Today, I Can’t Do Everything, But I Can Do One Thing

Today, my to-do list keeps growing instead of shrinking. It’s like a monster from a sci-fi movie, a speck of a bug that everyone scoffs at until it morphs into a gigantic beast who crushes unsuspecting humans underfoot.

This is frustrating.onething

I’m running around, working frantically at each item on my list.

But I’m hopping from the laundry to picking up beads to cooking, back to laundry to writing to playing puzzles to more writing to cleaning up more beads and then reading my daughter a book.

Unfortunately, as I wash and scrub, I’m discovering more cleaning to do along the way.  Open up the refrigerator.  Good grief—how long since I’ve cleaned in there?  Open up the microwave.  The inside looks like a modern art painting.  Yeah, add “clean microwave” to the list.

I’m working. I’m active.  But I’m not getting anything officially done. I’m bouncing too much from project to project.  There’s so much to do, it’s hard to pick a starting point.  It’s difficult to shut my eyes to the rest of the mess and just scrub the spot I’m on.

Isn’t that it always?  There’s so much to take in.  So much to do.  So many activities and so little time.

So maybe after a little hyperventilating, a big cup of tea and a generous helping of chocolate, I’m ready to do

just

one

thing.

One thing.  That’s really all we need sometimes.  We’re trying to do it all, and God asks us just to do one thing at a time.

Who is the one person I need to encourage today?
What is the one main thought or verse I need to take away from time in God’s Word?
What’s the one issue I need to make top priority with my kids today?
What’s the one conversation God wants me to have?
What’s the one thing God wants me to learn today?
What one lesson does God want to teach me in this circumstance?

He can do more, of course.  He’s God, so abundant the way He rains down blessings in those seasons.

But it’s enough on these days to hold on to one thing, one truth, and trust God with the rest

In Psalm 27, David brought all of His prayer requests into focus with just one definitive longing:

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple (Psalm 27:4).

Jesus lifted that duster and the bottle of Pledge right out of Martha’s hands and told her, “One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).  Her sister, Mary, had found the one thing true and vital—time with Christ.

When the rich young ruler sought salvation, he declared that he had followed every rule, every bit of the law and fulfilled all of its requirements.

Jesus cut through all of the excess and said, “You still lack one thing.  Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22).

There was one issue, one lesson, one attitude of the heart that Christ needed to address with this man.  Unfortunately, even though the rich young ruler was willing to take on the cumbersome burden of the law, he wasn’t willing to do the one thing Jesus really wanted.  Material goods mattered more than salvation to him.

When Jesus healed a man who had been blind since birth, his family and friends pestered him with questions.

How did this happen?  Who healed you?  Where is this Jesus guy now?

Then the Pharisees heard about the healing and asked questions of their own.

Who is this healer?  Why does he have such power?  How can a sinner perform this miracle?

Tired of it all, the man finally said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (Luke 9:25).

That was enough.

Sometimes we want to know everything.  The reasons for the past.  The destination of the future.  How God is going to work it all out and certainly when it’ll all happen.

What if instead of trying to know everything, we stick to the simplicity of truth?

I know God is in control.

That’s enough.

Maybe that’s my one thing.

What’s your one thing?

Originally posted: January 27, 2012

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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

How Pioneer Women Were Superheroes and Why I’m Baking Bread

I measure out the honey, heap it onto the tablespoon and let it drip slowly (as honey does) into the warm milk.

I could have grabbed a loaf off the grocery store shelf.  One loaf in a plastic bag, pre-sliced, and BAM–bread.

Not this time.

I pour in the bread flour.  One cup, now two, now three.

Why not just keep this simple?  Why not a box of crackers from the store?  A bag of pita bread?

I can’t explain it exactly, but I want to push elbow deep into the dough and knead it with my own two weak hands.

Surely I’ve been kneading for 10 minutes already.

It’s been two minutes exactly.

I think maybe my clock is broken.

