More than a spoonful of sugar

Ephesians 5-1

I kept checking the tickets that I printed off weeks before.  Did I have the right day?  The time?

Every time I unfolded the creased sheets of paper and read the details, I marveled at God.  Really and truly in awe.

It started with such a simple thing, the Broadway show, Mary Poppins, coming to good old Virginia on its final run on stage.

I made the first tentative request:

Lord, I know this isn’t something I need and I do need other things instead and this is crazy and extravagant.  And I understand if you say, ‘no,’ because I know it’s a silly thing anyway, but oh how I would like to go.

It felt so selfish to even ask.  Normally I stick to the basics: car repairs, bills, car tax payments…that kind of thing.

But then we received unexpected Christmas money, enough to pay for exactly five seats to see the Broadway show for my whole family.marypoppins-1-1024x768

And I’m struck right then by this kind of extravagant grace, the way our God loves to bless His children, enjoys giving them good gifts, promises to give us what we need and then sometimes does more, giving us the very desires of our hearts.

Why then, knowing His character, do I treat Him like such a stingy Scrooge of a God so often? I hesitate to even ask him for another coal for the fire.  

I avoid His gaze and stammer out requests as if I’m a burden, a pest.

Even when it’s a Need and not a Want, I pray and ask, but give Him an out, not truly trusting that He will do this, that He could do this, that He would want to do this for me.

“Well, I guess if you don’t provide it’s just Your will and Thy Will Be Done,” that’s what I pray in a sort of hyper-pious acknowledgment of His sovereignty without any confidence in the might and mercy of His character.

But what would have happened if blind Bartimaeus had been hesitant about his need, reluctant to ask, limiting his request and thereby limiting his Savior?

Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

Bartimaeus didn’t try to give Jesus an easy out.

“Lord, I’d like to be a little less blind than I am.  Jesus, if you could just correct my vision a little bit I’d at least be able to walk around.  Could I see in just one eye?  Could you maybe provide me with a guide or seeing eye dog to help me out?”

No, Jesus asked what he wanted and Bartimaeus wanted to see—see all the way.

And Jesus didn’t just open his eyes to the minimum amount necessary for mere survival.

He made the blind man see, truly see, abundantly, without reservation or drawback…100% see.

Sometimes our God tells us “no,” out of love and His infinite wisdom. He’s no over-indulgent parent giving into the whims of spoiled children.  And He’s no prayer request vending machine, automatically dispensing answers indiscriminately to whoever puts in the coin.

But there are times it just gives Him so much joy to give us not just the daily bread, but the Krispy Kreme as a special treat.

Paul wrote:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)

and

Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that (Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG).

He’s no miser, this God of ours, rationing His gifts to us and frowning grumpily when we need….or even sometimes when we want.

And while we trust His “no” when He declines a request, one of the reasons we trust His love and best intentions for us is because “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11 ESV).

If He knows it’s good, it blesses Him to give it.

And it blesses us to receive it as the lavish, rich, and extravagant grace it is, not what we deserve or have earned, but what He has given anyway simply because He loves.

Originally posted FEBRUARY 22, 2013

Custard Didn’t Have a Last Stand

1 timothy 6

“Custard’s last stand.”

That’s what I hear my daughter say while playing in her room with her sisters.

I thought I probably just misheard.

Then I hear it again.  Nope.  I didn’t get it wrong.  “Custard’s last stand.” That’s what she said.

Goodness knows why in the world this subject has even come up at all, but at this point, I  pop my head in the room and say, “Custer.  Custer’s last stand” and I give them the 30-second history lesson.

My daughter pauses, shrugs and says, “Well, I like to say it my way.”

Now, sometimes this might be cute, funny, or creative, but this time I pipe up with, “But that’s wrong.  Custer is an actual person’s name from an actual historical event with an actual way to pronounce it.  And it is Custer, not Custard.”

She’s not impressed.

After all, we like the way we do things, don’t we?  We’re not generally jumping with joy and feeling all blissful when we’re corrected and asked to change.

She makes me wonder: how often do I shrug my shoulders at the Holy Spirit when He corrects me?

“Well, I like to do it my way.”

Is that what I say?

Is that what we say?

This remarkable, astonishing grace of God covers over the filth of our sin.  He drenches us with mercy and washes that grime away.

We are clean.  Made new.  Totally beloved children of God.

But in our efforts not fall into the pit of legalism, we’ve wobbled and teetered and sometimes crashed onto the other side.

I see it everywhere, the reveling in grace so fantastic that we avoid the call to holiness and sanctification.

