Giving Thanks Despite the Pain

psalm 9-1

It all started like this:

One can of those Pillsbury rolls, the kind where you have to pop the seal and you jump 2 feet in the air in surprise when you open them. .

Plus:

One bare foot.

Plus:

One sleepy mom on a Sunday morning.

Equals:

A can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls slamming down onto that bare foot causing that sleepy mom a great deal of pain.

I limped around most of Sunday and finally eased my foot out of my shoe Sunday evening (after finally giving up on the pain just going away.)

My big toe was swollen and green (yes, green).

Nice.  I guess I broke my toe or something along those medical lines.

And, when you move around doing a lot of stuff (as a mom with four kids does), it turns out you kind of need your big toe not to be throbbing with excruciating pain.

Who knew?

I’ve been celebrating the tiny stages of recovery this week. Sure, my foot has changed a few colors, but it hurts less.

Yesterday I could move my toe and wear a regular pair of shoes again.

But now, since I’ve been walking funny for four days, I’ve noticed aches in my leg and other toes.

They are a reminder that something isn’t doing it’s job in my body and other parts are compensating.

This tiny bit of brokenness, this irritating ache has me aware.

I’m aware of my toe’s value, of everything I’ve taken for granted and all that it normally does for me.

I’m aware of what I actually need to do and what I can let go of for a while until I’m walking again without the limp.

And, I’m aware of tiny graces and the mercies I might otherwise overlook.

I remember the moment I realized my toe wasn’t going to simply sting for a few minutes and then feel better.

“Great,” I thought, “I have to do Children’s Church today!  Tomorrow, I start a week with a whole lot of driving and times when I’ll be working with kids and moving all around.  This is really bad timing.”

That’s true, of course.  My week would have been easier without a foot injury.

But I’ve been okay.

Sometimes we can work ourselves up into despair.  The one thing we pray won’t happen (of course) happens. We can’t ever see it getting better.  The timing is awful.  The provision is scarce.

And all that might very well be true.

Even then, though, even in the worst…or the uncomfortable, the painful, the unwanted, the heartbreaking, and the disappointing. He can transform the “worst thing” into a “God thing” with whispers of His grace, hints of His love, and reminders of His presence.

It’s like getting a thank you card just when you felt overlooked.

Or your two-year-old son not having a tantrum during that important meeting even though he missed his nap today.

It’s getting unexpected provision when you felt overwhelmed by one extra expense too many this month.

It’s God’s comfort and strength as you mourn.

It’s making it through the week with an aching toe and it all working out just fine even when you didn’t think it could.

I’ve been praying so much this year–for others, for my family–for big miracles, for visible deliverance, for undeniable healing, for rescue and provision.

But I also want to be aware of the daily blessings, the brushes with grace, the tender mercies.

I want to remember the way God sometimes doesn’t deliver me from difficult circumstances or disappointment or hurt.  But He does deliver me through. 

The Psalmist wrote:

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1 ESV)

ALL His wonderful deeds–not just the grand ones.

Timothy Keller says,

“We must discern God’s ‘wonderful deeds’ in our lives, a phrase that can refer to dramatic miracles like the parting of the Red Sea. However, we must also learn to see the more subtle ways God comforts us just when we were ready to give up, or brings the right friend or book or line of thinking into our lives just when we needed it” (The Songs of Jesus).

God didn’t keep that cinnamon roll can from hitting my toe.  He didn’t miraculously heal my foot after I’d hurt it.

Those would have been wonderful.

But He’s helping me make it through, and that’s wonderful, too.

He’s changing my focus from the worst, the disappointment, the hurt and the stress to His comfort and help just when I need it.

And I give Him thanks with all my heart.

Finding Home | The place where being you is being enough

psalm 90

Both of my older girls worked hard.

During the busiest, craziest week we had so far this school year, both girls picked campaign slogans, drafted their speeches, typed them out, edited them and practiced until they were just right.

They both finished their homework quickly and then clocked over two hours a piece in between evening activities to design and create their campaign posters.

One of my daughters won the student government officer election at her school.

The other lost.

These kinds of unbalanced victories are tough for us.  With two overachievers so close in age, it’s never easy to cheer and console at the same time.

But we did it.

I watched them climb into the minivan and I knew it right away.  One girl had a bouncy step and smile.  One girl held herself together until she flopped down into her seat and started to cry.

It probably wouldn’t have been so bad, except a mean boy rubbed the loss in my younger daughter’s face and called her “dumb.”

Life can sure be disappointing sometimes.  People sure can be cruel, trodding all over you when you’re already down in the dust.

So, I whisked them right from school to Subway (their favorite meal) and then did one better: milkshakes for everyone.  Because we needed it.  Somedays, you just need a milkshake with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

And then we went home.

