Letting Go of What I Didn’t Do This Summer

“Can we make  brownies?”

That’s what my daughter asks when I tell my kids we’re going to an outdoor concert along the riverfront.

She asks about brownies because this is what  we do.

We tote lawn chairs to an open area on the lawn, spray on some bug spray, and settle in to  listen to the music while munching on our two favorite “outdoor concert snacks:”  popcorn and brownies.

Sometimes we bring cookies instead or skip the popcorn.

But not often.

Outdoor concert = popcorn + brownies.

It’s an equation we know and love.

My kids love traditions and they eagerly hold me to them.  That’s why we poured the ingredients for brownies into a mixing bowl this morning to make our treat for tonight’s adventure.

Because what would summer be without outdoor concerts?  And what would outdoor concerts be without popcorn and brownies?

Tragic, that’s what!  Full of despair and disappointment!

Of course, that’s just silly talk.  But somehow it can feel that way.

Unmet expectations can push our weary souls right to the ground.

I love our family traditions as much as my kids do, but I also bear the burden of them and I’ve felt that weight a little this summer.

It’s not just traditions, though, that can keep me dancing on the edges of guilt.

It’s mostly what I expect of myself.  Roles I need to fulfill.  Tasks I need to  accomplish.   Must-do’s, should-do’s,  and have-to’s.

It’s endlessly seeing ideas and reminders that I could do more and I could do better.

It’s comparing myself with others and not feeling like I measure up.

Those other moms have their kids accomplishing all  these cool activities  this summer.  Look at how many books they read, places they went, projects they made!

The pressure!

It comes from comparing ourselves with our own past.

I used to be able to read more books, get more done, finish more  on my to-do list, keep my house cleaner, manage more projects.

But that’s not this year, not this summer, not this season.

 

This summer has been teaching me more and more that it’s okay to let some things go.   We don’t have to do every good thing or every familiar thing.

I carried around guilt well into July this year about what I wasn’t doing.

We hadn’t picnicked out at our favorite playground yet.

I’m failing at this summer.

We’d barely made it through one audiobook.

I’m failing at this summer.

We did not run around the yard with an empty mason jar at twilight and catch  as many fireflies as possible, just to release them all at once before going to bed.

I’m failing at this summer.

 

I haven’t written a book, pitched a book, edited a book, or in any way spent one second thinking about a new book.

I’m failing at this summer.

Maybe this all looks differently for you.  Maybe our seasons are different and are expectations vary.

But maybe we can all identify with this feeling of just not doing enough or being enough or  being able to keep up with all our own ideas of perfect.

After all, does summer have to be “perfect?”  Maybe it just needs to be beautiful in its own unique and personal way.

Maybe any day can be beautiful without being perfect.

Does it matter to Jesus if I have the brownies for the concert?

Nope.

Is i t nice to have the brownies?  Sure!

Is it worth stressing over or beating myself up over  for not making brownies?

No.

What else can we let go of?

Are those projects another mom is doing great?

Sure!

Am I a failure as a mom if I don’t do  the same thing as her?

Not at all.

Oh–whisper that again to your soul:  You are not a failure for not doing every good thing you see around you.

You don’t  have to do it all all the time.

Don’t you just love that when Jesus fed the crowd with a few fish and loaves as they sat expectantly on a hillside,  He didn’t demand that the disciples come more prepared?

He didn’t demand that they provide the supply or that they be enough in themselves.

They offered him a little boy’s lunch and He did the rest.

Lisa Harper reminds us of this lesson:

“Just use what you have and do the best that you can”  (Lisa Harper, The Gospel  of Mark).

Tonight I have the brownies to take with us to the concert, but if I didn’t, that’d be fine, too.

I don’t need  to spend the whole evening feeling guilty for what I didn’t do.

I  can be oh so grateful and oh so joyful for the day Jesus gave me.

The past can’t be my home anymore

It’s not often I  zip  around town in my minivan alone.

I’m usually toting a passenger (or two or four or more).

But that night, the stars had aligned and the schedule had been arranged and all of those things so that I hopped into my minivan after some errands in town and headed home.

