Weekend Walk, 06/02/2012

Hiding the Word:

It’s a season of celebration.

Our family is celebrating graduations and the end of the school year, ballet recitals, concerts, plays, birthdays, and the 50th wedding anniversary for my husbands’ parents.

So, on a bright and beautiful day like today, a morning of sunshine and cool breezes on the day after torrential downpour and tornadoes hit our area, it seems fitting to meditate on a Psalm of celebration.

Our verse for the week is:

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:11-12 ESV).

Last night after my daughters’ ballet recital, families hovered under umbrellas and still arrived soaking wet to their cars.  One man stayed long after most others had left, offering to walk people to their vehicles if they didn’t have an umbrella, holding his over their heads so they could escape some of the drenching.  

I can imagine God covering us with “favor as with a shield” in a similar way.  How it’s all about his grace and kindness to us. How it’s self-sacrificing.  How it offers us more perfect protection than any umbrella off the shelves of Wal-Mart.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Weekend Rerun:

My Two Cents

Originally posted on May 9, 2011

 

With beach season approaching, I’ve been thinking . . . I’d like thinner legs.
While I’m placing orders, I’d also love to have wavy hair with no streaks of gray in it.
No glasses would be nice, too.
Yes, then I’d look really great . . . not at all like me, but great.

Fortunately, I don’t really like the beach, so I don’t dwell on these issues for long.  It’s dangerous really to look around at other people and compare ourselves to them, not just physically, but spiritually, too.  While I’m baring the deepest, darkest parts of my soul with you, I might as well honestly admit that I struggle with this at times.

For me, the trap comes primarily when I’m reading.  As a lover of words, I tend to fill every available minute with reading of some kind, even if it’s just five minutes while standing in a line.  And as I read, there are moments when I think, “If I could just change myself in this way or that way, I’d be better able to serve God.”

I don’t have the impact of this woman, the poetic mastery of language like another, the scholarly education like her, the testimony of this woman or the vast Scripture memorization like another . . . When it comes to spiritual matters, I confess I sometimes want to swap out parts of me for what looks better, not really out of jealousy or pride, but just because I long to give to God the best offering possible.

For most of us, our deep down motives are pure and true.  Out of a desire to worship and give glory, though, sometimes we glance to our sides at the offerings of others and feel we fall short.

What about you?  Have you ever looked around and wished you prayed like her, knew exactly what God called you to do like him, knew Scripture as well as she did, or had the same spiritual gift as a friend?

The eye in the Body of Christ wants to be the foot or the hand wants to be the mouth.  Imagine the Body of Christ as a Mr. Potato Head—now how silly would we look?  Unfortunately, when we eyes spend all our time trying to be feet, the Body of Christ is blind and clumsy, tripping all over itself.

“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20). 

Your gifting, your passion, your past, your experiences are all uniquely packaged together by God to form you and mold you into the vessel of His choosing.

And all He asks is that we raise our hands to release what He has already given to us:
the fullness of the talents He has bestowed
and the passions He has stirred up deep in the fires of our hearts
the issues that make us raise our voices as we step onto soapboxes
the service that we wake in the morning excited to perform
the experiences from our past that soften our hearts and make us tender to those hurting in our midst.

Our arms heavy-laden with all that we have received from Him, we then lift it all back up in worship.

We’re the only ones at times looking around to compare the gift we bring to the presents of the other worshipers.  God isn’t sifting through the gift table, shaking packages and estimating value or peeking at the cards looking for the names of the gift-bearers.

It’s just us—watching the gift table and shifting our gaze with embarrassment when another attendee brings in a cumbersome package wrapped in paper all silver and topped with a ribbon so fancy.  Then another lays on the table a gift bag filled to overflowing, tissue paper barely covering the treasures inside and we want to take our gift back.  It’s not enough.  Not for a King so worthy.  Not for a God we adore.

The widow in the temple, though, knew that true worship simply meant giving all that she had, sacrificially placing her “two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents” as an offering to God (Mark 12:42).

Others had given more, even ostentatiously so.  “Many rich people had thrown in large amounts” (Mark 12:41).  She could have watched from the corners of the temple in shame at the earthly value of what others gave and walked away clutching her cent pieces, confident that God would despise a gift so meager.

And yet, she didn’t.   And nor did He.

She gave.  He noticed.

He called His disciples over to learn from her.  Men who would eventually be asked to give up everything—even their very lives—-learning how to give sacrificially from a pauper widow almost lost in a crowd of those richer and more important than her.  All because she “put in everything” when she gave to God.

What two cents are you laying at the altar?  Your spiritual gift, your ministry, your service to your church, your sacrifice for your family, your care for another, your laying aside of personal dreams, your causes, your secret encouragement for a friend.  It’s being a hand when He made you to be a hand and being an eye when He asked you to be the eye in a body of Christ that is so dependent on every organ.

Your two cents is a gift precious to God; He only asks us to give what we ourselves have been given.

As I finish up today, I’m listening to Paul Baloche sing Offering.  I hope you take a moment to worship with me.

Offering
by Paul Baloche

I bring an offering of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
Jesus may You receive the honor that You’re due
O Lord I bring an offering to You
I bring an offering to You

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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 © 2012 Heather King

That Would Have Been Stupid

I could have done it by myself.

