Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Finding Joy

Abby
As adults we sometimes think of making grandiose adventures or completing some great project believing that they will make us happy.  Children continually teach us that it is in the simple things that we find true joy.
"Will"  
Truth is, daddy could not stand it any longer.  They shared their joy of sliding with me.  I found that joy is never in short supply, it multiplies when there are more to share it with.


Philippians 4:11-13,
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God Has a Plan



I look over towards the wall and see that the clock is saying that it is 5:59 a.m.  I am on vacation here in Disney World escaping the cold of Minnesota for a couple of weeks while making memories with my family.    

The sober truth of the fragility of life has been made so apparent to me these last few days.  When driving to Disney I witnessed a horrible accident that took the life of the driver and perhaps other family members as well.  The driver was not wearing a seat belt and I could see that as the vehicle had spun around he was not able to stay in the vehicle, and so perished.  The day that it happened was on Thanksgiving and this family was heading somewhere to have a special meal with loved ones, but instead, met an untimely end. 

Not meaning to make this message sound gloomy and disheartening; my hope though is to relay the fragility of life and how precious our time here on earth is.  We think many times that we will live forever, especially when we are young.  But as in all things in life, it too will end. 

Thinking back to my past, I was in a job as a school administrator many years ago.  I was trying to make a difference in children’s lives, but was finding it very challenging due to the difficulty in doing my job because of the people in power.  Deception, untruths and self seeking caused a string of administrators ahead of me to quit the job I now had.  I found that after one year of working there, life was just too impossible to continue in that environment.  I too was to become a casualty of the job, it made my life very hard to find peace in such a difficult place to work. You see, I had left God out of the decision making when taking the job.  Through much prayer after one very hard year there, I was determined to go in search of a better work environment.  It was not long that I found the job of my dreams in southwestern Minnesota as a middle school principal. 

Working there I was determined set it up as an environment of openness where each of us could work together for the sake of the children.  Each day I wanted to go home and feel that I made a difference in the lives of the children, and those whom I worked with.  I had a good boss as well who supported my ideas, some (ideas) were a little unconventional, but overall we made them work.  After two years there I thought I found the perfect place to live and work for the rest of my life.  The staff worked hard and I found that with many of them I could call them my friend.  I did not want to leave this place, but in all things God has a plan for us. 

One day while in Winona when going to church with my cousin and her husband I met the woman that was to be my wife.  When dating Anne, I found out that she had a bad heart, and probably would not live a full life as most of us do.   I loved her more than I could say and I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together for however long God had for us.  

When leaving my ideal job in which I had worked so hard for by going to school for so many years,  a previous superintendent who retired in town decided to stop by and speak to me.  He wanted to know why I was leaving and wondered if he could talk me into staying.  We spoke for some time and I told him that my wife to be was finishing a degree and I wanted to give her a chance to complete it uninterrupted.  He then asked me how I would live; I told him that I would bag groceries if needed.  I knew in my heart that if God could change my heart in what was important to me, he would also provide a way for us to live.  I did get a job teaching “At-Risk” children again as I had done years before.  The job just opened up in a town near my fiancĂ©.  God had a plan!

Anne and Abby
In a short few years of marriage, we lost our first child after 4 months of pregnancy. God helped us through this loss by strengthening our faith, and we came to realize once again that God still had a plan.  A couple of years later my son William came into the world.  God blessed us with a beautiful boy, but in his first moments of life he struggled to breath, he had a collapsed lung.  I
Will
held on to his hand for 5 days as he struggled to breath under an oxygen tent, and he in turn held on to my finger.  At the end of this time, with many prayers given up to heaven, God was gracious with us and he healed our son’s lung.  Not only was this a miracle, we found out during this time some more good news.  A heart specialist told us that my wife Anne’s heart was now normal. 

