Why I Can’t Mop My Floor Today

It’s all part of the plan, my strategy for party preparation.

With visitors expected, I’ve engaged in a running dialogue with the mess in my home.

All week long I’ve glanced at the kitchen floor with juice spills and mystery splatter and thought….”If I mop you today, I’ll just have to do it again on Friday.  Someone will surely spill as soon as you’re clean.”

And to the dust gathering on the television stand in the living room, I promised a wipe with a soft cloth Friday evening.

I interrupted my normal vacuuming schedule earlier in the week so that I could zoom through the house just hours before the company’s arrival.

This has been my strategy of preparation.  Knowing as I do exactly when those first little knocks on our door will occur, I can target the precise moment when my house is the cleanest and shiniest and in most presentable shape.

I hope.christmas10

Being prepared for visitors is no exact science, you know, and it’s even less so readying ourselves for God.  Christmas, after all, focuses so much on preparation. 

The Jewish people, after waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah, the savior of their people–and the world— felt more than ready, perhaps even impatient, for His coming.

But they weren’t.  Not really.  So God sent a messenger, John the Baptist, who shouted out the news to prepare, get ready, make yourselves right before God because the Savior was coming.

Still, when Christ came, there was no room, no readiness.  Instead there was debate and jealousy, hatred and power plays.

Only a few men and women willingly allowed God to interrupt their lives and their personal agendas in order to make room for His Glory.  Only a few were ready for obedience.

Mary, bowing the head in submission, doing chores one second and carrying the Son of God in her womb the next.

Joseph, heeding the dreams God gave Him, marry this virgin with Child, take her to Egypt to save the baby from a murderous king, travel back home when King Herod had died.

Shepherds, tending sheep in the night, earning a living, toiling as usual, following the instructions of angels to a baby in a manger, worshiping, and spreading the news across the countryside.

Sages from the East journeying for years, far from their homes and their prominence and wealth in order to lay at the feet of a child gifts of honor and adoration.

Their readiness wasn’t that of twiddling their thumbs, idling their time so that at the slightest move of the Holy Spirit they could jump up in response to His command.

Instead, they were all busy, actively serving in their jobs and homes, doing the daily thing with faithfulness, attention, and care.  And then God spoke.

An angel’s voice.
A dream.
A heavenly choir.
A mysterious star.

And they laid it all aside to follow after God, wholeheartedly, passionately, abandoning everything in order to be present and part of His plan.

May we be so ready this season and every season for God’s movement.  We don’t want to miss it! Even more than that, let us not be an obstruction or hindrance to the miraculous wonder of God.

God always knows the exact moment to move; His timing is relentlessly perfect.  Let us, then, be expectant and ready to obey Him regardless of our plan or agenda or expectation:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

When the time has fully come, may our hearts be ready and our lives prepared for the movement of God.

How are you preparing for Christ’s work in you in the new year?

Originally posted December 8, 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 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 © 2013 Heather King

Christmas Devotionals: Always Expect the Unexpected

My schedule is a delicate balance.

There’s a shopping day.  A scrub the bathrooms and the floors day.  Laundry days (one doesn’t cut it!).  Ballet day and another ballet day and yet another day at the dance studio.  Volunteer day.  Eat lunch with the kids at school day. Writing day.  Bible Study prep day.  Prayer meeting day.  Homework day and library day.christmas9

It’s an intricate design that took effort and some trial and error to develop, but by October it all settled into a perfect rhythm.

Then December arrived and stomped all over my perfectly balanced schedule like a giant through a flower bed.

Suddenly, my calendar has arrows swapping events in my week, items written in ink now crossed out and rewritten on different days and at different times.

Oh yeah, can you fit in a class party?  And a holiday concert?  Could you make gifts for teachers and stop by the Christmas get-together?  Mom, what are we doing for my birthday?  Can we have an extra cantata practice?

