He Loves You So

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I cried when I read the story for the first time.

Then I cried when I told it to our church choir.

And I cried when I wrote about it.

In his book, A Lifelong Love, Gary Thomas told the story of Dr. Robertson McQuilkin, former president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary (now Columbia International University).

After decades of marriage, McQuilkin’s wife, Muriel, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Since she’d always loved art, her husband took her on a trip to London, hoping she’d enjoy seeing her favorite paintings in person—maybe for the last time she’d ever be able to truly appreciate them.

On the flight, whenever Muriel had to use the restroom, Dr. McQuilkin had to squeeze into the airplane’s bathroom with her (despite the embarrassingly critical looks from the other passengers).

Then, after all that effort, when they arrived at the museum, Muriel had one of her ‘bad days.’  She breezed passed her favorite art without even really seeing it.  They beauty and significance of it made no impression on her.

As they waited in the airport for the trip home, Muriel grew nervous and restless.  She hopped from seat to seat with her husband following along quietly behind her.  Yet, she kept returning to one particular chair next to a woman whose attire and demeanor said “all-business.”

Of all the people for his wife to hover around, she would choose someone who didn’t look like she’d appreciate being disturbed.

But as they boarded the plane, Dr. McQuilkin heard the stranger murmur something. Thinking she was talking to him, he asked her to repeat it.

“Oh,” she said, “I was just asking myself, ‘Will I ever find a man to love me like that?’”

Back home, they settled into something of a routine. Since their house was on campus, his wife would often wander out of her home to look for her husband.  She wanted to be near him always.  His presence calmed her.

But on the day Dr. McQuilkin walked her home from his office and saw her bloodied feet because she forgot to wear shoes before crossing the graveled path to look for him, he wrote his resignation letter.

Instead of running a respected university, he devotedly tended to the love of his life without regret.  Oh, such love.

Dr. McQuilkin said, “The decision to come to Columbia was the most difficult I have had to make; the decision to leave 22 years later, though painful, was one of the easiest.  The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel ‘in sickness and in health….till death do us part.”

Love like that in a world like this shocks us with its profound rarity.

We’re told to demand our own needs be met.  We’re to look out for ourselves, stand up for #1.

But here we see it, love in action, love poured out in sacrifice every single day.  It didn’t just mean giving up a career.  It meant the humbling work of a caregiver, cleaning up the mess and doing the lowest and ugliest tasks with gentleness and compassion.

Yet, we have known love like this and so much more: self-sacrificing, extravagant, astonishing love.

At Christmas, we remember that God Himself left more than a prestigious career for us—He left heaven itself—to come low as a baby in a cave, born among animals and cradled in straw, in order to live and to die because we needed rescue

Paul writes that Jesus:

…emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7 ESV).

This is the love God has for us.

Jesus emptied Himself of glory because He loved us so.  He came small and low.  He came bloody and weak.

He lived poor.  He walked humbly.

He stepped into our mess and, fully aware of our sin and unworthiness, He died painfully.

Then He rose powerfully.

All because He loved us.

Can we fathom it?

How can we go on living like we haven’t known such love?

Worrying.  Fretting.  Rushing.  Stressing.  Fighting.  Not forgiving.

That’s how we act when we think everything depends on us and we’re all on our own down here.

But when we trust, when we rest, when we worship, when we forgive, when we love in return, that is when we live like we are loved.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NIV).

To read more about Dr. McQuilkin’s story, you can read this article at Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/februaryweb-only/2-9-11.0.html?start=5

What Makes this Good?

She asked me why we call it “Good Friday.”  Why “good?”

Why “Happy Easter” or “Happy Resurrection Day?”

What makes this so “happy?”

How could we celebrate this death, this sacrifice, this sadness?  We should be so much more serious and sad, she tells me.P1040320

Like the disciples who mourned, like Mary Magdalene crying beside the tomb, surely we should remember this day with tears.

This she asks in confusion.

On Thursday, we ate the bread and drank the cup.

That’s what Jesus said that night in the upper room with disciples scattered around:  “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 NIV).

So, we remember.

She is thinking of grape juice and crackers, a snack when you’re hungry, but I tell her it’s more than that.

And she asks, why do this?  Why talk about blood–so gross, so morbid and earthy?

It’s too corporeal for holiness and for the sacred places, the striking red against the purity of the righteous life.

Why Mom?

That’s yucky.

I think today about the remembrance of it all and why it matters.

Today is Good Friday.

It’s also the eight-year anniversary of my dad’s death.

This morning, I sat with my daughter brushing her hair and telling her about my dad: little remembrances here and there and what makes today special.

So, what makes this a day holy and set apart from other days?  Why Good Friday?

Because there’s beauty in the remembrance.  There’s honor and power in recollection.

I think this about my dad today.  Talking about him makes his life real here and now after death.  It makes it more tangible, relevant.

These daughters of mine who never knew him and only see the pictures in a photo album, mostly after he was sick and didn’t look like the dad I remember, what other way for them to know than for me to tell?

And you just don’t want this day to slip by forgotten because it would be forgetting him.

Is it any different remembering our Savior in this season?

