Finding the sacred in this place

Hats and sunglasses, that’s what my son likes, and he’s amassing a collection.

When we headed to the beach this week to enjoy the weather,  he popped his Paw Patrol baseball cap on his head .

“This is my beach hat,” he announced.

Then he gave me the full run-down.  His Batman hat is for playgrounds.  His Paw Patrol hat is for the beach.  And, when he gets a Star Wars hat , that will be for the aquarium.  “My aquarium hat,” he says.

This is funny on so many levels.

For one thing, he doesn’t need an aquarium hat since we are infrequent visitors.

And for  another thing, we really and truly just grab whichever hat we can find whenever it’s time to go to wherever we’re going.  We have more than one hat precisely because we don’t always know where any given hat is at any given moment.

Hats are essential  wardrobe pieces for us.  We are fair-skinned folks who burn at the slightest hint of sunshine.

But exactly how many hats does he plan on having anyway?

Specific hats for specific places may not be practical or likely by any stretch of the imagination, and yet I love the idea of valuing place, all the individual beauty and uniqueness of this place and that place.

How something changes in us as we travel from  here to there, something about us in those destinations that might even require a new and different hat.

It’s so biblical, isn’t it, the way God’s story roots itself  in geography and location?  The Holy Land and Mount Sinai, Eden and Bethel ,right on to Bethlehem, to gardens and mountaintops, the Sea of  Galilee, the Jordan River.

God’s story in us does the same thing.

There are places that have entwined themselves with my own salvation story:  a childhood neighborhood, a college campus,  a church, a two-year sojourn in New Jersey, and the long-term settling in Virginia where God continues to work in me.

Maybe certain places in our lives are set aside for a holy work of significance.

Like the way the burning bush drew Moses’s attention out in the wilderness, and how God brought him and all of Israel back to that same holy mountain after they made it out of Egypt.

Or the way Jacob camped out at Bethel and saw a vision of a stairway to heaven and then returned to the same place years later to settle there with his family and build an altar to God.

It helps to know what places have holy significance for us, especially when we’re seeking His face.  Where do we go when we want to be alone with Jesus?  Where do we go when we’re desperate for a glimpse of Him or to hear His voice?  Where do we go when we need hush and peace and a stillness in our hearts?

Where is our Bethel?  Where is our Sinai?

Where is the place of spiritual retreat?

For  me, it’s a back deck or a porch, just one small step from inside my house to outside my house and there I am, in a peaceful place.

Sometimes, though,  I need to run away from the ordinary, everyday.  These aren’t long trips, just a drive to the botanical gardens, or to a museum, or the beach–anywhere there is beauty and there is quiet.

My go-to holy place, though, is a mobile one–it’s in a walk  The location matters less than the opportunity to stride in rhythm and not talk for about 30 minutes.   This is a sacred space for me.

It  also helps to know that God does focused work in specific places.

This is Gilgal for Saul.  That’s where the prophet Samuel sent the newly anointed King to wait before being presented to Israel.  That’s where Saul is crowned.  It’s also the same exact place where Saul loses his kingship, as he gives up waiting for Samuel and disobeys God’s instructions (1 Samuel 10:8,  11:15, 13:7).

Gilgal is where Saul both received and lost the kingship.

What if Saul had recognized the significance of the place?  Gilgal is where I wait and where God is faithful.  Maybe he would have been more patient.

Perhaps this place where you are right now is the growing place or the place of rest.  Maybe it is the land of milk and honey or maybe it is the waiting place.

It could be the place of worship or the place of calling.  Maybe it’s the place where we’re poured out or maybe it’s the well where Jesus fills us.

Where are you now?  In this place God has brought you, how is He at work?

He leads the dance


At three-years-old, my son is a movie theater pro.

He knows how this whole movie-watching thing goes.

“I get glasses.” (We’ve seen some 3D movies lately).

“I get popcorn.”  (We love movie theater popcorn!!)

“I sit in the big chair and be quiet and watch the movie.”

Yes, sir.  That’s how it works all right.

Only this time we weren’t going to see a 3D movie, so we messed with his routine a little.

No special funky glasses to play with during the movie?

Surely the 3D glasses are an intrinsic part of the movie experience!

Fortunately, we arrived at the movie theater and he didn’t protest when we headed into the dark theater sans glasses.  He just happily munched on his popcorn.

My son went with the flow in a way I kind of envy because going with the flow is the hard thing for me.  I like things to be just so, the way they always are, the way I expect them to be.

