Christmas means God on the move

christmas15

Today, I plunked down $0.88 for a new address book.

Then, I laid its 13-year-old, well-worn predecessor to rest.

It was time.

In that old address book, I have crossed out.  I have drawn arrows.  I have swirled over old addresses and entered in new.  I have stuffed envelopes with corrected info into the pages.

This year during ‘Operation Christmas Cards,’ I flipped through that edited mess.  Seven more family members moved this year to new homes in new places.

Most of these are happy moves: The new-job, new-marriage, new-baby kind of celebration.

Others are moves of in-between, of change, of loss and sadness and finding new hope for the future.

Since I have an intense dislike, maybe even horror, of writing in pencil, though, I can’t just erase and start afresh at each new life event.

That’s when I realized the truth.  It wasn’t time for more corrections.  It was time for a completely fresh shart.

It was time to move on.

And it strikes me right at that moment as I fill in the blank pages A-Z, surrounded by Christmas decorations and Christmas cards, that Christmas itself is about moving.

God began that progress, journeying to us:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9 HCSB).

He makes the first move.  He steps into the void we can’t breach, the abyss of sin we can’t possibly cross, and He leaves the glory of heaven for our sake.

Jesus isn’t the only One who moved that first Christmas, though.

“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth” (Luke 1:26).

Mary and Joseph loaded up the donkey and trekked slowly “from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem” (Luke 2:4 HCSB).

The angels arrived on the hillside to announce the Savior’s birth to shepherds and then “left them and returned to heaven” (Luke 2:15 HCSB).

Then, those shepherds in their excitement said, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened” (Luke 2:15 HCSB).

Days later, a man named Simeon was guided by the Spirit and went straight to a GOd-appointed place:  “he entered the temple complex” (Luke 2:27 HCSB).

Wise men from the east searched the night sky and could no longer remain at home, complacent, apathetic, mildly interested but not engaged when they saw the mysterious star.

No, they moved.

They committed to the journey, packing camels, loading supplies, asking questions.

They must have left so much  behind:  Family, possessions, homes, a culture they knew and friends they loved.  Maybe they left position and power in the dust in order to arrive in a foreign land as strangers and outsiders searching for a King they couldn’t describe whose name they didn’t know.

Where were they going?  They did not know.  When would their journey end?  They could not say.

Just like Abram long before, the Magi left their homes to travel to an unknown destination for an uncertain amount of time.

Friends must have called them crazy.  Family might have questioned their sanity.

Yet, they kept moving because a star “led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was ” (Matthew 2:9 HCSB).

Christmas is about the faith of movement, about faith in action.  No standing still.  No remaining the same.  No stubbornly refusing to leave the old in pursuit of God’s work anew.

In a season steeped in tradition, God shows us that He can do the surprising and unexpected.  He is at work.  He is in motion.

Christmas is angels and shepherds, sages and a teenage girl, the righteous and the ordinary, all abandoning their plans, agendas, comfort, and homes, leaving it all behind so they would not miss what God was doing.

Are we so willing to move?

When God calls, when He is active, when He is at work and He comes to us, will we also go to Him?

I’ve finished filling this new address book now and for a while at least everything is settled and set.

Yet, I’m hushed with expectancy.  I’m at the feet of Christ with anticipation.  I’m asking the question and I’m silent, breathlessly waiting for the answer He gives:

“God, what are you doing and how can I be there?  I don’t want to miss it by refusing to move when you move. Lead me this Christmas.”

 

 

Pa rum pum pum

Glory to God

 

Pa rum pum pum.

I am practicing for the church Christmas cantata.

So is my two-year-old son.

I hear him from the backseat of the minivan, singing along with the CD, instinctively drumming his hands to The Little Drummer Boy.

Then he wiggles and bobs his head and does a little toddler dance of intense motion.

Pum pum pum, he sings.

All this Christmas season, my son has been singing this song.  It’s his favorite.  He reacts the same way every time, with participation, with whole body involvement, with spontaneous joy.

And, besides all that, it’s the one song that he knows most of the words to.

Pum pum pum.  He belts it out.

It’s not a Christmas carol I’ve ever given much thought to.  Being the realist I am, I’ve always balked at an extra-biblical kid with a drum hovering near the manger scene, rapping out a rhythm for the newborn Savior.

But as a parable….as a story digging God-centered truth down deep within me…..it’s captured my attention.

