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.

Misplaced or Lost?

Wed., Mar. 1, 2017

Matthew 18:14 – That’s how it is with your Father in heaven. He doesn’t want any of these little ones to be lost.samsung-galaxy-s7-gold-platinum-964x750

Monday night, I misplaced my phone for a few hours. Notice, I said “misplaced.” Not “lost.”

I worked late at the church. When I arrived home, I put away the groceries, got the mail and sat down to sort through it. A couple hours later, I realized that I didn’t know where my phone was. I searched my purse, my work bag and the car. No phone. I retraced my steps. Still no luck. Maybe I left it at church? It was late when I went back at church. As I turned the light on in my office and saw no phone on my desk, my stomach got an empty feeling.

Did I leave it at the grocery story? I couldn’t remember. I’d worn a fleece jacket and my phone had been in my pocket most of the day. It wasn’t there now. Where did it go? Another walk through of the places I’d been since getting home. Still no phone.

By own, it was late into the night and I was trying not to panic. I could use the alarm on the clock next to Rick’s side of the bed. Surely it would show up before I left for my part-time job in the morning? I just didn’t know when. I’d searched for over an hour with no success. By now, I was very annoyed with myself. I really do not want to be “one of those people” who is always misplacing and loosing things. How could I be so irresponsible?

One last thought. I sat in our snuggler when looking at the mail. The snugger is bigger than a recliner but smaller than a love seat. And it reclines. Hands down, our favorite piece of furniture in our TV room. Rick is forever losing his phone in the snuggler. He loses cups, glasses, pencils, the paper and a myriad of other things in that little space between the cushion and the outer edge. I literally ran down the stairs into the TV room and put my hands along the edges of the snuggler. There was my misplaced phone. It slid out of my pocket while reviewing the mail.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is a specific season on the Christian church calendar for believers and seekers to draw themselves closer to God. To be more mindful, more intentional and more disciplined about how we seek and live God in our daily lives. Challenged by another Christian recently, my focus this Lent is “mindfulness.” I know there is a God. I know God loves me. What I do not do a good job of is making sure I am mindful in how I plan my day, make decisions and depend upon God to help me make the best choices possible. Rick and I often wonder whether the hundreds of little decisions we make daily are clutter on God’s desk or important to God. What I do know is that far too often, I blow through the day without mindfully including God in the things I say and the actions I take. I certainly do not want to be held responsible for the time I waste and the distractions that sidetrack me.

Misplacing my phone challenged me to think: how often do I misplace God in my daily life? How much time do I spend searching for God when I’m feeling challenged or overwhelmed? How can I be more mindful about not depending upon only myself in my daily life but making sure I share the yoke with God? This Lent, I want to be mindful. I don’t believe I’ve lost God in my daily life. I sometimes just feel I’ve misplaced making sure God is involved and a part of all the decisions and opportunities before me each day.

My goal is to say this one line many, many times a day to help keep me more mindful of God’s presence in my life: “God, slow me down and help me mindfully see you in my life right now.” When I do not include God as I would like, I pray that I have enough good sense to go hunting for God and keep searching for God until I reach down and feel him in my soul.

Lord God – Please forgive me for the thousands and millions of times I walked through my life without fully depending upon you. Place it upon my heart the great ways we can work together to achieve great things for your kingdom. God, slow we down and help me mindfully see you in my life right now.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

God’s Sparkling Creation

Mon., Feb. 27, 2017

Psalm 8:3 – I often think of the heavens your hands have made, and of the moon and stars you put in place.

Weather in Wisconsin during the month of February has been bi-polar.

For several days last week, temperatures were in the 60’s and neared 70. A lot of pasty-white legged people broke out shorts, t-shirts and sunglasses. Weather like this in Wisconsin is more apt to happen in April than February. Nearly everyone walked a bit lighter and had a spring in their step. Moods were lightened after a gloomy winter.

But then, the opposite end of the bi-polar spectrum happened by week’s end. Northern Wisconsin woke up to a plus foot of white snow. Right on the edge, we had some snow, some rain, lots of sleet and ice. Friday was another snow, err, ice, day for school kids.

Friday night brought another round of sleet/rain that froze. Yet, the results were absolutely stunning. Ice hanging on tree limbs, woven-wire fences and shrubs. Electrical lines glistened as the sun peaked through the bands of ice hanging below their surfaces. Temperatures remained below freezing Saturday night. This meant for another glorious drive on Sunday while going to church. By yesterday afternoon, the ice was melting and water was dripping from everything.

While Rick and I were in the car on Saturday, his comment to me revolved around how the glistening countryside had to be created by Someone greater than us. Humans just couldn’t pull this one off. It was simply too beautiful.

Gloomy winter days can be depressing. A few days of warmth and sun created lots of spring fever. When the cold temperatures returned, the gloominess stayed at bay and we were the recipients of a beautiful glistening crystal cathedral all around us.

Even if winter isn’t a person’s favorite season, I pray we can be overwhelmed by a God who knows how to dazzle us with a sparkling creation.

Lord God – the handiwork of your paintbrush is often simply too beautiful for words! Whether we experienced your glistening crystal cathedral this past weekend or not, may we look out a window this day and be overwhelmed with the creation you’ve shared with us.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Everyone Needs a Little Sabbath

Tues., Feb. 21, 2017

Ezekiel 20:12 – And I commanded them to respect the Sabbath as a way of showing that they were holy and belonged to me.

A month ago, I shared that Rick and I were soon leaving on vacation, err Sabbath, to Belize. We had a great time. I share a short picture diary to share our Sabbath:

Fishing off the coast from the island where we stayed. We also had our first experience lobstering!

dsc04788

Followed by snorkeling with nurse sharks.

dsc04822

And then having a shore lunch with the fish and lobster we caught.

dsc04850

Visiting a Mayan ruin and looking into Guatemala.

dsc04892

While Rick was not quite sure he wanted to zip line, after a few passes, he was a pro!

dsc04933

Watching the gorgeous sunsets.

dsc04981

Rick took in several naps most days.

20170129_145250

One day, in a hammock.

dsc05004

Sunday, ready to leave for worship at a local church.

20170129_101236

I ran every day. We walked a lot, tried local food and discovered lots about Belize culture, history and society.

And then, life happened when we returned. Yep, this is why it’s taken a month for me to share our experience.

What did I discover about myself while taking Sabbath?

  • Our first full day in Belize, I was just tired. It took me all morning to get moving. It’s important to stop our normal clocks and allow our bodies to catch up.
  • Every culture has very interesting things to learn. We knew nothing about Belize when we arrived. While I’m not ready to teach a college course on Belize, if you ask local people questions, they are very happy to share. This allows us a much wider view of our world and God.
  • Rick and I can spend multiple days together! Because of our jobs and schedules, we don’t see each other every day of the week. There was a day Rick admitted he wasn’t used to seeing me so much. Yet, we are optimistic we can transition into a schedule where we see each other more … and it will be good.
  • During the last night we were there, I had a new project placed on my heart. I look forward to sharing more of this in future blogs.

I know it’s not always feasible to get completely away like we did for a week. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to do so. I pray that we will make Sabbath time a priority in 2017. There is much for us to discover about others and ourselves when we do so.

 Almighty God – What an interesting world that we live in! Thank you for the opportunity for us to discover and explore another part of the world. More importantly, time to recharge our souls, our marriage and our live in you.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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