What Can You Do with $2.63?

Tues., Dec. 12, 2017

Psalm 138:2– I face your Temple as I worship, giving thanks to you for all your loving-kindness and your faithfulness, for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.

The elementary-school-aged boy proudly dropped some money into the bucket. He looked up and said, “The $10, that’s from my Mom. I’m putting in $2.63!”

$2.63. Right down to the penny.

I am part of a program called Blessings in a Backpack. Each week, our volunteer group puts together bags of food for kids within the school district who might not have enough food to eat over the weekend. Each week, our group packs 52-54 bags of food and takes them to the school. School staff discreetly put the food bags into kid’s backpacks and/or lockers. Parents have granted permission for their child to receive the food bags. It is our hope these little bags of food provide security and confidence the recipients will have some food to eat over the weekend.

The average cost of a food bag per student each week: $2.63.

The program is sustained by donations, grants and generous people. Our Blessings group is a non-profit organization that appreciates every penny we receive; including the $2.63 this boy dropped into the money bucket one night.

The school parent organization had organized a student craft night. Students could sell crafts or baked goods they made. Our Blessings program was invited to participate. Would I be willing to share with the students and parents about the program? Could I encourage the kids to give back some of the money they earned from their sales to the Blessings program? Why, of course, I would.

Before the shopping began, I asked the students what they could buy with $2.63. After a few answers, I showed a typical food bag that students receive, pulling out two breakfasts, two meals and four snacks. If they wanted to help fellow students, maybe they could donate to the Blessings program from the proceeds of their sales.

bread

I was so impressed with the unique ideas the students had. A cupcake decorating station. Lots of candy, cookies and baked items, including gluten-free options! Bookmarks, crafts made from Mason jars and burlap bags: it was all there. The price lists and business cards brought smiles to shoppers faces.

It was a super-fun night. I enjoyed a little shopping myself and seeing the creative options. As people were packing up left-over items, most of the kids stopped by the Blessings table and dropped some money into our bucket. One mom shared that her daughter donated 50% of her profits, a pre-arranged requirement. And there was the boy who donated exactly enough money for one Blessings bag that would be packed the following morning for one of his fellow schoolmates. Right down to the penny.

Once home, I counted the money. Total donations from the craft night: $254.83. It costs about $100/child for a school year. Blessings received donations to pay for 2.5 school kids for the current school year.

So many lessons abounded in this single event. Kids discovered how to make something. They were given the opportunity to sell their product and maybe even learned a lesson or two about marketing. They learned about stewardship: the value of giving back and paying their proceeds forward.

I give thanks for every student who dropped any amount into the Blessings bucket that night, as well as their parents and grandparents. I give thanks for their loving-kindness and their faithfulness. I give thanks for the $2.63 that will provide a student with a bag of food this weekend.

What can you do with $2.63 today?

Lord God – Thank you for helping us see that giving comes in all shapes and sizes. May we be reminded that the size of the gift is not nearly as important as the giving heart behind the gift. We thank you for your never-failing loving-kindness and faithfulness to us. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

“Are you the lady from church?”

 

Steffenhagen family
That’s Mason and his sisters from Trunk-or-Treat last Sunday. Isn’t he the cutest little action hero with his big smile?

Wed., Nov. 1, 2017

Galatians 3:26– You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus.

“Are you the lady from church?” the 4-year-old Superman action hero asked me.

He was standing outside the front door of my house with his sisters. He had just rung the doorbell and exclaimed “Trick or treat!” as I opened the door.

Yep, Mason. I am the lady from church.

Mason is part of the Wednesday Night Church School (WNCS) program at one of the churches I serve as pastor. I have the great pleasure of seeing Mason and about 65 other kids each Wednesday night. In an action-packed hour, we cover all things related to God’s kingdom.

Does Mason know I am a pastor? I am not really sure. What I do know is the only place Mason has ever seen me is at church. Maybe he thinks it is my home. Where I sleep. Where I eat. Where I stay. Why wouldn’t he? He has never seen me anyplace else.

Until tonight. On my front porch. I was in the wrong place. I was out of character. Just like Matt Lauer being Dolly Pardon yesterday morning on the Today show: something was amiss.

This is not the first time I have received a very unexpected reaction from a church kid. Once while at the grocery store, I ran into a church family. A squirrely little boy in this family couldn’t believe THE PASTOR needed to buy groceries. “You eat?” he asked me. Yes, I eat.

