Orange Makeup/White Shirt and Forgiveness

“I’m so grateful we never have to stand at a distance from Christ. Not only is He incapable of catching our ‘disease,’ but also He is never reluctant to embrace us”
(Beth Moore, Jesus: the One and Only, p. 242)

I love my kids.  Normally, I’m eager to accept their hugs and I’ll wrap them up in my arms at the slightest whim.

The other night, though, my daughter was fully decked out in her costume as an Oompa Loompa in a production of Willy Wonka, Jr, complete with thick, bright orange makeup all the way to her hairline and down to her neck.

…And she wanted to hug me.006

…While I was wearing a white shirt.

…A really, really white shirt.

Did I mention she was orange?  Really, really orange.  In fact, I think Crayola should consider naming a new color “Oompa Loompa Orange” in her honor.

So, I hugged her at first with an intricately choreographed dance, making sure her orange head never made contact with my clothing. She bobbed; I weaved.

Then, I stood still for a moment and tilted her face to the side so that only the top of her head touched me.  (Her hair, thankfully, wasn’t orange!)   I gave her what I’ve decided to call “the sideways head hug.”

My goal here was a kind of sterile affection: Showing love without staining my clothes.

I’ve learned this dance over years of practice as a mom.  Kids, after all, come at me every day with Oreos on their hands and spaghetti sauce oozing from their fingers. More paint makes it onto them than every makes it onto paper and then they reach out and touch me to get my attention.

In fact, most of my clothes bear the marks of their hands on my thighs (where they could reach when standing up as toddlers) and on my shoulders (from the times I picked those little ones up).

When I read through the Gospels, I’m amazed at how Jesus essentially wore a white shirt and yet never failed to hug, squeeze, lift up, and cherish all those who came to him—even when they were covered in stains of sin, death, and all that was unclean.

He never dodged them in attempts to escape the messiness of their lives.

When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years braved the disapproving crowd in order to reach Jesus, she was unclean.  Continual bleeding meant continually being cut-off from public worship and physical contact with others.

One brush of her skin against your arm and you’d be unclean, as well.

Yet, she touched Jesus and He didn’t flinch or condemn her.  He didn’t sidestep her presence.  He healed her and set her free.

When Jesus saw the coffin of a widow’s only son pass by surrounded by wailing mourners and his mother in despair, Jesus could have slipped away and ignored it all.  Touching a dead body was a guaranteed mess, making you unclean by the law’s religious standards.

Jesus did it anyway, though, telling the dead boy to arise and then watching this only son embrace his mother again.

Jesus ate with the rabble, touched the eyes of the blind, and laid hands on the demon-possessed.  His was a physical affection, the real and true fingerprints of God placed on undeserving lives and unclean situations.

Yet, instead of being tainted or stained Himself, He brought purity to others.

Paul put it this way:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Too often we miss the significance of this fact: Jesus did what was unclean and yet nothing could penetrate the purity of the Son of God.

He was sinless, blameless, totally righteous before God, but He didn’t use that as an excuse to separate Himself from others.  Instead, it was His joy to absorb their stains of sin, now bleached white when laid at the feet of the Messiah.

It’s what He did on the streets of Galilee and Judea and Samaria.

It’s what He did on the cross.

It’s what He does even now when we let Him get involved in the dirtiest, muckiest, and most sin-plagued aspects of our lives.

That’s what John assures us when he writes: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

This means we don’t need to hide away or shun his society.  We don’t need to pretend the unclean blots on our lives don’t exist.

It also means that we can follow his example by no longer worrying about our clean white shirts and start doling out affection without restraint, not avoiding the mess of others when it makes us uncomfortable.  Like Jesus, we “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us” (Ephesians 5:2).

Sometimes real love means getting messy, maybe even orange.

Originally published as Orange Makeup/White Shirt on August 15 2012

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

Did Jesus Get Splinters?

“Mom, did Jesus get splinters from the cross?”

My daughter doesn’t really know how to whisper.  She somehow manages to make her voice breathy and full of air, but still push the words out with a great deal of volume.

I mentally apologized to the audience members in front of us and behind us, who had come that night to see the Ballet Magnificat dance in worship and to tell the Exodus story.

But then the dancers surprised us.  They fast-forwarded in time to our ultimate Deliverer, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to give us freedom from slavery to sin.

There He was mocked and scorned by the crowd.
There He was beaten and nailed.
There He was hoisted onto the weathered wood and left to die.
There He cried out in pain.
There He died.

You never know what might make an impression on a child. I had already answered  whispered questions about slavery in Egypt earlier in the program.

