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Intentionally Removing the Bitter Root

Inch Plant Bloom“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” -Hebrews 12:15

We have an interesting plant in our yard. It’s called an Inch Plant. The flowers on this plant are a pretty shade of pink. The rest of the plant is a purplish, kind of leafy vine. It’s trying to take over the yard.

My husband has learned that if he trims the plant, he can take the trimmings and plant them in other parts of the yard where they’ll produce new plants. If he doesn’t pick up the trimmings and do something intentional with them, though, they will take root where they fall. And if he never trims the plant, it really will take over the yard—perhaps the whole neighborhood—and fast!

Bitterness is like that Inch Plant. When someone hurts us, we may choose to forgive—and even mean it. But memories tend to linger like the plant trimmings. If we don’t do something intentional with them, we may find ourselves dwelling on the memory, then on the pain. Just like that, bitterness can take root in our minds and hearts again.

Inch PlantTo be intentional, we need to take hold of the memory as soon as it forms. We need to remember that we chose to forgive and reaffirm that decision. Then we need to take the memory to God. Forgiving doesn’t mean that justice won’t be done. It means we choose to trust God’s method of handling the matter—without our action or input. We remove ourselves from the judgment seat—and even from the witness bench.

Then, instead of demanding justice or dwelling on how we were wronged, we can talk to God about how we felt when we were hurt and tell Him about whatever feelings returned with the memory. We can tell Him that we choose to forgive yet again—just as He’s forgiven us. We can ask Him to heal our hearts and take away the pain. We reaffirm our faith in God’s care and go on our way full of His peace.

Interestingly enough, God’s peace can grow and spread just like bitterness can. We can (and probably will) pass either along to the people around us, too. Rehashing a bitter memory may tempt us sometimes, but peace is a healthier option to let take root in our hearts and minds.

Father, remind me to treat bitterness like a weed and root it out whenever it appears. I choose to forgive those who’ve hurt me. I trust You to work in their lives—just as I know You are working in mine. Help me to surrender painful memories to You to cultivate Your peace in my life. Amen.

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Living Together in Unity

Psalm 133-1

It was like a Beatrix Potter story come true in our own back yard!

Two squirrels were fighting high up in our tree. My son turned to look just as one threw the other to the ground. The victim landed on his back and stayed there, stunned. As Seth was thinking about going to check on the squirrel, the neighborhood cat, who likes to hang out in our yard, beat him to it. The squirrel came to his senses just in time, jumped up, let out a screech of horror, and raced back up the tree.

I’m sure the brother squirrel apologized. The mother squirrel scolded. And everyone drank some chamomile tea.

Because the little squirrels couldn’t get along with each other, they left one of their number vulnerable to another threat. Thankfully, the drama in our backyard had a happy ending—for everyone except the cat.

Sometimes Christians struggle to get along, too. We’re still human after all. There are just so many different ways to not see eye to eye!

Yes. It’s challenging. But when we don’t make the effort to live in unity, we leave each other vulnerable to an even bigger threat:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” –1 Peter 5:8

Not to mention the damage our disagreements do to our testimony.

It’s good and pleasant when God’s people live together in unity. It’s dangerous to all, though, when they don’t. Let’s learn a lesson from the squirrels: be thankful for our shared refuge (for us, in Christ, rather than in a tree)—and stock up on calming, chamomile tea!

Father, thank You for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, for adopting us all into Your family. Though it’s sometimes hard to get along, help each of us with this. Please give us patience with each other and the ability (and desire) to forgive quickly. Show us the bigger picture: we’re vulnerable to Satan’s trickery whenever we fight. Give us a Spirit of unity to stand together in You, come what may, for the glory of Your Kingdom and the good of all humankind. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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Inviting Messy to Come

Prayer for All the Children“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” –Matthew 19:14

I saw the cutest thing at church last Sunday morning. My uncle would say it made it worth the cost of admission. The pastor had called the ushers back up front to pass something out to the congregation, but one usher’s son came with him. This toddler was determined to help, and his smart daddy let him. Naturally, there was some subtle wrangling going on. The little boy wanted to choose rows of people at random instead of stopping at each row in turn. At one point, he decided he’d rather hand things out individually then trust people to pass them on down their own rows all by themselves. The dad was ready, though. Whenever the little boy tried to change course, his dad just stepped in front of him, like a shepherd keeping sheep from going the wrong way. Together, father and son got the job done—and anyone watching was thoroughly entertained. Even God was smiling. Of that, I’m absolutely sure.

