When You Have to Squint Your Eyes to See the Beauty–a devotion from my garden

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.by Alexandr Rozhkov;

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice?

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate me, Lord, today.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

To read more Devotions from my Garden, you can click here!

Originally posted April 22, 2013

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

What are you waiting for?

I am having the best time reading your comments and hearing how you would title a book about your life or what God has been teaching you over on the Giveaway Post!
Please continue sharing your comments and posting to social media like Facebook and Twitter.  I’ll be announcing the giveaway winners of two signed copies of Ask Me Anything, Lord this Friday!  You can enter the Giveaway by clicking here and following the instructions.
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Originally published July 2, 2012 as Devotions from My Garden: What Are You Waiting for?

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit (Galatians 6:9 MSG).

We planted in pots and crates on our deck, tiny seedlings of cucumbers, tomatoes in three varieties and jalapeno peppers.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.013

We watered.  We tended.

But mostly we waited.

From one day to the next, the leaves didn’t appear to expand and the stems didn’t seem to reach any higher than the day before or the day before that.

It took standing back and surveying growth over time for us to notice we had plants and not seedlings any longer.  Then there were the first tiny yellow flowers on the cucumber plant.

The day we spotted the tiniest baby tomato, I called all three of my daughters over to see.  There we stood, a mom and three girls gently pushing aside green leaves to marvel at the promise of growth.

And then we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

For signs of ripeness and readiness for harvest.

Gardening, like life, is so often about waiting.  The difference, though, is that we waited for our first vegetables with anticipation and excitement.  We tracked the progress and closely watched the physical signs of a promising future because we knew the day would come when we sat down to salad and salsa from our garden.

But in life we often wait with a hopeless aggravation and a frustrating impatience.

We wait on God, tapping our foot and glancing often at our wrists with urgency.

Perhaps, though, we should wait for God, watching the signs of growth, rejoicing over every bud and clapping our hands with joy every time we see a reminder that the harvest is coming.

This is how the crowds prepared for Jesus’ arrival:

“Now when Jesus returned, the crowds welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him” (Luke 8:40). 

Can you imagine the crowd watching the road for the first glimpse of Jesus’ sandal?  Perhaps kids ran back and forth bringing news of Jesus’ journey.  “He’s coming.  He’s near.  He’s closer.  He’s just around the corner.”

He’s here!

Imagine the hush of the people.  They weren’t whining about the wait or postulating that perhaps Jesus wasn’t coming after all.

No, they were likely listening intently for the first sound of His voice chatting with His followers as He traveled on the road.

This is how we wait for God–we look forward with excited anticipation and uncontainable joy for the moment we see God at work.

And while we wait, we prepare to receive all that He’s bringing our way.

Like the kings who faced the overwhelming enemy might of Moab, we wait for God’s promise.  He said He would:

“fill the ditches in the dry streambed with water” overnight and without wind or rain.  Yes, He would bring the refreshment and victory they needed (2 Kings 3:16-18).

In the very next chapter, Elisha tells the destitute widow to gather “empty vessels and not too few” and then the Lord filled as many as she gathered with rich oil, saving her from starvation and poverty (2 Kings 4:3).

In two back-to-back passages, God miraculously fills His people up to the brim, giving them all they had prepared to receive.

So we grab as many jugs and cups and bowls and pots and buckets as we can hoping not to miss out on one drop of God’s provision.

We stand at the foot of the dry streambed and rather than complaining about our parched throat, we should dress in a swimsuit, ready to dive into the pools overflowing with His miraculous water-without-rain.

It’s waiting still, surely, as we watch for the signs, the growth, the buds, the tiniest hint of what is to come.  We look for God-movement here and there, projecting change and something new.

It can be scary.  Sometimes waiting is what we know.  Change, even good change, can worry us.

So what are we to do?

See the signs of God on the move, the promises of harvest, and yet refuse to budge?  “No thanks, God, I’ll stick with what I have and what I know because at least I’ve dug into a trench of trusty comfort and reliability.”

