Wind-Up Toy Caterpillar Versus Four-Year-Old, A Lesson in Gentleness

“Be gentle,” I tell her.

She’s cradling this tiny wind-up caterpillar toy, purple with polka-dots, in her four-year-old hands.   Last week, she re-discovered it in the toy bin and declared that it was worthy of show-and-tell.

So, she’s waited with excitement all week for that one morning when she could tote it into school and show it to her classmates.winduptoy

I slipped that tiny $1 caterpillar into her stocking two Christamases ago and here he is a survivor.  More or less intact, he’s only lost one antenna.

But is he up for the trip to the school?  Is he hardy enough to face one four-year-old and her 19 classmates?

I test him out on our coffee table.  Wind, wind, wind and then I let him go.  He inches across the wood quickly and my daughter giggles at the sight.

We scramble that morning to the minivan, though, all breathless with feeling late, feeling busy, feeling overwhelmed by the day and it’s not even 9 in the morning.

And I say it quickly to her because I’m a mom and I have to say certain things, “Be gentle.   He will break easily.”

She nods like I’m such a worrier.  Silly mom.  As if I didn’t already know that. 

I hear that toy buzz, buzz, buzzing during the drive.  I hear her tossing that cheap plastic around in her hands.

And then I hear her, “Oh mom, he broke!”

Sigh.

I refrain from “I told you so” and mom speeches.  I choose grace.

We arrive at the school and she finds the pieces that had fallen into the pile of lost fruit snacks, french fries and broken crayons on the minivan floor.

Then, I hold three separate parts of a purple plastic caterpillar and hope my English-major brain can figure out the engineering difficulties of a wind-up toy.

Somehow I manage to snap those pieces together.  I test him out–success!  And then I carry him into her classroom and set him on the show-and-tell table.

She flashes me a smile and I know I have earned my Super-Mom cape (and maybe some chocolate as a reward).

Later, she tells the whole story to her sisters: How mom saved the day by fixing him just in time.  She pauses for dramatic effect and then says, “Really, Mom did that.”

I am now the stuff of Super-Mom legends.

But she leaves out one little part of the story….how he broke in the first place.  How she hadn’t been gentle enough.

This gentleness with others, isn’t it what we leave out so often?

Paul writes it here:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5 NIV).

We can can make excuses about how we’re just “honest” or we “just tell it like it is.”  That’s just who we are.philippians4-5

We can assume the worst, lose patience, rage, condescend and degrade into sarcastic mocking.

Or sometimes we have this way of being gentle to strangers, but that harshness, that short temper, that criticism oozes out to the loved ones sitting at our own dinner table.

Too often, we know the weakness of the ones we love.

Our husbands.  Our children.  We are their protectors.  We should be the healing salve to the hurts, treating wounds with tenderness and grace, overlooking failures, encouraging strengths, applauding efforts.

When we’re hurt, angry, frustrated, impatient, though, we tend to stab where it hurts most, highlighting faults and bruising the same feelings again and again.  It’s our self-defense; we wound others when we’re wounded.

Yet, gentleness isn’t a God-request.  It’s not a Holy Spirit suggestion or an option for good days that can be ignored on bad days when we’re stressed, tired, overwhelmed, or haven’t slept all night because we are, in fact, moms.

Paul tells us in Colossians that gentleness is the garb of Christ:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12 NIV).

Gentleness is part of living Christ to the those around us, in our home and out of it.  We are to wrap ourselves in it so others see Jesus in us.

“Be gentle.  People break easily.”

That’s the message I remind myself as I put that wind-up caterpillar back in the toy bin after his show-and-tell adventure.

A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Proverbs 15:4 ESV).

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

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18 NIV).

Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24 NIV).

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

Made it to the bus with 30 seconds to spare

“I think it’s Career Day at school today,” she announces.

“No, I think it’s tomorrow,” her older sister explains.  “I wrote it in my agenda.”  She pulls out the book as evidence and shows us where she penciled it in.

