Weekend Walk: The Discipline to Keep on Going

With rain storms and wind, unexpected days off school for my kids, and then packing all my activity into the other three days of the week, some of my normal routines fell by the wayside this week.

Like walking.

By the time I finally hopped out of my car and stretched my legs into a stride on the sidewalk of our town, it’d been five days since my last true “exercise” (unless you count hauling deck chairs and bicycles into the garage in preparation for a hurricane ‘exercise.’)

All that time off and my legs were starting to ache from the lack of movement.

Starting a good habit is tough, with stops and restarts, good days and bad, and not so successful attempts until you find what works.  Then day after day, week after week, you practice the discipline of not just thinking about it or talking about it or dreaming it, but really getting up each day and making it happen.

It’s finding a way to make exercise a reality and cutting that beloved Coca Cola from my daily diet.

It’s setting aside that time to walk and pray.  It’s carving out just 15 minutes at least to sit down in the quiet of God’s Word and His presence.

It’s choosing to put the clothes away when they’re clean rather than let them hide in the dryer for a day or two or three ….or the next time you do laundry.

It’s walking away from Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter instead of losing an hour or two or three….

This is all discipline.  At first it aches to begin.  The pain of those first faltering steps may make you want to quit.

But when you’ve persevered and now it’s habit and part of what your everyday life is like ….then it aches to stop.

Sometimes we treat that time with Jesus as such a burdensome, difficult thing.  How do you fit it in?  How do you avoid the distractions of telephone–and children?  How do you get interested in these Ancient Words?

But then that time with Him is so sweetly life-giving and we ache, not from the doing, but from the not doing.   That’s what happens when my quiet time gets pushed back and back in my day until I’ve managed to cram in activity and I’m exhausted and grumpy.

My soul is aching for my Savior and protesting my lack of time with Him.

I’m reminded this week of the Psalmist, who expressed that longing for His God more perfectly beautiful and true than anything else I’ve ever read:

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1)

This week, if you haven’t established the discipline of time with Him, I urge you to make it happen.  It’ll never just magically occur on it’s own. You have to choose Jesus.

And if you’ve let it get crowded out of your life, if it’s slowly been pushed away, pay attention to the aching of your longing soul and start the discipline afresh.

And if it’s part of your life without question or fail, keep it up, my friend!  Even when it’s hard or quiet, remain steadfast.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: Will Break for Beauty

We took a day off for beauty.

Yesterday, my youngest and I waved goodbye to her older sisters as they rode off to school and we climbed into the minivan for a drive on a sunny, warm but not too warm day, passing horse farms and the river and watching sunlight burst through the tops of trees, casting shadows here and brilliance there.

We traveled to see friends.  We don’t do this often enough, just sitting and talking, laughing,

watching kids play with toys.  In all of life’s busyness and the red circles around almost every day on the calendar, we don’t give enough time to friendship.

Sitting along the edge of the beach, we helped tip over buckets of moistened sand to form sand castles.  Pine needles and lost feathers, bits of shell and pebbles smoothed by the waves became castle flags and decorations.

Then we walked and collected treasures washed ashore by the tide.  Children see treasures in ways we do not.  I picked up unbroken shells, shiny, smooth, etched with color and patterns.  My little one picked up massive clam shells covered in barnacles and sand, murky in color and awkwardly shaped.  She handed me slivers of broken shells and even tried putting fistfuls of sand in her treasure bucket.

It was beauty to her.

What is it about the seaside that brings peace to the soul?  My friend says maybe it’s the rhythm of the waves.

I think she’s right.  I stood there for a moment and thought of the comfort it brings me knowing that the wave will come and another and another, in constant motion, totally faithful, reliable, trustworthy.

And that is our God.  He doesn’t wash over us and then pull back never to return again. He brings wave after wave of ever-coming, perpetual grace.  The world is an uncertain teeter-totter of a place, with unexpected terrors lurking around corners and surprises that drop us to the ground.

But God—He is faithful.  God—-He is always grace.  God—He is ever true.

After a stop at the school to pick up my older girls, we raced home to eat dinner and become beautiful: Choosing outfits, doing hair.  The girls fought over bracelets.

Then we met with other friends and drove once more, this time to see Ballet Magnificat, a professional Christian ballet company.

The music began.  Just instruments at first.  The dancers took to the stage and we watched and it was fine and it was okay.

But then one lone female voice sang,“Praise the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me praise His name” and the dancer stretched her arms high in worship, her fingers almost touched heaven she was so long and outstretched.

And I caught my breath.

This was worship.  This was total abandon in praise to a God so worthy.

Yesterday, we took a break for beauty.  We paused and lingered long with friends and we filled our souls in the deep wells of nature and dance and worship.

I want to carry that along all this week and be intentional about it.

After beauty fills you up, it spills out and sloshes over the sides of your heart every time there is rushing, stress, tension, worry, boredom, work, monotony. 

