Gratitude Day 94 – Today

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Fri., Aug. 3, 2018

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

We turned the calendar to August this week. Hubby Rick said to me, “July is my favorite month of the year. Why did it have to end?”

Yet, we have today.

Today is August.

Today is Friday.

Today is another day to breathe, serve God and love our neighbors.

Nearly every day, I spent time thinking about tomorrow and the next day.

But today, I just want to think about today.

Not next week. Nor next month.

Just today.

Too often, I rush through today and fail to see the gift of today. We fail to hold onto every minute, every hour, every day as something special granted to us. We let them slip through our hands and our lives. Suddenly, today is gone. And I missed it.

Why do we call today “the present?” Because every day is a gift. Every day is special. Every day should have its own identity and purpose.

Today, like most days, I have way more to do on my “to-do” list than I will every accomplish. In the hurry of crossing something off my list, I fail to stop and celebrate today. Another 86400 seconds which will only happen once; which will only happen today.

Today, I can run around like a crazy woman.

Or I can be.

Today, I can overextend myself.

Or I can stop the craziness and let my heart guide the way.

Too often, I feel like I do not accomplish enough for today. Most often, I set the bar too high. It’s not someone else who sets the standard. I do it for myself. In the busyness of the unrealistic bar, I miss out. I miss today.

Just for today, I pray that I can enjoy and celebrate the day.

I am grateful for today.

Lord God – as so many things change in our daily lives, thank you for Christ’s consistency in our lives yesterday, today and tomorrow. May we celebrate just today and your spot in this gift from you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 93 – Rules

rules-list-500pxThurs., Aug. 2, 2018

Luke 10:27 – “It says,” he replied, “that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”

“I really don’t like rules. And I don’t like to follow them.”

Recently, our 6-year-old grandson Dylan and I were walking. His elder brother and sister were running ahead of us. Dylan turned to me and shared his wise words of wisdom for the day.

Whew. There was a whole lot of something in those two sentences.

Maybe someone has shared he must follow certain rules. He isn’t really interested in this. Enough to share this with me.

He already knows at his ripe age of 6 that rules may not be his friend.

Some people love rules. Others feel rules are torture.

In the Old Testament, we find hundreds of rules for the Chosen People to follow. Literally hundreds. Some are very specific: don’t eat pork. Others seem to protect someone or something. It is hard for us to look back at all these “rules” and see how following them is important today. Seriously. Does God really care if we have mixed fabric fibers in our clothing?

There is so much discussion about whether Christians must follow all these seemingly outdated rules or not. Honestly, don’t most of us pick and choose which of the Old Testament rules we follow?

What about the interpretation that Jesus gave? Forget all those other rules. Remember the big two: love God and love your neighbor. Honor these two and the rest will take care of the itself.

 

Dylan is right. Remembering a whole bunch of rules is hard. Confusing. Difficult. We end up trying to find ways to get the commandments to say what we want them say. What we are comfortable with.

Grace for us. Close rule-following for everyone else.

Dylan, sometimes I struggle with rules as well. There are times I want to shove them out the window. Other times, rules have been my friend and helped diffuse a situation.

I pray we can agree that Jesus’ set of rules are important. Let’s go live them today.

Lord God – sometimes, we think rules are only there for separation. I pray that we see rules as an opportunity to display our love for God and neighbor. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 92 – Cucumbers

20180731_192544Wed., Aug. 1, 2018

Numbers 11:4-5 – Then the Egyptians who had come with them began to long for the good things of Egypt. This added to the discontent of the people of Israel and they wept, “Oh, for a few bites of meat! Oh, that we had some of the delicious fish we enjoyed so much in Egypt, and the wonderful cucumbers and melons, leeks, onions, and garlic!

One of Hubby Rick’s and my favorite aspects of summer: fresh veggies out of the garden. Our garden isn’t huge. Neighbors have often commented that we grow the most produce per inch they have ever seen. This is probably true!

In the last two weeks, we have had lots of fresh veggies. Earlier, we had radishes and lettuce. Now, we are reaping broccoli, beans, peppers and cucumbers.

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Ah, the cucumbers. I will can some pickles just as soon as I find some fresh dill (We neglected to plant dill.) For now, we are eating them fresh. And, I made some great refrigerator pickles.

These pickles are kept in the refrigerator. With a different flavor than canned pickles, I like them because they are crisp and crunchy.

My Mom used to make refrigerator pickles. I’ve put together a hybrid recipe that I like. They are really very easy. And boy, do they taste good!