Those pioneer women were superheroes, performing muscular feats of miraculous strength everyday at the kitchen table.  Maybe not leaping over skyscrapers and flying through space, but baking that daily loaf of bread, that takes power.bethmoore

I’m a modern-day wimp, so this pounding out the dough and stretching it and pounding some more is breathless work.

But it gives me time to think about this:

In the Tabernacle that Moses and the Israelites packed up and toted around the wilderness, God set His Presence right in the midst of His people.

He told them how to craft the Holy objects, the washbasin, the altar.

And He told them to place fresh bread on the table once a week, the shewbread.  But I read in my Bible its other name: “the bread of the Presence (Exodus 39:36).

The priests placed that bread on the table and there it sat every single day, not in the Most Holy Place where the High Priest entered once a year.

No, in the Holy Place, where the priests came in day after day to worship before God.

They walked in that sacred space and there was the bread.  There it was.  There it always was.

The moment it started to crackle with staleness, they brought in fresh, warm bread, baked new and placed it once again, a daily reminder of the daily presence of our God.

This bread is to be set out before the Lord regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant (Leviticus 24:5-8 NIV)

I set my own bread dough on the oven to rise and sit down to my Bible study book and cup of tea.  That’s when I read it… Beth Moore tells me in her study on David:

The Hebrew term for presence is paneh, which means ‘countenance, presence, or face.’  The everlasting covenant symbolized by the bread of the Presence was a reminder of the pledge of God’s presence to His people.

That bread on that altar reminded God’s people that He was with them, yes, even there in the wilderness.

Even there with David as he ran from Saul, hiding in caves, feigning madness, running for his life.  He used that same Hebrew word–paneh—when he wrote:

For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help (Psalm 22:4 NIV).

My bread is in the oven now, giving the whole house a domestic smell, a fresh and warm aroma.

As it bakes, I consider Christ, because He’s the Bread of Life—God in the flesh, God in our midst, the touchable and tangible sign of God’s presence, the way we could see the face of God.

And Jesus, when He broke that bread and passed that cup around the Passover table, said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Every single time you eat the bread and you drink the cup, you remember Christ’s death.  But also His presence. 

“Christ is the bread of God’s presence to us” (Beth Moore, David).

Steven Furtick asks if this Communion we take could “also be an invitation to constant communion with Christ?  For each of us, everywhere, each day?”  (Crash the Chatterbox, p. 152).

So, if I’m feeling the staleness, the crusty or even moldy sign of old bread, then what I need to do is remember. 

I need to renew the Bread of His Presence right here in my life.

I slice off a piece of this warm, newly baked bread.

I pour out the grape juice in my tiny tea cup.

There I pray,  My Lord, I remember what You have done for me.  I am so thankful.  So unworthy.  Will You cleanse my heart?  Will You remind me of Your Presence here in my life?

Communion, this sacred act, becomes personal, a way for the holy to invade my daily: this home, this kitchen, this kitchen table.

God’s presence in this place.

How do you pray before taking Communion?

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

It’s When They’re Quiet That You Need to Be Worried…

It’s when they’re quiet that you need to be worried.

That’s parental advice passed down through generations, usually learned from personal experience.

I learned my lesson, too.

My oldest girl did this thing when she was three years old called a “tantrum.”  Maybe you’ve heard of them?  Maybe you’ve seen one . . . or thrown one.

After a particularly rowdy tantrum on the car ride home one day, she stomped into the house still screaming, ran into my bathroom and slammed the door.

Unfazed, I took my time setting her baby sister down for a nap and tossing my keys and arm-full of papers and baby paraphernalia onto the kitchen counter.  I breathed in deep breaths of Mom sanity.

Then I realized that the banshee wail had subsided into silence, frighteningly loud silence.

Throwing open my bathroom door, I saw my red-faced preschooler crouched on the carpet, her hands covering her head as she sobbed.

On the floor next to her was her hair.