But life and faith aren’t always so simple.

Sometimes you get the popcorn but not the glasses.  Or the glasses and not the popcorn.  Sometimes you sit in a movie theater with all the movie paraphernalia, but nothing shows on the screen.

Sometimes I follow five-step formulas of faith and don’t hear from God or fulfill every religious obligation and still feel spiritually dehydrated and dying of thirst.

That’s because faith is relational and relationships can be messy and hard to define.  They can’t always be crammed into facts, figures, and formulas.

Relationships take effort because they are dynamic and changing, close and then distant and then close again…and my relationship with God is the same.

Jeremiah 29:13 tells us:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

What does it look like to seek God with all my heart instead of just half my attention or a little of my focus?

It means I’m willing to wait and willing to listen.

I’m willing to be honest and tell God where I’ve gone wrong, how I’m hurting, and the places where I’m clinging to unsurrendered disappointment.

I feast on His Word and rest in His presence because just being near Him helps.

It means waking up in the middle of the night and hashing it out with Him in a heart-to-heart instead of counting sheep.

Maybe God purposely keeps us on our toes so we’re drawn into this wholehearted search for Him because He knows we’re distracted.

When Elijah ran in desperate fear from Queen Jezebel, he ended up at Mount Horeb–the very same holy mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

Elijah sojourned to the”mountain of God” to have his own personal God-encounter.

There in that sacred space, he witnessed an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake.

He saw fire, but God wasn’t in the fire.

Instead, God showed up “in the  sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 ESV).

There’s more to this than just the superficial lesson that “God speaks in a still small voice so be quiet enough to listen.”

Sure, that’s often true.

Life can be loud, far too loud for us to reflect, think, listen, or pray with reflection.

But that’s not all there is here.

God didn’t speak to Elijah from a storm or earthquake.  Truth.

But He did speak to Job that way.

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. Job 38:1 NIV

And no, God didn’t speak to Elijah from the fire, but He did to Moses.

the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush (Exodus 3:2 ESV).

God whispers sometimes and sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes He speaks in storms or from the midst of the flame.

All through Scripture, we see this isn’t about methods or venues; it’s about God speaking however He chooses to speak.

If I’m not hearing Him, I can throw my whole heart into listening, allowing Him to speak how He chooses instead of expecting Him to stick to my relational plan.  To show up on my timetable. To discuss what I want to discuss.  To answer the way I’d like.

Maybe this time I need to watch the movie without the glasses.

Maybe another day I’ll need to wear the glasses to see the whole picture.

It’s not always the same.  So I let Him lead in this relational dance.

And I hold on to one beautiful promise:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 ESV

When we draw near, we must believe that God does indeed reward the wholehearted seeker.

I just keep seeking.


When the One Thing You Really Needed to Get Done….Doesn’t Get Done

I had one thing written on my agenda for that day.

One.  Thing.

Every other day was packed with wall-to-wall to-do list items.

But not that day.  I had just one thing I needed to do and  I needed to be efficient and productive so that I could spend all the other days doing all the other things.

My list read:

  1. Writing.

But by 2:00, what I just wrote on this screen so far….that was the extent of my progress.

Amazing, huh?

So, what exactly did I do all day?

A million things, just not that one thing.

I had four sick children with coughs and runny noses.

I cleaned up tissues.

I discovered piles of them next to beds and overflowing from bathroom trashcans.  I found a plastic bag full of them on the counter.  I saw miniature mountains of them here and there where we had chased my baby with a Kleenex.

It felt like the full extent of my productivity was wrapped up in this:  Tissue Clean-Up.

And yet, I had wiped noses.  Made cups of tea.  Cuddled a crying baby who couldn’t figure out why his nose feels like a faucet he can’t turn off.proverbs19

I wrote cards and notes responding to prayer requests and answered messages.

I scribbled nonsensical slivers of ideas down here and there all morning so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to write about later.

I washed dishes and washed clothes and somehow cleaned a house that still looks messier than when I began.

What have I done?

A million things.  Nothing.  Certainly not that one thing I intended to do.

Somehow when you’ve spent all day doing and doing and yet haven’t crossed that one thing off that to-do list, you feel like a failure.

The dam of condemnation cracks and shatters and spews it all out.

How can you have spent all day doing absolutely nothing?  What in the world are you doing with yourself?  Are you lazy?  Are you inept?  How is your house not spotless and your work not done?

