Consecrated, Lord, to Thee

“Lord, we consecrate this trip.”

This is what I prayed over my daughter  as  we sat side by side in the airplane.  It was her first time flying. I’m not a flight expert by any means, but I still  explained every step of the process from security checks to  boarding to  seatbelts and the runway as if I knew exactly what was  happening.

She still  didn’t really know what  to  expect,  so when the plane picked up  speed and the engine roared, she glanced at me for a reassurance that  this was  normal.  And then we lifted off the ground and she gave  me one shocked look of, “are we living through this?”

I  squeezed her hand and reminded her not  to fear, but to marvel, nudged at her to enjoy the awe and the wonder of it.

With the initial take-off over with,  we put aside the nerves. She settled into her book  and I settled into mine.  We were beginning an adventure, heading with other students and her teachers  to a competition in a state we’ve never before visited.

My prayers started out tentative and nervous.  What to pray?   Not that she wins.  That’s  not it.

I prayed for peace and strength and favor.

As we flew, though, I read these reminders from John Eldgredge in his  book  on prayer called Moving Mountains, about consecrating ourselves for God’s work and for His Kingdom purposes.

Consecrate.  I know the definition.  Make holy.  Make sacred.  Dedicate to  God.

We sing it, don’t we? We sing, “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.”

I  consider what this means, though.  What  is it I’ve been singing all these years  in one of my favorite hymns?  Do I know what I’m singing?   Do I mean it?

John Eldgredge writes:

“the act of consecration is….the fresh act of dedicating yourself…or whatever needs God’s grace–deliberately and  intentionally to Jesus,  bringing it  fully into His kingdom and under his rule.”

The night before, I’d read it in my Bible reading, how the nation of  Israel  gathered to dedicate Solomon’s temple and how Solomon prayed for God to  direct them, to answer prayer, to  be present, to forgive, to lead, to guide, to inhabit this physical building with the fullness of His spiritual  presence.

They set it apart.  They made it  holy, all the stones  and the wood and the linen made sacred,  not because they were sacred materials,  but because they were dedicated and anointed for God’s purposes.

Solomon prayed  over the people:

And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands… (1 Kings 8:61).

In Scripture, we see it elsewhere.  Joshua told the nation:

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5 ESV).

And the priests were instructed:

Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them (Exodus 19:22 ESV).

In the Old Testament, they anointed priests.  In the New Testament,  they anointed apostles and evangelists.  As the church gathered in Antioch, praying and fasting,  the Holy Spirit called out Barnabas and Saul for a special  work.  Scripture says,

Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.  So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went” (Acts 13:3-4)

John Eldredge writes:

First ,  they consecrated themselves.  Meaning,  they dedicated themselves afresh to  God.”

So, I’m on an airplane with my daughter at the start of an adventure, and as we fly I read these reminders about consecration.  I consider what I most want here.

May my daughter see God at work and may others see God at work  through her.  May this whole journey be a part  of God’s plans for her; His hand deeply molding and preparing her for the future.  We dedicate this trip to you and set it aside for your Kingdom purposes.

That’s consecration.

It’s a prayer that feels truly fitting for  any new season or endeavor.

For this opportunity…for this new ministry…for our marriage…for a new baby….for our new house… for this job or this project…for the start of this summer….for the beginning of a new school year….for this trip.

We give this over to the Lord.  May it  be sacred and holy,  God at work, God present, God-directed, God-glorifying.  Amen and amen.

What Can Make You Lose Every Time

I watched as this college friend pulled clothes from her suitcase and packed them into a duffel bag for the Thanksgiving weekend at home.

She still had an empty dresser and a full suitcase 3/4 of the way through the college semester.

I am not like this.  I am an insta-unpacker.  The moment I arrive at a hotel, I nest.  I empty every bag, tuck every item away, fill the mini-kitchen and set up the bathroom sink.

When we return home, I’m going to unpack no matter how late it is.  I’m going to start that load of laundry and pull out the toiletries because it cannot wait until morning, not if I want to get any sleep.

Maybe I looked lost in confusion as I watched my friend move clothes from one bag to another because she stopped to explain it to me.psalm16-11

It wasn’t procrastination or laziness.

It was perfectionism.  It was that ugly enemy that paralyzes us with the lie:  If you can’t do it perfectly, then why do it at all?

“I was so busy,” she said, “I knew I didn’t have time to put my clothes away just right, so I left them in the suitcase.”

Beth Moore wrote:

Perfectionists always lose (Esther).

It’s the same way my son chose to crawl rather than walk for weeks and weeks.  People asked me, “Can he walk yet?”

Yes, he could walk.

Did he always choose to walk?

No.  It amused him to walk a little from room to room or place to place.  But when he wanted to get somewhere with certainty and with speed, he dropped to all fours and crawled like a rocket.

Perfectionism does this; it paralyzes us into this one place of development.  We’re comfortable here.  We move along well enough.  This is what we know.

Why choose stumbling?  Why choose uncertain steps and potential embarrassment?

This is what we lose when we demand perfection from ourselves:  We lose the journey of grace, the way God walks alongside, the way He steadies us with His strong hand and smiles at our progress.  The way He cheers us along and encourages us on the weary days to persevere and not give up, to get up and try once more because He is with us, after all.

Jesus said these words to His disciples and it could have broken over their weary souls like the cracking of a whip, so they felt trampled and beaten and hopeless:

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV).

Be…..perfect?

It’s tucked in just one tiny verse after the beatitudes and after Jesus tells them not to retaliate against their enemies, not to get divorced, not to lust, not to sin when they’re angry, and to love their enemies.

Yes, do all this.  And be perfect.

