Quiet Time With a Mop and a Bucket, Lesson 3

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self.”
1 Corinthians 13:4, MSG

For Lesson 1: You Are Not the Only One, click here

For Lesson 2: There’s Always More to Do, click here

Lesson 3: Extend to Others the Grace You Desire

With the “Big Clean” now finished, you could visit my home at just this moment and make countless assumptions about me.  That I clean all the time.  That the laundry is always washed, dried, folded, and put away.  That my floor is always freshly mopped and carpets vacuumed.  That our home is perpetually dust and cobweb-free.

You’d be wrong.

A few years ago, I was deep in the middle of a “Big Clean” when someone stopped by at the last minute.  Unfortunately, the big bad secret of a “Big Clean” is that the house always looks worse before it looks better.  So, for a large part of the time, even while you are frantically washing and scrubbing, the house looks like a hurricane has blown through.

That’s what my home looked like when our visitor dropped by.  Furniture was all moved out so I could vacuum behind it.  Toys were scattered around waiting to be sorted into bins. Cleaning products were strewn all over the counter.  He could have looked at my home in that moment and thought I was destined to be on the next episode of Hoarders.

But, he’d be wrong.

Fortunately for me, he’s full of grace and hopefully has been in my home often enough to know that we don’t live in a a FEMA-designated disaster zone every day of the year.  Not everyone, though, would look at that mess and assume the best about me.  Not knowing that I was in the middle of an intense cleaning project, they could look around and assume I’m a first-class slob.

We humans are often so quick to judge one another.  Ages ago in my college psychology class, we learned that it’s nearly impossible to overcome a first impression.  What people think about you in the first 3 seconds of meeting is likely how they will think of you forever.

The trouble with these first impressions is that they leave very little room for grace.  And yet, we form opinions and label people all the time.  We push each other into categories.

The truth is, we can be pretty vicious.

In 1 Chronicles 19,  we read about what happens when we make faulty assumptions and judgments about others.  “Nahash king of the Ammonites died, and his son succeeded him as king.  David thought, ‘I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.’ So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father” (1 Chronicles 19:2-3).

Off went David’s men with a message of comfort to the grieving prince.  After expressing their sympathy, though, the king’s advisers questioned their true intentions.  They asked the king, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven’t his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?” (1 Chronicles 19:3). Full of mistrust, they humiliated David’s men, shaving off their beards, and cutting off their clothes so they were naked, and then sent them back home full of shame.

Even then, King David didn’t react in anger.  He reclothed his men and made accommodations for them to regrow their beards in privacy.  In the meantime, the Ammonites themselves, knowing they had acted badly, preemptively allied themselves with Israel’s enemies and traveled out in battle array against Israel.  And they fought a war, which they lost, all because they didn’t believe in the genuine sympathy that David expressed through an act of kindness.  They assumed the worst about him and made unfair judgments.  They were so quick to take offense and so suspicious of others.

Jesus’s standard, on the other hand, is high.  He said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).

What would happen if we meted out to others the same grace we’d desire from them?  What would happen if we gave second chances and allowed people to grow rather than assuming that one mistake was a sign of permanent character flaws?  What would happen if we assumed the best about others around us instead of allowing mistrust and suspicion to filter our perceptions of their actions and words?  What would happen if we focused on the positives in others and let their faults pass uncommented on?

We would give the same grace we’ve received, sometimes even more.  We would show abundant love to others just as Christ has shown to us.  Paul wrote about love:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
(1 Corinthians 13:5-7, MSG).

Pause a moment on each of those and truly consider whether you’re living out love with those around you, in your home, in your work place, in your church, in your community.  Carry those words with you in the next few days and let them guide your interactions.

When you see someone buried in mess, allow love to motivate your response.  Can you give them some grace, allowing time to show whether they are perhaps just in the middle of a “Big Clean?”  Can you extend a hand of help and bring along your own bucket and mop to help them with the dirty work?  Can you give them the words of encouragement that will spur them on to finish the job rather than sitting down too soon, overwhelmed by the mess?

Can you “look for the best?”  Can you “never give up?”

That’s what it takes to love like Christ, who poured Himself out for us as an offering even when we were messy and piled over with junk and debris.  He loved us that much.

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

Quiet Time With a Mop and a Bucket, Lesson 2

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”
Philippians 1:6

For Lesson 1: You Are Not the Only One, click here

Lesson 2: There’s Always More to Do

Hours after I toted all of the cleaning bottles and paraphernalia to the back of the house, I had now systematically worked through each room, accomplishing the “Big Clean.”  Not the everyday wipe-down.  Not the daily decluttering.  The kind of clean you build up to over time, where you flip  over sofa cushions and apply toothbrush to grout.

I emptied the bucket of soapy water, hung up my dish rag, placed the broom in the closet and sat down to write.  I was finished cleaning.  The house was spotless.


Except for the fact that as I sat at the kitchen table, I now saw the clear handprints left by my daughters on the window next to me.  I just washed that window two days ago.  Now there were handprints.  Up I hopped, grabbed the Windex and a paper towel.  Spritzed.  Wiped down.  Put cleaning supplies away.  Sitting down again, I thought, “yes, now I am truly done.”


Except now I could clearly see a splotch on one wall that I must have missed earlier.  No problem.  One quick wipe-down and I am done.

Except . . .

The reality of cleaning is that there will always be more mess, if not now than later.