And yet, what good is an agenda, really, if it’s my agenda and not God’s?

We can make these perfect plans and miss out on God completely.  We can push right through the disruptions and the distractions to accomplish our goal and end up lost and far from Him.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“the great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant (or unexpected) things as interruptions in one’s own life, or real life.  The truth is, of course, that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life.

God’s involvement in my agenda isn’t always painful or unpleasant, but it’s usually unexpected.  Like Proverbs 19:21 says:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

I am a ‘many plans’ kind of girl and I’ll shove my way right on through the obstacles to make those plans happen.

And yet, here I am this month, Learning When to Say ‘Yes,’ and I’ve found that saying yes to God starts with being flexible.

It starts with offering Him my to-do list and it includes yielding willingly, gently and without complaint to the twists of the day and the altering of the path.

I stink at this.

But, Moses the shepherd out there in the desert got it right.  He had a plan to lead “the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God”  (Exodus 3:1).

That’s when God lit a fire within a bush and captured Moses’s attention.

Moses had to decide.  Stick with his own plan?  Or follow the unexpected.

He chose to bend.

He said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight” (Exodus 3:4).

In The Power of God’s Names, Tony Evans writes:

God didn’t reveal Himself to Moses until Moses turned aside from His ordinary routine.

And that Samaritan that Jesus described in Luke 10…he was traveling the road for a reason.  Others had traveled before him: a priest, a Levite.  They saw a dying man on the side of the road and pressed right on past because he wasn’t on the itinerary.

But the Good Samaritan turned aside.  He stepped off the road.  He took the time.

He walked right out of his own agenda and right on into God’s.

May we always be flexible enough to turn aside and to exchange our agendas and plans for His perfect ones (even if they are unexpected).

What is God’s plan for you today?  Have you asked Him?

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Learn When to Say, ‘Yes?’

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



Sometimes I feel like a nut; sometimes I don’t: Finding stability in a fickle world

Yesterday, I felt like I could run a marathon.

I clicked that exercise DVD off and felt strength, like my limbs had grown long and powerful in 30 minutes.

I was a lean, mean, health machine who laughed at crunches and slammed through jumping jacks with precision and ease. Photo by Weerayut Kongsombut

Today, I was about to throw my running shoe at the TV screen because that guy in the t-shirt and gym shorts wouldn’t stop jabbering.  Couldn’t he see I was short on oxygen after just 5 jogs in place?

When someone is suffocating right in front of you, don’t you bypass the small-talk and incessant chatter and tell them to skip to the end already and go have an ice cream cone or something?

Some days choosing blueberries and yogurt with granola comes easy.

Other days I need chocolate so bad I want to order a hot fudge sundae from McDonald’s–hold the sundae.

Isn’t so much of life like this incessant movement back and forth and back and forth, making progress, stumbling, feeling accomplished, feeling like giving up?

Some days I’m attacking that to-do list with energy and focus.  The next day I’m distracted and just want to play hookie from grown-up life.

Some days I’m relaxed, spontaneous, fun mom.  The next day I snap in half when three of my kids demand that I help them right this second, now, now, now as if they can’t see with their own two eyes that I only have these two hands.

What is this roller coaster life I lead? Why these fickle whims and why is perpetual progress so elusive?

I read in Beth Moore’s Whispers of Hope:

If we place our faith in what God is doing, we should brace ourselves for a lifelong roller-coaster ride.  Our faith will be high and mighty one day and free-falling the next because it is based on the apparent activity of God in our circumstances.  ….In our most difficult losses victory does not result from seeking God’s answers or His activity.  Many answers will never come; much of His activity will never be seen.  Victorious faith walks evolve from seeking Him.  In Hebrews 11:27 we read that Moses “persevered because he saw him who is invisible”–not because he saw the burning bush.  He gazed straight into the face of the invisible God.  He built His faith on Who God is, not what God had done.”

She says, “When you don’t know what God is doing, you can find stability in Who He is” (p. 112).

Moses looked right past that burning bush.  Sure, it caught his eye, but he glanced at the bush so he could gaze on God.

That compelled him into perseverance, into pushing past the fear and insecurity, pain, anger, the possibilities and probabilities of failure, and the overwhelming threat of the unknown.

I admit it.  Sometimes I flop down in the middle of these circumstances and think—this is what God will do.  This is how God acts.  

