You Think You’ll Remember

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I stopped scrapbooking years ago.

They say you stop with your third baby just because you’re so busy or somehow you’re over all that new-momma pride.

But that’s not what did it for me.  It’s that I had never scrapbooked because I’m crafty or creative, in love with paper and colors, a fan of stickers and shaping scissors, or content to spend a few hours (or days) cropping photos and writing in the margins with a gel pen.

I scrapbooked because that’s what moms do.

“Good moms” anyway.

But I found out it had become a dreaded chore, the dragging out of the massive Rubbermaid container, the aching back after hours of gluesticks and paper cutouts, the stressing over straight lines and paper scraps.

Mostly, though, it was the clean-up afterward that did me in.  I may have time to make the albums (maybe?), but who has time to clean up project mess?

Perhaps if I had an entire room hidden away somewhere where everything could be spread out and left there over time instead of interrupting my whole house with clutter, then crafts and creativity would be fun.

Life’s not like that, though.  Mess needs to be stashed away.  It takes time to set up and time to clean up, so mostly I just leave the project alone before I begin.

After years of collecting keepsakes and mementos, my containers, boxes, plastic buckets, and piles grew to mountainous proportions, though.

Sometimes I’d at least remember to label the photos I printed or the pictures my little artists drew before tucking them away for safe-keeping.033

But not always, and that was my mistake.

You think you’ll remember every detail of the who and when and what.  You think you’ll remember the stories, the firsts, every reason behind the paper that sits stacked in a cardboard box in your closet.

Sometimes I do remember.

And sometimes I don’t.

Recently, I dragged boxes out from various corners and hidden places and sorted through the papers and photos. My kids pestered me with questions:

Who drew this, Mom?  Who is this, Mom?  What does this paper mean, Mom?

They wanted to hear the details of the story and at times I struggled to remember which one of them had drawn that detailed picture of stick people with fingers sticking out of their arms like twigs or written me that note:  I luv mom.

How forgetful I am.  Life pushes me faster and faster, rushing through this day and the next, and even those moments you most expect to remember blur into the fog of it all.

Memory isn’t passive, not the way we expect it to be.

No, remembrance is an active discipline, a choosing not to forget despite our humanness, our busyness, and our distracted minds.

We’re not alone in this.

In Matthew 14, we read how Jesus fed the five thousand with a handful of loaves and fish.

In Matthew 15, he did it again, feeding over 4000 with some bread and some more fish.

Then, in Matthew 16, the disciples forget to bring some bread along on yet another daytrip.  When Jesus started teaching them about yeast and Pharisees and Sadducees, the twelve didn’t get it.  They missed the point completely and thought he was chastising them for forgetting lunch.

They couldn’t focus on His spiritual teaching because they were hyper-focused on their physical need.

Jesus said,

O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?  ….Do  you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?  How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? (Matthew 16:8-11 ESV).

Oh those disciples, sometimes I marvel at their block-headedness and sometimes I just want to put my arm around their shoulders and say, “I get it.  I’m right there with you guys.”

We think we’ll remember the miracles and how God delivered us or how He spoke so clearly, cutting right through the noise of our lives to make Himself evident.

Then we forget after all .  Two chapters later in our own story, we’re still fretting over how much bread we have in our lunchbox even though Jesus is so able to do abundantly more than all we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3).

I want to be a historian, a keeper of memories, a relater of miracles and testimonies of  His goodness so that I won’t forget.

He’s done it before.  He’ll do it again.

So I can rest and trust and even wait with expectation and anticipation to see all that God will do.

 

The Kindness of Strangers

love-is-kind

By the time I made it to the checkout line at Wal-Mart that day, I was a bit frazzled.

The shopping with children while sticking to a budget and using coupons and planning meals for the week on the fly had done me in.

I ran the gauntlet, that candy-displaying aisle that also comes fully equipped with toy cameras, play cell phones, matchbox cars, and other wonderful overly expensive nothing toys that every child “must” have!

Finally, I was done.  Groceries in the cart.  Coupons handed over.  Total amount deducted from my checking account.

Freedom!!

We made it to the van.  My kids piled in.  I loaded every last grocery bag into the back and slammed the door shut.

Then I realized I had left my wallet inside.

Because that’s what tired, frazzled, totally stressed and generally scatterbrained women do.  We leave our personal identification and all access to our financial lives sitting around the Wal-Mart.

I re-opened the van door and started unbuckling my confused children so we could go back inside and hunt for the missing wallet when I heard him: The man who saved my day.

He ran over to me holding my wallet outstretched.  “The cashier let me run it out to you,” he explained.

