Saturday Round Up – Trusting God

Gratitude Day 524

Sat., Oct. 17, 2020

Psalm 9:10 – May everyone who knows your mercy keep putting their trust in you, for they can count on you for help no matter what. O Lord, you will never, no never, neglect those who come to you.

Somedays, I feel so close to God.

And then, there are the more common ones where it’s just a wee bit harder.

On those days, where’s what I remember: God didn’t move. I did.

God is still there, friend. Plugging right along. Just waiting for you to pause and say, “Hey, God. It’s me.”

I’ve pulled together a few things I’ve encountered recently that has helped me come back to God. To trust that no matter what is going on, God is RIGHT. HERE. With me. And always will be.

This book: The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton.

This is the author’s story of his wrongful 1985 arrest and conviction of two counts of capitol murder in Alabama. A poor black man, it was a case of mistaken identity and a skewed system of justice. During his 30 years on death row at a state prison, Hinton became a beacon, transformed his own spirit as well as those of his fellow inmates. Civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson won Hinton’s release in 2015.

Why read this book? It shows a glimpse into Hinton’s story of hope, love and justice. This inspirational story shows how a person’s freedom can be taken away but not his imagination, humor or joy.

This cake: Apple Cider Donut Cake.

OK, I know. A cake isn’t going to make you feel closer to God. I get it.

But I still wanted to share this cake with someone, anyone who is a fan of apple cider donuts. If this is you (or you just like ANYTHING apple,) then this cake is JUST. FOR. YOU.

Seriously.

I ate two pieces of it the night I took it out of the oven.

Maybe celebrate the apples of the season? Too much of a stretch?

Either way, just enjoy this cake. If it’s too much, porch-drop some of it at your neighbors. They will think you are a little ray of sunshine in their day.

Yes, it takes a little more effort … but it’s worth it. So does Hubby Rick, which is notable because he isn’t a huge sweets fan. But this one? He gave it two thumbs up and has been slicing away at it.

Here’s the link to the recipe I used.

These swings.

Yes, they are the swings from our back yard. Honestly, it doesn’t quite look like this right now. There are leaves on the ground and the flowers in the pots are looking a little sad. But I sat in the swings this week. Just for a bit. I just sat. Did nothing and listened. To my heart. My soul. For God.

Even if you don’t have swings in your yard, take a hot minute. Sit. Listen. Be.

(Like the swings? Sorry. I can’t send you to a link. They are custom made for me by Hubby Rick. I know. I’m so lucky.)

This exercise: Devos with Dianne from 10.14.20.

If you haven’t watched it, please do. I share an exercise of how to be kind to YOURSELF. It’s a little reminder that before we care for everyone else, we must care for ourselves first. Even if you don’t have Facebook, you can click on the link and watch. Hope you enjoy!

A reminder: COVID-19 isn’t going away. Anytime soon. It’s here. It’s daunting. We’re in this for the long haul. Seriously.

Unfortunately, until we personally know someone or know someone who knows someone, it may not feel personal or real. But it is. My heart is sad for the folks who have it and are struggling. My heart is sad for those who feel the fall-out has been too much.

As much as we WANT it to go away and to go away fast, it isn’t. Yet, I know that God IS with those who are feeling stressed, discouraged, distracted and challenged. Find your swing. Sit awhile and say, “Hey, God. It’s me.”

God always loves to hear from you. God will never neglect those who come to God. Thank you, Jesus.

For finding ways to trust God in daily life, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – Thank you for never being very far away. And always being there for me. Thanks for not giving up on me when sometimes it’s hard to trust. Thanks for being patient with me. Amen.

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Giving Thanks for Color

Gratitude Day 521

Mon., Oct. 12, 2020

Isaiah 34:4 – At that time the heavens above will melt away and disappear just like a rolled-up scroll, and the stars will fall as leaves, as ripe fruit from the trees.

Refreshing your mind and soul is SO. IMPORTANT.

This fall, Hubby Rick and I have spent many Saturday afternoon’s taking in nature. Hiking. Walking. Biking. Enjoying outdoors. Letting our souls breathe. Drink in nature. Enjoy.

Here are a few photos from our hike on Saturday. I’m not a professional photographer, mind you. The photos do not do justice to what our eyes observed. What I simply encourage you to do it look carefully at each photo. Look for the details. Notice the various colors. Pick a favorite area of the photo and think about why you are drawn to this spot.