“See….Dress like what you want to be when you grow up…. That’s tomorrow.”

“Who told you it was tomorrow?” I ask.

“My teacher.  She had it written on the board like this and I copied it in my book like she said.”

“Okay,” I turn to the other sister, “did your teacher tell you it was today?”

“No, but all the smart kids in my class except for me heard it on the announcements and they said it was today.”  She lists the name of every “smart kid” in her class that she can think of.  It’s a long list.

I turn back to the oldest girl.  “Did you hear it on the announcements?”

“No, but my teacher said….”

We’re right back where we started.

Easy enough, though.  We have the largest dress-up collection on the East Coast.  (I really need to check into whether we can get into the Guinness Book of World Records or something).

I ask the daughter who thinks Career Day is today (as in starting 20 minutes from now when the bus will pull up in front of our house) “Okay, what do you want to dress up as?”

A magician. Or maybe a clown. Or maybe a rabbit who has his own children’s show and entertains kids on TV.

Magician it is.

I find the black cape.  I scramble through the largest dress-up collection on the East Coast and find the hat (a little crushed perhaps, but still a hat).  I shuffle through the magic kit and pull out the magic wand.

Bam.  Magician’s outfit.

Then I fold it all up, pop it in the backpack and declare the solution to our entire morning crisis:  If Career Day is today, you can wear the magician’s outfit today.  If it’s not, keep it in your backpack until tomorrow.

I then zip up the backpacks, hand them to my daughters and toss open the front door.psalm16

It’s raining.  I grab umbrellas and hand them out.

We make it to the bus with 30 seconds to spare.

Thirty whole seconds.

Because we’re awesome like that.

The sky is that curious ashen white of winter and the rain drips rhythmically on the roof as I flop down onto the sofa, cradling my baby boy close and holding my Kindle in the other hand.

I’m looking at dishes in the sink and the aftermath of the morning whirlwind of pajamas, blankets, ponytail holders, brushes, and more.

But then I open that Kindle up and there’s the Bible.  It tells me right there that even when the world was a nothingness of empty void, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).

Maybe that’s how I feel right then, like His Spirit hovers over the start of this new day.  Like He’s present and waiting for the invitation not just to enter in, but to roll up His sleeves and nehemiah8create something beautiful–something “good”— in the middle of the noise and mess and all the busyness.

Yesterday, my four-year-old pantomimed what looked to me like an outfielder in baseball, dropping a mitt to the ground and snatching up a ball.

As she did, she said, “God scooped up the dust of the earth and “whooo” blew His breath and made man.”

Just like that, she says it, like the sing-songy rhythm of a well-choreographed routine.

I read it this morning again, “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).

I take a deep breath, letting that air fill me up after the suffocation of the morning stress, and I pray—

Lord, don’t let it just be a day when Your Spirit hovers over my life.  Breathe Your breath right into me and let me feel Your presence.

Because even on the hard days, the sad days, the crazy days, ,the hectic days, the stressful days, the fun days, the unexpected days….

You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures
(Psalm 16:11 HCSB).

And you know something else, His presence isn’t just the  joy I need right here in the middle of  a rainy winter day after a morning rush.

It’s this:

For the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV),

In His presence, there is abundant joy, and that joy is the strength I so desperately need.

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 © 2013 Heather King

My Favorite Teacher Gifts and Why This Matters…

For ten years, it sat on my desk.

And I’m not a “stuff” person really.  I have kids.  Things break.  It’s a reality, not a nightmare.

Yet, this I mourned a little, when I sat down at my desk and saw what a child-who-shall-remain-nameless broke this week.

Ten years ago, in my pre-Mom days when I was still teaching in the classroom, parents and students gave this simple picture frame to me.  Each teacher in the school received one with a card inside displaying their name along with the fruit of the spirit or character trait the students said that teacher most represented.

Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective.  Sometimes you think you know who you are, but it takes someone else to say, “I see this in you…” and you haven’t ever seen that before so you know exactly what that means.

It’s proof that God’s been working in you.  He’s been transforming you and changing  you all up from the inside.  Maybe you’ve missed the yellow “Caution: God At Work” sign and maybe you didn’t even see the grand unveiling of the new and Holy Spirit-improved you.

But someone else saw.  They noticed.  And they took time to say….Jesus is glorified in you.

So, I opened up that teacher’s gift ten years ago and just marveled at God because what the kids saw in me was “Joy.”

I never would have guessed that.  Didn’t see it.  Didn’t know it.  Can’t even tell you now how exactly the Holy Spirit chiseled, scraped, sanded, and carved that out of a misshapen rock like me.

But I knew one thing for sure.  That was God’s hand, His glory, an artistic endeavor that only a Master Creator would undertake and accomplish.042

That little picture frame gift never was just about remembering students or recalling the old days when I commuted and dressed like a professional instead of donning jeans, a t-shirt and canvas sneakers to head out for a full day of Mom-life.

No, it was about so much grace.

And more.

This world condones, encourages, evokes, and just pulls right out the selfishness in us.  It tells us: Focus within.  Look out for #1.  Fight to get ahead.  Don’t let anyone stand in your way.  Help yourself.  Take what’s yours.

God, though, didn’t just tell us to stoop down low, to reach out, to humby pull out the cloth and the basin and wash another’s feet.

He did it Himself.

And then He asked us to do it for others.

Hebrews 10:24 says:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT).

One little teacher gift for me was Hebrews 10:24 wrapped up with tissue paper and handed out during teacher appreciation week in 2003.

Now, I’m the mom with the young kids and they have the incredible teachers.  This, again, is grace.  The way God blesses us and pours into us.  Then He asks us to pour ourselves right on out for others so they can be blessed and filled to overflowing.

And so it goes, a perpetual fountain of grace-giving that only stops when we break the chain and stagnate the flow until we’re all swamp-stinky and covered in a grime of selfishness.001

Maybe your days of classroom teachers are long over.  But we all have those special ones who give so much and if we’ll just take one moment to look at them instead of at ourselves, we’ll marvel at the creativity, the thoughtfulness, the gentleness, the devotion, the commitment, the faithfulness, the care and the compassion.

And we’ll want to say, “Thanks.”  We’ll want to tell them—“I see this beauty in you.”

For those looking for ways to bless a teacher or other special servant, here are some ideas as we end this school year or even thoughts to give you a head-start for the fall.  We’ve collected these ideas from Pinterest, the Internet, and from other moms.  I’m hardly creative enough to come up with these on my own!

To see my whole Pinterest board of Cute Gift Ideas, click here!

Of course, gift cards are great, too.

Most importantly, though, is a genuine, heartfelt note of appreciation and encouragement.  That’s something we can all give to another this week.

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

Flat

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

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

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

“You have a flat tire.”

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

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

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

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

That seems statistically impossible somehow.

And definitely unfair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Lowering the Hands, Releasing the Fists

“Mom, why do turtles have shells?”

My preschooler draped herself across the sofa, seemingly inert and bored, but truly thinking about the great mysteries of the world.

“The shell keeps their soft body safe and protected.”

“Oh.  Okay, mom.”

So far, so good.  Her questions simple, her mind and heart trusting and easily satisfied by easy answers.

My middle daughter was never so quick to accept and move on.  A conversation with her could go something like this:

“Mom, why do turtles have shells?”
“To protect their soft bodies from harm.”
“Why are they in danger and need protection?”
“Other animals might try to catch and eat them, or they might be stepped on or run over…
“Why do some animals like to eat turtles?
“Some animals are herbivores and eat only plants and some are carnivores and eat meat.  Turtles are meat.”
“Why do animals eat other animals?”
“Because after the fall in the garden of Eden, one of the curses was the destruction of the peace between animals in the animal kingdom and now some animals would be food and others would eat other animals.”

