Be a Jonathan Today

1 thessalonians 5

There’s a couple in our church who’ve been married over 60 years.

They’re in a season of jet-setting, of cruises and spontaneous trips up to New England to see the fall leaves.  They drive all over to visit family and seem busier now than I am with my four kids.

They’ve known sadness too.  They’ve had cancer, lost family members to cancer, even lost a child to cancer.

About a year ago, I passed by my husband as he was chatting with the husband-half of this dynamic duo and I heard these words of wisdom:

These are the best days, when your kids are young.  I remember when all our kids were little and at home and it was crazy, but those were the best days. 

I didn’t catch any other part of that conversation, but oh how those words dug down deep within me.

The other day, I said to my husband as we drove home from church, “We’re super close to the time when we have a built-in babysitter in our home.  Aren’t you excited?  I’m excited!”

It’s so true.  Our kids are getting older, getting ready to stay home alone and even babysit younger siblings.  It won’t be long (dare I say it?) before my oldest daughter can drive herself to activities.  What a day that will be!

Last week, I took four of my kids into a museum and we did not bring the stroller.  Each child carried her own backpack of stuff and I just toted a bag of my own.  Whoa!

This is a new era for me.  And it’s just the beginning.  I’ll be living a life without diapers, wipes, and juice boxes before long.

I should be excited.  This is a new season, and it’s a beautiful season.

But I truly treasure the wisdom from this church-friend of ours because even on days when I’m rushing from activity to activity, breaking up sibling spats, or navigating a grocery store with the ‘help’ of a two-year-old who doesn’t want to ride in the cart, even on the days when I’m most exhausted or most overwhelmed, I hold onto his truth.

These are the best days.  I will never have them again. 

I may get to go on weekend getaways with my husband. I may be less of a taxi driver and more of a world traveler.

But oh the beauty of the now.

Oh the beauty of making this family and loving this family through its most significant character-forming, faith-building, family-identity-forming era.

This gentleman isn’t the only one who has given such a gift of wisdom and perspective.

Last Easter, a dear friend in my church, a joy-bringer and encourager, gave me a little gift with a hummingbird on it.

She said the hummingbird made her think of me, flitting about, always moving, so beautiful.

This was another treasured gift.

I wage this constant battle for balance.  I’m a doer who is happy doing, and that’s something God created in me and what God creates is good.

But I have to choose and discipline myself for rest, for beauty breaks and for finding room to breathe.

I know this about myself.  I know my weakest weakness and how easy it is to call me out for doing too much.

But she chose to see the beauty.

And the funny thing is I’d never seen a hummingbird, not in my whole entire life, until about two years ago when we planted butterfly-attracting plants in our back garden.

Turns out hummingbirds like these flowers too, and they hover all summer long right next to the window where I write every day.

They have become God-gifts to me, sightings and reminders that God sees me and knows me, He made me and He loves me.  He helps me know when to do and when not to do.  He guides me ever so gently and cherishes me the way He made me.

These are the treasures I receive from God’s family, just two of many gifts I’ve been given, words of hope or encouragement, wisdom and perspective.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel with my kids recently and we discovered this verse:

Then Saul’s son Jonathan came to David in Horesh and encouraged him in his faith in God (1 Samuel 23:16 HCSB).

David was on the run once again from Saul’s envious wrath, and he discovered that the city he was hiding in planned to betray him and him over to Saul. So David escaped with his men into the wilderness.

If ever he needed a treasured friend, it was in his wilderness season.

And Jonathan was that friend.

Can we be a Jonathan for another today?

Can we give a treasure away, encouraging someone in her faith in God, share wisdom, see beauty, give hope?

 

 

What her message to me said and why I needed to hear it

1 john 3

I surveyed the possible outfits and an empty suitcase.

I hovered a hand over the teal scarf, pulled it away and then reached for my favorite top and jacket…pulled my hand away again and flopped back onto my bed in defeat.

I was heading to my first writer’s conference where there’d be thousands of women, most of whom I was sure would be perfectly coiffed and fashionably dressed in matching high heels and handbags.

They’d probably have cute haircuts with tons of highlights.

