Is Your Life Jacket On?

Today’s blog post was written for Petals from the Basket by “Grandma” (my mom, Lorraine Strohbehn).

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For a few days over the Fourth of July, my daughter and I visited another of my daughters and her family. My son-in-law took a couple of days of vacation from his work to share our visit with them.

They designated our second day there as our day on the lake. They attached the boat behind the car, packed a picnic lunch into the cooler, and made sure that all the gear was ready. We drove just a few miles to the lake, and the five of us boarded the boat, ready for merriment!

I was given the choice seat, across from the driver (oh the advantages of these gray hairs—I love every minute of it!) and then fitted with a life jacket in case something unexpected happened. I was safe and ready for the waves and speed and the laughter that followed. I loved seeing the skiers as they jumped the wake and met the challenges of staying up for extended periods of time.

Think about it: I put my life jacket on before the boat ever took off. What a picture of my time in God’s Word. I find that time spent reading my Bible is a special blessing and provides the security and strength I need so that I am ready to face, without fear, whatever comes my way.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

—Psalm 27:1–2, KJV

Hospitality is Easier than It Looks!

I don’t remember too many weeks from my childhood when we didn’t have someone in our home for coffee, a meal, game night, or any other number of reasons. But as I’ve grown older (okay fine: much, much older), I’ve realized that this is more the exception than the rule for most families. In the post that follows, my mom, Lorraine, shares a few simple thoughts on the importance and ease of heart-driven hospitality.

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“Come join us for dinner after church on Sunday. We are inviting the Coonrads and the Cruickshanks. We know you will love getting to know them. Sometimes new families find it a bit overwhelming to meet people with similar interests. I’ll have most everything ready, thanks to my slow cooker, and the men can cook the meat on the grill.”

Does that sound like something you would do, or do you shy away from having people in your home?

1 Peter 4:9–10, NIV: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Sometimes, wonderful friendships begin over a meal at the kitchen table. Don’t think of entertaining as a way to show off “things,” but think of it as a way of showing hospitality, which is a ministry.

Many excuses come to mind when we think of having guests in our home:

“We can’t afford it.”

“Our house isn’t nice enough.”

“Our table is too small.”

“My husband doesn’t like a crowd.”

“It’s too much work.”

“We’ll do it later, when: the kids are bigger / we have a bigger place / my cooking improves, etc.”

Use what you have, within the parameters of your home, finances, and time. Know what? Your guests will love it!

  • Tidy up your house. I find that I always get something extra done in the area of cleaning when company is coming!
  • Set the table early.
  • Plan your menu and prepare as much as possible ahead of time.
  • When you invite your guests, ask if they have food allergies or dislikes.
  • Don’t hesitate to accept your guest’s offer to bring dessert, chips, salad, or veggies. (Be sure to tell them how many people will be there.)

The fellowship is the goal of your hospitality! Don’t miss that because you are exhausted from last-minute preparation.

Hebrews 13:1–2, NIV: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Hospitality is a great way and easily attainable way to be a good and generous steward of what the Lord has entrusted to you.

Set a time this week to open your home to others in the near future! When it’s done with God’s help and for His glory, you’re sure to have a great time!

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Do you have a question for Grandma or a topic you’d like to learn more about from someone who has most likely been there and done that sometime in her eighty-four years? Send your questions to Grandma@PetalsfromtheBasket.com!

More Grace

I’ll be honest: my spiritual compass has been a little off track lately. Unfortunately, I allow it to do that too often. And sadly, I frequently make excuses, procrastinate, and become too distracted by things, people, and longings to fix it. Recently I said, “No more. I miss the sweet fellowship of just talking to my heavenly Father with no barriers between us.”

And in His extravagant and uncommon grace, He held out His arms and said, “My Son, Jesus, already paid the consequences for your sin. Therefore, I never left you. I’ve been loving you the whole time. I forgive you. I’ll guide you through this.”

Because temptation and sin are daily battles for me—and let’s be honest: for all of us!—it becomes a daily choice to “stay connected.”

As part of my personal study and reading of the book of James, I read James 4:1-6 this morning. I never cease to be amazed by the fact that God’s timing, even in our Bible reading, is perfect—truly perfect.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

—James 4:1-6 (NIV, emphasis mine)

The words that follow are the response I recorded in my personal God-and-I-Time journal today:

It seems to me that verse 2 is reminding me of how often I seek the wrong things, lose my focus, and, sadly, lose my way. But it ends with: “Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” [And what I want is victory over all of this!] But later, in verse 6, it tells me clearly that there is more grace than there is temptation and sin!

The note in the Bible (which Daddy had underlined in red) reminds me: “The Spirit does not want us to have divided allegiance.” Yet I am so easily pulled to want what I want—when I want it.

