Patience, Please!!

honking

Wed., May 17, 2017

Romans 5:4 – And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.

In the last several days, I’ve been on the receiving end of the several car/truck horn honks. It’s been a little surprising, even mystifying, to me.

Last weekend, hubs Rick and I were in southern Illinois visiting friends. We stayed in a cute little community. After checking into our hotel late Friday afternoon, we drove downtown to see the shops and find a place for dinner. Yes, it was our first time in this community. Yes, I was driving 22 in a 25. Yes, I was gawking out the window while driving. It didn’t take long for the vehicles behind us to become impatient. It was Friday night. It was after work. Would a few more seconds getting to your destination make much difference? Apparently so.

This was not a one-time response. It. Happened. Several. Times. On the third time, the honk was accompanied with another special sign. We thought people would see out-of-state license plates and be excited tourists were looking for a cute dinner spot. To solve the problem, we quickly parked the car and walked up and down the Main Street.

Fast forward a couple days. From Illinois, I went to western Michigan for a continuing education conference. Amazingly, the horn-honking followed me several hundred miles! I’m waiting for traffic to clear before making a left-hand turn. Now, I received a harmony of at least two cars behind me honking! Seriously? Aren’t I to wait for passing traffic? Maybe I missed something as it seemed I created angst in the 20-seconds I waited for the coast to be clear.

By now, I am reflecting. I’m in another cute little community that depends on tourists for their local economy. Have other tourists experienced this same melodious harmony? What would a little more patience look like? Would waiting less than 30 seconds hijack a person’s evening?

 

Or just maybe, we have lost the ability to wait. Have patience. Be still. In our ever moving, on-the-go society, we have completely forgotten how to be. Wait. Be courteous. Have patience.

 

Unfortunately, there have been times I have been on the giving end of horn honks. These figurate horn honks happen nearly daily. Waiting in the car for Rick. On the phone, waiting for a customer service rep to get back to me. At the store, trying to keep patience as a person counts out one bill or coin at a time.

 

Waiting can be excruciatingly slow at times. But how many times has the Lord waited for me? These times are much longer than a few seconds. More accurately, God’s patience represents days, weeks or even years of me removing boulders in my life that kept me from fully trusting God. Why do we expect others to be patient with us but miss the opportunity to bless someone with our patience?

 

When I losing patience, I project an unpleasant spirit that is unpleasing in God’s sight. Yet, I do it anyway. These character development opportunities can help my faith grow steady and strong. I choose which spirit to embody.

 

After the events of 9.11, a story circulated about people who were not yet in one of the Twin Towers because of some delay. Where those people initially patient that morning? I do not know. I assume, however, that their view of patience was radically changed.

Somehow, we all need less hurry and more patience in our lives. May I remember this the next time I want to honk my car horn.

Lord God – some of us radically lack patience. Without patience, we also lack the ability to develop character rooted in you. Grant us patience and the patience we need when it doesn’t come quickly! Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Happy Birthday, Nate

Sat., May. 13, 20

Nate & Tony17

Hebrews 11:1 – Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. 

Today, would have been Nate Vielhuber’s 39th birthday. Nate was my husband Rick’s eldest son. When just 21, Nate was killed in a snowmobiling accident. Our lives were forever changed.

Rick and I were dating when Nate was killed. It was very early in our relationship. I was also the pastor for the church were Rick and his family were members. This means I presided over Nate’s funeral; the second funeral I ever conducted. I barely knew how to officiate a funeral. I certainly didn’t know how to officiate my boyfriend’s eldest son’s funeral. I will never officiate at a more difficult funeral.

Losing a child is heart wrenching. The littlest details are deeply etched in my memory. The sound of Rick’s voice on the middle of the night phone call. The shock displayed on Rick’s parent’s faces as we told them. The outside temperature the night of the chilly January visitation. The specific tie Rick wore to the funeral. The pain deep in my gut while driving back to seminary the day after the funeral as I crossed the bridge between Wisconsin and Iowa entering Dubuque. My inability to tuck the emotion away that same day.

Yet, my pain was a shallow puddle compared to the overwhelming and long-standing pain Rick experienced. I attended seminary several days a week the first months after Nate’s death. On my way home, I often stopped to see Rick. It was impossible to predict his state of mind before arriving. Would it be a good day? An awful day? Somewhere in-between?

Because we had not been dating very long, my personal relationship with Nate was not well developed. I am very much aware that for some, this should mean my grief isn’t significant. Honestly, my grief is often tied up in the grief I have witnessed Rick experience. Yet, I grieve the lost opportunities, the unfulfilled dreams, the sadness of how this loss dramatically affected every Vielhuber family member.