We must work hard to protect the memory and refill often by taking a break for beauty, by seeking the soul-filling glory of God’s presence.

This week, I’ll be meditating on the verse to help me remember:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple
(Psalm 27:4)

To hear the song by Kristene Mueller that began Ballet Magnificat’s performance, you can click here or click Play on the video below from the blog.

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.

Shout! A Little Bit Louder Now, Part II

It seems like such a simple test, but it’s more complicated than you might expect.

My daughter sat up in the bed in the doctor’s office for her annual checkup.  She had already stepped on the scale, stood up straight and tall, and read the eye chart.  Now it was time for the hearing test.

The nurse held the contraption into her ear and gave instructions.  “Raise your hand when you hear the beeps.”

I know, however, from years of experience that it isn’t so easy. We’ve been through this before.

There was the time she thought that meant raise your hand when the beeps begin and keep holding it up for the whole test.

So, I say, “Now, raise your hand when you hear a beep and then put it back down again so you can raise it up when you hear the next beep. You need to raise up and down, up and down.”

There was the time that she raised her hand just two or three times for the whole test and the nurse said, “Did you hear all those beeps?”

“Yes,” my daughter answered, “but some of them were quiet.”

So, I say, “Raise your hand every single time you hear a beep, even if some are loud and some are quiet.”

Unfortunately, the whole time my oldest daughter is listening intently to beeps, my youngest two girls are trying to tell stories, sing songs, fight with each other, play peekaboo, and any other number of extremely noisy and distracting past-times.

How’s a girl to hear a quiet beep in the middle of all that noise?

Yes, the hearing test sounds so simple and always ends up so very complicated.

In Part I, I talked about how we feel sometimes like we need a microphone to broadcast our cries to heaven so God can hear us.

But, today I’m thinking about our own spiritual hearing tests and how hard it is at times to hear what God is saying.

Sometimes it’s the noisy roar of circumstances that makes God’s voice so difficult to distinguish.

That’s what had the Israelites failing their spiritual hearing exam.

Initially, when Moses appeared back in Egypt with God’s promises of hope and deliverance, “the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31, ESV).

Then Pharaoh hardened his heart again and again.  Life got harder before deliverance came.

So when Moses reassured them of God’s promise, “they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9).

They weren’t even listening to God’s messenger any more.  They were listening to bricks and mortar, to an earthly king, to slavemasters and work orders.

God spoke hope and all they heard was hopelessness.  God spoke peace and all they heard was dread and fear.

Then there are the times that we hear voices, many voices—on the radio, from our friends, in our devotions, in sermons, in books and in conversation.  Which is God’s?  How can we discern the sound of His beep among the confusing mess of beeping in our ears?

How do we know what God is saying?

Paul wrote, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Whether it’s the message of salvation to a lost world or a message of peace to a hurting believer, we hear God when we are in His Word.

We always go back to the Bible.  We always rely on Scripture to discern truth.

That’s what happened when Paul arrived in the city of Berea to teach the Gospel: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Notice they “examined the Scriptures every day.”  The ability to discern truth doesn’t come from a random romp through the Bible every few months.

Discernment develops when we spend consistent time in God’s Word.  Discernment happens when we know His character and the sound of His voice from what He has done and said over thousands of years.  Discernment comes when we can lay every message beside the pages of Scripture and tell when they align and when they don’t.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote:

The Bible is God’s message to everybody.  We deceive ourselves if we claim to want to hear His voice but neglect the primary channel through which it comes.  We must read His Word.  We must obey it.  We must live it, which means rereading it throughout our lives.

We live noisy lives in a noisy world.  It’s a confusing mess at times and an overwhelming cacophony in other moments.

But we know that God’s “word is truth” (John 17:17) and that “The word of the Lord holds true, and everything He does is worthy of our trust” (Psalm 33:4).

Whether we’re sifting through the sounds of circumstances or sorting through information overload, we can always trust Scripture to speak to the truth of God’s character and will.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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

Now Recruiting Team Members: Job #2, “Camel Knees”

I don’t think I’m traumatized now because my PE teachers made me play dodgeball as a kid.

But it’s a miracle.

I was terrified of PE on dodgeball days.  Also on kickball days.  The worst moment of every year came when I walked into the gym and the PE teacher pointed to a rope dangling from the ceiling and told us to climb up.

I hated the gymnastics unit since I was the only girl on the planet incapable of doing cartwheels.  I’ve been hit with a softball, basketball, and hockey puck before.  In volleyball, I just prayed no one would serve in my direction.

I was a physical education disaster.

So, it’s little surprise that the other kids weren’t jumping all over themselves to pick me for their team.  It’s a cruel ritual of waiting for some person to have mercy on you and call out your name so you wouldn’t be the dreaded last.

In Part One of this series, I wrote about one kind of person who’d be the first pick on my spiritual dream team.  I’d want a Barnabas, an encourager.  He was a talent scout who could always spot the good in others and would stand up for them against naysayers.

