Gratitude Day 144 – Mission Work

Mon., Oct. 29, 2018 

3 John 1:6 – They have told the church about your love. They say you were good enough to welcome them and to send them on their mission in a way that God’s servants deserve.

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I have a quick little exercise for you to perform. Willing to try? It will only take a minute.

Good. Here are the instructions.

Either grab a map or think of the geographical area where you live. Think of a community 30 miles to the east of where you live. Now, 30 miles west. How about 30 miles north as well as 30 miles south?

Draw an imaginary, or real if using a map, circle connecting those communities. Look at all the of the communities, towns and people who live in this area. Can you think of a family who might have a need? Is this need something you can help with?

When I was in seminary, I remember a professor teaching about mission work. He understood the need for people to go significant distances or live in a different area for awhile to do mission work. Yet, he was a proponent of doing things locally as well. He defined “mission” work this way: anything at least 30 miles from your house. His explanation of “mission” work in this context made such an impression on me that I shared this with Hubby Rick.

Throughout our marriage, Rick and I have been involved in a wide variety of “mission” work. We have traveled long distances with other people. We have chaperoned youth mission trips, so youth can develop an appreciation for what they have and foster a sense of helping others. And yes, we have participated in many 30-mileish “mission” trips.

Recently, Rick and I prioritized a day-long “mission” project. It was about 45 miles from home. So, according to my seminary professor, it qualified as “mission” work. Actually, we traveled to Rick’s son’s house and helped him with specific projects. Rick worked on installing a window in the basement. I worked on a huge project in the basement. Rick’s son asked if Rick could do the window. We decided it would be a good project to do together, knowing there were opportunities for me to serve as well.

We appreciate long-distance mission trips. Yet, we also value and prioritize local “mission” projects. Sometimes, it seems silly to travel two days on a bus when there are lots of local opportunities to serve. Our local “mission” projects have covered the gamut. Sometimes, it’s a repair or construction project. Cutting wood, doing yardwork or helping in a garden. Sometimes it’s cleaning, sorting and organizing. Maybe it’s taking food and simply listening.

This time, we were asked to do this “mission” project. Often, we are asked. Other times, we volunteer. We accept these projects because we can serve God, our neighbors and model our faith. These projects aren’t glamorous. f our time and abilities can serve another member of God’s kingdom, it’s a win for them and us.

Think again of the geographic area in the 60-mile radius from where you live. Is there someone that could be a “mission” project? How could you serve them? Are they willing to accept help? When are you be able to set aside time and carry out your “mission” project?

The 30-mile distance from your home isn’t magical or necessary. Rick and I have experienced lots of “mission” project opportunities much less than 30 miles. Does a shorter distance disqualify them as “mission” projects? Absolutely not. “Mission” work has less to do with distance and more about a person’s willingness to serve someone else and God in tandem.

We can get so caught up in our own “projects” that we fail to see beyond our needs and observe someone else’s needs. Every time we perform a “mission” project, I discover someone about myself or learn something new. I see these as clear opportunities for God to mold and shape me. I am always richer for the experience.

Rick and I appreciate doing these projects together when we can. “Mission” projects are great family activities. Everyone can serve your neighbor and God together while create lasting family memories.

We put in a long day on our “mission” project at Rick’s son. When we arrived home, we were tired and dirty. Yet, we had a sense of accomplishment. Rick’s son appreciated our work and the jobs accomplished.

There are great benefits in going away on a mission trip. Yet, there are also opportunities to help someone closer to home. When Rick and I enter these opportunities with the attitude that we are doing “mission” work, it changes our approach. Yes, we do our very best. But we are also aware that a “mission” attitude removes the project’s work from what we are doing to how we are serving God.

I pray you will discover a “mission” project soon within your community.

For opportunities to serve God through “mission’ projects, I am grateful.

Almighty God – thank you for the people who have serve us on a “mission” project. I pray you will bring forth another mission opportunity for us to serve soon. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 70 – World’s Best Pastor

Sun., July 1, 2018

1 Timothy 5:24a – Remember that some men, even pastors, lead sinful lives, and everyone knows it.

It was a gift, given out of love and admiration. It came with the warning that, “I may not want to wear it on Sunday mornings.”

best pastor

After opening the package in the privacy of our home and discovering this t-shirt, I knew why the comment was shared. The family wanted me to know how much they appreciated me. I love them for this. But the words intimidated me. Even putting the t-shirt in the drawer with a bunch of other t-shirts felt uncomfortable.

