The Worst Thing That Can Happen

Our thermometer changes colors when it detects a fever, and it flashed red and beeped its little alarm at us last night.  My daughter hit the couch after school and by dinner the fever had come on strong.

Not too alarming.  Nothing to be afraid about.  Just an unexpected temperature spike at the end of a day when she had felt just fine.

She asks me questions with increasing concern, though.  What if I feel fine in the morning, do I really have to miss school?   Do I have to stay out the whole day?

I assured her that yes, fever tonight means no school tomorrow.  No question about it.

It takes a few questions of my own to root out the cause of her concern.  She’ll miss a quiz that she’ll have to make up  on Monday and that will take away time from something else she really enjoys at school.  Oh, and she’s supposed to get extra recess as a reward for some work  she did over spring break.  Plus her  friends will worry because they have a big project they are all working on together and she doesn’t want to let them down.

It all seems so “big.”  So very vital.  So much to miss out  on.  So much reason to feel pressured and anxious.

But I ask her this:   What’s the worst that  can happen?

It feels like I’ve been asking that a lot lately.  When we chat about scheduling classes for next year and my soon-to-be high schooler feels like she has to make every decision perfectly  or her whole life will be forever stunted, I  ask the question then, too.

What’s the worst that can happen?

It’s not a magic question that solves every problem, but it’s been changing our perspective a bit.  What’s the worst thing that could happen with these high school decisions?

High school goes terribly wrong and it’s all a mess and a nightmare,  so we do something else. We ask God for new direction and we leave that school and make another plan.  We have options and possibilities.  Nobody is stuck here.

So, we calm down.  We breathe a little deeper.  We know the worst thing doesn’t often happen,  but even when it does, God is with us.  He’ll take care of us.  We’ll be okay.

We have hope.

I asked it again last night of a little nine-year-old girl who is stressing out over missing a Friday at school.

What’s the worst thing?  You miss out on some special activities and you have to make up some work on Friday.  That’s disappointing maybe, but it’s something we can handle.

I don’t want to trivialize this in any way.  Mostly, we’re fighting back the enemy of anxiety, of worry, of fretting over every day situations.

Like when I’m waiting on one child to be dismissed from an activity and they are running late. Ten minutes late.  I’m starting to freak out a little bit and I’m catching my breath more than a little bit.

Then I think about what’s true. The worst thing here is that we’re 10 minutes late to the next activity on the night’s agenda.  And a few minutes late to the next thing after that.  And dinner is a bit rushed.

That’s not worth hyperventilating over in a pick-up line.

Even so, I know sometimes the worst thing actually does happen in life, and it’s every bit as hard and heartbreaking as we ever imagined.  I’ve walked through those seasons, too.   I’ve prayed “Anything but this one thing, Lord.  Please don’t let this one thing happen.”

Sometimes God answers prayers with a gentle “no,” and I have heard that “no.”

But I have also felt the sweetness of the Lord in the hardest seasons, His gentleness, His grace, His kindness, and His loving, faithful presence.  “Behold I am with you always,” Jesus promised (Matthew 28:20).

In Morning and Evening, Spurgeon wrote:

Faith’s way is to drop every care on the Lord and then to anticipate good results from the worst calamities.  Like  Gideon’s men, faith does not worry over a broken pitcher—it rejoices that the lamp shines unimpeded.”

Am I the kind of girl who frets over a broken pitcher or who rejoices over the clarity of light?

Maybe right now I’m mostly a girl who reacts to the broken pitcher.  I’m upset about the brokenness, maybe upset about the inconvenience, or the change in the plans.

Maybe I even worry so much about whether the pitcher will break that I’m afraid to be bold, to take risks, to walk in faith.

I ‘m learning, though, to see His Light and to let His Light shine even through broken places:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV)

 

 

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Weddings can be confusing to a four-year-old.

My son is actively preparing for his role as ringbearer in a family wedding this weekend.  By actively preparing, I mean we periodically hand him a pillow to hold and ask him to walk it across the room slowly.

He’s been thinking about this a great deal.  Randomly as we drive about town, he’ll call out questions about all this wedding activity from his seat in the minivan.

“Mom, why do they want girls  to throw flowers?”

There is no context for this question. We’re just driving along.  We ‘re not in church and we haven’t been talking about the wedding.  So, it  takes me a few seconds to  place his question and then it takes me a few more seconds to figure out an answer.

Because—seriously—why does the flower girl drop flower petals to  the ground as she walks?