Because, as many times as we had talked about the story and read the account in the children’s Bible . . . . and as often as my daughter had heard it in Sunday School and Children’s Church and Awana . . . somehow she had missed the part of slavery where it’s horrible and evil and frightening and relentless and hard and unfair and cruel.

So, the sound of the whip cracking and the way the slaves dropped to the ground in fatigue and despair shocked her.

You mean “slavery” is this?  It’s not just a happy little Jewish community living in tiny houses on the outskirts of Egyptian cities?

No, my baby girl.  Slavery is a pharaoh ordering that every male baby be killed at birth.  It’s waking up every morning to labor hard and long for someone else, no freedom to worship or rise above or choose for yourself or provide for your family.  It’s whips and rods and beatings and shame and being less than.

Why are the slaves working so hard, Mom?  Why is he beating them, Mom?  Why do they look so tired, Mom?

All whispered in my ear and what to say in that moment of hushed conversation other than, “That’s what slavery is, honey.  Didn’t you know?”

But how could she know?  We have a way as humans of protecting ourselves from knowledge that hurts.  And we have a way as parents and teachers of watering down the truth so we don’t frighten kids (or ourselves).  And we have a way as adults of sanitizing reality so we don’t have to face the ugly horror of it.

But when Jesus told the crowd that the truth would make them free, they didn’t understand: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (John 8:34).

They had forgotten their people’s four-century-long history, of slavery in Egypt, and how God sent them the deliverer Moses.

Jesus reminded them: You, yourself, have a lifelong history of slavery to sin and “a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).

I explain this later to my daughters, when whispering is no longer mandatory, and we have the time and space to talk.

Did you see how terrible slavery was for the Israelites?  Jesus says we were slaves to sin in the same way.

And did you see what Moses had to give up in order to deliver the people out of Egypt?  He couldn’t keep his fancy room in the palace, his princely clothes, his royal position, his delectable foods.  He sacrificed all that to lead his people out of slavery.

But Jesus gave up more.  Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

My daughter knew about the nails and the crown of thorns.  She knew about the cross.  But the scornful cries of the crowd, that she couldn’t understand.

Then, while watching the dancers portray Jesus’ crucifixion, she thought of the most horrible thing she could imagine, the thing that terrifies her into wearing shoes on our deck and the thing that has sent her into fits of screaming on our couch when we pull out the tweezers.

Did Jesus get splinters from the cross?

Why yes, baby girl, he probably did.  But he did it for you and for me.  He hung bare-skinned on a rough wooden cross so He could deliver us and set us free.

That’s the truth of costly grace and the Savior who paid the ultimate price: splinters, whips, mockery, the weight of sin, separation from God, and death and all.

How can you keep from forgetting what Christ has done for you?

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

Orange Makeup/White Shirt

“I’m so grateful we never have to stand at a distance from Christ. Not only is He incapable of catching our ‘disease,’ but also He is never reluctant to embrace us”
(Beth Moore, Jesus: the One and Only, p. 242)

I love my kids.  Normally, I’m eager to accept their hugs and I’ll wrap them up in my arms at the slightest whim.

The other night, though, my daughter was fully decked out in her costume as an Oompa Loompa in a production of Willy Wonka, Jr, complete with thick, bright orange makeup all the way to her hairline and down to her neck.

…And she wanted to hug me.

…While I was wearing a white shirt.

…A really, really white shirt.

Did I mention she was orange?  Really, really orange.  In fact, I think Crayola should consider naming a new color “Oompa Loompa Orange” in her honor.

So, I hugged her at first with an intricately choreographed dance, making sure her orange head never made contact with my clothing. She bobbed; I weaved.

Then, I stood still for a moment and tilted her face to the side so that only the top of her head touched me.  (Her hair, thankfully, wasn’t orange!)   I gave her what I’ve decided to call “the sideways head hug.”

My goal here was a kind of sterile affection: Showing love without staining my clothes.

I’ve learned this dance over years of practice as a mom.  Kids, after all, come at me every day with Oreos on their hands and spaghetti sauce oozing from their fingers. More paint makes it onto them than every makes it onto paper and then they reach out and touch me to get my attention.

In fact, most of my clothes bear the marks of their hands on my thighs (where they could reach when standing up as toddlers) and on my shoulders (from the times I picked those little ones up).

When I read through the Gospels, I’m amazed at how Jesus essentially wore a white shirt and yet never failed to hug, squeeze, lift up, and cherish all those who came to him—even when they were covered in stains of sin, death, and all that was unclean.

He never dodged them in attempts to escape the messiness of their lives.

