A Saying that Strikes Home

Gratitude Day 220

Tues., Feb. 26, 2019

Psalm 26:2 – Examine me, Lord; put me to the test! Purify my mind and my heart.

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Will I ever discover the ability to talk less and listen more?

Some days I do OK. Other days? Not so much.

It’s really quite silly. I can take FOREVER to tell a story. People patiently await the end. They hang in through the exhausting number of details I sometimes share. Hubby Rick often tells me that he could tell the same story in 10% of the words that I use.

But when someone else shares something with me? I interrupt. I finish their sentence. I think that I know the end of the story before it’s been shared.

Maybe my inability to use my two ears more than my one mouth is the reason why the quote at the beginning of the post resonates with me SO MUCH.

Rather than spilling out the miniscule challenge in my life, can I learn to listen to the debilitating experiences someone else is going through?

Rather than making my story or experience the center of the discussion, can I be gracious enough to let someone else’s story claim the main attention?

Rather than assuming I know what is best for someone else, can I simply listen and be their friend?

And the list could go on … and on … and on.

But then, I’d be doing exactly what I wish I would do less.

Fill life with words that may or may not add value.

Let’s leave it with the quote: Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

For one-liners that get our attention, I am grateful.

Holy God – Forgive me for the times that I’ve tried to make the focus about myself. Allow me to let others share their story and for me to simply listen. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 210 – A Fishing Lesson

Mon., Feb. 4, 2019

Matthew 4:18-19 – As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.”

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“This is what the Saturday before the Super Bowl looks like in Wisconsin when the Packer’s didn’t make the Super Bowl,” was Hubby Rick’s favorite saying of the weekend.

 

He is right. The Packers didn’t make the Super Bowl. And this picture was taken the Saturday before the big game.

Would you like the rest of the story? Good. I’d like to share.

About a week ago, our eldest grandson Braeden asked if Rick would go to an ice fishing tournament with him this past Saturday. We made it a little extended trip. We had dinner with his daughter’s family the night before the tournament. Our eldest two grandsons enjoyed the pool at the hotel where we stayed.

The fishing tournament started at noon on Saturday. We dropped off the non-ice fishing grandson and headed to the tournament. It was held in the village of Independence, WI, population about 1,300 people. After multiple days of not getting above zero this past week, Saturday’s 30 degrees weather brought out everybody and their sister and brother.

Coming into town, trucks and cars were parked everywhere. Literally, everywhere. We drove near the lake so Rick and Braeden could unload. In the few minutes it took to get their gear together, multiple vehicles drove by, looking for a parking spot close to the water. There were none left.

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Maybe it was the warm weather. Maybe it was the $20,000 prize if the tagged fish was caught. Maybe it was comradery of being out fishing with a whole bunch of your new best friends. The 37-acre lake was packed with ice fishing shanties, nearly on top of each other. It looked like various-sized pup tents stacked next to each other across the lake.

I found other things to do while the guys fished. Rick has a new electric ice auger. Braeden was more than excited to try it out. Other fisher people let Braeden drill them a fishing hole. Everyone seemed impressed with Rick’s new toy.

The middle of the day is probably not the most ideal time to catch fish. Rick and Braeden saw a few caught fish go by. All caught fish were taken to the headquarters tent. Before we left, Rick and Braeden saw the ones caught. Unfortunately, they did not add any to the display.

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It was neat to see families take in this outing. Kids and adults pulled sleds filled with poles, equipment and augers. People openly shared with each other. After awhile of no fish biting, the guys recruited fishing neighbors for a snowball fight. They took note of all the different kinds of hats people wore.

When Jesus began his public ministry, he enlisted guys to be part of his inner circle. These guys were his best friends, his traveling companions and eventually, the ones who carried out the work Jesus began. When Jesus choose guys for this group, he didn’t go down to the local church (synagogue) and recruit the most educated. He didn’t ask local teachers for names of the star Hebrew students. Jesus didn’t hunt down guys with the best test scores or highest IQ’s. No, Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee and simply asked a few fishermen to join him. No big fanfare. No bells and whistles. Just guys who knew how to use a net.