When I meet someone new, a question I am often asked is how many children we have. I’m still unsure how to answer this question. First, I explain Rick has children and I do not. Do I say Rick has two or three children? If I say two, I’m not including Nate. If I say three, further explanation is needed. Rick struggles with the appropriate answer just as much as I do.

Several months ago, Rick showed me a picture he ran across while going through things at the house that was his Mom and Dad’s. It is the photo with this post. Nate was probably 13 or 14. He was with Rick’s Dad fishing in Canada. This picture rides in my car now.  One day, our youngest three grandkids were in the car. They saw the photo. Grandson Waylan asked Rick if the people in the picture were his Dad and Rick. Grandpa gently shared that no, this was his Uncle Nate and his Grandpa-Great.

When gathered for family get-togethers, it’s rare Nate’s name is not mentioned. Our grandchildren know they have another uncle. I enjoy Rick repeating the same stories of times he had with Nate: failing to make pie crust for home economics class; shooting potatoes; taking confirmation class together and a whole host of others. After the death of a child, it is easy for parents to loose perspective on God, faith and life. I am amazed how Rick has allowed this significant loss in his life to deepen his view of God. Rather than being bitter about the shortness of Nate’s life, he praises God for the exciting 21 years he had with Nate.

Nathanial means “gift from God.” There is no question, Nate was a gift from the beginning. Today, I say thank you, God, for the gift of Nate, the day of Nate’s birthday.

Our hearts are sometimes sad when we remember a loved one no longer with us, Lord God. Other times, our hearts swell with laughter and tears. Be with any this day who are missing a loved one. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

A Little Inspiration for Today …

Thurs., Apr. 27, 2017

change

Almighty God – give us guidance to see the things you’d love for us to see this day. And wisdom in knowing where you are changing us.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

 

If We All Donated 5 Dairy Products …

sliced cheeseTues., Apr. 25, 2017

2 Chronicles 15:4 – But when they were in trouble, they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel. They looked for him and found him.

Early in April, about 75 Wisconsin dairy farms received a letter from their milk processor. As of May 1, the milk processor will no longer purchase milk from their dairy operation. They have to find another place to sell their milk within 30 days.

Let me help us understanding the challenge these dairy producers face. Most dairy operations have milk picked-up from their farm and delivered to the milk processor every day. On-farm storage is extremely limited. Milk must be moved within 24- or 48-hours. Because milk is perishable, milk not processed within a few days cannot be marketed. Most Wisconsin dairy processors are currently running at or over 100% capacity. There is no demand for additional milk in Wisconsin and neighboring states right now. Finding another processor for the milk is literally more daunting than trying to find a needle in a haystack.

The cows, well, they can’t just go on “vacation.” They aren’t a factory that can be stopped and started at will. For most dairy operations, the majority of a farm’s income is derived from the sale of milk. Over the past year, the farm gate milk price paid has been low. Missing even one milk check is devastating. Do you see the very difficult pickle these dairy operations are in, with very limited options and alternatives?

The ag media has reported that about half of the dairy farms who received the letter have found another processor. This is good news! But what about the other folks who do not know where their milk will go next Monday, other than down the drain?

I grew-up on a Wisconsin dairy farm and was very actively involved in the day-to-day operation. I have spent more time professionally and personally involved in the dairy industry than I have as a pastor. I’ve milked cows more times than I’ve given sermons. My husband says, given the choice, I would be milking a herd of dairy cows today rather than trying to shepherd a flock of sometimes unwieldy sheep. I continue to have a part-time job in the dairy industry and spend at least one day a week helping dairy operations around the world.

This situation is very close to my heart. I know the difficulty of saying “good-bye” to a herd of cows you’ve grown to love, respect and treat like family. I’ve experienced the daily anxiety of trying to keep a dairy operation going while caring for a family. I’ve fielded phone calls and spoken with dairy producers who could not afford Christmas presents for their children and did not know where to turn for help.

The series of events that led up to this predicament are long and varied. The problem didn’t happen overnight. Long-term solutions are even more daunting. Industry folks have worked tirelessly the last few weeks exploring possible short-term and long-term remedies.

Yet, I keep wondering what I can do. I don’t own a dairy processing facility. If I can’t affect the processing end of the equation, what can I do to help increase dairy product consumption?

Recently, a suggestion surfaced of one way we can help. We can find ways to increase consumer dairy product consumption by 5 dairy products. Drink 5 gallons of milk. Eat 5 gallons of ice cream. Incorporate 5 lbs. of cheese into cooking. Use 5 lbs. of butter for baking.