Years ago, I wore jeans to church. The kids were aghast. Pastors wear jeans? Now, I purposely wear jeans on a regular basis. I want kids to know that pastors are just like any other person. We wear jeans. We eat food. We have homes.

We make mistakes. We tell lies. We hurt people’s feelings.

We exaggerate. We cut corners. We fail to help people we easy could have.

Mason – I have no more special powers than you did in your Superman outfit last night. Sadly, it’s very true.

We pull our pants on every morning just like you do. Sometimes, we eat too much sugar like you and other trick-or-treaters did last night. Sometimes, we don’t even pray as much as we should. Or we scan Facebook rather than reading our Bible.

I know. It’s hard to fathom how the lady from church might do laundry, cook dinner and cry while watching “This Is Us.” Take a shower? Completely out of the question.

This is the truth, Mason. I’m a normal person just like you. Just like your Mom. Just like your Dad. I just have a job in which I have the great privilege to tell little people like you and your WNCS friends about Jesus and God. I get to sprinkle water on baby’s heads and hand out shot glasses of grape juice and tiny cubes of bread. I get to hold sick people’s hands and lay my hands on them as I pray for them. I get to pound nails with teens on mission trip and buy them ice cream after a long day of roofing. And Mason, I even get to pretend I am playing an air guitar with you and the rest of the WNCS kids as we sing a super cool song about God.

Mason – thanks for stopping with your family at my house while you were out trick-or-treating. It made my night. Yep, I’m just another lady at church. Thanks be to God.

Lord God – thank goodness, we are all the same in your sight. You love us all, no matter what. You love us the same, in spite of our inability to do the same. Thank you for creating us as your beloved children. Amen and Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Merry Halloween??!!

Tues., Oct. 31, 2017

Job 14:2– Like a flower, we bloom, then wither, flee like a shadow and don’t last.  

My Christmas cactus forgot to look at the calendar. Today is Halloween … and it’s blooming, almost two months early. Seriously?

Actually, this Christmas cactus is my Mom’s plant. This spring, we cleaned out my Mom’s apartment when she moved permanently into a nursing home. My sister, Debbie, and I were cleaning out the last things. There was Mom’s Christmas cactus. For years, and I mean years, my Mom has had a Christmas cactus. We felt like someone should keep it. Debbie voted for me.

I brought it home and put it outside in our screened in porch. Honestly, I haven’t taken very good care of it. I watered it once a week. That was it. Until today. We had a hard frost on Saturday night. All the annuals froze except the geraniums. This afternoon, I remembered the Christmas cactus. Did it make it? As I walked towards the porch, I justified that it was in a more protected area. Maybe, just maybe, it would be fine.

What I wasn’t prepared for were the many pretty fuchsia pink blossoms spilling over the edge of the pot. Not wanting to take any chances on something happening to the plant, I quickly brought it inside.

I have another Christmas cactus. This one was given to me last year at Christmas by a lovely couple from church. It isn’t blooming. With a closer inspection, I unearthed several dead branches and fallen leaves. I walked away with a handful of dead parts. Apparently, the outside plant enjoyed its environment much more than the inside version.

Plants can be beautiful, refreshing and brighten up a space quickly. When the plant isn’t doing well, it can be a bummer. When it is not doing well, it quickly fades. Most plants do not consistently bloom. Overnight, they can go from gorgeous blooms to droopy flowers.

Our spiritual lives are much the same. One day, we can feel so very close to God: inspired by God and alive with God. If we miss some alone time with God, fail to see blessings in our lives or get caught up in the busy-ness of live, God suddenly feels like a long-lost relative rather than a close friend with whom we text or chat with daily.

Like all relationships, our relationship with God is never stagnant. Either we are moving closer to God or stepping back. There are simply going to be times when we don’t feel as close to God. This is a fact. Yet, are we doing the things we can to nurture our relationship with God? Or are we more like the abandoned cactus that barely received a drink of water once a week?

Like my Mom’s Christmas cactus, we can bloom with less attention. For most people, additional nurturing is needed. What is one thing you can do this week to water your spiritual soul? To draw yourself back towards the One who created you?

My thoughts have turned towards keeping Mom’s cactus alive and blooming. Until Christmas? Probably not so much. Rather, I will let it wish you all a Merry Halloween!

