Projected Images and Pretend Lives

The regimental surgeon made us squirm as he held up what could have been medieval torture devices, but were really medical tools used in the Revolutionary War.

A farmer’s wife rolled a slightly wrinkled potato in a barrel of sand, lifted the lid to a jar of pickled eggs, and ran her hand through the dried fruit and beans she had prepared.

The cloth maker laid wool and linen socks out to dry after dipping them in a natural yellow dye of onion skin. IMG_3442

At the encampment, the soldiers drilled us on firing a cannon before shouting out, “make ready” and signaling us all to cover our ears for the blast.

This summer we’ve toured two of the three major historic sites in our area, asked all the usual questions about 17th and 18th century life, and chatted about whether we would want to live before refrigeration, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, voting rights for women, the abolition of slavery, the discovery of antibiotics, and the creation of Wal-Mart and Target.

We think not.

But we happily visit to see how people lived in other times without experiencing extreme levels of discomfort ourselves.

Sure, we might be losing ten pounds a day sweating in the middle of July while listening to the interpreters talk about cooking in clay ovens and fighting the British army.  But, we’re wearing short sleeves and shorts and we retreat to air conditioning as soon as the tour ends.

And really, aren’t we always prevented from fully experiencing life as another person?  We might glance over someone’s life, making judgments and assumptions from a safe distance, but we’ll never fully know what it feels like to be her.

It’s a lesson I just never seem to learn, one that trips me into pits of envy and then shocks me into disappointment just as quickly over and over again.

These women I’ve thought were perfect, the ones I envied, had the houses, the marriages, the kids, the finances, the vacations, the looks and style I wanted–everything just exactly right.

I made my assumptions based on superficial evidence and my envy grew based on inaccurate and unfair comparisons between what her life appeared to be and what I knew my life was.

Yet, inevitably the façade collapses.  The truth is no one’s life is perfect.  Too often the closed doors of her pristine home concealed struggles and strife no one expected or knew existed.

If we’re ever to overcome envy, we have to stop being duped by projected images and pretend lives and choose contentment in our own real lives with our real husbands in our real homes with our real kids.

Because the endless comparisons cost us contentment, rob us of peace, and steal joy right out of our hearts.

Kay Warren writes:

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right and the determined choice to praise God in all things (Choose Joy)

In a similar way, George Fox wrote this prayer:

Grant us, O Lord, the blessing of those whose minds are stayed on You, so that we may be kept in perfect peace: a peace which cannot be broken.  Let not our minds rest upon any creature, but only in the Creator; not upon goods, things, houses, lands, inventions of vanities, or foolish fashions, lest, our peace being broken, we become cross and brittle and given over to envy.  From all such, deliver us, O God, and grant us Your peace  (Yours is the Day, Lord; Yours is the Night, 42).

We choose peace when we discipline our mind to be content with what God has given us. 

More than this.  We don’t just accept the gifts God gives; we are grateful for them.  We find ways to give thanks even when it’s hard.  We redirect our mind whenever we focus on what we don’t have and choose instead to praise God for what He’s done and how He’s blessed us.

Proverbs tells us:

“A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 HCSB).

Envy can eat us up like cancer, destroying us from the inside out.  It’s crippling, devastating, and, if left untreated, all-consuming.

But that tranquil heart is a heart at peace, content with God’s gifts, certain that God uniquely designed you for these blessings and this life.  Yes, His gifts to us are good.

It’s a heart quietly and purposefully thankful for what is real rather than fooled into wanting imagined perfections, fictional ideals, faulty perceptions, and mistaken judgments.  Contentment requires getting real and getting grateful, recognizing that we don’t need perfection in order to have joy; we just need Jesus.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

What I’m Complaining About…

I’ve been trying to teach her just to say, “No, thank you.”

It’s simple.  It’s polite.

Really, I don’t need an Oscar-worthy performance every time I serve mashed potatoes.