They’d have dangly earrings and other bling.

They’d wear lipstick.  Lipstick!!!  And probably even eyeshadow.

I was in way over my head and I had outfit-picking paralysis.

It was a crisis moment for me.  Yes, a crisis over scarves and skirts.  Suddenly I wasn’t worrying about fashion.

I was stressing over not belonging.  I was worrying about the expense and the time and whether it was worth it. What if I was just fooling myself about this whole writing thing and this was a complete waste?!

I feared failure and laid out the question again and again to God, “What is it you want me to do?”

And then….the follow-up questions, “Does it have to be this hard?  Can’t we take the easy way?  The one where I get to stay home in jeans and sneakers?”

I opened up Facebook to avoid making decisions about what to pack in that suitcase.

That’s when I opened up the message.

A writer I’d never met, but who was also going to the conference, wrote me a note.

She told me not to worry about my outfits.  How I could just be myself.  I didn’t need highlights in my hair or lipstick or high-heeled shoes.

She told me Satan attacks before the conference so be ready and stand strong in the Lord.

She told me not to fret over my calling, not to feel like I have to fight or make things happen and not to feel for a moment that it all depends on me.  God could do the work.  All I needed to do was show up in obedience.

She obeyed God’s prompting, and she blessed me because she was obedient, speaking words of encouragement to me just when I needed them.

I read in Acts a powerful story of the church’s impact:

 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe (Acts 14:19-20 ESV).

It’s a two-verse miracle.  A little encounter, barely noticeable in the book of Acts, but a miracle nonetheless.

Paul is stoned, dragged outside the city and left for dead–not just seriously injured or barely alive.

They thought he was already a corpse.

But then….the disciples gathered about him, and Paul stood up, walked back into the city, and went on another journey the very next day.

He didn’t even need a week to fully recover.

Maybe the disciples prayed for him.  Perhaps they gathered so they could plan how to bury him. The Bible doesn’t fill us in on the details.

All it says is that in the moment he was broken, they gathered around him and he had new strength.

They could have left Paul there as a hopeless case.

They could have been busy, forgetful or too focused on their own problems to care.

They could have feared being stoned themselves.

No, they gathered around the wounded one, and God performed a miracle.

God works miracles of healing through His people when we choose to love another.

I feel the challenge.

If Paul were stoned today, would I choose to gather around him?

Or am I too busy, too self-protective, too self-focused, too self-indulgent, too self-seeking, too prideful, too forgetful…..to minister to one in need?

To write an email….to send a note…to share a meal…..to make a phone call….to invite a friend….to pray for the hurting…to take the time.

And what if it hadn’t been Paul, a leader in the church?  What if it was the smallest of the small who’d been stoned and left for dead?

Would I still take the time?

We love others with Christ’s love when we choose compassion over comfort.

We love like Jesus when we reach out instead of draw in.

That day as I flopped back in my bed in frustrated annoyance and insecurity, a  woman I didn’t know ‘gathered’ around me.

She had her own bags to pack.  Her own plans to finalize.  Her own life to manage.

But she reached out to me with kindness, and God moved.

How can we show someone that love today?

(Just a note that Luke wrote about this miracle in the book of Acts, and as a physician he seems very careful to say that Paul appeared dead or seemed dead.  He does not claim that Paul actually was raised from the dead, only that he seemed dead for a moment and then got up, walked into the city, and was recovered enough for a journey the next day.  Still a miracle–but a miracle of healing, not resurrection.)

A family motto for summer

My daughter asks, “Why is it so much easier to get along with friends than with sisters some times?”

Four days into summer vacation and she’s already pleading for more time with friends and less time with siblings.

But here’s the truth I tell her….time with others destroys masks, facades, and fake perfection.  It has a way of dragging all of those sins and faults, all of that selfishness and the bad attitudes from where they stay safely hidden during play dates and public outings.

Anyone can behave for a few hours on a play date.gracemotto

That’s what I tell her.

Then I remind myself: Any mom can respond sweetly to her child who is having a meltdown in the Wal-Mart aisle five minutes into your shopping trip when there are people around who might overhear you.