We all need a few minutes to simply drink in the gorgeous world around us. I hope you are doing so these days. At minimum, drink in these photos. Make them your moments of Sabbath and peace and rest today.

For a God that designed a wonderful creation, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – It is amazing to think that you created deciduous trees so that in the fall, their leaves would turn beautiful golden colors before falling off the branches that have nurtured them this growing season. As we see the colors this fall, may they take our breath away. Amen.

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

Making a Difference in Poynette, Population 2503

Gratitude Day 512

Fri., Sept. 18, 2020

Acts 20:35: I’ve left you an example of how you should serve and take care of those who are weak. For we must always cherish the words of our Lord Jesus, who taught, ‘Giving brings a far greater blessing than receiving.’”

For the last five years, Hubby Rick and I have lived in Poynette, WI, population 2503.

There are a lot of great people in our little village. People we’ve come to know. People we call friends and neighbors. Folks we love and who in turn, love us.

Earlier this year, the Poynette Village Board created a Volunteer of the Year Award for an area person who gives of themselves within our community. At their board meeting this past week, they handed out the inaugural award to Mel and Ruth Ann Waugh.

I don’t know the process by which the Waugh’s were selected. What I do know is there is not another couple within this community who are more deserving.

For over ten years, the Waugh’s have headed up the local food pantry. Completly support by the local community, our little food pantry receives no financial backing from outside of the donation’s area folks, businesses and companies give, along with some grants. Each month, it serves between 55-75 area families; many who depend upon it greatly.

A ton of folks partner in making the food pantry an integral part of the community. But it’s the Waugh’s who are the hub of the wheel from which all spokes spread out. When locally grown potatoes are ready to be donated, it’s the Waugh’s that receive the phone call. When excess sweet corn or carrots or onions or tomatoes or other vegetables need a home, the Waugh’s are contacted. When the Scouts, the post office, area churches and the Poynette National Honor Society collect food for the pantry, the Waugh’s arrange drop off. If someone needs community serve hours, the Waugh’s may coordinate for this to happen at the food pantry.  

For several winters, the Waugh’s have spent several well-deserved weeks of sabbath in Alabama. When it came time to organize who would do what while they are gone, a team of people filled the various roles the Waugh’s have assumed. Since the Waugh’s recognize the value of allowing other people to serve within the community, these teams now fulfill some of the roles that the Waugh’s previously assumed.

With health and safety in mind, the decision was made to limit the number of people volunteering at the pantry during the pandemic. The Waugh’s have provided much of the people power during these last six months.

If the school district needs additional snacks for a classroom, the Waugh’s make it happen. If snow boots or jackets or extra gloves are needed, the first line of contact is often the Waugh’s.

Serving their community is not an afterthought for the Waugh’s. It’s their first thought. Just yesterday, they helped pack the weekend Blessings food bags for school-aged kids. When we looked into starting the Blessings program, it was Ruth Ann who said the food pantry would donate the necessary $5,000 to get it rolling.  

For about 10 years, the Waugh’s coordinated the assembly and delivery of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to folks within our community who might not otherwise have a holiday meal. For years, Mel and Ruth Ann organized and had these meals delivered before they gathered with their own family.

My first contact with the Waugh’s began when I started serving a church in the Poynette community. It didn’t take long for me to discover if there was something I needed, I could call the Waugh’s and they would do what they could. Countless times, the Waugh’s hosted kids at their farm for a fall hayride, bon fire and fun night of Wednesday Night Church School. When something at the church needed repair and Rick wasn’t available, Mel would be down shortly after I called him to check it out.

It takes a village to raise kids in a community. It takes a village to serve and help those who are going through a hard time. It takes a group of people who have a servant’s heart and a willingness to ask, “What can I do?” and then go ahead and do it.

This is what Mel and Ruth Ann have done in our little community. They have donated their time, energy, gifts and leadership in so many ways. When it came time for someone to receive the first Poynette Volunteer of the Year Award, I hope there was even a second option of who should receive it.

It’s people like the Waugh’s that inspire me … and hopefully you … to see where and how you can make a difference in your community. Too often, we expect someone else to do it. Folks like the Waugh’s accept the responsibility to do what they can to make a difference in people’s lives, one person at a time. And they do it.

Thank you, Mel and Ruth Ann, for all that you have done for our little community of Poynette, population 2503. You’ve made a huge impact on many of those people’s lives. You make a different in our village.

Here’s another little story that shows how one person is making a difference in his village. I think you’ll enjoy watching it.

