So He Made It Over

“But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him” (Jeremiah 18:4, NIV)

The Amplified Bible says, “So He made it over.”

“So He made it over.” I am not disposable to God! He has placed a value on me (through the blood of Christ) that will never diminish! So when I am  ”marred,” He chooses to remake me: perhaps for a different use or purpose or with an updated design or function, but He doesn’t dispose of me!

Oh the blessed intermingling of grace and hope!

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Christmas is Coming!

What better Christmas idea to go with today’s challenge than a pottery wheel for kids. Order early and help/let your children make their own handcrafted pottery for relatives, teachers, and friends! No baking necessary!

Click here to view Discovery Kids Motorized Pottery Wheel

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Survey Prize Winners – And a Surprise!

This was too much fun! I couldn’t wait! So I’m announcing the winners today! But first, I am sending many, many, many of you a huge shout out for taking time to participate in the survey this past week. The number of responses far exceeded my expectations and hopes!

It was good for me to see that while some readers dislike certain elements, the majority said that they like those same elements. In other cases, the majority didn’t favor some elements, while others wanted more of them! But that’s what made it worthwhile! Your comments and ideas were helpful and insightful, and I will take them to heart as I continue to focus on sharing my heart, my failures, my blessings, my life, and my God through Petals from the Basket. So thank you!

The winners were completely selected through a random drawing process through a third party. (In other words, I had no input on selecting the winners!) Oh how I wish I were able to give every survey taker a prize, but alas, I am not. And yes, I have once again used the word alas in a blog post! So let me announce the winners forthwith (that one was for you, my Friday night friends)!

Grand Prize – EMMY P.
1 But God necklace (purchased from The Vintage Pearl) and
5 copies of the But God Bible study
Value: $84.95

First Prize – ANITA C.
1 But God necklace (purchased from The Vintage Pearl) – value: $45.00

Second Prize – DAR S.
5 copies of the But God Bible study – value: $39.95

Third Prize – ELIZABETH K.
1 copy of The Best Yes, by Lysa Teurkeurst – value: $15.95

Fourth Prize – JEAN H.
1 copy of the But God Bible study – value: $7.99

*Total value of all prizes (not including shipping and handling, which we will pay): $193.84

CONGRATULATIONS!

E-mails have been sent to the prize winners. Please contact us via reply e-mail us before November 30, 2014 with your shipping address!

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And now for a big SURPRISE!

I have contacted several of the companies whose items I will be sharing as Christmas ideas this month, and there will be
more giveaways (no surveys this time) during the months of November and December! I’m tickled pink! This is way too much fun! Stay tuned!

 

Why I Schedule Time with God

“The first day, God knows. The second day, you know. By the third day, everybody knows.” I would cringe nearly every time my mom shared this with me—which was often—because I knew she was right. And few of us like to readily admit that “mama knows best!” Yet, the older we get, the more we realize that she actually did know best!

Neglecting to spend time in Bible study, prayer, heavenward meditation, or a combination of any or all of these doesn’t go unnoticed. Now be careful, because it’s not about placing a check mark on your “I’m a good Christian because I do these things” list. ["It" being "devotions," "personal Bible study," "God-and-I time," etc.] It’s a choice to talk to and learn from the Creator of the universe who willingly sent His only Son to die in my stead (because of my sin, present since birth, that causes me to fall short of God’s glory) because of an unconditional love that never fails. (Can I get a hallelujah on that sentence alone? Wow!)

It’s more like having the privilege to place a check mark on your “Because of all He’s done, I want to do this (‘this’ being equivalent to the “it” above) so that I can be a better Christian—be more like Christ!”

So I daily choose to place an allotted time on my calendar for “God-and-I time” (GAIT). I call it that because I view it as an appointment I need to keep, a meeting I need to attend, and a commitment I need to honor. You are probably much better than I am about “just doing it,” but I find that if I don’t literally schedule it into my day, I neglect that time because I allow other things to so easily crowd their way into my schedule, usually because the evil ick tells me those things matter more (as if!).

How much time? That varies. I would encourage you not to set a specific time range [i.e., 30 minutes or 60 minutes]. Just listen as you read, reply in prayer, and let each day’s lesson guide you through and strengthen you for that day’s journey. It’s an appointment worth keeping!

