Why you don’t have to be afraid

christmas

I remember thinking that I would have done the same thing.

At the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, I picked up a tiny booklet with a name and a story inside.

My booklet told the story of a survivor.

My friend’s, however, did not.  Hers was a mom with a young daughter.  When the death train stopped outside the concentration camp, guards tried to push the crowd into two separate lines: Those who could work and those who could not.

The women could work.

But the kids were considered a burden without benefit, so they were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

This woman, though, refused to be separated from her daughter.  She must have clung insistently, desperately, stubbornly to that little hand.  I imagine her words, “Don’t be afraid.  Mommy’s with you,” even as they walked into death together.

I hope I would have done the same thing.  I’d want to be there with my kids for every frightening, fearful, terrifying thing they might face.

I’ve watched in the school parking lot on those scary days when a school shooting hits the news.  Moms pull the minivans right over, climb out and take a moment to squeeze their children.

We all fear.  I do it, too.  After the news headlines, I want so much to retreat with my kids to a secluded cabin in the woods, my pitiful attempt to protect them from the madness of sin in this world.

Yet, that’s the truth of it all: we live on a sin-scarred planet and while there are hints of beauty here, and there is mercy and grace, there is also pain and sorrow.

So, what hope do we have?

How can we wake day after day, not in defeat, resignation or anxiety, but with the joy of the Lord and the peace of salvation?

The gospel message is all about hope for the hopeless, light in the darkness, joy in sorrow and peace in turmoil.

It’s for those hopeless enough to feel like one more day alive is too much to bear.

It’s for those of us watching the clock at night, too worried about bills and our kids, our marriages, conflicts with family, or problems at work to sleep in peace.

It’s even for a worrier like me, anxious over the little things like birthday parties and church program.

It’s for the daily troubles that we turn into crises and for the life-and-death struggles we sometimes face.

It’s the reminder that God came here to be with us so we wouldn’t be alone, and He will not leave our side.

That’s the hope we have.  Not us alone in a crazy, mixed-up, broken world.  Not us alone facing bills and divorce, depression or stress.

Not us alone against any road-bumps ahead in the new year.

Emmanuel.  God with us.

As it says in Isaiah:

“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).

Fear not.

That’s the loudest message from the Christmas story.  The one grand announcement over and over: “Do not be afraid.”

That wasn’t just God’s plan for our past.  It’s been His passion from the beginning of Creation—to be with us.  It was His driving desire all those years of patiently planning for our salvation through Christ’s coming, His death, His resurrection.

It’s the great passion of God’s heart even now.  In the book of Revelation, we’re told that when the battle is over and Christ establishes His forever kingdom, God will say:

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

We close another Christmas season.  We stop playing the carols.  We pack up the decorations.

We make resolutions and plans for the new year.

But this is what we carry with us; this is the hope we have every single day:

He chose to be with us so we could choose to be with Him.

So we do not need to be afraid of facing anything in this life alone.

God is with us.

What other moms say when they find out you are having a boy

Deuteronomy 33

After having three girls, when I found out I was having a son, other moms chimed in with tons of wisdom.

They told me to be quick with the diaper changes or I’m bound to get peed on.  (I did.  At least twice.)

They told me to prepare for climbing, running, growling, and dirt (lots of it).

They told me no one would love me like a son, not ever.   “It’s different than with a girl,” they said.

One mom told me how her son would cradle her face in his tiny palms and say, “You’re bootiful, Mommy.”

And another mom told me her son announced he was going to marry Mommy when he grew up.   When she explained that Daddy had already married her, the little boy scowled and said “Dad’s lucky.”

Mom after mom told me that no one treasured her as unconditionally or completely as her son had when he was little.

And then.

Then older moms started warning me.  They are still offering forebodings of doom.  I’ve had several depressing conversations just this week about my future.

“When you have a daughter, you have a friend for life,” they say, “but a son ditches you as soon as he finds a wife.”

I get it.  “Leave and cleave.” I don’t want my son to be a stunted mama’s boy.  I don’t want to break up his marriage by pitting myself against his wife or refusing to let go.

But I wouldn’t mind if he chooses a wife I could get along with or calls me once in a while.  I wouldn’t mind a visit here and there and I’d hate it if he only hung out with ‘her’ family instead of sitting around our holiday table sometimes, too.

I’ve been enjoying this season with my son, loving and loving it.