That would have caused me some religious whiplash.  If I were taking sermon notes on that hillside, I’d have written it down on my bulletin with exclamation marks and references to look up later in case the preacher was wrong.

Hadn’t the Pharisees preached legalism and works-based faith?  The religious elite told them to be perfect, be perfect, be perfect and if possible, be more perfect, because that’s what it took to please God.

Here I am at the end of my 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ, and I’m ending the year with this: Abandon Perfection.

But how do you move on past a verse like this?

Be perfect?  That’s impossible.  I’m a mess some days, broken and faulty and prone to sin.

So, Jesus, does that mean we’re hopelessly blocked from Your presence and Your favor because this perfection just trips us all up?

Oh, but here’s the grace we perfectionists need.

Ravi Zacharias writes:

Perfection, then, is not a change in the essential character but the completion of a course...We can never be who God is, but we can complete the task he assigns us to do” (The Grand Weaver).

Jesus didn’t mean we had to attain that holiness on our own or get everything right and never falter or sin.  He knows we can’t.

He asks us, though, to move forward.  Take those steps.  Make progress.  Obey Him.

When He tells us to move, move.  When He plants us, bloom.  When He leads us, follow.  When He prompts us, go.  When He nudges us, yield.

Perfectionists lose because we get so focused on the end that we despair in the middle and simply give up.  Or we never begin in the first place.

But God asks us to just take a walk with Him, rest in His presence, trust His direction, enjoy His company.  Then we’ll be where He wants us to be, with Him….and that’ll be perfect.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

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

Captivated

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to the first day of my new Bible Study, Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate 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 © 2013 Heather King

The Holy Act of Doing Dishes

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

A week ago to the day, I was escaping the mundane and the daily to retreat to Women of Faith.  Even with the interruption and distraction of a hurricane, I managed to get away for one of the intended two days and it was uplifting, encouraging, and challenging.

I walked away from that trip with some verses and thoughts that I’m deeply weighing, considering and praying through.  It’s trite to say that a conference or speaker or book “changed my life.”  Yet, it happens all the time.  I read a new perspective and alter my behavior.  I listen to a speaker and adjust my thinking.

Life-changing events can happen more often than we realize.  Shouldn’t we be transforming daily into the image of God’s Son? Life changes don’t necessarily require “bigness.”  It’s not just choosing whom to marry or deciding to change careers that qualifies.  Instead, it means trimming this, discarding that, washing away this, and adding that so every day we’re making the changes that bring us one step closer to Jesus.

So, I can truly say that the speakers at Women of Faith this year changed my life.  And so did being without power for 5-1/2 days following Hurricane Irene.  And so has having the power restored last night. I’m different today than I was a week ago.

You see, last Thursday I was longing to escape from the repetitiveness of my everyday—the dishes, the laundry, the sweeping and mopping, the cleaning up and vacuuming and more.

Today, I was thanking God all morning.  For what?

For safety in the storm, surely.  But also that today I can wash my dishes with running water and a dishwasher.  And I scrubbed my counters with a rag dumped in soapy water instead of a Clorox wipe.  I vacuumed instead of picking up large pieces of child-debris by hand.  Praise God for the chance to vacuum!  All morning I have listened to the humming and spinning of the washer and dryer.  I’m thankful that I can use these machines to give my family clean clothes.

If only they had a machine to fold the clothes and put them away.  But, that’s another story . . . and probably heaven.

I truly believe in the value of spiritual retreating.  Christ Himself called His disciples away from the crowds and busyness of their lives to spend time with him alone.  Often, Jesus would send His disciples on ahead of Him while He remained to pray alone long into the night.

Sometimes we need to go away, to escape all that distracts us here so we can fix our attention on Him there.

And then the real work begins. Meeting God when we have set aside time for Him is expected.  We listen to speakers, we pray, we worship, or maybe we even head for a private retreat into the mountains where we pour out our hearts to Him and then sit in silence as He speaks to us.

We anticipate seeing God in the specifically designated portions of our lives we call “Spiritual” and the times we have set aside as “Holy.”

Then we must return to the daily life in all its mundane activity and we must carry into that everyday behavior all that we learned in the holy moments we had set aside.

Can mopping the floor be spiritual?  Can folding clothes be a God-moment? Can doing dishes be part of my quiet time?

If we deny Him a place in the mundane day-to-day life, confining Him instead to a corner of our hearts designated “God stuff,”  then we miss Him and what He’s doing in us and through us.

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Not spiritual heart pieces and holy corners, but all that is in our heart searches after God.

Naaman almost missed finding God.  He was a big-shot, who commanded the army of the king of Aram.  “He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy” (2 Kings 5:1).

Hearing about Elisha the prophet, Naaman traveled to him to receive healing.  Elisha didn’t even come out of his house to meet with the big, important army commander.  Instead, Elisha sent out a messenger with some simple instructions: “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

This was so . . . .basic.  So unimpressive.  So nonspiritual.  So, “Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy” (2 Kings 5:11).

Naaman wanted a magic show with special effects rather than an order to take seven baths in the Jordan.  But, his servants challenged him: “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!'” (2 Kings 5:13).

A few dips in the Jordan later, Naaman’s leprosy was totally healed.  All because he obeyed God in something simple and unimpressive.

If we have our eyes set only on the spectacular, we will miss God’s healing and cleansing work in our everyday lives.

Will I manage to keep this perspective over time?  Probably not.  I will likely grow weary and burdened with the stresses of daily busyness.  I’ll need to retreat again, stepping away from it all to focus solely on God.

But then I’ll come back home where dishes and laundry and homework is what happens here and that, yes even that dailyness, changes my life bit by little bit.

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