But that would have just been stupid.

Not that I didn’t think about it . . . a lot.

I awoke this morning to the sound of my two-year-old slamming open my bedroom door. Then my oldest daughter emerged from her room wrapped in her fleece blanket and looking for breakfast.

That’s when I heard it: my middle daughter scratching out the first words of her day.  She sounded like a desert travel who has gone too long without drink or shade.  “Mom,” she whispered, grasping at her throat, “water.  I need water.  Can’t . . . talk . . . . can’t . . . swallow.  Water.”

And so it began.  It’s the moment you look at your massive to-do list and the calendar showing all the places you need to be and then you glance at your child’s thermometer and you realize it ain’t happening the way you planned.  And that’s okay because she’s more important than checking off tasks on a piece of paper.

I started mentally moving activities around on my week-long chart of things to do and considering creative menu planning to help me stretch the food we had for four days, my next chance for grocery shopping.  Except we didn’t have bread.  And only a day’s supply of milk.  This could be a problem.

I called the doctor’s office and they kindly gave me the only appointment open that day, which sadly was right in the middle of nap time  Still, I was grateful they squeezed us in at all.

After I called the school, I glanced back at my calendar and remembered that I had to lead worship for a women’s Bible Study group the next day, a commitment I had made over two months ago.

Then I came up with a masterful plan.

I’d just make my two-year-old skip her nap today and drag her to the doctor’s office for my other daughter’s Strep test.  Then I’d cart them both, sick child and no-nap child, through the grocery story because without bread I couldn’t even feed my family sandwiches for dinner.  After that, I’d take them both by the church and clean up and prepare the Bible Study room for my small group.

Then the next day, I’d bring my toddler and my sick daughter, along with a cup of water and a throw-up bucket, to the ladies’ group where she could sit next to the piano while I led worship.

Why not?  I’ve done crazy stuff like that before.  It could work.

Maybe.  But it would be stupid.

So, I emailed a friend and asked her to lead Bible Study for me that night and she even offered to clean up the room after our project from the week before.

Then I called my mother-in-law and asked her to watch my girls while I led worship the next day.  She asked if I needed help with the two-year-old during the doctor’s visit in the afternoon during nap time.  No, of course I don’t need help, no way, I can do it . . . Well, actually, to be honest, help would be really nice.

I can’t be the only one who does this, practically killing myself at times all to avoid asking others for help.  Somehow, requesting help from others is always more difficult than asking God for a hand.

Because I am Woman, hear me roar!
Because I hate to inconvenience others who are also busy.
Because it feels really good when you’ve practically killed yourself doing things on your own to survey the results of the stress and realize “I Did That Myself.”

Stupid pride.

Yet today when I made my calls and emails to ask for help, guess what?  People were happy to help.  Not only that, they even heaped on all kinds of blessing and grace, helping me in ways I hadn’t even thought to ask.

This is what we are supposed to do for each other, loving one another with self-sacrificing, abundant-blessing love. In fact, Paul told us this was part of fulfilling Jesus’ instructions:  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV).

Sometimes that means we’re the ones stooping down to lift the load of another to carry it a while on our own backs.  Sometimes we’re the one others lean on, the person others call in times of need and distress.

And that’s a joy to do.

But then there are those days when our own load is pushing our shoulders low to the ground or we realize that short of cloning ourselves, we just can’t get it all done.

When someone notices our burdened limping and asks to help us, we too often reject them.  We deprive them of the blessing God would give them for pouring themselves out for another.

Instead, we stress ourselves and our families out when we pridefully insist on doing it all ourselves.

This isn’t about taking advantage of friends and family out of laziness or selfishness.  It’s about the mutual bearing the burdens of “one another.”  I’m part of the “one another,” and so are you.  God didn’t design anyone to be the burden-bearer for others all the time.  He designed us to have times to carry and times to rest, times to give help and times to receive it.

After all, even Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus during the walk to Golgotha (Mark 15:21).

Today, I just needed a little help with my load.  Instead of pretending I didn’t, I needed simply to receive that help and be thankful.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 03/10/2012

Hiding the Word:

We’ve returned home after a long and exciting family day at our area Awana games.  Our two oldest girls competed in Sparks-A-Rama for the first time.  We cheered them on from the bleechers as they popped balloons, dodged balls, and ran like lightning-ish around the gym floor.

Our coaches and the kids worked hard for weeks to practice the games, to learn the rules, and to develop discipline, listening skills, teamwork and kindness.

I was so proud of our team. Not only that, but I loved the sweet cheerleading of my youngest daughter as she sat in the stands and picked her sisters out from the crowd.  Whether they were racing or sitting on the line while another team played, Catherine didn’t stop yelling, “Go, Toria! Go Lauren!”

We all need people in the stands cheering us on, whether we’re in the thick of the battle or resting for a few quiet moments.  God has commissioned us all with pom poms and asked us to call out our words of praise, perseverance, and encouragement for others.