And those TV moms—sure, any of us could be super creative, fun, and even-tempered enough to fill 40 minutes of film footage once a week.

God isn’t satisfied with superficial sweetness, though.  He wants genuine transformation.  He wants the world to look deep and long at us and see the reflection of Christ, not some plastic Jesus or some temporary super-Christian persona.

It’s part of His design with family and others to wield us as tools, chipping away at one another, breaking off the pieces that simply need to go, and  masterfully forming us little by little into tried-and-true, walking and talking, in-season and out-of-season examples of Christ in the world.

Proverbs tells us:

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).

So He places us in families and in community with one another.

And then He gives us summer seasons…when we’re up close and personal and with each other all day instead of scattering away to schools, activities, and our own busy lives.

It’s so much time so close together that causes the explosions….when she won’t share the game, and she says something unkind, and she makes annoying noises, and her piano playing is too loud, and she’s hungry and impatient, and she wants to go to the library when she wants to stay home in her pajamas all day…when all this “self” collides with the “self” in everyone else, that’s when He reminds us of grace.

Maybe that’s the lesson in summer, after all.

Grace to rest.

Grace to stop the frantic running from school pick-ups to evening activities, tossing back granola bars to your kids from the front of the mini-van while you rush to ballet where you yank hair back into buns and push in bobby pins before class begins.

Grace to linger over the cup of tea in the morning instead of putting on the drill sergeant hat and barking out commands to children to get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair, find shoes, pack lunches and then kiss them on the cheek and send them out the door just in time to rush onto the school bus.

Grace to skip the chores and pack the car for the beach.

Grace even that I need to extend to myself—to not adhere completely to the writing schedule, to post late to the blog or even miss a day—because we’re out enjoying the summer and I’m taking this time I’ve been given with my kids for these few short weeks and I don’t want to miss it.ephesians4-32 photo by  Jaroon Ittiwannapong

And grace for each other.

This is the mom speech I make for my daughter after a sibling melt-down.

In this family, we give grace because we need grace. When someone makes a mistake, we don’t mock, or point fingers, or jump up eagerly to show off how they were wrong.

After all, we need grace.  We receive grace, so we show grace to others.  It becomes my call, my standard, my motto for this summer with my kids:

We need grace.

We receive grace.

We show grace.

Paul wrote this:

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ (Ephesians 4:32 HCSB).

And that’s how we breathe in and breathe out when daily annoyances and mistakes, sins, and forgetfulness, bad days, troubles, and trials threaten to consume us.That’s what we do when others step on our toes and bruise our feelings.  We forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

This summer, we lean back full into this grace and rest.  Choosing not to be stressed over the schedule, but to relax in relationship.  Choosing to forgive the hurts and cease the fault-finding as Christ uses this season together to transform us.

That’s the grace that is summer.

Originally posted June 12, 2013

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 ‘Invest in Friendship’?

 

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

The Answer We’re Seeking…And The FaithDare

I failed my driver’s test at least twice.  I say “at least” because I might have blanked out and actually failed it three . . . possibly four times.  It’s hard to say.  It’s enough to tell you that I still refuse to parallel park even now.

So, when a friend of mine in college said that sometimes he just needed to drive, I didn’t get it.  Driving was stressful for me, parking even more so.  For him, though, it was like therapy.  Overwhelmed and overcome, he’d just cruise down the highway with an unimportant and undefined destination.

Today, for the first time, I understood.  Kissing my older girls goodbye and waving to them as they left on the school bus, I walked my toddler to the minivan and helped her into her seat. Then we drove.

As a mom, I’ve generally lost all control over the music in the car, so I let my two-year-old sing for a while about numbers, pirates, monkeys and queens.

Then I announced, “Mommy’s turn” and flicked a switch, only to hear:

Shine Your light so I can see You
Pull me up, I need to be near You
Hold me, I need to feel love
Can You overcome this heart that’s overcome?
{David Crowder *Band singing SMS (Shine}

That’s when I knew why I was driving.  Just like my friend, I was overwhelmed and overcome.