The Holy Spirit corrects us and we shut Him down because we like to do things our way.

And, besides, there’s grace.  He loves us all equally, right?  He can never be disappointed in us, right?  He can never love me more or less than He does now, right?  He loves all of us sinners just the same, right?

That’s what we say.

But there’s some untruth we’ve mixed in there.  Jesus was disappointed with people; He was disappointed in the disciples at times.  God was pretty frequently disappointed in Israel.

I’m sure He’s been disappointed in me.

And, while I know He always loves me completely, I also know He’s more pleased when I obey Him than when I disobey Him, and He loves the humble heart, and He is amazed by great faith.

And there’s this:  

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).

There are countless verses telling me to set myself apart for Him, to obey Him, to turn away from the flesh and all ungodliness, and to choose holiness over continual sinning.

I’ll tell you one thing the Bible does not say:  “You’re forgiven and loved by God, so sin all you want without feeling bad about it because God loves you anyway.”

Our conversations about failure have changed in the church.  We’ve learned not to hide it away.  We’ve stopped pretending we don’t all sin and we’re being open, honest, vulnerable about the shocking fact that we are in fact human, are in fact a mess, and are in fact imperfect and in need of a Savior.

We’ve shattered age-old fake holiness and now point with joy to God’s forgiveness and grace.

Amazing, amazing, amazing grace.

But what then?

Have we begun to glorify failure?

I sat around a table of women and one shared her struggle as we all nodded our heads in agreement.  Yes, yes, yes—we do that.  We get it.  We understand.

And then she does it. She shrugs and says, “But that’s just normal, right?”

Yes, it is normal.  But normal isn’t okay. 

God calls us out of normal and into holiness.

Do we pursue righteousness in our own strength?  Can we make it on our own?  If we just try hard enough, do we somehow attain perfection on our own merit?

No.  Way.

We are all of us utterly dependent on the redeeming grace of Jesus and completely incapable of earning salvation on our own.

I’m a mess.  It’s the plain truth of the matter.

And, I’ll tell you I’m a mess because I never want to act like I’ve got all this figured out or gotten my own self together.

But I’ll tell you something else, every single day: I want to be less mess and more Jesus.

I don’t want to stay rooted in sin because that’s just who I am and God will forgive me anyway.

I want to lean into Jesus more.

I want to respond like Christ, react like Christ, love like Christ, live like Christ .

I’ll get it wrong.  We all will.

But sanctification means not giving up the holy pursuit.

It means coming to Christ anew, confessing the sin, starting fresh, trying again….with His help, in His strength, through His grace looking more and more like Jesus every day.

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.

Would You Give Up Your Favorite Seat in Church?

1john4-19

One of our cats ran away for a 30-hour trek into the woods.

Our other cat stayed home.

In sympathy, my daughters talked about our large black cat missing his smaller orange “brother.”  He meowed and we thought it was a meow of sadness.  My three-year-old showed him extra affection out of concern for his worried feline heart.

Maybe he was just meowing because he was hungry.

Because when our orange cat finally sauntered home at 2 a.m., the stay-at-home cat seemed to care less at first.

Then the hissing started.

Four days later there was still hissing.

The prodigal tries to eat food, or brush up close to the larger cat, or snuggle up on the bed where the stay-at-home cat is napping.

And we hear the ugliest, most evil hissing sound.  It’s hardly a warm reception for our runaway.

We have the classic case of the prodigal son and the older brother who remained at home working the fields.  It’s playing itself out between a behemoth black cat and a skittish orange cat in our very own home.

And this I understand just a tiny bit.003

In Scripture, the prodigal son demanding his inheritance before his father’s death was more than just a young adult rebellion and a little bit of wandering and partying before responsible adulthood.

Sure it sounds so calm and level-headed at first glance when the younger son said to his dad, “Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me” (Luke 15:12).

Yet, it was really the ultimate rejection of a parent.  In essence, the prodigal son said, “I wish you were dead, so I’m going to take my inheritance and leave as if you had already died.”

We sometimes miss the enormity of the disrespect and insult and treat the prodigal as if he just had a wild stage that he needed to get out of his system or simply a little curiosity about the big wide world.

But it was so much more than that.  It was cutting off that relationship in what the son knew was a permanent, hurtful, totally destructive, rude, and unfeeling way.

“I don’t want to ever see you again.  I wish you were dead.  I hate you.”

That’s what the son said.

And here I am with this runaway cat, feeling the tiniest bit of rejection (and worry) that he would choose a night outside over our cozy home with food, fresh water, and places to stretch out for comfortable naps.