That’s where we hugged and we congratulated and we reassured.  We looked into big blue eyes and spoke words of courage: “I’m so proud of you no matter what. You did awesome.  You were amazing. Sometimes we don’t win, but we have to take pride in how hard we worked and how we did our very best and our best is always good enough.”

Home is where you can celebrate and everyone joins in and cheers for you because they’re all on your side.

Home is where you drag your disappointed heart with its hurt and sadness, and it’s safe here.  You are hugged.  You are loved without conditions and expectations.  These are your people, the ones who are for you.  The ones who won’t mock your tears or tell you to ‘buck up and just get over it.’

Home should be the safe place.  The united place.  The place where being you is being enough.

Of course, Home isn’t that way for everyone.  And that’s the great tragedy.  It must break God’s heart to see how Home sometimes hurt instead of heals.

But at least here in my space, in my life, for my family, I want Home to be the refuge God meant it to be.

I read in Psalm 90:1, how Moses prayed to God.  He said:

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home” (NLT).

I’ve read this in other translations before.  The ESV says the Lord has been our “dwelling place” and the HCSB says the Lord has been our “refuge.”

But I let that word “home” echo a bit and think about what it means for God to be Home for me.

My safe place.

My refuge.

The place where I abide, live, dwell…where I relax and be myself, where I kick off my shoes and plod around in my white socks, where the masks are off and people see the real me, where I wash off my makeup, where I mess up sometimes and ask for forgiveness from those who love me still.

God is my Home.

He’s celebrating our victories.

And He’s wrapping us up in arms so big when we unload the disappointment, hurt and sadness we’ve been carrying on our shoulders.

In a world where we can feel judged and criticized, like people are always jumping in with suggestions of how we should be, where bullies and mean girls set themselves against us, God is our Home.

He loves you as you are.  He says you’re beautiful.  He says you have value and worth and He’s proud of you and He’s seen it–all of it—all your hard work and effort–and He says it’s good.

I wonder what it was like for Moses to write that God was his home?

Moses–the slave baby sent into the river on a basket, raised by an Egyptian princess in a palace where he didn’t quite fit in.

Moses–the murderer turned fugitive, who spent 40 years out in the wilderness tending sheep and living outside his community.

Moses–the leader of a nation that spent another 40 years wandering around the desert, pitching tents, moving on and never lingering in one place for long.

For the unwanted, for the outsider, for the broken, for the sinner, for the prodigal, for the wanderer, for the leader, God was Home.

God is Home.

Welcome Home.

P.S. Turns out that my daughter didn’t win the officer election, but still gets to be part of the SCA as a class representative!  A new day and a fresh perspective helped her feel much better.

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

Dear Girl, When Momma Lets You Down….

I let her down.

Not intentionally, of course, but there it is.  You can try to do everything right as a mom and always be perfect and still not always get it either right or perfect.

We had planned it out for a few weeks since the invitation from the school came.  They asked me to be a guest reader for Read Aloud day at my daughters’ school and all four of us were excited.1john4-16

We chatted about what books might be the best choices.

I made sure to ask my oldest daughter how to keep from embarrassing her when I visited her class.  (Don’t read with too many enthusiastic or dramatic hand gestures.  Apparently, that is highly embarrassing.)

She was also highly skeptical that I could come up with a picture book that would interest mature, chapter-book-reading fourth graders, but I was convinced I had chosen a winner.

When the big day came, I read to two classes, hugged two of my daughters, and arrived at the third daughter’s classroom only to find she wasn’t there.

They switch classes all day long in this grade and apparently my scheduled time to read occurred when neither my daughter nor any of her classmates were actually in their own classroom.

Not only that, but her teacher was absent, as well, so I couldn’t even explain my predicament and find a quick and easy solution.

So, I read to other people’s kids and not my own.

Then I tracked down my girl in the school, knocked on the door, and slipped in quickly to let her know what had happened, that they scheduled me to read for a time when she couldn’t hear the book.

And then I went home.

Two girls climbed into the minivan at the end of the school day bursting with exciting news about this and that.  My third daughter climbed in quietly.  I heard the sniffles from the far back of the minivan about halfway home.

When I asked her if she was crying, all she kept saying was, “You went to the wrong class.”

I knew the truth.  I had gone where I was supposed to go when I was supposed to go there, but it didn’t change the bottom line.

We pulled into the driveway at home and unloaded the backpacks and lunchboxes.  I settled my kids into the routine and then snuggled next to my still-tearful daughter on the big, comfy bed.

“I was so disappointed.  I told all my friends you would come and what book you would read and I waited all day and you didn’t even come.”

I guess she misunderstood and thought I was just going to come back later.

It really didn’t matter whether I was justified or not, she was disappointed and sad nonetheless.

I’ve been there.