Letting kids help takes a lot of patience. Sometimes they make bigger messes than they clean up. Sometimes they get really excited about starting a task then lose interest halfway through. Sometimes they want to take on more than they can handle, balking at doing the simple tasks that would really be of help to you. Parents must learn to see this process of helping the children learn to help as a primary parenting task—a task more important than perfectly done household tasks. Wise parents know this is worth the effort in the long run.

Letting kids help around the house:

  • lets children know they are members of the family. They are part of a team with something to contribute. They belong.
  • gives them a sense of ownership. The house they live in is their home to help care for. They can take pride in a job well done. (In fact, picky eaters are sometimes less picky if they’ve helped prepare the food.)
  • builds their self-esteem as they practice and master new skills. That desire to take on new tasks is a desire to learn and mature.
  • prepares them for adulthood when they and their spouses will raise their own families.

This same principle applies, though, to letting kids help around the church. The imperfect process of letting children learn to help is worth the effort and inconvenience. For example, the little boy who helped pass things out after the offering on Sunday now knows and will remember that he is a part of his church. He has something to contribute, and his church family supports his efforts, is willing to let him learn. As he grows and watches his parents and other members of the church, he’ll discover other things he can do to help, and he’ll be ready to try with confidence, knowing people don’t expect perfection right from the start. They’re just thankful he’s part of the team.

When we invite children to participate, to try new things, to do what they can, we treat them the way God treats each of us. We are His children, members of His Kingdom. He could do everything Himself, but He doesn’t. He invites us to help. He challenges us to try new things. He expects us to do what we can, trusting Him with everything else. He doesn’t demand we reach a certain level of maturity or skill before letting us join in. Instead, He shepherds us, giving guidance as needed, bringing our efforts to completion in His strength. He knows we’re messy and don’t always get it all quite right, but, evidently, He believes we’re worth the effort in the long run. He is a wise parent. To Him, the process of helping us mature in our relationship with Him and our ability to serve as heirs in His Kingdom is more important than anything else.

Father, thank You for being such a patient parent. Help us to follow Your example as we raise the children in our homes and in our churches. May they all come to know You early and live faithfully for You all through their lives. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Letting a Little Child Lead

Woolly Shepherd

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6

One of my favorite sights so far this Christmas season is still bringing a smile to my face when I think of it. At the beginning of this month, my husband and I, with some friends, went to see the Christmas festivities in a small town not far from where we live. Shops were open; some were serving cider and sweets. Christmas lights decked every store front. There was even a horse-drawn carriage for people to ride in up and down the streets. The church near the end of the main boulevard offered a living Nativity complete with donkeys, sheep, and goats. We started our tour there.

We walked slowly to view each scene from the Christmas story: Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem with their little donkey. Shepherds in the fields with their flocks. Angels on pedestals, all serene but for one boy-sterous little one who wanted nothing more than to fly away. (With the head angel’s encouragement, he was making a great effort to stand still, sweet child. I was proud of him—and tickled at the memory he brought to mind of my own boy-sterous angel child of just a few, well, maybe twenty, years ago.)

Finally, we came to find Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus, all in the stable with shepherds, wise men, and animals galore. As we approached this highlight of the experience, a mother among the witnesses was tending to her child in a stroller. As she did, her slightly older daughter quietly slipped over the ropes separating guests from the living display. She sat down primly on a bale of hay, crossed one hand over the other in her lap, and settled in to watch Baby Jesus. And watch she did. I think she’d settled in for the duration.