Onto the calendar it goes.  I’ve begun color-coding the items. Red is for the really super important things that I absolutely cannot forget, but am certain I’m going to miss.  I add dark circles around those also.  And some stars and exclamation marks.  You can’t go wrong with stars.

Now my calendar has become illegible.  So, I switch to the daily agenda plus master to-do list that spans the next two weeks.

Add in the meal plan for family dinners up through Christmas and the shopping list that I had to restart the day after I just went to the grocery store, and the planning is complete.

How euphoric it would be to keep the schedule in balance at all times and for the expected activities to happen on the assigned days!

No doing laundry on shopping day.  No extra trip to the store when it is supposed to be writing day.  No third trip to the school on a day I’ve scheduled for cleaning house.

It would all be so expected.  So perfectly planned.  So in control.

That’s the problem, though, isn’t it?  I have a certain capacity for juggling and as long as I’m tossing around the same few balls, I’m a fairly competent performer.

But when God tosses an unexpected ball into my rhythm and routine, I’m liable to drop them all on the ground.

To a certain extent, I need to practice the “no” and guard the schedule.  Keep it simple.  Don’t try to do too much.  Don’t over-commit.

At other times, though, the schedule just is what it is.  The lesson isn’t about eliminating activity.  It’s about allowing God to shuffle our expectations and disrupt our plans so that we remember how much we need Him.

It’s His reminder that we can’t always package up our days with decorated wrapping paper and a shiny bow, oh so neat and perfect.  Life is messy at times.  Chaotic in some moments.  Fairly unexpected so many days.

The one constant is Him and even He has a way of surprising us.

I think somehow it’s appropriate that December is the month when my calendar is left in tatters and all my perfect plans are shattered.  It’s a reminder that God has a way of shaking us up, mystifying us, and going far beyond our imagination.

Like the fact that the Savior of us all, the long-awaited Messiah, entered this world as a baby.

In Nativity scenes, we usually see the pristine image of well-groomed stable animals, fresh hay, perfect baby wrapped in bright white cloth.  Mary is already back to her pre-pregnancy weight and looking like she didn’t just labor and give birth.

But God chose to come to this earth the messy way.  It was childbirth.  It was pain.  It was blood.  It wasn’t even in the sterile white setting of a hospital, but all smelly and oppressive like the barn it was.

A newborn, a little Child came to save the world.

The Light of the World entered in darkness, while nocturnal shepherds kept the night-watch over their sheep.

The King of kings arrived in a stable.

The Eternal God, the Word who in the beginning was “with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning”—lay in a manger with baby dimples and the red skin of a newborn (John 1:1).

Have you settled into a routine and rut with God?  Have you figured Him all out?  Have you gotten comfortable with what you can do and with what you believe He can do?  Have you scheduled Him and assigned Him portions of your life?

Don’t be too sure!

Just when we figure everything out and fit everything in, God often will interrupt and amaze, befuddle and change your direction.

As Paul writes: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes” (Ephesians 3:20-21, MSG)

Originally posted on December 14, 2011

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 © 2013 Heather King

Christmas Devotionals: Elizabeth, Candy Land, and a lesson in humility

“Congratulations.”

That’s the word we taught our daughters to say when they lost at Candy Land.

Maybe around 2 years old when they could first maneuver those colored gingerbread men around that candy-covered game board, we taught them this massive word.

Mastering the vocabulary came difficult.  They lisped out ‘congratulations’ and we’d smile over the cuteness of a tiny person tackling the syllables.

But more difficult than that, harder than the language itself, was the heart uprising at having to spill out “congratulations” to someone else.

Because we all want to win…all the time.  And when someone else’s gingerbread man landed on that last rainbow square right at the candy castle, that wrecked little hearts in all their innate selfishness and self-centered ways.

Oh, how the wrestling match with our enemy pride begins so young and does it ever actually end?  Will we ever slam that opponent down on that mat and claim victory over such a foe?

If Christmas is about anything, though, it’s about God coming low.

Paul writes:

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he 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 2:5-8 NIV).

