Raise Your Hand if You’re So Excited

“Raise your hand if you’re so excited about Christmas!”

That was my five-year-old son on repeat in the weeks before Christmas day.  He asked us often and he expected a response every time.  Everyone in the vicinity had to raise a hand quickly and high enough to  be seen. Either that, or the offending non-responder would be quizzed stringently.

Aren’t you excited for Christmas?  Why didn’t you raise hand?  Are you not really excited?

During our Christmas Eve service,  he started to fall asleep a bit ( so much excitement can wear a fellow out), so I picked him up and cradled him in my lap during the pastor’s message.  We made it almost to the end when my son sat straight up, no longer tired, and said in not quite a whisper: “Raise your hand if you’re so excited about Christmas!”

Every one of us in the pew raised our hands just a teeny bit, not high enough for anyone else in the church to see, but enough so he wouldn’t launch into the full-scale interrogation.

After Christmas, he kept the excitement going.  He enjoyed every bit of Christmas break.  Then I explained our New Year’s Eve plans and how our family usually has family game night, eats special snacks and watches funny videos on TV.

The first thing he asked as he rubbed sleep out of his eyes at 7:30 a.m. on December 31st was  if it was time yet for the game playing and  the snack eating and the funny video watching.

He was ready. Ready all day.  He quizzed me at 10  a.m. and again at noon and then afternoon right up until we (finally) started celebrating.

During the Christmas season, I felt a continual nudging as I read each part of the story: am I living with expectation?

The wise men were searching the night sky.  They were actively looking, digging deep into ancient Scriptures,  studying promises,  watching for their fulfillment.  Then, at the first sign of God on the move, they chose active obedience and pursuit.  They left behind the familiar, they traveled far from  home, because they wanted to see what God was doing.

Simeon and Anna both knew the Messiah was coming.  They had been promised  and assured of  his imminence.  With profound expectation, they lingered in the temple courts, hoping for the day they would  see the Savior with their own eyes.  And they did.  God did what He said He would do.

Am I this excited?  Am I expectant?

I’m not really. Not as excited as my son, and not as expectant as the wise men, or Simeon, or Anna.  I’m not watchful or hopeful of seeing the goodness God is doing.

Maybe you’ve started this new year with just that high level of expectation and excitement.  Or, maybe you’re more like me, limping in slowly, timidly, a little worn out from the hard season you’ve just walked through–hoping (but not certain) that the most difficult steps are finally in the past.

Maybe you’ve been waiting and there’s more waiting to be done.

I read this today:

Now the people were waiting expectantly, and all of them were questioning in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah  (Luke 3:6 CSB).

Can we all be expectant?

It wasn’t just the Christmas characters who lived with anticipation of the Messiah; it was a general buzz of anticipation.  Crowds lined the riverfront to see John the Baptist because they “were waiting expectantly,” on the lookout for a Savior.

And one day, they stood along that riverbank  and watched as Jesus Himself stepped out of the crowd and into the water to be baptized.

They were seeking and because they were seeking, they found the Lord Himself.

So,  what am I seeking?

I’m not seeking answers or direction.  I’m not seeking next steps or a Promised Land or a bright future.

This is what Scripture says:

You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13)

and

 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you (Matthew 6:33).

I can raise my hand because I’m so excited to see Jesus. Even the worn-out me who is tempted to hide away can instead be stirred up with eager expectation because I want to see the Lord and to see God’s kingdom at work in the here and now.  I’m so excited to catch glimpses of His glory this year,  knowing that He is present and He is powerful.

He is a Good God.  And He is doing Good things.

 

 

Digging out the minivan

luke3I got stuck in the slushy mess.

Driving out yesterday was a cinch.  After a mass of snow and ice hit our area over the weekend, we now had temperatures in the 50s.  It was warm, bright and sunny and we needed to get out of the house.

The snow was no longer snow.  The ice no longer ice.  It was a slushy concoction and when we walked in it, our feet sucked down into the wet.

So, we inched out of our driveway and headed to freedom at the library and the grocery store!