Was she supposed to be there? No. Did anyone disturb her? No way. This little child was leading us all. While we were casually enjoying the festivities, she was adoring the baby. And, though I knew that baby wasn’t really The Baby, the memory of that little girl boldly moving closer, so she could see and not be disturbed by the chaos around her, has stuck with me since that evening. That little girl’s actions defined worship and peace.

Father, thank You for using this little girl to remind us what Christmas is all about. Even as we enjoy the celebration of Your Son’s birth with family, friends, church, and community, help us do so with hearts full of worship and adoration for Jesus. After all, He came to reveal You to us. That fact alone deserves our awe-filled contemplation. Thank You, Lord! We love You. Amen.

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Preparing in Advance to Give and to Worship

1 Chronicles 16-29As I walked into the grocery store yesterday, the bell ringer standing outside caught my eye. I was trying to avoid this because I had no cash on hand; I just wanted to sneak quietly by. But he blocked my path just enough to get me to look up, then he wished me a merry Christmas. This determined bell ringer was on a mission to make eye contact with and speak to every person who entered the store. On my way back out again, about forty minutes later, he was still at it. This time he said, “God bless you!” I appreciated the fact that he wanted to offer Christmas blessings to everyone, even those who had no money that was drop-in-the-bucket-able.

I went on about my day and forgot about the whole encounter, but God brought it back to mind this morning. I wondered if that group gets fewer donations now than they used to because people are less likely to carry cash. Then I realized that it is December after all. This is the only month of the year they are out. We know they are going to be there, so if we want to give, why not go prepared? Would it really be so hard to keep a little bit of money on hand for worthy giving opportunities that arise not only for this group, but others we might encounter? —not only in December, but all through the year? God’s instructions to the Israelites on intentionally leaving some of the harvest in their fields for others to gather as they have need comes to mind. (See Deuteronomy 24:21 for one example.)

As I continued to think about this, read, and pray, I came to this verse in my day’s reading: “Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.”1 Chronicles 16:29, NLT

When we give in God’s name, we enter His presence—even if we’re entering the grocery store! As we prepare to give, we’re preparing to worship anywhere! When the Spirit prompts us to follow through, we’re doing so with our Lord.

Father, thank You for giving me something to think about this morning. Please remind me to be prepared. I want to share the gifts You’ve given with others who may need them. I also want to enjoy Your presence everywhere I go. I’ll prepare, You lead, I’ll obey. Together we’ll encourage others and magnify Your name. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Grace: The Stuff of Which Priceless Pearls are Made

Grace is The Stuff“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, Lord, and I follow your commands.”Psalm 119:165-166

As I continue to study the topic of grace in my weekly Bible study group, I’ve been presented with many examples of people trying to find the grace to forgive the big stuff—the seemingly unforgivable, usually one-time, wrongs. At the same time, I’m trying to figure out how to come up with the grace to forgive little irritants—recurring annoyances that I must encounter again and again. Sometimes we are bound to people or circumstances that cause us much stress. How do we respond with grace?

My husband’s and my current irritant is an oppressive property manager. Before signing our lease, we read it carefully and asked many questions about everything that concerned us. Once we were sure we understood what we were getting into, we signed. This was about two weeks before we actually moved in. When we arrived in town and went to pick up our keys, however, the property manager presented us with one more paper to sign. This paper had all the deal breakers on it. Had he been up front with us, we never would have signed the lease. Yet our choice at that point, he made clear, was to sign and proceed on his terms or refuse to sign, forfeit our security deposit, six weeks rent, and non-refundable pet fee, and find ourselves without a home.

We signed under duress.

Most of the time it is okay. We love the house. But once or twice a month we have to deal with property-manager-related irritations. If he would leave us alone, we’d happily live here for three or four years and prove to be among the best tenants ever. As it is, once our lease is up, he’ll probably be looking for someone else to live in this house. Those last minute additions to our lease are just. that. annoying.

