extra tutors and a variety of other alternative education options have sprung up like crazy. For some, these options just aren’t a consideration and they feel their child is being left behind educationally.

Certainly, I don’t have all the answers for providing education during a pandemic. All I can offer are a few suggestions:

  • Be kind. Be kind to those who have a different opinion about how education should be conducted this fall. Be kind to teachers and staff and bus drivers and school board members and administrators who are trying to offer quality education in a completely different way than they expected/have been trained/prefer. When something doesn’t go as you would like/expect/prefer, please use kindness as your go-to emotion. Not anger. Not disappointment. No displeasure. Yes, you can and should have these reactions as well. But please, please, please let kindness rule the roost and your attitude first.  
  • Fill your heart and mind with lots of grace: for everyone involved. At the end of the day, I honestly believe that people ARE trying to do their best. It is everyone else’s job to recognize and honor this. Period.
  • Be flexible. None of us can look a day or a week or a month into the future and anticipate and know what is going to happen. What we can do is be gracious in knowing things WILL change. As this happens, offer to fill in the gaps and bring some calm into an already chaotic situation. Be part of the solution rather than adding to the already overwhelming problem.
  • Step in and help those who are overwhelmed. Have extra time on your hands? Offer to help those kids in your neighborhood who might benefit from additional attention. Or pitch-hit in with your grandkids or neighborhood kids. Take dinner to a family completely overwhelmed and give them a small break.
  • Ask folks how they are doing and simply LISTEN. When people are in the middle of slugging through a difficult situation, they can often feel alone. Sincerely ask them how they are doing. And then, LISTEN. Do not offer up suggestions or ideas unless specifically asked for. Your role is just to be a listening place. Period.
  • Send encouraging notes or texts to staff and students. It can feel like a VERY LONG year at the beginning of this school year. Re-enforce with those affected that they aren’t along, even if all you can do is offer emotional support. Everyone needs to hear they are doing a good job once in a while.
  • Pray, pray and pray some more. This situation is going to continue for a while. People will get weary. Tired. Perplexed. Encouraging proper mask wearing will get old quickly. Kids will want to see and be with their friends. Teachers maybe teaching on multiple platforms which takes extra time. Administrative folks might be fielding a wide range of opinions. Let me be clear: THERE. ARE. NO. EASY. ANSWERS. Everyone needs some wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Be a major advocate for this.

It’s easy for those not making the decisions about education to become arm-chair quarterbacks. Expressing creative ideas and alternatives is great. Yet, I pray we can remain on the positive side of encouragement. Every day. All day. Consistently. Because our education systems need positive cheerleaders. This year, more than ever.

For the opportunities to encourage a positive educational experience, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – We can’t fully imagine how much anxiety and fear there is going into this year’s school year. May those involved tern to You as the important source of wisdom we all need. Amen.  

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When Faith Takes Time

Gratitude Day 498

Fri., Aug. 14, 2020

Psalm 13:5 – But I have trusted in your faithful love. My heart will rejoice in your salvation.

In the last week, I’ve witnessed and participated in some of the most basic and important events in life. Baptism of a baby and her Mom. The Christian union of a husband and wife. Witnessing a family journey with their loved one as he spent his last days on this earth.

All significant life events. All moments and opportunities to reflect upon and connect with faith.

As a pastor, when I’m invited to be a part of such milestones of life, I make the basic assumption that if I’ve been invited to be a part of this, so is God. And herein is a basic challenge. Not everyone who is involved in the situation may feel comfortable including God. In fact, some aren’t sure they want God present. Others aren’t quite sure what faith means to them. With varying degrees of acceptance and comfort, so goes a level of comfort with the person who appears to be representing God.  

If someone isn’t comfortable or sure what faith and God mean to them, I see the situation as an opportunity for them to experience a little glimpse into what faith can be. I’m of the belief that through the act of observing and/or participating in such an event or situation, this is a great opportunity to discover even a tiny little glimpse into what faith means to you. I want to embrace the folks who aren’t sure they should be present and definitely don’t quite understand all that is going on.

