Magic Bean Plants All Start Small

Magic bean plants.

All four of my kids have brought home this same preschool project:  a tiny bean planted in a cup of soil.  They planted,  they watered and then they carried it home.

We always place the bean plants on our kitchen window sill and a few days after arriving in our home, they sprout.

What a day!  We marvel and ooh and aah.

And those beans grow.  They grow and grow.

When my youngest girl watched her bean grow, I teased her about her “magic beanstalk.”  Every few weeks, it might produce a bean, which she picked, washed, ate, and pretended to like (raw).   That plant was hardy and so tall.

I’d ask her about the giant at the top and would Jack be visiting any time soon.  Maybe she got the magic beans from good-old Jack.

They are just a wonder,  though. One simple bean and it shoots up like a ladder to the sky.

One simple bean.  One small seed.

It’s a wonder, isn’t it, when we take the time to notice the small?  When we marvel at the beauty and strength and wisdom hidden in the tiniest and most overlooked things?

How beautiful, too, when we content ourselves with small instead of pushing, fighting, striving, duking it out for something grander or louder or more visible.

I read this  in Proverbs this week and it re-set my heart a bit:

Four things on earth are small,
but they are exceedingly wise:
25 the ants are a people not strong,
yet they provide their food in the summer;
26 the rock badgers are a people not mighty,
yet they make their homes in the cliffs;
27 the locusts have no king,
yet all of them march in rank;
28 the lizard you can take in your hands,
yet it is in kings’ palaces (Proverbs 30:24-26 ESV). 

What is it that we learn from the “weak” and the “insignificant?”

Be prepared

It’s the working in advance that sets the ants apart, how they toil in summer, setting aside the food, getting ready for a season of want by storing up during the season of plenty.

They don’t waste the bounty of now and they keep the future in mind.

Find a safe place

The rock badgers hide themselves away in cliff crevices, finding the safest places to escape from prey and withstand the weather.

They know what is needed–a refuge.  No one can fight and fight all the time.  No one is mighty enough to  withstand every foe.  But we can still find rest if we have a safe place.

Have a team

The locusts march together.  They aren’t ordered to do it.  No king sets them into battle formations and sends them out.

They choose cooperation because they are better together.

Stay humble

Even the lowliest lizard can be found in a palace and treasured by kings, but you could catch that same lizard outside and hold him in your hand.

They aren’t different lizards.  They aren’t putting on a show.  They aren’t dressed up in frills and diamonds.  They are simple and lovely,  God-designed and just doing what God designed lizards to do—no more than  that.

What is it we learn from magic bean plants…and from ants, rock badgers, locusts and lizards?  

To praise God in the here and now of our simple, beautiful life.   To raise our heads, our hands, our voices high in worship, honoring Him simply because He made us.

We learn to  find our safe place in Jesus, our Rock, our Redeemer, the Refuge we run to when people are hurtful and life is hard.  We hide ourselves in Him and let Him cover us and give us rest.

To treasure peace with others.  To cover tension and disagreements with grace and forgiveness.  To realize that the people we make our enemies aren’t really our enemies.  Disagreements don’t negate love.  We still love because they are beloved and treasured by God even if they don’t know it.

And not to go it alone and strike out all independent and determined to  live off our own strength.  We are weak.  That’s the truth.  God makes us strong in Him and He gives us strength with each other.

Also this:  God made us.  He loves us.  We can come into the presence of the King of all kings, lowly as we are, humble as we are, small, insignificant, tiny and weak as we are.  It’s not because we are worthy.  It’s because Jesus covered us with His worthiness.  He invites us right in and welcomes us into His presence.

We. Are. Small.

And, friend, let’s be small.  Let’s honor Him with all  that is in within us because we are oh so very loved by our very BIG God.

What’s the next right thing today? #AnywhereFaith

This week, we celebrated my son’s birthday and he loved every minute of it.   The next morning, he told me, “It’s  still my birthday” and asked for a cupcake.