Lord God – thanks for putting inside each one of us the opportunity to be a beautiful person. Sometimes we bloom and make life around us brighter and more beautiful. Other times, we are more like a fading flower. Thank you for being patient with us. May our connection with you keep us glorious for your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Small Things = Great Love

4039-Mother-Teresa-Quote-Not-all-of-us-can-do-great-things-But-we-canTues., Oct. 24, 2017

Matthew 25:21 – Jesus said, “The master answered, ‘You did right. You are a good servant who can be trusted. You did well with that small amount of money. So I will let you care for much greater things. Come and share my happiness with me.’”

I love this Mother Theresa quote: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

I often witness human beings who take this quote seriously. Let me share a recent example.

In 1997-98, I served overseas for a school year as a missionary. For my “real” job, I taught English at a state university in the former Soviet Union country of Kazakstan. One of the students I taught was a young lady named Assel.

While in Kazakstan, I invited Assel to worship with me at a Christian church. It was the first time she had ever been to a Christian worship service. Initially, she went because it gave her additional opportunities to speak English. She chose to go back and eventually, discovered who God is in her life. Before I left Kazakstan, Assel felt a strange warming in her heart … and knew it was God.

Assel’s family consider themselves Muslim, although they do not actively practice. Sharing her Christian faith was a huge risk. Initially, she was trying to figure out who God was to her.

Based on her English skills, Assel landed a job with a western company. She traveled and expand her job and English skills. Her spiritual journey went on a roller coaster ride the next few years. Eventually, she met a Christian man who was raised in South Africa and they married.

Today, Assel’s Christian faith is a defining part of her life. She and her husband live in Kazakstan and are involved in a local Christian church. Recently, Assel came to the United States for a conference. After the conference, she spent a few days with Rick and me. It was great to reconnect. Assel shared the struggles of their local Christian church. Wages for local Kazak workers continue to be very low. The government is more skeptical of Christian churches than when I was there. Assel and her husband support their local church as much as possible.

Before taking Assel to the airport, we stopped at one of the churches I serve. On Fridays during the school year, Blessings in a Backpack bags are assembled here. These are food bags given to students on Fridays, so they have food for the weekend. As we walked by where the food is stored, I shared with her information about the program.

A few steps later, Assel opened her purse and pulled out $100 from her wallet. She wanted to donate to our little Blessings program. I am thinking of the ways these funds could be used in her church. As I shared this, Assel knew this was true. Yet, she insisted on supporting our local food program. She wanted to feed one student during this school year, which equals $100. I was blown away by her insistence to help our Blessings program.

Last Sunday, we had “Pay It Forward Sunday.” We hand out envelopes with money inside during worship. People are instructed to take the money, a loan from God, and invest it. The idea is to use these funds and bless someone else. If people want to add more funds to the seed money, they can. They can’t give the money back to the church. They are encouraged to fill out the post card in the envelope and share how they invested these funds.

The envelopes do not include huge sums of money. Yet, the small amount of money loaned from God usually increases by at least five times. It is amazing how these small gifts suddenly become larger gifts that express God’s love for those in need in simply amazing ways.

Assel accomplished her Pay It Forward ministry without any initial seed money. She took it upon herself to share a small gift with a needy program.

How about you? What is a small thing you can do with great love this week?

Almighty God – sometimes we expect someone else to step in and make a difference. Why? Because we think we don’t have enough resources. Or our gifts aren’t important enough. What is amazing is that when we can release our gifts into your kingdom, you take them and far exceed our expectations. When you bring an opportunity to do a small thing this week to express great love, please help us accept this opportunity. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

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

Trusting = Faith

Tues., Sept. 26, 2017

Hebrews 11:1 – Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.

My husband never ceases to amaze me. We’ve been living in our fixer-upper home for a little over two years. In that time, we’ve made significant changes to the house. On the docket for this summer: painting the outside trim. The trim was a royal blue color. While it’s a nice color, it wasn’t my preference. It didn’t quite match the singles nor the indoor/outdoor floor covering on the porches. The first fall we lived in the house, we painted the foundation more of a grey/blue which we highly preferred. It was now time to paint the rest of the trim a granite steel color.

This summer, Rick has been consistently painting the trim. He started painting the 53 windows of the house. Yep. 53. At the end of last week, he had about a dozen windows or so yet to do. Also yet to do: the four third-story peaks. We talked of renting a lift with a bucket to reach these precarious areas. Rick thought the lift would leave ruts in the yard. It’s taken two years to get the yard looking the way he wants it to look. He wasn’t ready to start over.

Instead, Rick came up with his own solution. He painted several windows from inside the house. Maybe more appropriately – hanging out from the inside of the house. Painting the peaks? This required more creativity.

