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 202 – Working Together

Thurs., Jan. 24, 2019

2 Corinthians 6:1 – Since we work together with him, we are also begging you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

And then, there was winter.

After scooting by the beginning of winter with very little snow and very mild temps, well, winter has arrived.

In the last 24+ hours, we’ve had 8-10 inches of snow. And we had several inches last weekend. I know, it’s not like living in Buffalo, NY … but it’s snow.

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We live north of Madison, WI. Today, I saw this cool picture. Count all of those snow plows, working together. They are on a main commuting route in Madison called The Beltline. How cool is this?

I know. Some people were complaining that not enough snow was moved before the morning commute. Or there wasn’t enough snow or salt. Or the side streets weren’t cleared. Let me just say … it’s impossible to get all the snow moved at the same time so that everyone can get just where they want as quickly as they would like. The roads department can’t do it all right now.

What this picture shows me is something super cool: teamwork. A bunch of folks working together, for the benefit of others. A little reminder that sometimes, we need to remember the bigger picture. We aren’t the center of God’s universe. When we figure this out, well, it really is a happier place for us.

Can we just stop wanting more for ourselves and decide that the best way to feel good about ourselves is to help someone else?

Can we set aside our personal preference for the benefit of a larger group?

Can we encourage others to do their best and in turn, then be encouraged to do our best?

When we see ourselves as Christians, then we are part of a larger community. Christians aren’t a community of one. They are a part of a huge family that includes people that are very different from you. In fact, there maybe some you don’t even really like. They are going to look different than you do, care for things that aren’t as important to you and irritate you some day. And just as you are a beloved child of God, SO ARE THEY.

I think we Christians can do some really amazing things here for God’s kingdom on earth. If we’d only work together and decide what we hold in common is really more important than where we differ.

So, let’s give each other an extra dose of grace today. Let’s find some folks who are excited to work together. Go make a difference in someone’s life, a community or the world. We can plow through a lot of barriers when we work together.

For a wonderful example of working together, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for giving us wonderful examples of working together, with the best example of all found in the Trinity of God. Help us to focus on the things we agree on more than the areas where we disagree. May we unite and work together for the glory and honor of your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 198 – When Days are Hard

Sat., Jan. 19, 2019

Psalm 119:28 – My spirit sags because of grief. Now raise me up according to your promise!

1986 was a hard year for my parents, Dick and Ann Deaton. At the time, they had operated a small dairy farm in Wisconsin for over 25 years. High interest rates and a very challenging dairy industry landed my parents in an unfortunate financial situation. They literally did not know how they could ever dig themselves out of the financial hole they were in, let alone make even the smallest payment on every bill that came through the mailbox. My Dad was also having significant health issues and needed surgery ASAP.

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In early October 1986, my parents made the difficult decision to liquidate their farm assets. A farm auction was scheduled for mid-November. On an emotionally draining day, my family said good-bye to all of our cows, including our favorite ones. The machinery and equipment were sold. Even the farm truck was auctioned.

Just a few days after the sale, my Dad had shoulder surgery.

After the auction, much changed for my parents. Within a few weeks, my Dad began working off the farm. He went from milking cows and running a dairy to now calling on dairy producers and helping them produce high quality milk.

My parents rarely spoke of the emotions they felt at the time. My siblings and I were very aware of the strain these challenges put on my parent’s marriage. But as a 19-year-old, I didn’t have the maturity or presence of mind to ask my parents how they dealt with all the changes and grief involved in stopping farming. I know my Dad felt like a failure. I know he struggled to make sense of how he could have let this happen to him and his family.

Yet, my parents kept going. Eventually, they purchased a house and moved to town. Both my parents pursued new careers and were able to dig themselves out of their financial hole. But it was a while before I heard joy in their voices again and saw smiles on their faces that came naturally.