But by the time we got home, the slush had melted even more.  It was like quicksand now, and we were sitting in a huge minivan loaded down with one mom, four kids and a week’s worth of groceries from Wal-Mart.

So, my minivan just slurped right down into it the moment I drove into the mess.

I unloaded the children.

I unloaded the groceries.

And I grabbed a shovel to dig out the slush from around the tires.

It didn’t take much to get the van moving again, (it’s only snow after all), but then we just sunk right down into the slush again every few inches.

Finally, I realized what this was truly going to take.  I was going to need to dig a path for each tire until no more melted snow and ice remained anywhere my tires needed to go.

I had to prepare the way.

So that’s what I did.  I shoveled the melted mush out of the way and drove just as smoothly as could be back into the grooves of an already worn path.

That’s what John the Baptist told the curious crowd gathered by the water to hear him preach:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight‘ (Luke 3:4 ESV)

In her book, Jesus, The One and Only, Beth Moore says:

The original Greek word for ‘paths’ is the word tribos, which means ‘a beaten pathway.’ In a personal way God wants us to prepare a path.

This isn’t a path that’s just stumbled upon; it’s one that’s beaten out and formed with purposeful intentionality.

What would that mean for me?

If I stood on the bank of the river and heard this wild-looking prophet telling me to make a beaten pathway in my life for the Lord, what would I need to do?

I’d need to dig out the slush and the mire, the mess and the grime.  I’d need to clear it all out of the way so my heart was ready for God to come in power and might to do a new work in me.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that grace and righteousness depend on me shoveling out sin with my own two hands gripping the shovel.

But it does mean I need to be yielded and ready for the work God wants to do.

I can’t hold on to my plans.

I can’t cling to my agendas.

I can’t try to hide sin in the corners of my heart.

 

Preparing a way for the Lord means listening and not shutting Him out.

It means offering up my heart to Him and asking the Holy Spirit that question that I can be oh-so-hesitant to ask:  “What do you need to change in me to make me more like Jesus?  I offer you my heart and I ask you to do the work.”

I know what that means.  It’s risky.  It’s dangerous.

He could try to teach me patience.

He could put difficult people in my life to teach me how to love more truly.

He could bump into my perfect plans and replace them with His own.

In my flesh and in all my selfishness, what I want is what I want:  My expectations, My hopes, My thoughts.

But what I want truly, deeply, more than anything else is for God to transform me, to take off those rough edges and mold my heart so people see Jesus in me.

So I yield.

I pick up the shovel.

I ask God to prepare my heart for the work He wants to do in me and through me.   Beat out a straight path in my life.  Wear it right down, Lord, so I’m ready for what you want to do.

I join Him in the task, knowing that I want Jesus, just Jesus, always Jesus more than anything else.

 

 

Christmas devotions: How Many Days?

“Mom, how many days until Victoria’s birthday?”
Nine.

“How many days until we go see The Nutcracker?”christmas14
Nine.

“Once we see The Nutcracker, how many more days will it be until Victoria’s birthday and then to Christmas?”
Zero and Four.

“How many days until the last day of school before Christmas break?”
Seven.

“How many days until our program?”
Two.

“How many days to Christmas?  Do you know how many hours that might be?”
Thirteen and go ask your dad.

This is my house.

Every day.  All day.  From three of my four children and I’m sure if the 14-month-old could count and talk, I’d be doing this for him, too.

Mom is the walking Advent calendar, the perpetual countdown machine.  Punch in the numbers and out spits the carefully calculated response.

Unless I’ve answered enough times that day, in which case I point mutely to the calendar on the wall and let them do the math.

We are living for the countdowns and loving the promise that on appointed days at specific times, we will celebrate.  The big day will arrive.  The anticipation will give way to fulfillment.

Yet, so much of life seems to hang on uncertain hooks with undefined strength.  The deadlines are hazy.  The promise is there, but not the timing.  We can’ t count down the days and know that on this date, at this time, the one we’ve circled in red on our calendar, God will come through for us.

The waiting will end.

The promise will come.

The deliverance is here.

The prayer will be answered.

