Wednesday Prayer Day – Where It Begins

Gratitude Day 491

Wed., July 22, 2020

Luke 5:16 – But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

This. This is where I prefer to begin my mornings.

It doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes, two days may go by in a row where I do not prioritize spending time on the front porch. In this chair. Getting my heart right before the day gets going.

But this is where I would like to spend every morning.

On the front porch. Taking care of business with God before I take care of any other business.

Truth? I spend more time reading and journaling than I do praying. Sometimes, well, most every day, I get distracted and spend time scrolling and scrolling rather than focusing and focusing.

It’s just something that I do. For my heart. My soul. My life.

Does it change a lot the rest of the day? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Those minutes on the porch in that chair speak to me. Remind me. Challenge me to not loose focus. Make everything about myself. Remember Whose I am. Recall what a great life I have.

The rest of the day maybe filled with distractions. Too often, I lose focus. Yet, I still believe the time spent here, even if for only a few minutes, is important. Helpful. Defining. Significant.

Where’s the place you go to find the One who created you and offers you unending grace? Send me a photo. I would love to see your place.

For a special place to spend time with God each morning, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Hello God – Thank you for always being with me; whether I purposefully stop and spend time with You. Inspire me to find a little place where You and I can spend time together. Today. Tomorrow. Most days. Amen.

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Lessons from COVID-19: Virus Fatigue

Gratitude Day 490

Mon., July 20, 2020

2 Corinthians 12:9 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It seems that everyone has an opinion these days.

Should we wear a mask or not?

Would it be best for school this fall to be in person, virtual or a combination?

Is there enough testing or too much testing?

If you don’t have an opinion about one of these or a million other topics related to COVID-19, be careful. You might not want to tell anyone because, well, then everyone will try and convince you that their opinion is right. Heaven forbid that someone has an opinion different from yours. Can you still be friends with someone who has a different opinion.

Maybe. Possibly. Sometimes not.

I’m calling it virus fatigue. We’re four months into this pandemic and quite honestly, we’re all more than a little over it.

And yet, we’re not. Numbers continue to be reported daily. Hot spots are reeling back in their decisions. We live day-by-day, week-by-week wondering whether or not it’s safe for kids, staff, and bus drivers to resume some form of in-school education. Will there be fall sports? While some churches have reopened, some have closed back up their in-person worship and are back online. Other churches are wondering if and when they should begin gathering again. The list goes on and on and on.

Virus fatigue is real and we’re all more than a little over it.

Some people continue to see their workloads at record levels while others are wondering what will happen when the additional unemployment benefits run out the end of the month … and they still don’t know when they will return to work. Will there be another package to help businesses and families and state and local communities that are overwhelmed with additional costs because of a pesky little virus?

Anyone else feeling like this virus has commanded too much of their lives right now?

Campers and kayaks and boats are high demand items right now. As well as trampolines, bikes, and swimming pools. If you want a stand-up freezer, put in your order now for possible Christmas delivery. Sunday, Hubby Rick and I drove to an extremely popular state park about 30 minutes from our house. We planned to wade in the water, go for a hike, take a nap in the shade. After driving past miles of cars parked along the shoulder, we realized that everyone within a hundred miles must have had the same idea. We quickly adverted our plans and headed to a quiet village park along a river where only a couple other families were enjoying their Sunday afternoon.

We’re all ready to do something pre-virus “normal” because virus fatigue is real … and it’s more than set-in.

I think back to earlier generations that endured world wars for years. Accepted restrictions on sugar, tires, and coffee for months and months. Just a few months into our generation’s most devastating situation and we’re quick to blow our trumpet for what we believe in, how we’re being deeply affected, and what everyone else is doing wrong.

I’m tired of virus fatigue because it’s giving us permission to treat each other poorly. To focus only on what we want or what we think is best. We’ve become expert scientists, doctors, economists, educators, infectious disease professionals, predictors, and politicians overnight … all simultaneously. All in the name of virus fatigue.

So, what’s the alternative? How might we discover a less destructive and more helpful way to plod through this pandemic that we’re not sure how long will last?

Let me offer just a few suggestions.