For wonderful examples and witnesses of local servant leadership and hearts, I am grateful.

Almighty God – when Jesus said, “Help the poor,” he meant it. And when he said, “Feed the hungry,” it was not a suggestion but a mandate. Thank you for folks like Mel and Ruth Ann Waugh who heed these words and put them into action. Amen.

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When We Run Out of Words

Gratitude Day 508

Fri., Sept. 11, 2020

Romans 8:26 – And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words.

Nineteen years ago today, our country shifted. People began the day like most other days. They grabbed a coffee on their way to work. They rode the bus to school and waited the recess. They read the paper and checked e-mail.

Until. Until television stations broke in with news that an airplane had struck one of the twin towers in New York City. It wasn’t long before a second plane crashed into the other tower. Then, there was an attack on the Pentagon. Later, it was discovered another plane had been hijacked. This plane’s destination was thwarted when passengers on the plane decided to make sure another attack didn’t happen. Many of us will always remember the brave people who quickly put a plan together and the words that put it into action, “Let’s roll.”

Nineteen years ago, I was in seminary. That day, my classes didn’t begin until after morning chapel, which started at 9:30 AM. I saw a short clip on TV right before leaving for chapel showing something was happening in New York City. Not realizing what had happened, I went to chapel. We sat in stunned disbelief.  

At my 10:30 AM class, we weren’t sure what to do. Say. Believe. Feel. Like so many other Americans, we were trying to process the early information knowing that there were huge gaps missing. Later that evening, students, faculty and staff gathered in the chapel room. We simply lit candles and prayed. It wasn’t a planned service. It was more spontaneous. As the sun dipped behind the horizon, only the glow of the candles illuminated the room. It was a poignant and meaningful time to be together.

On Thursday, the president of the entire university preached at chapel. He was trained as a pastor and had served as president of the seminary before accepting the elevated role. He was well aware that many students, including myself, would be leading worship at the churches where we served as student pastors. We would be the ones who would try to bring comfort and peace into people’s lives who felt so unsure about what was going on in the world at the time. Jeff Bullock preached from Romans 8. He focused on one verse that reminds us that when we don’t have the words to pray, it’s really OK. The Holy Spirit will intervene on our behalf and pray for us with deep sighs.  

How many times I have thought of those words since that chapel service nineteen years ago. Times when I knew someone else didn’t have the words to pray. Days when I was at a loss of what to say to God. Situations that leave us at a loss for words. The Spirit intervenes for us and pleads for us before God.

I’m not sure what your situation is right now that is leaving you at a loss of words. Or who you know that has maybe even stopped praying because they’ve ran out of words. In our current pandemic situation, maybe you feel like no one is listening to your words … and wondering if your words make any difference. Possibly you’ve stopped praying as adamantly as you once did because you are frustrated with seemingly no answers to prayer.

If any of these, or countless other situations are leaving you at a loss for how to pray, give yourself grace. It’s OK when we don’t know how to pray. What to say. Feel defeated because you feel like your prayers aren’t making any difference. Hear Paul’s words once again: “At the times we don’t even know how to pray or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words.”

When we run out of words, I pray that we find comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit sighs for us and super-intercedes specifically on our behalf. Those were words we needed to hear nineteen years ago. We need to hear them just as clearly today.

For the reassurance that the Holy Spirit prays for us when we no longer have words, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – We all remember where we were this day nineteen years ago. Even now, we may feel the same feelings well up in our bellies as we did then. For the times we have no words or feel like we’re at a loss of what to say to You, O God, thank you for providing the Holy Spirit to step in on our behalf. Amen and Amen.

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Lessons from the Last 20 Years

Gratitude Day 502

Wed., Aug. 26, 2020

John 15:9– (Jesus said,) “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love.”

Twenty years ago.

The day began with an early morning storm. While I sat in a chair at the beauty salon, rain gushed down city streets. Wind caused an electrical outage in some sections of town, including the location of our reception.

Minutes before the ceremony began, it was discovered that my soon-to-be mother-in-law forgot to make the requested communion bread. Fortunately, my sister Denise had a couple uneaten small buttered buns that were intended to be pre-wedding ham sandwiches for her kids. They became our communion bread.

Just eight months out since Hubby Rick’s eldest son had been killed in a snowmobiling accident, emotions were still raw with grief. Yet, this tragedy also convinced Rick and I that if something was important to us, we should not wait.