Or do we hang my shoulders in defeat and stomp away, not seeing the harvest quickly enough?  Tired of waiting, we dump over the vessels waiting for oil or walk away from the streambed thirsty for water . . . turning away from those waiting for the first sight of Jesus and choosing instead to complain at home that He didn’t come.

Or we could wait, joyfully and with excitement, nervous perhaps but ready nonetheless.  Jumping up and down trying to see Jesus over the heads of the crowd, we could wait for God, not wait on Him.

This is how we reap the harvest, when “we don’t give up, or quit” (Galatians 6:9).  This is how we don’t miss out on one drop of what God has planned.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Garden Devotions: Seeds, Identity and Gideon

Originally published May 16, 2012

The Lord answered, “I will be with you”
Judges 6:16a

She stands under 3 feet tall, this baby girl of mine.  With one hand tossed up to her hip, she stomps her feet on the ground twice, three times perhaps for emphasis, and screams, “Never Again!!!” in a voice that commands attention, if not respect.  If she’s really upset, she might even engage in some finger wagging.

My husband and I stifle grins at the sight of her: two years old and she could command an army.

When she was born, a woman we’ve never met heard the name we chose for our baby and declared, “Oh, a woman of authority.”

I’ve pondered this as I watched my baby–so assured of her own mind—turn into a toddler—set on sharing her mind. I can see the hints of leadership, yes, even authority crammed into the body and soul of a toddler.

My Catherine reminds me so often of the seeds we planted in pots on our deck this year.  They appear so small and yet inside an explosive seedsforce lies dormant, ready to break out of its shell and grow and grow and grow . . . and hopefully produce much fruit.

Holding that ordinary seed in our hands, we can’t begin to imagine the potential for beauty and nourishment within once it receives proper care and tending.  The only hint we have of the future is the picture on the package.

Sometimes even then we’re surprised.

When we planted this year, we set aside one long planter for carrots and covered over about 20 seeds with 1/4 inch of dirt.  Within a few days, shoots of green appeared.

But strangely enough, they didn’t look like carrots.  In fact, they looked identical to the radish sprouts now growing up in other pots.

Maybe my daughters sprinkled some radish seeds in places I didn’t expect.

Sometimes we look at others or ourselves and see plain, brown, ordinary, small, and insignificant specks.  Mystery seeds.

If we’re particularly imaginative, we might even think we see the potential for carrots, only to learn later that God really designed us to be radishes.

Surprise!

Ultimately, God sees what we cannot.  He recognizes all our potential for growth.  He sees beyond our insufficiency and the trappings of our untrained immaturity and chooses circumstances, people, and training that will nurture, prune, and tend us into fruitful vines.

This is what God did for Gideon.  In a time when the nation of Israel was oppressed by the Midianites and foundering without a king or judge to lead them, God raised up a teenager to save his people.

Scripture tells us:

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. ”  (Judges 6:11-12).

Mighty Warrior?  Who could the Lord be talking about?  Surely not this youth doing chores for his dad!  We read later that Gideon destroyed his dad’s altars to the false gods, Baal and Asherah, so Gideon wasn’t even a child of a faithful and righteous man.

Even Gideon thought God meant someone else, answering, “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family”  (Judges 6:15).

He said, “I’m a nobody from a nothing family.  I’m no Mighty Warrior.  You’ve got the wrong guy.”

We may think he was right as Gideon puts God to the test repeatedly, asking for signs and reassurances of God’s command (Judges 6).  Then on the eve of the battle, Gideon still feels afraid and God offers him further comfort and confirmation by allowing Gideon to overhear the enemy and how assured they were of defeat (Judges 7).

In fact, even when the battle is over, won with only 300 Israelite soldiers against an overwhelming Midianite army, it still seems odd that God could call Gideon “Mighty Warrior.”   After all, there’s no question at all who was the Mighty One.  The battle was the Lord’s; Gideon was just yielded and usable.

