This is the invitation to go together and not alone

“I want to come!”

This is my son.  He lives in a constant state of high-alert awareness, making sure no one in the family goes out for an adventure or for some fun without bringing him along.

We plan a movie day, just me and my girls to see a film that isn’t animated and isn’t going to hold the interest of my active four-year-old boy.

Somehow, though, without us talking to  him or even talking near him so he’ll overhear us, he manages to catch the word “movies” and pipes up with his current catchphrase, “I want to come!”

This is so hard.

I am an oldest child in a family of 5 kids.  Until I had a youngest child of my own, I had no idea how hard it can be sometimes to be the baby of the family.

He is the one who wants to play, but the others are too old to play.

He is the one who always wants to come even if we’re going somewhere he can’t go.  That means feeling left behind and that breaks his momma’s heart.

So, we try our best.  We draw him in.  We take him whenever we can.   That’s not everywhere and that’s not always, but we do our best.

Right in the middle of decorating our Christmas tree, last weekend, I ran out of working Christmas lights.  It had been a long and busy day full of projects, but unfinished projects are like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.   I cannot do, “let it wait until tomorrow.”

So, off I went, grabbing my bag and prepping for an emergency dash to the Wal-Mart.

My son saw my bag and sure enough said, “I want to come!”

He didn’t even know where I was going.  He just didn’t want to be left out.

Of course, making quick runs into a store is much easier without children along for the ride, but I grabbed his coat and shoes and took him with me because I could.

We drove out of our neighborhood slowly, marveling at all the Christmas lights.  We bought our supplies at the store and as we walked back out, Andrew shouted to a group of unknown bystanders, “Hey, they have a lot of Christmas stuff in there!”  Then we drove back home a slightly different way so we could see the decorations on a whole new set of houses.

The best part  of our unexpected adventure was his presence.  He was there.  He didn’t miss it.  I had drawn him in to the journey and pulled him alongside as a companion and he brought all the joy when wrestling with the lights on that tree had left me joy-depleted.

This is one of the gifts of the Christmas season: Jesus draws us in and He draws us together with others.

This is what He did for Mary, as she was commissioned to be the mother of the Messiah, right when the calling was at its most overwhelming and she could have felt both overwhelmed and all alone.  That’s when the angel said:

And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren (Luke 1:36 ESV).

You’re not in this by yourself.  Come.  Share this experience and this calling with another.

That was the invitation.

It was an invitation to do the hard thing with another rather than all alone.

And the angels made other announcements.  The heavens displayed other signs.  They shared the good news of great joy with a group of shepherds co-laboring in the fields, and a group of wise men studying the skies and ancient texts together.

These men had been working together and searching together.   Now, they became fellow-travelers and fellow-witnesses, bringing their community to Jesus and bringing Jesus to their community.

So much of me wants to hide away and hibernate by the time we hit December.  The calendar has “no more room at the inn” and my depleted resources leave me with little left to give.

But Jesus.

Jesus draws others in.

He brought His very presence right into the middle of the everyday, ordinary, needy lives of people and then invited them to come and not just to come alone, but to come together .

Maybe this Christmas can be a Christmas of invitation for us.  Maybe instead of doing alone and going alone, we can ask another, “Do you want to come?”  It can be last minute, it can be messy, it can be casual, it can be crazy.  It can be formal and planned or it can be made up as we go along.

It can be a prayer as we begin the Advent season, “Lord, draw me to you….and draw me to others.”

 

 

Christmas Devotions: How to lose at Candy Land

“Congratulations.”

That’s the word we taught our daughters to say when they lost at Candy Land.

Maybe around 2 years old when they could first maneuver those colored gingerbread men around that candy-covered game board, we taught them this massive word.

Mastering the vocabulary came difficult.  They lisped out ‘congratulations’ and we’d smile over the cuteness of a tinchristmas8y person tackling the syllables.

But more difficult than that, harder than the language itself, was the heart uprising at having to spill out “congratulations” to someone else.

Because we all want to win…all the time.  And when someone else’s gingerbread man landed on that last rainbow square right at the candy castle, that wrecked little hearts in all their innate selfishness and self-centered ways.

