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.)

Guest Post and Giveaway!

We’re throwing a little party here today in honor of Pastor Appreciation Month.  So, grab a slice of cake and enjoy this post by John P. King over at Smoking Newspaper.  He’s a former pastor who has written a funny and insightful book about lessons learned in ministry.

And what would a party be without a present?

So, I’m going to give away a signed copy of his book.  All this week, I’d love to hear from you just one thing that you have prayed or will be praying for your pastor.  One word or a quick sentence is fine.  Let’s encourage and inspire one another to pray for our pastors this month. It’s okay to duplicate others’ ideas.  If it’s what’s on your heart, just share it!

Leave a comment here or on Facebook.  Each comment gets you an entry and I’ll draw the winner using random.org and announce it in Saturday’s post.

And by all means stop by John’s blog and check out his devotionals. He’s even posted the first chapter for you!  If you don’t win the book, you can find it on Amazon.com here: Don’t Smoke the Newspaper and Other Lessons Learned by a Pastor.

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When I was pastoring in Oregon, a young man approached me and told me that he believed the Lord wanted him to be a pastor.  As we talked, the first question he asked me as he wrestled with what God wanted him to do was, “What is pastoring like?”  I have to admit that I wasn’t ready for that question.  That one was a little different from the normal question, “What does a pastor do?”  I had heard that question a hundred times.  It’s a whole lot easier to answer about what one does than what something is like.  However, a job description complete with responsibilities of both the spiritual and mundane, and a list of daily, monthly, and yearly activities was not what he was after.  He wanted to know what he would be experiencing, not doing, if he followed the Lord’s call.

I thought for a moment and searched for a description of what my work, what my life, was like.  I took this young man to the pulpit of the church and had him look out over the seats.  I said, “Imagine all of the people of our church sitting in the pews.  Now understand that on any given week, half of them will be experiencing some kind of victory.  Life will be good for them.  Imagine that all the people on the left side of the sanctuary are standing up because they are handling life.  On the other hand, all the people on the right side are sitting down because life is handling them.  They are going through some kind of struggle; a temptation, or trial, or tragedy.  And as they go through, they will come to you looking for help commensurate to their need.”

“Next week, they will all switch places.  The people on the right will be standing in victory, and the people on the left will be down, slogging through the difficulties of life.  And the next week, they will switch back.  And then switch back. And back again.  And again.”

I explained to him that when dealing with the Christian life and the daily ministry we all should be engaged in, the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  That is what the pastorate was like; rejoicing and weeping.  Only the problem was, as I had mentioned earlier, the people who are toughing things out will always come to you. Unfortunately, the people in victory rarely do.  So you are always tilting to the ones who are “weeping,” whichever side of the aisle they are on.  The pastorate is a see-saw ride of moving from one hurting group to the next from one week to the next.

The look on his face said he was neither amused nor enthused.  Of course, I didn’t want to leave him like that, so I proceeded to tell him what a pastor does.  No, not the proverbial, full job description as mentioned earlier, but the one-line biblical definition.  Most people think that the pastor’s job is to minister.  You hire them to do the “ministry.”  However, Ephesians 4 makes it plain that the five-fold ministry, including pastors, was given to the church by Jesus Christ “…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:12).  As a pastor, he would need to train the people to do the ministry; to rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep.”  If he didn’t, then he would carry the load of “ministry” all by himself, and believe me, if he did, he would either be miserable or he wouldn’t be in the ministry for long.

With an understanding of what it’s like to be a pastor, what are my encouragements through all of this?  They are two-fold.

  1. Get engaged in the “ministry.”  It is not the pastor’s job to do it all.  It’s their job to   train us to do the ministry.  It’s not their job to build up the body of Christ.  It’s their job to equip us for the building up of the body of Christ.  If we aren’t doing our part, the body won’t grow and it will make their job exponentially more difficult.  However, if we are doing our part, then the church will grow and it will make the pastor’s job a delight.
  2. Rejoice!  Remember, the pastor has their own life and family problems to deal with too.  If the only things they ever hear from us are the hardships, it will only make them want to quit.  Pastors take great delight in their people’s triumphs and victories.  Trust  me, as a former pastor, I LOVED hearing about what God was doing in the lives of my congregation.  There was never any jealousy.  It didn’t matter if it was something “ministry” oriented or some kind of encounter with God in their daily lives.  Rejoicing  with my people always made my day.

