Fire drills, tornado drills, lockdown drills, oh my!

psalm 31-22

My daughter announced that she hates ‘drills.’

All kinds of drills, she says.

They were only about two weeks into the school year at the time.

They had fire drills.

They had a tornado drill.

My oldest daughter chimes in about ‘lock-down drills,’ and how her teacher is so funny but the one thing she is super serious about is anyone who dares to giggle, laugh or even squeak out a hint of noise during a lockdown drill.

“She’ll send you to the principal,” my daughter lowers her voice for added drama.

These older girls of mine try to reassure the youngest sister that drills are essential and there to help and not really a big deal.

But the baby girl is testing out fear here.  I can see it on her face and I hear it in the way she keeps bringing these drills up.  When she gets home from school.  Over dinner.  In the minivan.  As she climbs into my lap for bedtime prayers.

“The drills…the drills….the drills…”

Clearly, they are on her mind.  And we older and wiser ones keep jumping in with confidence that everything is fine and not to be afraid, but she’s just not convinced.

So, the fear is kind of leaking out of her heart and into our conversations.

Oh, I don’t blame the drills, of course.   I let her tell me about them all over again and then I look right into her two blue eyes and I even brush away her wild bangs so she can’t miss this reassurance:

Those drills are there to keep you safe.  So that if anything ever happens, you’re not too scared to do the right thing.  We drill now so we don’t have to be afraid later.

She nods knowingly, but I’m her mom and I know we’ll probably have this conversation again in a month when the alarm goes off at school and all the kids file outside for yet another fire drill. So we pray about it, every time it comes up, I pray peace for her.

It’d be nice, it’d be great, it’d be heaven really if we didn’t need drills, if we didn’t have to practice for fire or intruders or tornadoes or a world of harm and hurt.

But we live here, on a broken earth with sin and natural disasters and trouble.

And how we react in the crisis makes a difference.

I know this because haven’t I been alarmed and sent into a dizzying whirlpool of fear at the slightest provocation?

A phone call.

An email.

A Facebook post, for goodness’ sake.

Maybe you, too?  The doctor’s report, the bill in the mail, the late night call, the hurtful remark, the broken car (again), the sobbing friend?

Trouble storms into our lives and how we react in the crisis matters.

We’re tempted to freak out and run around like a wild woman with her hands flailing hysterically in the air.

We’re in crisis mode.  Making phone calls.  Feeling hopeless.  Crying desperately.  Feeling helpless.  Rallying the troops and sending out an SOS signal and doing anything possible to keep from drowning.

I’ll be honest, sometimes it doesn’t even take a crisis, it just takes one tiny bump into my plans for the day for me to settle into a funk of frantic activity and aggravated grumpiness.

The Psalmist said it just right:

In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help (Psalm 31:22 NIV).

In our alarm, when the bad news comes and we haven’t had time for faith to kick in, we snap to the judgment that God has abandoned us.

He can’t see us.

We’re cut off from Him, alone, dependent on our own strength to get us out of this mess.

Our natural reaction to an alarm is haste and hysteria, foolishness and fear.

It’s unnatural to choose peace under pressure.

Yet, the Holy Spirit offers us just such unnatural, supernatural peace.

When everything settled and the crisis passed, the Psalmist recognized the truth: “Yet you heard my cry….”

In the haste of the moment, he had rushed into fear.  But then he saw what was true, God had indeed heard His cry for help.

What about us?

Over time, after alarm and alarm and alarm have passed and the dust settles and we see Jesus right there with us, surely we’d know by now what to do in case of crisis:

Cry to God for help.

Trust Him to hear your call.

Rest in the assurance of His presence.

Choose peace.

Not flaky peace, vague peace, warm-and-fuzzy-feeling peace, or the peace of blindness to our circumstances.

The peace that is the confident assurance of Christ’s presence right where we are.

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

 

The Grandest Invitation Ever

Revelation 19I’m guessing I was in middle school.

Really, there’s not much I remember about why I was there or when I was there or even who was with me.  I think it was probably a band field trip up to Pennsylvania for a music competition.

But here’s what I do remember, walking into a large open room surrounded by windows and seeing table after table covered in crisp, bleached white tablecloths, each one set with an elaborate place-setting that included multiple forks and spoons.

I’m just a teenage-ish girl away from home with a bunch of other middle schoolers about to eat at a place far nicer than our normal class trip stops at McDonald’s or Wendy’s.

Even now, I’m the kind of girl who eats at restaurants where kids can get their drinks in styrofoam cups with lids and straws.