“But He giveth more grace…” [The NIV uses: "And He gives grace generously."]

…more grace than my undisciplined stewardship of my time and resources.

…more grace than my impatience—with others and with God’s timing.

…more grace than my pride.

…more grace than I could ever be “perfect” enough to earn.

So today I claim that grace, and I find it to be generous…to be more! Because of His grace, He can, He did, and He will!

Sweet faith-friend, please cling to this thought today when you’re feeling less than perfect, prone to wander, and weary of the constant struggles:

Nothing is greater than the greatness of His generous grace!

My Faraway Father

Writing a blog post about my deceased father on Father’s Day weekend seemed so cliché, unspectacular, and anticipated. For the last two weeks I fought hard not to give in. My mind was fully determined to remain silent; yet, my heart was pleading for a chance to honor, to remember, to form its feelings into words that could be shared. To truly honor my father, my heart had to win, because during his lifetime, my father wanted so desperately to help, teach, and lovingly guide other fathers to the heart of God.

When my father traveled to multiple foreign countries for the express purpose of living out—and therefore giving out—the love and gospel of Christ, he left part of his heart in each country. When he spoke in literally hundreds of churches over the course of his lifetime, with a desire to help strengthen families, churches, and individuals by teaching them to focus on Christ, he left part of his heart in each church, camp, or institution. When he was no longer able to travel and later became confined to his house due to the effects of Parkinson’s disease, he generously gave his heart to those who took the time to stop by and learn from him and to those who loved him dearly and were around him on a daily basis.

You see, he was always very present wherever he was: such that I knew that when I needed him, I had his full attention. He not only gave me life; he gave me his heart. Yet he gave me something even greater than that: he taught me by his life that because he had given his heart to Christ—the One Who loved him with an unconditional, forgiving, amazing love and Who provided extravagant grace for him to believe in Him—he wanted his actions to stem from the fact that his heart was longing for its heavenly home.

Because of that, “things” were insignificant. Because his heart was fixed on its final destination, his focus held its gaze on the One Who dwelt there. Because he loved the Lord his God with all his heart, he could freely give his heart to others.

Was his heart perfect? No, no, a thousand times no. (In fact, that’s not only a figurative statement; it is quite literal: five bypasses and open-heart surgery to have a valve replaced, in spite of healthy eating and consistent daily exercise.) He was ever cognizant of the fact that he daily needed what only God could give—grace, forgiveness, and pardoning love.

But it was those imperfections that drove him to the heart of God for guidance, comfort, and strength and that created within him a desire to learn all that he could (until his dying day) about his Lord.

Yes, he loved my mother. Yes, he loved all of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And yes, he loved so many, many, many of you. But there was more to it than that.

Though he is far away from this earth now, the lesson I think his life taught me most as a father and that he would most want other fathers to know is this:

Love others with selfless sincerity, but let that love come from a heart that loves God most.

That’s how the Father loves us. And that’s how fathers can change the world that they have been called upon to love—even when they are far away.

Four Words of Comfort

You know that moment when it feels like everything seems to be crashing around you, and you’re just not even certain where to begin to get it all back on track? I had that moment last night. In fact, I began my prayer with these exact three words:

“God, I’m there.”

Before I could get out another word, He reminded me of a worry-silencing truth with these four words:

“I know. I’m here.”

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.
For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT).

At Home in the Hallway

One of my favorite quotations recently is: “Until God opens the next door for you, praise Him in the hallway.” (There are many versions and photo memes of this all around Facebook and the Internet in general, including my own.)

Sometimes it seems like the hallway is my permanent residence. Waiting, hoping, praying, longing, and waiting some more. But then I wonder what I’m waiting for. I’m where He wants me, and He wants (and deserves) my praise from that location, in this moment.

He may have me in the hallway so that I can cheer others on as they enter their chosen or assigned doorways.

He may have me in the hallway so that I can cry with those who exit a doorway in grief or loss or realize that the door they’ve been pounding on and trying to break down held heartaches that they could have or should have avoided.

He may have me in the hallway so that I can stand beside others who are waiting, hoping, praying, and longing. He may want me to be there, with a heart of firsthand understanding, to pray with them, listen to them, and point them to the unchanging, unshakable truths in His Word.

He may have me in the hallway…until.

Or…

He may have me in the hallway. Period.

Either way, for as long as I am there, I will praise Him.

“I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 146:2, NIV).

How to Make a Profound Difference

There’s a product available that makes it possible for writers (bloggers, in particular) to offer a “Tweet this” link following something that they think might be “quotable” or worthy of passing along in succinct form from their article or blog post. When used properly, it can be extremely helpful for spreading the word about something a reader wants to share that made an impact as he or she read the article/post. However, I am noticing that some of these bloggers are now trying so hard to be profound and “Tweetable” that their words are beginning to sound contrived and ingenuous. If not utilized properly, the tool can turn a potentially powerful statement into an arrogant plea for popularity through self-promotion.