Falling back on theology or “because God said so” became my frequent defensive position.

This curiosity about the world, I love.  This exploring and questioning and wondering “what if” and “how come”–while it occasionally makes me explode and bluster out  “because God made it that way” or “because I said”– ultimately I appreciate.

Ultimately I understand.

Because I’m a questioner, too.  I want to know “why” and “how come” and “what about” and “why not?”  I want to pester God with question after question like a three-year-old first discovering the world around her.

More than that, more than asking God true and honest questions, I nag and whine and push and nudge.

Oh, and it’s even more than that.  I’ve been Jacob up all night wrestling the angel of the Lord.  I’ve locked my grip with God’s and fought hard for what I thought constituted a blessing, for a victory, for triumph over circumstances and over the Enemy who’s been battering at the walls of my life.

Yes, I’ve pummeled the chest of Christ with my fists, fighting and demanding, manipulating even, making promises, issuing threats, and crying for mercy, help, deliverance—for rescue.

I’m being honest with Him, I tell myself, and honesty is something God treasures in us.  He never asks us to fake it or play happy-faced Christian when life is a mess and this mask we wear becomes increasingly ill-fitting.

God desires truth.  Job, Habakkuk, David, Asaph, Elijah, Jonah, Mary and Martha laid their complaints before God, plead their case, and He listened and answered with awe-inspiring mercy.

He didn’t strike them down with lightning.  He let them empty out hearts filled with fear, hurt and anger and then He answered, not always in the way they expected or wanted, but still He met them in the place of pain and questioning and carried them on out.

Now, though, I’ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit and found I didn’t really get it before.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).

Gentleness is on that list.  All those years of sermons and Sunday school lessons and I thought this meant “being nice, not hurting others with our words, kindness and tact.”

The Message translation however, describes gentleness as: “not needing to force our way in life.”

Is this Gentleness?

In Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit, Beth Moore defines the root word here “praotes” as “the complete surrender to God’s will and way in your life.  The term basically means to stop fighting God” (p. 178).

Gentleness is submission to God, His will and His way, His plan and His timing and all He has determined for us.

It means dropping to our knees and pouring out the honest struggles of our heart, but deciding at last, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

It’s singing with true conviction, “Have Thine own way, Lord,” and “I surrender all.”

No more fighting God.

How then can I still be honest with Him?  How can a prize-fighter like me lower the hands and open the fists, cease fighting and nagging and choose instead to trust?

Does this require me to be fake after all?

There is my answer in the verse itself, “but the fruit of the Spirit is…” not the fruit of my own discipline or maturity, strength or ability.

This is what the Spirit at work and alive within me does—the impossible, the new, the Christ-like—As I yield and grow in the Spirit, so slowly I trust more, believe more, fall in love with Jesus more and understand how much He loves me more.

And I stop fighting Him.

I drop the knee, I bow the head, I cry the tear, I confess the pain, I trust my God and the Spirit works out Gentleness in 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 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

When the Wax Melts

Betty Ramsey won the first prize for her tulips year after frustrating year.

Lucy Ricardo decided this was the year to change that tradition.  She tended her garden carefully and begged her husband to mow the lawn before the judges came by to evaluate her flower-bed.

He promised to do it, but quit halfway through, playing hookie so he could go to a baseball game instead.

Inevitably, Lucy cranked the lawnmower up with her friend Ethel’s help.  Then she hopped on and zoomed across the yard, totally unable to stop, and ultimately mowing most of the state of Connecticut (it seemed).  The worst part is that she also mowed over Betty Ramsey’s prize flowers.

Of course Lucy wanted to win that blue ribbon for her garden, but not by knocking off the heads of Betty’s tulips. What would Betty Ramsey think?