The waiting eats away at our hope; it’s the corrosion of impatient despair.

What to do?   What to do when you read the words that God will work this out but each day you wake up thinking “Maybe this is the day” and each night you lie back down, “Maybe it’s tomorrow?”

For 400 years, Israel paused.  For 400 years, they waited for the Messiah and heard only silence between the Old Testament’s end and that first moment that John the Baptist stepped out of the wilderness and yelled out for the people to repent.

In the Gospel of Mark, the very first words we have recorded from Jesus are “The time has come.” (Mark 1:15).  How appropriate.

Maybe some had long since given up hope.  The anticipation perhaps gave way to cynical apathy.  Or frenzy—maybe the desperation spurred them on to follow any false teacher with any false message of hope.

Yet, just when the perfect time had come, Jesus was there.  He wasn’t late, not for a second.  And He wasn’t early.

Paul wrote in Galatians that:

when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

And later in Titus:

God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior (Titus 1:2-3).

The writer of Hebrews tells us:

But [that appointed time came] when Christ (the Messiah) appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come (Hebrews 9:11 AMP).

The appointed time came and God answered.  He is faithful.

Those prophets said it centuries before:

 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3, NASB).

God’s promises are for the appointed time.

It feels like so much hesitation and delay, but “It will not fail….wait for it….it will certainly come.”

Christmas does this.  It gives us hope for the waiting room and the silent days because God did not fail His people.  He had not abandoned them.  He never let go of the promised salvation, never wavered or faltered.  Nothing interrupted His plans.  No one stood in His way.  He never for one single second lost sight of the perfect plan for the perfect time.

Christmas is God showing up in glory in the way and on the day they least expected His presence, but in the way and on the day God planned all along.

I don’t want to miss Him showing up in my life.  I don’t want the waiting to rile up doubts.  I don’t want to settle my heart into complacency so I stop even looking for the glory and just shift my eyes to the mundane.

In the waiting, let us keep hope.  In the waiting, let us keep watch.  In the waiting, let us busy ourselves with obedience for today, trusting tomorrow to Him.

Originally posted December 12, 2011

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.

Christmas Devotions: How to lose at Candy Land

“Congratulations.”

That’s the word we taught our daughters to say when they lost at Candy Land.

Maybe around 2 years old when they could first maneuver those colored gingerbread men around that candy-covered game board, we taught them this massive word.

Mastering the vocabulary came difficult.  They lisped out ‘congratulations’ and we’d smile over the cuteness of a tinchristmas8y person tackling the syllables.

But more difficult than that, harder than the language itself, was the heart uprising at having to spill out “congratulations” to someone else.

Because we all want to win…all the time.  And when someone else’s gingerbread man landed on that last rainbow square right at the candy castle, that wrecked little hearts in all their innate selfishness and self-centered ways.

Oh, how the wrestling match with our enemy pride begins so young and does it ever actually end?  Will we ever slam that opponent down on that mat and claim victory over such a foe?

If Christmas is about anything, though, it’s about God coming low.

Paul writes:

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!  (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

He made himself nothing.  Our God chose to be man, born all bloody and small in a stable of dust and grime, straw, animal feed, and manure.

“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” that’s what Paul wrote.

Yet, still pride and envy destroy us, destroy our churches, our friendships, and our ministries because we scramble and shove for the spotlight, the glory and the prize.

We may no longer be counting the squares on a Candy Land board, and yet saying that word, ‘congratulations’ with genuine joy at another’s success may come difficult.

When their ministry takes off….
When they buy that huge new house….
When they book that dream vacation…
When their kids bring home that report card….

Yet, there’s John the Baptist.

Before Jesus came along preaching and healing, John gathered crowds by the river and baptized them into repentance and renewal.  He was the long-awaited prophet, the voice crying out in the wilderness.

So, John’s followers didn’t appreciate the attention the upstart Jesus was stealing away from John’s long-term ministry. But John wasn’t bothered at all, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).

In that familiar old Christmas story, I see where this began.

I see how John learned young to step aside humbly and worship the One who is greater.  I see how he didn’t strive for his own glory or stake his own claim to attention and praise.