It’s been one of those seasons of ministry and of life when you’re surrounded by death, cancer, divorce, adultery, abuse, child custody battles, the loss of babies, alcoholism, financial Silhouetted female in front of sunset skycrisis, and unemployment.  I’ve been praying for many miracles these days.

In her book, Knowing God by Name, Mary Kassian wrote about El Oseh Phela or The God Who Works Wonders, focusing on the fact that “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders” (Deut. 26:8). 

She notes the phrase “outstretched arm . . . implies a work not yet fully completed–a work in progress.  The image of a mighty hand and an outstretched arm illustrates that God is intentionally involved in history on an ongoing basis” (p. 66 emphasis mine).

It’s part of God’s character, His name, a promise based on who He is that He sometimes chooses to deliver us with all of the glory of signs and wonders.  And it’s now, not just thousands of years ago for Moses or Joshua, for Elijah and Daniel.  It’s for us, too.

Yet, at times we’re looking for the fireworks, lightning bolts, and parting seas of miraculous intervention, only to overlook the answer He’s already given to our prayers of desperation—through the ministry of others.

That’s why God fed Elijah once miraculously with food carried in the claws of ravens and then fed Elijah miraculously through the generosity of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17).  It was God’s way of meeting Elijah’s needs and blessing the widow at the same time by allowing her to be part of God’s activity.

Sometimes we are the miracle God is sending to another. 

We are the blessing He has offered; we are the provision; we are His answer to the tearful prayers in the night.

Not that it’s because of our own ability or volition.  It’s God’s generous way of allowing us to be used in service and His gracious method of linking people together, knowing that we need the connection and relationship that it brings.

The Message says it this way:

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out” (Romans 15:1-4 MSG)

In The Faith Dare , Debbie Alsdorf writes:

We were created to connect, to do life together, to bear each other’s burdens, to care with our whole being for those whom Christ loves (p. 191).

Maybe we’re praying for God’s intervention in situations and it really is going to take His mighty hand and outstretched arm to deliver.  But maybe we’re praying for the miracles and God’s already given the answer . . . and the answer is us.

You can watch the video for SMS (Shine) by clicking here or by clicking on the image from the blog.

Originally posted as “And the Answer Is…,” on May 18, 2012

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

Renew, Revive, Restore Us Again

I could recognize the discouragement. The perpetual fatigue in the face and in the slumping of the shoulders, not extreme, but ever so slightly burdened down low.

It was clear in the mechanical activity, not the joyous friendliness of cheerful service like before. Now my friend moved from point A to point B, task one to task two, not smiling, just doing because doing is what needed to be done.

I recognized the discouragement because

I

Have

Been

There

Before.

We who have been weary can see the signs in others, the trudging, the exhaustion, the worn out soul fraying at every edge and held together with patches and slipshod stitchery.

So we come alongside our friends, our Christian sisters and brothers, those whose burdens we’re supposed to remove so they can walk free and unencumbered for a time.  We remind them of God’s goodness, His grace.  We encourage them in their efforts, cheering them on with reminders to persevere and not give up and yes, there will be a harvest in time, and no, it isn’t all in vain.

How do we know?  That’s what they might ask.

Oh my friend, how I know.psalm51

Because contrary to what you might have heard or expected, the Christian life isn’t all easy and Christian service isn’t all joyfully inspiring and pouring out to others out of an overflow.  Sometimes we’re emptying out the last few drops from our own parched souls, not knowing what to do when we’re dehydrated and depleted and still others hold out needy hands for more.

Yet, we know this also.

We pour out…everything….and He pours in anew.

You might think you’re alone in this, stumbling over your own weaknesses, serving to exhaustion, not seeing the reward or the gain or the purpose or the point.

Yet, the prayers of saints long before teach us that others have desperately needed to be renewed, revived, restored.

The Psalmists prayed:

Will You not revive us again
so that Your people may rejoice in You?
(Psalm 85:6 HCSB)

and

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest  (Psalm 126:4-6 NLT)

and

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 HCSB).  

Their prayers would be unnecessary, meaningless even unless they felt the need for the renewing, the reviving, the restoring work of God in us.