One Sunday evening home alone, I found the courage to try it on. And quietly put it back into the drawer. I wasn’t sure it would ever see the light of day again.

While packing for last week’s mission trip, the t-shirt became part of a pile I grabbed from the drawer. I held it in my hands. Should I take it? Should I not take it? What to do? With enough room in my suitcase, it found a small private corner for the journey.

I was slated to give the Tuesday night message during worship. As I changed out of my painting clothes, I handled the t-shirt again. Should I wear it? Should I not wear it? What to do? A female chaperone noticed the message and chuckled. With her encouragement, I bravely put it on.

When I walked into the room where everyone was eating dinner, I felt a spotlight shining on me. Was I confident enough to wear such a bold statement? My mind did a quick mental back-and-forth teeter-totter. I remember the evening’s intention and I decided to own it.

During the message, I correlated faith to an EKG line: sometimes the line goes up, sometimes the line goes down. A flat line isn’t good news.

Personal faith journeys are the same. Sometimes we feel closer to God. Sometimes God feels very far away. When our faith journey is flat, we are in big trouble.

As a pastor, I have had the awesome opportunity to witness people at the peak of their spiritual journeys. Unfortunately, I have observed people who feel God let them down. While I can hold hand of a person who feels abandoned by God, I can never be God.

My message to the teens: I am not the world’s best pastor. My sinful nature won’t allow this. Only Jesus can fill this role. As God’s perfect Son, this is a role only He can fill. My prayer is for these teens to discover Jesus as their best pastor.

It is important for us to have a community where we can go when our spiritual journeys are below the flat line. It is necessary for people to pray and encourage us when we struggle with faith. When this happens, I pray Jesus is our part back-up plan. Christ wants to be your best pastor. He yearns to have you crawl into his well-used arms and find comfort and peace. With you, Christ anticipates the day when your spiritual journey will grow again.

My role is to point people to the world’s best pastor. Jesus thanks for being the world’s best pastor. For this I am grateful.

Jesus – it’s the most difficult role in the world. And thank you, for accepting this daunting, difficult and demanding role. Please be patient with me when I struggle with faith and forget to seek you as my best pastor. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 67 – Mission Trip

mission trip image

Mon., June 18, 2018

Ephesians 6:7-8 – Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

We have arrived in the Washington D.C. area

After two days of travel from Wisconsin, our group of almost 100 youth and adults is bunkered down at a church for the week. We’ll spend our days serving people by helping repair their homes and properties. Evenings will be times of worship and hanging out. Great friendships. New experiences. Lots of laughs. Opportunities to be God’s hands and feet. Hopefully lives that will be forever changed.

Hubby Rick and I are chaperones on this trip. We’re excited that our two oldest grandsons, as well as a couple girls, are part of our smaller group. Already, we see the kids discovering new friends. It warms our hearts to observe this.

My posting maybe a little less frequent this week. We’ll see how the week goes. Hanging out with the kids and other adults will be a priority. Yet, I expect to see many gratitude spottings this week. More than I’ll be able to record.

For this, I am grateful.

Thank you for this group of youth and adults who are willing to serve You and those around us this week. I pray for all who will be participating in a mission trip this summer. May we truly experience profound ways to serve You, Almighty God, and your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 61 – Have a Good Summer, Mr. Jeep

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Fri., June 8, 2018

Galatians 6:6 – Those who are taught the word should share all good things with their teacher.

We watched as our 2004 Jeep pulled out of the Kwik Trip parking lot. Internally, I thought, “Have a good summer, Mr. Jeep.”

At times, the street by our house could be mistaken for a used car lot. Lately, we have had four vehicles playing musical parking spots. Some on the street. Some in our carriage house. Four vehicles for two drivers. I know. A wee bit of overkill.

Hubby Rick and I knew we needed to reduce inventory. For a couple weeks, we talked and prayed about options. Then my friend Mary Ann visited and saw all these vehicles. The next day, she emailed a possible solution. Her granddaughter is participating in a summer ministry program. College students visit communities and hold bible school programs. The program needed two vehicles for the summer. Could we loan one of our vehicles?

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Quickly, Rick and I committed our 2004 Jeep. Yes, it’s an older vehicle. It has over 200,000 miles. 204,994 to be exact. But, the college girls could use it for the summer.