When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years braved the disapproving crowd in order to reach Jesus, she was unclean.  Continual bleeding meant continually being cut-off from public worship and physical contact with others.

One brush of her skin against your arm and you’d be unclean, as well.

Yet, she touched Jesus and He didn’t flinch or condemn her.  He didn’t sidestep her presence.  He healed her and set her free.

When Jesus saw the coffin of a widow’s only son pass by surrounded by wailing mourners and his mother in despair, Jesus could have slipped away and ignored it all.  Touching a dead body was a guaranteed mess, making you unclean by the law’s religious standards.

Jesus did it anyway, though, telling the dead boy to arise and then watching this only son embrace his mother again.

Jesus ate with the rabble, touched the eyes of the blind, and laid hands on the demon-possessed.  His was a physical affection, the real and true fingerprints of God placed on undeserving lives and unclean situations.

Yet, instead of being tainted or stained Himself, He brought purity to others.

Paul put it this way:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Too often we miss the significance of this fact: Jesus did what was unclean and yet nothing could penetrate the purity of the Son of God.

He was sinless, blameless, totally righteous before God, but He didn’t use that as an excuse to separate Himself from others.  Instead, it was His joy to absorb their stains of sin, now bleached white when laid at the feet of the Messiah.

It’s what He did on the streets of Galilee and Judea and Samaria.

It’s what He did on the cross.

It’s what He does even now when we let Him get involved in the dirtiest, muckiest, and most sin-plagued aspects of our lives.

That’s what John assures us when he writes: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

This means we don’t need to hide away or shun his society.  We don’t need to pretend the unclean blots on our lives don’t exist.

It also means that we can follow his example by no longer worrying about our clean white shirts and start doling out affection without restraint, not avoiding the mess of others when it makes us uncomfortable.  Like Jesus, we “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us” (Ephesians 5:2).

Sometimes real love means getting messy, maybe even orange.

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.

Rigging Candy Land

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
   don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all
(Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG).

When my kids were younger, I used to rig the Candy Land cards.

Not so they could win, you understand, because I don’t believe in just letting a child win at games.

I simply hated the cruelty of the setback.  The thing about Candy Land is that you could be two rainbow-colored squares away from the magic candy castle and then draw the card for the Gingerbread Man.

At first, this seems harmless enough.  Who doesn’t want the Gingerbread Man?  Then you realize that it’s just evil fate and lessons in the futility of life sugar-coated and handed to your three-year-old child.

That’s because the Gingerbread Man is all the way back at the beginning of the game.

So, you have to watch this sweetly innocent toddler who was an inch away from cheering in victory move her red Candy Land piece all the way back to a position of certain defeat.

Sometimes life seems just as sadly confusing with unexpected twists and turns and a few disappointments and setbacks.

Yet, surely these are lessons best learned when you’re a little older and wiser?

My solution was simple.  As I shuffled the cards before setting up the game, I made sure the dreaded Gingerbread Man and the peppermint stick guy and sometimes even the gumdrop were in the front of the stack.

Thus, anyone who drew one of those cards would never have to fall back more than a few squares.

Sometimes I wish God would rig the cards every once in a while so life never involved steps backwards or feeling stuck in place (on something less soothingly delicious as a licorice stick).

While He’s at it, wouldn’t it be nice if He gave the game board a big yank and straightened the path?  No more zigzags across the board.  Geometry tells us the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  How about a straight line, God?

Yes, it’s true, sometimes the directions God takes us and the interruptions, setbacks, and seemingly pointless diversions we experience just don’t make sense.

In her book Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break, Kelly Minter shared: “…I have a friend who regularly says to me, ‘Lean not Gal!’  As in, ‘Lean not on your own understanding, but all your ways acknowledge Him, ‘Gal!'” (p. 97).

I love this.  I certainly have the tendency to lean on my own understanding and raise a ruckus of discontentment when God leads me in unexpected directions.

Jonah also needed someone to tell him, “Lean not, Guy!” when he, a highly successful, well-respected prophet of encouragement to God’s holy people got God’s disturbing message: Go preach repentance to an enemy nation that has persecuted and killed your neighbors and family friends.

The disciples similarly needed a “lean not” reminder when Jesus told them they were going up to Jerusalem where He would be persecuted, imprisoned and crucified.

In the same way, Paul challenged his friends and followers to “lean not” when he traveled to Jerusalem, despite being warned that he would be placed in chains and taken captive there (Acts 21).

Jonah, the famous runaway, tried to avoid the path that didn’t make sense.

What if he had succeeded? Nineveh would have missed out on experiencing what “many historians cite …as the greatest revival in human history” (Priscilla Shirer, Jonah, p. 114).