So, in a classic “Lucy” brainstorm, she planted wax flowers in Betty’s garden, hoping to fool Betty and the judges.

Then when her husband Ricky sauntered in after the baseball game, Lucy sent him outside to finish mowing the lawn.  Since it was so dark, though, he couldn’t see well enough to avoid Lucy’s own precious flower bed.

His solution?  Plant wax tulips to replace Lucy’s ruined flowers!

It’s one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes and the ending is unsurprising.  The problem with wax flowers in the heat of the day is that they melt into a messy puddle of mush.  That’s what the judges found in Betty and Lucy’s gardens, earning them both a disqualification instead of a blue ribbon.

Wax fruit has the same weakness as wax flowers.  It may be deceptively shiny, catching the light and gleaming in an appetizing way.  The apples may be deeply red and the oranges the color of the sun.  They may be shaped to perfection, each grape a perfect juicy-looking sphere.

But in the end, it’s still fake. It can’t hold together in heat and one mouthful would send you spitting and gagging to the nearest glass of water.

Fake flowers for Lucy, fake fruit for us—it’s the appeal of the moment and the sacrificing of what’s genuine for what’s currently convenient.

Paul tells us exactly what real fruit looks like, the kind that grows when we’re abiding in the One True Vine:

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23b).

Everywhere I turn, I learn about this fruit.  I started a new Bible study–on the fruit of the Spirit.  I picked up a book from the church library on this same fruit. It’s in the devotionals I read and the lessons that I hear.

It’s tempting then, since this fruit matters so much, to skip to growth and maturity without the process.  How can I have the fruit without the tending and pruning and remaining in the vine?

Can I discipline myself into patience?  Can I watch my tongue closely enough to constitute gentleness?

Is this fruit that I can fake with my own personal strength and resources or because I’m generally a nice person?

In her devotional, Diamonds in the Dust, Joni Eareckson Tada writes:

It’s impossible to manufacture the fruit of the Spirit …you can paint a veneer of joy and put up a facade of self-control, but invariably you will be found out.  You can only deceive yourself and others for so long with false love and plastic peace (p. 257).

Yes, eventually the heat of life melts the fake fruit you’ve tried to attach to the Vine with super-glue and wire.

The problem, as the devotional notes, is that when we try to fake our own life fruit, we do it by skipping to the end result.  God, however, “grows genuine fruit in the opposite order” (Joni Eareckson Tada 257).  His emphasis is on planting His Word in us and growing our relationship with Him.

This fruit of the Spirit must be supernatural makeup in order to be genuine.  No amount of “nice girl” qualities can fake the love, kindness, goodness and gentleness of God’s Spirit within us.

And we might try to mosey along on our own good manners and general likeability for a while, passing off our own character traits as holy fruit.  But we’ll ultimately melt into a puddle of wax mush.

Scripture tells us, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).  So, don’t pursue blue-ribbon fruit; focus on abiding in Him.

It’s not patience we seek, it’s Jesus.  It’s not faithfulness we ask for; it’s the Holy Spirit alive and real in our lives.  As we feed on the Vine and refuse to disconnect regardless of life, busyness, circumstances and other temptations, God will grow the fruit in us, genuine Spirit fruit, lasting and beautiful, a testimony not to us, but to the Vine itself.

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.  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

Filling Out The Form

“I’m your servant—help me understand what that means, the inner meaning of your instruction”  (Psalm 119:125 MSG).

“What do you want to see your child learn during this school year?”

I tapped the eraser end of my pencil on the table.

It’s not a new question.  I’ve been answering it for years.  The first time I registered my oldest daughter for preschool, I sat in a child-sized chair and hunched over a child-sized table and completed the “Help Me Get to Know Your Child” form.

Some questions were easy.  What does she like?  What are her strengths? I scribbled away for a while, trying to sum up my precious daughter in a few sentences on blank lines.