I drove.

And thought.

Thought.

And drove.

Prayed and thought and drove.

I was just enjoying the sweet quiet as only  a mom of four kids can do  when she’s out by her lonesome self.

It should only take me about 5 minutes to  get home from  anywhere in town now that we’ve  moved to  the new house, but I drove for about 12 minutes before I turned onto a familiar road.

It wasn’t the road to my brand new home, though.  I had managed to  drive far past that, all the way to my old house.

I  sheepishly turned around in my former neighbor’s driveway and backtracked down the road to  what was supposed to  be my destination all along.

HOME.

If I don’t stay alert  even now when I’m making this drive,  I’ll pass right by the road to  my new house and I’ll  trek all the way back to  where I used to  live.

This is me in default mode.  This is what I  fall  back to.

This is where I end up when I’m not paying attention.

We all have these  “old ways,” the habits of the past, the “who we used to be.”   And when we’re distracted, or weary or plain old apathetic, maybe this is where we end up all  over again.

Maybe we default to worry and stress.

We default to overbooked and overwhelmed.

We default to bitter and unforgiving.

We default to resentful.

We default to people-pleasing.

We default to sharp words.

Maybe we don’t even realize it until we look up in a daze and wonder how we ended up back here all over again?

It’s when I start feeling complacent about controlling my tongue,  that I start losing  my temper and lashing out.

It’s when I start feeling like I know how to  keep myself from getting overwhelmed by stress that I just about break down because I’ve let the to-do list nigh on destroy me.

We’re not alone, of course.  This is all just being human.  We’re not perfect and those old sin habits can drag us right along.

That’s why I feel  for the disciples who  kept defaulting to old habits and old ways of thinking.  No matter how many times Jesus explained how He’d be persecuted and killed and then raised again, they didn’t get it.

They didn’t see with spiritual eyes.

There was a day when they set out on their travels with Jesus and forgot to pack the bread for lunch.  Jesus told them to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and they completely missed his message…again.

They thought Jesus was picking on them for leaving the bread at home by mistake.

As i f Jesus needed them to pack bread.

They’d watched Him feed the five thousand and the four thousand, but one day without a full lunchbox sent them right back to that old place of fretting over provision.

Jesus asked them “Do you not yet perceive?”  (Matthew 16:9 ESV).

The Message paraphrase says,  “Haven’t you caught on yet?”

And that’s me at times, defaulting back to my old ways of thinking and doing, not quite catching on yet to what Jesus has done in me and wants to do in me.

What we do then, though, is what matters most.

Because what I want to do is just give up right there.

I’ll never get this right, Jesus. 

I’m such a failure, Lord.  I’m failing at everything.  I want to be used by you and I just….keep….messing….up.

But we can’t give up right there because that past isn’t meant to be our home anymore.

Slowly.  Slowly.  We keep turning the old over to Jesus and letting Him make us new.

Slowly.  Slowly.  He changes us within so our default itself is different.

We default to peace.

We default to joy.

We default to gentleness.

We default to trust.

It’s okay to be in progress.  It’s okay to trip up and mess up sometimes.

It’s not okay to stay there in that old place where we don’t belong anymore.

We have to move back to Jesus, always back to  Jesus.

Jesus, bring us back to you.

 

Don’t expect a laptop or an iPad for your birthday

Laptop, iPad, video game, cell phone.

This isn’t my wish list.  This is what my about-to-be-eight-year-old daughter will tell you she wants for her birthday if you ask her.

Seriously.

Her little second grade friends ask her for birthday present suggestions, and this is what she tells them.  Not, “Oh, a Barbie would be nice.  Maybe some new markers and Play-Doh.  I like Legos.”

No, not reasonable requests.

Crazy expensive requests.

So, I tell it to her straight yesterday.  Not even mom and dad will get you a laptop, an iPad or a cell phone for your birthday….so when someone other than your loving parents asks you for birthday ideas, think of something far, far, far, far, far…..less expensive.