Her hair!

Her long, totally beautiful, golden curly hair.  In her rage, she had climbed onto my bathroom counter and dug through to the bottom of my makeup case where I hid the hair scissors.  Then she had systematically snipped off the two pig-tails on the tip-top of her head.

She was bawling.  I was bawling.  We raced to the local hair salon and plopped her up in the chair for a rescue mission.  Our superhero that day sported a comb and some clippers.

Sometimes we think silence means inactivity and stagnation, abandonment and loneliness, but instead it’s often a sign of focused activity.

With kids, that might mean trouble.

With God, though, as heart-wrenching and full of despair as His silence is, we needn’t fear the quiet.  It’s often a promise that He’s at work right there in the middle of your circumstances, deeply involved in your life.

This was me not long ago.  I thought I had it figured out, what God was doing and how He was at work and how He planned to bless and care for us, but I was wrong.psalm55

The thing about cramming God into boxes is that He shatters the confines of the cardboard.

So, when life didn’t go as I had planned, I cried out to Him: What are you doing?  What does this mean?

Why can’t I hear You?

The silence is so oppressive and filled with overwhelming sadness.  We just want to hear His voice, His quiet voice or His booming command, His encouraging cheer, or His tender whisper.  Whatever He wants to say, we’re desperate to hear it.

Because we feel afraid.

I drove off that night on an arbitrary errand, alone in my car, praying away in the quiet.  Then I hit the play button on the CD for our church Christmas cantata:

“Peace, oh my soul, weary from the struggle
Don’t be afraid, Love knows your deepest need.
There is a light shining in the darkness.
There is no shadow where it cannot reach.
Peace, peace, Jesus has come
O soul, be still, receive your King”

The song faded and one lone voice cut through the silence:

“The Lord is with you . . . Fear not, Mary ….For nothing is impossible with God….Joseph, fear not.  Fear not!  For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given…Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…Fear not!  They will call Him Immanuel–which means, ‘God with us.’  Fear not, for I am with you”

My husband asked me when I flopped on the couch later, “Were you crying?”

How could I do anything but cry?

I had been desperate for the slightest trickle of His voice and He had drenched me in His Word.

But even when I didn’t hear Him, God was still there, still active, still with me. That hadn’t changed.

In his book, Greater, Steven Furtick writes:

God is often working behind the scenes of your life, orchestrating His destiny for you.  Even though you don’t have a clue what He’s up to.  Just because you haven’t heard God call your name or tell you specifically what to do with your life doesn’t mean He’s not conspiring great things for you.

Sometimes we feel like Job: “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me” (Job 30:20).

But even in the silence we can hold to the promise:

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice
(Psalm 55:16-17).

He hears you.  And when He chooses to speak, the wave of His voice might wash over you and knock you off your feet and carry you to safety.  For now, just keep listening, keep waiting, and don’t be afraid of the silence.

Originally published October 5, 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 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

A Heart Like His, Book Review

A Heart Like His: Intimate Reflections on the Life of David
by Beth Moore

Years ago, I sat propped up in bed and began reading the hardback edition of A Heart Like His.  For all my love of Bible Study, I’d never read one of Beth Moore’s books before.  A friend had recommended it to me and I settled in that night planning to read the book quickly and voraciously.aheartlikehis2

Normally, I speed through books, but this time I couldn’t.  After growing up in the church and hearing the stories of David portrayed on hundreds of flannel boards, I was shocked by the fresh perspective of Beth Moore.  Shocked that I had so much to learn about David.  Shocked by the application and challenge in each chapter of the book.

So I slowed down and read the book in small pieces.  Now that I’ve re-read the book in the paperback edition, I knew what to expect from Beth’s studies—in-depth discussion of Scripture and continual life application.  This is not Bible Study aimed at filling our heads with knowledge; it’s a passionate look at Scripture so that we can learn, change and grow.