(Okay, maybe I can get my drink in that styrofoam cup).

This place was an intimidating beast of a dining room with significant glassware and cloth napkins.

What was I doing there?

I grew up in a home where we learned table manners, so I knew how to put my napkin on my lap and not lean on the table with my elbows.

But, I’ll still never forget that initial feeling of walking into such a fancy place and thinking, “I get to eat here? There’s not some back room for middle school girls from the suburbs?”

Maybe you’ve never felt out of place or like a small and insignificant girl feeling a little overwhelmed and a lot like you don’t belong there.

But I sure have.

I’ve felt uncomfortable and unworthy.

I’ve felt humbled and speechless and afraid to make one wrong move because maybe they’ll figure out the truth: that I’m an imposter who doesn’t deserve to be here.

So, as I was studying the book of Ruth and reading Kelly Minter’s book, I just wished so desperately I could pour myself a cup of tea and this amazing author could pour herself a cup of coffee and we could chat because Kelly got ‘it.’

She got everything about how it feels to be an imposter welcomed to a table.

Ruth 2:14 says:

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.

Up to this point in the book of Ruth, the author has made a huge, whopping, big deal about the fact that Ruth is a foreign woman. Even worse, she’s a Moabite foreign woman.

She didn’t even deserve to glean in the fields of Boaz and certainly wasn’t worthy of anyone’s notice, especially not someone as wealthy and powerful as Boaz.

Yet, after months of watching Ruth’s hard work and seeing her faithful care for her mother-in-law, Boaz invites her to the table with his employees and blesses her with abundance.

She eats everything she could eat and still had leftovers.

Immediately, I thought of how much this sounded like Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan whom King David invited to share the king’s table night after night.

(Kelly Minter thought the same thing.  I’m telling you, we were totally clicking that day!)

Mephibosheth was the grandson of King Saul.  When David became king, everyone expected him to kill anyone left alive in Saul’s family.

Instead, David seeks out Mephibosheth and longs to show him kindness.

And, crippled as he was, Jonathan’s son couldn’t even get to the king’s table on his own.

He would have to be carried.

Kelly Minter writes,

I believe we all deeply long to be invited ‘to the table.’ It represents all things that speak belonging, acceptance, and the honor of being chosen. It is a picture of intimacy, conversation, nourishment, and safety (Ruth, p. 76).

You and I, as unbelievable as it may seem, are invited to a table of abundance.

Revelation 19:9 says:

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (ESV).

How blessed indeed are we as believers to receive this invitation?  Christ Himself spreads out a feast and asks us to come to the table.

It’s an invitation we don’t deserve, not on our own merit or strength anyway.

We’re like Ruth—foreigners.  We’re the lowly and the poor.  We’re the outcasts and the outsiders.

Like Mephibosheth, we’re crippled and broken and we can’t even make it to the table all on our own.

We need Jesus.

He covers us with His righteousness.  He dresses us in the pure robes of His forgiveness.

And, He bids us come and eat.

“Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory” (Revelation 19:7 ESV). 

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

When You Feel Like the Runt

1 Samuel

Dearest Catherine,

Did you know that King David was the youngest of all his brothers?

In fact, when the prophet Samuel showed up on Jesse’s doorstep and announced that one of his sons would be anointed as the new king of Israel, Jesse didn’t even remember that David existed.

Jesse had son after son parade before Samuel.

Tall ones.  Handsome ones.  Brawny ones.

Every one of them seemingly fit for royal position based on their outward appearance.

The Lord rejected them.

Still, it didn’t occur to Jesse to call for that youngest boy of his.

As the parade wound down that afternoon, Samuel asked if that was the lot of them.  Any more sons?

It was like he was jogging Jesse’s memory.  Can you recall, by any chance, any other son you might have forgotten?

Of course, Jesse had indeed forgotten one.

You know, David: David the teenage shepherd boy, reeking of livestock and still far out in the fields instead of participating in this Search for Israel’s King Part 2.

Jesse brushes it all off.  Obviously God doesn’t want that son when He could have the pick of so many fine, strapping young men.  Why even bother calling David in from the field?  It’d just be a waste of the sheep’s good grazing time.

He says it like this: “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11 ESV).

Max Lucado writes that what Jesse literally says to Samuel that day is “I still have the runt” (Traveling Light, p. 107).

The runt.

Some nickname.

God picked ‘the runt,’ though.  He chose the smallest.  He chose the overlooked.  He chose the boy in the field, the hard-working, faithful shepherd with a heart for worship and prayer.

