An Epic Failure

Gratitude Day 246

Mon., Apr. 8, 2019

2 Corinthians 13:7 – We pray that you will stop doing evil things. We don’t pray like this to make ourselves look good, but to get you to do right, even if we are failures.

I feel like an epic failure.

Lent has not gone well for me. Well, at least one aspect of Lent. You know those things that you “say” you are going to give up or refrain from? I haven’t done very well.

For years, I have given up sweets and dramatically decreased my sugar intake during Lent. This was the plan again for this year.

Until I failed.

A couple weeks ago, it was a rather nice day here in Wisconsin. Hubby Rick and I had exercised. It was just warm enough and we had exerted just enough that we were hungry. We stopped at McDonald’s just so Rick could get one of his favorite things this time of year: a shamrock shake. I ordered something else that did not break my no sugar rule during Lent. But the shake? It was just too appealing. Soon, I took just a few sips of the shake.

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It wasn’t a big deal, was it? Just a couple swallows? No big deal, right?

Well, those couple swallows led to another time that I had a piece of candy. I still convinced myself that I had not fallen off the sugar-wagon, just yet. Then, last week, I made a cake for a small celebration. The cake turned out beautifully. It was tall, looked fancy and had all these beautiful cherries on top.

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How could I not sample this cake? And so, I did.

Another failure for the sugar-wagon. An epic failure.

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I worked multiple days at my part-time job last week. It’s one of those weeks when I have a lot to do in just a few days. One day, there were Nutter Butter cookies. The next day? Peanut Butter Oreos.

Just in case you don’t know, I consider peanut butter its own food group. Seriously. This is how much I love peanut butter. (FYI – I would not even consider trying to give up peanut butter for Lent …)

Yes, I had a couple cookies both days. I am the definition of an emotional eater. I didn’t want my co-workers to think that I had any stress about getting my required work done quickly, efficiently and accurately. So, I just grabbed a couple cookies instead. No apologies to my commitment to no sugar. They were way too easy to eat.

By Saturday, I realized that I had let myself become a failure when it came to not eating sweets and sugar during Lent. Actually, an epic failure. I didn’t just have a little shamrock shake and call it good. I kept going and indulged in sweets more than once. And then again.

Some of you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a little sugar?” Yes, you are true. Yes, it’s not the end of the world because I ate some sugar.

Here’s the deal. It has more to do with being a heart-issue than a head-issue. The reason most people deny themselves something during Lent is to recognize the sacrifice Jesus made for us. If Jesus gave up his life, shouldn’t I be able to give up sugar?

Yes … but not really. Looking back, clearly, my heart wasn’t in giving up sugar. I also wanted to cut back on some other things … and this hasn’t faired very well either.

What’s the root issue? A lack of discipline? Initially, this would seem to be the answer. But I think it goes deeper than this.

Giving up something in our head is not the same as giving up something in our heart. Clearly, while my head thought I might be able to do this, it didn’t consult with my heart. My heart? Not-so-much.

Yes, I know that Lent isn’t over and I can still jump back on the no-sugar-wagon again. I’m still may. What I really want to think and pray and explore is where my heart is this Lent. Why is Lent important? What does Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mean to me? What value do I place on this in my life? What should my response be?

If you are succeeding in your Lenten discipline, I commend you. I’d love to hear how your heart has felt about this! If you feel like you are struggling, you can jump on my wagon. Even if we failed at this exercise, thank goodness I believe in a loving God that forgives me when I don’t do right. I believe in a God of second chances. I believe in a God who knows my value is more than whether or not I ate sugar today. I believe in a God who looks beyond my epic failures.

For a God who looks beyond my epic failures, I am grateful.

Holy God – I’m sorry that my heart has not been in the game this Lent. While I feel that I’ve let you down, I know that You have already moved on. Lord – help me see where my heart is right now and how I can turn it back to You. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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When Left-Overs Are All You Have to Give

Gratitude Day 245

Sat., Apr. 6, 2019

Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

How about a little round-up of thoughts as this weekend begins?  As well as a shout-out to Hubby Rick’s favorite baseball team …

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Put your phone down.

It’s been a full week. Friday morning, Rick suggested Chinese take-out for dinner Friday night. So, I on my way home from work, I picked up dinner. I didn’t call ahead. I ordered after I arrived at the restaurant. After placing the order, I sat and waited. I realized that I had left my phone in the car. There were a few papers on a small table next to the chair where I was sitting. They were from Feb. 16, 2019. I perused through them but just didn’t find anything that captured my interest.