To be fair, if I take her to pick out a present for her friends when they have a birthday, she always holds up the most expensive item on the shelf (an $80 Lego set or the $40 complete Disney princess collection or a $50 Xbox game) and declare that this is what her friend would like.

I explain that there are presents parents buy you.  There are presents other family members might buy you.  There are presents friends from school might buy you.

And there are presents so expensive, ain’t nobody gonna buy them for you.psalm66

You have to match the request with the giver.  You have to know whom to ask.

And sometimes, don’t we all get this wrong?  Don’t we carry needs to friends, carry worries to Facebook and Twitter, carry sadness to the phone and bitterness to the coffee shop?

But do we carry it all to Christ?

He’s the only One who can forgive and wash clean.  He’s the only One who can care for our every need, deliver us, redeem us, heal us, and restore us.

Yet, there we go, turning to others first and Jesus last.

Why is it that prayer is so often our final act of desperation instead of our first response to trouble?

Why do we so often try every other possible means of escape besides God?  And only after we realize that we have no hope in this hopeless and impossible situation do we finally give it over to Him?

Judas, that betrayer, collected his 30 silver coins.  Maybe he counted each one, stacking the silver into a pile, planning his financial future.

But Scripture tells us there was regret.  There was the deep conviction of sin.

 When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man”  (Mathew 27:3 NLT).

He took that blood money right back, hoping to be absolved of the heavy guilt.

And he confessed his wrong.  “I have sinned….for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

There, he said it.  He was a sinner.  Jesus didn’t deserve that cross.

Shouldn’t confession have shaken the conviction right off his shoulders?  Hadn’t he tried to take it all back, hand the coins over, and smooth right over that sin-laden path he’d traveled?

But the thing about taking our burdens to anyone but Christ is that no one else can handle them.

Those chief priests and religious elite took one look at Judas’s stack of coins and said,

“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem” (Matthew 27:4 NLT).

He’d rejected, denied, and handed over to death the only One who could have forgiven the very sin he now carried.  No Pharisee or religious leader could cleanse or absolve such guilt.

Only Jesus.

No only that…they didn’t even care.

Do we do this?  Do we expect worldly goods and other people to assuage our guilt, to calm our fears, to satisfy our hearts, instead of taking everything to the only One who can save and redeem and fill us?

The Psalmist gave this testimony:

For I cried out to him for help,
praising him as I spoke.
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
But God did listen!
He paid attention to my prayer.
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
or withdraw his unfailing love from me (Psalm 66:17-20 NLT).

God doesn’t turn us away.  He doesn’t reject our requests or shrug us off like they did for Judas,’ What’s that to Me?  That’s not my problem.”

No, He listens to our prayers and does not withdraw His unfailing love from us.

So, we bring our sin to Him.  We bring our needs to Him.  We bring to Him our worries, fears, messes and mistakes, our everyday struggles, and the stress that keeps us up in the night.

He alone can save.

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

Ask Me Anything: No More Hiding in Shame

Welcome to the first “Ask Me Anything Friday!”

For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting short excepts from my book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Lives to God’s Questions, as we prepare for the book release in November.

For more information about the book release, you can click here.

I hope you enjoy these glimpses into the study on the questions God asked in Scripture and what happens when we allow God to search our own hearts and draw us closer to Him.

~heather~

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

God asked them a question.

Adam and Eve sinned that first sin in the Garden of Eden and they impulsively hid.

That’s when they heard God’s steps as He searched for them and they heard Him ask that one simple question:

“Where are you?”

“At least some part of them probably wanted to remain silent and continue cowering among the leaves as long as possible. They had wandered away from God’s side, choosing sin over ask-me-anything-lord_kdinnocence, and then when their eyes were opened, they were so filled with shame that they hid from God.

It’s no different than my daughter when she is in trouble. When Momma discovers her disobedience, she’s sad.  She cries a bit at punishment and feels remorseful.

The ultimate pain for her, though, is if Momma tells Daddy what she did. It’s not because Daddy is going to punish her again. She’s already received discipline from me. She just so desperately wants to hide away her sin from him because she’s ashamed of it and knows he will be disappointed.