That’s what God does.  He uses the small ones, the weak and the weary, the youngest, the outcast, the dreamer.

Baby girl, it’s not the same for you, of course.  You are treasured and beloved.  We adore you so.  This year, you’ve been shining bright at school and we are so proud of you.

Still, I see it, the struggle and tension sometimes as you tag along after two big sisters, always the youngest of the King Girls Trio.

They rag on you some and pick on you at times, complaining about your tender heart and whining when you want them to play with you and they have other plans.

Those older sisters are off to bigger things and they forget that a six-year-old girl has every right to play with dolls and toys and make pretend picnics.

It seems like you grew two feet in kindergarten.  I still do a double-take at times, looking to see my Catherine hiding behind this tall, grown-up six-year-old standing in front of me.

But it’s you, of course.  You’re not a teeny girl any more, not the preschooler I have in my mind.

And it’s more than how many inches we’ve measured out on the kitchen wall.

You’ve grown in wisdom.

You rattle off your Bible lessons over Sunday lunches and you never just stop with the story itself.  You always tell me what it means.

That we should be kind to others.

That sometimes God doesn’t take away our pain, but He helps us through.

That God looks at what’s in our heart, not just how we look on the outside.

God is at work in you.  Yes, six-year-old you.  Yes, youngest sister you.  Yes, the tiniest King Girl–you.

I see it in your heart for prayer, the way you cover everything from your day as you bow your head at night.

I see it in your grateful heart, how you’re always so thankful for every gift and every opportunity. You never expect or demand; you just rejoice to receive.  You’re overflowing with gratitude and joy, celebrating the tiniest gifts like they were precious jewels laid at your feet.

I see it in your tenderness and sensitivity to those around you, treating others with gentleness and deep compassion.

You’ve announced to me this year that in addition to wanting to be a doctor, you’d like to be president some day because you’re really smart and super-good at math (as if that’s the job description of a politician).

Precious one, be who God has called you to be.

You don’t have to keep up or compete with older sisters.

You don’t have to fall for the trappings of acclaim or worldly success and push to be president because somehow that seems more important than caring for patients or any other ministry God has for you.

Remember what God told Samuel:

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).

God values what’s in your heart, and your heart, dear one, is so beautiful to Him.

Happy birthday.

Love,

Mom

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

That Time When She Ripped Me To Pieces on Facebook

galatians5-22

She ripped me to pieces on Facebook.

This person I didn’t know called me a “so-called Christian” who demonstrated absolutely “no love” in my answer to her question.

I read over what I had written that pushed her buttons.  It seemed pretty straightforward.  Something like, “If you click on this post here, you’ll find everything you need to know about what we’re reading this month and how to join in.  Hope that helps!”

So-called Christian?  No love?

Even if she didn’t like my answer, I’d say attacking my personal faith seemed pretty out-of-line.

I’m a people-pleaser.  My love language is words of affection.  So, when someone vomits criticism all over me like that, I’m pretty much a mushy puddle of disaster on the floor.

Clean up on aisle 5.  That’s me.

This time I at least had the gumption to try to let it go.  But it’s been a few months since that post and it still gets my heart racing when I think about it.

Sadly, we’ve entered some bizarre dimension of space and time where we can hack at people from the distance and anonymity of our computer.

People don’t feel personally responsible anymore for what they say because there’s no immediate or relational consequence to verbal abuse.  We just click ‘send’ or ‘reply’ and cyberspace takes care of the rest.

I’d like to say that as Christians we’re known for rising above these drive-by slanders, but we’re not.

Paul wrote, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5 NIV).

And yet, are Christians known for gentleness?  I’d say not likely.

We’re not even known for treating one another with gentleness.

Too often, we’re quick to condemn, mock, judge, criticize, and ostracize one another instead of obeying Scripture and learning how to  correct our “opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:25 ESV).

Maybe it’s because we think gentleness is synonymous with wimpy or weak.  But that’s not the biblical definition at all.

We model true gentleness after that of Christ, who showed restrained strength and self-control even when responding to attackers.

Those who are spewing harshness are the ones who lack self-control.  Gentleness is like holding back the full force of the ocean with quiet determination.

Maybe we think we’re just not gentle people. It’s not our personality.  Other people are gentle; but we’re outspoken and frank and that’s just who we are.

Last year, I interviewed Mary Ann Froehlich about her book Courageous Gentleness and she said

 “the fruit of the spirit is not a personality trait.”

It’s not like God made some people to be loving and some people to be peaceful and some people to be gentle.

