Braving it out because that’s what it takes to overcome

My daughter spent almost all of her 8-year-old  life living in a home without a paved driveway or a neighborhood with a sidewalk.

Bike riding for us was a spurious affair.  About once a year, everything aligned perfectly.

The weather was cool, but not  cold, and definitely not hot or rainy or snowy or even too windy.

The calendar was clear.  We did not have rehearsal, school, camps, dance, karate, sports, church, a birthday party, or some other activity.

That was the one day a year I would load up the minivan with all of our children and then, after they were all buckled in, pack that minivan with every single one of their bicycles and helmets.  We would then drive to  a school parking lot and “practice biking.”

Loading  all those bicycles up so we could drive somewhere to  practice, though, wasn’t really fun.  For any of us.  The kids tried for a little  bit,  but gave up and we all went back  home again so we could move  along to other ways to spend our time.

But now, “the time has come.”  We live in a neighborhood.  Not only that, we live on a cul de sac with a sloped and paved driveway in a neighborhood.

This is the ideal place.

Eight years into life, though, is enough time to build up some fears about going too  fast and falling, about scuffing up knees and elbows and maybe not always landing in the grass.

It’s enough time to build up some immunity to  mom’s pep talks about being  courageous and persevering  in the face of adversity.

So, thus far, our attempts at mastering  this whole deal without training wheels have involved more injury than success.

It is slow going and it is painful going and it is discouraging going.

What  I want is for my daughter  to decide in her deep-down heart of hearts that this is worth it, that she’s going to do whatever it takes to master this elusive skill, that she’s willing to get back on that bike 50 times if that’s what’s needed.

And if she falls 51 times, then she’d get back on there 52.

So far, though, I think she hasn’t decided this is worth doing.  She wants all the fun of bike riding to her friend’s house a few doors down without any of the actual learning.

I get that.  There are some ways that  my heart is right there with her.

God says to brave it out and tough it out.  Put on those  sneakers and that helmet and get on out there where it’s  rough and hard and we might fail.

Yeah, falling and failing is part of it.  That may be what we fear the most, but God doesn’t .   He knows it’s part of  the learning and the growing and without it,  we’re just  living what’s easy instead of what takes faith.

And, faith is what it takes to  please God.  That’s what blesses His heart.  That’s what makes Him pump His fist with joy when He sees us down here.

Without faith,  it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)

So, it’s hard.  Yes.  It is.

God calls us to do  hard things, though, EVEN impossible things maybe, not because  He wants to see us fail, but so that He can succeed.

in  1 Kings 12, King Jeroboam decided  to take the easy way out. He wanted whatever would earn him brownie points with his people even if it meant disobeying God.

So, even though God said the nation of Israel needed to  worship in one place only, Jerusalem, Jeroboam decided this was too hard a burden.  He set up idols and places of worship in Dan and Bethel so people wouldn’t have to travel as far or work as hard to get there.

Priscilla Shirer says this:

“If left to  ourselves,  we will always choose “Dan” and “Bethel” over the more  cumbersome journey to Jerusalem” (Discerning the Voice of God p. 139).

Do we want “Dan” and “Bethel?” Do we want the pain-free and the easy even if that’s not where God is?

Or do we want God’s best, His will and His plans?

What I want is for my daughter to set her heart on overcoming so she holds out for Jerusalem.

Maybe that’s what God desires for us also, to determine in advance that we’re going to obey.  Period.  We’re going to follow Him.  Period.  We’re going to pour ourselves out for Him.  Period.  We’re going to worship Him.  Period.

Even if it means we have to pass right by Dan and Bethel and trek all that way to Jerusalem.

Even if it means some skinned knees and bruised egos as we stumble our way along all because being with Him is the greatest desire in our deep-down hearts.

For the times you want to hide

psalm 139-1

My daughter tried a stealth move.

I set my cup down on the floor next to the sofa where I was sitting.

She crawled over and paused.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her glance my way without fully turning her head, just flitting her eyes up to see if I was watching.

The she made her move.  She swooped down, sucked on the straw and gulped down my drink.


She grimaced.  Her whole body bounced back as she crawled to the other side of the room with a combination look of utter confusion and a little disgust.

She didn’t know I’ve been drinking green tea instead of Cherry Coke recently.

“Didn’t expect that, did ya?” I teased her and she laughs because she knows she deserved that little shock to her palate.

Since then, she’s been asking me, “Mom is that water in your cup or is it the other stuff?

She was surprised by what she found in my tumbler that day, and she doesn’t want it to happen again.

Her little encounter with my green tea has me thinking:

Others might be surprised by what’s within us sometimes.

We might be surprised by what’s within us sometimes, too.

We think we’ll find fresh water, and it’s something gross instead.

We think it’ll be a delight, and instead it’s disgust.

Not God, though.  God is never surprised by what He finds within our hearts and lives.