The book is divided into 52 chapters and covers the backstory leading up to David’s life and kingship all the way to his death and the legacy he left with his son Solomon.  Each chapter is short and easy to read in one sitting with prompts directing you to the passage of Scripture being covered so you can read it first in your own Bible.  Whenever possible, she aligns the descriptions of David’s life with his own poetry and songs, making this an in-depth study of 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Chronicles and portions of the Psalms that works well for individuals or groups.

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to a group of women share what they had learned after studying the life of David for nine months as a group.  Some women confessed struggling to understand how a guy who made so many mistakes could have a heart like God’s.  Others stood to their feet and admitted that they felt just like David and his need for God’s grace.  Ultimately, any study of David isn’t really about David at all; it’s about God and how He works to draw us to Him, to transform and mature us, and to make us usable vessels that bring Him glory.  That’s just a portion of what you’ll learn as you read this book, which makes it worth reading, studying, re-reading, and sharing with others.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Adventure of the Cherry Pie

It began with a bag of cherries.

Cherries truly are the gold of the fruit world, so I’ve only bought them twice in over thirteen years of marriage.  This time, a super sale had enticed me to carry home a bag of this sweet and juicy cherrytreasure.

My daughters tasted them once and mostly were done.  Only one daughter and I continued to enjoy them day…after day….after day….until I knew I needed a plan to use the cherries before I had to toss rotten cherries.

Obviously, the answer in such a fruit crisis is to bake a pie.  So, domestically inspired, my daughters and I made the pie crust from scratch and left it in refrigerator to chill before rolling it out into the pie pan.  Then, we carefully followed the recipe for cherry pie filling.  It said I needed four cups of cherries to fill the pie.

I had exactly four cups.  Not 4-1/4 cups or 3-3/4 cups.  Four cups absolutely on the line.

It was a sign, a heavenly smile on my cooking project.

So, my eight-year-old and I pitted those four cups of cherries (without a cherry pitter) and felt thoroughly proud of our pioneer selves.

Yet, as we stirred the filling on the stove, I felt that first quiver of nervousness, that nagging thought that maybe, just maybe, this wouldn’t be enough to fill the pie.

I was right.

Once the dough was rolled out and the absolutely delicious homemade filling that we were so proud of was poured in, we knew the truth.  We only had enough for half of a pie and I was all out of cherries.

This began the series of minor annoyances that disrupted all of my homemaking tranquility and left me stressed, bothered, tired and frustrated within an hour.

Like how I pulled out all the ingredients for my homemade chicken and barley soup and couldn’t find the chicken stock I needed, not anywhere in any cabinet in the entire house, although I knew for sure I bought it at the store that week.

And how I put the homemade bread dough into the oven in the same bread pan I always use at the same setting with the oven rack positioned in the same place as always—-and started to smell burning after 15 minutes.  The bread had risen so high it was actually touching the top of the oven and burning.

So, I pulled the bread out quickly and placed it on the counter while trying to reposition the oven racks only to smell more burning.  In my haste, I had put the bread down on a stove burner that was still on from my failing soup.  The bread was burned both top and bottom now.

It was at this point that I started crying out to Jesus…over cherry pie, lost chicken stock, and burned bread.

A week later, of course, the bothersome kitchen disasters had passed.  I bought a can of cherry pie filling that night and finished off the baked goods.  We ate the middle of the bread and I found a way to make soup anyway.

Then, I opened up the kitchen cabinet doors and found the chicken stock that had been missing just days before.  There it sat exactly where I remembered placing it, exactly where it should have been, exactly where I had looked over and over in one desperate rumble through the cabinet after another.

So, why?  Why, God, all of that unnecessary drama over things as simple as soup and bread and pie?

Maybe I don’t meet with recipe disasters and random kitchen mishaps every day….and yet every day there are the distractions: The yanking on our hearts to worry here and bluster with frustration there.  The nudging us off our faith foundation and the pecking away at our peace.