There’s nothing like a good celebration!

And,  here’s another reason to celebrate—it’s the one-year anniversary of the release of my book,  Anywhere Faith.

Thanks so much to you for buying the book, reading it, sharing it with others, studying it with small groups, and sharing about it on social media.  You blessed me and encouraged me, and I’m grateful.  Here’s a little encouragement for you today:

As a teen, I attended some huge youth conferences with my church and they tended to have something in common:

There was always a tremendously dynamic speaker who had a jaw-dropping testimony of God’s grace: He did drugs.  He was in a gang.  His girlfriend got pregnant and he made her have an abortion.  He was an alcoholic, who was addicted to pornography, and homeless.

Then He met Jesus.

By the time the testimony was over, the altars were flooded with teens crying and praying for God to save them and use them.

But my story didn’t seem to fit in.  They’d ask if anyone felt “called to ministry” and I’d raise my hand and pray that God use me “anywhere” and send me “anywhere.”

Only, how could He use a girl like me?  I’m relatively boring and surely the world truly needed displays of God’s grace and mercy on a grand scale.

I prayed and searched for God’s will for my life, but I didn’t end up in foreign missions or traditional full-time ministry.  So, does that mean God didn’t call me after all?

Now, that’s my story.  How I struggled to truly let grace seep deep in my soul.

How I searched so hard for one “big calling,” that I overlooked the impact of daily obedience and the calling to follow Him right here, right now, serving Christ by serving others in small ways every single day.

Your story might be like mine.  Maybe you desperately want to follow Jesus “anywhere,” but you can’t see where He wants you to go.

Or perhaps your story is entirely different.  Maybe you have that testimony of radical transformation, but you feel like an unworthy vessel, unfit for His use.

“Calling” is a tricky subject for Christians.  It sometimes trips us up into a mess of confusion.

We talk about God “calling” me to do this or “calling” me to do that, but we don’t always know what that looks like day in and day out.

And sometimes we miss it entirely.

When I wrote in my book, Anywhere Faith, about following God anywhere He calls us to go, I shared some truths about “calling” because God wants all of us to follow Him, whether that’s around the world, across the street, or in our own homes.


Your past, your present and your future don’t have to look like anyone else’s in order for God to use you.  anywhere-faith

Maybe He called you to foreign missions or full-time ministry.  Maybe He called you to pray for the teachers at your kids’ school or to help young moms who need encouragement.

If we obsess over what someone else’s calling looks like, we can sometimes miss what He has planned for us.

God uses the ordinary. He uses the everyday and the mundane. He uses the untrained. He uses the sinner who repents and the prodigal who returns. He uses us despite our past and even sometimes because of it (Anywhere Faith).


I’m not a speaker at conferences talking about deliverance from addiction.  Today, I have played Play Doh with my son, scheduled doctor’s appointments for my kids, prayed for my family, written to you, washed dishes and laundry, and performed a million small and seemingly insignificant tasks that are actually ministry.

Sure, the disciples traveled with Jesus, witnessed miracles, and even healed and performed miracles themselves in Christ’s name.

But the calling wasn’t all glitz and glamor.  They packed light and traveled far. They left families and jobs behind to pursue Jesus.

Jesus told them to bend low, to do the dirty jobs, to wash feet, to love outcasts, to touch lepers.

He asks us to humbly serve others every day, too.

Your calling might not be to a stage or arena; it may be to faithfulness at work, witness in your community, and ministry to your family.  Every “calling’ is significant to Him.


We can get so caught up looking for big visions for our future that we miss the ways He asks us to serve today.  I’ve done it myself, praying desperately for God to show me “His will for my life” instead of His will for this moment.

Let’s ask God to show us the next right step and walk that way.  We can trust Him with our future.


God isn’t looking for the flashiest vessels; He’s looking for yielded vessels…
He uses the humble, the willing and the obedient (Anywhere Faith).

May we be yielded today, humble today, and obedient today as we follow Him “Anywhere.”