Oh, how the wrestling match with our enemy pride begins so young and does it ever actually end?  Will we ever slam that opponent down on that mat and claim victory over such a foe?

If Christmas is about anything, though, it’s about God coming low.

Paul writes:

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!  (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

He made himself nothing.  Our God chose to be man, born all bloody and small in a stable of dust and grime, straw, animal feed, and manure.

“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” that’s what Paul wrote.

Yet, still pride and envy destroy us, destroy our churches, our friendships, and our ministries because we scramble and shove for the spotlight, the glory and the prize.

We may no longer be counting the squares on a Candy Land board, and yet saying that word, ‘congratulations’ with genuine joy at another’s success may come difficult.

When their ministry takes off….
When they buy that huge new house….
When they book that dream vacation…
When their kids bring home that report card….

Yet, there’s John the Baptist.

Before Jesus came along preaching and healing, John gathered crowds by the river and baptized them into repentance and renewal.  He was the long-awaited prophet, the voice crying out in the wilderness.

So, John’s followers didn’t appreciate the attention the upstart Jesus was stealing away from John’s long-term ministry. But John wasn’t bothered at all, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).

In that familiar old Christmas story, I see where this began.

I see how John learned young to step aside humbly and worship the One who is greater.  I see how he didn’t strive for his own glory or stake his own claim to attention and praise.

His mama taught him.

Elizabeth was about six months pregnant with her own miracle baby when Mary came for a surprise visit.

For six months, Elizabeth treasured the joy of a son-to-be, a prophecy spoken over her very own baby.  How she had longed for a child during those years of barrenness, and now she was truly expectant.  And not just any baby.  But the forerunner of the Messiah in her very own womb.

Yet, when Mary walked into Elizabeth’s house unexpectedly, Elizabeth didn’t give way to jealousy or territorial cattyness.  She didn’t rush to tell her own story or pridefully demand any attention for herself

She stepped aside.

She extended a joyful and genuine ‘Congratulations’ to the young woman before her.

And she worshiped.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”  (Luke 1:41-45 NIV).

Pride chains us down to a captivity of our own creation.

Looking past ourselves sets us free.

It’s the freedom of making this life less about us and all about Him and serving others.

And the lesson begins here at Christmas as Elizabeth humbly congratulates and blesses the teenage girl before her.

As Elizabeth’s own unborn son becomes the first person to worship the still unborn Savior.

And as God Himself grew within the confines of a womb, our God of light couched for a time in darkness waiting to be born.

Originally posted 12/16/2013

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

 

Christmas Devotionals: Elizabeth, Candy Land, and a lesson in humility

“Congratulations.”

That’s the word we taught our daughters to say when they lost at Candy Land.

Maybe around 2 years old when they could first maneuver those colored gingerbread men around that candy-covered game board, we taught them this massive word.

Mastering the vocabulary came difficult.  They lisped out ‘congratulations’ and we’d smile over the cuteness of a tiny person tackling the syllables.

But more difficult than that, harder than the language itself, was the heart uprising at having to spill out “congratulations” to someone else.

Because we all want to win…all the time.  And when someone else’s gingerbread man landed on that last rainbow square right at the candy castle, that wrecked little hearts in all their innate selfishness and self-centered ways.

Oh, how the wrestling match with our enemy pride begins so young and does it ever actually end?  Will we ever slam that opponent down on that mat and claim victory over such a foe?

If Christmas is about anything, though, it’s about God coming low.

Paul writes:

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!  (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

He made himself nothing.  Our God chose to be man, born all bloody and small in a stable of dust and grime, straw, animal feed, and manure.christmas8

“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” that’s what Paul wrote.

Yet, still pride and envy destroy us, destroy our churches, our friendships, and our ministries because we scramble and shove for the spotlight, the glory and the prize.

We may no longer be counting the squares on a Candy Land board, and yet saying that word, ‘congratulations’ with genuine joy at another’s success may come difficult.

When their ministry takes off….
When they buy that huge new house….
When they book that dream vacation…
When their kids bring home that report card….

I marvel at John the Baptist.

Before Jesus came along preaching and healing, John gathered crowds by the river and baptized them into repentance and renewal.  He was the long-awaited prophet, the voice crying out in the wilderness.

