We need lifting up

Today I received a mini-lecture from a random stranger in well-worn jeans and a baseball cap.

As I left the library with my three-year-old,my son danced over to the button for the automatic door and pressed it with a little bounce in his step and wiggle of his head.

He loves pressing these buttons.

When he was old enough to reach out of the stroller, he insisted on being the one to control the doors.

When he was two-years-old and leaving the library was always a fight, these buttons were a blessing.  He wanted to skip going home for lunch and naptime and just stay and play forever.  The massive terrible two’s tantrum hovered over us like a threatening storm cloud every single time we went to the library in those days.

So, I started giving him something to look forward to.  I’d say, “It’s time to go.  Would you like to be the one to press the button?”

Sometimes it failed.  He still had to be carried on out of there in a full-blown fit.

But on a lot of days, it worked.  He’d head out of the children’s section on a mission to be the one to open the doors on our way out.

Today was a good day at the library. We saw a friend.  My son played without fighting and even did some sharing, which is a new and still-developing skill.

When it was time to go, we grabbed our stuff and headed for the front without cajoling, threatening, or screaming.

So, when he pressed the button and did a little dance as the doors opened, I smiled.

Yes, this was a successful library day.  Thank goodness!

Then the stranger complained.

At first, I couldn’t tell he was picking at my son.  He said, “One day, those buttons might break.”

This was unexpected.  Mostly when people see my son so excited about pressing the buttons, they laugh or smile and it makes all of our days a little brighter.

Then this stranger said the mean words:  “Those buttons are for the handicapped.  Not for him.”

That’s when I realized he was complaining that my three-year-old likes to push these buttons—like probably every other three-year-old on the planet.

My son didn’t bang the button, hit the button, slam the button or in any way misuse the button.  He just pressed it.

He didn’t take up a handicap parking space without a handicap sticker or use a handicap bathroom when it wasn’t necessary and prevent others from using it as a result.

And I don’t ever use those automatic buttons myself since I can open the doors without difficulty.

But my son used this button to open a door that he can’t open any other way because it’s far too big and heavy for him.

And in the very moment he had joy,  we were criticized.

Sometimes this is exactly how it goes.

Just when you are having a good day, someone tries to bring you down.

Your child doesn’t have a tantrum, he uses the potty, and he doesn’t fight with the other kids, and you think, “Hurray!  Maybe I’m not failing completely as a mom.”  That’s when someone tells you how badly you’re doing.

Yesterday, I read something by Charles Spurgeon  that pinged again in my soul while standing a little tongue-tied in the library lobby:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

I don’t really need a stranger to tell me I don’t measure up, made a bad choice, or in any way am failing at motherhood.

I am heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.

All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

We need lifting up, above the tough circumstances, above the sin that weighs us down, above the criticism that tramples all over our joy.

And Jesus does this for us.

He is the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3).

David said,

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1).

And Psalm 146 tells us:

The Lord raises up those who are bowed down (Psalm 146:8 ESV).

In Psalm 28, it says God lifts us into His arms just as a shepherd cradles his sheep:

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever  (Psalm 28:9 ESV).

I don’t  know what might weigh you down at the moment or what might be dragging your soul into a pit of discouragement.

Whatever it is, we can lift it up to Jesus.

Lift your soul right up to Him.

He will carry you.

How Barbie Ruined My Day (Almost)

Yesterday was Tuesday.

This hardly seems like a revelation, I know.  And yet it has a special sort of meaning for us this year.

Tuesday is our “rush from school to ballet to Bible study without stopping at home for dinner, come home later than bedtime with kids too wired to sleep, and pack school lunches at 10:00 at night” kind of day.

Maybe you have a Tuesday, too.  Maybe your “Tuesday” is on Wednesday or Thursday or both or all of the above.

Since Tuesday was our “Tuesday,” that makes Wednesday our “Wednesday”—-the I wish I could sleep in bed late, lounge in pajamas, read a good book and sip tea without any other commitments but I can’t —-day.   That’s because Wednesday is only slightly less busy than Tuesday.

So, we shuffled out of bed this morning.  I asked my one daughter five times if she was ready for breakfast, but she was “too tired.”  Finally, she just nodded her head “yes” and waited for the cereal bowl to appear.

The girls fought over the television, so I led my preschooler by the hand to the back room, laid her out with her pillow and blanket and let her choose a movie to watch while we rushed through the morning routine.