People let you down sometimes.  Even well-meaning, good, godly people can disappoint you.

No one is perfect and certainly circumstances aren’t always perfect.  Sometimes they conspire against us to turn life into a crazy mess of unexpected obstacles.

Truth be told, sometimes I feel a little disappointed with God, too, because even though I know He is working out things for my good and even though I know His plans for me are best, sometimes they sure don’t feel “best,” “good” or “perfect.”

In fact, maybe the plans I’ve concocted seem to make a whole lot more sense in the moment.

But I read two verses in Holley Gerth’s book, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days:

 “You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” Psalm 59:9-10

So we know and rely on the love God has for us – 1 John 4:16

I believe this truth, that we don’t really know and can’t begin to comprehend God’s great love for us.

Yet, even if I’ve packed my head with all sorts of knowledge about the heights and depths of His love for me, what I really need is to rely on His love.

Because He’s reliable.  Because He’s trustworthy.  Because His love for us is never-failing, never-giving-up, always-and-forever, I can’t do anything to mess it up love.

So, I can rest in that.  I can stretch back into the arms of Christ and relax all those tense muscles of worrying and fretting and trying to hang on for dear life to every detail of every day.

And when life shoots unexpected arrows at me or plans seem to go awry, still I rely on His love.  I trust that He is my strength.  He is the fortress where I can be safe.

He will not let me down.

Circumstances will let me down.  People will disappoint me.

But God will not.

On this I can rely.

P.S. One hot cup of tea, some hugs from me, and a quick email to my daughter’s teacher to set up another time to read made my daughter’s day much better.

 

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

Sorrow, Disappointment and Leaving the Valley

She had bounced out of bed that morning and sprinted across the house to tell me the news, “It’s morning time!  And I feel all better!”

I scooped her up in a hug and felt her forehead.  The day before, my three-year-old had spent all afternoon on the sofa, mostly asleep, periodically waking to chatter cheerfully and then drifting back into dreams moments later.

Now here she sat on my lap a day later, placing a headband in her hair and showing it off so I could tell her how pretty it looked.

And she said, “This is what I’m going to wear to the birthday party.”

That’s when I had to tell her the news.  Yesterday while she had been sleeping away the sickness, we had slipped out the door quietly for the birthday celebration.

And she had missed it.

I broke it to her as gently as I could, explaining how she had been sick, reminding her of other special days.

Yet, disappointment is full of sorrow, even when it makes sense, even if you understand why it all happened, even if you know there will be other days and other opportunities, even when you’re deep down truly okay.

Still we feel the sadness over loss.

For a three-year-old, it’s missing out on a birthday party because of a fever.  She covers her face with her hands, crying to me as I comb my hand through her hair and gently pat her back because she “really wanted to go.”

For us, it could be that or so much more.  It’s disappointment in ourselves and the mistakes we make, so much foolishness, words that we speak without thinking, sins, habits, failings, misjudgments and mis-steps.

Or it could be disappointment in God for not sticking to THE plan (AKA “our plan”) or for the deliverance that delays or seemingly doesn’t come.

Or maybe it’s disappointment with others and how they’ve let us down or wronged us or hurt us in ways we carry as scars long after the initial injury.

Disappointments can’t be erased completely.  My girl missed that party and there’s no conjuring it up again or transporting through time to relive the moment.

So it is for us.  The past is the past and there it is.

Yet, God is a redeeming God: Redeeming our circumstances even when it’s our own foolish fault for being in this ugly mess….reminding us of His perfect plans far surpassing our imperfect schemes…renewing our hope even when all we see at the moment is hopelessness.

This is what God promised to do for His people in the book of Hosea, as they wallowed in this disappointment—knowing it was their own disobedience that led to captivity, feeling hopelessly lost and uncertain about the future.

God said:

Therefore, I am going to persuade her,
lead her to the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
  There I will give her vineyards back to her
and make the Valley of Achor
into a gateway of hope.
There she will respond as she did
in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came out of the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 2:14-15 HCSB).

valley2

That Valley of Achor is something we know; all of us have walked those paths of shadows.  It means “Valley of Trouble,” the lonely walking beneath the mountains, barely touched by light, unable to see over the peaks, feeling oh so very far from rescue or escape.

Yet our God so gently promises to take that Valley of Trouble and do what our transforming, redeeming God always does—make it “into a gateway of hope.”

After all, He knows the pathway out of disappointment.

He knows what encouragement our hearts need.

He knows sometimes we need to sob for a moment and express the sadness and then move on with our day, looking for new joy rather than dragging along that regret like a chain holding us captive to the past.

He knows we may need to shake that burden of shame, recrimination and regret right down off our back and to just let…it…go already.

Yes, God can transform whatever valley of trouble or disappointment you find yourselves in.  He is indeed always a God of Hope (Romans 15:13).