His mama taught him.

Elizabeth was about six months pregnant with her own miracle baby when Mary came for a surprise visit.

For six months, Elizabeth treasured the joy of a son-to-be, a prophecy spoken over her very own baby.  How she had longed for a child during those years of barrenness, and now she was truly expectant.  And not just any baby.  But the forerunner of the Messiah in her very own womb.

Yet, when Mary walked into Elizabeth’s house unexpectedly, Elizabeth didn’t give way to jealousy or territorial cattyness.  She didn’t rush to tell her own story or pridefully demand any attention for herself

She stepped aside.

She extended a joyful and genuine ‘Congratulations’ to the young woman before her.

And she worshiped.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”  (Luke 1:41-45 NIV).

Pride chains us down to a captivity of our own creation.

Looking past ourselves sets us free.

It’s the freedom of making this life less about us and all about Him and serving others.

And the lesson begins here at Christmas as Elizabeth humbly congratulates and blesses the teenage girl before her.

As Elizabeth’s own unborn son becomes the first person to worship the still unborn Savior.

And as God Himself grew within the confines of a womb, our God of light couched for a time in darkness waiting to be born.

Originally posted 12/16/2013

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

 

Christmas Devotionals: Elizabeth, Candy Land, and a lesson in humility

“Congratulations.”

That’s the word we taught our daughters to say when they lost at Candy Land.

Maybe around 2 years old when they could first maneuver those colored gingerbread men around that candy-covered game board, we taught them this massive word.

Mastering the vocabulary came difficult.  They lisped out ‘congratulations’ and we’d smile over the cuteness of a tiny person tackling the syllables.

But more difficult than that, harder than the language itself, was the heart uprising at having to spill out “congratulations” to someone else.

Because we all want to win…all the time.  And when someone else’s gingerbread man landed on that last rainbow square right at the candy castle, that wrecked little hearts in all their innate selfishness and self-centered ways.

Oh, how the wrestling match with our enemy pride begins so young and does it ever actually end?  Will we ever slam that opponent down on that mat and claim victory over such a foe?

If Christmas is about anything, though, it’s about God coming low.

Paul writes:

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!  (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

He made himself nothing.  Our God chose to be man, born all bloody and small in a stable of dust and grime, straw, animal feed, and manure.christmas8

“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” that’s what Paul wrote.

Yet, still pride and envy destroy us, destroy our churches, our friendships, and our ministries because we scramble and shove for the spotlight, the glory and the prize.

We may no longer be counting the squares on a Candy Land board, and yet saying that word, ‘congratulations’ with genuine joy at another’s success may come difficult.

When their ministry takes off….
When they buy that huge new house….
When they book that dream vacation…
When their kids bring home that report card….

I marvel at John the Baptist.

Before Jesus came along preaching and healing, John gathered crowds by the river and baptized them into repentance and renewal.  He was the long-awaited prophet, the voice crying out in the wilderness.

So, John’s followers didn’t appreciate the attention the upstart Jesus was stealing away from John’s long-term ministry. But John wasn’t bothered at all, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).

In that familiar old Christmas story, I see where this began.

I see how John learned young to step aside humbly and worship the One who is greater.  I see how he didn’t strive for his own glory or stake his own claim to attention and praise.

His mama taught him.

Elizabeth was about six months pregnant with her own miracle baby when Mary came for a surprise visit.

For six months, Elizabeth treasured the joy of a son-to-be, a prophecy spoken over her very own baby.  How she had longed for a child during those years of barrenness, and now she was truly expectant.  And not just any baby.  But the forerunner of the Messiah in her very own womb.

Yet, when Mary walked into Elizabeth’s house unexpectedly, Elizabeth didn’t give way to jealousy or territorial cattyness.  She didn’t rush to tell her own story or pridefully demand any attention for herself

She stepped aside.

She extended a joyful and genuine ‘Congratulations’ to the young woman before her.

And she worshiped.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”  (Luke 1:41-45 NIV).

Pride chains us down to a captivity of our own creation.