So, I just sat. In the chair. And did nothing. Absolutely nothing while I waited for our food. Well, I did people watch.

When was the last time you just sat and did nothing? Absolutely nothing?

Too often when we are in these kinds of situations, we pull out our phones and let our noses get buried in them. I’ve done it a thousand times. Maybe, just maybe, we need to discover life beyond our phones and electronic devices. Can we just sit? Is it any wonder our children and grandchildren have no clue how to sit and do nothing? In 30 seconds, they are bored and looking for external entertainment.

Yes, we can live without phones while waiting for Chinese take-out. I think we can live without them more often than we try. Can we set our phones aside for a period of time this weekend … and just be?

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It’s Peach Iced Tea season!

We finally had a couple days above 50 degrees here in Wisconsin. And I celebrated by making peach iced tea. It’s my favorite summer-time drink. I’m just starting the season a little early. Hubby Rick DOES NOT like iced tea. So, I keep a stash of individual packets on hand and mix them just for myself. For some reason, peach is my favorite flavor. Try it … you might like it! Yummm.

 

Living Your Top 5 Priorities Today

It’s been one of those weeks where Hubby Rick and I have barely seen each other, awake or when one of us is asleep. He works nights and doesn’t get home until somewhere between 4 am and 6 am. There are many times that he’s crawling into bed when I’m crawling out.

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On the blog this week, we explored identifying our Top 5 Priorities. One of my priorities is having a strong life-giving relationship with Rick. When I got home Friday night, I put the Chinese food in the TV room because … the Brewers were playing! Honestly, one-way Rick feels I express quality time with him is when I sit and watch part of a Brewer game with him. Or take interest when he’s sharing with me a recap of last night’s game which he listened to in the truck while working. So, we watched the game together until I fell asleep on the couch. (Yep, this is the reality at the Vielhuber household … on a Friday night …)

 

Is baseball my favorite thing in the world? Nope. But Hubby Rick loves to watch the Brewers. If he is one of my priorities, then I better discover how to speak baseball with him. I need to know the player’s names, who is on a hitting streak (Christian Yelich) and who has an injury right now (Josh Hader) and what Tommy John surgery is. Will this knowledge change my life? No. Will it enhance my relationship with my spouse? Yep. When we take an interest in what is important to people who are important to us, they notice. Period.

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This is exactly what Paul writes about when he says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

 

There are days and weeks when I have felt Rick has gotten “the leftovers;” whatever else was “left-over” after a full week. I’ve given more to other things than to our relationship. Left-overs are OK once in a while. But when this becomes the norm, there’s a problem.

While this is OK once in a while, when we person consistently feels like they are getting leftovers, they question your commitment to them. Leftovers are not prioritizing a top priority for the long-haul.

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This was one of those weeks. Thankfully, I have a very patient and humble husband who realizes there will be weeks like this. This is why watching the Brewers (for as long as I stayed awake!) must be a priority. (P.S. – They won!!)

Maybe, I’ll surprise Rick with some Brewers tickets sometime soon … for a real date night. And I promise not to fall asleep while at the park.

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For a spouse who is patient with me, I am grateful.

Lord God – Help us find long moments this weekend where we can be … without technology. May we discover how special the world is around us when we stop burying our noses into things that pull us away from You and the world around us. Help us invest in those relationships that are most important to us … and not just give them the leftovers. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Serving through the Piggly Wiggly

Gratitude Day 244

Fri., Apr. 5, 2019

1 Peter 4:10 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

In basketball, coaches talk about the 6th player in. He or she is the first person off the bench. While not a starter, she or he plays a very important role. They must be ready to enter the game at any time, ready to relieve whoever needs a break.

The Seattle Seahawks NFL football team boasts of their 12th man. Affectionately, the Seahawks call the crowd, their fans, their 12s. They consider them their “secret weapon.” This organization views their fans as such an integral part of their organization that they retired the #12 jersey.

Hubby Rick and I live in the small community of Poynette, WI. With only about 2,000 residents, Main Street is three blocks long. There’s not a stop light within miles.