Shame is so destructive. It builds up walls in our relationships, preventing us from experiencing the freedom of vulnerability and intimacy. Adam and Eve were burdened by shame and they couldn’t even stand face to face with God, even the God who created them and loved them.

Yet, it is grace that counteracts shame in our lives…

This is a grace that Adam and Eve had not yet experienced as they stood among the foliage in the garden, hiding their faces in shame. There had been no sin in that paradise and therefore no need for grace. They didn’t know that while there are consequences for sin, there is also forgiveness available.

It’s a grace I struggle at times to comprehend and feel even though I’ve seen and experienced a life overflowing with God’s grace. I fall easily into works-based living, expecting perfection and achieving failure. I see the stains of sin on my heart and even when they are washed away, I still feel dirty, unusable and bound for the trashcan sometimes.

I struggle with a prison of self-condemnation. Long after I’ve repented and sought forgiveness, I feel the heaviness of guilt—no, shame really. It’s a prison of thoughts—“You’re unworthy.  God can’t use you. You fail, all the time you fail, same sins all the time.”

Shame imprisons us and hides us away from God. We feel unworthy of His attention and beyond salvation. That’s why Adam and Eve covered themselves in palm leaves and stood still with hushed breaths as God came walking in the garden. They were paralyzed by the shame of what they had done. It probably seemed as if there was no hope of restoration.

That is what we feel sometimes, too, but this is what we can know:

  • “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).
  • ” Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7, NIV).
  • “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.  For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12, NKJV)
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, NKJV).

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, God purposed to send His Son, Jesus, to die for all our sins so that we could be cleansed, thoroughly washed clean, all sin stains removed. 

Why?

So that our relationship with Him—the relationship broken by that initial sin in the Garden of Eden and then re-broken over and over again in our disobedient lives—-could be restored.

He “reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NKJV).

That was a plan enacted by God in immediate response to Adam and Eve’s sin. They and all their descendants were not beyond His reach, even with sin so ugly and shame so heavy that it interrupted their relationship with Him.

God’s grace produces reconciliation. 

Satan’s accusations—even long after we’ve repented—bow us low to the ground with shame. We become burdened with sins already forgiven and are unable to look up into God’s face any longer. We can’t walk in relationship with our Savior when we are too ashamed to match His gaze.

So, like Adam and Eve, sometimes we hide from God rather than respond to His call.

Yet, God whispers the searching question to our shame-filled hearts, “Where are you?”

He wants us to return to His side and resume our intimate walks with Him through life, to converse, to share, to listen and respond, but first He must meet us where we are and then heal the heart paralyzed by shame.

Taken from Ask Me Anything, Lord,© 2013 by Heather King. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 49501. All rights reserved. www.dhp.org.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 06/16/2012: Happy Father’s Day

Hiding the Word:

Happy Father’s Day weekend!

One of the things my husband and I have learned (and perhaps are still learning) in this whole parenting life is that each of our daughters is a unique original.  Her gifts, talents and weaknesses don’t mimic her sisters’.

They don’t respond to the same discipline strategies either.

With our youngest, we’ve discovered that even the slightest remonstrance, a serious look and the word no, can catapult her into deep sobs.  She’s just that sensitive.

The other night, she was perky and giggly at bedtime instead of the tired and obedient toddler we’d prefer to see at 8:00 or 9:00 or even 9:30 at night.  Even her older sisters complained.

My husband called her out of the room and she emerged with a sheepish grin.  He looked her in the eye and practically whispered the words, “It’s time to sleep.  You need to go into your bed quietly. No more playing around or talking.”

She bawled.  It was perhaps the most tragically despairing cry I’ve ever heard.  So, he scooped her up and hugged her, stroked her hair and promised that he loved her, but that she needed to obey. Slowly, she progressed from sobs to sniffles to calm and toddled off to her bed . . . laid down quietly . . . and went to sleep.

Aren’t you thankful that God our Father has compassion on us, knowing exactly the grace, the guidance, the blessing, the provision, and the discipline we need?