In fact:

When Jonah chose to walk in obedience to the word of the Lord, the result was a harvest of amazing fruit he’d probably never seen coming.  Not just one community in the city or even a handful of the city’s important people believed in God.  Every citizen of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least, immediately believed.  Conviction was so complete that even the animals were made to participate in the government-mandated fast.  ‘Even the great Apostle Paul never experienced anything comparable to what Jonah saw.  Paul never saw an entire city turn to God'” (Shirer, p. 118-119).

Yes, and without Jesus’ journey to the cross, we would not have the resurrection or a plan for salvation.

And if Paul chose the easier road away from Jerusalem, he would never have preached about Christ in Rome—even to Caesar himself (Acts 28).

It’s frightening not to know exactly where we’re going.  It’s terrifying not to know what will happen when we get there.

It’s disappointing when God asks you:
to step aside
to stop
to walk away
to turn around
to go back
to take a break
to cease activity
and to put aside our own plans and visions and understanding of how this crazy life should work out and make sense.

Yet, even when we spend some time standing still or making the disheartening trip apparently backwards, we can trust that God has a plan—a better plan (yes, even better than the magical candy castle!) and maybe a surprising plan (to us, not to Him)—as long as we obey.

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.

VBS Lessons: No Matter What Happens

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Tonight at Sky VBS! (Group Publishing), we’re learning: No Matter What Happens…Trust God!

*********************************************************************************

“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love”
Romans 8:38

There are times when I take prayer requests at the close of a meeting almost reluctantly, not because I don‘t care or because I don‘t want to pray.  It’s just that the requests seem so big and I feel the heaviness of them.

That perpetual litany of need, of cancer; mystery illnesses; the death of babies, husbands–and marriages; lost jobs and shattered finances seems like darkness with light, pain without hope.

I feel an affinity for the disciples in the three dark days between the cross and the resurrection, a silent understanding of their pain.  In “Valleys Fill First,” Caedmon’s Call sang: “It’s like that long Saturday between your death and the rising day, when no one wrote a word and wondered is this the end.”

Yes, that was the terror of looking at the cross and standing at a grave and thinking it was all over.

Days after riding through the streets of Jerusalem cheered by the crowd, Jesus had been captured, put on trial, crucified, and shut up in an impenetrable tomb, leaving the disciples overwhelmed, confused, and without hope.  They questioned everything they had seen, heard, and believed about Jesus just days before.

Then, they had confessed Him as Messiah.
Now, their Messiah was dead.

Then, they had seen Him raise Lazarus and others from the dead.
Now, His own death seemed unconquerable.

They had been catapulted into darkness and all of God’s promises and even their personal testimonies were called into question.

In the dark places, we too forget.  Surrounded by pain and despair, we allow circumstances to determine our view of God.  The physical “reality” of death, sickness, financial insecurity, and broken relationships tells us God isn’t loving, God won’t provide, God isn’t at work on our behalf.

When faced with tough circumstances, David also asked God some tough questions: “Will the Lord reject forever?  Will He never show His favor again?  Has His unfailing love vanished forever?  Has His promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”  (Psalm 77:7-9, NIV).

Ultimately, though, David fought against these doubts by returning to what He knew was truth: “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12, NIV). 

In the same way, we remember who our God is.  No matter what happens, we trust God.

Because He is a Creator, who can bring forth something altogether new out of nothingness.

Because He has Resurrection Power, the ability to take what is utterly dead and bring new life.

Christ’s resurrection gave the disciples new hope, real hope, true absolute belief and confirmation that their faith was more than a fairy tale, whim, emotional crutch or delusion.

So often, we use “hope” to mean little more than “good luck” or “best wishes.”  We give a friend a hug and say, “I hope you have a good day” or pat them on the back and say, “I hope you get that job you want” or “I hope your treatments work.”

We might as well be calling “heads” as we toss a coin.

Instead, because of Christ’s resurrection we have real hope for eternity.  We can have full, confident assurance in what Titus 2:13 calls “the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NIV).  

Because of the Resurrection, we also have hope in the present.  After all, nothing is too big for a God who has power over life and death.  Jesus proved that no matter how bleak our physical reality looks and how much our five senses tell us God is not in control, He is still Lord and He can do all things.

Fortunately, our hope is in His strength and not our own.  It’s too much for us to carry around the weight of our problems and our dead circumstances.  We’re not creators. We don’t have resurrection power.  A world that relies solely on us is a hopeless place indeed.