There are many great things about small towns. More than once, I’ve been asked, “Oh, you are the ones that live next door to Kathleen?” This is correct. Other times, we’re asked, “Aren’t you the Hahn’s neighbors?” Yes, we are. We are often known because of who we live next to. In small towns, people know where to get a car fix, what plumber to call and what place has the best burgers in town.

Sometimes, it’s for these very reasons some people choose not to live in a small town. Some want to fly under the radar and do their own thing.

In small communities, there are often limited resources. Sometimes, people step in and make a difference to their community.

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This is Bob Saftig. He was my local grocer, that is, until last week, when he sold the business. For about 14 years, Bob has been one of Poynette’s 6th person in. He’s been one of the 12s in our community. He’s been a silent, yet important, presence that has made a significant impact in our little community.

Bob is more than just the guy who used to own the local Piggly Wiggly. He has been a huge supporter of the local Poynette Food Pantry and Blessings in a Backpack Program, which provides weekend food for kids who might not otherwise have enough food to eat. Both of these programs have made a huge difference in our community. There are lots and lots of people who are involved in these groups. While Bob’s role has been more behind-the-scenes, his contributions are just as important.

When Ruth Ann took over coordinating the local Food Pantry, Bob explained how to buy groceries based on sales. Many items are on sale on a regular rotation. When a product is on sale, stock up. Some sale items have a limited purchasing quantity. When soup is on sale for 3/$.99, a customer only gets the sale price for the first three cans they buy. If four cans of soup are purchased, the fourth can is at regular cost.

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This is where Bob understood how to be the 6th person in. If Blessings buys 120 cans of soup, there are 40 receipts for the soup. Three cans are rung up one at a time, so we get the sale price. Bob pays his workers to ring these up, which probably means he’s not making any money on this sale. But Bob wants to be one of the 12s for the Poynette community.

Through the Piggly Wiggly, needy families receive food baskets with a turkey at Thanksgiving and a ham food basket at Christmas. Bob and his staff work with our programs to keep food costs as low as possible. This means we can assist more people because Bob chooses to support his community.

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Thursday night, volunteers from our two groups gathered to say “thank you” to Bob. This was our little way of thanking Bob and the Piggly Wiggly for supporting our community. It surprised me to hear Bob share how he encouraged other grocery store owners to support their local groups like he does. However, they could not be convinced this made financial sense to them.

Bob attributes his parents for his attitude. Yet, Bob sets a great example for his employees. I’ve seen him moping the floor at the store, stocking shelves and doing whatever needed to be done. All to serve others.

Local businesses have lots of opportunities to be the 6th person in. We can choose to be a 12 in our local community. Thank you, Bob, for being these in our small community of Poynette. You’ve made a huge difference in many people’s lives.

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For Bob’s example of service, I am grateful.

Holy God – may we see a great opportunity to serve You and someone within our community today. I pray we see ourselves as one of the 12s in your kingdom, right where we are. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Smelling Spring

Gratitude Day 243

Thurs., Apr. 4, 2019

1 Corinthians 12:17 – If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

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There’s a different smell in the air. It’s the smell of spring.

Fresh.

New.

Dirt.

Maybe wet.

Ice cream.

Charcoal.

Baby lambs.

Fresh sheets off the line.

Coffee as the sun peaks out.

Last year’s leaves.

Meat on the grill.

Anticipation of things to come.

Breathe in deep. Spring is here. Drink every old and new smell this season.

For the smells of spring, I am grateful.

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We may see the signs of spring. And we feel the warmer weather. But do we celebrate the new smells of spring? Awaken our senses today. Help us drink long and deep of this season of promise. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Remembering What’s Most Important

Gratitude Day 242

Wed., Apr. 3, 2019

Philippians 3:13-14 – Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

So often, we know the right things to do. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded. Nudged. Encouraged to make it personal.

Recently, this happened to me. Here’s some of my story.

In the last 15 months, I have enjoyed more flexibility with my schedule. I’ve been able to focus on some things and put energy towards opportunities I previously did not have the time nor energy for. Yet, I still struggle with whether I’m doing enough. Am I making on the right choices? Easily distracted at times, I know my days can get derailed quickly if I let them.

I have put into place some habits and choices that have been very helpful. I have been extremely intentional about beginning the day with time with the Lord. I’ve developed a routine that works for me. I try to do the most important things I want to accomplish at the beginning of the day; not when I should be heading to bed. While this feels good, I still struggle with other things.

