Weekend Walk, 09/03/2011

I hated missing out on last week’s Weekend Walk and the opportunity to choose a verse to meditate on all week.  I hope you blazed ahead without me and chose a verse of your own.  If not, I’ll get us back on track today!

Hiding the Word:

At Women of Faith, my friend leaned over and pointed to a verse in her prayer journal that she had underlined.  It was perfect as we contemplated the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irene.  The day after the storm, I opened my devotional and found the exact same verse.  When God repeats Himself, I have learned to listen.  So, my verse for this week is simple and sweet:

Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:20

This week, I’m committed to contemplating the ever-constant presence of Christ in my life.  I want to be aware of Him rather than distant from Him.  I want to rely on Him rather than be independent.

Weekend Rerun:

Your Comforts Delight My Soul, Originally Posted 02/21/2011

Last night I had a terrible dream that I was preparing to lead worship—sitting at the piano all ready to go—when I saw my cell phone bill.  Obviously, in dreams it makes total sense that I’m checking my mail just before the music starts.  Anyway, I looked at that bill and it was $1,717. Then the music started and I couldn’t worship.  I couldn’t figure out what words to sing or what notes to play.  I was playing a different song than the congregation was singing.  It was a disaster.

Obviously, I woke up in a cold sweat from this dream (who wouldn’t be freaked out by a cell phone bill and public disaster like that) and couldn’t get back to sleep for a while.  I was anxious and worried about something that only existed in my dreamworld.

Today, as I was doing my devotions, I was reminded of how so much of my worry is about “fantasy situations”—the what if’s I stress over that never actually come true.  These anxious thoughts also always affect my worship.  It is just not possible to fret and praise at the same time.

In her book, Me, Myself and Lies, Jennifer Rothschild notes that the Old English and Old High German origins of our word “worry” mean “to strangle.”  Indeed, worry strangles us, choking out hope, joy, trust and, as it says in her book, “the life-giving truth that should be filling our thought closets” (p.23).

The Psalmist wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts, See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV). I have always loved that verse and I copy it into my journal every time I read it in my devotional time.  Yet, it’s not something I find easy to do.

It’s difficult sometimes to hand over our thought lives to God.  Even though we know worry harms us and our relationship with God, we don’t want God to search our hearts and test our thoughts.  Somehow worrying makes us feel in control and we feel that handing over our anxieties means truly relinquishing any modicum of control we have in our lives.

Thomas Merton said, “Anxiety comes from strain, and strain is caused by too complete a dependence on ourselves.”  It’s true that when it’s broken down, worry essentially is a lack of trust or dependence on God.  We’re telling Him—“we know that Scripture promises us You will provide, You will comfort, You will bring peace, You will be our Advocate, but I’d rather just depend on my ability to fix my circumstances.  Thanks anyway, God”

Chris Tiegreen in Worship The King goes one step even farther than that.  He calls our fear “anti-worship.”  In his devotional, he writes:

But we who worship God cannot praise him with such insecurities.  Our fears are a form of anti-worship–a clear declaration that our God might not have promised us enough, or might not be able to follow through on what He has promised.  Yes, He will let us go through hard things, but never outside of His timing or beyond His protection. So worship Him.  And don’t worry about it.

Refusing to worry, fret, stress, fear and be anxious doesn’t come to us naturally.  It is a discipline of the heart and mind.  We must reject anxious thoughts, deny our emotions the opportunity to take over our lives, and fill up with the truth of God’s Word and His promises to us.

In Psalm 94:19 it says, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Take delight in His comfort today and consciously choose trust over fear.

In Kathryn Scott’s song, At the Foot of the Cross, she sings, “I lay every burden down at the foot of the cross.”  That’s the best place for those burdens to be—not on our back, but at His feet.

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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

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