Jesus assured the guys that they would use their fishing skills. Now, they would fish for people. While their “catch” would be different, skills needed to do their work were very much the same.

We may not fully understand the significance of Jesus’ choice. Think of a CEO of a very large company asking a few entry-level workers to become vice presidents. CEO Jesus wasn’t most interested in their education. CEO Jesus just wanted folks who knew and understood their trade.

I value education and people dedicated to helping others learn their trade. There is value in research and development. Yet, I also greatly appreciate those willing to do the tough and dirty jobs; just like the disciples.

In this fishing lesson, Jesus reminds us that God doesn’t call the qualified. God qualifies the called. It’s a lesson that Jesus taught over and over; and began when he called his first disciples.

When I picked Rick and Braeden up mid-afternoon, they didn’t seem disappointed that they catch no fish. As Rick and I discussed the day, we affirmed that pulling a fish through the hole wasn’t the most important goal of the day. Spending time with his eldest grandson and modeling life lessons was far more important. This was the real fishing lesson. And with this metric, Rick scored a touchdown.

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For fishing lessons that don’t involve real fish, I am grateful.

Lord God – it is often difficult to understand just how counter-intuitive the lessons that Jesus taught where. May we see how his priorities and choices were so different and yet representative of God’s kingdom. I pray we are encouraged to dig a little deeper into these lessons and see what kind of fish we should be trying to pull through the ice (or water.) Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 197 – Signs of Gratitude

Fri., Jan. 18, 2019

Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe,

“You sure have a lot of things in your house with the words ‘grateful’ and ‘thankful’ on them,” our 8-year-old granddaughter Ellie told me recently.

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We were sitting at my desk searching the internet for fun gymnastic photos for Ellie. When I looked up, I saw two items on my desk, each with one of those words.

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She had a point.

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My mind quickly began recalling the various other items in our house that express one of these words or a variation of them. Point is? Ellie is right. There ARE lots of things in our house that include these words.

Then came Ellie’s next question, “Why?”

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Why do I have a variety of things expressing these words?

Because these words mean a lot to me. They capture the essence of one of my core values. No matter what is going on in my life or the world, I have much to be grateful and thankful for. Rather than spending ridiculous amounts of energy focusing on things that disappoint me or I wish were different (and often out of my control), I choose to surround myself with the thousands and thousands of ways I truly am blessed. Having little reminders throughout our house is a way to subcontiously remind myself that I am truly blessed.

Because, I am.

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Sure, I’d like to lose some weight. And be more productive with my time. I wish I would say all the right things in difficult situations, rather than the wrong things that often come out of my mouth. I’d like to be more humble and listen more. I wish I would stop comparing myself to others and be completely happy with who I am.

 

Most days, there is this little voice inside of me that tries to lure me to a place where I know I could easily become cynical and question why there always seems to be some crazy thing in my life lurking just around the corner. Before this becomes the most important thought in my day, I choose to counter these difficult thoughts with gratitude … thankfulness … blessings. Maybe having these little reminders scattered throughout our house is one way to remind myself that no matter what happens today, my glass is more than half full. I believe in a God who will help me navigate what ever challenge comes my way. At the end of every day, I have thousands of reasons why I am a very blessed person.

How did I answer Ellie? I told her I have items with these words scattered around our house because they are important to me. They are little reminders of what is most important, like she, her brothers and cousins. I hope these words will encourage other people to also be grateful and thankful.

I know this is a lot for an 8-year-old to capture. But, it’s how I feel. And why I surround myself with these words as daily reminders of what perspective I want to see life through.

So, what two or three words are the ones that inspire you the most? What few words do you want to have others see in you? How do you integrate these words into your daily life?

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For little reminders of what is most important to me, I am grateful.