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Gather some cucumbers, onions and peppers. I use whatever peppers I have in the garden at the time. Cut everything into bite-sized pieces. I quarter the onions and slice them. Basically, the same with the pepper. For the cucumbers, I like then thin. I don’t have a mandolin, but I cut them as thin as I can. My basic ratio is about 9-10 c. cucumbers, 2-3 peppers and 1-2 onions per batch.

Put everything into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 TBSP pickling salt. Cover with a generous layer of ice. If you have an ice maker in the your frigerator with the crushed ice option, use this. Let the bowl sit for two hours.

Some recipes skip this step. I think it is important. This is how the cucumbers become nice and crunchy, which is what I like.

Make the brine. Combine 1 ½ c. vinegar, 2 c. sugar and 1 TBSP celery seed. Bring to boil and remove from heat when sugar is dissolved. Let brine cool.

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After two hours, drain the cucumber bowl contents. Remove the remaining large pieces of ice. In a container with a lid, combine everything. Let set in the fridge for one day. Pickles are ready to eat!

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Here are couple of my extra secrets:

  1. When you have more cucumbers, just cut them up with additional peppers and onions. Let them set for 2 hours in the ice mixer. Drain and add to the brine mixture you already have in the fridge!
  2. These pickles will last for several months refrigerated.

I love them on salads, in sandwiches, as a side dish or just plain!

In the scripture passage from Numbers, the people are complaining because they miss the fresh food from their native land. I find summer much more enjoyable when we can walk out to the garden, see what is ready to harvest and make a meal based on what is found. It makes for so much enjoyment to take veggies right from the garden and make them into something we’ll enjoy.

For cucumbers and other fresh veggies out of the garden, I am grateful.

Almighty God – what a complete joy it is to eat fresh produce right out of the garden. Thank you for this abundance in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 91 – Sabbath

Sabbath

Sun., July 29, 2018

Matthew 12:1 – About that time, Jesus was walking one day through some grain fields with his disciples. It was on the Sabbath, the Jewish day of worship, and his disciples were hungry; so they began breaking off heads of wheat and eating the grain. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Your disciples are breaking the law. They are harvesting on the Sabbath.”

Today is Sunday. A day of Sabbath.

Or a day that should be a day of Sabbath.

Sabbath is not easy for me. For years, I worked on Sunday. It was a big day. I got up early, lead worship, tried to listen and be with people and appreciate being in a faith community. Often, I would take a nap in the afternoon. It has not been uncommon for other church-related activities in the afternoon and/or evening. It is just how Sundays rolled.

I am not currently serving a church as a pastor. Finding a new Sunday rhythm has been a change; for Hubby Rick and myself. Honestly, we’re still trying to find it.

Traditionally, Sabbath is a break from everyday life and spending more time with God. (This isn’t a Webster’s definition. It’s my understanding.) With overfull lives for most families today, Sabbath often becomes just one more thing we cross off of our to-do list.

Attend worship. Check.

Try to slow down. Semi-check.

Enjoy time with family. Depends on the Sunday.

Listen for God. Is this even possible?

I have heard all the reasons why Sabbath doesn’t make sense for the 21st century:

It’s the only day I get to sleep in.

It’s family day.

I just need a break.

For some, it’s another day of full-on taxi mode.

Maybe what is most important about Sabbath happens within our hearts, not just our calendars. Sometimes, our souls need a break. Silence. The right kind of uplifting music. Less doing and more being.

Here’s to today, a day of Sabbath. Create an opportunity for you to just be with the Lord. Take a nap. Linger. Hold the hand of someone precious to you. Smile. Breathe deep.

For Sabbath, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for the example of rest. I pray we create an opportunity to rest in your arms today. Refresh us and renew us this day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 90 – Dealing with Stress

Fri., July 27, 2018

Job 30:16 – My heart is broken. Depression haunts my days.

Today, I am including a video link to this blog. Please take the time and watch the video.

Why is this video important? I grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. In the mid-1980’s, American agriculture when through a significant shift. Many farmers had expanded in the 1970’s. In the 1980’s interest rates soared. My parents were like so many other producers at the time. They had expanded and taken on additional debt. When interest rates increased, it became difficult to cover just the interest rate costs of this debt, let alone the principle. My parents struggled for years. Throw in some additional health issues that my Dad had, and the stress was overwhelming.

When I was in college, my parents made the difficult decision to liquidate their assets. I went home to the farm the weekend this decision was made. In the back-entry way of the house, my parents and I made the final decision about what they should do. A sale date was selected, only about a month out. While these were the best decisions my parents could make at the time, it was very difficult, upsetting and stressful.