But we have to look up to see the change. 

If we’re trudging along with our eyes fixed on the ground of the valley, we’ll never see it become a Gateway of Hope, never see that there’s a way out, never notice that suddenly it’s beautiful and freeing and maybe not the end of the world it felt like just a moment ago.

Valleys always look like endless valleys until we look up and notice we’re free.

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

Remembering: One Lump or Two?

Originally posted on August 3, 2011

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
Psalm 62:5

It’s my nightly routine.

Place favorite mug on the counter.
Heat up the water.
Lay tea bag in the mug.
Pour steaming hot water in and let it steep.
Add spoonfuls of sugar.  (Yummy and sweet).
Splash in some milk.

Evening tea.  It’s been years since I’ve gone to bed without drinking it and it’s become a sort of security blanket.  I’m not sure if I could sleep without a cup.

Even worse, maybe I’d lie awake just because the tea wasn’t in my favorite mug and instead dumped into some random coffee cup grabbed from the cupboard.  That’d be like someone trying to swap a precious teddy bear for some unfamiliar spare stashed at the bottom of the toy box.

Last night, I sat down to my steaming cup, took a sip,  . . .

gulped and grimaced.

Instead of sweet tea, I tasted bitterness.  I’d filled the sugar canister, but never spooned any sugar into my mug.

Have you ever been a little disappointed?  You hope for something sweet and taste undrinkable bitterness instead?

The Israelites wandered through the desert for three days, searching for water.  Each day, their hunt must have grown more desperate.  How long could they survive out there, moving through endless wilderness without water to drink?  And then they arrived at Marah and there was water and they felt that rush of joy that accompanies salvation!

But the water was bitter and undrinkable.  It seemed like cruel disappointment considering their true need.  They weren’t asking at that point for luxury; they were asking for necessary provision and it seemed like God had failed them.

Yet, there at Marah, “Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink” (Exodus 15:25).

The Israelites placed their hope in their water-finding abilities.  They hoped for an oasis or a stream in the desert. And when they found what they had been looking for all along, they also discovered disappointment.

Moses placed his hope in God instead, knowing that even bitterness can be transformed into water for the thirsty.

When we place our hope in God, we will never be disappointed. But when we instead look for what we think we need, we misplace our hope in:

the job we think is secure
the financial answer to our bills
the debt program that’s going to transform our life
the 401K that’s going to make our retirement comfortable
the weight loss program that is going to make shedding the pounds easy
the husband who is going to make us feel loved and not lonely any more

the ministry that we can put our energies into
the friendship that makes us feel connected
the church with the programs we think will fit our needs

There are oh so many places to deposit our hope and each could yield bitter disappointment.  But the Psalmist wrote: My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him” (Psalm 62:5).

We wait for God only.  Not God plus the answer to our problem.  Not God and the life preserver from some friendly bystander who sees us drowning from the shore.

God.  And if He what He offers to us is a program or plan or a friend, then we accept His gift, but we never depend on the gift itself. 

We hope in God alone.  Only He can provide what we truly need.  And if it’s insufficient or bitter, He can transform it into plentiful abundance and sweet blessing, making “everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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 © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Rerun: Packing Up The Tiara

Originally posted on August 5, 2011

There I sat, cuddling my oldest daughter as she sobbed disappointed tears into her pillow.  Sitting in the minivan that night as we drove home, she had suddenly realized that God wasn’t going to make her a fairy tale princess when she grows up.

Her little life dream had been dashed.

After her sad announcement, my husband tried to shout back persuasive logic to her from the front seat, explaining that princesses don’t really live such great lives.  They can’t choose where to go, what to eat, how to dress, or even who to marry.

Somehow the lack of freedom was overshadowed by Disney ballgowns, glass slippers and tiaras.  And so after the pajamas were on, the teeth brushed, the prayers prayed, there we sat in her bed and she cried and we talked about feeling disappointed.

How life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect.
How sometimes we can’t have what we really want.
How movies and fairy tales rarely represent the reality of life.
How it’s hard to trust God when He tells us, “no,” but that we need to leave our future in His hands.
How our job is to work hard to develop the gifts He’s given and His job is to direct and guide our service.

No matter how you chat and philosophize sometimes, though, disappointment hurts.  For a while, we can hope that despite all odds, God is going to miraculously give us what our hearts desire.

But it doesn’t always happen that way and that’s the truth.

Sometimes God says, “no.”  He may do it so gently and with grace, and it’s not because He hates us or wants to see us sob ugly tears on our pillows.

In most cases, He does it for the same reason I tell my child “no” she can’t wear her favorite skirt that is now too short for her, “no” she can’t have cookies and milk at 5:30 p.m. as I’m dishing up dinner on the table, “no” she can’t watch that movie even if her friends have all seen it, “no” she can’t have a cellphone and laptop for first grade.  “No” is for people we love enough to protect.

