Once in a Lifetime

“The soul is nurtured by beauty.  What food is to the body . . . pleasing images are to the soul” (Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul)

I grew up not far outside of Washington, DC.  At the time, a $5 Metro fare and a 20 minute train ride opened up a world of free museums and monuments.

I could easily Metro in just to see one exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library or spend a day slowly walking the halls of the National Gallery of Art or meandering through the presidential portraits in the National Portrait Gallery.

We could day-trip in for the Cherry Blossom Festival exactly when the cherry trees around the Jefferson Memorial were in full bloom.

And I did all those things.

Everything was simply so accessible, so convenient, so inexpensive, and perfect for someone like me who finds these experiences to be spiritual and a refreshing deep breath for my soul.

Our Creator God designed beauty and placed in human hearts the longing to create beauty ourselves.  So, I worship God amidst art and architecture.

Yes, I had access to a spiritual retreat with little effort or cost and I didn’t even know it.

Then in middle school, we watched an episode of one of our favorite shows, Saved By the Bell.  The show’s heartthrob, Zack, desperately wanted to win a contest with a fabulous grand prize— a week-long trip to Washington, DC.

This was unimpressive to me.

Who chooses a grand prize that is just 20 minutes away from my house?  Why not Disney World?  Hawaii?  London?

Of course, we don’t often appreciate what we have, not until it’s gone anyway.

Now, I live just far enough away for a trip to DC to be inconvenient and easily deterred by a busy life and tired children.  A week-long trip to the city would be fabulous!

When we live close to something, when it’s easy, when it’s inexpensive and effortless, it’s easy to overlook it’s value, becoming complacent and unappreciative.

That’s true about time in God’s presence, too.

For us, being with God is as simple as a one-sentence prayer while driving or singing praise songs while washing dishes.  When I’m worried, I pray about 100 times a day over one particular problem.

But it used to be far more complicated and rare than that.  In Luke 1, a priest named Zechariah was chosen by lottery to burn incense in the temple.

He won the grand prize.

Priests were the only ones who could perform this job, the only ones allowed beyond the outer area into the holy places before God Most High.

Even Zechariah, who God declares was “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6) would only burn incense before the Lord once in his entire life.

One chance to be in God’s Holy presence.
One opportunity to stand before Almighty.
One moment of intimate communion with Him.

Beth Moore writes:

“The responsibility of the priest on duty was to offer a corporate prayer.  Furthermore, the priest’s intercession for the nation undoubtedly included a petition for the Messiah, Israel’s promised Deliverer and King” (Jesus, the One and Only, p. 4)

Zechariah prayed for the nation, prayed for a Messiah, and maybe, just maybe took his one and only chance before God and prayed for his own family’s brokenness.

He and his wife Elizabeth were childless and “very old” (Luke 1:7).  Their dreams for a family seemed hopeless now.

But an angel appeared in that private moment between God and this aging priest.  The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 7:12).

Which prayer?  The one for the nation?  For the Messiah?  For himself?

Yes to all of them.

He and Elizabeth became parents to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, the hope of the nation.

One powerful moment in the Lord’s presence brought Zechariah the answer to all he had sought for so long.

If we only had one brief opportunity to be in God’s presence, how would we act and what would we do?  How would we worship and what would we request?

David knew exactly what he desired:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27:4).

God’s presence was his “one thing,” the deep longing in his heart.

Praise God that because of Jesus we aren’t limited to one single moment in God’s presence!

We have access to the throne of grace at all times and anywhere we go.  We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, communing, comforting, counseling, teaching, convicting and bringing peace.

But let’s not let easy access breed complacency.  Let’s treat our times with God as precious as they really are, remembering that it is only because of Christ that we can come before God at all.  Let’s thank Him for the that.

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

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.

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.

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

Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This, Part II

If you’ve been traveling with me on this devotional for journey for any amount of time, you’d know that I love God, my husband, my daughters, hot tea with lots of sugar, chocolate, and quiet times at my kitchen table.

This week started rough (but is getting better all the time!!), and two cups of strong, sweet, hot tea and several mini chocolate bars weren’t helping me through the day.  Despite repeated attempts to have the kind of quiet time with God I really enjoy, that wasn’t happening either.  I was interrupted or cut short on time or distracted or just incapable of understanding the words I read off the page (read paragraph, reread paragraph, sigh, drink tea, read paragraph again).