So, that’s the verse that’s on my heart for the week.  It’s a challenge to each of us to be the cheerleader that someone else needs.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

Weekend Rerun:

The Giving of Courage
Originally Published 04/27/2011

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 20:24-25 

My sweet baby girl is my cheerleader.  I finish putting the clothes in the dryer and she claps her hands excitedly for me.  I change her diaper; she shouts yay!  yay!  and applauds with enthusiasm.   I drop the last of her toys into the basket and she does a happy dance and showers me with praise.  When I slide the last puzzle piece into place with her, she cheers and shouts.  If you spent the tiniest bit of time in my home, you’d think I won an Olympic medal every hour all day long because my “crowd goes wild” just that often.  My little crowd of one tiny, joyful cheerleader.

Has someone been a cheerleader for you before? 

You sit tired in the pew at church after the rush of Sunday morning preparation, but you made it and all your children sit next to you with clean clothes on.  Small victories.  Then a comforting hand reaches across your shoulder and a friend tells you, “Great job.  You’re such a great mom.”

You push your cart through the grocery store and try to efficiently and frugally shop all while monitoring the arms and legs of your various kids and periodically reminding them to use “inside voices,” when an unknown woman whispers to you, “Your children are so well-behaved.”

You pour yourself out into the ministry you know God has called you to and yet there are those moments and days when you wonder if it really matters, if it does any good, if anybody is blessed by it, if it’s worth the time and effort you spend on it.  Then, you sort through the bills after collecting your mail and find buried in there a card from a friend, a note of appreciation and thanks, a prayer, a verse.

You’ve been struggling.  Life is hard.  You don’t know what decisions to make.  You’re hurting and overwhelmed.  Then an email arrives and a friend says, “I’m praying for you.”

God uses others to bring us these messages of hope and encouragement at just the right moments in our lives, filling needs we can’t even always identify. It’s one of the reasons He designed us to travel together—He knows our hearts sometimes need this cheerleading from others.  When we stray from the group, when we go off on our own and try to live faith solo, we are easy prey for attack.  The Israelites learned this on their journey out of Egypt: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18, NIV).

If your heart is weary and in need of some encouragement today, look to your right and your left for your group; be sure that you are connected and not lagging behind.  Perhaps the first step needs to come from you in a search for the Christian community that will walk alongside you and encourage you along the journey to the Promised Land.

But you can also ask God for the refreshing your heart needs.  He knows exactly what will fill your spirit, giving you strength to overcome fatigue, guidance when you need direction, laughter when your heart lacks joy.  As the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, God led them to an oasis: “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:27).    Priscilla Shirer writes: “‘Twelve springs of water’ to match the twelve tribes of Israel.  What a great illustration of God’s overwhelming care and specific concern for His people.  He knows exactly what it takes to refresh you.”

He is the shepherd who knows His sheep.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Sometimes we sheep feel the hunger and thirst; we know we are empty and in need of filling, but we depend on a Shepherd to guide us to the perfect place for refreshing and provision.

And when He has led us beside the waters so perfect and the green pastures so filling, we have a testimony to share with others, a story to help them along the way as well.  Like the Psalmist, we declare:

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7-8).

We who have received encouragement, in turn encourage others through our testimony.  This encouraging truly is the giving of courage, placing it into the heart of another.  Isn’t that what this cheerleading does? It renews our strength so that we persevere and press on.  God asks us to do this for one another, to stand on the sidelines of a race and cheer, shout, and applaud for the runners: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

How can you be a cheerleader for someone else today?

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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 © 2012 Heather King

Quiet Time With a Mop and a Bucket, Lesson 1

Today, I did the “Big Clean.”  Some of you may wash behind your refrigerator and stove every time you sweep the kitchen floor, but since that doesn’t happen here at my house, I occasionally have to do this super scrub-down.   Normally, I would sit down at this computer to write and share with you from my time spent studying the Bible.  But, today, I have primarily spent my quiet time with a scrub brush in hand, squeezing into corners on my hands and knees and sponging up the bucket of water that my baby girl has spilled onto the floor while “helping.”  I’ve cleaned and prayed, cleaned and thought, cleaned and worshiped, and this is what I have brought to our time together today—-lessons from a quiet time with a bucket and mop.

Lesson 1: You Are Not the Only One

I walked into my daughters’ room and spotted a tiny blob of jelly on one of her dresser drawers (was that jelly or some other mystery purple substance?).  I washed all the walls down in my home with a wet rag and felt mystified by the unidentifiable splatters.  It could be a game show—name that mess!  Is it cat hair, dust, marker, crayon, pencil, food, or drink?  I rescued a dozen stuffed animals from the prison under my daughters’ bed, collected up about 20 missing hair clips and ponytail holders and returned five books to their appropriate shelves.

And I thought, “I’m the only one.”

That’s right—the only woman whose kids leave behind remnants of food and sticky fingerprints as they move from room to room in the house.  I’m the only one who has a bag of socks to be matched and paired.  I’m the only one who has dirty baseboards and marks on the walls.

I’m the only one.  And if every other woman keeps her home spotless and I do not, that makes me a failure.

But then the epiphany moment—what if I think I’m the only one because I only see the homes of others after they’ve just cleaned and not while they are messy?

After all, if someone visited my home right this second (before my children have a chance to make more mess), they’d think, “She has it all together.  She does all of these things and keeps her home spotless.  I’m a failure for not being like her.”  Yet, if someone visited me this morning before I had washed the jelly off the dresser (yes, I definitely think  it must have been jelly), they would be thinking, “She’s a mess.  I’m a mess.  That means I’m normal.  I’m not the only one.  Other people don’t have it all together while I struggle with the daily juggling of life.  We’re all imperfect together.”  And they’d be right.

