Dear Pinterest, May I Suggest a Glossary?

She says the word ‘just’ and I cringe.

Something about that word, the way it frustrates and deceives, never quite used as intended, never fully revealing the truth.

She says, “Mom, you can just….” and “how about we just….” and, in her innocence, she believes the lie.

That this is easy.

I explain to her that despite the Pinterest headings on the pictures that promise “Simple,” “Easy,” DIY for beginners,” “Quick,” and “Painless….” her mom is in fact craft handicapped.

So, no we do not “just” snip, fold, twist, tuck, glue and ‘voila’…create masterpieces.11918590_s

In fact, these projects always seem to involve more effort, mistakes, mess, physical trauma, and failure than the pictures and the headings make you believe.

Dear Pinterest, may I suggest a glossary of terms for non-crafty folks like myself?  Perhaps a translation tool?  Or a handy dandy guide to assessing your actual ability to reproduce the adorable projects people post?

Maybe a “Warning Label?”

Like this:

“5 Easy steps..”:  Each step really includes 5 other sub-steps not included in the instructions because the writer assumed you’d be craft-smart enough to know without being told or shown.

“Simple….”:  This project is designed for people far more artistic than yourself.  For them, it is indeed “simple.”  For you, it will not be.  Consider yourself warned.

“For beginners…”:  These instructions are written by people who are not beginners and who have forgotten how ‘beginner’ Beginners really are.  Sure, it’s easy for them; they’ve been whipping out afghans, dresses, pillow cases, cakes, and wreaths for years.  You, however, are truly a beginner, still apt to burn your fingers with the glue gun and stab at your fingertips with a sewing needle.

And my favorite:

“Just”:  “Just” implies that the steps you’ll be given are simple, a snap, easy as 1-2-3.  But in reality, the instructions are long and involved, utterly confusing and complicated, and at some point will not work the way they are pictured or portrayed.

It’s not just the pitfall of arts and crafts.

It’s faith, too.

We forget sometimes that faith is hard.

We say, “just believe,” “just trust God,” “just hold on to the promises,” “just wait on Him,” “just keep praying….”

“Just,” that’s how we oversimplify when really it’s desperately difficult.

And rather than wade in waste deep to the muck and mire of messy faith, we stand on the shore and shout out pat phrases and cliches like ineffective life preservers.

Here’s what’s true:

Some days we’re going to mess up.

Sometimes God’s provision is hard to see, when the bills are crushing in and it’s one broken thing, one unexpected expense, one medical crisis after another after another.

Sometimes you can sit all day at that kitchen table with your Bible and journal, praying desperately for direction and still He remains silent for a season.

Some mornings you wake up believing implicitly that God has got this whole massive world tucked into the palm of His capable hands only to feel the earthquake threaten your faith foundation just ten minutes into the day after one tragic phone call or one message of hurt, pain, fear, and need.

Some days you want to give up because this calling is too hard and you can’t even see the tiniest bit of purpose or hope or sign that all this sacrifice is worth it.

This isn’t “Simple,” “5 Easy Steps,” “Just” faith.

This is real life faith.

This is where we’ve exhausted all of the belief we have and the circumstances haven’t changed, so we bring it to Jesus because we don’t even know where else to go.

And like the father in Mark 9, we pray:

“if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”” (Verse 22, NASB).

God, if You can help me…

That’s what the father prayed, and Jesus reminded him: All things are possible to him who believes (verse 23).

Surely the desperate dad had heard the promise before.  He could have nodded his head complacently and pretended to “just believe” and “just have faith.”

Instead, he confessed the truth to Jesus:  “I do believe; help my unbelief” (verse 24).

I believe.  And yet, sometimes, Lord, it’s hard to believe.  If life were easy, faith would be easy.  But life isn’t and faith is hard.

That’s the truth.

This father prayed for mercy because he was human.  He doubted and struggled.

We confess this, too, and this is the assurance we receive:

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:13-14 NIV).

Dust.  That’s what we are: Small and dependent, near-sighted and earth-bound.

Have mercy on us, God.  Help our unbelief. 

That’s what we pray when life isn’t “simple” or “easy” or “just.”

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

What I Said and What I Was Thinking

“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 7:1-2)

She was crying and telling me she felt like a total flake.  Life had been crazy, filled with mistakes and missed appointments, misplaced papers, forgotten promises, everything lost and mixed up and wrong.

I remember being partially sympathetic and somewhat compassionate, outwardly consoling her and sharing words of encouragement as other shoppers pushed their way past our carts.

But inside, in the secret places of my mind and heart, that compassion wasn’t genuine.  It was hollow pat-her-on-the-back kind of friendship–the kind that is sorry she had a bad week, but fell short of true understanding or free-flowing grace.

in fact, the all-business side of me was passing unspoken judgment.