  1. Remember to love God. No matter how difficult this situation is and how you are being affected personally, please, please, please keep the One who loves you and knows what’s best for you in your hind pocket. Please don’t try and do this on your own. Virus fatigue will only continue to overwhelm you and upset you and distress you. When you turn to the One who has enough grace for you, your family, all of your friends as well as your enemies, then, you will discover how deep, wide and big God’s grace is for you as well.
  2. Remember to love your neighbor. All of them. Even the ones you’re not that crazy about loving. Especially the ones that have a vastly different opinion about the status of our current situation than you do. Love them so much it hurts because the truth is, God loves you even more than this. If you deserve this much love, then certainly everyone else does as well. Period. While we often would like to think we should get an extra pass of grace, thank goodness God is a lot less judgmental than the rest of us are.
  3. Follow these two suggestions … and everything else will eventually work itself out. Not on our timetable or maybe exactly how we would prefer. When we keep the most important things as the most important, it’s AMAZING how so much else simply fades away.

Certainly, I don’t have all the answers for virus fatigue. I only have three suggestions. I’m going to try and focus on these things and see how my energy, attention, and love for God changes. Want to join me? I hope you do.

If you need just a few minutes of reprieve from virus fatigue, click on this link. Then, sit back and simply listen.

For God’s grace that has no end or beginning, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Lord God – how fickle we are when we must endure a challenging situation. How often we focus on where it personally hurts the most rather than empathizing with someone else’s situation. How easy it is to assume we have the best ideas and ideas. Bath us in Your grace today. Place I upon your hearts the immediate need to simply love You and our neighbors today. Tomorrow. The next day. Even when we don’t want to. Amen.

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As Wheat Harvest Draws Near …

Gratitude Day 489

Mon., July 20, 2020

John 12:24 – Let me make this clear: A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain died.

Recently, Hubby Rick and I were driving through the countryside. As normal, Rick is scouting the crops. Is corn tasseling? Are there water puddles in the fields? How close is the wheat to harvesting?

It’s the last one – wheat harvesting – that brings back a variety of memories in this last half of July. Rick’s Dad, Tony, loved to grow winter wheat. In the years that I knew Tony, getting the wheat harvested was always a busy and slightly stressful wheat for the Vielhubers.

Truth? It was more than just one week that occupied lots of chatter about wheat harvest. It began in the fall when the wheat was planted. In the spring, maybe the wheat would need spraying or fertilizer. As the heads began to turn golden, Tony began calling the local co-op, daily, inquiring what the local price was for a bushel of wheat. I’m sure the folks at the co-op would look at their caller id and know exactly why Tony was calling.

The decision about when to harvest includes more than just the price. Another important factor is the test weight of the wheat. This is influenced by how much water the wheat plant is retaining. There’s a magic test weight window, in which the wheat isn’t too weight or too dry. This often becomes the deciding factor of just when wheat is harvested.

The last number of years, Tony’s grandson, Andy combined the wheat. Rick would get the wagons lined up to offload the wheat from the combine. Rick and Tony drove the wagons down to the co-op where it would be determined how many bushels of wheat there were as well as the test weight. After the wheat grains were harvest, the combine left the shafts or steams of the wheat in the field. These would be baled into straw, which was sold and used for bedding for animals.

The last number of years Tony grew wheat, Rick found himself handling more of the responsibilities involved in harvesting; all in between his work shifts. He would work all night, get a couple of hours of sleep in the early morning, only to be awoken by Tony because the combine was hitting the field and someone would need to drive the wagons the couple miles to town to the co-op. Tony would drive some of the wagons. But as he neared 90-years-old, how often he drove the wagons behind his little John Deere tractor became a concern.

Then, there was getting the neighbor to bale the straw into large round bales and get the bales delivered to whomever purchased them. If Tony’s decades old truck wasn’t working quite right, Rick would line-up someone else to haul the straw and that it would be safely delivered. Every year, it seemed there would be a few hick-ups along the way, as is often the situation with field work. Every year, Rick would confide and say, “This is the last year Dad is going to raise wheat,” knowing that when fall came, it would be so very difficult for Rick to not fill the drill with wheat seed and make sure it got planted. Come fall, the wheat that Tony held back for next year’s seed would find its way into the ground so it would grow into next year’s wheat crop.