Anne had extensive tests done in Chicago and they confirmed that she had a heart that would deteriorate in time.  Now the doctors were saying that her heart looked very normal.  Two miracles took place during this time.  God has a plan! I now have a wonderful boy who is sleeping a few feet away, as well as a beautiful little 8-year-old girl, Abby. 
Abby

God is teaching me that with each day he gives us, it is a gift.  Who he gives to us is also a gift that we should not take for granted.  Is life short and precious, yes it is.  I have found that as I look back and see God’s hand in my life I come to realize that he has a perfect plan for each of us.  Is it always easy, by no means!  Is it always without pain and loss, again no.  God promises us that he will never leave or forsake us and that he has a perfect plan for each of us.  Each day is a step of faith in walking with God.  Each day we need to pursue his will for our lives and desire to come before his presence in his loving grace.  We are human and we have many weaknesses and we make many mistakes, but God loves us and will forgive us for whatever we have done wrong, if we ask this of him.  He is a wonderful father who wants the very best for our lives.  He has a plan for each of us.

Jer 29:11  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Eye on a Sparrow: Making Funeral Arrangements Ahead of Time

Eye on a Sparrow: Making Funeral Arrangements Ahead of Time: In reading Mark 16 the scene lays out with Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James and Salome bringing spices to Jesus’ tomb.   Filled w...

Making Funeral Arrangements Ahead of Time

In reading Mark 16 the scene lays out with Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James and Salome bringing spices to Jesus’ tomb.  Filled with grief they hadn’t thought of the fact that it would be impossible to roll the stone away from Jesus’ tomb by themselves.  It is ordinary for people to go through these emotions during a time of great loss.  We find it difficult to think straight because we are filled with this flood of emotions that are hard to control.  Basic decisions are even hard to make during these times. 

Planning for burial can be a most traumatic thing for family when a loved one is near death or has died.  That is why it is important if possible, to make plans ahead of time.  In our society we have a tendency to want to avoid such topics.  We too many times are concerned about the challenges of life to think that it will one day end for ourselves, but it will eventually.  One though can make arrangements ahead of time with your local funeral home of your choice.  It will save your family the trauma of having to make these decisions after you have died. 

Many times families want for their loved one the very best funeral possible.  Emotions are riding high and feelings of loss and possibly regret compel one to do what is not prudent.  Elaborate coffins and vaults are bought that are a great financial drain later to the family.  By making preparations ahead of time for yourself, these issues can be resolved already for your loved ones.  

Some funeral homes have programs that you can put monthly installments into a fund that pays for your funeral.  If that is not possible, you can set up a savings program that will specifically cover such a cost at your bank.  In this direction, it is prudent to check with your funeral director to find out what the costs might be, and then it will be easier to put the right amount of savings aside. 

Another person that you should talk to is your pastor.  He/she coordinates the details of the service that will be given for you.  Music arrangements, food choices and costs for the meal and who will speak at the funeral can be covered at that time.  Again, this is a topic that we do not like to think about, but it is a loving act of kindness toward your family to prepare these items ahead of time if possible. 


Finally, if money is an issue for you or your family, some funeral homes have economy packages that can save you and your family from having to spend beyond your means.  These details can be covered with your funeral director when meeting with them.  Though it might seem a little hard to say, “Funerals are for the living, not the dead!”  A funeral director told this statement to me one day.  I puzzled over it for a while and then came to the conclusion that he was right.  It is a time to say goodbye, meet family and friends during this time of grief, and to share our hearts with loved ones.  We talk about the person that has died and share about our life with them.  It helps us to go on knowing that we are all carrying the loss together.     

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Contentment

Picture was taken by my 8 year old daughter Abby.
Have you ever noticed someone who beautiful on the inside? They just glow with enthusiasm and joy. You find that it is easy to be around them, and you look forward to your next time together. God makes us into that sort of person. He works on the inside out. My mother in law (Marji Gustafson) taught my wife Anne when she was a little girl that there are three pillars to living a life at peace. Simplicity, generosity, and contentment. If you find yourself in need of any of these three areas, ask the father and he will give to you what you lack, because he loves you. James 1:5 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Everyone needs a place of solitude.  A place to think, pray and be alone with one's thoughts.  Too many times each week we fill our lives with activities and people without taking time to be alone.  Learning to steal moments in walking by yourself, sitting by a quiet fire, or even sitting in a coffee shop with low lights; these events give us time to reflect, pause and breath.  It is essential to our well being as well as to our health. Life can be very busy, take time for yourself this week.  It can be the start of a wonderful habit that refreshes your soul.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Light of Morning



Second Samuel 23:4 

For he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless day, like the brightness after the rain that brings the grass from the earth.