Here’s a Father’s Day verse to meditate on this week that reminds us of God our Father’s abounding love for us:

‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13 NIV)

Weekend Rerun:

The Writing on The Wall
Originally posted on October 5, 2011

 ”There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake”
(Ecclesiastes 7:20, Good News Translation).

My two-year-old created a masterpiece with a purple marker and a piece of paper.

Then she made a masterpiece on my kitchen wall.

I caught her standing back to admire her mural, giggling with pride.

Walking her back to the paper, I reminded her where art belongs without yelling or even raising the volume of my voice a decibel.  She took one look at my stern face, listened to my firm “no” and burst into truly remorseful tears.

I scooped her up to hold her, but she ran out of the room and I found her lying face down on a pillow, pouring out heavy sobs of brokenness.

All because she had made a mistake and done something wrong.  All because she wasn’t perfect and because I had to correct her.

Surely we all can shrug our shoulders and say, “We all make mistakes sometimes.”  Some of us can even get theological about it and quote “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

But then there is that moment when you need grace because it’s not “all” who sinned or “all” who made a mistake.

It’s you.

It’s me.

Please don’t tell me you missed that part of the blog where you discover I’m not perfect.  The part where I sin.  The part where I have a bad attitude sometimes.  The part where I make silly mistakes and stupid decisions and act like I’m in an I Love Lucy episode.

And every time I’m the one in need of grace, I react like my two-year-old—-run away, bury my face and sob.

Grace sounds so wonderful when you’re explaining it to someone else or extending it to another. But when you are the one who needs grace, oh, how painful it is sometimes

Grace addresses sin.  Forgiveness always requires a wrong.  Erasing always requires a mistake.  Strength always highlights weakness just like perfection always reveals imperfection.

Admitting that we need a Savior requires personalizing the message of redemptive grace.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Good News Translation).

So, that means we’re doomed to imperfection sometimes?  Guaranteed to need forgiveness?  Certain of mistakes and assured of being wrong occasionally (or often)?

Yup, that’s us.  That’s you.  That’s me.

So, when we mess up, we can engage in the horrors of self-condemnation.  We can become weighed down by shame and guilt—

that we are a mess
that we’re stupid
that we’re an idiot
that we never do anything right
that we deserve whatever punishment we get
that God can’t ever use someone so broken

Or we can accept the gift extended to us by a God who specializes in forgiveness. As Emerson Eggerichs wrote, “Mistakes can’t be undone, but they can be forgiven.”

But how do we move on after a mistake?  How do we walk humbly, yet not live paralyzed by shame?  How do we serve gratefully rather than withdraw altogether, unworthy as we are? How do we let the past shape us and not destroy us?

David experienced this same struggle.  He was a godly king turned adulterer and murderer.  Faced with the magnitude of his sin, still he continued serving on the throne of Israel, still he wrote Psalms of praise to God.

It wasn’t easy.  In Psalm 51:3, he says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

But David acknowledged the need for grace, accepted forgiveness and moved forward in joy.

He brought to God the only acceptable sacrifice: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

God doesn’t desire our brokenness because He rejoices in our shame or needs our degradation.  He wants us to remember that He is God, not us.

We can begin to feel perfect, strong, capable, worthy in our own strength. But if we really are all those things, then who needs grace?  Who needs a savior?  Our worship and ministry can become tainted with self-exaltation. It becomes all about us and not at all about Him.

But when we accept grace, we acknowledge that we’re never worthy, not now, not ever.  Thomas Merton said,

“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness.  And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness.’ ~Thomas Merton~

Yes, we advance in His love.

We don’t need to be shamed by our sin, by our foolishness, by our scattered-brains and accident-prone clumsiness.  We should be humbled.  We are reminded that even though we are not perfect; He is.  Though we are not good enough; He is always sufficient.  Even though we are never worthy, He is worthy of all our praise.

And so we ask Him to forgive us.  We accept His grace.  And then we, like David, ask him to help us move on.

David prayed:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.   Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you”
(Psalm 51:10-13).