When I think of this situation, I pray for grace. Lots of grace! Here is what God is helping me to understand:

Irritants like our property manager are like the grains of sand that get into an oyster’s shell. The sand irritates the delicate oyster, but there’s nothing the oyster can do to get the sand out of the shell. Instead, the oyster produces some kind of secretion to coat the sand and ease the pain. Every time the sand irritates, the oyster adds another layer until a pearl is formed. Naturally, the greater irritations produce the largest pearls.

This is grace. When I feel irritation building up inside of me, I ask God to help me wrap it in grace. The grace doesn’t come from inside of me, though. I must go to God for what I need. He calms me down and comforts me. A pearl is born. If the irritation won’t go away, I must go to God again and again. The pearl grows every time I do. It occurs to me that this process works, over time, whether I’m dealing with a recurring, little irritation or trying to forgive a huge, unforgivable-in-my-own-strength sin. In either case, when I feel pain, I go to God and ask for more of His grace.

I saw this in action this morning as I read through Psalm 119. I’ve always seen this Psalm as a tribute to God’s Wisdom, praise for His Word—for His Law. This morning, though, I noticed there are actually two recurrent, almost parallel, themes. Along with expressing his devotion to God’s Law, the psalmist is pleading for salvation, deliverance, and freedom from oppression. This man was dealing with a serious irritant. Yet he responded by declaring his devotion to God, his loyalty to God’s law, his love for God’s Word as he asked for relief.

We can do this, too. No earthly oppressor has any kind of ultimate authority over us. We are members of God’s Kingdom. In His perfect timing, He will fight for us. He will set us free. When we look at any annoying, aggravating, or troubling situation from that perspective, the irritant seems to shrink. In fact, we can almost laugh at some; our God is just. that. BIG!

Paul wrote about this when he told the Corinthians about his thorn. We don’t know what this thorn was, but it irritated Paul. Three times, he asked God to take it away, but God refused. His reply to Paul was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is a challenging passage, but I think I’m starting to get it now. God’s grace is the stuff we ask for when we need comfort from the pain of life’s thorns. As the grace builds up, beautiful pearls are born and grow for the glory of God’s name.

In a future post, I’ll write a little more about how these pearls bring glory to God’s name. In the meantime, I’m still calling on God for grace in irritating situations.

  • What are you asking God to take away or free you from?
  • How can you remind yourself to go to God for grace when something irritates?
  • How has He comforted you in troubling circumstances that you have no immediate power to change?

Father, thorns are ugly and painful, yet sometimes we choose to endure the pain and complain. Please remind us that You have all the grace we need for any situation. We only have to come to you. Please comfort us until You choose to set us free. Create a beautiful pearl in our lives for all the world to see. Thank You, Lord, for grace. Amen.

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Of Dead Keys and Fruitless Fig Trees

The Dead Key BagIn our house, I’m the Keeper of the Keys. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s similar to being the one who is expected to carry every else’s papers and books at church because I’m the one who carries a purse. (I usually refuse to live up to this expectation, but it’s there just the same.) I don’t carry a purse around the house, yet I’m still the one who gets to keep track of all the spare keys.

Whenever we move into a new home, every responsible inhabitant gets a set of house keys—and I get any extras to keep in a drawer—just in case. Every time we purchase a new padlock or security box or file cabinet, I get the spare keys for those, too. And because there’ve been times when a family member couldn’t find a key and the spare key couldn’t be found in its appointed place for one mysterious reason or another—most likely because said family member never gave The Keeper of the Keys the spare key to begin with, though said family member prefers to think The Keeper of the Keys misplaced the spare key—I’m a little bit obsessive about hanging on to all the keys that have ever come into my possession—ever—from the beginning of my mysterious appointment to this role.