We need the grace again, the joy again, the steadfast spirit again, the life again.  That’s what they asked.

That’s what we need, too.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

Nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion.  The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish.  The prayer ‘revive us again’ keeps the body of Christ youthful and responsive to every new mercy and grace in God (Praying With the Psalms).

So we offer to help carry the cross for a time through this valley and we remind them of the hope and the promise as we travel along together.

We tell the fullness of our testimony, not just the revival, the renewal, the restoration after the fact…not the destination without the journey or the end result without the in between.

No, we remember that we were worn out and limping and God renewed us.

We were dead and hopeless and God revived us.

We had lost everything and God restored us.

God did this for me, that’s what we say.  And He will do this work in you, too.

And we pray, of course we pray.

We ask God to fill them right up again, fill their own parched souls so they are overflowing. We ask for strength anew and energy for each day, for reminders of the vision and reassurance of the harvest.

God’s plan isn’t for us to walk through discouragement alone, not any of us. How could we ever survive it, after all, if we thought we were the only ones and that somehow we must be here because of our own fumbling and faltering?

But to know others have been there, have made it through, and have traveled back to tell us the good news and to pray for us along the way…that’s the grace God gives for a wearied soul.

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

VBS for Grown-Ups: Family and Friends Help Us

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Today at Kingdom Rock VBS (Group Publishing), we’re learning: Family and Friends Help Us…Stand Strong!kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

1 Thessalonians 5:11  “So encourage each other and build each other up”
Adapted from “We’ve Got to Pray,” originally published November 26, 2012

I saw it when I took my kids to the zoo.

We walked through the darkened reptile house and stopped at every single window trying to find the tomato frog, the pancake turtle, the boa, the green tree snake, the cotton mouth.  Sometimes we stared carefully through the glass for minutes, examining every leaf and rock, trying not to give up.

Occasionally, the family in front of us helpfully pointed out the camouflaged creature and we passed the news along: “There he is…do you see him?  On the big tree in the back.”

My older daughters patiently pointed out lizard after lizard, snake after snake for their three-year-old sister and waited for her to follow their pointing fingers until she could exclaim, “Oh, I see him!” with a giggle.

And then, when she needed to be given a boost to see the meerkats in the Africa exhibit, my youngest daughter didn’t even need to ask for a boost.  Without a second’s pause, her older sister hoisted her up onto the shelf and held her while she peered against the glass.

As we finished for the day, I–the super-planner, never-spontaneous mom— actually gave my kids permission to run and play in the fountains with the other kids.  The sun had finally warmed up the day and maybe it was crazy and thoroughly impractical of me, but I sat on the bench while my daughters splashed, ran and giggled.

Even then, I saw it.  My three-year-old looking around, not seeing me, and her older sisters bringing her to where I sat.  Then, as they played, they led her by the hand, they smoothed her wet hair away from her face, they called her over to join them.

It wasn’t a burden to help.  It was a joy, to be the big sister, the one who could be depended on, the cheerful face, the kind voice and the strong arms that a little sister needed to feel love010d and safe.

This….was….beautiful.

And there I was, sitting in those benches around the zoo fountains just watching my daughters.

They were teaching me that day, teaching me how to be the bigger sister.  Teaching me how to come alongside others who are in need, others who need a boost, others who need a friendly smile and someone to notice their lostness and lead them to a Savior.

But they also taught me how to be the younger sister.  How to trust others and the helping hands they offer.  How not to give up and despair when the blessing is out of reach or I can’t see the hope camouflaged among the mess.

Too often we try to go it alone out of pride, or shame, or inferiority, or just not knowing where to turn.  We could sit there at our kitchen tables by ourselves with our Bible and prayer journal and pray.

Yet, Scripture reminds us of the power of praying together.

When Esther prepared to enter King Xerxes’s presence uninvited, placing her life in jeopardy in order to save her people from mass genocide, she didn’t just pray on her own.

She organized a nationwide prayer meeting, instructing all the Jews of Susa to “fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  My maids and I will do the same…” (Esther 4:16 NLT).