So as God moves in your life, tell your shepherd.  They really do want to hear about it.  And don’t forget to take your place in the ministry.  Your pastor needs you.

Joy in Christ,
Rev. John P. King, M.A.
Copyright © 2012 John P. King, Used with permission
Verses from the NASB

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.

Weekend Walk: Fireplace, Meet My Toe

Last week, I walked into the fireplace.

This usually happens because I am:

a.) Doing too much too quickly.
b.) Distracted.
c.) A general klutz.
d.) All of the above.

The correct answer here is D.

Congratulations to you lucky winners!

At first, my injuries seemed slight, but over time I began to hurt every time I put my left foot to the floor.  It wasn’t my whole foot that was sore, just my pinky toe.

So, I adjusted, putting more and more weight on the other side of my foot.  This made walking look clumsy and more than a little bit ridiculous.

In fact, by the next day I was flat-out limping along, all because of one tiny little tender toe.

That night, I climbed into bed only to find that my big toe now had a blister.  This meant I had two toes out of commission.

It got worse.  The following day my entire leg was sore from limping in an effort to avoid both my pinky toe and my big toe.

The lesson here is simple.

Pay attention and don’t walk into fireplaces.

And value each member of the body, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.

Just hurting one tiny, seemingly insignificant toe–the smallest toe I have–made life difficult as other parts of me struggled to compensate.

It’s true in the church body, of course, as well.  One small (perhaps seemingly insignificant) member of the body who isn’t obeying God in ministry throws us all off balance, stresses others out, and leaves us limping and ineffective.

Here’s a Scripture verse for the week all about being a healthy, whole, non-limping body of Christ:

 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work
(1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

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.

Weekend Walk, 06/02/2012

Hiding the Word:

It’s a season of celebration.

Our family is celebrating graduations and the end of the school year, ballet recitals, concerts, plays, birthdays, and the 50th wedding anniversary for my husbands’ parents.

So, on a bright and beautiful day like today, a morning of sunshine and cool breezes on the day after torrential downpour and tornadoes hit our area, it seems fitting to meditate on a Psalm of celebration.

Our verse for the week is:

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:11-12 ESV).

Last night after my daughters’ ballet recital, families hovered under umbrellas and still arrived soaking wet to their cars.  One man stayed long after most others had left, offering to walk people to their vehicles if they didn’t have an umbrella, holding his over their heads so they could escape some of the drenching.  

I can imagine God covering us with “favor as with a shield” in a similar way.  How it’s all about his grace and kindness to us. How it’s self-sacrificing.  How it offers us more perfect protection than any umbrella off the shelves of Wal-Mart.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Weekend Rerun:

My Two Cents

Originally posted on May 9, 2011

 

With beach season approaching, I’ve been thinking . . . I’d like thinner legs.
While I’m placing orders, I’d also love to have wavy hair with no streaks of gray in it.
No glasses would be nice, too.
Yes, then I’d look really great . . . not at all like me, but great.

Fortunately, I don’t really like the beach, so I don’t dwell on these issues for long.  It’s dangerous really to look around at other people and compare ourselves to them, not just physically, but spiritually, too.  While I’m baring the deepest, darkest parts of my soul with you, I might as well honestly admit that I struggle with this at times.

For me, the trap comes primarily when I’m reading.  As a lover of words, I tend to fill every available minute with reading of some kind, even if it’s just five minutes while standing in a line.  And as I read, there are moments when I think, “If I could just change myself in this way or that way, I’d be better able to serve God.”

I don’t have the impact of this woman, the poetic mastery of language like another, the scholarly education like her, the testimony of this woman or the vast Scripture memorization like another . . . When it comes to spiritual matters, I confess I sometimes want to swap out parts of me for what looks better, not really out of jealousy or pride, but just because I long to give to God the best offering possible.

For most of us, our deep down motives are pure and true.  Out of a desire to worship and give glory, though, sometimes we glance to our sides at the offerings of others and feel we fall short.

What about you?  Have you ever looked around and wished you prayed like her, knew exactly what God called you to do like him, knew Scripture as well as she did, or had the same spiritual gift as a friend?