One grain of wheat in a bag in the shed really isn’t extremely helpful. Basically, the seed dies when it is harvested, and it stops growing. But when the seed is put back into the ground and is watered, it begins to grow once again. The seed sprouts little leaves when creep out of the ground and the whole process of growing new plants repeats once again.

Our faith, Jesus says, is a lot like this wheat seed. Faith can become stale. Nonresponsive. Dead. Just like the wheat seed, it needs some water, encouragement, heat, and light for little leaves to sprout back to life. Sometimes the dead seed stays like this for a while; just like seed stuck in the shed. Until WE decide to take some steps to bring it back to life, it can and will remain dormant.

When our seed of faith goes dormant, we often blame God. “Where are You?” we plead with God. “You didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted … so I’m going to pout.” Or “Why do I have to do all the work or wait for You? Can’t you see I’m on a timetable?” we plead.

But then again, God’s timetable is not our timetable. Maybe our prayer was answered … and we didn’t like the answer. So instead of acknowledging it, we simply ignore it. Quite honestly, when we don’t feel close to God, it’s not God that did the moving. We did.

If you feel your faith is parched, dry and on the verge of dying, check yourself. Have you been watering your spiritual soul with regular doses of prayer? Are you finding opportunities to worship God in some small way every day? Are you looking for God in consistent scripture reading?

Are you depending only upon your own ideas and wisdom, assuming you know better than God?

Honestly, it’s really OK when our seed souls feel far from God. I find that often, best growth happens when I haven’t felt awfully close to God. Even in the near-death times of our seeds of faith, I pray we don’t give up on God. Be disappointed. Be hurt. Be angry. But please, don’t turn completely way. Instead, find a new or consistent way to keep even a little bit of nourishment going towards your seed of faith. And as you journey through this time of disappointment, keep looking for God. You might be amazed at what happens.

For the lesson from wheat near harvest, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – as we see so many wheat fields a beautiful golden brown, may we recall Jesus’ words about keeping ourselves close to God. Even if our faith is feeling a little tired and distracted, may we keep searching for You. Amen.

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The Time the Microwave Needed Fixing

Gratitude Day 488

Fri., July 17, 2020

Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The glass jar stood perched on the counter right inside the main entry door into the house. It was summer. Days were filled with baling hay, picking peas and beans from the garden, and training sheep and calves for the county fair. The jar was a constant reminder that the microwave in the kitchen was no longer in working order.

It was the summer after I graduated from high school. I had picked up a mid-day waitressing job, which allowed me to help with chores in the morning, work my shift and then be back home for afternoon milking. As I entered the house with an pocketed black apron still tied around my waist, I dropped the coins acquired from tips in the jar. Bills were saved for college.

This same summer, my younger sister picked strawberries. She added money from her earnings into the jar as well. Other coins and a few bills slowly began to cushion the bottom of the jar. Mom added a few coins. Dad dropped in the change found in his pocket. Every once in a while, someone would count the money just to see how close we were to acquiring enough money to fix the broken microwave.

It was awfully slow going. Would we ever get enough money to fix the microwave?

Years earlier, Mom received the microwave as a Christmas gift when microwaves were relatively new. On the farm, her the family felt the microwave would speed up meal prep for Mom. Mom was less than impressed with the purchase, which felt like a huge luxury at the time. Maybe she thought her cooking skills would be dumbed down by a machine that could melt butter in 90 seconds.

When our local high school offered microwave cooking classes, Mom signed up. Food actually could be prepared in the microwave. She embraced ways to cook favorites in considerably less time.

Yes, some foods were best not prepared in the microwave. Dad didn’t like crunchy vegetables which never got soft in the microwave. Baking was tricky. By the time dough was cooked in the center, the outsides were beyond crispy.

When the microwave stopped working that summer, everyone was dependent upon it. We made popcorn on Saturday evenings and used it to thaw meat. My dad’s culinary skills extended only to making toast. But he could heat up water for instant coffee.

As much as we wanted the microwave fixed, we were keenly aware funds were not available. I’m not sure how much money we needed. It might as well have been $10,000.