The result of this obsession combined with our tendency to move is what I’ve come to call The Dead Key Bag. It’s a plastic, zipper bag stuffed full of keys that I have no idea what they open but feel compelled to keep—just in case. I laughed out loud when the lady who packed our house for our most recent move found my dead keys, brought them to me, and asked, “Are these important? Do you need to carry them yourself or should I pack them?” I told her that I didn’t know what they belonged to, so she could go ahead and pack them. She looked a little confused but took them back to pack anyway.

That’s when I realized I probably could have taken them and thrown them away right then. (The packer was probably thinking this, too.) We were moving. I had all keys-in-use on my key chain. Any keys in that bag were most assuredly dead. I’d be getting new keys. It was the perfect opportunity to free myself of The Dead Key Bag. Since the lady had already packed them, though, I decided I’d toss them when I found them in my new home.

I shouldn’t have waited. Earlier this summer, I told you about this particular packer and how she collected all the night lights in the house and packed them together in one box. Well, on the other side of the room from the drawer where I kept The Dead Key Bag was a drawer where I kept current spare keys. Spare keys that I could identify. Keys currently in use. My efficient packer friend found these keys—in their different drawer on the other side of the room—and thoughtfully added them to The Dead Key Bag.

It’s a key nightmare! Now I have to keep the dead keys or risk throwing out a key we still use.

The other day my son Seth asked for the spare key to his car. With a sinister gleam in my eye, I handed him The Dead Key Bag. He dumped it out, and we examined its contents together.

“Mom, these little keys are luggage keys—for the little padlocks on your suitcases that anyone can open with a toothpick. They’re useless. You can throw them away.”

I didn’t.

“These are the keys to Justin’s, Alex’s, and my first cars. We’ve sold the cars. You can throw these keys away.”

I think I’m going to have them bronzed—like Grandma bronzed her children’s baby shoes!

“This is the key to Dad’s Ranger the lady hit and totaled two years ago.”

That one needs to be plated with gold! My husband walked away without a scratch. Thank You, Lord!!!

“The rest of these look like house or padlock keys. We should melt them down and make something useful out of them.”

I have no idea how to do such a thing, but Seth will figure it out if I give him permission. In the meantime, I’m putting The Dead Key Bag back in the drawer for a designated project day when I’ll toss every key for which I cannot find a lock.


This reminds me of the parable of the fig tree found in Luke 13:6-8. The owner of a fig tree goes out to search for fruit. For the third year in a row, he can’t find any, so he tells the caretaker to cut down the tree. The caretaker begs him for one more year and promises to give extra attention to that tree for that year in order to help it produce fruit.

The tree’s purpose is to produce fruit. A key’s purpose is to open a lock. A person’s purpose is to find God, accept His gift of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ, and spend eternity enjoying a loving relationship with Him.

The world is full of people who haven’t found their purpose, but God is patient “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Like the owner of the fig tree and The Keeper of the Keys, however, God has chosen a day when His patience will end—a day known only to Him (Matthew 24:36).

Until then, those of us who know God are like the caretaker in the parable. We walk and talk with Him daily. We love Him and strive to get to know Him better. We serve Him faithfully, doing whatever He tells us to do. We’re fulfilling our purpose, while doing all we can to lead others to Him. The end of the year/designated project day is coming. We must help lead people to our Lord.

How do we do this? We do what the caretaker did!

  • We plead with God on their behalf.
  • We offer them Living Water, like Jesus offered it to the woman at the well (John 4:1-26).
  • We give them the nutrients of God’s Word as opportunities arise.
  • We pay attention to their needs, loving them in Jesus’ name as we love ourselves.

There isn’t much we can do for a bunch of dead keys. They’ve served their purpose; they are done. But we can pray for and love people who haven’t yet discovered the purpose for which they were made. Our God is patiently waiting, reaching out to all. Let’s ask Him for a greater awareness of opportunities to help people come to Him.