She picked Barbie.

I quietly slid it into the DVD player, hoping no older children would hear Barbie’s voice.

I failed.

They heard.

The older girls followed the sounds of Barbie and planted themselves in front of the television.  Since she was still noshing on cereal, one girl even brought her bowl and spoon along and set up a makeshift table.

I caught her there, eating in slow motion, too distracted by the movie to chew.  I don’t know how long it should take to mash a piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch so it’s soft enough to swallow, but I’m pretty sure the cereal was disintegrating in her mouth.

I flicked the TV off and pointed one child to the bathroom to brush her teeth and the other to her socks and shoes.

Then I sent my older girls out to the school bus while I put shoes on the little one, who was now screaming for her sisters not to leave without her.

It’s tradition for us.  Every morning, my older girls hug and kiss their younger sister before getting on the bus.  Today, we had just enough time for a quick kiss, but not for a full-out hug before the bus pulled up.

So, for the next 15 minutes I sat on the couch trying to comfort the now-hysterical un-hugged baby sister.

And I thought, “Thanks a lot, Barbie.”

Thanks for ruining my day.

It’s easy to feel like one stressed morning, one forgotten item, one mistake, one misspoken word can destroy the opportunity and promise of a day.

But I’m thinking I should have a choice in the matter.

When Jesus called out to some fishermen and a tax collector to “Come, follow me,” they had to make a once-for-all, life-altering, totally revolutionary decision to toss aside nets and a ledger and follow an itinerant preacher around the Galilean countryside (Matthew 4:19).

Yet, surely the choice to follow had to be daily and it had to be deliberate.

They had to choose to keep walking alongside Jesus, even when mobs pressed in and they moved from town to town, day after busy, tiring day.

They chose to follow Jesus even into foreign and uncomfortable towns like Samaria.

They chose to follow when religious leaders criticized their every movement, complaining when they gathered wheat because they were hungry on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1).

When Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” they chose to leave the excitement and buzz of successful ministry and walk away for some time with Jesus (Mark 6:31).

They had to choose to follow Christ into Jerusalem even after He told them that arrest, persecution and death awaited Him there.

Whether the command to follow was easy or hard, uncomfortable or downright scary, the decision was theirs to make, not once, but every single day.

Do I follow Jesus when He calls?

Do I set aside my own agenda and allow Him to direct my day?

Do I allow circumstances, a stressful schedule, a rotten morning, a mistake, an annoyance, an unexpected event, or even outright tragedy determine my attitude and actions?  Or do I choose to follow Jesus despite it all?

In her book, Choose Joy, Kay Warren wrote:

If we are going to experience joy in this lifetime, there is only one possible way: we will have to choose it.

So, I make a choice today to have joy despite Barbie.

I make a choice to follow Christ wherever He chooses to take me.

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

Weekend Walk, 05/05/2012–Stressing Over Stupid Stuff and an Undivided Heart

Hiding the Word:

It was all stupid stuff and it all stressed me out.

That afternoon, we spent too much time in the school library during the family reading time because my kids wouldn’t stop reading, which normally makes me grateful, but that afternoon made me a bit frustrated.

Then, while changing into her ballet clothes, my oldest daughter asked me to help her untie the knot in her laces.  “Sure,” I said, holding out my hand for one ballet shoe.

Instead, she plopped two ballet shoes into my hand that she actually had tied together last week because “it looked like fun.”  She was still giggling a week later.  I was not.  Now the slender laces of her slippers were pulled together in a knot that would have made any sailor or Boy Scout proud.

Zooming out of the school bathroom, across the school parking lot and into the mini-van, I still picked at the knot on the shoes unsuccessfully.  When we arrived at ballet, I reached into the bag to pull out the bobby pins and hair net and the other jumble of hair accessories we tote around in order to pull my daughter’s mass of princess-like hair into a perfect ballerina’s bun.

They were gone. We had left them all piled on the bathroom sink at the school.  I tugged a ponytail holder out of another daughter’s hair, made the messiest bun of all time on my oldest girl’s head, and ran into the ballet studio.

I asked the lady at the desk for scissors and held up the attached ballet shoes apologetically.  She haplessly searched for scissors—which she couldn’t find because of course most people don’t need to cut the laces of their ballet shoes before class.  Fortunately, a nice man with a pocket knife slashed the laces apart so I could run the shoes into my daughter, already poised at the barre and pointing her toes.

