I Don’t Know and That’s Okay

ezekiel-37

I almost pulled over when I saw the sign.

My son and I took the morning off.  I had a to-do list to attend to.  Cleaning to accomplish.  Writing to get done.

But we were tired.

Our family is having one of those weeks where we barely have time to breathe plus I’d stayed up late watching the presidential election results.

So, I abandoned chores, filled a to-go mug with caffeinated tea, loaded my three-year-old into the minivan and went for a drive.

I saw the sign on our way home while listening to my son chatter about “Batman” and “bad guys” and other highly important toddler issues.

Someone had posted a huge wooden sign on the side of the busy road saying:

Kristen, please come home. ♥

I’ve spent two days thinking about Kristen and praying for Kristen.

A sign like that stirs up my question-asking nature.  I’m always the person asking the most questions.  Always.

And doesn’t this just make you want to ask?

Who wrote that sign?  Who is Kristen?  Why is Kristen gone?  What turmoil was there, what bitterness or anger might have made her leave?

Or maybe she was taken?  What if someone hurt her or is hurting her?

Will she ever come home?  Will things change for the better?

Oh, Jesus, please rescue Kristen from whatever pit has her trapped and maybe scared or hurting.

I almost turned my minivan right around and parked in that lot to take a picture of the sign so I could remember.

But I didn’t.  I kept driving and turns out, I didn’t even need the reminder because Kristen and her sign are etched on my heart.

Here I had my precious baby boy right there in the van with me, still maintaining a running dialogue about superheroes, and another person—maybe a mom like me—was missing someone dear.

Since seeing that sign, not only am I aching for someone else’s pain and compelled to prayer on behalf of another, I’m reminded anew of all I don’t know.

I don’t know anything about Kristen or her circumstances or her family.

I have the most superficial awareness of someone else’s deep reality.

But that’s okay.

We’re people who love scientific certainty, but we live in an uncertain world and that makes us feel a bit shaky at times.

But sometimes the healthiest  and wisest thing we can do is admit we don’t know everything.

In the book of Ezekiel, God shows the prophet a valley full of dead bones and asks:

“Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3 NIV).

How would I have answered?

Maybe I’d have lacked faith that God could do the impossible and told Him surely those bones were dead as dead could be–as if I knew all there was to know.

But Ezekiel answered differently.  He said,

 “Sovereign Lord, you alone know” (Ezekiel 37:3 NIV).

God is sovereign, Ruler of all, in control of what we face, aware of all that remains hidden to us.

And we don’t have to know everything, because we know HIM and He knows….and that’s enough.

Every day, we face a million questions, so many without answers.

The questions themselves can be healthy–they can draw us closer to His side.  They keep the dialogue open instead of shutting it down in hurtful bitterness.

We ask:

Why this, God, and not that?  Why do I have to wait?  Why the hurt or the pain or sorrow?

This not-knowing, this life where we can embrace the mysterious and uncertain, can propel us to know Him better.

When we realize what we don’t know, we seek God’s perspective and His answers instead of providing our own.

We leave our problems in HIs hands instead of trying to keep control ourselves.

We stop trying to force our own plans and agendas and start resting in the arms of Jesus.

We can pray by trusting the Holy Spirit to be at work in ways we can’t see to help people we don’t know through issues we don’t fully comprehend.

I don’t know Kristen.  I don’t know her family.  I don’t know the story behind the sign.

I don’t know about a lot in the world, not about why some things happen or what God’s plans are for me or for others around me.

But I can know Him, and I can try everyday to know Him more deeply and truly, and I can remember this:

“Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3 ESV).

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

When you don’t know what to say

Psalm 147

He told me about his wife, about her kidneys not behaving, her liver calling it quits and her heart not being strong.

They had dared to throw out the word ‘hospice’ in one of those foggy discussions with doctors where you’re hearing them and you’re nodding your head, but really the words don’t make sense.

On the phone, I heard how ‘hospice’ made him stumble.  He sucked in his breath and cleared his throat. Then he said how his brother is already there, in hospice–(there he said it again; that word never seems to come out easy).

I had this conversation with my grandfather years ago, and as I listened I thought of my grandmother, spunky and life-filled, always in tennis shoes so she could speed-walk everywhere, always talking about trips to Haw-a-ii and cruises to Alaska and other adventures.

