I don’t know what the day may bring

Two months ago, my six-year-old son’s soccer schedule was stretching me.

It’s such a silly thing, looking back.  But at the time, I was trying to maintain  some control over our family’s calendar.

You know what you lose a lot of control  over as your four kids get older?  The calendar.  Teachers, coaches, directors, club leaders and more all have an agenda for your kids.

So, when I signed my son up for soccer in January, I weighed in with what worked for us as a family.  No Tuesday and Thursday practices, please.  We need a team that meets on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Also, he’d miss  one week of practice because  of our other commitments.

Then I waited for THE CALL, the one where you find out from your coach when and where to be for the first practice.

That’s when I found out:  My son’s Monday/Wednesday team had changed to a Tuesday/Thursday team.  And the one week I had said we couldn’t be at practice they scheduled for soccer team pictures.

I have no control over these things.  I try to be in control.  But I have no control.

This year seems to have eased me into a season of dependence.  Soccer was just part of it.   Ever since January, I was reminded  week after week that I’m not ultimately in charge of everything that happens.

For a control freak like me, I actually think I handled it pretty well.  No meltdowns.  No extreme levels of fretting.  Just quiet adjustments.

Soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays?  Okay then.  It is what it is.

Then, of course,  the entire soccer season was canceled after a week-and-a-half so I shifted again.

I released my need to control that.

I’m making new adjustments even now.  I cannot control  what  groceries are going to  actually be at the store each week, so we eat for dinner whatever I can find to cook.

And I release my need to control that, as well.

I  cannot control what decisions the school board makes about my kids  classes, grades, schedule or plan for next year.

I try little by little to  release my need to  control  even that.

What I’ve quieted my soul with this year is that the more I realize I’m completely not in control, the more I rest in knowing that God still is in control.

Nothing is outside of His mighty and merciful hands.

Proverbs 27:1 says:

Don’t boast about tomorrow,
for you don’t know what a day might bring.

In God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life, Timothy Keller says:

“Those who believe they can eliminate uncertainty boast about tomorrow, thinking they have planned for every contingency….But you do not know what is to come.  The future is wholly in the hands of God.”

Maybe it felt like my schedule rested in the hands of a soccer scheduling supervisor or a coach.

Maybe now it feels like a governor holds the next few months of my life in his hands or a school board or a superintendent of schools is in charge of my kids.

But surely that’s not the truth.  Not the ultimate truth.

My life is in the hands of the Lord who loves me and won’t abandon me or desert me.

Sometimes I’m tempted to try to nag Jesus into  doing what I’d like him to  do in the middle of all this mess.

I’m not alone.  Others in the past have tried to “manage” Jesus and make Him do what they wanted or expected.

The disciples tried to manage Jesus by keeping little kids away from him and by telling him to send people home because they didn’t have enough money to feed a crowd of over 5000 hungry people a meal.

His family tried to manage Jesus by coming to take him home when they heard about his growing ministry.

Peter tried to manage Jesus by denying the need for Jesus to be taken away and to die.

The plan for that first Good Friday isn’t something that any of Jesus’ followers wanted or expected or even understood.  It was all completely outside their plans and they probably would have preferred in that moment for  Jesus to just do what they wanted him to do and to be what they wanted him to be.

But God was in control

His plan was perfect.

His plan wasn’t for Good Friday to be the end;  His plan for salvation included Resurrection Sunday.

I’ve been learning to relinquish my control  over my life and my attempts to “manage” my Lord as if my ways or my plans are best.

After all, God planned Easter and it was perfect. Surely I can trust Him with my future and the months ahead.

 

Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love

Today,  maybe for the last few days actually, it seems like I have some words on repeat.

“I’m sorry!  My fault!”

I’ve messed up and made mistakes, said the wrong thing,  planned poorly,  forgotten, and just generally haven’t been perfect.

Oh my, have I had a time, my friends!

Confessions are hard anyway.  When is it ever easy to say, “I messed up?” or “I was wrong?”  But when you’ve said it here and you’ve said it there and you’ve said it over and over in the course of a day (or two or three) to different people for different reasons, it becomes deeply humbling.

Can I get anything right?

And the temptation for me is this–to obsess.  I replay the video in my head of how I got it wrong and feel anew that wave of blushing embarrassment. My internal temperature feels like its 110 degrees and my heart is racing.

Even if I can fall asleep, I wake up at 4 a.m. and review the failures relentlessly because brains go crazy in the deepest parts of the night.