In A Streetcar Named Desire, the character Blanche DuBois frequently says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Don’t we all?  At some time or another, haven’t we all depended on the kindness of somebody, whether stranger or friend?  They’ve saved us from a rotten day and might as well wear a cape and some tights because it’s as good as being rescued by a superhero.

But, here’s the catch, showing kindness always involves at least a little inconvenience.

My kind stranger abandoned his own cart of groceries and delayed his day to run out to a parking lot and find the crazy woman who can’t keep track of her things.

Too often we don’t make the choice he did.  Instead, we choose convenience over service and comfort over love for our neighbor.

We’re busy. We’re tired. We have important ministry commitments that keep us from  ministering to an individual in need. We hope another will offer help.

And that’s how we can miss the point.

Just like the disciples did in Matthew 19:

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there”(Matthew 19:1-2).

They were accustomed to Jesus drawing a crowd so this was business as usual. Everywhere He went, a mob of searching, needy people followed.

It must have been thrilling to be a disciple of this Rabbi—to see His Spiritual power, His draw, to think perhaps He was the Messiah they had long waited for.

And He didn’t just attract a crowd of needy paupers or country-folk.  Oh no.  Where Jesus traveled, so did the powerful elite to examine and cross-examine this religious phenomenon.  So it was on this day “some Pharisees came to test him” (Matthew 19:3).

The disciples were the closest people on earth to a superstar with mass appeal and the attention of big-shots.

But then some parents did the unthinkable.

They “brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked them” (Matthew 19:13).

Jesus loved the little children.  That’s what we see, say and sing about this passage.  And yes, that’s there.

But there’s something else here, too.

It’s not just that He stops for children, but that He stops at all. 

To the disciples, these families and kids were time-wasters.  Jesus had crowds to attend to, miracles to perform, Pharisees to spar with.

If anyone in the world was too busy for the little, it was Jesus.

But Jesus took time for kindness.

He accepted a little inconvenience in order to show love to the small, undervalued and overlooked because “love is patient; love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Sometimes in that Good Samaritan story in Luke 10, we’re the priest and the Levite, so busy with important tasks maybe we’re too busy to show kindness to the people who lie along the road we’re traveling.

 

Could we choose to change?

Could we choose to turn aside?  To take the time? To value people over schedules and agendas?  To sacrifice for others?

Could we choose kindness?

After all, it hardly mattered if the Samaritan arrived late at his destination.  He had helped the hurting and that had far more significance.

The kindness was worth the inconvenience.  It always is.

 

Originally published 9/12/2011

Maybe We Need to Rethink “Calling” #AnywhereFaith

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As a teen, I attended some huge youth conferences with my church and they tended to have something in common:

There was always a tremendously dynamic speaker who had a jaw-dropping testimony of God’s grace: He did drugs.  He was in a gang.  His girlfriend got pregnant and he made her have an abortion.  He was an alcoholic, who was addicted to pornography, and homeless.

Then He met Jesus.

By the time the testimony was over, the altars were flooded with teens crying and praying for God to save them and use them.

But my story didn’t seem to fit in.  They’d ask if anyone felt “called to ministry” and I’d raise my hand and pray that God use me “anywhere” and send me “anywhere.”

Only, how could He use a girl like me?  I’m relatively boring and surely the world truly needed displays of God’s grace and mercy on a grand scale.

I prayed and searched for God’s will for my life, but I didn’t end up in foreign missions or traditional full-time ministry.  So, does that mean God didn’t call me after all?

Now, that’s my story.  How I struggled to truly let grace seep deep in my soul.

How I searched so hard for one “big calling,” that I overlooked the impact of daily obedience and the calling to follow Him right here, right now, serving Christ by serving others in small ways every single day.

Your story might be like mine.  Maybe you desperately want to follow Jesus “anywhere,” but you can’t see where He wants you to go.

Or perhaps your story is entirely different.  Maybe you have that testimony of radical transformation, but you feel like an unworthy vessel, unfit for His use.

“Calling” is a tricky subject for Christians.  It sometimes trips us up into a mess of confusion.

We talk about God “calling” me to do this or “calling” me to do that, but we don’t always know what that looks like day in and day out.

And sometimes we miss it entirely.

When I wrote in my book, Anywhere Faith, about following God anywhere He calls us to go, I shared some truths about “calling” because God wants all of us to follow Him, whether that’s around the world, across the street, or in our own homes.

God calls all of us

Your past, your present and your future don’t have to look like anyone else’s in order for God to use you.  anywhere-faith

Maybe He called you to foreign missions or full-time ministry.  Maybe He called you to pray for the teachers at your kids’ school or to help young moms who need encouragement.