Father, thank You for salvation. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for sending Your Son to save us from our sins, so we can enjoy an eternal relationship with You. We thank You now for Your patience with those who haven’t found You yet. Please continue to wait. And while You do, please send Your Spirit to help us do all we can to help lead these souls to You. We love You, Lord. We want them to love You, too. For their good. For Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Appreciating a Good Day

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.” -2 Kings 19:14

Father, it’s been a really bad day—I mean really, really, really bad. I’m ready to move to Australia with Alexander. Or maybe Montana will do. Seriously, Lord. Everything has gone wrong. Everything! So I’m dropping everything right now and coming to You. Please turn this day around. Please let the rest of this day be good.

Didn’t you just talk with Your mom?Appreciating a Good Day

I did!

What part of everything going wrong was that?

Conflicted pause for thought.

Okay, Lord, that part was actually, pretty good. We talked about all kinds of random things and nothing of particular importance and just enjoyed each other’s company for a while. I’m really glad she called.

So not everything has gone wrong today.

Well, no. Not that. But everything else, Lord! It’s been an exceptionally hard day.

So you didn’t enjoy that lesson I taught you during quiet time?

Oh! I forgot about that! That was so good, Lord. Every passage I read emphasized a different aspect of the same thing. I love it when You orchestrate a lesson that way! I’m still processing it.

I can tell. And what did you do after that?

I ran! Five and half miles today! I think I’ve finally recovered the stamina I lost during our move.

And what did you say to me while you were running those miles?

Oh. I was listening to Mandisa’s Good Morning. My MP3 player chose it twice today! She sang, “I went to bed dreaming. You woke me up singing,” and I said, “Thank You, Lord! This truly is a good morning.”

I remember that. So this is how you define a really, really, really bad, let’s-move-to-Montana day?

Silence

Lord, I guess there’ve only been a few rough moments, and I guess I let them get to me. I’m sorry about that. Thank You for helping me to see that this day, this day You’ve given me, is good. Thanks for Your presence and Your patience. And thank You for meeting with me. As I continue on from here, help me to focus on the good—even as I muddle my way through whatever frustrations may come. I love You, Lord. Amen.


Whether we’re receiving devastating news, like Hezekiah did (Click here to read the story.), or encountering more obstacles than anticipated in a given day, it’s good to know we can stop and spread our problems out before the Lord. He’s already aware of what’s going on. He’s ready to offer assistance, wisdom, and, sometimes, a gentle nudge into a better perspective. We just have to remember to take our troubles to Him.

Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Because He Said So

When we become parents, we vow we’ll never say it. Our parents said it and drove us crazy. We decide we will not do that to our kids. We’re more patient, more creative, more understanding than that. We determine that our kids won’t hear that phrase coming from our lips.

But then the day comes when they ask for something they can’t have.

We say, “No.”

They say, “Why?”

We patiently explain.

They look at us with big, sad eyes and ask, “But why?”

We try again to explain.

They get frustrated, stomp their feet, and ask again, “But why?”

And before we know what’s happening, those four little words come out of our mouths of their own volition:

“Because I said so.”

And suddenly we understand. Our parents weren’t being impatient, uncreative, or insensitive. They desperately wanted us to understand the why, so we’d accept the disappointing answer and not be unhappy with them, so we’d trust that they were doing their job as parents and choosing the best for us—even when it hurt.

But sometimes, kids, still learning and experiencing and maturing, just cannot understand. That’s why they’re still kids, living under our roofs, dependent on our care. “Because I said so” has to be enough for them. Someday they’ll thank us for it. (We hope.)

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” This is God’s (through Moses) “Because I said so” to the Israelites. They were still relatively new to this whole being-God’s-chosen-people thing and there was much about Him and His plan that they could not understand. Moses assured them that, though God had the right to not tell them everything, He had told them everything they needed to know. He told them Who He Is. He told them what they could expect from Him. He told them what He expected from them. Their job was to obey the law He’d given and to trust Him with the rest.

For. Their. Own. Good.

God maintains His rightGod has revealed so much more of Himself and His plan since that time. Thanks to Jesus, we know things the Israelites couldn’t have imagined. Yet God still maintains the right to keep secret things. We won’t always know why. There’s much we cannot understand. Sometimes Because I said so has to be enough.