We pray this as well.

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

There’ll Be A Scar

The doctor said there will be a scar.

I stood over my two-year-old as she laid on the hospital bed in the emergency room, cradling her hand in mine and gently stroking her blood-soaked hair.

More than two hours before, she had been tucked in her bed when she felt inspired to climb into the crib on her own.  We heard the thud and then her cry.  Then we heard the cries of the older girls who were certain they “saw her brains coming out” and were afraid “she was going to die.”

My husband and I scooped up my baby girl, threw on her jacket and snatched up her shoes.  Pressing a rag to her head to cover the gash and to stop the bleeding, my husband snuggled her close as he carried her to the van for our ride to the emergency room.

And I prayed.

Sometimes when you’re in that place of adrenaline and potential bad news, fear, and love for your child, you can’t pray much more than the name of Jesus.  I’m thankful that’s enough.

In the emergency room we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more.  By a true miracle, my two-year-old played happily for two-and-a-half hours without one single tear, entertained only by the items I happened to have in my purse.  Two crayons.  Three miniature My Little Ponies.  Two children’s books.  A sheet of stickers.

When we saw the doctor, I confessed that I’d never had a child receive stitches for anything.  So, he cleaned out the gash in her forehead, probed it and kind of hmmmed and sighed for a few minutes.  Then he announced, “There’ll be a scar no matter what.  But in order to avoid a needle and anesthetic for her and to keep you from passing out, let’s try glue instead of stitches.”

That sounded good to me.

When I told her the story, my friend said, “Who doesn’t have a scar with a story from their childhood??”

I’ve been thinking about this all week, every time I peek under the Band-Aid and examine the line of dark red across my baby’s face.  Don’t we all have scars?  Not just from childhood, but we bear the wounds of hurtful words from a supposed friend, the betrayal of someone who said they loved you, the embarrassments from long ago, and the pain over last week’s mistake.

Jesus chose, following His resurrection, to keep His scars.  He was healed and restored to life, but when He extended His hands, the palms still bore the signs of what He did for us.  This didn’t just give a basis for the disciples’ faith, but “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:19-20). 

His scars are our source of peace.  His hands upturned remind us that our healing, our forgiveness, our deliverance, our freedom, our redemption, our eternity are all part of the peace He gave us through His sacrifice.

Isaiah tells us:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus’ scars are a reminder of what He has done and that gives us peace.

Our scars can do the same.  Oh, I don’t mean we cling to burdens, shame, guilt, hurts, and fears, refusing to lay them down at the cross and remaining forever imprisoned by the stories of our past.

Scripture is clear.

God forgives us.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

God heals our broken hearts.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)

God sets us free.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1)

God doesn’t hold our past against us.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

We are washed clean, made new, redeemed and set free because of the scars Christ bore on our behalf.

Yet, the experiences that He brought us through, all of the times He carried us, and the moments when we stumbled, aren’t times we completely forget.  They are, instead, seasons of transformation in our lives.  He uses each trial and mistake to change our hearts and draw us closer to Him.

The scars we bear from those times of difficulty and growth are our testimony to others.  We can point to our own scabs and gashes and say, “Look what God has done in me.  He brought me through this.”  We are walking reminders of His mercy, standing testaments to His grace, and an ever-present sign of His peace among the hurting, the broken, and the oppressed.

And it’s not despite our scars; it’s because of them.  That’s why Peter, after experiencing the pain of rejecting Christ, became the apostle who argued so passionately for humility.

That’s why Paul, knowing that he had been a murderer and a persecutor of Christians in the past, became the apostle best known for defending grace.

Their scars became part of their testimony and pointed to Christ.

Years ago, I stumbled upon what became one of my favorite songs, Point of Grace’s Heal the Wound.  I hope it blesses you as it did me!

You can click on the video from the blog in order to listen or follow the link here: http://youtu.be/KjnCxvH4Q3w

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

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 Writing on the Wall

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her sixth chapter: “Johnny Come Lately”

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 “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake”
(Ecclesiastes 7:20, Good News Translation).