He made himself nothing.  Our God chose to be man, born all bloody and small in a stable of dust and grime, straw, animal feed, and manure.christmas8

“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” that’s what Paul wrote.

Yet, still pride and envy destroy us, destroy our churches, our friendships, and our ministries because we scramble and shove for the spotlight, the glory and the prize.

We may no longer be counting the squares on a Candy Land board, and yet saying that word, ‘congratulations’ with genuine joy at another’s success may come difficult.

When their ministry takes off….
When they buy that huge new house….
When they book that dream vacation…
When their kids bring home that report card….

I marvel at John the Baptist.

Before Jesus came along preaching and healing, John gathered crowds by the river and baptized them into repentance and renewal.  He was the long-awaited prophet, the voice crying out in the wilderness.

So, John’s followers didn’t appreciate the attention the upstart Jesus was stealing away from John’s long-term ministry. But John wasn’t bothered at all, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).

In that familiar old Christmas story, I see where this began.

I see how John learned young to step aside humbly and worship the One who is greater.  I see how he didn’t strive for his own glory or stake his own claim to attention and praise.

His mama taught him.

Elizabeth was about six months pregnant with her own miracle baby when Mary came for a surprise visit.

For six months, Elizabeth treasured the joy of a son-to-be, a prophecy spoken over her very own baby.  How she had longed for a child during those years of barrenness, and now she was truly expectant.  And not just any baby.  But the forerunner of the Messiah in her very own womb.

Yet, when Mary walked into Elizabeth’s house unexpectedly, Elizabeth didn’t give way to jealousy or territorial cattyness.  She didn’t rush to tell her own story or pridefully demand any attention for herself

She stepped aside.

She extended a joyful and genuine ‘Congratulations’ to the young woman before her.

And she worshiped.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”  (Luke 1:41-45 NIV).

Pride chains us down to a captivity of our own creation.

It’s freeing, though, to look past our own lives and choose instead to reach out to others.

It’s freeing to rejoice with those who rejoice.

It’s freeing to listen more than we talk.

It’s the freedom of making this life less about us and all about Him and serving others.

And the lesson begins here at Christmas as Elizabeth humbly congratulates and blesses the teenage girl before her.

As Elizabeth’s own unborn son becomes the first person to worship the still unborn Savior.

And as God Himself grew within the confines of a womb, our God of light couched for a time in darkness waiting to be born.

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 © 2013 Heather King

Devotionals for Christmas: How to answer when your preschooler asks, “Why?”

She asks me:  Why?

Why was the serpent bad in that garden?

Why did Eve give the fruit to Adam, too?

Why did God choose Mary to be Jesus’ mom?

Why did the people shout to kill Jesus when He didn’t do anything wrong?

Why did they slam that crown of thorns down on Jesus’ head and why did they lash His back again and again and again?

Why did He die on that wooden cross?

Why did the women put burial spices on His body and why did they wrap Jesus in those cloths?

Why did Jesus walk on out of that grave?

I try to break it all down, this Gospel, and explain it in the language of a four-year-old.  But I stumble and trip, throw in words she doesn’t understand and then toss them out again.

Start, stop, start over.  That’s how it goes.

I answer.

But she asks again.

Why?

In the minivan, at the dinner table, as we turn the pages of her children’s Bible, as she holds my hand and walks out the door, she asks.  Over and over we walk through the Gospel, letting it sink down deep into her heart and mind, and I pray that the seed sewn and watered will sprout faith, strong and true.

We adults tend to complicate this Good News, fumbling to unwrap the beautiful simplicity with our overgrown paws.

There is, after all, depth here.  No matter how down deep we dig into God’s Word, there is rich truth to uncover.

Paul exclaimed:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  (Romans 11:33 NIV).

Wasn’t that part of the trouble for the Pharisees, though?  They piled on laws, rules, legalism and judgment, tripping people up with their obstacle-ridden path to redemption.  They took something simple and made it so difficult.