The eye in the Body of Christ wants to be the foot or the hand wants to be the mouth.  Imagine the Body of Christ as a Mr. Potato Head—now how silly would we look?  Unfortunately, when we eyes spend all our time trying to be feet, the Body of Christ is blind and clumsy, tripping all over itself.

“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20). 

Your gifting, your passion, your past, your experiences are all uniquely packaged together by God to form you and mold you into the vessel of His choosing.

And all He asks is that we raise our hands to release what He has already given to us:
the fullness of the talents He has bestowed
and the passions He has stirred up deep in the fires of our hearts
the issues that make us raise our voices as we step onto soapboxes
the service that we wake in the morning excited to perform
the experiences from our past that soften our hearts and make us tender to those hurting in our midst.

Our arms heavy-laden with all that we have received from Him, we then lift it all back up in worship.

We’re the only ones at times looking around to compare the gift we bring to the presents of the other worshipers.  God isn’t sifting through the gift table, shaking packages and estimating value or peeking at the cards looking for the names of the gift-bearers.

It’s just us—watching the gift table and shifting our gaze with embarrassment when another attendee brings in a cumbersome package wrapped in paper all silver and topped with a ribbon so fancy.  Then another lays on the table a gift bag filled to overflowing, tissue paper barely covering the treasures inside and we want to take our gift back.  It’s not enough.  Not for a King so worthy.  Not for a God we adore.

The widow in the temple, though, knew that true worship simply meant giving all that she had, sacrificially placing her “two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents” as an offering to God (Mark 12:42).

Others had given more, even ostentatiously so.  “Many rich people had thrown in large amounts” (Mark 12:41).  She could have watched from the corners of the temple in shame at the earthly value of what others gave and walked away clutching her cent pieces, confident that God would despise a gift so meager.

And yet, she didn’t.   And nor did He.

She gave.  He noticed.

He called His disciples over to learn from her.  Men who would eventually be asked to give up everything—even their very lives—-learning how to give sacrificially from a pauper widow almost lost in a crowd of those richer and more important than her.  All because she “put in everything” when she gave to God.

What two cents are you laying at the altar?  Your spiritual gift, your ministry, your service to your church, your sacrifice for your family, your care for another, your laying aside of personal dreams, your causes, your secret encouragement for a friend.  It’s being a hand when He made you to be a hand and being an eye when He asked you to be the eye in a body of Christ that is so dependent on every organ.

Your two cents is a gift precious to God; He only asks us to give what we ourselves have been given.

As I finish up today, I’m listening to Paul Baloche sing Offering.  I hope you take a moment to worship with me.

Offering
by Paul Baloche

I bring an offering of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
Jesus may You receive the honor that You’re due
O Lord I bring an offering to You
I bring an offering to You

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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

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

Do I Look Dead To You?

After we’ve packed the cooler, dressed everyone in bathing suits and sandals, double-checked the bag for diapers, towels, tissues, Band-Aids (for blisters), sunscreen, and more, and then loaded every last item and person into the mini-van, we have the same-old chat with our girls as we drive to Busch Gardens, the amusement park near our home.

First we begin with the safety reminders, about strangers, about wandering away from us, and what to do if you get lost.

Then we remind them that we aren’t buying every snack, toy, or novelty item strategically scattered along our path through the park.  And no whining when it’s time to go home.

We finish up with the “friends speech.”   It goes something like this:  You are sisters.  God designed you to be best friends.  Don’t ditch your sister so that you can ride in a boat or car or dragon or whatever with some random stranger who you’ll never see again.  Sisters ride together.

This last speech generally elicits the most protests.  My girls are friendly people.  They like to meet new kids and form what they are certain are life-long bonds of friendship while standing in line at Busch Gardens.

So, it was no surprise that during our spring break trek out to the amusement park, my middle daughter stood in line for a ride and then announced, “Mom, I made two new best friends!”

Not just friends.  Best friends.

And how did she know these two new girls were now her bosom buddies for life?

“They told me their names, Savannah and Julia.”

That was it.  The loyal bond formed simply by exchanging names.

Friends, best friends, nice people you’ve only just met, a stranger whose name you’ve learned, sisters, the person you thought was your close friend but who gossips about you behind your back  . . . it’s a mesh of relationships they haven’t quite figured out yet.

Identifying true friends is a skill only learned over time after experiencing both hurt feelings and faithfulness, betrayal and loyal love.