The truth for Gideon and the truth for us is that God looks at us and sees beyond all of our failings and fears.  Not only that, but He’s also not limited by our skills and talents

He doesn’t see the potential of what we can do on our own; He sees the potential of who we are with Him.

With God, Gideon was indeed a mighty warrior.  That’s why when Gideon asked how any of this would be possible, “The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).

That is the promise He has for us–His presence, His help, His guidance, His reassurance when we are afraid.  All He requires from us is trusting obedience and the willingness to embrace His plans and His designs for our future.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Captivated

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to the first day of my new Bible Study, Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate me.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Garden Devotions–It’s Crowded In Here

Originally published April 27, 2012

My daughters and I reached a compromise.

I announced that I didn’t want to grow a vegetable garden this year.  It was too much work for too little result.  It didn’t save money.  It started out fun in April and ended up a horrible, rotten, ugly chore by the middle of July.  Various ravenous insects destroyed and devoured my plants.

Their response was unanimous.  “But Ma—awm.  We like to grow our own food.”

So we narrowed down the lists of vegetables we would grow and planted a container garden on our deck.

We filled large wooden crates with garden soil, vegetable food and the tiny plants of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers we had chosen.  Then we dropped the carrot seeds into the dirt, following exact directions on how far down to push them and how far apart they needed to be spaced.

After a while my daughters disappeared to work on their own project. They held out the result to me with pride.  It was a small planter with dirt in it.

“We planted radishes,” they announced, “all by ourselves.”

I shrugged.  The radish seeds were leftovers from last year.  It seemed unlikely they’d grow.  Yet, the girls faithfully watered that pot for days and surprisingly they were rewarded by the first hints of green.

A day later, the pot was crowded by infant radishes.  The girls must have dumped 20 seeds all into the same tiny space in the miniature pot.

It was going to be really crowded in there.

Unfortunately, even though it is hard and a little sad, we now have to make some tough choices.  If all the radish plants remain in that pot, none of them will grow correctly.  Some of them have to come on out of there.

Sometimes our lives are just as crowded as that tiny radish pot.  Every single seedling may have potential for beauty, growth, and produce, but nothing can grow when they are all shoved into the small space of one simple life and the restriction of 24-hour days.

Even though it’s hard and a little sad, there are times when some things have got to go so that other areas of your life can grow to their full potential.

It’s not always a mystery when choosing what to toss.

When Jesus walked into the temple and saw the vendors hocking their wares–doves for sacrifices and loans for people needing money for their offering–He responded immediately.  It didn’t take a second’s thought for Jesus to overturn their tables and chase the mercenaries out of the holy space of the temple courtyard.

He threw out sin, contaminated worship, and the profanation of the holy.

As soon as Jesus cleared the place, the blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them” (Matthew 21:14).

The only reason they could seek healing in the temple, the only reason there was room for the blind and lame to worship, was because Jesus had thrown out the tainted and unholy.

The Message emphasizes this when it says, “Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in.”

Until Jesus cleaned house, there hadn’t even been room in the temple for those who needed God the most.

Will we allow Jesus to overturn the tables in our heart where sin and the unholy have set up shop?  Will we clear out the trash and the disgusting, so that we have room to come to Jesus—and to bring others along who need Him the most?

Of course, it’s not always so easy to tell what has to go in our lives.  We have a million choices of how to invest our time, energy, talents, and money, and all of them could be good.  We could lead hundreds of crusades against a world of evil.

But if we crowd out our lives with too much that is good, nothing will grow as it should.

Jesus Himself exhibited the kind of focus we need, to hone in on our purpose and refuse to be distracted by every demand and need.

During His ministry, mobs of people sought out Jesus for healing, and He frequently healed those who sought out His help.

But He didn’t heal everyone.

In fact, when the crowds grew too large and people sought Him out for healing alone, He moved onto another town or escaped the masses to pray alone on a mountain or by the sea.

Healing was fine.  Miracles were part of His ministry.  But it was not His main purpose for coming and He never wanted that to be the focus of His presence.  Instead, He had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and “to save the world” (John 3:17).