About six weeks after the auction, I was recognized as the Wisconsin Holstein Girl. This award is given to a person under 21 who has excelled in the Wisconsin dairy industry and is seen as having potential for impacting the dairy industry in the future. It was a complete surprise. I never imagined that I would be selected. My parents were present when the announcement was made. After the banquet, I handed Dad the plaque. I shared how I felt this honor was just as much his as it was mine. Had not my Dad and Mom made so many sacrifices for me and encouraged me to pursue things that I loved to do, I would not have received this honor.

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This was 32 years ago. A couple weeks ago, my nephew, Zach, was recognized as the 2019 Wisconsin Holstein Boy. I am a very proud aunt. It was surreal to see him receive this honor. At the banquet, I was taken back to the night 32 years earlier. Currently, the dairy industry is in an equally, if not an even more challenging time. In Wisconsin, about 600 dairy farms went out of business in 2018. This means about 600 farm families made the same difficult decision my parents did in 1986. I wonder how these folks are dealing with their decisions and changes. How are they coping with the loss of a career and the disappointment of having to leave a way of living that people find rewarding?

Grief is tricky. Grief can smother us and overwhelm us. There are many different stages of grief. We can feel that we’re dealing with our grief and disappointment well until something happens, and well, we aren’t. Sometimes, people feel like they get stuck in grief and don’t know how to get off the grief treadmill.

Sometimes, people want others to take on or absorb or feel their grief. But we can’t. Our grief cannot be someone else’s grief and vice versa. I can try to listen to your grief and be present with you. But I cannot remove or feel just like you do. Why? Your grief is your grief. My grief is my grief. The two are not the same.

What disappointment are you experiencing in your life right now? What is overwhelming you and making you question everything that you know and previously have believed? What disappointment would you like to eliminate from your life … and try as you might, it keeps showing back up like a bad cough?

Unfortunately, I can’t “fix” your grief. Nor can anyone else. If you are experiencing grief right now, I pray you have a friend where you can safely share your grief. I pray that you give yourself space to work through your pain and disappointment, rather than trying to mask or hide it. I pray you do not get frustrated when grief shows up again in your life, especially after you thought you had dealt with it.

What did I learn from my parents through this awful time in their lives? They dusted off their feet and kept going. They didn’t give up on their lives or marriage. They remain committed to contributing to their family and society. They didn’t let losing a farm define the rest of their lives. No, they chose to place their hope in something not of this world but in the promises of God.

When their spirits sagged because of their grief, they sought God’s promise of better days. This, I believe, is what helped them eventually cross over to a place where they could enjoy life again. In time, they found more good days than challenging days.

I do believe the experience going through those challenging days helped me. I watched my parents not give up on God or blame God or determine that faith was no longer important in their lives. Disappointment did change how they viewed faith and their relationship with God. But they decided that faith in God was important.

I pray your experience of pain and grief can help you mature in faith and help you see of God is always there as a safety net.

For lessons learned from disappointment and grief, I am grateful.

Almighty God – when bad things happen, we want quick answers from you. But seldom, do quick answers come. We question, “Why,” when maybe the more helpful question is, “Who?” Who will journey with us through these challenging days? Why, You will, Lord God. Thank you for this gift. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 178 – The Journey of Family

Mon., Dec. 17, 2018

Luke 2:3-4 – Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.

This past weekend, Hubby Rick and I made our annual journey to Augusta, WI for the Deaton family Christmas. On Saturday, my siblings and our significant others, my nieces, nephews and their children all descended upon my sister Debbie’s house for our annual Christmas celebration.

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For our family, this is our annual journey to the little town where I grew up. Augusta is small; about 2,000 people. It’s where I graduated from high school, where our family attended church and grocery shopped. There was even a time when I held the title Miss Augusta.

When it came time for my parents to move off of the farm where they raised their family, they moved into a house on Main Street … in Augusta. While I have not lived in the Augusta area for decades, this is still the area where I grew up. Where I remember going to the Red Dot café with my Dad. Where I still know every word of the high school cheer song when it is played.