How I Tried Not To Look Like a Tourist (and probably failed)


My husband told me, “try not to look like a tourist.”

That was the advice I tucked away for my recent trip to New York City.

I feel pretty comfortable in Washington, DC, but I know nothing about the Big Apple.

So I bought a laminated map the week before my trip and then I spent an afternoon on my comfy blue sofa with a cup of tea, my map, my itinerary, and my good friend:  Google.

Then I wrote it all down, every bit of it.  What subway stations to use.  How many stops there were between places.  How much tickets would cost.

This is  my modus operandi: intense preparation before any action.

Eventually, though, you just have to do it.  You have to step off the tour bus into the city and make your way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with nothing but a map, your notes, scattered street signs, and some friends.  Plus you need to do it without looking like a tourist, which probably means not pulling out the map and pointing at landmarks in the middle of Central Park (I failed).

Somehow my friends and I found our way, partly because of my advanced preparations, partly because we  got lost and learned from our mistakes, and mostly because we asked questions.

“If I’m on seventh avenue, which way do I need to go to 8th avenue?”

“Am I headed in the right direction for the art museum?”

“Are the subways on this level going  the direction we want to go?”

I asked the lady pushing her stroller through Central Park, the security guard walking down 42nd street, and the guy adding money to his frequent user subway card. I asked questions all over New York City.

As long as someone looked like they were friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable, they were fair game for one of my questions.

I’m a question-asking girl.  I even wrote a whole book about asking questions (Ask Me Anything, Lord), so this is who I am and how I navigate the big, wide world.ask-me-anything-lord_kd

In life, we can try our best to seek our own answers or wrestle with guidebooks and Google-searches in hope of making good choices.

Or we can make mistakes and then learn from them.

But it’s often much easier and far less painful just to ask.

Ask a friend for help.  Ask someone we respect for advice.  Ask a mentor for prayer.  Ask an expert for some input.

Being willing to seek advice with a humble heart opens us up to wisdom.

Proverbs tells us:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15 ESV).

We don’t just ask any random person, of course.

We ask those we respect, those who have already “been there,” those who are prayerful and those who live with godliness.

More than all of that, though, we can bring our question-filled hearts to God Himself.

Jesus told us to ask (Matthew 7:7).  He gave us permission to come to Him with questions and requests, and He even praised those who sought His help when they needed it.

Of course, it’s deeply humbling to confess the truth: “I don’t know all the answers.”

But this is what we need, to recognize what we don’t know…to trample over our own pride and admit our deficiency.  This is what allows God to teach us and to guide us.

Moses stood barefoot in front of the burning bush and dared to ask the big question:

 “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13 ESV). 

He said to God, “Who are you?!”

No pretending like he had it all together or knew everything or was so capable all on his own.

He asked.

And God answered:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14 ESV). 

Moses’s question led to revelation, God telling His very holy name: I AM.

One of the deepest moments of divine revelation in the entirety of Scripture came because Moses dared to ask a question.

It takes  time to ask and listen for the answer.

It takes humility to lay aside our own opinion and agenda and seek God’s thoughts and plans.

It takes a teachable heart to seek advice from a respected friend.

But we’ll learn more, make fewer mistakes, and get a little less lost in this life if we embrace humility and learn the art of asking questions.

Bible Verses for When you are Feeling Small #AnywhereFaith


  • Psalm 37:16 ESV
    Better is the little that the righteous has
        than the abundance of many wicked.
  • Proverbs 15:16 ESV
    Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
        than great treasure and trouble with it.
  • Isaiah 11:6 ESV
    The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
        and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
    and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
        and a little child shall lead them.
  • Isaiah 40:29 ESV
    He gives power to the faint,
        and to him who has no might he increases strength.
  • Zechariah 4:10a ESV
    For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
  • Micah 5:2 ESV
    But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
  • Matthew 11:25 ESV
    At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children
  • Matthew 13:31-32 ESV
     He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
  • Matthew 19:14 ESV
    but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Matthew 25:21 ESV
    His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
  • Luke 12:32 ESV
  • Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
  • Luke 16:10 ESV
    “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.