How much more the hurt of that father watching his son slamming doors and shouting in anger?

Of course, in their case when this same prodigal son crawled home, humbled and hurting, the father killed the fatted calf and threw a Welcome Home party.

And we haven’t done that.  No special treatment.  No canned tuna opened to celebrate our cat’s return.  It’s just business as usual for us.

But still our other cat hisses in annoyance like that older brother in the field, re-asserting his authority and his territorial rights. It’s more than a bit ugly.

Every week, folks might walk through our church doors who we’ve never seen before or those we haven’t seen for a long time.

In some cases, they will be simple visitors, passing through the sanctuary for only a brief time.  Others might be long-lost friends.  Still others might be the prodigals slipping into the pews, hoping not to draw too much attention to themselves.

And we have to choose how to welcome them.

With open arms.

Or with territorial hissing.

Or unforgiveness.

Or sanctimonious displays of righteousness and very little grace.

This past week, I read of a woman who slipped into the pews of a church before the service began one Sunday morning.  She bowed her head low and cried, mourning the death of her son.

A woman in the church walked over and stood looming over her while she prayed.

Finally, the visitor looked up expecting someone to pray for her or hug her or ask how to help her.

Instead, she was told, “I’ve been attending this church for 17 years and that’s my seat.”

That’s the ugly sound of hissing.

We do this in other ways, making us 200-or-so “older brothers” feel mighty cozy on a Sunday morning while showing the prodigals they really aren’t welcome here.

Perhaps we need the reminder to leave room–and not just pew space–for the younger brothers returning home, for the lost, and for the hurting.

How do you make visitors, new folks, and pretty much anyone feel welcome in your church?

Originally posted March 25, 2013

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

 

Dear Tailgating Driver

1 corinthians 13-4

Dear Tailgating Driver,

I get it.  You have somewhere to be.  And you needed to be there 5 minutes ago.

And, obviously, you getting there is more important than traffic laws or the personal safety of everyone in my minivan.

But here’s the thing.  I’m not going to speed up.

You may ride close enough for me to see your sunglasses and hair-style in my rear-view mirror….

You may honk in annoyance…..

Or weave back and forth like you would pass me in a second if that solid yellow line just had a few dots in it…

But I won’t be pushed along faster than I intend to go.  I don’t want to be pulled into some mysterious competition to see who gets ahead and I won’t let you set the pace of our little road trip.

So, I’ll purposefully hang right at the speed limit and not go any faster.

And, you know what, I’ll even pull over and let you go by.

That’s right. I will step aside and simply conceded defeat.

Yes, Mr. Impatient Driver, congratulations. You are faster than me. You are speedier and sportier.

If you want so badly to get where you are going, be my guest. I’ll just continue along behind you without all the stress and bother.

The inner voice of justice might be screaming at me to do otherwise.

I was there first, after all. I have important places to go, too.

I was going the speed limit and not plodding along at 15 MPH or anything, so what’s the big deal?

Someone needs to teach you a lesson!

Where are the state police when you need them? Doesn’t anybody see how right I am and how wrong you are?

But is it worth it?

Seems pretty pointless to fight over who gets to the red light or the stop sign first.

So, you win.

And thanks really, for reminding me that there’s no point to any of the seemingly endless competitions we get pushed into by people tailgating our lives.

Do we need to vie for the position as the Best Mom, Best Wife, Most Stylish, Smartest, Most Used by God, Best Blogger, Best Cake Baker and Craft Maker, Most Professional, Most Educated, Most Awarded?

Does any of that really matter?

Sometimes, we find ourselves in the middle of a competition and we’re not even sure how we got there. Someone just seems determined to show us up and put us down.

Maybe they are criticizing us behind our back and spreading rumors.

Maybe they’ve taken credit for our ideas at work or covered over our contribution to a project.

Maybe they’ve courted the attention of the boss and now receive special privileges and honor at the expense of others.

Maybe they never cease to brag about their life while making us feel insignificant and inferior.

I’ll admit it. Some part of me wants to fight back to defend my honor and my worth.  Might as well throw down the gauntlet and just compete already. After all, “she started it.”

Even in ministry, the struggle is there.

Our motives seem so pure, like wanting to share this message God has given us and bring Him glory, but somehow pride sneaks in. We feel like people need to hear what we have to say, so it’s okay to shove others aside and muscle our way to the front.

According to Paul, though, that’s not what love does.

He says, love:

“does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV).

Love is a humble serving, a self-sacrificing consideration of others, a putting other people first and letting them pass by to sit in a seat of honor or be the first to cross the finish line.