Instead of Bethlehem, our family journeys to Augusta each Christmas. Together, we read the Christmas story, eat a large meal and take the annual Deaton Christmas photo. It has become a tradition that we all look forward to and no one wants to miss.

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Knowing we’re covering multiple generations, we’ve tried to make it fun for all ages. There’s a craft for the kids. Favorite Christmas cookies. Usually, a card game. This year, we included our dear family friends, Donald, Celeste and Ruthie, who were neighbors when we lived on the farm and have been a special part of our family.

Several years ago, we started the Deaton Family Gift Exchange, which has truly become the highlight of the day. Rather than purchasing gifts, I wrap up a whole bunch of family “treasures.” We have a white elephant gift exchange. Some of the gifts have significance. Some are just plain silly. Others are not highly sought out by anyone. With each gift, I write a little story, explaining the significance of this item.

I knew this year’s gift exchange would not top last year’s Deaton Family Gift Exchange. After multiple requests, the beloved Winnebago camper was the highlight of last year’s exchange. It’s the camper I received for Christmas when I was 5 or 6. Every Deaton child, neighborhood children and young kid who walked into my Mom’s house probably played with the Winnebago. Nephew Ben proudly ended up with the Winnebago last year. It keeps a special spot in his living room.

As I wrap and prepare the gifts, I’m never quite sure what items will be most sought after. Or what item no one will want. Again, this year, I was completely surprised.

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My great-niece Snow was the second person to unwrap a present. Naturally, she picked the biggest box, as any 5-year-old would. Inside? This bucket. Immediately, we ALL knew the history of this bucket.

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Probably an old lard bucket, its sat underneath my Mom’s kitchen sink for decades. Literally, decades. This was her potatoes and onions bucket. She also put peelings and other scraps into the bucket. When it was time to feed the sheep, the bucket was taken with and emptied.

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This bucket as a lot of usage miles on it. Hubby Rick could not believe that I had driven this beat-up bucket to our house, only to wrap it up, so it could make the journey back to Augusta one more time.

Snow tried diligently to pawn the bucket off each time a new gift was unwrapped. She wasn’t very successful. Later, Rick “traded” Snow for the bucket, specifically, so he could leave the bucket under Debbie’s tree, a gift for her to discover later.

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At last year’s Deaton Family Christmas, my Mom was there. It was really the last day she was fairly alert. The next day, she began a steady decline in which just a few weeks later, she passed away.

How fitting that Mom’s bucket became the gift everyone had a story about and the one we talked about all afternoon.

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When Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem, they had no idea how this one trip would change their lives. When my parents traveled from central Iowa to northern Wisconsin on a very cold day in February 1961, could they anticipate how this one trip would change our family forever? I hardly think so.

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Life is full of journeys. Some of these journeys are exciting. Some are difficult. Some take bends and corners we’d rather live without. Every family has a journey. Every family has history. Every family has things that draw out memories and stories, just like this bucket.

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Our Deaton family isn’t perfect. We have lots of things that we’d like to change. At times, we disappoint each other and forget to give each other enough grace.

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Yet, we’re still family. We are the ones who will continue the journey my parents began years ago. I love that we take time on Christmas to remember parts of this journey, share it with each other and keep the spirit of my parents and our grandparents as part of our Christmas celebration.

Our village isn’t Bethlehem. It’s Augusta. It’s part of our story, our journey.

What’s your journey?

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For journeys of family yesterday, today and tomorrow, I am grateful.

Merry Christmas from the Deaton’s.

Holy God – it’s nearly impossible to understand how one journey to Bethlehem changed so much. It’s difficult to imagine the emotions and feelings Mary and Joseph felt as they were on this journey. As we journey in life, may we always see you as part of our journey. May we keep our eye on you, the one who knows best how we should steer our journey. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 140 – Family

Tues., Oct. 23, 2018

Deuteronomy 26:11 – Then celebrate all the good things the Lord your God has done for you and your family—each one of you along with the Levites and the immigrants who are among you.