If we obsess over what someone else’s calling looks like, we can sometimes miss what He has planned for us.

God uses the ordinary. He uses the everyday and the mundane. He uses the untrained. He uses the sinner who repents and the prodigal who returns. He uses us despite our past and even sometimes because of our past (Anywhere Faith).

Callings don’t have to be (And often aren’t) glamorous or grand.

I’m not a speaker at conferences talking about deliverance from addiction.  Today, I have played Play Doh with my son, scheduled doctor’s appointments for my kids, prayed for my family, written to you, washed dishes and laundry, and performed a million small and seemingly insignificant tasks that are actually ministry.

Sure, the disciples traveled with Jesus, witnessed miracles, and even healed and performed miracles themselves in Christ’s name.

But the calling wasn’t all glitz and glamor.  They packed light and traveled far. They left families and jobs behind to pursue Jesus.

Jesus told them to bend low, to do the dirty jobs, to wash feet, to love outcasts, to touch lepers.

He asks us to humbly serve others every day, too.

Your calling might not be to a stage or arena; it may be to faithfulness at work, witness in your community, and ministry to your family.  Every “calling’ is significant to Him.

God can use you right where you are

We can get so caught up looking for big visions for our future that we miss the ways He asks us to serve today.  I’ve done it myself, praying desperately for God to show me “His will for my life” instead of His will for this moment.

Let’s ask God to show us the next right step and walk that way.  We can trust Him with our future.

 When we talk about calling, let’s remember this:

God isn’t looking for the flashiest vessels; He’s looking for yielded vessels…
He uses the humble, the willing and the obedient (Anywhere Faith).

May we be yielded today, humble today, and obedient today as we follow Him “Anywhere.”

To read more about how to overcome our excuses and insecurities and follow God “Anywhere,” i hope you’ll read my new book Anywhere Faith, which releases on October 3, 2016.

Attacked by an Angry Bird

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We’re being attacked by an angry bird and he is giving us no peace.

When my son woke up more than an hour early from his nap the other day, I knew something was up.

Then I heard it.

Wham!

Wham!

Something was slamming, repeatedly, into the window in my son’s room.

My two-year-old told me “I scared.”

I’d be scared too if I was awakened from a deep sleep by the sounds of attack.

I peeked outside our front door and saw our enemy, a brilliant cardinal–a bird I’d normally praise for beauty–banging his head against the glass over and over and over again.

What could I do but take pictures and a little video?

angry bird

He glared at me as if I was mocking him with my phone.  It was both frustrating and amusing at the time.

But now that this bird is still waking my son up two days later with his repeated assault, I have declared avian war.

I’ve trimmed back all the branches that brushed the side of our house.

I gently lifted his nest (no eggs or babies!) and moved it to another tree.

I’ve stood guard through today’s naptime and run out the front door every time our red-feathered enemy started his bombardment.

He flies onto the roof every time I run out the door, and I think he’s finally tired of running away.  Maybe he’ll realize this perch isn’t worth defending and find somewhere else to nest.

After two days of war on our peace, I am happy to settle into a little quiet.

That’s what we all want, after all, a little peace.

I’m not talking about world peace and I don’t even mean just the absence of conflict.

I mean that feeling of settled rest, no more feeling on alert and on guard, the feeling that your muscles don’t need to be tense and you can sink back into a pillow without fear of attack.

In the Psalms, I read something that rings so true:

Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace,
but when I speak, they are for war!
(Psalm 120:6-7 ESV).

Sometimes, we’re so desperate for peace and it just seems like people or even circumstances are determined to attack us.

It’s a relentless assault and sometimes it comes out of nowhere and wearies us to the bone..

You feel settled and then you are shaken.
You feel confident of the future and then there is change.
You feel content and then envy strikes.
You think everything is fine and then you read the nasty email.

Here’s what I love, though, Jesus knows the deepest and truest need of our needy hearts.

When he appeared to the disciples following his resurrection, Jesus had a clear message to share:

“Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'” (John 20:19 ESV).

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you” (John 20:21 ESV).

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.‘ (John 20:26 ESV).

“Peace be with you.”  If there’s anything those disciples needed in that moment, when their Messiah seemed dead and they feared they’d be killed soon also, it was peace, and Jesus knew that.

But, the most beautiful thing about this is that Jesus could have just as easily said “I AM with you” because He is our PEACE and our Prince of Peace;

He is the reason we can deeply rest and have confidence in the goodness and the ability and the mercy of our God.