I love The Message paraphrase of Philippians 2:3-4 also:

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (Philippians 2:3-4 MSG).

So, in love, we may choose to step aside.  Let someone else pass.

Love says, “Here, be my guest.”

Because, for all their pushing and shoving to get ahead, and all their tailgating, honking efforts to pass you by, here’s the bottom line:

God loves the humble.

Only He chooses whom to put down and whom to exalt.

For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge:
He puts down one,
And exalts another.  Psalm 75:6-7 NKJV

We can leave it to Him and trust Him with our ministry, our calling, our work, our reputation.  All of it.

Sincerely,

~Me~

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.

Sometimes a Crock-Pot is Just a Crock-Pot (and other wisdom for the indecisive)

philippians3

An indecisive person (AKA me) plus a store aisle full of choices = paralysis, disaster, and maybe a meltdown in the middle of the Wal-Mart.

It all started when I poured spaghetti sauce ingredients into my beloved Crock-Pot.  I felt like a domestic diva, a household management expert.

After racing from school to activities and then home, I’d be greeted by the aroma of simmering sauce instead of shoving a hamburger and French fries in my face after a drive-thru dinner run.

Win!

Only when I arrived home, there was no lingering scent of basil, oregano and tomato sauce in the air.

My Crock-Pot was still cold.

Knowing my propensity for human error, I ran through the possible list of user failures.  Had I plugged it in?  Check.  Had I turned the dial from OFF to LOW?  Check.

It had simply died.  (Cue funeral dirge).

That means my shopping list now included the item:  new Crock-Pot.

Was this a reason to celebrate?  Or was it no big deal?

Neither, my friends.

This became a capital-D Decision.  I prayed about it.  I read about it.  I scouted prices online.

Then I stood in that aisle with Jeopardy music ringing in my head, clocking the ridiculous amount of time I stared blankly at slow cookers.  Who knew there were so many choices to be made?

Oval or round?

Which brand?

6 quart or 7 quart?

How many programming options did I want?

Was I willing to pay $80 for a slow cooker that would not only prepare delicious meals for me but clearly should also vacuum and do the dishes? (I mean, for $80 it needs to do something incredible.)

I waffled.

I waivered.

I see-sawed.

It was agonizing.  Finally, my Wise Inner Voice held an intervention of sorts and talked my troubled, indecisive soul down off the ledge.

You need a Crock-Pot.  This is not choosing a career, a college or who to marry.  For crying aloud, you are simply choosing a relatively inexpensive cooking tool for your home. Just pick something.

So, I did.  I wanted a Crock Pot with clamps on the lid so I could carry it to church potlucks without spilling soup all over the inside of my minivan.

Programmable would be helpful when I’m out all day and I need the slow cooker to start at noon.

Awesome.  I had officially made a decision.

Until I got home.  And, that Crock Pot sat in its box.   A week later it is still sitting taped up in the original packaging on my kitchen floor.

Because….what if I change my mind?

What if I find a better deal?

What if I made a bad choice?

I am paralyzed by indecision.  It is a daily occurrence in my crazy life for me to be trapped by what if’s, possibilities and the pursuit of what is right, wise, and perfect.

Do I want red or blue?  Small or medium?  The park or the zoo?  Soup or a sandwich?  To watch a movie or read a book?

Yes. No.  Maybe?

I.  Do.  Not.  Know.

And when I do decide, I evaluate and criticize that decision, living in a perpetual state of regret and self-condemnation.

I knew I shouldn’t have bought that Crock-Pot.  What a stupid decision.  What’s wrong with me?

So, this is the prison of indecision I inhabit, just four walls holding in my kind of crazy.  I’m a cowering shadow, afraid of one false move or one bad decision that will disappoint God’s heart.

God says I can ask Him anything.  So, I do.  I pray for wisdom and guidance for every possible decision, including Crock-Pots.

No lightning strikes, though.  No neon arrow points to the right choice.

But here’s what I need to learn.

Sometimes it’s okay to just choose a Crock-Pot.  The world isn’t going to explode if I go with the oval one or the other brand.

Not every decision is a life or death matter of discerning God’s will.

Sometimes a Crock-Pot is just a Crock-Pot.

Sure, I’ll sometimes make the perfect decision.

And, at times I’ll just need to break off the chains of regret.  So, things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.  It’s in the past now.  Time to let it go and make a new choice on a new day.

As Paul writes:

 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 HCSB).

After all, God still loves me. He gives fresh mercy with each new day.  His grace covers my every flaw, foible, and failure (regardless of my choice of Crock-Pot).