The house is now so quiet. So very quiet.

No conversations in multiple rooms. No action in the kitchen. No game going on around the dining room table.

Just me and my thoughts after a few days of every inch of our 3,000 square foot house being well occupied and used.

Over the weekend, several first cousins from my Mom’s side of the family, as well as members of my immediate family, gathered at our house for a little reunion. The last time this many of my first cousins were together was 15 years ago at my Grandma Sower’s funeral.

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My Mom had one sister six years older and a brother 11 years younger. My parents grew up in Iowa. They moved to Wisconsin after being married. I have basically lived my life in Wisconsin. My siblings and I did not grow up with our cousins nearby. All of my cousins lived in other states. While we “knew” each other, we haven’t really “known” each other.

Not all of our Sowers cousins were able to be together this weekend. When we started planning this get together, I was clear. Whoever could make it, great! If you couldn’t make it, this was OK as well. Life happens. One cousin who planned on being in Wisconsin ended up moving our remaining aunt multiple states this same weekend. We understood this was priority.

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Over the course of the weekend, we had a different mix of people at various times. We ate, visited, played games, shared stories from our past and present, had loud card games, went through pictures and items my Mom had saved, and truly enjoyed just being together. Here are a few things I discovered about my cousin family this weekend:

  • There are over 40 years between my eldest Sowers cousin and my youngest Sowers cousins. What we know, remember and our observations of our Grandparents is quite different. Some of these cousins never knew my Grandpa Sowers. We all knew my Grandma Sowers because she lived into her 90’s.
  • Growing up as members of different generations and in different locations around the U.S. has colored our worlds. Yet, we have this connecting factor of family blood. We ARE family.
  • It’s OK for us to have different memories, experiences and connections with our family heritage. There isn’t a “right” way or memory. For example, we had alvelskiers for dinner one night; a traditional Danish food that is a crossover between a pancake and a donut. It was interesting to hear what different branches of our family tree ate with alvelskiers.
  • Having time together outside of a funeral and over a couple days allowed for conversations to grow between people. We discovered that we “like” being together and sharing our lives with each other.
  • Wisconsin October weather is unpredictable. Our cousins saw rain, snow, sleet, wind and sunshine all in a few hours on Saturday. Some family members took in the University of Wisconsin-Madison football game, with one cousin experiencing a true Wisconsin Big 10 football game.

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When people are asked what is most important to them, the word “family” always rises to the top. How “family” is defined varies greatly. There is no one recipe for how families interact and spend time together. For us, simply hanging out and going through Grandma Sower’s jewelry box became a great opportunity to share stories, our lives and our common heritage.

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Like many such gatherings, there were conversations about how and when we might get together again. I pray these plans evolve and develop. Today, I am so grateful several family members put their lives on hold if only for a few hours, traveled to our little piece of the world sometime over the weekend and spent time together as Sowers cousins. It truly was a great weekend.

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For family cousins and the ability to spend time together, I am grateful.

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Lord God – thank you for family, time together and shared history. I pray families choose to focus on the things that draw them together rather than the disappointment that can pull families apart. Thank you for your Holy Spirit which is the glue that holds families together. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 107 – Community

Wed., Aug. 29, 2018

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to spur one another to love and to good works. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.

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When you see this sitting in the middle of a road, it isn’t a good sign.

A week ago, I shared how our former hometown, Mazomanie, WI was affected by recent rains and flooding.

Since then, it seems the water hose hasn’t been turned off in southern Wisconsin. Over the weekend, people worked non-stop in our capital city, Madison, WI, sand bagging.

Sunday night, we had more rain.

Monday night, we had more rain.

Tuesday night, we had more rain.

Some locations have had 15 inches within a 12-hour time period with additional rain almost daily.