Recently, I rediscovered to help myself. I knew this tactic and just wasn’t following through with it. Anyone else discover it’s much easier to give advice or suggestions to someone else … and not always embody this “advice” in your personal life?

Guilty as charged.

I went back and performed a little exercise I’ve used many times in ministry. It’s quite easy … but also specific to you. Here’s what you do.

Sit down with a writing utensil and a piece of paper. If you like nice paper, pick out a favorite piece. If you are more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person, grab the nearest used envelope. Or anything in between.

Make a list of numbers as shown below. Leave space between the numbers:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Write down the five most important things in the world TO YOU. Be careful not to write down what someone else would like you to write down. Include the things that are deeply important and what you don’t want to live without. Be specific as possible. Do not spend too much time on this. Usually, whatever you think of first are usually the most valuable players (MVP’s) of your life.

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Look carefully over the list. Think about how much time you invest in each of these five items in the last day. The last week. The last month. The last year. Are these five MVP’s getting your best attention? Do you live your life, so these ARE your highest priorities? If I asked a good friend what the five most important things in your life are, would she/he be able to quickly rattle these things off? Or would they struggle? Or would they name completely different things?

Look at where you keep your track of your finances. How much of your assets do you invest into your MVP’s? I realize there maybe other things that rank high on your list, i.e. – housing. In general, are you committed to making sure your MVP’s get resourced appropriately?

The next step can be easy … or really hard. What changes do you need to make in your life to align your time, resources and priorities with your MVP’s? Maybe it’s just a few tweaks. Maybe It’s more of a minor overhaul. Either way, as you come up with some next steps, make them REALISTIC. DOABLE. MANAGEABLE. We can all have really exciting dreams. But they also should be achievable.

Here’s what I’m doing the month of April: committing to work on those areas where I want to align my priorities with the choices, I make every day. This may mean that something I’ve historically done will slide to the back burner for a while. Maybe it will stay there! We’ll see. I am going to dedicate the next 30 days towards trying to align what I choose as the most important things in my life with how I live my life. I’ve printed off little cards listing my top 5 priorities and strategically put them in places where I have to see them everyday.

Do you remember the definition of insanity? It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Interestingly, I’ve chosen to do this during April, which is historically a time when I have more commitments. Rather than wait another month, it’s a great time to work through choices when my time is more limited.

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Is it time to align things in your life with what you feel is really important? Please join me on this journey this April. I am excited to hear your story and what you discover about yourself this month!

For rediscovering something meaningful for me personally, I am grateful.

In our culture that offers so many choices and options, it’s easy to forget what is most important to You and to ourselves. May You help us identify those things what give us energy and purpose. Help us find ways to embrace these choices more in our every-day lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Brunch at the Lunch Counter

Gratitude Day 241

Sat., Mar. 30, 2019

Acts 2:46-47 – Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Why is it that food always tastes better at a lunch counter?

If you haven’t tried this lately, I suggest you do.

On Sunday, Hubby Rick and I attended worship with Marcus and Melissa, along with their sons, Rocky and Dakota. As we entered the church building, Dakota asked his Mom about eating lunch afterwards. She explained that it would be a little early for lunch and so, McDonald’s and Pizza Ranch were not options. But, we could have brunch. Three-year-old Dakota was a little confused by brunch. I explained to Rocky brunch meant eggs and pancakes. This got his attention!

It was nearing the end of worship when Rocky asked me, “How soon can we go for pancakes?” Oh, a boy after my own heart!

We chose a diner that none of us had been to before. As we parked the car, Rick and I commented on how small the joint looked and how many cars were in the parking lot. Mind you, we were arriving at prime brunch time. Inside the door, we realized there probably wasn’t a table big enough for all of us. Rocky looked at the counter and said, “Can’t we eat here?” And so, we did.

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We sat on black stools next to a turquoise counter. The tile underneath the counter was alternating black and white tiles, just like you would expect in an old-fashioned diner. The coffee maker was right in front of us and next to it were dirty dishes, placed quickly by the one waitress who was running the show. We could see into the kitchen and saw when our food was placed on the window ledge between the kitchen and the serving area.

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Rocky’s eyes were bigger than his stomach as he ordered pancakes, eggs and bacon. While he ate one pancake that “was as big as his head,” he had plenty to take home for supper later in the day.