I love train shirts and train toys and train books and conversations about trains.

I love airplanes and bulldozers and how we have to point out the fire trucks every time we walk past the fire station on Main Street.

I love making faces at him in the mirror and growling out funny voices.

I love toting along a few trucks everywhere we go.

This is my great joy.

But this week, other women have been telling me to enjoy it now because I might as well kiss my son goodbye in a few years. So I’ve been more than a little sentimental and emotional.

It’s my nature and my way to pray about my kids’ future, their choices, their passions, their careers, their spouses, and my son is no different.

A week of prophetic doom, though, has my heart more fearful than hopeful or prayerful.

And then I read Jacob’s blessing for his son, Benjamin:

‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”  Deut. 33:12 NIV

I don’t know what may have your heart turning somersaults of fear instead of clinging to hope this week, but my kids’ future has done it for me.  It’s made me clingy and tearful.

Yet, this verse offers me security and peace.

This isn’t the season for me of farewells or parenting adult children and worrying over their not-so-adult decisions at times.

This is my season of early morning snuggles on the sofa before everyone else awakes and making pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

It’s my season of listening to all of their news about their day at school, laughing at funny lunch escapades and wiping away tears when another girl gets mean.

It’s my season of bedtime hugs and bedtime stories.

And it’s my season of lifting children up….up into my arms, snuggled into my chest….up onto my shoulders, high so they can see, high so they can be carried and so they can rest.

That’s what God does for His beloved.

He lifts us right up out of the mess and the weariness and sets us between His shoulders and tells us to ‘rest.’

Don’t strive.  Don’t fight.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to keep moving forward on your own.

Let Him carry you.

High up there on the shoulders of our God, our perspective shifts.

Stop fretting about the future.

Life doesn’t depend on us to fix it and make it happen; our future depends only on Him and He is so dependable.

We are safe from danger.

We can cease striving.

We see the big picture.  All that trouble we were in below looks so small from our new spot on the shoulders of the Lord.

So I choose to rest here with the Lord, enjoying safety, enjoying this season, enjoying His presence, enjoying being His beloved–handing over fear and holding on to hope.

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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 © 2015 Heather King

Fire drills, tornado drills, lockdown drills, oh my!

psalm 31-22

My daughter announced that she hates ‘drills.’

All kinds of drills, she says.

They were only about two weeks into the school year at the time.

They had fire drills.

They had a tornado drill.

My oldest daughter chimes in about ‘lock-down drills,’ and how her teacher is so funny but the one thing she is super serious about is anyone who dares to giggle, laugh or even squeak out a hint of noise during a lockdown drill.

“She’ll send you to the principal,” my daughter lowers her voice for added drama.

These older girls of mine try to reassure the youngest sister that drills are essential and there to help and not really a big deal.

But the baby girl is testing out fear here.  I can see it on her face and I hear it in the way she keeps bringing these drills up.  When she gets home from school.  Over dinner.  In the minivan.  As she climbs into my lap for bedtime prayers.

“The drills…the drills….the drills…”

Clearly, they are on her mind.  And we older and wiser ones keep jumping in with confidence that everything is fine and not to be afraid, but she’s just not convinced.

So, the fear is kind of leaking out of her heart and into our conversations.

Oh, I don’t blame the drills, of course.   I let her tell me about them all over again and then I look right into her two blue eyes and I even brush away her wild bangs so she can’t miss this reassurance:

Those drills are there to keep you safe.  So that if anything ever happens, you’re not too scared to do the right thing.  We drill now so we don’t have to be afraid later.

She nods knowingly, but I’m her mom and I know we’ll probably have this conversation again in a month when the alarm goes off at school and all the kids file outside for yet another fire drill. So we pray about it, every time it comes up, I pray peace for her.

It’d be nice, it’d be great, it’d be heaven really if we didn’t need drills, if we didn’t have to practice for fire or intruders or tornadoes or a world of harm and hurt.

But we live here, on a broken earth with sin and natural disasters and trouble.

And how we react in the crisis makes a difference.

I know this because haven’t I been alarmed and sent into a dizzying whirlpool of fear at the slightest provocation?

A phone call.

An email.

A Facebook post, for goodness’ sake.

Maybe you, too?  The doctor’s report, the bill in the mail, the late night call, the hurtful remark, the broken car (again), the sobbing friend?