Every once in a while, someone will ask me, “Why faith? What feeds your faith?” It’s a fair question and one that I love to answer. My response usually includes these thoughts:

  1. Faith allows me to look beyond myself and towards something that is bigger than you and I. This One, whom I call God, is a great orchestra conductor, artist, compassionate soul that is full of wisdom and grace. I’m deeply loved, cared for and appreciated by the One who is so much more than our little brains can ever imagine. Just look around at creation. See yourself as part of this beautiful creation.
  2. My faith is spiritually fed through regular and consistent conversation with God.
  3. I find myself seeking out ways that I can connect, praise and worship God throughout my days. This encourages me to devote time and energy to seeking God and asking for guidance throughout the days.
  4. There have been times and situations when I specifically knew God was with me. Truth.
  5. Faith is never linear. It’s never a static line. It’s constantly going up and down, which often feels like a roller coast ride. Once I became comfortable in knowing that this faith, then going along on the ride felt a little less intimidating.

Which leads into the natural follow-up question: What feeds the seeds of doubt in relationship with faith?

  1. Watching myself and others struggle. Whether the pain is of your own doing, someone else’s doing or simply something that happens in life, it’s there. And sometimes, we’re not sure what to do with it.
  2. When I struggle to feel like I’m enough or good enough or do enough for God’s kingdom.
  3. Observing others doubt and struggle with their faith and/or lack of faith.
  4. Not having the words to explain why bad things happen to good people.

All of this is to say that struggling with faith, your views about God and how these fits into our daily lives is perfectly normal. Acceptable. Natural. Not going through the struggle means we don’t fully explore these thoughts and ideas about them.

Sometimes, we feel like we must do something big and grandiose to get God’s attention. But here’s the deal. We ALREADY have God’s full attention. We just have to show up. When we show up, God may simply amaze us.

For years, I thought I should have faith. But I didn’t really understand or know what this meant. When I became more intentional about trying to answer those two questions for myself, then I discovered a really important component of faith:

Faith is not a transaction. It’s a relationship.

Faith isn’t like going to the bank and making a deposit or a with drawl. It’s not signing a contract and never looking at it again. No, faith isn’t a one-and-done deal. It’s a daily choice a million times over and then looking towards God a bazillion times throughout the day for inspiration. Guidance. Love. Peace. Knowledge.

And then doing it the next day. And the next.

Sometimes, we choose not to get involved in the tough faith questions because this means we might actually have to slow down and think about it. Or make sense of it. If we keep waiting for faith to make sense before we embrace it, well, we’ve turned faith into a transaction that won’t ever be fully fulfilled. When we put off faith, then we’re missing out of the years and time that we could discovered more about faith and how it connects to our lives.

For the regular exploration of faith, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – thanks for being patient with me. Thanks for accepting the roller coaster ride of my spiritual journey. May I choose to journey with you on this ride. Amen.  

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Wednesday Prayer Day – Be Still

Gratitude Day 497

Wed., Aug. 12, 2020

Psalm 46:10 – Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.

Be still.

And know that I am God.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Yet, being still really isn’t that easy.

Especially during a pandemic.

Should kids go to school or not?

Should there be sports this fall?

Whan an effective vaccine be found?

Be still?

Right.

Rather than honoring God as God, we sit perched on our executive chairs of control. We are SO. SURE. We know what is best for ourselves and everyone around us. And we go out of our way to make sure everyone knows who is in charge.

Listen again.

Be still.

Listen. Hear. Know.

Stop trying to be God. Take over. Be in control.

Instead, let God do God. Take a break. Turn your faces upward and towards God rather than burying them in your cell phones. Whatever it is that is demanding too much, just stop. Organize a stay-cation with the One who is God. Spend  time every day just simply being with God. Reconnect with God’s constant place in your life.

Be still.

Know God.

That’s all.

Amen.

For the reminder to be with You, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Be still. Know that God is God. The end. Amen.  

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Tonight is Devo’s with Dianne – 8 PM on Facebook Live. See you then!

Wednesday Prayer Day: Only Promise to Pray IF you Really Will Pray

Gratitude Day 487

Wed., July 15, 2020

Acts 20:36 – After he said these things, he knelt down with all of them to pray.

“Can I pray for you?”

The words may roll off of our tongues without even thinking about it. Or we respond to a social media post, “Praying” followed by praying hands memes. We send someone a sympathy card and assure the receiver that we will be praying for them.

Here’s the REAL question. After your promise someone to pray for them or type it in a comment or write it on a card, do you ACTUALLY do it?

Seriously.