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This has been Rick’s “work” vehicle. It’s also the “farm truck.” It had a few quirks. Last week, Rick tweaked some things that needed tweaking. The front windshield was replaced. It had cracked when Rick tried to squeeze in a little-too-long 2×4. Sometimes, it has electrical issues. While the driver’s window now works, the other three still aren’t working. Thankfully, the air conditioner works like a champ.

We arranged things with our insurance company. I lined up a time to meet someone to hand it over. Everything was ready to go.

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But then, Rick began to wonder out loud if this was a good decision. Over the years, we have loaned out many vehicles to lots of different people. We do this because we feel everything we have is really God’s. As joint caretakers, God “loans” us things. It is our responsibility to use these things for God’s glory. Letting the girls use the Jeep falls into leveraging our possessions for God’s kingdom.

Sometimes when we have loaned a vehicle, something has happened outside of our control. What would happen if the Jeep broke down? What if it stopped working? What if …

Finally, Rick admitted that he is taking over the worrying mode his father often embodied. Either, we would have faith the vehicle would help the girls on their mission work. Or we wouldn’t.

This Jeep is the only new vehicle I have ever had. As I drove it to make the exchange, I remembered how a few weeks after we purchased it, I took a group of kids with it on a mission trip. When we got home, Rick was surprised there was paint on the upholstery. Why had I not been more careful? While I wanted to respect this, we had been using it for God’s work. Paint can be removed.

Faith is looking into the future and not knowing what exactly is going to happen. And being OK with this. I pray that our Jeep will help the college girls who will be using it this summer. I am thankful to share in this ministry, if only through our vehicle.

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Have a good summer, Mr. Jeep. We’ll be anxious to hear stories of your great adventures.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for bringing forth this opportunity to share within your Kingdom. We pray the girls who drive the Jeep, those they minister to and anyone they meet will come to love you. We pray this ministry will make a difference in people’s lives this summer. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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

Gratitude Day 21 – Being God’s Hands and Feet

Sun., Apr. 22, 2018

1 Corinthians 12:21 – That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet.

When God’s hands touch our hands, our hands continue the work of God’s kingdom. Our work for God’s kingdom comes in many different forms. Often outside the traditional box.

I have been blessed to serve God’s kingdom in various ways. Shortly after hubby Rick and I were married, we moved into a house provided by a church I was serving. The house was in the country and our closest neighbors were dairy farmers. We became fast friends with Mel & Doris Lohr and son Greg, who farms with them. Having grown up on a dairy farm, I dusted off my cow milking skills and put them to work a few times when we lived by the Lohr’s.

The Lohr’s have contemplated a different arrangement for their dairy operation for years. Their operation has labor intensive. Finding and keeping employees has been an issue. The buildings were worn out. It was time for Mel and Doris to allow Greg more ownership.

20180421_120641This week, the Lohr’s initiated their decision. They moved their cows into a new home. Rather than being milked the traditional way, they installed four robotic milkers. Instead of people going to the cows to milk them, the cows go to a specific place were robots handling cow-milking duties.

20180421_144322There are about 1.3 million cows in Wisconsin, where I live. In Wisconsin, dairy farms contribute about $43.4 billion to the state’s economy. Of the 9,520 Wisconsin farms, 96% are family owned. These owner-operators work tirelessly to produce a very healthy high-quality product. They take extreme pride in caring for their animals. All the dairy producers I know go out of their way to ensure the animals are well cared for, feed and healthy.

For the Lohr’s, switching barns and milking methodology cows was a huge undertaking. The cow’s office was moved. They have a new lunch room, the bathroom is in a different location, their beds have changed and their water coolers look completely different. The way they earn their keep (provide milk) has been turned upside down. The cows have more choice about when the eat, sleep and be milked.

Because everything is so different and new, early on, the cows need a little encouragement. The extended Lohr family has stepped it up this week as well as their employees. Since Tuesday, lots and lots of volunteers have become hands and feet to help the cows adjust. People have been in the new barn round-the-clock.

Saturday, Rick and I took an afternoon shift. After our arrival, we were given a 10-minute course of what to do and look for. Then, we were turned loose to find which cows were overdue to be milked.