Perhaps this is because I’ve played it over and over and over again for my son and then it gets stuck in my head and I pretty much cannot escape hearing this song all….day…..long….

It’s here, this line, that gets me every time: “I have no gift to bring…that’s fit to give a King…. Shall I play for you?”

What’s more fitting than our worship?

What’s more treasured and valued by God than our praise offering?

Some of you might be fighting for the joy this season.

You could rush yourself right past the purpose of Christmas, caught up in the busyness, buried in the rush, made breathless by the expectations and demands on your time, on your attention, on your wallet, on your soul.

Maybe it’s hard to see the Light of Christmas through the crushing darkness of your circumstances.

This year, though, I’m not fighting for joy; I’m fighting for worship.  For awe.  To be captivated anew by the weight of His glory.

I’m battling and warring against the ‘blahs’ of same-old, same-old.

It’s remembering that family movie nights with The Grinch, hot chocolate and popcorn, lights and wreaths, traditions, baking sessions, and picking that perfect present are fun, but they aren’t ‘it.’

It’s hearing that well-known Christmas story one more time and gasping in amazement that God came down for us.

Not rattling off Linus’s speech from the Peanuts’ Christmas movie (love that, by the way), but letting the truth sink, sink, sink into the hardened soil of my heart to  saturate me with Christ’s astonishing love.

And then responding like I should in the face of so much glory—on my knees, hands raised, heart expectant, worshipping Him as spontaneously and as wholeheartedly as a two-year-old crooning along to The Little Drummer Boy in the minivan.

My truest response to God’s greatest Gift should be an offering of praise.

That’s Mary.  She sings in worship:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46 EV).

That’s Zechariah after 9 months of silence:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people (Luke 1:68 ESV).

That’s the angels who spontaneously exclaim in one unified voice, praising God:

 “Glory to God in the highest
 and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14 ESV).

That’s the shepherds, who high-tailed it off of that mountain to see this Savior.  They left the infant Messiah that night:

“glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20 ESV).

That’s the wise men, journeying with anticipation and finally arriving to see Jesus:

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (Mathew 2:11 ESV).

At church, I tell the children playing wise men in the Christmas program to kneel and set their gifts (carefully) down as they bow.

But I tell them the truth, how those magi didn’t gingerly drop to one knee in the presence of Christ.

No, they hit their faces to the ground in adoration and humility.

In Unafraid, Susie Davis writes that the word really means:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage…laid out completely.  Hands in the dung.  Soiled robes.  Crowns knocked off.  Faces to the ground.

A poor girl from a small town.

A faithful priest.

Lowly shepherds.

Sages from afar.

The Christmas account is awash with praise: Spontaneous, heart-resonant, knees-to-the-earth surrendered worship to a Savior so worthy, to a Savior so compassionate, to a Savior so glorious.

What can I bring Him?  I am so small.

I bring Him my worship.  I give Him my all.

 

Christmas Devotions: When you find something good, don’t keep it to yourself

It’s an annual surprise.

Some afternoon, usually in March, I hang up my gray winter coat for the last time of the season.

There’s no official ceremony or anything and the groundhog’s shadow-predictions never prove perfectly accurate.

It’s just a simple thing.  One day I casually drape my coat across the hook in my closet and there it lingers through spring, summer and fall.

Then, on a morning (usually in November), I stop deceiving myself into thinking that sweaters are enough to keep my teeth from chattering.  I reach past my fall jacket in the closet, pull down that same wool coat from its trusty hook, slip my hands into the sleeves and dip my hand into the pocket.

Whatever I left there eight months before is what I’ll discover on that first pocket search of the winter season.christmas13

I’ve pulled out Mom-things, like pacifiers and baby socks (don’t all moms pop baby socks into pockets)?

Grocery store receipts unfold like magician’s handkerchiefs—always one more emerges from hidden corners.

There are pens and paper clips, ticket stubs, rocks for my daughter’s collection, hair clips and ponytail holders, cough drops, and maybe even tissues (unused, thankfully).

There’s generally little treasure among the trash.  Mostly my life out and about with my kids consists of periodically dumping the overflow of their stuff into my pockets when my hands are full.

Occasionally, though, I reach into that winter coat for the first time in November and pull out coins.  Better yet, a dollar or two or three….or even ten.