He even had a cool nickname.  His real name was Joseph, but the apostles called him Barnabas or “Son of Encouragement” to show off the great spiritual gift God had given him.

Now, for my second draft pick, I’d choose a guy with a nickname of his own: James, AKA “Camel Knees.”

Job Posting #2: James

  • Must be full of wisdom and good counsel, giving you sound, Godly advice whenever you need it straight from Scripture.
  • Must get down on his knees for you, continually lifting you up in prayer and being your greatest supporter before the throne of God.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, became the head of the Jerusalem church.  One thing is clear about him: He knew God’s Word through and through.

When Paul appeared before James and the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 to present his case for evangelism to the Gentiles, James immediately referred back to Old Testament prophecy (Acts 15:16-18).  He had the power of God’s Word at instant recall.  There was no lengthy pulling out of a concordance or searching through scrolls.

James had committed Scripture to memory and used it to inform his decisions and to give advice to those who needed it.

Clearly, this is a man who clocked significant time in the study of God’s Word and all that time in Scripture had convinced James of one thing.

Prayer Matters.

In her book, James: Mercy Triumphs, Beth Moore tells us the early church called him ‘Camel Knees’  “because he knelt and prayed so long that he developed thick calluses” (Beth Moore, James, p. 177).

James began his letter to the church with a call to faith-filled prayer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6).

He ends his book by coming full circle and exhorting the church once again to pray with great faith about all things:

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray . . .  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  (James 5:13, 15-16).

If there’s anyone we need on our team, it’s someone passionately in love with God and His Word, who will consistently intercede on our behalf.

Not only do we need someone like that to support us, we need to be that support for someone else.

It may seem an insufficient offering for a hurting friend.  You want to rescue them, make them well, pay off their debts and fix their relationships. Sometimes God allows us to serve others in practical ways by fixing meals, watching children, cleaning a house, or visiting them in the hospital.

There are times, though, when all we can do is pray.

And we say it just like that—“All I can do is pray,”  as if praying isn’t of real value or impact

Yet, James reminds us that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV).

We don’t just pray quick and general prayers of blessing, either.  “Bless him.  Bless her.  Bless them.  Bless this.  Bless that.”

Five minutes in prayer for a few folks in a small group didn’t give James callouses on his knees.

We drop to our knees and pray with intense faith.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible says “the urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16, HCSB).  The NKJV translates this verse: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

We pray with urgency.  We make fervent requests before God.  As God brings people to mind, take the time to pray specifically and passionately for them because it will have a powerful impact on their circumstances.

And pray this prayer for yourself as you have need—ask God for a James in your life.  Ask that He give you a Scripture-knowing, Godly person who will consistently cover you in prayer.  As James himself says, if you’re in trouble, if you need wisdom, if you need forgiveness, if you need healing . . . pray and ask others to pray with you.  It will make a difference.

Want to read more on this topic?  Check out these posts:

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, 09/23/2011

Hiding the Word:

Are you in a season right now—or are you even just having one of those days—-where you need the encouragement to keep going, to not give up and to persevere even in waiting on God?  I have a verse for you this week!

“Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord”

Psalm 31:24

Maybe you could use some heart-strengthening at the moment.  This verse is my prayer for you this week.  And, to be honest, I’m praying for a little of that for myself, too!

I hope you enjoy meditating on this verse through the upcoming week or find a verse of your own!

Weekend Rerun:

Traveling Companions, Originally Published 04/03/2011

On Tuesday nights, I sit at a table with other women, Bibles open.  We ask—What’s going on in your life?  What does the Bible say?  Where are you headed?  Where have you been?  What do you need?  How can I pray for you?

It’s a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, a growing place, a grace place, a truth place.

I love these women, each so uniquely designed by God with pasts so different, but hope in Christ the same.  They are my traveling companions.

And this is what we need, really.  Community.  Strength from relationships.  Just how far would Naomi have made it in her travels if Ruth hadn’t insisted on packing a bag for the journey, too?  Naomi —A hurt woman, weighed by age and life, far from her homeland, changing her name to Mara—“Bitterness”— and trekking back to her people, her nation, her God.  Widow Naomi.   Now childless Naomi.  Without Ruth, Naomi would probably have been buried along the pathway, lost and alone.  With Ruth, came strength, companionship, blessing.  A new home.  Food from Ruth’s work gleaning in the fields.  Redemption by Kinsman-Redeemer Boaz through Ruth’s marriage.  And a place in the lineage of King David, of Jesus, through Ruth and Boaz’s son.

All because of tenacious friendship, of shared pain and faith, of the self-sacrifice of one friend to another.

Then there’s Elijah.  The bold and courageous prophet who, in the showdown of all showdowns against 450 prophets of Baal, had demonstrated God’s glory before all the people of Israel.  Fire from heaven consumed a sacrifice soaked and an altar pouring over with water.   The people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV).