And yet, how capable our God is at breaking down the difficult and complex, making it simple so we, His own precious children can understand.

In the same way, we can tangle the Christmas story in details and asides, but God unravels the mess and says it clear:

 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Matthew 1:18

In the Women of Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs writes, “He summarized the main characters and their plight in a single sentence.”Wreath of Snow_cvr.indd

That’s what we need.  We need our God to free us from complicated explanations and tricky religious routines.  We need Him to be clear.  We need Him to break it down.

Because when salvation gets complicated, we lose sight of grace.  It becomes about us instead of all about Him.

We know what a disaster that is.

Paul tells us what we bring to this salvation table:

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient.  We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures.  Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.  (Titus 3:3 NLT).

What a mess we make.  Foolish, disobedient, mistaken, slaves to sin, evil, envious, and filled with hate—that’s what we are without God.

“But…”

That’s what Paul writes next.  One three-letter word of hope and freedom for all of us chained to sin.

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”  (Titus 3:4-7 NLT)

We bring mess.titus3

He brings mercy.

It’s as simple as that.

All of those “Why’s” my preschooler asks and all of the “why’s” I myself ask when life seems complicated and confusing find their answer here:  “because of his mercy.”

And Christmas, oh how we can tangle it right up with confusion and busyness, but here is the clear and simple truth:

It was at Christmas that God revealed His kindness and love, mercifully, generously, with a Savior we didn’t deserve and a sacrifice we didn’t merit.

Why did God send a Savior?

Why did He come as a baby?

Why did He take that crown of thorns, endure that lashing of the whip, die there on that cross?

Why did He walk out of that tomb, alive anew?

Because of His mercy.

Yes, because of His grace.

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 © 2013 Heather King

“Always Expect the Unexpected,” Christmas and December

Originally posted on December 14, 2011

My schedule is a delicate balance.

There’s a shopping day.  A scrub the bathrooms and the floors day.  Laundry days (one doesn’t cut it!).  Make bread day.  Ballet day.  Volunteer day.  Eat lunch with the kids at school day. Writing day.  Bible Study prep day.  Prayer meeting day.  Homework day and library day.

It’s an intricate design that took effort and some trial and error to develop, but by October it all settled into a perfect rhythm.

Then December arrived and stomped all over my perfectly balanced schedule like a giant through a flower bed.

Suddenly, my calendar has arrows swapping events in my week, items written in ink now crossed out and rewritten on different days and at different times.20931038_s

Oh yeah, can you fit in a class party?  And a holiday concert?  Could you make gifts for teachers and stop by the Christmas get-together?  Mom, what are we doing for my birthday?  Can we have an extra cantata practice?

Onto the calendar it goes.  I’ve begun color-coding the items. Red is for the really super important things that I absolutely cannot forget, but am certain I’m going to miss.  I add dark circles around those also.  And some stars and exclamation marks.  You can’t go wrong with stars.

Now my calendar has become illegible.  So, I switch to the daily agenda plus master to-do list that spans the next two weeks.

Add in the meal plan for family dinners up through Christmas and the shopping list that I had to restart the day after I just went to the grocery store and the planning is complete.

How euphoric it would be to keep the schedule in balance at all times!  For the expected activities to happen on the assigned days.

No doing laundry on shopping day.  No extra trip to the store when it is supposed to be writing day.  No third trip to the school on a day I’ve scheduled for cleaning house.

It would all be so expected.  So perfectly planned.  So in control.

That’s the problem, though, isn’t it?  I have a certain capacity for juggling and as long as I’m tossing around the same few balls, I’m a fairly competent performer.

But when God tosses an unexpected ball into my rhythm and routine, I’m liable to drop them all on the ground.

To a certain extent, I need to practice the “no” and guard the schedule.  Keep it simple.  Don’t try to do too much.  Don’t over-commit.

At other times, though, the schedule just is what it is.  The lesson isn’t about eliminating activity.  It’s about allowing God to shuffle our expectations and disrupt our plans so that we remember how much we need Him.