In Psalm 86, David prays over his own litany of troubles.  Eugene Peterson notes:

There are fifteen petitions in these seventeen verses: concentration is weakened by the distraction of clamoring needs (Praying with the Psalms, June 24).

Fifteen reasons for David to fall to his knees, one pesky annoyance after another, one overwhelming crisis upon another.

And it’s all just so much, so difficult to focus on Christ and to claim peace, so hard to ignore the circumstances and insist on faith.

So, David prays:

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name (Psalm 86:11).

And this becomes our prayer when life is overwhelming or when days grow difficult, when we’re hit wave after wave with bothersome trifles and knocked flat over by the powerful current.

One heart….one mind….united and unwavering in my intentional focus on Christ.  This is what we need.

Amen.

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

VBS for Grown-Ups: God’s Love Helps Us

Every year at Vacation Bible School I watch as adults lead the excited children around the church from station to station, sing the songs (maybe we even do the accompanying motions), shout and laugh. kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res Do we also, though, compartmentalize? Do we box up the VBS messages and declare they are just for kids and not relevant for us?

But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people under 18? We older and wiser ones sometimes make faith so complicated and fail to recognize or really consider the beautiful truths in these simple messages. So, this week, I’m thinking about VBS and what the lessons for children mean for you and me.  Our church is doing Group Publishing’s Kingdom Rock VBS, so that’s what I’ll be sharing about here with a mixture of old devotionals and new ones on the theme for each day.

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Originally posted as “Feeling Unloved, January 4, 2013
“I love you, Lord; you are my strength” Psalm 18:1

She was sobbing next to me and finally put all those unmanageable, messy feelings into four words.

“I feel so unloved.”

One fight with her sisters, one afternoon of correction and quiet discipline….and this totally loved daughter of mine told me she didn’t feel loved at all.

She sat with her tissue, snuggled against my side, my one arm hugging her shoulder, my other arm smoothing her wild hair that had been mussed by all the emotion.

But she felt unloved.

I had packed her lunch for the day, putting in her favorite snack and slipping a tiny paper with a joke on it into her bag of pretzels so she would smile and laugh and think of me.

She was wearing the outfit I had bought her and a ribbon in her hair that I (yes, the mom recovering from an allergy to crafts) had made for her with my own two clumsy hands.

Her favorite dinner was simmering on the stove.

Before bed the night before we had studied her Bible verses for the week and read together from books I ordered used online because they were out-of-print.  But they were her favorite, so I had happily spent an afternoon performing Google searches to find them.

I had combed out her long blond hair after her bath and sprayed it down to ease out the tangles and reminded her to brush her teeth.

And I had told her I loved her often, hugged her and kissed the top of her head throughout the day, then tucked her into bed under the blanket I had made for her myself.

But still she felt unloved.

She didn’t know that some people grow up without the kindness, the physical provision, the confidence that they are loved.

So I told my crying girl how loved she is and how even when her emotions push their faulty lies into her heart and mind, she can shut them down with truth.

We’re just as forgetful as my daughter is at times, feeling unloved because of a circumstance, a correction, a trial or sadness.  And we sit among our piles of blessings, of salvation and daily grace, and think, “God, don’t You love me?”

We meditate on the lies and feed them with our feelings, just like the Israelites did in the Old Testament.

Psalm 106 follows their long journey through forgetfulness and betrayal…

they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses (verse 7).

But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold (verse 13).

They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,
miracles in the land of Ham
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea (verse 21-22).

They didn’t just forget minor provisions of lunch box meals and some new outfits for school.

They forgot miraculous deliverance out of slavery in Egypt, the parting of an entire body of water so they could cross on dry land, daily provision of manna from heaven and the protection from war-loving enemies on every side.

But always God was faithful:

Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known…

Yet he took note of their distress
when he heard their cry;
 for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented (Psalm 106:8, 4-45).

They forgot.  He remembered.