Trouble storms into our lives and how we react in the crisis matters.

We’re tempted to freak out and run around like a wild woman with her hands flailing hysterically in the air.

We’re in crisis mode.  Making phone calls.  Feeling hopeless.  Crying desperately.  Feeling helpless.  Rallying the troops and sending out an SOS signal and doing anything possible to keep from drowning.

I’ll be honest, sometimes it doesn’t even take a crisis, it just takes one tiny bump into my plans for the day for me to settle into a funk of frantic activity and aggravated grumpiness.

The Psalmist said it just right:

In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help (Psalm 31:22 NIV).

In our alarm, when the bad news comes and we haven’t had time for faith to kick in, we snap to the judgment that God has abandoned us.

He can’t see us.

We’re cut off from Him, alone, dependent on our own strength to get us out of this mess.

Our natural reaction to an alarm is haste and hysteria, foolishness and fear.

It’s unnatural to choose peace under pressure.

Yet, the Holy Spirit offers us just such unnatural, supernatural peace.

When everything settled and the crisis passed, the Psalmist recognized the truth: “Yet you heard my cry….”

In the haste of the moment, he had rushed into fear.  But then he saw what was true, God had indeed heard His cry for help.

What about us?

Over time, after alarm and alarm and alarm have passed and the dust settles and we see Jesus right there with us, surely we’d know by now what to do in case of crisis:

Cry to God for help.

Trust Him to hear your call.

Rest in the assurance of His presence.

Choose peace.

Not flaky peace, vague peace, warm-and-fuzzy-feeling peace, or the peace of blindness to our circumstances.

The peace that is the confident assurance of Christ’s presence right where we are.

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 © 2015 Heather King

 

Pursuing His Presence: Because Being Still Is Not Enough

I found her with untied tap shoes on her feet and eyes red from crying.

We zipped into the ballet studio, one mom and three girls (plus one baby boy) on a mission.exodus33

Three daughters in four back-to-back and sometimes overlapping dance classes during observation week.  This means instead of huddling in my minivan or zooming around town doing errands in between classes, I sat in the corner of class taking pictures.

We all piled into my youngest daughter’s class except for my tap-dancing girl who left to change into her tap-tap-tappy shoes.  I watched the clock carefully and slipped out just in time to check on her before her tap class began.

She wiped her eyes and explained, “I couldn’t get the ribbons on my shoes tied and I didn’t have anyone to help me….”

I tie the ribbons swiftly and then smooth down her hair with my hand.  Then I say it so she knows it’s not just about shoes anymore:

You didn’t trust me to come help you.  I knew you’d need help and I came just in time.

She’d been frantic and upset and all along I had a plan for her rescue and I was right on time, not a second too late.

So, all her fretting had been unnecessary drama.

And when is fretting not?

I started this year with intentionality: 12 months of pursuing the presence of Christ in the middle of the noise, mess, and busyness of life.  Today, I finish January’s journey, learning to be still and know that He is God.

For months, I dreaded this start to the year, knowing it would be the busiest and craziest of our busy and crazy schedule.  I feared the stress—-as in, tearful eyes, breathless suffocation just thinking about it.

But here we are.  We made it.  God is gracious.  When I felt that familiar strangulation of fear, I heard that still and small reminder: Don’t worry about that.  Just think about today.

So I did.

And, as much as I whine perhaps about winter, the overload of snow days has given me unexpected rest when we needed it most.psalm46-10

God planned the perfect rescue at the perfect moment for me all along, but I had been fretting and worrying.

Why?

Because I didn’t trust Him.

So often, we read that familiar Psalm—-BE STILL and know—and we focus on the stillness (Psalm 46:10).

Yes, stop with the flustered activity, the desperate attempts to fix things on our own, the frantic search for help from everyone except the only One who can truly save….

“Cease striving” it says in the NASB.

So, for a moment we pause.

Here’s what I’ve learned this month, though—“Being still” is not enough. It simply tells me what not to do.

I can’t forget that after I’ve ceased that striving and calmed my heart, God tells me what I should be doing in the stillness:

Know Him, Know He is God, Know that He’s got this under control and I can rest in the knowing that He cares for me.

Ann Voskamp reminds me of this….to remember He is I AM.  His very name is the reminder of His Presence here in this present moment.