Her story isn’t one of a lone heroine rising to face an enemy.  She trusted in the advice, counsel, encouragement and prayers of her godly cousin Mordecai and depended on the intercession of her people.  Without it, maybe she wouldn’t have stood before the king and the Jews would have been slaughtered.

Jesus didn’t just fall to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane alone as he waited for his betrayer to arrive with an army of soldiers and an unwelcome kiss.  He took along “Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:37-38).

Paul, who seemed so confident and capable in ministry and who always seemed content and able to rejoice despite circumstances, wasn’t afraid to ask the church in Ephesus to “pray for me, too.  Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan…” (Ephesians 6:19 NLT).

God brings us others because He didn’t design us to walk through the dark places alone.  He created us for community and formed shoulders to help carry burdens and hands to hold hands.  He meant for family and friends to help us stand strong…and for us to help others do the same.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

“Friendship is unnecessary….”

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art..It has no survival value; it is one of those things that give value to survival” C.S. Lewis

It was a simple survey sent home with my daughters from school.

I thought it’d take no more than two minutes to log on to the computer and complete it.  What kind of topics did I want the guidance counselor to discuss with my kids? That’s all it really asked.

Drugs and alcohol?  Grief counseling?  Conflict resolution?  Anger management?  Organizational skills?  Self-esteem?

I rated each category: Very important, somewhat important, not so important.

When I finished, I noticed the box for further comments and almost left it blank.  Almost.  It would have been much faster just to click “Finished” and send the survey on.

But I had something to say.

I’m tired of my children coming home from school upset about some new unkindness, some new drama in their relationships, some new friendship crisis.

It’s hurtful and mean and I’m overwhelmed and astonished.

Someone needs to tell our kids about friendship.  What it means. How it requires friendshiployalty, grace, kindness.  They need to know how to be a good friend and how to choose good friends.

How friends don’t steal your stuff and then tease you about “Finders Keepers.”

Friends don’t jump all over your back when you make a mistake and mock your hair style in front of a whole classroom of students.

Friends don’t expect exclusivity and jealously make up lies about you behind your back to destroy your other relationships.

Friends don’t blackmail you into doing what they want to do and only what they want to do with assertions that, “I won’t be your friend anymore unless….”

Friends don’t whisper into your innocent ear bad words and foolish ideas designed to get you into trouble.

What I really want is someone to echo my speeches to my own children, so that more kids know that in a world of selfishness and cruelty, violence, “me-first” ideologies, and cut-throat tactics—friendship matters.  Compassion, kindness, generosity, selfless and loyal love, matter.

Of course, these lessons always begin with us, and I realize slowly, we can’t just tell it, we need to live it.

The friends we make, the relationships we invest in, the way we treat other people, when we choose to make people a priority and service and compassion our lifestyle, when we take a stand rather than follow sheepishly along with the crowd—this matters, not just for us, but for the children watching our example.

It mattered for Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who chose friendship in Sodom, with those steeped in sin and selfishness.

When enemy kings invaded the land and carried Lot off as a captive, not one of his new “friends” chased down the captors to rescue him.  They quickly abandoned Lot in his need.  Shrugging helpless shoulders, they simply carried on with their own lives.

It was Abraham, the loyal friend, Lot’s faithful, caring, unselfish, God-following uncle, who left his own family and possessions and rallied a rescue team to yank Lot out of disaster (Genesis 14).

The mistake for Lot happened long before he was dragged off by the enemy. As Beth Moore writes in her study, The Patriarchs, Lot’s mistake on behalf of his family was pitching ‘his tents near Sodom’ (p. 55, Genesis 13:12).

And while we may not be choosing to revel in relationships as sin-infected as Sodom and Gomorrah, still we sometimes settle a little too “near” compromise.

Or, like Lot, we focus so much on how to prosper and get ahead, accomplish and succeed, that we fail to feed and water the seeds of friendship with the loyal and Godly few.

Or we form friendships with those who will abandon us in a quick second rather than run to our aid in times of trouble and crisis.

What we truly need is to build relationships with truly loyal, truly wild-about-God, truly kind and compassionate friends.  Friends who show grace and receive grace.

And we hold onto those people dearly, even if we disagree or life gets crazy.