“EEEEEWWWWWW.  I HATE potatoes.  They are GROSS.  This is DISGUSTING.  Don’t put ANY on MYYYY plate!”

I’m beginning to wonder if the child has ever even eaten a single potato.  I have this sneaking suspicion that she just screams about hating potatoes because she’s decided to hate potatoes and because the rest of the family happily eats them.

The complaints are always prolonged, noisy, and accompanied by a pantomime of a wrinkled nose and contorted face.  When she’s really inspired, she might even gag a little.  Just for effect.

I’ve gone the spiritual route with her.  “Do everything without complaining and arguing,” I quote (Phil 2:14 NLT).

Everything?

Yes, everything.

Eat potatoes without the side show?

Yes.  Or at the very least, give a simple “no, thank you,” as you pass the potatoes on to the next person.

So far, that has been unsuccessful.

So, I tried the empathy route.

How would it feel if you shared something you made and people publicly whined and complained for at least 5 minutes about how terrible it was?

The empathy route isn’t working either. Lately, she’s taken to shrugging her shoulders and lying to my face: “I wouldn’t care.  My feelings don’t get hurt like that.”

Right.  Whatever.

But the spiritual route and the empathetic route work for me.  Her mealtime complaint festivals make me realize just how grating and ungrateful whining really is.

And unfortunately, I’ve been thinking about how often I’m the one doing the complaining.

We all have our weaknesses, the things that set us off and the people who get stuck listening to us complain.

You can ask my husband to be sure, but I don’t think I’m a complaining wife, per se.  It’s not really like me to nag or pester or pick him apart and I don’t really complain about him.

But it might be to him.

And it’s usually about truly annoying things:

Like the dentist’s office forgetting to send reminder cards out about our appointments so I completely forgot when I had to drop everything else in my insanely busy schedule to get my teeth picked at by sharp metal objects.

Like our house phone and Internet connection constantly cutting out on me at the most inconvenient times.

Or the store not keeping their shelves stocked so week after week after week I go to buy what I need and it’s not there AGAIN and how hard is it anyway to order more of something when the shelf is empty for goodness sake?!

Things like that.

Too often, though, we’re fooled into thinking that as long as our complaints are justified, then they’re allowed.  Or that “venting” is acceptable, even if it involves calling friend after friend not for wisdom or prayer, but so they can fuel our anger and annoyance.

It’s complaining, but it’s justified complaining.  That’s how we explain it.

Yet, when I’m being honest, I have to confess that if I’m continually complaining …then I’m a complainer.

And when we think about the negative and talk about the negative, pretty soon all we can see is the negative…in people, in life, in situations.

God knows that sometimes life is painful.  We’re not always complaining about grocery store shelf-stocking policies or bad drivers.  Sometimes our hearts are filled with deeply painful disappointment, even betrayal.

And He’s not asking us to fake it or shrug it off our shoulders and paste on happy-faced masks.

But he does ask that we bring it to Him.

Like David, we don’t complain about everything and we don’t complain to everyone around us.  Instead, we drag that cumbersome burden of cares and troubles to the feet of the only One who can carry it for us:

I cry aloud to the Lord;prayer
I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I reveal my trouble to Him.
Psalm 142:1-2

Maybe we need a trusted friend or counselor (or husband) at times to listen well, but “they should not be where we go first” (Linda Dillow, What’s It Like to Be Married to Me?)

We run to God before any other, and even when we bring these needs to Him, C.H. Spurgeon reminds us:

We do not show our trouble to the Lord that He may see it, but that we may see Him.  It is for our relief and not for His information, that we make plain statements concerning our troubles.

When I’m complaining, is it just to be heard?  Or is it so I can see God more clearly in my circumstances?

I can’t truly say that all my complaining is an invitation for God to show me His glory,

But, oh Lord, may it be so today.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Sick Days, Coveting and a Case of Leprosy

My three-year-old had been sleeping for hours curled up on the sofa.  We all tiptoed and whispered around her “sick bed,” trying not to wake or disturb her.