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.

When I Fell in Love

I can’t say exactly when I fell in love with this man.

He was on stage the first time I saw him, portraying Mr. Elton in a production of Jane Austen’s Emma(my favorite), and I was an audience member.   I laughed loud and long when he delivered the first line of the play while pretending to read from a book:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

I heard my laugh hit the silence of the auditorium.  Apparently, I was the only one who got the joke (as a character from Emma read the first line from Pride and Prejudice).  And so I slumped into my chair wishing someone—anyone—shared my sense of humor.

I actually met him a week later after a college worship service.  Someone in the crowd pointed to the guy up front strumming the guitar.  “See that guy,” he said, “You just saw him on stage last week.”

Unbeknownst to me, this young guy who led worship and the drama ministry and acted in productions based on my favorite literature had just prayed a daring prayer two weeks before.

He told God he wasn’t looking for a relationship any more.  He was content to be single until God hit him over the head with a 2 x 4 and told him “Thou shalt marry this girl.”

I met him two weeks after that.

And a week after that, I was the new pianist on his praise team (and he’s still my worship leader even now).

I fell in love with the way he used his gifts and talents for God’s glory.

There was his calmness, too.  I loved my dad, but life with him wasn’t calm; it was loud much of the time and sometimes downright volatile.  This man, though, measured his words with wisdom and careful thoughtfulness.

Add to that his quick and witty humor that kept me giggling endlessly in the corner of the praise team section, and I realized that he was smarter than me and that was okay.

We’ve never been an opposites-attract kind of couple.  We’re probably two of the most alike people who God matched together.

Except for the fact that he only cares about doing what’s right and not whether it pleases anyone else while I’m a people-pleaser.

And the fact that he can rest and take time (perhaps . . . dare I say it . . .procrastinate) and I’m neurotically pushed to do and do and do relentlessly, first, fastest, and rest when you die.

I can’t say when it happened, but at some point I fell in love.jeremiah 31b

I can’t speak for him and say exactly why he fell in love with me.

Nor can I say exactly why God loves any of us either, surely not my awkward, nervous, uptight, worrying self.

Amazingly, though, this isn’t a “fall in love” kind of love at all.  God doesn’t grow to love any of us over time or awaken one morning and realize how much He cares.

He loves us.

It really is the beginning and the end of our story.

Like the first time I saw my daughters, I loved them in an instant.  I didn’t slowly grow to appreciate their character or develop feelings for them over time.

In Jeremiah, God declares:

“before I formed you in the womb I knew you”  and David similarly prayed, “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).

God loved you before you squinted your eyes at the first burst of light, screamed out and got cleaned off, bundled up and handed to your mom.

He loves you when you feel loved and when you feel overlooked, when you received a blessing and when you endured a trial.  This love of his doesn’t wax or wane, change or alter or depend on us and what we do or say or feel or think.

We’ve never been good enough, pure enough, beautiful enough, or wise enough to earn it.

But even though we’re unworthy, even when we’ve strayed, even when we’ve felt that seemingly incurable distance from Him or poured out in painful honesty what’s troubling us…

Still He loves.

He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

And what can we do with this everlasting and unfailing love, so amazing and confusing because it’s far more than we deserve?

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Originally published September 24, 2012

 

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 © 2015 Heather King

Will You Still Love Me After Four Kids, a Minivan and a Mortgage?

I made the list when I was about 14-years-old or so.

With cramped cursive letters, I wrote in my journal:

Things I Want My Husband to Be Like

Then I divided the list into “Non-negotiables” and “Negotiables.”  Or”Requirements” versus “Desires.”  Or some other dual-heading system like that.

Because even then I was neurotic about list-making.

I was spiritual about it, of course.  I prayed before making the list and then again afterward.1 corinthians 13

Even though I can’t find the list anymore in my pile of teenage journals, I still remember most of the items on there.

Non-negotiables:

  1. Not just a nominal Christian, but someone who is passionate about God and His Word and is actively using his spiritual gifts to praise God and minister to others.
  2. Someone I can respect intellectually.
  3. No substance abuse issues.
  4. Faithful.
  5. Hard working.
  6. Unselfish.
  7. Calm without problems controlling his anger.

Negotiables:

  1. Please, God, can he play the guitar since I play the piano?
  2. I kind of like blue eyes.

Amen.

Fourteen years ago, I married this blue-eyed, guitar-playing man who was everything on my list and so much more.

He’s the only guy I ever dated.  The only man I’ve ever kissed or held hands with or told, “I love you.”  After all, not many men would live up to “The List.”