And so, we didn’t.

Twenty years ago today, Hubby Rick and I were married in the small church that had always been his family’s church. Fourteen months earlier, I began serving this church as their pastor, which is where Rick and I met. Months later, we joined hands and shared vows in front of family and close friends and began our lives together as husband and wife.

Fast forward 20 years later, and we remain convinced that God brought the two of us together as much now as we did on our wedding day. How else would a single gal end up serving a church with an available man who also served as the Ad Council chair? Little did I know when I met with members from the two churches that I would serve in my first clergy appointment, those present included my future husband as well as my future in-laws.

While attending seminary, I sat through a pre-marriage counseling class in the months before our wedding. Rick and I completed the strengths and weakness survey the pastor who performed our wedding asked us to complete. We knew that our personalities are as different as oil and water. And so, we felt ready to make the huge decision of choosing each other as our spouse and were confident this was the “right” choice.

Yet even all of this preparation didn’t prepare me for marriage. As a person who has performed north of 150 weddings, I know the honest truth when I say that weddings and marriages are not the same thing. Yes, a wedding is required for a marriage. But the much more difficult challenges of living a marriage day-to-day pale in comparison to the decisions made for a wedding day. No amount of preparation can be adequate for the special circumstances that will arise in a couple’s marriage.

In marriage, I have experienced the truest depth of joy and happiness I have ever experienced. Likewise, I have felt the deepest level of disappointment and sadness because of circumstances that arose as a result of situations from being married. I constantly remind myself that if I want to experience the greatest joy life can offer, I must accept the grief and sorrow that tags along. Often, these situations are not a direct result of a decision made by Hubby Rick or me. They are simply part of what happens when two people choose to marry and spend their lives together.

There are so many, many things that I value and thoroughly appreciate about the person who is my husband. When I’ve been asked to serve various churches and we’ve been required to move into new towns and locations, he’s made the most of every one of those moves. He’s been patient when I’ve had to cancel a vacation because of a funeral or waited until after 9 PM to eat too many meals because I had a night meeting that ran long. He’s fixed so many things at the church buildings, helped with worship countless times, provided constructive critique about my messages (whether I wanted to hear it or not) and attended thousands of church functions as a way to support the churches and their pastor.

When I felt called to step away from pastoral ministry and pursue other callings, he whole-heartedly agreed and challenged me to pursue my dreams. I have lost count of the number of remodeling projects he’s completed at every house where we have lived a long time ago. And when I wanted to run one last half-marathon, he trained for it and we crossed the finish line together.

It’s not always comfortable for him when I share something that has happened in our lives either in a message, a blog or as a teachable moment. Yet, he also admits that he provides me with an unending amount of material.

If I were asked what the most important quality is that Rick brings into my life, I know my answer: his unconditional love for me. Spouses are encouraged by God to love each other the way God loves all of us: with a deep unconditional love that has no beginning nor no end. The Greek word is agape. Agape love is rooted in faithfulness, commitment and is an act that a person chooses to make. It’s much deeper and bolder than our English definition of love. I know that God is the only One who can fulfill the complete definition of agape love in my life. But Rick comes in as close second as any human being can.

I was into my 30’s when I married. Rick was well into his 40’s. We didn’t have to get married. We chose to make this commitment to each other. It’s a choice that we continue to make EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. OF. OUR. LIVES. What’s the secret to a marriage? Continuing to make this choice. Every day. On good days. On challenging days. On days that never end as well as on those days you pray never end. On the days when your spouse drives you crazy as well as on the days your spouse thinks you are crazy. On the days filled with unmeasurable grief and sadness as well as on the days in which the joy and happiness cannot be contained.

As long as Hubby Rick and I remain in God’s love and see this as the source of our love for each other, we’re committed to making this choice until one of us is no longer here on this earth. For me, this IS the secret to marriage. Nothing more. Nothing less. Thanks be to God I have a spouse who makes the choice to unconditionally love me daily, warts and all. And who is as committed to choosing me as I am to choosing him.  

For the gift of Hubby Rick’s unconditional love and place in my life, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – What began 20 years ago at a service where we committed ourselves to You and each other, Hubby Rick and I celebrate today. Thank you for bringing us together and being with us as we experience married life together. I pray we see You as the glue that holds us together today and every day going forward. Amen.  

Join us for a special edition of Devos With Dianne tonight. Hubby Rick will be joining in! 8 PM Central Time on Facebook Live.

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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!