Who Gets the Air Time in the Story of Your Life?

Yesterday in America, two members of a news team from Virginia lost their lives while in the process of broadcasting live on TV. I will watch the newsclips about their lives. I will honor their names—Alison and Adam. I will grieve in empathy with their loved ones, even though I did not know them. But I will immediately turn off the news or change the channel when information about their killer comes on. I don’t think killers deserve air time.

For some reason, I am struck today by the reality of how much “air time” we give to the negative elements of our lives. Negativity does not rob us of our joy; we place our joy directly into the hands of negativity, and in growing numbers we no longer put up a fight. (Notice that I said, “We.” Oh how aware I am of the fact that I lead the pack in making wrong choices far too often.) We spend hours each week allowing our minds to violate—yes, violate—the command in Philippians 4:8, which states:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).

It’s not naive to focus on the positive. Yes, you must be realistic: trials will come; you will have heartache and hardships; and your dreams could be dashed in one single act. But where is your focus? Where is my focus? What am I giving the air time of my days to?

You see, I don’t believe that God gives us commands without providing the means to achieve, strive for, and obey them.

So if He tells me that my thoughts should be on truth, why would I settle for second best (or worse) and listen to lies from the evil one? The evil ick whispers in our ears all kinds of hoo-ha, making us think that what we’re doing is harmless (which it might be…at that moment), causing us to pridefully think we’re above the probable consequences of our choices, and telling us that we deserve what we want, regardless of the dishonesty, secrecy, or wrong motives behind our desired goal.

And yet for every whisper of the evil ick, there is a promise that is boldly and permanently stated by our merciful God! That’s where our focus should be. That’s where we should invest our time, energy, and resources. Things that are untrue, dishonorable, wrong, impure, morally ugly, and disgusting are forever changing. The truths in God’s Word are unchanging. Period.

So maybe I’ll have to give up something that seems at first glance to be profitable to me financially or socially or in conjunction with my career or my family. So what? God is greater! When my focus is Christ, the words of the old hymn are proven true: “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” Look to that light. Keep your focus on that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise!

Don’t make provision to give in to the negative elements or to the sin that the evil ick is painting with the brush of momentary beauty. Walk away. The perceived loss is minuscule compared to the incomparable joy, love, and peace that He has promised to provide!

The Treasure of a Tuesday

It’s Tuesday afternoon. To me, Tuesday is the most nondescript day of the week: Sunday, of course, is the first day of the week and a day set aside for worship. Monday distinguishes itself from the others by being the dreaded day—the day for returning to work or school after “time off” over the weekend. Wednesday is known as “Hump Day,” not for anything wonderful or positive, but it still possesses a special status simply by falling in the middle of the week. Thursday is “almost Friday,” and it therefore carries with it a sense of anticipation. Friday—well, who among us has not given a silent or even audible cheer for the day that marks the end of the work week or school week and the promise of “playtime” when the sun rises the next morning? And Saturday, well, the mere mention of the word brings happiness to most people, primarily because of its position as the official “play day” of the week. (And yes, I realize that some people work on Saturdays, Sundays, etc., but the general “outline” of the week often follows the generic and stereotypical descriptions just noted.)

But then there’s Tuesday. It may seem that it has no unique qualities. It just sits there, surrounded by the dread of Monday and the gloom of “Hump Day,” yet in no way somber or dreaded. It quietly carries out its responsibilities from its unglamorous spot in the “Big Seven,” and it seems to enjoy its silent, unspectacular, consistent, often unnoticed role in our lives. As such, it is often a day of great productivity, because time is not spent wishing that we were “back at the weekend” or that we are “almost to the weekend” or even spent pining at the label of being the difficult-to-deal-with “Hump Day” in the middle of the week.

That’s why I love Tuesdays!

It’s why, when I created my weekly prayer list for various groups and individuals, I chose Tuesday as the day on which I pray for “my peeps”: those with no spouse in the house.