Forgetting, missing, losing, making mistakes? It didn’t sound like an attack from Satan to me.  It sounded more like a too-busy schedule and an absent organizational system.  Somehow I thought a few files and a day planner could save the day.

Two weeks later, I was crying at my kitchen table.  It had been a week of misplaced papers and missing items—not little insignificant things—BIG things, like legal documents and Department of Motor Vehicle paperwork.

For someone generally in control and on top of things, the week had been a devastatingly humbling reminder of just how flaky I can be.

An attack from Satan?  Suddenly it seemed possible.  Or even a tool God was using to challenge my heart and burn away the hidden places of self-condemnation and then smother the flames with His unconditional love and grace.

We so quickly stumble into a world of silent judgment, assessing, evaluating, and categorizing the people around us.

The frazzled-looking momma with the crying baby in Wal-Mart.
The parents whose teenager disappeared from church.
The couple who met with the divorce lawyers last week.
The husband and wife holding the bankruptcy paperwork.
The family with the nice new car and large house.
Those who homeschool (or don’t).
Those who have large families (or small).
The mom who commutes every day to work (and the one who doesn’t.)
The highly fashionable woman next to you in church, with perfectly polished nails, a size 4 waist, and a wardrobe that looks like it costs more than your house (or the one in jeans and a t-shirt).

And maybe we think we’re justified, that our own success in these areas qualifies us for positions of authority.  Or maybe we’ve memorized a list of Bible verses that prove our position.  As long as we’re quiet about it, after all, there seems little harm.  It’s only in our heart, only our own private thoughts of criticism.

Sure it might spill over occasionally into snarky remarks and private jibes among our like-minded friends, but mostly we control the collateral damage.

Yet, isn’t that the picture of the pharisees in Luke 5, solemnly and silently sitting off on their own, overlooking Jesus’ ministry and remaining stoically untouched by His compassionate healing?

Scripture tells us: “One day Jesus was teaching and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there” (Luke 5:17).

They had front row seats, a privileged view of the hurting crowd and the four friends carrying a man on a mat and lowering him down through the ceiling.  Jesus saw the faith of the friends, their determination and selflessness.  He saw the paralyzed man, so dependent on others even to carry him to the feet of the Savior.

And Jesus healed him by saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).

Maybe the crowd marveled at the miracle.  Perhaps the man who had been confined to a mat danced a jig and hugged his faithful friends.

Others remained unmoved:

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).

It likely seemed safe, passing silent thoughts of judgment.  They were, after all, just “thinking to themselves.”  They didn’t hop up on a soapbox or try to steal the show.  They didn’t argue with the crowd or publicly condemn the healed or the Healer.

It was just an internal dialogue, a private moment of judgment and condemnation.

But, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?‘” (Luke 5:22).

Even our most secretive judgments of others have an audience—Jesus Himself.   That’s why Beth Moore, in her book, Jesus, the One and Only, asks: “How do I silently judge?”  Because judgment that doesn’t appear on protest signs or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds or in pulpits is still judgment.

The truth is I’m desperately in need of the grace Christ has poured out on me, and if I need that kind of grace, then I need to show that kind of grace: unhindered, unqualified, unmarred by an undercurrent of criticism and condescension.  Just grace.  Beautiful, pure, deep down honest 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 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

Packing a Bag for the Homeless

He shuffled over to the line of women waiting to enter the arena for the first night of Women of Faith in Washington, DC.

He asked us for food.  I rifled through my bag because I had fully intended to pack snacks for just such an occasion.

I had nothing.

He asked for money.  I had none to give.homelessbag

He walked away.

I was angry at myself, frustrated that I had failed to prepare for compassion and service.  I had good intentions and no follow-through.

Hadn’t I just read a book I had discovered on the shelves of our church library called Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America?

A young college student chronicled the six months he and a friend lived as homeless men on the streets of America’s cities.  They played their guitars to earn money for food and went days without a single meal and weeks without a shower.  They had no access to running water or even a bathroom at night.  People avoided them and glared at them and they felt shame and knew they were unwanted.

Hadn’t I just finished Kelly Minter’s study, Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break and been reminded continually that “the Lord always has the poor on His mind, often paired with the widow, alien, and fatherless in Scripture’s pages”?  She wrote that “tangibly involving ourselves for the sake of justice is a biblical command” (p. 69).

After all, Isaiah 1:17 says:

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

It can’t get much clearer than that.

And before I studied Nehemiah, hadn’t I completed Beth Moore’s study: James: Mercy Triumphs? If ever there was a Biblical writer who echoed Christ’s heart for the poor and oppressed it was his half-brother James.

James asked:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16).

James summed our faith up this way:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).