Beth Moore reminds us that, while we can feel shaken and attacked,

Christ had perfect peace in ALONENESS…in PROVISION…in the STORM…in the WAIT…and in the TEARS (Living Beyond Yourself).

In any circumstances and at all times, Christ’s presence can bring us the peace we need.  Yes, even for the aloneness, for the seasons of want, for the storm, for the long waiting, and for the tears.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that an angry bird might come out of nowhere and start waging war on your son’s naptime.

And it doesn’t mean that bird will magically disappear on his own.

No, I had to do battle.

But it does mean that Jesus offers to bring His peace right there into the noise and the fighting and the fear and uncertainty or whatever we face.

He assures us that He’s here.

“Peace be with you.”  And He is.

My Son, The Noise Police

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The noise police.

That’s my two-year-old’s job.

His oldest sister hops in the minivan at the end of the school day and pulls out her recorder for some practice time.

He hears one note, just one note, and he slips his finger up to his lips and says, “Shhhh.  Pease stop it.”  Then he tosses a look her way that commands attention even if he is 8 years younger than she is.

Someone dares to sing along with the radio in the car?

Oh no!  Noise violation. Cited by the noise police.

This toddler will immediately tell you to “Pease stop it.  PEASE stop it.”  And he’ll repeat that message louder and louder until all such violators refrain from singing.

It doesn’t matter if you’re off-key or if you’re a Broadway superstar, if you’re singing, he’s going to ask you to stop.

He shouts for car alarms to “Pease stop it” in the Wal-Mart parking lot and he commands that construction sounds cease when he hears saws and hammers.

This tiny powerhouse assumes that all noise is within his power to control.  He expects instant silence when he says the magic phrase.

At the sound of “Pease stop it” all noise must end.

Of course, it very rarely works that way, which my son doesn’t appreciate.

His sisters insist on singing or talking or playing.

Car alarms keep alarming.  Construction workers keep constructing.

He can say “Pease stop it” all he wants; it doesn’t mean anything truly stops at all.

But I appreciate his effort.  I understand the desire.

Haven’t I shouted “Please stop it” myself  more than a few times when I wanted that conflict with someone else to end….or that situation to finally be resolved?

When I felt tossed around by circumstances out of my control and I just wanted quiet and calm already, no more noisy turmoil and roar of turbulence and strife, I wanted to yell, “Please stop!  Stop the relentless confusion or hurt or tension or stress or uncertainty!”

Yet, even when my greatest efforts at control fail, Jesus can speak the Word.  He can demand that the storm “be still” and it must obey.

He speaks and that is enough.

In Luke 8, I read how he calmed that stormy sea and how the winds and the waves obeyed his command.

But in that same chapter, I read how he calmed a different kind of storm, not just the physical tempest, not actual winds and actual waves, not circumstances that threaten to drown us.

He calmed the storm within.

With the sea now peaceful, the disciples crossed to the other side, where Jesus found a man possessed by demons who ran naked among the tombs and could not be contained by human chains.

Jesus “commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man” and at that Word, the man was redeemed and restored (Luke 8:29 ESV).

Sheila Walsh writes in Five Minutes with Jesus:

“I love that the stories of Jesus calming the storm and Jesus freeing the demoniac are back-to-back.  Whether a storm is raging in outside circumstances or inside your heart, when Jesus speaks to it, that storm has to obey.”

Two storms.  One without.  One within.

Jesus calmed them both, back-to-back, by the power of His Word.

I am surely weary of wrestling with the ropes on a storm-tossed ship.  I’ve tried everything to calm the wind and waves on my own, every tool, every trick, every skill within my expertise.

I’ve shouted, “Pease stop it!”  but the storm still storms.

Yet, this is what I know.

At any moment, Jesus could rise up and command, “Peace!” and there would be calm and there would be deliverance.

It’s true about the stress and uncertainty, the doubt, the depression, the anxiety and worry, the fear and the desperate need to control what we face within.

It’s true in the relational conflicts and interpersonal fights, the financial shortfalls, the job stresses, and the health scares that we face without.

Whether we face storms internally or externally, when Jesus declares, “Peace” the noise will end.

But in the meantime, I choose faith because I am never too far for Him to rescue me.  No circumstances are beyond His ability to control.

Somehow just the reminder that He is the Word and that His Word is all that is needed to rescue me gives me rest even before the storm ceases and even before the noise ends.

 

 

john 16-33

My job at the zoo

john 16-33

Here’s my primary job at the zoo as a mom.

Sure, I help break up fights over who will hold the map.

I plan our itinerary so we don’t bounce from the lions on the one end of the zoo, to the goats on the other end of the zoo, back to the giraffes way back where the lions are.  No, we will see the exhibits one at a time and in order!