Maybe it’s time for you to pull out some of the extra radishes from your pot.  The first ones to go are easy—yank out the sprouts of sin, the unholy habits and the remnants of the flesh life.

Then prayerfully ask God to help you focus.  What seedlings should you tend and invest in until you harvest their potential?  What seedlings need to be set aside so that other areas of your life can grow?

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Buttercups in frozen earth and miracles of winter

A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump;
    a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree (Proverbs 11:28 MSG)

I admired the hardiness of this little plant.

My daughters and I had embarked on a treasure-hunting walk through our town.  We collected some of the final beauties of the fall, the red leaves beginning to fade, the acorns no longer piled high across the sidewalk, but scattered piecemeal along the path.

One daughter marveled at still-intact pine cones.  Another gathered large round seeds that we carried home for further investigation and all the girls measured themselves against the shoots of this grass.061

For me, though, the marvel of the day was the simplest of all plants, a tiny yellow buttercup.

Sure, we’ve seen a million of them this year.  My youngest picks dandelions and buttercups every single time we go outside from April to October.  They are presents for Mommy, of course.

This one tiny bud, though, was the only bloom we saw along our walk that brisk day.  The gardeners had long since covered over most of their plants and mulched their flower beds for the winter.

Apparently, no one had told this buttercup that blooming season had ended, that the ground was hard and beginning to freeze over.

My daughters wanted to pick it, but for once I declined.  How could we pick so bold and determined a little plant?  Better to let it live and reap the reward of all its effort and labor to reach to the sun.

In the devotional, Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman writes of another determined little flower:

High in the snow-covered Alpine valleys, God works one of His miracles year after year.  In spite of the extremes of sunny days and frozen nights, a flower blooms unblemished through the crust of ice near the edge of the snow (442).

She’s writing of the soldanelle plant, which stores the energy and heat from the summer sun deep in its roots so that it can bloom even in the winter snow.

A plain old buttercup becomes a wonder, blooming as it did out of season.  Even more amazingly, the soldanelle cutting through the ice and snow reminds us of the miracle of seemingly impossible growth.

We all experience winter.  It’s just fact of life. We won’t always be spring-time fresh in our faith, bounding through life with exuberant newness and joy.053

We won’t be perpetually blooming in the summer sun, receiving grace and abundant energy as God shines down on us and we work the soil.

We won’t even be harvesting those fields forever, raking in the reward of all that time toiling in the summer sun.  One day, we’ll pick that last bit of grain from this particular harvest.

And then what?

What happens when life seems dormant and maybe even dead?

The prophet Jeremiah wrote:

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit
(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Whether it’s the full-on summer heat of life leaving us parched and dying of thirst or it’s the burning frost of winter confining life to the deep underground, growth isn’t always easy or obvious.

The prophet reminds us, though, that when we place our full-out confident hope and trust in God, we’ll be reaching our roots of faith deep, deep down into God.  It’s sinking our roots far beneath the surface of superficial belief.

Often, it’s the very drought we think will kill us or the winter that appears to cause death that actually makes us fully live, makes us more resilient, makes us more beautiful in seasons to come.

Richard Foster describes it this way:

Winter preserves and strengthens a tree.  Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth.  In winter a tougher, more resilient life is firmly established.  Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish (Prayer, p. 65).

This explains the miracle the prophet Jeremiah describes: the greenness of a tree regardless of drought and the fruitfulness of a plant in every season.  It’s the difficult seasons where we feel no life at all that God is giving us the tools we need for abundant life.

If, that is, we sink our roots deeper and deeper into him, with all the determination of a November buttercup or an Alpine soldanelle pushing through ice and snow.  We reach deeper to the Living Water of Christ and dig tenaciously into God’s Word.

And we live.  Not only that, we flourish and bloom again.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Devotions from My Garden: Guest Post!