Last Saturday morning was the day he was going to paint the peaks. Never mind this was also the warmest weekend of the summer/fall. He bounded out of bed bright and early and went to pick up an extension ladder he borrowed from friends. Pretty soon, there was a series of ropes and come-and-go belts snaked through my office and out the window. Anchored to a staircase banister, they were attached to the extension ladder perched on the flat roof outside of the window and hooked to a rope Rick tied around his waist. These non-OSHA approved safety devices were, at best, red-neck. My first thought: “You can take the boy off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.”

Rick assured me he didn’t really need these safety measures. He wouldn’t fall off the ladder nor would the ladder slip. They were simply “just in case” measures. He had faith he could paint the peaks with no hiccups.

Faith. What do we have faith in? Where is faith found? Who is the source of our faith? I’ve known for a long time Rick has a deep-seeded faith. His faith isn’t in the ropes and such. Rick’s true faith is knowing someone bigger is watching over him.

Several years ago, we sang a song at VBS called “Faith.” It has become one of those songs I often sing in my head:

It seems like there so much to hope for, so many dreams I wish they all could come true.

When I think about Your ways, Lord, it gives me so much faith in all that you do.

Faith to see beyond what I can’t see.

Faith to know that You will do great things.

I will trust You Lord, I’ll always believe.

As I hold on to my faith, Jesus you are holding on to me.

Rick literally believed Jesus would hold onto him as he painted those precarious peaks of the house.

What do you hang onto when the going gets tough? Do you depend upon a series of earthly things that can fail you? Or, do you hang onto the One, True God?

Faith is often difficult because we can’t see it. We can’t touch it. We can’t physically describe it.

Yet, I cannot deny faith. Faith is the unseen things I feel in my heart. It’s the unseen comfort I have felt when God is with me. It’s the unseen presence of God that brings me peace.

Rick completed the painting without a hitch. Fortunately, he didn’t need the safety devices. They were “just in case.” The newly-painted trim looks GREAT! We’re both thankful this project is officially completed. I’m thankful for a husband who hatches with creative ideas. I’m also thankful for a husband whose faith is such that he knows daily who watches over him.

Lord God – Faith is hard to describe because it’s not something we see. It’s something we feel, we trust, we experience. Thanks for hanging unto us when we slip. Thanks for being our safety net and rope. May our faith in you be what keeps us safe in you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

When We Said, “I Do”

weddingSat., Aug. 26, 2017

John 15:12 – This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.

Seventeen years ago, we said “I do.”

It began as a stormy, wet morning and turned into a muggy, humid day. It was also the day Rick decided to wash his car rather than make sure a couple more fans made it to the reception area to keep our guests cool. This would not be the last time we would disagree on a choice.

But when you say, “I do,” those words are more important than who is right.

Who wants to be right.

Who was right last time.

When you say, “I do,” two people make a choice in which individual feelings are not always more important than a joint resolution.

It’s a choice to stay together … no matter what.

It’s a life choice that is about the long game and not just the short game.

For us, saying “I do” means we don’t give up or give in.

We figure it out with no other alternative ever voiced, explored or contemplated.

Because, there is only “I do.”

Yes, we have disappointed each other. We’ve let each other down. And wished we could take back some sentences that should have been kept private and not spoken aloud.

Our marriage hasn’t always been a pretty field of flowers. Rick was still wounded from the unexpected death of his oldest 21-year-old son who died just months before we said, “I do.” We had both recently changed jobs and careers. We moved twice within a few months of becoming Mr. and Mrs. I commuted to school, as we tried to figure out how to be a married couple who saw each other only on weekends.

While the years have been peppered with wonderful and joyful times, the challenging days and weeks are not forgotten. A grandson who slipped away after being present for 16 short days. Three of our parent’s health changing significantly in 10 days. We have packed, moved and unpacked our belongings several times. We’ve helped clean out homes no longer occupied by our parents. We have physically been apart more of the last 6,205 days than we have been together. We’ve witnessed divorce, death and disappointment.

Yet, we’ve always come back to “I do” because it gives us hope.

For us, continuing to say, “I do” is an everyday choice. It’s our choice. One we gladly make. One we don’t take for granted. One, I pray, we get to make for many more days into the future. It’s a choice always grounded in knowing that God loves us more than we love each other. A choice which reflects our belief God brought us together to be one. A choice to keep God as the third and most important leg of our marriage.