So, John’s followers didn’t appreciate the attention the upstart Jesus was stealing away from John’s long-term ministry. But John wasn’t bothered at all, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).

In that familiar old Christmas story, I see where this began.

I see how John learned young to step aside humbly and worship the One who is greater.  I see how he didn’t strive for his own glory or stake his own claim to attention and praise.

His mama taught him.

Elizabeth was about six months pregnant with her own miracle baby when Mary came for a surprise visit.

For six months, Elizabeth treasured the joy of a son-to-be, a prophecy spoken over her very own baby.  How she had longed for a child during those years of barrenness, and now she was truly expectant.  And not just any baby.  But the forerunner of the Messiah in her very own womb.

Yet, when Mary walked into Elizabeth’s house unexpectedly, Elizabeth didn’t give way to jealousy or territorial cattyness.  She didn’t rush to tell her own story or pridefully demand any attention for herself

She stepped aside.

She extended a joyful and genuine ‘Congratulations’ to the young woman before her.

And she worshiped.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”  (Luke 1:41-45 NIV).

Pride chains us down to a captivity of our own creation.

It’s freeing, though, to look past our own lives and choose instead to reach out to others.

It’s freeing to rejoice with those who rejoice.

It’s freeing to listen more than we talk.

It’s the freedom of making this life less about us and all about Him and serving others.

And the lesson begins here at Christmas as Elizabeth humbly congratulates and blesses the teenage girl before her.

As Elizabeth’s own unborn son becomes the first person to worship the still unborn Savior.

And as God Himself grew within the confines of a womb, our God of light couched for a time in darkness waiting to be born.

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 © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk: 12/03/2011

Hiding the Word

My second Christmas memory verse for the season is one of my favorites.  When she talks with her cousin, Mary, for the first time about their pregnancies and the babies that they carry, Elizabeth exclaims:

  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1:45

Scripture tells us in Luke 1:41 that the moment Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby she was carrying jumped in her womb and she “was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

That’s a powerful moment.  I think we overlook too often the fact that we Christians have the Spirit within us all the time, everywhere we go.  But, people before Christ’s resurrection and ascension did not.  Until that point, the Spirit fell upon particular people at certain times only for specific purposes.

So, imagine Elizabeth going about her daily business and then BAM, the rush of the Holy Spirit coursed through her being.  She can’t help but give God praise.  It just pours out of her in an instant.

Part of what she exclaims in this spontaneous worship and prophetic recognition that Mary was carrying the Messiah is the declaration that Mary was blessed because she believed the promises of God.

And so are we.  How blessed we are when we believe that God will fulfill His promises to us.

This is my verse for meditation and memorization this week.  I hope you’ll join me or choose one of your own!

Weekend Rerun

For Your Name’s Sake
Originally Published 03/04/2011

This morning, I filled my minivan up with gas and about choked on my bottled water when I saw the little rolling numbers climbing higher and higher.  I started imagining the what-if’s of our future like not being able to afford food for my children and my husband having to sleep at his office because we couldn’t afford the gas for him to commute.  Within a few seconds, I had my family out on the street with one pair of clothes each and no food.

So, I took one look at my total gas bill and marched inside the store and bought myself a caramel cream doughnut with chocolate frosting and a double chocolate milk.   I almost bought two doughnuts, but a little Holy Spirit self-control kicked in—thank goodness.

Many of the storms in our lives are simply the result of living in this sinful, messed up, broken world.  We can’t blame God for the crises we face.  It’s not God’s fault my gas bill each month is about half my mortgage.  Sometimes the storms we face are because we’ve sinned or have chosen to disobey God and now we’re facing the consequences.  Other times, Satan is at work, trying to discourage and defeat us with trial after trial.

Regardless of whether our difficulties are God-caused or God-allowed, we can trust that He’s always at work for our benefit and for His glory.

In the case of the disciples in Mark 6:45-52, just because they were in a storm, didn’t mean they were out of God’s will or that they had sinned.   It says, “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida” (verse 45, NIV).  He intended for them to be out on that sea, facing the wind and waves.  Clearly, this particular storm served a purpose in their lives–two of the same purposes that God often has for our life storms.   He uses them to prepare us for our future and to show His glory.