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“Prime”-ing the Pump for Christmas

[Note: several of the Christmas suggestions will contain "affiliate links," meaning that, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission from the company whose information I am sharing with you. ALL affiliate income (100%) earned in the months of November and December will be donated to Soles for Jesus, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that distributes shoes to those in regions where shoes are not readily available and yet are a vital part of the region's health and well-being.]

I’m kicking off my Christmas shopping ideas with what I think might be the most important one of all: Amazon Prime. Here are five reasons why I think it’s worth every penny—including how you can enroll in the program (for a brief time) absolutely free!

1. It’s a one-time payment for all your shipping charges from Amazon for one full year! When you purchase on Amazon, your shipping choice will default to your Free Amazon Prime method, which is two-day shipping! (No it’s not free after the first 30 days, you pay a yearly fee, but if you order much from Amazon at all, it doesn’t take long to start getting it free!)

2. Amazon Prime also earns you free books to download for Kindle, Kindle for PC, or Kindle for Mac.

3. Amazon Prime also gives you the opportunity to watch TV shows and movies at little to no cost!

4. Amazon Prime allows you to use “one-click” shopping, saving you hours of time over the course of a year.

5. Amazon Prime is perfect for Christmas shopping because you can click “this is a gift,” and Amazon will include a gift note for the recipient—and send it for free!

But here’s the best part of all, you get a 30-day FREE TRIAL! So now is the PERFECT time to enroll. If you love it and realize how much you save, enroll in the program and pay the annual fee; if not, just cancel (and they, unlike many companies, make it easy to cancel).

You’ll thank me. :)

Click here to get your free trial of Amazon Prime and/or enroll in the program!

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Be sure to stop by the Health Updates page for the latest news on Dad’s end-stage Parkinsons and Mom’s eye conditions.

From Crud, Crying, and Cringing to Christmas Shopping!

It’s been a “But God” week for me. And that’s not a shameless plug for the book; it’s a fact!

The Crud

I don’t know if I had “the crud” or a massive migraine, but last Saturday (dawn to dusk and every minute in between) I was as sick as a dog. (It just hit me: dogs must get pretty sick because we use that expression to mean really, really sick—but I digress.) I’m not a good sick person. It’s such a waste of time that I get really depressed thinking of all the time I’m wasting or missing out on or the work that’s not getting done, and I end up feeling sicker. Enter biblical principle #1: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22, NLT). It’s true. And I’m thankful that whatever I had was gone by midmorning on Sunday.

Crying

Did I happen to mention that it’s truly been a “But God” week for me? My dad (you can read about his journey with end-stage Parkinsons here) had a rough week, and I found myself tired and using that lame excuse to make impatient decisions, to foster selfish thoughts, and to make wrong choices.

No, my tears were not because I wasn’t getting my way or because life was seemingly difficult. I humbly confess that my tears flowed freely one evening when I stopped to read God’s Word (the solid rock I have to run to when storms hit) and read two of my favorite verses (Lamentations 3:22-23), and then I continued reading the next three verses, with eyes and heart wide open: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:22-26, NIV). Wow. Just wow. Tears flowing again just typing those truths. Enter biblical principle #2: His mercies are undoubtedly new every morning because He knows we need them daily.

Cringing

I cringed when I hit the “Publish” button on yesterday’s blog post. Getting feedback is so vital, so necessary, so helpful—and so scary. Enter biblical principle #3: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22, NIV). You are the advisory board for this blog. That’s why your input matters to me. And because your input matters, I really, really want you to take the Reader Survey (which you can do by clicking here). I even threw in almost $200.00 in prizes just because I value what you have to say.

Christmas Shopping

I like things, sure, but I’m not into “stuff” anymore. Buying gifts just to buy them or fulfilling a quota for how much money I spend on someone is just not the way I want to do it at this point. Bless your hearts, don’t let this scare you, but a lot of you are just like I am! But that means you may also feel like I do: wondering where to find quality gifts (many of them with a life-impacting focus) for a good value.