20180421_120404The whole system is highly technical. The automation is becoming more fine-tuned each day. Saturday was day 5 since the cows were moved. Both Rick and I are amazed how quickly the cows have adapted. They are divided into four groups, based on age and milking stage. By the end of our shift, the youngest cows basically have the system figured out. Some older cows just need a little more coaxing.

20180421_120027In their brand-new hotel, the cows are so comfortable and content. In the hours we helped, we only heard one cow “moo.”

As nifty as this whole new operation is, the overarching cloud is the difficult dairy economy right now. The price dairy producers are paid for the milk they produce are at record lows. In the 1980’s, the dairy economy went through several challenging years. Many good dairy operations were ultimately forced to stop, my family included. The Lohr’s have staked their entire financial future on this new set-up. The low income only adds another layer of stress. It’s difficult for most of us to understand the significance and challenge of this. Believe me – it’s there.

When Doris called and asked if Rick and I could take a shift, there was no hesitation. Yes, we wanted to help our friends. Yes, we were curious to see their new operation. Yes, we would do this because this is how we put into action God’s call to extend God’s hands into the world. We were grateful Doris asked us.

Most people cannot be hands and feet directly for the Lohr’s. But you can help. Help them and all dairy producers by buying an extra gallon or two of milk a week. Or cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt or ice cream. If your family cannot consume them, donate them to your local food pantry. Do this again next week. “Fixing” this dairy economic situation is tricky. Each of us can increase consumption and help family operations like the Lohr’s.

One of my seminary professors said that going over 30 miles to help someone is missionary work. Rick and I were more than pleased to be make the Lohr’s our little mission trip and be God’s hands and feet today.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – the opportunities to be your hands and feet in your kingdom are endless. Unfortunately, we aren’t always very comfortable for asking assistance. I pray we can become see that when your hand touches ours, the opportunities for us to serve your kingdom are just beginning. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Silence in a Not-So-Silent World

thank you mission trip

Thurs., June 23, 2016

Ruth 2:12: May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.

Since last Sunday, I have been south of Knoxville, TN on a youth mission trip. About 110 youth and adults traveled from various locations and churches in Wisconsin to be the hands and feet of God. Our purpose: help those who need a little assistance.

We’ve taken on some significant projects. Divided into 9 crews, we tackled various projects: painting, roofing, building decks and working at the local Habitat for Humanity location. I’ve been a part of the Delta crew. Jeff, another adult, and I worked with 7 youth. For about 2.5 days of the four day work week, we were joined by another crew because we had multiple projects at Anna’s house. Our tasks: tear off the old roof and put a new roof on the house; tear off and put a new railing on her front porch; remove the deck going into the side door and replace this with a new and sizeable deck.

Anna wasn’t present when we arrived Monday morning. A note on the all-ready delivered wood pile indicated she would be home about 1 PM. We found tasks to do until she arrived and we were able to get juice to run our power tools. There were plenty of jobs in the meantime.

Before arriving at the job site, we had been clued in about a specific condition for Anna and her husband. They are deaf. When Anna arrived home, I took out a notebook and we communicated through writing. It’s amazing how a person can really use fewer words when communicating. (My husband tells me all the time that I can tell a story, my Sunday message and other things in about half the words I use.) Anyways, we also found creative ways to communicate. Anna has about a 10-year-old daughter. When possible, it worked quickest to communicate through her daughter. We’d share with the daughter, who would sign to her mom and the process would be reversed.

Most of us have little understanding of the daily challenges of being deaf. Imagine going through daily life not being able to hear the birds sing, enjoying a song on the radio or being able to really hear your own child’s voice. We’ve been sleeping at a church while in Knoxville. Some of the doors make a slamming noise each time they close. The noise is annoying while trying to sleep. But I’ll take a slamming door any day over not being able to hear one of our grandchildren say something to me.

Today, as we were finishing up our jobs, Anna brought out a homemade card and gave to us. Included on the inside was the verse from Ruth at the top of this blog. We never had an opportunity to share our faith journeys with each other. I don’t think it’s an accident she included the verse from Ruth. I pray the work we did to her house this week will richly bless her family.

 Almighty God, thank you for the opportunity to serve Anna and her family these past several days. I pray the new roof, railing on the front porch and rear deck will allow her family to be in this home for many years. As I am reminded again how fortunate and blessed I am, thank you for the life that you have blessed me with. Amen.

 Blessings –

Dianne

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