Then my six-year-old asked, “Mom, if she’s still sick on Tuesday, will she have to go to school?”thermometer

“No, babe, kids can’t go to school when they have a fever like this.”

“Oh man, she’s lucky.  I wish I didn’t have to go to school.”

“Lucky?”

I instantly pointed out the drawback.  It doesn’t do much good to stay home from school when you’re too sick to enjoy it.  It’s not like she’s playing. She’s sleeping the day away on the sofa, feeling miserable and uncomfortable.

“Oh.”

It’s not surprising, really, how she saw the benefit so clearly and didn’t see the cost.  We have the same blinders on often enough.

We think our friend is “lucky” or maybe it seems a bit unfair, how easy she’s got it, how blessed she is, how much she has, how happy….

And the wishing starts so simply, “I wish….I had her house, her marriage, her job, her ministry, successful kids, healthy kids, luxury vacations, that wardrobe, those spiritual gifts.”

They seem, after all, like benefits without cost, clearly good things without downsides or drawbacks.

Yet, no matter how clearly we think we see the situation or how well we know what another person’s life is truly like, we’re really just peering in through the public-access windows, seeing what they choose to let us see.

We don’t know what happens behind the closed doors of their homes.  We don’t know what struggles they endured in order to build a marriage so strong.  We don’t know how much effort it took to parent her children.  We don’t know about the criticism she endures as the consequence of her ministry or the battles she’s fought or the self-discipline it took.

We don’t often see the bad days, the hard times, the sacrifices, the mistakes, the overcoming.  We see the Facebook posts and Pinterest pictures of success stories and not so much the moments when it isn’t so perfect.

The truth is that we don’t know, not really, what anyone else’s life entails, but God does.  He’s specifically designed her for that life and you for yours, and the moment we start glamorizing or over-romanticizing another’s lot is when jealousy is at work.

It sure is hard to be grateful for God’s gifts to us when we’re drooling over His gifts to another.

This coveting of others conveniently fails to consider that the things we want are a package deal.  We can’t just want good and not the bad, the day off of school without the sickness, the power without the responsibility, the success without the sacrifice.

Miriam and Aaron didn’t understand this.  They looked over Moses’s life as leader of the Jewish people and envied his position as the Lord’s anointed.  They criticized him and started questioning him publicly: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?”  (Numbers 12:2).

Oh sure, they wanted to feel set apart by God like Moses was.  They wanted to be in charge, receive recognition, have power and the anointing of God.

What could be so wrong with that?

But did they consider that Moses had to handle the daily (yes, daily!) complaints and whining of a rebellious people, who so quickly forgot the miracles God had done for them?  Did they think about what it felt like to bear the brunt of criticism and rebellions?  Were they really willing to get down on their knees and put their own lives on the line in order to intercede for the unworthy nation?

Moses hardly had a cushy desk job.

Still, Aaron and Miriam, eyes closed tight to the difficulties, decided they should have the same position as Moses.

And Moses, who was “very humble—more humble than any other person on earth” (Numbers 12:3), didn’t argue with them.

But God did.  He called Miriam and Aaron out, told the whole community why Moses was specially anointed, and then afflicted Miriam with leprosy as punishment.  If only they had been content with the ministry God had given them instead of coveting that of another.

If only we could be so content.

Thank You, God, for allowing us the blessing and responsibility of this life and not the life of anyone else; not their marriage, friendships, children, money, home, car, jobs, ministry, looks, spiritual gifts, popularity, not any of it.

That blessing you’ve been given, that life you have, that’s what we cherish and thank God for because it’s the one He specifically designed for you—both the good things and the hard things.  The weight of anyone else’s life would crush you, but this load is the one He’s prepared you to carry and the one He’s carrying with you.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Her House, My House

Every room in her house could be featured in Better Homes & Gardens in an article entitled “Pinterest Meets Reality.”