I make sure no little hands slip into the fences and no children wander off in search of wild animals.

I decline to pay for every souvenir, snack, and photo booth that we see.

I take pictures of children giggling at the baby monkeys.

But mostly I do this—I point so that whoever my youngest child is at the time can actually find the animal in the tank or grass or exhibit or whatever.

I’ve been doing this for years.

See the lizard? 

No.

See, right there.  Look where I’m pointing.  See?

No.

See that leaf?  The big one right there?  Look under that.  See the lizard?

No.

Every so often, we struggle to find the tiger or the bear, but mostly it’s these camouflaging reptiles and miniature frogs that have us standing at the cage for more than five minutes squinting our eyes, pointing our fingers, and eventually giving up.

Not this time, though.

I’ve been taking kids to the zoo for years, but a few weeks ago I took my two-year-old and discovered he has super-sight.  My son can spot a hidden reptile or amphibian the moment he walks up to the glass.

Snake. Lizard. Frog.  He points and says the name like this is the easiest exercise on the planet.

Hiding under foliage?  Doesn’t matter.

Blending in with the pebbles?  Not a problem.

Hanging from a tree at the top of the cage?  Can’t fool him.

He sees what is hard to see and notices what is hard to notice.

I need vision like that.  I need spiritual super-sight.

Sometimes I’m searching through my circumstances and situations for the peace God promises.

Still, I can’t see it, not through the murky glass, not with my limited vision.

I need God to give me eyes that see His peace, even when it’s hidden, even when I don’t have answers, even when trouble looms, even when the waiting lingers and the uncertainty remains, even when I need the impossible.

Sheila Walsh writes:

In the last major conversation Jesus had with His closest friends, He spoke about peace–but not as we might have expected Him to (5 Minutes With Jesus).

We’d expect perhaps to find peace in the moments of calm or peace in the seasons of blessing.

We have peace when we’re at rest or peace when our relationships are happy and healthy, no one’s mad at us, we’re financially stable and physically well.

Isn’t that when peace comes?

Yet, Jesus told the disciples,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace (John 16:33a ESV).

What things had He said to them?  Had He been talking about heaven, miracles, salvation, grace?

Not at all.

In John 15 and 16, Jesus tells his dearest friends about sorrow and His imminent death, about persecution and martyrdom, and how the world will hate them and harm them.

Then He gives them hope.

Then He promises them peace.

We seek peace in answered prayers, resolved situations, the end of conflicts or the arrival of provision.

We seek it in chocolate, bubble baths, getaways, and running away.

But peace isn’t found there.  Peace is found in Jesus Himself right where are in the middle of the pain, before the answers and the fixes and the resolution.

He told the disciples “in me you may have peace.”

Peace isn’t found in a position or a provision; it’s found in a Person.

Jesus is constant, unchanging.

He is faithful.

He is able.

He is compassionate and abundant in His love.

We can rest in Him, deeply rest.  We can entrust our lives to Him, every care and concern, every worry that keeps our thoughts churning at night as the clock ticks down hour after hour.

Jesus finished the promise to the disciples that night:

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b ESV).

This is our courage.  Our reason to ‘take heart’ and have hope!  He has already overcome our every enemy and our every battle.

So, we look to Him and we ask for His vision right here when peace seems hidden and hope hard to see, when we’re staring at circumstances and not seeing the light for all the darkness.

Lord, help me see you!  Help me not lose sight of who you are.

 

 

 

1 john 3

What her message to me said and why I needed to hear it

1 john 3

I surveyed the possible outfits and an empty suitcase.

I hovered a hand over the teal scarf, pulled it away and then reached for my favorite top and jacket…pulled my hand away again and flopped back onto my bed in defeat.

I was heading to my first writer’s conference where there’d be thousands of women, most of whom I was sure would be perfectly coiffed and fashionably dressed in matching high heels and handbags.

They’d probably have cute haircuts with tons of highlights.

They’d have dangly earrings and other bling.

They’d wear lipstick.  Lipstick!!!  And probably even eyeshadow.

I was in way over my head and I had outfit-picking paralysis.

It was a crisis moment for me.  Yes, a crisis over scarves and skirts.  Suddenly I wasn’t worrying about fashion.

I was stressing over not belonging.  I was worrying about the expense and the time and whether it was worth it. What if I was just fooling myself about this whole writing thing and this was a complete waste?!

I feared failure and laid out the question again and again to God, “What is it you want me to do?”

And then….the follow-up questions, “Does it have to be this hard?  Can’t we take the easy way?  The one where I get to stay home in jeans and sneakers?”