That’s when the self-condemning thoughts muscle in like a posse of bullies, never letting me move along, fretting and stressing over mistakes that are been-there, done-that.   There’s no way to correct them. Only thing you can do is move on.

My son is four and apologizing is hard for him.  We are wading knee-deep in the mess of parenting some character issues:  Being willing to  say “sorry,” just take personal responsibility, receive forgiveness, give forgiveness.

He cries.  He struggles.  He refuses. He complies. He learns and we try it all again.

It’s a journey.

Maybe it’s a journey  that I’m actually still on.  I’ve apologized.  I’ve fessed up and owned up.  That part I’ve gotten down.

But how to un-stick myself from the mire and move along?  How to start  fresh, embrace mercy, and forget what’s behind so I can keep pressing forward (Philippians 3:13)?

Isaiah wrote:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB).

If I know in my head that I’m washed white like snow and like the purest, cleanest wool, how come I sometimes still see the dirt and the grime and feel like a mess?

In his book, Flee, Be Silent, Pray, Ed Cyzewski writes:

….we could all do well by praying, ‘Lord, have mercy on  me, a sinner.’ That’s one prayer in the Bible that we all should feel comfortable repeating daily.  This simple prayer puts us in our place and acknowledges God’s great mercy for us.”

This is a verse I’m learning to pray and not just pray it, but use it as a weapon to  beat back some of that pride and some of that hurtful self-talk.

Scripture is clear about what happens when we repent and ask God for mercy and forgiveness:

Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, Acts 3:19 HCSB

then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Hebrews 10:17 ESV

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25

 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 ESV

When we confess and we repent, we are forgiven completely and that sin is washed away, blotted out, forgotten, and removed.

I don’t have to hear about it anymore.  God isn’t asking me to remember it, wrestle over it, feel embarrassed by it, or stress out over it.

He’s covered me in His mercy.

The tax-collector who prayed, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” in Luke 18 got it right.  I’m a sinner!  But I come to the God of mercy.  Even if I feel unworthy, I am invited in before His throne of grace.

So, I pray this prayer in the night when I wake up to the thoughts that won’t leave me alone, replays of how I got it wrong and what I should have done to get it right.

“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” and then I wait.

And if I still feel that wave of terrorizing shame, I pray it again, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” and I breathe.

God has already forgiven me.  I’m just standing on that forgiveness.  He’s already blanketed me with His grace, but I’m holding onto that grace.  He’s declared mercy, and I’m hanging on tightly to it.

“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”—Our loving Savior does just that.

 

When the One Thing You Really Needed to Get Done….Doesn’t Get Done

I had one thing written on my agenda for that day.

One.  Thing.

Every other day was packed with wall-to-wall to-do list items.

But not that day.  I had just one thing I needed to do and  I needed to be efficient and productive so that I could spend all the other days doing all the other things.

My list read:

  1. Writing.

But by 2:00, what I just wrote on this screen so far….that was the extent of my progress.

Amazing, huh?

So, what exactly did I do all day?

A million things, just not that one thing.

I had four sick children with coughs and runny noses.

I cleaned up tissues.

I discovered piles of them next to beds and overflowing from bathroom trashcans.  I found a plastic bag full of them on the counter.  I saw miniature mountains of them here and there where we had chased my baby with a Kleenex.

It felt like the full extent of my productivity was wrapped up in this:  Tissue Clean-Up.

And yet, I had wiped noses.  Made cups of tea.  Cuddled a crying baby who couldn’t figure out why his nose feels like a faucet he can’t turn off.proverbs19

I wrote cards and notes responding to prayer requests and answered messages.

I scribbled nonsensical slivers of ideas down here and there all morning so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to write about later.

I washed dishes and washed clothes and somehow cleaned a house that still looks messier than when I began.

What have I done?

A million things.  Nothing.  Certainly not that one thing I intended to do.

Somehow when you’ve spent all day doing and doing and yet haven’t crossed that one thing off that to-do list, you feel like a failure.

The dam of condemnation cracks and shatters and spews it all out.

How can you have spent all day doing absolutely nothing?  What in the world are you doing with yourself?  Are you lazy?  Are you inept?  How is your house not spotless and your work not done?

And yet, what good is an agenda, really, if it’s my agenda and not God’s?

We can make these perfect plans and miss out on God completely.  We can push right through the disruptions and the distractions to accomplish our goal and end up lost and far from Him.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“the great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant (or unexpected) things as interruptions in one’s own life, or real life.  The truth is, of course, that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life.