Then I thought of her in the hospital, under 100 pounds, so fragile.

Two irreconcilable images, surely not the same person.  Yet, there it was, unreal but real.

My grandfather said, “I’m fixin’ to be an orphan here soon” and laughed a kind of nervous giggle when you make a joke that isn’t truly funny.

What to say to that?

After years of women’s ministry, I’ll tell you what never gets easy—knowing what to say when it’s all spilling out of someone and you just want to rescue them, but you’re powerless to do little more than hug and slip on a few Band-aids, then pray with desperate cries that God will heal in the deep-down ways we can’t.

Lost jobs, unfaithful husbands, abusive spouses, alcoholism and pornography, runaway kids, bankruptcy, rape, homelessness, pregnancy unplanned and unwanted, pregnancy wanted so bad it hurts every month with that negative test, abortion, custody battles gone wrong, parents not talking to kids and kids not talking to parents, divorce, fatigue, dying moms and dads, babies in caskets, surgeries failing and car accidents turned tragic…

This…. never…. gets …..easy.

How can there be the right words for so much that is wrong?

Maybe that’s exactly the point.

Maybe even a lover-of-words like me has to fess up that sometimes words don’t just fall short, they actually get in the way.

Like for Job, sitting among ashes, wearing torn rags, scraping at the burning blisters on his flesh with broken pottery, mourning his servants, grieving his children.

Scripture tells us:

When Job’s three friends… heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was (Job 2:11-13).

They spent a week in silence with Job.  For guys who turned out to be so chatty (okay, verbose), this was actually a promising start!

They seemed to get this right, this friendship without words.  Just mourning with those who mourn and leaving it at that.

Unfortunately, Eliphaz eventually asked the question: “But who can keep from speaking?” (Job 4:2) and that’s when it all went awry.

He erupted with spiritual cliches, the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” speeches, theological debates and judgmental accusation…and the other friends joined in.

Ezekiel the prophet, on the other hand, “came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River.  And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days–deeply distressed” (Ezekiel 3:15).

For a week, the prophet crouched in the dust with the exiles from Jerusalem, those who had been carried off after years of starvation and the siege by the Babylonian empire.

And he stayed there until God told him to get up and move on (Ezekiel 3).

Sometimes we back away in fear from those in pain, not really knowing what to do.  After all, we can easily say the wrong thing.

But you really can’t mess up listening.

God brings hurting people to us not so we can fix life for them or speak some magical words that make it all better.

He wants us to get down in the dirt where they’ve fallen, love them, pray with them, serve them, and practice the power of presence (maybe even presence without words).

*************************************

May I recommend this book if you are grieving the loss of someone or ministering to another who is mourning?  It is lovely and full of practical advice and spiritual encouragement. Grieving God’s Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing by Margaret Brownley

My daughter ran away

My daughter has run away.

I’m striding through the halls at church looking for a four-and-a-half-year-old blond-haired girl.

Have you seen her?prayerforpresencce

The church service began without any other ruckus than this tiny tot announcing she had to go to the bathroom.  So her older sister walked her down the hall and back, but when they swung the sanctuary door open, the little one got bopped on the head.

Yup, she’s my daughter.

She didn’t stop the service with a burst of tears, a wail or a scream (thankfully).  But she turned right around and fled.

Now I have about 5 minutes to find this child, calm her down and carry her back into the sanctuary before I need to start playing the piano.

And I can’t find her.

I’m yelling out her name, opening up doors and scanning rooms for any sign of her, checking bathroom stalls, flicking lights on and off in the different classes.

Our church seems incredibly large and complicated right now, like I’m running through a corn maze of possibilities and hitting nothing but dead-ends.

It’s not nearly as scary as the times (many times) that my middle daughter has slipped away in a store or crowd or amusement park or zoo….That girl has a way of disappearing that will make this momma’s heart sink right down into my stomach.

But I know my four-year-old is here in the church.  Somewhere.

After a couple of crazed minutes, I finally discover her hiding away, huddled up, knees to her chest under a desk in the choir room crying silently so no one would hear her and find her.

I snuggle her up and make it back to the sanctuary with minutes to spare.

And I’m thankful.  I watched her run away so I knew to go searching for her.

Had she slipped away without me seeing, how long would she have stayed tucked away and crying under that desk before someone would have sent out a search party?

