Guest Post by James Watkins: Why? Why? Why?

A three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and an SUV, the three-ton vehicle is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals—Just take my hand, Johnnie!”

And on it goes—right into adulthood!

Why didn’t God heal my friend?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do I still have acne at 60?

But like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are often in the form of a question.

 

What can I know?

I can know the truth of Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV).

For instance, our group health insurance had very few maternity benefits, but had great “major medical” coverage. At the birth of our first child, my wife had complications and spent five days in Intensive Care. But, because the birth was now “major medical,” every penny of our daughter’s birth was covered. Sitting in ICU for five days waiting to know if my wife was going live or die was not good, but it did work for good.

However, it took me nearly thirty years to realize that Romans 8:28’s “purpose” is revealed in the following—and usually ignored—verse:

. . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . . .

I may never know the answer to why, but I can know what is the purpose to which God is working all for our good. To be like Jesus! If you look for it, you’ll find throughout the New Testament. For instance:

 

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b, author’s emphasis).

 

How can I grow?

Jesus promises . . .

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:1, 4-5 NLT).

Our spiritual lives depend on this intimate connection with Christ. His life flows into and through us causing us to become organically one with his character. That connection is strengthened through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. And suffering!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT, author’s emphasis).

When I think back to my “successful” years—award-winning author and editor, world-traveling conference speaker, denominational executive, and co-pastor of a growing church—I certainly didn’t resemble the Christ I was trying to follow. It has only been during my “failure” years—years between book contracts, estranged relationships, being voted out of a church, and having to borrow money to make a living writing and speaking—that I have come to derive my self-identity and self-worth from simply being a loved child of God.

Who can I show?

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

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 have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (NLT).

I now believe that God is more than willing to answer those questions and how they relate to living a life conformed to the image of His Son. Even why I still suffer from acne!

From God, I Don’t Understand, Copyright 2017, 2019 James N. Watkins. Available at Amazon.

Jim is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles, who has spoken across the United States and overseas. He has served as an editor and editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, an editor with the American Bible Society, taught writing at Taylor University for 15 years, and has guest-lectured at Liberty, Regent and other universities. He is currently writing and speaking full-time as well as consulting in book development. His most important roles, however, are being a child of God, husband, dad and “papaw.”

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Small Seeds, Big Results

“‘. . . a mustard seed . . . the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” Mark 4:31-32 NIV

We’ve all heard the phrase “little but mighty.” These well-known words are an apt description for many people and situations, and they can certainly be applied to seeds and planting too.

In scripture, Jesus used the example of the mustard seed to show how something great—something big—can come from the smallest of seeds when planted. The humble little mustard seed can grow until it is one day large enough to provide shade for birds. What a perfect example of how something little can become something mighty.

Small seeds that yield big results are not only seen in the world of gardening and farming, though. They can be witnessed in finances, education, in developing talents and abilities, in building self-confidence, and in spiritual transformation as well as many other things.

Whenever and wherever seeds are planted, growth—yes, miracles—are bound to happen. A little boy who’s given a toy microscope as a child grows up to become a research scientist. A little girl receives a set of colored pencils for her birthday and one day opens her own graphic design business. A troubled teen accepts a New Testament during a Gideon distribution at school and later that year asks Jesus to be his Savior. Yes, planted seeds become miracles.

What small seeds can we plant in the coming days, weeks, and months? It might be as simple as an encouraging word to a struggling soul or a verse of scripture shared on social media. Perhaps we could give a scholarship to a camp, conference, or event that will be life-changing for the recipient. The possibilities are limitless.

Let’s do it. Let’s plant small seeds that could become mighty things. Let’s provide shade—or nourishment or inspiration or any number of other things that someone somewhere needs today. Let’s be part of a miracle!

I planted the seed . . . but God has been making it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

*What seeds have been planted in your life that have become mighty things?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Kapitalist63, Creative Commons License

Perfect Spring or Summer Wedding Cake—Chocolate Drips and Berries!

Mother of the Bride, is your daughter looking for a spring or summer wedding cake idea? If she’s a fan of berries and chocolate, the cake idea I’m showing you today might be just strike her chocolate-berry-loving fancy!