And I’ll confess it.

I still get all weepy every….single….time he weaves his fingers through mine and prays with me.

I’m still his biggest fan whether he’s on the stage acting in a play or grabbing his guitar and stepping up to the mic to lead worship at our church.

And when he reaches out and places his hand on mine when we’re driving around town in our minivan with four kids (possibly screaming, singing, fighting, or laughing) in the back seats, my heart totally stops for a second or two.

I pretty much still have a teenage crush on this guy.

Back when I was making my ‘husband list,’ I was thinking things like:

What kind of guy would I want to spend the rest of my life with?

Who do I want to date forever?

Whose eyes do I want to gaze into when sitting at a candlelit table?

But I wasn’t thinking this.

Who will give me grace when I’m grumpy?

Who will see the ugliest parts of my heart and dare to love me anyway?

Who will watch me push a baby out of my body or see the surgical scar from a C-section…or see me on days when I’m covered in baby spit-up, child-vomit, or other bodily fluids from my kids and still make me feel beautiful?

One day you just wake up and you’re the one with the minivan, the mortgage, a few extra pounds, gray hair, and four kids.

So, I’m so thankful I didn’t marry someone I could only do romance with, but someone I could do life with, as well.

After all, you can do beautiful with most anybody; it takes someone special to plow through the sludge for you when the plumbing breaks down or to team up with you against the hard days.

In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes:

Marriage can be that holy place, the site of a relationship that proclaims God’s love to the world.

Paul said it this way:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV).

So, maybe this is what should have been on my list all along: At the end of the day, people should see my marriage and say, “Wow, look at the faithful, unselfish, sacrificial, gracious way that God loves the church!”

And as I approach my 15th wedding anniversary I’m remembering this: marriage isn’t just a secondary something I do while I minister to God elsewhere.  Marriage is my ministry, my sacred calling, the workshop God uses to make me more like Christ, and the way He can use me to show God’s love to my husband, my children, and to the world.

If you knew a young woman who was making “a list” of qualities to look for in a husband, what would you suggest she put on that list?

Originally posted on JANUARY 22, 2014

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

What’s This Gonna Cost?

I tell my daughters about the email.

Their teacher at church sent us information about an upcoming missions project.  They’ll be collecting money as a class for a ministry in our area, but she doesn’t want the parents to just give kids money to contribute.

Sure, I could stuff a few dollars and some coins into that empty container and send it in with my  kids.  And sure, they could hand it in and feel like they participated and did the good Christian thing that good Christians are supposed to do.

But giving should cost something.

In fact, giving should be costly.

It should require some effort or sacrifice.   We shouldn’t just give when we have more than enough.

True generosity and true love require giving out of need and giving out of not-enough.

My girls protest the fact that they have empty piggy banks, no allowance and no source of renewable income since birthdays only come once a year.

So we return to our tried-and-true method:  Extra chores allow them to earn money to give to missions or charities or ministries.1peter2

The King girls will be sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets to earn those coins to give away.

On Sunday morning, I hold the cup and bread in my hand and pray before Communion, thinking this is a lesson for me, too.

I think about the cost of giving, the cost of generosity.

Surely God has given generously to us.

Maybe it’s complacency from long-term faith, from hearing those same lessons taught in the same ways.  Maybe it’s selfishness.  Maybe it’s forgetfulness.

Whatever the cause, sometimes I cling selfishly to what I have and forget the abundant generosity of God’s gift to me.

Could anything be more generous than grace?

Yes, I mean the cross, but even before that.

Adam and Eve stood in the aftermath of forbidden fruit and witnessed the ugly truth for the first time:  Grace demands sacrifice.

They sinned.  They felt shame in their nakedness and they tried to fix things on their own, fitting leaves together to form a makeshift outfit.

Genesis 3:21 says it wasn’t enough:

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21 NIV).

I’ve read that verse so often and just ran over the words without thought, but here’s the truth of it.

They sinned.  So God slayed an animal at their feet.  He couldn’t just pick a few animal skins off of a store shelf or drop by the tailor’s so they could be custom-fitted with a faux-leather outfit.

God handcrafted the clothes for His wayward children.

Adam and Eve stood in the garden and watched another creature die for their own offense.  They witnessed the blood running red for the first time ever.

Max Lucado writes:

 “God slays an animal.  For the first time in the history of the earth, dirt is stained with blood.  Innocent blood.  The beast committed no sin.  The creature did not deserve to die……….” (A Love Worth Living).

Then they had to wear the result and remember the high cost of their God-designed outfit.