How I rejoice when my daughters choose a Good Friend. Surely God’s heart is also happy when we choose to knit our hearts with good friends, those who will rescue us in trouble and carry us back to Him when we are held captive and too weak to fight the enemy ourselves.

Watching my girls, I learn, ever-the-slow-student, how friendship is worth the time.  Good friends are worth keeping.  Play dates and get-togethers aren’t busyness; they are healthy for the soul.

And this laughing with a friend, this reaching out, this service, this calling, this mourning and rejoicing together, these two bowed heads together, and these knees bending on behalf of another are a blessing to me, are a blessing to my children, are a blessing to the heart of God.

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

That Would Have Been Stupid

I could have done it by myself.

But that would have just been stupid.

Not that I didn’t think about it . . . a lot.

I awoke this morning to the sound of my two-year-old slamming open my bedroom door. Then my oldest daughter emerged from her room wrapped in her fleece blanket and looking for breakfast.

That’s when I heard it: my middle daughter scratching out the first words of her day.  She sounded like a desert travel who has gone too long without drink or shade.  “Mom,” she whispered, grasping at her throat, “water.  I need water.  Can’t . . . talk . . . . can’t . . . swallow.  Water.”

And so it began.  It’s the moment you look at your massive to-do list and the calendar showing all the places you need to be and then you glance at your child’s thermometer and you realize it ain’t happening the way you planned.  And that’s okay because she’s more important than checking off tasks on a piece of paper.

I started mentally moving activities around on my week-long chart of things to do and considering creative menu planning to help me stretch the food we had for four days, my next chance for grocery shopping.  Except we didn’t have bread.  And only a day’s supply of milk.  This could be a problem.

I called the doctor’s office and they kindly gave me the only appointment open that day, which sadly was right in the middle of nap time  Still, I was grateful they squeezed us in at all.

After I called the school, I glanced back at my calendar and remembered that I had to lead worship for a women’s Bible Study group the next day, a commitment I had made over two months ago.

Then I came up with a masterful plan.

I’d just make my two-year-old skip her nap today and drag her to the doctor’s office for my other daughter’s Strep test.  Then I’d cart them both, sick child and no-nap child, through the grocery story because without bread I couldn’t even feed my family sandwiches for dinner.  After that, I’d take them both by the church and clean up and prepare the Bible Study room for my small group.

Then the next day, I’d bring my toddler and my sick daughter, along with a cup of water and a throw-up bucket, to the ladies’ group where she could sit next to the piano while I led worship.

Why not?  I’ve done crazy stuff like that before.  It could work.

Maybe.  But it would be stupid.

So, I emailed a friend and asked her to lead Bible Study for me that night and she even offered to clean up the room after our project from the week before.

Then I called my mother-in-law and asked her to watch my girls while I led worship the next day.  She asked if I needed help with the two-year-old during the doctor’s visit in the afternoon during nap time.  No, of course I don’t need help, no way, I can do it . . . Well, actually, to be honest, help would be really nice.

I can’t be the only one who does this, practically killing myself at times all to avoid asking others for help.  Somehow, requesting help from others is always more difficult than asking God for a hand.

Because I am Woman, hear me roar!
Because I hate to inconvenience others who are also busy.
Because it feels really good when you’ve practically killed yourself doing things on your own to survey the results of the stress and realize “I Did That Myself.”

Stupid pride.

Yet today when I made my calls and emails to ask for help, guess what?  People were happy to help.  Not only that, they even heaped on all kinds of blessing and grace, helping me in ways I hadn’t even thought to ask.

This is what we are supposed to do for each other, loving one another with self-sacrificing, abundant-blessing love. In fact, Paul told us this was part of fulfilling Jesus’ instructions:  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV).

Sometimes that means we’re the ones stooping down to lift the load of another to carry it a while on our own backs.  Sometimes we’re the one others lean on, the person others call in times of need and distress.

And that’s a joy to do.

But then there are those days when our own load is pushing our shoulders low to the ground or we realize that short of cloning ourselves, we just can’t get it all done.