I read this passage in Ezekiel and I think of my runaway daughter and for the first time this mysterious prophet begins to make sense to me.

He says:

 Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim (Ezekiel 10:18 NIV). 

Maybe we think God’s patience is limitless.  But here it is, the very moment when He finally declared that Israel’s unrepentant adultery with any god she happened to meet had gone on long enough.

So, God left the sanctuary.

He lifted His glory right up out of the temple where He’d taken up residence generations before.

He loved them so and longed to be with them, right there in the middle of His people, a constant presence in their very midst.  That was His desire, the desire of a groom to be with His bride.

But finally He left.

Ezekiel saw it happen.  The glory lifted right up out of the temple and kept on moving:

The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it(Ezekiel 11:23).

What must that have felt like?  A heart-stopping void?  A knot in their stomach, like the breath had been strangled right out of them?

God’s presence was there.

Then it wasn’t.

Surely they screamed out in desperation, begging for His return.  Surely they slammed down to their knees in repentance.

Surely they searched for Him like I’d searched for my daughter–relentless, determined, focused.

Please, please, don’t leave us, Lord!  We are nothing without You.  We are desperate for You. 

Someone should have noticed.  Someone should have cried out.

I flip the pages of Ezekiel forward and back searching for that horrible moment when they realized God had removed His glory.  I can’t find it.  I read a little slower now.  Surely I just missed it.

But it’s not there.

It’s not there because they didn’t even seem to pay Him any mind.  Those priests, those people, they just kept right on going about their business like nothing had happened at all.

It’s like Samson after Delilah’s final bit of trickery when he snapped out of a deep sleep and didn’t realize she’d given him a buzz cut.

But he did not know that the Lord had left him (Judges 16:20 NIV).

How could he not know?

I want to know.

Lord, don’t let me go anywhere without You, not one step out of Your presence, not one move away from Your side.
May I be sensitive to Your glory and may I run hard back to You if there’s distance between us.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”—that’s me sometimes.
But draw me back, Lord.
“Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11 NIV).
~Amen~

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

Going Back to a Broken Heart: Inspired by Obedience

She told us she didn’t think she could go back.

But there she stood on our church’s stage, holding the microphone in one hand and lifting up letters, prayer cards and gifts in the other to show us what happened when she returned.

The year before, she had traveled to Honduras with a group focused on blessing orphans and she’d shared her testimony then with questions:

How could these little children be so in need?  Was there any hope for them at all?  Where was God in this?  She knew He was there, but it was hard to see.

That’s what she asked then and her heart had been so broken by what she saw there….could she endure the breaking again and return a year later?

Perhaps she shouldn’t go.  Perhaps it was too hard, just too heavy, too much, too sad, too overwhelming.

I understand the compelling lure of self-preservation, the way we can choose distance and the safety of objectivity, of statistics, of pictures someone else displays and the testimony that someone else gives without wading into mess ourselves.

I’m willing to engage this far….but no farther.

I am willing to give or serve or care until it hurts, until my heart cracks open and I’m clinging hard to faith when the world beats so hard with evil on the innocent.

I can sit in the balcony of a church sanctuary and tearfully listen as she describes the orphanage facilities, the care (or lack of) for the children, the danger and the hurt.16954296_s

But she stands there with the microphone and I see the beauty of one who was called and equipped and one who went not once, but went again.

She holds up a tiny pink fuzzy toy, an elephant I think.  A little girl with one leg from cancer in an orphanage had given that to her as a memento, “so you won’t ever forget me.”  That’s what motivated the gift of her only toy.

And there are other gifts.  Trinkets to keep at home on her dresser.  Beaded bracelets dangling from both her arms.  Notes and cards from children and teens.

They say it over and over in their messages, “Don’t forget me…..Always remember me….”

Children unloved, unnoticed, rejected, abandoned, betrayed, tossed out, sold, used and abused, and what they most want is for someone on this planet to remember they exist.

My own unborn baby kicks and rumbles and I lay my hand on my pregnant belly as I listen to her talk about the unwanted ones while responding to my own very wanted child.

She says the teen girls have one outfit of clothes that they wear every day and I think of the closet bulging already from gifts of baby blue sleepers and hats, blankets and bibs, outfits we oohed and aahed over together as we pulled them out of the bags sent home with us from church.