Lessons for the Future

When the disciples faced their first storm on the sea in Mark 4:35-41, Jesus was in the boat with them the whole time, sleeping on a cushion in the stern.  At any time during the storm, they could reach over and wake Him up and that’s what they finally did.  The disciples exhausted their own resources and acknowledged that the storm was too much for them, so they “woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?'” (Mark 4:35-41).

But, this second storm in Mark 6:45-52 was different.  Jesus wasn’t physically in the boat with them.  He had stayed on the other shore and went off by Himself to pray.  So, when the storm got too much for the disciples this time, they couldn’t just do what they did before.   In this storm, they were physically alone.

Jesus uses this second storm to teach them that just because He wasn’t physically in the boat, doesn’t mean He was unaware of what they were facing or unable to save them.  This was a vital lesson for their future!  Every day brought them one step closer to the cross, to His resurrection and His ascension—to a time when they would have to live out everyday life without Jesus talking, walking and eating with them.  Without this lesson in this boat in the storm on the sea, the disciples wouldn’t have survived a single trial after Jesus left them.  They wouldn’t know how to withstand a storm without Jesus physically in their boat.

God doesn’t waste the experiences in our lives–the storms, the trials, the bad days, the annoyances, the interruptions.  All of it.  He can be at work in our lives, teaching us and growing our faith, transforming us to be more like Christ, comforting us so we can later comfort others, as long as we yield those moments to Him and willingly receive the lessons.

For His Glory

Not only can God use our every experience to teach and prepare us for the future, but He is also intentional about being glorified in our every circumstance.

In the case of the disciples, when Jesus walked across the water in the middle of the night and climbed into the boat with them, the storm ceased.  As you can imagine, the disciples “were completely amazed.”  I’d be amazed, too!  In the companion passage in Matthew 14:33, it says, “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'”

When God gives us too much to handle, it’s not so we feel defeated or broken or ashamed.  It’s not to humble us or make us fall.  God gives us too much so that we give everything to Him. Then, when He carries the burdens that force us to the ground, He is glorified.  People stand in amazement and see God in us and at work in our lives.  There is no question of whether “Heather did this amazing thing”—No, it can only be God.

That means that instead of praying for the miracles I think I need, I can tell God my problems and simply pray for Him to be glorified in every situation.  That’s not natural for an in-control, planning person like myself.  I am so tempted to pray for specific miracles when I go through tough times and tell the God of the Universe exactly how He can provide for my need.

Praise God that He shows me enough grace not to give me what I ask for!

I’ve slowly learned not to pray for the miracle I think I need, but to pray for God’s glory instead.  When David was surrounded by enemies and running for his life, he so often prayed for God to rescue him or save him for God’s glory and for the honor of God’s name.  In Psalm 31:3, he prayed, “For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me.”

Whatever you are facing, you can trust God to know the perfect way to provide for you and to rescue you.  Give your problems to Him and ask Him, “Lord, be glorified in this situation.  Be amazing.  Be awesome.  For Your name’s sake, take me through this storm.  For the glory of Your name, rescue me.  Whatever brings You glory, Lord, that’s what I ask for.”

Today, I saw this kind of faith in a prayer from another family.  I don’t personally know the little girl, Kate McCrae, who is fighting metastatic brain cancer for the second time in her young life.  But, her story has touched my heart.  I pray for her all the time and I follow her family’s updates and prayer requests.  At the end of her post today, Kate’s mom wrote, “We continue to pray that Kate would be healed of this disease, and that Jesus would be glorified through our heartbreak.

What an example of faith for us.  Not many of us will face a crisis in this life as big as this family is facing and yet this hurting mom is willing to place everything in God’s hands and just ask that He be glorified.

Is my daily life too much for me to handle?  All the time.  Is Kate’s cancer too much for her family to handle?  It’s too much for any of us on this earth.  But absolutely nothing is too much for God, and so we hoist the burdens that are too heavy for our shoulders onto His back and let Him carry them and us as well—and then we give Him all the glory.

Please join me in praying for Kate McCrae as she begins radiation treatments for her cancer.  You can follow this link to learn more about her story.

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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