Then there are other cases where the “no” is so He can be glorified and our faith refined.  In Beth Moore’s study, Daniel, she notes that there are always three scenarios:

  • God delivers us from the fire.
  • God delivers us through the fire.
  • God delivers us by the fire into His arms.

For the three men who refused to bow down to the towering image of King Nebuchadnezzar, there was no question of whether God could keep them out of the furnace that was blazing in front of them.  They declared:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

They had to go through the fire, but Christ showed up in all His magnificent glory and walked them right on out of there.  God said, “no, I won’t deliver you from the fire, but I’ll take you through.”

For others of you, God has said, “no” and it’s not clear why.  Maybe we’ll never know the reason this side of eternity.  You can’t see how this is protection.  You can’t see how He is being glorified.  Maybe it’s disappointing, this waiting for the healing or rescue that doesn’t ever seem to come.

Have you ever wondered how Stephen did it, the first martyr in the church, the first one to take stand up for Christ to the death?  Were he and his friends disappointed that God didn’t rescue him from the riotous Sanhedrin?  Were they waiting for the earth to open up and swallow the mob now raising their stones in murderous rage?

How disappointed and confused did they feel as God didn’t deliver Stephen from or through the onslaught of rocks, but instead delivered him home to heaven?  There was no last-minute rescue or miraculous intervention.

Acts 7:6-7 says:

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” (MSG).

Stephen “hardly noticed” the deafening noise of those about to kill him because “he only had eyes for God.”

Whatever disappointments we face, a fairy tale dream that never came true, a furnace God asks us to walk through, a definitive “no” instead of miraculous intervention, we are victorious by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  Just like Stephen.  Just like Jesus Himself looked to His Father as He suffered painfully on the cross for our sake.

We’re not looking at the enemy, the storm or the overwhelming circumstances.  We’re not looking at the hoped-for miracle or the anticipated rescue.  We’re looking at Jesus “standing at God’s side,” knowing that even when God chooses not to give us what we want or hope for, He never leaves nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 04/28/2012

Hiding the Word:

We had plans. Big plans.

It was pirate weekend in Yorktown Virginia and the annual book sale at our public library.  Add in my niece singing the lead role in an opera, church, and a birthday party and you had a full weekend.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that after two of my daughters spent time on the couch this week with fever and vomiting that the third would get sick, as well.  I sent her to bed Friday night with the beginnings of a fever.

This morning, she emerged looking bedraggled and ill and asking, “Do you think I’m better yet?”

Her skin, fire to the touch, clearly said otherwise, but I humored her with a thermometer test.  103 degrees.  “No, babe,” I said, “you’re pretty sick.”

Then there were the tears of disappointment, trading in a weekend of fun for a weekend of ginger ale and napping.

It’s one of those lessons you just can’t learn often enough in this life–that you can plan and schedule and postulate, but God has the prerogative to interrupt your agenda and alter your plotted course at any time.

Even when you know it’s for the best, that His design for you is better than you can imagine and what ultimately comes to pass is for your good, still it’s nonetheless disappointing in the moment.

For us, these interruptions are sometimes minor losses and daily annoyances; sometimes they’re the source of great sorrow and bitter grieving.

Regardless of their magnitude, we can all learn to pray as Jesus did, kneeling in the garden and submitting His will to the Father’s.

“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42b).

It’s the verse for this week, to contemplate and memorize.  Maybe it seems short, but it’s truth is powerful and perhaps a little painful.

Weekend Rerun:

He Rested

Originally Posted on April 26, 2011

“And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done”
(Genesis 2:3 ,NIV).

For months, one week in April glared off my calendar menacingly.  My husband and I focused all of our attention and energy on getting to that week and getting through that week—appointments, birthday parties, wedding, special church services, meetings, and holiday activities piled on top of our normal schedule.

I had the individual events in my calendar circled in different colors multiple times so that I wouldn’t overlook any one of them.   When people asked us about May, our eyes glazed over uncomprehendingly.  May?  What’s May?  As far as we were concerned, finishing April was the goal.

I’m sure you have weeks on your calendar that look like that, too, an overload of busyness, and you hold your breath in anticipation of it, stress when you think about it, and dream about making it through.

But then our week was done.  The last event finished.  We survived.  We drove home.  We rested.

It sounds so easy, really, to say “rest,” and yet for me rest takes great effort.

I’m physically incapable of napping.  Instead of sleeping, I lie awake thinking about all the things I should be doing instead of sleeping.  By the time I finally give up and throw back the covers in defeat, I’m frantic about the wasted time and move faster through my to-do list to make up for it.