Today, I have a special treat for you!  Bill Jones over at I Was Thinking the Other Day About is guest-posting here and sharing a devotional from his garden!  I hope you enjoy and take the time to check out his blog of devotional thoughts and encouragement.

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I marveled at our backyard’s beauty. The white phlox beamed beside the weathered picket fence. The hibiscus was nearly eight feet tall and had smothered itself in pink blooms. Long tendrils of the guara held out their flowers and danced as the bumblebees did touch and go landings. Cardinals and bluebirds were bright spots of color at the feeders.

Several years earlier the yard was just an expanse of pasture. Over time I built the garden’s structure and established the flower beds. The fence came first and defined the back of the yard. I think I actually applauded in satisfaction when the gate’s latch clicked in place and fit perfectly.

A working gate deserved more than a dirt path, so a walkway of red concrete pavers came next. The addition of a pump house with a barn style roof and weathervane on top added a rustic touch to the scene.

The bahia grass in the old pasture was so thick that my tiller just dragged me along as it bounced over the top. I’m sure it was comical to watch, but to me it was frustrating. With that obstacle, it became a struggle to transform sections into flower beds. Many exhausting sessions of hand work were required but the transformation did occur.

The histories of many of the plants also came to mind. The oak leaf hydrangea was 12 inches tall when planted. Now it covered an area twenty five feet across and has been the mother plant of several more now spaced around the yard.

I bought the pagoda plant sight-unseen. What a surprise we had when it produced spectacular orange blooms over a foot tall that did look like a Chinese pagoda – with multiple stems and flowers in layers that decreased in circumference from the bottom to the top. And they were like butterfly magnets.

Standing there, remembering the years of work that had been involved, I could have shouted “Look at this great garden I have built!” Thankfully, I thought better of it and didn’t.

I thought of King Nebuchadnezzar who gazed at his city and said: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30 KJV) At that moment, God showed him who had the power and majesty. The King spent the next seven years eating grass like an ox.

I didn’t mimic his words. Not from fear of having to eat grass, but from the realization that without God I could have done nothing. I praised the Lord for the beautiful flowers and birds He created. I thanked Him for the strength to build the fence. I thanked Him for the time, resources and opportunities He had provided.

That day I knew what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote that he had planted and Apollos had watered but God gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). Paul was writing of spiritual growth, but in my physical garden I understood that while I may have built and planted and watered, it was God alone Who, in His power and majesty, had completed it and made it beautiful!

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 08/11/2012: Devotions From My Garden: Beautiful Attraction

We enjoyed a special visit with grandparents this week and they brought with them gifts, as is the way of grandparents.  One of our surprise presents were two tiny plants that they grew from seeds.

They are butterfly plants.  I looked them up online and saw into our future.  They bloom with brightly colored purple, pink and blue flowers.

And they attract butterflies.

This, of course, is the most exciting kind of plant we can grow in our garden that blooms right outside my daughters’ bedroom window.

Pink, purple and blue . . . and a butterfly magnet?

That has “King girls” written all over it.

I’ll be transplanting these tiny green plants into the garden this weekend and then we’ll watch and wait for the day that the first butterfly visits our flowers.

Of course, these aren’t the only kinds of plants that have a peculiar attractive quality.  Some flowers catch the eye of hummingbirds and the shoots of dill and parsley in our garden are the diet-of-choice for the Easter black swallowtail.

In the same way, we as Christians are to have an attractive quality about us that draws people to stop a while, turn aside, glance our way and choose to linger in our presence and know our Savior.

But if we’ve let our life plants wither and die, grow scrawny and unattractive, or deprive them of the necessary nutrients for our fruit of the spirit to bloom, then we’ll fail to attract others to Jesus.  Even worse, we might repel them.

So, this week, I’m meditating on a verse that reminds me to be a sweet scent of Christ in the world, a reminder to others who meet me and know me of God’s love:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Devotions from My Garden: What Are You Waiting for?

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit (Galatians 6:9 MSG).