Yet, no matter how dark our circumstances, even when we are in the closed tomb with every sign of death, we can have hope in Christ.

God, who conquered death and the grave, is working on your behalf in the here and now and also in preparation for our eternity with Him.

Instead of struggling to handle things on our own, we need to do something that is sometimes far more difficult–yield.  Cry out to Him that this weight is more than you can handle, allow Him to carry the load, and have renewed hope in God’s ability to care for you no matter how insurmountable the circumstances appear.

Would you like to hear the Caedmon’s Call song, Valleys Fill First?  Click here to follow the link or play it directly from 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

A Matter of Life and Death

Life or Death
Originally Posted on 04/22/2011

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen”
Luke 24:5

A few months ago, my husband came home, arms full of roses—deep red, fragrance so rich.  They were the most beautiful flowers I’d ever been given.

This bouquet from my husband greeted me throughout the day for two weeks, perfect in their vase.  I’d stop my chores and my rushing to literally stop and smell the roses.  But, of course then came wilting and fading and falling petals.  As a girl, I had collected up rose petals over time and filled a glass cup with them, like homemade potpourri with scents of summer and memories dear.  So, I once again gathered up the petals to keep them as a reminder of my gift.

Last week, I peeked into my jar of keepsake roses to enjoy them just for a moment and instead of dried and faded flowers still filled with aroma, I found instead mold grown over.  Into the trash they went.

Sometimes there are things we hold onto so dearly that are truly dead.  We try and try to revive and preserve; we linger over things past.  Have you held onto the habits and comforts of the past when Christ has called you to lay them down and move on?  He has asked you to sacrifice and instead you clutch it to your chest, not willing to give it up.  So, you cling to the old and fail to receive the new “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).

At the tomb on the morning of Christ’s resurrection, women brought spices for anointing.  Instead of the expected, they faced the unexpected—the stone rolled away, the body gone, two angels in clothes gleaming like lightning, asking a question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen” (Luke 24:5)

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Surely there are times we do this, too.  We look for our Living Savior among the graves.  Sometimes our faith is more cemetery than empty tomb.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

We read the Bible as a historical document rather than as a living Word. We follow Jesus as our example rather than listening to Him as our living Lord.  We take our cues from our denominational traditions rather than from the Spirit of life.  In other words, we turn our faith toward dead things rather than toward the Living One.

Has this been you?  Has faith been dulled and the joy of your salvation replaced by compulsory duty and passionless motions—doing Christianity rather than living with Christ?

Or, are you instead staring at a tomb of a different sort, but still there is death?  A relationship broken.  A marriage over.  A child turned prodigal.  A ministry struggling.  A passion now cold.  A vision gone dark.  A hope proved impossible.  A lack of direction and not knowing where to go.  A season of waiting, waiting, waiting, always waiting.

There is some mourning to be done, some grieving over what is lost and dead in our lives.  Some letting go and laying down.  And there may be tears; that’s expected.   Yet, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

With morning, comes resurrection and abundant new life, and we rejoice for He is “making everything new” (Revelation 21:5, NIV).  This Savior whose sacrifice we remember on Good Friday by eating the bread, drinking the cup—this Savior declared victory over death and the grave.  Power over His tomb.  Power over the places we mourn and grieve.

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, NIV).

and

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14, NIV).

What would this rising look like for us?  What can He resurrect in us this year?  Over what can He give us victory?

I pray this new life for you. 

That His Word will be living and active, changing your heart, altering your perspective.
For renewed passion, vision, excitement, and ministry impact.
For restoration of relationships.
For the return of hope.
For weeping to end and joy to fill you.
For your eyes to be opened wide to God’s presence, His character, His goodness.
~Amen~

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, 04/07/2012

Hiding the Word:

Last night, our family sat at the Good Friday service at church.  We sang hymns about the cross. We read Isaiah 52-53.  My girls nailed papers with their sins written on them to a wooden cross in the front of the church sanctuary with the help of their Daddy and their grandparents.

We remembered the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made there.

Afterward, when we had arrived home, stripped off our jackets and plopped down our belongings, we glanced at our five caterpillars in a cup.  In our short absence, two of them had climbed to the top and tipped themselves upside down.

It’s time.  They know exactly when to spin the silk and form the chrysalis, just as they will know when to emerge as butterflies.

We are waiting with expectation now.  We know the end of their story and it doesn’t stop with upside down caterpillars or bugs entombed in the cocoon of their own design.  New life is the beginning that starts with the end.

In the same way, knowing as we do that Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb, we celebrate Good Friday with hopeful expectation–because Sunday is coming.  His resurrection day is near.