The beauty of her testimony, though, is that she put her heart on the altar and willingly went back to that place of brokenness, and this time she can say where God is at work, where there was hope and grace despite the pain.

Foster moms tell me it cuts deep wounds in them to love a child and then release him to biological family, but they choose to love anyway.

And I see a picture on my Twitter feed, a young boy about eight years old standing in a store posing for a picture while his adoptive mom clicks the camera.  He’s showing off his new clothes and she’s thrilled.  Orphaned at one years old, growing up on the streets of Africa and now he is home….chosen….loved, but it’s been a journey.

It’s not that God calls all of us to this same ministry, but He calls some to have hearts willing to be broken.

He told His prophet Hosea not just to marry a prostitute, but after she left him to pursue her lovers,  to “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress”  (Hosea 3:1 NASB).

God told Ezekiel not to mourn his wife’s death: “but you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead…”  (Ezekiel 24:15-17 NASB).

Their hearts broke in obedience.

If that’s God’s calling, then we can trust Him with our own hearts, trust Him enough to obey even when it’s hard and our instinct is to snatch our hands back from the hot stove and cradle our hearts to protect them from pain.  We can trust Him enough to go and to go again and enough to sing,Break my heart for what breaks yours” and mean it (Hillsong United).

OBSBlogHop

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

In the Splash Zone

They wanted to be splashed.

That’s what my daughters said as we walked into the pavilion with risers, some of them marked “Splash Zone” and others unmarked, indicating the safer, dryer seating area.

There’s something about childhood that makes you love getting wet, especially when it’s a dolphin splashing her tail that’s sending a wave your way.

Sadly, most of us grow up and out of this urge to get splashed.  We start to climb a little higher to avoid the “Splash Zone,” to play it safe and mature and under control.

My kids, however, crowded into the front rows of seats with all the other excited children and joined in shouting for the dolphin to splash “over here, get me, don’t forget me!”

I may not be eager to get soaked at a dolphin show, but there’s one place where I’m climbing all over folks to sit up front and center.

I’ve been arriving early and often, staunchly guarding my seat until the largest wave of them all rises high over the edges of the pool and splashes down all over me, soaking me through so deeply that you could wring out my soul into a puddle on the ground.

I want a front row seat to God’s glory.  I want to see it, drench in it, feel it, and I don’t want to miss a single drop of His Spirit pouring down.  No playing it safe, comfortable or in control.  If the seats where I’m sitting aren’t marked with warning signs for the Splash Zone, I need to move down closer.

Others have longed for the front row seating for God’s glory.  Like Moses, of course, meeting with God on that holy mountain and asking with so much boldness I can’t even believe he dared to say it: “Show me Your glory.”

Ezekiel saw it and painted unimaginable pictures, trying to cram the glory of God into the confines of words, so unfitting and restrictive.  It was like a rainbow, like bronze, shining bright like a blazing fire.

What was it?

“It turned out to be the Glory of God!  When I saw all this, I fell to my knees, my face to the ground” (Ezekiel 1:28 MSG).

That’s what the uninhibited presence of God does, knocks us straight to the ground.  We can’t postulate and question it, hesitating: “I think this is what God is saying,” or “I think God is in this.”

When you’re sitting in the front row, you can’t mistake His glory.

Rick Warren wrote:

“What is the glory of God?  It is who God is.  It is the essence of his nature, the weight of his importance, the radiance of his splendor, the demonstration of his power, and the atmosphere of his presence.  God’s glory is the expression of his goodness and all his other intrinsic, external qualities” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 56)

The beloved disciple John’s testimony was that of an eyewitness to this, saying, “We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son” (John 1:14 MSG).

Trampling along after Jesus, James, Peter and John probably didn’t expect much on the day of the transfiguration. They’d taken that walk with Jesus many times.  And hadn’t they just totally messed up at the feeding of the 5000, underestimating Jesus’ ability to transform a meager lunch into a feast for thousands?

They certainly didn’t seem ready to glimpse heaven that day.  Yet, it was there on the Mount of Olives where they saw him no longer as God-man, but God and God alone in all of His divinity and light.

“They saw his glory,” and Peter, the master of understatement said, “Master, it is good for us to be here” (Luke 9:32, 33 NIV).

He’s right, you know.  It may be simple and straightforward, but it is good for us to be in the presence of God’s glory.