What I longed for was a God-encounter.  I was so thirsty for Him in the midst of stress and noise and I desperately held my cup out for Him to fill at the fountain of Living Water.  This time with Him that I adore and that helps me through my everyday seemed so elusive and unfulfilling, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  It wasn’t until I stopped attempting to separate my time with God and simply sought Him as I traveled along that I felt His presence and heard the lessons He was sharing.

You can read Lesson 1: My Feelings Can’t Be the Boss of Me here.

Lesson 2: Worship God, Not The Habit

Jesus told His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).  He called them to the discipline of aloneness, quietness before God, spiritual retreating from the crowds and activity to spend focused time one-on-one with God.  Those are sacred times of purposeful seeking God’s face.

I have high expectations for those moments with my Savior and that is precious time to me, time that I guard fiercely.  That’s no easy task when you have young kids and a telephone and email and a to-do list!  Yet, it’s a battle worth waging in order to see Him, hear Him, feel Him, know Him.

Yesterday, though, I kept traveling to my kitchen table and pulling out my Bible and journal, my Bible study book, my devotionals and then sipping my cup of tea, but still walking away unfilled.  My cup was held out.  I had traveled to the Fountain.  I remained thirsty.  My cup did not overflow.

This week, I read in My Utmost for His Highest: “Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes.  We say, ‘I can’t do that right now; this is my time alone with God.’  No, this is your time alone with your habit . . . The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere.”

As I drove around town yesterday, frazzled and tired, that quote was prodding my heart and mind.  Oswald Chambers wasn’t advocating not spending time alone with God.  He wasn’t saying, “Forget trying to read your Bible and pray; it’s not important.”  It is important.  That time is necessary and life-giving.

Yet, it is also not a vending machine where I make an investment in time and pay the required amount (quiet time, study materials, journal, tea) and receive in return treats and goodies (peace, feeling close to God, receiving inspiration, having something great to write in my journal).  There’s that danger, always the danger, of making a god of something other than God.  I can worship the time I spend with God or I can worship God Himself.  The distinction is so fine, but also so necessary.

Jacob traveled to the same place twice in His journeys and met God there in powerful ways through visions and dreams and conversations with the Almighty Himself.  The first time, Jacob fled from His family home in order to avoid the homicidal wrath of his brother, Esau.  In the night, after a divine dream, Jacob “called the name of that place Bethel” or House of God.

Jacob returned to Bethel years later, after marrying and having children, having his named changed by God, traveling home to Canaan, reconciling with his brother, and settling again in the family land.  This time, though, “he built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother” (Genesis 35:17). El-bethel means God of the House of God.

Did you notice the slight difference?

The first time, Jacob focused on the place, the things, the experience.  The second time, after years of experience and maturing, Jacob focused on God Himself.  Beth Moore in The Patriarchs wrote that sometimes we are tempted to “love loving God more than we actually love God.”

We love small group, Sunday School, the songs at church, the Christian radio station,  a devotional, our quiet times, a particular author that challenges us . . .  but are we followers of a Christian lifestyle or followers of Christ?  Do we love books by Christian authors more than we love the Bible?  Do we love our spiritual routines or the God those routines  are supposed to reveal to us?  Do we love the feeling of being close to God or God and God alone?

There are these life moments when God shakes us up in all of our comfort and complacency and takes away even something good for a time, so that we can worship God and not a spiritual habit.  He longs to meet with us during our quiet times and in our prayer closets.  He fills us up as we open up The Word and copy verses into our journals.

But, He’s there with us at the kitchen sink, too, willing to speak to our hearts as we wash the dishes.  He’s with us as we rock the baby in the night and while we pop on the chauffeur’s hat and hop into the minivan to drive children to activities all over town.  The distinction between a mundane task and a sacred moment is whether we’re listening to Him while performing it.  We should set aside focused time for our relationship with God, and yet we shouldn’t allow it to become formulaic or predictable, nor should it be a compartmentalized part of our life that fails to spill over into our chores and family life.  If we do, God will likely stir our hearts and mess with our plans—all to recenter our hearts on Him alone.

Are you hungry for a worshipful moment, just the simplicity of seeking after Him?  I’ve been singing along with Kathryn Scott the past few days and it’s lifting my heart!  I hope you spend some moments worshiping with her, too.


I’ve also added a page called Singing in My Car that has links to the songs I mention in the blog.  Check out the page and maybe find some songs that encourage you 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 © 2011 Heather King