In life, we have a tendency only to share with people the areas of our heart, mind, experience and attitudes that have been through the “Big Clean.”  So, it’s easy for us all to look outwardly perfect and yet inside be feeling like a disastrous mess.

My all-time favorite move is Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.  In the movie, Katherine Hepburn plays Tracy Samantha Lord, a rich, intelligent, athletic woman who looks and acts perfect at all times.  Finally, though she discovers that she too has weaknesses, that she also needs grace, and that she is at heart “an unholy mess of a girl.”

Tracy Lord learned that we all are a mess at times.  This is one of the things I love about the apostle Paul, his willingness to share from his struggles as much as from his strengths.  He wrote:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.   That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Paul told others that he had problems, that he wasn’t perfect, that he had been the chief of sinners and that it was only God’s grace that saved him and now allowed him to preach the gospel to those who had never heard it.  More than that, he boasted in his weakness because it allowed God to shine through He let people see his life in the messy places so that they could marvel at God’s grace and rejoice in the fellowship of journeying to Christ together.  That’s one of the greatest encouragements we can give one another, the message that we’re not alone, but that we all are in need of Christ’s redemptive and purifying work.


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

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God
Ephesians 5:1

Today, a story in pictures.

To celebrate the first day of summer vacation, my girls and I with Grammy along to help, hopped in the van and made the trip to the newly opened Children’s Museum of Virginia.  We had toured every exhibit, played with every experiment, explored every room and we arrived at the final destination—a room set up as a stage with costumes in the corner, lighting and sound effects, and a puppet theater.

My oldest daughter first tries an octopus costume and then abandons it for a grass skirt and lei.  Then, like a superstar, she steps on the stage and begins to dance.  Grammy tells her to, “Use your hands to tell a story.”

Concluding her puppet show, my next daughter drops the prince and princess off her hands and runs to the costume corner.  Climbing into her own grass skirt, she then pops a lei over her head, steps on the stage and begins to dance just like her big sister.

Grammy and I watch the show and I snap pictures.  In the stroller sits my baby girl, tired and hungry.  She’s cuddling with her blanket now and ready for lunch and a nap.  We didn’t realize she was watching sisters one and two, but she was.  Climbing out of the stroller, she dashes over to the last grass skirt in the pile of costumes and wraps it around her little self.  I help tie it on her too-tiny waist and she then scoots away from me so that she can also step on the stage and dance.  She sways from side to side, waving her hands gently to the left, now to the right.   Hula dancing with the big girls.

Grammy tells the older sisters, “Look how she followed you even when we didn’t think she was really watching.  She wants to do what you girls do.  You always need to choose the right thing so that you set an example for her.”

They danced and hardly appreciated the wisdom in those words.  Make good decisions so those watching can follow your example.

To the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).  “Do what I do,” he says.  It seems prideful at best, almost blasphemous, surely dangerous to set himself up as a model for others. It’s context that brings clarity here.  In the same letter, Paul later writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) and that’s the key really.  Paul strove to be a living, breathing, walking around, interacting with others example of Christ and because of that, others could see Christ in Him, follow Christ in Him.  He practiced what he wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

Yesterday, our Pastor asked the congregation, “Who has been an example of faith to you?”  Around the sanctuary, people called out names.  I thought of many who model Christ to me and then I remembered Mama Zello, one of the first life-examples to me besides my mom, a woman I remember to this day and who I consciously think of often as I read my Bible.  I remember the church service when I was about 11 years old during which the pastor of our fairly large congregation asked his momma to stand up.  She stood delicately to her feet, a “seasoned” woman of the faith whom I had seen many times.  She was so faithful to be at church even as age and sickness could have made it difficult.  She gave hugs and smiles to others generously.  On that Sunday, the Pastor asked in his microphone from his pulpit, “Mom, how many times have you read the Bible all the way through?”   And she answered—one time for every year she had lived.  In her later years, she had read the Bible through two times in a year to make up for the years before she could read as a child.

Just ponder that for a moment.  Imagine on your 80th birthday having read the Bible 80 times.

I was inspired.  Not by Biblical scholarship.  Mama Zello’s Bible reading was not head knowledge without life change.  She read the Bible over and over not to show off, not to stuff more information into her brain, not to attain some worldly success or make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.  She did it because she loved God and wanted to know Him more intimately so that her life could reflect Him.  Now, her son had risen “up and called her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).  For me sitting in that sanctuary seat, it meant that the Bible mattered, really mattered in life, that when I stood up as a woman of 80, my greatest life accomplishment should be that I loved God’s Word that passionately and let it stir up in me a love for others.

She lived a life of example to me even when she didn’t know I was watching.  I was just a preteen girl sitting next to her parents in church on a Sunday morning and yet seeing and knowing this woman of faith impacts my life even now.

Do you live like that?  Do you imitate Christ so closely that others can imitate you—not worship you, idolize you, or adore you—-but see and follow Christ in you?  Does knowing you make others want to know more about God?