We planted in pots and crates on our deck, tiny seedlings of cucumbers, tomatoes in three varieties and jalapeno peppers.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We watered.  We tended.

But mostly we waited.

From one day to the next, the leaves didn’t appear to expand and the stems didn’t seem to reach any higher than the day before or the day before that.

It took standing back and surveying growth over time for us to notice we had plants and not seedlings any longer.  Then there were the first tiny yellow flowers on the cucumber plant.

The day we spotted the tiniest baby tomato, I called all three of my daughters over to see.  There we stood, a mom and three girls gently pushing aside green leaves to marvel at the promise of growth.

And then we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

For signs of ripeness and readiness for harvest.

Gardening, like life, is so often about waiting.  The difference, though, is that we waited for our first vegetables with anticipation and excitement.  We tracked the progress and closely watched the physical signs of a promising future because we knew the day would come when we sat down to salad and salsa from our garden.

But in life we often wait with a hopeless aggravation and a frustrating impatience.

We wait on God, tapping our foot and glancing often at our wrists with urgency.

Perhaps, though, we should wait for God, watching the signs of growth, rejoicing over every bud and clapping our hands with joy every time we see a reminder that the harvest is coming.

This is how the crowds prepared for Jesus’ arrival:

“Now when Jesus returned, the crowds welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him” (Luke 8:40). 

Can you imagine the crowd watching the road for the first glimpse of Jesus’ sandal?  Perhaps kids ran back and forth bringing news of Jesus’ journey.  “He’s coming.  He’s near.  He’s closer.  He’s just around the corner.”

He’s here!

Imagine the hush of the people.  They weren’t whining about the wait or postulating that perhaps Jesus wasn’t coming after all.

No, they were likely listening intently for the first sound of His voice chatting with His followers as He traveled on the road.

This is how we wait for God–we look forward with excited anticipation and uncontainable joy for the moment we see God at work.

And while we wait, we prepare to receive all that He’s bringing our way.

Like the kings who faced the overwhelming enemy might of Moab, we wait for God’s promise.  He said He would “fill the ditches in the dry streambed with water” overnight and without wind or rain.  Yes, He would bring the refreshment and victory they needed (2 Kings 3:16-18).

In the very next chapter, Elisha tells the destitute widow to gather “empty vessels and not too few” and then the Lord filled as many as she gathered with rich oil, saving her from starvation and poverty (2 Kings 4:3).

In two back-to-back passages, God miraculously fills His people up to the brim, giving them all they had prepared to receive.

I feel this now, this urge to prepare, to grab as many jugs and cups and bowls and pots and buckets as I can so I don’t miss out on one drop of God’s provision. 

I stand at the foot of the dry streambed and rather than complaining about my parched throat, I want to dress in my swimsuit, ready to dive into the pools overflowing with His miraculous water-without-rain.

It’s waiting, surely.  I’m not there yet.  But I see the signs.  I see the growth, the buds, the tiniest hint of vegetables to come.  I see God-movement here and there, projecting change and something new.

Part of me is scared.  Waiting is what I know.  Change, even good change, frightens me and stresses me out.

So what’s a girl to do?

See the signs of God on the move, the promises of harvest, and yet refuse to budge?  “No thanks, God, I’ll stick with what I have and what I know because at least I’ve dug into a trench of trusty comfort and reliability.”

Or do I hang my shoulders in defeat and stomp away, not seeing the harvest quickly enough?  Tired of waiting, I dump over the vessels waiting for oil, I walk away from the streambed thirsty for water . . . I turn away from those waiting for the first sight of Jesus and choose instead to complain at home that He didn’t come.

Or I could wait, joyfully and with excitement, nervous perhaps but ready nonetheless.  Jumping up and down trying to see Jesus over the heads of the crowd, I’m waiting for God, not waiting on Him.

This is how we reap the harvest, when “we don’t give up, or quit” (Galatians 6:9).  This is how we don’t miss out on one drop of what God has planned.