A mentor once told me that women were designed for deep friendship. Every one of us needs a Ruth and Naomi relationship, not just casual acquaintances whose names we know after a few minutes of standing in lines of life together.

Unfortunately, life is busy, complicated, hectic, and hard, and investing time in those loyal friendships seems an impossible task.

Yet, Scripture tells us this is one investment that’s worth making.

We need a friend who loves sacrificially, and for whom we likewise will sacrifice.  Jesus commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:12).

We need a friend who remains faithful even when we’re at our ugliest, worn-outest, saddest, and yuckiest, just as it says in Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

And we need something else.

We need a friend who is not afraid to get dirty with us as we live this resurrection life.

Jesus stood at the entry to the tomb of his close friend, Lazarus.  He heard the weeping of others around him.  His own tears trailed down his cheek.  The crowd scolded him for not coming earlier and healing his friend while there was still time.  The pragmatic folks complained about the stink of death and decay wafting out of a reopened tomb.  Mary and Martha shot hopeless, hurt-filled glances in Jesus’ direction.

Undeterred, Jesus demanded, “Lazarus, come out!”  (John 11:44).  The shocked crowd watched as the dead man emerged from the grave, living, breathing, and walking—alive.

But he moved slowly, maybe a little like a mummy in a sci-fi horror flick that plays on Saturday afternoon television.  He didn’t leap out from the tomb and dance before the Lord with all the joy of a resurrected fellow.

Instead, “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44 NIV).

Chris Tiegreen reminds us in One Year At His Feet “When Jesus raises us out of our sinful state of death, there is something left to do before we run free.  The grave clothes must go”  (p. 21).

That’s something Lazarus couldn’t do on his own.  Jesus instructed others to come alongside him and unwrap the linen bindings, the remnants of death and the grave that still had him hindered, trapped, and blinded.

That’s the church’s job.  That’s the job of a loyal friend, who patiently strips away all the habitual sins, guilt, shame, false beliefs, hang-ups, terrors from the past, and hurts that trip us up and slow us down.

Sometimes we simply require a love that doesn’t give up on us.

Sometimes it takes someone holding us accountable with truth and lovingly showering us with grace when we struggle with the ugliness of sin.  Proverbs 27:6 tells us: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (ESV).  Only a true friend skips the flattery and digs past the superficial chicanery of niceness in order to challenge us with a truth and encourage us to change.

Only a friend tells us when they see some of the grave clothes stubbornly stuck to our skin and then lovingly and patiently unbinds us so we can live in the freedom of new life.

We need a friend like that.  We need to be a friend like that, who brings grace and freedom to another.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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

Weekend Walk, 03/10/2012

Hiding the Word:

We’ve returned home after a long and exciting family day at our area Awana games.  Our two oldest girls competed in Sparks-A-Rama for the first time.  We cheered them on from the bleechers as they popped balloons, dodged balls, and ran like lightning-ish around the gym floor.

Our coaches and the kids worked hard for weeks to practice the games, to learn the rules, and to develop discipline, listening skills, teamwork and kindness.

I was so proud of our team. Not only that, but I loved the sweet cheerleading of my youngest daughter as she sat in the stands and picked her sisters out from the crowd.  Whether they were racing or sitting on the line while another team played, Catherine didn’t stop yelling, “Go, Toria! Go Lauren!”

We all need people in the stands cheering us on, whether we’re in the thick of the battle or resting for a few quiet moments.  God has commissioned us all with pom poms and asked us to call out our words of praise, perseverance, and encouragement for others.

So, that’s the verse that’s on my heart for the week.  It’s a challenge to each of us to be the cheerleader that someone else needs.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

Weekend Rerun:

The Giving of Courage
Originally Published 04/27/2011

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 20:24-25 

My sweet baby girl is my cheerleader.  I finish putting the clothes in the dryer and she claps her hands excitedly for me.  I change her diaper; she shouts yay!  yay!  and applauds with enthusiasm.   I drop the last of her toys into the basket and she does a happy dance and showers me with praise.  When I slide the last puzzle piece into place with her, she cheers and shouts.  If you spent the tiniest bit of time in my home, you’d think I won an Olympic medal every hour all day long because my “crowd goes wild” just that often.  My little crowd of one tiny, joyful cheerleader.

Has someone been a cheerleader for you before? 