Lord God – when life gets busy, full and overwhelming, it’s easy to lose sight of what is most important. Help us to find small, easy things to help us find our core values each and every day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 155 –  A Different Road

Thurs., Nov. 15, 2018

Acts 9:27 – Then Barnabas helped him by taking him to the apostles. He explained how Saul had seen the Lord and how the Lord had spoken to him. Barnabas also said that when Saul was in Damascus, he had spoken bravely in the name of Jesus.

Ever have something turn out oh, so different from what you expected?

Like maybe your life?

I’ve been thinking about how this is so true in my life the last few days. Would you like a glimpse in?

Good. Let me share.

I grew up on a small Wisconsin farm. I always anticipated working in agriculture, which I did. After doing this for many years, I was called into pastoral ministry, which was completely off my radar screen. Fast-forward almost 20 years, and some people still call me Pastor Dianne. For the last five years, I’ve also worked for a small agriculture firm. While these two fields may seem very different, they have more in common than meets the eye.

Growing up, my sisters and I raised sheep. My Dad always kept a few ewes (female sheep) after they moved to town. Eventually, my sister Debbie took over the sheep, as her son, Kevin, was interested in them.

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Kevin is now a senior in high school. He enjoys showing his sheep at competitions, basically, a beauty pageant for sheep. Recently, Kevin showed his sheep at a national show in Louisville, KY. Only one hick-up: the sheep needed to stay a couple days after showing. Kevin needed to get back to school. The solution? Auntie Dianne drove to Louisville. Kevin, his Dad and a couple other ladies drove back so the kids could get back for school. Debbie and I stayed with the sheep and drove them back to Wisconsin.

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The show is called the NAILE. I have been at this show many years ago: when I was in college, nearly 30 years ago and about 25 years ago. Yes, things looked different from what I remembered.

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This is a big sheep show. Really big. Thousands of sheep from all over the United States big. Even an exhibitor from Alaska was announced as a place winner.

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Kevin showed his sheep several days. On the last day he showed, everyone in our little group helped. I dusted off my sheep-showing knowledge and took a couple spins around the ring.

While there watching the show, I reflected upon how different my life has turned out. Thirty years ago, I could have never anticipated eventually being a pastor. I anticipated working in agriculture my entire life. God had a different plan.

God also had a different plan for Saul. In the New Testament, Saul openly persecuted followers of this man named Jesus until he had a life-changing event. A completely different man, he changed his name to Paul and traveled all over, proclaiming how God and Jesus turned his world upside down. This man who wanted Christians eliminated now became their biggest advocate.

Think his life turned out a different from what he expected? Did he find a different road?

God can use us and our lives in truly amazing ways … if we allow ourselves to hear God’s leadings and take them to heart. When this happens, our journeys may turn out different from what we expect. Yet, we can end up on a rather exciting, impactful and life-changing road if we do.

It happened to Saul. It happened to me.

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On Tuesday night, Debbie and I drove the sheep home. After making a pit stop to drop off a sheep at a farm, it was early morning when we arrived at our house. After getting some sleep, we made sure the sheep got breakfast and exercise. We live in town. I’m thinking our neighbors no longer know what to expect at our house. The stakes and fencing in the garden became the feeding site. And yes, a little extra fertilizer was left behind!

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Sometimes I daydream about how my life would have been so different had I not heeded a call into ministry. Yet, in these last 20 years. I have met, been involved with and had great opportunities to serve; ministries that have fed my soul and blessed my life.

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This recent sheep show made me appreciate by background. I strongly believe agriculture is terribly important. Yet, this different road I have meandered down has taught me a lot about life and myself. This different road has allowed for a great breadth of life experience. I anticipate God putting a few unexpected different roads in my life yet. And I look forward to them!

How about you? Has God taken your life down a different road than you anticipated? How has this enriched your life?

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For life opportunities made available to me by God and different life roads than I envision, I am grateful.

Holy God – sometimes we see “different roads” as annoyances rather than as blessings from you. Help us keep our lives open to being used when we are steered down new and different roads. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 150 – Gratitude Every Day

Wed., Nov. 7, 2018

Colossians 2:7 – Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.