We’re not perfect. But we laugh together. And we cry when one or both are hurting. We’ve experienced family, grandchildren and friends together, as well as we have seen some amazing places together. We’ve collected treasure chests full of special memories. We say, “Please,” “Thank you,” “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me” regularly. We count our blessings daily and know where they come from. We try to respect, honor and uplift each other daily, even when apart. We pray together. Worship together. Hold each other’s hand together.

This is our “I do.” Thanks be to God.

Lord God – thank you for the gift of our marriage and your presence in our relationship. May we always keep You as the safety net which surrounds, protects and guides us. Help us continue to say, “I do” for every day we are together on this earth. Amen.

Blessings –

Rick & Dianne Vielhuber

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

Generations Behind Freezing Corn

freezing cornFri., Aug. 25, 2017

Psalm 22:30 – Future descendants will serve him; generations to come will be told about my Lord.

Last night was the annual corn-freezing night at the Vielhubers. This one single photo captures so many great aspects of what happens as a part of freezing corn at our house. You see, there’s a whole bunch of generations included in this single photo.

First, the recipe comes from Rick’s Aunt, Betty Cady. I’m not sure where she acquired the recipe. It’s not your regular run-of-the-mill frozen corn recipe. No, this one has cream and butter and corn. It’s like eating a little bit of creamed corn and regular corn all thrown together. This is THE staple corn recipe for any Vielhuber holiday gathering. And has been for years.

Behind the cake pan with the corn is a brown electric knife. This was my Grandma Deaton’s electric knife. I’m confident it is older than I am and has cut more ears of corn than I can imagine. As a child, I remember being in my Grandma Deaton’s basement. They lived in central Iowa. Nearly every summer when my sisters and I would visit, we would freeze and can corn, beans and tomatoes. I learned how to cut corn off the ear quickly and efficiently with this electric knife. It comes out of my cupboard once a year now: for freezing corn. I can hear my Grandma encouraging us in her basement while I press the button to move the blades and skim the kernels off the ear in my kitchen.

Then, there is the corn. I received a text message a few days earlier from LaVonne Reinecke. The Reinecke’s have been neighbors to Rick’s family for years. In fact, three generations of Vielhubers hauled generations of Reinecke milk. My darling husband rounded up the corn from LaVonne for me a couple days earlier, while I was working my agriculture job. The back end of my SUV was full of sweet corn. It waited in the carriage house until Rick was home and could husk the corn while I kept things moving in the kitchen. He came in just in time to help fill the freezer containers with corn. When we ran out of lids (why do you always run out of lids?), Rick finished the job with freezer bags. Unfortunately, the corn made it into the freezer before I captured the finished product. Let me suffice to say: we’ll enjoy it this winter.

Throughout scripture, God reminds the people that the only way future generations will know the importance of knowing, following and serving God is if the current generation shares their faith. Just as we are one generation away from people not knowing how to freeze corn in their homes, we’re just one short generation from people knowing, believing and serving the One True God who loves us, created us and cares for us. And, by the way, created corn.

I pray someday, I can pass along the tradition of freezing corn to some of our next generation. But even more importantly, I pray my actions, what I say and how I conduct myself also makes them aware of God’s place in my life. Let me not be the generation who prevents future generations know the traditions of our faith.

Lord God – Thank you for the generations who have gone before us and shared so many things with us: their faith, their confidence in You, even the traditions we love to maintain like freezing corn. May we value our faith so much that we are not afraid and welcome the opportunity to share our faith with future generations. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Hello, Mr. Sunflower

Mon., Aug. 21, 2017

Isaiah 40:8 – The grass dries up. The flowers fall to the ground. But what our God says will stand forever.

Yesterday, I visited one of the happiest places currently on earth. I went to the Pope Farm Conservancy, just outside of Madison, WI, to see 9 acres of blooming sunflowers.

Actually, it wasn’t quite 9 acres. The sunflowers have been blooming for two weeks. Sunday was the last day the plot was open to the public. Truthfully, some of the sunflowers are starting to droop and have lost their brilliant yellow color. Nonetheless, almost 9 acres of sunflowers is still a stunning sight to be held.

As visitors turned into the bumpy gravel driveway, neon-yellow vest clad volunteers directed vehicles to the appropriate grassy parking spots. Just a few short steps away, raised garden beds were growing a variety of Wisconsin products; from hops to goosefoot. After walking up a small incline, the rows upon rows of gorgeous sunflowers could be seen. Yes, many of their heads were a little droopy. But plenty of show-stopping color was to be found.