That’s enough to make this girl happy dance in the middle of my closet.

Then, pulling myself together, I announce the news to my kids, post a happy-face announcement on Facebook and tell my husband the story later that night.

Discoveries, after all, are meant for sharing.  They’re the kind of spill-all-over joy that we can’t keep quiet about.

Maybe that’s how the Shepherds felt standing on that darkened hillside with snoring sheep.

Perhaps it even explains what the angels were doing, singing their praise songs in the night sky to an audience of somnolent herdsman about a Savior being born.

All of heaven exploded with the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people!” (Luke 2:9), the Messiah, the Lord.  They couldn’t contain the excitement!

One angel made the announcement, but others crowded the sky and joined in the chorus: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

The angel’s joyful news sent the shepherds tumbling all over themselves to see “this thing that has happened, which the Lord had told us about” (Luke 2:15).

When we hear good news, don’t we long to see with our own eyes, to experience this joy ourselves? 

That’s what sharing our testimony does: it ignites passion, it incites curiosity, it encourages a searching and finding of the truth, the Savior, of salvation.

Then, when the shepherds found the manger and peered over the corners at the baby-King, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18).

They had discovered Jesus and no way could they keep that quiet.

No matter how many times Jesus asked those he healed in his ministry to keep quiet about it, still they rushed home and called up the local newspaper to tell their story.

Jesus himself finally told one man to:

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you”  Mark 5:19.

Surely his story is our story, too.  We have this testimony, of what He has done and the mercy He has shown.

Our God-stories, the discoveries of how He’s been so good to us, those moments of amazing grace and unexpected mercy in the middle of the daily grind, are all meant to be shared with others.

And the miracle of Christmas is ours to tell and ours to share; it’s the hope that others need and the joy this desperate world is searching for.

So, sing it!  So, tell it!  Don’t let that familiar feel of your salvation, the way apathy closes us in a cozy blanket of complacency, ever let us overlook the awe of this:

God loved us so.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

Originally posted October 19, 2012

Why I Can’t Mop My Floor Today

It’s all part of the plan, my strategy for party preparation.

With visitors expected, I’ve engaged in a running dialogue with the mess in my home.

All week long I’ve glanced at the kitchen floor with juice spills and mystery splatter and thought….”If I mop you today, I’ll just have to do it again on Friday.  Someone will surely spill as soon as you’re clean.”

And to the dust gathering on the television stand in the living room, I promised a wipe with a soft cloth Friday evening.

I interrupted my normal vacuuming schedule earlier in the week so that I could zoom through the house just hours before the company’s arrival.

This has been my strategy of preparation.  Knowing as I do exactly when those first little knocks on our door will occur, I can target the precise moment when my house is the cleanest and shiniest and in most presentable shape.

I hope.christmas10

Being prepared for visitors is no exact science, you know, and it’s even less so readying ourselves for God.  Christmas, after all, focuses so much on preparation. 

The Jewish people, after waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah, the savior of their people–and the world— felt more than ready, perhaps even impatient, for His coming.

But they weren’t.  Not really.  So God sent a messenger, John the Baptist, who shouted out the news to prepare, get ready, make yourselves right before God because the Savior was coming.

Still, when Christ came, there was no room, no readiness.  Instead there was debate and jealousy, hatred and power plays.

Only a few men and women willingly allowed God to interrupt their lives and their personal agendas in order to make room for His Glory.  Only a few were ready for obedience.

Mary, bowing the head in submission, doing chores one second and carrying the Son of God in her womb the next.

Joseph, heeding the dreams God gave Him, marry this virgin with Child, take her to Egypt to save the baby from a murderous king, travel back home when King Herod had died.

Shepherds, tending sheep in the night, earning a living, toiling as usual, following the instructions of angels to a baby in a manger, worshiping, and spreading the news across the countryside.

Sages from the East journeying for years, far from their homes and their prominence and wealth in order to lay at the feet of a child gifts of honor and adoration.

Their readiness wasn’t that of twiddling their thumbs, idling their time so that at the slightest move of the Holy Spirit they could jump up in response to His command.

Instead, they were all busy, actively serving in their jobs and homes, doing the daily thing with faithfulness, attention, and care.  And then God spoke.

An angel’s voice.
A dream.
A heavenly choir.
A mysterious star.

And they laid it all aside to follow after God, wholeheartedly, passionately, abandoning everything in order to be present and part of His plan.