God cares passionately about the poor, the homeless, the oppressed, the overlooked, the widow, the orphan, the lost and the lonely.

He expects us to do the same.

I knew it.  I had read about it in book after book, study after study all year long.  I meant to bring food for the homeless to the streets of Washington, DC .

I forgot.

So the homeless man in faded clothes and a dusty face shuffled past me to another woman in line and another.

The day after I arrived home, I took my oldest daughter to the dollar store and we tossed soap and wash cloths into the cart.  We grabbed a box of small bottled waters, two packs of peanut butter crackers, and some canned peaches.

We packed our bags for a family vacation.  Then I packed some bags for the homeless.  I didn’t know if anyone else would shuffle over to me and ask for food, but I wanted to be ready.

I carried those Ziplock bags in a backpack all through our family vacation and it seemed like unnecessary weight.  We didn’t hand out a single one.

Until we were driving home, that is.  We stopped at a traffic light and I was busy thinking about the end of our vacation and the drive home and what happens next.  My husband saw the man with the sign:  “Homeless.  Please help.”

He grabbed one of our bags, motioned the man over and handed it out through the window.

The best part is that I now have a tangible reminder to pray for one particular man in need.

I have a lot to learn still.  My prayer is that God will open my eyes (clearly I need His vision) and prod my heart to prepare for ministry to “the least of these.”

Do you have ideas on how to minister to the poor and needy?

What I Want to Do Differently Next Time:

I had this brainstorm for the bags for the homeless and put it together based on ideas we picked up at the dollar store.  Then, I read a book that week called Cleaning House about a mom who lives in Dallas and encounters the homeless regularly while driving her kids around town.  She makes up bags of care items for the homeless, too!  I felt so excited that we had the same idea.

I loved some of the other items she adds, though.  Based on her thoughts and some of the ideas in the book Under the Overpass, my new care packages would look like this:

  • Wash cloth
  • Bar of Soap
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • Bottled Water
  • Other nonperishable food item
  • $5 gift card to a place like Subway, Wendy’s, McDonald’s or even an area grocery store
  • Pocket Bible or maybe a personal note with a Scripture verse
  • Information on a local homeless ministry

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

One Week Without a Voice: Lesson Two

Eight days after I woke up squeaking and sputtering air instead of greeting the start of a new day with my normal cheerful voice . . . (okay, maybe I don’t wake up like Cinderella, singing to birds with a smile ever morning) . . . but still, eight days after I woke up and couldn’t talk, I still sound like an alien in my own body.

My voice scratches a bit and I’ve taken a step down from a normal alto range into a definitive tenor.

Still, it’s an improvement.  I can sit and hold a conversation with friends.  I read about ten books to my toddler this morning while she sat on the potty.  I can call out to my older girls reminders to “Be nice.  Don’t be unkind.  Stop being nasty to each other.  If you can’t get along, I’m going to pack up your game so you can’t play.”

These are important and necessary skills for me, a busy wife and mom and friend.  Today, I’m thankful for the voice I have, scratchy and low as it is, because the essential truth is I’m no longer voice-less.

And there are others who never feel that freedom.  Some people never seem to gain a voice, not after years of anguished pleas.  Not after infant’s tears in a forlorn and overlooked makeshift bed, crying out to an unresponsive mama or parents that simply aren’t there.

Living one week without a voice reminded me that there are some people who are perpetually voiceless.  No amount of cough drops, hot tea with lemon and honey, or throat spray is going to tune the world into the sound of their need.

Our God, though, is a hearer of silenced cries.  When Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting hopeless by a roadside, yelled out to Jesus as he passed by, the crowd tried to hush him up.    “They rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mark 10:47).

What could Jesus care for a blind beggar?  Why stop and heal someone so clearly overlooked by every . . . other . . . person.

Refusing to be silenced, though, Bartimaeus screamed louder and Jesus stopped the mob of fawning followers so he could listen to a man in need.

“What do you want me to do for you?”   That’s all Jesus asked.  That’s all he needed to ask in order to assure a blind beggar that finally someone had heard his cry for help.  Bartimaeus, voiceless no longer, presented his clear and simple request: “Rabbi, let me recover my sight” (Mark 10:51)

More than just a miracle of sight for a blind man occurred there that day.  It was the miracle of God hearing the pleas of a voiceless one amidst a noisy crowd.

In the same way, when a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years ducked her head in shameful desperation and slipped into the crowd surrounding Jesus, she was a voiceless one.  Her society and culture, the laws of her faith, declared her unclean.  Unfit for human contact.  Unable to live among her people.  Cut off from public worship.

In faith, she ran her hand along the hem of Jesus’ robe, trusting that the tiniest touch could heal her.

Jesus could have let her slip away from the crowd unnoticed.  No need for her to risk discovery in a mob who thought her very presence would taint them and stain their purity.