I returned to college on Sunday night. As I shared with some of my roommates the hard decisions made over the weekend, one of my roommates turned to me. Her farming parents were also experiencing some of the same stress. She said, “While your parents are selling the cows and machinery, my parents are getting a divorce. Be thankful for what you have.”

She was so right. We never have to look very far to witness someone else or another family dealing with a more stressful situation.

Fast forward to today. American agriculture is in a very difficult situation. Some would say a crisis. The price farmers are receiving for their products are record lows when adjusted for inflation and cost of living. Through a part-time marketing job, I have remained involved in the dairy industry. Hubby Rick and I own a small farm which his son runs. Times are tough for farmers right now. Very tough. When I talk with people actively involved in producing food for America, they question the soundness of keeping their children and grandchildren involved in production agriculture.

The video gets to a very personal level of how stress can have a life-changing effect on families. It speaks of how suicide and stress are overwhelming. Yes, these stories relate to people involved in agriculture. However, in our little area, we have seen an increase of suicide recently. As I listen to people try and process why someone go the route of suicide, I believe their words are not just for people who have been involved in farming. Their words are for anyone who has stress in their lives.

Please share this video with anyone who you feel is struggling with depression, stress, loneliness, feeling isolated, or other challenging feelings. Maybe just knowing someone else has struggled with these same feelings will be helpful.

For people willing to share their stories of stress, suicide and depression, I am grateful.

Lord God – when the stress is overwhelming and someone feels so alone, I pray that you will bring a person into their lives. Someone to just listen and hold their hand. Someone to convey your message of love and grace. Help us see those around us who might be struggling right now. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 89 – Cleaning

cleaning supplies

Thurs., July 26, 2018

1 John 2:2 – He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s.

I decided the house needed a good cleaning.

Here’s my routine. The house is picked-up and looks nice most of the time. I’m a stickler about this. But I don’t really “clean” that often. We have hardwood floors. I run the broom and pick -up things big enough to attach to your feet. Yuck. When I see spots, I use a spay cleaner called Bano to clean the floors.

I keep up with the dishes and wipe down the countertops. Noticeable things are taken care of right away. But as far as regular, consistent cleaning, not so much. I wait and do a big cleaning every few months.

Every time I do this, I vow not to wait so long between cleaning. We have a unique chair in the TV room called a snuggler. It’s bigger than a recliner but smaller than a love seat. We sit in this chair all. The. Time. When I move it away from the wall, I discover Hubby Rick’s latest snack of choice. Chips, nuts, pretzels: they are all there.

As I cleaned this week, I thought about how nice the house looks once it is shaped up. I appreciate the clean smell and the sparking floors. When I walk through a completely clean downstairs, my heart sings. It makes me a happy person.

Then I wondered, “Is this how God feels when I finally admit some sin in my life?” It is easy for me to try and hide the things I’m not sure I really want others to be aware of. Rather than dealing with sin, I often put it off and let it pile-up. Then, it feels like a bigger job when I finally turn to God and deal with it.

Some sins are easy for me to acknowledge and let go. Others, like being easily distracted, lazy, thinking I’m usually right, how I deserve more than someone else: these aren’t as easy to let go. It’s easy to think that my sins aren’t as significant as someone else’s, just as it’s easy to think someone else’s house needs more cleaning than my house does. In the end, dirt is dirt. Sin is sin. We choose whether to deal with it in a timelier fashion or to let it hibernate far too long.

Thank goodness we have a God who looks past the grime and gunk more quickly than we do. When we finally do ask for forgiveness, God has already let it go before we aske. Yet, I envision God looking back after we have asked for forgiveness with a smirky smile on God’s face, please we are ready to deal with the junk in our lives.

If you have some cleaning up business that you need to address with God, I pray you’ll find time to do so … soon. Then, look at the clean slate of your life and appreciate how Christ has already taken care of your sin.

For forgiveness, I am grateful.

It is so difficult to understand why Christ was willing to die for our sins. But thank you for this huge gift of grace. Encourage me to tackle the cleaning out of sin on a regular basis in my life. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 88 – Information Please

Tues., July 24, 2018

Ezekiel 44:23 – He shall teach my people the difference between what is holy and what is secular, what is right and what is wrong.

old phoneThis week, I presided at the funeral for our friend Ken. During the service, I shared the following story. FYI – he sang in the church choir.  hTe main point of the story seemed to be fitting as well. I don’t know the name of the author, other than Paul.

When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember the well-polished old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone but used to listen with fascination when my mother used to talk on it.

Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person. Her name was “Information Please.” There was nothing she did not know. “Information Please” could supply anybody’s number and the correct time.