But when it came to that one question—What do you want her to learn?—-tap, tap, tap went the top of the pen on the preschool table.

Tap, tap, tap goes my pencil after Open House for second grade.  Some things never change.

What am I supposed to put on this form?  Multiplication?  Cursive?  Powerful writing skills? 

Truly, I want her to know in a deep-down, unquestioning way that God loves her.

This was Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

I’m not talking about being able to rattle off John 3:16 or sing Jesus Loves Me.

In her book A Sudden Glory, Sharon Jaynes notes that the first word for know here is gnosis or ginosko:  “This word is not simply a head knowledge but an intimate heart knowledge,” like the “relationship between a husband and a wife.” (p. 173).

Yes! I want her to love God with that passion and to be filled up with all that God has for her because she trusts and fully knows His love.

And I want her to understand that growing in Christ takes time, a lifetime of time.  There are no shortcuts to faith. 

Rick Warren wrote:

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither
instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the
rest of your life.

I don’t want her to settle for a safe amount of faith, a reasonable amount of Bible knowledge, a decent prayer life, an appropriate amount of service to God.  I don’t want her to declare, “I’m finished.  This much is enough.  No need for more of God.”

After all, He always leads us forward, perpetually changing us, incessantly maturing us.  His passion is transformation.

It takes hard work.  It takes discipline.  It takes yielding.  It takes willingness to be taught and to change.  As it says in Romans:

… fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (Romans 12:2)

This is my prayer for her.

Not head knowledge or wisdom gained through book study and our teacher in these matters has to be more than human.  Paul assures us that, “these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God”  (vs.10).

The deep things of God.  Is that what I’m asking?

Or as Paul puts it later, “We have the mind of Christ.

He says it with such confidence.  Not we want to have, we will have, someday we’ll have, or if we work hard enough we’ll have.  God has given us His Spirit and with that, “we have the mind of Christ” (vs. 16).

This is what I want my daughters to learn.  This is what I want to learn.  I want every day to know Him more, to be filled by His Spirit, responsive to His promptings, and for my mind not to be filled with self and with world, but with Christ.

I look at the form from her teacher.  How to answer this question?  I decide that being vague is the way to go.  “I want her to fulfill her potential, growing in her strengths even more and improving any weaknesses.”

That’s what I write.  But I pray for so much more.

I pray for the deep things of God.  I pray for the mind of Christ.

How would you answer this question?

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

Once in a Lifetime

“The soul is nurtured by beauty.  What food is to the body . . . pleasing images are to the soul” (Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul)

I grew up not far outside of Washington, DC.  At the time, a $5 Metro fare and a 20 minute train ride opened up a world of free museums and monuments.

I could easily Metro in just to see one exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library or spend a day slowly walking the halls of the National Gallery of Art or meandering through the presidential portraits in the National Portrait Gallery.

We could day-trip in for the Cherry Blossom Festival exactly when the cherry trees around the Jefferson Memorial were in full bloom.

And I did all those things.

Everything was simply so accessible, so convenient, so inexpensive, and perfect for someone like me who finds these experiences to be spiritual and a refreshing deep breath for my soul.

Our Creator God designed beauty and placed in human hearts the longing to create beauty ourselves.  So, I worship God amidst art and architecture.

Yes, I had access to a spiritual retreat with little effort or cost and I didn’t even know it.

Then in middle school, we watched an episode of one of our favorite shows, Saved By the Bell.  The show’s heartthrob, Zack, desperately wanted to win a contest with a fabulous grand prize— a week-long trip to Washington, DC.

This was unimpressive to me.

Who chooses a grand prize that is just 20 minutes away from my house?  Why not Disney World?  Hawaii?  London?

Of course, we don’t often appreciate what we have, not until it’s gone anyway.

Now, I live just far enough away for a trip to DC to be inconvenient and easily deterred by a busy life and tired children.  A week-long trip to the city would be fabulous!