Have you been feeling small?

Oh my friend, I have been there.

At first, it’s overwhelming.  We feel weak and insignificant, maybe overwhelmed and unworthy.

But then I remember this truth:  God uses the small.

When the twelve spies returned home with their report from their jaunt in the Promised Land, ten of them said this:

The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. …and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Number 13:32-33 ESV)

Here’s the lesson for them and for me and for you:

Your victory or success–or even just your ability to make it through this very day–does not depend on you.  So you’re a grasshopper. That’s okay.  God uses grasshoppers…You can be a grasshopper and still take possession of the Promised Land because you serve a great and mighty God who is stronger than any giant and can knock down any wall.

God didn’t call you because you are able; He called you because He is able (Anywhere Faith)

Want to learn more about how God helps grasshoppers face down giants?  My new book Anywhere Faith is available now!


Right After the Parade

Psalm 147-6

My oldest girl was in first grade when she saw the parade for the first time.

It was the biggest news she shared with me on the last day of school, like it was the best thing she’d ever seen–better than the circus, better than her favorite movie.

There’s a tradition at our elementary school and she witnessed it for the first time that year.  On the last day, the fifth graders take their “final lap” around the school.

They play celebratory music on the school intercom system, and all the younger classes line the hallways as spectators.

Then the younger grades cheer as the fifth graders go by, and they high-five the new elementary graduates.

Every year since then, my daughter has stood in that hallway and celebrated the fifth graders with the best of them.  She knew one day, it’d be her time for the fifth grade parade.

This year was her year.

Parents don’t get to witness the “final lap” for the fifth graders.  After all, the hallways are packed already with cheering students and the parading graduates.

But, even though I didn’t see my daughter enjoy this moment, I tear up every time I think of it.

I saw parents all over the gym dabbing away tears during the promotion ceremony.  I didn’t cry then, but thinking about the parade makes me all emotional.

This is what my girl had been waiting for all these years.

I love how after all their hard work, these fifth graders say goodbye to the school that invested so much in them all this time.

And I love how the younger students come home inspired.  One day, they think, they’ll be the ones in the hallway parade.  They’ll hear the applause.  They’ll reach out for high-fives.  They’ll be honored for their success.

Before the fifth grade class enjoyed their final lap of victory, though, they sat in the gym wearing their nicest clothes and they listened to the principal’s final words of wisdom.

She said, “Be humble.

Work hard.  Accomplish a lot.

But always humbly take the time to cheer for others around you.”

She said exactly what’s in my heart, the very message I want my daughter to hear, and I dare to hope that these fifth grade grads tuck those words away and remember them.

Just in those moments when we feel like we know the most or we’ve accomplished the most or we’ve reached the top, that’s the best time to remember the beauty and the power of humility.

Maybe it’s age that impresses this on me.  After all, the older I get, the more I know that I don’t know.

In fact, I wish I knew at 14 all the things I didn’t really know.

Or maybe it’s motherhood.  Maybe the moments I mess up make me tender about failure, make me compassionate, make me realize that we’re all in this together and none of us is perfect and cheering each other on is the best thing we can do for our fellow moms.

Scripture tells that God:

saves the humble (Psalm 18:27)
leads the humble (Psalm 25:9)
teaches the humble (Psalm 25:9)
lifts up the humble (Psalm 147:6)
and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

No doubt about it, God’s heart is for the humble.

He wants us listening and teachable.  He wants us others-focused and self-sacrificing.

In The Blessing of Humility, Jerry Bridges writes:

“The apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians about AD 54. In it he referred to himself as the “least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9). In AD 62, in his letter to the Ephesians , he considered himself as the “very least of all the saints” (that is—all believers—Ephesians 3:8). In about AD 63-64, in his first letter to Timothy, he referred to himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1:5)—Paul was growing in humility

Paul could have been proud of all he’d accomplished for God.  Year after year, he had more spiritual markers to add to his apostolic resume and more reason to boast.

