Weakness can be flour and oil or it can be cake

psalm-28-7

On New Year’s Eve, we used our fireplace for the very first time.

We’ve lived in our home 12-1/2 years.

We didn’t even use our fireplace on December 20th, 2004–the night of a huge winter storm when we lost power and running water.

I remember that night and that storm because I was in labor with my first baby and I huddled on the couch with blankets and a flashlight because the contractions kept me awake all night long.

It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I even realized my mistake. I had a fireplace available and didn’t use it.

What was I thinking?  Why did I choose cold and dark when warmth and light were so nearby?

How I have missed out.

How I still sometimes miss out because I have access to all that God gives and offers and simply IS, but still struggle along in my own strength.

I’ve read this verse so often these last two weeks:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV).

It’s a familiar promise, but one I return to now because I’ve been startlingly aware of my weaknesses.

It’s in the days when I want to give up or the moments when I mess up (again).

It’s in the way I try to avoid the difficult and the hard and hide my head in the sand instead of facing what might be.

I remember the widow of Zarephath who only had a little flour and oil to feed herself and her son. It was enough for one final, insufficient meal before resigning to starvation.

That’s the moment Elijah showed up asking for some bread.

Even after she told him how little she had, he boldly asked her to feed him first.  Then he promised this:

 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” (1 Kings 17:14 ESV).

I don’t know what struggle she might have experienced then.  I can’t imagine the choice–feed this stranger and hope God comes through–or feed my son at least one more guaranteed meal before we starve.

The Bible simply says, “She went and did as Elijah said” (verse 15).

And God came through.

If she kept the flour and oil for herself, she’d have had one small meal.

By giving it up,  though, she had miraculous abundance.

She gave God her weakness, her insufficiency, her smallest supply .  She gave out of her poverty, and He provided.  He refilled the flour and the oil.

God fills the empty when we’re poured out for Him.

Maybe I’ve been living on flour and oil when I could give it over to God and let Him make so much more.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote this about Elijah’s words:

’Make me a cake.’ In other words, Elijah said: There is one thing you can do. Even from your poverty, you can give me something.  It may not seem like much, but it is the very thing I need. If you will give it to me I can do something I could not do without it” (Loneliness).

We can fret over our insufficiency, we can hide away our weakness out of embarrassment and shame, we can run away from challenges, we can give up when it gets too hard.

Or maybe we can try to make do with the little we have.  “I have a little flour and a little oil. It’s not enough, but I’m on my own here.”

But weakness simply remains weakness when we avoid anything difficult and only live within our own abilities.  It’s just flour and oil.

So instead we can learn how to “make a cake” for Him with anything we have, no matter how small or how meager:

Here is everything, Lord.  It’s not enough.  Please be strong in my weakness.

We don’t need to be stronger ourselves; we need God’s strength.

We need more Jesus.

We need Holy Spirit fruit and comfort and anointing.

His strength is a promise.  It’s available!  It’s an unlit fireplace waiting to be filled with flame when we bring Him our needs  and ask Him to be powerfully sufficient in our insufficiency.

In every place we feel weak, we can make a cake, offer it up, and leave everything else to Him:  our future, our provision, our “success,” our salvation.  It is all in His hands.

Our strength begins when we rely on His strength alone.

Ask Me Anything: Giveaway Winner and “You want me to do what?”

It’s time to announce the Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to all those who participated.  I absolutely loved hearing the book titles you’d choose to tell your own story and am reminded of how much we can learn from one another.

I used a random number generator to select the comment number of the winners and they are: Mary Reese and Betsy Marmon!

Congratulations!  I’ll contact you privately about getting these signed copies of Ask Me Anything, Lord to you.

If you didn’t win, you can still get a copy of the book here:

Visit me at Discovery House Publishers to read a sample chapter and order online!

Follow these links to find the book at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble and also at Christianbook.com.

Or click here to order an autographed copy via PayPal.