My two-year-old created a masterpiece with a purple marker and a piece of paper.

Then she made a masterpiece on my kitchen wall.

I caught her standing back to admire her mural, giggling with pride.

Walking her back to the paper, I reminded her where art belongs without yelling or even raising the volume of my voice a decibel.  She took one look at my stern face, listened to my firm “no” and burst into truly remorseful tears.

I scooped her up to hold her, but she ran out of the room and I found her lying face down on a pillow, pouring out heavy sobs of brokenness.

All because she had made a mistake and done something wrong.  All because she wasn’t perfect and because I had to correct her.

Surely we all can shrug our shoulders and say, “We all make mistakes sometimes.”  Some of us can even get theological about it and quote “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

But then there is that moment when you need grace because it’s not “all” who sinned or “all” who made a mistake.

It’s you.

It’s me.

Please don’t tell me you missed that part of the blog where you discover I’m not perfect.  The part where I sin.  The part where I have a bad attitude sometimes.  The part where I make silly mistakes and stupid decisions and act like I’m in an I Love Lucy episode.

And every time I’m the one in need of grace, I react like my two-year-old—-run away, bury my face and sob.

Grace sounds so wonderful when you’re explaining it to someone else or extending it to another. But when you are the one who needs grace, oh, how painful it is sometimes

Grace addresses sin.  Forgiveness always requires a wrong.  Erasing always requires a mistake.  Strength always highlights weakness just like perfection always reveals imperfection.

Admitting that we need a Savior requires personalizing the message of redemptive grace.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Good News Translation).

So, that means we’re doomed to imperfection sometimes?  Guaranteed to need forgiveness?  Certain of mistakes and assured of being wrong occasionally (or often)?

Yup, that’s us.  That’s you.  That’s me.

So, when we mess up, we can engage in the horrors of self-condemnation.  We can become weighed down by shame and guilt—

that we are a mess
that we’re stupid
that we’re an idiot
that we never do anything right
that we deserve whatever punishment we get
that God can’t ever use someone so broken

Or we can accept the gift extended to us by a God who specializes in forgiveness. As Emerson Eggerichs wrote, “Mistakes can’t be undone, but they can be forgiven.”

But how do we move on after a mistake?  How do we walk humbly, yet not live paralyzed by shame?  How do we serve gratefully rather than withdraw altogether, unworthy as we are? How do we let the past shape us and not destroy us?

David experienced this same struggle.  He was a godly king turned adulterer and murderer.  Faced with the magnitude of his sin, still he continued serving on the throne of Israel, still he wrote Psalms of praise to God.

It wasn’t easy.  In Psalm 51:3, he says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

But David acknowledged the need for grace, accepted forgiveness and moved forward in joy.

He brought to God the only acceptable sacrifice: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

God doesn’t desire our brokenness because He rejoices in our shame or needs our degradation.  He wants us to remember that He is God, not us.

We can begin to feel perfect, strong, capable, worthy in our own strength. But if we really are all those things, then who needs grace?  Who needs a savior?  Our worship and ministry can become tainted with self-exaltation. It becomes all about us and not at all about Him.

But when we accept grace, we acknowledge that we’re never worthy, not now, not ever.  Thomas Merton said,

“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness.  And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness.’ ~Thomas Merton~

Yes, we advance in His love.

We don’t need to be shamed by our sin, by our foolishness, by our scattered-brains and accident-prone clumsiness.  We should be humbled.  We are reminded that even though we are not perfect; He is.  Though we are not good enough; He is always sufficient.  Even though we are never worthy, He is worthy of all our praise.

And so we ask Him to forgive us.  We accept His grace.  And then we, like David, ask him to help us move on.

David prayed:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.   Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you”
(Psalm 51:10-13).

We pray as well, “Father, forgive us. Wash us clean.  We’re broken people, weak and mistake-prone.  Give us hearts that are confident not in our own strength, but in the power of your grace.  Restore our joy.  And allow us to minister to others even though we are unworthy.  We pray that others will want to know You because of the grace they see in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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