So, he could have been growing in pride all those years.

Instead, he grew in humility.

The more he knew, the more he knew what he didn’t know.

The more he did, the more he remembered what Christ had done for him.

This is the heart I long for and this is the heart I desire for my children.  Even in the moments of their greatest accomplishments, when they’ve marched in the parade and listened to the cheers, may they cultivate a humble heart, which:

…listens instead of always demanding to speak.

….allows for differences and recognizes that “my way” doesn’t always mean “the only way.”

…accepts correction without defensiveness.

…receives counsel.

…cheers for others

…says, “I’m sorry” when they’ve messed up.

May we grow in humility like this.

Bible Verses on Having a Humble Heart


  1. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 ESV
    And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word[a] that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
  2. 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV
     if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
  3. Psalm 18:27 ESV
    For you save a humble people,
        but the haughty eyes you bring down.
  4. Psalm 25:8-9 ESV
    Good and upright is the Lord;
        therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
    He leads the humble in what is right,
        and teaches the humble his way.
  5. Psalm 55:19 ESV
    God will give ear and humble them,
        he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
    because they do not change
        and do not fear God.
  6. Psalm 147:6 ESV
    The Lord lifts up the humble;
        he casts the wicked to the ground.
  7. Psalm 149:4 ESV
    For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
        he adorns the humble with salvation.
  8. Proverbs 11:2 ESV
    When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
        but with the humble is wisdom.
  9. Proverbs 15:33 ESV
    The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
        and humility comes before honor.
  10. Proverbs 18:12 ESV
    Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
        but humility comes before honor.
  11. Proverbs 22:4 ESV
    The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
        is riches and honor and life.
  12. Proverbs 29:23 ESV
    One’s pride will bring him low,
        but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
  13. Daniel 4:37 ESV
     Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven,for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
  14. Micah 6:8 ESV
    He has told you, O man, what is good;
        and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
        and to walk humbly with your God?
  15. Matthew 11:29-30 ESV
     Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
  16. Matthew 23:12 ESV
    Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
  17. Mark 9:35 ESV
     And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.
  18. Luke 9:48 ESV
    and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
  19. Luke 14:11 ESV
    For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himselfwill be exalted.”
  20. 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 ESV
    God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
  21. Romans 12:16 ESV
    Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
  22. Galatians 5:13 NIV
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
  23. Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV
    I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
  24. Philippians 2:3 ESV
    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
  25. Philippians 2:5-8 ESV
    Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
  26. Colossians 3:12 ESV
    Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
  27. James 3:13 NIV
     Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
  28. James 4:10 ESV
     Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
  29. 1 Peter 3:8 ESV
    Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
  30. 1 Peter 5:5-6 ESV
    Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

A Little Library Misunderstanding

proverbs 19-11

It was a tiny bit of a library misunderstanding.

My son played quietly with the toy trains and the dinosaurs (who knew dinosaurs and toy trains went so well together?) so I sat quietly and read.

That’s when I heard two little girls nearby trip along into a conversation pit without realizing it.

They were only about three or four years old, sweet as can be, with ponytails and pink shoes.

Here’s the transcript of what they actually said:

Girl 1:  Can I play with you?

Girl 2:  (As she searches the Lego bin for the right block):  No, I’m playing Legos right now.  We can play later.

Girl 1 then pauses just as she was about to pull a chair up to the Lego table.  Her face reads surprise, then sadness and a little hurt.  She turns away and plays with the farm animals instead.

There were no tears and there was no conflict.  No one tattled or fought.  Each just went about doing her own little thing,  unaware of what the other little girl was truly thinking or feeling.

And, that’s the thing that gives me pause.  Neither of these girls really understood what the other one meant to say.  What each of them truly meant was:

Girl 1:  May I play Legos with you?

Girl 2:  Oh, sure!  I’m playing Legos right now and I’d love for you to join me.