But he didn’t.  Jesus gave voice to the voiceless.  He asked, “Who touched me” and waited for her to speak up, to declare her presence and give testimony.  It was as if he was telling her, “You haven’t just received physical healing.  You are welcome in this place.  These people need to hear what you have to say.  No more sneaking into a crowd and then slipping out the back.”

Even she recognized the impact of Jesus’ question, realizing “that she was not hidden” (Luke 8:47).  No, not hidden anymore.  Instead, “trembling, and falling down before him (she) declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him”

It was likely her first act of public worship and her first unashamed speech in 12 years.

Don’t you love this about our Lord?  That He hears when no one else will hear?  That His passion and heart are for the neediest and weakest among us?  That He’s given us a voice and He listens when we call for Him?

This is His character.
More than that, this is supposed to be the character of his people.

In the book of Nehemiah, this cup-bearer to a foreign King, a man with responsibility and high position, asked his brother for reports about his homeland and the people who had returned to Jerusalem.

Kelly Minter in Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break notes this about Nehemiah’s character:  “He wanted to know.  Sometimes I shield myself from finding out what’s really going on with people for fear I’ll be held responsible.  Because with information often comes responsibility; if we know, we might be required to do something”(p. 13).

We may want to remain blind and deaf to need, but Nehemiah wanted to know.  And when he heard about the state of his people, he responded with prayer and action.

All because he served a God who hears and cares about those with no voice.  We serve that same God—do we hear and care?

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, 06/16/2012: Happy Father’s Day

Hiding the Word:

Happy Father’s Day weekend!

One of the things my husband and I have learned (and perhaps are still learning) in this whole parenting life is that each of our daughters is a unique original.  Her gifts, talents and weaknesses don’t mimic her sisters’.

They don’t respond to the same discipline strategies either.

With our youngest, we’ve discovered that even the slightest remonstrance, a serious look and the word no, can catapult her into deep sobs.  She’s just that sensitive.

The other night, she was perky and giggly at bedtime instead of the tired and obedient toddler we’d prefer to see at 8:00 or 9:00 or even 9:30 at night.  Even her older sisters complained.

My husband called her out of the room and she emerged with a sheepish grin.  He looked her in the eye and practically whispered the words, “It’s time to sleep.  You need to go into your bed quietly. No more playing around or talking.”

She bawled.  It was perhaps the most tragically despairing cry I’ve ever heard.  So, he scooped her up and hugged her, stroked her hair and promised that he loved her, but that she needed to obey. Slowly, she progressed from sobs to sniffles to calm and toddled off to her bed . . . laid down quietly . . . and went to sleep.

Aren’t you thankful that God our Father has compassion on us, knowing exactly the grace, the guidance, the blessing, the provision, and the discipline we need?

Here’s a Father’s Day verse to meditate on this week that reminds us of God our Father’s abounding love for us:

‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13 NIV)

Weekend Rerun:

The Writing on The Wall
Originally posted on October 5, 2011

 ”There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake”
(Ecclesiastes 7:20, Good News Translation).

My two-year-old created a masterpiece with a purple marker and a piece of paper.

Then she made a masterpiece on my kitchen wall.

I caught her standing back to admire her mural, giggling with pride.

Walking her back to the paper, I reminded her where art belongs without yelling or even raising the volume of my voice a decibel.  She took one look at my stern face, listened to my firm “no” and burst into truly remorseful tears.

I scooped her up to hold her, but she ran out of the room and I found her lying face down on a pillow, pouring out heavy sobs of brokenness.

All because she had made a mistake and done something wrong.  All because she wasn’t perfect and because I had to correct her.

Surely we all can shrug our shoulders and say, “We all make mistakes sometimes.”  Some of us can even get theological about it and quote “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

But then there is that moment when you need grace because it’s not “all” who sinned or “all” who made a mistake.

It’s you.

It’s me.

Please don’t tell me you missed that part of the blog where you discover I’m not perfect.  The part where I sin.  The part where I have a bad attitude sometimes.  The part where I make silly mistakes and stupid decisions and act like I’m in an I Love Lucy episode.

And every time I’m the one in need of grace, I react like my two-year-old—-run away, bury my face and sob.

Grace sounds so wonderful when you’re explaining it to someone else or extending it to another. But when you are the one who needs grace, oh, how painful it is sometimes

Grace addresses sin.  Forgiveness always requires a wrong.  Erasing always requires a mistake.  Strength always highlights weakness just like perfection always reveals imperfection.

Admitting that we need a Savior requires personalizing the message of redemptive grace.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Good News Translation).

So, that means we’re doomed to imperfection sometimes?  Guaranteed to need forgiveness?  Certain of mistakes and assured of being wrong occasionally (or often)?