When someone notices our burdened limping and asks to help us, we too often reject them.  We deprive them of the blessing God would give them for pouring themselves out for another.

Instead, we stress ourselves and our families out when we pridefully insist on doing it all ourselves.

This isn’t about taking advantage of friends and family out of laziness or selfishness.  It’s about the mutual bearing the burdens of “one another.”  I’m part of the “one another,” and so are you.  God didn’t design anyone to be the burden-bearer for others all the time.  He designed us to have times to carry and times to rest, times to give help and times to receive it.

After all, even Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus during the walk to Golgotha (Mark 15:21).

Today, I just needed a little help with my load.  Instead of pretending I didn’t, I needed simply to receive that help and be thankful.

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

I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet

At first I thought my monster of a cat (the whopping 28-pound hairy beast, who weighs more than my two-year-old) was just scratching hard on the wall in the adjacent room.  Then all the chimes in the house rang out from every corner and the girls screamed that everything was shaking in their room.

I waited for air raid sirens or bombs and hushed my daughters until my puzzled little mind finally figured it out.

An earthquake.  In Virginia.  Well that’s weird.

Facebook was abuzz with excitement.  People posted every place they felt it up and down the East Coast.  The lines were too busy to get calls through at first and then the text messages were flying and my phone was ringing.

The news channel interrupted their regularly scheduled broadcast for this breaking news story.  Reporters called in and popped on camera, each wanting to tell their tale before they actually gave any news.  “I was in my car.”  “I was in Norfolk.”  “I was in the office.”  Oh yeah, and we’ll tell you about the epicenter and the seismic plates and the damage and the extent after we tell you what we personally experienced.

In this world now, most experiences are shared ones. The moment we feel something, we hop onto the Internet and scroll through comments to see who’s feeling it, too.

With lines of communication near instantaneous, the news updates about as quickly as my blink.hebrews10

Wow, I just felt the whole house shake.  Did you feel that?
Blink.
Oh my goodness I felt that in DC!
Blink.
An earthquake.  We had an earthquake and they felt it in NY and NC too!
Blink.
A 5.8 earthquake in Virginia.   That’s crazy!
Blink.

We’re stirring each other up, getting others excited about what is happening to us and wanting to make sure that we’re not crazy and we’re not alone.  We want to know what he’s doing and she’s feeling and are we all okay or what?

Are we that in tune with one another all the time?  Are we stirred up and excited or scared enough to set Facebook and Twitter ablaze with the shaking of the earth going on around us all the time?

In Hebrews, we’re encouraged to

“consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24 NKJV).

We’re supposed to be agitating for kindness and advocating for love.  It’s why we Christians are supposed to be doing this faith-walk together, never abandoning the church as mere “religion.”  Because we’re meant to be sharing our experiences one with another and letting the news updates fly so fast that we’re stirred up in our hearts to get involved.  No pew-sitting, casual worshiping, but active and excited, hands-on “love and good works.”

Did you see what God did?  Did you know about this need?  Can you believe how amazing God was?  Did you feel that move of the Spirit?  Is it just me, or do you see God working over here?  What should we be doing?

That’s the buzz we should feel among each other.

And the nearer we see “the Day” approaching, the more stirring up we should be doing.  Earthquakes in random places twice in the same day, tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfires.  We better mix it up down here because that’s the definition of “the Day.”

Peter took this so seriously he wrote about it to the church as he neared death.  He said:

“For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me” (2 Peter 1:12-13).

What was it he so urgently needed to remind them about?  He stirred them up “to add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

He told them to dig deep in their faith, learning all they can and then putting it into action, striving for godliness, practicing kindness, and being God’s Love to a world desperate for it.

How are you stirring up those around you?  Are you grabbing the hands of others and calling for them to run to God as hard as you can?

Or are you agitating for a new minister or complaining about the Sunday School format and gossiping about the ministry leader or writing nasty emails to the committee head?

Are you stirring up the church leaders so you can have more programs to make you happy and comfortable or are you stirring up the hearts of others to know Jesus?  To be passionate about His Word.  To be ready for His return.  To be a living, breathing touch of Christ to a world in hurting need and confusion.

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