So for the rest of November (and a little bit beyond), I’m going to share some of my favorite things and favorite sites. Some of these will be “affiliate links” (i.e., I get a small commission for any purchases made through the links—at NO extra cost to you), but don’t let that make you think I’m only sharing it for that reason. In fact, I’m donating 100% of ALL affiliate commission in November and December to Soles for Jesus, a Milwaukee-based organization that provides shoes for those who so desperately need them. (You can click here to read a previous article about this organization.)

These are simply recommendations, but I’m only sharing the ones I believe in, trust, think are worth the cost, and think you (and your gift recipients) would like! These will start on Monday and will be at the bottom of that day’s biblical challenge or thoughts.

And of course, one final C: the Conclusion

In spite of the crud, crying, and worrisome cringing, praise God we can end with biblical principle #4: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26, NIV)!

 

 

November Reader Survey and Giveaways!

There are a gazillion blogs available at the touch of your fingertips. That’s why I appreciate that you take the time to read Petals from the Basket.

Because you keep reading, I keep writing. Because what you want to read helps, in part, to determine what I write, Petals from the Basket is in many ways your blog too! That’s why I’m officially asking for your input again.

Please click the link below to take a very short 10-question survey. But before you do, keep reading!

To say thank you for taking the time to complete the survey (during this month set aside to show gratitude), you will be entered into a drawing for some great giveaway items. I will even include the cost of shipping and handling at no expense to you! Submit your survey no later than midnight (EST), Monday, November 10, 2014!

Click HERE to take the Petals from the Basket Reader Survey!

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November Reader Survey Prizes

Grand Prize:

1 But God necklace (purchased from The Vintage Pearl) and

5 copies of the But God Bible study

(Later in the month, I’ll tell you how you can purchase a But God necklace directly from The Vintage Pearl at a special price!)

Value: $84.95

First Prize

1 But God necklace (purchased from The Vintage Pearl) – value: $45.00

Second Prize

5 copies of the But God Bible study – value: $39.95

Third Prize

1 The Best Yes, by Lysa Teurkeurst – value: $15.95

Fourth Prize

1 copy of the But God Bible study – value: $7.99

*Total value of all prizes (not included shipping and handling, which we will pay): $193.84

All shipping, handling, and prize costs will be paid in full by Brenda Strohbehn and PetalsfromtheBasket.com.

Click HERE to take the Petals from the Basket Reader Survey!

 

A Short Memo to Church Leaders on Behalf of Singles*

Pastors, spiritual leaders, church small group organizers, etc. Just a loving tip from one of many whose house doesn’t have a spouse—because I’ve seen it more often than not over the last five years [and I truthfully, therefore, refer to no specific church in particular]:

When listing what your church has to offer, remember that in listing “Couples/College/Teens/Children” as the headings for what you offer in the way of small groups on Sundays, you are unintentionally but specifically omitting many who fit into none of those categories. You do the same by using the title “ADULTS” and then offering only courses on parenting, marital relationships, etc.

Yes, having classes and courses for couples is imperative. But I implore you to please understand that the majority of your singles* are not single because they chose it but because God chose that for them for this time, and they are choosing to rejoice in His choosing and in Him.

Please don’t make that so hard for them.

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*I use the term “singles” here as a generic term for those without a spouse in the house, whether never married, divorced, or widowed.

The Need for Clean Hearts and Clean Carpet

My precious friend Amy calls it carpet-smelling prayer. In Luke 5:12 (NASB), the Bible uses the idea of “falling on your face” before the Lord in prayer: “While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’”

I think the motivation behind a prayer with this much emotion, this much passion, this much desire comes from the action described in the four words that precede his falling on his face before the Lord: “when he saw Jesus.”

Oh sure, we read about Jesus. We talk about Jesus. Shoot, we even sing about Jesus. But when was the last time we saw Jesus?

No I’m not being mystical or speaking of physically viewing the living, breathing Son of God sitting across the room. I’m speaking of a much deeper view: a view that transcends mere vision.

For example, when I truly see Him for who He is and think of the Lord as my shepherd, I don’t merely envision a male human being tending bleating sheep. I don’t even simply picture the Lord Himself walking with me, staff in one hand, my hand in the other, as I find rest beside still waters—as awesome as that thought is. When I know Him and have a firsthand understanding of the depth of His character, I see in that title “shepherd” the overwhelming truth that because of who He is, “I shall not want.” It encompasses the entirety of His being, His power, and His love.