The book will also be available on e-readers (like nook and Kindle) and in some local Christian book stores in November 2013.

And now, for the final excerpt from Ask Me Anything, Lord.  Enjoy!

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You want me to do what, God?

You want me to parent these children? You want me to stay in this marriage? You want me to lead this ministry? You want me to start this program?

When God calls us, it isn’t about us at all; it’s all about Him. We’re the ones looking at our qualifications and feeling mismatched for the job He’s assigning us, whatever that calling looks like in your life.

Moses reacted that way at the burning bush all because he focused on himself. He asked God:

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 3:11 NIV).

It was his way of saying he wasn’t qualified for that.  “It’s all about me and ME isn’t good enough.”

God, on the other hand, focused not on Moses, but on Himself.  He said:

“I will be with you . . . I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ . . . ” (Exodus 3:12-15 NIV).

There are moments and days when I fell like Moses, when I begin to wonder how I could possibly minister to others when I’m working so hard at basics like keeping calm with misbehaving children and not stressing about my calendar.ask-me-anything-lord_kd

When I feel so empty, how can I pour out to others?

It’s one thing to serve and encourage when we’re overflowing; God’s goodness just sploshes over the tops of our lives and refreshes all who cross our paths. But, what about when our cup seems dry? What happens when a thirsty neighbor lifts up needy hands in our direction and we ladle out empty air?

In some ways, that’s where Moses was. He felt enthusiastic to the point of foolishness about leading the Israelites decades before when he was still in Egypt. Unfortunately, he was oozing confidence and overflowing with a vision of leading a slave revolt that depended on his own strength. He believed then that if it all depended on him, well then he was enough.

Then he murdered an Egyptian in his enthusiasm. His own people rejected him. Pharaoh sought to punish him. That’s what happened when he served in his own strength.

At the burning bush, however, Moses clearly recognized that if this deliverance thing depended on him, well then he simply didn’t cut it.

And that’s what we say sometimes when we tell God that we can’t possibly do what He wants us to do.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote:

“Jesus was saying, ‘Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.’ In other words, pay attention to the Source, and out of you will flow ‘the rivers of living water’” (John 7:38 NIV).

Similarly, the Psalmist wrote, “Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, All my springs of joy are in You‘” (Psalm 87:7, NASB).

God is the Source, the Spring from which comes all our joy.

He’s not an immovable Fountain either, located at only one place or accessible at only certain times of the dayHe is our Portion and Provision every moment of every day

When we find ourselves carrying our cups back to Him like Oliver Twist in the orphanage, asking shamefacedly, “Please, Sir, can I have some more?” we’re forgetting that we serve a generous God, who longs to pour out His grace on us. He isn’t stingy and doesn’t want us thirsty or starving.

The more times a day we lift our cups to Him, the more times He will fill them. If that means we’re having a quiet time every five minutes all day long, then that’s what it takes that day to fill up at the Fountain of God.

I know that when I’m running back to the well every few minutes, it’s because I’m a needy and leaky person, with holes punched all in my heart from stress and busyness.

Yet, it’s also because I’m pouring out to others and God is willing, even joyful, to replace what I’ve spilled over into the cups of my husband, my children, my friends, my Bible Study girls, my church members, the Wal-Mart cashier and the girl who cuts my hair.isaiah41

The frequency of our visits to the Well doesn’t reveal our weakness or failure. It reveals our dependency on Him and how much we pour out to others. 

So when we peer into an empty cup and think we’re too dry to walk this Christian life, too empty to share with another, then we’re forgetting that It’s All About Him.

That’s the mistake Moses made. He assumed the ministry depended on himself. Truthfully, though, none of the ministry we perform in our homes or outside of them is contingent on our ability, brains, beauty, education, character or godliness (thank goodness!).

It’s really all about Him, and He promises: “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV).

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

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Finding God While Folding Clothes

I was crying and laughing at the same time.