Spring or summer is the perfect time to feature a cake garnished with fresh berries and accented with drips of chocolatey goodness. Strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries against a dreamy white-frosting background look so fresh and pretty, so perfectly seasonal. Add the chocolate dripping down each layer of the cake and my, oh my, what could be more perfect? Well, just one thing—add the chocolate-covered berries you see scattered throughout as a yum, yum, yummy finishing touch.

Of course, what’s inside is anybody’s guess, but that will be just one more fun decision for your sweet girl and her guy to make. Their cake-baker will be able to give lots of good ideas about flavors that would pair well with the berries. Ask to go along for the cake-testing, MOB!

Share this idea with your little bride-to-be and her groom, Mother of the Bride, and see if this might be the answer to their cake needs. After all, it’s a healthy choice with all that fruit included, right?!

*You might also like to read Spring Wedding Cake: Cherry Blossoms, Wedding Cake Idea: A Crepe Cake!, and Wedding Cake Roundup.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Sonya Natasha, Creative Commons License

Wedding Cake Idea: A Crepe Cake!

(Photo and idea by Jasmin Fine at 1 Fine Cookie)

Mother of the Bride, is your daughter looking for a unique idea for her wedding cake? If she and her groom aren’t big fans of traditional wedding cake, today’s idea might be just what’s they’re looking for.

How about a three-tiered (or more!) crepe cake? Top it and layer it with fresh strawberries and a pastry cream with whipped cream folded in and you not only have the splash of color it needs but also a sweet and yummy flavor that will tickle your taste buds.

You can find out more about the cake pictured above by visiting Jasmin Fine’s 1 Fine Cookie site. She has even included a link to the recipe for the crepe cake as well as instructions on how to make it. Can’t beat that!

Check with your girl, MOB, and see if a crepe cake might be the cake of her dreams. And if she doesn’t think it’s quite what she has in mind, you might think of doing one for her bridal shower. Bet it would be a hit!

*You might also like to read Wedding Cake Roundup and Unique Wedding Cake Idea: Word Search Cake! 

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Photo and idea by Jasmin Fine at 1 Fine Cookie

Guest Post: The Pruner’s Knife

I’m thrilled to share a guest post by my dad, Duane Hoy, today. He is eighty-three years young and has known the Lord since age twelve. May his insightful words and message bless you in a special way today!

The Pruner’s Knife

As I sit at my breakfast table and look out the sliding glass doors, I’m able to look a few feet beyond my patio and see my new young Royal Star magnolia.

It is not to be confused with other large varieties of magnolia trees. It is more naturally a bush but can be trained to grow more like a tree by cutting all but the strongest trunk and letting it grow like a small tree. It’s a very early bloomer being covered with snowy pure white blooms, this spring starting in mid-February.

My landscaper planted mine a year ago in the spring after I spotted it at a nursery in west Tulsa on the other side of the Arkansas River.

My heart was immediately set on getting one for my backyard, fulfilling a very long-held desire. I enjoyed three wonderful weeks of glistening snow-white blooms this last spring.

I am so wonderfully reminded of a beautiful individual who had a small to medium size Royal Star magnolia in his backyard.

Bro. John Howard and his wife Grace lived in a small block house on N. Grand in Pittsburg, KS, where our young family had moved in the early 1960s.

After thirty years of missionary service in India, Bro. John and Grace came back home to Pittsburg. He never owned a car but walked his routes in  Pittsburg, still being a missionary for another thirty years.

A very kind and gentle man, he would walk to our house way out on the north end of town to pay a short visit and pray for us and especially our four little girls—that they would develop into the godly women they are today. Then I would drive him back home. Needless to say, he was indelibly printed on my heart in a forever way.

As I observed my magnolia a few weeks after its blooming, I noticed the new growth was coming out in more of a horizontal direction. As it is yet only four to four and one half feet tall, I wanted it to grow in an upward direction, so I took the sharpest blade on my knife and made several studied cuts, removing the end growths on some limbs, hoping for the best. Some weeks later here in mid-June with plenty of rain, quite a bit of new growth is flourishing. Sure enough it is reaching in an upward direction.

This caused me to reflect on my own life and maybe you too have experienced some difficult circumstances, ones that might cause us to wince and cry out in pain.

Could it be that our master gardener is seeking some upward growth in our lives, reaching up to Him?

“‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener . . . every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’” John 15:1-2 NIV

How has God used his pruner’s knife in your life lately?

The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*My photo