Do you stop the scrolling, pause from writing, or go ahead and pray for the person while still on the call?

With limited community worship gathering happening these days, the sense of whether someone is actually praying for a situation is not as clearly defined. While we SAY we are, can we honestly say that we have prayed for every situation which we promised to do so?

When I became a pastor, my praying skills were, well, about a -10. Yes, I had prayed before meals, the Lord’s Prayer, and occasionally led a group of people in prayer. But I didn’t have the “perfect” phrases or style that would leave people weeping. I hadn’t read a book about prayer until after I became a pastor. And certainly, I would not be labeled as one of those prayer warriors that folks turn to because they seem to have a more direct telephone line to God.

Nope, I was none of those. Not in a long shot.

Yet, I believed in prayer. I knew it could bring comfort and peace into our lives. At least I wanted to believe it could. I wanted to assure people that God heard their prayers and might even answer some of them. I wanted folks to think God was A-MA-ZING and would know they were sincere and earnest in their prayer requests.

And then, real life ministry happened. People I barely knew assured me that prayer was a waste of time. They believed God had let them down way too many times. When I asked someone to lead prayer at a meeting, often folks realized their shoe needed typing or there was some speck of dirt on the floor that desperately needed attention.

To this day, I would classify my prayer life as moderate at best. I find myself praying short little prayers though out the day and am ashamed when I spend more time scrolling on my phone than seriously engaging God in a heart-to-heart discussion.

But this is real life.

Eventually, I became more comfortable with praying in worship or together with a group of folks. Why? Because I just did it. No special training. No life-changing experience when I suddenly “knew” how to pray. Nope, just speaking from my heart. Saying what’s on my mind. Trying not to get too fancy with catch phrases and simply let my heart speak more so than my mind.

Along the way, I discovered praying over the phone. In my early pastoring years, I also attended school several days a week. I tried to make the hospital visits and take communion to those unable to attend worship on a regular basis. I know I missed lots of those opportunities.

Sometimes, all I could do between reading multiple books a week and writing a paper on Luther’s position on justification was to pick up the phone and call. Before the end of the conversation, I would simply ask, “Can I pray for you?” Or sometimes, “May we pray together?”

The first time I prayed over the phone, internally, I wondered if this is how ministry is supposed to look. I was making up stuff as I went along and decided that asking for forgiveness sometimes seemed more appropriate than asking for permission. After those phone prayers, there would often be a pause. Maybe a sniffle or two. Then, the recognition that no one had ever prayed with them over the phone before.

We couldn’t see each other faces and see what response the other person was experiencing. Yet sometimes emotion does come through a phone line. In a text message. Or an e-mail.

With continued limited interactions, let’s embrace the power of praying for someone. We can do it during our quiet time or when we think of someone. We can even type a text prayer or send an e-mail. But I also pray we pick up the dang phone, call the person who we have been thinking about, chat with them … and then pray aloud with them on the phone before we end the conversion.

Seriously. It doesn’t have to take more than 30 seconds to pray. If we just make it a priority.

Saying we are going to pray for someone … and actually praying WITH someone are two different animals. One is passive and nice. The other? Potentially personal and something that can reach down into your heart and cause your throat to close up and your nose to get just a bit sniffly. Sometimes, the risk is worth it.

For finding prayer’s power, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – may we see prayer as a great opportunity to engage your power and might. I pray we will make time to contact someone when we think of them and pray with them today. Amen.

It’s Wednesday night! Join me for Devos with Dianne at 8 PM CST on Facebook Live. Have a piece of bread with you!

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Praying About Everything

Gratitude Day 484

Wed., July 8, 2020

Philippians 4:6 – Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.

You would think with all of the time we get to spend at home these days, I would be caught up.

Or catching up.

Or nearly caught up.

Nope. It just isn’t happening.

Well, at my household, that is.

I’m still working on “things” I thought I would get done in March. Yep, March. Not May.

Why does everything seem to take so much longer these days? Maybe, it’s just me.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to get caught up about what is NOT getting done. I do it all the time.

Look at the verse at the top of the page. Or don’t … and just look at this quick paraphrase instead:

Worry about nothing. Pray about everything.

The end.

While I would not say that I am a worrier, I would say that I fret about what doesn’t get done in a day. Or week. Or month.

So, maybe this verse should say:

Fret about nothing. Pray about everything.