And, do you have an example like that in your life?  Someone whose life you can look at and say, “By following her, I am following a mentor who will teach me about God” or “that’s what I want to be like when I grow up.”   Certainly we must be careful not to place these examples on impossible pedestals and treat them as demigods.  Instead, we remember that in all their humanness, they have traveled with Christ a little farther than we’ve made it so far on our journey.  So, we can place our toes confidently into the impressions in the sand their feet have made and know we are simultaneously journeying to Christ-likeness.

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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

Pray For Us, Part II

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”
James 5:16

You can read Pray for Us, Part I here.

Part II: We Need to Pray for Others

We need to have praying friends, but we also need to be a praying friend.  Be honest, now—how often have you said, “I’ll pray for you,” to someone and meant it with all your heart, only to forget all about it until you see them again?  For years, that was me.  I’d offer to pray for surgeries and doctor’s appointments, marriages and infertility, job interviews and ministry events.  I’d promise it and then I’d forget it.

We need, though, not just to say we’re going to pray, but to truly bow down at the throne of God and lift up our friends, family, and church members, interceding on their behalf.  There are times indeed when we will be the paralyzed one carried to Jesus by our praying friends and lowered through the roof to His feet.  Yet, there are also moments when we need to be the kind of friend who carries others to Jesus, despite the obstacles and despite the weight of the burden (Mark 2:1-5).

Oswald Chambers wrote: “Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them.  In this way, God is going to touch the whole world with His saints.”

Have you seen what Oswald Chambers describes in action?  In this world of technology and social networking, I see people around the world committing to pray for a child with cancer, whom they have never met.  These are mobile, global, continual prayer vigils offered up on behalf of another.  It is God’s way indeed of “touching the whole world with His saints.”

And we are all invited to be a part of that.  God does not appoint one person in a group to pray for everyone else or call one person to intercessory prayer and give everyone else a “Get Out of Prayer” card.  He invites all of us to His throne room on behalf of the people we meet in “everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence.”  Perhaps God sent you through that particular line at the grocery store so you could meet and pray for your cashier.  Maybe the hairdresser who checks your name off the list and calls you back to the shampoo bowl was God-appointed so that you could pray for her.  That interruption in your day that sent you to the store unexpectedly may have been so that you could meet up with a friend from small group, whom you had forgotten to pray for.

So then, how do you combat forgetfulness and busyness and self-centeredness and make praying for others a consistent reality rather than a broken promise?  These are some changes I’ve made over the years so that when I say, “I’ll pray for you,” I truly do.

  •  Mark it on your calendar: Mingled among doctor’s appointments, ballet lessons, and cookouts, prayer requests dot my calendar.  Surgery dates, job interviews, baby due dates, and court appearances are marked on the squares so that I will remember to pray on the very days necessary.
  • Pray right away: If someone calls me with a prayer request, I may very well pray right there on the phone.  If not, I pray as soon as I  hang up.  I may be cutting onions, stirring pasta, washing dishes or folding clothes while I’m doing it, but I’m praying while it is fresh on my heart and mind.  If I receive an email with a prayer request, I pray over it as I read and as soon as I’m finished.  Maybe I’ll write it down in my prayer journal so that I continue to pray over days, weeks or months, but I know that the moment I’ve received a request, I’ve already covered it in prayer.
  • Pray as you read Scripture: I’m forever copying into my journal powerful Scriptures that speak life to me, but I also have Scriptures on those journal pages for others.  As I read, I ask God to reveal Scriptures that I can pray for those on my prayer list and He does.  Right there in that moment, Bible in my hand, I pray for the person who has popped into my mind in association with that verse. ” God, place a new song in her heart” (Psalm 40).  “God, fill her with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).  Every time I open my Bible, I begin a conversation with God that often includes requests for others.
  • Stop, Drop and Pray: We’ve all had those moments when we’re running through our day and a friend appears in our thoughts for a moment.  “I need to call her,” we might think.  Or, “I need to remember to pray for her later.”  I’ve slowly learned to immediately obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit and pray right then and there, regardless of convenience.  I don’t need to wait until my quiet time to lift up a friend to God.  I stop where I am, drop what I’m doing even if only for a few seconds, and pray—-before I forget and before urgent things distract me.
  • Post It:  I’ve tried keeping a notebook of prayer requests before and it hasn’t worked for me.  What I have done, though, is find ways to post the prayer requests so I see them all day and pray for them often.  I have a prayer list for my kids on my refrigerator door.  For years, I toted around a handwritten list of the prayers from Power of a Praying Wife in my car to pray as I traveled (the list has long since disintegrated from wear and being spilled on).   On my desk, I posted index cards, one for Bible Study, one for my family, one for community friends, etc.  I wrote out vague but meaningful prayer prompts so that every time I glanced up while working, I saw a name and prayer request to take before God.

These tiny changes, none of them life-altering or difficult, have allowed me to follow through on my promises to pray for those I meet.  Now, if I say, “I’ll pray for you,” I don’t just mean it with all my heart, I actually pray it with all my heart.  Prayer is powerful and praying for another is one of the greatest ways we can love them and bless them, even if they never even know how much time we’ve spent before God on their behalf.

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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

Pray for Us, Part I

“Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you”
2 Thessalonians 3:1

Bible Study time done, the group started sharing prayer requests.  Please pray.  Please pray.  Please pray, we ask one another.  For my friend.  For my child.  For my husband.  For my coworker.

For me.