Immediately after this victory, Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him and “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:3-4, NIV).

Elijah’s mistake was in the traveling alone.  He ran to Beersheba—the southernmost portion of the land—and then he left his servant and ran for another whole day by himself.  Alone.  No companion to speak truth into his heart.  No friend to share his burden and pray with him and point him back to God.  No accountability.  No encouragement.  No truth-speaking.  No love.

It’s what happens when we journey without a traveling companion.

And so Elijah sat on a mountain, dejected, depressed, overcome with fear and grief and bitterness.  God met him in that place, talked him out of the cave and down off the precipice.  The very next thing God did was give him a friend.

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat . . . Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him…Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21, NIV).

Elijah needed Elisha.  Partner, friend, servant, apprentice.

Not just any traveling companion will do, though.  Who we walk with determines where we go.  Some make the journey harder or full of obstacles or lead us astray to shortcuts and paths unknown.

Just ask Abraham.

Abram and Sarah didn’t set out for Canaan alone.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.   Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:31-32, NIV).

God called Abram out of Ur, told him to pack his bags and get going on a journey at God’s direction.  And Abram obeyed, taking his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot.  But, something happened along the way.  It’s a mysterious blank.  We can’t peek into the windows of the family tent and overhear the discussion.  Something happened and they stopped before reaching their destination. 

They didn’t just check in for an overnight rest in the Motel 8.  They settled there.  And when Abram’s dad passed away, that’s when the journey began again.  That’s when God called Abram once more and told him to keep moving forward on the path that had so mysteriously been interrupted.

Sometimes our traveling companions convince us to settle with less than God’s promises.  They look around at what the world has to offer and find fertile land and a good place to dwell. Pitching their tents, they urge us to make this our home.  Not God’s best, perhaps, not all that God has planned for us, but surely good enough.

The Apostle Paul, though, knew how to choose a traveling buddy.  Paul with Silas, singing praises in the prison in the night.  Paul with Barnabus–the Encourager—set aside for ministry to the Gentiles.  Paul and Timothy–building a church, building church leadership.

And Paul and Titus.  In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul wrote to the church, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within.   But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (NIV).

Paul was the apostle who told us all things work for the good, to rejoice always and again rejoice, to be content in all circumstances, that God can supply all our needs, and do abundantly and immeasurably more than our wildest dreams.

Still, Paul was frightened at times, too.   Just like you and me, he had his moments.  God didn’t punish Paul for lack of faith or chastise his weakness.  Instead, God provided for a need.  Paul needed a traveling companion to bring comfort and encouragement in dark days.  Titus was God’s answer to Paul’s fear.

Paul knew this truly.  He usually traveled in partnership.  He had written: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ… for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5, NIV).

It seems contradictory at first.  Carry each other’s burdens.  Each one carry their own load.  But there’s a difference here.  Paul says each one of us should do our own daily load of life, the everyday, the things we can handle.  Do it yourself.  Don’t lay your everyday over the back of someone else and kick back and relax while they struggle.

Burdens, though, are meant to be borne in partnership.  In community with each other, we lift up onto four shoulders what is far too heavy for just two.

That’s the way God designed us—to travel together.  Ruth with Naomi.  Elijah with Elisha.  Paul with Titus, with Silas, with Barnabas, with Timothy.  You and me, heading to Canaan, to Christ-likeness, to abundant life, shifting burdens onto backs along the way and laying them down at the cross together.  Alone we will not make it.   Together, though, we journey past obstacles, depression, fear, and discouragement, to our hoped-for destination, our Promised Land.

************************************************************************************************************

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: 09/10/2011

Hiding the Word:

Last Sunday, my oldest girl graduated to an older Sunday School class.  She burst out of there so excited about how great it was because they “did great crafts!”  They do something else, too . . .  memorize a verse each week.

This week, her verse is one of my favorites:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”
Proverbs 3:5-6

I’m posting that around my home in the NIV translation this week to memorize and meditate on.  But, I also want to share with you the translation in the Message, which I also came across this week in my reading.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
   don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Those are freeing thoughts—we don’t have to figure everything out on our own and that it’s God who keeps us on track.  We just need to listen at all times to the prompting of His Spirit.

It’s also a challenging thought because, well, I like to figure everything out on my own. But that involves very little faith and trust in my God.

Have you picked a verse to learn this week?  Will you share it with us?

Weekend Rerun:

God’s Love Letter, Originally published 03/09/2011

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion (Isaiah 30:18, NIV)

The other night I was fluffing my pillows before I turned out my light and I felt paper where pillow should be.  A card!  And inside, a love letter from my husband.  I cried as I read it and cried more the next day when I read it again. (No one reads love letters just once, right?!)

Everyone receives love in different ways, but words are precious to me.  Whether they are written or said, words are the most powerful way to show me love and the most potent weapons used to hurt me.  That’s because they rumble around in my head and heart and echo back to me over time.