These close-knit trio of disciples had followed along after Jesus many times, climbing up the Mount of Olives to pray, taking time out of exhausting ministry to kneel in God’s presence.

But they didn’t see Christ transfigured every time.  That was a one-time event.

That means the Mount of Olives isn’t some magic formula for a God-sighting so much as a constant discipline of our faith.  It’s got to be a daily trek for us, a meeting place with God where we linger often and stubbornly climb even when things are difficult or dreary or we’ve failed.

In Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman wrote: “Every Christian should have his own Mount of Olives”

Because when God reveals His glory, we want to be there.  We won’t want to have missed out that day with excuses of busyness, fatigue, or shame.

I want a front row seat in the splash zone of His glory.  Don’t you?

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.

Flat

Well-meaning strangers have pulled up alongside my minivan and honked the horn so I’ll swivel my head in their direction.  Then they wave their hands at me and initiate a mini-game of charades.

Oh I get it—they want me to roll my window down before the light turns green.  So, I fumble around with my automatic windows, pressing every wrong button in nervousness until I finally get it right just in time to hear them shout out the message.

Passers-by in parking lots have strolled by my minivan and backed up to deliver the news.  Friends from church have walked the perimeter and told me what they saw.

“You have a flat tire.”

I appreciate the alert because I’m an unobservant ignorer of massively important details.  I’ve been known not to notice that my husband has shaved his beard completely off after having it for 3 months.

So, I’m pretty dependent on more observant folks to help me out and sound the alarm.

Unfortunately, the news they bear isn’t at all what I want to hear.

You see, someone has surely placed a magnet inside my tires that attracts every nail on the road in our entire county.  It must be true because I get a flat tire about four times a year.

That seems statistically impossible somehow.

And definitely unfair.

Of course, the frustrating thing about tires is that you never just replace one.  It’s always a matter of two.  That’s a law of physics or something.

Unfortunately, this time the rim was bent and my tires needed to be replaced.

Yes, tire”s” as in two of them (please refer back to the First Law of Tires).

This also means that by some miracle I didn’t drive over a nail in the last month.  I apparently drove over a pothole or something of that nature instead, just to shake things up and keep life interesting. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

This first reminds me of the Geico commercial of a pothole with a Southern accent.

The difference between the commercial and my reality being that my pothole didn’t speak to me like a Southern belle and apparently it was damaging enough to cause long-term catastrophic failure, but not terrible enough for me to notice it happening.

This whole experience has reminded me of something else, though: How it feels to be flat, sucked dry, breathless, desperate for the Spirit of God, lifeless, joyless, and emptied out.

Oh, how desperately we want to take in God’s presence and His life-giving breath, but no amount of gasping and gulping at the air lifts us off the ground.

So there you remain, feeling the void, unable to move.

It comes on us gradually, this emptiness.  We’ve picked up the tiniest of nails, over and over again from daily annoyances and perpetual busyness.  Perhaps we’ve even bounced over a few potholes that have dented and bruised our Spirit.

Even when you do everything right, even when you flop down at the kitchen table to read God’s Word and you serve in ministry and you love others and you pray and you blast the praise music (when your kids let you choose the songs in the car)….even then it’s possible to wake up one day and realize you are flattened out and suffocating for want of God’s Spirit.

The prophet Ezekiel stood overlooking a valley filled with “bones that were very dry.” They were hopeless and cut off, dried up.  It’s the same as feeling flat with its lifelessness, breathlessness, the deadness, and the void.

God’s message to the bones was:  I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life (Ezekiel 37:5 MSG).  Not just breath!  “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (Ezekiel 37:13 MSG).

It was a revival.  A newness of life.  Taking the dead, dried out, and breathless and filling it anew with the very Spirit of our holy God.

But it began with dead bones crying out:  ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off!’ (Ezekiel 37:2, 11 MSG).

They were clamoring for life instead of accepting their dry deadness scattered along the valley floor.  We also cry out to Him, “God, we’re desperate for your Spirit and we won’t remain silent here flattened to the ground.  Fill us anew!  Make Your Word come alive!  Stir my heart to see You, to hear Your voice, to feel Your presence.  Breathe Your life into me.”

And this He will do, maybe through gradual healing and patching together or maybe in a revival of a moment.  He will do it because we ask.  He will do it for the glory of His name so that “you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it” (Ezekiel 37:14).