Yup, that’s us.  That’s you.  That’s me.

So, when we mess up, we can engage in the horrors of self-condemnation.  We can become weighed down by shame and guilt—

that we are a mess
that we’re stupid
that we’re an idiot
that we never do anything right
that we deserve whatever punishment we get
that God can’t ever use someone so broken

Or we can accept the gift extended to us by a God who specializes in forgiveness. As Emerson Eggerichs wrote, “Mistakes can’t be undone, but they can be forgiven.”

But how do we move on after a mistake?  How do we walk humbly, yet not live paralyzed by shame?  How do we serve gratefully rather than withdraw altogether, unworthy as we are? How do we let the past shape us and not destroy us?

David experienced this same struggle.  He was a godly king turned adulterer and murderer.  Faced with the magnitude of his sin, still he continued serving on the throne of Israel, still he wrote Psalms of praise to God.

It wasn’t easy.  In Psalm 51:3, he says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

But David acknowledged the need for grace, accepted forgiveness and moved forward in joy.

He brought to God the only acceptable sacrifice: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

God doesn’t desire our brokenness because He rejoices in our shame or needs our degradation.  He wants us to remember that He is God, not us.

We can begin to feel perfect, strong, capable, worthy in our own strength. But if we really are all those things, then who needs grace?  Who needs a savior?  Our worship and ministry can become tainted with self-exaltation. It becomes all about us and not at all about Him.

But when we accept grace, we acknowledge that we’re never worthy, not now, not ever.  Thomas Merton said,

“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness.  And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness.’ ~Thomas Merton~

Yes, we advance in His love.

We don’t need to be shamed by our sin, by our foolishness, by our scattered-brains and accident-prone clumsiness.  We should be humbled.  We are reminded that even though we are not perfect; He is.  Though we are not good enough; He is always sufficient.  Even though we are never worthy, He is worthy of all our praise.

And so we ask Him to forgive us.  We accept His grace.  And then we, like David, ask him to help us move on.

David prayed:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.   Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you”
(Psalm 51:10-13).

We pray this as well.

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

And Then There’s Cancer

“God must have a better plan.”
“God always works things out for the best.”
“You can’t out-give God.”
“God always provides.  Look at the birds and the flowers.  He’ll take care of your needs, too.”
“God always comes through.”
“God’s timing is perfect.”
“God never gives you more than you can handle.”

They’re the fairy tale endings of the Christian faith, the trite promises and pat religious phrases we find ourselves spewing out simply when we don’t know how else to explain it when life is hard and overwhelming and scary.

Like when there’s cancer.

Like when there’s starvation and bloating hunger in villages where there simply is no food—not in anyone’s home, not in a local church running a food pantry, not at a grocery store where you can beg for a loaf of bread from other shoppers.

How do we dare make life sound simple, flowery, and easy when it’s not?  This is the conversation I had with a friend this week.

A few days later, in a sanctuary filled with mourners, corporately grieving the loss of a beautiful Christian woman to breast cancer, a few stood up to share their memories and thoughts about her life.  The rest of us passed tissues down the rows and echoed sniffles.

One woman stood and said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  In one of their last conversations together, sitting across from a woman so ill from the cancer recurrence filling her lungs with fluid and sapping strength from her limbs, they agreed that they felt beaten down by the promises in Scripture.

They knew death was near and they did not think they’d see the healing, deliverance, restoration, and happy ending they had so longed for, they had prayed for, and that the “happy filter” of God’s promises would make you expect.

So now what?

I remember the moment also when I sat by my dad’s death bed.  He was decrepit, a large man shrunken down to frail bones.  He was living in a sick shell of a body.  Once so witty and smart, boisterous and just plain big in his personality and manner, now he was a trapped soul, mostly in a coma, no longer in control of his body or mind—totally dependent on others, mostly unaware, mostly unresponsive.

I believed and I still believe that the God who could call Lazarus to step out of a tomb, throw off grave clothes and come to life again could have healed my dad at any time, even when death seemed imminent, as in any second near.

But He didn’t.  God chose not to heal that time.  He chose not to heal the woman we remembered at her memorial service this weekend.

What then?

In tears, the woman sharing at the memorial service said that when they felt totally beaten down, like their faith had just been battered and bashed, her friend facing death said, “Then we must pray and ask God to make us more tender.”

Please make me tender, Lord.  Use these times of sadness and the seasons we don’t understand, the moments when faith is so hard to stand on and the promises of Scripture seem too simple to hold true, please then make my heart tender again. 

What other response can there be at times but bitterness?

It’s something I’d never considered before, but both Paul and Peter urged believers to be tenderhearted:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

and

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).