Friday, October 11, 2013

Our 14th Anniversary



Morning Sunrise over Winona
This week Anne and I are celebrating being married for 14 years.  In the beginning of the week I looked over at Anne and said, “Today is our anniversary!”  She looked up and said, “You are right, it is.”  We were so busy with life’s events that we forgot about that day being special.  I then looked over at Anne and kissed her and said, “Happy anniversary sweetheart!” 

My thoughts went back 14 years ago to when we first got married.  I had just left my career as a principal and was beginning my new job as a teacher at an alternative school near Rochester.  Anne was finishing a degree at Winona State and we were living in a house apartment that I had resided in while going to college in Winona years before. 

My thoughts went back to an encounter I had a few months before leaving my job as a principal.  I was talking to a retired superintendent of the school district I was working in.  He looked at me and said, “I hear you are resigning your position as principal here, why?”  I had told him that my future wife was finishing a degree in another town and I wanted to be with her.  “Why can’t you just stay here and have her move up here?”
“Well, that would mean she would have to quit her college program and give it up, and I won’t ask that of her.”
He then gave me a compliment that I did not deserve by telling me that I was a very good administrator and I had a wonderful career that I had worked and sacrificed for, but now I was just walking away from it.  I stood thinking about what he had said and that gave me reason to pause in my thoughts. 

I was once married before.  We were both working hard, but my business was failing.  The economy turned for the worse and I saw that with high interest rates my work was drying up.  I felt like a failure and I could offer my wife little, so I went back to school looking for a new career.  I was determined to find my self-worth again as a man, and so I devoted all my time in working towards that direction, so much so that I had no room for my wife.  My obsession with my career took center stage and I forgot what was really important, my relationship with my God and that of my wife. 

Abby and Will visiting an Antique Establishment.
I worked harder than ever after having a failed marriage and business.  I went to 4 years of college to be a teacher.  I then continued on going to college when I could: days and nights, summers and weekends to finish my next 4 years of graduate school while teaching and administrating at the same time.  I finally reached the panicle of my career and I found that even though I thought I was happy, I was not.  There was something that was not right within my heart.  I had an empty feeling in my soul.  I could not understand it, I had reached my career goals and it was still not enough to find the peace that I was looking for.  I had basically walked away from God and didn’t know that it was him that I needed. 


I started to go back to church again.  I prayed and began to search for my roots in my faith once more.  Even though I loved my job as a school administrator, it was not enough.  I asked God to direct me and help me to fill that emptiness in my soul.  I talked with many like myself who had what the world considered everything and yet were empty inside.  Their marriages were failing and their careers were taking prime spots in their lives.  They felt that it was a maze and that there was no way out.  Some were top executives in large companies and schools and this puzzled me at the time.  “What more could they want?  They had the world by the tail!”  In taking time in my busy schedule each day, I began to search for answers by reading my bible once again.  During this time of searching I was taking doctorate classes at nights and weekends while working 60 plus hour weeks.  I began to ask myself once again, “Was I doing the right thing, looking for a career advancement to fill my emptiness?”  I hadn’t realized it at the time, but God was drawing me back to him again through these agonizing questions. I was finding that my search for fulfillment began with God and not with more diligence in getting further towards the top of my career.  Others that I looked up to had empty lives that were continually fraught with maintaining a lifestyle that ran their lives and not the other way around.  By going back to church I was beginning to see that by placing God first again, I would find that peace that I so desperately longed for. 

One day while visiting my cousin and her husband in Winona, I was asked to attend church with them.  I did so and when visiting with church members, I met Anne.  I thought it was by accident, but God had a plan.  Initially, I thought that a physician friend of mine would be a perfect choice for Anne.  I worked out the introductions and looked forward to them having a wonderful relationship together.  It did not go the way I had intended it to go at all.  I was learning once again that God’s plans are not at times mans.  God was slowly teaching me that I was to seek his will first and then he would lead me in “his” perfect will.  “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will direct your path.”  Psalms 37