That’s when the glass jar became stationed right inside the door. Optimistic we could quickly collect the needed money, days turned into weeks, which turned into months. In the kitchen, the microwave collected dust.

My paternal grandparents always spent the week of our county fair in Wisconsin. While my sister and I put the finishing touches on our fair projects, Grandma Deaton inquired about the jar on the counter. Someone filled her in about the broken microwave. A check was added to the jar. Our grandparents anted up the funds to get the microwave fixed.

You would have thought we had just won the lottery.

Today, when something breaks at our house, if it is something we depend upon or needs replacing, Hubby Rick or I go and buy it. Yes, we discuss whether or not it needs replacing. I may look online for costs. But if we think we need it, we get it. We don’t put a jar on the counter and deposit coins or bills as we enter the house.

At the time, the microwave broke, my parents were experiencing significant financial burdens. Our entire family knew it. We had each taken on a way to bring in additional income. Mom worked off the farm. The kids had summer jobs. An occasional trip to the root beer stand for a float after chores was a huge splurge. We ordered the kiddie or momma sizes because the daddy size was way too expensive.

After four months of a pandemic that has financially hit some families significantly, there are families who look at their monthly bills and the coins left in their checking account and wonder how rent or mortgage will be paid next month. They wonder if they should pay their cell phone bill or go to the grocery store. These are real discussions.

If you are one of those families whose coins have been emptied out and you are not sure what to do next, here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit your local food pantry. This is why we have them. Use them. DO. NOT. BE. ASHAMED.
  • Call the businesses you cannot fulfill your financial obligation and talk with them. Don’t ignore the bills. Be proactive.
  • Prioritize your expenses. Wait on anything that is not absolutely necessary, i.e. – microwave.
  • Be creative. Think outside the box. Are there things you can liquidate? Opportunities to bring in even a small amount of income?

If you are doing OK and maybe even have a little extra, what can you do?

  • Think through your family and friends. Is someone struggling and too proud to ask for help? There are ways you can help. Send gift cards, have groceries show up at their house, etc.
  • Aid in a non-financial way. Watch children, drive somewhere, take over extra food from your house.
  • If you aren’t sure who to help, inquire through a non-profit, church, or other organization. Leadership are often aware of folks who need assistance. You will probably not know who receives the assistance. Be OK with this.
  • Whether you are a person feeling anxious about your current financial situation OR wondering how you to share blessings, begin by turning to God. No one at our house expected our grandparents to provide the resources to get the microwave across the finish line. They saw a need … and helped out. They were inspired to do so.

Look for inspiration to do the same. Share your heart with God. Let God carry your burden with you. Together, you and God will figure this out.

For God’s desire to carry our burdens with us, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – be with those who are struggling financially right now. Open their hearts for help. Bring someone into their lives who can share the burden. May we always turn to You first for inspiration and guidance. Amen.

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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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Lessons from COVID-19: Ministry In Your Own Back Yard

Gratitude Day 486

Tues., July 14, 2020

Acts 1:8 – (Jesus said,) “Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We’ve watched so much happen in the last four months; things we could have never anticipated or expected even five months ago. When these unforeseen events happen, it’s easy to look for someone else to “fix” these challenging situations; even the ones in our own back yard. Yet, sometimes, we’re the ones called to help with the “fixing.”  

Meet Jackie Goplin. Jackie is many things.

She’s a wife and a Mom to Brad and Julie. She’s a farmer, with her husband Eric and son Brad, who is the sixth generation to farm on their family dairy farm. She’s active in her local church, where she serves as music director and financial secretary. Along with her husband, she’s produced and directed 20 community musicals. They hope they can complete their 21st production that was canceled because of COVID-19. She’s a retired high school music teacher. In fact, my connection to Jackie goes back a few decades when she was my high school band director.  

It’s her most recent title that got my attention and caused me to reconnect with Jackie after many, many years. She’s one of those “fixers” that has bridged two important components of their local community, kids and dairy farmers, and sought to support both through this pandemic.