This tender heart so often develops when we ourselves feel broken and beaten down and we are made soft and receptive in the process.ephesians4

If our faith depends on quick answers to prayer and fairy tale lives with superficially happy endings, we’ll be hardened to the needs of others, uncomprehending when they share out of their pain and unmoved by compassion when we see their brokenness.

Not only that, but if our faith doesn’t depend on the Rock of God and His character, but instead stands only on happy (and often misquoted and taken out of context) Christian catch-phrases, we’ll watch the wind and waves of the storm demolish and destroy our houses on the sand (Matthew 7).

We don’t necessarily need enough faith to calm any storm, to walk on the water in the midst of a tempest or sit unmoved and unafraid when our boat seems ready to sink. We just need enough faith to stretch out our hand to Jesus as we sink and cry out, “Lord save me” (Matthew 14:30).

Even that is enough for Jesus to hold us up out of the waves.

Let’s be honest today.  It’s not always easy to sing, “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.”  Sometimes it’s downright difficult.  It’s murky and hazed over and difficult to see.  Sometimes it’s desperately painful.

But we don’t have to have all the answers.  In fact, we don’t really need to say much of anything at all.  Certainly, we don’t have to pretend that it’s easy or shrug mourning off our shoulders with little more than, “it’s all for the best.”

Instead, we can ask for God to make our hearts tender, soft and pliable in His hands because of the pain we’ve endured.  And we can reach out one desperate hand and cry out, “Lord, save me.” Sometimes, that’s all we can honestly say and that’s enough.

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.

God, Are You Crying?

“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”

(Isaiah 63:9).

It was my third pregnancy and I sat across from my midwife at my 37-week check-up.  “I don’t think the baby has turned,” I told her.  “I think she’s still breach.”

I saw her face change from “easy-breezy check-up” to “let’s investigate this issue”.  She expertly prodded my massive pregnant belly with her hands and then popped the baby up on the ultrasound machine to be sure.  Breach baby.  Thirty-seven weeks.

Maybe the doctor will turn her, I thought?  Maybe she’ll turn herself (I hoped)?  Anything sounded good if I could avoid a C-section.

She said, “I’ll call you.  I need to tell the doctor what’s going on, but I’d start preparing for surgery.”

I trusted her.  During both of my other pregnancies, she had cared for me frequently.  She was a strikingly lovely woman, an inside-out kind of beauty, so open and full of joy.  Her hair was just beginning to grow back into small bouncy curls after a fight with breast cancer years before and it was so like her to pour herself out for others even during chemo treatments and cancer recovery.

Just as she promised, she called me later that day.  She treated me like I was the only patient in the world, taking more than 20 minutes to tell me how serious the baby’s position was because she was sitting on her umbilical cord.  How turning the baby could kill her and if I went into labor on my own, she’d probably suffocate.

C-section it was.

But she gave me great reassurance, how good the doctor was, how she had seen him work and knew he would take good care of me and I would heal well.  “Don’t be afraid,” she said.

That was the last time I talked to her.

The doctor delivered my baby via C-section and he was expert and wonderful and my daughter was healthy and beautiful and safe.  When I returned for my check-up weeks later, they told me that my midwife’s breast cancer had returned and she was starting treatments again.

Any time I had an appointment at the office over the last 3 years, I asked about her.  She popped into my head periodically, and I prayed for her and we prayed in my small group, as well.

She passed away this weekend.

It’s a part of the human condition on this broken planet to grieve.  I am sad for her struggle, for years and years of fighting, for losing the battle to breast cancer, for her pain, for those who worked with her, for her dear friends, and most of all for her family and her two children who watched their mother fight and then die.

This world of sorrow isn’t a place of God’s design.  It’s the mess mankind made through disobedience and sin, ushering in death.  One day, we have the opportunity to see what God’s perfect design is really like.  Heaven is the ideal place, where death, crying, pain, and disease have no place because sin has no place.

But here we are, facing sorrows in the here and now because good people die, people of faith hurt, babies don’t make it, children are abused.

When Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, he was surrounded by mourners in the midst of their own loss.  Martha was weeping.  Mary was weeping.  The entire crowd was weeping.

My commentary tells me they weren’t just sniffling quietly into their tissues in the good old Western style.  They were “wailing” (klaiontas).

Seeing their distress, Jesus “was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled . . . Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35).

The crowd took it as a sign of Jesus’s own grief over losing a great friend and said, “See how he loved him!”

But is that why Jesus cried on the edge of Lazarus’s tomb?  He wasn’t wailing in the same way they were; he was quietly shedding tears (edakrysen).john11

Anyway, what was there for him to mourn?  He knew he could raise Lazarus from the dead.  In fact, Jesus was just seconds away from doing just that and watching Lazarus stumble out of the tomb still wrapped up in his grave clothes.

It couldn’t have been his own grief.