“Yet, He….” it says in each verse. In my NKJV Bible, it says, “Nevertheless…”

That’s what God is...never at any moment less than good and powerful, mighty and merciful to us.  He is never less than His character or His faithfulness to His promises.

Even when our feelings tell us otherwise.

Even when we’ve believed the lies.

Paul writes to Philemon:

I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ (Philemon 1:6 NIV).

His prayer was that the church would “get it,” would deep-down understand the blessings of God and the totally undeserved, thoroughly unconditional love of our so-gracious Father and the Savior who died in our place.

If we really believed that God loved us, we would have confidence for the bad days and strength for the hard times.  We’d have the help we need when we’re annoyed, frustrated, tired or overwhelmed.

Even when we mess up we’d remember the truth: never-the-less He is faithful.

It’s God’s love that helps us stand strong.

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Learning the Magic Word

It’s just something we moms do.  Generations and generations of moms.  I bet Eve was saying it to her sons as she raised her growing family in the wilderness outside the Garden of Eden.

Mom hands child juice cup.

Child takes juice cup.

Mom says, “Say ‘thank you.’

Child repeats, “Thank you.”

Parental instruction complete.

Some of us even begin teaching our children the sign language for thank you before they can actually talk.

Occasionally we vary our strategy and style.  As our kids get older, we do less verbatim repetition and more prompting.

Mom asks: “What do you say when someone gives you something?” or “What’s the magic word?”

Child, totally engrossed in cup of juice or with cookie picks up on the cue and says, “Thank you.”

We’re teaching gratitude here, establishing the discipline of thanks and appreciation.  We’re slowly shocking the human propensity toward selfishness and self-centeredness into the reality that when people do nice things for you, it’s not because you deserve them or you’ve earned them, but because of their generosity and grace.

Maybe we never grow out of this lesson.

Even when Jesus healed ten lepers and sent them on their way to purification and restoration with their families and with society, only one returned to give thanks.  Grown men responded to a miracle from God with forgetfulness and distraction, a shrugging of the shoulders and a moving on to other things.

Like any mom, I’m engaged in the training now, teaching my kids to be grateful for breakfast cereal, snack time, birthday presents and treats at the frozen yogurt shop.  I’m reminding them to take the time for gratitude and to put thankfulness into words.

And then sometimes my preschooler just remembers on her own.  She plays with her toys and in a moment of inspiration lifts her blond head and announces, “Thank you, Mom!  Thank you for taking me to the park today.”016

Anything could spark her little heart to give thanks.  Thank you for buying me these new shoes at the store.  Thank you for getting my favorite cereal.  Thank you for finding my Barbie in the basket.

The beauty here is the spontaneity of her gratefulness.  She’s been thinking about the gift and her response isn’t to collapse into selfishness or obsession with the gift itself, but to recognize the giver.

In Desiring God, John Piper wrote:

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.  This cannot be done by mere acts of duty (p. 80).

There are times, of course, when the worship we offer up to God isn’t matched by our emotions.  We give praise when circumstances are hard.  We give thanks before the victory.

Sometimes we choose to worship in advance of the blessing and simply in faith, knowing that we can’t see God at work now and don’t know how He could possibly deliver us from such impossible circumstances, but still we know He is God.  He is faithful.  He is able.  He is worthy.

So we “offer up a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15 HCSB).

Maybe we come out of duty and out of discipline, repeating the words “thank you” because that’s what you say and this is what you do.

Then slowly God changes our heart.  The shifting of our eyes from our problem to our God, the deliberate rejection of “self” and the purposeful choice to worship opens our eyes to His wonder and glory.

That’s how it goes sometimes.  We say thanks because thanks is what you say—and thus we truly become grateful.

The danger, though, is that we say the words without the heart change.

God said of Israel:

these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service—yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote (Isaiah 29:13 HCSB).