When we live close to something, when it’s easy, when it’s inexpensive and effortless, it’s easy to overlook it’s value, becoming complacent and unappreciative.

That’s true about time in God’s presence, too.

For us, being with God is as simple as a one-sentence prayer while driving or singing praise songs while washing dishes.  When I’m worried, I pray about 100 times a day over one particular problem.

But it used to be far more complicated and rare than that.  In Luke 1, a priest named Zechariah was chosen by lottery to burn incense in the temple.

He won the grand prize.

Priests were the only ones who could perform this job, the only ones allowed beyond the outer area into the holy places before God Most High.

Even Zechariah, who God declares was “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6) would only burn incense before the Lord once in his entire life.

One chance to be in God’s Holy presence.
One opportunity to stand before Almighty.
One moment of intimate communion with Him.

Beth Moore writes:

“The responsibility of the priest on duty was to offer a corporate prayer.  Furthermore, the priest’s intercession for the nation undoubtedly included a petition for the Messiah, Israel’s promised Deliverer and King” (Jesus, the One and Only, p. 4)

Zechariah prayed for the nation, prayed for a Messiah, and maybe, just maybe took his one and only chance before God and prayed for his own family’s brokenness.

He and his wife Elizabeth were childless and “very old” (Luke 1:7).  Their dreams for a family seemed hopeless now.

But an angel appeared in that private moment between God and this aging priest.  The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 7:12).

Which prayer?  The one for the nation?  For the Messiah?  For himself?

Yes to all of them.

He and Elizabeth became parents to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, the hope of the nation.

One powerful moment in the Lord’s presence brought Zechariah the answer to all he had sought for so long.

If we only had one brief opportunity to be in God’s presence, how would we act and what would we do?  How would we worship and what would we request?

David knew exactly what he desired:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27:4).

God’s presence was his “one thing,” the deep longing in his heart.

Praise God that because of Jesus we aren’t limited to one single moment in God’s presence!

We have access to the throne of grace at all times and anywhere we go.  We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, communing, comforting, counseling, teaching, convicting and bringing peace.

But let’s not let easy access breed complacency.  Let’s treat our times with God as precious as they really are, remembering that it is only because of Christ that we can come before God at all.  Let’s thank Him for the that.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Rerun: Packing Up The Tiara

Originally posted on August 5, 2011

There I sat, cuddling my oldest daughter as she sobbed disappointed tears into her pillow.  Sitting in the minivan that night as we drove home, she had suddenly realized that God wasn’t going to make her a fairy tale princess when she grows up.

Her little life dream had been dashed.

After her sad announcement, my husband tried to shout back persuasive logic to her from the front seat, explaining that princesses don’t really live such great lives.  They can’t choose where to go, what to eat, how to dress, or even who to marry.

Somehow the lack of freedom was overshadowed by Disney ballgowns, glass slippers and tiaras.  And so after the pajamas were on, the teeth brushed, the prayers prayed, there we sat in her bed and she cried and we talked about feeling disappointed.

How life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect.
How sometimes we can’t have what we really want.
How movies and fairy tales rarely represent the reality of life.
How it’s hard to trust God when He tells us, “no,” but that we need to leave our future in His hands.
How our job is to work hard to develop the gifts He’s given and His job is to direct and guide our service.

No matter how you chat and philosophize sometimes, though, disappointment hurts.  For a while, we can hope that despite all odds, God is going to miraculously give us what our hearts desire.

But it doesn’t always happen that way and that’s the truth.

Sometimes God says, “no.”  He may do it so gently and with grace, and it’s not because He hates us or wants to see us sob ugly tears on our pillows.

In most cases, He does it for the same reason I tell my child “no” she can’t wear her favorite skirt that is now too short for her, “no” she can’t have cookies and milk at 5:30 p.m. as I’m dishing up dinner on the table, “no” she can’t watch that movie even if her friends have all seen it, “no” she can’t have a cellphone and laptop for first grade.  “No” is for people we love enough to protect.