One of my favorite worship songs: Desert Song, by Hillsong United

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

What’s in a Name?

Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness (Psalm 115:1 NIV).

My name is Heather Corinne King, nee Hunt.  My mother chose my name because it sounded pretty and seemed unique.  She didn’t know any other moms bouncing baby Heathers on their knees at the time.

Of course, life with its taste for irony, turned out a little differently than she expected.  The name Heather was the most popular girl’s name the year I was born and I spent my childhood being distinguished from other Heathers with numbers and initials.

That hasn’t ended either.  When I call people in my church, I always tell them, “this is Heather King,” as opposed to the other two Heathers in our congregation.

So much for being unique.

Still, I do think my name has its own beauty about it, something I discovered even more over time.

My husband and I prayed over the names of each of our daughters and they eagerly ask every few months what their chosen names mean.  Not that they don’t know.  We’ve told them often enough.  I think they just like to hear us tell the story.

We tell them they are reminders of victory and strength.  They are called after Godly women in our families, for queens, and for women in the Bible who served Jesus and tended to His every need.  Their names mean Victorious Light, Praise, God’s Promise, and Purity.

Then my daughters typically ask me what my name means.

It’s a flower.

A pretty flower?

Well kind of a pretty flower.  It grows in Scotland in the fields.  Sometimes it’s purple (I add, trying to convince them that this is indeed an awesome name).

They seem unimpressed.  So much for a name with a great meaning.

Or is it?  After answering their questions about it so often, I began to think what it means to be a “flower maiden,” or “Heather Corinne.”  Flowers of any variety reflect the beauty of their Creator, bring Him glory and praise, and trust in His tender hand to care for their every need, even their very survival.  Isn’t that the desire of my heart?

Maybe it’s meaningful after all.

Most of us have this same interest in why our moms and dads narrowed down hundreds of choices in a Baby Name book and came up with our particular combination–First, Middle and Last.

God shares our interest.  He’s profoundly involved throughout Scripture in the naming of promised children and in the renaming of chosen people.

But He’s also intensely protective of His own name, to an extent that might baffle us.  In Ezekiel, God declares, “I will be jealous for My holy name” (Ezekiel 39:25, HCSB).

It’s not so much His name as in a word, but as the New Living Translation expresses it, God will “jealously guard (His) holy reputation!”

Surely when He acts on our behalf, our God of Abundant Love does so because He cares for us and has compassion and mercy.

So often, though, His primary motivation in delivering His people is the protection of His reputation or the glory of His name.

This is why I wrote in One of the King Girls that we should “pray that others will glorify God because of us.”  God has willingly entrusted us with His reputation, allowing us to represent His love and holiness in our daily lives.

Not just allowing us to uphold His reputation, but expecting us, commissioning us and commanding us to do so.

As a child, I learned the Ten Commandments in the King James Version, including number three: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7 KJV).

I’ve heard pastors preach that this means we can’t use “God” or “Jesus” as an expletive.  Then they explain that the verse is about profanity in general.  Others note that any variation of the names of deity is out also, so “gosh, gee” and others were equally condemnable offenses.

In her book Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, however, Lois Tverberg digs deeper.  She says:

“In Jewish thought, this commandment is understood to have a much greater meaning.  The text literally says, ‘You shall not lift up the name (reputation) of the Lord for an empty thing.’  One of the ways that the rabbis interpreted this was doing something evil publicly and associating God with it.  It is a sin against God himself, who suffers from having his reputation defamed” (p. 79).

This doesn’t free us to be foul-mouthed profaners of God’s name.  Surely upholding His reputation means watching the words we speak.

Yet, that’s not the only point of this command.  The real issue is that we don’t drag God’s name into the dirt and trample all over it by taking our responsibility as His ambassadors and ministers of the Gospel lightly.

This doesn’t just impact what we say; it influences every aspect of how we live and love and teach and respond and stand up for what is right and true even when others think we’re crazy.

God’s name isn’t like ours, pretty and meaningful perhaps, but devoid of power.  His name is might and strength and His glory beyond our comprehension.  He’s told us to live in such a way that we don’t take His name in vain.