Like Moses, I’ve asked in the boldest of ways that God will show me His Glory this year.  And, like Moses, I’ve told God that I don’t want to move from this place until His presence will go with me.

So, like Moses standing there on a holy mountain before a Holy God, I pray this also:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you (Exodus 33:13).

Because, God, in order to dwell in Your presence day after hectic day, I must be still and know You more, know You as I AM, know You as God present with me.

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 next month as I focus on Praying Simply?

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

A Reflection of Faith

He wasn’t but a few hours old when the questions began.

“Who does he look like?”

I wonder.  These eyes, this nose, his little round face and fuzz of light brown hair…do I see a reflection of me or are these my husband’s features in our newborn son?069

The debate is familiar.  I’ve swaddled three daughters and one son in hospital blankets and visitors have glanced into their faces and declared each time:

Just like dad.

Just like mom.

The opinions differ, this person…that person….there’s no consensus here.

So they ask me and what to say?  I fail at this every time, not seeing all him, all me.  Seeing only “our baby.”

That’s what we decide, not so much that my son looks like dad or mom.  Instead, he looks like a “King baby” and the comparisons are less with his parents and more with his sisters—these sibling counterparts with shared DNA.

I think of my own reflection and how people have told me my whole life that I look exactly like my mom.

But this light brown hair, my blue eyes, my fair skin, my (unfortunate) chin….those aren’t my mom’s features.  Those belong to my father.

What they see in me isn’t a physical copy of my mom, but a personality, a laugh, a voice and a spirit that make me her “spitting image.”

So maybe the essence of who we are truly overcomes the external and influences—maybe even determines—the way others see us.

People can look right at me and yet see past all that is physical to the spirit within.

And so the apostle Paul could see past body frailty to find faith in a man.

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk (Acts 14:8-10). 

How many people had looked directly at that man and seen only external limitation?  From his birth, he’d been crippled and all through childhood he’d been defined by disability.

Yet, his faith was so great, so overpowering, as to be his greatest noticeable characteristic when Paul looked his way.  How could it be so clear, so definitive in one lame man among a mob of many?2corinthians

What does such faith look like?  What are its features?

If someone looked at me in a crowd, would they see this faith above all else in me?

It must have been mountain-moving faith the man had.  The kind that makes room for miracles and doesn’t crowd them out with doubt rooted in practicalities and self-reliance.

Me?

Could I have faith so bold?

And daily faith, what about that?  Would Paul have seen faith in me amidst the most minor of daily annoyances, the stresses of the schedule, the disappointments of the moment and the way I have to face up to my very own mistakes and failings?

Doesn’t that take faith also?

To choose not to make a forgotten phone call a crisis or a lost library book or the 5 minutes on the clock screaming at me that we’re late or my mistake from rushing too much (yet again).  How we react in the most mundane of stressors reflects our faith or lack of it.

Do we trust that God has everything under control?

Everything?

Yes, the overwhelming issues we can’t possibly handle, but can we trust Him even with our calendar and our kids’ homework and our grocery bill?

And, if He is so trustworthy, why then fret and fear instead of relax easy into the trust that is faith in a God so mighty and so merciful?

The Proverbs 31 woman “can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25).

She has no fear of tomorrow or any days after that and no worries over what-if’s and hypotheticals.

She has faith.  And it shows up in her demeanor, in her belly of laughter instead of a wrinkled face of worry.

Proverbs also tells me this:

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person (Proverbs 27:19 NLT).

This reflection of mine should radiate faith, confident assurance that God is who says He is and He will do what He says He will do.  It’s the firm, unshakeable belief that whatever I face any day in this world is in His hands and never beyond His control or His caring.

Who do I look like, then?

Oh, I hope it’s a woman of deep, unshakeable faith and that it’s written all over my features and in every part of my being so you could pick me out in a crowd and know I belong to my God.

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 now available!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Ask Me Anything: Seeing The Impossible

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”
Ephesians 1:18, NIV

When Hagar ran off into the wilderness with her son for the second time in Genesis 21, she ended up wandering in the Desert of Beersheba. She was a homeless single mother, without friends, caring for her boy in unfamiliar desert territory and running out of supplies.

Her circumstances were desperate.askmeanything8

Placing Ishmael under a bush, she walked away so she wouldn’t have to watch him die. “And as she sat there, she began to sob” (Genesis 21:16 NIV).

It’s in the impossible situations where God is often most visible.

