This is Mine. God said.

Ephesians 1

“Mine.”

My son drags his dark blue towel through the living room.  It’s not even bath night, so I’m not quite sure what inspired him to stake this claim.

But he pulls it along behind him and then holds it out so I can see his territory.

“Mine.”

And then to punctuate the point, he points to the “A” I sewed onto the towel and says, “A. Andrew’s towel.”

Now, sometimes he has this whole “mine” thing mixed up.

He says, “mine” as he snatches books out of his sisters’ hands, and their blankets, and their toys, and their toothbrushes and hairbrushes, and their jackets and hats, and their shoes.

If you listen to him some days, you’d think the whole world was his personal possession.

He’s territorial like that, more than any of my girls ever were.  He stakes claims.  He demands rights.

And he holds onto what he thinks is his with a He-Man grip and a warrior’s willingness to defend his belongings by any means necessary.

When you’re two years old, you just want what you want, I suppose.

So, I teach him.  I take stands against the tiny tyrant within him.  I defend his sisters from his raids through their stuff, and when he finds something that is his, I’m quick to agree, and then teach him to share.

Yet, while I’m working to expand his vision of the world, to remind him that others matter and we can’t just trample all over them (or bite them or hit them or pull their hair), and to be gentle, and to be giving and generous….I’m also feeling a different kind of soul-challenge myself.

I wonder if I have that same warrior within to defend what Christ says is mine.

Or do I too often let the world and let others and let Satan and let my own insecurities and fears snatch away what God has given me?

In Ephesians, I read:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3 ESV).

Paul tells us what belongs to us in Christ, because of Jesus, not because we’ve earned it or worked hard to receive it.

Louie Giglio lays it all out in his book, The Comeback:

In Ephesians, the phrase ‘in Christ’ is used 10 times in the first 14 verses. That is,

You’re blessed in Christ.  You’re redeemed in Christ.  You have forgiveness of sins in Christ.  You were chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless. You have every spiritual blessing in Christ. You were included in Christ. You’ve been made aware of the plans of God in Christ. In Christ you’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit.  In Christ you’ve been loved.  In Christ is where the hope comes (bold emphasis is mine).

God says all of this belongs to us when we are in Christ.

And yet I can live defeated and depleted.

I harp on my sins and mistakes, I beat myself up with what I did wrong.

That typo.  That stupid thing I said.  I should have called her and I forgot.  I lost my temper. I’m not a good enough wife.  I wasn’t gentle with my kids.  I was foolish with my time.  I haven’t prayed enough.  I’m not a good enough Christian.  I didn’t exercise today.  I haven’t been making my kids practice the piano.  I’m not a good enough mom.  I missed notes on the piano.  What I wrote isn’t as good as what she wrote.   A friend is depending on me and I’m sure I’m letting her down.  I forgot to send the card that I meant to send and even bought and wrote but just haven’t put in the mailbox.  I’m not a good enough friend.  I should spend more time in Bible study. I should spend less time on social media.  On the other hand, I’m not doing enough on social media as a writer.  I should drink more water and less everything else.   I wanted to do that project on Pinterest with my kids and I didn’t.  I’m just not good enough.

That could be just half an hour in my head.

I should.  I need to.  I didn’t. 

I failed.

God says in Christ I’m forgiven.

He says in Christ I’m loved.

Ephesians says in Christ, I’m chosen and made holy, blameless.

In Christ, I can live with hope instead of hopelessness.

In Christ, I am redeemed.  In Christ, I am blessed.

So I need to start claiming what’s mine and living in what’s mine and defending what’s mine instead of living without.

“This is Mine.  Heather’s.”

God says this belongs to me.

 

When Holy is Dishes, Laundry, and Homework

Five puzzles, six books (or more), one game of Memory, word searches, and some tricycle training . . .

That’s what happens when we lose power or Internet at our house.  Life slows down.  When a daughter appears with board game in hand and a pleading look on her face, I have no excuse to give, no busyness to distract, nothing to prevent me from sitting  . . . and playing . . . and resting with my kids

I complain and whine with the best of them about the loss of conveniences and comfort, and I’d prefer running water with temperature control and the ability to cook meals and refrigerate food any day of the week.

But a day without email and the telephone . . . well, that’s a welcome vacation sometimes.

Christ Himself called His disciples away from the crowds and busyness of their lives to spend time with him alone, like unplugging from ministry life with its hectic pace and demands.

Mark tells us:

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:31).

In Jesus: The One and Only, Beth Moore notes that:

“the original word for rest in this verse is anapauoPauo means “to cease, give rest.”  Guess what ana means?  “Again!”  We don’t need this kind of rest just once.  We need it again and again” (p. 116).

And again  . . . and again . . . and again.

Sometimes we need to go away–or unplug– to escape all that distracts us here so we can fix our attention on Him there.  We anticipate seeing God in the specifically designated portions of our lives we call “Spiritual” and the times we have set aside as “Holy.”

But then the real work begins.

Then we must return to the daily life in all its mundane activity and we must carry into that everyday behavior all that we learned in the holy moments we had set aside.

I’m trying to see Jesus while my hands are elbow-deep in dish water and the laundry piles stack up.

Can mopping the floor be spiritual?  Can folding clothes be a God-moment? Can doing dishes be part of my quiet time?