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Since April 1, 2018, I have been blogging about things for which I am grateful. In my every daily, ordinary, regular life, I’ve tried to find even the simplest of things for which I am appreciative. I know. Some of these “grateful” things may seem like a stretch. One friend said to me, “Parchment paper?”  And I said, “Yes, parchment paper.”

Why something like parchment paper? Because I truly believe being grateful for the little things in life make a difference in how we view our little neck of the woods.

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Let’s be honest. Most of us won’t be president or governor or the CEO or a large company. Most of us won’t have a building named after us or a Wikipedia page where people can go and learn about our background. Most of us won’t be the person who everybody knows your name.

What we will be is the someone who has made a small difference in a few people’s lives. Or a big difference in even a smaller number of people very close to us. We may be that “crazy aunt” or the “cool parent” or the “embarrassing grandparent.” Just as easily, we could be the “cranky cousin” or “weird neighbor” or “difficult spouse” that no one likes to talk about.

What is the difference between the two? Sometimes, very little. The space between being a genius and being insane can barely be a sliver. What keeps someone from crossing from one side of the spectrum to another?

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Gratitude. I have no actual data or research to back this up. But I truly believe our attitude towards appreciation, humbleness and respect go a long way towards our frame of mind and how we view of our little piece of the world. I see this over and over. People who demand respect approach life in a very different way from someone who simply appreciates the opportunities in front of them. Those who live life from the “glass half full” position often find it less necessary to point out to others what great things they have done. When I focus on all that I have rather than the one thing I don’t have, life seems pretty darn good.

What I do know is this: when we include gratitude in our lives on a more regular basis, the rest of life makes more sense. Personally, I feel we struggle less, value little things more and are able to find happiness more easily.

What have I discovered after writing 150 blogs about gratitude in the last 7+ months? Let me share a few things:

  • I find myself grumbling less. I have most often tried to embrace a Pollyannaish attitude; trying to find the good in any situation. Yet, it is also easy for me to grumble about something that discouraged me. I think my gossiping/grumbling are down these days. And this is a good thing.
  • I spend less energy trying to “find” that something that I “think” will make me happier. Maybe what I’m looking for is already right in front of me … and I wasn’t smart enough to realize this. Rather than searching for something that may or may not be there, I try to embrace what is already a part of my life.
  • I try to be content. It’s easy to focus on those things we’d like to change. I’m discovering that if I want something different, then I must be the agent of change; not someone else. Maybe it’s ME that needs to look at my life or the world differently rather than someone else. I can’t control someone else. Rather than trying to herd cats and get frustrated, maybe I am the one who needs to do something a bit different.

I never take for granted you, the folks, who read these little blogs after I write them. I appreciate having an audience and place to share where I see God in my daily life and express appreciation for this. If a blog challenges you or allows you to seek and find a little more gratitude in your daily life, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this.

So, I’m trying to decide if a few more “gratitude” blogs would be a good thing or not. Please leave a quick comment or a response on social media about whether continued blogs on gratitude would add value to your day. Or if there is something else that would be helpful for you to read about that includes a spiritual reflection with it, I would love to hear about this as well. I’ll read every comment carefully and take to heart your responses!

Begin each day

For a safe place to share about where I experience gratitude in my life, I am grateful.

In this world where we can easily focus on everything that we don’t like, challenge us to keep gratitude in our daily lives, Lord God. May we be agents of gratitude in all that we say and do.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 86 – Presence

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Fri., July 20, 2018

2 Corinthians 3:4 – We are sure about all this. Christ makes us sure in the very presence of God.

It’s been a struggle lately.

I don’t sleep well.

I am not focusing.

I feel unsure of what is next in my life.

The days begin with somewhat of a plan. At the end of the day, I am not sure anything I did today was important. Significant. Made a difference.

There is busyness but not fulfillment.

It’s like a picture that has been taken. Everything is noticeable. Everything is recognizable. But everything is just a hare bit out of focus.