All these years, I’ve heard about that, how you’re spilling over with overwhelming emotions and your body just doesn’t know what to do.  Cry out the tears?  Burst out in laughter?

There’s Sarah in the Bible, who waited month after month, year after year, decade after decade for a baby…and then when God said she’d have a son, she laughed.  She just couldn’t hold that in, that joy….that disbelief…that incredulity….that moment of shock when your whole life changes in one second and you’re thrown off balance and grabbing onto a furniture or to an outstretched hand to  steady yourself.

Me?  A son?

Sarah had her moment; I had mine.  Lying there on an exam table while an ultrasound tech rolled a wand expertly over my pregnant self.  She tells me these are kidneys, this is the stomach, there are the chambers of the heart….My baby looks so beautiful and healthy, and I’m already exhaling that big held in breath and each of my muscles slowly relaxes just hearing the good news.

Then she says the words, “It’s a boy.”

This momma to three daughters laughed through tears.  I can’t even remember what I said, but it was something like:  No way!  I can’t even believe it.  Are you sure?  Are you sure your sure?

My husband asks me later if I’m disappointed, but it’s not that.  I’m excited, yes, just still in a bit of shock.

All these years, I’ve become a girl’s mom.  I’ve learned all things girl and prayed over all things girl, read the books and considered the truths about being a mom to girls.

Truth be told, I’m feeling pretty confident most days, not always but often, thinking maybe I’ve gotten the hang of this. Maybe I know what to do.

Bringing up girls is what I do and being a mom to daughters is who I am.

Now I’m reading blog posts and books and listening to podcasts about raising boys.  I’ve watched sons with their moms in the store, in the park, at the school.  I’ve leaned in close and listened to friends and made mental notes about being a mom to boys. 

And I’ve prayed.

Maybe that’s the point.

Nine years ago, pregnant with my very first baby, I thought I’d have all boys and thought I’d be a great boys’ mom.  That was when the news of a daughter first shook apart any foolish confidence I had.

How I had prayed then when God gave me this unexpected gift of three daughters, and my Mom-life still holds together simply because of my worn-out knees from constant prayer.

So here I am now, stumbling down onto my knees again and I’m reminded: I am insufficient.  I don’t know.  I don’t have it all together and I’m not sure how to do this right.

I start by dragging out bag after bag of girls’ clothes from the Rubbermaid containers in the garage and sorting them into piles to give away to friends.004

Then I remember how over the years some people mis-heard the news and thought we were having a son when we were having another girl, so they gave me gifts for boys.  Then there were those who worried that ultrasound techs got things wrong, so they gave me gifts of yellow, green and white just in case.

I pull out the collection I’ve amassed over 9 years of having babies.

And right there God meets me.  Right there as I’m folding these tiny boy’s clothes and watching the pile grow.

I had no idea how long He’d been at work preparing me for a son.  I didn’t realize how much abundance He’d provided unexpectedly and beyond all reason.  Blue outfits, blue t-shirts, little boy washcloths and towels, hats, blankets, mittens, sleepers, and socks: it all piled up on the back of my sofa as I folded the clothes until the piles were about falling over.

God had been at work all along, making room for grace.

I still feel insufficient.  I still feel overwhelmed with all that I don’t know and amazed that He would trust this gift to me when I feel so incapable.

Paul said it, though:

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

This grace of God’s is sufficient.

But we don’t realize it, don’t rely on that, don’t allow Him to be fully sufficient until we realize just how insufficient we are.   The more we are driven to our knees by our unworthiness, the more we declare Him worthy of all praise.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Devotions from My Garden: Seed Identification

The Lord answered, “I will be with you”
Judges 6:16a

She stands under 3 feet tall, this baby girl of mine.  With one hand tossed up to her hip, she stomps her feet on the ground twice, three times perhaps for emphasis, and screams, “Never Again!!!” in a voice that commands attention, if not respect.  If she’s really upset, she might even engage in some finger wagging.