My kids, however, are randomly inspired to create art projects with shreds of paper, sparkles of glitter, dots of glue and Popsicle sticks, so my house hovers under a perpetual cloud of sparkles and the art work generally involves hand prints.

Cleaning her house probably means dusting the magazines.

Cleaning my house involves wiping down fingerprints from walls and scrubbing toothpaste splatter from inside the sink and all around the bathroom counter twice every day.

My furniture is worn and stained and scratched to shreds by cats.  My floors could be an archeologist’s dream—the interpretation of an ancient artifact to determine what every stain and tear reveals about its history.

She had collectibles and antiques.

I have toy bins, overflowing bookshelves, and craft supply buckets.

She had perfectly matching, expensive China dishes for entertaining.

I have a mishmash of plastic princess bowls, fairy mugs, cartoon character cups, and bent silverware.

When she needed to find something, it took her less than a minute to pull it from the appropriate folder.

Ask me for a particular piece of paper and it will take me two days of alternating frantic searches with desperate prayers for God to help save my sanity before I (maybe) can find it in the one place I never thought I would put it….ever…but probably seemed like such a safe spot at the time.

I have kids, three of them, what can I say?  I live a slightly disheveled life in a perpetually imperfect house.

And as much as I feel like “just a mom,” more than slightly nervous sitting in her Ethan Allen furniture surrounded by breakable objects, still I know that we aren’t better/worse or right/wrong.

We aren’t in competition and we don’t need to be the same.

I reminded myself all that day, after I returned home and spotted the streaks on the dining room windows and the smudges on the refrigerator door handles, as I sighed over the clothes that needed sorting and the school papers on my counter: I’m happy to be a mom.

And I am.

I might have slight twangs of jealousy over exotic vacations and perfect hair-styles, designer outfits and picture-perfect houses.

I might feel awkward and out of place in discussions about career success, financial affluence, and the three fancy restaurants others ate at just this past week.

But these three daughters of mine, this precious family, this messy home where we live this busy-crazy-funny-life of love and seeking God, is a gift.

And while I’m worrying over my life and feeling “less than,” maybe she’s looking over the grassgreenerfence of her own yard and thinking my grass looks slightly greener.

The world shoves arbitrary standards of success on us, labels we attach to our foreheads, categories we sort women into (working and stay-at-home), and hierarchies of value.

And the thing about God is that He isn’t interested in any of it.  He’s utterly uninfluenced by the way we determine “success” or “failure.”

He’s got a way of turning all these systems of judgment upside down.  Like how He uses the least of these or blesses the poor and gives the Kingdom to the meek.  Or how He gives the foolish understanding and defies the analysis of the self-declared “wise.”

That’s why Jacob, an aged man who raised sheep and unruly sons, stood in Egypt before the throne of mighty Pharaoh and “Jacob blessed Pharaoh again before leaving his court” (Genesis 47:10).

Pharaoh could raise a mighty army, commission massive pyramids, and alter the economy of the known world.

But Jacob closed tired eyes and prayed a blessing over a king.

We compare bank accounts, careers, clean houses, decorating skill, cake-baking ability, creativity with crafts, personal style, husbands and kids, haircuts, parenting choices, churches, ministries, Pinterest and Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and blog subscribers.

Yet, all that pressure you feel to be the same as her, to achieve as much, to own as much, to be gifted in the same way and called to do the same thing—that breath-stealing stress isn’t from God.

God is just looking to see if we’re obeying what He asked us to do.  Just as Paul commissioned Timothy, so God asks us to “fully carry out the ministry God has given you” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Not her ministry or her calling or God’s will for her or her gifting or her family or career or home…No, the one God has given you.

Just breathe.  Just serve.  Just minister.  Here and now and today and tomorrow, carry out this ministry un-distracted and unhindered by endless comparisons and value judgments.