It’s His reminder that we can’t always package up our days with decorated wrapping paper and a shiny bow, oh so neat and perfect.  Life is messy at times.  Chaotic in some moments.  Fairly unexpected so many days.

The one constant is Him and even He has a way of surprising us. I think somehow it’s appropriate that December is the month when my calendar is left in tatters and all my perfect plans are shattered.  It’s a reminder that God has a way of shaking us up, mystifying us, and going far beyond our imagination.

Like the fact that the Savior of us all, the long-awaited Messiah, entered this world as a baby.

In Nativity scenes, we usually see the pristine image of well-groomed stable animals, fresh hay, perfect baby wrapped in bright white cloth.  Mary is already back to her pre-pregnancy weight and looking like she didn’t just labor and give birth.

But God chose to come to this earth the messy way.  It was childbirth.  It was pain.  It was blood.  It wasn’t even in the sterile white setting of a hospital, but all smelly and oppressive like the barn it was.

A newborn, a little Child came to save the world.

The Light of the World entered in darkness, while nocturnal shepherds were keeping the night-watch over their sheep.

The King of kings arrived in a stable.

The Eternal God, the Word who in the beginning was “with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning”—lay in a manger with baby dimples and the red skin of a newborn (John 1:1).

Have you settled into a routine and rut with God?  Have you figured Him all out?  Have you gotten comfortable with what you can do and with what you believe He can do?  Have you scheduled Him and assigned Him portions of your life?

Don’t be too sure!

Just when we figure everything out and fit everything in, God often will interrupt and amaze, befudddle and change your direction.

As Paul writes: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes” (Ephesians 3:20-21, MSG)

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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Christmas Devotions: Christmas Eve and a Letter to a Savior

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”
(Luke 2:19)

I was eleven and my Bible Study teacher gave our class a homework assignment for Christmas break.

Write a letter to God, she said.  Make it a prayer, a re-dedication, an offering of my own treasures, not the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of wise men, but the very finest gifts I could lay at the feet of a worthy God.

It was my Christmas gift to Him.  I wrote it out on Christmas Eve, folded it up, tied it with a ribbon and placed it under the Christmas tree.

Two decades later, I have twenty years of Christmas Eve letters to God.  It’s my most intimate and holy Christmas tradition. This Christmas Eve, I fingered the packet of letters and marveled at God’s gracious work in me.

One of my “rules” is no peeking at the letters on any day of the year other than Christmas Eve.  Yet, on that one night a year, I can glance back at twenty years of me drawing near to God just as He drew near to us on the first Christmas of all.

Usually by about February each year I can see clear answers to the prayers I scribbled out on the page just months before.

In some ways, this prayer letter is my moment to lay gifts before the King as the wise men did.  It’s my re-commitment to serve Him in a new year and place at His feet the deepest desire of my heart to give Him praise.  I offer Him my very life, noting the places He is already at work in my character and asking Him for spiritual growth so I can bring Him glory.

Like the angels, though, I am also praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:14), as I give thanks and specific praise for the blessings of the year drawing to a close.

Then, like the shepherds, I turn my attention away from the busyness of work and daily life to see what God is doing in the heavens.  I write my letter to God at night after my daughters are asleep, the dishes are done, the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. There, in near-darkness, illumined almost solely by Christmas lights, I pray and write.

I look away from the “sheep” in my care, lift my eyes and attune my heart to hear the announcement of good news, of promises for the future and the certainty of promises fulfilled.  I dwell not just on what God has done or what He is doing, but what He will do in the new year.  What burdens has He placed on my heart?  What directions has He asked me to travel?  What steps of obedience has He asked me to take?

Mostly though, my Christmas letter is a moment to be like Mary, who after the shepherds came “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Sometimes God’s work in our lives needs times of reflection and stillness.  What He reveals to us as we sit at His feet isn’t always meant for public announcements or official New Year’s resolutions, or campaigns or church-wide programs.

