Trust

Trust is earned. God has earned it.

When He says He will, He does.

When He says He won’t, He doesn’t.

When He says, “always,” He means it.

When He says, “trust me,” you can!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverb 3:5-6, NLT).

Sure, I’ll Clean Your Bathroom

I love to clean bathrooms (seriously)—at someone else’s house. I love to fanatically organize clothes, closets, or storage boxes—at someone else’s house. And, I’m sad to confess, I love to fix what’s wrong—in someone else’s life.

Maybe it’s the way bloggers view life. Maybe it’s just the writer in me, seeking topics of interest to develop into some great masterpiece of timeless literature that will transform hearts and lives (as if). Maybe, just maybe, it’s that it’s easier to point out what someone else is doing wrong and needs to work on than it is to use the mirror of reality, viewing my own reflection through the eyes of truth.

There are many times that I have been tempted to address an “issue” or a “wrong” in order to “preach” at someone else. In my own mind, of course, I convince myself that my goal centers on the lofty purpose of helping him or her to be more like Christ. After all, I’m a teacher, an encourager, and…[as reflected in that mirror of truth]…proud, judgmental, and willingly blind to my own sins.

I’m spending a gloriously inordinate amount of time studying the book of James these days, and James 2:10 had, as it were, a trumpet fanfare of, “Read this carefully, Brenda Lee,” attached to it this morning:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10, NIV).

This was one of those SMH (“smack my head”) moments, when I saw the words, “and yet stumbles at just one point.” I teach, know, and wholeheartedly believe that sin is sin; it is that which separates the unholy me from the holiness of God. Yet I continue to excuse my “little sins.” (I love how the writer of this verse called it just stumbling, not even falling!) And my thoughts—”Thank goodness I’m not as bad/sinful/ungodly as that person”—too often cause me to think that my wrong choices and arrogant attitudes are somehow justifiable.

But this morning it hit me (sorry for my delayed learning times, faith-friends—I’m a slow faith-learner!): I cannot justify [make excuses for] my sins, but because of God’s grace, mercy, and love, I am justified [excused, pardoned, forgiven]!

As that takes root in my mind, my heart, my life, I suddenly view my gifts of teaching and encouraging not as tools for “showing others what they’re doing wrong” but as opportunities to reflect the grace, mercy, and love that I have received. I see the forgiveness that I do not deserve, have not earned, and need so often, and my pride turns to grateful humility.

Now, friends, if you’ll excuse, me, I need to go clean the bathrooms…in my own house.

Lord, may the only one I “judge” be me,
and may the One I reflect be You. 

_________________

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Receiving and Giving Comfort

Photo credit: Shutterstock, Feng Yu

On Tuesday afternoon, while working upstairs in my home office, I overheard my mom making several phone calls to promise prayer for, offer comfort to, and encourage several women who had recently lost their husbands. She understands. She gets it. She’s also recently widowed.

I couldn’t help but think of one of her favorite passages of Scripture as I saw her living it out:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. —2 Corinthians 1:3–5, NIV

You  might reply, “But no one reached out to me. No one understood my needs.” Then you should know how greatly you longed for that and how awful it felt not to receive it. Don’t let someone else feel that way.

What loss, life change, shattered dream, problem, trouble have you gone through that you can use as a springboard for reaching out to others with a heart of understanding? They need you. They need your understanding. God has asked you to share it with them. How will you do that today?

Grandma’s Guide to Personal Bible Study

One of the questions I am asked most often is about how to have devotions. People are often told that they should have daily devotions, but they are not taught how to have them. The way I have chosen to have my devotions is a way, not necessarily the way.

In order to worship the Lord and to know His will, we need to have a daily time (a “devoted” time; hence, the term “devotions”) to be alone with Him, reading His Word. When this is an established choice, we are more likely to make it a part of our to-do list for that day. As I mentioned above, I have a plan that works well for me, and I would like to share that plan with you.

1. Begin your devotional time with a plan to memorize Scripture.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV) states: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Determine to learn one verse per week. Read the verse aloud five times. Repeat this before you go to bed. Continue this for the entire week. In the weeks that follow, keep going back over these verses as you add new ones. When you have completed a chapter, continue to say it at least once a week for several months. Then review it at least once a month, and you will have it hidden in your heart forever!

2. Pray for guidance.

Ask the Lord to show you something from His Word that will help you glorify Him and strengthen your Christian walk today.

3. Read your Bible.

Find a place where you can spread out the materials that will make your devotions a time of worship, encouragement, and spiritual growth. Do not substitute other books for the Word of God. Use supplemental materials (e.g., a good commentary or other study aids) to help you understand and get the most from your reading. Second Timothy 2:15 instructs us: “Study to thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Choose a plan for your Bible reading. You may wish to read your Bible through in a year. You may wish to do a more in-depth study of one book of the Bible or do a word study. Character studies are exciting and can be challenging.