As soon as schools shut down during the pandemic, providing food to students and families that rely on free and reduced breakfast and lunch became imperative for local communities. Across the United States, dairy producers were asked to dump their highly crafted raw milk because processing facilities did not have immediate demand for this perishable product. With schools and restaurants closed, dairy processing plants found themselves with millions of pounds of milk that were no longer needed until alternative ways of processing the milk could be established.

Jackie and her family farm near Osseo, WI, a very rural community. Jackie taught down the road at the Whitehall School District for 22 years. The Goplin’s attend Peace Lutheran Church of Pigeon Falls. With milk processing facilities in nearby towns, word quickly spread about the possibility of these processing facilities having to ask their patrons to dump milk.

Step in Jackie and a few of her friends. Beth Stay attends the same church as Jackie. Convicted that there must be something that could be done, Beth approached Pastor Mary Ann Bowman. Pastor Mary Ann quickly brought Jackie into the conversation because, well, she and her family are dairy farmers.

The duo were inspired by Rich Miller, a milk hauler from Ellsworth, WI, who personally contributed $5,000 to buy cheese curds and donate them to local food pantries. His donation was quickly doubled and allowed Ellsworth Creamery from having to ask dairy producers to dump milk.

Jackie and her friends modified their response and created a program called Curds for Kids which provides cheese curds to families in several school districts within Trempealeau and Clark counties. Curds for Kids includes cheese curds with the free food distribution that school districts coordinate for families within their districts. During the school year, six school districts included cheese curds in their food packages. Over the summer, four districts have continued to include cheese curds in their weekly distributions.

How the food is distributed to families varies depending on the school district. Some schools send buses to families each week. Other school districts partner with local food pantries. In other areas, families come to the school and pick-up their packages. Curds for Kids works with each school food service department to accommodate their system in supplying the cheese curd portion of the food boxes.

Curds for Kids was truly started on a wing and a prayer. Known as a very generous and community minded congregation, Peace Lutheran Church of Pigeon Falls provided the initial funds to kick-start the program. Jackie, Beth, and Pastor Mary Ann leveraged local TV stations, spread the word via social media and contacted Feed My People in Eau Claire, WI, which has non-profit status. Feed My People partnered with Curds for Kids from the beginning and is the financial arm of the organization. They handle collecting funds and paying expenses, which allows the volunteers to focus their time and attention on coordinating the program as well as raising funds.

Amazingly, Curds for Kids raised $20,000 in about ten days, which allowed the program to know it would be able to provide cheese curds through the end of the school year. Since April 15th, Curds for Kids has provided 15,000 1-lb. packages of cheese curds to students. Several company sponsors have made very generous contributions which has allowed the program to continue into the summer. One of Jackie’s former students had t-shirts made and is currently in the third round of selling them. Another former student held a concert and raised money. Through lots of personal contact to local businesses, Curds for Kids raised about $50,000 to support their curd distribution.

Much to the organizer’s surprise, they also received another generous $15,000 donation from Returning the Favor. Hosted and coordinated by Mike Rowe, who is best known for his television series, Dirty Jobs, Returning the Favor reached out to Jackie and Beth this spring. After several virtual meetings with producers, Returning the Favor surprised Jackie and Beth with their donation mid-June. Pastor Mary Ann helped coordinate the announcement, which included a cow boasting the financial contribution and lots of area folks driving by and celebrating. Returning the Favor’s donation cemented cheese curd donations for the rest of the summer.

Curds for Kids has brought these rural communities together in so many ways. It provides a healthy food source for kids as well as continues to support local dairy farmers; many which are family farms that have a huge financial imprint within these communities. It allows for continued dairy product promotion and education. The partnerships between the school districts, plants that produce the cheese curds and the volunteers demonstrates how folks working together CAN make a difference.

Spiritually, Curds for Kids provided the church and its congregants a way to help others through a pandemic. As volunteers work together for a good cause, they see cheese curds as a new way of evangelism and doing good works within their community.  

Personally, Jackie found herself idle at the beginning of the pandemic. Normally, she would have been working at school three days a week. Now, she uses those hours to help others and fill a gap that quickly came to light at the beginning of the pandemic.