It helps to remind me that these precious friends might be surrounded on all sides by gloom and doom (the Mondays and Wednesdays of life—whether real or imagined), by lives that might seem more glamorous than their own, and by a constant longing for what is to come rather than the joy of the moment that is. And in many cases, they are standing there alone, unapplauded, and feeling oh so unspectacular.

Yes, many with a spouse in the house often feel the same way. Yes, many without a spouse in the house feel very different from these broad-brush statements about them. But many—yes, many—feel like an “insignificant Tuesday.”

But you, my friend with no spouse in your house, are significant. You matter. To think, feel, or speak otherwise is something every person on earth—regardless of his or her marital status—most likely deals with at some time or another. But it’s not a place where you can or should linger.

This isn’t my opinion. This isn’t me giving you an “inspirational, motivational pep talk.” It’s me, pointing you to the words of the One Who created you. (And He created the seven days and seven nights too!) Stand tall, knowing that you are what you are supposed to be, who you are supposed to be, and where you are supposed to be today—Tuesday, August 18, 2015!

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

—Psalm 139:13­–18, NLT

 

Strike Three or Home Run?

I’m so sorry for the double whammy in your Inboxes yesterday! When I “clean up” the blog site, it seems to trigger the sending of an old blog post, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why it sends one or even the random selection of what it sends! Anyhow, I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed or annoyed by being on the subscriber list. I honor my word to you with great intention, and I appreciate your trust.

Additionally, the REAL e-mail that was to go out didn’t “grab” the link to the survey form, so I sort of just blew it yesterday! :) Strike two!

Therefore, I’m resending a link to the survey, because I greatly value your input. The intent of the reader survey is clearly spelled out at the top of the survey. When you see the survey, you will initially see no questions, but if you’ll click on the arrow that appears on the far right of each section title, the survey questions for that section will “drop down,” and you can fill them in, move to the next section, and click “submit” when you’ve completed the survey. By taking the survey (even if you’re not interested in attending a “No Spouse in the House” retreat), you will be entered for a random drawing for a signed copy (suitable for gifts) of each of the two Petals from the Basket devotional books!

We SHOULD hit a home run with the link this time. (Hopefully it won’t be strike three, Ha-ha!) Please submit your completed survey no later than midnight (Easter) on Monday, August 17, 2015.

Click here to take the survey!

Petals from the Basket Retreat Survey

I am considering doing a retreat for women with “no spouse in the house,” which would be held during the summer of 2016. Please complete the survey below and submit your form on or before midnight, Monday, August 17, 2015. From the survey participants (women only on this one, please, because the retreat will only be for women), one of you will be randomly selected to receive signed copies of Petals from the Basket: Devotional Thoughts for Women and Petals from the Basket (Book 2): Devotional Thoughts for Women. Thank you for your assistance!

[Click on the arrow at the right of the section headings to open and answer the questions in each section. At the end, click "Submit."]

How to Write a Faith-Based Blog Post when Your Walk of Faith Feels Weak

You’ve been there. I know you have. Because I have, and I’m one of you: a person—a person in need of grace…lots and lots of grace. Yet, like you, I’ve battled with not being good enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, intelligent enough, athletic enough, talented enough, or any other element of life that I haven’t seemed to have enough of.

We can find its roots in our comparative culture; we can blame it on our environment or our upbringing; we can cower to its ability to silence us due to the fear it so easily produces.

Or…

we can take a closer look at Who God really is and move past those movement-stopping excuses.

This afternoon I had to use one of my imaginary “phone-a-friend” tokens to call in some help! I started the conversation with, “I need you to talk me off the proverbial ledge. My mind is dwelling on all kinds of what-if and if-onlys, and I need to have you tell me to snap out of it!” I went on to tell this person that I had just logged off of Facebook for the next fourteen hours in order to have the victory over the evil ick, who was throwing people’s Facebook “likes” and comments into my view and mixing them with thoughts of my own lack in certain areas. Bless her heart, this person said, “Get your mind back on Christ. Remember Who He is!” And that was all I needed to hear.