If we deny Him a place in the mundane day-to-day life, confining Him instead to a corner of our hearts designated “God stuff,”  then we miss Him and what He’s doing in us and through us.jeremiah2913

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  Not spiritual heart pieces and holy corners, but all that is in our heart searches after God.

In Scripture, Naaman almost missed finding God.  He was a big-shot, who commanded the army of the king of Aram, a great man, a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy (2 Kings 5:1).

Hearing about Elisha the prophet, Naaman sought healing from the man of God, but Elisha didn’t even come out of his house to meet with him.  Instead, Elisha sent out a messenger with some simple instructions: “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed” (2 Kings 5:10).

This was so . . . .basic.

So unimpressive.

So nonspiritual.

And Naaman was annoyed, angry even.

Naaman wanted a magic show with special effects rather than an order to take seven baths in the Jordan.  But, his servants challenged him: “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’” (2 Kings 5:13).

A few dips in the Jordan later, Naaman’s leprosy was totally healed.  All because he obeyed God in something simple and unimpressive.

If we have our eyes set only on the spectacular, we will miss God’s healing and cleansing work in the mundane and the everyday.

Will I manage to keep this perspective over time?  Probably not.  I will likely grow weary and burdened with the stresses of daily busyness.  I’ll need to retreat again, stepping away from it all to focus solely on God.

But then I’ll come back home where dishes and laundry and homework is what happens here and in that, yes even in that dailyness and routine, I can seek God’s presence, His input, His fellowship.

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

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When the Wax Melts

Betty Ramsey won the first prize for her tulips year after frustrating year.

Lucy Ricardo decided this was the year to change that tradition.  She tended her garden carefully and begged her husband to mow the lawn before the judges came by to evaluate her flower-bed.

He promised to do it, but quit halfway through, playing hookie so he could go to a baseball game instead.

Inevitably, Lucy cranked the lawnmower up with her friend Ethel’s help.  Then she hopped on and zoomed across the yard, totally unable to stop, and ultimately mowing most of the state of Connecticut (it seemed).  The worst part is that she also mowed over Betty Ramsey’s prize flowers.

Of course Lucy wanted to win that blue ribbon for her garden, but not by knocking off the heads of Betty’s tulips. What would Betty Ramsey think?

So, in a classic “Lucy” brainstorm, she planted wax flowers in Betty’s garden, hoping to fool Betty and the judges.

Then when her husband Ricky sauntered in after the baseball game, Lucy sent him outside to finish mowing the lawn.  Since it was so dark, though, he couldn’t see well enough to avoid Lucy’s own precious flower bed.

His solution?  Plant wax tulips to replace Lucy’s ruined flowers!

It’s one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes and the ending is unsurprising.  The problem with wax flowers in the heat of the day is that they melt into a messy puddle of mush.  That’s what the judges found in Betty and Lucy’s gardens, earning them both a disqualification instead of a blue ribbon.

Wax fruit has the same weakness as wax flowers.  It may be deceptively shiny, catching the light and gleaming in an appetizing way.  The apples may be deeply red and the oranges the color of the sun.  They may be shaped to perfection, each grape a perfect juicy-looking sphere.

But in the end, it’s still fake. It can’t hold together in heat and one mouthful would send you spitting and gagging to the nearest glass of water.

Fake flowers for Lucy, fake fruit for us—it’s the appeal of the moment and the sacrificing of what’s genuine for what’s currently convenient.

Paul tells us exactly what real fruit looks like, the kind that grows when we’re abiding in the One True Vine:

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23b).

Everywhere I turn, I learn about this fruit.  I started a new Bible study–on the fruit of the Spirit.  I picked up a book from the church library on this same fruit. It’s in the devotionals I read and the lessons that I hear.

It’s tempting then, since this fruit matters so much, to skip to growth and maturity without the process.  How can I have the fruit without the tending and pruning and remaining in the vine?

Can I discipline myself into patience?  Can I watch my tongue closely enough to constitute gentleness?

Is this fruit that I can fake with my own personal strength and resources or because I’m generally a nice person?

In her devotional, Diamonds in the Dust, Joni Eareckson Tada writes:

It’s impossible to manufacture the fruit of the Spirit …you can paint a veneer of joy and put up a facade of self-control, but invariably you will be found out.  You can only deceive yourself and others for so long with false love and plastic peace (p. 257).

Yes, eventually the heat of life melts the fake fruit you’ve tried to attach to the Vine with super-glue and wire.

The problem, as the devotional notes, is that when we try to fake our own life fruit, we do it by skipping to the end result.  God, however, “grows genuine fruit in the opposite order” (Joni Eareckson Tada 257).  His emphasis is on planting His Word in us and growing our relationship with Him.

This fruit of the Spirit must be supernatural makeup in order to be genuine.  No amount of “nice girl” qualities can fake the love, kindness, goodness and gentleness of God’s Spirit within us.

And we might try to mosey along on our own good manners and general likeability for a while, passing off our own character traits as holy fruit.  But we’ll ultimately melt into a puddle of wax mush.

Scripture tells us, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).  So, don’t pursue blue-ribbon fruit; focus on abiding in Him.

It’s not patience we seek, it’s Jesus.  It’s not faithfulness we ask for; it’s the Holy Spirit alive and real in our lives.  As we feed on the Vine and refuse to disconnect regardless of life, busyness, circumstances and other temptations, God will grow the fruit in us, genuine Spirit fruit, lasting and beautiful, a testimony not to us, but to the Vine itself.

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