I opened up Facebook to avoid making decisions about what to pack in that suitcase.

That’s when I opened up the message.

A writer I’d never met, but who was also going to the conference, wrote me a note.

She told me not to worry about my outfits.  How I could just be myself.  I didn’t need highlights in my hair or lipstick or high-heeled shoes.

She told me Satan attacks before the conference so be ready and stand strong in the Lord.

She told me not to fret over my calling, not to feel like I have to fight or make things happen and not to feel for a moment that it all depends on me.  God could do the work.  All I needed to do was show up in obedience.

She obeyed God’s prompting, and she blessed me because she was obedient, speaking words of encouragement to me just when I needed them.

I read in Acts a powerful story of the church’s impact:

 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe (Acts 14:19-20 ESV).

It’s a two-verse miracle.  A little encounter, barely noticeable in the book of Acts, but a miracle nonetheless.

Paul is stoned, dragged outside the city and left for dead–not just seriously injured or barely alive.

They thought he was already a corpse.

But then….the disciples gathered about him, and Paul stood up, walked back into the city, and went on another journey the very next day.

He didn’t even need a week to fully recover.

Maybe the disciples prayed for him.  Perhaps they gathered so they could plan how to bury him. The Bible doesn’t fill us in on the details.

All it says is that in the moment he was broken, they gathered around him and he had new strength.

They could have left Paul there as a hopeless case.

They could have been busy, forgetful or too focused on their own problems to care.

They could have feared being stoned themselves.

No, they gathered around the wounded one, and God performed a miracle.

God works miracles of healing through His people when we choose to love another.

I feel the challenge.

If Paul were stoned today, would I choose to gather around him?

Or am I too busy, too self-protective, too self-focused, too self-indulgent, too self-seeking, too prideful, too forgetful…..to minister to one in need?

To write an email….to send a note…to share a meal…..to make a phone call….to invite a friend….to pray for the hurting…to take the time.

And what if it hadn’t been Paul, a leader in the church?  What if it was the smallest of the small who’d been stoned and left for dead?

Would I still take the time?

We love others with Christ’s love when we choose compassion over comfort.

We love like Jesus when we reach out instead of draw in.

That day as I flopped back in my bed in frustrated annoyance and insecurity, a  woman I didn’t know ‘gathered’ around me.

She had her own bags to pack.  Her own plans to finalize.  Her own life to manage.

But she reached out to me with kindness, and God moved.

How can we show someone that love today?

(Just a note that Luke wrote about this miracle in the book of Acts, and as a physician he seems very careful to say that Paul appeared dead or seemed dead.  He does not claim that Paul actually was raised from the dead, only that he seemed dead for a moment and then got up, walked into the city, and was recovered enough for a journey the next day.  Still a miracle–but a miracle of healing, not resurrection.)

John 15-15

I am not your servant

John 15-15

“I am not a servant.”

My youngest daughter says it first in a matter-of-fact tone.

I can’t hear the other side of the conversation so I don’t know what request prompted this response.

I do know she gets her answer from me.

I say it sometimes to my kids when they ask me to hop up from the dinner table (before I’ve even taken a bite of my own food) to get them something they could easily get themselves.

I say it when they call out “Mom!” while they are watching TV and ask me to stop working to get them a drink of water.

I say it to remind them that, while I love them and I love to do nice things for them, sometimes they treat me like unpaid kitchen help.

And that’s not right.

So I listen in as my daughter repeats her response broken-record-style.

“I am not a servant.”

“I am not a servant.”

Then she sings it in a high opera voice, “I am not a servant…..”

Finally after what seems like the twentieth repetition of this phrase, her older sister bends over and picks something up off the floor.

The six-year-old has grown wise to this new trend, how her older sisters think because she’s smaller, she must perform all tasks menial and low-to-the-ground so they can continue with whatever far-more-important thing they’re doing.

She’s standing up for herself.

After all, what she really wants, what she truly desires in her little sister heart-of-hearts, is for these bigger girls to play with her.

She doesn’t want to fetch dropped Legos off of the floor.

She doesn’t want to get them a paper towel or find them a sharpened pencil.

She wants to be friends with them.

Shortly before His death, Jesus said something profoundly moving to His disciples:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  (John 15:15 NIV).

Not servants, but friends.

He offered them so much more than the menial tasks of mindless obedience, the fetching and finding and picking up of hired help.

He called them friends.

For the disciples, friendship with Jesus didn’t change what they did.   Jesus loved by serving sacrificially and humbly, and He told them to do the same.

But He invited them into His heart and His plans.