Yet, how often do we fall into this trap in our everyday service to God and others? We give in order to be thought generous. We try to accomplish something big with a self-serving end result in mind. We try to say or write something profound with the desire of “going viral.” We post on Facebook solely to get “likes.” We try to make a difference by helping people, but in the process we become so enamored with the difference that we forget the people—not only those we desire to help but those who have been and will continue to be there beside us, encouraging us and loving us in spite of our neglect of them.

When our love for God and others provides the impetus for our actions and our words, when our giving comes from a heart of love that sees a need, a longing, and a hope and from a heart that selflessly desires to help meet that need, fulfill that longing, or offer that hope, then we will know the true joy of giving. That is the moment when we will fulfill God’s command:

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12, NIV).

He doesn’t love us so that He will be great. He loves us and generously gives to us because He is great—and good and kind and caring and patient and humble and….

Don’t set out to be profound. Don’t even set out to make a difference. From the outset, determine to care, to see the needs and hopes of others, to vulnerably and sincerely give from deep inside your heart, and in so doing, you will make a profound difference.

How Will You Use Your Memories?

Treasured memories should never hold us captive in the past; they should compel us to be grateful and to keep moving forward. My father taught me that truth through words similar to these and through actions that displayed them.

In the Bible, Paul used his memories this way. He said, in my own retelling of the historical truths found in the book of Acts, “Sure, I once had the admiration of others (for the wrong reasons); I was important; I had a well-known reputation; I used to hang out with the really big-name people who were proud of the fact that they got to hang out with me. Now I’m hated, talked about with disdain, and not someone the important people want to associate with. But here’s the thing: ‘none of these things move me.’ In fact, ‘my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace’ [Acts 20:24, NIV]. That, my friends, is what matters.”

Treasure your memories; learn from your memories. But keep moving forward. Paul (and my precious father) knew that you don’t “finish the race” by standing still.

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Photo story: One of my favorite photos now is from a day when I sat and held my father’s hand
while he talked to me about waiting on God, waiting patiently for those I love and care about,
and moving forward with my dreams and desires—because life is short.

Gratitude and Joy

A spirit of gratitude and joy doesn’t depend on whether or not things go as I planned, whether or not I get that longed-for call or e-mail or text, whether or not my bank account is overflowing, or whether or not my past has left me in a present that I would not have chosen on my own.

It comes from within, where God dwells, and therefore, it need not depart when outward circumstances fail or change, because He never changes. His character is always the same.

So today, I not only rejoice in the new mercies I’m given each day to face these outward elements, but I also choose gratitude for the fact that He will not ask me to face them alone!

Your Book Is Available!

Yes, this is your book. You are the (earthly) reason that it exists. And for that, I cannot thank you enough! And because of that, I’m thrilled to announce that Petals from the Basket (Book 2) is now available on Amazon!


In December 2014, I released Petals from the Basket: Devotional Thoughts for Women, praying that it would be an encouragement to the readers of this blog. Instead, the readers of these brief devotional thoughts encouraged me!

“I truly believe that God had you put that devotional in that specific place in the book so that I would read it this morning when I needed that verse and the reminders you shared!” —Reader in Indiana

“I was going to read one devotional a day, but I couldn’t put it down! When is the next one coming out?” —Reader in California

“You helped me simplify my Christmas shopping! I’m giving this to every woman on my list! I loved it!” —Reader in Michigan

How does a writer respond to that? By gratefully praying in sincere humility that this second book of devotional thoughts will be a salve for sorrow, a spiritual booster shot when you feel like shutting down, a reminder of redemption, a glimpse at His amazing grace, and a means for pointing you to the One who all too often gets lost in the crowd of everyday life.

This book, Petals from the Basket (Book 2): Devotional Thoughts for Women, contains several favorite blog posts from this blog. The posts appear in random order of dates, topics, and titles, because try as we might, life generally ends up far more random than our desire for order and predictability would like it to!

Several readers requested additional lines for journaling, so I listened, and you’ll find more room for that in this book! However, not everyone likes to journal their thoughts at the end of the devotionals, so I’m once again giving you permission to leave some (or all) of the lines blank and to simply use them if and when you wish to write in your own thoughts! But I’d also like to encourage you to jot down some of your responses and be honest about what God is doing in your heart as you read and learn. After all, without sincerity and the freedom to acknowledge our weaknesses, it’s difficult to grow stronger.

I say it often, but I mean it: thank you for walking this journey with me! To God be the glory!

[Click the photo of the book cover to learn more about the book and/or to order your copy!]