You sit tired in the pew at church after the rush of Sunday morning preparation, but you made it and all your children sit next to you with clean clothes on.  Small victories.  Then a comforting hand reaches across your shoulder and a friend tells you, “Great job.  You’re such a great mom.”

You push your cart through the grocery store and try to efficiently and frugally shop all while monitoring the arms and legs of your various kids and periodically reminding them to use “inside voices,” when an unknown woman whispers to you, “Your children are so well-behaved.”

You pour yourself out into the ministry you know God has called you to and yet there are those moments and days when you wonder if it really matters, if it does any good, if anybody is blessed by it, if it’s worth the time and effort you spend on it.  Then, you sort through the bills after collecting your mail and find buried in there a card from a friend, a note of appreciation and thanks, a prayer, a verse.

You’ve been struggling.  Life is hard.  You don’t know what decisions to make.  You’re hurting and overwhelmed.  Then an email arrives and a friend says, “I’m praying for you.”

God uses others to bring us these messages of hope and encouragement at just the right moments in our lives, filling needs we can’t even always identify. It’s one of the reasons He designed us to travel together—He knows our hearts sometimes need this cheerleading from others.  When we stray from the group, when we go off on our own and try to live faith solo, we are easy prey for attack.  The Israelites learned this on their journey out of Egypt: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18, NIV).

If your heart is weary and in need of some encouragement today, look to your right and your left for your group; be sure that you are connected and not lagging behind.  Perhaps the first step needs to come from you in a search for the Christian community that will walk alongside you and encourage you along the journey to the Promised Land.

But you can also ask God for the refreshing your heart needs.  He knows exactly what will fill your spirit, giving you strength to overcome fatigue, guidance when you need direction, laughter when your heart lacks joy.  As the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, God led them to an oasis: “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:27).    Priscilla Shirer writes: “‘Twelve springs of water’ to match the twelve tribes of Israel.  What a great illustration of God’s overwhelming care and specific concern for His people.  He knows exactly what it takes to refresh you.”

He is the shepherd who knows His sheep.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Sometimes we sheep feel the hunger and thirst; we know we are empty and in need of filling, but we depend on a Shepherd to guide us to the perfect place for refreshing and provision.

And when He has led us beside the waters so perfect and the green pastures so filling, we have a testimony to share with others, a story to help them along the way as well.  Like the Psalmist, we declare:

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7-8).

We who have received encouragement, in turn encourage others through our testimony.  This encouraging truly is the giving of courage, placing it into the heart of another.  Isn’t that what this cheerleading does? It renews our strength so that we persevere and press on.  God asks us to do this for one another, to stand on the sidelines of a race and cheer, shout, and applaud for the runners: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

How can you be a cheerleader for someone else today?

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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

Working Together

Had you seen me that day, you would have thought I discovered hidden pirate treasure or the Lost City of Atlantis.

Instead, it was a small dark blue suitcase sitting outside a local thrift store.

I spotted it from my car and parked in record time.  Power walking over to the store front, I darted my eyes side to side to make sure no one else had also seen this fabulous find and was determined to race me for it.

Once my hand was on the handle, I quickly inspected it, tried out the zipper, decided it was the most perfect little suitcase ever manufactured and carried it inside where I handed the cashier $2 so I could take it home.

Finding that suitcase made my day and it’s not because I’m packing for an overnight trip.

No, it’s because a friend of mine has a passion and she invited others to join in a mission with her.  So now I feel personally commissioned to locate and obtain small suitcases in good condition and when I’m on a mission, look out world!

I’m not the only one hunting for these bags either.  Others are doing the same thing.  And to think, yard sale season hasn’t even begun yet!

You can read all about Andrea’s passion here at her blog.

In her time as a foster mom, Andrea’s had three little ones come to her family with their belongings in trash bags.  It turns out, that’s “normal” for foster children.  They are uprooted from the only home and family they know, sent to live with strangers, and the few items that they own–their most precious possessions—are toted along with them in a bag meant for garbage.

It’s pretty hard to imagine any child feeling special, loved, and secure with that as their “normal.”

So, Andrea wants to change that and she asked us to join with her.  Her goal is to collect enough suitcases so that each child who comes through our local fostering agency can toss the garbage bag where it belongs—in the trash can—and have the dignity of carrying their belongings in real luggage.  She calls it Suitcase of Love.