More Devotions From My Garden:


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Devotions from my Garden—Sacrificing Violets

Just over eight years ago, my husband and I packed a UHaul with our belongings and made the long drive from New Jersey to Virginia, settling into our new home.

At the time, a towering oak tree stood in front of our house with English ivy spilling over the roots and along the base.  It was a sad day when they told us the tree had to come down; too close to the house, too close to the septic system, too dangerous in a hurricane.

Such a lovely, stately tree.  Such quaint and romantic English ivy.

But we made the sacrifice to avert future disaster and the tree company hauled its branches down and then the trunk itself.  But they left the stump in place, which still sits even now as the centerpiece for my front garden.

Over time, I realized that the tree had produced offspring before the men attacked it with their chainsaws.  On the corner of my front garden grew a baby oak, not a tiny sapling easily yanked out by bare hands.  A thick sprout of a tree with roots down deep.

It was ugly there.  It was off-center and inconvenient.  After each rain it seemed to grow exponentially overnight, overshadowing the blooms of nearby calla lilies and violets.

It annoyed me.

I tried pulling it up, but I’m no Goliath.  I couldn’t even budge the stubborn baby oak an inch.  So, I compromised, cutting it down every few weeks so it was slightly less conspicuous and ugly than before, but never fully uprooting it.

Today, I stared at the towering leaves of my garden enemy once again in disgust and frustration—and determination.  It just had to come out!

I attacked it with my shovel, digging deeper than I ever had tried before and hurting my back while yanking and twisting its roots every few minutes.

Then I realized the sad truth.  In order to dig down to disengage the tree’s roots, I had to dig up my sweet violets growing nearby.

I had to make another sacrifice in order to accomplish the work.  After a tiny moment of sadness, I sunk the shovel deep once again and finally heard the roots snap before I pulled the tree free from the ground.

It took me about five years of battle with stems, roots and offshoots, but I finally won the day and victory was sweet.

Despite all the assertions to the contrary, the Christian life is and should be a life of sacrifice. It’s not a guarantee of abundance or comfort, coziness or material success, health, wealth, prosperity and all the trappings of “the good life.”  Jesus never promised the American Dream.

Of course, the sacrifices we make are almost always greater than digging up violets in order to oust an inconvenient tree.  Yet, they do often involve uprooting and turning over our hearts.

That’s what sacrifice does—it demands that nothing else at all matters more to us than God–not sin, not personal comfort.  Sacrifice ensures that we can give any of that up, even if it’s painful and difficult, for the sake of His name.  It’s a way of knocking over the idols and false gods that take precedence in our time, resources, and priorities.

It’s acknowledging that He is God alone.

But it only happens when the sacrifice is truly sacrificial, when it actually costs something.  Anyone can give to God out of our abundance and excess and we might feel an ugly sort of righteous pride about it.  Look what we did for God.  Look how generous we are.

Yet, when King David longed to build an altar and give an offering to God, he searched for land on which to build.  The owner of the chosen plot, eager to help out the king, promised the land as a free gift to David.

David refused, saying,

“No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”  (2 Samuel 24:24—HCSB).

In the same way, after rich and powerful men paraded into the temple and loudly plopped their tithe into the box, looking for praise and accolades from the bystanders, a widow walked behind them.

Without showiness or shame, she gave her offering of two coins and Jesus noticed.  Others fawned after the wealthy who had done little more than give to God what was leftover after they paid their dues to the country club.

Jesus said, “she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).

This isn’t a devotional about money.  Sacrifice isn’t limited to cash and coin.

This is about giving to God every part of us, every stronghold, every dream, every luxury, every need and trusting Him with it.

Maybe it’s how we spend our time.  Maybe it is about money.  Maybe it’s about what we watch, read, and download onto our iPod.  Maybe it’s being willing to lay a dream at His feet and walk away, leaving it in His hands instead of your own.

How are we giving to God in a way that costs us?

After all, Christ gave His very life to us.  Surely we can give more than violets in return.  Surely we can refuse to sacrifice to God an offering that costs us nothing.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King