Jesus’ close friends and family, however, hadn’t understood His messages to them.  They didn’t fully expect His death.  They didn’t look forward with hopeful anticipation for His resurrection.  They got it all wrong.

Don’t we get it all wrong so much of the time?  Don’t we expect God to act a certain way, and when He doesn’t, we lose hope?  We grow weary and depressed, perhaps even angry.

We look at circumstances and we pronounce death over them.  We think surely this is over.  Surely nothing can be done.

Jesus defied all of our plans and expectations through His death and resurrection, providing the perfect way of salvation for the entirety of mankind.  He continues to do that today.  When He declares that the time is at hand, He can speak life into every circumstance and situation, and His plan is perfect.

Our verse for the week:

“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:55-56).

You can listen to Matt Maher’s song, Christ is Risen, by clicking on this link or viewing the video from the blog:  http://youtu.be/IExdrZGQVeI

Weekend Rerun:

Surprise!
Originally posted July 27, 2011

All day long people were singing at her.  Smiling and singing.  They tickled her belly, kissed her cheek, hugged her, and said two magic words that she didn’t even understand, “Happy Birthday!”

At first, my now-two-year-old reacted to all this attention with nothing more than a puzzled expression.  By the afternoon of her second birthday, she smiled a sweetly confused grin when we scooped her up for birthday hugs and kisses.  After dinner, she enjoyed the visit from her grandparents, but it wasn’t until I brought out the birthday cupcakes and we sang to her that she really began to understand that this special day was about her.

As soon as I lit the candle, she knew what to do.  She started blowing at the air while I still stood across the room with her birthday cupcake in my hands.  And then after she was covered in icing and Mickey Mouse-shaped sprinkles, I brought out wrapped presents and gift bags.

Her face said it all.  “For me?”  She unwrapped each gift and immediately played with it, read the book, put the puzzle pieces in place, and fed the baby doll.

My little one had been surprised by joy.

How I love that age when the simple fact of a birthday is enough to bring laughter and excitement.  My older daughters now anticipate their big days all year long.  Within a week of turning six, my eldest began telling people she was, “Almost seven.”  I’ve heard all their big plans for birthday parties (despite being told that we’re skipping this year), and yet they plan anyway.

But for my baby girl, there was no anticipation.  She had no idea we were planning for her joy.  She was oblivious to me stashing presents in the closet.  She had no clue I wrapped them during her nap the day before the big day.  She did know that I made cupcakes (she has a sixth sense for finding cupcakes), but she didn’t see me decorate them or pop two candles onto the top of the one just for her.

During those final days before her birthday, her sisters and I were the excited ones.  We looked forward to showering her with special treats and signs of love, even more because we knew she wouldn’t be expecting it.

Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

When we’re feeling broken, just emptied out or filled with fear . . . when we look ahead to an uncertain future, not even knowing what tomorrow will look like for us . . . when we’ve been attacked into the ground, pounded on by trials and Satan and circumstances and one bad event after another . . .

. . . then we remember that God is at work in invisible ways, even when we cannot see His hand, His activity, or His plans.  He gives us the good gifts of salvation, His Holy Spirit, His peace, yes.  But even more, He pours out on us surprises of joy, presents of grace in the unexpected places, an oasis in the midst of our wilderness, and a shooting star of hope across a midnight black expanse of our future.

Angela Thomas in her book Do You Know Who I Am? wrote:

“there is always a hidden work of God.  When you think that God is distant or that maybe God has turned against you, I want you to remember that in the unseen God is plotting for your joy.  He is planning the redemption of your brokenness.”  Angela Thomas

Does it tickle you to think of God in heaven wrapping presents for you, sending down cupcakes with sprinkles just for you–when you least expect it and on a day that seems so ordinary or worse, filled with despair?

That’s what He did for Mary Magdalene, sitting at the tomb of her dead Savior, weeping for the loss of Him and the seeming loss of all He had promised.  In her sorrow, she had traveled to the tomb while it was still dark.  Perhaps she couldn’t sleep, so throwing back her blankets she had simply gotten up and started walking to the place of His burial.

But the stone was gone.  The tomb empty.  She called for the disciples and they searched through scraps of linen for any answer to the mystery of the missing Savior.

There was despair and confusion and hurt.  There was anger and defensiveness about grave robbers and defilers. It was a day that had started out bad enough and was quickly getting worse by the second.

Mary didn’t see Jesus “plotting for her joy.”  He had been at work in the hidden places, descending into hell and snatching the keys of death out of Satan’s hands.  He had risen on that third day and exited the tomb already, but she hadn’t seen any of that.