But that’s not what happened.  Girl 1 was asking to join in the building fun.

Girl 2 thought she was being asked to stop her Lego building and go do something else with her little friend and by golly she was having a good old time making Lego animals right now.

Their conversation just missed a little.  It’s like they shot two arrows.  One went under the target and one went over the target, but no one hit the mark.

What resonates a bit with my heart today is when I’m offended or hurt and I let critical words sink deep into my soul,  what if I’m actually misunderstanding?

Sometimes people say hurtful things and they mean them.

Sometimes people say hurtful things without meaning it, but the pain is there just the same.

But sometimes people say things and we just miss.  We thought they meant one thing; they actually meant something else.

And we tote around that offense as a heavy burden, putting up walls of defensiveness in our relationships to protect us from future hurts.

Yes, they should be more careful.  What you say and how you say it matters.  Controlling our tongue and watching our words is a must.

What if we were slow to take offense, though?

I love the Amplified version of James 1:19:

Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]

At times the best thing we can do in a conversation is pause.

Taking time to respond rather than react can keep us from misunderstanding, from holding onto hurt, and from escalating conflict.

I have an email sitting in my inbox right now and I’ll be honest, I’m offended.  It is critical of me in ways I feel are unfair.  My defenses are up.

But I’m choosing to pause.

I’ve taken some time to ask, “God, is this true about me?” and I’ve waited and listened for the Holy Spirit’s truth.

I’ve considered whether I truly know this person’s intentions.  Probably they didn’t mean it this way.  It’s most likely, since I don’t know them very well, that I just don’t understand their humor or perspective.

I read over Proverbs 19:11:

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (ESV).

and even Ecclesiastes 7:21-22:

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others (ESV).

We live in an easily offended world.  People curse you for simple mistakes and seek vengeance for misunderstandings and accidents.

We are so often quick to anger and quick to speak, leaving behind the wreckage of broken relationships and the ache of loneliness.

I want instead to say little and to listen much.

Sometimes I fail.  I am easily bruised by the criticism of others.

And yet, when I filter the comments of others through the gauze of grace, I can grab hold of truth and let the rest go.  I can respond with more love than I was shown.

Pausing gives us time to choose humility and wisdom, grace and gentleness, and it helps us hit the mark instead of missing and messing up.

Teach Us What We Are to Do

psalm 25

Years ago, a mom-friend of mine flopped onto the big blue couch in my living room and confessed, “I feel like all I do all day is tell my kids what to do and how to do it.”

I nodded my head knowingly and sympathetically and absolutely had no idea what she was talking about.

At the time, I had one baby less than a year old.  Our conversations usually went like this, “Momma loves you.  You’re so sweet.  Where’s your nose?  Oh, you’re so smart.”

And then she’d respond with, “Mama” or something else equally superior and I’d just know we had connected and that she was a genius bound for great things.

But now I’m older and my kids are older.  One day at dinner I remembered what my friend said and realized she could be describing my life.

Wash your hands before you eat.  Use soap!  Sit like a lady.  Talk like a lady.  Eat like a lady.  Chew with your mouth closed.  Use a napkin.  Don’t spill your milk.  Clean up the milk you spilled.  Clear your place when you’re done eating.

Brush your teeth.  Up and down.  Front to back.  Don’t forget your tongue.  Brush every single tooth.  Don’t leave globs of toothpaste in the sink, on the wall, or on the floor.  Hang up wet towels.

Don’t hit your sister, yell at your sister, push your sister, boss around your sister, roll your eyes at your sister, ignore your sister, say mean things to your sister or tattle on your sister.

Do your homework . . . neatly.  Take pride in your work.  Practice the piano.  Study your memory verses.  Put your shoes away—shoes and socks do not live in the middle of the kitchen floor.

At times it feels like we’re prepping kids for the standardized tests of life and that means covering table manners, relationship skills, character issues, faith lessons, and more.

But what if we miss something?

What if there’s a question we don’t know how to answer?