Did you know that I nearly never started this blog? I wrote my first article and thought, “Who on earth is ever going to read anything I write? I’m not saintly like Elisabeth Eliott; I’m not a Bible scholar and author the caliber of Kay Arthur and Nancy Leigh DeMoss; I’m not a gifted speaker like Priscilla Shirer. I’m Brenda Strohbehn—a doofus whose greatest area of consistency involves how frequently I find myself coming before the Lord and saying, ‘I messed up again.’ Who am I to tell women how to love and serve God with all their hearts when I’m just certain they’ll see me in a moment of giving in to weakness and tell everyone I’m a big, fat phony?”

And then I realized that I had to write anyway, because if I felt “inferior” (a really stupid way to feel, by the way), then there must be hundreds of others struggling, getting up, struggling, getting up, struggling, and getting up yet one more time. (And it turns out that there are!) It hit me that maybe they need to know they aren’t alone, and that God’s grace is this incomparable gift that keeps us going forward, even when we compare our lack to another’s plenty. It was in that moment, at the point of that choice, that I learned how to write a faith-based blog post when my walk of faith felt so very, very weak.

Tell the Truth

Admit your faults. Do we need to know the details of your struggle or the depths of your sinful choices? No. Absolutely not. But don’t pretend they’re not there. We know they are. We have them too. Our faults might be in other areas, but we have them. Lots of them!

James 5:16 (NIV) is a well-known verse, and we often focus on the end of the verse, which tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” This is true, amazing, and worthy of our notice. But so is the first part of the verse: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

The best way to overcome that sin and apply the grace given to do that is to acknowledge its presence in the first place.

Keep Your Focus

This past week I battled vertigo. I finally understood the expression regarding not knowing which way was up! My focus was fuzzy, and my steps were uncertain because of it. As my ability to focus without feeling woozy returned, my ability to walk with a steady gait returned as well.

Oh how clear this made it for me: when I take my focus off of Christ and my ultimate goal to write, to speak, to live for Him, my walk is weak. But when I can keep Him in my sight at all times, even when I stumble, I know where I’m eventually headed. When I’m sidetracked by comparisons, distractions, what-ifs, and if-onlys, my faith falters, and it grows weak. But it doesn’t have to remain in a weakened state! Jesus “initiates and perfects our faith!”

“Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1–2, NLT).

Choose to Win

Was I truly going to jump off of an actual ledge today? No. But I felt my faith headed toward a cliff. The what-ifs and if-onlys were very present. They created imaginary scenarios of what others were thinking, doing, planning, etc. So rather than jumping off the ledge of truth in defeat, I chose to walk away from the location that the evil ick was using to foster these thoughts: I took a Facebook fast. I said, “No, Satan, you don’t get to win. I’m not weak for walking away. I’m courageous, wise, and a recipient of God’s grace. I’m strong enough to say no to you by simply walking away and choosing victory rather than accepting a defeated spirit.”

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NIV).

This isn’t a maybe. This is a “he will flee from you” promise!

Keep Moving Forward

I’m growing very weary of hearing how someone messed up in the past, of hearing what that sin was, and of even feeling myself that the sins of yesterday rob tomorrow of its hope. Hogwash! It’s called grace. It brings healing. It extends forgiveness. It allows for fresh starts. It provides “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” And it’s sufficient, enough, no, more than enough! It’s undeserved yet freely delivered. It’s unearned yet paid out repeatedly. It grants the ability to get up after a fall, refocus, and keep moving forward with determination and purpose, acknowledging the fall but not giving into it. It’s grace. And it truly is amazing.

So know this: I’m going to mess up more times than I’ll care to admit. I’m going to come to the proverbial ledge many, many times. I’m going to choose selfishly, compare foolishly, and listen attentively to the twisting of truth as Satan whispers his what-ifs and if-onlys into my ear. But I’m going to choose to win by being truthful about my struggles, walking away from people, areas, and things that weaken my faith, and then moving forward.

And I’m going to keep writing about it so that you can move forward with me.

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.

__________

“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!

__________________

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).