This, I can do. It’s not realistic for Rick and I to consumer 5 more lbs. or gallons of dairy products in the next week. We’re just two people. But I can encourage others. So, I went to the grocery store and purchased more than 10 lbs. of sliced cheese and donated it to the local food pantry. During food distribution on Tues. and Thurs. this week, I’m optimistic 10+ families will choose sliced cheese for sandwiches or to make grilled cheeses for supper. Maybe this cheese will allow kids to have cheese and crackers as an after-school snack. Or a quick snack for on-the-go families. I pray some families will think the unusual availability of cheese is something that will benefit their families.

Wisconsin is not the only state dealing with this dilemma. Increasing consumption of dairy products and alleviating some of the current surplus of U.S. dairy products WILL help the entire American dairy industry.

Why am I encouraging us to increase dairy product consumption this week? Because it’s a way to assist families whose livelihood is being challenged. Think of this as another way of serving our neighbor in need. This neighbor just needs a place to market their milk.

For the dairy families currently affected and those who may in the near future face the challenge of no market for their milk: I pray you can turn to the Lord and find the Lord. Unfortunately, the Lord does not remove all the challenges in our lives. What the Lord does is journey with us as we navigate life’s pot holes and road blocks. The Lord wants to take this journey with you. For this, I thank the Lord. Please invite the Lord to join you in your journey.

Lord God – today, we lift up those operations and families who are dedicated to helping feed the people of this country and those around the world. As we struggle with a food distribution challenge, be with those who are deeply affected with the current situation. Bring forth wisdom with ideas and options. In these days of trouble, hold those affected in the cup of your hand and bring them your comfort and peace. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

 

Washing Someone Else’s Feet

wash-feet-art

Thurs., Apr. 13, 2017

John 13:15 – Jesus said, “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Last week, one of the Wednesday Night Church School (WNCS) kids from one of the church’s I serve lost a tooth. Sophie is in 1st grade. A sweet, sweet little girl, Sophie is as cute as a button. Even more cute missing some of her teeth. But the little random act of kindness she did upon losing her tooth should be an example to us all.

You see, Sophie received $5 from the Tooth Fairy. (Wow … the Tooth Fairy has deemed the price for teeth has dramatically increased in, well, a lot of years!) Last Sunday, on Palm Sunday, Sophie quietly brought her $5 to church and put it in the jar labeled for Mrs. Morgan. Mrs. Morgan is an aid at school. She has been going through cancer treatment this winter. As part of our WNCS, we designate a mission project each semester.  Our current mission project is Mrs. Morgan. Sweet little Sophie decided Mrs. Morgan needed the $5 from the Tooth Fairy much more than she did.

Jesus said, “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

This week, a card came to the church addressed to me. I noticed the hand writing. A card had also arrived in March. With $25. Written inside the April card, along with another $25, was this: “Wishing you and your congregation all the blessings of this special season – Please add this to your mission fund – to help with the children’s costs or where ever it is needed. Thank you.” No name. For the second month in a row. Last month, we put the $25 towards the Easter Egg Hunt held last weekend at the church. This month, maybe it will go towards the WNCS end-of-the-year pizza party where kids find out who their Secret Pal is. Their Secret Pal has been quietly sending them cards all year. It’s a fun way to end the kid’s Christian education program.

Jesus said, “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Tonight, we celebrate Maundy Thursday. It remembers the last night Jesus spent with his disciples. They celebrated the Passover meal together. During the highly symbolic meal, Jesus reinterpreted the meal. We call this reinterpretation Holy Communion.

Before they celebrated the meal together, Jesus first washed the disciple’s feet. This job is usually relegated to the lowliest servant present. Why? Because who really wants to wash a bunch of smelly, stinky feet? No one. Unless they have to. Except this night, Jesus willing washed the disciple’s feet. Why? Listen to his words.

Jesus said, “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

It probably didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. But it was. It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal a little girl gave the $5 she received from the Tooth Fairy to a mission project. But it is. It probably doesn’t seem like much that some nice person decides to send $25 to the church every month. But to me … it IS a big deal. Why? Because, whether Sophie or this person know it or not, they are doing it. They are following Jesus’ example.

What little (or big) thing can you do in the next 72 hours to follow Jesus’ example and do something extra in honor of what has been done for you?

Holy God – there is no way we can ever really thank you for what Jesus did on our behalf. It is simply impossible. I pray we can find simple and yet meaningful ways to do to others as has been done for us.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Aging Not-So-Gracefully

Aging-Gracefully

Wed., Mar. 29, 2017

Proverbs 16:31 – Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is found on the path of righteousness.