Here’s what excites me.  I just started Kelly Minter’s study on Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break and it’s got Andrea’s project written all over it.  It’s God’s Word carried out in daily life.

Nehemiah had a passion, too.  After hearing from his brother about the ruinous state of the walls around their homeland of Jerusalem, Nehemiah was broken-hearted.  He entered a season of intense fasting and prayer that lasted for months.  During that time, he made calculations, charted plans, and considered possibilities.

With permission from King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah traveled back to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the walls surrounding the holy city.

We’re told that Nehemiah had come “to promote the welfare of the Israelites” and that “God had put it in (his) heart” to tend to the safety of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:10, 12, NIV).

God had given him this passion for his people.

In her study, Kelly Minter asks, “Who has God asked you to promote the welfare of?” and “What has God put it on your heart to do?”

For Andrea, it’s clear that her God-given passion is for foster children.  For Nehemiah, his divine passion was the safety of his people.

But God doesn’t give us these burning desires on behalf of others so that we can go it alone.  He doesn’t so much assign personal projects as He anoints leaders who will invite and encourage others to join them in the work.

Nehemiah could have tried to clear the rubble from the old walls, cut and placed new stones and cemented them into place all on his own.

He would have failed.

Instead, he rallied the people of God to work together to rebuild their city. Nehemiah chapter 3 is the story of what happens when people are unified for a cause.  It tells us exactly who was involved in the rebuilding project and at the end of almost every section we’re told who was working “next to him” (Nehemiah 3:2, 4, 7 . . . ).  Goldsmiths, merchants, town officials and temple servants learned new skills in the construction trade in order to get the job done.

That’s because God’s people work best when we’re working next to each other for the same goal.

Not only that, but Nehemiah 3 also encourages us to find ways not just to involve the community, friends, or churches in our projects, but to train up our kids in compassionate service, as well.

Nehemiah 3:12 says, “Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.”

It was Take Your Daughter To Community Work Day.

We can’t support every cause or solve every problem.  We can’t assist in every crisis or care for every need.  We’d never get anything accomplished if we tried to lend a hand to every good cause.

But when God breaks our heart on behalf of others, it’s His way of showing us where to work.

Then, instead of struggling on our own, we share that passion with those around us and maybe they pick up tools and stand next to us, rebuilding broken down walls together.

And we bring our kids alongside.  My daughter asked me last night, “What’s the suitcase for, Mom?”   I told her all about it.  So, now I’m not the only one hunting for luggage as I drive about town.

We’re doing it together.

You can read about Suitcase of Love here at Andrea’s blog.
You can find out more about Kelly Minter’s study, Nehemiah: A Heart That Breaks here.

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

Online Bible Study: Week Six, Chapters 11 & 12

Welcome to Week six in this eight-week study on Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.  Ladies, we are just about to enter the home stretch and these two chapters this week are well-underlined in my book, so let’s get to the good stuff!

My Thoughts:

The enemy has a voice, too.

We talk, study, meditate, read and brainstorm about discerning God’s voice, but the enemy isn’t silent. He’s busy spewing lies and stirring up storms of cacophonous noise to block out what our Shepherd is saying to us. Knowing the sound of Satan’s slimy lies is just as necessary in this walk of faith as recognizing the Holy Spirit’s tug on our soul.

Sometimes Satan’s voice can sound so reasonable compared to the faith God asks us to have. This I know personally. Earlier this year, I began writing in my journal the verses and prayers that clearly directed me to quit my job. With confirmation after confirmation, I obeyed and moved in the direction I saw God working.

And then came this summer.  Our air conditioner broke in our home.  Our car experienced catastrophic demise.  The keys on my piano were sticking and then the pedals broke. The air conditioner in my minivan stopped working and my tire collected a nail.

Those are just some of the battle highlights.

For some reason, most of my emotional breakdowns occur while vacuuming and this time was no different.  While sucking up dirt from my carpet, I was spraying dirt back God’s way:  “I’m done.  I’m done, done, done.  I’m over the attacks and to be honest I’m looking for the easy way out now.”

So, I started planning out a workable schedule and plotting out job options.  I took my eyes off what God told me to do and contemplated the Enemy’s offer for a while.

God’s voice cut through the roar of the vacuum and my sobbing, “Is that what I told you to do?”