I am blessed. My life is filled with many good things. I have little to be discouraged about. Many would trade spots with me in a heartbeat.

 

I get this. I know this. I deeply appreciate this.

Yet, this does not mean I always feel “put together;” whatever “put together” means.

I give myself permission to be. To struggle. To know today is another day. I begin anew, knowing I do not go alone.

God’s presence is with me. Christ promises me the Holy Spirit, the one who holds my hand when I don’t feel “put together.” We will mull through it together, the Holy Spirit and me.

Soon, a day will come when the corner will bend. Things will look a bit smarter. I will have more clear direction. Focus will be sharper. Direction will be more evident. Energy will be easier. The words and laughs will come easier.

For now, the Holy Spirit sits with me. Is present with me. Knows my heart, my struggle, my lack of focus.

And is OK with it.

I pray that I can be as well.

For God’s presence, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for not expecting us to be at the top of our game every day, even if we expect this of ourselves. Thank you for being present with us, even when our lives are a bit or a lot out of focus and we aren’t sure why. Help bring things back into clarify when it feels just a little empty. Bring words and laughter into our lives today. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 29 – Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife

Tues., May 1, 2018

Luke 24:11 –But the story sounded like a fairy tale to the men—they didn’t believe it. 

I love a great historical fiction story. Cue the music for … “Call the Midwife.”

“Call the Midwife” is a historical fiction television story set in England. The show was initially inspired by the best-selling memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth. In them, she tells colorful stories of families and midwifery in London’s East End. The show follows the nurses, midwives and nuns from Nonnatus House, who assist the poor expectant mothers of Poplar. We learn more about these women and their interactions within their tight-knit community.

I stumbled upon this PBS show a few years back. Having missed a couple seasons, I checked out DVD’s from the library and caught up. As the seasons move from the 1950’s to the 1960’s, we see how medicine changed: increased emphasis on prenatal care, gas used to ease pain and the importance of cleanliness. We also see glimpses of other culture changes: the availability of television, understanding alcohol addiction and teaching teenaged girls how their bodies change.

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Tonight, I watched this week’s episode; a heart-wrenching story about midwife Barbara who happens to be married to the popular local clergy curator, Reverend Tom. Barbara contracts septic meningitis with fatal results. A freshly married young couple, Reverend Tom sits at the bedside of his ailing wife in the very same hospital where he has sat with so many other people and families.

In the last few years, historical fiction has truly become one of my favorite genres. I find it fascinating to rediscover the culture and challenges people of a different era experienced. While specific problems maybe different from what we experience today, it is easy to trace similar threads to the present.

After watching the episode, my thoughts turned to what is my favorite historical fiction story. While there are many possibilities, the choice is easy. My favorite historical book is none other than the Bible. It’s a trick question because I do not believe the Bible is fiction. I believe the story as true. While I cannot explain everything the Bible portrays, I choose to see God’s hand in all that happens in this story. I get to be part of the story today.

Many, many people have read the Bible or heard the story of Jesus and thought, “This can’t be true. It must be a fairy tale.” When the disciples arrive at the tomb on Easter morning, one version of the Bible portrays the disciples as contemplating the resurrection as a fairy tale.

Whether I can fully explain and grasp the depth of the stories found in the Old and New Testaments, I choose whether I allow these stories to become part of my story. Will they affect how I live my life and the choices I make?

The story of Reverend Tom and Barbara grabbed my attention. Life is very precious. It can change literally in an instant. Life’s delicacy says each day truly is a gift. Did I live today like the present it is?

This storyline is one I pray we have heard before. Long time ago, a theologian said that most of the time, we know the right choices, decisions and priorities. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of them. This is what “Call the Midwife” did for me today. This is what the story of the Bible should do for us every day.

For this, I am grateful.

Thank you for being the master story teller, Almighty God. For using words and images and people to help me learn about you. Thank you for including me as part of your story. May I see today as a very special gift that I use to honor your story in my life. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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