The fruit of the spirit isn’t another biblical catalog of spiritual gifts.  It’s what every believer should have at work in us because the Holy Spirit is at work in each of us.

No Christian is exempt from the biblical mandate of gentleness even when handling those with whom we disagree.

In her new book, If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What To Do, Jessie Clemence writes:

Disagreement and discernment are both acceptable. But criticizing people’s efforts to serve God to the best of their ability is totally not fine. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval” (NLT).

Who are we to condemn the service of another?  Who are we to cut down the Lord’s anointed?

But we do it.  Sadly we do just that.

Even in cases of doctrinal error, a private conversation or intense prayer can be far more meaningful than public denunciation and mockery.

In Scripture, David made the choice twice not to lay hands on King Saul.

God had abandoned Saul and anointed David to be King.  Saul was in error.  He was in sin.

If anyone deserved to be confronted publicly, condemned publicly, and punished publicly, it seems like it should be him.

And if anyone deserved to put Saul in his place, it seems like it should be David.

But David wouldn’t do it.  Instead, he told his men

“The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him” (1 Samuel 24:6 NLT).

David trusted God to handle Saul.

God forbid that I attack the Lord’s anointed.

God forbid that I criticize them, mock them, or try to destroy their ministry.

God forbid that I stand on my own platform and use it to judge their offering or pounce on their every word in order to pull it apart, take it out of context and denounce them.

I choose gentleness.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

 

Look at Me (The Teacher’s Mantra)

psalm 121

Look at me.

Look, look, look at me.

You’re not looking at me.

You need to look at me.

Look. At. Me.

Please.

That’s what she’s going to say this morning to the adorable and restless group of four-year-olds who are practicing their songs for their spring program.

She’s a teacher who knows these little cherubs will be just fine if they focus their eyes on her.

They’ll know when to start singing.  They’ll know what words to sing.  They’ll know when to stop singing and when to rest instead of barreling right through the song so they can get to the big finish.

But they’re four.

And they’re excited.

They are also occasionally annoyed with each other for various infractions such as not sitting in the right place, talking when they aren’t supposed to be talking, touching someone else’s hair, or messing up the singing.

They are eager to wave at the piano player (that’s me) while climbing up the steps to the stage, which inevitably holds up the rest of the line.

They are distracted by the child next to them, the child in front of them, and their own fingernails which apparently merit their undivided attention in the middle of a song.

So, no matter how many times their ever-patient teacher says, “Look at me,’ they forget.

And they look away, maybe at their neighbor or their fingers or the pianist.  They look anywhere and everywhere but at the teacher.

Then there is the miracle moment, that one microsecond in time when the whole class actually looks at the teacher and we all smile back at them because they just sound great and their parents are going to take tons of pictures and post lots of videos on Facebook because four-year-olds are awesome.

Here’s the truth, though.

Preschooler aren’t the only ones who are easily distracted.

I know another choir directer in her nineties and I’ll tell you what she has to say to her own adult choir all the time.

Look at me.

Let’s be honest.  Most of the time that’s probably what God is saying to us.

We’re a distractable lot, us humans, easily caught up in everything around us and everything within us.  We may grow up, but we don’t necessarily grow out of it.

We’re distracted by others around us.

Why are they doing that?  It’s invading my space.  It’s so annoying.  She is doing it wrong!  That not right and it’s not fair!

She sings better than me.  Why is she so perfect?  How come I can’t look like her or sing like her or act like her?

We’re perpetually distracted by circumstances.

The bills are too much.  The job is too difficult.  The marriage is too strained.  The kids are too lost.  This is hopeless and impossible.

We’re distracted by our own inner voices.

You are a failure.  You’re a mess.  I give up!  I cannot do this.  I’m not capable.  It’s just too hard.  I’m not equipped, not strong enough, not sufficient!

We’re whining and complaining.  Maybe flat out freaking out.  Throwing a tantrum.  Collapsing under the strain of anxiety.

But God is saying what He’s always said:  Look.  At.  Me.

The Psalmist wrote:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

It’s an ascension Psalm, one in a series of songs the Jewish travelers would sing during their climb up to Jerusalem for the feasts and celebrations, a traveler’s hymn and a pilgrim’s chorus.

And, aren’t we all travelers here?

The journey had its dangers.  Stumbling over rocks (verse 3), heat stroke and even moonstroke (verse 6).

Life is dangerous still.

But the promise is there.  Our help doesn’t come from looking down at our clumsy feet.  It doesn’t come from looking to the mountains, the sun, the moon, our fellow travelers, or the evil that threatens to overpower us.