And so it is with us.  We allow God to clean us out, scrubbing out the hidden corners of sin, bad attitudes and rotten motives.  We are purified, refined, and made new.  Yet, no matter how far we have progressed on this road to Christ-likeness, we will not attain perfection on this planet.   “We know that when Christ appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b).  But, until Christ appears, we’re not going to be His perfect likeness and we’re going to have more messes to clean up.

We could take that as permission to stop cleaning all together.  Why make the bed, if you’ll sleep it in that night?  Why wash the dishes if they are just going to be dirtied again?  Why keep trying to be more like Christ when I can’t possibly be perfect?

And yet, Paul wrote:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

In her book One in a Million, Priscilla Shirer writes, “You might be in the oasis of complacency if you’ve started thinking you’ve arrived and that nothing more is really required of you at this point in life.  You’ve basically stopped hungering for anything new, concluding that your present experience with God is probably as good as it’s going to get.”

Sometimes the most dangerous place for a Christian to be is immediately following a “Big Clean.”  We feel excited about the work God has done in us, the place He’s brought us to, the revolutionary way He has stirred up our hearts.  Then we begin to think we’ve made it.  We’re so close to God right now; there just couldn’t be anything closer.  We’re so much farther than where we were before, so taking  a moment to enjoy the new and improved location seems like a good idea.  Then we settle in and stop moving forward.

It’s just like the two-and-a-half tribes of Israel that chose to settle down east of the Jordan river rather than taking the land God promised them in Canaan.  They stopped just short of God’s fullest blessing.  They settled for less all because they thought what they had was good enough.

But, I want God’s very best for me, the fullness of His plan, even if that means moving out of what is comfortable, even if that means letting the Holy Spirit take a mop and bucket to my heart day after day.

The solution for continual mess isn’t hopelessly shrugging our shoulders about sin or complacently allowing Satan to clutter our lives with trash and dirt.  Instead, we clean and clean and clean, everyday scrubbing out the fingerprints of Satan and our flesh and the world.  We Windex the windows of our hearts so that Christ can shine through us.  And we do it day after day after day until Christ whisks us away to the glory of heaven and the spotless purity of His presence, because even though we can’t be perfect this side of heaven, the progress we make on this journey, the miraculously transformative work that God does in us, points others to Christ.  Others look at us and see God’s handiwork, testimony that the grace that is at work in us can be at work in them, too.

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

Quiet Time With a Mop and a Bucket, Lesson 1

Today, I did the “Big Clean.”  Some of you may wash behind your refrigerator and stove every time you sweep the kitchen floor, but since that doesn’t happen here at my house, I occasionally have to do this super scrub-down.   Normally, I would sit down at this computer to write and share with you from my time spent studying the Bible.  But, today, I have primarily spent my quiet time with a scrub brush in hand, squeezing into corners on my hands and knees and sponging up the bucket of water that my baby girl has spilled onto the floor while “helping.”  I’ve cleaned and prayed, cleaned and thought, cleaned and worshiped, and this is what I have brought to our time together today—-lessons from a quiet time with a bucket and mop.

Lesson 1: You Are Not the Only One

I walked into my daughters’ room and spotted a tiny blob of jelly on one of her dresser drawers (was that jelly or some other mystery purple substance?).  I washed all the walls down in my home with a wet rag and felt mystified by the unidentifiable splatters.  It could be a game show—name that mess!  Is it cat hair, dust, marker, crayon, pencil, food, or drink?  I rescued a dozen stuffed animals from the prison under my daughters’ bed, collected up about 20 missing hair clips and ponytail holders and returned five books to their appropriate shelves.

And I thought, “I’m the only one.”

That’s right—the only woman whose kids leave behind remnants of food and sticky fingerprints as they move from room to room in the house.  I’m the only one who has a bag of socks to be matched and paired.  I’m the only one who has dirty baseboards and marks on the walls.

I’m the only one.  And if every other woman keeps her home spotless and I do not, that makes me a failure.

But then the epiphany moment—what if I think I’m the only one because I only see the homes of others after they’ve just cleaned and not while they are messy?

After all, if someone visited my home right this second (before my children have a chance to make more mess), they’d think, “She has it all together.  She does all of these things and keeps her home spotless.  I’m a failure for not being like her.”  Yet, if someone visited me this morning before I had washed the jelly off the dresser (yes, I definitely think  it must have been jelly), they would be thinking, “She’s a mess.  I’m a mess.  That means I’m normal.  I’m not the only one.  Other people don’t have it all together while I struggle with the daily juggling of life.  We’re all imperfect together.”  And they’d be right.

In life, we have a tendency only to share with people the areas of our heart, mind, experience and attitudes that have been through the “Big Clean.”  So, it’s easy for us all to look outwardly perfect and yet inside be feeling like a disastrous mess.

My all-time favorite move is Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.  In the movie, Katherine Hepburn plays Tracy Samantha Lord, a rich, intelligent, athletic woman who looks and acts perfect at all times.  Finally, though she discovers that she too has weaknesses, that she also needs grace, and that she is at heart “an unholy mess of a girl.”

Tracy Lord learned that we all are a mess at times.  This is one of the things I love about the apostle Paul, his willingness to share from his struggles as much as from his strengths.  He wrote:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.   That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Paul told others that he had problems, that he wasn’t perfect, that he had been the chief of sinners and that it was only God’s grace that saved him and now allowed him to preach the gospel to those who had never heard it.  More than that, he boasted in his weakness because it allowed God to shine through He let people see his life in the messy places so that they could marvel at God’s grace and rejoice in the fellowship of journeying to Christ together.  That’s one of the greatest encouragements we can give one another, the message that we’re not alone, but that we all are in need of Christ’s redemptive and purifying work.

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