I feel guilty for leisure, embarrassed by free time, and apologetic for fun.

Accepting help or taking a break feels like failure and an admission of weakness.

There’s something else at work here beyond just an addiction to adrenaline.  Oh, how I hate for it to be true, and yet digging down deeply enough reveals its ugly presence—-pride.  Truly, it feels good to be needed.  It feels important to be so busy.

When I run around in a breathless pace, doing, doing, doing all the time, I act as if the world depends on me to function, as if me sitting down for 15 minutes would create cosmic meltdown.

And that’s why God, from the very first week of creation, instituted a Sabbath rest.  It wasn’t for His benefit, as if the Almighty God who created a sun, moon, and planet with the power of His words grew weary and needed to sleep.  No, the Sabbath was not for God.  Instead, Jesus “said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

He created a day of rest for you and me.  It’s a reminder that the universe can exist without our involvement and labor.  It’s a re-ordering of our perspective, so that we remember it is God who is essential and not us.

So often, we forget that our jobs, our families, our ministries, our relationships, our everything depend not on our ability, but on God’s power.
We stress about meetings because we think everything relies on how well we present ourselves.
We plot out conversations because we think the outcome depends on the words we choose.

We think.  We plan.  We do.  We fix.  We busy ourselves.  We worry.  We analyze.  We lose sleep.

God knows the pride that burrows itself into our hearts; the tentacles it wraps around us as we seek fulfillment in accomplishments, in tasks completed, in people depending on us.  I’ve written it before and yet need the reminder of my own words:

I’ve seen many women engage in Busyness Battles with each other.   We ask each other what seems like such a simple question, such as “What have you been up to lately?” or “Have you been busy?”  Then, like a Wild West shootout, we breathlessly list our every activity in an effort to “out-busy” the other woman.  The prize?  The personal pride that we are more stressed than the woman we are talking to.  Don’t be embarrassed to concede defeat and say, “Well, I’ve been focusing on de-stressing. On Sunday, I watched a movie with my family and then read some of my book.” You may have lost the shoot-out, but who wants the title of “Most Stressed Woman” anyway?

I read this week that Craig Groeschel, in his book Weird, recommends a to-don’t list.  It’s a tool for those like me who find inactivity takes effort, to help me choose sitting on the deck while my daughters color with sidewalk chalk over doing laundry or choose pushing my baby girl in her swing and listening to her giggles turn to belly laughs over planning church programs.

This isn’t about rules, regulations and law.  It isn’t about Pharisaical hypocrisy and legalism.  It’s about rest and rest is about a humble stepping aside and the placing and continual re-placing of God in control of our lives.

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For further thoughts, check out:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

 

Two steps forward and two steps back (or so it seems)

This was an unfortunate setback.

A few weeks ago, my husband gently suggested that it may be time for a serious attempt at potty training my two-year-old.

Now, to understand how I felt about this I first have to tell you potty training my two older girls was no easy task.  In fact, it’s fair to say that I’ve never felt as much like a failure in my life as when I was pleading with a toddler just to sit on the potty chair.

I laid awake at night designing reward charts and incentive plans.
I prayed for help from Almighty God so that my kids would be ready for preschool.
I bought books, movies, stickers, M&Ms, toys, and more to bribe them into success.
I avoided all moms who proudly announced their genius 18-month old had been perfectly trained with absolutely no effort in all of a day.

But my husband is a good husband and I’m a good wife.  So, when he asked me to start potty training my toddler, I plunged into what I was sure would be months and months of misery, stress and clean-up.

I pulled out the trusty movie, Potty Power.  I explained underwear to my daughter.  Every 15 minutes, I picked her up and carried her to the bathroom.

And a miracle happened.  A real live, genuine miracle of God.

She figured it out.  She wanted to learn.  She graduated to underwear in a matter of days.  I bet God never had anyone thank Him so much for help potty training her child.

And then.

Then there was the setback.  One week of sickness kicked my baby girl back into Pull-Ups and made her absolutely terrified of a trip to the bathroom.  Now my sanity is loosely held together by a can of Resolve and a bottle of Febreze.

I was discouraged.  She was scared and confused.  We’re baby-stepping our way forward, hoping to regain lost ground.

Have you ever encountered a setback that left you dazed, uncertain, and full of fear?

Perhaps you stepped out in obedience to what you believed was God’s call, but circumstances shifted, obstacles arose, and you’re not reaching the goal.  Perhaps you’ve even begun to question whether you heard God clearly and made the right decision in the first place.

Sometimes God’s plan just doesn’t make sense to us.

For the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt, the most logical route to the Promised Land was straight along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  After a few battles with the Philistines, the Isrealites thought they’d march right into Canaan after no more than a month-long journey.

God had other plans.  Exodus 13:17 tells us: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.'”