We don’t need to look anywhere at all except at the Lord because our help comes from Him.

The Psalmist repeats a thought, over and over again like the rhythm of the waves beating against a shore:

    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper….

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 121 ESV).

The Lord is your keeper.

Look at Him for guidance, for encouragement, for help, for strength, for assurance, for conviction, for compassion, for salvation, for provision, for direction.

Look at Him.

 

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

If I do one thing as a mom, let it be this

lamentations2-19

I prayed for this.

This girl of mine brought home stories from kindergarten about this friend and that friend and her BFFFL (Best Friend Forever For Life) and what top-secret info they had shared with her on the playground.

She learned cuss words.  She learned attitudes.  She learned meanness.  She learned insults.   She learned that when you spell S-E-X you should whisper.  She learned far more than a five-year-old needed to know.

I visited her classroom and passed out snacks for a class party, listening into the conversation at her little table….

The kids interrogated me about why I wouldn’t let my daughter watch certain shows on TV.  I felt like I was in a courtroom and this group of kindergarteners were trying to break me down under cross-examination.

By her second grade year, I finally spilled it out as a prayer request in my small group.  My girl was fiercely loyal to friends who were tripping up her heart, and she just followed along after them like a blind sheep following another blind sheep off a cliff.

Dear Jesus, please help my girl choose good friends who are kind and who will spur her on to excellence, who will help her make good choices and encourage her to be her best, and who won’t lead her away from You.

I watched her playing with her friends this weekend, a full two-years after I started committing her friendships to prayer.

And, oh, I about cried at her birthday party.  Not because my baby is nine-years-old (although that might be another breakdown in the making)…..

Because God so graciously answered my prayers for my daughter.  She had gathered around her the nicest group of quirky, funny, playful, kind, encouraging, creative, sweet, and thoughtful girls, and each one of them is a reminder that God hears our prayers for our children.

He had built that shelter around her heart when she most needed it.

And I am thankful.

Sometimes it’s wearying, to keep praying when we don’t see the answer and to persevere on our knees when we don’t see results.  Praying isn’t an insta-fix or a quick solution.

And some days I’m overwhelmed with my failings and failures as a mom.

I get caught up in what I didn’t do.  I beat myself up over what I forgot.  I stress over what fell by the wayside.  I feel like it’s never enough and I should have done more.  I said the wrong thing.  I stepped in when I should have let my child handle it….or I didn’t step in when they needed me to handle it.  I regret a decision and I wish I could take back what I said.

But what I need to know—-what moms need to know—-is this:

What matters most as a mom is time on our knees for our children.

We don’t have to get wrapped up in programs, extras, Pinterest-activities, decorations, household management strategies, and developmental milestones.  We don’t have to compare ourselves to any other mom or our kids to any other kids.

We care for their needs.  We love them.  We encourage their hearts, and sometimes we also stress and fret ourselves into a blubbering mess over our kids.

Yet, we can trust God to care for our children. He knows them and He loves them even more than we do.

So, the best we can do for them is give them to Him.

I read the Psalms of David often, and pray through them, but I notice this one emptiness in his prayer life…..I don’t see him pray for his kids.

Mary prayed for Jesus.

Zechariah prayed for John the Baptist.

Abraham blessed Isaac.

Jacob prayed over his sons and his grandsons.

But David?

In Facing Your Giants, Max Lucado writes:

Aside from the prayer he offered for Bathsheba’s baby, Scripture gives no indication that he ever prayed for his family. He prayed about the Philistines, interceded for his warriors.  He offered prayers for Jonathan, his friend, and for Saul, his archrival.  But as far as his family was concerned, it’s as if they never existed.”

David gave his kids a kingdom.  He gave them power and financial success.

Maybe he should have given them the gift of a praying parent.

This is the gift I hope to give my children:

Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at every street corner (Lamentations 2:19 NIV)

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

Awaken to the holiness of God (so He doesn’t have to wake you up)

psalm 145

My daughter has one default answer to the question, “How are you?”

Most people default to, “Fine,” “Good,” “Okay,” or even “Great!”

I’ve heard people answer, “better than can be expected.”

And even, “blessed” or “still alive.”

Not her.  She has one response, “My tummy hurts.”

You may catch her in the middle of jumping up and down or running full-force outside on the playground.  Even then, if you ask how she’s feeling, she’ll pull a long face, drop her hand to her stomach and groan out an agonized, “My tummy hurts.”

Sometimes she’ll get really wild and crazy and say something totally unexpected like, “I have a headache.”  That’s just to keep us on our toes.