It’s freeing, though, to look past our own lives and choose instead to reach out to others.

It’s freeing to rejoice with those who rejoice.

It’s freeing to listen more than we talk.

It’s the freedom of making this life less about us and all about Him and serving others.

And the lesson begins here at Christmas as Elizabeth humbly congratulates and blesses the teenage girl before her.

As Elizabeth’s own unborn son becomes the first person to worship the still unborn Savior.

And as God Himself grew within the confines of a womb, our God of light couched for a time in darkness waiting to be born.

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

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

And In the End

Long ago and far away in my teen years, before the advent of all this newfangled technology, I spent the week or so before family road trips performing one of our favorite traditions: recording our own travel tapes.

Those were the days (am I so old already?) before MP3 players, iPods and all digital music.  We listened to music together in the car during the drives to my grandmother’s house in South Carolina: five kids and two parents all cramming our musical tastes onto a few homespun cassettes.

Every family member submitted song requests and then I sat on the living floor buried under towers of CDs and a handful of blank tapes to create the “mix.”

We reveled in the diversity of the playlist, placing songs from popular artists immediately after a selection from one of Wagner’s operas, which came after the Beatles, which followed Andrew Lloyd Weber, which followed Patsy Cline.  It was a curious weave of musical styles and statements and we loved it.

The ritual was never complete, though, without squeezing our traditional “Travel Tape Closing Song” onto the last 23 seconds of every single cassette.  Twenty-three seconds exactly.  That’s just enough time to fit in The Beatles’ song, “Her Majesty.”  No travel tape was complete without it.

It’s a quirky little tune thrown in as the final song on The Beatles’ final album, so it seemed a fitting end to our own musical creations.

Somehow the other day, in the same mysterious way that these things always happen, I thought of the song “Her Majesty” and sang it quietly to myself as I peeled potatoes in my kitchen.

Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say.  Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, but she changes from day to day….

Then I thought of endings and the endings of travel tapes and childhood and the closing of a year before the beginning of something new.  Another Beatles’ song came to mind from the same album as I made the leap from one curious thought to another.

In that song, Paul McCartney sings, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

And I thought, “That’s just not true.  Is it?”

All this life we live, all these daily graces, all this lavish mercy from God in ways we see and ways we don’t….well, there’s no way we could ever repay that. We’re perpetual debtors and yet God erases the account books and sets us free, saying we’re redeemed, paid for, no longer owing or lacking.

I’m no math whiz, but even I can tell you there’s nothing “equal” about it.

That’s the beauty of this story, that God’s always pouring out undeserved mercy, always faithfully giving even when we stubbornly refuse to trust, or obey, or drop to those knees and lift those hands in praise.

It’s the beauty of Elizabeth’s story in Luke 1.  All those married years of longing for a baby and remaining childless, month after month of hope unfulfilled.  Then God came in His extravagant glory and gave the barren woman a son. Not just any baby boy.  The forerunner of the Messiah, cousin to the Savior of mankind.

So much blessing must have knocked her to the floor in tear-filled worship.

After nine months, she cradled that newborn “and when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her” (Luke 1:58, NLT).

The Message reads:  “Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.”

Yes, “the Lord had been very merciful to her.”  He had “overwhelmed her with mercy,” making her life whole, healing brokenness, fulfilling promises, giving far more than she had ever asked or imagined.

It’s overwhelming mercy that people can’t miss.  Everyone saw.  Everyone rejoiced with her.  No one could mistake God’s mercy for coincidence or fluke or fate.  They couldn’t even imagine someone righteous and faithful like Elizabeth and her husband deserving such a miraculous gift.  It was all God’s mercy and nothing of their merit.

The people say it themselves in Luke 1:66: “Clearly, God has his hands in this.”

And in the end of an old year and the beginning of something new, that’s what I hope for, a story so amazing I can’t steal any glory away from God.  It has to be Him.  It’s so clearly His hand, so overwhelmingly full of mercy that there’s no mistaking the imprint of His hand.

It’s not about maintaining some cosmic balance, giving and receiving love in an equilibrium.

