Where I Confess How Long It Has Been Since I Saw the Dentist…

I skipped the first appointment because my baby was due and the C-section delivery meant no driving for me.  Plus, there was the normal craziness of schools, carpools, and activities piled on top of having a newborn.

I was justified.2chronicles 30

I skipped the next appointment because our schedule never slowed down.  Every time I thought we’d finally made it to the ‘easy’ part of the year, life got all unexpectedly hectic.

Imagine that.

At some point as a mom with four kids, you’d think I’d just learn to expect hectic.

So, now here it is….a year-and-a-half since I’ve been to the dentist and time for yet another 6-month check-up that I have not made yet.

Here’s the problem.

It is now easier to miss the appointments than it is to make them.  I know instead of just 6 months of cleaning, they’ll be doing extra scraping and polishing.

I hate going to the dentist on a good day.

My mouth never hurts until they clean my teeth.  They find a sore spot and then continually poke and prod and ask, “Does this bother you?”  Well, it really doesn’t bother me as long as I don’t stab at it with a sharp mental pointy instrument of torture.

I brush my teeth, use mouthwash, and reluctantly floss, but I know I need to go to the dentist….eventually…..when I have the time (which of course I never have).

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

Wise advice.

Because the problem with delay is that it just makes it easier to keep delaying and harder to do what needs to be done.

Miss one Sunday of church, you can go back the following Sunday without a spiritual revolution.

Miss a month, and you’re out of the habit of going.

Miss a few months and even when you know you should go back, you don’t want anyone to ask you where you’ve been.

So it goes.

Take a day off exercising and you can make it up the next day.

Take two weeks off and why bother exercising today since you’ve missed the last 14 days?

Now it will hurt.

Now you have to start all over.

Now you might have to answer questions.

Now I might have cavities.  (Might?  Yeah, that’s pretty much a guarantee at this point. Hence, why I don’t want to go.)

Now it will take longer.

Now people might judge.

Now you feel hopeless, flawed, messed up.  You are the failure who stopped doing what you knew you were supposed to do and rather than call that dentist or head to the gym or slip into the pew on a Sunday morning, you just want to shrug it off and avoid going back.

Returning requires humility and repentance.  It requires bending that willful knee low and confessing that you strayed or stopped or missed or sinned or miscalculated or got it all terribly wrong.

That prodigal son could have run back to his dad at the first sign of disappointment with the free and wild life.

Yet, he stayed.  And the longer he stayed, the harder it probably seemed to head back home and face his dad.

Guilt, shame and regret heaped themselves like heavy burdens onto his back.

So, he kept marching in the direction of death because going forward was easier than changing direction.

Jonah, the wayward, runaway prophet, could have changed his mind at any point and taken the easier journey to Nineveh.

Instead, it took a violent storm and a hungry fish to convince him that obeying God was better than stubbornly heading in the opposite direction.

The thought of going back frightens me a little.  I know I’ll have to face the consequences of poor decisions and procrastination.

But the longer I wait to call that dentist, the worse that appointment is going to be.

And the longer we wait to obey Him, the more obedience might cost us.

Yet, even when it takes effort and repentance, even when pride has to crumble, even when we need to confess, God beckons us to return.

He gives us new mercies.

He gives us fresh starts.

He re-places our feet on the solid ground.

He journeys with us.

He beckons us home and celebrates the turning and returning it took to get us there.

That’s grace.

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you (Isaiah 44:22 ESV)

Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 1:3 ESV).

For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him (2 Chronicles 30:9b ESV).

Come, let us return to the Lord;
    for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
    he has struck us down, and he will bind us up (Hosea 6:1 ESV).

Let us test and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord! (Lamentation 3:40 ESV).

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

Her Own Pizza: With Jesus, It’s Personal

My youngest waltzed out of the pizza place carrying her own personal-sized cheese pizza like a treasure.

It started last fall when we mapped out the activity schedule for the year.  One night a week we rush from school, to ballet, to church, leaving exactly 30 minutes to scarf dinner in the car.

I searched for a solution that didn’t break our budget feeding a family of 5 dinner out and discovered the power of pizza.  One large pizza for about $9 feeds all of us.

Problem solved.pizza

But systems like this take some trial and error before they are perfected.  At first, I ordered a pizza with half pepperoni and half cheese, trying to please everyone’s pizza palate.

The trouble was that we then ended up with too many slices of cheese and not enough pepperoni.

Sigh.  Middle class problems.

(Actually, I’d prefer mushroom pizza, but I choose not to push it.)

So, one week I dared to change things up a bit.  I asked for a whole pizza of pepperoni and decided my cheesy daughters would simply have to pick off the meat.

Not long after I ordered the pizza, though, the phone rang.  It was the manager from the pizza place.

“I’m looking at your order here, hon, and I noticed it’s for a whole pepperoni pizza this time.  I just wanted to make sure I made your pizza right and that this wasn’t a mistake.”

Whoa.  She had been paying attention to me.  More than just a cheerful greeting when I walked in each week, she’d actually cared enough to know what I typically order and to notice when it changed.

So, I casually mentioned my predicament.  I only need two slices of cheese pizza.  A whole pepperoni pizza is too much pepperoni.  A half and half pizza is too much cheese.

What’s a mom to do?

“No problem,” she says, “I’ll make a pizza with just two slices without pepperoni.”

And she did.  Every single week from September to April she made us a custom-order pizza without being asked.

Last week, though, I walked in to pick up our pizza and our amazing pizza lady wasn’t there.  People we didn’t recognize were making pizzas and slipping them into cardboard boxes, so I knew we were probably not getting our two special cheese slices that week.

The next day, my phone rang.  It was the pizza manager again.  She was apologizing to me…profusely…that she had been away at a meeting and no one else had remembered about our special pizza order.

Really, I assured her, it’s fine.  I’m amazed by you, truly.

When I picked up the next week’s pizza order, she had it waiting for me on the counter, fresh and hot.  And on top of the large pizza was a small box with a personal cheese pizza just for my daughter as an apology for the lack of cheese slices the week before.

In a world with so many people, so much selfishness, so much demand to fit into labels and boxes, so much pressure to conform, so much mass-marketing and crowd appeal, one personal touch stopped me during my weekly rush from place to place.

I put the pizzas in the minivan and halted at the door, shaking my head.   One incredible pizza manager was digging deep in my soul.

Because ministry and Christianity and Jesus aren’t about statistics, labels, boxes, conformity, arena crowds, generalizations or stereotypes.

With Jesus, it’s always personal.

How often do we forget this?

…Treating ministry like it’s successful only when it’s big ministry, only when the numbers measure up.

…Expecting God to work the same old way for every single person, judging others for making different choices than we do, acting like our way is the only right way.

…Pulling out textbooks instead of listening to people.

…Shoving others into the confines of expectations and labels and never allowing a bit of room for grace or for growth or redemption….

In Deep & Wide, Andy Stanley reminds me that Jesus:

chose twelve apostles from among hundreds of disciples.  He gave preferential treatment to three of the twelve.  He didn’t heal everyone.  He didn’t feed every hungry crowd.  He stopped in the middle of a  virtual parade and invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house.  Why him?  He ensured that strangers would live and allowed Lazarus to die.

Why didn’t Jesus treat everyone the same?

Because we’re not the same.  We’re uniquely created by Him and He loves us, knows us, cares about us…

…you.

…me.

We can say it, recite it, sing it–echoing Jesus’ words: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” (John 13:34 HCSB).

But we need to mean it.

Love others just as Jesus loved us: sacrificially, humbly, with grace, and yes—personally.

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