But when she started complaining this week of a stomachache, I fell into my normal mom-stance of skeptic complacency.

Sure, a stomachache.  So what else is new?

But it was new and different.  It was for real this time, a true illness that would confine her to the couch with a bucket for three days and counting.

She sure showed me!

How complacency blinds us and binds us!  One minute we’re living out the daily routine blindfolded and half checked out and the next minute we’re thrown awake, eyes wide-open, forced to pay attention.

Oh, for real this time.  This isn’t the normal.  This is new.

And we need to be shaken awake.

God didn’t design us to live life and live faith halfway asleep and mostly disengaged.

He wants our full attention.

So, He’s not above surprising us sometimes.

Maybe David needed a surprise like that.

When King David announced that the Ark of the Lord should be brought home to Jerusalem, the priests should have followed proper protocol.

Instead, they loaded what probably seemed like an old and generally meaningless relic from bygone days onto a cart and sent it on down the road.

They broke the rules.  God told them exactly how to handle His presence—carried on poles on the shoulders of priests, not bumbling down a bumpy road in a cart entrusted to animals.

So, when the Ark started to tumble off onto the ground, Uzzah the priest reached out to catch it, thinking surely he was doing the right thing, the good thing, the honorable thing.

But he was struck dead by the holy might of Almighty God.

No one should have touched the Ark.  Not ever.

Max Lucado writes:

Uzzah should have known this.  He was a priest, a Koathite priest, a descendent of Aaron himself.  The ark had been kept in the house of his father, Abinadab. He had grown up with it.  Which may be the best explanation for his actions…..The message: don’t grow lax before the holy.  God won’t be loaded on convenient wagons or toted about by dumb animals….

King David snapped to awake.  Of course, he snapped to anger also, exploding at God about the injustice of Uzzah’s death.

And then He worshiped in awe.

The truth is, all those years living in the same house as the Ark hadn’t impressed Uzzah; it had made him complacent, like he was handling little more than a dust-covered knick-knack from a living room shelf.

All those years living in the same house with my daughter, and she still manages to surprise me.

All these years of marriage, I still discover my husband and could there be any better than falling and falling and falling in love?

And, all these years with Jesus, surely He still surprises.  And amazes.

Just when you think you know what size box God fits in, He loves to show off His might.

Just when you think you know how far faith will take you, He asks you to go farther.

Just when you think you understand how deep His love is, He draws you down deeper.

David’s praise became rooted in a God who is great beyond comprehension:

 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

    his greatness no one can fathom (Psalm 145:3 NIV, emphasis mine).

God sure can surprise us.

In fact, He can shock us right out of our socks and shoes some times.

How much better, though, to lean in and listen….

To quiet our restless hearts…..

To be still….

To pause and deeply look….

To awaken to the holiness of God and live life in awe of His presence, expecting His glory this very day, this very hour, this very moment.

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

 

 

Why not riding a roller coaster is really being brave (no matter what anyone else says)

Bravery doesn’t run rampant in this house.

Me and my girls freak out about bugs.joshua1

We grab for a dry towel when water splashes into our eyes.

We talk through all possibilities and potential scenarios so we won’t freak about what’s new and different. 

We inch into doorways when there’s a room full of new people.

Me and these three daughters of mine, we’re not adventurers or discoverers, explorers or conquerors.  We’re not risk-takers or rock-the-boaters.  We’re not the movers or the shakers.

No, we’re planners and organizers.  We’re the faithful and the hard-working and the folks dipping their toes in all gentle and nervous on the side of the pool to test the waters before jumping in.

I’ve been spending all these years of motherhood encouraging my daughters to have courage. 

I tell them:

It’s okay to make mistakes, so just give it a try.

I tell them:

God is with you, so don’t fear.  Just relax and trust Him.

I tell it to them and maybe along the way I’m preaching to myself.

So, there we were at the amusement park this week for the last hurrah of summer break. And this daughter of mine, the one who screeches the loudest of all about spiders, announces she wants to ride her first big roller coaster.

Oh, yes, the real roller coaster, not the one with a Sesame Street character on the front in the clearly marked kiddie zone.

I balk at her request.  Is she sure?  Really sure?

Oh yes.  Her friends all ride this roller coaster and she has her heart set on it.  Today is the day.  She’s going to do it.

I poll the family.  Anyone else?

Nope.

No one else feels the need for speed today.

So, we visit all the normal rides and enjoy all the usual adventure and it’s just about time to go. 

She pouts.  She really wanted to give it a try and now she’d have to wait another year.