4. Have a notebook in which you answer two questions at the end of your Bible reading time:

a. What did I read?

b. What did the Lord show me through what I read?

This is your time to meditate on what you read and to seek God’s wisdom for how to apply it to your life. Answer both of these questions with only one or two sentences. Making your answers too long will discourage you from using your notebook consistently.

5. Pray.

Have a prayer list. I recommend that you divide one page of your notebook into seven columns, one for each day of the week. Simply list those you plan to pray for on each of those days. If you have promised to pray for someone, write it down so that you won’t forget it. You may also wish to include a page where you can write down answers to prayer. First Thessalonians 5:16–18 tells us to: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Keep some little sticky notes in the front of your Bible. Then, when you learn of something you should pray for, write in on one of the blank sticky notes. Later, transfer that note to your prayer list and pray for that need faithfully.

Your daily devotions should be the highlight of your day! Never let them become a boring or meaningless ritual. Psalm 109:105 (NIV) states: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” If we are to glorify God, we must choose to use the light of His Word as the guide for every choice we make.

With love,
Grandma

 

How Could I Not See That?

I’ve often heard that doctors and nurses make the worst patients and that teachers make the worst students. And now I can add another one to the list: editors (of which I am one) are often the last to see the errors in their own writing.

My livelihood is to use a microscopic approach when viewing the words of others. I watch for correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling, making corrections or suggestions where needed. (But please don’t call me a member of the “grammar police”; I despise that term. I do what I do not to point out everything that’s wrong but to make everything in the document right!)

Until it comes to my own writing, that is. I know what I mean to say, so my mind, eyes, heart—or whatever part of me it is that views my own writing—puts the words into place, even when they’re not really there. Here’s a perfect example: I spent a good deal of time one evening last week “creating” a meme (generally a picture of some sort that contains a brief written message/lesson) for the Petals from the Basket Facebook page. (Do you follow it? I’d love to see you there!) I was really pleased with how it turned out, so I smiled at it for a few minutes, admiring my handiwork and sincerely hoping that its simple beauty would bring home a truth to both my faith-friends and my friends whose faith has not yet found a home.

With that sincere desire in my heart, I clicked “post” and walked away from my computer.

An hour later, I was checking for an update on someone whose mom had been in the hospital, and I glanced at the meme on my own page—the meme I had contentedly and literally smiled at for what might seem an inordinate amount of time before having posted it. Oh my heart. There it was: this gigantic capital H was staring back at me with a snarky look as it announced to all: Brenda clearly didn’t proofread her own meme! [As you can see, I used a capital H on Hope; it should be lowercase as part of this sentence! As for the capitalization of entire words, that was simply a font choice.]

Lesson learned. I will look more closely, through unblinded eyes, or have someone else look at it for me before I post the next meme.

The bottom line, however, is not about the error; it’s about the message in the meme. But at this point, the meme holds a second meaning that hits as close to home for me as the first one.

“Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:5, NLT).

How quickly I identify the wrong choices someone else makes. How quickly I hear what (I think) they should be saying instead. How quickly I jump right in with “solutions” that will “correct” what (I think) they should be doing better.

How slow I am to accurately identify those wrong choices, wrong words, and wrong actions—in other words: those sins—in my own life.

How slow I am to clear away the sin that is revealed to me, and how quick I am to excuse it, to justify it, and to condemn that very thing in others.

Lord, remove the log in my eye that often clouds my view of my genuine self. When I can once again have unobstructed vision to observe the tiny speck in someone else’s eye, let me grant to that person the grace and unconditional love that I daily receive from You.

 

Promises in the Stars

What fear do you have for the week ahead?

What is consuming your thoughts as you look at the seven days before you?

Do me a favor: look at the stars tonight (or if the clouds are out, remember a starry night). Almighty God not only hung each of those place, but He also knows each one by the name He gave to it!

Now, think back to your answer and hand that thing/thought/worry/problem/need to this same wonderful God and focus on one thing:

He’s got this!

Psalm 147:3-5 (NIV)

He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars

and calls them each by name.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;

his understanding has no limit.

_____________

Photo credit: kriangkrai wangjai, via Shutterstock

Lavishing Grace!

Don’t you just love this thought:

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7–8, NIV).

As if the thought that we—and we each know what we’re really like down deep!—have redemption through His blood isn’t enough to just plain knock our socks off, that expression, “that He lavished on us,” is probably one of the best descriptions in all of word-dom!

Doesn’t that just conjure up the mental picture of grace upon grace upon grace upon…! We don’t earn it. It’s just this unfounded, incomparable, beyond-generous grace that He lavishes on us!

Best word ever!

Carry that thought today: you are, at every moment, being “bestowed profusely” (Merriam-Webster) with His grace!