It’s about humbly confessing that as much as we pour out in responsive praise, God out-gives us.  By that, we are amazed. For that, we are grateful.  Because of that, we are saved.

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: Party Planning and A Christmas Verse

It’s all part of the plan, my strategy for party preparation.

Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday celebration with friends from school.  She’s almost a Christmas baby, so we decided to plan something simple for a small group of friends earlier in December, and she was determined that it be at our house.

So, all week long I’ve glanced at the kitchen floor with juice spills and mystery splatter and thought….”If I mop you today, I’ll just have to do it acleaninggain on Friday.  Someone will surely spill as soon as you’re clean.”

And to the dust gathering on the television stand in the living room, I promised a wipe with a soft cloth Friday evening.

I interrupted my normal vacuuming schedule earlier in the week so that I could zoom through the house just hours before the party on Saturday morning.

This has been my strategy of preparation.  Knowing as I do exactly when those first little knocks on our door will occur, I can target the precise moment when my house is the cleanest and shiniest and in most presentable shape.

I hope.

Being prepared for visitors is no exact science, you know, and it’s even less so readying ourselves for God.  Christmas, after all, focuses so much on preparation.  The Jewish people, after waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah, the savior of their people–and the world— felt more than ready, perhaps even impatient, for His coming.

But they weren’t.  Not really.  So God sent a messenger, John the Baptist, who shouted out the news to prepare, get ready, make yourselves right before God because the Savior was coming.

Still, when Christ came, there was no room, no readiness.  Instead there was debate and jealousy, hatred and power plays.

Only a few men and women willingly allowed God to interrupt their lives and their personal agendas in order to make room for His Glory.  Only a few were ready for obedience.

Mary, bowing the head in submission, doing chores one second and carrying the Son of God in her womb the next.

Joseph, heeding the dreams God gave Him, marry this virgin with Child, take her to Egypt to save the baby from a murderous king, travel back home when King Herod had died.

Shepherds, tending sheep in the night, earning a living, toiling as usual, following the instructions of angels to a baby in a manger, worshiping, and spreading the news across the countryside.

Sages from the East journeying for years, far from their homes and their prominence and wealth in order to lay at the feet of a child gifts of honor and adoration.

Their readiness wasn’t that of twiddling their thumbs, idling their time so that at the slightest move of the Holy Spirit they could jump up in response to His command.

Instead, they were all busy, actively serving in their jobs and homes, doing the daily thing with faithfulness, attention, and care.  And then God spoke.

An angel’s voice.
A dream.
A heavenly choir.
A mysterious star.

And they laid it all aside to follow after God, wholeheartedly, passionately, abandoning everything in order to be present and part of His plan.

May we be so ready this season and every season for God’s movement.  We don’t want to miss it! Even more than that, let us not be an obstruction or hindrance to the miraculous wonder of God.

Our Christmas verse for the week reminds us that God always knows the exact moment to move; His timing is relentlessly perfect.  Let us, then, be expectant and ready to obey Him regardless of our plan or agenda or expectation.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk–It’s not about you or me or them

We were in the minivan, of course.  It seems like all of our most life-changing, character-chiseling, valuable-lesson, Mom-wisdom moments happen while driving.  What is it about being strapped in by seatbelts and in motion that promotes deep conversation?

So, there we were, mom and daughters, when I praised my preschooler on how well she does in class and how I’m so proud to hear from her teachers how she obeys and shares and listens and is always so happy and eager to learn.

The other girls chimed in immediately with their chorus of eager responses.

“Well, I…..”

“When I was in preschool….”

“But I’m good at this, too….”

And I had to deliver an astonishingly hard lesson right then and there, one that I confess I’m still learning.

It’s not about you.  When I’m praising her, it doesn’t reflect on you at all.  If I say she’s good at this, it doesn’t mean you’re awful or that she’s better than you.  It just means I’m proud of her.  I need to be able to encourage and praise others without it hurting your heart.  Trust that I’m not trying to compare you with each other.

And it grew even more difficult.

Not everything is about you. 