So it was with Hagar. God visited with her once again and asked:

“What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink” (Genesis 21:17-19 NIV).

Just like His question, “Where have you come from and where are you going,” this new question, “What’s the matter, Hagar?” shows that He was concerned about her. He knew where she was and what her circumstances were. Not only that, but He opened her eyes to see the deliverance He had prepared for her.

Nothing about Hagar’s circumstances changed. She was still a homeless single mother, short on provisions and without friends or direction.

It’s possible that God miraculously placed a new well nearby where she sat. Scripture simply says “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”

It could also be, though, that the only thing that changed was Hagar’s vision. Blinded by impossibilities and overwhelmed with despair, Hagar had given up when a well was so close. God revealed to her grace and provision that she simply hadn’t seen before.ask-me-anything-lord_kd

In the same way, God miraculously gave supernatural sight to Elisha’s servant in 2 Kings 6:15-17.  Surrounded by an impossibly large enemy army with horses and chariots, the servant cried out in despair, “Oh no, my lord!  What shall we do?” Clearly, they were doomed to defeat. Yet, Elisha assured his anxious friend:

“‘Don’t be afraid . . . those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17 NIV).

Suddenly their odds of winning didn’t seem so impossible anymore, yet their reality was unchanged. Those heavenly defenders had been there all along; the servant simply hadn’t seen them.

Pray that God will open your eyes to His provision and plan for you.

Sometimes we feel that our circumstances are too impossible even for God.  We forget that He is the God of creation, who spoke the sun and moon and all of the earth’s creatures into existence out of nothing.

God hasn’t stopped being a creator God. He can create something out of nothing.  He can place wells where there has been no water.  He can create a heavenly army to deliver you when you are defenseless.

Remember that, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27 NIV). You can trust that the God Who Sees you will know what you need exactly when you need it.

Taken from Ask Me Anything, Lord,© 2013 by Heather King. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 49501. All rights reserved. www.dhp.org.

To pre-order a copy of this book, click here.

For more information about the book release, you can click here.

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

Having Faith When I Don’t Get My Way

My one girl gets grumpy.

I arrive to pick her up at the end of an activity and I find her huddled on the floor, back turned to the crowd, face hidden on her knees or maybe she’s hiding under a table or in the back of a bathroom stall.

She’s not screaming or crying, but she’s definitely pouting.

With arms crossed, with feet stomping, with loud harumphs for emphasis at the end of her sentences, she tells me the crisis: Others disagreed, someone else wanted the same thing, another person got to go first, that person got something better.

But this is the bottom line: She didn’t get her way.

And now, she’s grumpy.

I understand.  I can be grumpy when I don’t get my way, too, wanting to sit out and let everybody know that I disagree with the decision and I’m sure not happy about it.

Another of my girls argues her case when she doesn’t get her way.  She argues….and argues….and argues her point until you’re knocked over by the powerful wave of her emotions and opinions.

And I understand this.  When I don’t get my way, I want to form protest marches and fight, fight, fight, too!  Instantly I think of who I can rally to “my side” and how I can convince others that my way is the right way, the best way, the only way.

Maybe if I just give the best speech, argue the best (or loudest, or longest, or most convincingly), use the best evidence and form the largest coalition I’ll win the day after all.

And my youngest girl simply cries over disappointment, not a temperamental tantrum on the scale of the hurricane tantrums we’ve seen in this family.  More like the desperately sad wail of a child who realizes the world doesn’t revolve around her…doesn’t always do what she wants or turn out the way she expects.

That’s a lesson that always stings painful and I’ve mourned myself with frustrated hurt that the world doesn’t bend to my whim or orbit around my convenience or comfort.isaiah30

I don’t always get my way.

And, selfish creature that I am, I sometimes react all ugly.

Yet, while faith allows us to stand up for what is right and to speak truth in love, it demands something else.

Faith means trusting God even when things don’t go our way, when plans don’t work out, when others make decisions we disagree with, when life isn’t perfect or even when life is hard and obstacles loom large and hope doesn’t come easy.

Believing in God’s providential care isn’t faith until we’re blinded by circumstances and still trust.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us this:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith: That’s when we can’t see the end, can’t see how God could possibly work this out for our blessing and benefit, can’t imagine what God could possibly do to make this better much less make this the best.

But we trust Him anyway.