What possible sin can that grace not redeem?

What possible sincere need can that grace not supply?

What possible problem can that grace not handle?

You Matter

Sweet friend without a spouse in the house (for whatever reason), you matter. What doesn’t matter is someone who doesn’t know that you’re worth both time and effort. Refocus your time and attention elsewhere. You. Matter. That was determined on the cross. That makes it permanent—unable to be changed by how someone does or does not treat you.

You. Matter.

Matthew 6:25-33, NLT

 25 That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.
Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.
And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?
27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.
They don’t work or make their clothing,
29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.
30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow,
he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?”
32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.
33 Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Grandma’s Ideas for Teaching Young Children about God-and-I Time

Dear Grandma,

What is a good way to train kids for daily devotions?  [How do I] develop that habit in kids? Also, what is a good devotion-time plan for them to follow?

~~~~~~~~

Grandma says:

I love your desire to teach your children this Christian discipline while they are young. As Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) teaches:

“Start children off on the way they should go,

and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Starting your children early on a planned time of Bible reading is wise and honors the Lord. Of course, as in every area, they learn best by seeing and hearing what you gain and show through your own personal devotions. As soon as they begin reading, they can start having their own devotions. Because there are so many variables, I will not suggest a specific age. But Scripture itself teaches that getting God’s Word into your child’s heart at a young age is a mean’s of protection and spiritual preparation:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

—Psalm 119:9–11 (NIV)

I’d like to recommend one preliminary step to personal devotional time. When children are ready to begin kindergarten, give them an alarm clock for their birthday or Christmas. Help them learn about time and the importance of being on time. They can then wake up to their alarm, not Mom’s voice. It makes for much smoother mornings and helps develop self-confidence for your child. Then, when they are starting to have their own devotions, they can set the alarm ten minutes earlier, and it will include their personal time with the Lord to begin their day. You might need to adapt this to the time of day that is best suited to your family’s schedule.

Another thing to consider before jumping into some specific ideas is this: If your child is involved in Scripture memory through your church, AWANA program, kids’ club, or a Christian day school, it will help you determine what version of Scripture you would like to use for his or her personal devotional time. It can be very confusing for a child to have varying translations used in his or her teaching, so this is important to consider when getting started.

I spoke with a representative at Child Evangelism Fellowship Press (CEFP) this week to see what they currently have available for young children in the way of personal devotional books. They have a series, Every Day with God, for the child just learning to read. About twenty to twenty-five years ago, our own granddaughters used and loved these little books. One of the things that is best about these is that the series comes in several little booklets so that rather than being overwhelmed by a large book containing all the devotionals for the year, the child can have a sense of accomplishment after finishing each little booklet! CEFP has other devotional material available as well. You can click here to visit the CEFP website.

Check with your local Christian bookstore as well. The owner at our local store mentioned that they carry a popular devotional for children called the Adventure Bible Devotional, though I am sharing that information having not seen the material. She also mentioned the Veggie Tales books, and while I know that those are popular, I caution you about mixing the imaginary world of talking plant life with the real-life characters in the Bible. While the stories may be exciting and perhaps true to Scripture in their content, your children might have a hard time discerning the line between real and make-believe.

Another widely recommended book is The Jesus Storybook Bible. My daughter Brenda often gives this as a gift and likes how the book shows Jesus throughout the pages of the entire Bible. You can click here to learn more about The Jesus Storybook Bible.

One final source for devotional material for young children and junior-aged children is through the Wilds Christian Camp and Conference Center, the organization with which my husband and I were associated for about twenty-five years. Author Rand Hummel has a heart for youth and for the Lord, and his material reflects that. Click here to visit the bookstore on The Wilds’ website.

By talking with your child about his or her personal time with the Lord, you can help to instill the truth that this is not merely a daily “to-do list” item that makes him or her a good Christian. It is a means of learning more about God and finding out how to become more like Him. It’s a way to take His Word and put it into practice. Therefore, it should never be used as punishment or as a forced amount of time (i.e., children should not be led to believe that 20 minutes = good Christian). Be certain that you are aware of each day’s material and then chat comfortably with your child about what he or she learned that day.

May you and your children be able to rejoice in the freshness of God’s Word.

With love,

Grandma (Lorraine)

Do you have a question for Grandma (about marriage, children, women’s groups, being a caregiver, etc.)?

Send your question to: Grandma@PetalsfromtheBasket.com

__________

*Petals from the Basket, PetalsfromtheBasket.com, Brenda Strohbehn, and Lorraine Strohbehn accept no legal liability for the answers given in the “Ask Grandma” posts. We reserve the right to refuse inappropriate content and will deny access to false or contrived e-mail addresses. Additionally, should the e-mails we receive in conjunction with this site or this series of posts contain information regarding illegal activity or actions that would cause injury to the sender or to others, the required legal action and reporting will occur.