Getting older isn’t for wussies.

A short five years ago, Rick and I often commented how fortunate we were to have all four of our parents alive. We expected things could change any minute. And they did. During one November week, both of my parents were in the hospital (at different times) and my mother-in-law was also hospitalized. A few weeks later, I watched my Dad quietly slipped away one January morning. Ten months later, Rick’s Mom passed away with much of her family present. A year-and-a-half later, Rick took off of work to stay with his Dad one night. Rick was with him when he passed away in the afternoon.

Our remaining surviving parent is my Mom. Since my Dad’s death, she has changed physically and mentally. While she wants to will her body to be able to do things she did 10 years ago, it is not able to. Dementia overtook her Mom, my Grandmother, the last number of years of her life. Unfortunately, it is also becoming a part of my Mom’s medical history, much to her denial.

It is not easy to move from child into the more parental role with a parent. Rick and I have tried to respect our parents while keeping them safe and healthy. Especially with Rick’s parents, we’ve made it a priority to make things work as they desired. We organized our lives, jobs and sleeping arrangements amongst other things to try and uphold their wishes. In trying to honor our fathers and our mothers, sometimes we were more gracious than others.

I cannot count the number of times Rick and I have questioned whether we will age graciously. Will we remember to be more accepting of other’s suggestions when the time comes? Will we be open? Will we negotiate gracefully? Only time will tell.

In the last number of years, I have gained a deeper appreciation for those who work with our more mature population on a daily basis.  While no two situations are ever the same, today, I see those struggling with declining spouses from a different perspective. At times, maybe I can bring the child’s perspective to light in a discussion … because I’ve been that child. And sometimes, I just need to listen: to an aging person, a spouse, my Mom, as well as those who have accepted the role of being a caregiver. Neither the aging person nor those providing care can be wussies.

During the last six months of my mother-in-law’s life, I had the great opportunity to provide regular care for her. It had to be hard for her to basically let me take over many of the things she had been responsible for decades. What Ersel taught me was a graciousness that I pray I embody; now and in the future. On those days I forget this graciousness, I pray the Spirit will remind me.

Holy God: please forgive me for the times I’ve been short, self-centered and unwilling to budge when interacting with other people, especially those who bodies and minds are changing. Surround me with a cloud of graciousness. May you guide me and others to react and respond in ways pleasing in your sight. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

 

 

What Prayer Life?

large_prayer-for-beginners-g13leaizFri., Mar. 24, 2017

Luke 6:12 – About that time Jesus went off to a mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night there.

When Jesus was exhausted, confused, unsure or just needed time alone, what did he do? He went to a mountain and prayed.

I believe in praying. God doesn’t need us to pray to God. We need to pray to God as a way to connect, ground ourselves and know there is someone bigger than ourselves intervening. I’ve seen the results of prayer in the lives of myself and others. I’ve felt the power of prayer while praying with someone. I’ve witness the wash of comfort that can come over someone when they are prayed over.

And yet, I struggle with prayer.

One way I find praying helpful is to write out my prayers. I have a journal which aids me with this. Yesterday, as I turned to my prayer journal, I realized the recent lack of effort on my part with prayer. I’ve followed more of a drive-through version of prayer than a quiet-my-heart-and-soul version of prayer. I’ve held onto too many things rather than sharing the load with God. I’m embarrassed and humbled that once again, prayer has taken a back seat in my spiritual life.

So, I penned a rather honest prayer. Just in case you are struggling with lack-of-prayer focus, I share with you some of the things that landed on my prayer list yesterday:

Dear God:

I haven’t been praying for the woman currently living with us and her situation enough. Soften her heart in the right ways. May she be drawn closer to you and find your guidance in her life. Soften my heart in the right ways also.

I haven’t been praying for Rick’s kids enough. Each has his/her own situation right now. I pray you bring people into their lives which will speak the message you desire them to hear.

I haven’t been praying for our grandchildren. May Spirit-filled people be part of their daily guidance.

I haven’t been praying for my Mom as her body changes. May she be open to hearing the messages you desire for her to hear and patience for me as I help care for her.

I haven’t been praying for the churches that I serve. Inspire these faith communities to become healthy, vital and sustainable as is your will.

I haven’t been praying for the denomination in which I serve and the distractions it now faces.

I haven’t been praying for my husband. Thank you for bringing such a person of God into my life. May he be guided by your Spirit.

I haven’t been praying for Your place in my life. I haven’t been praying for patience, understanding and being realistic. May I more willingly and more often turn my challenges over to you rather than failing to deal with them by myself.