I decide right there that if this child feels the urge to be brave and say yes to what frightens her, then there was no way were leaving without her riding that ride.

Dad took her one way while I took the other non-roller-coaster riders another way.  This was her big moment.

Forty minutes or so later, we meet up again and I throw up my hands in a big question:  “So, how’d it go?”
She didn’t ride.

Dad says it simple.  She looked up at how high it went, down at how low it dropped, and wrinkled up her nose.  Maybe she really didn’t want to ride that ride after all. 

Maybe doing it just ’cause all her friends can do it wouldn’t be so fun for her.

Maybe she just needed to wait a bit longer.

And that’s okay.

Yes, that’s okay.

I was proud of her for stepping up there and looking over that beast of a ride and then making the tough choice to be wise and true to herself.

That’s brave.

I’ve spent a whole month this summer learning to say, “No.”  I’ve learned that bravery doesn’t look the same for everybody.

You stepping out in faith and saying “yes” when God calls, that’s brave.

Me doing what you’re doing just ’cause you’re doing it, or just ’cause it needs to be done? 

Or me doing it just because you want me to or ask me to…or maybe because society tells me I need to or because I don’t want to upset anyone by saying, ‘no’?

That’s not brave.

That’s being a coward in a brave costume.  It’s choosing to give in instead of stand up and say the hardest thing:  No, thanks. 

That young shepherd-warrior David stood in front of the Mighty King Saul and tried on the king’s very own armor (1 Samuel 17).

The King’s protective gear swallowed the teenage boy up. It was hanging off him, clanging and heavy.

It fit Saul perfectly.

It didn’t fit David at all.

So, he had to say, “No.”

That had to take courage, to tell a king, ‘No’ instead of just follow blindly and obediently.

I guess the truth is it takes bravery to do what you know is right, whether that’s saying, ‘Yes’ or saying ‘No.” Courage is knowing what God wants you to do and doing it no matter what.

In Let’s All Be Brave, Annie Downs says, ‘The road to courage is lit by God’s wisdom.”

During this year-long pursuit of God’s presence, I’ve spent this month learning to say, “No.” That meant seeking His wisdom and His opinion over everyone else’s and shaking off the people-pleasing and the cowardice.

Because I want to be where He is. I can do anything if He’s with me and only if He’s with me.

I found courage in His presence.  Courage for yes and Courage for no.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’

Cancelling the Parenting Magazine

New Mom + Parenting Magazine Subscription = Monthly Mom Crisis.

When I was that fresh, idealistic young mom with that first chubby cheeked babe, I had big, big plans to get it all right.

Every month that magazine arrived.  I scanned it for creative ideas, ripped out yummy recipes, and dog-eared pages with fun activities.

Then I grumped around the house for a day or two. 

I cried occasionally.

Because, according to the magazine, good moms don’t ever serve their kids macaroni and cheese.  If said mac and cheese happens to be from a box, good gracious, you are one of “THOSE” moms.  You know—-the Bad Moms.1chronicles28

Also, Good Moms have Good Kids who always choose the steamed vegetables and rice pilaf when dining out.  These perfect children never order the pizza and chicken fingers. 

Limit screen time.  Join play groups.  Teach kids to share.  Teach them to care. 

Involve them in service projects and ideally live abroad so you can expand their vision of the world. 

Teach them sign language and then a foreign language.

Make all your dinners a month in advance and freeze them.

Kids must have an allowance and a weekly chore chart or they will end up lazy, unemployed and bankrupt.

Discipline this way.  Play with them that way. 

Work outside the home.

Don’t work outside the home.

And never, ever, ever expect your kids to play on their own or entertain themselves with siblings or friends without your intense and continual involvement.  You must play cars, dolls, and blocks with them for hours.  Good moms never get bored building towers and are never too busy to color.

I finally asserted myself and cancelled the subscription.  Who needs to pay for a monthly self-esteem destroyer?

The truth is, I do some of those Good Mom things, but no one can do all of them. 

When we try to do everything, we won’t do anything well.

We end up weighed down by overwhelming expectations and impossible demands.

How much better to celebrate victories, to keep a balanced perspective, and to choose what’s most important right here and right now?

How much better to lean in close to God day after daily day and ask Him, “What do you have for me, Lord?  Right here.  Right now.  Show me what’s next.”

The world is full of opinions about who we need to be and what we need to be doing.  It’s a noisy place and everyone has something to say.

But in my 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, all this month I’m “Learning to Say No.”

That means saying no to good things, at times, in order to do the “right thing God has for me.”