Sometimes God takes us the long way around for our own benefit.  In her book One in a Million, Prisicllar Shirer writes that “the wilderness is often safer than the alternative” (p 73).  God chose the wilderness for His people.  Maybe He’s chosen it for you, as well, for your protection and personal growth.

Even after the Israelites followed the pillars of cloud and fire in the direction God had chosen to take them, there were still setbacks.  In Exodus 14:2, God said, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back.”

Turn back?

God led them one way only to turn them around and march them off in a different direction?  Did it seem like God had momentarily lost His compass in the desert?

And yet, this turning back placed the Israelites on the banks of the Red Sea and the only way across now was through His miraculous deliverance.

He turned them around so that He could save them.

So, what do we do as we make confusing desert tracks in the wilderness in our efforts to follow God’s lead?

We could give up.  We could question our listening skills.  We could doubt God’s leadership.  We could stomp off and follow our own course.

Or we could remain focused on our goal and the passion God has placed in our hearts.  That’s the only way the Israelites made it to the Promised Land.  It’s the only way we’ll receive all that God has promised us.

It’s also the only way Nehemiah saw the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt.  Kelly Minter in her book Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break, writes:

“After verbal assaults, physical threats, discouraged laborers, abuses of power and economic distress, Nehemiah never diverted his focus from the wall.  The process may have been slowed and altered as a result of enemies and wayward citizens, but the goal never changed.”

In fact, Nehemiah himself writes, “I also persevered in the work on this wall” (Nehemiah 5:16, ESV).

He continued to build despite threats, fear, confusion, discouragement, distractions and disappointments.  He continued to build despite setbacks.   He never stopped placing brick on top of brick on top of brick in obedience to God.

What has God asked you to build?  Choose today to place another brick on this wall instead of giving up because of obstacles and disappointments.  Choose to “persevere in the work on this wall.”

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

A Penny for Your Video Game

He said he was selling his Wii for a penny.

She believed him.

A little boy in my daughter’s class announced on Friday that he had decided to peddle his $150 video game system for the bargain of a lifetime.  One cent and it was yours.

On Monday morning, I tousled my daughter’s hair as she slept and told her it was time to wake up and get ready for school.

“I’ll get up if you give me a penny,” she announced.

I thought she had been dreaming and was still half-asleep.

Three attempts to get her moving into the morning routine failed.  I finally discovered her reaching for her piggy bank to find her own coins.

Then the truth came out.  She had set her hopes on that one-cent treasure.  Her Daddy carried her to the couch and held her as she cried from disappointment when we told her the ugly truth.

That sometimes people don’t say what they mean.  Sometimes they make up stories.  Sometimes they talk without thinking—and certainly without asking their parents.  Sometimes they make promises and don’t keep them.

We’ve all felt the painful dashing of hopes and the shocking let-down of reality.  Whether it’s disappointment in ourselves or other people or disillusionment with God, it’s reason enough for a long cry on someone’s shoulder.

Sometimes it’s because we’ve been tricked.  Satan has duped us into settling for less than God’s best.  We’ve fallen prey to false advertising and empty promises.  We’ve trusted in people and, unfortunately, people aren’t always trustworthy.

The nation of Israel learned this lesson the hard way.

God specifically told them not to make treaties with the surrounding nations as they entered the Promised Land.  They were to conquer each territory completely.

The people of Gibeon knew that Israel was headed in their direction and they had heard how Israel had destroyed Jericho and Ai, so “they resorted to a ruse.”

They sent a delegation out to Joshua.  These men were dressed in rags and patches with broken sandals and dirty faces.  Their wineskins had cracked and been mended.  They even remembered to stash some moldy bread among the supplies.

Then, they told a lie: “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us” (Joshua 9:6).

Our bread was warm and fresh when we started this journey.  Our clothes were brand new when we set out.  See the proof.  Believe what we are telling you.

Scripture tells us, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.  Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live (Joshua 9:14-15).

Three days later, Joshua found out who the Gibeonites really were.  They weren’t strangers from a distant land.  They were neighbors.  And they had tricked Israel into disobeying a direct commandment from God.

This commandment was for their benefit and protection.  God knew that Israel wouldn’t stay true to Him if they were surrounded by nations who worshiped false gods.   By the time of the Judges, “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.  They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them” (Judges 2:11-13).

The Israelites settled for less than God’s plan, all because they hadn’t inquired of the Lord.  They hadn’t asked for His input, discernment or insight.  Instead, they trusted in fake promises and had been disappointed in the result.

Have people let you down?  Have you trusted their promises only to discover lies and tricks?  Have you made poor decisions because false advertising made it all sound so good?

Remember to bring God into the midst of your every decision.  Inquire of the Lord before signing treaties and shaking hands in agreement.  There’s no need to rush or settle for what the world offers; be willing to wait for God’s best. 