He also wants to know why he has to carry a pillow?  Why will there be rings on the pillow?  Why he has to look “handsome” in suspenders and a bowtie?  And whether or not he can “run-walk” up the aisle (which apparently is a steady paced walk with an occasional quick-step shuffle forward thrown in).

This is all before he’s even seen the rehearsal.  I can only  imagine the questions he’ll ask after he’ sees the full gamut of wedding traditions, including bouquet-tossing, candle-lighting, and more.

For now, my little guy still considers mom and dad the official source of all knowledge.  He brings us his questions about weddings and more in a fairly steady stream and he trusts us to know or to find out.

That’s something I’m considering because I’m a question-asker myself from way back. I’m always the girl asking the most questions in any meeting or gathering.

And that’s okay, because  I’m also the girl who knows I  can bring all those questions to Jesus.

That’s why I’m stunned as I read this in the gospel of Mark:

But they (the disciples) did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him (Mark 9:32 NASB).

Jesus declared that He would be “delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later” (Mark 9:31 NASB).

It makes sense to us in retrospect, but it didn’t make sense to the disciples at the time . He’ll be killed?  He’ll rise again?

They didn’t understand, but they were afraid to  ask.

Why?

Were they worried that Jesus would chastise them for not understanding?  Were they too embarrassed?  Did they fear the answer?

Whatever the reason, the disciples didn’t trust Jesus enough to ask Him the question they all had on their hearts.

That doesn’t have to be us.

In Judges 6 when God called Gideon to lead Israel to victory, Gideon answered the way I would have.

He answered with questions:

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian…how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:13, 15 NIV).

So many questions might exhaust me as a parent, but God was always so gentle and patient with Gideon.  He didn’t berate, mock,  or condemn.

Instead, He redirected Gideon’s need for answers to seeing that God IS the answer for the overwhelming and the frightening.

God’s answer was this:

“….Am I not sending you?….I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:14, 16 NIV).

He sent Gideon.  He would be with Gideon.  And He promised Gideon victory.

The NLT Personal Worship Bible says this:

The God whom we worship is  not distressed by our questions. He knows that, like Gideon, we often feel weak, inadequate, or overwhelmed by life. He desires our honesty in worship  and wants us to bring to him those issues, questions, and doubts that are on our minds.

And here’s what’s true—the answers he gives might not always be what we’re looking for.  We might not get details we want.  We might not get the confirmation we’re looking for.

But we will receive the reassurance of His presence and His character.  He will be with us, just as He promised  to be with Gideon.

So, keep bringing your questions to Him and trust His answers.

That’s What I Want

I’m a tiny bit of a Wal-Mart celebrity.

It’s eight years of working with our small-town church’s Vacation Bible School …plus eight-and-a-half years of being mom to young kids who have too many friends to fit the playdates into the schedule…plus years of singing songs with kids in our church’s Children’s Church…plus some children’s community theater work …and Voila: Wal-Mart Celebrity Status.

Pushing my cart around the store, totally focused on comparing coupons with the 50+ options on the shelves, trying to keep up with the shopping list and the meal plan, I’ll still know it’s happening.

A child recognizes me.

Sometimes it’s a whisper, “Mom, I know her!  She’s from ____!”

Maybe it involves finger pointing or bashful waving.

Occasionally, I’ll be just about tackled down in a football hug.

My favorite is when they recognize me but they can’t remember why, so they are simultaneously trying to get my attention while looking a tiny bit confused, a lot shy, and maybe even socially panicked if I actually wave back.

Oh, fame.

But this isn’t really fame, of course, not in the worldly sense of paparazzi, limos, mansions, TV commercials, bestsellers and autograph lines.

This is just kids excited that you made a difference in their lives in the way only a rural, small-town church girl and momma can.

Maybe it’s pride, the world, Satan, or just ugly sin, but something drives us so often to push and shove our way to the front row of this crowded planet.  To be recognized.  To be the best.  To gain followers and have that spotlight track us around a stage.

But the world is a crowded and noisy place with so many people clamoring and shouting in order to be heard over all the ruckus.

Mostly our motives aren’t deep down evil.  What we want, really and truly, is to make a difference for God.  We want to be part of His ministry, be His hands, His feet, His voice.

We want to do something “Great” for God, believing that God has called us to “Great” things and is going to give us a “Great” ministry.

Yet, “Great” to God so often requires humble invisibility and sometimes painful but unrecognized giving.

Jesus said:

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45 NIV).