While God planned her surprise, she: “stood outside the tomb crying” (John 20:11).

It’s not until she sees Jesus herself—not even then, not even when she talks with Him, but only when He calls her by name—that she realizes the victory before her, the amazing miracle of resurrection.

The angels asked her why she was crying.  Jesus Himself asked the reason for her tears.  She cried because the brokenness was all she knew and the evidence of loss and grief was overbearingly present.  An empty tomb, grave clothes in a pile, Savior’s body gone.  That’s what she saw.

Isn’t that what we sometimes see, too?  We see here and now.  Bills due.  Relationships broken.  Uncertainty about the next day and the next.  Unanswered questions.  Danger for our kids.  Loss and mourning.  Difficult ministry.

We see the grave.

God sees the resurrection.

He’s your Father who loves you, who knows how to give you good gifts and is wrapping presents for you, rejoicing “over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17), and working “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”” (Rom. 8:28).

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

There’ll Be A Scar

The doctor said there will be a scar.

I stood over my two-year-old as she laid on the hospital bed in the emergency room, cradling her hand in mine and gently stroking her blood-soaked hair.

More than two hours before, she had been tucked in her bed when she felt inspired to climb into the crib on her own.  We heard the thud and then her cry.  Then we heard the cries of the older girls who were certain they “saw her brains coming out” and were afraid “she was going to die.”

My husband and I scooped up my baby girl, threw on her jacket and snatched up her shoes.  Pressing a rag to her head to cover the gash and to stop the bleeding, my husband snuggled her close as he carried her to the van for our ride to the emergency room.

And I prayed.

Sometimes when you’re in that place of adrenaline and potential bad news, fear, and love for your child, you can’t pray much more than the name of Jesus.  I’m thankful that’s enough.

In the emergency room we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more.  By a true miracle, my two-year-old played happily for two-and-a-half hours without one single tear, entertained only by the items I happened to have in my purse.  Two crayons.  Three miniature My Little Ponies.  Two children’s books.  A sheet of stickers.

When we saw the doctor, I confessed that I’d never had a child receive stitches for anything.  So, he cleaned out the gash in her forehead, probed it and kind of hmmmed and sighed for a few minutes.  Then he announced, “There’ll be a scar no matter what.  But in order to avoid a needle and anesthetic for her and to keep you from passing out, let’s try glue instead of stitches.”

That sounded good to me.

When I told her the story, my friend said, “Who doesn’t have a scar with a story from their childhood??”

I’ve been thinking about this all week, every time I peek under the Band-Aid and examine the line of dark red across my baby’s face.  Don’t we all have scars?  Not just from childhood, but we bear the wounds of hurtful words from a supposed friend, the betrayal of someone who said they loved you, the embarrassments from long ago, and the pain over last week’s mistake.

Jesus chose, following His resurrection, to keep His scars.  He was healed and restored to life, but when He extended His hands, the palms still bore the signs of what He did for us.  This didn’t just give a basis for the disciples’ faith, but “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:19-20). 

His scars are our source of peace.  His hands upturned remind us that our healing, our forgiveness, our deliverance, our freedom, our redemption, our eternity are all part of the peace He gave us through His sacrifice.

Isaiah tells us:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus’ scars are a reminder of what He has done and that gives us peace.

Our scars can do the same.  Oh, I don’t mean we cling to burdens, shame, guilt, hurts, and fears, refusing to lay them down at the cross and remaining forever imprisoned by the stories of our past.

Scripture is clear.

God forgives us.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

God heals our broken hearts.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)

God sets us free.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1)

God doesn’t hold our past against us.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

We are washed clean, made new, redeemed and set free because of the scars Christ bore on our behalf.

Yet, the experiences that He brought us through, all of the times He carried us, and the moments when we stumbled, aren’t times we completely forget.  They are, instead, seasons of transformation in our lives.  He uses each trial and mistake to change our hearts and draw us closer to Him.

The scars we bear from those times of difficulty and growth are our testimony to others.  We can point to our own scabs and gashes and say, “Look what God has done in me.  He brought me through this.”  We are walking reminders of His mercy, standing testaments to His grace, and an ever-present sign of His peace among the hurting, the broken, and the oppressed.

And it’s not despite our scars; it’s because of them.  That’s why Peter, after experiencing the pain of rejecting Christ, became the apostle who argued so passionately for humility.

That’s why Paul, knowing that he had been a murderer and a persecutor of Christians in the past, became the apostle best known for defending grace.

Their scars became part of their testimony and pointed to Christ.

Years ago, I stumbled upon what became one of my favorite songs, Point of Grace’s Heal the Wound.  I hope it blesses you as it did me!