What if we get it wrong and miss out on cultivating one of their gifts or fail to correct a character weakness?

Oh, how I have collapsed to my knees under the weight of this responsibility for each of my children.

Because I just don’t know.

I don’t know what to say and when to say it and when to hold my tongue.

When do I punish… let it go… reward?

Samson’s parents prayed the same prayers I’ve been groaning out in confused desperation.

In Judges 13, an angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of a man named Manoah to announce she’d have a son and he would be set apart for God from the very beginning.

God already had a plan for her son, Samson: “He shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).

What a promise!  And yet how overwhelming for two first-time parents to wonder: “What if I mess this up?”

So, Manoah “prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born’” (Judges 13:8 ESV).

Yes, this is how my prayer crams into words:  “Teach me what to do because You know and I just do not.  I could read every parenting book and follow every tip and strategy in every parenting magazine and every idea on every awesome mom-blog and still get this so terribly wrong.”

God answered Manoah’s prayer, returning to visit with this young mom and dad and instruct them on the Care and Keeping of Samson.

So, I also pray with the deepest confession of weakness and need, asking for His help, His strength, His guidance.

And when we come to Him, all overwhelmed and fully aware of our own insufficiency and weakness, He answers.

He sees that purity of our heart’s request: Our deep desire to steward these gifts He’s placed in our hands, and He answers.

Our God:

leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way (Psalm 25:9 HCSB). 

Yes, He has:

heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts. You will listen carefully (Psalm 10:17, HCSB).

On days when we’re clueless, moments when we just don’t know, this is the promise we need:

God brings us the wisdom and strength we need as parents when we humbly seek His help in our home.

Our Jesus Style

colossians 3-8b

My son screams in the morning when I take off his fire truck pajamas and put on his dinosaur shirt.

Does he want the shirt with the train?  The dump truck and excavator?  The monkey?

No. What he really wants is to stay in his fire truck pajamas all day.

At the end of the day, though, long after I’ve wrestled him into actual clothes, he screams again when I try to take off his dinosaur shirt and put back on the fire truck pajamas.

Now he wants to wear the dinosaur to bed.

Toddler wardrobe wars.

I’ve done this four times with four kids.

I had the daughter who went several years of her life only wearing dresses and skirts and never ever wearing pants.

I had the daughter who only wore pink and purple and didn’t like any other colors, but who also still refuses to wear dresses or skirts.

Then there was my compliant child.  She would say, ‘no’ and take off running when I held up a shirt she didn’t like.

When I found this half-naked toddler in the house, the shirt would be completely missing and she’d appear innocent.

I searched her room, the dresser, every hiding place without result.  No shirt.

Then I went to throw something away and saw it peeking out of the trash can.

She skipped the tantrums and went right for putting clothes she didn’t like in the garbage.

I wonder what would happen if we were as careful about the attitudes, beliefs, and heart conditions we clothe ourselves in every morning.  Maybe we should be that picky.

It’s a favorite metaphor of the apostles, reminding us to peel off the old clothes of flesh, lust and sin and to purposefully put on a brand new outfit everyday.

We are to clothe ourselves in Christ.

Paul described it this way:

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator . . .

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:8-14, NIV).

In other words, take it off, take it all off: The anger, the bad attitude and grumpiness, the bad language, the lies.  All of those pesky remnants of our pre-salvation self have to go.

We stare at the closet and choose the new clothes we’ll wear each day with great care, pulling on clothes of compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and most of all love.

Add in to that mix the favorite outfit of Peter:

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5)

The bottom line, for Paul is that we should, “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14, NIV).

Unfortunately, our old fleshly selves have a way of sneaking their way back into our closets.

We think we’ve restyled only to snap in anger during the morning rush.

How did that discarded sin find it’s way into our wardrobe again?  More importantly, how did we end up wearing it today?

We aren’t picky enough about the spiritual clothes we don every day.  When we’re not paying attention and when we’re not being careful, we find we’re  wearing the dirty rags of old habits and familiar sins.