Dialoguing with myself silently there at the table, I jotted down the requests of others and thought, “mine seems so silly, so selfish, so small.  Haven’t I prayed for myself already?”

Surely I had.  Not more than one hour before sitting down at that table to teach others, I had been face-to-face with my carpet, not just on my knees, but prostrate before God.  All stretched out before His throne in humble need (hoping my children didn’t come searching for me and find Mommy on the floor).  Not for cancer.  Not for death.  Not for brokenness.  For a string of bad days, for lack of sleep, for a husband who was away, for knowing that I felt far too ill-equipped to teach anyone from God’s Word that night.  What else to pray, but “help me, God!” and to tell Satan to get lost—in Jesus’s name, of course.

Yet, knowing full well that it matters when others pray for us, that the combined power of saints on their knees works in ways that my private prayers do not, I shared my tiny need with the group of ladies gathered at the table.  “I need the rest of this week to get better.  I need my children to sleep and not wake up grumpy, whining and so quick to fight with each other.  I need no more animal mishaps like 30 of my fish dying from some freak thermostat disaster.  We’ve had such a rough start; please pray for us.”

We prayed.  I went home, chased children around the house with pajamas and toothbrushes, climbed into bed all weary myself.  The next morning I woke up for the first time in months, not to the sound of a child, but just because of morning sunlight.  I awoke to a day that got better and better and a week no longer plagued with sleeplessness and stress.  I awoke to notes from friends and family saying they were praying for me.

We prayed.  God answered.

How often have you sat in your small group, though, looked around at Christians you love and you trust, and not shared your prayer need?

Because you were afraid to share the request you have, maybe even ashamed and embarrassed.
Because everyone’s prayer requests seemed so much bigger than yours.
Because it seemed so selfish to ask for prayer for yourself and much more acceptable to ask on behalf of others.

Remember these things:

We Need Others to Pray for Us

Paul poured out prayers in his letters to the churches, that they would understand the love of God, know His will, and persevere in the midst of trials.  To the Thessalonians, he wrote: “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).  Then, he asked for their prayers in return, “Finally brothers, pray for us, that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

There is no question that Paul himself was praying for the effective spread of the Gospel; nevertheless, he requested those same prayers from others.  He knew that corporate prayer has power and the unified petitions of the saints have impact.  So, praying in your own home and in your own car is good and necessary, but you should not be ashamed, embarrassed, or reluctant to call for backup and enlist the prayer support of others.  It is part of the giving and receiving that we do in the Body of Christ.  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

In some ways, Paul was giving the Thessalonian church a gift.  He invited them into ministry partnership with Him, asking them to pray for him and his missionary team as they traveled and shared the Gospel.  We give each other a gift when we invite others into prayer partnership with us.  They now have a part in healing marriages, restoring broken relationships, shepherding wayward children, defeating disease, leading ministries, and redeeming finances.  Not in their own strength, but because they intercede before God on our behalf.  They struggle in prayer and wrestle the Enemy and receive victory in partnership with us.

There are times when our friends must carry us to Jesus, paralyzed as we are like the man in Capernaum.  He could have lain their unable to move and simply hoped that Jesus would notice him on the outskirts of the crowd, but the needs were many and the mob of people overwhelming.  Instead, four friends carried him to Jesus, parting the crowds as best they could and then climbing up on the roof and lowering him down to Jesus’s feet (Mark 2:1-5).  We need friends with such faith, friends who will bring us to Christ’s sandaled toes and request healing for what paralyzes us.

Do you have someone to pray for you and with you?  It could be a small group or it could be one faithful praying friend.  Seek that out so that you do not battle the bad days or the life crises alone.

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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


Easy Like Pancakes

Today, I have a treat for you!  A guest blogger!!!  Yes, my loving husband has made himself vulnerable and written today’s post.  I hope you enjoy it!!

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 “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
Romans 12:4-5

This past Sunday, millions of fathers and their children all across America sought to honor the wives and mothers in their lives by taking over the usual chores and doing them poorly.  In my own house this took the form of an attempt at making pancakes for my wife, your regularly scheduled blogger here.  Now, you must understand that if the food product doesn’t have the words ‘microwave’ or ‘Ramen’ printed on it, I have never tried cooking it before.  Nevertheless, I stumbled out of bed ninety minutes earlier than normal so I could execute the surprise with my daughters’ help.

I grasped the box firmly in hand and read the first line across the top of the box: Makes 8-12 Pancakes.  That should be enough for two adults and three children.  What else would I need?  1 egg, 1Tablespoon of oil, and ¾ cup of milk.  It didn’t seem difficult at all, but I re-read the package three more times anyways.  Confident that I had not missed anything, I dumped the entire box of pancake mix in the bowl, followed by the 1 egg, 1Tablespoon of oil, and ¾ cup of milk.  I handed my middle child the spoon and told her to start stirring.

After five minutes of earnest stirring, I began to suspect something was wrong.   The clump in the bowl looked more like concrete mix than pancake batter.  My daughter obviously was not stirring it correctly.  Two minutes later, sweat forming on my brow and palms, I realized something was dreadfully wrong.  I grabbed the box again and read the very first ingredient that was previously obscured by my thumb: 1 cup of pancake of mix.  There was way more than 1 cup of pancake mix in the whole box, now in the bowl .