I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I was beginning to have feelings for Anne in the short time while getting to know her.  I stepped aside though for my friendship with my physician friend was paramount.  I had hoped though that it would work out for them both, but it was not to be.  I  was going to let it go as a misguided attempt for my friend’s happiness.  To my surprise though, my cousin from Winona called me one evening.  We had talked for sometime about many things and then she asked me about Anne.  I told her that I hadn’t seen Anne since introducing her to my friend.  She then asked if I was interested in her and if so, “I would like to arrange for you to go out for dinner after church with my husband and myself, and Anne and her family, that is if she accepts.  I think that she likes you Augie and I would like to help you meet with her again.”  This threw me off since I did not see this coming at all.  Later in retrospect, I could see God working here to guide me in the direction that he wanted me to go. 
Needless to say, I did meet with Anne and her family and the rest is history.  Was God working in my cousin to call me, yes I can say that he was. 

Now standing before the retired superintendent, and thinking about his question as to why I was leaving a career that he thought anyone would want, and one that I had worked so hard to get.  I looked at this distinguished gentleman and said, “I am walking away from this job to marry a woman that I love.” 
“What will you do for a living Augie?” 
“Perhaps bag groceries, I don’t know, all I do know is that I have fallen in love with Anne and she comes before my career.”  He then shook his head with a puzzled look on his face and walked away.

Early morning sunrise viewed from our home.
God had taken me full circle and showed me that when being in his will, and placing him first, he fulfills the desire of the heart, even if one isn’t aware of their heart’s desire at the time.  God gave me a job teaching at-risk children and eventually teaching my own children here at home.  My marriage with Anne is growing in God’s perfect love.  We experience his grace each day and he is teaching us to love each other as he does us.  What a gift God has given to me, this woman who loves me more than I can say.  I try each day to be worthy of her, for I know as each day comes and goes, she is a gift from God.  I do love Anne with all my heart and he is still teaching me how to be a husband, father and follower of his will.  I get up each day and thank God for giving me this life that I don’t deserve, that of a loving wife and a wonderful family.  I am happier than I have ever been, and at peace with my choices, choices that were directed by God’s hidden hand.  Jehovah Jira!

Anne and I at our Groom's Supper.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

In Memory of Marjorie Dalzell


My spirit ascends to you O'Lord.  I am coming home.


Marjorie (Marj) Dalzell  1920-2013

This last week our family has been experiencing the loss of Marj. Dalzell.  She was grandmother to my wife Anne, and great grandmother to our children.  My mother-in-law Marjorie has experienced the greatest loss, the passing of her mother Marj.  Marj was a wonderful lady.  She lived her remaining years here in Winona, Minnesota with her husband Ron.  Ron preceded Marj in death in 2007.

Catherine Dalzell giving tribute
to her grandma Marjorie
 at the memorial service.
Marj was a wonderful lady that I came to know throughout the years.  She was kind and loving to our family and she always had special things to say to our children.  In listening about her life recently I realized that I did not really know much of Marj’s past until this last week when children and grandchildren brought many of their memories of her to the table, and we all listened to these wonderful stories.  

Marj spent many years on the road with her husband Ron doing evangelical mission work in Canada and the U.S.  Needless to say, she devoted her life to the Lord, and to her family. 
In gentle service and love to Marjorie.
Gayle Porter and little Abby Thurmer.

For me, it was my privilege to have known her for these short 14 years.  Christians like Marj express more of Christ’s love by their actions than by words.  She had a gentle soul that would lift you out of the depths of despair by her touch and gentle smile.  Many times Marj and I would joke about things and she would quietly chuckle at my humor.  

I never got to know my real mother, but I did get to know my mom’s twin.
Abby singing her first solo at Marj's memorial service.
  She too had the same gentle spirit like that of Marj, and my aunt as well appreciated humor in our mutual relationship.  Both my aunt 
Inis and Marj were much alike.  I often thought that if my mom would have lived I hoped that she would have been much like Marj.  God has been very generous with me in that he has surrounded me with people like Marj who have reflected the image of Christ in their kindness and love. 

Bryan Dalzell speaking about his mother Marjorie.
I am a better person for knowing Marjorie.  In her gentle submission to God’s will in her life, she has been a conduit of Christ’s love to many thousands of people that Marjorie has touched, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them.    
It was my privilege to have known 
Marjorie for these last 14 years.  Rest in peace my friend. May God's loving arms hold you to his heart.
Abby and aunt Gayle singing and playing piano at the service.