That lesson gulps down like castor oil, bitter to taste and hard to handle, but ultimately the medicine we need at times.  Better to learn it gently from me, in a whisper from someone who deep down loves you, than learning it from the harsh hand of an unsympathetic and unbending world.

Because, truth be told, we’re prideful creatures with a human way of viewing all the world through the filter of “Me” and everything people say as a reflection on “Me” and always comparing her and him with “Me.”

And sometimes it is about us for a moment.  People stop and offer the encouragement we need and the praise we long to hear.  Maybe it’s our “fifteen minutes of fame” or a time of celebration.

Sometimes, however, it’s about others.  It’s their moment to shine or their time of desperate need and it’s best for us to stop trying to steal the spotlight and instead put on the black clothes of a stagehand and serve others.

No matter what, though, it’s really never about you or me or them.  Not ultimately.  It’s always about Him. 

John the Baptist knew this, despite his touchy disciples who didn’t appreciate the attention the upstart Jesus was stealing away from John’s long-term ministry.

John wasn’t bothered at all, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

And it’s as simple and as hard as that.  We must always be willing to become less so that Christ can be greater in our lives.

We must remember that all of this, every one of us, the entire creation, is made by Him and for Him, never for our own personal glory or satisfaction and always to bring Him praise.  That’s the lesson I’ll be reflecting on all week with this verse:

For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36 NLT)

You can also join me in worshiping to Jesus, Lover of My Soul (It’s All About You), recorded at the Passion Conference.

“It’s all about You, Jesus.  And all this is for You, for Your glory and Your fame.
It’s not about me as if You should do things my way.
You alone are God, and I surrender to Your will”

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Once in a Lifetime

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

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

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

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

And I did all those things.

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

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

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

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

This was unimpressive to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He won the grand prize.

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

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

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

Beth Moore writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Yes to all of them.

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

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

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

David knew exactly what he desired:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 02/25/2012

Hiding the Word:

My small group is reading through the Bible this year and we’ve made it to Leviticus.

(Insert audible groaning here.)

Most of the time, people complain about Leviticus being boring.  Or maybe they rejoice in its soporific side effects.  It has, after all, been the solution of many a person’s insomnia.

Whenever I read this book of the priestly laws God gave to Moses, however, I’m not as likely to say, “how boring,” as I am to say, “Ewwww . . . . gross!”

Leviticus with its gory splattering and smearing of blood from sacrifices and its detailed discussion of fungi, bodily discharges, and skin rashes is hardly comfortable reading.

But it’s really not meant to make me comfortable.  Leviticus, if anything, is designed to make me uncomfortable with the law and the sacrificial system.  It’s to remind us that we just can’t ever be pure enough to meet God’s holy standard.

We’d need constant sacrifices, ritual cleanings, and a priest all up in our personal business just to keep us from dropping dead in the outer ring of the tabernacle courtyard.

That’s why as I read Leviticus I am giving thanks and praise for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who became our once-for-all sacrifice.

Not only that, I’m flipping my Bible over to the New Testament book of Hebrews chapter 10, which tells us:

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  (Hebrews 10:10, 14).

This week, I’ll be meditating on verse 14 and giving thanks to Jesus for sacrificing so that I can be sanctified.

Weekend Rerun:

I Choose to Obey
Originally published 03/14/2011

“Therefore, my brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”
(1 Corinthians 15:58).

Today is piano lesson day in my house.  I stopped giving lessons to other students when my youngest daughter was born, but I still teach my older girls once a week.  At times, this may seem like a raw deal to my daughters, having a teacher there not just for lessons, but for practice time, as well.  They might not fully appreciate me hovering over their shoulders and correcting their mistakes all week.  I change their hand positions when they shift their fingers too far.  I show them the right notes when they stray to a wrong key.  I remind them of the OTHER song they were supposed to practice this week, not just the song they really like.

In many ways, me being their mom and their teacher has been helpful, not just because I make sure they practice the songs the right way all week long, but also because I’m there to encourage them each day to keep going and not give up.