For me, this is a great way to enjoy Sunday morning. Worship and time together having a meal with friends. It reminds me of the scripture from the end of Acts 2, shared above. This is a description of the early Christian church. It’s after Jesus has gone back to heaven. The disciples continue the ministry Jesus began. What did this group of followers of Jesus do? The worshipped together and they broke bread, i.e. – ate, together. This is how they, and we, get to know God, each other and develop community with each other.

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Rick and I often enjoy Sunday mornings this way. Two weeks ago, we ate brunch with a larger group of people. Yes, we were a little noisy. Rick wasn’t sure we should go back to this restaurant right away. He was afraid we’d be recognized as one of the “rowdy” bunch. As we were leaving the restaurant that day, the waitress shared with us how wonderful it is to see a group of people having such a good time together.

Christians don’t have to be stuffy all the time.

We enjoy these Sunday outings when they are able to happen. Maybe this past Sunday was just a little special as we witnessed a couple boys have their first experience at a lunch counter. Everyone agreed we should do it again soon!

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Thanks for worship and brunch, Marcus, Melissa, Rocky and Dakota. It was a great Sunday morning!

For worship and brunch with friends, I am grateful.

Holy God – thanks for the wonderful witness of the early Christians who worshipped and broke bread together. I pray we see these as vital ways of developing Christian community today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Who Is This Man?

Gratitude Day 241

Sat., Mar. 30, 2019

Matthew 16:13 – When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

The last few weeks, I’ve shared with you a few random thoughts on Saturday morning. These thoughts cover a wide range of ideas that have been floating around my brain. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

  1. I started taking a computer design class this week. A class that I should have taken years ago. I have a part-time marketing job where I design various promotional items for a small agricultural company. I happened upon this job rather accidentally … and now have been working there 5+ years. Unfortunately, my skills as a designer are out dated compared to what is used today. Through a local college, I signed up for a class and started attending it this week. My point? I wish that I would have done this YEARS ago. What is something that you have always wanted to learn a little more about? Photography? (I could use a course in this as well.) Baking bread? A basic accounting class? There are options out there for us to explore new things. The classes can be a one-and-done or a little longer. It could be a full semester or just a few weeks, like the class I am taking. Too often, we think we don’t have time or are comfortable with where we are. A little shove out the door can be helpful!
  2. I shared a few weeks ago about how I’m trying to not buy groceries during Lent. For the most part, I have followed through with this. Yes, we’ve bought milk and eggs. Soon, I will need to buy lettuce and fresh veggies, staples for us. This week, I needed two items from the grocery store. I kept putting off going to the store. Friday, I ran into Menard’s to get grout for the upstairs bathroom that we are putting in. To my amazement … I found both of the needed items! This being said, I have made a couple things that, well, were OK. Example – I was cooking chicken and suddenly, it turned into chicken chili. Thank goodness Hubby Rick will try anything!
  3. Sometimes, there are things beyond our control. Several months ago, I began offering a morning text devotional prayer. It’s very short; no more than 305 characters and is sent out a t 7 AM central time each day. A devoted follower of these devotional prayers sent me a personal text saying he missed the morning’s prayer. WHAT?? Come to find out, the server that sends out these texts had problems and the text didn’t go out as scheduled. Thanks to the person who let me know this happened. Unfortunately, everyone eventually received this prayer twice later in the day. If you are interested in receiving these short morning prayers/devotions, just text simplewordsoffaith (all one word) to 33222 and you will be enrolled. I hope those of you who receive these texts feel uplifted by them.
  4. Our taxes are done! This is a necessary job that I often put off. Personally, it takes me more time to get everything pulled together than actually complete the taxes online. There were significant changes in the tax laws this year. Hubby Rick and I have heard all kinds of responses to how people have been affected. This spurred me on to finally complete them. One thought I’ve been mulling about. With the standard deduction being much higher than previously, not as many people will be itemizing this year. Charitable organizations have often benefited from people making contributions for tax purposes. Will this change affect charitable contributions to organizations? Hopefully … not. In my heart-of-hearts, I want to believe that people donate to organizations because they believe in the mission and vision of the organization. But I would love to hear feedback from you on this.