Perhaps, though your disappointment isn’t with other people.  Maybe it’s with God.

Maybe you did trust in Him, waited for His best to come and yet you haven’t seen the answer to prayer . . .still.  Maybe you stood up for Him and don’t feel like He defended you.  Maybe you thought the Christian life meant perpetual blessing and prosperity, but your bank account, the doctor’s office, and your relationships aren’t the fairy tale life you imagined.

What then?  What do you do when you’re disillusioned with God?

Tell Him about it. Cry at His feet.  Tell Him how you’re heartbroken and hurting.  Mary and Martha weren’t afraid to tell Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”  They poured out all their pain and didn’t hold anything back.

We can be honest with God.

Then, keep praying.  Keep waiting.  Don’t ever give up on God.  He invites us into prayer with perseverance.  Pressing in before the throne, we keep “asking, seeking and knocking.”

He may not answer you in the way you expect.  He may not answer you as quickly as you’d like.  But He is committed to faithfulness, true to His promises and He cares for you.

You can read more devotionals about this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Packing Up the Tiara

There I sat, cuddling my oldest daughter as she sobbed disappointed tears into her pillow.  Sitting in the minivan that night as we drove home, she had suddenly realized that God wasn’t going to make her a fairy tale princess when she grows up.

Her little life dream had been dashed.

After her sad announcement, my husband tried to shout back persuasive logic to her from the front seat, explaining that princesses don’t really live such great lives.  They can’t choose where to go, what to eat, how to dress, or even who to marry.

Somehow the lack of freedom was overshadowed by Disney ballgowns, glass slippers and tiaras.  And so after the pajamas were on, the teeth brushed, the prayers prayed, there we sat in her bed and she cried and we talked about feeling disappointed.

How life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect.
How sometimes we can’t have what we really want.
How movies and fairy tales rarely represent the reality of life.
How it’s hard to trust God when He tells us, “no,” but that we need to leave our future in His hands.
How our job is to work hard to develop the gifts He’s given and His job is to direct and guide our service.

No matter how you chat and philosophize sometimes, though, disappointment hurts.  For a while, we can hope that despite all odds, God is going to miraculously give us what our hearts desire.

But it doesn’t always happen that way and that’s the truth.

Sometimes God says, “no.”  He may do it so gently and with grace, and it’s not because He hates us or wants to see us sob ugly tears on our pillows.

In most cases, He does it for the same reason I tell my child “no” she can’t wear her favorite skirt that is now too short for her, “no” she can’t have cookies and milk at 5:30 p.m. as I’m dishing up dinner on the table, “no” she can’t watch that movie even if her friends have all seen it, “no” she can’t have a cellphone and laptop for first grade.  “No” is for people we love enough to protect.

Then there are other cases where the “no” is so He can be glorified and our faith refined.  In Beth Moore’s study, Daniel, she notes that there are always three scenarios:

  • God delivers us from the fire.
  • God delivers us through the fire.
  • God delivers us by the fire into His arms.

For the three men who refused to bow down to the towering image of King Nebuchadnezzar, there was no question of whether God could keep them out of the furnace that was blazing in front of them.  They declared:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

They had to go through the fire, but Christ showed up in all His magnificent glory and walked them right on out of there.  God said, “no, I won’t deliver you from the fire, but I’ll take you through.”

For others of you, God has said, “no” and it’s not clear why.  Maybe we’ll never know the reason this side of eternity.  You can’t see how this is protection.  You can’t see how He is being glorified.  Maybe it’s disappointing, this waiting for the healing or rescue that doesn’t ever seem to come.

Have you ever wondered how Stephen did it, the first martyr in the church, the first one to take stand up for Christ to the death?  Were he and his friends disappointed that God didn’t rescue him from the riotous Sanhedrin?  Were they waiting for the earth to open up and swallow the mob now raising their stones in murderous rage?

How disappointed and confused did they feel as God didn’t deliver Stephen from or through the onslaught of rocks, but instead delivered him home to heaven?  There was no last-minute rescue or miraculous intervention.

Acts 7:6-7 says:

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” (MSG).

Stephen “hardly noticed” the deafening noise of those about to kill him because “he only had eyes for God.”

Whatever disappointments we face, a fairy tale dream that never came true, a furnace God asks us to walk through, a definitive “no” instead of miraculous intervention, we are victorious by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  Just like Stephen.  Just like Jesus Himself looked to His Father as He suffered painfully on the cross for our sake.

We’re not looking at the enemy, the storm or the overwhelming circumstances.  We’re not looking at the hoped-for miracle or the anticipated rescue.  We’re looking at Jesus “standing at God’s side,” knowing that even when God chooses not to give us what we want or hope for, He never leaves nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King