“Great” means service, even slavery.  It means self-sacrifice so extreme it’s life-demanding.

What if “Great” means bringing up Godly children who serve the Lord into adulthood?

Or building into a strong marriage that lasts and models Christ’s covenant love and faithful commitments to a world bruised and beaten by the lies of selfish passion and cheap vows?

Or sticking with that tiny Sunday School class or small group year after faithful year?

Or being content with Wal-Mart Celebrity Status or even less recognition than that?

My husband says it:

Desire Impact, Not Fame.gideon

Impact.  Aretha Franklin belted out a plea for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but Impact is what I want.

Not glory for me; just glory for Him.  Not attention for me; just praise and honor for Him.

And impact doesn’t start by reaching out to crowds and arenas and the world en masse.

Impact begins with obedience right in our homes, churches and communities.

If God takes us on beyond that, Amen.  So be it.  God’s will be done.

If He doesn’t, still it is yes and Amen.

In her study, Gideon, Priscilla Shirer notes that Gideon’s first assignment as God’s Mighty Warrior was to:

Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah polebeside it (Judges 6:25 NIV)

His work began in his own home, not leading the Israelite army into battle against the Midianites.

And Abraham’s calling didn’t begin as founder of a nation.  Instead, God said:

For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just (Genesis 18:19).

For Gideon, for Abraham…for us, that means focusing on the everyday, the invisible, the humbling, the self-sacrificing, the mundane, and the small and always, in all things, giving glory to Him.

As Priscilla Shirer writes:

What lies ahead in your journey is not nearly as critical as where you are right now…your greatest impact will be done here—in the ordinary rhythms of your daily living (Gideon, p. 63).

That is where impact begins.

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

Garden Devotions: Seeds, Identity and Gideon

Originally published May 16, 2012

The Lord answered, “I will be with you”
Judges 6:16a

She stands under 3 feet tall, this baby girl of mine.  With one hand tossed up to her hip, she stomps her feet on the ground twice, three times perhaps for emphasis, and screams, “Never Again!!!” in a voice that commands attention, if not respect.  If she’s really upset, she might even engage in some finger wagging.

My husband and I stifle grins at the sight of her: two years old and she could command an army.

When she was born, a woman we’ve never met heard the name we chose for our baby and declared, “Oh, a woman of authority.”

I’ve pondered this as I watched my baby–so assured of her own mind—turn into a toddler—set on sharing her mind. I can see the hints of leadership, yes, even authority crammed into the body and soul of a toddler.

My Catherine reminds me so often of the seeds we planted in pots on our deck this year.  They appear so small and yet inside an explosive seedsforce lies dormant, ready to break out of its shell and grow and grow and grow . . . and hopefully produce much fruit.

Holding that ordinary seed in our hands, we can’t begin to imagine the potential for beauty and nourishment within once it receives proper care and tending.  The only hint we have of the future is the picture on the package.

Sometimes even then we’re surprised.

When we planted this year, we set aside one long planter for carrots and covered over about 20 seeds with 1/4 inch of dirt.  Within a few days, shoots of green appeared.

But strangely enough, they didn’t look like carrots.  In fact, they looked identical to the radish sprouts now growing up in other pots.

Maybe my daughters sprinkled some radish seeds in places I didn’t expect.

Sometimes we look at others or ourselves and see plain, brown, ordinary, small, and insignificant specks.  Mystery seeds.

If we’re particularly imaginative, we might even think we see the potential for carrots, only to learn later that God really designed us to be radishes.

Surprise!

Ultimately, God sees what we cannot.  He recognizes all our potential for growth.  He sees beyond our insufficiency and the trappings of our untrained immaturity and chooses circumstances, people, and training that will nurture, prune, and tend us into fruitful vines.

This is what God did for Gideon.  In a time when the nation of Israel was oppressed by the Midianites and foundering without a king or judge to lead them, God raised up a teenager to save his people.

Scripture tells us:

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. ”  (Judges 6:11-12).

Mighty Warrior?  Who could the Lord be talking about?  Surely not this youth doing chores for his dad!  We read later that Gideon destroyed his dad’s altars to the false gods, Baal and Asherah, so Gideon wasn’t even a child of a faithful and righteous man.

Even Gideon thought God meant someone else, answering, “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family”  (Judges 6:15).

He said, “I’m a nobody from a nothing family.  I’m no Mighty Warrior.  You’ve got the wrong guy.”