It means saying no to being like everyone else, to trying to be perfect, to trying to do everything, to keeping up with every great idea on Pinterest, Facebook, and mommy blogs.

It means no longer being paralyzed by everything, so I can do the right things well.

King David placed a weighty task on the shoulders of his son, Solomon.  He handed over the plans for the temple with instructions on dividing the labor among the Levites, how much gold to use for the lampstands and the cherubim, and the available supplies.

This was the right thing, the God-thing, that God had designed, purposed and planned for Solomon to do.

And it still could have felt like too much.  How could Solomon even begin?

David told his son:

Be strong and do the work (1 Chronicles 28:10 NIV)

and again:

Then David continued, Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly (1 Chronicles 28:20 NLT)

Be strong. 

Don’t be afraid.

God is with you.

So, do the work.

Pick up right where you are and begin.  One step at one time.

I don’t need to do everything. 

I just need to begin with this one thing.

And God is with you.  He will not fail or forsake you. 

When we lean our weary and overwhelmed souls onto Him, He shoulders the load.  He makes sure the work is done well.

Maybe that’s the lesson Solomon needed so that when God told him, “Ask me for anything….” Solomon knew what to say:

Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10 NLT).

Help me do the work.  That’s what Solomon said.  Show me how to fulfill this calling.

And isn’t this my heart, too?

Lord, show me how to do this well.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Drop the stuff to take a picture of the butterfly (and maybe climb a tree)

She saw him there first, sunning himself on those purple flowers, showing off his yellow and black wings.

We hadn’t taken even two steps out of my front door when she shouted and rushed right over.

Two steps out the door?  I was still shifting the weight of the baby carrier against my knee with the diaper bag slung over my shoulder and a bag of library books weighing down my other hand with my keys between my teeth.10170989_696172120430028_1187591291338040542_n

And she’s spotting butterflies.

We stopped.  We emptied our hands so we could take pictures and enjoy one spring butterfly in the warmth of the sun.

But if she hadn’t been there, would I have even seen?  Would I have paced right by that flower bed from front door to minivan in 0.3 seconds?

And, if after a month of looking for beauty I’m still so apt to miss it, then what exactly am I missing?

I go back to the beginning, back to what I know.

God is both Beautiful and the Creator of Beauty.  The Psalmist said:

From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth (Psalm 50:2).

So when I seek out the beauty of what He has made, I worship Him, I enter into His presence, and I can glimpse those hints of eternal perfection—the scent of Eden in the here and now.

David wanted this, too.  He wanted to seek out the presence of God and if he could have just one thing, it’d be this:

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).

I want His presence, His beauty, to be my ‘one thing,’ my passionate pursuit, my eyes-on-the-prize, single-minded, totally focused, never-wavering-for-a-moment ‘thing.’

So why then do I walk out of my front door and need my eight-year-old daughter to see that butterfly on those purple flowers?image by Rudy Bagozzi;

Because my hands are full?

Because my mind is busy?

Because my heart is heavy?

Yes and yes and sometimes (but not always).

What if there’s something more?  I have to at least ask the question.

Isaiah said:

 “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).

What if something blinds us to His face?  What if we’re trying to see and trying to see, but it’s just impossible?

Don’t you love Zaccheus, though?  This tax collector tried to see Jesus and tried to see Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd.

He could have given up, called it a day, headed on home, took a raincheck on a visit to the Messiah.

But no.  He hiked up his robe and scrambled up a tree.

I’m no tree climber.  Never really was.  But now?  A 30-something mom of 4 kids?  What a mess of clumsiness I’d be grabbing branches and hoping they’d hold my weight.

Yet, what if Jesus stopped and looked at that tree and called Zaccheus down because it was just that crazy?  He knew that this sin-filled tax collector was the one man in the crowd who was willing to make an utter fool of himself and do any wild bit of craziness just to see Jesus.

Face-to-face with so much grace, standing right there in Jesus’ presence, Zacchaeus could do nothing less than repent and change (Luke 19).

In Acts it says,

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19 NASB).

If I want the refreshing of His presence, then it starts with the repenting and the returning.

So, what am I willing to do to see Him?  Skin my knees on tree bark and climb on up there?

And when I’m there at His feet, is there anything I need to lay down and be willing to change?

A bad attitude?

Bitterness?

Self-pity?

Selfishness and Self-focus?

Pride?

Jealousy?

Disobedience?

Unforgiveness?

It’s not legalism or getting all tangled up in reminders about how sinful I am.

It’s about seeing the beauty of His face when we discover the beauty of His grace.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

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 book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King