Still, spoken words and written words aren’t equal.  Yesterday, I wrote that humans are forgetful creatures.  We so easily forget what people say to us and sometimes we mis-remember and distort conversations.  Written down, though, the words became more concrete and able to withstand time, changing circumstances, and shifting emotions.

Unfortunately, I do sometimes forget.  The other day I had a breakdown while doing my hair.  I was getting ready to go out with my husband, so I thought, “I’ll try to look nice.”  So, I painted my nails.  I’m the worst ever at painting my nails.  I’m never patient enough and always touch something before they’re dry.  In fact, it’s pretty impossible to meet the needs of three little people without touching my children, so I had to re-paint this one fingernail FOUR times!!!  At that point, when my daughter asked me, “Mommy, can you . . . .” I gave in and just took the nail polish off completely.  Then, I decided to work on curling my hair.  I love curly hair.  But, alas, I was the kind of girl who read books as a child and not a little girl who played with hair.  That means that I am now a totally clueless grown woman when it comes to curls and blow drying and styling.  After just a few attempts at curls resulting in frizz and disaster, I washed it all out and just left my hair the way it normally is.  So much for dressing up.

At that point, I forgot.  I forgot my husband loves me the way I am and he thinks I’m beautiful.  Inside, I heard the lies—“You aren’t pretty enough.  You’re a plain Jane and always will be.  You’re surrounded by women with better hair, skin, nails and clothes and you just don’t measure up.”

I need the reminders that I am loved.  Imagine if a married couple said, “I love you,” on their wedding day and then never again expressed love for each other.   Years later, the wife complains, “You never tell me you love me” and the husband answers, “I showed you I loved you when I married you.”

God showed us His love clearly and completely through the cross.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV).  That sacrifice should serve as concrete evidence of love.

The world tells us, “Look at these bad circumstances in your life.  God doesn’t love you.”   We sin and we think, “No way can God forgive me or use me or love me.  I’m too messed up.”   We feel distant from Him, and we think, “God’s left me.  He’s no longer here by my side.”  But, we look to the cross and we remember, God loved me enough to die for me even when I was still rejecting Him.

Christ’s death on the cross was the most perfect expression of love, but God knows us.  He knows our fickle and forgetful hearts.  He knows that—like a wife in a marriage—we need reminders and expressions of love over time.   So He gives us the Bible, His love letter to us.  We don’t need to seek affirmation and fulfillment from other people or accomplishments.  At any time in a day, we can meet with God and be reminded of His great love.

I tell my two daughters at least once a week, “No matter what anybody says and no matter what happens, remember that you are loved, you are beautiful and you are smart.”   Then, they roll their little eyes at me and sigh, “I know, Mom.  You tell us all the time.”  And I do.  I tell them all the time because the media, culture, mean girls, and Satan will fight hard to tell my girls lies, to convince them that they are ugly, fat, unloved, and not good enough.  I give my daughters truth over and over again, hoping that they can identify and reject the lies.

It is in Scripture, that God expresses His love over and over again, so that we don’t forget it.  In Hosea 2:19, we read:

And then I’ll marry you for good—forever!
I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness.
Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go.
You’ll know me, God, for who I really am (MSG).

Stressed out about work?  Read God’s Word and be refreshed.  Feeling like a failure as a parent?   Let God’s Word encourage and strengthen you.  Not sure that God can take care of you?  Dig deep into the Bible and remember His promises.  Struggling with feeling like you aren’t beautiful or loved?  Take down God’s love letter from the shelf and be reminded of how He cares for you and longs to lavish you with affection and blessing.

Sitting on the shelf unread, God’s love letter to us might look nice and serve as a memento.  But, it’s only when we take God’s Word down and read and re-read it that the words regain their power and become an effective arsenal against the lies we face every day.

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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

Shedding 5 Pounds With Yogurt

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth”
(John 17:17).

While my daughters munched on morning toast and cereal, I toted a yogurt around the house, eating an occasional spoonful in between changing diapers, putting away blankets, feeding the cats and all the normal start-the-day chores.

My daughter wide-eyed in innocence asked me, “Mom, are you trying to lose your weight?”

My weight?!

“Well,” she explained, “I saw that commercial on TV and they said you could eat that yogurt and lose your weight like even 5 pounds maybe and it would be easy.”

Thanks Mr. advertiser, sir, for making my six-year-old a personal diet coach.

Truth hurts a little sometimes, doesn’t it?

At least it should.  When Jesus prayed for the disciples, He asked God to “sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).  Sanctify means to make holy and that’s what this Bible with all of its packed-in and sometimes painful truth is supposed to be working out in our lives–our sanctification, our holiness, our transformation into Christ-likeness.

While the truth sometimes comforts us, it also shakes us up a bit.  It reminds us of ways we need to change and calls us to repentance.

When I read God’s Word quickly, glossing over the Scripture passages just so I can check off my Bible reading for the day, I miss out on the conviction and also the power of God to change me.