My husband and I stifle grins at the sight of her: two years old and she could command an army.

When she was born, my mother-in-law was away on a missions trip to an Indian reservation out in the Dakotas.  We made the call announcing our youngest daughter’s birth just in time to reach Grammy before she left for her missions work that day.

As any proud Grammy would, she shared the news with her roommate that baby Catherine had arrived.

Hearing the name we’d given our daughter, the woman declared, “Oh, a woman of authority.”

It’s something I’ve pondered as I watched my baby–so assured of her own mind—turn into a toddler—set on sharing her mind. I can see the hints of leadership, yes, even authority crammed into the body and soul of a toddler.  Tucking away memories, impressions, and glimpses at her developing character, I feel a little like Jesus’ momma, Mary, who treasured things up in her heart.

My Catherine reminds me so often of the seeds we planted in pots on our deck this year.  They appear so small and yet inside an explosive force lies dormant, ready to break out of its shell and grow and grow and grow . . . and hopefully produce much fruit.

Holding that ordinary seed in our hands, we can’t begin to imagine the potential for beauty and nourishment within once it receives proper care and tending.  The only hint we have of the future is the picture on the package and sometimes even then we’re surprised.

When we planted this year, we set aside one long planter for carrots and excitedly covered over about 20 seeds with 1/4 inch of dirt.  Within a few days, shoots of green appeared, but strangely enough, they didn’t look like carrots.  In fact, they looked identical to the radish sprouts now growing up in other pots.

I think perhaps my daughters got a little ambitious with the radish seeds and planted them in places I didn’t expect.

Sometimes we look at people or ourselves and see plain, brown, ordinary, small, and insignificant specks.  Mystery seeds.  If we’re particularly imaginative, we might even think we see the potential for carrots, only to learn later that God really designed us to be radishes.  Surprise!

Ultimately, God sees what we cannot.  He recognizes all our potential for growth.  He sees beyond our insufficiency and the trappings of our untrained immaturity and chooses circumstances, people, and training that will nurture, prune, and tend us into fruitful vines.

This is what God did for Gideon.  In a time when the nation of Israel was oppressed by the Midianites and foundering without a king or judge to lead them, God raised up a teenager to save his people.

Scripture tells us:

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. ”  (Judges 6:11-12).

Mighty Warrior?  Who could the Lord be talking about?  Surely not this youth doing chores for his dad!  We read later that Gideon destroyed his dad’s altars to the false gods, Baal and Asherah, so Gideon wasn’t even a child of a faithful and righteous man.

Even Gideon thought God meant someone else, answering, “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family”  (Judges 6:15).

He said, “I’m a nobody from a nothing family.  I’m no Mighty Warrior.  You’ve got the wrong guy.”

We may think he was right as Gideon puts God to the test repeatedly, asking for signs and reassurances of God’s command (Judges 6).  Then on the eve of the battle, Gideon still feels afraid and God offers him further comfort and confirmation by allowing Gideon to overhear the enemy and how assured they were of defeat (Judges 7).

In fact, even when the battle is over, won with only 300 Israelite soldiers against an overwhelming Midianite army, it still seems odd that God could call Gideon “Mighty Warrior.”   After all, there’s no question at all who was the Mighty One.  The battle was the Lord’s; Gideon was just yielded and usable.

The truth for Gideon and the truth for us is that God looks at us and sees beyond all of our failings and fears.  Not only that, but He’s also not limited by our skills and talents.  He doesn’t see the potential of what we can do on our own; He sees the potential of who we are with Him.

With God, Gideon was indeed a mighty warrior.  That’s why when Gideon asked how any of this would be possible, “The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).

That is the promise He has for us–His presence, His help, His guidance, His reassurance when we are afraid.  All He requires from us is trusting obedience and the willingness to embrace His plans and His designs for our future.

More Devotions From My Garden:

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