As Max Lucado puts it: “As a father would zip up the jacket of a preschooler.  God covers them.”  

It’s the act of a dad, helping a little one fit arms into arm-holes and socks onto feet.  It’s tenderness and gentleness and love when they deserved wrath.

And God did this for us, too:

For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness (Isaiah 61:10 NIV).

Right there in the garden it began: Outrageous, undeserved, generous, complete sacrifice of one life for another.isaiah1

I read Leviticus and wonder what it must have been like to watch the whole gory mess of atonement with its blood and guts and death.

It became routine to the Israelites.  How could that be routine?  How could the stench and the bleating of the lambs become routine?

Yet, has the cross become routine to us?

Sin should be shocking.

Grace should shock us all the more.

Maybe if I had to stand and watch God pay the price for my mess with my own two eyes, I’d be less complacent and more overcome.

Maybe if I had to let God silently drape my shoulders with a covering of His own making to hide my nakedness, maybe my heart would break with sorrow at my sin.

Maybe if I watched someone die in my place, knowing how little I deserved it, I’d learn what true generosity is: giving abundantly and without complaint even when it’s undeserved and even when it costs me dearly.

The truth is that Jesus did just that:  He died for us and then He dressed us in His righteousness.

May we be overcome by grace anew.

 

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 © 2015 Heather King

Dear Daughter: Welcome to Double Digits…..

Dear Victoria,

I remember the day I turned 10 years old.

I stood in the kitchen next to the fridge, still in my pajamas.  My eyes blinked away sleep and my hair was a mess, and I ran my hands down the sides of my PJ’s to smooth them out.

My dad said, “Did you expect to look or feel different today?”

That shook me awake.

I hadn’t really been thinking anything.  I just stood in the moment without being all philosophical or deep.

But I guess it looked like I was examining my progress in life. Had I grown overnight?  Changed?  Matured?

Was I a different person today than I was when I stood in that same kitchen yesterday and chose between cereal, oatmeal and a Pop Tart?

Of course, growth doesn’t happen all in one night.  One magic 8-hour stretch of sleep doesn’t change who you are or what you look like.

But this year, all year, our family and friends have looked at you and then shaken their heads in wonder at me.IMG_1971

“I can’t believe it….”

That’s what they say.

They don’t even have to finish the thought. I know what they mean.  We think of you as a baby still and yet there you are standing so tall and thin, that long blond hair waving down your shoulders.

You may be growing up, but there are still little wisdom-pearls this momma wants to give you.   Now that you are days away from your tenth birthday, here’s what I want you to know:

You are loved

We sat around that table last month and you girls asked me the same questions we’ve been over time and time again.  “What was I like as a baby, mom?”  “What did I do?”  “What was my first word?”

I told the stories again–How you were so strong, Victoria.  Even in the hospital you held your head up that first day as if you were 4 months old, and doctors and nurses marveled at you.

Then I said how you cried and cried and you would scream it all out and fight for what you wanted.

But it turns out that story I was telling hurt your heart.  You felt like I was picking at you, like your sisters were better babies or somehow this was a competition of performance and you hadn’t measured up.

Beloved girl, never forget that you are loved.

This world will scream lies at you.  Sometimes your own feelings will bully you.

Hold on to the truth:  No matter what, you are totally and thoroughly loved by us and by God.  We adore you and we always have.

Even before I ever laid eyes on your beautiful face and you gripped my fingers with super-baby-strength, I loved you completely.victoria ballet

Own your own faith

That day you cried about my ‘baby stories,’ I told you to hold on to your testimony.  We saw that change in you.  It was this dramatic turning.

Yes, you worked us hard as new parents.  But that moment you prayed for Jesus to be your Savior, your heart turned over.  All your strength, determination and focus transformed with salvation into solid rock faith.

You stand up for what is right.  You set your heart and mind on things above.

You pour your heart and mind and soul into everything you do, working harder, harder, harder than those around you.  You set goals and you push at them without giving up.

Keep at it, my girl.  In life, yes.  In faith all the more.

You’re going to step out into the big wide world and find that people don’t believe what you believe.  People don’t obey God.  The world is broken and wrecked with sin.

You may be mocked, ostracized, tempted.

Do not forget your testimony.  You are a Jesus-girl and the older you get, the more that faith needs to be yours apart from your dad and me.

Don’t just listen to me read the Bible—-read it.  Don’t let me pray for you—-pray.  Don’t watch me worship—–worship.  In the end, it’s got to be between you and God.

Now is the time to pick up your faith in your own two hands.

We are in this together

Maybe sometimes during the next few years, it’ll feel like no one understands.