And so it went.  There were bigger stressors that day.  There were other petty annoyances still to come.  The crazy whirlwind of it all left me dizzy and exhausted, but I knew one thing was true:  Nothing that day was worth the frustrated attention I was giving it.

Nothing there was life-threatening or mattered in the eternal way that some things matter.  They were silly and foolish worries, just pests that nipped at my heels and made the simple treading through my day difficult.

Would less stress have made it all better?  Would untied ballet shoe laces or un-lost hair accessories have improved my day? Perhaps.

But what I really needed, what I usually need, isn’t a more smoothly running life with less obstacles and bothers.

I need the eternal perspective that only Christ can give, the reminder of what really matters now, what will still matter 20 years from now, and what God and I will agree matters when I’m hanging out in heaven and worshiping at His throne.

That’s the perspective Paul writes about in Colossians and it’ll be my verse for the week.  I encourage you to copy it down, pray over it, meditate on it, memorize it and ask God to help it change your perspective this week when life gets hard or even slightly tiresome or stressful.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2).

Weekend Rerun:

One Heart And Mind
Originally published April 21, 2011

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”
Psalm 86:11

Multitasking is my spiritual gift.  Somehow the Apostle Paul left that off of his lists in Romans, Corinthians and Ephesians.  Even if it didn’t make the Biblical list, some of you share this gifting with me.  You mop the floor, do laundry, type emails, care for children, talk on the phone and make dinner all at the same time.  What can we say?  It’s a talent.

Usually my multitasking works quite well for me and truthfully I am sometimes bored when I am simply keeping one ball up in the air instead of juggling several.  But there are those moments, I’ll confess, when I open my pantry cabinet to find that I accidentally put the frozen broccoli away there and when I open up the freezer, there are the spaghetti noodles.  It’s a sure sign that I have too much going on and things are starting to fall apart.

Multitasking may work for me (most of the time) as I clean my house or plunge through my to-do list each day and yet its a choking hand of death on my quiet times with God.

This morning I sat at my kitchen table, my place for meeting with God every day.  My Bible was open and ready, my journal and pen set to the side waiting to be used.  My cup of tea was steaming hot, strong and sweet.  Everything I needed to spend some focused time with my Savior was at my fingertips.  Everything was prepared—-except my heart.

I was distracted.  Distracted a little by projects and to-do lists, the phone and the emails left unanswered.  Distracted by my children asking and asking for help.  Distracted a little by frustrations and situations needing to be handled.  My thoughts drifted to all of those things as I read the words on my Bible’s open page.  Words that normally hold power and relevance for me, the living and active Word of God, now made dull by a scattered heart and an unfocused mind.

Not wanting to give up, I prayed over Psalm 86:11.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (NIV)

and in the Message:

“Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path.  Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear” (MSG).

I prayed, “Lord, create in me an undivided heart.  Put me together, one heart and mind—wholly focused on you.  There are so many things vying for my attention, captivating my heart, stirring up my emotions, and setting my thoughts wild.  Please fill me and focus me so that You alone are my heart’s desire.”

It’s not a magic formula, a mystical incantation that somehow brought clarity out of chaos.  No, it was a confession of desire.  A request for God’s strength in my weakness.

I am a forgetful and distracted creature, and I need the help of my God to cut through the clutter and noise so that I can pay wholehearted attention to Him.  That’s why David writes this verse as a petition to God.  He knew He needed heavenly help also.  He asks for God to “give” Him an undivided heart or, as the message says, to “put him together” so that he can be receptive vessel, prepared to hear and receive God’s teaching and training.  David knew He couldn’t achieve an undivided heart on His own.

And yet, I didn’t just pray this prayer and then sit down to the best quiet time ever, full of revelation and inspiration.  It took effort on my part to reject and discard the jumble of thoughts that kept popping into my mind.  I had to stand guard over my heart and not allow it to take my focus off God’s Word.

When I suddenly remembered an item for my to-do list, I jotted it down on a piece of paper and returned to Scripture.  When I started rehashing what was frustrating and upsetting me, I cut off my thoughts and whispered a quick prayer that God would take care of that situation.  And I returned to Scripture.

It was work, but it was worth it.

Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  By asking God to give me an undivided heart, I was making a similar petition.  I was allowing Him to sanctify me (make me holy) through and through—spirit, soul, and body—and this brings me peace straight from the God of peace.