The only breakfast meal simpler than pancakes is cold cereal and toast, yet I had messed it up.

What followed was a lot of rough math and guess work to get the proportions of eggs, milk, oil, and pancake mix back in order.  About an hour after we started, we had something that looked like what I thought pancake batter should look like.  All 60 servings of it.  Eventually, we had enough decent looking pancakes to serve to Heather, but not before a number of other pancakes were snuffed out in gooey immaturity or sacrificed as a burnt offering.

Now, there are lots of different spiritual lessons that can be learned from this episode.  The first is that reading and obeying only part of a given set instructions is not going to lead to a satisfying conclusion for anyone involved.  The one I think I want to focus on though is appreciating every little thing that others do in service for us, especially the stuff that looks simple.

Mothers get a small portion of that deserved appreciation on this holiday, but as the holiday passes, I would like to expand that thought to those who serve in our churches in very important but unrecognized ways.  Someone in your church changes the burnt out light bulbs.  Someone in your church watches your children in the nursery.  Someone in your church manages the sound and the video during the service.  Someone in your church sets up the chairs at the special events.  Someone in your church unlocks the doors before you get there and locks them again when you leave.  Someone in your church spends the entire meal time in the kitchen, and then cleans up afterwards.

Like making pancakes, these jobs may seem really simple to someone who has never done them before.   However, they all have challenges that go unrecognized until the first time YOU try to do it yourself.  Do you know what wattage light bulbs your church uses?  Do you know how many diapers you would need in the nursery for a month?  Do you know which of the one hundred and eighty-five knobs to turn on the sound board so we can hear the preacher?  How many chairs and tables will you need for that special event and how much food should you prepare?

Romans 12:4-5 says, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  Later in verse 16 Paul writes, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”  My footnote here says, “be willing to do menial work.”

There are people in your church who commit themselves every week to a job that no one notices until it’s done poorly, or not all.  It’s kinda like a mom’s many jobs, right?  I hope you gave the mom in your life her due respect this past Sunday, and I hope by next Sunday you’ve thanked someone in your church for the job they do.  And afterwards, you can come to our house for lunch.  We’ll still be eating leftover pancakes.

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James King is my husband and worship leader and the guest poster for the day.  Thanks to you, my love!

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.


The Giving of Courage

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 20:24-25 

My sweet baby girl is my cheerleader.  I finish putting the clothes in the dryer and she claps her hands excitedly for me.  I change her diaper; she shouts yay!  yay!  and applauds with enthusiasm.   I drop the last of her toys into the basket and she does a happy dance and showers me with praise.  When I slide the last puzzle piece into place with her, she cheers and shouts.  If you spent the tiniest bit of time in my home, you’d think I won an Olympic medal every hour all day long because my “crowd goes wild” just that often.  My little crowd of one tiny, joyful cheerleader.

Has someone been a cheerleader for you before? 

You sit tired in the pew at church after the rush of Sunday morning preparation, but you made it and all your children sit next to you with clean clothes on.  Small victories.  Then a comforting hand reaches across your shoulder and a friend tells you, “Great job.  You’re such a great mom.”

You push your cart through the grocery store and try to efficiently and frugally shop all while monitoring the arms and legs of your various  kids and periodically reminding them to use “inside voices,” when an unknown woman whispers to you, “Your children are so well-behaved.”

You pour yourself out into the ministry you know God has called you to and yet there are those moments and days when you wonder if it really matters, if it does any good, if anybody is blessed by it, if it’s worth the time and effort you spend on it.  Then, you sort through the bills after collecting your mail and find buried in there a card from a friend, a note of appreciation and thanks, a prayer, a verse.

You’ve been struggling.  Life is hard.  You don’t know what decisions to make.  You’re hurting and overwhelmed.  Then an email arrives and a friend says, “I’m praying for you.”

God uses others to bring us these messages of hope and encouragement at just the right moments in our lives, filling needs we can’t even always identify. It’s one of the reasons He designed us to travel together—He knows our hearts sometimes need this cheerleading from others.  When we stray from the group, when we go off on our own and try to live faith solo, we are easy prey for attack.  The Israelites learned this on their journey out of Egypt: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18, NIV).

If your heart is weary and in need of some encouragement today, look to your right and your left for your group; be sure that you are connected and not lagging behind.  Perhaps the first step needs to come from you in a search for the Christian community that will walk alongside you and encourage you along the journey to the Promised Land.

But you can also ask God for the refreshing your heart needs.  He knows exactly what will fill your spirit, giving you strength to overcome fatigue, guidance when you need direction, laughter when your heart lacks joy.  As the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, God led them to an oasis: “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:27).    Priscilla Shirer writes: “‘Twelve springs of water’ to match the twelve tribes of Israel.  What a great illustration of God’s overwhelming care and specific concern for His people.  He knows exactly what it takes to refresh you.”

He is the shepherd who knows His sheep.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Sometimes we sheep feel the hunger and thirst; we know we are empty and in need of filling, but we depend on a Shepherd to guide us to the perfect place for refreshing and provision.

And when He has led us beside the waters so perfect and the green pastures so filling, we have a testimony to share with others, a story to help them along the way as well.  Like the Psalmist, we declare:

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7-8).