He knows.

Psalm 139:1 says:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  (ESV).

Some part of me wants to hide from that.

God, please don’t see the worst in me. 

I don’t want Him to see the mixed motives or the idolatry, the way I fight with perfectionism and feeling not-enough.

I don’t want Him to see me lose my temper or get annoyed or feel like giving up.

I want to bury that jealousy or coveting and hope he doesn’t notice the bump in my backyard.

I want to cover over the mistakes and mess-ups or fatigue or worry, the bad moments and the bad days.

If God sees my worst, surely He’ll give up on me.  He’ll use someone better, call someone purer, bless someone holier, because I’m such a broken vessel.

Then I think of Nathanael.

When Jesus called out to Peter, James, John and Andrew, they were hauling nets along the sea, just another day of work.  He said, “Follow me,” and they dropped the fishing gear and stepped into discipleship.

Jesus called Matthew and immediately the tax collector hopped up from his papers and pencils and followed.

It’s such a beautiful calling.  It’s the calling of the willing and the obedient, the receptive and ready.

Then there’s Nathanael.

When Philip saw Nathanael that day, he told his friend all about how they had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Nathaniel mocked the thought.  It was a joke, surely.  He asked:

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46 ESV

It wasn’t a beautiful moment of faith or instant belief.  He didn’t seem receptive or ready.  He was doubtful and disdainful.

Then Jesus came along, saw Nathanael and said:

“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:47-49 ESV).

How do you know me?

That’s what Nathanael asked.

Then, realizing that Jesus did in fact see into his very heart, Nathanael confessed faith.  He worshiped.

He followed Christ and became one of the 12 disciples of Jesus.

Even now, the Armenian church claims Nathanael as their founder.  Church tradition says he preached as far as India and was martyred there.

He became sold out for Jesus.

But here’s what I love.

Jesus knew everything about him right from the beginning, the skeptical side, his mocking jest with Philip, and still called him and commissioned him.

There are days when I’m surprised myself at the sin still clogging up my heart.

But not Jesus.

And then that shame ensnares me.  I think I need to clean myself up and fix myself and get to work on my sin problem before God could bless any offering I bring.

But that’s not what God says.

That’s not what Jesus does.

Jesus bids us come and follow here and now, just as we are, not as we ought to be.

He loves me now, the imperfect me, the me that wants to be like Jesus but isn’t there yet.

Jesus doesn’t know you and reject you or set you aside.

He knows you.

And He loves you.

He knows you.

And He calls you.


A Sleeping Lion is Still a Lion

All of them seemed ready to show off that day.

The morning was cool, that one break in the summer heat and the chance to enjoy outside without dehydration, heat stroke, headaches and fatigue.  So, we packed a picnic lunch and visited the zoo, even zipping up jackets at the start of the day because of the chill in the air.

On a cool enough day, the animals in the various habitats are willing to leave dens and the burrows under the earth that protect them from the sun.

The prairie dogs bobbed up and down.  The giraffe paced back and forth, his nose barely missing the walkway for zoo onlookers where we stood.  The elephant tossed his hay and the baby monkey swung on ropes and tumbled all over his ever-patient parents.

But the lions.

Always the lions sleep on the highest rock in their habitat, hot day or cool day or whatever.  They lounge and stretch and only occasionally blink their eyes open long enough to yawn and maybe  lionreposition their mass to ease into a more comfortable position or soak up more sun.

Years and years we’ve been visiting this zoo, and I’ve never seen the lion climb down from the rock, never seen him roar or shake his mane.  We’ve never seen the female lion dash across her habitat, stalk imagined prey, or be alert for danger.

Still we marvel at their sheer magnificence, the mightiness of their demeanor.  How their muscles still display power even when they look just as lazy as my two house cats asleep on the arms of our sofa or the foot of my bed.

And we take pictures them, of course.  I have just about six years of pictures of these lions resting on the rock.

I’d think perhaps that their lack of care or nonchalant attitude is simply the fate of the captive lion.  They feel safe in their man-designed haven, provided for and comfortable.

But today I read in Isaiah:

When a strong young lion stands growling over a sheep it has killed, it is not frightened by the shouts and noise of a whole crowd of shepherds.  In the same way, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will come down and fight on Mount Zion (Isaiah 31:4 NLT).

And this I read in the Daily Bread devotional, as the writer describes lions lounging in Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserve:

Their serene appearance is deceiving…the reason they can be so relaxed is that they have nothing to fear–no shortage of food and no natural predators.  The lions look lazy and listless, but they are the strongest and fiercest of all.  One roar sends all the other animals running for their lives.  (Our Daily Bread, JAL).

They have nothing to fear.

That’s why the lions don’t stay alert and awake on that rocky cliff.  It’s why they don’t take shifts of standing guard or pace around their zoo enclave with nervous awareness.