But He’s so much more creative than little ol’ me and those unexpected ways of His send me into spirals of doubt and worry.

Why isn’t God doing what I want Him to do, when I want Him to do it, how it makes sense to me?

That wobbly faith of mine, it’s revealing the cracks in the foundation, how I’ve trusted in what God does, not Who He is.

I think of the farmer in the parable, sowing that seed on the rocky soil, on the path, among the thorns.

And I think how I’m fickle here, too.

I’m this avid gardener in April and May. But come July, one summer rainstorm sprouts a rain forest right in my front yard.  I walk out that door and step into a mighty jungle that has grown to towering proportions overnight.

Overnight, I tell ya.

And a girl just can’t keep up with that, not in the mid-summer Virginia heat and humidity.

The weeds choke out those tended and welcome plants, just like that parable says.


the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:15 NIV).

The NLT says they:

hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.

Cling to it.

There it is.

Look past the burning bush and fix those eyes on Jesus, on WHO He is, constant in every situation.

And hold on for dear life to God’s Word, not letting those fingers fall loose for one second.

That’s what prompts our hearts into patient perseverance.  That’s what produces this abundant crop of a harvest if we just don’t give up.

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


It’s not the End of the World as We Know It

She grumped into the mini-van after school, plodding along, keeping her hands folded across her chest as much as possible.  She was non-verbal, totally unresponsive to my cheerful queries about her day and her friends and her teacher.  Slumping down as low as she could go in her seatbelt, her chin touched her chest, her eyes glared down at the floor.

I got the message.  Bad day.

Slowly she explained with little bits of dialogue here and there, mostly in a whine, sometimes in anger.

“The cafeteria lady put baked fruit on my tray even when I told her I didn’t want it.”

Oh and her older sister tattled on her because she stood on the school’s grass at the end of the day instead of staying on the sidewalk.

What a day.

I found myself telling this Chicken Little of mine that the sky hadn’t fallen because of a tiny scoop of unwanted baked fruit and the world hadn’t ended because her sister ratted her out for straying onto the grass.

So, was it worth freaking out, crying, yelling, and ruining her Friday afternoon over this, just this?

Of course, it all did seem like a disaster to a six-year-old.

Just like an embarrassing mistake seemed like the end of the world to me yesterday.  I was scatter-brained and forgetful and I was frustrated and angry with myself.

My husband said, “It’s okay.  It’s not the end of the world.”

Maybe that’s where my daughter gets it from, from me and how I fret so quickly over things I could just shake off my back if I chose.

Sometimes we’re fretting about the foolish things and the minor details.  We worry over lamentations3ba mistake that’s done and over with and in the past already.  We stress over hypotheticals and what if’s that never even happen.  We toss and turn over situations that God’s already provided an answer for.

And it all seems foolish in hindsight.

But even when we’re not, even when it’s more than a six-year-old’s idea of “the end of the world,” even when it’s truly a crisis and we feel trapped and hopeless….even then we can breathe in and breathe out God’s grace.

Even then, we are not consumed.

That’s what Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish people when their city was destroyed by captors, and they had endured starvation and invasion and seen their best and brightest young people carried off into captivity in Babylon.  Even then, he wrote:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Paul wrote it, too:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:8

No stumbling block or obstacle is the hopeless end of the world it may seem.  Whether it’s a true crisis or an annoyance of the moment, still God is with us and because of His love, grace, and faithfulness, we can breathe in and breathe out.

We can rest in Him.

We can let it go.

At Women of Faith last summer, Patsy Clairmont reminded us that Moses wasn’t drawn to the burning bush because it was on fire.  Fires happened all the time in the heat of the desert sun.

Instead, he stepped away from his flock of sheep out of curiosity because “though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” (Exodus 3:2).

That’s our testimony also!  God allows us to walk through the fire without being burned and it is that constant faith in His care that shows others His glory.  It makes them turn aside out of curiosity and ask, “What does she have that helps her walk through these flames unscorched?”

How is it that we can move on after a hurt or show grace for a mistake?  How is it that we can look at the budget on paper and not be in despair?  How can we hear that news, accept that decision, face that tomorrow, wait what seems like forever without being thrown into crippling anxiety and overwhelming panic?

How can we stand in the middle of the fire and not be consumed?

It’s Jesus.  It’s God with us.  It’s His grace and His promise to care for us in all things whether big or small.  It’s choosing joy and choosing to trust in Him that saves us from the flames.

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