It had to be the sadness at the sorrow of others.  That’s why he was “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled,” not when he knew Lazarus was dead or when Mary and Martha confronted him over it, but when he heard “her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping” (John 11:33).

He felt sorrow over their sorrow, sadness over their sadness, and compassion because they experienced death, loss, the grave, pain, and sickness.

In the same way, when Jesus saw a widow following behind the coffin of her only son, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep'”  (Luke 7:13) before touching her son’s body and raising him from the dead.

This is the Savior we serve, who saw the sorrow of death, who faced it Himself, and who comforts us when life is hard, when loved ones die, when we grieve the loss of people, the loss of hope, and the loss of dreams.

Even though I know He doesn’t always intervene with miracles, resurrecting in the places we grieve, it’s somehow helpful to know He isn’t ignoring us either.  Jesus isn’t cold-hearted, looking down stone-faced and unmoved by our sorrow.

Instead, when we’re hurting, He’s moved by compassion for us and ministering to us with His Spirit.  He’s comforting those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).

I use the Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, edited by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck.

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

Please Break My Heart . . . Really and Truly

It’s the drill, the sound if it screeching unnaturally close to your face.

Plus there’s the inescapable smell of sterilized tools and latex gloves.

There’s the tooth-shaped clock on the wall and the charts portraying healthy and not-so-healthy gums hanging here and there.

It’s the dentist’s office and I don’t love the place, but I had to be there for a filling—easy and routine, my dentist tells me.  He asks me how I’m doing today.  “Nervous,” I confess with a conversational giggle.

Still, I like him.  He’s pleasant and efficient.  His degrees and certifications adorn the walls, assuring me that he knows what to do.  He’s the kind of doctor I prefer, one who explains to you what’s going on and assumes you’re intelligent enough to understand.

So, he glances at my chart and sees the note written in large letters, “Needs extra anesthetic.”

He asks me about it and I tell him the gruesome story of another dentist starting to drill and me feeling it.  I tried to fake it and pretend like I was numb just for the sake of expediency, but my flinches and the pain in my eyes apparently gave me away.

When you’re numb, you ironically can’t help but feel it.  You feel that your face is heavy and your speech difficult.  They ask you to rinse and it takes effort.  It’s a simple filling and yet here I sit at my computer five hours later, feeling the last remaining bit of numbness around my mouth.  I’m a poster child for the old Bill Cosby standup routine about a dental patient.

Numbness takes time to fade, but thankfully it eventually does.  Truly, I’m grateful for the fact that two shots of medicine helped me not to feel the dentist’s drill.  It’s a comfort of the modern age that I’m happy to enjoy.

Yet, as I sit in the chair waiting for the drilling to start, I wonder if I’ve grown too numb in other areas of my life.  Unfortunately, the numbness of our hearts and minds doesn’t fade away as assuredly as a dentist’s shot.

I’ve been listening to a song by Hillsong called Hosanna and then for the first time today, I actually paid attention to the final lyrics:

Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into
Eternity

Similarly, the World Vision founder, Bob Pierce, famously prayed, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”

So I wonder, is my heart too numb?  Has it become an unfeeling organ?  Or, if I feel God’s broken heart, do I just cry for a moment and then resume life as normal, patching up momentary sorrow with practicalities and emotional distance?

What actually breaks the heart of God anyway?

Surely it’s our sin, our breaking faith with God and causing Him disappointment and sadness (Numbers 5:6, Hosea 11:8b).

The Bible tells us King David was a man after God’s own heart. How so?  Was it his faith in God and his bravery against a giant?  Was it his heart of worship?  Or perhaps instead that after devastating sin of adultery and murder, David’s heart broke before God, hating his sin and desiring restoration and forgiveness (Psalm 51).

Are you grieved over your sin and the times you’ve broken faith with God?  Do you shake it off with excuses and acceptance, compromising because it’s “normal” and just “who you are?”  Or do you humbly bow at His feet and ask for His help and His forgiveness?  Do you hate your sin enough to do whatever it takes to change?

Of course it’s the lost, the “sheep not having a shepherd,” who stirred Jesus’ heart to compassion and self-sacrifice (Mark 6:34). 

Are you broken-hearted over those who do not know Jesus and moved to compassion and boldness by their presence in the world and in your community?

Then there are the hurting and needy.  When Israel complained that God didn’t seem overly impressed by their fasting rituals and legalistic religiosity, God told them exactly what kind of fasting He desired: freeing the oppressed, sharing bread with the hungry, caring for the homeless (Isaiah 58:6-7).

James agreed when he wrote, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, ESV).
Is your heart broken by the orphaned, the widowed, the hungry, and the oppressed?  Do you do more than shed a tear at an Internet video and actually advocate for those who need a voice? 
We have a God whose heart is broken over sin, over unbelief, over the hurting, oppressed, defenseless and hungry.