In the book of Nehemiah, the returning exiles faced great opposition from enemies of their own as they worked on rebuilding the Jerusalem walls.  Sanballat and his cronies ridiculed the Jews and launched attacks on the work crews.  This enemy was consistent in his attacks and crafty in his distractions.

Finally, Sanballat sent a message to Nehemiah, “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

It sounded so reasonable, maybe even hinting at peace.

But Nehemiah immediately identified the voice of the enemy. He sent a messenger to say, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.  Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Despite repeated messages from the enemy, Nehemiah didn’t even alter the rhythm of his hammer to answer the enemy’s barbs.

Undaunted, Sanballat charged Nehemiah with false reports.  It’s something that would have kept me up nights in a row, worrying about my reputation and lies and how it wasn’t fair.  Nehemiah didn’t react in the slightest: “I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.'”  (Nehemiah 6:8).

Satan’s a liar.  He’s making stuff up and throwing obstacles in our path.  He’s launching attacks and spreading doubt.  He’s laying traps and giving us “reasonable solutions” to our problems that don’t include God’s will.

We need to be like Nehemiah, so certain of and focused on what God wants us to do that we don’t waste hours or days or life seasons defeated and confused.  Instead, we tell Satan, “I can’t waste time in order to step down to your level and worry about what you’re doing.  I’m busy and you’re just making up stuff in your head anyway.”

Nehemiah’s focus and unwavering obedience to God didn’t just mean the walls were built successfully.  It meant they were built in record time.

In just 52 days, his work crews closed the last gap and laid down their hammers.  “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16).

When we overcome the attacks of the enemy, ignore his lies, shut down his schemes and avoid his traps, we will receive the blessing that comes with obedience.  More than that, our lives will give testimony to God’s mighty strength.  No one could look our way and see our own accomplishments; it’s clear that the work will have “been done with the help of our God.”

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter 11, An Invitational Voice

On pages 132-133, she notes that “the beauty of Jesus’ life on earth is not that He did His Father’s will but that He did His Father’s will and nothing else.”  I conjure up lots of seemingly great ideas, but in essence I’m doing what God told me to do PLUS some other good stuff.  Do we really want to see what God is doing and only that?

On page 135, she begins a discussion on why God’s plan for us includes the church.  I love how she described living life as a solo Christian with Christian media as our only food is a problem because “it allows you to act like an only child.”

The church needs all of us with the spiritual gifts Christ has given us in order to function.  But, that doesn’t mean every need we see means we need to fill it (p. 137).  Sometimes it means we’re to pray and wait on God for the answer.

And if God calls us to something in the church, “believe that He has already equipped you to do it” (p. 138).  Our weaknesses will just give Him more opportunity to show off His strengths.

Chapter 12, A Timely Voice

Waiting.  Who likes waiting?  What Christian in history has ever found waiting easy?  And yet God asks us to do it and most of us hate it and often rush ahead of God’s will.

On page 143, she notes that John 16:13 “paints the picture of the Holy Spirit as our ‘guide.’  The term used actually means to guide while one is on one’s way.” So, God gives us “continuous direction on a need-to-know basis.”  Now, God and I don’t always agree on when I “need to know,” but the bottom line is His timing is perfect and I’m simply impatient.

My other favorites from this chapter (oh so many to choose from!!):

  • “”Don’t try to make your time constraints God’s” (p. 144)
  • “Until you know plainly what to do next, keep obediently doing what you are sure of” (p. 144)
  • “Habakkuk had to climb above the ground level of his life in order to focus his eyes on God and tune his ears to hear His voice” (p. 147).
  • “Is God only God when we hear Him speaking or see Him moving?  Or will we still trust that He is still our Father, even if we hear no voice from heaven and see nothing happening?”  . . . We must believe that He is working on our behalf even when He chooses not to say a single word.  In His silence, He speaks volumes to us.  He commands us to wait on Him and focus our attention on His holiness” (p. 148-149).

Your Thoughts:

  • What passages, verses and quotes in these chapters were your favorites?
  • How good are you at doing the Father’s will and nothing else?
  • How have you seen God equip you for ministry when you, in your own strength, were not up to the task?
  • How would you answer her question: “Is God only God when we hear Him speaking or see Him moving?  Or will we still trust that He is still our Father, even if we hear no voice from heaven and see nothing happening?”

  • 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