People from every age group were there. Newborn babies and parents posed as professional photographers tried to get the perfect shot. Grandma’s being pushed in wheelchairs enjoyed a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Families carried picnic baskets and blankets, with plans for an evening meal surrounded by nature and all those sunflowers. It truly was a beautiful sight to be held.

It’s been a difficult week for the United States. Race riots have turned deadly. Memorials and statues honoring Confederate soldiers are being removed quicker than water turns into ice. This has happened in Madison, WI, about an hour from Ripon, WI, the birthplace of the Republican party. These memorials and statues have been part of local history … until now.

Yet on this Sunday afternoon, it was the sunflowers who prevailed. Their cheerfulness was sought by people from a variety of nationalities. Young and old gazed at the 500,000 plants which seemingly lured people from all walks of life to pause if at least momentarily from the craziness of life and enjoy a little bit of heaven on earth. No one rushed. Everyone was polite. We were all captured by the pure joy of these sunflowers taking their last bow at the tail-end of peak season.

As spectacular as these sunflowers were, their beauty is still short-term. Even yesterday, some flowers were beyond their prime. The gorgeous flowers will soon be all about producing seeds. Their importance as a plant is no less. Just their purpose shifts.

There is one constant that remains steadfast and true; no matter the season: our God. When life seems rather chaotic and out of sorts, there is One who does not change. I pray we lean on this never-changing presence to guide us through seemingly challenging times.

Lord God – your creation is so amazing. Only You could design a field of sunflowers to take our breath away. Yet, we know that even their beauty is short-term. I pray Your constant presence encourages us to lean on You every day, especially when the world may not always make sense. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

It’s Your Name

my name isMon., Aug. 7, 2017

Exodus 33:17 – The Lord said to Moses, “I will do exactly what you have asked. I am pleased with you. And I know your name. I know all about you.”

Within three weeks, my personal identity was compromised twice.

The first time, a person who represented themselves as me contacted a church treasurer and requested almost $20,000 to be wire transferred to an out-of-state account. Unfortunately, both the church and I were compromised. Please be aware that internet scams can happen to anyone.

Then, Rick and I took some kids on a youth mission trip. One day, our work site was a transitional living situation. We had both of our vehicles at the job site. We believe sometime during the day a bag of mine was stolen from inside of my car. We had been in and out of our vehicles all day, getting tools, water and other things. We let our guard down and did not keep our vehicles locked. This bag contained nearly every piece of my personal identification, except my passport. All gone.

I have heard people shared stories of when they or someone they know had their identity stolen. It can be very unsettling to have strangers infringe on your private life. For about a week, I carried an old wallet with basically nothing inside. It still remains a stripped-down version of the fat one that disappeared while on mission trip.

There are very few things we can truly call our own. Our name is one of them.  Several years ago, a man who was a coach at the time for the University of Wisconsin-Madison spoke at the church I was serving. He talked about how there are very few things in life unique to us. One of these things is our name. He challenged us to respect our name, the tradition by which we were named and honor those who named us.

Since my identity has been compromised, I have been thinking about the value of my name. How easily can someone can foil themselves as me. Does this compromise what I stand for and how I conduct myself? What does my name stand for when others hear my name? What is God saying to me through this?

When the Northern Kingdom of Israel was captured by the Babylonians, King Nebuchadnezzar had the best looking, most educated and informed, quick and qualified people brought back to Babylon. He wanted the Israelites to become integrated into Babylonian culture. For this to happen, he chose Israelite leaders to become influencers with the other Israelite people. Among those chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. All four received new names; names which reflected a Babylonian heritage. Yet, the Babylonians had a hard time calling Daniel by his new name, Belteshazzar. It was difficult for them to separate the man from his original Jewish name, Daniel.

It is easy for us to become clear about who we are: what defines us and the call of God in our lives. It is easy for us to lose our identity, either willingly or unwillingly, with culture. We value other’s opinions of what we stand for and how we conduct ourselves. At the end of the day, we consistently fail each other because, well, we cannot be perfect.

Yet, God always knows who and whose we are. God knows everything about us: what we are proud of, what makes us happy and sad, what disappointments we struggle with. God knows our name and what we stand for, even if we struggle with this at times. When we are displeased with ourselves, God finds many things of which to be pleased in us.

Over time, I am recreating the pieces of my identity. At the same time, I am cautiously listening for God’s voice in my life. I know my identity is safe and sound in God’s kingdom.

Lord God – thank you for calling us as your own. Thank you for knowing more about us than we know about ourselves. May we be assured our identity in you is never questioned, but always safe and sound. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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