Maybe you’ll feel alone.  Maybe it’ll seem like the world is against you.  Maybe your dad and I will  appear harsh or stern or out of touch.  Maybe you’ll look at us and wish you were allowed to roll your eyes because these parents of yours are loony or even mean.  Maybe you’ll feel embarrassed to ask or start those tough conversations with me.

But, baby girl, we are in this together.

You and me, girlfriend.

I am never your enemy.  I am not against you.  I am for you.  Always.

And this space between us is a safe and honest space.  You can tell me.  You can ask me.  You can sob it all out even when it’s ugly crying.

No one is gonna celebrate you, pray for you, love on you, or have your back more than your dad and I do.

Sweet girl, there is so much more I want to say, but really—doesn’t it all come down to that?  Always remember, you are loved. 

Love,

~Mom~

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16 NLT)

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)

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

 

Dear Girl, When Momma Lets You Down….

I let her down.

Not intentionally, of course, but there it is.  You can try to do everything right as a mom and always be perfect and still not always get it either right or perfect.

We had planned it out for a few weeks since the invitation from the school came.  They asked me to be a guest reader for Read Aloud day at my daughters’ school and all four of us were excited.1john4-16

We chatted about what books might be the best choices.

I made sure to ask my oldest daughter how to keep from embarrassing her when I visited her class.  (Don’t read with too many enthusiastic or dramatic hand gestures.  Apparently, that is highly embarrassing.)

She was also highly skeptical that I could come up with a picture book that would interest mature, chapter-book-reading fourth graders, but I was convinced I had chosen a winner.

When the big day came, I read to two classes, hugged two of my daughters, and arrived at the third daughter’s classroom only to find she wasn’t there.

They switch classes all day long in this grade and apparently my scheduled time to read occurred when neither my daughter nor any of her classmates were actually in their own classroom.

Not only that, but her teacher was absent, as well, so I couldn’t even explain my predicament and find a quick and easy solution.

So, I read to other people’s kids and not my own.

Then I tracked down my girl in the school, knocked on the door, and slipped in quickly to let her know what had happened, that they scheduled me to read for a time when she couldn’t hear the book.

And then I went home.

Two girls climbed into the minivan at the end of the school day bursting with exciting news about this and that.  My third daughter climbed in quietly.  I heard the sniffles from the far back of the minivan about halfway home.

When I asked her if she was crying, all she kept saying was, “You went to the wrong class.”

I knew the truth.  I had gone where I was supposed to go when I was supposed to go there, but it didn’t change the bottom line.

We pulled into the driveway at home and unloaded the backpacks and lunchboxes.  I settled my kids into the routine and then snuggled next to my still-tearful daughter on the big, comfy bed.

“I was so disappointed.  I told all my friends you would come and what book you would read and I waited all day and you didn’t even come.”

I guess she misunderstood and thought I was just going to come back later.

It really didn’t matter whether I was justified or not, she was disappointed and sad nonetheless.

I’ve been there.

People let you down sometimes.  Even well-meaning, good, godly people can disappoint you.

No one is perfect and certainly circumstances aren’t always perfect.  Sometimes they conspire against us to turn life into a crazy mess of unexpected obstacles.

Truth be told, sometimes I feel a little disappointed with God, too, because even though I know He is working out things for my good and even though I know His plans for me are best, sometimes they sure don’t feel “best,” “good” or “perfect.”

In fact, maybe the plans I’ve concocted seem to make a whole lot more sense in the moment.

But I read two verses in Holley Gerth’s book, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days:

 “You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” Psalm 59:9-10

So we know and rely on the love God has for us – 1 John 4:16

I believe this truth, that we don’t really know and can’t begin to comprehend God’s great love for us.

Yet, even if I’ve packed my head with all sorts of knowledge about the heights and depths of His love for me, what I really need is to rely on His love.

Because He’s reliable.  Because He’s trustworthy.  Because His love for us is never-failing, never-giving-up, always-and-forever, I can’t do anything to mess it up love.

So, I can rest in that.  I can stretch back into the arms of Christ and relax all those tense muscles of worrying and fretting and trying to hang on for dear life to every detail of every day.

And when life shoots unexpected arrows at me or plans seem to go awry, still I rely on His love.  I trust that He is my strength.  He is the fortress where I can be safe.

He will not let me down.

Circumstances will let me down.  People will disappoint me.

But God will not.

On this I can rely.

P.S. One hot cup of tea, some hugs from me, and a quick email to my daughter’s teacher to set up another time to read made my daughter’s day much better.

 

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