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5. This book. I have been a John Ortberg fan for years. About 15 years ago, I heard him seek at a conference. Not only was he the best speaker of the conference, he was the best speaker I had heard in YEARS. A prolific writer, he is a pastor of a Presbyterian church in California. He wrote Who is This Man? in 2012 … but I’ve just gotten around to reading it. I’ll admit. I had a hard time getting into the first few chapters. But I have felt the last several chapters have been so interesting. Ortberg looks at Jesus, the Man and explores how he changed history. I have one more chapter to read and plan to finish it this weekend. Ortberg ends the look looking at the Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday. Reading these chapters has been a great exercise this Lent for me. Are you reading or doing something this Lent which is helping you grow in faith?

The days are feeling much more spring-like here in Wisconsin. In fact, the daffodils stems are popping up in the flower beds, which need to be cleaned out and room made for new growth! It’s a fun to see a new season with new possibilities. Have a great weekend! Enjoy worship and Sabbath this weekend.

For Jesus, the Man, who came and changed history, I am grateful.

Jesus – thanks for coming into this world that desperately needing redeeming. Thank you for completely reinterpreting so much of what was happening at the time and brought forth new opportunities through God’s kingdom. May we be inspired to discover who you, this man who came to earth, is all about. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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In Times of Trouble

Gratitude Day 240

Wed., Mar. 27, 2019

Job 35:9 – In times of trouble, everyone begs the mighty God to have mercy.

It takes guts to air our dirty laundry. To admit when troubles consume us. To acknowledge that life is less than grand.

However, I believe this is exactly the reason why Brenda Statz decided to air her dirty laundry. She doesn’t want other families to endure the trouble she’s been living through.

Brenda and her husband, Leon, dairy farmed for years. For a good chunk of those years, Hubby Rick was their milk man. This means Rick arrived at their farm in a truck with a huge tank on the back. He loaded the milk into the tanker and drove it to a plant where it could be processed into dairy products.

After Rick and I became engaged, Rick took a different job. His son, Darran, took over the milk route. Darran hauled milk from the Statz Family Farm the last number of years they milked cows.

The dairy industry has been struggling the last several years. Imagine working at your job for hours and hours every day of the week … and not even covering your costs. This is the reality so many farms are going through right now. This is the reason why Leon and Brenda stopped milking cows.

Without the cows, Leon’s depression exasperated. While he tried various treatment options, eventually, he successfully took his own life.

For more of the story, please watch this video:

Brenda Statz has bravely aired her troubles so that others might find help and resources for family members who are struggling as Leon struggled. She’s trying to take the lemons that are part of her life and somehow make lemonade.

For those who are struggling with troubles in your life, take a look at the Book of Job. Job was a highly successful man. He had a great family, was wealthy and no cares in the world. He was also a devoted follower of God. Satan is granted permission to test Job with the limit of not laying a finger on Job himself. God is confident that Job will endure this test; that Job won’t give up on his faith.

Job looses absolutely everything: his animals and thus his source of income, his children, his home. In the midst of all these troubles, Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Wow. Every time I read this story, Job’s unshakable faith humbles me. Even after four of Job’s “good” friends come and try to convince him to forsake God, Job stays true in his faith. Yes, he would like to know why this has happened. But his faith in God never wavers.

Eventually, God comes and dramatically speaks to Job. After a long discourse from God, Job humbly admits to God and his friends, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

When I’m feeling like there are troubles in my life, I’m not so sure that I would quietly say to God and my “good” friends, “Oops. My mistake. I should have never questioned, ‘Why.’ It’s my bad.”

But Job does.

Brenda Statz

Brenda and anyone else enduring troubles today: it may not be possible to know why these troubles have happened. But I pray that Job will inspire you to keep on keeping with God. It’s easy to turn away from God when we feel like God has let us down. Or impossible to imagine why God intervenes sometimes and seemingly not others. I can’t explain any of these situations. But I do know, as Job knew, God desperately wants to journey with you through your troubles. May you not be or feel alone today.

For a God who never turns away from us, I am grateful.

Holy God – too often, we blame you for our troubles, rather than seeing there really is evil in this world. Too often, we make you the author of everything awful that happens our way. While it is so easy to ask the question, “Why?” may we instead see the “Who?” that journeys with us through our troubles. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Not-So-Perfect Christian

Gratitude Day 239

Tues., Mar. 26, 2019

Psalm 119:96 – To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

not so perfect Christian

Dear Friends –

For the record, I am not a perfect Christian.