Then there are other cases where the “no” is so He can be glorified and our faith refined.  In Beth Moore’s study, Daniel, she notes that there are always three scenarios:

  • God delivers us from the fire.
  • God delivers us through the fire.
  • God delivers us by the fire into His arms.

For the three men who refused to bow down to the towering image of King Nebuchadnezzar, there was no question of whether God could keep them out of the furnace that was blazing in front of them.  They declared:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

They had to go through the fire, but Christ showed up in all His magnificent glory and walked them right on out of there.  God said, “no, I won’t deliver you from the fire, but I’ll take you through.”

For others of you, God has said, “no” and it’s not clear why.  Maybe we’ll never know the reason this side of eternity.  You can’t see how this is protection.  You can’t see how He is being glorified.  Maybe it’s disappointing, this waiting for the healing or rescue that doesn’t ever seem to come.

Have you ever wondered how Stephen did it, the first martyr in the church, the first one to take stand up for Christ to the death?  Were he and his friends disappointed that God didn’t rescue him from the riotous Sanhedrin?  Were they waiting for the earth to open up and swallow the mob now raising their stones in murderous rage?

How disappointed and confused did they feel as God didn’t deliver Stephen from or through the onslaught of rocks, but instead delivered him home to heaven?  There was no last-minute rescue or miraculous intervention.

Acts 7:6-7 says:

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” (MSG).

Stephen “hardly noticed” the deafening noise of those about to kill him because “he only had eyes for God.”

Whatever disappointments we face, a fairy tale dream that never came true, a furnace God asks us to walk through, a definitive “no” instead of miraculous intervention, we are victorious by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  Just like Stephen.  Just like Jesus Himself looked to His Father as He suffered painfully on the cross for our sake.

We’re not looking at the enemy, the storm or the overwhelming circumstances.  We’re not looking at the hoped-for miracle or the anticipated rescue.  We’re looking at Jesus “standing at God’s side,” knowing that even when God chooses not to give us what we want or hope for, He never leaves nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: Needing Big Hair

Hiding the Word:

I ran my comb through my wet hair this morning and glanced into the mirror.  Bells certainly chimed somewhere and little stars likely danced around my head because I had an epiphany.

What I need as a writer, what I really and truly need to fill in some of my voids and deficiencies, is big hair.

Stay with me on this one:  How many female Christian writers can you think of who have a flat hairdo?

This was an astonishing revelation.  Every conference I’ve attended and DVD I’ve watched is led by beautiful women with big hair.   Anita Renfroe even posted a picture of herself at her salon this week with her hair covered in Saran Wrap and painted with hair dye and highlights. Even those without particularly high coiffures tend to wear it spiky, in a daring, edgy, cool kind of way.

I, however, do not have big hair, spiky hair, colorfully highlighted hair, or “cool” hair.

So, it seems clear that what I really need is a personal style team.  If they could just pop by every day and apply my make-up, fix my hair and then pick out my outfits, it would just be perfect.  It would be particularly helpful if they could make me beautiful while I’m busy doing other things.  As it is, I never seem to have time to blow dry my own hair.  Maybe they could do it for me while I wash dishes.

Isn’t it sad how easily our culture of the external seeps in?  How there is always something that we “need” and it’s usually what the person next to us has.

What I really need is . . . her job, his house, her car, her marriage, their kids, her ministry, her spiritual gift . . . her hair.

The Psalmist, Asaph, reminded us that there shouldn’t be anything on earth we long for more than God Himself.  We may not have the personal stylists we dream of or the health, wealth, and prosperity the world assures us we need.

But we have Jesus.  We have the Holy Spirit active in us.  We have God’s very own Word to us written down and at our fingertips throughout every day.  This is what we truly need.

Our verse for the week, to remind us of what we’ve already been given is:

 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26 NIV).

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