In the beginning, my oldest daughter asked me to quit about once a week.  Any time she got a new song that was just a little bit harder than the last one, she thought it was a good time to give up.  One minute, she would be super excited about mastering her old lesson, playing it 20 times so I can hear how great she is, and then I’d turn the page to a new song.  Some new notes.  A new hand position.  A new skill.  And she’d be discouraged and a little afraid.  She’d tell me that what she had learned was enough , that she was a great piano player because of how well she could play “Old MacDonald,” so there was clearly no need to play “Aura Lee.”

But, I’m her teacher and mom and I know better.  I know the new song isn’t too hard and that if she just gave it one good practice session, she’d regain confidence. Within a week she’d have mastered it and be ready for something new.  So, I tell her, “Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  You can do it.  The best things in life take hard work and the effort is worth it.”

Today, I feel like giving up.  I’ve looked around at where I’m at and how hard it is, and I’ve thought, “I’ve gone far enough.  I’ve exerted enough effort.  It’s just too costly and time-consuming and emotionally draining and I think I need to stop.  Take a vacation.  Escape.  Quit and do something easier.  Settle for something less.  Did you really call me to this?  Did I hear correctly or am I just off doing my own thing?  I just can’t do this anymore, God.  I’m not seeing any results, blessing or reward, so this just doesn’t seem worth it.”

Have you been there?

Have you changed your 13th diaper for a morning and thought, “I’m over this.  I’m done.   Nine months old sounds like a perfectly reasonable time to potty train.”

Have you listened to yet another fight between your kids and wanted to scream and just shut the door and hide until your husband comes home?

Have you washed every dish and bit of clothing in your house only to find the sink and hampers filled by the evening and just been totally overwhelmed by the endlessness of it all?

Have you given everything you had in ministry only to see little tangible result and watched as someone else seemed to reap success with little effort, so you just want to pack it in?

Have you worked hard to get out of debt or saved to put money aside, only to face a totally unexpected bill or rising gas prices that cut into your budget, and find that you’re never any closer to your goals no matter how hard you work or cut expenses?  And you think, “What’s the point.  Why am I trying so hard?”

But, God’s our Teacher and our Father and He knows better.

He knows that sometimes we grow tired and weary and that in those moments, it’s hard to remember the vision He gave us or the call He placed on our hearts.  He knows we just want to escape sometimes and curl up in His lap for comfort and rest, but He encourages our hearts by telling us, “Don’t give up.  Don’t run away now, not when you’re so close to the reward.  It is worth it; it is all worth it.  Just take another step, go a little further.”

Today, I’ve felt a little like John the Baptist just before the end of his life.  This man had boldly proclaimed the coming Messiah, publicly baptized Jesus and personally witnessed the Holy Spirit descending like a dove with God’s voice from heaven proclaiming, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.   It may seem like if anyone in Scripture had the assurance of his calling and confidence in his ministry, it was John.

Yet, when John was in prison, he sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, “‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2, NIV).

As he sat in that prison, preparing for death, John must have begun to wonder, “Was it worth it?  Did I put everything on the line for the truth or for a lie?  Should I just give up?  Did I hear wrong from God?  Should I have stayed in the desert and never stood before a crowd to preach at all?  Was this guy even the Messiah or has this all been for nothing?”

So, Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matthew 11:4-5, NIV).   Jesus didn’t just send back a message of platitudes and inspirational quotes.  He gave John concrete evidence and specific reminders that God was at work and that it was all true and worth it.  Just like I tell my daughter at the piano, “Remember when you couldn’t play this song?  Now you can.  Remember when playing with hands together was hard?  Now it’s easy.”  I give her tangible signs of progress and success.

God gives us encouragement for those days when we question our call and think giving up sounds a whole lot better than persevering.

  • “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).
  • “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV).
  • “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

These Scriptures remind me that it’s worth it, all the effort and sacrifice and heartache and time.  There’s a reward and blessing at the end of this as long as I don’t give up.  But, I can’t stop here.  I have to keep going, step after step after step. Even though I can’t see the end result, I can trust that to God.  All I can see is now and in this moment, I choose to obey.

*********************************************************************************************************

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