The rivers are overflowing.

The lakes are drowning.

Bridges and roads are swallowing up vehicles.

Several sections of the interstate.

Figuring out how to get someplace takes a serious understanding of local roads.

Homes and businesses are one hot mess.

Lives have been disrupted.

Businesses closed for days.

Shelters set-up in schools.

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This bull is confused as he stands in the middle of a bridge in Coon Valley, WI. Yep, this a real bull; not an imitation.

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Lambeau Field, home of the NFL Green Bay Packers, is one big puddle.

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The popular Wisconsin Dell’s ducks became part of the solution. These unique vehicles were built and used during WWII. They go from land to water with no disruption. Tuesday night, they weren’t hauling tourists through the spectacular scenery of the Wisconsin Dells area. They were rescue vehicles, getting people to safety.

Farmers who have been struggling with low commodity prices and barely hanging on have crops standing in ridiculous amounts of water.

And the list could go on.

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A whole bunch of people are praying to God right now. How might their prayers sound?

“Hey, God. You can turn the fire hose off any time.”

“Thanks for the rain … but isn’t this a little over the top?”

“Why so much devastation? Why so many people are affected?

“Isn’t enough, enough?”

I cannot answer any of these questions on behalf of God. I would like to know a few of these answers as well.

What can I say about this ongoing devastation?

God is with you. The person who lost their house and basically everything in it. The business owners who are trying to find a temporary location. People who lost a vehicle. Emergency personal who stayed on the job while their personal property was affected. Nursing homes limited supplies.

And the list goes on and on.

How do I know God is with you? I see people volunteering and helping. I see unselfish giving. I hear and read of examples of people doing any little thing to help: wash laundry, bring food, provide items, and so many other ways so those affected can try and put one foot in front of another yet one more day.

This is called community. When Jesus walked the earth, he gave us a wonderful example of community: he called 12 guys to be part of his inner circle. He instructed them to depend upon each other, not just themselves. He taught example after example of how to love, respect and honor each other.

This is how God speaks to us through disaster: through others within our community. Whether someone declares themselves as a Christian or not, I believe God can use us to help and serve each other. When we become the hands and feet of God, then the community of God is already in action.

For some, this is not enough. “Why can’t God just speak to us? Why doesn’t God step in and answer my prayers?” we ask. Sometimes, this just isn’t God’s way. Read these words carefully:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

                                                -Romans 8:26-27

When we run out of words to say and pray to God, it’s OK. In these moments, the Holy Spirit steps in and prays for us.

The most ideal community is found within the Trinity of God. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit form a unique relationship and bond. This is our model for community. When we no longer have words, the Holy Spirit steps in and speaks for us to the rest of the Trinity.

How amazing is this?

Through all this wet and wickedness, I pray we see the benefits of community.

For community, I am grateful. For the Holy Spirit’s intervention when I run out of words, I am grateful.

Almighty God – maybe we’re out of words. Maybe we’re frustrated beyond belief. Maybe we just don’t know what to do. May we paused and seek you first. Bring us into a community where we are loved and accepted. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 80 – Community of Sun Prairie, WI

Cody Barr

Thurs., July 12, 2018

Acts 6:6 – The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

A community about 20 miles from our house had an explosion last night. In downtown Sun Prairie, WI, a contractor hit a 4” gas line. Rescue personal and the local utility company worked diligently to shuffled people out of the affected area. About 45 minutes after the leak was reported, there was an explosion, caused by leaked gas. Several injuries were identified, to rescue personal as well as civilians. Sun Prairie Fire Department Caption Cory Barr lost his life. He is pictured here with his twin daughters. He is also survived by his wife.

For the past week, people cheered the rescue operations of a Thailand soccer team who were removed from a remote underground cave. One rescue worker died. Amazingly, the entire team and their coach are now safe at a hospital.