And then let her do the same thing.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk: Needing Big Hair

Hiding the Word:

I ran my comb through my wet hair this morning and glanced into the mirror.  Bells certainly chimed somewhere and little stars likely danced around my head because I had an epiphany.

What I need as a writer, what I really and truly need to fill in some of my voids and deficiencies, is big hair.

Stay with me on this one:  How many female Christian writers can you think of who have a flat hairdo?

This was an astonishing revelation.  Every conference I’ve attended and DVD I’ve watched is led by beautiful women with big hair.   Anita Renfroe even posted a picture of herself at her salon this week with her hair covered in Saran Wrap and painted with hair dye and highlights. Even those without particularly high coiffures tend to wear it spiky, in a daring, edgy, cool kind of way.

I, however, do not have big hair, spiky hair, colorfully highlighted hair, or “cool” hair.

So, it seems clear that what I really need is a personal style team.  If they could just pop by every day and apply my make-up, fix my hair and then pick out my outfits, it would just be perfect.  It would be particularly helpful if they could make me beautiful while I’m busy doing other things.  As it is, I never seem to have time to blow dry my own hair.  Maybe they could do it for me while I wash dishes.

Isn’t it sad how easily our culture of the external seeps in?  How there is always something that we “need” and it’s usually what the person next to us has.

What I really need is . . . her job, his house, her car, her marriage, their kids, her ministry, her spiritual gift . . . her hair.

The Psalmist, Asaph, reminded us that there shouldn’t be anything on earth we long for more than God Himself.  We may not have the personal stylists we dream of or the health, wealth, and prosperity the world assures us we need.

But we have Jesus.  We have the Holy Spirit active in us.  We have God’s very own Word to us written down and at our fingertips throughout every day.  This is what we truly need.

Our verse for the week, to remind us of what we’ve already been given is:

 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26 NIV).

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

You Get What You Get And You Don’t Throw a Fit

I thought I was going to have all boys.

My interests trended toward Legos, GI Joe, computer games, and airplanes and not so much to princesses, Disney movies, ballet, and ponies.  So, it made sense that God, sensing my aptitude for being a boys’ mom, would give me sons.

Fully prepared to head out on a blue shopping spree following the ultrasound for my first pregnancy, I was shocked . . . stunned . . . surprised speechless when the doctor announced he was pretty sure my son was actually a daughter.

I cried.

It’s got nothing to do with wanting a boy in the traditional sense—that somehow it’s our duty in life as women to birth sons and have male offspring and all that.

Instead, I cried because I felt so much more pressure knowing I’d have a daughter.  I had assumed that my husband would be primarily responsible for teaching him how to pee in the potty and for having “the talk” around puberty.

More than any of that, my husband would be responsible for modeling Godly manhood and I could be the really cool, supportive, fun mom who showed my boys what to choose in a wife.

(Moms of boys can insert laughter here, knowing it isn’t at all as easy as I’d envisioned.  What can I say—I’d never had a child of any kind before!  I was a foolish innocent.)

Having a girl meant I would be fully in charge of the potty and I’d likely be the one explaining the birds and the bees.

Oh, and I’d have to live like the woman of God, the wife, the mom, the friend . . . that I wanted them to become.  Plus, I’d have to be on my best behavior all the time because kids pretty much don’t blink and miss stuff.

No pressure or anything, right?

Thinking it was a fluke, I went to the ultrasound for my second pregnancy awaiting the announcement of a boy.

She wasn’t.

I was even a little surprised during my third pregnancy when the doctor looked at the ultrasound pictures, looked back at me and said, “I can’t say this is a boy.”

I was surprised, but I wasn’t disappointed. By the time I had my third baby, I wasn’t really sure I’d know what to do with a boy if I had one!  Over time I’ve grown to love having a house full of girls and have learned a million lessons as a result.