May we be so ready this season and every season for God’s movement.  We don’t want to miss it! Even more than that, let us not be an obstruction or hindrance to the miraculous wonder of God.

God always knows the exact moment to move; His timing is relentlessly perfect.  Let us, then, be expectant and ready to obey Him regardless of our plan or agenda or expectation:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

When the time has fully come, may our hearts be ready and our lives prepared for the movement of God.

How are you preparing for Christ’s work in you in the new year?

Originally posted December 8, 2012

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 © 2013 Heather King

Pocket Discovery

It’s an annual surprise.

Some afternoon, usually in March, I hang up my gray winter coat for the last time.  I never know which day will be the very last of the cold season. We’ve even had freak winter snowstorms in April. There’s no official ceremony or anything and the groundhog’s shadow predictions never prove perfectly accurate.

It’s just a simple thing.  One day I casually drape my coat across the hook in my closet and there it stays through spring, summer and fall.

Then on a morning usually in November I stop deceiving myself into thinking that sweaters are enough to keep my teeth from chattering.  I reach past my fall jacket in the closet, pull down that same wool coat from its trusty hook, slip my hands into the sleeves and dip my hand into the pocket.

Whatever I left there eight months before is what I’ll discover on that first pocket search of the winter season.

I’ve pulled out Mom-things, like pacifiers and baby socks (don’t all moms pop baby socks into pockets)?  Grocery store receipts unfold like magician’s handkerchiefs—always one more emerges from hidden corners.  There are pens and paper clips, ticket stubs, rocks for my daughter’s collection, hair clips and ponytail holders, cough drops, and maybe even tissues (unused, thankfully).

There’s generally little treasure among the trash.  Mostly my life out and about with my kids consists of guiding them, protecting them, and holding their stuff, periodically dumping the overflow into my pockets when my hands are full.

Occasionally, though, I reach into that winter coat for the first time in November and pull out coins.  Better yet, a dollar or two or three….or even ten.

That’s enough to make this girl happy dance in the middle of my closet.

Then, pulling myself together, I announce the news to my kids, post a happy-face announcement on Facebook and tell my husband the story later that night.

Discoveries, after all, are meant for sharing.  They’re the kind of spill-all-over joy that we can’t keep quiet about.

Maybe that’s how the Shepherds felt standing on that darkened hillside with snoring sheep.  Perhaps it even explains what the angels were doing, singing their praise songs in the night sky to an audience of somnolent herdsman about a Savior being born.

All of heaven exploded with the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people!” (Luke 2:9), the Messiah, the Lord.  They couldn’t contain the excitement!

One angel made the announcement, but others crowded the sky and joined in the chorus: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praise God” (Luke 2:13).

The angel’s joyful news sent the shepherds tumbling all over themselves to see “this thing that has happened, which the Lord had told us about” (Luke 2:15).

When we hear good news, don’t we long to see with our own eyes, to experience this joy ourselves? 

Won’t you, after hearing my story, dip your hand into your winter coat with a little more anticipation this year?

That’s what sharing our testimony of discovery does, it ignites passion, it incites curiosity, it encourages a searching and finding of the truth, the Savior, of salvation.

Then, when the shepherds found the manger and peered over the corners at the baby-King, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18).

They had discovered Jesus and no way could they keep that quiet.

No matter how many times Jesus asked those he healed in his ministry to keep quiet about it, still they rushed home and called up the local newspaper to tell their story.  The blind can see, the lame can walk—how to hold that in?

Jesus himself finally told one man to, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you”  Mark 5:19.

Isn’t that the story for all of us?

Our testimonies of what God has done, the discoveries of how He’s been so good to us, those moments of amazing grace and unexpected mercy in the middle of the daily grind, are all meant to be shared with others.

That’s part of the joy, extending the celebration and encouraging others to go seek our God themselves, dig in His Word, trust in His promises.  What they discover there will be worth shouting about and more cause for a happy dance than whatever treasures I pull from my coat pocket this November.

Christian Writers Blog Chain

Today’s post is part of the October topic ‘Discovery’ by the ChristianWriters.com Blog Chain. You can click on the links on the right side of this page to read more articles in this series.

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

Christmas Devotions: A Letter to a Savior

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”
(Luke 2:19)

I was eleven and my Bible Study teacher gave our class a homework assignment for Christmas break.