Sometimes reading the Bible should make me squirm a bit in my chair or turn my face hot with sorrow at revealed sin.  Because I’m not perfect.  Because I don’t want to stay this way.  Because I want people to look at me and see Christ and as I am now, I’m an imperfect reflection.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

When Jesus drives something home to you through His Word, don’t try to evade it.  If you do, you will become a religious impostor.  Examine the things you tend simply to shrug your shoulders about, and where you have refused to be obedient, and you will know why you are not growing spiritually.

The author of Hebrews said:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Word of God is wielded as a scalpel by a Master Surgeon, cutting into our wounded and broken places, separating out what is healthy flesh from what is diseased, dead, and necrotic.  The Surgeon doesn’t dissect in order to hurt and bring pain; He cuts deep to bring health, healing and wholeness.

And if we never feel the sting of the knife’s blade or run our hands over a scar left in place of the wound, then we’ve never allowed His Word to clean out the pockets of sin buried in hidden places of our life.

It’s not that the Bible becomes a club of accusation or that it’s never an encouraging or comforting word.  It’s not just that Scripture points a finger in our face and dumps burdens of shame on our back. Not at all.  Romans 8:1 promises us: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No, Scripture reminds us of our mistakes, but accompanies that with the offer of grace.  It’s always a package deal.

Ezra, the high priest of Israel, and Nehemiah finally finished rebuilding the temple and walls of Jerusalem after returning from exile.  They gathered “all who could understand” into the square while Ezra read aloud the Book of the Law of Moses.  The crowd listened in silence, except for their weeping as God’s Word uncovered their disobedience.

The people stood for hours, morning until noon, each day while he read, and they fasted and donned sackcloth and dumped ashes on their head in sorrow for their sin.  Theirs was the natural response of people who were attentive to God’s Word.

In the midst of their distress, their hearts brought low in shame, they declared, “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Nehemiah 9:17).

Oh yes, truth hurts sometimes.  If it’s never painful or uncomfortable, maybe we’ve tuned it out or accepted watered-down adaptations.  Even as we wince with pain, though, we know that the one yielding the scalpel does so with grace and compassion, pouring out a healing balm of forgiveness that washes away the signs of sin.

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

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God
Ephesians 5:1

Today, a story in pictures.

To celebrate the first day of summer vacation, my girls and I with Grammy along to help, hopped in the van and made the trip to the newly opened Children’s Museum of Virginia.  We had toured every exhibit, played with every experiment, explored every room and we arrived at the final destination—a room set up as a stage with costumes in the corner, lighting and sound effects, and a puppet theater.

My oldest daughter first tries an octopus costume and then abandons it for a grass skirt and lei.  Then, like a superstar, she steps on the stage and begins to dance.  Grammy tells her to, “Use your hands to tell a story.”

Concluding her puppet show, my next daughter drops the prince and princess off her hands and runs to the costume corner.  Climbing into her own grass skirt, she then pops a lei over her head, steps on the stage and begins to dance just like her big sister.

Grammy and I watch the show and I snap pictures.  In the stroller sits my baby girl, tired and hungry.  She’s cuddling with her blanket now and ready for lunch and a nap.  We didn’t realize she was watching sisters one and two, but she was.  Climbing out of the stroller, she dashes over to the last grass skirt in the pile of costumes and wraps it around her little self.  I help tie it on her too-tiny waist and she then scoots away from me so that she can also step on the stage and dance.  She sways from side to side, waving her hands gently to the left, now to the right.   Hula dancing with the big girls.

Grammy tells the older sisters, “Look how she followed you even when we didn’t think she was really watching.  She wants to do what you girls do.  You always need to choose the right thing so that you set an example for her.”

They danced and hardly appreciated the wisdom in those words.  Make good decisions so those watching can follow your example.

To the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).  “Do what I do,” he says.  It seems prideful at best, almost blasphemous, surely dangerous to set himself up as a model for others. It’s context that brings clarity here.  In the same letter, Paul later writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) and that’s the key really.  Paul strove to be a living, breathing, walking around, interacting with others example of Christ and because of that, others could see Christ in Him, follow Christ in Him.  He practiced what he wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

Yesterday, our Pastor asked the congregation, “Who has been an example of faith to you?”  Around the sanctuary, people called out names.  I thought of many who model Christ to me and then I remembered Mama Zello, one of the first life-examples to me besides my mom, a woman I remember to this day and who I consciously think of often as I read my Bible.  I remember the church service when I was about 11 years old during which the pastor of our fairly large congregation asked his momma to stand up.  She stood delicately to her feet, a “seasoned” woman of the faith whom I had seen many times.  She was so faithful to be at church even as age and sickness could have made it difficult.  She gave hugs and smiles to others generously.  On that Sunday, the Pastor asked in his microphone from his pulpit, “Mom, how many times have you read the Bible all the way through?”   And she answered—one time for every year she had lived.  In her later years, she had read the Bible through two times in a year to make up for the years before she could read as a child.