In German, they don’t call this day Good.  They call it Mourning Friday.

But isn’t that the beauty of this day?  That even as we remember Christ’s death, even as we talk about the cross and give it true attention, even as we drink the cup so apt to stain white and we eat the bread broken, even as we tell our children the stories and we say:

This is what He did for us.  Not some pristine ritual, not something pure and clean.  It was bloody and painful.  It was death.  It was hard.  And sacrifice like that was suffering. 

It wasn’t pushed on Him because He was too weak.  Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8 NIV).

This is what He chose to do for us because of love so great. 

Love so good.  Love so amazing, so divine…

Even as we say this and tell this to our children, the beauty of remembering the cross isn’t just the Mourning of our Savior, it’s the Good News that the resurrection came.

Why Good?

Why Happy?

I tell her remembering is how we worship, how we give thanks, how we honor His gift to us.

And that gift wasn’t just a trinket wrapped in a package with a bow.

It was good.  Truly good.  The greatest gift at the highest price.

And the resurrection; that’s our joy.  What better reason to be happy than to know the cross was not the end and the tomb didn’t destroy our hope?

Because of this, we have life everlasting.

And because of that day, we can see any crisis as an opportunity for Him to shine with resurrection power, to resurrect the dead, to defy all expectations and trample all over the circumstantial evidence by doing the impossible.

Yes, this remembering is good.

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

Christmas Devotionals: I Lay Me Down

Grumpy.

That’s how I get sometimes.

Only that night, my daughter and I had sat down on the sofa with her Awana book between us, studying her lessons and verses for the week.  After learning all of Psalm 23, all 66 books of the Bible, and a run of other long and difficult verses, she nearly bounced off the couch when she saw the first verse on the page:

Do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil. 2:14).

“Wow, Mom, that’s sooooo easy,” she announced and then poured out the verse a few times just to show off her impressive memorization skills.

So easy, she thinks.  Oh, sometime it’s the shortest, simplest lessons that I’ll be learning over and over, repeatedly day by day, one relentless crawl up the mountain after another, until I collapse in worship at Jesus’ feet in heaven.

Do everything without complaining or arguing.

No grumbling in the kitchen when you’ve called your children to dinner five times and they can hear each other, hear the television, hear the phone ring, hear their game….but at momma’s voice they go conveniently deaf.

No whining about cleaning up the trail of trash or complaining about lunch packing or wailing “woe is me” because I’m tired and bone-aching weary, falling asleep on the couch as my daughters read the bedtime story to me.

No elaborate, shoulder-heaving, dramatic sighs over sock piles and shoes strewn here and there.

Our ministries in our homes, churches, communities, and jobs, sometimes they are joy and sometimes we lose focus and feel the burden.

We see bother and mess, not beauty and grace, precious gifts from God to us.  We forget to be thankful.

And we become grumbling complainers and then staunch defenders of our “rights” and the boundaries we feel will protect those “rights.”

I get the need for boundaries, really I do.  I understand that God’s people aren’t expected to just let others walk all over us. I see how that’s not healthy for us or for them.

And yet, sometimes I feel we set “boundaries” not to help others, but to protect ourselves from the slightest hint of inconvenience, the smallest encroachment on our time or budget or activity.

Sometimes boundaries are less about helping others be healthy and more about keeping ourselves comfy, uninvolved and apathetic to the people around us.

Not always, but sometimes.

How can we, nearing the Christmas season and singing and talking and preaching often about Jesus born in a manger, still stand in our kitchens and grumble about dinner and socks and lunches and mess?

After all, God of the Universe “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7 NIV).

Christmas reminds us to be self-sacrificing, to be servants, to offer ourselves with joy.

Because that’s what our Savior did for love of us, setting aside His rights, privileges, and glory, and humbly, oh so humbly, living among us and our dirt, sin and ugly pride.  Being born and then dying for us, choosing the blood and choosing the pain.

Didn’t Mary also willingly endure shame, the possibility of abandonment by Joseph—and even worse, death by a mob—the loss of her reputation, the disappointment of her parents, the discomfort of pregnancy, the uncomfortable and bumpy trek to Bethlehem, the pain of childbirth, and more…..for God and for the people her Son would save?

And Joseph willingly chose to stand up against the mockers and marry this virgin-with-child anyway, abandoning his home and occupation in Nazareth to journey far to Egypt in order to keep his family safe.

Even shepherds and wise men left their daily toil to journey to a baby.

They sacrificed plans and personal agendas, convenience and reputation, money, careers, relationships…because God asked them to abandon it all for Him and for His people.

It’s an indisputable fact of Christianity, an irrefutable part of our faith…God loves people.

And if God so loved the world this much, to give His only Son….then we should love people, too.  Enough to serve without complaining and arguing.  Enough to give to others more than is comfortable.

Enough to forget the burden and remember the joy, as Mary did in her song, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name” (Luke 46-47, 49).

“I lay me down”—that’s what Christ could have sung, and Mary, Joseph, and the worshipers traveling from afar.  That’s what we sing, “I lay me down, a living sacrifice…a pleasing sacrifice to You.”

To hear Darrell Evans lead in worship, I Lay Me Down” you can click here.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King