Like the fact that an affinity for pink, purple, princesses and ponies isn’t as environmental as I thought.  Without any help from me, my oldest daughter became the princess of all princesses and the ballerina of all ballerinas.

Like how to style my daughter’s hair into a fishtail braid.

Like how to help daughters live with emotional balance and become strong women who aren’t abrasive and compassionate women who aren’t pushovers.

Well, to be honest, I’m still learning that last one.

It’s still overwhelming at times and I feel unfit many days.  Never having played “hairstylist” as a child, I have no idea how to fix up my daughters’ long tresses.  I kind of fumble around with nail painting and wouldn’t know how to behave in a nail salon if I ever grew brave enough to enter one.  I’m no fashion expert and zero help with their ballet lessons.  I still hate shopping.

Still, even when I get it wrong and stumble through life as a girls’ mom, I’ve learned to love pink and purple, rock the dress-up games, clap big at their ballet performances, and snuggle them close at least once a day to tell them how I think they’re so beautiful outside, but more importantly inside where it really counts.

In her book, MOMumental, Jennifer Grant shared a lesson she’d been taught by a college professor:  Prefer the given.

Originally used by the author, Charles Williams, the phrase means “choosing to appreciate what we have instead of being dissatisfied with the grace and other gifts God gives us” (Grant p. 11).

Now, I haven’t been fond of everything my kindergartener has picked up from her friends at school, but one day at dinner she repeated something a boy in her class said, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

That I loved.

Isn’t it the same lesson I’ve been learning over time and the same one Jennifer Grant was teaching in her book?

It’s the lesson of contentment, preferring this life God has given me over any childhood fantasy or pre-childbearing delusion.

It’s preferring the here and now instead of being trapped by the past, obsessed with worry over the future, or determined to rush past the beauty of this moment in an effort to move on to something “better.”

We all make a million plans that never turn out the way we expect, we dream of what life will be like and then sometimes sit in speechless shock when it doesn’t work out that way.

Paul’s life certainly didn’t end up the way he ever expected.  Yet, it was Paul who wrote, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6) and Paul again who wrote “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

For those of us who’ve ever struggled with knowing God’s will, Paul tells us what it is—be thankful for what God has given you, all the time, even if it isn’t what you wanted or planned.  Give thanks and trust that God knows what He’s doing.

You can check out my full review of Jennifer Grant’s book MOMumental and even read a free download of the first chapter 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, 02/11/2012

Hiding the Word:

My seven-year-old daughter likes to play the “When I’m 13 game.”

Oh, when will I be 13?  I’ll be able to do everything I ever wanted when I’m 13.  It’ll be so much better when I’m 13.  I’ll be able to babysit.  I’ll be old enough to take care of a dog.  It must be great to be 13!”

What is she thinking?  I’ve tried to explain many times that when she’s 13, what she’ll likely be saying is this:

Oh, I wish I were seven again.  Life was so much easier when I was seven.  School was simpler.  Relationships weren’t full of drama.  I didn’t have all this stress.  Oh, life was so perfect when I was seven.

Alas, she doesn’t believe me.

It reminded me, though, of something we read in Prisiclla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God, which we studied over the summer of 2011.  She wrote:

“God is the God of right now.  He doesn’t want us to regret yesterday or worry about tomorrow.  He wants us to focus on what He is saying to us and putting in front of us right now.  The Enemy’s voice will focus on the past and the future, but the voice of our God will focus on today.  God’s voice tells us what we can do now” (p. 85).

As Jesus said in the memory verse I’m choosing for this week:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:33-34).

In the complete context of Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to worry about what we’ll eat, drink or wear.  Seek Him.  Seek His kingdom.  Seek His righteousness.  He’ll take care of our needs.  It’s His promise to us.

Have you chosen a verse to memorize and meditate on this week?  I hope you post a comment below and share it with all of us!!