Maybe you don’t worry. Or fret. Maybe you overthink. In that case:

Overthink nothing. Pray about everything.

You get the drift. Replace the first word with the word that you find most often in your life. But leave the next four words alone. Don’t touch them. They are the words that can’t change because they are heart of the saying.  

Now, read them again.

Pray.

About.

Everything.

Amen.

Every day.

All day.

Today.

Tomorrow.

The next day.

Give up worry.

Pray instead.

So, rather than focusing on what didn’t get done in your day, focus on praying. Maybe, just maybe, the rest will begin to make sense.

Vector religions lettering – Don’t worry about anything pray about everything. Modern lettering. Perfect illustration for t-shirts, banners, flyers and other types of business design.

For the constant option for prayer, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – so often, we choose to focus on something that really isn’t very helpful. We find ourselves stuck and putting energy into what we can’t control. Help me turn my focus back to You. Amen.

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Wanted: 90 Birthday Cards

Gratitude Day 482

Mon., July 6, 2020

Psalm 90:14 – Fill us full every morning with your faithful love so we can rejoice and celebrate our whole life long.

Can I ask for you folks to help me out? Please?

A few weeks back, I shared my Aunt Beverly’s story. She lives in an assisted living in Denver, CO. And she has been confined to her room since March 8th.

Almost four months. We’re nearing 120 days since Aunt Bev has been able to leave her room for anything other than an occasional pick-up of her mail.  

All of her meals are delivered to her room. Her son is able to drop off things at the front desk for her. But basically, Aunt Bev has been confined to her room for four months.

I CAN’T. EVEN. IMAGINE.

After I shared Aunt Beverly’s story, many of you replied back with me how much her story touched you. So now, I’m going to ask for a little help back in return.

All for Aunt Beverly.

You see, she turns 90 on July 17th. The past weekend, several cousins and family members were planning on celebrating with her in Denver. Of course, everything was canceled.

Her children are not overly optimistic that Aunt Bev will be able to do anything special to celebrate her birthday. They are coming up with some creative ideas to try and honor their mother. Yet, they are struggling with how to properly honor this vibrant woman who will most likely be stuck in her room as she becomes a nonagenarian.

So, can you PLEASE help me?

Recently, during our weekly visit/chat/devotion, Aunt Beverly shared with me that basically all of her friends have died. She misses having friends, even more so during this pandemic restriction time.  

That’s why I’m hoping that 90 of my friends will adopt Aunt Bev and make her their friend, if only to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Here’s my goal. I’m looking for 90 of my friends/acquaintances/people who follow Simple Words of Faith to send Aunt Beverly a birthday card.

That’s it. Just send a card. Nothing else. If you have a birthday card, great. If you don’t, send whatever card you have. Slap a 55-cent stamp on the envelope and send it on its way. Please try and have the card arrive by July 17th, which is the actual date of Aunt Beverly’s birthday. If it’s a day or two late, PLEASE send it anyways.

Can you PLEASE help me out?  

I’ve checked with her kids. They are completely on-board with throwing her a card shower. They are so excited for me to ask 90 people to send their mother 90 cards. Can we overflow her mailbox so much that the staff have to set-up a special box? Will we get enough people to send her a card that she will spend the ENTIRE day opening birthday cards? Are there at least 90 people who were moved by Aunt Beverly’s story enough that they will send her a card for her 90th birthday?

Let’s address the cards to Aunt Beverly and have the staff at her care facility wondering where all these family members have been that sent her a simple card for her birthday.

Can we help Beverly celebrate her whole life long in the next 11 days by receiving so much love from people who simply want to bless her special day? With a card?

PLEASE, can you help me out?

I’m counting on all of you. And I’m confident you won’t let me down.

Here’s her address:

Aunt Beverly Anderson

10200 E Harvard Ave Apt. 200

Denver, CO  80231-3946

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. I can’t WAIT to see how many cards Aunt Beverly receives.

For help in celebrating a special woman’s birthday, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – For even the most vibrant of people, being confined to a room for four months is wearing. I pray that You will help keep Aunt Beverly’s spirits up, as well as be brightened by an overabundance of birthday cards. I pray that together, we can make her life and birthday so incredibly special. Amen.

If you know someone else who LOVES to send cards or would like to help celebrate Aunt Beverly’s birthday, please share this blog post with them.