We may think he was right as Gideon puts God to the test repeatedly, asking for signs and reassurances of God’s command (Judges 6).  Then on the eve of the battle, Gideon still feels afraid and God offers him further comfort and confirmation by allowing Gideon to overhear the enemy and how assured they were of defeat (Judges 7).

In fact, even when the battle is over, won with only 300 Israelite soldiers against an overwhelming Midianite army, it still seems odd that God could call Gideon “Mighty Warrior.”   After all, there’s no question at all who was the Mighty One.  The battle was the Lord’s; Gideon was just yielded and usable.

The truth for Gideon and the truth for us is that God looks at us and sees beyond all of our failings and fears.  Not only that, but He’s also not limited by our skills and talents

He doesn’t see the potential of what we can do on our own; He sees the potential of who we are with Him.

With God, Gideon was indeed a mighty warrior.  That’s why when Gideon asked how any of this would be possible, “The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).

That is the promise He has for us–His presence, His help, His guidance, His reassurance when we are afraid.  All He requires from us is trusting obedience and the willingness to embrace His plans and His designs for our future.

More Devotions From My Garden:

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

The Meaning of Life

My oldest daughter wants to be a ballet-dancing scientist and teacher (not a science teacher, mind you, a scientist and a teacher who also does ballet on the weekends).

My middle daughter wants to be a magician who also tells jokes (thanks to the program we saw at our public library this summer by a very funny magician-entertainer).

I can’t even count how many possible careers I once considered to be the definitive answer to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Pastor, college professor, librarian, pianist, lawyer, editor, teacher.  Any and all of them were on the list at some point.

Most of them probably still are on the list if I’m being truthful.

The thing about life is that so often we’re looking for that one overarching purpose.  What were we made for?  What did God put us on the earth to do?

And if our answer is at all ordinary or seemingly unsubstantial, it seems like not enough.  Our hunt for that one grand design continues.

We ravage books on anything that will help us find the neon sign of God’s will for our lives.

To me, though, the ultimate end of such books is sometimes disillusionment.  Inevitably, the author discovers through miraculous circumstances that he’s meant to be a missionary to Africa or she is meant to lead an international ministry to the “least of these.”

Meanwhile, you may be reading this blog in between diaper changes and laundry cycles.  Or maybe you’re munching away on your lunch at your desk with papers to file on the left and accounts to enter on the right.

So, what does this mean exactly?  Does God only have a purpose for some of us and the rest are just fodder for the world economy or babysitters for the next generation?  Are we “ordinary folks” the rejects God decided He couldn’t use for any truly meaningful life purpose?

Or does God have some top-secret design for our lives and we just haven’t performed the correct magical ritual to unlock it–the five simple steps to discovering our purpose?

Of course, there’s a very real way to miss out on God’s plans for you.   If we aren’t willing to obey what He says, we will not be in His will.

Yet, there are those of us who have prayed heartfelt confessions of submission so many times and we’re still searching for the plan.

Honestly, as a teenager I was baffled at how some prophets responded to God’s call. God said, “Go” and so many of them (Moses, Jeremiah, Gideon, Barak) answered, “I’m too young.  I can’t.  Send someone else.”

Now, if God said to me, “Go,” I was sure I’d be the “Here am I, send me” kind of girl.  I’d be like an audience member picked to be on The Price is Right, screaming my head off all the way to the stage in wild excitement.

But there are times when it feels like our names just aren’t being called.  Others take the stage and are commissioned.  We clap for them and listen even harder for our turn.

Have you been there?

Perhaps, though, we need to stop searching for one sole purpose like there’s only one point to our life.  The truth is, God has a plan for you and that plan involves here and now and not just tomorrow.

Colossians 1:16b tells us, “all things were created through him and for him” (ESV)

Chris Tiegreen writes:

“If you have ever struggled to find meaning in your life, consider this amazing truth: You were created for Jesus.  You weren’t created incidentally as a by-product of the rest of creation.  You were specifically designed for Him.  You are a bride, handpicked for the Bridegroom; or an adopted son, chosen specifically by His Father” (Worship the King, p. 104).

God created us for Him.  More specifically, Scripture says:  “Everyone who is called by My Name, whom I have created for my glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:7)

Why are you here?  What’s your grand purpose?  What’s God’s plan for your life?

To give Him glory.

Today that might mean dishes, diaper changes and laundry—with a cheerful heart, fully invested in the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the children God has specifically placed in your care.

Today it might mean praying for a coworker in the next cubicle over.  It might mean quitting one job and starting on another.  It might mean mentoring a younger woman or meeting with your neighbor for coffee.