Faith means resting in the knowledge of God’s power over everything we face, even when our senses and circumstances tell us that people are in control, not God.

It seems like we rely on a boss, or a leader, or a committee chairman, or a judge, or someone in human resources ….but faith declares that it’s God, always God, only God who directs our lives.

In The Faith Dare, Debbie Alsdorf reminds me that God is my Good Shepherd, trustworthy, wise, caring, knowing, powerful.  I read the familiar promises:

God, my Shepherd!  I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk by my side (Psalm 23 MSG).

Yes, God my Shepherd leads me to places of rest and sustenance, providing what I need, sending me in the right direction, walking by my side even in the shadowy depths of the valley.

And my response can be fighting or pouting…but all my grumpiness, my protesting, my tears reveal where I’m not trusting God’s ability to control the tiniest detail of my life in His hands.

Isaiah tells me,

In repentance and rest is your salvation
in quietness and trust is your strength…  (Isaiah 30:15)

Enough of the ugly reactions, the crisis, the conflict.  Better to seek my God—-what now, Lord?  What is your will here in this place?  What will you have me do and how would You have me respond?

I choose resting in Him.

I choose a quieted heart.

I choose trust.

I choose Faith.

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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

Declaring Dependence and the Faith Dare

Right now, he’s linked to me, soaking up nutrients and oxygen from my very blood, connected to me by a stranded cord that is his very grip onto life.

But there’s the delivery room and suddenly we’ll no longer be one tiny human and one mom adhered together into a cohesion of flesh and blood.  He’ll be held by the doctor and I’ll grab for my glasses to see this separate person, this tiny creation who has been nudging at me all these months and growing inside of me all this time.

For nine months you can only imagine his face, imagine what gymnastic feats he’s performing as he knocks your pregnant belly from side to side.

Then I’ll see him.  Then I’ll hold him.  Then we are two.

Right there in that moment when the doctor holds up a baby and announces, “it’s a boy,” right then he is on a journey to independence and I’m the one who is supposed to train him for that.

I have time to cuddle, to pray, to advise and teach, to tussle blond hair and put the Band-Aids on the scraped knees, but only for so long.1Peter5

Enjoy it.  Don’t miss it by blinking too long, my older and wiser mom-friends tell me.  Independence comes soon enough.

My eight-year-old daughter announces she wants to home school for college so she doesn’t have to leave home.

My four-year-old daughter declares that she’d just like to keep this family and not have one of her own.

But my seven-year-old daughter says it with this wild excitement, “I’m going to go live at college!  I can make my own rules and do what I want to do.”

It began in the delivery room, the separation from me, the first breath of their very own lungs taking in that air all on their own and so it goes.

This is my job as a mom, to love them into independence, teach them how to do and what to do on their own.

But that’s not God’s desire for me as my Father, not His parental mission or responsibility.  He’s doing the opposite, wooing my independent heart into trust and showing me the lesson of the vine:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me (John 15:4 NASB).

This abiding life, the never separating from God, never stepping out on my own and depending on my own strengths or abilities sounds so simple.

It’s not.

It takes effort to remain in Him.

Dependence after all can feel so uncomfortable, so helpless, so out of control, so uncertain.

In Faith Dare, The: 30 Days to Live Your Life to the Fullest, Debbie Alsdorf challenges readers to a “fasting of self.”  She says,

for thirty days you will be placing your self and what you want to do aside, replacing them with the truths in each day’s dare, and concentrating on what God is saying to your heart that day (p 15).

Maybe it’s normally food (chocolate or soda for me!), or media, or social media that makes up our fast.  Denying self means this sacrifice of what we want in order to pursue God’s heart, faith-dare-250throwing down idols and strongholds and choosing Jesus, just Jesus, only Jesus.

But maybe for me “fasting of self” means a denying of self-reliance, self-assertion, self-direction.  It requires that submissive gentleness, the willingness to follow God’s lead wherever, whenever, without worry or anxiety about the journey’s destination or timetable.

Control, worry, anxiety–remove the deceptive disguise and what lurks there?

Pride.

Peter surprises me when I read his words:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7 NASB).

Humble yourselves.

How?

By casting all your anxiety on Him.

John Piper writes:

One way to be humble is to cast all your anxieties on God.  Which means that one hindrance to casting your anxieties on God is pride.  Which means that undue worry is a form of pride (Future Grace p. 94-95).