What about our hearts?
It’s a strange thing, this spiritual numbness.  While a shot at the dentist’s office fades over time, our hearts respond in opposite ways to hurt.  We may begin compassionate and then grow numb from forgetfulness.  We may grieve over sin at first and then slowly grow accustomed to it.
Instead of needing extra doses of anesthetic, we must go to God continually and ask for more of His broken heart.
To listen to Hillsong’s Hosanna, you can click the link here or watch the video posted below on the blog:

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

Mom Guilt, Part II

Mom Guilt had me hanging Christmas lights on the outside of our house for the first time ever.  You can read about that in Mom Guilt, Part I here.

But I’m a sucker for Mom Guilt in any variety.

“Mom, you haven’t been to school to have lunch with us in FOREVER.”  Hence, I was brown-bagging it in the school cafeteria the next day.

Something about the way they say “Mom” when they are about to pour on the Mom Guilt turns it into two syllables.

“Mawww—ahhhhm, our friends have such pretty rooms and ours is just plain old yucky white.”

A few weeks later, their room was a purple paradise complete with hanging glittery butterflies and flower decorations.

Much of my mom life is spent trying to keep my kids off of some psychiatrist’s couch in their adulthood, spilling out the horrors of their childhood.

“My mom didn’t pack my favorite foods in my lunch box.
My mom wouldn’t hang Christmas lights on our house.
My mom never painted our bedroom.
My mom didn’t buy me Go-Go the walking dog for Christmas.
We just never got over that disappointment in her.”

Disappointment.

That’s the power that Mom Guilt has over us.  Fear of disappointing people.

Fear that we’ll fall short of perfection.  Fear that we’ll be caught with our capes off one day and everyone will realize we aren’t Super Woman after all.

But here’s the ugly truth.  I’m going to give it to you straight.

We’re bound to disappoint someone eventually.
We’re not perfect.
We’re not superheroes.

There now, don’t you feel better getting that out in the open?

My kids, my husband, my friends, my Bible study girls and my blog readers may all be disappointed in me at times.  They will all have reason upon reason to grow impatient with me.  They will sometimes need to pester me out of forgetfulness and distraction when I fail to deliver on a promise.

Mom Guilt works on me because I want to be something I’m not–perfect.

Oh, we might be able to hold together the facade of perfection for a while and we might even fool the occasional outsider who glances our way.

There’s Someone, though, who has known the truth all along.  God knows what we’re made of.

He knows we’re formed from dust.

So, pragmatic as He is, He doesn’t expect perfection out of imperfect beings.  When we mess up, He’s full of grace, not accusation.  When we forget, He reminds us with mercy and gentleness.  Because we’re dust after all.

He doesn’t give us what creatures of dust deserve either.  He rescues, forgives, restores, saves, leads, and blesses us because “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love . . . He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Why?

Because “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him  . . .the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:8-14).

Don’t think for a moment that when “He remembers that we are dust,” it’s the gloating power-hungry pride that an all-powerful God could have for weak creatures like ourselves.

No, but He does show compassion to those “who fear Him” and we do that by being in awe of His greatness and humbled by our own weakness.

The Psalmist emphasizes God’s compassion, mercy, and love here.  Psalm 78 likewise declares that God “was merciful; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them . . . He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return” (Psalm 78:38-39).

God takes pity on us, mistake-prone as are.  He enacted a plan of salvation from the beginning of sin in this world just because He knew none of us could attain perfection in our own merit.

This also means that He doesn’t grow impatient with us when we once again ask for wisdom in a difficult situation.  James writes , “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Did you feel the chains of condemnation flying off your ankles and wrists with that verse?  When you throw yourself down at His throne and confess that you just don’t know what to do or maybe when you cry out in desperation because of the mess you’ve gotten yourself into, God isn’t finding fault with you.

He’s not lecturing you on the five mis-steps that brought you to this place of confusion or failure.

He gives wisdom, generously pours it out, simply because we ask.  He forgives with abundant grace simply because we repent.  He renews and restores time and time again with compassion.  He’s slow to anger.  God doesn’t blow His top when you stumble.

Somehow the Kansas song, “Dust in the wind” makes it all sound so hopeless. “Dust in the wind.  All we are is dust in the wind . . . Just a drop of water in the endless sea.  All we do crumbles to the ground.”

Sure we’re dust.  Sure we’re not on this planet forever.  But we’re not hopeless dust.

Our hope is in Him.

It’s humbling to realize that we’re not the superhuman Moms, Wives, Sisters, Daughters and Friends that we’ve tried to be.

But, it’s also wondrously freeing to realize that God knew that all along and loved us anyway—dusty creatures that we are.

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