Therein lies the problem. We fail to see—truly see—Jesus.

No, wait. I need to speak in the first person, teaching these truths to myself first. So let me rewrite that previous statement: I fail to see—truly see—Jesus.

So then here’s the centuries-old question: Why do I continue in those things that distract me from seeing Jesus?

While there are many reasons for taking my eyes off of Jesus, perhaps the second chapter of the book of First John sums up the top three the best: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (verses 15–16, NASB).

It’s that pesky “boastful pride of life” that seems to be effective at taking my eyes off of Jesus. But it might not be in the way that seems most obvious. The problem comes because I know my own sinfulness. When I use the eyes of truth to view who I am, I focus on those past sins and evil desires and—come on now, I know I can’t be the only one—I think “He’s not going to hear me anyhow because I just can’t seem to ‘get all the sin out!’” So I remain quiet.

Oh the pride in the delusion that my unworthiness is greater than His grace.

But there’s that word: grace. The grace that He gives me over and over and over and over is given unconditionally, unceasingly, and undeservedly. It’s the grace that makes Him God and leaves me in need of a God of grace.

And it is in remembering that grace that I let go of that which I held so tightly, and in the letting go, my gaze turns to Jesus.

And in gazing upon Jesus, I am compelled to fall upon my face in the adoration that flows from “carpet-smelling prayer.”

 

Free Printable Calendar

Just for fun, here’s a free printable 2015 calendar for your refrigerator, notebook, or desk! You have been such an  encouragement and blessing to me that I thought it would be fun to give you a little surprise “thank-you” gift today to help you think ahead to the following: 1) things you want to ask God to help you accomplish before the end of 2014 and 2) things you want to ask God to help you accomplish in 2015! Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week!

Click on the photo of the calendar to download your free printable 2015 calendar!

The Joy of Overwhelming Tears

I can’t believe I cried. There I was: with a godly man whose character, confidence, humor, intelligence, and wisdom intrigued me. And to top it all off, he was cute.

But as I sat across the table from him on our dinner date, I cried.

Now one thing that many who are close to me know about me is that I have an excruciatingly tender heart. I am sentimental, easily touched, and have a disproportionate amount of empathy for others, and, you guessed it, when those emotions come flooding into my heart, the overflow is seen through the tears running down my cheeks. But on a date? (Perhaps that was a contributing factor as to why it was our one and only date, but that’s a whole ‘nother story that I hope won’t distract our focus from what matters in this one!)

What would make me cry so easily in such a setting? It was the fact that these were not tears of sorrow but tears that resulted from being overwhelmed by the goodness of God.

My date had graciously asked various questions about my life, and as I shared much of what had transpired during recent years following my “mandatory resignation,” which had led to many months with no significant income, I realized anew the amazing provisions from my almighty God!

After sharing a few of the ways that God had, in His unfailing faithfulness and because of His unconditional love, provided material things—things like groceries, clothing, gas money, and more—and had taught me invaluable lessons about His all-encompassing power, the tears of gratitude began to flow. I said to the compassionate man sitting across from me, “I’m sorry to cry, but He’s just been so amazing that I simply have to talk about Him!”

While reading from Psalm 30 this morning, I was reminded of this event and thought to myself: When was the last time my tears of thankfulness to God flowed this freely? When was the last time I could not keep silent? When was the last time my heart was overtaken by overwhelming joy?

I confess right here, right now that I have become distracted by that which is good but that even in its goodness turns my heart to the temporal rather than the eternal. And in the process, I, like the children of Israel who so often experienced—and just as often forgot—the blessings of God, have become “unaffected” by His incomparable mercy and grace.

So my public and private prayer today are one and the same: Lord, unclutter my heart that I might once again stand in awe of who You are in such a way that I cannot help but proclaim it by my words and by my life!

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One week from today, subscribers will be given the opportunity to take a brief five-question survey and be entered for the chance to win one of several very generous prizes, including books, jewelry from my new favorite store (The Vintage Pearl), and even gift cards! You can subscribe using the box in the right-hand column of this page. Just be sure to verify your subscription when the verification e-mail arrives (so that we know it was really you who subscribed).