We who have received encouragement, in turn encourage others through our testimony.  This encouraging truly is the giving of courage, placing it into the heart of another.  Isn’t that what this cheerleading does? It renews our strength so that we persevere and press on.  God asks us to do this for one another, to stand on the sidelines of a race and cheer, shout, and applaud for the runners: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

How can you be a cheerleader for someone else today?

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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

Traveling Companions

On Tuesday nights, I sit at a table with other women, Bibles open.  We ask—What’s going on in your life?  What does the Bible say?  Where are you headed?  Where have you been?  What do you need?  How can I pray for you?

It’s a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, a growing place, a grace place, a truth place.

I love these women, each so uniquely designed by God with pasts so different, but hope in Christ the same.  They are my traveling companions.

And this is what we need, really.  Community.  Strength from relationships.  Just how far would Naomi have made it in her travels if Ruth hadn’t insisted on packing a bag for the journey, too?  Naomi —A hurt woman, weighed by age and life, far from her homeland, changing her name to Mara—“Bitterness”— and trekking back to her people, her nation, her God.  Widow Naomi.   Now childless Naomi.  Without Ruth, Naomi would probably have been buried along the pathway, lost and alone.  With Ruth, came strength, companionship, blessing.  A new home.  Food from Ruth’s work gleaning in the fields.  Redemption by Kinsman-Redeemer Boaz through Ruth’s marriage.  And a place in the lineage of King David, of Jesus, through Ruth and Boaz’s son.

All because of tenacious friendship, of shared pain and faith, of the self-sacrifice of one friend to another.

Then there’s Elijah.  The bold and courageous prophet who, in the showdown of all showdowns against 450 prophets of Baal, had demonstrated God’s glory before all the people of Israel.  Fire from heaven consumed a sacrifice soaked and an altar pouring over with water.   The people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39, NIV).

Immediately after this victory, Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him and “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.  When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (1 Kings 19:3-4, NIV).

Elijah’s mistake was in the traveling alone.  He ran to Beersheba—the southernmost portion of the land—and then he left his servant and ran for another whole day by himself.  Alone.  No companion to speak truth into his heart.  No friend to share his burden and pray with him and point him back to God.  No accountability.  No encouragement.  No truth-speaking.  No love.

It’s what happens when we journey without a traveling companion.

And so Elijah sat on a mountain, dejected, depressed, overcome with fear and grief and bitterness.  God met him in that place, talked him out of the cave and down off the precipice.  The very next thing God did was give him a friend.

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat . . . Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him…Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21, NIV).

Elijah needed Elisha.  Partner, friend, servant, apprentice.

Not just any traveling companion will do, though.  Who we walk with determines where we go.  Some make the journey harder or full of obstacles or lead us astray to shortcuts and paths unknown.

Just ask Abraham.

Abram and Sarah didn’t set out for Canaan alone.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.   Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:31-32, NIV).

God called Abram out of Ur, told him to pack his bags and get going on a journey at God’s direction.  And Abram obeyed, taking his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot.  But, something happened along the way.  It’s a mysterious blank.  We can’t peek into the windows of the family tent and overhear the discussion.  Something happened and they stopped before reaching their destination. 

They didn’t just check in for an overnight rest in the Motel 8.  They settled there.  And when Abram’s dad passed away, that’s when the journey began again.  That’s when God called Abram once more and told him to keep moving forward on the path that had so mysteriously been interrupted.

Sometimes our traveling companions convince us to settle with less than God’s promises.  They look around at what the world has to offer and find fertile land and a good place to dwell. Pitching their tents, they urge us to make this our home.  Not God’s best, perhaps, not all that God has planned for us, but surely good enough.

The Apostle Paul, though, knew how to choose a traveling buddy.  Paul with Silas, singing praises in the prison in the night.  Paul with Barnabus–the Encourager—set aside for ministry to the Gentiles.  Paul and Timothy–building a church, building church leadership.

And Paul and Titus.  In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul wrote to the church, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within.   But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (NIV).

Paul was the apostle who told us all things work for the good, to rejoice always and again rejoice, to be content in all circumstances, that God can supply all our needs, and do abundantly and immeasurably more than our wildest dreams.

Still, Paul was frightened at times, too.   Just like you and me, he had his moments.  God didn’t punish Paul for lack of faith or chastise his weakness.  Instead, God provided for a need.  Paul needed a traveling companion to bring comfort and encouragement in dark days.  Titus was God’s answer to Paul’s fear.

Paul knew this truly.  He usually traveled in partnership.  He had written: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ… for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5, NIV).

It seems contradictory at first.  Carry each other’s burdens.  Each one carry their own load.  But there’s a difference here.  Paul says each one of us should do our own daily load of life, the everyday, the things we can handle.  Do it yourself.  Don’t lay your everyday over the back of someone else and kick back and relax while they struggle.

Burdens, though, are meant to be borne in partnership.  In community with each other, we lift up onto four shoulders what is far too heavy for just two.

That’s the way God designed us—to travel together.  Ruth with Naomi.  Elijah with Elisha.  Paul with Titus, with Silas, with Barnabas, with Timothy.  You and me, heading to Canaan, to Christ-likeness, to abundant life, shifting burdens onto backs along the way and laying them down at the cross together.  Alone we will not make it.   Together, though, we journey past obstacles, depression, fear, and discouragement, to our hoped-for destination, our Promised Land.

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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