Worship that remains duty or discipline and never progresses beyond that isn’t ultimately worship at all.  It’s rules and rote, tradition, expectations, religion, service order, church etiquette or outward show.

At some point, those lessons in thankfulness have to dig deep roots in our heart and start producing shoots of life and eventually fruitfulness for harvest.Psalm 3011

That’s when we respond in spontaneous delight.

It’s when our hearts just can’t keep the joy inside, not when He’s so worthy, not when God is so gracious, not when His mercy is so overwhelming and power so awesome.

Like David, we sing:

You turned my lament into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
so that I can sing to You and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise You forever (Psalm 30:11-12 HCSB).

We’ve moved beyond praising because it’s required.  Now we praise because we can’t possibly keep silent about our God.

And so we worship.ShabbyBlogsDividerJ

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

Keep On Keeping On

Lunches packed for the last time. Desks cleared, backpacks cleaned out and stowed away. Field day over.  Class parties celebrated.  Awards ceremony concluded and certificates photographed.  End-of-the-year pictures taken of each daughter and compared to the photos from the first day of the school year.

And now we collapse.  We did it.  Somehow it feels like a joint accomplishment, not just theirs.  Sure, my kids worked hard. So did I.  And somehow, by God’s grace, we made it here to this first day of 006summer vacation.

It’s only taken 15 months of prayer.  I started praying for this school year last March, praying for this teacher, this classroom, these friends, this school, these character issues, and these lessons.

On Monday, a friend and I bowed heads for the last time this school year and we gave thanks.

Thank You, Lord, for answering our pleas for our children.  Thank You for helping them learn, being with them in all of the struggles that have sent these loving (and worried) mamas to their knees.  Thank You for helping them with difficult concepts and friendship drama, bullies and mistakes on tests, report cards and forgetfulness. Thank You for these teachers You chose specially for our kids.

And we began again, just that quickly, one sentence to another, thank God for this year and then praying for next year: for classroom placements and teacher assignments, for the responsibilities of a new grade and for the friendships they’d make.

So it continues.

“Pray without ceasing….” that’s what Paul wrote (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

He meant that living prayer, that breathing in and breathing out of living life alongside God, taking in crises and handing them right on over to the Lord, receiving blessing and offering up spontaneous praise.

It means no more arbitrary separations between the sacred and the secular, between the holy parts of my life where God is welcome and invited and the dusty living rooms of our hearts where we try to hide away the clutter in corners.

Having kids, though, reminds me of this, too:

Prayer is perpetual; it’s insistent and consistent.

And sometimes I’m not.  I’m driven to the throne by need and I’m pouring out pleas of desperation until the need eases a bit.  Or perhaps I just grow weary or fall back into the coziness of complacency and apathy.

I’m not praying so fervently any more. It’s more like unemotional have-to prayers, perhaps performed out of duty, perhaps totally forgotten and not prayed at all.

We pray for that intervention, that salvation, that redemption, that rescue…for us or for another….and then slowly we cease the praying.   We need the reminder to keep on keeping on, to not give up asking God for that healing and to refuse to stop praying for a loved one’s salvation.

With kids, you can’t really forget, not for long.  Time just pushes you right through from prayer need to prayer need.  I’m not even done praying over one school year before I’m on my knees for the next.

I read the Psalms and here is the reminder anew:

“But I keep praying to you, Lord, hoping this time you will show me favor.  In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation” (Psalm 69:13 NLT).

“But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14 NLT).

“We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal” (Psalm 123:2 NLT).

Keep praying….keep hoping….keep looking.005

Keep at it and when He answers, press on in more prayer.

With this fresh resolve, I flip through the pages of the neglected prayer journal.  What did I pray then….and what do I still need to pray now?

What have you neglected in prayer?  What have you given up on and long since stopped asking God for?  Who used to be on your prayer list but somehow slipped off?

It’s discipline to begin again.  And when we cease praying, which feels like the inevitable failing of us forgetful ones, we return again and resolve again to be insistent and consistent in seeking God and hoping in His deliverance.