Of course, it doesn’t mean we aren’t serving God day in and day out, loving others in humble of ways, emptying ourselves so we can drench another in the compassion and mercy of Christ.

There is, after all, beauty in late night sessions with a sleepless baby and days spent tending to sick children.

There’s beauty in the ugly, the mess, the pain, and the exhaustion of caregiving.

There’s beauty–God-glorifying beauty— in heading out the door each morning to a job that demands everything you’ve got and more so that you can provide for your family.

The beauty isn’t in the act itself.  It’s not in the changing diapers or the washing away filth.  It’s not in taking out trash or sitting through mind-numbing meetings where supervisors pile on work.

It’s that you’re doing all of that for someone else.

Your labor on behalf of others may not earn you any earthly regard.

You may trudge through another day of work without a nod in your direction and a genuine ‘thanks.’

Your child may overlook the fifty lunches you’ve made for her and complain the one day you forgot that she likes Oreos, not chocolate chip cookies.

And you can feel absolutely invisible.

But right in that moment, Christ chats with you.

He tells you everything the Father taught Him.

He asks if you’ll take part in His agenda, in His passion and plan for loving others with grace, mercy, compassion, generosity, and humility.

Not because He only values what we do for Him.

Not because we earn His favor by going, going, going all the time.

Not because He wants us constantly to be doing at all.

It’s because He’s offered us His presence—in the moments when we’re sitting at His feet and the moments we’re stooping to wash the feet of another.

He desires friendship, and friends aren’t acting out of duty or serving out of compulsion.

We’re living and breathing and serving and loving because He’s given us access to His very heart.

Our friendship with God means we do and we cease doing at the impulse of His love: our lives, our hearts, our actions guided and motivated by His very own love at work in us.

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.

 

1timothy2

The Mystery of the Missing Dustpan

1timothy2

My son lost our dustpan last week.

This is the second dustpan he has lost.

I do not know how these things happen. There really is no logical explanation, but my dustpan is lost just the same.

One day, I pulled out the broom, dustpan and mop and attacked the kitchen floor with cleaning vigor.

Then my son ‘swept’ the floor and ‘mopped’ it himself in a little game of pretend cleaning.

I, of course, did not stop this child because a little tiny boy who thinks chores are fun could grow up into a responsible adult.

So what if he just pushes the broom around the kitchen to no effect?

It’s adorable.

That is, it’s adorable until you put the broom back in the closet and realize the dustpan is MIA.

I mean, really, how well can you hide a dustpan?  It’s such an awkward shape and it’s too large to fit into most of the drawers and stashing places around my kitchen.

I shrugged it off at first, figuring it would just turn up as I cleaned later that day, or week, or whatever.

It has not!

Last time this happened (yes, there was a last time), I broke down and bought a new dustpan the following week.  This time, I kept hoping I’d find the top secret hiding place where he is stashing these things.  Then, maybe I’d have two dustpans and new-found knowledge to help me prevent this crisis in the future.

Of course, now I’m truly appreciating the full value and utility of a really good dustpan.  Without it, I was sweeping my kitchen floor dirt onto a piece of cardstock paper, until I finally broke down and paid the $1 for a new one….again.

And I’m thinking how many days I just swept my kitchen floor without giving that dustpan a half-second of thought or appreciation.  I just used it.  It’s a cheap, plastic tool, and I had no idea how much easier it made my life.

What have you been overlooking?

What have we been taking for granted, using without gratitude or appreciation or even worship?

What have we been grabbing out of our storeroom Christian closet and putting to work without fully valuing its impact or purpose?

I read Paul’s words today:

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know ( 1 Tim. 2:1 MSG).

Maybe you’ve been taking a spiritual gift for granted or you’ve trudged into church on Sunday or even just skipped the service and opted for a morning nap.

Perhaps your Bible is dust-covered and serving as a nightstand paper weight.

Or maybe you’ve stopped writing notes of encouragement to others or calling your friend or your sister and sharing a cup of coffee.

We do this.  We get busy.  We grow complacent.  We do what we’re supposed to do without passion or joy just because it’s what we’re supposed to do.

We grab the appropriate tool, use it, and stash it back in the closet for the next cleaning day.

But I return to Paul’s words about prayer and I start here today.

I’m thankful for prayer.  I want to acknowledge the power of it, the blessing of it, the gift of it.

I want to pray first, not second, not after I’ve tried everything else, not as a last resort or in one desperate act of hopelessness.

Pray first.

I want to pray about everything, not just what’s spiritual and holy or big enough to garner God’s attention.  Everything.  Every minor annoyance and daily need, every concern over my children, each new day and all it brings and the ministry God lays at my feet.