It’s my stubborn independence borne from this ugly pride that stirs up worry, after all.  I fret because I’m trying to make every detail fit together just right, every problem solved, every conflict resolved, every decision made just perfectly.

I’m trying to do it.  I’m reasoning it out, planning in the night, charting possibilities on paper.

Me, me, me.

John Piper continues: “Faith admits the need for help.  Pride won’t.  Faith banks on God to give help.  Pride won’t.  Faith casts anxieties on God.  Pride won’t.”

Daring faith is denying independence and choosing dependence, throwing over the pride that says, “this all relies on me” and purposefully resting in Him.

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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

A Sleeping Lion is Still a Lion

All of them seemed ready to show off that day.

The morning was cool, that one break in the summer heat and the chance to enjoy outside without dehydration, heat stroke, headaches and fatigue.  So, we packed a picnic lunch and visited the zoo, even zipping up jackets at the start of the day because of the chill in the air.

On a cool enough day, the animals in the various habitats are willing to leave dens and the burrows under the earth that protect them from the sun.

The prairie dogs bobbed up and down.  The giraffe paced back and forth, his nose barely missing the walkway for zoo onlookers where we stood.  The elephant tossed his hay and the baby monkey swung on ropes and tumbled all over his ever-patient parents.

But the lions.

Always the lions sleep on the highest rock in their habitat, hot day or cool day or whatever.  They lounge and stretch and only occasionally blink their eyes open long enough to yawn and maybe  lionreposition their mass to ease into a more comfortable position or soak up more sun.

Years and years we’ve been visiting this zoo, and I’ve never seen the lion climb down from the rock, never seen him roar or shake his mane.  We’ve never seen the female lion dash across her habitat, stalk imagined prey, or be alert for danger.

Still we marvel at their sheer magnificence, the mightiness of their demeanor.  How their muscles still display power even when they look just as lazy as my two house cats asleep on the arms of our sofa or the foot of my bed.

And we take pictures them, of course.  I have just about six years of pictures of these lions resting on the rock.

I’d think perhaps that their lack of care or nonchalant attitude is simply the fate of the captive lion.  They feel safe in their man-designed haven, provided for and comfortable.

But today I read in Isaiah:

When a strong young lion stands growling over a sheep it has killed, it is not frightened by the shouts and noise of a whole crowd of shepherds.  In the same way, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will come down and fight on Mount Zion (Isaiah 31:4 NLT).

And this I read in the Daily Bread devotional, as the writer describes lions lounging in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve:

Their serene appearance is deceiving…the reason they can be so relaxed is that they have nothing to fear–no shortage of food and no natural predators.  The lions look lazy and listless, but they are the strongest and fiercest of all.  One roar sends all the other animals running for their lives.  (Our Daily Bread, JAL).

They have nothing to fear.

That’s why the lions don’t stay alert and awake on that rocky cliff.  It’s why they don’t take shifts of standing guard or pace around their zoo enclave with nervous awareness.

It’s why the same beasts out in Kenya feel free to lounge and linger as they drink from a stream and slowly stride through the grass rather than run, stalk, or pounce.

Isaiah writes that this is true of our God, this Mighty Warrior as He leads the armies of heaven, undaunted by opposition.

Oh, but how I tremble and pace with anxious uncertainty! How one phone call or email, one personal confrontation, one malicious bump into my carefully planned schedule, one interruption, one comment by another can leave me feeling so shaken and, yes, afraid.

And why, I wonder at times, am I reacting this way?  Isn’t this in God’s hands?  Even the decisions of others, the way they seem to hold power over my future or the ability to hold sway in my life, is just a ruse.

And why, I wonder, does it seem like God is lounging on the mountain rather than roaring and shaking His mane and displaying His might?  Why can I be in a nervous tizzy of reactionary emotion and He’s not flustered or bothered?  He’s calmly in control.

It’s because our God has no reason to fear.  No need to tremble at the noisy clamoring of our enemies, our frustrations, our annoyances, our worries and obstacles.

And it is our Lion of Judah, our all-powerful God, who gave Isaiah “a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.  He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy…don’t live in dread of what frightens them.  Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.  He is the one you should fear, He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe” (Isaiah 8:11-14).

We aren’t to worry because we fear only God–no other crisis or threat or shaking of our life–and we know He keeps us safe.

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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