It’s why the same beasts out in Kenya feel free to lounge and linger as they drink from a stream and slowly stride through the grass rather than run, stalk, or pounce.

Isaiah writes that this is true of our God, this Mighty Warrior as He leads the armies of heaven, undaunted by opposition.

Oh, but how I tremble and pace with anxious uncertainty! How one phone call or email, one personal confrontation, one malicious bump into my carefully planned schedule, one interruption, one comment by another can leave me feeling so shaken and, yes, afraid.

And why, I wonder at times, am I reacting this way?  Isn’t this in God’s hands?  Even the decisions of others, the way they seem to hold power over my future or the ability to hold sway in my life, is just a ruse.

And why, I wonder, does it seem like God is lounging on the mountain rather than roaring and shaking His mane and displaying His might?  Why can I be in a nervous tizzy of reactionary emotion and He’s not flustered or bothered?  He’s calmly in control.

It’s because our God has no reason to fear.  No need to tremble at the noisy clamoring of our enemies, our frustrations, our annoyances, our worries and obstacles.

And it is our Lion of Judah, our all-powerful God, who gave Isaiah “a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.  He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy…don’t live in dread of what frightens them.  Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.  He is the one you should fear, He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe” (Isaiah 8:11-14).

We aren’t to worry because we fear only God–no other crisis or threat or shaking of our life–and we know He keeps us safe.


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

How Barbie Ruined My Day (Almost)

Yesterday was Tuesday.

This hardly seems like a revelation, I know.  And yet it has a special sort of meaning for us this year.

Tuesday is our “rush from school to ballet to Bible study without stopping at home for dinner, come home later than bedtime with kids too wired to sleep, and pack school lunches at 10:00 at night” kind of day.

Maybe you have a Tuesday, too.  Maybe your “Tuesday” is on Wednesday or Thursday or both or all of the above.

Since Tuesday was our “Tuesday,” that makes Wednesday our “Wednesday”—-the I wish I could sleep in bed late, lounge in pajamas, read a good book and sip tea without any other commitments but I can’t —-day.   That’s because Wednesday is only slightly less busy than Tuesday.

So, we shuffled out of bed this morning.  I asked my one daughter five times if she was ready for breakfast, but she was “too tired.”  Finally, she just nodded her head “yes” and waited for the cereal bowl to appear.

The girls fought over the television, so I led my preschooler by the hand to the back room, laid her out with her pillow and blanket and let her choose a movie to watch while we rushed through the morning routine.

She picked Barbie.

I quietly slid it into the DVD player, hoping no older children would hear Barbie’s voice.

I failed.

They heard.

The older girls followed the sounds of Barbie and planted themselves in front of the television.  Since she was still noshing on cereal, one girl even brought her bowl and spoon along and set up a makeshift table.

I caught her there, eating in slow motion, too distracted by the movie to chew.  I don’t know how long it should take to mash a piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch so it’s soft enough to swallow, but I’m pretty sure the cereal was disintegrating in her mouth.

I flicked the TV off and pointed one child to the bathroom to brush her teeth and the other to her socks and shoes.

Then I sent my older girls out to the school bus while I put shoes on the little one, who was now screaming for her sisters not to leave without her.

It’s tradition for us.  Every morning, my older girls hug and kiss their younger sister before getting on the bus.  Today, we had just enough time for a quick kiss, but not for a full-out hug before the bus pulled up.

So, for the next 15 minutes I sat on the couch trying to comfort the now-hysterical un-hugged baby sister.

And I thought, “Thanks a lot, Barbie.”

Thanks for ruining my day.

It’s easy to feel like one stressed morning, one forgotten item, one mistake, one misspoken word can destroy the opportunity and promise of a day.

But I’m thinking I should have a choice in the matter.

When Jesus called out to some fishermen and a tax collector to “Come, follow me,” they had to make a once-for-all, life-altering, totally revolutionary decision to toss aside nets and a ledger and follow an itinerant preacher around the Galilean countryside (Matthew 4:19).

Yet, surely the choice to follow had to be daily and it had to be deliberate.

They had to choose to keep walking alongside Jesus, even when mobs pressed in and they moved from town to town, day after busy, tiring day.

They chose to follow Jesus even into foreign and uncomfortable towns like Samaria.

They chose to follow when religious leaders criticized their every movement, complaining when they gathered wheat because they were hungry on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1).

When Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” they chose to leave the excitement and buzz of successful ministry and walk away for some time with Jesus (Mark 6:31).

They had to choose to follow Christ into Jerusalem even after He told them that arrest, persecution and death awaited Him there.

Whether the command to follow was easy or hard, uncomfortable or downright scary, the decision was theirs to make, not once, but every single day.

Do I follow Jesus when He calls?

Do I set aside my own agenda and allow Him to direct my day?