Write a letter to God, she said.  Make it a prayer, a rededication, an offering of my own treasures, not the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of wise men, but the very finest gifts I could lay at the feet of a worthy God.

It was my Christmas gift to Him.  I wrote it out on Christmas Eve, folded it up, tied it with a ribbon and placed it under the Christmas tree.

Two decades later, I have twenty years of Christmas Eve letters to God.  It’s my most intimate and holy Christmas tradition. This Christmas Eve, I fingered the packet of letters and marveled at God’s gracious work in me.

One of my “rules” is no peeking at the letters on any day of the year other than Christmas Eve.  Yet, on that one night a year, I can glance back at twenty years of me drawing near to God just as He drew near to us on the first Christmas of all.

Usually by about February each year I can see clear answers to the prayers I scribbled out on the page just months before.

Like the year I prayed that God would help me overcome my need to be a people-pleaser.  Within two weeks I had actually managed to run into the deck on the back of my house with my car.

Kind of hard to see that as an answer to prayer at the time, but that’s one embarrassment that will humble you and break you of some people-pleasing!

Be careful what you pray for!

Other years, when crazy life events are happening just a few weeks into the new year, I wonder, “Did I pray for this somehow?!”

In some ways, this prayer letter is my moment to lay gifts before the King as the wise men did.  It’s my recommitment to serve Him in a new year and place at His feet the deepest desire of my heart to give Him praise.  I offer Him my very life, noting the places He is already at work in my character and asking Him for spiritual growth so I can bring Him glory.

Like the angels, though, I am also praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:14), as I give thanks and specific praise for the blessings of the year drawing to a close.

Then, like the shepherds, I turn my attention away from the busyness of work and daily life to see what God is doing in the heavens.  I write my letter to God at night after my daughters are asleep, the dishes are done, the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. There, in near-darkness, illumined almost solely by Christmas lights, I pray and write.

I look away from the “sheep” in my care, lift my eyes and attune my heart to hear the announcement of good news, of promises for the future and the certainty of promises fulfilled.  I dwell not just on what God has done or what He is doing, but what He will do in the new year.  What burdens has He placed on my heart?  What directions has He asked me to travel?  What steps of obedience has He asked me to take?

Mostly though, my Christmas letter is a moment to be like Mary, who after the shepherds came “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  In the same way, she “treasured all these things in her heart” even when Jesus as a young boy became separated from his parents during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Sometimes God’s work in our lives needs times of reflection and stillness.  What He reveals to us as we sit at His feet isn’t always meant for public announcements or official New Year’s resolutions, or campaigns or church-wide programs.

Sometimes God asks us to ponder and treasure, to reflect, pray, and wait for the appointed time.

So, I ponder.  I ask for God’s perspective on my marriage, my kids, my ministry and job and heart and mind.

Instead of monopolizing my conversation with an oh-so-patient God, I ask for His input.  Before I ever begin to write, I flip through my prayer journal and track the themes I see there.

How at times everything I read seems to be about grace.  Or prayer.  Or allowing Him to bring light into dark places. Or believing God for the impossible.  Or how He is a God who restores.

I follow the clear path of what He has already been doing in my life and then I join Him there in that place.  Yes, Lord, I pray, be at work here.  I will join You.  I will be submissive and receptive to what You want to do in me.

It’s too late for you to sit in the stillness of a Christmas Eve and write your own letter this year, but the new year is just days away.  What a perfect time to begin a holy and intimate tradition of your own.  A letter to Your Savior.

What gifts do you have to lay before the King?  What songs of thanks can you sing in the night?  What do you see in the spiritual places when you shift your focus off the physical daily routine of life?  What has God been doing in you and teaching you that you need to ponder in your heart?

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 © 2011 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 11/26/2011

Hiding the Word

I’d like to spend some time this season meditating on the Christmas “story.”  It’s too easy to nod our heads at the same old-same old telling of the tale, but this year I want to sink deep into it and recognize the miraculous glory of it all.  I want to recapture joy.

Do you remember how incredible the news of Christ’s birth was?  How excited the angels were to take to the skies and trumpet the birth announcement to a crowd of nocturnal shepherds hanging out on the hills that night?

How after 400 years of silence from Malachi to John the Baptist, God’s presence could be felt on this earth!  Four hundred years of waiting for a Word from God.  Four hundred years of celestial silence.  Surely that beats any of the waiting room seasons we’ve endured in our faith walks!