Weekend Rerun

Cultivating a Quiet Heart
  Originally Published 03/15/2011

“I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content”
Psalm 131:1-2 (MSG)

I work from home at my computer so that I can take care of my three young daughters.  Mostly, my work days go something like this:

  • Get everyone settled and sit down at the computer to work.
  • Help child put clothes on her doll.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get a drink for another child.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Spell “Pocahontas” for older daughter who is systematically drawing every princess she’s ever heard of.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Change baby’s diaper.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Break up fight between older girls who each want to be the same princess.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get snack for children who declare that they are indeed starving and will die if they don’t eat something now instead of waiting for dinner.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Get lemonade for the children who forgot that they were also thirsty and not just hungry when they asked for a snack.
  • Sit down to work.
  • Look for a particular book for a child who swears she’s looked everywhere, including the bookshelf, and it has just simply disappeared into thin air.  Find the book on the bookshelf.
  • Sit down to work.

You get the idea.

Yesterday, I was working away and getting up every 20 seconds (perhaps an exaggeration, but it FELT like every 20 seconds), when my oldest daughter stood at my feet, appearing like a child in need.  So, I looked at her and sighed and waited for the request.  One more thing someone needed from me.  One more expectation to fill.  One more bit of help to give.

And she gave me a hug, placed a kiss on my cheek, said, “I love you, Mom” and walked away.

My baby does this all day long.  She plays and asks me for things and then at least two or three times an hour, she walks over to me and just lays her head down on my arm and waits for me to stroke her head and kiss her.  Then, she runs off again to dump out all the blocks and pull every book off the bookshelf as she plays.

I love my children and I love that I can be at home to help them when they need it and to give and receive kisses and hugs when all they ask for is affection.   Some days, it’s draining because it’s a job that involves giving, giving, and giving some more.   I know they’re kids who just need help and that’s okay.  I would much prefer they ask me for help than find my house torn apart from their efforts to do things on their own.  Still, sometimes I think a few minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time sitting in one place sounds luxurious.

That hug and kiss from my daughter yesterday reminded me of my relationship with God.   So many days, I go to Him in need.  I ask Him for help, encouragement, intervention, provision, healing.  All day long, I pray for myself, my family and for others.  Thankfully, God is a far more patient parent than I am.  He never sighs with fatigue and frustration when I show up before His throne again with another request.

Yet, how precious are the moments when I come into God’s presence not asking for Him to help me with anything, but just pleased to have His company.

Psalm 131:1-2 says:  “I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” (MSG).  In the NIV, this description is of a “weaned child with its mother.”

The image here is of a baby content to be with her mother, not because she’s looking for food or the fulfillment of a need, but just because the mother’s very presence brings comfort.

It’s part of the maturing process in this Christian walk.  God weans us so that we don’t just look to Him for help, but we respond “to Him out of love . . . for God does not want us neurotically dependent on Him but willingly trustful in Him” (Eugene Peterson).  It’s not that God no longer cares for us or sees our need.  Instead, He’s asking us to trust His love for us so much that we can lay our burdens at His feet and leave them there, choosing to focus on God Himself rather than our troubling circumstances.  We see His love and not our empty bank account.  We look to His faithfulness and not our illness.  We focus on His might and not our broken relationships.

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson goes on to write, “Choose to be with him; elect his presence; aspire to his ways; respond to his love.”

This reminds me of Psalm 42:1-2 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?” (NIV).  It’s a cry for communion and relationship rather than a desperate plea for help.  It’s a call to enjoy God’s presence, not for what He does for us, but for who He is.

“Father, I thank You that You are so patient with me, hearing each of my requests and responding to me with lovingkindness and compassion.  I’m sorry for not spending more time just enjoying Your presence instead of meeting with You in order to get something for myself.  I trust in You to care for me and all these needs that weigh on my heart and I put them aside in order to commune with You and give You praise.  I choose to cultivate a quiet and contented heart.”

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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