What have you stopped praying about that you need to pray for again?  What prayers are you already praying for your children’s next school year?

Do you have a prayer journal?  How does it look and how do you use it?

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

What I’m Complaining About…

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

It’s simple.  It’s polite.

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

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

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

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

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

Everything?

Yes, everything.

Eat potatoes without the side show?

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

So far, that has been unsuccessful.

So, I tried the empathy route.

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

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

Right.  Whatever.

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

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

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

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

But it might be to him.

And it’s usually about truly annoying things:

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

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

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

Things like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he does ask that we bring it to Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, oh Lord, may it be so today.

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

In Times of Need

They gave her some string, a box, some tape and a few other odds and ends and told her group of second graders to design a leprechaun trap for St. Patrick’s Day.

If they’d thrown in a bar of soap and a paperclip, MacGuyver might have been able to break out of a sealed room packed with explosives on a timed detonator with two seconds to spare.020

As it was, these kids designed a contraption that would entice the leprechaun, and then stick him to the floor when he stood on the tape, and finally capture him inside the box.

My daughter described the process to me and I asked her—Did you use peanut butter to lure him in?  Did you have a stick that would hold the box up and then collapse down when you pulled on the string?

“No, mom,” she tells me, “we didn’t have any of that.  We had to use only the things on the desk.”

I could design a successful leprechaun trap, too, if I had more supplies available.  After all, I have experience from all those years as a kid with hamsters that could escape out of the most escape-proof cage and then skitter around the house…until, of course, we laid out our peanut butter trap.

It’s one of those lessons of life, though, the making do with what you have, the realization that sometimes you face circumstances where you feel oh-so-insufficient to meet the demand.

The days are hectic, the to-do list long, and we just don’t have enough time.

The relationships are stretched to breaking, and we don’t have enough patience.

The bills are too much and those unexpected expenses keep dumping themselves down on us, and we just don’t have the money.

The need is overwhelming, weighing down on our shoulders until we’re pressed to the ground, and we just don’t have the strength, or the wisdom, or the experience, or the training, or the spiritual gifts, or the manpower.

I am, after all, only one person and I only have these two hands. 
There are, undoubtedly, only so many hours a day. 
The dollar, sad but true, only stretches so far.

And even though we’ve said it so often before (God will provide) and sang it out so many times (You are more than enough for me), still we feel the lack and still it’s hard to see past the need.

Yet, when Jonathan stood with his armor bearer overlooking the Philistine camp, they were just two guys out scouting a more powerful enemy.  It was crazy to think they could actually win a fight.

But Jonathan knew that whatever the statistics said or however the odds might have stacked against them, “Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6c).

Nothing can hinder our God from rescuing us and equipping us.  Not our lack of resources.  Not the strength of the enemy.  Not the circumstances or the “facts.”  Not our own weaknesses.

That’s why God’s people could walk away from slavery in Egypt without a battle.

Or why a teenage shepherd boy knocked a Philistine giant to the ground with a stone in a slingshot.

That’s why God built an army for David out of “men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of 400 men.”  This rag-tag army came as they were, refugees, runaways, and rejects, and they managed to evade King Saul’s “3,000 elite troops from all Israel” (1 Samuel 22:2 and 24:2).

And that’s why Jonathan and his armor bearer led their nation to a great victory against the enemy that day.  It started with two men stepping out in faith and trusting that God could save them whether they had 10,000 soldiers or just themselves relying on God to rescue them.

Rescue them, He did: terrifying the enemy until they scattered in fear and sending an earthquake at just the right moment.

We just don’t know what resources God will use to provide and deliver.  We can look at our projected income all we want.  We can stare at our day planner and refine the to-do list as much as we please.

We can consider every possibility and take into account the likelihood of this or that.

But if God has decided to deliver us, then deliver us He will…whether by many or by few…and nothing will stand in His way.

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King