God’s involvement in my agenda isn’t always painful or unpleasant, but it’s usually unexpected.  Like Proverbs 19:21 says:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

I am a ‘many plans’ kind of girl and I’ll shove my way right on through the obstacles to make those plans happen.

And yet, here I am this month, Learning When to Say ‘Yes,’ and I’ve found that saying yes to God starts with being flexible.

It starts with offering Him my to-do list and it includes yielding willingly, gently and without complaint to the twists of the day and the altering of the path.

I stink at this.

But, Moses the shepherd out there in the desert got it right.  He had a plan to lead “the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God”  (Exodus 3:1).

That’s when God lit a fire within a bush and captured Moses’s attention.

Moses had to decide.  Stick with his own plan?  Or follow the unexpected.

He chose to bend.

He said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight” (Exodus 3:4).

In The Power of God’s Names, Tony Evans writes:

God didn’t reveal Himself to Moses until Moses turned aside from His ordinary routine.

And that Samaritan that Jesus described in Luke 10…he was traveling the road for a reason.  Others had traveled before him: a priest, a Levite.  They saw a dying man on the side of the road and pressed right on past because he wasn’t on the itinerary.

But the Good Samaritan turned aside.  He stepped off the road.  He took the time.

He walked right out of his own agenda and right on into God’s.

May we always be flexible enough to turn aside and to exchange our agendas and plans for His perfect ones (even if they are unexpected).

What is God’s plan for you today?  Have you asked Him?

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 When to Say, ‘Yes?’

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

 

 

Would you like some pizza with that doctrine?

She’s a four-year-old chowing down on pizza and breadsticks and prodding us with deep theological questions in between bites.

Where does God live? She drops it casually into family chatter just like “What are we doing tomorrow?” or “Can I have some more lemonade, please?”

Then she returns to the task at hand: Munch, munch, munch.jeremiah29

I nudge my husband’s elbow. Pass.  Your turn. 

So, he walks her through theology and doctrine right there as she slurps through her straw.  God is omnipresent, everywhere and always there.

I mean what country does He live in?  Munch, munch, munch.

He doesn’t live in a country, but there is one special place where he is present and that is Heaven.

And His angels?

Yes, and the angels.

I think He has 61 angels.

He has lots of angels.  Lots and lots.

Like 61?

Well…..

But she’s distracted now and that moment when you feel like your child’s faith is that moldable clay in your parental hands has passed.  She heard it—God is everywhere. He is always with you.

Christian parenting 101  pop quiz over.

She may think He has only 61 angels, but one lesson at a time.

I’ve been spending all year pursuing God’s presence right here in this minivan life, so her question lingers, bouncing around in my head and heart.

Where does God live?

Right here.  Always with me.  Here in this place and that.  Here in the stress and the rush.  Here in the quiet corner I’ve sneaked into to hide away from the noise.

I can nod my head right along with the lesson I know so well, and yet still I choose to pursue more.

It might even seem like a fruitless endeavor.  Why pursue God’s presence when His presence is here, always here?  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  He will not abandon you.

I know how it goes.

I’ve felt the difference, though, between knowing God is with you while you fill that dishwasher up with bowls from breakfast and when you’re passing back the snacks in the minivan while zipping from school to ballet class and then to church.

And that moment when you don’t want to move because God’s presence is so heavy in this place, you feel the Holy Spirit’s fingers leaving deep impressions on your spirit, and you simply not walk away from this very second the same as you were just the second before.

Israel saw the difference.  God was with them as they pounded out those bricks in Egypt.  Four-hundred years of slavery and He never abandoned them.  He was there all the time.

Yet, they headed out of that bondage and into the desert, stopping at that holy mountain where God’s presence came down in power.

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.  The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

God came down to that mountain.

And Moses went up.

Chris Tiegreen says it this way:

This is a graphic picture of the distinction between God’s general Presence and His manifest Presence…..there are times when He is more present, when He manifests Himself uniquely, when He becomes more obvious that nature’s designs or a whispering voice.  Sometimes God shows up.

All this month, I’m pursuing God’s presence by Retreating and Refreshing.  Because sometimes we have to escape the everyday rhythms of life in order to breathe in and out the presence of God.

After all, Moses had to go up on that mountain.

I need to go, as well.

So, we pray:

God, come down to us, we pray.  Bring the full weight of Your glory here so we can see you.

And then sometimes we need to shake off the daily grind, walk away from the ordinary, and go up on that mountain ourselves.

 

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

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 Retreat and Refresh?