Just ponder that for a moment.  Imagine on your 80th birthday having read the Bible 80 times.

I was inspired.  Not by Biblical scholarship.  Mama Zello’s Bible reading was not head knowledge without life change.  She read the Bible over and over not to show off, not to stuff more information into her brain, not to attain some worldly success or make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.  She did it because she loved God and wanted to know Him more intimately so that her life could reflect Him.  Now, her son had risen “up and called her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).  For me sitting in that sanctuary seat, it meant that the Bible mattered, really mattered in life, that when I stood up as a woman of 80, my greatest life accomplishment should be that I loved God’s Word that passionately and let it stir up in me a love for others.

She lived a life of example to me even when she didn’t know I was watching.  I was just a preteen girl sitting next to her parents in church on a Sunday morning and yet seeing and knowing this woman of faith impacts my life even now.

Do you live like that?  Do you imitate Christ so closely that others can imitate you—not worship you, idolize you, or adore you—-but see and follow Christ in you?  Does knowing you make others want to know more about God?

And, do you have an example like that in your life?  Someone whose life you can look at and say, “By following her, I am following a mentor who will teach me about God” or “that’s what I want to be like when I grow up.”   Certainly we must be careful not to place these examples on impossible pedestals and treat them as demigods.  Instead, we remember that in all their humanness, they have traveled with Christ a little farther than we’ve made it so far on our journey.  So, we can place our toes confidently into the impressions in the sand their feet have made and know we are simultaneously journeying to Christ-likeness.

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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 II

If you’ve been traveling with me on this devotional for journey for any amount of time, you’d know that I love God, my husband, my daughters, hot tea with lots of sugar, chocolate, and quiet times at my kitchen table.

This week started rough (but is getting better all the time!!), and two cups of strong, sweet, hot tea and several mini chocolate bars weren’t helping me through the day.  Despite repeated attempts to have the kind of quiet time with God I really enjoy, that wasn’t happening either.  I was interrupted or cut short on time or distracted or just incapable of understanding the words I read off the page (read paragraph, reread paragraph, sigh, drink tea, read paragraph again).

What I longed for was a God-encounter.  I was so thirsty for Him in the midst of stress and noise and I desperately held my cup out for Him to fill at the fountain of Living Water.  This time with Him that I adore and that helps me through my everyday seemed so elusive and unfulfilling, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  It wasn’t until I stopped attempting to separate my time with God and simply sought Him as I traveled along that I felt His presence and heard the lessons He was sharing.

You can read Lesson 1: My Feelings Can’t Be the Boss of Me here.

Lesson 2: Worship God, Not The Habit

Jesus told His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).  He called them to the discipline of aloneness, quietness before God, spiritual retreating from the crowds and activity to spend focused time one-on-one with God.  Those are sacred times of purposeful seeking God’s face.

I have high expectations for those moments with my Savior and that is precious time to me, time that I guard fiercely.  That’s no easy task when you have young kids and a telephone and email and a to-do list!  Yet, it’s a battle worth waging in order to see Him, hear Him, feel Him, know Him.

Yesterday, though, I kept traveling to my kitchen table and pulling out my Bible and journal, my Bible study book, my devotionals and then sipping my cup of tea, but still walking away unfilled.  My cup was held out.  I had traveled to the Fountain.  I remained thirsty.  My cup did not overflow.

This week, I read in My Utmost for His Highest: “Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes.  We say, ‘I can’t do that right now; this is my time alone with God.’  No, this is your time alone with your habit . . . The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere.”

As I drove around town yesterday, frazzled and tired, that quote was prodding my heart and mind.  Oswald Chambers wasn’t advocating not spending time alone with God.  He wasn’t saying, “Forget trying to read your Bible and pray; it’s not important.”  It is important.  That time is necessary and life-giving.

Yet, it is also not a vending machine where I make an investment in time and pay the required amount (quiet time, study materials, journal, tea) and receive in return treats and goodies (peace, feeling close to God, receiving inspiration, having something great to write in my journal).  There’s that danger, always the danger, of making a god of something other than God.  I can worship the time I spend with God or I can worship God Himself.  The distinction is so fine, but also so necessary.

Jacob traveled to the same place twice in His journeys and met God there in powerful ways through visions and dreams and conversations with the Almighty Himself.  The first time, Jacob fled from His family home in order to avoid the homicidal wrath of his brother, Esau.  In the night, after a divine dream, Jacob “called the name of that place Bethel” or House of God.

Jacob returned to Bethel years later, after marrying and having children, having his named changed by God, traveling home to Canaan, reconciling with his brother, and settling again in the family land.  This time, though, “he built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother” (Genesis 35:17). El-bethel means God of the House of God.

Did you notice the slight difference?

The first time, Jacob focused on the place, the things, the experience.  The second time, after years of experience and maturing, Jacob focused on God Himself.  Beth Moore in The Patriarchs wrote that sometimes we are tempted to “love loving God more than we actually love God.”