In the last 48-hours, I have been lazy, checked my personal e-mail while at work, withheld information from Hubby Rick and thought about things that really, I should have run right out of town. I have spoken negatively about someone else, told white lies, gossiped and portrayed myself more highly than I ought. I have withheld forgiveness, wanted to draw attention to myself unnecessarily and avoided helping someone that I had the opportunity to assist.

And these are just a few of the things I’m willing to share. The things I’m not sure I want everyone to know? Now that’s some good stuff.

I am not a perfect Christian … even though I’d like to think I am.

It’s not fun and it’s certainly not easy to admit our failures and shortcomings. It’s really more exciting to try and convince other people that we know it all, have seen it all and have an inside track to Jesus and God’s will for our lives.

I’m sorry to disappoint myself. But I am not a perfect Christian.

Regularly, I hear some person declaring that they have a clear vision of God’s view for this world. They are convinced they know how to interpret God’s commands for today. They feel their interpretation of scripture is more accurate than someone else’s. They profess, in God’s name, that they have an inside track of knowing and understanding how God desires to interact and be a part of our world and our faith today.

The funny thing about all these voices? All these declarations? Often, they are competing messages. Exact opposite messages. Contradictory messages. Rather than truly listening to each other, voices just get louder and louder, praying their voice will come out on top.

Friends – can we all just hit the “pause” button? Can we come to see that we are all not-so-perfect Christians? Can we stop talking down and over and around each other and simply love our neighbor, even if that neighbor is someone we really do not care for? Have a different view about life, faith and everything in-between?

The noise level is deafening. It’s become so loud and so frequent and so furious that the message is no longer the focus. It’s outsmarting someone else. Or making sure your voice is heard above all other voices. It’s deflecting the hurt and the pain by accusing and hurting someone else … rather than simply being able to say, “I am not a perfect Christian.”

It saddens my soul to see how Christians are treating each other. It discourages me … and a whole bunch of other people … from engaging with other Christians. It’s like the girl who showed up at prom in a hideously ugly outfit with her underwear showing though and no one had the courage to tell her what they could see. Instead, everyone just snickered at her and made fun of her.

Folks – I’m tired of us making fun of each other. It’s embarrassing to see us tear each other down and apart. In fact, it’s very unattractive. I hate to imagine all the energy that gets fed into all the wrong places. Energy that could do so many wonderful things if only directed towards truly loving God and loving our neighbor.

So, can we just pause our not-so-Christian lives and accept each other, warts and all? Can we decide loving each other is more important than being right? Can we slow down the rhetoric just long enough to see others and ourselves as we truly are: not-so-perfect Christians?

For God loving me as a not-so-perfect Christian, I am grateful.

Lord God – I imagine you laughing and shaking your head at how we, self-proclaimed Christians, have been treating each other. Can your Spirit please intervene and encourage us to pause all the unhealthy behavior towards each other? Help us to hear Jesus’ commands to focus our energy on loving God and loving our neighbors. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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“Be Faithful in Marriage”

Gratitude Day 238

Mon., Mar. 25, 2019

Matthew 5:27 – You know the commandment which says, “Be faithful in marriage.”

Bardens

Let me introduce you to our dear friends, Howard and Rhoda. On Sunday, they celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. They have truly lived the commandment, “Be faithful in marriage.” And in doing so, they have set a wonderful example for their family, friends, Hubby Rick and I, and a whole bunch of other people.

I have known Howard and Rhoda for about 30 of those 63 years. Months after I graduated from college, I moved to Baraboo, WI. Eventually, I began attending Emmanuel UMC, where I became acquainted with a whole bunch of wonderful people. One of those couples? Howard and Rhoda.

Sometimes, we meet people with whom having a relationship feels very easy. For me, Howard and Rhoda are one of those couples. Maybe it’s because Howard looks a little like my Dad. It’s not just his looks, but also his personality, which reminds me of my Dad and drew me towards Howard. Maybe it’s because Rhoda loves to play piano. Rhoda and I have played together on many occasions. After I became a pastor, she often filled in when the regular pianist was not available at one of the churches where I served.

Maybe it was because they modeled the type of relationship that I hope I would have if ever I was to marry. I am fortunate to have several couples in my life who understood what being faithful in marriage looked like. After I met the man who eventually became Hubby Rick, I slowly introduced him to some of the people who had become my friends. Howard and Rhoda were one of those couples.