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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 © 2012 Heather King

Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This, Part III

“Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, All my springs of joy are in You'”
Psalm 87:7, NASB

Years ago, I fell in love with a song we used to sing at church called Jesus, Lover of My Soul.  The song begins with a simple, worshipful declaration that, “It’s all about You, Jesus.  And all this is for You, for Your glory and Your fame.  It’s not about me, as if You should do things my way.  You alone are God and I surrender to Your ways.”

Frequently, I would belt out the first line of this song with an impassioned Freudian slip, crooning, “It’s all about ME, Jesus.”

Oops!

I didn’t really mean it, of course.  There are just some lyrics I manage to mix up at times.  None of them, though, quite as telling as that mistake.  Sadly, but truly, there are so many days and moments when my focus is on me and not on God at all.  It’s those days and seasons of my life when I wish God would just do things my way and when “surrender” becomes my least favorite word.

I began this week struggling, fighting to have a good attitude and a smile when my day was difficult and downright yucky.  During that bad day, though, God spoke truth to me and drew me in closer to Him.

You can read the previous posts here:

And now, Lesson Three: It’s Not About Me; It’s About Him

Part of my struggle on my bad day was wondering how I could possibly minister to others when I was working hard at basics like keeping calm with misbehaving children and not stressing about my calendar.  When I felt so empty, how could I pour out to another?  It’s one thing to serve and encourage when we’re overflowing; God’s goodness just sploshes over the tops of our lives and refreshes all who cross our paths.

But, what about when our cup seems dry?  What happens then when a thirsty neighbor lifts up needy hands in our direction and we ladle out empty air?

And that’s where I was.  All day I met up with those hurting and thirsty; I sat at the computer looking at drafts of devotionals, knowing I couldn’t complete them for the day.  Then, I heard it– my own voice echoing in my head, singing “It’s all about ME” from years ago.

Wasn’t that what I was saying?  That when a friend has a problem, the source of my answer is Me?  That when I sit to write this devotional, the words and the thoughts are dependent on Me—my ability, my ideas, my inspiration, my quiet times?

It carries over into my everyday life, too.  As I lift my baby out of the crib far too early in the morning and she’s tired and cranky and she doesn’t even know why—I could depend on Me to be calm and cheerful or comforting or I could depend on God.  When I pull my older girls close as they cry out tears of disappointment and I scan the house and see all of the cleaning I’m not accomplishing in that moment, I could stress out because I’m not sufficient enough, but then I’d be depending on Me once again.

Sitting on my desk (on top of the paper stacks), is My Utmost for His Highest, with the words from today’s reading underlined and starred.  Oswald Chambers wrote: “Jesus was saying, ‘Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.’ In other words, pay attention to the Source, and out of you ‘will flow the rivers of living water’ (John 7:38).”

Similarly, the Psalmist wrote, “Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, ‘All my springs of joy are in You‘” (Psalm 87:7, NASB).

God is the Source, the Spring from which comes all my joy.  He’s not an immovable Fountain either, located at only one place or accessible at only certain times of the day.  He is my Portion and Provision every moment of every day.  When I find myself carrying my cup back to Him like Oliver Twist in the orphanage, asking shamefacedly, “Please, Sir, can I have some more?,” I’m forgetting that I serve a generous God, who longs to pour out His grace on me.  He isn’t stingy and doesn’t want me thirsty or starving.  The more times a day I lift my cup to Him, the more times He will fill it.  If that means I’m having a quiet time every five minutes all day long, then that’s what it takes to fill up at the Fountain of God.

When I’m running back to the well every few minutes, I know it’s because I’m a leaky person, with holes punched all in my heart from stress and busyness.  Yet, it’s also because I’m pouring out to others and God is willing, even joyful, to replace what I’ve spilled over into the cups of my husband, my children, my friends, my Bible Study girls, my church members, the Wal-Mart cashier and the girl who cuts my hair.

The frequency of my visits to the Well doesn’t reveal my weakness or failure.  It reveals my dependency on Him. 

Yet, when I peer into my empty cup and think I’m too dry to walk this Christian life, too empty to share with another, then I’m forgetting that It’s All About Him.  None of the ministry I perform in my home or outside of it is contingent on my ability, brains, beauty, education, character, or godliness (thank goodness!).