How God told each of the principal players in this event, “Do not be afraid.”  And how He says the same to us today.  Fear not.

So, that’s my starter verse this week as we prepare our hearts for the Christmas season.  It’s the announcement of the angels and the reminder that Christ brings us great joy—joy for all the people, and that because of Him we need not fear.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).

Here’s what Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas says about this: http://youtu.be/DKk9rv2hUfA

Weekend Rerun:

Fear Not
Originally Published 05/11/2011

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”
Isaiah 41:10

My older girls raced outside, tumbling over each other in their speedy way.  They jumped onto the swings and pumped their feet to go higher and higher.  They chased each other down the slide.

I watched from the kitchen window to make sure they were safe, were playing nicely, were obeying the rules.  Every time they travel outside my backdoor, we review.  Don’t leave the backyard.  Don’t go into the woods.  Don’t even go to the side of the house and certainly not the front.  Stay where I can see you through the kitchen window.  Come when I call.  You may say “hi” to our friendly neighbors, but do not enter their yard.  At all times, Mom needs to know where you are.

They’ve heard it so many times that I start the sentences and they complete them.

And as they closed the door behind them, I called them back for suntan lotion to protect their fair skin.

I sat down in the quiet to rest and read and then I heard them—two tiny voices screaming, hysterical, shrieking, piercing.  Not a hurt cry.  A fear cry.  More like terrified.  I ran, crossing over the gravel driveway without shoes, looking right at the two little girls perched at the top of the slide.  I could see them safe in front of me.  So, what was wrong?

Expecting a rattlesnake or tarantula, I arrived at the foot of the slide and demanded to know what had happened.  Were they hurt?  Were they bleeding?  What monster had threatened their well-being and brought me out here with my heart in my stomach, knowing they were in grave danger?

It was an ant.  A teeny, tiny, almost not visible black ant that had crawled onto their slide.

“It’s a fire ant, I know it,” screamed my oldest girl, face all red and hair wild, tears wetting her cheeks.

I bluster.  I don’t really know how to react.  It’s not a fire ant.  It’s the tiniest of tiny normal black ants that are only really scary at a picnic as they invade your lunch.  Even if it were a fire ant, it shouldn’t cause that much fear.  So, I calm them.  Then I instruct them.  I say, “God tells us that He “has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Then I tell them, “Even if it’s a  fire ant, even if it’s a spider, even if it’s a snake, even if it’s a monster, even then you don’t have to be be afraid because God is bigger than all those things.”

This morning, I gave myself the same instruction.  I read a devotional from a woman sharing about her childhood horrors from sexual abuse by a neighbor and it struck those familiar chords of fear that paralyze me just as my daughters were frozen in fear at the top of a slide.  In the car as we waited for school to start, I talked it over with my precious girl.  “If anyone hurts you,” I say, “you can always tell me.  It doesn’t matter what they say—if they threaten to kill me or dad or you or your cat.  If they say it’s your fault.  If they offer you candy.  No matter what, you tell me.” And in all the innocence of a child who doesn’t really know about evil, she said, “I don’t think my friends from school would hurt me mom.”  Yeah, I know.

This world really is a frightening place to live, though—for all of us certainly, and especially so for moms.  All of the evil that exists, the sin-state of this world, the reality that people hurt other people, people harm innocence—it’s enough for me to panic and want to hide away and take my children with me.

And it’s not just the big things that sometimes make me worry, but just the possibilities that exist in the unknown.   I registered my oldest girl for public school the other day.  In September, she’ll step onto a school bus with a driver I don’t know and other children I’ve never met.  I’m afraid.  It’s a true confession of what is lurking in my heart right now.  I’m afraid she’ll get lost in a school so big (if you knew my daughter, you’d understand this).  I’m afraid she’ll miss the bus and be scared herself.  I’m afraid mean kids will tease her and hurt her so sensitive heart.  I’m afraid of the influences I can’t control.  I’m afraid she won’t know how to maneuver the cafeteria system.