Do I allow circumstances, a stressful schedule, a rotten morning, a mistake, an annoyance, an unexpected event, or even outright tragedy determine my attitude and actions?  Or do I choose to follow Jesus despite it all?

In her book, Choose Joy, Kay Warren wrote:

If we are going to experience joy in this lifetime, there is only one possible way: we will have to choose it.

So, I make a choice today to have joy despite Barbie.

I make a choice to follow Christ wherever He chooses to take me.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for 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

Back to School Lessons, Part One: How to Use the Bathroom

On the first day of preschool for my oldest daughter three years ago, I drove up to the doorway.  The teacher leaned in to open the car door and greeted my beaming girl, who had her hair done up sweetly and her clothes picked out special.

Other children had been lifted out of the car by the expert educator, as they screamed for mom and hung their heads low in sorrow at the separation.

Not my daughter.  She bounced out the door and practically sprinted down the hallway to the classroom.  So much for separation anxiety.

I, on the other hand, wiped away tears.  For two hours, I would not know what she was doing or whether she needed me.

At the end of the day, I wanted a full report on all her activities.  Instead, the teacher helped her back into the car and said, “She had a good day!”

A whole two hours of her life spent without me there even to watch.

Truly, it’s the difficult goal of parenthood—to train our children so they function independently.  Teach them what they need to know now so that they succeed tomorrow.

While God never trains us for independence, He is forever building into our lives, hearts and minds today what we will need the next day and the day after that. 

And sometimes we miss it.

So often recently, I have heard people denounce the study of God’s Word in favor of what is “practical” and “relevant,” what’s meaningful to them right now rather than digging in deep to the Scripture.  We want to learn “how to” rather than learn who God is.  We shrug off discipleship in favor of temporary spiritual programs built around a single verse or two.

Now, personal application matters.  The holy words on these pages aren’t there for amusement, or intellectual stimulation, or comfort alone.  If we read without change, we are missing it.  We are missing all that Scripture was intended to be for us.

But, how are we to know now what will matter in our lives tomorrow?  If we seek only that which has immediate application to our lives today, here, now, in this situation, the Bible becomes nothing more than a Band-Aid for life’s boo-boos or a pocket map for our life’s journey.

To celebrate the last day of summer vacation, I sat down with my girls today and had a heart-to-heart about the beginning of school.  (I know some of you have already started the school year, but for us it begins tomorrow).

I looked them in the eyes in all their bright-eyed excitement about school and making new friends and opening new crayons and learning new ideas . . . and I gave them the most important instructions I could think of for the year:

  1. Do not wait to go to the bathroom until it’s an emergency.
  2. Go to the bathroom before you go to the playground for recess and before you get on the bus at the end of the day.
  3. Raise your hand and ask your teacher permission to go to the restroom.
  4. Close the door behind you.
  5. Flush when you are done.
  6. Wash your hands.

To me, these seemed like essential words of wisdom.  To them, they seemed banal and unimaginative.

Just wait until they have to go to the bathroom tomorrow . . .

God so often is giving us the training we need for the future, and we in similar fashion, roll our eyes, shrug our shoulders, and avert our gaze at anything so boring, so unnecessary, so impractical.

How could David know that days spent in the fields watching boring, stinky sheep would train him to be a warrior king?

How could Moses know that a childhood in an Egyptian palace and 40 years in the wilderness moving sheep around would prepare him to be the deliverer of the Hebrew nation from 400 years of slavery and then the leader of that nomadic people for another 40 years?

How could Joseph know how years spent managing Potiphar’s house as a slave and another season managing his fellow convicts while wrongfully imprisoned would prepare him to save the entire Egyptian nation and the surrounding countries from a 7-year famine?

How could they know?  How do you know as you sit with your Bible before you what verse you will need to whisper in the night a year from now or the passage you’ll need to cling to even a decade later?

We don’t know.  But God does.

So, we open up His Word and we dig deep.  We search passionately—not just for the solution to our current problem or the manual for our present situation—but we search for Him, God Himself, and who He is.  We sit attentive in His classroom and become the student of God’s character through the study of His Word.

The Psalmist wrote:

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.  With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.  I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.  I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.  I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word (Psalm 119:10-16).

The Psalmist was a dedicated student of Scripture and he tells us how to be the same in this passage.  He tells us:

  • Seek God—not what He can do for you, but God Himself, with all your heart.
  • Memorize Scripture and call it to mind during moments of temptation.
  • Give God praise.
  • Ask Him to teach you.
  • Talk to others about what you’re learning from time spent in His Word.
  • Treat God’s Word like it’s a treasure chest filled to the brim with the most magnificent jewels imaginable.
  • Spend time meditating, contemplating, and praying through the Bible and what it reveals about Him.

And more than anything else, do not neglect His word.  You’re guaranteed to need it, if not today then tomorrow.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for 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.