What is the future for Curds for Kids? The organizers continue to figure this out as they go along. Currently, they are working with food service staff to see if cheese curds can be part of the regular food service offerings. Will they keep distributing 1-lb. packages of cheese curds for students to take home as well? It all depends on their financial backing. “We’ll keep handing out cheese curds until we run out of money,” Jackie says.

So often when we think of Jesus’ directive to share the gospel with others, we assume it’s someone else’s responsibility. Or that it requires going on a mission trip to a place far, far away. Jackie and her friends are a reminder that God calls everyone of us to serve in God’s kingdom right in our own backyard. Thank you for accepting this call, Jackie. We pray that the curd ministry continues for many months ahead.

To donate to Curds for Kids, please go to Feed My People and click on the Donate Now button.

To watch the Returning the Favor announcement, please click here. The Curds for Kids portion begins at 5:00.

For those willing to do ministry in their own back yard, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Thank you for the Spirit’s presence in Jackie, Beth, and Pastor Mary Ann their willingness to be the fixers within their community. May their story inspire others to do the same. Amen.

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And Then the Four Weeks Were Gone …

Gratitude Day 485

Fri., July 10, 2020

Judges 15:19a – So God split open the hollow rock in Lehi, and water flowed out of it. When Samson drank, his energy returned and he was recharged.

A short four weeks ago, Hubby Rick began his four-week Sabbatical from his job. In just two days, he will resume driving truck four nights a week.

Clearly, he’s a little sad to be going back to work. A self-proclaimed sun worshipper, he has not complained once about the heat and humidity of the last number of days. Instead, he takes three showers a day and may even go for a bike ride during the most brutal timeslot of the day. His silver white hair contrasts quite loudly with his deeply browned skin. He knows the chances of him dealing with melanoma in some future date are much higher than most other folks.

While on Sabbatical, Rick has gladly accepted opportunities to do “mission” work for other folks. Sometimes I tagged along. Other times, he loaded up his tools and put in hours helping someone with a project. While his project list at home is shorter, it is not wiped cleaned. And we’re both OK with this. Rick is an extremely hard worker. Yet, he also appreciates time to enjoy things that he loves: a long walk, fishing in his kayak, both of us dipping our paddles into the water on the same adventure, wearing out the tires on his bike, hitting golf balls and keeping our lawn, garden and landscaping in tip-top shape.

Some nights, he grilled dinner. Other days, I made meals. We don’t keep a strict meal schedule and may find ourselves searching the refrigerator on our own when our tummies are grumbling. We enjoyed a couple short get-a ways with just the two of us and had planned days with grandchildren, which often involved some sort of water activity.

During these last four weeks, I know that I spent too much time in my office whereas Rick spent endless hours outside. Sometimes when I walked downstairs to replenish my water bottle, I’d discover him taking an afternoon siesta on the couch, recharging himself for his next round of activity.

Rick and I are night and day. Ying and yang. Mary and Martha. Planning in advance for Rick is a couple hours whereas I would have loved to make a list of everything we wanted to do while he was on Sabbatical. Hopefully, I was wise enough to realize this was not MY Sabbatical; it was Rick’s. And I must give him space to do what he wanted to do and not purely what I had in mind.

He never tires of reminding me how much he LOVES the summer and how every day is truly a gift from God. Rick has a light and giving heart and maximized these qualities the last four weeks.

One of Rick’s qualities that I admire the most is his ability to find joy EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. He has the art of seeing good in most every everything he encounters. He needs no recognition and simply quietly goes about his business with the ultimate goal to bring happiness and joy to someone else.

Of the qualities that I struggle, Rick seems to have in abundance. Clearly two opposites attracting, some of his Mary-ness has rubbed off on my Martha-ness that focuses too much on getting things done. He is a living parable that daily reminds me to focus on those things which truly mean the most to me … and forget about the rest.

With this little glimpse into what retirement might look like for us, I enjoyed watching Rick thrive in this Sabbatical. It’s certainly an encouragement for me to be less tied to what I THINK must happen versus paring down to what MUST be done each day.

For Rick’s time of Sabbatical, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – Thank you for this time when Rick can refresh. Thank you for the variety of ways he has served others through mission work. I pray that You bless his return to work. Amen.

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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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