You can click on the video from the blog in order to listen or follow the link here: http://youtu.be/KjnCxvH4Q3w

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.

You Want Me To Pray What?

It was my baby’s first articulate prayer request for someone else.

During our nightly family prayer time, she usually doesn’t wait her turn. Whenever the Spirit moves, she just jumps in and starts talking to God, even if someone else is still pouring her heart out.

But that night, she waited for others to finish.  My daughters and I were snuggled up on the couch with our eyes closed while my husband was out for the night at rehearsal.  When my older daughters and I finished praying, we hopped up and headed to their bedroom.

She stopped us.

Holding up her little hands with two Band-Aids on her fingers, my baby girl prayed, “My fingers hurt.  Daddy come home.  Amen.”

Amen.

That night, my two-year-old took the first powerful step in an effective prayer life.  Yes, she prayed for her own little need, her two little scraped fingers that had been on her mind all afternoon.

Maybe she also wanted to show off her Mickey Mouse Band-Aids so God could see them.

But then she prayed on behalf of another—could her Daddy please come home safely and soon?

I’ve written in this space so many times that there is power in the time we spend on our knees for each other.

Yet, I’m still not sure if we truly realize the impact, the great spiritual weaponry that is ours when we intercede for those around us.

It is humblingWe say, “God, I’m overwhelmed here, but I’m not the only one.  She’s hurting also, so I choose to petition You on her behalf.”

It is faithWe say, “God, I’m going to trust my problems into Your care.  I’ve made my request.  I believe You’re going to take care of me, so I don’t need to focus only on myself.  Instead, I’m going to turn my gaze outward and lift others up.”

It is forgiving.

Wait, forgiving?  What does that have to do with anything?

Prayer for others is forgiving when we actually do what Jesus said—pray for our enemies, “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

I urge you to pause and consider this for more than the half second it took you to read that verse.  I never in my life realized the power of Jesus’ revolutionary call to intercession for our enemies until this year.

And it’s life-changing, I tell you.

In the past, when I was struggling with conflict, I would “pray for my enemy” with something that sounded like this:

Lord, why is he so blind?  Can’t he see that he’s in sin?  Please open his eyes and let Him know that You are God and You don’t tolerate disobedience.  Change his heart, God, and let Your Holy Spirit be heavy on him until he repents.

That seemed to qualify as praying for those who persecuted me.  Let me just check that super-spiritual box.

But Jesus’ prayer on behalf of his enemies didn’t sound anything like mine.  He asked, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

I prayed for condemnation and Holy Spirit judgement on people who annoyed me.

Christ prayed for the blessing of forgiveness for those standing at the foot of his cross, jeering at him and waiting for him to die.

In the same way, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” just as the final stones pelted his body and killed him (Acts 7:59).

Have you considered who Stephen was praying for in that moment?  One of the men standing by the coat rack cheering on the crowd was Saul—later the apostle Paul.

Stephen asked for God to forgive his persecutors and shortly afterward this same Saul sat on a roadside blinded by Jesus Christ himself, experiencing repentance and conversion.

Satan fully intends to tangle us up in bitterness and jealousy.  He wants to defeat our ministry and make us thoroughly unusable because we’re so riled up and distracted by dissension and arguments.

He just doesn’t know what to do when we pray shockingly humble prayers on behalf of others, particularly our enemies.  There’s power there.

There’s also blessing.

After Job’s long ordeal ended . . .his children dead  . . . his servants killed . . . his animals gone and his property destroyed . . . his own body covered in painful disease . . . .after all that, God spoke to Job and hushed the mouths of the “friends” who had spewed religious rhetoric and condemnation while Job sat next to them in pain.

In Sunday School class, you probably learned that God blessed Job even more than before.  Yet, the blessing wasn’t immediate.  Something had to happen first.

Scripture tells us, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

Job prayed for his so-called friends and then God blessed Job.

I’ve taken this to heart and I won’t lie to you: it is difficult, downright hard, and sometimes truly agonizing.

There are times when my blessings don’t sound like blessings.  The words I’m saying are right, but I’m forcing them out between clenched teeth.

Sometimes I need to start simple.

When I am jealous and full of envy . . .
When someone steps on my toes and hurts my feelings . . .
When someone does something I think is sinful and hurtful . . .
When a driver in the Wal-Mart parking lot drives me totally insane . . .

Then I pray for them—for blessing, for forgiveness, for their future.

I may never see the impact on their lives, but I see it in mine instantly.  God changes my heart as I humble myself, trust Him, and forgive.

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