We have to make the conscious choice, the prayerful choice, the one where we ask Christ to robe us in His righteousness.

We can choose to wear Jesus each day.

Reject the clothing of the old self and instead pull on love and step into compassion.  Spice things up with a scarf of kindness and a jacket of forgiveness.  Wear our own favorite shoes of humility and gentleness.

It’s our Jesus style, it’s Christ shining through us, making HIs presence in our lives unmistakable.

Originally posted November 8, 2011

I am not your servant

John 15-15

“I am not a servant.”

My youngest daughter says it first in a matter-of-fact tone.

I can’t hear the other side of the conversation so I don’t know what request prompted this response.

I do know she gets her answer from me.

I say it sometimes to my kids when they ask me to hop up from the dinner table (before I’ve even taken a bite of my own food) to get them something they could easily get themselves.

I say it when they call out “Mom!” while they are watching TV and ask me to stop working to get them a drink of water.

I say it to remind them that, while I love them and I love to do nice things for them, sometimes they treat me like unpaid kitchen help.

And that’s not right.

So I listen in as my daughter repeats her response broken-record-style.

“I am not a servant.”

“I am not a servant.”

Then she sings it in a high opera voice, “I am not a servant…..”

Finally after what seems like the twentieth repetition of this phrase, her older sister bends over and picks something up off the floor.

The six-year-old has grown wise to this new trend, how her older sisters think because she’s smaller, she must perform all tasks menial and low-to-the-ground so they can continue with whatever far-more-important thing they’re doing.

She’s standing up for herself.

After all, what she really wants, what she truly desires in her little sister heart-of-hearts, is for these bigger girls to play with her.

She doesn’t want to fetch dropped Legos off of the floor.

She doesn’t want to get them a paper towel or find them a sharpened pencil.

She wants to be friends with them.

Shortly before His death, Jesus said something profoundly moving to His disciples:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  (John 15:15 NIV).

Not servants, but friends.

He offered them so much more than the menial tasks of mindless obedience, the fetching and finding and picking up of hired help.

He called them friends.

For the disciples, friendship with Jesus didn’t change what they did.   Jesus loved by serving sacrificially and humbly, and He told them to do the same.

But He invited them into His heart and His plans.

Of course, it doesn’t mean we aren’t serving God day in and day out, loving others in humble of ways, emptying ourselves so we can drench another in the compassion and mercy of Christ.

There is, after all, beauty in late night sessions with a sleepless baby and days spent tending to sick children.

There’s beauty in the ugly, the mess, the pain, and the exhaustion of caregiving.

There’s beauty–God-glorifying beauty— in heading out the door each morning to a job that demands everything you’ve got and more so that you can provide for your family.

The beauty isn’t in the act itself.  It’s not in the changing diapers or the washing away filth.  It’s not in taking out trash or sitting through mind-numbing meetings where supervisors pile on work.

It’s that you’re doing all of that for someone else.

Your labor on behalf of others may not earn you any earthly regard.

You may trudge through another day of work without a nod in your direction and a genuine ‘thanks.’

Your child may overlook the fifty lunches you’ve made for her and complain the one day you forgot that she likes Oreos, not chocolate chip cookies.

And you can feel absolutely invisible.

But right in that moment, Christ chats with you.

He tells you everything the Father taught Him.

He asks if you’ll take part in His agenda, in His passion and plan for loving others with grace, mercy, compassion, generosity, and humility.

Not because He only values what we do for Him.

Not because we earn His favor by going, going, going all the time.

Not because He wants us constantly to be doing at all.

It’s because He’s offered us His presence—in the moments when we’re sitting at His feet and the moments we’re stooping to wash the feet of another.

He desires friendship, and friends aren’t acting out of duty or serving out of compulsion.

We’re living and breathing and serving and loving because He’s given us access to His very heart.

Our friendship with God means we do and we cease doing at the impulse of His love: our lives, our hearts, our actions guided and motivated by His very own love at work in us.

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.