Sometimes God asks us to ponder and treasure, to reflect, pray, and wait for the appointed time.

So, I ponder.  I ask for God’s perspective on my marriage, my kids, my ministry and job and heart and mind.

Instead of monopolizing my conversation with an oh-so-patient God, I ask for His perspective.  Before I ever begin to write, I flip through my prayer journal and track the themes I see there.

How at times everything I read seems to be about grace.  Or prayer.  Or allowing Him to bring light into dark places. Or believing God for the impossible.  Or how He is a God who restores.

I follow the clear path of what He has already been doing in my life and then I join Him there in that place.  Yes, Lord, I pray, be at work here.  I will join You.  I will be submissive and receptive to what You want to do in me.

It’s not too late for you to sit in the stillness of a Christmas Eve and write your own letter this year.  What a perfect time to begin a holy and intimate tradition of your own.  A letter to Your Savior.

What gifts do you have to lay before the King?  What songs of thanks can you sing in the night?  What do you see in the spiritual places when you shift your focus off the physical daily routine of life?  What has God been doing in you and teaching you that you need to ponder in your heart?

Originally posted on December 26, 2011

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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Christmas Devotions: A Birthday Encounter and the Magi

Originally posted on December 21, 2011
Today is my oldest daughter’s eighth birthday.  Here’s the post I wrote last year when she turned seven about growth and how encounters with God change us.

“Having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:12).

Seven.

My oldest daughter turns seven today.  She asked me to stop calling her “Baby girl” this week.  She seemed to think that seven year olds are too big for a nickname as embarrassingly babyish as that.

Birthdays never seem to be what my “Big girl” expects.  We take a birthday trip.  We do presents.  She shares in time with friends and family.  We sing to her.  She picks out her favorite cake (spice with cream cheese icing) and her favorite dinner (tacos or chicken and dumplings).  We celebrate her that day and she’s sheepish and sweet and content.

But at night as she climbs back into bed, she wonders why she hasn’t grown six inches.  Why, if she’s now seven years old, is she still wearing some 6X clothing?

Somehow my girl thinks an annual encounter with a birthday candle should provide immediate change, as if it’s a fairy dust *poof* over her head.

I can’t say how these things happen.  I remember so clearly the night nurse bringing my newborn into my hospital room at 3 a.m. seven years ago to the day.  She was screaming inconsolably.  Didn’t want to cuddle.  Didn’t want food.  Just needed to scream in protest for a bit.  I looked up at the nurse with the fear of a brand new mom and asked, “What should I do?”  She shook her head at me and said, “I don’t know!”  Then she walked out leaving me with Victoria, still screaming at the top of her lungs.

She was strong from the beginning.  Sure of herself, demanding of others.  Determined.  Sensitive and full of big emotions that just didn’t fit all bottled up and contained in a little body.

I remember her crawling, walking, talking, reading, dancing, and her first day of preschool and kindergarten and first grade.  Her love of horses, princesses, tea parties, arts and crafts, sparkles, and dancing and the mystery she is to me.

And yet, I can’t say when she grew up.

When, after all, does change happen for any of us?

Surely we have that immediate moment of course redirection when we first choose to worship Jesus.  Paul describes it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

One encounter with Jesus was enough to change the Magi’s travel plans also.

They had come from the east to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1).

Their Messiah pursuit wasn’t popular.  It disturbed King Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3).

Undeterred, the wise men followed the star and found Christ.  They were overjoyed, bowed down and worshiped him, presenting the gifts they had carefully toted along on their journey.

Then, “having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:12).

It was a practical decision for them.  To trick King Herod, they slipped quietly out of the country.

It’s spiritual for us.  We meet Jesus and from then on, we simply can’t travel back the same way we came.  We have to follow “another route.”

Nor is this a one-time course correction for us.  Just like my birthday girl who doesn’t magically grow six inches at each birthday, so we change gradually.  There’s the initial moment of commitment to Christ and we are a new creation.