Rick and I had been dating just a few months when his eldest son, Nate, was killed in a snowmobiling accident. I was the pastor for the church where Rick and Nate were members. Quickly, I found myself in a precarious position of not only watching my new boyfriend deal with loosing one of his children. I was also the pastor who would preside at the funeral.

It was January. I was in seminary and attending a short two-week class over winter break. Rhoda called and asked what they could do to help out. I felt I should attend class the day of the visitation. This would require driving two-plus hours to attend class for several hours and then driving back for the visitation. I had slept very little in the last 48-hours. If I could get to their house, Howard and Rhoda would drive me back and forth to school. It was the least they could do.

We left their house at 6 AM so I could get to class by 8:30 AM. As they were dropping me off, Rhoda asked if there was anything they could do while I was at class. I casually mentioned that Rick didn’t have a tie for the funeral. They found their way to the mall, bought a tie and had it sitting in the back seat of the car when they picked me up. Rick still has this tie. Every time he wears it, we recall how Howard and Rhoda bought it for him.

After we arrived back at Howard and Rhoda’s house, I changed clothes and prepared to attend Nate’s visitation. I was in my early 30’s, attending and soon presiding over the funeral for the eldest son of the man I had been dating just a couple months. I wasn’t sure that I was emotionally prepared to do this. I had never envisioned having to do these things. Rhoda simply told me to set aside whatever I was feeling for the next 24 hours and just do what I needed to do. Was it the best advice? It was the necessary advice I needed to hear so I could pull myself together and preside over the second funeral I would ever officiate.

Driving me back and forth the 120 miles each way that day was profound. Howard and Rhoda simply showed up on a day that was so very difficult. There were many things they could not do. But they could get me safely to and from school. They could give me a few hours where I could nap in the car if I wanted. Or talk if I wanted. Or just be with my thoughts. Maybe it didn’t feel like a big deal for them at the time. For me, it was a powerful witness of how they dropped whatever they could have been doing, loved me, and in turn loved Rick, through an awful day in our lives.

This is just how their marriage has been. Howard worked swing shift for years. Rhoda worked days. They raised two daughters and showed up in the lives of their grandchildren day after day. They’ve helped family members and traveled and served through their church. They have lived a wonderful life.

And then, about 15 years ago, Howard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Over time, his body has changed. He can no longer do the things he loved to do. The Friday golf outings ceased. No longer able to drive, his truck was sold. He went to morning coffee with his group of cronies for as long as possible.

Today, Howard and Rhoda’s life revolve around caring for Howard. A host of caregivers come into their home, morning and night, to care for Howard and assist Rhoda. This has kept Howard in their home, the highest priority. This little army love Rhoda and Howard in the simplest of ways. It’s very easy for them to love Howard and Rhoda, as they first model love to everyone they meet and know.

Yesterday, when asked how many years ago he married Rhoda, Howard knew it was 63. He spoke about what the day was like and recalled details that surprised Rhoda and me, all while sitting next to the love of his life, eating dinner. He smiled as he shared. This was the greatest gift he could have shared with the woman he has faithfully loved all these years.

When this couple said their marriage vows all those decades ago, I doubt they understood what “for better or worse” exactly meant. However, they have truly lived it. “In sickness and in health” aren’t just words for Howard and Rhoda. They live their commitment to each other, day in and day out. In doing so, they model beautifully an example for their family, their friends, their caregivers and yes, for Hubby Rick and I, of what being faithful in marriage looks like.

Rick and I know that celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary is not very realistic, as we started this marriage deal a little later in life. Sixty-three-years of marriage? Impossible. Yet, we feel very fortunate to have several wonderful examples of couples who took the command, “Be faithful in marriage” to heart and chose to live this command faithfully throughout their marriage. One such couple? Howard and Rhoda.

Thank you, Howard and Rhoda, for unconditionally modeling love towards each other, as well as towards Rick and me. We celebrate your marriage and commitment of being faithful in marriage. Hug each other today and think of us.

For the witness of being faithful in marriage, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for bringing such special people into my life. I thank you for powerful witness Howard and Rhoda exhibit of being faithful in marriage. Be with those couples who live daily with non-curable illness. May your grace be a part of today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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