My first personal experience with this genie-in-a-box came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because no one was home to give my sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.

The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver and held it to my ear. “Information Please” I said into the mouthpiece just above my head. A click or two and a small, clear voice spoke into my ear. “Information.”

“I hurt my finger …” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily now that I had an audience. “Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.

“Nobody’s home but me,” I blubbered.

“Are you bleeding?”

“No. I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”

“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. I said I could. “Chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger.”

After that, I called “Information Please” for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk that I caught in the park would eat fruits and nuts. There was the time Petey, our pet canary died. I called “Information Please” and told her the sad story. She listened and said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. I was uncounseled. I asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?” She sensed my deep concern and said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow, I felt better.

Another day, I asked “Information Please” how to spell fix. She told me.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was 9, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. “Information Please” belonged int hat old wooden box back home. Somehow, I never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall. As I grew into my teens, memories of those childhood conversations never left me. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity, I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated how patient, understanding and kind she was to have spent time on a little boy.

A few years later my way to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about 30 minutes between planes. I spent 15 minutes on the phone with my sister who lived there now. Without thinking, I then dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please.” Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well. “Information.” I hadn’t planned this, but I said, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”

There was a long pause. Then, a soft answer came, “I guess your finger must have healed by now.”

I laughed and said, “It’s really still you! I wonder if you have any idea how you must have meant to me during that time.” She said, “I wonder if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children. I used to look forward to our calls.” I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and asked if I could call again when I visited my sister.

She said, “Please do. Just ask for Sally.”

Three months later, I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered “Information.” I asked for Sally. “Are you a friend,” the woman asked. I told her that I was a very old friend.

She said, “I’m sorry I have to tell you this. Sally had been working part-time the last number of years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”

Before I hung up, she said, “Wait a minute. Are you Paul?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you. The note says, ‘Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.’”

I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant. Never underestimate the impression you may make on others. On that note, I would like to ask you to remember how much difference one person can make in someone’s life.

Sometimes, we forget that living in this world is not about having our name in the headlines, earning a whole bunch of money or being recognize for some good deed we do. Living in this world is making an impression on one other person. When we do this, then we discover another world to sing in.

For this reminder, I am grateful. 

Lord God – you challenge us to define our lives by something different from how the world often wants to define us. I pray we will find one person to make a difference in their life today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 87 – Sandals

Mon., July 23, 2018

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John 1:27- He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

It’s hard to let go of an old friend. Right?

These sandals feel like an old friend to me. I’ve had them for 2.5 years. For me, this is basically light years when it comes to shoes. I’m very hard on shoes. When a pair lasts over two years, it is a major accomplishment.

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But I know their days a limited. Look closely at the left sandal. You’ll see a tear on the front strap. They are holding on by just a little bit. But they are still holding on.

I’ve stopped wearing them out in public. I only where them when I am at home. I’m afraid that if I wear them in public, they WILL tear, and I won’t have a pair of sandals to wear.  

So, I wear them only where another pair are easily within reach. I haven’t given up on these sandals yet. My feet know just where they sink in. They are comfortable. Worn-in. Probably too worn-in. The support is not as good as it once was. But I’m not ready to give up on them yet.

I seldom order shoes on-line. My feet are too hard to fit. I made a risky move and ordered these sandals right before a vacation without trying them on. As soon as I slipped my short toes and wide feet into them, they knew they were at home.

And still are today.

Jesus wore sandals. I wonder how quickly he wore out a pair. He only had one pair. He wore them All. The. Time. In fact, he instructed his friends not to take an extra pair of sandals with them when traveling. They would be taken care of.

Obviously, I missed this memo. I can barely leave the house with only one pair of shoes.

A few months back, I ordered another pair of these same exact sandals. I have been breaking them in. Waiting for this pair to no longer be wearable.

They are just sandals. They aren’t fancy. They are just comfortable and practical.

But they remind me of Jesus’ sandals. His dirty feet. The miles he walked and walked. The people he met along the way. The lives he touched. The souls he changed. The people unworthy to unlace his sandals.

Yet, he “washed” others feet in so many ways. He gave of himself for you and me. He loved us before we were born. Loves us now when we maybe unlovable.

20180720_161831For some reason, it’s his sandals that get to me. Remind me of who he was, what he did, the difference he has made in the world. It’s these sandals that I connect with right now.

For Jesus’ sandals, I am grateful.

Jesus – may the image of a pair of sandals resonate with us today. Provide us with an opportunity to connect with you. Thank you for wearing sandals and changing lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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