We love small group, Sunday School, the songs at church, the Christian radio station,  a devotional, our quiet times, a particular author that challenges us . . .  but are we followers of a Christian lifestyle or followers of Christ?  Do we love books by Christian authors more than we love the Bible?  Do we love our spiritual routines or the God those routines  are supposed to reveal to us?  Do we love the feeling of being close to God or God and God alone?

There are these life moments when God shakes us up in all of our comfort and complacency and takes away even something good for a time, so that we can worship God and not a spiritual habit.  He longs to meet with us during our quiet times and in our prayer closets.  He fills us up as we open up The Word and copy verses into our journals.

But, He’s there with us at the kitchen sink, too, willing to speak to our hearts as we wash the dishes.  He’s with us as we rock the baby in the night and while we pop on the chauffeur’s hat and hop into the minivan to drive children to activities all over town.  The distinction between a mundane task and a sacred moment is whether we’re listening to Him while performing it.  We should set aside focused time for our relationship with God, and yet we shouldn’t allow it to become formulaic or predictable, nor should it be a compartmentalized part of our life that fails to spill over into our chores and family life.  If we do, God will likely stir our hearts and mess with our plans—all to recenter our hearts on Him alone.

Are you hungry for a worshipful moment, just the simplicity of seeking after Him?  I’ve been singing along with Kathryn Scott the past few days and it’s lifting my heart!  I hope you spend some moments worshiping with her, too.


I’ve also added a page called Singing in My Car that has links to the songs I mention in the blog.  Check out the page and maybe find some songs that encourage you today!

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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

Life or Death

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen”
Luke 24:5

A few months ago, my husband came home, arms full of roses—deep red, fragrance so rich.  They were the most beautiful flowers I’d ever been given.

This bouquet from my husband greeted me throughout the day for two weeks, perfect in their vase.  I’d stop my chores and my rushing to literally stop and smell the roses.  But, of course then came wilting and fading and falling petals.  As a girl, I had collected up rose petals over time and filled a glass cup with them, like homemade potpourri with scents of summer and memories dear.  So, I once again gathered up the petals to keep them as a reminder of my gift.

Last week, I peeked into my jar of keepsake roses to enjoy them just for a moment and instead of dried and faded flowers still filled with aroma, I found instead mold grown over.  Into the trash they went.

Sometimes there are things we hold onto so dearly that are truly dead.  We try and try to revive and preserve; we linger over things past.  Have you held onto the habits and comforts of the past when Christ has called you to lay them down and move on?  He has asked you to sacrifice and instead you clutch it to your chest, not willing to give it up.  So, you cling to the old and fail to receive the new “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).

At the tomb on the morning of Christ’s resurrection, women brought spices for anointing.  Instead of the expected, they faced the unexpected—the stone rolled away, the body gone, two angels in clothes gleaming like lightning, asking a question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen” (Luke 24:5)

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Surely there are times we do this, too.  We look for our Living Savior among the graves.  Sometimes our faith is more cemetery than empty tomb.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

We read the Bible as a historical document rather than as a living Word. We follow Jesus as our example rather than listening to Him as our living Lord.  We take our cues from our denominational traditions rather than from the Spirit of life.  In other words, we turn our faith toward dead things rather than toward the Living One.

Has this been you?  Has faith been dulled and the joy of your salvation replaced by compulsory duty and passionless motions—doing Christianity rather than living with Christ?

Or, are you instead staring at a tomb of a different sort, but still there is death?  A relationship broken.  A marriage over.  A child turned prodigal.  A ministry struggling.  A passion now cold.  A vision gone dark.  A hope proved impossible.  A lack of direction and not knowing where to go.  A season of waiting, waiting, waiting, always waiting.

There is some mourning to be done, some grieving over what is lost and dead in our lives.  Some letting go and laying down.  And there may be tears; that’s expected.   Yet, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

With morning, comes resurrection and abundant new life, and we rejoice for He is “making everything new” (Revelation 21:5, NIV).  This Savior whose sacrifice we remember on Good Friday by eating the bread, drinking the cup—this Savior declared victory over death and the grave.  Power over His tomb.  Power over the places we mourn and grieve.

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, NIV).

and

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14, NIV).

What would this rising look like for us?  What can He resurrect in us this year?  Over what can He give us victory?

I pray this new life for you. 

That His Word will be living and active, changing your heart, altering your perspective.
For renewed passion, vision, excitement, and ministry impact.
For restoration of relationships.
For the return of hope.
For weeping to end and joy to fill you.
For your eyes to be opened wide to God’s presence, His character, His goodness.
~Amen~

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Now it’s your turn:

Is there something you are praying that God will resurrect in your life this year?  Is there something dead that needs to be laid down?  How can I pray for you?

What verse or thought has been on your mind as you prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?

Please post a comment to share!!

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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