May these prayers be lifted to you, Almighty God, this day. Amen.

Lord Jesus, you gave us a wonderful prayer model. Forgive me for choosing a less honorable prayer walk. Thank you for accepting me the way I am. May I be encouraged to seek your Spirit more fully each day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

The Distracted Mind

thoughtsTues., Mar. 21, 2017

Luke 10:40 – Martha was worried about all that had to be done. Finally, she went to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!” 

The end of last week, I was at a conference for work. It was close enough that I drove, chauffeuring three other attendees. I had this awful expectation: I brought enough work for a week with me. There’s no way I could ever get everything done I’d brought along. But just in case …

Actually, I worked on several things, either in the evening or during the conference. Unfortunately, I spend way too much of my life multi-tasking. I can listen to a speaker, take notes, answer e-mail and work on a project all at the same time, right? Possibly … but something WILL suffer.

This doesn’t account for all the other little things zipping around in my brain: a quick check of Facebook, jotting something down on my “to-do” list or reading a text on my phone. Unless my brain is juggling multiple things, well, then I just am not sure I’m fully utilizing time.

Wrong. I find myself with the distracted mind. Honestly, I’ve brought this onto myself with poor execution of work flow, priorities and an inability to say “no.” Throw in some family health situations, looming deadlines and not enough sleep, and whew! I’m one distracted brain.

Recently, I asked someone for suggestions on taming the distracted mind. She provided me with many helpful ideas: clear priorities, removing clutter, taming the frenzy, focusing on one task at a time. My favorite suggestions: practice self-compassion and learning to say no. Those are suggestions that probably need to be at the top of my list … and aren’t.

Many times, I’ve read and pondered the concept that unfinished business is OK. We depend way too much on ourselves to accomplish things rather than allowing God space to take up the slack. I’m just not very good at this. The voice of the person who has pointed out to me a lack on my part looms in my memory. The unfulfilled promises feel like an untied shoelace that might trip me up. My deep-seated need to not let others down always remains at the top of my list while letting myself down is perfectly fine.

The struggle between living a life of too much Martha and not enough Mary is a perpetual internal tug-of-war for me. Maybe my words to Jesus, if he were at my house, would be a little different than Martha’s words. They would probably be more like, “Jesus, it’s not my fault I have so much to do.”

Really? It’s not my fault? Then, whose fault is it?

My daily reality is becoming more like this these days: the ability for me to make life-sweeping changes in my daily habits and routines is probably not reality. But the need to make incremental, purposeful and God-pleasing tweaks certainly is. It’s a daily challenge and opportunity to try to have a little less distraction in my life and a little more focus.

Anyone else struggle with this?

Lord God, forgive my distracted mind. Forgive my choice to try and do a whole bunch of things at the same time rather than accomplishing one thing at a time. Forgive me for choosing quick earthly distractions rather than turning to you for life-filling grace. Help me want to choose to become a recovering distracted mindful person.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Messy Faith

messy faith

Tues., Mar. 7, 2017

Hebrews 11:1 – Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.

Let’s face it. For many, faith is messy.

There are those who feel the church doesn’t speak to them; for a variety of reasons. Too often, people have experienced a church that is judgmental, set in its ways and unwilling to consider what might speak to a generation of people different than the matriarch or patriarch.

There are those whose lives have been turned upside down by some awful situation: death, divorce, greed and a whole list of other things. So many people have asked me, “Where is God?” when something awful happened in their lives?

There are those who focus more on differences than what we have in common. This is more evident today than any other time in my lifetime.

Faith is challenging on my best days. It’s sometimes impossible on my worse days. For me, faith is often messy.

I’ve known that God has felt a bit too far away the last several months. Yes, I’ve continued to pastor for the two churches I serve. I teach and preach about how when we feel far away from God, it’s we who have moved and not God. Recently, faith has left me feeling depleted rather than filled. Joy and energy aren’t as abundant as I would like.

Let me be clear. I’m not giving up on my faith or questioning God’s existence. I’m not depressed or contemplating some rash decision. I’m just being honest that pastors are like other people. For us, faith also gets messy. We need permission to experience the valleys and peaks of a faith journey.

I often feel like I am letting God down if I didn’t follow certain spiritual disciplines every day. Or I get distracted and spend way too much time on something that really isn’t very productive. Maybe the reality is this: faith is messy. My suggestion for today: let faith be messy.

Almighty God, try as we may, sometimes we just create more messes than positive things in our lives.  Even when we yearn for the simple and easy, these often evade us. Reassure us this day that you love messes and the messiness of our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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