Instead, fully aware of this responsibility, we glorify His name, giving Him the honor and praise He is due.  That’s what happens when people look at us and see Him, only Him, gloriously Him.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Eyewitness to Murder

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

I was an eyewitness to a murder at Wal-Mart.  Not just one.  Many.  In the baby section.  Among the girls’ clothes.  Along the aisles of frozen foods.  Standing in line.  Two of them in the parking lot.

And not just at Wal-Mart.  Wherever I went on Friday, I witnessed the battering of husbands to wives, wives to husbands and parents to their children.

It was murder by words.

Sure, I lose it with my kids sometimes.  My tongue sharpens when we’re in a hurry and I’ve asked for shoes to be on feet four, now five times, and still my children play with their toys in their socks.

Sometimes I lose it when I can’t find something I need.  I fly through the house frantically shuffling papers, opening and shutting doors, shoving things aside and my kids tag behind me wanting to chat.

And then there’s pestering.  The guilt-inducing nag, nag, nagging attempts to wear me down.  Why haven’t I sewn a rag doll for her yet?  It’s been a long time since she asked me.  She clearly sees me sitting down (for the first time in 12 hours) and shouldn’t I now be able to whip out just one more project for her, because clearly I am not doing enough?

But at Wal-Mart that day I didn’t see a slightly tired and exasperated mom juggling shopping list, coupons, and three kids who touched everything, talked about everything and argued about everything.

No, it was a mom screaming at her preteen daughter about outfits.  It was a father mocking his son in the parking lot, bringing the boy to the point of humiliated tears.

I didn’t see a husband and wife disagreeing about detergent or the dinner menu for the week.  It was a wife snidely joking about her husband to a crowd and a husband screaming in anger into a cell phone.

And I was sick over it all.  The kind of sick you feel when you witness violence and you just want to intervene and rescue and make the world better.

Jesus came to bring abundant and overwhelming grace through His sacrificial death on the cross.  But, He did something else, too.  He reset standards.  He told people that good isn’t good enough.  Do more than avoid adultery, He said, don’t even throw lustful glances at a woman who is not your wife.

Do more than just avoid murder, “I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (fool) is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).

He said our tongues are murder weapons.

John echoed this again later, writing: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:15).

Still, we do it.  We call each other names.  We gossip.  We slander.  We quibble and argue in a public show of disunity and disrespect.  We talk about our husbands behind their backs.

We make jokes that humiliate.  Proverbs 26:18-19 says, “Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”

Isn’t that what people find funny now?  We put others down and then say, “Just kidding!”  As if that makes it better.  As if that erases the damage already done by our words.

Maybe that’s not you.  Maybe you don’t do that.

But, do you ever find yourself “sharing opinions” about others, perhaps even about your friends, commenting on their parenting decisions, their career choices, their clothes, their money, their ministry?  Do you feel it necessary to share your thoughts about everything?  To rise to every occasion with a verbal slap of a sword in a duel of opinions?  To criticize and judge and judge and criticize?

James wrote: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires”  (James 1:19-20).  How often do we skip right over listening and instead jump right to the speaking part?

God held Ezekiel to the highest standard imaginable when it came to his tongue:

“I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious people. But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ ” (Ezekiel 3:26-27).

God essentially glued Ezekiel’s tongue to the roof of his mouth.  The only time Ezekiel could talk was when he was saying what God wanted him to say.

What if that became the standard we used to decide when to talk and when to keep our opinions quietly tucked away in our brains rather than spewing out of our mouths?  What if we asked, is this something God Himself wants me to say?  Maybe we could give ourselves a little grace and just ask, “Is this something God would approve of me saying?”

Either way, I know I don’t meet that standard 100%.  I wonder if any of us do.

My mom had all of us kids memorize Ephesians 4:29 when we were little.  We’d bicker or start name-calling and she’d intervene and ask us to quote this verse:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

No unwholesome talk.  Nothing hurtful.  Nothing weighted down with criticism and oozing with judgment.

Instead, we ask, “Is what I am saying right now helpful?  Will it encourage someone else and build them up?  Will it be of benefit to anyone listening?”

If not, then they are words best left unsaid.  Because words are powerful.  They are life and death weaponry in our arsenal.  We speak words of hope and people remember them for years, thriving on encouragement and being renewed by praise.  We speak words of criticism and people remember them for years, dying a slow death from the poison of language.

How can your words bring life and not death to others today?

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