Rescue personal are special. When everyone else is running from a tragedy, rescue folks run into the problem. We see this time and time again. 9-11. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Fires. Rescue people did not think about themselves but about the people whose care and safety they are entrusted.

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The local Sun Prairie police and fire departments have reiterated multiple times how this situation could have been much worse. As they choked back tears and buried their emotions about loosing one of their own, trained personal remind us that so many more lives and families could have been affected.

This is selfless giving. Yes, this is what they are trained to do. When tragedy happens, they do their jobs.

During an early morning update early, rescue personal were peppered with questions. When can affected people return home? When will the name of the person who died be released? What could have been done differently? Yes, the reporters were doing their jobs. But these folks were running on very little sleep. Safety is their number one concern. They remained professional, patient and compassionate. They showered nearby police and fire departments with compliments for providing additional help and assistance. They asked for help and it showed up.

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We see tragedies happen all around the world. When it happens closer to your neck of the woods, you take note. Hubby Rick worked last night. He delivers fuel for a local convenience store chain and was near Sun Prairie after the explosion. He described the fire as significant and visible from quite a distance.

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There has been an outpouring of support for the Sun Prairie community, the Barr family and other displaced individuals and families. When challenging things happen, I pray we show up, lay hands on those affected and pray for them. This is what communities do. This is what God’s community does.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – please be with the families and business who are reeling in grief tonight. Wrap your loving arms around them and hold them tight. May a community rise-up and surround them with compassion, care and love. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 75 – Music

Fri., July 6, 2018

Psalm 57:9 – I will give thanks to you, my Lord, among all the peoples; I will make music to you among the nations.

Music. Pie. Ice Cream. Friends.

Sounds like a good combination, right?

Thursday evening, we took in the community band concert in the neighboring community of Pardeeville. During June and July, the band offers free concerts in a park next to the library on Thursday evenings. Hubby Rick and I decided to attend the concert this week; our first. Local friends, the Reineckes and their two sons, Rocky and Dakota, joined us. After enjoying pie and/or ice cream and as the sun dipped behind nearby trees, we settled back for a near-perfect evening of music orchestrated by 40 local musicians.

The evening’s musical selections all included a patriotic theme. Included were several John Philips Sousa marches and a musical tribute to all branches of the U.S. military. The band played a beautiful arrangement that combined “Eternal Father” with “Taps.” This video’s arrangement is different but captures much of the same interpretation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBvtrlnAQdQ. It’s worth the couple of minutes to listen to.

Rocky and Dakota had flags left-over from a July 4th parade. While Rocky finished his ice cream, Hubby Rick and Dakota pretended to be conductors. Later, Rocky and Dakota proudly waved their flags to the beat of the bass drum.

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The evening’s star was a little girl named Harriet. During one of the Sousa marches, the band director stepped away from the conducting podium to play tuba along with the band. With a tree stick in hand, Harriet approached the podium and “directed” the band. After the song concluded, we discovered several of Harriet’s family play in the band. Her father played the bass drum during the last song. With more songs to play, the band director stood back on the podium. Little Harriet wasn’t sure she wanted to hand back the directing responsibilities and stood along-side him. After this song concluded, Harriet to return to her chair but only after a little coaxing from Mom.

20180705_195449~2Through the art of music, I often find my heart spoken to in ways that I find deeply meaningful and profound. Music is a universal language. It bridges languages and ages and often is a common thread that unites people. It was this offering of music that brought together a group of people on a library lawn. A simple community event that spoke to us in each of our own ways.

For a couple hours one evening, we enjoyed wonderful local music, extended the 4th of July celebration another day and were entertained by little people all around us. It was a good night. All because of a music concert.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for the gift of music. Yes, there are so many different genres. Yes, some may speak more to one person than another. Thank you for this universal language which often reaches into our inner-most beings and touches us in unique ways. May we hear a song today which helps us connect with you, Almighty God. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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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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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

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