Then there are seasons of growth spurts as God performs focused work on our character. Intense encounters with God cause us to drastically change course.

At other times, the change is slow and daily as we shed layers and layers of flesh.  It’s so gradual we can’t always see it until someone sees the change in us.

They see how we react differently now.  How our words are seasoned with grace.  How people have become our primary heart motivation.  How our hearts are broken for the lost. They see that the faith we profess now impacts our motivation and activity.

It’s the change God is working in our hearts, just as Paul said: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

But the ever-increasing transformation in us requires us to drop the veil from our faces and “contemplate the Lord’s glory.“  Like the Magi saw Jesus after their relentless, focused, studious search for Him, we have to seek God in order to see God.

That’s our task, to “look for God like the watchmen looks for the morning” (Psalm 130:6).  We search.  We find Him.  We adjust our course to follow Him.

That’s how change happens.  That’s how we grow.

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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Christmas Devotionals: God With Us

I remember thinking that I would have done the same thing.

When some friends and I visited the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC this summer, we began by picking up a tiny booklet that allowed us to follow the story of someone who lived during that time.

My booklet told the story of a survivor.

My friend’s booklet, though, told about a mom with a young daughter.  When they stepped off the train car at the concentration camp, the guards separated them into two lines, the children pushed apart from their moms.  The women were considered fit for labor.  The kids, though, considered a burden without benefit, were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

The mom in my friend’s booklet refused to leave her daughter’s side.  She must have clung desperately to that little hand and I imagined her saying, “Don’t be afraid.  Mommy’s with you,” even as they walked the slow walk to death.

I would want to be there, too, for all the frightening things my children faced.  I would have wanted to stay in the same line.

People have asked me repeatedly how I’m doing following the school shooting in the news this past week.  What can I say but I can’t imagine my children facing terror without me…

And this world is a terrifying place at times.  Last week, I drove my minivan out of the school parking lot and watched as another mom squeezed her fourth grade son before they got into their car.  When a lunatic gunman rampages in an elementary school, we all cry, we all lose our words, we all shake our head, we all hold our own children just a little tighter and remember to be oh so grateful that night.

We all fear.  I do it, too.  After the news headlines, I want so much to retreat with my kids to a secluded cabin in the woods, my pitiful attempt to protect them from the madness of sin in this world.

That’s the truth of it all, that we live on a sin-scarred planet and while there are hints of beauty here and there is mercy and grace, there is also pain and sorrow.  So, what hope do we have?  How can we wake day after day, not in defeat, resignation or anxiety, but with the joy of the Lord and the peace of salvation?

The gospel message is all about hope for the hopeless, light in the darkness, joy in sorrow and peace in turmoil.  It’s for those hopeless enough to feel like one more day alive is too much to bear.  It’s for those of us watching the clock at night, too worried about bills and our kids, our marriages, conflicts with family, or problems at work to sleep in peace.  It’s even for a worrier like me, anxious over my daughter’s birthday parties and the plans for a church Christmas cantata.

It’s for the daily troubles that we turn into crises and for the life-and-death struggles we sometimes face.

It’s the reminder that God came here to be with us so we wouldn’t be alone and He will not leave our side.

That’s the hope we have.  Not us alone in a crazy, mixed-up, broken world.  Not us alone facing bills and divorce, depression or stress.

Emmanuel.  God with us.GodWithUs1 copy

As it says in Isaiah “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

That wasn’t just God’s plan for our past.  It’s been His passion from the beginning of Creation—to be with us.  It was His driving desire all those years of patiently planning for our salvation through Christ’s coming, His death, His resurrection.

It’s the great passion of God’s heart even now.  In the book of Revelation, we are told that when the battle is over and Christ establishes His forever kingdom here, God will say:

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

This is the hope we have every single day and it’s the hope we have for eternity.  God never leaves us to face the darkness or the anxiety alone, never the tough times, never the fear-filled moments.

He chose to be with us so we could choose to be with Him.

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

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

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