The disciples watched their resurrected Savior ascend into heaven and heard His command to wait for the Holy Spirit.  They walked down off of that mountain and journeyed straight to Jerusalem.

13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying… 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer… (Act 1:13, 14 ESV).

They went right to prayer.  They devoted themselves to it.  They lingered there.

Then, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter delivered the sermon of all sermons.

Mac Lucado writes:

For ten days the disciples prayed. Ten days of prayer plus a few minutes of preaching led to three thousand saved souls.  Perhaps we invert the numbers. We’re prone to pray for a few minutes and preach for tend days.  Not the apostles.

The disciples didn’t pray for a preaching service.  They just prayed.  They treasured God’s presence, recognized His power, and acted because of His Spirit in them.

Pray first.

Pray for everything (yes, including the missing dustpan).

Pray for everyone.

Pray all day.

Pray, not for God to make things happen your way, but for God to be at work His way.

Just pray.

What have you been overlooking?

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.

mark 6

After 9:30 p.m. Mommy Needs a Time-Out

mark 6

My daughter emerges from her room at 9:30 p.m.

It is now more than an hour past bedtime.

Showers have been taken.  Teeth have been brushed.  I have reviewed my daughters’ Scripture memory verses for the week, prayed with them, read them the Bible passage for the night, kissed them on rosy cheeks and sent them merrily to bed.

Or something like that.

But she re-emerges at 9:30 to tell me a play-by-play account of the book she is reading.  She is a detail person.  I’m pretty sure she is telling me exactly what occurs on each page of this 200-page book.

At first, I nod patiently and politely.  I do, after all, love her.  And, I do share her passion for reading.

Moms should be good listeners.  Moms should make sure their children feel heard and understood.

After a while, though, I hug her close and slowly nudge her back to the bedroom while she is still giving a steady stream of book-narration, and I promise to listen more tomorrow.

Because seriously, it has been loud in my house tonight.

I have helped with homework for 3 children, fed and diapered and carried the crying baby around the house, made dinner, cleaned up dinner, packed lunches, supervised piano practice for 3 kids, sent 3 daughters in for showers and bathed one baby, combed tangles out of hair, folded laundry, read books, brainstormed ideas for a project on Ponce de Leon, prepped backpacks for the next day, laid out the outfits for tomorrow morning, signed agendas and math logs and reading logs, and threatened older children with punishment for any further bedtime delays.

You know, what moms do every night.

At one point, I had a baby crying, a child watching YouTube videos with bracelet-making instructions, one child practicing the piano, and one child asking me to quiz her on Life Cycles because her science test is in two days.

I know you all probably think when I’m in my minivan, I like to blast that worship music right loud and sing at the top of my singing lungs.

But you’d be wrong.

If I have the luxury of just 10 minutes in a car without a child talking to me, I turn the radio off.

O-F-F

Off.

Because, some times, a soul just needs some quiet.

Jesus knew it.  After days of constant ministry, a needy mob following them around incessantly, clamoring for help and help and help all the time help, the disciples needed a change:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31 NIV).

A quiet place.

Jesus knows we need that some times.

And it’s not just a break from noise we need.

We also need to come away with Him.

We need to not answer those e-mails, or check that Facebook, or answer that phone.

Our souls need beauty and filling up after relentlessly pouring out to others.  We need Jesus and yet so often we choose to fill that void with anything and everything else.

But as Shellie Rushing Tomlinson writes in Heart Wide Open:

He will ruin you for anything else this world has to offer.  However, it is a sweet ‘ruination,’ because the weaker the hold temporal things have on us, the freer we are to lose ourselves in the One who placed eternity in our hearts.

And here’s the hard discovery, that sometimes when I finally sit in relative silence, it rocks my restless soul more than any amount of noise.

That’s when I know I’m an addict, needing that next fix of adrenaline as desperately as others feel the shaking need for another drink.

I’ve become addicted to the rush of activity, addicted to the pride of feeling needed, addicted to the super-hero powers of rescuing people from crises all….day….long, addicted to noise and distraction and busyness.

So, that quiet falls uncomfortably on my shoulders.  I fidget.  I feel the need to hop up at the slightest distraction.

I need days to unplug, times off of Facebook, off of Twitter, and away from television, and this takes discipline.

I find sometimes that the quiet (in the rare moments when there actually is quiet) is awkward and uncomfortable.

And I find some times that the quiet is refreshing like an ice-cold lemonade after a couple of hours of yard work.

Either way, this is what I know—the quiet is what this soul needs.

Originally published March 26, 2014

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