God doesn’t just have a plan for your life: He has a plan for your every day.  Don’t become so focused on the grand design that you miss the beautiful, God-ordained moments of ministry He brings across your path today and tomorrow and the next day.

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.

Devotions from My Garden: Seed Identification

The Lord answered, “I will be with you”
Judges 6:16a

She stands under 3 feet tall, this baby girl of mine.  With one hand tossed up to her hip, she stomps her feet on the ground twice, three times perhaps for emphasis, and screams, “Never Again!!!” in a voice that commands attention, if not respect.  If she’s really upset, she might even engage in some finger wagging.

My husband and I stifle grins at the sight of her: two years old and she could command an army.

When she was born, my mother-in-law was away on a missions trip to an Indian reservation out in the Dakotas.  We made the call announcing our youngest daughter’s birth just in time to reach Grammy before she left for her missions work that day.

As any proud Grammy would, she shared the news with her roommate that baby Catherine had arrived.

Hearing the name we’d given our daughter, the woman declared, “Oh, a woman of authority.”

It’s something I’ve pondered as I watched my baby–so assured of her own mind—turn into a toddler—set on sharing her mind. I can see the hints of leadership, yes, even authority crammed into the body and soul of a toddler.  Tucking away memories, impressions, and glimpses at her developing character, I feel a little like Jesus’ momma, Mary, who treasured things up in her heart.

My Catherine reminds me so often of the seeds we planted in pots on our deck this year.  They appear so small and yet inside an explosive force lies dormant, ready to break out of its shell and grow and grow and grow . . . and hopefully produce much fruit.

Holding that ordinary seed in our hands, we can’t begin to imagine the potential for beauty and nourishment within once it receives proper care and tending.  The only hint we have of the future is the picture on the package and sometimes even then we’re surprised.

When we planted this year, we set aside one long planter for carrots and excitedly covered over about 20 seeds with 1/4 inch of dirt.  Within a few days, shoots of green appeared, but strangely enough, they didn’t look like carrots.  In fact, they looked identical to the radish sprouts now growing up in other pots.

I think perhaps my daughters got a little ambitious with the radish seeds and planted them in places I didn’t expect.

Sometimes we look at people or ourselves and see plain, brown, ordinary, small, and insignificant specks.  Mystery seeds.  If we’re particularly imaginative, we might even think we see the potential for carrots, only to learn later that God really designed us to be radishes.  Surprise!

Ultimately, God sees what we cannot.  He recognizes all our potential for growth.  He sees beyond our insufficiency and the trappings of our untrained immaturity and chooses circumstances, people, and training that will nurture, prune, and tend us into fruitful vines.

This is what God did for Gideon.  In a time when the nation of Israel was oppressed by the Midianites and foundering without a king or judge to lead them, God raised up a teenager to save his people.

Scripture tells us:

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. ”  (Judges 6:11-12).

Mighty Warrior?  Who could the Lord be talking about?  Surely not this youth doing chores for his dad!  We read later that Gideon destroyed his dad’s altars to the false gods, Baal and Asherah, so Gideon wasn’t even a child of a faithful and righteous man.

Even Gideon thought God meant someone else, answering, “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family”  (Judges 6:15).

He said, “I’m a nobody from a nothing family.  I’m no Mighty Warrior.  You’ve got the wrong guy.”

We may think he was right as Gideon puts God to the test repeatedly, asking for signs and reassurances of God’s command (Judges 6).  Then on the eve of the battle, Gideon still feels afraid and God offers him further comfort and confirmation by allowing Gideon to overhear the enemy and how assured they were of defeat (Judges 7).

In fact, even when the battle is over, won with only 300 Israelite soldiers against an overwhelming Midianite army, it still seems odd that God could call Gideon “Mighty Warrior.”   After all, there’s no question at all who was the Mighty One.  The battle was the Lord’s; Gideon was just yielded and usable.

The truth for Gideon and the truth for us is that God looks at us and sees beyond all of our failings and fears.  Not only that, but He’s also not limited by our skills and talents.  He doesn’t see the potential of what we can do on our own; He sees the potential of who we are with Him.

With God, Gideon was indeed a mighty warrior.  That’s why when Gideon asked how any of this would be possible, “The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).

That is the promise He has for us–His presence, His help, His guidance, His reassurance when we are afraid.  All He requires from us is trusting obedience and the willingness to embrace His plans and His designs for our future.

More Devotions From My Garden:

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