It’s true that this world can be a scary place to live at times.  It’s true that most of the monsters we battle are far more destructive than a tiny black ant and not so easily overcome.  It’s true that bad things happen and people get hurt.  But, there’s another truth I cling to in this moment; it’s what coaxes me down from the slide where my fears have pinned me.  God tells us, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

We don’t travel through this world alone.  Even in the darkest places when fears of the unknown transform into the horrors of reality, God is with us.  That is why we need not fear.  He does not leave our side and in the moments that we collapse with the overwhelming terror of it all, He strengthens us and helps us and lifts us up in His right hand to safety.  He commands us to “fear not” and then clasps our hand as we take those first uncertain steps into the shadowy places that we’ve been running from.

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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 © 2011 Heather King

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?: Part I

And The Winner Is . . .

Thanks so much to the giveaway participants!  I counted up each comment on the blog, each Facebook share, each new blog follower and used random.org to calculate the winner.  And the winner is . . .  Lynn Holt!  Congratulations!   Lynn, I’ll contact you about your prize choice!

I appreciated every comment, share, and follower.  Thank you for walking on this devotional journey with me.  We may have been celebrating my 150th post on this blog, but really I learn so much from what you have to say.  I hope you all continue to share your thoughts and post comments!

Now on to today’s devotional . . . .

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For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her eighth chapter: “The Bride Who Tripped Down the Aisle”

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“Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions”
Psalm 45:7

What kind of school does a ladder go to?
I don’t know. What kind of school does a ladder go to?
A High School!  Get it?  High . . . ladder.

It was the first joke my five-year-old daughter ever invented that made sense.  I was so proud!  At dinner that night, I made her tell it again to my husband.

We were mostly proud because for years we had endured the nonsensical joke creations of our two oldest daughters.  My six-year-old still thinks every single joke has to begin with knock, knock.

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Why did the chicken cross the road?

We’ve tried to explain joke construction and the basic tenets of verbal humor, but to no avail.  The thing is, to them it’s funny.  Even if we simply eke out polite fake laughter, they collapse into squeals of amusement at their own joke concoction.

We just don’t get it.

In the same way, we Christians should have a joy that people who don’t know Christ just don’t get.

This Good News that we have—that God Himself came to earth in human flesh, that He received the punishment we deserve for our sin, that He died in our place and rose again, offering us eternal life with Him in heaven . .. well, that really is good news.  It’s certainly something to get excited about again and again and again!

On Sunday mornings, I’ve been teaching Christmas songs to young children at church.  They are supposed to be angels delivering Jesus’ birth announcement to the shepherds.

At first, these pretend angels sang their song with little gusto or excitement.  They mumbled out the lyrics as if it were a painful exercise.  After weeks of reminding them that this was the greatest announcement the world has ever received, finally they sang with joy: “Hey!  Don’t be afraid.  I’ve got some great news.  Christ is born today in Bethlehem!”

The angel himself on Christmas night promised that “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Unfortunately, we become immune over time to the message’s impact.  We forget the joy.  We forget the wonder and excitement.

And when we imagine Jesus Himself healing people and teaching them, so often we picture Him as a melancholy savior, all staid, straight-laced and serious.

Surely, though, he must have smiled a bit as Nicodemus puzzled out the meaning of “born again.”

When Jesus deftly sidestepped the theological traps laid by the Pharisees and Sadducees, I imagine He did it with triumphant joy.

As He delivered the captivating and totally revolutionary Sermon on the Mount, Jesus could not have been a boring monotone preacher.  He held the crowd’s attention for two solid chapters worth of teaching in Matthew 5-7.  There must have been some joy there!

If Jesus never smiled, surely the children in Matthew 19 would have run away rather than willingly climbing onto His lap for a blessing.

Not that our life circumstances always make joy easy.  Sometimes we feel like our “cup runneth over” and sometimes we feel like our cup is all poured out.  What then?

Nehemiah faced a crowd of Israelites who felt too overcome by their sin, too full of repentant sorrow to feel joy. Yet he told them, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

At times, it’s difficult to experience joy, when we feel weak, out of control, confused, worried, uncertain, scared, or sad  . . . Yet, the joy of the Lord is where our strength lies.  Without joy in all circumstances, we can become paralyzed by weakness.

So, we rejoice together when we consider the Good News of the Gospel.  We rejoice in God’s presence, in His accessibility to us at all times, in His compassion, in His faithfulness and unfailing love.  We rejoice in the journey of our faith, knowing that wherever He takes us, He will always be there.

Still we have joy.  We determine to “always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NLT)

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 © 2011 Heather King