At Iconium, Paul and Barnabus “spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of His grace by enabling the to perform signs and wonders” (Acts 14:3).  The ministry they performed was only possible because God enabled them to do it.  He empowered them, He directed them, He filled them up, and then He blessed what they gave.

He is enabling us, as well.  Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and Cliff Richard wrote, “The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find He is.”  On the days when we feel like everything is good, we’ve got everything under control and our cups are filled to overflowing, it’s hard to tell whether we’re depending on God or on us—whether it’s all about Him or all about Me.  But, in the tough times and on the bad days, there’s no question about it.  We’ve got nothing to offer.  He’s the only Source.  He’s what fills us up.  He’s what provides what we need for our own cup and also for the cups of those around us.  It’s all about Him.

So, if you’ve had a bad day this week and need a pick-me-up moment and a chance to refocus, I hope you enjoy some songs with me! 


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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

Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This, Part I

Not long ago, Staples ran a series of television ads with an Easy button.  With one click, impossible office tasks became possible, even a breeze.  Nothing was beyond the power of the Easy button.

Today, I’d like to have one of those snazzy red buttons that makes life simple and stress-free.  Perhaps, though, what I really need is a Start This Day Over button or a Crawl Back Into Bed and Reawaken Feeling Great button. Maybe a Clear Foggy Brain button would help me or a Keep House Clean While Children Play At The Same Time button.  The most effective one, though, would be a Noise Cancelling/Make Everything Quiet So I Can Think For Two Seconds button.

I’ve tried all the buttons on the five remote controllers for my television, all to no avail.

So, here I sit typing away and feeling oh so inadequate to be sharing anything with you at all.  Normally, by this time in the day, I’d have written this post already and moved on to some other writing projects in between activities with my kids or washing dishes or laundry or other tasks.  This morning, though, as I tried to eke out time for writing, I found that I was running through all three daughters’ names plus the names of my two cats before I finally matched the right name with the child in front of me.  That didn’t bode well for finding the right words to share with you.

I’ve prayed all day for God to “help me out here!”  I pulled up to my prayer times and asked for some energy, clear-headedness, patience, well-behaved children, and a mess-free house with a side order of divine inspiration.  Do I want to Up-Size that?  Yes, please!

I’m still waiting on that order.

A sucker for advertising, I have also eaten several KitKats hoping that it would “Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that KitKat bar.”  The mini KitKat bars that fit into plastic Easter eggs, though, don’t really give a break so much as an extended blink.

In the middle of:

running unexpected errands
calming an overly tired baby who didn’t sleep last night and awoke screaming early this morning
scrubbing cat vomit out of the carpet from every single room in the house
organizing upcoming events and starting blankly at my to-do list and calendar wondering how realistic cloning myself by next month would be
asking my children in “Mommy’s nice voice” to play quietly and then watching them sprint across the house screaming at the tops of their lungs less than two minutes later . . . over and over and over again
and hearing an old Motown song rumbling around in my head in mockery: “Momma said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this, my Momma said”

—-somewhere in the midst of that, God’s been speaking truth to me. 

Lesson 1: My Feelings Can’t Be the Boss of Me

I’m not really feeling “it” today and by “it,” I mean anything.  Today, is a runaway kind of day, a quit all activities and retreat to a cabin in the woods kind of day, a shirk overwhelming responsibilities and live a life of selfish indulgence kind of day.  Yet, while feelings can be an indicator, they can’t be our basis of truth, our filter for reality, or the impetus for our actions.

Standing on the shores of the Jordan River, Joshua instructed the people to Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5).  Even with God’s promises ringing in their ears, overwhelming physical evidence of impossible circumstances must have been daunting, even paralyzing.  A nation of people stood on one side of the Jordan River, the Promised Land on the other.

Then, God asked them to literally step out in faith.  “It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap” (Joshua 3:12-13).

The priests had to actively step into the river before anything could happen.  They could stand as long as they wanted on the banks of the Jordan, waiting for God to make a way through that water before they dipped their toes.  Yet, He’d given them a way.  He’d asked them to walk into it.  He asked them to act now even though they likely felt fear or doubt rather than confidence or excited anticipation.

As the toes of the priests sunk into the mud, the river water parted, just as God had promised.

Standing on the banks of my own Jordan, I can allow fear or doubts to paralyze me.  I can give up and walk away because the river is too wide and deep to cross.  Or, I can step where God has told me to walk regardless of my feelings and allow Him to part the waves of my circumstances with the power of His Presence.

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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