But we do know that God loves us and that all His plans for us are good. He has told us Who He Is. He has told us what we can expect from Him and what He expects from us. He has even sent His Spirit to help us in our quest to live His way. Our job is to follow His Son and trust Him with whatever we can’t yet understand.

Better yet, He’s given us His Word. As we study it, His Spirit helps us to grow in wisdom and understanding. Just as our children grow in knowledge, experience, and maturity, so do we. We’ll never understand everything, for only God is God. But as we faithfully study and pray, God will reveal what He wants us to know. Let’s thank Him now instead of waiting until someday.

Father, there is no one like You Who understands all things. Therefore please help us, Your beloved children, to trust You. When Because I said so is the only answer we can handle in our humanity, help us to be thankful for what You have revealed. Help us to follow Your Son’s ways. We’re so thankful to be Your children. Please teach us what we need to know, so our lives will please You. For our good and Your glory! In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Surprising Lessons from the Mighty Bay Leaf

Bay LeavesI tried a new recipe today. I made my very own red beans and rice from scratch. Well, according to the recipe, they were Jessica’s Red Beans and Rice, but I made a few adjustments—such as leaving the jalapenos out and cutting the amount of red pepper flakes in half. Trust me, there was plenty of heat without that extra bit!

As I was nearing the end of the cooking time, I saw the bay leaf sitting on top and pulled it out to discard just as the recipe told me to do. I looked at it for moment and couldn’t help but wonder if adding one little leaf to a recipe for such a short time could really make a difference. I asked my Facebook friends.

Wow! I had no idea people felt so strongly about the bay leaf! My friends quickly spoke up in its defense. I promised never to question its power again.

Along with his defense of it, my brother made a helpful suggestion, though. He told me to boil a bay leaf in water then smell it and taste it, so I’d know just what flavor I was adding to my recipes. I tried it! I think I understand now why I’m not a big fan of Italian food—that’s the taste I don’t care for. But I can see it adding something worthwhile to beef stew.

My friends were absolutely right! The bay leaf is a powerful addition—even after you pull it out and throw it away. And my brother’s suggestion will help me to use this power with wise discrimination. I may get a handle on this cooking thing yet.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I feel like that little bay leaf. I wonder if my presence is really making any difference in this great, big world chock full of amazing people. Would anybody notice if I disappeared? Would the aroma of my life linger? Does it make a difference now?

The answers to those questions, though, if I’m trusting God, I don’t need to know. God has already told me everything I need to know about the significance of my life. I know God loves me. I know He created me with purpose—whether I recognize it or not. I know He placed me here—right here, right now, intentionally, knowing exactly what He was adding to this world and the impact my life would make.

Lavender PansyHe did the same for you! Knowing what we know, we can trust that since God chose to add our lives to this world’s mix that He did so with purpose. (Kind of like I can now add bay leaves with purpose—or choose to leave them out. Regarding bay leaves, I know what I’m doing now. God has always known what He’s doing regarding each of us!)

There’s one more factor to consider, though. The bay leaf won’t release its flavor alone. It needs the heat from the water or soup or sauce or stew. Likewise, we can’t be the people God planned for us to be without Jesus. His sacrifice, the one we especially consider today, provides redemption from sin and makes it possible for us to live for Him. When we choose to accept Him as our Lord, to gratefully accept His sacrifice on our behalf, He begins to transform us into the people He always planned for us to be. Best of all, He invites us to get to know Him right now, to grow closer to Him every day—probably the greatest purpose and privilege we can enjoy. As we live in submission to Him, what our lives add to this world turns out to be just what the recipe needs.

Jesus, thank You again for all You have done and are doing for us. We don’t deserve any of it, but You gave Your life—and now You offer Your life that we can seek You and find You and get to know You better each day. You have blessed us greatly! We thank You. We adore You. We’re Yours, Lord. Amen.